Business

Twitter will allow employees to work from home ‘forever’

May 14, 2020

For those of its workers who are flourishing while conducting meetings on Zoom with a child on their laps and a cat next to the keyboard, social media giant Twitter announced on May 12 that it plans to let anyone who wishes to work from home to do so for the foreseeable future—even after its offices reopen in a post-pandemic world, ABC News reports.

“Twitter was one of the first companies to go to a WFH [work from home] model in the face of COVID-19, but we don’t anticipate being one of the first to return to offices,” the company said in a statement.

The past few months of having staff almost entirely remote “have proven we can make it work,” the statement continued. “So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen. If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves, with some additional precautions, when we feel it’s safe to return.”

Twitter said its offices will not likely open before September, and when reopening does occur, it will be a gradual and cautious process, ABC notes. No in-person company events for the rest of 2020 are scheduled.

“We’re proud of the early action we took to protect the health of our employees and our communities,” Twitter said. “That will remain our top priority as we work through the unknowns of the coming months.”

Research contact: @ABC

Pedal to the metal: Elon Musk dares California to arrest him as Tesla plant reopens

May 13, 2020

He has challenged the laws of mobility and gravity with his companies, Tesla and SpaceX, so why should Elon Musk bend to the laws of Alameda County, California?

This week, Musk has escalated his war with Alameda officials—tweeting that he is reopening Tesla’s manufacturing plant there despite a local ban by authorities who believe it’s not safe to do so.

If county officials don’t like it, Musk said, they can arrest him, according to a report by Fast Company. Indeed, he tweeted on May 11, “Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

Indeed, he says, county officials are illegally flaunting California law. Also on Twitter, Musk noted, “Yes, California approved, but an unelected county official illegally overrode. Also, all other auto companies in US are approved to resume. Only Tesla has been singled out. This is super messed up!”

The tweet and decision to reopen Tesla’s only U.S. plant come after a dramatic weekend, during which Musk threatened to move the company’s headquarters from California to Nevada or Texas, Bloomberg reports.

The threat came after California Governor Gavin Newsom gave the okay last week for manufacturers in the state to start operations again, but Alameda County officials overruled that decision. It should be noted, however, that Governor Newsom granted local authorities the power to remain more restrictive with their stay-at-home orders than the state’s as a whole, essentially allowing them to decide when certain types of businesses can reopen in their areas.

That did not sit well with Musk, and Tesla then sued Alameda County over the weekend.. In response, Alameda County health officials issued a statement saying they were aware Tesla’s plant was reopening and hoped the company would choose to comply with local stay-at-home rules “without further enforcement measures.”

According to Fast Company, after Musk announced the Tesla plant would reopen, employees at the plant were emailed a memo announcing their furlough ended on Sunday and that they will be contacted within 24 hours with their return-to-work start date. Tesla said those who aren’t comfortable returning to work can stay at home—but they will be on unpaid leave and lose any jobless benefits.

The news outlet says that, since lockdown orders began, Musk has been the most vocal billionaire demanding people get back to work—going so far as to channel Trump in random outbursts on Twitter ranting against stay-at-home orders.

Research contact: @FastCompany

Space Force drops first recruitment video: “Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet”

May 12, 2020

The United States Space Force has released its first recruitment video—a 30-second clip that encourages potential recruits to ponder joining the newest independent branch of the U.S. military at this “incredibly exciting time.”

“Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet,” the video suggests..

In a press release, the agency explains, “The FY20 National Defense Authorization Act approved a new, independent Space Force within the Department of the Air Force. As this new military branch takes shape in 2020, we’ll be recruiting the brightest minds in science, technology, aerospace, and engineering to meet its needs. Join us. The future is where we’ll make history.”

“Some people look to the stars and ask, ‘What if?'” a narrator is heard over footage of a man looking up at the sky. “Our job is to have an answer.”

The video then shows a montage of military personnel working within the new military branch, interposed with images of space. Available jobs include: Space Operations Office, Fusion Analyst, and Intelligence Officer.

According to a report by CBS News, even before the video was posted, officials said they’ve received lots of interest. The Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett, said during a livestream presented by the Space Foundation on May 6 that “there’s been an avalanche of applicants.”

As of that day, there were 88 “commissioned space professionals” working within the Space Force,  Barrett said, and the number is expected to grow “substantially” by the end of 2020. The service’s “total force” is projected to eventually be approximately 16,000 strong.

The recruitment video dropped just one day after Netflix released the new teaser trailer for its upcoming comedy series “Space Force,” starring Steve Carell. The show revolves around Carell’s character, a fictitious four-star general who is tasked with starting up the military branch. The

Chief of Space Operations, General John Raymond said in a less serious moment at the end of the press release,  “The one piece of advice I’d give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut. He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force Chief.”

Research contact: @SpaceForceDOD

New York City partners with Salesforce on COVID-19 contact tracing program

May 11, 2020

New York City—the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, with over 26,000 deaths from the disease and more than 55,500 recoveries  celebrated—is partnering with san Francisco-based Salesforce, to build the city’s COVID-19 contact tracing program, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on May 8.

Salesforce will deploy a call center as well as a customer relationship and case management system that will help the city to track people who have had contact with those who have tested positive for the virus—and isolate them before they become sick, according to a report by CNBC.

De Blasio explained that the city is implementing a “test and trace corps” that will be tasked with testing New Yorkers for the infection.  The partnership will be “up and running” by the end of May, he said.

“It will allow us to track every case, analyze the data constantly, keep the right information on each and every case, manage the whole process efficiently,” de Blasio said. “This is going to be a huge effort, just think how it grows and grows over the weeks, but it’s something that if we do right continually will constrain this disease.”

The goal is to hire 2,500 public health “foot soldiers” by June, who will be trained using the contact tracing program led by Mike Bloomberg in partnership with Johns Hopkins University. There have been nearly 7,000 applications for the program already, de Blasio said.

A spokesperson for Salesforce confirmed the company’s partnership to CNBC, but didn’t provide any further details.

In late April, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tapped Bloomberg to head the state’s contact tracing program. Bloomberg said his team is developing three smartphone apps to help the state trace every person who comes into contact with someone infected with Covid-19.

Cuomo has said the state will need to hire at least 30 contact tracers per 100,000 people in order to begin reopening the state’s economy, CNBC noted.

Research contact: @CNBC

The ‘Hygiene Hand’ was designed by a paramedic to keep your fingers germ-free

May 8, 2020

Staying germ-free is a full-time preoccupation for most of us during the pandemic—but paramedics are particularly imperiled. Not only are they on the front lines, racing to save the lives of those most seriously ill with COVID-19, but they must change into clean personal protective gear before and after each ambulance stop.

So, it should come as no surprise, that if someone was going to invent a new form of PPE (personal protective equipment), it would be an EMT.

Now, the Hygiene Hand is available at Entrepreneur magazine’s online store. The $20 stylus—designed by a retired New York City paramedic—is made entirely from a solid piece of brass. Brass is inherently antimicrobial, so the Hygiene Hand works to decrease the spread of germs while helping you get through your day.

Successfully funded on Kickstarter at $585,676 the Hygiene Hand offers

  • Antimicrobial protection;
  • A flat stylus tip, for pressing buttons in elevators, ATM machines, and more;
  • A door hook for pulling handles and doors;
  •  A finger hole for ease of use; and
  • A keyring loop.

When you’re out running your essential errands, the Hygiene Hand reduces point of contact by 99 %, the inventor says.

Research contact: @Entrepreneur

Flat broke during the lockdown? Then this ingenious $300 flat purse might not be for you

May 7, 2020

Ikea built its home furnishings empire on the strength of one simple idea—products designed in such a way that they can be flat-packed to reduce shipping costs and eliminate the need for a delivery truck. Now, that same level of innovation has come to global handbag and purse manufacturing.

The Milan, Italy-based bag label Up To You Anthology has created a flat-pack purse that it is selling in a variety of shapes and sizes, along with leather and felt options. And yes, just like Ikea furniture, you have to assemble it yourself, Fast Company reports.

Designed by the prolific Japanese firm Nendo, which is known for taking surprising approaches to the design of everyday objects, the bag is called the Mai.

Each bag is laser-cut from a single piece of leather. The consumer is instructed to fold the leather in half to assemble the bag; fitting the rivets into precut holes. And within about a minute of work, you have a fully functional, 3D purse, the business news outlet notes.

As COVID-19 keeps most of us home and puts tens of millions of people out of work, fashion retailers are in a lot of trouble notes. Indeed, J. Crew just filed for bankruptcy, and many direct-to-consumer companies are finding themselves underwater.

Mai wasn’t developed in response to COVID-19. Up To You Anthology told Fast Company in an interview that development actually started on it last year. But it was created specifically to be a bag sold through e-commerce. “Each bag had to be delivered to the customer’s house, so they designed a bag that could be delivered flat, to simplify this process,” a spokesperson explains. “And the customer would assemble the bag themselves. It can be fun!”

Indeed, the slight work of assembly could give the buyer more ownership over the bag—much like the old adage that Betty Crocker cake mix could have been formulated in a way that removed the need to add an egg, but that this modicum of effort makes it feel like you actually baked something.

But ultimately, this bag isn’t just flat to ship but 20% smaller in overall volume when deconstructed than it would be if mailed fully assembled. It costs money to ship air!

For a purse that runs around $300, saving the $8 between a USPS flat-rate envelope and a small flat-rate box might not seem like a lot. But especially as you get into international shipping, the difference jumps closer to $35.

The fact of the matter is, competitive online companies now are being forced to subsidize or eat their shipping costs entirely, Fast Company says—making it a huge expense for every online product company that doesn’t have the leverage of Amazon. And if these businesses are to survive the next two years, every dollar counts.

Research contact: @FastCompany

Martha Stewart launches a Wayfair shop and digital how-to series as more consumers order from home

May 6, 2020

Domestic diva Martha Stewart—who is stuck at home, like the rest of us—has decided to offer her lifestyle wisdom, as well as a home furnishing collection, online online during the lockdown.

Stewart has launched a digital how-to series called “Homeschool with Martha” offering how-to tips on recipes, decorating, and crafts for the kids; as well as  a collection with wildly popular DIY online furniture company Wayfair to help fans make their living spaces feel more like home while in quarantine, Fox Business reports.

The collection features furniture, accents, appliances,and linen for every room in the house—including bedding, wall art, kitchenware, and chairs, end tables and bedding accessories with prices ranging between $29.99 for a striped sheer single curtain panel to $579 for a loveseat.

Shares of Wayfair opened higher Tuesday after the Boston-based company reported a loss of $285.9 million in its first quarter, Fox Business reported. Its losses, adjusted for stock option expense and non-recurring costs, were $2.30 per share, which beat Wall Street expectations.

Each collection is inspired by one of Stewart’s four homes—among them:

  • Perry St, a modern take on her glassy condos in Manhattan’s West Village;
  • Skylands, named for her Maine cabin which is a more timeless aesthetic;
  • Lily Pond in East Hampton,with a more coastal vibe; and
  • Bedford, a rustic, farmhouse-chic homage to her upstate New York property.

The launch comes at a time when some Americans are filling their idle time with DIY home improvement projects like remodeling rooms, planting their own gardens or repainting. And while a slew of retailers have filed for bankruptcy due to COVID-19-related store closures, the home furniture market is seeing continued growth.

Wayfair’s CEO Niraj Shah said in an earnings call Tuesday that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought first-time customers to Wayfair’s online store as people stay at home during the public-health crisis.

“Millions of new shoppers have discovered Wayfair while they shelter in place at home,” Shah said, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Research contact: @FoxBusiness

Everything old is new again: ‘Architectural Digest’ relaunches ‘Clever’ for young, design-savvy readers

May 5, 2020

Conde Nast’s Architectural Digest, the venerable shelter magazine that’s celebrating its 100th birthday this year, is today rolling out a relaunch of its Clever digital brand, in hopes of reaching a young, design-savvy audience, Advertising Age reports.

 

Architectural Digest first launched Clever in October 2017 as a dedicated digital brand for 18- to 34-year-olds (versus the over-50 demographic that follows the main brand). The point was to leverage the magazine’s expertise and reputation to speak to a younger, design-savvy audience that might not be quite ready to use the world-class (and pricey) architects and designers whose work dominates the pages of the print mothership.

Clever’s editorial mission is about sharing “real-life design advice that’s both practical and inspiring,” Amy Astley, AD’s editor-in-chief, told Ad Age. Now, “After nearly three years of steady growth and engagement—with an increasingly wider readership, from renovating homeowners to redecorating renters—it’s time to take Clever to the next level.”

Astley charged Keith Pollock, AD’s executive digital director, with leading the relaunch project—and he has made a host of changes to the fledgling publication.

According to Ad Age, Clever will be releasing regular digital covers designed for sharing on social media. The first, out this week and shown above, features Laura Harrier, who stars in Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix miniseries “Hollywood.” 

In addition, Clever will crank up its renovation coverage with how-to guides (e.g., the upcoming “Everything You Need to Know About Wood Floors”) and add new areas of focus—including sustainability and wellness—to what it calls its Conversation channel.

For a deeper dive into the media strategy behind the new Clever, Ad Age spoke with Pollock, who explained the rationale for the new e-zine. “Although it’s likely a print reader will also enjoy Clever, we set out to create a brand that was autonomous from AD,” he said, adding, “There is a shared spirit between the two brands, in terms of the varied design styles that inspire us, but the approach is entirely different.”

And that difference, Pollack told AdAge, is  actionable service. “They’re embarking on their first home renovation, they’re shopping for home decor. They’re looking for practical tips and “news they can use,” as Amy says. The Clever reader appreciates a well-designed home, but they have questions about how to attain it.”

“Clever is not about speaking to designers; it’s about homeowners taking matters into their own hands. We use the term DIY: design it yourself. On Clever, we are empowering our readers to use our guides and tools to create a home that has an individual point of view.”

What’s more, readers will be able to buy the home goods they see and want in Clever on its new e-commerce site. “We’ve seen 80% growth in click-through to affiliate sites, year over year. In an effort to add more value and service, we wanted to enhance the e-commerce experience and make it more of a clear focus,” said Pollack.

E-commerce will be layered into all of our articles, but we’re also launching a new channel dedicated entirely to shopping content. If you want to come to Clever and just go down a shopping wormhole, you can.”

And will the relaunch t to appeal to readers whose lives have changed during the pandemic? “With our relaunch,” Pollack told AdAge, “we’ve committed to producing more content about wellness at home in our revamped Conversation channel.

“At this moment, we’re tackling topics we probably wouldn’t have considered a few months ago, like advice on how to manage your anxiety while you’re stuck at home, or how to quarantine with a romantic partner. Like most brands, we’re experimenting to see what our audience responds to during this time, and we’ve tapped into an interest in mental and physical health at home.

“Home is the center of everyone’s universe right now,:” he said, “and Clever is all about making your home your own, whether those changes are big or small.”

Research contact: @adage

Branded masks turn coronavirus protection into ad space: ‘It’s a face billboard.’

May 4, 2020

Starting May 1, face masks will be de rigueur in public places in Illinois for all residents over the age of two. But while cat and dog faces have been trending in other cities as the masks of choice, different cover-ups already are appearing on Chicago streets.

Many companies are beginning to take advantage of that vacant space that suddenly has appeared between our noses and chins. They are creating new advertising vehicles— branded face masks promoting everything from fast food restaurants to sports teams, The Chicago Tribune reports.

All major sports leagues have begun producing officially licensed team logo masks. Universal Music Group is making masks featuring artists from Willie Nelson to Justin Bieber. Warners Bros. has licensed a mask with the cast from the 1990s TV show, “Beverly Hills, 90210.”

At least initially, the proceeds of branded mask sales are helping to fund COVID-19 relief efforts, the Tribune notes. But turning personal protective equipment into an ad for a real estate agent may raise eyebrows, even in the new normal of a worldwide health crisis.

New York-based branding strategist Peter Shankman told the news outlet that branded face masks, if “done the right way,” will generally be perceived in a positive light.

 “Wearable brands have become a part of our culture,” Shankman said.

Fanatics, which operates an officially licensed e-commerce merchandise business for major sports leagues, sells team masks for the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, and WNBA, at prices ranging from $15 to $25 each.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot may be the top salesperson for branded masks after donning one featuring the city logo and her COVID-19 prevention mantra, #StayHome.

The mask was made by PrideMasks, which converted its small Chicago factory from a marching band uniform supplier and flag-maker to a branded face mask company last month.

“Once the mayor started wearing the mask, it’s blown up,” said Alan Spaeth, co-founder of the company formerly known as R&S Marching Arts.

The company told the Tribune that it has been inundated with commercial orders, employing a staff of about 18 in split shifts to produce about 700 to 800 masks per day. The masks sell for $15 each, in lots generally ranging from 20 to 500 masks per design. Clients include a Dow Chemical plant in Midland, Michigan, local Sonic restaurants and flight crews from Southwest Airlines.

Spaeth turned down an order for a half million face masks from a pharmaceutical company because it would have overwhelmed production and squeezed out smaller business customers. .

Companies are buying the branded masks to meet state health requirements and provide “corporate wear,” Spaeth said.

One client in particular said it was concerned about potentially inappropriate personal messaging on masks worn by employees. “It’s a way to keep everything uniform, and if you’re representing a company, keep it on message,” Spaeth said. “It’s a face billboard.”

Research contact: @chicagotribune

State DOC rejects 4,600 face masks for inmates donated by Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware

April 30, 2020

Following weeks of refusal by the Delaware State Department of Correction (DOC) to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to prison inmates; on April 30 , Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware (CPBD) denounced the state in a press release for rejecting its donation of 4,600 face masks.

After distributing 10,000 masks to frontline healthcare workers and vulnerable populations throughout Delaware;  CPBD secured an additional 4,600 face masks, which the group immediately offered to the DOC in the wake of the first inmate death from the virus at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center for men near Smyrna, Delaware, earlier this week.

After initially accepting CPBD’s offer, the DOC reversed its decision and rejected the masks just four hours later—after agency officials informed the office of DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis, a political appointee of Governor John Carney, who has been criticized by CPBD for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

CPBD castigated the state’s rebuff, saying: “The DOC’s rejection of the PPE comes as the agency has still failed to provide face masks to all 4,200 inmates in its facilities, despite updated Centers for Disease Control guidelines that recommend wearing face coverings to slow the spread of the virus.

“With prisons across the country emerging as vectors for transmission of the deadly coronavirus, civil rights organizations including the ACLU and the NAACP have urged state officials to take steps like providing masks to mitigate the risk of coronavirus in correctional facilities.

“Delaware’s prisons are disproportionately filled with people of color, and racial breakdowns of the state’s coronavirus cases show that Black and Hispanic Delawareans are being infected with the coronavirus at a drastically higher rate than white residents.”

Said Pastor Dale Dennis II of Hoyt Memorial CME Church in Wilmington, “People of color make up over 60% of Delaware’s prison population—but less than 40% of our residents. We know that black and brown folks have been the victims of historic, systemic injustices at the hands of our criminal justice system, but the coronavirus crisis has put those that are incarcerated at a different level of vulnerability. I am joining the calls from many Pastors across the State for the DOC to provide the care that they would want to receive and protect our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers housed in their correctional care.”

Research contact: @ProBusinessDE