Conversations & Insights May 12, 2015

Who is the Fifth Horseman?

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Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are the four horsemen, companies who are collectively the size of Lexington, Kentucky and have the GDP of Australia. Can any other company join their ranks? In his talk at DLD NYC, Scott Galloway discusses the contenders for the fifth horseman position and ranks their likelihood to join their top tier based on an eight-piece algorithm.

The fifth horseman must have a differentiated product, cheap access to capital, a global consumer-base, a maternal attitude towards employees, inventory control through vertical distribution, knowledge consumer identities, a strong brand used as a vanity play and technical literacy. Seven companies (Uber, Alibaba, Starbucks, Linkedin, Tesla, Nike, and Walmart) come close, but none have demonstrated all of the above characteristics. Walmart, Linkedin, and Alibaba don’t have a brand people want to associate with. Starbucks spends more on its employees than on coffee beans, but does not have access to cheap capital. Tesla has a finite consumer base rather than a global one. And although Nike is a prestigious global brand and a fantastic place to work, its product is not all that differentiated from competitors.

Uber was the closest brand to the four horsemen. One million people ride the service every day, which is more than the Chicago CTA or Boston T. At 162,000 drivers, Uber’s employee base is triple that of Delta Airlines. So where does Uber lag in the algorithm? It does not have a maternal attitude towards employees, as it has access to the cheapest source of on-demand labor without unions or health insurance. While that is good for users and the company, Scott Galloway questions its benefits for society.

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Scott is a Clinical Professor at the NYU Stern School of Business where he teaches brand strategy and digital marketing, and is the Founder of L2, a member-based business intelligence and education firm. In 2012, Scott was named “One of The World’s 50 Best Business School Professors” (Poets & Quants). He appears regularly on Bloomberg News as a Contributing Editor.

Scott is also the founder of Firebrand Partners, a firm that has invested more than $1 billion in U.S. consumer and media companies; Red Envelope, an Internet-based consumer gift retailer (2007 revenues: $100 million); and Prophet, a brand strategy consultancy that employs 400 professionals across the United States, Europe and Asia. Scott was elected to the World Economic Forum’s “Global Leaders of Tomorrow,” which recognizes individuals “whose accomplishments have had impact on a global level.”

Scott currently advises several NY-based tech startups and has served on the boards of directors of Eddie Bauer (Nasdaq: EBHI), The New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT), Gateway Computer, and UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. He received a B.A. from UCLA and an M.B.A. from UC Berkeley.

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