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Steve Wozniak Launches Privateer

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Space is a mess, ya’ll. In 2019, NASA described low Earth orbit (LEO) as “the world’s largest garbage dump” with nearly 6,000 tons of waste just floating around. Remember that moment in WALL-E? It’s nearly that bad. That’s why Steve Wozniak is launching Privateer. He wants to clean that mess up. 

A Private space company is starting up, unlike the others.” Wozniak tweeted in a cryptic wink. Co-founded by longtime collaborator, Alex Fielding, Privateer doesn’t have a whole lot of details listed as of now. We will have to wait until the AMOS tech conference in Maui begins today. 

While Privateer is operating in stealth mode for the moment, we do have a clue that its focus will be cleaning up space debris. This press release from August describes Privateer as “a new satellite company focused on monitoring and cleaning up objects in space.” 

What Is Space Debris?

Space debris, or “space junk,” is artificial material orbiting Earth that is no longer functional. Satellites, launch material, even microscopic paint chips all qualify as space debris. Aside from creating unnecessary clutter, it’s also highly dangerous. 

These materials are hurdling at incredibly high speeds and can cause serious damage to other satellites, debris, even astronauts and space stations. There was even an incident on ISS where something tiny, either a paint chip or piece of metal, cracked a window. 

This is also known as “Kessler syndrome” or the plot to Gravity

NASA and other space programs are monitoring space debris as best they can. Debris as small as 1 centimeter can be tracked. Unfortunately, most debris remains unobserved. Despite our mediocre efforts.

What Are We Doing About It?

Right now, very little. There is mostly a lot of discussion and hemming and hawing about taking care of space debris. Many would argue that we have more important problems to deal with. And we do. But just because there are higher priorities doesn’t mean space debris should be ignored. 

Aside from monitoring space debris, there have been efforts from space “street sweepers” to laser blasts. All are feasible, but none have gone into practice. They’re all being discussed, planned, and funded. But that’s only step one. 

Wozniak’s Privateer could very well be the next major space company to make a difference.

This Is Not A Race

Unlike the “billionaire space race,” Privateer will have a beneficial result aside from stroking billionaire egos. In recent months, we’ve witnessed Bezos launch from a penis-shaped rocket, Branson scraping the skies, and Musk striking government deals and actively planning a trip to Mars

Privateer’s YouTube video has a narration that appears to shoot down any inkling of competition with the three space-faring billionaires. 

Together we will go far. We will take care of each other, we will solve problems together. This isn’t a race, it isn’t a competition or a game. It is up to us to work together to do what is right and what is good. So, here’s to taking care of what we have, so that the next generation can be better together.” 

While it does sound just vaguely optimistic enough to clearly be a corporate video, it doesn’t sound like it’s trying to inject itself in these seemingly pointless exercises in wealth. Funny enough, by not throwing the gauntlet down, Wozniak’s Privateer is throwing the gauntlet down. 

Frankly, we’re probably better off with this kind of goal from a Silicon Valley legend as opposed to the former. We need more space missions with purpose, like Privateer, not publicity stunts. 

Clean Up, Clean Up! Everybody Everywhere!

While “space tourism” is what most of these billionaires are promoting, Privateer aims to make a difference. Of course, we need to wait until more details are released at AMOS. If that press release is correct, then we will be witnessing a major clean-up effort in space. 

This world and its skies are an absolute mess. Let’s get cleaning, folks. Privateer will be.

Chris Blondell is a Philadelphia-based writer and social media strategist with a current focus on tech industry news. He has written about startups and entrepreneurs based in Denver, Seattle, Chicago, New Haven, and more. He has also written content for a true-crime blog, Sword and Scale, and developed social media content for a local spice shop. An occasional comedian, Chris Blondell also spends his time writing humorous content and performing stand-up for local audiences.

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Kuda Raises $55 Million Series B Funding Quicker Than Most Startups

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One of the most promising industries to launch a startup is in the digital banking or fintech sector. Untapped markets can become a goldmine for startups that aim to disrupt the banking infrastructure. And that’s what Kuda has experienced over the past couple of months. Read more about Kuda here and how they were able to raise millions for their Series B funding.

Kuda: An Overview

What sparked Babs Ogundeyi and Musty Mustapha to start Kuda? Excessive and inconsistent fees. Fueled to reduce that, they launched the fintech company to develop a savings app. Wanting to make banking easier and more accessible without any charges, the founders aim to change banking for Nigerians all over the world.

Series B Funding and Possible Kuda Expansion

Kuda raised $55M funding for Series B. For Kuda, this funding will be fundamental not only in the creation of new services on their savings app but also in launching it to Africans across the continent. Ogundeyi hopes that their app can become a widely used app for Africans globally. 

Expansion is vital for Ogundeyi and his team. He maintains that Nigeria is still a market crucial to their operations, but the funding will also go to expanding efforts.

Back in March 2021, Kuda raised $25M, all thanks to Valar Ventures. Back then, they had only 650K app users, but they doubled that number in August 2021, with registered users around 1.4 million.

This funding round is once again led by Valar Ventures. But Target Global and SBI have also played a role in helping the fintech startup raise $55 million. Target Global leader Ricardo Schäfer believes in the impact that Ogundeyi and Mustapha will have in Africa. But what excited him the most was the idea that 1 billion users would benefit from their app.

Faster Funding Rounds and Other Disruptors

It was surprising how quickly Kuda raised funding over the course of a few months, but it’s due to the current market conditions and the numbers presented to investors. A McKinsey report foresaw this growth, wherein digital financial services would become a major market. Plus, with inaccessibility, Kuda knew that they could change the way Africa could do digital banking.

Kuda isn’t the only fintech startup aiming to change the banking infrastructure in Africa. Other Fintechs changing the game are:

  • Airtel Africa
  • Chipper Cash
  • FairMoney

Meanwhile, here are the other fintech and banking companies also competing to stand out in the market:

  • Revolut and N26 (Europe)
  • WeBank (China)
  • Varo and Chime (U.S.)
  • Nubank (Brazil)

However, what makes Kuda stand out from the others is they have a banking license. With this in mind, they can develop services on their own. This will also help them create and develop other products and services and build credibility more than their competitors.

The Future of Kuda

Ogudenyi aims to launch their app to other African countries but won’t say where they’ll launch it. However, Kuda has an ongoing credit service (through an overdraft allowance) that proves the fintech startup is growing and moving forward.

He says that they do a pre-qualification screening for those who can receive credit. In the 2nd quarter of 2021, over 200,000 users were eligible. They gave over $200M in credit. And to ensure they remain with their purpose of creating their app, they do an allocation of overdraft proportion. It’s based on user activities, and they won’t overpay.

Due to Kuda’s promising mission towards banking in Africa, Valar Ventures seems eager to fund the fintech startup once more in the future. Andrew McCormack, a general partner of the investment firm, says that growth and population acceptance towards digital banking are factors in continuing their support.

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Sam Adams Is Brewing Space Beer

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SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission was a raving success with the safety of the amateur astronauts confirmed when they touched down this past weekend. The first all-civilian space flight was historic in and of itself, but they did more than just visit. The four civilians also performed scientific experiments, made art, and brought up to 66 pounds of hops. Sam Adams is going to brew that into our very first “space beer.” 

That’s right, space beer. While we’re probably a way off from a space brewery, we’re definitely heading there with hops having visited space. If you’re wondering what they did with the hops in space, you’re not alone.

Far as we can tell, these hops simply made a trip farther into the heavens than any other hops before them. One might imagine a brewer saying, “one small hop for man, one giant hop for mankind.” 

No? Too lame? Anyway…

Booze. In. Spaaace. 

Sam Adams has been in the news lately with their Utopias beer being so strong it’s illegal in 15 states. While we don’t know the strength of this future “space beer” just yet, one University of Colorado research project suggests that beer brewed in space is higher in alcohol than those brewed on Earth. 

This is not the first alcoholic experiment in the heavens. In 1994, Coors participated in a test fermentation in space. In 2006, Sapporo produced a $110 six-pack using barley seeds that made a trip to space. In 2019, Anheuser-Busch sent several barley samples to the International Space Station to determine the effects of microgravity on barley seeds. Also in 2019, 12 bottles of Bordeaux were sent into space, giving them a value of $1 million per bottle. 

Turns out, if we travel somewhere, we want to know if we can get drunk. Take a look at Everest. If we trek, we drink. 

It’s just human nature. 

Space Beer… For the Children

In order to secure the rights to these space hops, Sam Adams made a donation of $100,000 to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital as part of the overall theme to Inspiration4’s mission. Isaacman, the mission leader of Inspiration4, is aiming to raise $200 million for St. Jude’s. Elon Musk has personally pledged $50 million to the hospital. 

By tossing some money to a good cause, Sam Adams is able to secure the rights to brew the first space beer from the world’s first all-civilian space flight. If the motivation to brew space beer is “for the children,” then we’re all about it. 

When Can We Drink This Space Beer?

Sam Adams’ future space beer has yet to be named. All we know now is that it will be a traditional West Coast IPA and will be on sale later this fall. Sam Adams has stated that it is excited to brew with the out-of-this-world hops. 

And why shouldn’t they be? Anything with a “genuine” space label should be exciting to produce. While they’re not the first brewery to experiment with space booze, Sam Adams is the latest and therefore the hottest. With our attention spans lately, it pays to be a trending topic. 

Sam Adams isn’t the only thing to come from SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission. We have a lot to learn from this historic flight. While Sam Adams may be the most fun, there is plenty to look forward to in terms of scientific development. 

What is it that Sam Adams said? 

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom – go from us in peace.”

No, not that. The other thing. 

“This is Boston. Drink Accordingly.” 

No, that’s their current slogan. 

“America’s World Class Beer.” 

Nevermind. Call me when Sam Adams Space Beer is available.

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Scott Tong Shares Invaluable Product Design Insights and Culture for Startups

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Many startups are launching their businesses left and right, but some may not have a design plan in mind. This, in turn, could lead to challenges ahead for startups looking to stand out from the crowd. And it’s best that startups learn to value design and development. One such expert in the field is designer Scott Tong. He worked as the head designer for Pinterest and was the co-founder of IFTTT. Currently, he’s an advisor for Designer Fund. Here, we take a look at the advice he has shared for startups.

Scott Tong: Early Stage 2021 Tidbits

TechCrunch held their TC: Early Stage 2021: Marketing and Fundraising Bootcamp for early-stage startup founders from July 8 to 9, 2021. One of their guest speakers was Scott Tong. 

He spoke with Jordan Crook from TechCrunch to discuss early-stage design and its long-term impact on the startup. Plus, he even reveals how to find the right people for product design work. He disclosed two important points on what entrepreneurs should think about when it comes to design: reputation and existing vs. preferred.

For Tong, he considers a brand as the reputation of a company. Here, he examines the following ideas:

  • First impression
  • Repeated long-term behaviors
  • Unique and memorable moments

And the other point he brought up in Early Stage 2021 is “existing vs. preferred.” This means scrutinizing design and understanding how it matters in your company.

User: The Driving Force of a Product

Scott Tong is no stranger to TechCrunch. In his article for Techcrunch around four years ago, he emphasizes that when developing or creating a product, the one thing that matters is the user. He urges startups to ask the question, “what is right for the user?” than “who is right.”

In the article, he branched out three concepts that have value when it comes to developing a product. And finding the best people to understand your users.

The first of his points is about understanding and driving T-shaped people. It’s when you have someone well-versed in their field while collaborating with another person from another field. The best ones are curious, empathetic, and humble.

His second point deals with T-shaped people and user-centered thinking coming together. Your T-shaped people should always have the question of how to solve problems for users. And these T-shaped people will know that they can’t satisfy all of your user’s needs but identify the best solutions for your users.

Lastly, your startup should always know how to craft high-quality decisions. But what counts as one? He lists down what makes a decision, high-quality:

  • User-centric
  • Timely
  • Calculated
  • Communicated
  • Humble
  • Shared
  • Monitored
  • Considered
  • Balanced

Other Speaking Engagements

Early Stage 2021 wasn’t the only time Scott Tong shared his design insights and experiences as a founder. The Designer Fund advisor was a guest in the Startup Grind. In this event, he talked about being a designer for IDEO and Pinterest. At the same time, as a founder, he also touches on the subject of culture. 

He gives his advice for entrepreneurs who have lost their sense of purpose. He says to get in touch with values. Plus, he’s aware that disagreements are ever-present in any business setting. And to reduce friction, trust is key, and understand your team.

One other podcast tapped the ex-Pinterest Head of Design to discuss Design Entrepreneurialism. In this podcast, he talks more about his journey as a designer and working in the new venture: IMO Ventures. 

And the one thing he emphasizes about design is culture, which he also wrote in his TechCrunch article. Here, he says that design is connected to messages, wherein it means one thing to the designer and another to its viewer. That’s one way startups may look when considering product design.

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