Issue No. 253: Seven city-dwellers who should root for Amazon


Amazon’s HQ2 campaign is a Rorschach test for your personal politics. But as with anything in politics, there will always be an upside to accompany the downside and vice versa. Here’s what a recent policy article in CNN had to say about the Disturbing part of Amazon’s HQ2 Campaign:

But, there’s one part of Amazon’s HQ2 competition that is deeply disturbing — pitting city against city in a wasteful and economically unproductive bidding war for tax and other incentives. As one of the world’s most valuable companies, Amazon does not need — and should not be going after — taxpayer dollars that could be better used on schools, parks, transit, housing or other much needed public goods.

Perhaps there is truth in this. But in accepting that one of these cities will be home to 50,000 new jobs at an average salary of ~ $100,000, there are tremendous positives to consider. Here are the seven people that you know who will love the HQ2 in their city:

The urban homeowner | Face it, Amazon is likely to move to an area where the housing market is affordable-yet-appreciating. This person’s home will appreciate with the influx of upper-middle class homeowners and the investments into their city to support thousands of white collar professionals.

The residential developer | We all know a person who spends their days buying abandoned multi-units at Sheriff’s auctions and turning them into $2,000 per month rentals. If this friend can find the cash flow to do it, her business will expand quite a bit.

The city’s income tax department head | This one is self explanatory. Salaries in excess of $100,000 are very important to growing cities, as these citizens are less likely to receive tax returns. An influx of this demo means more money to spend on infrastructure.

The area’s MLS team owner | Big three sports rarely have economic crises. But for a Major League Soccer club, adding hundreds if not thousands of new season ticket holders and general fans could make their investment more viable.

The elite independent school administrator | With urbanization comes a stark reality, most urban schooling systems are failing. And charter schools in most of the top 20 cities aren’t much better off. Given the demographic of a well-off millennial, the ones with kids will likely invest in private school education.

The local state school college graduate | Congratulations to this young person for increasing their odds of finding that great, technical job right out of school.

The branding agency senior manager | What most don’t know about Amazon is that they are one of the largest advertising businesses in America. By some estimates, Jeff Bezo’s ad business is larger than that of Twitter’s and Snapchat’s. Expect Amazon to poach talent from local agencies as they continue their takeover of the digital advertising market.

Amazon’s campaign for a new home city is a risky bet for the policy-maker who determines the incentive package. But if Amazon delivers the goods, as promised, one local government will be set for the next 5-7 years. It just so happens that delivering is what Bezos does best.

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Issue No. 195: The Once and Future King

$SNAP is trading up 10% for the day, at press time. Here is a rundown of the fuego takes:

@AnilDash: “My hot take on $SNAP: a fine company, but the pressure of living up to an astronomical valuation will cause problems as we saw for Twitter.”

@SallyShin: “Snap volume during first 10 min of trade: Total: 64M shares, Opening print: 26M, Ex-that: 38M shares changed hands”

@alex: “At $17/share, ~$24B, $SNAP investors are paying nearly $152 per DAU.”

@JonahLupton: “Just 40 months ago @Snapchat rejected a $3 billion acquisition offer from @Facebook, today $SNAP had their IPO and is now worth $30 billion.”

@marketwatch: “SNAP’s valuation has already surpassed: CBS, American Airlines, Hershey, Viacom, Best Buy, Twitter, Macy’s”

@sm: “My tweets may be biased because I’m now the proud owner of 4 shares of $SNAP. Just wanted to disclose.”


A last word: why $SNAP could work after all

Selling hardware, on the other hand, means asking Snap’s users for cash, and that’s a good thing. Differentiation strategies can work, but, as noted above in the context of Disney, they work by getting the users who benefit from that differentiation to pay.

To be sure, it is very early days for Snap and hardware, and it may not amount to anything. But, then again, you could say the same thing about Snap itself. From my perspective having the possibility of a hardware business increases the option value, and for now optionality is the primary reason to buy into this IPO in the first place.

– Ben Thompson, 

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Issue No. 182: Still in Early Innings.

Graphic of the Week:


This recent graphic from CB Insights was a great illustration of how fundraising is tied to the startup hype cycle. Represented are three real companies in the DNVB mattress industry: 1) Casper 2) Tuft & Needle 3) Saatva. Casper receives the overwhelming mindshare of press mentions while Tuft & Needle and Saatva appear to be in a much healthier position for longterm growth.

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Issue No. 144: Authenticity Prevents the Rebrand

Archive: Why A&F Will Continue To Rebrand and Rebrand and Rebrand?


From Today’s Columbus Dispatch:

The rebranding will be launched during the holiday season with the company’s largest advertising campaign. At the same time, Abercrombie will introduce a redesigned website, new digital advertising across video streaming websites, music platforms and social media and marketing in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.

After the relaunch, Abercrombie will begin revamping its stores next year.

“This new brand position is the product of an 18-month effort to create a brand identity that communicates our focus on our customers’ needs and aspirations,” said Fran Horowitz, president and chief merchandising officer, in a statement.

An excerpt from an earlier blog of mine (January 2015):

The brand’s most capable play is their very first one. The majority of America doesn’t know that the brand is over 115 years old. And that’s important because the next evolution of the brand will be a reversion to its glorious past.  On a 37 foot wall of a New York City gathering place, there is an elephant head. Legend would have it that Teddy shot it and donated it to his alma mater and yes, his favorite social spot – New York’s Harvard Club. Roosevelt killed the elephant wearing Abercrombie & Fitch. Earhart flew her planes in Abercrombie & Fitch. Being a retail / branding geek, I ponder what I would do if I were in-charge of rebranding Abercrombie. It’s simple, I wouldn’t aim to evolve; I’d aim to remember.

Abercrombie’s history is so rich, it’s nauseating. So many pivotal historical moments happened with that logo on a pioneer’s apparel. The Abercrombie & Fitch brand is too entrenched in history to ignore it. The rebranding efforts will shutter a lot of today’s status quo but if they can get it right, it will be here for another 100 years. And their marketing executives do what they’re supposed to, the old outdoors brand will be heralded for what it was when Teddy was king.

This new strategy is unlikely to achieve the objectives that the company needs. [ANF]

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Issue No. 117: Zero likes, Organic Gatorade, 68M, Les Wexner said what

Ben Thompson on Google (Waze) v. Uber



The reason this matters is that building a self-driving car is like building a smartphone: it’s a hard problem, to be sure, but it’s only half of the equation when it comes to transportation-as-a-service. After all, just how useful would an iPhone or Android device be without the cloud? Similarly, a transportation-as-a-service company built around self-driving cars not only needs cars that can drive themselves, but an entire infrastructure on the back-end that tells those cars exactly where to go in a way that maximizes what will undoubtedly be a massive capital investment in the cars themselves.

This is likely the motivation behind Google’s Waze-based ride-sharing service. Kalanick may be right that Google is ahead when it comes to self-driving cars, but they have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to telling those cars where to go.

Read more here.

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