My name is Molson Hart. I’m the CEO of a consumer products company I founded 10 years ago, called Viahart. We design and distribute toys and other physical products. In 2019, we did $4.5 million in sales and in 2020 we should do $8 million. I am not a lawyer, but our products have been so frequently copied that I’ve become an expert on protecting companies from copycats.
In this short article, I will tell you three things:
When you launch a new product, you will know almost instantly whether it’s a hit. Something just “clicks” with consumers. We first launched Brain Flakes® in September 2014, and I remember just a few days later seeing that we had sold out on Amazon. I had never seen anything like that before and thought it was some sort of fluke. It wasn’t. Sales went like gangbusters immediately. …
Self-censorship is reaching all-time highs across the globe. It is unpleasant, and by preventing free discussion, it is inhibiting progress. We need to stop it.
How did it get so bad? Technology. We have transitioned from a world of unrecorded communication to one where every e-mail, text message, and social media post is not only documented but potentially used against you. Internet-enabled phones are portable concealable video and audio recording devices that can be used at any time by anyone. The problem does not just exist on social media. Messages between friends are a screenshot and a share away from major life consequences. …
There’s an old adage: “never invest in anything made of metal because, in hard times, its durability causes people to not replace it.”
What’s a better business:
Napkins or jewelry? Fireworks or femoral implants? Contact lens or glasses? Electricity or smartphones? Horses or carriages and cars? Ink or the printer?
Sometimes, the more durable product is the better business. Sometimes, the more durable product even competes with the nondurable one and is still better. Contact lens manufacturers make money, but with its luxury glasses market share at 80%, Luxxotica seems to do much better.
Suppose I invent a new formulation for paint. Instead of the usual 5–10 years, my new paint requires repainting every 10–20. It costs the same to produce as normal paint and I patent it. My customers happily pay double for my new paint, because it lasts long and they know they save money on the labor of repainting. …
Step 1, make the following changes right now:
Concurrently build the supply chain for masks, PPE, ventilators, and rapid testing.
Step 2, while loosening national self-isolation restrictions, establish testing checkpoints all over the country in locations with significant traffic.
Fedex is in a tough position. Amazon has stopped working with Fedex. At the same time, Amazon has launched its own delivery service, using independent contractors to make deliveries. FedEx also uses independent contractors to make deliveries for their Home Delivery and Ground services. Amazon’s actions have attacked both FedEx’s supply of labor and reduced demand for their services. This will increase FedEx’s costs while dropping FedEx’s shipping volumes, in a business where each additional package on the delivery truck drops straight to the bottom line.
Not a good place to be if you’re FedEx.
My company is a FedEx customer. I was given the opportunity to meet with a senior member of the FedEx executive team. The meeting ultimately didn’t happen because of a scheduling conflict, and perhaps because of the coinciding coronavirus crisis. I didn’t have a chance to pass my message of how FedEx should compete with Amazon so I’m writing it here now. …
E-commerce sellers based in China disproportionately sell illegal knockoffs and unsafe product to American consumers¹. The American legal system, not equipped for the advances in internet commerce, has given them carte blanche to engage in these activities without repercussions. Sellers based in China now account for 36% of Amazon’s US marketplace². Their total sales, at over $100 billion, exceed the GDP of the state of New Mexico. Compared to two years ago, China’s share of the top 10,000 sellers on Amazon has risen 26% to 40%³. …
That’s what our company paid Amazon last year.
We sell plush and construction toys on Amazon. Well, technically, we sell toys on our website, on eBay, on Walmart.com, to brick-and-mortar stores, and we sell on Amazon. But, really, we only sell on Amazon. In 2018, we had about $4,000,000 in sales but Amazon.com accounted for over 98% of that.
Harvard Business School would call this “vendor/customer concentration”. In the e-commerce world, we call it being Amazon’s bitch.
While Amazon received $1.95 million from us last year, they are not afraid of losing our business for a couple of reasons. First, there are thousands of companies out there eager to take our place. Second, Amazon had $277 billion in gross merchandise revenue in 2018. Our $3.9 million in sales on Amazon accounted for .0014% of that. …
How Asia Works by Joe Studwell explains how Japan, Taiwan, and then South Korea went from being poor subsistence farming nations to economic powerhouses and… how the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia didn’t.
It’s a good, seemingly well-researched, book. I highly recommend it for anyone who’s into international trade, manufacturing, supply chain, technology, or economic development.
Here’s the basic formula for how you go from a poor country to a rich one, according to the author:
Every large sum of money or great business starts with small scale tinkering. The future is unknown, you never know what is and what is not going to work. You get an idea, do some preliminary analysis, and just give it a shot, but you do it at small stakes. When you’ve got an idea for a new product, you make a prototype or a couple samples, you don’t make a million units. In this way, you minimize your risk, but still keep the chance of upside. It ought to work the same way in government and it has before.
In May 1980, under the stewardship of the great Deng Xiaoping, the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone was established. It was a small scale experiment with capitalism for an otherwise communist China. Businesses set up there did so under favorable terms and, in lieu of totalitarian central planning, freely traded with the world. It worked and in 1984, China furthered opened 14 other coastal cities for business from Dalian in northern Liaoning to Beihai in southern Guangxi. …
I don’t want to die. To that end, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to live as long and as healthily as possible. I wanted to write down and circulate the basic rules I’ve encountered or come up with in an attempt to stress-test them, subjecting them to scrutiny in order to maximize the chance of identifying those that may not be correct.
Blueberries are jam-packed with antioxidants, which may or may not protect you from cancer. Unfortunately, eating a bowl of blueberries after you smoke your daily pack of cigarettes likely will not cancel out the cancer-causing effects of tobacco use. If you want to avoid getting cancer, don’t add blueberry. …