Fast Five from the Valley: Edition 32

 In Fast Five from the Valley

The future communications landscape is developing at “The Edge”

The race is on between Elon Musks’ SpaceX and SoftBank backed OneWeb on which will be the first to conquer space with their satellite constellations – clusters of several miniature satellites which provide worldwide internet connectivity. FCC has just granted permission to SpaceX to launch more than 4,000 satellites into the lower orbit. However, the U.N. has given OneWeb first rights to use the radio spectrum required for satellite communication and has a 120,000 sq ft factory that can build one satellite every 8 hours. Although both have a long way ahead of them, the race for low-latency communication proves to be a promising one, as SpaceX has already launched 2 of its satellites for trials.
However, with rising demand for low latency access and computing power at the edge of the network, satellite communications are only one part of the connectivity solution of the future. Vapor IO, the startup behind the “Kinetic Edge”, plans to build 127 microdata centers for Edge applications across the U.S. by the end of 2019. The first micro data center will be installed later this year in Chicago with 26 more to follow in the remainder of the year. For the Kinetic Edge, multiple microdata centers are linked together with high-speed fiber into one big virtual low latency data center. Each micro data center consists of a completely self-contained shipping container including power distribution, cooling, security, fire suppression and up to 150 kW of power for critical IT. It can be set-up within one day, often located at the base of existing cell towers. The resulting computing power can be sold to wireless providers, tower companies or data center operators. Vapor IO is already working together with two other startups to provide services along the edge: In March they announced a partnership with drone company Hangar, which will rely on Vapor’s Kinetic Edge to autonomously deploy, navigate and house their drones. In a second cooperation together with Packet, Vapor IO is aiming to provide 5G as-a-Service at its Edge locations.

Our CEO Stefan Wilhelm held a presentation at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year about the future of telecommunications, highlighting the growing importance of Edge services, especially when it comes to real-time applications with numerous devices. If you want to know more about these topics, visit our trend radar ( or schedule a call with one of our experts.

The sound of silence: Lots of noise but no bell whistling at Spotify’s IPO

Sweden’s famed music streaming service Spotify went public this week in a highly unusual way: The Swedes opted for a direct listing instead of the usual lengthy and expensive IPO process. For a normal IPO, the company going public will use the services of an underwriter who in turn sells the shares through their network, thus determining the initial offering price. Since underwriters are costly, taking between 2% – 8% of the offering price, companies have been looking for alternatives – one popular one is the direct listing. Here the shares are not issued and there is no lock-up (minimum holding period), but all of the previous shareholders are able to sell their shares directly (i.e. employees, investors), so it is a riskier but increasingly attractive route for tech companies. In Spotify’s case, it was a total success: At the end of the first day, one share was at $149, making it the 8th largest tech-listing ever at a total valuation of $26.5bn. Spotify has yet to turn in profit, and in a market where giants like Apple, Google and Amazon are operating, business will most likely not be easy in the next few years.

One thing did go wrong though; NYSE falsely flew the Swiss flag. Let’s hope these are the only worries for Spotify in the next month.

Facebook in damage control to retain users

The social media giant’s bad month is going from bad to worse. While original reports indicated that Cambridge Analytica collected data on 50m people through the social media platform, Facebook has now indicated that 87m people may have been affected.

However, an internal memo titled “The Ugly”, written by a Facebook executive, has indicated that Facebook’s mission to connect people is more important than user safety. Additionally, it highlights the fear of what many people outside Silicon Valley often fear about the Valley: That the big tech companies don’t care about their users, but only for the data they provide so that the organizations can grow.

Walmart healthcare acquisitions and partnerships

Walmart is mulling two major acquisitions – the medication delivery service, PillPack, and healthcare insurance giant, Humana.

The retail giant is in discussions to acquire PillPack for “under $1bn”. Founded in 2013, PillPack fills prescriptions, helps patients manage their medications by sorting pills into individual dosage packets, automatically delivers refills, and provides around the clock customer service. This takeover aligns with Walmart’s desire to expand services to its customer base, which is skewed towards senior customers who are in need of multiple and repeat medications.

Additionally, Walmart and health insurance company, Humana, are in the early stages of merger talks. As one of the nation’s largest employers, Walmart is a formidable player in healthcare, and this potential partnership with Humana can help with reducing employee hospitalization and other medical costs.

It still remains unclear on how deeply Walmart wants to venture into healthcare. However, the coming months will further reveal the retail giant’s stance on healthcare.

Back up your brain – MIT backs out of a partnership with a startup creating digital back-ups of your brain

A startup called Nectome claimed to be able to create digital backups of your brain. The only catch is that it is a one-time exercise – i.e. you won’t be around following the procedure to retrieve your back up. The startup received a $915k grant from the Institution Health and was working with top MIT neuroscientists until the researchers discovered the “fatal flaw”. I guess I better find a better way to save my brains!

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