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A Sampling

Fast Company Findings

September 26, 2023

After virtue-signaling and bandwagon-hopping, purpose gets practical.

Sustainability obviously on everyone’s mind, Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert stressed that while innovation is necessary, effectively making meaningful change as a business requires relentless commitment and credibility. Of course, not every company has the capability to make as dramatic a pledge as Patagonia, who vowed to give away all profits to fight climate change, but others stood in agreement. Clare V and Zola focus efforts on maternity and marriage issues, respectively. They cautioned that if your business can’t authentically stand for something and put in consistent work to actually get the results, don’t make the claim at all.

While the luxury sector booms, business needs to focus on the middle.

Prolific investor and author of Principles for Dealing with The Changing World Order, Ray Dalio, warned attendees that the U.S. needs to establish a strong middle to properly withstand the rapid geopolitical disruption underway. Taking a cue from the world stage, Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta echoed these sentiments from an applicable business perspective in his discussion of the premium economy class. Recently launching its first Spark concept location, the hotel portfolio announced plans to convert 400 hotels into high-quality economy budget experiences. Estimating that 70 million travelers frequent premium economy hotels in the U.S. each year, Nassetta stressed that this is a valuable customer base who should be introduced to the brand at a young age and rewarded for their loyalty, no matter their budget.

Hospitality, tech, and VC agree, it’s time for businesses to get back to business.

Hilton's CEO shared that across consumer data and findings, all customers want is a return to service, quality, and consistency. Shannon Knapp, CEO of The Leading Hotels of the World, revealed that their greatest source of qualitative insights are in-person conversations and interactions with guests. While data is immersible for efficiency, actual human interactions are the bedrock of innovation, a belief also widely held in all discussions around AI. IBM and Roblox communicated strong convictions that AI will only serve to assist human creativity and potential. Lastly, venture capitalists called for a return to practicality, as an era of “free money” comes to a close. Lila Preston of Generation Investment Management left the panel on an optimistic note, stating that while startups will need to prioritize sustainable profit over "magical ideas," a tsunami of exciting climate and agricultural innovations is coming. As tech accelerates, the human thought process will only become more important.

Menopause is the women's health issue to monetize.

The last decade has seen a boom in women’s health businesses tackling uncomfortable topics from periods to post-partum issues. Now, as more scientific research and societal attention  are paid to menopause, companies are popping up to address this transition period through the lens of longevity. While most menopause products target short-term relief, Oviva Therapeutics takes a long-term approach, improving female healthspan (the number of good healthy years) through novel hormone therapies during menopause. Founder Daisy Robinton spoke about general misinformation surrounding estrogen, proposing the concept of slowing age by extending ovulation. As Gen X-ers start to be affected by menopause at the height of their careers, expect to see more consumers sharing and brands solving for this universal female experience.

Agriculture and food entrepreneurs find an economic, consumer-centric approach to sustainability.

Nobell Foods’ founder reminded the crowd that ultimately purchasing decisions are made based on cost and taste—as a brand, if you want to change consumer behavior, you have to meet them where they are. While consumers' sustainability demands are rising, it's a privilege to factor that into one's buying decisions. So, her focus is on making a price-conscious plant-based cheese that equally matches the melty deliciousness of dairy products people love. The cofounder of C16 Biosciences, a company creating a sustainable version of palm seed oil, seconded the sentiment, explaining how evolving to a more environmentally conscious business model will be essential for the longevity and profitability of food manufacturers. Simply put, if sustainable choices don’t make dollars, they don’t make sense.

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