What money won’t buy?

Back in 2008, 30 year-old Mike Merrill was at a career crossroads. So, he did what any other aspiring entrepreneur would do: he divided himself into 100k shares at $1 apiece and let people on the internet buy a stake in his life.

Since then, he’s sold off 10,991 shares of himself to 663 investors all across the world.

 

These shareholders — most of whom are complete strangers — get voting power on every major decision Merrill makes: whether or not to get a vasectomy, how much sleep he should get each night, and even who he should date.

Some early investors (including his own brother) chose to cash out big, while others have been in it for the long haul. In return, Merrill gets his own “personal board of advisors” to help him more decisively wade through life’s decisions.

But what’s life like as a “publicly-traded” human? And in an era of digital individualism, why would someone willingly auction off his own agency?

The self-proclaimed “anti-authoritarian” endured a strict, regimented lifestyle for 3 years, until he disobeyed the rules, and was discharged.

He has a “little identity crisis,” and eventually followed one of his buddies down to Portland, Oregon and “fumbled” his way into the software world, working various non-technical odd jobs.

Then, one night in 2008, dissatisfied with his choices in life, an idea struck: What if I let other people control my life?

So, he decided to “IPO” himself

The first thing Merrill had to do was determine his worth as a human.

“At time I had a day job,” he recalls. “So I calculated my worth based on my free time — nights and weekends — and I figured that time, for the rest of my life, was probably around $100k.”

Merrill ultimately decided to divvy himself up into 100k shares at $1 each. Like an actual corporation, he set out to “drum up demand.”

To keep shareholders informed, he built a website — KmikeyM.com — that contained a platform where people could vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on the projects he should pursue.

At first, the topics Merrill put up for vote were trivial things, like whether or not he should invest $79.63 in a Rwandan chicken farming business (approved, with flying colors). But things escalated very quickly.

By the tail end of his first year on the market, Merrill made plans to move in with his then-girlfriend of 5 years — but when his shareholders caught wind of the decision, they were furious.

“I was getting emails from people saying, ‘We should have a say in such things — it’s going to impact your life!’” he says. “I thought, okay, that’s probably a fair point. And from then on, I let them vote on things in my private life too.”

First up on the table: whether or not Merrill should get a vasectomy — a procedure that would’ve permanently prevented him from having children (or, in the eyes of shareholders, “adding an economic burden” to their investment). His shareholders narrowly voted the procedure down, 45% ‘Yes’ to 55% ‘No.’ In the ensuing months, Merrill put a variety of major lifestyle choices up for vote: whether or not to adopt a polyphasic sleep schedule (Approved), become a registered Republican (Approved), or convert to a vegetarian (Approved).

When Merrill started putting more dramatic decisions on the chopping block, he started to attract more buyers.Driven by letting investors in on the more intimate aspects of his life, Merrill then decide to take things a step further.

When Merrill’s relationship dissipated in 2012, he once again turned to his shareholders for advice — this time, in the romance department.

“Under normal circumstances, no one is going to complain when someone is buying flowers or going out to dinner and a movie,” he wrote in an investor letter. “But as a publicly traded person with a responsibility of productivity to the shareholders, we live under special circumstances. A relationship is likely to affect both [my] productivity and [my] output.”

In a resolution titled “Shareholder Control of Romantic Relationships,” Merrill asked his investors if they’d like to take over control of his dating process. It passed with an 86% vote.

Merrill gives his investors an update

Merrill went on a variety of dates, updating investors via a private forum at each juncture and ceding to their feedback. After numerous dates, Merrill began to fall for a 28 year-old assistant named Marijke Dixon — and after securing his shareholders’ approval, he offered her a three-month “relationship contract.” As their relationship progressed, Dixon progressively acquired shares in Merrill in an (unsuccessful) attempt to gain a controlling voting power.

Stranger things

The flood of new shareholders dramatically changed the way Merrill thought about his experiment.

With a mix of strangers and friends (his original investors), Merrill realized he had to mitigate the possibility of “insider trading:” his friends, who he hung out with on a daily basis, knew more about his life than other investors. To compensate, he began publically posting more updates and information about his life.But he started to realize that strangers probably made better investors, anyway: “I found them to be more objective,” he says. “When people know you too well, they vote for what they think you want, which isn’t necessarily what’s in your best interest.”

This hypothesis proved to be true when his new shareholders unanimously voted for Merrill to leave his desk job of 10 years to strike out on his own and take a calculated risk.

Merrill’s market

Today, Merrill boasts 663 investors all across the world, who collectively own 10,991 shares.

Like all markets, Merrill’s share price is contingent upon demand, and demand usually fluctuates in tandem with hype, press, and publicity. In recent years, those things have stagnated, and his shares — once as high as $18 — fell as low as $2.18.

Today, his share price sits squarely at $4.75, still a solid return for his earliest $1 investors.

“I have a powerful decision-making engine of people who can give me feedback or advice about anything,” he says. “Honestly, who wouldn’t want that?”

 

Why It’s Hot:

-This 1st Crowdsourced Human Control project

-This type of “crowdsourcing” decision-making approach is beginning to take place within politics

-Will be interesting to see if brands adopt this at a more meaningful level

 

Source: The Hustle

You’re Staying Where for the Holidays?

Seeing family over the holidays is one thing, staying the night is another. HotelTonight created digital ads to run across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that depicts why you might reconsider where you spend the night. The startup’s internal creative team partnered with Odysseus Arms agency and have since doubled brand awareness.

Why is this hot?

The holidays are stressful. Comedic ads in our digital space clearly puts an ease on this.

Source: http://www.adweek.com/creativity/the-only-thing-worse-than-your-relatives-your-relatives-pets-says-hoteltonight/

 

Drink Smartly

Jim Beam is making a foray into the newly popular voice-activated home tech category … with a delightfully absurd machine.

The whiskey marketer is billing it as the “first-ever artificially intelligent decanter,” and calling it, naturally, “Jim.” A parody of toys like Amazon Echo and Google Home, it’s available for pre-order at $34.90 and voiced by Fred Noe, seventh generation master distiller for the brand.

It won’t be able to tell you the weather or “call you a cab to Cupertino,” according to the promotional video, but it will encourage you to drink bourbon, rain or shine, any way you please—and even measure it out for you.

It’s not Jim Beam’s first time poking fun at consumer tech marketing. Last year it cooked up the Jim Beam Apple Watch, a green tweed band with a collapsable shot glass attached, launched to hijack attention around announcements from the gadget maker (and to promote apple-flavored Jim Beam).

The new addition is certainly amusing enough, even if it lacks the inspired brilliance (or perhaps, inspired stupidity) of its predecessor. Some Silicon Valley advertisers might get away with tediously pretentious marketing if they really are changing the world, but it’s also a category that’s deservedly spawned a rich tradition of mockery.

While it might be up for debate whether it truly is the first smart decanter (especially depending what you mean by “smart”), suffice it to say nobody else is going to be in a rush to claim the title. That for no other reason than if you’re too lazy or drunk to measure out another glass of the hard stuff for yourself, then you really don’t need it.

Source: Adweek

So Much Baggage

It’s widely understood that when it comes to Mexicans & travel, your luggage is always at the seams. Someone always wants you to bring them something and you always want to bring a whole lot of trinkets you don’t need. This is mandatory ☝.

Due to this unspoken rule, one of the most frustrating pain points is going over the weight limit.

So when Samsonite released their new lightweight luggage product line, they headed straight to Mexico. The appeal of the luggage for this market would be that the less your luggage weights, the more unnecessary crap you can lug with you.

They drove awareness to the luggage by introducing much-needed utility into the market – an unconventional luggage tag that acted as a scale to help people avoid overweight shock. The giant branded tags attached to luggage handles. If it held when lifted, then luggage was under the 50lb. If it broke, you were in trouble.

 

Why Its Hot:

– The brand chose to support their claims with actions and utility, not just with messaging

– The tag kept the brand top of mind, especially during the most critical trigger moment of consideration…when people go over the weight limit.

– It didn’t require an uber elegant tech solution, just some elegant thinking

Source

Lifetime label




Mimica Touch, is a food label that decays at the same rate as food. The Mimica label is filled with gelatine, which decomposes in the same way as packaged foods. The gel is calibrated to each product line using shelf-life testing data, and it also takes into account the temperature at which it is stored.

When new, the label is smooth. But as time goes by and the gel decomposes, it becomes bumpy to touch, signalling that the food is no longer safe to eat.

The Mimica Touch was developed with visually impaired people in mind. It is also easy to assemble, so that manufacturers can make the label – which consists of a plastic tray, gel and a lid – on site.

Why its hot?
90% of Americans prematurely threw away food because they misinterpreted sell-by and use-by labels as indicators that food had gone rotten and become unsafe. 

Source: Mimica Lab

$weet $weet Money

A combination of India’s lack of digital payment adoption and shop owners never having enough change to give back to customers after a purchase has resulted in a very unique cultural practice: giving candy as change to consumers, instead of coins. Though it may sound sweet (eh? eh?), this leaves customers feeling scammed and shop owners feeling annoyed.

Taking note of this mutual pain point Paytm, a digital payment app, created its own brand of candy. These could still be given as change to consumers, but with a twist – the candy wrappers could be redeemed as real money with the download of their app by inputting the promo codes on the inside of the candy wrappers.

Though Paytm didn’t monetize (the candies were given to shop owners for free) they massively reduced their acquisition costs from $ 0.92 to $.18) with over 1M people downloading their app.

Why It’s Hot:

  • The campaign stemmed from a real culture insight/pain point and the brand sat in the middle of the solution
  • Really smart way of turning an everyday object into a medium (the wrappers)
  • Leveraged an old behavior (cash economy) to transition people to a new one (digital payment)

The flying supermarket

German airline Lufthansa has partnered with an online supermarket so passengers can shop for groceries on their flight home and avoid returning to an empty fridge.

Passengers on long-haul flights can use Lufthansa’s in-flight internet, FlyNet, to access Rewe’s online delivery service and shop for groceries. Passengers can then select a delivery date and the food will arrive at their home (provided the address is in Germany) in a cool box. They are also planning to trial this in the US next year

The trial began on 1 October and will run until 1 December. For the first six weeks of the trial, the service will be available on long-haul flights to Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich. In the second six weeks, the service will be available on long-haul flights that have those three cities as the final destination.

Why it’s hot
From plane to home at just the right moment. Not only they deliver to your home but you can choose the exact time you want it to be delivered to your address.

The idea came from a customer survey where people said they want duty free products to b delivered home

Source: FutureTravelExperience.com

Dubai is building a mock Martian city


United Arab Emirates has announced that it’s building a 1.9 million square feet simulated Mars settlement. It will be called Mars Science City and will serve as home to interconnected domes housing various laboratories simulating the planet’s terrain. The team building the structure plans to use advanced 3D printing techniques and heat and radiation insulation to mimic the harsh environment of our neighbor.

Why it’s hot?
New start-up movement: The city will have labs to develop technologies that can provide future Martian colonies with food, water and energy.

Source: Engadget

Cliffhanger: Pop-up on the edge of a cliff


Climbers on the iconic Bastille in Eldorado Canyon deal with heavy winds, pouring rain and temperatures that can rise and fall by as much as 40 degrees in August. As prepped as they might be, they could likely use an extra layer or two on their way to the top of this picturesque mountain outside Boulder, Colorado.

Enter the world’s most remote pop-up, dubbed Cliffside Shop and manned from sunrise to sunset by a fellow climber handing out hoodies, socks and other gear to anyone who needs it. The price may be free, but it does require you to climb 300 feet to a shop that juts out from the sheer face of the mountain.

The pop up lasted for two days, and the campaign, includes a dedicated microsite where users can find more information about the material and shop branded gear.

Why it’s hot?
Give people what they need exactly when they need it, no matter where they are

Source: Adweek

 

A bodega to kill all bodegas

 



Called Bodega, this startup installs unmanned pantry boxes in apartments, offices, dorms, and gyms. It promises convenience, but also represents competition for many mom-and-pop stores. Bodega’s logo is a cat, a nod to the popular bodega cat meme.

Bodega sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. An app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you’ve picked up, automatically charging your credit card. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the “store.”

Why it’s hot?
Other than the fact that it has angered all the mom and pop corner bodega lovers

The end of centralized shopping as we know it 

“The vision here is much bigger than the box itself,” McDonald says. “Eventually, centralized shopping locations won’t be necessary, because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you.”

Personalized Bodega Boxes
“By studying their buying behavior, we’re hoping to eventually figure out how the needs of people in one apartment building differ from those in another. We could customize the items in one dorm versus the next.”

The backlash:

Source: Adweek, Fast Company

 

Sex Sells

In Colombia, young lovers often resort to stealing moments of intimacy in places where they risk being interrupted (such as a parent’s house, or in a parked car).

To help them get their hot-n-heavy, Condom brand Duo released an app to alert young lovers in Colombia when they risk being caught having sex.

To work, the app requires two mobile phones with cameras. One phone is placed in the area where the interruption is likely to come from and acts like a motion sensor. When someone (or something) disturbs the scene, the first phone sends a message (and an image of the intruder) to the second phone, alerting the lovers and giving them time to compose themselves.

According to Geometry Global, the app attracted 62,262downloads, more than 23,000 monthly active users, and the brand achieved a 23% increase in sales in the fourth quarter of 2016, and a 20% lift in the first quarter of 2017.

Why It’s Hot

  • We’ll its sex related
  • Brand solved a very real pain point for their core audience; young consumers who are likely to live at home and crave privacy

 

Source: https://www.contagious.io/articles/brand-guardian

Really uncool app

How can terrified parents of newly qualified teen drivers persuade them to drive safely? Toyota has come up with what could be an ingenious method — embarrassing them.

The brand’s new Safe and Sound App, not only blocks social media posts and incoming calls once they’re traveling over nine miles per hour, it automatically switches to playing their parents’ Spotify playlist once they break the speed limit or try to use their phone. And, naturally, parents are free to put as much embarrassing music on there as they choose.

The parents activate the app when the teen wants to borrow their car, and it syncs both parent and child Spotify accounts. The app uses Google Maps API technology to detect if they’re speeding, and when the young driver touches their phone or breaks the speed limit, the music they are playing through Spotify will suddenly cut out and their parents’ playlist will kick in instead. Only once the driver stops interacting with their phone or returns to within the speed limit will their own music resume playing.

Why it’s hot?
They used a human insight and turned it into a product – for teenagers, the threat of embarrassment is more severe than threat of injury

Source: Creativity

Greatest Ikea hack of all time?



Here’s how Ikea responded to the news that costume designers of Game of Thrones have been cutting corners, using Ikea rugs as pelts and capes for some of its extras.
In the show, the northern-dwelling Nightwatch, led by commander and king of the north Jon Snow, wear animal skins as to not freeze when winter comes. Instead of decking out the soldiers in real pelts, costume designers elected to take a trip to Ikea to buy Peta-approved Faux animal skin rugs.

Why it’s hot?
Real time reaction with an idea that is low cost and pulled together in a couple of hours

Source: The Drum