Thursday. 26/9/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Firm belief

The ousting of WeWork’s co-founder Adam Neumann from his role as CEO this week shows one thing: the “founder myth” – that dewy-eyed faith in the infallibility of Silicon Valley’s visionary first generation – is foundering. After a decade-plus of gross overvaluations, the technology giants (some of which make money from undermining users’ privacy, while others don’t turn a profit) are teetering under scrutiny. There’s a feeling in the air: like in the final days before the dotcom bubble burst, or the moment someone told the emperor that his new clothes, although fetching, looked a little… draughty.

Business isn’t just about making a buck, flipping for profit or seeking astronomical valuations. It can also be about spotting a gap, reviving a village or making products with provenance. It could just be about giving you more time with your loved ones or creating something meaningful that lasts. It’s firms of this stripe and their founders who made the page in Monocle’s new sister publication, The Entrepreneurs, on newsstands today.

Under the covers we meet the folks building better enterprises, ask what success looks like, scope out alternative business courses and find out about start-ups beyond the city. We also offer pointers on everything from office design to naming your firm, knowing your market and asking the question: does the way you work, work for you? This is the way we work.

Start-up / Japan

Space to explore

Sky-high ambition is important for entrepreneurs but Nobu Okada goes one better: he’s got his sights set on space. Okada quit his job in 2013 to launch Astroscale, a company aiming to tackle the growing problem of space debris. His only knowledge at the time came from a space camp he had attended as a child but he has since raised more than ¥14.9bn (€127m) in funding and is busy preparing a 160kg satellite for an upcoming test mission in 2020. To hear how he did it – plus plenty of other stories, advice and explorations from the world of entrepreneurship – grab a copy of The Entrepreneurs.

Election / Austria

Lean Green fighting machine

Austria’s national election takes place on Sunday, three years ahead of schedule due to the collapse of the coalition government between the centre-right ÖVP and far-right FPÖ in May. Eight parties are competing, including the current front-runners: the ÖVP, centre-left SPÖ, FPÖ and Green party.

According to opinion polls, the latter is expected to make the biggest inroads. The results of the Pass Egal Wahl poll, hosted by an NGO called SOS Mitmensch (which gives Austrian residents without a passport a symbolic vote) put the Green party in the lead with 51.5 per cent. These numbers might not be representative of how people will vote but it does suggest a country where climate concerns have replaced migration as the issue of the moment.

Diplomacy / Armenia & the US

In a state

On a working visit to the US this week Nikol Pashinyan, the prime minister of Armenia who rose to power during the 2018 revolution, has wrapped up a fruitful stop in Los Angeles. His speech from the steps of city hall called for further unity between Armenia and its diaspora – LA has one of the world’s largest populations of Armenians. Pashinyan also signed a co-operation agreement with California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, in New York on Tuesday. Heads of state don’t usually make such regional overtures but the support of the Armenian diaspora – and its coffers – is crucial for Pashinyan’s success back home. Newsom, in turn, realises the importance of the Armenian vote.

Business / Monaco

Pushing the boat out

The Monaco Yacht Show sails into its second day today, with Italian companies floating to the top amid strong sales and regional market growth. The event, which runs until Saturday, is the high-water mark of the superyacht industry’s calendar. This year will see 125 boats – making up a record tonnage – drop anchor in the tiny country’s Port Hercules, with an average asking price of about €38m. Three of those will be international debuts from Italian firm Benetti (part of the Azimut Benetti Group), signalling the growing importance of Italy in the new-build market: it accounted for nearly half of all superyacht deliveries last year. It’s a ripple of good news for the Italian economy, which is otherwise in the doldrums.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Maurten

Olof Sköld is the co-founder and CEO of Gothenburg’s sports-nutrition brand Maurten, whose hydrogel technology allows athletes to ingest high levels of carbohydrate while avoiding gastrointestinal issues. And owing to a client list that includes top athletes sponsored by other companies, it recently released unbranded packaging.

Monocle Films / Beirut

Celebrating fashion in Beirut

A group of edgy fashion designers and Lebanon’s first-ever fashion school are shining a light on the possibilities for the next generation of creatives.

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