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Hardware News Thoughts #2 | VR Up and AR Down, Wheels Raise $37M for Mini-Bikes, CES Views From Startups, Dyson Moves To Singapore, China Craves Robots, and ABB, Ekso, Xiaomi News

HAX invests in 30 to 40 hardware startups every year (200 so far). We also keep an eye on the news, and have — possibly — an original take on them (we’ve seen thousands of hardware startups since we started over six years ago).

As an experiment, here is the first installment of a commentary on news.

Please note that:

  1. These are only quick thoughts and comments, and not journalistic quality nor well-researched.
  2. For now, those are my own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of my colleagues, nor HAX at large.

Comments welcome!

Sandbox VR Raises $68M From Andreessen Horowitz

If AR is not ready for consumers, VR is. I have enjoyed my Oculus Go (and consider upgrading to a Rift for VR Chat and better experiences), but this is another level. I had tried Playdium VR arcade in Hong Kong, but it was still so-so. Not the type you would go back to. Now I’m actually keen to try Sandbox!

The story of their founding and funding is quite interesting (“a holodeck in every neighborhood”). Time will tell if this is worth what investors paid for it!

Meta AR Goes Bankrupt With $73M

Founded in 2012, Meta had raised $73 million. Its CEO said “AR promised too much too soon”. I have tried various devices and so AR seems confined to B2B due to usefulness and costs.

Mini-Bikes Rental Startup Wheels Gets $37M

The bankable Viner brothers, founders of dog-walking app Wag, seem to have found a market between kickboards and e-bikes.

CES: 10 Perspectives From Startups

Here is some of what our startups thought of CES 2019 and how to make the best of it.

Dyson Moves HQ to Singapore

Dyson — a proponent of Brexit — is relocating its HQ to Singapore, saying his suppliers and customers are there.

During our M&A Masterclass in November, the former CFO of data storage equipment maker Brocade mentioned that Broadcom — a U.S. company — relocated to Singapore for tax reasons (corporate tax there is only 17%). Maybe another motivation?

Industrial Robots Sales in China Hits Record

  • 387,000 industrial robots were sold worldwide in 2017
  • About 1/3 (141,000) went to China, up 30% from 2016
  • In China, about 2/3 of robots were articulated, and 26% were domestically manufactured (still growing, but down from 32% in 2016).
  • Robot density (per 10,000 employees) passed 100 for the first time in China.

Note that the U.S. robot density ranking is #7 at 189 and South Korea is #1 at 631. In 2013, China was at 25. In 2016 it was at 68. Now it’s 100 and is expected to reach 150 by 2020. With such growth rate, China will pass the USA in robot density in 2022.

Remember also that density is one thing, but absolute numbers is another. China will soon have more robots than US+Europe combined. It’s a government plan, an economic imperative (factory wages went up 2.5x in 10 years) and a matter of survival.

ABB To Build The World’s Most Advanced Robotics Factory in Shanghai

If you thought robots in China were low-tech, think again: the most advanced factory is being built in China by a foreign robot maker.

Apple: Why Making things In The U.S. Is Not Simple

A supply chain is not easy to build, and even less easy to move.

Voice is Spreading to the Smarthome

‘Interactive A.I.’ — with their own tech.

EKSO Bionics Exoskeletons Gets $100M for JV in Asia

Asia here is mostly China + around. Japan’s Cyberdyne has also gone public but is worth much more already (about $1 billion).

Xiaomi’s Toothbrush Partner Raised $44M

Huami, Xiaomi’s ‘Fitbit’ went public, and Segway-Ninebot is selling like hotcakes (thanks also to Lime, Bird, and others). Here is yet another product apparently growing fast. For the “mini-Mi”, IPO seem to be the main option since their fate is too tied to Xiaomi that an M&A would be very risky for any buyer.

As a side note, Xiaomi opened a new store on Champs Elysees in Paris. I was surprised to see new products including toys, some new kitchen appliances, and more. The selection keeps expanding!

— That’s all for now!

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Benjamin Joffe

Benjamin Joffe


Partner @ SOSV — Deep Tech VC w/ $1B AUM | Digital Naturalist | Keynote Speaker | Angel Investor | Mediocre chess player, worse at Jiu-jitsu