👑 From factory work to 145m followers - The Hustle
Soona: A startup creating “the best photos on the internet.”
Around the web: Finance tips for small businesses, nature’s radio, eyebrow trends, and more cool internet finds.
🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to hear the crew discuss the unlikely rise of TikTok’s biggest star, the hot business of on-demand stock photos, and the economics behind Uber drivers’ love affair with Tesla.
The big idea
Khaby Lame is the king of TikTok
Instagram’s most followed accounts belong to folks like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylie Jenner, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
TikTok’s belong to Bella Poarch, Charli D’Amelio, and Khaby Lame — a 22-year-old Senegalese creator with 145m followers.
Last week, Lame passed D’Amelio for the title of most-followed account, a title she’s held for years.
What’s Lame’s story?
In March 2020, after Lame lost his job working at an Italian factory, his father insisted he apply for a new one. Instead, he started posting videos to TikTok, per The New York Times.
In his videos, Lame often pokes fun at elaborate life hacks and trends from the perspective of the Everyman. Besides his content theme, differences between Lame and other top TikTokers include:
Production value: While many top TikTokers have embraced high-quality production, many of Lame’s videos are filmed in his bedroom with poor lighting.
Relatability: While many influencers strive for aspirational appeal, Lame resonates with viewers by being relatable.
His videos are also perfectly tailored for viral growth. YouTubers have generated millions of views with compilation videos of his clips, and meme accounts on Instagram often repost his videos to drive quick engagement.
… suggests a wider shift toward authenticity across social media. Lame’s lo-fi clips often don’t even feature his voice, only facial reactions, which he refers to as a “global language.” In a sense, he’s like a modern day Charlie Chaplin.
Demand for authenticity on social media fueled the recent rise of BeReal, a social app that only lets users post once a day at random times, preventing them from curating highly stylized feeds.
But Lame’s rise proves how lucrative authenticity can be on mainstream social platforms, too.
Plan B: Amazon implemented a limit on how many emergency contraceptive pills consumers can buy, capping orders at three units per week amid surging demand. CVS removed its limit, with their sales returning to normal.
Remote takeover: A new survey from McKinsey found that 92m American workers (58% of the workforce) now have the option to work remotely at least one day a week. The study found 35% have the option to work remotely full time.
Just for kids: The NBA joined an investor list that includes Serena Williams, Jimmy Kimmel, and the D’Amelio sisters for Zigazoo, a social media app for kids. The short-form video app has 1m+ users, and was valued at $100m.
Caught cheating: Ernst & Young, one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, was fined $100m after admitting some of its auditors cheated on an ethics exam. The fine is the largest ever imposed on an auditing firm. (Guess the auditors need auditors.)
From pod to screen: Pushkin Industries, Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast production company, reached an agreement with A24 that will give the independent film studio the first look at adapting Pushkin’s projects for the big screen.
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Instacart and Walmart Canada have partnered on an online convenience store in Toronto. It offers ~4k items, which shoppers can have delivered in as little as 30 minutes. #ecommerce-retail
Rhode Island has set a goal to reach 100% renewable energy by 2033. In 2020, 89% of the state’s net electricity generation is fueled by gas. #clean-energy
NASA’s CAPSTONE satellite is on its way to the moon. Arriving in November, its mission is to test the stability of the orbit NASA will use for its Gateway space outpost. #emerging-tech
Ouch: A new report from the House Committee on Financial Services exposes the nearly devastating impact “memestonks” — in particular, GameStop — had on trading app Robinhood. #fintech-crypto
RIP: Google will retire Hangouts, the messaging app it launched in 2013, this November. Users will be encouraged to switch to its new app, Google Chat. #big-tech
Can a corporation ‘own’ a color?
On a summer day in 2019, Daniel Schreiber opened his mailbox to find a threatening letter from one of the world’s largest telecom companies.
In the letter, Deutsche Telekom AG (the parent company of T-Mobile) accused Schreiber’s insurance startup, Lemonade, of trademark infringement.
Schreiber was confused: He hadn’t used T-Mobile’s name. He hadn’t appropriated the company’s logo or tagline. Hell, he wasn’t even in the cellphone business.
But as he read on, he realized his “crime” was using the color magenta.
In recent years, companies like T-Mobile have achieved something once thought to be legally impossible: They’ve successfully trademarked individual colors.
When a color becomes synonymous with a brand — think Tiffany blue, or UPS brown — a company can claim a certain form of “ownership” over it.
But how is it possible to call dibs on a color? And what effect does it have on competitors?
The company creating ‘the best photos on the internet’
If you sell physical products, you probably want flawless images for your website, ads, and Insta. But if you’re a small business, you likely don’t have an in-house team for that.
Soona, a startup that raised a $35m Series B in January, seeks to solve this issue through affordable content with a 24-hour turnaround.
How it works
Founders Liz Giorgi and Hayley Anderson initially focused on in-person product shoots. Since Soona’s launch in 2018, it’s opened studios in Austin, Denver, Minneapolis, Seattle, and, most recently, Los Angeles.
But during the pandemic, Soona began offering remote shoots.
Brands ship their products to Soona, then “attend” online photoshoots. Images appear as they’re captured, opening the door for real-time feedback.
Customers can buy individual pics for $39 each or purchase a package.
Soona’s pivot saw revenue grow 400% from 2020 to 2021, and 300% from 2021 to 2022, per TechCrunch.
Brands like it because it’s fast and easy
Exoh founder Emily DeLapp has used Soona for pics of the company’s scented lip balms.
“I’ve been running ecommerce brands for 10+ years,” she told The Hustle. “Having an option to outsource product photos inexpensively and with such a quick turnaround was something I would’ve killed for years ago.”
Carla Sancho, founder of bridal accessories company Wedding Collectibles, tried Soona out at its Los Angeles launch last week.
She told The Hustle she was impressed with the photographers’ eye for “showcasing products for the ecommerce environment in creative, eye-catching ways.”
That can include colorful backgrounds, styling, props, and models — Soona’s model database includes hand and full-body models, and even pets.
Fun fact: According to Giorgi, one of Soona’s most popular models is this pomeranian named Bubba.
AROUND THE WEB
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