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The Stitch Fix IPO is a go—here’s how much money it makes

The Stitch Fix IPO is a go—here’s how much money it makes
[Photo: Peter Bellis / Unsplash]

Stitch Fix, the subscription clothing startup that launched in 2011, filed for an initial public offering today. As MarketWatch reports, the company’s SEC filing reveals that it was targeting for $100 million in proceeds (though this might change in future filings) and its financial disclosures reveal a company that has very strong revenues.

In 2014, it brought in $73.2 million, and by the 2017 fiscal year, it had hit $977.1 million. Stitch Fix was profitable in 2015 and 2016, but went back to a loss of roughly $600,000 this year.

As Bloomberg’s Shira Ovide points out on Twitter, one of the most impressive things about Stitch Fix is that while it is bringing in close to $1 billion in revenue, it has only raised a total of $42.5 million in its entire history. That’s much more sustainable growth than many high-growth fashion startups like Bonobos, which raised more than $127 million in funding, but ended up selling itself to Walmart.

Ovide also mentions that Stitch Fix is trying to pitch itself first as a technology company, and second as a fashion brand. She counted that the word “data science” appears 64 times in its IPO.

ES

Read George W. Bush’s full speech calling out white supremacy

This morning, George W. Bush gave a speech in New York. His words didn’t mention President Trump’s name once, yet his message was clearly calling out the current president’s policies. “Bigotry and white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed,” said the former president.

“We need to recall and recover our own identity,” he went on. “Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.”

Social media has lit up in reaction to Bush Jr.’s speech, and not everyone is happy. Many, rightfully, are calling out the irony that the Republican whose presidency gave us the Iraq war–killing hundreds of thousands of people and destabilizing the world–is now railing against bigotry.

Still, Bush had searing words about the current state of things. Politico has a transcript of the full speech. You can check it out here.CGW

Verizon’s still figuring out how to deal with cord-cutters

Verizon says it lost 18,000 pay-TV subscribers last quarter, largely because of cord-cutting, yet the company reportedly won’t try to win those customers back with a streaming channel bundle until at least next spring.

A half-dozen streaming bundles are already available–with more on the way–yet those services aren’t offsetting the decline of cable and satellite TV, as people opt for cheaper services like Netflix and Hulu. It’s hard to fault Verizon for approaching with caution, but the pressure’s on now that the telco is shedding subscribers in what’s traditionally been a strong quarter for pay TV.JN

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Xmas shopping for billionaires: The best of the 2017 Neiman Marcus catalogue

Xmas shopping for billionaires: The best of the 2017 Neiman Marcus catalogue
[Photo: Car Culture, Inc./Getty Images]

If you’re too busy doing the Scrooge McDuck backstroke through your billions of dollars to find the time for Christmas shopping, Neiman Marcus is here to help. That’s right, it’s the most wonderful time of the year when in addition to their $15,000 faux moose heads and $6,200 stalking lion figurines, the company releases their annual Christmas book that turns gift shopping into a bloodsport for billionaires.

Here are the highlights:

  • Yours & Mine Rolls-Royce Limited Edition Dawns. Choose either Blue ($439,625) or Orange ($445,750), or just take one of each.
  • Head to Zambia and London with master jeweler Stephen Webster and bring home a 7.2-carat emerald as a souvenir: $300,000
  • Head to Paris for the Ryder Cup with U.S. team captain Jim Furyk as your guide: $250,000
  • Spend New Year’s Eve on the rooftop of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Times Square for a cool $1,600,000. While most New Yorkers would rather clean the F train station with their tongue than pass New Year’s in Times Square, this package will let you and 299 of your closest friends ring in 2018 with  drinks,  dinner, and a DJ, and 150 hotel rooms to pass out in when they’re done.
  • Get drunk in style with a trip to Champagne for four of your friends and a custom cuvée with Armand de Brignac: $150,000
  • Get ready for next year’s Christmas card by heading out on an aerial photo adventure with photographer Gray Malin over the beaches of Malibu: $35,000
  • Skip the trip to Toys R Us and have a year’s worth of Madame Alexander dolls shipped to your house complete with a dollhouse by KidKraft and a doll designed in the child’s likeness, which is definitely not creepy: $8,000.

Really want to spend your money on something worthwhile? Right this way.ML

3D-printed rockets could mean cheaper trips to space

3D-printed rockets could mean cheaper trips to space
[Photo: NASA on Unsplash]

Many of us have dreamed of building a rocketship in our backyard, but we never dreamed a giant 3D printer could make that possible. Relativity Space wants to cut the going rate for a rocket launch from about $100 million to around $10 million, Bloomberg reports, all thanks to 3D printing.

Relativity isn’t the only space company using 3D printers. Rocket Labs, one of our Most Innovative Companies in the space industry, 3D prints its engines. But Relativity wants to print whole rockets.

Founded by Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone–who honed their chops at Blue Origin and SpaceX respectively–the company has figured out that when it comes to building a rocket, “80 to 90 percent of the cost is labor.” To reduce costs, they built their own 3D printers capable of building a fuel tank in just a few days, and an engine in only 1.5 weeks. If things go as planned, they hope to be able to build an entire rocket in less than a month. The whole process costs less than traditional rocket-building, because it cuts out the pesky humans-need-paychecks-and-overtime factor. While we’re all for humans having jobs, cheaper rockets mean cheaper space travel.

Still, the company has a long way to go: It successfully test-fired its printed engine at a NASA facility in Mississippi earlier this year. It hopes to print a 90-foot rocket with 2,000 pounds of carrying capacity by mid-2020, and then launch a prototype by 2021.ML

You can now book your hotel room with an emoji on Slack

You can now book your hotel room with an emoji on Slack
[Photo: courtesy of Marriott Vacation Club]

Way back in 2015, travel biz site Skift was reporting that Slack was the future of travel. Turns out they might be right.

Marriott has just unveiled a new service that lets groups book travel via Slack. So if your entire startup is heading to, say, the Fast Company Innovation Festival, simply pull up Marriott Rewards’ Slack extension, type your city and dates, and the extension will give you a few options. Everyone in the chat votes—using Slack’s thumbs-up emoji, of course. When the votes are tallied, the boss can book the hotel right there with the assurance that they are booking the lowest possible rate, according to the hotel.

A startup called Roomino tried a similar service in 2015, billing itself as the first Slack team group-hotel-booking service. It had high hopes, including adding Uber, flights, bus, Airbnb, and even integrating expense-reporting, according the founders. It’s unclear how that went: Roomino’s website doesn’t exist and it hasn’t tweeted since 2016.

Now Marriott Rewards is testing the waters on Slack itself. The hotel chain has been quick to adopt tech and mold it to its needs. Its Aloft brand launched ChatBotlr, a text-based chatbot that lets guests request services, earlier this year. Marriott also unveiled a booking bot for Facebook Messenger and will be adding booking bots on We-Chat and Google Assistant soon. And earlier this year, they introduced an original Snapchat video series to inform people about updates in the travel industry—and advertise their loyalty program, natch.

[H/T Mashable]ML

Mattress Firm accuses bed-in-a-box startup Tuft & Needle of unfair ad practices in lawsuit

Mattress Firm accuses bed-in-a-box startup Tuft & Needle of unfair ad practices in lawsuit
[Illustration: Chuck Shacochis/Getty Images]

Mattress Firm, America’s dominant mattress retailer, filed a lawsuit in a Texas federal court against Tuft & Needle, a leading mattress-in-a-box company, earlier this week. Mattress Firm alleges “false, unfair, and disparaging advertising” on Tuft & Needle’s part. The Texas-based Mattress Firm has 3,500 locations; its subsidiaries include Sleepy’s and Sleep Train.

Among the advertising practices that bother Mattress Firm? It is irked by a billboard that reads “Mattress Goliath, Meet David,” presenting Tuft & Needle as David. Mattress Firm’s complaint notes that the “Mattress Goliath” in the billboard conspicuously resembles Mattress Firm’s own logo, using the same colors and font.

Mattress Firm also complains that beginning in 2015, Tuft & Needle purchased Google ads that displayed when consumers searched queries related to Mattress Firm–like “mattress firm outlet” or “mattress firm reviews.” Consumers searching for such queries saw Tuft & Needle ads that said things like “Mattress Stores are Greedy” and led to Tuft & Needle’s site instead.

Tuft & Needle continues to use this search ad strategy against several other competitors. Google searches for “casper mattress,” “purple mattress,” and “brooklyn bedding,” and “leesa mattress,” for instance, currently surface a Tuft & Needle Google ad that says “‘Do Not Buy That Mattress’ – Learn the Truth, Why Overpay?” Search engine marketing experts say that similar strategies are not uncommon in Google advertising, in many industries.

For more on recent mattress lawsuits roiling the industry, check out Fast Company‘s report, “The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare.”DZ

Monique Lhuillier becomes a fully fledged lifestyle brand with her home collection

Monique Lhuillier is known for her dreamy, magical wedding dresses. But the designer is moving beyond gowns to create a full lifestyle brand. She just announced a partnership with Pottery Barn where she has created a range of bedding, bath, tabletop, and decor products that carry her same feminine and sparkly sensibility. “I’ve spent my career designing products for important moments in life–weddings and parties,” Lhuillier tells Fast Company. “So when I imagine expanding my brand, I want to craft products that bring a sense of specialness to the every day.”

Lhuillier has also designed a range of products for Pottery Barn Kids that include furniture, toys, and even halloween costumes. (Her fairy costumes look like they could double as flower girl dresses.)ES

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Misen aims to cut out the middleman to make chef’s tools affordable to the home cook

Misen aims to cut out the middleman to make chef’s tools affordable to the home cook
[Photo: courtesy of Misen]

Trying to be Jamie Oliver or Mario Batali at home can get expensive. Walk into a Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma store and you might need to take out a second mortgage to pay for fancy knives and cookware.

Misen–a startup founded by three former tech startup dudes and passionate home cooks–is on a mission to be the Everlane of cookware. The brand wants to create high-quality knives and pans, but cut out middlemen retailers to get rid of inflated costs.

So far, customers seem to be digging the idea. The brand first launched a chef’s knife made from premium steel, selling it for $65 on Kickstarter, a fraction of what a top-notch knife costs at a speciality shop. That 2015 campaign generated more than a million dollars in pre-sales.

Now, Misen wants to bring the same approach to pans. The brand wants to create a set of five products–including skillets and sauce and stock pans–made from 3 millimeter 5-ply stainless steel, which is known for creating better heat distribution and retention.  One skillet costs as little as $50, while $260 gets you all five of them. The brand is has launched another Kickstarter to bring this idea to fruition, and has already raised more than $560,000.ES

This skincare line is customized to your menstrual cycle

This skincare line is customized to your menstrual cycle
[Photo: courtesy of Amareta]

Hormonal skin is real. The texture and oil content in women’s skin changes over the course of their menstrual cycle. Many women experience breakouts during the luteal phase before their period, and then dryness when they menstruate. Then, for a brief weeklong window knowns as the follicular phase, women’s skin tends to be problem-free.

Amareta, a natural-skincare startup, has come up with products that cater to women’s changing skin. It offers products that are customized to each of the three phases in a woman’s cycle. The brand also creates products specifically for pregnant women, who have their own range of hormonal woes.

Importantly, the brand doesn’t use any hormone-disrupting chemicals or synthetic preservatives of fragrances, and also doesn’t include 40 plant extracts that have questionable effects on the body.ES

This is why JPMorgan Chase is buying payments startup WePay

A merchant’s primary financial relationship used to be with its bank. But payments companies have now snagged that prized position, thanks to their central role in online transactions and modern point-of-sale solutions. Increasingly, merchants view their payments relationship–more than their bank relationship–as the gateway to financial services including loans, payroll management, and customer rewards.

Enter Wall Street giant JPMorgan Chase, which yesterday announced its acquisition of WePay, a payments startup founded in 2008 and valued at around $220 million in 2015. WePay serves online businesses like marketplaces and crowdfunding sites. Its API solution can handle payment processing, fraud detection, and complex payouts. The two parties did not disclose the terms of the acquisition, but the Wall Street Journal reports that the purchase price topped WePay’s prior valuation, making the deal Chase’s first major fintech buy.

“We’re going to keep that innovative spirit and their entrepreneurial approach, but backed and funded by Chase, and with the added benefit of all our distribution capacity,” says Matt Kane, CEO of Chase Merchant Services, adding that the bank serves over 4 million small business clients.

In addition, WePay will benefit from the Chase balance sheet. Competitors like PayPal and Stripe, for example, have recently introduced instant payments. Square, in turn, has started lending money to merchants through its Square Capital division. Access to a massive balance sheet will position WePay to rapidly scale related products.

“We’ve done a really good job in certain parts of the market, but a huge part is unaddressed,” says WePay cofounder and CEO Bill Clerico. “It’s a race to capture that opportunity, and having more resources will help us go faster.”

Already, he is planning to double his team of 200 over the next year, and at the same time move into a larger office in Redwood City, California. WePay will continue to operate as its own brand.AH

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Elon Musk says The Boring Company’s second tunneling machine is “almost ready”

Musk made the announcement in a tweet (of course) and said the second tunnel-digging machine will be called “Line-Storm” after a Robert Frost poem:

Oh, and the billionaire is also hawking Boring Company hats and will offer a free hat to the person who buys the 5000th one.

MG

Amazon is being offered billions in tax breaks for its second HQ

Last month the company notified cities across America is was seeking a home for its second headquarters it’s planning to build, known as Amazon HQ2. Since then cities all over the country have been falling all over themselves to attract Amazon’s attention. Reuters reports that the e-commerce giant has now been offered sweeteners of up to $7 billion in tax breaks if they choose certain cities. If Amazon decides to locate HQ2 in Newark, New Jersey is proposing to give them $7 billion in potential credits against state and city taxes. California’s governor, on the other hand, said the state would offer $300 million in incentives to the company over the next several years if it chose a city in that state. Amazon is expected to make the final decision on where HQ2 will be located next year.MG

Forget Spectacles, Snap is selling a dancing hotdog costume

So this is weird, but the company is actually selling a dancing hotdog costume on Amazon. The dancing hotdog in question was the star of a popular Snapchat augmented reality filter earlier this year. Its popularity gave it a kind of cult status–and, well, here we are. Snap describes the costume as “Made of 100% beef, but never starts it!” and says it has head and hand slits “for easy access to cups, touch screens, and turntables!” The full Amazon description:

Have fun, impress your friends, and achieve your wildest dreams (probably) with the Dancing Hot Dog costume! Perfect for any dance floor, from flattened cardboard to picnic tables. As the world’s first augmented reality superstar, you can now dress up as everyone’s favorite all-beef b-boy and have a dance battle with the best of them!

A Snap spokesperson told TechCrunch that this isn’t the first odd item Snap has sold on Amazon. Previously the company has sold a ghost stuffed animal, playing cards, and a ghost backpack.

[Image: Snap/Amazon]MG

Etsy’s still a young white man’s (and woman’s) world

Etsy’s still a young white man’s (and woman’s) world
[Photo: Raw Pixel / Unsplash]

Etsy’s been at the forefront of employers that offer extended paid leave benefits and other family-friendly work policies. However, that hasn’t helped the makers’ marketplace–whose sellers are 87% women–to move its workforce diversity needle much.

The company touted its gains for women in its 2016 workforce progress report. Globally, 56% of its staff identified as women, a 2% bump from 2015, and the board was 50% women. By comparison, the U.S. average for women’s representation on boards is just 19.9% at S&P 500 companies. However, while the racial and ethnic diversity of the workforce did have year-over-year increases in the number of employees from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, they weren’t substantial.

Among the U.S. staff (the only country where they are counted) they remain a very small minority.

Overall Gender (GLOBAL), see full size here [Chart: courtesy of Etsy]
  • Overall staff is 73% white vs. 79% last year.
  • Leadership remained unchanged at 77% white.
  • Tech staff globally is 61% male, with engineering specifically 72% male.
  • In the U.S. whites accounted for 67% of engineering staff.
  • Globally, most workers (64%) fall between the ages of 25-35. Less than 10% of staff are over 40.
Overall Race / Ethnicity (US), see full size here [Chart: courtesy of Etsy]

RelatedSoledad O’Brien: Workplace Diversity Efforts Should Start In High School LD

Report: Blue Apron has laid off 6% of its workforce

Blue Apron, which went public less than four months ago, is laying of 6% of its employees, the company revealed in an 8-K filing. “Our leadership and Board did not take this decision lightly, and I want to assure you that we believe it was necessary as we focus the company on future growth and achieving profitability,” wrote CEO Matt Salzberg in a note to employees.

This is more proof that Blue Apron’s industry–meal-kit delivery–is a tough one, if not almost impossible. As Fast Company‘s Ruth Reader wrote earlier this year, Blue Apron has a huge obstacles ahead. And it needs to figure out the best business model to actually make it a viable business, especially with Amazon breathing down its neck. These layoffs indicate just how wrought the company’s future may be.CGW

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Study: That cute smartwatch might be spying on your kid

Study: That cute smartwatch might be spying on your kid
[Photo: Tom The Photographer on Unsplash]

A tool to help parents may have turned into a nightmare. According to a new report from a Norwegian consumer group, kids’ smartwatches designed to help parents keep track of and communicate with their above-average children may be vulnerable to hacking.

The study from the Norwegian Consumer Council and security firm Mnemonic revealed significant security flaws in some kids’ smartwatches manufactured by XPLORAViksfjord, and Gator. The watches are intended for children who are too young to own a phone (or whose parents don’t want to plunk down $1,000 for an iPhone, but want some peace of mind). The smartwatches have a built-in GPS tracker and a phone that can call only approved phone numbers. Parents can track their kiddos through an app.

The security flaws, though, could let someone (besides parents) hack the watches and turn them into covert spying devices that could both listen in on and track children–and even send false GPS data making it seem like the kids are safe when they are actually living out some nightmare out of It. The NCC also expressed concern over the fact that the Gator and GPS for Kids’ watches transmitted and stored data without encrypting it.

At least one major department store in the U.K. has already pulled the watches from their shelves over fears of spying, per the BBC. The Gator watch manufacturer says it has already moved to a new encrypted server and was developing a new, more secure app for customers.

We have reached out to the companies for comment and will update with their response.

[via The NextWeb]ML

Target announces adaptive apparel for kids living with disabilities

Target announces adaptive apparel for kids living with disabilities
[Photo: courtesy of Target]

Target is adding a little inclusivity to their shelves. The company just announced they are expanding their kids’ clothing line, Cat & Jack, to include a line of adaptive apparel made specially for kids and toddlers living with disabilities.

Target started to address the special apparel needs of kids living with disabilities back in August with a line of clothing made without itchy tags or scratchy seams meant to help keep sensory-sensitive kids happy. Now, the company is expanding Cat & Jack to include 40 items, including puffer jackets, leggings, hoodies, and more all meant to keep kids looking on trend. The clothing promises to be good-looking and affordable and designed with kids living with disabilities in mind. That means diaper-friendly leggings of all sizes, side or back snaps and zip closures, and zip-off sleeves to make getting dressed easier for kids and the parents helping them.

The clothes will be available online at Target.com only beginning October 22.ML

McCain is co-sponsoring a political ad bill that takes aim at Facebook

McCain is co-sponsoring a political ad bill that takes aim at Facebook
[Photos: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call]

For weeks politicians have alluded to a bill in the works that would combat foreign election interference via political ads. Today we finally have a sense for what it is: Senator Mark Warner has announced a bill co-sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) called the Honest Ads Act. Warner and Klobuchar will present the Act at a press conference tomorrow. 

It’s not quite clear what the bill will look like in its final form. According to an announcement from Warner’s office, this law would “help prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads solid online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.”

That noise you hear is the sound of companies like Facebook and Google furiously lobbying. Up until now, online ads have remained unfettered by external oversight; in 2011, Facebook told federal regulators that applying traditional campaign rules to its ads would be impractical. Given recent revelations that Russia bought political ads and spread messages through the web’s biggest platforms, officials have been insisting these companies shape up and come clean.

While Facebook, Google, and Twitter seem to be cooperating with investigators, the companies have been blasted for a lack of transparency that has left the severity of the situation unclear. Last week, for instance, Sheryl Sandberg avoided answering the question of whether there was any overlap between Russian propaganda campaigns ahead of the election and digital campaigning by President Trump.

Facebook, which said in September it found over 3,000 Russia-linked ads, has given the ads to investigators. But it hasn’t released the ads to the public, and only later acknowledged it had also found similar ads on Instagram after an inquiry by Fast Company. Facebook said that 5% of the ads it shared with Congress appeared on Instagram, but has declined to verify the specific accounts or content.

One now-deleted Instagram post Fast Company found, sent in the summer of 2017 by a now-defunct account devoted to border security, takes direct aim at Sen. McCain. In a photo, the investor George Soros is seen speaking to McCain: “Hey Johnny,” the text blares, “I’m paying you a fortune so listen to me closely! I don’t care how much cancer you have, get back to DC & backstab Trump any way you can! Globalist elites need you!”

If this bill passes, it will hopefully be a wake-up call to the likes of Facebook and Google. Given that both of their businesses are predicated on frictionless ad platforms and the demands of shareholders for greater returns, there have historically been few incentives for these companies to drastically moderate the systems that have made them billions of dollars.

Now, we wait and see if these tech juggernauts will fight back, and how they’re able to marshall the winds of public support in their favor. Or, worse, if the bill ends up being all bark and no bite.

Related: Russian Propaganda Infiltrated Instagram, Too 

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated John McCain’s home state. We apologize for the error.CGW

Messenger honcho David Marcus says Facebook will learn from Russia mess

David Marcus, who runs Facebook’s Messenger platform, would like to remind us all that Facebook helps people who suffer from a particular disease connect with others who share their challenges around the world. Facebook members have given $17 million toward hurricane Harvey relief. And “the number of small businesses around the world who have been able to thrive by using the Facebook platform to reach their customer base is mind-boggling.”

Marcus brought up all these good vibes by way of prefacing his answer to a question from the Wall Street Journal’s Christina Passariello at the paper’s D.Live conference. Passariello asked how Facebook is dealing with Russian infiltration of its platform during the 2016 presidential campaign. “The narrative on Facebook as of late has not been super-positive,” Marcus conceded.

But then he said that Facebook is hard at work determining what transpired, and pointed to the company’s plan to hire a thousand people to review ads as evidence of its seriousness: “We’ll get to the bottom of it, we’ll learn from it, and then we’ll build systems to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

HM

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