Marie Kondo’s best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, has sold ten million copies, and it’s easy to see why, says Aaron Hicklin in The Observer. The book aims to help people transform their messy lives simply by prescribing a method for cleaning up their homes. “Putting your house in order is the magic that creates a vibrant and happy life,” says the diminutive Mary Poppins wannabe.
Kondo’s book is four years old and there has been another since, but it is her new series on Netflix that has brought her message to a wider audience. Her trademarked “KonMari Method” – which basically involves getting rid of all the stuff you’ve collected over the years that no longer “sparks joy” – has been credited with saving many a marriage. Charities have reported bumper takings as people clear out their cupboards and donate what they don’t want to charity shops.
But Kondo (pictured) has set her sights on bigger goals than tidy houses. Mallory, a member of the KonMari team, tells Hicklin they are trying to build a “lifestyle brand”. There is a new website, which features the likes of Arianna Huffington giving us sleeping tips, and a YouTube channel. “If it all makes you think of Gwyneth Paltrow’s phenomenally successful lifestyle brand Goop, that’s partly the point,” says Hicklin. Mallory concedes the point: “I think that would be a great model,” she says.
Kondo’s international empire has already brought in a lot of money, says Anabel Pasarow on Refinery29.com. Last year Kondo released a collection of small leather cases, inspired by Japanese bento boxes, in partnership with Cuyana, a fashion brand. She also sells storage sets on her website, alongside home sessions with KonMari Consultants. Seminars for prospective consultants cost $2,200; once certified, they must pay a membership fee of $500 a year to remain on the books. Website Celebrity Net Worth puts Kondo’s personal fortune at $8m – a figure that looks set to grow.
Health robot, anyone?
The Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas every January, was attended by 180,000 people this year, with 4,500 companies showing off their wares, says Charlie Burton in GQ. Love it or hate it, the sheer size of the show is overwhelming, but it’s also a fairly reliable bellwether of the state of the tech sector, and an indicator of where it is heading.
Among the trends on display this year was the incoming 5G mobile network. Every previous generation of network has been about connecting people better. The shift with the latest generation is in connecting things with greater speed, greater capacity and lower latency. The aim is for it to “function as the central nervous system of this new autonomous age”. Artificial intelligence (AI) also made an appearance, such as in TV sets that adjust themselves for better picture quality.
Sounds good, but hardly earth-shattering. In fact, nobody really stole the show, says Quartz. It was more of a shoot-out between Google and Amazon, fighting over the same product – their virtual assistants, Assistant and Alexa. Perhaps the biggest surprise came from Samsung, which is now also a robotics company. The Korean tech giant showed off three exoskeletons and three robots, including Bot Care (pictured), a “stout and cutesy” robot to help people keep track of their medicines and monitor their health data.
Samsung has been working on robots for six years, but they won’t be on sale anytime soon. Still, it represents a significant change of direction for the electronics company. Watch this space.
A unicorn moves into profit
In 2010, Taavet Hinrikus, 37, enrolled at the Singaporean campus of French business school Insead. Business school can be a machine for getting you into corporate jobs, Hinrikus (pictured) tells Jonathan Moules in the Financial Times. “But for me business school was a way to rethink my career options.”
On returning to Europe, the Estonian decided to put what he had learnt to use by co-founding money transfer service TransferWise, setting up shop in a former tea warehouse in London. Since then, Hinrikus has become “a poster boy for European entrepreneurial endeavour”, says Moules, having built one of Europe’s few dozen “unicorns” (start-ups valued at $1bn and more).
In the year to March 2018, TransferWise recorded its first pre-tax profit at £7.9m, compared with a £801,000 loss a year earlier; revenue grew by 77% to £117.3m. “The only thing we think about is how we continue growing,” Hinrikus says. “Profit is just a side product of doing things well.”
Personal trainer for the masses
Australian Rob Deutsch, 39, fell out of love with his job as a City banker and decided to set up gym chain F45 instead, says Sabah Meddings in The Sunday Times. Every hour, in around 1,300 gyms in 36 countries, fitness enthusiasts meet for 45 minutes of hard exercise led by one of F45’s trainers. The chain, which operates on a franchise model, is spreading fast.
“There were studios and gyms charging somewhere between A$5 and A$20 a week, where clients would turn up, put their headphones on and jump on a machine. They were really lacking motivation and results,” says Deutsch (pictured). And then there were people who would “pay A$300 a week” to “get that from a personal trainer”. Deutsch set out to fill the middle ground, opening his first gym in 2011. It costs from £200,000 to set up an F45 franchise in Britain, including a £25,000 franchise fee (and £2,000 a month thereafter) and £60,000 for equipment. Profits were reportedly in the region of £23m last year.