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WhatsApp hops on the white horse, becomes a key facilitator in the heroin trade
On the record, Mozambique’s two largest exports are aluminum (worth $378m) and coal (worth $678m). Off the record, it’s heroin.
Quartz writes that as much as 40 tons of heroin travel through Mozambique annually, at $20m per ton -- that’s $800m for those of you keeping score at home.
Now, WhatsApp has emerged as a key platform for disruption in this highly lucrative (and previously exclusive) drug market.
Friends in high places
Historically, Mozambique’s drug trade was tightly controlled by a small group of kingpins cozy with government officials and other Mozambique elites.
The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime reports that “criminal governance” has seamlessly integrated heroin into the economies of coastal East Africa, allowing families to launder money through government bonds and ship drugs through international ports.
In what is known as the “southern route,” drugs make their way down the African coast in truck and fishing boats, and eventually overseas to more lucrative markets in Asia and Europe.
But, much like Uber upended the taxi industry…
WhatsApp has opened the door for “freelancers” to serve the world’s growing dope demand, on demand.
The app’s hyper-secure, encrypted platform allows fishermen or truck drivers looking to pick up extra cash to securely respond to anonymous directives from Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.
This decentralized system even arms “gig workers” with bribe money and the contact info of corrupt officials to give it to (any money left over counts as the driver’s “commission”).
It’s an innovative “solution” exacerbating a much larger problem (thanks to their role as a middleman, Africa is currently “experiencing the sharpest increase in heroin use worldwide”) -- and, chances are, you won’t see these guys at a TED talk anytime soon.
The Postal Service owes $3.5m for using a fake Statue of Liberty on stamps
Last week, a judge ruled that the US Postal Service must pay the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty replica in Las Vegas $3.5m after they mistakenly used a photo of the statue on their “forever” stamp, thinking it was the real thing.
Court documents show that Terry McCaffrey (a member of a volunteer coalition that helps the postmaster general select artwork for stamps) purchased the image from Getty Images for $1.5k because it “was very different” from the 23 other Statue of Liberty stamps before it.
No sh*t, sherlock...
The USPS released their new Lady Liberty stamps in December 2010.
3 months later, when a good Samaritan from another stock photo company made them aware that they were using an image of the replica, they issued an internal memo that they would continue to use the stamp until “supplies were exhausted,” as it was “very popular.”
By June 2011, the USPS had printed 10.5B of the stamps, and in 2014, it was finally retired.
Layne Owens, manager of stamp development, noted that, had he known the origin of the photo, he would’ve attributed it, but “would still have used this photo.”
And sure, $3.5m isn’t a massive payout, but the USPS also lost $2.7B in 2017, so they don’t exactly have money to burn.
Et tu, TV? A new channel opens in the data collection arms race
These days, concerns about data privacy are mostly focused on internet giants that track your personal habits to serve targeted ads.
But, according to the The New York Times, there’s a new trend in ad-driven data collection coming down the pipe -- or should we say, “the tube”...
NEWS FLASH: Your TV is probably spying on you
Samba TV, a San Francisco-based startup with $40m in funding, makes its money by recording your viewing habits and allowing advertisers to send targeted ads to your phone or computer.
Through deals with smart-TV manufacturers, Samba’s pre-installed software “cleverly [recognizes] onscreen content,” then links that ad you saw during The Bachelorette to your other connected devices for retargeting.
And it’s not just them. One of their competitors, Alphonso, leverages mobile games to hijack microphones to listen for TV audio signals.
But, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise
Ad tech companies like Samba are racing to find unexplored loopholes that offer an edge for targeting and attribution. Unfortunately, that means we need to have a healthy sense of skepticism about what we “opt-in” to.
Samba TV offers a vague “opt-in” screen for new TV owners which, according to one of their executives, 90% of people enable even though about 0% understand what it actually means.
AAA is hiring travel agents to bring a ‘human touch’ back to booking trips
Last week, AAA (the American Automobile Association) announced plans to hire hundreds of work-from-home travel agents — real humans — in 22 cities across the country.
AAA is mostly known for their roadside assistance (AKA, the disgruntled guy named “Bill” who shows up in a tow truck, hocks a loogie, and fixes your flat tire).
But, as it turns out, they’re also one of the largest (and oldest) travel agencies in the US -- and they’re going up against a self-empowered generation of internet bookers.
If you haven’t noticed, travel’s changed
It used to be that if you wanted to book a trip, you’d hop on down to a physical travel agency office, and have a human help you out.
Now, in the age of the internet, anyone can be their own travel agent: It’s easy enough to find an Airbnb or hotel, plan a road trip with Google Maps, or scope potential destinations from Instagram. But, that comes with the burden of sifting through an overwhelming amount of information.
AAA want to bring back simpler times via a human touch
Over the years, AAA has garnered a reputation for its customer service and strong agent-customer relationships. But, if their travel agency reviews are any indication, they’ll have some work to do.
“AAA works for car breakdowns,” writes one customer, “but beyond that, nah.”
Turing Talent helps startups scout top recruits from their pool across The Pond
The tech hiring market in The States is expensive AF right now.
Meanwhile, there are perfectly good hires in places like London or Madrid chomping at the keys for a developer or data science gig at a hot young startup.
That’s why Oxford and Cambridge grads Corinne Sawers and Christina Chen created Turing Talent -- a company that cultivates talent hubs across Europe to help companies find talented, full-time developers and data scientists.
Think global, hire global...
And save a boatload on salaries while getting world class talent.
Turing’s not a cheap outsourcing agency for disposable labor, they’re a talent agency for growth-stage companies that realize the hiring landscape is changing.
And VCs are catching on: Turing’s clients include portfolio companies of heavy-hitters like Kleiner Perkins, Andreessen Horowitz, Menlo Ventures, and Greylock.
Plus, unlike bougie headhunters, there are no recruitment fees for your first full-time hire when you register before the end of July -- just mention The Hustle when you sign up.