Driverless cars disrupt. New insurtech report. Cereal tries again.

Shh, don't speak


A common problem at fast-growing startups is that they outgrow their offices. 

In fact, a considerable part of WeWork’s business — as we noted in our WeWork Strategy Teardown — is picking up tenants when fast-growing companies overflow their office space. 

But another problem is crowded offices, period. 

What happens when you are shoulder-to-shoulder in your startup’s open floor plan and you want to have a private conversation? Or what if the “loud talkers” among your sales people are annoying your software engineers?

Tech innovation is here to solve this problem. Not one, but two Kickstarter projects are creating wearable gadgets to allow people to make calls without others around them hearing (see This Week in Data Below). 

The battle of the voice muzzles is on: BLOXVOX vs. Hushme.


I don’t know, call me cynical but for some reason it strikes me that this concept is not going to fly, even with BLOXVOX’s “hole on the front that allows you to breathe.”

To the credit of the Hushme folks, they admit on the Kickstarter page that their idea might be “insane.”

Let the chips fall where they may

Big electronics companies have AI chips on the brain. Samsung, for example, is reportedly working on chips to be used in data centers and driverless cars.

We discuss the global race for AI chip dominance in our 2018 Tech Trends report. Check it out here.

Here in my car

Major corporates like Google, Apple, and Mercedes Benz are working hard to make their own self-driving vehicles a reality. It's all but guaranteed that autonomous cars will be part of daily life in the US in the next 20 years.

From urban planning to cybersecurity to traffic enforcement, we look at 33 industries that could be transformed by driverless cars.

What's "in" in insurance

InsurTech companies received $724M in funding in Q1'18, more than double the amount received in Q1'17.

For more insurance tech insights, check out our latest 66-page quarterly report produced in partnership with Willis Towers Watson.

Have a great rest of the week.


P.S. Surely one of the voice muzzles mentioned above will go into the graveyard of failed products. See 116 other product flops here.

P.P.S. Bring new subscribers to the CB Insights newsletter and win free swag through our CB Insiders rewards program.

This week in data:

  • 785 days later: Just weeks after smart luggage startup Bluesmart shuttered, New York-based connected suitcase company Raden is also shutting down, 785 days after raising $3.5M in seed capital. Both companies struggled following new airline policies restricting the use of suitcases with batteries. Shifting regulation is just one of many challenges that hardware startups face; read more about what makes hardware so hard in our report on why so many hardware startups fail.

  • 61%: It’s been less than 2 weeks since the Supreme Court struck down a federal law banning sports betting in most states, and companies are already leaping at the opportunity the ruling creates. This week, Dublin-based bookmaking business Paddy Power Betfair agreed to merge its US operations with fantasy sports league site FanDuel, in a deal that will give Paddy Power 61% ownership over the combined business. FanDuel currently has 7M players participating in its daily fantasy sports, and hopes to have a sports betting offering ready in time for the 2018 NFL season. 
  • €20M: Uber announced today that it plans to invest €20M ($23.5M USD) in France over the next five years to develop aerial mobility. The ride-hailing company will put the money toward an R&D facility focused on Uber Elevate, the initiative to develop vertical takeoff and landing aircraft for uberAIR flights. We recently discussed Uber’s position in the flying car space as well as its flying taxi partners in our client note (which clients can read here and here).

  • $200M: Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the US, has acquired Chicago-based meal kit delivery service Home Chef to the tune of $200M, with an additional $500M in incentives if certain targets are met. The deal, which comes just a week after Kroger took a roughly $250M stake in British online grocery operator Ocado, seems to be part of an ongoing effort to boost the grocer’s online operations in the wake of increasing competition (most notably in the form of the Amazon-Whole Foods deal).
  • 2,095 bones: Archaeologists working at the Alken Enge site in Denmark have uncovered 2,095 bones and bone fragments from at least 82 people who lived 2,000 years ago, detailed in research published earlier this week. The discovery sheds new light on “barbarian” battle rituals, and significantly increases the estimated size of armies in Iron Age Europe. For a look at the “battle rituals” of the future, check out our latest deep dive on The Future of Information Warfare, which details the technology that will be used in tomorrow’s wars.

  • 1st: Tomorrow, Stacey Cunningham will become the first woman to run the New York Stock Exchange, the NYSE announced earlier this week. She will be the 67th president of the exchange and the first female president in its 226-year history. Still, the exchange continues to be dominated by men: of the 21 executives of NYSE’s corporate parent the Intercontinental Exchange Group, only 4 (including Cunningham) are women.
  • $71,880: Here’s a tech trend that looks like the stuff of nightmares: new voice muffling contraptions are making waves on social media, drawing comparisons to the likes of Hannibal Lecter and Bane. Leading products include Hushme, a “personal acoustic device that protects speech privacy when speaking on the phone in open space offices and public places.” Hushme has managed to raise $71,880 on Kickstarter, while competing voice muffling startup BLOXVOX has raised $2,506 from the crowdfunding site.

  • 8 years: On Tuesday afternoon, a judge ruled that Mark and Christina Rotondo have the legal right to evict their 30-year-old son Michael from their Syracuse home. The case came to court after the parents had sent 5 written notices to Michael informing him he had to move out after living with them rent-free for the past 8 years. Michael plans to appeal the decision. For more in living arrangements, sign up for our 15-minute briefing on the housing of the future on May 29.
  • 5: Some Amazon customers are finding their accounts suddenly shut down after they return or request refunds for items they ordered, according to new reports. One such customer said his account was shut down after he returned just 5 items over the course of 2 years. According to Chris McCabe, a former policy enforcement investigator at Amazon and current consultant at EcommerceChris LLC, this tends to happen when “you’re creating a lot of headaches for Amazon.” Learn more about the e-commerce giant’s strategy in our Amazon Strategy Teardown.

  • $1B: Beijing-based HR startup Uniquedu became the latest company to join the ranks of our unicorn list, following a Series D round from Oceanwide Holdings that valued the company at $1B. Uniquedu focuses on training for software developers and project managers in the mobile, internet, and cloud computing fields, and has attracted investment from Fosun RZ Capital and Shenzhen Qianhe Capital Management Co.
  • 10: Kellogg’s sugary cereal brand Froot Loops is rolling out its first new flavor in 10 years: Wild Berry, which will add purple cereal stars to the colorful loop mix. The announcement seems to be an effort to hold ground in a declining industry: cereal sales in the US have fallen 9% in the past 5 years, dipping to $10.5B, and are projected to drop an additional 5% over the next five years. To see other threats and opportunities corporates like Kellogg’s will likely face in the future, check out our report on 12 Food Trends To Watch In 2018.

One more thing...

London-based Seedlip has reportedly created “the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits.” This is targeted not only at pregnant women, the sober, and designated drivers, but also at those pursuing a cleaner diet.

People in their 20s and 30s are drinking less alcohol. One in 5 millennials doesn’t drink, and 66% say that alcohol isn’t important to their social lives, according to a survey by Demos.

“It shouldn’t matter whether you are drinking or not — you should be able to get a great drink and have a great experience,” Seedlip founder Ben Branson says. He created Seedlip to offer more options to those who don’t want to be doomed to sip something saccharine and colorful during their dry spells.

While the taste of Seedlip may be reminiscent of gin, it is definitively not a gin as it does not contain juniper. The Seedlip spirits are made with herbs, spices, and barks, and come in two flavors.

Garden 108 is meant to “capture the English countryside” with ingredients including peas, hay, spearmint, and rosemary. Spice 94 contains a blend of allspice, cardamom, berries, and citrus.

Seedlip recommends pairing the spirits with tonic and garnishing with a sugar snap pea or a grapefruit peel.


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