Companies extend their own corona lifelines


April 16, 2020

April 16, 2020
The Hustle
TOGETHER WITH
Noom

🎧 We just dropped the 2nd episode of Exit Strategy. Our host Moiz interviewed the founder of Hims on how he built a $1B+ unicorn — and it’s straight up-magical. Listen here.

Corona Cash

Bumble to the rescue: private-sector help for businesses waiting on relief

At this point, the government’s coronavirus relief loans for small businesses are even harder to snag than an online grocery delivery slot. (No, hitting refresh and throwing salt over your shoulder won’t help.)

In fact, The Wall Street Journal said yesterday that the $349B Paycheck Protection Program was expected to run out of money entirely after less than 2 weeks. 

While the bureaucrats are bumblin’ about how to fix the cash crunch, one company is beating them to the punch: Bumble.

As Bloomberg noted, the dating app is part of a growing group of private-sector companies that are extending lifelines to their smaller peers. And fast: Bumble got a $5k grant into the hands of a DC restaurant owner in 2 weeks.

The money matters a LOT

Wednesday brought another one of those trend lines that makes our anxiety flare up (love ya, Commerce Department!): Retail sales plunged 8.7% in March — the sharpest drop since the government started tracking the figures in 1992.

Any money that small businesses can scrounge up probably comes as a relief, since 1 in 10 of them say they’re less than a month away from going under for good. 

The aid is especially critical for black-owned businesses, many of which are at high risk of getting no federal assistance.

Everybody grant now

A few big names in the business world have rolled out programs to help, with some of the aid aimed at women and minority-owned businesses:

  • Hello Alice, a startup incubator that focuses on supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs, is offering $10k grants to businesses affected by the pandemic.
  • The personal care company SheaMoisture unveiled a $1m fund for women of color entrepreneurs.
  • Inc. and Entrepreneur published comprehensive lists of other funding sources. More than 55k business owners have applied for a piece of Verizon’s $2.5m grant program.

As for Bumble’s contributions: It’s offering 150 grants (about $1m in total), with the first wave focused on US restaurant owners and other foodservice businesses.

Meanwhile, back on Capitol Hill…

…you might as well call EIDL IDLE. 

The government’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which is separate from the $349B PPP, is overwhelmed with applications

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In case of corona overload…

If the “retail just fell off a cliff” news left you longing for something to cling to, we’ve got suggestions.

  • Try a llama. The New York Times declares that they’re dethroning unicorns as the hottest creatures in the toy aisle… for reasons we can’t quite comprehend (unicorn horns too sharp?).
  • Dive down a Facebook rabbit hole. The social giant has apparently built a scaled-down, parallel version of its platform where bots simulate user behavior (like scams).
  • Take a sip of some coffee history. Dalgona is the beverage of the moment, but its origins may be more disputed than you realize.
  • Stop and see the cherry blossoms. Quarantine doesn’t mean you have to miss out.
They’re the Wheel Deal

Fans of this struggling skateboarding startup are running the show now

Cult-favorite brands, take comfort: An economic shortfall might kill your company, but it’s got nothing on your customers.  

Take it from Boosted, an electric skateboard company that ollied onto the scene in 2012 with half a million in Kickstarter funding. 

Its electric skateboard — with a wireless controller and a range of 12 miles — earned it a gnarly fan community that spans blogs, Facebook pages, and a subreddit (/r/boostedboards). 

But profit? Less so

In early March, Boosted cut loose a large chunk of its staff and announced it was looking for a buyer. Since then, Boosted has gone radio silent. 

Enter the superfans. 

The fanatics seized the means of production

As The Verge reported, Boosted… boosters?… have started to do the company’s work for it.

Can’t fix your boards? Boosted apostle Alex McInturff is offering motor repairs for $100. 

Need to remember the dos and don’ts? Skate over to the “Save Boosted” Google Drive, which features a trove of owner’s manuals, how-to guides, and safety instructions — a full-scale archive of corporate knowledge. 

The Boosted subreddit is looking more and more like a shadow version of the company. 

Sure, if Boosted LLC does wipe out, its remaining boards can’t last forever — but crowdsourcing might buy Boosted fans years until that happens. 

Plus, if all else fails, Boosted users can always keep appealing to Elon Musk to buy the company.

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Sponsored

It took a full decade, but tech finally cracked the code to weight loss

What’s the secret sauce? Restrictive diets? Endless hours on the elliptical? Only eating foods that are purple and shaped like eggplants? 

No, no, and no. In fact, it’s much simpler than that… 

You just need to slowly tweak your habits

And that starts with not eating 7 meals a day directly from your fridge while you work from home (trust us, you can do it).

Losing weight requires one thing: sustainable behavioral change. 

By helping people slowly shift their habits, rather than prescribing hard-to-follow diets and radical life changes, Noom has found a way to make weight loss sustainable and lasting.

The proof is in the (sugar-free) pudding: 78% of Noom users kept the weight off 9 months after they started their plan.   

And for some of us — like this copywriter — who have been sitting on our couches eating bagels with Nutella every hour we’re home, it’s the perfect way to get back to your healthy habits.

Want to see how Noom can help you make a change? Take their quiz:

Quiz time →
Page Turners

Bibles, workbooks, and ‘The Plague’: Meet the pandemic’s bestselling books

The hottest book in town right now is the Holy Bible. Over the last month, Tyndale House Publishers — one of several companies that sells Bibles and other religious texts — has seen 44% and 60% jumps in 2 of its major Bible editions. 

An executive told the Christian Post that this isn’t the first time people have turned to the company in a crisis: Business also boomed after 9/11. 

The publishing industry is stuck on a cliffhanger

With bookstores shuttering, festivals canceled, and major book releases postponed, publishers are feeling the crunch. Adult fiction dropped 21%, according to Forbes, with genre novels taking the biggest hint: 

  • Epic fantasy fell 25%.
  • Crime thrillers sunk 24%.

COVID-19 is reshuffling popular literature as we know it, and — religious texts aside — there are a few big winners.

Parents across the country are giving Brain Quest workbooks to their kids, and sales of children’s nonfiction were up almost 40% at one point in mid-March. One micropress — Modern Kid Press, run by a Texas couple — has 5 workbooks on Amazon’s Top 100 overall bestseller list.

Pestilence lit is the new crime novel

The other alphas of the new publishing industry: All those classic novels that you promised yourself you would get around to reading one day, like One Hundred Years of Solitude, and — of course — pandemic fiction.

This March, The Plague by Albert Camus and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel each saw double to triple increases in sales, raising the ultimate question — why settle for escapism when you can drown your fears in the most dystopian version of reality?

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The Hustle Says

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Verified?

There’s big money in ‘immunity passports,’ but the idea is complicated

A software company that’s grabbing headlines for its work on “immunity passports,” which could help open up locked-down economies worldwide, announced yesterday that it raised another $100m.

We have to admit: The phrase “immunity passport” sounds soooo good right now. 

People who’ve recovered from COVID-19 would be tested for the presence of antibodies. With a little tech to verify their identities, they could show the world that they’re disease-free and ready to flee. Or at least ready to return to work.

Axios reported that the company, Onfido, is in talks with at least one European government to develop phone-based passports, a spin on a similar idea being tried in China.

But like all corona-centric tech, there are a LOT of questions

They start with the puzzle of immunity itself. 

The UK promoted antibody tests as a way to kickstart its stalled economy, but found that the tests are far from perfect

If the tests detect some antibodies, but not the ones specific to SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes the disease — they could trigger false positives. And a false sense of security.

It’s also not yet clear how long someone’s immunity actually lasts. South Korea and a few other countries have seen reports of patients testing positive for COVID-19 twice — and researchers aren’t totally sure why.

Then there are the ethical concerns

Privacy experts and civil-liberties advocates worry that an over-reliance on the certificates could improperly limit people’s freedom of movement, or encourage people to ***shudder*** infect themselves. 

Health experts don’t want the “coronavirus party” to become the next “chickenpox party.” That’s one invitation they’d rather you leave in the mail.

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Sponsored

Our easy & healthy at-home routine? Athletic Greens

Just because the farmer’s market is closed and the line for the grocery store is longer than Doc Antle’s ponytail doesn’t mean you have to go without your daily greens. 

Luckily, Athletic Greens has got your back. Their all-in-one ultimate nutritional beverage packs 75 of the vitamins, minerals, and whole food-sourced ingredients that support your body’s nutritional needs across four pillars of health: immune support, gut health, energy, and recovery.

It’s a game-changer for keeping a healthy routine, even when we’re stuck on the couch (plus it’s tasty!). Get a free product with your first purchase. 

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