Well, Apple had a big day


March 26, 2019

Today, Hostess and Ferrero vie for Keebler, while Faraday’s attempt at revival couldn’t be feebler, but first…
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Unpacking Apple’s newest attempt to take over the world

What do Oprah, Jason Momoa, Jennifer Aniston, and Big Bird have in common? Well, they all took to the Steve Jobs Theater’s stage yesterday to help Apple launch several new services.

Here’s a quick recap and, more importantly, why you should give a sh*t:

Apple TV+

Apple Channels will integrate Netflix-style recs and content from cable, Hulu, and Amazon (but not Netflix and YouTube) into Apple’s app, Apple TV+. The new ad-free streaming service will feature original content made with partners like Oprah, Steven Spielberg, and Reese Witherspoon.

Apple News+

Apple News+ will feature stories from 300+ magazines and newspapers for $9.99/month. Some big publishers (WSJ, NatGeo) are in. But others (NYT, WaPo) are out because Apple demanded a 50% cut.

Apple Card

Apple Card will let people tap their iPhones to Apple Pay — or swipe a titanium, laser-etched, CVV-free card. Card users will earn cash back and track spending in Apple’s Wallet — and get customer support in iMessage. 

Apple Arcade

Apple launched a gaming subscription service called Apple Arcade that will provide access to more than 100 exclusive games. Apple will partner with both “indie” developers and also large game companies.

The shift to services

Apple built its empire on hardware, but this new event proves Apple needs revenue from services in a hardware-saturated world.

With these flashy new services Apple hopes to transform its 1.4B active devices into monthly money-makers that consumers rely on to watch videos, read news, play games, and make payments.

So, will Apple’s new services change the world? 

They’re designed to — and Apple has upended industries before (remember Blackberry?) — but, of course, haters still gonna hate.

Twitter trolls and journalists dismissed Apple for hazy details on pricing and launch dates, and stock fell 1.2%. But if the past’s any guide, bets against Apple seldom pay off…

When Apple released its first iPhone, TechCrunch said it was “about as useful … as a rotary phone,” and Microsoft’s CEO insisted, “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.”

How does it feel to be wrong?
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Sugar rush: Ferrero and Hostess battle it out for Kellogg’s line of Keebler cookies

CNBC reports that Hostess and Nutella-owner Ferrero are going head to head to buy Kellogg’s Keebler (and a few other brands) — a deal expected to weigh in at roughly $1.5B.

The talks come as struggling snack giants like Kellogg’s pare back brands that were neglected in favor of maintaining the breadwinners — a trend that both Hostess and Ferrero aim to take advantage of. 

Somebody get Ernie Keebler on the phone!

As trendy competitors like the healthy(ish) Kind Bar continue to encroach on the goodie brands of old, companies like Hostess and Ferrero believe they can revive and replant the elves in a better, sturdier tree.

Kellogg’s acquired Keebler in 2001 for $4.4B. At the time the cookie brand had a “direct-store delivery” platform, which gave Kellogg’s more control over how the product is displayed in grocery stores. But, as in-store cookie sales dropped, the company had to cut the platform. 

Kellogg’s still has a market cap of $19.5B, but its shares have fallen 11% over the past year.

All it takes is a little TLC

Ferrero and Hostess believe they are the ones to revive the creamy cookie with a little investment love and attention — Ferrero bought Nestle’s US candy business for $2.8B last year, and has since breathed new life into Butterfinger. 

In the meantime, Hostess has been focusing on adding new treats to its resume, which already includes American junk-food staples such as Twinkies and Ho Hos.

» Did we hear back from Ernie??!

Faraday miraculously keeps the engine running with another big lifeline

It’s been quite the trek for Faraday Future since the carmaker got everyone all revved up at CES 2017 when it debuted its flagship ultra-luxury e-SUV.

Shortly afterward, the company found itself cash poor — as it turns out, making an electric vehicle from scratch is really expensive (especially when you have Jia Yueting at the wheel). 

Now, days after Faraday sold its LA headquarters, The Verge reports the company has received another surprise lifeline in the form of a new 50/50 partnership with Chinese mobile video game company The9.

Hmmm, sounds familiar…

That’s because Faraday received a $2B lifeline back in 2017 from the Chinese real estate conglomerate Evergrande, before getting locked into a high-speed chase for control over the company that ultimately led to hundreds of layoffs.

The9 says it will contribute as much as $600m as long as Faraday promised to use the money to make a new car for the Chinese market by 2020 called the V9.

The 2 companies claim they will be able to make 300k cars per year — an odd estimate considering Faraday is still struggling to release the FF91.

Warning: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

The9 said that the $600m will go only to the joint venture — not Faraday’s US operations — in 3 $200m installments all connected to some fairly ambitious checkpoints.

Once again, exactly the kind of goal-oriented payment plan that led to the blowout between Faraday and Evergrande.

Faraday Future now has to put the pedal to the metal as it faces the difficult task of hiring back the positions they laid off back in December — a road that could prove to be bumpy considering its track record. 

» Got a spare?

Meet the Albanian Google — it’s also the Albanian Netflix and Amazon

Gjirafa, an Albanian tech company, raised $6.7m to expand its services across the Balkan region. 

The startup launched to give Albanian speakers internet services in their native tongue. But since then, Gjirafa has become a one-stop shop for all things Albanian on the internet. 

Unique language, unique opportunity

According to the company’s Crunchbase profile, Gjirafa is made for “people who speak Albanian language worldwide, and who can’t search the Albanian web, due to their very unique language.” 

The company launched in 2013 to create an Albanian search engine and to digitize Albanian information, such as bus routes and local business information.

But Gjirafa’s early efforts were so successful that the company has since launched GjirafaVideo (a Netflix-style video platform that streams 1m minutes of video daily), GjirafaMall (an online e-commerce network that looks a lot like Amazon), and GjirafaAdNetwork (much like Google’s).

Small market, big dreams

The population of Albania is less than 3m, but since the language is also spoken in Kosovo, Macedonia, Italy, Romania, Montenegro, and Serbia there are more 12m global Albanian speakers. 

By offering search, e-commerce, and online advertising services, Gjirafa has become the fastest-growing tech company in the Albanian-speaking Balkan region, expanding at a 314% compound annual growth rate. 

The company has 3m monthly unique users across its services, and plans to double the size of its team with its new round of funding. 

» Welcome to Gjirafa-net
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