The element of surprise

We just wanted to start a simple newsletter with a simple premise: business news for people. We want to like companies. Jobs are supposed to be good things. But no. We had to start a newsletter in the age of Avant and Enova, of Outcome Health and Tovala, obligating us to take to the streets every couple of weeks banging our pots and pans and screaming “It’s not real! NONE OF IT IS REAL.”

So anyway Enova is paying 90 million ill-gotten dollars to acquire OnDeck capital in what even Crain’s is calling an “opportunistic deal.” Yes. It is a predatory lender. Everything it does is opportunistic. 

Oh but the opportunities for acquisition do not end there. Sittercity is being acquired by day care corp Bright Horizons for an undisclosed sum. On the one hand, where is anyone going that they need to find a babysitter online? And on the other, wow can people really use their computers to pay money in exchange for entertaining loud small people for like a minute?

A deal truly too good to be true — although we are sad to see a classic Chicago startup get acquired by an out-of-state business.

Livongo wasn’t technically a Chicago startup, but founder Glen Tullman always kept a big base of operations in Chicago. It’s now merging with Teladoc for a cool $18.5 billion. The doctor booking service wants in on Livongo’s progress with wearable devices that monitor chronic conditions. Understandable given the current state of virtual healthcare, but given how high Livongo’s stocks have climbed lately, not exactly a bargain.

It’s not just mergers and acquisitions taking advantage of an August full of distractions. Our fave developers Sterling Bay are also planning to plow ahead with Lincoln Yards while everyone’s busy protesting ... ugh, what was it? Systematic racism and oppression in part enforced through a history of redlining, violence and unchecked greed in real estate? Oh yeah that. Anyway Sterling Bay is going to go right on building Lincoln Yards as a rich kid playground over so, so many objections, and you can’t stop it because everyone in power is getting a cut. But look, they’ll give you a life sciences hub in the hope of earning more money from biotech companies!

Speaking of graft, online gambling company Rush Street Interactive is going public in just, mmm, the most 2020 way possible, via acquisition by a “blank-check” company that’s already publicly listed. These special purpose acquisition companies get listed on stock exchanges with … no products, no services, no business. Then they go buy one, and bammo, that newly acquired company is public. Definitely seems like a not at all purposefully opaque way to navigate financial markets. Nope must be legit with a valuation of $1.8 billion. 

There is one opportunistic business we’re rooting for: Chowbus. The food delivery service has raised $33 million by working directly with Asian restaurants and charging a lower fee than the competition. What a lovely success story — an immigrant college student creating a niche service based on the needs he saw in his community and growing it without outside investment. So why is this the news Crain’s decides to play like it’s us? “Apparently the world did need another food delivery service” is a helluva headline to be pulling out in 2020. Tovala raises $20 million for its insanely high-priced microwave ovens and microwave meals, and that’s just smart business in a pandemic. Wow. What looks different?

Y’all we haven’t even gotten to the layoffs yet. Boeing keeps cutting jobs, airplane Wi-Fi provider Gogo somehow still has enough employees to cut 14% of its jobs, and even Navy Pier is laying people off, what with the no events, tourism, summer fun, etc. 

Amazon though, wow, still planning expansions and hiring. Just don’t expect PPE. 

Not a GIF, just accurate.

Still, there is always good news somewhere. Usually where women are doing the work, like this group of ladies launching First Women’s Bank with a goal of specifically lending to female entrepreneurs who are often overlooked, underfinanced and generally diminished.

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Director of Workforce Innovation and five other interesting jobs at P33
Penny Pritzker has pulled together some big money for an initiative to “realize the dream of a more inclusive and thriving Chicago tech ecosystem.” Yeah three white co-chairs should get the job done nicely. But look, the mission is good, the money is there, and the visibility is high, putting you in front of all the organizations who will sign onto this in some fashion. Go for it. 

Email Marketing Specialist and Content Coordinator & Executive Assistant at Packback
The Chicago startup that pivoted from college book rental to an AI-supported discussion platform is about as well-positioned as can be for whatever becomes of higher learning.

Director of Marketing at Public Goods
The online-only seller of eco-friendly, minimalist-chic house-brand goods (think Brandless) says it is “tiny relative to the opportunity.” We’d say that's fair given everyone’s new delivery lifestyle and our personal hoard of sold-out hand soap refills.

Inspiration of the week

“This strain of white-hot stupidity constitutes an open undermining of Harris, Warren, and every other woman who has had the apparent temerity to have already run for president (a choice I had been led to understand was valid for women here in 2020); it also is a dig at Abrams, who in other contexts has been — again, refreshingly — open about her desire to someday sit in the Oval Office. It is offensive on nearly every level when applied to women — and especially to Black women, who have never gotten even close to being justly represented in American elected office, let alone in the executive branch — and is also completely bananas in the context of the 2020 election in which the candidate is a 77-year-old man facing a global health crisis and economic collapse.”

Rebecca Traister on the Biden campaign’s apparent goal of picking a female VP who does not want to be the VP. 

Do you ever, these days, feel like you can’t get any words out beyond a choking “WHAT THE FUCK?” Yeah, same. Whatever we’re dealing with at a personal level — you know it’s some fuckery because it always is — we’re looking up and seeing nothing but our worst uncles willfully bungling any chance to make things even a teeny, tiny bit better. Even when it would cost them nothing! What the fuck?!

So this passage, with its asides and em dashes and even a damn semicolon in service of articulating the pure rage that comes from watching white men in power laugh as they take a shit on the few and fleeting opportunities for someone else to get a foot in the goddamned door? Yeah it speaks to us. 

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s speech in defense of herself against another senator’s sexist attacks was lovely, it really was. And Rebecca Traister had some elegant things to say about why it didn’t make any difference. 

So what if we just stop making it our job to say it nicely? Maybe we don’t have to fight “fucking bitch” with thoughtful, restrained oratory on justice and human dignity. Maybe we can raid the punctuation drawer and try to make ourselves felt instead of heard. Growl a “what the fuck” and wait. Sit in that silence and let someone else do the explaining. Because being decorous isn’t doing shit. 

Try it. It feels real good, and at the very least it temporarily stuns the enemy.

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