MacKenzie Scott is giving away billions


October 8, 2020

PLUS: Products that received a viral TikTok boost.
October 8, 2020
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The Big Idea

Meet MacKenzie Scott, Amazon’s billionaire 1st employee

The last time we heard from MacKenzie Scott, she had pledged to give $1.7B to 116 small-scale nonprofits.

While many wealthy philanthropists attach strings to their money (e.g., they want their name on a building, or need the organization to meet certain metrics), Scott’s contributions are essentially a blank check.

With a 4% stake in Amazon, Scott is worth $60B+. But aside from her status as Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife, most people know little about her.

A timeline of Scott’s life

An in-depth Marker report sheds a few details on her early life:

  • 1970: She was born into a wealthy San Francisco family (who later went bankrupt following an SEC investigation).
  • Late ‘80s: She attended Princeton and studied writing under the famed novelist Toni Morrison.
  • Early ‘90s: She landed an assistant gig at the New York hedge fund D.E. Shaw.
  • 1993: She married Jeff Bezos, then an executive at the same firm.

In 1994, the newlywed couple drove cross-country — and, in a Seattle garage, launched what is now Amazon.com.

Scott brought a literary flair to the new company

She started out handling contracts and bookkeeping. But while Bezos saw Amazon’s first product (books) in primarily financial terms, Scott loved the art of them.

While working at Amazon as an accountant, she wrote her own stories on the side: The Testing of Luther Albright (2005) and Traps (2013).

Then she stepped out on her own

Last year, after she and Bezos divorced, Scott signed the Giving Pledge, committing to donate most of her wealth to charity.

She seems poised to become a philanthropist with a different spin — one that wants to offer small orgs a financial lift without bogging them down in micromanagement.

Among the recipients of her donations:

  • Historically Black colleges like Howard University and Tuskegee University
  • An India-based nonprofit called Educate Girls
  • The LGBTQ-focused Point Foundation

Some people have criticized the secrecy of her approach

No one knows how Scott is giving — through a foundation, LLC, or directly — and that can have big implications for her tax status.

Amazon critics also aren’t too happy that the source of her wealth is a company that has paid virtually nothing in taxes.

Still, her commitments to charity currently dwarf those made by her ex.

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Snippets
  • Speaking of Amazon, its upcoming Prime Day might rake in $10B — way more than last year’s ~$7B haul.
  • Don’t say all that Stalk Market knowledge was for nothing: Animal Crossing is minting a new generation of stock traders.
  • Signal for Help is a Zoom-friendly hand signal designed to let survivors indicate when they’re in an abusive situation.
  • New York City doesn’t allow live studio audiences unless they’re employees — so, to meet the restrictions, every audience member of SNL is getting paid $150.
  • A startup called Toopi would really like your urine: It’s trying to turn your pee into sustainable fertilizer, part of its planned “peevolution.”
The Market is Huge

Companies are talking about total addressable markets (TAMs) more than ever. Why?

According to the Financial TimesJamie Powell, more and more investment theses are forecasting massive total addressable markets (TAMs).

In fact, research from data firm Sentio shows that “September saw a record number of companies using the term [TAM] in their pre-IPO S1 filings.”

TAM is going HAM

Per Powell, here are some of the notable TAM projections:

  • Uber claims that the ride-sharing industry is a $5.7T opportunity
  • Virgin Galactic — Richard Branson’s baby — forecasts the commercial space travel industry is worth $1.5T.

The definition of TAM is changing, too. Typically, TAM refers to the revenue opportunity of an industry.

In a new spin, Bank of America recently pegged the TAM for Russia’s finance industry at $2.2T, including “retail wealth.” The problem is that the actual revenue opportunity for managing retail wealth is a small % of the total dollar amount. 🤷

Big TAMs are a way to justify lofty valuations

The classic move being: “If we can just capture X% of this huge $Y market, we’ll all be richer than MacKenzie Scott.”

Professional investors (including the Shark Tank crew) have an adverse reaction to the phrase, which comes off as 1) wildly optimistic; and 2) demonstrates a crude understanding of one’s actual business prospects.

With equities continuing to reach lofty heights, though, the hyperbolic nature of these TAM projections are kinda working.

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Viral Products

What products have viral TikTok videos shot to the moon?

You know that viral TikTok video with the dude skateboarding while drinking cran-raspberry juice and lip-synching Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams?

It has 26m views now — and at least one of them came from Tom Hayes, the CEO of Ocean Spray.

Hayes made his own version of the viral vid and gifted the skater dude (Nathan Apodaca) a red pick-up truck full of cranberry juice.

Ocean Spray likely got millions of dollars worth of exposure

As Mae Karwowski, the founder of the influencer-marketing firm Obviously, told the Boston Globe: “You are reaching millions of people and you have thousands of creators incorporating your juice into their videos.”

Here are a few other products that have benefited from a TikTok lift:

  • Bissell Portable Carpet Cleaner (video with 19.1m views)
  • Magic Fragrant Shaving Powder (video with 9.9m views)
  • The Ordinary Face Peeling Solution (video with 7.1m views)
  • Ecolution Micro-Pop Popcorn Popper (video with 6.7m views)
  • BlissLight Sky Light (video with 2.2m views)

Even under the cloud of a US ban, TikTok continues to grow

The app topped 100m users in Europe last month and — in the US — it surpassed Instagram to become the 2nd most popular social app, trailing only Snapchat.

And, as the examples above show, the app offers serious marketing potential.

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Tech-Lash

How the EU wants to regulate Big Tech

On Tuesday, the US House Judiciary committee released a “scathing” report on how Big Tech is abusing its monopoly power.

It’s frickin’ 449 pages, though.

Thankfully, as a stand in, we have a leaked 4-page PDF from the EU that outlines the unfair practices from Big Tech that Europe plans to regulate.

The following practices would be blacklisted

As summarized by veteran tech observer Cory Doctorow:

  • Using customer data to compete with them (e.g., Amazon selling bamboo toilet paper because Taking A Shoot Triple Ply is selling well)
  • Ranking its own services before competitors (e.g., the search results for “hotel near Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue” is a Google listing instead of Bookings.com)
  • Using email to tie yourself into other services (e.g., being able to create a Google Forms survey that literally no one will fill out, unless they have Gmail)

And here are ‘greylisted’ items…

…which wouldn’t be banned but would receive extra scrutiny:

  • Interfering with your customer’s ability to collect data from a platform (e.g., Kindle not telling you how many copies of your erotic martian meets werewolf novel you sold last month)
  • Degrading services for 3rd-party apps (e.g., making your new search engine slower than Google’s own)

Doctorow says his immediate reaction was that “all these rules sound good, but will be hard to enforce.” Translation: Everything is TBD!

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The Hustle Says

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Today’s email was brought to you by Michael Waters, Caroline Dohack, and Trung Phan.
Editing by: Zachary “Giving it away” Crockett, Staff Caterer (Edith Ann Weepe).

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