Money makers: the editor with a taste for luxury

Tyler Brûlé might have been born in rural Canada, but he was quick to develop both an international sensibility and a taste for luxury, says Kyle Chayka in The New Republic. “When he was 14, Brûlé cleaned yachts for a summer job and bought a Rolex with the proceeds.” He wanted to be an anchorman and reported from Afghanistan for several years, until he was shot in a sniper attack in 1994. The attack left him with little use of his left hand, and while he was recuperating from surgery back in London he read home décor magazines to pass the time. Thinking he could do better, he took out a small loan and launched Wallpaper, a design and lifestyle magazine whose glossy “furniture-as-fashion aesthetic” proved such a hit that Time Warner snapped it up for $1.6m after just four issues.

Brûlé stayed on as editor-in-chief until 2002, but chafed at the restrictions of corporate ownership. He launched Monocle, “a briefing on global affairs, business, culture and design”, in 2007. The magazine has become “as much a status symbol as reading material” and had established its editor, now 48 years old, as “a tastemaker of late capitalism”. Yet with nationalism on the rise in America and Europe, Brûlé’s globally oriented magazine, “which built its brand by identifying the world’s hippest (and most profitable) trends, feels increasingly out of touch”.

The world’s cheapest Michelin-starred food

The most expensive dish at the Tim Ho Wan Michelin-starred restaurant in Hong Kong costs just $3.75, says Grace Chung in Forbes Asia. The restaurant sells dim sum, the Cantonese speciality featuring bite-sized treats served on small plates and in baskets. Yet the self-effacing co-founders Mak Kwai Pui, 54, and Leung Fai Keung, 53, are far from “the kind of flamboyant, high-profile chefs often associated with Michelin restaurants”. When Mak was 15 his family moved

to Hong Kong from mainland China, where he learned the art of dim sum cooking from his father and uncle, who were both chefs. Mak worked his way up to a job at the three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Hong Kong’s Four Seasons hotel, waiting until the age of 46 to take the plunge and launch his own restaurant.

The pair’s first hole-in-the-wall outlet had just 20 seats, but business soon took off. The chain now has 45 restaurants worldwide, including a new branch in New York where you can expect a two-and-a-half-hour wait – if business is slow that day. The pair have maintained a sharp focus on quality over corporate empire-building to date, however, and have yet to move into mainland China, though they do not rule it out. “We don’t have any big plans – we just want to stay grounded and take it step by step,” says Mak.

Providing jobs in  war-torn Yemen

“On the day I interviewed 27-year-old Saeed Alfagieh, he had just received word that one of his company’s regular contractors had died in a nearby city” that is being targeted by “airstrikes,” says Elizabeth MacBride on Forbes.com. This is the gruesome reality of working in Yemen. The capital Sana’a, where Alfagieh lives, is in a period of relative calm for now after two years of civil war and bombing from a coalition of powers led by Saudi Arabia. But a year
ago he was caught in the street during an airstrike. “He saw houses destroyed, girls running, and bodies on the streets.” Many of Alfagieh’s friends have been killed. Yet the war hasn’t stopped his company – a job platform called AnaMehani – from growing.

The unemployment rate in Yemen is more than 30%, and the UN says that a child dies of starvation in the country every ten minutes. Yet people need work and AnaMehani has so far provided 18,000 jobs to the 5,000 workers, including low-skilled labourers and professionals, registered on its online and offline platforms. In a country where conflict had made job opportunities scarce, entrepreneurship provides one of the few ways out for young people. Alfagieh uses social media to connect with other entrepreneurs and he has plans to expand into Egypt later this year.

Who’ll lead Uber now?

The resignation of Travis Kalanick as Uber’s CEO did not come as a surprise, says Gillian White in The Atlantic. The company has “endured scandal after scandal” in recent months, culminating in former US attorney-general Eric Holder’s damning report into the “toxic and discriminatory culture” that Kalanick (pictured) helped to create at the firm. But Uber certainly isn’t the first tech start-up to suffer from the phenomenon of the “bro CEO”, where a young, brash entrepreneur creates a disruptive product, “but cannot seem to make the leap to successful management”. Kalanick clearly had to go, but “rebuilding and rebranding Uber will take more than pushing out its leader”.

Indeed, it might not be possible to fix Uber at all, says Benjamin Edelman for the Harvard Business Review. It seems that Uber’s cultural dysfunction stems not so much from toxic leadership as from “the very nature of the company’s competitive advantage: Uber’s business model is predicated on lawbreaking”. The firm’s biggest advantage over traditional taxi services came from using cars with no special licensing, a move that was “unlawful from the start” in most jurisdictions. The firm’s popularity with consumers has enabled it to lobby regulators not to enforce existing rules. Yet “having built a corporate culture that celebrates breaking the law, it is surely no accident that Uber then faced scandal after scandal. How is an Uber manager to know which laws should be followed and which ignored?”.

Those who say that Kalanick was pushed out for bad behaviour are missing the point, says Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry in The Straits Times. “The truth is more prosaic.” Silicon Valley lauds visionary founders and forgives their hard edges so that they can work their magic. Yet Uber has been burning through cash, losing an eye-watering US$2.8bn last year in addition to the latest spate of crises. Kalanick’s ousting is a reminder that “a company that needs investors to stay afloat will sacrifice a founder if needed”.