The NBA goes to Africa


March 6, 2019

The US continues to build influence in Africa’s booming entertainment market, but first…
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Insta-businesses are here for a good time, not a long time — so like ’em while they last

The number of startups building entire businesses on Instagram is on the rise. For now, these companies — which offer both news and products — are finding success thanks to Instagram’s huge, engaged user base.

But if history is any guide, startups that stake their entire businesses on other platforms often go the way of the dodo when their algorithmic overlords make changes to the status quo.

That new new(s)

Several former journalists — including Jessica Yellin and some others — are taking to the ’Gram to launch small “media companies” that provide engaging news that appeals to younger consumers with polls and rapid-fire content, Axios reports

Artists, chefs, and other small-business owners are setting up Instagram businesses to sell their crafts (some even take requests via DM). Downstream, drop-shippers are building elaborate online contraptions to sell their digital brands.

Definitely engaging, potentially enraging

Instagram’s 1B+ monthly active users are remarkably engaged: 80% of Instagram users follow at least one of the 25m brands on the platform, and engagement with brands on Instagram is 10x more than on Facebook, 54x more than on Pinterest, and 84x more than Twitter.

So for new startups, Instagram is efficient engagement. But, if IG’s algorithm were to change, all of these businesses would suffer from a shrunken audience and — wait a second, hasn’t this all happened before?

A case of déjà view

Dozens of startups that built their entire business models on FB were destroyed when it altered the algorithm behind its News Feed last year.

Viddy, a video sharing app valued at $370m, saw its audience drop from 35m to 500k and ultimately went out of business. The same thing happened to other startups like LittleThings.

But startup investors seem to have short memories. Most Insta-businesses are independent. But some are raising outside money: @thismuchiknowglobal is funded by the Guardian’s VC fund.

Insta-Commerce is a good side hustle, maybe… But a durable business? Hardly. 

   @ Me Anything
Conor Grant, News Writer at The Hustle
@conor_p_grant

Insta-businesses are built on pillars of social-media sand. At the end of the day: “News startup” really means “freelancer.” “Social e-commerce brand” really means “street hawker.”
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The WTO is working to modernize cross-border e-commerce regulations

Per Axios, consumer-facing e-commerce has become a $3.5T global market, and some $700B of those purchases occur across borders. But currently, there are almost no international rules in place.

This month, 75 nations have agreed to participate in World Trade Organization (WTO) talks on cross-border e-commerce, one of the fastest-growing and most complicated areas of global trade..

E-commerce without borders

Most existing trade agreements were written in the pre-digital era to cover the flow of goods from country-to-country in large containers through ports of entry. Problem is, international package delivery volumes have tripled since 2000.

Since then, e-commerce has released a stampede of small parcels that is overwhelming customs inspectors — and cross-border purchases are expected to hit $1T by next year.

Now, China — the world’s largest e-commerce market — the US, the EU and around half of the other WTO members are joining together to put a plan in place.

The question is, is a one-size-fits-all approach possible?

Every country has its own legal framework — in this case, a unique set of rules on what can and can’t be sold to whom. 

For instance, the exact age of legal adulthood varies by country, which immediately muddies regulations on products like food, alcohol or weapons — one of the many legal differences from country to country. 

According to research from Pitney Bowes, one of the many wrinkles to be ironed out will be figuring out a way for each country to defend its own legal rights, regardless of the country it’s selling to.

» Whuch you gonna do with all that package?

Short-term apartment startup Blueground breaks new ground with $20m new round

Blueground, a startup that offers flexible in-and-out apartments to business travelers and remote workers across the country, raised $20m.

As the number of remote workers steadily increases, employees and employers are looking for more flexible options when they’re on the dusty trail with the corporate card. 

Flex to the max

Blueground offers rentals from just 1 month to 5 years, giving travelers a flexible middle ground option: Housing that’s not quite as sterile and pricey as crashing in a hotel for weeks on end, but also not quite as tedious as renting an actual piece of property for a limited term.

To deliver on its promise to help renters #ShowUpStartLiving, Blueground even offers full furnishing (to avoid table-transportation tantrums) and blistering Wi-Fi (to avoid email meltdowns).

For landlords, the platform is also a pretty sweet deal: By partnering with Blueground, landlords have a more reliable stream of renters, and they don’t have to deal with a constant shuffle of brokers and never-ending marketing.

Nothing to be Blue about here

Founded in 2013, Blueground currently has 1.7k properties in 10 cities across 3 continents. But the startup, which has now raised a total of $28m, has grown sales 3x in the past 3 years and plans to continue growing.

The company plans to expand its portfolio of temporary work dojos to more than 50k units over the course of the next 5 years.

» I’m blue da ba dee da ba daa

The US is gaining influence in Africa’s booming entertainment market

African entertainment is exploding in popularity: From Nigeria’s budding film industry to the visual arts in South Africa, the continent’s creative industries signify real economic opportunity, already generating $4.2B in revenue.

But, of course, whenever something in another country (or in this case, continent) blows up, powerhouses like the US and China immediately want a piece of the pie.

Don’t hate the player hate the game

Last month, the NBA announced it would launch the Basketball Africa League next year (also known as “BAL” — see what they did?).

The NBA has been involved with Africa for decades: From outreach programs to multi-year broadcasting agreements, to the NBA Academy it opened in Senegal back in 2017.

On the other hand, it took the gargantuan success of an American-made Marvel hit about African superheroes — Black Panther — for Netflix to realize it should care about putting money into original African series.

Of course, it always comes back to China

Critics often point to China’s development of large infrastructure in Africa as proof of the country’s dominance in its economic rivalry with the US. 

But as entertainment, media, and sports are becoming more important to Africa’s young, more connected population, the US continues to make progress in the creative industries on the continent.

» Any other leads?
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