Tag Archives: Startups

How Solana Could Wipe Out Visa and MasterCard

Solana is all the rage in cryptocurrency markets these days. Its price is doing this:

Looking at that chart, it would be easy to think that this new cryptocurrency is all hype and speculation. But I spent the afternoon digging into its capabilities as a platform, and they are incredible:

Let’s assume you’re a merchant with $1 million in transactions to process. You can do it on Solana for virtually nothing. Or you can do it a little more slowly with Visa or MasterCard for $15,000 to $25,000. Which do you prefer?

Granted, most merchants won’t have the slightest clue how to use Solana. But it’s not hard to imagine a new startup doing what Square or Stripe did: quickly going from unknown to ubiquitous processors of payments.

If a new company handled your transaction using a stablecoin like USDC on the Solana platform, it could offer incredible speed and dramatically lower fees than the incumbents, while still keeping a nice margin for itself.

Visa’s market cap is $496 billion. Mastercard’s is $340 billion. What happens to those companies when a competitor shows up doing what they do for a tiny fraction of what they charge?

I don’t own Solana, though perhaps I should. And if someone builds a company that makes payment processing on Solana easy for merchants, I just might have to wet my beak.

More on tech:

Robot Hands, Vertical Farms, and the Future of Food

China’s Real Goal in Tech Crackdown: A Regimented, Obedient Society

How Do You Know If a Startup Is Getting Traction?

Photo: “R.I.P. Rest In Peace” by Beauteous Babe is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! 

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

China’s Real Goal in Tech Crackdown: A Regimented, Obedient Society

China’s government has just launched the latest salvo against its own technology industry:

China on Monday issued strict new measures aimed at curbing what authorities describe as youth videogame addiction, which they blame for a host of societal ills, including distracting young people from school and family responsibilities.

The new regulation, unveiled by the National Press and Publication Administration, will ban minors, defined as those under 18 years of age, from playing online videogames entirely between Monday and Thursday. On the other three days of the week, and on public holidays, they will be only permitted to play between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

This is likely to have a substantial effect on major Chinese tech companies like Tencent and NetEase, leaders in videogames. The new regulation is the latest development in a crackdown on companies in ride sharing, food delivery, educational tech, and more.

I see two major issues with this crackdown:

Economy

If you can have your business regulated out of existence at any time, you might not start one. And if you do, it will be a lot harder to attract investors.

Tech companies rely on venture capital to grow. That funding is already beginning to dry up. No wonder the number of Chinese companies reaching $1 billion valuation (“unicorns”) is falling off a cliff:

I invest in American startups regularly. There is zero possibility I’d invest in a Chinese one. The odds of the government one day deciding your industry is bad for “social stability” are just too high.

Without capital, Chinese tech companies will wither.

Society

Imagine the U.S. government telling you, “Sorry Timmy, you can only play video games from 8 to 9pm on weekends. Oh, 7 is better for you? Well too bad.”

In the context of a free society, this is unthinkable. In China, the government is taking on the role of a parent. It’s another step to totalitarianism, where the government controls all aspects of life.

And China’s crackdown goes way beyond tech:

Zhao Wei, one of China’s most prominent actresses, saw her presence mostly scrubbed from the country’s internet overnight. Her fan page on Weibo, China’s heavily censored version of Twitter, was shut down. Movies and television shows she starred in — some going as far back as two decades ago — were taken off streaming platforms, with her name also removed from the cast lists.

On Chinese social media, some comments said the crackdown was reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, a decade of political and social turmoil between 1966 and 1976 during which arts and culture were restricted to promoting party propaganda.

It was not immediately clear why Zhao was targeted.

The message from Xi Jinping is clear: he wants the people quiet and obedient. Anyone who stands out for any reason, be it an actress or a tech tycoon like Jack Ma, will be dealt with.

If you’re in China now, I urge you to emigrate. This will not end well.

More on China and tech:

China’s Tech Crackdown Means Economic Decline

China Is Crushing One of Its Most Innovative Companies

How China’s Tech Industry Dies

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Photo: “Chinese Soldiers in The Forbidden City – Beijing, China” by Patrick Rodwell is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! 

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

Why I just invested in eyerate, the best online review tool

If you run a retail business, you know what a royal pain online review sites can be. Get one unreasonable customer, and all of a sudden their bad day is turned into your business nightmare. An angry one star screed torpedoes your average and you’re left to rebuild, bit by bit.

But what if you could capture ten times as many positive reviews from your happiest customers, cheaply and easily? And at the same time, you could motivate your employees to give the best service ever?

Well, you can. EyeRate, an innovative software startup from the Sacramento area, has created an incredible tool that both generates awesome reviews and motivates employees.

Here’s how it works:

1) Customer gets a haircut (or any other service).

2) Afterward, the customer gets a text message “You just saw Sarah. How was your experience? Rate us 1-5.” (Customer info pulls from the POS, so no need to enter anything.)

3) Customer texts back 5.

4) Customer is automatically prompted to post the review to Google, and does so with a single click.

5) Sarah gets a cash reward (usually $5-10 each time), which is automatically processed by EyeRate. The business owner doesn’t have to do anything.

By prompting happy customers to review you, EyeRate generates an average 10x increase in positive reviews for its clients. If a customer rates you less than a 4, the customer has the option to post OR share their feedback privately with the business owner and the message is forwarded to leadership to followup.

Where would you rather spend your scarce marketing dollars: expensive Google or Facebook ads with questionable usefulness? Or motivating your employees to provide great service and capture the awesome reviews, building your brand online and making your foot traffic skyrocket?

95% of consumers check online reviews before deciding which store to go to. Online reviews are also critical to your position in Google search. This is the where you will make or break your business.

I just invested in EyeRate, and the company is growing at warp speed for a reason: it produces reliable, massive increases in revenue for its customers that far exceed its modest monthly fee. Competitors like Podium and BirdEye can prompt a customer for a review and aggregate the data, but they can’t handle payments to employees, which is how you motivate them to give great service and ask for reviews.

Check out EyeRate today, before your competition does!

More on tech:

ONE OF THE HOTTEST TECH STARTUPS IN THE WORLD CALLS HOBOKEN HOME

WHY I JUST INVESTED IN GAUGE, THE BEST WAY TO SELL YOUR CAR

KEY METRICS FOR STARTUPS: CONSUMER VS. ENTERPRISE SAAS

Photo: “Symbols – Daytime, Barber Pole – Trinity Barber Shop, Storefront next to a Walton’s Restaurant, Other Stores, Pedestrians on Sidewalk” by MIT-Libraries is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave your comments at the bottom.

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

China’s Tech Elite Is Running Scared

China’s government has launched a severe crackdown on its leading tech companies. Didi Chuxing, the equivalent of Uber, has been removed from app stores and ed tech companies are now required to be nonprofit, likely wiping out their investors.

A major index of Chinese tech stocks is down over 40% since February, even as US tech stocks climb:

China’s tech elite is responding by placating the government however it can, including a rapid increase in philanthropy in response to government messages that it expects bigger donations from the rich.

But it doesn’t stop there. Alibaba has been under intense pressure from the Chinese government since founder Jack Ma criticized some aspects of its performance, which led to his disappearance for several months. Alibaba has since created a special app to promote “Xi Jinping thought”.

China’s top entrepreneurs are also looking for an escape hatch in case their appeasement of the government doesn’t work. Interest from wealthy Chinese in moving abroad is increasing amid the government crackdown.

Sudden donations, new Communist dogma apps, and quiet plans to leave…these are acts of desperation.

I see a couple results from China’s crackdown:

1) Major businessmen in tech and other sectors are distracted. They’re worried about appeasing the government and/or emigrating, not building their core business. This will harm the prospects of their companies.

2) Would-be entrepreneurs are discouraged. Why start a company when it can be so easily appropriated?

3) Investors are discouraged for the same reason as # 2.

China is rapidly strangling its economic golden goose. The only question is, who will pick up the pieces?

More on China:

CHINA IS CRUSHING ONE OF ITS MOST INNOVATIVE COMPANIES

HOW CHINA’S TECH INDUSTRY DIES

CHINA IS KILLING ITS TECH INDUSTRY

Photo: “Vice President Xi Jinping” by nznationalparty is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave your comments at the bottom.

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

How China’s Tech Industry Dies

The Chinese Communist Party has launched a severe crackdown on the technology industry:

  • Didi Chuxing, the Chinese equivalent of Uber, had its app removed from all Chinese app stores shortly after its US IPO
  • ByteDance, parent company of TikTok, shelved its IPO plans under regulatory pressure. Its CEO has resigned.
  • Over 30 tech companies have been hauled in for meetings with regulators
  • Ant Group, a financial company founded by Jack Ma that would’ve been among the largest IPOs in history, had its IPO in China cancelled after Ma criticized authorities

This crackdown makes it nearly impossible for Chinese companies to list their shares in the US, removing one of the main ways that venture capitalists cash out. This will cause venture firms to shy away from investing in Chinese companies.

Why does this matter? Let’s take a look at how venture funding works:

1) Company makes product
2) Company pitches investors
3) Investors give company money
4) Company uses money to hire engineers and make a better product, and…
5) Acquire users through ads and/or building their sales team. Next…
6) With more users and revenue, company comes back to VC’s to raise more money at a higher valuation. Then, they do more of 4-5
7) After repeated rounds of VC funding, the company either gets acquired or goes public. VCs cash out.

But Chinese companies cannot go public in the US for the forseeable future, and even a listing in China may not be possible, as Ant Group proved. And if the Chinese authorities think a US listing brings security risks, surely the acquisition of a Chinese tech firm by a US company would be even riskier and thus also off limits.

What does that leave in terms of exits? Acquisition by a Chinese tech company, which means a lot fewer and smaller potential acquirers. The only other option is an IPO in China, providing the company doesn’t offend anyone. But the Chinese stock market is just 1/4th the size of the US one, so the payoff may be much smaller.

No exit means no investment. For VC firms, the exit is the entire point!

Unlike in China, firms in the US and elsewhere will be able to choose whatever exit is the most lucrative. That means they’ll be able to raise venture capital much more easily. That money will let them hire the best engineers, build the best products, and acquire tons of customers, leaving Chinese firms in the dust.

A couple of years ago, I thought the Chinese technology industry might overtake the US. I don’t think that anymore. With the government’s hand ever heavier, I see Chinese technology falling further and further behind.

The Chinese people have proven they have the skills to compete. But will their government let them?

More on tech:

CHINA IS KILLING ITS TECH INDUSTRY

WHY I JUST INVESTED IN GAUGE, THE BEST WAY TO SELL YOUR CAR

WHY I JUST INVESTED IN CRAFTER, MAKER OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ARTS AND CRAFTS KITS IN THE WORLD

Photo: “Vice President Xi Jinping” by nznationalparty is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave your comments at the bottom.

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

Why I Just Invested in Gauge, the Best Way to Sell Your Car

If you have a car to sell, you generally have 3 options:

1) Craigslist. You can get a good price, but buyers are flaky and the process takes forever. If you can sell it at all.

2) Dealer trade-in. Easy but the price is terrible.

3) Sell to a used car lot. See # 2

Now, there’s a much better option: sell your car with Gauge. Gauge is a Salt Lake City-based startup that gets you the highest price for your car, easily. When you list your car with Gauge, you get competing bids from multiple dealers. You pick the offer you’re happiest with, and that’s it!

Selling with Gauge avoids the hassles of shady Craigslist buyers, and the competitive process gets you a better price than taking the car to a dealer.

But what about Carvana?

What about them? Carvana buys your car itself, which means their incentive is to give you the lowest price possible. While Gauge does buy your car directly from you, it does so on behalf of dealers and buyers who want to bid on it. Gauge only makes money if you decide to sell your car on their platform. If you’re not happy with the bids you get, you’re free to sell your car elsewhere. So Gauge has every incentive to get you the best price possible.

This model is working so well they’ve earned a stellar 4.7 star average on Google. Sellers love the great customer service with no fees. Dealers love Gauge too, because they can get better quality cars than at most auctions. And not having to show up at an auction in person is a huge time savings, not to mention being safer.

Gauge is growing very fast, and I’m super excited to be an investor! They only list cars in the Salt Lake City area at the moment, but they’re expanding rapidly, with several new markets already in the works.

If you’re in the area with a car to sell, I don’t think you can do better!

More on tech:

WHY I JUST INVESTED IN CRAFTER, MAKER OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ARTS AND CRAFTS KITS IN THE WORLD

7 COMPANIES HAD 3 MINUTES EACH TO PITCH US. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED.

INSIDE A STARTUP ACCELERATOR DEMO DAY

Photo: “Corvette Stingray” by pyntofmyld is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave your comments at the bottom.

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

Why Indian Tech Is Exploding

The Indian tech industry is growing at an incredible pace:

Indian startups have raised a record $10.46 billion in the first half of 2021, up from $4 billion during the same period last year

Salaries are also increasing rapidly, from an average of $40,000 to $70,000, and even $150,000 for some top engineers.

Why is Indian tech growing so fast? I think several changes in the industry in recent years are weighing in its favor:

  • Major investors went remote due to COVID, and have largely stayed that way even as the pandemic recedes in the US. This means they can meet an Indian entrepreneur just as easily as one across the street in San Francisco. This democratization is great for the entire industry.
  • The venture industry as a whole is on fire, with both exits and valuations in the US reaching staggering levels. This gives venture firms more incentive to look outside the US for better deals, and more cash with which to do so.
  • It’s easier to incorporate in the US than ever. I recently invested in a startup that lets companies incorporate, issue stock options, and handle compliance cheaper and easier than ever before. Many of their customers are outside the US, but incorporate here to make fundraising from American investors easy. (More on this awesome company soon!)
  • India is stacked with tech talent. Anyone who has worked at a software company in the US can tell you that Indian-Americans are a huge part of the industry, and they have incredible skills.
  • China is killing its tech industry. Heavy-handed regulation, massive fines, and even disappearances of tech entrepreneurs is having a chilling effect, and the number of Chinese startups breaking out is way down. India competes with China for venture funds, and right now, it’s looking like the better bet.

New regulations that may require companies to expose users and break encryption are the biggest risk I see on the horizon for Indian tech. But with a deep talent pool and ample funding, India’s is a startup scene to watch.

सौभाग्य!

More on technology:

INDIA IS SOAKING UP VENTURE CAPITAL LIKE A SPONGE

CHINA IS KILLING ITS TECH INDUSTRY

7 COMPANIES HAD 3 MINUTES EACH TO PITCH US. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED.

Photo: “India – Enroute Tso Moriri, Ladakh” by sandeepachetan.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave your comments at the bottom.

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

Why I Just Invested in Crafter, Maker of the Most Beautiful Arts and Crafts Kits in the World

I’m super excited about today’s company! Of all the startups I’ve looked at recently, Crafter might have the most compelling product. This San Diego-based company makes arts and crafts kits of the very highest quality and provides great instructional videos that will have you making beautiful crafts in no time.

A beautiful textile project from Crafter

I never thought I’d consider embroidery until I saw their product! Crafter, also known as The Crafter’s Box, can also help you make quilts, leather bags, and even stained glass! This post barely scratches the surface; you really have to check out Crafter.com and see all this cool stuff! Go ahead, I’ll wait here. 🙂

Learn to embroider!

The founder, Morgan Spenla, created Crafter after what was supposed to be a relaxing crafting experience turned into a nightmare. Morgan wanted to make a nice necklace, and found herself at Joann’s looking at a thousand different tools and materials. She had no idea what to choose. The store was about to close and her kids were going wild. Morgan wound up with a random assortment of materials and couldn’t find a YouTube video to show her how to turn them into the necklace she wanted. She wound up giving up in frustration. But she knew there had to be a better way.

I doubt Morgan is the only person to have this experience. Crafting has become increasingly popular during the pandemic. If you’re stuck at home, why not make a cool scarf? And I don’t see people giving up their fun new hobby just because things are reopening.

The venture capital world is largely male, and most of us probably don’t do crafts. But that doesn’t mean other people don’t! Arts and crafts is a $44 billion dollar industry that has grown by half in just 5 years, and it’s almost all brick and mortar retail. Crafter could completely disrupt this market. Etsy is the go-to for finished crafts, and Crafter may become the go-to for making crafts. Oh and by the way, Etsy is valued at $25 billion.

On a meeting with Morgan recently, I was impressed by her resourcefulness and dogged persistence. Founders giving up is the biggest killer of startups, and I don’t see Morgan giving up. She funded the company herself for nearly 5 years before raising venture capital, and continues to work long hours to make her dream a reality.

She also excels at recruiting the best people to help her. On a recent episode of This Week in Startups, Morgan shared her strategy of recruiting former Starbucks employees for customer service jobs. They excel at dealing with difficult customers, and if your tech startup can pay more than Starbucks, you’ve got them. This struck me (and the host, noted angel investor Jason Calacanis) as brilliant.

Take a look at Crafter.com and make yourself something awesome! And by the way, that link will save you 20%!

More on technology:

7 COMPANIES HAD 3 MINUTES EACH TO PITCH US. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED.

INSIDE A STARTUP ACCELERATOR DEMO DAY

CHINA IS KILLING ITS TECH INDUSTRY

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave your comments at the bottom.

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

China Is Killing its Tech Industry

Major news over the holiday weekend as the Chinese government required all app stores in China to remove the Didi Chuxing app. Didi is the Chinese equivalent to Uber, and dominates shared rides in the country, along with a major presence abroad:

China has ordered app-store operators to remove the app of Didi from their stores, the latest as tension escalates between the nation’s largest ride-hailing giant and local regulators. The app has disappeared from several stores including Apple’s App Store in China, TechCrunch can confirm.

The nation’s cyberspace administration, which unveiled the order on Sunday, said Didi was illegally collecting users’ personal data.

Existing users can continue the use the app for now, but new signups are blocked. This comes just days after Didi raised billions in an IPO in New York, perhaps angering the Chinese government.

The claim of data violations seems specious. Didi’s CEO, Li Min, denies that any data is handled improperly or passed to the US.

This is part of a broader crackdown on China’s technology industry:

  • Alibaba Group fined $2.8 billion shortly after CEO Jack Ma criticizes the Communist Party
  • Fintech giant Ant Group, also founded by Jack Ma, has IPO cancelled
  • Bitcoin miners forced to shut down and are racing to move their servers elsewhere, including the US, as the Chinese government prepares to launch its own competing digital currency
  • A Chinese billionaire, many of whom are in the technology industry, dies every 40 days on average, often in suspicious “accidents” and “suicides.” Some are simply executed.

What is this doing to China’s technology industry? The damage is reflected in a massive decline in the number of “unicorns,” or startups reaching $1 billion valuation, in China. Meanwhile, the number of unicorns in the US is skyrocketing and the tech industry as a whole is hotter than ever.

China’s overall economy has also trended sharply downwards in recent years:

The Communist Party doesn’t want any competing power centers, and the Chinese tech industry, with its wealth and control of information, is perhaps the biggest alternative power center left.

But the industry needs freedom to experiment and exchange ideas, and a stable climate without the constant threat of fines, shutdowns and imprisonment. Entrepreneurs can find that here in the US, along with abundant funding. And I think you’ll see more and more of them making that jump.

More on technology:

7 COMPANIES HAD 3 MINUTES EACH TO PITCH US. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED.

INSIDE A STARTUP ACCELERATOR DEMO DAY

UNICORNS ARE BEING MINTED FASTER THAN EVER

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Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

This Hoboken-Based Rocket Company Could Revolutionize Space

In the shadow of New York City, I walked down a quiet street beneath an overpass. I came across a squat brick building with no windows. On the door, a small sign was the only indication of what’s inside: Hudson Space Systems.

Founded by graduates of the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hudson Space Systems (HSS) is working to make cheap, reusable rockets available to everyone. The microgravity (weightlessness) that being high above the earth provides is critical to research in medicine, physics and materials science. Cell cultures grow faster, physics experiments are simplified, and materials are tested like nowhere else.

But this invaluable scientific platform has a problem: waiting lists for launches are long and costs are high. HSS’s 3D printed, resuable rocket aims to bring the cost down by 40% and increase capacity until booking space on a rocket launch is as easy as booking a dinner reservation on OpenTable.

SpaceX proved rockets can be reused. What SpaceX did for launching satellites, HSS hopes to do for launching science experiments.

Hoboken, New Jersey, with its density and proximity to New York City, might seem like the last place where you’d find a rocket company. But it’s one of the most educated cities in the country, with over 80% of the population holding bachelor’s degrees or higher, and has a technical university right in town. Tech companies often grow out of universities, as this one did.

Will HSS be able to realize its vision? That’s anyone’s guess, but they have already raised $100,000 in 2020 and are $162,000 into a $250,000 raise that closes in a few days. Since they are currently working on protypes and don’t yet have a product in market, this company is earlier on than the startups I invest in. But if you like getting in on the ground floor, and especially if you have expertise in this area, it could be a great opportunity.

Best of luck to these hardworking men and women on their exciting new business right here in the Garden State!

More on startups:

Photo: “Antares Rocket Launch (NHQ201610170114)” by NASA HQ PHOTO is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.