Madison Reed, which made DTC hair color a thing, is now going after larger retail footprint

Madison Reed proved that women will buy hair color online, but over the years, the company, founded by Amy Errett, opened more than 60 hair color bars across the country, established a wholesale presence with Ulta and later got in on Ulta’s deal with Target while also operating website and Amazon sales.

We last checked in on Errett two years ago, when she discussed Madison Reed’s hair color bars, how the pandemic affected the business and a possibility of creating a men’s color category.

Now with both the direct-to-consumer, national retail and hair color bars doing well, the eight-year-old company wants to establish even more of a local relationship with customers by expanding the number of color bars it operates across the country and having a presence in retailers where they typically shop. At the color bars, the hair color is applied by a licensed professional more quickly and more cost-effectively than traditional salons, the company said.

“I have been doing this for a while, and I don’t believe consumer brands can solely be in one channel and succeed,” Errett told TechCrunch. “We are serving the consumer, and they shop everywhere. We realized we need to follow where the customers are, and then our business exploded.”

Buoyed by a new $33 million investment, plans are in the works to add another 20 color bar locations and hire 850 new colorists by the end of the year, Errett said. She forecasts the company will have 100 stores by 2023. The company is targeting areas including New York, South Florida, California, Chicago, Washington, DC and Texas.

The new financing, which gives Madison Reed some $250 million in total funding to date, was led by Sandbridge Capital, with participation from Marcy Venture Partners.

Errett described the funding as “very opportunistic” because the company was now actively raising money, but as she got to know Sandbridge, which is an investor in beauty companies like ILIA Beauty and Youth to the People, she felt they understood the consumer and the market. Same with Marcy Venture, Jay-Z’s fund, which invested in Savage X Fenty — also known as singer Rihanna’s company — and is tapped into media channels.

“We are excited to have both of them on board,” she said.

In addition to the new color bars, Madison Reed will invest the new financing in additional product launches; unfortunately, Errett stayed mum on what those were, but we can only assume that the men’s color might be back on the table.

“We already had capital in the bank, but this gives us the arsenal to keep our head down and execute. This is now where the rubber meets the road,” she added.

Meanwhile, Errett said there was more opportunity out there for the global hair color industry, which is expected to be valued at over $40 billion in 2023. Within that sector, it was estimated that 40 million Americans used permanent color hair coloring products in 2020.

As such, Madison Reed saw its gross product margins grow to over 80% and revenue double over the past two years. Errett believes the company has made a dent in the at-home market and is now starting to gain market share in the salon market.

Meanwhile, in March, Madison Reed hired Jose Zuniga as its CFO. Zuniga was previously with Dollar Shave Club and is leading the company’s omnichannel expansion.

“We were focused on finding someone with a consumer packaged goods background, but not the traditional way of doing it,” Errett said. “Dollar Shave Club disrupted an industry no one was paying attention to. As I got to know Jose, he understood the financial model, understood retailers shelves and had the content skills. We thought he would be a wonderful culture fit.”

Europe’s Revent hits $68M hard cap on its climate, health & impact-focused fund

Last year I covered the launch of Berlin-HQ’d Revent — a new European early-stage with an “impact” focus — it was aimed to launch a €50 million ($60 million) fund to focus on climate tech, health, and well-being, and economic empowerment, backing startups with both “purpose and profit”.

It’s now announcing the final close of €60m ($68m) hard cap in a fundraise it describes as “highly-oversubscribed”.

In a statement Otto Birnbaum, Founding Partner at Revent said: “Today’s immense climate and societal challenges will not be solved without the efforts of the world’s best founders harnessing technology and building scalable, commercial businesses that drive sustainable and significant impact. We’re convinced that purpose and profit fuel one another and that top financial returns will be generated precisely because companies are targeting significant, positive impact on society and the planet.”

“We’re convinced that Europe is uniquely positioned to lead the way for more technology-driven positive impact for the planet and society”, added Dr. Lauren Lentz, Founding Partner at Revent.

LPs in the fund include globally-active retail and services company Otto Group.

Benjamin Otto is a member of the influential German Otto family, founders of the Otto Group.

Other LPs include multinational skincare company Beiersdorf (NIVEA, Eucerin); institutional investors such as the European Investment Fund (EIF), which committed 20 million Euro to the fund; the NRW.BANK; and the LfA Förderbank Bayern. Additionally, members of German-entrepreneurial families such as Heraeus, Hymer, and Wepa families are backing Revent. Finally, a number of high-profile tech founders and investors such as Verena Pausder (Fox & Sheep), Sascha Konietzke (Contentful), Florian Heinemann (Project A), and Luis Hanemann (Headline) have invested in the fund.

Revent has invested in nine companies so far, including Sylvera (UK) (ratings carbon offset schemes); Net Purpose (UK) (impact assessment for investment portfolios); and Avelios (D) (a modular hospital software platform).

As well as Birnbaum and Lentz; the partner team includes Emily Brooke MBE, founder of Beryl and Henrik Grosse Hokamp, who worked previously for Partech’s late-stage fund.

eBay acquires the sneaker authentication business from partner Sneaker Con Digital

Online marketplace eBay is further investing in its sneaker business with today’s news that it’s acquiring Sneaker Con Digital’s authentication business, which verifies the authenticity of high-value footwear. The business has operations in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and Germany, and had been previously working with eBay to vet the sneakers being bought and sold on its platform.

Sneakers have become a large category on eBay’s marketplace, where today there are over 1.9 million pairs available to buy every day.

In October 2020, eBay launched an “Authenticity Guarantee” service in partnership with Sneaker Con, whose team of experts would verify the sneakers at no cost to sellers before items were shipped to the buyers. If the buyer then returns the sneakers, the authenticators would inspect them again before they’re sent back to the seller. This multi-point inspection system involves checking various aspects of the shoes in question, including the sizing, labels, stitching, logos, heel tabs, laces, and more, and even the box itself.

When the shoes were verified, the left sneaker is given an NFC-enabled tag that provides more detailed information about the sneakers’ authenticity when scanned. Verifiable listings also receive a blue check mark next to the item. The service was available for any sneaker over $100 being sold on eBay’s platform.

Many buyers and sellers preferred to shop sneakers through eBay as they’d be able to see photos of the exact shoes they’d be getting, instead of stock photos, and there were fewer fees compared with some rival sneaker marketplaces. Attracting this kind of buyer is also part of eBay’s larger strategy to drive enthusiasts to its site across various high-end categories, like handbags, watches, and sneakers, then benefit as they shop more items on eBay. The company recently noted the average sneaker buyer on eBay spends approximately $2,000 in other categories, for example.

Ebay says its Authenticity Guarantee service led to quarter-over-quarter category growth and, in just over a year, it’s authenticated over 1.55 million sneakers worldwide.

In its Q3 2021 earnings, eBay also noted its U.S. sneaker business was healthy and growing at double-digit rates, and it was expanding to other markets, including Germany. The company additionally announced plans to invest in 3D image capability on sneaker listings that would allow buyers to interact with a 360-degree view of the item they’re purchasing, as another means of instilling buyer confidence.

With the acquisition, eBay is bringing its partnered authentication business in-house where it will continue to build on its offerings to accommodate resale market trends, the company said about today’s news. Deal terms were not disclosed.

However, the deal is only for Sneaker Con’s authentication business — its events business will continue to operate separately. The deal was signed and closed on November 24, 2021, notes eBay.

“eBay has always been a vibrant community of enthusiasts, with deeply knowledgeable buyers, sellers and employees,” said Jordan Sweetnam, SVP and General Manager of eBay North America, in a statement. “We partnered with Sneaker Con to launch sneaker authentication on eBay last year because the team shared our passion for the category – with best-in-class capabilities to deliver what our customers want most. The response to our authentication offering has been overwhelming, and this acquisition allows us to continue to transform eBay and bring a higher level of trust and confidence to every transaction,” he added.

Sneaker community startup SoleSavy raises $12.5 million Series A to build an end-to-end sneakersphere

Collectibles boomed during the pandemic and while NFT outfits like NBA Top Shot exploded as consumers flirted with newer efforts, the sneaker world grew even more mature with enthusiasts digging deeper into communities dedicated to the hobby/passion/obsession/alternative asset class.

Vancouver’s SoleSavy, a sneaker community dedicated to giving fans a curated place to navigate the world of shoes, with all of its drops, news and rumors, has raised a $12.5 million Series A just months after wrapping a $2 million seed round, showcasing investor enthusiasm behind vertical-specific premium social experiences. The round was led by Bedrock Capital with participation from Dapper Labs’ CEO Roham Gharegozlou, Diplo, Bessemer Ventures and Turner Novak’s Banana Capital, among others.

CEO Dejan Pralica says the company has tripled its user base since its seed raise late last year, while growing its team from 10 to 37 employees in the same period.

Today, SoleSavy’s community is based largely around a network of Slack groups where users can discuss just about everything. Though the platform’s chat communities are organized in Slack now, Pralica sees a future where the company could build its own chat hub for members, something to further tie-in the startup’s app, website and online conversations. The more near-term goal is to grow this community into a hub of trusted buyers and sellers where a peer-to-peer member marketplace can thrive. SoleSavy is at the forefront of a new generation of more social internet marketplaces where vertical-specific communities can gather and grow inside an all-encompassing platform.

“I do envision on end-to-end platform that’s very integrated,” Pralica tells TechCrunch.”I want to make sneakers fun again and enjoyable for the people that are passionate about them.”

Part of that fun has been diminished by free-for-all chat groups that can quickly grow toxic or grow exploitative as moderators look to cash in on their networks, something SoleSavy hopes a more curated approach can bring back.

As my boss (and TC’s resident sneaker head) Matthew said in his write-up of SoleSavy’s seed raise earlier this year:

That positive community vibe is what Pralica says is SoleSavy’s long-term focus and differentiating factor that keeps the 4,000 members across the U.S. and Canada interacting with the group on a nearly daily basis … I’ve been in a dozen or so different groups focused on buying large quantities of each release to resell over the years and many of them are, at best, rowdy and at worst toxic. That’s an environment that SoleSavy wanted to stay away from, says Pralica. Instead, SoleSavy tries to court those who want to buy and wear the shoes, trade them and yes, maybe even resell personal pairs eventually to obtain and wear another grail.

The company’s sizable Series A raise just months after a seed showcases that plenty of investors are intrigued by the idea of verticalized marketplaces built up around social communities, Pralica sees the funding as a chance to ignore fundraising for a while and focus on “building for the future” while identifying new opportunities in the sneakersphere.

SoleSavy has been pretty focused on North American sneaker heads so far, but Pralica see that hefty Series A check taking the platform into new markets, including Australia and New Zealand, United Kingdom, Singapore, Japan and broader Europe. The company also plans to use the new funding to build out its editorial network with podcasts, editorial features, original video and member events.

eBay takes a bite at StockX and GOAT with sneaker authentication for sales $100+ in the U.S.

eBay is announcing today that it’s going to start authenticating sneaker sales over $100 in the U.S. This is a clear bite into the dominance of StockX and GOAT in the limited sneaker universe.

The authentication will be done by Sneaker Con, the company that runs, well, Sneaker Con. Founded by Yu-Ming Wu and Hayden Sharitt, Sneaker Con was infused with cash by Visionary Private Equity Group in 2018. They provide a well known and influential backer in the sneakerhead community that should provide a solid signal for buyers and sellers. It’s a good choice.

The quick story here is that eBay’s rep for authentic merch is, uh, not great — especially the sneaker universe where fakes can be virtually indistinguishable from authentic items. Though the brands themselves have toyed with different ways to authenticate from NFC tags to blockchain solutions, the counterfeiters have kept up with those various methods too and clone them quickly. About the only way to guarantee authenticity is to get the product in hand and have them examined by people trained to spot fakes. In some cases that spotting can be as granular as counting the number of stitches thrown in between two segments of a shoe, or observing the glue pattern of a midsole joint.

The program sounds pretty much the same as the others on the market.

  • Proof of Authentication: Upon receiving the sneakers, the independent authenticator confirms
    they are consistent with the listing title, description, and images, and then performs a multi-point
    physical authentication inspection. An eBay tag, guaranteeing its authenticity is attached to the
    sneakers to finalize the process, driving confidence in the collectibility and resale value.
  • Third-Party Authentication: eBay has partnered with industry leader Sneaker Con to create a
    new state-of-the-art facility – leveraging the top authenticators in the industry, a robust checklist
    of product specifications, and best-in-class processes to ensure accuracy and efficiency. With
    rigorous inspection of the box, shoe, and accessories, the authentication underscores eBay’s
    commitment to giving shoppers exactly what they want.
  • Verified Returns: For sellers who choose to offer returns, eBay’s sneaker authentication
    program ensures the exact item initially sold is returned to the seller, via a verified returns
    process. Returns are shipped back directly to the authentication center, where the third-party
    experts verify each item and its condition before returning to the seller.

eBay’s reluctance to spin up an person-in-the-middle authentication program allowed a gap for StockX and GOAT to thrive, offering authentication for new and, in GOAT’s case, even pre-owned sneakers. The eBay authentication tags even look like those offered by the two players. eBay had already launched its Authenticity Guarantee for watches over $2,000 (StockX also sells watches.)

The power of authenticity, of course, is what drives the booming secondary market, where shoes can be limited to thousands of pairs or even dozens of pairs per release. Sneaker culture, which was born on the basketball court and driven largely by Black athletes, musicians and icons, is now squarely mainstream and very big business. eBay has been slow to move here but has significant resources and already does brisk sneaker business with 6 million sneakers sold in 2019.

One note here is that this may drive higher margin business for eBay because higher end sales in the $500+ range are harder to justify on eBay where authenticity was not guaranteed. eBay was likely already capturing a decent portion of the lower end market but now has a chance to grab some of the fattier meat.

StockX and GOAT have advantages still, even with authentication now a commodity feature. They are purpose driven with a collector in view, and they have significant mindshare in the community. But if eBay is able to rescue its reputation for questionable sneaker transactions (I was once shipped a pair of socks and a literal brick in an eBay transaction gone bad) and incredibly poor seller support (eBay sides with the buyer in the vast majority of disputes, even obvious con jobs) then it could pose a serious threat here.

My hope is that the faster movers here will take this as an opportunity to really revamp their product experiences. Both StockX and GOAT have been relatively stagnant on the app and website front for a while, offering some intriguing yet incremental innovation — but not dramatically overhauling their product.

Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack Zip and Everyday Backpack V2 are top-notch photo and travel bags

Peak Design has evolved from a crowdfunded upstart into a trusted accessory brand for photographers everywhere, and this week it introduced updates to its ‘Everyday’ line of backpacks and bags. These new and improved designs offer stuff that impresses anyone who was previously a fan of Peak’s work, and should also win the company brand new fans, based on my testing of the all-new Everyday Backpack Zip 20L and the updated Everyday Backpack V2 30L.

Everyday Backpack Zip 20L

The Everyday Backpack Zip is a brand new product for Peak, taking a lot of inspiration from the Everyday backpack but opting for a full zip closure in place of the MagLatch that it created and introduced on the Everyday line. Opting to go with a zipper instead of the MagLatch means that the Zip backpack doesn’t have the same capacity expandability to allow you to stuff more… stuff… in the top compartment, but it also offers its own benefits depending on your needs.

First, there’s price: The Backpack Zip 20L I reviewed will cost you $219.95, which is $40 less than the equivalent Everyday Backpack with the magnetic closure. It’s not a huge gap, but if you’re looking to save a few dollars it’s a good value for what you get. The Zip also comes in a smaller 15L capacity, the smallest size for any of the Everyday Backpacks, and that’s a nice compact bag for anyone with a smaller frame or looking to carry less gear.

The zipper enclosure is also interesting in its own right, allowing you to fully open the back of the bag if you want. By default, there are rigid dividers in the backpack to effectively give it shelves, but should you want to remove these, this makes this the most easily packable Peak backpack in this daypack size range. It’s therefore a great choice for those looking for a backpack to use for purposes other than as a camera bag.

The Everyday Zip also still packs a ton of connection points for you to hook gear to, as well as improved zippers vs. Peak’s original packs. There’s a dedicated laptop sleeve with a tablet pocket that can fit 15″ laptops on the 20L and 13″ laptops on the 15L. The 20L also features the all-new adjustable laptop pocket design that Peak introduced on this generation, which includes an adjustable shelf that lets it more easily hold smaller laptops without them falling all the way to the bottom. It’s also on the standard Backpack V2, and it’s an awesome and easy-to-use quality of life improvement.

Like the Everyday Backpack, the Zip also features a pass-through luggage strap for putting it on a roller while you’re making your way through an airport, and interlocking zipper pulls that can help prevent anyone from quickly tugging open the bag to try to manage a quick pass-by theft. The durable, ripstop fabric exterior is also great for lifetime sustainability.

In terms of capacity, this is a smaller bag but it can still fit a lot of gear – I was able to pack my Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM, Sony 100-400 f/2.8 GM and my Sony A7R IV with the 24-70 f/2.8 GM attached for instance, though fitting all that in with the requisite accessories is probably too tight a fit and merits moving up to the bigger sizes of the V2.


Everyday Backpack V2 30L

The improved Everyday Backpack V2 brings back the MagLatch, with a new design that Peak says is “more ergonomic and sleek.” It definitely stands out less than before, and does seem to be more intuitive to use, which is good news. The sides are again accessible via two zippered compartments (all the zippers are improved and designed for more durability) and the interior is divided by three included velcro, flexible dividers.

The overall look of the Everyday Backpack V2 has been tweaked – and for the better. It was already one of the better looking photo backpacks you could buy, but Peak has made it more rounded this generation, and improved the look of all the seams for a look that just generally projects more quality and attention to detail.

Peak sent the 30L version for me to review, and the capacity difference between it and the 20L Zip allows for packing in way more stuff, including all the various accessories like extra batteries and chargers, mics and more you’re likely to want with you on a dedicated photo or video shoot. I could easily pack the same lens+body combo mentioned above, plus a Mavic Mini and a second Sony A7III body in the 30L.

That height-adjustable laptop sleeve is again present, and makes an even bigger difference on the 30L, since the pocket is deeper to begin with. On my existing V1 Everyday, chasing down the company-issue 13″ MacBook Pro in that cavernous pocket was always a bit like diving deep to pull a rabbit out of a hat, but here it’s really easy and far less likely to give your fingers rug burn.

The shoulder straps on the Everyday V2 are also improved, and they do feel more comfortable based on initial testing. They also now have embedded magnets that connect to the back of the bag when you’re not wearing it, which is actually wonderful for when you’re stowing the bag in an airplane overhead compartment, or putting it through the scanner at the airport security checkpoint. It’s a small detail, but then again Peak’s whole rep is built on it including small details, like the various stowable straps, that remain out of the way until needed and then really deliver awesome convenience.

Bottom Line

Just like the originals, Peak has delivered what are likely the most thoughtful, carefully designed photography backpacks available on the market with their V2 range. The fact that Peak as a company is now also focused on ensuring they can build and deliver their products in a way that has a neutral impact on the climate is just an added benefit of its ability to engineer and deliver high-quality, functional gear.

Peak’s stuff is not for everyone – you can definitely get totally fine photo gear for less money. But it’s a category-leading choice for anyone with the means and a great value if you’re looking for a long-term, modular solution that you can go everywhere with.

Peak Design’s new bags and backpacks improve on the originals and add new options

SF-based Peak Design hasn’t really changed much about its now-classic Everyday bags over the years, and they’ve regularly received plenty of praise and good reviews so that makes sense. Today, however, Peak is launching the ‘V2’ collection of its entire Everyday line, including smart revisions of some of its best equipment, and all-new designs for some additional options.

The Peak Design Everyday V2 lineup includes improved Everyday Backpacks (starting at $259.95), with the company’s signature magnetic latch closure for the top compartment. The overall design is cleaned up and much more attractive overall, to my eyes, and they’ve beefed up the dimensions of the laptop compartments enough that the smaller 20L version should be able to easily hold your 15 (or 16 now, thanks Apple) -inch MacBook Pro. You can also modify the height of the laptop sleeve for when you’re carrying smaller notebooks, and there’s a bunch of other changes like much-improved zippers that promise more durability over time.

Peak has also used 100% recycled material for the fabric that makes up the outer shell of the Everyday Backpack V2, and they’ve got Bluesign certification, which is a third-party certification about sustainable sourcing for textiles, for all but the Black color way for these bags. Peak also says the top has been opened up, and there’s more room in the expandable side pockets, plus new magnetic attachment points for holding straps and keeping them from swinging around.

The Everyday Backpack, which has been my go-to photo backpack since its introduction basically, is also now joined by the new Everyday Backpack Zip (starting at $189.95), which skips the MagLatch closure for a more traditional full zip-up system. This line is more approachable in terms of price, and it doesn’t’t offer internal capacity expansion, or as many compartments. It also comes in smaller sizes (15L and 20L, no 30L option) and just generally has fewer bells and whistles. That said, it looks to be even more discreet for general use as a daypack, and the smaller size option is probably something that people with smaller frames were looking for anyway.

There’s also a new Everyday Totepack (from $169.95) with a roll-top flap and handles, as well as an Everyday Tote (from $149.95) that is a true shoulder bag vs. the convertible backpack Totepack design. These options are probably ideal for students or lighter photo/everyday carry use, and present yet another set of options for people looking for something other than a more standard backpack.

Peak also updated the Everyday Messenger (starting at $219.95), which is its shoulder bag for photographers, as well as the Everyday Sling (from $79.95). These single-strap bags all get improved aesthetics, as well as weight savings vs. last generation, while their gear compartments are a little bigger and they have the new UltraZip more durable zippers, as well as recycled materials.

Overall, Peak is launching a ton of updated products all at once, which is nice because it means the whole line benefits from the new materials, designs and zippers it’s now using. The added models mean there’s definitely a bag for everyone’s needs in the line now, and in fact it might actually be the case that the range means it’s harder to pick which one is right for you.

We have a couple of the new bags in for testing, and will be providing a review of these in the coming days once we’ve had a bit more time to spend with the new gear, so stay tuned.


Salesforce doubles down on verticals, launches Manufacturing and Consumer Goods Clouds

As legacy industries make the migration to cloud-based, digital solutions to run and grow their businesses, Salesforce is hoping that it will get a cut of the action when it comes to their IT investments. The CRM giant has been doubling down on building specialised solutions for individual industry verticals, and today, it is unveiling new business units dedicated to not one but two of them, manufacturing and consumer goods.

The Manufacturing Cloud and Consumer Goods Cloud, as the two new products are called, are the latest in a list of other vertical-specific products that the company has created. Other verticals targeted to date include finance, healthcare, media, non-profits, and retail.

The idea behind Salesforce’s strategy to build industry-specific solutions is that while the CRM and sales processes that go into manufacturing and consumer goods do have some aspects in common with other industries, both also have relatively specific requirements, too, around how sales are agreed and clients are managed.

In the case of manufacturing and consumer goods, both are capital-intensive businesses where those working on the physical products might be very removed from those working on sales (not just in terms of job functions, but in terms of the software that’s used to manage each operation), or those who are in the field who are helping to distribute those goods to the people ultimately selling them.

“In the manufacturing industry, changing customer and market demands can have a devastating effect on the bottom line, so being able to understand what is happening on the ground is imperative for success,” said Cindy Bolt, SVP and GM, Salesforce Manufacturing, in a statement. “Manufacturing Cloud bridges the gap between sales and operations teams while ensuring more predictive and transparent business, so they can build deeper and more trusted relationships with their customers.”

In both the cases of manufacturing and consumer goods, Salesforce is not creating these services out of thin air: the company had already been touting solutions for both sectors as part of its bigger push into specific industries. Past acquisitions of companies like Steelbrick — a specialist in quote-to-cash solutions, a cornerstone of how manufacturing sales are made — are likely to have also played a contributing role in how the new clouds were built.

With the Manufacturing Cloud, Salesforce says that it has included a feature for sales agreements that link up with a company’s ERP and forecasting software to be able to better predict demand from individual customers as well as the wider market. The services are also coming with more analytical insights by way of Einstein Analytics, and more functionality to work with channel partners. Third parties working with Salesforce on joint solutions using Marketing Cloud include Acumen Solutions, Deloitte and Rootstock.

The Consumer Goods Cloud has some parallel with the Manufacturing Cloud, in that both are targeting businesses that are by their nature and by legacy very rooted in physical goods and are therefore not easily “disrupted” by digital innovation. Indeed, despite all that we hear about the might of Amazon and e-commerce, a full 95% of products are still sold in physical stores. That system has a lot of drawbacks, not least of them being challenges with consumer goods brands having accurate control over how products are distributed and ultimately sold.

“Retail execution remains one of the most important pieces of a consumer goods brands strategy, but so much opportunity is wasted if the field rep doesn’t have the data and technology needed to make smart decisions,” said John Strain, GM and SVP, Retail and Consumer Goods at Salesforce, in a statement. “Consumer Goods Cloud provides these field reps with the tools they need to be successful on the ground while helping build both business opportunities and stronger relationships with their retail partners.”

The company, citing research from PwC, claims that of the $200 billion that’s spent in the US by consumer goods companies each year on merchandising, marketing and sales efforts for in-store sales, some $100 billion of that spend is never used in the way it was originally intended. (That’s one reason so many consumer goods companies have jumped into social media: it’s a way of connecting better and more directly at least with the customers.)

That represents a huge area to tackle for a company likes Salesforce, and the Consumer Goods Cloud is the start of that effort. The product covers software that addresses areas optimising visits to stores, improving relationships with retailers, using Einstein insights for analytics, and ordering software. Partners in the effort include Accenture and PwC.

Another important thing to note here is that Salesforce’s move into the area comes as a competitive strike: Not only are there companies out there that have built products specifically for these markets — Sysco for consumer goods, and Atlatl Software for manufacturing, for example — but Salesforce has to contend with general rivals such as Microsoft and SAP also targeting the same potential customers.

As of last quarter, Sales Cloud now accounts for more than one-quarter of Salesforce’s revenues, but today’s news underscores how “sales” is becoming a more complex and nuanced topic for the company as its business continues to grow, and as cloud-based digital processes become ever more ubiquitous across all sectors beyond simply knowledge workers. As salesforce builds out more solutions to meet every kind of enterprise’s needs, it’s likely there will be more vertical-specific tools making their way to the platform.

Peak Design’s Travel Duffel 35L is as simple or as powerful as you need it to be

A good, solid duffel bag is a mainstay for many travelers – especially those who like packing up a car for a weekend away, or frequent flyers who disdain the thought of checking a bag. Peak Design introduced its own take on the duffel bag this year, with a couple different twists on the concept. The Peak Design Travel Duffel 35L is the most fundamental of the company’s options, and it delivers a lot of packing space and support for Peak’s packing tools if you want to get real serious about space optimization.

I’m an unabashed fan of Peak Design’s Everyday camera bags, its capture clips, and basically its entire ecosystem. This is a company that you can tell things deeply about the problems it’s aiming to solve for its customers – because they’re the problems shared by the company’s founders themselves. The Travel Duffel is actually probably a bit more mainstream and less specialized than most of their offerings, but that only makes it more appealing, not less.

Peak Travel Duffel 35 2

You’ll find the same weatherproof nylon coating this bag that Peak uses in its other packs, and it’s a very durable material that also looks great both up close and at a distance. If there’s a complaint here, it’s that the black color I prefer tends to pretty easily pick up dust, but it also wipes or washes off just as easily. The heavy-duty nylon canvas shell should also stand up to the elements well, and the zipper is the especially weather sealed kind, plus there’s a waterproof bottom liner in case you’re less than careful about where you drop your pack while en route.

[gallery ids="1872075,1872074"]

The Duffel includes both hand straps and a longer padded shoulder strap, and the unique connector hardware system means you can reposition the straps in a number of ways to suit your carrying preferences. The hand straps double as shoulder straps for wearing it like a backpack ad though this is a bit tight for my larger frame, it’s still a way to quickly alleviate shoulder or hand strain for longer treks with the bag in tow. The connectors here are also super smart – there’s no moving parts, they just snap on and off the sewn-in loops placed around the bag – which means added durability and ease of use.

[gallery ids="1872070,1872069,1872068"]

Plenty of pockets inside and out give you lots of divined storage options, and there’s also a security loop feature on the main zipper to make it much harder for someone to quickly yank the bag open and grab what’s inside if they’re targeting a quick theft opportunity. A dedicated ID card holder is a nice touch that tells you exactly who this is ideal for, too.

As I alluded to above, there’s also support for the rest of Peak’s packing tools. I’ve got their small camera cube in the bag width-wise in the photo below, and it should be able to fit up to three of these in this orientation easily. Peak also offers packing cubes, dop kits and more, and you can use the slide hooks provided with those with internal elastic attachment points if you want to ensure things won’t shift around. But the best part about this bag is that it has everything you need in a straightforward duffel out of the box – the rest of the packing tools are totally optional and don’t take away form its fundamental effectiveness at all.

Peak Travel Duffel 35 6

The 35L carrying capacity of this bag is just perfect for a weekend trip, or even a few days longer if you’re an economical packer. At $129.95, it’s actually very reasonable for a high-quality duffel bag, too, and definitely one of the better bargains in the Peak lineup when it comes to value for money.

Corporations and private investors are backing new “green” deals as climate worries mount

In the nine years since private equity and venture capital investments into sustainable technologies last crossed the $6 billion threshold, the problems caused by global carbon emissions have only intensified.

Now, as the world confronts the reality that there’s not much time left to reverse course on carbon emissions and the impact they will have on life on earth, both corporate and private investors are once again stepping up their commitments to startups in the space.

In 2018 global venture capital investment into startups focused on sustainability jumped 127% to $9.2 billion, the highest since 2010, according to a January report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Powering that boost was a $1.1 billion investment in the smart window maker, View, and another $795 million for Chinese electric vehicle firm Youxia Motors. In fact, there were no fewer than eight VC/PE financings of Chinese EV specialist companies in 2018, totaling some $3.3 billion.

That stark assessment is coming from more corners of the scientific community and the reality of the danger is being emphasized by politicians and concerned citizens around the globe.

The simple truth is that things are getting worse. And for the past two years, emissions have been increasing as countries continue to use oil and gas and coal to fuel economic growth, even as the global community realizes that carbon emissions are an increasing threat.

A recent assessment by the U.S. government put the cost of climate change caused by carbon emissions at $500 billion annually by the end of the century. And the financial toll doesn’t begin to assess the cost to the quality of human life and the potential lives that will be lost because of climate-related disasters.

This isn’t the first time that the world has realized the threat climate change poses. It’s not even the second. Back in 1979 — and throughout the next decade —  the U.S. grappled with how to craft an appropriate response to the coming climate-related crisis. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the government failed, and the issue of imminent climate disaster was set aside.

Former Vice President Al Gore, picked up the thread in the mid-2000s in the wake of his defeat in the contested 2000 Presidential election by the Connecticut yankee turned Texas oilman George W. Bush. Through advocacy work and the popular climate-focused documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, Gore was able to proselytize among a group of technocrats looking for the next big thing in the wake of the Internet explosion that had transformed professional and personal lives.

Venture capital investors flocked to invest in renewable technologies — from biofuels to new solar energy generating technologies to new battery chemistries and beyond.

Over the next seven years billion dollar companies would rise and fall on the back of speculative investment in the promise of a cleaner energy future that would disrupt the oil industry and turn billionaires into multi-billionaires — all while saving the world.

It didn’t work out.

Problems with scaling technologies beyond a controlled laboratory setting; global economic pressures wrought by an explosion of manufacturing capacity in countries like China; and the hubris of investors who thought that their investment acumen in picking winners of the information age could work just as well in centuries-old industries like oil and gas, or electricity, found themselves floundering in complicated, regulated markets with deep-pocketed incumbents and entrenched interests in promoting the status quo.

In the process investors lost hundreds of millions of dollars in the U.S. alone and destabilized some of the oldest firms in the investment industry.

Now, companies and investors are returning to the market in a major way. Some of the largest businesses in teh food and agriculture industry are investing in new companies that are developing protein replacements and novel cultivation technologies; utilities are investing more heavily in smart grid technologies as electrification and microgrids become more real; automakers and battery manufacturers are backing new energy storage technologies; and frontier investors are backing companies tackling everything from biologically based chemical manufacturing to new construction technologies for smart homes and cities, to new kinds of nuclear power that could transform how the world conceives of energy abundance (along with geo-engineering tech to remove carbon from the atmosphere).

“In the last few years, the number of technologies ripe for investment has expanded dramatically,” Ravi Manghani, research director for energy storage at Wood Mackenzie, an energy research and consultancy firm, told CNBC in March. “It’s no longer just three or four technology verticals.”

While none of these technological advancements are a guaranteed solution to the threats carbon emissions pose, or are surefire commercially viable businesses, the fact that investors are once again looking at sustainability as a viable investment thesis — capable of producing multiple billion dollar businesses is a good step forward.

Any plan to address decarbonization has to confront industries as diverse as agriculture, construction, transportation, chemicals and consumer goods from clothes to chemicals.

Failure to confront these challenges would be catastrophic. Even if global warming is restricted to just the 2 degree Celsius target set at the Paris climate agreement, that could mean the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs and several meters of sea-level rise, as The New York Times reported last August. Already the impacts of climate change have meant tens of billions of dollars in damage for the U.S. in 2018 alone.

“The era of incrementalism on climate change is over,” said Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, one of the architects of the “Green New Deal” legislation, in an interview with Vox. “We are now in the era of the Green New Deal. It’s not going away. It is creating an incentive for governors to do more, for mayors to do more, for companies to do more. The polling says it has political legs that will drive it right into the election of 2020, and when that cycle is done, I think we’re going to see a much greater capacity for us to take the kind of action that we need.”