START-UP FINANCING REALITIES
New analysis from Crunchbase on 15,600 US-based technology companies founded between 2003 and 2013 is a stark reminder of how tough it is take a company from seed stage to a big exit using other people's money. As the chart below illustrates, 60% of companies don't even get from seed stage to Series A. Another 18% or so don't get to Series B and then it starts to flatten out. One wonders how this looks for companies just focused on the IoT space. We expect follow-up rounds will be less likely where there is not a solid business model showing long-term recurring revenue.
FOCUS ON ANALYTICS IN AUTO
We are seeing signs that analytics/machine learning/AI are increasingly important at old industrial giants. Like many of the big auto companies, Ford Motor is preparing for a global downturn in auto sales and just announced layoffs for 1,400 people by September. Specifically excluded is anyone working in analytics and information technology. The auto giant also signaled some of its future intentions in technology with the sudden replacement of CEO Mark Fields, who made the company money, but was essentially a car guy. The new guy Jim Hackett is less of a car guy, more of a tech guy and more capable of managing an old company through the coming disruption of AI/machine learning/IoT.
GROWING ROLE OF THE CAMERA IN AI
According to TechCrunch, artificial intelligence needs visual data, not just words, to have human skills. Quipped the "Internet of Eyes", this points to a future where all inanimate objects will have the ability to see. One of the first to experiment with this is Amazon with its Echo Look which will allow customers to buy products via selfies rather than typed searches. Amazon will use the visual data to teach their artificial intelligence algorithms to learn our favorite clothes, styles and products. Google is expected to follow soon with a camera on their Assistant which will probably communicate with Nest and Dropcam.
CAN UBER REALLY DO TRUCKING?
With all of its recent travails, you wouldn't think Uber was ready to disrupt another entire sector of the economy. But the company just launched Uber Freight with the brazen idea that it can take on the complex world of trucking. Uber Freight is an app which matches trucking companies with loads, in theory reducing the wait time between loads and reducing the empty miles between drop off and pick up. Uber also says its going to speed up load payments to within a few days to help truckers manage cash. While it is true that there is still a lot of inefficiency in long haul trucking, there has been a lot of improvement over the last decade with satellite tracking of trucks, sophisticated routing optimization software, and digitization of freight invoices. Most of Uber's initial opportunity will be with smaller independent trucking firms which don't have access to load optimization tools. These don't represent the bulk of irregular route truckload carriage.
Agricultural drone developer American Robotics has snagged $1.1 million in seed funding from angel investors including Brain Robotics Capital LLC. Founded by alumni of Carnegie Mellon and Stanford, the company intends to use aerial imaging to help farmers reduce damage to crops from drought, disease, and pests.
High-flying smart fitness bicycle maker Peloton has raised another $325 million in a Series E round valuing the company at $1.25 billion. Expect to see a lot more of their $1,000-plus sensored machines in homes and fitness clubs.
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