The Mercedes-Benz SL gets a dynamic do-over, with enhanced visual and technical features added to the automotive classic.
Visually, the front end of the vehicle has been given a sporty facelift, with a completely updated bonnet, bumper and headlamps, amongst other features. In terms of hardware, the new SL features a beefed-up engine, automatic transmission with a curve-tilting function, an enhanced vario-roof and automatic boot separator.
If you’re in the market for a new motor, the updated SL will be available to order at the beginning of 2016.
THIS IS FUCKED UP!!!
First of all, hoverboards aren’t real, but that is the most popular term used to describe those self-balancing scooters that Justin Bieber propels himself forward with. Type “hoverboard” into Amazon’s search bar and that is what we are discussing here.
Earlier this week, the NYPD’s 26th Precinct tweeted: “Be advised that the electric hoverboard is illegal as per NYC Admin. Code 19-176.2.”
These entrepreneurs got junk food banned from vending machines in Los Angeles’ schools, overcame mind-blowing adversity, and have families plagued with diabetes and cancer. Now they’re changing people’s lives through a plant-based diet. They’re also changing the game.
THRIVE MAGAZINE: How did you guys meet?
Kareem Cook: Claude and I met in college. We both attended Duke University in North Carolina.
THRIVE: How did you decide that you two should become business partners?
Claude Tellis: We ended up both going to business school at the same time. I went to The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Kareem went back to the Fuqua School of Business at Duke. I decided then that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Two years after graduating, I decided to make a move to Los Angeles and decided Kareem should roll with me.
Kareem: I always say I moved to LA for a woman. And I did. But not my woman. Claude’s woman.
Claude: My fiancé was living in LA. She gave me until February of 2002 to find a way to move out to LA, or she was returning my ring. We got here January 31, 2002.
THRIVE: So what was the plan?
Kareem: Well, Claude and I had written the business plan for a friend of ours, world-renowned dancer, choreographer, actor, producer, and director Debbie Allen to open up the Debbie Allen
Dance Academy. She offered us the back offices of the dance academy to use as a headquarters for starting a company. What company? Nobody knew.
Claude: But we immediately noticed all of these overweight kids walking around when we got to LA.
Kareem: Being from the East Coast, we had this preconceived and erroneous belief that it was going to be like the show Baywatch out here. Everyone would be in excellent physical shape. The moment we stepped out the car, we realized that we had been hoodwinked. First, you see it, then you read about it. There was a 40% child obesity rate in LA! We said to ourselves, “Some smart business people will come up with a way to address this child obesity problem.” Claude mentioned an idea he had about healthy vending machines, and how effective that could be. We figured, why not do that in LA?
Claude: Problem was, we were here in LA, jobless. We decided to write a business plan and raise some money. We received a small business loan from a local bank. Debbie’s husband and former NBA player Norm Nixon saw what we were doing, thought it was noble, and joined us. A month after arriving in LA, we managed to meet with the head of the YMCA and embarrassed him by reminding him of their tenets and that those soda machines in the lobby were in direct contradiction. We walked out of that office with the contract for all the YMCAs in LA.
Kareem: That was a good start, but we had to figure out how to get into the schools where thousands of children would be.
Claude: Getting a school wasn’t easy. There were over 120 public high schools and middle schools in LA. Schools in LA had an incentive to sell junk food. Scoreboards, uniforms, and other basic activity equipment comes out of the vending commission payments.
Kareem: We got our first school, Venice High School, in June of 2002, four months after moving to LA.
Claude: We made some smart moves, like joining an alliance of health teachers and taking a trip to Sacramento to meet Phil Angelides who at the time was State Treasurer of California. We knew he cared about social justice and he championed our cause. We helped get junk food banned in LA in 2003, and in May of 2004, we were awarded the contract for every public high school and middle school in LA.
We are dispelling the myth that vegans aren’t sexy, fit, and beautiful. Being vegan is cool. Being healthy is cool. Caring about the world you live in is cool.
THRIVE: We hear stories from people who dive into entrepreneurship and failed, but you guys seem to have been successful from the start.
Kareem: Listen, it was very hard. I lived in the office for a year and didn’t have a personal car. We were robbed of our money, confronted by some local gangs, and were under a lot of pressure to go get traditional jobs. Our mothers were worried sick. We really made no money in the first few years. We had opportunities to make money, but we knew we had to stick to our principles. We have horror stories for sure, and it isn’t for everyone. But we would’ve had it no other way.
THRIVE: So how did you come into owning Naturade and VeganSmart?
Claude: We realized that the vending machine company was not very scalable beyond LA, and underlying our desire to be successful was a desire to help our community overcome so many diseases that plague us, like diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. All of my aunts and uncles suffer from diabetes. In my family, it’s not a possibility, it’s an eventuality. They live in the South with very few healthy options available to them. So we parted ways with the business and sold it to our third partner. We returned to our Duke roots. We are both from the private equity world, which means that we are skilled at examining companies for investment, fixing what’s broken, and then growing companies. We met with some Duke University alumni, many of whom were trustees, and told them our story: How we played a major role in getting junk food banned in LA public schools. How President Bill Clinton and Governor Mike Huckabee had us come to Arkansas and discuss what we had done in LA. We convinced them to invest in a family office that we control, which allows us to acquire companies such as Naturade.
Kareem: We realized the best way to address these diseases is through prevention. And for the most part, it’s diet. So we found Naturade, a company that has been around since 1926. We knew it had an outstanding reputation and that we could use it as a platform to launch products that would address the issues that were important to us.
Claude: The more we learned, the more we realized that a plant-based diet is an amazing way to prevent many of the diseases that plague us. I watched my wife fight off cancer in her father by simply changing his diet. I was blown away. So we created VeganSmart. It’s an All-in-One nutritional shake that not only has twenty grams of protein, but also twenty-two vitamin and minerals, digestive enzymes, dietary fiber and omega, pre- biotics, and more. And importantly to both of us, it is very low in sugar. We really wanted it to taste amazing, which it does. It has really resonated well with the vegan community, but we really want to hit people who don’t consider themselves vegans. It really is a product that everyone should use whether you are vegan or not. We get letters all the time telling us how we have changed lives. It has been an incredibly fulfilling venture.
Kareem: We took the lessons of the past and are using them now in the present. The same things that motivate kids, motive adults: fear and being cool. We are making it cool to eat a healthy diet again. We are making it cool to be vegan. We have launched a series of VeganSmart Brunches, and we bring 500 to 600 people together in cool cities to enjoy vegan sliders, smoothies, and vegan- friendly alcoholic beverages. We are dispelling the myth that vegans aren’t sexy, fit, and beautiful. Being vegan is cool. Being healthy is cool. Caring about the world you live in is cool. I can’t put into words how happy I am to see the fruits of our labor manifest in such a positive way. We drove out to California to chase our dream in 2002, and in 2015, we are helping people worldwide. Doing great by doing good.
SPREAD THE WORD:
The top spot on the ranking of the artists with the most No. 1 Hot 100 hits hasn’t changed in 45 years, with the Beatles (20 leaders, tallied in 1964-70) fending off closest competitor Mariah Carey (18). Notably, Rihanna has entered a tie, with Michael Jackson, for the third-most Hot 100 No. 1s (13), all since her first, “SOS,” in 2006.
The list of acts with the most Hot 100 No. 1s was compiled from the chart’s Aug. 4, 1958 inception through the chart dated Oct. 10, 2015.
Adele is going for a milestone.
Sources reveal that Columbia Records will ship 3.6 million physical copies of the singer’s new album 25 in the U.S., which would probably mark the largest number of new-release CDs shipped in the past decade. The last album to ship more than that would have been *NSYNC‘s “No Strings Attached, which shipped 4.2 million units back in 2000.
As of Nov. 18, insiders tell Billboard that parent company Sony Music is projecting first-week CD sales of 1.5 million, while Apple digital sales are expected to be about 900,000. Overall downloads should come in at about 1 million units. Sources also suggest that preorders at iTunes will wind up at about 450,000, while Amazon’s pre-orders have already topped 100,000, for both CDs and MP3s.
Industry prognosticators add that the split between CD and digital downloads will probably be around 60/40, a shift from Adele’s last album, the 11.2 million-selling 21, where digital only accounted for 28 percent of sales.
If the digital and CD projections are hit, that means Adele would be selling about 2.5 million units in her debut week, which would make it the largest-selling album in a week in Nielsen SoundScan history, which began monitoring album sales in 1991. That record is currently held by *NSYNC’s No Strings Attached, which sold 2.415 million units back in the week ending March 26, 2000.
At press time, nearly 28 hours from the album’s Friday, Nov. 20, street date, it’s still unclear if streaming sites will have the album. One service source says the album is not expected to arrive to streamers until the Wednesday after street date but could not say if that applied to all services or if one of the services was getting an exclusive.
In addition to the initial week-one projection of almost 2.5 million, sources add that Sony projects it will sell an additional 1 million CDs over the following three weeks. By Christmas, 25 could be at 4 million units total.
Los Angeles — Lee O’Denat, known as Q, the founder of WorldStarHipHop.com, used to go out constantly, hitting the clubs, hosting parties, attending movie premieres and HBO-televised prizefights.
He was a presence on the scene in Las Vegas, Miami, Atlanta and New York, posing in a photo with Drake here, doing a Hot 97 radio spot there. He traveled with an entourage. He employed bodyguards.
“I felt like I needed to be out there, show my face, so people say, ‘WorldStar in the club,’ ” Mr. O’Denat said, sitting in the empty bar of the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles on a recent morning. “A lot of websites come and go. I wanted people to look at WorldStar as something that’s here to stay.”
That is no longer a concern. The digital entity that Mr. O’Denat started in his house 10 years ago to sell rap mix tapes has evolved into a YouTube filtered through the lens of hip-hop culture — a grab bag of rap videos, celebrity interviews, sports clips, super cuts and the latest viral sensation.
The site’s more outrageous clips, like police car dashboard-camera footage, cheaters confronted and street fights captured via iPhone, have received millions of views and made WorldStar’s reputation. The titles of such pieces (“He Warned Him: Bully Asking for a Fight Gets Dropped!”; “One Legged Man On Crutches Tries to Shoot Up a Store!”; “Rat and Pigeon Go at it in Brooklyn!”) have a tabloid poetry that appeals to the 18-to-34 demographic.
Mr. O’Denat’s creation is controversial and, according to him, profitable. Despite its sometimes hard-edged content, companies like Comedy Central, Progressive insurance and Subway are regular WorldStar advertisers.
And although Mr. O’Denat was rattled a few years back when Bill O’Reilly, in response to a video posted to the site of a woman teaching a child to say inflammatory things about President Obama, said the F.B.I. should interview “this guy Q,” he has stuck to his vision.
“Hip-hop is for the sex, the drugs, the violence, the beefs, the culture,” Mr. O’Denat said. “That’s the competitiveness of hip-hop, so I felt like the site needed to be R-rated.”
He added: “People may be offended by some of the content, but, hey, the Internet is not a censorship boat. We’re the Carnival cruise, man. You don’t have to log on.”
Still, when Mr. O’Denat looks to YouTube and Facebook, where many of WorldStar’s videos originate, he can’t help but notice that those sites continue to grow while his has yet to break into the mainstream. He would like WorldStar to be even bigger, with more original content, brand partnerships and global recognition to equal other digital media platforms.
“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be standing up with the Snapchats, the Vines,” Mr. O’Denat said. “We’re missing that piece to make a full picture. It’s all about finding the right team.”
And so Mr. O’Denat drove from his home in San Diego, where he lives with his three young children, to Los Angeles, where he had a round of business meetings scheduled. He began the day at the Four Seasons, where he spread out in a banquette and asked a waiter for an orange and peach juice.
“Fresh, no suds, no foam,” he said. “Sometimes you get this much juice and that much foam.”
The waiter nodded.
“Thank you, bro,” Mr. O’Denat said.
The media entrepreneur wore distressed denim by Robin’s Jean, a black WorldStarHipHop T-shirt, vintage red sunglasses with 14-karat gold banding, an Oregon Ducks cap turned backward and Nike Kobe Barcelona sneakers. The most eye-catching part of his ensemble was a custom denim vest emblazoned with graphics from the 1980s video game “The Legend of Zelda.”
“It’s by Romanelli,” Mr. O’Denat said, referring to Darren Romanelli, a Los Angeles-based artist and designer whose work is popular with rappers and athletes. “I told him I wanted something with vintage video games. He ran with it.”
Mr. O’Denat has always been into fresh clothes and hip-hop music, he said, going back to his childhood in Hollis, Queens, where he had a front-row seat to the early days of the culture. “I used to hang out on Jamaica Avenue,” Mr. O’Denat said. “L L Cool J shopped there, Run-DMC.”
Mr. O’Denat, 43, is of Haitian heritage and was raised by a single mother. He started working at 14, initially at a fast-food restaurant (he lasted a week), then at Circuit City, where he fell in love with computers. He discovered the web back in the dial-up days.
“I was telling people, ‘This is the future,’ ” he said. “They were like, ‘This is going nowhere.’ They laughed at me.”
Mr. O’Denat, a high school dropout, started his first digital venture, a pornographic site, in 1999. It failed. Next he created an e-commerce site to sell mix tapes by DJ Whoo Kid, a friend from Queens who collaborated with 50 Cent. It was moderately successful but too narrowly focused.
It wasn’t until the mid-aughts, when YouTube became popular, that Mr. O’Denat said he “saw another curve, the future of everything,” and created a hip-hop-inspired site that was 100 percent videos. But while YouTube was a vast media ocean, Mr. O’Denat’s WorldStar would be a concentrated dose of off-the-chain.
“On WorldStar, it’s right there in front of you,” Mr. O’Denat said. “Just trust us to entertain you. That’s what we did.”
Mr. O’Denat’s first meeting of the day was with Fullscreen, a media company that connects online personalities and brands. On the drive to its office in the Playa Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles, Mr. O’Denat tuned in 93.5 KDAY, an old-school hip-hop station. “I’m in my 40s, man,” he said. “Personally, I like ’80s music, ’70s soul.”
Still, Mr. O’Denat is a gatekeeper for modern hip-hop. Rappers like Wiz Khalifa introduce their videos on WorldStar, and aspiring rappers pay to have their more low-budget clips reach tens of thousands of potential fans. Sometimes Mr. O’Denat gets drawn into beefs by posting one rapper’s diss track against a rival, or refusing to post a video someone submitted.
Like many self-made people from humble origins, Mr. O’Denat has had to fend off those who think his success was accidental. “They think it’s luck,” he said. “I don’t believe in luck. It’s hard work.” He laughed. “Luck is when you get a scratch-off lotto and win five bucks, man. That’s luck.”
In the Fullscreen conference room, Mr. O’Denat met with a team that included Damon Berger, the company’s vice president for business development.
Last year, WorldStar started “The Field,” a documentary series focused on communities in American cities where hip-hop thrives; Chicago was first, followed by an episode focused on the Miami that lies beyond South Beach. Mr. O’Denat has teamed up with Fullscreen in an effort to get brands to underwrite the costs of “The Field” and other original programs.
As Mr. Berger spoke in enthusiastic tech babble about things like channel optimization and audience engagement, Mr. O’Denat listened. Afterward, he put the need for partnerships on his own terms.
“We want to expand and grow, and that requires money,” he said. “Other people’s money. O.P.M., man.”
Despite his desire to make the site a global force, Mr. O’Denat has been resistant to do what may be required to make that happen. He built WorldStar without investors, and over the years has repeatedly declined offers to form partnerships or sell a percentage, fearing loss of control and a turn away from the site’s core audience.
The most enticing offer came from Sean Combs, Mr. O’Denat recalled back in the car after the meeting with Fullscreen.
“Puffy flew me to his house in Miami,” he said. “He had servants serving food. He had this huge Buddha. I never saw a home so lavish. I thought I’d see an elephant or giraffe or something.”
In the end, he decided he didn’t want Mr. Combs to become the face of the site he created. “I have a great personality,” Mr. O’Denat said. “I’m very unique. I built this thing from scratch. I want to be the guy, you know?”
He has kept WorldStar lean, with 10 employees and five video posters who work remotely. He rebuffed another offer of $40 million for a 40 percent stake, he said. Turning down the money was a big risk, he said, especially if WorldStar’s popularity has peaked.
In recent years, the site’s traffic has fallen, and while it remains in the top 500 of most-visited sites in the United States, according to Alexa, a web-traffic analytics site, WorldStar’s ranking has slipped almost 200 spots over the last three years.
At the same time, sites like Gawker are increasingly posting the “Cops”-style videos that have been WorldStar’s niche, and Vice Media, with financial backing from 20th Century Fox, has become the king of subversive, youth-oriented original video content.
But Mr. O’Denat is looking at the “Facebook blueprint,” he said, in which he receives money from experienced investors in exchange for a small percentage of his company. “If I had those type of investors in the beginning, WorldStar would be a half a billion company right now,” he said. “Call me crazy, but I just feel so passionate about it and don’t want to sell it short.”
After lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills, Mr. O’Denat stopped by the offices of William Morris Endeavor to see his new agent, Everett Johnson.
“What’s up, family?” Mr. Johnson said in greeting.
There was much to discuss: a hip-hop tour sponsored by the site; a deal with Paramount for a teenage comedy that would be in the vein of “Superbad,” with WorldStar featured as a major plot point; and a possible TV show built around the site.
“There are ways we can monetize all this great video and content,” Mr. Johnson said.
While Mr. O’Denat navigates Los Angeles in his effort to take WorldStar to the next level, he knows it won’t be a slam dunk. “I tell myself all the time: Nothing is guaranteed,” he said. “Mike Tyson was No. 1 once. Michael Jordan. But they’re not No. 1 right now, you know what I’m saying?”