🛍️ Etsy’s $40m plan for illicit goods


May 4, 2021

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The Hustle

If you think lumber price inflation is bad, check this out: The cheapest rental car in Maui in the month of March was $722… a day!

The big idea
Etsy listing

Etsy is doing really well. It’s also selling some truly weird stuff

In Q4 2020, masks made up 4% of all purchases on Etsy.

Any other year, that might’ve been a bit odd. But right now, masks are far from the weirdest thing sold on the platform.

When we say ‘weird stuff,’ we mean weird stuff

A new Insider investigation found ~800 products that fell into nearly all of the company’s banned product categories, including:

  • Miracle cures: “Remedies” for COVID-19, erectile dysfunction, and weight loss, and magical “spells” for wealth, love, and health
  • Ivory and animal parts: A $4.9k tusk, a $14k taxidermic elephant head, cat skulls, and mummified goldendoodle puppies
  • Weaponry: Longswords, necklace-knives, brass knuckles, resin daggers, cane swords, a steel-spiked trench club, and a 4-bladed “apocalyptic ripsaw mace”

Despite bans, there were also listings for fake designer products, Confederate flags, cars, drug paraphernalia, porn, and uranium ore.

Etsy’s workin’ on it

In 2020, Etsy saw a 400% jump in noncompliant listings as the platform’s listed-product count hit 92m.

Now, Etsy’s putting in the work to improve:

  • It doubled its trust and safety team head count
  • It tasked an engineering team with building new AI detection tools
  • It will invest at least $40m in 2021 to continue enhancing product enforcement

In general, Etsy’s doing really well

In 2020, $10.3B worth of product was sold on Etsy (a 107% year-over-year jump), and revenue rocket-launched 111% to $1.7B.

Etsy now has 4.4m sellers and 82m active buyers. In 2020, the company scored 60m+ new buyers, 17% of which made 4+ purchases.

As long as those weren’t purchases of steel-spiked trench clubs, all is good.

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SNIPPETS

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  • Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they will end their marriage of 27 years. Outside of the couple’s personal lives, the biggest question for many will be what’s next for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which funds billions in clean tech and health research.
  • Epic Games revealed numbers for its business in court documents for its Apple lawsuit. The most eye-popping number: Epic’s game Fortnite made $9B+ in its first 2 years (2018, 2019) of business.
  • Top tax: The Biden administration is proposing a max tax rate of 61% on inherited wealth.
Logistics
golf course

Amazon’s newest distribution center? (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

In huge demand right now: Warehouses

The pandemic turbocharged sales for ecommerce companies.

That’s the 1st-order effect.

So — like the high-minded business publication we are — we have to ask: “What are the 2nd-order effects?”

To facilitate all of these juicy onlines sales…

… warehouse space is being snapped up at a blistering pace. According to The Economist, leases for new logistic spaces are up big in Europe (+16% YoY), America (+21%), and Asia (+32%).

Ecomm players of all types — from supermarkets to medical suppliers to D2C shopping — are getting in on the action.

Interestingly, online retail requires 3x the space of brick and mortar, because shoppers expect more options.

This is leading to a 3rd-order effect

The value of warehouses is booming, with logistics making up 20% of real estate investments in 2020 (vs. 10% in 2015).

The boom is running into a land supply problem, per The Economist:

  • Industrial land has been turned into residential land in major cities
  • Restrictive zoning laws prevent the conversion of large existing lots like shopping malls
  • The public is averse to large warehouses, which are perceived as noisy and dirty

To cope, companies are getting creative: Amazon is turning golf courses in America into distribution centers and an empty car lot in the UK into a delivery hub.

We think it’s safe to call that one a 4th-order effect.

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Media Madness
Oath screenshot

A short-lived experiment (Source: Nicholas Kamm / Getty Images)

AOL and Yahoo are still around. And they just got sold for $5B+.

At the height of Web 1.0, AOL and Yahoo ruled the world with market values reaching $200B+ and $125B+, respectively.

Yesterday, Verizon — which acquired AOL in 2015 ($4.4B) and Yahoo in 2017 ($4.5B) — sold the old internet guard to PE firm Apollo Management for a combined $5B.

That’s 40% less than it bought the companies for, reports CNBC.

WTF was Verizon doing?

The $240B telecom giant made the acquisitions in an attempt to compete with — cue laughter — Google and Facebook in digital ads.

The combined effort was unfortunately rebranded as Oath and put under the leadership of Tim Armstrong, AOL’s former head (and a Google veteran).

With tens of millions of subscribers, Verizon believed it could combine customer data with Oath digital properties to hyper-target users.

The gambit never worked…

… and Armstrong left in 2018. The entire venture was renamed Verizon Media Group, and we collectively all forgot about it.

Verizon has been ditching its media efforts in recent years by shuttering or selling HuffPost, Yahoo Answers, and Tumblr.

This is in contrast to its main competitors: AT&T plunked big bucks to acquire WarnerMedia, and Comcast still runs NBCUniversal.

Either way, we can all consider it a minor miracle that AOL and Yahoo are still chugging along.

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TRENDS

It’s earnings season, baby

Last week, we saw FAAMG report monstrous earnings, bringing in somewhere between $202k-$837k per… minute. But we had our eye on another company: 1-800-Flowers (FLWS), that popped 30% since earnings.

We wrote about the company in February, after noticing that unlike other seasonal businesses (think, Party City or Canada Goose), 1-800-Flowers doesn’t peak during Valentine’s or Mother’s Day… because flowers no longer make up their revenue.

1-800-Flowers’ diversification is a masterclass:

  1. Loyalty: 50-60% of 1800 Flowers’ customers are repeat, due to their Passport program and subscription platforms (think Prime for… flowers)
  2. New products: With a family of 15 brands, a majority of their revenue actually comes from “food and gift baskets”. One of their fastest growing segments? Succulents.
  3. Getting that holy B2B revenue: Last year, 1-800-Flowers built out a corporate gifting program and its service platform for Florists, BloomNet, brought in $111m (of subscription software revenue!) last year.

To get the full story and more, try trends for $1.

Get ahead of the pack →
Fundraise of the day
Genies

Celebrities in the metaverse (Source: Genies / TechCrunch)

Leading avatar startup Genies just raised $65m. The news comes shortly after another big announcement: Genies will launch an non-fungible token (NFT) platform on Dapper Labs’ Flow blockchain.

Dapper is the team behind the NFT-powered NBA Top Shot craze.

For its part, Genies will create an avatar accessories storefront for celebrity partners, such as Justin Bieber and Cardi B.

Here is our previous coverage on these topics:

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