Nike gets into experiences


October 15, 2019

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Today, lady truckers are on the rise, and Stepford assembly line workers are a real surprise, but first…

The Hustle Daily Email

As pro athletes gain power, many tap their inner entrepreneurs

For decades, athletes have taken the (approximate stadiums full of) money they’ve earned — and invested in businesses of their own. But a new generation of athletes is choosing to take much more active roles in entrepreneurship off the court. And we’re not just talking about Shaquille O’Neal’s burgeoning career as a DJ

We’re talking Serena, Steph, and more

Tennis star Serena Williams recently launched her own VC firm to invest in early-stage companies run by women and people of color. Basketball great Steph Curry has embraced the Silicon Valley life, starting his own investment company. And the NBA’s Andre Iguodala wants literally everyone he knows to invest in startups

The focus on tech is a departure from the old route of sometimes controversial endorsements and branded apparel deals. And here’s the thing: These athletes’ businesses are taking off. Big time.  

Take TraceMe, for example

That’s the multimillion-dollar app platform founded and executive-chaired by Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. It was first built to let fans engage with celebrities and athletes online and has grown into a general fan engagement platform. Sports gear giant and prominent athlete endorser Nike recently bought the site. 

The move tells us a couple of things. One, that the traditionally commerce-focused Nike might be exploring a foray into a more experiential business model (as is the trend). And two, that athletes like Wilson are no longer waiting until they hang up their cleats to seriously explore passion projects

Athletes are driving the ball forward

In a digital ecosystem where influencers are increasingly important, athletes have more power than ever. They’re able to throw elbows and effect change on causes they care about — like equal pay and police brutality — and now, they’re using their sway to move markets, too. 

» And one

Forget robots, AI supervisors are working to automate humans

Roll credits. The days of Ferris Bueller-ing your supervisor into thinking you’re a workhorse while you chain smoke out back are coming to a close. 

As robots continue to lack certain skills to perform worker bee tasks, Axios reports that companies are optimizing human workforces of the future with increasingly cheaper AI employee-monitoring systems.

In other words, instead of AI learning from its failures to improve its own output, machines are monitoring human employees to improve their productivity — and the narc-bots are keeping tabs on everything from assembly line efficiency to bathroom breaks.

“The most programmable machine on the planet today is still the human.” — Prasad Akella

This harrowing claim was made by the CEO of the Silicon Valley-based Drishti, a developer of video-based human-employee tracking software that records the seconds it takes for workers to complete each step of their job.

According to Akella, the videos allow supervisors to quickly diagnose a problem so they can teach workers how to avoid errors. Of course, not everyone loves the idea of management jobs being outsourced to an algorithm programmed to turn employees into productivity machines.

“What workers are seeing, and have a fear of, is arbitrarily speeding up workplaces,” said Aiha Nguyen of research organization Data & Society.

Robots and humans, living together 

That’s what many companies have preached to curb the worry of work-bots taking over the workforce entirely. These robo-monitoring systems take this pro-human sheen up a notch. 

Drishti touts its software as a way to make workplaces safer and to better recognize positive work. But it doesn’t take an infallible android to see how treating humans like machines could easily turn inhumane.

» More human than human
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This Chilean startup could help US consumers use less plastic

The Chilean bulk goods startup Algramo announced plans to expand to the US in 2020. 

The company, which sells basics, from rice to laundry detergent, in reusable containers and “by the gram” (hence the name, Algramo), partners with huge brands like Unilever and Nestlé.

Founder José Manuel Moller created the company in part to help mitigate the effects of excessive packaging costs — often called a “poverty tax” — on low-income buyers. Buying things in small formats and not in bulk typically causes prices to increase 30% to 50%.

Lower prices and convenience encourage users to refill bottles

Algramo products, sold on the shelves of about 2k bodegas in Santiago, are often 30% cheaper than competing products at Chilean Walmarts — and the company incentivizes customers to keep reusing their original container by dispensing an 11% discount on each subsequent use.

The company, which has been around for 6 years, says customer reuse rates have increased from around 10% to more than 80% over time. 

Algramo has also rolled out mobile, electric refill stations that meet customers at their doorsteps.

Companies like Algramo can help address the global plastic crisis

A recent study found that, of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic that has been produced, 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste had been generated by 2015, and only 9% of that had been recycled — and that half of all the plastic made becomes trash in less than a year. 

If companies like Algramo and Loop — which delivers home goods in reusable containers and launched in the US this year — are widely adopted, they could help slow the production of plastic, which has doubled every 15 years.

» The incredible bulk

Big rig-driving women are the new queens of the road

Here’s something I betcha didn’t know: The number of female truckers has increased by 68% since 2010, due in part to a trucker shortage… and the promise of good pay.

Mother truckers make bank… or at least equal wages

The gender pay gap is problematic in many industries, but not trucking. Truckers are paid by the mile, per load, hourly, and sometimes even by salary… regardless of gender. 

New technology and changes in warehouse protocol have leveled the playing field. XPO trucks boast a modern transmission system that makes driving less strenuous. And, increasingly, at many warehouses, drivers — male or female — are not responsible for loading and unloading the truck.

As e-commerce gets bigger, there will be even more demand for transportation workers. Ladies, do your thing.

But life on the highway isn’t always easy

Rookie truckers must spend hours on the road with a trainer, and most are men. Plus, finding a safe place to park overnight can be challenging: Lots are often full at the end of the day, which means late arrivals must drive past their limits or park illegally on the side of the road… which can be scary for anyone.

Meanwhile, trucking turmoil is afoot — er — awheel? More than 3.6k Mack Trucks employees represented by United Auto Workers are striking for fair pay and job protections. This strike comes as the UAW’s nationwide strike against General Motors reaches its 1-month mark.

» Tell ‘em Large Marge sentcha
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What Else…

🥑 It’s called “necessity spending.” With debt-saddled millennials on pace to surpass baby boomers as the largest generation this year, new fundamental spending habits could cause a monumental shift for some of today’s biggest brands — and, of course, the craft beer industry.

👵 New millennial-focused jobs are already here. Like Papa, the company that recently raised $10m to help expand its “Grandkids on demand” platform that addresses social isolation in seniors.

💊 But young peeps are lonely too. Scratch that — apparently everyone is these days. And researchers believe they can curb the epidemic in the form of a pill. That’s right, a loneliness pill.

📖 Feeling old at 30? You’re not alone. Read The Information’s piece on how career-focused millennials nearing the end of their 20s will do just about anything to make the Forbes “30 Under 30” list… before it’s too late.

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