Saturday Cup of Joe from Detroit


NextBelt — why Upper Midwest cities have earned the chance to tell our story.

In the video you heard me reference the LinkedIn piece on Midwest cities & tech workers. Tech talent is not only sticking around Cleveland, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh but entrepreneurs and tech workers are coming to the #NextBelt as well.

1. The first question everyone asks is — can I afford it? Followed quickly by, am I getting a great value? “Buy low,” right?

2. One author, Matt Ygelsias, asks the question a different way — “how much awesome stuff is there?” His blog, Slow Boring, identifies “Superstar Cities” and tries to understand if it’s the culture, business, or weather driving certain cities versus others.

3. My take is different. My sense — “how much unique stuff is there?” Instead of highlighting the quantity of things in New York City, I believe there’s hidden value in the combination of scarcity + unique history + unique experiences.

Scarcity + Unique + Experiences?

We know Millennials love experiences. We know Millennials love to “mean something” and to “change the world.”

LeBron left Cleveland for Miami — yes — but he came back to bring the city a championship. And did it. He gave the city a unique moment…then went to LA. So it’s all part of his story. In this moment, though, the #nextbelt can be that unique moment.

The story is clearly changing.

This week’s big story was GameStop (GME) stock. That story — to me — was one of scarcity and of unique experience. People wanted the potential “get rich” moment, sure, but they also wanted to be part of something that felt like a once in a generation or meaningful experience. Average Joe vs. Billionaire.

That’s a much larger story about scarcity & privilege, isn’t it?

There were other examples of random investments for big money or the potential for big money that also came across my radar this week. Whether these stories were prompted by GME / Robinhood controversy or not, the fact is the market for a rare Asian fish called the Arowana to the cutting edge market for digital basketball clips is in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Matt Levine, of Bloomberg, wrote this about sports cards and clips:

In yet another sign of the upward ascendancy of both the sports card and digital collectibles markets, three limited-edition NBA highlight video cards have sold for more than $30,000 over the past 10 days on NBA Top Shot, a blockchain-based platform that allows fans to buy, sell and trade numbered versions of specific video highlights.

It is clear that people are attracted to scarcity, unique items or experiences and the hope to be part of the story.

Matt Ygelsias also wrote about how to think about cities in terms of housing. No surprise that caught my attention. His piece on gentrification is thought-provoking and insightful. Even though I think he overstated or short changed some of the researchers in the piece, he and I shared several perspectives in common.

First, supply supply supply. The best way to address affordable housing options across the entire housing spectrum is create supply. Second, ensure the development is inclusive and diverse. Whereas he identifies market forces versus regulation or mandate as the battle, my perspective is more about how to create a market for inclusive development. Not by subsidy or unsustainable legal mandate, but instead by creating more economic incentive AND value in sharing in the development.

Just like everyone can grab a piece of a stock as it rises, economic development in communities and cities should be as easily accessible. We should be able to buy a share of Detroit’s stock.

If you own a home, in a place, you do own stock in that community in a tangible way but that stock is all in one asset. What I’m working on and talking about is how to turn the overall economic development in diversified options, including your home, that shares can be purchased (and awarded) and grow in value.

One way is to get creative. Innovation of undervalued assets or assets perceived to have no value — empty shopping malls, bankrupt big box retail stores, or vacant parking lots — can actually be retrofitted to CREATE value.

In the Vice link above, the author writes “The dead and dying malls, the vacated office parks, the ghost box stores left behind. Rather than bring back the same thing, this is a tremendous opportunity.”

In that tremendous opportunity, let’s invite more investors, more individual shareholders.

Here’s where innovation + trends + experiences can combine to provide both economic upside & incredible social impact.

People who had the privilege to throw “you only live once (YOLO)” money at a fun story is a great narrative against hedge fund billionaires but even YOLO investors on Twitter have to be sensitive to those Americans who cannot even save 1–2 months of expenses for emergencies given the condition of the employment market.

There will be some very tough and important conversations to come.

Damon Carter, whose insightful and powerful articles I’ve linked to in previous Saturday Cup of Joe editions, wrote the final piece in a series on systemic racism in tech. His words resonate beyond tech to the fundamentals of business and community building that we’re talking about today.

This is a complicated convergence of things:

Privileged white Americans who grew up in the 80s and 90s, like me, tend to believe “everything’s gonna work out”…because, by and large, for middle class and upper middle class white kids, that’s how childhood/high school and college went. Even through 2001, it wasn’t until 2008 that I think we felt some of it. Beyond that though, the return to “it will all work out” has been real.

Billionaires under the microscope. There’s an aspect to the trend here which is questioning what role and responsibility massive wealth plays or should play in our market.

Finally, equity in society — what’s happening when someone is building “The One” in LA — 100,000 square foot home that lists for $500M and someone is paying $180,000 for a basketball card box set when many many young people, generally, and people of color, particularly, in service or hourly jobs cannot get work or save more than 1 month of expenses. That’s real.

There will always be these types of haves and have nots. Don’t jump to conclusions on me. I’m saying if you are running a company or a team or selling products to consumers, be aware of it. Be sensitive to it. Respond accordingly.

Damon says — but lead with purpose, be genuine in your efforts and include the community, “the people,” in the mix.

That prospective is important for diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI), for economic development, for leadership and for innovation.

Lead with purpose.

Be genuine in your efforts.

Include your community in the process (and the success)!

Quote: “I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.” — Langston Hughes

Continued success and continue to answer well,

Thinker, curious leader, once an attorney…always trying to answer well.

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