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Data Sheet—Thursday, July 21, 2016

It seemed like kind of a goofy video, to be brutally honest—the kind that startup founders and/or small-town used-car salesmen tend to make because they can’t afford to hire a real actor. In it, Dollar Shave Club founder Michael Dubin is seen walking through a warehouse, bragging about how his blades are “f***ing great.”

In fact, the whole concept behind the company seemed kind of ridiculous when it first appeared in 2011. It felt like the kind of offer that might have made sense in the go-go days of the late 1990s, when websites like “Just White Shirts” and “Socks.com” launched and flamed out in a matter of days.

It shouldn’t have worked, but it did—in spades. The company that Dubin started in his apartment in Venice, Calif., was soon selling tens of thousands of blades via a subscription model, something that investors were openly skeptical about when he went for his first round of funding. And now consumer-products giant Unilever has agreed to buy the company for a cool $1 billion in cash (Dubin gets about $90 million of that).

What can we learn from all this? Well, among other things, we can learn that sometimes the startup guy with the funny video actually wins. (To be fair, Dubin did improv comedy for years with Upright Citizens Brigade in New York.) Also, it means the same disruption that started with music and books is coming to the consumer products industry, and innovation like the Dollar Shave Club is part of that.

Mathew Ingram is a senior writer at Fortune. Reach him via email.

THE DOWNLOAD

How Google will help businesses develop their own artificial intelligence software. The tech giant is debuting two new natural language processing tools to help computers understand the written and spoken word. The idea is to spread machine learning beyond the ivory tower of researchers and computer cognoscenti, allowing more developers outside of IT organizations to write applications. Read more about Google’s AI for the rest of us here and here.

 

BITS & BYTES

Intel’s latest financials are a mixed bag. Sales for its traditional products, such as personal computer and tablet microprocessors, slipped 3% to $7.3 billion in the second quarter. On the bright side, its data center business grew 5% to $4 billion. (Reuters)

Elon Musk’s new ‘master plan’ includes trucks and buses. The Tesla founder and CEO shared his ideas (with some timelines and market projections) in a blog post. They also include car-sharing services and a vision for urban transport, aka buses. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)

eBay stalls, while StubHub skyrockets. One year after its split with PayPal, the marketplace recorded pretty flat revenue—$1.5 billion for its second quarter. But its online ticket site is going gangbusters, with sales up 40% to $225 million. (Fortune)

Twitter seeks balance between free speech and trolls. The social media network permanently banned right-wing journalist Milo Yiannopolous (known as @nero) after he unleashed a torrent of racist and sexist comments on his account. Twitter has usually been less restrictive than other networks but it pointed to his pattern of systemic abuse. (Fortune)

Facebook Messenger reaches 1 billion monthly users. That puts it in the world’s top three apps, all of which the social networking company owns. (Reuters)

IBM Watson wants to be your next salesperson at Macy’s. Shoppers in 10 locations can soon use a digital assistant powered by artificial intelligence. (Fortune)

Airbnb retains former U.S. attorney general to curb discrimination. Eric Holder will team up with civil rights attorney John Relman to help the home-sharing site come up with stronger policies. (Fortune)

Billionaire Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel is engaged. Does anyone else find it ironic that fiancée Miranda Kerr announced the news on Instagram? (People)

 

WATCH FOR IT

Peter Thiel addresses Republican convention tonight. The openly gay, Libertarian-leaning billionaire investor is a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, unlike much of Silicon Valley and even though he is at odds with many Republican Party platforms. (Bloomberg, New York Times)

Keep your eyes on PayPal. The digital payments service is due to report its second quarter, with double-digit growth anticipated for revenue ($2.6 billion projected) and customer account additions. Tongues are also wagging about a potential new data-sharing relationship with Visa, the world’s largest payment network. (MarketWatch, Bloomberg)

Anticipate a DirectTV update from AT&T. The telecommunications giant is set to report its second-quarter results late Thursday. Expectations call for about $40.1 billion in revenue, up from $33 billion in the year-earlier period (before the DirectTV acquisition). (Wall Street Journal)

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

What Business Owners Should Be Doing on Instagram, by Debby Carreau

Microsoft’s Fancy New Way to Book Meetings Online, by Jonathan Vanian

Google Adds More Cloud Data Centers, by Barb Darrow

Predicting Your Medical Costs Is Almost Impossible, But Amino’s New Tool Would Change That, by Sy Mukherjee

These 10 Companies Are the Top Cybersecurity Startup Acquirers, by Robert Hackett

This Tiny Startup Is Using Tiny Antennas to Turn Waste Heat Into Electricity, by Katie Fehrenbacher

Why Jordan Spieth Wore ‘Smart’ Golf Shoes at the Open, by John Kell

ONE MORE THING

Join 173,000+ executives and see what’s next in technology, VC, and startups. If you don’t already subscribe to CB Insights’ excellent newsletter, you should. It offers a data-driven, no-fluff view into what’s next in technology, startups, venture capital, and M&A. Check it out here.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.