Roundup June ’22 Edition

Greetings FutureBlind readers!

In this roundup edition:

  • ✈️ To Increase Progress, Change Culture: Why progress needs better marketing.
  • 🎡 We need a new World’s Fair
  • 🔦 Company (Startup) Spotlights: Hadrian, First Resonance, and Mashgin.
  • 🎙 Request for Podcast Series
  • 🔗 Interesting Links: “The man in the arena”, Grid scale energy storage, Kevin Kelly’s advice, the metaverse, jobs-to-be-done for investing, and how companies die.

✈️ To Increase Progress, Change Culture

The key to faster progress is increased desire for more. That’s my theory, at least.

In all the commentary on the “Great Stagnation”, much is written about the lack of progress in tech areas like transportation. Commercial airplane speeds, for example, have decreased on average since the ‘70s:

Since 1973, airplane manufacturers have innovated on margins other than speed, and as a result, commercial flight is safer and cheaper than it was 40 years ago. But commercial flight isn’t any faster—in fact, today’s flights travel at less than half the Concorde’s speed. (Airplane Speeds Have Stagnated for 40 Years, by Eli Dourado and Michael Kotrous.)

There are clearly many contributors to this. Regulation is cited in the above post and seems to be most common reason mentioned. Rising energy costs is another major one. The less-talked-about contributor is consumer demand.

Continue reading…

🎡 We need a new World’s Fair

Speaking of marketing progress, I talked more about why we need a new World’s Fair in this thread:

🔦 Company (Startup) Spotlights

Hadrian is building the factory of the future — highly automated, software-first, and at huge scale. They’re starting upmarket by building high-precision parts for aerospace hardware. A lot of current space components are made in small machine shops. This worked for the Apollo and Shuttle eras but won’t cut it if the US wants to win Space Race v2. Hadrian has contracts with large space companies and plans to expand into other metals, industries, and types of manufacturing. I referenced Hadrian in a past thread on programmatic atoms here. Even if you’re not interested in manufacturing, space, or automation (anyone?) I would highly recommend reading or listing more about Hadrian — Not Boring: full rundown of their vision; 🎙 Josh Wolfe & Chris Power on Invest Like the Best.

First Resonance is building an operating system for factories. This is another entry in one of my favorite categories of “software for building hardware”. Manufacturing in general has surprisingly low usage of modern software stacks. I started to enter this area myself (manufacturing automation) in 2017 and from everything I saw, very little was automated and not much data was collected. Some very specific verticals were more advanced but a lot of it was living in the ‘80s. Having an easy-to-use (and set up), centralized spot to track workflows and performance would be huge. 📹 Interview with cofounder Karan Talati.

Mashgin has built a self-checkout kiosk that uses computer vision to recognize items so you don’t have to scan barcodes. This spotlight is a bit of self-promotion, as I’m an investor and early employee in Mashgin going back to 2015. Mashgin recently announced we were profitable and have raised a $62M Series B from NEA, Matrix and a few customers. The checkout kiosk is built for small-format locations like convenience stores, cafeterias, and sports venues. Earlier this month Couche-Tard announced they would be rolling out 10,000 to CircleK C-stores around the the world. Mashgin is the largest “smart checkout” Point of Sale in the world and this deal cements it as the leader. Forbes: Mashgin Hits $1.5B Valuation With AI-Powered Self-Checkout System. Below is a longer thread I wrote of my thoughts on the future of physical checkout:

🎙 Request for Podcast Series

Check out Patrick Collison’s Fast entries if you haven’t already. I would love to listen to this, so… if someone out there is itching to produce a new podcast then please steal this idea.

🔗 Interesting Links

  • Teddy Roosevelt’s full speech “Citizenship in a Republic”. This is the “man in the arena” speech that everyone has read and heard bits and pieces of, but like me, never read the whole thing. A truly amazing speech from start to finish and one that I’ll try to revisit from time to time. And a good reminder that it’s possible to have great people leading the country. H/t Patrick O’Shaughnessy
  • Grid Scale Energy Storage Deployment by Technology Part 1, Part 2. Sarah Constantin explains and breaks down large scale energy storage solutions. If we want to deploy a massive amount of solar and wind, we’ll need ways to store a huge amount of energy efficiently. Sarah goes over existing and potential solutions to this. Super interesting — I had never given this much thought but it will be an area ripe for innovation and profits.
  • Kevin Kelly: 10 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known. Another amazing list of advice, his 3rd in the series, from Kevin Kelly. “Whenever there is an argument between two sides, find the third side.” “Don’t wait for the storm to pass; dance in the rain.” “The chief prevention against getting old is to remain astonished.”
  • Why the metaverse needs crypto. Good thread defining the metaverse (yeah the term is way overused now but the concept is useful) and why in the end it needs crypto/NFTs. Yes, there are use cases for NFTs despite the bubble deflation, and this goes over one of them.
  • Using jobs to be done theory in investing. The author Andrew Glaser uses JTBD theory to analyze Lemonade, the online-native insurance company. JTBD analysis and interviews can be very helpful in product development and strategy so I don’t see why it also wouldn’t be in investment due diligence (“scuttlebutt”). Via Ryan Singer.
  • Patterns of behavior that kill companies. A great thread with detailed systems diagrams of scenarios that lead to killing companies. Especially helpful for startups to see what interventions can be used to avoid theses fates as the company grows. Via James Rosen-Birch.

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