Tag Archives: Robotics

Why Drone Delivery Will Be an Awesome Business

Drones are starting to deliver packages in some parts of America. But can drone deliveries be a viable business?


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Bloomberg is skeptical. From an editorial out this morning:

The biggest hurdle is that drones will be making point-to-point deliveries, which is the quickest but most inefficient way to take packages to homes or businesses.

Despite the hype in the e-commerce market, it’s unlikely the sky will be studded with packages coming in for a landing on doorsteps.

What Bloomberg is missing is drone delivery’s massive advantage in labor costs.

The average UPS driver makes $22 an hour and does about 120 deliveries a day. Even if he’s very efficient and can finish in 8 hours, that’s still $1.47/delivery in labor costs alone.

Compare that to a drone. This sleek model from DJI is a mere $300 on Amazon. If it could make even 1 delivery per hour, 8 hours a day for a year before it wears out, that’s just $0.10 a delivery.

And remember, you don’t have to buy a huge truck, fill a gas tank, or pay benefits to a driver!

Drones may be able to do far fewer deliveries each than a driver can. But drones cost so little, you can afford to buy a swarm of them and still save money.

What’s more, drone delivery makes the most sense where drivers are least efficient: suburban and rural areas. Here, it takes drivers much longer to get to the next stop than in dense cities.

But it’s a perfect environment for drones — lots of space to land!

In a world of ever cheaper hardware, labor costs overwhelm almost everything else. If you can cut out labor and still get the job done, it’s hard to lose.

I look forward to having packages land on my roof. I just hope the porch pirates don’t send their own drones to steal them!

What do you think of drone delivery? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

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Robot Pizzas and the Future of Fast Food

Adam Neumann Was Their Biggest Investor — Now He’s Their Biggest Competitor

The Last Fast Food Worker in California

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Photo: “Drone Delivery” by www.routexl.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Last Fast Food Worker in California

Who will be the last fast food worker in California?

Yesterday, California passed a new law dramatically raising fast food wages.

It sounds like a victory for the working class. But it’s likely to put them out of a job. 


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From Bloomberg:

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the fast food recovery act into law, giving restaurant-chain employees more input over wages and working conditions even after strong protests from the industry.

A study by Harvard Kennedy School and UC San Francisco showed that wages for California’s fast-food workers hover around $16.21 an hour, or 85 cents on the dollar compared with other service sector workers in the state. AB 257 could raise wages as high as $22 an hour next year for chains with 100 or more locations across the US. It’s the first US law of its kind, leading the way for other states.

Let’s see how this will play out at a restaurant. And where better than the oldest McDonald’s in America, in Downey, California?

In business since 1953, the Downey McDonald’s is one of the area’s biggest tourist attractions. And it still serves Big Macs and fries, 7 days a week.

The Downey McDonald’s is open from 6am to 10pm every day. That’s 112 hours a week.

McDonald’s employees in Downey actually do a little better than that $15 minimum wage. They average $16.41 per hour.

Increasing that to $22 means every employee-hour costs $5.59 more. Staffing the restaurant for those 112 hours now costs $128,000 per person per year, instead of $96,000.

Instead of paying that, restaurant owners may hire Flippy

Flippy is a robot from Miso Robotics that runs an entire fry station. It can make french fries, onion rings, and even chicken tenders.

It costs about $36,000 a year. And unlike humans, it never comes in late, gets sick, or tries to unionize.

Flippy can’t do all the jobs in a McDonald’s — yet. But in combination with order kiosks and automated drive through lanes, there may soon be few fast food jobs left. 

Is all this fair? I don’t know. 

But it’s going to happen. And blunt instruments like this law only bring our robot future closer. 

Instead, politicians like Gavin Newsom should focus on helping working class people get more skills. This is a durable path to better wages and a better life.

I hope for a future where humans do stimulating, meaningful work. Let Flippy handle the rest.

What do you think of the California law? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

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COFFEEBOTS AND THE SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT CUP

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Misfits Market

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I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order. 

Talking About Today’s Startup Market on The Accelerator Podcast

I had the pleasure of chatting with angel investor Michael Conniff on his The Accelerator podcast recently! We talk about how to find a great startup to invest in, some of my recent investments, and the robot pizza future.

I’ve provided some links to key parts below. Enjoy!

3:28: What I look for in a startup

4:50: The technique for judging startups quickly that I learned from Jason Calacanis

6:31: Why I like SaaS

7:00: Problems with D2C companies

9:00: Why I invested in VADE, which is changing parking forever

13:29: My recent investment in Fathom, which is letting us search podcasts the way we do text

15:52: Why I invested in Capbase, the best way to start your start-up

19:17: Will robots make our pizza in the future? 🍕

22:35: Why I started this blog

25:06: What sectors I invest in

What did you like about the podcast? What did we miss?

And would you like to see more podcast content like this? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

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Talking Startups and Today’s Fundraising Pullback

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Robot Pizzas and the Future of Fast Food

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Misfits Market

I’ve used Misfits for years, and it never disappoints! Every fruit and vegetable is organic, super fresh, and packed with flavor!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order. 

Coffeebots and the Search for the Perfect Cup

A robotic arm carefully grips the cup as frothy milk cascades onto smooth espresso. It gently places the cup before you.

Coffee is served.

I’m a little obsessed with coffee. I have five coffee makers at home, each for a different style.

But if the next generation of robotics companies has their way, they might all be replaced by a skillful droid.

Founded in 2015, Cafe X makes full-service robocafes that can be found at San Francisco International Airport and elsewhere. Today, they are only sold to commercial customers, but can the home version be far away?

Cafe X’s intelligent robots can make a drink in as little as 20 seconds. It can even make multiple drinks at once!

Best of all, the price is less than half what Starbucks charges.

CEO Henry Hu was inspired by the robotic arms that build automobiles.

A simpler coffee machine could make drinks, but the robotic arm is much more versatile. It can also serve snacks or even be used in restaurants.

The pandemic hit Cafe X hard, but it’s back in service in SFO, Dubai and elsewhere.

The machines cost about $200,000. A quick Indeed search shows most barista positions in the NYC area paying between $13 and $30 per hour.

If the average is even $20 per hour, and a human-staffed store is open perhaps 90 hours a week, it costs $93,600 to staff the store with even one barista for a year.

In an ever tighter labor market, once employers go bot, they may never go back.

Cafe X isn’t the only company bringing Star Wars to Starbucks. In Nashville, Panera Bread is rolling out coffee robots from Miso Robotics.

Unlike Cafe X, Miso’s robot is barely noticeable. It discreetly monitors temperature and time to ensure a perfect brew, but there’s no robotic arm to whisk the drink to you.

The system is designed to assist workers, not replace them.

Miso Robotics also makes Chippy, which fries tortilla chips at Chipotle, and Flippy, which flips burgers for White Castle.

In a white hot labor market, these robots may not cause unemployment. But my concerns about restaurant automation run deeper.

When I go to a cafe, I sometimes chat with the barista and have a little laugh. In a world of sensors and robotic arms, I’ll have no one to talk to.

Those little interactions aren’t the substance of our social life, but they can be enjoyable sprinkles on the top.

Cafe X’s robot amazes me and manages to be cute to boot. But I find a world without anyone to share a brief chuckle with a melancholy one.


Would you try a robocoffee? And what do you think about the future of restaurant automation?

Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

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Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me.

Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor.

I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order. 

Robot Pizzas and the Future of Fast Food

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Inside a gleaming metal structure the size of a shipping container, robotic arms pull out a disk of dough. They carefully apply tomato sauce, then the cheese.

Pepperoni, anyone?

This store was created by Hyper Robotics, an intriguing startup from Israel that makes automated pizzerias. Its technology is in use today at a Pizza Hut in Israel.

The robot can even cook the pizza, cut it, and put it in a box! But for now, there’s still one employee there to hand the box to the customer.

Hyper Robotics isn’t the first company to attempt robotic pizza. California-based Zume made pizzas autonomously and even baked the pizza en route to you.

But Zume burned cash at a rate of over $10 million a day. Despite a $375 million investment from Softbank in 2018 the company exited the pizza business in early 2020.

The most interesting implications of robotic restaurants may be for the labor force. Over 5 million people work in fast food restaurants in America today.

In a weaker labor market, robotic restaurants could pose a real threat to the livings of working class people. But in today’s world of rock bottom unemployment, the robots may simply be taking a job no one wants.

Many restaurants are cutting hours or reducing service due to a lack of employees. Perhaps if people want to eat pizza but no one wants to make it, robots can help.

Since the pandemic, many former fast food workers have found higher paying jobs at e-commerce fulfillment centers, shipping companies, and the like. For a group of workers that so often struggled, I count this move up the value chain as something to celebrate.

Would you try a robot pizza? And what impact do you think robotics will have on restaurants and the labor market?

Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

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Male Contraception With an Ultrasound Device?

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This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been great so far.

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Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me.

Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor.

I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

Robot Hands, Vertical Farms, and the Future of Food

On Saturday, I stood in the produce section of a nearby Whole Foods. My eyes were drawn to tiny packages of delicate microgreens. The producer: Aero Farms.

Agriculture faces a difficult environment. Climate change is making weather more extreme and unpredictable. Workers are harder and harder to find. But a new model of farming is emerging, and it looks like nothing else we’ve ever seen.

Aero Farms grows greens in vertical stacks in what was once an abandoned steel mill. The farm is in gritty Newark, NJ, just a few miles from the Whole Foods where I encountered their product. They use 95% less water and 99% less land than a traditional farm. And unlike other farms, they can grow year round.

Technology is also revolutionizing how produce is picked. A company called Root AI makes soft, robotic hands that can pick anything from a hearty cucumber to a fragile strawberry. Alongside the robotic hands is a camera enabled with AI, which can identify the ripe produce and leave the rest to grow.  

Seeing it in action feels like seeing the future:

These robots are now being put to use in giant warehouse farms that you could easily mistake for an Amazon Fulfillment Center. These are a project of AppHarvest, which claims they use 90% less water and are 30 times more productive per acre than a traditional farm.

Is that an Amazon Fulfillment Center in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Even if the company’s projections are a bit optimistic, there’s strong evidence from numerous producers that indoor farming uses dramatically less water and space. And with the farm just a few miles from its customers in major cities, transportation costs and emissions are cut to the bone.

Putting robotics and indoor farming together, I think we are headed to a future that produces more output (food) with far fewer inputs (labor, water, land). And unlike human labor, electronics tend to rapidly decrease in price. That will only speed their adoption and lower food prices further. 

To quote Lincoln Steffens:

“I have seen the future and it works.”

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Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order.