📉 RIP BlackBerry - The Hustle
The Hustle

📉 RIP BlackBerry

We hope you all had a relaxing holiday season, and we look forward to bringing you more laughs and insights in 2022.

To start off… How do you like the sound of $1k toward an Airbnb? How about another $1k for a friend? This week, in celebration of our most popular story last year, we’re giving away $4k in Airbnb gift cards. Here’s how it works:

  • When you share The Hustle using your unique referral link below, you enter into a raffle to win an Airbnb gift card.
  • If you win, we’ll select someone you referred to win one, too. The more you share, the better chance you have (1 referral = 1 ticket).
  • The raffle ends Jan. 7, 2022, at 11:59 pm ET.

May the odds be ever in your favor. Now let’s dive in.

Today’s rundown:

  • Where’s BlackBerry? The one-time smartphone giant is officially ending its mobile phone biz.
  • What’s up with planes? Bad weather and omicron are canceling flights left and right.
  • Digits: A $176m accident, ultra-thin trees, umbrella vending machines, and more.
  • Around the web: Self-destructing messages, tiny art, “productivity dysmorphia,” and more internet things.

Let’s do it.

The big idea

A short drive to irrelevance

How did BlackBerry fail?

As a Canadian, this hurts to say: come tomorrow, BlackBerry phones are gone for good.

The company will shut down text, data, and voice functionality on legacy devices.

It’s an anticlimactic end to one of the biggest corporate downfalls in recent memory.

Blame the iPhone?

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in January 2007, many industry players were skeptical.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer mocked it for being overpriced and lacking a keyboard. He predicted it would fail.

Meanwhile, BlackBerry — founded and manufactured by Ontario-based Research in Motion (RIM) — had 10% of the smartphone market (and would rise to 20% in 2009).

BlackBerry pioneered…

… on-the-go communication and email with its keyboard-enabled phones. According to The Verge, its success laid the foundation for its fall:

  • Form factor: BlackBerry’s calling card was its keyboard and the company missed the touch screen revolution (spearheaded by Apple). To compound the mistake, it bet the future of mobile on Flash and its mobile OS faltered.
  • Lack of consumer focus: BlackBerry’s core business was with corporate and government customers, who relied on its security and email. The company was content catering to this crowd and missed billions of regular future consumers.
  • Missed opportunity: BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) was a very popular messaging service, which did attract consumers. However, BlackBerry locked the service to its device. WhatsApp — acquired by Facebook for $19B in 2014 — showed the value of cross-platform messaging.

BlackBerry peaked at 50m+ units in 2011

But the touch screen freight train — led by iPhones and Android smartphones (e.g., Samsung, HTC etc.) — ran it over.

In 2013, the company renamed from RIM to BlackBerry (spoiler alert: this didn’t change its fortunes).

By 2016, it shut down its smartphone manufacturing business. Today, BlackBerry has pivoted into a software firm — valued at $5B+ — that primarily sells cybersecurity.

Meanwhile, Apple has sold ~2B iPhones and is the world’s most valuable firm (*pours out some maple syrup*).


Holiday sales were up 8.5% YoY. The increased sales also mean more returns, which could hit ~$101B. #ecommerce-retail

How climate change led to December wildfires in Colorado. #clean-energy

Play a lot of video games? You may want this tabletop hand massager. #emerging-tech

Prediction: Billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya says Visa and Mastercard will be big losers in 2022 as crypto projects eat into their businesses. #fintech-crypto

Can Congress get Big Tech legislation done before the midterm elections? #big-tech

Sky Woes

Source: Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images

What the heck is going on with airlines right now?

Air travel is kind of a mess currently.

Since Dec. 24, ~15k flights have been canceled across the US, per USA Today. On Sunday, 2.5k+ US flights had already been dumped by afternoon, per FlightAware.

There are 2 big causes:

  • Bad weather
  • Staffing shortages due to COVID-19

Thanks to the omicron variant, the US broke its record for average new cases last week at 355k+ infections per day, per CNN.

The cancellations are affecting airline stocks

While the S&P 500 Airlines Index improved in early 2021, the sector took a hit with the delta and omicron variants. Since Oct. 1, it’s dropped ~18%, per Fortune.

After Christmas weekend — during which 2.8k+ US flights were canceled — United Airlines and Delta Air Lines both fell 0.7%, while American Airlines dipped 0.9%.

There’s also been some controversy

The CDC recently changed the isolation window for those with COVID-19 from 10 days to 5 — which is what Delta Air Lines suggested in a letter to CDC director Rochelle Walensky.

Walensky told NPR the decision was, in part, to keep society’s “critical functions” — like airlines — in operation.

She also noted that while the virus is typically passed on in the 1st days of infection, masking is essential on days 5 through 10.

Who’s mad about this? Nurses, plus flight attendants, who say they’re already dealing with an uptick in violent passenger outbursts over mask guidelines.

BTW: Having travel FOMO? You could always check out FlightAware’s Misery Map, which visualizes cancellations and delays.

Free Resource

6 short-form video trends you shouldn’t miss

Is your business on the bite-sized video bandwagon?

Please say yes.

A HubSpot survey found that almost 90% of marketers who used them in 2021 plan to invest the same or more this year (the ROI is just ridiculous).

The deep dive on short-form video trends (blog post)

Here are top quick-hitting examples from Colgate, Chipotle, KaseMe Design, SoyYo Candle, and more.

Included are insights to help your branded content land strong whether you’re using TikTok, Instagram Reels, or YouTube Shorts.

Plus — key takeaways for all you video marketers out there. We see you.

How to hit in < 2.5 minutes →
By the numbers

These trees are 1 atom thin! (Source: Technical University of Denmark / Phys.org)

Digits: A $176m accident, ultra-thin trees, and umbrella vending machines

1) Around 75k people and companies received a Christmas gift when Santander Bank accidentally deposited $176m into their accounts. Unfortunately, the gift was short-lived, and the bank — which recovered the funds — quickly devolved from Santa to Grinch.

2) Speaking of… Usually, Christmas tree records have something to do with height or lights. This Christmas, though, researchers at the Technical University of Denmark used graphene to construct a Christmas “tree” 14 centimeters long — and 1 atom thin.

3) In 2021, 6 jackpots worth a combined $2B were drawn for Powerball’s lottery. It’s important to remember, these prices reflect what you’d get as an annual payment made out over 29 years. Most winners chose a one-time, reduced payment option. What would you choose?

4) Rentbrella — which, as you might expect, rents umbrellas — now operates 35 NYC umbrella kiosks holding 3.5k umbrellas, with 100 kiosks planned for next year. The business model is interesting: If you return an umbrella within 24 hours, it’s completely free.

5) Indian startups are on fire (the good kind). VC put into Indian companies jumped to ~$39B in 2021 — far higher than the previous record of $14.6B in 2019 — and helped spawn 44 new Indian unicorns.


On this day: In 1973, a 12-person group led by George “The Boss” Steinbrenner bought the New York Yankees from CBS for $10m.

🤔 How to: New year, new career? Here are some tips for trying something totally new or refocusing your current role.

🥗 Art: Tatsuya Tanaka makes miniatures out of food and household items. You can see a collection of his work here, and a video of his process here.

🧘 Chill out: The Zen Zone offers 3 simple games for when you need a short, calming break.

⏲️ That’s interesting: Is “productivity dysmorphia” — feeling like you haven’t accomplished enough even when you’ve done a lot — a thing? And is it a sign of burnout?

💬 Haha: This message will self-destruct. Well, once your intended recipient receives it.

Meme of the day

To be fair to BlackBerry, Apple took down a lot of phone companies: Motorola, LG, Nokia (Source: QuoteMaster)

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