EV charging sucks because it hasn’t found the right business model

Electric vehicle charging has come a long way in recent years.

Until somewhat recently, road-tripping required lots of advance planning. Charging speeds were slow, necessitating stops that easily stretched past 30 minutes. Sessions were stymied by broken or vandalized equipment or inconsiderate fossil-fueled car owners blocking the charging points.

Thankfully, those days are largely over. Charging networks today are larger and more reliable, and many new EVs can add a decent amount of range in just 20 to 30 minutes. But that doesn’t mean the market is not ripe for disruption.

EV fleet management startup Synop steers its way to $10M seed round

When it comes to moving the transportation sector over to EVs, commercial fleets are probably some of the lowest hanging fruit. More often than not, they have consistent routes, reserved off-hour parking, and cost a lot less to drive and maintain.

But for many commercial operators, EVs are still a wildcard. Gagan Dhillon and Andrew Blejde co-founded Synop to minimize the unknowns and accelerate the adoption of EVs in commercial fleets. In an exclusive with TechCrunch, the company today announced a $10 million seed round led by Obvious Ventures and joined by Wireframe Ventures, Congruent and Better Ventures.

“The electrification of transportation is a massive undertaking, especially with companies operating large fleets,” said Andrew Beebe, managing director at Obvious Ventures. “Synop is addressing the biggest, hidden infrastructural barriers for companies looking to make and manage that transition seamlessly.”

Fleet operators, Dhillon and Blejde found, have a lot of questions that need answering before they’ll jump to EVs. “How do you prolong the life of this vehicle, of this asset? And then how do you operationalize the day-to-day of that asset? Where does it need to be? What time does it need to charge? How long does it need to charge for and on the back end?” Dhillon said. “All of that is orchestrated through the Synop platform.”

One of the company’s first customers is Highland, an electric school bus fleet provider based in Beverly, Massachusetts, that raised a $253 million Series A round in early 2021. The company offers bus fleets through a subscription model that includes charging infrastructure, operating electricity and maintenance. Synop is working with Highland to optimize charging and routing.

But it won’t be just school buses on Synop’s platform. Dhillon and Blejde are designing their software to work with virtually any vehicle type and manufacturer. “We want to build something that’s vehicle class-agnostic, so from Class 2 to 8 on the commercial vehicle side,” Dhillon said. “We also want to build something that’s use case-agnostic. You can bring an electric semi to Synop for drayage use cases — we’re having folks bring electric garbage trucks, which is really surprising.”

The company is also working on a feature to manage vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, connections. EVs have long been viewed as a potential asset for grid managers, one that they might pay handsomely to access. EV batteries plugged into the grid could help stabilize the flow of electricity in instances of equipment failure or downed power lines, giving grid managers time to respond with more durable fixes. They can also help offset peaks in demand. All of this gives fleet operators an opportunity to monetize their assets when they’re not in use.

But no one who owns an EV — especially fleet managers — wants to wake up to find their vehicle’s battery depleted at the moment they need it most. “Our software is going to help you as a fleet operator optimize when to push [electricity] back [to the grid] because you don’t want to discharge your battery at 4 a.m. and then not have any state of charge for a route that you’re supposed to run at 7 a.m.,” Dhillon said.

Blejde said that Synop is collecting and analyzing data to help optimize EV usage across different fleets. But it’ll also keep a customer’s data separate if they request it.

Synop can also help fleet managers decide which routes are ripe for electrification. “Give me 100 of your routes, and then let’s figure out the road map for electrifying them,” Blejde said. “We ingest the data, we look at the route, we can give a confidence interval for how electrifiable it is, and then give that answer to customers [to] get their vehicles on board and help them operationalize them.”

The goal, Dhillon said, is to help electrify and manage commercial fleets so that operators can realize all the potential cost savings that electrification can offer.

“Most of the competition today is building a very vertical approach where they want to go into it with just their products and not have support for interoperability,” he said. “We ultimately feel like the big opportunity in this space is for somebody to create sort of this neutral software layer for commercial electric vehicles and chargers.”

“We’re trying to position ourselves as you know, for lack of a better term, the plumbing of this industry,” Dhillon said.

Zap Energy nets $160M Series C to advance its lightning-in-a-bottle fusion tech

Fusion startup Zap Energy has reached two milestones that could nudge it ahead in the race to offer low-cost, carbon-free energy — a $160 million Series C round and a successful test of a prototype fusion reactor that could pave the way to a commercial version.

Fusion power has become an unlikely investor favorite as carbon emissions continue to rise and the effects of climate change become more apparent. We have been trying to harness the power of the sun to produce energy for many years, but after tens of billions of dollars and decades of research, fusion remains just out of reach.

Still, clever new approaches to contain scorching hot plasma — which burns at more than 100 million degrees Celsius — have brought fusion power tantalizingly close to reality. Investors are flocking to the field, hopeful that advances wrought by continued research and increasingly sophisticated computer simulations will finally help fusion pull away from its long string of failures.

Zap Energy’s oversubscribed Series C was led by Lowercarbon Capital. New investors include Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Shell Ventures, DCVC and Valor Equity Partners. Existing investors Addition, Energy Impact Partners and Chevron Technology Ventures also contributed to the round. The startup’s core technology was spun out of research performed at the University of Washington and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Generally speaking, fusion power generates electricity by fusing hydrogen isotopes (either deuterium or tritium) into helium. The process releases neutrons, which are then captured to generate heat and spin a turbine. Atomic nuclei don’t like to fuse, so to coax them close enough for fusion to happen, nuclear scientists use extreme pressure and heat, creating a fourth state of matter known as plasma.

Validio, a data quality platform based out of Sweden, emerges from stealth with $15M

Data quality has been shaping up as a salient and increasingly critical part of the world of data science: enterprises are sitting on growing troves of information, but it’s only useful if we can trust it to be accurate and usable. To that end, Validio, a startup building tools to improve and ensure data quality — specifically with tools that let users clean up data both stored in data warehouses and elsewhere, as well as in real-time — is announcing a seed round to mark its emergence from stealth. The Stockholm-based company has raised $15 million, funding that it plans to use for business and product development, R&D and to hire more talent.

Lakestar — the London-based VC that made early investments in companies like Facebook and Airbnb but has largely focused on backing promising-looking startups out of Europe (it also backed Skype, Spotify, Revolut and many others) — led this round, with J12 and several high profile individuals also participating.

(The list includes footballer (soccer player) Zlatan Ibrahimović, Snowflake’s CMO Denise Persson, MongoDB’s co-founder Kevin Ryan, Neo4j co-founder Emil Eifrem, DeepMind’s head of product Mehdi Ghissassi and Kim Fai Kok & Dara Gill of angel collective Framtid.)

As with a lot of enterprise startups in stealth these days, Validio has been using the time since being founded in 2019 to work quietly on its product while also signing up customers for live deployments. Its clients range across the usual suspects in the big data game — those in marketing and commerce, security companies, and business intelligence. Validio doesn’t disclose a lot of names but notes a few: Budbee and Babyshop in the e-commerce space; e-scooter company Voi; and electricity startup Tibber.

The challenge that Validio has identified an is addressing is one that CEO and co-founder Patrik Liu Tran said he encountered early on in his working life. A math and computer wiz, he graduated aged 16 from school and also accelerated his time at university, going to work in 2014/2015 while still a teenager consulting companies on AI projects. It was still a nascent endeavor in most places (frankly, it still is), and one of the big issues, apart from having few in the field prepared to go into companies to work on their problems, was the lack of integrity and quality in the data that they were trying to use in their machine learning models, he said.

“At every company that I was advising, the thing that caught my attention was the lack of trust in data, so much that people did very little with it, and there were no tools really to help with that,” he said in an interview. He added that the first efforts in identifying the issue and trying to deal with it (such as the Great Expectations open source project, created by the people who are behind Superconductive), were promising but do not focus on real-time information as much as data in warehouses.

“But machine learning resides in streams, not the warehouse,” he said. 

Beyond that, they are generally too reliant on rules that engineers and data scientists need to set and regularly monitor and tweak.

Validio’s approach is to create not exactly low code tools. “We’re building for data engineers. It’s very technical,” Tran said, slightly surprised with my question about that. “But we are focusing on a smooth user experience.”

That includes using machine learning and statistical analysis to “teach” a users’ system to find and respond more quickly to the data coming through the pipeline; sets of rules that are created automatically for an engineer to use or to complement with customized rules; automated thresholds and auto-resolution capabilities, and more.

“We want to make it as seamless as possible for data engineers to do their work,” he added.

The company doesn’t have a larger set of rules that it applies across the platform, but has built it to be tailored to individual organizations.

“‘Data quality’ is hard to define. What is good for one company might be bad for another,” Tran said. “Data is never perfect and companies also need to start to accept that.” But the list of its investors (including some of those attached to strategic names) is a sign that others may well be singing the same tune with that kind of thinking, and how Validio specifically is building to address that: tools to improve data quality, but built for the real world.

There are a few other companies that have identified the market for data quality and are building to address that — including Great Expectations creator Superconductive, which raised $40 million earlier this year; along with heavyweights like MicrosoftSAS, and Talend — but for now Validio’s approach is one that seems to be striking the right chord, enough to expand bets in what is still a young space.

“As data teams are increasingly shifting their focus toward data quality, we believe that Validio is uniquely positioned to become the next big global software player from Europe,” noted Stephen Nundy, Lakestar partner, in a statement. “Validio has built its platform with a unique architecture, enabling the management of data quality in data warehouses, lakes and streams both on the actual data and metadata in real-time. We look forward to supporting the stellar Validio team in their journey building a global data infrastructure leader.”

Biden admin policy change could tip solar and wind projects into profitability

There’s an idea floating in the ether (or at least in my ether) that there’s enough sunny federal land in Nevada to power the entire United States with solar.

Some very rough back-of-the-envelope math suggests it’s possible, requiring just over 11% of Nevada’s federal land. None of that includes room for batteries for storage or the massive transmission wires needed to export it all — both of which would expand the footprint significantly — and a concentrated installation like that wouldn’t be very resilient or ecologically sound. 

The point is, there’s room to spare! The federal government owns plenty of land in other sunny and windy places, not just Nevada.

So why don’t we have more solar and wind on public lands?

The Biden administration is hoping to remove at least one roadblock. This week, the Department of the Interior announced 50% cuts in rent and capacity fees (a fee assessed based on how much power is produced) in an effort to spur more solar and wind development on federal land. (Geothermal doesn’t get any love in this policy change for whatever reason.) Utility-scale wind and solar projects can incur lease fees of millions of dollars per year, so the boost could be significant.

‘Pokémon Scarlet & Violet’ will release on November 18

The newest main series Pokémon game, “Pokémon Scarlet & Violet,” will arrive on the Nintendo Switch on November 18, 2022.

A trailer for the game dropped this morning, revealing new details about the ninth generation of the classic franchise. Most importantly, this guy. His name is Lechonk.

Image Credits: Pokémon

Okay, fine, Lechonk may not be the most important reveal. “Pokémon Scarlet” and “Pokémon Violet” will be the first open world RPGs in the franchise, building off of the recent “Pokémon Legends: Arceus.” “Arceus” isn’t a real open world game — you travel to base camps, then run around a large, yet boundaried area encountering over-world Pokémon. So we’ll take these “open world” claims at face value.

In other exciting (yet not Lechonk-level) news, this will be the first Pokémon game with multiplayer functionality — up to four people can team up and explore together (unfortunately, the trailer and accompanying press release are quite vague, so… it’s not quite clear what that means just yet).

Depending on which of the two games players choose, they will encounter a different Pokémon professor, Sada in “Pokémon Scarlet” and Turo in “Pokémon Violet.” The internet likes them already.

We already knew about the three starter Pokémon for generation nine: Sprigatito, a grass cat, Fuecoco, a fire crocodile, and Quaxly, a knock-off Donald Duck. But we’re getting some key new info about these friends in their Pokédex entries, mainly, this tidbit: “Quaxly is tidy, and it especially dislikes getting its head dirty.”

Aside from Lechonk, we met two more new buddies. Smoliv, a small olive Pokémon, is delightful. According to its Pokédex description, Smoliv likes to sunbathe. Then, there’s Pawmi, an electric mouse that generates electricity by rubbing its cheeks. Sounds a bit too familiar, if you know what I mean.

Image Credits: Pokémon

In “Pokémon Sword & Shield,” some fan favorite Pokémon were initially left out of the game, sparking controversy (justice for Bulbasaur). So far in the trailers, we’ve spotted species like (deep breath) Magnemite, Lucario, Hoppip, Drifloon, Combee, Meowth, Pikachu, Larvitar, Bagon, Cyrogonal, Fletchling, Flaaffy, Chewtle, Flabébé, Venonat, Coalossal, Mareanie, Lurantis and Gengar.

Finally, the new trailer introduced us to this generation’s main, version-exclusive legendary Pokémon: Koraidon and Miraidon. But honestly, they’re nothing compared to Lechonk.

two new legendary pokemon

Image Credits: Pokémon

A single question changed how Singularity viewed its market

When Wenbo Shi started Singularity Energy, a carbon intelligence platform that today raised a $4.5 million seed round, he never thought he would focus the company on a greenhouse gas. But one conversation with a customer changed the way he viewed his product and, ultimately, his company and the type of customers it now serves.

“The journey was really customer driven, to be honest. When I started the company three years ago, I wasn’t thinking of carbon at all,” Shi said. “The first idea that I had for Singularity was that we’d do intelligent control for batteries, for EV charging, for those types of things. The objective for battery control is always going to be, ‘How can I save money for the customers?'”

A few years ago, Shi and Singularity had that goal in mind when working with the Harvard Innovation Lab, which houses entrepreneurial resources for Harvard Business School students. The university was looking to pair a battery with solar panels on the building’s roof.

“During one of the conversations, they brought up carbon. ‘Can you actually consider carbon as a signal?’” Shi recalls them asking. The university wanted to install a battery not just to save money, but to lower the campus’s carbon footprint.

“I had never thought of carbon because I was like, ‘Oh, I’m a power system guy,’” Shi recalled. But after the conversation with Harvard, “then I was like, ‘Oh, that’s a very neat idea.’ If I know how clean or how dirty the power grid is, then to me it’s another control signal. It’s an optimization objective, which should be pretty straightforward to integrate with the software.”

It turned out that incorporating carbon as a control signal changed the math for Harvard’s battery project. Shi had discovered that optimizing for cost alone would increase pollution, a revelation that occurred after he started analyzing the grid’s carbon emissions on an hourly basis as opposed to the more commonly used annual averages.

After ultracharged growth, battery maker EcoFlow comes for the glampers

In recent years, episodes of extreme climate crises and power outrages have driven doomsday preppers to plan for off-the-grid survival scenarios. The mentality has been a boon to EcoFlow, a Shenzhen-based power generating and storing unicorn, which racked up $220 million in revenues last year as consumers in the US demanded its solar-powered portable power stations.

Off the back of a remarkable growth phase — revenues surged 50x between 2019 and 2021 — the startup, which was founded by a group of veterans from drone giant DJI in 2017, discovered a new niche to crack: glamping. In a call with TechCrunch, its co-founder and CEO Lei “Bruce” Wang envisaged a future of being in nature while enjoying a cool breeze sent from EcoFlow’s outdoor air conditioner, which will launch in the US in the coming months.

Glamping lovers can already plug a range of appliances, like electric ovens and stoves, into portable battery stations, but air conditioners are tricky because most of them use alternating current, which isn’t compatible with battery charging and has lower efficiency, the founder explained. The outdoor airconditioning unit that EcoFlow is revealing uses direct current instead and can thus be charged by batteries.

Hardcore nature-loving campers might scoff at the idea of outdoor air conditioning. I was bewildered by the proposal as well, but Wang rightly reminded me that if burnout urbanites make the effort of driving out into nature, many of them would rather do it the comfortable and indulgent way.

“Wherever people go, whether it’s at or away from home, they can achieve a lot more with electricity,” Wang explained the rationale for expanding beyond making batteries and into electronic appliances. “We now cover the entire loop [of use cases], from power generation, power storage, to power consumption.”

A greening dream

EcoFlow co-founder and CEO Lei “Bruce” Wang

Wang grew up in the vicinity of the Mu Us Desert in northwestern China, where he saw how the government’s ecological restoration effort helped combat severe desertification in the area. The childhood experience planted in his mind a goal to pursue a career in renewable energy, which led him to complete a Ph.D. in energy storage technologies at the University of Hong Kong and later help establish DJI’s battery R&D department.

Having seen the tide in the energy industry was turning, Wang decided to start his own company in 2017. “Replacing fossil fuel with renewable energy is the fundamental way to increase energy consumption per capital while still achieving sustainable growth,” the founder asserted.

At the same time, declining raw material costs were making it easier to run a battery startup. “Between 2010 and 2020, the prices of lithium batteries and solar panels have gone down 10 times. Such conditions would prompt anyone conducting technology research to become a tide player, to take a chance,” Wang recalled.

Lithium’s recent price spikes and supply chain disruptions haven’t concerned Wang. EcoFlow works with strategic partners to ensure a steady flow of supply, the founder said, and he believed lithium costs will eventually tail off in the long run.

The startup has come a long way since its formative days as a Kickstarter project. It has raised over $100 million in funding from notable investors including Sequoia Capital China and GL Ventures, the early-stage arm of private equity powerhouse Hillhouse Capital. With the category expansion, as well as its plans to push into new markets like its backyard China, EcoFlow expects to generate $630 million in revenues this year, which would make its growth between 2019 and 2022 almost 150x.

Such growth is supercharging EcoFlow’s path to an initial public offering. Last year, EcoFlow reached a valuation of $1 billion and announced plans to go public on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The company has entered a preliminary “tutoring” period with the city’s exchange regulators and is aiming to float its stocks within the next two to three years.

Wang said the Shenzhen-based exchange, which was designed for encouraging technological innovations, will attract investors who “understand the new energy industry,” though he doesn’t rule out the possibility of an overseas listing down the road. Operating in profit, EcoFlow declined to disclose whether it will raise another financing round before its IPO.

Powering global customers

Unlike many hardware makers that venture out of China only after proving their products at home, EcoFlow went after overseas markets at the outset. It first went to Japan, a country prone to natural disasters and whose consumers are known to be tech-savvy. Today, Japan and the US are the two largest revenue drivers for EcoFlow among the 100-something markets it ships to.

EcoFlow recently started selling its battery products in China where a rising middle class has demonstrated a growing fascination with luxury camping. The company is also exploring opportunities in emerging markets across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where it wants to supply households hit by electricity shortages with “affordable” products, Wang said.

When asked how EcoFlow managed to build a foothold in foreign markets, Wang, who looks to Tesla and Apple for inspiration, offered the obvious though tough playbook: understand your customers. “We say internally that ‘the customers are never wrong. If anything goes wrong, it must be us.”

To put the adage into practice, EcoFlow operates a fairly international office in Shenzhen, a full on-the-ground team in Japan, a small but growing force in the US, and is soon hiring in Europe. Globally, EcoFlow has over 1,000 employees working on an extended value chain, spanning from R&D, which accounts for 40% of its staff, to after-sales service.

While many Chinese consumer tech startups find it increasingly challenging to operate overseas as geopolitical tensions threaten to put them in the crosshairs of foreign authorities, as illustrated by giants like TikTok and Huawei, Wang doesn’t see the same hurdle.

“At the end of the day, users will pay for a good product, which is why I like being in the business-to-consumer space,” the founder said confidently. “Furthermore, our products are helping to promote environmental sustainability, which is a universal goal that can strike a chord among consumers around the globe.”

Why a bipartisan embrace of crypto might never extend to Bitcoin

Hey everyone, and welcome back to Chain Reaction

In our Chain Reaction podcast this week, Anita and I chatted with Sequoia Capital’s Shaun Maguire on why gamers are skeptical of NFTs and where decentralization really matters. More details below.

Last week was our inaugural newsletter and we chatted at length about the changes Twitter could make to expand its crypto business. At that point, I — like many others — was operating under the assumption that a Musk Twitter deal was ultimately doomed, but low and behold we’ve got a deal. Everything has been approved at this point, but I can’t shake a feeling that something is going to kill this deal in the eleventh hour. If that happens, Twitter’s board or Musk will be on the hook for a $1 billion penalty for walking away from the deal, but I suppose we’ll see… This week, I’m looking at a controversial Bitcoin mining ban working its way through New York regulators and what bills like it could mean for the political reputation of crypto’s #1 coin.

To get this message in your inbox on Thursday mornings, you can subscribe on TechCrunch’s newsletter page. Follow me on Twitter while you’re at it!

Server racks in server room cloud data center. Datacenter hardware cluster. Backup, hosting, mainframe, mining, farm and computer rack with storage information. 3D rendering. 3D illustration

Getty Images

the hottest take

Crypto’s biggest skeptics see plenty of reasons to criticize the industry, but generally at the heart of most complaints is a belief that crypto is contributing very little to society while burning massive amounts of energy.

While crypto’s believers could squabble over the former point until they’re blue in the face, the latter is a little harder to deny. Bitcoin uses an estimated 204.50 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity per year at current rates according to the oft-cited tracker built by Digiconomist, this number is equal to the power consumption of Thailand. Meanwhile Ethereum’s energy footprint is half the size but still comparable to the power consumption of Kazakhstan. In 2018 the United States reported its total consumption of electricity as 4,222.5 TWh.

For some legislators, those numbers are hard to swallow. This week, the New York State Assembly passed a bill that had team crypto up in arms. The bill blocks the formation of crypto mining firms in the state that rely on non-renewable power. It notably doesn’t apply to existing facilities. A corresponding bill is currently making its way through the Democrat-controlled state senate.

This is fascinating for a whole bunch of reasons.

For one, crypto is increasingly becoming a partisan topic. Republicans are typically wary of regulating unregulated industries and thus a number of major figures in the party have thrown their full support behind crypto with few concessions. This includes prospective future party leaders like the governors of Texas and Florida. Meanwhile, most of crypto’s most ardent critics appear to be Democrats, but that’s not to say it’s a party-line issue. President Biden’s recent cryptocurrency executive order was generally regarded as very friendly to the space by industry insiders. The energy usage seems to be the most salient sticking point for many regulators looking at sweeping bans.

The other reason that this is interesting is that this bill really only impacts a handful of major crypto networks, but that includes the two biggest ones — Bitcoin and Ethereum.

These networks use something called a proof-of-work mechanism to secure their networks. The work in this case is mining which involves computers working around the clock to essentially solve math problems which are protecting the integrity of the blockchain, making it extremely expensive and technically challenging for hackers to overwhelm the network to make unauthorized transactions and steal tokens. Crypto seems to be generally trending away from proof-of-work, most notably, Ethereum is deep in the process of transitioning its network towards a less energy intensive consensus method. But Bitcoin seems unlikely to make its own transition, suggesting that regulatory maneuverings, like New York’s bills, are likely going to be increasingly antagonistic towards Bitcoin (and a few smaller networks) specifically.

This could lead to an interesting scenario where the crypto industry increasingly finds mainstream tolerance among its current critics but Bitcoin finds itself growing more and more politically isolated.

Bitcoin already broadcasts its libertarian bent a bit more prominently than other blockchains. At recent industry events, it’s becoming clearer that amid a burgeoning developer ecosystem for blockchains like Ethereum and Solana, the philosophy of the Bitcoin network’s infrastructure is increasingly its most harmonizing element. Bitcoin’s continuing resistance to criticism and calls for change may only embolden its supporters, but critiques around the power consumption of the network aren’t going anywhere and further adoption may only make this a more visible target for aggressive regulation.

Some politicians may grow to love crypto but hate Bitcoin all the same.

this week’s pod

Hey y’all, it’s Anita here. Our second episode of the weekly Chain Reaction podcast just dropped, and this week, we’ve been so immersed in the Elon Musk/Twitter news that we thought we’d tackle two other topics first to get our minds off the bird app for a second.

I wrote earlier this week about how Fidelity, the largest retirement plan provider in the United States, announced its plans to bring bitcoin to the 401(k) plans it administers for 23,000 companies. It’s a bold move from this tradfi incumbent because it legitimizes crypto as a long-term investment just a month after regulators tried to discourage retirement plan providers from doing exactly this. We kicked off the podcast with some spirited back-and-forth about who will benefit from Fidelity’s move, especially if it takes off as a larger trend. Personally, I think the news is great for non-billionaires – you can read about why in my latest for TC+ here.

We also covered:

  • Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong throwing shade at Apple for their App Store policies
  • Elon Musk’s bid for Twitter and what it means for web3. We just couldn’t skip this one, especially because of Twitter’s position as a watering hole for the crypto community

Our guest interview this week was with Shaun Maguire, an investor at Sequoia and, of course, a crypto Twitter personality. We chatted with him about Sequoia’s recent crypto moves, the possibility of a multichain future, and whether we’ll ever reach true decentralization at a mass scale or will end up stuck in “web 2.5” forever.

Subscribe to Chain Reaction on AppleSpotify or your alternative podcast platform of choice to keep up with us every week. Follow Chain Reaction on Twitter.

— Anita Ramaswamy

follow the money

Where startup money is moving in the crypto world:

  1. P2P exchange 0x nabs $70 million from Greylock Partners
  2. NFT startup Proof gets $10 million from Alexis Ohanian’s 776
  3. Crypto TV startup Mad Realities scores $6 million from Paradigm
  4. African crypto app Afriex nabs $10 million from Sequoia China and Dragonfly Capital
  5. Gaming DAO Snackclub raises $9 million from Animoca
  6. DeFi platform Tonic gets $5 million from Electric Capital and Move Capital
  7. Cricket NFT platform Rario raises $120 million from Dream Capital
  8.  NFT game Apeiron nabs $10 million from Hashed
  9. NFT infrastructure co CXIP Labs gets $6.5 million from Courtside Ventures and Wave Financial
  10. Crypto banking startup Cogni scores $23 million from Hanwha Asset Management and CaplinFO

added analysis

Some more crypto analysis from our TechCrunch+ subscription service:

Stablecoins are here to stay, but will they see wider adoption?

Stablecoins’ total circulating supply has grown significantly over the past year, but the future of it is unclear. Kraken’s chief legal officer said the subasset is in a “Cambrian moment” as they gather their foothold in the market. But not everyone is a fan of stablecoins as they’re in nascent stages and have the potential to boom, in two very different ways.

Artists like Harry Connick Jr. are using web3 to engage with fans

Web3 has attracted people from all walks of life, from traditional finance analysts to software developers. But a fairly new group has been entering the space over the last 12 months: artists. While there are financial incentives, some are saying that these creators are deep diving into web3 for more than just a new revenue stream.

Jacquelyn Melinek

Thanks for reading! And, again, to get this in your inbox Thursday mornings, you can subscribe on TechCrunch’s newsletter page.

Have a great weekend,
Lucas Matney

CEOs at AMP Robotics, Novoloop and Nth Cycle will discuss disrupting recycling at TC Sessions: Climate

Recycling is an essential – if not particularly glamorous – part of fighting climate change. It’s no secret that the world has a serious trash problem. The U.S. alone generates 292.4 million tons of trash a year, or 4.9 pounds per person per day. Globally, we produce 380 million tons of plastic annually, half of which goes to single-use products.

Every year, the world dumps between 20-50 million metric tons of electronic waste and only 12.5% of it gets recycled. Tech gadgets and the clean energy technologies we need to fight climate change rely on critically finite minerals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese.

Mountains of trash, un-recycled plastics and a shortage of minerals necessary for clean energy transition threaten our ability to achieve a more sustainable world. That’s why we’re thrilled that the CEOs of AMP Robotics, Novoloop and Nth Cycle will join us on stage at TC Sessions: Climate and The Extreme Tech Challenge 2022 Global Finals on June 14 in Berkeley, California.

AMP’s recycling technology — a combination of computer vision, machine learning and robotic automation — can sort waste streams in ways that traditional systems can’t, and at a cost far lower than most waste-handling facilities. The robots can tell the difference between high and low-density plastics, sort for color, clarity, opacity and shapes like lids, tubs, clamshells and cups. In 2021, AMP doubled the number of robotic installations across 25 states, growing its U.S. fleet to nearly 200.

Founder and CEO Matanya Horowitz earned four bachelor’s degrees, in electrical engineering, computer science, applied mathematics, and economics, along with a master’s degree in electrical engineering, from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He holds a doctorate in control and dynamical systems from the California Institute of Technology. 

Novoloop, a new U.S.-based startup that just raised $11 million in Series A financing led by Envisioning Partners, transforms plastic waste through its proprietary technology, ATOD (Accelerated Thermal Oxidative Decomposition). The company claims this process breaks down polyethylene (the most widely used plastic today) into chemical building blocks that can be synthesized into high-value products.

Co-founder and CEO Miranda Wang, a venture-backed climate tech entrepreneur is a Forbes 30 Under 30, UN Young Champion of the Earth and a Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius prize winner. She received her bachelor’s degree (Engineering Entrepreneurship, Philosophy, Molecular Biology) from UPenn and a bachelor’s of science from McGill University.

Nth Cycle, meanwhile, has developed a unique technology called electro-extraction. It lets recyclers and miners recover critical minerals from discarded batteries, low-grade ores and mine site waste using only electricity and carbon filters. It’s an environmentally-friendly, lower-cost alternative to current pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy processes.

Megan O’Connor is an environmental engineer and chemist. She founded Nth Cycle one day after defending her doctoral dissertation. She received her doctorate in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Duke University and graduated from the second cohort of Innovation Crossroads at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

We’re looking forward to this conversation about the ways in which technology is transforming recycling into a powerful, efficient and cost-effective tool for fighting climate change. We also want to get a sense of each company’s roadmap and how effectively they can scale for even more growth.

TC Sessions: Climate 2022 is all about the growing wave of startups, technologies, scientists and engineers dedicated to saving our planet and, of course, the investors who finance them. Join us in-person on June 14 at UC Berkley’s Zellerbach Auditorium. Register now and save $200.