The Hustle

Stressed? Here’s some Legos

A company makes a cherished toy. Then the kids grow up. What happens to the company? Time for the company to grow up, too. Today:Speaking of big money, the concentration of VC deals on the West Coast slipped from 62.3% to 50% last year, thanks to investment in new regions like the Midwest. But the percentage of dollars going to California, New York, and Massachusetts climbed from 75% to 78%.


January 17, 2020

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A company makes a cherished toy. Then the kids grow up. What happens to the company? Time for the company to grow up, too. Today:

Speaking of big money, the concentration of VC deals on the West Coast slipped from 62.3% to 50% last year, thanks to investment in new regions like the Midwest. But the percentage of dollars going to California, New York, and Massachusetts climbed from 75% to 78%.

Are Legos a part of your wellness routine?

Kids love Legos. But conventional wisdom says that at some point, every adolescent has to trade in the toys and take their first steps on the soul-crushing path to adulthood.

That means more commutes, more office drones, and more meetings. But definitely no more Legos. At least, that’s what it used to mean. 

If you’re still a kid at heart, breathe easy. Because the Lego Group — the world’s largest toy maker — has some brightly colored blocks to sell you.

How Lego’s going after adults

These are tough times in the toy industry. Competition is tight, and digital distractions are competing for kids’ time and attention. 

Lego rebounded by expanding its digital footprint and selling in different places. Think discount chains and Amazon, rather than just Toys “R” Us.

More significantly, as The Washington Post noted: The company’s pitch has changed. We’re not just for “Star Wars” obsessives anymore. Legos are part of a healthy wellness routine.

Wait, what? Legos as the new mindfulness app?

The company’s strategy makes sense. It exploits two big trends:

  1. Growing consumer demand for new ways to relieve stress and anxiety
  2. Our bottomless appetite for nostalgia — this time among Gen Xers

As the Post pointed out, adults have deeper pockets, too. The set for the Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle runs a cool $400.

Lego is about to bring the nostalgia train straight to your living room: “Lego Masters,” a new network TV series hosted by the actor Will Arnett, debuts in February.

It’s based on a British hit series of the same name, and it’ll pit teams of toy-brick layers against each other. 

Photo: Armslist.com

Inside Armslist, a peer-to-peer market for gun sales

You’ve probably read about how a handful of the world’s highest-profile retailers have started to limit the sale of guns and ammo in their stores. 

But did you know there’s an online bazaar where private sellers hawk them, Craigslist-style?

Let The Verge and The Trace introduce you to Armslist. Their eye-opening story about the site’s rise is relevant for anyone who cares about gun violence, and the ways information and consumer goods move online. 

A quick breakdown

First, some essentials:

As you might expect, Armslist is deeply controversial. Law-enforcement authorities have linked guns recovered at crime scenes to people who’ve used it to peddle dozens of firearms.

1 key detail: The site’s legal-defense strategy is ripped right from the playbook of some Silicon Valley titans. Its lawyers invoke Section 230 of a law called the Communications Decency Act.

As the story’s authors, Colin Lecher and Sean Campbell, put it: “Seen from one angle, the battle over Armslist looks like a microcosm of the larger war over Silicon Valley power and accountability.”

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Our screen habits say a lot about us. Will we like what they unveil?

Quick. Take a screenshot on your phone. Keep reading for 5 seconds.

Now take another one.

Congratulations, you’re (sort of) mimicking how researchers plan to capture the digital equivalent of the Human Genome Project.

It’s called the Human Screenome Project — and it aims to help us understand the implications of everything people do on their phones.

This isn’t just about ‘screen time’

For years, researchers have thrown time and effort into understanding what happens when kids and adults stare at glowing rectangles all day long. For one thing, those screens are good at killing our zzz’s.

But the brains behind the Screenome Project say measuring time alone isn’t good enough. Watching YouTube videos for hours is different than, say, toggling between text messages, Twitter, and Instagram.

In other words: The mix of what you’re watching on that glowing rectangle is just as important as how long you’re watching it. More important, even.

The big question: Privacy. MIT Technology Review says the researchers gathered 30m screenshots from volunteers in the US and overseas. 

That’s a lot of pictures of sensitive stuff already, and the researchers suggested they need more. With concerns about Big Brother only growing bigger, will people go for it?

Photo: Jp Valery on Unsplash

This week’s weirdest ways to spend money

We know you love your dog. But those Spotify pet playlists weren’t enough for you? Try this game console for dogs and then let Fido loose. 

Looking for something else? Consider one of this week’s bizarre selections, gathered from around the web.

Why finding people in big buildings is big business

If you’ve ever gotten lost in a mall, don’t fret. People will apparently pay giant sums to power the tech that’ll find you.

Case in point: A company called NextNav just raised $120m to roll out a system that will pinpoint a device’s location inside a tall building.

Think of it like GPS, but with an indoor voice

Popular navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze cover the world, but many of them have a blind spot: Once you get inside, you’re usually on your own.

Startups like NextNav, the Israel-based Navin, and others are banking on the idea that lots of people could benefit from this technology. Think emergency responders, doctors, and tourists.

Turn left at the watercooler

Some companies are even getting in the game. The Wall Street Journal reported that Exxon Mobil plans to offer a wayfinding app for workers at its sprawling Houston campus, which covers 4.5m square feet.

No wonder they have trouble finding the coffee pot.

Snippets

🎧 Bose is shutting down 119 of its retail stores.

💸 There’s a huge racial-equity gap in bank fees.

⛳️ Good news for golf caddies: Endorsement deals are A-OK.

🍦Your new favorite ice-cream flavor is Netflix & Chill’d.

🔬Concrete: It’s alive!

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Shower Thoughts
  1. If elevators hadn’t been invented, all the CEOs and important people would have their offices on the first floor as a sign of status.
  2. If you don’t wear the right clothes when you go for a run, you look like an insane person.
  3. When you’re cooking with garlic, people always tell you how great it smells, but if you had a garlic candle, people would find that weird and offensive.
  4. The kids of the future probably won’t make “brrmmm brrmm” sounds when they play with toy cars.
  5. Turbulence is the pothole of the sky.
  6. via Reddit

Been doing some serious shower thinking lately? Share your thoughts with us here.
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