26 October 2018 Courier Weekly

Poop bags: a luxury product?

PLUS: Revolut – Backstage Capital – Coal Drops Yard – Cities

It’s all part of the job interview

A short test when interviewing for a job isn’t unusual. But how much can a prospective hire be asked to do before a line is crossed?

Revolut is finding out. It’s emerged that the fintech company has been asking some candidates to recruit 200 customers as part of its interview process.

Revolut makes a tangible profit from this – around a £9 deposit per new user – without having to pay for the work of acquiring new customers. According to a former Revolut employee, this policy was introduced after a number of experienced business development staff left the company (allegedly because they were being asked to spend their time on the streets physically handing out Revolut cards).

It’s unsavoury for a company to financially benefit from job seekers. But it’s unlikely this revelation will stop people from applying to work at the ambitious tech company – which has already made clear that it doesn’t prioritise work-life balance.

Revolut has released a statement on the issue: ‘The home task has been removed as it does not reflect our company values. We will be developing alternate ways to test candidates’ ability for future home tasks.’

Catching up with Backstage Capital’s London team

Backstage Capital, a VC fund which backs founders from under-represented groups, is in the process of launching four accelerators (three in the US, one in London). Its London team has just closed applications and is now deciding which six companies to select for its first cohort.

Bringing together diverse groups is just one side of the coin. Andy Ayim, managing director of Backstage Capital in London, told Courier a key priority is to make sure that once they start working together, the accelerator doesn’t simply end up emulating stereotypical Silicon Valley culture.

‘It’s something we’ve thought very deeply about,’ he says. ‘We’re designing safe spaces so people can have ongoing conversations to make sure we’re not sinking into these traps. We want to be as inclusive as possible.’

Two members of the Backstage Capital team also run Change Catalyst, a company which creates inclusive business education programmes, and making sure events are as open as possible (for example, Ayim says booze won’t be served and wheelchair accessibility is a high priority).

We’re looking forward to seeing this new model of startup accelerator develop in the coming months.

Coal Drops Yard launches today

A new retail destination in King’s Cross opens at noon today. Coal Drops Yard, next door to art and design school Central St Martins, will host over 50 stores, restaurants and cafes. Businesses opening shops include spectacles maker Cubitts, jewellery brand Maya Magal and fashion retailer Wolf and Badger. There will also be a number of short-term commercial units – Beautystack, a beauty booking business launched by Wah Nails founder Sharmadean Reid, will have a temporary space at the site.

The development is an impressive continuation of developer Argent’s reinvention of King’s Cross as a shopping and dining destination. The real test for Coal Drops Yard will be how many customers it can pull in – the location isn’t easy to stumble across, and visitors tend to visit intentionally, to eat at one of the restaurants or for classes at St Martins. Hopefully they can be convinced to browse the new retail offerings.

How co-working affects neighbourhoods

Co-working companies often emphasise the value they impart on startups. What’s less clear, however, is the impact these spaces have on the local economy – from spending in shops, pubs and restaurants to increased activity (or strain) on transport.

On Wednesday in London, the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr) shared a report commissioned by WeWork  on how the co-working company supports local economic growth in London.

Some interesting highlights:

  • WeWork members in London spend £55 per week in the neighbourhood around their building, nearly three times as much as the average London adult, contributing about £75m annually to local businesses.
  • They don’t, however, enjoy visiting cafes or pubs. A fifth of members go to a local pub less than once a month, while 40% never visit a cafe in the area.
  • Almost all WeWork members (97%) commute via public transport, walking or biking, compared to the central London average of 89%.

The report doesn’t investigate the impact such co-working spaces have on local gentrification – and their potential to increase property prices and displace other small businesses in the area. Google recently dropped plans to open a shared workspace in Berlin after residents protested.

Dog collars and poop bags: luxury products?

Pet brand Wild One opened its first shop on New York’s Lafayette Street last week.

The store is a place where owners can hang out with their pups, drink a beer and, of course, shop for some fancy pet accessories.

Wild One is one of a number of brands putting a luxury slant on pet accessories (its blush pink poop bags are a prime example). Wooldog, a Polish startup launched in 2016, sells hand-made dog sweaters, while Greek brand Argus Collar makes dog collars with matching bracelets for owners.

Five things on our radar this week