The next big biz innovation: Mushrooms


August 18, 2020

Plus: Young developers are making serious money on Roblox.
August 18, 2020
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Miso Robotics

Quarantine has warped my brain enough that I’m jealous of rats. They roam the sidewalks, not a care in the world, while we languish inside. 

But rodent life just got even more appealing. In Sweden, hipster mice are growing out their beards, suiting up in sweaters, and going to… the record store. Read on for more.

Michael Waters, staff writer

The Big Idea

Dining, design, and construction: Mushrooms are taking over startupland

Do your peeps keep telling you they “know a guy” who’s growing mushrooms in quarantine?

Hold your side-eye. They might be buying from Smallhold, an organic farm that pivoted to delivering grow-your-own shroom kits when the pandemic hit.

There’s no magic here — but it’s just one example of how mushroom-inspired businesses are sprouting up everywhere. 

The fleshy foodstuff is a hot commodity 

Especially when it comes to sustainability:  

  • One biomatter business, Ecovative, is using material from mushroom roots — called mycelium — to build dining chairs and desk lamps
  • Ecovative makes mycelium packaging that looks and feels a bit like Styrofoam — but it decomposes in 30 days, compared to Styrofoam’s 500+ years.  
  • Vogue thinks products like mushroom-based makeup sponges could fix fashion’s plastic-waste problem. 

Chicken of the woods is about to be the chicken of your fridge

Ecovative is turning the specialty shroom variety into a replacement for bacon

According to the company, on a structural level, chicken of the woods actually looks a bit… beefy. 

Another rival, Meati Foods, is grilling shroomy steaks — perhaps hoping they’re juicy enough to topple the likes of Impossible Foods.

No industry is safe from the mushroom madness 

All these new, hypermodernist buildings are starting to look trippy. Maybe that’s because the construction biz is totally high on mycelium-based cement as an environmentally friendly alternative to concrete. 

An architecture firm called The Living built a circular “organic mycelium tower” for New York’s Museum of Modern Art a few years back, and more buildings might be on the way.

Plus, you can say goodbye to smoke alarms: Flats fashioned from fungi are fire-resistant.

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Snippets

5 stories to catch you up quick

1️⃣  The maker of Fortnite said that Apple threatened to block it from the App Store, the latest chapter in its antitrust battle against the tech giant.

2️⃣  Microsoft is ending support for Internet Explorer next August.

3️⃣  Google’s pissed about an Australian law that would make them pay media companies for news content, so it’s warning that “the way Aussies use Google is at risk.”

4️⃣  So many college students are taking gap semesters this fall that startups are racing to snap them up as interns.

5️⃣  The Asian e-grocer Weee! — which delivers kimchi and matcha breads to your door — just raised $35m

And 5 more to delight you 

1️⃣  Some Boeing 747s still run on floppy disks

2️⃣  Johns Hopkins is giving every student free access to Minecraft so that it can host major campus events within the game. 

3️⃣  An intense selection process left just 6 barbers caring for the hair of every player in the NBA bubble. 

4️⃣  A college kid used GPT-3 to write a fake blog post… and it shot to the No. 1 spot on Hacker News. 

5️⃣  Think Birkins, but for normies: The Telfar shopping bag is about to be everywhere.

Chasing paper

Who knew cardboard would become the hottest heist?

All around the world, cardboard rustlers are ripping off recycling bins

Turns out a paper-stealing posse can pull a neat profit selling old cardboard in China, where it’s pulped and made into shipping boxes.

The bad guys make bank while governments get screwed

In Madrid, thieves take almost half the cardboard that gets put into recycling. After 42 of its members got popped, one gang was accused of stealing 67k+ tons of paper waste/year, worth $11.8m/year.

You might not care where your castoffs go, but municipalities are missing the cut they take from recycling revenues. Madrid lost ~$19m.

From dumpster divers to criminal masterminds

The recycled cardboard and paper market is expected to hit $5.4B in 2024 — up from $4.3B in 2017. It’s “beige gold,” as the BBC put it.

Meanwhile, Europol says cardboard poaching has become more than just theft — some players have organized international money laundering rings.

It’s some weird high-stakes drama for a bunch of empty Amazon boxes. But I guess one man’s recycling is another man’s… mountain of cash.

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SPONSORED

Meet Flippy, the AI assistant chef cooking up food for $3/hour

Talk about the best of both worlds.

Flippy solves the current quick-service quandary of balancing quality and speed. It’s tough to have both — but with Flippy, you get perfect food prep done fast, all for just $3/hr. 

Maybe that’s why hot spots like Dodgers Stadium and Caliburger are taking it for a test run to gauge performance. 

Innovate, automate, and elevate the commercial kitchen

Thanks to thermal vision (along with 12 different pending patents), this AI assistant chef is helping to address the challenges facing quick-service restaurants and cloud kitchens:

  • Economical: Flippy’s low hourly cost can give quick-service restaurants a 300% lift in margins
  • Scalable: Flippy has cooked 60K+ lbs of fried food and 12K+ burgers, and counting!
  • Responsible: Flippy makes for a safer work environment by keeping human workers away from dirty and dangerous kitchen tasks 

The cooking chops of this skillful little chef are paying off for his creators, too — Miso Robotics is now in prime position to be one of the main players in automating the up-and-coming cloud kitchen market

So, here’s your opportunity: Get in on their SeedInvest fundraising round while it’s still open (and before Flippy starts making the rounds on Kimmel), and see where this investment takes you. 

Hey, the sky’s the limit. 

Invest here →
$610

Million
THE BIG NUMBER

That’s how much the booze behemoth Diageo could be shelling out for Davos Brands, best known for actor Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin.

Reynolds apparently knows how to pick ’em: He bought a stake in the company in 2018, and Aviation’s volume grew 100%+ last year.

(Source: Forbes)

Cha-Ching

Young entrepreneurs are turning Roblox games into huge moneymakers

Hope your self-esteem is high today, because it’s time to learn about some teens who are richer than you. 

Roblox, a site that hosts millions of user-created video games, skyrocketed in popularity during the pandemic. Players spent 3B hours on the site in July, 2x the amount they spent in February.

And its independent developers (mainly young adults) are in for a major payday. 

They’re working hard and playing harder

Roblox says it has 2m+ developers, ~345k of whom are making money. It splits the profits (generated from in-game purchases) with game-makers 50/50.

Three years ago, 17-year-old Alex Balfanz dropped his cops-and-robbers game Jailbreak. It’s been played 4B+ times, and bagged Balfanz a seven-figure income.

Anne Shoemaker has made $500k from Roblox, mostly on the success of 2 games, Mermaid Life and My Droplets. She started her own gaming enterprise, Fullflower Studio, which now employs 14 contractors.

“People used to tell my mom, ‘Stop letting her play this video game; it’s not going to get her anywhere,’” Shoemaker told The New York Times. “And it’s getting me somewhere.”

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This Day In Business History

(Via Henry Ford Museum)

On August 18, 1926, Charles Francis Jenkins transmitted a weather map through a portable receiver he built.

The map he sent to Navy ships was a precursor to today’s TV meteorology — 56 years before The Weather Channel hit the airwaves.

Say Cheese

The record store is dead… unless you’re a rodent

Rats are having the time of their lives in quarantine. They’re taking over city blocks. They’re growing as big as rabbits

In Sweden, they’re getting their own Main Street. 

An art collective called AnonyMouse just debuted Ricotta Records, a hole-in-the-wall shop selling rodent-sized CDs and posters in the city of Lund. 

Stop in for chart-topping LPs from Lady Gouda, Destiny’s Cheese, Tailor Swiss, Rats Against the Machine, and Johnny Cashew.

We might be cooped up at home, but the rat economy is booming

Last month, AnonyMouse created Cicada Pharmacy — part of a string of mousy ’marts, including a French deli and an Italian restaurant.

The group, presumably made up of humans, formed in 2016 with a simple question: Where are rats supposed to shop? 

But its recent store openings seem well timed to the pandemic’s rat renaissance. 

AnonyMouse wrote on Instagram: “We would like to thank the municipality of Lund for inviting us and encouraging really small business owners.”

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2 Truths and a Lie

One of these storylines isn’t real. Can you spot the fake? Click to find out.

  1. Roomba’s new bot will scale shelves and walls in search of dust. 
  2. A Japanese architect is going big on transparent restrooms.
  3. Wanna make a billion bucks? Learn to make rubber gloves.
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Today’s email was brought to you by Michael Waters, Caroline Dohack, Belle Long, and Bobby Durben.
Editing by: Nick “Dumpster Diver” DeSantis, Hannah Twomey (Mechanic’s Assistant).

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