Cleveland’s Weird Tech Culture, and 5 Other Stories You Should Read
Here’s what you missed while you definitely weren’t following the latest T Swift/Kim K drama…
Stratechery: Dollar Shave Club and The Disruption of Everything
Selected by Amanda Weatherhead, sales strategist
After two quarters of disappointing IPOs and a marked contraction in Series B investments, Unilever’s billion-dollar acquisition of Dollar Shave Club (DSC) felt like a dose of nepenthe to the tech world.
Here, writer Ben Thompson compares DSC’s acquisition to when Proctor & Gamble acquired Gillette. P&G has established itself as an industry titan through a relentless pursuit of pioneering research, creation of an diverse product line, and aggressive marketing strategy. Since the 1950s, P&G has essentially doubled revenue decade over decade. Acquiring Gillette gave it a commanding position in the men’s razor market, and Thompson points to Gillette’s $57 billion price tag as proof that Dollar Shave Club’s $1 billion acquisition has been severely overhyped.
However, in describing DSC’s meteoric rise, Thompson inadvertently disproves his own point. DSC has created the foundation for the 21st century’s version of a CPG empire: capitalizing on social media to grow an audience, eschewing brick and mortar stores, and stripping razors to their bare minimum. In the company’s first promotional video, founder Mike Dubin declared, “Stop paying for shave tech you don’t need,” and consumers have responded to that rallying cry.
The New Inquiry: Not for You
Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor
Like Willie Osterweil, the writer of this essay, I once spent way too much time playing Time Crisis in a sticky corner of my town’s local chain movie theater. And like Osterweil, I find it impossible to ignore the shift in marketing we’re seeing across consumer-facing industries like entertainment: away from mass-consumerism and toward a more targeted version.
It’s a trend other astute observers have seen as well: Cruise ships increasingly only cater to their wealthiest clientele while ignoring improvements for the “masses.” So, too, do airlines. Recent tech disrupters like Uber and Airbnb—advertised as great democratizers—are likewise used almost exclusively by the urban elite.
After a multi-decade rise in income inequality, companies are adapting their marketing—and giving us a hint of what our future economy might look like if the gap continues to widen.
Medium: I’m With the Banned
Selected by Noah Waldman, editorial intern
This will be the best piece you read about the banning of Milo Yiannopoulos, if only because it’s the closest to the source.
Explaining why Milo and his followers are wrong turns them into underdogs. Banning them from Twitter makes them martyrs. Trying to meet them on their own terms gives them a position of power. They’ve weaponized irony and found righteousness in apathy. They’re driven entirely by vanity and a twisted nihilism that suggests nothing anyone else cares about matters. And a pathological need to feel smarter than other people has driven them to the bottom of the cultural barrel, turned them into manipulating racists and bigots, and not because they necessarily agree with them, but because they’ll listen.
The New Yorker: Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All
Selected by Ann Fabens-Lassen, communications manager
In many ways, this article is exactly what the headline claims: a tell-all about Trump from the ghostwriter of his autobiography, The Art of the Deal. The writer, Tony Schwartz, explains that Trump lies, he doesn’t read, his businesses are failing—not exactly shocking stuff.
What’s interesting, really, is Schwartz’s personal journey: his realization during the research and writing process that Trump is a fundamentally bad person, his decision to continue with the book, and his subsequent guilt. It’s one thing to write a book for a businessman who you think is a terrible person; it’s another to live with the fact that you helped him potentially become the president of the United States.
Selected by Brian Maehl, talent development manager
In this piece, chef–owner of Momofuku, David Chang, pens an analytical and thought-provoking piece about what makes food delicious—and how it has far less to do with ingredients than we may think. There are a few key elements at play in Chang’s reflection. The first is relating the philosophical concept of how strange loops (systems, music, or art folding back on itself) can create great work. In culinary terms, a good example of this is how a great dish won’t taste like it has the perfect amount of salt, but rather like it’s simultaneously too salty, yet not salty enough.
Also crucial is how food connects us to previous experiences, eliciting strong, positive reactions. He references the final scene in Rataouille, when a food critic is taken back to his childhood upon trying the chef’s creation. For me, it was fascinating to reflect on how much philosophical, seemingly tangential thought can go into delicious dishes.
(Side note: Ratatouille has one of the greatest film soundtracks of all time, and Michael Giacchino was robbed of the 2007 Oscar for Best Film Score.)
The Ringer: Cleveland Is Not Immune to Weird Tech Culture
Selected by Jordan Teicher, senior editor
It’s Cleveland Week on The Ringer, a weird thematic ode to a dumpy city that has been in the news a lot lately. While there was plenty to cover in the sports world a month after the Cavaliers won the NBA championship, The Ringer’s tech writers, who have quietly been doing an awesome job, also dedicated their week to nobody’s favorite city.
Silicon Valley gets most of the love, hate, and repute, but every major urban area has some sort of tech presence. Cleveland, surprisingly, has emerged as somewhat of a startup hub in the Midwest. In this pleasant profile, staff writer Alyssa Bereznak takes a look at a Cleveland startup that works out of a boat. The company embraces some startup clichés, but in an endearing way that probably wouldn’t fly on the West Coast.Image by Shutterstock