Morning Brew - ☕ Forget the future

Let's predict the now instead.
Morning Brew June 17, 2022

Emerging Tech Brew

Workiva

Happy Friday, and a hearty farewell to a familiar old friend, Internet Explorer, which sunset on Wednesday after ~27 years. It may never have been our browser of choice, but the pale blue “e” was always there for backup when Chrome, or Firefox, or, uh, Opera, crashed.

Also, a quick programming note: We’re off this Monday for the Juneteenth holiday—we’ll be back in your inbox next Wednesday, 6/22.

In today’s edition:

How short-term, AI-based forecasts can help navigate economic uncertainty
An EV-charging giant may be forming

Hayden Field, Dan McCarthy

AI

That was then, this is now(cast)

Future Predictions Francis Scialabba

This month, the S&P 500 officially hit bear-market territory—meaning a fall of 20+ percent from recent highs—and investors everywhere are looking for some way to predict how long the pain could last.

Machine learning startups specializing in “nowcasting” attempt to do just that, by analyzing up-to-the-minute data on everything from shipping costs to the prices of different cuts of beef.

  • In times of economic volatility, investors and executives have often turned to market forecasts, and ML models can offer a way to absorb more information than ever into these analyses.

One example: Complete Intelligence is a ML startup based outside Houston, Texas, that specializes in nowcasting for clients in finance, healthcare, natural resources, and more. We spoke with its founder and CEO, Tony Nash, to get a read on how its ML works and how the startup had to adjust its algorithms due to market uncertainty.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Who are your clients, and how are the nowcasts used in practice?

Our clients range from investors and portfolio managers, to healthcare firms and manufacturing firms, to mining and natural resources firms. So they want to understand what the environment looks like for their, say, investment or even procurement—for example, how the current inflation environment affects the procurement of some part of their supply chain.

In fact, we’re talking to a healthcare company right now, and they want to nowcast over the weekend for some of their key materials. In an investment environment, of course, people would want to understand how, say, expectations and other variables impact the outlook for the near-term future, like, days or a week. People are also using us for continuous budgeting—so revenue, budgeting, expenses, CFOs, and heads of financial planning are using us…to understand the 12- to 18-month outlook of their business, [so they don’t have to have an annual budgeting cycle].

Keep reading about nowcasting here.HF

        

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Consolidation! At the charging station

closeup of a blink charger in a parking lot Blink Charging

The US EV charging industry got a teeny bit less fragmented this week. On Tuesday, Blink Charging announced that it had agreed to acquire SemaConnect for $200 million.

Why it matters: The companies are among the largest charging networks in the US, per Alternative Fuels Data Center data compiled by EVAdoption. Together, they operated over 9,000 networked L2 charging ports in the US as of June 15, making up nearly 10% of the country’s total L2 chargers.

  • L2 chargers account for 80% of public chargers in the US, while the much speedier DC fast-chargers make up the remaining 20%.

Blink was founded in 1998 and went public in 2018. The company generated $9.8 million in revenue last quarter—a more than fourfold increase from a year earlier when it brought in ~$2.2 million—but it’s never broken even. Last quarter, it had a net loss of ~$15 million, up from ~$7.4 million in Q1 2021.

  • SemaConnect earned $12 million in revenue last year, per an investor presentation from this week, but its bottom line isn’t disclosed because it has operated as a private company.

Because SemaConnect has manufacturing facilities in Maryland, the acquisition “immediately qualifies Blink for the Buy America” initiative, the company says. That’s not just a boring bit of corporate compliance: Access to the $7.5 billion earmarked for EV chargers in the infrastructure law will, to some extent, depend on adhering to the rules set out by the initiative.

Zoom out: Even before this acquisition, Blink was expanding rapidly.

  • In April, the company scooped up Electric Blue Charging, a UK-based charging company, for ~$23 million, giving it a 1,150-charger-strong foothold in the country.
  • Blink’s president, Brendan Jones, told us in February that the company had grown from ~40 employees in 2020 to “well over 200,” and that it was “going to grow towards 300 by the end of this year.”

Now, the combined company has 420 employees, 185 of which came from SemaConnect, per SEC filings, and its founder and CEO, Michael Farkas, told Bloomberg that even post-deal, the company is “very acquisitive.

+ While we’re here: We’re hosting a Twitter Space next week with Jones, where we’ll discuss Blink’s growth trajectory, the acquisition, and that sweet, sweet infrastructure-law money. Set a reminder to tune in here.

Click here to read this story on-site.DM

        

TOGETHER WITH WORKIVA

Connect, elevate, and innovate your ESG

Workiva

When you strengthen your ESG strategy, you drive stakeholder value.

So why not learn how to do this while you network with industry innovators and collect CPE credits? You, too, can enjoy this win-win scenario at Amplify by Workiva, the conference dedicated to helping you elevate your ESG strategy for success.

Join in person or online from September 12–15 and attend tracks on ESG, accounting and finance, or audit, risk, and compliance featuring Workiva and industry experts. You can earn up to 18 CPE credits just for attending and soaking up all the knowledge. Select CPE-eligible sessions will be live-streamed, so there’s plenty of Amplify action for everyone.

Register now to snag early-bird pricing.

WHAT ELSE IS BREWING

  • Renewable energy is “bailing out” the Texas grid as a heat wave causes demand to surge.
  • NHTSA released data on car crashes in cars with driver-assist technology for the first time. From July 20, 2021, to May 21, 2022, Tesla reported 273 crashes involving Autopilot, making up ~70% of the total crashes reported.
  • Nreal, a Chinese AR company, has brought a beta version of Steam to its AR glasses.
  • 100+ execs wrote a letter urging Congress to pass the China competition bill that would provide $52 billion in semiconductor subsidies. The House and Senate have passed different versions of the bill but haven’t yet reconciled the differences.
  • Foxconn broke ground on an EV battery-making plant in Taiwan on Wednesday.
  • Ford told dealers to temporarily pause sales of its electric Mustang Mach-E crossovers due to a potential battery issue in almost 49,000 of the vehicles.

TOGETHER WITH VANTA

Vanta

Compliance doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, with Vanta it can be super simple. Trusted by thousands of SaaS companies, Vanta automates the pricey, time-consuming process of prepping for and obtaining the most accepted security certifications like SOC 2, ISO 27001, and more. Connect Vanta to your business tools for smooth sailing—and get a $1k discount here.

BITS AND BYTES

Semiconductors, shipping boxes, and factories on a conveyer belt. Continuous looped GIF Francis Scialabba

Stat: Chinese orders for semiconductor-making equipment jumped 58% last year, as the country sprints toward semiconductor sovereignty.

Quote: “This is literally like an ocean of new vulnerabilities.”—Ram Shankar Siva Kumar, a “data cowboy” at Microsoft, talking about the need to stress-test ML models

Read: Why even Google engineers aren’t immune from believing AI has a soul.

Inflation intel: For CFOs, tracking external inflation is a huge priority. That’s why Oracle NetSuite’s guide, 4 Inflation Metrics to Watch Now, breaks down tracking tools and offers free resources for pivotal decision-making. Get it here.*

*This is sponsored advertising content.

FROM THE CREW

Yes, this is an emerging technology newsletter. But isn’t it good for us all to sometimes break out of our bubbles and explore other areas? Like, I don’t know, the other publications from Morning Brew?

With that said…here are a few recent stories from our sibling pubs:

GOING PHISHING

Three of the following news stories are true, and one...we made up. Can you spot the odd one out?

  • An EV startup claims it has made a million-mile battery out of volcanic rock.
  • A startup made a Ruth Bader Ginsburg AI bot.
  • Meta is adding parental supervision to its headsets.
  • Chinese scientists say their giant telescope may have found signals from  alien civilizations.

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GOING PHISHING ANSWER

We haven’t heard of any companies making lofty claims about igneous batteries, but at least one company is looking into the potential of volcanic rock for energy storage.

 

Written by Hayden Field and Dan McCarthy

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