💸 AI startups are loaded - The Hustle
The Hustle

💸 AI startups are loaded

Plus: Weekend Reads, a pricey lunchbox, a hoppy dream job, and more.

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Better to invest in finding your forever love… or whatever inferno towers and eagle artilleries are? If you’re Bernard Kim, CEO of Match Group, why not both? Kim revealed that he spent $50k over three months on “Clash of Clans.”

In today’s email:

  • Ryan Reynolds: From silver screen to golden touch.
  • Need a quick billion? Try an AI startup.
  • Weekend Reads: Our top reading recs.
  • Around the Web: A lunchbox museum, a dream job, hacking your brain, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to hear Jacob, Mark, and Juliet discuss Ryan Reynolds’ Midas touch, the AI gold rush, a very expensive concert, and more.

The big idea

Ryan Reynolds, marketing genius?

Ryan Reynolds’ knack for marketing helps him launch brands — and sell them for big bucks.
Juliet Bennett Ryla

Ryan Reynolds: movie star, philanthropist, former People’s Sexiest Man Alive, and… exceptional at business?

In 2019, Reynolds acquired a 25%+ stake in Mint Mobile, a prepaid phone plan company that uses T-Mobile’s wireless network. Earlier this week, T-Mobile announced plans to buy Mint in a $1.35B deal.

T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert touted the benefits of Mint’s “marketing formula,” which largely centers around Reynolds, who also appeared with Sievert in a video announcing the acquisition.

Reynolds’ involvement is the key

Reynolds co-founded production studio Maximum Effort with former 20th Century Fox exec George Dewey in 2018, which:

  • Is building a production studio in Canada
  • Will launch its own network on FuboTV, in which Maximum Effort owns a stake

This has allowed Reynolds’ companies to produce not only films, but funny, engaging, and topical ads.

Case in point: Davos Brands’ Aviation Gin, in which Reynolds acquired a stake in 2018.

  • Following Peloton’s uncomfortable holiday ad about a woman who receives a bike from her husband, Aviation’s parody featuring the same actress downing a martini went viral.

In 2020, Diageo acquired Aviation in a $610m deal, per Food & Wine. In 2022, Reynolds opened an Aviation distillery in Portland, Oregon, that ends with an escape room set in Reynolds’ “office.”

But wait, there’s more

In 2020, Reynolds and actor Rob McElhenney took over Wrexham AFC, a fifth-tier Welsh football team they hoped to revive.

Per Huddle Up’s Joe Pompliano, they invested $2.5m in the team, signed a 25-year local stadium lease, and Reynolds’ studio produced a docuseries about the process.

Wrexham has since enjoyed myriad sponsorship deals, a nearly 3x increase in season ticket sales, and a boom in social media followers.

Now, Reynolds is looking to conjure the same magic with the Ottawa Senators, a Canadian hockey team. If successful, he intends to build the team a new rink and produce another series about that process.


New moon suits dropped. NASA worked with contractor Axiom Space on the latest lunarwear, which is earning high marks for flexibility and fit for more body types. More space fashion shows, please.


Microsoft is hailing “a new wave of productivity growth” through Copilot, a new AI tool integrated into Microsoft 365 apps. Expect pricing and a rollout timeline for your new work BFF in a few months.

LinkedIn likes AI, too: The platform, owned by Microsoft, rolled out assistive tools for AI-generated profiles and job descriptions.

Tok block: The UK is banning TikTok on government-owned devices, and the US government is reportedly demanding that the app’s Chinese owner ByteDance sell its stake or risk a general US TikTok ban.

Too perfect for this cruel world: AR legend Google Glass is officially going away. But Google will continue to test a new smart glasses product.

Virgin Orbit, Richard Branson’s rocket-launching company, paused operations and furloughed most staff members. Commercial spaceflight sibling Virgin Galactic continues onward (though some analysts question its sustainability as well).

Smokey’s gonna love this: A wildfire detection device is now on sale from startup Torch Systems. The $299 outdoor sensor monitors up to 10 acres and doesn’t require line-of-sight visibility.

Stripe’s valuation is on the move. Peaking at $95B two years ago, the digital payments processor’s latest raise slashed its value to $50B. The company is still private.

Want to see Drake in concert? Your savings account doesn’t. Expect to drop at least $400 for a ticket for this summer’s tour.

Talking shop: After a surprisingly hopping January, US retail spending cooled 0.4% in February. Up: grocery stores (0.6%) and online shopping (1.6%). Down: restaurants and bars (-2.2%) and department stores (-4%).

Prosperous Prospecting
Olivia Heller

Hello there, AI gold rush

Seems like every day there’s a new AI startup raking in investor cash.
Jacob Cohen

When we asked ChatGPT to write an intro about an AI gold rush, it told us to put on our “virtual cowboy hat”… and well, it’s hard to argue with the driving force of a multibillion-dollar boom.

Already, in 2023, VC firms have plowed $3.6B into 269 AI companies in the US.

In the past month, Cohere has reportedly been in talks to raise money at a $6B+ valuation, and Stability AI was said to be seeking a $4B valuation. Last week, Anthropic, after raising $400m and notching a $4.1B valuation, raised another $300m. This week, Adept raised $350m at a $1B+ valuation.

At least 50 companies being incubated at Y Combinator are focused on the space. Mobius AI, founded by four AI researchers at Google barely with an idea, was recently valued at ~$100m just a week after launch.

What’s that phrase about gold rushes? Sell shovels?

Many AI startups may struggle to outgun Big Tech’s armies of engineers and widespread distribution.

  • For instance, the AI-powered presentation maker Tome raised $43m last month. This week, both Google and Microsoft announced competing features.

Sam Lessin, a venture capitalist at Slow Ventures, told The New York Times, “The absolute vast majority of the [AI] spoils will go to the incumbents” and that the best way to invest in AI is through Big Tech stocks.

BTW: Yes, there is a $58m AI-focused “hacker house” in San Francisco. That’ll buy a whole lot of virtual cowboy hats.

Free Resource

Social media is evolving…

You know it, but what do you actually know about it?

Freshly pressed data from 1.2k+ social media marketers should help paint the picture. Read the major insights we scraped from HubSpot’s 2023 Social Media Marketing report.

How SMMs see the field in 2023:

  • 90% say they’re high on online community-building
  • 66% find funny content most effective
  • 48% are tweaking content to suit specific platforms
  • Primo posting time is 6–9pm and 12–3pm
  • Fridays are the GOAT — end of story

More figure-driven facts on the blog.

Social media stats →
The good stuff

Welcome to Weekend Reads

Jacob Cohen

In case you missed ‘em, here’s this week’s best…

  • Tweet: What to know if you’re ever on the receiving end of a “per my last email.”
  • Blog: Maps, matrices, stools, and loops. If you thought those were some of the best decision-making tools for business owners, you’d be correct.
  • Chart: The chance you’ll regret looking at this chart visualizing the growing number of orders for breaded chicken sandwiches is low.
  • Story: There’s a lot of buzz about AI replacing lower-rank workers. But what about… automating the CEO?
  • Video: In this short clip from the pod, Morgan Housel lives up to his name and joins Zack and Rob to explain why it’s never been a worse time to buy one.

🍀 On this day: In 461 AD, Saint Patrick died in Saul, Ireland, where he’d built his first of many churches. The first parade in his honor was held in a Spanish colony in the Americas in 1601.

📺 Useful: Ever get hooked on a TV show only to find it was canceled and ended on a cliffhanger? Check this site first.

✏️ From our blog: Did you know you can hack your own biology to become more productive? A cognitive neuroscientist shares her tips on how to train your brain.

🥪 That’s interesting: Georgia’s Lunchbox Museum has 3k+ lunchboxes and 1k thermoses on display. Of particular value is a box featuring Kroger’s Toppie the Top Value Elephant. In 2021, one sold for $3.5k+.

🦘 Aww: And now, an absolute dream job.

Shower Thoughts
  1. The better the sign spinner, the harder it is to read the sign.  SOURCE

  2. A bouncy castle is a kind of mosh pit.  SOURCE

  3. For some reason, every toaster has a bread setting that will absolutely roast whatever bread is in it.  SOURCE

  4. Contractors must feel a little silly installing emergency fire sprinklers over indoor public pools.  SOURCE

  5. Somewhere, a minister is using ChatGPT to write their weekly sermons.  SOURCE

via Reddit
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Editing by: Ben “Runner-up in Deadpool casting” Berkley.

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