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The Hustle

It’s a big weekend for entertainment. Top Gun: Maverick is out, if that’s your thing. Personally, we’ll be binging “Stranger Things 4,” which supposedly has a two-hour-thirty-minute-long episode. Hope you have a meaningful holiday, and we’ll see you Tuesday.

In today’s email:

  • Sweet monopoly: One company owns the cone.
  • Chart: BuzzFeed’s blues.
  • Codie’s Corner: On startup layoffs.
  • Around the web: Musical trivia, a never-ending mine fire, unpacking startup jargon, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s quick podcast to hear Zack and Rob talk about an ice cream cone empire, which cities are most popular for Gen Z homebuyers, the NFL’s new streaming service, and more.

The big idea
ice cream cone

The ice cream cone monopoly you never knew existed

There are few things that pair better with summer than an ice cream cone.

While the best place for a scoop varies by region, there’s a good chance the cones are all coming from one place: Joy Baking Group, which has quietly established an ice cream cone empire, per The New York Times.

Joy Baking Group…

… was founded in 1918 by a pair of Lebanese immigrants. The company almost went under when a fire hit the warehouse in 1964, but since then it’s been eating up the rest of the industry. The company:

  • Produces 15m-20m cones per day during its busy season
  • Accounts for an estimated 60%-70% of cones sold in US stores between its direct and private-label business, according to an industry expert

For context, Keebler, its closest competitor, makes up 14.5% of store sales.

So how did Joy own the cone?

First, making cones is harder than it seems, and Joy has the scale to do it. The company has four factories across the US equipped with high-tech gadgets, including ovens, pipes to move cone batter from place-to-place, and robotic arms to package the final product.

All that space and equipment is costly — which is why many smaller cone makers have either gone out of business or sold to Joy.

The second reason is its product. Joy keeps it simple, stocking classic cake, sugar, and waffle cones that tap into consumers’ nostalgia.

Joy’s prices…

… have tracked inflation over the past decade, keeping fears of monopoly power in check.

But one expert believes the company will have an even tighter grip on the cone niche in three to four years due to its scale advantage and capacity.

Ice cream shop owners are hoping that this doesn’t impact prices, per NYT, citing ice cream’s status as an “inexpensive luxury” that keeps customers coming back.

Speaking of ice cream, this professional ice cream taster (yes, that is actually his job) once had his taste buds insured for $1m.

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Five straight: The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose for the 5th day in a row, putting the index on pace to snap an 8-week streak of declines.

Oura, maker of a wearable ring that measures sleep and activity, partnered with Gucci to make an 18-karat gold smart ring that will retail for $950.

NFL+: The NFL announced it will join the streaming wars in July with its own service, NFL Plus. The service will focus on live games and will cost ~$5/mo..

Selling SexyBack: Justin Timblerlake sold his song catalog to Hipgnosis Songs Capital for $100m.

It’s official: Broadcom announced it will purchase VMware for $61B, making it one of the biggest tech acquisitions ever.

‘TikTok for business’ guide: The viral social media machine surpassed 1B monthly users three years faster than every other giant. Peep marketing tips from Fenty Beauty, Zoom, Canva, and more.

Sony promised to boost production of its much-coveted PS5 as supply chain issues subside. According to Sony, it can sell 80k units in just 82 minutes. #ecommerce-retail

Cars: The US saw 158k+ EV registrations in Q1, ~71% of them Teslas. That brings EVs to 4.6% of the light vehicle market. #clean-energy

Farewell: NASA’s InSight Mars lander has reached the end of its mission, as its solar panels are now coated in dust. The lander first touched down in 2018. #emerging-tech

Oops: The FTC has fined Twitter $150m, alleging that Twitter collected users’ personal info for security purposes but also used it for targeted ads. #privacy

Try again: 65% of the Terra community voted to approve a plan to revive its crypto, Luna, later this month. Voters received one vote per token owned. #fintech-crypto

Amazon’s first clothing store opened in Glendale, California. Customers can scan QR codes to get info on sizes, colors, and ratings. #big-tech

BuzzFeed's public performance

Selina Lee

Has BuzzFeed had it with millennials?

The digital publisher is in need of some buzz.

In the first quarter, revenue rose 26% YoY to $91.6m. Losses also jumped to $44.6m.

Now, according to Gawker, the company’s been offering voluntary buyouts across its investigations, science, politics, and inequality desks in an effort to downsize and reorient around “news for Gen Z.”

What is ‘news for Gen Z’?

Gawker’s report found that even people at BuzzFeed aren’t quite sure, and the site noted a shift away from said topics is odd given Gen Z is clearly interested in them.

  • Big picture: BuzzFeed rode Facebook’s wave to stardom, and it’s likely been challenged as Facebook’s popularity has flamed out. Gen Z is also a logical target for commerce, as they’re more likely to purchase from brands with media presences.

Notably, BuzzFeed’s investor relations site claims it’s “#1 in time spent among Gen Z and Millennials.”

The same stat’s source contains a footnote which reads, “Our definition of Time Spent is not based on any standardized industry methodology,” which is… interesting.

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Codie's Corner

Do startup layoffs mean a recession is coming?

We’ve been hearing the sound of thunder far off in the distance for months. Now the storm may have arrived.

Will this be a reversal back to the culling we saw in covid’s early days? Will bitcoin continue to fall forever?

These are hard questions…

… but startup layoffs are a great place to start looking for an answer. They are over-levered (AKA not profitable and funded by VC firms), and that leverage means that when things get bumpy, they feel it first as their limitless credit card gets taken away. Thus far:

  • Cameo and On Deck both let go of 25% of their staff
  • MainStreet laid off ~30%
  • Robinhood cut 9% of their full-time employees

I don’t profess to have a crystal ball. But as someone who owns 26 companies and invests in startups, I can say that not preparing seems dumb.

I see two poles right now:

  • One side says, “There will be pain, but it’ll be short.”
  • The other says, “There will be pain, so learn to like it.”

My take?

There’s money to be made in every market.

Here’s what you need to ask yourself:

  • Do I have a plan for a recession that’s seeing a 30%-50% drop in sales?
  • What if, at the same time, costs are rising 10%-30% with inflation?
  • What can I do to grow?

Preparation is thriving instead of surviving. Good luck out there.

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🔥 On this day: In 1962, a landfill fire ignited an old mine below Centralia, Pennsylvania. The fire never went out. Centralia, now a ghost town, served as inspiration for the Silent Hill video game franchise.

😕 Useful: Startup culture comes with a lot of jargon. Here are some flashcards to learn all those acronyms and terms.

🎵 Cure boredom: This trivia game asks you to guess five songs, but only plays 20 seconds of each.

🧀 That’s interesting: An ode to the Cheese Boutique — a Canadian cheese shop run by the Pristine family, seven days a week, for two generations — where Dustin Hoffman once dropped $10k on gifts for friends.

🐒 Aww: And now, a fast and furious monkey.


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

🪚 Why America has so few carpenters

👰 The increasingly wild economics of weddings

🖼️ Text-to-image AI generators, explained

👨‍🍳 The evolution of Guy Fieri, the business mogul

📦 WTF is UPS doing in the metaverse?

Shower Thoughts
  1. “Your salary is your company’s subscription fee [for] you.”  SOURCE

  2. “If you work as security at a Samsung store that technically makes you a Guardian of the Galaxy.”  SOURCE

  3. “In gaming, repeatedly crouching when you first see someone is a sign of friendship, but repeatedly crouching after you kill them is a sign of disrespect.”  SOURCE

  4. “Since the platypus can produce eggs and milk, they are capable of making many kinds of desserts.”  SOURCE

  5. “Being in the sun for only two hours makes you realize how incredibly resilient plants are.”  SOURCE

via Reddit
How did you like today’s email?
Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst, Codie Sanchez.
Editing by: Mark “Waffle cone, every time” Dent.

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