Google in India. Cyberdefender raises. Verily releases mosquitoes.
Faraday Future, an ambitious company which sought to build electric/autonomous vehicles and compete with Tesla, looks to be in real danger of collapse.
Its sole disclosed investor is Jia Yueting, the Chinese magnate behind troubled conglomerate Le Eco, which is now being pursued in Chinese and US courts by stiffed creditors and partners. We’ve been tracking Faraday’s turbulent history in our auto tech coverage.
This week as reports built of financial disarray and employees leaving Faraday in droves, the company announced the indefinite suspension of its planned $1B Nevada factory (see This Week in Data, below).
On its website, Faraday still boasts about its 1,400+ global employees and its leadership poached from other major car makers.
But unless it gets new backing it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to get beyond concept cars. And Nevada’s state treasurer has labeled it a “Ponzi scheme.” Our jobs data show its hiring has gone from over 200 open jobs earlier this year to just 30+ this month.
Despite the flashy executives, deep-pocketed Chinese angel, and brash talk of taking on Elon Musk, Faraday’s gee-whiz concept cars are turning into vaporware before our eyes.
P.S. For a look at the real state of electric vehicles, check out the slides and recording of our Electric Vehicles briefing in March from which the image above is taken.
This week in data:
$60,000: The amount troubled electric car maker Faraday Future spent on a staff lunch bill every month, according to audit numbers that were leaked to the press. Its initial auditor KPMG reportedly stepped away from the role late last year after finding the company’s finances in disarray. Not surprisingly, a review this week on Glassdoor notes that formerly free snacks and lunch at Faraday are “not available anymore.”
15: Every major region — Asia, Europe, and North America — saw at least one new unicorn joining the ranks of private companies valued at $1B or more last quarter, according to our Q2’17 MoneyTree report with PwC released this week. North America unicorn creation rate surged to its highest level since Q3’15, seeing 9 new unicorn births. In total, last quarter saw 15 new global unicorns emerge across Asia, Europe, and North America. Get the report.
4: The number of months that artificial intelligence startup Halli Labs, based in India, was in existence before its acquisition by Google this week. Halli, which is building deep learning and machine learning systems, is Google’s seventh acquisition of 2017 and its 13th AI-focused acquisition since 2012. For real-time updates, check out our Google Acquisition tracker.
1,099: The price, in yuan, of a special KFC-branded edition of the Huawei “Enjoy 7 Plus” Android smartphone (equating to around $162 USD). Issued in honor of KFC’s 30th anniversary in China, consumers can buy the devices from retailer Tmall for a limited time, since Huawei and KFC released just 5,000 branded phones. Each one comes with 100,000 bonus K dollars — the restaurant’s digital currency — and with Colonel Sanders’ face embossed on the back.
$1.2B: The individual valuation of both FanDuel and DraftKings when they first proposed a “merger of equals” in late 2016. Faced with an almost-certain antitrust block, the two fantasy sports outfits terminated their merger plans this week and will go back to competing for market share. The terminated agreement also cancels the companies’ plans to pool their resources toward fighting regulatory battles in states where fantasy sports betting is illegal, leaving the sector’s future still uncertain.
$75M: Darktrace, a behavioral analytics & anomaly detection cybersecurity startup, raised $75M in Series D funding this week — its highest disclosed funding round to-date. Investors in the round included Insight Venture Partners and Ten Eleven Ventures. The company was one of the 30 companies featured in our 2017 Cyber Defenders Report, which looks at cybersecurity trends to watch and high-momentum startups with the potential to shape the future of digital resistance.
$100M: The amount that Toyota AI Ventures – Toyota’s first venture capital effort – will deploy into early-stage investments in artificial intelligence, autonomous mobility, robotics, data, and cloud. The new venture arm represents Toyota’s first foray into investments beyond the automotive industry; its latest deal was a second $8M tranche of a Series A round earlier this week to Intuition Robotics, which is developing a robotic personal assistant/companion for older adults. We dig into the history of corporate venture investing, including the moves of automotive giant GM, in our History of CVC report.
20 million: This week, Verily — one of Google’s subsidiaries dedicated to life sciences research — began releasing bacteria-infected male mosquitos in Fresno, California in hopes of spreading the bacteria to reduce mosquito populations. As part of a study, the subsidiary plans to release 1 million of these creatures every week for 20 weeks to target Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, known for spreading Zika, dengue, and chikungunya. Verily claims that “when these sterile males mate with wild females the resulting eggs will not hatch.” We dive into Verily’s activity in our Google Strategy Teardown, which you can see here.
79: The number of days SoundCloud can afford to stay alive, according to a report yesterday from TechCrunch. Sources at SoundCloud told the publication that the music-streaming service’s layoff of 173 employees last week only bought the team enough runway to make it “until Q4.” SoundCloud has raised almost $300M in aggregate, but more than a third of its funding ($105M) was debt from lenders. SoundCloud was valued at $700M following its last equity raise. The company states that it “isn’t going anywhere.”
36.6%: The percentage stake Uber will hold in the new company created through its merger deal with Yandex, formerly its biggest rival in the Russian ride-hailing market. The deal represents Uber essentially ceding its Russian business to Yandex: Uber will invest $225M for its share, and Yandex will invest $100M and own a 59.3% stake in the new entity (with the remaining 4.1% held by employees). Uber previously engaged in a similar deal with Didi Chuxing in Q3’16, but secured just a 17.7% stake in the merged entity covering the China market. The Yandex deal is Uber’s first M&A or acquisition of 2017, according to our database.
300,000: The number of umbrellas lost by China-based umbrella-sharing startup E Umbrella. Approximately $1.47M was invested into the startup (which operates across 11 Chinese cities). In order to access an umbrella, a user receives a code via an app to unlock the item from a stand; however, the startup allegedly has not provided enough information on how to successfully return the item after use. It costs approximately $9 to replace each umbrella, but despite losses, founder Zhao Shuping says he plans to add 30 million more to the service.
43%: The YoY percentage growth in active users of the Roku TV streaming device, which just hit 15 million monthly active accounts. Roku announced the milestone Wednesday, a day before the Wall Street Journal reported that the company is weighing an IPO at up to a $1B valuation. Only six consumer electronics companies have gone public since the start of 2012, including FitBit and GoPro – both of which have seen huge declines in their stock price since IPO. Roku has raised almost $200M since 2008 and counts a number of corporates among its existing investors, including Netflix, DISH Network Corp., Hearst Ventures, Viacom, and News Corp.