💵 Why Square dropped $297m on Jay-Z’s Tidal

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In the latest edition of “Not The Onion”, billionaire Mark Cuban says that his Dallas Mavericks NBA team will now accept Dogecoin — the cryptocurrency that started out as a joke in 2013 — as a payment option.

Just a month ago, Cuban said Doge had “no intrinsic value.” #2021

The big idea
WhatNot app

WhatNot: Livestream shopping is coming to a smartphone screen near you

Imagine if Instagram, Pinterest, and eBay had a kid. Kaleidoscope of colors aside, it’d be the ultimate social ecommerce experience.

Well, this baby has taken the form of WhatNot — a livestream marketplace and social network for fans of collectibles like sports cards and Funko Pop.

Just months after raising their seed round, WhatNot closed a $20m Series A led by VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. The Hustle spoke with WhatNot’s founder Grant LaFontaine to get the lowdown:

Shopatainment is a thing

In China, livestream shopping is already a ~$170B market.

What’s the appeal of the format, though?

  • Joy of discovery: “It turns online shopping into entertainment,” LaFontaine says. “eBay feels impersonal while Instagram and YouTube don’t have purpose-built selling tools.”
  • Community: It brings together like-minded people who can chat and geek-out in real time.
  • High engagement and loyalty: For marketplaces like WhatNot, the best defense against competitors is building a sticky community where more and more buyers and sellers flock.

What’s the deal with collectibles?

Demand for collectibles like Pokémon cards have skyrocketed during quarantine, driven by:

  • Entertainment: People are seeking new communities and activities.
  • Childhood nostalgia: More people are now home and digging up those dusty Yu-Gi-Oh! binders.
  • Storing value in assets: This is similar to the buzz around crypto and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

As WhatNot expands into new categories, it spends time and money to launch with a passionate community from Day 1.

As LaFontaine put it: “it’s similar to Uber launching into new cities — there’s no point in having drivers if people don’t know that [Uber] is now there.”

WhatNot’s future is bright

It’s hiring and expanding into new categories like comics and vintage video games.

And with couples connecting on the app, LaFontaine jokes that maybe “even a dating feature” could become a reality.

WhyNot?

Source: WhatNot

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Snippets
  • GM charges its batteries: The automaker is looking to build a battery plant in Tennessee on top of the $2.3B battery factory it’s already building in Ohio with LG Chem.
  • Hopin is poppin’: The virtual events platform closed a $400m round at a $5.7B valuation after reaching $70m in annual recurring revenue.
  • British IPO: Amazon-backed food delivery startup Deliveroo announced plans to go public in London, following a pandemic-driven rise in takeout demand that helped push the company toward profitability.
  • More from England: British regulators launched a probe into Apple’s potentially anti-competitive practices regarding its App Store.
  • Following China’s ban on Clubhouse, TikTok owner ByteDance is reportedly building a clone, separate from about a dozen other Chinese live-audio apps that were launched in the past month.
  • Speaking of TikTokNetflix has created a TikTok clone that allows people to scroll through funny clips. Related: Tech’s rampant “copycatting” is hysterical.
  • Starlink expands: SpaceX added 60 Starlink satellites to its growing constellation of 1k+ internet-beaming spacecraft. That might sound like a lot, but the company plans to eventually launch more than 30k.
  • WhatsApp users, this one’s for you: The Facebook-owned messaging platform — used by 2B+ people — announced it is releasing support for voice and video calls on its desktop app.
Acquired
Jay-Z

Pink is the new green (Source: Getty Images / Kevin Mazur)

Square spends $297m for a majority stake in Jay-Z owned streaming service, Tidal

Jay-Z is on a roll.

The hip-hop legend recently sold a 50% stake in his champagne brand Armand de Brignac (“Ace of Spades”) to lux giant LVMH for $600m+ (netting him $320m).

And, then yesterday, he sold a majority stake in Tidal — his high-fidelity music streaming platform — to fintech firm Square for $297m.

Jay-Z, who bought Tidal in 2015 for $56m, will get a seat on Square’s board as part of the deal.

Rumors of the deal first started last year

Here’s what we wrote about a potential deal back in December:

At first glance, Square’s 2-pillar businesses — seller services for merchants (e.g., the dongle) and the Cash App for consumers — seem tangentially related to music streaming.

There is a strategic play, though, according to Dan Runcie (author of Trapital, a must-read newsletter on the business of hip-hop).

Here are 2 reasons:

  • Customer acquisition: Adding a content play like Tidal to the fold is comparable to Amazon offering Prime Video. As Jeff Bezos said, “When we win a Golden Globe, it helps us sell more shoes.”

Further, Cash App is already very popular in the hip-hop community, often used for its viral bitcoin/cash giveaways. The app’s cultural relevance gives Cash App the industry’s lowest customer acquisition costs.

  • Give creators seller tools: Tidal already provides a way for creators to make music and podcasts. Square could graft on additional commerce tools, like it does for its existing merchants. One potential road map: SoundCloud, which offers creator tools (e.g., insights, promotional tools, payment splitting) on a subscription basis.

Jay-Z’s net worth is now $1.4B…

… based on estimates from Forbes, including:

  • $95m music catalog
  • $140m Roc Nation (full-service media agency)
  • $150m stake in Tidal
  • $320m stake in Ace of Spades
  • $425m in investments (e.g., Uber, Square, SpaceX, Oatly)

Jay-Z’s secret sauce: sticking to “what you know.”

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SPONSORED

March 8th is International Women’s Day

This year’s theme is #choosetochallenge, a call to action for each of us to challenge gender bias and inequity in our workplaces and communities– to create a more inclusive world for everyone.

Where to start? Well, recruiting and retaining women in tech has only become harder. The good news: The industry is listening.

Companies, ever more aware of gender and diversity challenges, are stepping up their efforts, trying to create more welcoming workplace environments and address ongoing pay inequity.

Read the article →
Q&A
Yeardley Smith

Yeardley Smith has voiced Lisa Simpson for 32 years. Now, she’s finding success in podcasting.

You’ve almost certainly heard Yeardley Smith’s voice… the one behind Lisa Simpson on the legendary sitcom The Simpsons (which has aired ~700 episodes).

Since 2017, Smith has been doing other voice work for her hit true crime podcast, Small Town Dicks.

On the show — with its newest season dropping today — Smith teams up with anonymous identical twin detective brothers (Dan and Dave) to recount real-life criminal cases.

The Hustle caught up with Smith to find out more:

On what podcast success looks like

With 25m+ downloads, Small Town Dicks is a success by podcast standards. Smith — whose production company Paperclip Ltd. launches “distinctive entertainment” — has found other measures of success, too.

“What I’m very proud about… is that we’ve provided an opportunity for detectives to be their own narrators,” she says, which gives the audience an opportunity to hear a perspective they often don’t.

On the difference between her TV and podcasting careers

For Smith, the biggest change is independence. She says that TV has “messy boundaries” between the creative and business sides, with “suits” often barging in and leaving unwanted notes.

“If you created a spreadsheet of the most successful TV shows, the ones with the least external interference were the most successful,” Smith tells us. For Small Time Dicks, she has full control.

On the world of influencers

In addition to the podcast, Smith has launched an Instagram cooking show (Oil & Water). While she admits she’s behind on the “influencer world,” one of Smith’s keys to success is staying nimble.

Even after her successful TV career, Smith finds that production partners still want to know her social following (“it’s currency now”).

Still, she’s taking the long-game approach on the project: “Maybe 100 people will watch or maybe 100k people will watch. You never know if something will hit — but if you love it, you can keep doing it.”

(Read the full Q&A here)

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The Hustle Says

If you’re like us you’re likely tired of hearing about Zoom fatigue. But fear no more, we found a few solutions that actually work to get you out of zoom calls or make the ones you can’t avoid bearable.*

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*This is a sponsored post.

Chart of the Day
Stock market infographic

Follow us, you rascals! (Source: Twitter / @TheHustle)

On Thursday, Jay Powell — chair of the US Federal Reserve — gave a statement that an economic rebound could “create upward pressure on prices” (AKA lead to higher inflation).

To deal with the threat of inflation, the Fed typically raises interest rates. In recent weeks, Treasury bond yields have gone up anticipating such a move.

All things equal, higher bond yields make stocks (and other assets) look less attractive on a relative basis.

The S&P 500 index fell 1.3% on Powell’s words. Meanwhile, the tech-focused NASDAQ index declined by 2.1% and is now negative in 2021.

Shower Thoughts

  1. A fresh fruit salad is a modern technological wonder. One spoonful can contain fruits from multiple countries, climates, and even continents.
  2. The show “The Office” may soon become a historical document on what office culture was like.
  3. Emoticons are modern day hieroglyphics. People can have conversations or convey meaning with emoticons alone.
  4. One period stops a sentence, but three extends it.
  5. It is appreciated when Weddings and WiFi have full bars.
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