Ya’ snooze ya’ lose

January 28, 2019

The Ironman triathlon is valued at almost $1B, and the original creators haven’t seen a dime.
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Who owns the Ironman? The 4-decade battle for the world’s most iconic endurance race

Per The New York Times, the Ironman Triathlon puts on more than 260 races in 44 countries and is valued at nearly a billion dollars, making it one of the world’s most premiere sports brands.  

Now, over 40 years later, the people at the forefront of its creation haven’t seen a dime, and the legal triathlon continues.

It all started in Hawaii…

Long before the Spartan or Tough Mudder, naval officer John Collins and his wife, Judy, thought to combine 3 of the toughest endurance races: On Feb. 18, 1978, the first “Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon” was born. There were 15 participants.

John wrote a 3-page rule book with 10 major rules that boiled down to: “Swim 2.4 miles! Run 26 ¼ miles! Bike 112 miles! Brag the rest of your life!”

But, it was rule number 8 — which set the entry fee at $5 and stipulated that the event would be sponsored by participants — that would later cause the biggest headache. 

Gettin’ Silky with it

By ’79, Collins needed someone to run the 3rd edition of the event, so he handed over a box of paperwork to husband and wife fitness club owners Hank Grundman and Valerie Silk — no lawyers, no signatures.

By ’82 the race had ballooned in popularity, and John Dunbar (the runner-up in the original 2 races) started selling copies of the original trophy. He, like the other 14 OG racers, presumed a stake of the competition still belonged to him…

So, when Silk registered the Ironman trademark in ’83 and told Dunbar to cease sale of the throwback trophy he was pedaling, he didn’t go quietly.

The real triathlon…

Silk sold the brand for $3m in ’89 and, in 2015, after years of expansion, the brand was acquired by its current owner, a Chinese conglomerate called Dalian Wanda Group, for $650m.

4 decades later, Dunbar continues to argue that the famed triathlon belongs to him and the original 15, even though the courts, and many of Dunbar’s allies, have insisted it’s too late. 

Silk said no original competitors showed interest in Ironman until it made money. She changed the rules and re-created the race — “I changed everything,” Silk said. “And I never heard a peep from anybody.”

Sounds exhausting
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Obo raises $8.2m to help startups avoid making things no one asked for

Obo, a startup that makes ‘product decision software’ to prevent product designers from making useless features, came out of stealth at the end of the week with an $8.2m funding round.As an increasing number of consumer product designers move fast and fail faster, Obo’s modeling software is designed to help product creators get things right the first time.

The connected toaster-killer

We’ve all seen trendy smart products that no one needs: From overhyped $400 juicers to smart egg cartons, many products miss the mark by failing to consider what consumers actually want.To solve the problem, Obo’s software models ‘what if’ scenarios to gauge how consumers would respond to certain releases and also conducts market research to validate assumptions.Obo claims its platform can help businesses determine of their existing product plans are trash in less than an hour.

Luckily for Obo, there are a LOT of unpopular products out there

Plenty of consumer products go to market without the necessary planning and market research: According to a recent Harvard study, 95% of the 30k consumer products that hit the market each year end in failure. But Obo’s not alone: The market for decision-making tools is growing rapidly. Companies such as InVision, Aera, Marvel and others offer tools for decision-making and prototyping.

» Decisions, decisions

Netflix has to pay more than Dunder Mifflin’s valuation to keep ‘The Office’ on its platform

Original content isn’t the only thing Netflix is spending cash on these days: After the public threw a fit, Netflix went back on its decision not to renew the hit NBC sitcom Friends with an exclusive, one-year, $100m deal. 

Now, the floodgates have opened, and as the US version of The Office nears a contract renewal with the streaming service, Netflix may have to pay even more to keep the people person’s paper people.

Jim, Pam, thank you ma’am 

The Office captured the hearts of America long before it appeared on Netflix’s platform in 2011, but streaming has blasted the show to new heights.

It’s reportedly the most-watched show on Netflix with 7 different seasons of Michael Scott antics making up its top 10 most-downloaded content list.

NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt told Vulture, “If we knew how popular it was going to be before [Netflix] made the deal, we would have asked for more money!” 

This time, NBC has leverage

Next year, the owner of the show, NBCUniversal, will launch a new streaming service (unlike Disney, NBC said it still plans to license its content to other providers on a show-by-show basis).

But, with the new streaming venture, NBC’s own platform will enter the fold, which could considerably raise the price for popular NBC shows.

Netflix owns the exclusive streaming rights to all 9 seasons of The Office through 2020, but then… it’s gut-check time.

» I’m prison Mike!

The Mt. Everest of scams: Travel insurance companies crack down on helicopter fraud

Last week, international insurance companies cracked down on an increasingly big problem in Nepal: helicopter rescue scams. 

Fraudulent rescue operations have been a multimillion-dollar thorn in the side of travel insurance companies for years, and now insurance companies are threatening to discontinue travel coverage in Nepal.

So, how does the scam work?

A Nepalese crime ring of trek operators, guides, and helicopter companies defraud Mt. Everest trekkers by subjecting them to unnecessary evacuations.

Tour guides take advantage of trekkers by leading them down challenging trails away from towns and cities — sometimes going as far as spiking their food with baking soda to give them diarrhea.

Then, when trekkers are disoriented and pooped (in every sense of the word), guides order unnecessary evacuations that cost as much as $40k — saddling insurance companies with huge bills.

Insurance companies are sick of paying the bills

From January to August of 2018, there were 1.6k helicopter evacuations in Nepal. But, according to last year’s investigation, 35% of them were fraudulent, at a cost of $4m to insurance companies.

Now, a collective of 23 different insurance brands (which covers 100k travelers every year) issued a letter to Nepal’s minister of tourism saying that they will stop insuring travelers to Nepal if the fraud continues — and they are peeeeved.

“To be clear, this is an ultimatum!” wrote a representative of the insurance companies. “If our clients stop issuing travel insurance policies in Nepal… this will have a devastating effect on the tourism industry.”

» A heli of a heist

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On trains and change

Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to be a hobo. 

I romanticized life as a grifter; riding across the country as a stowaway; my net worth tied up in canned beans. 

These days, not much has changed: I prefer to travel light and I’m quick to hop on a train going anywhere fast. 

I suspect many of you entrepreneurial types are the same — stillness is the enemy, we tell ourselves, stagnation is a slow death.

In practice, however, this high-velocity lifestyle comes with a drawback: changing course can be difficult; hopping off a car at full-speed all the more daunting.

But sometimes, when you see your path stretched out like train tracks and you don’t like where it’s headed — be it a job, a city, or a relationship — it’s time to tuck and roll.

Take to the woods on foot. Sure, the going is slower and the path less clear, but hey, at least you can see the trees.

Lindsey Quinn, Managing Editor of The Hustle

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