August 2, 2023

Today's Topics

Hi! TV show Suits has broken Netflix’s watch time record for an acquired series — racking up 3.14 billion minutes in a single week — despite the series wrapping up over 4 years ago. Today we're exploring:

  • Money-driven: Uber's operations are finally profitable.
  • Surging: The US just got a brand new nuclear reactor.
  • Endangered: Popularity with tourists could be Venice's undoing.

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Dream ride

Uber reached a long-awaited milestone yesterday after posting its first-ever operating profit of $326 million. The ride-hailing giant, which has burned through $31.5 billion in operating losses since it started reporting finances in 2014, saw what should have been a celebratory report marred — revenue missed analysts' estimates by $100 million, causing shares to plummet 7%, the steepest decline since October.

Fueled by cash

Founded in 2009, Uber's financial path has been tumultuous from the start, relying on generous venture capital funding during times of rock-bottom interest rates. Its founding principle was built on the belief that, if the company amassed a vast enough customer base and dominated the market by any means necessary, eventually profitability would be within reach. This high-octane strategy led to a dramatic and precarious period for the company, which saw losses mount, key figures resign, and even inspired a TV show in the process.

After 8 years, however, the need for a more steady and focused approach became evident, prompting Dara Khosrowshahi to take the wheel as the new CEO in 2017. Under Khosrowshahi’s leadership, Uber set its sights on cost control, implementing measures like cutting headcount during the pandemic and selling its self-driving unit for a substantial $4 billion. The company also prioritized efficiency in its delivery operations while adopting a more disciplined approach to customer discounts and driver incentives — a range of strategies that have enabled Uber to finally make its operations profitable.


Plant Vogtle Unit 3, America’s first nuclear reactor built entirely from scratch in more than 30 years, is now online and successfully sending electricity to millions of customers and the State of Georgia, according to the plant's primary owners Georgia Power.

While the unit can reportedly power 500,000 homes at its full 1,100 megawatt output and has a 60-80 year estimated lifespan, it also came in $17 billion over budget and 7 years late, which has been pointed to as a reason why nuclear power may not offer the most feasible means of ushering in a clean, carbon-free future.

(Not) going nuclear

The initial turn towards nuclear power in the US began in earnest during the second half of the 20th century, which saw the bulk of American reactor building being carried out from 1970-1990. Indeed, construction on the newest unit before Vogtle Unit 3 — Tennessee’s Watts Bar Unit 2, which came online in 2016 — was started in 1973, before being suspended 12 years later and resumed in 2007.

The time-consuming and costly nature of nuclear energy projects, as well as the dangers linked with the production process, have seen fewer reactors built and the source’s electricity generation stall in recent decades. In 2002, nuclear was responsible for 780 million megawatthours of net US energy generation — 20 years later, that figure sat at 772 million. While it overtook coal briefly in 2020 and still produces far more energy than other cleaner sources, the trajectory of nuclear as an option, compared with natural gas, wind, and solar power, could explain why some are theorizing that the Vogtle Unit 3 will be among the last reactors in the US.

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Venetian bind

Earlier this week, the United Nations’ cultural agency, UNESCO, proposed to include Venice and its lagoon on its World Heritage in Danger List. Despite considerable efforts to preserve the ‘City of Canals’ in past years, including banning cruise ships from the center and building deep-underwater sea walls to prevent flooding, UNESCO reported that the government isn’t doing enough to address the issues of “mass tourism, development projects, and climate change.”

Venice, which is spread over 118 small islands, was first designated as a World Heritage site in 1987, though the city’s popularity has meant that it is as vulnerable as it is beautiful. The historical center — spanning just 7 sq km, about 1/18th the size of Central London — welcomes thousands of tourists every day: in 2019, 5.6 million people were drawn to Venice’s waterways, making it the 48th most visited city in the world.

Along with the threat of rising sea levels and erosion of foundational terrain, the crowded city’s high population density means that it’s actually sinking, and fast. Climate scientists have warned that, if sinking continues at the current rate, Venice will be completely submerged by 2100.

Going, going, gondola

The proposal follows a tough few years for Italy’s floating city: in 2019, Venice was hit by $1 billion in flood damage, and the pandemic dealt another blow, decimating the city’s bustling tourist industry, which, before 2020, brought in €2bn a year. Many have objected to UNESCO’s motion, arguing that, although tourism is putting pressure on the city, it’s also a lifeline for the economy. The agency’s recommendation will not be finalized until a vote takes place next month.

More Data

• In the midst of its huge rebrand, Twitter has been forced to remove a giant flashing ‘X’ logo from the roof of its San Francisco HQ after 24 complaints from neighbors.

• Collecting athletes' old cleats, jerseys, and helmets is a booming business, with global sports memorabilia valued at $26.1bn in 2021 and predicted to reach $227.2bn by 2032.

• With over $1 billion done in trading volume, Composer’s got big shots on board (and the slickest landing page we’ve seen). Join thousands of investors automating their own quant strategies on Composer — no PhD or hedge fund required.**

• New data from a Gallup poll has shown that public faith in the US military has hit a 25-year low, with only 60% of those surveyed having more than some confidence in the institution.

• Sacré bleu! Bordeaux vineyards have reported that mildew is ravaging this summer’s merlot and cabernet harvests, with up to 90% of some plots affected as a result of humid weather.


• Dive into this poptastic graphic from Reuters dissecting the unstoppable influence of Taylor Swift.

• This visualization of the global recycling bottleneck shows that plastic production is still a big problem.

Off the charts: has rebranded under the name of which company that we were charting the demise of back in April? [Answer below].

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