Joe and Tech


November 9, 2020

PLUS: The rise of Discord.
November 9, 2020
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Alex Trebek, host of iconic quiz show Jeopardy! (and one of the true greats), died yesterday at the age of 80.

“There’s a certain comfort that comes from knowing a fact,” he told the New York Times earlier this year. “It’s when you try to distort reality, to maneuver it into accommodating your particular point of view… that’s when you run into problems.”

#RIP, legend.

The Big Idea
Biden gif

What does a Biden win mean for tech?

At 11:25am EST on Saturday, November 7th, the AP announced that Joe Biden had won Pennsylvania, giving him the electoral votes he needed to win the presidential election.

Like the rest of the world, we’re still reeling from a whirlwind week and want to keep it simple today: what does a Biden win mean for the tech industry?

Here are the most relevant issues:

Democrats will pursue antitrust, but big changes are unlikely

Both parties agree that Big Tech needs to be reined in, but they differ in approach. As The Information notes:

  • Democrats want to make it harder for Big Tech to acquire smaller companies.
  • Republicans want to prosecute Big Tech for abusing market power.

Case in point: not one Democratic state attorney general joined in on the Department of Justice’s Google antitrust suit.

Under Biden, Democrats could broaden the scope of the Google case and lay the groundwork for cases against Amazon, Apple, and Facebook. If Republicans hold onto the Senate, though, don’t expect a major antitrust overhaul.

The state of Section 230

There’s appetite from both the government and Big Tech to update the Section 230 rule, which currently protects social networks from liability for the content posted on their platforms.

  • Before: Per The Information, President Trump’s administration launched a “bureaucratic war” on Section 230 due to a (debunked) belief that Twitter and Facebook were censoring convservative voices.
  • After: While Biden has voiced support for a Section 230 overhaul, any changes would come from a Congressional bipartisan bill and not a string of angry tweets from the White House.

Tech’s talent pool opens up with new immigration rules

Many of the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies were set as executive orders, which means Biden can strike them down on Day 1 as president.

More broadly, Biden has “promised to increase the number of visas for ‘permanent, work-based immigration’ and eliminate limits on employment-based green cards by country.”

Other notable issues

Here’s how a Biden administration might deal with:

  • Taxes: The plan is to undo Trump’s corporate tax cuts, but a Republican Senate would likely stymie such changes.
  • Trade: He’ll take a less contentious approach than Trump but “trade disputes are likely to continue with China” per The Guardian.
  • Rural broadband: Biden wants to spend $20B to bring internet connectivity to regions with limited access.
  • Green tech: The Biden campaign has pledged $400B over the next decade for public investment in clean energy and innovation.
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Snippets
  • WhatsApp has an astounding 400m users in India and will now be allowed to provide a payments service to 5% of them (20m users). This is a big win for WhatsApp owner Facebook.
  • Netflix is offering a linear TV option in France. Why? Some people don’t want to actually choose what to watch. They need to roll this out stateside ASAP.
  • Beat it, Freddy Krueger: The FDA approved an Apple Watch app to treat PTSD. It monitors your heart rate while you sleep and vibrates if it looks like you’re having a nightmare.
  • Spotify has shelled out $600m for podcast-related assets (e.g., Rogan, Anchor). Now, a podcast subscription product (priced at $3-8/month) could be on the horizon.
  • Kuaishou Technology — China’s top competitor to TikTik parent ByteDance — is eyeing an IPO at a $50B valuation.
 
Messaging
Phone

Discord: The messaging powerhouse you should know about

When people talk about messaging apps, the usual suspects are Slack, Messenger, WhatsApp, Teams… and whatever Google is doing.

It may be time to add Discord to the mix.

What started as a voice, video, and chat platform for gamers saw usage skyrocket +47% from February to July of this year, and it now boasts 100m+ monthly active users.

Co-founder Jason Citron laid the seed for Discord in 2012

At the time, he was creating a multiplayer game called Fates Forever.

Citron’s team built a chat service alongside the game, which they soon realized was better than the game itself. (Slack made a similar game-to-chat pivot.)

Discord went live in 2015 and quickly became a favorite among gamers, who set up countless private chat communities known as servers.

Discord’s secret sauce: 2 products in 1

As described by tech analyst and investor Kevin Kwok, Discord is both a messaging app and a meta-layer running across all games.

Users can see which friends are on, what games they’re playing, and seamlessly join the game or voice-chat within Discord.

The service’s neighborhood vibe has become popular outside of gaming, with communities dedicated to group studies, origami, sneakers, knitting and — problematically — far right ideology. (Discord has since made efforts to delete extremist groups.)

On track for $120m in revenue this year

And after its most recent funding round, the startup is valued at $3.5B.

Discord’s primary revenue comes from a $10/month subscription that allows users to customize their profiles. The founders say they won’t do ads and are currently searching for new revenue streams.

The platform’s tagline — “your place to talk and hang” — is about as broad as you can get. So, there’s no limit to where things could go.

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Niches Make Riches
Anime

Crunchyroll is among the internet’s most popular niche streamers. Sony wants to buy it.

Here’s an underrated part of the internet: niche streaming services.

Among the deep cuts:

  • BroadwayHD (“stream your favorite broadway hits anywhere”)
  • Shudder (B-movie horrors… not our bag, but popular)
  • Passionflix (an “erotica Netflix” founded by Elon’s sister, Tosca Musk)

But the biggest fish in the niche pond might be Crunchyroll, a Japanese anime streaming platform owned by AT&T that boasts 70m members.

The pandemic has reshaped the media landscape

Facing a massive $149B debt load, AT&T is looking to unload non-core assets. Crunchyroll is on the chopping block, alongside pay-TV operations like DIRECTV.

Sony, on the other hand, is looking to sell 100m units of its new PS5, and wants to beef up its content.

Per Reuters, a deal between AT&T and Sony is entering “final talks” at a price of ~$1B.

Sony just scored a massive anime hit

The anime film Demon Slayer is crushing Japan’s box office. It’s pulled in $150m+ in 3 weeks despite an awful year for theater releases.

Sony is the parent company of Demon Slayer’s studio — and clearly its appetite has been whet for more anime magic.

(Crunchyroll was featured in our popular Trends report, “30 Companies Defining The Future of Media and Pop Culture.” Check out an abridged version here.)

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This is Fine
this is fine dog

Someone rescued the ‘this is fine’ dog and it’s hysterical

In 2013, cartoonist K.C. Green created a webcomic of a dog enjoying a cup of coffee while everything around him was bursting in flames.

As happens on the internet, folks took the most poignant part of the comic and meme’d it to infinity.

The “this is fine” dog became shorthand for when everything is falling apart but you’re forced to act cool.

2020 is the perfect year for this meme

After the announcement of Biden’s election win, a GIF of a firefighter saving the dog went viral on Twitter.

We reached out to Green to ask him what he thought about it. Turns out the GIF isn’t new. His response:

“I saw this months ago when it first made me smile during a time where it felt hard to. Now several people think I need to see it and keep asking me the same question over and over and I’m numb again.”

Either way, it’s arguably the best non-Four Seasons Total Landscaping meme floating around.

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Editing by: Zachary “” Crockett, Boris Karlarm (Director of Automotive Security).

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