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Used at top MBA programs including
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Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University
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1. Instagram Youth & the momentum behind kid-centric business models
  • This week, attorneys general from 44 US states/territories sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to scrap early-stage plans for “Instagram Youth” – Facebook’s internal name for a version of Instagram geared toward kids under 13. (Both Instagram and Facebook ban use by kids under 13.)
  • The bipartisan letter references research on negative outcomes stemming from social media use by kids – ranging from mental-emotional distress (e.g. body image, depression, self-harm, suicide) to cyber-bullying and exposure to predators. It describes children as ill-equipped to handle the challenges of managing their own data privacy, identifying inappropriate behavior, and assessing future harm from the permanence of content.
  • The letter adds fuel to the criticism the project has faced from lawmakers and consumer groups since it was first revealed in Mar 2021. This week also saw a Senate bipartisan proposal to update the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) with increased data privacy protections, including banning targeted advertising to children and establishing a Youth Privacy and Marketing Division at the FTC.
  • Instagram Youth is expected to retain most of the main Instagram features but also incorporate parental controls, stronger privacy defaults, and content filtering. The recent Mar 2021 announcement of plans to make the main Instagram safer for under-18 users is suggestive of other features that could find their way into Instagram Youth – such as restrictions on direct messages, prompts to be more cautious and encourage private accounts, and curbing adults from seeing teen accounts. At the very least, Facebook has committed to not showing ads in Instagram Youth.
  • Facebook has long held ambitions in this realm. Its Messenger Kids, launched in 2017 to similar backlash, targets children between 6-12 years old with a parent-controlled, ad-free experience. Messenger Kids is now available in 75+ countries and had 7M+ monthly active users at last report in Apr 2020. Facebook’s Oculus VR – while not designed for kids – is increasingly popular among the under-18 crowd and drew outcry when it began requiring a Facebook account. (WhatsApp is age-restricted to at least 13+ but is popular amongst kids as well.)
  • For Facebook – which has had trouble capturing younger users as generational preferences change – kid-centric offerings allow it to entangle the next generation of users in its ecosystem early. Nearly half of the 4.4B people globally not using Facebook products are under the age of 14 – an opportunity largely untapped by main Facebook and Instagram. To Facebook, which has been working on integrating the experience across its social platforms, Instagram Youth is a potential bridge between Messenger Kids (popular amongst 6-8 year olds) and its mainstream social platforms. Usage by kids can also help retain the adult users in a family.
  • Facebook is far from the only tech firm with kid-centric products. Google has operated YouTube Kids (now facing its own probe) since 2015. In 2019, TikTok implemented its age-gated experience in response to an FTC ruling and $5.7M fine. 2019 also saw the launch of Spotify Kids. There’s also more “kid mode” features being built into content, browsing and hardware platforms, such as Google Kids Space, Microsoft Edge Kids Mode, and Amazon Kids/Kids+ (formerly FreeTime) and Echo Kids Editions. Kid-centric products typically implement age verification, COPPA-compliant data policies, parental controls, and other usage restrictions, in addition to content filtered/curated for kids.
  • While these other platforms have also received scrutiny, Facebook, in particular, is faced with a greater backlash that stems from its Achilles heel – its perennial problem with consumer and public trust. Even if Facebook institutes the exact same policies and controls as the other social platforms, its motives will be viewed as suspect. Despite Facebook’s recent PR campaign to repair its image, it will take some time and some hard decisions to recover from its early strategic miss in not investing in consumer and public trust – an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure.
  • This is unfortunate for Facebook because the rapid adoption of Disney+ and popular game platform Roblox’s splashy $44B debut into public markets have thrown a spotlight on kid-centric business models. (Over half of Roblox’s 32M+ users are under 13.) We can expect a continued surge of new entrants focused on kid-centric games, social apps, content, edtech, and credit card and finance products. While advertising to children is far from new, the recent moves are raising some serious questions in the public square as to what extent monetizing the attention and wants of children is acceptable.
Related Content:
  • Feb 9 2021 (Brief #42): Encrypted-messaging apps everywhere – Privacy vs. monetization
  • May 23 2020 (Brief #33): What's next for K-12 education & remote learning
2. Alt-meat players are driving down prices closer to beef
  • Other alt-meat players are also actively moving to drive down costs. Impossible Foods reduced the recommended retail price for its burgers by 20% in Feb 2021, down to $5.49 for a 2-patty package (still about 2x the price of beef, though at Walmart it sells for more like $5). The price reduction follows a prior 15% cut in wholesale foodservice prices in Jan 2021, which brought the lowest wholesale price down to $6.80 per pound.
  • Beyond Meat’s most recent notable price reduction was last year, when it began selling its 10-pack of meatless patties at $15.99 or $6.40/lb – cheaper than Impossible Foods’ latest reductions though still well above beef prices. The pricing is competitive with about 20% of beef patties sold in US stores, according to CEO Ethan Brown. On Beyond Meat’s Feb 2021 earnings call, Brown reiterated his goal to “under-price” beef in 3 years. Beyond Meat has also been investing in local supply chains to help bring down costs, including a manufacturing plant in China.
  • On the lab-grown front, Israeli alt-meat player Future Meat revealed this week that it had achieved a production cost for a quarter-pound lab-grown chicken breast of $4.00. This is down from $7.50 in Feb 2021, already then a significant advance for lab-grown meat – which has been earlier-stage and significantly more expensive than plant-based meat. According to Future Meat’s CEO at the time, the $7.50 represented a 1000x decline in costs over the prior 3 years. While $4 is still above the $2-3/lb retail price of chicken, the pace of innovation is promising – especially since lab-grown meat can be identical in taste to animal-based meat. In Dec 2020, Singapore became the first country to approve the sale of lab-grown meat and startup Eat Just’s cultured chicken is now being sold there. Future Meat hopes to be in the US by 2022.
  • For alt-meat producers, the key to achieving meat parity is scale. Scale unlocks benefits like bulk discounts on ingredients, geographic dispersion of distribution centers to reduce transportation costs, and capital for more effective and expensive equipment. Scale is one reason why existing meat giants like Tyson Foods, Kellogg, Cargill, and Nestle have been investing in alt-meat – a market expected to grow to $85B by 2030 (though still a sliver of the $1.4T market for meat). They have a leg up in production scale and distribution reach but have had to catch up on their formulations.
  • Benson Hill’s innovations can help bring down the cost of protein ingredients and production processes. As consumer familiarity and adoption grows (the category was up 29% in 2020), we should see an increase in scale and production efficiencies throughout the ecosystem over the next few years. Keep an eye out for alt-meat prices inching closer to traditional meat.
Related Content:
  • Jul 10 2020 (3 Shifts): Beyond Meat’s alt-meat becomes price-competitive with beef and expands globally
  • Oct 28 2019 (Brief #8): The rise of "alt-meat" – Impossible Burger jumps to #1 in grocery outlets
3. Hundreds of traditional US banks will soon let customers hold crypto in their bank accounts
  • Last week, bitcoin custody player NYDIG (an affiliate of $10B alternative asset manager Stone Ridge) and publicly traded fintech vendor FIS (a NYDIG investor) announced a partnership to help traditional US banks allow their customers buy, hold, and sell bitcoin directly in their bank accounts. According to NYDIG, “hundreds of banks” are already enrolled and many are expected to roll out crypto services in the coming months. This program represents one of the first significant endeavors in allowing mainstream US consumers to make crypto transactions directly from traditional retail bank accounts.
  • While discussions are underway with large banks, the initial rollout will consist primarily of smaller banks such as community bank Suncrest. The partnership will rely on NYDIG’s custodial services to hold bitcoin and process transactions, while FIS’ Digital One platform and mobile interface will connect end-customers with bitcoin services. Bank customers will be able to manage bitcoin assets alongside their other accounts in a single view, though bitcoin assets will not be FDIC-insured.
  • NYDIG is partnering as custody provider for one of Morgan Stanley’s bitcoin funds as well as JPMorgan’s actively managed fund. Galaxy Digital is the partner on the other two passively managed bitcoin funds being offered by Morgan Stanley.
  • Consumers looking to hold and invest in crypto have typically gone through channels outside of traditional banks. These include crypto exchanges like Coinbase (56M users) and Kraken (6M users); payments platforms PayPal, Venmo, and Square’s Cash App; and retail trading platforms like Robinhood (9.5M users traded crypto in Q1 2021). Bitcoin ETFs – such as Canada’s Purpose Investment Fund launched in Feb 2021 – are also on the horizon.
  • Part of traditional banks’ motivation to offer bitcoin directly to customers is their front-row view of deposits being routed to these crypto platforms. An estimated 106M people are now trading crypto globally and the market value of all cryptocurrencies is at $2.4T as of this writing (up from under $1T at the start of the year). Given FIS’ role as vendor to banks that collectively oversee 300M checking accounts, this recent move by FIS and NYDIG is sure to expand the pot. If the rollouts with smaller banks are a success, expect the larger banks to quickly follow.
Related Content:
  • Apr 16 2021 (3 Shifts): US cryptocurrency trading platforms chart a path to becoming financial institutions
  • Feb 19 2021 (3 Shifts): Traditional financial institutions are embracing crypto
Disclosure: Contributors have investment interests in Microsoft and Disney. Amazon and Google are vendors of 6Pages.
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