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The Hustle

A new study estimates a gobsmacking 1.7B Tyrannosaurus rexes once roamed the Earth. If they were still around today, the T. rex nation would be the most populous — and most frightening — nation in the world, though we still like our odds at winning an arms race.

Also: We’re off on Monday in observance of Memorial Day, but we’ll see you right back here on May 30.

In today’s email:

  • Barkbus: Premium groomers will clean your spoiled dog
  • QR codes: They may be taken off restaurant menus
  • Weekend Reads: These links are not for the week of heart
  • Around the Web: Productivity tips, a game to learn geography, a very chill guinea pig, and more
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Raising the Woof
Barkbus dogs

Pampered pets make for great startup customers

Every dog has its day, but what about a spa day?

California-based Barkbus brings the spa, contained inside a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, to the dog. There’s also a mid-groom photoshoot — perhaps with a soapy mohawk or Princess Leia towel-buns — and yeah, it’s adorable.

Part of Bay Area startup studio Wilbur Labs, Barkbus expanded from just two vans in LA to 55 across SoCal and Dallas since its founding in 2017.

Out of the salon, into your driveway

Barkbus CEO Jeff Safenowitz, formerly of WeWork, said he and founder Patrick Riley, entrepreneur and former guitarist for The Ataris, identified the pain points of brick-and-mortar salons:

For customers: Leaving their dog at a busy shop where they may be caged and surrounded by other noisy dogs, which can stress them out.

For groomers: Feeling rushed at a hectic big-box retailer, or navigating the challenges of running their own business.

Barkbus groomers are full-time employees with benefits, who average just four dogs per day. They go straight to customers’ homes, where dogs receive detailed, one-on-one attention; one groomer even discovered a cancerous tumor on a pet’s leg.

“Our favorite thing is when customers say, ‘My dog’s never been able to get groomed, and all of a sudden Barkbus shows up now and he’s running to the van licking your groomer’s face,’” Safenowitz told us.

Mobile grooming isn’t new…

… but Barkbus elevates the experience with tech and personalized touches, like an online booking system and reminder postcards featuring images of customers’ pets.

More broadly, consumers are spending more on both online, to-your-door services (e.g., grocery delivery) and their pets.

“I like to joke, in this day and age, dogs and cats are now our kids, and plants are now our pets,” Safenowitz said.

As of 2022, spending on pets had increased 450% since 1994. The US grooming industry alone is currently worth an estimated $5B+ and expected to exceed $10B by 2032.

You want to know if they do other animals, too, huh? It’s up to the groomer, but yes.

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eyeball wearing a hat

Sunday will mark the swan song for HBO’s satirical drama “Succession.” Before the series finale, brush up on the show’s many nods to dynastic families, like the Murdochs, Redstones, and Kennedys.


TodAI in AI: TikTok is testing its own in-app AI chatbot, named Tako, to aid content discovery. There are currently no plans for a wider rollout of the bot.

Want a huge VC payday? Just name-check Sam Altman. Tools for Humanity, a crypto startup co-founded by the OpenAI CEO, raised $115m. The company’s goal: digital IDs for everyone on Earth.

Yikes: Three Colorado Amazon drivers are suing Amazon in a class-action lawsuit, alleging they had to pee in bottles due to strict metrics and monitoring that allow no time for bathroom breaks.

Wow: Nvidia shares increased ~24% on Thursday after the chipmaker predicted $11B in Q2 sales, exceeding analysts’ ~$7.2B estimates. The surge brought its valuation to ~$950B.

Spite take? Chinese tech giant Alibaba rejected reports that it was prepping for layoffs, then doubled down — hard — announcing plans to add 15k employees this year.

Virgin Galactic — not to be confused with now-defunct sister company Virgin Orbit — took six employees past the edge of space on Thursday, its first such flight in two years. The company says commercial flights could start within a month.

Noom has added a way for its customers to access prescriptions for buzzy weight-loss drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro. The new ~$120/month offering requires participation in the startup’s core behavior-change program.

Four-day workweeks aren’t taking hold even though 75% of workers signal a preference for them. Experts can guess why, but we assume the holdouts are just unwilling to envision a world with one less Hustle email per week. We’re flattered… but wouldn’t mind Fridays off.

Marketing cheat codes

If you’re still cranking out content from scratch, we appreciate you. Otherwise, please appreciate us instead. Here are 150+ content and copywriting templates for blog posts, ebooks, infographics, CTAs, and more. Go get ‘em, champ. ✊

Google search interest for QR code
Olivia Heller

At restaurants, things aren’t so black and white for the QR code

For over a decade, businesses have sold them as living gravestones. In 2016, Japanese officials supplied them to families to paste on elderly relatives in case they got lost. In 2021, in China, where they’re the most common payment method for 95% of mobile users, we learned they could appear in the sky via drone swarm.

But for the love child of Tetris and bar codes, perhaps no industry has shown them more love, in recent years, than restaurants.

At least, so we thought…

The argument for restaurants making menus with Quick Response codes — yes, that’s what it stands for — is simple: Diners can order and pay without waiting on waiters like Larry David, while businesses, according to some estimates, can save 30%-50% on labor costs.

  • Of course, it also offered one less touch point during covid, when QR usage ballooned.

But “I never asked for this shit” appears to be a sentiment now shared by many.

In March, QR menus led an Axios list of “covid changes people hate.” This week, The New York Times reported QR menus are “being shown the door.”

  • The data is mixed. One company, Menu Tiger, saw its customer base grow 37.6% in Q4 2022; while another, MustHaveMenus, has seen total scans drop 27% since 2021 in recent weeks.

One reason? They’re “the antithesis to romance,” a restaurant owner told NYT. “A menu is a window to the soul of the restaurant, and a QR code has no soul.”

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Weekend Reads

Welcome to Weekend Reads

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

  • Tweet: The look when your boss asks about “that project” but your alarm went off two minutes ago and you’re still in another dimension.
  • Story: If you’ve eaten Korean food, you know it’s delicious. You may not know, however, that your meal likely came with a heaping side of… government funds.
  • Video: Billions of dollars worth of fake Salvador Dalí artwork has circulated the globe. We spoke to the “Dalí detective” to learn why. Check it out.
  • Blog: Not sure how to apply ChatGPT in your role? Google data scientist and YouTuber Sundas Khalid dishes on hacks you can use to free up time.

🎶 On this day: In 1962, the first Brit to top the US Billboard Hot 100 was not a Beatle, but clarinetist Acker Bilk and his instrumental tune “Stranger on the Shore.”

🗺️ Cure boredom: By beefing up on your geography. This site helps you memorize countries’ locations and flags.

✏️ Blog: Life is unpredictable — learn to future-proof your startup by building business resilience.

📅 How to: You meet your deadlines, but important tasks linger. Maybe you need to block off more time than you think.

😍 Aww: And now, a cute alternative to a zen garden.

  1. Eyebrow hair is the only universally agreed upon facial hair to have. SOURCE

  2. Drywallers must be incredible at putting cream cheese on bagels. SOURCE

  3. There are people who think they have imposter syndrome, yet they’re actually just bad at their jobs. SOURCE

  4. Instead of watching rich families be rich on reality TV, I’d much rather see a poor family given multigenerational amounts of wealth. SOURCE

  5. Running out of fuel will become a much bigger problem when we have flying cars. SOURCE

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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen and Juliet Bennett Rylah.
Editing by: Ben “Oodles of poodles” Berkley.

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