Dynamo Dispatch (07/13/20)

Issue 113 | Rivian, Laserhub, InOrbit

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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🎙 Check out Dynamo's podcast series, The Future of Supply Chain.

Weekly Commentary 💭

If you haven’t already, say hello to our new team member, William. Also, be sure to check out Episode 56 of the Future of Supply Chain where we hosted David Cote, the former CEO and Chairman of Honeywell.

We Are Dynamo,

Santosh, Ted, Barry, and Jon

Note: please add “dynamo@substack.com” to your email client so you don’t miss future issues due to aggressive spam filters.

Supply Chain 📦

CEOs Turn to New CSOs as Go-To Lieutenants in Economy Broken by Virus. ‘Flexibility’ and ‘resilience’ are becoming buzzwords in C-suite discussions as COVID-19 has given supply chain executives increasing prominence within their organizations. Reinforcing their ascendance, research by Jan Godsell of the University of Warwick confirms that companies today are 5x more likely to have a chief supply chain officer than just two decades before.

Three Misconceptions, And One Popular Lie, About Industrial Automation. In a new piece, Forbes’ Amar Hanspar combats popular myths that industrial automation is expensive, eliminates jobs, and has not been successful. While acknowledging that automation-proponents may at times over-index for hype over substance, he argues that to ignore the benefits of automation is to deprive a business of one of its most powerful opportunities for advancement,  Offering a case in point, Robotics Finds Its Place in Fulfillment.

🌟Startup Helps Forwarders Convert Documents to Data. Featured this week in the JoC is Dynamo portfolio company Vector AI. Leveraging vision technology, the London-based startup is tackling one of the most fundamental inefficiencies in forwarding: the lack of document digitization. Also newly announced in international logistics technology: Cosco Strikes Blockchain Pact for Ocean Cargo With Alibaba, Ant.

📊Is 2020 the End of the Delivery Economy?. Taking stock of COVID’s impact on supply chain organizations and their clients, project44 finds that customer expectations for delivery performance and environmental sustainability remain high despite the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. 89% of survey respondents did not expect logistics companies to sacrifice visibility into the delivery process or arrival times while 78% said they would be more likely to make purchases from companies that prioritize sustainability. Also in trucking: Trucking Economist: Recovery Could Be a Nike ‘Swoosh,’ or a ‘W’ and Driver Concerns Top Executives' Priorities, Even during the Coronavirus.

Walmart Plans to Launch Prime-Like Service. Announced this week, Walmart will launch its $98 per year Walmart+ service providing same-day delivery of groceries and merchandise to compete with Amazon’s Prime offering. The move is Walmart’s second attempt at stealing Prime’s thunder, following the ill-fated ShippingPass program it discontinued in 2017. Helping provide Walmart with the necessary density, US Online Grocery Sales Hit Record $7.2B in June

📊McKinsey’s Startup Funding in Logistics. More than $28B has been invested in freight tech startups since 2015, mostly in last mile and B2C applications. Outpacing startups in other regions, Chinese companies have increased from 19% to 40% of total logistics funding activity from 2014 to 2019. Related: experts weigh in on Making the Last Mile Work for You.

📊The Commercialisation of the UK Civil Air Drone Industry. In a new whitepaper developed over the course of 2 years, the UK’s Drone Delivery Group, representing the interests of more than 300 industry stakeholders, calls on the British government to become a global leader in drone technology. Among its requests are the creation of a network of sandboxes for UAS testing and a formalized industry group to drive the evolution of the drone industry in the UK forward successfully.

Mobility 🚗

Self-Driving Tech Is Becoming a Game of Partnerships. Following Amazon’s purchase this month of autonomous vehicle startup Zoox, established automotive players are beginning to acknowledge how difficult it might really be to integrate self-driving systems in a reliable and cost-optimized fashion. Industry observers now anticipate a “great consolidation” that will see closer collaboration between startups and existing automotive giants. To that end, Amazon Plans At Least $100M to Keep Zoox Talent after $1.3B Deal. Also, new this week in AV tech, Voyage Introduces Telessist.

‘Million-Mile’ Batteries Are Coming. Are They a Revolution?. For cars today, a 200K mile lifespan is considered a good run - whether it’s powered by a battery or an internal combustion engine. However, multiple battery makers now claim they are on the cusp of offering a ‘million-mile’ battery with wide-ranging implications from dramatically impacting the second-use markets for battery recycling to accelerating our transition to decarbonization. Also in EV news, Honda Invests in China's CATL to Jointly Develop EV Batteries

🌟Dara Khosrowshahi’s Ambitious Plan to Make Uber “Part of the Heartbeat of Every Single City.”Following its acquisition of Postmates this week, Uber has rolled out a redesign of its main application, which emphasizes how central is additional services have become to its core ride-hailing capability. “We’ve really doubled down on our Eats business, extending not just in food, but from food into adjacent categories like delivery, like grocery, and essentials,” says Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Less certain is the future of app-based carpooling as detailed in The Evolution of Shared Ride and Pooling Services.

How May Mobility’s Autonomous Shuttle Ambitions Backfired. VentureBeat’s in-depth look into the YC alum’s rise and fall offers a cautionary tale for how even the best-pedigreed startups can still fall victim to engineering difficulties and limited operational applicability. The most insurmountable challenge? A poor product-market fit. As the Department of Transportation observed of autonomous shuttles, “The market is small, and many companies in this space have little experience designing and validating systems and producing vehicles, compared to traditional automakers.”

As Big Airlines Retrench, Some Carriers Detect an Opening. As commonly occurs in times of crisis, low-cost carriers are moving to pick up market share as larger rivals retrench. Southwest in the US and Wizz Air in Europe are among the most prominent carriers looking to expand their networks and renegotiate their supplier contracts for better terms. One interesting take on this week’s headlines: Why United’s Furlough Announcement Might Be a Case of Political Gamesmanship.  

📊Reimagining Infrastructure in the United States: How to Build Better. Roadways and transit constitute more than half of the estimated $2.1T infrastructure funding gap projected for the next 10 years. McKinsey offers two possible solutions 1) using federal-stimulus spending to boost capital budgets immediately that accelerate transformational investments or 2) seek to optimize pre-existing spending, improve delivery, and consider innovative revenue models.  Also this week, the NYT’s Farhad Manjoo provides an in-depth look at Manhattan's transportation infrastructure, encouraging city planners to rethink ‘car dependency.’ 

Fundraises, M&A, Talent 💸

Replenysh Raises $2M Seed Led by Kindred Ventures. California recycling startup Replenysh is building the operating system of material recovery — using technology to put an end to landfills and ocean pollution. With the funding, they plan to further build out new technologies and expand Replenysh’s network. 

InOrbit Raises $2.6M Seed Led by Amino Ventures. InOrbit is a California-based company providing cloud-based robot management software. Newly raised capital will go towards expanding the product team and developing best practices for robotic operations. 

Swiftmile Raises $5M Round Led by Thayer Ventures. Swiftmile is a startup that builds and deploys charging stations for electric bikes and scooters in cities. With the new funding, the plan is to deploy their systems in three new U.S cities and expand into Europe. 

Laserhub Raises Series A Led by Acton Capital. Based in Stuttgart, Laserhub is helping industrial clients order metal on demand. Details of the Series A round weren’t disclosed but the capital will be used to develop markets in and around Europe. 

Basemark Raises €7M Led by ETF Partners. The Finnish automotive software developer specializes in real-time graphics and system performance evaluation tools. The fresh capital will be used to accelerate the production of Basemark’s autonomous vehicles. 

Liftit Raises $22.5M Led by Cambridge Capital. Liftit is a Columbian trucking and logistics startup focused on last-mile delivery. With new funding, Liftit Plans to capitalize on their traction in current markets and expand services to new markets. 

Fisker Raises $50M Series C Led by Moore Strategic Ventures. Fisker is an American manufacturer of electric vehicles. Capital will be used for the engineering of the Fisker Ocean SUV, which is anticipated in 2022. 

FineEx Raises $71M Series D Led by Baidu Capital. FineEx is a Shanghai-based warehouse and distribution services platform. New funding will help the startup develop their business in the world’s largest e-commerce and mobile commerce market.

Instacart raises $100M Led by T. Rowe Price. Grocery delivery and pick-up service Instacart allows users to grocery shop from the comfort of their homes. Details of how the company would utilize the $100M were not disclosed. 

Rivian Raises $2.5B Led by T. Rowe Price. The Michigan-based startup produces electric vehicles and prides itself on cultivating sustainable transportation. The new funds will help accelerate the manufacturing of the R1T, R1S, and Amazon delivery vehicles.

Company Building 🛠️

How Today's Top B2B Companies Found Their Initial Customers. “In practice, it’s even easier — almost every B2B business BOTH hits up their personal network AND heads to the places their potential customers were spending time. The question isn’t which of these two routes to pursue, but instead how far your own network will take you before you move on.”

a16z Podcast: Gross Margins from Early to Late. Accurately calculating gross margins is not easy and as a company grows, the inputs around deriving this metric evolve and grow in complexity. This metric is important to master and understand given long term margin expansion and opportunity is a major driver of valuation.

How to Start Product Led Growth. Several of our more recent investments have clear levers to engage around PLG efforts. This is a great baseline for founders trying to piece together an initial strategy.

Who's Hiring? 👩‍💻

Enterprise Account Executive at Backbone AI in New York, NY.

Head of Customer Success at Vector AI in London, England.

Systems Integration Engineer at Plus One Robotics in San Antonio, TX.

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.