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The Needtrepreneur: Tobi’s Inconsistent Narrative

PLUS: Astrological Affluence
September 29, 2023
Pictured: Future Commerce co-founder, Phillip (left) with Shopify co-founder, Tobi Lütke, at the ALL-IN Summit.

Tobi has a problem, and it isn’t just in the consistency of his message. In the words of James Carville, “it’s the economy, stupid.”

Recently, speaking from the ALL-IN Summit, Tobi doubled-down on his vision of the future; one where people are actively engaging in side-hustles “on your lunch break” —

“Being an entrepreneur on your lunch break so you [can] escape a career that [you] chose for the wrong reasons… retail and building shops and businesses... is one of the most accessible mechanisms of independence”

The “lunch break” portion, it turns out, is key in that messaging.

A recently-leaked internal memo, broken by Business Insider, seemed to undercut his vision of the future. While occasional part-time work will be tolerated, especially those that require operating Shopify stores, all extracurriculars will soon need to be disclosed to the power that be. 

“Everyone will need to complete [a form] if it triggers the type of work that could involve conflicts,” writes Insider, quoting Shopify’s general counsel, Jess Hertz. Cited conflicts include businesses that grow to require too much time and attention, especially if those operations are conducted on company time. Presumably these rules would also apply to Shopify President, Harley Finkelstein, who is co-owner of an online tea business, Firebelly Tea.

At the core of this conflict is the burden placed on the middle class. Today, 34% of Gen Z, and nearly half of millennials have a second stream of income

We’re at the dawn of Needtrepreneurship — the need to bring in a second, or even a third, stream of income in order to thrive in this world.

We discussed this back on Episode 304 of the Future Commerce podcast. My position on Shopify’s marketing at the time: 

“And the issue that I have with the way [that] ecosystem is at the moment is it becomes a requirement for us to participate in eCommerce in order for us to live and thrive. We all must manufacture another stream of income.”

Another challenge — Lütke’s own consistency on the issue is questionable.

Way back in 2019, Tobi responded to me on Twitter about his own various extracurricular pursuits. I asked him “do you worry that publicly working on side hustles would be criticized bu shareholders if and when Shopify were to have a bad quarter or two?” to which he responded, via video: “people are free to criticize me however they want.”

Tobi has dismissed the leak as “Typical [Business Insider] nonsense.” Meanwhile, Shopify issued further clarification, including the types of businesses that would need to be reviewed: notably, ones that build technology inside of the Shopify ecosystem (apps, themes).

Even if approved, those “limited-distraction, Shopify-centered, side-hustles” amount to a major benefit for Shopify. Employees effectively subsidize their own training programs, and build businesses which will result in vendor lock-in…

But only on their lunch breaks.

— Phillip

P.S. We’re just under nine weeks away from MUSES: our signature activation during Art Basel Miami Beach. We’ve seen what happens when technology and commerce become central to a cultural event (recent examples include Cannes Lions and SXSW) — leaders from across the eCom and retail ecosystems will arrive in droves. Be the first in the ecosystem to take part in a most momentous affair. December 6-8, Miami Beach. Tell us you’re interested in attending. 

P.P.S. Finding fulfillment of a different kind in eCom? The longer you’re in eCom, the more you realize that your personal fulfillment requires understanding, and investing in, the success of your clients. Finding “wins” takes resilience and strength. Tune into this week’s podcast, where we sit down with Thomas McCutchen as he takes on a brand new role, and begins the next phase of his eCommerce journey. Listen now.

Photo by Marco Tjokro on Unsplash

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Tick-Tock, TikTok: Privacy's On the Clock. The thumb stop rate on privacy issues is through the roof, futurists. Bytedance came under fire this week when it was revealed that employees had access to the contact lists of politicians and celebrities.

Faire Thee Well. The Shopify partnership machine scores another win this week, as B2B distribution marketplace Faire announces a digital commerce partnership with Shopify. Brands using both platforms can now seamlessly link their Shopify and Faire accounts with a few taps, effortlessly synchronizing order details to streamline the cross-channel selling experience (on their lunch breaks).

TikTok Shops Snubs the Snoo? And Snoo Snoo Stuff? TikTok's new "Prohibited Products Policy" has brands and influencers reeling with its extensive list of banned items. As highlighted by Sam Habibi on Twitter, the policy restricts everything from breast pumps to adult products to certain food items — even kitchenware. Body wellness products promoting idealized body shapes are out, and so are services and unverified beauty products. The line between genuine supplements and questionable claims seems blurred.

Brick by Brick. Lego, the world's largest toymaker, has backtracked on its oil-free brick initiative, citing sustainability concerns. The proposed material, PET derived from recycled bottles, wouldn’t have achieved the company’s goals. “We have decided not to progress making bricks from recycled PET after more than two years of testing as we found the material didn’t reduce carbon emissions,” a spokesperson told Gizmodo. The setback underscores the complexities of eco-friendly manufacturing

The Age of Disloyalty. Frequent fliers aren’t the only ones being enticed with status matches. Jetblue recently announced a status match program for Delta medallion members, asking them to “keep it on the DL,” which honestly made us chuckle. Peet’s Coffee announced a new “disloyalty program” which awarded newcomers a free coffee when they uploaded screenshots of their current favorite coffee program’s points balance.

Useful Resources. This week, the DTC brand community had a number of free resources for operators in small business and eCom. First, Hexclad, the cookware startup backed by Gordon Ramsey, released a creative testing calendar on Google Sheets, and a supporting Twitter thread on how to use it. DTC Legend and part-time “everyman” Archetype, Karly McFarland, released an EOS management system L10 meeting template

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