(Bloomberg Opinion) — After the troubles at Nikola Corp. you’d think stock market investors would have had their fill of startups that promise to revolutionize the trucking world.
Yet this week another Texas-based truck electrification business, whose founder is even younger than Nikola’s, is poised to go public. And once again a special-purpose acquisition vehicle (or SPAC) is in the driving seat and making piles of money.
Hyliion Inc.’s 28-year-old chief executive officer, Thomas Healy, will become a paper billionaire — a fact that’s sure to capture plenty of attention — as long as the shareholders of cash shell Tortoise Acquisition Corp. vote on Monday in favor of a merger with his company.
A Carnegie Mellon mechanical engineering graduate, Healy doesn’t spend a lot of time on Twitter and seems more modest than Nikola’s boastful chairman Trevor Milton, who resigned last week after a scathing short-seller report raised awkward questions about his company.
Unlike Milton, Healy isn’t trying build an entire truck. Hyliion’s main goal is to supply hybrid and electric propulsion systems that can be slotted into various manufacturers’ existing heavy-truck models and thereby lower their emissions and the total cost of ownership.
Big crowds at places like the Beijing auto show are a sign of good news, but China needs its less affluent to spend more before its growth engine can return to full speed.
BEIJING — Right before executives and car enthusiasts could gather in Geneva for the big auto show there in early March, the organizers called it off. As the coronavirus spread, other shows followed suit: Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and São Paulo.
So after a long lull, the first major auto show since the pandemic hit opened this weekend in Beijing, giving automakers a chance to showcase new models and big ideas for the future. Under the pulsating lights, executives and car fans admired new rides from big Western companies like Ford and Volkswagen, and from Chinese rivals. The gleaming sport utility vehicles, sedans and other cars were aimed at China’s consumers, who have emerged from Covid-19 lockdowns with a yearning to spend.
The automakers are chasing people like Ben Cao. Mr. Cao, a 33-year-old Shanghai consultant, and his wife bought a dark blue Porsche Panamera sedan in May to replace their Range Rover Sport, then bought a chalk gray Porsche Cayenne in July to replace their Audi TT Roadster. When cinemas reopened this summer with social distancing, they went to see Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and “Eight Hundred,” a Chinese war movie.
Women would be wise to learn how to navigate the new office politics, executive coaches say
Office politics hasn’t gone away just because a pandemic forces millions to work away from the office.
Even in a radically altered work environment of endless Zoom calls with children underfoot at home, women need to raise their visibility during virtual meetings, find ways to strengthen bonds with work allies and impress their higher-ups by exceeding expectations, according to executive coaches and leadership advisers.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. told thousands of office workers across its consumer unit they can plan to continue working remotely until next year, breaking with the firm’s Wall Street operations, which mandated that senior traders return to work.
The directive, which was communicated to staff in several memos Monday, applies to most U.S.-based employees in the consumer unit who have been working remotely to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. It excludes branch workers and some in operations, according to a person briefed on the staffing plans. The consumer and community banking unit, which operates primarily in the U.S., has 122,089 employees, the most of any of the firm’s divisions.
“Generally, anyone working remotely today will continue to do so through the end of the year, assuming we can maintain productivity levels,” according to one of the memos, which was seen by Bloomberg. “Our overall productivity levels have remained high. That’s remarkable and something that should make us all proud.”
Meeting up with holographic versions of distant colleagues is a great change from flat, boring video calls
Sometimes, when I’m sick of being boxed in on the video-chat checkerboard, I slip into my 3-D holographic self and wander, like a floating digital ghost, in search of colleagues.
Sometimes we meet in a virtual conference room overlooking the mountains. Sometimes we just chat in an elevator to nowhere. .
Sure, I’m physically in my tiny basement…
6. L.A. Comic Con is moving forward with a limited-capacity, in-person convention | Los Angeles Times
L.A. Comic Con is moving forward with its plan to hold an in-person convention in December at the L.A. Convention Center. It will be one of the first pop culture events of its size and caliber to be held in the region amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The event’s organizers explained in a Sunday announcement on the L.A. Comic Con website that they have been working with the convention center and taking guidance from state and local officials to plan an event they think will “be both safe and fun” for attendees and exhibitors.
“SAFETY IS OUR #1 PRIORITY,” read the announcement. “If at any time LA County Health or the Mayor’s Office determine we can’t have a safe show, we’ll postpone and reschedule. And all tickets bought will have a 100% ROLL-OVER/REFUND GUARANTEE.”
While other massive pop culture conventions such as San Diego Comic-Conhad shifted to a virtual format, L.A. Comic Con announced in July that it would push its September event back to Dec. 11-13. Tickets will be available Tuesday.
SoftBank has been quite bullish on Bear Robotics this year, beginning with leadership in a $32 million Series A back in January. It’s easy to see why the investment firm believes that this is the breakthrough moment for the Bay Area-based startup, as the COVID-19 pandemic has led to economic and labor issues around the world — not to mention all of the mandatory social distancing.
Labor has, of course, been an issue in Japan for some time, courtesy of a shrinking population, low birthrate and a confluence of other issues. The ongoing global pandemic, meanwhile, hasn’t done much to move the needle in the right direction. This week, SoftBank detailed plans to bring Bear’s Servi robot to the country in an effort to address restaurant labor issues.
Priced at $950 a month, as part of a three-year lease plan, the robot is set to arrive in Japan in January. The robot is a mobile serving station designed to replace or augment wait staff in a restaurant. Each unit is capable of holding two serving trays and a bin for bussing dishes after serving.
8. Amsterdam and Helsinki launch algorithm registries to bring transparency to public deployments of AI | Venture Beat
Amsterdam and Helsinki today launched AI registries to detail how each city government uses algorithms to deliver services, some of the first major cities in the world to do so. An AI Register for each city was introduced in beta today as part of the Next Generation Internet Policy Summit, organized in part by the European Commission and the city of Amsterdam.
The Amsterdam registry currently features a handful of algorithms, but it will be extended to include all algorithms following the collection of feedback at the virtual conference to lay out a European vision of the future of the internet, according to a city official.
Each algorithm cited in the registry lists datasets used to train a model, a description of how an algorithm is used, how humans utilize the prediction, and how algorithms were assessed for potential bias or risks.
The registry also provides citizens a way to give feedback on algorithms their local government uses and the name, city department, and contact information for the person responsible for the responsible deployment of a particular algorithm. A complete algorithmic registry can empower citizens and give them a way to evaluate, examine, or question governments’ applications of AI.
9. Cogniac raises $10 million for AI that spots visual changes for industrial and government uses | Venture Beat
Cogniac, a startup developing technology for visual task automation, today raised $10 million. CEO Chuck Myers says the funds will be put toward hiring staff, expanding sales and marketing, and supporting the company’s growth.
Tasks in manufacturing, one of Cogniac’s key markets, can be error-prone when humans are in the loop. A study from Vanson Bourne found that 23% of all unplanned downtime in manufacturing is the result of human error, compared with rates as low as 9% in other segments. The $327.6 million Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft was destroyed because of a failure to properly convert between units of measurement. And one pharma company reported a misunderstanding that resulted in an alert ticket being overridden, which cost four days on the production line at £200,000 ($253,946) per day.
Cogniac’s AI platform has customers connect machine vision cameras, security cameras, drones, smartphones, and other sources and define objects and conditions of interest to them. They might specify surface damage and supply chain quality control inspections, for example, or accident prevention and real-time physical threat detection. Cogniac then monitors and improves classification, identification, counting, and measuring through a feedback system while integrating with third-party apps to deliver alerts and notifications.
Many U.S. commercial properties have lost 25 percent or more of their value as the impact of the coronavirus has taken its toll on hotels, malls and other nonresidential buildings.
The Financial Times (FT) reported the evidence of the losses can be seen in the commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) market from appraisals. As a result, it raises questions over the value of these properties as collateral backing commercial mortgages.
Wells Fargo reported the properties at risk have lost an average of 27 percent of their value. Typically, new appraisals are ordered when a commercial property owner falls behind in mortgage payments.
“It’s a big number,” Lea Overby, an analyst at Wells Fargo, told FT. “This is material.”
Hotels have been especially hard hit as travel has diminished amid COVID-19 shutdowns, with many operators reporting single-digit occupancy rates.