The Hustle

The nuclear advance you need to know about

PLUS: Blue Origin has the world’s coolest job opening.
October 6, 2020

Dune and the new James Bond movie are delaying their theatrical releases until 2021. With few challengers, it looks like Bad Boys 4 Life will become the first Bad Boys movie to top the domestic box office for a full calendar year. Put your hands up, Martin Lawrence fans. #RideTogether

The Big Idea

A nuclear fusion breakthrough suggests we can copy the way the sun makes energy

Completely lost in the recent news cycle was a major breakthrough in nuclear power.

According to The New York Times, a recent study indicates that compact nuclear fusion reactors are “very likely to work.”

Such an advance would allow us to create energy the same way the sun does and facilitate a rapid transition away from fossil fuels.

We could have a reactor for creating nuclear fusion electricity by 2024

That’s according to the timeline set out by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Commonwealth Fusion Systems, an MIT spinoff company that has raised $200m.

The compact fusion reactor is called a SPARC. It has dimensions similar to current midsize nuclear reactors, with the potential to become a source of clean and limitless power.

The project’s timeline is a decade faster than the world’s largest fusion power project, the 35-nation International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

Fusion creates energy through the collision of lightweight atoms

In contrast, existing nuclear options create power from fission, the splitting of atoms.

As compared to the fission process, fusion has a number of advantages, according to the NYT:

  • Fusion fuel (hydrogen) is more plentiful than fission fuel (uranium)
  • Fusion generates less radioactive waste

Building these reactors pose major challenges

Fusion involves raising the reactor temperature to tens of millions of degrees to create “a roiling ultrahot cloud of atoms” that will “damage or destroy anything it touches.” (Like Jimmy Butler’s Game 3 performance).

It will also not be cheap.

The larger ITER project is pegged at ~$22B. While the SPARC team believes its solution will be cheaper, cost overruns — and delays — are the norm here.

One professor tells the Times he thinks the project will take twice as long as estimated… meaning SPARC wouldn’t be ready until well into the 2030s.


‘Access to education is our No. 1 goal’

Founded in 2015 by 3 Iranian brothers — Martin, Meti, and Massi Basiri — ApplyBoard is a platform that simplifies the study abroad application process.

To date, ApplyBoard has assisted 120k students from 100+ countries with their applications to 1.2k+ schools. It recently secured an additional $55m investment at a $1.4B valuation.

We spoke with Martin (co-founder and CEO) about the roadmap for the Ontario-based ed-tech firm and the future of education:

Do you think schools should drop tuition if they are going fully digital?

It depends. If schools are taking full tuition this year and investing that money into services and innovations that will improve the student experience moving forward, I think that’s OK to keep tuition as is.

However, if schools aren’t making new investments and if they are taking the same tuition to save a buck or expand margin, they should lower it.

What do you say to the argument that ‘colleges are over’?

I think people that make this argument don’t understand how bad the problem of access to higher education is globally.

Take Bangladesh as an example. The country doesn’t have a top 1k school yet. Just because a Bangladeshi high school student is placed in a US school other than Stanford or Harvard, it doesn’t mean the experience is not worth it.

What happens to ApplyBoard’s business if colleges do go away?

Even if a number of colleges went away, access to education is our No. 1 goal.

Let’s say all colleges become [vocational] bootcamps; people will still need a place they trust to vet the options. A place that they can do applications to the new educational programs. A place to find the best fit. A place to provide payments. ApplyBoard will be that place.


(Side) business is booming: Self-employment filings are up 16% 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, self-employment filings are up 16% for the first 31 weeks of 2020 over the same period last year.

And while COVID-19 layoffs certainly play a role, there’s another reason so many folks are making this move — they prefer being the captain of their own ship:

But “starting a business” doesn’t necessarily mean “building an enterprise” or “creating a unicorn”. Instead, it means thinking through a few basics, like… 

Determine a business structure

Sole proprietorship, partnerships, INCs, LLCs — they’ve all got pros and cons based on what type of product or service you want to sell. Start by taking a business entity survey or consulting with a small business attorney.

Make a business plan

Focus is critical. Start by asking yourself the important questions, like: Who are my competitors? Why is my business unique? How will I market and sell? Do I need funding and, if so, where will I get it?

Ready to make money on your own terms? Check out Square’s checklist on how to get started here:

Keep reading →
May I Help?

Tech’s favorite virtual call center is the gig economy gone too far

When you call customer service, you probably imagine that you’re talking to an employee sitting in a giant call center.

But these days, there’s a good chance the person on the other end is a solo contractor working out of her bedroom.

Airbnb, Disney, Comcast, AT&T, Amazon, Walgreens, and dozens of other big companies have turned over their customer service work to Arise Virtual Solutions — a gig platform that’s seen a huge jump in demand since the pandemic.

The pitch to companies is simple

Going with Arise is way cheaper than hiring your own employees.

The way Arise saves money is less appealing: The company shifts the costs of equipment and training onto its independent contractors — and charges them a fee to use its platform.

The company says its reps get to work for themselves

But according to a ProPublica report, Arise contractors are treated like W-2 employees, sans the benefits.

Arise contractors don’t get to schedule their own time, and are required to work a minimum of 20 hours a week. With charges and fees factored in, many also earn below minimum wage with no overtime eligibility.

Even by gig work standards, the company falls short: In private arbitration, judges have concluded that the company is an “elaborate construct” to avoid treating its workers as real employees.

Odd Jobs

Blue Origin has the world’s coolest job opening

Jeff Bezos wants to go to space so badly that he sells ~$1B a year in $AMZN stock to fund his extraterrestrial side hustle, Blue Origin.

The Blue Origin jobs site currently has 221 openings, including:

  • 28 roles for Engine, Propulsion, and Fluids
  • 24 roles for Manufacturing and Assembly, and…
  • 1 role for Orbital Habitat Formulation Lead

What on Earth is that last job?

The role will lay the groundwork for a space economy

Per the job description for Orbital Habitat Formulation Lead, Blue Origin’s goal is to have millions of people living and working in space.

To build an economy in space, the habitat formation role entails creating a roadmap for “low earth orbit (LEO) habitable stations” that can exceed the capabilities of the International Space Station (ISS).

The company offers “competitive compensation” (no word on whether it subsidizes Peloton bike purchases).

Blue Origin has awesome alumni…

… including Neal Stephenson, famed sci-fi author of Snow Crash.

Stephenson worked at Blue Origin from 1999 to 2006, where he “[punched] down ethernet cables” and investigated “possible alternatives to conventional rockets as ways of getting into space.”

The experience became fodder for a later book and — based on how good it was — we’d love for him to take this new job opening for more material.

Check it out →

Enterprise Account Executive, Hopin:

If you know how to turn virtual conferences into bona fide events, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.

Director of Agency Partnerships, Shogun:

Are you a leader who can help ecommerce brands build faster websites? Zoom zoom over to this listing.

Director of Demand Generation, Annex Cloud:

Ooh, feeling SaaSy? Know how to wrangle inbound marketers? You know what to do.

Marketing Executive, Bitfinex:

Multichannel? Hold my beer. Click here.

Sr. Growth Marketing Manager, Coursera:

This learning platform needs someone to drive consumer-to-enterprise marketing channel. Here’s how to throw your hat into the ring.

See more →

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