June 1, 2020

Protests ripple across America

June 1, 2020
The Hustle
TOGETHER WITH
Graze Mowing

A chaotic weekend plunged the country into another crisis. More than 100k Americans have died from the coronavirus. More than 40m have lost their jobs since the pandemic upended the economy. Over the weekend, protests erupted over the senseless death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white police officer.

To be honest, we had a tough time stringing our words together for this email. It’s hard to focus on business and tech when the country is in so much turmoil. Just know we’re thinking about you.

A Nation in Crisis

Unrest across America: The early impact on businesses

The protests over the death of George Floyd that spilled across US cities this weekend evoked one of the most tumultuous periods in American history, drawing comparisons to 1968 — and the unrest that exploded after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

A deluge of support for Black Lives Matter

In the business world, dozens of brands spoke out, pledging their support for racial equality:

  • Nike turned its famous slogan inside out: “For once, Don’t Do It,” urged the text of the company’s new ad. “Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America. Don’t turn your back on racism.”
  • Twitter updated its bio to read #BlackLivesMatter — a hashtag that appeared in posts by HBO, Nordstrom, and many other companies, according to The New York Times.
  • In a memo to employees obtained by Bloomberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the “painful past” of racism “is still present today.” While our country’s laws have changed, he wrote, “the reality is that their protections are still not universally applied.”

In his memo, Cook said Apple would be donating to several groups, including the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that focuses on racial injustice. 

YouTube said it would donate $1m to the Center for Policing Equity, a think tank that works with departments to reduce racial disparities in law enforcement.

How companies have scaled back

While large companies voiced support for the protesters, the demonstrations also led some big businesses to adjust their operations. 

Amazon scaled back deliveries and closed Whole Foods locations in some major cities. Apple kept many of its stores closed on Sunday. On Sunday evening, Walmart closed hundreds of stores across the country, according to The Wall Street Journal. CVS closed stores across more than 20 states.

The impact on small businesses

Some business owners in cities rocked by the demonstrations were left to pick up the pieces after their stores were looted. The pandemic was already threatening their livelihoods — and owners whose businesses were ransacked said they may not recover

Cynthia Gerdes, the co-founder of a Minneapolis restaurant that shut down because of the coronavirus in March, had planned to start offering takeout next month. But she told the Journal that she’s reconsidering, calling the unrest “a gut punch.”

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TLDR: 10 Quick Takes to Catch You Up

In case you thought everything was bad this weekend, there was one bit of good news on Sunday: NASA astronauts boarded the International Space Station after Saturday’s SpaceX launch.

1️⃣  The SpaceX capsule carrying 2 NASA astronauts successfully docked with the International Space Station. 

2️⃣  President Trump postponed the G7 summit until September — and will expand the invite list to include Australia, India, Russia, and South Korea.

3️⃣  More news from the White House: Trump held a call with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, after issuing an executive order to crack down on social media companies.

4️⃣  And speaking of Facebook: The company’s R&D group released Venue, a new app that wants to be your preferred 2nd screen for live events.

5️⃣  The US Supreme Court rejected a request from a California church to block the state’s restrictions on places of worship.

6️⃣  Dubai’s Emirates airline laid off an undisclosed number of workers, becoming the latest carrier to shed staff while international travel is grounded.

7️⃣  Amazon removed images featuring racist language from some headphone listings on its UK site, a company official said Sunday.

8️⃣  Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos is buying a stake in Beacon, a supply-chain startup in the UK. 

9️⃣  Microsoft is cutting dozens of news production workers at MSN — and replacing them with AI.

🔟  Coming soon to the candy display near you: Necco Wafers, which are now back after a 2-year absence.

Stay Tuned

Today is a day we were all looking forward to: We were preparing to give one of you readers $25,000 cash or a Tesla Model 3. It was going to headline our email today… But, in light of this weekend’s events, that just didn’t feel right. So, if you’d like to learn more, read the bottom of our email today, or simply keep an eye out at the top of the email tomorrow. 

Slow recovery

Reopening alone won’t bring back the workforce

Did you catch the silver lining in last week’s unemployment figures? Although 2.1m people filed new claims for unemployment, the overall unemployment rate fell slightly: 3.86m Americans canceled their ongoing unemployment claims — meaning, most likely, they got their jobs back.

But with states across America reopening, the job gains feel… slim.

There are 2 separate factors at play here: First, businesses can’t afford to hire just yet. In Philadelphia, for instance, just 10% of companies brought back furloughed workers. 

But there’s a 2nd problem: Many workers aren’t ready to return even if they are offered their jobs back.

Someone please take care of the kids

In its semi-regular economic update, the Fed cited 3 big reasons for worker hesitation: 

  • Childcare: Many schools and summer camps are taking the next few months off — and while childcare centers are slowly gearing up for an onslaught of anxious kids, as many as half might be at risk of closing permanently.
  • Health fears: Retail and fast food workers are putting themselves at risk to enforce mask and social distancing rules, and that “customer is always right” ethos is starting to get in the way.
  • Pay cuts: For ⅔ of workers, going back to work would mean a pay cut from $600/week in unemployment benefits — not an easy ask in such a tight economy. 

Lawmakers are finally facing the music 

That V-shaped recovery? Especially after such a turbulent weekend, it’s not going to happen without some interventions.

To relieve working parents, Congress is considering proposals for a childcare bailout. 

And for low-wage workers, it’s weighing whether to create a bridge out of unemployment: A “return-to-work bonus” that would add $450/week to worker salaries for the first several weeks after they reenter the workforce.

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Uno, dos

People counting? It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3

Forget sheep: These days, everyone in tech is trying to count people.

Plenty of states are limiting the capacity of offices, factories, or restaurants at 25% or 50% — but instead of asking one poor employee to tally up who enters and exits on a notepad, businesses are turning to tech.

One startup, Density, tracks when people move in and out of, say, conference rooms. A screen positioned outside will warn you when a room is full and estimate how long you have to wait. 

Density’s customer base is getting crowded: Since last quarter, the company has witnessed a 560% jump in sales, including signing on an Indiana meatpacking plant. 

The crowd management biz is near capacity

Once upon a time, the sector was tiny. Big businesses used a service like Density to measure which of its spaces were most popular. 

But now everyone wants to show off their counting skills. WaitTime, a company originally designed as a “Waze for concession stand lines,” is marketing itself to sports stadiums — WaitTime will monitor crowded bathroom lines and signal when it’s safe to enter.

Another rival, VergeSense, can monitor the distance between workers in office spaces, and it’s “on track” for 500% growth. 

Tracking companies like SenSource and SafeCount are also seeing ballooning grocery store fandoms. Honestly, counting to 10 has never been so cool.

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Snippets

⛈ Meet the Air Force meteorologists who call off all those rocket launches.

💰 Why Kylie Jenner is no longer a billionaire.

🤔 How one university’s virtual graduation turned into a “vaporwave nightmare.”

🌍 Germany has a pitch for Twitter: Kick the US to the curb and move here instead. 

💃 Health researchers are turning to TikTok to study new COVID-19 symptoms.

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