🐌 VC’s sluggish quarter - The Hustle
The Hustle

🐌 VC’s sluggish quarter

Plus: A good tweet, the NBA’s wild tech, a Starbucks patent, grocery data, a Caribbean record, the new lock screen, and more.

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A woman knocked over and broke one of Jeff Koons’ “balloon dog” sculptures — valued at $42k — at a Miami art fair. As Koons made 799 dogs, a gallerist joked that there being 798 is “a good thing” for collectors.

In today’s email:

  • Temu: Suddenly, it’s the most-downloaded app in the US.
  • Chart: A VC slowdown.
  • Digits: Grocery data, a Caribbean record, and more.
  • Around the Web: The new lock screen, breaking bad habits, concise recipes, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to hear about Temu’s meteoric rise, venture capital’s sluggish fourth quarter, Starbucks’ cool tech, Facebook’s new revenue stream, and more.

The big idea

What’s Temu and why is it everywhere?

The ecommerce app that offers everything at cheap prices exploded after a Super Bowl ad.
Juliet Bennett Ryla

A Super Bowl commercial for ecommerce platform Temu depicts a woman scoring outrageously cheap deals, including a $9.99 red evening gown. “Shop like a billionaire,” the ad says.

It turns out American consumers worried about inflation enjoy Temu bestsellers like ~$10 Lenovo earbuds and ~$3 sunglasses.

It’s now the most-downloaded app in the US, with 24m downloads since its September launch and 11m+ monthly active users, per CNN.

Why’s it so cheap?

Temu is based in Boston, but owned by China’s PDD Holdings Inc. PDD also owns Pinduoduo, a shopping platform with ~900m users, and  generated $14.7B in 2021 revenue.

As such, it can cut out the middleman and ship directly from China, with no need for US warehouses, in ~7-15 days, per Wired.

Temu drives prices even lower with perks like free shipping and referral-based discounts, but it’s unclear if that’s sustainable. Some analysts think it may be subsidizing customers to gain users.

Is the stuff any good?

At first blush, Temu looks kind of like Wish, whose products are often so bad it’s become a meme.

The influencers with whom Temu has partnered may declare everything in their hauls as “sooooo cute,” but other creators have noted a mix of good and meh products, longer shipping times, and damaged or incorrect items.

It’s also racked up 127 complaints on the Better Business Bureau website, where its rating is a measly 1.8 stars.

Meanwhile, in China, the deaths of two Pinduoduo workers have led many to call for a boycott — which is reminiscent of Shein, another fast-fashion, bargain app under fire for labor and environmental concerns.


Cool? Yes. Necessary? Yes. Check out this clip of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver introducing an upcoming streaming feature that lets fans scan their body into a live NBA game in place of a real player.


On the heels of President Biden’s promise to take on junk fees, United Airlines announced it will make it easier for families to sit together for free.

Starbucks filed a patent for a machine to help make those complex TikTok drinks baristas loathe faster and with fewer errors.

Wow: A factory-sealed original iPhone auctioned for $63k+. It had belonged to a woman who was gifted it in 2007, but didn’t want to switch from Verizon to AT&T.

Oof: Former NBA player Paul Pierce will pay $1.4m to settle SEC allegations that he promoted EthereumMax without disclosing that he’d been paid $244k+ in EMAX tokens.

The FCC proposed rules requiring mobile service providers to omit records of calls or text to domestic violence hotlines to prevent abusers from seeing if survivors are seeking help.

Nice work, Jim. Avatar: The Way of Water is the third highest-grossing film of all time globally, with $2.244B in box office sales, officially surpassing Titanic’s $2.243B.

Oh Snap. The company is reportedly gearing up for a move into enterprise AR that would see it offer brands virtual try-on tech to enable AR shopping on their sites.

Quell, a gamified fitness platform that uses resistance bands, raised a $10m Series A. The $249 platforms are available for preorder and will ship in 2023.

Facebook and Instagram will test paid verification in New Zealand and Australia this week, a move that could add $2B-$3B in revenue. For ~$12/mo. on web and ~$15/mo. on mobile, users get more visibility and prioritized customer support.

Grow on the ‘gram with this beautiful Instagram for business kit. Use the strategy guide, algorithm tips, and 20+ post/story templates to elevate your brand.


Product development is a long, intense process that can get complicated quickly. To stay on track, product managers use product specs — here’s how to write your own.

Singdhi Sokpo

A sluggish fourth quarter for VC fundraising

The industry ended 2022 with a dramatic slowdown, data show.
Jacob Cohen

Venture capital’s “next big thing” may just be weathering a period of austerity.

Globally, in the fourth quarter, VC firms raised $20.6B in new funds, according to The Wall Street Journal. For context:

  • That’s the first Q3-Q4 decrease since 2009, a 65% drop from Q4 2021, and the worst fourth quarter since 2013.

The fourth quarter also saw limited partners (who back VC funds) invest in the fewest funds of any fourth quarter — 226 — since 2012. (They backed 620 in Q4 2021).

Why the drop? Big-picture, macroeconomic conditions like rising interest rates and inflation have weighed heavily on the tech industry.

This has slowed the pace of investing, and created fewer opportunities to back funds. Further, fewer tech companies are going public, typically a source of cash that limited partners use to reinvest in venture funds.

Limited partners have also become more selective, per WSJ, backing just 141 funds headed by first-time managers in 2022, down 59% YoY and the lowest number since 2013.

Free Resource

Black founder feature stories

There’s a new space for the stories of bright Black founders in our ecosystem.

The spotlight’s on three go-getters at the helms of booming businesses. See how they’re making moves, breaking rooves, and chasing unicorn status.

Featured on HubSpot for Startups:

  • Unbeatable: A short film on Sean Bovell, founder of Invidica. See how VC firm 500 Global helped him build a multimillion-dollar ecommerce enablement business.
  • Spiraling Up: An episode covering Mandy Price, co-founder of DEI  tech firm Kanarys. (The HubSpot for Startups x LinkedIn docuseries.)
  • Malomo x HubSpot: A quick testimonial by Yaw Aning, co-founder of shipment tracking startup Malomo.

They’re finding ways to win, against the odds. A round of applause.

Black founders →

Digits: Grocery data, a Caribbean record, and more news numbers

Plus: Manchester United goes up for sale, SpaceX’s $200/mo. plan, and TikTok’s minute move.
Jacob Cohen

1) Here’s something to chew on: Founded in 1883, grocery chain Kroger has a retail data science operation called 84.51 — a nod to the longitude of its Cincinnati headquarters — that sells data about product sales to 1.4k+ companies. Kroger says its data spans 2B annual transactions across 60m households.

2) Manchester United is up for sale by the Glazer family, and bids are in, including one from the executive of a Qatar bank and another from a British billionaire. The publicly traded team has a market cap of $4.34B. Last year, Chelsea sold for a record $5.3B, and the Denver Broncos sold for $4.65B.

3) Interested in living near Mick Jagger and Tommy Hilfiger? The Terraces, situated on the private island of Mustique, recently listed for $200m, making it the Caribbean’s priciest house.

4) Some SpaceX Starlink internet users were invited to test a “Global Roaming” service for $200/mo. The service would enable a Starlink to “connect from almost anywhere on land in the world.”

5) TikTok launched a beta version of a creator fund called the “Creativity Program.” Eligibility requirements include creating high-quality, original videos that are longer than one minute — yet another indication that we should all band together and resurrect Vine.


🏎 On this day: In 1948, NASCAR was founded. Auto mechanic William “Bill” France Sr., NASCAR’s first president, had realized car racing needed a governing body to promote the sport.

🥙 Useful: TheSkullery is a collection of simple, concise recipes — no stories or content bloat.

🙅 How to: Break a bad habit, according to neuroscientists and psychologists.

📱 That’s interesting: Apps are now targeting a piece of digital real estate more accessible than the metaverse: the lock screen.

🐱 Aww: And now, cat expressions.


Gen Z, take note. (Link.)

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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst.
Editing by: Mark “Sooooo cute” Dent.

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