🍔 Is all you can eat profitable? - The Hustle
The Hustle

🍔 Is all you can eat profitable?

Plus: A good tweet, our latest video, wild news numbers, de-influencers, a metaverse search engine, weird Sears, and more.

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Valentine’s Day is coming, and we’re feeling the love. Keep reading to learn how you can win a romantic getaway or a day at the spa.

In today’s email:

  • AI: What it can learn from the music industry.
  • Video: The economics of buffets.
  • Digits: Whopper ads, Elton John, and more.
  • Around the web: A metaverse search engine, weird Sears, a very cute bird, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s 10-minute podcast to hear about whether Amazon’s big bet on media is paying off, and where the company goes from here. Plus, a rapid news rundown to start your week.

The big idea
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The future of AI looks like the music industry’s past

Does AI steal people’s creative work?
Mark Dent

Anybody know if ChatGPT has passed the bar exam yet? It might want to start studying.

Microsoft and OpenAI, creator of DALL-E and ChatGPT, face a lawsuit alleging they illegally used code that developers added to GitHub. Last month, artists sued AI art generators such as Stability AI.

This litigation phase may be new for AI, but it’s old news when it comes to disruptive technologies. In fact, according to Vox’s Peter Kafka, the rise of AI might just match the evolution of the music industry.

Remember Napster?

It was a file-sharing service where you could download a song over the internet for free (and for several hours of your time if you had a 14.4k modem like at my house).

The OG version of Napster fell apart after a torrent of lawsuits from artists and labels who considered the service a medium for stealing music.

As an attorney who litigated against record labels told Kafka: Many creators, and creative companies, will see AI as stealing their work, too.

Like Napster, AI involves sharing

Most generative AI tools crawl the web for data, collecting material from numerous sources, then pump out an essay, a painting, or whatever.

  • Many sources are copyrighted or available only when licensed. The lawsuit against Microsoft and OpenAI essentially argues that the AI tools don’t abide by the proper protocols for using code shared to GitHub.
  • AI backers say the machines are “learning” rather than stealing, and creating something new from a melange of existing materials.

How does this all get solved? Post-Napster, the music industry waged a losing battle against the internet for the next decade before capitulating — and making enormous bank by licensing songs to streamers.

The big companies with content on the internet may reach a similar deal with AI.


Calendar purge: Since Shopify announced a ban on recurring group meetings and most Wednesday meetings, the company said it’s freed up ~95k hours on employee calendars.


So long influencers, cue the de-influencers. TikTok videos with the hashtag #deinfluencing, in which users recommend why not to buy specific products, have 88m+ views.

Holy smokes: New York-based wholesale cannabis platform LeafLink raised $100m in Series D funding at a $500m valuation.

Tweet tweet: Twitter will share ad revenue with Twitter Blue-subscribed creators, and may also charge brands $1k/mo. for verification. Meanwhile, startup T2 raised $1.35m to make a new, old Twitter.

Amaz-ouch: The FTC is reportedly gearing up for a potential antitrust suit against Amazon. FTC Chair Lina Khan has long been critical of the company’s business practices.

Bad reception: Global smartphone shipments dipped 12% to 1.2B units in 2022, the lowest level since 2013, and revenue sank 9% to $409B.

Speaking of phones, Apple achieved its highest-ever market share in 2022, and may be considering adding a higher-end iPhone to its lineup called the iPhone Ultra.

TodAI in AI: A Colombian judge used ChatGPT to make a court ruling, Google invested $300m in AI company Anthropic, and unverified screenshots of Microsoft’s Bing search engine with ChatGPT integration circulated online Friday.

Lessons learned: There are countless founder success stories out there, but very few about the more likely outcome: failure. We’re changing that with honest stories on startups gone wrong. Here’s the latest.


Video: The economics of all-you-can-eat buffets


Few things epitomize America more than the all-you-can-eat buffet.

For a small fee, you’re granted unencumbered access to a wonderland of gluttony. It’s a place where saucy meatballs and egg rolls share the same plate without prejudice, where a tub of chocolate pudding finds a home on the salad bar, where variety and quantity reign supreme.

  • “The buffet is a celebration of excess,” says Chef Matthew Britt, an assistant professor at the Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts. “It exists for those who want it all.”

But one has to wonder: Is it possible to out-eat the price you pay for a buffet? How does an industry that encourages its customers to maximize consumption stay in business?

We looked at the dollars and cents behind the meat and potatoes.

Watch the quick clip. →
Free Resource

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Digits: Whoppers Whopper Whopper Whopper, and more news numbers

Plus: Car thefts, Elton John, diploma fraud, and more.
Jacob Cohen

1) Burger King’s “Whopper Whopper” original song is unbelievably popular. The jingle, written by a small ad agency as part of a $400m rebrand, scored 99% in brand recall.

2) Like a good neighbor, State Farm and Progressive are there, so long as you don’t have certain Hyundai and Kia models released between 2015 and 2019, which are especially prone to theft. Only 26% of Hyundais and Kias from then had electronic immobilizers, compared to 96% of all vehicles sold.

3) He’s still standing (yeah, yeah, yeah). Elton John’s farewell tour has grossed $817.9m across 278 shows, beating out Ed Sheeran’s $776.4m record, with 51 shows to go. Since his 1986 tour, John has grossed $1.863B and sold 19.9m tickets across 1.5k+ shows.

4) Feds recently busted a massive underground diploma scheme that sold 7.6k+ fake diplomas and transcripts for $10k-$15k each, raking in $100m+ between 2016 and 2021. Through the scheme, 2.8k+ customers reportedly received fraudulent nursing degrees.

5) Cassette sales keep winding up. US sales last year reached 440k, up 443% from 81k in 2015. Everyone from Taylor Swift to Megan Thee Stallion to Dr. Dre has reportedly seen nice cassette runs — though quite unlike what they might’ve seen in 1988 when 450m tapes were sold.


👨‍🚀 On this day: In 1971, astronaut Alan Shepard hit the first golf ball on the moon during the Apollo 14 mission.

🔍 That’s cool: A search engine for the metaverse.

📚 That’s interesting: The Sears catalog used to hawk everything, from homes to quack remedies.

📽️ Tips: This quick clip breaks down why the LinkedIn summary is important, and how to make yours pop.

🐣 Aww: And now, a clingy little chick.


Nice work, Phil. (Link)


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