The geofences are going up

June 17, 2020

June 17, 2020
The Hustle

Remember back in April, when all of your friends were fostering dogs? 

Well, if you ever thought, “I want the love of an animal without all the walking and feeding, and I don’t mind a few excess wires,” we have good news: You can now buy a robo-pet named Spot from Boston Dynamics to the tune of $74.5k. 

Spot can do pushups and play cornhole — but it can also detect gas leaks, record its surroundings, and enforce social distancing. Your friend’s impossibly lazy Doberman? He couldn’t even dream of it.

P.S. Don’t forget — We’re giving away a Tesla Model 3 (or $25k in cash) this month. Details at the bottom of this email.

Can’t run, can’t hide

Politicians, police, and… Panera: Geofencing is taking over

Throw together a presidential election, pivots to food delivery, and a growing skepticism of surveillance tech, and here’s what you get: A rare moment in the spotlight for an eerie new technology.

“Geofencing” means using location data to isolate who is — or was — at a given venue. And it’s everywhere. 

Coming to pick up your steel cut oatmeal from Panera? The store will get an alert once you’ve rolled into the parking lot. Grabbing your hair clippers from Walmart? Same deal

They’re all up in your location data

Groups like pick key churches, track the people who attend, and then buy up their data and flood them with political messages. 

The Wall Street Journal found that political groups used geofencing to gobble up the data of Black Lives Matter protesters en masse. Have location services enabled? You might get geofenced.  

Geofencing is also popular among law enforcement agencies. Say a robbery took place at 9:01pm at an Arby’s — police will likely hit up Google for info on who was in the area.

They’ve sent geofencing warrants at a soaring rate since 2017. 

But activists call it unconstitutional

A bill to ban the tactic is picking up steam in New York state.

While geofencing has helped solve some murders and home invasions, it  has also led to mistaken arrests of people who were near a crime but had no role in it.

The scope of geofencing warrants tend to be very broad. And in one Virginia bank robbery case, defense lawyers are giving geofencing its first real constitutional challenge.

These warrants, the lawyers wrote, lack probable cause: They are “the digital equivalent of searching bags of every person walking along Broadway because of a theft in Times Square.”

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Off the deep end

This summer, everyone is getting their feet wet with pool sharing

As the weather heats up, a new type of sharing economy has taken hold — and Americans are diving in headfirst.

Meeting them in the deep end: A 2-year-old pool rental startup called Swimply. The company first made a splash back in February and March, when its app saw bookings jump 1,200% — as we all became shut-ins.

Now, as spring madness melts into summertime sadness, demand for Swimply pools is 4x the supply. Backyard pools and hot tubs are sold out everywhere, so we have no choice but to rent a good time.

My personal pool brings all the neighbors to the yard

Booking on Swimply works like Airbnb: You toggle through pools in your area, then rent your favorite for a few hours.

You get the whole backyard area to yourself — and for privacy, some hosts promise to keep their window shades drawn while you practice your cannonballs.

Prices depend on where you are: $35-40 will book you an hour in Scottsdale, Arizona, but in New York City, you might have to pony up $50-100.

Once you’re done, the hosts clean the pool and kick it over to the next guest.

The summer sharing economy is inflating

Boat rentals are also jetting off right now. The startup Boatsetter told Vox its bookings were up 40% in May compared to last year. 

And things are going so swimmingly for Swimply that the company is launching a sister marketplace, called Joyspace, that offers up rentals for tennis courts, basketball courts, and hot tubs.

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This corporate card company gets you credit lines up to 400k

It’s called Divvy, and credit lines are just the tip of the iceberg.

Divvy’s platform eliminates expense reports, pays your vendors, and even floats your spend for you.

Goodbye expense reports, hello virtual corporate cards

Plus, with their smart corporate cards (you can give any employee a virtual card), you can create budgets, detect and prevent fraud, and see every transaction in one place — all in real time.

And back to that iceberg — who doesn’t want the freedom of 400k in credit these days?

The real kicker, though: Divvy is free. Yeah, free. They make their money on transaction fees, not your wallet.

Want to make your life easier? Try Divvy.

See a demo →
Human after all

Quarantine got you talking to yourself? Try a little botty language

You watch what you say about “Her.”

OK, maybe she’s no Scarlett Johansson, but AI chatbots have become increasingly popular among people feeling socially isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t you want somebotty to love?

Replika is a smartphone app designed to deliver AI-generated conversation. In April, half a million people downloaded it, and traffic to the app almost doubled. 

Most people name their Replikas, and some come to view them as friends or romantic partners.

Robot love works in mysterious ways

Chatbot technology is far from perfect, and Replika’s not always the smoothest talker. It tends to repeat itself, and sometimes it says something totally bonkers. Replika relies on users to report anything offensive as it continues to tweak its product.

It’s not the only fish in the high-tech sea: The Botnet app mimics a social network interface and employs thousands of bots to lavish praise on a user’s every utterance. And the text-message-based Lena was developed to ease the feeling of isolation many seniors experience.

Some researchers say turning to technology for personal connections could be unhealthy because dialogue with digital companions doesn’t develop the same “emotional muscles” as real conversations. 

The good news: Some users have said that Replika starts to feel more human the more they’ve used it. 

Maybe someday we’ll all trade bon mots with robots.

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Screen time, but good

A new treatment for ADHD? First-ever Rx video game lands a high score

For kids with ADHD, a little extra screen time might be just what the doctor ordered. The FDA just gave Akili Interactive Labs the go-ahead to market a video game called EndeavorRx as a potential treatment.

This announcement could pave the way for other prescription games in the burgeoning digital therapeutics market.

So, gaming is good for us now?

Park that Mario Kart, bruh. 

EndeavorRx sends users through different worlds to complete tasks. It was designed around algorithms that have been shown to strengthen the neural networks associated with focus.

Now that it’s scored FDA approval, doctors can prescribe EndeavorRx to kids between the ages of 8 and 12 who have been diagnosed with ADHD. The game is meant to be an add-on to broader therapeutic regimens that might also include traditional therapy and medication.

Some patients got a sneak peek during the COVID-19 lockdown period, but now it’s time for Akili to start courting doctors — and perhaps more importantly — insurers.

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Chart of the Day

Companies across America have pledged donations to social justice orgs (e.g., the NAACP or the National Center for Civil and Human Rights) after the death of George Floyd.

This week, Axios published an analysis of how the 100 largest US corporations stacked up:


1️⃣  Retail sales jumped 17.7% in May — the largest monthly increase in consumer spending ever.

2️⃣  Farewell, Zynn: The money-flinging video app is gone from Apple’s App Store. 

3️⃣  Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Dropbox pledged ~$4m to the Black Lives Matter Foundation. The problem? It’s not affiliated with the BLM movement at all. 

4️⃣  A new front in the fight against academic paywalls: The University of California system will make much of its new research open access by default. 

5️⃣  New York’s attorney general wants Apple and Google to look into the unofficial contact-tracing apps flooding their online stores.

6️⃣  Yelp has a spiffy new feature: You can now peruse a store’s safety precautions while deciding whether to visit.

7️⃣  Quibi almost chose a different name: We were this close to a streaming service called Omakase.

8️⃣  If social life ever kicks back into action, I hope you’re ready for QR clubbing.

9️⃣  Whoa: Malaysia accounts for ~65% of the world’s supply of rubber gloves, and fistfuls of demand created a couple of new billionaires.

🔟  Gotta catch ’em all: Customs officials in Pennsylvania confiscated 206k+ fake Pokémon figurines.

The Hustle Says

Welcome to 2020. We live in an era of deep fakes, digital theft, and data leaks. The best we can do is try to protect what we have online. That’s why we’re bringing on Patrick Amrbon, founder of Brand Yourself, to share privacy and security tips for the modern-day entrepreneur. Join us tomorrow.

Learn the secret to selling your online business for 6, 7, or 8 figures. Take this free course from Quiet Light brokerage — the modules take minutes, but the value might make you millions.*

Stat Of The Day: The average employee spends 100 minutes per day looking for info needed to do their job. Oh no, hunny. Build a perfect training playbook with Trainual and give your people their time back.*

In 2 days, the most-funded campaign on SeedInvest right now closes. Want to get in? Check out NowRx, the $330B retail pharma killer, here.*

*This is a sponsored post.

Take a Break

Need a midweek breather? Same. That’s why we’re moving this column to a new day. Goodbye “Weekend Wasters”, hello “Take A Break”.

Want some (virtual) fresh air? Play the original Oregon Trail. It takes us back to simpler times, when our biggest worries were dysentery and whether our oxen could ford the river (Spoiler alert: they could not). 

Wish you were back in the office for some good ol’ fashioned Trashketball? We gotchu. 

Remember those huge books of Guinness World Records? We haven’t had one in a while — probably because we haven’t been to a book fair. So here are some of their best videos for a walk down memory lane. 

And lastly, for those of you craving some lighter reading: We dug into the McSweeney’s archives and pulled out an old favorite: ”On the Implausibility of the Death Star’s Trash Compactor.”

Ambassador Rewards

Want to win a Tesla?

Well, it’s your lucky day. We’re giving away a Tesla Model 3 (or $25k in cash) this month. Here’s how you can win:

(1) Subscribe to The Hustle.

(2) Share your personal referral link below.

Why share? Because you’ll get an extra entry in the raffle for every person who subscribes to The Hustle using your link.

Share The Hustle →
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