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The billion dollar vision behind Ray-Bans

Today, toy “celebrities” are getting famous and selfie investors are shameless, but first...

Today, toy “celebrities” are getting famous and selfie investors are shameless, but first…
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To complete his vision, the billionaire behind Ray-Ban buys GrandView for $8.1B

Ray-Ban’s parent company, EssilorLuxottica SA, announced yesterday it would buy the European glasses retailer GrandView NV in an $8.1B deal.

The acquisition is the next phase in the Ray-Ban owner’s farsighted scheme to dominate the glasses biz. But the next few steps in the plan are still a little blurry.

The man looking through the glasses is Leonardo Del Vecchio

Last year, Del Vecchio — an Italian metalworker-turned-billionaire — orchestrated the $53B mega-merger of his company Luxottica, which makes luxury sunglasses, and French lens maker Essilor (which was led by French executive Hubert Sagnières). 

The merger gave the Ray-Ban owner the pieces to make glasses by the boatload, but not necessarily the tools to sell them. 

That’s where this GrandView acquisition comes in

Essilor-Luxottica’s existing network of 9k stores is concentrated in the Americas (and some parts of Asia).

But GrandView’s 7.2k stores are mostly spread out across Europe — so by buying GrandView, Essilor-Luxottica is also buying access to the massive European network for face-glasses.

But that doesn’t mean the future is entirely clear

After last year’s Essilor-Luxottica merger, the men behind the 2 merged brands butted heads.

The bickering Del Vecchio and Sagnières eventually made nice, but they still haven’t managed to find a CEO for their company — and some analysts are skeptical the original merger will deliver $660m+ in savings as promised.  

GrandView’s stock was up more than 5% in Europe after the announcement, but leadership at Essilor-Luxottica failed to provide any details about how they expected the acquisition to impact business. 

Plus, now that GrandView’s in the mix, the ornery executives have another thing to argue about.

True vision-aries
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Selfie-editing startup Lightricks snaps up a $135m funding round

Lightricks, the maker of the popular photo-editing app Facetune, raised $135m to expand its popular selfie-perfecting products.

The continued success of the company, which is now valued at more than $1B, shows that face-editing apps are no temporary trend.

The company is growing fast

After launching in 2013, the Facetune app grew rapidly, pulling in $10m in annual revenue by 2015 — all before the company had even raised any outside money. 

But Facetune really hit its stride when it shot to the top of the charts as the most popular app in Apple’s store in 2017. 

Since then, the app has remained popular in spite of stiff selfie competition from companies like Snapchat.

But now Lightricks is in the big leagues…

And the company is looking for new ways to monetize its technology. In addition to Facetune, the company has also launched Enlight, a mobile picture-editing app for amateur photographers, and Swish, a video-editing app for marketers.

The company also rolled out Facetune 2.0, an update to the original app that — to the frustration of users — put some features behind a paywall. 

Lightricks, which now has 3m subscribers across its products and has raised a total of $205m, plans to double down on investment in new tools and to start strategically acquiring companies to grow.

» Lookin’ perfect ain’t cheap
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‘Toy startup’ Superplastic raised $10m to turn its toys into Instagram influencers

Superplastic, a Vermont-based toy startup — yes, we said “toy startup”raised $10m in Series A funding.

So, why in the name of Furby is a toy company raising a Series A?

Well, these aren’t the kind of toys your mom played with…

In fact, they’d probably give Barbie and G.I. Joe nightmares.

Superplastic’s 2 star characters — the nightmare-inducing duo of Guggimon the punk-rabbit and Janky the cat-creature — are designed not for kids’ toy chests, but instead for their Instagram feeds.

Superplastic does sell physical toys (at a luxury price point of $80 for a 12-inch doll), but the entire brand is designed to create Instagram stars that are billed as “synthetic superstars.”

Superplastic wants to sell celebrities, not just toys

The company offers a whole new way of thinking about toys: Superplastic’s website refers to Guggimon and Janky as “celebrities” and includes a link to booking inquiries for its 2 leading toys.

Where normal toy companies would have hired salespeople and merchandisers, Superplastic instead hired 3D movie animators and illustrators to turn their toys into virtual influencers.

The startup is led by Paul Budnitz, the entrepreneur who founded both the toy company Kidrobot and the social network Ello.

» We miss Geoffrey

Live shopping didn’t die with QVC on TV… it’s alive and well in China

Sandy Friesen makes handmade leather purses in Connecticut. But one of her top customer bases is China. 

Friesen’s company, Welden, is one of many fashion-related companies dipping into the Chinese live-stream market, where companies all over the world broadcast their wares to massive audiences.

It’s a market with millions of views and billions of dollars 

In China, some 500m people watch live-streaming on channels owned by companies like Alibaba. These programs are based around sales, and they’re hosted by online and IRL celebs. 

Welden’s VP of sales joined a fashion influencer on a live-stream on Black Friday, and thousands of viewers asked questions in real time. In the next 2 days, Welden made $350k — and now, the company sells 20% of its bags from Chinese live-streams.

Alibaba is the big live-streaming fish    

Most of the live-stream shoppers are women between the ages of 18 and 35. Amazon has tried to launch copycat live-stream services, but so far it hasn’t matched the success of the biggest Chinese live-stream channels, such as Alibaba’s Taobao Marketplace.

Taobao Marketplace makes $15B in sales volume, and some of the top companies selling products make up to $400m.

» Gaga for Baba

Curious about live shopping in China?

The previous story was adapted from a Trends report by The Hustle. Check out the full story here.


An organized brain is like a roadrunner holding knives

Fast-moving, hard to stop, and a little dangerous. 

Which is exactly the kind of dangerous you need to be to reach your goals. 

So, how do you reach’ em? We’ve got some ideas… 

  • Spend $10,000 on Joe Rogan-endorsed nootropics. 
  • Fill every wall of your home with whiteboards to plot and track your work. 
  • Capture and painstakingly train a badger to bite you any time you get distracted, ensuring you are working towards accomplishing something at all times… or else.  

Of course, there’s an easier way — one that saves you the time, hassle, and physical pain of badger teeth. 

It’s called  

Their visual project management tool lets you stay hyper-organized with barely any effort. With simple-to-setup, color-coded charts, you can see where everything stands at a glance. Now that’s the kind of organization we can get behind. 

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