Third time’s a charm


December 19, 2018

Anthony Levandowski of Waymo and Uber infamy is back and finally ready to flaunt his new self-driving technology startup.
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Anthony Levandowski pulls Pronto.ai out of the garage with a cross-country road trip

Anthony Levandowski, the former Waymo and Uber engineer-turned-industry pariah, has taken his newest company, Pronto.AI, out of stealth mode with a product aimed at the commercial trucking industry.

The announcement came on the same day Pronto released a cross-country demonstration of the company’s bread and butter: An advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) called ‘Copilot.’

Road trippin’

The 3,099-mile journey started in San Francisco and finished nearly 4 days later in Manhattan. The car, a modified Toyota Prius, used only video cameras, computers, and basic digital maps to make the trip. 

Levandowski was in the driver’s seat the entire time and claimed to have touched the steering wheel only for bathroom breaks and sleepy time. If true, this would mark the longest recorded journey of a fully “hands-free” autonomous vehicle.

Pronto plans to announce its first partners (and deliver an aftermarket prototype of Copilot for new trucks) sometime in the first half of 2019.

That seems pretty ambitious, considering…

Levandowski’s latest trip was his 3rd attempt, after “disengagements” (engineer speak for mistakes) gave the first 2 treks failing grades.

Also, we’re no general manager at Pep Boys here, but last we checked, a Prius was a bit different than a class 8 big rig. Before Pronto starts selling prototypes, it still has to figure out how to transfer the ADAS to trucks.

Are we there yet?

Levandowski’s reputation continues to precede him, and many experts feel he could be up to his same ol’ tricks.

According to Missy Cummings, director of the Autonomy Laboratory at Duke, “Anthony’s job is to make claims that may be at the edge of what his technology is capable of.”

In other words, some folks aren’t convinced that Levandowski’s disengagement-free innovation vacation is enough to prove Pronto’s technology — prototype or not — has reached its final destination.

   @ Me Anything
Wes Schlagenhauf, News Writer at The Hustle
@wesschlagenhauf

Levandowski’s latest claim has visual proof (AKA 1 time-lapse video) that shows a ‘breakthrough’ in self-driving technology… but the road still feels endless.
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Gooooooal: Danish athletic recruiting startup, Tonsser, just scored $6.2m in funding

Somewhere out there, the next Messi or Ronaldo is carving up his or her shin-guarded inferiors in the flats without breaking a sweat — and soon, that next scissor-kicking legend could be discovered by an app.

Tonsser, the Copenhagen-based soccer performance app that describes itself as “LinkedIn for young soccer players,” just scored $6.2m in Series A funding from a group led by early-stage investors.

Football is soccer; soccer is football

The “football performance app,” which has over 800k registered players and boasts data from over 4.6m soccer games throughout Europe, works as a social network for young players to build their online presence, flaunt their skills, track stats, and connect with teammates.

It’s also a primo tool for recruiters across Europe.

According to Business Insider, the details of its business are still a WIP, but the company already has partnerships with Nike and other sports powerhouses.  

Is this the future of recruiting?

In a world where sports and social media are two of the biggest cultural phenoms on the planet, it seems like a move in the right direction.

In February, Overtime, an app aimed at hyping local high school sports stars as they cross over to college and eventually the pros, raised $9.5m. And last year, the social media platform “Sports Thread” became a go-to tool for colleges recruiting young talent.

While none of these apps have fully hit the mainstream, this new business model could be the beautiful header that changes sports recruiting as we know it.

» Game on

A $405m offshore lease is blowing the US wind industry into profitable waters

After years of headwinds, a record-breaking $405.1m offshore wind lease is finally blowing the US offshore wind industry in the right direction.

Though America boasts large onshore wind farms, it has lagged far behind the rest of the world in harnessing offshore wind.

The wind market is going off(shore)

Of the world’s 30 largest onshore wind farms, 19 are in America. 

But America has only 1 offshore wind farm, a tiny facility that produces just 30 megawatts of energy.  In contrast, the 30 largest offshore wind farms produce at least 288 MW (the world’s largest produces 659 MW).

But this week’s deal will create 3 facilities off the Massachusetts coast that are predicted to produce 4.1 giga-watts — 6x as much energy as today’s largest facility. 

Uncharted opportunity for the US wind market

As recently as 2015, Massachusetts offshore wind leases failed to attract interest, selling for less than $1.50 per acre to the only 2 interested companies.

This week’s historic sale attracted interest from 11 different bidders, and leases went for $1k+/acre — 4x the $222/acre rate for a recent oil lease in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Thanks to competitive yields, wind investment won’t blow over anytime soon: Analysts expect the US offshore market to see a compound annual growth rate of 50% through 2026, which is important since it takes about 10 years to get new turbines turning.

» A big win for Big Wind

Startup funder, Clearbanc, raises $120m in 2 months

Just a month after courting a $70m round, Clearbanc, a startup that funds other startups, has raised another $50m.

Unlike VC funding, which requires startups to give up equity, Clearbanc requires startups to share revenue.

An alternative to equity

The team at Clearbanc thinks it’s stupid that most startups are forced to give up equity to pay for Facebook and Google ads. So, Clearbanc offers between $5k and $10m in funding in exchange for a steady share of revenue (in addition to a 6% fee on the back end). 

The model is so attractive to startup owners that 1k companies have approached Clearbanc looking for funding since it raised its $70m fund just a month ago.

For Clearbanc and its investors, it’s a high-risk, high-reward proposition. VCs want big winners down the road, and they accept a few flops along the way. But Clearbanc wants reliable businesses that earn revenue immediately — and if they don’t pan out, Clearbanc loses its money.

The rev-share-olution

Clearbanc vets all of its clients by dissecting their Facebook and Stripe data to ensure their revenue projections are the real deal.

But other companies are also finding ways to capitalize on the growth of startups without waiting years to see an ROI — and they’re making smaller, more immediate returns than VCs.

Corl, a competitor to Clearbanc, offers what it calls ‘capital-as-a-service,’ and many startup accelerators are switching to revenue-based models so they don’t have to wait years for companies to exit before they get paid.

» Rev your engines
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