Tag Archives: Technology

India Is Soaking Up Venture Capital Like a Sponge

It’s not just about the Bay Area anymore. Indian startups have raised venture funding at a record pace this year, on track to double from 2020:

Startups raised total investments of $7.8 billion in the first four months of this calendar year, which is almost 70% of the overall corpus of $12.1 billion raised in entire 2020 and more than 50% of $14.2 billion raised in 2019, data from US-based research firm PitchBook shows.

More here.

The average deal size is also near record highs, at $25 million. The most valuable venture-backed startup in India is Paytm, a payments and e-commerce company, at $16.7 billion.

India has seen 13 companies reach unicorn status this year ($1 billion valuation and up), an impressive figure. The US remains far and away the leader, with 288 total unicorns as of last month. China has 133, and India is third at 32.

As a US-based investor, I see a lot of companies pitch, but not those from India. The American and Indian VC markets don’t seem well connected. I’m not sure how to fix that, but I’m eager to have access to this big crop of quality companies. The most active VC firms in India are a mix of American and Indian organizations. With numerous people from India staffing (and starting) US tech companies, I hope to see more connections between our markets in the future!

Dig into these posts for more on startups and venture capital:

Photo: “Agra – Taj Mahal” by micbaun is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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In Norway, 60% of Cars Sold are Electric

Norway’s electric car market is powering ahead, with most new cars registered in September either fully electric or hybrids.

Electric cars accounted for 61.5% of the 15,552 cars registered that month in the country. When hybrids are included, the total jumps up to 89%.

The new Volkswagen ID.3 was the bestselling car, with 12.8% of sales, followed by the Tesla Model 3 and the Polestar 2.

Globally, too, we could be on track for an electric car breakthrough as battery technology gets less expensive. The cost of a lithium-ion battery pack for an electric car fell 87% from 2010 to 2019, according to research by BloombergNEF.

More here.

In the US, by contrast, only 2% of new car registrations are electric.

So why is Norway leading the world while the US, a major producer of electric vehicles, straggles far behind? Are Norwegians just a lot more environmentally conscious?

Well, not exactly. Norway currently has big tax incentives for buying an electric car as opposed to an internal combustion one. Those incentives are set to be pared back this year, but will still provide a tax advantage for electrics. US tax incentives are less generous, which is one major factor behind slower adoption.

Another factor: gas costs the equivalent of about $8 a gallon in Norway, compared to about $2.75 in my neighborhood in New Jersey.

High gas prices and huge tax incentives mean that Norwegians don’t have to be environmentalists to choose an electric car. They just have to be frugal.

Dig into these posts for more on business and technology:

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This One Fact Could Drive Dogecoin Up 100X

I started this post planning to write about how silly Dogecoin is. For the uninitiated, Dogecoin is a cryptocurrency based on a meme of a Shiba Inu. Its price has risen by more than a factor of 20 in the last year. Some recent gains have come from Elon Musk and other celebrities promoting the coin on social media.

But then I read that Dogecoin has basically the same underlying technology as Bitcoin:

It was a find-and-replace job.

Ctrl+F ‘Bitcoin,’ replace with ‘Dogecoin.’

The total value of all Bitcoin is $900 billion. The total value of all Dogecoin is $6.4 billion. If the code behind them is essentially the same, why is there such a huge disparity in value? I would expect these coins to converge in time, whether that means Bitcoin going down, Dogecoin going up, etc.

So, will I be loading up on Dogecoin? No. Like other cryptos, I don’t see any fundamental value there. Unlike a stock or bond, there’s no income stream. Unlike major currencies, they’re incredibly volatile and accepted practically nowhere. Nor do they have much of a track record. For Dogecoin’s $6 billion, you could buy Huntsman Corporation, a chemical company with profits of over $200 million/year, outright. I like that a lot better than a speculative crypto with no income stream.

That said, if you’re a believer in Bitcoin, I think you have to be a believer in Dogecoin also. I’ll be interested to see where it goes!

For more on Dogecoin, meme stocks, and the Wallstreetbets phenomenon, check out these posts:

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Photo: “Полный обзор криптовалюты Dogecoin” by dmitriyshustovb3 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

What I Learned From an Investor Who Turned $100,000 into $100,000,000

Above: Angel investor Jason Calacanis

The angel investor Jason Calacanis got in on the ground floor of Uber, Thumbtack, and other highly successful software companies, multiplying his $100,000 investment into $100,000,000 in just 6 years. With results like that, you know I had to read his book!

The idea of helping, even in a very small way, to build the future appeals to me a great deal. And if my investment multiplied many times over, well, I wouldn’t mind! 🙂 In this superb and brief book, Calacanis lays out a detailed game plan on how to achieve results like his.

He suggests beginning with syndicate deals, in which an angel investor invests alongside more experienced angels. You can begin with as little as $1,000 per investment, and such syndicates can be found at AngelList, SeedVest, and elsewhere. In fact, the author has his own syndicate, here. Unlike most investment managers, the syndicate lead only gets paid if he scores for you. There is no management fee at all, but the lead does keep 20% of any profits for his/her trouble.

You can build your skills, experience and connections in those syndicate deals, and then move on to deals on your own. Calacanis explains that you have to evaluate the founder himself/herself more than the product. It’s the person behind the company that will make or break it. Products can change a lot more easily than people can. What are is the founder’s chances of suceeding in this business, and in life?

I was struck by how similar the approach to finding investments is to podcasting, journalism, or for that matter, blogging. Calacanis advises asking short questions and writing down the founder’s answers at length. Then, you write deal memos when you invest, to lay out the thinking behind the investment. These could help remind you of your reasoning if times get tough for the company, and also guide future investments.

There’s a ton of actionable details in this book, and I won’t get into all of them here. But if you’re even remotely considering investing in early stage companies, I strongly suggest giving this entertaining and highly readable book a look!

How We Could’ve Known Theranos Was a Fraud

Investors lost over $9 billion on Theranos, the diagnostics testing company run by Elizabeth Holmes that was exposed as a fraud. Worse yet, patients received inaccurate test results, imperilling their health. But what if asking one simple question could’ve prevented all this?

In the book Editing Humanity, Keith Davies notes that Theranos’ technology had no foundation in peer-reviewed, published research. The always-astute John Ioannidis pointed this out as early as 2015. Theranos published a single paper in 2018, after the company was already exposed as fradulent and was near bankruptcy. Theranos made incredible claims for its technology, but without peer review by respected journal, there was no one to check if those claims were actually true. (Theranos had filed patent applications, but that doesn’t necessarily provide the same level of detail and review.)

This stands in contrast to many other biotech companies, such as several in the CRISPR area (Editas Medicine, Intellia Therapeutics, etc.) whose approach grows out of research published in major journals. Also, such companies have major scientists as co-founders, not a 19 year old unknown.

I am considering getting involved in early-stage biotech investment, so asking “What papers can you point me to that underlie your technology?” is a question I plan to ask in the future. That may be able to weed out some weaker companies and potential frauds.

For more background on Theranos, I strongly recommend the outstanding book Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. I listened to it as an Audible audiobook. It was read by Will Damron, whose voice is outstanding.

I also hear excellent things about the ABC News podcast series The Dropout, which details Holmes’ path from Stanford student to billionaire to accused criminal awaiting trial today. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I look forward to getting a chance soon!

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