A new flex from Alexa


January 7, 2020

The Hustle
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You can find Alexa almost everywhere these days… Everywhere, that is, except on birth certificates: After Amazon released its Echo, the popularity of Alexa as a baby name dropped 33%. Go figure. Today:

  • Alexa has her eye on your passenger seat
  • California’s privacy law is both bitter and sweet
  • SoftBank can’t shake its cold feet

Stay curious.

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Who’s riding shotgun in that Lamborghini? Alexa, of course

Amazon put the pedal to the metal on its ambitions for Alexa this week, announcing new partnerships with Lamborghini and the up-and-coming electric truck maker Rivian.

Later this year, owners of these luxury whips will be able to use Alexa to turn on their seat warmers, open and close their windows, and even view what’s inside their trunks via live video feed.

Alexa was already riding in other cars…

… like BMW, Audi, Toyota, and Ford — all of which had already inked agreements with Amazon to put Alexa in their vehicles.

But this Lamborghini partnership shows that Alexa isn’t just hitching a ride with mass-market cars — she’s also interested in copiloting luxury cars.

In fact, Amazon wants to be a passenger in EVERY car

And to do it, Amazon has also developed Echo Auto, a tiny, dashboard-mounted piece of hardware that can turn even an Oldsmobile into a new, voice assistant-enabled smart car. 

Since it launched in 2018, Echo Auto has given Amazon customers the ability to use Alexa to control their music, make phone calls, and use navigation services while driving.

Yesterday Amazon and Exxon Mobil announced that Alexa will soon be able to pay for gas at 11.5k Exxon and Mobil locations. 

Of course, Alexa’s expansion isn’t confined to the car

Since Amazon wants Alexa to be available all the time, the company has made an effort to add Alexa to just about everything.

In fact, the number of Alexa-enabled devices doubled in the past year..

So, in addition to your car, here are some other places you might find Alexa lurking:

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California privacy image

Thanks to California’s privacy law, one company’s pain is another’s gain

As companies scramble to ensure they’re in compliance with the California Consumer Privacy Act, a surge of startups is hoping to cash in on data solutions.

It’s a California Gold Rush redux

Companies meeting certain criteria are expected to spend a collective $55B making sure they meet the new rules, and it’s estimated that more than 200 companies and consultants are already pitching products and services. For example:

  • TerraTrue built a privacy platform allowing companies to better corral customer data and automate compliance with myriad laws. 
  • DataFleets offers machine-learning tools that limit the likelihood of leaking consumers’ private info. 

And the market could get bigger

California isn’t the only actor regulating how companies use consumer data. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, implemented in 2018, protects its citizens’ personal information.

And there could be additional legislation coming from:

  • The UK, post-Brexit 
  • New York and Washington states
  • India
  • Your US Congress

This potential mishmash of laws could prove complicated, which would mean more business for those who know how to navigate it.

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Softbank image

WeWork broke SoftBank’s heart. Now, SoftBank’s leaving other startups at the altar

Despite submitting term sheets promising hundreds of millions of dollars in investment months ago, SoftBank has backed out of a number of investments recently, raising eyebrows and blood pressures across the startup world, Axios reports.

SoftBank claims it’s not bailing entirely… 

And it says it’s just taking a long time to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. But that’s not an answer that satisfies spurned startup founders. 

So, who has SoftBank snubbed? 

  • Honor, which provides home care for the elderly, reportedly received a $150m term sheet from SoftBank in November.
  • Seismic, which makes business-to-business sales software, reportedly received a term sheet from SoftBank in August.
  • Creator, which develops hamburger-making robots, reportedly received a term sheet from SoftBank several months ago for “many multiples” of the $25m it had raised up to that point.

But then SoftBank bailed on all 3 of these startups… 

And SoftBank didn’t give any reasons for backing out  

Now, these screwed-over startups are struggling to recover from their failed fundraising efforts — but they won’t get back the time they wasted negotiating with SoftBank.

But SoftBank’s strange behavior also exposes a crack in the once-glossy veneer of the company’s infamous Vision Fund — and it’s hard not to think that SoftBank’s soured investment in WeWork had something to do with its chronic case of cold feet… 

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Snippets

🏙 New York City’s Silicon Alley is starting to shine. Tech jobs in New York have surged 80% in the past decade, putting the Big Apple in league with traditional tech hubs on the West Coast. In November, NYC’s nearly 27k tech job openings trailed just SF and Seattle in November. Big Tech is a big driver: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are expected to have 20k employees in Manhattan by 2022.

🍫 The cocoa cartel spiked chocolate prices. Ghana and the Ivory Coast, which together produce 60% of the world’s cocoa and have been collaborating to set cocoa prices over the past few months, decided to charge an extra $400 per metric ton of cocoa — a 16% increase on last week’s cocoa prices. Chocolatiers supported the move because it will improve the sustainability of cocoa production, but prices for cocoa-based products will likely rise in the coming months. 

🚚 Delivery robots could be climbing stairs near you soon. A walking package delivery robot called Digit is now for sale for more than $100k. The robot already has at least one buyer in Ford, which purchased some of the bipedal bots to continue its research on a last-mile delivery program.

What is World Wide What? The microblogging giant Tumblr launched an initiative to fight misinformation called World Wide What that will feature short, meme-able videos about digital literacy. Like other social media networks, Tumblr has struggled to rein in misinformation.

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