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At 21, Kylie Jenner Becomes The Youngest Self-Made Billionaire Ever

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In mid-November, Kylie Jenner marked a milestone moment with a visit to a strip mall. For the past three years, her Kylie Cosmetics had only sold its makeup online and briefly in pop up shops.

But after signing an exclusive distribution deal with Ulta, the beauty retailer, Kylie Cosmetics was rolling its $29 lip kits—a matte liquid lipstick and matching lip liner—into Ulta’s 1,000-plus stores.

And Jenner showed up to the Richmond Avenue Ulta in Houston to greet customers, sign autographs on lip kits and, of course, pose for selfies with her fans.

Over the next six weeks, Kylie Cosmetics sold $54.5 million worth of products in Ulta, according to estimates from Oppenheimer. “I popped up at a few stores, I did my usual social media—I did what I usually do, and it just worked,” she says.

READ MORE | From Bitcoin To Bezos, The 18 Best Forbes Stories Of 2018

Fueled in part by the Ulta expansion, Kylie Cosmetics’ revenue climbed 9% last year to an estimated $360 million. With that kind of growth, and even using a conservative multiple from the booming makeup industry, Forbes estimates Jenner’s company is worth at least $900 million. She owns all of it.

Add in the cash Jenner has already pulled from the profitable business, and the 21-year-old is now a billionaire, with an estimated fortune of $1 billion. She’s the youngest-ever self-made billionaire, reaching a ten-figure fortune at a younger age than even Mark Zuckerberg (who was 23 when he hit that mark).

“I didn’t expect anything. I did not foresee the future,” says Jenner, who is the youngest billionaire in the world. “But [the recognition] feels really good. That’s a nice pat on the back.”

The beauty of Kylie Cosmetics, which Jenner started in 2015, is its minuscule overhead—and the outsize profits that go straight into Jenner’s pocket. Her empire consists of just seven full-time and five part-time employees. Manufacturing and packaging is outsourced to Seed Beauty, a private-label producer in nearby Oxnard, California. Sales and fulfillment are handled by online merchant Shopify.

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How This Billionaire-Backed Crypto Startup Gets Paid To Not Mine Bitcoin

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It’s everyone’s dream to get paid to do nothing. Bitcoin miner Layer1 is turning that dream into reality — having figured out how to make money even when its machines are turned off. 

Layer1 is a cryptocurrency startup backed by the likes of billionaire Peter Thiel. In recent months, out in the hardscrabble land of west Texas, the company has been busy erecting steel boxes (think shipping containers) stuffed chockablock with high-end processors submerged inside cooling baths of mineral oil. Why west Texas? Beause thanks to a glut of natural gas and a forest of wind turbines, power there is among the cheapest in the world — which is what you need for crypto. 

“Mining Bitcoin is about converting electricity into money,” says Alex Liegl, CEO and co-founder. By this fall Layer1 will have dozens of these boxes churning around the clock to transform 100 megawatts into a stream of Bitcoin. Liegl says their average cost of production is about $1,000 per coin — equating to a 90% profit margin at current BTC price of $9,100. 

So it’s odd how excited Liegl is about the prospect of having to shut down his Bitcoin miners this summer. 

Already this year west Texas has seen a string of 100-degree days. But the real heat and humidity don’t hit until August, which is when the Texas power grid strains under the load of every air conditioning unit in the state going full blast. During an intense week in 2019, wholesale electricity prices in the grid region managed by the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) soared from about $120 per megawatthour to peak out at $9,000 per mwh. It was only the third time in history that Texas power hit that level. And although the peak pricing only lasted an hour or so, that’s enough to generate big profits. Analyst Hugh Wynne at research outfit SSR figures that Texas power generators make about 15% of annual revenues during the peak 1% of hours (whereas in more temperate California grid generators only get 3% of revs from the top 1%).

Turns out that running a phalanx of Bitcoin miners is a great way to arbitrage those peaks. Layer1 has entered into so-called “demand response” contracts whereby at a minute’s notice they will shut down all their machines and instead allow their 100 mw load to flow onto the grid. “We act as an insurance underwriter for the energy grid,” says Liegl, 27. “If there is an insufficiency of supply we can shut down.” The best part, they get paid whether a grid emergeny occurs or not. Just for their willingness to shut in Bitcoin production, Layer1 collects an annual premium equating to $19 per megawatthour of their expected power demand — or about $17 million. Given Layer1’s roughly $25 per mwh long-term contracted costs, this gets their all-in power price down 75% to less than 1 cent per kwh (just 10% of what residential customers pay). 

It may seem like grid operators are paying Layer1 a lot for something that might not even happen, especially with coronavirus reducing electricity demand, but it makes total sense, says Ed Hirs, a lecturer in energy economics at the University of Houston and research fellow at consultancy BDO: “It’s a lot cheaper option than building a whole new power plant or battery system just to keep it on standby.” 

And although this may be a new concept for cryptocurrency miners, it’s been done before. Two decades ago industrialist Charles Hurwitz bought up power-hogging aluminum smelters in the Pacific Northwest and made more money reselling electricity than making metal. “It used to be called load management,” says Dan Delurey, a consultant with Wedgemere Group. “In old commercial buildings you might still find telephone wires connected to air conditioning systems so that grid operators could send a signal to shut off.” More recently we’ve seen companies install radio-based devices to control hot water heaters and lighting systems. Indeed, grid management is a hot enough area that in 2017 Italy’s power giant Enel bought Boston-based Enernoc for $250 million and Itron ITRI bought Comverge for $100 million. What’s emerged are entities, like Layer1, that Delurey calls the “prosumer” — producing consumer. 

As for Layer1, Liegl says his next step is to vertically integrate into financial products, including Bitcoin derivatives and more. “We are building an in-house energy trading division to leverage this into being a virtual power plant.” 

His message to any pikers still trying to mine cryptocurrencies from their bedroom PC or even via cloud services: “I can’t think of something more irrational at this point. It’s like if I wanted to dig a hole in my backyard and try to get oil out of the ground.” 

Christopher Helman, Forbes Staff, Energy

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Jeff Bezos ‘Trillionaire’ Is Trending On Twitter. Here’s Why

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TOPLINE Jeff Bezos’ wealth suddenly caught Twitter’s attention on Wednesday amid ‘claims’ that the world’s richest man is set to become a trillionaire, in part thanks to pandemic-driven demand that has sent Amazon stock soaring.

KEY FACTS

  • Bezos was trending on Twitter on Wednesday after a months-old study by small business advice platform, Comparisun, resurfaced, claiming that Bezos net worth could reach $1 trillion by 2026.
  • The company analyzed the market cap of the highest valued firms on the New York Stock Exchange, as well as Forbes’ 25 richest people. Chinese real estate billionaire Xu Jiayin is second on the study’s list.
  • But Bezos has a long way to go to become the world’s first trillionaire. At the time of publication, Forbes values the 56-year-old’s net worth to be $143 billion. He owns a 11.2% stake in Amazon, and his wealth has surged upwards from around $125 billion in March.
  • Amazon is predicted to be one of the winners of the pandemic as demand for online shopping, streaming and delivery services flies.
  • Sales in the first three months of the year topped $75 billion, up from $60 billion in 2019. The potential for a second wave of the virus and further lockdowns could keep that demand high.
  • Bezos joined Forbes’ list of 400 richest Americans in 1998, four years after he founded Amazon, and had a net worth of $1.6 billion at the time.

KEY BACKGROUND

Amazon AMZN shares are up more than 28% so far this year. But the company is now up against “the hardest time” it has ever faced, Bezos said in April. The company predicted operating profits of $4 billion in the three months to June, but is now committing that entire amount to “COVID-related expenses” such as higher wages for hourly teams, buying up personal protective equipment for staff, and developing coronavirus testing facilities.

The company has been under fire from former employees—both office staff and warehouse workers—for allegedly silencing them after they spoke out about a lack of protection against the virus. Amazon has let go a number of employees, claiming that they breached company policy. 

TANGENT

In February, Bezos pocketed $3.1 billion after selling $4 billion worth of Amazon shares since January.

Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, Business

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Facebook Will Pay Out $52 Million After Failing To Protect Moderators From Dangers Of Extreme Content

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TOPLINE Former Facebook moderators will receive at least $1,000 each after Facebook agreed to pay $52 million to settle a lawsuit over allegedly failing to protect moderators being exposed to harmful content online.

KEY FACTS

  • Moderators were exposed to the worst types of content online including terrorism, pedophilia and animal abuse. They were hired by Facebook through third-party firms.
  • The settlement covers more than 11,000 current and former moderators across California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. It was filed at San Mateo County Superior Court on Friday.
  • Plaintiffs who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, including PTSD, qualify for additional compensation of up to $50,000.
  • The social media giant says it will change its policies in response to the case, and introduce compulsory group counseling sessions for moderators, while third-party firms will be required to step up support for moderators’ mental health.

CRUCIAL COMMENT

Lawyer Steve Williams, representing the plaintiffs, told The Guardian: “The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe. So the fact that we got some real, meaningful relief going forward just feels really good.”

KEY BACKGROUND

Facebook was sued in September 2018 by former content moderator Selena Scola, who developed PTSD after nine months in the job, thanks to regular exposure to images of rape and murder. The scale of the mental toll on moderators was exposed by The Verge last year. The outlet reported that some Facebook content moderators working for IT firm Cognizant CTSH in Arizona had developed fringe views after exposure to extreme right-wing and conspiracy theorist content, while some had developed PTSD. To cope, some moderators at the firm smoked weed to numb their emotions, while being paid just $28,800 a year. A Guardian report last year found that moderators for Facebook based in Berlin were becoming addicted to extreme content, were overworked and paid little. 

Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, Business

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