Blame bots for your grocery-delivery woes
The Hustle

Blame bots for your grocery-delivery woes

April 23, 2020

Today is Take Your Child to Work Day. While the irony of this year’s holiday dawns on everyone whose office is now their house, we just wanna say to the parents out there — we see you.

🎂 P.S. As we near the end of our birthday week, the swag is getting swankier. Read below for details on how to win today’s birthday present…

Supermarket Cheats

Trouble nabbing that grocery delivery slot? A bot may be the culprit

Think back to your last normal visit to a grocery store. And how you shot the guy who cut in front of you in the checkout line some major stink eye.

Felt good, right?

Alas, we’re sorry to report that some of your fellow shoppers at the Quarantine Whole Foods are impervious to stink eye, no matter how savage.

It’s because they’re… bots

As most folks know by now, grabbing a primo delivery slot is a bit like winning the lotto. Motherboard discovered that some rascals are building bots to do the hard work for them.

It’s a new spin on the technology that scalpers use to snap up all the Taylor Swift tix (if TSwift hadn’t canceled all her shows 😢). Or potential price gougers to automatically grab a hard-to-find Nintendo Switch.

Some grocery bots are simple (browser extensions that ping you when a slot opens up). Others are more sophisticated (they’ll take you all the way through checkout).

They give tech-savvy shoppers an upper hand over Luddites. And older folks who really need groceries but aren’t exactly known for… technical prowess.

But… is that ethical?

It’s a dilemma not seen since you were last spotted nervously counting your items in the express checkout lane.

Some developers told Motherboard that they actually meant to build the bots for people who need them most (it’s a feature, not a bug!).

“I designed the bot for those who find it extremely inconvenient in these times to step out, or find it not safe for themselves to be outside,” said Pooja Ahuja, a data scientist who released one of the bots.

“It is my contribution to help flatten the curve, I really hope this’ll help reduce the number of people going out.”

Others might not be so confident. Motherboard said one developer apparently removed his code from GitHub after the piece was published.

The bots won’t save you from a new 1st World Problem…

…that is, mistakenly buying 10 bunches of bananas at the online grocery instead of 10 bananas.

In case of corona overload…

Check out these stories if you need a break.

Inside a giant sextortion scheme. Scammers cheated people out of almost $500k by telling them they’d captured video of the victims visiting porn websites, and threatening to share the clips with friends.

Zuck places a big bet on India. Facebook paid $5.7B for a ~10% stake in Jio Platforms, a major Indian telecom company. The ‘book gets a stronger foothold in India, and Jio gets a closer tie-in with Facebook’s WhatsApp, which could power its ecommerce ambitions.

Speaking of Facebook: It wants you to know where posts from popular accounts are coming from. It’s adding location info to “high-reach” accounts, to help people judge how reliable the information is.

Researchers say they found an iPhone email hack. The hackers exploited a flaw in the iPhone’s default Mail app.

Google chips away at gender bias in translations. A new feature in Google Translate gives options for masculine and feminine translations when the source phrase is gender-neutral.

Crops, Propped

Cities are turning to vertical farms to keep their supply chains upright

If the last few weeks are any indication, an algorithm may soon be growing your green beans.

As urban grocery stores struggle to stock enough produce for their customers, they’re finding a seedling of hope in vertical farms — big, indoor facilities that cultivate plants using precision-controlled temperatures, lighting, and water supplies.

According to Axios, demand is blossoming for vertical farm startups. Companies like Bowery Farming have seen 2x the business, and they’re racing to open up new facilities near big cities.

The problem isn’t a cabbage shortage

There’s a disconnect here: Vertical farms are spreading their roots right as old-school farmers, facing lowered demand, are letting billions of dollars of produce rot on their land.

The produce is there — urban groceries just aren’t getting it. So what’s going on?

It’s a tale of rotten supply chains. The trucking industry is overwhelmed. Farmers typically split their crops between restaurants and grocery stores. With the restaurant side of the supply chain shut down, it’s difficult — and expensive — to pivot all the way into the other.

Vertical farms promise an answer: Crops grown in big cities, right near the stores that need them most.

But maybe you should hold your seed funding a little longer

Many believe that vertical farming is the future — especially in a health crisis. The few employees needed to maintain vertical farms mean fewer concerns about spreading disease.

But the industry needs stronger financial roots if it’s ever going to be ready for harvest. The upfront costs of vertical farms are immense.

You need to pay for LED lights, ventilation, temperature controls, and the 24/7 power costs are immense. Many vertical farms are opening, but very few are actually profitable.


You have 24 hours left to invest in the company that will change orthopedics forever

Click here to get in on Monogram’s SeedInvest round before it closes at midnight tomorrow.

They’ve already raised over $10m from 3,601 investors (in fact, they’re so popular that we actually had to update this copy… when we first drafted it last week, that number was $6.8m).

Why should you invest? 

Because, like any other good opportunity, they’re bringing modern-day problem-solving to a slow, stagnant industry.

  • Every Monogram orthopedic is custom 3D-printed. That means they’re smaller, more accurate, and more stable (up to 270% more stability for knee replacements and 634% more for hip replacements)
  • Their robotic surgical assistants use machine learning and advanced artificial intelligence, allowing them to avoid soft tissue better than humans can which makes for less invasive surgeries

Currently,  the share price sits at $4 and requires a minimum of only $1K to invest. 

See how to invest on their SeedInvest page:

Before it closes →

What’s ahead for the pandemic economy? This afternoon, our expert explains

Record numbers of Americans lost their jobs. Entire industries collapsed. Oil prices went negative (?!?!).

The pandemic has already done some weird things to our economy. What will things look like in the future? Our Trends team wanted to find out.

This afternoon, she’s giving a free lecture on her takeaways — and you’re going to want to be there. Here’s a taste:

  • It’ll be a gradual recovery. How comfortable will you be returning to work, or sending your kid to school? When’s the next time you’ll attend a sporting event? Until a vaccine arrives, life will be complicated.
  • “Must-haves” will replace “need-to-haves.” Consider where you’ll be 12 months from now. What’s the No. 1 thing you’ll wish you hadn’t spent money on?
  • Some trends are fads. Others are new mainstays. Ask yourself: Which ones are most likely to become part of your routine, even after things are “normal” again?

Seriously: This is must-see pandemic programming. Tune in at 3pm ET/12pm PT today. Register here — the live lecture is free to all readers of The Hustle. Seats are filling up fast, so reserve your spot now.

The Hustle Says

Struggling to navigate the sea of COVID-19 data? We’re giving a free webinar today at 12pm PT on COVID’s economic impact and related trends. Reserve your spot here.

Worried about fitting back into your jeans post-quarantine? Try Noom. They apply behavioral science to weight loss, helping you make a real change. Get started with this free trial.*

Pitch decks can make or break your funding. Lucky for you, Slidebean has the secret sauce — their presentation app and a team of experts has helped 30k startups nail their pitch & deck. Try it free for a month. 

Would you eat “meat meal”? Traditional dog food ain’t what you think. Instead, get fresh-made, real food from The Farmer’s Dog for your pup.*

*This is a sponsored post.

Power Plays

Wanna know how life in isolation has changed us? Look at the electricity data

If quarantine life has your schedule so mixed up that every day feels like Thursturday and the month of Maypril never ends, you probably aren’t the only one.

In fact, the secrets of everyone’s screwy schedules are revealed in the fluctuations of the power grid.

We’re waking up at the crack of noon

OK, maybe we’re not rolling out of bed quite THAT late. But Bloomberg looked at electricity data across the world and found a few patterns:

  • We’re definitely not using as much electricity in the mornings. In New York, electricity use has fallen by as much as 18% at 8am.
  • The grid knows when you’re taking that afternoon stroll. Power use in the 2pm-5pm range is down even more sharply than it usually is.
  • Evenings are an electricity hog. Ah, 6pm, the traditional hour when we change out of our Zoom sweatpants and into our Houseparty PJ’s.
  • The doomscrolling goes all night long, baby. Demand finally drops off about an hour later than usual — between 10pm and midnight.

Our changing habits mean clearer skies

In India, lockdown has brought residents of New Delhi the longest stretch of clean air on record. Eleven of 12 coal-fired power plants within a 185-mile radius of the capital city have gone dark, and car and construction pollution are way down, too.

What’s the new business school? Sam and Shaan give us their predictions

Let’s be real: Business school is less about studying and more about networking.

So, what if you could access a world-class network of ambitious peers and ultra-rich investors without going back for your MBA — and get it for $1,000?

That’s exactly what buzzy new startup On Deck is doing

Hear what Sam and Shaan have to say about On Deck in the latest episode of My First Million. Plus, learn about…

  • The app you can’t get: Jadon Smith, Jared Leto, and (allegedly) Mark Zuckerberg are all on it…but you can’t find it on the app store.
  • The company you can’t invest in: This $100M company is doubling sales every year. Shaan reached out to invest… they didn’t want it.
  • How to get a $500k check in 48 hours: Have ideas to fight COVID? An Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos-backed venture will give you research grants within 48 hours.

And a whole lot more. Listen here: Apple / Spotify / Google 🎧

The Hustle’s Birthday Giveaway

The Hustle’s a toddler, and we’ve got birthday presents

Thousands of dollars in birthday presents, all for you.

So, now that you’ve got your Hustle socks and hats, it’s tee time. We’ve got 25 of our classic ‘Always Be Hustlin’ tees packed and ready to ship.

Suit up, Hustle fam:

  1. Copy & paste your referral link
  2. Share it far and wide

You’ll get one entry in our raffle for every person who signs up using your referral link.

P.S. Tomorrow’s the last day of our birthday week celebration, and we’ve got something good to give away…

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Today’s email was brought to you by S. Candace Aginn (Self-Checkout Supervisor), Nick “Price Check” DeSantis, Michael Waters, Bobby Durben, and Meg Furey-Marquess.

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