FreshRSS

🔒
❌ About FreshRSS
There are new available articles, click to refresh the page.
Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

Opportunity knocks: Exhibit at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

By Alexandra Ames

No matter what slice of the mobility market you’ve claimed as your own — AVs, EVs, data mining, AI, dockless scooters, robotics or the batteries that will charge and change the world — you won’t find a better place to showcase your extraordinary tech and talent than TC Sessions: Mobility 2021.

Buy a Startup Exhibitor Package and virtually plant your early-stage mobility startup in front of a global audience that’s focused exclusively on one of the most complex, rapidly evolving industries. TC Sessions: Mobility, which takes place on June 9, features the top minds and makers, draws thousands of attendees, fosters collaborative community and creates a networking environment ripe with opportunities.

Pro tip: This package is for pre-Series A, early-stage startups only.

The Startup Exhibitor Package costs $380, and it comes with four all-access passes to the event. But wait (insert infomercial voice here), there’s more!

Your virtual expo booth features lead-generation capabilities. You can highlight your pitch deck, run a video loop and/or host live demos. Network with CrunchMatch, our AI-powered platform, to find and connect with the people who can help move your business forward. CrunchMatch lets you host private video meetings — pitch investors, recruit new talent or grow your customer base.

You’ll have access to all the presentations, panel discussions and breakout sessions, too. And video-on-demand means you won’t miss out.

Here’s a peek at just some of the agenda’s great programming you and, thanks to those extra passes, your team can attend — or catch later with VOD:

  • EV Founders in Focus: We sit down with the founders poised to take advantage of the rise in electric vehicle sales. This time, we will chat with Kameale Terry, co-founder and CEO of ChargerHelp! a startup that enables on-demand repair of electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Will Venture Capital Drive the Future of Mobility? Clara Brenner, Quin Garcia and Rachel Holt will discuss how the pandemic changed their investment strategies, the hottest sectors within the mobility industry, the rise of SPACs as a financial instrument and where they plan to put their capital in 2021 and beyond.
  • Driving Innovation at General Motors: GM is in the midst of sweeping changes that will eventually turn it into an EV-only producer of cars, trucks and SUVs. But the auto giant’s push to electrify passenger vehicles is just one of many efforts to be a leader in innovation and the future of transportation. We’ll talk with Pam Fletcher, vice president of innovation at GM, one of the key people behind the 113-year-old automaker’s push to become a nimble, tech-centric company.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 takes place June 9. Buy a Startup Exhibitor Package and set yourself up for global exposure and networking success. Show us your extraordinary tech and talent!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

NASA’s new lunar vehicle could be built by GM and Lockheed Martin

By Aria Alamalhodaei

The last time humans visited the moon in 1972, they got around on a relatively simple battery-powered vehicle. As NASA prepares for the next crewed mission to the moon, it’s looking to give the lunar rover an upgrade.

Lockheed Martin and General Motors said Wednesday they’re working together to develop a next-generation lunar vehicle designed to be faster and capable of traveling farther distances than its predecessor. If the project is selected by NASA, the rover would be used on the upcoming Artemis missions. The first mission, which will be an uncrewed test flight, is scheduled for November. The request for proposals will likely be published in the third or fourth quarter of this year, executives said at a media briefing Wednesday. NASA will award the contract after evaluating the submitted proposals.

The previous rover was only capable of traveling less than five miles from the Apollo landing site, limiting the astronauts’ ability to collect important data on far-flung lunar locales, like the north and south poles. The Moon’s circumference is nearly 7,000 miles. The two companies are aiming to improve the specs, Lockheed’s VP for lunar exploration Kirk Shireman said, noting that the exact materials used for the new rover, its range and other capabilities have yet to be determined.

GM will also be developing an autonomous driving system for the rover, which executives said Wednesday will improve safety and the ability for astronauts to collect samples and conduct other scientific research. GM is investing more than $27 billion through 2025 in electric and autonomous vehicle technologies and it aims to bring that research to the lunar rover project, Jeffrey Ryder, VP of growth and strategy at GM Defense, said. “We’re heads-down right now in investigating how we would take those capabilities and apply them to specific missions and operation associated with the Artemis program.”

GM also said it will be using its earth-bound research into battery and propulsion systems in developing the rover. Ryder anticipates that the rover program will lead to other market opportunities.

Both companies have supplied technology for NASA missions before, including its lunar missions. Auto manufacturer GM helped develop the previous lunar rover that was used during the Apollo era, including its chassis and wheels. It also manufactured and integrated guidance and navigational systems for the program. Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin’s experience extends to building spacecraft and power systems that have been included on every NASA mission to Mars.

The companies said this was “one of several initiatives” they’re working on together, with further announcements regarding other projects expected in the future.

Lucid Motors reveals all the tech inside its all-electric Air sedan

By Kirsten Korosec

Eight months after Lucid Motors showed off the final version of its all-electric Air sedan, the company has finally revealed the in-cabin tech — from the curved 34-inch display and second touchscreen to the underlying software, integrated apps and Amazon Alexa voice assistant —that drivers and passengers will use once the automaker begins deliveries of the vehicle in the second half of the year.

The aim of the company’s branded Lucid User Experience, or Lucid UX, is to include all the tech that customers might want in a vehicle priced between $80,000 and $169,000 without adding clutter and confusion.

“We really tried to follow a strong principle of ease-of-use and a short learning curve, for it to have quick responses and an overall feeling of elegance,” Derek Jenkins, Lucid’s head of design said in a recent interview. “I kind of wanted to move away from it being overly technical or sci-fi looking or spreadsheet-like and really move towards something that was more fitting with the brand and our design ethos.”

The interior isn’t as stark as a Tesla Model 3 or Tesla Model Y, nor as jam-packed as an Audi A8. Jenkins and his team have tried to hit the Goldilocks’s equivalent the perfect bowl of tech porridge.

“At the beginning of the project I always used to tell the team, ‘Listen I want my mom to be able to get in this car and figure it out the first time,'” Jenkins said. “She should be able to know instinctively probably the light switch and the door locks are on the left side because that’s where they always are and not have to dig through that stuff. Or that the climate controls are probably on the lower screen because that’s where it often is and traditionally has been. I just felt like it should have intuitiveness and a degree of simplicity, while still having impressive features and having a system that can grow.”

Lucid Motors interior cabin

Image Credits: Lucid Motors

The hardware

The curved 34-inch 5k display called the glass cockpit floats slightly above the dashboard and is the most visible hardware in the vehicle, although not the only component worth mentioning. It is actually three separate displays housed under a single plate of glass, a technique that Mercedes-Benz has used in its 56-inch hyperscreen. On the far left, is a touchscreen where Lucid has placed the most important, or core, vehicle controls such as window defrosters, lighting and wiper settings.

The middle screen, is the instrument cluster, which is where the driver will see the speed and remaining battery range displayed.  The right side of instrument cluster is a widget that can display a variety of information, depending on the user, including navigation or what music is playing. The instrument cluster is also where the driver will see whether the advanced driver assistance system is activated.

To the right of the steering wheel, is another touch display that Lucid is calling the home screen. It’s here where navigation, media and communications will be located.

Moving down and to the center console area is another curved screen that Lucid has dubbed the “pilot panel,” which displays climate controls, seat functions, including a massage feature, along with all the other vehicle settings. The driver or passenger can swipe menus from the home screen down to pilot panel to display in-depth controls for music or navigation. And if the driver doesn’t want that additional touchscreen, the pilot panel can be retracted, opening access to a storage space behind it.

It’s worth noting that analog switches are still within the vehicle in three areas: the doors, the steering wheel and a slice of space between the pilot panel and the upper home screen. Alongside the doors, the driver or passengers will find the window switches and interior door latches. Right above the center console display are four physical buttons that lets the driver or passenger control climate temperature and fan speed.

Image Credits: Lucid Motors

On the steering wheel is a touch bar and two toggles. These buttons can be used to launch the Alexa voice assistant and turn on and off the advanced driver assistance functions as well as adjust the following distance in cruise control and volume.

“We did a lot of research through this discussion of analog interaction such as physical buttons and digital interaction on a touchscreen,” Jenkins said. “What we found was there was some key functionality that people still wanted to have physical interaction with.”

The vehicle is also loaded with 32 sensors, including a single lidar that is located just below the nose blade on the exterior of the vehicle. Below that is a lower air intake and then a forward-facing radar. Other radar sensors are located on the exterior corners. There are exterior cameras as well in the nose and header area behind the rearview mirror.

Inside the vehicle, and tucked right below the instrument cluster is a camera that faces the driver. This camera is part of the driver-monitoring system, which is meant to ensure the operator is paying attention when the advanced driver assistance system is engaged.

Two other hardware items worth noting is the 21-speaker surround sound system from Dolby Atmos and a small vintage detail with the air vents. Lucid wanted the Air to have physical air vents that a person could touch and move unlike the Tesla Model 3, which requires the user to move the direction of the air flow through the digital touchscreen. But Lucid didn’t want the bulk of a vent in the chicklet style design, which has an additional side tab to turn on or off the air flow.

The solution is a slimmed down air vent with a single round dial right in the middle. That dial can be grabbed and move to shift air flow. It can also be turned to shut off the air to a particular vent.

“It was a breakthrough for us,” Jenkins said laughing, “which isn’t a breakthrough because that was super common in the 60s and 70s in cars.”

The software

Behind all of the physical touchscreens and sensors is the software that delivers functions and services.

Lucid started with the open source Android Automotive operating system and built out the apps and other features from there. Android Automotive OS is modeled after Google’s Android open-source mobile operating system that runs on Linux. Google has offered an open-source version of this OS to automakers for sometime. In recent years, automakers have worked with Google to natively build in an Android OS that is embedded with all the Google apps and services such as Google Assistant, Google Maps and the Google Play Store. Lucid did not take the Google services platform route.

From here, Lucid worked with various third-party apps and integrated them into the infotainment system, a list that currently includes iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Dolby Atmos, Tidal and Spotify.

Lucid has also decided to make Alexa the default and primary integrated voice control system. Lucid Air will also come with Android Auto and Apple Carplay — apps that run on the user’s phone and wirelessly communicates with the vehicle’s infotainment system. This means the driver, or passenger, can access Google Assistant and Siri through these apps, they just won’t be able to control the vehicle functions like climate.

The vehicle will also have integrated mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity, which will allow Lucid to update the software of the vehicle wirelessly. The over-the-air update capability lets the company add new apps and services.

The future

Jenkins said they’re already looking at bringing more content to the infotainment system, including gaming and video streaming, which would only be accessible when the vehicle is parked.

The Lucid design team is also examining other more hardware-based additions to future model years of the Air, including rear entertainment displays.

“You probably won’t see that from us until sometime in 2023,” Jenkins noted. “We think that’s an important thing to bring to the car especially because the rear seat is such a nice place to be.”

 

The SPAC trash ticker is counting down

By Natasha Mascarenhas

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week had the whole crew aboard to record: Grace and Chris making us sound good, Danny to provide levity, Natasha to actually recall facts and Alex to divert us from staying on topic. It’s teamwork, people — and our transitions are proof of it.

And it’s good that we had everyone around the virtual table, as there was quite a lot to get through:

  • The team felt all kinds of ways about the Amazon-MGM deal. Some of us are more positive than the rest, but what gists out from the transaction is that for Amazon, the purchase price is modest and the company is famously playing a supposedly long-game. Let’s see how James Bond fits into it. Alex receives four points for not bringing up F1 thanks to the Bond-Aston Martin connection.
  • Turning to the SPAC game, we chatted through the recent Lordstown Motors earnings results, and what we can parse from them regarding blank-check companies, promises and reality.
  • After launching last June with just $2 million, Collab Capital has closed its debut fund at its target goal: $50 million. The Black-led firm invests exclusively in Black-led startups, and got checks from Apple, PayPal, and Mailchimp to name a few. We talk about this feat, and note a few other Black-led venture capital firms making waves in the industry lately.
  • We Resolved our transition puns and eventually spoke about the Affirm spin-out, which raised $60 million in a funding round for BNPL for businesses. There’s bigger questions there around the accessibility and point of BNPL, and if its really re-inventing the wheel or just repackaging it with simpler UX.
  • Next up, we got into a can of worms about the future of meetings thanks to Rewatch, which raised a $20 million Series A this week led by Andreessen Horowitz. The startup helps other startups create internal, private Youtubes to archive their meetings and any video-based comms. We could only spend a second on this, so if you want our longer thoughts in the form of text, check out our 3 views on the topic on Extra Crunch! (Discount Code: Equity)
  • From there we had Interactio and Fireflies.ai, two more startups that are tackling the complexities of meetings in the COVID-19 era, and whatever comes next. Both recently raised new funding, and Alex brought up Kudo to add one more upstart to the mix.
  • Noom, a weight loss platform, bulked up with $540 million in funding after nearly doubling its revenue from 2019 to 2020. The pandemic has made many people gain weight, but we chew into why Noom’s moment might be right now after a decade in the works.

Thanks for hanging out this week, Equity is back on Tuesday with our usual weekly kickoff, thanks to the American holiday on Monday. Chat then, unless you want to follow us on Twitter and get a first-look at all of Chris’ meme work. 

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Croatia’s Gideon Brothers raises $31M for its 3D vision-enabled autonomous warehouse robots

By Mike Butcher

Proving that Central and Eastern Europe remains a powerhouse of hardware engineering matched with software, Gideon Brothers (GB), a Zagreb, Croatia-based robotics and AI startup, has raised a $31 million Series A round led by Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), the venture and growth arm of Koch Industries Inc., with participation from DB Schenker, Prologis Ventures and Rite-Hite.

The round also includes participation from several of Gideon Brothers’ existing backers: Taavet Hinrikus (co-founder of TransferWise), Pentland Ventures, Peaksjah, HCVC (Hardware Club), Ivan Topčić, Nenad Bakić and Luca Ascani.

The investment will be used to accelerate the development and commercialization of GB’s AI and 3D vision-based “autonomous mobile robots” or “AMRs”. These perform simple tasks such as transporting, picking up and dropping off products in order to free up humans to perform more valuable tasks.

The company will also expand its operations in the EU and U.S. by opening offices in Munich, Germany and Boston, Massachusetts, respectively.

Gideon Brothers founders

Gideon Brothers founders. Image Credits: Gideon Brothers

Gideon Brothers make robots and the accompanying software platform that specializes in horizontal and vertical handling processes for logistics, warehousing, manufacturing and retail businesses. For obvious reasons, the need to roboticize supply chains has exploded during the pandemic.

Matija Kopić, CEO of Gideon Brothers, said: “The pandemic has greatly accelerated the adoption of smart automation, and we are ready to meet the unprecedented market demand. The best way to do it is by marrying our proprietary solutions with the largest, most demanding customers out there. Our strategic partners have real challenges that our robots are already solving, and, with us, they’re seizing the incredible opportunity right now to effect robotic-powered change to some of the world’s most innovative organizations.”

He added: “Partnering with these forward-thinking industry leaders will help us expand our global footprint, but we will always stay true to our Croatian roots. That is our superpower. The Croatian startup scene is growing exponentially and we want to unlock further opportunities for our country to become a robotics & AI powerhouse.”

Annant Patel, director at Koch Disruptive Technologies, said: “With more than 300 Koch operations and production units globally, KDT recognizes the unique capabilities of and potential for Gideon Brothers’ technology to substantially transform how businesses can approach warehouse and manufacturing processes through cutting edge AI and 3D AMR technology.”

Xavier Garijo, member of the Board of Management for Contract Logistics, DB Schenker, added: “Our partnership with Gideon Brothers secures our access to best in class robotics and intelligent material handling solutions to serve our customers in the most efficient way.”

GB’s competitors include Seegrid, Teradyne (MiR), Vecna Robotics, Fetch Robotics, AutoGuide Mobile Robots, Geek+ and Otto Motors.

Lordstown Motors execs cite binding orders to restore confidence a day after CEO, CFO resignations

By Rebecca Bellan

Lordstown Motors has enough “binding orders” from customers to fund limited production of its electric pickup truck through May 2022, executives at the company said Tuesday, just a day after an executive shakeup that included the resignation of the company’s CEO and CFO.

Reaching that goal will come at a cost. The company is putting all of its resources toward the Endurance pickup truck, which means other projects, including an electric recreational van, have been put on hold, according to comments made by Lordstown interim CEO Angela Strand and President Rich Schmidt during an automotive press event.

“We’re just focused currently on the Endurance truck,” Schmidt said at the event, according to a report by CNBC. “That’s our next goal for the next three months, to make sure we hit our production targets and stay within our budgets and drive forward to getting the vehicles ready for the market.”

What was meant to be the “first mass produced all-electric RV” should have been revealed this month, but with its money woes, Lordstown has pushed back the reveal and removed mention of the van from its amended annual filing — a change first noted earlier this month by the WSJ.

Investors responded to the company’s “we have enough capital” and “binding order” comments and put less weight on the “we’re punting on the electric van” part. Shares of Lordstown Motors were up 11.34% on the news to close at $10.31.

Lordstown’s Q1 report filed with the SEC last week showed a startling lack of capital that would have gotten in the way of manufacturing and delivering the EV pickup. In the filing, the company warned investors that it had “substantial doubt regarding [its] ability to continue” in the next year. The automaker has faced scrutiny in the past after investment research firm Hindenburg Research said the company had misled consumers and investors about Endurance’s preorders.

But Tuesday is a “new day” for the automaker-gone-SPAC, says Strand. Schmidt revealed the company has enough orders for limited production of the Endurance for 2021 and 2022, calling those orders “firm” and “binding.” The work truck will start at $55,000, he said. To compare, the Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck, another truck aimed at commercial customers, will start below $40,000.

Schmidt said the company has $400 million in the bank, but would need more to increase its ability to build more than 20,000 vehicles per year. Lordstown is actively seeking additional capital from GM, which owns a small stake in the startup, and other early investors. In a statement to Reuters, GM said, “we are comfortable with our current relationship with LMC but we are willing to listen to proposals that make sense for both parties.”

GM increases EV and AV investments to $35B through 2025

By Aria Alamalhodaei

General Motors Co. has yet again upped the amount it says it will spend on electric and autonomous vehicle investments, saying Wednesday that it would spend $35 billion through 2025 — an $8 billion increase from its previous plan announced in November 2020.

The company has set a target to bring 30 new EVs to the global market by 2025 and to transition to all-zero-emission by 2035. With the new investment, GM said it will add new electric commercial trucks to its North American plan, as well as build additional U.S. assembly capacity for electric SUVs.

Beyond building out a large portfolio of new electric models, the automaker has taken a multipronged approach in its quest to lead the EV revolution: it is also investing in two new battery cell plants under its joint venture with LG Chem, dubbed Ultium Cells LLC; and it’s poured funding into Cruise, its autonomous driving arm that it purchased for majority ownership in 2016.

The news was announced one day after Cruise said it had tapped a $5 billion line of credit from the OEM’s financial arm as it prepares for commercialization of its Origin electric and autonomous vehicle. Commercial production of the Origin is anticipated to begin in 2023.

GM also manufactures hydrogen fuel cells under its HYDROTEC joint initiative with Honda. It confirmed Wednesday that it will launch the third-generation HYDROTEC cells by mid-decade. The automaker has partnership agreements with heavy truck developer Navistar and Liebherr-Aerospace, which is developing hydrogen fuel cell power systems for aircraft.

The company also said yesterday it would supply fuel cells and EV batteries to Wabtec Corporation, a Pittsburgh-based company developing the world’s first battery locomotive.

“GM is targeting annual global EV sales of more than 1 million by 2025, and we are increasing our investment to scale faster because we see momentum building in the United States for electrification, along with customer demand for our product portfolio,” CEO Mary Barra said in a statement Wednesday.

Ford announced a similar increase in EV investment last month, when it said it would invest $30 billion by 2025, up from $22 billion by 2023.

Industrial cybersecurity startup Claroty raises $140M in pre-IPO funding round

By Carly Page

Claroty, an industrial cybersecurity company that helps customers protect and manage their Internet of Things (IoT) and operational technology (OT) assets, has raised $140 million in its latest, and potentially last, round of funding. 

With the new round of Series D funding, co-led by Bessemer and 40 North, the company has now amassed a total of $235 million. Additional strategic investors include LG and I Squared Capital’s ISQ Global InfraTech Fund, with all previous investors — Team8, Rockwell Automation, Siemens and Schneider Electric — also participating. 

Founded in 2015, the late-stage startup focuses on the industrial side of cybersecurity. Its customers include General Motors, Coca-Cola EuroPacific Partners and Pfizer, with Claroty helping the pharmaceutical firm to secure its COVID-19 vaccine supply chain. Claroty tells TechCrunch it has seen “significant” customer growth over the past 18 months, largely fueled by the pandemic, with 110% year-over-year net new logo growth and 100% customer retention. 

It will use the newly raised funds to meet this rapidly accelerating global demand for The Claroty Platform, an end-to-end solution that provides visibility into industrial networks and combines secure remote access with continuous monitoring for threats and vulnerabilities. 

“Our mission is to drive visibility, continuity and resiliency in the industrial economy by delivering the most comprehensive solutions that secure all connected devices within the four walls of an industrial site, including all operational technology (OT), Internet of Things (IoT) and industrial IoT (IIoT) assets,” said Claroty CEO Yaniv Vardi.

To meet this growing demand, the startup is planning to expand into new regions and verticals, including transportation and government-owned industries, as well as increase its global headcount. The company, which is based in New York, currently has around 240 employees. 

Claroty hasn’t yet made any acquisitions, though CEO Yaniv Vardi tells TechCrunch that this could be part of the startup’s roadmap going forward.

“We’re waiting for the right opportunity at the right time, but it’s definitely part of the plan as part of the financial runway we just secured,” he said, adding that this latest funding round will likely be the company’s last before it explores a potential IPO.

“We are thinking that this is a pre-IPO funding round,” he said. “The end goal here is to be the market leader for industrial cybersecurity. One of the mascots can be going public with an IPO, but there are different options too, such as SPAC.”

The funding round comes amid a sharp increase in cyber targeting organizations that underpin the world’s critical infrastructure and supply chains. According to a recent survey carried out by Claroty, the majority (53%) of U.S. industrial enterprises have seen an increase in cybersecurity threats since the start of 2020. The survey of 1,110 IT and OT security professionals also found that over half believed their organization is now more of a target for cybercriminals, with 67% having seen cybercriminals use new tactics amid the pandemic. 

“The number of attacks, and impact of these attacks, is increasing significantly, especially in verticals like food, automotive, and critical infrastructure. Vardi said. “That creates a lot of risk assessments public companies had to do, and these risks needed to be addressed with a security solution on the industrial side.”

Lordstown Motors reverses claims about ‘binding orders’ for electric pickup truck

By Kirsten Korosec

Lordstown Motors does not have binding orders from customers for its electric Endurance pickup truck — a reversal from claims made earlier this week by company executives in an effort to restore confidence in the troubled company, according to a regulatory filing released Thursday.

Lordstown Motors interim CEO Angela Strand and President Rich Schmidt made a series of statements Tuesday at an Automotive Press Association event that drove up shares in the company, including that it has enough “binding orders” from customers to fund limited production of its electric pickup truck through May 2022. Those comments came just a day after an executive shakeup that included the resignation of the company’s CEO and CFO.

It appears those “binding orders” were more like agreements to maybe lease or buy, according to a document Lordstown filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing has caused shares of Lordstown to fall more than 4%.

The document reads:

To clarify recent remarks by company executives at the Automotive Press Association online media event on June 15, although these vehicle purchase agreements provide us with a significant indicator of demand for the Endurance, these agreements do not represent binding purchase orders or other firm purchase commitments. As previously disclosed in our Form 10-K/A for the year ended December 31, 2020, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 8, 2021, to date, we have engaged in limited marketing activities and we have no binding purchase orders or commitments from customers.

Lordstown notes in the SEC filing that an important aspect of its sales and marketing strategy involves pursuing relationships with specialty upfitting and fleet management companies. For instance, in March 2021. Lordstown announced an agreement with ARI, a fleet management affiliate of Holman Enterprises. Under the agreement, ARI “would use reasonable efforts to facilitate orders from its leasing clients for the Endurance over a three-year time period on the terms set forth in the agreement.”

Lordstown has also entered into vehicle purchase agreements with additional specialty upfitting and fleet management companies as a component of that strategy, the company explained. This might sound like a binding order, but it’s not, as the following language in the SEC doc makes more clear.

“These vehicle purchase agreements generally include a projected buyer order schedule over the 3- to 5-year life of the agreement, and may be terminated by either party at will on 30 days’ notice,” the filing from Lordstown reads. “They do not commit the counterparties to purchase vehicles, but we believe that they provide us with a significant indicator of demand for the Endurance.”

The reversal from Lordstown is just the latest in a string of issues at the newly public company. Lordstown Motors is an offshoot of the now former CEO Steve Burns’ other company, Workhorse Group, a battery-electric transportation technology company that is also publicly traded. Workhorse holds a 10% stake in Lordstown Motors. Lordstown Motors went public after merging with special purpose acquisition company DiamondPeak Holdings Corp.

In March, Hindenburg Research, the short-seller firm whose report on Nikola Motor led to an SEC investigation and the resignation of its founder, said it had taken a short position on Lordstown Motors, causing shares to plummet 21%. Hindenburg said at the time that its short position was based on a company that has “no revenue and no sellable product, which we believe has misled investors on both its demand and production capabilities.”

Hindenburg disputes that the company has booked 100,000 pre-orders for its electric pickup truck, a stat shared by Lordstown Motors in January. The short seller says that “extensive research reveals that the company’s orders appear largely fictitious and used as a prop to raise capital and confer legitimacy.” The firm goes further and alleges that Lordstown founder and CEO Steve Burns paid consultants for every truck pre-order as early as 2016 while he was leading Workhorse.

Two months later, Lordstown reported in its first-quarter earnings that production volumes of the Endurance would likely be half — from around 2,200 vehicles to just 1,000 — due to a lack of funding. The statements made by Lordstown execs Tuesday appeared to be an attempt, which backfired, to assuage investors.

Inside GM’s startup incubator strategy

By Kirsten Korosec

GM has launched a series of new subsidiaries in the past year tackling electrification, connectivity and even insurance — all part of the automaker’s aim to find value (and profits) beyond its traditional business of making, selling and financing vehicles. These startups, including numerous ones that will never make the cut, get their start under Vice President of Innovation Pam Fletcher’s watch.

Fletcher, who joined TechCrunch on June 9 at the virtual TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 event, runs a group of 170 people developing and launching startups with a total addressable market of about $1.3 trillion.

Today, about 19 companies are making their way through the incubator in hopes of joining recent GM startups like OnStar Guardian, OnStar Insurance, GM Defense and BrightDrop, the commercial electric vehicle delivery business that launched in January. Not everything will make it, Fletcher told the audience, noting “we add new things all the time.”

Launching any startup presents challenges. But launching multiple startups within a 113-year-old automaker that employs 155,000 people globally is another, more complex matter. The bar, which determines whether these startups are ever publicly launched, is specific and high. A GM startup has to be a new idea that can attract new customers and grow the total addressable market for the automaker, using existing assets and IP.

The Volt effect

The 2010 Chevrolet Volt is a noteworthy moment on the GM timeline. The vehicle marked the company’s first commercial push into electrification since the 1990s EV1 program. Fletcher, who was the chief engineer of the Chevy Volt propulsion system from 2008 to 2011, noted that the Volt was the beginning of a change within the automaker that eventually led to other commercial products including the all-electric Chevy Bolt, the hands-free driver assistance system Super Cruise and its current work on autonomous vehicle development with its subsidiary Cruise.

I don’t know that the Volt was a root exactly of what we’re seeing today. But I think it was definitely the start of a groundswell of really looking at, how do we inject technology that customers are excited about and care about quickly? How do we engage them deeply in the process? … Which we’ve always done … just, I think there was a climate there where the appetite was so strong with a certain group of customers for the technology that it allowed us to get really a front row seat with them, which was game changing for those of us on the frontlines. And obviously, there have been many programs that have had that in their own ways, but you really see that accelerating now with the advent of everything we’re doing in electrification and autonomous and a portfolio that is just emerging even to the notion of applying some of these great technologies to our new full size, truck and SUV programs. So it’s really broad, based across the company, which is exciting. (Timestamp: 4:56)

Fletcher explained how working to commercialize new technology changed how the company interacted with customers.

With new technologies, one, you get to a new customer base sometimes. So, really understanding what that customer is looking like and putting them at the center of everything. Also, different technologies have different development processes and timelines and pipelines for activity. So, it really allowed us to start to think about how to approach each step of our product development and customer engagement differently. And the Volt was an interesting time too, because that was the advent of new social media was really starting to become much more popular. And so we were very connected with those customers and a great customer base that gave us tremendous feedback very directly, you know, through at the time, what was a new channel. (Timestamp: 3:50)

Growth is not enough

By Natasha Mascarenhas

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

We were a smaller team this week, with Natasha and Alex together with Grace and Chris to sort through a week that brought together both this quarter’s earnings cycle, and the Q3 IPO rush. So, it was just a little busy!

Before we get to topics, however, a note that we are having a lot of fun recording these live on Twitter Spaces. We’ve found a hacky way to capture local audio and also share the chats live. So, hit us up on Twitter so you can hang out with us. It’s fun – and we may even bring you up on stage to play guest host.

Ok, now, to the Great List of Subjects:

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.
❌