When a pivot is your patriotic duty


March 25, 2020

In times like these, it pays to appreciate the little things. And to make some space for them. So steal this idea: This week, our Bobby Durben created a Slack channel for Team Hustle to share “small moments of positivity in these tough times.” It’s called #blessed (of course). And the little rays of light are already making us smile:

  • Bobby: “There’s a corgi on the balcony above mine and I can hear him snoring.”
  • Austin: “I planted 10 trees this weekend.”
  • Meg: “I just changed 3 poopy diapers in a row and miraculously didn’t get poop on my hands.”

Here’s to small victories.

Pivoting 4 Good

Businesses of all sizes pivot to battle the pandemic — and to stay afloat

Just over 3 weeks ago, the World Health Organization warned that global medical supplies (like masks, hand sanitizer, and ventilators) weren’t sufficient to meet the needs of the coronavirus crisis — and recommended a 40% increase in production.

But whose responsibility is it to make those extra supplies?

In the US, there’s a lot of confusion about the answer to that question.

The federal government has the power to force private companies to make supplies using the Defense Production Act

But the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have issued contradictory statements about whether (and to what degree) the DPA will go into effect, leaving businesses with no specific guidance about what to produce even as virus-related deaths mount

Some companies have decided to shift production anyway

Taking a cue from European businesses like French luxury giant LVMH (which is shifting production from perfume to hand sanitizer), several big US business have begun to produce medical supplies: 

  • Tito’s Vodka, Anheuser Busch, Dogfish Head, and other beverage businesses are using their vodka- and beer-making equipment to brew up hand sanitizer.
  • Ford is repurposing its auto-making infrastructure to produce ventilators and medical face shields.
  • Hanes is adapting textile infrastructure that normally cranks out cotton undies to manufacture 1.5m masks a week.
  • Lyft is using its massive fleet of ride-share vehicles to deliver medical supplies.

And small businesses are pivoting, too

They’re adapting to help their communities — and to stay alive in a challenging economy.

Here’s how a few of them have pivoted:

  • The swimwear startup called Summersalt is using its customer-service channels to provide emotional support.
  • A Seattle bakery called Piroshky Piroshky launched a local restaurant delivery platform called Catch22Delivery.
  • Hedley and Bennett, which normally makes premium chef aprons, started stitching fabric face masks. 
  • An Oregon strip club called the Lucky Devil Lounge (that’s shut down due to social distancing) launched a food delivery service called… Boober Eats.

Have you seen other small businesses adapt in interesting or inspiring ways? Share them with us here. We’ll update our list as we go.

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Traffic Trouble

As isolation drags on, can the internet keep up?

You’re working from home. You’re firin’ off Slack messages, puttin’ out fires on Zoom calls, and signin’ into Netflix to zone out at the end of the day.

Maybe your partner is, too. And if you’ve got kids at home, maybe they’re jumping online to tackle schoolwork or to give you just one dang moment of peace, please?!

Sound familiar? There are a LOT of people doing the same thing. That means the internet is feeling some serious strain right now.

Can the information superhighway steer clear of gridlock?

The web’s biggest traffic cops are trying to make sure it does. 

Major streaming services like YouTube, Netflix, and Disney+ are throttling down to the standard-def lane, so they don’t stall out under the load of millions of bored-out-of-their-skulls consumers.

Meanwhile, top internet-service providers are lifting data caps to keep traffic flowing smoothly. Verizon is even giving its wireless customers an extra 15GB of high-speed data through the end of April.

That doesn’t mean it’s green lights everywhere

Facebook traffic is going bananas, but the surge isn’t translating to more ad dollars. In fact, the ’book’s ad biz is weakening.

More importantly: It is still a privilege to have access to high-speed internet in the first place. The Pew Research Center found that 63% of rural Americans have broadband access — 12 percentage points fewer than their city-slicking counterparts.

The gap is an especially big problem for schools, because the digital divide could leave some kids in the dust.

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Sponsored

Scientists have finally built a time machine and they let us travel to the future

Unfortunately, due to some technical difficulties, we only got to blast forward a month. But man, things sure have changed. Brad Pitt got a weird haircut, denim on denim made a shocking comeback, and life insurance rates were higher.

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Coping With Coronavirus

‘A very strange flip of luck’: A standing-desk company rides an unexpected remote-work wave

We asked readers to tell us about how their businesses are coping with the coronavirus. We’re featuring highlights of those conversations here.

For many types of companies, the coronavirus pandemic represents an existential threat. Even successful ones have pivoted to new lines of business, hoping to hang on to customers and cash flow.

The story of Deskmate, which sells portable standing desks, is practically the complete opposite.

Last month, the company was in such deep trouble that its co-founders agreed to sell if they found a buyer. A buyer did come along, but backed out, and Deskmate forged ahead.

Now, Ashley JP Lockwood, one of the co-founders, says he’s glad they stuck with it. Deskmate had trouble gaining traction organically, but sales started rising as countries hard-hit by COVID-19 embraced remote work.

The boom has created an entirely different challenge: Deskmate is burning through its stock quickly, its supply chain is straining, and limited staff and hours mean production costs are rising.

Lockwood predicts Deskmate will close 20x the sales it would have without the pandemic. “In a very strange flip of luck,” he says, “we’ve found product-market fit.”

Trends subscribers get access to the whole story — and much more. Start your trial today.

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The Hustle Says

“How do you put people first without putting your people out of business?” Listen to this ep of Masters of Scale to learn from a CEO who had to make a heart-wrenching decision in order to save his business.

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The Bot Will See You Now

Chatbots are here to rescue us from pandemic anxieties. But do they work?

If you’re worried that weeks in isolation are making your social skills rusty, there’s good news: Chatbots can’t judge you. 

As US states shutter nonessential businesses, more companies are outsourcing your questions to lines of code. Chatbot companies like LivePerson and Directly have seen ~20% jumps in traffic in the past few weeks — mainly from airlines and hotels. 

The company Ocelot, meanwhile, is pitching itself to colleges that have closed their campuses — because what better way to satisfy students who don’t know if their graduation will happen than to serve them a bot? 

Cobot-19 will see you now

Even therapy bots are cashing in on the quarantine. Woebot, Wysa, TalkSpace, and BetterHelp are all on the up and up, according to Recode, as people sleuth out ways to manage their pandemic anxiety.

On WhatsApp, India’s MyGov Corona Helpdesk is cracking down on coronavirus misinformation. Another WhatsApp bot, Cobot-19, dishes on precautions people can take to avoid being infected.

The CDC, hospitals, and healthcare companies have tasked chatbots with running routine health checks. When you visit these websites, you enter your symptoms, and the bot spits out your level of risk for COVID-19. 

The problem is, chatbots don’t give good health advice yet

A STAT writer consulted 8 different bots to screen him for coronavirus based on symptoms like cough or fever. But the answers each gave varied wildly. That’s because some bots seemed to be out of date. 

All of them asked about travel to China and Iran, for instance, but some skipped over countries — like Italy and France — that are also facing major outbreaks. 

In a crisis, bots aren’t ready for the limelight. With telehealth consultations becoming more available than ever, human interaction remains irreplaceable. 

To reiterate: the primary early symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath, no matter what a bot tells you. 

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How does a company go from $0 to $100M in revenue?

Easy, by learning from those who’ve done it before

Lucky for us, we know the right people — the founders of Pandora, Hint, Poo-Pourri, Bonobos, and more. Not a bad group to take advice from, huh? 

Over the past few years, they’ve all spoken at Hustle Con to give us a behind-the-scenes look at the growth strategies that helped them go big. 

They were so amazing, we just had to share… so we put ‘em in a book. Normally, that book is reserved for Hustle Con attendees — where tickets run $500+. But given all this WFH-time, we’re breaking that rule. 

Right now, you can get “The Operator’s Guide to Building a $100M Business” for free when you sign up for a $1 trial of Trends. Talk about good business. 

Get it here →
Snippets

🤠 The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum gave its head of security the keys to its Twitter account while it’s shut down. The results are amazing.

🍗 Who knew? Kenny Rogers has an unusual legacy in rotisserie chicken.

🙄 A field guide to the internet’s cringe-worthiest quarantine content.

🚽 Points for timeliness: The origins of toilet paper, explained.

Want snippets like these in your browser? Download our Chrome extension here.

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