Hi, I’m Sari Azout and this is the the 38th edition of Check your Pulse, a tech and startups newsletter designed to make you feel human. I try to make this one of the best emails you get each week. If you’re enjoying it and know someone who’d like this sort of thing in their inbox, they can sign up here.
Happy whatever day of the week, y’all.
I didn’t know it was possible to feel EVERY. SINGLE. EMOTION. in the span of a few days and yet here we are.
Starting with an important announcement, because I don’t want you to miss this:
I have not made a single dollar from this newsletter.
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It feels almost insensitive to write anything right now that doesn’t revolve around COVID-19. There is nothing to say that doesn’t seem out of touch with reality.
But I also want to protect your time. The pressure to be on top of the latest is overwhelming and exhausting. Considering information overload and your precious time, I am transitioning to sending this email every two weeks-ish for the foreseeable future.
I’ve been quarantined for almost two weeks now. The first week was full of gratitude — for having the finances to weather these times, a spacious house for the kids to run in, and a job that can adapt to the shape of whatever is to come. My determination to slow parent worked. For a complete five days, I soaked my children in, and it felt like the universe had given me a meditation-like retreat I would have never volunteered for but changed my life. We went on long bike rides, neighborhood scavenger hunts, took out our rusty paddle boards, made homemade play dough and rainbow pasta. I’m not great at relaxing, but for five days, I managed to slow down and flip the script: this isn’t happening to us, it’s happening for us. Some perspective to my needlessly tense life.
But this week, the non stop stream of Whatsapp messages and my inability to stop the Twitter panic-scrolling got to me. 63 unread emails became 108, and then 154. Why does the ice cream shop I visited in Austin over three years ago have my email? And why does every business feel the need to email me about Coronavirus? And why do I feel the urge to be at inbox zero every second of every day? And why is my son not interested in any of the virtual classes every other kid seems to be enjoying? I can’t take the forwarded WhatsApp messages about how this is a Chinese plot to take Trump down, or the endless WFH advice with clickbaity headlines (turns out no amount of bulleted list will teach you how to live through a conference call when your toddler is having a meltdown), or every new take on the situation from the rising Coronavirus influencers, or the posts with hobby ideas. New hobbies? In this new era, there’s definitely a stark distinction between the people at home with kids and without kids.
If you got all the way here, you probably want to hear the startup predictions. The only thing I know for certain is my grandparents will be “Zoom-ing” by Q2 20. I also know this will pass, but I do believe that we will see significant structural shifts in our behaviors. Some strong opinions, weakly held:
Acceleration of e-commerce is an obvious one. In general, the situation bodes well for DTC, especially food, health, cleaning, and wellness. Out-of-stocks from traditional brands like Clorox, Lysol, Purell have forced consumers to explore new brands, which are in turn acquiring new customers at reduced CACs. I believe when this is done, the TAM for DTC will be much larger, and include people like my mom.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and this week proved how much is left to be done. Zoom is where we work, do happy hours, sing, meditate, and dance. But the truth is, Zoom is best suited for video-conferencing desk workers. Other use cases need more - they need easy to integrate landing pages, email collection/ CRM, payments, built-in notifications, etc… Fitness in particular needs seamless music integration. I wonder if better tools, like AI to predict distraction/motivation and contextual cues would help students be more engaged in online learning. Is it too early to talk about the Unbundling of Zoom? Or perhaps we’ll see a wave of companies leveraging Zoom’s API to build vertical SaaS.
Everyone’s wondering what comes after mobile (AR/VR, voice, etc..), but this week revealed just how much is left to be done in software and user interfaces. So many businesses that had never taken digital seriously were forced to improvise with half-baked, clunky sites. I predict a renaissance of ‘Shopify for X’ coming.
Telemedicine has been waiting for its time, but it seems it’s finally here. Getting someone to use telemedicine the first time is very very hard, but once they see how convenient it is, my guess is retention is easier. This kind of behavior change is a very big deal for the health industry.
Lastly, look out for Quibi, the startup that raised $1.8B to build a Netflix for shows of 10mins or less. Many predicted it was doomed to fail. Launching on April 6th, they may have one of the best timed launches in history.
Right now, if you’re able, is the time to be generous, relinquish control, lower the (parenting) bar, and then lower it a little more.
Whatever you're going through, there is someone on the other side of the world feeling the same way. That’s weird, but it’s also beautiful.
Stay human 🙏🏼
Between $61 billion and $118 billion in food sales will shift from restaurants to home during the second quarter of 2020. That would translate into an estimated sales jump for grocery stores of 32 percent to 62 percent for the quarter. 🥘
Yes yes yes 👇🏽
David Brooks on why The Nuclear Family was a Mistake was the best non-coronavirus related thing I read all week. It's an exceptional explanation of why big families aren't as common as they used to be. Ever since I started working on this article, a chart has been haunting me. It plots the percentage of people living alone in a country against that nation’s GDP. There’s a strong correlation. Nations where a fifth of the people live alone, like Denmark and Finland, are a lot richer than nations where almost no one lives alone, like the ones in Latin America or Africa… For the privileged, this sort of works. The arrangement enables the affluent to dedicate more hours to work and email, unencumbered by family commitments. They can afford to hire people who will do the work that extended family used to do. But a lingering sadness lurks, an awareness that life is emotionally vacant when family and close friends aren’t physically present, when neighbors aren’t geographically or metaphorically close enough for you to lean on them, or for them to lean on you. Today’s crisis of connection flows from the impoverishment of family life. 👨👩👧👦
I feel this 👇🏽
Yale's most popular class ever is available free online — and the topic is how to be happier in your daily life. 🌈
This is beautiful 👇🏽
With lack of testing in the US, startups like Nurx, EverlyWell, and Carbon Health stepped in to fill the gap by mailing tests directly to consumers, but the FDA quickly stepped in to tighten guidelines, forcing them to pause these activities. 😮
A tweetstorm from Lightspeed’s Nicole Quinn on consumer trends that emerged out of quarantine in China. 💭
Shipbop has great e-comm data on trends by vertical. 📈
Sweatcoin is a new kind of step counter and activity tracker app that converts your outdoor steps into digital currency - sweat coins – that you can then spend on your favorite brands or charity initiatives. The benefits of fitness are usually long-term, but Sweatcoin converts movement into currency which you can use in the present. I’ve seen variations of this idea in the past, but this one seems to be very well executed - from the brand partners they’ve brought on (like Harry’s and Tidal), to the user experience, to the way they’ve incorporated insurers and government in the business model. Their traction speaks for itself, they have more than 2 million WAUs on the app. I also like that this is a “crypto adjacent” business, a term that suggests there are non-crypto based applications that will deliver on some of the promises of crypto.
If you’re wondering who’s behind this newsletter:
My name is Sari Azout. I am a design-thinker, strategist, and early stage startup investor at Level Ventures and Rokk3r. My mission is to bring more humanity and creativity to technology and business.
Know a founder i should meet?
Drop me a note at email@example.com
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