My daughter’s middle school asked me to speak at their career day and I have no idea what I’m going to say. I can’t even explain to my own kids what our company does, let alone a room full of disinterested pre-teens.

Do you even really know what we do? Or am I just the guy who floods your Saturday inbox with Dick jokes and random stats?

I’m still stuck on the first line of our executive summary.

”CivicScience is a [blankety-blank] company.”

Do you know how much we’ve tortured ourselves trying to fill in those blanks?

Pick any of these words: polling (yuck!), survey (blech!), insights (double-blech!), data, big data, market research, software, analytics, blah, blah, blah. Each of them tells part of the story – but only part – and each has baggage we don’t want.

Or maybe focus on what people use our database for: strategy, media and ad targeting, investment and stock trading. All true, but where do you focus when all of them are growing and lucrative?

Who do we sell to? In some cases, it’s CEOs directly. In others, it’s marketing, media, or ad sales execs. Or a consumer insights director. Or an economist. Or a hedge fund analyst. Or an editor.

Don’t even get me started on “who’s our competition?”  It’s everybody. And nobody.

Oh, and how do we talk to the respondents who answer our polls, the publishers who embed our apps in their content, the media outlets who cite our data?

I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire adult life and this is the most complicated puzzle I’ve encountered. Plenty of smart people – paid and unpaid – have tried to help.

The funny thing is, our business keeps growing like crazy. For the first time, I’m seeing people walking around my office and I don’t know their names.

But I know there’s another gear. Everyone around us believes were on to something legendary.

A buddy of mine sells specialized software to compliance officers at large hospitals. One product, one target customer, one internal buyer, and a finite list of competitors. Must be nice.

But I wouldn’t trade places with him. I love puzzles.

Here’s what were seeing right now:

An alarming percentage of Americans aren’t confident about their retirement, which is particularly crazy given our rosy economy right now. We unveiled a groundbreaking index this week in partnership with Lincoln Financial Group, aimed at measuring and tracking, in real-time, the attitudes of U.S. adults toward their future retirement. It will add a new layer to our Economic and Investor Sentiment indices – creating a more predictive view of the macro-landscape and all of its commercial implications. For a baseline, only 25% of Americans are very confident about their retirement right now. Over time, our goal will be to understand what’s driving that confidence (or lack thereof) and what people can do about it. Expect this to become part of the Saturday rotation.

People are also stressing about tax season. As of Tuesday (April 9th), 70% of Americans had filed their taxes. And 25% of them expected their refund to be “much lower than expected.” You cansee a few other cool stats in this fancy infographic. One thing that surprised me was how dominant TurboTax is among the tax prep software crowd.

The whole meal kit craze isn’t really a craze after all. Remember when Blue Apron and HelloFresh were the talk of the food industry for 30 seconds? Well, consider that a cautionary tale about not overreacting to the hype in today’s 24/7 media deluge. Only about 13% of Americans have ever tried one of these services and that number’s barely moved as long as we’ve tracked it. More concerning for the industry, however, is that nearly half of that 13% have a negative sentiment toward meal kits. In a consumer world that is so heavily reliant on word of mouth and social media amplification, those kinds of numbers are the kiss of death.

One thing that does have a lot of potential is the online-only prescription eyewear scene.There’s a Warby Parker directly across the street from my office window, or at least that’s what I think it is. I don’t see that well. And, while I occasionally notice people strolling in the door, it turns out a lot more people are shopping from stores like Warby and Zenni Optical online. Nearly 10% of Americans have already tried it and another 8% are considering it. What’s particularly noteworthy, however, is that 43% of Americans aren’t even aware of online-only eyewear options. What that tells us (in our fancy little trend projection formula) is that the trend has a chance to explode as more people get wise.

Apparently, Millennials are replacing their friends and pets with houseplants and I feel like I’m 100 years old. A reporter friend of mine tipped me off about this trend so we took a closer look. I guess as more Millennials move into urban centers, choose apartments over homes, and stay home all day to watch Netflix and order Postmates, they’re falling in love with houseplants. Check out the chart below – a whopping 40% of people who are considering a houseplant purchase are between the ages of 18 and 29. I suppose plants don’t talk about politics or pee on the floor, so they’re better than people or dogs in that respect. Still, I couldn’t keep a plant alive for more than 10 minutes, so this trend is decidedly not for me.

And since you all seem to enjoy them so much, judging by the insane click-through rates weregister every week, here are the most popular questions of the week at CivicScience:

Warning: the sports movie question is far from exhaustive. The answer is Remember the Titans. Or Seabiscuit. Or Hoosiers. Or Miracle. Or Caddyshack.

Hoping you’re well.


If you are new to this list check out our Top Ten to get caught up.

In case you’re wondering, this is an informal email I write to CivicScience clients, friends, and other VIPs every Saturday morning. If you’re getting this, you’re either one of those people or were referred to me by one of them. I always love your comments and feedback.

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