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📦 Amazon aggregators are struggling

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It’s puffling season! Or, when Icelanders toss baby puffins that have confused city lights for moonlight off seaside cliffs to help them find the ocean.

In today’s email:

  • Iran: Amid protests, the country shut down the internet.
  • Chart: Amazon aggregators are cooling off.
  • Secret Cinema: And its wildly popular fan events.
  • Around the Web: A fun rhythm game, uplifting speeches, how to be persuasive, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s 10-minute podcast to hear Juliet discuss Iran’s internet blackouts, Secret Cinema’s immersive success, and Netflix’s latest gaming moves.

The big idea
flag of Iran and cell tower

Zachary Crockett

Iran’s internet blackouts, explained

A deadly situation in Iran has resulted in internet blackouts for its 80m+ citizens, leaving the US government and private companies scrambling to get Iranians back online.

What happened?

Mahsa Amini, 22, died in police custody on Sept. 16, three days after she was arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly.

Authorities claim she died of a heart attack, but her family alleges she was beaten by police. Since then:

  • At least 41 people have since died amid widespread protests, per The Guardian.
  • The Iranian government has restricted internet access and social media platforms, which it also did amid deadly protests over fuel prices in 2019.

The latter means that citizens can’t communicate or document what’s happening.

How sanctions come into play

US sanctions on Iran have restricted internet services to personal communication, such as blogging, social networking, or messaging apps, per The Washington Post.

This has limited Iranians’ access to new tech, per Iran analyst Holly Dagres, actually making it easier for authorities to shut down services during unrest.

So, last week…

… the US Treasury Department issued an updated license allowing US tech companies to expand services and platforms.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX also activated its Starlink service in Iran, though some are concerned about the thousands of smuggled terminals it would require.

And Signal has asked the public to help set up proxy servers to help Iranians reconnect to its messaging app.

BTW: Internet watchdog NetBlocks has been monitoring internet access, which you can follow and see in its pinned post here.

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eyeball wearing a hat

Watch: TikTok creators in China are getting millions of views making short summaries of Hollywood films. Here’s one for Gone Girl.


New low: The S&P 500 hit a new closing low for 2022 amid rising interest rates.

Netflix announced it’s establishing a new Helsinki-based games studio. It will be Netflix’s fourth such studio, each intended to develop games for “the diverse tastes” of its subscribers.

The IPO market is facing its biggest freeze in over a decade. One reason? Around 87% of companies that IPO’d in 2021 are trading below their initial offering price.

Yikes: UK officials have given TikTok 30 days to respond to findings that it may have breached data protection laws related to children, which could mean a $29m fine.

The Biden admin proposed new rules for airlines that would include refunding passengers for broken WiFi.

Huh? A Pennsylvania school district decided to ban Girls Who Code, a series about young girls in an after-school coding club.

Walmart entered the metaverse with two new Roblox worlds that include games, a virtual dressing room, and concerts.

SFOh-no: On Monday, ~1k restaurant workers at San Francisco International Airport went on strike for better pay. Union reps say current wages are not livable.

Find your motivation: The most powerful motivation comes from within. The Hustle blog spoke to experts for tips on harnessing and increasing self-motivation to help you reach your goals.

the rise and fall of Amazon aggregators

Olivia Heller

Amazon aggregators are losing steam

Ecommerce sales blew up in 2020. Unsurprisingly, Amazon benefitted from the trend.

With increased shopping on the platform, a popular new startup sector emerged: Amazon aggregators (AKA “roll-ups”).

Amazon aggregators…

… buy and consolidate brands that sell on Amazon. Housing the brands under one company creates supply-line efficiencies and allows them to negotiate better deals with Amazon.

The 2020 ecommerce boom led to a very frothy funding market for the sector:

  • Thrasio, perhaps the best-known Amazon aggregator, raised ~$3.4B and acquired 200+ brands.
  • Perch, another aggregator, raised nearly $1B and acquired 80+ brands.

Overall, the sector raised $12B+ in 2021, per Financial Times.

But 2022 has been a different story

Funding for the sector has been stuck since the market took a turn for the worse in March, leading some aggregators to focus less on acquisitions and more on growing existing brands.

  • One analyst called 2022 “the year of survival” for aggregators, which could mean consolidation is coming.

If that’s the case, it’s only a matter of time before some aggregators get aggregated.

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Fan Fare
immersive screening

Secret Cinema’s wild, immersive screenings

Imagine if, before seeing a movie, you could interact with its characters and explore its setting.

That’s Secret Cinema, a UK-based entertainment company recently acquired by digital ticketing platform TodayTix Group in a $100m+ deal, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Secret Cinema…

… was founded by Fabien Riggall in 2007. Since then, it’s sold 1m+ tickets, and partnered with the likes of Disney, Universal, and Netflix.

Its special sauce is that it replicates fictional worlds, allowing fans to step inside their faves:

  • “Arcane” fans solved puzzles for competing factions in the Netflix series’ seedy Undercity.
  • The secret agents of Casino Royale sneakily delivered messages and played high-stakes poker.
  • “Stranger Things” lovers visited the Starcourt Mall, replete with an arcade and Scoops Ahoy shop.

What’s next?

The acquisition will bring:

  • A 2023 US tour “tied to an iconic beloved American film,” per TodayTix CEO and co-founder Brian Fenty.
  • Permanent locations in LA and London.
  • Open-ended theatrical runs over short-term productions.

In an increasingly online world, Secret Cinema is an experience you can’t stream at home.

Fun fact: Secret Cinema’s 2018 Blade Runner event in London bumped the 1982 film back into the UK box office’s top 10 for 11 weeks.

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💌 On this day: In 2021, “Bridgerton” became Netflix’s most-watched show ever, though it was quickly unseated by “Squid Game.”

🎹 Cure boredom: A musical rhythm game you can play with your computer keyboard.

🎓 That’s cool: This website archives commencement speeches from the likes of Barack Obama, Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey, and more.

🎧 Podcast: Effective persuasion isn’t a fluke. Listen to Nudge’s episode “I studied persuasion for 100 hours. Here’s what I learnt.”

🥕 Aww: And now, who wants carrots?

aggregator meme

Valid question. (Source:

How did you like today’s email?
Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst.
Editing by: Mark “The puffin aggregator” Dent.

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