👓 Microsoft’s Futuristic Military Goggles

April 2, 2021

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The Hustle

Google canceled April Fools’ yesterday, stating that it would “pause the jokes” given the hardship brought on by COVID-19.

Interestingly, the company’s Gmail product was announced on April 1, 2004. Does that mean we’ve been had all along?

The big idea

US Army eyes the future, awards Microsoft $21.9B contract for AR headsets

You know Microsoft is up to something interesting when its newest gadget feels straight out of “Call of Duty.”

This week, the US Army said it’s dishing out a massive contract to the tech company to supply advanced mixed reality headsets for soldiers.

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It’s not Microsoft’s first foray into national defense:

  • In 2018, the Army landed a $480m deal with Microsoft to build prototypes of the Integrated Visual Augmented System (IVAS)
  • In 2019, Microsoft took home the Pentagon’s $10B cloud-computing contract, beating out Bezos in an underdog win.

Not long after, the Pentagon tossed $7.6B at General Dynamics Corp. to help replace its IT systems, including with Microsoft’s Office 365.

The AR device is based off Microsoft’s HoloLens

For context, the consumer version — which places interactive holograms over futuristic spectacles — runs $3.5k a pop.

But the Army’s version wasn’t built for consumers; it was built for war:

  • The headsets integrate high-resolution night, thermal, and soldier-borne sensors into a unified display
  • The AR features improve situational awareness, target engagement, and informed decision making
  • The tools offer soldiers life-like mixed reality training environments

The plans are for Microsoft to deliver 120k of the headsets over 10 years.

But some at Microsoft aren’t big fans

Previously, some employees unsuccessfully petitioned the company to hold off on its cloud-computing and AR contracts, saying they didn’t sign up to build weapons.

In response, CEO Satya Nadella said the company sees no problem building tools that help protect democratic freedoms.

Today, AR shows no signs of slowing down. Facebook reportedly dedicates 1/5 of its staff to the space, and Apple has its own headset in the works.

Our only question: What ever happened to not sitting too close to the TV?

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  • Apps make stacks: US consumer spending on iPhone apps increased 38% last year to an average of $138. App intelligence firm Sensor Tower expects the number will hit $180 in 2021.
  • Autonomous truck startup Plus raised an extra $220m — on top of a $200m round from February — as the company looks to go public via (no surprise here) a SPAC.
  • Investor fatigue: Real estate tech firm Compass raised $480m by selling IPO shares at $18 each, lower than the $23 to $26 expected.
  • Bad GIF: UK antitrust regulators are reviewing Facebook’s $400m acquisition of GIF platform Giphy as the deal may harm display advertising and social media firms.
  • Apple is using Tesla battery packs to store energy at its Northern California solar farm. Capable of storing enough energy to power 7k homes a day, the project will help Apple reach carbon neutrality by 2030.
  • Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TMSC) will invest $100B (with a B) in the next 3 years to provide more chipmaking capacity.
  • Investment giant Tiger Global just finished raising $6.6B+ venture fund…one of the biggest funds of its type ever.
New listing alert
Elon Musk

Media and talent giant Endeavor Group is going public… with an interesting board addition

Endeavor Group — which owns talent powerhouse WME and MMA league UFC — filed to go public on Wednesday.

As reported by Variety, this was not your run-of-the mill listing exercise:

  • 2nd go-around: Endeavor filed to go public in 2019, but investor demand was weak. The company is now going back to the markets after posting a loss of $625m on revenue of $3.5B in 2020 (~$1B less than 2019 due to the pandemic’s effect on entertainment).
  • Taking over the UFC: As part of its prospective IPO, Endeavor will take 100% controlling interest in the UFC (it already owns 50.1%).
  • Adding an interesting board member: Endeavor nominated Tesla CEO Elon Musk to its 11-person board of directors.

Per Variety, Endeavor’s investor pitch is that its media expertise will help its roster of top-tier celebrity clients “make the most of opportunities in an increasingly direct-to-consumer world.”

The Elon connection is quite interesting:

  • Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel is the subject for the character Ari Gold in the popular HBO show “Entourage.” He is also a longtime Musk supporter and one of the first Tesla buyers.
  • Emanuel’s brother is former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who awarded Musk a contract in 2018 for his tunnel company, The Boring Company.

Despite these connections, the announcement still raised eyebrows.

Per CNBC, Endeavor investors had to issue a statement clarifying that the story wasn’t an April Fools’ prank. 🤷

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Meet Keegan Hall, a startup operator turned successful artist

Keegan Hall’s painstakingly detailed pencil drawings can take 100s of hours to create.

Through his work, Hall has raised $550k+ for communities in need and topped the Reddit charts.

But while Hall’s pieces seem to have gone viral overnight, he’ll be the first to admit his success didn’t happen that way. Rather, it was the culmination of a lifetime of experiences and challenges — few of which had anything to do with art.

In fact, Hall spent much of his life pursuing nearly everything but art: He got an MBA, led sales for the Seattle SuperSonics, and operated startups long before he ever sold a print.

The Hustle recently sat down with Hall to learn:

  • How his humble beginnings and business background influence him today
  • How his time with startups enabled him to be a great artist
  • What it takes to succeed as an artist-entrepreneur

Read the full Q&A here.

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Stat of the day
Bankruptcy Court sign

Think we’re gonna go to the right, actually (Source: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Did the pandemic cause a wave of bankruptcies? According to The Wall Street Journal (via data from Epiq), individuals and businesses were hit different:

  • Individual filings for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2020 were down 46% YoY
  • Commercial filings for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020 were up 29% YoY

Personal bankruptcies declined due in part to federal efforts to reduce evictions, foreclosures, and student loan debt. People also spent less during quarantine and COVID stimulus checks padded household savings.

With the economy reopening, some economists note that the end of debt moratorium and federal income support may lead to more bankruptcies.

Shower Thoughts

  1. People sentenced to house arrest last year really lucked out timing wise.
  2. Audiobooks are the opposite of silent movies.
  3. There are more numbers than there are things to count.
  4. To do a proper push-up, you must push down.
  5. We pay extra money to remove logos from software and to add logos to clothing.
via Reddit

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