Changin’ the weather game

November 6, 2019

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The Hustle Daily Email

Happy Wednesday, y’all. We hope everyone was able to vote yesterday. Today, we’ve got one less reason to blame the weather man and a whole bunch of reasons why SoftBank investors might want to consider another plan. Now get out there and have a great hump day.

Weather tech finally joined the 21st century. But the forecast may surprise you

We all know that sh*tty weather can be a pain for soggy commuters. 

But inclement weather has also long been an expensive headache for city planners, sports stadium engineers, airlines, and other businesses.

That’s why a growing number of businesses have developed new weather tech products to make it easier to predict weather — and they’re finally starting to take off.

The future of weather forecasting? Big data on a tiny scale

In the past, weather forecasters relied mainly on government agencies for meteorological info, which meant most weather forecasters reported the same imprecise data (no wonder everyone hated them).

But new weather startups supplement traditional meteorological data with new, hyperlocal data to create forecasts accurate not just to entire regions but to individual cities or even a single airport or stadium.

So, how are they doing that? Mostly by transforming boring, existing infrastructure — cell phones, cars, cell towers, street cameras — into a network of connected meteorological sensors. That’s right… we’re talkin’ smart streetlights, baybee

Take the weather tech startup ClimaCell, for example

The company, which has raised $75m in funding, uses signals from cell towers, video from street cameras, data from smart cars, and information from drones and airplanes to make hyperlocal weather maps.  

ClimaCell helps airlines (Delta, United), ride-sharing companies (Via), pro sports teams (the New England Patriots), construction companies (Procore), and other partners predict weather more precisely.

And there are plenty of other weather tech players

A number of weather tech companies have recently raised money to expand their services and compete with large companies AccuWeather. Here are a few of the most noteworthy:

  • Understory raised $5.25m (of $22.2m total) to build out its hyperlocal weather intelligence network this past May.
  • PlanetiQ raised $18.7m (of $23.9m total) earlier this year to build out its constellation of weather satellites. 
  • Saildrone raised $60m (of $88.5m) to build out its global fleet of oceangoing, weather data-collecting drone ships last year.
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You may want to rethink ordering the swordfish… unless you’re cool with shark

Yet another example of why you never want to judge a fish-face by its cover: The journal Foods published a study showing that about 15% of all swordfish is actually shark. 

This is nothing new. Scarcity plus demand of various scaly delicacies has long led to fishy mislabeling and misbranding across the globe.

Counterfishing continues to hurt local businesses, species swimming toward endangerment, and, well, in the case of swordfish, human health (reportedly, shark meat often comes with large traces of arsenic).

Let this sink in…

According to Quartz, only 1% of fish imported into the US is tested to guarantee the fish is what the menu says it is, and that’s from a country that imports a whopping 90% of its seafood.

But fish fraud is a global issue, and the world’s inability to thoroughly test fish isn’t due to a lack of technology, because, well… we live in the future. 

Problem is, most methods are slow and not cheap. And guess what happens when big business looks at something as seahorse-slow and platinum arowana-expensive?

Let’s just say, fighting it is an upstream battle

That’s why the team that ran the swordfish study urges more use of COIBar-RFLP — a testing process that scans shorter lengths of fish DNA at almost ½ the price of more thorough DNA sequencing, and at nearly ⅓ of the timeline. 

But the fish industry is one of the most globally expansive businesses on earth (over 4x the area spanned by agriculture). Until governments can agree on a one-size-fish-all method for testing sea life, the transparency of today’s catch will continue to be slim pickings…

Unless, of course, you’re a Transparent Juvenile Surgeonfish (BAHAHA).

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The “Work From Anywhere” movement just got a big ol’ boost from Owl Labs

You’ve got that big all-hands meeting coming up and that means getting 30 in-office employees, 15 remote workers, and at least 2 people calling from an airport terminal together. If you’re familiar with Murphy’s Law, you know what that means — your video meeting is about to go off the rails. 

This kind of impending disaster is exactly what inspired two ex-iRobot engineers to start Owl Labs

By combining emerging tech with AI, they’re helping remote participants and their organizations make awful meetings a thing of the past… and their newest product is their biggest step forward yet. 

Meet the Meeting Owl Pro — a real hoot

Terrible bird puns aside, the Meeting Owl Pro adds some serious juice to the already-revolutionary capabilities of the OG Meeting Owl.

  • 2X sharper camera with 1080p resolution
  • 2X louder 360-degree in-room speaker
  • Smart zooming functionality that identifies and focuses the camera on each speaker
  • The same all-in-one 360° camera, mic, and speaker setup as the original Owl

Using a combination of robotic algorithms, audio/visual cues, and a Wi-Fi connected intelligence system, the Meeting Owl Pro makes it feel like you’re in the room with your team — even if you’re taking the meeting from a hammock strung up somewhere on the Gulf of Mexico (jealous). 

The Wrap-up: With the new Meeting Owl Pro, your meeting rooms are about to get a whole lot smarter.

Get yours here →

Got milk? Chinese dairy demand helps the sweet, wholesome cream rise to the top

Despite plant-based milk alternatives doing their best to curdle the dairy industry, milk prices are actually on the ups around the world.

And, as The Wall Street Journal reports, it has something to do with a little East Asian country whose name rhymes with angina.

While dairy has never traditionally been a go-to for Chinese paletes (people who descend from East Asian communities are heavily affected by adult lactose intolerance), a recent influx of milk, cream, and cheese is adding a whole new pizazz to Chinese cuisine.

Cream cheese tea… uhhh, yum?

Wholesale skim-milk and whole-milk powder prices have both risen toward the top as a spike in consumer demand has Chinese culinary establishments adding a new (hopefully) fresh take to classic goodies — like salted duck-egg yolk. This time adorned with cream. 

Skim-milk powder prices have increased by 26% to 47% across the US, Europe, and Oceania over the past year. According to the US Dairy Export Council, the average price in those 3 areas hit over $2.5k per metric ton in October — the highest average since October 2014.

Let’s not forget New Zealand

New Zealand-based Fonterra Dairy — the world’s largest dairy exporter — is really capitalizing on China’s coup for cream (China is one of Fonterra’s biggest customers). 

In October, the co-op said it’s selling skim-milk powder at even higher markups than companies in the US and Europe, and soon expects whole-milk powder sales to rise as well.

The US hasn’t profited as much off China’s dairy addiction as they have benefited from dairy consumption in other parts of Asia. But, according to the WSJ, European farms are on pace to produce less skim milk in 2020, which could present even moo’re dairy opportunities for the US (milked it).

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Too much money leads to blurry Vision (Funds)

Many Vision Fund-financed startups are failing, leading analysts to question SoftBank’s investment strategy of dumping money into companies banking on growth vs. profitability.

A who’s who of bunk

SoftBank is on the hook for a $9.5B bailout to protect its $9B WeWork investment. This isn’t the only time SoftBank’s Vision Fund has come up shortsighted. Roll call!

  • Wag, the dog-walking app, wanted only $75m in funds, but in January 2018 Vision Fund persuaded it to take $300m. Meanwhile, rival Rover refused to roll over — raising $100m to lift a leg on fundraising — and now Wag is looking for a buyer.
  • DoorDash has struggled since SoftBank was a lead investor in its $535m Series D funding round. Since then, the restaurant delivery service has come under fire for keeping its employees classified as contractors and stealing their tips.
  • Oyo, India’s No. 1 hotel chain, is sitting pretty after Vision Fund gave the company’s founder money to buy back shares from early investors… and inflate its valuation. 

SoftBank releases its earnings today

Analysts anticipate it will take billions in losses as it marks down the values of its big-name investments. SoftBank Chair Masayoshi Son himself has seen his wealth drop from $20B to $13.8B. 

But don’t count him out. Son has seen big payoffs in the past, including his early investment in the Chinese e-commerce goliath Alibaba — now worth more than $100B. SoftBank is expected to go forward with a fundraising effort for its second Vision Fund.

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What Else…

💨 Cannabis cash went up in smoke. Once high as kites, cannabis startups have crashed to earth: They’re raising only $27m a week — compared to $708m at this time last year. Plus, big banks won’t lend to canna-cos because of federal law, which leaves pot startups high and dry. 

🚗 It’s the era of the gas-powered electric vehicle. Infiniti positioned its new cars as gas-powered electric vehicles… enough to make you wonder, “have they heard of hybrids?” But it’s complicated… Many carmakers struggle to balance hybrids with EVs: General Motors and Volkswagen scrapped their hybrid lines to focus on going fully electric, while Toyota held firm to its hybrids. 

😭 Is coconut water good for you? Four of 5 experts say no. In interviews with Quartz, experts said coco health claims have been overstated. But thanks to big beverage marketing budgets (Coca-Cola owns ZICO, Dr Pepper Snapple Group owns Vita Coco, and PepsiCo owns O.N.E.), people are still coco-nuts for coco-water.

🚁 Call us when you deliver an elephant… After receiving approval for a commercial drone fleet in the past several weeks, CVS and UPS recently delivered prescription drugs for the first time by hovering 20 feet above the ground and slowly lowering medication (in one case, to a limited-mobility customer).

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