Will biohack 4 food

Our work product is ~enlightened~

Not a lot of news this week, but a lot of big money, starting with Cameo, which raised $100 million at a new valuation of about $1 billion. We don’t really think anything should be worth a billion dollars except Beyonce and Jay-Z in an elevator, but there is something kind of delightful about our newest tech darling being so incredibly frivolous. Our billion-dollar startups have tended along the lines of coupons, ads and logistics — nice Midwestern meat-and-potato businesses. Now everyone’s investing in the ability to get a video shoutout from Mankind, and, yeah, OK. Money does stupid things in a pandemic. And white guys generally find a way to profit off of everyone getting weird. 

Also profiting off the pandemic: Alinea co-owner Nick Kokonas, who has sold his dinner-booking startup Tock to Squarespace for more than $400 million. There’s no word on what that means for Tock’s 140 employees, but we can hope it’ll push Squarespace to build out a presence in Chicago, if only because we love to build websites on it. 

It’s not just good news at the top, though. Restaurant workers might be able to bargain for higher wages and better benefits thanks to rapidly increasing demand and far fewer job searchers. Maybe the solution is paying them more than the bare minimum they make off expanded unemployment. After a year of layoffs and unsafe working conditions, it’s nice to get even the hint of some good news for servers. 

And in much less logical acquisitions, Chicago tech incubator 1871 is buying Naperville tech incubator hub88. May they both go forth and give mediocre white men unearned validation and a fleeting sense of being right on the cusp of something. 

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Senior Director of Digital Initiatives at the Lyric Opera of Chicago
Yes, this is another in our ever-present plea to save Chicago’s cultural institutions from themselves. But at least Lyric has proven itself able to enjoy a good joke

Marketing and Communications Coordinator at the University of Chicago’s Department of Music
If reinvigorating opera isn’t enough of a challenge for you, why don’t you try adding on classical music and academia for fun?

Corporate Digital Communications Specialist at Beam Suntory
Or just stick to what you know, like how to plan and create content for the world’s third-largest spirits company, including the website, intranet and corporate social channels (not Jim Beam or Maker’s, sorry). Write Stir Straight Up, a weekly newsletter for the company’s 4,800 employees. This job is in Chicago, but be sure to ask what’s up when Beam Suntory moves its HQ to New York next year (booo).

Inspiration of the week

“Mindfulness and meditation are additional forms of biohacking, then, that can upgrade the human operating systems that make tech companies more money.”

—Like so much currently ruining our lives, corporate mindfulness starts with cultural appropriation and gets spread by Steve Jobs. This past year has seen employers positively tripping over themselves to help us stay “resilient” — really, working — despite cataclysmic stress. It’s not a good faith gesture, and it’s not your responsibility to turn every restorative moment into renewed productivity.

We have done it too, talked about “refilling our cup” to get through the next deadline and wondered if therapy might be a business write-off. (It’s not.) But we are trying, really trying, to learn that the goal of taking care of ourselves is not to yield a greater output. And as we start to thrill and fear a post-vaccine life, it’s worth making the effort to push “getting more done” to the bottom of your list of anticipations. 

Forward this email to anyone who deserves a moment to themselves for themselves. They can sign up here to get a twice-monthly somewhat shrill reminder to take that time.

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Take apart everything 🐛

It's a real topsy-turvy world out there.

OK, um, wow. Look, we never thought we’d have to say this, but we’re siding with Sterling Bay? The comically evil developer of real estate and paver-over of dreams is being sued by the Goddess and Grocer/Baker restaurant group for requiring them to hire union contractors. Apparently this is illegal. Why? If Sterling Bay owns the building, can’t it require work in that building to be done to a certain standard? We are not supposed to be on the side of more power for corporations, and definitely not on the side of more power for Sterling Bay. And yet here we are. Let Sterling Bay require unions. Or better yet, proactively hire them. Otherwise why are we paying so much money for slices of rainbow cake? Damn. 

Still, as one hustler said: “Frankly I hope they kill each other.”

If hearing us praise Sterling Bay hasn’t done enough to shake your confidence in the simulation, apparently Foxconn is considering Wisconsin as the home for its not-yet-existent electric car business, in exchange for the right “incentives” of course. This Foxconn. The one from the phantom LCD factory promised billions in subsidies and touted by Trump.

In probably not-fake but also probably not not-evil news, Google is growing. It plans to hire 10,000 folks nationally and expand its Chicago office — no clear picture on the number of those jobs in Chicago, but the monolith does say it plans to invest $25 million in Illinois this year. 

Don’t worry though, logistics is here to help us end on a positive note. Startup FourKites just raised a $100 million round, on the heels of competitor Project44 doing the same in December. Not immediate job news, but a good chunk of change that FourKites can use to keep acquiring companies. 

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Director of Social Media & Influencer Relations at Owlet Baby Care
Create and measure strategies to promote innovative products like the baby monitor smart sock, and hire a team to help you do it. Influencer relations makes us spit up a little, but babytech is way cuter than hair vitamins and skinny tea.

Director of Marketing at Skills for Chicagoland’s Future
Develop marketing strategies around the public-private partnership’s admirable mission: to get unemployed and underemployed people back to work. This is a hands-on “lead” and “do” position, so you can wow them with innovative ideas while learning new skills yourself.

Marketing Manager at Redmond Construction
A 110% biased plug for a friend and fellow hustler, Redmond builds out cool offices to work in for cool companies to work for, and needs a marketing manager to help them grow. At the very least, you’d have real estate eye candy to look at, but we can also confirm you’d have a good boss to work for. Let us know if you want more details. 

Inspiration of the week

“If you're serious about your claims, take apart everything you ever thought you knew about what you're doing. Set out in uncharted territory.”

—Loretta Staples, one of the inventors of digital and UI design as we know it, who found herself both disillusioned with the profession and written out of its history. This quote comes from a letter she wrote in 2000 interrogating an industry that was already falling into sameness. “Could it be that increasingly graphic design is less the solution and more the problem?” She thought so. So she left, becoming a teacher, artist, consultant and now social worker and reminding us all that we can invent, and reinvent, ourselves at any moment. 

Forward this email to anyone who’s hiding out in their chrysalis. They can sign up here to get twice-monthly encouragement to get out of that shell and be their best selves.

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It’s all flowers and going-out tops from here 🌷

Just let it be true.

Please respect our grief at this time: Outcome Health is officially no more, merging with Cincinnati's PatientPoint Technologies. It’s a last-ditch effort to salvage some value from a company that once had breathless media coverage and a more-than-billion-dollar valuation, despite literally just being TVs with pharma ads in doctors’ offices. A pretty dumb conspiracy to inflate the number of people seeing those ads brought it all tumbling down like a petty Icarus, and now one of Chicago’s Great Tech Unicorns is officially no more.

If only Tovala would go next, instead of raising $30 million for its microwave. 

We don’t expect the loss of Outcome Health to result in a dramatic loss of jobs, on account of it’s not a real company and a lot of people were already shed immediately post-scandal. Still, there are plenty of new ones on their way in. Hyzon, a New York-based hydrogen-powered truck maker, is hiring 50 people by the end of the year to staff a fuel-cell factory in Bolingbrook.

Hyzon is looking mostly for engineers to advance research and development, but Discover is just looking for the people skills necessary to survive a call center. It’s opening a new facility on the South Side by 2024, with plans to hire nearly 1,000 people and pay them more than $17 an hour. 

Amazon has no such plans to exceed the Chicago minimum wage. It’s continuing to add distribution centers on the South and West sides, and continuing to break up any attempts at unionizing

Speaking of the minimum wage, some fighting words
By now you’ve heard about Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan, for which we have some excite. Stimulus checks on the way for those who reported up to $75,000 AGI, partial checks for up to $80,000 (down from first round, meh). Good news in there for parents and child care providers, people on unemployment, the Affordable Care Act, Amtrak, and, dare we say, more? Hopefully something for everyone. 

One provision that was knocked out earlier was increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. For those of you still fighting the good fight, wanted to point out some “talking” points about what’s already happening closer to home. 

For one, the minimum wage in Illinois is $11 an hour, vs $7.25 at the federal level, and already set to increase to $15 by 2025. In Cook County, it’s currently $13. (What’s your point, again, conservative parents in the suburbs?) In Chicago proper, the minimum wage is $14, or $13.50 for employers with 20 or fewer workers. It will increase to $15 for large employers this summer. Tipped workers (ILY) will be at $9.

None of this is that great, we are not celebrating. But if you like to fight, and we know you do, spit those facts all over the Land of Lincoln when someone tells you $15 is too much. 

PS: Indiana’s still at $7.25.

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Head of Operations and Program Management at Tech for Campaigns
Sent to us by a hustler so dedicated to Democrats that she’s planning a move to Pennsylvania before the next election, this job would give you a chance to use digital marketing knowledge for good by improving campaign technology. Please. Make them better.

Retail Store Manager at Rebuilding Exchange
We are biased, because one of us is on the auxiliary board, but Rebuilding Exchange is maybe the most fun place to spend a day in Chicago? And can be confirmed as an excellent date spot. You could be responsible for it, and by extension for keeping building materials out of landfills and training quality people for quality jobs. Hit us up directly if you’re interested!

Program Manager, Baumhart Center for Social Enterprise and Responsibility at Loyola University
Develop and launch the Baumhart Review, a media platform for the center whose mission is to leverage business ideas to build a more just, humane and sustainable world. (Go on ... ) Create an audience, a content strategy and an advisory board, among other powers (within reason — it's still a university, y'all). But a rare opportunity to start from scratch at a job that is literally asking for journalists. Also looking for a Program Coordinator.

Tool of the week
Background-noise muffler Krisp, which successfully removed both screaming children and barking dogs from our conference calls, making us feel like actual professionals again for the first time in a long time.

Inspiration of the week

Yes, sure, some of it is just the spring thaw (crocuses!), and some of it is just the thought of once again donning a going-out top, and a lot of it is Dolly’s mountain accent, but we are starting to experience the sensation of hope again. At this time it is mostly manifesting as unprompted tears, but you know, it’s a feeling. 

On this one-year quaranniversary, just know that wherever you are on the spectrum of not-great-bob.gif to you-go-glen-coco.gif, we’ve felt it too — and probably in the last hour. There isn’t a right way to feel. But knowing that Dolly is now statistically unlikely to die from COVID-19 gives us just enough optimism to maybe make it to the other side of all this.

Forward this email to anyone who’s ready to stumble out of their kitchens. They can sign up here to get a twice-monthly cup of ambition.

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Feeling empowered

Without always having the power

Private equity is here to finish burying two woefully mismanaged Chicago classics: The Tribune and Second City. Hedge fund Alden Capital is finishing its takeover of the Chicago Tribune with a $430 million buyout of the newspapers remaining shares. Life under partial Alden ownership has already seen plenty of corporate fracking — busting up the company to extract any bits of value, regardless of long-term damage. There’s little chance that doesn’t continue, if not accelerate, under full ownership. 

Because hedge funds know everything about the brand names your dad might want to check out while he’s in town and nothing about how to actually create value, Second City has met a similar fate. Private-equity firm ZMC is buying the comedy club after an early-pandemic outing of institutional racism forced a sale. The purchase price was undisclosed, but probably in the neighborhood of $50 million. If every private-equity firm sounds indistinguishable, that’s on purpose, though worth noting that this particular collection of letters was founded by the guy responsible for the business of Grand Theft Auto. 

We’d like to pretend we’re too jaded to care what happens to stodgy old brands. But to a lot of people, the Tribune and Second City are Chicago. And it sucks to see them move further from the control of the reporters and comedians who make them. Let’s make sure the next generation of institutions doesn’t repeat the same institutional problems. 

One company is at least trying to use private investment to reinvent what’s institutional. Ariel Investments is looking to diversify the Fortune 500 supply chain with Project Black, the first initiative from its new Ariel Alternatives private investment firm. The effort will look to scale minority-owned small and mid-sized businesses. Look if we have to live under capitalism might as well spread around the inequality.

You know, considering Foxtrot is getting $42 million to ruin the bodega. It will use the funds to open up four new “upscale convenience stores” in Chicago, plus additional spots in D.C. and Dallas.

On the side of the commoners, Berwyn-based Buona Beef is expanding and planning to hire 500 new full and part-time workers, and Wayfair is opening a fulfillment center in Romeoville with 250 jobs. Here’s to Italian beefs and cheap homegoods. 

You can stand with the rabble by keeping an eye on Jewel-Osco. Its warehouse workers and drivers have authorized a strike if they can’t reach an agreement on a new contract by March 6. 

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Director of Digital Strategy at The Goodman Theater
Look, we’re all for a stable job in the arts during the best of times, and this is not the best of times. This job sits between a Director of Marketing and a Digital Marketing Associate, so you’re not stuck doing everything yourself, as is so often the case with digital jobs. Plus it’s nice that they’re upfront about the $60,000 salary.

Senior Brand Strategist, Food and Beverage at Edelman
We have done the research on “food culture” this pandemic. So yeah, we have some ideas.

Program Manager, Digital Content Strategy at CDW
If that Goodman job doesn’t work out, CDW is a solid backup with great benefits.

Tool of the Week
It’s good practice to compare your salary against your industry every so often, even if you’re not looking for new work (though sometimes you’ll find out you really should be looking for new work). These guides, from staffing firm Robert Half, come to us by way of a fellow hustler and come separated by industry: Creative/Marketing, Technology, Legal, Administrative, Accounting/Finance.

Inspiration of the week

“There is a difference between having power and feeling empowered.”

—Tavi Gevinson in an essay on the Britney Spears documentary that is worlds better than the (already good!) Britney Spears documentary. Like so much of the conversation around Britney, it’s not really about her at all, but about what she means in a world of people grappling with their own sexuality and repression and disempowerment. 

It can feel really good to participate in your own exploitation — almost like having a choice. But it’s not agency. The actions we take within a system don’t prove the system doesn’t exist, not any more than jumping disproves gravity. 

There are a lot of people on this list who are absolutely killer at their jobs. You may never doubt you can do your job better than a specific someone else, yet still doubt your ability to do the job, period. It’s not imposter syndrome or inexperience. It’s a system working exactly as it was designed, withholding the kind of power that’s permanent. That allows you to rest.

So when you find yourself feeling tired, remember that you’ve earned it. Keeping up professional confidence while lacking institutional power is a constant game of chicken. It makes everything else you accomplish that much more impressive. 

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Does it?

We have three questions for you …

Did the cold snap just break the patience of these businesses? Because all of the sudden everyone is moving around, buying, selling, looking to change things up. 

The liquor slingers at Beam Suntory are moving their global headquarters to New York, though they still plan to keep a major office in Chicago. Meanwhile the New York Stock Exchange is considering a move to Chicago in exchange for the right tax breaks. Can’t you just help a trader out? 

Uber is trying to wiggle out of its lease at the Old Main Post Office, something about a huge office space not being as attractive anymore? It swears it’s still adding jobs in Chicago. Just not desks.

Clothes reseller ThredUp is doing no such thing. It’s closing its Vernon Hills distribution center and laying off 200 workers. What’s going to happen to all that lightly worn Old Navy though?

Only Salesforce is staying true, confirming its plans to open its 500,000-square-foot office despite saying employees can continue to work remotely post-pandemic.

When building an empty office is a smart financial bet, you know the tax incentives were too good.  

The itchy feet aren’t all that’s up. Companies have sliced, diced and sold themselves over the past few weeks. Kraft Heinz is spinning off its nut business (el oh el oh el oh el) to Minnesota-based Hormel for $3.35 billion. Just a reminder that we were real business journalists for real business publications we swear really. 

Allstate is selling its life insurance business for $2.8 billion to private equity group Blackstone, which, you know, makes sense. Let private equity go ahead and capitalize directly on your fear of death. 

Alight, formerly of insurance broker Aon, is going public via a still-somehow-not-illegal sale to a holding company already listed on the stock exchange. The HR support services company is valued at $7.3 billion, and this union will no doubt make some high-net-worth individuals very happy. 

Then there are the out-and-out sales. Old-fashioned electrical product maker Tripp Lite is being picked up by a Dublin-based industrial behemoth for $1.65 billion, while Zillow is buying ShowingTime — a more-than-20-year-old tool to let agents manage real estate showings — for $500 million. No word on what will happen to ShowingTime’s 500 employees, but it does give us an excuse to link to this: 

Others are just happy to get buy-in instead of bought out. Ocient, which makes software to handle unfathomable amounts of data, raised $40 million and plans to add another 75 jobs this year. Enfusion just raised $150 million in a funding round that values it at $1.5 billion. If you’ve never heard of the Enfusion before, that’s a feature, not a bug. The company provides a “hedge fund in a box,” a package of software that lets people spin up a hedge fund and start turning a profit overnight. Love to see exploitation with a bow on it!

Cameo you have heard of. The celebrity shoutout app is hoping to become the latest company with a billion-dollar valuation via a $100 million funding round. All those messages from Mark McGrath really add up. 

Not everyone’s rolling in it though. Our two industrial laggards — auto and airlines — are still struggling to turn the profits to which they are accustomed. Ford announced plans to scale back production and lay off workers at plants all over the country, including the Chicago assembly plant, which will go from three shifts to one. United would also like to remind you that it’s hard to run metal sky birds right now, warning 14,000 employees that they may lose their jobs. Fortunately, both have unions. Laid off Ford workers will still get 75% of their pay, and the president of the flight attendant’s union said they’re “not interested in offering concessions.” Yes, fight!

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Director of Communications for Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
From a fellow hustler who volunteers with the CCH: “The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is where all the smart punks you knew in high school got jobs after they left college.” Instead of treating the symptoms, CCH works upstream, lobbying to change the laws and policies that contribute to homelessness. So, if you think homelessness deserves the kind of political representation, say, natural gas gets, you may enjoy this job. 

Senior Writer of Executive Communications at Rush University Medical Center
Probably a pretty comfortable gig for those who don’t mind writing in someone else’s voice. (It’s easier somehow?) And don’t be intimidated by the post-nominal letters — they’re looking for AP. You’ll feel a sense of fulfillment being so close to the frontlines, but the rounds of approvals will afford you some breaks.

Inspiration of the week

“Does it unite us? Does it build power? Does it make us stronger?”

The three questions former Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis demanded of every decision. We can’t overstate just how much Karen Lewis did for labor organizing in her run at the head of CTU — seriously, try to name another union leader. She prevented the total kneecapping of Chicago Public Schools by getting people to come together based on what they believed, not whether they liked each other. 

It’s hard not to imagine an alternate reality, where brain cancer didn’t keep her from challenging Rahm Emanuel for the mayorship in 2015, and where it didn’t take her life this week. But as much as we’d like to live there, we can still be grateful for all the work she did do. And we can let her memory inspire us to keep it going. 

Forward this email to anyone who wants to build power. They can sign up here to get united and get stronger twice a month. 

Got a tip on an excellent job? Reply to this email, send us a new one at hey@gethustl.in, or reach out on Twitter.

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