3 Little-Known Companies Helping Shape the Movement to Autonomous Vehicles

Quanergy, Velodyne, and Luminar Technologies. They are all LiDAR technology companies.

LiDAR is how the vehicles detect what is around them. LiDAR sensors measure distances by measuring the Time of Flight (TOF) that it takes a short laser pulse to travel from the sensor to an object and back, calculating the distance from the known speed of light.

Each of those 3 companies has raised many millions in early rounds (none beyond Series B). According to James Altucher sources, they each carry a $1B+ valuation which puts them in the Unicorn classification. (I can’t link to the source because it is an insider newsletter)

James believes that Velodyne is the clear leader at this point. Velodyne raised $150M in August 2016 from investors that included Ford, Google, and Baidu. He mentions that Velodyne’s products are currently being used in 25 different self-driving programs.

Of course, as private companies, we can’t invest in these companies. But James is recommending to look at Ford as a way into Velodyne.

Of all the car companies, I do like Ford the best. They have made interesting investments and partnerships. My wife has a Ford Focus and it’s a pretty decent car.

I can’t bring myself to invest in car companies at this time, though. I’ve been reading too much about sub-prime car loans going bust, similar to how sub-prime housing went bust in 2007. Obviously, the car market isn’t nearly as big, but it’s still significant.

I’m currently short GM and that is going pretty well so far…


We Can No Longer Trust Any Recorded Audio or Video

We’re in for some scary times. Who knows what or who you can trust.

Check these demos from Lyrebird. The first on there is a conversation between Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton.

Lyrebird claims that they can take a 1-minute recording of someone’s voice and compress the voice DNA into a unique key. Then they can generate anything with its corresponding voice.

So, basically take any clip off YouTube for any celebrity and BOOM, you can create an instant celebrity endorsement for whatever.

The voices aren’t​ perfect…yet. I mean, the intonation of the Trump/Obama/Clinton voices sound robotic; but I can definitely say that it sounds like them. Obviously, the technology will only get better.

Now, couple that with this video technology and we’re in for some serious trouble as a society.

In the future, I believe everything will have to have an authentication key of some sort with every piece of media. In other words, people will come to not trust anything without this key. Without such a mechanism, the world will drown in “Fake Media” and these technologies will be used for evil.

This may be yet another application for the blockchain…

The Blockchain is Happening. You Should Start Paying Attention

Go buy some Bitcoin. This is investment advice that I guarantee you cannot lose on. Not because Bitcoin can’t go to $0; it absolutely can. You cannot lose because it is an investment into your education. You can “invest” as little as $1.

What you’re doing when you purchase some Bitcoin is you’re educating yourself on digital currency. You learn how to buy, where to buy, how to store it in a digital wallet and how to transfer it. This is the future. The future may not be Bitcoin specifically, but it will be some form of digital currency based on Blockchain technology.

The Blockchain is the genius behind Bitcoin. The Blockchain is going to transform/disrupt/revolutionize a whole host of industries. You should learn about it. Here are two starting points from Forbes and Fortune.

“The first generation of the digital revolution brought us the Internet of information. The second generation — powered by blockchain technology — is bringing us the Internet of value: a new platform to reshape the world of business and transform the old order of human affairs for the better.” — Don Tapscott

Yes, there is a chance if you buy Bitcoin and it takes off, you could do well. Bitcoin’s total market cap is ~$25B now. According to Visual Capitalists, there is ~$5T in cash worldwide. Bitcoin is an alternative to cash, so you see the upside potential. We’re still at the very beginning. One newsletter I read made the analogy to think about Bitcoin as a share in the Blockchain; you’re owning/investing in a piece of the Blockchain.

Something is going on with digital currencies these days. I’m not sure what but every cryptocurrency is screaming higher. 100%+, 500%+, 1000%+ … these are 6 month returns on some cryptos. Don’t bet the farm though, you’ll never sleep with the volatility. These are what some may call “Widow Makers”.

In any case, I don’t want to dwell on the monetary aspect. The point is that I recommend learning about cryptocurrencies and specifically the Blockchain. All the banks are looking at it. Alliances and Consortiums are forming. Banks that don’t figure out a Blockchain strategy will be left behind.

The best thing you can do is educate yourself; invest in yourself. Learn about the Blockchain. It’s coming. Buy some Bitcoin.


Is Ripple Another Cryptocurrency Worth a Small Bet?

Ripple is the 3rd largest cryptocurrency by market cap. It is run by a company, so it has an overlord; this is a good and bad thing.

Basically, Ripple is focused on the market of forex and it has partnered with several major global institutions. The major, major advantage to Ripple, as I understand it, is the speed at which transactions can happen and be confirmed; it’s seconds. This is in contrast to Bitcoin, whose blocks take ~10 mins on average.

Also, Ripple doesn’t depend on energy-intensive mining process. Instead it distributes XRP tokens at its discretion in order to incentivize certain behaviors.

“We will engage in distribution strategies that we expect will result in a stable and strengthening XRP exchange rate against other currencies. To this end, we currently plan to distribute XRP primarily through business development deals, incentives to liquidity providers who offer tighter spreads for payments, and selling XRP to institutional buyers interested in investing in XRP.”

Overlord can be good, but can be bad as well. Do we trust in this “Central Banker”?

Here is a recent chart of Ripple’s XRP courtesy of https://www.worldcoinindex.com/coin/ripple

I’ll be watching the transaction volume over the next few weeks. If traffic continues to be steadily increasing, then it will definitely be worth a flyer.

It seems to be a good strategy to just put a small amount of money into these cryptocurrencies early and just sit on them. I’m pretty sure ONE of them will emerge as a HUGE HUGE winner. This is playing the VC game…

Here’s how one would buy Ripple XRP (in US): https://ripple.com/xrp-portal/how-to-buy-xrp/

Tech Merger Monday: Jive Acquired; AngiesList Acquired

Jive was acquired by private equity firm Aurea for ~$462M. I don’t know that Jive ever turned a profit. They went out with a bang ~5 yrs ago. They had a market cap of over $2B at one point.

I’m sure the founders and venture money did quite well. As well as the executive staff that took them public, who have long been gone since.

I almost went to work for Jive in 2011. I wonder if I would’ve cashed out at the right time and if I’d still be there had I taken the role…

Angie’s List was also acquired by IAC, who apparently had been pursuing them for a couple of years. Angie’s List will be merged with Home Advisors. The deal was valued at over $500M.

We were Angie’s List subscribers for a few years before ending our subscription last year or so. It’s not a bad service, but Yelp/Facebook/Google basically covers what it does for free.

This Chrome Plug-In has Saved Me Hours

There is A LOT of content out there and A LOT of great content. How is one supposed to consume it all? One of the goals of this blog is to highlight only the best stuff so that you don’t have to.

Other times, you need to learn how to do something or learn about something and a great source is YouTube. Other times there are videos on a website but they can be lengthly or slow to get to the meat. Or they just talk slow.

I’ve been using this Chrome plugin: Video Speed Controller.

It is amazing. I can speed up the video up to 4x to quickly go through videos. When I need to pay attention, I’ll usually listen to it 1.5x. But I can whip through content much, much quicker with this plugin.

It only works for HTML5 video, but most videos are HTML5 these days.


Artificial Womb Keeps Fetal Lambs Alive

This reminds me of the scene from The Matrix where the humans were grown in pods row upon row.

Lambs are used because, apparently, they develop similar to humans. However, they do develop faster. One of the challenges with human preemies would be dealing with the small size. In the study, the lambs were removed from their mothers at the equivalent of 23-24 week’s gestation for human fetuses.

Researchers say that this procedure could be tried on human preemies within 3-5 years.

Of course, this could be great where the baby is putting the mother’s life/health at risk. Who will be the first famous woman to leverage this innovation to preserve their million-dollar figure?

Could this affect the long-term psychology of the child? Losing the bond of developing within the mother’s womb?

See the full article here.

Bitcoin Hits All-Time High Today … Ethereum Ether Token Hits All-Time High Today Too

I bought my first bitcoin in November 2013, yes on that rapid ascension up. That was during the whole Cypress debacle. You can see the how bitcoin subsequently came back down to reality. Over the past 3+ years, bitcoin has formed a beautiful cup base. I believe in the long term story of bitcoin and the blockchain, so rather than trying to trade bitcoin, I just bought a set amount each month throughout most of 2015 and into 2016.

In 2016, Bitcoin was by far my best asset performer, going up over 300%. But this is a LLLLLOOOOOOOONNNNNNGGGGG term play for me.

I will write much more about bitcoin and the blockchain in the future. This is the first high in many to come, I’m certain.

Ethereum’s ether token (I think that’s what they call it). This is Bitcoin’s cousin. I took a flyer on some tokens in March, getting in around $19 after I read this article about how JPMorgan, Microsoft, Intel and 30 or so others formed and alliance to create a standard version of the Ethereum software.

I’d previously read about how early Bitcoin buyers were now millionaires. With the backing of these corporate giants, maybe something will come from Ethereum. Who knows; I’m treating it like a lottery ticket. It’s a 3-bagger already (but again, not getting overly excited because it’s a long term play).

Kinetise Looks Really Interesting for Mobile App Development

Just read about these guys. Looks like a startup out of Poland. I haven’t checked out if it actually works. But the message seems like a good one.

I looked into building mobile apps, but I determined that it wasn’t worth the effort for me to learn myself. But mobile developers are expensive. If this can deliver on the promise and actually build high-quality native apps, then that is a great technical solution and many companies with smaller IT budgets can benefit.

If you’ve used their technology, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought about it.