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We’re All Corporations Now

The rise of the 501c-ME
April 9, 2021

The digital era promised us greater access. Instead it delivered information dispersion. Today the digital consumer has to manage their personal finances more and more like a corporation; AR, AP, collections, and extensions of credit. Let me explain.

In our pandemic-era reporting on the transformation of peer-to-peer commerce, Insiders #033: We’re All Retailers Now, we lament on the fact that the typical consumer that sells products in a digital marketplace is acquiring retail trade skills such as merchandising, inventory, and service management. Or, as we put it: 

This proves advantageous for the younger generation, who are more entrepreneurial, more driven, and more willing to take risks than their older counterparts… Astute businesses will take advantage of this moment and continue to invest in Gen Z arbitrage to teach them business-centric skills, and to create tools to enable them to make their side hustle a lifelong skill to be put to work long after quarantine restrictions have become relaxed.

The lingua franca of commerce is second nature to the first social native generation, because to engage in community, for her, is to engage in commerce. C.A.R.L.Y. (Can't Afford Real Life Yet), a psychographic of a consumer who shares living expenses with others, is more prone to use digital wallets to enable the sharing of those expenses. The social media component of apps like Venmo and ease the digital adoption of sharing financial behavior, while enabling the fractionalization of living.

But what if it becomes too easy to adopt this behavior? You wind up with small amounts of liquidity spread around too many financial products — $20 in Venmo, $40 in Paypal, $50 stuck in StockX because mofos take forever to pay out. There are real costs associated with removing money from those p2p ecosystems, too. We’re acutely aware of the 2.5% ding that Venmo delivers if you need that money, like, right now. To live in the 2020’s is to be engaged in AR and AP on the human level. Real texts: Jesse, you still owe me from lunch last week — Venmo me.

It used to be that the calculation of net worth was a trivial task for 99% of the populace. But the world is more complicated today. A millennial HENRY (that’s High Earner Not Rich Yet) has half-a-dozen mobile wallets, crypto accounts, NFTs, fractional real estate investments, you name it. To get a 360-degree view of your net worth requires a suite of tooling that just doesn’t exist yet.

Thus, it’s my belief that we’re at the beginning of the agglomeration cycle, and rebundling of the industry. Look no further than Acorns’ recent acquisition of Pillar and Harvest, and the Goldman Sachs acquisition of Clarity Money that it is folding into its Marcus product, you start to anticipate a new breed of financial services emerging which will give greater visibility into net worth and asset management.

The entrepreneurial CARLY will benefit from having digital financial nativity in the era of fintech product agglomeration. After all, she’s growing up during a time where 1 in 2 children have a Roblox account, and management of their virtual currency Robux is a necessity to participate in its own captive economy.

CARLY will be the ultimate CFO of her very own 501c-ME.

For more on the fractional economy, read our most recent report Vision 2021: Ten Trends Shaping the Future of Commerce

Innisfree you got some splainin to do. K-Beauty brand Innisfree forced to explain why its “paper bottle” was, in fact, checks notes… plastic. It was plastic. 

Beta = Not Ready for Prime** Time? In an attempt to hold its own against Amazon, Best Buy is launching its own annual membership program for the low price of $200. Membership will include tech support, installations and other perks. But isn’t that kind of what they already do for not that much a month?

**Our team apologizes for this unfortunate pun.

Kummon Projects: We didn’t want to write about the gas station shoes, but our creative director said he was a “Kum & Go stan” and would “quit” if we didn’t show the Kum & Go + Garrixon Studio collaboration shoe. Yeah, it’s a bit silly, but there’s something to be said about a Midwest convenience store building a brand online that makes people clamor over a pair of branded sneakers. 

Vested Interest. Patagonia takes a stand for democracy and donates $1M split between two Georgia voting rights groups, the Black Voters Matter Fund and The New Georgia Project. This comes days after word spread that they are going to be more choosy about which companies they outfit with their corporate logo vests, shifting to companies that “prioritize the planet.”

Broken 9 to 5. Jeni’s Strawberry Pretzel Pie ice cream collaboration with the one and only Dolly Parton broke their website in a big way. Combining Dolly’s star power with her fabulous sense of taste created the perfect strawberry storm, leaving Jeni’s issuing mega apologies to all the die hard fans who were just Jonesing for a Pretzel Pie pint.

Cuposit? Depocup? Following their move away from plastic straws in 2018, Starbucks is now experimenting with a reusable cup program, where participants pay a deposit on the cup which is refunded upon return. Many specialty coffee shops, especially abroad, have similar cup swap programs in motion already using providers like Huskee.

United by Blue, divided by... red? United by Blue, a brand known for cleaning up oceans with every purchase, has teamed up with Target to launch a new clothing and accessory line at a more attainable price point. Reactions to the announcement have been very split between praising UBB for their efforts in making sustainability accessible, and calling them out for partnering with a company with seemingly opposing values.

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