September 13, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! The lightning connector is no longer Apple’s charging port in a storm, after the company yesterday confirmed its switch to USB-C fittings for future devices, in what some see as a win for EU regulators. Today we're exploring:

  • Entrepreneurs rise up: New businesses are booming in the US.
  • Meme-stock movie: The GameStop saga comes to the big screen.
  • Covid catchup: The latest data as hospitalizations rise.
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Starting up

Whether you opened the little coffee shop you’d dreamed about on slow afternoons at your 9-5, or you took the opportunity to get your ultra-ambitious, future-unicorn tech hustle off the ground, there’s no doubt that the pandemic poured fuel on the fire of the famous American entrepreneurial spirit.

In the age of the "side hustle", data from the US Census Bureau reveals that a whopping ~3.1 million new business applications have been filed so far in 2023, with a little over 1 million of those filed as "high-propensity" applications — likely, based on various criteria, to actually turn into businesses with employees and full payroll systems.

We're gonna make it

Even with the often-cited stat about the 20% fail rate of new businesses in the first year, and new research suggesting founders have a tougher time getting back into work if their startups don’t take off, American entrepreneurs don’t seem fazed by the inherent risks of setting up new ventures.

Looking at just the "high-propensity" business formations, often seen as a better indicator of actual economy-impacting new businesses, reveals that new 2023 ventures are so far tracking ahead of nearly every year since 2013. The exception is 2021, when more businesses were formed than ever before — there's nothing like necessity to get people to take a risk and start a company.

Retelling reddit’s revolution

"Dumb Money", Hollywood's take on the GameStop meme-stock frenzy in 2021, set for a limited release this Friday, is an ambitious attempt to recreate a big-screen version of the dramatic saga that unfolded almost exclusively on phones around the world.

The movie focuses on Keith Gill, better known by his reddit name Roaring Kitty, who — thanks to an original $53k position in ailing retailer GameStop — inadvertently became the face of a grassroots movement that pitted a group of amateur traders against some of the biggest names on Wall Street.

Trading Frenzy

Our initial coverage at the time focused mostly on the stock price, (short version: it went up a bit, then a lot, and then fell) but looking back, it’s hard to overstate how unprecedented the actual sums involved were.

During “peak GameStop” at the end of Jan 2021, more than $30bn of the stock changed hands in a single day. For context, the combined daily trading volume of JPMorgan, ExxonMobil and Walmart — 3 of the biggest companies in the world — has never gone above $15bn on any single day since 2021. Even Apple, the most valuable company in the world, only saw ~$16bn worth of shares change hands yesterday after it announced a brand-new iPhone.

As with so many things, the originals are the best, and no matter how many headlines call certain companies the “next meme stock”, nothing has come close to recreating that lightning in a bottle.

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New formula

The FDA has approved an updated batch of Covid boosters from pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer as the agency continues to monitor rising Covid hospitalizations across the US.

The new shots are made from a single component of the Omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant — unlike previous jabs that contained components from original 2020 strains of the virus —  and will be rolled out this week after the CDC signed them off yesterday.

After record-low weekly hospitalization rates at the end of June, when only 6,315 Americans were newly admitted to hospital with Covid, the US has seen the figure rise in each of the last 8 weeks, the longest streak since the end of 2022. Last week, the CDC reported 18,871 new Covid hospitalizations in the US. That’s a 190% rise since the end-of-summer uptick started, although the numbers remain substantially lower than any of the winter peaks of 2021 or 2022.


While the current case surge is being attributed to the emerging BA.2.86 strain, the FDA says the updated jabs will “more closely target currently circulating variants”. With cooler weather and school back in session, it’s hardly unusual for flu-like infections to start ticking up as we begin to get nearer to Winter, though the WHO has described recent Covid trends around the world as “concerning”.

More Data

• Fizzling out: McDonald’s is getting rid of its iconic self-serve soda machines by 2032.

• In a troubling stat for employers looking to retain their top staff, recently-promoted employees are 11% more likely to leave within a month than their fellow workers.

Disney’s centenary-celebrating Blu-ray collection, containing over 100 discs, will set you back a whopping $1500.

• Overworked: one of the biggest wage fraud schemes in history has been foiled after a Chinese woman held 16 jobs and made almost $7 million with the help of 53 fake workers.


• Charting the rising price of iPhones after Apple announced its most expensive model in history yesterday.

‍• How our everyday routines have, or haven’t, returned to normal after the pandemic.

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