🎮 The future of remote work: video games?


January 19, 2021

PLUS: Stats from the $143B app economy.

January 19, 2021
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Trending on Twitter: “Will Joe Exotic be pardoned?” Again, for those keeping track, this year is not even 3 weeks old.

The Big Idea
graphic

The future of work looks like a video game

Imagine you walk your Sims character into a room filled with people working at desks, a dog, and scattered documents.

Except it’s not Sims — the room resembles your company’s HQ, those people sound like your real-life colleagues, and the documents are Google Docs for your current project.

A number of startups are now combining the best parts of ’90s-era video games with today’s productivity tools to build platforms exactly like this.

Taking a pandemic-era trend one step further

Unlike Slack and Zoom, these platforms turn the office into a virtual playground full of meeting rooms, lunch tables, water coolers, and succulents.

And some are seeing great success:

  • Teamflow raised $3.9m and is used at Apple, Reddit, and Uber
  • SpatialChat boasts 2.5k+ customers, including LinkedIn, Salesforce, McKinsey, and Harvard
  • Remo, a favorite at IBM and Shopify, reached 8-figure revenue in 9 months with no investors

These tools aren’t just a gimmick: They boast important features like collaboration tools and spatial audio for spontaneous chats… because that’s apparently where the real productivity happens.

Are VR environments better for organizing? 

Teamflow’s website cites an MIT study that showed the best predictors of productivity were “a team’s energy and engagement outside formal meetings.”

Per the Wall Street Journal, these platforms achieve things Zoom and Slack can’t by triggering our brains’ place cells — parts of the mind that allow us to associate items, people, and projects with physical spaces.

Some experts wonder if another platform is necessary

Still, a recent Gartner survey found that even after a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available, 90% of HR leaders intend to let employees work remotely if possible, even if for just some of the time.

That means virtual work worlds might be here to stay if pre-pandemic work habits don’t return.

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Snippets
  • WhatsApp looks to monetize: India’s ~400m WhatsApp users will soon have the option to order products from Reliance Industries’ JioMart within the messaging app.
  • Samsung heir behind bars: Jay Y. Lee is headed back to prison for 30 months after a retrial was ordered regarding his role in a succession scandal that included bribing a friend of South Korea’s former president with — wait for it — horses.
  • Car charging goes portable: Several companies in France, Sweden, and Israel are actively testing technology to charge electric vehicles while driving. The problem for now, as always, is cost.
  • ProSapiet raised $10m to build out its network of geniuses. The company matches experts with investors and consultants in need of data and saw revenue increase 100% YoY.
  • Amazon X Hudson. After Q3 sales dropped 75% YoY, the airport convenience chain announced it’s bringing Amazon’s Just Walk Out tech to select locations in a pivot to digital.
  • Keystone XL: The controversial oil pipeline is switching it up to avoid getting the ax from the incoming Biden administration. How? It may be “powered by renewables” and “built by union labor,” per WSJ.
Sustainable products
phone case

The Pela Case biodegrades from 12 weeks to 2 years depending on compost conditions (Source: Pela Case)

Pela Case, the $100m sustainable phone case startup that created a category

There’s a lot of talk about smartphones. But the smartphone accessory industry, which sells 1B+ phone cases a year, is equally impressive.

While the market is massive, it’s also an environmental disaster. Most of those cases are made of plastics, which break down and end up polluting our oceans.

Enter Pela Case, the world’s first 100% compostable eco-friendly iPhone and Android case.

The story begins in Saskatchewan, Canada…

… a region that grows the most flaxseed oil in the world. A byproduct of that oil-making process is flax straw, a shock-absorbent material that is also biodegradable.

Materials scientist Jeremy Lang — a Saskatchewn native from a family of Canadian prairie farmers — created a material from the flax straw (Flaxstic) that forms the basis of Pela’s product.

The invention became a company around 5 years ago when Lang met an ecommerce entrepreneur named Matthew Bertulli.

Pela has grown rapidly since then

Today, it does mid-8 figures in annual revenue, and the success of its product has brought on 1000s of copycats, according to Bertuill, now the company’s CEO.

It’s not just the competition that has taken notice, either.

The company notched a ~$100m valuation in its latest funding round, attracting investors that include Jay-Z’s VC arm, Marcy Ventures.

Expanding from phone cases

Also under the umbrella of the the British Columbia-based Pela brand are:

  • Habitat, a plastics-free deodorant
  • Barxby, an environmentally friendly dog shampoo

There are plans for more verticals, all with an ethical spin.

Bertulli tells The Hustle that he modeled Pela after Patagonia, the outdoors retailer that is focused on environmental and social impact.

“They’ve been around for 40+ years and do a billion dollars in sales,” says Bertulli. “Having an ethical angle hasn’t slowed them down.”

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Creator Economy

Stir created this website to help Airrack get to 1m subs

Airrack’s race to 1m subscribers used all the tools of the new creator economy

Of all the weird things that happened on the internet last year — and there were a lot — a stunt by YouTuber Airrack (real name Eric Decker) may top the charts.

Airrack started 2020 with 0 subscribers and the goal of reaching 1m before the end of the year.

At the start of December, he was a few hundred thousand subs away. To get there, Airrack hatched a plan to strand himself on an island off the coast of Florida — and stay there until he hit his goal.

He might still be on that island…

… if not for Stir, a startup that makes tools for creators to manage their business. In the past, Stir has done viral internet “drops” like OnlyTweets, a service that lets users paywall tweets.

Airrack reached out to Stir to whip up a website that generated unique affiliate links for fans to win prizes based on how many subscribers they referred to the channel.

Airrack notched 250k subs in a 2-week span

He reached his goal on Dec. 27.

Zack Honarvar — Founder of One Day Entertainment, a digital management company which reps Airrack (as well as YouTubers Yes Theory) — tells us Decker is a “once-in-decade creator.”

Specifically, he has the key ingredients of top YouTubers: a commitment to fans and going the distance on stunts… like doing his best impression of Tom Hanks from Castaway.

Check our related coverage:

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Mobile stats of the day

Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, one of the great mobile moments ever (Source: YouTube)

App Annie released its latest State of Mobile report… and there are some banger stats from 2020:

  • Daily time spent per user per day: 4.2 hours, up 20% YoY (and surpassing TV, which is 3.7 hours a day)
  • New app downloads: 218B, up 7% YoY
  • Total app spend: $143B, up 20% YoY
  • Mobile ad spend: $240B, up 26% YoY
  • VC spend in mobile tech: $73B, up 77% YoY

App spend and engagement was up across the board. In fact, App Annie writes that mobile adoption advanced “2 to 3 years” in the past 12 months.

And, if you want to feel old (or young), here’s a table showing which apps are most used by Gen Zers, Millennials, and Boomers:

Source: App Annie

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