Space is expensive


June 10, 2019

Today, Walmart gets a key, and Barnes & Noble bends the knee, but first…
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Space is officially open for business — but it won’t be cheap

At the end of last week, NASA announced plans to open the International Space Station (ISS) to private business by allowing “private astronauts” to travel to space — for astronomical prices. 

Space tourists will have to shell out $58m for a ticket to the station, and then another $35k per night to stay there.

But billionaires won’t be the only ones blasting off: NASA wants to attract starry-eyed startups and other cosmos-craving companies, too.

It’s called the Commercial Crew Program

NASA is partnering with SpaceX and Boeing to offer companies ISS trips lasting up to 30 nights.

Although the ISS already hosts nonprofit researchers from 50 companies, this new program will be the first to offer for-profit companies the chance to go to space.

Commerce: NASA’s final frontier

In the past, NASA was notorious for prohibiting commercial activity in space even while Russian space agencies allowed it (7 private astronauts have already been to the ISS with Russia).

But NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is a sharp reversal of America’s space philosophy: The program also allows for-profit companies to shoot marketing and promotional materials at the space station — and even enlist the help of NASA crew members.

You know what they say… Always shoot for the moon because if you miss, you’ll land among the marketing executives.

What types of companies will go cosmic?

NASA indicated that the program would encourage in-space manufacturing, marketing projects, and health-care research.

The first private astronauts could take off for the ISS as early as 2020, and NASA will be collecting proposals from private companies for other commercial partnerships over the next several months.

Now the only question is — how is Budweiser going to make a spacesuit for a Clydesdale?

Not your grandpa’s space race
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Barnes & Noble turns the page: The beleaguered bookseller sells for $476m

Hedge fund Elliott Management has acquired Barnes & Noble for $476m in cash. 

The sale was announced Friday morning after months of drama and conjecture over the fate of the bookstore behemoth. Would there be a bailout? Or would Barnes & Noble merely be an historical tale we tell our grandchildren? 

The ending seems to be a happy one. Time will tell if the outcome is only a misdirect. 

A new chapter

The middle-aged bookseller started as a single Manhattan storefront in 1971 and later evolved into a national chain of book superstores.

In the ’90s, Barnes & Noble was notorious for cutting prices and pushing out paperback mom and pop shops across the US.

But in recent years, the word-mecca has been rocked by the Amazon reign — struggling to make a profit. In the last decade, the online reckoning forced the chain to close more than 150 stores — down to 627.

Elliott is the hero of this page turner… for now.

Publishers were anxious as the collapse of the world’s largest bookstore loomed. To a publisher, that’s like a basketball losing its hoop. Or a meatloaf without an American — oh, the humanity. 

The acquisition has curbed fears among publishers and agents for now, but like all good stories, there’s usually an ending. Pour one out for the Toys ‘R’ Us of books.

» When Goliath becomes David
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Mark it off the list: Walmart employees will soon stock your fridge themselves

Walmart announced it will bring “InHome” delivery to customers in select US cities this fall — a program where customers can opt to allow direct delivery to their refrigerators.

According to The Verge, while there were no details of “how,” Walmart said it will use its own workers to open your door and walk into your house when you aren’t home.

Hmm, well, when you put it that way…

Don’t worry. They’ll be wearing body cameras

Soon, the services will be available to over 1m customers in Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

Walmart said it will give its employees detailed training to ensure they “treat customers’ homes with the same care and respect with which they treat a friend’s or family’s home.”

So the delivery driver can put their feet up on a customer’s coffee table — while using their Netflix account — as the customer makes them a sandwich. Got it.

Anything Amazon does, Walmart tries to do better

InHome will compete directly with Amazon’s Key home delivery service, which can deliver your packages inside your home and elsewhere. 

Reuters reported that Walmart tested a similar D2F (direct-to-fridge) delivery service in 2017, but it was disbanded a year later. 

Maybe Walmart can show the Mozart to its Salieri how true “consensual breaking and entering” is done.

» Do it, Walmart!

Depop raises $62m to outsell other second-hand clothes companies

Late last week, peer-to-peer selling app Depop raised a stylish $62m to expand its platform for selling cool clothes to social followers.

The London-based startup, which has more than 13m users, is one of several peer-to-peer platforms powering a growing market at the intersection of second-hand shopping and social media.

Sometimes, influencers are more important than big brands

Depop’s platform is designed to connect 2 individuals, replacing the impersonal relationship between buyer and seller with social experience.

The platform’s users, 90% of whom are under 26, follow and message each other more than 85m times per month — and Depop’s top users make more than $100k on the platform annually.

Depop makes money by skimming a 10% fee off each transaction, and the company’s revenue has grown by more than 100% annually for the last several years.

Will second-hand selling stay stylish?

According to thredUP — which, along with Poshmark, Vinted, and Tradesy, competes with Depop — the market for resale clothes is on track to more than double from $24B to $51B over the next 5 years.

Depop shows no sign of slowing, either: CEO Maria Raga expects the number of Depop’s US users to triple from 5m to 15m in the next 3 years.

» 2nd’s the new 1st
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