Billy Beane: From Moneyball to SPAC


October 15, 2020

PLUS: Ikea will now buy back your furniture.
October 15, 2020
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Fully

People, if you’ve ever seen the 1971 classic Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, you’ll remember 2 things: 1) Roald Dahl was definitely on acid when he wrote that book; and 2) the protagonist — Charlie — started his hero’s journey by finding a “golden ticket.”

Well, next week is your lucky week. Each day, one reader will receive a Golden Ticket and get cool stuff (we can’t say whether or not it’ll be acid). You only have to do one thing: open the email. That’s it.

The Big Idea
Airplane

Airport biometrics company Clear has big expansion plans

Once upon a time, the security line went toe-to-toe with premade sandwiches as the worst part of the airport check-in experience.

The biometrics company Clear was your best bet to skip the line. In exchange for registering your fingerprints and eye scan with the company, you could breeze past the normies.

Now, Clear wants to outgrow its “skip-the-line” reputation. And per OneZero, its biometrics data could potentially undergird all of your purchases.

How did Clear work originally?

Pre-pandemic, the company got most of its business from airports.

Some 5m frequent flyers shelled out $179 a year for a Clear membership. Clear shared 10% to 12% of these profits with airports (~$35m last year).

The company also set up shop in sports stadiums, where, as a Clear member, you could prove you were 21+ and buy a beer by scanning your fingerprint.

That all collapsed in April

Clear’s revenues fell by as much as half in some airports. To survive, the company is innovating. A few of its newer ideas:

  • A Budweiser vending machine called “Bud Now” will rely on Clear-verified fingerprints to prove the buyer is 21+.
  • The NHL, the 9/11 Museum, and restaurants like Chop’t and Dos Toros have bought into a Clear program called “Health Pass,” which tracks the symptoms and last test dates of their employees.

That’s only the beginning

The company’s CEO, Caryn Seidman-Becker, calls Clear a biometrics “platform” modeled on the same concept as Amazon.

“Now you think about adding hotels, now you think about ride-share… You are your credit card when you enroll,” she said last year.

Every time you make a purchase or flash your health insurance card, Clear wants to be there, confirming it’s really you.

And that might make biometrics a mundane part of our everyday lives.

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Snippets
  • Zoom is going all in on ticketed events. Its new section, OnZoom, will host paid yoga classes, comedy shows, and more.
  • A Thailand-based exporter, NR Instant Produce, has raised $51.4m by turning jackfruit into a pork replacement.
  • Pret A Manger staked its entire business on employee lunch breaks — now, with profits catering, it’s pivoting to selling to supermarkets.
  • Want to know how FaZe Clan lives? This New York Times interactive maps the group’s entire house.
  • Get ready for the rise of “dark stores,” retail outlets that look a bit like ghost kitchens — and are designed to fulfill online orders.
Base-SPAC
Baseballs

The man behind Moneyball is about to take the Red Sox public

Billy Beane is at it again. After bringing statistical analysis to baseball with sabermetrics (e.g., WHIP and OBP), the “Moneyball” king is all in on the acronym of the moment: SPAC.

Beane’s company, RedBall ($RBAC) is close to a merger with Fenway Sports Group.

Owned by billionaire John Henry, Fenway Sports Group assets include the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park, and Liverpool F.C.

The merger would value Fenway Sports Group at $8B

RedBall would have less than a 25% stake. Beane and Co. are looking to raise $1B to close the deal by the end of the month.

Here’s where it gets complicated — Beane already owns equity in the Oakland A’s, meaning he would own a piece of 2 baseball teams…

…which is why he’ll likely leave baseball altogether if the deal goes down (MLB has to approve it).

These parties have circled each other before

In 2002, Beane was in consideration for the Red Sox’s general manager job. Theo Epstein ended up taking the role and became a Massachusetts god by winning 2 World Series titles in 5 years, ending an 86-year curse.

If Beane and the Red Sox finally get hitched, it could open the floodgates to more teams going public with similar deals, giving fans another forum to pull for their favorite squad.

This also sets the stage for an incredible sequel to the 2011 film aptly named Moneyball. We’ll get some awesome Jonah Hill-related SPAC jokes — and the Oscars can right past wrongs by giving Brad Pitt the Best Actor trophy he deserves.

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SPONSORED

15 years ago, David Kahl started selling one life-changing chair on eBay… 

The Capisco.

Capisco solved Kahl’s lingering back pain issues, thanks to a design that suits how the human body actually moves (unlike the typical old-school desk chairs that force your legs to bend at 90-degree angles and trap you in one position all day). 

Cut to one and a half decades later, and that one-chair startup is now a flourishing company building a variety of furniture that supports your body:

Fully.

Check out their 15% off sale and see how much better it feels to sit in a Fully chair — but hurry, it only runs until October 19th. 

Shop the sale →
Getting Defensive
Security Camera

Why Silicon Valley is still salivating over those sweet, sweet government defense contracts

As noted by investor Elad Gill, tech innovations born out of the defense industry are many.

Think semiconductors, GPS and — the most important invention since Dr. James Naismith put a ball through a peach basket — the internet.

In recent years, though, the marriage of Big Tech and defense has hit the rocks. Case in point: Google famously dropped an AI surveillance program (Project Maven) after employee uproar.

Now, more defense-related startups are getting in on the action

Anduril has raised $241m to build tech including border surveillance, while Shield.ai has pulled in $48m to make defense AI systems.

Perhaps most notably, Palantir — the Peter Thiel-backed firm that only recently left startup-dom — took on the abandoned Project Maven contract.

This may be creating a narrative that the biggest tech firms are shying away from government contracts, leaving a void for startups.

Don’t be fooled, though, says Gill.

Megacap tech firms are still happily taking that government cheddar

According to Gill, the list is extensive:

  • Amazon and Microsoft are fighting over the $10B JEDI contract
  • Intel, IBM, and Oracle have secured long-term gov commitments
  • Salesforce has the No. 1 enterprise solution for the government (AKA “Government Cloud”)
  • “Tons of SaaS companies”… although with much smaller contracts

When you consider that the US budget for defense spending is somewhere between ~$700B and $1T (give or take a few hundred billy), it’s not hard to see why tech companies of all sizes keep coming back to the well.

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Second Hand
Furniture

Ikea is getting into the refurbished business

Ever try selling Ikea furniture on Craigslist?

Then you’re probably familiar with those atrocious lowball offers (“Hey, I know you listed at $60 but would you do $5?”)

Luckily, there may be relief on the way.

Ikea will begin buying back its furniture in the UK and Ireland

As part of a move to “help its customers take a stand against excessive consumption,” Ikea will exchange store vouchers for that Billy bookcase.

Per Business Insider, here is Ikea’s proprietary algorithm for determining used furniture value:

  • 50% of original price for “new, without scratches”
  • 30% of original price for “well-used with several scratches”

The plan launches on Black Friday (Nov. 27) and customers can kickstart the process by filling out an online form before taking their used furniture into a store.

Some furniture items will be donated while others will be sold

Refurbished gear selected for re-sale will end up at a store in the world’s first “recycles mall” — ReTuna in Eskilstuna, Sweden — where everything is recycled.

The scheme is consistent with Ikea’s plan to be carbon positive by 2030. While second-hand furniture likely won’t be as lucrative as the $10B refurb electronics industry, Ikea is setting a sustainable standard.

More importantly, we might start seeing fewer ulcer-inducing Craigslist offers.

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