Sometimes startups fail. Pharma cos vs. Alzheimer's. Record-breaking egg.

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Our “Gradually, Then Suddenly” presentations describe how disruptive trends in a given industry can rapidly accelerate — leaving the unprepared in the dust. We recently applied it to financial services here

But "Gradually, Then Suddenly" also applies to specific technologies like AI. How fast is AI improving? The images below, taken from research papers, are examples of computer generated faces created by AI algorithms known as Generative Adversarial Networks, or GANs. 

h/t @goodfellow_ian

The last face in particular is amazing. It has all the imperfections and subtle asymmetries of a real face. There is no “uncanny valley” for me. But the real jaw-dropping thing is the progress itself, how the output went from semi-laughable to passable to suddenly near perfect in just 4.5 years. 

This is “Gradually, Then Suddenly” made visible. 

One can imagine the impact as other behind-the-scenes AI algorithms get better at applications like credit underwriting, cyber-defense, driver assistance systems, etc.

No wonder AI is our most-requested research topic by clients (which led us to launch our client-only newsletter This Week in AI late last year).

Explain, please

Quantum computers can process massive, complex datasets more efficiently than classic computers. The technology could transform numerous industries, from telecommunications to cybersecurity to finance.

But how does it work?

We answer that question and dig into different types of quantum computing, the industry landscape, and more. Check it out here.

*Sad trombone sound*

The hard truth is most startups don't make it. We sifted through over 100 postmortems to figure out why.

From running out of cash to getting outcompeted to bad timing, we list the top 20 reasons startups fail.

 Is there a point?

Public payment companies are exploring new point-of-sale technologies and working on new payment methods as consumers increasingly prefer digital payment options.

In the latest installment of our Future of Payments post, we examine how the physical point of sale is evolving — and how it could be completely replaced in the future. Clients can read it here.

What's NExTT?

What does 2019 have in store for enterprise IT?

From quantum cloud computing to workflow augmentation to serverless computing, we identify the top necessary, experimental, threatening, and transitory trends to watch.

 Never give up

Alzheimer's disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the US, and big pharma's quest to find drugs to treat it has been fraught with challenges and setbacks.

But pharma companies aren't giving up — they're leveraging their partnerships to tackle Alzheimer's. We take a look at their progress. Expert Intelligence clients can read about it here.

Have a great weekend.


P.S. We're looking for a smart analyst to join our Enterprise Tech team to help us chart the future of AI in business.

P.P.S. Our AI 100 list, which includes the 100 most promising startups using AI, will launch next month.

This week in data:

  • -7%: Tesla is slashing its full-time workforce by 7%, per an email sent by CEO Elon Musk to Tesla employees this morning. With a current workforce of about 45,000, that means 3,150 employees will be losing their jobs. Per Musk’s email, the layoffs were necessary because Tesla has to produce cheaper variants of its Model 3 car. In response to the news, Tesla’s stock has fallen as much as 10% today. Last spring we took a look at how Tesla’s troubles highlight the difficulty of automating a factory — clients can read about it here.
  • +8.84M: In its Q4 earnings call this week, Netflix beat expectations on subscriber growth but fell just below the mark on revenue. The streaming company added 1.53M domestic subscribers and 7.31M international subscribers (a total of 8.84M) last quarter to reach revenues of $4.19B, a 28% YoY increase. Results came in just days after Netflix’s largest ever price hike, which included raising its most popular plan from $11 to $13 per month. Per the call, going forward Netflix will deemphasize its free trial period, focusing more on higher-cost subscriptions.
  • $100B+: The 6 biggest US banks topped $100B in annual profits for the first time ever, making more than $111B in 2018. JPMorgan Chase & Co and Bank of America both had record years, while Goldman Sachs and Citigroup each hit numbers not seen since before the 2008 financial crisis. Contributing factors include tax cuts, rising interest rates, and a general uptick in retail banking. We recently dove into where these top US banks are making bets in fintech. Read about it here.

  • 3x: The Chinese market for electric cars is more than 3x the size of the US electric market, according to data from InsideEVs and China’s Association of Automobile Manufacturers. In China, sales of EVs and hybrids rose 60% to hit 1.26M units in 2018, compared to just 361K units sold in the US. CB Insights clients can see our market map of 60+ startups driving innovation in electric vehicles here.

  • <6: People who get fewer than 6 hours of sleep a night have a 27% higher risk of developing dangerous plaque in arteries throughout the body than those who sleep 7 to 8 hours, according to a new study published in the journal of the American College of Cardiology. This plaque, called atherosclerosis, raises the risk of strokes, poor circulation, and heart disease. Check out our sleep tech market map, which highlights everything from sleep-tracking wearables to specialty mattresses.
  • $500M: Microsoft has pledged $500M to help address the problem of affordable housing in the Seattle suburbs. Microsoft plans to offer $225M in subsidized loans for middle-income housing near its Redmond headquarters, plus an additional $250M for low-income housing. The last $25M will go to homeless organizations. We talked about how tech giants are making their mark on residential real estate, from on-campus residential housing to investments in smart city tech, in our Future of Housing Report. Check it out here.

  • 613%: Forget the stock market — collecting Legos gets a better ROI than stocks, bonds, or gold, according to a study by Professor Victoria Dobrynskaya of Russia’s Higher School of Economics. Dobrynskaya studied 2,300 sets sold between 1987 and 2015 to measure price-return over time. Collections like Hogwarts castle and Jedi fighter ships yielded 11% a year, while the Star Wars Darth Revan kit raked in a 613% premium, jumping from $3.99 to $28.46 on eBay. Lego sets based on The Simpsons are the only ones to have lost value, falling 3.5%.
  • 400M: Peppa Pig — a British preschool animated series, starring the titular Peppa — is going international. A new video promoting the show has gone viral on Chinese media, with the hashtag #WhatisPeppa (#啥是佩奇#) appearing some 400 million times on social media platform Weibo as of this morning. The video, directed by Beijing director Zhang Dapeng, features a Chinese grandfather going on a quest to find out what Peppa is in order to give his little grandson the perfect New Year’s gift. 
  • 47 million: The Instagram account @world_record_egg achieved its goal of having the most-liked photo this week with a picture of a chicken egg. The image ballooned to over 47M likes, smashing Kylie Jenner’s record of 18.6M Instagram likes. As of noon today, the egg had 48,535,547 likes.

One more thing...


Two house cats live alone in the Silicon Valley studio apartment pictured above. The $1,500/month rent has reportedly never been late.

The cats, Louise and Tina, are owned by Victoria Amith, a freshman at Azusa Pacific University, who was unable to bring them to live in her dorm.

When her father couldn't keep the cats because they didn't get along with his dog, he rented the apartment from a friend. Victoria visits the cats every day.

She explains that this is a temporary solution until the school year ends and she can find her own place. Louise and Tina's feelings about giving up their apartment are unknown.
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