Category: Entreprise

Entreprise

La era del espacio como negocio ha comenzado


El aniversario del alunizaje del Apolo 11 marcó un pequeño paso para los viajes espaciales, pero un gran salto para los multimillonarios con empresas espaciales.

Este mes, Jeff Bezos y Richard Branson demostraron de manera vívida que al parecer es seguro, y sobre todo divertido, elevarse hasta los confines del cielo. Este planeta tiene tantos problemas que es un alivio escapar de él, aunque sea durante 10 minutos, que fue más o menos el tiempo de los viajes suborbitales que ofrecieron los empresarios a través de sus respectivas compañías, Blue Origin y Virgin Galactic.

Pero más allá de la estupefacción había un mensaje más profundo: la amazonificación del espacio ha iniciado. Lo que era en gran medida el territorio de los grandes gobiernos ahora constituye cada vez más la esfera de las grandes empresas tecnológicas. Las personas que nos vendieron el internet ahora nos venderán la Luna y las estrellas

Bezos, el fundador de Amazon y todavía su principal accionista, dejó claro en la conferencia de prensa que convocó después del vuelo del martes que Blue Origin estaba lista para atender clientes. Pese a que los boletos no estaban disponibles en general, las ventas para los vuelos ya casi llegan a los 100 millones de dólares. Bezos no mencionó cuál era el precio de cada vuelo, pero añadió: “La demanda es sumamente alta”.

Esa demanda estaba ahí incluso antes de que los medios noticiosos de todo el mundo fueran en tropel a Van Horn, Texas, para dar una cobertura extensa y halagüeña de Bezos haciendo algo que Branson hizo la semana previa en Nuevo México. Vieron un evento planeado con gran detalle, en el que la astronauta más vieja y el más joven del mundo hicieron el viaje juntos y que fue coronado por un sorteo filantrópico de 200 millones de dólares.

Incluso Elon Musk, director general de la empresa rival SpaceX y quien, en ocasiones, se ha mostrado desconfiado de los sueños espaciales de Bezos, se sintió obligado a felicitarlo. Lo mismo hizo Branson, quien pudo presumir que le ganó la delantera porque voló un poco antes. Musk fue a despedir a Branson.

Toda esta actividad espacial es el inicio de algo nuevo, pero también una repetición de lo sucedido en la década de 1990. Al principio de esos años, internet era propiedad del gobierno y tenía por objetivo la investigación y la comunicación entre unas cuantas personas. Al final, gracias a Bezos más que a nadie más, se convirtió en un lugar para que todos compraran cosas. Durante los siguientes 20 años, las empresas de tecnología se desarrollaron y se convirtieron en gigantes tecnológicos, lo cual provocó temores bipartidistas de que Amazon, Facebook, Google y Apple ahora sean demasiado poderosos.

Es posible que ahora podamos embarcarnos al espacio exterior en un viaje parecido desde los mercados alternativos hasta los grandes negocios.

Durante décadas, la NASA no tuvo el financiamiento necesario como para realizar algo tan épico como el programa Apolo. El gobierno de Donald Trump decretó regresar a la Luna para 2024. El gobierno de Joe Biden refrendó ese propósito, pero no la fecha. Si eso llega a suceder, será con la ayuda de empresas como SpaceX y Blue Origin. A diferencia del proyecto Apolo en la década de 1960, el próximo viaje a la Luna será subcontratado.

Los proyectos espaciales menos ambiciosos están muy abiertos para los empresarios.

“Si vemos la etapa en la que se encuentra la exploración espacial hoy en día, sobre todo con las actividades de la órbita terrestre baja, en verdad es algo parecido a las primeras épocas de internet”, comentó West Griffin, director financiero de Axiom, una empresa emergente que pretende construir la primera estación espacial comercial.

La comercialización del espacio comenzó durante el auge de las puntocom en la década de 1990, pero tardó mucho más en materializarse. Los vuelos de este mes se remontan a 1996, cuando la organización sin fines de lucro X Prize anunció un concurso con un premio de 10 millones de dólares para la primera organización no gubernamental que construyera una nave espacial reutilizable que pudiera llevar a alguien a una altitud de 100 kilómetros, o 62,5 millas, y que lo lograra en menos de dos semanas.

El diseño ganador en 2004 resultó ser SpaceShipOne en un esfuerzo dirigido por Burt Rutan, un ingeniero aeroespacial que diseñó el avión Voyager que voló alrededor del mundo sin detenerse ni repostar. Fue financiado por Paul Allen, cofundador de Microsoft que murió en 2018.

El concurso también despertó el interés de Branson. En 1999 registró la marca “Virgin Galactic Airways” y obtuvo la licencia de la tecnología SpaceShipOne. Branson esperaba que una versión más grande pudiera iniciar vuelos comerciales en tres años. En cambio, tomó 17 años.

Un ecosistema de empresas emergentes cada vez más grande intenta comercializar el espacio al construir todo, desde la tecnología de lanzamiento más barata hasta los satélites más pequeños y la infraestructura que conforma los “picos y palas” de la fiebre del oro del espacio, como lo describe Meagan Crawford, socia administrativa de la empresa de capital de riesgo SpaceFund.

“La gente mira a su alrededor y dice: ‘Vemos esta sólida industria espacial. ¿De dónde salió?’”, comentó Crawford. “Bueno, ha sido construida de manera metódica y con determinación, y llegar hasta aquí ha implicado muchísimo trabajo durante los últimos 30 años”.

Los inversionistas gastaron 7000 millones de dólares en la financiación de nuevas empresas espaciales en 2020, el doble de la cantidad de los dos años previos, según Bryce Tech, una firma de análisis espacial.

“Lo que todos estamos tratando de hacer es lo que hicieron Jeff, Richard y Elon hace 20 años: construir grandes negocios. La diferencia es que estamos construyendo negocios en el espacio y ellos construyeron sus negocios en la tierra”, dijo Chris Kemp, director ejecutivo de Astra, una empresa emergente centrada en ofrecer lanzamientos más pequeños, más baratos y más frecuentes.

La primera carrera espacial, que se extendió a lo largo de los años sesenta y luego se agotó en los setenta, enfrentó a un gobierno estadounidense temerario y audaz contra una Unión Soviética malévola y sin encanto alguno. Los estadounidenses ganaron esa competencia, aunque los críticos alegaron que todo era un error en una época en que tantas cosas dentro del país requerían atención y dinero.

¿Y esta vez? Ocurre algo muy parecido, aunque ahora es personal. Una petición que solicitaba que no se le permitiera a Bezos volver a la Tierra alcanzó 180.000 firmas virtuales. La senadora demócrata por Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, tuiteó: “Es hora de que Jeff Bezos se ocupe de sus asuntos en la Tierra y pague los impuestos que le corresponden”.

El tuit tuvo más de 260,000 “me gusta”, aunque también recibió respuestas como esta: “Nadie está atacando el espacio. Estamos atacando a los multimillonarios que amasaron grandes fortunas a costa de una fuerza laboral explotada”.

El lunes, en una entrevista con CNN desde la base de lanzamiento en Texas, Bezos comentó que sus críticos “en gran medida tenían razón”.

“Tenemos que hacer ambas cosas”, señaló. “Tenemos muchos problemas aquí y ahora en la Tierra y tenemos que hallarles solución. Además, tenemos que ver hacia el futuro”.

No obstante, es evidente cuál enfoque ocupa su atención. Cuando pronunció el discurso de fin de curso de su generación del bachillerato en 1982, Bezos habló de la importancia de crear una vida en inmensas colonias que floten en el espacio para millones de personas. “Toda la idea es preservar la Tierra”, afirmó The Miami Herald que había dicho en ese momento y añadió que su objetivo primordial era ver el planeta “convertido en un enorme parque nacional”.

La semana pasada, Bezos dijo casi lo mismo. Era un sueño utópico con muchas piezas móviles complicadas; así como, en menor escala, la idea de que un comerciante, en algún momento, vendería todo a todos y haría entregas en cuestión de horas. Y para sorpresa de casi todos, él lo hizo posible.

Branson fundó Virgin Orbit, otra rama espacial que está poniendo en órbita pequeños cargamentos. No ha hecho alusión a ninguna visión grandiosa como Musk y Bezos sobre hacer llegar la civilización al sistema solar.

Los sueños de Musk acerca de Marte comenzaron con una aventura quijotesca: quería mandar una planta a Marte para ver si esta podía crecer ahí. Pero los costos de lanzar incluso un pequeño experimento eran prohibitivos. Incluso las opciones en Rusia eran inalcanzables. Así que Musk fundó SpaceX en 2002.

Ahora desea enviar personas a Marte, no plantas. En la actualidad, SpaceX está desarrollando Starship, una nave lo suficientemente grande como para que haga el viaje, y Starlink, una red de internet satelital, que pretende generar las ganancias necesarias para financiar los planes para Marte.

Mientras busca esos objetivos, la empresa se ha convertido en un gigante del negocio espacial. La NASA usa los cohetes y las cápsulas de SpaceX para enviar astronautas y mercancías a la Estación Espacial Internacional y operadores satelitales privados, gubernamentales y militares usan el cohete impulsor reutilizable Falcon 9 para entrar en órbita.

En fechas recientes, la NASA le otorgó un contrato a SpaceX con el fin de usar el prototipo de Starship para el programa lunar. El contrato fue disputado por Blue Origin y por otra empresa llamada Dynetics. A pesar de toda la camaradería que se vio esta semana, los multimillonarios juegan para ganar.

Kenneth Chang colaboró en este reportaje.

David Streitfeld ha escrito sobre la tecnología y sus efectos durante veinte años. En 2013, formó parte del equipo que ganó un Premio Pulitzer por sus trabajos explicativos.

2021-07-23 09:00:33

Entreprise

The Amazonification of Space Begins in Earnest


The anniversary of the Apollo moon landing marked one small step for space travel but a giant leap for space billionaires.

Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson vividly demonstrated this month that soaring up to the near reaches of the sky appeared safe and, above all, a lark. The planet has so many problems that it is a relief to escape them even for 10 minutes, which was about the length of the suborbital rides offered by the entrepreneurs through their respective companies, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

But beyond the dazzlement was a deeper message: The Amazonification of space has begun in earnest. What was once largely the domain of big government is now increasingly the realm of Big Tech. The people who sold you the internet will now sell you the moon and the stars.

Mr. Bezos, the founder of Amazon and still its largest shareholder, made clear at the news conference after Tuesday’s flight that Blue Origin was open for business. Even though tickets were not generally available, sales for flights were already approaching $100 million. Mr. Bezos didn’t say what the price for each was but added, “The demand is very very high.”

That demand was there even before the world’s media flocked to Van Horn, Texas, for extensive and adulatory coverage of Mr. Bezos doing something Mr. Branson had done in New Mexico the week before. They saw a carefully orchestrated event, with the world’s oldest-ever astronaut and the world’s youngest along for the ride, capped by a $200 million philanthropic giveaway.

Even Elon Musk, chief executive of rival SpaceX and a sometimes skeptic of Mr. Bezos’ space dreams, felt compelled to offer his congratulations. So did Mr. Branson, who got bragging rights by making his flight first. Mr. Musk went to see Mr. Branson off.

All of this space activity is the start of something new but also a replay of the 1990s. At the beginning of that decade, the internet was government property devoted to research and communication for a few. By the end, thanks to Mr. Bezos more than anyone, it was a place for everyone to buy things. Over the next 20 years, tech grew up and became Big Tech, provoking bipartisan fears that Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple are now too powerful.

Outer space might now be embarked on a similar journey from frontier to big business.

For decades, NASA did not get enough funding to do anything as epic as the Apollo program. The Trump administration decreed a return to the moon by 2024. The Biden administration has endorsed the goal but not the date. If it happens at all, it will be with the assistance of companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin. In contrast to the Apollo project in the 1960s, the next trip to the moon will be outsourced.

Smaller space ventures are even more wide open to entrepreneurs.

“If you look at where space is today, especially with respect to lower Earth orbit activities, it really is similar to the early days of the internet,” said West Griffin, chief financial officer of Axiom, a start-up aiming to build the first commercial space station.

The commercialization of space began during the 1990s dot-com boom but took much longer to reach fruition. The flights this month hark back to 1996, when the nonprofit organization X Prize announced a contest: $10 million to the first nongovernmental organization to build a reusable spacecraft that could take someone to an altitude of 100 kilometers, or 62.5 miles, and then do it again in less than two weeks.

The winning design in 2004 turned out to be SpaceShipOne in an effort led by Burt Rutan, an aerospace engineer who previously designed the Voyager airplane that flew around the world without stopping or refueling. It was financed by Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft who died in 2018.

The X Prize piqued Mr. Branson’s interest, too. He trademarked “Virgin Galactic Airways” in 1999, and licensed the SpaceShipOne technology. Mr. Branson hoped that a larger version could begin commercial flights within three years. It took 17 years instead.

A swelling ecosystem of start-ups is attempting to commercialize space by building everything from cheaper launch technology to smaller satellites to the infrastructure making up the “pickaxes and shovels” of space’s gold rush, as Meagan Crawford, a managing partner at the venture capital firm SpaceFund, puts it.

“People are looking around going: ‘There’s this robust space industry. Where did that come from?’” Ms. Crawford said. “Well, it’s been built methodically and purposefully, and it’s been a lot of hard work over the last 30 years to get us here.”

Investors poured $7 billion into funding space start-ups in 2020, double the amount from just two years prior, according to the space analytics firm Bryce Tech.

“What we’re all trying to do now is do what Jeff and Richard and Elon did 20 years ago, which is just build great businesses, except we’re building businesses in space from the very beginning and they built their businesses on earth,” said Chris Kemp, the chief executive of Astra, a start-up focused on providing smaller, cheaper and more frequent launches.

The first space race, which stretched the length of the 1960s and then ran out of steam in the 1970s, pitted a brash can-do United States government against a malevolent and charmless Soviet Union. The Americans won that competition, although critics argued that it was all a mistake in an era when so many domestic issues needed attention and money.

This time? Pretty much the same, although now it’s personal. A petition requesting that Mr. Bezos not be allowed to return to earth drew 180,000 virtual signatures. Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, tweeted: “It’s time for Jeff Bezos to take care of business right here on Earth and pay his fair share in taxes.”

Mr. Musk tweeted a defense of space projects that was written in a laconic style reminiscent of the poet E.E. Cummings:

those who attack space

maybe don’t realize that

space represents hope

for so many people

The tweet drew more than a quarter-million “likes,” although also responses like this: “Nobody is attacking space. We’re attacking billionaires who amassed vast fortunes on the backs of an exploited work force.”

In an interview with CNN on Monday from the Texas launch site, Mr. Bezos said his critics were “largely right.”

“We have to do both,” he said. “We have lots of problems in the here and now on Earth, and we need to work on those. And we always need to look at the future.”

But it’s clear which perspective engages his attention. As valedictorian of his high school class in 1982, Mr. Bezos talked about the importance of creating a life in huge free-floating space colonies for millions of people. “The whole idea is to preserve the earth,” The Miami Herald quoted him as saying at the time, adding that his ultimate objective was to see the planet “turned into a huge national park.”

Mr. Bezos said much the same thing this week. It was a utopian dream with many complicated moving parts — just like, on a smaller scale, the notion of a retailer that would sell everything to everyone and make deliveries in hours. And to the surprise of nearly everyone, he made that work.

Mr. Branson has started another space offshoot, Virgin Orbit, that is launching small payloads to orbit. He has not hinted at grandiose visions like Mr. Musk and Mr. Bezos for spreading civilization into the solar system.

Mr. Musk’s Mars dreams began with a small quixotic quest: He wanted to send a plant to Mars and see if it could grow there. But the costs of launching even a small experiment were prohibitive. Even options in Russia were out of reach. So Mr. Musk founded SpaceX in 2002.

Today, he wants to send people, not plants, to Mars. SpaceX is currently developing Starship, large enough to make the journey, and Starlink, a satellite internet constellation, which aims to generate the profits needed to finance the Mars plans.

As it pursues those goals, the company has become a behemoth in the space business. NASA relies on SpaceX rockets and capsules to send astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station, and private, government and military satellite operators fly the reusable Falcon 9 booster rocket to orbit.

NASA recently awarded a contract to SpaceX to use its Starship prototype for the moon program. The contract was challenged by Blue Origin and another firm, Dynetics. For all the camaraderie on display this week, the billionaires play to win.

Kenneth Chang contributed reporting.

Entreprise

Organizing a Union in the Disorganized World of Small Restaurants


During the pandemic, restaurant workers “were interested in organizing in a way they weren’t before,” said Sheigh Freeberg, the secretary and treasurer of Unite Here Local 17.

What’s distinct about many of these fledgling drives, Mr. Freeberg added, is that they are not taking on corporations worth millions of dollars. Most independent restaurants operate on slim profit margins. For those workers, “it is about respect on the job, or being able to have your schedule ahead of when it comes out,” he said. “Stuff that doesn’t cost any money.”

Still, many recent organizing efforts stalled or failed.

After working at N7, a French bistro in New Orleans, for more than three years, Luna Vicini was fired last October from her job as floor manager, with a note saying that the business needed a manager who prioritized profitability. She believes it was because she had organized workers around concerns about pay, transparency and safety protocols. (The company did not respond to requests for comment.)

Following Ms. Vicini’s exit, she said, nine employees went on strike; the restaurant shut down for several days before the owners, Aaron Walker and Yuki Yamaguchi, reopened with a mostly new staff. Ms. Vicini hoped to get her job back and help unionize N7, but the strike fizzled as some employees returned to work or took jobs elsewhere.

“I think that people left the strike because they couldn’t see what it would be like if it worked out,” said Ms. Vicini, 31. “And they could see what it would be like if it didn’t work out.”

At American Beauty, a steakhouse in Venice, Calif., six servers and two former employees picketed the restaurant last March after the owners reduced the percentage of the tip pool allocated to servers and other front-of-the-house workers. The restaurant said the move was intended to give the kitchen staff a bigger share of that pool; the picketers said the business should simply raise wages for kitchen workers.

2021-07-19 14:55:33

Entreprise

Congratulations! It’s a Start-Up. – The New York Times


Sid Singh, 36, was joking recently with a friend that everyone he knew seemed to be having their third baby while he was bringing something entirely different into the world. He had just quit his consulting job to build a financial coaching company. It dawned on him that he could have a baby shower for his new endeavor.

“It’s a big shift for someone in their 30s to quit their job and restart their life,” said Mr. Singh, who lives in Brooklyn. “It’s probably one of the most momentous things you can do.”

In November, long before he had investors, a public relations budget or a stream of clients for the company he called Ready.Steady.Money, Mr. Singh gathered about 30 friends at an outdoor Italian restaurant in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn. Over pizza and beer, he explained his vision and asked for support. The event went so well he held another shower in April on a rooftop in Williamsburg, with gold balloons in the shape of dollar signs and many toasts over bottles of rosé.

“Some of my friends were like, ‘Send me your deck’ or ‘I know people who would be great for it,’” he said. “I also had about 15 friends sign up for the program.”

Across the United States, especially in New York City, entrepreneurs are appropriating the baby shower, an event previously reserved for expectant parents, usually mothers. The idea is that if building a business is just as comprehensive (and expensive!) as having a baby, why not build in the same kind of communal support?

Some business showers include games, decorations and catering. Some founders even ask for gifts, providing links to business registry websites that have also become popular. Business showers generally differ from launch parties because they occur at the very early stages of a start-up, sometimes when the business is still just gestating as an idea.

“I would say the beauty of a business shower is it’s kind of a new concept, and it’s kind of whatever you want to make of it,” said Dulma Altan, founder of Makelane, a master class for female founders. It offers a free virtual kit called Startup Stork to help people plan business showers. Over 1,300 have been downloaded in 2021.

Some invitees don’t love the idea of these “business showers.” But investors seem to. Having the wherewithal to throw yourself a party is a promising sign.

“Investors appreciate someone who has gone through the effort of being scrappy and doing whatever it takes to start your company,” Ms. Altan said. “It shows you are resourceful. It shows you can rally people around your brand.”

“Hopefully,” Mr. Singh said, “it shows that I have a sense of humor and can think a little bit more creatively around traditional ideas of entrepreneurship.”

Female founders, in particular, are attracted to the idea of a business shower because it helps them formally celebrate something that is not a life cycle event.

“We are no longer living in a world where the biggest milestones, especially for a woman, are getting married and having a baby,” Ms. Altan said. “We are overdue to have the conversation about how we celebrate women.”

Indeed, Caitlin Kelly, 36, who lives in New York City, was building her new business, Vivid + Co, a company that is using technology to help businesses more effectively engage with the media, when she found out she was pregnant.

“I remember when I first started telling people I was pregnant, I had never been congratulated like this for anything in my life,” she said. “I know people were coming from a place of love and excitement, but for me, launching the business was that for me.”

Not wanting her to abandon celebrating one growing endeavor for another, her mentor suggested she combine a baby shower with a party for her business. Ms. Kelly had the invitations read: “It’s just business, baby.”

The event took place on a Saturday in May. A small group of family and friends were invited to the first half of the festivities, which resembled a more traditional baby shower with gift opening and a competition to guess when the baby would arrive. The bigger party was held in the evening and included clients, investors and employees. Caterers passed around mini steak frites and avocado toasts, while a bartender served cocktails and wine. Ms. Kelly gave a speech about the business.

“I don’t want anyone in my company to feel like my baby is a separate part of my life that I don’t want to share with them,” Ms. Kelly said. “People understand that life is complex. Everybody has a lot of stuff going on.”

For other founders, having a business shower is a much needed opportunity to ask for gifts.

Thkisha Sanogo, 41, remembers how helpful it was to receive presents before the births of all three of her children, now ages 9, 11 and 13. “You have so many decisions you have to make and things you have to buy, it’s overwhelming,” she said. “But if you know your family and friends are there to support you, it makes it easier.”

So in 2019, when she launched MyTAASK, an office management software company, she had an all-out baby shower in a co-working space. There was homemade gumbo, games including “guess the tagline of my company” and a maven of honor who helped decorate the room in the company’s colors.

There was also a gift registry.

Using Business Gift Registry, a website started in 2019, Ms. Sanogo, who lives in New York City, registered for items she needed for her start-up. She received subscriptions for Calendly, event scheduling software and gift cards for Staples. Others paid registration fees for conferences she hopes to attend, like the Atlanta Black Tech Week, or contributed to the cost of airline tickets for meetings. “I got about $10,000 worth of gifts,” she said.

She also received $5,000 in cash gifts. “I leveraged another $5,000 by going back to investors with it and saying: ‘I was able to raise this amount of money already. Do you mind supporting us?’”

The Business Gift Registry has had 25 percent growth in the second quarter of the year, said Zuley Clarke, its founder, who is also based in New York City. “It’s hard for founders to ask people for help, but I am seeing more people willing to do it,” she said.

Founders taking this leap have faced some opposition.

“Some people didn’t get why I had a registry for my business,” Ms. Sanogo said. “Some people saw it as a handout. They believed I should be tough and take the burden on myself.”

“To those people, I said, ‘I would appreciate you being open minded,’” she said. “But I will say I got much more warm reception than negative reception.”

Mr. Singh received some confused responses. “Some people thought I was hosting a baby shower for someone,” he said. “Others thought I was having a baby with someone.”

He laughed it off, but he did explain to his friends why he was doing this. “People need to understand I am basically committing my entire life to this,” he said. “I am taking the biggest risk I can.”

2021-07-19 09:00:13

Entreprise

How Investors Are Betting on Foie Gras Grown From Cells in a Lab


Others had doubts. Marco Moreira, the chef and owner of 15 East at Tocqueville in New York, said he was skeptical.

“I wouldn’t oppose it, but again, I’m a little bit of a traditionalist,” said Mr. Moreira, who has several dishes containing foie gras on his menu. “Why mess with something that’s perfect as it is?” Still, he said he was open to trying it.

Investors have poured money into food technology start-ups in recent years amid concerns about food shortages in the coming decades as the global population grows. Cell-cultivated meat does not yet have regulatory approval in most countries, but last year, in a first for the laboratory meat industry, a San Francisco company, Eat Just, won government approval by the city-state of Singapore to sell cultured chicken as an ingredient in chicken nuggets.

One of the biggest obstacles for cell-cultured meat has been its cost. Mr. Morin-Forest says Gourmey’s lab-grown foie gras costs less than $1,180 (1,000 euros) per kilogram. Made in the traditional way, foie gras costs about €100 to €200 a kilogram.

The European Commission and France’s public bank, Bpifrance, have also provided subsidies to support Gourmey, which was started in 2019 and has about 20 employees.

Mr. Morin-Forest said Gourmey was seeking regulatory approval from food safety agencies and hoped to enter the market by late next year or early 2023. Its focus will be on markets like Singapore and the United States, where there is increasing acceptance of lab-grown meat, he said.

Stéphane Chambon, the chef of Le Pont de l’Ouysse, a Michelin-starred restaurant in southwest France known for its foie gras, said that the movement against foie gras on animal rights grounds was misguided and that the process of raising ducks or geese for foie gras by overfeeding them mimicked a natural one: Centuries ago, when geese and duck crossed the Mediterranean from Egypt, they would eat a lot for energy, causing their livers to engorge, he said.

2021-07-17 14:46:04

Entreprise

Can a Yarn Store Be a Place of Healing?


Unlike so many small businesses, Downtown Yarns, Leti Ruiz’s yarn store in New York’s East Village, managed to make it through the pandemic intact. A surge in interest in crafting — including knitting and crocheting, the store’s specialties — brought both returning and new customers in search of comfort and distr action. When people were stuck at home, patrons placed orders over the phone or through Instagram and a friend of the store made deliveries to all five boroughs. In the end, the store actually fared better financially in 2020, Ms. Ruiz said, than it had in 2019.

Now, however, Ms. Ruiz is facing a new landscape: the unknown world of post-pandemic crafting. “It’s sort of slowed down because people are going back to work or they’re traveling,” she said. “So I feel like now it’s more like regular times.”

For many, crafting emerged during the pandemic as an essential way to reduce anxiety and turn feelings of ambient restlessness into something soothing and productive. Andrea Deal, the co-owner of Gotham Quilts in Midtown Manhattan, described a frenzy at the beginning of the pandemic in which her store’s normal sales of sewing machines tripled. The swell wasn’t just about keeping idle hands occupied, she said. It’s a reflection of how people were rethinking their lives during isolation.

“We’re seeing low-wage workers not wanting to go back to their jobs. They realize, ‘I’m more important than this and I want to be doing something more worthwhile,’” Ms. Deal said. “Being able to create something yourself and be creative and produce something useful, either for yourself or for someone else, I think there’s a huge amount of satisfaction in that.”

As stress and uncertainty about the future starts to diminish, however, even just a little — due largely to the availability of vaccines and the lifting of pandemic restrictions — it’s unclear what role crafting will continue to play in the lives of those who adopted it as a stress relief measure during an extraordinarily trying year.

Rita Bobry, who was the owner of Downtown Yarns for 17 years before she retired and passed the store to Ms. Ruiz, remembers well a similar moment of post-traumatic crafting in the city. In 2001, when her shop had only just opened, she welcomed anxious New Yorkers who were turning to knitting as a way to self-soothe following the attacks on Sept. 11. On that day, the air outside the yarn store was thick with dust but Ms. Bobry decided that the store would remain open. Lighting candles to put in the window, she opened her door to passers-by.

“I think people were staying home more, they were wanting to be in groups, in communities; a lot of people lost their jobs, too,” Ms. Bobry said. “When you’re not working, you knit more. When you’re sort of frightened of going out, you knit more.”

The yarn store became a sort of gathering place. “People who were feeling lost just walked in,” Ms. Bobry said.

Craft stores couldn’t serve as physical gathering places during much of the pandemic. Fledgling crafters in search of comfort turned to the digital options that different stores offered online. Purl Soho, a yarn store which opened shortly after Sept. 11, has seen traffic to its website spike during the pandemic as customers sought out the store’s online repository of tutorials and free patterns.

But the online experience can’t replicate the tactile pleasures of hands-on crafting, or of learning in-person from fellow crafters. Purl Soho emphasizes natural fibers, colors and textures in the materials they sell, a perspective informed by the store’s co-owner Joelle Hoverson’s background in fine arts. Crafting is a way to enjoy such materials — and connect to a shared past.

“In the last 20 years, the amount of articles that have been written that are like, ‘This is not your grandmother’s knitting’ — Google that phrase, you’ll find 100 articles written with that title,” Ms. Hoverson said. “And everyone in our industry is just rolling their eyes going, ‘Yes. We know.’ We aren’t doing what our grandmothers did. However, I think part of it is: We are doing what our grandmothers did, you know?”

Jennifer Way, an art historian and professor at the University of North Texas, has studied the use of crafting during times of crisis. She’s found that the crafts themselves — the quilts, the scarves, the needlepoint pillows — tend to matter less than the soothing fabrication process that creates them. Crafting has a “haptic quality,” she explained, which, through touching and working with craft materials, connects to ideas of mindfulness and wellness.

“Craft seems, in some ways, with its repetitive gestures and sometimes repeated projects, to offer that opportunity for remaking a mind-body connection,” Professor Way said. “The craft practice itself offers an opportunity to connect mind and body to address healing, stress, all those kinds of things.”

Quilt Emporium in Los Angeles has been hosting a Zoom quilting class during the past year with over 60 participants. Lisa Hanson, the store’s owner, says many of her pandemic customers are interested in in-person quilting — though not all, which she believes is a natural consequence of restrictions’ lifting. Crafting, after all, is something people generally do in their spare time, which many had an unusually ample amount of over the past year. Those days may be over.

“I don’t know about you but my life’s gotten a little more complicated since things have opened up more,” Ms. Hanson said.

A survey conducted by Premier Needle Arts, a holding company that operates several crafting brands in the quilting space, found that the number of new quilters increased by 12 percent in 2020 and that 51 percent of existing quilters were spending more time quilting than in previous years. Ms. Hanson is keeping her faith in the recent converts. “So far, a lot of people are keeping some dedication for their newfound craft,” she said.

Annie & Company Needlepoint and Knitting on Manhattan’s Upper East Side recently held its first in-person classes since the beginning of the pandemic. For their Saturday afternoon Beginner Needlepoint class, four out of eight slots were filled.

“You’re either into, or you’re not,” said Annie Goodman, the store’s owner, “and those that do get into it can find it very relaxing and meditative. And I think they’re sticking with it.”

Those who attended the Saturday class represented an intergenerational group of new crafters who sat huddled around a circular table while wearing masks, swapping television recommendations as they learned the continental and basket weave stitches.

I watched as the group’s facilitator helped an attendee fix a mistake in a neat row of green thread. Observing the closeness of the interaction — the two of them head-to-head over the same mass of yarn and canvas, hands almost touching, trying to determine what went wrong — it seemed impossible to me that you could ever learn how to craft in any other way.

Ms. Ruiz of Downtown Yarns has faith that the online crafters will turn up in person, just as her regular customers returned when she first reopened her store last year. “It started with people in the neighborhood just stopping in at the door and I was showing them yarns,” she said. “It felt like, oh, wow, we’re a little village. We’re a community. And it’s all OK.”

Entreprise

She Built a Baltimore Restaurant Empire, but She Still Works the Stove


Ms. Wolf and Mr. Foreman are aware of their position as high-end restaurateurs in a city beset by poverty and racial inequities. Ms. Wolf talks proudly of nurturing the careers of Everardo Florentino, Charleston’s chef de cuisine, and Mario Cano Catalán, the executive chef at Bar Vasquez, both Mexican immigrants first hired as teenagers.

The partners describe the unrest after Freddie Gray died in custody of the Baltimore police in 2015 as a transformative experience, for themselves and the city. Of the Black Lives Matter signs posted at all of their restaurants, Mr. Foreman said, “Cindy and I both think the same about that: Let’s just tell them how we feel.”

At Charleston, Ms. Wolf set out to bring Lowcountry cuisine to a wider audience, and to draw connections between the cooking of the coastal Southeast and the Mid-Atlantic. An April menu struck the balance the restaurant always has between Southern dishes developed outside professional kitchens (many, like shrimp and grits, with African roots) and French haute cuisine, like pan-roasted sea scallops with fresh peas and fava beans.

A new soup fuses the styles: Sea Island white rice and red peas, cooked in guinea fowl stock and enriched with fresh black truffles. Ms. Wolf said she was considering making the soup a permanent menu item. She is proud, even protective, of dishes that make the cut. She was upset to discover that cornmeal fried oysters — a Charleston staple, the same recipe she made for Julia Child — were on the menu at Johnny’s.

“I don’t want them serving my oysters there,” she said. “That’s my signature dish.”

Ms. Wolf traces her interest in Southern cooking to the childhood years she spent in North Carolina. When she was 9, her family moved to northern Indiana. Soon after, her father, Robert, a restaurant-chain executive, began taking her to prestigious French restaurants in Chicago, like Le Perroquet and Le Francais.

“Most cooks don’t have the opportunities I had growing up,” Ms. Wolf said. “I know to be grateful for that.”

Her parents moved to Charleston, S.C., when Ms. Wolf graduated from high school. She followed them after dropping out of University of Evansville, having decided that she wanted to become a chef.

2021-05-27 08:20:13

Entreprise

Island Residents Protest at the Willows Inn After Workplace Allegations


LUMMI ISLAND, Wash. — Carrying hand-painted signs with slogans like “Take Sexism Off the Menu!” and “Racism is NOT a Local Ingredient,” about 50 protesters gathered Friday night outside the Willows Inn, a world-renowned restaurant on this tiny island near the Canadian border.

The protesters, mostly island residents, were calling for the resignation of Blaine Wetzel, the restaurant’s chef, who has been accused by 35 former employees of creating a workplace riddled with homophobic and racist language, verbal abuse, sexism and sexual harassment.

Mr. Wetzel, 35, who built his reputation touting the Willows’ pristine ingredients as coming from Lummi and its environs, is also accused of deceiving customers — who pay at least $285 for dinner with tax and service, not including drinks — by regularly using supermarket and commercial ingredients, and ordering restaurant staff to lie about it.

Since April 27, when The New York Times published an article detailing the allegations, which Mr. Wetzel largely denied, he has made no public statements.

Because of that, protesters said, and because many of the sexual harassment charges came from women who grew up on the island, local resentment has flared against the Willows’ management: Mr. Wetzel; Reid Johnson, the longtime manager, who also remains in place; and Tim McEvoy, the inn’s co-owner. None of the three men responded to request for comment on the protests.

David Young, an organizer, tacked back and forth in his sailboat in the bay across from the inn, his sails bearing giant red letters that read: “Can 35 lie?” and “Bye bye Blaine and Reid.” He said the failures of accountability made public action necessary. “It’s too late for them to change their ways now,” he said.

The restaurant’s diners had been moved from the outdoor deck to the dining room, and large black curtains had been put up, obscuring the bay and its famously spectacular sunsets.

As patrons pulled into the parking lot, where two security guards checked reservations, a few protesters yelled “Shame,” and asked the customers if they had seen the Times article. One woman in a car said, “Yes,” and continued into the restaurant.

About two hours into the protest, a man and a woman came out of the restaurant and got into a heated exchange with protesters, with the man yelling an expletive at the crowd. Some protesters yelled to them, “Enjoy that exploitation” and “You have no backbone.” In response, the man said, “Prove it,” presumably referring to the accusations in the Times article.

According to three people who have worked at the restaurant, and who requested anonymity for fear of professional consequences, 10 staff members — nearly half of the total — resigned soon after that report was published; hundreds of reservations were canceled, and those customers’ deposits, usually in the realm of $500, were refunded with no comment.

Local businesses that made custom products for the Willows — Camber Coffee, Constant Crush winery and Wander Brewing — said they had immediately ended their collaborations.

Loganita Farm has long been the cornerstone of Mr. Wetzel’s claim that he cooked only with ingredients from Lummi Island. Though he often referred to Loganita as “our” farm, it has never been part of the Willows and is separately owned by Steve McMinn, a former Willows investor.

In a phone interview, Mr. McMinn said he sympathized with the former employees but considered the protest “a tempest in a teapot.” He said Loganita would continue to grow vegetables for the restaurant. “I like producing local ingredients and local jobs,” he said.

Mary von Krusenstiern, the head farmer, worked on the farm for nine years and has lived in the area her whole life. Although Loganita was not implicated in any of the sourcing allegations, she resigned a few days after the allegations were published.

“I felt ethically and morally compromised by the association, and I did not want to sit around and wait for him to resign,” she said of Mr. Wetzel. “I wasn’t about to be on the wrong side of history in my hometown.”

A week after the Times report, the Willows sent a statement to its email list saying that the team was “saddened” that the workplace had caused “undue stress”; that no sexual harassment had ever been reported to managers; and that its hiring, training and human resources efforts had improved in recent years. But as individuals, Mr. Wetzel, Mr. Reid and Mr. McEvoy remained silent.

Last week, the three men contacted the organizers of the protest and asked to meet in person. David Young, whose boat bore the sails at the protest, said the group refused to meet with Mr. Wetzel and Mr. Reid, but did sit down with Mr. McEvoy on Sunday. They said he described in detail the company’s plans to improve transparency, accountability and employee support, but would not discuss asking Mr. Reid and Mr. Wetzel to leave.

The Willows’s website now has a “Responsibility” section, which contains a “Workplace Action Plan 2021”; descriptions of the inn’s community outreach initiatives; and a sourcing guide that lists Costco among its dozens of local producers.

When Mr. Wetzel took over the Willows in 2010, he remade it from a local restaurant and inn to a global destination. He did so in part by replicating many elements of Noma, the lauded restaurant in Copenhagen where Mr. Wetzel worked for two years under the chef René Redzepi — from its hyperlocal sourcing of ingredients to its leather aprons to its kitchen culture of verbal abuse. That kitchen, like many at the highest echelon of fine dining, was then a notoriously toxic workplace. Mr. Redzepi is one of very few top chefs who has acknowledged his own role in that abuse.

“I know I have been part of the problem,” Mr. Redzepi wrote in an email last week. “My anger issues have affected my team and have been part of diminishing the culture of our industry.”

But, he said, a decade of conscious effort has now gone into making kitchens more equitable and supportive. “I decided I don’t want to be part of passing this on to yet another generation.”

Some of the Willows protesters said that regardless of who is in charge, there is simply no place on the island for an expensive destination for the global elite.

One woman cooked hot dogs and baked beans in front of the restaurant for the protesters, with a sign that said, “Who needs $500 plates. Free wieners for ALL.”

Sarah Perry, a pediatrician, came with her three daughters, husband and mother, who has lived on the island for 55 years. She said that she had fond memories of working at the inn as a teenager, but that the current management’s exploitation of employees was “unacceptable”

“To me, the tragedy is this could be this beautiful symbiosis, it really should be, and it’s become a parasite,” she said. “They are just sucking every beautiful thing about the place and not giving back in any meaningful way that doesn’t have their brand all over it.”

Julia Moskin reported from New York, and Hallie Golden from Lummi Island, Wash.

2021-05-31 03:51:36

Entreprise

How China’s Tencent Avoided an Antitrust Push, For Now.


That’s glossing over the huge power imbalance between Tencent and the many satellite companies in its orbit. Colin Huang, founder of Pinduoduo, hinted at that in a 2018 interview, in which he groused that WeChat declined to help censor accusations about fake merchandise on his shopping platform.

“Tencent won’t die when Pinduoduo dies,” he said, “because it has tens of thousands of sons.”

No matter how decent or humble Tencent may act, it’s a giant conglomerate with $24 billion in profit last year and spends much of it on investment. It picks winners and losers, but the winners won’t always be the best out there, thus harming innovation and efficiency.

It limits user access to other products and services. Its WeChat app doesn’t allow users to share links for merchandise on Alibaba’s Taobao online marketplace or for short videos on Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese sister company. (Other platforms block Tencent’s services.) When three social messaging apps were launched in January 2019, they were blocked on WeChat immediately.

Douyin’s parent, ByteDance, shows the possibilities when a company goes it alone. In its early days, ByteDance’s founder, Zhang Yiming, took a small investment from Tencent to fend off the company but resisted tighter ties. In a response to rumors that Tencent would invest in ByteDance in 2016, Mr. Zhang wrote that he didn’t start ByteDance to become a Tencent employee. He posted the lyrics of the song “Go Big or Go Home.”

ByteDance’s independence paid off. It’s now valued at nearly $400 billion with a few hugely popular online content apps, including TikTok, the first Chinese internet product that became a global phenomenon.

Tencent doesn’t just court the industry. It has also long tried to get close to the government. Compared with the sometimes defiant Alibaba, Tencent has long publicly underscored its willingness to comply fully with rules and regulations.

“Now I think it’s important for us to understand even more about what the government is concerned about, what the society is concerned about, and be even more compliant,” Tencent’s president, Martin Lau, said in a January earnings call. Tencent executives used the word “compliant” six times in the call.

2021-06-02 07:00:09