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In a tangentially-related follow up to Adam’s essay yesterday about the scammy Fyre music festival, let’s take a closer look at one of those influencers who got paid to promote the scheme. Kendall Jenner reportedly received $250,000 to hype the fest on her Instagram feed. She doesn’t sound super-apologetic in a comment to New York Times reporter Amy Chozick:
“You get reached out to by people to, whether it be to promote or help or whatever, and you never know how these things are going to turn out, sometimes it’s a risk,” Jenner says. “I definitely do as much research as I can, but sometimes there isn’t much research you can do because it’s a starting brand and you kind of have to have faith in it and hope it will work out the way people say it will.”
It’s easy to dismiss the Kardashians, but as Chozick’s piece also makes clear, Kris Jenner and her five daughters have turned reality show fame into a billion dollar business empire through savvy exploitation of their popularity on social media connected up with the e-commerce infrastructure that links digital world intentions with physical world goods. Don’t expect the family to fade from the headlines anytime soon, as episode one of season 16 of Keeping Up With the Kardashians airs on Sunday.
This tangent runs even deeper, as a report on one of the most obscure and obdurately tech-resistant corners of Wall Street had me thinking back to the lessons of the Kardashians. The $9 trillion corporate bond market may be the last holdout against automated and rapid electronic trading, where fancy pants salespeople and their stereotypically gruff traders still hawk bonds over the phone, as they did in the days of Michael Lewis’s brilliant book Liar’s Poker (okay, they mostly do it via instant messages now, but still!). Bloomberg’s Matthew Leising says electronic trading that bypasses the street is rising rapidly but still comprises only about one-quarter of all trading.
It’s cheaper, faster, and more reliable, so what’s the hold up? In a market where a single company may have hundreds of slightly different bonds outstanding, some of which rarely trade, and prices are difficult to track, even big institutional investors need some hand-holding, it seems. “People want to talk to people, and know they are doing the right thing,” Kevin McPartland, an analyst at Greenwich Associates, tells Leising. Getting the signal to buy something based on a nod from a respected guru in the field, probably over IM? We just need a Kardashian family for the bond market.
The nemesis of my nemesis. Retailing giant Walmart may be jealous of the way Amazon customers can buy things with voice commands via an Alexa smart speaker. So Walmart is hooking up with Google to offer vocal commerce to its shoppers on Google’s line of smart speakers. Meanwhile, Amazon is taking a page out of Walmart’s grocery strategy, trying to ignite stronger sales at Whole Foods by cutting prices on more than 500 popular items.
Dead cat bounce. The prices of digital currencies like bitcoin are finally on the rise, but that’s not helping the moribund market for initial coin offerings much. Deals using the somewhat controversial fundraising technique brought in a total of just $118 million in the first quarter, down from $6.9 billion in the same period a year earlier. That’s a 98% drop for those of you keeping score at home.
Not cheating. College admissions data service CollegeVine raised $24 million from investors including Maywood Street Investments, Fidelity Investments, and Morningside Technology Ventures. Perhaps alluding to the recent admissions bribery scandals of the rich and famous, CEO Jon Carson says the company’s goal is “to bring affordable services to families making one of the most consequential decisions in their lifetime.”
Red in the face. Shares of Lyft had a bad day on Monday, tumbling 12% to close at $69.01, below last week’s initial public offering price of $72. That’s bad news for stock market buyers, but probably the result of early investors unloading some of their shares. In the IPO pipeline, messaging service Slack plans to avoid Wall Street underwriters and list its shares directly, a la Spotify.
It just keep going and going. The latest rumors out of Apple‘s Asian supply chain hint that this year’s new iPhone models will be similar to the 2018 incarnations but with beefier batteries. Expect the new phones to have up to 25% more power capacity, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo at TF International Securities writes.
ON THE MOVE
Former Pandora and Snap executive Tom Conrad joined Quibi as chief product officer reporting to CEO Meg Whitman…After 16 years at McKesson, Lamis Hossain has joined Uber as director of Uber Health, the company’s health care transportation unit. Hossain was most recently McKesson’s assistant general counsel…Noted programmer Joel Spolsky is stepping down as CEO of Stack Overflow. He’ll take the chairman of the board role, while the company will look for a new boss.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
One of the all-time greatest apps from the early days of cloud and mobile computing has to be Evernote, the note collecting database that works on almost every platform. But the company has suffered some serious ups and downs and some users have defected as the product has grown more complicated and expensive. Investor and entrepreneur (check out his amazing multi-cloud document tracker FYI) Hiten Shah has a long essay on his blog delving into Evernote’s history. And he’s not kind to Evernote’s former CEO Phil Libin for multiple missteps, like introducing an online store called Evernote Market.
It’s hard to understate the damage that the branded products sold through the Evernote Market inflicted on the Evernote brand. It made absolutely no sense. Users didn’t want Evernote-branded tablet styluses or Evernote Moleskine notebooks or Evernote backpacks. They wanted an organizational and productivity product that worked. The fact that the 2013 version of Evernote was widely considered the buggiest, most unstable version the company had released at that point added insult to injury. Rather than fixing the software problems that users actually cared about, Evernote started selling branded backpacks instead.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
A ‘Co-Living’ Provider for Millennials Has Big Expansion Plans By Rey Mashayekhi
BEFORE YOU GO
Federal law is pretty clear about prohibiting marketers from calling people on the Do Not Call registry. Not that many marketers pay much attention to that list. Now a Florida woman is suing former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, alleging that two unsolicited text messages she received violated the law. Unfortunately for Cassandra Vallianos, the law has an exemption for political calls and the messages touted Schultz’s “vision for America” tour. Still, that’s probably one vote that the burnt coffee mogul won’t be getting if he does decide to run for president.