The brands upending retail, an exclusive invite, and hot cannabis startups


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Direct-to-consumer brands like Away, Brooklinen, and SmileDirectClub grew up on Google, Facebook, and Instagram, upending the retail business along the way. Now, they’re starting to broaden their horizons.

“We found that digital platforms scaled well for our first few years, but we struggled to cut through the clutter and tell the story we wanted,” Caroline Bank, associate director of marketing at ice-cream brand Halo Top, told my colleague Tanya Dua last month.

That presents a sizeable opportunity. As my colleague Lucia Moses reported this week, in the TV world, NBCUniversal and CBS are building teams to go after direct-to-consumer dollars. Comcast Ventures is even training startups like Away and Hippo to become TV advertisers, and says they’re spending millions of dollars a year on TV.

(It could also be good news for other social-media platforms. Popular direct-to-consumer brands like Brooklinen, Curology, and MeUndies are flocking to Story Ads on Snapchat Discover, for example, as Instagram gets crowded and pricier.)

It’s small fry right now, with DTC brands representing just 3% of TV advertising, though that’s growing. But it’s a rare bit of good news for the TV business, which faces competition for TV ad budgets from the likes of Roku, Hulu, and Amazon.

Separately, I’m excited to announce that Business Insider is hosting a finance event at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, June 10, from 8:00 – 9:30 a.m. IGNITION: Transforming Finance will feature top Wall Street executives and innovators who are disrupting from within.

Attendees will hear from the likes of Omer Ismail, the head of digital finance for the Americas at Goldman Sachs, Megan Brewer, head of the technology innovation office at Morgan Stanley, Huw Richards, the head of digital investment banking at JPMorgan, and more.

Interested in attending? Admission is free but space is limited. Please complete this form to be considered for our invitation list. And as always, you can contact me at if you have any ideas or suggestions.

— Matt

Quote of the week

“Every pitch, every presentation is primarily about telling a story and not about designing beautiful slides, necessarily.” – Mitch Grasso, a Silicon Valley founder, on how to design the perfect pitch deck. 

In conversation

  • Callum Burroughs talked to TransferWise CFO Matt Briers ahead of its $292 million secondary funding round. Briers said the company’s ramping up a US expansion, hiring hundreds, and mulling an IPO.
  • Bradley Saacks talked to Alfred Spector, the head of technology at $60 billion hedge fund Two Sigma, about why he thinks cybersecurity is a bigger challenge than AI.
  • Meghan Morris talked to Aditi Gokhale, the first chief marketing officer of Northwestern Mutual, who’s trying to shake up the financial services company’s sleepy image.
  • Dan DeFrancesco talked to John Rainey, CFO at PayPal, who said the company’s new partnership with Facebook Marketplace could dwarf the business it does with eBay.
  • Becky Peterson talked to Alison Loat, managing director of FCLT Global, a non-profit that researches and advocates for long-term investors. She explained what companies can do to be more like Amazon.
  • Becky also talked to Mikkel Svane, CEO of $9.6 billion customer service company Zendesk, about its acquisition of Smooch and how buying startups fits in with his plan to hit billions in revenue.
  • Emma Court talked to Jack Bailey, the president of US pharmaceuticals for the $100 billion drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, about the company’s experiments with value-based care. The practice means that instead of getting paid per pill, the company gets paid based on how well those pills work.
  • Emma also talked to Varsha Rao, the new CEO of $111 million birth control startup Nurx, about how she’s charting a new path forward after a scorching New York Times exposé.

Finance and Investing

Square has quietly started working with a select group of CBD startups while other payments rivals shy away from the trendy substance

Square has started working with a small group of CBD startups to handle customers’ credit-card transactions, the company confirmed to Business Insider this week.

An investor overseeing $17 billion explains her uncommon tactics for finding the market’s biggest cash cows. Here’s how her approach can protect you from a crash.

Many actively managed funds live or die by how effectively they’re able to outperform their benchmarks. But that’s not what Kera Van Valen of Epoch Investment Partners focuses on.

MORGAN STANLEY: These 15 large companies are most likely to get acquired within the next 12 months

US companies, by and large, are still not letting loose when it comes to mergers and acquisitions.

Tech, Media, Telecoms

Meet the power players at Netflix leading the streaming giant’s defense against Disney and other rivals

Netflix hasn’t won the streaming wars yet, but these execs are trying to help it outmaneuver its rivals.

Al Gore’s environmental-sustainability fund has raised $1 billion to pump into new markets focused on health and wealth inequality

Venture investing will look a lot different in five years if Generation Investment Management has any say in the matter.

This CEO launched, an AI startup, to fix the hassles he encountered as a software salesman. He just scored another $60 million from ICONIQ and Andreessen Horowitz., a startup that uses artificial intelligence to automate and speed up sales operations and customer relations, just raised another $60 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and ICONIQ Capital — the latter of which is perhaps best known as a wealth manager for Mark Zuckerberg.

Healthcare, Retail, Transportation

Modern Health just raised $9 million from Kleiner Perkins and Jared Leto to upend how you get mental healthcare at work

Whether you’ve tried and failed to find a therapist that’s covered by insurance or merely want some support for navigating a tricky relationship, the creators of a startup called Modern Health want to offer you a solution.

Top investors say these 11 buzzy, under-the-radar consumer cannabis startups are set to raise fresh rounds and blow up this year

Investors are pouring money into consumer cannabis startups.

THE MODEL 3 THAT NEVER WAS: Leaked supplier documents show how Tesla’s cheapest car is different than originally planned

Tesla’s $35,000 version of the Model 3 wasn’t supposed to be here yet.

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