Out Of Home Today is the leading source for news and information on the out of home industry.

- Advertisement -

Won’t Get Fooled Again

uniquely qualified snake oil salesmen —OOH …Here’s One Thing

0 574


OOH …Here’s One Thing


by Jim Johnsen,
Managing Director, Johnsen, Fretty & Company




Won’t Get Fooled Again

I had a friend who desperately wanted his newly minted graduate to go work at jet.com.  I remember him telling me he was just about to get an offer but then the Company sold to Walmart and all bets were off.  I didn’t give it a second thought until I was catching up on some old reading and stumbled on to a “recent” article in Forbes focused on Mark Lore and his next move.     


Who am I to judge, but this guy feels a lot more like Mark Cuban then Charles Schwab IMHO.  What do I mean by this?  Ever heard the term pump and dump?  I mean there are great business builders and there are probably more great promoters  (aka smooth story-tellers) and sometimes a great business builder is also a great promoter and magic happens.  But in my professional career I have met my share of uniquely qualified snake oil salesmen, some of whom successfully sell their businesses to some large corporate who just has to have it, only for them to discover later on that it’s a beautiful box with nothing inside.  Anyone else remember Outernet, Cafe USA or TaxiTop Media?    

discover later on that its a beautiful box with nothing inside

Lore did get Walmart to pay $3.3 billion for Jet.com.  Now that’s Michael Jordan-esq talent!  How did Walmart do with it?  “Not so much” as they say in New York.


Earlier he got Amazon to pay $545 million for Diapers.com.  How’d they do?  As Cheech and Chong once said…”Up in Smoke.”


Please don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not trying to crucify the guy or the entire group of uber-talented guys that understand that part of business is show business.  As a mechanical engineer’s son, unfortunately I didn’t inherit that gene, but believe me, there is more than a hint of jealousy for those that did.  But at some point when everything you sell quickly turns into merde on stick, one has to wonder.

uniquely qualified snake oil salesmen

In any event, here is a snippet from the August 22nd edition of “Morning Brew”:

“Marc Lore has been dubbed the “LeBron James of e-commerce” for his many accomplishments, most notably founding Jet.com and selling it to Walmart. 

He recently left running Walmart’s e-commerce division to get his hands dirty with new initiatives, like buying the Minnesota Timberwolves with A-Rod. We talked to Marc about his next steps and how he managed to qualify for the US national bobsled team. 

You’ve said your next project is to build a city of the future supported by a “reformed vision of capitalism.” What about capitalism needs reform? 

Income and wealth inequality is a result of capitalism as we know it today. And the problem that we will continue to face is that, in spite of all the material progress, there’s always a class of workers who just barely sustain a living. 

Take land appreciation for example—especially in the early days when land went from being virtually worthless to worth something when you’ve actually built a city. Land appreciation is caused by primarily two things: 

First is when people build communities, other people want to join those communities and live in those locations. The second is about the tax dollars that go to infrastructure to support the city: roads, bridges, tunnels, subways, things like that, which increase the value of land.  

It seems to me that the fair way to do it would be for all this land appreciation—appreciation caused by the people within the city—to benefit those citizens and come back to them. We’re calling it Equitism. And it’s about being more equitable and giving citizens an ownership stake and, as the city does better, the residents do better. 

You’ve said that the “vision, capital, people” (VCP) framework is fundamental to every business. Rank those three factors by importance. 

That’s a tough one and really against the framework. VCP isn’t hierarchical—they all really play hand-in-hand. But if I had to pick the top spot I’d say people. Like most entrepreneurs, I didn’t put enough importance on the Chief People Officer or Head of HR function early on in a company’s existence. And now in the startups that I’m creating today, the Chief People Officer is typically the first hire, because people are the most important asset within a company. Having a really strong Chief People Officer can help set the culture and values and bring in the very best, most diverse talent. 

Vision is probably next. It’s crucial to spend a lot of time on the vision, making sure it’s super clear and everybody knows where you’re headed. Then, of course, it’s all about raising capital to put that plan into action. 

What will be the most disruptive force in e-commerce in the next 10 years?

I think we’ve only touched the surface of conversational commerce. By 2040, the retail search engine will be what the CD is today. Just imagine kids 20 years from now—they’re going to be shocked to hear that we had to use a search engine when buying something. The fact that we actually had to type in what we wanted, look through thousands of options, filter by price, colors, style, and then read through reviews. 

In the future, buying something will be like having your own personal Jarvis. It’ll know your preferences and likes/dislikes as well as your best friend does. In the future, you’ll just say, “I need a toaster,” and one within your price point, aligned with your kitchen style, and the colors in your home will arrive that same day or even within the hour. 

What is a fact that most people don’t know about you?

People always love hearing my bobsledding story.

I was in my twenties and working in banking. One day I was having lunch down at the World Financial Center, and I see a bobsled track set up…for like five bucks you could come down, push the sled, and they’d time you. That was fun and interesting, but more interesting was that they were going to take the fastest time of the week and send the person to the US national team training camp.

The next day, I brought my sneakers, pushed the sled, and the guys there were like, “Whoa, that was the fastest we’ve seen anybody push the sled so far.” It turns out I had the fastest time of the week and they invited me to Lake Placid to train for the next month. At the end of the month, there were tryouts and the top 13 would make the US national team. I finished 13th. 

What would you write on a gigantic billboard?

The values create the value.

When I graduated college in 1993 and started in banking I was making a $34k salary. The first thing I did was put a sign in my cubicle that read:


6 figures by 26
7 figures by 37
8 figures by 48

While those were ambitious goals, they weren’t backed by purpose. I grew up a mercenary. I was born thinking that jobs were all about making money. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Becoming a missionary was learned, and, when I became one, my career took off. I’d love for people to learn that earlier than I did.”


Man if you read the read the above, the guy sounds like the second coming.  And heck, A-Rod is all in.  I want to believe.  Let me say that again.  I really want to believe.  But I have been taken to the cleaners more than once in my life…and that song keeps firing in my synapses…

“I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again”

Feel free to pull the howitzer out and hit me back.  I welcome the debate.

[Oh, and one more thing…Why the reference to Mark Cuban?  Per my buddy Wikki…”Broadcast.com was an Internet radio company founded as AudioNet in September 1995 by Cameron Christopher Jaeb. Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban later led the organization and eventually sold to Yahoo! on April 1, 1999 for $5.7 billion, making it the most expensive acquisition Yahoo! has made.[1] The service has since been discontinued.”]

Feel free to pull the howitzer out and hit me back.  I welcome the debate.



Securities transacted through StillPoint Capital Member firm FINRA/SiPC

Help us Help You by keeping the only Independent Voice for OOH.
If you read OOH Today via LinkedIn, thank you. To ensure you never miss a post
and keep unconstrained speech for the OOH/Billboard Industry, 
please click here to ⇒Subscribe to OOH Today


- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: