5 October 2018 Courier Weekly

Going home on time: the ultimate staff perk?

Trainer economics – Healthcare – Marketing – Team-building – Branding

The first Courier Live brought together 1500 people from the world of modern business last Friday in London. Today’s Courier Weekly digs into some of the key takeaways from the event’s 25+ panels and workshops — focusing on everything from fashion to food.

Building an empire from your bedroom

Our panel on streetwear and the booming resale economy featured Depop’s CEO Maria Raga and Depop seller Daniel Wilmot, Brock Cardiner from Highsnobiety, Mubi Ali from Sneakersnstuff and Courier columnist Phoebe Lovatt. Top insights:

It’s no longer niche. ‘We ran a Highsnobiety survey in 2017 and found that 90% of our audience bought or sold something on a resale site in the previous 12 months,’ says Brock. ‘45 to 50% spent up to $500 or more on a single purchase. 50% said their most expensive purchase in the last 12 months was a pair of sneakers. It shows that within this demographic (ages 18 to 35), people have no hesitation spending huge amounts on a product.’

Trainer economics. The demand for many trainers outweighs supply — and brands play into the hype. ‘Products are raffled now,’ says Mubi. ‘We had 135,000 signups for Nike’s Air Max 1/97 Sean Wotherspoon trainers. We couldn’t even provide 0.8% of that. When you have that many people trying to get something that you can’t give them, you’re going to need a lottery system.’

The product = the currency. ‘You can buy a pair of Balenciaga shoes for $800, sell them for $1000 or $1200 and keep reinvesting that money,’ says Brock. ‘It’s an entrepreneurial spirit. Kids think of the product as currency rather than a dollar value. They know if they buy a shirt from Supreme for $50 they can sell it for $200 but equally they can trade it for another product that’s worth $200.’

Insights from a seller. ‘I first got a Depop account at university to sell clothes as a way of affording meals,’ said Daniel, who is about to open a brick-and-mortar shop in the UK city of Nottingham. One lesson learned: People want a sales mix ranging from super-hyped products to under-retailed ones. ‘They want to see Sean Wotherspoons, Yeezys and Off-Whites, but 9 times out of 10 they can’t afford them and they’ll end up buying a cheaper trainer. I learned the transactional price points and trialled different things. That’s why I was so successful.’

Reselling as a career? ‘More and more people have left their jobs to make a living out of Depop,’ says the company’s CEO Maria Raga. ‘Some of our top sellers make an income of 6 digits. We help our top sellers become proper businesses by organising workshops to assist with their VAT and bring them together to learn from one another.’

The future of healthcare

Dr Ali Parsa runs the pioneering digital healthcare company Babylon. At Courier Live he spoke with our founder Jeff Taylor.

Healthcare is deeply flawed. ‘Healthcare is broken. People don’t appreciate how broken it is,’ Dr Parsa says. ‘Out of a global economy of $70 trillion, $10 trillion is spent on healthcare and yet 50% of humanity has zero access. Not a little, but zero.’ For those with access, it’s mostly inadequate: ‘You have a high likelihood of getting misdiagnosed and the average consultation is less than 2 minutes.’ In addition, 70% of healthcare spending goes to salaries and two thirds of that money goes to treating preventable diseases — an area Babylon is aiming to disrupt.

Luck plays a huge role. ‘We started less than 5 years ago,’ Dr Parsa says. ‘Artificial intelligence was a promise for the last 50 years, but it only started truly delivering in the last 2 to 3 years. All of a sudden it came together in the right way. Like everything else in life, you get lucky and then you pretend you were smart!’

Tech is evolving fast. Technology and human knowledge are growing at a rapid clip, with far-reaching implications for society.

  • Quantum computing and 5G will change everything. ’50-fold more processing power will soon become available to us,’ Dr Parsa says. The arrival of 5G will also be a game-changer. ‘5G is 100 times faster than 4G. We’ll be able to download a hi-definition movie in one second on a mobile phone. Think about the power that will give us.’
  • Focus on what we don’t know. ‘We’re going to double humanity’s knowledge every 2 to 3 years. What we know today is only 30% of what we’ll know in 4 years and 10% of what we’ll know in 10 years. This means 90% of the world’s knowledge will be discovered in the next 10 years. Big corporations are failing because their energy is focused on the 10% rather than where the next 90% will come from. Focus on that 90% and you’ll do phenomenally well.’

It’s not a popularity contest. The moment you try to persuade everybody, you’ve lost. ‘You only need to persuade 2-3% percent of them — early adopters,’ Dr Parsa says. ‘Far too much energy gets wasted on wondering if people believe in you. Being an entrepreneur is instead a matter of believing in yourself. I couldn’t care less whether a particular doctor or critic agrees or disagrees with what I’m doing. The fact remains: the old model of healthcare is unsustainable, it’s not deliverable and it’s left most of the world’s population behind.’

How to avoid a marketing faux pas

Targeting under-represented demographics is a tricky business. If the pitch of the message is off, you’ll sound at best clumsy and at worst, ignorant and offensive.

At our panel ‘The new consumer’, Nafisa Bakkar, co-founder of media company and agency Amaliah, said one way to avoid this is by having a more diverse group of decision-makers in charge of marketing. ‘We’ve got all these companies and agencies trying to represent sub-communities, but the people they’re trying to represent don’t have a seat at the table,’ she explained.

Bakkar also said ‘visual cues’ – showing members of minority communities in a campaign – are no longer enough for a truly inclusive marketing message. More forward-thinking brands should consider how they can add value to the lives of diverse consumer groups.

Also on the panel, Namrata Kamdar, co-founder of teenage boys brand 31st State, said marketing should be a ‘two-way conversation’ with companies listening to what consumers want as much as telling them what to buy. ‘It’s like me saying I want to sell to a teenager but never having a conversation with a teenager or understanding their life. It isn’t always authentic because it isn’t done with the right level of intimacy.’

David Hieatt’s lessons for building teams

In a keynote talk at Courier Live, David Hieatt, co-founder of Hiut Denim and The Do Lectures, explained his top tips for building teams:

  1. Radical honestly. In order to do the best work you’ve ever done, you need to be radically honest with your team and be able to say ‘that’s not good enough’.
  2. Your team comes first. Not your individual interest or ego. One of the joys of business is being in an environment where everyone has each other’s backs.
  3. Big wins are super rare. Becoming the next Uber or Facebook is rare, so instead aim to be just a little bit better each day. People fall in love with a dream but they need to fall in love with incremental change. It’s all about baby steps.
  4. Do things that matter, not things that are ‘cool’. And feel proud about it.
  5. You need to grow for your business to grow. If you set a giant goal, you’ll need to change yourself to achieve it.
  6. Be a coach, not a boss. The best part of business is seeing people who think they can’t fly and teaching them they can.
  7. Success isn’t about metrics – it’s about community. People don’t care that Patagonia is a billion-dollar brand; they care about the community the company’s built.
  8. The ultimate staff perk isn’t M&Ms in the lobby or a ping pong table — it’s having your employees leave the office on time.

Perfecting the supermarket pitch

Need to convince a buyer to take a punt on a new brand? Courier columnist and food entrepreneur Fleur Emery hosted a panel featuring Pip Murray from nut butter brand Pip and Nut, Young Foodies’ Thea Alexander and Jason Gibb of the Bread and Jam festival. Some key takeaways:

Understand your buyer’s challenge. To win a supermarket contract, do the buyer’s thinking for them, said Fleur. ‘[Buyers] are under a lot of pressure and every part of their category has to be making money. You’re asking them to take something off the shelf that’s already making money and put something completely unknown in its place.’ Familiarising yourself with the category across all supermarkets and understanding how your own brand sits within it is key.

Be open to feedback. Consider developing your branding in iterations, rather than investing heavily in it early on, said Jason. ‘What you really need to do is make [the branding] good enough to get to the next stage, and be very open to feedback from the retailers, hear what they have to say.’ Thea also cautioned against spending too much on branding design because ‘six months later, you will change it. Packaging evolves.’

Start small. Pip says it’s best to prove your concept with small retailers before going after big ones. ‘If you’re completely unknown, you have to prove you can do it on a small scale before going to Sainsbury’s. You’ve got to show you can deliver on time and that your product sells. Sell the brand in smaller independent stores to build a robust enough case for a buyer to take a risk.’

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