What does Uber and birth control have in common?

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our morning coffee chat with you that is all about the weekend, what to expect this week, and some funding rounds you may have missed. I’m subbing in for Alex Wilhelm today, who is deservedly out on vacation. You can find me on Twitter @nmasc_, and Equity on Twitter (turn on those notifications!) @equitypod. 

Biden and world leaders are congregating at the NATO summit, which kicks off this week. Also, the Dublin Tech Summit is happening on Thursday with yours truly, other TC folks, and many entrepreneurs making a virtual appearance.

Now, onto the news!

  •  The weekend: The seat next to Jeff Bezos as he launches into space just got filled for $28 million. Also, Elon Musk tweeted about how Tesla might start accepting Bitcoin as a payment once at least half of it can be mined using clean energy. The comment sent Bitcoin up more than a few percentage points, hovering at $39,173 at the time of the recording.
  • This morning: The FT reports that Flagship Pioneering, which is responsible for incubating and launching Moderna, has raised a new venture capital fund at $3.4 billion. Flagship isn’t your traditional VC. It forms teams around problem areas and brainstorms solutions, incubates the most promising ones, and then eventually spins out and finances those companies.
  •  Funding rounds: Byju’s got a check from UBS and Zoom founder Eric Yuan, making it the most valuable startup in India. The company is now valued at $16.5 billion post-money. Plus, The Pill Club has raised an extension Series B round with former Uber exec Liz Meyerdirk newly at the helm of the company.
  • Finally, please take the Equity Listener Survey. We want to make the show better for you, so spending a few seconds filling out our survey and we will be very grateful.

And that’s all. Be kind with yourself this week, and take more than a 5-minute lunch because true glamour is being present and chewing slowly.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#bitcoin, #byjus, #edtech, #elon-musk, #equity, #equity-pod, #eric-yuan, #flagship-pioneering, #health-tech, #jeff-bezos, #moderna, #space, #tc, #tesla, #the-pill-club, #truepill, #uber, #zoom

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Ticket for space flight with Jeff Bezos is auctioned for $28 million

New Shepard crew capsule seen landing in west Texas in April 2021.

Enlarge / New Shepard crew capsule seen landing in west Texas in April 2021. (credit: Blue Origin)

A ticket to take a brief trip to space with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos next month has been sold at auction for $28 million.

The bidding process, which began in early May, drew offers from more than 7,000 participants from 159 countries, Blue Origin said. The price had stood at $4.8 million ahead of Saturday’s live auction, which was streamed online.

The identity of the winning bidder has not yet been made public but will be revealed in the coming weeks, Blue Origin said.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#blue-origin, #jeff-bezos, #new-shepard, #science, #spaceflight

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Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin auctions off seat on first human spaceflight for $28M

Blue Origin has its winning bidder for its first ever human spaceflight, and the winner will pay $28 million for the privilege of flying aboard the company’s debut private astronaut mission. The winning bid came in today during a live auction, which saw 7,600 registered bidders, from 159 countries compete for the spot.

This was the culmination of Blue Origin’s three part bidding process for the ticket, which included a blind auction first, followed by an open, asynchronous auction with the highest bid posted to the company’s website whenever it changed. This last live auction greatly ramped up the value of the winning bid, which was at just under $5 million prior to the event.

This first seat up for sale went for a lot more than what an actual, commercial spot is likely to cost on Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule, which flies to suborbital space and only spends a few minutes there before returning to Earth. Estimates put the cost of a typical launch at someone under $1 million, likely closer to $500,000 or so. But this is the first, which is obviously a special distinction, and it’s also a trip that will allow the winning bidder to pretty much literally rub elbows with Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, who is going to be on the flight as well, along with his brother Mark, and a fourth passenger that Blue Origin says it will be announcing sometime in the coming “weeks,” ahead of the July 20 target flight date.

As for who won the auction, we’ll also have to wait to find that out, since the winner’s identity is also going to be “released in the weeks following” the end of today’s live bidding. And in case you thought that $28 million might represent a big revenue windfall for Blue Origin, which has spent years developing its human spaceflight capability, think again: The company is donating it to its Club for the Future non-profit foundation, which is focused on encouraging kids to pursue careers in STEM in a long-term bid to help Bezos’ larger goals of making humanity a spacefaring civilization.

You can re-watch the entire live bidding portion of the auction via the stream below.

#bidding, #blue-origin, #jeff-bezos, #marketing, #space, #space-tourism, #tc

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Equity Monday: Jeff’s going to space, and everyone wants a piece of Flipkart

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

It’s WWDC week, so expect a deluge of Apple news to overtake your Twitter feed here and there over the next few days. But there’s a lot more going on, so let’s dig in:

And that’s your start to the week. More to come from your friends here on Wednesday, and Friday. Chat soon!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#amazon, #china, #ecommerce, #elon-musk, #equity, #equity-podcast, #flipkart, #fundings-exits, #jeff-bezos, #kanzhun, #nigeria, #social-media, #space, #startups, #tesla, #trulioo, #twitter, #wwdc

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Jeff Bezos says he will fly into space next month

Jeff Bezos speaking at the unveiling of the Blue Origin New Shepard system during the Space Symposium on Wednesday, April 5, 2017.

Enlarge / Jeff Bezos speaking at the unveiling of the Blue Origin New Shepard system during the Space Symposium on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. (credit: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has revealed on Instagram that he plans to fly on Blue Origin’s first human spaceflight next month.

“I want to go on this flight because it’s a thing I’ve wanted to do all my life,” Bezos, the richest person in the world, said in a post published Monday morning. “It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me.”

Bezos said he invited his younger brother, Mark, whom he described as his best friend, to go along. The two brothers will join the winner of an auction for a third seat on the flight, which is set to take place on July 20 of this year. Bidding for this seat is already at $2.8 million but is likely to go higher during a live auction on July 12. Proceeds from this auction will be donated to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future.

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#blue-origin, #jeff-bezos, #science

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Jeff Bezos and his brother will fly on Blue Origin’s first human spaceflight with auction winner

Jeff Bezos is going to be one of the passengers on his spaceflight company Blue Origin’s first ever human space launch on July 20. The Amazon founder announced the news via his Instagram on Monday morning, revealing that his brother Mark will also be coming along for the ride. Bezos and his brother will join the winner of an online auction Blue Origin is currently hosting, which currently stands at $2.8 million as the highest bid for that seat.

The Blue Origin launch of its suborbital, reusable New Shepard rocket on July 20 will be the first time it has ever flown with people on board. It’s unusual for a company to make its first ever human spaceflight a mission with a paying passenger, and now we know that it’s also going to be carrying one of the world’s richest people, another bold choice for a first human flight. Virgin Galactic, by contrast, has flown to space multiple times with test pilots and astronauts before its forthcoming trip with Sir Richard Branson. Elon Musk has also never flown on a SpaceX launch, though he has suggested in the past that he will fly on one of his company’s vehicles at some point.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard has flown plenty of times without people, however, and save for the first flight where the reusable booster was lost, has had a complete success for each of those 15 missions, including landing of the booster (except that first time) and recovery of the capsule (for all of the launches). The New Shepard rocket doesn’t go all the way to orbit, but instead flies to the edge of space, where passengers experience a few minutes of weightlessness and an unbeatable view of Earth through the capsules many windows, before returning to a parachute-assisted landing on the ground in Texas near Blue Origin’s launch site.

The auction for Blue Origin’s first paying customer seat currently sits at $2.8 million, and it’s been there for a while now after the price raised from $1.4 million when Blue Origin opened unsealed bidding on May 19. The final phase of the auction, set for June 12, will include live online bidding from remaining participants who bump their existing bid to match the high offer.

#amazon, #blue-origin, #human-spaceflight, #jeff-bezos, #mark, #new-shepard, #online-auction, #outer-space, #richard-branson, #space, #space-tourism, #spaceflight, #tc, #texas, #virgin-galactic

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Africa has another unicorn as Chipper Cash raises $100M Series C led by SVB Capital

Fintech in Africa is a goldmine. Investors are betting big on startups offering a plethora of services from payments and lending to neobanks, remittances and cross-border transfers, and rightfully soEach of these services solves unique sets of challenges. For cross-border payments, it’s the outrageous rates and regulatory hassles involved with completing transactions from one African country to another.

Chipper Cash, a three-year-old startup that facilitates cross-border payment across Africa, has closed a $100 million Series C round to introduce more products and grow its team.

It hasn’t been too long ago since Chipper Cash was last in the news. In November 2020, the African cross-border fintech startup raised $30 million Series B led by Ribbit Capital and Jeff Bezos fund Bezos Expeditions. This was after closing a $13.8 million Series A round from Deciens Capital and other investors in June 2020. Hence, Chipper Cash has gone through three rounds totalling $143.8 million in a year. However, when the $8.4 million raised in two seed rounds back in 2019 is included, this number increases to $152.2 million.

SVB Capital, the investment arm of U.S. high-tech commercial bank Silicon Valley Bank led this Series C round. Others who participated in this round include existing investors — Deciens Capital, Ribbit Capital, Bezos Expeditions, One Way Ventures, 500 Startups, Tribe Capital, and Brue2 Ventures. 

Chipper Cash was launched in 2018 by Ham Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled. The pair met in Iowa after coming to the U.S. for studies. Following their stints at big names like Facebook, Flickr and Yahoo!, the founders decided to work on their own startup.

Last year, the company which offers mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services, was present in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya. Now, it has expanded to a new territory outside Africa. “We’ve expanded to the U.K., it’s the first market we’ve expanded to outside Africa,” CEO Serunjogi said to TechCrunch.

In addition and as a sign of growth, the company which boasts more than 200 employees plans to increase its workforce by hiring 100 staff throughout the year. The number of users on Chipper Cash has increased to 4 million, up 33% from last year. And while the company averaged 80,000 transactions daily in November 2020 and processed $100 million in payments value in June 2020, it is unclear what those figures are now as Serunjogi declined to comment on them, including its revenues.

When we reported its Series B last year, Chipper Cash wanted to offer more business payment solutions, cryptocurrency trading options, and investment services. So what has been the progress since then? “We’ve launched cards products in Nigeria and we’ve also launched our crypto product. We’re also launching our US stocks product in Uganda, Nigeria and a few other countries soon,” Serunjogi answered.

Crypto is widely adopted in Africa. African users are responsible for a sizeable chunk of transactions that take place on some global crypto-trading platforms. For instance, African users accounted for $7 billion of the $8.3 billion in Luno’s total trading volume. Binance P2P users in Africa also grew 2,000% within the past five months while their volumes increased by over 380%.

Individuals and small businesses across Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya account for most of the crypto activity on the continent. Chipper Cash is active in these countries and tapping into this opportunity is basically a no brainer. “Our approach to growing products and adding products is based on what our users find valuable. As you can imagine, crypto is one technology that has been widely adopted in Africa and many emerging markets. So we want to give them the power to access crypto and to be able to buy, hold, and sell crypto whenever,” the CEO added.

However, its crypto service isn’t available in Nigeria, the largest crypto market in Africa. The reason behind this is the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) regulation on crypto activities in the country prohibiting users from converting fiat into crypto from their bank accounts. To survive, most crypto players have adopted P2P methods but Chipper Cash isn’t offering that yet and according to Serunjogi, the company is “looking forward to any development in Nigeria that allows it to be offered freely again.”

The same goes for the investment service Chipper Cash plans to roll out in Nigeria and Uganda soon. Presently, Nigeria’s capital market regulator SEC is keeping tabs on local investment platforms and bringing their activities under its purview. Chipper Cash will not be exempt when the product is live in Nigeria and has begun engaging regulators to be ahead of the curve.

“As fintech explodes and as innovation continues to move forward, consumers have to be protected. We invest millions of dollars every year in our compliance programs, so I think working closely with the regulators directly so that these products are offered in a compliant manner is important,” Serunjogi noted. 

Six billion-dollar companies in Africa; the fifth fintech unicorn

During our call, Serunjogi made some remarks about Nigeria’s central bank which resembles comments made by Flutterwave CEO Olugbenga Agboola back in March.

While acknowledging the central banks in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda for creating environments where innovation can thrive, he said: “Nigeria has probably the most exciting and vibrant tech ecosystem in Africa. And that’s credit directly to CBN for creating and fostering an environment that allowed multiple startups like ourselves and others like Flutterwave to blossom.”  

Most fintechs would argue that the CBN stifles innovation but comments from both CEOs seems to suggest otherwise. From all indication, Chipper Cash and Flutterwave strive to be on the right side of the country’s apex bank policies and regulations. It is why they are one of the fastest-growing fintechs in the region and also billion-dollar companies.

Obviously, we’re not getting into our valuation, but we’re probably the most valuable private startup in Africa today after this round. So that’s a reflection of the environment that regulators like CBN have created to allowed innovation and growth, ” Serunjogi commented when asked about the company’s valuation.

Up until last week, the only private unicorn startup in Africa this year was Flutterwave. Then China-backed and African-focused fintech came along as the company was reported to be in the process of raising $400 million at a $1.5 billion valuation. If Serunjogi’s comment is anything to go by, Chipper Cash is currently valued between $1-2 billion thus joining the exclusive billion-dollar club.

But to be sure, I asked Serunjogi again if the company is indeed a unicorn. This time, he gave a more cryptic answer. “We’re not commenting on the size of our valuation publicly. One of the things that I’ve been quite keen on internally and externally is that the valuation of our company has not been a focus for us. It’s not a goal we’re aspiring to achieve. For us, the thing that drives us is that we have a product that is impactful to our users.”

Maijid Moujaled (CTO) and Ham Serunjogi (CEO)

Serunjogi added that this investment actualizes the importance of possessing a solid balance sheet and onboarding SVB Capital and getting existing investors to double down is a means to that end. According to him, a strong balance sheet will provide the infrastructure needed to support key long-term investments which will translate to more exciting products down the road.

“We look at our investors as key partners to the business. So having very strong partners around the table makes us a stronger company. These are partners who can put capital into our business, and we’re also able to learn from them in several other ways,” he said of the investors backing the three-year-old company.  

Just like Ribbit Capital and Bezos Expeditions in last year’s Series B, this is SVB Capital’s first foray into the African market. In an email, the managing director of SVB Capital Tilli Bannett, confirmed the fund’s investment in Chipper Cash. According to him, the VC firm invested in Chipper Cash because it has created an easy and accessible way for people living in Africa to fulfil their financial needs through enhanced products and user experiences.

“As a result, Chipper has had a phenomenal trajectory of consumer adoption and volume through the product. We are excited at the role Chipper has forged for itself in fostering financial inclusion across Africa and the vast potential that still lies ahead,” he added.

Fintech remains the bright spot in African tech investment. In 2020, the sector accounted for more than 25% of the almost $1.5 billion raised by African startups. This figure will likely increase this year as four startups have raised $100 million rounds already: TymeBank in February, Flutterwave in March, OPay and Chipper Cash this May. All except TymeBank are now valued at over $1 billion, and it becomes the first time Africa has seen two or more billion-dollar companies in a year. In addition to Jumia (e-commerce), Interswitch (fintech), and Fawry (fintech), the continent now has six billion-dollar tech companies.

Here’s another interesting piece of information. The timeframe at which startups are reaching this landmark seems to be shortening. While it took Interswitch and Fawry seventeen and thirteen years respectively, it took Flutterwave five years; Jumia, four years; then OPay and Chipper Cash three years.

#africa, #bezos-expeditions, #ceo, #chipper-cash, #cto, #finance, #flutterwave, #funding, #ham-serunjogi, #jeff-bezos, #maijid-moujaled, #money, #nigeria, #opay, #payments, #ribbit-capital, #svb-capital, #tc, #tymebank, #uganda

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Blue Origin reveals highest bid for a seat on its first human spaceflight, currently at $2M

Blue Origin is taking a novel approach to selling the first available private spaceflight seat on its New Shepard rocket, with an auction that will award the spot to the highest bidder. The company used a sealed bidding process for the first part of the contest, but it is now revealing the amount of the top bid and from here until June 10, all online bidding will happen in the open.

The current top bid for the coveted spot is at $1.4 million, after a bidding process that saw 5,200 applicants put in an offer, spanning bidders from 136 countries. Blue Origin will now be taking open bids on its website, and the current high bid (which is already up to $2 million as of this writing) will be displayed prominently for all to see.

On June 12, there will be one final, live online auction, among remaining participants who have registered and are willing to compete at whatever the high price is at the time. The winner then gets a seat on that first flight, which is currently set for July 20, and which will include other, yet-to-be-named passengers selected by Blue Origin.

The Jeff Bezos-founded space company has been working towards this moment for a long time, but this winning bid isn’t a direct payday for the private spaceflight venture: Instead, it’s donating the amount of the winning offer to its Club for the Future non-profit, which is aimed at encouraging kids to pursue a STEM education.

This will be Blue Origin’s first ever human spaceflight, and the fact that they’re opening up at least one seat to a member of the public means they’re extremely confident in the reliability of the suborbital, reusable New Shepard launch system.

#blue-origin, #jeff-bezos, #private-spaceflight, #space, #tc

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Blue Origin opens an auction for a seat on its suborbital rocket flights

Promotional image of space capsule interior.

Enlarge / Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle is a capsule with a view. (credit: Blue Origin)

On Wednesday, Blue Origin officially announced that its first crewed flight to space is targeted for July 20, suggesting that its extended period of test flights is finally coming to an end. Rather than simply placing a seat on sale, however, the company announced it will auction one off, with the proceeds going to the company’s charity.

New Shepard flights will take passengers above much of the atmosphere and into space then allow them an extended period of apparent weightlessness as the capsule free-falls back to Earth. The capsule itself is relatively spacious and is equipped with large windows and cushy-looking seats, which are clearly meant to make flight a pleasant experience. The free fall is followed by a parachute-assisted landing, with the booster performing a powered landing separately.

If that sounds like a compelling experience to you, your first chance to get in on it is via an auction for a single seat on its first crewed flight. You can get the process started now by submitting a bid at the Blue Origin website. On May 19th, the highest bids will be unsealed, and any further online bidding will have to exceed an existing bid. On June 12th, the auction will wrap up with live online bidding.

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#blue-origin, #commercial-space, #jeff-bezos, #science, #space, #space-tourism

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You can bid for a seat on Blue Origin’s first human spaceflight on July 20

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is offering up one seat on the inaugural flight of its sub-orbital rocket New Shepard, set to take place July 20 – but instead of a fixed price ticket sale, the seat will go to the highest bidder.

It’ll work like this: from May 5-19, bidders will be able to bid any amount on an auction website. From May 19, the bids will be made “unsealed,” or made visible, and bidders have continually exceed the highest bid to remain in the running for the seat. Bidding will conclude June 12 with a live online auction.

From Blue Origin’s website, it looks like the overall flight will be relatively quick, with the craft reaching apogee, or its highest point, four minutes after takeoff. The capsule containing the astronauts (and the lucky bidder) will land 10 minutes after takeoff near its launch site in West Texas.

Blue Origin said the winning bid will be donated to its charitable foundation, Club for the Future.

In recent weeks Blue Origin has conducted a dress rehearsal of astronaut loading and unloading. This is only the most recent move from the company, which has been testing and flight-certifying its spacecraft for the past few years. We will update the story as more information becomes available on the auction.

#blue-origin, #jeff-bezos, #space, #tc

0

As concerns rise over forest carbon offsets, Pachama’s verified offset marketplace gets $15 million

Restoring and preserving the world’s forests has long been considered one of the easiest, lowest cost, and simplest ways to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

It’s by far the most popular method for corporations looking to take an easy first step on the long road to decarbonizing or offsetting their industrial operations. But in recent months the efficacy, validity, and reliability of a number of forest offsets have been called into question thanks to some blockbuster reporting from Bloomberg.

It’s against this uncertain backdrop that investors are coming in to shore up financing for Pachama, a company building a marketplace for forest carbon credits that it says is more transparent and verifiable thanks to its use of satellite imagery and machine learning technologies.

That pitch has brought in $15 million in new financing for the company, which co-founder and chief executive Diego Saez Gil said would be used for product development and the continued expansion of the company’s marketplace.

Launched only one year ago, Pachama has managed to land some impressive customers and backers. No less an authority on things environmental than Jeff Bezos (given how much of a negative impact Amazon operations have on the planet), gave the company a shoutout in his last letter to shareholders as Amazon’s outgoing chief executive. And the largest ecommerce company in Latin America, Mercado Libre, tapped the company to manage an $8 million offset project that’s part of a broader commitment to sustainability by the retailing giant.

Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund is an investor in the latest round, which was led by Bill Gates’ investment firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Other investors included Lowercarbon Capital (the climate-focused fund from über-successful angel investor, Chris Sacca), former Über executive Ryan Graves’ Saltwater, the MCJ Collective, and new backers like Tim O’Reilly’s OATV, Ram Fhiram, Joe gebbia, Marcos Galperin, NBA All-star Manu Ginobilli, James Beshara, Fabrice Grinda, Sahil Lavignia, and Tomi Pierucci.

That’s not even the full list of the company’s backers. What’s made Pachama so successful, and given the company the ability to attract top talent from companies like Google, Facebook, SapceX, Tesla, OpenAI, Microsoft, Impossible Foods and Orbital Insights, is the combination of its climate mission applied to the well-understood forest offset market, said Saez Gil.

“Restoring nature is one of the most important solutions to climate change. Forests, oceans and other ecosystems not only sequester enormous amounts of CO2from the atmosphere, but they also provide critical habitat for biodiversity and are sources of livelihood for communities worldwide. We are building the technology stack required to be able to drive funding to the restoration and conservation of these ecosystems with integrity, transparency and efficiency” said Diego Saez Gil, Co-founder and CEO at Pachama. “We feel honored and excited to have the support of such an incredible group of investors who believe in our mission and are demonstrating their willingness to support our growth for the long term”. 

Customers outside of Latin America are also clamoring for access to Pachama’s offset marketplace. Microsoft, Shopify, and Softbank are also among the company’s paying buyers.

It’s another reason that investors like Y Combinator, Social Capital, Tobi Lutke, Serena Williams, Aglaé Ventures (LVMH’s tech investment arm), Paul Graham, AirAngels, Global Founders, ThirdKind Ventures, Sweet Capital, Xplorer Capital, Scott Belsky, Tim Schumacher, Gustaf Alstromer, Facundo Garreton, and Terrence Rohan, were able to commit to backing the company’s nearly $24 million haul since its 2020 launch. 

“Pachama is working on unlocking the full potential of nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere,” said Carmichael Roberts from BEV, in a statement. “Their technology-based approach will have an enormous multiplier effect by using machine learning models for forest analysis to validate, monitor and measure impactful carbon neutrality initiatives. We are impressed by the progress that the team has made in a short period of time and look forward to working with them to scale their unique solution globally.” 

 

#aglae-ventures, #amazon, #bill-gates, #breakthrough-energy-ventures, #carbon-offset, #chris-sacca, #climate-pledge-fund, #ecommerce, #fabrice-grinda, #google, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #impossible-foods, #james-beshara, #jeff-bezos, #joe-gebbia, #latin-america, #lowercarbon-capital, #lvmh, #machine-learning, #microsoft, #nba, #openai, #pachama, #paul-graham, #ryan-graves, #satellite-imagery, #scott-belsky, #serena-williams, #shopify, #softbank, #sweet-capital, #tc, #tesla, #tim-oreilly, #xplorer-capital, #y-combinator

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Bezos says Amazon should “do a better job for our employees” after union vote

A man in a suit gestures during a presentation.

Enlarge (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos used his final letter to Amazon shareholders to focus on employee well-being and the company’s significant carbon footprint.

Bezos’ new emphasis on employee well-being comes on the heels of a contentious unionization vote at one of its warehouses in Bessemer, Alabama. Though Amazon won, with 1,798 employees voting against unionizing out of 3,041 total ballots cast, participation was low, with just over half of eligible voters participating. Labor organizers have made it clear that even if unionization votes continue to go against them, they’ll keep pressuring Amazon through other means.

That strategy may be working. Bezos dedicates a significant portion of his letter to both the unionization vote and to employee well-being. Whereas Bezos wrote a single paragraph about a tuition reimbursement program three years ago, he wrote nearly 1,200 words about pay rates, employee satisfaction, and workplace safety this year.

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#amazon, #climate-change, #jeff-bezos, #policy, #unionization

0

How Pilot charted a course of not raising too much money

A few weeks ago, we wrote about fintech Pilot raising a $100 million Series C that doubled the company’s valuation to $1.2 billion.

Bezos Expeditions — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ personal investment fund — and Whale Rock Capital joined the round, adding $40 million to a $60 million raise led by Sequoia about one month prior.

That raise came after a $40 million Series B in April 2019 co-led by Stripe and Index Ventures that valued the company at $355 million.

Both raises were notable and warranted coverage. But sometimes it’s fun to take a peek at the stories behind the raises and dig deeper into the numbers.

So here we go.

First off, San Francisco-based Pilot — which has a mission of affordably providing back-office services such as bookkeeping to startups and SMBs — apparently had term sheets that offered “2x the $40M” raised in its Series B. But it chose not to raise so much capital. 

I also heard that the same investor that ended up leading a now defunct competitor’s $60 million raise first asked to invest $60 million in Pilot as a follow-on to that Series B prior to making the other investment. While I don’t know for sure, I can only presume that what is being referred to is ScaleFactor’s $60 million Series C raise in August 2019 that was led by Coatue Management. (ScaleFactor crashed and burned last year.)

According to CFO Paul Jun: “There were many periods when Pilot turned away new customers and growth capital instead of absolutely maximizing short-term growth…Pilot prioritized building the foundational investments needed for scalability, reliability and high velocity. When it was presented with the opportunity for additional funding towards further growth in 2019, it declined to do so.”

Co-founder and CEO Waseem Daher elaborates, pointing out that the first company that Pilot’s founding team ran, Ksplice, was bootstrapped before getting acquired by Oracle in 2011. (It’s also worth noting that the founding team are all MIT computer scientists.)

“Ultimately, the reason to raise money is you believe that you can deploy the capital, to grow the company or to basically cause the company to grow at the rate you’d like to grow. And it doesn’t make sense to raise money if you don’t need it, or don’t have a good plan for what to do with it,” Daher told TechCrunch. “Too much capital can be bad because it sort of leads you to bad habits…When you have the money, you spend the money.”

So despite what he describes as “a great deal of institutional interest” in 2019, Pilot opted to raise just $40 million, instead of $80 million to $100 million, because it was the amount of capital the company had confidence that it could deploy successfully.

Also, Jun shared some numbers beyond the recent raise amount and valuation.

  • The company has tripled revenue every year since inception, except for 2020 when it doubled revenue.
  • Pilot claims to have had a cash burn of $800,000 per month in 2020 against a starting balance of $40 million.
  • The startup touts a 60% GAAP gross margin. Daher notes: “We feel really good about having long-term unit economics that will work for this business without resorting to offshoring or outsourcing in a way that could compromise quality and compromise relationships.”

Bottom line is companies don’t have to accept all the capital that’s offered to them. And maybe in some cases, they shouldn’t.

#bezos-expeditions, #bookkeeping, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #index-ventures, #jeff-bezos, #mit, #pilot, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #startup, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #waseem-daher, #whale-rock-capital

0

Jeff Bezos’ investment fund is backing a startup hoping to be the AWS for SMB accounting

One of the biggest pain points for startups and small businesses is keeping up with back office tasks such as bookkeeping and managing taxes.

QuickBooks, it seems, just doesn’t always cut it.

Three-time co-founders Waseem Daher, Jeff Arnold, and Jessica McKellar formed Pilot with the mission of affordably providing back office services to startups and SMBs. With over 1,000 customers, it has gained serious traction over the years. And Pilot has now also received validation from some big-name investors. On Friday, the company announced a $100 million Series C that doubles the company’s valuation to $1.2 billion.

Bezos Expeditions — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ personal investment fund — and Whale Rock Capital (a $10 billion hedge fund) co-led the round, which also included participation from Sequoia Capital, Index Ventures, Authentic Ventures and others. 

Stripe and Index Ventures co-led Pilot’s $40 million Series B in April 2019. The latest financing brings the company’s total funding raised to over $158 million since its 2017 inception.

The founding team certainly has an impressive track record, having founded and sold two previous companies: Ksplice  (to Oracle) and Zupli (to Dropbox).

Pilot’s pitch is about more than just software. The company combines its software with accountants to do things such as provide “CFO Services” to SMBs without a full-stack finance team. It also provides monthly variance analysis for all its bookkeeping customers, essentially serving as a controller for those companies, so they can make better budgeting and spending decisions.

It also helps companies access small business tax credits they may not have otherwise known about. 

Last year, Pilot completed more than $3 billion in bookkeeping transactions for its customers, which range from pre-revenue startups to larger companies with more than $30M of revenue a year. Customers include Bolt, r2c and Pathrise, among others.

Pilot has also inked a number of co-marketing partnerships with companies such as American Express, Bill.com, Brex, Carta, Gusto, Rippling, Stripe, SVB, and Techstars.

Ironically, Pilot says it aspires to the “AWS of SMB backoffice.” (In fact, co-founder Waseem Daher started his career as an intern at Amazon). Put simply, Pilot wants to take care of all those back office tasks so companies can focus more on growth and winning business.

Pilot strives to offer an “exceptional customer experience,” which is reflected in the fact that over 80% of the company’s business is driven by customer referrals and organic interest, according to Daher.

Whale Rock Partner Kristov Paulus said that white-glove customer service experience and Pilot’s “carefully-engineered” software make a powerful combination.

“We look forward to supporting Pilot in their vision to make back office services as easy-to-use, scalable, and ubiquitous as AWS has with the cloud,” he said.

Pilot’s model reminds me a lot of that of ScaleFactor’s, an Austin-based startup that raised $100 million in a year before it crashed and burned. But the difference in this case is that Pilot seems to have satisfied customers.

#amazon-web-services, #bezos-expeditions, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #jeff-bezos, #jessica-mckellar, #pilot, #recent-funding, #saas, #startups, #stripe, #venture-capital, #waseem-daher

0

Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky is returning to AWS to replace Andy Jassy as CEO

When Amazon announced last month that Jeff Bezos was moving into the executive chairman role, and AWS CEO Andy Jassy would be taking over the entire Amazon operation, speculation began about who would replace Jassy.

People considered a number of internal candidates such as Peter DeSantis, vice president of global infrastructure at AWS and Matt Garman, who is vice president of sales and marketing. Not many would have chosen Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky, but sure enough he is returning home to run the division he left in 2016.

In an email to employees, Jassy wasted no time getting to the point that Selipsky was his choice, saying that the former employee who helped launch the division when they hired him 2005, spent 11 years helping Jassy build the unit before taking the job at Tableau. Through that lens, the the choice makes perfect sense.

“Adam brings strong judgment, customer obsession, team building, demand generation, and CEO experience to an already very strong AWS leadership team. And, having been in such a senior role at AWS for 11 years, he knows our culture and business well,” Jassy wrote in the email.

Jassy has run the AWS since its earliest days taking it from humble beginnings as a kind of internal experiment on running a storage web service to building a mega division currently on a $51 billion run rate. It is that juggernaut that will be Selipsky to run, but he seems well suited for the job.

 

 

This is a breaking story. We will be adding to it.

#amazon, #andy-jassy, #aws, #cloud, #enterprise, #jeff-bezos, #personnel, #salesforce, #tableau

0

Could Marc Benioff be the next CEO to move to executive chairman?

Last month Jeff Bezos announced he would step down as CEO of Amazon later this year, moving into the executive chairman role, while passing the baton to AWS CEO Andy Jassy. Could Marc Benioff, co-founder, chairman and CEO at Salesforce be the next big-name executive to make a similar move?

A Reuter’s story published on Monday suggested that could be the case. Citing unnamed sources, the story indicated that Benioff’s CEO exit could happen this year. Further those same sources suggested that current Salesforce president and COO Bret Taylor is the likely heir apparent.

We wrote a story at the end of last year speculating on possible successors to Benioff, were he to step away from the CEO role. There were a number of worthy candidates, several of whom, like Taylor, came to the company via an acquisition. All the same, we thought that Taylor seemed to be the most likely candidate to replace Benioff.

We asked Salesforce for a comment on the Reuter’s story. A company spokesperson told us that the company doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation.

While the entire scenario fits firmly in the rumor and speculation column, it is not entirely unlikely either. What would it mean if Benioff stepped away and what if Taylor was truly the next in line? And how would that swap compare with the Bezos decision were it to happen?

Similar yet different

Salesforce and Amazon are both companies founded in the 1990s, each looking to shake up its industry.

For Amazon, it was changing the way goods (starting with books) were bought and sold. And for Benioff the goal was changing the way software was sold. Bezos famously founded his company in his garage. Benioff built his in a rented apartment. From these humble beginnings both have built iconic companies and accumulated enormous wealth. You could understand why either could be ready to step away from the daily grind of running a company after all these years.

Bezos announced that veteran executive Andy Jassy, who runs the company’s cloud arm, would be his replacement when the handoff comes. Jassy knows the organization’s priority mix as he’s been working at the company for more than two decades. He’s locked into the culture and helped take AWS from idea to $50 billion juggernaut.

While Benioff hasn’t made any actual firm pronouncement, we have seen Bret Taylor — who joined the company in 2016 when Salesforce purchased his startup Quip for $750 million — move quickly up the ladder.

Laurie McCabe, co-founder and analyst at SMB Group, who has been following Salesforce since its earliest days, says that if Benioff were to leave, he would obviously leave big shoes to fill. But she agreed that everything seems to point to Taylor as his successor should that happen.

“Salesforce has been grooming Taylor for awhile. He has some stellar credentials both at Salesforce, his own start-up, Quip, that Salesforce acquired, and at Facebook. There’s no doubt in my mind he can lead Salesforce forward, but he’ll bring a different more low-key style to the role. And I’m sure Benioff will stay very involved […],” McCabe said.

Two different situations

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that while he believes Taylor could be chosen as Benioff’s successor, and would be qualified to lead the company, he’s taken a very different path from Jassy.

“I think Benioff moving on could be different from Bezos in the sense that Jassy has been at Amazon for over 20 years and was there to basically see and be part of most of the story. […] But if Taylor were to succeed Benioff there’s not as much [history] at Salesforce with him not being on board until the Quip acquisition in 2016,” Leary said.

Leary wonders if this relatively short history with the company could create some political friction in the organization if he were chosen to succeed Benioff. “I’m not saying that this would happen, but choosing one of the many possible heirs that have come via a number of high profile acquisitions could possibly lead to high level turnover from those not picked to succeed Benioff,” he said.

But Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research says that if you look at the range of candidates available, he believes that Taylor would be the best choice. “I don’t expect any issue because there is no one with a similar or even better background, which is when there are problems — that or when people are in an open competition as it used to be at GE,” he said.

We don’t know for sure what the final outcome will be, but if Benioff does decide to join Bezos and takes the executive chairman mantle at the company, it makes sense that the person to replace him will be Taylor. But for now, it remains in the realm of speculation, and we’ll just to wait and see if that’s what comes to pass.

#amazon, #andy-jassy, #bret-taylor, #cloud, #enterprise, #jeff-bezos, #marc-benioff, #personnel, #salesforce

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Former head of the World Resources Institute has a new role leading Bezos’ $10 billion Earth Fund

The $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund has a new chief executive and it’s Andrew Steer, the former head of the World Resources Institute — an organization that Bezos described as “working to alleviate poverty while protecting the natural world.”

As the head of the fund, Steer will be responsible for spending that money down by the end of 2030, according to a tweet from none other than Steer himself.

“The Earth Fund will invest in scientists, NGOs, activists, and the private sector to help drive new technologies, investments, policy change and behavior. We will emphasize social justice, as climate change disproportionately hurts poor and marginalized communities,” Steer wrote.

With a $100 million award from the first rounds of grants the Bezos Fund issued in November, the World Resources Institute was one of the largest recipients of Bezos’ largesse. Other big recipients from the first block of grants included the Environmental defense Fund, The Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy and The World Wildlife Fund.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to join the Bezos Earth Fund as its CEO, where I will focus on driving systemic change to address the climate and nature crises, with a focus on people. Too many of the most creative initiatives suffer for a lack of finance, risk management or the right partnerships. This is where the Earth Fund will be helpful,” Steer said in a statement issued by the WRI.

While at the WRI, Steer oversaw its international expansion from an advocacy organization centered primarily in Washington to a global organization with offices in Indonesia, the UK and Colombia along with hubs in Ethiopia and the Netherlands. Steer also expanded the offices in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Mexico.

His tenure also involved creating coalitions and initiatives that changed the understanding around the economics of climate change, including the launch of a $10 million annual initiative to support the implementation of climate plans by 100 countries, according to a statement from the WRI.

“The $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund has the potential to be a transformative force for good at this decisive point in history. Andrew’s global reputation, deep technical knowledge and experience, and commitment to social justice make him a perfect leader for the fund,” said Christiana Figueres, co-founder of Global Optimism and former Executive Security of the UNFCCC.

#bezos, #brazil, #ceo, #china, #co-founder, #colombia, #ethiopia, #executive, #finance, #head, #india, #indonesia, #jeff-bezos, #leader, #mexico, #nature-conservancy, #netherlands, #risk-management, #tc, #united-kingdom, #washington, #world-wildlife-fund

0

Blue Origin will upgrade New Shepard rocket with the ability to simulate lunar gravity

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin will be providing NASA with a valuable scientific tool ahead of the U.S. space agency’s goal of returning to the Moon: The ability to run experiments in simulated lunar gravity much closer to home, in suborbital space.

NASA revealed that Blue Origin will be modifying its reusable New Shepard sub-orbital launch vehicle to add Moon gravity approximation via rotation of the spacecraft’s capsule. That’ll effectively turn it into one big centrifuge, which will mean that objects inside will experience a gravitational force very close to that found on the lunar surface.

It’s not like there aren’t already ways to simulate lunar gravity, but the way that New Shepard will implement its system will provide two benefits that none of these existing methods can match: Longer duration, offering over two minutes of continuous artificial Moon gravity exposure, and larger payload capacity, which will unlock experimental capabilities that are currently impossible just due to space restrictions.

Blue Origin anticipates that this new capability for New Shepard will be ready to roll by 2022 – important timing because the whole idea is to help support NASA’s Artemis program, which is its mission series that will see a return to human Moon exploration, including establishment of a more permanent crewed research presence both in lunar orbit and on the surface.

Gravity on the surface of the Moon is about one-sixth as powerful as that here on Earth. NASA also points out that it will require experimentation not only in preparation for lunar missions, but also to support eventually crewed launches to Mars, which has gravity that’s just over one-third as strong as it is here.

Blue Origin is also working with NASA on human landers for its lunar missions, through a space industry team-up that includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper.

#aerospace, #artemis-program, #blue-origin, #commercial-lunar-payload-services, #jeff-bezos, #lockheed-martin, #lunar-lander, #moon, #nasa, #new-shepard, #northrop-grumman, #outer-space, #science, #space, #space-tourism, #spaceflight, #tc, #united-states

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Blue Origin pushes New Glenn orbital rocket’s first flight to Q4 2022

Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin published an updated timeline for the first flight of New Glenn, the orbital rocket it’s building to complement its existing New Shepard suborbital space launch vehicle. The company is now targeting Q4 2022 – a slippage of roughly a year from the prior stated timeline of sometime towards the end of 2021. The main cause, per Blue Origin? Space Force passing on using New Glenn to launch national security payloads during a recent contract bid process.

Blue Origin said in a blog post that the “schedule has been refined to match the demand of Blue Origin’s commercial customers,” and specifically says it “follows the recent Space Force decision to not select New Glenn for the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 Launch Services Procurement (LSP).” Those awards were announced last August, and the two winners were the United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX, who prevailed over Blue Origin, and also Northrop Grumman. The launch service contracts that make up the awards begin in 2022, so it makes sense why Blue Origin had been pushing for a first launch of New Glenn by the end of this year in order to meet the needs of Space Force.

While it may not be under the same time pressure without access to those contracts, it’s still making “major progress” towards New Glenn and the facilities at Cape Canaveral in Florida from which it’ll launch, according to the company. Blue Origin shared tweets showing off some of its progress, including work on the New Glenn rocket factory, testing facility and Launch Complex 36. It also said it’s put more than $2.5 billion into the facilities and infrastructure that will support its eventual launches.

#aerospace, #blue-origin, #florida, #jeff-bezos, #new-shepard, #northrop-grumman, #outer-space, #science, #space, #space-force, #space-tourism, #spaceflight, #spacex, #tc, #united-launch-alliance

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Is overseeing cloud operations the new career path to CEO?

When Amazon announced last week that founder and CEO Jeff Bezos planned to step back from overseeing operations and shift into an executive chairman role, it also revealed that AWS CEO Andy Jassy, head of the company’s profitable cloud division, would replace him.

As Bessemer partner Byron Deeter pointed out on Twitter, Jassy’s promotion was similar to Satya Nadella’s ascent at Microsoft: in 2014, he moved from executive VP in charge of Azure to the chief exec’s office. Similarly, Arvind Krishna, who was promoted to replace Ginni Rometti as IBM CEO last year, also was formerly head of the company’s cloud business.

Could Nadella’s successful rise serve as a blueprint for Amazon as it makes a similar transition? While there are major differences in the missions of these companies, it’s inevitable that we will compare these two executives based on their former jobs. It’s true that they have an awful lot in common, but there are some stark differences, too.

Replacing a legend

For starters, Jassy is taking over for someone who founded one of the world’s biggest corporations. Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer, who had taken over for the company’s face, Bill Gates. Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research, says this notable difference could have a huge impact for Jassy with his founder boss still looking over his shoulder.

“There’s a lot of similarity in the two situations, but Satya was a little removed from the founder Gates. Bezos will always hover and be there, whereas Gates (and Ballmer) had retired for good. [ … ] It was clear [they] would not be coming back. [ … ] For Jassy, the owner could [conceivably] come back anytime,” Mueller said.

But Andrew Bartels, an analyst at Forrester Research, says it’s not a coincidence that both leaders were plucked from the cloud divisions of their respective companies, even if it was seven years apart.

“In both cases, these hyperscale business units of Microsoft and Amazon were the fastest-growing and best-performing units of the companies. [ … ] In both cases, cloud infrastructure was seen as a platform on top of which and around which other cloud offerings could be developed,” Bartels said. The companies both believe that the leaders of these two growth engines were best suited to lead the company into the future.

#amazon, #andy-jassy, #aws, #azure, #cloud, #ec-cloud-and-enterprise-infrastructure, #ec-news-analysis, #enterprise, #jeff-bezos, #microsoft, #personnel, #satya-nadella, #tc

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Daily Crunch: Jeff Bezos will step down as Amazon CEO

The Bezos era is ending, Uber acquires Drizly and Tesla recalls 135,000 vehicles. This is your Daily Crunch for February 2, 2021.

The big story: Jeff Bezos will step down as Amazon CEO

Amazon announced today that founder Jeff Bezos will be transitioning from CEO to executive chair in the third quarter of this year. Andy Jassy, currently the CEO of Amazon Web Services, will be taking over as chief executive for the entire company.

In an email to employees, Bezos said that this will allow him to devote more time to “Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and [his] other passions.” Jassy, meanwhile, had previously been identified as a likely successor.

The tech giants

Uber is buying alcohol delivery service Drizly for $1.1B — The plan is to build Drizly’s marketplace directly into the Uber Eats app, though Uber says it will maintain Drizly as a standalone app as well.

Tesla recalls 135,000 vehicles over touchscreen failures — According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the touchscreen in Model S and Model X vehicles can fail when a memory chip runs out of storage capacity.

Amazon to pay $61.7M to settle FTC complaint over stolen Amazon Flex driver tips — According to the complaint against Amazon and its subsidiary Amazon Logistics, the company had advertised that it paid 100% of tips to drivers, but in reality, Amazon used the customer tips to cover the difference after it lowered the hourly rate.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Divvy Homes secures $110M Series C to help renters become homeowners — Over the course of 2020, Divvy expanded operations from eight to 16 total markets and financed five times as many homes as it had in pre-pandemic times.

Kindred Ventures just closed its second fund with $100M in capital commitments — Kindred is a San Francisco-based pre-seed and seed-stage venture fund founded by Steve Jang and Kanyi Maqubela.

Omnispace raises $60M to fuse satellites and 5G into one ubiquitous network — Omnispace wants to offer ubiquitous 5G-compliant connectivity for enterprise users using a hybrid of wireless ground technology and satellites.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Udemy’s new president discusses the reskilling company’s future — “We blew through $100M ARR.”

The future of SaaS is on-demand: Use experts to drive growth and engagement — For SaaS companies, not having a gig economy strategy as we start 2021 is like missing the internet trend in 1990.

Save 25% with Extra Crunch Group Membership — This new feature allows you to easily manage seats and payments for your team through a self-service interface.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Eight Miami-area investors assess America’s southernmost tech ecosystem — We’re seeing a “moment” in Miami, but many are hoping to turn it into a movement.

Welcome Tage Kene-Okafor, Mary Ann Azevedo, Sophie Burkholder and a guy named Drew — Hooray for new team members!

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#amazon, #daily-crunch, #jeff-bezos, #tc

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What Andy Jassy’s promotion to Amazon CEO could mean for AWS

Blockbuster news struck late this afternoon when Amazon announced that Jeff Bezos would be stepping back as CEO of Amazon, the company he built from a business in his garage to worldwide behemoth. As he takes on the role of executive chairman, his replacement will be none other than AWS CEO Andy Jassy.

With Jassy moving into his new role at the company, the immediate question is who replaces him to run AWS. Let the games begin. Among the names being tossed about in the rumor mill are Peter DeSantis, vice president of global infrastructure at AWS and Matt Garman, who is Vice President of sales and marketing. Both are members of Bezos’ elite executive team known as the S-team and either would make sense as Jassy’s successor. Nobody knows for sure though, and it could be any number of people inside the organization, or even someone from outside. (We have asked Amazon PR to provide clarity on the successor, but as of publication we had not heard from them.)

Holger Mueller, a senior analyst at Constellation Research, says that Jassy is being rewarded for doing a stellar job raising AWS from a tiny side business to one on a $50 billion run rate. “On the finance side it makes sense to appoint an executive who intimately knows Amazon’s most profitable business, that operates in more competitive markets. [Appointing Jassy] ensures that the new Amazon CEO does not break the ‘golden goose’,” Mueller told me.

Alex Smith, VP of channels, who covers the cloud infrastructure market at analyst firm Canalys, says the writing has been on the wall that a transition was in the works. “This move has been coming for some time. Jassy is the second most public-facing figure at Amazon and has lead one of its most successful business units. Bezos can go out on a high and focus on his many other ventures,” Smith said.

Smith adds that this move should enhance AWS’s place in the organization. “I think this is more of an AWS gain, in terms of its increasing strategic importance to Amazon going forwards, rather than loss in terms of losing Andy as direct lead. I expect he’ll remain close to that organization.”

Ed Anderson, a Gartner analyst also sees Jassy as the obvious choice to take over for Bezos. “Amazon is a company driven by technology innovation, something Andy has been doing at AWS for many years now. Also, it’s worth noting that Andy Jassy has an impressive track record of building and running a very large business. Under Andy’s leadership, AWS has grown to be one of the biggest technology companies in the world and one of the most impactful in defining what the future of computing will be,” Anderson said.

In the company earnings report released today, AWS came in at $12.74 billion for the quarter up 28% YoY from $9.60 billion a year ago. That puts the company on an elite $50 billion run rate. No other cloud infrastructure vendor, even the mighty Microsoft, is even close in this category. Microsoft stands at around 20% marketshare compared to AWS’s approximately 33% market share.

It’s unclear what impact the executive shuffle will have on the company at large or AWS in particular. In some ways it feels like when Larry Ellison stepped down as CEO of Oracle in 2014 to take on the exact same executive chairman role. While Safra Catz and Mark Hurd took over at co-CEOs in that situation, Ellison has remained intimately involved with the company he helped found. It’s reasonable to assume that Bezos will do the same.

With Jassy, the company is getting a man who has risen through the ranks since joining the company in 1997 after getting an undergraduate degree and an MBA from Harvard. In 2002 he became VP/ technical assistant, working directly under Bezos. It was in this role that he began to see the need for a set of common web services for Amazon developers to use. This idea grew into AWS and Jassy became a VP at the fledgling division working his way up until he was appointed CEO in 2016.

#amazon, #andy-jassy, #aws, #cloud, #enterprise, #jeff-bezos, #personnel, #tc

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Jeff Bezos to leave Amazon CEO post after 27 years, become executive chair

Jeff Bezos bows to a crowd

Enlarge / Jeff Bezos greets a crowd at Amazon’s Smbhav event in New Delhi on January 15, 2020. (credit: Getty Images)

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and Elon Musk’s perpetual rival in the seesaw “world’s richest man” contest, today announced he is leaving the CEO post of the Internet giant he has led since 1994.

Bezos will switch from the CEO spot to Amazon’s executive chairmanship in Q3 of this year, he told his “fellow Amazonians” in a staff email posted on Amazon’s website. Bezos’ replacement as CEO will be Andy Jassy, a key player in Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud-computing division.

“This journey began some 27 years ago,” Bezos wrote. “Amazon was only an idea, and it had no name. The question I was asked most frequently at that time was, ‘What’s the Internet?’ Blessedly, I haven’t had to explain that in a long while.”

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#amazon, #biz-it, #jeff-bezos

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Jeff Bezos will no longer be CEO of Amazon as of later this year

Amazon founder and current CEO Jeff Bezos will be transitioning to Executive Chair of the company sometime in Q3 of this year, with current AWS CEO Andy Jassy taking over the top executive role at the commerce company. Amazon announced the news alongside its earnings results on Tuesday.

Amazon initially rose after-hours as the market digested both the company’s earnings and its CEO news. The company beat on both earnings per share, and revenues. That makes it hard to untangle the market’s response to its busy set of announcements. Update: Amazon shares have now dipped into negative territory as investors had more time to parse the company’s total collection of announcements.

Amazon crushed earnings-per-share and revenue expectations in Q4 2020. So, any investor worried about the exit of Bezos from the CEO chair were given some measure of of performance-based amelioration. Amazon’s quarter was its first to break the $100 billion mark, bringing in $125.6 billion in revenue against an anticipated $119.7 billion. And, the company’s $14.09 per share in earnings was nearly double an expected $7.23.

Jassy has been identified previously as the likely successor to Bezos, after leading Amazon Web Services (AWS) to the success it currently enjoys as a leader in the cloud computing space. AWS grew its revenues by 28% in the quarter, lower than its year-ago growth rate of 34%. AWS’s net revenues expanded from $9.95 in the year-ago Q4 to $12.74 billion during the fourth quarter of 2020. Operating income at AWS scaled as well, from $2.60 billion in Q4 2019 to $3.56 billion in the most recent quarter.

Notably Microsoft’s Azure business grew 50% in its most recent earnings period.

Bezos sent an email to Amazon employees, which the company also released publicly on its blog on Tuesday following the announcement. In the missive, he says that while he continues to “find [his] work meaningful and fun,” he wants to be able to devote proper time and attention to his “Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and [his] other passions.”

Developing…

#amazon, #amazon-web-services, #andy-jassy, #aws, #ceo, #computing, #earnings, #executive, #jeff-bezos, #tc, #technology

0

Nuclear fusion tech developer General Fusion now has Shopify and Amazon founders backing it

In a brief announcement today, the Canadian nuclear fusion technology developer General Fusion announced that the investment firm created by Shopify founder Tobias Lütke has joined the company’s cap table.

The size of the investment made by Lütke’s Thistledown Capital was not disclosed, but with the addition, General Fusion has the founders of the two biggest ecommerce companies in the Western world on its cap table.

Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, first invested in the company nearly a decade ago and General Fusion has been steadily raising cash since that time. In 2019, the company hauled in $100 million. That capital commitment is part of a haul totaling at least, $192 million, according to Crunchbase although the real figure is likely higher.

Indeed, General Fusion kept adding cash throughout 2020 as it looked to develop its demonstration fusion reactor.

General Fusion’s process is based on technology called Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF), first proposed by the US Naval Research Lab and developed in the 1970s.

The process involves creating a magnetically confined moderately warm plasma of around 100 eV (roughly 50 times the photon energy of visible light) in a flux conserver (a shell that preserves the magnetic field). By rapidly compressing the flux conserver and the magnetic field inside of it surrounding the plasma, the plasma is superheated to a temperature that can initiate a fast fusion burn, and create a fusion reaction, according to a 2017 description of the technology from General Fusion’s chief science officer and founder, Michael Laberge.

The company uses a roughly 3 meter sphere filled with molten lead-lithium that’s pumped to form a cavity. A pulse of magnetically confined plasma fuel is then injected into the cavity, then, around the spehere, pistons create pressure wave into the middle of the sphere, compressing the plasma to fusion conditions.

Neutrons escaping from the fusion reaction are captured in the liquid metal, and the heat from that metal generates electricity via a steam turbine. A heat exchanger steam turbine produces the power and the steam is recycled to run the pistons.

In recent years, both General Fusion and its main North American competitor Commonwealth Fusion Systems have made strides in getting their small-scale nuclear fusion technology ready for commercialization.

In the past, the wry joke about fusion technologies was that they were always ten years away, but now companies are looking at a four-year horizon to bring fusion to initial markets, if not the masses.

For its part, Commonwealth Fusion Systems is in the process of building a10-ton magnet that has the magnetic force equivalent to 20 MRI machines. “After we get the magnet to work, we’ll be building a machine that will generate more power than it takes to run. We see that as the Kitty Hawk moment [for fusion],” said Bob Mumgaard, the chief executive of Commonwealth Fusion in an interview last year.

Other startup companies are also racing to bring technologies to market and hit the 2025 timeline like the United Kingdom’s Tokamak Energy.

Like General Fusion, Commonwealth also has deep-pocketed backers including the Bill Gates-backed sustainable technology focused investor, Breakthrough Energy Ventures. In all, those investors have committed over $200 million to the company, which formally launched in 2018.

As these companies begin readying their technologies for market, governments are laying the groundwork to make it easier for them to commercialize.

At the end of last year, the Trump administration signed the COVID relief and omnibus appropriations bill that included an amendment to support the development of fusion energy in the US.

The new amendment directed the Department of Energy to carry out a fusion energy sciences research and development program; authorized DoE programs in inertial fusion energy and alternative concepts to find new ways forward for fusion power; reauthorized the INFUSE program to create public-private partnerships between national labs and fusion developers; and created a milestone-based development program to support companies not just through R&D, but into the construction of full-scale systems.

It’s this milestone program that was a cornerstone of the policy work that the Fusion Industry Association wanted to see in the US, according to a December statement from the organization.

By unlocking $325 million in financing over a five year period, the US government will actually double its research with matching contributions from the fusion industry. These demonstration facilities could go a long way toward accelerating the deployment of fusion technologies.

Founded in 2019, Thistledown Capital was formed to invest in tech that can decarbonize industry. The firm, based in Ottawa, has already backed CarbonCure, a technology that captures carbon dioxide from the air.

General Fusion has a strong record of attracting funding support from some of the world’s most influential technology leaders,” said Greg Twinney, CFO, General Fusion, in a statement. “Fusion is planet-saving technology, and we are proud to support the mission of Thistledown Capital in its pursuit for a greener tomorrow.”

#amazon, #breakthrough-energy-ventures, #department-of-energy, #fusion-power, #jeff-bezos, #nuclear-fusion, #plasma-physics, #shopify, #tc

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Blue Origin set to launch a New Shepard rocket outfitted with crew upgrades as it readies for astronaut flight

Blue Origin is set to launch one of its New Shepard rockets as early as tomorrow, January 14 at 9:45 AM CST (10:45 AM EST) for its first mission of 2021. This is a big one for the Jeff Bezos-founded space company, too – it includes upgrades to the crew capsule atop the rocket that are designed to improve the astronaut experience, a key preparatory step as the company approaches its first actual human spaceflight missions.

New Shepard has flown 13 times previously, and carried a number of different payloads to suborbital space before returning to Earth. The reusable launch vehicle aims to ultimately provide rides to space for people, too – and while there’s no stated timeline for this actually happening, tomorrow’s mission is a strong sign that it could be taking place sometime relatively soon.

Crew-focused upgrades flying on this New Shepard launch for the first time include acoustic and temperature regulation equipment, display panels that provide information to anyone who would be on board, and push-to-talk communications systems installed in each of the crew capsule’s six seats. One of those seats will have a life-size test article on board, a humanoid flight dummy named Mannequin Skywalker that Blue Origin uses to measure various aspects of the vehicle’s performance.

It’ll test astronaut safety alert systems that Blue Origin intends to include on the final flight system, and it’ll also carry a payload with a very different purpose – 50,000 postcards provided by school kids around the world to the Blue Origin non-profit Club for the Future.

The mission will be broadcast live by Blue Origin via its website and YouTube channel (embedded below) and you can expect the stream to begin around 30 minutes prior to launch time, so at around 10:15 AM EST (7:15 AM PST).

#aerospace, #astronaut, #blue-origin, #jeff-bezos, #new-shepard, #outer-space, #space, #space-tourism, #spaceflight, #tc

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Indian court rejects retail giant Future Group’s plea against Amazon

An Indian court rejected Future Group’s plea that sought to prevent its partner Amazon from raising objections and interfering in the Indian retail giant’s $3.4 billion asset sale deal to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, delivering a glimmer of hope to the American e-commerce firm that has invested more than $6.5 billion in the world’s second largest internet market.

Future Group was seeking an ad-interim injunction to restrain its partner Amazon from writing to regulators and other authorities to raise concerns over — and halt — the deal between the two Indian giants. The Delhi High Court ruled on Monday that Amazon cannot be barred from writing to regulators on account of “potentially irreparable damage.”

The ruling is the latest episode in the high-stake battle between partners Amazon and Future Group. Amazon bought 49% in one of Future’s unlisted firms last year in a deal that was valued at over $100 million. As part of that deal, Future could not have sold assets to rivals, Amazon said in court filings.

Things changed this year after the coronavirus pandemic starved the Indian firm of cash, Future Group chief executive and founder Kishore Biyani said at a recent virtual conference. In August, Future Group said that it had reached an agreement with Ambani’s Reliance Industries, which runs India’s largest retail chain, to sell its retail, wholesale, logistics, and warehousing businesses for $3.4 billion.

Months later, Amazon protested the deal by reaching an arbitrator in Singapore and asked the court to block the deal between the Indian retail giants. Amazon secured emergency relief from the arbitration court in Singapore in late October that temporarily halted Future Group from going ahead with the sale.

Until Monday, it remained unclear whether that ruling would hold any water in front of Indian courts. So much so that hours after the Singapore arbitration court announced its verdict, Future Group and Reliance said in a statement that will be going ahead with the deal “without any delay.”

Amazon had also reached out to the Competition Commission of India, the Indian watchdog, to block the deal. Competition Commission of India, however, approved the deal between the Indian firms. In earlier hearings, lawyers for Future Group likened Amazon’s effort to block Future Group’s deal to the East India Company, the British trading house whose arrival in India kicked off nearly 200 years of colonial rule.

At stake is India’s retail market that is estimated to balloon to $1.3 trillion by 2025, up from $700 billion last year, according to consultancy firm BCG and local trade group Retailers’ Association India. Online shopping accounts for about 3% of all retail in India.

Future Group and Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is a developing story. More details to follow…

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #ecommerce, #future-group, #india, #jeff-bezos

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Amazon’s Project Kuiper will seek multiple launch providers to carry its satellites to space

Amazon SVP of Devices & Services David Limp joined us at TC Sessions: Space today, and he shared some new details about the company’s Project Kuiper broadband satellite constellation. Limp shared more details on the technical design challenges that the Kuiper team solved with its revolutionary customer terminal, but he also shared more info on the company’s plans around launching its constellation, which will number 3,236 per the current plan approved by the FCC.

“We’re launch agnostic” Limp said. “If you know somebody who has a rocket out there, give us a call. “One of the reasons we thought the time was right to do a constellation now is because of some of the dynamics happening in the launch industry. Every day, we see a new demonstration of reusability every day, we see new demonstration of breakthroughs in better engines, whether that’s Raptor [SpaceX’s engine] or BE-4 [Blue Origin’s].”

Part of the FCC’s approval for Amazon’s constellation requires it to send up around half of its planned total constellation within the next six years, which is a significant volume and will require an aggressive launch pace to achieve. SpaceX’s Starlink, for context, has launched 16 batches of 60 satellites each for its network, with 14 of those happening in 2020 alone. In order to achieve that pace, Limp said that while he hopes Blue Origin (the Jeff Bezos-owned private rocket launch company) can provide some of its launch capacity, they will be looking elsewhere for rides to space as well.

“When you have to put 3,200-plus things into space, you will need will need launch a lot lots of launch capacity,” he said. “Our hope is that it’s not just one provider, that there will be multiple providers.”

Depending on the final Project Kuiper satellite spec, this could be a huge opportunity for new small satellite launchers coming on board, including companies like Astra, Kuiper and Virgin Orbit who spoke earlier today at the event on the progress their launch companies are making. It could also be a windfall for existing providers like Rocket Lab – and even potentially SpaceX. In response to a separate question, Limp noted that he doesn’t believe Project Kuiper is in direct competition with SpaceX’s Starlink, since there’s such a broad addressable market when it comes to connectivity for unserved and underserved customers globally.

#aerospace, #amazon, #blue-origin, #broadband, #david-limp, #federal-communications-commission, #internet-service-providers, #jeff-bezos, #outer-space, #rocket-lab, #satellite, #satellite-constellation, #space, #space-tourism, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #svp, #tc, #virgin-orbit

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African fintech startup Chipper Cash raises $30M backed by Jeff Bezos

African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has raised a $30 million Series B funding round led by Ribbit Capital with participation of Bezos Expeditions — the personal VC fund of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Chipper Cash was founded in San Francisco in 2018 by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled. The company offers mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.

Parallel to its P2P app, the startup also runs Chipper Checkout — a merchant-focused, fee-based payment product that generates the revenue to support Chipper Cash’s free mobile-money business. The company has scaled to 3 million users on its platform and processes an average of 80,000 transactions daily. In June 2020, Chipper Cash reached a monthly payments value of $100 million, according to CEO Ham Serunjogi .

As part of the Series B raise, the startup plans to expand its products and geographic scope. On the product side, that entails offering more business payment solutions, crypto-currency trading options, and investment services.

“We’ll always be a P2P financial transfer platform at our core. But we’ve had demand from our users to offer other value services…like purchasing cryptocurrency assets and making investments in stocks,” Serunjogi told TechCrunch on a call.

Image Credits: Chipper Cash

Chipper Cash has added beta dropdowns on its website and app to buy and sell Bitcoin and invest in U.S. stocks from Africa — the latter through a partnership with U.S. financial services company DriveWealth.

“We’ll launch [the stock product] in Nigeria first so Nigerians have the option to buy fractional stocks — Tesla shares, Apple shares or Amazon shares and others — through our app. We’ll expand into other countries thereafter,” said Serunjogi.

On the business financial services side, the startup plans to offer more API payments solutions. “We’ve been getting a lot of requests from people on our P2P platform, who also have business enterprises, to be able to collect payments for sale of goods,” explained Serunjogi.

Chipper Cash also plans to use its Series B financing for additional country expansion, which the company will announce by the end of 2021.

Jeff Bezos’s backing of Chipper Cash follows a recent string of events that has elevated the visibility of Africa’s startup scene. Over the past decade, the continent’s tech ecosystem has been one of the fastest growing in the world by year year-over-year expansion in venture capital and startup formation, concentrated in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch/Bryce Durbin

Bringing Africa’s large unbanked population and underbanked consumers and SMEs online has factored prominently. Roughly 66% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 1 billion people don’t have a bank account, according to World Bank data.

As such, fintech has become Africa’s highest-funded tech sector, receiving the bulk of an estimated $2 billion in VC that went to startups in 2019. Even with the rapid venture funding growth over the last decade, Africa’s tech scene had been performance light, with only one known unicorn (e-commerce venture Jumia) a handful of exits, and no major public share offerings. That changed last year.

In April 2019, Jumia — backed by investors including Goldman Sachs and Mastercard — went public in an NYSE IPO. Later in the year, Nigerian fintech company Interswitch achieved unicorn status after a $200 million investment by Visa.

This year, Network International purchased East African payments startup DPO for $288 million and in August WorldRemit acquired Africa focused remittance company Sendwave for $500 million.

One of the more significant liquidity events in African tech occurred last month, when Stripe acquired Nigerian payment gateway startup Paystack for a reported $200 million.

In an email to TechCrunch, a spokesperson for Bezos Expeditions confirmed the fund’s investment in Chipper Cash, but declined to comment on further plans to back African startups. Per Crunchbase data, the investment would be the first in Africa for the fund. It’s worth noting Bezos Expeditions is not connected to Jeff Bezo’s hallmark business venture, Amazon.

For Chipper Cash, the $30 million Series B raise caps an event-filled two years for the San Francisco-based payments company and founders Ham Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled. The two came to America for academics, met in Iowa while studying at Grinnell College and ventured out to Silicon Valley for stints in big tech: Facebook for Serunjogi and Flickr and Yahoo! for Moujaled.

Chipper Cash founders Ham Serunjogi (R) and Maijid Moujaled; Image Credits: Chipper Cash

The startup call beckoned and after launching Chipper Cash in 2018, the duo convinced 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures — co-founded by American football legend Joe Montana — to back their company with seed funds. The startup expanded into Nigeria and Southern Africa in 2019, entered a payments partnership with Visa in April and raised a $13.8 million Series A in June.

Chipper Cash founder Ham Serunjogi believes the backing of his company by a notable tech figure, such as Jeff Bezos (the world’s richest person), has benefits beyond his venture.

“It’s a big deal when a world class investor like Bezos or Ribbit goes out of their sweet spot to a new area where they previously haven’t done investments,” he said. “Ultimately, the winner of those things happening is the African tech ecosystem overall, as it will bring more investment from firms of that caliber to African startups.”

#500-startups, #africa, #amazon, #america, #apple, #banking, #bezos-expeditions, #chipper-cash, #e-commerce, #facebook, #financial-services, #ghana, #goldman-sachs, #ham-serunjogi, #hsbc, #interswitch, #iowa, #jeff-bezos, #joe-montana, #kenya, #liquid-2-ventures, #maijid-moujaled, #mastercard, #mobile-payments, #nigeria, #online-payments, #p2p, #paystack, #ribbit, #ribbit-capital, #rwanda, #san-francisco, #series-b, #south-africa, #stripe, #tanzania, #tc, #tesla, #uganda, #united-states, #venture-capital, #visa, #worldremit, #yahoo

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Blue Origin successfully launches and lands New Shepard, with a first-ever external booster payload

Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin launched its first mission of 2020 today, flying a New Shepard sub-orbital rocket from its West Texas testing facility. This particular rocket has flown a total of seven times including today, and this is now the 13th flight of a New Shepard vehicle overall. Today’s launch included a test of NASA’s active landing sensor system, which will be used to build an autonomous, precise and flexible landing system for future Moon landing vehicles.

The NASA landing system test also marks a first for Blue Origin – the first time it has tested flying a payload on the outside of New Shepard. To date, all New Shepard payloads have traveled inside the capsule atop the booster, but the external test here was necessary in order to perform measurements of the instruments that will be used to provide repeatable, precision landing capabilities to future spacecraft.

While NASA was obviously previously able to land on the surface of the Moon, it’s looking to upgrade the technology it uses to do so in order to be able to handle the challenging task with full automation, and with much higher precision for hitting very specific targets on the lunar surface – and providing spacecraft the ability to do so over and over again, reliably, since NASA’s goal with its Artemis generation of Moon missions is to establish a more permanent human research presence on our large natural satellite.

A number of experiments are also on board that capsule, which returned to Earth with a soft, parachute-aided landing. This launch also included a new heat shield used on the rocket as part of testing for future New Glenn flights, the next generation of Blue Origin spacecraft which will be able to handle orbital payload launches, adding to Blue Origin’s current suborbital capabilities with New Shepard.

#aerospace, #blue-origin, #jeff-bezos, #new-shepard, #outer-space, #private-spaceflight, #robotics, #science, #space, #space-tourism, #spaceflight, #tc

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Motif Foodworks preps commercial production for its first ingredient, improving the flavor of beef substitutes

Motif Foodworks, the Ginkgo Bioworks spinout focused on developing new plant-based flavorings and food ingredients, is readying commercial scale production of its first product an ingredient to improve the flavor of beef substitutes.

The expansion of Motif’s manufacturing capacity presages the commercial availability of its new flavoring, which should be on folded into consumer products by the fourth quarter of 2021, according to Motif chief executive Jonathan McIntyre.

“We’re making the product at pilot scale and we’re happy with the pilotization and now we’re scaling up to do large scales in formula development and characterization and talking to contract manufacturers about getting the product put in,” McIntyre said.

There’s a second product under development that’s focused on nutritional attributes for applications in sports nutrition and nutritional supplements, McIntyre said.

In all, Motif has nine ingredients under development with academic partners that will soon be coming to market.

“The first wave of those [ingredients] is targeted at plant-based meats,” McIntyre said. “Ground beef is the first one and the thing that you usually validate in.”

As the industry matures, there’s a growing sense among the lab grown meat and plant-based meat substitute manufacturers that the process isn’t as simple as just coming up with novel proteins to replicate the bloody taste of meats (like plant-based heme). Instead there’re going to be an array of ingredients and proteins that need to be identified and developed to replicate the fibrous textures and fats that make meat taste like meat.

It’s not just the muscle meat, what is critical is getting the flavor attributes and the other tissue attributes. When you get a steak and you see the marbleizing. That marbleizing creates a relationship between the protein fibers and the fat… has a lot to do with taste… that does not occur in a plant based product. Even when you cook a plant based burger next to a beef burger you see the fat behavior differently.”

So Motif is working on new ways to make that connective tissue using plant-based substitutes. It’s part of the company’s mission to be the plant-based ingredient company that can replace the chemicals and animal byproducts currently used to add texture and flavor to a whole range of food products.

“The technology is a plant-based set of ingredients that have been transformed to have properties that have connective tissue,” McIntyre said. “We don’t lock in to just one technology. We lock into what is the issue that is going to taste better. We have been building as strong as a food science, food application, culinology approach as we have protein science. Those ingredients are in the late analysis stage.. Where we’ll be making tens of kilos of material and getting those in front of consumers quickly.”

Looking ahead McIntyre said that Motif Foodworks is looking to create what he called new “food forms”. The idea, McIntyre said is to start making foods that have their own unique flavor profiles and ingredients that won’t necessarily need to be compared to an animal substitute.

“If you’re figuring out a way to make the plant-based option taste better, can you do other food forms that may not suffer by comparison to a burger?” McIntry said. “We want to show the plant-based food world it’s not about replacements.”

This is the next step in the evolution of a company that’s not yet two years old.

Motif spun out of Ginkgo Bioworks in February 2019 with a $90 million investment from Fonterra, the New Zealand-based multinational dairy company; the global food processing and trading firm Louis Dreyfus Co.; and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the climate focused investment fund financed by a global gaggle of billionaires including Marc Benioff, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Reid Hoffman, John Doerr, Vinod Khosla, Jack Ma, Neil Shen, Masayoshi Son, and Meg Whitman.

Motif isn’t just focused on making new ingredients and alternatives to traditional meat-based products. The company is also looking at ways to make existing food healthier with novel ingredients.

 

“That fortification game has been played a lot. We need to figure out how to get more servings of fruits and vegetables to consumers,” said McIntyre. “It could be that our list of ingredients could be more expansive to include not just plant protein.. It might be having two servings of vegetables combined with all of that in a great new food.”

#bill-gates, #breakthrough-energy-ventures, #chemicals, #consumer-products, #food, #food-science, #jack-ma, #jeff-bezos, #john-doerr, #marc-benioff, #masayoshi-son, #meg-whitman, #michael-bloomberg, #motif, #new-zealand, #reid-hoffman, #richard-branson, #tc, #vinod-khosla

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