Cannabis will be available online in Ontario via Shopify

Weed will be available online in the province of Ontario (13.6 million people) as of July 1, 2018.

According to a recent article by Business Insider, Shopify will handle online sales of cannabis in Ontario. The annual retail potential for cannabis could be up to $8.7 billion , according to Business Insider, citing a Deloitte report.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau intends to federally legalize cannabis after July 1, leading to the beginning of retail sales. To step in, take advantage of this enormous financial opportunity, and facilitate the mass distribution of cannabis after this date, is Shopify, the e-commerce giant.

In Ontario, cannabis will only be run through provincially run OCRC (Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp., subsidiary of the provincial government’s Liquor Control Board of Ontario) channels, rather than privately owned dispensaries. For in-person sales, the OCRC plans to open 80 cannabis stores by the summer of 2019, and an additional 150 by 2020.

This begs the question of which other e-commerce retail giants will enter the cannabis space in Canada, like Amazon or eBay. Also, should the US federally legalize cannabis, which of these giants would be the first be an authorized carrier? Would there also be a government monopoly on distribution channels? What would happen with existing dispensaries?

Your thoughts are welcome.

 

Happiest cities to work – are they?

In a survey by CareerBliss, reported by CNBC, of 20,000 reviews that measured 

  1. company culture
  2. growth opportunities within the company
  3. people you work with
  4. person you directly work for
  5. rewards you receive
  6. support from the employer
  7. work setting, and
  8. CEO leadership

it may or may not surprise you that Mountain View, CA claimed the number one spot, followed by  Detroit, MI and Boulder, CO. The complete list can be viewed below:

Best Places to Work

  1. Mountain View, CA
  2. Detroit, MI
  3. Boulder, CO
  4. Richardson, TX
  5. Stamford, CT
  6. Redmond, WA
  7. San Jose, CA
  8. Santa Clara, CA
  9. Rockville, MD
  10. Cleveland, OH

In this list of Top 10, Silicon Valley cities of San Jose, Santa Clara, and Mountain View take up three spots. It’s well understood that Silicon Valley companies lead in work culture, competitive compensation and benefits, creative perks, and work-life balance. Many of these things were not measured, but I think they play a strong role in some of the factors that were. They undoubtedly influence one’s attitude towards company culture, rewards received, employer support, work setting and CEO leadership.

Compensation, especially, plays a strong factor in satisfaction as a part of the greater picture. In places like Detroit, Richardson, Stamford, and Cleveland, if someone has an above average salary in a place with a relatively low cost of living, he/she will likely be a happier employee than, for example, someone living in Manhattan working for $80,000/year. Eighty thousand dollars a year can go a long way, but not in Manhattan. Similarly, making $65,000/year in Detroit or Cleveland has a much greater chance of leaving employees fairly comfortable.

So, in short, I believe this Top 10 List is missing key underlying factors. I also believe the San Francisco Bay Area (“Silicon Valley”) should be grouped into one location to open up two more slots. And, overall, these kinds of lists should be seen as no more than indicators. Surveying 20,000 employees across the US is to survey less than 0.0067% of the population.

Amazon’s Top 20 is here

Of the over 230 North American cities that submitted bids for Amazon’s second HQ campus, the remaining cities are:

 

Atlanta, Georgia
Austin, Texas
Boston, Massachusetts
Chicago, Illinois
Columbus, Ohio
Dallas, Texas
Denver, Colorado
Indianapolis, Indiana
Los Angeles, California
Miami, Florida
Montgomery County, Maryland
Nashville, Tennessee
Newark, New Jersey
New York City, New York
Northern Virginia, Virginia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Raleigh, North Carolina
Toronto, Ontario
Washington D.C.

As a refresher of what’s at stake, these cities are vying for Amazon’s $5 billion construction project and as many as 50,000 new high-paying jobs for their communities. Apart from Toronto, all other 20 remaining cities are in the US.

I wonder if some of these cities are on this list symbolically or as a courtesy, because it is challenging to imagine where a campus would be in Washington DC or New York, where every square foot is spoken for. Whereas growing cities like Nashville or Austin or Pittsburgh would arguably benefit more from securing the bid and there is, comparatively, a larger gap to fill.

Which cities do you predict will be in the Top 5? Why?

 

 

 

 

 

Rumors of Trump to end H-1B extension temporarily hushed

H-1B visa holders had a scare last week when rumors were leaked that the Trump administration was moving to end the visa extension policy.  McClatchy Newspapers was first to report this discussion reflected by internal memos at the Department of Homeland Security.

According to an article by the San Francisco chronicle, this move would have mostly affected the hundreds of thousands of working visa holders with pending green card applications, a majority of whom work in the US tech industry.

People often use the H-1B visa (valid for 3 years) as a step towards US permanent residency, but the wait for a green card can take over 10 years. Simply, this visa extension allows H-1B visa holders to remain working in the US during this gap as they wait for permanent residency. Should this extension be removed, not only would hundreds of thousands of people feel their residency in jeopardy, but also their employers would fear the loss of their employees. Even more drastic, if this policy held, companies would be incentivized to not hire foreign workers of any skill level to avoid the inevitable 3-year rehiring cycle.

As reported by Newsweek, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) chief of media relations Jonathan Withington announced this week, “We are not at liberty to discuss any part of the pre-decisional processes; however, all proposed rules published in the federal register and USCIS posts all policy memoranda on our website,” he said.

“What we can say, however, is that USCIS is not considering a regulatory change that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the United States by changing our interpretation of section 104(c) of AC-21, which provides for H-1B extensions beyond the 6 year limit.”

“Even if it were, such a change would not likely result in these H-1B visa holders having to leave the United States because employers could request extensions in one-year increments under section 106(a)-(b) of AC21 instead,” he added.

In another statement to TechCrunch, Withington mentioned that they’re looking into other possible policy changes in cooperation with the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order that the president signed last April with the intention to bring business investment from abroad to the US.  That includes “a thorough review of employment based visa programs,” though USCIS explained the H1-B extension policy was not in jeopardy. 

Data published by USCIS shows about 73% of  H-1B petitions filed in 2017 were approved (404,087 applications received, 298,445 approved), a drop down from 2016’s numbers, when 399,349 applications were received and 348,162 (about 87%) were approved.

Also, the great majority of H-1B petitions from 2007 to 2017 were filed on behalf of Indian nationals – more than 2.2 million petitions.

Indeed, outside the US, the largest percentage of publications covering these developments are Indian press and media.

Next up, over 300,000 applications were filed on behalf of Chinese-born workers, followed by applicants born in Canada, the Philippines and South Korea.

There is a very strong humanitarian case against eliminating the extension, but let’s not forget the catastrophic economic impacts this could have as well. If the US does not have the skilled workers to replace the workers who would be eventually pushed to leave the US, our economy would not only experience a production slow down but also a lull while US permanent residents and citizens slowly filled the open jobs.

Spotify sued for $1.6 billion – business as usual?

#SpotifyLawsuit

Wixen Music Publishing Inc sues Sweden-based company Spotify for $1.6 billion plus injunctive relief for allegedly publishing thousands of songs without license and compensation to the publisher.

Artists licensed under Wixen include Tom Petty, Neil Young, the Doors, Weezer and Stevie Nicks.

Filed in a California federal court, the lawsuit has Wixen alleging Spotify failed to get a license from Wixen that would allow it to reproduce and distribute songs – work that Spotify outsourced to third party Harry Fox Agency, which is accused of being “ill-equipped to obtain all the necessary mechanical licenses”.

This lawsuit is a hurdle Spotify will have to face before following through with its plans to go public in 2018 (the IPO documents were already filed at the SEC in December 2017).

Issues with this case are threefold.

  1. It’s another example of invasion and infringement on artistic rights for financial gain. In 2016, Spotify had a revenue of US $3.541 billion. Often times, companies make more money by cutting corners and paying fines than by doing everything “by the book”. This lawsuit amount is for about ⅓ of Spotify’s revenue in a single year, and they may not even need to pay the full amount. This doesn’t really discourage them, or others, from repeating this behavior.

  2. Lack in oversight and/or cut corners by a third party is another issue here. If a company engages a third party for support, they are responsible for that third party’s actions. Should the third party not perform as expected as outlined in the contract, the company is ultimately responsible.

  3. This won’t deter Spotify at all. Many companies expect lawsuits as a part of exponential growth. As frustrating as this lawsuit may be from an artistic perspective, nobody is learning a lesson or seeing something new. This is a tried and true method of growth.

Business as usual?

Show me the money in 2018

As people around the world engage in the cathartic exercise of reflecting on the year gone by, others begin to predict the incoming year’s landscape. What will remain? Change? What will surprise us?

Chip Cutter’s article “The 50 big ideas of 2018” outlines what Americans can expect socially, financially, economically, practically and theoretically. Before responding to his call to action to predict a change for my industry, I’m going to reflect on one of the “big ideas” from his article.

#21 Smart companies will start handing out a new kind of bonus.

Companies can tout their high-level diversity programs all they want. But smarter companies will try a new tactic in 2018: cash. “Pay them for it,” Ellevest’s Krawcheck says, with manager bonuses tied to diversity goals. “Diversity actually outperforms meritocracy; the research is clear.”

This is the investment that most companies in most industries cannot afford to ignore. A diverse workforce – by way of gender, nationality, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, and more – empowers an organization to empathize and understand more of the market. What does that yield? Customer acquisition, increased market share, more sales, and a growing bottom line.

Aside from that purely business interpretation, job seekers are increasingly putting a premium on a diverse workplace, especially as the majority of the workforce self-identifies as “diverse”. So, the more a company neglects diversifying, the more it runs the risk of turning off potential employees. The opportunity cost of those employees going elsewhere is, as has been proven in countless studies, severe and will only worsen.

The prediction for my industry?

With my industry being diversity recruiting for tech companies, specifically LatAm engineering talent, I naturally saw this “big idea” coming, mostly from what I have been hearing from my clients over the past couple years.

I foresee a greater emphasis on all tech companies balancing their workforces; older companies reinventing themselves and building more competitive comp packages; and more sponsored programs (by the government, private companies and NGOs) to encourage different populations across the US and abroad to learn to code.

What’s your prediction for your industry?#BigIdeas2018

Happy New Year.

The megadeal to give Disney its edge back

Disney officially acquired 21st Century Fox assets for $52.4 billion in stock, a megadeal that should revive Disney in the light of mass-market competitors with cheaper, personalized entertainment products.

CCS Insight analyst Paolo Pescatore said: “The move will firmly establish Disney as one of the leading media companies in the world and puts it in a great position to compete head on with the threat posed by the web providers such as Amazon and Facebook.”

According to CNBC, the deal includes TV channels like National Geographic and FX, Fox’s movie studio and stakes in Hulu and Sky, among others, though Fox will retain its news and sports assets. According to BBC, Fox’s remaining assets, including Fox News and Sports, will form a new company. This deal concludes over 50 years of media expansion by Fox owner Rupert Murdoch, 86 years old. See Fox’s and Disney’s post-deal holdings breakdowns, respectively:

 

As a result of this acquisition, entities like “Marvel,” “X-Men,” “Avatar,” “The Simpsons” and “Star Wars” are Disney’s to build upon. And, although Disney’s chief and chairman Bob Iger was preparing to leave in 2019, it has been agreed that he’ll now be staying on through 2021 to thoroughly see this acquisition develop.

According to Business Insider, the deal is likely to come under heavy scrutiny, as it resembles another media megadeal that the US Justice Department recently tried to block: AT&T’s attempted purchase of Time Warner for $84.5 billion. The DOJ tried to halt the deal in November, claiming it would “greatly harm American consumers” by greatly monopolizing the market.

As is typical with a deal of this scale, it will undergo regulatory review, which will likely take at least a year to close. During this review, the DOJ will consider to what extent the new company could dominate the market.

Still, at this time in innovation, even if megadeals like this one or the AT&T and Time Warner deal, move to monopolize a given market, no doubt another company will come on the scene quickly to compete with lower prices. Netflix is a perfect example of this. While Netflix doesn’t offer everything a cable company offers, many consumers have recently decided that the increase in service for a Comcast bill is only marginally comparative to its price. So? They ditch Comcast and use Netflix and Hulu (and, for example, read the news and/or watch sports at a friend’s house) to save on entertainment bills.

After this deal, it seems Disney is moving to develop a low-cost, customizable on-demand entertainment option as well, which will be yet more evidence that the entertainment giant is strategic, ever-evolving, and here to stay.