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The Hustle

You like seeing certain animals at the zoo, but do they like seeing you? A UK study found parrots and elephants seem to enjoy visitors the most. Among those not so enthused by humans: frogs, ostriches, rhinos, hippos, kangaroos, and camels. Good luck getting on the next Ark, jerks.

In today’s email:

  • Sam Altman: Prepared for OpenAI’s moment — and the apocalypse.
  • Field goals: The referee who left medical school for the NBA.
  • Taylor made: Swift’s tour fashion sparkles in more ways than one.
  • Around the Web: Logical fallacies, AI body doubles, play as a bunny with high hops, and more.
  • Listen: Our team rounds up the day’s stories, including AI’s “extinction” risk.
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The Big Idea
Sam Altman

We’ll all be saying Sam Altman’s name a lot, so let’s get to know the guy

OpenAI has had a pretty good year. ChatGPT is a household name, and oh yeah, the company has added ~$10B in valuation — so far.

As a result, its 38-year-old co-founder and CEO, Sam Altman, is ascendant in business royalty.

So, what’s his deal?

A St. Louis native and Stanford dropout, Altman’s first startup was Loopt, a phone location-sharing service.

Altman then moved into venture capital. That went quite well for him.

At 28, he led Y Combinator, the famed startup accelerator behind companies like Airbnb, Instacart, Stripe, and Reddit. (He served as Reddit’s CEO for eight days in 2014.)

OpenAI launched in 2015, and it’s been Altman’s full-time focus since 2019, per Insider. Though his portfolio has continued to grow beyond AI:

  • His investments include nuclear fusion developer Helion Energy; Elon Musk’s brain-implant startup Neuralink; sports card trading platform Alt; supersonic jet maker Hermeus; and multiple biotech companies.

Altman’s estimated net worth today is ~$500m.

What else?

  • Altman learned to program and disassemble computers at 8 years old, and credited his Mac — and AOL chatrooms — for helping him survive “growing up gay in the Midwest,” per The New Yorker.
  • His mom is a dermatologist. His brother, Jack, is also CEO of a multibillion-dollar company (people management platform Lattice).
  • Altman is ready for the End Times: “I have guns, gold, potassium iodide, antibiotics, batteries, water, [and] gas masks,” he told The New Yorker in 2016.

But if he has his way, Altman — and everyone else, for that matter — will be around a long time: He has invested $180m in lifespan-extension startup Retro Biosciences.

His goal, per Insider, isn’t immortality but “to give people another 10 years of healthy, vigorous life.”

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eyeball wearing a hat

A beluga whale — first sighted near Norway in 2019 and believed by some to have been used for Russian surveillance activities — has resurfaced in Sweden. It’s unclear why he traveled so far, but he could be looking for a buddy. Aww.


TodAI in AI: Well, this is unsettling — 350+ industry leaders, including Sam Altman, co-signed this one-sentence statement: “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

Enough chipping away: Nvidia’s market cap briefly hit the long-anticipated $1T mark, making it one of five trillion-dollar companies in existence, albeit temporarily.

Meanwhile, the chipmaker’s hot streak adds another win: WPP, the world’s largest advertising group, will pair with Nvidia on a generative AI engine to “more efficiently” produce commercials.

Takeoff: The TSA screened ~9.8m people over the holiday weekend, beating 2019’s numbers. Friday alone saw a post-pandemic record of 2.7m+ screens, meaning millions of barely awake travelers got yelled at like this.

Fast forward: As your Netflix endlessly buffers, at least things are going better in space, where a new record was set for fastest space-to-ground communications. NASA and MIT’s laser link transmitted at 200 gigabits/second, 100x faster than most cities’ quickest internet speeds.

Say what again? Amazon is ditching Alexa’s celeb voices, including Samuel L. Jackson and Melissa McCarthy. Why? Amazon loses money on Alexa, but could also be developing its own AI.

Entrepreneur’s toolbox: From website design to AI writing, these websites provide free business-building tools for multitasking founders.


The weirdest career pivot you’ll read about today — and maybe ever

With the NBA Finals tipping off tomorrow and the league investigating one referee’s involvement with a bizarre Twitter account, we thought a look at Suyash Mehta’s extreme career move might make for a particularly relevant read.

It all started one day in 2013, when Mehta was approached by a mysterious man.

Then a 22-year-old pre-med student, Mehta had just finished refereeing a high school basketball game in Maryland, a part-time gig to help pay for school.

But he was about to hear three words that would change his life.

“‘You’ve been identified,’” Mehta recalls the man saying.

He later learned that this mysterious man was an NBA referee scout, and the encounter would set him off on a wild, seven-year-long career pivot.

  • Referees are arguably the most hated professionals in the modern workforce. Although NBA refs enjoy financial upsides — full-time salaries start at ~$200k — the job can be thankless and extremely high-pressure.

Why would anyone, nonetheless an aspiring doctor, want to pursue this career path? What does it take to make the cut as a pro? And what does the lifestyle entail?

Read the full story →
Free Resource

50+ nifty remote team-building activities

Not every remote team is exactly an indubitable unit.

We’re not saying trivia games and scavenger hunts are the remedy, but they’re definitely a start. Even if you don’t like icebreakers, we bet you’ll find at least five items in our team-building activities kit pretty solid.

Just trying to bring y’all closer together. Since work is time. And time is money. And money has nothing on friendship.

50+ team-building activities →
Look What You Made Me Wear

T-Swift fans are buying up sparkly boots and fringe

Taylor Swift’s impact on pop culture is so unstoppable, she’s got some fans dressing, as Glen Campbell would sing, “like a rhinestone cowboy.”

Throughout Swift’s Eras Tour, she’s been donning flashy sequin dresses, sparkly boots, and cowboy hats, leading to a surge in similar items among retailers, per CNN.

  • Hazel & Olive claims to have received “hundreds” of calls and messages about its $129 “Eras Sequin Fringe Dress.”
  • Francesca’s reports a 30% bump in sales of certain dress styles when Swift tours near one of its 454 locations.
  • Some retailers, including Altar’d State and Bipty, have cleverly curated Swift collections.

Swift isn’t alone…

… in shifting fashion among fans. Retailers say other artists, including Harry Styles and Beyonce, can also create demand for certain pieces when they tour.

And historically, musicians have long dictated fashion trends, with the savviest of brands adapting quickly to embrace them:

  • Run-DMC’s hit “My Adidas” boosted sales so much that the company gave them a $1m endorsement deal in 1986, making them the first musicians to partner with an athletic brand.
  • In 1985, Macy’s in NYC opened “Madonnaland,” a department catering to those who wanted to copy the pop star’s iconic looks.
  • Even those who rejected fashion inadvertently influenced it. In the early ‘90s, Marc Jacobs developed a grunge show for Perry Ellis, inspired by Seattle’s flannel-heavy alt-rock scene.

But you know what we’re really curious about? Weird Al’s impact on the Hawaiian-shirt industry.

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🗞️ On this day: In 2005, the identity of Watergate whistleblower “Deep Throat” was revealed as former FBI assistant director W. Mark Felt, 31 years after President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

🧠 Useful: A huge list of 147 logical fallacies.

🎧 Podcast: On this episode of My First Million, Sam Parr and Shaan Puri discuss AI body doubles as a business, the new Conor McGregor documentary, a podcast selling $15m, and more.

🐰 Cure boredom: In this game, you’re a cute bunny. Dodge obstacles, collect eggs.

🐱 Aww: Well, he tried.

Our AI crystal ball
Taylor Swift as a referee

When Taylor Swift reads our Suyash Mehta profile and decides to make a career switch of her own. (Created with Midjourney)


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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen and Juliet Bennett Rylah.
Editing by: Ben “Filling in the Blank Space” Berkley.

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