Monday Business Briefing: CafePress ‘predicts’ the presidential election; fifth Endeavor Entrepreneur named; MailHaven tests its smart box; pitch competition revived; and more

Welcome to the Nov. 7 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

CafePress predicts Hillary win in this year’s presidential election

Above are the top five best-selling election-related designs for CafePress. | Courtesy of CafePress

Above, the top five best-selling election-related designs for CafePress. | Courtesy of CafePress

The sales numbers have been tabulated, and the Louisville-based novelty printing company CafePress has predicted that Hillary Clinton will win this year’s presidential election.

Sales of Clinton merchandise on the CafePress website were more than 66 percent higher than Trump merchandise sales during the week of Oct. 23. (The company says the numbers are updated on Monday.) The week prior to that — the week of the final presidential debate — Clinton merchandise sales were more than 73 percent higher than Trump merchandise sales, CafePress said.

Four of the site’s top five best-selling election-related designs are pro-Hillary Clinton. The fifth is design has a nonpartisan message: “We’re all screwed 2016.”

“I think everybody is ready for it to be done,” said Meghan Marshall, director of brand marketing and communications at CafePress. This year, more than in previous presidential election years, CafePress has “seen more designs that are reflective of ‘I pick no one.’ ”

Notably, sales of Trump merchandise were beating out Clinton merchandise up until six weeks ago.

“I think that sentiment has shifted. A lot of our designs and sales in general tend to mirror what is happening in the news cycle,” Marshall said, adding that Trump has received negative press related to alleged sexual assaults, his comments about women and the alleged misuse of funds by his nonprofit foundation in the past several weeks.

CafePress sells user-generated designs, and it doesn’t try to even out the number of designs offered by throwing in its own.

“We don’t say ‘Now we have 20 Trumps, so we have to have 20 Hillarys,” she said. But “we are very conscious of ensuring that people are aware that there are designs that represent every side.”

The company displays both Trump and Hillary equally on the website, allowing the consumer to choose which party or candidate designs they’d like to shop for.

Although the election ends tomorrow, the sales will keep coming for CafePress, Marshall said. Many customers will order products that say “Don’t blame me, I voted for” whichever candidate loses and products that show support for whomever America’s next president is.

Political product sells are expected to remain steady until the inauguration next year. —Caitlin Bowling

Edj Analytic’s Sean O’Leary is Louisville’s fifth Endeavor Entrepreneur

At the 67th Endeavor International Selection Panel in Medellin, Colombia, a panel of global business leaders named Sean O’Leary, co-founder and CEO of Edj Analytics, Louisville’s fifth Endeavor Entrepreneur. Edj Analytics is a pioneer of predictive modeling techniques used to inform choices in everything from education to fundraising to calling NFL plays.

Sean O'Leary, CEO, Edj Analytics

Sean O’Leary, CEO, Edj Analytics

O’Leary and Edj join four other-regional companies named Endeavor Entrepreneurs in the past year and a half: Rivera Group (Joey Rivera, Ph.D); Red e App (Jonathan Erwin & Patrick Goodman); El Toro (Stacy Griggs); and SkuVault (Andy Eastes & Slav Ivanyuk).

Endeavor Entrepreneurs go through a rigorous vetting process. They must first present in front of a local panel of business leaders and pass that before they are entered to present at the IS Panels. Endeavor Entrepreneurs have access to global mentorship and exclusive access to investors and business services.

O’Leary was the co-founder and former CEO of Genscape, where he worked for 11 years. He graduated from the University of Michigan and earned his MBA from the University of Louisville. Along with co-founders Frank Frigo and Chuck Bower, he started Edj in 2013. It is headquartered in NuLu’s Green Building.

Edj won a GLI Hot Dozen award in 2015, and in March, the company raised $2.4 million in local investments led by the Chrysalis group. Melissa Chipman

Yum China enjoys positive first week on the stock market

Micky Pant, pictured left of the gong, helped open the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday morning from Shanghai. | New York Stock Exchange livefeed

Micky Pant, pictured left of the gong, helped open the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday morning from Shanghai. | New York Stock Exchange live feed

Yum China Holdings is off to a good start during its first week on the New York Stock Exchange. The new company made its debut on the exchange Tuesday morning.

On Friday, Yum China’s stock price closed at $27.58 per share, up 11 percent from $24.50 on Tuesday, and throughout the week, it trended positive, while the Dow Jones and S&P 500 declined continued to slump.

Meanwhile, the stock price of Yum China’s former parent company, Yum Brands, continued to drop, ending Friday at $59.81 a share, down about nearly 3 percent from Monday. (The stock plunged overnight last Monday from $86.28 per share).

Yum Brands CEO Greg Creed has been making the rounds in the media since the company spun off its China operations on Nov. 1. “We’ve de-risked the business,” he told Yahoo Finance. “And at the same time, I think we can still unlock enormous growth potential.”

Creed said he want Yum Brands subsidiary KFC to escalate its store development, particularly in emerging markets, and eventually operate 60,000 stores. KFC currently has 20,000 locations globally.

At the same time, Yum China could benefit from cutting most of its ties with American restaurant giant Yum Brands, he said.

“There was a headline the other day that Jack Ma owns KFC,” Creed said. “If Chinese people believe that Jack Ma owns KFC, that’s fantastic because that reduces the risk and volatility to reactions to things that people might have if they thought we were a U.S. company.”

Ma is chairman of Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba. Chinese firm Ant Financial Services Group, which has invested $50 million in Yum China, is an affiliate of Alibaba. —Caitlin Bowling

MailHaven to test its ‘smart’ lockboxes to protect packages

Photo courtesy of MailHaven

Photo courtesy of MailHaven

In late November, MailHaven will begin a 20-unit pilot program to test its V.3 MailHaven “smart” mailboxes, and is now accepting preorders. The smart mailboxes protect packages delivered to homes by keeping them in a secure lockbox and notifying the recipient via smartphone. The delivery person scans and deposits the packages in the mailbox, in which they are protected from thieves and the elements until they are retrieved. The iOS app also tracks all packages on a single platform.

Pilot users will be selected using the following criteria:

  • Shops online and receives over five packages a month
  • Lives in a house with lawn space to mount the MailHaven
  • Willing to test the device and give feedback
  • Understands that the MailHaven prototype may not work 100 percent of the time
  • Willing to buy the unit for $500 (It is refundable if you do not receive a unit or there is a delay in installation)

Pilot program participants receive a free MailHaven for life and will pay no monthly service fee for two years.

In September, MailHaven was awarded a $25,000 grant through the Vogt Awards. The company was also one of GLI’s Hot Fast Innovation Award winners this fall. MailHaven also recently won a $75,000 grant from the Nucleus Innovation Center & Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority. The company has office space in Nucleus and its leaders are being “incubated” by Dave Durand and Forest Giant. Melissa Chipman

5Across and Vogt Awards Demo Day highlight Global Entrepreneur Week

Back in the day (circa 2014), Louisville and Lexington held bi-monthly 5Across events, thanks to Lexington’s Awesome Inc. and the now-defunct Velocity in Southern Indiana. Now, in conjunction with Awesome Inc., GLI’s EnterpriseCorp has decided to revive the pitch competition.

5Across is a startup pitch competition that starts at 5 p.m., costs $5 to attend, and allows five founders to pitch their startups for five minutes for a chance to win $500.

EnterpriseCorp’s announcement of the event says that it is “back by popular demand,” and it’s true that the 5Across has been sorely missed among the local startup community. Awesome Inc. has continued with the events in Lexington on a fairly regular basis.

It is not too late for a startup team to apply to compete. The application is pretty thorough; be prepared to tell the organizers what’s “awesome” about your company. 

The event is on Nov. 17 at 5 p.m. at Genscape in Old Louisville. It’s part of Global Entrepreneur Week,  Nov. 14-18, which also includes the Vogt Awards Demo Day on Nov. 15.

The Vogt Awards give $25,000 grants to innovative Louisville entrepreneurial teams and also provides them with Lean Startup training and mentorship from other entrepreneurs and investors. On Nov. 15, at the Frazier museum, the six companies of this cohort will present their work to the public starting at 5:30 p.m. The event is free, but an RSVP is requested.

The six companies are:

  • Breath Diagnostics Inc., which is developing technology that detects lung cancer by analyzing a patient’s breath for four cancer specific markers.
  • Collabra Innovations LLC, which is developing an online platform used by music students, instructors and professionals to educate and collaborate at schools and other organizations.
  • Curio Learning, which is creating an app that allows teachers and administrators to discover professional development strategies and content, curate them and collaborate with other teachers.
  • G3 Tri-Tech, which manufactures and distributes products that assist triathletes with their training and provides therapy to aid athletes recovering from injury. 
  • MailHaven, which is solving the problem of missed deliveries with a package-tracking app and a smart mailbox to receive packages for online shoppers.
  • RMC Solutions, which is developing a patented automated washout system, using high-pressure water to prevent concrete buildup in mixer truck drums and central mixers used in the ready-mix concrete industry. Melissa Chipman

Ford reports declining October sales (but strong demand for Super Duty)

2017 F-250 Super Duty 4X4 Crew Cab Lariat. | Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

2017 F-250 Super Duty 4X4 Crew Cab Lariat. | Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Co.’s October sales fell 12 percent compared to a year earlier, mainly because of weak demand for cars — but the company’s Louisville-made, all-new F-Series Super Duty is selling well.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker said that consumers bought 188,813 vehicles last month, compared to 213,938 a year earlier. General Motors said it sold 208,290 vehicles in October, up 3 percent from a year ago. Fiat Chrysler said its U.S. sales in October fell 10 percent, to 135,808 units.

Ford said October sales for the Escape, made exclusively at Louisville Assembly plant, fell 5 percent, to 23,505. Overall, SUV sales fell 9.3 percent.

Demand for the F-Series pickup truck, which includes the Super Duty made at Kentucky Truck Plant, held steady, although truck sales overall fell 2.2 percent.

Each new Super Duty, for which Ford invested $1.3 billion in KTP, is selling, on average, in just 18 days, according to Erich Merkle, head of U.S. sales analysis at Ford.

“A big new pickup truck that customers love,” he said.

Erich Merkle

Erich Merkle

Merkle also said that the Super Duty is primarily responsible for Ford’s average transaction price rising $1,600 over a year ago. The industry as a whole reported a $600 increase.

Merkle said three out of every four Super Duty trucks sold were high-end models such as Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum.

Ford car sales fell nearly 31 percent, as demand for the Mustang plunged 46 percent, for the Focus dropped 43 percent and for the Fusion declined 21 percent.

Merkle said that some of the numbers look worse than they are because sales last year hit a record. In addition, businesses and government agencies bought vehicles for their fleets in the first half of the year, which skews the sales data from the second half of the year a little bit. The car segment also is shrinking, he said, as consumers shift to SUVs.

“The industry remains very strong, but it is going to be just a little softer than the record numbers set last year at this time,” Merkle said.

Ford reported its October sales one day later than normal, because a fire at its World Headquarters interrupted power to one of the company’s main data centers. Boris Ladwig

Anthem latest insurer to voice concerns about ‘sustainability’ of Affordable Care Act

Anthem logoAnthem has become the latest insurance giant to voice serious concerns about the sustainability of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Humana, Aetna and other insurers have said that they’re struggling to make a profit from the premiums they’re collecting from Obamacare customers because their health care costs are higher than anticipated and because too few young, healthy people have signed up. Both Humana and Aetna expect to lose hundreds of millions of dollars on ACA-compliant plans for individual customers.

Anthem said last week that its quarterly net income fell 5.7 percent, to $617.8 million. The Indianapolis-based company had previously said it was adjusting the way it participates in the health exchanges that are a critical part of the ACA. However, while some insurers have pulled out of Kentucky altogether, Anthem next year will be the sole insurer to offer plans for individuals in all 120 Kentucky counties.

Nonetheless, Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish said in an earnings call that the current ACA environment is unsustainable.

“If we do not see clear evidence of an improving environment and a path toward sustainability in the marketplace, we will likely modify our strategy in 2018,” Swedish said, according to a media reports. Boris Ladwig

Disclosure: Sean O’Leary is an investor in Insider Louisville.