Mark Zandi, founder of West Chester-based Moody’s Analytics (originally Economy.com) , a Wharton Grad and Penn Economics Ph.d, has long been a backstop for Democrats on economic policy. I’m sure there are more nuances to his stances in private, but publicly he’s President Biden’s go-to guy for comments backing up administrative policy. On Wednesday night’s CNN Town Hall, Biden commented referring to Zandi:
“No, look, here’s the deal, Moody’s today … a Wall Street firm, not some liberal think tank, said, if we pass the other two things I’m trying to get done, we will, in fact, reduce inflation, reduce inflation, reduce inflation,” Biden said, “because we’re going to be providing good opportunities and jobs for people who, in fact, are going to be reinvesting that money back in all the things we’re talking about, driving down prices, not raising prices.”
“The nation has long underinvested in both physical and human infrastructure and has been slow to respond to the threat posed by climate change, with mounting economic consequences. The bipartisan infrastructure deal and reconciliation package help address this.”
“Worries that the plan will ignite undesirably high inflation and an overheating economy are overdone. The fiscal support it provides is only sufficient to push the economy back to full employment from the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Zandi wrote.
Most economists I read (even Democrat regular Larry Summers) are skeptical about the latter argument, that pouring trillions more of borrowed money into an already gorged ecnonomy will help to reduce inflamed inflationary pressures.
While Zandi did say in the report that Biden’s investment plan would “lift productivity and labor force growth”, I haven’t seen where he precisely says that it will reduce inflation, though he expects inflation to stablize anyway.
Something to pay attention to: If a company is hiring an onboarding specialist, there’s a fair chance that it might be planning to hire a few people.
One company in this situation is LearnUpon, a Dublin, Ireland-based company that has its US HQ in Philly. LearnUpon is a SaaS LMS (Learning Management System) used mostly in corporate or emerging SMB settings,. In late 2020, it raised $56 million from Boston-based Summit Partners.
Last October, LearnUpon’s CEO and co-founder Brendan Noud told TechCrunch the capital will be used in two areas: to add more people to the startup’s engineering and product teams, and to bring on more people to help sell the product particularly in countries like the U.S., which already accounted for 70% of LearnUpon’s sales according to TechCrunch.
LearnUpon has over 200 employees overall. According to LinkedIn, it has 16 US employees all based in Philly.
News outlets (TechCrunch and Boston Globe reporting) say GoPuff has raised another $1 billion. The Globe says BlackStone and Fidelity are participating. Fidelity would be a return investor.
A site named Prime Unicorn Index discovered the information in a Delaware filing, TechCrunch reported.
TechCrunch says this round (H). will be at a $15 billion post-money valuation.
This bring’s Gopuff’s total funding to close to $4 billion.
My guess is this will be the last round before an IPO. (Although you never quite know.)
Gopuff must be performing well enough to justify continued investor confidence. Its goal for this year is to triple revenue over last year to about $1 billion.
More acquisitions are likely. Bandit, announced this week but acquired late last year, was likely a small one. Talks with UK-based Dija are progressing, TechCrunch reports. There will likely be another big one.
Although its too early to tell, the company and its investors must be looking towards some kind of end-game. A closer relationship with Uber Eats is a possibility.
The introduction of prepared food delivered from dark kitchens is both an opportunity and a risk factor. Keeping enough drivers onboard and fairly happy will be a challenge.
The biggest risk is keeping all the pieces in the air together in a hyper-growth environment.
It also announced that it has expanded into a new category with “Gopuff Kitchen, a new offering that brings made-to-order hot and fresh food to customers alongside everyday essentials”.
Gopuff says “Gopuff’s mobile kitchen facilities are within or adjacent to its micro-fulfillment centers, enabling customers to order breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late-night food and drink alongside any other essentials all in a single order, delivered in minutes, for a flat fee of $1.95.”
Max Crowley, co-founder of Bandit, is now leading Gopuff’s business expansion efforts, including the Gopuff Kitchen vertical, the company says.
Philadelphia will be included in the pilot program for Gopuff Kitchen, along with more than 20 other markets.
Going from packaged goods to food prep is a different order of magnitude in terms of complexity. Many companies have tripped up making this transition.
Esther Surden, Founder and Editor in Chief, NJTechWeekly
Like many cities in the U.S., Trenton is frequently under assault from phishing schemes and other cyberattacks. Most are routinely prevented through good practices by employees and effective security software.
However, during 2020 and 2021, two serious attacks tested the resilience of the city government’s IT department.
The attacks also led Mayor W. Reed Gusciora to launch an updated cybersecurity employee training course to ensure that “those attacks continue to be unsuccessful in the future.”
The First Attack
In the first case, a cyberattack in the spring of 2020, a criminal diverted about $982,000 from the City of Trenton, CTO Joseph Rivera told us. This occurred during the resolution of a civil suit, with an impostor posing as a representative of both the Trenton municipal government and Brit Global Insurance. Brit Insurance, a division of Lloyd’s of London, and Trenton’s IT department worked together to conduct an extensive forensic audit that proved that the city was not at fault for the breach. The money had been diverted to a third-party account, which ended up closing.
Rivera, who has been Trenton’s CTO since March 2020, recalled that he went through all of the emails that had been sent and received pertaining to the incident, and was able to show the attorneys that Trenton wasn’t the source of the problem. As a result, Brit Insurance refunded the stolen funds to the city. In the final analysis, the impact on the city was zero, Rivera stated.
The Second Incident
In a second incident, cyber criminals, posing as Trenton Business Administrator Adam Cruz, sent out phony requests for quotes (RFQs) for millions of dollars in goods. This incident, according to Rivera, “could have cost the city tons of money in lawsuits for nonpayment, which we would have had no control over.” The criminals went to a lot of trouble to create this scam. They got a domain from Namecheap.com and created a website called “tren0nNJ.org.” They also had an email account for Cruz, firstname.lastname@example.org. The “O” in the real domain name — TrentonNJ.org — was just changed to a zero.
The criminals also acquired an internet number, and when someone called that number, they got a person on the other end impersonating the real Trenton business administrator.
“When I realized what was going on, I went upstairs to the business administrator’s office and called the number in front of him,” Rivera said. “When the number was called, the scammer answered the phone saying, ‘Hello, this is Adam Cruz with the City of Trenton.’”
Using an outside account, Rivera contacted the criminals to make a purchase, and he received a complete purchase order that had the City of Trenton’s seal on it and a letterhead featuring the president of the City Council and other dignitaries. It even had a watermark.
Rivera noted that during his work in Trenton and elsewhere, he had built a rapport with his vendors, and was able to make sure they were on the alert. This time was no exception: he notified the vendors each and every time this scam was attempted, he said.
Rivera reached out to the Trenton office of the U.S. Secret Service, which worked with the city’s IT and law departments to convince Namecheap.com that fraud had happened. After a cease-and-desist letter was sent from the city, NameCheap.com shut down the website and affiliated emails. No losses were incurred by the city. The whole incident, from discovery to the termination of the domain name, occurred within about a month’s time.
Rivera noted that through both events, the IT department enjoyed the unwavering support of Mayor Gusciora, who is very technology savvy and supportive of the projects Rivera is undertaking. The city government’s IT department is a small one, with Rivera as the only full-time employee. Technical support for the city’s cyber initiatives comes from Trenton-based Maestro Technologies, Rivera stated.
According to Rivera, the city has undertaken a number of other initiatives during his tenure as CTO, which started in the midst of the pandemic.
For example, the city offered its first online auction for vacant city-owned properties during COVID-19. “It was also the best one, as the city received the most income of any auction of these properties it had held,” he said.
“We also made a portal for vaccines. The state was doing a faith-based vaccination clinic and we were able to get 3,000 people in the span of a week and a half to sign up and be vaccinated.” Rivera has also developed a portal for the homebound, to help them receive vaccinations.
“We have an all-star health director, Dr. Adela Ames-Lopez, who is a fan of technology. She comes to me and she comes to the public information officer, and we get things done,” Rivera concluded.
Starting with a disclosure: After graduating from college as a liberal arts major with just one course in Basic under my belt, I found a position writing and editing reports for an academic research organization, which I wasn’t terribly excited about. I soon found after starting that they had troves of data to be analyzed, and I had access to an IBM mainframe and SAS. I quickly became fluent in SAS, and that lead to my interest in software, data analysis, and ultimately business. After two years, I left for graduate school.
I loved working with SAS. At the time, you could do things with it that were practically impossible to do with any other means.
On Monday, the story broke that Broadcom, the huge chip manufacturer that had essentially run out of room to grow in the semiconductor business and begun to acquire software companIes, was very close to an agreement to acquire Cary, NC-based SAS Institute, the company behind SAS. The price was reported to be $15 to $20 billion.
2019, $3.1 billion (context: SAS revenue in 2019 was relatively flat, growing 0.5% in constant currency. In USD, SAS revenue was $3.1 billion, reflecting accounting and pricing changes, and the impact of exchange rate changes.)
2020, $3 billion
In fact, my memory told me that growth hadn’t been great in the previous five years either. For instance, in 2012 “SAS Achieves Record Revenue of $2.87 Billion in 2012, up 5.4 Percent over 2011.”, according to a press release. So there was virtually no growth between 2012 and 2020.
(SAS Institute reportedly saw 7% revenue growth in Q1 2021, though its to soon to assume a longer-term upward trend.)
If that was the performance of a publicly traded company, it would be slammed. But SAS institute is private.
In the age of Big Data, SAS Institute failed to grow; in fact revenue declined in real terms
Why? I don’t know, but would begin by dividing it into two diffeent businesses.:
1/ The Stats Packege
2/General business analytics
In Stats, SAS lost business to open source “R”; Also Python, with its own stats package may have had an impact.
In business analytics, SAS had value in the way you could manage and manipulate data and data sets. Some of that value remains, but there are so many other options now.
SAS Institute has a somewhat insular culture. Goodnigth built a modern day company town in Cary, and working there has been so enticing that the company likely has less turnover and cross-fetilization than its compettitors.
Broadcom is run by Hock Tan, who coincidentally has a residence on the Main Line though the business is located mostly in California and Asia. Tan is a very bright operator, and is known for his. sharp. cost-cutting in businesses he acquires. Which may have been something Goodnight didn’t want to see happen.
Also, SAS did not appear to be a good fit strategically with Broadcom’s business, either with the chip part or the software part (consisting mostly of its acquisitions of CA Technologies and Symantic.) A common observation is that Microsoft, with whom SAS already partners with, would be a better fit.
The Phiadelphia market is a strong one for SAS, given its heavy use in healthcare, life science and pharma.
“Startup companies with the majority of their employees based in Pennsylvania can apply for grants from the new Angel Investment Venture Capital Program.”
“The Program provides grants to companies in Pennsylvania with fewer than 100 employees. Eligible companies must also retain 51% of the workforce within the Commonwealth, and cannot have been in operation for more than five consecutive years at the time of application.”
“Companies that have received more than $2 million in private equity investments or $1 million from a single investor are ineligible. Businesses engaged in real estate, insurance, or professional services provided by an accountant, lawyer, or physician also are ineligible. Businesses engaged in retail sales are ineligible unless the primary purpose of the business is to support and develop e-commerce.”
My question: Great, but who is going to administer this program? Is it going to be managed outside of Ben Franklin Technology Partners? If so, there is a real issue of whether the body that will run it is competent to do so.
Garfield Group, the agency that has practically been synonomous with tech public relations in the Philly market, has agreed to be acquired by central New Jersey creative agency BNO (Baldwin & Obenauf, Inc).
The transaction did not require any third-party financing, BNO President Trista Walker told me. Garfield Group, founded by current President Larry Garfield in 1990, was acquired by Ridgefield Park NJ-based OSG Billing Services in 2016. There is a virtual army of Garfield-trained alumni in the Philadelphia business community.
Woman-owned, Somerville NJ-based BNO, led by Walker and Founder Joanne Obenauf, employs 70. The deal includes occupying the 5,000 square feet of office space in Garfield Group’s Old City headquarters on Chestnut Street. (Garfield moved to the city from Bucks County a few years ago.) Over the next six months, the two companies will be integrated under the BNO name, with a combined BNO and Garfield team in the Philadelphia office. BNO also opened a Tampa Bay area office in 2019.
Walker is no newcomer to the Philly market. She grew up in Lower Bucks, she told me, and is on the board of Jefferson Health.
“The combination of our teams and expanded capabilities made this an incredibly attractive move,” said Walker, “We expand Garfield’s search, media, and analytics capability, and they add Public Relations to ours, exponentially increasing BNO’s ability to service current and future clients.”
No staff reductions are expected. Both BNO and Garfield leadership will retain their current roles in the new company structure. Garfield has 48 employees according to LinkedIn.