- Here’s why Amazon wants to buy a self-driving taxi company
- Bad news for reporters – an AI could soon take their jobs…
- The company that wants to perform 500k COVID-19 tests a day
What a remarkable weekend.
The picture-perfect SpaceX Falcon 9 launch on Saturday afternoon was just incredible. It was a victory on so many fronts.
It was the first time that a private company launched astronauts into Earth’s orbit. And 19 hours after the launch, the Crew Dragon spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (ISS).
Technically, this launch was the second demo mission. The first was not manned. Upon successful return to Earth in the next couple of months, the first formal crewed mission will take three more NASA astronauts and one Japanese astronaut to the ISS.
The U.S. no longer needs to pay Russia for transport to space. Those missions cost $90 million per astronaut. SpaceX, however, has been able to accomplish the same feat for a mere $55 million per astronaut. And SpaceX didn’t compromise quality or safety in order to be competitive on price.
What was the secret? Reusability. Have a look at the short video below:
SpaceX First Stage Rocket
We can watch the first stage of the rocket in a controlled descent back to Earth. It’s the equivalent of a 20-story building pummeling through the atmosphere and landing on a ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean with a baffling level of precision.
Talk about inspiring…
Elon Musk and his team rewrote the rule book in the aerospace industry and did something seemingly impossible.
What’s next? In short, the Moon and then Mars.
Now let’s turn to our insights…
Amazon’s latest move is telling…
Today, we get a sneak peek at what Amazon has planned for the future of its logistics network.
Amazon is in talks to buy autonomous driving company Zoox. This is a company that has been swinging for the fences on self-driving tech. It is developing both the vehicles and the technology for a 100% self-driving robo-taxi service.
And Zoox has been doing all its development in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the streets and traffic patterns are complex. If the company can make its self-driving tech work smoothly in San Francisco, it will work just about anywhere.
Zoox has raised about $1 billion in venture capital (VC) to date. After its last round, the company was valued at $3.2 billion. But that was before the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn.
Today, Zoox is running out of money. And it is having trouble raising more capital in this environment. That’s where Amazon has a great opportunity.
Rumor is out that Amazon is going to pick up Zoox for far less than $3 billion.
But we may ask – why would Amazon want to get into the self-driving taxi business? Why would it want to compete with Uber, Lyft, Waymo, and the like?
And the answer is that it doesn’t.
Amazon is going to take Zoox’s tech off the market and repurpose it for vehicles in its own logistics network. That’s how Amazon is going to automate its logistics network and eventually its package deliveries even more.
This isn’t the first time Amazon has done something like this. It acquired robotics company Kiva Systems back in 2012. Kiva’s technology became the backbone for Amazon’s robotics systems in its warehouses around the world.
With self-driving vehicles, Amazon can cheaply shuttle goods back and forth between warehouses and distribution centers as needed. And, of course, the master plan is to deliver all packages to consumers via self-driving vehicles.
That would cut out a major cost and bottleneck for the company, especially as it scrambles to catch up with increased demand thanks to COVID-19.
Amazon’s Warehouse Robotics
One day soon, we’ll see one of Amazon’s self-driving delivery vehicles pull up in our neighborhood. The car will stop, and the back latch will pop open.
Several humanoid robots will hop out, packages in hand. They will take the packages to the right house, leave them on the porch, and jump back into the vehicle. Then the car will take off, heading for its next delivery…
Microsoft’s MSN is going “all in” on AI…
Microsoft’s news network, MSN, just announced that it is letting about 50 news production employees go. It is not scaling back operations, however.
Instead, MSN is going to replace these employees with artificial intelligence (AI). That’s right – an AI is going to produce much of MSN’s news from here on out.
This is a wild story.
Microsoft’s confidence that the AI can replace 50 workers entirely is telling. This is a testament to how good AI has become at synthesizing information and producing editorial that appears to be written by a human.
And, of course, this will save Microsoft millions of dollars per year in overhead.
And guess what? Microsoft isn’t the first company to deploy AI in this way.
German Commerzbank uses AI to create stock market research reports. Its AI now does about 75% of what human equity analysts usually do.
The Associated Press (AP) now uses AI to write thousands of sports reports daily. So when we check the recap of our favorite team’s game, we are likely reading something written by an AI.
A lot of financial institutions now use an AI to write financial reports. The AI can summarize a 150-page SEC filing into 10 pages nearly instantaneously. It’s a way to give analysts a quick snapshot of a lengthy document.
So AI-powered editorial is picking up steam. And for us as technology investors, there’s one company in particular we should be keeping an eye on: Narrative Science.
Narrative Science develops the AI technology that many of these companies use – especially financial institutions.
Narrative Science raised $11 million in venture capital back in April 2017. Interestingly, In-Q-Tel – the CIA’s VC arm – was one of the early investors in Narrative Science. That tells us this technology is likely prevalent within the intelligence community as well.
And here’s what else is interesting…
Since that funding round, the company hasn’t needed a dime. That’s quite impressive after such a small VC raise. And this tells me that the company is already generating free cash flow.
If the company is generating free cash flow, it implies the business is already on sound financial footing and has a healthy operating model. And an initial public offering could be around the corner. We’ll keep an eye on Narrative Science. It could be an interesting investment target in the near future.
Just as companies have raced to adopt AI-powered customer service “chatbot” technology during the pandemic, the same is happening for news editorial, sports reporting, and even financial analysis.
But don’t worry… We’re not going anywhere here at The Bleeding Edge…
Early stage watchlist company Gingko Bioworks is on the rise…
We first talked about Ginkgo Bioworks back in September of last year. This is a fascinating synthetic biology company that I have been tracking for years now.
Ginkgo Bioworks creates custom-built organisms designed to perform specific functions. They do this by programming DNA as if it were software.
Ginkgo can create organisms designed to act as a living medicine. Or clean up oil spills by consuming the oil. It can create custom yeast for food products. The list goes on.
This company was obscure when we first talked about it last year. But that’s changing now. Ginkgo Bioworks is on the rise, largely because the company jumped on the COVID-19 bandwagon.
A report from Harvard came out a few weeks ago saying that the U.S. needs to do tens of millions of COVID-19 tests per day to open back up.
I think the report is crazy. We don’t need to test every single working American every week to understand the infection and fatality rate of this virus. After everything that we have learned already about COVID-19, this would be an unnecessary extreme.
And the report is recommending that we keep the U.S. economy closed down until such testing capabilities are in place… which would lead to something worse than the Great Depression.
But many people took it seriously because of the source. And that’s a problem because we have already conducted over 18 million COVID-19 tests to date. No other country even comes close to this level of testing.
Yet according to the Harvard report, we would need to do that many tests every day just to open the economy.
Well, that’s where Ginkgo Bioworks thinks it can help.
The company is building out a system for DNA-based COVID-19 testing. And Ginkgo believes it eventually can run half a million tests per day on its platform. It sees DNA sequencing as the key to scaling up testing.
And the market appears to agree.
On May 28, Ginkgo closed on a $70 million Series F VC round. The company is likely now valued at over $5 billion. And guess who the lead investor was?
Genetic sequencing giant Illumina led the $70 million round. For readers who may not know, Illumina develops the DNA sequencing machines that Ginkgo will use.
So Illumina invested in Ginkgo Bioworks, which will turn around and buy a bunch of sequencing machines from Illumina. Talk about a win-win.
And I’ll point out that Illumina has a good track record investing in early stage companies that go public or get acquired at higher valuations. I certainly expect that to be the case with Ginkgo Bioworks as well.
And for curious investors, yes, I like Illumina as a long-term investment. And if Ginkgo Bioworks does go public, we’ll have another exciting investment target in the biotech space.
Editor, The Bleeding Edge
P.S. Illumina and Ginkgo Bioworks aren’t the only biotech companies I’m tracking. Right now, one of my favorite early stage biotech companies is flying completely under the radar. Its total market cap is just $266 million. But make no mistake, the company is developing a new drug that has “blockbuster” potential. At these levels, a 12x return is certainly in the cards. The full story is right here.
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