Promise Mars, crash-land on Earth


February 12, 2019

Mars One Ventures, the company that promised to take hundreds of willing participants to Mars, filed for bankruptcy.
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The end of an out-of-this-world scam: Mars One Ventures crashes to earth

Mars One Ventures, a space startup that planned to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars within the next decade, has quietly filed for bankruptcy.

Rocket scientists, journalists, and investors insisted the project was impossible when it launched in 2012. But in spite of sustained skepticism, Mars One exploited starry-eyed space-cases for 7 years before burning up on re-entry to reality.

An intergalactic reality TV show 

Mars One began with plans to put 4 “colonists” on Mars by 2023. By using SpaceX rockets and outsourced tech, Mars One claimed, its first mission would cost just $6B — tens of billions of dollars less than NASA projections.

But that meant that Mars One still had to raise $6B. So how did a 4-person company plan to finance a multidecade, multibillion-dollar space project? Easy: A reality TV show.

The plan went something like this: A reality TV show about average Joes preparing to colonize Mars would generate billions of dollars in advertising and crowdfunding revenue, which would then finance the Mars mission. Foolproof, right?

A cosmic con of interstellar proportions

Mars One claimed to have received 202k applications from aspiring astronauts after going live in 2013. In reality, it received less than 3k.

Then, when the reality show failed to take off, Mars One sold merch and crowdsourced donations to keep its thrusters on.

Mars One even squeezed cash from its 100 remaining astronaut applicants, awarding “points” for donations and telling applicants: “If you are offered payment for an interview then feel free to accept it. We do kindly ask for you to donate 75% of your profit to Mars One.

Running out of rocket fuel

A failed Swiss mobile company called InFin bought Mars One for $92m in 2016 after T-shirt sales and donations brought in only about $1m.

Mars One claimed to be on track to put people on Mars as recently as this past July, but numerous “finalists” in Mars One’s competition have revealed the underlying scam. 

After shooting far beyond the moon, Mars One will never get off the ground: InFin filed for bankruptcy in Switzerland this past January — with less than $25k in the tank.

Mars (D)one
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SoftBank is back at it: Robot delivery startup Nuro raises $940m from SoftBank

Driverless delivery startup Nuro just got a huge Vision-fueled financial boost from ol’ money-bags-SoftBank.

Yesterday, the company announced it raised $940m from the Japanese tech company’s Vision Fund to help speed up mass production of the company’s robot “R1” delivery vehicles.

What does SoftBank’s Vision Fund see? 

The nearly billion-dollar investment is a massive vote of confidence for little-known Nuro. Formed in 2016 by a pair of ex-Google engineers, Nuro is now one of only a handful of companies operating fully driverless vehicles on public roads today.

Its R1 vehicle (currently operating in Scottsdale, AZ) is almost half as wide as a compact sedan, shorter than most cars, and has no place for humans behind the wheel (or riding shotgun).

Despite having built only 6 of these vehicles to date, TechCrunch reports that Nuro partnered in 2018 with Kroger to pilot a delivery service and has already licensed its self-driving technology to the autonomous trucking startup, Ike.

SoftBank is competing against itself

The investment in Nuro is the latest honking investment in autonomous vehicles by SoftBank. Its Vision Fund recently said it plans to pump $2.25B into GM’s self-driving Cruise division as well.

The tech giant acquired 20% of Uber in 2017 and is heavily invested in its global competitors like China’s Didi Chuxing, Grab, and Ola — all of which have driverless vehicle programs. 

Because why should you focus on just one autonomous-curious ride-hailing startup when you can have all of them?

» Drive responsibly

Skin is in: In the business of beauty, skincare products now earn more than makeup

Thanks to record-breaking skincare sales, the beauty biz has gotten a makeover: Skincare products have overtaken makeup products as the highest-earning Big Beauty category, Quartz reports.

As consumers gravitate toward premium anti-aging potions, skincare is forecast to outperform all other cosmetics categories this year — propelling skincare supergiants like Estée Lauder and L’Oréal to record revenue.

From forever young to never old

Since the skincare category grew 16% and the makeup category only grew 3% over the course of the past year, companies that shifted their focus from “dolled up” to “toned down” were the big winners.

Estée Lauder did $4B in sales last quarter, and L’Oréal’s stock hit a record high thanks to better-than-expected sales growth. 

Estée Lauder did $1.7B in skincare sales alone, a 16% increase from the previous year. L’Oréal also reported that most of the company’s above-average growth was “driven by its skincare performance.”  

Will the skincare bubble dry out?

Part of the reason that skincare products are so valuable is that they sell at premium prices: Anti-aging products are the most popular skin product but also the most expensive, ranging in price from $50 to $2k. 

These premium prices are good and glossy for now, but shifting consumer preferences down the road could cause a serious blemish on beauty’s business model. 

Some skincare forecasters predict that consumers won’t be willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for anti-aging serums forever and that the premium skincare bubble will burst once consumers become better educated. 

» In there like skincare

Barneys is adding a luxury head shop to its Beverly Hills store. And the prices are hiiiiigh

Gone are the days of getting trapped inside your weed dealer’s apartment, obligated to humor them in a game of Battleship after failing to decline their plea, cuz, well, you’re high and you panicked.

We’re kidding — those days have long-staled (the weed biz is projected to hit $31.4B by 2021). Now, the days of the luxury pot market are fresh at hand.

To prove it, Barneys, the luxury department store chain, has sparked up a  partnership with the Los Angeles pot brand Beboe to open its own upscale head shop aptly named “The High End.”

Get it? It’s funny because… it’s true

According to a 2016 study, 65% of “upscale cannabis consumers” make $75k or more — and Barneys clearly knows its audience. 

The pot subsidiary will sell swanky paraphernalia ranging from French hemp rolling papers to $950 bongs to $1.4k grinders. 

Since Barneys isn’t a licensed dispensary it can’t legally sell weed, but there will be information about Beboe’s vape pens and edibles in the store. 

The retail apocalypse affects everyone differently

The High End cannabis push comes as retail stores continue to struggle from the online shopping shift. Barney’s CEO Daniella Vitale explains that Bougie B made the choice at least partially due to a pressure to offer Instagram-worthy moments.

“We want to make sure there is an entertainment value here,” Vitale said.

The Beverly Hills store-within-a-store aims to open in March, and potentially its locations in New York if recreational weed becomes legal.

   @ Me Anything
Wes Schlagenhauf, News Writer at The Hustle
@wesschlagenhauf

Finally, yoga moms and new age Wall Streeters can thumb through vape pens and “water pipes” in their comfort zone.
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» Blaze on through to the other side
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Remember what your dad used to wear to work? 

Yeah… us too.

Thank JCR (John C. Reilly) that times have changed, because we’d prefer not to fill our closets with pleated slacks and pastel button-ups. No, we’re more into clothing that does it all: feels good, looks great, and goes from commute to conference room to gym with ease — you know, like the new ZEROGRAND All-Day Trainers from Cole Haan.  

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If you’re ready to dive into the highs (Bezos’ Glo-Up), lows (sandals with socks), and the events that lead to offices’ casual appearance, then look no further than our latest in-depth report.

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