🧱 Roblox keeps on building - The Hustle
The Hustle

🧱 Roblox keeps on building

Plus: A cool chart, shower thoughts, our best stuff from the week, computers in film, and more.

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The Codex Sassoon, the world’s oldest Hebrew Bible, is expected to fetch $30m-$50m at auction this spring. The current auction record for a historical document is $43.2m for a copy of the US Constitution sold in 2021.

In today’s email:

  • Virtual influencers: They’re fake, but have millions of followers.
  • Chart: Roblox keeps on building.
  • Weekend Reads: Our best stuff from the week.
  • Around the Web: A weird burlesque troupe, computers in film, how to get a minority-owned biz certification, and more internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to hear Jacob and Zack discuss the resurrection of Barney — one of the ‘90s’ most iconic and lucrative kids’ TV characters — and why he disappeared to begin with.

The big idea

These influencers are so fake… no, really

Virtual influencers are on the rise. Are these characters the next Marvel or Disney?
Juliet Bennett Ryla

By this point, you may already be familiar with Lil Miquela — the virtual influencer with 2.8m Instagram followers and major brand deals.

The company behind the creation, Brud, raised $25m+ at a valuation of $144m+ before being acquired by the NFT startup Dapper Labs in 2021.

Now, a different Vermont-based company wants to create the Disney of digital influencers.


… is a startup founded by Paul Budnitz, who previously founded designer toy company KidRobot.

Much like Marvel, Superplastic wants to build a universe around its cartoonish characters, per TechCrunch. They include:

  • Guggimon, a DJ and horror artist
  • Janky, a “streetwear icon”
  • Dayzee, a flirtatious nuclear physicist

They appear on social media and as playable “Fortnite” skins, and collaborate with brands like Tommy Hilfiger. Oh, and they’re getting a TV show.

Amazon’s Alexa Fund…

… led a $20m funding round for Superplastic, and Amazon Studios will produce an animated comedy starring the trio. If this video of Guggimon mainlining booze and pills is any indication, it won’t be for kids, but may play well with Amazon hits like “The Boys” and “Invincible.”

Budnitz also told TechCrunch that he’s interested in what his IP company could do with Amazon-owned Whole Foods — virtual influencers may not eat, but they can probably hawk branded energy drinks.

What’s the appeal?

People already purchase things their favorite TV characters wear (see the buzz around Pedro Pascal’s trucker jacket from “The Last of Us”). Many believe that virtual influencers can, and will, inspire similar consumerism.

A survey from The Influencer Marketing Factory found that:

  • 58% of respondents followed at least one virtual influencer
  • 35% bought something one promoted

Companies already pay China’s Baidu $2.8k-$14.3k per year for virtual influencers who appear on livestreams — and Baidu says this part of their business has doubled since 2021.

An added bonus: Much like the Terminator, they don’t sleep, age, or complain. They also don’t get embroiled in scandals, unless by design — like the time Lil Miquela was hacked by a rival.


Here we go again: Remember the HQ Trivia app? The one where you competed daily in a livestreamed trivia tournament to split a pot of money? Well, TikTok is giving the trivia thing a try, with $500k up for grabs across five days, starting next week.


YouTube’s new boss: Susan Wojcicki is stepping down after nine years at the helm. Neal Mohan, the group’s chief product officer, will take her place.

WallStreetBets founder Jaimi Rogozinski is suing Reddit, claiming the platform wrongfully ousted him as forum moderator after he wrote a book about the community. Reddit doesn’t allow mods to monetize communities.

Paramount+ now has 56m subscribers, up 9.9m from Q3. Its basic tier will now increase from $4.99/mo. to $5.99/mo., while its Premium tier (with added Showtime content) will bump from $9.99/mo. to $11.99/mo.

Manners, Bing: After several users reported that Bing had insulted or lied to them, Microsoft announced it’s still working on the AI bot’s tone, and that asking it 15+ questions can confuse it.

Hyundai announced it’s implementing a software patch that will stop thieves from using TikTok instructions to steal its cars.

Feature alert: TikTok discreetly launched in-app shopping in the US with brands like Pacsun and KimChi Chic.

Olaplex, a popular hair care brand, is being sued by several women who claim its products contained lilial (a chemical compound banned in the EU) and cause hair loss.

Starbucks plans to open 400+ stores across Asia Pacific in 2023, where revenue has increased 20% YoY…

… but Stateside, a National Labor Relations Board panel ruled that the coffee chain illegally fired two Philadelphia union leaders, and must offer them back pay and reinstatement.

Olivia Heller

Roblox keeps on building

More than half of the company’s users are now over 13 years old.
Jacob Cohen

Do people actually want to spend real money in a digital world that looks like it’s built of Lego blocks?

Increasingly, the answer appears to be yes.

Earlier this week, Roblox stock jumped on a strong Q4 earnings report. Metrics include:

  • Roblox’s bookings — a leading indicator for gaming companies’ future revenue — increased 17% YoY to $899.4m.
  • Average daily users reached 58.8m, up 19% YoY.
  • In 2022, users spent 49.3B hours on Roblox — 5.5m+ years of cumulative time.

The platform appears to be successfully aging up, too, which analysts consider critical for growing profits. Last quarter, ~55% of all Roblox users were over the age 13, up from ~40% in Q4 2019.

Roblox is now focused on expanding its economy of user-generated goods. Last quarter, the average monthly number of people buying virtual goods on Roblox reached an all-time high of 13.4m, at an average spend of $22.31 per user.

Food for thought: Last year, Roblox said that 58% of Gen Z now thinks a career as a digital fashion designer is just as or more impressive than a real-life one.

Free Resource

Why your Zillow Zestimate is wrong

The majority of people with “For Sale” signs in their front yards are in denial… Why?

Watch Morgan Housel, a Collab Fund partner and the author of The Psychology of Money, explain the psychological impact that Zillow’s estimate tool has had on America’s housing market.

What’s happening with housing? (video):

  • A seller-buyer stalemate
  • The influence of Zillow
  • The impact on agents

See the clip we spliced from The Hustle Daily Show podcast.

Housel on housing →

Welcome to Weekend Reads


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

  • Tweet: When your boss tells you to “be a fly on the wall” in another team’s meeting.
  • Blog: Too much on your mind? Use apps to build a second brain.
  • Chart: New data sheds some light on the impact of housing costs on romantic relationships.
  • Story: Zack’s deep dive into how the inventor of the troll doll missed out on a fortune.
  • Video: Our latest “Hustlenomics” episode about the economics of all-you-can-eat buffets.

🪲 On this day: In 1972, the Volkswagen Beetle became the world’s  bestselling car, overtaking Ford’s Model T, which had stopped production in 1927 but maintained the record for 40+ years.

👙 That’s interesting: A burlesque troupe is fundraising for a documentary. The weird part? The troupe is dedicated to the music of parody artist “Weird Al” Yankovic.

✏️ From our blog: Here’s everything you need to know about getting a minority-owned business certification.

🍿 Wow: The trailer for Tetris is out, and it’s surprisingly wild.

🖥️ That’s cool: A website that rates computers’ film and TV appearances based on how important they are to the plot and how realistic their depiction is.

🦘 Aww: And now, a joey takes some hops.

Shower Thoughts
  1. Stamps are stickers with a job.  SOURCE

  2. Mosquitoes sure are brave for creatures with only two HP.  SOURCE

  3. Ninety-nine percent of what your body does, it does itself. Your body actually trusts you with very little.  SOURCE

  4. When cartoon characters watch TV, there is no way to tell if they are watching a cartoon or not.  SOURCE

  5. The voice in your head is an extraordinary singer.  SOURCE

via Reddit
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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst.
Editing by: Zachary “Still thinking about Barney” Crockett.

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