Hello and welcome to the Daily Crunch for Friday, February 11, 2022! Today we’re talking big rockets, self-driving cars, tech stocks being valued, and much more. It’s a fun and good mix of news. To enjoy! – Alex
Ploonge top 3
- Rocket, or great steam phallus? At an event about SpaceX’s massive starship launch system, more questions were left open than closed, it seems. Ploonge’s Darrell Etherington has a good description of the latter, but at this point it seems the market was expecting little more than a dramatic backdrop and a new video discussing potentials.
- Affirm’s Defeat Not Great for BNPL Startups: Regular readers of the Daily Crunch have seen more rounds of funding and product news from start-ups buy now, pay later than they would like to remember. The BNPL startup money-sucking business has been a global venture capital parlor game for the past few quarters. So our eyebrows got higher when Affirm, a publicly listed US BNPL leader, saw a large chunk of its value forfeit after its forward guidance failed to excite investors. What does this mean for related startups? Not good.
- How Texas Became a Bitcoin Mining Hub: Tracing the US electrical grid as I do – I am, of course, a lot of fun at dinner parties – the fact that bitcoin mining is booming in Texas, a state that has its own electrical grid, is in the back of my mind For a moment. Fortunately, Leigh Cuen explored the why behind the trend. And no, it’s not just the result of China pushing miners out of its own borders.
- Chinese AVs Coming to San Francisco: We talk about China and self-driving cars in general below, but first, a new item. AutoX, a Chinese company that works on AVs, is bringing its technology to San Francisco. SF is not just a market where a lot of tech people live, making it a place close to home to test. It’s also a compact and complex city, making it something of a testing ground for autonomous driving technology.
- Redroute raises $6.5M for voice-driven customer support: I’m not going to lie, when I call a company and get an automated service I want to throw my cell phone into the sea. But maybe I’m just out of date. Redroute is building what it calls an “Alexa-like experience” for answering customer calls. Given that Alexa isn’t even that good at setting a timer, I’m not sure how much I love this view, but investors seem to like it.
- More capital for mental health technology: Flush with a Series B of $16.7 million, Korean startup Atommerce’s work to connect individuals with “mental health professionals through the MiNDCAFE mobile app” is on the wane. The market for these companies has been quite active lately, making the Atommerce round the opposite of a surprise.
And the first live Equity recording of the year was this week, which was a lot of fun. You can catch the episode here!
What is driving China’s autonomous vehicle frenzy?
Every new technology needs evangelists to drive adoption and raise money: a straight line connects Steve Jobs’ Apple launch announcements with Thomas Edison’s public incandescent light and alternating current demonstrations.
In China, the central government is the biggest driver of the autonomous vehicle industry, which “experienced an unprecedented period of acceleration in 2021, with more than US$8.5 billion invested”, reports Rita Liao.
According to Hongquan Jiang, chairman and managing partner of Boyuan Capital, “Chinese regulators prioritize safety. They would gladly add a few more sensors to provide more redundancy so companies can test more advanced solutions like cars without safety drivers.”
(Ploonge+ is our membership program, which helps startup founders and teams progress. You can apply here.)
Big Tech Inc.
- Naturally, Netflix Is Making a Crypto Movie: Remember that $3.6 billion hack that was solved earlier this week to the internet’s delight? Yes, Netflix has commissioned a movie on the subject. How high are our hopes for its future quality? Almost as high as the security that allowed the epic hack in the first place.
- And to wrap up our news week, one more antitrust issue for Google in Europe. At this point, I’ve lost track of how many different legal problems US platform companies are having on the continent, but does it seem like a lot? At what point do they start to matter?