💰 The new Google Pay, explained

November 20, 2020

PLUS: Which huge projects were done fastest?
November 20, 2020
The Hustle
Omni by Virtuix

🎶It’s the moooost wonderful tiiiime of the year 🎶

Why? Because this Saturday, we’re dropping our yearly Holiday Gift Guide. Check your inbox for 12 tantalizing ways to treat yo’self after the trainwreck that was 2020.

The Big Idea
dollar bill

Google is getting back into payments. And, this time, it isn’t messing around.

If there was ever a truism for Big Tech, it’s that all roads lead to payments. 

When you control audiences that number in the billions, it makes a whole lot of sense to tack on a payments service — and Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft have all taken note.

Not wanting to fall behind, Google just re-launched its Google Pay app.

Google is rolling out every finance feature you can think of

According to The Verge, the update “turns the app from a tap-to-pay card repository… into a much more ambitious service.”

Among the new features:

  • Peer-to-peer payments (a la Venmo or Square)
  • Insights about spending (a la Mint)
  • Checking and savings account services (a la the banking app, Ally)
  • Group payments (a la Splitwise)

A nice wrinkle from Google is an “Explore” tab which aggregates deals and coupons.

Adding the search magic

You can opt in to let Google scan your inbox and photos for receipts, which automates the process of guilting yourself for every idiotic thing you bought while shopping drunk.

Google claims it will not share or sell data to 3rd parties. But, the app does have an opt-in for “personalized deals” based on transaction history.

Still a lot of work to do

Tech reporter Casey Newton notes that Google has found success breaking into new markets by offering free alternatives to existing products. 

Think Gmail (which blew past competing email services), or Google Docs (which has eaten into Microsoft Office).

Payments are a different challenge for the search giant. 

“The peer-to-peer payment apps that Google is competing with most directly are already free to use,” writes Newton, “and have a big head start in developed countries.”

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  • Double dippin’: PayPal co-founder Max Levchin is set to cash in on his second unicorn with Affirm’s upcoming IPO, a buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) platform.
  • Testing turnarounds… will get a lot more convenient after the FDA approved a new at-home Covid-19 test from Lucira Health, whose results come back in just 30 minutes.
  • Crime fighters: Nasdaq is buying software operator Verafin for $2.75B to combat fraud and money laundering.
  • No money, Mo problems: The FTC is implementing serious cost cuts that will hamper Big Tech investigations, per Alex Kantrowitz.
  • Wall Street/bets…ever-controversial Nikola spiked 15% as investors mistook an old website redesign for an update on its GM partnership. LOLZ.
  • Bonus 1: The investment firm headed by Tai Lopez that acquired Pier 1’s assets out of bankruptcy just did the same with RadioShack’s brand. Here’s Lopez previously on the My First Million podcast.
  • Bonus 2 (two bonuses? we’re clearly subtweeting management): Desperate to jumpstart growth, BuzzFeed is acquiring HuffPost from Verizon Media in an all-stock deal.
Eddie Machaalani headshot

‘I always had this real passion for helping small businesses grow’

Eddie Machaalani is the co-founder and executive chairman of the SaaS ecommerce platform BigCommerce.

Founded in Australia in 2009, BigCommerce IPO’d in August amid the pandemic-fueled online shopping boom. Since then, the company has seen its market value more than double to ~$4.6B.

Now it’s busy prepping for an expected ~$190B US ecommerce holiday shopping season. 

Rob Litterst — a contributor to The Hustle — wrote an insightful take on BigCommerce’s strategy. He recently chatted with Machaalani about the ecommerce landscape.

A few excerpts from the conversation:

How did you start in software?

I started as a web designer back in 2001-2002, and always had this real passion for helping small businesses grow.

My parents immigrated from Lebanon, and we were able to succeed and do really well in Australia because of the ability to start and grow a small business.

What was the startup scene like in Australia at that point?

There was no scene in Australia. Raising capital, venture capital, seed investments — I didn’t even know any of that existed. We were literally just building products that we could sell, and that people wanted.

How does BigCommerce fit in the ecommerce landscape?

You’ll find with a lot of SaaS companies, and some BigCommerce competitors, it’s very closed off in the sense that you use their apps, their platform, and their payment gateway, etc. 

BigCommerce has taken a vastly different approach to be the “Magento of SaaS” if you will.

What made Magento so successful is you could customize everything (e.g., payments). You weren’t stuck with what you got out of the box. [We believe that’s what] the mid-market and upper-end SMB is looking for.

What’s the best book you’ve read in the past 12 months?

It doesn’t qualify as the last 12 months, but there’s an incredible book that covers the entire scope of building a SaaS business strategy, and nobody knows about it. It’s called Extreme Revenue Growth by Victor Cheng.

(Read the full Q&A here)

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Meet Omni One, the 360-degree VR gaming treadmill backed by Mark Cuban

You might recognize this omni-directional treadmill from Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One movie. 

(Ohhhh, now we get the name… carry on.) 

We were just as surprised as you to find out it’s real — and it’s taking the immersive world of VR gaming by storm:

  • Unrestricted freedom of movement including crouching, jumping, and kneeling
  • Designed to fit in your living room
  • Includes a standalone VR headset (no PC or cables needed)

Maybe that’s why it’s racked up a cool $65M pre-money valuation and $4M in reservations, making it the largest reservations campaign in SeedInvest history. 

Want to join Mark Cuban? Reserve your shares in their current funding round right here (and get a 40% discount on your own Omni One when you do):

The future of gaming →
Need for speed
covid vaccine

Which ambitious projects were done the fastest?

Patrick Collison — the CEO of $36B fintech startup Stripe — is obsessed with how fast ambitious projects can get done.

His personal blog has a URL that ends with /fast; on the page he recounts some of history’s great achievements done at warp speed:

  • Disneyland: From 1st shovel to 1st ticket, the construction of “The Happiest Place on Earth” took just 366 days to complete.
  • Boeing 747: The planemaker completed its 747 program in 930 days (March 1966 to September 1968).
  • The Alaska Highway: From 1942 to ‘43, a construction crew built 1.7k miles of military roadway in a ridiculous 234 days.

Have we lost the need for speed?

Today, a single new bus lane in San Francisco is slated to take more than 7k days to complete.

Collison wonders why many of these “fast” ambitious projects took place many decades ago. He hypothesizes 2 reasons for the slowdown:

  • The process is more bureaucratic than before.
  • As a society develops, it “tends to become less dynamic and [more] beholden to interest groups.”

We can, however, celebrate the speed of emerging COVID-19 vaccines.

Moderna’s vaccine development took 300+ days from viral sequencing to announcing Phase 3 study results this past Monday. Here’s how this development stacks up with other ambitious (albeit not apples-to-apples) examples:

While a final vaccine has many additional hurdles to overcome, it should be encouraging for us all to see that humans do, in fact, have the capacity to work together and get monumental things done very quickly.

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The Hustle Says

A worst-case cyber scenario is every business’ nightmare. Prep yourself to respond to one — and fast — with this handy guide from CrowdStrike.*

Our own Steph Smith is always making cool stuff, like this guide to the best Covid resources for small businesses and individuals.

Attend a demo of Robin and get a $50 Amazon gift card. Their platform has everything you need to manage your new workplace and safely reopen your office. Sign up here for your demo (and gift card).*

Here are 35 smart questions great candidates ask during job interviews. I, for one, am immensely disappointed that “What’s your company policy on lunch beers?” didn’t make the cut.

Did 2020 inspire you to start investing more? You’re not alone — here are 3 “Double Down” stock picks from The Motley Fool to help get your portfolio up and running.*

*This is a sponsored post.

Teardown of the day

Speaking of ecommerce, this is a screenshot of Amazon’s home page after its launch in July 1995. We asked our resident growth expert, Scott Nixon, to tear down Amazon’s first effort at a landing page.

He wasn’t impressed:

  1. “In terms of colors and typography, the gray background makes the copy difficult to read. The copy is too small across the board. What is this, a school for ants?”
  2. “Header 2 should obviously be replaced with a search bar powered by an auto-populated algorithm to reduce the search friction. I mean, c’mon…”
  3. “Instead of telling me about “Spotlight!” (the books we love), show me images and a brief description. Convince me that everyone else is reading this book right now, and I should be too.”
Shower Thoughts

  1. The more times you’re late for a Zoom because of “internet problems”, the more convincing it is.
  2. Gummy worms have more bones in them than actual worms.
  3. Plants get sexy to attract insects rather than each other, which is pretty weird.
  4. Skyscrapers weigh a lot more during work hours.
  5. Everything can be a kite if the wind is strong enough.
via Reddit
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