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Recode Daily: How to build a huge consumer brand without venture capital

Plus, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen raises $160,000 on GoFundMe; new developments are sprouting from old Sears stores; your Elon Musk-read of the day.

A Tuft & Needle mattress in a bedroom Tuft & Needle

You don’t need venture capital to build a $100 million consumer brand: Recode Senior Editor Jason Del Rey goes inside the rise of direct-to-consumer giants MVMT (a watch startup recently acquired by Movado), Native (deodorant, purchased by Procter & Gamble) and Tuft & Needle (mattresses, merged with Serta Simmons) that just said no to inflated investor offers as they bootstrapped and scaled. The result: Nine-figure acquisition deals where the founders and employees owned the entire company, or close to it. Is this a better model for consumer startups? [Jason Del Rey / Recode]

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In his first tweet of the day yesterday, President Trump accused Google’s search platform of elevating news stories critical of his presidency and suppressing friendly conservative voices, adding to the growing scrutiny of tech giants from policy makers. Trump tweeted on Tuesday that Google search results for the words “Trump news” returned results primarily from liberal media outlets, adding that Google’s practices are a “very serious situation” that “will be addressed.” A Google rep said its search results aren’t biased toward any particular political ideology. [Vivian Salama and Douglas MacMillan / The Wall Street Journal]

Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has raised $160,000 on a GoFundMe page titled “Michael Cohen Truth Fund.” Cohen’s money beg joins a growing number of #Resistance crowdfunding accounts that have racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for figures who have been spurned by Trump, including Stormy Daniels ($600,000), Andrew McCabe ($500,000) and Peter Strzok ($450,000). [Emily Stewart / Vox]

Big-city housing doesn’t have to be so expensive. Bringing down prices will require a combination of affordable homes and upzoning. One recent success story: Google’s hometown of Mountain View, Calif., which approved a construction plan for 10,000 homes and insisted that developers make 15 percent of the homes affordable. [Peter Coy / Bloomberg Businessweek]

Some of the world’s leading human rights groups are calling on Google to cancel its plan to launch a censored version of its search version in China. A coalition of 14 organizations — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Electronic Frontier Foundation — issued the demand in an open letter addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. The groups said the censored search engine represents “an alarming capitulation by Google on human rights” and could result in the company “directly contributing to, or [becoming] complicit in, human rights violations.” [Ryan Gallagher / The Intercept]

As the venerable department store chain Sears withers, expansive new developments are rising from its former retail locations. Three years ago, Sears sold about 235 stores to Seritage Growth Properties, a spinoff company that was created to convert Sears and Kmart locations into more valuable uses like offices and restaurants. Seritage recently converted part of a former Sears into an REI, the outdoor gear retailer; a Shake Shack and an urgent care center have also moved onto the property. [Michael Corkery / The New York Times]

Memes are not all lolz, Pepes and trollfaces — they can be weaponized, but they can also be a force for good. Here’s a look at how the “emotional contagion” of the most successful memes “strike a societal, cultural chord” and can be a potent cocktail for self-reflection as tools that can guide and even influence behavior. Meanwhile, someone has found a bright side of the game Grand Theft Auto — it has become a powerful tool for music discovery. [Allie Volpe / The Verge]

Your Elon Musk-read for the day: In the Tesla chief’s world, brakes are for cars, not CEOs. [David Gelles / The New York Times]

Recode Presents ...

Glossier’s Emily Weiss and NYU’s Scott Galloway are coming to Code Commerce to share their insights into the present and future of retail. Galloway, the author of “The Four,” will kick off the event with an overview of the trends shaping retail today as well as what comes next — expect lots of smart predictions. And Weiss will talk about her company’s heavy investments in digital products that she believes will make Glossier a go-to destination in the future for women — even when they’re not shopping. They’ll join an already impressive slate of speakers, including the founders and C-suite execs from companies such as Shopify, Macy’s, Chobani, Instacart, Square, Instagram, Away, Flipkart and more. Attendees also get behind-the-scenes tours inside retailers and brands like Macy’s, Casper, PayPal and Flight Club. The New York City event is happening Sept. 17 and 18; register today before it sells out.

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Silicon Valley has been treating workers “miserably” since the 1970s. On the latest episode of Recode Decode, “Temp” author Louis Hyman says the tech sector made labor disposable long before the “gig economy” was a thing.

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The 25-year journey of Magic: The Gathering, the game that went viral — offline. Extra-credit reading: The wizarding, mermaiding, cosplaying haven of Epic Nerd Camp.

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