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UPSTREAM

Culture. Technology. Creativity. Brands.
We Are Up is a strategy & innovation consultancy.

 
Well, hello again. Welcome back, nice to see you.
Gifs by: @rozalinaburkova
 
“The task is not so much to see what no one has yet seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

Direct Impact 
 
Shopify published their Q4 revenue last week, which totalled $1 billion ($3 billion for the year). It was up +94% and people spent $120bn on their platform. This piece by Ben Evans summed it up really well and highlights, in my view, what’s important for brands.

Firstly, although Amazon existed and made it easier to buy stuff, they didn’t make it easier to sell stuff. But Shopify did. They made ecommerce easier, more accessible, for more sellers. Opened it up. Democratised it. They said “while Amazon is building and empire, we're arming the rebels”. And, as small-business formation surges in Covid, Shopify is a big benefactor. They imagine a future, where everyone is an entrepreneur. 

Secondly, Shopify rides a wave of direct ecommerce, with both consumers and brands. People are happy to cut out middlemen. And brands, want to own their customer relationships. Along with the rebels, a bunch of big CPG companies like Unilever, are also moving from only selling palettes of stuff (B2B), to selling directly to consumers (to compete with other DTC brands).

It’s happening and it’s fast, agile and significant. Kylie Cosmetics reached $1 billion with 7 employees, in 4 years. Giving the Estée Lauders of this world, sleepless nights. So, again, when the winds of change blow, do you make your walls higher, bigger or do you build windmills. Shopify is a massive windmill, and the outlook is windy.

 

Clubhouse & The Audio Revolution

It was dowloaded 4 million times in the last month alone. It has 2 million active users. China has now banned it. People are selling memberships on eBay for $89. And, at 11 months old, it's valued at $1 billion. Welcome to Clubhouse, the tiny audio chat app that’s just broken through. For the uninitiated, it's described as "a space for casual, drop-in audio conversations". There's chatrooms (with some famous people), it's live and currently invite only, so it feels a bit exclusive.

It’s the evolution of audio. Ben Thompson, from Stratechery, makes the point that Clubhouse was inevitable. That blogging, transformed to become twitter, websites became Instagram, Youtube become TikTok. And Clubhouse is another part the evolution of audio and live audio broadcasting (or, you know, radio). It’s audio, it’s community, it's social, it’s direct and currently, even as it grapples with harassment, misinformation and privacy issues, it’s quite magnetic.

Clubhouse signals the continued rise and repacking of audio (paid radio, podcasts, audio books, streaming, etc). And, is another move to bring oral culture back to the front of society (vs written, text). This piece on "The Clubhouse App and the Rise of Oral Psychodynamics” was interesting. We think differently, when we speak freely, without prompts or scripted support.

But more interesting again, is that Clubhouse may be the first post-advertising social platform. It’s (currently) not looking at advertising as the primary source of income (other things like subs, paid replays, syndication, integrated carts, donations, and many other revenue options). It's certainly one to watch (or listen to…you get the point) as it continues to evolve.
5 things we read this week:
 
  1. Turning sounds from nature into a sonata
  2. How to have better arguments online.
  3. What the internet looked like 10 years ago.
  4. Hiut Denim's One Thing Well 2021
  5. Martin Scorsese on the dying art of cinema

Listening: The world is a remix. Full of intersections, collisions and convergence. This is a great piece on how Jazz is the mother of Hip Hop and some super examples of sampling and the power of looking around for influences. Full article is here if you have the time. And speaking of remixes, this is a superb reinterpretation of a classic Big in Japan. Wow. Enjoy the weekend folks.

 
Hey...you've got this far.....good hustle....

Just to say, this newsletter is a labour of love. If you have any feedback, good or bad, it's welcome. Also. if you have a challenge or you're feeling a little stuck, we'd love to help.

hello@weareup.ie 
01 531 0778
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