Blow a fuse. It's alive! Don't slack off. 

Dorm room optional


Innovation need not come from an egg-headed CMO or R&D lab or 19-year-old startup founders in a garage/dorm room. It can come from ordinary employees. Even those … gasp … not paid to have ideas. 

There’s so much to love in the story of Richard Montañez and how he went from a janitor in a SoCal plant to VP of sales on the back of his idea for spicy Cheetos. 

In the midst of product flops and half-hearted “flavor innovation,” this is an inspiring story of genius and persistence.

But first, some great research: 

Bring it back now y'all 

Plenty of companies have seen their fair share of hardships, and even some current household names — like Apple, Marvel, and Delta
— have had to claw their way back from the grave. 

We take a look at 18 companies and their attempts to thrive in the face of trouble — and where they are now.

Cut me some slack

Workplace collaboration company Slack Technologies went public today via a direct listing at $38.50/share, giving the company a valuation of $23.3B. Some of its biggest shareholder winners, like Accel and SoftBank, made billions from the listing. 

But big shareholders aren't the only winners from Slack's increased popularity — over 100 startups are integrating functions within the platform and range from continuous code deployment tools used by engineers to email campaign tools used by marketers. Check them out here

The call is coming from inside the house 

The best part of the story in The Hustle about the employee who invented Flamin' Hot Cheetos is when Montañez finds the CEO’s phone number in the company directory and dials it to pitch his idea. 

Read the article for the rest. It’s a case study of how great ideas like Flamin' Hot Cheetos can emerge from unlikely-seeming places. It also showcases a rare instance of a company that not only took one of these ideas seriously, but also implemented it, rather than watching it circle the “someday, maybe” drain. 

At CB Insights we have a tradition of quarterly Hack Days where employees are encouraged to take 24 hours to work on a work-related project of their choice. The results have been a Know Thy Neighbor employee profile game, a revamped online help center, a CB Insights beer, and much more. 

Phone-obsessed, cheese-hating rich people

The media often portrays the millennial generation as lazy, narcissistic, smartphone addicts responsible for killing everything from department stores to American cheese

But by 2030, millennials will hold 5x as much wealth as they do today. And startups are taking notice. We take a look at how insurgent fintech startups can successfully acquire millennial investors, where there are opportunities, and how incumbents can strike back.


Cannabis startups have already raised over $1.3B across 160 equity deals so far in 2019, up from $590M over 127 deals during the same time frame last year.

We highlight 200+ companies driving innovation in the growing space. Clients can see them all here.

 Big fusion energy

Fusion energy could provide clean, virtually unlimited energy and help meet the world's rapidly increasing electricity demands — if crucial technical challenges can be overcome.

We break down how fusion energy works and highlight the startups and investors (including Jeff Bezos and Goldman Sachs) driving the tech forward. Expert Intelligence clients can read about it here.

Have a great rest of the week.


P.S. Want to build a product that uses data to make sense of the future? We're hiring a data scientist.

This week in data:

  • $56B: Germany-based investment bank Deutsche Bank is reportedly set to restructure its operations by shrinking its trading businesses and moving $56B worth of underperforming assets into a “bad bank” — an entity set up to house the risky parts of a parent bank’s balance sheet. Deutsche Bank’s move is reminiscent of the slew of bad banks set up in the wake of the financial crisis by big players such as RBS, Barclays, and Citigroup. Find out more about the underlying trends driving Deutsche Bank’s challenges in our report Killing The I-Bank: The Disruption Of Investment Banking

  • $4.6B: Workplace messaging platform Slack listed on the New York Stock Exchange today. The company listed directly — instead of pursuing a traditional IPO — an approach previously employed by fellow tech company Spotify. We look at which investors have the biggest stakes in Slack, including prominent VC Accel, which owns shares worth around $4.6B at market open. Take a look at our briefing to see what SoftBank and Andreessen Horowitz stand to gain.  
  • +2: France-based photography production platform Meero and data protection co Druva became unicorns this week after both closing mega-round investments at valuations of $1B. See the rest of the unicorns using our real-time tracker — and you can see the industries with the most $1B+ startups in our newly updated unicorn market map.    
  • $17T: The UK government announced an initiative to allow British-listed companies to also raise money in China, and vice-versa. The “Stock Connect” project will enable businesses to trade their shares on both the London Stock Exchange and the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The move, which has been 4 years in the making, was likely to have been partly driven by the UK government’s assessment that China will tally up $17T of assets under management by 2030.
  • 0 drivers: A spate of recent announcements point to the quickly maturing state of self-driving car tech. Google-owned Waymo signed a deal with automakers Renault and Nissan to help produce autonomous vehicles (AVs). Meanwhile, Uber is reportedly looking to acquire computer vision startup Mighty AI to boost its AV efforts, and Florida signed a bill allowing tests of AVs without human safety drivers. We previously unbundled the tech that goes into autonomous vehicles and the companies driving it forward — check it out here.

  • 1 year: Facebook announced details of its long-rumoured cryptocurrency this week, with plans to launch in 2020. The virtual currency, called Libra, is set to be built into the company's Messenger and WhatsApp platforms and will be governed by a consortium of 28 initial members — including Visa, Lyft, and Spotify — from various industries. We followed Facebook’s pathway to Libra in this briefing.   
  • 30%: Apple is reportedly considering moving up to 30% of its China-based production to Southeast Asia as the US-China trade war continues unabated. News outlet Nikkei also quoted an executive who pointed to long-term benefits of diversifying Apple’s production aside from the more immediate potential challenges created by tariffs. Here is a teardown of Apple’s strategy across a range of sectors.

  • +42%: A UN report has estimated that the world’s population will reach 10.9B people by 2100, an increase of 42% compared to today’s 7.7B humans. The report also projected that the fastest population growth would be in sub-Saharan Africa, which is set to double by 2050, and that India will overtake China to be the world’s most populous country by 2027.
  • 34 finches: A man has been arrested after attempting to smuggle 34 live finches through JFK airport, reportedly for use in New York-based bird singing competitions, which are said to be the focus of high-stakes gambling. This is the latest in a series of finch smuggling cases related to the singing competitions.
One more thing...

Getty Images

Astronomers have discovered that a small, 8 billion-year-old star only 12 light-years away might host two rocky, potentially habitable planets.

The star, known as Teegarden's star, is a "stellar runt" that's only about 9% of our sun's mass. Its relatively close distance to Earth makes it a prime target for further research.

Astronomers predict we will eventually be able to discern if the planets orbiting Teegarden's star "are actually habitable and, perhaps, even inhabited."
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