June 26, 2020

LeBron’s media empire

June 26, 2020
The Hustle
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Vines, much like wine, tend to get better with age. Sure, everyone’s favorite 6-second video platform is long gone (and eclipsed by its creepy lip-syncing cousin, TikTok). But Vine’s best content is still aimlessly drifting around the internet, just waiting for news about LeBron launching a media company to drop. 

Well, today’s your lucky day.

It’s King James’ World

Basketball is paused, for now. But its biggest star is building a media empire.

LeBron James is setting his sights on a different kind of title. 

Basketball’s biggest star raised $100m for a new media company that aims to uplift Black creators. 

The venture is a major move for James’ growing media empire. It highlights the emergence of a 21st century archetype — the modern athlete who converts megawatt star power into business capital. 

The King is diversifying his kingdom

Named SpringHill Co. after the apartment complex James grew up in, the company consolidates James’ media pursuits under one name. It will finance and produce projects by Black artists with diverse points of view.

SpringHill builds on James’ blueprint for the entrepreneurial athlete — already, he’s headlined talk shows on financial literacy and blockbuster movies, and opened a school for marginalized students

SpringHill’s board is made up of some of the sports world’s heaviest hitters, including Serena Williams and Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner. Not to mention business bigwigs like asset manager Marc Rowan and Guggenheim Partners chief investment partner Scott Minerd.

The new company is powered by a diverse staff – 64% of employees are people of color and 40% are women. 

Dunking on the dumb jock dig

James isn’t the only athlete to play ball off the court. 

Last year, Williams unveiled an investment company whose startups had an accumulated market cap of $12B.

David and Victoria Beckham control a holding company for their fashion, ecommerce, and media businesses.

And James’ fellow basketball stars Kevin Durant and Steph Curry have started media companies, too, while the late Kobe Bryant had a VC fund.

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Too little, too late

Amazon’s new task force is dedicated to busting counterfeits

Amazon’s newest division is called the Counterfeit Crimes Unit — and no, sadly, it is not the CSI: Cyber reboot that I and 10 other people have been waiting on.

You can think of the Counterfeit Crimes Unit as Amazon’s knockoff Justice League: A group of prosecutors, investigators, and data analysts are teaming up to root out and sue the fakers.

It couldn’t have come fast enough. Amazon has an Everything-Store-sized counterfeit problem, and major brands like Nike and Birkenstock have left the site in protest.

Goods on Amazon are a black box 

The Wall Street Journal found that “thousands” of banned or unsafe products have been selling on the site. Some, like knockoff car seats, are especially dangerous. 

The problem? It’s hard to oversee all of Amazon’s third-party sellers. In the 2nd quarter of 2019, they made up 54% of all sales. 

Our Caroline Dohack dealt with Amazon fakes firsthand. Last year, she bought a Batman figurine for cheap. It turned out to be a phony, even though it was labeled as an authentic Mattel product.

Counterfeits are a PR problem  

Last year, The New Yorker reported that Birkenstock has received an onslaught of refund requests from people who bought Birkenstock knockoffs. 

There’s nothing Birkenstock can do for them, but it’s a delicate situation. If those frustrated customers blame Birkenstock, not the counterfeiters, the company says its reputation is at stake.

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Online shopping is ready for a VR makeover

There’s online shopping, and then there’s “hyper real” shopping. 

Just in time for our dressed-down summer, the OTB Group — a fashion retailer that owns brands like Diesel and Maison Margiela — is launching a digital showroom that mimics its physical stores. 

Three months in quarantine have made it all too obvious that most online stores look the same — and with its Sims-like pivot, OTB wants to sprinkle on some spice.

Imagine a Minecraft server, designed like a Guess

Let’s say you’re entering Diesel’s new virtual showroom. You start in a leafy waiting room. A concierge guides you into the store. 

Using your mouse, you can steer yourself in and out of the different rooms, organized by category — one for denim, one for footwear. See a hoodie you like? You can zoom in and check the listing. 

Diesel’s new digs are a big innovation, but Diesel isn’t the only company stitching VR into its business plan: In recent weeks, virtual showrooms have hit the online fashion weeks for Stockholm and London.

Virtual showrooms are about to sweep online shopping

Footwear News reported that startups like Joor, BrandLab, and Le New Black — all of which offer virtual showroom tech — have seen “significant increased growth” this year.

But if VR shopping gives you a headache, you can always dip your toe into live streams. 

Beauty brands like Clinique are trying on a sales strategy that China perfected: Mail your new product to a famous person, ask them to stream themselves trying it on, and drop in the buy link.

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Short circuit

Pandemic-era Roomba sales prove it: Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum

Personal robots are on fire. Can I get a HAL yeah?

Roomba — your mom’s cute little disk-shaped vacuum — has gone from joker to king since the pandemic, according to Marker. At least as far as sales are concerned.

Aye, robot!

The small-and-not-quite-mighty Roomba has been around since 2002. For years the little round cleaning machines have been dooting around people’s houses, sucking up dirt and terrorizing pets. 

But since we started hunkering down at home and realizing our abodes have a lot in common with commodes, many of us are ready to rage with the machine.

No sitting around collecting dust here

A trade war with China and corona-related supply chain disruptions should have Hoovered up some of the profits — some analysts predicted losses of 30%. But iRobot, Roomba’s parent company, anticipates impressive quarterly revenue of $260m. Last year iRobot had $1.2B in sales.

Although cheaper models will run you ~$300, iRobot has reported significant sales of its deluxe s9 series, which will set you back $1k/unit.

Regardless of how much you spend, Roomba will never come close to replicating the full-service experience of the Jetsons’ best gal Rosie. 

But with many families straining to balance work, childcare, and homeschooling, outsourcing at least one task to Roomba is pretty damn appealing.

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Snippets

1️⃣  There’s a new effort to close Silicon Valley’s equity gap: Valence, a social network for Black professionals, will link Black entrepreneurs with top VCs.

2️⃣  TikTok for Business has finally launched — get ready for more branded effects, sponsored hashtags, and AR ads.

3️⃣  Yelp says that 41% of the businesses listed on its platform have closed for good since the pandemic.

4️⃣  Google is building a rival to Apple News, and it has already landed contracts with publishers in Brazil, Germany, and Australia.

5️⃣  Wait, what? The autopilot on a Tesla owner’s car confused a Burger King sign for a stop sign. The burger barons turned the footage into an ad.

6️⃣  Talk about haunting: $1.4B worth of federal stimulus checks accidentally went to dead people.

7️⃣  Designers, your moment is here — NASA needs help figuring out how to build its next space toilet.

8️⃣  Crack open those checkbooks: Sugar futures are looking pretty sweet right about now. 

9️⃣  Amazon is renaming a Seattle sports arena the “Climate Pledge Arena.” A nice idea, but it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. 

🔟  Is this the end of Disney Channel? In the UK, the company is scrapping the kids’ network and moving it to Disney+.

Sunday Sneak Peek

The franchising model is a popular way to run a business. But do you know where it comes from?

You might guess the legendary McDonald’s tycoon Ray Kroc — but you’d be wrong. Before the Golden Arches were a glint in Kroc’s eye, Martha Matilda Harper pioneered franchising.

Born in Canada in the mid-19th century, Harper spent the first few decades of her life as a house servant. Eventually she worked for a physician who studied the science of hair.

Harper turned a hair tonic into a hugely successful chain of 500+ salons. This week’s Sunday story explores Harper’s fascinating career, and the many ways she influenced salons today.

Watch this week’s preview for a trim of what’s to come — the full cut hits your inbox on Sunday.

Shower Thoughts

We almost missed Shower Thoughts this week because we were so busy working on a new prototype — it’s a waterproof notepad that will allow us to write down our thoughts *inside* the shower, without having to dry off our hands. Genius! 

…we’ll letcha know how it goes.

1. The townsfolk might have liked Belle from Beauty and the Beast more if she hadn’t constantly danced around town singing about how boring they all were.

2. Putting dirty clothes on is so much more unbearable than keeping dirty clothes on.

3. There’s a non-zero chance that the mosquito that just bit you will get trapped in amber and some future civilization will extract your blood and clone you.

4. Scarecrows work on humans if you make them creepy enough.

5. Rust is the mold of the metal world.

And one for all you late sleepers who have a 9AM Zoom kickoff… 

6. “I was having connection issues,” is the new “I got stuck in traffic.”

via Reddit
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