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Archivos mensuales:octubre 2018

China’s Youon expands into Europe as other bike startups backpedal worldwide

A little known Chinese bike company is riding into Europe as its peer Ofo has applied the brakes to its global expansion strategy in recent months.

Youon, which gets by manufacturing public bikes for city governments across China, has formed a joint venture with UK-based bike-sharing startup Cycle.land, it says in a statement. The deal allows the Chinese firm to sit back in its headquarters in eastern China while its British partner deploys its bikes and takes care of on-the-ground operation.

Youon’s fleet of 1,000 public bikes will start appearing in London next March, making the UK the fourth country in its international expansion after Russia, India, and Malaysia.

Youon’s name may not ring a bell, but its subsidiary Hellobike is increasingly turning heads as its dockless bikes win over users in China’s smaller cities where its larger rivals Ofo and Mobike lack a presence. This is in part thanks to Hellobike’s partnership with its investor Ant Financial, Alibaba’s financial affiliate, which lets users skip Hellobike’s standalone app and access the service on Ant’s Alipay wallet, which has over 500 million MAUs.

While Hellobike’s mobile penetration recorded a 20 percent month-over-month increase (link in Chinese) in September, Mobike and Ofo barely saw any growth in the same period, according to data service provider Jiguang.

Away from home, Youon’s partnership approach is also noticeably different from that of Mobike and Ofo, which have chosen to run their own overseas operation. Teaming up with local players gives Youon insight into customers abroad, suggests market research firm Analysys.

“User behavior in Europe and North America is very different and it will be reckless for a [Chinese] firm to abruptly set up its own operations overseas,” Sun Naiyue, an analyst at Analysys, tells TechCrunch.

China’s Youon partnered with peer-to-peer bike-sharing startup Cycle.land to expand to the UK [Image via Youon]

Having a local ally also helps Youon avoid government protectionism and regulatory meddling in the foreign market, Sun adds. London has already greenlighted the company to place bikes in the city and the company will “follow local demand and rules to deploy bikes accordingly,” Cycle.land says of its partner.

Contrasting the prospects of Youon’s latest push is the bleak outlook of its peer. The past few months have seen Ofo retreat from its overseas markets to prioritize profitability. To date, Ofo has shut down in Australia, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Israel, and scaled back operation in a host of other countries.

Source: TechCrunch

Ballet-inspired Nutcracker and the Four Realms isn't quite on point – CNET

Kiera Knightley shines in this undemanding fairy tale.
Source: CNET

You can win* Batman, The Joker and Harley Quinn collectibles for Halloween – CNET

We partnered with DC Entertainment to give away a set of Batman figurines to commemorate All Hallows’ Eve. This giveaway ends Nov. 5, 2018.
Source: CNET

Supreme court appears divided on Google settlement that gave to charities – CNET

The case focused on user privacy, but users didn’t get any money in the deal.
Source: CNET

Tarform debuted new e-motorcycles but is there a U.S. market?

With more failures in the electric motorcycle industry than going concerns and a contracting American motorcycle market, now would seem to be an odd time to launch a new bike into the EV arena. But Tarform, a new startup that unveiled its first vehicle last month in Brooklyn, is undeterred.

That’s despite the fact that the company will likely face an uphill ride selling its high-end, higher priced e-motos.

The EV upstart recently pulled the cover off its first e-motorcycles—prototype Café and Scrambler models at Brooklyn’s NewLab.

The 295 and 320 pound machines bring 7 kilowatt-hour (KwH) Lithium-ION batteries, 43 horsepower, a top speed of 93 miles per hour, and 92 mile city riding ranges.

With the debut, the New York and Stockholm based startup now moves into testing phase and taking orders for its first production electric two-wheelers, expected to manufacture by late 2019.

Before getting back to the sobering EV topic of achieving scale and profitability, Tarform is committed to bringing a fresh design aesthetic to the motorcycle world.

The startup’s stated mission is “to set a new standard for two-wheeled transport by developing fully electric, zero-emission premium motorcycles, using sustainable materials and smart connectivity.”

For its prototype debut, the company did more than source parts and slap batteries into motorcycle frames.

Launching Tarform Motorcycles

“In order to distill the form to only the essentials, we were challenged to redesign every component,” said CEO and founder Taras Kravtchouk—an industrial design specialist, former startup head, and passionate motorcyclist.

From the swingarm to the pegs, speedo, fairing and handlebars—the company custom engineered a large portion of the Café and Scrambler prototype parts. Each also has a custom sound produced by a transducer inside the tank that matches a low pitch hum to motor revs.

A lot of the important stuff—such as the battery, suspension, and current power regulation system are sourced—but Tarform looks to shift toward more proprietary features, including a digital power delivery system with AI functions.

 “Were talking to a company in Sweden to do a custom vehicle control unit to integrate Bluetooth connectivity [and ultrasonic proximity sensors],” Kravtchouk told TechCrunch.

“You’ll be able to sync your ride to an app…and get inputs on your riding behavior…to become a better rider.”

Tarform will offer two variants of its production motorcycles. Version one will be a 9kWh, 53 horsepower, 350 pound two-wheeler with a 95 mile per hour top speed and 129 mile range.

A larger 13.5 kWh battery, 80 horsepower, 395 pound model will be good for 168 miles.

Charging time will be 3.5 hours to 80 percent and 8 hours to full power using a standard electrical outlet. A fast-charger option will get the bikes to 80 percent in less than an hour.

The starting price to pre-order one of Tarform’s first production motorcycles is $18,000.

That compares to $8K for an entry level FX from Zero—America’s highest selling e-motorcycle manufacturer—and $24K for an Eva EsseEsse9 from Energica, a high-performance Italian EV startup with a U.S. sales network.

As for market positioning, Tarform aims to attract buyers by hitting that optimum balance of performance and design, according to Kravtchouk.

On power and range, “the question is how much we compromise the design [for a bigger battery], without making the bikes look fat and ugly. We’re trying to find a compromise,” he said.

Some people may want to have “a bike that looks sweet” with a slightly shorter ride distance, versus “a bike that goes further with a big battery jammed into it,” he said.

And that pivots to the business side of the equation for Tarform as an EV startup. A core part of the company’s value proposition is to create motorcycles that recapture the imagination of young folks.

As we’ve covered here at TechCrunch, the U.S. motorcycle industry has been in the doldrums since the recession.

New U.S. sales dropped roughly 50 percent since 2008, with sharp declines in ownership by everyone under 40. Motorcycle manufacturers are now largely competing for an aging and shrinking American buying demographic.

Females are one of the only growing ownership segments. And per an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study, total motorcycles on the road actually increased from 2008 to 2017—though nearly 75 percent of registrations are for bikes over seven years old.

So some Americans are buying motorcycles—but often not new ones—and the industry is (by and large) not connecting with 20 and 30 somethings.

Tarform believes e-motos (theirs in particular) can bring at least some segment of a more tech and design savvy younger generation back to motorcycles.

Of course, they’re not the only ones, and as mentioned, there have already been several flops in the U.S. market. Electric motorcycle startups Brammoand Mission Motors already tried and failed. And per TechCrunch’s recent reporting, California based Alta Motors—that had $45 million in VC—ceased operations two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Energica and Zero Motorcycles have revved up U.S. promotion, distribution and sales.  The two have extensive R&D facilities and roughly $90 million in VC among them.

Then there’s Harley Davidson’s full commitment to EVs. This year the company announced the debut of a production e-moto by 2019, an expanded electric line-up to follow, and the opening of a Silicon Valley research facility to support it all.

With their largely untested and higher priced product Tarform, faces a rough ride to compete with these companies in what is still a shrinking U.S. motorcycle market.

But going head to head with Harley or capturing existing market share from other e-moto startups isn’t necessarily Tarform’s strategy, according to CEO Kravtchouk.

“We’re not in the arms race. We’re not saying we’re faster than anyone else…We think our positioning is a little bit different,” he said.

“Since we started showing the design…so many people who are not motorcycle riders have come forward and said, ‘I want to ride that thing,” explained Tarform’s CEO.

“So maybe our demographic is not existing motorcycle riders, but people who wished they were motorcycle riders. That’s what industry, gas or EV, has had such a hard time capturing.”

Over the next year Tarform will look to see “how the market responds” to its first offering before raising a round.

“Before getting big funding we want to show we’re able to build this in a small garage in Brooklyn. Then the startup will “want to partner up with major manufacturers to take it to the next level,” said Kravtchouk.

Source: TechCrunch

Glamour Duck and the Internet's Rabid Love of Wild Animals

Every once in a while, the internet has a good day. Usually it’s because a cute animal is acting strange.
Source: Wired

Mercedes' new AMG GT 63 S sets a lap record at the Nurburgring – Roadshow

The big bruiser clinched the record for fastest four-seat series production car around the Nordschleife.
Source: CNET

How to watch Nintendo's Smash Bros. Ultimate livestream – CNET

Nintendo has promised 40 minutes of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate info as the game’s December release approaches.
Source: CNET

Josh Whitehouse joins Naomi Watts as Game of Thrones prequel star – CNET

The HBO prequel will feature Watts as a socialite with a secret, with Whitehouse in a key role. Also, did George R.R. Martin just confirm the show’s title?
Source: CNET

Social Capital’s Chamath Palihapitiya says ‘we need to return to the roots of venture investing’

In the first of many annual letters Chamath Palihapitiya will be penning as part of his firm’s new era as a technology holding company, the founder of Social Capital criticized the venture capital industry.

After highlighting the latest trends within VC — i.e. SoftBank’s Vision Fund, private equity activity in VC deals and inflated valuations — Palihapitiya divulged the asset class’s biggest problems. A copious amount of capital is flowing through the industry and VCs have an insatiable appetite for “unicorn status.” As a result, investors are paying more and more for equity in startups at all stages, hurting both startup employees and limited partners, who ultimately have to foot the bill.

“The dynamics we’ve entered is, in many ways, creating a dangerous, high stakes Ponzi scheme,” Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive, wrote. “Highly marked up valuations, which should be a cost for VCs, have in fact become their key revenue driver. It lets them raise new funds and keep drawing fees.”

LPs and startup employees are suffering as a result of VC greed. Why? According to Palihapitiya, LPs are seeing delayed returns and startup employees are being offered stock options at inflated prices to match a company’s sky-high valuation.

“VCs bid up and mark up each other’s portfolio company valuations today, justifying high prices by pointing to today’s user growth and tomorrow’s network effects. Those companies then go spend that money on even more user growth, often in zero-sum competition with one another. Today’s limited partners are fine with the exercise in the short run, as it gives them the markups and projected returns that they need to keep their own bosses happy.”

“Ultimately, the bill gets handed to current and future LPs (many years down the road), and startup employees (who lack the means to do anything about the problem other than leave for a new company, and acquire a ‘portfolio’ of options.)”

Social Capital has had a rough go of it lately. The firm made the call to stop accepting outside capital about a month ago, with plans to invest off a “multi-billion dollar balance sheet of internal capital only.” That decision followed a string of high-profile exits that cemented the supposition that Social Capital, as we’ve known it, was over.

In his new role as a leader of a tech holding company, not a VC firm, Palihapitiya claims to have the solution to the aforementioned problem plaguing the venture and startup industry: “Return to the roots of venture investing.”

“The real expense in a startup shouldn’t be their bill from Big Tech but, rather, the cost of real innovation and R&D,” he said. “The second is to break away from the multilevel marketing scheme that the VC-LP-user growth game has become. At Social Capital, we did this by actively shifting away from funds and LPs to rely only on our own permanent capital moving forward.”

“Are we crazy to reject tens of millions of dollars a year in fees? We think not, and we believe it’s time to wait patiently as the air is slowly let out of this bizarre Ponzi balloon created by the venture capital industry.”

You can read the full letter here.

Source: TechCrunch