🔵 Facebook is taking over VR


June 18, 2021

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The Hustle

To kick off the weekend, we asked our Kolby Hatch — a 3.5-year veteran of The Hustle whose final day is today — to give us a farewell quote.

The sentimental sap went with a line from his wedding song, Smash Mouth’s “All Star”: “And all that glitters is gold / Only shooting stars break the mold.”

The big idea
Zuck wearing VR

Facebook is quietly taking over VR

VR can be a form of escapism, but even there, you can’t escape ads.

Especially when Zucky McVirtual is at the wheel.

Facebook announced that it will test VR ads with the goal of making its VR headset, Oculus, “a self-sustaining platform” where developers can earn revenue.

It won’t use data stored on Oculus headsets to target ads

But it will receive info about which ads people interact with and how. And just like on Facebook, users can hide specific ads or advertisers or access more info about what they are seeing.

Ads will first roll out in “Blaston” — a combat game — before hitting other games and apps in following weeks.

Facebook is going all in on VR

According to The Verge’s Alex Heath, Facebook is building a “near monopoly in VR software.” This includes recent acquisitions of 2 gaming studios:

VR is still small… but could be the next big platform

Tech analyst Casey Newton notes that Facebook has less than 10m Oculus headsets, which pales in comparison to Sony’s lifetime sale of 100m+ PlayStations.

If FB keeps locking up VR talent, we could see an anti-competitive replay like how the social network took over photo sharing and messaging with acquisitions of Instagram (2012) and WhatsApp (2014).

The company has hired more than 10k people to work in its Facebook Reality Labs hardware division, Newton says.

But, seriously, this 2016 photo is all you need about how serious Zuck’s VR ambitions are:

Source: TechCrunch

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SNIPPETS

We knew it was coming: Instagram officially brings ads to Reels, its version of TikTok. #emerging-tech

The US West is already experiencing heat waves and water shortages… even before the real start of summer. #clean-energy

The next FedEx delivery person might be… a robot. The logistics giant signed a multiyear deal with autonomous delivery startup Nuro. #ecommerce-retail

We knew it was coming: Instagram officially brings ads to Reels, its version of TikTok. #big-tech

Ring — the Amazon-owned smart-home doorbell — used influencer law enforcement officers (we had no idea this is a thing) to market the product. Amazon said it ended the program. #privacy

Copywriting is a superpower. Our Alex Garcia highlights these 7 frameworks to make your writing better. #hustle-picks

Could Bitcoin be in line for its own “short squeeze”? #fintech-cryptocurrency

JPMorgan acquires wealth management startup Nutmeg — with ~140k customers and $5B AUM — to build out a larger UK presence. #fintech-cryptocurrency

Ecomm
Amazon boxes

Amazon built a giant 3rd-party ecommerce business. Now others want in.

Here’s a crazy stat: Revenue from Amazon’s 3rd-party marketplace accounted for 60% of its retail revenue last year, up from only 3% in 2000.

The model is so successful that other online retailers — including mall-favorite brands like Express, J.Crew, and Urban Outfitters — want to roll out their version, per The Wall Street Journal.

Wait, WTF is the model?

Third-party ecommerce marketplaces are online retail listings hosted by a large ecommerce store, but sold and fulfilled by another seller — it’s like the internet’s version of a consignment store.

Retailers like Express are building marketplaces that align with their core product offerings. Think less “everything store” and more brands and products customers would associate with Express or Urban Outfitters.

The benefits for retailers are twofold:

  1. It allows a retailer like Express to offer a wider array of products — men’s grooming, activewear, etc.
  2. Express doesn’t have to buck up the cash to develop them in-house or fulfill the orders.

All this is good news for everyone BUT Amazon

Sellers on Amazon’s marketplace are finding it to be too competitive. In the article, WSJ interviewed Ken Zhang, the COO of a large Amazon retailer:

He’s seen his company’s return on Amazon advertising spend decline by 15%-20% in the past 3 years as the number of sellers has ballooned and competition for all retail categories stiffens.

Funny fact: Since the launch of Amazon marketplace, the company’s market cap has grown ~278x. Funny, if like us, you missed those gainz.

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Insure-tech
appraisal app

Four steps to appraisal heaven (Source: Tractable / TechCrunch)

AI is here for car appraisals (finally)

Car accidents suck.

And, if you are lucky enough to get out of one in good health, you still have to deal with insurance companies.

Enter Tractable, a startup that uses AI-powered computer vision to do remote damage appraisals. Per TechCrunch, it just raised $60m (at a $1B valuation) to make our post-accident life easier.

How it works

People use a smartphone camera to survey vehicle damage, and Tractable immediately spits out an evaluation, which the company says could be a 10x speed improvement over the current teeth-pulling process.

With the tech, the startup is partnered with 20+ of the world’s top 100 insurers and sales are up 6x in the past 2 years (“well into 8 figures”).

Tractable’s automated approach is a boon for its biggest market: Japan, which has an older (and mobile-friendly) population. But the startup expects the US to take the top spot soon.

And it’s not just appraisals

The powerful imaging tech can provide:

  • Property appraisal following natural disasters
  • Car appraisals for used vehicles and those meant to be recycled

In fact, Tractable says its appraisal tool has been used to help recycle as many cars as Tesla sold in 2019 (~368k cars). We actually can’t tell if that’s actually an impressive feat or a jab at Tesla.

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Podcast

The $0 to $1B startup idea framework

VC Mike Maples Jr. has made notable investments over the last decade, including investments in Twitch, Twitter, Lyft, and Okta.

In episode #191 of “My First Million,” Mike gives insight into 4 massive opportunities that are untapped.

They include opportunities like the US military becoming more tech forward — or cloud culture getting applied to consumers.

On top of that, Mike drops his $0 to $1B startup idea framework.

🎧 Listen here →
Map of the day
10 most liveable cities map

Source: Chartr / The Economist Intelligence Unit

What are the most livable cities in the world? According to The Economist Intelligence Unit (via Chartr), most of them are in Australia (Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne) and New Zealand (Auckland, Wellington).

To rank the cities, The Economist looks at 30 variables from health care to education to infrastructure to culture. The aforementioned cities benefited from a strong government response to the pandemic outbreak.

Cities in Japan (Osaka, Tokyo) and Switzerland (Geneva, Zurich) round out the top 10 list.

The last time this list ran was in 2019. One big loser: Canada, which saw 3 cities (Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver) fall out of the top 10.

Editor’s Note: Trung here. I’m Canadian. This hurts.

Shower Thoughts
  1. “The second the richest man on earth goes to space, there will be a new richest man on earth.”
  2. “Expiration makes most food more poisonous, but makes poison less poisonous.”
  3. “People who discovered iron might have been scared that it smells like blood.”
  4. “No one wants a used mattress for free but we pay hundreds of dollars to sleep on one at hotels.”
  5. “A Vanilla Soy Frappuccino is a three bean soup.”
  6. “The older you get, the more the world is run by children.”
via Reddit
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