Life gives you lemons and life taketh away…


January 14, 2019

A lemon shortage has caused the price of the citrus fruit to rise more than 300% in Australia.
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Australian lemonade stands feel the squeeze as citrus prices soar more than 300%

A lemon shortage has caused lemon prices in Australia to increase more than 300%, making the sneaky little citrus fruits more expensive than mangoes, pineapples, chicken fillets, and beef burgers.

It’s a classic citrus shock: Bad weather led to a shriveled citrus supply this season, forcing citrus-mongers to spike their prices and import the little puckers from abroad to meet demand.

A bitter business

Normally, lemons cost about $4 per kilogram in Australia. But a heat wave last year stunted the season’s crop, reducing domestic supply. 

As a result, everyone from little kids at lemonade stands to restaurateurs started relying on lemons imported all the way from the US — paying as much as $13 per kilogram for the little yellow fellas.

Sometimes weather still wins

Farmers rely on stockpiled produce, international trade relationships, and hydroponic growing operations to keep produce supplies consistent. 

But despite these efforts to prevent produce panics, bad weather sometimes still leaves producers with no other choice than importing fruit from across the globe. 

In places like Australia that are relatively geographically isolated, price spikes are even more common: Just last year, an Australian avocado shortage caused prices to spike 4x, raising the price of a single avo to $9.

Fun fact: The Mafia has its roots in citrus shortages

Throughout history, many fortunes have been won and lost due to agricultural volatility. ‘Citrus shocks’ in particular have played a surprisingly juicy role in history. 

According to many scholars, elevated lemon prices in 19th-century Italy were a primary reason the Mafia first gained power, since lemon growers needed ‘muscle’ to protect their tart-tasting treasures (to this day, the Italian Mafia owns around $23B in agricultural holdings).

The Bitter Business Bureau
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Slack follows Spotify’s lead with a direct listing, and now IPO fundraising is optional

Slack, the workplace messaging and productivity giant, plans to go public with a direct listing later this year. 

Slack will become only the 2nd large company to go public via direct listing (after Spotify did it first last April), proving that the direct listing is a legitimate path to becoming a public company — not just a bizarre move that Spotify pulled once upon a time.

The company doesn’t need anyone to cut them slack

By listing directly, Slack will avoid dealing with the large investments that normally underwrite the IPO process and also avoid the so-called ‘lockup period’ (usually 6 months) that prevents shareholders from selling after a traditional IPO.

Slack will also forgo the chance to raise money in its IPO by listing directly. But, for a company that has already raised more than $1.2B, runway isn’t a huge problem.

When Slack hits the market later this year, it’s expected to do so at a valuation of more than $7.1B — the company’s valuation at its last appraisal for a $427m fundraising round in August.

IPOs aren’t about raising money anymore

Now that Slack and other companies have ways to raise hundreds of millions in private capital whenever they need to, IPOs are no longer necessary as fundraising tools

With Spotify and Slack paving the way, direct listings have become a real alternative to a fundraising IPO for companies that just want to be public and give their employees some liquidity without all the red tape.

» Slack don’t need your money

Goodwill stores are now using AI to ensure that all of its luxury items are legit

As thrift-store shopping becomes increasingly trendy, Goodwill — the 117-year-old nonprofit and one-stop-shop for ugly sweater parties — has a new strategy that’s anything but secondhand.

Goodwill is teaming with Entrupy’s AI-based program to guarantee the authenticity of luxury accessories sold through its auction site and verify designer gems found deep in the depths of the circular clothes rack. 

So much more than fashion…

Founded in 1902 by the Rev. Edgar J. Helms, the Boston-born nonprofit has continued to serve over 15 countries, where the money its stores make provides job training, employment placement, and other community-based programs for those less fortunate.

In 2017, Goodwill topped $5.9B in revenue, in which it threw a whopping 89% of earnings back into its programs that helped more than 288k people land jobs and provided training and support for an additional 38.6m people.

Now, it’s moving past ugly sweaters

Entrupy’s program uses machine learning algorithms and computer-vision technology to verify items with a 99.1% accuracy rate — and, as Goodwill builds out its new, online shopping destination for trendy millennials, the automated verification approach will give its upscale some real legitimacy. 

The move is good for both parties: Verification means more patrons willing to pay higher prices for that pristine Coach handbag, which means more money into Goodwill’s donation bin.

» More like Good-chill

Thanks to blazin’ Wi-Fi, Madagascar has found its niche as a global outsourcing hub

With the digital economy’s increasing demand for speedy data-processing and real-time call services, outsourcing sectors in Asia and Africa have boomed over the last 15 years.

While India and the Philippines are go-tos in markets like the US and the UK, Madagascar has become a major player in French-speaking markets, where countries like Morocco and Senegal have long-dominated.

Fastest net in the East

Per Quartz, there were only a few business processing and outsourcing (BPO) companies in Madagascar in 2005. But since the arrival of cable internet in 2009, the number has ballooned to 233.

(Fun fact: Madagascar has the fastest internet in Africa — even faster than some first world countries such as the UK, France, and Canada.)

And with speed comes an influx of new business and the demand for a healthy infrastructure around their employees.

Taking notes from Morocco

Morocco has set the standard in the BPO sector for competitive salaries, social benefits (pensions, health insurance), extensive on-the-job training, and advocating for women hires.

But, Madagascar is also 50% cheaper than Morocco, encouraging many companies in competing areas to migrate to the distant island-neighbor — Hmmm, kind of like the number of Silicon Valley startups flocking to the Midwest...

In Madagascar, BPO salaries start at $130 a month (nearly 3x the minimum wage)… not bad for a country with 75% of its citizens living on less than $1.90 a day.

» What’s your bandwidth
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On bobs and weaves

After 2 weeks at home for the holidays and having watched all of Netflix, I did what any self-respecting adult bored out of their gourd would do: ventured deep into the recesses of Reddit. 

It was there that I stumbled across an alarming medical condition called traction alopecia — and a woman hellbent on stopping it.

Traction alopecia is severe hair loss and scalp scarring caused by tight hairstyles, which disproportionately affects African American women who often wear braids and tight wigs which can suffocate follicles and perpetuate the damage.

Luckily for those who suffer from it, there exists the patron saint of hair loss; a woman born with scissors in her hands, and a fire in her heart; Jasmine Collins. 

Collins is a hair stylist owner of Razor Chic, an Atlanta salon that specializes in styles that camouflage traction alopecia. I’m telling you, this woman is a straight-up magician (think peach fuzz to lucious labradoodle).

Her Instagram is like Dr. Pimple Popper for hair loss, with more inspirational quotes and a business mantra: “IF YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW TO STYLE DAMAGED HAIR, YOU WILL BE LEFT BEHIND.”

Sure, she’s also selling hairstyling classes on a national tour (her Hair Loss Tour of 2019, obviously), but she’s got a point: If you’re too busy covering up the wound, you never learn to treat the root(s) of it.

So, here’s a remind for resolution season to let that shit breathe, damnit. 

Work with what you have and nurture what you don’t, and try not to beat yourself up too much about it.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself with a great hairline — or at least more well-rounded — for your troubles.

— Lindsey Quinn, Managing Editor of The Hustle

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