🤖 The rise of cobots
The Hustle

🤖 The rise of cobots

PLUS: The battle of TV remotes.

January 20, 2021
TOGETHER WITH

#InaugurationDay #StaySafeOutThere

The Big Idea

Not even a little bit unsettling (Source: Boston Dynamic)

The pandemic is ushering in a new wave of office and warehouse robots. Will the trend continue?

It’s an internet tradition. 

The robotics company Boston Dynamics releases a video of its latest robot doing some advanced human-looking stuff and Twitter loses its mind. 

Last month, the firm caught the viral wave with its robots getting their dance on. While the video was no doubt impressive, the practical applications — unless we’ve completely lost the plot here — weren’t readily apparent. 

If you’re looking for practical examples of robots at work, a recent report from The Economist says the pandemic has ushered in a new wave of automation that’s here to stay. 

The installed base of factory robots is growing…

… forecast to reach 3.2m units by the end of this year, double the count from 2015 — per research firm Robo Global. Within 5 years, the total spend on industrial robots could hit $73B, up 60% from today. 

And COVID-19 is only accelerating the trend. 

Despite the long-term cost savings from automation, corporate managers have to manage investor expectations when it comes to huge upfront cash outlays. 

The pandemic — which is forcing all industries to re-imagine work — provides cover for big robotics investments. 

What type of robots we talkin’ bout here? 

According to The Economist, there are a few categories: 

  • Retail delivery: UK-based Ocado is an online-only grocer that operates automated warehouses for grocery deliveries and has rolled out its tech to Kroger in the US
  • Remote location monitoring: US-based Emerson and Swiss-Swedish ABB combine AI, cameras, and sensors to help users remotely monitor chemical factories, paper mills, marine vessels, and more
  • Paperwork: Romania’s UiPath automates business processes (and just filed for a $20B IPO) while America’s Workato has raised $100m+ 

It’s not all doom and gloom for labor, though 

We’ve also seen increased demand for “collaborative robots” (AKA “cobots”) — from firms such as GreyOrange and Amazon-owned Kiva — which are designed to work with people.

Cobots are in particularly high demand for ecommerce warehouses, which are obviously booming.

We have no idea when the next viral Boston Dynamics vid will drop, but we hope that its next robot is 1% as useful as these army of cobots:

But can these cobots deliver jokes? (Source: YouTube/YourStory)

Snippets
  • Cruise: powered by Microsoft. Autonomous vehicle service Cruise raised $2B at a $30B valuation — on a combined 0 total customers — with Microsoft as a key investor and Cruise agreeing to use Azure for cloud computing services. 
  • Bumble — the dating app founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd (co-founder of Tinder) — could be worth $10B, more than 3x its last private round, per Reuters. In comparison, Match Group (owner of OkCupid, Hinge, Tinder etc.) is up ~2x in the past year. 
  • Parler comeback story: The blacklisted app appears to have found refuge with DDos-Guard (the Russian equivalent of Cloudflare), known for hosting 8kun and sites for the Russian government.
  • Tesla’s Model Y hits Chinese streets with the first deliveries of the car there starting this week. Tesla produces the car in a $2B Shanghai factory to lower shipping costs and avoid import taxes and delays.
  • Netflix CRUSHES: After adding a record 36.6m subs in 2020 (it has 200m+ total), the streamer says it won’t need to raise any more debt and will be break-even next year, per Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw. $NFLX was up 12%+ after hours. 
  • Goodsend — a social app for direct giving — is rolling out an interesting program: paying expenses (e.g., gas, phone bills) for underprivileged jobseekers…so they can go and find jobs.
 
Bottoms Up

You can safely drink Athletic Brewing while kayaking (Source: Athletic Brewing)

A former hedge fund trader founded America’s leading nonalcoholic craft beer

It’s Dry January… which means somewhere, someone you know is prob having a sip of Athletic Brewing. 

Founded in 2017 by Bill Shufelt — a former hedge fund trader — Athletic Brewing is one of America’s fastest-growing nonalcoholic (NA) brands, Bloomberg reports.

As quarantine life pushed many to prioritize health at home, the company saw sales grow more than 5x in 2020 to ~$15m. 

The entire nonalcoholic beverage industry is $187m

Within that, Athletic Brewing dominates the craft NA beer segment with a 61% share offering low-cal favorites like Run Wild IPA (70 cals) and gluten-free Upside Dawn Golden Ale (50 cals).

Don’t let the names fool you — this is not hipster fare. 

Shufelt’s trading career was a “performance-based lifestyle” that required him to stay sharp, while investors include A+ athletes like NFL players J.J. Watt and Justin Tuck. 

The trend has a number of tailwinds…

… as covered by our Steph Smith in a…err…Trends article (un-paywalled for 1 week): 

  • Healthier (low-cal) lifestyle: 40% of global consumers want to reduce alcohol consumption 
  • No restrictions on NA beverages: Sellers can go D2C or in types of venues (restaurants, gyms) with no red tape 
  • A cheaper drink: No alcohol taxes 

Major alcohol brands (e.g., AB InBev’s Leffe 0.0 or Carlsberg’s Nordic Ale) have gotten in on the action. Everything helps when it comes to keeping that “dry” New Year’s resolution.

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Return of the Button

Streaming wars, 2021: Battle of the buttons

In 2011, Netflix changed our lives — for better or worse — by introducing the Netflix button on remotes. They outdid themselves with the “skip intro” button, but that’s another conversation.

At last week’s CES, one trend stood out among all kinds of remotes: buttons.

More branded shortcut buttons than ever

Chinese smart TV maker Hisense introduced a remote with 6 branded buttons including Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, Tubi, Disney+, and Peacock. 

Vizio “hold my beer’d” them with 7 buttons. 

Streaming services dish out ~$1 per remote for the real estate, making the buttons a valuable revenue stream for TV manufacturers looking to offset a ~60% decline in TV prices between 2014 and 2019. 

On the other end — with the smart TV market expected to grow 10.5% annually through 2025 — streaming services see the buttons as a means toward subscriber growth and increased viewership.

Now, with voice assistants, brands are fighting a 2-front battle

In 2020, for instance, LG was supposed to integrate Google Assistant and Alexa into its main mic button, but Google reportedly wasn’t down to share.

This meant that to access Alexa on LG’s remote, users had to long-press the Prime Video button — and no one likes a long-press.

This year, things changed: LG gave Google Assistant and Alexa dedicated buttons. But LG also gave its own webOS a button — meaning LG’s remote now has 3 separate voice assistant buttons. 

Seems a little excessive if you ask us.

How has FAAMG done since Inauguration Day 2017?

We hope you’re sitting down for this. 

At close on Jan. 20, 2017, the combined market value of FAAMG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google) was $2.43T. As of yesterday morning, it was $7.19T

In just 4 short years, these 5 tech giants added $4.8T in market value; almost as jarring, Apple itself is today worth almost as much ($2.14T) as the 5 companies combined were in January 2017. 👀

The Hustle Says

Peaky Blinders is getting a sixth season and a movie. Catch up on the first 5 seasons here.

Winc continues to disrupt the $300b vino industry with their modern wine subscription. Thanks to bottomless customer insights, they’ll help you discover new wines you’ll love and ship ‘em straight to you. Get $20 off your first order here.*

Invest in Gatsby, the fast-growing app that makes trading options easy. Their funding round ends on 2/12, or once they hit $5M — whichever happens first. Don’t miss your chance to invest in the future of options trading.*

If you’re gonna watch Peaky Blinders with the kids around, you’ll probably want to snag some high-quality earplugs. Cockney accents are cool, your child dropping F-bombs at preschool is also cool not. 

*This is a sponsored post.

TRENDS

How to stand out from your 9.7 competitors…

Research shows that if you start a business this year, you’re going to have more competitors than if you had started a business 5 years ago.

(9.7 competitors vs. 2.6, on average)

So, it should come as no surprise that when we asked founders for the #1 skillset a newcomer should have for starting a project in 2021, many gave the same answer:

Branding.

Branding is what sets you apart from those 9.7 competitors you’re going to be facing.

Which is why, in last week’s Trends newsletter, we dove deep into best practices that have proven successful and frameworks that you can start leveraging immediately for the competitive edge.

When you read through last week’s issue, you’ll learn:

  • The storytelling techniques that helped one startup $114M in funding
  • How to perfect your DSI (dominant selling idea)
  • How contrarianism and “picking fights” can help you make a name for your project
  • And much more

If you’re not already a member of Trends, sign up today for a $1 trial to get access to the full newsletter.

Click here →

Listen, we know you want more robot GIFs… so, here you go. Above is a grocery-picking robot that Ocado — the British online-only grocer — uses to fill customers’ orders. 

This robot uses the latest sensors, visions, and suction technology to pick up to 50 items in 2-3 minutes, according to the company’s CEO Tim Steiner

Ocado now sells its tech to 3rd parties (e.g., Kroger) and its market value has exploded, growing 10x in the past 5 years to ~$26B.

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