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You Already Have Subscriptions for Movies and Diapers. Why Not the Couch?

In the six years since Jay Reno started college and finished his masters’ degree, he had moved seven times. Each time, he says, the load felt more punishing. The bed frame seemed to get heavier, and things got damaged. Reno, who grew up in New Hampshire and now lives in New York City, knew there had to be a less headache-inducing way to get stuff from A to B. Or better yet, he thought: What if he didn’t even own stuff in the first place?

Reno figured he surely wasn’t the only Millennial thinking along those lines. So, in 2017, he founded Feather, a New York City-based furniture rental subscription service. Furniture rentals is not a new idea: The 800-pound gorilla in the industry is Rent-a-Center, founded in 1986 with a rent-to-own model that last year was expected to bring in around $1.8 billion in U.S. revenue. Reno says unlike Rent-a-Center, Feather is targeting higher-end customers: people who can afford to buy but just choose not to. Convincing a critical mass of affluent customers to forgo new furnishings in favor of renting used items will be no easy task. Still, Reno has a pitch he’s confident will be persuasive.

“Buying things upfront doesn’t make sense when your space is constantly changing,” says the 31-year-old founder, who graduated from Columbia University in 2012 with a master’s degree in environmental studies. “Owning things ties you to a physical place. It grounds you in a way that you don’t want to be grounded.”

The price of flexibility.

To be sure, swapping the burden of ownership for the flexibility of renting comes at a cost. Feather members pay a monthly $19 subscription fee plus the cost to rent each individual item. For instance, a living room package that includes a sofa, lounge chair, coffee table, and floor lamp will set you back $90 to $167 a month. Members can swap out items for free once a year, depending on their changing needs or tastes. Subsequent swaps will trigger a $99 delivery fee. Non-members can also rent from Feather, though they pay a $99 delivery fee each time and higher per-item fees. A Deco Weave West Elm “Eddy” sofa that runs $39 a month for members costs $134 a month for non-members.

A key part of Feather’s pitch to customers is positioning furniture rental as a more environmentally friendly alternative to buying furniture you may one day discard. Reno suggests the same consumers that, say, buy sustainably manufactured clothing at Everlane, or cleaning products in reusable packaging from Grove Collaborative, will appreciate Feather’s sustainability angle. The company says it cleans and refurbishes all items, save for mattresses, which don’t get reused between renters, to extend their lifespan. Mattresses and furniture that are no longer usable get donated.

Should customers want to buy an item after renting, Feather says it can be purchased for the retail value, minus whatever they already have paid in rental fees. At some rent-to-own companies, like Rent-a-Center, items cost more than they would if customers had purchased them directly from a retailer. Rent-a-Center doesn’t argue with this point. “Yes, there is a premium paid for the flexibility for the service, which includes free set up, delivery, and repairs,” says Michael Landry, vice president of franchise development at Rent-a-Center. Feather charges repair fees, which vary depending on the item, if damages go beyond regular wear and tear.

Millennials are increasingly opting for renting versus buying homes, says Michael Brown, a partner in the retail practice of global strategy and management consulting at A.T. Kearney. Going into the third quarter of last year, only about a third of Americans 35 and younger owned homes, according to a February 2019 report by financial services firm Legal & General. “Renting a home; leasing a car; taking an Uber; renting the runway are all manifestations of this trend,” adds Brown. He notes further that rented furnishings are expected to account for 25 percent of the total U.S. furniture market this year. Overall, U.S. furniture-industry sales in 2019 were expected to increase by 2.8 percent to $114.5 billion from the year before, says Jerry Epperson, managing director at research firm Mann, Armistead, and Epperson.

Investors too are on board with rentals. On February 18, Feather announced a $30 million series B round of funding led by Cobalt Capital, with participation from prior investors including Spark Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Bain Capital Ventures, and others. It had previously raised $16 million from investors. The company says it is using the new funds to expand to additional markets and build its 60-person team.

Feather isn’t the only startup aiming to reimagine the furniture rental industry. Los Angeles-based competitor Fernish also launched in 2017. Last year Fernish raised $30 million from early-stage investor fund Real Estate Technology Ventures, Intuit’s co-founder Scott Cook, and Amazon’s head of global e-commerce and retail operations, Jeff Wilke.

It’s early days for Feather. Its service currently is available only in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orange County, California. Reno declined to comment on its number of members or annual revenue, beyond saying the latter is in the “eight digits.”

The true test for Feather–and by extension, Fernish–is whether it can make the product more widely appealing, beyond early-adopter Millennials. Kevin Thau, a general partner at Feather investor Spark Capital, is convinced it can. “Today’s consumers demand fast and reliable products and services that make their lives easier,” he says. “Feather delivers on just this by allowing consumers to easily rent furniture and skip the enormous hassle of purchasing and inevitably moving their furniture from one place to the next.”

Reno says even legacy retailers are starting to respond to the idea that ownership is less popular among certain customers. Feather offers Williams-Sonoma brand West Elm and Joy Bird furniture in its inventory, along with mattress firm Leesa. Crate and Barrel partnered with Fernish to offer its collections to renters in 2018. And in a related sign of the times, in November 2019, Nordstrom announced it would include exclusive products available for both purchase and rental through Rent the Runway. 

“We’re already starting to see consumers shift away from ownership as a default,” Reno adds. “And we believe this behavior is only going to grow.”

By Tatyana Bellamy-WalkerEditorial intern, Inc.com

Source: You Already Have Subscriptions for Movies and Diapers. Why Not the Couch?

Jay Reno is the CEO and founder of Feather. Feather is a furniture subscription service. They were in the Summer 2017 batch of YC. https://twitter.com/jayjreno You can check out their furniture at LiveFeather.com and if you live in LA, SF, or New York you can try out the service. https://www.livefeather.com/ The YC podcast is hosted by Craig Cannon. https://www.livefeather.com/ Y Combinator invests a small amount of money ($150k) in a large number of startups (recently 200), twice a year. Learn more about YC and apply for funding here: https://www.ycombinator.com/apply/

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Why Attitude Is More Important Than IQ

When it comes to success, it’s easy to think that people blessed with brains are inevitably going to leave the rest of us in the dust. But new research from Stanford University will change your mind (and your attitude). Psychologist Carol Dweck has spent her entire career studying attitude and performance, and her latest study shows that your attitude is a better predictor of your success than your IQ.

Dweck found that people’s core attitudes fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.With a fixed mindset, you believe you are who you are and you cannot change. This creates problems when you’re challenged because anything that appears to be more than you can handle is bound to make you feel hopeless and overwhelmed. People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. They outperform those with a fixed mindset, even when they have a lower IQ, because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn something new.

uncaptionedCommon sense would suggest that having ability, like being smart, inspires confidence. It does, but only while the going is easy. The deciding factor in life is how you handle setbacks and challenges. People with a growth mindset welcome setbacks with open arms. According to Dweck, success in life is all about how you deal with failure. She describes the approach to failure of people with the growth mindset this way,

“Failure is information—we label it failure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn’t work, and I’m a problem solver, so I’ll try something else.’” Regardless of which side of the chart you fall on, you can make changes and develop a growth mindset. What follows are some strategies that will fine-tune your mindset and help you make certain it’s as growth oriented as possible.

Don’t stay helpless. We all hit moments when we feel helpless. The test is how we react to that feeling. We can either learn from it and move forward or let it drag us down. There are countless successful people who would have never made it if they had succumbed to feelings of helplessness: Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas,” Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a TV anchor in Baltimore for being “too emotionally invested in her stories,” Henry Ford had two failed car companies prior to succeeding with Ford, and Steven Spielberg was rejected by USC’s Cinematic Arts School multiple times.

Imagine what would have happened if any of these people had a fixed mindset. They would have succumbed to the rejection and given up hope. People with a growth mindset don’t feel helpless because they know that in order to be successful, you need to be willing to fail hard and then bounce right back.

Be passionate. Empowered people pursue their passions relentlessly. There’s always going to be someone who’s more naturally talented than you are, but what you lack in talent, you can make up for in passion. Empowered people’s passion is what drives their unrelenting pursuit of excellence. Warren Buffett recommends finding your truest passions using, what he calls, the 5/25 technique: Write down the 25 things that you care about the most. Then, cross out the bottom 20. The remaining 5 are your true passions. Everything else is merely a distraction.

Take action. It’s not that people with a growth mindset are able to overcome their fears because they are braver than the rest of us; it’s just that they know fear and anxiety are paralyzing emotions and that the best way to overcome this paralysis is to take action. People with a growth mindset are empowered, and empowered people know that there’s no such thing as a truly perfect moment to move forward. So why wait for one? Taking action turns all your worry and concern about failure into positive, focused energy.

Then go the extra mile (or two). Empowered people give it their all, even on their worst days. They’re always pushing themselves to go the extra mile. One of Bruce Lee’s pupils ran three miles every day with him. One day, they were about to hit the three-mile mark when Bruce said, “Let’s do two more.” His pupil was tired and said, “I’ll die if I run two more.” Bruce’s response? “Then do it.” His pupil became so angry that he finished the full five miles.

Exhausted and furious, he confronted Bruce about his comment, and Bruce explained it this way: “Quit and you might as well be dead. If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there; you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”

If you aren’t getting a little bit better each day, then you’re most likely getting a little worse—and what kind of life is that?

Expect results. People with a growth mindset know that they’re going to fail from time to time, but they never let that keep them from expecting results. Expecting results keeps you motivated and feeds the cycle of empowerment. After all, if you don’t think you’re going to succeed, then why bother?

Be flexible. Everyone encounters unanticipated adversity. People with an empowered, growth-oriented mindset embrace adversity as a means for improvement, as opposed to something that holds them back. When an unexpected situation challenges an empowered person, they flex until they get results.

Don’t complain when things don’t go your way. Complaining is an obvious sign of a fixed mindset. A growth mindset looks for opportunity in everything, so there’s no room for complaints.

Bringing It All Together

By keeping track of how you respond to the little things, you can work every day to keep yourself on the right side of the chart above.

Do you have a growth mindset? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

I am the author of the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and the cofounder of TalentSmart, a consultancy that serves more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies and is the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training (www.TalentSmart.com). My books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. I’ve written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review. I’m a world-renowned expert in emotional intelligence who speaks regularly in corporate and public settings. Example engagements include Intel, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Fortune Brands, the Fortune Growth Summit, The Conference Board: Learning from Legends, and Excellence in Government. I hold a dual Ph.D. in clinical and industrial-organizational psychology. I received my bachelor of science in clinical psychology from the University of California – San Diego.

Source: Why Attitude Is More Important Than IQ

3 Things Coca-Cola, AWS And Smartsheet Taught Me About Innovation

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In today’s market, companies that are not constantly evolving or changing go extinct very quickly. Back in 1950, the average age of a company on the S&P 500 was 60 years old; today, it’s 20. With so many companies failing, disappearing, or getting consolidated, transformation is critical for businesses seeking to survive, let alone compete and win.

To be successful in product innovation, start with the customer and work backwards to determine the products you need to design and build.Smartsheet

Some companies are really good at transformation and continuous innovation; disruption is built into their DNA. Others struggle with their legacies of success, becoming overly focused on self preservation, which leads to slow decision making and aversion to risk.

But it’s not impossible for large companies to reinvent their business; indeed, it’s essential for their survival. During the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate to work at three amazing companies — all very different — each of which has been integral in transforming their industry.

Through these experiences, I learned important lessons about innovation and business transformation that can be applied to almost any company. Here are three critical keys to success:

1. Start with the customer

To be successful in product innovation, start with the customer and work backwards to determine the products you need to design and build. Only by truly understanding your customers can you deliver products that they will love.

When I worked on Coca-Cola Freestyle, we knew we had to start with the consumer and figure out what they wanted, so we did a ton of research. We started with focus groups in five different cities, five groups per city, all different age groups and demographics. The insights we gathered in these sessions informed our quantitative research, in which we ultimately talked to more than 7,000 consumers.

By truly understanding consumer preferences, we were able to build the Coca-Cola Freestyle in a way that appealed to consumers, with striking results: Installing a Freestyle machine led to increased beverage sales for restaurants by 17- 20 percent, and increased Coca-Cola sales volume by 30-40 percent in those locations. What’s more, about 25 percent of consumers who knew about Freestyle told us that they chose which restaurant they went to based on whether it had a Freestyle machine!

To innovate at Smartsheet, we set out to understand what problems our customers are trying to solve and then build solutions that help them do that. Smartsheet is a cloud-based work-execution platform that makes it easy for anyone to get work done without having to wire together a bunch of other tools. Today, most of the companies chasing this market overestimate the technical bar that most business users can clear, which results in overly complex products that are not easy for most business users to adopt. At Smartsheet, we really focus on how we can meet the needs of the average business user.

Every time we build a new product, we start by writing a document called a “PR/FAQ” (Press Release/Frequently Asked Questions”), which outlines what we’re going to build — and why — before we actually go to code (an exercise I brought with me from Amazon.) This means we create the story that we want to tell customers on the day the product launches — before we actually build anything. Then, we iterate on the press release until we like what it says about the product and how it solves a problem for the customer. We validate it with existing customers. Only when we’re satisfied that what we have is the right product definition do we begin work on building the proposed product.

2. Small independent teams move faster

Once you determine what to build based on research and customer feedback, assign a small team to the project and empower them to make decisions and innovate. Keeping the team small and focused helps prevent scope creep and eliminates the management overhead required to coordinate work across a large group. It is important to establish mechanisms for the team to escalate when they need help, but try to limit the amount of energy the team has to expend reporting up. This will speed innovation.

To develop Coca-Cola Freestyle, I built a small dedicated team that was completely isolated from the rest of the organization. We reported to a board of advisors on a quarterly basis but were empowered to make decisions without having to ask for permission.This was pretty game-changing, as it allowed us to move fast, experiment and learn, and be singularly focused on capturing the opportunity we saw in the market.

Coke’s idea of isolating a small, scrappy team to work on product innovation is the Amazon model as well. In fact, Amazon has a name for it: a “two-pizza team.” Almost every new service that starts at Amazon starts with a two-pizza team — a team small enough to feed with two pizzas.

Small, scrappy teams can help you make better decisions by forcing you to make trade-offs based on the constraints faced by the team. They’re better able to innovate quickly and course correct as needed to keep the project on track.

3. Take a long view

Another key to supporting innovation is to take a long view of the business. Rather than expecting an immediate return on an innovative new idea, focus on how you’ll develop the product to best serve your target market.

At Amazon, they take a very long view of the business. When we launched a service at Amazon, no one was pushing us with the question: How fast can you get to profitability? Instead, the discussion was framed around:

●    What’s the market you’re going after?

●    How much of the market do you think you can serve with the MVP (Minimum Viable Product — the first, solid foray to market)?

●    Where do you think you’d go after that?

Rather than worry about getting a very quick return on investment, the idea is that if we build meaningful, compelling products, we’ll figure out how to make money over the long term.

At Smartsheet, we not only take a long view of our business, but also encourage our customers to do the same. For example, when customers come to us for a solution, we try to understand the problem they are trying to solve or the pain point they want our help to address. This deep understanding enables us to build solutions that are both opinionated and flexible. We bring best practices to the table, along with a real point of view on ways that our customers can change how they work, and how we can help their businesses innovate faster as they navigate a constantly changing market — now, and into the future.

Gene Farrell Gene Farrell Brand Contributor

Source: 3 Things Coca-Cola, AWS And Smartsheet Taught Me About Innovation

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