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TheFutureParty student debt

Here’s how your kids will pay for college

Lots of crazy things going on in the world of higher ed. A big change is coming and it’s starting to take shape.

  • They’re not special. We learned this week that wealthy and caucasian kids are getting roughly 4x more “special time” considerations on standardized tests than everyone else.
  • Operation Varsity Blues continues to take down prominent families who paid millions to cheat their kids into college.
  • Morehouse Class of 2019 had their entire debt paid by a billionaire…
  • Prompting call outs of other celebs like Oprah for not.

It would appear the inequality machine that is the American higher-education system is beginning to break down.

 

Problems and Solutions

Problem: The student debt crisis is eliminating the opportunity for many Americans to enter the middle class.
Solution: Companies should create “401(k)s for student debt,” matching student loan payments as an incentive to attract talent. FidelityRandom House, and Peloton already do a variation of this.

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Problem: The average US family has 828% more student debt than in 1999.
Solution: Reduce negative stigma around trade schools. OR ban the billions colleges spent on cheesy marketing (see pic at top of the page). Either allows families to make better, more realistic decisions about their kids’ futures.

Problem: Predatory colleges take advantage of low-income students.
SolutionForce colleges to provide more detailed and transparent data to better inform the public of the true risks of paying for higher ed.

 

The Future. Hoping for billionaires to bail us out of student debt isn’t realistic, but with crisis reaching a fever pitch, there are huge opportunities for innovators who can reduce stigma, incentivize employers, and capture better data around higher ed.

arizona adidas

AriZona Tea x Adidas shoes are 99¢. Why?

The Future. Brands used to use marketing to promote new products. Now they use new products to promote the brand.

The release
In a partnership of oddly capitalized brand names, AriZona is releasing a shoe with adidas.

The shoes come out today at a pop-up store in downtown Manhattan.

The colorways will be “bright pinks, yellows, and vivid greens,” showcasing AriZona’s “iconic flower patterns.”

Why?
The answer is on the shoe itself. The tongue reads “99¢ Great Buy!” The same phrase is emblazoned on cans of AriZona sitting in the fridge at your neighborhood bodega.

From a brand perspective, the shoes are ads themselves. They tell the unique story of the product, both through its iconography and its uniquely low price.

These “ads” aren’t distributed through normal channels, but through news sites writing about them (because they’re 99¢).

Thus sneakerheads will pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars at re-sale to wear mini-billboards on their feet.

Then what will they do? Amplify those “ads” on social media.

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Wizard of OZ

The Future. The federal government is full speed ahead on so-called Opportunity Zones. They will have a huge impact on artists, creators, and entrepreneurs. Expect them to spark innovation hubs in unexpected places.

What are Opportunity Zones?
OZs are a brand new tax incentive created by Trump’s 2017 tax reform bill.

They give tax benefits to investors in certain “economically distressed” areas across the country. Their purpose is to make these areas less distressed.

Roughly 12% of the neighborhoods (AKA “census areas”) of the country have been designated OZs.

These are generally low income, high minority areas.

In Los Angeles, for example, several neighborhoods in the area-formerly-known-as-South-Central are OZs. But then again, so are some areas in Culver City and Los Feliz.

In the Bay, it looks like most of the actual Bay itself is an OZ (who can explain this one?) and so is a lot of Oakland.

Parts of Alaska qualify. So does basically the entire island of Puerto Rico.

Since the 2017 announcement of OZs, their property value has risen 20%.

What can you do in them?
At first, it looked like OZs were for real estate investment only. But then the IRS expanded the definition to include virtually any business investment, so long as it meets one of three criteria.

  1. At least 50% of the hours the employees work are spent in the OZ.
  2. Half the company’s services are within the OZ.
  3. If the management is based in the OZ.

In general, the government is super committed to making the OZ program work, so they’re being quite flexible about rules and definitions.

But no weed though.

The opportunity for creation
In order to invest in an OZ, an investor must be part of a Qualified Opportunity Zone Investment Fund.

These are popping up everywhere. Just google your city and “opportunity investment fund.”

Money is going to be flooding into these areas, looking for a home.

One thing about creativity is that it’s portable. Fashion pop ups, movie productions, recording studios, media companies, tech startups—in a connected world, these can be set up anywhere.

So if you’re about to start a project, consider looking into an OZ near you (interactive map). Funding will likely be easier to come by than elsewhere.

The only thing is that the program is serious about avoiding “churn and burn.”  It’s designed to ensure money sticks around in these areas; that investors don’t just parachute in for the tax benefits then bounce. Otherwise, OZs would be a windfall for investors, but not for the communities they’re meant to improve.

So make sure your project has local legs.

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72andSunny partners with criminals

The Future. In a country in desperate need of prison reform, more companies will follow 72andSunny in forming partnerships that recognize the vast, underutilized talent pool of incarcerated people.

ConCreates
Vincent Bragg served 5 years, 1 month, and 22 days in federal prison for selling drugs. While incarcerated, he met the founder of an underwear company. They began hosting marketing “think tanks” for the brand.

The think tanks became popular amongst other inmates, who relished the opportunity to brainstorm brand ideas. Bragg realized he was on to something. When he was released he created ConCreates, a creative agency where all the creatives are current or former inmates.

But why inmates? Is there something that makes them uniquely creative?

Bragg thinks so.

“We believe that creativity without opportunity is criminality,” he told Adweek. “We look at drug dealers as entrepreneurs. We look at graffiti artists as art directors.”

72andSunny
Enter 72andSunny, one of the most prestigious ad agencies in the world with a client list that includes Google, Samsung, Activision, and Carl’s Jr. It rose to prominence with the Samsung campaign mocking Apple fanboys for waiting in long lines.

The agency just announced an unprecedented partnership where brainstorming will be outsourced to ConCreates. 72andSunny will tap ConCreates’ 755 criminals (436 of which are currently incarcerated) to submit pitches.

All who participate will be compensated, with bonuses for those whose ideas are used in client-facing pitches and, ultimately, live campaigns.

So get ready for the next big Super Bowl commercial to be written in jail.

facbook local

Facebook’s Local News Problem

Facebook has been in the hot seat this year. The Cambridge Analytica scandal was such a debacle that it won Mark Zuckerberg a two day trip to testify before congress. Facebook’s admitted lack of oversight compromised millions of Americans’ data and spread fake news from big cities to the smallest of towns, and Uncle Sam still wants to know what happened. In the wake of this scandal, as Facebook tries to Humpty Dumpty their consumers’ trust, they’ve made a big to-do about their preemptive foray into local news and their new set of tools to support local publishers.

In February, Facebook created a Local News Accelerator. The program allots $3 million dollars for marketing to help newspapers get digital subscriptions. Publications from Boston, Dallas, San Francisco and other major news hubs will divide up Facebook’s ad dollars. The jury is still out on its success, as no reports from the companies in the accelerator have confirmed increased digital subscriptions. But there has been one study done that confirms a recent decrease in the reach of local news publishers on the Facebook platform.

The Takeaway:
  • Facebook is a groundbreaking tech company with a global vision, but local journalism requires microscopic detail, not just global vision.
  • Facebook is still not sure how to tackle the news space and with Pew Research deducting that 44% of U.S. adults get their news from Facebook, that’s not the best conundrum to be in.
  • The jury is still out on the success of Facebook’s News Accelerator, as no reports from the companies in the accelerator have confirmed increased digital subscriptions.

Which local publishers? Ironically, the very ones participating in the Local News Accelerator. In fact, only 2 of the 13 have seen a single digit percentage increase in reach on Facebook since their enrollment, while reach has actually decreased by double digits for 9 of those 13 participants. The Denver Post claims the unwanted crown with a staggering 56% decrease in reach since it entered the program. If Facebook is going to hurt more than it helps, then it needs to re-think its strategy. Communities need the localized information and journalistic accountability to connect them to their local ecosystem, and that connection is important.

Studies show that local newspaper closures are followed by rate hikes on the cities’ borrowing costs, sometimes as much as 11%. A pattern emerges where a few years after a local paper closure, people begin to take advantage of the lack of oversight, especially in revenue bonds. Revenue bonds are the instrument used to finance schools and hospitals, projects that generate ongoing revenue. This debt is then repaid to the city from the revenues generated by the project. Without hard-nosed, local journalists there to make sure no one dips their hand in the cookie jar and money starts to go missing.

Apart from an investment in local news, Facebook has also taken away their global trending feature and are testing ‘Breaking News’ features in the newsfeed and on the Watch platform. Nothing’s figured out and with Pew Research deducting that 44% of U.S. adults get their news from Facebook, that’s not the best conundrum to be in.

Facebook is right. They do have a responsibility to help local news. All the big tech companies do. Google’s ad revenue grew $86.3B from 2004 – 2016. Companies in that same time frame spent $31.5B less on print ads. Organizations like Facebook are great and most people use them everyday. They’re a groundbreaking tech company with a global vision, but local journalism requires microscopic detail, not just global vision. We’ll wait and see if that’s a problem Facebook is equipped to solve.

apple

Apple Will Make You Pay For Selfies

If you were born in any time other than the last 10 years, you likely remember an age when you had to actually buy a camera. In those days you could purchase a disposable camera you would turn in to Walmart to develop your photos or bulky digital cameras needing a USB cord to upload your pictures. With the dawn of the Smartphone, camera use changed and now our cameras are one of the most defining pieces of technology for the modern age. That’s why it turns heads when Apple files a patent that can disable your camera, opening the door for censorship, extra fees and abuse of power.

When you go a little deeper, Apple providing a way to curb camera use makes a lot of sense for the technology giant. Imagine a world where artists worried about a ruined live experience, like Alicia Keys and comedians like Dave Chapelle who say “no cameras allowed” are suddenly incentivized to allow camera use if their customer pays an additional 25 – 50% of their ticket price? Or what about museums? You just paid $10 to go to the Smithsonian and now, to use your camera, you have to pay another $5?!

This would be a win for special screenings in Hollywood, which currently employ companies like Yondr to keep cell phone footage from leaking at test screenings or premieres by locking your phone into their branded pouch. This Apple patent however, would allow for entities to simply leverage infrared technology to disable your phone directly.

In theory, this sounds intriguing and may actually make perfect business sense, but when you get into situations like protests, rallies, legislative meetings, and corrupt public workers, the idea of “recording disabled” sounds more violating than anything. As the camera increasingly becomes an actual tool for expression and communication, the idea of censorship treads right up against The First Amendment. The thought of “Big Brother” monitoring our data is crazy enough, and now the possibility of them deciding when and where we can use our technology is even scarier. Apple is soon to be a trillion dollar company representing a higher GDP than most countries. Do you really want to entrust your freedom of speech to any company or organization?

This is the problem inherent with the proliferation of technology. We give up more and more control in our quest for convenience and comfort until we are ultimately inconvenienced, and without freedom. We become addicted to the use of the thing we hoped to give us joy.

Phone camera censorship could actually be a big opportunity for companies like Instax or Polaroid, the latter having somewhat survived the digital photography revolution after being a film company for almost 100 years. There may be a future where the best way to capture a special moment or an injustice without censorship, payment, or hurdle is to use a Polaroid.

Apple submitted this patent in 2009 and it was granted in 2016. It’s caused a lot of private debate and conversation. Any person who leverages the phone camera, for communication or business should be paying very close attention as its implications are far reaching. This issue will likely grow as our cameras become more and more ubiquitous, and organizations want more and more control, but for now, you can enjoy your selfies.

future party med men

From Sack To Shelf – Marijuana’s Third Wave

Spring is here and weed is in the air. Literally and metaphorically speaking, cannabis is everywhere we turn. What was once an illegal and underground business has entered into a new era. While on a national level the conversation remains in the court of Jeff Sessions, on the state level we’re seeing a flex of sovereign rights to overrule the law of the land. Shipments still can’t cross state borders, but the merchandise from producers is no longer hurriedly stuffed into ziplocks, it’s on the shelves in dispensaries all over the country.

This transition from the sack to the shelf has started an entirely new race. The first wave came with the farming of marijuana, and the second was the medical modernization and distribution of the commodity. The third wave, occurring now, is the branding of the products that fuel cannabis consumption. Now that there are retail distribution centers, the territorial networks of drug dealers are no longer as effective. In turn, this encourages more vendors which fosters competition. In 29 states consumers aren’t forced to buy whatever they can get from a smoke filled apartment, they have options. Now the cannabis brands have to vie for their customers attention just like the rest of the corporate world, and they’re rolling out some pretty rad packaging to show off their market savvy.

San Francisco based Bloom Farms is playing to the boutique hipster market. They boast “single origin” oils, a classic value add from the coffee aficionado space. Bloom Farms doesn’t stop there, they employ word play for their pen products as well, calling them “highlighters.” Snoop Dogg, never to be left out of the cannabis conversation, has launched Leafs by Snoop.  The line boasts dazzling packaging and the name is a comedic nod to longtime collaborator Dr. Dre’s “Beats by Dre.” Marley Naturals have a built in brand awareness and a definite head start over many of their competitors. At the very sight of the name on the label they’re able to take advantage of the magnitude of the Marley brand.

This new market is not only for smoking. The edible market is a cresting green wave making up many of the thousands of cannabis brands flooding the nascent market. Prepare also to see tons of cannabis infused dining experiences. With any food products the interaction with the FDA adds an extra layer of regulation to the product, not unlike the alcohol industry’s return from prohibition under the watchful eye of  the ATU, the fromer moniker of the modern ATF. The variety of products is driving a booming legal marijuana industry. What began as a $9B annual business domestically in 2017 is projected to grow more than 400% to in excess of $47B by 2027.

So, what does the market look like at 5X the current size?  Who becomes the 800-pound gorilla in this market? MedMen, a multi-million dollar chain of dispensaries certainly has the potential. They are shaping the future of the cannabis space with their efforts to destigmatize the industry while simultaneously migrating the west coast centric industry to the east coast. They are experts at creating a great customer experience. They recently opened an Apple store-esque medical dispensary right on 5th Avenue in New York, their 4th in the state. It’s companies like this one who push the boundaries of how we will both perceive and interact with the cannabis industry that will win big as the green machine continues to overtake the country and the world.

High Times has long been a brand ubiquitous with weed but the list is growing. Now there are strong brands from flower tycoon Moon Rocks to Kandypens and Pax revolutionizing the vaporizer. There are even brands like Garden Society with a distinct focus on marketing to women, and this is just the beginning. Whether you smoke or not, be prepared for a future where grabbing a case of Bud Light or a bottle of wine at the grocery store is as commonplace as finding your favorite joints at the mall.

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Kindness Wins In The Workplace

If you’ve ever watched Swimming with Sharks or HBO’s Entourage, or even read the infamous Mailroom, you’ll know that everyone’s perceptions of a driven and successful workplace has been dominated by anger, frustration, anxiety and “paying your dues.” Recent news has shown us how toxic corporate cultures can greatly affect a business. Situations with The Weinstein Company and Zenefits are stark reminders that it doesn’t always pay to be “the bad guy,” “the asshole,” or anything other than put together, strong and empathetic.

How many of us have worked at companies with a toxic culture, or for an employer that we dread going into work for because of the way they make us feel and how they treat us?

Given how much time we spend at work, company culture has a significant impact on our livelihood and well-being. No generation is more aware of the importance of wellness than millennials. To a great degree, millennials are responsible for the burgeoning wellness market and are recognized for being a generation driven by values. Now, as they are expected to become nearly half the working population by 2020, they are having a drastic impact on company cultures.

Generation Nice” is no longer tolerating less than ideal workplace environments. Kindness is becoming more than a golden rule for companies. It’s a must. And if you want your company to succeed, kindness as a company value is critical.

According to a study by the American Psychological association, and as reported by the Harvard Business Journal, health care expenditures are 50% higher at high pressure companies than other companies, and more than $500 billion is siphoned off from the U.S. economy because of workplace stress. This amounts to 500 million workdays lost each year due to stress on the job, not to mention 60% to 80% of workplace accidents are stress-related as well. .

Unhappy workers become disengaged, resulting in 37% higher absenteeism and 60% more errors and defects. Organizations with disengaged employees showed 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time. Quantified in a dollar amount, a company of 5,000 hourly employees has the potential to reduce costs by $7.9 million per year, or 3.2% of total payroll, through promoting positive employee wellbeing.

Finally, employee turnover as a result of unhappiness is incredibly costly to businesses. It is estimated that replacing a single employee costs approximately 20% of that employee’s salary, and a lack of employee well-being leads to an increase of almost 50% in voluntary employee turnover.

So, employee well-being and kindness in the workplace is more essential to winning than you might expect. Happy workers are more productive workers. By implementing kindness as a value at your company, not only will your business perform better, but your workplace will generally have a wonderful, positive and welcoming environment that will contribute to your employee’s happiness.

A smile can work wonders in someone’s day, even offering to grab them coffee. Something so small can have so much impact. Kindness also helps the people who give it. A study that Kindness.org conducted showed that performing acts of kindness had a positive effect on the performer’s overall well being including having a positive impact on the kind person’s happiness, life satisfaction, compassion, trust, and positivity regarding humanity and social connection.

Employee well-being comes from having a positive culture. That’s why we developed the Kindsouls application which is a social support app for people to offer goodness to those in need of a little empathy & understanding. We recognized how important kindness is to well-being and how exhibiting kindness has a positive impact on individuals who choose to implement it as a value.

You can find out more about our kindness application by going to www.kindsouls.co, and you can download our iPhone application at www.kindsouls.co/app. Join our Kindsouls #kindvibetribe and start spreading kindness today.

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How We Used Instagram To Launch Our Business

Can you remember the last time you asked someone where they got their shoes? I can… because I do it for a living.

My company @shoesofnyc, documents street style photos and stories of people’s shoes. My business partner Huston and I (both NYC-transplants from Seattle, WA) spontaneously approach people with dope shoes and ask them if we can take a picture and record a quick interview. We post  the photos and narrative to Instagram for shoe enthusiasts everywhere. In 2014 we started the account as a passion project and in 2017, went full-time.

Now we have a variety of unconventional revenue sources such as white label content creation for footwear brands, @shoesofnyc branded partnerships and affiliate sales from our newly launched website, shoesof.com, which documents footwear around the world thanks to a network of contributing photographers.

So how’d we get here? How did we leverage Instagram to launch a full-time business? Enclosed are some lessons we’ve learned along the way.

You’ve got to find your thing. I’ve always been into writing, photography and fashion, pursuing freelance projects and different personal blogs while working a full time retail job post-college in New York. After retail, I moved into a marketing position for a jewelry company and learned the ins and outs of influencer marketing and the power of digital. I was fascinated by this space and all of my experience and interests led me to the concept for @shoesofnyc (shoes + storytelling). Whatever your thing, fitness, fashion, or sustainability, learn as much as you can about the space you’re interested in and if your intention is there, you’ll discover your own unique point of view.

Establish a consistent aesthetic and push your creativity within those self-set boundaries. Once we had our concept it was important that we found a signature style and posted photos that were immediately recognizable as @shoesofnyc. We could have gone many different directions for shoes + storytelling but after some experimentation, we landed on side profile, shallow depth of field, 5×7 crop and right-facing street style pictures. Without aesthetic differentiation (whether that comes from the colors, concept, crop, etc) it’s difficult to stand out and establish a voice, so it’s important to keep things fresh. How can you innovate within your boundaries? We’ve experimented with illustrations of shoes in our signature style as well as audio images where you’ll hear a voiceover in place of a text caption. It’s your concept and aesthetic coupled with an ability to innovate that will draw followers.

Pay attention to follower count – but don’t take it too seriously. The follower thing is a tough one. Before the algorithm we saw consistent organic growth and after the algorithm audience growth drastically decreased, but it’s not all about the numbers. Sure you need something and you’ve got to hustle to get those follower numbers up (we suggest manually searching hashtags/locations and leaving genuine comments on accounts who’d like your page as one strategy), but it’s less about having a million plus followers and more about engagement and establishing a niche presence. We have friends who’ve managed to create successful businesses with fewer than 10,000 followers. Whatever your angle is, make sure to foster relationships with current followers as opposed to stressing too much about new ones.

Network across and build up together. Too often we make the mistake of attempting to network up as opposed to partnering with other up-and-coming influencers and brands. Tap into your community to find like-minded partners – ask for intros, cold DM – and collaborate on fun projects and initiatives that are mutually beneficial and…often unpaid. We’ve done it both ways – we’ve hustled our asses off and gone after the big names and brands, most often falling flat. We’ve pitched Converse, Nike, Christian Louboutin and more. It wasn’t until we took a step back and began partnering with niche brands and publishers who were doing big things on a smaller scale, that we were able to build our name and portfolio, ultimately attracting the interest of larger brands.

Identify your value and look for opportunities to expand. So you’ve established a point of view,  created a unique aesthetic, built a solid-enough audience of followers and brought together a supportive community of partners and collaborators. What’s next? For @shoesofnyc our next move was clear – it was time to expand outside of Instagram. We realized we knew a lot about shoes and we knew how to develop strong narratives around footwear. We decided we could create content for other brands and started with the relationships we had already built with designers. We also  realized we could pursue @shoesofnyc branded projects with bigger brands based on our collaborations with like minded and similarly sized partners. Finally, we decided we could build our own website and platform for footwear discovery based on our unique point of view.

I’m not saying it’s easy to take a simple concept on Instagram and build your own business, but there are certainly ways to generate income if you have a distinct point of view and think outside the box. Maybe you could contribute to other publications with a fee per submission. You could also consult for brands given your own personal interests. Perhaps you create a product or service or even leverage your community for sponsored posts and advertisers. Maybe, just maybe… you can do it all.

This article was originally published on January 23, 2018.

Podcasts, Everywhere

Over the past several years, podcasts have been on the rise. They dominate our earbuds and our conversation. The reason is fascinating because really, it’s just a more democratic & commercialized radio, it’s nothing new. Back in the 50’s, families used to huddle around the radio to listen to in-depth adventures and episodic stories. Now, over fifty years later, everyone has a podcast you can listen to anytime, anywhere, anyplace.

Made popular by the likes of Serial, which had over 100 million listens in its heyday and Gimlet Media who created the very meta Startup podcast, podcasts have been elevated into public light. They are a serious contender in creativity, education, entertainment, your attention, and ultimately making money.

There are a lot of juicy stats as to why podcasting is the next big thing. Like the fact that Google searches have seen a 32% increase in annual growth in recent years or that podcast adoption is predominantly driven by mobile usage.

Last week, LA investor Jason Calacanis sent out a note talking about the “The HBO of Podcasting”. He knows his stuff as he’s now making over $1M a year in revenue off of his “This Week In Start Ups” podcast. He claims 2017 is the year of the podcast. Is it?

He says, “If you could grab 20% of the top 500 podcasts over the next two years for the “HBO of Podcasting” at a $4m payment each, you would be looking at a whopping $400 million content budget — or as Sirius XM would refer to it, “two Howard Sterns” and Netflix would call it four “House of Cards” or “three weeks” (of content).” So clearly it will take some serious cash, but the theory is people would pay for it.

Spotify is bringinging podcasts to the mix. Soundcloud and French based streaming service Deezer are getting into the game as well. Technology is making it increasingly easier to create podcasts and there are some huge businesses surrounding the ecosystem like Midroll which is an award winning podcast ad-network. Clammr which helps you source podcast audio clips, Pinecast which gives you data to make better podcasts & Fable which is aiming to be one of the first podcast only distributors.

It’s not stopping either. This American Life, one of most prolific players in the space, and the company that inspired Serial just premiered S-town, Limetownjust had a huge moment and even we, The Future Party are experimenting, check it out, we’d love some feedback.

The Future of Podcasting is almost here. Pop in your Air Pods & grab some popcorn to see which podcasters grab a chunk of the $65 billion audio market, or you know, just create one yourself. Peace.

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