Dynamo Dispatch (09/14/20)

Issue 120 | Ouster, Xometry, TradeLanes

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 💭

We’re back and ready to roll into a Q4 environment that appears to be no less busy than summer. If you’re doing something interesting in supply chain or mobility or know someone that is, send them our way- hello@dynamo.vc. Big thank you to Jeff Schox, Aaron Hoffman, and Prince Ghosh for the assists this week.

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 📦

The Port of LA’s Plan for Better Cargo Data. The Port of LA announces the sharing of Wabtec’s Port Optimizer data for the benefit of all supply chain stakeholders. The planning tool will provide all supply chain operators a three-week outlook for all incoming cargo at the port and make partners “more nimble and efficient, especially during volume surges like we are currently experiencing”, said Port of LA Executive Director Gene Seroka. ICYMI, see our friend Eric Johnson at the Digital Container Summit.  

Tesco to Begin Trials with Manna Drones. Britain’s largest retailer teams up with Dynamo Portfolio Company Manna for a six-month trial to enable the rapid delivery of small grocery/household items. Manna drones fly at an altitude of 80m at 50mph and deliver within a 1.2mi radius in less than 3mins. In a Similar move, Walmart Tests On-Demand Drone Delivery and How Logistics Networks Will Evolve as a Result of Drone Deliveries

A Pandemic Induced Electric Delivery Focus. Fleet operators are seeking more than battery powered versions of trucks/vans as regulatory pressures mount. Companies like UPS and Amazon have begun to shape the market for electric commercial vehicles by placing significant orders EV startups Arrival and Rivian. 

August Import Levels Reach 2-year Highs. The on-going consumer surge drove US-bound shipments in August up almost 13% y/y. In tandem, containerized freight handling increased 5.9% to 2.7M TEU. Global trade intelligence firm Panjiva attributes the volume rebound to an increased number of shipments from China and Vietnam. Speaking of peaks and highs, UPS Hires 100K to Cope with Surging Parcel Volumes and US Retailers Boost Peak Season Forecast

🌟Supply Chain Execs Remain Optimistic Towards Recovery. In an Infosys survey, nearly 57% of supply chain execs across eight countries reported a 25% or greater supply chain impact from the pandemic. A noteworthy number of organizations are bullish on a quick recovery, as 70% of respondents said they expect business to recover in nine months or less—with 61% expecting a recovery in less than six months. Also, Gartner's Outlook IoT in Supply Chain

Uber Freight Expands its Offering. Uber Freight begins its evolution into an enterprise Saas platform by helping shippers manage their drivers and carriers, regardless of their connection to the Uber Freight network. The second aspect of the offering is Uber Freight Enterprise, a solution giving shippers increased control over their shipment plans, as well as the capacity to manage hundreds or thousands of shipments per week. Uber Freight now has over 70k trucking companies on the platform with access to over 700k truck drivers. Elsewhere, UPS and Amazon Expand Domestic Air Services

How the USMCA Trade Deal Could Benefit Mexico. A looming trade war and unfavorable tariffs have US manufacturers seeking to extract operations out of China.  Mexico stands to benefit as the country emerges as an appealing option for nearshoring manufacturing operations. The country’s GDP has contracted for the last five quarters and economists believe the USMCA presents Mexico with a timely opportunity for economic recovery. 

Mobility 🚗

VW Says It May Soon Overtake Tesla. In terms of EV manufacturing numbers and software development, chairman Bernd Osterloh claims. VW’s modular electric-drive matrix platform gives the carmaker a “huge” advantage, as almost any car can be built on it and will provide a greater range of data in a much shorter time frame in comparison to Tesla. Related, VW Unveils plan for the Responsible Sourcing of Raw Battery Materials

Are Solid-State Batteries A “False Hope”?. While the world maintains a bullish sentiment for solid-state batteries and their energy storage abilities, an Ex-Tesla Engineer believes the future lies within lithium-ion. He believes lithium-ion cells will reach $50/kWh in 10 years, as Solid-State batteries face several technical difficulties including being prone to micro-cracking. Elsewhere, the Race to Build the Best Battery Heats Up. 

The 2021 Lucid Air Unveil. Starting in the spring of 2021, Lucid will begin deliveries of its long-awaited Air. The Air has a drivetrain 17% more efficient than rivals, 1k horsepower, a range of 517 miles, and a price tag of  $169k. A 113-kw/hr battery pack,  level 3 autonomy, and the ability to add 300-miles of range in 20 minutes gives the Air a strong competitive advantage over other EVs in the market. In other EV news, Lucid’s Air Takes on CEO’s Former Employer, Tesla

🌟GM Takes an 11% Stake in Nikola. GM will help develop and manufacture new models for the electric truck startup. The partnership is the example of traditional automakers venturing into the EV space. GM will provide Nikola with electric batteries and fuel cells for its Badger pickup truck in exchange for $2B in stock and a board seat. Also, Hindenburg Research Details Potential Fraud at Nikola.

Microsoft is Focused on Auto Connectivity. The automotive arm of Microsoft’s Cloud Division is establishing a fully connected vehicle platform aimed at supplying carmakers with connected technologies that extend beyond over-the-air updates including in-car or edge computing software enabling vehicles to transmit data, infotainment systems, and cloud infrastructure to manage fleets. Microsoft says its goal is to supply carmakers with technology, not compete with them and has partnerships that are already underway with BMW, Daimler, and Ford. Related, the Ford Wants to Generate Revenue Through Connected Cars.  

Uber Promises 100% Electric Cars By 2040. Uber vows to commit $800M through 2025 to help its drivers switch to battery-powered vehicles and will provide healthy discounts for vehicles purchased or leased from partner automakers. The ride hailing giant mentioned rides on its platform across the US, Canada, and Europe will be emission-free by 2030, powered by regulatory support and existing infrastructure in those regions. Elsewhere in Mobility, US Air Travel Hits a 5 Month High

Lidar Sees Strong Figures. As lidar gains prominence across additional use cases, many startups are reaping the benefits. Targeting both the high end and low-end markets, leading Lidar makers like Ouster and Luminar have shown the ability to capture a significant amount of customers in comparison to rival Velodyne who traditionally services high-end customers. See Why Lean Sensing is Crucial for AV enablement

Fundraises, M&A, Talent 💸

HumanForest Raises $2.3M from Cabify Founders. HumanForest is a dockless, shared and ad-supported eBike service. The new funding will be used to expand its bike fleet to 1k by the end of September and to grow to 2k eBikes in London in a year.

TradeLanes Raises $4M Led by S2G Ventures. TradeLanes removes the for paper from global trade, bringing trade execution entirely online through an eComm platform which significantly reduces transaction cycles. The new investment will enable TradeLanes to deepen the functionality of the platform and expand service to exporters in additional commodity verticals. 

BluSmart Raises a $7M Pre-Series A From Inflection Point Ventures, Venture Catalysts, and others. BlueSmart is a Delhi-based all-electric ride-hailing platform. Fresh capital will help BluSmart expand its fleet, deploy EV charging infrastructure, and make technology-related improvements. 

Virtual Kitchen Raises $20M Led by Founders Fund. Virtual Kitchen provides technology to set up commercial kitchens designed for delivery, allowing restaurants to get food to customers without the expense and hassle of running a dining room or storefront. The use of funding was not disclosed. 

Cell Propulsion Raises an Undisclosed Pre-Series A Led by growX Ventures. Cell Propulsion develops high voltage powertrain technology for commercial vehicle applications. The new capital will help deploy powertrains for electric trucks and buses with fleet operators and large eComm and logistics providers.

Ouster Raises a $42M Series B Led by Cox Automotive, Tao Capital Partners, and Fontinalis Partners. Ouster is a Bay Area-based LiDAR developer across transportation, robotics, industrial automation, and smart infrastructure use cases. Fresh capital will be used to fund product development and ramp up sales.

Xometry Raises a $75M Series E Led by T. Rowe Price Associates. Xometry is an online marketplace where companies can find manufacturers across the globe with excess capacity to build whatever they need. The new investment will help Xometry keep growing and enhancing its platform. 

KAR Global Purchases BackLotCars for $425M. BackLotCars is an online dealer-to-dealer vehicle wholesaling platform. The acquisition will diversify its digital offerings while building on the foundation of TradeRev, the auction firm’s mobile vehicle trading platform. 

Toyota’s R&D Arm to Form an $800M Investment Fund. The firm announced a global investment fund on Thursday called Woven Capital which will invest in companies in areas such as autonomous mobility and smart cities.

Company Building 🛠️

Fred Wilson on SPACs. “Competition and choice is good. That is deeply held belief of mine across all aspects of life and business. And so the deluge of SPAC money coming to market right now is a good thing for the founders and CEOs who lead our portfolio companies. It offers them a wider array of options for going public than they had before. I am certain that will be a good thing for the tech sector and the VC sector.”

Bessemer Venture Partners’ Shopify Investment Memo. BVP shared a handful of their investment memos this week. I particularly like how Alex Ferrera provided ex-post commentary which proves to be useful in product, customer acquisition, and market sections.

Snowflake S-1 Teardown. There’s irony in that Silicon Valley tends to shun Wall Street yet many VCs embark on a S-1 teardown like a banking analyst or public equity analyst. That said, this rundown of Snowflake gives founders a look at 1) how hard it is to build a great SaaS business, 2) what best of breed growth looks like, and 3) metrics that matter as a SaaS business matures and preps to go public.

Who's Hiring? 👩‍💻

Full Stack Engineer at Vizion in Palo Alto, CA (remote ok).

Supply Chain Software Engagement Architect at Verusen in Atlanta, GA.

Product Support Specialist at Zeelo in London, UK.

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.