The Hustle

The business of private firefighting

Brad, our head of content, is out on vacation. In his honor, we’re breaking all of his writing rules this week. Yesterday, it was “NO ALL CAPS.” Today, it’s this rule: “Don’t ever use a Rob Schneider movie quote anywhere in the email.” This one’s for you, Brad: “Oh, it’s one of those 18th-century wet rugs.” -- Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo (1999)

September 1, 2020

Plus: You’ve probably never heard of Infobip — but you’ve likely used it.
September 1, 2020

Brad, our head of content, is out on vacation. In his honor, we’re breaking all of his writing rules this week. Yesterday, it was “NO ALL CAPS.” Today, it’s this rule: “Don’t ever use a Rob Schneider movie quote anywhere in the email.” This one’s for you, Brad:

“Oh, it’s one of those 18th-century wet rugs.”
Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo (1999)

The Big Idea

Can startups make scheduling less terrible?

There’s only one thing worse than sitting through meetings: scheduling them. 

In theory, scheduling is a simple task. But now that we’re in an age of endless Zoom check-ins, phone calls, and team meetings, syncing a calendar often isn’t as painless as it should be.

A handful of startups are trying to end our misery

Everyone in Silicon Valley wants to disrupt the calendar:  

  • Clockwise ($31.4m funding) uses AI to move around your meetings to avoid overlap and create more “focus time.”
  • Superhuman ($33m) trawls through your email for key phrases, like “tomorrow at 3pm,” and whips them into calendar events.
  • ReclaimAI ($1.5m) lets you assign different levels of priority to your meetings (so if someone wants to book you for that 1pm slot you dedicated to The Sopranos, ReclaimAI will just bump your Tony time to the evening).
  • Calendly ($350k) shows your available times and asks people to book you to avoid the ol’ back-and-forth. Sending your Calendly link is also a power move: You’re saying, Look over my schedule, pleb, and find your own space

Do we have to brace ourselves for calendar influencers?

Some players in the calendar space are even trying to make scheduling — dare we say — fun.

The startup IRL has raised $11m with the mission of building a social calendar platform, where you check the calendars of hip people who live near you. It’s kind of like Instagram meets scheduling.

The next frontier in the digital calendar arms race could very well usher in a new class of “calendar influencers” who hype up virtual Megan Thee Stallion concerts just by adding them to their public plans.


The controversial business of private firefighting

As wildfires rage across California, the state is facing a shortage of firefighting resources and personnel.

But the state’s wealthy denizens have another option: They can hire one of America’s 300+ private firefighting crews to protect their home for somewhere in the range of $300-$5k/hour.

Sound a bit dystopian?

The bulk of these private fire teams are hired by state and local governments to supplement shorthanded crews.

But there’s also been a surge in commissions from well-to-do individuals — including the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West back in 2018 — who are looking for an extra line of defense that the general public doesn’t have access to.

As one company operator told Reuters: “Wealthy people already have their private schools, and they have their private jets. Now, someone with money says, ‘OK, I am going to hire my own private fire department.’”

UberBLACK, but for fire insurance

In recent years, insurance companies have sold a growing number of plans that bake in private firefighting services.

Most of the time, these firefighters aren’t battling flames — they roll up to douse your roof with fire retardant before the wildfire hits. It comes down to money: They’d rather pay for a private service than be held liable for the loss of a $10m mansion in the Los Angeles hills.

An industry under fire

Some say this privatized branch of the industry has deepened the inequities in disaster relief; others say it’s offered support to a system that is chronically shorthanded. 

Either way, the sector is growing: Though private companies make up just 4.3% of all firefighters at large, they now provide ~40% of the nation’s wildfire suppression resources.


Sales culture, it’s a-changin’ 

The floors are empty. The phones are quiet. The gongs are un-banged. 

Yep, this whole remote work fiasco has been a curveball for everyone — none more so than sales teams, who typically thrive on hectic environments and the energy of their coworkers. 

Lucky for us, Aircall and HubSpot joined forces to put out this free guide to help your sales team stay one step ahead of all the changes. 

Download “Selling in Uncertain Times”.

It covers every change in remote sales front-to-back, including:

It’s great for sellers, helpful for managers, and indispensable for anyone tasked with keeping a remote sales team on track for their goals.

Here’s your guide →
Call Me, Beep Me

Infobip and the big business of sending corporate texts

You’ve probably never heard of Croatia’s biggest tech giant, but you’ve almost certainly used it. 

This summer, Infobip became the latest company in Europe to achieve unicorn status after raising a $200m Series A round.

Infobip has sent texts to ~5B people 

The message from Uber, informing you that your ride will arrive in 6 minutes? Infobip. That DM from an airline re: a gate change? Infobip. 

The company sends messages on behalf of some of the biggest tech giants in the world, ~750 banks, and ~650 mobile operators.

The bootstrapped company doesn’t need the money 

Infobip’s founder (Silvio Kutic) says the main purpose of the fundraising is to bolster the company’s profile in the US, where $40B Twilio reigns supreme.

A big difference between the two: Twilio is taking an “L” on revenue of $1B+, while Infobip is profitable on revenue of $711m.

In fact, before this recent round, the only outside funding the ever-frugal Kutic took was from his parents, while working out of a garage. 

How are these companies so huge?

Infobip and Twilio are application programming interface (API) companies, which provide 3rd-party software to the world’s internet economy. Other notable names in the space include Shopify (ecommerce tools) and Stripe (payments).

By providing critical tech tools to all industries, API firms have a massive addressable market and can thrive even as the economy stagnates.

Retail Pain

Fadeaway: Nike’s latest pivot is bad for brick-and- mortar retail

The $139B sports apparel megabrand recently announced that it’s cutting loose some of its strategic partners.

The partners — which include retailers like Dillards, Belk, Boscov’s, and Fred Meyer — collectively represent ~1k physical stores.

Nike wants 50% of its sales to be digital 

Experts say it’s a feasible goal. The company is already on pace to hit 30% by the end of 2021, 2 years earlier than originally planned.

Over the past quarter, Nike’s digital sales have surged by 75% — even as its overall revenues declined 38%. This has largely been aided by the company’s app presence:

  • The Nike commerce app has had 8m+ downloads since February.
  • The brand’s SNKRS app scored $1B last fiscal year.
  • Nike-branded training apps have seen up to a 100% increase in usage during the quarantine.

Last year, Nike shunned Amazon…

Now, the company is shunning Zappos — all in an effort to regain control of its brand and inventory.

Shops like DICK’S Sporting Goods, Nordstrom, and Foot Locker — who are digital savvy and tend to be more coachable on product display and promotion — were able to make the cut.

According to the bankruptcy newsletter Petition, the trickle down could be devastating for mid-tier malls. They house many of the retailers Nike is leaving behind and are already in pain.

The Hustle Says

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*This is a sponsored post.


Head of Marketing, ClassDojo: A consumer network with an education bent needs a savvy marketing chief to drive growth into the billions.

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Director of Eommerce, Oatly: Mmm, oat milk. This is your call to lead omnichannel strategy and drive growth… all while wearing a plant-based mustache.

Content Strategist, Clerky: Know how to make it bright, tight, and right? Check out this one.

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