30 November 2018 Courier Weekly

The startup jobs conspiracy

PLUS: Data breaches – Fashion rental – Stress – Cooking culture

Who do startups create jobs for?

The startup world regularly bemoans the lack of talent in specialisms such as data science and cyber security. But, as one London-based founder points out, fast-growth companies are doing a poor job of actually cultivating new sources of talent.

In the Dec/Jan 2019 issue of Courier (out now) our Secret Founder argues: ‘People who live near my office have VC funding running through the streets around them, but no way to access any of it. Mainstream business media instructs founders to hire people with the exact skills for a particular project, use them for two years then let them move on – getting maximum value from them. The idea of hiring someone who needs training before they return value to the company is out of the question.

‘It’s ridiculous because shaping and training staff into key team members is the most rewarding thing about running a company. You’re giving them work they can grow into, instilling loyalty and the diligence it takes to make a company successful over a 20-year lifespan.’

Have something to share anonymously? Get in touch.

On-demand massage data

Massage booking platform Urban (formerly Urban Massage) is having a bad week. On Tuesday, reports emerged that a huge chunk of its customer database was publicly available online.

As well as personal details of Urban’s customers, the data revealed complaints made by massage therapists about specific customers – including allegations of sexual misconduct.

Urban’s co-founder and CEO Jack Tang said in a statement that Oliver Hough, the researcher that discovered the data, had confirmed he hadn’t copied, retained or passed on any data beyond notifying the journalists reporting on the story. ‘We immediately closed the potential vulnerability and have taken all appropriate action, including by notifying users and the ICO,’ he said.

Mistakes happen, but as Fast Company points out, the potential ramifications for customers could be huge. Not to mention that leaving customer data – likely Urban’s most valuable asset – online and not password protected is the equivalent of a jewellery retailer leaving its stone-encrusted stock in an unlocked store overnight.

Under GDPR law, Urban could face a fine of up to 4% of its annual global turnover. In 2017, Urban told Courier that around 20,000 massages are booked on the platform each month.

Fashion retailers are getting in on rental

Last month, fashion rental company Rent The Runway announced the launch of  ‘RTR Platform’, a service that gives brands and designers access to Rent the Runway’s customers by letting them put a curated selection of items up for rent on the platform.

It’s the latest piece of evidence that fashion rental is moving into the mainstream. Startups in the space such as Rent The Runway and Le Tote in the US and French brand Panoply City have proved there’s a growing appetite for hiring clothing and – crucially – have figured out how to make these operations work (almost) seamlessly. Now established retail brands want in on the action.

Le Tote and Panoply are also in the process of finalising deals to lease their tech to larger brands, likely to be announced in the coming months. ‘We’ve been asked by several retailers if we could operate a white-label service for them,’ Emmanuelle Brizay, co-founder of Panoply, told Courier in our latest issue. Read the full story here.

How managers can support employee mental health

For all the good things that come with building a business, it’s no secret that working in a small team on a high stakes project can sometimes feel like being inside a pressure cooker.

This week we spoke to founder of architect design platform Resi Alex Depledge, who is open about her own experience of mental illness, about what managers can do to help employees struggling with stress, anxiety or depression. Her advice:

Watch for the signs. Has an employee mentioned that they’re not sleeping? Are they flipping between feeling excitable and feeling low? These behaviours could indicate that they are struggling (more on symptoms here).

Ask if they’re OK – and give them space. An offer of two weeks time off, no questions asked, could be what’s needed to kick-start a gratifying and healing mental health journey.

Lead by example. An employee is much more likely to take a mental health day, for example, if they see that their manager has done the same.

The politics of eating

This week, we attended a panel discussion in London to celebrate the launch of You and I Eat the Same. Edited by Chris Ying, co-founder of the now shuttered cult food magazine Lucky Peach, the book argues that immigration is fundamental to the development of food. With Brexit, Trump and a world increasingly divided by politics, can food and cooking connect us across cultural and political borders?

Some takeaways from the night:

Bee Wilson, journalist and historian, said: ‘A harsh new politics of immigration has come in, making it harder for skilled south Asian chefs to work in the country. Sadly, open palettes do not necessarily lead to open minds or open borders. Even Trump advertises his love of tacos.’

Tim Lang, a food policy professor, said: ‘Around 3.9m people in the UK work in food. Food is the third biggest employer, with a huge amount of migrant labour. But now we’re saying we don’t want them? This is extraordinary politics. Chefs have a duty to not only cook in the kitchen but stand up for what they believe in.’

Iré Hassan-Odukale, co-founder of the London restaurant Ikoyi, said: ‘Before we opened, the BBC labelled us central London’s first Nigerian restaurant. That, along with the fact I’m Nigerian, meant people came with certain expectations and were angry when we didn’t do what they were expecting. We don’t put labels on the restaurant – yet people get very angry and political when it comes to food.’

We previously spoke to Chris Ying about his life after Lucky Peachread the story here.

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