27 July 2018 Courier Weekly

Answering emails at 5am

PLUS: Media buyouts – Goodlord’s revival – Chinatown protests – Selling out – Fundraising strategy

Does tech improve employee wellbeing?

This was the topic of discussion at an event hosted by employee engagement platform Perkbox this week.

Slick applications like Slack, Trello and Basecamp, which seek to streamline work activities in the same way Spotify simplified streaming, are becoming ever more present at work. And while they do make it easier to collaborate with colleagues, these apps – which work just as well on mobile as they do in the office – are also creeping into people’s personal lives, allowing bosses to beep at staff while they eat dinner or try to sleep. Surveys have found that a significant number of people receive calls from their bosses outside of working hours, and will regularly send emails between the hours of 11pm and 6am.

Speaking at the event, Rav Dhaliwal from Slack said it was important for employers and employees to set expectations on what out-of-hours contact is acceptable (for example, Dhaliwal says he has never responded to a work email after 6.30pm, as a point of principle).

Tech has its positives, too. Jonathan Lister, CTO of Pensionbee, says the way it flattens hierarchies is hugely beneficial: if all staff have direct (and more casual) lines to senior management, they can go straight to decision makers instead of looping in a number of colleagues unnecessarily.

Meanwhile, Ben Leeds, product director at Perkbox said it’s easier to exchange peer-to-peer feedback on such apps – doing away with the need for employee of the month, 360 reviews and other such top-down schemes.

Rapper-turned-newspaper proprietor.

Last week, 25-year-old Chicago resident Chancelor Jonathan Bennett – better known as Chance the Rapper – announced that he’d brought a local news website.

The Chicagoist has been inactive since November 2017, when its owner Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of stock broker platform TD Ameritrade, shuttered it, along with the Gothamist and DNAinfo, following staff’s unionisation with the Writers Guilds of America.

It was briefly owned by New York Public Radio’s WNYC and is now part of Bennett’s newly formed company, Social Media LLC, which aims to promote investigative journalism and diversity in the media. In typical Chance the Rapper style, he announced the acquisition in a new track released last Wednesday, I Might Need Security. The verse – ‘I bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist bitches outta business’ – is a dig at his new local competitor, the Chicago Sun-Times.

Chinatown restaurateurs march against immigration raids.

On Tuesday, 95% of businesses in Chinatown closed their doors to protest against controversial immigration raids.

Immigration enforcement officers have targeted Chinatown under tough new rules issued in 2014, which require migrants to earn £30,000 a year (a big ask in the hospitality industry). Business owners have criticised the officials for unfairly targeting restaurants during peak hours, and say it is stifling innovation in London’s Chinese restaurant scene.

Many of the restaurants in Chinatown are run by families, and failing to find a chef could mean closure.

Joseph Wu, chief executive of the Chinese Information and Advice Centre also said there are investors that want to bring new innovations from China who can afford the high rents and rates, but cannot get through the visa process because the chefs need to pass an English qualification requirement in addition to the minimum wage of £30,000.

‘We are concerned about the image this incident will create for Chinatown where the people have been working hard to change it from a rundown area into an international landmark, with Chinese gates and high-quality Chinese cuisine,’ said Wu.

The ups and downs of Goodlord.

Proptech company Goodlord, a platform for landlords and tenants to communicate and pay rent, announced this week that it’s getting into open banking. It’s partnering with True Layer, a company which provides tools to build financial apps, to do credit checks on tenants before they sign a rental contract.

Goodlord says its business has grown by 120% in the last 12 months. It’s an impressive uptick for the company which has experienced a turbulent year so far.

Goodlord, which was founded in 2014, laid off 40 staff in January, with its CEO Richard White departing soon after. This happened just months after the company raised £7.2m from investors.

The magic art of selling out.

Marie Kondo – author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – has come out with her own product line: storage boxes.

The move is a curious one, particularly as she mentions in her book that it’s not necessary to spend lots of money on fancy storage solutions. Earlier this year, she launched a range of jewellery boxes in collaboration with Californian jewellery brand Cuyana.

Kondo is not the only entrepreneur to take such a strategic u-turn. From the amusing (Beavertown Brewery, whose founder Logan Plant has been a vocal critic of mass-produced beer, selling a stake to beer giant Heineken just last month), to the more troubling (Thinx, the provocative and staunchly feminist ‘period-proof’ underwear company having its CEO accused of sexual harassment); it’s all been seen before.

This Harvard Business Review article – from way back in 2002 – is an interesting look at how to handle a reconfiguration of company values.

Courier Live: Four steps to fundraising with Pip Jamieson

Pip Jamieson, founder of creative network The Dots will be joining us as a speaker at our Courier Live event this September.

The Dots has raised a total of £5.5m since it launched in 2014, including a whopping £4m round in December 2017. Jamieson shares her four steps to fundraising success.

  1. Figure out what’s needed. ‘You’ve got to work out what you want to achieve and how much it’s going to take to get you there. Then add 20% – it always costs more and takes longer than you think.’
  2. Find an investor. ‘I just met anyone that would take a meeting,’ Jamieson says of her first fundraising round. ‘At the end of each meeting make sure to ask for introductions to anyone they know – a warm introduction to a potential investor is way more powerful than going in cold.’
  3. Get the pitch right. ‘The pitch deck is really important – Airbnb’s pitch deck is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen. In terms of personal preparation, it’s a mindset. Remember that it’s a two-way street; that change in power dynamic gives you a bit more confidence.’
  4. Start spending. ‘[This is] where the real work starts. You should have a plan for what the money is for, [but] the hardest bit is building the team. That’s the thing you’re going to have to start straight away.’

For more information on Courier Live, and to buy tickets, click here.