Is Molekule just a cloud of dust?


March 2, 2020

Would March Madness be March Madness without the fans? The National College Players Association, which advocates for athletes’ rights, said this weekend that the NCAA should consider playing games “without an audience present” because of the risks of coronavirus. The tourney tips off 2 weeks from tomorrow. Today:

  • Molekule might not be trustworthy anymore
  • River cruises are what boomers adore
  • Lobsters get steamed in a growing trade war
Purity Test

An air purifier company just raised $58m, but an ad watchdog says something stinks

Last week, the company behind the expensive air purifiers whose ads pollute your Instagram feed raised $58m in new funding.

But the product-review mavens at The Wirecutter got their mitts on a report that found many claims in Molekule’s advertising aren’t much more than a cloud of dust.

Why’s it matter? Well, one of Molekule’s leaders recently boasted that coronavirus “is actually a rather simple structure” for the company to “destroy.”

Oh really? The Wirecutter ripped Molekule a new air hole

The site’s guide to air purifiers called Molekule (which sells 2 different models, for $799 and $399) “the worst air purifier we’ve ever tested.”

Molekule’s competition got in on the action, too. Dyson, another peddler of primo purifiers, challenged 26 claims that Molekule made in its ads.

The Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division, which referees ad-related disputes between competing businesses, upheld all of Dyson’s claims. The NAD recommended that Molekule roll back many of its statements.

“A report this comprehensive makes it hard to take any of Molekule’s claims seriously,” wrote Wirecutter’s Tim Heffernan.

But Molekule isn’t ready to clear the air

Dilip Goswami, Molekule’s co-CEO, called Heffernan’s reporting “misleading” and “flat out wrong.” 

He said the NAD’s report didn’t take into account newer testing on the Molekule’s effectiveness.

The Great Clean Air War of 2020 isn’t over yet — Molekule is appealing some of NAD’s judgments, Heffernan said, and another decision is expected soon.

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High Seas, High Stakes

The business of river cruises is gaining steam(boats)

There’s nothing that floats a baby boomer’s boat like a ride on the river.

Americans are starting to catch the wave on river cruises — especially older travelers with time and money to throw overboard, The Washington Post reports.

In the US, 2 companies are in cruise control

American Cruise Lines and the American Queen Steamboat Company are the kingpins in the States. You might say they rival Steamboat Willie himself:

  • ACL operates 12 coastal and river ships. It can ferry ~80k passengers this year. 
  • Its queenly counterpart can fill its 6 vessels with ~46k hardy sailors.
  • About 80% of American Queen’s passengers are boomers.

But the seas might not be so smooth, because Viking is invading. The international cruise company conquered the waterways overseas and plans to start cruisin’ down the Mississippi in 2022.

Something you might not know: Cruises can cost a LOT

Trips are organized around themes — like the Civil War — and those with shore excursions can run between $6k and $10k per pair.

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Sponsored

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Claw Capers

Lobsters may be out of the trade war steamer

Lobstermen around the US breathed a sigh of relief — lobsters themselves probably less so — after China announced that it would let businesses apply for tariff exemptions on the American crustaceans. 

The exemptions mean businesses could shell out less for Uncle Sam’s tails. As it turns out, China loves them:

  • Maine was on track to export $87m worth of lobster to China through June 2018 — more than double the amount exported through the same period in 2017.
  • Then, as the trade war reached a fever pitch, China clamped down with a round of lobster tariffs — first at 25%, then 35%
  • Within less than a year, US lobster exports had tumbled by more than 80%.

China satisfied its lobster cravings by sliding into the DMs of a favorite sidepiece: Canada. Which, to be fair, boasts the same lobster species as Maine.

The market is clawing its way back to profitability

The news rounds out a prickly period in the lobster world, including a price crash in Florida and South Africa after the coronavirus forced China to cancel seafood imports. Those seafood bans are still in place.

But a Maine delegation finally made nice with China. Under the new exemptions, lobster tariffs could go as low as 7%.

That’s no small catch: The lobster industry contributes $1B to Maine’s economy.

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Small Business of the Week

A budding matcha biz wants to wean you off your coffee

It seems like Ecommerce 101, but for André Fasciola, it was essential: nab that domain name. Fasciola says his Matcha Kari co-founder, Andrew Weil, wouldn’t get into the business without matcha.com.

But when Fasciola first looked into it, matcha.com was loaded with pictures of a single cat. It took 2 years to nail down, but the domain lends credibility and strength in the market. Having matcha.com is like being “the internet’s official matcha representative,” Fasciola says.

Matcha Kari focuses on turning the matcha-curious into matcha maniacs. Fasciola found that it was very hard to find good matcha in the United States. So the company teamed up with award-winning farmers (who have been producing the tea since 1602) to bring the best across the ocean.

Podcasts have been key to acquiring customers, as well as strategic partnerships, a robust email business, and word of mouth. Up next: extending the company’s line into specialty categories like natural foods.

  • Founders: André Fasciola and Andrew Weil
  • Employees: 6
  • Years in business: 2
  • Cost to launch: $65k
  • Funding methods: Personal savings, friends/family contributions
  • 1st-year revenue: $147k
  • Current annual revenue: $1.8m

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Snippets

📸 A writer asked for all of the images Clearview AI had collected of her. The file she received was extensive — and bizarre.

🤖 If you want to know what it’s like to be a celebrity online, try Botnet.

🏹 Is archery dodgeball your new favorite sport?

🍄 Venture capital is coming for psychedelics.

🥞 Mmmm… insect butter.

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