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What the pandemic did to meetings

Hot take: Fake meat’s got all the sizzle. Here’s why:

Plus: a revolt at Blizzard Entertainment over worker pay.
August 5, 2020
The Hustle

Hot take: Fake meat’s got all the sizzle. Here’s why:

The Big Idea

The latest pandemic-era controversy? Microschools

It’s a matter of pods and pod-nots.

Jason Calacanis, a tech investor in the Bay Area, tweeted that he’s hiring a teacher to lead a microschool of up to 7 kids in his backyard. He promised to “beat whatever they’re getting paid.” 

To sweeten the deal, he’d toss in a $2k UberEats gift card as a referral bonus. 

He wants to deliver… what??

Think of microschools — AKA pandemic pods — like premium homeschooling. 

One expert said private teachers could earn $60k to $125k a year to lead a pod. The pod’s made up of students whose families (probably) take the same COVID precautions.

But microschool angst is a big mood

Some critics say Calacanis should keep his UberEats card — they wanna eat the rich.

“‘Microschool’ does a really good job of making ‘governess’ sound fresh and modern,” one tweeter shot back.

Others say microschools could leave kids from low-income families and students with disabilities behind.

Not everyone thinks it’s microfoolish

One teacher tweeted that pods could personalize instruction: “No bureaucracy. Know your students better. Teach broadly. More tutoring. Better feedback.”

Calacanis said he’ll offer merit-based scholarships to families who can’t afford to pay, and he’s interested in investing in microschool platforms.

A handful of them are already forming: 

  • Winnie, a day care search platform, now shows whether a facility accepts school-age children.
  • CareVillage lets families share costs for tutors and other resources. 
  • Wonderschool helps preschool instructors open early child care centers. It just launched a program to create microschools.
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5 stories to catch you up quick

1️⃣  Workers at the video game maker Blizzard Entertainment are revolting over their pay — sharing salaries and raises anonymously by spreadsheet.

2️⃣  A leadership surprise at Ford: Jim Hackett, the carmaker’s CEO for the past 3 years, is unexpectedly retiring.

3️⃣  A big buy in the grooming biz: Edgewell, maker of Schick razors, is buying the men’s personal-care brand Cremo for $235m.

4️⃣  Chinese state media is calling the potential TikTok acquisition a “theft.” 

5️⃣  A pillar of the holiday season, the Rockette’s “Christmas Spectacular,” is canceled this year. 

And 5 more to delight you 

1️⃣  Find a little inspiration: Meet some of the most creative people in business.

2️⃣  Toddlers are shaking: This robot can put on — and take off — its own “shoes.” 

3️⃣  What do astronauts do while waiting to be picked up from splashdown? Make prank phone calls from their satellite phone, duh.

4️⃣  Want the perfect mask fit? This company will scan your face and 3D print one for you. 

5️⃣  There are cat burglars and cat… smugglers? A cat carrying 2 grams of heroin, 2 SIM cards, and a memory chip in a plastic bag tied around its neck was caught at a Sri Lankan prison.

Cash Rules Everything

The chatbot banker will see you now

Only a messenger bank could make Venmo seem like a total hassle. 

Downloading an app to send money? Might as well admit you were in college during the moon landing.

A Latvian startup called Zelf is bringing banking to messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger.  

It doesn’t have an app or a physical bank. It doesn’t really exist at all outside of WhatsApp or Messenger.

Want to pay your friend back for those Pop Tarts? 

Just text Zelf. 

Punch in the amount and their contact info, and Zelf’s chatbot will zap the cash in seconds. 

Checking your balance or sending an invoice? The bot’s got you.

Your money is stored on a virtual card — you can send it to other Zelfers or spend it through Apple Pay and Google Pay.

WhatsApp is counting your coins 

Zelf is Europe’s first big messenger bank, but other countries have already mastered the text-banking game. 

China has WeChat Pay, while India claims 2 WhatsApp banks: Kotak Mahindra Bank and ICICI. 

That’s great news if you hate flipping between apps. But if you need financial advice? You’ll have to help yourzelf.

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We’ve got 2 tickets to (marketing) paradise

Actually, we lied — We don’t have 2 tickets to HubSpot’s INBOUND 2020. 

We have unlimited. 

And you can get yours right here.

That free ticket scores you access to this immersive two-day bootcamp, full of content like:

Pick the brains of leaders like Bob Iger (CEO of Disney), Alicia Garza (Principal at Black Futures Lab), Sandy Carter (VP of Amazon Web Services, and Sasan Goodarzi (CEO of Intuit) and finally develop all those skills you said you’d learn these past few months — ya know, before we all gave up and watched compilations of pandas falling out of trees while eating bamboo on YouTube instead): 

Save your spot here before INBOUND 2020 goes down in September: 

Save my spot →
Time on your hands

Some pande-positivity? Shorter meetings

There’s a lot of COVID negativity out there — but look on the bright side: 

  1. You’ve memorized your credit card number from ordering so much delivery.
  2. You don’t have to smile at strangers because you’re wearing a mask.
  3. The average work meeting got 20% shorter, new research says. 

You got some of your day back…

It’s true: The total amount of time we spend in meetings is down 12%. That’s despite our vicious overseers managers — the number of meetings we slog through per day is up 13%.

… too bad the days never end

The average workday has stretched ~50 minutes longer. Oof.

Some workers might be logging off later because they’ve taken a midday break, but we all know how easy it is to tell yourself you’re done after just one more thing.

So here’s an idea: Get off your ass and go get nothing done. 

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Thanks to this startup, your next road trip might be on plastic

Now you only have to feel marginally bad about those Fiji water bottles you’ve been chugging. 

A startup called TechniSoil is repurposing plastic, turning it into cheaper highway asphalt.

Harder, better, faster, stronger

The company unveiled the first plastic-paved stretch of highway in California, to the tune of ~150k bottles per mile.

That might sound like a lot of bottles. But our Trends team found that the plastic-paving supply is plentiful

The US generated 35.4m tons of plastic in 2017, according to the American Chemistry Council, and 8.4% of it was recycled. 

The new material resists potholes and can last 2-3x longer than standard asphalt.

As Barbie once said, “Life in plastic, it’s fantastic.”

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Bay, Watched

AI lifeguards are your next summer dreamboats

Nothing says August like a hunky, sun-kissed lifeguard perched atop a high chair. 

But another seductive savior is hitting a beach near you: He’s toned, he’s flexible, and he looks a lot like a security camera. His name? Sightbit. 

Isn’t it sexy how he stores your data?

The Sightbit neural network doesn’t replace humans. It’s a smart system that learns which beach spots are the highest risk.

While the humans slather on sunscreen, Sightbit watches up to 1k feet of shore for signs of distress. 

If it catches a dangerous situation, it races to tell the humans. 

Think that’s steamy? 

Wait till you meet the other AI lifeguards strutting on the sand.

With full-body swivels, Sweden’s SwimEye and Israel’s Coral Detection Systems are sure to give swimmers hot flashes. 

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Today’s email was brought to you by Michael Waters, Caroline Dohack, Belle Long, and Bobby Durben.
Editing by: Nick “Microfool” DeSantis, Adam Illion (Audience Estimator).

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