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The British government has opened a six-month probe into Nvidia’s takeover of the Cambridge, England-based chip designer Arm on national security grounds.
The $40 billion deal to buy the semiconductor businesses that helps power smartphones, tablets and countless other devices from SoftBank was announced in September 2020 but now faces a gauntlet of antitrust reviews to be approved.
The U.K.’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced on Tuesday that it would push for the British antitrust regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), to run a six-month in-depth review of the deal on competition and national security grounds.
The deal had already been flagged by the CMA in January over fears that Nvidia’s takeover would lead to its rival losing access to Arm’s innovative chips that power Apple, Samsung and Sony devices, while the U.S., China and the European Union have also opened competition probes.
“Arm has a unique place in the global technology supply chain and we must make sure the implications of this transaction are fully considered. The CMA will now report to me on competition and national security grounds and provide advice on the next steps,” Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said in a statement. “The government’s commitment to our thriving tech sector is unwavering and we welcome foreign investment, but it is right that we fully consider the implications of this transaction.”
The deal has been opposed by Google, Microsoft and chipmaker Qualcomm, who argued that takeover would threaten Arm’s position as the “Switzerland of the chips’ licensing to powerful and energy-saving technology to virtually all the world’s major chipmakers and smartphone producers, according to Bloomberg.
The new delay will be a blow to Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang and SoftBank, which bought Arm for $32 billion in 2016. Nvidia was once famous for its video games’ graphic chips, but its focus on powering data centers has helped catapult the business to a $757 billion market cap, with its shares up more than 500% since the Arm deal was announced in September 2020.
Williams, Elisa (April 15, 2002). “Crying wolf”. Forbes. Retrieved February 11, 2017. Huang, a chip designer at AMD and LSI Logic, cofounded the company in 1993 with $20 million from Sequoia Capital and others.
Last August, Alex Hernandez found herself in the market for a new piece of furniture. Holed up in her Miami studio apartment, the 31-year-old executive assistant had grown weary of her “cheap and basic-looking” Ikea couch. She shopped around online and found a new one she liked — but it was a designer brand that was out of her price range.
So she opted for a makeover instead. She spiced things up with a set of mid-century modern legs ($70) and a new cover ($120) from an Ikea customization website. The project cost Hernandez about one-tenth of the designer version she’d had her eye on and it saved an old piece of furniture from the landfill.
This type of upcycling, called Ikea hacking, has been on the rise during the pandemic. And for companies that sell custom Ikea-friendly fixtures — legs, couch covers, knobs, and cabinet doors — business is booming.
What the heck is Ikea hacking?
Ikea has achieved the kind of scale and brand recognition that most companies can only dream of. With ~$44B in annual revenue, 445 retail stores, and 217k employees, the Sweden-based company is the world’s largest home furnishings retailer, enjoying a stranglehold on the ready-to-assemble furniture market.
In many countries, 50%+ of the population owns at least one Ikea product. In a way, Ikea is kind of like the Bitcoin of furniture: the company uses universal designs, meaning its hardware and measurements are uniform across most of the developed world.
And folks who want to add some pizzazz to their mass-produced Billy bookcases and Kallax shelf units have no shortage of customization options to choose from online. Broadly, Ikea hacking is any form of upgrading, customizing, repurposing, or personalizing a piece of stock Ikea furniture.
The movement gained steam in the mid-2000s, when popular DIY blogs like Ikea Hackers and Instructables began offering up easy, affordable tweaks to popular items like Billy bookcases and Kallax shelf units. At first, Ikea wasn’t a fan of people customizing its furniture and even sent Ikea Hackers a cease and desist. But since then, the company has embraced its hackers.
And over the past decade, this once small and wacky community has burgeoned into a full-fledged industry. Nearly every social media platform abounds with Ikea hacking content:
Reddit: r/Ikeahacks boasts 76k subscribers and has grown 400% in the past 5 years
Within this broader ecosystem, certain Ikea products have earned a cult following in niche communities. Plant enthusiasts use Fabrikör cabinets to make their own indoor greenhouses. Photographers convert Schottis shades into DIY lightboxes. Parents transform Flisat tables into sensory stations for toddlers. Some have even crafted sex toys out of Ikea shoe trees and milk frothers.
In a survey of 1,206 readers of The Hustle, half of all respondents said they had heard of the concept of Ikea hacking — and 43% said they’d engaged in the practice at some point. In our survey, readers had no shortage of their own creative new uses for old Ikea furniture:
Jordan Elgie (musician, Ontario) turned an Ikea shelf into an electric guitar pedalboard.
Peter Sanderson (sales director, Rhode Island) converted an Ikea headboard into a dog gate for his Rottweiler puppy.
Randy Hees (museum director, Colorado) built a floor-to-ceiling library using 26 Ikea bookcases.
Rick Moore (film technician, Vancouver) transformed an Ikea butcher block cart into a wine rack.
Laurel Choate (literary agent, New York) made a kitchen island out of Ikea shelves, legs, and a countertop.
During the pandemic, an increase in remote work and time spent at home has led to a DIY remodel boom — and a surge in Ikea hacks. Among our respondents, 69% said they had bought new furniture during the pandemic, and 38% said they had updated an existing piece of furniture.
“We disassembled a cheap Ikea table, painted it a new color, and bought new legs to make it more mid-century modern,” says Zoë Kronovet, a digital marketing manager in North Carolina. “We also bought a $300 velvet midnight-blue cover for a basic Ikea couch to give it a new life.”
Like Kronovet, the majority of Ikea hackers stick to simple aesthetic changes: new knobs on a dresser, a new set of legs on a table, or new cabinet doors — little touches to shake things up. And they have no shortage of options to choose from.
The Ikea hacking industry
When on the hunt to revamp old Ikea wares, prospective customers often turn to a cottage industry of e-commerce startups — mostly female-owned — that specialize in Ikea customization:
On Etsy, you’ll find dozens of smaller companies hawking handmade legs, brass knobs, shelf inserts, and sofa covers specifically crafted to fit Ikea furniture lines.
Monica Born quit her copywriting gig 10 years ago to found Superfront with her husband Mick, after noticing that many of her friends in Sweden were commissioning their own pricey Ikea replacement doors from local carpenters.
In Sweden, where 90% of residents own Ikea furniture, she sensed an opportunity to streamline and normalize the customization process.Today, the business offers cabinet doors, handles, and legs compatible with Ikea’s 4 best-selling furniture lines.
Born says the company is on track to hit ~$8m in annual sales this year — a 50% bump from last year. “It’s becoming more and more [common] to tell your dinner guests that you repurposed something,” she says. “It’s cool to say, ‘We thought it was crazy to throw away that piece of Ikea furniture so we redesigned it instead.’”
Jana Kagin left a career in psychology to launch the Stockholm-based Ikea customizer Prettypegs in 2012. “Ikea is such a huge part of Sweden’s DNA — it’s in our breast milk,” she says. “But a lot of people want to differentiate from the mass-produced. We offer a more affordable option by pairing DIY with high-end design.”
As an example, she cites a customer who was able to reconstruct a $1.5k West Elm console for $288 using a set of Prettypegs legs ($60), knobs ($28), and a bit of DIY handiwork.
Demand is so high, she says, that it’s been hard to keep items in stock. “When we first started, we thought, ‘It’s just furniture legs, it’s not rocket science!’ But everything becomes rocket science as a business scales,” she says. “Logistics, hardware, packaging, lacquer, paint — there are so many moving parts that have strained supply chains right now.”
While many of these companies are based in Sweden, some entrepreneurs have found success focusing on the US market. Lotta Lundaas, the founder of Norse Interiors, based in New York City, says her company is on track to hit $1m in sales just 3 years after launching — a 3x increase year-over-year.
Lundaas leveraged her background as an online marketer to identify which Ikea products to offer custom cabinet doors for, reverse engineering the company’s best sellers by looking at search volume data.
The Copenhagen-based startup Reform has taken a different route. Launched in 2014 with the aim of customizing Ikea kitchen cabinets, the company has since moved into offering its own product lines. But it has trouble keeping its prices appealing to the Ikea demographic.
“It’s hard to match Ikea’s economies of scale,” says Scott Bird, the company’s managing director. “They sell some of their products at a price that’s lower than what we can even source them for.”
But these economies of scale come with a price.
An antidote to ‘fast furniture’
Beyond design, Ikea hacking aims to tackle a larger problem: the scourge of so-called “fast furniture.”
In the 1950s, furniture was seen as a generational investment that would last decades. Today, the average couch lasts just 6 years. Each year, Americans discard 20m tons of furniture — a figure that has doubled in the last decade.
Ikea — a company that uses 1% of the world’s entire wood supply and has encouraged customers to frequently replace furniture in the past — is at the center of this problem.
Part of the stated mission of Ikea hacking, and the upcycling movement at large, is to extend the lifespan of furniture.
In its own independent research, Prettypegs found that a simple design change could result in a person keeping a piece of furniture 20% longer. The company estimates that it has helped customers hold on to 19k pieces of Ikea furniture, saving 179 tons of CO2 emissions.
Consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of their purchases: In our survey, 60% of respondents said eco-friendliness is an important consideration when buying home furnishings.
A report by the Retail Industry Leaders Association found that:
93% of global consumers expect the brands they use to address and consider environmental issues
American consumers will spend up to 20%more on products that are environmentally friendly.
For its part, Ikea has announced buy-back programs and plans to be “climate positive” by 2030. But for consumers who already have a house full of Ikea furniture, a little redesigning and repurposing may be the greenest course of action.
“We’re all in the business of making Ikea products last longer,” says Cagin, of Prettypegs. “We want to turn fast furniture into slow furniture.”
IKEA is a conglomerate that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen appliances and home accessories, among other goods and home services. Founded in Sweden in 1943 by 17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA has been the world’s largest furniture retailer since 2008. The brand used by the group is an acronym that consists of the founder’s initials, and those of Elmtaryd, the family farm where he was born, and the nearby village Agunnaryd (his hometown in Småland, southern Sweden).
The group is known for its modernist designs for various types of appliances and furniture, and its interior design work is often associated with an eco-friendly simplicity. In addition, the firm is known for its attention to cost control, operational details, and continuous product development that has allowed IKEA to annually lower its prices by an average of two to three percent.
INGKA Holding B.V., based in the Netherlands, owns the IKEA Group, which takes care of the centers, retails, customer fulfillment, and all the other services related to IKEA products. The IKEA brand is owned and managed by Inter IKEA Systems B.V., based in the Netherlands, owned by Inter IKEA Holding B.V. Inter IKEA Holding is also in charge of design, manufacturing and supply of IKEA products.
“Company news: IKEA”. The Globe and Mail. 11 March 1988. p. B8. North America’s first IKEA store is closing. The Swedish furniture chain, whose Dartmouth, N.S., store opened in 1975, said it is shutting the doors on the store and warehouse in six months, putting 50 people out of work.
Famed architect Balkrishna Doshi, also known as B.V. Doshi, won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize on Tuesday, making him the first Indian to do so in the award’s 40-year history. The Pritzker Prize is often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture.
Doshi, 90, designed renowned buildings throughout his home country of India, with an emphasis on public institutions and economical housing. Some of his most famous structures include the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore and the Aranya Low Cost Housing complex in the city of Indore. Asked about his architecture philosophy by NPR, Doshi said: “Architecture is a backdrop for life.”
“I think it is very, very significant that this award has come to India — of course to me, but to India,” Doshi added in an interview with CNN. “The government, officials, those who take decisions, cities – everyone will start thinking that there is something called ‘good architecture’ [and that] lasting things can happen. [Only] then can we start talking about urbanization and urban design.”
To celebrate Doshi’s Pritzker Architecture Prize, take a look at some of the buildings he designed throughout his half-century career.
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