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🎧 Google’s headphones moves, explained

The Hustle

There is currently a fierce internet debate over whether the world has more doors or wheels. Naturally, we want to hear your thoughts. Let us know your opinion here, and we’ll share the results later this week.

In today’s email:

  • Headphones: Why Google is doubling down on sound.
  • Wow: This woman builds the world’s most unique Airbnbs.
  • Hacktivists: The volunteer hackers working for Ukraine.
  • Around the web: Human Alexas want their name back, trying to explain NFTs, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to hear about why workers are rushing to get paid in crypto, record-high nickel prices, Lego’s booming business, and more.

The big idea
Ron Swanson putting on headphones

Google’s doubling down on headphones. Why?

Google doesn’t exactly have the best track record with hardware (cough, Google Glass, cough) but that doesn’t seem to be stopping the search giant from giving it another go.

Per Protocol, a series of recent moves suggest Google is gearing up to take a big swing at the headphone market.

The moves include…

… 4 acquisitions:

  • Synaptics, which owns patents for “Balanced stereo headphones” and “Active Noise Canceling Earbuds”
  • Dysonics, which develops software and hardware to support spatial audio
  • RevX Technologies, which owns patents for using in-ear microphones to assist noise-cancellation in headphones
  • Tempow, which developed patents for “switching between multiple earbud architectures” and “low latency Bluetooth earbuds”

The moves also include some major hires — Google brought in employees from all 4 acquired companies, along with Peter Liu, a longtime Bose engineer who helped develop the Bluetooth LE Audio standard.

And it’s not done — recent job listings mention that the company is developing custom audio silicon to “distinguish our first-party devices.”

Google’s no stranger to headphones

In 2017, the company released Pixel Buds — its wireless headphones that came equipped with Google Assistant.

After disappointing sales from the 1st and 2nd generations, Google released new models last June at a reduced $99 price point, making them a budget alternative to Apple’s AirPods — which are kinda the elephant in the room:

  • AirPods bring in ~$12B per year
  • Apple reportedly sold 27m pairs over the holidays

So why double down on headphones?

Possibly, to be more like Apple. Apple’s tight integration between hardware and software has been key to its success (and led to plenty of regulatory hot water).

Google has services that could benefit from tighter integration with audio hardware, including Google Assistant and YouTube, where the company is making sneaky progress in music and podcasts.

Whether the new headphones are successful, they’ll likely never be as polarizing as Google’s most infamous hardware play.

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SNIPPETS

D2C activewear company Fabletics will open 30 new brick-and-mortar stores in 2022, bringing the leggings giant to 100+ stores. #ecommerce-retail

Bummer: The US added 20% less new wind power in 2021 compared to 2020. Delays were caused by supply chain issues. #clean-energy

Plant-based music? Apparently, you can connect sensors to plants and wind up with some pretty cool synth jams. #emerging-tech

Yikes: A cybersecurity firm says Chinese government-backed hackers got into 6 US agencies in the last 10 months. #privacy

Not so fast: Sen. Elizabeth Warren is putting together a bill that would make it harder for nations like Russia to use crypto to get around sanctions. #fintech-crypto

Google is acquiring Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm, for $5.4B to protect cloud customers. If approved, this will be Google’s 2nd-largest acquisition after Motorola Mobility ($12.5B). #big-tech

Stats: In 1994, Jeff Bezos saw a stat saying the internet was growing 2.3k% per year, leading him to launch Amazon. What are the generation-defining stats of today? Read more from Steph Smith. #hustle-picks

Potato house?
unique Airbnb

Zachary Crockett

Meet the woman who builds the world’s most unique Airbnbs

Over the past decade, Kristie Wolfe has built some of the most unique vacation rentals out there, including:

Wolfe is an Airbnb legend — not just for her creative builds, but for her ability to figure everything out herself, often on an impossibly small budget.

Less than a decade ago, Wolfe was making $13/hr working odd jobs.

Today, her properties gross hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

So, how did a potato factory worker from Idaho become one of the most influential Airbnb proprietors in the world?

Read the full story →
Free Resource

It’s Women’s History Month

You best believe we’re celebrating the women in business and tech.

In their honor, we’ve curated a podcast playlist to bump for the next week. Or binge in a day, we don’t know your cadence.

Listen to these episodes featuring female leaders in our network who are making magnificent moves.

A Women’s History Month playlist, by the HubSpot Podcast Network

  • How to market your genius, with Nikki Nash
  • One-person companies that make millions, with Steph Smith
  • Standing up, shouting loudly, and superb negotiation skills, with Julissa Prado
  • How to build and protect a 7-figure beauty brand, with Allison Moss
  • Get unstuck and find your passion in work and life, with Tanya Dalton

Listen for your midweek lift.

Women wisdom →
Cyber Warfare
Anonymous

What’s going on with ‘hacktivists’ and Ukraine?

A cybersecurity expert recently told The New York Times that the level of volunteer hacking in the Ukraine war is both “bonkers” and “unprecedented.”

But what are these hackers actually doing? And what impact will it have?

Each side has its own hackers

Russia is no stranger to hacking. Microsoft found that Russia was responsible for 58% of all nation-state cyberattacks in 2021, mostly targeting the US, UK, and Ukraine.

Recent attacks have targeted Ukrainian news outlets, government organizations, and a border station admitting refugees into Romania.

But on Feb. 26, Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, invited aspiring hacktivists — politically motivated hackers  — to join its own IT army.

Since then, a Telegram channel providing instructions and Russian websites to target has attracted 302.4k+ subscribers.

What are they doing?

Both sides are launching DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks, which is when websites are flooded with traffic and requests until they shut down.

Ukraine’s targets have included Russia’s government websites, financial institutions and media outlets, as well as Belarusian railways to slow Russian troops.

Ukraine is also keen on spreading antiwar info that shows the scale and devastation of the invasion.

Meanwhile, hacktivist collective Anonymous changed the call sign on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s yacht to “FCKPTN.”

How much impact will this have?

According to cybersecurity expert Lukasz Olejnik, not much when you’re dealing with on-the-ground destruction. Plus, he warns that hacktivism is hard to verify and often overhyped.

And it comes with possible risks, too:

  • A malware attack could spread
  • Unintended impacts on civilians
  • Legal consequences (i.e., you’re probably violating local laws)
  • Volunteer hacks could lead to escalation or retaliation…
  • Or lead the opposition’s security to allies’ sneakier intelligence operations

However, hacktivists at least seem to have dissuaded pro-Russia ransomware group Conti by leaking 60k internal messages, per Ars Technica, so there’s that.

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AROUND THE WEB

💅 On this day: In 1959, Barbie debuted at the American Toy Fair in NYC. Creator Ruth Handler named the doll after her daughter, Barbara.

😠 That’s interesting: Human Alexas are dedicated to reclaiming “Alexa” from Amazon. They say sharing their name with Amazon’s virtual assistant has led to bullying and forced name changes.

✏️ Useful: Here’s a free hand-drawn HTML/CSS theme you can use on your website.

🤔 How to: An examination of the phrase “fake it till you make it” — and a guide to reframing the idea of being a fake.

😕 Haha: What’s an NFT? No, what is it really?

Meme of the day
losing AirPods meme

Wonder if Google’s headphones can help solve this? (Source: Pinterest)

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Psst

How'd Bezos build a billion dollar empire?

In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

Data shows where markets are headed.

And that’s why we built Trends — to show you up-and-coming market opportunities about to explode. Interested?

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