The world’s biggest hydrogen fuel cell EV has started work in South Africa

A two-megawatt hydrogen-fueled powerplant, designed and built by First Mode in Seattle, is installed in a haul truck at Anglo American's platinum mine at Mogalakwena, South Africa. This vehicle is the world's largest zero-emission truck.

Enlarge / A two-megawatt hydrogen-fueled powerplant, designed and built by First Mode in Seattle, is installed in a haul truck at Anglo American’s platinum mine at Mogalakwena, South Africa. This vehicle is the world’s largest zero-emission truck. (credit: Anglo American)

Mining will always be an inherently anti-environment activity to some degree due to the whole “digging stuff out of the ground” thing. But mining companies are a part of society, and as society as a whole looks for ways to decarbonize, so too does the mining industry.

In South Africa, mining company Anglo American wants to set an example at its platinum mine in Mogalakwena, which has become home to one of the world’s largest electric vehicles—a 210-metric-ton (463,000-lb) truck powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The nuGen haul truck started life as a Komatsu 930E with a diesel-electric powertrain, in which a 16-cylinder engine acted as a generator to power the truck’s electric traction motors. Now, that diesel engine is gone, and the haul truck’s traction motors are powered by eight 100 kW hydrogen fuel cell modules from Ballard and a lithium-ion battery pack from Williams Advanced Engineering capable of outputting 1.1 MW, integrated by First Mode in Seattle.

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#anglo-american, #cars, #fuel-cell-electric-vehicle, #komatsu, #mining

Industrial cybersecurity startup Nozomi Networks secures $100M in pre-IPO funding

Nozomi Networks, an industry cybersecurity startup that aims to shield critical infrastructure from cyberattacks, has raised $100 million in pre-IPO funding. 

The Series D funding round was led by Triangle Peak Partners, and also includes investment from a number of equipment, security, service provider and go-to-market companies including Honeywell Ventures, Keysight Technologies and Porsche Digital. 

This funding comes at a critical time for the company. Cyberattacks on industrial control systems (ICS) — the devices necessary for the continued running of power plants, water supplies, and other critical infrastructure — increased both in frequency and severity during the pandemic. Look no further than May and June, which saw ransomware attacks target the IT networks of Colonial Pipeline and meat manufacturing giant JBS, forcing the companies to shut down their industrial operations.

Nozomi Networks, which competes with Dragos and Claroty, claims its industrial cybersecurity solution, which works to secure ICS devices by detecting threats before they hit, aims to prevent such attacks from happening. It provides real-time visibility to help organizations manage cyber risk and improve resilience for industrial operations.

The technology currently supports more than a quarter of a million devices in sectors such as critical infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and utilities, with Nozomi Networks doubling its customer base in 2020 and seeing a 5,000% increase in the number of devices its solutions monitor. 

The company will use its latest investment, which comes less than two years after it secured $30 million in Series C funding, to scale product development efforts as well as its go-to-market approach globally. 

Specifically, Nozomi Networks said it plans to grow its sales, marketing, and partner enablement efforts, and upgrade its products to address new challenges in both the OT and IoT visibility and security markets. 

#articles, #australia, #canada, #colonial-pipeline, #computer-security, #computing, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #energy, #funding, #internet-of-things, #malware, #manufacturing, #mining, #nozomi-networks, #porsche, #security, #technology, #united-states

Last day to snag early bird passes to TechCrunch Disrupt 2021

Don’t miss your chance to experience TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 — the startup world’s must-attend event of the season — for less than $100. Why not get the best ROI of your time while simultaneously learning about the latest industry trends and mining for opportunities that can take your startup to new levels of success?

Disrupt takes place on September 21-23, but the early-bird deal expires today, July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT). Buy your Disrupt 2021 pass now and save.

Let’s talk about what you’ll experience at Disrupt. Over on the Disrupt Stage you’ll find one-on-one interviews with icons and interactive, expert-led, presentations from across the tech, investing and policy sectors. Folks like Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn and Mirror CEO Brynn Putnam. And that’s just the tip of the tech iceberg. You can check out all the speakers here.

You’ll find plenty of actionable advice and how-to tips and strategies on the Extra Crunch Stage. Take a gander at just two of the topics we have scheduled there and explore the full Disrupt agenda here.

Crafting a Pitch Deck that Can’t Be Ignored: Investors may be chasing after the hottest deals, but for founders selling their startup’s vision, it’s never been more important to communicate it in the clearest way possible. Pitch deck experts Mercedes Bent (partner, Lightspeed Venture Partners), Mar Hershenson (co-founder & managing partner, Pear VC) and Saba Karim (Techstars’ head of accelerator pipeline) dig into what’s essential, what’s unnecessary and what could just make all the difference in your next deck.

How Do You Select the Right Tech Stack: From day zero, startups have to make dozens of trade-offs when it comes to the infinite variety of tech stacks available to today’s engineers. Choose the wrong combination or direction, and a startup could be left with years of refactoring to fix the legacy damage. What are the best practices for assessing potential stacks, and how can you minimize the risk of a painful mistake? Preeti Somal (executive vice president of engineering, HashiCorp) and Jill Wetzler (head of engineering, Pilot) will discuss strategies for improving engineering right from the beginning and at every stage of a startup’s journey.

Disrupt’s virtual format provides plenty of opportunity for questions, so come prepared to ask the experts about the issues that keep you up at night.

One post can’t possibly contain all the events and opportunities of Disrupt. Don’t miss the epic Startup Battlefield competition, hundreds of early-stage startups exhibiting in the Startup Alley expo area, special breakout sessions — like the Pitch Deck Teardown — and so much more.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 offers tons of opportunity. Don’t miss out on the first one — buy your Disrupt pass today, July 30, by 11:59 pm (PT) for less than $100. It’s a sweet deal!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#articles, #brian-armstrong, #brynn-putnam, #ceo, #coinbase, #duolingo, #finance, #hashicorp, #jill-wetzler, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #luis-von-ahn, #mining, #money, #pear-vc, #pete-buttigieg, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #techcrunch-disrupt-2021, #techstars, #united-states, #verizon-media

Meet the startups competing in the Extreme Tech Challenge Global Finals on July 22

There’s not much that thrills us more than a startup competition — and we mean deep down in our bones thrilled. That’s why we’re beyond excited to host the Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) Global Finals on July 22 starting at 9:00 am (PT). This event is virtual and free to attend — but you need to register for your free ticket.

We’re serious when we describe this particular startup competition as extraordinary. Why? This pitch throw-down is all about startups determined to power a more equitable, inclusive and healthy world, and we need more of that visionary thinking put into action.

The competition just to reach the finals was fierce. More than 3,700 startups — from 92 countries — applied across XTC’s competition tracks: Agtech, Food & Water, Cleantech & Energy, Edtech, Enabling Tech, Fintech, Healthtech and Mobility & Smart Cities. Learn more about XTC here.

You know they’ll bring the heat and present a finely tuned pitch. And they’ll need it to impress this panel of judges — all of whom focus on sustainable impact.

So, without further ado, meet seven of the world’s best purpose-driven startups as they vie to be crowned the Extreme Tech Challenge 2021 global winner.

AgTech & FoodTech: Wasteless, a patented fully automated AI solution that applies optimal markdowns in real-time — based on products’ expiration dates and other factors — to reduce food waste and increase profitability.

CleanTech & Energy: Mining and Process Solutions, a non-toxic, natural alternative to cyanide and acid for the extraction of metals in mining operations.

EdTech: Testmaster, a mobile app that helps secondary students in West African countries successfully pass their matriculation exams. “The best private tutor in one’s pocket” delivers short, intuitive and accessible exercises and tutorial videos.

Enabling Tech: Dot Inc., the maker of the first tactile monitor that enables STEM education, visual works and games for the 285 million visually impaired people worldwide. Dot Inc. is expanding its technologies to help all disabled people to access public information in smart cities through barrier-free kiosks and IoT infrastructures.

FinTech: Hillridge Technology has developed weather-based parametric insurance for farmers to help protect crop yields and livestock.

HealthTech: Genetika+ combines genetics, patient history and unique brain biomarkers to help people suffering from depression, thereby helping to save patients’ lives, physicians’ time and healthcare payers’ costs.

Mobility & Smart Cities: Fotokite helps public safety teams save lives with elevated and actionable intelligence at the push of a button. Fully autonomous and field proven, Fotokite solutions are used daily by firefighters and first responders to assess, visualize and document their incidents within seconds of arriving on scene.

The Extreme Tech Challenge Global Finals take place on July 22. Join us and thousands of people around the world for this free, virtual pitch competition. Register here for your free ticket.

#agtech, #artificial-intelligence, #business-incubators, #economy, #food-waste, #healthtech, #mining, #people, #smart-city, #startup-company, #tc

Single.Earth to link carbon credits to crypto token market, raises $7.9M from EQT Ventures

Here’s the theory: Instead of linking carbon and biodiversity credits to the sale of raw materials such as forests, which cause CO2, what if you linked them to crypto tokens, and thus kept these CO2-producing materials in the ground?

That’s the theory behind Single.Earth, which has now raised a $7.9 million seed funding round led by Swedish VC EQT Ventures to, in its own words, ‘tokenize nature’. Also participating in the round was existing investor Icebreaker, and Ragnar Sass and Martin Henk, founders of Pipedrive. The funding will be used to launch its marketplace for nature-backed MERIT tokens.

Single.Earth says its ‘nature-backed’ financial system will use using MERIT tokens. And given the market for carbon credits is estimated to be worth more than $50 billion by 2030 and crypto surpassed a $2 trillion market cap in 2021, their plan might just work.

It plans to build a ‘digital twin’ of nature that reveals how much any area of ecological significance in the world absorbs CO2 and retains biodiversity. Using environmental data such as satellite imagery, it aims to build global carbon models on which to base its token marketplace, generating profits through carbon compensations, ‘mining’ a new MERIT token for every 100 kg of CO2 sequestered in a specific forest or biodiverse area.

The MERIT tokens are then used to trade, compensate for a CO2 footprint, or contribute to climate goals (as the token is ‘used up’ and cannot be traded anymore). Companies, organisations, and eventually individuals will be able purchase these tokens and own fractional amounts of natural resources, rewarded with carbon and biodiversity offsets. The company says the market for carbon credits is estimated to be worth more than $50 billion by 2030.

Because of the traceability of blockchain and its link to a tradable token, payment to landowners would be immediate.

Single.Earth was co-founded in 2019 by CEO Merit Valdsalu and CTO Andrus Aaslaid. Valdsalu said: “Nature conservation is scalable, accessible, and makes sense financially; what’s more, it’s vital to engineer a systematic change.”

Sandra Malmberg, Venture Lead at EQT Ventures, added: “Oil was the new gold, data the new oil; now, nature is now the most precious and valuable resource of all. A company having a hectare of forest saved as a key metric to scale is a company we are thrilled to back. Disrupting the economy and financial markets with a new tradable and liquid asset class that has a positive impact on the environment is an irresistible investment.”

#articles, #ceo, #cryptocurrencies, #cto, #eqt-ventures, #europe, #martin-henk, #mining, #oil, #pipedrive, #satellite-imagery, #tc

Here’s what’s on tap today at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

It’s game day for mobility tech mavens around the world. Well, at least for the ones who made the savvy decision to attend TC Sessions: Mobility 2021. Are you ready for a day packed with potential, overflowing with opportunity and focused on the future of transportation? Yeah, you are, and so are we!

No FOMO zone: Did you wait until the last minute? We don’t judge — simply purchase a pass at the virtual door.

Let’s take a look at just some of the speakers, presentations and breakout sessions on tap today. We’re talking about leading visionaries, founders and makers of mobility tech. They just might have info you need to know, amirite? The times listed below are EDT, but the event agenda will automatically reflect your time zone,

Throughout the course of the day: Be sure to make time to meet, greet and network with the 28 early-stage startups exhibiting in our virtual expo area (seriously, they’re an impressive bunch). The platform lets exhibitors present live demos, host Q&As about their products or hold private 1:1 meetings. Go mining for opportunities!

2:05 pm – 2:15 pm

EV Founders in Focus: We sit down with Ben Schippers, co-founder and CEO of TezLab, an app that operates like a Fitbit for Tesla vehicles (and soon other EVs) and allows drivers to go deep into their driving data. The app also breaks down the exact types and percentages of fossil fuels and renewable energy coming from charging locations.

2:40 pm – 3:10 pm

Equity, Accessibility and Cities: Can mobility be accessible, equitable and remain profitable? We have brought together community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler; Remix by Via co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu and Revel co-founder and CEO Frank Reig to discuss how (and if) shared mobility can provide equity in cities, while still remaining a viable and even profitable business. The trio will also dig into the challenges facing cities and how policy may affect startups.

3:10 pm – 3:40 pm

The Rise of Robotaxis in China: Silicon Valley has long been viewed as a hub for autonomous vehicle development. But another country is also leading the charge. Executives from three leading Chinese robotaxi companies (WeRide, AutoX and Momenta) — that also have operations in Europe or the U.S. — will join us to provide insight into the unique challenges of developing and deploying the technology in China and how it compares to other countries.

That’s just a tiny taste of what today has in store for you. Choosing which of the 20 presentations and breakout sessions to attend could be tough. The good news is that you can catch anything you missed — or want to review again — with video-on-demand.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 kicks off today — go drive this opportunity-packed day like you stole it.

#articles, #automation, #ben-schippers, #china, #europe, #fitbit, #frank-reig, #judge, #mining, #momenta, #renewable-energy, #robotaxi, #robotics, #science-and-technology, #tamika-l-butler, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #technology, #tezlab, #tiffany-chu, #united-states

Crusoe Energy is tackling energy use for cryptocurrencies and data centers and greenhouse gas emissions

The two founders of Crusoe Energy think they may have a solution to two of the largest problems facing the planet today — the increasing energy footprint of the tech industry and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the natural gas industry.

Crusoe, which uses excess natural gas from energy operations to power data centers and cryptocurrency mining operations, has just raised $128 million in new financing from some of the top names in the venture capital industry to build out its operations — and the timing couldn’t be better.

Methane emissions are emerging as a new area of focus for researchers and policymakers focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping global warming within the 1.5 degree targets set under the Paris Agreement. And those emissions are just what Crusoe Energy is capturing to power its data centers and bitcoin mining operations.

The reason why addressing methane emissions is so critical in the short term is because these greenhouse gases trap more heat than their carbon dioxide counterparts and also dissipate more quickly. So dramatic reductions in methane emissions can do more in the short term to alleviate the global warming pressures that human industry is putting on the environment.

And the biggest source of methane emissions is the oil and gas industry. In the U.S. alone roughly 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas is flared daily, said Chase Lochmiller, a co-founder of Crusoe Energy. About two thirds of that is flared in Texas with another 500 million cubic feet flared in North Dakota, where Crusoe has focused its operations to date.

For Lochmiller, a former quant trader at some of the top American financial services institutions, and Cully Cavmess, a third generation oil and gas scion, the ability to capture natural gas and harness it for computing operations is a natural combination of the two men’s interests in financial engineering and environmental preservation.

NEW TOWN, ND – AUGUST 13: View of three oil wells and flaring of natural gas on The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation near New Town, ND on August 13, 2014. About 100 million dollars worth of natural gas burns off per month because a pipeline system isn’t in place yet to capture and safely transport it . The Three Affiliated Tribes on Fort Berthold represent Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations. It’s also at the epicenter of the fracking and oil boom that has brought oil royalties to a large number of native americans living there. (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The two Denver natives met in prep-school and remained friends. When Lochmiller left for MIT and Cavness headed off to Middlebury they didn’t know that they’d eventually be launching a business together. But through Lochmiller’s exposure to large scale computing and the financial services industry, and Cavness assumption of the family business they came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way to address the massive waste associated with natural gas.

Conversation around Crusoe Energy began in 2018 when Lochmiller and Cavness went climbing in the Rockies to talk about Lochmiller’s trip to Mt. Everest.

When the two men started building their business, the initial focus was on finding an environmentally friendly way to deal with the energy footprint of bitcoin mining operations. It was this pitch that brought the company to the attention of investors at Polychain, the investment firm started by Olaf Carlson-Wee (and Lochmiller’s former employer), and investors like Bain Capital Ventures and new investor Valor Equity Partners.

(This was also the pitch that Lochmiller made to me to cover the company’s seed round. At the time I was skeptical of the company’s premise and was worried that the business would just be another way to prolong the use of hydrocarbons while propping up a cryptocurrency that had limited actual utility beyond a speculative hedge against governmental collapse. I was wrong on at least one of those assessments.)

“Regarding questions about sustainability, Crusoe has a clear standard of only pursuing projects that are net reducers of emissions. Generally the wells that Crusoe works with are already flaring and would continue to do so in the absence of Crusoe’s solution. The company has turned down numerous projects where they would be a buyer of low cost gas from a traditional pipeline because they explicitly do not want to be net adders of demand and emissions,” wrote a spokesman for Valor Equity in an email. “In addition, mining is increasingly moving to renewables and Crusoe’s approach to stranded energy can enable better economics for stranded or marginalized renewables, ultimately bringing more renewables into the mix. Mining can provide an interruptible base load demand that can be cut back when grid demand increases, so overall the effect to incentivize the addition of more renewable energy sources to the grid.”

Other investors have since piled on including: Lowercarbon Capital, DRW Ventures, Founders Fund, Coinbase Ventures, KCK Group, Upper90, Winklevoss Capital, Zigg Capital and Tesla co-founder JB Straubel.

The company now operate 40 modular data centers powered by otherwise wasted and flared natural gas throughout North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Next year that number should expand to 100 units as Crusoe enters new markets such as Texas and New Mexico. Since launching in 2018, Crusoe has emerged as a scalable solution to reduce flaring through energy intensive computing such as bitcoin mining, graphical rendering, artificial intelligence model training and even protein folding simulations for COVID-19 therapeutic research.

Crusoe boasts 99.9% combustion efficiency for its methane, and is also bringing additional benefits in the form of new networking buildout at its data center and mining sites. Eventually, this networking capacity could lead to increased connectivity for rural communities surrounding the Crusoe sites.

Currently, 80% of the company’s operations are being used for bitcoin mining, but there’s increasing demand for use in data center operations and some universities, including Lochmiller’s alma mater of MIT are looking at the company’s offerings for their own computing needs.

“That’s very much in an incubated phase right now,” said Lochmiller. “A private alpha where we have a few test customers… we’ll make that available for public use later this year.”

Crusoe Energy Systems should have the lowest data center operating costs in the world, according to Lochmiller and while the company will spend money to support the infrastructure buildout necessary to get the data to customers, those costs are negligible when compared to energy consumption, Lochmiller said.

The same holds true for bitcoin mining, where the company can offer an alternative to coal powered mining operations in China and the construction of new renewable capacity that wouldn’t be used to service the grid. As cryptocurrencies look for a way to blunt criticism about the energy usage involved in their creation and distribution, Crusoe becomes an elegant solution.

Institutional and regulatory tailwinds are also propelling the company forward. Recently New Mexico passed new laws limiting flaring and venting to no more than 2 percent of an operator’s production by April of next year and North Dakota is pushing for incentives to support on-site flare capture systems while Wyoming signed a law creating incentives for flare gas reduction applied to bitcoin mining. The world’s largest financial services firms are also taking a stand against flare gas with BlackRock calling for an end to routine flaring by 2025.

“Where we view our power consumption, we draw a very clear line in our project evaluation stage where we’re reducing emissions for an oil and gas projects,” Lochmiller said. 

#air-pollution, #alpha, #artificial-intelligence, #bain-capital-ventures, #bitcoin, #bitcoin-mining, #blackrock, #china, #co-founder, #coinbase-ventures, #colorado, #computing, #cryptocurrency, #cryptography, #denver, #energy, #energy-consumption, #energy-efficiency, #everest, #founders-fund, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #jb-straubel, #lowercarbon-capital, #methane, #mining, #mit, #montana, #natural-gas, #new-mexico, #north-dakota, #tc, #tesla, #texas, #trader, #united-states, #upper90, #valor-equity-partners, #winklevoss-capital, #world-bank, #wyoming

Building tech for worker safety, Guardhat Technologies is a company that could only come from Detroit

Saikat Dey, the founder of Detroit’s own Guardhat Technologies, got his start working in the steel industry. His last job, before founding Guardhat, was serving as the chief executive officer of Severstal International, the multinational steel conglomerate whose headquarters were in Dearborn, Mich.

There, managing the global business of the fourth largest steelmaker by volume and revenue, with 3,600 employees in Mississippi, Michigan, and the coal mines of West Virginia, Dey became obsessed with safety, he said.

Beyond tracking cash flow and EBITDA, the typical numbers companies use, Dey said that worker safety was another measurement that effected compensation. “One of the key metrics is how well and how safe we keep our frontline workers,” Dey said. 

Dey’s concerns over safety at his plants is what led him to reach out to union leadership and begin developing the technology that would form the core of Guardhat’s offerings.

The company pitches a multi-product intelligent safety system that integrates wearable technology and proprietary software to detect, alert, and prevent hazardous industrial work-related incidents.

Investors including Dan Gilbert’s Detroit Venture Partners, General Catalyst, and RTP Ventures, the venture investment firm led by Ru-Net Holdings co-founder, Leonid Boguslavsky, are backing Dey’s vision, which also has buy-in from the most important audience of all, the unions representing the workers that use the company’s tech.

Notes on the first day brainstorming session for Guardhat’s industrial wearable. Image Credit: Guardhat

Made in Detroit, built for the world’s industrial workers

Roughly fifteen workers are killed every day on the job in industrial jobs like mining, metals and oil and gas and another 3 million people are injured every year. For executives in the industry, the issue is as much a financial concern as it is an ethical one. At Severstal, 40 percent of Dey’s salary was tied to worker safety, he said.

In fact, the idea for Guardhat hit Dey while he was walking the floor of the company’s Detroit-area steel plant. On one of his regular walks through the factory Dey said he wandered past a man working on a piece of equipment when the employee’s carbon monoxide alarm started to buzz. Instead of trying to find the source of the leak, the man turned off his monitor.

“You’re taking about a steel facility in the heart of Detroit having the largest blast furnace in North America,” said Dey. “Whatever that individual was doing, it could have led to a catastrophic accident.”

That’s what inspired Guardhat’s technology that Dey said was designed to answer a few simple, situational questions that apply to any factory anywhere in the world: Where are you? What conditions do you face? When can help get to you? Those are the questions that Guardhat’s technology is designed to answer.

“We didn’t have effective means to prevent or if an accident happens to intervene with timely information,” Dey said. 

The technology may have been designed by executives, but it was made in consultation with the heads of the Detroit area unions, to ensure that workers would actually use the product.

We decided that we wanted to do this in September 2014,” Dey said. “And when I was struggling with whether to scratch that itch and start the business, the union guys said go for it and do it…. I was a person of color with a $6 billion P&L running one of the six largest steelmakers in the U.S. building this literally out of the garage. It took a lot of guts, stupidity, and it took a lot of support from regular friends at the UAW.” 

That collaboration ensured that the union’s workers were comfortable that the information wasn’t being generated and stored in a way that employees would not feel that they were being monitored unnecessarily or punitively.

Guardhat Technologies wearable safety helmet. Image Credit Guardhat Technologies

From prototype to product

The company’s first product was the HC1 — a helmet that comes jam-packed with sensor equipment. “You want to put it on something that everyone wears and is mandated to wear,” Dey said.

Initially the thought was to just create the wearable, but over time Dey and his team realized that the device alone wouldn’t be enough. “The helmet is just another form factor… [and] whatever the form factor, you need to know how you make this information the single source of truth for the platform of all things that surround the worker.”

Like dozens of other Detroit-area startups that came before them, when Dey and his team needed to raise cash, they first turned to Dan Gilbert.

Gilbert tested the prototype by running around a building and asking the GuardHat team if they could find him and tell him where they thought he was.

With Gilbert on board, the product design firm frog labs came into the picture and so did 3M. By then, it was time to test the prototype.

“I still remember the first day we were in testing in a third party certified lab in Akron, Ohio,” sad Dey. These guys were dropping a metal ball from 5 meters and each one of those puppies was $3,000 a-piece and 27 of those hats got ground down to powder,” Dey said. “We failed every test because we didn’t know how to build a helmet.”

Assistance from frog and others brought the device over the finish line and it’s now being used by over 5,000 workers and prevented or alerted workers to at least 2,000 potentially dangerous incidents. 

For Dey, the business could only have come from Detroit. “The Detroit thing is symbolic,” he said. It’s a symbol of the school of hard knocks that educated its founding team in the ways these heavy industries.

#chief-executive-officer, #dan-gilbert, #detroit, #detroit-venture-partners, #general-catalyst, #michigan, #mining, #oil-and-gas, #rtp-ventures, #tc, #wearable-technology

Elon Musk declares you can now buy a Tesla with Bitcoin in the U.S.

Tesla made headlines earlier this year when it took out significant holdings in bitcoin, acquiring a roughly $1.5 billion stake at then-prices in early February. At the time, it also noted in an SEC filing disclosing the transaction that it could also eventually accept the cryptocurrency as payment from customers for its vehicles. Now, Elon Musk says they’ve made that a reality, at least for customers in the U.S., and he added that the plan is for the automaker to ‘hodl’ all their bitcoin payments, too.

In terms of its infrastructure for accepting bitcoin payments, Tesla isn’t relying on any third-party networks or wallets — the company is “using only internal & open source software & operates Bitcoin nodes directly,” Musk said on Twitter. And when customers pay in bitcoin, those won’t be converted to fiat currency, the CEO says, but will instead presumably add to the company’s stockpile.

In February when Tesla revealed its bitcoin purchase, observers either lauded the company’s novel approach to converting its cash holdings, or criticized the plan for its attachment to an asset with significant price volatility. Many also pointed out that the environmental cost of mining bitcoin seems at odds with Tesla’s overall stated mission, given its carbon footprint. Commenters today echoed these concerns, noting the irony of Tesla accepting the grid-taxing cryptocurrency for its all-electric cars.

As for how the bitcoin payment process works today, Tesla has detailed that in an FAQ. Customers begin the payment process from their own bitcoin wallet, and have to set the exact amount for a vehicle deposit based on current rates, with the value of Tesla’s cars still set in U.S. dollars. The automaker further notes that in the case of any refunds, it’s buyer-beware in terms of any change in value relative to the U.S. dollar from time of purchase to time of refund.

Musk also said that the plan is to expand Bitcoin payments to other countries outside the U.S. by “later this year.” Depending on the market, that could require some regulatory work, but clearly Musk thinks it’s worth the effort. Meanwhile, Bitcoin is up slightly on the news early Wednesday morning.

#bitcoin, #car, #ceo, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptography, #currency, #digital-currencies, #electric-vehicles, #elon-musk, #mining, #mobility, #open-source-software, #tc, #tesla, #u-s-securities-and-exchange-commission, #united-states

Co-founded by a leader of SpaceX’s missions operations, Epsilon3 wants to be the OS for space launches

Laura Crabtree spent a good chunk of her childhood watching rocket launches on television and her entire professional career launching rockets, first at Northrup Grumman and then at SpaceX.

Now, the former senior missions operations engineer at SpaceX is the co-founder and chief executive of a new LA-based space startup called Epsilon3, which says it has developed the operating system for launch operations.

“The tools I had wanted did not exist,” said Crabtree. So when she left SpaceX to pursue her next opportunity, it was a no-brainer to try and develop the toolkit she never had, the first-time entrepreneur said. “I started looking at ways in which I could help the space industry become more efficient and reduce errors.”

Joining Crabtree in the new business is Max Mednik, a serial entrepreneur whose last company, Epirus, raised at least $144.7 million from investors including 8VC, Bedrock Capital and L3 Harris Technologies, and Aaron Sullivan, a former Googler who serves as the chief software engineer. Mednik worked at Google too before turning his attention to entrepreneurship. His previous businesses ranged from financial services software to legal services software, Mednik too had an interest in aerospace. His first job offers out of school were with SpaceX, JPL, and Google. And Aaron Sullivan another former

Part of a growing network of SpaceX alumni launching businesses, Epsilon3, like its fellow travelers First Resonance and Prewitt Ridge, is creating a product around an aspect of the design, manufacturing mission management and operations of rockets that had previously been handled manually or with bespoke tools.

“They make mission management software for the launchers and for the satellite companies that are going to be the payload of the rocket companies,” said Alex Rubacalva, the founder and managing partner of Stage Venture Partners, an investor in the company’s recent seed round. “It’s not just the design and spec but for when they’re actually working what are they doing; when you’re uplinking and downlinking data and changing software.”

Rubacalva acknowledged that the market for Epsilon3 is entirely new, but it’s growing rapidly.

“This was an analysis based on the fact that access to space used to be really expensive and used to be the provenance of governments and ten or 20 commercial satellite operators in the world. And it was limited by the fact that there were only a handful of companies that could launch,” Rubacalva said. “Now all of a sudden there’s going to be thirty different space flights. Thirty different companies that have rockets… access to space used to scarce, expensive, and highly restricted and it’s no longer any of those things now.” 

Relativity Space's Terran 1 rocket, artist's rendering

Image Credits: Relativity Space

The demand for space services is exploding with some analysts estimating that the launch services industry could reach over $18 billion by 2026.

“It’s a very similar story and we all come from different places within SpaceX,” said Crabtree. First Resonance, provides software that moves from prototyping to production; Prewitt Ridge, provides engineering and management tools; and Epsilon3 has developed an operating system for launch operations.

“You’ve got design development, manufacturing, integration tests and operations. We’re trying to support that integration of tests and operations,” said Crabtree. 

While First Resonance and Prewitt Ridge have applications in aerospace and manufacturing broadly, Crabtree’s eyes, and her company’s mission, remain fixed on the stars.

“We’re laser focused on space and proving out that the software works in the highest stakes and most complex environments,” said Mednik. There are applications in other areas that require complex workflows for industries as diverse as nuclear plant construction and operations, energy, mining, and aviation broadly, but for now and the foreseeable future, it’s all about the space business.

Mednik described the software as an electronic toolkit for controlling and editing workflows and procedures. “You can think of it as Asana project management meets Github version control,” he said. “It should be for integration of subsystems or systems and operations of the systems.”

Named for the planet in Babylon Five, Epsilon3 could become an integral part of the rocket missions that eventually do explore other worlds. At least, that’s the bet that firms like Stage Venture Partners and MaC Ventures are making on the business with their early $1.8 million investment into the business.

Right now, the Epislon3’s early customers are coming from early stage space companies that are using the platform for live launches. These would be companies like Stoke Space and other new rocket entrants. 

“For us, space and deeptech is hot,” said MaC Ventures co-founder and managing partner, Adrian Fenty. The former mayor of Washington noted that the combination of Mednik’s serial entrepreneur status and Crabtree’s deep, deep expertise in the field.

“We had been looking at operating systems in general and thinking that there would be some good ones coming along,” Fenty said. In Epsilon3 the company found the combination of deep space, deep tech, and a thesis around developing verticalized operating systems that ticked all the boxes. 

“In doing diligence for the company… you just see how big space is and will become as a business,” said Michael Palank, a co-founder and managing partner at MaC Ventures predecessor, M Ventures alongside Fenty. “A lot of the challenges here on earth will and only can be solved in space. And you need better operating systems to manage getting to and from space.”

The view from Astra’s Rocket 3.2 second stage from space.

#adrian-fenty, #aerospace, #asana, #bedrock-capital, #elon-musk, #energy, #engineer, #entrepreneur, #github, #google, #hyperloop, #l3, #laser, #louisiana, #m-ventures, #mac-ventures, #managing-partner, #manufacturing, #mayor, #mining, #operating-system, #operating-systems, #outer-space, #project-management, #satellite, #serial-entrepreneur, #space-tourism, #spaceflight, #spacex, #tc, #washington

Swarm’s low-cost satellite data network is now available to commercial clients

One of the original startups that set out to create a low-Earth orbit satellite constellation to provide a data network here on Earth is now open for business: Swarm, which now operates 81 of its sandwich-sized satellites on orbit, announced today that its network service is live and available to commercial customers.

Founded in 2017 by CEO Sara Spangelo and CTO Ben Longmier, Swarm has accomplished a lot in a relatively short time, culminating in its recent launch of 36 of its smalll satellites during SpaceX’s first ride-sharing rocket launch late last month. Now that those are all online and operational, Swarm is able to provide full global network coverage, with the ability to check in with connected devices on its network up to multiple times per day.

Swarm’s offering uses embedded modems also designed and built by the company – the Swarm Tile, a tiny, low-powered modem that’s designed for maximum compatibility. The network is low-power and low-bandwidth, meaning it’s ideally suited for situations that require relatively low amounts of data transfer, but on a regular frequency over very long durations. That describes a wide range of use cases, including in shipping in logistics, agriculture, and other Internet of Things (IoT ) deployments. The breadth of their customer base has actually been a surprise, and far outstripped the early vision for the startup.

“We actually started with the containership use case […] we talked a lot about how many containers there are in the world, how many ship there are in the world,” Spangelo told me in an interview. “We also knew that logistics, trucks, and agriculture would probably be interesting markets. But I’m frankly surprised not only how many verticals, this applies to – there’s a lot more in ag and global development and maritime than I probably ever anticipated – but also just the number of use cases within those industries.”

Swarm's sandwich-sized IoT network satellites.

Swarm’s sandwich-sized IoT network satellites.

Spangelo is referring to the depth of the need for monitoring across the industries Swarm serves. So a client in green power wouldn’t want to just monitor the amount of power being generated by their turbines, but also to monitor the grid for power outgoing and power inbound. And in agriculture, industrial farms might want to monitor soil moisture levels, but also integrate Swarm connectivity in every single truck and tractor in operation in order to monitor their assets and their location. She also told me that vertically, she was surprised to discover just how many opportunities exist for low-bandwidth networks in construction, mining and in defense.

Swarm’s focus at this stage is strictly commercial, but Spangelo said that people have even approached the company to see if they can purchase a Swarm Tile and use it with an app with their phone for providing basic emergency connectivity while hiking. She says “they’re not quite” at the point where they have a commercially available product for consumers, but it’s an idea they’re working on.

One key aspect of Swarm’s business model is affordability: Its service is available for just $5 per month per connected device (with a one-time cost of $119 for each Swarm Tile itself), which is far below any other satellite service available today. Spangelo says that has meant they are seeing new customers not only in the form of switchers from other satellite network providers, but also from businesses entirely new to satellite connectivity – and for some of those, it’s changing what’s possible at a fundamental level.

“Take wineries – it’s a high-yield type of crop,” she said. “People want to monitor very accurately the moisture and soil. Traditionally, they’ve only been able to do that within cell range. So think of like Sonoma and Napa, cell connectivity is actually is really bad, because of the rolling hills. So now with Swarm you can have connectivity in those regions outside of cell, and provide that value, and much better knowledge and user data analytics to make much more informed business decisions, save water, save energy, save all those things.”

Some of these new use cases include projects like more finite weather and climate monitor to try to assist with efforts to control and contain wildfires, as well as providing detailed tracking of the cold storage chain required to safely and effectively transport COVID-19 vaccines. Spangelo says this is one of the most exciting aspects of Swarm reaching this commercialization stage – seeing what new opportunities are possible that just couldn’t be done before.

#aerospace, #articles, #ceo, #cto, #energy, #mining, #modem, #sara-spangelo, #satellite, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #startups, #swarm, #tc, #tile

Tesla’s Bitcoin investment could be bad for the company’s climate reputation and its bottom line

Tesla’s $1.5 billion investment in Bitcoin may be good for Elon Musk, but it’s definitely risky for the company that made him the world’s richest man, according to investors, analysts and money managers at some of the country’s largest banks.

As a standard bearer for the consumer electric vehicle industry and the broader climate tech movement rallying around it, Tesla’s bet to go all in on crypto could damage its climate bonafides and its reputation with customers even as other automakers pour in to the EV market.

Given Bitcoin’s current environmental footprint, the deal flies in the face of Tesla’s purported interest in moving the world to cleaner sources of energy and commerce.

Until the energy grid decarbonizes in places like Russia and China, mining bitcoin remains a pretty dirty business (from an energy perspective), according to some energy investors who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak about Musk’s plans.

We were talking about people doing this in Russia back in 2018 and how they were tapping coal power to run their mining operations,” one investor said. “The cost per transaction from an energy intensity standpoint has only gotten more intense. I don’t see how those things coalesce, climate and crypto.”

The stake makes Tesla one of the largest corporate hodlers of Bitcoin but represents a massive portion of the company’s $19 billion in cash and cash equivalents on hand.

“Given the size of their treasury it feels irresponsible, IMO,” wrote one investor whose firm backed Tesla from its earliest days. The company’s move could be seen as another example of the absurdity of U.S. capital markets in today’s investment climate — and the underlying cynicism of some of its biggest beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin investors welcomed the move, which sent the value of their holdings rocketing up by roughly 18% over the course of the day.

“The announcement that Tesla has diversified its treasury through the addition of bitcoin is not surprising, nor is the assuredness implied by an 8% allocation of cash-on-hand. Equal to Tesla’s R&D expenditure for 2020, this investment is significant to the Company and shows a commitment to maximizing shareholder returns,” wrote Stillmark founding partner Alyse Killeen. “Elon Musk has a long history of operating at the precipice of what’s possible technically and setting the trend of what’s to later become common operationally. I suspect the same will be true here, and that Tesla is the first of a larger cohort of publicly-traded companies that will aim to optimize the returns of their cash via bitcoin.”

Industry observers on Wall Street also criticized the company’s big bet on Bitcoin.

“Tesla buying $1.5 billion in BTC is interesting. Am assuming they haven’t hedged it, so they will either be cash rich in the future or have a hole in the balance sheet. Elon Musk stays wild,” wrote one capital planning executive at a major Wall Street bank who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the press. “[It’s] not dissimilar from a large company throwing cash into a wildly volatile emerging market currency.”

Still, in the short term, the deal is showing dividends. The price of Bitcoin has risen nearly $8,000, or 18.73%, over the course of the day since Tesla made its announcement.

But the investment represents the equivalent of the company’s entire research and development budget, as Killeen noted. That’s… something. There’s also the question is whether any regulator will step in to punish Musk.

Musk has been tweeting his support for Bitcoin and other, more arcane (or useless) cryptocurrencies like Dogecoin for the past several weeks, in what seems to be a violation of his agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The world’s richest man has previously been fined by regulatory agencies for his tweeting habits. Back in 2018, the SEC charged Musk with fraud for tweets about privatizing the electric vehicle company at $420 per share.

Musk eventually settled with the SEC, at the price of his role as chairman of Tesla’s board and a $20 million personal fine — with Tesla paying out another $20 million to the SEC.

The volatility of the cryptocurrency could impact more than just Tesla’s bottom line, but also hit its customers should they use the currency to buy cars.

“Bitcoin jumped over 15% to a new high of $44,000 on Monday. This sort of hype-based price power should be worrying to investors and consumers alike – especially if this is to be used as medium of exchange,” wrote GlobalData analyst Danyaal Rashid, Head of Thematic Research at GlobalData.

“If Elon Musk can help dictate the price of this asset with a tweet or large order, the same could happen to send the price back down. The task of purchasing a vehicle should not be speculative. Consumers who may have thought of buying bitcoin to use as a substitute for fiat – could very easily end up with more or less than they bargained for.”

 

#bank, #bitcoin, #chairman, #china, #corporate-buyers, #corporate-governance, #cryptocurrencies, #elon, #elon-musk, #energy, #mining, #musk, #russia, #securities-and-exchange-commission, #tc, #tesla, #united-nations

Will Brazil’s Roaring 20s see the rise of early-stage startups?

Since 2007, the number of publicly listed companies in Brazil has decreased from 400 to just a little over 300.

In the past six years there were only 21 IPOs — an average of just 3.5 public exits per year; by 2019, even Iran had more listed companies than Brazil. Global capital markets are heated given pandemic stimulus packages and low interest rates worldwide, but in Brazil the boom comes with a special feature: in Q3 2020, there were 25 primary and secondary equity offerings, and this year is on track to be the most active in history both in number of deals and dollar volume.

The most important event, however, is not necessarily the reversal of a shrinking public market but the fact that startups are issuing stocks for the first time, a dramatic change for a market previously dominated by industries like commodities and utilities.

Growth versus value: Revert the shrinking market and internet companies

Not only is Brazil’s IPO market roaring, the waitlist is even more impressive: More than 47 companies have filed at CVM (equivalent to the the Securities and Exchange Commission) to issue equity and are waiting for approval. In other words, the IPO is equivalent to more than 15% of the number of publicly listed companies. In the first half of October, six companies were approved to issue equity. Obviously construction and retail names are still predominant as they take advantage of the lower rates, but the main novelty are new entrants in internet and technology.

In the past decade, there were 56 IPOs in Brazil and only two were in the software space, both in 2013. That is a reflection of the profile of the investors who dominate local markets, which are used to allocating assets to companies in sectors like oil, paper and cellulose, mining or utilities. Historically, publicly listed companies in the country were value plays, as few of them had significant exposure to the domestic market and derived a significant share of revenue from commodities and exports.

As a result, companies that focused on the domestic market or on growth were never quite embraced by local investors. Many investors deploying capital in Brazil were mostly foreign and very risk-averse to the dynamics of the domestic market; in 2007, when Brazil went through a similar IPO boom, 70 percent of the demand for equity offerings came from foreign investors.

Along with an undervalued currency, growth companies struggled to find attractive valuations on the local exchange. As a result, growth companies such as Stone Payments, Netshoes, PagSeguro, Arco Educação and XP Investimentos did their IPOs in New York where they attained higher valuations. It’s ironic that there were three times more IPOs of Brazilian growth companies in the U.S. in the past five years than there were in the domestic market in the last decade.

Roaring 20s: New investors and massive portfolio relocations

#brazil, #column, #corporate-finance, #latin-america, #mining, #startups, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-funds

First commercial Earth-to-Moon communication relay satellite planned for 2023

Communications between Earth and the Moon actually requires a huge amount of equipment under current circumstances. The transmission distance for any data sent from our large natural satellite and us here on Earth is 225,000 miles – which means a transmission signal requires significant power, and that translates to heavy, bulky transmission equipment to get the job done. In space, weight and bulk immediately translates to costs that ramp up fast.

A new private venture by a new private space company called CommStar Space Communications could help defray that cost, by installing a data relay satellite in between the Moon and Earth, lowering the weight, power and cost requirements of any communications equipment that needs to be brought along on missions to the Moon in future.

CommStar Space Communications plans to do this by putting a relay satellite closer to the Moon, which would also include optical laser communications to make it possible to increase significantly the speed of communications of any assets operating in cislunar (aka, between the Earth and the Moon) space. The company’s goal is to replicate the efficiencies realized by the advent of commercial private space launch companies, including SpaceX and Rocket Lab, but for the lunar communications market. Ultimately, that could mean big leaps in affordability and practicality for commercial lunar exploration or mining ventures.

The startup is working with Thales Alenia Space for the design of its first satellite, which is named ‘CommStar-1,’ and which will kick-off planned development of an entire privately owned and operated network of satellites that the company hopes will act as a communications infrastructure backbone between Earth, the Moon, and eventually, other deep space destination.

The goal for the company is to have the first satellite deployed by 2023. Launch partner and plans aren’t yet available, but that’s an ambitious timeline so expect them to follow as CommStar builds out its approach.

#aerospace, #laser, #mining, #outer-space, #rocket-lab, #satellite, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #tc

Swarms of autonomous insect robots could prove key to future planetary exploration

While we’re preparing to launch a six-wheeled robotic rover roughly the size of a car to explore Mars, future planetary exploration and science missions could employ much smaller hardware — including, potentially, swarms of robots the size of insects designed to act in concert with one another autonomously.

Swarming insect-like robots are being developed by a number of different institutions and companies, but a researcher at California State University Northridge recently received a sizable Department of Defense grant specially to fund the development of autonomous robot swarms for extraterrestrial applications — as well as for use right here on Earth in mining, industrial and search and rescue efforts.

The grant, for $539,000, was awarded to CSUN mechanical engineering professor Nhut Ho, who also directs the NASA Autonomous Research Center for STEAMH (which focuses on collaborative research efforts between Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Arts, Mathematics and Humanities academics, hence the acronym). The goal of the research is to build robotic swarms that can essentially be dropped into unknown and hostile environments, and then figure out how to complete specific tasks they’re given without essentially any additional input.

Ultimately, such a swarm would be able to perform complex problem solving to deal with challenges, including organizing themselves into different-sized groups to handle different aspects of the task at hand, as well as dealing with setbacks, including losing individual members of the swarm through redundancy and repurposing.

One way the system will be tested is through use with a collaborating team from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) that seeks to find the best solutions for autonomously navigating and mapping underground environments.

As for why this approach is even being considered, there are a lot of potential benefits of using a swarm of small rovers versus a single, large one. At a very basic level, there’s built-in redundancy — if a rover like NASA’s Perseverance encounters a fatal error, the mission is essentially done, while a swarm losing individual members shouldn’t end the entire mission. Also, a swarm can self-assemble into individual subunits and cover more ground more quickly, accomplishing a number of goals in parallel where a larger rover might have to handle tasks in sequence.

CSUN is working on its swarm project with partners, including JPL, as mentioned, as well as Boston Dynamics, Intel, Clearpath Robotics, Telerob, Veoldyne and Silvus Technologies. It could be a while before any insect bots actually set “foot” on the red planet, but this is definitely a strong sign of interest and support from large, deep-pocketed public funding sources.

#aerospace, #boston-dynamics, #clearpath-robotics, #department-of-defense, #emerging-technologies, #intel, #mining, #robot, #robotics, #science, #space, #tc