K-pop, corporate law and eternal youth
Ephemeral Reviews, Essays and Opinions s°02.ep13 - 2020.06.30
Social x mobile x e-commerce x real-time = shopping livestreams, a huge trend in China. Its queen, Viya, even managed to sell a rocket (yes, a real one) during a show. Link (T)
By focusing on an underserved segment - the youth - with a potent promise - zero fees - Robinhood has been driving a renewed interest for individuals in stock-trading throughout the pandemic. Some may emphasize the risks of speculation, I prefer to see a new stage in the democratization of finance. Link (T)
Youth again. Underground culture has always been the cradle of political activism. Pop culture looked more like a matter of entertainment and consumption. But there is something happening with the new generation and its engagement modes, from Greta Thunberg to Animal Crossing’s demonstrations… through the amazing case made by TikTok K-pop fans against Trump in Tulsa. Link (S)
The countdown clock is ticking. We don’t know yet which one of the GAFA will be dismantled first and on which coast of the Atlantic it will happen but it is just a matter of time before it does. In the two past weeks Apple has raised many eyebrows, in the Hey app controversy, claiming $519 billion in commerce on its App Store. At the end of the day regulating this outrageous success means re-evaluating how we would like these companies to make money… but should we? Link (S)
Why are companies around us potentially eternal?
This question shouldn't be as incongruous as it probably sounds to you. Because back in the days - I mean, way back, during the Renaissance - the ancestors of companies were temporary. You prepared a naval expedition with the financial backing of rich people, and when you came back, you shared the profits - when there were some! Rinse and repeat. The emergence of chartered corporations, the “India companies” starting with the VOC (the Dutch one) changed everything. Now companies were meant to live long and prosper.
If you look closely, you can still find traces of the original ephemeral nature of entreprise today - in the French corporate law at least: in its statutes, no company can last more than 99 years… but that lifetime can be prorogated by shareholders, which is what large corporations usually do.
In fact, the end of a company is either brought about by bankruptcy or acquisition. We never see healthy companies willingly dissolved by their shareholders and that's a pity (in startupland, it’s exceptional that companies choose to stop and return money left to investors)! Because with the evolution of modern companies, we've progressively forgotten that those entities are organizational containers useful to direct means and energy towards a shared goal. And if we consider by default that a given company should exist for as long as economically possible, that means that we never ask ourselves if companies reach their goals.
Here the demonstration faces a problem: by now, a company is way more than a goal-focused legal entity. It’s a sum of other things that we need to disentangle to make self-dissolutions possible:
An aggregation of employment contracts: what happens to the poor employees then? To me, this would make a good case for solid unemployment insurance with a high percentage of compensation replacement, and even for basic income.
Accumulation of knowledge and know-how: will all the precious human capital be lost then? Here, the answer is to make sure that knowledge and know-how are shared for the common good through research and high education outside of a given company.
Accumulation of trust, this is where you find brands: those can be sold.
Given these additional considerations about the nature of companies, while I think we should have a faster cycle of voluntary creative destruction of corporations, maybe it shouldn't happen at the scale of entire corporations but within them.
Here, a combination of three organizational innovations will be helpful:
Purpose (this comes from a broad movement of entrepreneurs, with B Corps showing the way): stating the purpose of a company as part of its articles of incorporation, with a binding character, to make sure that corporations follow a prescriptive raison-d’être rather than a descriptive one. You can fight for health and well-being or you can sell yogurts.
Pivot (this comes from the lean startup movement): once you have a broad and ambitious purpose, you’re invited to alter your activities as efficiency commands, rather than stick to “something we do because we’ve always done so”.
Revision: in France, every 5 years each cooperative is legally obligated to hire external help to check that its organization and functioning respects its principles. Why should it be confined to a tiny fraction of all companies?
From what corporations are to what they could be, I see yet another instance where 2 of my favorite insights apply: we should always question the obvious, and there’s no matter for which inspiration hailing from vastly-different areas cannot prove decisive.
Is there a fountain of digital youth and growth? And more than a fountain, a river, [the] Amazon maybe? Link (S)
After Microsoft a few years ago, last week Apple announced its move to ARM homemade processors for its Mac, Apple Silicon. What will it mean in the long-term for Intel business? Link (S)
As old as it may be, email still provides inspiration to countless entrepreneurs. Next on the list, Spike wants to gather all your communications and productivity needs in a single email inbox. Link (T)
“The Segway’s Inventor Has a New Project: Manufacturing Human Organs”: don’t tell me you need more to open the article! Link (T)
Segway has always been a tech performance, from its amazing launch to its founder’s epic death. But it’s over. It’s always sad to witness the end of the future. Link (S)
Neither catering to a premium niche nor appealing to a large audience, business news site - and Stéphane’s darling - Quartz failed to sustain its innovations and to find a successful business model. Link (T)
Discover the largest wave pool that opened last month in Australia, generating 5 types of waves to cater to all levels of surfers. Looks both like a marvel of engineering and a project totally out of place in our post-covid and aspiringly-ecofriendly world. Link (T)
Bang & Olufsen has always been a mystery to me. Loved by its fans, delivering a very spectacular yet scandinavian design (that kind of things other achieved just once in a corporate lifetime, think of the Saab 900 from Sweden) for close to a century now, making profit on the same niche despite Apple, Sonos and Spotify. Link (S)
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Edited by Stéphane Distinguin (S), Founder and CEO of Fabernovel, and Tom Morisse (T), Fabernovel alum and Knowledge Manager at Spendesk, Stéréo is a digital-oriented newsletter highlighting the main developments and weak signals affecting the world’s societies and economies.
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