Hold the Mayo


Josh Tetrick at TED (photo: TED | Flickr)

Just Mayo in hot water. Newco Hampton Creek, maker of the eggless Just Mayo beloved by vegans, stands accused of buying its own product to goose demand and impress potential investors. According to a Bloomberg story, the startup paid contractors in 2014 (and maybe 2015) to buy jars of its stuff from Safeway, Costco, Walmart, Whole Foods and other markets. CEO Josh Tetrick says the purchases were mostly to check product quality, and the whole $77,000 program represented a tiny fraction (0.12 percent) of its total sales. But anonymous contractors tell Bloomberg they bought lots of Just Mayo and were free to eat it or toss it. Maybe the company was trying to win bigger orders; maybe it was just overzealous about quality control. This kind of “growth hacking” is seen across the startup world, but the line does get drawn at buying one’s own product. Fast-moving startups don’t always document everything as well, or manage contractors as carefully, as they should. But they’d better be prepared to explain their practices to their most important stakeholders: the customers who trust them, and the investors who backed them.

India creates one tax to rule them all. As Britain — along with, maybe, a trade-pact-shy U.S. — pulls back from the world, India is charging in. It just reformed its vast, tangled tax system — replacing a patchwork of 17 different taxes with one national Goods and Service Tax. That should make a huge difference to the country’s startups and e-commerce businesses (Quartz India), who will no longer have to contend with conflicting and overlapping tax regimes. Instead, they’ve got a “reverse Brexit” — an integration of the entire Indian nation into a single regulatory environment.

A blockchain explanation that won’t make your head spin. Chain CEO Adam Ludwin lays out — in plain English! — why it’s inevitable that blockchain technology will replace the financial world’s settlement system, and a lot faster than you might think (Time). The blockchain is the distributed crypto-ledger that underlies Bitcoin. It should allow us to build a cryptographically secure electronic payment system that accounts for and moves assets. If we do that, then clearing and settlement become redundant. “It’s as if I gave you a 10 dollar bill,” he writes, “and then asked you how do we clear and settle that payment.” Sure, it will take a little time for everyone to trust such a system, but it’s not as if the status quo is so safe: SWIFT, today’s hoary inter-bank transfer system, keeps getting hacked.

A river runs through them. Any kid who loves maps, or any adult who ever played SimCity, knows that cities emerge on coasts and along rivers. U.S. towns have a long and tarnished history of trashing, damming, and otherwise abusing their waterways. But we’re beginning to change that, bringing urban rivers back to the foreground of their communities. Wired surveys the progress in seven burgs, including Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles (where the river’s rebirth is being shaped by the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation, a NewCo).

Also in Newco Shift: Austin Kleon argues that, when the scene in hot cities prices you out, you have a priceless chance to live where nothing’s happening and make something happen yourself.

Take it slow: Forget about Stranger Things and the rest of your Netflix binge faves. Unwind this weekend with Netflix’s new Norwegian import, Slow TV, featuring marathon seven-hour shoots of train excursions and knitting groups.

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