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February 11, 2019

Over the course of 3 centuries, Trinity Church has built a $6B real estate empire.
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The Land-Lord Almighty: Trinity Church’s path to a $6B real estate empire

Trinity Church, an Episcopal-affiliate in Manhattan that was chartered in 1697, has amassed a $6B real estate development empire, according to a recent report from The New York Times.

Since religious institutions in the US get tax breaks, many churches across the country own lots of land. But few churches have developed it as well as Trinity, which rents out commercial space to massive corporations (last year, it signed a $650m deal with Disney).

Royalty, religion… and real estate

Trinity traces its profitable property portfolio back to 1705, when Queen Anne of England donated a plot of 215 acres of Manhattan ground to the church.

The church held on to its land through the years: In the 19th century, Trinity was the 2nd-largest landowner in the city, home to several (148) notoriously filthy and dangerous tenements

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By 2013, Trinity’s land dwindled to just 14 acres, but had appreciated to $2B in value, which gave the church a new lease on its development efforts.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t pay taxes

In less than 6 years, Trinity tripled the value of its real estate empire by entering a joint development venture. 

Today, Trinity’s real estate company runs an interactive website to show off its valuable Hudson Square properties. But there’s another reason Trinity does so well: It doesn’t pay taxes.

Tax breaks are a good deal for churches: They’ve helped the Catholic Church become the largest non-government landowner in the world and the Mormon Church become the largest landowner in Florida.

The devil’s in the developments

Despite Trinity’s success, God doesn’t always make a great real estate developer: Across the country, churches with declining congregations are struggling to keep the lights on. 

The difference between Trinity and other churches is that it chose to play an active role as a real estate developer — instead of just sitting on the value of its untaxed land.

But Trinity has money to spare: For the past several years, it has donated $10m annually to other (struggling) churches.

Lease-Us Christ
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Sprint sues AT&T, claiming deceptive use of the phrase ‘5G Evolution’

Word of advice: Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. That’s what’s really cool.

AT&T has repeatedly “shushed” pressure from Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint to stop calling its 4G LTE Advanced cellular service “5G Evolution,” but now, Sprint’s taking it to the courts

In a federal lawsuit, Sprint claims that AT&T has bamboozled a majority of surveyed customers into believing that its 5GE service is at least as good as 5G.


Other carriers claim AT&T chose to muddy the difference between its late-stage 4G and early 5G technologies with the misleading ‘5GE.’ But AT&T claims it only uses the 5GE indicator to highlight potential connections to higher-speed 4G towers.

In other words: it’s not 5G yet, but someday!

Problem is, 54% of surveyed consumers believe AT&T’s 5GE is “the same as or better than a 5G network,” further contributing to Sprint’s argument that customers are getting duped. 

But AT&T isn’t backing down

“We feel very comfortable with how we’ve characterized the new service that we’re launching,” AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told CNBC.

In a statement on Friday, AT&T claimed that while it understands its competitors’ frustration with its decision, its customers “love” it.

“We will fight this lawsuit while continuing to deploy 5G Evolution.” 

» The corp has spoken

Apple’s payout to a 14-year-old proves we can all be ‘bug bounty hunters’

Last week, Apple decided to pay out a reward (of an undisclosed value) to the 14-year-old who discovered a major security flaw in FaceTime.

For years, tech companies like Apple and Google have paid programmers for catching software glitches as part of their “bug bounty” programs. But Apple’s move shows that bug bounties aren’t just for world-class security researchers any more.

Everyone is a bounty hunter now

Grant Thompson isn’t a world class programmer: He’s a student at Catalina Foothills High School.

But when he discovered that Apple’s new FaceTime update enabled users to eavesdrop on their friends, he decided to report the problem to Apple.

In the past, Apple ran a program that offered up to $200k to “security researchers” who discovered and reported vulnerabilities. But now, Apple has decided that even amateur bug hunters like Grant should be entitled to compensation.

Two ways to tackle cybersecurity

Large tech companies are looking for new ways to deal with increasingly complex cyberfraud. One solution is to hire huge cybersecurity companies to tackle cybercrime from the top: Spending on top-down information security is expected to hit $124B this year.

But companies are also taking on cybercrime from the bottom up by offering bounties to individuals who point out problems. Google, for instance, paid out $3.4m just last year to bug-hunters.

Since cybercrime isn’t going anywhere, bug bounty-hunting is likely to increase — and more high-schoolers will probably be doing the bug-squashing.

» Grab your digital fly-swatter

Hasbro struggles with Toys ‘R’ Us liquidation, while Mattel’s stock rose 23% in Q4

As Toys ‘R’ Us readies to officially put the nail in the toy chest, US toymakers like Hasbro continue to struggle as the fallen giraffe continues its liquidation process.

Holiday sales usually account for nearly half of all toy manufacturers’ business. But after Toys ‘R’ Us blew up in Q4, Hasbro’s projected holiday sales in 2018 were turned to mincemeat — dropping 13% — as brands like Nerf and My Little Pony underperformed.  

But Mattel, on the other hand, is killing it. Sales dropped 5%, sure, but better-than-expected results from its Barbie and Hot Wheels brands caused the company’s stock price to jump 23%.

So similar, yet so different

To the layman, Hasbro and Mattel have long been interchangeable as premiere US toy manufacturers. But, their business models are different.

Nerf and My Little Pony are a small fraction of Hasbro’s bread and butter. Its financial success relies mainly on Disney’s movie slate, and no Star Wars or Disney princess movies were released during the 2018 holiday season.

In contrast, Mattel relies on its core franchises to bring home the bacon, which helped the company avoid the holiday hit.

Hasbro isn’t panicking yet

Luckily for Hasbro, Disney’s a pretty solid company, and while movie-franchise mania may have been considered Disney-light in 2018, the Disney toy closet is jam-full in 2019.

Disney’s 2019 movie release calendar is red hot, including Captain Marvel, Avengers: Engame, Toy Story 4, Frozen 2, and the untitled Star Wars: Episode IX, and Hasbro is licking its chops.

» Not just a child’s play-thing

186,000 miles per second

That’s the speed of light, which is only marginally slower than the speed most startups move at. 

When you’re cruising at relativistic speeds, you need a tool that lets you collaborate even faster — we’re talking “Twista’s verse on Slow Jamz” kinda speed. 

Not many softwares can offer the kind of high-paced fluidity and flexibility that can keep up with your startup.

But we know one that can: Airtable

More like “Swiss Army Table”, amirite?

… because they do it all. (We keep trying to convince them to make this name change, but they’re not sold.)

Airtable helps you and your team ship new features, collect user feedback, and plan for the future. And because it was built with simple, seamless collaboration in mind, you can bet everyone is on the same page at all times.  

They’ve even sweetened the deal with another feature — Blocks — that lets you add app-like functionalities to create your absolute perfect workflow. 

If you’re ready to arm your startup with the kind of Swiss Army Table collaboration tool you’ve always needed, it’s only a download away. 

Get $50 credit → monday morning review

In praise of busted earphones and boring commutes

I recently sat on my only remaining pair of earphones. Those little ’buds — $8.99 of Rite Aid’s finest hardware — never stood a chance.

I didn’t know what I had until I lost it: I was so used to filling the gaps of my day with music and radio that I hardly knew what to do without my ’buds.

My first commute home without a sonic sedative didn’t go well: The missing earphones proved that, behind a fanciful facade of NPR podcasts, I am actually an impatient 4-year-old.

The next morning, I prepared myself for another 40 minutes of frustration. But as I sat on the train, my grumpiness gave way to a different — and surprisingly wonderful — feeling: boredom.

I’m not talking about ‘I’m-ready-for-the-week-to-be-over’ restlessness here. I’m talking about full-blown, count-the-number-of-tiles-on-the-ceiling mind-wandering. 

Instead of fast-forwarding through my morning, I found myself imagining what that Pomeranian would say about traveling in a purse and wondering what I would have had for breakfast if I had lived in medieval Europe.

We live in a world where moving fast — grinding, hustling, being “on” — is celebrated and moving slow is often dismissed as inefficient. 

Sure, some awesome ideas come out of hackathons. But other brilliant ideas are born from boredom — and if we don’t slow down enough to daydream every once in awhile, we might miss them.

Stay bored, my friends.

— Conor Grant

Now Playing Now Playing:
Miki Dora, Amen Dunes. A groovy nighttime jam that we assume has Mick Jagger kicking himself for not having written it.
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