Dynamo Dispatch. Weekly update from Dynamo covering the latest and greatest in supply chain, mobility, and building venture-scale businesses.
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Weekly Commentary 💭
I’m off to Austin for a quick trip this week and dropping south to San Antonio to spend some time with Erik, Shaun, and the Plus One Robotics team. By the way, if you haven’t already, check out Erik’s episode on The Future of Supply Chain - 5 stars.
We have some amazing founders applying for Founders Camp. I was speaking to one interested CEO on Friday and he remarked “Where else can I get valuable operating advice and meet prospective customers for two days straight? Your team is doing all the hard work.” That’s the intention. If you’re interested in Founders Camp 2019, apply here.
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Supply Chain 📦
Airfreight Handling Seeing Labor Shortages. As employment markets remain tight, not even double digit wage hikes can attract and retain workers, especially in light of airlines’ unwillingness to increase rates in line with higher staff costs. We’ve looked at a couple automation startups focused on the space -- only a matter of time till robots move a higher volume of our luggage and air cargo.
🌟 Truckers Pave the Way for Starsky Robotics. “While others are trying to build fully autonomous trucks, we are building a truck that drives with no person in it and is remote-controlled for the first and last mile and that’s a completely different mindset. We are not eliminating drivers’ jobs. Instead, we are moving them from a truck to a safe and comfortable office where they utilize years of their long-haul trucking experience, but remain close to their families and go home between shifts.” Also, Starsky Becomes First Uncrewed Truck to Do 55 MPH.
📊 Robot Orders Down 3.5% in Q1. RIA reported that Q1 2019 units were down 3.5% y/y while the value of orders was down 3.2% with customers ordering 7,876 units valued at $423M. 2018 was a record year so comps are expected to be slightly lower. Sequential growth from Q4 was strong (+16% in units and +9% in value) with automotive and food and consumer goods sectors driving major gains.
How Amazon Cloned a Neighborhood to Test Scout. Amazon has developed a digital equivalent of a Seattle suburb to allow it to refine it’s Scout sidewalk delivery robots. The simulation was built using various tools: a cart towed behind a bicycle, capturing images using cameras and lidar, filled in its map with 3D data from aircraft surveys, and is now experimenting with a more powerful lidar too large for the bicycle cart. ICYMI, Amazon Closes Restaurant Delivery Service.
Shyp Preparing for a Come Back. It looks like 15 months after shuttering, Shyp is planning to return. We heard rumors that the company, under new management is looking to lean-in on the returns/reverse logistics opportunity. All signs point to that being the case.
Lufthansa Launching New eCommerce Offering. The “heyworld” subsidiary will serve cross border eCommerce needs and offer APIs to into customers’ systems, specific pricing options and customized shipment tracking "at the package level" in addition to "simple customs clearance."
Panalpina Piloting Two Blockchain Pilots. On two Asia-Europe lanes, Panalpina is looking to implement an electronic bill of lading system. It struck me that the industry is coming around to being less concerned about blockchain and more focused on the problem and moving to digital, as a whole. “These early stage projects are 85 percent about digitization and 15 percent about blockchain — we are starting to see clear benefits in cost savings through simplified and speedier processes, and lower document courier costs,”
The Information AV Summit Recap. Software testing, hardware development, what role insurance will play and falling startup valuations were among the topics at this year’s autonomous vehicle summit.
Florida Passes Bill Allowing Driverless Testing. Florida is allowing companies to test AVs provided they have insurance and remote or teleop capabilities to remotely monitor the vehicle. Our portfolio company, Starsky long considered The State of Florida to be forward thinking and a partner in their AV development journey.
Argo Launches New Generation of Cars in Detroit. The third generation vehicle is still built on the Ford Fusion Hybrid chassis with a variety of hardware and software upgrades. The cars feature redundant braking and new steering as well as a new sensor suite and improved computing systems.
🌟 How An Understanding of Cognition Can Drive Gains in AV Safety. Human-machine cooperation is what current AV technologies hinge on. In instances where a vehicle detects conditions outside it’s scope of use or situations of system failure, systems are programmed to put the human in charge -- but how do we know humans are capable of accepting the hand off? Bridging these gaps is a “Cognition Layer” that connects to the Driver Monitoring System to monitor the driver’s mental bearings.
Hillwood Championing Mobility Zone in Texas. The AllianceTexas effort that’s chaired by Ross Perot will look to create a 26k acre area that’s built for drones, AVs, and other mobility technologies.
📊 GPS Has Created $1.4T in Value; Outages Cost $1B/Day. Our lives would be substantially more difficult if GPS outages were common. A new study estimates that economic losses would also be commensurately high.
US Behind in Bicycle Infrastructure. Our obsession over the last several generations for personal car ownership has stunted progress in not just rail infrastructure but also bike infrastructure.
Aurora Plays Musical Chairs. In the aftermath of the botched Renault/FCA merger, Aurora Has Partnered with FCA while VW Ends It’s Relationship. While Aurora and FCA will focus on commercial vans, VW walks away after being snubbed last year when it made a takeover approach. VW continues to work towards a deal with Ford to shore up it’s AV competencies and find a partner to share the magnitude of investments required to make it a reality.
Strategic Developments, Fundraises, M&A 💸
SKUPOS Raises $26M Series B. The round was led by Insight Partners with new investors Unilever Ventures and Tao Capital with participation from Dynamo, Toba Capital, and Loup Ventures. #weAreDynamo
Tenderd Announces $5.8M Seed Round. Dynamo participated alongside BECO, YC, Paul Graham, and others. This was the largest seed round in the Middle East, on record. #weAreDynamo
Infarm Raises $100M Series B. Atomico led the round in the vertical farming startup.
Sense Photonics Raises $26M. The lidar company emerged from stealth with an effort to build a substantially smaller and fundamentally better vision solution for AVs.
Workhorse Raises $25M for R&D. The round should help Workhorse continue on it’s R&D plans and complete their highly anticipated electric van.
Edge Case Research Raises $7M. Edge Case provides software and services for AI safety problems. Chris Urmson and ANSYS led the round with participation Lockheed Martin Ventures, Liberty Mutual Strategic Ventures, Trucks VC, and Blue Tree Allied Angels.
National Express Leads Series A Round in Kango. The $3.6M round in the children’s ride hailing and day care service app will help fuel partnership and service area expansion.
VW Investing €900M in Northvolt. The strategic investment will give VW 20% ownership of the battery maker and help it lock down battery supply to support it’s EV ambitions. Also, VW Chattanooga Votes Down Unionization.
DHL Investing $125M to Expand Network for Healthcare Distribution. Part of the ramp includes 9 new facilities that can handle temperature control and time sensitive items.
Bird Buys Scoot for ~$25M. Scoot had raise $47M since 2011 but had struggled to gain share from it’s SF rival, Skip who has 90% of rides based on SFMTA data. The deal was part cash and part stock.
Company Building 🛠️
Failure to Executive vs Failure to Raise. “If you’re worried about fundraising, first worry about executing – and feedback on whether you’re executing on the right things. For the most part that’s under your control and it’s, in my experience, rare for a company that’s executing well to fail to raise a Series A.”
Why Product Innovation Slows After Series A. The most identifiable reason is when the CEO/founder can no longer singularly focus on product and needs to split time with sales, fundraising, people management, and more. Usually the right hires can either focus on (or allow the founders to focus on) product vision, investment, and execution.
Surviving the Mental Journey of Startup Building. A great framework for coming to grips with the highs/lows of the journey, observing one’s emotional state, and dealing with insecurities and fears of failure.
Who's Hiring? 👩💻
Live Ops Customer Service Executive at Zeelo in London, England.
Software Engineer at Tenderd in Dubai, UAE.