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The Hustle

Weekend plans: not sailing the Strait of Gibraltar, where orcas are biting rudders off of boats. Killer whales have capsized three ships since May 2020, baffling scientists, but not us: Franchise-happy Hollywood has released 30 Marvel movies since the last Free Willy film. We hear you, whales — it’s time.

In today’s email:

  • Neom: Checking in on the chaotic $1T Saudi city of the future.
  • Off the grid: Marketing at LL Bean is going wild. Profits are, too.
  • YouTube and Chill: Clip after clip you won’t want to skip.
  • Around the Web: An emoji-spotting game, a deep comic book archive, puppy yoga, and more finds.
  • Listen: Take your ears on a trip to Neom, because the rest of you can’t go yet.
podcast media player
City Limits

Neom’s got a trillion problems but $1T ain’t one

In 2017, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced Neom, a $1T desert utopia as a way to reduce the nation’s reliance on oil and diversify its economy, per Insider.

More details were recently unveiled, but privacy and human rights experts are concerned — not to mention skeptics who doubt it will ever fully manifest.

What is Neom?

Located on 10.2k square miles of desert, Neom will operate outside of Saudi Arabia’s conservative government, with its own taxes, labor laws, and judicial system.

It will consist of 10 regions, four of which we know about:

Sindalah: An island dotted with hotels and yacht marinas, scheduled to open in 2024. Tourists can dive to the reefs and wreckage of the Red Sea.

The Line: A continuous, ~130-mile-long building that will house 9m people in a car-free smart city.

Oxagon: A floating industrial complex (yes, it’s an octagon) for manufacturing and research.

Trojena: An outdoor skiing destination that will host the 2029 Asian Winter Games.

Other futuristic perks include use of the Volocopter air taxi, which Neom claims to have invested $175m in.

But there’s major controversy

Experts worry about the environmental impact of a ski resort in the middle of the desert, while privacy experts are suspicious of the smart city’s surveillance and data collection capabilities.

Key employees have left over an allegedly hostile work environment. CEO Nadhmi al-Nasr — not doing himself many favors — once said he drives employees like slaves and “when they drop down dead, I celebrate.”

Worst of all? The UN has denounced Neom for the forced eviction of members of the Howeitat tribe. One member was killed by Saudi forces, three were sentenced to prison, and three are scheduled to be executed.

This grim news may leave Neom wanting for guests — if it ever happens at all.

Bright side? Maybe Telosa, ex-Walmart exec Marc Lore’s desert utopia, will pan out?

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eyeball wearing a hat

With respect to JLo, “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” is not aging well. Last year, the average cost of a US wedding increased to $29k, according to wedding planning site Zola. And if the apple of your eye lives in the Big Apple, it gets even worse — the average NYC wedding cost ~$43.5k.


TodAI in AI: Character.AI, a free app where users can chat with AI avatars of historical figures and their own customizable robo-buddies, had a huge first week. Its creators say the app has scored 1.7m+ downloads since its May 23 debut.

Runway for Runway: Google is investing in text-to-video AI startup Runway as part of a ~$100m funding round that values the company at ~$1.5B. The goal: as Runway takes off, have it fly among Google’s cloud servers.

The face race: Mark Zuckerberg announced Meta’s latest mixed-reality headset — the 40% slimmer Quest 3 — just days before Apple is set to reveal its own.

Cupid shuffle: For Match Group’s latest dating app — Archer, a “social-first” app for queer men — the company says all launch features will remain free even after subscriptions are introduced.

Billionaires, they’re just like us: You were born; so were they. The median age of the world’s billionaires is 67, per data firm Altrata. “Having an age” is right about where the similarities end, though.

Patagonia is suing Nordstrom for allegedly selling counterfeit apparel at its Nordstrom Rack stores that are, unlike the real deal, not made from sustainable materials.

Update: It turns out 250k people will exchange data for a free TV, at least according to Telly, the company that’s offering. Read our previous coverage here.

A mountain of entertainment… for 19% off. Streaming rivals Netflix and Paramount+ are joining forces for a new discounted streaming service bundle offered exclusively through Verizon.

Outside perspective
revenue of outdoor clothing giants
Olivia Heller

LL Bean gave social media the boot but its business still got the kick

While we’re still not convinced this wasn’t some weary social media manager’s elaborate ploy, LL Bean signing off from socials for the entire month of May — its “off the grid” initiative to encourage stepping outside for Mental Health Awareness Month — appears to have been a great move.

In May, LL Bean’s Instagram impressions were actually up 95% YoY. One LinkedIn post from LL Bean’s chairman garnered millions of views, per Marketing Dive.

  • It’s far from LL Bean’s first offbeat marketing tactic. Last year, its Bootmobile drove 5k+ miles and garnered 65k in-person customer interactions.

This all seems to be working in the company’s favor, with revenue reaching $1.8B in 2022, its second-best year on record.

Sprouting sales

LL Bean isn’t the only outdoor apparel retailer going against the grain of standard marketing and business strategy — and reaping the benefits.

  • REI’s Black Friday counter-programming is an annual hit, part of the co-op’s record 2022, when it hit $3.85B in sales.
  • Patagonia’s owners made a PR splash when they gave their $3B stake to a nonprofit designed to ensure the retailer’s ~$100m of annual profit is used to benefit the earth.

BTW: We were today years old when we learned: A) LL Bean was founded by Leon Leonwood Bean in 1912, B) The company’s flagship store in Maine is open 24/7, and C) The company sold eight pairs of its top-selling slippers per minute during the holidays.

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Free Resource

How a Black-owned toy company made it into Target

Yeah, Terri-Nichelle Bradley pulled off the exemplary entrepreneur’s dream. Once you make it into Target, the brand is in big kid territory.

Brown Toy Box started as a subscription box business, producing STEAM toys and games that also celebrate Blackness. Hear how Terri-Nichelle shifted and scaled her business to end up on your hometown shelf.

On this episode of Side Hustle Pro:

  • Why Terri-Nichelle nixed the subscription service
  • How she expanded to nationwide distribution
  • How she gained funding for toy production

In case you plan to build the next Barbie.

Toy-selling secrets →
YouTube and Chill

Grab some corn (pop is fine, we prefer riblet), find that perfect position on the couch, and enjoy the latest from our channel:

  • On the off chance you were hoping to impress a date tonight by knowing why Salvador Dalí is the most faked artist in the world — with billions of dollars of fakes circulating the globe — we spoke to the “Dalí detective” to learn why. Check it out.
  • In the latest Hustlenomics episode, we dispense insights on vending machine businesses and the people behind them. Prepare yourselves for an eye-opening look at the art of extracting $1.99 from your pocket for a bag of air and some nosh.
  • Everyone loves it when a golfer hits a hole-in-one — except for the insurance company footing the bill. Folks, welcome to the strange, little-known world of hole-in-one insurance. Let’s tee this baby up.
  • Need a carpenter? Get in line. Like finding a needle in a stack of 2x4s, carpenters are hard to find. Watch this clip nailing down why America has so few.

⚾ On this day: In 1935, legendary baseball player Babe Ruth retired after 22 seasons and 714 home runs.

👀 Cure boredom: Spot the emoji.

✏️ Blog:​​ As Americans grow older, a plethora of startups have popped up to make aging safer.

🗨️ That’s cool: An archive of comic books dating back to the 1930s that you can read online.

💤 Aww: And now, savasana.

  1. Lady bugs are actually vicious predators, it’s just that their prey is kinda lame. SOURCE

  2. A deck of playing cards is a game engine for many non-video games. SOURCE

  3. Scooby & the gang helped teach us that the only real monsters are people. SOURCE

  4. There is no logical way to prove you’re not insane if you’re wrongly locked up in an insane asylum. SOURCE

  5. Red Bulls are stamina potions SOURCE

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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen and Juliet Bennett Rylah.
Editing by: Ben “R-E-I-S-P-E-C-T” Berkley.

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