Happy Friday, people. It’s been exactly 7 days since last Friday, and man has it been a week. Today:
Private equity owns all the .orgs thanks to new rules
Women are finally buying their own damn jewels
AirPods coated in 18K gold don’t suffer fools
Have an awesome weekend.
💰 Need a new hustle? The Trends 30-day trial offer for $2 ends today at noon. Get it here.
The org that sells .orgs is no longer a .org
The Public Interest Registry (PIR), the nonprofit organization responsible for maintaining and distributing all .org domains, was acquired by the definitively for-profit private equity company Ethos Capital.
Although .org domains aren’t legally required to be nonprofits, most are still held by nonprofits, schools, and open source projects (like Wikipedia).
So, how did a Public Interest Registry end up with private equity?
First, to understand .orgs, we have to go back to the days before the internet. In 1985, computer scientists launched 7 original top-level domains ––.com, .int, .edu, .gov, .mil, .net, and .org.
In 1998, a nonprofit organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was put in charge of organizing all these domains –– kind of like an ultimate librarian of the internet.
ICANN was chartered by the government, but the company delegated responsibility for its several domains to a mixture of nonprofits and for-profit companies –– with profound consequences.
It’s a tale of 2 very different domains
ICANN awarded the contract to operate .com domains to a for-profit, public company called Network Solutions (acquired by Verisign).
Under private ownership, .com domains became tradable assets, much like pieces of real estate. The .com domain biz blew up: Desirable commercial domains shot up in value –– Sex.com sold for $13m in 2010 and LasVegas.com was sold in a $90m deal in 2005.
But for .orgs, the story was very different.
ICANN awarded the contract to operate .orgs to a nonprofit called PIR, and since .orgs were originally made for nonprofits, their prices were capped –– at $9.05 per domain –– to ensure costs would stay low.
Then, ICANN changed the rules
This past June, ICANN removed its price cap on .org domains, opening the door for .org domains to appreciate in value like their .com cousins.
Suddenly, PIR –– which has registered more than 10m .org domains –– was a hot acquisition target (*private equity companies lick their lips*).
And now, Ethos Capital is the proud owner of the .orgs.
Ethos CEO Erik Brooks said in a statement that the company is “committed to ensuring complete continuity of PIR’s operations and enhancing the relationships PIR has established over the years.”
He didn’t say, however, that prices won’t go up –– and a number of internet freedom groups quickly denounced the sale. So hold on to your .orgs, folks –– it could get bumpy out there.
Women can buy their own damn jewelry, thankyouverymuch
So he went to Jared. So what? The woman in his life ain’t counting on him to bring home the bling. As holiday sales make up an increasingly smaller share of jewelry stores’ totals, it’s time to explore an interesting shift in purchasing patterns.
Women are doin’ it for themselves
Before, most jewelry purchases were made by men shopping for women on special occasions.
But now, more women buy their bijoux for themselves… and they buy it whenever the fancy strikes. In a survey by the retail group Yoox Net-a-Porter, more than 60% of women indicated they’d rather buy a piece of jewelry themselves than wait to receive it as a gift.
It’s a golden opportunity for some companies
Female-founded jewelry startup Mejuri engages its core customer base — women ages 18 to 35, 90% of whom are shopping for themselves — by introducing a new fine jewelry piece each week. It’s an unusual strategy in an industry where classics have cachet — Tiffany heart locket, anyone? — but it creates a sense that jewelry isn’t a special-occasion splurge but an everyday indulgence.
And Mejuri shoppers do indulge. A lot. The company sees 40% of its revenue from repeat customers, and its product waitlist totals 40k people.
Want a Banksy? How about a $2M Warhol?
You probably think they’re out of your price range… but you’re wrong, my friend.
Not only can you afford these high-end art pieces, but they can actually make you more money — fine art was the top-performing investment asset of 2018, with returns of 10.6%.
So, how do you do it? By buying shares in these pieces through Masterworks.
Just like stock in a company, Masterworks lets you own fractional pieces of artwork. When they’re sold, you make money off the appreciation. It’s not anything new (the ultra-wealthy have been flipping art like this for decades), but it is the first time these pieces are available to non-millionaires.
Here’s the catch: Due to high demand, the Masterworks waiting list is over 5,000 people long.
But they also know the value of smart, high-quality members (*cough* like readers of The Hustle *cough*) so they’re willing to let us skip the line.
We all find different ways to spend our time: Some of us start small businesses, others of us build full-scale replicas of Steve Jobs riding a Segway out of used toothpicks. Oh, just me? Nevermind.
Anyway, if we can find so many ways to spend time, shouldn’t we be able to find just as many ways to spend money?
Here’s this week’s shout-out to all the people who found the most creative ways to drain their checking accounts:
Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, $31m: Ready to upgrade from your waterproof Casio? Consider this fancy li’l number, which recently beat out Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona (sold for $17.7m) to become the most expensive watch ever sold at auction.
An aroid, the trendiest houseplant of the season, $2.7k: Tropical houseplants are IN this season, according to The New York Times. An aroid from the garden of houseplant rockstar Enid Offolter started at a bid of $19… and sold for $2.7k.
McLaren Elva roadster, $1.8m: What does nearly $2m buy you in the world of racecars? Not a windshield, it turns out. McLaren’s new luxury supercar lacks windows, a roof, and a windshield — and only 399 will ever be made. Get yours today!
Caviar AirPods Pro, $67k: Excited about the new AirPods, but disappointed they didn’t come in 18-karat gold? No prob! A Russian company sells AirPods coated in gold –– or python leather. Caviar also sells iPhone cases that (allegedly) contain:
America, the land of the… oligopolistic market economy?
Two decades ago, the US had competitive free markets and oligopolies were par for the course in Europe. Today, the roles are reversed. Competition for consumer services is thriving in Europe, and America is the land of consolidated corporate power. What happened?
A perfect American storm of unfettered mergers and acquisitions, intense lobbying, big campaign donations, and poor policy choices, says economist Thomas Philippon, whose book on this topic hit the shelves last month.
Lack of competition is why your bills are so damn high
The average American household spends twice as much on cellphone bills as the average French household.
For internet, many Americans have the choice between Comcast and, well, Comcast –– while French people typically have at least 5 providers to choose from.
Similarly, profits per passenger airline mile are about 2x higher in the US than in Europe. During the past couple of decades, the American airline industry saw mega merger after mega merger, while the EU paved the runway for cheap competitors like Ryanair and EasyJet.
Philippon’s research suggests the median American household would save about $300 a month if the US championed pro-competitive policies.
When you buy pizza from a place that sells it by the slice, you’re essentially having a pizza party with a bunch of strangers that day.
The speed limit is the only law that people get mad at you for obeying.
If you trip and fall but don’t die, you’ve survived a collision with a planet.
Thanks to space suits, humanity still hasn’t touched the Moon.
There was probably once a tree that got cut down, turned into paper, and then used in a presentation about why we shouldn’t cut down trees.