Good luck getting that insurance check


June 25, 2020

June 25, 2020
The Hustle
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Are you missing live music as much as we are? For $40, you can now reserve a spot for a 1-on-1 opera performance held over the phone. 

It’s just you, an opera singer, a background pianist, and a few Beethoven bangers from 1816.

The songs you hear might be ancient, but as The New York Times says, they are “passionately, pandemically intended.”

The Fine Print

Everything was canceled. But good luck getting that insurance money.

Raise your hand if the sheer force of your anxiety has ever made you pay a little extra to insure your flight. Maybe you thought, You never know, a pandemic could hit

Well, the worst happened — but all that worrying doesn’t seem to be doing much good.

Turns out, canceling your flight because of a global pandemic is not covered in the policies of the 2 major flight insurers, Allianz and Travel Guard.

When it comes to insurance, we’re all losers

There are some exceptions to that travel insurance rule: If you had COVID-19, you might have gotten an insurance payout — but only under certain conditions.

In flight insurance lingo, you can’t be covered if there is a “foreseen” disaster. But insurers set their own rules about when the risk of catching COVID-19 was “foreseen.”

For Allianz, you had to book before January 22. For Travel Guard, you had until March 11. COVID-19 patients who bought insurance after those dates: Tough luck.

But flight insurers aren’t the only ones to totally flop during their moment in the spotlight.

Small businesses, don’t hold your breath for a payout

Back in 2006, small business insurers agreed that they wouldn’t cover any pandemic-related loss of business. 

Which means: Businesses facing a historic drop in customers are going to have a tough time getting insurance help. 

One lawyer told Marker there might be a workaround — blaming a loss of income on the lockdown, not the virus specifically — but it won’t be easy.

Meanwhile, businesses facing looting damage have also struggled to get their money. A case in point: After multiple lootings, the sneaker reseller Rif LA only recouped 20% of its losses.

But some insurers are feeling a little more generous. With so few people driving, car insurance companies have been handing out rebates.

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Remote (worker) control

A new player wants to shake up the marketplace for freelance tech talent

Real talk: Freelance life sucks sometimes. 

There’s the constant courting of clients, the too busy/not busy enough paradox, and let’s not even talk about the agony of invoicing. 

But a new talent marketplace called Braintrust aims to alleviate some of that pain while lowering the cost of admission. 

A new kind of e-lance platform

As Business Insider reports, Braintrust is free for freelance pros like software engineers and U/X designers. Clients pay a fee of 10% for each job invoiced through the platform — significantly less than other marketplaces.

Adam Jackson, Braintrust’s CEO, told us those other companies’ fees aren’t fair to workers — and they’re a waste of money for clients.

Braintrust can keep its fees lower because it operates as a nonprofit organization. Revenues raised will go toward operating costs.

Jackson calls Braintrust a “market system” where talent can bid and clients hire based on a combination of skill, experience, and other factors.

“We want talent to get the fair market rate they deserve and that clients are willing to pay — regardless of where they live,” he said.

The platform has been running in stealth mode since last fall, but companies like NASA, Nestlé, and TaskRabbit already use it. By the most recent count, 500 freelancers have created profiles and 10k are on the waitlist.

Way to own it

One way Braintrust stands out: Eventually, top freelancers and clients will own a piece of the action. The founders are developing a token-based cryptocurrency system that will give people votes in future decisions.

Freelancers and clients will be rewarded with tokens for writing code, assisting with marketing, or referring new clients. 

Already, investors want in. Braintrust got an infusion of cash from VCs True Ventures and Homebrew Ventures, who ponied up $6m in exchange for future tokens.

We asked our Hustle Insiders: How does this compare to other marketplaces for tech talent?

From Kyle Vamvouris, CEO at Vouris:

“I hire a lot of freelancers and the juggernaut in this space is Upwork. In my opinion, the challenge in this space is sifting through freelancers for someone to hire, not how many freelancers exist on the platform. Braintrust’s differentiator helps the freelancer because they don’t have to pay a fee, but I don’t see a strong differentiator on the employer side. Employers still pay a fee and I am not confident that Braintrust’s freelancers are any better than their competitors.”

Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity. Was this quote helpful? Let us know here.

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Buy Me Some… Crackerjack?

Baseball gets the green light, but its most famous snack is stuck in peanut purgatory

After a few swings and misses, baseball is back! But definitely not better than ever. 

Reduced to a 60-game season played in empty stadiums, the national pastime will lose a 40% chunk of its revenue.

While it might be hard to muster a tear for baseball’s billionaire bosses or its many millionaire players, let’s take a moment to recognize the real victims here — peanuts.

A rare win for the peanut-allergy posse

2.3m pounds of Virginia peanuts, the highest-quality legumes in the biz, are consumed during a regular baseball season. About one-fifth of all Virginia peanut shells end up littering the floors of baseball stadiums.

When the pandemic shut down the season, peanut farmers had already sold their crop to packing and selling companies. Ballparks canceled their usual orders, and the packers were stuck holding the shells. Because demand dried up, the stadium-destined peanuts were stuck in storage. 

The peanut gallery needs a new punchline

Legume leaders are scrambling to find alternative paths to peanut profitability. 

Sale-boosting promotions and rising retail sales — up almost 15% in May — offer some relief.

Most leftover peanuts end up as cheap peanut butter. But since the premium ballpark peanuts are so expensive to grow, packing companies see that as a last resort.

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The Zoom Classroom

3 ways the online-learning boom is reshaping the business of education

The pandemic forced schools everywhere to shift to online learning — and fast. As many kids and parents will tell you, the transition was bumpy.

But the boom in online learning isn’t a blip — most schools will operate at least partially online this fall. Many schools are looking for new tech solutions for everything from taking attendance to taking temperatures.

Here are a handful of other ways the school biz is changing:

  • Online tutoring is the new norm. Many parents aren’t happy with what’s passing for school these days, so they’re ordering up more tutoring than ever for their kids.
  • Homeschooling could be next. You don’t have to be a math expert to support your kid. That’s the message companies like DreamBox are using to sell monthly subscriptions, which cost as little as $12.
  • ‘Edu-tainment’ is on the rise. Language-learning app Duolingo landed 101% more users in March, which adds up to millions of people. What languages are the most popular, according to the app? This analysis might surprise you.

If you want to know more about the boom in online learning, check out our full story, which we published in partnership with EdSurge. For more insights, sign up for their newsletters.

Win the Workday

Your best productivity hacks and unplugging tactics

Yesterday, we asked for your top productivity hacks and unplugging strategies to get through the newly weird workdays. Taking a break came up again and again — as a productivity booster and a way to draw lines between work and play.

Several of you mentioned the Pomodoro Technique, which involves alternating bursts of hyper-focused work with breaks to clear your head.

Here are a few of your other top tips:

Productivity power moves

  • Jennay changes up the tunes: “Thursday means Mozart morning, French rap afternoon, followed by an Aloha Friday (Hawaiian music).”
  • Susan cuts a rug to keep the blood pumping: “Dancing like no one is watching, except the dogs.”
  • Tristen’s got a parenting tip: “Setting up a schedule and organized structure for the kids (like a task box with their lunch, snacks, drinks, chores, and school work) was a game changer… I became more of an overseer versus a director of their daily tasks.”

Unplugging advice

  • We liked Kelly’s advice a lot: “Honestly, being easy on yourself. Unless you’re a doctor, 9/10 times you not getting to something immediately isn’t going to be life-threatening.”
  • If all else fails, try Kristy’s recipe for distraction-free evenings: “Letting my aging iPhone 7 run out of juice. Then I can’t obsessively check email or take any calls.”
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Snippets

1️⃣  The big thinkers at XPRIZE are starting a $5m contest to retrain workers who lost their jobs due to the effects of automation.

2️⃣  Google will now automatically delete your voice recordings, location history, and search data after 18 months — but only for new accounts.

3️⃣  Welcome to #CorporateSynergy: Slack will now let up to 20 companies trade messages on a single channel. 

4️⃣  Facebook is banning all sales of historic artifacts — sorry, but now you’re going to have to get your Ancient Roman oil lamps somewhere else.

5️⃣  Uh, yikes: Up until this week, the full name of our smallest state was “the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.’”

6️⃣  After 84 years, Olympus Corp. is getting out of the camera biz.

7️⃣  The floodgates are open to fireworks conspiracy theories

8️⃣  This man’s case is believed to be the first example of an American who was wrongfully arrested based on a bad match from facial-recognition tech.

9️⃣  Meet China’s fully robotic Cantonese restaurant — a giant space that seats 600 people.

🔟  Tinder has a new catfish-detection feature, and it’s already rolling out in the UK.

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