This is the weekly free edition of Marketing BS / Start-up curated. Yesterday subscribers received my essay on Jeff Bezos and the power of Friction. This week’s interview is with Sunil Bhatt, CEO of Genuine Hospitality Group. Subscribers will receive both parts of the interview.

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Edward, Startup Curated

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Edward, Startup Curated


Edward, Startup Curated

Marketing to Employees

  • McKinsey: The consulting firm settled with the attorneys general of 47 states over their role in the opioid crisis. McKinsey agreed to pay $573 million as a settlement. Since McKinsey is a partnership that shares out revenue every year based on how well the firm does this will mean each of the ~3000 partners will see their 2021 pay cut by roughly $200K. That is significant for "McKinsey principals” (junior partners) and “Associate Principles” (pre-partners who get a half share of the earnings), but not so for Directors (senior partners) who make ~$4MM or more. I don’t expect it will hurt McKinsey’s brand with future customers. The bigger issue is how it will affect the brand with current and future employees. To that end the managing director put out a letter to the employee base (that was also shared with alumni). McKinsey is being forced to “discover its purpose”.
  • Pillows: The CEO of MyPillow has been a leading Trump supporter. What is a liberal to do if they want a pillow (other than buy one of the millions of other pillows on the market?). Enter David Hogg who is launching a “progressive” pillow brand. I expect he will at least be able to get employees at below market rates.


Edward, Startup Curated


  • Stock tickers: It is not uncommon for smaller companies sharing similar names or stock tickers of big retail stocks to get a boost when their similarly named twin does well (see Zoom Communications - stock ticker “ZOOM” - the manufacturer of mobile phone components, not to be confused with Zoom Video Communications, “ZM”, the video conferencing company we have all learned to love). Last week Clubhouse (the live audio social media app) raised $100MM on a rumored $1B valuation. This caused stock in the publicly traded “Clubhouse Media Group” (CMGR) to spike from ~$5 to ~$13. What is most ironic about this is that Clubhouse Media Group is a holding company for TikTok influencers. TikTok is the OTHER social media audio (and video) app - which presumably is in a slightly WORSE position now that Clubhouse has $100MM in its war chest. An example of why one needs to be careful having a similar name to a competitor…
  • Airline Loyalty Programs: Skift has a good piece on how airlines are handing loyalty customers when they stop serving a market. In some ways this is a pure profit opportunity for the airline (banked points are more likely to expire or go unused), but there is real value in a base of customers who care about a loyalty point currency. There is value in finding a way to keep their future lifetime value in the currency.
  • Walmart Ad Tech: Walmart has acquired an ad tech company to improve its ability to offer self-service ad buying on their new network. Building a good ad network requires good targeting (using purchase data), good ad units, and the ability to buy ads in a low friction way. Walmart is slowly putting together all the pieces.



Edward, Startup Curated

  • Snitching: Senators have introduced a new bill, “See something, say something” which would require tech companies to report any user activity deemed “suspicious” or lose Section 230 protections. From the article: “"Suspicious" content is defined as _any_post, private message, comment, tag, transaction, or "any other user-generated content or transmission" that government officials later determine "commits, facilitates, incites, promotes, or otherwise assists the commission of a major crime."”. There are trade offs people…

COVID and the new world order

Edward, Startup Curated

  • Vaccine Side Effects: The way drugs list side effects is by including anything experienced by people who got the vaccine during trials. Well one recipient of the Moderna vaccine was hit by lightning… I am PRETTY sure was not caused by the vaccine, but note that no one in the control group was electrocuted…
  • Masks: Before and after analysis shows that a mask mandate significantly reduces hospitalizations. The obvious caveat here is that it is entirely possible that the mask mandates get implemented during peak infection points and the hospitalizations would be on their way down anyway.
  • Double the doses: Alex Taborrok at Marginal Revolution has a great piece on how we could double the doses available. Apparently clinical data suggest that even a 1/4 does of the vaccine is as effective as the full dose. Taborrok suggests that we at least run a trial where we test full dose vs 1/4 dose (or even 1/2 dose). Everyone in the trial would at LEAST get a 1/4 dose (which we THINK is good enough - and better than the “no dose” most people are getting right now). This is how smart companies run A/B tests on their websites. You don’t test a new landing page vs nothing at all - you test it vs the best page you have right now.
  • Chicken wings: Prices are up 60% since pre-COVID. The article suggests this is due to increased demand. This surprises me. I would have though most chicken wings would be eaten on-premises at restaurants. What am I missing?

GPT-3, Machine Learning and AI

  • SQL Queries: When I was an associate at McKinsey I spent one two-month study creating database queries and summarizing the results in Excel. The partner would ask a question, “When happens if someone’s phone breaks and they call in for a new one? What happens to their ARPU based on what it was before the call, and can you cut it by the value of the phone and their prior tenure with the company?”. Brian Kane has automated the ability to create these queries with GPT-3. Now rather than asking the associate, the partner could just type the question and the query would be built by the AI. At least my role creating powerpoint slides of the query answers has not been automated (yet).



Keep it simple,


Edward, Startup Curated