The iDecade

December 23, 2019

The Hustle

Happy Monday, folks. If you’re traveling for the upcoming holidays, we wish you the best. Today:

  • Ditching your smartphone may be harder than it looks
  • Studious seniors are hittin’ the books
  • Are payday loan apps a new tool for crooks?

Have a great holiday. We’ll see you back here on Friday.

The Hustle Daily Email

A visit from the ghost of dumb phones past

Wouldn’t it be interesting to travel back in time to the distant, pre-smartphone days of 2010 and see how we survived using separate devices for listening to music, navigating, and taking pictures?

Sure, it would… but it would also be terribly inconvenient. 

So the WSJ’s Joanna Stern took the plunge and used nothing but 2010-era technology so you don’t have to. Here are a few things she learned:

Today’s phones are convenient as h*ll

In 2010, it was still common to carry around digital cameras to take pictures, Garmins to navigate via GPS, and mp3 players to listen to music.

But in the past decade, smartphones consolidated those and other devices into a single device — and are hoping consumers will start paying closer to $2k than $200 for cell phones.

Smartphones killed old industries

As feature-rich smartphones became ubiquitous, they pushed a number of industries to the brink of extinction. 

  • An example: Cameras. There were 100.4m sold in 2007, the year iPhones launched — and just 24.2m in 2016.

In other cases, the smartphone didn’t completely kill off companies, but it forced them to shift their entire business models. 

  • An example: Garmin, which pivoted away from in-car GPS hardware to wearable GPS watches.

Smartphones also birthed new businesses

At the start of 2010, it wasn’t even possible to post a selfie on Instagram.

Instagram launched 3 years after the iPhone, and its growth wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the booming popularity of smartphones that made it easy to take and share photos.

But social media wasn’t the only industry turned upside down — smartphones also changed the way people watch TV, listen to music, and get around.

Here are some other things that Americans couldn’t do at the beginning of 2010 that are now part of our everyday lives, in part, to smartphones:

  • Order an Uber (“UberCab” launched in SF in June 2010)
  • Listen to a Spotify playlist (Spotify launched in America in 2011)
  • Stream a Netflix original (Netflix’s first original, “House of Cards,” didn’t debut until 2013)
  • Watch a TikTok video (TikTok didn’t launch until 2017)

So, even if you’re pissed off that the 2010s are ending and you still don’t own a flying car, just remember… we’ve come a long way.

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At some colleges, ‘senior year’ has new meaning

Nontraditional students in their 60s and older are enrolling in college classes. Obviously, they need a place to live…

… and your crappy old dorm won’t do

At Arizona State University, Mirabella is an ultra-luxe 252-unit high-rise developed in partnership between the school and a private real-estate firm. The minimum age requirement to live here is 62, and apartments range from $380k to $1m.

The building also boasts amenities such as a fitness center, space for art and woodworking, and a dedicated library. Other schools that have implemented or are considering senior-living spaces:

  • Lasell University near Boston
  • University of Michigan
  • Oberlin College in Ohio
  • University of Central Florida

Some offer assisted living options, which in theory could include rotations with med school residents.

Biochemistry beats bingo any day

Retirees are taking measures to stay in their homes for as long as possible, so the senior housing market isn’t as hot as you’d think.

Still, many of the university senior-housing projects fill up fast. This could be because a life of academe is more exhilarating than aquacises and “Forrest Gump” screenings in the rec room.

Universities have ample incentives to cater to this demographic. State government subsidies for higher ed are down, and so is the number of high school grads heading to college. Meanwhile, the number of retiring baby boomers is set to rise for several more years.

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Still short a Christmas gift? We got you

Normally, two days before the 25th is right around where the panic sets in. 

But don’t throw on your parka and furry Crocs for an emergency Target trip just yet. This year, we did the planning ahead for you:

The Aura Digital Frame

Beautifully designed, Wifi-enabled, and with unlimited storage, the Aura Frame lets you snap and share stunning pics instantaneously like some kind of memory preserving wizard.

All those candid, heartwarming group shots? With a few quick clicks, they’ll proudly be displayed over the fireplace for the rest of the holiday season and well into the new year. Aww… look at Cousin Mike.  

You’ve only got two days left, so hit up the Aura site to get 10% off the Mason collection and $50 off the Sawyer collection while you still can.

Last-second shopping →

Digital payday loans are now available in an app

Payday loans, those short-term loans that have gotten cash-strapped workers in trouble for decades, have finally gone digital.

According to a report from The Atlantic, a number of new apps are offering employees quick cash in exchange for deductions from their future paychecks.

So, how do they work?

One new app, called Earnin, doesn’t offer loans, it offers “cash advances.”  Earnin’s app doesn’t charge its customers a fee to spot them money, it asks for “tips” — which are non-mandatory but recommended. As an example, a customer might ask for a $100 advance and then leave a $9 tip.

Over time, Earnin raises its borrowing limit, requiring customers to continue borrowing larger sums of money to continue using the service.

To avoid getting fleeced, Earnin requires customers to give the company complete access to their bank accounts, which enables the company to reduce borrowing allowances if it’s worried about people’s ability to repay (it also gives Earnin valuable consumer data).

But these companies operate in a gray area

Unlike payday lenders, which are infamous for hounding their customers to repay their debts, Earnin and other cash advance apps — including Dave and MoneyLion — don’t require their customers to tip them.

But, on the other hand, payday lenders are tightly regulated and cash advance services like Earnin are not. 

So while states like New York cap interest rates at 25%, Earnin customers are often pressured to pay interest rates as high as 400% — even though they’re not technically required ($9 on $100 over 2 weeks is 400%+).

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Small business of the week: Behold, modern cat furniture is upon us

After rescuing their cat, Jackson Cunningham and Vanessa Koo realized they needed to give him things to climb on. But they struggled to find anything that fit their small and stylish Vancouver apartment.

With a background in product development, they leaped at the opportunity to launch Tuft and Paw: a modern cat furniture brand.

They experimented with various designers and manufacturers — and even an animal behaviorist. The experts suggested important details, from keeping the height of guardrails low enough for senior cats, to ensuring there would be 2 exits to make cats feel safer.

Tuft and Paw quickly reached 7 figures in revenue, largely from cat-owner evangelists who are excited to find a non-tacky brand. “Whenever I mention ‘beautiful cat furniture’ people always do a double take,” Cunningham says.

Customers have asked them to expand to pup products (i.e., dog carriers and dog litter boxes). But Cunningham and Koo are “paws”-ing to make sure they’re addressing the kitty cat market effectively.

  • Founders: Jackson Cunningham and Vanessa Koo
  • Employees: 3
  • Years in business: 2
  • Cost to launch: $1k
  • Funding methods: Personal savings, Friends/family contributions, Loans
  • 1st-year revenue: $120k
  • Current annual revenue: ~$1m

Want your story featured? Fill out our Small Business survey. See financials of 600+ companies by subscribing to Trends.

What Else…

🗑️ High trashion. One man in Brooklyn is making streetwear out of the fabrics other designers typically throw away.

🤦‍♀️ Tech’s biggest flops of the decade, in one list. Juicero and Google Glass very much made the cut.

🏬 Walmart is tying its future — and its best opportunity to survive Amazon — to its mega stores.

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