🍏 How’s the Apple car project going?


February 12, 2021

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Bumble, the dating app, surged 70%+ in its debut and is now valued at $14B+. Its co-founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd is the youngest female founder (31) to take a US company public… and is well into the “tres commas club.”

Just in time for V-Day, too!

The Big Idea
Apple Car

Apple has a plan to disrupt the $10T auto industry… that no one knows much about

Few things are guarded more heavily than the Krabby Patty secret formula. Apple’s auto ambitions are among them.

With Apple looking to enter a $10T industry, it would need only a 2% share of the market to reach the size of the iPhone business. Piece of cake.

So, here’s what we do know

Apple’s had an on-again-off-again history with cars:

  • 2015-2017: The WSJ reports on Apple’s “Titan” project. Apple flip-flops between consumer cars and self-driving software, but it appears to double down on hardware when California’s DMV gives it a permit to operate on roads.
  • 2018-2019: A Lexus-built Apple test car is rear-ended — somewhat ironically — by a Nissan LEAF. The future for Titan looks bleak, but then Apple acquires an autonomous-driving startup.
  • 2020-2021: Apple continues to patent car parts and reportedly enters talks with auto manufacturers.

It’s unclear how these talks are going

Recent rumors revolved around an Apple-Hyundai deal to build cars at a Georgia plant by 2024.

But those talks reportedly broke down, since Apple wanted complete control over brand, design, and development, and Hyundai didn’t want to be another Foxconn.

Now it seems Apple’s back to the drawing board, with analysts naming BMW, Magna, Nissan, and Stellantis as potential partners.

What’s unclear is whether Apple is working on a consumer car or a vehicle for last-mile, autonomous robotaxi services.

Either way, Apple’s playing catch-up

Tesla accounted for less than 1% of global vehicle sales in 2020, but its market cap is about equivalent to the 9 largest car brands combined.

Likely the biggest advantages for Tesla — as well as Google’s Waymo, GM’s Cruise, and Amazon’s Zoox — are its millions of miles on the road, essential for self-driving tech. Apple’s test cars drove just ~19k miles in 2020.

Years ago, Elon Musk reportedly reached out to Tim Cook with an offer to acquire Tesla at 1/10th its current value. Per Musk, Cook refused to take the meeting.

We wrote about why the iPhone maker would never buy Tesla here. (TLDR: these types of deals — acquiring brand or revenue — are not in Apple’s DNA…but the longer Apple kicks the iCar down the road, the more questions we’ll be asking.)

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Snippets
  • Facebook lowers the temp: The company announced plans to limit the amount of political content on people’s news feeds. (FB’s Instagram will now ban accounts that send racist DMs, after pro soccer players were targeted).
  • Disney+ hit 95m subscribers, compared to Netflix at ~200m. This revelation was a bright spot in earnings that included lagging Parks revenue. (We wrote about the state of the streaming biz here).
  • Microsoft sticks a pin in it: In recent months, the company reportedly held talks with Pinterest in an attempt to acquire the $51B social network, but the talks are no longer active.
  • Shell goes green: The global gas conglomerate announced aggressive plans to reduce oil production by 55% in the next decade and roll out 500k EV charging stations by 2025.
  • The nation’s oldest bank — Bank of New York Mellon — said it plans to start financing cryptocurrencies over the financial networks it uses for traditional holdings.
  • Biotech startup Immunai raised $60m for its tech, which marries next-generation AI with large data sets from the “world-leading immunological research organizations,” per TechCrunch. What for? To enhance existing immunotherapies.
  • If you use Adorcam… this isn’t good news: Thousands of user webcam videos from the app were left entirely exposed for public consumption.
Micromobility
Helbiz rides

Helbiz is scootin’ onto the NASDAQ

Micromobility will make its stock market debut next quarter.

Per TechCrunch, Helbiz ($HLBZ) — an electric bike and scooter company with a pretty incredible name — will merge with a SPAC (GreenVision Acquisition Corp.), valuing the combined entity at $408m.

Who the Hel(biz)?

If you haven’t heard of Helbiz, you’re certainly not alone.

The micromobility startup operates in only 6 US markets (Washington, DC; Arlington, Alexandria, and Richmond, Virginia; Atlanta, Georgia; and Miami, Florida) and has been steamrolled across North America by the popularity and media attention of its competitors, including Bird and Lime.

CEO Salvatore Palella has instead set his sights on Europe, where Helbiz operates in 13 cities… all in his home country of Italy.

The triple-threat trend

TechCrunch reports the company has “tried to differentiate itself” with a diverse portfolio of vehicles, including e-bikes and e-mopeds. One hiccup: Helbiz’s competitors have, quite literally, the exact same offerings.

To really mix things up, Helbiz plans to introduce ghost kitchens in Milan and DC to provide “5-minute delivery.”

If that works, it could be “one hell of a biz.”

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By “people like us” we mean “the average investor.”

Sure, some of us (Trung) might have a CFA, but more of us simply have some disposable income and a vague understanding that we need to invest — and with little idea of how, where, or why.

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StockCharts.com was started to help regular joes like us out

Ex-Microsoft engineer Chip Anderson bought the domain on a whim in 1999 (hey, it was the hot thing to do then), and it’s only grown from there.

Since then, StockCharts.com has expanded into a multi-dimensional platform offering tools and education to make investing accessible to all levels:

The market is on fire this year — and all the tools you need to tackle it are over at StockCharts.com. Check ‘em out:

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Rihanna’s Empire
Rihanna gif

Rihanna will always be #1 in our hearts (Source: YouTube / Vogue)

How’s Rihanna’s fashion empire going?

She’s not just a pretty face. Rihanna has a whole umbrella (🎶🎵 ella, ella 🎶🎵) of product lines under her eponymous brand Fenty.

Even with no new albums since 2016, Rihanna has 90m+ followers on Instagram and is a brand unto herself. For instance, she recently spent 3 years as creative director at Puma.

Yet Rihanna’s newest line, Fenty Fashion House, is shuttering less than 2 years after launching with LVMH — a French fashion giant with a $320B+ valuation. This was LVMH’s first brand launch since 1987.

Nowhere to go = less clothes bought

The global fashion industry experienced a 93% drop in profit in 2020. With Americans conscientious of discretionary spending, the brands they’re buying are often affordable and promote inclusion of all sizes and ethnicities.

In contrast, Fenty pieces can cost upwards of $500. Its strategy of releasing 8 collections per year (common in high-fashion labels) wasn’t a match for Rihanna’s fan base.

It’s blue skies otherwise for RiRi

A few fashion categories, like beauty and loungewear, are doing well. In spite of a crowded market of celebrity-founded brands, Rihanna’s other Fenty lines are performing well (and a net worth of $600m+ reflects this):

  • Fenty Beauty: Its revenue hit $570m as recently as 2018
  • Fenty Skin: Her skincare line saw $30m in sales in ~4 months
  • Savage x Fenty: The lingerie line just announced a $115m funding round (it has recently grown 200%+)

The closing of Fenty Fashion House has downsized Rihanna’s empire. But Fenty’s other lines make it so that there are, ahem, “no clouds in her stones.”

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Just wow

Wendy’s #NationalRoastDay

It’s widely known that fast-food chain Wendy’s has one of the best corporate Twitter accounts out there.

Well, yesterday was #NationalRoastDay which — for the uninitiated — is when other Twitter brands ask Wendy’s to roast them.

For lack of a better phrase, Wendy’s was straight murdering corporate Twitter accounts with A++ one-liners.

Here are brutal roastings of Microsoft Bing and Oreo…

…and of Triscuits and Outback Steakhouse (see more here).

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Apple collab of the day
Motorola Steve Jobs Keynote

Apple’s collaboration history has always been spotty. The last time the iPhone maker gave up much design control was in 2005.

Two years prior to the release of the iPhone, Apple partnered with Motorola on the Rokr E1 (AKA the “iTunes phone”).

All you need to know is that it had a keyboard… which must have kept Steve Jobs up at all hours of the night.

While the phone was a flop, Apple applied lessons it learned to take the iPhone to the moon.

Shower Thoughts

  1. Wikipedia’s writing has a surprisingly consistent tone considering how many people contribute to it.
  2. People in the Kool Aid universe probably need to buy Kool Aid Man insurance in case he destroys their house.
  3. It takes a lot of courage to list a piece of exercise equipment for sale and include “barely used” in the description.
  4. Hockey is a sport. Fighting is a sport. Hockey is the only sport that allows you to take a break and play another sport in the middle of a game.
  5. Nothing is stopping you from putting a bike lock on someone else’s bike.
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