June 24, 2020

Are we really more productive?

June 24, 2020
The Hustle
TOGETHER WITH
Drip

Please, a moment of silence for Paul Blart: Mall Cop. After almost 20 years on the market, the Segway is rolling off into the sunset. On July 15, manufacturing on the iconic scooter will stop.

The Segway has given us plenty of gifts — a new reason to curse out tourists and a lifetime supply of Kevin James memes among them. 

One thing I won’t miss, though, is its name. I went through school misspelling the verb “segue” like the brand. Now I’m finally free. 

–Michael Waters

Werk It

The puzzle of pandemic productivity

Have you been working hard during lockdown… or hardly working? Dad jokes aside, it’s a question on everyone’s mind lately.

In the early days of quarantine, some employers apparently worried that their newly remote workers might waste the workday bingeing Netflix. There was a huge uptick in sales of employee-monitoring software.

But remote work is here to stay — big companies like Twitter and Facebook are embracing it permanently.

So are we really getting more done, or just spinning our wheels?

The answer might surprise you

The New York Times says CEOs of companies including Chegg, Cisco, and Microsoft have actually observed a productivity bump.

And it makes sense. When you eliminate commutes, lengthy meetings, and small talk, you free up a lot of time to tackle real tasks.

But is it worth it to work it so hard?

Sir Isaac Newton frickin’ invented calculus during a plague (though to be fair, his story was more about passion than pure productivity). Is it so much to expect you to log into Slack and look alert?

Actually, maybe.

According to a Twingate survey of 1k+ WFHers, remote work can erode any semblance of work-life balance:

  • 45% of respondents said they attended more meetings during the pandemic than in the Before Times. Only 21% reported attending fewer.
  • 40% reported Zoom fatigue.

Commodifying every waking moment can lead to anxiety and burnout. Working parents face an even more fraught situation.

But productivity is a state of mind

Not to get all woo-woo on you, but maybe perception is the key to work-life happiness. After all, activity and productivity are 2 very different things. You can waste a lot of time jumping into Slack to remind your boss that you’re around and paying attention.

And a YouGov survey for Evernote suggests more people are figuring this out.

  • 48% of respondents reported adopting a slower pace during quarantine.
  • 51% allowed themselves to broaden their definitions of “productivity” to include learning new skills. 

Have you developed a pandemic productivity hack? Fill out this 2-question survey to tell us more.

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1-800-ROBOLAW

Wanna challenge a parking ticket or get help on bills? This robo-lawyer can help

Anyone who bought a concert ticket this spring knows what a total mess refunds are right now. 

But if you’re trapped in automated customer-service purgatory, good news: Now you can fight cyborg with cyborg.

DoNotPay is a chatbot lawyer designed to contest small-time charges like parking violations — but during the pandemic, it has found a new niche getting your cash refunds out of corporate limbo and into your bank account. 

According to Fortune, the company’s user base has jumped from under 20k to 50k+ since the pandemic. And it just sewed up a $12m round of funding. 

Perry Mason gets bionic

Here’s DoNotPay’s pitch: For $3 a month, the app will beat predatory refund policies. 

Take the classic refund head fake: Back in March, plenty of airlines tried to make up for canceled flights with vouchers instead of actual cash. 

But the DoNotPay bot knew that was against the law. It pointed out a rule from the Department of Transportation requiring airlines to shell out full refunds.

The DoNotPay bot is learning new tricks

Rent extensions, for one: The bot can now haggle with your landlord to get you some extra wiggle room on your rent. 

And the service is setting its sights on the blight of small crimes writ large. Next up for DoNotPay: Develop a tool that can get small infractions — say, an arrest for protesting — expunged from your records.

We asked our Hustle Insiders: What hurdles might get in the way of a tool like this?

From Alex Moskov, Editor at CoinCentral, Head of Content at JUICE:

“The most significant hurdles will be the local legislature and private lobbying groups in the same way Uber had to fight cities lobbied by taxi companies, Eaze had to fight their local jurisdictions, etc. I interviewed a venture capitalist named Bradley Tusk who provides these sorts of startups political, regulatory, and media guidance; I can imagine something like this would be in his court.”

Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity. Want more expert takes like this one? We’re trying something new — tell us what you think here.

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SPONSORED

69.7% of online shoppers abandon their carts

That’s insane. 

That’d be like if you went to the grocery store and two-thirds of the shoppers left their food in the aisle and exited without buying a damn thing. Whoa.

Why does this happen online? Because customers expect personalization

That means discounts, bundles, and suggestions based on what they’re looking for… like 15% discount codes emailed to them for those 100% wool socks they almost bought, or an Instagram ad reminding them why they searched “organic dog treats” in the first place. 

Get big data personalization on a small biz budget with Drip

That’s exactly what their ecommerce marketing platform is built to maximize.

With centralized marketing insights, automated customer engagement, and vertically streamlined data, Drip is giving over 1,000 small ecommerce businesses a competitive advantage over Amazon.

In other words, Drip focuses on your customers, so you can focus on your product. 

Want to see what the hype is about? Try their 2-minute demo and see how they’ll optimize your customer experience. And if you like what you see, try 2 weeks free. 

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Bear market

Human IPO wants you to buy shares in regular people

Finally, we have a viable counterpart to Michael Scott’s iconic announcement, “I declare bankruptcy!” Now every midlevel worker in Silicon Valley is shouting into their apartments, “I’m going public!”

That’s right: You can now invest in humans. Entrepreneurs and futurists are selling up to 500 hours of their time — priced at 1 hour per share — over at Human IPO.

The NASDAQ is shaking 

Human IPO has been around since October, but it didn’t hit most people’s feeds until recent weeks.

The idea is this: As the people behind the IPOs become more successful, their time will get more valuable.

Let’s say you bought 10 shares — 10 hours — of Mark Zuckerberg’s time back in 2003, before Facebook launched. Probably pretty cheap. But now that 10 hours with Zuck is worth millions. 

For now, you can set your own share price. But Human IPO is working on an algorithm that uses LinkedIn and Glassdoor to automatically give you a price.

Assigning values to people — what could go wrong? 

You can imagine Human IPO making literal Silicon Valley’s pay disparities for women and people of color. What happens if the app starts placing higher price tags on one group of people?

If all of this is giving you flashbacks to failed startups of years past, you aren’t alone. Human IPO shares a core pitch of Fantex Holdings, a disbanded company that let people buy shares in pro athletes. 

Not to mention: Human IPO’s general aura of dystopia feels a lot like Peeple, the “Yelp for People” app that launched in 2016.

Want to know what it’s like to sell shares of yourself? Read our deep dive from 2017.

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Small Business Stories

This family business set out to fill a gap in the beauty industry

Racheal Williams, her mother, and her aunt spent years buying Black beauty products from non-Black retailers, and they were tired of it. 

“We found it very problematic that we were purchasing from people who don’t understand our hair, who don’t understand our pain points and our needs,” Williams said. 

Hair care in the US is a $4.2B industry, and Black shoppers represent a big chunk of the customer base. But Williams says their interests are underrepresented.

Alongside her relatives, Williams founded JSDK Hair to fix that. 

It took $10k out-of-pocket and a £5k loan from a UK small business fund to get started. The company has been providing high-quality, chemical-free hair extensions for over a year now. 

But the pandemic forced Williams to get creative. 

Stock sold out during the quarantine, and lockdowns prevented JSDK’s manufacturer, based in India, from resupplying. Williams began offering a free hair-care course to entice customers.

Over the past few weeks, Williams said the company has been using its social media accounts to “harness our economic power and uplift our community.” She’s promoted #BuyBlack movements and hosted online chats with other Black female entrepreneurs.

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Exposed

Google vs. Photoshop: Fact-checking for images arrives

Google just opened up a new front in the battle against misinformation — fact-checking pictures

The fact checks, gathered from sources Google deems trustworthy, will be embedded in the description of potentially suspect images. They give context and verify claims as true, false, or “partly true.”

In meme-oriam: RIP to our favorite viral fake-outs

Don’t get us wrong, this is a win for truth, the pursuit of knowledge, and all that good stuff. But there may be some tragic casualties. Namely, watching people on the internet forget Photoshop is a thing.

Some iconic fake photo pranks we’ll have to kiss goodbye in the name of fact:

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Snippets

1️⃣  Crunchbase is introducing new features to highlight data on the diversity of startups.

2️⃣  Amazon is starting a $2B fund focused on supporting climate change solutions.

3️⃣  LAX is testing thermal cameras that will scan departing and arriving passengers for fever.

4️⃣  Google is adding a Password Checkup plug-in to get you to ditch those lazy passwords you keep reusing.

5️⃣  Three South Korean telecom companies have teamed up with authentication specialists to create digital drivers’ licenses.

6️⃣  Colorado State University finally said what we’ve all been thinking: No one wants to swipe on someone with a cat in their profile pic.

7️⃣  Thousands of people want to rename Columbus, Ohio Flavortown, for the city’s favorite son — Guy Fieri.

8️⃣  Meet remotekitchen, the app that lets you run a restaurant from your phone. 

9️⃣  The Grateful Dead has its own vegan deodorant line — fragrances include Unscented, Sunshine, Timber, Skull & Roses, and Workingman’s. 

🔟  This is just ferntastic: Barcelona’s Liceu opera played its first concert in months — and filled every seat in the house with plants.

The Hustle Says

Want to build a biz? Start by solving your own problems. We’re bringing in the Readwise cofounders to show us how they bootstrapped a simple Kindle highlighting tool to thousands of loyal customers. Join us tomorrow.

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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacques Hughes (Chief Procrastinator), Nick “Unproductive” DeSantis, Michael Waters, Caroline Dohack, Belle Long, and Bobby Durben.

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