It has been a few years since I was able to attend the Founder Camp, an annual celebration and gathering of founders backed by True Ventures. The global pandemic and travel restrictions made it impossible for us to host the event, but we found a way to gather outdoors and enjoy each other this year. While we call all work from remote corners of the world, there is no joy more than being in each other’s presence. IRL, rocks! 

I didn’t do any work yesterday other than attending various conversations. The energy from the event kept me up late, and I spent a lot of time on my iPad, reading and catching up on my massive “read it later” list. In doing so, I found some interesting nuggets that caught my eye. 

  • Spotify launched the Car Thing. It likely will try and hasten what insiders already know: radio listening is going down in the cars. New technologies, bigger screens, and transition to EVs mean that the “radio” won’t be at the center of the entertainment experience — our phones are. 
  • Remember streaming was supposed to kill the music business? Quite the opposite is true, actually. In 2021, the global revenues were $25.9 billion, up by $4 billion over 2020, according to IFPI’s Global Music Report. Streaming accounted for 65.0% of recorded music revenues, up from a 61.9% share in 2020. Revenues from ad-funded streaming services (including video services) matched physical sales in 2021. There are 523 million paid subscribers. 
  • Cord-cutting continues unabated. Pay-TV providers in the U.S. lost about 4.69 million net video subscribers in 2021 versus 4.87 million in 2020, and Comcast lost over 1.6 million in 2021. 
  • Oura, the sleep tracking and health-focused ring maker, says it has sold a million rings. For context, Apple has sold upwards of 50 million watches in 2021 alone. I have ordered an Oura — it is a less intrusive way to track sleep than Apple Watch. 
  • Starlink has 250,000 subscribers. That didn’t stop them from raising prices for its kit – $599 for new orders. 
  • AT&T has cut prices on its 5G and has launched a new value plan. Let me remind you that their 5G is pretty shit, and thus there isn’t much value in it. OpenSignal, a market research and analytics company points out that if you want 5G in the US, you have to go with T-Mobile USA.


March 24, 2022. San Francisco

These are strange days — imagine that if Zoom met the $600-a-share price target set by analysts, then it would have a market capitalization that will exceed that of AT&T. While you ponder that, welcome to yet another Friday in the pandemic. It is so hot in San Francisco that I can’t think straight. How is that for an excuse for not writing today? Instead, I am sharing three good reads. 

Who owns the song when AI creates the song? Who owns the music when you use AI to create a song or some art. Tyler Hayes tries to answer the question in this report. [Tyler Hayes] 

The pandemic has proved to be a boon for streaming video services. Limelight Networks, a content delivery network, notes that nearly (47 percent of people worldwide subscribed to a new streaming service in the last six months. An average global viewer is watching almost eight hours (seven hours, 55 minutes) per week. In my previous publication, w named this cord-cutting, and it is one of the many reasons we see the slow death of the Great American Cable Bundle. [Bloomberg]

As a diabetic, I know one fact: no sugar is the only good sugar. However, that doesn’t stop researchers from working on a low-calorie variant of real sugar. This long read in the New Yorker is a brilliant exploration of those efforts. [The New Yorker.]

Yelp, Cord-Cutting, Expensive Eggs, Facebook and 7 Billion Mobile Subscribers

In the middle of the slow summer months, this has been one hectic week: Earnings and other news have kept the information flowing at a much faster pace. I have been taking notes and wanted to share these interesting tidbits, which have gotten lost in the noise.

Yelp calls for help!

You might not have paid attention to Yelp’s quarterly earnings reports, but the company has decided to abandon the display-ad formats that are disrupting the app experience. According to Jefferies analysts Brian Pitz and Brian Fitzgerald, this is “an almost 100% margin business and therefore the impact to profitability is very significant.” They calculate that nearly “$10M of the $30M hit to the Rev/Adj. EBITDA outlook for the back half of the year will come from turning off brand inventory.” Ouch! But in the long run this will be good for Yelp, as they are focusing on customers and the app experience. I sincerely hope more companies put customer experience first. Are you listening, you calcifying media companies?

Yelp earnings revealed that the company is struggling to hire salespeople and is blaming it on the ridiculously hot labor market in the Bay Area. What’s causing the problem? High-flying unicorns (a euphemism for private companies with valuations that are at or north of a billion dollars) are offering more-attractive options, salaries and perks compared to companies like Yelp, which as a public company has to maintain some sort of sanity and has stagnant stock. But Yelp isn’t alone in its suffering! The whole Bay Area is seeing inflation in salaries, perks and real estate costs, which are increasing the cost of building startups.

Set-top box vs. streaming devices

ms15_stb_1q15_chartAdd this to your “cord-cutting is for real” folder!

In a recent report, research firm Infonetics pointed out that the demand for streaming dongles such as Google’s Chromecast, Roku HDMI sticks and Amazon’s Fire TV is red hot. Infonetics predicts that about 27 million of these will be sold by 2019: Set-top boxes as we have known them might be on their way out! Perhaps that is why Cisco is exiting the set-top box market and is selling what it calls “customer premise equipment business” to Technicolor of France for about $600 million in cash and stock. This is the old Scientific Atlanta business that Cisco bought in 2005 with much fanfare for a whopping $6.9 billion. [Infonetics]


You can’t have enough money — or rather, the only way to have money is to ask for more money. I came to that conclusion after reading this report in the Wall Street Journal about Donald Trump’s filings with the election commission. Since Feb. 2014, he has received $1.9 million in income for seven paid speeches. He also got $110,228 in pension funds from the Screen Actors Guild, starting in July 2011. [WSJ]


Eggflation? You better believe it. The price of eggs in the U.S. is up sharply, due to a directive from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in response to avian flu. In April 2015, five million chickens were ordered to be killed on an Iowa farm. That number is now up to 48 million birds, and it is impacting farms in the Midwest and the Western states. Nearly three-quarters of those chickens were egg-laying chickens. [Vice]

7 billion mobile strong

MobileSubscribers2015Not all news is bad news: There are now 7 billion mobile subscribers, thanks largely to heavily populated countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Asia has 3.7 billion mobile subscribers, with China and India alone accounting for 2.3 billion subscribers. However, in India, 90 percent of subscribers are using old 2G technology. To be clear, in India (and other countries), people buy more than one SIM card, and as a result many research firms count each as a “subscriber.” According to TeleGeography, “Between Q1 2014 and Q1 2015, Asia added 194 million subscribers, or over 60% of net new global wireless subscribers.” China has 162 million LTE subscribers. [TeleGeography]

Facebook’s Mobile Bonanza

FacebookMobileRevenuesThe number of mobile-only Facebook users now makes up over 40 percent of monthly active users, compared with 25 percent a year ago. It’s no surprise then that $2.9 billion, or 76 percent, of advertising revenue comes from mobile users. [Facebook Quarterly Reports]

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