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Today, pricey Vegas chapels are going up for sale and alternative barcodes are the coolest thing since kale, but first…

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Startup TruTag gets $7.5m to keep making microscopic, edible barcodes

TruTag Technologies’ Series C round brings total funding for the 9-year-old company up to $25m. 

They’ll use the cash to help companies tag and track food, pharmaceuticals, and even vapes through the supply chain. 

Barcodes: a surprisingly hot industry

The International Chamber of Commerce estimates that counterfeiting and piracy could cost the global economy trillions of dollars by 2022 — and it’s a problem worsened by the rise of 3D printers.

A bunch of companies have tried to ID creative solutions — including a company that raised $10m earlier this year to expand its own diamond dust-based security business. Yes, you read that correctly. Diamond. Dust. 

But most of these security solutions come with limitations, which leaves some products and industries more susceptible than others. 

TruTag is a diamond in the rough

A few capabilities separate TruTag from the rest of the pack. They can authenticate products almost instantly. Plus, they’re able to place their tags directly onto products to track them through the supply chain. 

And the biggest one: TruTag makes its tiny barcodes out of nanoporous silica, which the FDA says is safe for humans to eat. Translation: They’re edible. 

That means TruTag could help some of the industries hardest hit by the global counterfeiting problem: pharmaceuticals, food, and cannabis. 

» No diamonds on this Juul

SmileDirectClub officially takes the (dental) crown as the worst IPO of 2019

SmileDirectClub’s shares took a dive this week after California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law that gives his state oversight into all dentistry operations that occur there. 

Now, the company’s stock is down almost 60% since it went public in September. 

An orthodontist-shaped cavity

Quick minty refresher: SmileDirectClub brings orthodontia to your home, minus visits to a dentist’s office. The company says its model lets it work on customers’ pearly whites at a fraction of an orthodontist’s price. But some state regulators have expressed doubts about the safety of direct-to-consumer dentistry. 

Now, California — a trendsetter in state-level consumer protection policy — says before any dental work can go down, a real, live dentist has to check out patients’ X-rays. SmileyD says the law will turn its smile upside down — and increase its cost of doing business in the Golden State. 

ICYMI, it’s been a bad year for unicorns

Most big-company IPOs have seen their share prices deflate significantly after going public. One reason: Many of these businesses (Blue Apron, Peloton, Lyft) are tech disruptors. 

When they were private companies, idealistic pitches and overuse of words like “synergy” could translate to billion-dollar valuations. In the real world, the comparatively skeptical public pulled those valuations down. 

Now, SmileDirectClub’s Californian root canal — and the increased focus on reining in big tech — might be an indicator of the next problem these young companies will face: government regulation.

» Open wide
Here’s 1 Signal from this week: Decafino graph


This brand new Seattle startup has created a decaf pouch — similar to a tea bag — that removes caffeine from any cup of coffee while keeping the taste. Although decaf hasn’t taken off yet, health-conscious millennials who want to calm down from daily pressures may reduce their caffeine intake, just as many have with alcohol. A craft decaf company in Britain, Decadent Decaf, has experienced 100% annual growth rates. 

Try for a buck

Here are some of this week’s weirdest ways to spend money

They say a fool and his money are soon parted. But they also say: YOLO. Actually, nobody says that anymore. Disregard.

Anyway, there’s no shortage of wild and wacky STUFF to spend your money on. Here are three of our favs from this week. 

  • Vegas wedding chapel, $12m: You can’t buy me love, but you can buy me… A Little White Wedding Chapel, for $12m. As The New York Times reports, the Vegas wedding industry ain’t what it used to be. Though it hauled in $2.5B last year, that’s still down at least a billion from its let’s-just-get-hitched-here heyday. 
  • Cargo robot, $3,250: The company behind Vespa scooters launched the Gita, an adorable cargo robot that follows its owner using visual sensors and carries up to 40 pounds of their stuff. Gita doesn’t record its travels — or even know its owner’s identity. But the bigger question: CAN IT BEAR THE WEIGHT OF MY EXISTENTIAL CRISES?
  • Bluetooth-enabled eRosary, $110: The Vatican — yes, that Vatican — partnered with Acer to develop the eRosary, a Bluetooth-enabled “smart cross.” Once eRosary’s accelerometer recognizes movement in the sign of the cross, it connects to a phone app — available for iOS and Android — that displays prayers onscreen. Oh, and the device also tracks your steps — so there’s no need to choose between faith and fitness.
» Amen
The Hustle’s Newsroom…

It’s that time again: 2019’s ‘Battle of the brands’

Interbrand, a company that analyzes brand value, released its list of the world’s most valuable brands. Facebook fell from the top 10 (to #14) with a brand value of $40B, a 12% decline. The top spots? Apple ($234B brand value, a 9% increase), Google ($168B value, +8%), and Amazon ($125B value, +24%). Check out the full, interactive list here.

Speaking of Facebook… Marky Z is playing for keeps

Under fire from all sides — Democrats, Republicans, Austrians, even Benioffs — for the Big ’Book’s role in spreading misinformation, Zuckerberg took the situation into his (most likely) human hands at a press conference where he insisted FB won’t police political speech… In other news, FB co-founder Chris Hughes is launching a $10m “anti-monopoly” fund

“I love you, you love me, let’s avoid bank-rupt-ceeee…” 

Barney’s — the fallen luxury brand, not the purple dino — reached a $271.4m deal to sell its assets to Authentic Brands Group (the brand management company with rights to likenesses of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali, and Shaquille O’Neal) and investment bank B. Riley Financial.


To test a seriously high-tech bed, you need a seriously high-tech person

By now, you’ve probably heard of the Eight Sleep Pod — the most advanced bed to hit the market, ever. But the only way to truly know something works is to try it for yourself, so we tapped one of our best and brightest to put the Pod to the test. 

Enter Wes Hunt, The Hustle’s Head of Engineering and resident Big Brain. 

Wes recently replaced his old mattress (RIP) with an Eight Sleep Pod and has been putting it to the test every night. Here’s how it stacks up:

⏰ On how his approach to sleep has changed: “Now, I really prioritize going to bed on time. When the app tells me I went to bed late and only got 6 or 7 hours of sleep, or roll around and wake up a lot, I know that my day is going to be different.”

❄️ On sleeping better: Sleeping on the Eight Sleep Pod helps me fall asleep faster and sleep through the night without waking up. The temperature control feature cools the Pod to the perfect degree, so I don’t toss and turn as I get too hot or too cold.”

💸 On (almost) effortless change: “The Eight Sleep Pod is in the class of products that improve your life without taking anything away from it. If you want to exercise more, you might buy a gym membership. But to benefit from that, you now have to spend time and effort at the gym. In other words, once you spend money to purchase something, you have to do something to benefit. The Eight Sleep Pod is not like that. All you have to do is buy it.

See for yourself
What Else…


🔮 Bickering between spouses is so… predictable. At least, it is to a group of researchers who are developing an AI that can predict marital arguments before they happen by analyzing speech patterns.

🔍 Sometimes, family heirlooms pay off. A Texas man found a long-forgotten painting of his mother by the famous Nigerian painter Ben Enwonwu stashed away in his house, and it sold for $1.4m in an auction.

😑 First, intermittent fasting. Now… intermittent happiness? A viral tweet about a conversation cut short by a man on a “dopamine fast” kicked off a debate about the merits of depriving oneself of stimulation. So… is dopamine fasting legit? Sure — most people just call it meditation.

Shower Thoughts
  1. The first dog to pee on Mars would temporarily be the dog lord of a whole planet.
  2. Your bed instantly becomes 100 times more comfortable when your alarm clock starts beeping.
  3. If you’re sitting down and receive shocking news, you stand. If you’re standing and receive shocking news, you sit.
  4. A calendar is a non-perishable non-food item that has an expiration date.
  5. It’s a real shame we say 1 million dollars instead of 1 megadollar.
  6. via Reddit
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