Oui Are Not Pleased!

Happy first day of February, Roca Riders. 2 members of the Roca team are currently in a car heading to Punxsutawney, PA for an exclusive interview with the handler of *drum roll* Punxsutawney Phil, the Groundhog Day groundhog. The handler apparently speaks groundhog-ese, so if you know any groundhog slang, lend us a hand — or paw.

In today's edition:

  • Dodo coming back from the dead?

  • Parrot gets owner in big trouble

  • Burger King in Ethiopia

 🔑 Key Stories

DC’s Super Plan

  • Since 2008, Marvel has released 30 movies that made a cumulative $28B+ in revenue, leading all other franchises by $10B+ and making it the most profitable movie franchise of all time

  • Since 2004, DC Studios has released 22 films for a cumulative $11.6B. Last Oct., it appointed 2 new CEOs to help revive its brand and boost income

  • On Monday, the duo announced that DC will release 5 major films and 5 new series beginning in 2025 to jumpstart the universe. The first film will be Superman: Legacy

Dig Deeper

  • The DC Universe's characters includes Batman, Superman, The Green Arrow, Aquaman, and the Flash; Marvel's include Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Spiderman, and Captain America

  • DC's highest-grossing movie is Aquaman; Marvel has the Avengers, Spiderman, Black Panther... the list goes on

Dodo Coming Back from the Dead?

A US startup announced it raised $150M in funding to “de-extinct” the dodo bird, among other things

  • The dodo was a large, flightless bird found only on Mauritius, an Indian Ocean island. Hunters and invasive species drove it to extinction in the 1600s

  • The startup, Colossal Biosciences, claims it has the world’s only high-quality dodo DNA sample. They say they’re developing the tech to modify the DNA of a modern bird, like a pigeon, to reflect dodo traits

  • Colossal, which is reportedly worth ~$1.5B, said last March it’ll bring back the woolly mammoth, and last August that it’ll do the same for the Tasmanian tiger

Dig Deeper

US Oil Companies Claim Record Profits

ExxonMobil, the US’ largest oil company, reported a record $56B in profit last year

  • Chevron, the US’ 2nd-largest oil company, also reported a record $35.5B in profit. Collectively, they made $91B, smashing the 2 companies’ combined previous record ($71B of profits in 2012)

  • Last year, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine resulted in sanctions and geopolitical uncertainty that caused energy prices to spike

  • President Biden and others have accused the companies of “war profiteering,” or taking advantage of the war; they say they’re investing to increase output

Dig Deeper

  • Exxon made ~$6.3M in profit every hour last year

  • Analysts expect the oil companies to use the profits to reward shareholders with dividends (pay-outs) and stock buybacks, a process wherein the company buys its own stock to push up the price

1.3M French People March in Protest

On Tuesday, ~1.3M French people marched to protest retirement reform

  • In France, current workers pay for retirees’ benefits. But the country’s population is aging and living longer, putting pressure on that system

  • France’s government has said that the current system isn’t sustainable. To fix that, it has proposed raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 by this fall

  • The proposal’s supporters say doing so is the only way to maintain current benefits without raising taxes

  • But polls show up to 70% of French people oppose the change, prompting many to strike and protest

Dig Deeper

Take the first step towards a better, happier you

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  • Best of all, their therapy sessions are convenient and affordable, so you can get the help you need without breaking the bank. On average, insured members pay a $20-or-lower copay

  • Why Talkspace? They offer a variety of ways to access therapy, including through text, voice, and video, so you can get the care you need, on your own terms

  • Talkspace’s therapy help is available to you every day, any time of day. So you can make mental health a part of your daily routine, no matter what’s on your calendar 

Dig Deeper

  • With plans starting as low as $69/week, you don’t have to sacrifice a healthy mind for a healthy budget. (We call that a win!) Sign up today and use promo code SPACE for $100 off your first session

🍿 Popcorn



👇 What do you think?

Today's Question

Better February holiday?

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Today's Question:

What is a widely hated food that you love?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

Roca co-founder Max Frost and writer Alex Norris spent 2.5 weeks in Ethiopia earlier this month. Frost will be writing about it here in the coming newsletters. 

Jetlagged, dehydrated, and running on 5 hours of sleep, we flew from eastern Ethiopia back to the capital, Addis Ababa. On the way to the hotel, we saw something wonderful: The neon lights of a Burger King.

We stopped in – then noticed the prices were off: A dozen nuggets cost $16, a Whopper Meal $12, a Big King XXL sandwich $18. 

For context, the average Ethiopian’s income is less than $3 a day, and a normal restaurant meal for 2 costs $3 to $6.

Despite the absurd prices, it was late and we needed to eat, so we each bought a Whopper. I tried to pay with a credit card, but the cashier told me they didn’t accept them. “Sorry, sir. It’s our soft opening.” 

As it turned out, this was Ethiopia’s first Burger King, and it had only been open for 3 days. Beyond that, we learned that the country’s first credit card had just launched in November.

But why was Burger King so expensive?

For one thing, Ethiopia is landlocked, with high taxes and little industry. It has to import much of what it needs, so things are expensive.

But a lot also has to do with the currency, the Ethiopian birr. Ethiopia has a managed exchange rate, meaning the government sets the price of a dollar and all traders must follow it. Officially, $1 buys 53.6 birr, and that’s the exchange rate at any ATM, bank, or other legal exchange.

But those who can avoid using legal exchanges do. Everywhere in the country, there are illegal – black market – traders. When exchanging with them, a dollar is worth up to 100 birr. That means that if you have dollars, you are twice as powerful in the economy. 

As an example: At Burger King, the Whopper meal cost 650 birr. If I went to the ATM and pulled the cash out, the rate would be ~54 to a dollar. The Whopper costs ~$12. 

But on the black market I can buy 100 birr per dollar. Now the Whopper costs $6.50 – not so bad. 

Currency gaps like this can lead to major distortions in an economy. All one has to do to make money is get access to dollars, then they can buy them for 54 birr, sell them for 100, and keep the profit. People told us that corrupt government officials and banks will strike deals to do that. 

An example of how this can work in practice: If I’m an Ethiopian businessperson, I can go to the bank and say I need $1,000,000 to import televisions. In reality, I need $500,000. The bank agrees to sell me $1,000,000, with the understanding that I’ll give them a kickback. So I get $1,000,000 at a cost of 54 birr per dollar, then buy $500,000 of TVs, give the bank $100,000, and keep the $400,000 or sell it on the black market for 100 birr a piece. 

Another economic distortion we saw: All over Ethiopia, there are lines at gas stations, often with dozens of vehicles. In one place a truck driver saw us with the camera and yelled at us to tell people “about the gas crisis.” He had been waiting for hours to get gas so he could deliver a shipment. 

Gas stations around Ethiopia have run out of gas. People told us a few things may be causing the shortage. 

The Ethiopian government influences gas prices, and they had recently signaled that they might raise them in the coming month. So people went to the gas stations and bought all the gas they could, either to save money or to resell it. 

As with the currency, the fixed price creates a black market. So people buy gas at the government rate, then sell it at the higher black market rate. 

And finally, the Ethiopian government lets public transport operators – including taxis, buses, and vans – buy subsidized gas. So those drivers buy up the gas and resell it at higher prices. 

Whatever the cause, Ethiopia faces a “gas crisis” and a messed up currency. 


6 AM the day after we ate our Burger King, a driver named Danny picked us up at our hotel. We paid him a deposit – in dollars – for the upcoming week’s trip; he drove right to a black market dealer and flipped the dollars into birr. 

Then we began a 6-day road trip to rural Ethiopia that would prove the most unforgettable part of the trip.  

If you have thoughts, let us know at [email protected]!

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Are aliens real? 👽 

Yes: 64%No: 36%

Yesterday's Question:

What is something you can justify splurging on?

Jean from Missouri: “Mattress, bedding and pillows because you spend a third of your life in bed!” 

Frank from West Virginia: “Myself, splurging on myself now and again because why else should I keep working so hard.”

Bill from Texas: “Prime grade steaks. We only eat red meat once a week, and spending a few extra dollars for a better grade seems reasonable.”

🧠 Final Thoughts

We are absolutely stoked about 2 things: 

1) The response to the Ethiopia content in this newsletter. It's been the best feedback of any roadtrip yet

2) The response to our app beta, which went out to the first test group yesterday

THANK YOU all. Let's RIDE!

–Max and Max