Firms backed by Robert Downey Jr. and Bill Gates have funded an electric motor company that slashes energy consumption

Sometimes the smallest innovations can have the biggest impacts on the world’s efforts to stop global climate change. Arguably, one of the biggest contributors in the fight against climate change to date has been the switch to the humble LED light, which has slashed hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions simply by reducing energy consumption in buildings.

And now firms backed by Robert Downey Jr. and Bill Gates are joining investors like Amazon and iPod inventor Tony Fadell to pour money into a company called Turntide Technologies that believes it has the next great innovation in the world’s efforts to slow global climate change — a better electric motor.

It’s not as flashy as an arc reactor, but like light bulbs, motors are a ubiquitous and wholly unglamorous technology that have been operating basically the same way since the nineteenth century. And, like the light bulb, they’re due for an upgrade.

“Turntide’s technology and approach to restoring  our planet will directly reduce energy consumption,” said Steve Levin, the co-founder (along with Downey Jr. ) of FootPrint Coalition Ventures

The operation of buildings is responsible for 40% of CO2 emissions worldwide, Turntide noted in a statement. And, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), one-third of energy used in commercial buildings is wasted. Smart building technology adds an intelligent layer to eliminate this waste and inefficiency by automatically controlling lighting, air conditioning, heating, ventilation and other essential systems and Turntide’s electric motors can add additional savings.

That’s why investors have put over $100 million into Turntide in just the last six months.

PARIS, FRANCE – JUNE 16: Tony Fadell Inventor of the iPod and Founder and former CEO of Nest attends a conference during Viva Technology at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on June 16, 2017 in Paris, France. Viva Technology is a fair that brings together, for the second year, major groups and startups around all the themes of innovation. (Photo by Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images)

The company, led by chief executive and chairman Ryan Morris is commercializing technology that was developed initially at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Turntide’s basic innovation is a software controlled motor, or switch reluctance motor, that uses precise pulses of energy instead of a constant flow of electricity. “In a conventional motor you are continuously driving current into the motor whatever speed you want to run it at,” Morris said. “We’re pulsing in precise amounts of current just at the times when you need the torque… It’s software defined hardware.” 

The technology spent eleven years under development, in part because the computing power didn’t exist to make the system work, according to Morris.

Morris was initially part of an investment firm called Meson Capital that acquired the technology back in 2013, and it was another four years of development before the motors were actually able to function in pilots, he said. The company spent the last three years developing the commercialization strategy and proving the value in its initial market — retrofitting the heating ventilation and cooling systems in buildings that are the main factor in the built environment’s 28% contribution to carbon dioxide emissions that are leading to global climate change.

“Our mission is to replace all of the motors in the world,” Morris said.

He estimates that the technology is applicable to 95% of where electric motors are used today, but the initial focus will be on smart buildings because it’s the easiest place to start and can have some of the largest immediate impact on energy usage. 

The carbon impact of what we’re doing is pretty massive,” Morris told me last year. “The average energy reduction [in buildings] has been a 64% reduction. If we can replace all the motors in buildings in the US that’s the carbon equivalent of adding over 300 million tons of carbon sequestration per year.”

That’s why Downey Jr.’s Footprint Coalition, and Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and the real estate and construction focused venture firm Fifth Wall Ventures have joined the Amazon Climate Fund, Tony Fadell’s Future Shape, BMW’s iVentures fund and a host of other investors in backing the company.

The company has raised roughly $180 million in financing including the disclosure today of an $80 million investment round, which closed in October.

Buildings are clearly the current focus for Turntide, which only yesterday announced the acquisition of a small Santa Barbara, Calif.-based building management software developer called Riptide IO. But there’s also an application in another massive industry — electric vehicles.

“Two years from now we will definitely be in electric vehicles,” Morris said. 

“Our technology has huge advantages for the electric vehicle industry. There’s no rare earth minerals. Every EV uses rare earth minerals to get better performance of their electric motors,” he continued. “They’re expensive, destructive to mine and China controls 95 percent of the global supply chain for them. We do not use any exotic materials, rare earth minerals or magnets.. We’re replacing that with very advanced software and computation. It’s the first time Moore’s law applies to the motor.”

#amazon, #articles, #bmw, #california, #carbon-footprint, #china, #co-founder, #computing, #electricity, #energy, #energy-consumption, #fifth-wall-ventures, #footprint-coalition, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #ipod, #real-estate, #tc, #tony-fadell, #u-s-department-of-energy, #united-states

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Absolutists Are Taking Over the Anti-Abortion Movement

Taking their cue from Trump, they are going all out to overturn Roe v. Wade.

#abortion, #alito-samuel-a-jr, #barrett-amy-coney, #law-and-legislation, #national-right-to-life-committee, #politics-and-government, #porter-janet-1962, #pregnancy-and-childbirth, #roberts-john-g-jr, #south-carolina, #state-legislatures, #states-us, #supreme-court-us, #thomas-clarence, #trump-donald-j, #united-states

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Microsoft says China-backed hackers are exploiting Exchange zero-days

Microsoft is warning customers that a new China state-sponsored threat actor is exploiting four previously undisclosed security flaws in Exchange Server, an enterprise email product built by the software giant.

The technology company said Tuesday that it believes the hacking group, which it calls Hafnium, tries to steal information from a broad range of U.S.-based organizations, including law firms and defense contractors, but also infectious disease researchers and policy think tanks.

Microsoft said Hafnium used the four newly discovered security vulnerabilities to break into Exchange email servers running on company networks, granting the attackers to steal data from a victim’s organization — such as email accounts and address books — and the ability to plant malware. When used together, the four vulnerabilities create an attack chain that can compromise vulnerable servers running on-premise Exchange 2013 and later.

Hafnium operates out of China, but uses servers located in the U.S. to launch its attacks, the company said. Microsoft said that Hafnium was the only threat group it has detected using these four new vulnerabilities.

Microsoft declined to say how many successful attacks it had seen, but described the number as “limited.”

Patches to fix those four security vulnerabilities are now out, a week earlier than the company’s typical patching schedule, usually reserved for the second Tuesday in each month.

“Even though we’ve worked quickly to deploy an update for the Hafnium exploits, we know that many nation-state actors and criminal groups will move quickly to take advantage of any unpatched systems,” said Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president for customer security.

The company said it has also briefed U.S. government agencies on its findings, but that the Hafnium attacks are not related to the SolarWinds-related espionage campaign against U.S. federal agencies. In the last days of the Trump administration, the National Security Agency and the FBI said that the SolarWinds campaign was “likely Russian in origin.”

#china, #computer-security, #computing, #cryptography, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #defense-contractors, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #internet-security, #law-firms, #microsoft, #national-security-agency, #security, #software, #solarwinds, #technology, #threat, #trump-administration, #u-s-government, #united-states, #vulnerability

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Maestro nets $15 million for its interactive commerce, community and engagement tools for livestreams

Making money on livestreams has never been easier thanks to a suite of tools from the Los Angeles-based startup Maestro, which just nabbed $15 million in financing to grow its business.

As video commerce becomes the norm and entertainers, brands, businesses, and franchises of all sizes and stripes look to cut out the middle man, the array of services on offer from Maestro may be the scissors these entities need to cut the cord.

The company has already worked with names as diverse as the Golden State Warriors, the Dallas Cowboys, and pop sensation Billy Eilish on embedding its interactive tools into various live events and promotions.

Initially the LA-based company launched to the gaming community with interactive features that folks could use in-stream to create better engagement with fans. But what started in the gaming world quickly spun out as the company slashed prices to $500 per month for its services.

The pandemic also helped as artists who were cut off from their audiences began to explore alternative ways to reach fans — and make money.

We were targeted to a small number of very premier customers. It was around 50 to 60 and we grew to in the hundreds,” said Maestro chief executive, Ari Evans, said. “2020 was a blowout year… People needed an interactive streaming platform that they could spin up quickly that they could launch on their website.”

Celebrities from Katy Perry to Post Malone to Billie Eilish all turned to the service and so did other streaming platforms like the Los Angeles-based virtual concert platform, The Wave.

Now the company has $15 million in new financing to capitalize on its growth from investors including NetEase, Sony Music Entertainment, and Acronym Venture Capital, alongside a host of industry titans including Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and Moonwell Capital, founded by former Activision Blizzard executives Michael and Amy Morhaime, the company said in a statement. 

Existing investors like SeventySix Capital, The Strand Partners, Stadia Ventures, Hersh Interactive Group, and Transcend Fund, as well as early Zoom employees Richard Gatchalian and Aaron Lewis, also participated. 

Since the launch of monetization tools in May of last year, Evans estimated that the platform has paid out at least $5 million to entertainers who used the service.

“We are pleased to be supporting the continued development of Maestro as part of our ongoing investment in new technologies that provide artists with cutting-edge tools and solutions for growing their careers. Maestro gives artists greater flexibility and control to build the most engaging and customized events for their fans, allowing creators at any stage of their career to put together a world class live stream event,” said Dennis Kooker, President, Global Digital Business and U.S. Sales, Sony Music Entertainment, in a statement. 

“Maestro is at the forefront of redefining the relationship of content owners and creators with their viewers. Instead of relying on incumbent distribution platforms, customers control the audience relationship directly and maximize engagement and monetization in a way that fits with their brand objectives. We are very excited by Maestro’s potential to be a fundamental driver in the growth of the creator economy,” said Joshua Siegel, General Partner, Acronym Venture Capital.  

“Maestro… started off with the content and now we’re adding membership and community management and ticketing and all that stuff,” said Evans. 

The next step, and a big part of what Evans and his team of 55 employees will work on building will be a developer ecosystem, so software designers can start building out new tools to sell through the Maestro platform.

“The third piece is a developer ecosystem,” Evans said. “We’re really copying Shopify, Squarespace for video or Shopify for video. It’s kind of strange that this has taken so long to develop.

The one thing that Maestro won’t do is discovery or search services, Evans said. “We’re helping creators make money and build a business on top of video. That’s something creators need to be aware of if they’re going to  build that direct to consumer channel,” he said. “If you do do that and you’re successful you’re in control over your audience.”

#activision-blizzard, #billie-eilish, #co-founder, #companies, #electronic-arts, #general-partner, #golden-state-warriors, #katy-perry, #kevin-lin, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #maestro, #michael, #musicians, #netease, #shopify, #sony, #sony-music-entertainment, #tc, #technology, #twitch, #united-states, #unity-technologies, #website

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6 Dr. Seuss Books Will No Longer Be Published Over Offensive Images

The company that oversees the children’s author’s estate said that the titles contained depictions of groups that were “hurtful and wrong.”

#books-and-literature, #cartoons-and-cartoonists, #discrimination, #dr-seuss-enterprises, #geisel-theodor-seuss, #pm-newspaper, #united-states

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Offering a service that prioritizes the highest-paying gigs in the gig economy, Stoovo raises funding

Semih Korkmaz and Hantz Févry launched Stoovo in 2019 as a way to help gig workers make the best use of their time.

Févry, who immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti, knew first hand the struggles that come with part time work from his days as a student at Stonybrook University. While there bouncing from job to job, Févry would feel the sting associated with hidden fees, unkept promises, and variability of part-time labor.

The time at Stonybrook was also when Févry got his first taste of entrepreneurship. In 2010 and 2011 Févry said the Dean of the University’s business school let the budding business owner cut back on his hours so he could start iTrade International, an import-export business selling earthquake detection equipment in Haiti.

That first taste of tech and business development eventually landed Févry a job at Google in Hong Kong and offered him the chance to travel around the world. After a stint in Europe, Févry moved back to the U.S. where he set to work building Stoovo.

The question on his mind was this: How can we leverage technology to help gig workers or people taking short term assignments?

Févry and his co-founder Korkmaz envisioned Stoovo as a way to level they playing field by providing gig workers with information about the highest paying jobs available on the gig platforms at any one time. “What the platforms are doing is they are  optimizing to make sure that they’re responding to demand,” Févry said. “What we do is use the same approach to predict what will be the demand, where will be the demand, what will be the competition, and what’s the payout.”

The company’s software advises gig workers on the optimum time for using each service based on their earning criteria and hours, Févry said.

“We tell you when to start working, where you need to start working, and when you need to go when you need to take your break,” he said. 

But the company’s service isn’t only about optimization. There’s also a banking component and a suite of products to ensure that gig workers are also getting the most out of their gigs financially. The company offers a checking account, a tax management service, and lending services as well through services like BellBizzer, a Seattle-based company which offers a short-term rental service for consumer goods.

Both Korkmaz and Févry spent time working as delivery drivers or freelancing to get a feel for the challenges gig workers faced, Févry said. During lunch breaks at Google, Févry would do food deliveries to seewhat he could do so that he could understand how to make the gig economy work better.

Ultimately, the best solution would be to pay gig workers a fair wage for the time they spend doing their work, but barring that, technologically developed band-aids to help heal technologically enabled wounds seem like the only option.

Gig companies like Uber have a history of using their algorithms to wring more money from drivers — sometimes unbeknownst to the workers.

Back in August, a developer named Armin Samii created an app called UberCheats that monitored the UberEats application for a software bug to inform drivers if they were underpaid by the company for the distance they’d traveled to make a delivery. Last week, the app was taken down, but only because of a copyright infringement claim from Uber.

 

Stoovo and UberCheats seem to come from the same place. The idea is to equip workers with tools that can work for workers instead of for big platforms.

It’s this vision that attracted investors like Derek Norton from Watertower Ventures to invest in the company. To date, Stoovo has raised $2.4 million from investors including Watertower, 500 Startups, Plug and Play Ventures, and TSEF, Févry said.

With the money the company hopes to build out more products that can enable things like low-cost money transfers. Ultimately, the company just wants to give these gig workers a chance, Févry said.

“The gig economy is rife with frustrations,” Févry said, and Stoovo is making a pitch to smooth over the obstacles. “We really understand your life. We are also immigrants,” he said. “We know that of that $200… we know you have to send $40 overseas… We are building a product with [gig workers], we are not building for them.”

#500-startups, #articles, #banking, #business-models, #co-founder, #derek-norton, #economy, #employment, #europe, #gig, #gig-worker, #haiti, #play-ventures, #seattle, #tc, #temporary-work, #uber, #united-states

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How the Cookbooks of 2020 Tell the Stories of Our Pandemic Kitchens

From beans and baking projects to vegan and global recipes, the year’s best sellers show the ways home cooking changed, and what may lie ahead.

#book-trade-and-publishing, #cooking-and-cookbooks, #diet-and-nutrition, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #united-states

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Will the Supreme Court Gut the Voting Rights Act?

The court is being asked how hard it should be for states to pass what might be voter-suppression laws.

#arizona, #georgia, #republican-party, #roberts-john-g-jr, #supreme-court-us, #united-states, #voter-registration-and-requirements, #voting-and-voters, #voting-rights-act-1965

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A Better Way to Think About Conspiracies

People will always be interested in conspiracy theories. They need a tool kit for discriminating among different fringe ideas.

#conspiracy-theories, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #rumors-and-misinformation, #trump-donald-j, #united-states

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Far-Right Groups Are Splintering in Wake of the Capitol Riot

The breakdown of larger organizations sets the stage for small groups or lone offenders, who are more difficult to track.

#fringe-groups-and-movements, #oath-keepers, #proud-boys, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #three-percenters, #united-states

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Walmart drops the $35 order minimum on its 2-hour ‘Express’ delivery service

In a move designed to directly challenge Amazon, Walmart today announced it’s dropping the $35 minimum order requirement for its two-hour “Express” delivery service, a competitor to Amazon’s “Prime Now.”  With Walmart Express Delivery, customers can order from Walmart’s food, consumables or general merchandise assortment, then pay a flat $10 fee to have the items arrive in two hours or less.

The service is useful for more urgent delivery needs — like diapers or a missing ingredient for a recipe, SVP of Customer Product, Tom Ward, noted in an announcement. They’re not meant to sub in for larger shopping trips, however — Express orders are capped at 65 items.

Today, Express Delivery is available in nearly 3,000 Walmart stores reaching 70% of the U.S. population, Walmart says. It builds on top of stores’ existing inventory of pickup and delivery time slots as a third option, instead of giving slots away to those with the ability to pay higher fees.

Like Walmart’s grocery and pickup orders, Express orders are shopped and packaged for delivery by Walmart’s team of 170,000 personal shoppers and items are priced the same as they are in-store. This offers Walmart a potential competitive advantage against grocery delivery services like Instacart or Shipt, for example, where products can be priced higher and hurried or inexperienced shoppers aren’t always able to find items or search the back, having to mark them as “out of stock.”

In theory, Walmart employees will have a better understanding of their own store’s inventory and layout, making these kind of issues less common. It will also have direct access to the order data, which will help it better understand what sells, what replacements customers will accept for out-of-stocks, when to staff for busy times, and more.

In addition to grocery delivery, Express Delivery competes with Amazon’s Prime Now, a service that similarly offers a combination of grocery and other daily essentials and merchandise. Currently, Prime Now’s 2-hour service has a minimum order requirement of $35 without any additional fees in many cases — though the Prime Now app explains that some of its local store partners will charge fees even when that minimum is met, and others may have higher order minimums, which makes the service confusing to consumers.

Walmart’s news comes at a time when Amazon appears to be trying to push consumers away from the Prime Now standalone app, too.

When you open the Prime Now app, a large pop-up message informs you that you can now shop Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh from inside the Amazon app. A button labeled “Make the switch” will then redirect you. Meanwhile, on Amazon’s website touting Prime’s delivery perks, the “Prime Now” brand name isn’t mentioned at all. Instead, Amazon touts free same-day (5 hour) delivery of best sellers and everyday essentials on orders with a $35 minimum purchase, or free 2-hour grocery delivery from Whole Foods and Fresh.

When asked why Amazon is pushing Prime Now shoppers to its main app, Amazon downplayed this as simply an ongoing effort to “educate” consumers about the option.

Walmart, on the other hand, last year merged its separate delivery apps into one.

After items are picked, Walmart works with a network of partners, including DoorDash, Postmates, Roadie, and Pickup Point, as well as its in-house delivery services, to get orders to customers’ doorsteps. This last-mile portion has become an key area of investment for Walmart and competitors in recent months — Walmart, for example, acquired assets from a peer-to-peer delivery startup JoyRun in November. And before that, a former Walmart delivery partner, Deliv, sold to Target.

This is not the first time Walmart has dropped order minimums in an attempt to better compete with Amazon and others.

In December, Walmart announced its Prime alternative known as Walmart+ would remove the $35 minimum on non-same day Walmart.com orders. But it had stopped short of extending that perk to same-day grocery until now.

To some extent, Walmart’s ability to drop minimums has to do with the logistics of its delivery operations. Walmart has been turning more its stores into fulfillment centers, by converting some into small, automated warehouses in partnership with technology providers and robotics companies, including Alert Innovation, Dematic and Fabric.

And because its stores are physically located closer to customers than Amazon warehouses, it has the ability to deliver a broad merchandise selection, faster, while also turning large parking lots into picking stations — another thing that could worry Amazon, which is now buying up closed mall stores for its own fulfillment operations. 

Walmart today still carries a $35 minimum on other pickup and delivery orders and same-day orders from Walmart+ subscribers.

#amazon, #ecommerce, #food, #grocery-store, #instacart, #prime, #prime-now, #retailers, #shipt, #target, #united-states, #walmart, #whole-foods

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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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Geothermal startups get another boost from Chevron as the oil giant backs a geothermal project developer

The U.S.-based oil major Chevron is doubling down on its investment in geothermal power by investing in a Swedish developer of low-temperature geothermal and heat power projects called Baseload Capital.

Oil companies are under pressure to find new lines of business as the world prepares for a massive shift to renewable energy resources to power all aspects of industry in the face of mounting climate-related disasters caused by greenhouse gas emissions warming the temperature on the planet.

Joining Chevron in the investment was the ubiquitous billionaire-backed clean energy investment firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures and a Swedish investment group called Gullspang Invest AB.

The investment into Baseload follows closely on the heels of another commitment that Chevron made to the geothermal technology developer Eavor and a recent Breakthrough Energy Ventures investment in the Google-affiliated company, Dandelion Energy (a spinout from Google’s parent company’s moonshot technology development business unit, called X).

Dandelion and Eavor are just two examples of a groundswell of startups working to leverage the knowledge from the oil and gas industry to tap geothermal resources for applications ranging from baseload energy to home heating and cooling.

They’re joined by businesses like Fervo EnergyGreenFire Energy, and Sage Geosystems, who’re all leveraging heat to generate power.

As Chevron noted in its press release, heat power is an affordable form of renewable energy that can be harnessed from either geothermal resources or waste heat.

The investments in Baseload and Eavor are financed by CTV’s Core Venture fund which identifies companies with technology that can add efficiencies to Chevron’s core business in operational enhancement, digitalization, and lower-carbon operations, the company said in a statement.

Together the two businesses are planning pilot projects to test technology and could look to current Baseload operations in Japan, Taiwan, Iceland or the United States to develop projects.

Financial terms of the deal were undisclosed. 

“In August, we announced that we were looking for a new strategic investor to help us accelerate deployment in our key markets,” said Baseload’s Chief Executive Officer Alexander Helling. “We couldn’t have asked for a better one. Chevron complements our group of owners and adds expertise in drilling, engineering, exploration and more. These assets are expected to accelerate our ability to deploy heat power and strengthen our way of working.”

 

#articles, #breakthrough-energy-ventures, #chevron, #chief-executive-officer, #dandelion-energy, #energy, #geothermal-energy, #google, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #iceland, #investment, #japan, #major, #oil, #renewable-energy, #taiwan, #tc, #united-states

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Rocket Lab debuts plans for a new, larger, reusable rocket for launching satellite constellations

Because news of its SPAC-fueled public market debut wasn’t enough, Rocket Lab also unveiled a new class of rocket it has in development on Monday. The launch vehicle, called Neutron, will be able to carry 8 metric tons (around 18,000 lbs) to orbit, far exceeding the cargo capacity of Rocket Lab’s current Electron vehicle, which can host only around 660 lbs. Neutron will also have a fully reusable first-stage, designed to launch on an ocean landing platform, not unlike SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster.

Rocket Lab says that Neutron will be designed to service increased demand from customers launching large multi-satellite constellations. The heavier lift will mean that it can take more small satellites up at one time to get those constellations in orbit more quickly. Its cargo rating also means it should be able to deliver up to 98% of all currently-forecasted spacecraft launching through 2029, according to Rocket Lab, and provide resupply services to the International Space Station. Rocket Lab also says it’ll be capable of human spaceflight missions, indicating an ambition to make it the company’s first human-rated spacecraft.

Neutron could significantly expand Rocket Lab’s customer base, and it’ll also improve costs and economics vs. what Electron can do now, thanks to a design focus don efficiency and reusability. The rocket will launch from Rocket Lab’s Wallops, Virginia facility, and since there’s already a launch pad in place for it, the company expects it’ll be able to fly Neutron for the first time by 2024. In addition to its LA-based HQ and the Wallops launch site, Rocket Lab anticipates it’ll be building a new Neutron production facility somewhere in the U.S. to build the new rocket at scale.

While it won’t have the launch capacity of SpaceX’s Falcon 9, it’s still intended to be a rocket that can also carry smaller payloads to the Moon and even deep space beyond. The medium-lift category in general is generating a lot of interest right now, given the projections in the amount and variety of constellations that both private and public organization are expected to put into orbit over the next decade. Constellations are offering advantages in terms of cost and coverage for everything from communications to Earth observation. Another rocket startup, Relativity Space, just unveiled similar plans for a larger launch vehicle to complement its first small rocket.

#aerospace, #electron, #exit, #falcon, #falcon-9, #international-space-station, #louisiana, #outer-space, #relativity-space, #rocket-lab, #science, #space, #spaceflight, #spaceport, #spacex, #startups, #united-states, #virginia

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Rocket Lab to go public via SPAC at valuation of $4.1 billion

The SPAC run is on for space startups, which have been relatively slow in their overall exit pace before the current special purpose acquisitions company merger craze got underway. Rocket Lab is the latest, and likely the most notable to jump on the trend, with a deal that will see it combine with a SPAC called Vector and subsequently list on the NASDAQ under the ticker RKLB, with the transaction expected to close in the second quarter of this year.

Rocket Lab, which got its start in New Zealand, and which still launches rockets there with its HQ now shifted to LA, will have a pro forma enterprise value of $4.1 billion via the transaction, with a total cash balance of $750 million once the deal goes through thanks to a PIPE of $470 million with funds invested via Vector, BlackRock and others. At close, existing Rocket Lab shareholders will retain 82% of the total equity in the combined company.

The launch company was founded in 2006, and is led by founder Peter Beck. In 2013, it opened its California headquarters, and it has already completed its first U.S. launch facility at Wallops Island, Virginia. The company’s Electron launch vehicle can carry small payloads to orbit, and is designed to cater to the growing small satellite market, with a focus on responsive and flexible launch options.

Rocket Lab has performed launches on behalf of the U.S. government, including national security payloads, and that’s a key revenue opportunity for it gown forward. Currently, it says it has a backlog of customers, with a projection that it will be ‘EBITDA positive’ in 2023 after adjustments, and fully cash-flow positive by 2024, with a projected run rate of over $1 billion in revenue by 2026.

The company has focused on increasing its ability to launch more frequently in a number of ways. It’s been steadily improving its production capacity, with a focus on its large automated carbon fiber production capabilities. It has also established its U.S. launch site, as mentioned, and will soon open its second launch pad at its existing New Zealand launch site, which is fully privately-owned by Rocket Lab itself. It’s also working on making its Electron vehicle partially reusable, which founder Beck says will help it turn around launches more quickly.

Finally, it has just announced a new heavier-lift launch vehicle called Neutron, with a launch payload capacity of 8 tons – around 16,000 lbs.

#aerospace, #artemis-program, #blackrock, #california, #electron, #louisiana, #new-zealand, #outer-space, #peter-beck, #public, #rocket-lab, #spac, #space, #spaceflight, #spaceport, #tc, #u-s-government, #united-states, #virginia

0

Space startup Gitai raises $17.1M to help build the robotic workforce of commercial space

Japanese space startup Gitai has raised a $17.1 million funding round, a Series B financing for the robotics startup. This new funding will be used for hiring, as well as funding the development and execution of an on-orbit demonstration mission for the company’s robotic technology, which will show its efficacy in performing in-space satellite servicing work. That mission is currently set to take place in 2023.

Gitai will also be staffing up in the U.S., specifically, as it seeks to expand its stateside presence in a bid to attract more business from that market.

“We are proceeding well in the Japanese market, and we’ve already contracted missions from Japanese companies, but we haven’t expanded to the U.S. market yet,” explained Gitai founder and CEO Sho Nakanose in an interview. So we would like to get missions from U.S. commercial space companies, as a subcontractor first. We’re especially interested in on-orbit servicing, and we would like to provide general-purpose robotic solutions for an orbital service provider in the U.S.”

Nakanose told me that Gitai has plenty of experience under its belt developing robots which are specifically able to install hardware on satellites on-orbit, which could potentially be useful for upgrading existing satellites and constellations with new capabilities, for changing out batteries to keep satellites operational beyond their service life, or for repairing satellites if they should malfunction.

Gitai’s focus isn’t exclusively on extra-vehicular activity in the vacuum of space, however. It’s also performing a demonstration mission of its technical capabilities in partnership with Nanoracks using the Bishop Airlock, which is the first permanent commercial addition to the International Space Station. Gitai’s robot, codenamed S1, is an arm–style robot not unlike industrial robots here on Earth, and it’ll be showing off a number of its capabilities, including operating a control panel and changing out cables.

Long-term, Gitai’s goal is to create a robotic workforce that can assist with establishing bases and colonies on the Moon and Mars, as well as in orbit. With NASA’s plans to build a more permanent research presence on orbit at the Moon, as well as on the surface, with the eventual goal of reaching Mars, and private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin looking ahead to more permanent colonies on Mars, as well as large in-space habitats hosting humans as well as commercial activity, Nakanose suggests that there’s going to be ample need for low-cost, efficient robotic labor – particularly in environments that are inhospitable to human life.

Nakanose told me that he actually got started with Gitai after the loss of his mother – an unfortunate passing he said he firmly believes could have been avoided with the aid of robotic intervention. He began developing robots that could expand and augment human capability, and then researched what was likely the most useful and needed application of this technology from a commercial perspective. That research led Nakanose to conclude that space was the best long-term opportunity for a new robotics startup, and Gitai was born.

This funding was led by SPARX Innovation for the Future Co. Ltd, and includes funding form DcI Venture Growth Fund, the Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, and EP-GB (Epson’s venture investment arm).

#aerospace, #blue-origin, #ceo, #funding, #gitai, #international-space-station, #nanoracks, #nasa, #outer-space, #recent-funding, #robot, #robotics, #science, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #startups, #tc, #united-states

0

Iran Rejects Nuclear Deal Talks With U.S. Proposed by Europe

The rejection came days after President Biden ordered retaliatory strikes against Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria.

#embargoes-and-sanctions, #iran, #nuclear-weapons, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations

0

Thousands of Migrant Children Detained in Resumption of Trump-Era Policies

President Biden vowed to create a humane approach to immigration. But thousands of children who crossed the border alone are being confined in government shelters.

#asylum-right-of, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #border-patrol-us, #children-and-childhood, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #homeland-security-department, #immigration-and-emigration, #immigration-detention, #trump-donald-j, #united-states

0

President Biden Lets a Saudi Murderer Walk

The crown prince killed my friend Jamal Khashoggi, and we do next to nothing.

#assassinations-and-attempted-assassinations, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #khashoggi-jamal, #mohammed-bin-salman-1985, #politics-and-government, #saudi-arabia, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations

0

Want to Buy a Scrunchie Mask? Great. But Forget About That N95.

Scientists are urging Americans to upgrade their face coverings. But Amazon, Google and Facebook restrict the sale of medical-grade masks. Critics say the rules are outdated.

#amazon-com-inc, #e-commerce, #facebook-inc, #google-inc, #masks, #online-advertising, #protective-clothing-and-gear, #united-states, #vaccination-and-immunization

0

‘Like a Warm Hug From an Angel’

For a handful of cultures across the globe, the Arab world among them, these distinct blankets deliver not only an impossibly warm, soft hug but a great sense of belonging.

#beds-and-bedding, #design, #far-east-south-and-southeast-asia-and-pacific-areas, #immigration-and-emigration, #middle-east, #muslim-americans, #north-africa, #qasimi-farah-al, #united-states

0

Biden Revokes a Trump Order Seeking ‘Classical’ Civic Architecture

Prominent architects had criticized the order for seeking to impose a national style from above.

#american-institute-of-architects, #architecture, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #commission-of-fine-arts, #executive-orders-and-memorandums, #national-civic-art-society, #national-trust-for-historic-preservation, #shubow-justin, #trump-donald-j, #united-states, #united-states-politics-and-government

0

Has a startup finally found one of food science’s holy grails with its healthy sugar substitute?

A little less than three years ago at the Computer Science Museum in Mountain View, Calif. the founders of a young company hailing from Cambridge, England addressed a crowd of celebrities, investors and entrepreneurs at Y Combinator’s August Demo Day promising a revolution in food science.

Over the years, the event has become a relatively low-tech, low-budget showcase for a group of tech investors and billionaire industry insiders to take a look at early stage businesses that could be their next billion-dollar opportunity.

Sharing the stage with other innovation-minded budding entrepreneurs the Cambridge scientists boasted of a technology could produce a sweetener that would mimic not just the taste of sugar, but the caramelization and stickiness that makes sugar the go-to additive for the bulk of roughly 74% of packaged foods that are made with some form of sweetener. Their company, Cambridge Glycoscience  could claim a huge slice of a market worth at least a $100 billion market, they said.

Now, the company has a new name, Supplant, and $24 million in venture capital financing to start commercializing its low-cost sugar substitute made from the waste materials of other plants.

 

The bitter history of the sweetest ingredient

Sugar came into the human diet roughly 10,000 years ago as sugarcane, which is native to New Guinea and parts of Taiwan and China. Over the next 2,000 years the crop spread from those regions to Madagascar and eventually took root in India, where it was first refined in about 500 BC.

From there, the sweetener spread across the known world. By the first century AD Greek and Roman scholars were referencing its medicinal properties and, after the Crusades, sugar consumption traveled across Europe through the Middle Ages.

It was a welcome replacement from Europe’s mainstay, honey, and the early artificial sweeteners used by the Romans, which contained near-lethal doses of lead.

The cold climates of Northern Europe proved mostly inhospitable to sugarcane cultivation so the root took root in the more temperate South and the islands off of Europe’s southern coast.

Those regions also became home to the first European experiments with agricultural slavery — a byproduct of the sugar trade, and one that would plant the seeds for the international exploitation of indigenous American and African labor for centuries as the industrial growth of sugar production spread to the New World.

First, European indentured servants and enslaved indigenous people’s powered the production of sugar in the Americas. But as native populations died off due to the introduction of European diseases, genocidal attacks, and back-breaking labor, African slaves were brought to the new colonies to work the fields and mills to make refined sugar.

Sugar hangover

The horrors of slavery may be the most damning legacy of industrial sugar, but it’s far from the only problem caused by the human craving for sweeteners.

As climate change becomes more of a threat, fears of increasing deforestation to meet the world’s demand — or to provide cover for other industrialization of virgin forests — have arisen thanks to new policies in Brazil.

“Conventional cane sugar is heavily heavily water intensive,” said Supplant co-founder Tom Simmons in an interview. That’s another problem for the environment as water becomes the next resource to be stressed by the currents of climate change. And species extinction presents another huge problem too.

“The WWF number one source for biodiversity lost globally is cane sugar plantations,” Simmons said. “Sugar is a massive consumer of water and in contrast, there’s big sustainability pitch for what we do.. the raw materials are products of the current agricultural industry.”

And the quest for sugar substitutes in the U.S. has come with related health costs as high fructose corn syrup has made its way into tons of American products. Invented in 1957, corn syrup is one of the most common sweeteners used to replace sugar — and one that’s thought to have incredibly disastrous effects on the health of consumers worldwide.

The use of corn syrup has been linked to an increasing prevalence of diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease, in the world’s population.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 08: In this photo illustration, products containing high sugar levels are on display at a supermarket on April 8, 2016 in Melbourne , Australia. The World Health Organisation’s first global report on diabetes found that 422 million adults live with diabetes, mainly in developing countries. Australian diabetes experts are urging the Federal Government to consider imposing a sugar tax to tackle the growing problem. (Photo by Luis Ascui/Getty Images)

Looking For A Healthier Substitute

As Supplant and its investors look to take the crown as the reigning replacement for sugar, they join a long line of would-be occupants to sugar’s throne.

The first viable, non-toxic chemically derived sugar substitute was discovered in the late 18th century by a German chemist. Called saccharine it was popularized initially during sugar shortages caused by the first World War and gained traction during the health crazes of the sixties and seventies.

Saccharin, still available in pink Sweet n’ Low packets and a host of products, was succeeded by aspartame (known commercially as Equal and present as the sugar substitute in beverages like Diet Coke), which was supplanted by sucralose (known as Splenda).

These chemically derived sweeteners have been the standard on the market for decades now, but with a growing push for natural — rather than chemical — substitutes for sugar and their failures to act as a replacement for all of the things that sugar can do as a food ingredient, the demand for a better sugar has never been higher.

Supplanting the competition 

“Not everything that we back is going to change the world. This, at scale, does that.” said Aydin Senkut, the founder and managing partner of Felicis Ventures, the venture firm that’s one of Supplant’s biggest backers. 

Part of what convinced Senkut is the fact that Supplant’s sweetener has already received preliminary approvals in the European Union by the region’s regulatory equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration. That approval not only covers the sale of Supplant’s product as a sweetener, but also as a probiotic with tangible health benefits he said.

So not only is the Supplant product arguably a better and more direct sugar replacement, as the founders claim, it also has health benefits through providing increased fiber in consumers who use it regularly, Senkut said.

“The European FDA is even stricter than the U.S. FDA,” Senkut said. “[And] they got pre-approval for this.”

Senkut and Felicis invested in Cambridge Glycosciences almost immediately after seeing the company’s presentation at Y Combinator.

“We became the largest investors at seed,” Senkut said.

Its selling points were the products extremely low glycemic index and its ability to be manufactured from waste plant fibers, which means that it ultimately can be produced at a lower cost, according to Senkut.

What’s the difference? 

Supplant differs from its competition in a number of other key ways, according to company co-founder Tom Simmons.

While companies like the Israeli startup DouxMatok or Colorado’s MycoTechnology and Wisconsin’s Sensient work on developing additives from fungus or tree roots or bark that can enhance the sweetness of sugars, Supplant uses alternative sugars to create its sweetener, Simmons said. 

“The core difference is they’re working with cane sugar,” according to Simmons. “Our pitch is we make sugars from fiber so you don’t need to use cane sugar.”

Simmons said that these other startups have been approaching the problem from the wrong direction. “The problem that their technology addresses isn’t the problem the industry has,” Simmons said. “It’s about texture, bulking, caramelization and crystallization… We have a technology that’s going to give you the same sweetness gram for gram.”

There are six different types of calorific sugar, Simmons explained. There’s lactose, which is the sugar in milk; sucrose, which comes from sugarcane and sugar beets; maltose, found in grains like wheat and barley; fructose, the sugar in fruits and honey; glucose, which is in nearly everything, but especially carbohydrate-laden vegetables, fruits, and grains; and galactose, a simple sugar that derives from the breakdown of lactose.

Simmons said that his company’s sugar substitute isn’t based on one compound, but is derived from a range of things that come from fiber. The use of fibers means that the body recognizes the compounds as fibrous and treats them the same way in the digestive tract, but the products taste and act like sugar in food, he said. “Fiber derived sugars are in the category of sugars, but are not the calorific sugars,” said Simmons.

NEW YORK – DECEMBER 6: Packets of the popular sugar substitute Splenda are seen December 6, 2004 in New York City. The manufacturer of sucralose, the key ingredient in the no-calorie sweetener, says demand is so high for the product that it will not be able to take on new U.S. customers until it doubles production in 2006. Splenda has been boosted by the popularity of the low-sugar Atkins diet. (Photo Illustration by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Trust the process? 

Supplant’s technology uses enzymes to break down and fragment various fibers. “As you start breaking it down, it starts looking molecularly like sucrose — like cane sugar — so it starts behaving in a similar way,” said Simmons.

This is all the result of years of research that Simmons began at Cambridge University, he said. “I arrived at Cambridge intending to be a professor. I did not arrive in Cambridge intending to start a business. I was interested in doing science, making inventions and stuff that would reach the wider world. I always imagined the right way for me to do that was to be a professor.”

In time, after receiving his doctorate and beginning his post-doctoral work into the research that would eventually turn into Supplant, Simmons realized that he had to start a company. “To try and do something impactful I was going to have leave the university,” he said. 

In some ways, Supplant operates at the intersection of all of Simmons’ interests in health, nutrition, and sustainability. And he said the company has plans to apply the processing technology across a range of consumer products eventually, but for now the company remains focused on the $100 billion sugar substitute market.

“There’s a handful of different core underlying scientific approaches in different spaces,” he said. The sort of things that go into personal care and homecare. Those chemicals. A big drive in the industry is for both less harsh and harsh chemicals in shampoos but also to do so in a way that’s sustainable. That’s made form a sustainable source but also biodegradable.”

Next steps 

With the money that the company has now raised from investors including Bonfire Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Felicis, Soma Capital, and Y Combinator, Supplant is now going to prove its products in a few very targeted test runs.* The first is a big launch with a celebrity chef, which Simmons teased, but did not elaborate on.

Senkut said that the company’s roll out would be similar to the ways in which Impossible Foods went to market. Beginning with a few trial runs in higher end restaurants and foodstuffs before trying to make a run at a mass consumer market.

The feedstocks for Supplant’s sugar substitute come from sugar cane bagasse, wheat and rice husks, and the processing equipment comes from the brewing industry. That’s going to be a benefit as the company looks to build out an office in the U.S. as it establishes a foothold for a larger manufacturing presence down the line.

“We’re taking known science and applying it in the food industry where we know that it has value,” Simmons said. “We’re not inventing any brand new enzymes and each part of the process — none of it on their own are new. The discovery that these sugars work well and can replace cane sugar. That’s someone that no one has done before. Most sugars don’t behave like cane sugar in food. They’re too dry, they’re too wet, they’re too hard, they’re too soft.”

Ultimately the consumer products mission resonates highly for Simmons and his twenty person team. “We’re going to use these hugely abundant renewable resources produced all around the world,” he said. 

*This story was updated to include Bonfire Ventures and Khosla Ventures as investors in Supplant.

#aydin-senkut, #brazil, #california, #cambridge-university, #chef, #chemicals, #china, #co-founder, #colorado, #consumer-products, #douxmatok, #europe, #european-union, #felicis-ventures, #food, #food-and-drink, #food-and-drug-administration, #food-ingredient, #impossible-foods, #india, #managing-partner, #soma-capital, #sugar, #taiwan, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #venture-capital-financing, #wisconsin, #y-combinator

0

Where Have All the Houses Gone?

The inventory of homes for sale is startlingly low. The pandemic is part of the reason, but it’s not the whole story.

#building-construction, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #foreclosures, #prices-fares-fees-and-rates, #real-estate-and-housing-residential, #renting-and-leasing-real-estate, #united-states

0

Teenage John Thune Earned $6 an Hour. That Would Be More Than $20 Today.

The senator objects to increasing the minimum wage. He’s taking the wrong lesson from his own experience.

#labor-and-jobs, #minimum-wage, #thune-john-r, #united-states, #wages-and-salaries

0

The Coronavirus Is Plotting a Comeback. Here’s Our Chance to Stop It for Good.

Many scientists are expecting another rise in infections. But this time the surge will be blunted by vaccines and, hopefully, widespread caution. By summer, Americans may be looking at a return to normal life.

#coronavirus-reopenings, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #deaths-fatalities, #disease-rates, #drugs-pharmaceuticals, #shutdowns-institutional, #states-us, #united-states, #vaccination-and-immunization, #your-feed-science

0

Fate, Domestic Terrorism and the Nomination of Merrick Garland

The judge has said his first priority as attorney general would be to take on domestic extremism. Today, we examine how his career has prepared him for the task.

#appointments-and-executive-changes, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #oklahoma-city-okla, #terrorism, #united-states, #united-states-politics-and-government

0

We Still Have to Worry About the Supreme Court and Elections

The justices are about to consider whether the Voting Rights Act applies to policies that restrict the vote.

#absentee-voting, #alito-samuel-a-jr, #barrett-amy-coney, #florida, #gorsuch-neil-m, #kavanaugh-brett-m, #minorities, #pennsylvania, #presidential-election-of-2000, #presidential-election-of-2020, #redistricting-and-reapportionment, #republican-party, #roberts-john-g-jr, #state-legislatures, #states-us, #supreme-court-us, #supreme-courts-state, #thomas-clarence, #trump-donald-j, #united-states, #voter-fraud-election-fraud, #voter-registration-and-requirements, #voting-rights-act-1965

0

Will Anything Stop Putin’s Pet Project?

Nord Stream 2, a direct pipeline from Russia to Germany, isn’t going away. Neither is the clamor to cancel it.

#embargoes-and-sanctions, #energy-and-power, #european-union, #germany, #merkel-angela, #navalny-aleksei-a, #pipelines, #putin-vladimir-v, #russia, #united-states

0

Biden Revokes Trump’s Pause on Green Cards

Since taking office, President Biden has issued several executive orders and directives aimed at lifting restrictions on immigrants put in place over the past four years.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #foreign-workers, #green-cards-us, #immigration-and-emigration, #migration-policy-institute, #trump-donald-j, #united-states, #united-states-politics-and-government

0

Marc Benioff and this panel of judges will decide who gets one seat on the first all-civilian spaceflight

SpaceX’s first all-civilian human spaceflight mission, which will carry four passengers to orbit using a Crew Dragon capsule later this year if all goes to plan, will include one passenger selected by a panel of judges weighing the submissions of entrepreneurs. The panel will include Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Fast Company Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Mehta, YouTuber Mark Rober and Bar Rescue TV host Jon Taffer. It may seem like an eclectic bunch, but there is some reason to the madness.

This seat is one of four on the ride – the first belongs to contest and mission sponsor Jared Isaacman, the founder of Shift4 Payments and a billionaire who has opted to spend a not insignificant chunk of money funding the flight. The second, Isaacman revealed earlier this week, will go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital employee and cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux.

That leaves two more seats, and they’re being decided by two separate contests. One is open to anyone who is a U.S. citizen and who makes a donation to St. Jude via the ongoing charitable contribution drive. The other will be decided by this panel of judges, and will be chosen from a pool of applicants who have build stores on Shift4’s Shift4Shop e-commerce platform.

That’s right: This absurdly expensive and pioneering mission to space is also a growth marketing campaign for Isaacman’s Shopify competitor. But to be fair, the store of the winning entrant doesn’t have to be news – existing customers can also apply and are eligible.

The stated criteria for deciding the winner is “a business owner or entrepreneur the exhibits ingenuity, innovation and determination” so in other words it could be just about anybody. I’m extremely curious to see what Benioff, Mehta, Rober (also a former NASA JPL engineer in addition to a YouTuber) and Taffer come up with between them as a winner.

The Inspiration4 mission is currently set to fly in the fourth quarter of 2021, and mission specifics including total duration and target orbit are yet to be determined.

#aerospace, #benioff, #ceo, #e-commerce, #editor-in-chief, #entrepreneur, #founder, #salesforce, #shopify, #space, #spacex, #tc, #television-in-the-united-states, #united-states

0

Noya Labs turns cooling towers into direct air capture devices for CO2 emissions

Not every company’s founders find themselves on a first name basis with the local bomb squad, but then again not every company is Noya Labs, which wants to turn the roughly 2 million cooling towers at industrial sites and buildings across the U.S. into CO2 sucking weapons in the fight against global climate change.

When the company first started developing prototypes of its devices that attach to water coolers, the company’s founders, Josh Santos and Daniel Cavero, did what all good founders do, they started building in their backyard.

The sight of a 55 gallon oil drum, a yellow refrigeration tank in a sous vide bath attached to red and blue cables didn’t sit so well with the neighbors, so Santos and Cavero found themselves playing host to the bomb squad multiple times, according to the company’s chief executive, Santos.

“We proved that it could capture CO2, and we achieved something that no startup should achieve,” Santos said of the dubious bomb squad distinction.

Santos and Cavero were inspired to begin their experiments with direct air capture by an article describing some research into plants’ declining ability to capture carbon dioxide that Santos read on the Caltrain on his way to work back in 2019. That article spurred the would-be entrepreneur and his roommate to get to work on experimenting with carbon chemistry.

Their first product was a consumer air purifier that would pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in homes and capture it. Homeowners could then sell the captured gases to Santos and Cavero who would then resell it. But the two quickly realized that the business model wasn’t economical, and went back to the drawing board.

They found their eventual application in industrial cooling towers, which the company’s tech can turn into CO2 capturing devices that have the capacity to take in between half a ton and a ton of carbon dioxide per day.

Noya’s tech works by adding a blend of CO2 absorbing chemicals to the water in the cooling towers. They then add an attachment to the cooling tower that activates what Santos called a regeneration process to convert the captured CO2 back into gas. Once they have captured the CO2 the company will look to resell it to industrial Co2 consumers.

It’s not green yet, at least not exactly, because that CO2 is being recirculated instead of sequestered, but Santos said it’s greener existing sources of the gas, which come from ammonia and ethanol plants.

Noya Labs co-founders Josh Santos and Daniel Cavero. Image Credit: Noya Labs

Five years from now we fully intend to have vertically integrated carbon capture and sequestration. Our first step is locally produced low cost atmospherically captured CO2,” said Santos. “If we were to go all in on a carbon capture that would require a lot of time for us to develop. What this initial model allows us to do is fine tune our capture technology while building up longterm to go to market.”

Santos called it the “Tesla roadster approach” so that the company can build up capital and get revenue and prove one piece of it as an MVP so they can prove other steps of it down the line.

Noya Labs already is developing a pilot plant with the Alexandre Family Farm that should capture between the estimated half a ton and one ton target.

To develop the initial pilot and build out its team, the company has managed to raise $1.2 million from the frontier tech investment firm Fifty Years, founded by Ela Madej and Seth Bannon, and Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital (whose mission statement to invest in companies that will buy time to “unf*ck the planet” might be one of the greatest). The company’s also in Y Combinator.

“One of the things that makes us excited about this technology is that in the U.S. alone there are 2 million cooling towers. Looking conservatively — if our initial pilot plant can capture 1 ton per day — we’re at right over half a gigaton of CO2 capture.”

And companies are already raising their hands to pick up the CO2 that Noya would sell on the market. There’s a growing collection of startups that are using CO2 to make products. These companies range from the slightly silly, like Aether Diamonds, which uses CO2 to make… diamonds; to companies like Dimensional Energy or Prometheus fuels, which make synthetic fuels with CO2, or Opus12, which uses CO2 in its replacements for petrochemicals.

Prices for commercial CO2 range between $125 per ton to $5,000 per ton, according to Santos. And Noya would be producing at less than $100 per ton. Current Direct Air Capture companies sell their CO2 from somewhere between $600 to $700 per ton.

Stoya’s first installation could cost around $250,000, Santos said. For Bannon, that means the company passes his “Mr. Burns test.”

“We’ve been digging into the DAC space but haven’t liked the techno-economics we’ve seen. Previous approaches have had too much capex and opex and not enough revenue potential,” Bannon wrote in an email. “That’s what Noya has solved. By leveraging existing industrial equipment, their model is profitable. And better yet, they make their carbon capture partners money, allowing them to scale this up fast. This creates an opportunity to profitably remove 1 gigaton plus a year.”

#articles, #california, #chemicals, #co2, #ela-madej, #energy, #fifty-years, #lowercarbon-capital, #nature, #seth-bannon, #tc, #tesla, #tesla-roadster, #united-states, #y-combinator

0

ClimaCell plans to launch its own satellites to improve its weather predictions

The weather data and forecasting startup ClimaCell today announced that it plans to launch its own constellation of small weather satellites. These radar-equipped satellites will allow ClimaCell to improve its ability to get a better picture of global weather and improve its forecasting abilities. The company expects the first of these to launch in the second half of 2022.

As ClimaCell CEO Shimon Elkabetz points out in today’s announcement, ground-based radar coverage, which allows you to get information about precipitation and cloud structure, remains spotty, even in the U.S., which in turn often makes even basic forecasting more difficult. And while there are (expensive) space-based radar satellites available, those often only revisit the same area every three days, limiting their usefulness. ClimaCell hopes that its constellation of small, specialized satellites will offer hourly revisit times.

We started with proprietary sensing and modeling to predict the weather more accurately at every point in the world, and built on top of it one software platform that can be configured to every job and vertical,” Elkabetz writes. “[…] Now, we are evolving into a SaaS company powered by Space: We’re launching a constellation of satellites to improve weather forecasting for the entire world. For the first time, a constellation of active radar will surround Earth and provide real-time observations to feed weather forecasting at every point on the globe.

That’s indeed a big step for the company, but we may just see more of this in the near future. While even 10 years ago it would have been hard for even a well-funded company to launch its own satellites, that’s quite different now. A number of factors contributed to this, ranging from easier access to launch services, breakthroughs in building these proprietary radar satellites and the availability of auxiliary services like ground stations as a service, which now even AWS and Microsoft offer, and a whole ecosystem of vendors that specialize in building these satellites. The ClimaCell team tells me that it is talking to a lot of vendors right now and will choose which one to go to later on.

#aerospace, #aws, #climacell, #microsoft, #satellites, #software-platform, #united-states

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Everdrop raises $21.8m Series A round led by Felix Capital for its dissolvable cleaning tablet

It’s almost too simple. You get a tablet made of household chemicals that can be dissolved in water which can become a cleaning spray for the kitchen, glass and bathroom, with no need to ship the water it is dissolved into because it literally comes out of your tap. That was the premise of Munich-based startup everdrop and it’s been a hit not just with consumers, but also with investors. It’s now raised an €18m ($21.8m) Series A funding round led by Felix Capital, with participation from HV Capital and Vorwerk Ventures. Everdrop now plans to develop a wider range of sustainable household products and market them across Europe, and eventually the US.

Launched in Dec 2019, the cleaning tablet also removes the need for single-use plastic bottles, thus appealing to environmentally conscious consumers, (unusually for a consumer good company, the startup has 110,000 followers on Instagram).

Everdrop estimates it was able to eliminate over 2.5 million single-use plastic bottles with their tabs.

David Löwe, Co-Founder of everdrop told me in an interview that while it might be possible to clone the company’s formats, it would not be easy to replicate its water hardness calculator: “Plus, the individualizing of the laundry detergent is quite unique. I think there’s no one out there in other countries who are doing that at the moment… But obviously, other companies could potentially do that too.”

Everdrop competes with Grove Collaborative, Blueland and to some extent The Honest Company.

Löwe told me: “If I’m very honest, it would be cool if the other companies would do it because this is something that I’m really convinced about. If we inspire with our success, the big corporations could finally change into more sustainable products.”

As well as the tablet, everdrop now has a range of sustainable laundry detergents, also microplastic-free, which addresses water hardness by tailoring the detergent to the water in the customer’s home area. This means everdrop can save up to 50% of the unnecessary surfactants in the detergent. Laundry detergent is the biggest chemical emitter in private households. Everdrop estimates its approach saves 250 tons of unnecessary surfactants from going into the environment.

Its latest product is a “naked” dishwasher tablet which doesn’t have the plastic wrapper that usually envelops these products.

David Fischer, investor at HV Capital said: “It is incredible how a truly sustainable brand such as everdrop has a similar growth trajectory in its inception year as its D2C peers Hims and DollarShaveClub.”

#chemistry, #cleaning, #co-founder, #d2c, #david-fischer, #dishwasher, #europe, #felix-capital, #honest-company, #laundry, #munich, #tc, #united-states

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Biden Readies Executive Order to Bolster Critical Supply Chains

The order is intended to start an effort to insulate the American economy from future shortages of critical imported components.

#5g-wireless-communications, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #china, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #factories-and-manufacturing, #international-trade-and-world-market, #schumer-charles-e, #shortages, #united-states, #united-states-economy, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Inside a Covid I.C.U., Through a Nurse’s Eyes

A short film offering a firsthand perspective of the brutality of the pandemic inside a Covid-19 I.C.U.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #nursing-and-nurses, #phoenix-ariz, #united-states

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When One Fridge Is Not Enough

For many Americans, a second fridge — and sometimes a third — is another member of the family.

#families-and-family-life, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #refrigerators, #united-states

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McDonald’s Joins the Fierce Fight for Chicken Sandwich Supremacy

Fast-food chains like Chick-fil-A and Popeyes have been vying for chicken supremacy, capitalizing on the sandwich’s popularity with customers.

#burger-king-corp, #chick-fil-a, #fast-food-industry, #franchises, #mcdonalds-corporation, #popeyes-louisiana-kitchen, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #restaurant-brands-international-inc, #sandwiches, #united-states

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SolarWinds hackers targeted NASA, Federal Aviation Administration networks

Hackers are said to have broken into the networks of U.S. space agency NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration as part of a wider espionage campaign targeting U.S. government agencies and private companies.

The two agencies were named by the Washington Post on Tuesday, hours ahead of a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing tasked with investigating the widespread cyberattack, which the previous Trump administration said was “likely Russian in origin.”

Spokespeople for the agencies did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but did not deny the breach in remarks to the Post.

It’s believed NASA and the FAA are the two remaining unnamed agencies of the nine government agencies confirmed to have been breached by the attack. The other seven include the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, and State, the Treasury, and the National Institutes of Health, though it’s not believed the attackers breached their classified networks.

FireEye, Microsoft, and Malwarebytes were among a number of cybersecurity companies also breached as part of the attacks.

The Biden administration is reportedly preparing sanctions against Russia, in large part because of the hacking campaign, the Post also reported.

The attacks were discovered last year after FireEye raised the alarm about the hacking campaign after its own network was breached. Each victim was a customer of the U.S. software firm SolarWinds, whose network management tools are used across the federal government and Fortune 500 companies. The hackers broke into SolarWinds’ network, planted a backdoor in its software, and pushed the backdoor to customer networks with a tainted software update.

It wasn’t the only way in. The hackers are also said to have targeted other companies by breaking into other devices and appliances on their victims’ networks, as well as targeting Microsoft vendors to breach other customers’ networks.

Last week, Anne Neuberger, the former NSA cybersecurity director who last month was elevated to the White House’s National Security Council to serve as the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, said that the attack took “months to plan and execute,” and will “take us some time to uncover this layer by layer.”

#anne-neuberger, #biden-administration, #computer-security, #computing, #cyberattacks, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #director, #federal-aviation-administration, #federal-government, #fireeye, #government, #information-technology, #malwarebytes, #microsoft, #russia, #security, #senate-intelligence-committee, #software, #solarwinds, #supply-chain-attack, #the-washington-post, #trump-administration, #u-s-government, #united-states

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Anuvia raises $103 million to commercialize its novel fertilizer

Anuvia Plant Nutrients has raised $103 million to commercialize its novel fertilizer technology.

The company, backed by investors like TPG ART, Pontifax Global Food and Agriculture Technology Fund, Generate Capital andPiva Capital, is now ready to roll out its tech, which is already used on roughly 1200 farms and is projected to be on 20 million acres of farmland by 2025. 

Now led by longtime agriculture executive Amy Yoder, who represents the sixth generation of a Michigan farm family, Anuvia pitches its tech as a supplement for crops that can boost productivity by taking excrement, food waste and agricultural processing waste and converting that into useful fertilizer using a proprietary catalytic process. 

By treating the waste with a specific blend of chemicals Yoder said Anuvia’s technology can control the release of nutrients as plants grow to make more productive crops and reduce leaching into soil, protecting groundwater and restoring carbon to the soil.

Anuvia is one of a growing number of agriculture technology companies trying to juice crop productivity and capture carbon to provide additional revenues from more abundant crops and carbon capture and storage. Other startups, including Pivot Bio, Indigo Agriculture, AgBiome, and Agrinos, are all developing other crop treatments that can purportedly boost agricultural production.

“Most of what I see would be very complimentary to us,” said Yoder. “Because we put the carbon back into the soil, because the nutrients are held in different way. You could utilize the pivot technology and the Anuvia technology. Those things when they could piggyback together could make really nice solutions in the longterm.”

The Winter Garden, Fla.-based company has a 1.2 million ton facility for production, but the company wants to build out additional capacity and continue developing new fertilizers to take to market, Yoder said.

Farmers using the product see increased yields of around five times their previous production levels and the product can be used on all the main row crops, according to Yoder.

That claim has been verified by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a leading global environmental consulting firm, versus traditional fertilizer on corn, rice, and cotton.

Anuvia’s treatment can also reduce greenhouse gases on production by up to 32% compared to commercial fertilizers. Anuvia estimates that its products could provide emissions reductions equivalent to removing 30,000 cars from roads. If the company can get farmers to apply its treatment to the 90 million acres of corn in the U.s. that would reduce the equivalent emissions of 1.8 million cars, according to a statement.

“With the world’s population expected to hit 10 billion by 2050, we need technology-enabled, large-scale agriculture to meet this growing demand,” says Dr. Geoff Duyk, Founder and Managing Partner of Circularis and Anuvia Board Member. “Anuvia’s technology will help farms continue to feed the world, while also advancing the circular economy, increasing sustainability, and enhancing resource efficiency.” 

 

#agriculture, #articles, #board-member, #chemicals, #florida, #food-waste, #indigo, #managing-partner, #michigan, #soil, #tc, #technology, #united-states

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When Covid Hit Nursing Homes, Part 1: ‘My Mother Died Alone’

In the first of two episodes on what went wrong in New York’s nursing homes, we look at the crisis through the eyes of a bereaved daughter.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #cuomo-andrew-m, #deaths-fatalities, #elder-care, #new-york-state, #nursing-homes, #politics-and-government, #united-states

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The Covid Emergency Must End

We might be able to achieve normalcy by summer. Our leaders should embrace the possibility.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #fauci-anthony-s, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #united-states, #vaccination-and-immunization

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Companies Say They Care About the Climate. Their Actions Fall Short.

Many big businesses have not set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Others have weak goals.

#alternative-and-renewable-energy, #blackrock-inc, #boards-of-directors, #brazil, #carbon-dioxide, #carbon-disclosure-project-cdp, #cargill-inc, #corporations, #electric-light-and-power, #fuel-emissions-transportation, #global-warming, #google-inc, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #institutional-shareholder-services-inc, #levi-straussco, #microsoft-corp, #standardpoors-500-stock-index, #stocks-and-bonds, #united-states

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Bringing jobs and health benefits, BlocPower unlocks energy efficiency retrofits for low income communities

Retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient and better at withstanding climate change induced extreme weather is going to be a big, multi-billion dollar business. But it’s one that’s been hard for low-income communities to tap, thanks to obstacles ranging faulty incentive structures to an inability to adequately plan for which upgrades will be most effective in which buildings.

Enter BlocPower, a New York-based startup founded by a longtime advocate for energy efficiency and the job creation that comes with it, which has a novel solution for identifying, developing and profiting off of building upgrades in low income communities — all while supporting high-paying jobs for workers in the communities the company hopes to serve.

The company also has managed to raise $63 million in equity and debt financing to support its mission. That money is split between an $8 million investment from some of the country’s top venture firms and a $55 million debt facility structured in part by Goldman Sachs to finance the redevelopment projects that BlocPower is creating.

These capital commitments aren’t charity. Government dollars are coming for the industry and private companies from healthcare providers, to utility companies, to real estate developers and property managers all have a vested interest in seeing this market succeed.

There’s going to be over $1 billion carved out for weatherization and building upgrades in the stimulus package that’s still making its way through Congress

For BlocPower’s founder, Donnel Baird, the issue of seeing buildings revitalized and good high-paying jobs coming into local communities isn’t academic. Baird was born in Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood and witnessed firsthand the violence and joblessness that was ripping the fabric of that rich and vibrant community apart during the crack epidemic and economic decline of the 1980s and early 90s.

Seeing that violence firsthand, including a shooting on his way to school, instilled in Baird a desire to “create jobs for disconnected Black and brown people” so they would never feel the hopelessness and lack of opportunity that fosters cycles of violence.

Some time after the shooting, Baird’s family relocated from Brooklyn to Stone Mountain, Georgia, and after graduating from Duke University, Baird became a climate activist and community organizer, with a focus on green jobs. That led to a role in the presidential campaign for Barack Obama and an offer to work in Washington on Obama’s staff.

Baird declined the opportunity, but did take on a role reaching out to communities and unions to help implement the first stimulus package that Obama and Biden put together to promote green jobs.

And it was while watching the benefits of that stimulus collapse under the weight of a fragmented building industry that Baird came up with the idea for BlocPower.

“It was all about the implementation challenges that we ran into,” Baird said. “If you have ten buildings on a block in Oakland and they were all built by the same developer at the same time. If you rebuild those buildings and you retrofit all of those buildings, in five of those buildings you’re going to trap carbon monoxide in and kill everybody and in the other five buildings you’re going to have a reduction in emissions and energy savings.”

Before conducting any retrofits to capture energy savings (and health savings, but more on that later), Baird says developers need to figure out the potential for asbestos contamination in the building; understand the current heating, ventilation, and cooling systems that the building uses; and get an assessment of what actually needs to be done.

That’s the core problem that Baird says BlocPower solves. The company has developed software to analyze a building’s construction by creating a virtual twin based on blueprints and public records. Using that digital twin the company can identify what upgrades a building needs. Then the company taps lines of credit to work with building owners to manage the retrofits and capture the value of the energy savings and carbon offsets associated with the building upgrades.

For BlocPower to work, the financing piece is just as important as the software. Without getting banks to sign off on loans to make the upgrades, all of those dollars from the federal government remain locked up. “That’s why the $7 billion earmarked for investment in green buildings did not work,” Baird said. “At BlocPower our view is that we could build software to simulate using government records… we could simulate enough about the mechanicals, electrical, and plumbing across buildings in NYC so that we could avoid that cost.”

Along with co-founder Morris Cox, Baird built BlocPower while at Columbia University’s business school so that he could solve the technical problems and overcome the hurdles for community financing of renewable retrofit projects.

Right before his graduation, in 2014, the company had applied for a contract to do energy efficiency retrofits and was set to receive financing from the Department of Energy. The finalists had to go down to the White House and pitch the President. That pitch was scheduled for the same day as a key final exam for one of Baird’s Columbia classes, which the professor said was mandatory. Baird skipped the test and won the pitch, but failed the class.

After that it was off to Silicon Valley to pitch the business. Baird met with 200 or more investors who rejected his pitch. Many of these investors had been burned in the first cleantech bubble or had witnessed the fiery conflagrations that engulfed firms that did back cleantech businesses and swore they’d never make the same mistakes.

That was the initial position at Andreessen Horowitz when Baird pitched them, he said. “When I went to Andreessen Horowitz, they said ‘Our policy is no cleantech whatsoever. You need to figure out how software is going to eat up this energy efficiency market’,” Baird recalled.

Working with Mitch Kapor, an investor and advisor, Baird worked on the pitch and got Kapor to talk to Ben Horowitz. Both men agreed to invest and BlocPower was off to the races.

The company has completed retrofits in over 1,000 buildings since its launch, Baird said, mainly to prove out its thesis. Now, with the revolving credit facility in hand, BlocPower can take bigger bites out of the market. That includes a contract with utility companies in New York that will pay $30 million if the company can complete its retrofits and verify the energy savings from that work.

There are also early projects underway in Oakland and Chicago, Baird said.

Building retrofits do more than just provide energy savings, as Goldman Sachs managing director Margaret Anadu noted in a statement.

“BlocPower is proving that it is possible to have commercial solutions that improve public health in underserved communities, create quality jobs and lower carbon emissions,” Anadu said. “We are so proud to have supported Donnel and his team…through both equity and debt capital to further expand their reach.”

These benefits also have potential additional revenue streams associated with them that BlocPower can also capture, according to investor and director, Mitch Kapor.

“There are significant linkages that are known between buildings and pollution that are a public health issue. In a number of geographies community hospitals are under a mandate to improve health outcomes and BlocPower can get paid from health outcomes associated with the reduction in carbon. That could be a new revenue stream and a financing mechanism,” Kapor said. “There’s a lot of work to be done in essentially taking the value creation engine they have and figuring out where to bring it and which other engines they need to have to have the maximum social impact.”

Social impact is something that both Kapor and Baird talk about extensively and Baird sees the creation of green jobs as an engine for social justice — and one that can reunite a lot of working class voters whose alliances were fractured by the previous administration. Baird also believes that putting people to work is the best argument for climate change policies that have met with resistance among many union workers.

“We will not be able to pass shit unless workers and people of color are on board to force the U.S. senate to pass climate change policy,” Baird said. “We have to pass the legislation that’s going to facilitate green infrastructure in a massive way.”

He pointed to the project in Oakland as an example of how climate policies can create jobs and incentivize political action.

“In Oakland we’re doing a pilot project in 12 low income buildings in oakland. I sent them $20K to train these workers from local people of color in Oakland… they are being put to work in Oakland,” Baird said. “That’s the model for how this gets built. So now we need them to call Chuck Shumer to push him to the left on green building legislation.”