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The Hustle

BMW announced the first all-electric armored vehicle, with ballistic armor and glass designed to protect against bullets, explosives, and even aerial drone attacks. The only thing this tank of a sedan can’t protect against? Running out of charge (it has a ~200-mile range).

In today’s email:

  • Amazon: Things are about to get tense with the FTC.
  • What’s in store: Why Americans are suckers for self-storage.
  • Digits: Raspberry-picking robots, butter cows, “Baldur’s Gate III,” and more newsy numbers.
  • Around the Web: Japan’s first patent, 50 excellent book covers, a pocket cat, and more.

👇 Listen: Don’t worry too much about Amazon’s $1.4T empire.

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The Big Idea
FTC vs Amazon

Is the ‘Big One’ about to drop on Amazon?

If I ran a $1.4T company like Amazon, I would:

  • End each day looking at the long list of full countries with less money
  • Dive into my gigantic pile of money like Scrooge McDuck
  • Feel invincible

This week, Amazon’s leadership can continue doing the first two, but the “feeling invincible” thing may get a bit harder.

Amazon officials will meet with FTC commissioners, including Chair Lina Khan, ahead of an antitrust lawsuit that threatens to break up its ecommerce empire.

What both sides are thinking

  • FTC: Khan’s agency has various pending cases targeting Google, Meta, Apple, and Microsoft, but this week’s Amazon action — which Bloomberg calls “the Big One” — would be its boldest move yet against Big Tech.
    • The exact scope of the case is still unknown, but is believed to focus on Amazon’s alleged monopolistic treatment of outside sellers, how it rewards some merchants and punishes others.
  • Amazon: The tech giant’s on the offensive, per Ars Technica — accusing the FTC of harassing founder Jeff Bezos and CEO Andy Jassy, and seeking to remove Khan (whose rise followed a 2017 paper calling out Amazon’s anticompetitive behavior) from the case.
    • This FTC action is seen as one of the gravest threats to Amazon’s business in its nearly three decades of operation. If the feds win in court, it could eventually result in a forced breakup or restructuring.

What’s next?

A lot more posturing and a lot more time in court for both parties.

This week’s “last rites” meetings offer Amazon one final shot to argue its case before commissioners vote on official antitrust action.

If a suit follows as expected, it’d spend years being litigated, per Politico.

That’d already be a win for the FTC. Its antitrust suits aren’t always pursued with courtroom victories in mind, per Harvard Business Review — they’re a tool to stymie companies it feels have grown too powerful and to discourage future dealmaking.

In the meantime… say it with us, Amazon: “We’ve got more money than Switzerland. We’ve got this.”

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TRENDING
eyeball wearing a hat

If your idea of fun is playing games like “Spot the Fed” and having your username and password join the “Wall of Sheep” with every other attendee who’s gotten hacked, sorry, but you’ll have to wait another year. Las Vegas hosted hacking conference Defcon over the weekend, with ~3k of cybersecurity experts’ least favorite people in attendance.

SNIPPETS

Better.com will go public via a SPAC “on or about” Aug. 22. The mortgage lender began its IPO journey in May 2021, but the deal was postponed.

Illinois passed a law allowing doxxing victims to sue for damages, inspired by a cafe that experienced vandalism and threats after it planned to host an all-ages drag brunch.

California will allow Waymo and Cruise to charge passengers for 24/7 autonomous rides in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, several driverless Cruise cars blocked SF roads on Friday, which the company blamed on the Outside Lands music festival and its impact on cell connectivity.

Blargh: Americans spent $709 more in July 2023 than in July 2021 on the same stuff thanks to inflation. Increased costs mostly include housing, but also groceries and car maintenance.

X has listed 678 items for auction, including appliances, furniture, instruments, Twitter-branded ephemera, and an oil painting of Ellen DeGeneres’ 2014 Oscar selfie. Bidding opens Sept. 12.

New invertebrate dropped: Marine scientists discovered several new species near Antarctica, including one that resembles a strawberry with 20 arms that lives up to 3.8k feet underwater.

Confirmed: Your feelings that teens live on another planet. Their planet of choice is surprising though: Planet Fitness. The gym chain says 2.8m US teens have signed up this year for its free “Summer Pass” for high school students.

Chart
search interest for storage space
Olivia Heller

Self-storage facilities have Americans’ wallets on lock

Open closet. Try to keep a rat’s nest of old cords and boxes of Lord knows what from falling on me. Close closet. Sigh.

Managing the ratio of accumulated stuff to available space is a nightmare — unless you’re making gobs of money running a storage facility.

Business has been brisk

Few industries had a better pandemic than the self-storage sector; in 2021, The Wall Street Journal called it the “best bet in real estate.”

While storage company profits and stocks have cooled from historic covid-fueled peaks, they are still wildly outperforming the rest of the S&P 500.

A housing crisis is a storage opportunity; everyone’s got so much stuff but can only dream of having enough house for it all, per WSJ.

  • More than 10% of Americans lease storage space today.
  • In June, they paid an average of ~$166/month to do so.

Cashing in on panic

Google searches for “Storage near me” are continually rising — so long as there’s death, divorce, disaster, moving, marriages, and mangers, there’ll be people scrambling to pack things away.

Even when the value of goods in storage doesn’t match the price of storing them, customers weirdly don’t seem to mind.

  • Industry leader Extra Space Storage now issues ~130k rent-increase notices each month, and most customers don’t bat an eyelash. Talking pricing in June, CEO Joe Margolis noted that existing renters “didn’t care if it was $75 or $100.”

Wondering why Extra Space just dropped $11.5B to buy up rival Life Storage and create the largest storage operator in the US? Look no further than this captive consumer base.

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Free Resource

The top 10 social media trends of 2023

We prefer inboxes, obviously.

But we don’t overlook the potency of social media. And these days, neither should you.

Stay on top of what’s making waves in marketing. Read the 2023 Social Media Trends Report we created with the bright folks at Brandwatch.

Five fast takeaways:

  • The mood is funny, trendy, and relatable.
  • Short-form video will continue to dominate ROI.
  • Marketers are ditching big names for baby influencers.
  • Social media is the future of selling online.
  • SMMs should tweak content if reposting across platforms.

The rest are just as helpful.

10 social trends →
By the Numbers

Behold, an 800-pound butter cow, plus more newsy numbers

$435m+: annual sales for Cheerios, the US’s best-selling cereal. General Mills has been making this breakfast staple for 82 years, but did you know it used to be called Cheerioats? The name changed in 1945 over a copyright claim to “oats” branding by Quaker Oats, per Food Dive.

814,466: at least the number of “Baldur’s Gate III” players, despite the “Dungeons & Dragons”-based RPG being in early access for three years, and so far only being available on PC. Belgian developer Larian Studios had expected ~100k players max. Most importantly, players have petted Scratch, a dog, 750k+ times.

800: pounds of butter used for the Illinois State Fair’s “Butter Cow” sculpture. The fair’s first butter cow debuted in 1922 when J.E. Wallace sculpted Raleigh’s Sybil, a cow that produced a then-record 18.8k+ pounds of milk in 1920. Sarah Pratt sculpted this year’s cow, which you can watch rotate via livestream through Aug. 20.

$1.9m: the fundraising haul for Fieldwork Robotics’ autonomous raspberry-picking robots. The gentle, four-armed harvesting machines are a part of climate investor Elbow Beach Capital’s delightful portfolio, including a broccoli upcycling startup and Muddy Machines, another robotics company specializing in harvesting asparagus.

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AROUND THE WEB

🎨 On this day: In 1885, Japan issued its first patent to Zuisho Hotta for a rust-proof paint for ships.

📚 That’s cool: The American Institute of Graphic Arts’ top 50 book covers of 2022.

👀 Promo: My First Million’s Shaan Puri and Sam Parr on the appeal of one-chart businesses, Covet & Mane’s eight-figure beauty biz, and why you should implement a microhustle mentality into your everyday life.

🧠 Cure boredom: Match colors on a spinning hexagon.

🐱 Aww: Can I interest you in a pocket cat?

Meme
Slack meme

Nobody has ever, or will ever, roll on the floor laughing. (Link)

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Today’s email was brought to you by Juliet Bennett Rylah.
Editing by: Ben “Could eat a whole butter cow in one sitting” Berkley.

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How'd Bezos build a billion dollar empire?

In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

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