This is Kickstart—the daily morning management briefing on innovation, leadership, technology and the economy from the editors of Canadian Business. Sign up to get it directly to your inbox each weekday at 6 AM Eastern.
Good morning! Here’s what’s on our radar at the moment:
Meet Canada’s All-Star Stocks
Each year our colleagues at MoneySense rank Canada’s most promising stocks—a purely quantitative ranking that identifies high-potential companies with good prospects for growth—but that are still reasonably priced. Out of 200 possible contenders in this year’s batch, only 20 made the All-Star list. Here’s what goes into finding them:
The All Star stocks report evaluates the 200 largest companies in Canada (by revenue) using data from Bloomberg. (This year we also stuck to stocks with market capitalizations in excess of $100 million.) Each firm is graded in two fundamentally different ways. First we consider a stock’s merit as a value investment and then we determine its appeal as a growth investment. Our value and growth tests employ a bevy of detailed calculations that are based entirely on the numbers. Our gut feelings or intuitions about a company don’t enter into it. But, at the end of the day, we sum up everything about a stock in two easy-to-understand grades with one for value and another for growth.
The weird world of YouTube kids’ videos
As almost any parent can tell you, YouTube exerts a strange power over children—it’s an inexhaustible supply of free entertainment that keeps kids reliably absorbed, verging on narcotized. But the platform’s algorithmic nature has spawned a strange parallel universe of cheap video production optimized for YouTube’s discovery mechanics and its audience of young viewers, and artist and writer James Bridle finds this decreasing presence of human creators in children’s programming unsettling:
What I find somewhat disturbing about the proliferation of even (relatively) normal kids videos is the impossibility of determining the degree of automation which is at work here; how to parse out the gap between human and machine. The example [here], from a channel called Bounce Patrol Kids, with almost two million subscribers, show this effect in action. It posts professionally produced videos, with dedicated human actors, at the rate of about one per week. Once again, I am not alleging anything untoward about Bounce Patrol, which clearly follows in the footsteps of pre-digital kid sensations like their fellow Australians The Wiggles. And yet, there is something weird about a group of people endlessly acting out the implications of a combination of algorithmically generated keywords: “Halloween Finger Family & more Halloween Songs for Children | Kids Halloween Songs Collection”, “Australian Animals Finger Family Song | Finger Family Nursery Rhymes”, […] and on and on and on. This is content production in the age of algorithmic discovery — even if you’re a human, you have to end up impersonating the machine.
The history of the designer handbag
Clothing trends come and go, but for luxury fashion labels, the handbag trade is foundational—a solid hit can burnish the brand and boost the bottom line, with retail prices soaring as high as five figures. Alexandra Shulman, former editor of British Vogue, notes that while designer handbags are everywhere today, they’re actually a comparatively recent phenomenon:
The handbag was part of the changes brought about after the First World War and the increasing emancipation of women, for whom carrying a bag became a sign of independence and stature. Women had their own cash and bank accounts, and keys to their own property and cars — and they wanted the world to know it. What better reason to flaunt the fashionable clutch of the 1920s rather than having to burrow for necessities in hidden pockets beneath voluminous skirts? Women carried cigarette cases and lighters and began to make a display of applying makeup in public, so lipsticks and powder compacts became part of every woman’s daily arsenal.
Link: Business of Fashion
“The end of the automotive era”?
Bob Lutz, former vice chairman of General Motors, is a lifelong auto executive, so when he wrote over the weekend that “we are approaching the end of the automotive era,” people paid attention. Lutz is hardly the first to posit a future of autonomous vehicles and on-demand mobility, but he has at least a smidge more industry credibility than many of the starry-eyed Silicon Valley oracles who can barely find Detroit on a map.
CNBC recently asked me to comment on a study showing that people don’t want to buy an autonomous car because they would be scared of it. They don’t trust traditional automakers, so the only autonomous car they’d buy would have to come from Apple or Google. Only then would they trust it. My reply was that we don’t need public acceptance of autonomous vehicles at first. All we need is acceptance by the big fleets: Uber, Lyft, FedEx, UPS, the U.S. Postal Service, utility companies, delivery services. Amazon will probably buy a slew of them. These fleet owners will account for several million vehicles a year. […] These modules won’t be branded Chevrolet, Ford or Toyota. They’ll be branded Uber or Lyft or who-ever else is competing in the market.
Link: Auto News
WATCH: Use your face as an interface
If—as many tech companies hope—augmented reality is one of the big developments of the next few years, we’re going to need some way of providing input for our face-mounted see-through computers. You can’t very well lug around a full-sized keyboard and mouse in order to use your glasses. So researchers are trying to figure out exactly how we’ll interact with these systems, and Yuta Sugiura, a designer and developer at Japan’s Keio University, has a proposal: we’ll use our own cheeks as touchpads. His “CheekInput” prototype uses simple sensors to monitor your face; when you press your fingers to your cheek, it alters the orientation of the skin enough to tell directional information. It’s not as sensitive as, say, a regular computer mouse, but it’s enough to track some basic gestures. Behold, a weird possible future in which we all walk around with one hand constantly massaging our face.
Earnings reports today
Canadian publicly traded companies of note scheduled to report quarterly earnings today:
Agrium (AGU), Avigilon (AVO), Black Diamond Group (BDI), Canaccord Genuity Group (CF), CT REIT (CRT.UN), Dream Industrial REIT (DIR.UN), Dundee Precious Metals (DPM), Finning International (FTT), Granit REIT (GRT.UN), Iamgold (IMG), Information Services Corp. (ISV), Keyera (KEY), Killam Apartment REIT (KMP.UN), Maxar Technologies (MAXR), Osisko Gold Royalties (OR), Pason Systems (PSI), Pure Technologies (PUR), TeraGo (TGO), Toromont Industries (TIH), TSO3 (TOS), Spin Master (TOY), 5N Plus (VNP), Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX), Yellow Pages (Y)
Thanks for reading! Have a truly excellent day.