A deathcare startup


October 29, 2020

PLUS: Another Big Tech Senate hearing.
October 29, 2020
The Hustle
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Dropbox

Tech is making another splash in the NBA. Ryan Smith, the CEO of the SaaS firm Qualtrics, is acquiring the Utah Jazz for $1.66B from the Miller family, which bought the team for $22m over two installments in 1985 and 1986.

Smith joins an illustrious group of NBA owners, all of which wake up every morning wishing they had (former Microsoft CEO and current LA Clippers’ owner) Steve Ballmer’s net worth of $70B+.

The Big Idea
skeletons

This deathcare startup is shaking up the funeral industry by decomposing bodies

Not content with a burial or a cremation?

The startup Recompose is creating a new model of deathcare that converts human bodies into soil through a process called natural organic reduction.

Getting off the ground was not easy

Recompose’s founder Katrina Spade spent 7 years lobbying the state of Washington for a legal alternative to burial or cremation.

When the bill passed late last year, she was prepping an 18.5k-sq.-ft. warehouse in Sodo, Washington. At the location, bodies were to be placed in a “special mix of wood chips, alfalfa, and straw” that would decompose into usable soil in a matter of weeks.

Then the pandemic hit.

Funding dried up and Spade thought her project was over. Fortunately, someone offered her a smaller warehouse for her… composting.

Death has a big impact on the environment

Fighting climate change is an important part of Recompose’s mission.

Recent coverage of Recompose in the MIT Technology Review highlights the problem with existing options in the US:

  • Cemeteries take up ~1m acres of land.
  • Caskets destroy 4m acres of forest every year.
  • Burials collectively use 30m boards of wood and 800k gallons of embalming fluid every year.

Alternatively, Recompose creates a cubic yard of soil per person (“two wheelbarrows” worth), which loved ones can choose to keep or donate to a forest.

The transformation of deathcare

As we covered recently in our Trends newsletter, startups focused on deathcare have raised $77m in 2020, disrupting a space that’s often associated with shady pricing tactics.

Recompose will be accepting its first human bodies in November. At $5.5k, its service is ~40% cheaper than the average traditional funeral.

Related coverage:

  • Our feature on the companies who have a monopoly on caskets (and the startups trying to dethrone them)
  • A brief overview of a few end-of-life startups
  • The startup trying to bury people in forests
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Snippets
  • Google’s antitrust troubles may make room for Apple to launch its own search engine, which is hopefully an improvement on its Spotlight search tool that kinda sucks.
  • Ford getting back to basics: The carmaker surged on earnings showing a huge demand for trucks during the pandemic.
  • Costly tweets: NBA revenue sank 10% in the 2019-2020 season, partially due to a damaged partnership with China.
  • Match made in heaven: Venture fund a16z has tapped a former NYSE regulatory head to help lead its crypto fund.
  • Time for a strike? Joe Rogan hosted Tim Dillon and Alex Jones on the podcast this week. Your move, Spotify employees (and users).
 
So Many Proficiencies
graduation

Handshake is Linkedin… but for rookies

Ah, memories of that first resume.

Who among us hasn’t — at some point — tried to pass summer lifeguarding off as “internship experience,” or peddle basic math skills as “proficiency with Excel?”

Applying for that very first gig is the ultimate catch-22: no one will give a job unless you’ve already had a job.

Enter Handshake: A platform for college-aged students to get hired

The networking and recruiting startup has made waves targeting a frequently overlooked part of the job market: the college student in search of their first real job.

Fresh off raising $80M, Handshake is ramping up its focus on the job market’s newest entrants. The startup claims it has:

  • 17m job seekers
  • 1k college and university partners
  • 500k employers looking for cheap labor

By de-emphasizing prior experience, Handshake says it’s helping to encourage more diversity in the workforce.

A gradual shift from in-person job fairs to virtual events

This transition predates 2020, but has been accelerated by the pandemic. It’s part of a larger shakeup in education that saw a 16% decrease in first-year student count for the current fall semester.

With these trends in mind, Handshake is broadening its reach to focus on community colleges and more vocational training programs.

If Handshake succeeds, we might lose the greatest corporate meme ever created:

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The tool Spotify, Expedia, and Sundance Film Festival use to unite their teams will surprise you

Because it’s a name you’re familiar with… you just didn’t know it was also a collaborative workspace that could do so much, so well:

Dropbox.

  • 56% of the Fortune 500 have at least one Dropbox team within their organization
  • 500K+ teams use Dropbox Business to grow and secure their businesses
  • 4.5B+ connections have been created via Dropbox shared folders and links

Dropbox is such a hit because it does one thing most other tools don’t: 

Cater to individuals.

Dropbox Business was designed to let your team capitalize on your differences so that each person can contribute their own unique skills and experience in their own individual way. 

If you want to turn your team from disparate parts into one big, whole, high-functioning squad, you need to give this a peek:

Try Dropbox Business →
The Big Hearing
capitol building

3 things we learned from the latest Big Tech Senate grilling

The CEOs of Google (Sundar Pichai), Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg), and Twitter (Jack Dorsey) tuned into a virtual Senate hearing on Wednesday.

The hearing was meant to cover a piece of internet legislation known as Section 230, which exempts information service providers (e.g., social networks) from liability for what shows up on their platforms.

Per CNN, “courts have repeatedly accepted Section 230 as a defense against claims of defamation, negligence and other allegations” since the law was passed in 1996.

Here are 3 things we learned during the hearing:

1. Tech leaders believe Section 230 is valuable

Dorsey said removing the law would stifle innovation as new startups would have fewer resources to moderate speech; Zuckerberg echoed the importance of the law, which ensured platforms retained values “like free expression and openness.”

2. But they want to see it updated

Dorsey proposed that Section 230 be expanded to require platforms to explain their content moderation decision-making processes; Zuckerberg argued that legislators should help determine what is or is not acceptable.

3. Jack Dorsey has officially joined the Mt. Rushmore of Beards

After years of hard work and a complete disregard for facial hygiene, Twitter’s CEO has achieved beard immortality.

He joins Harrison Ford (The Fugitive), Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) and music super-producer Rick Rubin on the official monument:

(This work of art is from The Hustle’s Malary Lee)

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Last Longer

What can we learn from extremely old institutions?

Society has a fascination with people who are 100+ years old.

Whenever we hear of a centenarian, we inevitably try to figure out how they did it, dissecting their diet, daily routine, and priorities.

But that same curiosity seems to be lacking for long-lived institutions.

Thankfully, we have The Long Now Foundation

Established in 1996, the San Francisco-based non-profit seeks to promote long-term thinking. It recently released some data on long-lived institutions.

Among the highlights:

  • 2 countries rule: Of the 5.5k+ companies that are >200 years old, 56% are Japanese and 15% are German.
  • Most are small: Of these, 90% have fewer than 300 employees
  • Long-lasting industries: Looking at 1k companies >300 years old, the most-represented industries are alcohol (23%), hotels (12%) and restaurants (9%).
  • Company life is getting shorter in America: In 1950, the average Fortune 500 company was 61 years old; now, it’s only 18.

Here’s a look at the current longest-living Fortune 500 companies:

So, there you go. Want to last a long time? We suggest starting a canned wine company in Japan!

Check out our related coverage:

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Editing by: Zachary “Don’t compost me, bro” Crockett, Donatella Debois (Director of Puzzler Answer Luxury Gift Reception).

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