Google’s antitrust case, explained
The Hustle

Google’s antitrust case, explained

PLUS: How WeChat inspired Substack.

October 21, 2020

So we got a few Golden Ticket related messages yesterday:

  • “Stop pushing this sh*t if Canadians can’t win.” (They can)
  • “HAHAHHA sucka b****es, I got dat golden tick!” (Nice)

These are 100% real, so keep opening the email to win that Golden Ticket prize. And — c’mon — “dat” is not a word and please stop swearing!

The Big Idea

The US Government v. Google: What you need to know

Finally, we can party like it’s 1998.

In the biggest US tech antitrust action since the government took on Microsoft and Bill “Don’t call me Dollar Bill” Gates, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an antitrust suit against Google on Tuesday.

What’s the allegation?

According to the Wall Street Journal, Justice officials will lay out the case that Google is abusing monopoly positions in search (~80% of US search volume) and search advertising.

The DOJ claims the company is acting as a gatekeeper and shutting out competition by:

  • Paying browsers billions of dollars to be the default search engine
  • Pre-loading its search app (which can’t be deleted) on Android phones
  • Preventing competing search pre-loads on phones under revenue-share agreements
  • Owning industry-leading tools at every part of the digital advertising chain

Predictably, Google has called the suit “deeply flawed.”

The stakes are huge

A similar investigation by the Federal Trade Commission in 2013 never made it to court. But the DOJ suit could set a huge precedent:

  • A loss for Google could change the structure of its business, (e.g., a potential spinoff of the Chrome browser).
  • A win for Google would hamper DC’s efforts to wrangle other antitrust targets (Amazon, Apple, Facebook).

Don’t expect anything overnight, though. It took 3 years to reach an agreement with Microsoft.

Google will be deploying some of its $120B in cash to fight this case

As we previously covered, the company has a ready-made defense.

The US government recently sued American Express for charging merchants high fees, but the payments firm won the case by saying it was a “net positive” across its entire network (e.g., customers get points).

Google certainly has a claim. One study showed that consumers would have to be paid $17.5k a year to give up search.

Either way, this brings back memories of 1998. One other thing that happened that year? Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google.



The newsletter startup Substack was inspired by China’s superapp WeChat

If you’ve turned on the internet at any point in 2020, you’ve probably encountered Substack, the publishing platform that lets anyone quickly spin up a newsletter and sell subscriptions.

Names with big followings and expert coverage (Andrew Sullivan, Casey Newton) have left traditional publishers to go solo on the platform.

Many have likened Substack to Medium 2.0, but a more apt comparison for the startup may be the Chinese superapp WeChat.

Expert voices straight to reader inboxes is not new in China

This model has been around on WeChat since 2013, according to the SCMP.

WeChat is like Facebook, WhatsApp, Tinder, Apple Pay, and email all rolled into one. WeChat’s messaging DNA comes from the fact it was created by a team of email specialists from parent firm Tencent.

The specific inspiration for Substack is the WeChat Public Accounts, which are media accounts (publications, solo influencers) that send blogs and articles directly into a user’s message feed.

WeChat has over a billion monthly active users

And more than half of them check WeChat Public Accounts on a daily basis. Users have 8m+ public accounts to choose from and the biggest accounts — like Shidian Read — have tens of millions of followers.

No Substacker is in that league but a handful are earning 7 figures in annual subscriptions (e.g., Sinocism, which — funny enough — offers in-depth China coverage).

Based on Medium’s completely inexplicable logo redesign, Substack should probably keep drawing publishing inspiration from WeChat.


One easy way to save 4 figures every quarter: 

Budget tracking and expense reporting with Divvy.

Their free platform (yes, free — they only make money off interchange fees) gives you and your team instant visibility that will change the way you manage your spend.

CFO’s frickin’ love it

I believe we’re saving thousands of dollars a quarter as a result of real-time budget tracking.” – Lou Lombardo, CFO @ Golf Genius

Save more, stress less, and do it all for free. That’s the Divvy way.

I gotta know more →

LATAM Fintech

You should know about MercadoLibre, the $66B ‘Amazon of Latin America’

Speaking of borrowing from China, MercadoLibre is a Latin American ecommerce powerhouse that is aping Alibaba’s style.

Over the past 2 decades, Alibaba took its ecommerce dominance in the Middle Kingdom and created Ant Group, a payments biz which is looking to go public at a valuation north of $200B.

Often called the “Amazon of Latin America,” MercadoLibre has leveraged its own payments arm (Mercado Pago) to a $66B valuation, ~3x its March lows.

Latin America is ripe for financial disruption

Half the region is unbanked — and 99%+ of the firms are small-and-medium-sized businesses (SMB), which operate more informally and have difficulty accessing credit.

Along with the rest of the world, Latin America’s economy had to go digital during the pandemic.

Mercado Pago — which offers digital wallets, debit cards, and QR payments — saw payments on its platform double in Q2. And, like Ant before it, the payments platform offers users investment options.

The digital change is here to stay

Pago’s head Osvaldo Gimenez tells Reuters that once people use its services, “there is no way back to lining up for 20 minutes to pay an electricity bill.”

Other Latin American fintech startups are getting in on the action include Ualá (Argentine mobile bank), dLocal (Uruguayan payments platform), and Nubank (Brazilian neo-bank).

World Series Mania

So, you’ve always wanted to go to the World Series?

Until last Sunday, this seemed like the year to do it.

A potential showdown between the Atlanta Braves and Tampa Bay Rays — 2 small-market teams — didn’t figure to make this 2020’s fixture a big draw.

Toss in anxiety over attending live events and the need to hop on a flight to Dallas (the site of this year’s World Series), and many die-hards were content to watch from the comfort of their couch.

Things changed quickly

The Los Angeles Dodgers rallied to knock off Atlanta in the National League Championship Series (NLCS), sparking a frenzy that has seen tickets surge on secondary markets like SeatGeek and Gametime.

While the NBA and NHL finished out their bubbles in empty arenas, the NFL and MLB have welcomed back fans in a limited capacity.

It’ll cost you…

Major League Baseball capped the number of tickets it would sell per game for the World Series at ~11.5k. Ranging from $75 to $450, ticket prices were down 40% to 50% versus last year’s World Series.

Those discounts were short-lived, as ticket prices have skyrocketed to between $1.6k and $17k.

Turns out there’s more than a few people willing to shell out for the chance to see the Dodgers win their first title since 1988.

The Hustle Says

These furniture products for your home office are rated some of the best around by GearPatrol, Daily Beast, and The Strategist. Get up to 20% off Branch’s Work from Home collection right here.

What does telemedicine, insect edibles, at-home fitness, alt-milk, and keto everything have in common? Our team called these trends out, long before they became obvious. We don’t get ‘em all right, but let’s just say… we wish we were more of the betting type. Get access to these signals early, with a $1 Trends trial.

The walkie-talkie is officially dead. Introducing Relay+, the next generation of push-to-talk communication. The power of a smartphone, the ease of a walkie-talkie, all at a price any company can afford.*

This futuristic material is hypoallergenic, thermoregulating, and machine-washable — oh, and it’s been around since 3630 BC. Get your hands on Lunya’s Washable Silk Set right here.*

Check out Cheddar’s special coverage of the final Presidential debate for nonpartisan analysis tomorrow, Oct. 22 @ 8pm ET here.

Netflix, Apple, Amazon, _____???. Check out this article for what could be the next big stock pick.*

*This is a sponsored post.


Technical Writer, Linode:

Wanna git down with Linux and open-source software… and write about it? Clickity-click the above link.

Head of Community, MTTR

A new media brand aimed at making culture more conscious is looking for someone with community chops.

Sales Manager, FRISS:

Maybe you can fight fire with fire, but to fight insurance fraud you need… kick-ass software? Be the hero we need AND deserve.

Senior Technical Writer, Deepgram:

This automatic speech recognition platform is searching for a smartie who can quickly learn new concepts and describe them for technical audiences.

Senior Account Manager, PeopleFluent:

Buddy up. This gig will have you filling an important client partner function.

See more →


GIVEAWAY: Share The Hustle for a chance to win a MacBook Pro

Every referral you get gives you an additional entry in the giveaway. Here’s a message you can use to share with your friends:

Hey! Do you read The Hustle? It’s the best daily business newsletter out there — only takes 5 minutes to read. They’re running a giveaway today so if you sign up using my link, we’re both entered to win a MacBook Pro. Sign up here, it’s free: {referral_url}

Share to Win →
How did you like today’s email?

hate it


love it

Today’s email was brought to you by Trung Phan.
Editing by: Zachary “Don’t sue me, bro” Crockett, Ian Bobby McGee (Janis Joplin Biographer).


2131 THEO DR. STE F, AUSTIN, TX 78723, UNITED STATES • 415.506.7210 Never want to hear from us again? Break our hearts and unsubscribe.

Get the 5-minute roundup you’ll actually read in your inbox​

Business and tech news in 5 minutes or less​

Exit mobile version