A new unicorn. Amazon makes a shortlist. Moscow is dark.


There’s plenty of hero worship when it comes to Elon Musk.  

But what do Musk’s initiatives really mean for the future of your industry?

Once we began to dig in, we saw that Musk’s projects, their potential impact, and how they are interrelated are actually pretty poorly understood

Musk’s vision isn’t just about Tesla and the auto industry — it’s also about healthcare, energy, telecommunications, AI, infrastructure, and more.

For example, just in the realm of transportation: 

SpaceX isn’t just about building rocketships, it’s about spaceflights between New York and Hong Kong that will cost the same as regular airfare and be shorter than 30 minutes.

Tesla sees a future in which automated robot cars prowl the streets to pick up passengers, and no one’s car is ever parked (instead they make money for you while you’re not using them).

Musk’s construction company is getting better at digging tunnels not just so we can slash the prohibitive cost of tunnel building, but so we can transport cars on “electric skates” through a narrow-bore tunnel system called a Hyperloop, at 3x the speed of Japanese bullet trains.

Of course, Musk also has a tendency to promise now and (sometimes) deliver (a lot) later. So we look into that too.

Have a great weekend.


P.S. On January 25th we're digging into fintech's major trends from 2017 and what to watch for in 2018. Sign up here.

This week in data:

  • $1.6B: Cao Cao, a high-end electric car rental and ride-hailing app operating in major cities throughout China, raised $156M in a second Series A tranche this week. At a $1.6B valuation, the company is the latest to make it onto our real-time Unicorn Tracker.
  • Top 20: Amazon has narrowed its search for HQ2 down to 20 final cities, spanning the country from LA to Boston. Other contenders include Denver, Nashville, Indianapolis, and Atlanta. The company has announced it expects to invest over $5B in construction on the new site, and will grow its second headquarters to house up to 50K jobs. Our Amazon Strategy Teardown analyzes where exactly the company is hiring across areas like AWS, fulfillment & operations, retail, the Alexa team, and more. 

  • $65M: Instacart acquired AI-powered grocery shopping platform Unata for $65M. The Toronto-based company, previously backed by MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund and others, raised $1.2M in total funding prior its exit. Unata’s platform allows customers to see personalized product recommendations, create digital shopping lists, and take advantage of loyalty rewards programs, among other things. Check out 8 other early-stage startups applying AI to commerce and retail.
  • $350B: Apple has announced plans to go on a $350B spending spree in the US over the next five years, putting money towards a second campus, new data centers, and other investments. Our Apple strategy teardown looks at other initiatives the company has in the works, from its AI efforts to cybersecurity to the future of Apple wearables.
  • 6 minutes: In December, the city of Moscow only saw 6 minutes of sunlight — far below the average of 18 hours of sun over the course of the month. It was the darkest December on record, beating out 2000’s record of just 3 hours.
  • 175 billion: In its latest end-of-year retrospective report, App Annie dives into numbers related to the global app economy. In 2017, app downloads exceeded 175 billion, a 60% increase from 2015. Notably and in the lead, the average smartphone user in China and Japan has over 100 apps on their phones. Additionally, consumer spend on apps exceeded $86B, a 105% jump from 2015.
  • 9 million: On Wednesday, British prime minister Theresa May appointed a minister for loneliness to head a government-wide group responsible for policies connected to loneliness. Research shows more than 9 million people in the country often or always feel lonely, leading to the new mental health-focused appointment. Our mental health & wellness tech briefing highlights how the tech world is approaching issues like loneliness and depression, and highlights key startups focused on offering mental health services through platforms like mobile apps. 

  • $9,400: This week, Bitcoin dropped below $10,000, the lowest it’s been since reaching a high of nearly $20,000 in December 2017. The stock fell as low as ~$9,400 on Wednesday, but has since climbed and was trading at nearly $12,000 earlier today. Financial titans such as Ray Dalio and Jamie Dimon have previously expressed public skepticism around Bitcoin’s future as an asset.
  • 10: From Bibimbap to Sriracha, Merriam-Webster has added 10 more foreign words to its dictionary. The latest additions are French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Nahuatl, Spanish, Tagalog, and Thai. According to Merriam-Webster, editors “devote an hour or two [each day]” to reading publications in which they analyze text for new words and usage frequency, among other things. Editors then make decisions on which words to include in the dictionary.
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