Alfresco Disco


Hubs-wifey-team Nardz and Lhai Betriolo cover Don't Play That Song. Amateur recording but the music and dancing make up for it. At many locales, dance floors are still off-limits. As it should be. Bugzilla thrives in packed venues which host strenuous activity, heavy breathing and recirculating aircons. We are not in the clear yet. Pesky delta is still lurking around and vaccine busting Tanzania has been spotted in the wild. Hack: alfresco disco with bluetooth headphones and max one couple on the floor at any one time.

Food Delivery Notes

Food delivery platforms can be useful but based on recent reports, it seems there is ample room for improvement. In a three-sided market, there are issues with each market:
  • Consumer - Lack of healthy, balanced and iconic food choices. Promotion of inhouse brands over third party merchants (like Amazon muscling in on best sellers?). Limited choices although many good merchants nearby suggesting a lack of active recruitment. Plus the usual questions about markups and delivery charges, the latter which have recently crept upwards.
  • Merchant - Hidden fees and charges on top of high commissions. A merchant may sell a thousand+ bucks worth of food and end up owing money to the platform. Some say it is a free market and the merchants decide whether to sign up or not. However, it is possible the platform is making money off noob merchants.
  • Riders - Riders playing loose with traffic rules. One can sympathise with the riders where time is money, and it is no fun waiting at traffic under the sweltering sun. The concern is ignoring the rules may teach other motorcyclists to do the same, in addition to safety and law and order issues.

On the plus side, we see a rise in competing platforms and merchants doing own deliveries. Customers and merchants can try testing out these new offerings and use the free market to counter the shortcomings of the dominant platforms.

For merchants, when customers visit your eatery after the lockdowns, do try to recruit them to your online platform (eg. by giving them a business card which may simply contain a whatsapp number for ordering and you doing your own deliveries) before another lockdown comes along leaving you scrabbling to find customers to fill the order book.

Another avenue which can be explored is food trucks visiting areas which are not the target market for food deliveries (eg. public flats). Instead of food trucks be just mobile stores which plunk themselves down at fixed locations, the trucks would actually travel from location to location. This is an old school playbook tried and tested by the hawkers of yore who plied their trade, with delicious, affordable food, on bicycles and on foot.

Metaverse

Metaverse
FB is planning to expand its business from social media to metaverse. The term metaverse means 'beyond internet' and is envisioned to feature:
  • The use of VR+AR over text+graphics (goggles vs screens)
  • Immersive participation vs passive consumption
  • Has its own economy (markets, currencies, economics)
  • Decentralised governance (not run by FB alone)

Multiverse
If metaverse is taken to mean closer to the concept of multiverse (multiple universe), FB is already a metaverse company, as FB, the social media, is a 'parallel universe'. In it, you can have your own persona, friends, communities and activities, different from and in parallel to the 'standard world'.

Greenverse
Use-case example. 'Parallel universe' can be a transformative green enabler. Say, if an entrepreneur wishes to build a new Disneyland, if he or she builds it in the 'standard world', it will require clearing of forests, tonnes of concrete, enormous consumption of resources and spewing of waste to build and run. If it is made in a VR universe, the environmental impact will be much less.

Conference
For more on metaverse and to find out FB's new name (could be a rebrand or a new umbrella holding company), check out Connect 2021 happening this Thursday (Oct 28th).

Kungfu Ninja

In the West, swashbuckling and fisticuffs have been a staple of movies since the days of Errol Flynn. In the East, particularly in HK, the kungfu genre has gone through a few phases:
- 1960s: Kwan Tak-Hing (opera)
- 1970s: Bruce Lee (gritty-violent)
- 1980s: Jet Li (wushu)
- 1990s: Jackie Chan (comedic)
- 2000s: Donnie Yen (melodramatic)
Currently, the kungfu genre is in a bit of doldrums, with no obvious icon, and choreography tending to be rehashes (flips, spinning kicks, fly-by-wire etc).

From demos that we have come across, the state of the art in kungfu kinetics is possibly now being crafted outside of its traditional home, HK - check out this ninja vid (left) by photographer Daniel LaBelle.

Novi USDP

  • Facebook launched its crypto service via its Novi ewallet yesterday.
  • Instead of using its own cryptocurrency Diem, Novi will use USDP, a stablecoin issued by Paxos and its stablecoin-as-a-service.
  • USDP differs from Tether, a more well-known stablecoin, in key two areas: a) issuer Paxos is licensed by US authorities b) USDP is 100% backed by cash vs Tether's approx 4% backed by actual dollars.
  • Paxos also powers PayPal's cryptocurrency services, and has recently obtained a coveted US bank charter.
  • Although Paxos has custodian (ie banking) services, the custody of  USDP on behalf of Novi will be provided by Coinbase Custody.
  • Novi is being made available in the US and Guatemala. To allow USDP to be cashed out in Guatemala, Novi partners with Remitly.

Work Near Home

We are now at the last quarter of the year - three more months to hustle 2021. Forward looking businesses are already planning for 2022, looking for spaces to launch from. A selection of coworking startups:
  • Patch - Work near home: like working from home and office
  • Ledger - Bicycle-orientated coworking space
  • Forward - Lab-on-demand: coworking for life sciences
  • Roundhouse - From historic train depot to coworking space
  • SoWork - Virtual office for maintaining camaraderie while WFA
  • SaksWorks - Coworking at Saks Fifth Avenue (luxury dept store)
  • TreeWork - Beer company's outdoor coworking space info
  • Chateau - Coworking and coliving in a French castle
  • Zoku - European home-office hybrid space vid

Self Driving


Dark and Rainy Night
Tesla running the latest version (FSD 10.2) of its self-driving software. Has to work even when it is dark and rainy. An example why a camera-only approach is useful, because if the car is driven blind using radar (eg. through thick fog), the human driver can't verify the self-driving.

Busy Streets
An AutoX robotaxi navigating through a busy, narrow street. Notice how hesitant the vehicle is; because essentially it is likely programmed to observe 'if hooman steps in front of car, apply brakes'. This is where machine learning is indispensable: have skilled drivers assertively inch their way through the crowd and then get the software to learn from the drivers.

Conferences
For more on autonomous vehicles, check out the automotive section of Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference happening Nov 8-12, 2021, and the autonomous driving component of Alibaba's Apsara Conference, Oct 19-21.

EV: 90% Market Share

  • Norway plans to phase out out gas guzzlers by 2025, but it might reach this goal in April 2022, three years ahead of schedule. As of September 2021, the market share of EVs in Norway is 90%.
  • Once EV sales pass a critical point, it becomes self-reinforcing as infrastructure, regulations, social norms, practices and resale value follow the overwhelming market leader.
  • ICE might still be needed in exceptional or industrial use cases. For general commuting, hybrids are a plausible alternative to pure ICE - use electricity when available, fossil fuel when not.
  • Nonetheless, a major legacy auto brand is promoting hybrids as the way to go - this is like making a transition from horse-drawn buggies to motorcars by tethering a few horses behind the car. Eventually, the ecosystem must decidedly leave the horses behind and strike out in a motorised direction, solving issues as they arise and not resorting to horses anymore.
  • An outstanding EV issue to resolve is energy resilience. In UK now, ICE owners are having a tough time due to fuel shortages caused by a lack of tanker drivers while EV owners are in the clear. But the situation could reverse, for example during a grid meltdown. This could addressed by decentralised power generation etc.
  • The EV industry is still in its infancy. Whilst Tesla, major legacy brands like GM and VW, and newcomers like Lucid and Nio get the attention, there is a myriad of up and coming smaller players.
  • In the West, e-bikes are the rage as barriers to market entry are much lower as compared to cars (which are governed by a mountain of regulations).
  • In the East, specifically in CN, flying below the radar is a trend of zany designs. This is possible because the EV ecosystem in CN has advanced enough to separate design (or system integration) from manufacture together with a large plethora of suppliers.
  • This is similar to how in semiconductors, chip purveyors focus on marketing, sales and design and have chips fabricated at outsourced foundries. Like in the case of TSMC, long-time Apple subcontractor Foxconn has already made first steps in this direction by starting EV foundries in Ohio and Thailand.

Culture Currency

Spotted on the internet: Spain is giving 18 year olds €300 to spend on culture including theatre, art materials, courses, books and musical instruments. This follows similar schemes in France and Italy. Let's explore the ways how this might possibly be rolled out:

Cash
  • On presentation of identification by an 18-year old, hand over cash.
  • Recipient signs pledge to use it on cultural activities only.
  • This uses an honour system.

Voucher
  • Vouchers are given to recipients, redeemable at cultural outlets.
  • The name of the recipient is written on voucher: not transferable.
  • Old school system with high overheads and lots of paperwork.

Ewallet
  • Cash deposited in ewallets and used in an honour system.
  • Or 100% rebate e-vouchers redeemable at authorised outlets.
  • Or preloaded cash card usable at approved outlets.

Digital Currency
  • Each unit of currency is imbued with preset smart attributes:
  • Type: Culture Pass, User: To whom it is given, Transferable: No, Validity: 1 Year, Redeemable: Outlets with cultural attribute, Geofenced: Yes, On Redemption: Unfettered (for merchant).
  • Air-dropped to eligible 18-year olds.

Actual Implementation
  • In France, recipients download and install a dedicated app.
  • The app stores money, provides directory of events and outlets.
  • Does ticketing and reservations. [ app: android | ios ]

Roman Architecture


World Architecture Day was on Monday (Oct 4th, 2021). With the need for a greener world, here are some possible architectural hints from the ancient designers, including the Romans:
  • Timeless buildings that last hundreds of years
  • Inspirational (vs functional or aesthetic) designs
  • Human scale (vs monolithic, top-down models)
  • Blends with nature and surroundings
  • Promotes flow, thought, activity and culture

Fintech Festivals

SCxSC (MY, Oct 25-28, 2021) info pdf
Theme: Islamic Fintech. The pillars of Islamic Finance are:
  • Wealth: generated from legitimate trade and assets
  • Investments: have social and ethical benefits beyond ROI
  • Risk/Rewards: Shared (loans are more like investments)
  • Activities: Harmful (haram) activities prohibited
  • Products: No excessive speculation, complex derivatives

Hong Kong Fintech Week (HK, Nov 1-5, 2021) info
Theme: Virtual Banks and Digital Insurance. HK's experience:
  • 8 e-banks: Airstar, Ant, Fusion, Livi, Mox, OneConnect, WeLab, ZA
  • 8 e-insurers: Aimviva, Avo, Blue, Bowtie, Intact, OneDegree, Oval, ZA
  • 8 e-enablers: FTSB, InvestHK, HKMA, IA, SFC, HKEX, HKSTP, Cyberport

Singapore Fintech Festival (SG, Nov 8-12, 2021) info pdf
Theme: Web 3.0 Financial Services. The definition of Web 3.0 is still evolving but can be taken to mean the application of AI and semantics:
  • Web 1.0: static, Web 2.0: interactive, Web 3.0: intelligent
  • If FB and Google is 2.0, what would 3.0 look like? Perhaps:
  • FB: More relevance (does not bury useful content), less 'addictive'
  • Google: Customisable index (returns only clean, clear webpages)
  • For financial services, it may mean distributed identities, ledgers etc

EU Startup Meets

October sees boutique startup meets at NL (Oct 5th), CH (Oct 19th) and DE (Oct 26th). A sample of startups speaking at the events:
  • TwingTec - Wind energy powered by kites vid
  • Mictic - Wearable virtual musical instrument
  • Datamaran - ESG assessment and reporting
  • Impaakt - A stock ticker that reports ESG rather than stock price
  • NanoDink - Replace whiteboards with digital ink (vs costly displays)
  • Fin:marie - Financial planning for women
  • VAI - BNPL for businesses, pay invoices in 4 instalments
  • Retorio - AI video interviews [creepy....]

Romanian Interlude


Romanian (from her father's side) teen Emma Raducanu is basking in the limelight after winning the US Open. Romania is a rather low-key country, here are two other Romanian teen personalities:
  • Nadia Comaneci set the 1976 Montreal Olympics alight with her gymnastic performance. We can't embed her vid, see it @ YouTube.
  • Beatrice Florea, an aspiring musician whom we last featured in a La Bamba vid, covers Stand By Me with musician friends.

Tipping by Content

  • An even better way to tip content creators: by content vs by creator.
  • You enjoyed a useful, entertaining or stirring YouTube video.
  • There is a button that allows you to tip the video.
  • Clicking on it reveals preset standard amounts $0.10, $0.50, $1, $5, $10, $20 etc (or a figure can be manually entered).
  • Click on the preset amount, confirm, and the tip is sent.
  • Facilitated by a digital wallet and/or a digital currency that is fast and has low transaction fees. YouTube may take a small cut.
  • Content creators can monetise through tips, subs, ads or combo.
  • Tipping by content allows tipping at the essential moment content is appreciated.

Twitter Tips

Twitter Tipping
Twitter now allows users to tip their fave follows, via:
  • Bandcamp - Online record store and music community
  • Cash App - Square's ewallet for US and UK
  • Chipper - Send and receive money in Africa
  • Patreon - Subscription platform
  • Razorpay - Send and receive money in India
  • WealthSimple - Send and receive money in Canada
  • Venmo - PayPal's ewallet for US
  • GoFundMe - Crowdfunding platform
  • PicPay - Send and receive money in Brazil
  • Strike - Send and receive BTC in US and El Salvador
Footnotes
  • Users can also specify a BTC address for direct transfer. But this doesn't use Lightning and thus may take minutes to days and a fee of $2 to $60+ to transact.
  • Going 'raw' may also entail KYC and AML considerations whereas receiving a payment via a platform offloads some due diligence to the platform.

PayPal Bank
  • PayPal has gone digital bank: deposits, bill and P2P payments, digital wallet, and now a savings account in partnership with Synchrony Bank.
  • Still, it doesn't brand itself a digital bank possibly because the use of the term 'bank' is regulated in many jurisdictions, and being a bank entails additional technicalities.

Lending Club
  • Why would a P2P lender want to become a digital bank?
  • In the case of Lending Club, buying Radius Bank, a digital bank (in the US, this is one way to become a digital bank), saw its revenues grow 93% and share price soar 500%.
  • How? 1) Peer borrowing is expensive, cheaper to lend bank deposits. 2) Issuing loans via banks entail fees, better be a bank and issue the loan yourself. 3) Deposits that are not loaned out can earn interest.

Emerging eVTOL


Preamble
  • UAM infra moving ahead or in tandem with transporters ('flying car') is good. Unlike EVs (electric vehicles) where the vehicle (eg. Tesla) is path finding alone. Aviation is more dynamic and have come up with proposals for hubs, flight control and nano-vertiports.
  • For drone-like transporters, not much progress is seen, but tilt-rotor eVTOL is where it is happening.
  • Tilt rotors differ from drones by having wings for lift and tilting rotors (propellers point up to fly up, forward to fly forward). 1st vid

eVTOL Startups

Sample Backers via
  • Archer - United Airlines, Stellantis
  • Lilium - Tencent, Atomico
  • Joby - Toyota, Uber, Intel, JetBlue
  • Vertical - American Airlines, Rolls Royce, Microsoft, Honeywell

Notes
  • The CityAirbus (announced 2 days ago on 21-Sep-2021) seems to be comparatively lightly spec-ed. But what aren't shown are turnaround times, acquisition and running costs, air traffic integration etc. These may be Airbus' forte given its commercial aviation experience.
  • Flight distances are typically 50 km, so high speed is not necessary. Here's what Joby said is a use case: LAX to Newport Beach (50km distance, 15 min UAM, 1 hour 16 min by car), and Vertical: Heathrow to Canary Wharf (32 km, 13 min UAM, 1 hour 22 min by car).
  • Locally and regionally, eVTOLs could be ideal for providing virtual cable cars or bridges. Example: Bukit Bintang-Genting (55 km) or Marina Square-Batam Island (30 km).

Edible Flowers

Veggies are usually associated with leafy parts of a plant (lettuce, spinach, coriander). But other parts are edible too: roots (garlic, ginger), tubers (potato, carrot), stems (celery, asparagus), fruits (tomato, pineapple, cucumber, chili) and seeds (peppercorn, mustard, soya). Lesser known are edible and drinkable flowers, a sample: [Photo: rice cubes coloured by butterfly pea flowers, served with coconut jam, via My Blue Tea]
  • Tea (jasmine, chrysanthemum, chamomile)
  • Garnish (orange saffron, red rose, blue butterfly pea)
  • Salad (lavender, lilac, marigold, violet)
  • Food (hibiscus, broccoli, cauliflower)
Unless you know what you are doing, best not to pick flowers straight from the garden. Instead, get them from the market if available.

State of Drones

Heli-Tech
HeliTech Expo 2021 is a VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) exhibition and conference happening Oct 5-6 @ London. Sample conference topics:
  • Drone Ops (managing millions of drones in the sky) - Airbus
  • The Phoenix Programme: Drone Commercialisation - Drone Major
  • CycloGyro Rotor: High Precision Manoeuvrability - CycloTech
  • Bringing the Commercial UAV Ecosystem Together - Inmarsat
  • Potential of BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) Drones - Modini

Latest Drone Startups
  • Urban Airport - Airport for drones vid
  • Aloft - Drone traffic management & air control app
  • YellowScan - LiDAR drones (measure more accurately vs cameras)
  • A2Z - Drone that lowers load while remaining flying (vs landing)
  • AVSS - Drone parachute (mitigates drone falling from the sky)
  • DroneHub - Rushes to check security breaches (doggo drone)
  • Quantum Systems - Winged drones for extended missions

UAM
  • The infrastructure component of urban air mobility (UAM) is often in the news, less so the progress of the transporters ('flying cars') themselves.
  • Likely because propeller-only transporters remain an immense technical challenge.
  • Propeller-only transporters have to fight gravity using propellers, akin to going to a hypermart, buying a washing machine, and strapping the machine to one's back to carry it to one's car - fighting gravity.
  • The breakthrough may come with the use of blimps etc, which is like putting the washing machine on a trolley and pushing it to the car.
  • For more on UAM infrastructure, check out a virtual symposium happening 22-23 Sep, 2021 (tix sold out).

Mosaic of Music


First Vid: Good covers of Malay pop classic Belaian Jiwa ('a soul's caress') are hard to come by, Zara Ali's version is a stand out. Second: Kanomroo performs a clear, acoustic cover of Mandopop classic The Moon Represents My Heart. Third: Elica Paujin sings Borneo hit Momuhobo ('breathe'). Fourth: Indian Classical singer Maithili Thakur crosses over and uses her classical training for a marvellous rendition of My Heart Will Go On.

Dubai Expo 2021

World Expos are held every 5 years or so. The last few editions were Hanover (2000), Aichi (2005), Shanghai (2010) and Milan (2015). For 2020, the host city is Dubai, with the expo opening, after being held back by the pandemic, on Oct 1st, 2021. The next Expo is Osaka (2025). At the listing of country pavilions, the info shown is mostly pavilion related, here are a few with distinctive country related tag lines:
  • Afghanistan - Bazaars of cashmere, saffron and precious stones
  • Australia - World's first astronomers [the aborigines]
  • Estonia - The best of Nordic cuisine with an Estonian twist
  • India - India's past, present and future
  • Ireland - 5000 years of myth, legend and literature
  • Pakistan - A country of unparalleled nature and adventure
  • United States - Experience American freedom
The expo looks like it's a 100% in-person event, with no mentions of virtual tours or event broadcasts. The programme lists many satellite events but no further information is available. For a feel of the vibe, check out the expo's twitter account.