Hong Kong has the highest per-capita meat and seafood consumption in the world. David Yeung, a Buddhist and vegetarian, set out to convince his fellow Hong Kongers to eat less, says Larissa Zimberoff in Bloomberg Pursuits. While living in America, Yeung had read about a similar campaign, called “Meatless Monday”. “Meatless” didn’t seem the best marketing, but “Green” was “positive and actionable”. So he introduced “Green Monday” to Hong Kong, where it became popular, with hundreds of restaurants adapting their menus to fit the new lifestyle.
“As a mission-based entrepreneur, he makes it an integral part of his social-impact goals, which Yeung defines as bringing a triple-bottom-line to his organisation… good for the business, the community and the environment,” says Zimberhoff. In 2015 Yeung opened the world’s first plant-based shop, named Green Common, selling food and merchandise. This year he launched a meatless burger called the Future Burger, another concept borrowed from America. After all, “the burger was from the future and for the future”, says Yeung. Revenues are expected to hit between $10m and $12m this year, while Yeung has set his sights on mainland China.
Business lessons from falling off a horse
Chrissie Rucker’s business has been built, to paraphrase Henry Ford, on any colour, so long as it’s white, says Laura Onita in The Sunday Times. The White Company, the furnishings retailer based in Kensington, west London, started life as a 12-page mail-order brochure 23 years go. Today, her empire comprises 58 shops in Britain, with two soon to open in the US, pulling in sales of almost £185m a year.
Rucker owns nearly all of the business, having once given a 1% stake as a wedding present to her husband, Nick Wheeler, the founder of shirts-to-suits retailer Charles Tyrwhitt. Together they are worth £427m, ranking the couple 285th in The Sunday Times Rich List. Yet they never compete, and the two businesses are run separately.
Rucker, who left school aged 16 with six O-levels to study fashion and work in publishing, admits she “wasn’t very good at school”. Her mother was more interested in horse-riding competitions than revision. But a childhood spent in the saddle has proved useful when setting up a business. “You train and you train and you train, you compete, you fall off,” says Rucker. “But you get back on again and you just keep building.”
An incubator for start-ups
Jack Abraham was 24 when he sold his first company, Milo, a website that lets users hunt down products at their local bricks-and-mortar shops, to eBay for $75m in 2010, says Forbes’ Susan Adams. He then embarked on a stint as a consultant and angel investor before launching Atomic, a company that builds start-ups, in 2013.
Drawing on a $20m venture fund backed by billionaires Peter Thiel and Marc Andreessen, San Francisco-based Atomic provides initial funding to its businesses, and then searches for larger investments from conventional venture capital (VC) firms. It has founded eight companies to date, with an annualised internal rate of return of 65% (the increased value of Atomic’s stake in a company after an outside VC firm invests at a higher valuation).
One investee is Zenreach, run by Abraham, which creates customer management and marketing software for high-street shops. Atomic invested an initial $750,000 in the concept, and successfully raised another $80m from backers. Another of Abraham’s pet projects is creating a fleet of autonomous fishing boats. “It’s obviously a crazy idea,” he admits, “but we think it can be huge.”
Gambling on the wisdom of strangers
Mike Roberts, a 26-year-old software engineer from Seattle, decided to spend his holiday from his job at online retail giant Amazon conducting an experiment. Roberts had written a stock-trading computer program he called StockStream, funded it with $50,000 of his own money, and then handed stock-picking duties to strangers on the internet. Through a pixelated interface, reminiscent of the early days of video gaming (see picture), users voted to buy or sell stocks. The trades with the most votes at the end of every consecutive five-minute period would be carried out.
If the account balance fell to $25,000, the minimum amount that day-traders need to fund their accounts under US regulations, Roberts would pull the plug and the experiment would be over.
Observers could follow the action on Amazon-owned video website Twitch. For years, people have used online tools to simulate stock portfolios, says Ben Eisen in The Wall Street Journal. But none had backed their bets with hard currency. Still, the decision to use his own money was a secondary concern. “I just wanted to be the first person to do it,” Roberts says.
“Online trolls got to work swiftly,” voting to buy Seaboard, an agribusiness and transportation company, and the second-highest-priced US-listed stock, over and over again. Roberts’ $50,000 would buy just 12 full shares. The programmer began to despair – but then wiser heads arrived, advocating selling down the shares and balancing the portfolio. Roberts, who had trouble sleeping, jumped out of bed the next day, “gobbled down some granola bars and a Red Bull” energy drink, and watched day two of his experiment unfold. Within a week a community of amateur stock-pickers had formed on StockStream’s message board, and 400,000 viewers had watched the trading on Twitch.
Far from having to end the experiment, Roberts has since upgraded the hardware and topped up the account with the proceeds from the sales of bitcoin and Amazon shares he had been given through work. During the first week, the portfolio clocked up a $700 gain.