🍟 McDonald’s AI play

The Hustle

Squid, a crypto token based on Netflix’s viral hit “Squid Game,” saw its price shoot up more than 310,000% last week. The cryptocurrency crashed to zero yesterday after its founders cashed out $2.5m. Guess that means game over?

Today’s rundown:

  • Robots at the drive-thru: Mickey D’s big bet on AI.
  • The real gravy train: The economics of Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Email on camera: How Loom is building the future of asynchronous communication.
  • Around the web: A tour bus for nappers, a look inside Tokyo’s tiniest apartment, and more.

Let’s do it.

The Big Idea

Is AI the future of drive-thrus?

In the near future, you could order your Big Mac from a bot. Or maybe you already have…

Restaurants have been experimenting more and more with AI and robots, especially as companies struggle to find entry-level workers.

McDonald’s has been working on tech-savvy drive-thrus for a while

In 2019, it acquired the startup Apprente, which specializes in voice ordering, and created McD Tech Labs. In June, it tested the tech in 10 Chicago drive-thrus, allowing customers to tell a computer their order. The bots were ~85% accurate.

At that time, CEO Chris Kempczinski told CNBC that McDonald’s acquisition strategy was to bring companies in house for a short period, then find a partner to scale it.

And that’s exactly what McDonald’s did

Last week, McDonald’s announced the sale of its Automated Order Taking (AOT) tech to IBM, which will also acquire McD Tech Labs.

IBM already has Watson, its own suite of AI tools (not to be confused with its supercomputer of the same name that, in 2011, beat Ken Jennings at “Jeopardy”).

McDonalds has a long way to go before it can roll out AI to all 14k of its US restaurants. But as it stands, 20% of orders in McD’s 6 top markets are already made digitally through apps, kiosks, or for delivery, accounting for $13B in sales, per Restaurant Dive.

Check this out: Amid the pandemic, a Moscow KFC was almost entirely run by bots, reducing employee-customer contact. In 2017, for National Fried Chicken Day, KFC built a robot Colonel Sanders.

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Dollar delivery: Dollar Tree partnered with Instacart to add same-day delivery to 7k stores. #ecommerce-retail

Sand transplant: Over the next 30 years, the federal government plans to spend at least $1.5B to replenish sand along Long Island beaches. #clean-energy

Devs love AI: GitHub announced Copilot, its AI-coding assistant, now generates up to 1/3 of all code on the platform. #emerging-tech

Big-time catch: Europol detained 12 members of a hacking group that orchestrated 1.8k ransomware attacks. #privacy

Google’s crypto play: Google’s parent company, Alphabet, joined a $700m funding round for Digital Currency Group, which operates Grayscale Investments. #fintech-crypto

Apple’s cut: Analysts reported Apple’s privacy changes have cost Snap, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter a combined $10B. #big-tech

No Thanks(giving)
Thanksgiving food prices

Thanksgiving prices are hotter than a turkey fresh outta the oven

There’s always something to be thankful for. This year, it’s not the price of food.

All around us prices are rising like a batch of easy-bake dinner rolls.

In September, the CPI* for food was up 4.6% from 2020, and meat, poultry, fish, and egg prices were up 10.5%.

But it’s not just inflation. Bumps early in the supply chain are driving up the cost of Thanksgiving essentials like turkey and cranberry sauce. Heck, even aluminum pans are feeling the heat, with the metal’s prices hitting 10-year-highs.


* Consumer Price Index (CPI): A measure of change over time in the average price for a basket of goods and services, including food, housing, recreation, education, communication, medical care, apparel, transportation, and housing.

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Vid Tech
asynchronous video screenshot

Loom and the rise of asynchronous video

Of all the Zoom stories that have gone viral, the student who put a selfie background so he could skip class ranks right up there.

He was definitely on to something, though. Not every remote video call has to be synchronous, with all viewers attending at the same time.

One startup has reached unicorn status…

… making asynchronous video the norm: Loom, a platform used to quickly record videos for work. According to Protocol, the company was founded in 2015 by Joe Thomas, Vinay Hiremath, and Shahed Khan and has since:

  • Onboarded 14m+ users
  • Raised $160m at a $1.53B valuation
  • Hosted 100m+ “looms” (AKA video recordings)

The office communication landscape…

… traditionally falls into 3 buckets, per Protocol:

  • Synchronous video (Zoom and FaceTime)
  • Synchronous text (Slack and Teams)
  • Asynchronous text (email)

While Loom faces competition in the asynchronous video space — from Slack, Dropbox, and Cisco — it leads in mindshare. To grow even more, it’s wooing developers to build on its platform via the loomSDK.

What separates Loom?

The video startup is best known for the “Loom bubble,” which captures a speaker in a small circle while the person explains a screenshare.

However, the real secret sauce is speed: Loom patented a method of “instantaneous asynchronous media sharing” that quickly sends a recording to the cloud to be shared and watched by others (at up to 2x speed).

Loom ultimately wants to be “email on camera.” We suspect the student with the selfie Zoom background likes the sound of that.

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Just 3 examples.

When you’re a part of the Trends community, you see businesses being built every single day.

Just off the top, let’s run through 3 businesses started by Trends members in the last year.

  • Austin, a guy with no prior experience in ecommerce, started Comfort Plants. Now he’s bringing in $10k/mo+ and growing 🌱
  • After reading our piece on how newsletters make money, Samuel launched the Ticker Nerd newsletter and hit 5 figures within 3 months 💸
  • Nathan founded Bubblehotels after our report on yurts. They booked $850k of reservations in their 1st month ⛺️

And those are really just the tip of the iceberg.

When you become a member of Trends, we give you thousands of vetted business ideas for you to start and a network that will help you make it a reality.

Try Trends for 7 days for just $1; surprise yourself and see what’s possible.

We’ll see you on the inside.

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📅  On this day: In 1983, President Ronald Regan signed the bill that made Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday. It’s observed on the 3rd Monday of January.

🎁 Useful: Jolly is an app that lets you anonymously exchange gifts with others, thus taking the “Secret Santa” tradition digital.

💰 How to: CNBC reports that 55% of workers are looking for a new job. If that’s you, here’s how to handle your 401(k) as you transition.

😴 That’s interesting: In Hong Kong, a tour bus is offering a 5-hour ride exclusively for passengers who want to nap. Tickets are $13-$51 and include an eye mask and earplugs.

🏠 Whoa: A YouTuber toured what is reportedly Tokyo’s tiniest apartment and it’s not half bad!

🥩 Haha: You’ve heard of the metaverse, but click here to enter the meataverse.

Meme of the day
McDonald's meme

Yup. Would definitely rather order from a robot… (Source: SayingImages)

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