Autodesk acquires Upchain

Autodesk, the publicly-traded software company best known for its CAD and 3D modeling tools, today announced that it has acquired Upchain, a Toronto-based startup that offers a cloud-based product lifecycle management (PLM) service. The two companies, which didn’t disclose the acquisition price, expect the transaction to close by July 31, 2021.

Since its launch in 2015, Upchain raised about $7.4 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. The central idea behind the service was that existing lifecycle management solutions, which are meant to help businesses take new products from inception production and collaborate with their supply chain in the process, were cumbersome and geared toward large multi-national enterprises. Upchain’s focus is on small and mid-sized companies and promises to be more affordable and usable than other solutions. It’s customer base spans a wide range of industries, ranging from textiles and apparel to automotive, aerospace, industrial machines, transportation and entertainment.

“We’ve had a singular focus at Upchain to up-level cloud collaboration across the entire product lifecycle, changing the way that people work together so that everyone has access to the data they need, when they need it,” Upchain CEO and founder John Laslavic said in today’s announcement. “Autodesk shares our vision for radically simplifying how engineers and manufacturers across the entire value chain collaborate and bring a top-quality product to market faster. I look forward to seeing how Upchain and Autodesk, together, take that vision to the next level in the months and years to come.”

For Autodesk, this is the company’s 15th acquisition since 2017. Earlier this year, the company made its first $1 billion acquisition when it bought Portland, OR-based Innovyze, a 35-year-old company that focuses on modeling and lifecycle management for the water management industry. 

“Resilience and collaboration have never been more critical for manufacturers as they confront the increasing complexity of developing new products. We’re committed to addressing those needs by offering the most robust end-to-end design and manufacturing platform in the cloud,” said Andrew Anagnost, President and CEO of Autodesk. “The convergence of data and processes is transforming the industry. By integrating Upchain with our existing offerings, Autodesk customers will be able to easily move data without barriers and will be empowered to unlock and harness valuable insights that can translate to fresh ideas and business success.”

#aerospace, #andrew-anagnost, #autodesk, #business-software, #cad, #ceo, #portland, #product-lifecycle-management, #product-management, #software, #supply-chain, #tc, #toronto

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Fab fires and drought threaten to make chip shortages worse

Semiconductor supply chains have not been having a good year. Shifts in demand brought on by COVID-19 have slammed into a series of fab and factory fires, the effects of which have been cascading throughout the global economy. Now, the semiconductor industry is being threatened by Taiwan’s worst drought in 67 years.

Chip shortages have rippled through various industries in recent months. Automakers have cut back production, citing supply issues. Automotive shortages are somewhat of the industry’s own making—when the pandemic hit over a year ago, automakers cut production and chip orders. Meanwhile, demand for consumer electronics surged, snapping up excess fab capacity. When car and truck sales rebounded months later, semiconductor manufacturers had no slack to meet demand. Recently, even consumer electronics companies have been finding it hard to secure a steady supply of chips for their products.

Taiwan’s drought began when typhoons failed to make landfall last year. Today, drought conditions cover a significant portion of the densely populated western third of Taiwan, extending from Hsinchu south to Kaohsiung, an arcing span of more than 150 miles on an island that’s only about 240 miles long. Water levels in major reservoirs have been as low as 10 percent of their capacity, and they’re currently being stabilized by water piped in from Taipei, which has so far avoided the worst of the drought.

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#drought, #fire, #japan, #policy, #semiconductors, #supply-chain, #taiwan

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This Y Combinator startup is taking lab grown meat upscale with elk, lamb, and wagyu beef cell lines

Last week a select group of 20 employees and guests gathered at an event space on the San Francisco Bay, and, while looking out at the Bay Bridge dined on a selection of choice elk sausages, wagyu meatloaf, and lamb burgers — all of which were grown from a petrie dish.

The dinner was a coming out party for Orbillion Bio, a new startup pitching today in Y Combinator’s latest demo day, that’s looking to take lab-grown meats from the supermarket to high end, bespoke butcher shops.

Instead of focusing on pork, chicken and beef, Orbillion is going after so-called heritage meats — the aforementioned elk, lamb, and wagyu beef to start.

By focusing on more expensive end products, Orbillion doesn’t have as much pressure to slash costs as dramatically as other companies in the cellular meat market, the thinking goes.

But there’s more to the technology than its bourgie beef, elite elk, and luscious lamb meat.

“Orbillion uses a unique accelerated development process producing thousands of tiny tissue samples, constantly iterating to find the best tissue and media combinations,” according to Holly Jacobus, whose firm, Joyance Partners, is an early investor in Orbillion. “This is much less expensive and more efficient than traditional methods and will enable them to respond quickly to the impressive demand they’re already experiencing.”

The company runs its multiple cell lines through a system of small bioreactors. Orbillion couples that with a high throughput screening and machine learning software system to build out a database of optimized tissue and media combinations. “The key to making lab grown meat work scalably is choosing the right cells cultured in the most efficient way possible,” Jacobus wrote.

Co-founded by a deeply technical and highly experienced team of executives that’s led by Patricia Bubner, a former researcher at the German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim. Joining Bubner is Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay, a former director of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, who was a post-doc at Berkeley with Bubner and serves as the company’s chief technology officer. Rounding out the senior leadership is Samet Yildirim, the chief operating officer at Orbillion and a veteran executive of Boehringer Ingelheim (he actually served as Bubner’s boss).

Orbillion Bio co-founders Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay, CTO, Patricia Bubner, CEO, and Samet Yildirim, COO. Image Credit: Orbillion Bio

For Bubner, the focus on heritage meats is as much a function of her background growing up in rural Austria as it is about economics. A longtime, self-described foodie and a nerd, Bubner went into chemistry because she ultimately wanted to apply science to the food business. And she wants Orbillion to make not just meat, but the most delicious meats.

It’s an aim that fits with how many other companies have approached the market when they’re looking to commercialize a novel technology. Higher end products, or products with unique flavor profiles that are unique to the production technologies available are more likely to be commercially viable sooner than those competing with commodity products. Why focus on angus beef when you focus on a much more delicious breed of animal?

For Bubner, it’s not just about making a pork replacement, it’s about making the tastiest pork replacement.

“I’m just fascinated and can see the future in us being able to further change the way we produce food to be more efficient,” she said. “We’re at this inflection point. I’m a nerd, i’m a foodie and I really wanted to use my skills to make a change. I wanted to be part of that group of people that can really have an impact on the way we eat. For me there’s no doubt that a large percentage of our food will be from alternative proteins — plant based, fermentation, and lab-grown meat.”

Joining Boehringer Ingelheim was a way for Bubner to become grounded in the world of big bioprocessing. It was preparation for her foray into lab grown meat, she said.

“We are a product company. Our goal is to make the most flavorful steaks. Our first product will not be whole cuts of steak. The first product is going to be a Wagyu beef product that we plan on putting out in 2023,” Bubner said. “It’s a product that’s going to be based on more of a minced product. Think Wagyu sashimi.”

To get to market, Bubner sees the need not just for a new approach to cultivating choice meats, but a new way of growing other inputs as well, from the tissue scaffolding needed to make larger cuts that resemble traditional cuts of meat, or the fats that will need to be combined with the meat cells to give flavor.

That means there are still opportunities for companies like Future Fields, Matrix Meats, and Turtle Tree Scientific to provide inputs that are integrated into the final, branded product.

Bubner’s also thinking about the supply chain beyond her immediate potential partners in the manufacturing process. “Part of my family were farmers and construction workers and the others were civil engineers and architects. I hold farmers in high respect… and think the people who grow the food and breed the animals don’t get recognition for the work that they do.”

She envisions working in concert with farmers and breeders in a kind of licensing arrangement, potentially, where the owners of the animals that produce the cell lines can share in the rewards of their popularization and wider commercial production.

That also helps in the mission of curbing the emissions associated with big agribusiness and breeding and raising livestock on a massive scale. If you only need a few animals to make the meat, you don’t have the same environmental footprint for the farms.

“We need to make sure that we don’t make the mistakes that we did in the past that we only breed animals for yield and not for flavor,” said Bubner. 

Even though the company is still in its earliest days, it already has one letter of intent, with one of San Francisco’s most famous butchers. Guy Crims, also known as “Guy the Butcher” has signed a letter of intent to stock Orbillion Bio’s lab grown Wagyu in his butcher shop, Bubner said. “He’s very much a proponent of lab-grown meat.”

Now that the company has its initial technology proven, Orbillion is looking to scale rapidly. It will take roughly $3.5 million for the company to get a pilot plant up and running by the end of 2022 and that’s in addition to the small $1.4 million seed round the company has raised from Joyant and firms like VentureSoukh.

“The way i see an integrated model working later on is to have the farmers be the breeders of animals for cultivated meat. That can reduce the number of cows on the planet to a couple of hundred thousand,” Bubner said of her ultimate goal. “There’s a lot of talking about if you do lab grown meat you want to put me out of business. It’s not like we’re going to abolish animal agriculture tomorrow.”

Image Credit: Getty Images

#articles, #austria, #barbecue, #beef, #bio, #butcher, #ceo, #chief-operating-officer, #chief-technology-officer, #coo, #cto, #cultured-meat, #director, #executive, #food, #food-and-drink, #future-fields, #getty-images, #machine-learning, #meat, #orbillion-bio, #san-francisco, #steak, #supply-chain, #tc, #y-combinator

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Investors Clara Brenner, Quin Garcia and Rachel Holt are coming to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

The transportation industry is abuzz with upstarts, legacy automakers, suppliers and tech companies working on automated vehicle technology, digital platforms, electrification and robotics. Then there are shared mobility companies from cars to scooters and mopeds to ebikes. And who can forget the emerging air taxi companies?

At the center of this evolving industry are the investors. Simply put: TechCrunch can’t hold an event on mobility without hearing from the people who are hunting for the best opportunities in the industry and tracking all of its changes. That’s why we’re happy to announce investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital will join us on our virtual stage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021. The virtual event, which features the best and brightest minds in the world of mobility, will be held on June 9.

p.s. Early Bird tickets to the show are now available – book today and save 35% before prices go up.

Brenner, Garcia and Holt will come on stage to discuss their near and long-term investment strategies, overlooked opportunities, and challenges that face startups trying to break into the transportation sector. They’ll lean on their considerable experience to provide the advice and insight that will help attendees understand the state of the industry and where it is headed.

Brenner is a serial co-founder. She is co-founder and managing partner of the Urban Innovation Fund, a venture capital firm that provides seed capital and regulatory support to entrepreneurs solving urban challenges. Urban Innovation Fund has backed curbflow, Electriphi and Kyte among others. She also co-founded Tumml, a startup hub for urban tech that provided 38 startups with seed funding and mentorship, and hosts events around urban innovation. In 2014, Forbes listed her as one of its “30 Under 30” for Social Entrepreneurship.

Garcia, a lifelong ‘car guy’ with an MS degree in management science and automotive engineering from Stanford University, is managing director at Autotech Ventures. He’s also a board director, board observer and advisory board member to a number of mobility companies including Lyft, Peloton Technology, and Connected Signals.

Garcia has been on the ground floor of startups, notably as part of the initial team at the electric vehicle infrastructure startup Better Place, where he was responsible for partnerships with automakers and parts suppliers while living in Israel, Japan and China.

Holt is co-founder and Managing Partner of early-stage venture firm Construct Capital, which is focused on finding founders that are trying to change foundational industries such as manufacturing and supply chain, logistics and transportation. The company’s transportation-focused investments include ChargeLab. Holt also sits on the board of MotoRefi.

Prior to Construct, Holt was at Uber, where she was one of the company’s first 30 employees. During her 8.5-year stint at Uber, Holt rose through the ranks of the company, including roles running the U.S.  and Canada “Rides” business as well as global marketing and customer support. She was a longtime member of the company’s executive leadership team. Her last position at Uber was leading the company’s new mobility organization, which focused on its e-bike and scooter businesses as well as running its incubator, which funded and developed new products and services.

Rachel began her career at Bain & Company, advising companies in the private equity, financial services and healthcare industries. She was ranked No. 9 on Fortune’s 40 under 40 and was named by Fast Company as One of the Most Creative People in Business.

We can’t wait to hear from this investor panel at TC Sessions: Mobility on June 9. Make sure to grab your Early Bird pass before May 6 to save 35% on tickets and join the fun!

#articles, #automotive, #autotech-ventures, #better-place, #board-member, #business, #canada, #china, #clara-brenner, #construct-capital, #e-bike, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #events, #executive, #fast-company, #financial-services, #forbes, #innovation, #israel, #japan, #lyft, #manufacturing, #motorefi, #peloton-technology, #private-equity, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #stanford-university, #startup-company, #supply-chain, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility, #techcrunch, #transportation, #uber, #united-states, #urban-innovation-fund, #venture-capital

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The Department of Defense is establishing a working group to focus on climate change

The U.S. Department of Defense is setting up a working group to focus on climate change.

The new group will be led by Joe Bryan, who was appointed as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense focused on climate earlier this year.

The move is one of several steps that the Biden administration has taken to push an agenda that looks to address the dangers posed by global climate change.

Bryan, who previously served as Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy for Energy under the Obama administration, will oversee a group intended to coordinate the Department’s responses to Biden’s recent executive order and subsequent climate and energy-related directives and track implementation of climate and energy-related actions and progress, according to a statement.

The Department of Defense controls the purse strings for hundreds of billions of dollars in government spending and is a huge consumer of electricity, oil and gas, and industrial materials. Any steps it takes to improve the efficiency of its supply chain, reduce the emissions profile of its fleet of vehicles, and use renewable energy to power operations could make a huge contribution to the commercialization of renewable and sustainable technologies and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Pentagon is already including security implications of climate change in its risk analyses, strategy development and planning guidance, according to the statement, and is including those risk analyses in its intallation planning, modeling, simulation and war gaming, and the National Defense Strategy.

“Whether it is increasing platform efficiency to improve freedom of action in contested logistics environments, or deploying new energy solutions to strengthen resilience of key capabilities at installations, our mission objectives are well aligned with our climate goals,” wrote Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a statement. “The Department will leverage that alignment to modernize the force, strengthen our supply chains, identify opportunities to work closely with allies and partners, and compete with China for the energy technologies that are essential to our future success.”

#articles, #biden, #biden-administration, #china, #climate-change, #electricity, #energy, #executive, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #navy, #oil-and-gas, #pentagon, #renewable-energy, #secretary, #simulation, #supply-chain, #tc

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A new type of supply-chain attack with serious consequences is flourishing

A computer screen is filled with code.

Enlarge (credit: Przemyslaw Klos / EyeEm / Getty Images)

A new type of supply chain attack unveiled last month is targeting more and more companies, with new rounds this week taking aim at Microsoft, Amazon, Slack, Lyft, Zillow, and an unknown number of others. In weeks past, Apple, Microsoft, Tesla, and 32 other companies were targeted by a similar attack that allowed a security researcher to execute unauthorized code inside their networks.

The latest attack against Microsoft was also carried out as a proof-of-concept by a researcher. Attacks targeting Amazon, Slack, Lyft, and Zillow, by contrast, were malicious, but it’s not clear if they succeeded in executing the malware inside their networks. The npm and PyPi open source code repositories, meanwhile, have been flooded with more than 5,000 proof-of-concept packages, according to Sonatype, a firm that helps customers secure the applications they develop.

“Given the daily volume of suspicious npm packages being picked up by Sonatype’s automated malware detection systems, we only expect this trend to increase, with adversaries abusing dependency confusion to conduct even more sinister activities,” Sonatype researcher Ax Sharma wrote earlier this week.

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#biz-it, #dependency-confusion, #malware, #network-compromise, #supply-chain, #tech

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Indonesian supply chain startup Advotics raises $2.75M led by East Ventures

The rapid growth of e-commerce in Indonesia, especially during the pandemic, is placing increasing demands on its supply chain infrastructure. But the country’s logistics industry is highly fragmented, with companies usually relying on multiple providers for one shipment, and many warehouses are still concentrated around major cities. Advotics wants to help with software to make the whole supply chain easier to track, and recently closed a $2.75 million funding round led by East Ventures.

Founded in 2016 by Boris Sanjaya, Hendi Chandi and Jeffry Tani, Advotics currently counts more than 70 clients, ranging from individual resellers to large corporations like Exxonmobil, Danone, Reckitt Benckiser, Sampoerna, Kalbe and Mulia Group.

According to research institution Statistics Indonesia, there are about 5 million small and medium-sized manufacturers in Indonesia. They use a supply chain with 15 million small to mid-sized distributors and about 288,000 large distribution companies. This fragmentation means higher expenses, with Report Linker estimating that logistics costs range between 25% to 30% of Indonesia’s gross domestic product.

To help make logistics more efficient for its clients, Advotics offers SaaS solutions to monitor almost their entire supply and logistics chain, from warehouse inventory to generating delivery routes for drivers. It includes a product digitalization feature that uses QR codes to track products and prevent counterfeiting. The company’s new funding will be used to launch a online-to-offline system for SMEs and grow its sales team.

Advotics is among several tech startups that are taking different approaches to tackle Indonesia’s logistics infrastructure. For example, Shipper wants to give sellers access to “Amazon-level logistics,” while Logisly is focused on digitizing truck shipments. Waresix recently acquired Trukita to connect businesses to shippers and truck shipment platform Kargo’s backers include Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick.

#advotics, #asia, #ecommerce, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #logistics, #southeast-asia, #startups, #supply-chain, #tc

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Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck explains why the company needs a bigger rocket, and why it’s going public to build it

Rocket Lab packed a ton of news into Monday to kick off this week: It’s going public via a SPAC merger, for one, and it’s also building a new, larger launch vehicle called Neutron to support heavier payloads. I spoke to Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck about why it’s building Neutron now, and why it’s also choosing to go public at the same time. Unsurprisingly, the two things are tightly linked.

“We have the benefit of flying Electron [Rocket Lab’s current, smaller launch vehicle] for a lot of customers. and we also have a Space Systems Division that supplies components into a number of spacecraft, including some of the mega constellations,” Beck told me. “So we have very strong relationships with, with a lot of different customers, and I think we get unique insight on where the industry is going, and where the where the pain points are.”

Those pain points informed Neutron, which is a two-stage reusable rocket. Rocket Lab already broke with Beck’s past thinking on what the launch market needed by developing partial reusability for Electron, and it’s going further still with Neutron, which will include a first-stage that returns to Earth and lands propulsively on a platform stationed at sea, much like SpaceX’s Falcon 9. But the market has shifted since Rocket Lab built Electron – in part because of what it helped unlock.

“The creation of Neutron came from from two discrete factors: One, the current need in the marketplace today. Also, if you project it forward a little bit, you know, Neutron will deliver the vast majority – over 90% of – all the satellites that, that are around or in some form of planning. And if you look at those satellites, 80% of them are mega constellations, by volume. So, in talking with, with a bunch of different customers, it was really, really apparent that a mega constellation-building machine is what the market really needs.”

Beck says that combining that market needs with a historical analysis that showed most large launch vehicles have taken off half-full resulted in them arriving at Neutron’s 8 metric ton (just over 17,600 lbs) total cargo mass capacity. it should put it in the sweet spot where it takes off full nearly every time, but also can still meet the mass requirement needs of just about every satellite customer out there, both now and in the future.

“We’re covered in scars and battle wounds from the development of Electron,” “The one thing that that Elon and I agree on very strongly is, by far the hardest part of a rocket is actually scaling it – getting to orbit is hard, but actually scaling manufacturing is ridiculously hard. Now, the good news is that we’ve been through all of that, and manufacturing ins’t just as product on the floor; it’s ERP systems, quality systems, finance, supply chain and so on and so forth. So all that infrastructure is is built.”

In addition to the factory and manufacturing processes and infrastructure, Beck notes that Electron and Neutron will share size-agnostic elements like computing and avionics, and much of the work done to get Electron certified for launch will also apply to Neutron, realizing further cost and time savings relative to what was required to get Electron up and flying. Beck also said that the process of making Electron has just made Rocket Lab extremely attuned to costs overall, and that will definitely translate to how competitive it can be with Neutron.

“Because electron has a $7.5 million sticker price, we’ve just been forced into finding ways to do things hyper efficiently,” he said. “If you’ve got a $7.5 million sticker price, you can’t spend $2 million on flight safety analysis, payload environmental analysis, etc – you just can’t do that. With a $60 or $80 million vehicle that you can amortize that. So we’ve kind of been forced into doing everything hyper, hyper efficiently. And it’s not just systems; it includes fundamental launch vehicle design. So when we apply all of those learnings to nNutron, we really feel like we’re gonna bring a highly competitive product to the marketplace.”

As for the SPAC merger, Beck said that the decision to go public now really boils down to two reasons: The first is to raise the capital required to build Neutron, as well as fund “other” projects. The other is to acquire the kind of “public currency” to pursue the kinds of acquisitions in terms of business that Rocket Lab is hoping to achieve. Why specifically pursue a SPAC merger instead of a traditional IPO? Efficiency and a fixed capital target, essentially.

“We were actually sort of methodically stepping towards an IPO at the time and, we were just sort of minding our own business, but it was clear we were pursued very vigorously by a tremendous number of potential SPAC partners,” Beck told me. “Ultimately, on the balance of timelines, this just really accelerated our ability to do the things we want to do. Because, yes, as you pointed out, that this kind of streamlined the process, but also provided certainty around proceeds.”

The SPAC transaction, once complete will result in Rocket Lab having approximately $750 million in cash to work with. One of the advantages of the SPAC route is that how much you raise via the public listing isn’t reliant on how the stock performs on the day – Beck and company know and can plan on that figure becoming available to them, barring any unexpected and unlikely barriers to the transaction’s closing.

“Having all the capital we need, sitting there ready to go, that really sets us up for a strong execution,” he said. “If you look at Rocket Lab’s history, we’ve only raised spend a couple of hundred million dollars to date, within all the things we’ve done. So capitalizing the company with $750 million – I would expect big things at that point.”


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#aerospace, #ceo, #computing, #electron, #elon, #finance, #launch, #manufacturing, #peter-beck, #rocket, #rocket-lab, #rocket-launch, #rocketry, #science, #spac, #space, #spacex, #supply-chain, #tc

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Atlanta startups have another venture fund to tap as Silicon Road Ventures closes on $31 million

Atlanta startups can now add another name to their rolodexes of venture firms operating out of the Big Peach with the close of Silicon Road Ventures new $31 million fund.

Silicon Road invests across the U.S. from its base in Atlanta, the firm said with a focus on e-commerce, retail, and consumer packaged goods.

The firm said it’s focused on in-store retail and technology for shoppers, the multi-channel commerce world, supply chain and logistics technologies and financial technologies and payments.

Founded two years ago, the fund invested in ten startups over the course of 2020 and is targeting another twenty for its first fund.

The firm hopes that entrepreneurs find its “corporate connect” program to be a key differentiator, which relies on founder and managing partner Sid Mookerji’s experience in e-commerce, retail and consumer packaged goods to link corporations to relevant startups and research, according to a statement.

Silicon Road is already working with the upstart retail chain Citizen Supply, which provides a highly curated marketplace to showcase new consumer brands.

Mookerji previously founded Software Paradigms International Group, which was one of the first retail IT companies offering a suite of products designed to optimize omni-channel strategies. The company’s clients included Macy’s, Walmart, Carrefour, and NAPA.

Joining Mookerji is managing director and partner, Ross Kimbel, a former co-founder of Be Curious Partners and a global director of innovation and entrepreneurship at The Coca-Cola Company. curated engagements between portfolio companies and major retailers and brands.

The company’s current portfolio includesPerchToucan AIWeStockSoftWear AutomationPatronPull LogicTurnSymTrainEveryware, and Wripple.

#atlanta, #carrefour, #co-founder, #e-commerce, #entrepreneurship, #macys, #managing-partner, #private-equity, #retail, #retailers, #startup-company, #supermarkets, #supply-chain, #supply-chain-management, #tc, #united-states, #walmart

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Allbirds is investing in plant-based leather substitute as it looks to further green its supply chain

The sustainability focused shoe maker Allbirds has taken another step to green its supply chain with a small $2 million investment in a new company called Natural Fiber Welding.

Announced this morning, the investment in Natural Fiber Welding will see Allbirds bring a vegan leather replacement option to customers by December 2021. It’s a natural addition for a company that has always billed itself as focused on environmental impact in other aspects of its apparel manufacturing.

Allbirds these days is far more than a shoe company and Natural Fiber Weldings suite of products that include both a purportedly tougher cotton fiber made using the company’s proprietary processing technology and a plant-based leather substitute.

Those materials could find their way into Allbirds array of socks, shoes, tshirts, underwear, sweaters, jackets, and face masks. Natural Fiber Welding already touts a relationship with Porsche on its website, so Allbirds isn’t the only company that’s warmed to the Peoria, Ill.-based startup’s new materials.

With the addition of Allbirds Natural Fiber Welding has raised roughly $15 million, according to data from Pitchbook. Other investors in the company include Central Illinois Angels, Prairie Crest Capital, Ralph Lauren Corp. and Capital V, an investment firm focused on backing vegan products.

Allbirds is far from the only clothier to make the jump to plant-based materials in the past year. The buzzy clothing company Pangaia invested $2 million into a company called Kintra which is making a bio-based polyester substitute in December.

By the far the biggest startup name in the sustainable fashion space is a company like Bolt Threads, which has inked deals with companies including Stella McCartney, Adidas, and the owner of the Balenciaga fashion house (among others).

Other startups that have raised significant capital for plant-based fabrics and materials are companies like Mycoworks, which raised $45 million last year from backers include John Legend, Natalie Portman along with more traditional investors like WTT Investment Ltd. (Taipei, Taiwan), DCVC Bio, Valor Equity Partners, Humboldt Fund, Gruss & Co., Novo Holdings, 8VC, SOSV, AgFunder, Wireframe Ventures and Tony Fadell.

With Natural Fiber Welding’s products Allbirds is boasting about a significantly reduced environmental footprint for its leather-like material. Natural Fiber Welding claims its material reduce the associated carbon footprint by 40 times and uses 17 times less carbon in its manufacturing than synthetic leather made from plastic.

The company does say that the plant leather will use natural rubber, an industry with its own history of human rights abuses, that’s also trying to clean up its act.

“For too long, fashion companies have relied on dirty synthetics and unsustainable leather, prioritizing speed and cost over the environment,” says Joey Zwillinger, co-founder and co-CEO of Allbirds, in a statement. “Natural Fiber Welding is creating scalable, sustainable antidotes to leather, and doing so with the potential for a game-changing 98% reduction in carbon emissions. Our partnership with NFW and planned introduction of Plant Leather based on their technology is an exciting step on our journey to eradicate petroleum from the fashion industry.”

TechCrunch has reached out to Allbirds for additional comment, but had not received a reply at the time of publication.

#adidas, #allbirds, #articles, #bolt-threads, #culture, #illinois, #john-legend, #leather, #manufacturing, #novo-holdings, #porsche, #shoe, #supply-chain, #sustainability, #taipei, #taiwan, #tc, #textiles, #tony-fadell, #valor-equity-partners, #welding

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Rainmaking launches Motion Ventures to boost innovation in the maritime industry

A new fund has launched, with backing from the Singaporean government, to support tech innovation for the maritime industry. Called Motion Ventures, it is targeting $30 million SGD (about $22.8 million USD) and has completed its first close, with Wilhelmsen, one of the world’s largest maritime networks, and logistics company HHLA as anchor investors.

Motion Ventures was launched by Rainmaking, the venture building and investment firm that runs accelerator program Startupbootcamp, and will jointly invest in startups with SEEDS Capital, the investment arm of government agency Enterprise Singapore.

SEEDS Capital announced in June 2020 that it plans to invest $50 million SGD in maritime startups, with the goal of creating more resilient supply chains and fixing issues underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shaun Hon, general partner at Motion Ventures and director at Rainmaking, told TechCrunch that the fund plans to invest in around 20 early-stage startups focused on AI, machine learning and automation, with check sizes ranging between $500,000 SGD to $2 million SGD.

“We’ve got our eyes on some of the maritime value chain’s biggest challenges including decarbonization, supply chain resilience and improving safety. In most cases, the technology to address the industry’s issues already exists, but the missing link is figuring out how to apply these solutions in the corporate context,” Hon said.

“That’s what Motion Ventures aims to address,” he added. “If we can bring a consortium of industry adopters together to connect with entrepreneurs early in the process, we’re setting everyone up with the best chance to succeed.”

In addition to capital, Motion Ventures plans to partner startups with well-established maritime firms like Wilhelmsen to help them commercialize and integrate their technology into supply chains. For mentorship, Motion Ventures’ startups will also have access to Ocean Ventures Alliance, which was launched by Rainmaking in November 2020, and now includes more than 40 maritime value chain industry leaders.

#asia, #fundings-exits, #logistics, #maritime, #motion-ventures, #rainmaking, #seeds-capital, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #supply-chain, #tc

0

Twinco Capital scores €3M for its supply chain finance solution

Twinco Capital, a Madrid and Amsterdam-based startup making it easier to access supply chain finance, has raised €3 million in funding.

Leading the round is Spanish VC fund Mundi Ventures, with participation from previous backer Finch Capital and several unnamed angels. Twinco Capital also has a debt facility with the Spanish investment bank EBN Banco de Negocios, which is common for any type of lending company.

Founded in 2016 by Sandra Nolasco and Carmen Marin Romano, Twinco Capital offers a supply chain finance solution that includes purchase order funding. To do this, it integrates with large corporates on the purchase side and then funds suppliers by paying up to 60% of the purchase order value upfront and the remainder immediately upon delivery.

The entire process is digital, promising a quick decision and fast deployment of funds, and is powered by Twinco’s supply chain analytics and the data it is able to access by partnering with both sides of the supply chain.

“The financing of global supply chains is expensive and inefficient, the burden of the cost is mostly borne by the suppliers and in particular by those that are SMEs in emerging markets,” explains Twinco Capital co-founder and CEO Sandra Nolasco.

“Take any global supply chain, such as apparel, automotive, electronics etc. Exporters in countries like Bangladesh, China or Vietnam that have been supplying European companies for years, with stable commercial relationships. However, their creditworthiness is still measured only on the basis of annual financials, making access to competitive liquidity a major obstacle for growth”.

By having visibility on both sides, including upcoming orders, Twinco provides liquidity to the suppliers “from purchase order to final invoice payment”.

“We do that by analyzing supply chain data – the performance of the suppliers, the network effects between common suppliers and buyers (and many more data points I am not allowed to mention!),” says the Twinco CEO. “In short, using advanced data analytics we can better assess, price and significantly mitigate risk. The good news is that the more transactions we fund, the more suppliers and buyers we add, the more robust is our risk assessment. We believe there is a strong network effect”.

To that end, Twinco makes money by charging a “discount fee” for each purchase order it funds. “Since default rates are a fraction of that fee, we can unlock significant value,” says Nolasco.

Meanwhile, the fintech is also unlocking an asset class for investors and competes with local banks that are much more manual and don’t benefit from increased visibility via network effects. Nolasco says that to ensure interests are aligned, the company uses a portion of equity to also invest in the purchase orders it funds.

#analytics, #europe, #finch-capital, #fundings-exits, #mundi-ventures, #startups, #supply-chain, #tc, #twinco-capital

0

Hong Kong startup ICW eyes supply chain diversification demand amid trade war

For American importers, finding suppliers these days can be challenging not only due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. The U.S. government’s entity list designations, human rights-related sanctions, among other trade blacklists targeting Chinese firms have also rattled U.S. supply chains.

One young company called International Compliance Workshop, or ICW, is determined to make sourcing easier for companies around the world as it completed a fresh round of funding. The Hong Kong-based startup has just raised $5.75 million as part of its Series A round, boosting its total funding to around $10 million, co-founder and CEO Garry Lam told TechCrunch.

ICW works like a matchmaker for suppliers and buyers, but unlike existing options like Alibaba’s B2B platform or international trade shows, ICW also vets suppliers over compliance, product quality, and accreditation. It gathers all that information into its growing database of over 40,000 suppliers — 80% of which are currently in China — and recommends them to customers based on individual needs.

Founded in 2016, ICW’s current client base includes some of the world’s largest retailers, including Ralph Lauren, Prenatal Retail Group, Blokker, Kmart, and a major American pharmacy chain that declined to be named.

ICW’s latest funding round was led by Infinity Ventures Partners with participation from Integrated Capital and existing investors MindWorks Capital and the Hong Kong government’s $2 billion Innovation and Technology Venture Fund.

Supply chain shift

In line with the ongoing shift of sourcing outside China, in part due to the U.S.-China trade war and China’s growing labor costs, ICW has seen more customers diversifying their supply chains. But the transition has limitations in the short run.

“It’s still very difficult to find suppliers of certain product categories, for example, Bluetooth devices and power banks, in other countries,” observed Lam. “But for garment and textile, the transition already began to happen a decade ago.”

In Southeast Asia, which has been replacing a great deal of Chinese manufacturing activity, each country has its slight specialization. Whereas Vietnam abounds with wooden furniture suppliers, Thailand is known for plastic goods and Malaysia is a good source for medical supplies, said Lam.

When it comes to trickier compliance burdens, such as human rights sanctions, ICW relies on third-party certification institutes to screen and verify suppliers.

“There is a [type of] qualification standard that verifies whether a supplier has fulfilled its corporate social responsibility… like whether the factory fulfills the labor law, the minimum labor rights, or the payroll, everything,” Lam explained.

ICW plans to use the fresh proceeds to further develop its products, including its compliance management system, product testing platform, and B2B sourcing site.

#asia, #china, #enterprise, #funding, #hong-kong, #icw, #manufacturing, #supply-chain, #tc, #trade-war

0

Air taxi startup Archer is partnering with automaker FCA on production of its electric aircraft

Archer, a company that’s looking to develop an airline of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for sue in urban transport, will work with automaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in a new partnership to benefit from the latter’s expertise in engineering, design, supply chain and materials science. Archer aims to start production of its eVTOLs at scale beginning in 2023, with an initial unveiling to occur early this year.

The new team-up will see FCA provide input that contributes to the design of Archer’s eVTOL cockpit, as well, another area where the automaker has ample expertise, since it has designed spaces for drivers for many decades in its automotive business. Archer’s aircraft will be powered by an electric motor, and will be able to fly for up to 60 miles at top speeds of 150 mph. The Archer eVTOL is designed to be quiet and efficient, with efforts from the FCA collaboration going towards lowering the cost of its manufacturing to make high-volume manufacturing achievable and sustainable.

Ultimately, Archer is looking to FCA to help it realize efficiencies in its process that can make bringing its eVTOL to market a sound business that can also be accessed affordably by end users. Palo Alto-based Archer is looking to ultimately scale production to the point where it can produce “thousands” of its eVTOL aircraft per year, for use in future air taxi services serving cities globally.

Based in Palo Alto and led by co-founders Brett Adcock and Adam Goldstein, and including industry executives like Chief Engineer Goeff Bower, who previously served int hat role at Airbus’ Vahana eVTOL initiative, Archer launched out of stealth earlier this year with backing from Marc Lore, current President and CEO of Walmart’s ecommerce business (he was co-founder and CEO of Jet when it was acquired by the retailer).

#adam-goldstein, #aerospace, #airbus, #airline, #chrysler, #companies, #ecommerce, #engines, #evtol, #fiat, #fiat-chrysler-automobiles, #manufacturing, #marc-lore, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #palo-alto, #startups, #supply-chain, #transportation

0

COVID-19 revealed the fragility of supply chains

Early in the pandemic, it was apparent that there would be worldwide lockdowns of varying degrees. So naturally, there was a run on toilet paper (and to a lesser extent, paper towels and tissues). Stores suddenly found themselves sold out of one of the most basic conveniences consumed by humans.

We had never seen this level of preparation, and the supply chains were not ready. They were still moving at the speed of business-as-usual, creating a gap between supply and demand.

Sliding further into the pandemic, this supply issue for basic goods shifted to the front-line workers who were stretching the safe limits of their personal protective equipment (PPE). This exposed the effect of a sudden change of demand in supply chains. Companies began to repurpose their production to produce protection equipment and hand sanitizer. Some to make a quick profit, others to fill a need in the supply chain.

It is time for companies and entire industries to rethink and transform their global supply chain models — in close collaboration with governments.

Governments and corporations were scrambling. There were spreadsheets floating around with offers from potential suppliers.

During this period, it was difficult to get an overview of the entire market, as quality, vendor search and price fluctuations caused general chaos. It was near impossible to track the origin of production, receive any information about any data related to the quality controls of production facilities. The market was flooded with bad products, fakes and so on. Think pieces started to appear with a beginner’s guide to supply chain structure.

Consumers began to understand that the system as it stood was not built for this type of upheaval.

Corporate sourcing strategies have been challenged

We have clearly witnessed that companies have little control of the supply chains. Normally most companies only have a moderately competent risk plan for tier one suppliers. We can only assume that this is why most of us are going without an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 this holiday season. These are not products that are built with components from one source; there are multiple components and materials that go into creating one of these machines.

From the refining process of the outer materials, to the dyeing colors, plastic elements and the need to have low-cost production sites in low-cost countries, all contribute to possible delays in production when things are not moving as they should be. De-constructing a gaming console reveals an extremely complicated matrix of companies, processes, materials and countries.

If we had direct visibility into the journey of each component in a gaming console as a sort of smart-representation exposing all the materials, people involved, companies and locations, we would be able to pinpoint inefficiencies in the supply chain.

All these materials and components find their way in the supply chain, but their stories get lost along the way. That specific data is not available, and thus both companies and countries are struggling to create effective risk plans for world events that throw the supply chain into chaos. Currently, there is a revolution happening under the radar of most people, enabled by distributed ledger technologies (blockchain) to bring such transparency into the supply chains.

Identify your vulnerabilities

Understanding where the risks lie so that companies can protect themselves may require a lot of digging. It entails going far beyond the first and second tiers and mapping full supply chains, including distribution facilities and transportation hubs. This is time-consuming and expensive, which explains why most major firms have focused their attention only on strategic direct suppliers that account for large amounts of their expenditures.

But a surprise disruption that brings a business to a halt can be much more costly than a deep look into a supply chain.

The goal of the mapping process should be to categorize suppliers as low, medium, or high risk and build appropriate mitigation strategies. But this approach is only possible if we can access the data generated by different suppliers at any tier in the supply chain — and we can trust this data for analysis.

The aim is to have early warnings of delays or disruptions, allowing for either the diversification of sources or the stockpiling of key materials or items. Of course, that is all speculative as we have a vaccine rolling out, only months after running out of toilet paper.

Pandemic and the vaccine and supply chains

What we thought was a global and free market was challenged this year. Medical companies experienced a lack of capability to source some core ingredients, such as active ingredients in headache pills produced in India. Everything became a national fight to secure needed goods for one’s own country — a trend also enhanced by the increased nationalism and protectionism in trade. The need for control and visibility into supply chains was apparent and also became a priority for governments and not only the private sector.

With the rollout of a vaccine (or several vaccines), we not only will see the issues presented above in the sense of risk, control of sourcing and process, but quality and responsibility as well. From fakes to already active cyberattacks targeting a very specific point of the supply chain process (vaccines must be shipped and held at a certain temperature) we’re seeing the need for decentralized logistic systems that tell the story of every touch point in production. But none of this will matter if governments cannot manage their own supply chain needs, as we’re already seeing.

It is possible that lessons will be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is time for companies and entire industries to rethink and transform their global supply chain models — in close collaboration with governments. One thing is for sure, the pandemic has already exposed the vulnerabilities of many organizations, especially those who have a solid dependence on global sourcing for raw or finished materials.

The good news is that new supply chain technologies are emerging that will heighten visibility across supply chains, reducing risk and creating an infrastructure that can handle the volatility of the next pandemic. The application of distributed ledger technology has already proven to be useful as a solution to ensure accountability and trust in the data provided along the supply chain. Digital supply networks will slowly replace linear supply chain models, breaking down functional silos to create end-to-end visibility, collaboration, agility and optimization.

That is good news for the future, especially since we’re all experts in supply chain logistics after nearly a year of working from home, stockpiling toilet paper and clicking refresh to hopefully add one of the not-nearly-enough gaming consoles to our cart.

#column, #covid-19, #logistics, #supply-chain, #supply-chain-management, #supply-chains

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Lockheed Martin acquires rocket engine maker Aerojet Rocketdyne for $4.4Bn as Space heats up

Lockheed Martin (LM), the US’s largest defence contractor will acquire Aerojet Rocketdyne (AR), a rocket engine and missile manufacturer, for $4.4 billion including debt and net cash, giving the company a larger stake in space and hypersonic technology. The move comes amid the context of increasing competition in the Space and Defence industries.

In a news release, the company said the proposed acquisition adds substantial expertise in propulsion to Lockheed Martin’s portfolio and that Aerojet Rocketdyne’s technologies were already ‘key components’ of Lockheed’s supply chain. It already uses Aerojet Rocketdyne’s propulsion systems in its aeronautics, missiles and fire control offerings.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s 2019 revenues were approximately $2 billion. The company, headquartered in El Segundo, California, has nearly 5,000 employees and was formed in 2013 when GenCorp’s Aerojet and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne were merged. The company produces solid rocket motors as well as tactical and strategic missiles for the Defense Department.

AR makes the RL10 rocket engine that powers the upper stage of United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4 and Atlas 5 launch vehicles, and also produces the RS-25 engines for NASA’s Space Launch System.

The company’s move comes as it attempts to increase its propulsion capabilities to compete with new entrants such as SpaceX and Blue Origin for space contracts with the U.S. government. Meanwhile, rival Raytheon Co. is preparing to combine with United Technologies Corp to create an aerospace-and-defense giant.

Lockheed CEO James Taiclet said in a statement: “Acquiring Aerojet Rocketdyne will preserve and strengthen an essential component of the domestic defense industrial base and reduce costs for our customers and the American taxpayer.”

Aerojet’s CEO Eileen Drake said: “As part of Lockheed Martin, we will bring our advanced technologies together with their substantial expertise and resources to accelerate our shared purpose: enabling the defense of our nation and space exploration.”

The acquisition is expected to close in the second half of 2021 but will be subject to the usual requirement for approvals by regulators and Aerojet Rocketdyne’s stockholders.

#aerojet-rocketdyne, #blue-origin, #california, #ceo, #companies, #delta, #department-of-defense, #lockheed-martin, #space, #spacex, #supply-chain, #tc, #u-s-government, #united-launch-alliance, #united-states

0

Waresix acquires Trukita to connect more of Indonesia’s fragmented logistics chain

Andree Susanto, CEO and co-founder of Waresix, left, with Ady Bangun, CEO and co-founder of Trukita

Andree Susanto, CEO and co-founder of Waresix, left, with Ady Bangun, CEO and co-founder of Trukita

Waresix, one of Indonesia’s largest logistics startups, has acquired Trukita, a company that focuses on the “first mile.” The term refers to the part of the supply chain where goods are transported from ports to warehouses.

While Waresix’s platform digitizes all parts of the supply and logistics chain, its current focus is on mid-mile logistics services, or transportation from warehouses to distributors. Trukita has an extended network of over 10,000 trucks, and the combination of the two companies means it is “now one of the largest logistics technology providers in Indonesia,” said co-founder and chief executive officer Andree Susanto. Both Waresix and Trukita operate by connecting businesses to shipper and warehouses, and the acquisition will enable them to lower customer costs.

Waresix, which recently announced it raised $100 million in funding over the past year from investors like EV Growth, Jungle Ventures and SoftBank Ventures Asia, works with more than 375 warehouses and 40,000 trucks across Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country. It currently serves more than 100 cities.

Indonesia’s geography creates unique challenges for logistics companies, especially those operating outside of major cities, because it is an archipelago made up of more than 17,500 islands, of which 6,000 are inhabited. This means supply chains often span ships, trucks and several warehouses before goods make it to their final destination. The high costs of logistics has a sizable impact on Indonesia’s economy and the government is currently engaged in an initiative to develop more infrastructure, integrate databases and simplify export-import licensing.

Indonesia’s complicated logistics landscape has given rise to startups like Waresix, Kargo and Ritase, which focus on removing middlemen, managing shipments in real-time and using data analytics to uncover inefficienies in the supply chain.

Trukita was founded in 2017, and its investors include Astra International, EverHaüs and Plug and Play.

 

#asia, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #logistics, #southeast-asia, #startups, #supply-chain, #tc, #trukita, #waresix

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Hong Kong-based Pickupp makes logistics more affordable for e-commerce sellers

Logistics startup co-founder and chief executive officer Crystal Pang

Logistics startup co-founder and chief executive officer Crystal Pang

Logistics is one of the biggest challenges in e-commerce, especially for smaller merchants. Pickupp helps them compete in the on-demand economy with flexible, customizable delivery services. Based in Hong Kong, Pickupp also operates in Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan, and claims it can save clients an average of about 28% in logistic costs.

Pickupp is able to do this with an asset-light business model. Instead of operating warehouses or its own fleets, it partners with logistics companies and uses proprietary software to make delivering batches of orders more efficient.

The company, which currently serves about 10,000 e-commerce merchants, announced last month it closed an undisclosed amount in Series A funding from Vision Plus Capital, Alibaba Enterpreneurs Fund, Cyperport Macro Fund, Swire Properties New Ventures and SparkLabs Taipei.

Pickupp currently offers three kinds of door-to-door delivery services: on-demand couriers who deliver within a four hour window, same day deliveries, and one to three day deliveries. It can also customize logistics and last-minute delivery solutions for businesses.

In Singapore, Pickupp runs its own e-commerce platform. Called Shop On Pickupp, the platform enables merchants to move more of their retail operations online and has been used to digitize marketplaces like the Shilin Singapore Night Market during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before starting Pickupp, co-founder and chief executive officer Crystal Pang, a software engineer by training, was part of the team that launched Uber in Hong Kong in 2014.

“Around that time, I started looking into logistics, because I found out a lot of merchants were trying to use Uber cars to deliver other stuff, anything but people,” she said.

But unlike delivery services, merchants couldn’t bargain with Uber drivers—for example, negotiating discounted fees if they were able to wait longer for a vehicle. “That’s the gist of logistics, because everyone wants to get part of those cost savings,” Pang said. Sensing a market opportunity, Pang began using her software engineering background to think of a solution.

Pickupp was founded in December 2016 and began operating the next year. When it launched, Pickupp already had formidable rivals like Gogovan and Lalamove. But since those companies focused mainly on on-demand, point-to-point delivery, Pang saw an opportunity to tackle other parts of the supply chain.

“How we see ourselves compared to other logistics companies is that we fulfill all these e-commerce needs. We behave like a logistics company, but we don’t need to own anything. So we perform the function of a traditional logistics company, which in this area is SF Express or Ninja Van, that lease warehouses and operate their own fleets, but Pickupp choses a lightweight asset approach to getting it done,” she said.

Pickupp positions itself more as a data and tech company, Pang added.

“You can almost imagine us as a monitoring system,” she said. Pickupp partners with sorting facilities, cross-border freight forwarders and delivery vehicles, and gives merchants visibility into where orders are along the supply chain.

Its system keeps costs down by predicting when and where available delivery people will be available, so it can match them with batches of orders. This also prevents bottlenecks during demand spikes and makes sure couriers are used at the most capacity possible, which is especially important for holidays and major shopping events like Double Eleven and Black Friday.

One of Pickupp’s advantages is that its system is designed to be flexible so it can scale into new Asian markets quickly. Pang told TechCrunch that the round will be used to add more services, and invest in machine learning, predictive analytics and understanding customer purchasing behavior. The company also plans to expand into up to five new Asian markets over the next three years.

#asia, #delivery, #e-commerce, #fundings-exits, #hong-kong, #logistics, #on-demand, #pickupp, #startups, #supply-chain, #tc

0

Singapore’s government launches blockchain innovation program with $8.9 million in funding

A group of Singaporean government agencies is launching a new research program for blockchain technology with $12 million SGD (about $8.9 million USD) in funding. Called the Singapore Blockchain Innovation Programme (SBIP), the project is a collaboration between Enterprise Singapore, Infocomm Media Development Authority and the National Research Foundation Singapore. It has support from the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the country’s central bank and financial regulator.

SBIP’s funding comes from the National Research Foundation, and will be used to develop, commercialize and encourage the adoption of blockchain technology by companies. The program will first focus on the use of blockchain in trade, logistics and the supply chain.

According to a press release, the program “will engage close to 75 companies” over the next three years. It is already working with Dimuto, a global supply chain platform, to use blockchain technology to trace perishables with the goal of improving farmers’ creditworthiness.

The program’s other plans include finding ways to help blockchain systems and networks collaborate with one another, and growing the blockchain sector’s talent pool.

While companies ranging from startups to giants like IBM have been exploring the use of blockchain technology to create more transparent and cohesive supply chains for years, the issue has become more urgent as the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted vulnerabilities in international logistics and supply chains.

In a statement, Peter Ong, the chairman of Enterprise Singapore, said “COVID-19 has emphasized the need for trusted and reliable business systems in the new digital world. Blockchain technology helps embed trust in applications spanning logistics and supply chains, trade financing to digital identities and credentials.”

Singapore’s government is positioning itself as a partner to blockchain developers and companies, with the goal of becoming a “crypto hub” that is more open to the technology than other countries. Other blockchain-related government initiatives include the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Project Ubin. Launched in 2016, Project Ubin announced in July that its multi-currency payments network had proved its commercial potential after tests with more than 40 companies.

#asia, #blockchain, #enterprise-singapore, #infocomm-media-development-authority, #logistics, #monetary-authority-of-singapore, #national-research-foundation, #singapore, #singapore-blockchain-innovation-programme, #southeast-asia, #supply-chain, #tc

0

Watch SpaceX launch its new and improved cargo Dragon spacecraft for the first time

SpaceX is launching a new spacecraft during its 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission for the International Space Station this morning. The launch is set to take off at 11:17 AM EST (8:17 AM PST) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and will be the first ever flight of an updated version of SpaceX’s cargo-specific Dragon spacecraft, which can carry more supplies and experiment materials and which can dock all on its own with the Space Station . Prior Dragon cargo craft required docking assistance from the robotic Canadarm guided by astronauts on board the ISS.

This redesigned version of Dragon can carry 20 percent more than the one it replaces, and it has twice the amount of powered locker cargo storage, which are used for transferring science experiments that require specific transportation environment conditions. It can also stay at the Space Station for over twice the max duration of the original, and each capsule is made to be reused up to five times. This new cargo craft is a modified version of the Crew Dragon, which SpaceX created to transport astronauts to the ISS. One of those is already docked at the station, so when this cargo Dragon arrives on Monday, there will be two SpaceX spacecraft attached to the ISS at once.

SpaceX realizes a bunch of performance improvements by using the new cargo Dragon design, but it also should mean that its supply chain is simpler since it’s essentially building the same Dragon spacecraft with modifications required depending on whether it’s intended for human crew use, or for a pure cargo mission like this one.

Today’s launch also uses a Falcon 9 first stage which flew the Demo-2 crew mission for SpaceX back in May, as well as a Starlink launch and the ANANSIS-II mission. It will attempt a landing at sea on SpaceX’s drone landing ship following separation from the second stage, so that SpaceX can reuse it again in future.

#aerospace, #dragon, #falcon, #falcon-9, #florida, #international-space-station, #outer-space, #science, #space, #space-station, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #supply-chain, #tc

0

Alibaba and Ethiopian Airlines to launch cold chain exporting China’s COVID vaccines

China has pledged that it would be sharing its COVID-19 vaccines with other countries, especially those with which it has close ties. While the country is not ready to deploy its vaccines internationally, it is gearing up the infrastructure for mass distribution.

This week, Alibaba announced that it has struck a partnership with Ethiopian Airlines to introduce a cold chain capable of transporting temperature-sensitive medicines from China to the rest of the world. The air freight will depart from Shenzhen Airport, which Alibaba says houses China’s first cross-border medical cold chain facility, twice a week to countries via Dubai and Addis Ababa.

“As soon as the vaccines are ready, we will have the capabilities to transport them,” a Cainiao spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Shenzhen is the home base of SF Express, another major logistics operator in China that has also been working on storing and shipping vaccines.

The Alibaba route is carried out by the firm’s logistics arm Cainiao, which operates in over 200 countries and regions. It’s certified by the International Air Transport Association to fly Covid-19 vaccines, which normally need to be stored at low temperatures. Cabins will contain temperature-controlled monitors, for instance, and Ethiopia’s cargo terminal comes with facilities that can be adjusted between -23°C and 25°C, or -9.4°F and 77°F.

“The launch of the cold chain air freight has further bolstered our global logistics capabilities and allow us to offer a one-stop solution for the global distribution of medical products such as the COVID-19 vaccines,” said James Zhao, general manager of Cainiao’s international supply chain unit.

China is a major exporter of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic and the country’s logistics giants, from Cainiao to SF Express, all promptly introduced programs specifically for shipping medical relief items.

#alibaba-group, #cainiao, #china, #cold-chain, #ethiopia, #health, #jack-ma, #logistics, #shenzhen, #supply-chain, #supply-chain-management, #transportation, #vaccination, #vaccine

0

Coupa Software snags Llamasoft for $1.5B to bring together spending and supply chain data

Coupa Software, a publicly traded company that helps large corporations manage spending, announced that it was buying Llamasoft, an 18 year old Michigan company that helps large companies manage their supply chain. The deal was pegged at $1.5 billion.

This year Llamasoft released its latest tool, an AI-driven platform for managing supply chains intelligently. This capability in particular seemed to attract Coupa’s attention, as it was looking for a supply chain application to compliment its spend management capabilities.

Coupa CEO and chairman Rob Bernshteyn says when you combine that supply chain data with Coupa’s spending data, it can produce a powerful combination.

“Lamasoft’s deep supply chain expertise and sophisticated data science and modeling capabilities, combined with the roughly $2 trillion of cumulative transactional spend data we have in Coupa, will empower businesses with the intelligence needed to pivot on a dime,” Bernshteyn said in a statement.

The purchase comes at a time when companies are focusing more and more on digitizing processes across enterprise, and when supply chains can be uncertain, depending on the location of COVID hotspots at any particular time.

“With demand uncertainty on one hand, and supply volatility on the other, companies are in need of supply chain technology that can help them assess alternatives and balance trade-offs to achieve desired business results. LLamasoft provides these capabilities with an AI-powered cloud platform that empowers companies to make smarter supply chain decisions, faster,” the company wrote in a statement.

Llamasoft was founded in 2002 in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has raised over $56 million, according to Crunchbase data. Its largest raise was a $50 million Series B in 2015 led by Goldman Sachs.

The company generated more than $100 million in revenue and has 650 big customers including Boeing, DHL, Kimberly-Clark and GM, according to company data.

Coupa has been extremely acquisitive over the years, buying 17 companies, according to Crunchbase data. This deal represents the fourth acquisition this year for the company. So far the stock market is not enamored with the acquisition with the company’s stock price down 5.20% at publication.

#coupa-software, #enterprise, #exit, #fundings-exits, #llamasoft, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #startups, #supply-chain, #tc

0

Startup brands like the shoe company Thousand Fell are bringing circular economics to the fashion industry

Thousand Fell, the environmentally conscious, direct-to-consumer shoe retailer which launched last November, has revealed the details of the recycling program that’s a core component of its pitch to consumers.

The company, which has now sold enough shoes to start seeing its early buyers begin recycling them after ten months of ownership, expects to recycle roughly 3,000 pairs per quarter by 2021, with the capacity to scale up to 6,000 pairs of shoes.,

The recycling feature, through partnerships with United Parcel Service and TerraCycle, offers customers the option to avoid simply throwing out the shoes for $20 in cash that the company pays out upon receipt of the old shoes.

With the initiative, Thousand Fell joins a growing number of companies in consumer retail that are experimenting with various strategies to incorporate reuse into the life-cycle of their products. Nike operates a reuse a shoe program at some of its stores, which will collect used athletic shoes from any brand for recycling. And several companies are offering denim recycling drop-off locations to take old jeans and convert the material into other products.

What’s more, Thousand Fell’s recycling partner, TerraCycle, has developed a milkman model for reusing packaging to replace consumer packaged goods like dry goods, beverages, desserts and home and beauty products under its Loop brand (and in partnership with Kroger and Walgreens).

Across retail, zero waste packaging and delivery options (and companies emphasizing a more sustainable, circular approach to consumption) are attracting increased interest from investors across the board, with everyone from delivery companies to novel packaging materials attracting investor interest.

 

“Thousand Fell owns the material feeds and covers the cost of recycling, as well as the resale or reintegratoin of recycled material back into new shoes and the issuance of the $20 recycling cash that is sent back to the consumer once they recycle,” wrote Thousand Fell co-founder Stuart Ahlum, in an email.

Clothing and textiles account for 17% of all landfill waste and shoes are particularly wasteful. Shoes account for 10% of retail production capacity but about 25% of textile waste, according to Ahlum.

The company sells its environmentally friendly shoes for under $100, a price point that makes them more accessible to price-conscious consumers, according to Ahlum.

Through the program UPS will run shipping for the Thousand Fell sneaker recycling program and making its network of shipping locations — including within Staples stores — available for drop-off of Thousand Fell’s shoes.

With TerraCycle, Thousand Fell will ensure that the old sneakers will be sustainably recycled and diverted from landfills. UPS’ Ware2Go business is also providing fulfillment and warehousing services for Thousand Fell, the companies said in a statement earlier this week.

Meanwhile, TerraCycle and Thousand Fell are developing a closed loop process where old sneakers will be reintegrated into the supply chain to make new sneakers.

Through Thousand Fell, shoe buyers can track their purchase history and the carbon footprint of their sneakers at the company’s website — and register their sneakers once they’ve received them. The registration allows customers to initiate the recycling process at a drop off location or directly shipping their shoes back to TerraCycle.

“This enterprise partnership between UPS, TerraCycle, and Thousand Fell is the reverse logistics engine that powers the circular economy. It solves the critical problem of collecting worn products back from customers — at scale and at cost,” Ahlum wrote in an email.

#circular-economy, #co-founder, #energy, #industries, #nike, #supply-chain, #tc, #united-parcel-service, #walgreens

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FloorFound is bringing online return and resale to direct to consumer furniture businesses

Over the next five years consumers will return an estimated 40 million to 50 million pieces of furniture that more than likely will end up in landfills, creating tons of unnecessary waste, according to Chris Richter, the founder of a new Austin-based furniture startup, FloorFound.

To reduce that waste, and give retailers another option for their used goods, Richter has launched FloorFound. The company is designed to manage furniture returns and resale for online merchants. So far, companies like Floyd Home, Inside Weather, Outer and Feather (the furniture rental company) are using FloorFound’s services.

“We have a very large pipeline and we’ve been operating since April first,” said Richter. “We can pick up in any major metro locally and inspect it locally. We have a platform layer where we can run inspections against those items.”

As consumers look to reduce their environmental footprint, an easy place to start is by buying used items, Richter said, and he expects that most brands will start to incorporate used and new products in their virtual and real showrooms. “Every brand will commingle new items with resale items,” he said. “We are trying to put retailers in the resale business with their own return inventory.” To prove his point, Richter pointed to companies like REI and The Gap, which have partnered with ThredUp to sell used clothes.

To compliment its returns business and give online sellers a way to work more seamlessly with local vendors the company has logistics partnerships with providers including Pilot Freight Services, Metropolitan Warehouse and Delivery and J.B. Hunt Transport.

Working with co-founder Ryan Matthews, the former director of technology for the Austin-based high end retailer Kendra Scott, Richter has set up a business that can tap into both the demand for better customer service for the return of large items and the growing call for greater sustainability in the furniture industry.

It was an attractive enough proposition to attract a pre-seed investment from Schematic Ventures, a venture fund focused exclusively on technological innovations for supply chain management.

“The broken experience of oversized e-commerce has kept a multi-billion dollar category offline. It’s not a simple problem: oversized items require coordination of a hyper-fragmented micro carrier network, complex physical processing, and then re-injection into an e-commerce channel that aligns with the brand,” said Julian Counihan, a general partner at Schematic Ventures. “UPS and FedEx just aren’t going to cut it. FloorFound is tackling this challenge with a team tailor-made for the task: Chris Richter, Ryan Matthews and Shannon Hardt have backgrounds spanning supply chain, delivery, e-commerce and enterprise software. FloorFound will be the final push that moves the remaining offline categories, online.” 

#articles, #austin, #business, #co-founder, #delivery, #e-commerce, #enterprise-software, #fedex, #general-partner, #marketing, #online-shopping, #supply-chain, #tc, #the-gap, #thredup, #ups

0

Blue Origin job listing sheds more light on its space-based orbital habitat ambitions

Blue Origin founder and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has made no secret of his ambition to eventually create orbiting space stations that act as places for people to live and work – he outlined a vision based on space settlement designs first conceived by physicist Gerard K. O’Neill at a Blue Origin event, including its lunar lander reveal, last year. Now, however, Blue Origin has issued a job posting seeking a person who will be tasked with leading its efforts around “Orbital Habitat Formulation” (via Space News).

The job posting seeks a person who will be responsible for developing the ultimate vision of “millions of people living and working in space,” with a near-term goal of developing space stations in low Earth orbit that take cues from the existing International Space Station (ISS), but that also go “beyond” that existing shared international research structure, in part by fostering “value-creating economic activity.”

Here’s the core description from the listing:

As Blue Origin’s Formulation Lead for the Orbital Habitat product line, you will lead development of technical concepts, product strategies, business cases, customer relationships, market-shaping outreach, industrial partnerships, implementation approaches, and supply chain. Partnering with business development professionals, you will develop a detailed understanding of NASA, other government, and commercial needs and guide the iterative development of product strategy. You will be accountable for capturing external and internal sponsorship funding to establish viable LEO destination systems in the 2020s. You will directly impact the history of human spaceflight.

Blue Origin also says that what they’re building will be “fundamentally different” from stations like the ISS, which are designed for “small, professional trained crews.” It sounds like they want to make them quite a bit more habitable and practical for non-expert users, who are there primarily for commercial purposes – not to be astronauts first and foremost.

We’re probably still quite a ways away from the idealistic concept vision that Bezos shared at last May’s event, pictured above. But depending on how badly he wants it to happen, we could have Blue Origin commercial space habitats in orbit sooner than some might think.

#aerospace, #amazon, #blue-origin, #ceo, #international-space-station, #jeff-bezos, #nasa, #outer-space, #private-spaceflight, #science, #space, #space-station, #space-tourism, #spaceflight, #supply-chain, #tc

0

Tarform unveils Luna e-moto for folks who may not like motorcycles

Brooklyn-based EV startup Taform unveiled its Luna electric motorcycle in New York last week—a model designed for an audience that may not actually like motorcycles.

Tarform’s first street legal entrant, the Luna, starts at $24,000, does 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds, has a city range of 120 miles, top-speed of 120 mph, and charges to 80% in 50 minutes—according to company specs.

The model was hatched out of the company’s mission to meld aesthetic design and craftsmanship to environmental sustainability in two-wheeled electric vehicles.

To that end, the Luna incorporates a number of unique, eco-design features. The bodywork is made from a flax seed weave and the overall motorcycle engineering avoids use of plastics. The Luna’s seat upholstery is made out of biodegradable vegan leather. Tarform is also testing methods to avoid paints and primers on its motorcycles, instead using a mono-material infused with algae and iron based metallic pigments.

The company was founded by Swede Taras Kravtchouk—an industrial design specialist, former startup head, and passionate motorcyclist. The Luna launch follows the debut of two concept e-motos in 2018.

Image Credits: Jake Bright

On Tarform’s target market, he explained the startup hopes to attract those who may be turned off by the very things that have turned people on to motorcycling over the last 50 years—namely gas, chrome, noise, and fumes.

“It’s more for people who want a custom bike and the techies: people who wanted to have a motorcycle but didn’t want to be associated with the whole stigmatized motorcycle lifestyle,” Kravtchouk told TechCrunch.

Tarform enters the EV arena with competition from several e-moto startups—and on OEM—that are attempting to convert gas riders to electric and attract a younger generation to motorcycling.

One of the leaders is California company Zero Motorcycles, with 200 dealers worldwide. Zero introduced a its $19,000 SR/F in 2019, with a 161-mile city range, one-hour charge capability and a top speed of 124 mph. Italy’s Energica is expanding distribution of its high-performance e-motos in the U.S.

In 2020, Harley Davidson became the first of the big gas manufacturers to offer a street-legal e-motorcycle for sale in the U.S., the $29,000 LiveWire.

And Canadian startup Damon Motors debuted its 200 mph, $24,000 Hypersport this year, which offers proprietary safety and ergonomics tech for adjustable riding positions and blind-spot detection.

On how Tarform plans to compete with these e-motorcycle players, Kravtchouk explained that’s not the company’s priority. “We’re not even close in production to Zero or the other big guys, but that’s not our intention. Think of the [Luna] as a custom production bike,” he said.

“We did not set out to build a bike that is fastest or has the longest range,” Kravtchouk added. “We set out to build a bike that completely revises the manufacturing and supply chain of e-motorcycles in a way where we ethically source our materials and create an ethical supply-chain.”

For this mission, Tarform has obtained funding from several family offices and angel investors, including LA based M13. The Brooklyn based e-motorcycle company is taking pre-orders on its new Luna and pursuing a Series-A funding round for 2021, according to CEO Taras Kravtchouk.

#brooklyn, #california, #ceo, #damon-motorcycles, #e-motorcycle, #e-motorcycles, #electric-motorcycles, #energica-motor-company, #harley-davidson, #harley-davidson-livewire, #italy, #m13, #manufacturing, #motorcycle, #motorcycles, #new-york, #plastics, #supply-chain, #tc, #united-states, #zero-motorcycles

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Freshket lands $3 million Series A led by Openspace to streamline Thailand’s food supply chain

Based in Bangkok, Freshket simplifies the process of getting fresh produce from farms to tables. Launched in 2017, the startup has now raised a $3 million Series A, led by Openspace Ventures.

Other participants included Thai private equity firm ECG-Research; Innospace; and Pamitra Wineka and Ivan Sustiawan, the co-founders of Indonesian agriculture technology startup TaniHub. French-Singaporean food conglomerate Denis Asia Pacific and Thai family office Seedersclub, who made previous investments in Freshket, also returned for the Series A.

Freshket’s technology includes an e-commerce marketplace that connects farmers and food processors to businesses, like restaurants, and consumers in Thailand. The startup was co-founded by chief executive Ponglada Paniangwet and chief marketing officer Tuangploi Chiwalaksanangkoon, who each worked in marketing before launching Freshket three years ago.

Paniangwet told TechCrunch she wanted to enter agritech because her family has worked in the agriculture business for 25 years. “I grew up learning a lot about what worked and didn’t work in the industry,” Paniangwet said. “Overall, the industry is tedious, messy and highly manual.”

Freshket’s goal is to become “an enabler for the entire food supply chain,” she added.

Before Freshket, Paniangwet started a processing center, which sources, cuts and trims fresh produce at wholesale fresh markets before delivering them to restaurants and other customers. She realized technology could be used to simplify the supply chain, increasing farmers’ incomes and the quality of produce received by customers.

There is also ample market opportunity. According to an April 2019 Euromonitor International report, the food service market in Thailand is worth over $7.7 billion in annual purchases, made by more than 200,000 restaurants (link in Thai).

Chiwalaksanangkoon, who was already good friends with Paniangwet, left her position at one of Thailand’s largest banks to co-found Freshket. The company’s platform pull together Thailand’s fragmented produce supply chain by bringing together processing centers and suppliers, and connecting them directly with farmers, who usually rely on middlemen. Freshket also provides its users with data to help them predict supply and demand for their crops.

The expenses of operating a delivery business, especially for perishable goods, can be very high. To stay cost-efficient, Freshket itself doesn’t stock fresh produce. Instead, Freshket tells its network, including farmers, how much product they will need to provide on a daily basis, so they can plan their supply chains.

Paniangwet also said the B2B food delivery business has high average order values, fortifying its unit economics. Freshket’s order, warehouse and logistics management systems are all linked together and “because of that, we are able to control the flow of goods, limit additional and labor costs and keep our overall cost base manageable,” she said.

Freshket’s main rivals in the B2B space are traditional supply chain businesses; in the consumer space, it is up against include grocery delivery startups. It competes with delivery apps by offering lower retail prices, since Freshket is already tapped into a streamlined supply chain. For B2B customers, Freshket’s selling points include more precise delivery, a wider variety of products and produce gradings.

Freshket’s new funding will be used to upgrade its supply management technology. In the future, Paniangwet said the company plans to add more services, like financing, demand forecasting and price matching.

Freshket is among several startups in Southeast Asia markets focused on streamlining the food supply chain in different countries. Others include TaniHub and Eden Farm in Indonesia, Agribuddy in Cambodia and Singapore-based Glife.

This is the third agritech investment Openspace Ventures, which focuses on early-stage companies in Southeast Asia, has made (the other are TaniHub and Singaporean grocery platform RedMart).

In a press statement about the investment, Openspace Ventures founding partner Hian Goh said, “As Openspace Ventures’ second investment in Thailand this year, Freshket reflects our growing conviction in the potential of the Thai market for high quality and innovative startups.”

#agriculture, #agritech, #asia, #farmers, #food, #freshket, #fundings-exits, #openspace-ventures, #southeast-asia, #startups, #supply-chain, #tc, #thailand

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Fairphone’s new flagship, the 3+, costs just €70 as a modular upgrade

Dutch social enterprise, Fairphone, has moved a little closer to the sustainability dream of a circular economy by announcing the launch of a modular upgrade for its flagship smartphone.

The backwards compatible hardware units mean users of last year’s Fairphone 3 only need swap out a few modules to be holding the Fairphone 3+ in their hand instead of buying a whole new device.

Fairphone pulled off a similar feat with an earlier model of its ‘ethical smartphone’ but this time it’s managed to shrink the time it took it to offer ‘plug and play’ upgrade modules for its latest gen device.

“What we’ve been able to do is get that whole idea of plug and play to the consumer within the smartphone business,” says Fairphone co-founder Bas van Abel . “That part is not trivial because you have to imagine that getting everything into that module and being able to put it into the old phone… Not only the hardware has to fit and everything has to connect in the right way in that previous kind of architecture but also the software.

“But we’ve been able to do that, and it took some time but we’ve done it way faster than we were able to do it with the Fairphone 2. So we’re proud of that as well.”

“The most important part is it’s really also a signal towards the industry that it’s possible to do upgrades with your phone and not have to come out with a totally new phone every year,” he adds.

Finding clever ways to extend device longevity is a core plank of Fairphone’s mission. The biggest resource sinkhole associated with smartphone consumption is the annual or biennial upgrade cycle which encourages consumers to swap perfectly functional phones for a shiny new model. Fairphone 3 owners can get its latest kit with a cleaner conscience.

Fairphone is selling the Fairphone 3+ camera modules separately for current Fairphone 3 users — at an initial cost of €70 until the end of September (rising to ~€95 from October).

It is also selling a Fairphone 3+ handset for an RRP of €469, aimed at new to the brand users — opening up pre-sales from today on its website and via partner retailers, with a release date of September 14 across Europe.

Specs wise, the 4G Fairphone 3+ has a 5.7in Full-HD display with an 18:9 aspect ratio and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 chipset. Out of the box it runs Android 10. On board there’s 4GB of RAM and 64GB of ROM, expandable via microSD. The removable battery is 3,000mAh. There’s also Bluetooth 5.0, NFC and a fingerprint scanner.  

van Abel confirms the business will continue to sell last year’s flagship — but at a reduced price of around €400.

The 3+ modules are only backwards compatible one generation of Fairphone which means anyone still using a Fairphone 2 can’t get this plug and play upgrade. The blocker there is the core module, per van Abel, who says not being able to swap the SOC out for an upgraded chipset remains the biggest challenge for modular upgrades that are able to span more than one smartphone generation.

“Our vision is definitely there that you can also eventually replace the core module… where the modem and the processor is,” he says, hazarding that it might be possible “within a couple of years”.

However the wider issue is the component industry still moves so fast it remains way out of step with Fairphone’s goal of longevity. The social enterprise pledges to provide up to five years of support for each device it sells, meaning it needs relevant spare parts to still be available in order that it can offer replacements or else stockpile them itself — a capital intensive process. And one that’s at sharp odds with the blistering upgrade trajectory of processor manufacturers.

From a sustainability and resource perspective, the best option is also for a smartphone user to keep using the same chipset for as long as possible. The maturity of the smartphone market and commoditization of the tech — leading to the more iterative device refreshes we generally see now — also tacitly supports that.

van Abel can point to consumers holding onto a handset for an average of about double the time they did when Fairphone got started. It’s a drift that’s providing uplift to environmentally sensitive brand focused on innovating to produce smartphones with a longer lifespan.

“We’ve done a lifecycle assessment on the Fairphone 3 and what comes out of that we’ve also tested what parts of the phone have what kind of footprint and you also see that almost 80% of the CO2 footprint of the phone is within the making and the production of the SOC,” he says. “So that means that if you really want to look at it from a sustainability perspective it really makes sense to keep that part of the phone just as long as possible. Because most of the harm on nature is on that part. So even replacing that part — being able to swap that part — it’s great but it’s kind of a shame that we throw away a lot of stuff and modules and components in the phone.”

“Recycling in the phone business at the moment is plain stupid,” he adds. “How it’s done is you collect the phones and they put them in an oven — they burn them. And then they get the minerals out… You can still reuse the minerals but there’s nothing smart about that. Nothing really has been reused so all the capacitors, the glass of the screen… So it does make sense at a certain point to being also able to swap the processor like you were able to do with the computers in the old days.”

When we reviewed the Fairphone 3 last year we were impressed by how normal the Android device felt — belying its modular, deconstructable interior and all the years of effort Fairphone has ploughed into scrutinising and reworking supply chains to be able to stand up its bold claim of a phone that “dares to be fair”.

Now, with the launch of the Fairphone 3+ modules, last year’s handset is getting a boost to its camera hardware — with a 48MP main lens and a 16MP front-facing lens offered as replacements to last year’s 12MP and 8MP units via the new modules (the main and front modules can be purchased separately or as an upgrade bundle).

On the surface that looks like a huge step up in hardware but it’s down to the camera module using the Samsung GM1 sensor — which uses tiny pixels of 0.8-micro to deliver light sensitivity equal to 1.6-micro pixels.

So it’s actually a software technique to eke more out of the hardware, with a trade off in that it entails some compression of picture quality. A Fairphone spokeswoman confirmed the main lens’ “effective output” is still 12MP. “This is common practice in the industry with phones such as the Samsung S5KGM1, Samsung Galaxy A90 5G, Nokia 7.2 and the Sony IMX363,” she added.

As we noted in our review of the Fairphone 3 last September, the 2019 flagship took a fairly standard snap — with photo quality closer to acceptable, than stand out. The performance gap vs the premium end of the smartphone market was noticeable, even as Fairphone had substantially bested performance vs its earlier handsets.

The company looks keen to further shrink the photo quality gap. Now it touts “significantly” improved photo and video quality via the 3+ upgrade — which it says supports “sharper selfies and clearer video calls”.

It’s also done work to optimize the software, noting support for enhanced object tracking, faster autofocus and image stabilization “for more reliable shots”, as well as “louder, crisper sound” on the audio front, per its press release.

A focus on boosting photo and video performance makes sense given how central the camera has become for smartphone users — feeding into the rise of trendy social video sharing apps like TikTok.

Successfully convincing consumers to hold onto their existing handset for longer means paying attention to such app trends to make sure hardware and software are keeping up with how people are using their phones.

For buyers of the Fairphone 3+ handset there’s another improvement: It boasts 40% recycled plastics — up from just 9% in last year’s model. Fairphone says the volume of recycled plastics is now equivalent to a 33cl plastic drinking bottle — so that’s one piece of plastic waste prevented from ending up in the sea (for now).

While some might wonder if there’s a subtle contradiction in a sustainable smartphone brand launching a new model only a year after unboxing last year’s flagship, van Abel says expanding the portfolio in important — as part of the overall mission to grow demand for ethical smartphones.

That demand is in turn needed to build momentum for the kind of industry-wide shift required for a wholesale upgrade to a circular economy. And the potential of offering devices as a services.

“We want to sell as many phones as possible — because our mission is to show that there is a demand for ethical phones,” he tells TechCrunch. “So the more phones we sell the more we can show that the demand is really there. But that also makes a problem in terms of longevity so we have another KPI where we say we want people to use our phone as long as possible — so we measure how long people actually use our phones and that’s improving every year as well. So a sales person at Fairphone they get a very hard kind of assignment because they have to sell as many phones as possible but they can’t approach people that already have them.”

“We’re challenging ourselves to disconnect the business model from these resources as much as possible but because we take that challenge in the core of our business I think we’re also ahead of where the industry needs to move towards,” he adds.

“Nobody can neglect the fact that we’re running out of resources and it’s getting harder and harder to get these resources. Look at cobalt, for example. Lithium ion batteries. There’s a run on cobalt. It’s gone like 10x, 20x the price it used to be — because we have this energy transition that we need all kinds of batteries for. So even sustainability needs these resources that you can’t get purely from recycling. So we know that this has to change. Even for geopolitical reasons I think that what we’re doing forces us to be ahead of the game.”

Demand for Fairphones has been building steadily over the past decade and the social enterprise is now “almost” at profitability, per van Abel. “We’ve sold over 200k phones — of which 60k were Fairphone 1s. We’ve sold over 100k Fairphone 2s. And last year we sold almost 50k Fairphone 3s and this year we’re aiming for over 100k Fairphone 3+,” he says.

“We’ve never had a portfolio. Now we actually have a portfolio of two phones, Fairphone 3 and 3+, because we’re going to sell the 3 as well at a lower price with the older modules — the previous modules — and the 3+ with the new modules. So that we also have a price point for people that don’t need the newest camera improvements.”

Fairphone remains very much a European project — one that’s perfectly positioned to benefit from a pan-EU push towards sustainability and a circular economy in the coming years. (A ‘right to repair’ Commission proposal for mobiles certainly looks helpful.)

For now, the biggest market for Fairphones is still Germany, per van Abel. While he says its focus for sales of the new portfolio is to push for more growth in Germany, with France, Holland and the UK its other main markets of continued focus. “We’re aiming more also at Scandinavia,” he adds.

“The danger of a commoditizing industry is where you get a lot of easy, cheap access to all these technologies and you see it moving towards two sides: The high end and the really low end stuff. But I hope that customers will also value the companies themselves, and the brands and what they stand for. Whereas [iPhone maker] Apple stands for design; they have a premium to it — you buy something more than just the phone. And I think Fairphone has that as well.

“We have a compelling story. Especially you see the group of conscious consuming growing within every report I read. You see it growing steadily each year. So people do take more notice of what they actually buy.”

Funding wise, the social enterprise is comfortably positioned with the debt, equity and growth financing it raised a few years back from impact investors. Though van Abel moots the possibility of taking in more funding to put towards marketing and help it keep scaling.

“But at the moment we’re good,” he adds. “The impact investors are very patient. It goes with the mission of the company. I think people really are part of Fairphone — participate in this company because they believe not only in the cash return but also in the impact.”

He also notes that Fairphone is also doing separate financing for some related initiatives in the supply chain which are required to underpin its claim of fair and ethical electronics.

“A good example of that is the fair cobalt alliance that we’ve just set up,” he says. “We’re really proud of that. We have set up a great consortium with mining companies, with refineries, with big companies like Signify, that are part of that supply chain of cobalt. It’s partly funded, as well, by the Dutch government. So we have more of a broker position — and that is the nice thing about being a social enterprise. You sometimes can be in between the non-profit and the for-profit sector. You can bridge easily those two worlds.”

#android, #bas-van-abel, #europe, #fairphone, #fairphone-3, #germany, #mobile, #mobile-phones, #modular-smartphone, #netherlands, #qualcomm, #samsung, #samsung-electronics, #smartphones, #supply-chain, #united-kingdom

0

As the pandemic creates supply chain chaos, Craft raises $10M to apply some intelligence

During the COVID-19 pandemic supply chains have suddenly become hot. Who knew that would ever happen? The race to secure PPE, ventilators, minor things like food, was and still is, an enormous issue. But perhaps, predictably, the world of ‘supply chain software’ could use some updating. Most of the platforms are deployed ‘empty’ and require the client to populate them with their own data or ‘bring their own data’. The UIs can be outdated and still have to be juggled with manual and offline workflows. So startups working in this space are now attracting some timely attention.

Thus, Craft, the enterprise intelligence company, today announces that it has closed a $10 million Series A financing to build what it characterizes as a ‘supply chain intelligence platform’. With the new funding, Craft will expand its offices in San Francisco, London, and Minsk, and grow remote teams across engineering, sales, marketing and operations in North America and Europe.

It competes with some large incumbents such as Dun & Bradstreet, Bureau van Dijk, Thomson Reuters . These are traditional data providers focused primarily on providing financial data about public companies, rather than real-time data from data sources such as operating metrics, human capital, and risk metrics.

The idea is to allow companies to monitor and optimize their supply chain and enterprise systems. The financing was led by High Alpha Capital, alongside Greycroft. Craft also has some high-flying Angel investors including Sam Palmisano, chairman of the Center for Global Enterprise and former CEO and chairman of IBM; Jim Moffatt, former CEO of Deloitte Consulting; Frederic Kerrest, executive vice-chairman, COO and co-founder of Okta; and Uncork Capital which previously led Craft’s Seed financing. High Alpha Partner, Kristian Andersen, is joining Craft’s Board of Directors.

The problem Craft is attacking is a lack of visibility into complex global supply chains. For obvious reasons, COVID-19 disrupted global supply chains which tended to reveal a lot of risks, structural weaknesses across industries and a lack of intelligence about how it’s all holding together. Craft’s solution is a proprietary data platform, API, and portal that integrates into existing enterprise workflows.

While many business intelligence products require clients to bring their own data, Craft’s data platform comes pre-deployed with data from thousands of financial and alternative sources, such as 300+ data points that are refreshed using both Machine Learning and human validation. It’s open-to-the-web company profiles appear in 50 million search results, for instance.

Ilya Levtov, co-founder and CEO of Craft said in a statement: “Today, we are focused on providing powerful tracking and visibility to enterprise supply chains, while our ultimate vision is to build the intelligence layer of the enterprise technology stack.”

Kristian Andersen, partner with High Alpha commented: “We have a deep conviction that supply chain management remains an underinvested and under-innovated category in enterprise software.”

In the first half of 2020, Craft claims its revenues have grown nearly threefold, with Fortune 100 companies, government and military agencies, and SMEs among its clients.

#articles, #business, #business-intelligence, #ceo, #chairman, #distribution, #economy, #enterprise-software, #europe, #food, #frederic-kerrest, #ibm, #london, #machine-learning, #north-america, #okta, #partner, #san-francisco, #search-results, #supply-chain, #supply-chains, #tc, #thomson-reuters, #uncork-capital

0

In conversation with European B2B seed VC La Famiglia

Earlier this month, La Famiglia, a Berlin-based VC firm that invests in seed-stage European B2B tech startups, disclosed that it raised a second fund totaling €50 million, up from its debut fund of €35 million in 2017.

The firm writes first checks of up to €1.5 million in European startups that use technology to address a significant need within an industry. It’s backed 37 startups to date (including Forto, Arculus and Graphy) and seeks to position itself based on its industry network, many of whom are LPs.