How much money do top Cameo stars make?


August 26, 2020

Plus: A robot vacuum company has plans for a robot lawnmower.
August 26, 2020
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Apollo

Last week, Ajitpal Grewal — a Canadian developer and member of our Trends community — went viral with Tesla Dating (a satirical dating app for Tesla owners “because you can’t spell love without EV”).

In our Trends Facebook group, Harry Dry — who previously took over the internet by creating the Kanye-inspired Yeezy.Dating — advised Grewal to “try and ride the wave… ’cause you’ll learn a lot from it.”

The Big Idea

The Big Short is back. The latest target? Shopping malls

The Big Short — a dramedy film based on the classic Michael Lewis book — is my favorite finance-related movie ever. 

In addition to my obsession with watching Steve Carrell in serious roles, the movie succinctly explains how a group of outcasts made boatloads of money betting against the 2007-08 US housing bubble.

With the pandemic laying waste to physical retail, we may be in for a sequel.

Big Short 2.0

Last fall, famed investor Carl Icahn started short selling (AKA betting against) shopping malls.

Along with other like-minded money managers, Icahn believed the shift to ecommerce and new consumer habits were bad omens for America’s ~1k malls.

The exact target of their bets: CMBX 6, a commercial real estate index.

The end probably isn’t near

Even after gains of $1B+, Icahn has kept his trade on, suggesting the mall situation will get even uglier.

With the recent bankruptcy of anchor stores like Neiman Marcus, consumers have less reason to visit malls and — due to the lower foot traffic — smaller shops can negotiate lower rents.

Profiting on the pandemic is not a great look

Elon Musk famously said “short selling should be illegal.” Short sellers typically cite 2 rationales for their services:

  • uncovering fraud (think Enron)
  • shining light on bubbles (think real estate bubbles)

To be sure, we’ve seen some explicitly bad short-selling behavior, including from a firm that rhymes with “Foldman Tachs.”

The shorting is not a free-for-mall, though

One investor told The New York Times that “I’m definitely bearish on malls… but I think it’s a very case-by-case basis.”

Another short seller did serious due diligence by walking every single one of the 39 malls in the CMBX 6 index — from California to Georgia.

To avoid attention, the investing teams did mall walks in casual clothes. If these short bets keep paying off, scrutiny — and maybe a sequel — will be unavoidable.

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Snippets
  • China’s fintech behemoth, The Ant Group, might become the biggest IPO ever when it goes public. Some experts are expecting it to raise $30B. 
  • Amazon’s new AR room decor tool lets you imagine what all the furniture in your shopping cart would look like under the same roof.
  • Why do we have so many unnecessary highways? A ~70-year-old traffic algorithm might be to blame
  • Cheetah, a contactless pickup company, is setting up fridges across the Bay Area to give food to people in need.
  • Meet the kingpin of a Neopets crime syndicate. This developer recounts how they hacked the game — and turned their Neopoints into cash — as a child.
Robovacs

AI vacuums? Why Roombas are getting smart

We’ve all witnessed the sad, Sisyphean journey of a Roomba as it motors across a living room, slamming into every piece of furniture in its path.

But you can consider that old robot vacuum lobotomized

iRobot, the $1B+ company behind the Roomba, is booting up its bots with AI. The new, smarter machines will learn all of the nooks of your house, like that spot under the kitchen table where you kick your garlic peels.

The Roomba knows about your late-night snacks

Does your couch mysteriously fill up with Doritos crumbs every night at 1 am? The Roomba can identify that as a “clean zone” and cover for you once the deed is done.

Or if you’re sick of the Roomba barging into your room, you can teach it to respect “keep out zones.”

But that’s just the beginning. iRobot told Fast Company it was looking to add future subscription services that don’t involve cleaning.

Pretty soon we might all start shouting, “Roomba, play songs by Pitbull!” 

iRobot’s ambitions are bigger than the Roomba

  • Need a mop? The company sells a robot version of one.
  • In the future, they plan to release a robot lawn mower.
  • Until they sold the division in 2016, they were supplying bomb-defusing Roombas to the US Armed Forces. 

Let’s just hope they throw in a Roomba that takes care of houseplants… because ours aren’t doing so hot.

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SPONSORED

Good vibrations: This wearable wellness device buzzes your stress away

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that stress is a huge problem… But you *do* have to be a neuroscientist to fix it.  

Now before you go blasting off apps to Harvard/MIT/NASA, slow your roll. Apollo Neuroscience already did the hard work for you with their new wellness wearable.

*Tosses high school transcript in trash*

They cracked the code on melting away stress, focusing your mind, and getting a better night’s sleep — and it all starts with your sense of touch. 

A couple buzzes can improve your HRV and decrease stress

Apollo’s wearable wellness device works by sending gentle waves of vibration that signal safety to your body. 

Those vibrations activate your parasympathetic nervous response, improve your HRV (heart rate variability), and help you become more resilient to stress. 

Slip the Apollo band onto your ankle or wrist, open the app, and you can select the mood you want the wearable’s vibrations to put you in:

Energy & Wake Up to start your day (no Red Bull required).

Clear & Focused to get sh*t done at work.

Relax & Unwind for those evenings where you can’t seem to chill.

Sleep & Renew when you’re ready to pass out.  

In minutes, you’ll be feeling like you’re ready to take on the world (or get some Rip Van Winkle quality sleep… totally up to you). 

Try it for yourself here and get 15% off. 

Good vibrations →
Fluid assets

Startups latch onto breast milk — no boobs needed

Can disembodied mammary cells make enough human breast milk to feed 63% of the world’s infants? That’s the cream — er, dream — for 2 biotech startups.

Mother Tech’s breast milk could make a splash

Singapore-based TurtleTree Labs uses stem cells from donor breast milk to grow lactating mammary cells. In North Carolina, Biomilq does something similar with epithelial cells.

Investors latched onto the idea, pumping $3.5m+ into both companies. If they’re successful, the concept could be a cash cow.

Globally, only 37% of infants are breastfed at 6 months without supplementation. Formula’s fine, but it lacks the complex carbohydrates found in human breast milk.

Here’s the squeeze 

Safety testing is ethically tricky – nobody puts Baby in a blind study – and regulation will be a whole ’nother thing. Meanwhile, companies must slash production costs to make the milk affordable.

But lemme tell you: As someone who’s had, well, skin in the game, this is a fascinating development.

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Celebrity redux

The highest-earning Cameo stars

A few weeks back, we wrote about Cameo, and asked our readers to share their best celebrity shoutout stories.

Broadbandchoices took it a step further and sent us a ton of data on top Cameo stars — who earns the most, who overcharges the most, and who offers the most bang for your buck.

The analysis isn’t perfect (the figures are estimates, based on the # of reviews and each person’s going rate), but it still offers an interesting glimpse into the Cameo economy.

The platform’s biggest earner? Cop movie legend and perennial loudmouth, Michael Rapaport, who’s raked in ~$222k.

A few other interesting takeaways from their findings:

  • Caitlyn Jenner charges $2.5k per video — and her average shoutout lasts just 25 seconds. That means she charges the equivalent of $6k per minute.
  • Carole Baskin, of Tiger King fame, has earned $70k+.
  • Mark McGrath, of the band Sugar Ray, is among the best-valued stars, at the equivalent of just $24/min.

You can comb through Broadbandchoices’ full findings here.

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Today’s email was brought to you by Trung Phan, Michael Waters, Caroline Dohack, and Bobby Durben.
Editing by: Zachary “Cameo King” Crockett, La Toyota Jackson (Director of The Car Talk Psychic Network).

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