# 667 - 💸 Amazon’s $64B problem

Good morning. We made it to Friday. And if you’ve noticed that your Fridays at work have been a breeze lately, you’re not alone:

  • On average, workers clock out at 4:03 p.m. on Fridays — that’s an hour earlier than in 2021.

  • Salons, spas, and fitness centers are seeing a surge in Friday bookings.

  • Traffic data shows that Friday rush hour is quieter — with more people hitting the road in the early afternoon for weekend getaways.

Plus, there’s increasing evidence that a chill Friday helps reduce burnout and boosts productivity for the rest of the week. So, if you needed another reason to close that laptop by noon, now you have it.


Investment Closing Soon: Harvard-Founded AI Startup Grew 5x in 2023 By Disrupting The Thing Everyone Hates

From ancient stone-etched newspapers to today’s digital landscape, the news industry has constantly reinvented itself over its 2,000+ year history.

Then, social media platforms came along, taking away attention and advertiser dollars. To fight back, news organizations took a page out of the software playbook and launched subscription paywalls to make up for lost revenue.

Fast-forward to today: There are subscriptions for news, streaming, and just about everything else — and the fatigue is real. But subscriptions themselves aren’t the problem. After all, they fund the hard work journalists put into crafting each story. Instead, it’s the sheer number of subscriptions that is overwhelming.

So what’s the solution? The same as it’s always been — adapt and innovate.

Invest in the solution to subscription fatigue…

One subscription to rule them all. Zette.ai is disrupting the news industry with a pay-per-article model that magically removes paywalls with just one click.

  • Through Zette’s browser extension, users can unlock paywalled articles using credits — which refill every month starting at $9.99.

  • Rather than signing up with each publisher individually, one Zette account grants access to hundreds of media outlets.

With a team comprising former Harvard journalists and MIT engineers, Zette has already secured deals with 110 publishers, including Forbes and the Miami Herald, while expanding its reader base 5x last year to 50K+ readers.

Investment details: Following a $1.7M oversubscribed pre-seed round from funds like Halogen, The Community Fund, and AFORE Capital, Zette has opened a crowdfunding investment round.

  • This new funding will help Zette grow its reader base, onboard new publishers, and develop its proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) newsfeed to recommend the best online content.

  • Within 24 hours of launching the campaign, Zette secured half a million dollars — and their latest round is closing soon.

News, meet AI: Zette was accepted into the 2024 cohort of AI startups at the MILA Institute for Artificial Intelligence, where it is developing a four-part algorithm to recommend, summarize, interact with, and contextualize news. In December 2023, the company acquired newstech AI startup Below the Fold to accelerate development of its proprietary AI models.

Get ready for a big year in news

Zette’s expansion comes at an opportune time, with major global elections approaching. This year, a record number of voters are expected in 64 countries and regions, including the US, India, and the European Union. All eyes will be on 2024’s national news cycles.

Zette’s community round closes in 21 days, and no additional investors will be accepted afterward. Amidst the subscription overload, the industry finally has a solution — and investors have a chance to get in at the earliest stages.


📡 AT&T commits billions to continue funding high-speed internet program

Telecom giant AT&T ($T) has pledged $3B to narrow the “digital divide” between lower-income rural households and wealthier urbanites, bringing the program’s total to $5B. The announcement comes just weeks before the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) runs out of funding, potentially jeopardizing internet access for 23M households.

  • AT&T’s increased commitment will sustain discounted connectivity services, aiming to keep 25M Americans “connected to affordable, high-speed internet.”

  • The remaining funds will bankroll discounted wireless rates for K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, along with broadband, 5G, and fiber network infrastructure.

Masterful gambit, sir: For decades, AT&T has focused on expanding internet access, dangling fiber-optic and rural internet access over regulators to secure acquisitions and taxpayer money. However, the utilization of its share of the $400B in taxpayer subsidies for the telecom business has been criticized for inefficiency. That’s why it’s important to take this latest promise with a grain of salt; it could just be a PR distraction from its latest data breach.

🤑 Amazon mulls what to do with its boatload of cash

Amazon’s ($AMZN) bank account is sitting pretty, with last year’s record free cash flow projected to nearly double to $62B this year. This could leave the retail giant with almost $100B in cash by the end of 2024. Investors are now wondering: What will Amazon do with all that money? As two possibilities gain traction, investors have propelled the stock to new highs.

  • Unlike some tech giants, Amazon hasn’t pursued stock buybacks for two years — so analysts consider it a feasible option.

  • Analysts also expect that the company may declare a quarterly dividend, following in the footsteps of Meta ($META), Microsoft ($MSFT), and Apple ($AAPL).

One place they’re spending big: With the FTC cracking down on Big Tech acquisitions, Amazon is pouring resources into AI — recently announcing a plan to spend $150B over the next 15 years to upgrade its data centers for AI apps and services. Amazon expects AI to enhance its cloud services division, which accounted for 14% of its revenue last quarter, a key factor driving the stock’s upward trajectory. But despite the cash reserves and cloud optimism, the division is still cutting jobs.


The dethroning of BTC: Bitcoin is no longer the #1 crypto. This coin is - and it’s set to begin a 8,788% rally over the next 5 years… starting April 19. But you’ll need to make your move quick. Get the details right here →*

Markets & Economy

BlackRock ($BLK) is bullish on Kenya’s surging stocks: The country’s stock index is up 49% this year due to favorable monetary policy changes. Now that the political situation is easing and the currency looks strong, BlackRock foresees continued stock growth. [Read]

Two brothers plead guilty to insider trading linked to Trump Media ($DJT): Michael and Gerald Shvartsman confessed to trading on insider info about a potential merger between Trump Media and Digital World Acquisition Corp. ($DWAC), netting $22M before the chaotic rise of Trump Media stock in public markets. [Read]

US office vacancies reach new highs: Moody’s reports a 19.8% vacancy rate for US offices this quarter, and it’s given existing tenants some leverage, with rents ticking down 0.04%. The “good” news for office owners is that this decline is gradual — not a 2008-style office exodus amid an economic crisis. [Read]

Business & Wealth

Apple to explore personal home robot development: Apple’s EV project was a bust, so… how do robots sound? Reportedly, Apple engineers have tinkered with building a robot that follows you around your house and features an adjustable display screen — but specific details remain scarce. [Read]

AI companies need more data than the internet can provide: OpenAI, Google ($GOOG), and co. are running out of quality text data to train their models, so they’re considering using YouTube video transcriptions or even AI-generated text (though some experts say the latter is a bad idea). [Read]

JPMorgan ($JPM) moves into… media? On Wednesday, the bank launched Chase Media Solutions, offering brands targeted ads based on insights from its 80M customers’ spending habits — and brands only pay JPMorgan if shoppers buy something. [Read]

*Thanks to our sponsors for keeping the newsletter free.



IRS Falls Short on Hiring Targets, Focusing 63% of New Audits on Middle-Class Earners

Last April, the IRS launched a strategic plan to recruit 20K new agents and intensify “enforcement on wealthy individuals and corporations.” A year later, little progress has been made, with 63% of new tax audits targeting individuals earning under $200K annually — while a smaller portion is aimed at the highest earners.

  • The IRS had missed its goal of bringing on 3,833 revenue agents last year, adding just 34. Additionally, staffing levels experienced an 8% decline between 2019 and 2023.

  • Despite offering $125K salaries, the IRS’ struggle to attract mid-career professionals due to limited resources and stiff competition from the private sector underscores the broader challenges in the financial sector, which are prompting a turn to innovative AI solutions.

Inequality stat overload: By the end of 2023, the wealth of the top 1% of earners reached a record $44.6T, largely driven by rising equity values. That’s 49% higher than the end of 2020, even though the S&P 500 grew by just 27% during that same period. While the percentage of US households holding stocks has grown to a record 58%, the bottom 50% of US households collectively hold only 1% of US equities and mutual funds. The Average Joe still has a long way to go.

As the IRS focuses on auditing the middle class, a seismic shift in wealth is on the horizon as millennials are set to inherit over $90T — discover what this means for the future of wealth management.


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