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Most companies would kill for excited shoppers, big sales and record store traffic. Build-a-Bear Workshop’s executives, fearful of the crying children, bad press and forced store closures caused by their ‘Pay Your Age’ promotion in July, chose to leave teddies on the table this autumn.

The Pay Your Age offer allowed customers to buy a bear — typically costing up to £52 — for the same price as their age. The deal spurred an unprecedented amount of traffic to Build-a-Bear stores, resulting in headlines describing “chaos” as shoppers queued for hours or were turned away. Afraid to disappoint customers again…


by Thomas O. Falk

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The recent death of George H.W. Bush has rekindled nostalgia for a president with style, decorum and political experience. Yet the senior statesman’s leadership has been missed for the last decade.

Bush — America’s 41st president and the successor to Ronald Reagan — took office in January 1989. In his inaugural address, he proclaimed America would become a kinder, gentler nation. He concluded what Reagan started in the 1980s, securing a peaceful victory in the battle of economic systems and ideologies called the Cold War. …


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Levi Strauss & Co, the inventor of blue jeans, might list its shares at a $5 billion valuation in a matter of months. Given consumers’ voracious demand for denim in recent months, the storied brand couldn’t have picked a better time to go public.

The company’s revitalised interest in a public listing — it dropped off the market in 1985 — reflects its recent progress and a rosier market backdrop. Its sales have risen for four consecutive quarters and amounted to almost $5 billion last year, motivating Levi’s bosses to open a new flagship store in New York’s Times Square…


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Michael Bloomberg has pledged $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University, a sum that will enable his alma mater to permanently admit undergraduate students regardless of their family income. While the former New York City mayor and financial-information tycoon’s goal of equalising access to top-tier education is laudable, he should have donated to hundreds of universities rather than a single one.

Bloomberg, whose charitable giving before this latest gift exceeds $6 billion including $1.1 billion for Johns Hopkins, explained the thinking behind the largest academic donation in US history in a New York Times op-ed. He argued that barring students from…


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More than a billion people visit YouTube each month to learn something, whether it’s how to make gnocchi, tie a bowtie, skip a stone or dance the floss. The online video platform should bolster its education offerings and boost its premium service by acquiring MasterClass, which delivers online classes from Gordon Ramsay, Serena Williams and other experts in their fields.

A deal would support YouTube’s current plans. “One particular area of focus is educational content,” said Sundar Pichai, chief executive of YouTube’s parent company Alphabet, earlier this year. “Every day people from all over the world turn to YouTube to…


by Thomas Falk

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During Jim Acosta’s latest shouting match with Donald Trump, he grappled with a White House intern over a microphone, prompting her bosses to revoke the CNN correspondent’s permanent access pass. Critics have condemned the decision as an unprecedented assault by a president on the free press by a president; they may be forgetting that Trump’s predecessors also had antagonistic relationships with reporters.

When John Adams became US president in 1797, his concerns about foreign influence of the press led him to sign the 1798 Sedition Act, empowering the government to prosecute anyone who criticised the administration. President…


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Microsoft founder Bill Gates pioneered personal computing, launched the Windows operating system and introduced Word, Excel and other ubiquitous applications. Yet his greatest contribution to humanity could be a toilet.

Through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates has spent billions to combat diseases such as malaria, polio and HIV. A pressing concern is sanitation: more than two billion people lack access to basic sanitation facilities such as sinks, toilets and sewers, aiding the spread of diseases such as cholera and dysentery that kill nearly 500,000 children under the age of five each year. Therefore, his foundation has invested $200…


by Thomas Falk

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Donald Trump has announced plans to discontinue birthright citizenship — the automatic granting of American citizenship to all babies born in the US — for the children of illegal immigrants. The president’s proposal is likely intended to rally his supporters to vote for Republicans in the midterm elections, as well as antagonise Democrats and the mainstream media, but it’s a suggestion that deserves consideration.

Birthright citizenship is enshrined in the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. A key reason for its ratification by Congress in 1868 was to enfranchise African-American slaves who were denied any form of…


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Spotify’s third-quarter earnings revealed strong gains at its advertising-supported and paid-subscription services. Yet the music-streaming platform could steady its sales growth, widen its margins and focus its business by getting rid of the free option.

The free, ad-supported version of Spotify “serves as a funnel” in management’s view, attracting new users then converting them into paying ones. They view it as a “strong and viable stand-alone product” that can generate long-term growth in users and revenue. Indeed, it accounted for 60% of Spotify’s gross added subscribers between early 2014 and early 2018. It’s also growing quickly: monthly active users are…


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Millions of people dress up as a different person for Halloween. Given the central theme of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is identity, it’s the ideal Netflix series for the holiday. [Warning: Spoilers].

CAOS joins a long list of horror films and TV shows that employ zombies, werewolves and other monsters to tackle cultural issues. Carrie is an allegory for puberty, Get Out deals with racism, and It Follows is about sexually transmitted diseases, growing up or accepting your mortality, depending on who you ask. Indeed, early in the first episode of CAOS, protagonist Sabrina and her boyfriend Harvey listen to…

Theron Mohamed

I’ve written for The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Business Insider, WIRED, The Telegraph, The Independent, Investors Chronicle and more.

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