I was listening to Dan Primack’s podcast on Pro Rata and he was interviewing Senator Klobucher who is now publicly and vocally speaking out against Uber purchasing Grubhub and has tried to mobilize against this.
Her argument is that if Uber buys Grubhub (which itself once merged with Seamless) it would mean that Uber Eats / Grubhub would control half the market and that with DoorDash the two together would control 90% of the market. I think that’s a largely flawed fight to be picking and of all the uses of Senator Klobuchar’s I could think of some much more productive fights to be having.
For starters Uber itself has had to lay off 27% of its workforce due to the pandemic and has been severely impacted financially from the crisis with no immediate respite in sight. Its core business was already struggling to become profitable, so having tertiary businesses like food delivery that can deliver needed profits would be welcome to their financial stability. And the market would still have DoorDash and PostMates duking it out as well as the potential that players like Instacart broaden their business one day or Amazon gets into food delivery.
Even more likely is eventual technology disruption where drones deliver foods and make it hard for existing car delivery services to compete. It won’t happen right away but I’ve seen some innovative companies doing exactly this in places like Australia where they are taking a more liberal approach to allowing drone deliveries. Therein lies the advantages of free markets and competition and if we really believed it were that easy to buy off your largest competitor and be a monopolist we’d all be surfing on AOL TimeWarner portals.
But the broader issue that hasn’t garnered much press attention is how the restaurant industry itself is being transformed and what tools a modern restaurant will need to compete. What is the Shopify of the restaurant industry? I have some compelling data that suggests it may just become ChowNow.
We know that the restaurant business already operates on thin margins and many struggle to survive. So when delivery services came along many were willing to pay the fee to try and increase business. It was only about 10–15% of their actual total revenue per month so for many it wasn’t a battle worth fighting — they just put up with the food delivery company fees. Customers were happy and restaurants focused on their in-store business.
The problem for the restaurants is that the more successful the “aggregators” of customer demand become over time, the less power the restaurants themselves have individually. This will largely be true whether you have 2 strong competitors or 5 because unless a delivery company can make a profit it won’t continue to stay in business.
The delivery companies own the customer relationship and can drive traffic to the most profitable restaurants for them. Obviously if you have a great restaurant brand with differentiated food people search for you by name but for many people looking for pizza, sushi, Mexican food, Thai food, whatever, you might go with the choice put in front of you if it’s being recommended or delivered more quickly. The delivery companies also own many of the assets like the photography so they can make certain options look much more attractive.
So just like when Groupon came out many small merchants welcomed the uptick in traffic, without owning the customer you lose the most valuable asset — the ability to re-market to your customer base and encourage them to become more loyal and more frequent customers. You lose the ability to up-sell and cross-sell products. And just like with Groupon the small businesses ended up having many unprofitable customers.
At Upfront we always took the approach that we wanted to back startups that enabled merchants to own the customer relationship and to increase profits by becoming excellent at marketing and serving ones most loyal customers.
So several years ago we backed a company called ChowNow that enables restaurants to offer self-service ordering for pick-up or delivery and the restaurant owns all of the customer information and relationship — ChowNow is simply a SaaS enablement product.
The company has done well over the past several year but never really captured the same press mindshare as the food delivery companies because when a company shows up at your house you get to know that brand rather than the tech that enables restaurants.
Covid-19 has changed all of that. Whereas pickup & delivery may have been 10–15% of a restaurant’s business before it’s currently 100% and when it’s your entire business the thought of paying huge commissions to a third-party delivery service becomes much less attractive. So while many restaurants knew they eventually needed to invest in better order management software, many had been putting it off.
But just as many product or apparel companies were happy selling at Amazon, Walmart or Nordstrom in the past and have lately realized the importance of Shopify and serving customers directly — so, too, are restaurants. Enter ChowNow.
What data do I have to make the case?
- ChowNow now has 17,000 restaurants using its SaaS platform for take-out and delivery and is adding more than 2,000 / month right now (and trending up)
- 10 million diners now use the ChowNow ordering platform vs. 24 million for GrubHub, so like Shopify while they built the customer base slowly and with capital efficiency they are now rivaling the bigger players in footprint
- Last year they were serving 50,000 customers / day through their platform and did approximately $500 million in GMV (the value of the orders placed), this year they are on track to do $3 billion (with a B) and expect to end the year at a revenue run rate that may top $100 million (yes, I asked for permission to publish these numbers).
If you want to see a short spot that outlines the importance of the restaurant industry arming itself with better software tools to serve and market to their customers you may enjoy this 60-second video that makes it clear why it matters. It speaks volumes to why we all love our local restauranteurs and want to see them survive …
Or if you want to see the argument laid out clearly by a customer, look no further than Motorino Pizza in NYC who posted this note that appears before you enter their website:
Shame in the Workplace by @HeidiDalzell
by Heidi J. Dalzell, PsyD.
Too many women are terrified of taking risks and making a mistake, socially or otherwise, because they fear other people shaming them.
Christiane Northrup, M.D., Goddesses Never Age
I remember my first experience of being shamed in the workplace. It was before I’d made the leap to a psychology practice and a corporate trainer in a large financial services firm. My supervisor, miffed at something, said to me sternly “I thought you were perfect, but …” It wasn’t in the words, or dismissive tone. It was more in the message I did not measure up.
I felt a deep sense of shame.
There were other similar comments from this supervisor, about the way I dressed and interacted, even that my gloves made my hands look too big. A coworker who was being laid off from a defunct department did not get a job within ours because my supervisor noticed a thread on her skirt. And so on. While these experiences were a good number of years ago now, I still obsessively check for those hanging threads that could hold me back.
The most damaging thing about these comments: my supervisor was another woman.
And her expectations were unattainable.
Women are routinely shamed within the workplace: for their bodies, their personalities, their dress, and feelings. They may be shamed for being different from the corporate culture. Many such messages tap in to childhood wounds, proving our “badness” again and again.
Because shame is so global, we internalize it, literally taking it into our bodies.
Why Is Internalized Shame So Negative?
Comments like the one I received don’t provide a growing experience or one that encourages risk taking and creativity. If I could not wear the gloves I wanted, how could I present an innovative new idea in our staff meetings? Or take a risk in trying something new?
Christiane Northrup, in her renowned book on women’s health, identifies shame as hands-down the most destructive emotion that women can experience. It drains women, of their life-forces and creativity. Instead they put their energy into self-hared and self-preservation.
Shame results in feeling unlovable and unworthy. People who are shamed develop a harsh inner critic.
Shame holds you back. Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap calls this an “upper limit problem.” Women who hold on to shame may not feel that they deserve love, freedom or success.
Resolving Internalized Shame
The good news: we can resolve shame.
If you are shamed within the workplace, there are several questions that you can ask yourself. Is any part of this feedback true? If so, what can I do to change this? What have I learned from this situation?
When the feedback does not fit, it’s also ok to reject it without needing to understand where it came from.
It’s also important to be aware of your inner dialogue. If you are talking to yourself in a way that you would not talk to a cherished person in your life, adopt a more compassionate tone and message.
Opening ourselves to compassion leads to forgiveness of past shame as well as greater self-acceptance. It can be a hard lesson but one that is vital for success in the workplace.
How Valence Aims to Provide Better Access and Funding for Black Founders & Executives
“I gotta say it was a good day.”
I’m so fricking pumped today. Really, truly. Yeah, Valence announced > $5 million in funding led by GGV and Upfront. That IS a big deal, but I’ll get to that. But Kamala Harris was picked to be the Vice Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. That means she’ll be the first female Vice President of the United States, the first female Black Vice President and the first Indian-American Vice President. I don’t take this for granted, be ready for a fight. But let’s be clear. WE WILL WIN. We might have to fight for it after the votes go our way but let’s get ready for the fight.
So let’s get it.
Valence. It is a company with a mission to create better access and more funding for Black entrepreneurs and executives. Valence is led by a talented CEO, Guy Primus and was the brainchild of my partner, Kobie Fuller. If you want to follow two great Black executives who work at the intersection of technology and venture capital make sure to click on those links and follow them on Twitter.
So what exactly is Valence and why does it matter?
18 months ago, my partner Kobie Fuller was inspired to build a solution for a problem he faced regularly: as one of the few Black partners at a VC firm (an estimated 3% of GPs in venture are Black vs 14% of the US population), he was consistently asked for warm intros to Black professionals, to Black VCs, and to talented Black operators and entrepreneurs.
Venture firms wanted to meet talented Black founders but didn’t know where to start to find them. And Black entrepreneurs wanted access to decision makers but didn’t always have the easy connections. In fact, one of the biggest criticisms I personally get when I suggest that founders should “get introductions to VCs” is that this might reinforce existing racial imbalances by providing easier access to White professionals than people of color.
An imbalance clearly exists in access and networks that has resulted in a tech industry where an estimated only 1% of venture dollars go to Black founders and only 3% of the workforce is Black and a country where Black individuals hold a disproportionately low amount of the wealth — only 3%. As Kobie says, he didn’t have a “magical database” of great Black talent, so he set out to build a solution not just for himself, but also for the community.
Personally I believe that to fund more people of color you need to put check-writing authority in their hands the same way that if you want to see more women funded you need more women GPs. My greatest criticism of our industry is that women and people of color feel the need to leave larger VCs to create their own firms. We have a responsibility to help propel them to the top ranks of our biggest firms to make our check writers more representative of our society overall.
There is a very clear economic rational and strategic advantage for doing so. There are amazing Black entrepreneurs, Indian entrepreneurs, Chinese entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs, gay entrepreneurs and so forth. OBVIOUSLY! If 90% of the check writers are White, straight men then it’s clear if you are different than that you’re going to have an advantage. As I always say, being great as an investor is about having “edge” and edge means knowing somebody or something that very few others know. It’s about swimming in lanes where others aren’t present. Being diverse in the VC industry is a VERY LOW bar and a clear differentiator.
At Upfront we believe in improving access for founders and entrepreneurs to networking, professional development, and economic opportunities, and that’s what Kobie set out to do with Valence, which he incubated in our offices. Huge hats off to Kobie for the idea, energy, direction, evening hours and the foresight and salesmanship required to bring on Guy to take the helm.
Building a mission into a business
By the time Valence launched in late 2019, the team had built the necessary systems and technology to seamlessly engage and onboard the community — not just the users, but also some pilot corporate partners who also believed in the mission and opportunity and who wanted to leverage and support this amazing database of talent. It was also important to Valence to not only connect users, but also to celebrate the successes and spotlight great Black leaders through high-quality content and design.
As soon as Valence launched in November 2019, the business quickly had proven demand from the community, not only from senior business leaders but also from so many young, talented professionals who could benefit from the inter-generational networking that Valence supported so seamlessly. Since launch, the Valence platform has supported more than 5,000 micro-mentoring sessions (AKA Boosts)— allowing the kind of invaluable network support that’s so critical to success and advancement for even the most talented founders and operators.
You can hear more about the importance of mentoring from Kobie Fuller, Valence advisor James Lowry, and John Legend — yes, THE John Legend — in this video from the 2020 Upfront Summit.
So things were going well for Valence in 2020, amazingly even in a pandemic. And then in May the world was galvanized by the tragic murder of George Floyd (and Breonna Taylor. And Ahmaud Arbery. And Rayshard Brooks. And the many Black women and men before them whose lives were taken at the hands of the police.)
When the mission meets a movement
In these months, not only did we see widespread civic protests but so many industries, including ours, faced a reckoning that despite even the best intentions, lip service wasn’t enough. We all needed to take action to address the imbalance of access, and to literally put our money where our mouths are. Suddenly a spotlight was put on everything that the Valence team had been building, and there was even more energy around the business.
I always say that you can judge a startup’s future based on how fast they’re able to execute when it counts. Well, I can tell you that within weeks of the civil unrest, Valence had:
- Introduced the Valence Funding Network, where GPs from more than 30 of the top venture funds representing more than $60B in assets under management joined Valence with the goal of linking Black entrepreneurs on the platform directly to venture decision makers.
- Increased membership by more than 20%
- Hired a CEO, Guy Primus, who was previously the CEO of The Virtual Reality Company as well as the COO of Overbrook Entertainment. He’s been a leader at the intersection of media and tech for many years and we’re grateful to partner with him.
- Announced their Series A funding round, which Upfront participated in and which was led by Hans Tung from GGV. Hans has been a great peer and collaborator on other portfolio boards and we’re excited for him to join Valence at this pivotal time. We have worked closely with GGV for years and they were a natural fit for helping to build a network like this given their investment in Chief (for women) and The Mighty (which helps families with people facing health challenges).
Since day one we have anticipated great things for Valence and with this groundswell of support at the civic level as well as the industry level, we hope to see meaningful improvements in access and dollars for Black professionals. Please join me in congratulating Guy, Kobie and the team for what they’ve built so far, and what’s to come.
How Valence Aims to Provide Better Access and Funding for Black Founders & Executives was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Mistakes I made as a first-time manager
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
It’s almost hard to believe that I have been managing teams for more than 15 years. Time definitely flies!
I had the incredible privilege of being trained at one of the best schools for leadership in the world: Newell-Rubbermaid. As a business, it isn’t necessarily known for a dedication to improving talent, but I can say from first-hand experience they truly care about building each employee into a leader from the get-go.
I received weeks of leadership and sales training, learning from the industry’s best. They challenged me and pushed our entire team to always aim for higher goals.
In today’s fast-paced world, I often come across new managers who have never been trained for their job. The pattern often goes like this:
1. An employee performs very well at their job
2. They are promoted into a manager position
3. They are given a team and told to lead
From there, they are off to the races with an ill-equipped toolbox to learn from their mistakes.
It’s a dangerous game to play. The consequences can often result in poor company culture or a lack of focus and vision. Accountability is hard to come by and goals are either missed or never established in the first place. I don’t blame companies for doing it: We have an almost natural tendency to assume that “A” performers will figure out what to do—and they’ll (somehow) eventually succeed. Sometimes they will succeed, but often they won’t.
Even with great training and mentors, I made my share of massive mistakes as a first time leader. Learn from mine!
From Colleague to Boss
After 14 months in my first role as a sales representative, I was promoted to district manager. Suddenly I had a team of seven reporting to me. Half of them were former peers who worked with me—daily, side by side. Now they were being asked to report to me, and I was being told to lead them.
I decided to take on the “friendly” approach: We were all friends, after all! That failure was an epic one: I was not able to earn any respect and had so much trouble setting expectations and providing feedback. Being liked was too important to me. Ultimately, the friends strategy failed, and I wasn’t able to make the leap from colleague to boss while being a successful leader. Many problems were caused and the first six months were a major challenge.
While I eventually figured out a better way to lead the team, some of the employees left, not wanting to work for a former colleague and friend.
If you are thrust into a position where you must suddenly manage a former peer, have an honest discussion with them. Set expectations. Be sure to communicate that while it may be an awkward situation, you will do your best to provide leadership and set up your team for success. It’s your team’s choice to respect the roles and perform at a high level.
The Firing Fiasco
There comes a moment in every leader’s life when he or she is forced to fire someone. It is a tremendously difficult moment that often causes anxiety and fear. I certainly felt both emotions when I was faced with this daunting task the first time. I did my best to prepare. I tried to plan in advance what the employee would reply, but things didn’t go as planned.
I came to the meeting with resolve. The problem? I hadn’t practiced what I would say or how I would handle any deviation from what I expected to happen. As always, the unexpected made its presence known quickly.
During the meeting, instead of explaining the reasons for the firing, I simply blurted it out. The approach was insensitive and lacked empathy. My employee began crying wholeheartedly. We were in a coffee shop as we didn’t have local offices. People stared in horror. They were right to do so: The scene was becoming a bad movie. I had unnecessarily hurt someone due to my insensitivity, my lack of planning and my nerves.
If you are ever put in this situation as a first-time manager, it’s important to be prepared. Understand the facts inside and out. Rehearse what you will say. Write out bullet-point notes and stick to a script, but prepare for a difficult reaction and expect the unexpected.
As a young leader, I was obsessed with showing my boss how hard I worked. I wanted to put in the most hours and prove that, by pounding the pavement, I was the best employee in the company’s history. I was wearing 60+ hours per week on my sleeve as a badge of honor. My second boss showed me the error of my ways.
He explained that it was obvious I was trying to show my “incredible” work ethic as measured in hours—which had zero impact on him. He cared only about results and progress—and he wasn’t impressed with me trying to be a machine (all machines break down eventually, after all). He taught me how to value working smarter, not harder. He didn’t care how many hours I worked, as long goals were accomplished.
Second, he genuinely worried I would burn out and wanted me to care for my mental health. He had experienced burnout in his career and it set him back. Teaching me how to use my time better, while also showing me how to teach the practice to my direct reports was eye-opening. Everyone understood that our culture was based on setting expectations and doing our best to surpass them by always thinking through our actions.
Be clear on what productivity means to you, and learn to measure productivity for your team members accordingly. “Hours worked” will not necessarily be the best key performance indicator. It’s crucial to understand what numbers they need to hit and help them work into that reality. By learning to set S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, timely, realistic), you are setting your team up for success.
As a young leader, mistakes will be made: There is no avoiding it. In fact, we will continue to make mistakes throughout our career.
How quickly you learn from these mistakes will ultimately define your level of progress. Ask for help, ensure you get the right leadership training, and enjoy the process. Leading is both challenging and exhilarating, but the world needs better leaders. Can you be the next great leader?
Shawn Johal is a Scaling Up Certified Coach currently working with several entrepreneurs and their businesses to help accelerate their growth, while finding personal balance and happiness.
Shame in the Workplace by @HeidiDalzell
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