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parag-argrawal-twitter-ceo-jack-dorsey

Jack Dorsey leaves Twitter roost

parag-argrawal-twitter-ceo-jack-dorsey
Jack Dorsey // // Illustration by Kate Walker

Jack Dorsey leaves Twitter roost

The Future. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey stepped down as CEO yesterday, installing CTO Parag Argrawal in the top position. While Dorsey will inevitably focus his energies (and Bitcoin obsession) on Square full time, his recent projects (a push into crypto and a bid to create a decentralized platform with Bluesky) may take more of a backseat in his absence.

Top bird
In a surprise move, Jack Dorsey is leaving the post he’s most known for, CEO of Twitter.

  • Yesterday, Dorsey stepped down from his role as CEO of the social media giant, effective immediately.
  • Dorsey will stay on as a member of the board until sometime next year.

CTO Parag Argrawal (an engineer by trade who has been at Twitter for over a decade and was a key driver behind its recent audience growth) has been named the new CEO.

When the news first broke, Twitter’s stock jumped more than 10%… but actually ended the day down by almost 3% — a Wall Street story as complicated as Dorsey himself.

Taking flight
Interestingly, Dorsey’s time as CEO of Twitter has been chock full of other people kicking him off or trying to kick him off from the top leadership role. After co-founding the company and taking the top role in 2006, he was pushed out only two years later… and then returned again as CEO in 2015. Then early last year, Dorsey fought off activist investor Elliott Management, which tried to push him out because he’s also the CEO of Square.

Speaking of Square, Dorsey is still CEO of the payments company, which is worth twice as much as Twitter. So, yeah, Dorsey has his hands plenty full.

moonpay-crypto-paypal-thfutureparty

The PayPal of crypto

moonpay-crypto-paypal-thfutureparty
MoonPay // Illustration by Kate Walker

The PayPal of crypto

The Future. Crypto startup MoonPay raised over half a billion dollars this week. Funding in the crypto world has reached feverish heights this year, with a record $6.5 billion invested in just the third quarter of 2021. MoonPay’s lucrative funding round signals the confidence investors have in a blockchain-driven market — and that momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

To the Moon(Pay)
Self-described ‘PayPal of crypto’ startup MoonPay has secured over $500 million in funding.

  • The funding round was led by Tiger Global Management and Coatue and valued the company at a staggering $3.4 billion.
  • CEO Ivan Soto-Wright says he plans to use the funds to beef up its staff, hiring 200 more employees (more than doubling its existing team of 130).
  • MoonPay says it has built a strong customer base of 7 million customers, handling over $2 billion worth of crypto transactions in two years.

Soto-Wright stated that he sees MoonPay becoming the “passport” to Web3 as PayPal was to e-commerce.

WAGBI
MoonPay facilitates payments for crypto via major payments, including debit and credit cards, Apple Pay, and open banking. Up next, it’s looking to streamline checkout processes in the NFT world. Soto-Wright described his big ambitions for the company:

“This historic financing round is a vote of confidence… people believe in our ability to bring the next billion people to crypto, a waystation to our final destination: the moon.”

gen-z-consumer-purchase-vice-razorfish-thefutureparty

Rise of the purpose-driven consumer

gen-z-consumer-purchase-vice-razorfish-thefutureparty

Rise of the purpose-driven consumer

The Future. Gen Z habits and values are changing the way we consume products. Consumers are prioritizing sustainability, ethics, and purchasing with purpose in mind. As the younger generation’s direct and indirect spending power eclipses a staggering $143 billion, brands across the world will have to take note… or risk getting left behind.

A new consumer
Gen Z is driving the rise of the purposeful consumer.

  • A new report from Razorfish and Vice Media Group found that over 82% of consumers make purchase decisions with purpose in mind.
  • 76% state that brands they support should stand for a greater mission or have a higher purpose.
  • 70% of consumers say it’s important or extremely important for brands to give back to their local community.

Purposeful products
An overwhelming number of younger consumers buy based on purpose rather than price, picking products that are ethical, sustainable, and authentic. They opt for clean and sustainable foods and champion inclusivity… and they want the brands they buy to reflect those same values back at them.

But, beware of “purpose-washing,” a term used to describe companies who seem to be prioritizing purpose but don’t authentically put it into practice. Gen Z are savvy digital natives and can see through brands that miss the mark.

Disney CEO Plans to Join Facebook & Microsoft in the Metaverse

Disney teases its own metaverse

Disney CEO Plans to Join Facebook & Microsoft in the Metaverse
Disney metaverse // Illustration by Kate Walker

Disney teases its own metaverse

The Future. According to Disney CEO Bob Chapek, Disney is exploring the idea of building its own metaverse. The move could be a boon to the already-peaking Disney+… and may inspire other streamers to set up their own proprietary metaverse destinations (this is all supposed to be connected someday) around their IP.

Metaverse Key
Puck’s Matthew Belloni spoke with metaverse maven Matthew Ball about the possibilities of a Disney metaverse.

  • For story: Disney can extend the story from film and TV to a shared universe gameplay that brings the audience further into franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • For theme parks: Disney can make the relatively exclusive Disneyland or Disney World accessible through the digital realm.
  • For streaming: Disney could use Disney+ as the gateway to accessing its metaverse and use its own ILM-created game engine, Helios, to power it.
  • For talent: Disney would probably have to purchase “likeness rights” in order to use the voice and performance of, for example, Robert Downey Jr., as Iron Man.

Magic ceiling
While Disney+ quickly ascended to the top of the streaming charts, it’s starting to plateau in the U.S., only adding 2 million subscribers. That means many of the people that would sign up for Disney+ — families, Marvel fans, Star Wars fans — already have. Unfortunately, Disney is not exactly known for a variety of content that would randomly draw in subscribers quarter after quarter.

That’s why Chapek is noncommittal about theatrical windows, saying that “flexibility” is key to making shareholders happy (i.e., if they need growth, they might just drop a Marvel movie on Disney+). Over the course of the next decade, a metaverse could be a magic bullet for the streamer.

Axios Says Filter Bubble Transparency Act Will Change Data-Driven Algorithms

Bipartisan bills want to break the algorithm-stranglehold of social platforms

Axios Says Filter Bubble Transparency Act Will Change Data-Driven Algorithms
Filter Bubble Transparency Act

Bipartisan bills want to break the algorithm-stranglehold of social platforms

The Future. The House of Representatives and the Senate have introduced complementary bills to force social platforms to offer algorithm-less versions of their services. If the bills become law, it could open the door to users curating their online experience to how they see fit.

Choose-your-own-adventure
Congressional representatives from both sides of the aisle are done with algorithms dictating user experience on social platforms.

  • In the House, the Filter Bubble Transparency Act was introduced, which would force social platforms to make available a version of the service that does not use “opaque algorithms” driven by personal data.
  • It’s sponsored by Representatives Ken Buck (R-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), and Burgess Owens (R-Utah).
  • The bipartisan Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Republican Senator John Thune (R-S.D.).

The proposed bills would exempt companies with less than 500 employees, make less than $50 million in annual revenue, and have fewer than a million users… making it crystal clear which platforms these bills are aimed at.

Manipulation, Inc.
Decoupling social platforms from their algorithms has quickly become a popular proposed solution to how these services create echo chambers, fuel extremism, and step on user privacy. Representative Buck and Senator Thune announced that going forward; they would be working together on tackling these issues and other antitrust concerns — showing that stripping power from tech is one of the most unifying subjects on Capitol Hill.

For what it’s worth, some platforms are already seeing the anti-algorithm writing on the wall. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wants to build a marketplace where people can choose what algorithm they want to be controlled by. In other words, “pick your poison.”

Walter Craven to Open Pop-up Pod Office Rentals in London

London startup pops up rentable offices

Walter Craven to Open Pop-up Pod Office Rentals in London
Pop-up office // Courtesy of Make.Work.Space.

London startup pops up rentable offices

The Future. Entrepreneur and designer Walter Craven has created a work booth that can be dropped onto city blocks, into train stations, or inside hotel lobbies to act as rentable remote-working spaces. Craven wants to make these pods more than a quick work-from-anywhere invention — he wants to have them be an “integrated” part of any city — even acting as e-transport charging stations or venues to host public art.

E-office
If there are no seats at the coffee shop, you may be able to give work pods a try.

  • Walter Craven, the founder of Make.Work.Space, designed a small pod that can be rented by the hour via a reservation app — like an e-scooter.
  • They’re designed to be placed all around cities, so that remote workers can pop in to send emails, record a podcast, or take a meeting on the go.
  • The wood-and-steel pods will come with WiFi, lighting and temperature control, a desk, chairs, an LED screen, a camera and mic setup, and speakers.

And because COVID is still on everyone’s mind, a UV light and air-filtration system will clean the pods after each use.

Work booths
The pods would be tentatively available for $9-16 per hour… so a little more expensive than just buying a coffee and staking a claim at a booth, but also way more amenities.

Each pod (of which only two are built so far) will reportedly cost $26,000, which means companies — as opposed to municipal governments — may be the first to purchase them for their campuses.

Craven believes that the pods could act as an “in-between” for workers commuting back and forth between home and the office. And with 16% of companies around the world going fully remote, coffee shops, hotel lobbies, and expensive WeWorks may not be able to handle all the demand for good on-the-go workspaces.

VC Firm Andreesen Horowitz (a16z) Might IPO

Andreessen Horowitz could open itself up to investment with IPO

VC Firm Andreesen Horowitz (a16z) Might IPO
a16z to IPO

Andreessen Horowitz could open itself up to investment with IPO

The Future. The Information believes that top VC firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) could IPO in the near future, as all its ducks are in a row to make a splash in a public debut. An IPO could give a16z the funds and footprint to make an even bigger impact in emerging markets, such as crypto and biotech.

Money tree
Here’s why a16z could go public:

  • It’s on a growth clip. a16z has raised $12 billion in three years and is set to raise another $6.5 billion. The staff has also increased by 170% to 70 people.
  • It’s structured like a corporation. The company has diversified not just its holdings but has given power to partners to run their own funds. Additionally, a16z has dedicated teams for marketing and talent to help founders.
  • It’s the era of scale. Recently, stock for firms like Blackstone and Apollo Global “outperformed” this year, and other firms like TPG are preparing to go public themselves. a16z will want to keep up.
  • International is on the horizon. If foreign firms buy up significant stock, it could give a16z an opening to expand its international profile (and portfolio).

a16z already manages $19 billion in assets. The Information gives a conservative estimate that, given a 2% management fee, the firm could have a yearly income of $380 million.

That number may look pretty appetizing for banks who want to help a16z prepare for an IPO.

UTA Explains How Brands Can Engage Young Consumers Like Gen Z

Brands could risk billions by staying out of the creator economy

UTA Explains How Brands Can Engage Young Consumers Like Gen Z
UTA brand study // Illustration by Kate Walker

Brands could risk billions by staying out of the creator economy

The Future. United Talent Agency (UTA) conducted a survey that confirms what Future Party readers know all too well — the creator economy is booming, and brands will miss out on billions if they don’t get in on the action. But modern-day brand partnerships may take more strategy and finesse than they did in the past. Creators and companies will need to be authentically aligned if they plan on cutting through the noise.

Tipping point
A study by UTA found that if brands aren’t investing in creators, they’re leaving money on the table.

  • It’s a huge market. 72% of Gen Zers and Millennials are directly paying creators —  a market that’s on track to hit $18 billion. About half spend $25 a month.
  • Brands are welcome. 95% of consumers are okay with brands joining in on the creator economy, especially when 63% support multiple creators already.
  • Pay is best. Surprisingly, 76% of respondents find paid content “more engaging and enticing,” with a premium put on exclusivity, access, and community.

Joe Kessler, global head of UTA’s IQ division, warns brands that — unlike the stick-to-the-script marketing of old — they’ll need to focus on aligning with creators that reflect the values or vibe of the company.

“It’s important for brands to understand that the authenticity comes from the authenticity of the artist communicating with that consumer, so they would do well to facilitate that communication but not disrupt it too much. That’s the holy grail, and the reason why people will pay $25 a month or more to subscribe to these services.”

Mezli Redefines Quick Meals With Robot Restaurant "Mizli"

Mezli cooks up automated modular restaurants

Mezli Redefines Quick Meals With Robot Restaurant "Mizli"
Mezli's Robot Restaurant // Courtesy of Mezli

Mezli cooks up automated modular restaurants

The Future. A restaurant startup called Mezli is building modular restaurants that are (mostly) run by a robot staff. The eateries take out the large overhead costs of lunch, letting the company sell meals for much cheaper. Other than building restaurants that can open nearly anywhere, Mezli could become the go-to facilitator of meals on college campuses, where students are looking for fast, healthy food.

Fancy vending
The next culinary trend could be freestanding robotic restaurants.

  • Founded by Stanford engineering students Alex Kolchinski, Alex Gruebele, Max Perham, and Michelin-star chef Eric Minnich, Mezli builds fully autonomous modular restaurants that are only ten by twenty feet in size.
  • The startup focuses on offering quality food for cheap since their costs for “labor, overhead and real estate” are so low.

Mezli’s first location in San Mateo, California, offers Mediterranean-style grain bowls starting at $6.99. And people must like it — 44% of customers have already become repeats.

The founders do admit, though, that the robot servers are currently supplemented by actual human workers.

Drop a restaurant
Mezli has already raised $3 million, which it’s using to build a prototype for a restaurant the company wants to roll out next year. Once ready, the company hopes to build thousands of these modular restaurants for a fraction of a typical restaurant.

Could modular restaurants be the next iteration of the food truck craze?

Bots buying 2021 Christmas Gifts this holiday season

Bots take over Christmas shopping

Bots buying 2021 Christmas Gifts this holiday season
Bots buying Christmas gifts // illustration by Kate Walker

Bots take over Christmas shopping

The Future. The use of automatic shopping software (or bots) on e-commerce sites may make already-strapped retailers even more empty-handed (thanks, supply chains). But without strict legislation to curb them, bots may soon become a common tool for consumers to score in-demand products… fueling an already-sizable market around selling bots (for consumers) or software that protects them from their use (for retailers).

Cut the digital line
Retailers are concerned about a robot invasion this holiday season.

  • Infamous for vacuuming up limited-edition sneakers, retailers are gearing up for bots to be used on any product in short supply due to supply-chain issues.
  • Bot users typically use the software to purchase a high quantity of products, only to resell them at a profit… creating chaos for markets plagued by limited supply.
  • Big names like Walmart and Nike, worried about the supply of PS5s and Air Jordans, have turned to security firms like Akamai Technologies Inc. to fight against bots in real-time.

Patrick Sullivan, CTO for security strategy at Akamai, says, “People will try to jump the line and leverage automation to grab anything that has a limited inventory. It used to be concert tickets, then purses and tennis shoes, and now it’s vaccine reservations and even more mundane things.”

That’s strangely good news for Akamai, which has seen its bot-battling services generate almost $200 million in revenue… increasing by a staggering 40% per year.

Drowning in demand
So, is there any data behind all this worry? Akamai says look no further than India.

  • In early October, bot activity jumped 55% for two weeks in the run-up to the Diwali holiday, which begins November 4.
  • These bots included web scrapers, automated shopping cart ‘sniper’ bots, and login and checkout abusers.
  • Akamai believes this “is a sign of things to come for holiday shoppers in the U.S. and Europe.”

When the bot infestation hit live events hard (via platforms like StubHub) around 2013, the government had to step in with the Better Online Ticket Sales (or BOTS) Act. The law never imagined the software’s use beyond ticket sellers… so we may be on the precipice of even stricter legislation if Christmas presents run out.