It’s Zoom’s turn in the hot seat


June 15, 2020

June 15, 2020
The Hustle
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Neat.no

Brace yourself for another salvo in the generation wars: Early Sunday morning, a Twitter user posted photos of Gen Z TikTokers riffing on millennial culture. If you’re a 30-something who says “doggo” or “adulting” or knows which Harry Potter house you’re in, you may want to avert your gaze.

There were lots of sick burns, but this one might hit the hardest: “they be 34 talking about ‘i’m a hufflepuff’ like grow up and do a line of coke already.”

The post started a much bigger conversation about generational traits, and how everyone forgot about Gen X — again.

Screenshare

On mute no more: Zoom gets a taste of international politics

In every tech giant’s lifetime, there comes a moment when its leader has to make a pilgrimage to Capitol Hill.

TikTok’s moment arrived last December, when lawmakers urged execs to cut ties with the app’s Beijing-based owner, ByteDance. 

Now it’s Zoom’s turn to sit in the hot seat. Last week, at the request of the Chinese government, the videoconference behemoth shut down 3 meetings held in commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. 

The company also banned US and Hong Kong-based dissidents who hosted the meetings. Zoom eventually reinstated them after criticism.

Now Congress has entered the chat

The move prompted a group of senators to send Zoom CEO Eric Yuan a letter asking for clarity on what data, if any, it shares with China. Another demanded that the company “pick a side” between the US and China. 

Adding to the unease is an announcement from Zoom that it’s developing a tool to block individuals based on geography. 

In theory, that means the Tiananmen meetings would have gone down as planned — but participants from mainland China wouldn’t have been able to join. 

Bending to China’s wishes is nothing new

Last week, Apple deleted major podcast apps from its store at the government’s request. 

But Zoom had enjoyed something of a honeymoon period inside China. Until recently, activists felt it was safer than some homegrown video conference solutions.

Reuters dubbed it “a window through China’s ‘Great Firewall.’” Now that’s all over.

Zoom looks ready to meet the challenge in Washington. This spring, it’s been staffing up its lobbying team — most prominently with H.R. McMaster, the former White House national security adviser.

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Stonks

Some companies filed for bankruptcy, but their stocks are going bonkers anyway

Last week, an unusual bit of Wall Street news sent a flotilla of financial scribblers scrambling to pick up their pens: A bankruptcy court approved a plan by the rental-car mainstay Hertz to sell $1B in stock.

Everyone’s got the hotz for Hertz

But only here in Bizarro World does the company’s market bounce make any sense. 

A refresher: 

  • Hertz filed for bankruptcy on May 22nd, and the company’s stock tanked, to ~$0.56 a share on May 26th.
  • Then came the rebound — the stock closed higher than $5.50 at one point last week.
  • Hertz trading volume has surged this month, up 63x over last year.

It’s one of several companies to file for bankruptcy recently — and then see monster gains.

So… what the heck is going on?

Day traders are back, baby.

Specifically: Amateur investors/bored sports gamblers. They’re armed with the Robinhood app and inspired by Dave “Davey Day Trader” Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports.

Portnoy has been dishing out investing advice on Twitter, capturing the zeitgeist in a single phrase: “Stocks only go up.” For a full analysis of Portnoy’s prodigious quaran-tweets, check out this post from our Trung Phan.

Portnoy’s tweeting even made a fan of a certain outspoken CEO. 

Here he is showing Elon Musk some love: “Thanks Elon. Oh I just followed you so feel free to shoot me a quick Dm next time before you say $tsla stock is too high. I’ve been daytrading to pass the time. Not going great. (Earmuffs SEC).”

What goes up must come down

Even Stonks Guy gets confused sometimes.

Amateur traders sent the Chinese real-estate company Fangdd Network Group soaring — because its name sounds like FAANG, the acronym for the exclusive club of tech mega stocks that includes Facebook and Amazon.

As Matt Levine put it for Bloomberg, the Hertz hot streak may not turn out so well for the company’s new investors: 

“Hertz will raise a billion dollars from Robinhood, hand the money directly to its creditors, and tell its new shareholders ‘all your money vanished immediately, sorry, better luck next time.’”

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SPONSORED

This Norwegian team shaped game-changing innovations for top video comm brands. Now, they’re helping boost Zoom

Zoom birthday parties. Zoom happy hours. Zoom weddings. 

For the past few months, Zoom’s video software has been one of the few things keeping us sane (and our stock portfolios net positive)

…but what if it could be even better? *Collective gasp*

Neat, an Oslo-based company with decades of video communications expertise, is rolling up its sleeves and creating game-changing hardware to kick our collective Zoom experiences up a notch — both in and outside of the office.  

Bars, Pads, Boards ‘n more

Neat products are designed with a few core concepts in mind: Be radically simple, be able to install in a few minutes or less, and be very, very smart.  

Those values come to life in their three flagship pieces of hardware:

Neat Bar: A compact yet highly capable meeting room device that elevates your meeting, huddle or focus rooms to a whole other level.

Neat Pad: A simple and elegant touch screen that’s always on and can be used as a video controller or scheduling display.

Neat Board: A beautifully sleek all-in-one collaboration device with an immersive 65” multi-touch screen that enables annotations and white-boarding.

Ready to uplevel your Zoom experience as we begin returning to the office? Check out Neat — they’ve got a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so you can try Neat risk-free for 100 days.

How Neat →
Small Business Stories

How Willie Franklin, a one-man entrepreneur, revamped marijuana packaging

We’re highlighting stories of black business owners from our audience — and their tips for up-and-coming entrepreneurs of color. If you’re interested in being featured, fill out our survey here.

When Willie Franklin heard that BART — the Bay Area’s public transit system — was going to require all riders and employees to wear masks, he called up the authority cold. 

Franklin, a longtime packaging entrepreneur, had just pivoted to selling masks and other personal protective equipment, and he wanted to know if BART needed any. 

His first few calls went unanswered. Eventually, he reached a receptionist.

“Next thing I know I’m getting a call from the department of purchasing for BART,” he says. “I told him I’m a small businessman, and I can get you masks today.”

Soon the transit company was placing a $30k mask order. A week after those were delivered, BART bought $46k more.

Franklin first started working in sales in the ‘70s for corporations like Johnson & Johnson — even though he says he was consistently one of the top salespeople, he never got promoted.

Around 1991, he launched his own company, First In Packaging, with $25k in startup capital and a $100k line of bank credit. While he has sometimes employed contractors to help him, he mostly works on his own.

Around 2000, a friend told Franklin that the cannabis industry was distributing medical marijuana in baggies — so he decided to offer crush-proof packaging.

The cannabis industry was growing rapidly, but no one thought twice about the bags that medical marijuana came in. Franklin made himself essential. 

Franklin’s tip for young entrepreneurs of color: 

Join a networking group. When Franklin was starting out, he became a member of a northern California small business organization. It hosted events with Fortune 500 companies hoping to find new suppliers — and became a source of some of Franklin’s biggest deals. “Joining those network groups was vital,” he says.

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Travel Trouble

One airline’s weird strategy for raising capital in a pandemic: selling its prized artworks

Here’s more proof that airlines will do practically anything to plug the giant hole that the coronavirus pandemic punched in their bottom lines: British Airways is selling off paintings from its renowned art collection to keep itself afloat.

A stroke of genius?

The airline has a large collection that includes works by British artists Damien Hirst, Peter Doig, and Anish Kapoor. 

One piece that’s been designated for sale, by Bridget Riley, hangs in BA’s executive lounge at Heathrow airport. It’s been valued “well into seven figures,” one expert told the Evening Standard.

Going once, going twice…scold!

The art sales may help BA shore up its finances, but it can’t paint over its damaged reputation.

On Saturday, British lawmakers labeled the airline a “national disgrace” over the company’s plan to cut 12k jobs.

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TRENDS

“I heard you got hacked”

Back in February we covered a business in Trends. It was called Brand Yourself. Here’s the TL;DR:

In 2010, co-founder Pete Kistler realized a criminal with his name was outranking him on Google. To remedy the situation, he’d be facing a $25k bill. Kistler, along with his cofounders Patrick Ambron and Evan Watson started the “TurboTax for reputation management.”

Since then, Brand Yourself has grown to more than 1m customers, has been featured on both Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den, and is bringing in a pretty 8 figures. But they’ve also expanded into an important space: digital privacy. 

This Thursday, we’re bringing in Patrick to go over how business owners can protect themselves in a world full of hackers, data brokers, stalkers, and blackmailers. He’ll bring tangible tips including who’s tracking your data, the biggest risks for identity theft and data leaks, and what simple actions can be taken today.

Join us on Thursday 6/18, at 3pm ET (12pm PT).

Grab your spot → Snippets

1️⃣  More workers are using corporate donation-matching policies to maximize their financial support for social justice causes.

2️⃣  The release of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” — the tentpole movie that Hollywood is banking on to usher people back into theaters — has been pushed back from July 17 to July 31.

3️⃣  Twitter deleted 170k+ accounts associated with a Chinese political influence campaign.

4️⃣  Your Band-Aids are getting more diverse: The bandage maker will manufacture black and brown Band-Aids to better match a range of skin tones.

5️⃣  GitHub will replace the term “master” on its service with a more neutral one like “main,” to avoid terms that reference slavery.

6️⃣  Nothing ends old feuds like a lockdown: Airbnb finally settled its long-running fight with New York City over the sharing of information.

7️⃣  Illegal eel smuggling is big business — and catching the traffickers can be slippery.

8️⃣  What does it take to become a contact tracer? Years of medical experience in some states, a high school diploma in others.

9️⃣  Take a look under the hood of “Animal Talking,” the hottest late-night talk show in the Animal Crossing universe. 

🔟  Oops: The K-pop kingpins BTS, who have a prominent partnership with Samsung, tweeted a message from… an iPhone. The group’s stan army caught on immediately, and the memes flowed.

The Hustle Says

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*This is a sponsored post.

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