Podcast: SPACs come for Work Tech

You’ve probably heard of SPACs by now, right? If not, you will hear much more soon. These Special Purpose Acquisition Companies are the hottest thing on Wall Street, and they’re invading Work Tech. These entities are so-called blank-check companies that are an alternative to traditional IPOs for financing. Essentially, investors give money to a sponsor, like a hedge fund, so that they can invest in a lucrative opportunity, but more or less with blind faith. Hence the moniker “blank-check” company. The sponsor takes the company public, bypassing the traditional regulatory hurdles of an IPO. This year has seen an explosion …

Studio Reviews: Lady and the Tramp with a BLT?

Adam Sandler is back on Netflix with a spooky season adventure. Hubie Halloween takes us on a rollercoaster of Happy Madison references including names that you’ve definitely heard before, a goofy main character that harkens Sandler antics of yore, and more cameos than you could throw a stick at. This week we discuss our favorite parts of Hubie Halloween and get into some serious childhood discussions. Don’t miss the uncanny resemblance of our co-workers dog, Hank and Steve Buscemi. “It’s kind of like a Swiss Army Thermos. Made it when I was in the scouts.” – Hubie

Vlog: Branding trends we see in Work Tech

A few weeks ago we launched our latest Brandscape on talent and learning categories coming together. Bailey led the creative and visual design insights in the report, so she gave us a tour inside her brain. In sum, we’re seeing brands become much more human, which we also talked about with Nancy a few weeks ago. What can brands do to create an innovative brand in the next year? Find your authentic self. Hear more from Bailey in this week’s vlog.

branding

Podcast: Certifications and Google are on the rise

There’s no lack of professional certifications for HR and L&D professionals, with ATD and SHRM certifications, among others. But what about one that’s all about Taking Care of Business (or TCB, as Elvis might say)? That’s what Brandon Hall Group is working on. Brandon Hall Group announced an interesting alternative to traditional HR and L&D certifications, an approach that’s more agile and focused on driving actual business results. Brandon Hall Group CEO Mike Cooke had this to say about the announcement: “We felt there was a void in certification programs that prepare human capital management professionals to work effectively with …

I can't prove it, but I can say it. — Stephen Colbert

Contributing to the community

Creating impact in our community is a big responsibility. It’s something that a lot of people strive towards and it’s not always easy. The Starr Conspiracy has been working with a local elementary school for quite a few years to provide mentoring, tutoring, financial aid, and other support.   “It takes so little to have such a big impact” This week, Lou Chapman sits down with Springdale Elementary counselor (and wife) Kelly Gillham to discuss what our relationship has looked like over the last few years, how we’ve helped make an impact, and what has happened since the pandemic hit. How …

Human workings in work tech

Embrace the human side of work. That’s a loaded statement, but it’s an important one. Most people in work tech are working from home now, and it’s not easy to be productive while also caring for a screaming 5-year-old, doing the dishes, or spending time with a spouse. So, Bret sat down with Ashley Bernard, the agency’s VP of client services, to better understand what it’s like to be a working mother during this wild time. Ashley has literally taking meetings from a dark closet to get some peace and quiet.

Never, ever give up

Here’s a good news story: Our friends at Blueboard announced their $9.3 million Series A funding last week. You think your business has had a rough year? Think again. Blueboard founders Taylor Smith and Kevin Yip can beat most of the 2020 hard-knocks stories out there. Their entire business model has been built around experiential employee recognition. Usually that means rewarding employees by going places and doing things. You know, something we generally don’t do anymore. So, when everyone went on lockdown earlier this year, things began to look kinda dire. Did they give up? Hell no. They got to …

All green or all bubble? Work Tech stocks look up

Despite the S&P 500 falling around 0.3% as we close out the end of this week, Work Tech pulled ever higher into the green, with The Starr Conspiracy’s Work Tech Index closing the week up 2.5%. That brings our overall return to over 20% on the year, compared to the S&P 500’s 6.34%. The big stories from this week included the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, coronavirus cases increasing, all that TikTok drama, and whether capitalism is still good for society. One question that’s been making the rounds is this: Are we in a bubble? On one side, you could …

Buy the ticket, take the ride. ― Hunter S. Thompson

Now’s the time to nut up and get creative

With everything that’s happened this year, we’re finally seeing brands embrace their human side. Work tech — the platform for the people — is becoming more and more people-oriented in their branding. “My advice to work tech is that if you were ever going to nut up and just be unapologetically unique, now is the time to do it.” Bret sat down with Nancy Crabb, the agency’s director of creative services, to hear about trends she’s seeing among work tech brands and creativity itself. “Stop trying to look like a tech company. … It’s really time to be brave and …

The way things are

We’ve been talking a lot about “Return of the Workplace” and “The Future (or Present) of Work.” That view is an inaccurate read on the situation. Instead, let’s focus on “The Way Things Were” and “The Way Things Are.”  The Way Things Are is not just about the “where” of work, but also the “what, when, how, and why.” As a recent survey from Slack points out, most employees want to be able to work from home and at the office. These results certainly dovetail with the findings of our own employee survey that Bret Starr shared in his LinkedIn …

Big idea marketing with Razor Suleman

If you’ve ever met Razor Suleman, founder and CEO of Achievers, you’d know he never has a small idea. From putting on flash mobs in Times Square to building one of the fastest growing events in the world (Elevate Toronto), he goes all in. Related: Read Bret’s post about big idea marketing here. Bret sat down with Razor to better understand how to use marketing in big ways, and to learn how he marketed during the Great Financial Crisis — all lessons that are still relevant today. By the way, watch just the first few minutes of the interview to …

Two causes for optimism

Last week was a wild week for tech stocks, with the Nasdaq Composite Index and the Dow Tech Index flirting with correction territory. Time to panic? Hardly. Let’s look at Zoom. Like a lot of leading tech stocks, it took a hit last week. Of course, Zoom also reported that it made more money in May, June, and July than it did in all of 2019. Sure, tech stocks may be overvalued, but there are plenty of Work Tech companies like Zoom with solid fundamentals and increasing demand. Consider the plight of a growing company like Slack, which fell almost …

I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too. — Mitch Hedberg

Work tech’s tough week: Inside the Work Tech Index

Work tech suffered a loss of -0.75% this week as of Friday morning, according to The Starr Conspiracy’s analysis of the top 25 public work tech companies. This analysis is part of a project we call the Work Tech Index, where we’ve been analyzing work tech’s public equities since earlier this year. Some fared better than others. Slack (WORK), for example, crapped out at -10.90% on the week. Why so bad? Let’s take a closer look. This week has been tough for markets overall, with big swings on big news. AstraZeneca paused a major COVID vaccine trial, Congress failed to …

Crisis marketing: A conversation with Gene Pease

How do you market in a global crisis? Bret wanted to find the answer to that question, so he called up Gene Pease. Gene is the founder of Mighty You, a new performance management solution. However, earlier in the 2000s, he was the founder of a company called Vestrics that ultimately sold to Ultimate Sofware. But at the time, Vestrics needed to grow significantly through the Great Financial Crisis of 2008–09 (GFC). Gene knew he needed to build a polished brand and accelerate his marketing efforts — but that takes money. During a global recession, convincing investors to give you …

Podcast: W.O.R.K. it

We at The Starr Conspiracy hope you had a restful weekend this Labor Day. If you’re seeing what we’re seeing, you’ll need it this fall. We’re talking to many brands that are going to invest heavily in marketing between now and the end of the year. That’s not just in categories doing well, like learning, well-being, and communication. It’s in every category. Even in talent acquisition — which has been pummeled this year — we’ve talked to brands that are seeing revenue up 25% to 30% in 2020. The next four months are an unprecedented opportunity for Work Tech brands. …

Well-being: Work tech’s next big market

There is a major story in work tech right now: Well-being is going to be yuge. Why? That’s what Bret wanted to find out. He sat down with Vic Strecher and Eric Zimmerman of Kumanu, a well-being company focused on performance, to understand the big drivers behind this category. Eric argues that since religion and other purpose-driven institutions are on the decline, many employees are seeking that same fulfillment or meaning making at work. “That is a business driver in a very literal way,” he concluded. Bret pointed back to 2008 as the archetypal framework for what’s driving the well-being …

It’s Time for Work Tech to W.O.R.K.

If you’re looking for yet another way to kill some time, go research the old game show The $64,000 Question. The show ran from 1955 to 1958, so it’s pretty safe to say that most of us haven’t seen an episode recently. (I watched reruns when I was a kid.) The premise of the show was simple. Contestants were asked a trivia question, starting with a prize of $1. If they answered the question correctly, they could take the prize money or keep going with more questions (each more difficult than the last). And with each new question, the prize …