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♟️ The wild world of online chess

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Howdy, folks. Important reminder: It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday. Is your mom reading The Hustle? No?! Sign her up.

In today’s email:

  • How Russia’s invasion rattled the world of online chess.
  • Chart: Elon Musk got his rich friends to chip in for Twitter.
  • Morgan Housel: Why you need to understand market cycles.
  • Around the web: Computer music, coin art, free 3D resources, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to hear Zack, Nicole, and Juliet discuss the recent uptick in Black-owned businesses, why it’s important to talk about it, and what needs to happen for that momentum to continue.

The big idea
chess piece

Russia’s war in Ukraine is causing ripples in the world of online chess

There’s a digital duopoly you’re likely unaware of unless you know how to elicit a checkmate. and are the 2 most popular online chess platforms in the world, hosting 10m+ and 5m+ daily games, respectively.

Besides game volume, the platforms have another big difference. is a 200-person private company, while is an open-sourced server run by volunteers and donations (a la Wikipedia).

Per Rest of World, this dynamic, and the platforms’ respective responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has rattled the online chess landscape in Russia, where the game is a national pastime.

In February…

… issued a statement condemning Russia’s invasion. Besides voicing support for Ukraine, the company has:

  • Banned accounts from Russian players under international sanctions, including multiple Russian oligarchs
  • Removed the Russian flag from players’ icons
  • Excluded Russian teams from playing in some tournaments

In response, Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media supervision agency, blocked, prohibiting Russian players from using the site.

Russian players…

… only make up ~4% of’s user base. However, the country has long been home to more grandmasters (the highest title a chess player can achieve) than any other nation.

In 2021, ~14% of global grandmasters came from Russia (the US was 2nd with 5.5%).

Some players have moved over to, which has faced pressure to make its own statement on the conflict, but hasn’t — likely due to the platform’s open nature.

Despite the tension…

… says it hasn’t seen a meaningful decline in Russian users, with many circumventing the government ban by using VPNs.

Further, in April, 44 of Russia’s top players signed an open letter to Putin to stop the war.

Perhaps he should listen — chess is a game of strategy after all.

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Seeing red: The market experienced its worst day since 2020, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping ~3%, S&P 500 index down 3.5%, and the Nasdaq Composite down ~5%. The sell-off hit most corners of the market, with 90% of stocks in the S&P 500 falling on the day.

No new Metamates: Meta announced it will freeze hiring through the end of the year in order to curb its spending amid slowing revenue growth.

No sharing: Disney+ sent a survey to subscribers in Spain asking about password sharing habits. The move prompted analysts to assume they may start cracking down on password sharing, following Netflix’s plans.

Creator cut: TikTok revealed plans to roll out a premium ad program that would let creators take a cut of ads. The program will allow select brands to place ads alongside the top 4% of videos on the app.

Alexa’s new frenemy: Sonos announced plans to launch its own voice-assistant service, allowing customers to control music across Sonos’ suite of speakers. The company’s devices already support Alexa and Google assistant.

Fundraising tips: Minority entrepreneurs often face inequities in financing, but small business grants can help kick off a venture or turn around a covid-impacted business. Read The Hustle blog to find tips on how and where to apply for minority business grants.

Way-not-fair: After a pandemic sales boom as people invested in revamping their homes, Wayfair announced Q1 net revenue fell almost 14% YoY for a net loss of $319m. #ecommerce-retail

Solar Impulse 2 is a plane covered in solar panels that could stay in flight for months sans fuel. Its new owner, US-Spanish startup Skydweller Aero, thinks it could make for a good “pseudo-satellite.” #clean-energy

Good for bad memories: Apple, Google, and Microsoft are preparing for no-password sign-ins in 2023. Instead, users will sign in with their phones. #emerging-tech

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an order for the state to develop crypto regulations and explore how blockchain coding could fit into government ops. #fintech-crypto

Netflix shareholders are suing the streamer, claiming it misled investors about subscriber growth, causing securities to trade at inflated prices. #big-tech

Celeb video startup Cameo laid off 87 people, including senior execs, due to unmet revenue projections. #big-tech

investors backing Musk

Selina Lee

Musk gets some financial aid for Twitter

In the latest installment of Elon Musk’s Twitter saga, a group of 19 investors are backing his $44B buyout with $7.1B+ in new financing.

What’s this mean? It makes the deal more affordable for Musk by reducing the cash he’s responsible for laying out, as well as the Tesla shares he needs to put up against a $12.5B loan — by 50%.

The largest investor on the list…

… is Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, of Saudi Arabia. Originally, the prince tweeted that Musk’s offer didn’t come “close to the intrinsic value of Twitter.” Musk responded by asking him about “the Kingdom’s views on journalistic freedom of speech.”

In a flip-flop, the prince is now putting up $1.9B in financing and tweeted that Musk will be an “excellent leader.”

What happens now? CNBC reported Musk is expected to become Twitter’s CEO for a few months. Current CEO Parag Agrawal, who himself has had the gig for just a few months, is set to receive $42m if he loses his job.

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Morgan's Musings

Why investors need to understand the market’s cycles

Attempting to make sense of the stock market becomes a little easier when you admit 2 things:

  1. Everything is cyclical.
  2. Those cycles have less to do with economics and more to do with the stories people believe and the narratives they latch onto.

In the last 2 years, we’ve gone from the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression to a stock market that surged to all-time highs, to the worst start-of-the-year period for stocks since the Great Depression.

There’s a long history of these cycles

In general, they follow a similar path — boom to bust to boom again, over and over. This results in a shock cycle of investors’ moods that goes something like this:

  • Assume good news is permanent.
  • Ignore bad news.
  • Deny bad news.
  • Panic at bad news.
  • Accept bad news.
  • Ignore good news.
  • Deny good news.
  • Accept good news.
  • Assume good news is permanent.

Right now…

… we’re probably somewhere between panicking at bad news and accepting bad news. Inflation is causing havoc, but few are in denial about it anymore.

Before long, the cycle will turn again.

When is impossible to know, but the inevitability is almost certain. And when you understand the cycles, they become less confusing, less scary, and more exciting.

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🖼️ On this day: In 1876, Thomas Gainsborough’s “Duchess of Devonshire” was sold at auction for $51.5k, then the highest-ever auction price paid for a painting. Two days later, it was stolen.

🎨  Useful: 3D Bay is a collection of free 3D illustrations you can use without attribution.

🎵 Cure boredom: Click a point. Click another. Let your computer make you some weird music.

🪙 Art: A NYC-based artist inscribed 120k pennies with a message. Those coins are in circulation — maybe you have one.

🥰 Aww: And now, a very relaxed armadillo.


(A roundup of our best reads from the last couple weeks…)

⛳ The strange business of hole-in-one insurance

🥀 Is the flower industry wilting?

📱 Are the tech giants’ best days behind them?

👶 Kids are getting smartphones younger than ever

🟩 Three months later, what’s up with ‘Wordle’?

Shower Thoughts
  1. “May is rough because it’s the month you realize it’s not seasonal depression.”  SOURCE
  2. “Laziness has prevented more crime than any law or law enforcement ever will.”  SOURCE
  3. “Trying to carry your groceries in one trip is probably the most effortful form of laziness.”  SOURCE
  4. “On a tidally locked planet, noon is a location.”  SOURCE
  5. “Pluto wasn’t demoted; it went from being a tiny, irrelevant planet to being the king of an entirely new class of solar system objects.”  SOURCE
via Reddit
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Editing by: Mark “Checkmate” Dent.

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