First it was sea cables…


March 12, 2019

European investors have partnered on a $2.5B project to drag a giant extension-cord across the American midwest to the East coast, but first…
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Weed report: Cannabis-infused beverages reportedly taste like urine

With recreational marijuana now legal in Canada and 10 states in the US, several companies (including the world’s biggest beer makers) are looking for a piece of the cannabis drink market.

But, while cannabis drinks are starting to pour into the global market at warp speed, promising anxiety reduction, pain relief, and better sleep, there’s still one major buzzkill: the taste.

Mmm, tastes like ‘barnyard’

According to The Wall Street Journal, Ron Silver, owner of Bubby’s restaurant in New York, likened cannabis-infused beverage tastes to a “barnyard.”

It was in fact the stink taste that inspired the self-professed cannabis advocate to launch his new company, Azuca — a company that sells cannabis-infused sweeteners. 

But perfecting the taste is more complicated than a simple syrup remedy.

Like oil and water, literally

In its natural form, cannabis compounds (known as cannabinoids) are oils. And oil has never mixed well with water, which causes each sip to be out of balance — taking anywhere from an hour or more for the cannabis to enter the bloodstream.

Companies are working tirelessly and using numerous techniques to throw the barnyard out with the bongwater: For the last 4 years, Canopy Growth has been at work with Trait Biosciences to make a clear, mildly intoxicating beverage that would take about 12 minutes to affect the body. 

The chemicals in some methods have succeeded in mixing the two sworn enemies, but no company can seem to do it without sacrificing the taste, which has also been compared to dish soap and urine. 

Time to bring in the experts

In recent months, alcoholic beverage giants including Anheuser-Busch, Molson Coors Brewing, and Constellation Brands (which owns 40% of Canopy Growth) have all perked up at the idea of creating weed-infused beverages.

Now, those companies are all working to perfect what the marijuana giants can’t — and they have the advantage of knowing a thing or two about turning canoe-water into delectable barley wine. 

Brownies taste good
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The East Coast will plug into the Midwest for power with a new $2.5B extension cord

European investors partnered on a new, $2.5B project to develop a 349-mile-long electrical transmission cable across the American Midwest. 

Currently, colossal, cross-continental cables could connect countrywide commercial corridors. 

But previous cross-regional energy projects have had trouble getting underneath the ground. This particular project, however, could plug the hungry Eastern energy market into Iowa’s windy plains.

Rich European companies, richer American soil

Iowa soil is well known for its agricultural output. But Midwestern dirt is good for more than just tillin’ corn and soybeans, dammit.

Siemens and the Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) partnered with the Canadian Pacific railroad line to develop the SOO Green Renewable Rail, a 349-mile-long underground cable to funnel Midwestern renewable energy to Eastern markets.

The many twists and turns on the road to Big Cables

America’s energy landscape is tangled: Currently, most Americans get their power from regional energy grids.

But for years, investors have wanted to connect these grids — both to enable lucrative arbitrage and also to allow cheap renewable energy from regions like the windy Midwest to flow elsewhere. But cranky lawmakers have prevented most of these projects from going live on the grid.

This cable, however, could uncoil differently: CIP, which owns 50% of a functional wind farm off the coast of MA, already has a track record of renewable success.

Plus, the cables are being built along an existing rail line, which has fast-tracked local permissions in the past.

» #FanOfGreenCables

Nvidia buys Mellanox for $6.9B to protect its business from another crypto crash

The California-based chip-making giant Nvidia purchased an Israeli computer hardware manufacturing company called Mellanox for $6.9B, the biggest acquisition in Nvidia’s history. 

Intel and Microsoft had also expressed interest in Mellanox, which makes Ethernet switches and adapters that enable computers to connect to one another in large networks. But it was Nvidia — which has had a roller-coaster of a year — that ultimately won the bidding war.

A crypto-powered roller coaster

Nvidia first rose to prominence in the crowded technology industry by making graphical processing units (GPUs) to power video games.

Then 5 years ago cryptocurrencies and AI took off, and all of a sudden Nvidia had tons of new customers for its high-octane graphics chips. The company’s stock took off: Between 2016 and 2018, Nvidia’s stock value increased more than 9x.

But then crypto crashed — and it pulled Nvidia down with it.

Nvidia needs a win

After the value of cryptocurrencies fell sharply last year, demand for powerful GPUs slumped, forcing Nvidia’s stock to crash 50% in just a few months.

For competitors like Microsoft and Intel, Mellanox was more of a “nice to have” acquisition target. For Nvidia, on the other hand, the Mellanox acquisition is a survival strategy — a way to diverse revenue in a future with fewer chips. 

The $6.9B price tag was a 14% premium on Mellanox’s closing price last Friday — and a 50% premium on the company’s value before Intel announced that it was interested last January.

» Just chip it
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11 strange habits you won’t believe actually wor-

Okay, that headline was about to get reeeal clickbait-y. We’re sorry, but we can explain. 

No doubt you’ve read some article about Ben Franklin’s habit of “air baths” or how Steve Jobs once ate only carrots for a week straight. 

It’s common folklore: The uber-successful have really weird routines. So recently, we asked ourselves a question that cuts right to the core:

“Does a strange habit make you successful?”

The answer? Well… it’s complicated

To start, we have to go back to 1987 during a tense shareholder meeting at Alcoa, where the new CEO Paul O’Neill was about to make attendees flee in panic. 

It’s a tale worth telling. But it can’t all fit here.

Click below to read our latest, “Unlocking the Keystone: What Strange Habits of the Rich and Powerful All Have in Common.”

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Josh Wood, hair colorist extraordinaire for celebs, raises VC funding

As companies like Amazon and Walmart continue to dominate consumers’ total retail spending, direct-to-consumer brands — companies that make products and use the internet to make sales without 3rd party retailers — are emerging as effective competition.

Now, a London-based celebrity hair colorist named Josh Wood has raised $6.5m to get in on that D2C action, by launching his customized home hair coloring kit business.

Putting down roots in the tech space…

Wood — who has worked with the likes of David Bowie, and held director and board positions at companies like Redken — wants to “democratize hair color” by giving women a personalized online salon experience at value price.

As with other D2C brands, tech is playing a role on multiple levels of Wood’s business — from how the product is developed to how it will match with consumers.

Similar to Third Love, the online bra company that specializes in customizable lingerie, Josh Wood’s at-home hair kit gives each consumer a customized hair shade, instead of the existing one-color-fits-all approach.  

Touching up roots in the at-home hair color industry

Per TechCrunch, some 80% of women over 25 color their hair, with 75% of those doing it at home — ipso facto at-home hair coloring is a $20B industry.

It’s a market that the 30-year dome-shade expert already knows: In his partnership with UK drugstore chain Boots, Wood sold some 240k products, alongside names like Revlon and L’Oreal, in his first year.

» Hairing is caring
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The 7 podcasts you should have (already) discovered

Okay, you caught us, we’re podcast super listeners. From business news and CEO interviews to founders sharing failures and even the occasional true crime drama, we’re full-blown addicts.

But, like you, we know the pain of sifting through the endless stream of podcast shows to find the real, worthwhile gems… So we did something about it.

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