Faraday Future seeks to raise capital after massive Q2 loss

Faraday Future, maker of the long-delayed FF91 EV, re-upped its commitment to raising funds while reporting Tuesday that its second-quarter operating losses more than quadrupled.

The company posted an operating loss of $137 million for the second quarter compared with $28 million for the year-ago period. Overall, its second-quarter financial report paints a grim picture.

With still no vehicle to sell and little near-term prospect for generating revenue, the company has warned several times this year that it is running out of money.

The perennially cash-strapped company now has even less cash on hand, reporting roughly $121 million at the end of the second quarter versus the $505 million it reported at the beginning of the year.

Faraday said in a statement that it “projects that it will require additional funds by early September 2022 in order to continue operations and will also need to raise additional financing during the remainder of 2022 and beyond 2022 to support the ramp-up of production of the FF 91 to generate revenues to put the Company on a path to cash flow break-even.”

Lack of funding has been just one of the impediments that have delayed the launch of the beleaguered automaker’s first vehicle. Faraday’s future has been in jeopardy repeatedly since its founding in 2014, but the company has been tenacious in its vision and launched as a public company in July 2021 through a SPAC merger with Property Solutions Acquisition Group.

During the second quarter, the company removed founder and former CEO Yueting Jia as an executive officer, began proceedings to force the former Lieutenant Governor of Nevada from its board, and fell under the scrutiny of the U.S. Department of Justice, stemming from an SEC probe into whether Faraday misled investors.

It also narrowly avoided being delisted from Nasdaq by filing its overdue 2021 annual report and 2022 first-quarter financial results in May. That Faraday filed its second-quarter results should encourage investors.

“Importantly, we also became current with our financial statements and regained compliance with NASDAQ listing requirements,” CEO Carsten Breitfeld said in a statement Tuesday. “Fundraising efforts are underway, and we currently expect to deliver the FF 91 to customers in the third or fourth quarter of 2022.”

The company said it had 399 “fully refundable, non-binding, paid deposits” for the FF91 as of June 30. The new start of production and first deliveries of the FF91 have been pushed to the third or fourth quarter of 2022.

Despite the tumult, Faraday has big plans for the future, including a target to open a factory in China mid-decade to build two more models: an FF 81 sedan and FF 71 smart last-mile delivery vehicle.

…read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/faraday-future-seeks-to-raise-capital-after-massive-q2-loss/

Getting power from poop, with Levidian’s Loop

The U.K. water processing industry produces a godawful amount of biogas annually. The gasses are primarily used to generate operational heat and power on-site, or they can be turned into biomethane and injected back into the national gas grid. New research funding is going to see if United Utilities can use Levidian’s Loop system to turn these waste gases into carbon-negative hydrogen (which can be easily stored for later use) along with graphene, which has a number of interesting use cases, including medicine, electronics and energy.

“This is an exciting project that will lead the way to utilize Loop to decarbonize biogas at scale,” comments Levidian CEO John Hartley. “The consortium has a vast amount of knowledge and experience, which we are leveraging to produce carbon-negative hydrogen — there is no better goal to be working on right now.”

The U.K. government’s Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy has awarded the project around $250,000 (£212,000, to be exact) through the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio for the first phase of a project. The hope is that the project will turn out to be commercially viable as well as an environmental win.

The phase one feasibility study will allow the consortium to assess the performance of various biogas samples in a small-scale Loop system located at the Levidian Technology Centre in Cambridge. Although the primary goal of the work is to produce hydrogen, the Levidian Loop doubles as a carbon capture technology. The carbon extracted from the biogas is locked permanently into high-quality graphene, which can then go on to decarbonize a wide variety of other products.

The company claims that the hydrogen produced by Loop will be carbon negative — if the system is powered by renewable electricity, that is.

Founded in 2012, Levidian is a British climate-tech business whose Loop technology cracks methane into hydrogen and carbon, locking the carbon into high-quality green graphene. The device uses a low-temperature, low-pressure process to crack methane into its constituent atoms, hydrogen and carbon, without needing catalysts or additives.

…read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/levidian-loop/

Walmart’s last-mile delivery service, Walmart GoLocal, tops 1M deliveries in year one

Walmart’s last-mile delivery service business, Walmart GoLocal, has topped 1 million deliveries in its first year, the retailer today revealed. The company offered a brief update on the state of its newer delivery business during its Q2 earnings call on Tuesday, where it noted that GoLocal had been growing its support of local merchants’ delivery operations and was also now on track to reach 5,000 pickup locations by the end of the year.

Announced in August 2021, GoLocal is Walmart’s attempt to leverage its own delivery platform to service the needs of other merchants, both large and small. Merchants can use the service for a variety of deliveries, including scheduled and unscheduled deliveries, and even same-day. The service itself is powered by those Walmart had developed for its own delivery needs, including its in-house Express Delivery service, which promises delivery in two hours or less. GoLocal deliveries, however, aren’t handled by Walmart’s own staff but rather gig workers sourced through Walmart’s Spark Driver program — the same program that supports Walmart’s same-day delivery operations.

Over time, the retail giant aims to grow GoLocal into a larger business as more merchants shift to e-commerce. It’s also one of multiple initiatives underway designed to help Walmart generate additional revenue by meeting the needs of other retailers. Last year, for instance, Walmart announced it would sell its own e-commerce technologies to other retailers.

“We continue to sign up larger-scale customers, and we’re making strides on the bigger unlock, which are small and medium-sized businesses,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told investors, speaking about GoLocal’s growth. “Our technology and expertise will help so many of these businesses grow while contributing to our operating margins over time,” he said.

Little more was shared about the operation, like its contributions to Walmart’s bottom line, for example. But the exec did say the service was receiving “strong” client satisfaction scores and was continuing to sign up larger-scale businesses.

The update follows recent news that Walmart entered into a deal with EV startup Canoo to buy 4,500 all-electric delivery vehicles to help it deliver online orders initially in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as well as help serve the retailer’s GoLocal delivery service business, it said at the time. In addition to helping Walmart achieve its own business goals, the deal also helped the retailer from a competitive standpoint as it could stop Canoo from selling its electric vans to Walmart rival Amazon. 

Walmart beat analysts’ expectations in its fiscal second quarter, driving shares up by over 5%. Driven by demand for groceries and other daily essentials as well as higher prices due to inflation and support from higher-income shoppers, Walmart pulled in $152.86 billion in revenue versus the $150.81 billion Wall Street had forecast.

Earnings per share were $1.77 versus $1.62 expected. Net income also grew to $5.15 billion, up from $4.28 billion in the year-ago quarter.

India shipping logistics giant Shipyaari exposed customer data

Shipyaari, a Mumbai-based software company that offers shipping logistics to major consumer brands, exposed the personal data of thousands of its customers because of a months-long spill of its internal shipment information.

The exposed data, discovered by security researcher Ashutosh Barot, included Shipyaari customers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, order invoice amounts and delivery status. According to Barot, Shipyaari’s client tracking page was not password protected and could be viewed by anyone who had the web address.

“The exposed information could later be used to perform targeted social engineering attacks and financial frauds,” Barot told TechCrunch.

The researcher initially contacted Shipyaari about the exposure in October 2021 and the company promised a fix in December. Some changes were made, but did not fix the exposure. It was eventually fixed in late-July after TechCrunch reached out about the security incident.

“I appreciate Shipyaari for fixing the issue and implementing recommendations,” Barot said.

Shipyaari fixed the exposure by removing customers’ personally identifiable information (PII) from the tracking page and restricted its access with a one-time PIN (OTP) system. It later updated the system to limit bad actors from launching automated attacks.

“Data privacy is of utmost importance to us, and we will ensure such instances should not occur in the future,” Vishal Totla, founder of Shipyaari, said in an email response to TechCrunch.

Totla said customer PII data will no longer display on the page while loading.

Shipyaari claims to handle more than 5,000 shipments a day. The company also has over 6,000 active sellers across the country.

Barot underlined that India needed strong data privacy laws to help limit growing instances of data exposures and leaks.

Earlier this month, the Indian government withdrew the long-anticipated Personal Data Protection Bill that was promoted to bring stringent rules to help protect its citizens’ privacy. The legislation alarmed tech giants and raised concerns about how they could manage sensitive user information.

…read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/shipyaari-customer-data-exposed/

How Snipd is using AI to ‘unlock knowledge’ in podcasts

Podcasting has emerged as a major billion-dollar industry, with ad revenue in the U.S. alone expected to hit $2 billion this year — a figure that’s set to double by 2024. Against that backdrop, major players in the field are bolstering their podcasting armory, with Spotify recently doling out around $85 million for two companies specializing in podcast measurement and analytics, while Acast recently snapped up Podchaser — an “IMDb for podcasts” that gives advertiser deeper data insights — in a $27 million deal.

But as the big platforms lock horns in the hunt for podcasting riches, smaller players continue to arrive on the scene with their own ideas on how they can advance the podcast medium for creators and consumers alike.

One of these is Snipd, a Swiss startup building a podcast app that uses AI to transcribe content and synchronize with note-taking apps; automatically generate book-style “chapters”; and, as of this week, deliver podcast highlights in a TikTok-style personalized feed.

Beyond search and subscribe

Similar to other so-called “podcatcher” apps, Snipd works by users searching and subscribing to podcasts that are of interest to them — this could be anything from true crime to history and sport. But Snipd is striving to be much more than another podcatcher, in terms of how it analyzes the content of episodes to help listeners curate and get to the heart of the details that matter.

For example, Snipd can create “chapters,” which separates each episode into navigable segments with their own title, while it can also generate transcripts of entire shows.

Snipd: AI-generated “chapters” and transcriptions

On top of that, users can manually create “snips” as they listen to an episode, allowing them to save their favorite moments and add notes to each clip.

With Snipd’s latest launch, which is available on Android and iOS this week, the company is channeling its inner TikTok by presenting users with a highlights reel, of sorts, automatically pulling out what it believes to be the most memorable moments from numerous podcasts. It then allocates an AI-generated headline to each clip, and presents them in a feed that users can navigate by scrolling up and down.

Snipd: “TikTok”-inspired feed of podcast highlights

From there, listeners can save each clip to their library, or — if they like what they’re hearing from the short segment that Snipd has presented — jump directly into the full podcast episode.

It’s worth noting that with the app’s latest update, users are now asked to select their favorite topics (e.g. “history” or “music”), which Snipd uses to generate these highlights. This means that the episode feed is not based purely on users’ podcast subscriptions, as it also pulls in content that Snipd thinks they will be interested in based on their chosen subjects, among other “signals.”

“The goal …read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/how-snipd-is-using-ai-to-unlock-knowledge-in-podcasts/

Meta launches Horizon Worlds in France and Spain

In an effort to expand its social platform for virtual reality, Horizon Worlds, Meta is launching it in France and Spain today — building on the existing three markets including the U.S., Canada, and the UK where it was already available. In a Facebook post, Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch with an unappealing photo and noted that it plans to expand the platform to more countries.

Image Credits: Mark Zuckerberg

Meta launched Horizon Worlds for all users above 18 years of age in the U.S. and Canada last year and made it available for users in the UK in June. In April, it also said that it is working on a web version to let people experience virtual worlds without owning a VR headset.

Over the last few months, the company has also added safety features like controls for voice chat and 4-foot personal boundaries around avatars in the Horizon Worlds platform.

Horizon Worlds is just one of the VR social apps offered by Meta, which has a vision of building a metaverse consisting of many such virtual worlds. The company expects that users will spend more time hanging out with their friends in these virtual spaces, and even spend money on in-app goods. But the company’s still very far away from achieving any of this.

Since its rebranding from Facebook to Meta, the company has poured a lot of money into building the metaverse in the last few quarters. The firm experienced its first-ever quarterly revenue decline in Q2 2022 but has been bullish on its metaverse bet paying off. In February, Meta said the Horizon World app had more than 300,000 monthly users.

“This is obviously a very expensive undertaking over the next several years. But as the metaverse becomes more important in every part of how we live from our social platforms, to entertainment, to work, and education and commerce, I’m confident that we’re going to be glad that we played an important role in building this,” Zuckerberg said during the quarterly earnings call for Q2 2022.

In April, Zuckerberg said the company lost $3 billion because of metaverse-building but he was hopeful that it’ll all come to fruition by 2030.

…read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/meta-launches-horizon-worlds-in-france-and-spain/

Polestar is launching an EV roadster in 2026 called the Polestar 6

Electric vehicle maker Polestar said Tuesday that it is expanding its lineup to include an 884-horsepower hard-top convertible with recycled polyester upholstery.

The Polestar 6 electric performance roadster will go into production in 2026 based on the Polestar O₂ Concept the company revealed in March. Customers can now begin reserving build slots online.

Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath called the forthcoming roadster “a perfect combination of powerful electric performance and the thrill of fresh air with the top down.”

The company hasn’t announced details such as price, acceleration or battery range. However, Polestar confirmed that the hard-top convertible will use the same bonded aluminum platform and 800-volt architecture that will underpin its future Polestar 5 GT.

The dual motor powertrain delivers a top speed of 155 mph and 0-to-62 mph acceleration in 3.2 seconds, according to Polestar.

Polestar will make 500 limited-edition models, the Polestar 6 LA Concept edition, named after the city where the electric roadster concept made its debut. Those models will come with the concept’s Sky blue exterior, leather interior and 21-inch wheels.

Polestar, which made its Nasdaq debut in June, has outlined aggressive growth plans. The company spun out from Volvo and Geely to merge with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Gorges Guggenheim at a $20 billion valuation.

The automaker raised $890 million in the deal to help fund a three-year growth plan, which includes scaling its global operations, adding a second shift at its factory in China and starting production of the Polestar 3 SUV in October at Volvo’s factory in South Carolina.

Polestar also plans to introduce a Polestar 4 midsize crossover in 2023 and Polestar 5 four-door GT in 2024.

So far, Polestar has avoided the pitfalls facing most other EV manufacturers that have opted to go public through a SPAC instead of an IPO in the past two years.

Faraday Future, Electric Last Mile Solutions, Lordstown Motors and others have struggled to raise enough money to build their own EVs from scratch. Polestar benefits from access to Volvo and Geely’s manufacturing expertise, facilities and connections, as well as a $3 billion deal to supply Hertz with 65,000 EVs over the next five years.

In July, Polestar said it is on track to sell 50,000 cars this year. Currently, the Polestar 2 battery-electric sedan is the only model the automaker sells, following the discontinued, 600-horsepower Polestar 1 plug-in hybrid. The company’s ambitious plans call for expanding to 30 countries by the end of 2023 and selling 290,000 cars annually by 2025 — about 10 times Polestar’s 2021 sales.

 

…read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/polestar-to-launch-polestar-6-roadster-ev-in-2026/

Upskilling platform GrowthSpace secures $25M to grow its global business

GrowthSpace

As the jobs market remains tight (mass layoffs and hiring freezes in tech aside), companies are laser-focused on retaining staff. One of the areas they’re investing in is upskilling, which aims to teach employees new skills in departments with which they’re unfamiliar. For example, Walmart announced in 2021 that it would invest nearly $1 billion over the next five years to provide its employees with access to higher education and training.

Unsurprisingly, “skilling” platforms have benefited enormously from these investments. According to Crunchbase, upskilling and reskilling startups raised $2.1 billion from VCs between early 2021 and 2022. One of the winners is GrowthSpace, founded by Omer Glass, which leverages algorithms to match individual employees and groups of employees with experts for development sprints. The company today announced that it raised $25 million in Series B financing led by Zeev Ventures, with participation from M12 (Microsoft’s venture fund) and Vertex Ventures, bringing GrowthSpace’s total raised to $44 million.

GrowthSpace was founded in 2018 by Dan Terner, Izhak Kedar and Glass. A former management consultant, Glass was approached several years ago by Terner, who was then the COO of Signals Analytics, a company with a significant churn problem.

“Terner realized that there was no effective, outcome-driven employee development platform to enable companies [including his] to better invest in their employees,” Glass said. “This led to the creation of GrowthSpace … During the pandemic and amid current economic uncertainty, companies have realized that they needed to double down on talent development.”

GrowthSpace combines a software-as-a-service platform with a marketplace of experts — providers of mentoring, coaching, training and workshops. Drawing on a taxonomy of professional backgrounds and skills, which includes tags across expertise areas, industries and roles, the platform’s AI model attempts to predict the right programs and coach-student matches with the highest probability of achieving desired development outcomes.

Image Credits: GrowthSpace

Of course, AI doesn’t always get it right. Biased datasets can lead to unreliable predictions, and — as the case may be — coach-student matches. Upskilling already suffers from a human bias issue, with research from PwC showing that companies focus too much on upskilling postgraduate degree holders at the expense of almost all others. Workers are often passed over for training on the basis of their ethnicities and genders, PwC also found, with women twice as likely to report gender discrimination as men.

When asked, Glass didn’t provide a detailed account of GrowthSpace’s debiasing efforts. But he said that the AI system tries to mitigate bias by presenting a “mirror data image” of each user that excludes personal characteristics like race, gender and age.

“GrowthSpace has developed a unique algorithm that eliminates 90% of users’ personal data from its platform within three weeks of user onboarding, once the data is no longer in frequent use,” Glass said. “[This enables] it to reduce to a minimum its exposure to user personal data.”

The GrowthSpace platform can be implemented modularly to address the requirements of …read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/upskilling-platform-growthspace-secures-25m-to-grow-its-global-business/

Guesty books $170M to double down on property management tools for Airbnb and other rental platforms

Platforms like Airbnb have boomed with more consumers (and business users) than ever before keen stay in private properties when traveling or working away from their usual home base. That’s also meant a boom for startups building technology to help those renting out properties to manage the process. Guesty — which has built a platform to manage property listings across multiple sites like Airbnb, Vrbo, Expedia and Booking.com — is today announcing that it has raised $170 million, an all-equity round that it will be using to continue fueling its growth, and to tap deeper into providing tools to address our changing habits as consumers.

“With the ways people live, work, socialize and travel having shifted, the lines between traditional hotels and rental accomodations continue to blur,” co-founder and CEO Amiad Soto told me in an interview. “Hospitality operators — everyone from hosts to property managers to hotel brands — are continuing to adapt to this new reality. The last few years brought new customer personas to the short-term rental market, including classic hotel-goers who have higher demands for guest experiences and services.”

Apax Digital Funds, MSD Partners and Sixth Street Growth co-led the round for Tel Aviv-based Guesty, with previous backers Viola Growth and Flashpoint also participating — motivated in part by that vision of a changing travel and living landscape.

“As alternative property management operations become more complex, Guesty is paving the way for the next generation of digital hospitality services,” said Dave Evans, a partner at Apax Digital, in a statement. “Their track record of success and innovation, along with their platform’s growing suite of tools and intuitive user experience has Guesty positioned to define and consolidate its category, working with hosting businesses of all sizes. We are excited to continue partnering with the company as it continues to transform the industry.”

This is an all-equity Series E, Soto said in our interview (via email, because, coincidentally, I happen to be traveling myself). Soto didn’t say at which valuation, but he told me that the figure had tripled since its last round (a $50 million injection in 2021). PitchBook notes that last round was at a $230 million valuation; if that’s accurate it would put today’s round at $690 million. (We’ll update as and when we learn more.) The company is not yet profitable, Soto said, but it’s aiming for it next year, when it is also on course to surpass $100 million in ARR in the first six months.

The size of the round is big, but perhaps especially notable given the constraints that fundraising has been under in general this year. It’s also a measure of where Guesty is today, and where it’s going.

Soto and Guesty are not disclosing how many properties managed using its platform but directionally say the numbers are growing. “We expect our revenue and listings under management to continue to double year-over-year, both in 2022 and 2023,” Soto told me. (For a point of reference, the last time …read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/guesty-books-170m-to-double-down-on-property-management-tools-for-airbnb-and-other-rental-platforms/

YC-backed Arc, a digital bank for ‘high-growth’ SaaS startups, lands $20M Series A

Arc, a company that aims to give SaaS startups “a way to borrow, save and spend” in one place, has raised $20 million in a Series A round of funding.

The raise comes seven months after Arc emerged from stealth with $150 million in debt financing and $11 million in seed funding. The startup graduated from Y Combinator in March.

While it’s early days still, Arc says it has seen strong early interest in its offering, which offers both debt funding and digital banking services to SaaS startups. The company says that on average, its revenue has grown by 250% every month since the fourth quarter of 2021. It is partnered with Stripe, one of the world’s largest and most valuable private fintechs.

When TechCrunch first covered Arc in mid-January, the company noted that since it had launched its introductory product — Arc Advance — last summer, more than 100 startups had signed up for the Arc platform. That offering gives founders a way “to convert future revenue into upfront capital.” Fast forward to today and co-founder and CEO Don Muir told TechCrunch that Arc is deploying “tens of millions of dollars in volume” and now has more than 1,000 companies on its platform.

Further, he said that Arc has a backlog of over $3 billion of demand for its Arc Advance funding product from companies already signed up on its platform. Over the next 12 months, Muir projects that Arc will activate over $500 million of funding and deposits for its customers.

Muir, Nick Lombardo (president) and Raven Jiang (CTO) founded Arc in January of 2021 and incorporated the company in April of that year. 

Left Lane led Arc’s Series A financing, which also included participation from NFX, Y Combinator, Bain Capital Ventures, Clocktower Technology Ventures, Torch Capital and Atalaya, as well as founders from Wayflyer, Plaid, Column, Chargebee, Vouch and Jeeves, among others.

“All of our existing investors with pro rata rights came into the round again, which we view as a point of validation,” Muir said.

There have been a flurry of startups emerging to offer financing alternatives outside of venture capital, especially to SaaS startups. Those companies are appealing to lend to because of their predictable recurring revenue.

Other players in the space include Founderpath, Pipe and Capchase, among others.

Muir said Arc is not deterred by the competition, viewing it as “a good thing.”

“The reality is that the market is currently dominated by the legacy offline banks who have entrenched relationships in the startup ecosystem,” he told TechCrunch. “Collectively, the fintech players still represent a low single-digit percentage of the annual deposit and funding volume in the market.”

The startup’s biggest differentiator, in Muir’s view, is that it goes beyond offering upfront revenue to also offer banking services.

“Arc is the first digital business bank that is purpose-built for high-growth startups,” he said. “So for the first time ever, startups can convert their future revenue into upfront capital, deposit those funds into …read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/fintech-yc-backed-arc-a-digital-bank-for-high-growth-saas-startups-lands-20m-series-a/