Category Archives: Business

The therapy business

Although the near-term future looks bleak for Democrats, things are looking brighter for others. Like those in the therapy business.

CNBC reports an online therapy start-up called Talkspace has seen a seven-fold spike in its traffic since about 7 p.m. on election day. The firm, made up of a national network of about 1,000 licensed therapists, provides its therapeutic services via text messaging and online video with plans starting at $32 a week.  For some people in these uncertain post-election times, that’s a bargain.

At Talkspace, they can barely keep up with the increased demand.

“We’re trying to get help to as many people as possible but unfortunately because of the load our response time is a little slower than usual,” The company’s chief executive told CNBC. “People are very aware that this is a long term concern and problem which won’t go away soon.”

Where’s the majority of the hand-wringing occurring? Mostly in the New York area of course, where Democrats seem to be even bluer than the color on an electoral map. However, almost 20 percent of the traffic is also coming from other regions…including Republican-leaning red states.

According to the company’s therapists, patients are experiencing extreme emotions from “profound sadness” to “anxiety and self-esteem issues.” One client became bedridden due to the anxiety caused by the election and others are turning to drink to relieve their stress. There’s been a “dramatic rise” in fears from the LGBT community too.

CNBC’s Catherine Clifford predicts that business should be booming for Talkspace for a while. “The coming weeks, months, and even years are likely to be tumultuous,” she writes.

Shopping habits

The surprising presidential election results may have changed a great many things: your dinner table conversations, for example, and the kinds of posts in your Facebook feed. But executives at major retailers say they’re betting that the political climate will do little to alter your shopping habits this holiday season.

“We haven’t really seen any noticeable change in sentiment in our customers,” said Greg Foran, Walmart’s U.S. chief executive, on a Thursday conference call when asked whether the election would have an effect on the business.

Foran’s comments echo what Brian Cornell, the chief executive of Target, said Wednesday when asked a similar question. “We remain very optimistic about the holiday season,” Cornell said, referencing economic factors such as a low unemployment rate.

Both retailers reported relatively upbeat earnings results this week, adding to evidence that the retail industry is headed into the holiday shopping season with a tail wind.

In its U.S. division, Walmart saw a 1.2 percent increase in comparable sales, a measure of sales online and at stores open more than a year. The uptick came as the retailer did a better job of keeping store shelves well-stocked, and as its online sales heated up. This time around, ­e-commerce accounted for a greater share of the growth on this metric than in any previous quarter.

 Still, profit declined as the big-box chain invests in raising wages for its workers and in building out technology and infrastructure to strengthen its digital business.

Walmart’s revenue was $118.2 billion, up 0.7 percent from the same period last year. (Adjusting for currency fluctuations, revenue was $120.3 billion.) Profit slipped 8.2 percent, to $3.03 billion, or 98 cents a share.

The third consecutive month

Virginia’s unemployment rate jumped from 4 percent to 4.2 percent in October, the third month in a row the measure has risen, according to government data released Friday morning.

Economists say an increase in the ranks of the unemployed is probably due to an influx of workers into the labor market, and not to any underlying weakness in hiring. The size of Virginia’s labor force has been steadily declining for years, a trend that mirrors what’s happened nationally. But in October, the state added a whopping 27,000 new job-seekers, according the data, by far the largest month-over-month increase in the size of the labor force since the survey began in 1976. Previously, the largest increase was about 15,000.

“Even though a lot of people are coming into the labor force and finding jobs, some people are coming into the labor force and not finding jobs and that’s having an impact on the unemployment rate,” said Andy Bauer, a regional economist with the Richmond Fed.

The state’s unemployment rate bottomed out at 3.7 percent in July, causing some economists to question whether the region had reached full employment.

Economic indicators suggest hiring is still strong in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. The D.C. metropolitan area added 70,200 jobs in the one-year period ending in October, a healthy 2.2 percent growth rate that exceeded the national average of 1.7. The gains came in a broad selection of industries with the largest increases in professional and business services, health care and retail. And Virginia is adding jobs at a faster rate than the nation as a whole, a 2 percent growth rate compared to this time last year.

Bauer says wage increases are also having an effect. Economists have noticed pay rates are starting to edge up for certain high-skilled jobs across the state, giving idle workers a stronger incentive to rejoin the labor market. At the same time, hiring is much stronger locally than at was a few years ago, giving new job-seekers reason to be confident that they will find work.

Offering a new way for small businesses

images-40It used to be hard for businesses to raise money in exchange for a piece of the company through crowdfunding. That has changed.

Last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission relaxed the once-onerous crowdfunding rules for companies and reduced the liabilities for online platforms that wanted to host these campaigns. Now that the dust has settled, a new wave of services are appearing to help both established companies and start-ups take advantage.

Stephen Bronner writes on Entrepreneur that “as of today, about $11.7 million had been raised for businesses using equity crowdfunding. This count includes three projects that have raised $1,000,000, the maximum amount allowed by law.” That’s not a lot. But the number is expected rise now that some bigger players are getting involved.

One of those players is the popular crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The company is partnering with MicroVentures, another player in the equity crowdfunding space, so that start-ups can list their offerings on both sites to expand their potential reach. The new service will also automate legal documents and provide an online disclosure questionnaire to ease the complexity of the application process.

Indiegogo has already raised more than $1 billion from over 8 million people and says it’s “well-positioned” to help entrepreneurs navigate the new crowdfunding rules. Already four companies, including two game makers and a music marketplace, have started campaigns. Thankfully, no one yet has raised $55,000 to make potato salad like this guy did a few years ago.

“It’s great to see an industry leader in the rewards crowdfunding space jump into the equity arena,” Kendall Almerico, chief executive of BankRoll Ventures and an attorney who works with crowdfunding campaigns said in the Entrepreneur report.

The dangers of President elect Donald Trump

Turkey is a nation in crisis, scarred by government crackdowns following a failed coup attempt and on a potential collision course with the West. It is also home to a valuable revenue stream for the president-elect’s business empire: Trump Towers Istanbul.

Donald Trump’s company has been paid up to $10 million by the tower’s developers since 2014 to affix the Trump name atop the luxury complex, whose owner, one of Turkey’s biggest oil and media conglomerates, has become an influential megaphone for the country’s increasingly repressive regime.

That, ethics advisers said, forces the Trump complex into an unprecedented nexus: as both a potential channel for dealmakers seeking to curry favor with the Trump White House and a potential target for attacks or security risks overseas.

The president-elect’s Turkey deal marks a harrowing vulnerability that even Trump has deemed “a little conflict of interest”: a private moneymaker that could open him to foreign influence and tilt his decision-making as America’s executive in chief.

But the ethics experts eyeing Trump’s empire are now warning of many others, found among a vast assortment of foreign business interests never before seen in past presidencies. At least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries and territories across South America, Asia and the Middle East, a Washington Post analysis of Trump financial filings shows.