🎨 Warhol’s $195m painting - The Hustle
The Hustle

🎨 Warhol’s $195m painting

PLUS: Crypto’s getting crushed, and bad news for Cerebral.

Apple reportedly plans to replace its infamous lightning port with the more widely used USB-C next year. Consider this a win for your charger collection.

In today’s email:

  • Auction season: Why this could be a huge year for art.
  • Chart: You can’t spell crypto without “cry.”
  • Cerebral: Feds have questions about its prescriptions.
  • Around the web: New frogs, an interactive web story, a metaverse glossary, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s quick podcast to hear Jacob and Juliet unpack why Disney would spend $500m on a single ride, and how it’s nearly won the streaming wars in doing so.

The big idea

Why 2022 could be a massive year for art

The 2 most expensive pieces of American art to sell at auction were created by a pair of old Greenwich Village pals.

In 2017, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Untitled” (1982) sold for $110.5m, setting the record for an American work.

On Monday, Andy Warhol’s “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” shattered Basquiat’s record, selling for $195m, per The New York Times.

The purchase…

… kicked off a 2-week auction marathon with an estimated $2.6B on the line. And expectations are high — Warhol’s record-breaking painting sold in 4 minutes, proving that, despite a terrible stretch for the stock market, there’s still an appetite for iconic paintings.

After weathering a turbulent 2020, the art market bounced back with a massive recovery in 2021. A recent report from cultural economist Clare McAndrew attributes the rebound to several factors, including some new trends:

  • Online sales, which accounted for 20% of total sales in 2021
  • NFTs, which pulled new buyers into the fold — 78% of Sotheby’s NFT bidders were new to the auction house, and 50%+ were under 40

This contributed to $65B in total sales for auction houses selling art and antiques — up 29% from 2020, and eclipsing 2019’s total as well.

But 2022 could be bigger

One reason? Art is often viewed as a hedge against inflation, which is near 40-year highs. Another reason is an influx of pieces from some big-time names, including:

  • Basquiat, whose billboard-sized “Untitled” is worth an estimated $70m
  • Mark Rothko, who has 2 paintings going on auction estimated at $145m combined
  • Jackson Pollock, whose “Number 31” has an asking price of $45m+

So, why are there so many heavy hitters on the market this spring? According to one expert, it’s pretty simple — looking at the market’s performance these last 2 years, sellers believe it’s a good time to sell.


It’s official: Yesterday Google announced its 1st smartwatch, which will be called the Pixel Watch and will go on sale in the fall.

Bad breakup: FIFA and Electronic Arts (EA) called it quits. EA’s licensing deal with FIFA expires next year; afterward, the video game publisher will rebrand its soccer game to EA Sports FC.

More stores: Ikea announced plans to invest $3B+ in its mazes stores, which includes building new stores and renovating old ones. The plan will span all 32 regions where the company operates.

Old social: TikTok launched a ‘Friends’ tab to replace its current ‘Discover’ tab and allow users to get more frequent updates from people they follow.

Yikes: Carvana laid off 2.5k workers, many over Zoom. The employees were primarily in operational roles, and made up ~12% of the online car dealer’s workforce.

UPDATE: In January, we wrote about cheap real estate in the Great Plains. Well, buyers are taking advantage, with one couple snagging a free Dutch Colonial home in Lincoln, Kansas. It’s a fixer-upper, but costs ~$2m less than a dilapidated home in San Francisco.

Union news: Employees at a Virginia Target store are prepping for a union election, joining workers at Amazon warehouses, Starbucks cafes, and Apple stores across the US. #ecommerce-retail


Sunbeam: The UK wants to build a solar power plant in space that would beam energy back to Earth, and could have a demo in orbit by 2035. #clean-energy


Whoa: Popular Science explains IBM’s “Kookaburra,” a powerful quantum processor that may debut in 2025. #emerging-tech


The European Commission is proposing regulations to scan private messages on chat apps for potential child abuse. Privacy experts are not fans. #privacy


Bit of a dip: Bitcoin dropped below $30k Wednesday, the lowest point since December 2020, as rising inflation spurs investors to ditch risk assets. #fintech-crypto


Lawsuit: A former Meta employee is suing the company, accusing it of violating the Kenyan constitution with substandard working conditions for contracted content moderators in Kenya. #big-tech


Singdhi Sokpo

Brace yourselves, crypto winter is coming

On Tuesday’s earnings call, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said, “Ironically… I’ve never been more bullish on where we are as a company.”

Coinbase stock also happens to be down ~60% in the last 5 days.

So what’s the deal?

  • Generally, the crypto markets are feeling an extra icy-hot burn amid a broader market sell-off.
  • As such, monthly transacting Coinbase users have fallen 51% to 6.1m quarter-over-quarter.

Armstrong admitted he’s anticipating a so-called “crypto winter” and plans on making use of his $7B balance sheet to get through it — by hiring talent and acquiring companies.

BTW: This might be a good time to bring back the “Liquidated” parody remix to Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated.”

Free Resource

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Health Tech

The DOJ is scrutinizing mental health startup Cerebral

Many Americans have turned to virtual health care services, but one is now the subject of a federal investigation.

Cerebral is a $4.8B online mental health platform. Its membership tiers include virtual therapy only, or therapy combined with prescription medication.

Convenient, but now the DOJ is investigating if some prescriptions violated the Controlled Substances Act, per Business Insider.

What’s the issue?

Amid the pandemic, the federal government began allowing online prescriptions for certain Schedule II drugs. That opened the door for Cerebral to prescribe stimulants like Adderall for patients diagnosed with ADHD.

Cerebral hasn’t been formally accused of any wrongdoing yet, but:

  • In March, The Wall Street Journal reported that some providers felt pressured to prescribe stimulants, and that the 30-minute virtual visits were too short to diagnose someone with ADHD.
  • In April, a former Cerebral exec sued the startup, alleging that it prescribed stimulants as a way to retain patients and that he was fired when he tried to flag concerns.

The company has denied these allegations, is cooperating with the federal investigation, and has paused prescriptions for new ADHD patients.

Why it matters

Many Americans run into roadblocks when seeking care.

A 2021 survey from the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that, in addition to cost barriers, 48% of respondents weren’t sure if they were eligible for care, while 39% didn’t know how to access services.

Even among the insured, systems can be difficult to navigate — many providers aren’t in-network, and others have long wait times.

Startups can play an important role in streamlining access — but only if they’re safe.


🍔 On this day: In 1994, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, later winning the Palme d’Or.

🐸 That’s cool: Scientists in Mexico have discovered 6 new species of frogs. They’re all very small, especially the ½-inch Craugastor candelariensis, Mexico’s new smallest frog.

🤔 Useful: Is your head spinning with all this metaverse talk? Here’s a glossary of terms.

Cure boredom: Birdland is an interactive coming-of-age story set at summer camp — and in your character’s dreams, which may involve being the sheriff of a town populated by bird people.

🐕 Aww: Mo Thompson is an Alaskan dog walker and trainer who shuttles her furry clients around in a minibus.

Meme of the Day

True story. (Source: ArtNews.com)

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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst.
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