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Overselling of Shinola

One of the hottest US brands is a company called Shinola (owned by Bedrock Manufacturing) which says it makes watches, denim and bicycles among other things in the city of Detroit, which as we all know has fallen prey to bad times. Shinola became the white knight for the city of Detroit, which has badly in need for a hero. Shinola’s marketing message: we are bringing back manufacturing to Detroit. The myth of the brand and that do-good-factor has helped it get an entry into high-end stores like Barneys. 

In this story for The Four Pins, Jon Moy takes the mask off Shinola and points out that while creating 150-odd jobs is a great, they might have been overselling the brand and the hype has gotten way ahead of itself. Moy points out Shinola’s Detroit is more marketing, less manufacturing. 

Instead of starting in his parent’s garage, Shinola is a trust fund kid that decided one day he wanted to start a company and had his dad buy him all the cool stuff. And much to my chagrin, all this money seems to paying off. Their initial offering of watches sold out before they were even assembled. Shinola is using my city as its shill, pushing a manufactured, outdated and unrealistic ideal of America.

This is a great and a “must read,” especially if you are considering dropping a grand on one of their watches. 

Marc Newson on Google Glass

Wearable technology is certainly the future, there’s no question about that. Whether or not it’s appropriate to put it in a pair of glasses, I’m not sure. There’s a real risk that you look like a bit of an idiot. What Google have done thus far, I wouldn’t be seen dead wearing. I think it really looks pretty stupid.

It’s a little bit like that wonderful invention called the Segway. It’s such a fantastic piece of technology but you just look like a complete dick when you drive around on it.

So that’s where the bridge to the world of fashion really doesn’t, or didn’t, work. That’s precisely the moment when I think the fashion world laughs at the world of industrial design, justifiably.

Marc Newson, a well known designer is not impressed by Google Glass. Newson is an industrial designed who has designed products for Nike, items for Alessi, clothes for G-Star Raw, cookware for Tefal, Qantas A330 business class suites. Yeah, he is also good friends with Jonny Ive. So there’s that and a few products they collaborated for Bono’s Product Red.  

What I am reading today

XOAB Socks

A few months ago Nick Wilder, a friend of mine connected me to Rich Levine, a former Sun Microsystems engineer who had decided to try his hand at new things after spending a lot of time on the internet. At Sun he did work on customer-facing software and usability work on Sun’s first Intel platform and then for early web and commerce work for sun.com and java.sun.com. Yup, like me Rick is somewhat old — and if you don’t remember, he did co-author the iconic, The Cluetrain Manifesto. 

Done with the tubes, he moved to Denver and created an organic chocolate brand, Sun Cups. However, that was not where his heart was. Instead, Rick and his brother Neil (illustrator and graphics designer) decided to start making socks. I mean, why not. Socks are something all of us need and despite all the great pairs of socks in one’s sock drawer, there is room for one more. After spending nearly 18 months leaning how to make them and how to warp the business and tech side of fashion, the Levine brothers launched their sock brand XOAB on Kickstarter. The fit, colors, and patterns proved to be a hit and well, rest is history.  XOAB, by the way is shorthand for love and beyond. 

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New York, March 2014

Every year in the month of March Gigaom hosts its annual Structure Data conference in New York. It is a great opportunity for me to visit my favorite city and catch up with friends. Every year, I get to the city a day ahead and I stay back a day later. This year, with slightly more freedom and flexibility in my schedule, I decided to spend about eight days in the city. It was a chance to connect with quite a few of my friends.

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Billion Dollar Dart Throwing

Facebook’s $2 billion bet on Oculus or $19 billion spend on Whatsapp or Google paying $3.2 billion for Nest — everyone is looking to find the next platform, argues Fred Wilson. Everyone is betting billions of dollars on trying to find what comes after mobile. Fred’s comments made me wonder: so are smartest minds of our time are as clueless about the future as rest of us?  (Also, Dave Winer has outline nine reasons why Zuck bought Oculus.)

Chuckles aside, is it that both Google and Facebook realize that there is only so much they can do with web-based advertising and ensuing revenue stream? If you ask me, that is the real story here — realization that there is a glass ceiling to advertising especially as we shift gears and move away from the old desktop advertising ecosystem to a smaller, pocketable ecosystem that is less prone to cheap optimization tricks and is also limited by available attention, that is getting increasingly fractionalized by dozens of services that keep popping up like mushrooms after monsoons. 

A friend explained that Oculus acquisition makes it easy for Facebook to tell a story about “cool” things the company is doing. In comparison to Google which is working on cool shit like driver less cars, robotics and Project Loon, Facebook looks decidedly uncool and one dimensional (advertising focused.) Oculus changes the perception of the company with potential employees. More importantly the company has perception of being focused on the future cool things. Wall Street values promise of the future and accords premium based on that. And that alone is worth a couple of billion dollars.

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