Money makers: Chase your demons in a raincoat

Alexander Stutterheim
Alexander Stutterheim: turning a profit from the blues

Unlike most clothing labels, Stutterheim doesn’t promise to make you happier with its raincoats, says the BBC’s Maddy Savage. As Swedish founder Alexander Stutterheim explains, “melancholy is an essential part of being a human being, and you shouldn’t fight it… And that is the analogy with the raincoat, you should go out and embrace the rain, enjoy it.” It’s a novel approach that has won the brand celebrity fans, including rappers Kanye West and Jay-Z.

Stutterheim, a copywriter, found the inspiration for his business in 2010 at the age of 40, when he stumbled upon his grandfather’s old fishing jacket hanging on a nail in an abandoned family barn on the coast near Stockholm. The 1960s coat transported Stutterheim right back to his childhood. “My grandfather was melancholic,” he says, “but when he got back from ‘chasing his demons’ [on his boat] in his raincoat, he was very creative… He wrote poems and… plays.”

So Stutterheim updated the coat to be “cooler”, building “a story to embrace the rain”. The coats, which cost around 2,000 kronor (£179), are sold worldwide, mainly through Stutterheim’s website. The company’s annual turnover was 48.5m krona (£4.3m) in 2016, and continues to grow strongly.

What apps miss in the magic of dating

At Gray & Farrar, a dating agency for the rich, matchmaking is still done the old-fashioned way, says Liam Kelly in The Sunday Times. “Sitting opposite somebody and getting to know them, knowing what makes people tick; that’s the magic [and]… what algorithms and apps will never be able to do,” explains founder Virginia Sweetingham, 61.

Having already set up and sold a dating agency, Cardiff-born Sweetingham launched Gray & Farrar 13 years ago to target the lovesick among the ranks of the mega-wealthy. Its 2,000 clients, ranging from the children of dynastic families to corporate executives, all aged 19 to 90, pay a minimum £15,000 annual fee for at least eight introductions, rising to £100,000 for its bespoke service. Clients are interviewed, and matches are made on Sweetingham’s instinct.

Nonetheless, “the normal rules of courtship still apply”, she says. “We can put the right people in front of you in a discreet way, but then it’s down to you.” Last year, the business, housed in Mayfair, London, turned a £1.1m profit on revenues of £3.7m. Sweetingham now plays an advisory role, having handed over the reins to her daughter Claire, but still owns half the business, with her brother holding the rest.

The man who won’t be iPhoned again

Mike Lazaridis, the co-founder of BlackBerry, has learned his lesson, say Natalie Wong and Jeremy Kahn in Bloomberg Businessweek. “He won’t be iPhoned again.” After years of watching Apple’s iPhone eat away and then entirely overwhelm BlackBerry’s once-dominant share of the smartphone market, Lazaridis stepped down as the company’s co-chief executive in 2012. Having ploughed more than $450m into quantum research projects, Lazaridis now runs the $80m venture company Quantum Valley Investments, based in Ontario, Canada, together with former BlackBerry colleague Doug Fregin.

Unlike today’s binary-based computers, which interpret data as being either 0s or 1s, quantum data can be both 0s and 1s at the same time. The result is computing power far in excess of anything available today (quantum computers exist already, but are small and unreliable). Quantum Valley also funds narrower projects that Lazaridis says could be commercialised in the next few years, such as security software to block quantum hacks.

One company, Isara, has sold $1.6m of the software and expects that to double this year. Yet, competition from the US and China is fierce. Canada will need more venture capitalists to ensure Canadian companies bring the technology to market. “We’ve proven that we can do this,” says Lazaridis. “We put our money where our mouth is.”

High-stakes gambles in the world of cryptocurrencies

David (not his real name) is a “quant” – a financier who trades markets with the aid of computer algorithms. He is also between jobs, notes Kadhim Shubber in the Financial Times. While David waits to start at his next job, he trades cryptocurrencies from his home in London. It is a way for David to pass the time as well as keep his skills sharp. On a typical day he trades about £20,000 of exposure across the top 150 cryptocurrencies.

Because cryptocurrencies are so volatile, they not only present an “intellectual challenge”, but they also offer higher rewards compared with other, more stable assets. “In a day’s worth of cryptocurrency movement you have a week or a month of equity market movement and a decade of country debt,” says David. Besides, “it’s fun”, as one hedge-fund manager tells Shubber, adding that she did not want to suffer from “fomo” (fear of missing out).

Yet higher rewards can also translate into bigger losses. That has the banks worried. Last month, Swedish bank Nordea led the way in banning its 31,500 staff from buying bitcoin after 28 February, to prevent the taking of “positions in speculative investments… which might expose them to a risk of financial loss and therefore impact their financial standing”, as the bank’s spokeswoman put it to Bloomberg. Danske Bank has yet to decide on a ban, but the Danish lender already discourages its employees from trading in bitcoin.

Tyler Winklevoss, one half of the duo of famous twins who made it onto Forbes’ inaugural “cryptocurrency rich list” (their crypto net worth is put
at between $900m and $1.1bn), told CNBC last Thursday that he thinks it’s a generational thing.

“As you get older your brain loses its plasticity at some point and you get wedded to the frameworks that you have,” he explained. With Warren Buffett having warned on the network that cryptocurrencies “will come to a bad ending”, Winklevoss might be right. Buffett himself has acknowledged that one of his few big regrets was failing to buy Amazon. But the stakes – for those invested, at least – could hardly be higher.