📚 Wikipedia celebrates 20 years


January 14, 2021

PLUS: How much Bitcoin is lost forever?

January 14, 2021
The Hustle
TOGETHER WITH
Caliber

There was a MASSIVE trade in the NBA yesterday. But since surveys show The Hustle readers don’t prioritize, we won’t tell you what happened.

Something pretty big went down in DC, too… but we know you don’t come here for politics. 😉

The Big Idea
Wikipedia Birthday gif

Happy 20th Birthday, Wikipedia

Denis Diderot, 18th-century editor of the French Encyclopédie, spent 26 years working to “assemble all the knowledge scattered over the face of the Earth,” The Economist reports.

Wikipedia — celebrating its 20th birthday on January 15th — would’ve made that dude’s life much easier.

Though despised by teachers everywhere, the free encyclopedia site hosts more than 55m articles and is visited ~22B times each month, up from 18B in 2016.

Wikipedia reached this point organically…

… no VCs or programmatic ads necessary. After starting as Nupedia — an online encyclopedia that published fewer than 24 articles in its first year — Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger launched open-sourced Wikipedia to speed up the process.

Per The Economist, people felt liberated and enlightened using the platform. In its first year, Wikipedia hosted 20k articles in 18 languages. Today, Wikipedia is the 13th most popular website.

One 2018 Harvard study found US consumers place a median value of $150 per year on free-to-use Wikipedia, which “translates into roughly $42 billion in consumer surplus that isn’t reflected in the U.S. GDP.”

Now, even Google uses it to find answers

For years, Wikipedia was treated as an intellectual joke, and the site itself still warns that “Wikipedia is not a reliable source.” But studies show it is reliable — and it’s become a ubiquitous tool across the web:

  • YouTube and Facebook use it to flag conspiracy videos and source news stories.
  • Amazon, Apple, and Google use it so Alexa, Siri, and Search can answer questions.
  • WHO is working with Wikipedia to fight the COVID-19 “infodemic.

One reason they feel comfortable using it: Wikipedia’s page about the “Neutral Point of View” is ~4.5k words long.

This widespread popularity points to a bright future

Because Wikipedia is free of ads, it operates through donations (and Jimmy won’t stop reminding you about it).

This nonprofit structure has proven successful. Wikipedia’s parent organization reported raising $122m in 2019, up 18% YoY.

Plus, it’s quite literally living up to its goal of making a “widely accessible encyclopedia.” In April 2019, an Israeli lunar lander crashed on the moon while carrying nickel plates engraved with nearly all of English Wikipedia.

Experts say the plates likely survived, upsetting teachers everywhere.

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Snippets
  • We can affirm that Affirm — America’s leading buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) firm — had a huge IPO yesterday. Shares nearly doubled, leaving Affirm with a $20B+ valuation (we wrote more about Affirm here).
  • Intel will replace CEO Bob Swan with Pat Gelsinger, the current CEO of VMWare. The change comes as investors push for Intel to adopt a new strategy after getting clobbered by Nvidia and dropped by Apple.
  • Speaking of dropped: Cloud storage firm Dropbox will lay off 10%+ of its staff (315 employees), and its COO will step down as the company tries to find a winning formula for a remote-first world.
  • Fitness instructors are the new DJs as more people work out from the comfort of their homes. This is the reason Equinox just licensed Universal Music Group’s catalog for its fitness apps.
  • To ban or not to ban: US investors will still be able to invest in China’s biggest tech firms (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) after the US government dropped a planned investment ban.
  • The REAL football: Amazon plans to “Bid for Italy’s Top Soccer TV Rights,” per Bloomberg. It could cost Big Daddy Bezos $4B+ over the next 3 seasons.
Startups
Josh Clemente

This SpaceX alum co-founded a health startup to measure your metabolism in real time

Diabetes is a huge problem in America, with 100m+ adults either diabetic or prediabetic, according to the CDC.

To tackle this issue, Josh Clemente co-founded Levels.

The health startup — which recently raised $12m, led by Andreessen Horowitz — provides users with a constant glucose monitor (CGM) patch that attaches painlessly to the arm and does real-time metabolism tracking via an app.

Clemente — a hardware engineer who spent 6 years at SpaceX — spoke with The Hustle about the startup’s mission:

Level’s founding story involves self-testing

Concerned about his health, Clemente spent a few weeks doing 60 finger-prick blood sugar tests a day. However, these “single-point measurements couldn’t really” help him make better diet choices.

When Clemente discovered a CGM that measures blood sugar 24/7, “everything changed,” and he knew that he needed to bring a software-enabled solution to market.

Building out the team

As a hardware engineer, Clemente needed software and medical expertise to bring a product to market.

Clemente’s co-founder Sam Corcos is a software engineer, and Levels’ founding team has 2 former Google alums on it and a Stanford-trained surgeon as its chief medical officer.

Lessons from SpaceX

Clemente says the 6 years he spent at SpaceX — including working “closely with [Elon Musk] a few times” — taught him to think in “first principles.”

For glucose monitoring, the first principle is how to “give people better information in real time about the effect of each decision they’re making.”

The downstream effect of Levels

With individuals now able to measure their metabolism in real time, food companies will have a “harder time getting away with misleading marketing,” he told us.

(Read the full Q&A here)

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Lost Fortunes
using a metal detector

How much of Bitcoin is lost or stranded?

In a truly astounding stat, 20% of existing Bitcoin (worth ~$140B) is either lost or stranded in digital wallets, according to Chainalysis data cited by the New York Times.

While that number is a bit hard to grasp, the NYT recounts some personal stories to hammer home the point.

A private key is required to access Bitcoin

And — as anyone who has a Google Doc with all their passwords knows — a key (or password) is very easy to misplace.

The NYT writes about one German-born programmer living in SF who has a disk drive with $220m of Bitcoin on it.

Unfortunately, he’s forgotten the password to the drive (called IronKey), which locks forever after 10 failed attempts. The programmer only has 2 attempts left to unlock the drive…otherwise the Bitcoin keys are gone forever.

Better asset custody…

… is an essential part of mainstreaming Bitcoin. Crypto exchanges like the soon-to-IPO Coinbase partially solve this key problem.

Per Bloomberg’s Matt Levine, the Security and Exchange Commision (SEC) recently laid out best practices for financial institutions to custody digital assets:

  • Identify whether the asset is a security
  • Check the blockchain to make sure the asset works well
  • Errr….don’t lose the private key (AKA password)

Levine himself didn’t get in early on the Bitcoin craze and writes hilariously on how he deals with envy of those who have: “I may have no Bitcoins, but at least I haven’t misplaced a fortune in Bitcoins.”

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The Hustle Says

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Wikipedia fact of the day
Jimmy Wales

Jimmy Wales probably checking out his own Wikipedia page… so meta (Source: Rick Friedman / Getty Images)

Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales is likely the world’s most successful internet entrepreneur who isn’t a billionaire.

When Wales was a kid, his mom bought a World Book Encyclopedia from a door-to-door salesman. Wales loved reading it, but grew frustrated when he learned there was always something missing.

“I joke that I started as a kid revising the encyclopedia by stickering the one my mother bought,” Wales has said.

Prior to starting Wikipedia, Wales worked as an options trader, founded a “guy-oriented search engine” company, and built Nupedia, the predecessor of Wikipedia.

Though Wikipedia’s a nonprofit, it’s not like Wales hasn’t made a dime.

He also co-founded and serves as the president of Wikia, now known as Fandom — a kind of better-looking Wikipedia for entertainment — that’s raised $145m in VC funding.

In a 2014 interview, Wales told The Guardian, “That fact is true, I’m not a billionaire. So? You aren’t either, so are not most people. It’s kind of a stupid thing to bang on about.”

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