Dynamo Dispatch (06/22/20)

Issue 111 | Wise Systems, CognitOps, Splyt

Dynamo Dispatch. Weekly update from Dynamo Ventures covering the latest and greatest in supply chain, mobility, and building venture-scale businesses.

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Weekly Commentary 💭

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We Are Dynamo,

Santosh, Ted, Barry, and Jon

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Supply Chain 📦

📊 Delivery Technologies Are Reshaping the Grocery Industry. Corona-related travel restrictions have accelerated the growth of an emerging grocery tech ecosystem encompassing delivery enablement to dark stores and picking automation. With incumbents facing declining operating margins over the past three years, Pitchbook anticipates even further consolidation in the space as players seek a path to profitability. In related news, consider How Will the Popularity of Online Grocery Deliveries Play Out for the Cold Storage Sector? Also, Refrigerated Rail Holds Plentiful Prospects, but Challenges Remain.

Wing Makes History in Drone Delivery. The Google spin-out becomes the first recipient of a Part 135 certificate to operate as a commercial drone airline in the US. Having conducted more than 100K flights across the US, Australia, and Finland, the startup has also begun developing an unmanned traffic management (UTS) solution called OpenSky to cover deconfliction and communication with authorities. 

BackboneAI Launches “Accelerate” to Automates Supply Chain Data. Dynamo portfolio company has released a new product suite for building frictionless data networks that automate intercompany data processes. “The COVID-19 crisis is forcing companies to compress a decade of supply chain transformation into six months, and companies are looking for platforms that provide greater ROI rather than costly, painful, multi-year ERP implementations. We enable companies to move faster, using their existing technology stack,” said Rob Bailey, founder and CEO. According to DP World’s chief technology officer Logistics Must Digitise Quickly to Meet the Demands of a Post-COVID Economy while Tech Leaders Expect IT Budget Freezes to Thaw.

Amazon Rolls Out Cameras to Detect if Warehouse Workers Are Social Distancing. Using new camera systems it calls “Distance Assistants,” Amazon is ensuring its workers practice effective social distancing. Connected to monitors at work areas with high foot traffic, the cameras apply real-time machine learning models to identify warehouse staff who are standing closer than 6 feet to one another. Meanwhile, lawmakers are taking a closer look at the company itself as Amazon Said to Be Under Scrutiny in 2 States for Abuse of Power.

🌟Shopify Signs Deal With Walmart to Expand Its Reach. Following its May link up with Facebook, Shopify this week announces a partnership with Walmart to expand its marketplace site. Described as a “win-win” by industry observers, the deal will provide Shopify’s network of millions of merchants access to Walmart’s customers while strengthening the bonds of both organizations in their battle against Amazon. For the Guardian’s take: Shopify – the Good Shop to Amazon's Bad Shop.

Manufacturers Use New Technology to Stay Running. Whereas just years ago automation was confined to industries like automotive and aerospace with incredible budgets, new venture-backed startups are disrupting manufacturing with scalable, cost-effective solutions. Using AI, companies like Instrumental Inc and ClearMetal not only reduce the number of staff on warehouse floors but also avert the logistical logjams that have tied up supply chains in the wake of factory shutdowns. A related survey of supply chain professionals finds More Automation Means More Reusable Packaging.

Mobility 🚗

Coronavirus Creates Bigger Risks for Shared Mobility. While concerns about COVID-19 have driven down car sales and public transit ridership, the long term effects on ride hailing remain unclear.  In terms of safety, however, Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease doctor at Johns Hopkins, observes “I wouldn’t hesitate myself to use a Zipcar or scooter. I think the bigger danger on the scooter would be crashing the scooter than getting the coronavirus from the scooter.” Related, Startups Tortoise and SwiftMile Partner to Combat Scooter Chaos.

📊The MIT Autonomous Bicycle Project. Building out an on-demand mobility solution, the MIT Autonomous Bicycle Project envisions a future where customers can use an app and order a bike and within minutes the bicycle will autonomously make its way to wherever they are. The team of researchers anticipate their solution could obviate the need for prominent docking stations and fleet balancing issues. In other news on two wheels, Pandemic Leads to a Bicycle Boom, and Shortage, around World.

Honeywell Launches New Business Unit to Capture Drone Market. Betting on a future of air taxis and drone deliveries, Honeywell last week kicked off a new division to build autonomous flight control systems and drone electronics. The company expects it can achieve a 20% share of the projected $120B market for drone hardware and software by 2030.

🌟US Will Unveil Data-Sharing Platform for Autonomous Vehicle Testing. In a boost to public awareness, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is slated to unveil its Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) initiative this Monday. Intended to increase transparency, the public-facing platform will include Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Uber, Waymo, and Cruise as well as participating states such as California, Florida, and Texas with the goal of sharing information and streamlining communication among all stakeholders. In an analysis of separate transportation legislation, Transportation for America appraises the INVEST Act in How the New House Bill Prioritizes Getting People Where They Need to Go.

Tesla Registrations Plunge in California. Newly released data from research firm Dominion Enterprises indicates that registrations of newly purchased Tesla vehicles have dropped a combined 37% in April and May. While nationwide estimates are not yet available, California (EV’s largest market in the US) slumped 16% year-over-year in April and a further 70% in May. Meanwhile, Tesla Is Negotiating Incentives for Possible Texas Vehicle Assembly Plant and internationally Asia's Electric Car Sales Drift into the Slow Lane.

Uber to Sell Software, Starting With Four-Van Transit Service. In making its ride-hailing technology available to public transit agencies, Uber will power the logistics for the Marin County’s wheelchair-accessible vans. Signing a two-year deal for a modest $80K, the new Uber Transit division is, nonetheless, an interesting example of how the company might continue making high-margin plays using the core business’ scalable software product. In a complementary piece, Pymnts observes that Uber’s SaaS Push Shows Flexibility Of Platform Model.

Fundraises, M&A, Talent 💸

💥Wise Systems Raises $15M Series B Led by Valo Ventures. Founded by Harvard and MIT alumni, this Dynamo portfolio company has developed an autonomous dispatch and routing software to optimize route planning. Other investors include Gradient Ventures, Prologis Ventures, and MIT Media Lab’s E14 Fund.

CognitOps Raises $3M Seed Led by Chicago Ventures. The Austin-based startup provides AI-enabled supply chain software to harness warehouse data and conduct simulations. With the fresh capital, CognitOps plans to further develop its product and accelerate its go-to-market efforts. 

SLAMcore Raises $5M in a Funding Round Led by Octopus Ventures and MMC Ventures. Based in London, SLAMcore has developed spatial AI algorithms to support the autonomous movement of drones and robots. The startup plans to use the new investment to meet the heightened demand in the robotics market as companies look for technology to relieve staff shortages and social distancing restrictions.

Buymie Raises €5.8M Led by Wheatsheaf Group. The Dublin-based startup provides same-day grocery delivery in Ireland and has newly launched in Bristol. The fresh funds will support further expansion across the UK. 

DroneBase Raises $7.5M Series C. The LA-based startup leverages its fleet of drones and professional operators to provide aerial imagery for industries ranging from construction to insurance. With surging demand and emerging use cases in the wake of COVID-19, DroneBase plans to expand both geographically and into new industries including renewable energy insights. 

GoFor Raises C$9.8M Seed Led by Builders VC. The Canadian startup provides on-demand last-mile logistics for the construction industry. With the new funds, the company intends to expand its retail partner network and launch a dispatch platform. 

Splyt Raises $19.5M Series B Led by SoftBank. The UK-startup integrates mobility services such as ride hailing and bike sharing into travel platforms allowing customers to seamlessly book and track their location online. The new investment will support Splyt’s integrations within its global network.

Shipper Raises Series A Led by Prosus Ventures. The Indonesian startup offers merchants distributed warehousing and fulfillment along with a multi-courier shipping platform. The company plans to use its new funds to grow throughout the archipelago with an eye to expand internationally post-COVID.

Wandelbots Raises $30M Series B Led by 83North. Based in Dresden, Germany Wandelbots provides a no-code solution to training robots for automation projects. The latest round, which included participation from Microsoft’s M12 venture funding arm, will support the launch of its TracePen product.

Geek+ Raises $200M Series C Led by GGV Capital, D1 Capital Partners, and V Fund. A Beijing-based answer to Amazon’s Kiva, Geek+ develops advanced robotics solutions for warehouse fulfillment. With its latest raise, the company will look to expand its partnerships and robot-as-a-service monetization model.

Volkswagen Invests $200M into QuantumScape. A Stanford University spinout, QuantumScape is developing solid-state batteries it expects will power the next generation of electric vehicles. This past week’s raise follows Volkswagen’s previous investment of $100M into QuantumScape in September 2018

Facebook Acquires Mapillary. The Swedish startup has built a mapping platform that leverages its crowdsourced database to make available seamless street-level imagery. Through its purchase, Facebook can potentially apply Mapillary’s technology in its Marketplace business offerings or even augmented reality use cases. In related news, Citymapper Quietly Brings on New Investors as It Looks for a Buyer.

Company Building 🛠️

Why Figma Wins. It might be unusual to find a piece on design software here but there’s value in studying other businesses. Figma has built a powerful set of loops that help it’s product and business compound in value. Which concepts can be leveraged in the context of supply chain or mobility startups?

The Observer Effect - Marc Andreessen. Marc’s scheduling, prioritization, and note-taking format are particularly interesting. Furthermore, his thinking on inputs and process is valuable - too often people obsess about the output.

The Investors Field Guide: John Collison. A must-listen interview that covers a myriad of things including corporate history, writing, international expansion, culture, and capital allocation.

Who's Hiring? 👩‍💻

Enterprise AE at LEAF Logistics in New York, NY.

Director of Engineering at Gatik in Palo Alto, CA.

Engineering Manager at Stord in Atlanta, GA.

Check out other jobs at Dynamo portfolio companies.

💥 Have you seen any interesting startups recently? Introduce us.
❤️ We would love your support. Please forward to friends and share on social media.
🗞️ If you were forwarded this and found it interesting, please sign up.
🎙 Check out Dynamo's podcast series, The Future of Supply Chain.