At Kodak, Clinging to a Future Beyond Film –

Interesting read about the ups and downs (more downs lately) of Kodak.  I wish them success in the mining of their IP for technology that might one day become mainstream.

Enjoy the article.

Rindge Leaphart


While not a huge fan of soy sauce, the post below highlights the history of the ubiquitous little package of sodium laden sauce that many of you may have stashed somewhere in your kitchen.  While I found the history interesting, what really caught my attention was the blurb at the end of the article about innovation (packaging in this case) being applied to this ho-hum product.  Product innovation to non-glamorous products continue to both fascinate and surprise.  My favorite non-glamorous innovations include: 1. Bottled water and 2. Pre-packaged lettuce.  Who would have thought we needed bottled water?  Bottled water is a very large industry ($100B by some estimates), but in the grand scheme of things it is relatively new – some estimate that the bottled water craze started in the 1990’s.  The same holds true with pre-packaged lettuce  / salads.  I was content with buying a head of lettuce and doing the shredding myself.  Clearly someone understood this to be a pain point and innovated.  Hats off to all innovators who are able to recognize that a staid product may ripe for growth via innovation.  Hopefully, Little Soya will find success with their innovation.

Enjoy the article.

The Mysterious, Murky Story Behind Soy-Sauce Packets — Atlantic Mobile.

Rindge Leaphart

Maybe it is just me, but I am heartened to learn that LP sales (yes I said LP as in vinyl) have had another robust year in terms of sales.  It might just be time to go ahead and purchase another record player so I can listen to my vinyl (most of which has been digitized) once again.  With LP sales on the rise, I imagine that manufacturers of record players, record cleaning systems, needle manufacturers, etc are also doing well.  Enjoy the brief article and have a Great Thanksgiving…Gobble Gobble!

• Chart: Vinyl Comes Back From Near-Extinction | Statista.

Rindge Leaphart 

rindge leaphart:

Great article. One of the best I have read on said subject. I’ll add a few points. I have found that tooling (whether China or here) usually runs 8-12 weeks. Also, while the title references manufacturing in China I have interviewed a couple of firms in Silicon Valley where they will build the circuit boards for you stateside and outsource tooling and plastics to partners in China. Product gets assembled in the US. Not necessarily the cheapest option but allows you to deal with a stateside partner who is well versed on the ins and outs of production in China. Also potentially good for initial production runs. I like the points about making sure one has feet on the ground in China. I would simply add that a small startup should always make sure source inspection is done once your people leave. Always, always source inspect. The day you don’t source inspect is the day you have a pallet of non functioning goods sitting on your dock. Always check references of the manufacturers. Avoid factories where they refuse to put you in contact with references. I would also note that finding factories typically takes longer than 1-2 weeks. Anyway, great article. Thanks for sharing.

Rindge Leaphart

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

Editor’s note: Rui Ma is a partner with 500Startups based in Beijing.

I have to admit, before I decided to fly to Southern China this past week and dig deeper into the hardware ecosystem, I knew very little about anything to do with manufacturing. Sure, I looked at hardware-related investments, as every investor does these days, and tried to apply concepts of unit economics to the products, but I could not assess very intelligently whether the companies’ projections made sense, or were just a ton of acronym-filled BS.

I also struggled to know what kinds of challenging questions to ask. Especially at the seed stage, where companies are often coming to me fresh off of the success of a Kickstarter campaign and there isn’t a ton (OK, hardly any) of user data (or data of any kind) to paw through, I found myself mostly nodding in agreement with what the founders would…

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rindge leaphart:

The following char-ti-cle on Amazon is worth a read. Most folks are familiar with the fact that Amazon rarely shows a profit. This charticle, though, provides a concise overview of how Amazon continues to plow cash into expanding their business reach. Make note of the opinion that someone at Amazon has a job of making sure profits equal nil each quarter – reminds me of how Cisco used to always beat their estimates by 1 cent per share. Net-net, Amazon plows all cash into growth opportunities in lieu of net income. How long will that continue? Who knows. In recent months, the stock market has supposedly shown some displeasure. Recent history aside, the stock has been on quite a tear for quite a while. In summary, very well written piece that I’m sure you will find enlightening.
Rindge Leaphart

Originally posted on Andreessen Horowitz:

Amazon has a tendency to polarize people. On one hand, there is the ruthless, relentless, ferociously efficient company that’s building the Sears Roebuck of the 21st Century. But on the other, there is the fact that almost 20 years after it was launched, it has yet to report a meaningful profit. This chart captures the contradiction pretty well – massive revenue growth, no profits, or so it would seem. But actually, neither of these lines gives you a good sense of what’s really going on.

1 Source: a16z

Amazon discloses revenue in three segments – Media, Electronics & General Merchandise (‘EGM’) and ‘Other’, which is mostly AWS. As this chart shows, these look very different (this and most of the following ones use ’TTM’ – trailing 12 months, which smooths out the seasonal fluctuations and makes it easier to see the underlying trends). The media business is still growing, but it’s…

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Why reviving the Arthur Andersen brand isn’t as crazy as it sounds – Quartz.

Enron issue aside, AA was a great firm.  As an alumnus of the firm, I wish the team responsible for re-branding the most success.




Walmart’s ‘Made in USA’ push exposes strains of manufacturing rebirth | Reuters.

Several months ago, I shared an article on Walmart’s push to re-ignite manufacturing in the US.  I’m glad to see the continued push in this area.  Per the article, it is interesting to note that one of the biggest issues facing manufacturers is the lack of local component suppliers.  It seems as if many component suppliers were driven out of business or moved overseas.  I’m looking forward to the results that come out of the latest Walmart confab on said subject.  Along those lines, I am in the midst of reading a book by the name of Factory Man – very good book that provides a decent overview of how (and why) U.S. furniture makers moved a majority of their manufacturing overseas.

 Rindge Leaphart

rindge leaphart:

For those of you who have an interest in the music industry and in particular streaming (Pandora, etc), I believe you will have interest in this great write-up. Enjoy. Rindge Leaphart

Originally posted on Quartz:

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the launch of Napster, the file sharing service that disrupted the music business and conditioned a generation of consumers to expect to be able to listen to their favorite songs for free.

Internet-based music platforms are legitimate businesses now, but tensions between the music establishment and new media remain as bitter as ever. They came to a head in the courts last month in a fascinating case between Pandora Media, now America’s biggest internet radio company, and the 100-year-old American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP.) It concerned the arcane issue of music publishing royalties, and uncovered some questionable behavior.

ASCAP is one of two main “publishing rights organizations” that act on behalf of songwriters to collect royalties from radio stations, movie studios, and technically speaking, anyone else (such as bars and restaurants) who plays music in public.

Pandora had been seeking to lower…

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How Steinway (Still) Makes Pianos | Mental Floss.

For those of you who have the time (8 minutes), watch the video of how Steinway manufactures pianos in NY.  Great video describing the craftsmanship that goes into each piano.  I’m not sure how many new pianos they manufacture each year (as you will see they are a job shop with very manual processes), but the process described and captured in the video is very impressive.   What they do at Steinway is clearly a work of art.

Rindge Leaphart

I’ll cut to the chase on this post.  Recruiting customer facing employees with the “Right Attitude” drives customer satisfaction and increased spend.  The genesis of this post is based on my grocery shopping experiences.  I frequent a number of grocery stores on a regular basis.  There are several, though, that I am going to comment on in this post.  I am always impressed when I interact with employees from the following grocery stores: Market Street, Whole Foods, and Central Market.  In my experience, these stores generally have higher prices and in some cases less selection than other grocery stores I frequent.  Even with higher prices and less selection of the foodstuffs that interest me, I continue to frequent these stores.  Why?  The employees.  When I interact with employees from these stores, I am always impressed with their customer facing skills.  The employees  exhibit a number of traits that I do not find in other grocery store employees.  These traits are as follow:

  • A positive attitude
  • Knowledge about the products in their store
  • Willingness to assist
  • Provide customer service with a smile

I have a recruited a number of employees in the past and while you can teach employees technical skills, I am not sure you can teach them the traits outlined above.  What I find interesting is that the majority of the employees I come across in said stores seem to all have the same type of positive attitude.  Hats off to the leaders of these stores for recruiting front line employees with the “right attitude”.  I suspect employee pay at these grocery stores is higher than at others.  If so, this is a great example of why paying more to recruit talented employees is worth it.  I am sure there are many other factors at play beyond salary.  Whatever they are, there is something to be learned from these companies and their recruiting policies.  People often talk about the great service provided by Nordstrom.  I believe employees at Central Market, Whole Foods, and Market Street are another example of how recruiting employees with the right attitude can positively impact financials.  Because of these employees, I gladly drive out of my way and spend more than I typically would on groceries.  I think the image I found below drives home the point.  Your thoughts?



Rindge Leaphart


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