WeWork CEO Adam Neumann has reportedly cashed out of over $700 million ahead of its IPO

Adam Neumann, the co-founder and chief executive of the international real estate co-working startup, WeWork, has reportedly cashed out of more than $700 million from his company ahead of its initial public offering.

The size and timing of the payouts, made through a mix of stock sales and loans secured by his equity in the company, is unusual considering that founders typically wait until after a company holds its public offering to liquidate their holdings.

Despite the loans and sales of stock, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, Neumann remains the single largest shareholder in the company.

According to the Journal’s reporting, Neumann has already set up a family office to invest the proceeds and begun to hire financial professionals to run it.

He’s also made significant investments in real estate in New York and San Francisco, including four homes in the greater New York metropolitan area, and a $21 million 13,000 square-foot house in the Bay Area complete with a guitar shaped room (I guess a fiddle would be too on the nose). In all, Neumann reportedly spent $80 million on real estate.

Neumann has also invested in commercial real estate (the kind that WeWork leases to provide workspace with more flexible leases for companies and entrepreneurs), including properties in San Joes, Calif. and New York. Indeed four of Neumann’s properties are leased to WeWork — to the tune of several million dollars in rent. According to the Journal, Neumann will transfer those property holdings to a WeWork-controlled fund.

The WeWork chief executive has also invested in startups in recent years. He’s got an equity stake in seven companies including: Hometalk, Intercure, EquityBee, Selina, Tunity, Feature.fm, and Pins, according to CrunchBase.

The rewards that Neumann is reaping from the loans and stock sales are among the highest recorded by a private company executive. In recent years, Evan Spiegel sold $8 million in stock and borrowed $20 million from Snap before its 2017 public offering and Slack Technologies chief executive Stewart Butterfieldsold $3.2 million of stock before Slack’s public offering in June.

The only liquidation of stock and other payouts that have been disclosed which come close to Neumann’s payouts are the $300 million that GroupOn co-founder Eric Lefkofksy’s sold before his company’s IPO and the over $100 million that Mark Pincus took off the table ahead of Zynga’s offering.

WeWork declined to comment for this article.

 

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Chinese space station Tiangong-2 is about to burn up over the Pacific

The final hours for China’s Tiangong-2 space station are at hand, as the 8-ton piece of hardware will fall to earth, or rather sea, some time in the next 20 hours or so in a controlled deorbit manuever.  But unlike with its predecessor, it isn’t a mystery where this particular piece of space debris is going to fall.

Tiangong-2 is a small space station that was put into orbit in 2016 to test a number of China’s orbital technologies; it was originally planned to stay up there for two years, but as many a well-engineered piece of space kit has done, it greatly exceeded its expected lifespan and has been operational for more than a thousand days now.

Chinese Taikonauts have visited the station to perform experiments, test tools, orbital refueling, and all that sort of thing. But it’s not nearly as well equipped as the International Space Station, nor as spacious — and that’s saying something — so they only stayed a month, and even that must have been pretty grueling.

The time has come, however, for Tiangong-2 to be deorbited and, naturally, destroyed in the process. The China National Space Administration indicated that the 18-meter-wide station and solar panels will mostly burn up during reentry, but that a small amount of debris may fall “in a safe area in the South Pacific,” specifying a rather large area that does technically include quite a bit of New Zealand. (160-190°W long by 30-45°S lat)

They did not specify when exactly it would be coming down, except that it would be during July 19 Beijing time (it’s already morning there at the time of publishing). It should produce a visible streak but not anything you’ll see if you aren’t looking for it. This visualization from The Aerospace Company shows how the previous, very similar station would break up:

It’ll be different this time around but you get a general idea.

That’s much better than Tiangong-1, which stopped responding to its operators after several years and as such could not be deliberately guided into a safe reentry path. Instead it just slowly drifted down until people were pretty sure it would be reentering sometime in the following few days — and it did.

There was never any real danger that the bus-sized station would land on anyone, but it’s just fundamentally a little unnerving not knowing where the thing would be coming down.

This isn’t the last Tiangong; Tiangong-3 is planned for a 2020 launch, and will further inform the Chinese engineers and astronauts in their development of a more full-featured space station planned for a couple years down the line.

Controlled deorbit is the responsible thing to do, not to mention just plain polite, and the CNSA is doing the right thing here. All the same, Kiwis should probably carry umbrellas tomorrow.

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Uber and Lyft drivers demand better pay, workplace protections and driver-led unions

As Assembly Bill 5 makes its way through the California state legislature, Uber and Lyft drivers are voicing their demands for better pay, basic workplace protections and the right to organize through unions. Tomorrow, Lyft and Uber drivers will convene outside Uber’s San Francisco headquarters to make their voices heard.

As established in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v Superior Court of Los Angeles, AB-5 seeks to codify the ruling. In that case, the court decided Dynamex wrongfully classified its workers as independent contractors.  AB-5, which has already passed in the California State Assembly, would ensure gig economy workers are entitled to minimum wage, workers’ compensation and other benefits.

To fuel its mission, Gig Workers Rising and Mobile Workers Alliance took out an ad in the SF Chronicle, coming out tomorrow, that features an open letter to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, and Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer. In it, the groups applauded both Lyft and Uber for saying they want to do better by their drivers.

“But the most important step in accomplishing that goal has yet to be taken: drivers need a seat at the table as equal partners to chart our path forward,” Linda Valdivia of Mobile Workers Alliance and Rebecca Stack-Martinez of Gig Workers Rising wrote in the letter. “That is why we have been organizing, demonstrating, and speaking out to demand that you put your words into action.”

In short, drivers want to be part of the conversations around AB-5 and have their voices heard in the decision-making process. Additionally, drivers want California’s leaders to give them the ability to organize and bargain through a driver-led union, the letter states.

“It’s time for Uber, Lyft, and California state leaders to come together with drivers to chart the path forward,” organizers wrote. “It’s time for Uber and Lyft to do right by us. That means extending all drivers the living wages and basic workplace protections we deserve. It also means an end to putting the cost and the risk of doing your business on us.”

As noted in Uber and Lyft’s op-ed, neither company wants its drivers to be employees. It would be a very costly endeavor that would undoubtedly impact their bottom lines.

“Lyft is advocating for an approach in line with the interests of our driver community, by modernizing century old labor laws that make it difficult to provide both flexibility and benefits,” a Lyft spokesperson said in a statement. “That’s why we’ve been working with lawmakers and labor leaders on a different solution, so drivers can continue to control where, when, and how long they drive. It’s encouraging that more groups are joining the conversation to preserve flexibility for drivers while also providing new benefits and protections.”

Behind the scenes, Uber has reportedly paid drivers to protest the legislation that would make them employees, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with our diverse community of drivers — and the legislators who represent them — to improve the quality and security of independent work,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement.

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Hardware startups take center stage for Hardware Battlefield at TC Shenzhen

Software grabs so much attention that it even has its own catchphrase — there’s an app for that. It’s not a bad thing, but we know nothing happens without hardware. That’s why we’re hunting for the best early-stage hardware startups to take center stage at Hardware Battlefield at TC Shenzhen on November 11-12 in China.

Apply here to compete in TC Hardware Battlefield 2019, our hardware-focused pitch competition. If selected, you’ll go head-to-head against some of the world’s most innovative hardware makers for a shot at $25,000. What’s more, you’ll pitch your creations to the world’s top investors. Imagine what that kind of exposure could do for your bottom line.

This is our fifth Hardware Battlefield and our first in China. Shenzhen has a global reputation for the support it offers hardware startups through a combination of accelerators, rapid prototyping and world-class manufacturing. We’re thrilled to collaborate with our partner TechNode to host TC Hardware Battlefield 2019 as part of the larger TechCrunch Shenzhen that runs November 9-12.

Any early-stage hardware startup — from any country — can apply to this competition. We’ve seen an impressive range of hardware in previous Battlefields, including robotic arms, food testing devicesmalaria diagnostic tools, smart socks for diabetics and e-motorcycles. Show us what you’ve got!

Meet the minimum requirements listed below, and you’re qualified for consideration:

If you’ve never experienced one of our Battlefield pitch competitions, you’re in for the ride of a lifetime. Here’s how this Hardware Battlefield works.

The vetting process is very selective, and TechCrunch editors thoroughly review every qualified application. They’ll pick 10-15 outstanding hardware startups to compete. Every participating team receives extensive coaching from TechCrunch editors wise in the ways of Battlefield competitions. How extensive? Try six weeks of training that leaves you ready to step on the main stage in front of a panel of judges comprised of expert VCs, founders and technologists.

Each team has just six minutes to pitch and demo their products and then respond to an in-depth Q&A from the judges. One team will rise above the rest to become the Hardware Battlefield champion and take home a check for $25,000.

Even if you don’t win the whole shooting match, you’ll walk away with invaluable — some might say life-changing — media and investor exposure. Of course, we’ll capture the entire event on video and publish it on TechCrunch to a global audience.

Hardware Battlefield at TC Shenzhen takes place on November 11-12. Don’t miss your chance to launch your hardware startup on the world’s most famous tech stage. Apply today!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Hardware Battlefield at TC Shenzhen? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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VMware acquires ML acceleration startup Bitfusion

VMware today announced that it has acquired Bitfusion, a former participant in our Startup Battlefield competition. Bitfusion was one of the earliest companies to help businesses accelerate their complex computing workloads on GPUs, FPGAs and ASICs. In its earliest iteration, over four years ago, the company’s focus was less on AI and machine learning and more on other areas of high-performance computing, but unsurprisingly, that shifted as the interested in AI and ML increased in recent years.

VMware will use Bitfusion’s technology, which is vendor- and hardware-agnostic, to bring similar capabilities to its customers. Specifically, it plans to integrate Bitfusion into its vSphere platform.

“Once closed, the acquisition of Bitfusion will bolster VMware’s strategy of supporting AI- and ML-based workloads by virtualizing hardware accelerators,” writes Krish Prasad, Senior Vice President and General Manager of VMware’s Cloud Platform Business Unit. “Multi-vendor hardware accelerators and the ecosystem around them are key components for delivering modern applications. These accelerators can be used regardless of location in the environment – on-premises and/or in the cloud.”

Prasad also notes that to get the most out of hardware accelerators like GPUs, most enterprises deploy them on bare metal. VMware, however, argues that this leads to poor utilization and poor efficiencies (as it would, of course, given that it is in the business of virtualization). “This provides a perfect opportunity to virtualize them—providing increased sharing of resources and lowering costs,” writes Prasad.

The two companies did not disclose the price of the acquisition. Bitfusion had raised $5 million in 2017 and a smaller, strategic investment from Samsung Ventures in 2018.

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CrowdStrike impresses with first earnings report

CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity business focused on endpoint protection, posted revenues of $96.1 million on GAAP net losses of $26 million in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020, according to the company’s first-ever earnings report released Thursday following its $612 million NASDAQ initial public offering in June.

CrowdStrike closed up 2.5% Thursday following the news, rising in after-hours trading.

The company’s revenue shot up 103% from the same period last year, with subscription revenue increasing 116% increase to $86 million. CrowdStrike’s stock price has continued to rise since the company priced its shares at $35 apiece last month, trading Thursday at nearly $82 per share after-hours.

The security enterprise expects full-year losses of 72 to 70 cents per share on more than $430 million in revenue.

“We are pleased with the strong start to the year,” CrowdStrike chief executive officer and co-founder George Kurtz said in a statement. “As the pioneer of cloud-native endpoint security, CrowdStrike provides the only endpoint protection platform built from the ground up to stop breaches, while reducing security sprawl with its single-agent architecture. Our continued innovation strengthens our category leadership in the Security Cloud and positions us as the fundamental endpoint platform for the future.”

Kurtz began work on Sunnyvale-based CrowdStrike in 2012 after beginning his career as a CPA at Price Waterhouse, writing a book on internet security titled “Hacking Exposed: Network Security Secrets & Solutions,” then launching FoundStone, which sold to McAfee in 2004 in a deal worth $86 million. Kurtz then spent the next seven years as a general manager at McAfee, eventually becoming chief technology officer.

We chatted briefly with the CrowdStrike chief just after he rang the Nasdaq opening bell last month. You can read the full conversation here.

 

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How autonomous vehicles and hyperloop are scooting along

Two years ago, Lime was a great addition to guacamole, rather than a sidewalk. The market wasn’t sure about car sharing and whether it had long-term viability. Now, with the acquisition of Drivy, Getaround is the largest car-sharing platform with partnerships the likes of Uber and Toyota. Uber and Lyft were (and are) a phenomenon, but there were still pundits who weren’t sure if Uber would ever overcome the adversity of its culture.

At the same time, I wrote a series of four articles on the latest transport technologies, and the waves they would create with perspectives focused on the impact on retail, commercial real-estate, short-haul travel and hyperloop. Among those predictions was the impact hyperloop and autonomous vehicle technology would have on commuting, short-haul air travel and the retail industry.

Since then, these technologies have continued to develop and evolve, and it’s worthwhile to revisit assumptions and assertions. Some of the more optimistic expectations put upon them by their proponents have so far failed to be realized, and they are no closer to becoming a reality in our day-to-day lives.

This begs the question as to whether they will still become the industry disruptors many pundits, including me, suggested they would, or if expectations have become more tempered.

Both hyperloop and autonomous vehicle technology have had their ups and downs over the past two years, but they’re still set to change the way we (and the things we need) travel.

Delayed promotion to the back seat

When people think about transport innovation, we often think of self-driving cars or, maybe, flying cars.

Many believed that we’d be relegated (or promoted) to the back seat as soon as 2020. We would be sitting comfortably while fleets of autonomous cars chauffeured us along. Over the past two years the landscape has consolidated and the players are arguing what’s possible.

Driverless cars haven’t managed to achieve some of the targets that were being set for the technology two years ago. For instance, as we discussed, Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed in 2015 that the company’s cars would be fully autonomous by 2017 — a prediction that, of course, didn’t and still hasn’t come to pass as of mid 2019. And in January this year, Nissan — one of the main proponents of autonomous vehicle technology — said “true autonomous cars will not happen within the next decade.”

But it would be overly pessimistic to suggest the technology isn’t coming at all. The progress has been incredible.

Disruptive leaps forward often result in a net gain in employment.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett said that “[w]e overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles,” at an April 2019 Detroit Economic Club event. Ford believes its fully driverless cars will be in commercial operation by 2021, and the technology has remained a major and consistent talking point in the media. At the annual WSJ conference, D.Live, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said that “autonomy will always have constraints,” to communicate his belief that fully autonomous Level 5 transport is not coming anytime soon.

Industry pundits like the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) would argue that Waymo is leading the pack on unlocking the promise of autonomous technology. Tesla’s founder and chief, Elon Musk, feels that Teslas will leapfrog Waymo with an upgrade in 2020 that will make more than a million cars fully autonomous. “By the middle of next year, we’ll have over a million Tesla cars on the road with full self-driving hardware, feature complete, at a reliability level that we would consider that no one needs to pay attention.” My excitement is tempered by the fact that Musk said before that Teslas would be fully autonomous by 2017. That said, I wouldn’t slight him for being audacious, as I do believe he was just being overly optimistic rather than scamming the market.

We shouldn’t forget everyone’s favorite punching bag, Uber, which entered the race in 2015 when they first partnered, then acquired, an entire Carnegie Mellon autonomy lab. Their foray into self-driving abruptly stopped after a tragic accident that killed a pedestrian in Arizona. At this point, it would seem more likely they are going to use the technology rather than develop it themselves.

Driverless cars will create more jobs than they will destroy

In my piece titled “Transport’s coming upheaval,” published in the original series on TechCrunch, I suggested that new modes of transport, such as autonomous vehicles and hyperloop, would end up creating more jobs than they would eliminate. They, coupled with improvements in remote work technologies, should contribute to lowering the cost of human capital by allowing them to comfortably move outside of urban centers to lower-cost housing.

Job loss has been one of the common themes in the discussion around the innovative transport technologies. Some reports have suggested that autonomous vehicle technology could destroy 300,000 jobs a year, and that hyperloop would have a devastating effect on the trucking industry. But as I previously posited, history shows us that, more often than not, disruptive leaps forward often result in a net gain in employment.

Take, for instance, the introduction of the personal computer in the 1970s. It initially destroyed 3.5 million jobs in total, including those in typewriter manufacturing, secretarial work and bookkeeping. But it went on to help create 19.3 million jobs, in the U.S. alone, across a wide range of industries and occupations, according to McKinsey estimates.

New transport innovations will have a similar effect, creating many new jobs. Even though driverless cars aren’t yet available for commercial purchase, there have been developments with the technology that give us a better idea as to how it will likely affect global workforces.

Rather than be a disaster for the world of work, autonomous vehicles and hyperloop could be a boon for employees.

As a whole host of companies, including Waymo, Tesla, Cruise and Ford, strive to make a breakthrough with autonomous vehicle technology, more workers are required to make the driverless car dream a reality. According to the online talent platform ZipRecruiter, the number of job listings related to driverless cars increased 27% year over year in January 2018, and the amount of job postings in the autonomous vehicle sector rose by 250% from the second quarter in 2017 to the second quarter in 2018 due to a hiring spree at the beginning of the year. Indeed, a report from Boston Consulting Group and Detroit Mobility Lab released in January estimated that self-driving and electric cars would create more than 100,000 jobs in the U.S. over the next decade.

In fact, the trucking industry seems ripe for change, and not just because of the benefits that autonomous vehicle technology would bring. There is a shortage of truck drivers in the U.S., according to CNBC. The unemployment rate fell to 3.9% percent in July of last year, meaning companies are struggling to recruit for a job that has long, demanding hours.

Drivers for both trucking and autonomous taxis won’t be irrelevant for some time. For trucking, there is a need for a human to secure the cargo and manage the many checkpoints. For taxis, if Waymo’s CEO is correct, there will still be routes where the driver may be needed, especially in high traffic cities with variability in routes, road quality, construction and traffic conditions.

As the new transport technologies are slowly introduced, they will indeed eliminate existing jobs after, first, making them much more enjoyable for the workers. But evidence suggests that those jobs will be replaced by new ones that require different experiences and levels of education. Rather than be a disaster for the world of work, autonomous vehicles and hyperloop could be a boon for employees everywhere.

What happened to hyperloop?

Two years ago, there was a ton of buzz around what Elon Musk once deemed a “fifth mode of transport.” Hyperloop — a form of terrestrial travel where pod-like vehicles travel in near-vacuum tubes at more than 700 mph — was set to be up-and-running by 2020, with plans to create routes between San Francisco and LA, and Washington and New York.

The impact of this, as I discussed in my original transport series, would be huge for commuting and real estate, and would be a devastating disruptor for short-haul air travel and some trucking routes. Even though hyperloop isn’t being talked about in the same way it was, the promising global projects are far from dead. There are still plenty of developments that suggest hyperloop could be a major form of transport in the future.

Virgin Hyperloop One is now testing empty pods along its 1,640-foot-long, 11-foot-high tube just north of Las Vegas; and in October last year, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) unveiled its first full-scale capsules, which it believes will be passenger-ready by the end of 2019. However, many of the widely publicized Hyperloop routes — LA to San Francisco, and Washington to New York — have gone cold in recent years. As have plans to create a high-speed rail across California. In February, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that plans for the new track had been scaled back from the previous grand ambition to connect north to south, saying that, “The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long.”

Efficiency isn’t the only factor that would put self-driving in good stead against airline competitors.

The financial problems the California high-speed rail track has come up against could be an ominous sign for hyperloop technology in the U.S. These types of transport systems are often vastly expensive (the California high-speed rail project was set to cost $68 billion, if completed), and there’s no guarantee they’ll return the investment. Taiwan’s high-speed rail, for instance, suffered heavy losses due to depreciation charges, interest burdens and lower-than-expected demand. And while Elon Musk claimed the LA to SF hyperloop track would cost as little as $6 billion, the SpaceX founder’s estimates have been largely rebuked, with some critics claiming the track would actually cost closer to $100 billion.

Hyperloop is becoming a commercial reality as soon as 2021, just not in the United States. HTT will be building a 10 km track to connect Abu Dhabi to Al Ain and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The hope is to be operational by the universal exposition, Expo 2020, on October 20th, 2020.

Clearly, hyperloop still has a lot of questions to answer if it is to fulfill the expectations placed on it, but leaving the technology by the wayside without further testing would be foolish when taking into consideration the environmental and commuting benefits hyperloop would bring. If the technology proves to be cost efficient and as effective as its proponents have previously claimed, it will still have a huge impact on how we and our cargo travel.

A new way to travel and commute

I continue to believe that self-driving technology will disrupt short-haul air travel in a massive way. Why would you go through the hassle of airport security when a terrestrial mode of transport could get you to your destination even quicker?

Efficiency isn’t the only factor that would put self-driving in good stead against airline competitors. Commuting would be easier, too. In all likelihood, traveling by car would be more comfortable and spacious than air travel, but it would also be more amenable to good Wi-Fi connection. In the two years since writing the original series on innovations in transport, in-flight Wi-Fi has improved, but it’s often costly and leaves much to be desired.

Autonomous vehicles will be the next step in brick-and-mortar retail innovation.

Volvo, for instance, released an autonomous car concept in September last year of an electric vehicle that can double up as a living room, bedroom and office. The car, named the 360c, benefits from a larger interior thanks to its lack of a bulky combustion engine and steering wheel. The 360c can be configured in four different ways, with spacious seating, a table and a fold-away bed.

This type of travel would revolutionize how we commute. Workers traveling long distances would surely choose to spend more time in a spacious, work-friendly driverless car than by air travel, if it meant they could comfortably work en route. And it’s a vision that automotive companies with an eye to autonomous vehicle technology are considering seriously.

Mobile retail

As we’ve already seen, the claim that new transport innovations such as driverless cars and hyperloop will destroy more jobs than they’ll create is specious at best. But that doesn’t mean the technology won’t change certain roles in the sector.

Already, the role of driver in ridesharing companies is beginning to change and become more enterprising. In July last year, in-car commerce startup Cargo partnered with Uber. The deal allows drivers to sell passengers candy, cosmetics and electronics during the journey. And, according to Cargo’s estimates, drivers using its service can earn between $1,500 to $3,000 in extra income per year.

As cars become more autonomous and the form-factors evolve, it will allow the drivers to provide more services to passengers.

This type of new mobile retail could go on to sell far more than just a few select products in an Uber, though, and it may have a knock-on effect on the retail industry as a whole — an assertion I made in the original series.

Two years ago, retail was suffering badly and, in large part, that trend continues as many fail to adapt. Today, it’s still in a state of flux, with constant disruptions threatening the future of brick-and-mortar stores. Those stores that are surviving the onslaught are adapting and improving with the latest technology. For instance, many companies, such as Ikea, are using augmented and virtual reality to make the shopping experience more immersive.

The reality is that scooters, e-bikes and other modalities will continue to infiltrate our cities.

Autonomous vehicles will be the next step in brick-and-mortar retail innovation. The technology could allow fleets of stores on wheels to come to consumers on demand straight to their location. When I made the claim two years ago, it may have seemed a bit far-fetched, but since then, plenty of businesses have started utilizing the concept.

Walmart, Ford and Postmates are reportedly collaborating on a pilot program in Miami where goods will be delivered to consumers’ doors in a driverless vehicle. They aren’t the only ones exploring how to use the technology in retail. In mid-2017, Swedish company Wheelys launched Moby Mart — a fully autonomous, staffless supermarket on wheels. The service currently operates in Shanghai, China, and is available 24/7.

Consumers have shown an increasing appetite for on-demand food delivery services since I wrote the original series. Uber Eats is only three years old, but it’s already valued at $20 billion; and one of its main rival, Postmates, made more than 35 million deliveries in 2018. As autonomous vehicle technology becomes more widely adopted, more businesses will see the advantage in using it to deliver efficient services to a growing customer base.

New kids on the block

E-bikes have been a steadily growing market since the end of the 20th century, but with the help of on-demand bike sharing they’ve exploded in major cities. Meanwhile, another form of transport left the playground and moved mainstream. Scooters have long been a staple, but since 2017, they’ve changed the landscape of short city commutes.

According to a report released by the National Association of City Transportation Officials, riders took nearly 39 million trips on shared electric scooters in 2018. For the first time they surpassed e-bikes by nearly 10%.

The biggest names behind the scooter boom in the U.S. are Lime, Bird and Scoot. Ironically, their scooters are powered by inventor Dean Kamen’s technology that was at the heart of the Segway. It only took nearly two decades for his future to be realized with a slight design change.

Although I’m not clear that the scooter rental companies are as big a financial opportunity as their investors are hoping, I do believe they aren’t going anywhere. The reality is that scooters, e-bikes and other modalities will continue to infiltrate our cities as urban planners move away from designs centered around automobiles.

The future of innovation in transport

With the setbacks and failed predictions that have been made of autonomous vehicles and hyperloop technology, it would be easy to be skeptical if they will come at all. But, as is often the case with innovation and change, adoption can be slow, and there are often unforeseeable delays. However, with so many startups and major global businesses — from Waymo to Virgin — betting heavily on the future of hyperloop and autonomous vehicles, it’s surely a question of when rather than if they come to pass.

As we’ve seen, these technologies have made huge strides in the two years since I wrote the original series, and the applications of them are starting to be realized. And those applications go far beyond faster, more convenient travel. As more businesses sit up and take notice of the potential driverless cars and hyperloop have to offer, they will continue to shape the future of transport, retail, work and much more.

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SpaceX shares video of multiple Crew Dragon parachute recovery system tests

SpaceX is providing a closer look at some of its Crew Dragon parachute recovery system testing, with a new video compiling footage of a number of tests including those flown from a cargo plane and a high-altitude balloon. The video shows a test version of their Crew Dragon capsule falling through the sky over desert testing ground, and deploying the multi-parachute array it’ll employ to coast gently back to Earth after its planned missions ferrying astronauts to space.

Elon Musk’s private space company has been testing the Crew Dragon parachute system for a while now, and we don’t know too much about its progress yet, beyond that it performed an ‘advanced development test’ in April using a metal sled in place of an actual demonstration Crew Capsule that did not meet NASA’s expectations. Regardless, the test was seen as a ‘good one’ by both parties because of the data it provided in terms of working towards an ultimately successful system.

SpaceX shows footage from seven different tests in the highlight video it shared today, which include both reliability and qualification tests. It still has yet to announce that its parachute system is approve for flight, however, and that’s a milestone that Boeing achieved for its rival Starliner crew craft in June.

Beyond the parachute system, SpaceX is undertaking a wide range of tests in order to quality its craft for crewed flight with NASA personnel on board. The company also recently detailed progress it made into an investigation of the cause behind its failed Dragon abort engine test in April, and the steps it’s taking to remedy the issue so that it can move forward with a crewed test launch.

SpaceX had been targeting a 2019 date for its first crewed test mission for Crew Dragon, and had previously been aiming to run that mission at the end of July. At this stage, it seems increasingly unlikely that we’ll see astronauts on board a SpaceX spacecraft before the end of the year.

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Submittable raises $10M to help publishers and other organizations manage their submissions

Submittable is announcing that it has raised $10 million in Series B funding.

When I first wrote about the company in 2012, it was focused on helping literary magazines manage their submissions — useful, but maybe not the kind of thing that venture capitalists write big checks for.

Since then, Submittable raised a $5 million Series A and expanded by helping companies in a number of industries manage their submissions and applications. Co-founder and CEO Michael FitzGerald said the company has built products for four main verticals (corporate, academic, philanthropy and publishing) and has signed up big customers like AT&T, HBO, Conde Nast, Harvard and MIT.

And while publishing may no longer be the main focus, FitzGerald — a published novelist himself — noted that “in the publishing world, we’re pretty much the way you do it.” I’ve certainly been seeing more Submittable submissions pages, (although FitzGerald acknowledged that the service hasn’t quite taken hold among science fiction magazines).

He also said the product has been getting increasingly sophisticated, for example allowing a publisher to review and rank submissions based on very specific qualities like sentence structure and voice.

Submittable screenshot

Besides expanding into additional verticals and launching on mobile, one of FitzGerald’s main goals it to create what he called “ZipRecruiter for Opportunities,” a marketplace uses Submittable data to connect individuals and organizations that seem like a good fit, where they’re writers and magazines, scholarships and students or any other pairing for “any opportunity that isn’t a job.”

Submittable is based in Missoula, Montana, and the round was led by Next Coast Ventures, a firm that invests in startups outside the big coastal tech hubs. (Previous investors True Ventures and Next Frontier also participated.) Next Coast co-founder and managing director Michael Smerklo is joining the startup’s board of directors.

“Submittable is a perfect example of what is possible outside Silicon Valley,” Smerklo said in a statement. “The platform is modernizing the often painful undertaking of managing the submission process and leveraging that data for genuine opportunity creation.”

FitzGerald (who’s spoken elsewhere about his experience working as a startup CEO while also facing a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis) said the plan is to expand the Submittable team from 88 to 240 people by the end of 2020. He acknowledged that the location has created some challenges in hiring, particularly when it comes to experienced executives, but he said he’s been assisted by the fact that ClassPass and OnxMaps have also opened offices in Missoula.

Plus, he said that one of the most effective tactics involves searching LinkedIn for executives who went to high school in Missoula between 1985 and 2000: “Everyone is looking for a way home.”

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Azure revenue continues to slow down for Microsoft

Microsoft reported in its FY19, Q4 earnings report today that Azure, the company’s infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering, grew at 64 percent. It may feel like a large number, but was part of a downward trend Microsoft has been experiencing throughout the entire fiscal 2019 earnings cycle.

The growth rates for FY19 were, Q1: 76 percent, Q2: 76 percent, Q3: 73 percent and all the way down to 64 percent this quarter. They’re probably not panicking in the hallways in Redmond today over these numbers as that is still a healthy growth rate, and the law of large numbers suggests that the bigger you get, the slower your growth is going to be. Gaudy numbers tend to be for upstarts.

Microsoft is clearly not in that category, sitting strongly in the number 2 position in cloud infrastructure market, and as Synergy Research’s John Dinsdale pointed out, while that growth rate may be slowing down, the more important marketshare percentage has continued to grow steadily upward.

“Microsoft is a clear number two in cloud infrastructure services (IaaS, PaaS, hosted private cloud), still a long way behind AWS but well ahead of the rest of the pack. Its revenue growth rate is way above the overall market growth rate, so it is gradually gaining marketshare – 9% in 2016, 11% in 2017, 14% in 2018 and 16% in the first quarter of 2019,” he said in a statement today.

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And even as the growth slows, Microsoft announced a big win this week when AT&T announced it would be signing a contract worth $2 billion in Azure and Office 365 services. While Office 365 is not part of the IaaS market, it was still a significant customer acquisition for the company.

The cloud market is still growing at a rapid rate as companies are still in the relatively early stages of moving their workloads to public cloud vendors like Microsoft, Amazon and Google. There is a tremendous opportunity ahead for Microsoft and all of its rivals, and while Microsoft’s Azure earnings growth may be slowing down, there is still plenty of room for significant revenue for the foreseeable future.

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