1. Soylent … Green?
In the 1973 movie Soylent Green, the world was ravaged by overpopulation and the greenhouse effect. The solution was Soylent Green, a food replacement product secretly made of recycled corpses mined from assisted suicide centers. Today, a startup company making a nutrient-rich meal-replacement powder comprised of organic vegan ingredients recently raised $20 million in seed funds. With more than $1 million in pre-order sales pending, Soylent needed capital infusion to speed up order fulfillment. The product is intended to feed the world’s poor (at a price-point of $3 a meal, which is expected to drop) as well as to provide a quick alternative for busy worker bees and professionals who lack time to cook or dine out.
2. Cereal [profit] killer
Last year, the Kellogg Company closed its fourth quarter in early January 2014 showing profits of $839 million. What a difference a year makes! In the fourth quarter ending January 3, 2015, Kellogg posted losses of $293 million. Sugar-loaded cereal options and genetically modified ingredients continue to be shunned by more health conscious buyers, and diet-image products like Kellogg’s flagship Special K brand are suffering from plummeting sales. Then too, Kellogg restructured; a short term cost expected to help the company be more profitable over time. Meanwhile, pension/benefits adjustments and worldwide currency fluctuations were cited by company officials as driving down profits, too.
3. Good news for older workers
An AARP study found that 77 percent of Americans between the ages of 45 and 54 believe that age discrimination is real in the workplace. The good news, however, is that the EEOC reports that only 2.7 percent of the 20,000-plus cases filed last year merited a guilty verdict and fine. That seems like a lot of cases, but it’s actually a downward trend: the count hit 24,000-plus in 2008, when recession-related cuts hit older managers the hardest – the ones who made the most money and so were the first to be let go. As the market rebounds, and companies can better afford to keep those with the most experienced, workers are again appreciating rather than depreciating over time.
4. Rent a professional
Want a Harvard MBA to set up your accounting department, or an MIT grad to work on your IT plans? HourlyNerd, a two-year-old startup backed by TV shark Mark Cuban, Greylock Partners, and now GE’s venture arm, recently raised more than $12 million to expand its consultant rental business. The trend is to contract for specific project work or to hire a specialist on retainer. HourlyNerd handles the actual hiring and placement and related costs; the client simply specifies what skills they want. It costs between $100-$150 an hour for a graduate from one of the top 40 U.S. business schools. It’s a growing trend regardless of the source — consultant contracts have risen more than 50 percent in the past decade, based on 1099 returns.
5. Most innovative
Fast Company has listed its 50 most innovative companies for 2015, and the number one spot goes to eye wear seller Warby Parker, “for building the first great made-on- the-internet brand.” Apple takes the second spot “for creating magic with minutia.” Third place goes to Alibaba “for helping consumers be entertained” with Google at number four for “making the hit laptop nobody saw coming.” Instagram claims fifth place “for its beautiful relationship with the fashion industry.”
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