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Hustle harder: how TV became obsessed with stories of workism | US television

The third episode of WeCrashed, Apple TV+’s eight-part series on the precipitous rise and fall of the WeWork founders Adam and Rebekah Neumann, gives the viewer a small taste of being a startup employee. It’s 2012, and a nameless female employee arrives for her first day; she’s given a key card, an Apple laptop, a reminder that there’s a 7pm “Thank God It’s Monday” meeting, and a mimosa. In one of the most effective montages of the series – largely because it draws attention away from the two eccentric, delusional founders who take up the vast majority of screen time – we whirl through the nameless female employee’s hedonistic, exhausting life at WeWork. Coffee, shot, staff party, sex with a co-worker in a supply closet. Adam Neumann leading employees in a “we!” “work!” call and response. Another shot, another day, pass out, wake up, repeat. Is it night or is it noon? At a desk or at a party? Doesn’t matter – she’s at work, which is life.

This ethos of so-called “hustle culture” – the idea that work is life and the self derives value through constant work – courses throughout a number of recent shows set across the 2010s. It’s most overt in WeCrashed, based on the Wondery podcast of the same name, in which Neumann literally urges workers to “hustle harder” (also the title of its fifth episode, which airs this Friday). The Theranos employees in The Dropout, Hulu’s eight-part series on Elizabeth Holmes’s fraudulent blood-testing company that was once the darling of Silicon Valley, work through the night, missing kids’ birthday parties and dinners in the name of changing the world. Same for the Uber staff in Super Pumped, Showtime’s series on Uber’s relentless, now disgraced founder Travis Kalanick, who berates employees to pursue growth at any cost (and change the world.) Anna Delvey, the scammer at the heart of Netflix’s Inventing Anna, is most chagrined that her notoriety as the “Soho grifter” overshadowed how hard she worked at the business plan that ultimately exposed her; the journalist who covers her is so obsessed with the story and its import for her career that she goes into labor in the office.

These shows, which all depict headlining stories of singularly deceitful, messianic people, have been loosely classified as true-con TV, “bad entrepreneur TV” or modern grift series in the headline-to-TV pipeline. These are all fair descriptors – all four series, which premiered in the span of a month, evince our evergreen fascination with the art of the scam (see also: recent Netflix docu-series hits The Tinder Swindler and Bad Vegan). But they are also, in piecemeal fashion, building the iconography of a certain slice of millennial experience now barely discernible in rear-view. There are the deliberately dated nods to the late 2000s/early 2010s – the music (Katy Perry gets a name drop in both WeCrashed and The Dropout), the fashion, the fascination with (and mourning of) Steve Jobs. And there is an awkward, inchoate through-line of “hustle culture” or “workism” – the distinctly American, quasi-religious belief system among the college-educated elite (myself included) that work is not merely a job but an identity, an arbiter of self-worth, and a cause worth believing in. WeWork was not a company, Adam Neumann infamously said, but a movement.

Hustle culture, like other ideologies, is amorphous. It undergirded the #girlboss, the rise of the influencer, the complete elision between self and livelihood online; there’s no clear start or end, though look around and you can see evidence of its demise. There’s recent blowback over Kim Kardashian’s advice to businesswomen to “get your fucking ass up and work”, eulogies for the heady, doomed early days of venture capital-backed digital media, the so-called Great Resignation and The Age of Anti-Ambition. These shows appeal to current prestige TV sensibilities – antiheroes, timeline jumping, expensive hair-and-makeup transformations by famous actors – but they feel distinctly of another era, a time of “rise and grind” sloganeering. They may ultimately each focus on a singularly fascinating, loathsome individual and uncomfortably posit that the people who believed them weren’t rubes, but to describe them as portraits of modern grift is an incomplete picture. Together, they compose a limited, loose and imperfect mosaic of a belief system that transcended those roped in by Holmes, Kalanick, the Neumanns or Delvey.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Super Pumped
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Super Pumped. Photograph: Showtime

They’re also part of a larger evolution of workism on television. Showtime’s Billions and HBO’s Industry, both shows about the financial industry which became modest hits in the late 2010s, hinge on the hook of watching (hot) people run their personal lives and morals through the (lucrative) grinder of a hyper-competitive, all-consuming job. HBO’s Succession, one of the most critically acclaimed shows on TV, is about a group of people with absolutely no distinctions between work, personal life and family. In a buzzy New Yorker profile about Succession star Jeremy Strong, the British actor Brian Cox, who plays patriarch Logan Roy, said of Strong’s notoriously intense acting method: “It’s a particularly American disease, I think, this inability to separate yourself off while you’re doing the job.” That’s a good summary of Apple TV+’s current sleeper hit Severance, in which characters undergo a brain procedure that literally separates their work and life selves. Severance is, as the Ringer’s Alison Herman argues, the eerie latest entry in the genre of “uncanny office” shows like Corporate, Better Off Ted or Loki. Call it the mystery-box inverse to the hustle culture show – instead of blurring the lines over an 18-hour day, Severance is an extreme allegory of work-life balance that also points to something sinister in the corporate office.

Which is not to say that all the hustle culture shows work as effective critiques, or as entertainment worth sinking 8-10 hours into. Inventing Anna, as I’ve written previously, is both too credulous of Anna and yet not interested enough in her. In a strange and unrewarding decision, the modern workplace soap master Shonda Rhimes turned the scammer story into a newsroom drama in which a fictionalized journalist, Vivian Kent (loosely based on Jessica Pressler, the New York Magazine writer who reported the definitive Anna Delvey feature in 2018) obsesses over saving her career through Anna’s story. Super Pumped, created by the Billions co-creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien, matches Uber founder Travis Kalanick’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)’s carnivorous business leadership – growth at all costs – with gonzo flourishes (narration from Quentin Tarantino, breaking the fourth wall) that ultimately underscore his self-importance. The Dropout is by far the best of these shows, the only one to nail the tricky balance between the thrill of the scammer and the devastation of their lies.

Naveen Andrews and Amanda Seyfried in The Dropout
Naveen Andrews and Amanda Seyfried in The Dropout. Photograph: Beth Dubber/AP

WeCrashed, created by Drew Crevello and Lee Eisenberg (a writer, producer and director on The Office), has a better grasp on the absurdity of the office setting than one might expect and a compellingly toxic duo in Anne Hathaway’s Rebekah and Jared Leto’s Adam, but comparatively frivolous stakes. Adam seems to convince and succeed by the inexorable rising tide of plot; valuation numbers are batted around with too many zeros to feel consequential. The Hollywood Reporter’s Angie Han called the series “amusing but ultimately inessential”, and I cannot think of a more accurate description.

Part of the appeal and the issue with the hustle culture shows is that they depict a history that is too recent to see clearly and yet too distant, especially since the pandemic cleaved the timeline for many viewers, to feel of the zeitgeist. Still, there is something unsettling about watching WeCrashed, a series which depicts an idea in extremity – the neon “hustle harder” signs and “do what you love” mugs are hustle culture at its most explicit – that is barely out of date. (Full disclosure: in 2019, I worked as a member of the Guardian US at a New York WeWork office.) The Thank God It’s Monday parties and billion-dollar valuations are supposed to seem ridiculous in this 2022 show, and they always were. The haphazard results of these hustle culture shows reflect a culture just beginning to understand that.

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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.

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