Hotel group turned tech incubator


February 22, 2019

The Standard Hotel Group’s new last-minute hotel booking app raised $5m.
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The first privately funded mission to the moon begins its loooong journey

A small spacecraft named Beresheet took off on a trip to the moon yesterday, vaulting an improbable group of privately funded Israeli scientists to heights achieved only by the world’s largest government space agencies. 

The scheme, which grew out of a drunken conversation in Tel Aviv less than a decade ago, would be the first private space mission ever to reach the moon.

Calling all lunatics

Yariv Bash, a starry-eyed dreamer who moonlighted as a computer engineer, took a shot in the dark on Facebook in 2010 with a post that said, “Who wants to go to the moon?”

Two friends expressed immediate interest. After hashing out preliminary plans, the group formed a nonprofit called SpaceIL to help get their dream off the ground. 

Initially, the amateur rocket scientists imagined they could use the winnings of Google’s Lunar X Prize ($20m) to reach the moon. But after Google postponed its award and ultimately canceled it altogether, the SpaceIL team had to find a new way to shoot for the moon.

‘Ehh, we’ll take the long way’

In 1973, early missions to the moon cost the modern equivalent of $2.6B per launch. But unlike state-sponsored space programs, SpaceIL doesn’t have unlimited cash to burn.

So, to keep costs of the project down, SpaceIL is taking the long way: Instead of shelling out for enough rocket fuel to bust right out of Earth’s orbit, the company is going to slowly slingshot out of orbit to use less fuel — extending a 250k-mile journey to 4m miles.

By tapping into an extended network of philanthropists and volunteers, SpaceIL was able to raise the $100m necessary to purchase a berth aboard a SpaceX rocket.

Next stop: The moon

But don’t hold your breath. 

Last night at 5:45 pm EST, a SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, FL. Then, at 6:19 pm, the rocket released the washing machine-sized Beresheet into orbit.

Now, the Beresheet will begin its slow, slingshot process to the moon — a process that will take a couple of months.

In the meantime, several other space programs will continue working toward launching their own moon missions: India hopes to launch its lunar lander, Chandrayaan-2, in April.

Moonshot? Check.
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Big bug: French startup, Ÿnsect, raises $125m to breed bugs on a global scale 

Ÿnsect, a Paris-based startup that breeds insects to become ingredients for pet food, fish food and plant fertilizers, closed a $125m funding round.

The deal is believed to be the largest-ever round for an agricultural technology startup outside the US, and the infusion of cash will allow it to build the world’s largest insect farm in the world as it plans to scale for global expansion.

They don’t call them mealworms for nothin’

Founded in 2011, Ÿnsect began promoting sustainability in the food system, but decided it would be equally as beneficial to focus on production. 

Now, the company has over 25 patents on its automation and sensation technologies that grow and harvest mealworms (due to their high protein density).

The company is currently on track to book more than $70m in revenue this year — AKA the perfect case for proving to investors that big bug is big biz.

People gotta eat!

By the year 2050 there’s supposed to be 2B more people on the planet. And with that comes incentive for agricultural giants to work double time to create enough food to feed our… well, food.

But on the flip, big-ag produces 25% of the world’s carbon dioxide and methane emissions currently murdering the planet. By offering insect protein, Ynsect can help alleviate fish, water and soil depletion in a sustainable way for years to come, while also cutting down on emissions. 

According to the company’s CEO, Antoine Hubert, “Our goal is simply to give insects back their natural place in the food chain.”

» A bug’s life

iDebt: Apple partners with Goldman on new mobile credit card

Have we reached peak fintech? Or is peak fintech yet to come? Time will tell. In the meantime, Apple will start testing its first credit card in partnership with Goldman Sachs.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the credit card will be linked directly to the Apple Wallet and may come with additional capabilities to help users manage money like setting budgets and tracking rewards.

This is uncharted territory for both companies

Despite its 150-year legacy in banking, Goldman has never offered a credit card.

However, since launching its mobile banking brand, Marcus, in 2016, Goldman has undergone a rebrand to become more accessible to the average Joe. 

WSJ notes that, while investors once needed $10m in fun(d) money for Goldman bankers to bat an eye, Marcus customers can now open accounts with just a Washington in their pocket.

Fintech: the hottest vertical since D2C ecommerce 

We’ve talked about the great “unbanked” (AKA people without a savings account, AKA digital banks’ white whale) ad nauseam over the past year, and the fintech industry doesn’t show any signs of slowing.

To recap, in the past year: 

That’s all great, but call us when someone partners with Jimmy John’s on a punch card… 

» Now we’re talkin’

Standard hotel group moonlights as tech incubator; raises $5m for new app

The Standard’s hotels have always been known for trendy rooms, trendy marketing, trendy late-night hotspots — basically anything with the word “trend” in it.

Now, it can also add “trendy tech incubator” to its resume.

Fast Company reports that the group’s new venture One Night — an app that assigns last-minute bookings at independant hotels for travelers who always seem to opt for the “day of” option on the travel itinerary — raised $5m in Series A funding.

This ain’t no pay-per-minute nap pod

Launched in late 2016, the mobile app features a list of over 200 independent hotels that are open for spur-of-the-moment stays.

According to Amar Lalvani, Standard International’s CEO and lead app developer, One Night is designed for “next-generation travelers” who don’t like long-term planning but still want a cool experience (don’t we all). 

Since it launched, One Night has scaled to 17 markets, including London and Bangkok.

A little thing called diversification

As the home sharing sector continues to poach the very “next-gen travelers” Lalvani described, the old guard of swanky hotel living is constantly trying to figure out what it can offer — and the Standard hotel group is leading the charge.

Aside from One Night, the group also launched The Lobby, a social network for in-house guests, and various big-name partnerships with Warby Parker, and, most recently, Lord Jones, as it hopes to launch the first cannabis dispensary in a hotel.

» Setting the Standard
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Don’t QuickBooks without it → shower thoughts
  1. Cats are taller when they sit down.
  2. The guy who invented the phrase “one hit wonder,” probably never came up with another famous expression.
  3. The adult version of “don’t step in the lava” is getting changed in a public restroom.
  4. You don’t realize how old a movie is until you see the computer in it.
  5. Any machine can be a smoke machine if you use it wrong enough.
  6. via Reddit
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