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 …

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 …

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

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 …

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. …

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

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 …

Post-pandemic growth in work tech

Many believe this is a time for restraint and defense, when we should all wait around for the second shoe to drop. But falling into the current doom loop is missing the greatest opportunity to build market share in recent memory. Let’s dive into why that might be the case. As the Quarantine Summer comes to an end, some people are holding their breath. What’s next? Will the U.S. presidential election keep software buyers playing wait and see? If 2020 were a Gartner Hype Cycle, this current moment is certainly the Trough of Disillusionment. There’s a lot of good news though. …

Emerging market: Mental health and well-being

Had enough yet? If so, you’re not alone. COVID has created an enormous mental health challenge for employers, creating a burgeoning work tech market.  Research from the nonprofit Mind Share Partners, conducted in partnership with Qualtrics and SAP, found that the mental health of almost 42% of respondents had declined since the coronavirus outbreak began. And according to U.K. well-being startup Unmind, more people are turning to their employers for help. Since the beginning of May, their data shows that 79% of businesses had seen a rise in staff requests. None of us can do this alone. We all need …

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

HR Tech and others go remote.

Well, it finally happened last week. What we all knew was coming finally became official: the 2020 HR Technology Conference & Exposition® will not be an in-person event. Instead, it will become a free virtual event held from Oct. 27–30. Just one more feather in the ol’ remote-only cap… But virtual life can do some good. Think about this: Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley are all reconsidering whether their employees should return to their New York City offices. That’s not to mention big tech making other big moves. These banks, according to Boston.com, have been “a pillar of the …

Q2 Work Tech Investments

Want some good news? The Starr Conspiracy has broken down the Work Tech investment numbers for the first half of 2020, and 2020 is on an almost identical pace to last year’s investments. For the period April 1–June 30, we tracked 99 Work Tech deals worth $1.7 billion, compared to $2.2 billion in Q2 2019. However, when you compare H1 2020 to H1 2019, investment is almost even, with $3.78 billion this year, compared with $3.92 billion last year (I mean, what’s $140 million, right?). When you drill down into Q2 numbers, you’ll see some interesting stuff: HCM, $514.8 million: …

Slack files complaint years after full-page ad

Looks like the competition is heating up. Remember when, a few years ago, Slack pulled a daring marketing campaign to taunt Microsoft as the latter entered the former’s territory? No? Well, they took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to call out the Bill Gates Behemoth. Here’s a picture from The Verge. One of the lines reads, “This is harder than it looks.” Apparently for Microsoft, it ain’t that hard. Enter: Microsoft Teams. Years later — ahem, today — Slack filed a competition complaint against Microsoft in the EU for bundling Teams with their Office products. As …

Welcome to the Studio.

Over the last few years, many thought leaders have written about “authenticity” and “bringing your whole self to work.” At first, most people argued for “bringing your whole self to work,” but now many criticize the idea. Should you bring your authentic self to work? Who is that person anyway? For example, Marc Effron from the Talent Strategy Group wrote an article called “Why the Fake You Will Outperform the Authentic You,” arguing that “chameleons” who adapt to their surroundings are better off than employees who are genuine. You’ve probably heard similar arguments on LinkedIn, Twitter, and popular magazines. However, …

Masks and marketing.

Back when I was a kid, you had to put a yard sign out front for people to know who you were voting for. Now everyone can tell simply by whether you’re wearing a mask or not. If you posted #blacklivesmatter on your social feeds. Or some other nuanced variation of a thousand things people see and hear you do — or don’t do — every day. It may be jarring that issues which seem essentially nonpolitical, like responding to a global pandemic or ensuring racial equality, have become red meat for party voters. But it shouldn’t be surprising.  Moral Foundations Theory …