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Shopify to the rescue

You might not realize how important the Canadian ecommerce company is.
July 23, 2020
The Hustle
Miso Robotics

This case of sandwich sadness has a happy ending. A University of Georgia student was munching on a sub while taking an online exam. A rogue meatball landed on her keyboard, logging her out and giving her a failing grade. She appealed to her professor, who allowed her a retake, sans sub.

Let this tale of Twitter gold be a lesson: It’s good to give your fellow humans a break.

The Big Idea

How Shopify is keeping your neighborhood bakery afloat

This is only a slight exaggeration: Back in March, Shopify saved 15k gallons of Toronto beer from going down the drain. 

When lockdowns started, Canada’s Great Lakes Brewing Co. (not to be confused with Cleveland’s) turned to the ecommerce giant for help setting up an online ordering platform.

Shopify did it in 2 days. Now the brewery is selling more hops than before the pandemic.

You probably don’t realize just how big Shopify is

The company is responsible for ~6% of all online sales in the US, more than eBay and Etsy.

Marker said its fingerprints are everywhere, from the ordering systems of your local bakery to behemoths like Heinz.

When the pandemic hit, Shopify:

  • Signed up 62% more sellers between March 13 and April 24.
  • Extended its free trial from 2 weeks to 3 months. 
  • Added $200m to its loan program for struggling businesses.

Even Amazon sellers are jumping ship

Shopify takes a much smaller commission from its vendors than its Bezos-led rival: 2.9% of sales compared to Amazon’s 15% cut. (Though Shopify does charge sellers a monthly fee, starting at $29.)

Pricing wars aside, Shopify’s got an edge where it counts: Customers’ inboxes.

Shopify sellers can collect buyers’ emails — on the ‘zon, they can’t. That means Amazon vendors can’t explain, say, why supply chain issues might be making people’s Chia Pets late.

Amazon sellers’ ratings are at historic lows, in part because they can’t communicate. 

Marker speculated that the problems might be why Amazon’s share of the ecommerce market is down from 42% to 34% since the pandemic started.

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Aldi I ever wanted

Aldi’s expanding… get ready for Euro candy and sumo suits

Hold onto your lucky quarters. Aldi is going big

The spunky and funky German-owned chain plans to open 70+ new stores by the end of 2020 as it vies to become the No. 3 US grocer — right behind Walmart and Kroger.

It ain’t your average discount store

~90% of Aldi’s wares are private-label, which keeps prices low. Like Costco, it stocks far fewer items than other big grocers (~1.4k vs. tens of thousands). 

It also delegates the dirty work — customers bag the goods and wrangle the carts. Somehow, the simple act of depositing a quarter to borrow a cart compels shoppers to return them to their corrals instead of leaving them in the parking lot.

And that’s not the only thing shoppers find compelling.

Bargain buys on organic produce and European sweets are obviously appealing, and the Aldi Finds section peddles unexpected treasures like chainsaws and inflatable sumo suits.

And Aldi superfans love ‘em

Aldi stans stand 2.6m on Facebook. They proudly wear their Aldi Nerds T-shirts and tote their cart quarters in cute pouches.

They swap tales of grocery white whales like the everything-but-the-bagel seasoning and the frozen chicken in the red bag.

An expansion? During a pandemic?

Corona-related stressors like rising food prices and unemployment have driven spending up ~10% at traditional grocers. This could make discount chains like Aldi appealing. 

But are you ready to go Euro style? Aldi hopes you’ll say ach ja.

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5 stories to catch you up quick

1️⃣  Tesla is headed to Texas: The next Gigafactory will be built right outside Austin.

2️⃣  A new Senate bill would block federal employees from using TikTok

3️⃣  Facebook is promising to investigate racial discrimination in its algorithms. 

4️⃣  Twitter is planning to remove ~150k accounts associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory. 

5️⃣  In India, WhatsApp is getting into the pension and insurance biz. 

And 5 more to delight you 

1️⃣  The only summer skirmish we care about is the battle between Discovery’s Shark Week and NatGeo’s SharkFest

2️⃣  Polish sports fans are renting literal cranes so they can cheer on their teams from a respectable distance.

3️⃣  Big retailers like Target have found the secret to selling books in a pandemic: Put them near the toilet paper aisle.

4️⃣  We love a good virtual heist: One weed vendor disguised its sales as dog products, diving gear, and soda to get big banks to process the purchases.

5️⃣  Japan just created an earthquake-proof bullet train


Flippy the cooking robot makes $3/hr… and some really good burgers

Talk about the best of both worlds.

Flippy solves the current quick-service quandary of balancing quality and speed. It’s tough to have both — but with Flippy, you get perfect food prep done fast, all for just $3/hr. 

Maybe that’s why hot spots like Dodgers Stadium and Caliburger are taking it for a test run to gauge performance. 

Innovate, automate, and elevate the commercial kitchen

Thanks to thermal vision (along with 12 different pending patents), this AI assistant chef is helping to address the challenges facing quick-service restaurants and cloud kitchens:

  • Economical: Flippy’s low hourly cost can give quick-service restaurants a 300% lift in margins
  • Scalable: Flippy has cooked 60K+ lbs of fried food and 12K+ burgers, and counting!
  • Responsible: Flippy makes for a safer work environment by keeping human workers away from dirty and dangerous kitchen tasks 

The cooking chops of this skillful little chef are paying off for his creators, too — Miso Robotics is now in prime position to be one of the main players in automating the up-and-coming cloud kitchen market

So, here’s your opportunity: Get in on their SeedInvest fundraising round while it’s still open (and before Flippy starts making the rounds on Kimmel), and see where this investment takes you. 

Hey, the sky’s the limit. 

Invest here →
Odd Jobs

Salted caramel crickets? This entrepreneur is spicing up the insect protein biz

To provide a little inspiration, we’re profiling people with cool jobs. Got a great — and unusual — gig? Holler at us.

When a UPS package carrying 10k crickets landed on Shelby Smith’s doorstep, she was terrified. 

Smith, a former derivatives trader living on her family’s farm in Iowa, had ordered the crickets on a whim. 

2018 was the perfect time to jump into the cricket biz — the market is projected to grow to $8B by 2030.

You can already find some high-profile cricket products, like the Exo Protein energy bar, in most stores.

But almost everything Smith knew about raising crickets came from YouTube videos.

“I killed a lot of crickets,” she says. “Like, a lot.”

Step 1 to building a biz? 

Get a punny name. 

Smith’s choice: Gym-N-Eat Crickets. (Say it out loud.) 

Step 2: Experiment. Smith has mixed cricket powder into energy bars, but also into chocolate ”chirp” cookies, onion rings, and zucchini bread

Now Smith is in about 11 grocers across the country, including the Midwestern chain Hy-Vee.  

She’s one of the few companies raising her crickets stateside. And her flavors — lemon, banana bread, salted caramel — are more experimental than other brands’. 

“You are at the mercy of what I like, because if you don’t buy it, I’m going to have to eat it,” she says. “There will be no black licorice crickets.”

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More Than a Cameo

Your best Cameo shoutouts: The Nature Boy, Big Cat Rescue, and a 90th-birthday surprise

I asked for your best Cameo shoutouts. Y’all delivered: 

💪 Ric “The Nature Boy” Flair: “Birthday gift for my best pal, college roommate and teammate for his 50th birthday. It brought him to tears while laughing. It was worth the $500 bucks!!” (Jon B.)

(PS: Here’s my failed attempt at getting Bill Burr into a rap video with Ric Flair.)

🐅 Carole Baskin: “I got a Cameo from Carole Baskin as a surprise for my husband’s 50th birthday. When I look back on this quarantine years from now, I’ll be reminded how Tiger King bonded us as a nation and on a personal level how it unexpectedly became our date-night in ritual when we couldn’t go out.” (Jenny P.)

🏀 Cuttino Mobley: “I was engaged in talking smack with a diehard Clippers fan (vomit). I’m a diehard Lakers fan. He mentioned Cuttino Mobley was one of his favorite Clippers players and a childhood hero. So I hired Cuttino to talk [ish] to him too.” (Omer H.)

A special shoutout to Patrick D., a Hustle reader/comedian who says he wants “to become the first person who is ‘Cameo Famous.’”

Finally, this is a great story. Jesse W.’s grandfather is a huge Cleveland Indians fan. For his 90th birthday, he received HBD wishes from Indians pitcher Shane Bieber:

“HE WAS SHOCKED,” Jesse wrote. “He had no idea how I pulled off contacting the Cleveland Indians… the man must have played the video 50 times, I’ve never seen him so excited and tickled.”

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Bull market on safe sex

A condom brand’s pricing model is inspired by… stonks

Can the wolves of Wall Street change how we think about safe sex? The Australian condom company LifeStyles is banking on it.

The idea: Hook condom prices to the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections. When Google search volumes go up for STIs like chlamydia, syphilis, and herpes, the price of rubber(s) goes down.

Talk about asset management

LifeStyles partnered with the ad agency FCB/Six on the stock market-inspired web campaign “Publicly Traded …”

… because sexually transmitted infections are, y’know, publicly traded.

Think watching the NASDAQ makes you sweat?

Try watching the STI Index. You can sign up for notifications when the price of bulk condom packs fall below $20 … and you can diversify your protection portfolio with a combo of regular, thin, and ribbed condoms.

Send our regards to the Dow, but this is as sexy as stocks get.

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The Hustle Says

Running a startup is hard. No code tools have made it easier. We’re bringing in Notion Expert, Tem Nugmanov, to show us exactly How to Run Your Startup in Notion. Join us today at noon PST.

This next-gen workplace platform comes with digital seating charts and a social distancing tool to help you get back to the office safely. Attend a demo of Robin and get a $50 Amazon gift card. (terms apply) *

Who wants to squeeze into a tiny meeting room these days? No one. Use the Meeting Owl — 360-degree panoramic video so your team can spread out safely when you return to the office.*

*This is a sponsored post.

How You’re Getting By

Our copywriter Bobby is struggling with quarantine. Exhibit A:

We don’t blame him. Things are kinda rough.

We’d like to hear how you’re getting through it — gracefully or not. Tell us how you’re coping here. We’ll share the best of your submissions to help brighten your days.

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