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🐦 Bird food = $6B industry

The Hustle

A Georgia man was sentenced Monday to 3 years in prison after using covid relief money to buy a rare Charizard Pokémon card for $57,789. The lesson: don’t throw out your Pokémon cards.

In today’s email:

  • Bird food: It’s a $6B biz, but is it good for birds?
  • Chart: Uber returned from the dead. What’s next?
  • Fail: People spent $70m on some very underwhelming NFTs.
  • Around the web: Time on Mars, top inventions, perpetual soup, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s 10-minute podcast to hear about McDonald’s awkward Russia problem, The Batman, a 10-year-old who sold $200m in merch, and more.

The big idea
chicken gif

Zachary Crockett

Bird food is a billion dollar industry — but is it good for birds?

If you happened to pick up bird-watching as a hobby in the last couple years, you’re not alone.

The National Audubon Society reported record app sign-ins in 2020, with numbers continuing to rise in 2021.

Per Scientific American, growing interest in birds has sparked a bird food boom — which may not be a good thing.

Bird food is big business

In 2018, bird food was already a $5B-$6B industry globally ($4B in the US). As bird-watching exploded in 2020, sales for bird food followed:

  • Audubon reported increased demand for its bird feeder and food licensing programs
  • Some store owners reported YoY sales increases up to 50%

So what’s the problem?

Putting out bird seed (AKA supplemental feeding) is often pitched to consumers as a way to get closer to nature and engage with our flying friends. The ironic part? Birds don’t need it.

A recent study suggests putting out bird food can actually have negative consequences, including:

  • Disease transmission: Bird feeders have been linked to salmonella and trichomoniasis outbreaks.
  • Reshaped ecosystems: Species that don’t like feeder food have been crowded out by species that do.
  • New predators: Bird seed attracts rodents and other critters, which can result in those same animals stalking out bird nests.

So what’s the answer?

Since no 2 environments are the same, there may not be a perfect one.

Compounding the uncertainty, conservation organizations like Audubon sell bird feeders and partner closely with retailers, which has led to limited inquiry into the issue from the birding community.

That said, some experts claim gardening or introducing natural resources like a well-maintained bird bath are better for the local avian population than adding unnatural food to the ecosystem.

(P.S. Check out this insane ninja obstacle course… built to keep squirrels away from bird feeders.)

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Amazon purchased Veeqo, a company that helps online retailers manage their storefronts. The move could help Amazon lure sellers away from its competitors. #ecommerce-retail

Solar One, Bahrain’s 1st solar panel company, is proving a boon to the island nation, which relies on oil for ~70% of its revenue. #clean-energy

Predictions for Apple’s “Peek Performance” event today include new iPads, Macs, and the iPhone SE 3. And maybe that AR/VR headset? #emerging-tech

Wired explores a big problem with facial recognition: When it’s wrong, it can lead to wrongful arrests. #privacy

Token and fries: Through mid-March, Shake Shack is refunding 15% of customers’ purchases in bitcoin when they use a Cash App debit card. #fintech-crypto

No Netflix, no chill: Netflix joins a host of companies cutting off service to Russia. Netflix has ~1m Russian subscribers. #big-tech

Talk to us: If the US began using digital currency, would you opt in? Join the conversation on Twitter. #hustle-picks

Uber chart

Singdhi Sokpo

Uber returned from the dead. What’s next?

It wasn’t long ago that the end appeared nigh for Uber. At points in 2020, rides were down 80% and the company let go of a ~¼ of its staff.

Nearly 2 years later, Uber said February’s trips reached 90% of pre-pandemic levels and the company raised the roof on earnings expectations.

So what’s next?

Continue becoming a super app, of course. Last week, Uber debuted its Explore tab, which helps users discover places to eat and things to do, and book ’em directly in the app.

Expect more and more discovery, booking, and logistics to happen under Uber’s hood in the future.

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Oh no
Pixelmon NFT

Expectation vs. whatever the heck Kevin is (Source: Pixelmon)

Buyer’s remorse: Unexpectedly ugly $9k+ NFTs

Remember when people hated on Sonic with teeth? Well, wait till you get a load of Pixelmon.

Pixelmon is supposedly an open-world game in which players train and battle Pixelmon — essentially NFT Pokémon that players can buy, sell, and trade in the metaverse. (We’ve covered similar games here.)

Gameplay demos showed scenic landscapes with swells of cinematic music, leading to a project so hyped that a collection of 10k Pixelmon was auctioned off in an hour, raising $70m, per CNET.

Some people paid $9k+ for a single Pixelmon, all of which looked like cartoon eggs upon purchase. Eggs “hatched” on Feb. 26, and…

… Big oof

The actual art looked nothing like the art that had been advertised, so much so that some claimed they’d been rug-pulled — a crypto scam where someone hypes a fake token, then disappears with the money.

The game’s developer, using the pseudonym Syber, admitted they had goofed by revealing unready art and vowed to spend $2m to fix it.
Meanwhile, the collection’s value tanked on OpenSea. As of Monday morning, the cheapest Pixelmon was ~$2.5k.

“Kevin” — a Frankenstein’s monster-esque turtle that’s being widely memed — is an exception. That NFT’s value hit $2m+ on Monday.

But who is Syber?

Per 1News, he’s Martin van Blerk, a 20-year-old New Zealander who previously raised a $50.5k Kickstarter for a game several backers have yet to receive.

But he swears Pixelmon is a real game that will be just as amazing as promised upon launch. Also, no refunds.

For now, please enjoy this hilarious tweet.

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$211k/mo. selling… hair rollers

We signaled the booming natural hair movement back in March 2020…

… Since then, the subreddit r/naturalhair has ballooned from 30k to 215k+ members. A ton of crazy things we cover follow a similar trajectory.

Here are 3 niche market flares from a recent Trends newsletter:

Get access to new market gaps and niche product opportunities every week. Plus, a 17k-member network of global professionals every day.

Try the Trends trial for $1 →

📈 On this day: In 1817, the New York Stock and Exchange Board was formed. They shortened the name in 1863.

That’s interesting: On Mars, a day lasts ~39.5 minutes longer than on Earth. So how exactly would time work for us Earthlings on Mars?

💡 That’s cool: Check out Time’s picks for the top inventions of 2021, including robots, toys, apps, home goods, and medical breakthroughs.

🥣 How to: Olive Garden has unlimited soup and so can you. It’s called perpetual stew, and the recipe dates back centuries.

🎵 Cure boredom: Heardle (yes, another Wordle spinoff) challenges you to guess a song in as few seconds as possible.

Meme of the day
bird feeder meme

Might as well call ‘em squirrel feeders. (Source: Birding Outdoors)

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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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