Esther Duflo

Leadership Energy
The headline speaker for this year's Leadership Energy Summit (16-19 Nov 2020) is Esther Duflo, Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT, and the current Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics for her work in fighting poverty. An example of such work is finding poor learning in Kenyan students was not caused by the lack of books, big class sizes or even the lack of breakfast. Instead, these measures make a difference:
  • Remedial tutoring for weaker students
  • Putting teachers on short term contracts
  • Incentives to combat teacher absenteeism

Discovery Pass
In addition to an all access pass priced at MYR 1.2K (USD 300 | previous years' live events were around USD 700), this year, LESA is offering a complimentary discovery pass. The discovery pass entitles the holder to 2 of the 8 keynote sessions. And 4 of the 8 masterclasses by ASB faculty:

To The Moon

To The |Moon
'To The Moon' is a crypto term for a sustained rise in the price of a crypto-currency. Working to literally get to the moon is the topic of this post.

Lunar Day
NASA is running a challenge (US only, video) to find ways how a lunar station could store and distribute power. Unlike the Earth where a day is 12 hours long (say, 7am to 7pm), a lunar day is 2 weeks in duration. A solar energy system will need to store for 2 weeks and discharge for 2 weeks.

Lunar Station
ESA (European Space Agency) recently concluded a school-level Tinkercad design competition for a lunar station. In addition to long days and nights, such a station will be subjected to blistering day-time temperatures (120° C, above boiling point) and cryogenic nights (-130° C, coldest Siberia is -68° C, coldest Antarctica is -90° C), space vacuum and meteorite strikes. The winning entry from a Czech team proposes a domed station insulated by moon soil with underground facilities.

2021 Lunar Missions info
  • ChangE 5 - Collect samples and return CN
  • Capstone - Orbiter technology demonstrator US
  • RocketLab - Gravity assist demonstrator US
  • MissionOne - Landers and rovers demonstrator US
  • Spacebit - Lunar caves explorer UK
  • Nova-C - Commercial payload services US
  • Lunar 25 - Explore natural resources RU
  • Artemis 1 - Lunar flyby test US EU
  • Chandrayaan 3 - Second landing attempt IN
  • ALNA - Private lander and rover DE
  • SLIM - Landing and roving JP 2022
  • KPLO - Orbiter technology demonstrator SK 2022
  • XL-1 - Lunar lander, commercial payloads US 2022

FinWeek FinFest

HK FinWeek is happening Nov 2-6, 2020. Speakers include Ray Dalio, Yuri Milner and the chief execs of Nasdaq, Fidelity, BoC, HSBC, Stanchart and Tencent. [Also, SG FinFest is on Dec 7-11, no agenda yet, speakers include the chief execs of Microsoft, Citibank, Accenture, Visa and PayPal.] Sample topics:
  • Insure Cheaper and More Profitably - WeSure
  • Successful Fintech Investments - Radiant
  • Mobile Financial Services - Facebook
  • Making NeoBanks Profitable - 86400
  • Virtual Bank UX UI - LiviBank
  • Network of Networks - Nium

Latest Fintech Startups
  • M1 - Super finance app: invest, borrow, spend (banking as an app)
  • Yova - Investapp: no derivatives, no robo, safe stocks & bonds only
  • Aspiration - Every card swipe, rounding goes to planting trees
  • Extend - Ecommerce warranty insurance for merchants & buyers
  • Modulr - Handle business payments without going through banks
  • Ordo - B2B account receivables, only 20p (25 cents) per transaction

Remember When

Remember When performed by Madelyn Paquette.

Crypto Pal

Today's buzz is PayPal's entry into crypto. Some random notes:

  • Logical move for PayPal because exchanges like Binance might potentially step into its turf. For now, Paypal crypto does not compete with Binance because Paypal is a custodian not an exchange.
  • Strategically, PayPal channels people who might be interested in dabbling in crypto to PayPal, capturing noob users before they try exchanges.
  • Libra, which PayPal initially supported, seems to be in limbo, though recently the Libra Association hired a slate of CxOs. Something might be happening there too, soon.
  • PayPal looks to be shaping up and getting ready for cryptoverse including CBDCs and Libra if and when they come on tap.

  • Paypal is a crypto custodian (like s safe deposit box) not an exchange (like bazaar or market).
  • It allows one to buy crypto and hold it with PayPal and sell crypto back to PayPal, or use it to pay for stuff. For payments, the usual PayPal transaction fee of around 3% applies.
  • Unlike an exchange, PayPal does not allow one to trade crypto (eg exchange BTC for ETH) or send and receive crypto (eg send one ETH to a friend)
  • Crypto transactions are capped at $10K per week and $50K per year. These limits suggest the facility is not for speculation or stashing away lots of money. Instead it can be used as a minor portfolio and for payments.
  • All buy and sell are in USD so unless PayPal natively supports other currencies there might also be a USD exchange rate fee. No details available about an international rollout, the service is presently US focused and licensed.
  • Do high crypto transaction fees and long confirmation times apply when buying stuff using crypto on PayPal? Probably not, PayPal could possibly aggregate transactions and commit them en bloc (ie as one transaction) to the blockchain periodically.
  • Back-office, Paxos is handling cyrpto for PayPal. Paxos also signed up digital bank Revolut for its crypto custodian services.

Parisian Drones

Parisian Drones
After Tokyo 2021, next up will be Paris hosting the summer Olympics of 2024. [Possibly to ferry athletes, officials and staff who have to be on time at the venues regardless of traffic] Paris is planning a flying taxi service for the event in partnership with ADP, RATP, Volocopter and ParisRegion.

Foxconn EV
Apple was working on an EV but it seems to have dropped or depriortised the project. Instead, one of its major suppliers, Foxconn has picked up the baton and will be offering an open EV platform (chassis, batteries, components, software etc).to third parties (marques, system integrators, design houses etc) on an OEM basis.

Honda Hybrid
While major car brands are moving ahead with EVs, Honda seems to be so far adrift or so invested in hybrids (internal combustion vehicles augmented by batteries) that it is asking for hybrids  to be counted as EVs. Hybrids don't count as full EVs and new sales of them will be barred come 2025 and beyond. Perhaps range extended EVs (battery powered vehicles augmented by a secondary engine: hydrogen, methanol, ICE) might make the cut.

Hazard Lights
In a possible first such change in 70 years, there is a proposal in the US to raise the frequency of the blinking of hazard lights from once per second (as it is currently) to five times per second (like a police beacon) to boost noticeability.

EV Event
For more on EVs, check out an online meetup happening this Thur (MY, Oct 22, 2020) with reps from MyEVOC, JomCharge, Scania, Linden, MARii and Eurocham.

Dyson Startups

A sample of the 20 top finalists of the James Dyson Awards 2020:
  • Scope - Tele lenses that use liquid crystals & volts, no telescoping
  • TTC - Collect the 2nd biggest microplastic polluter: tyre sheddings
  • Econooc - Put a beehive in the garden (and help save the bees)
  • Aureus - Solar walls and windows that use the UV spectrum
  • Quito - CO2 mozzie trap that mimics hoomans
  • ReGlove - PPE that can be easily recycled

Some latest startups from our in-tray:

Bugzilla Updates

Mkini has compiled lists of places where bugzilla has been reported. Below is a sample (of KL and vicinity) from the past week, Oct 10-17 (E&OE):

  • Mid Valley Megamall, KL
  • Tesco Extra, Mutiara Damansara
  • Bangsar Shopping Centre, KL
  • 1 Utama Shopping Centre, PJ
  • MBSB Bank, KL
  • Public Bank, Kota Damansara
  • Affin Bank HQ, KL
  • Menara TM, KL
  • Armanee Terrace Condo, PJ
  • Flora Damansara Condo, PJ
  • Pantai Hill Park 5 Condo, KL
  • Lake Point Residence, Cyberjaya
  • Proton, Shah Alam
  • PKT Logistics, Shah Alam
  • GDex, Subang Jaya
  • Plexus, Penang
  • INTI College, Subang
  • Tropicana Golf Club, PJ
  • Lost World of Tambun, Ipoh
  • Fitness First, AEON, Klang

  • The purpose of the above list is to highlight bugzilla is 'on the prowl' and is not a hotspot tracker. Being listed doesn't necessarily mean the location is a hotspot which should be avoided at all cost. Check with health authorities for the latest status and advice.
  • MoH is accepting tax-deductible cash donations for health equipment for frontliners. Donations can be made to Account 2-66016-0002347-5 @ RHB Bank in favour of Sumbangan Perubatan KKM. Verify details by referring to MoH's FB posts here and here, emailing, calling +60 3 8883 3111 or visiting MoH's website. [Also, donations accepted by Mercy]
  • Latest: a new CDC report cites dining out as a significant bugzilla risk because patrons can't wear a mask while eating or drinking. To mitigate, order food delivery or groceries to cook at home, or order takeaway. Eateries can make it easier for patrons to transact by providing business cards or A4-sized paper menus. [This post is not health or business advice.]

Zoom Conference

Join Zoom’s annual user conference Zoomtopia to discover how video-first unified communications empowers today's workforce and transforms tomorrow's workspace. Happening today and tomorrow (Oct 15-16,2020). Watch it live at the event site (no reg required) or the recorded sessions at Zoom's YouTube channel. Sample topics (abbreviated):
  • Run Company All-Hands like a Pro - Zoom
  • Running Spectacular Virtual Events - Zoom
  • How Zoom Saved Live Events - Formula1
  • Fresh Ideas on Keeping Students Engaged - ClassEdu
  • What Top Unis Tell Us About Edu During The Pandemic - Harvard
  • Business Communications in the Next Normal - Wainhouse
  • Pushing The Limits of Zoom: Beyond the Conference Room - HBS
  • Using ZPhone to Simplify your Business - EnviromentalLights
  • Hiring and Recruiting with Zoom - LinkedIn
  • Zoom Tips and Tricks - SWCA

Communications Startups
  • Signal - Messaging (video chat, better encryption vs Telegram)
  • Status - Messaging (does not ask for phone number vs Telegram)
  • Keybase - Messaging (open source, bought over by Zoom)
  • mmhmm - Video conference (immersive, beautiful virtual rooms)
  • OnZoom - Zoom's events ticketing and marketplace
  • Maxine - Nvidia's video streaming platform
  • Engageli - Stealthy-ish Zoom for education
  • Attentive - Messaging marketing
  • Hopin - Join thousands of organizers hosting creative events
  • Shindig - Online events that are just as interactive as in real life

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Telsa
  • Engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla invented the alternating current motor and developed AC generation and transmission technology.
  • Tesla registered 'Tesla' as a trademark in 2012 but did not take the opportunity to also pick up 'Nikola' preemptively. ' Nikola' was instead trademarked in 2019 by Nikola Motor.
  • This is a short tale of two EV makers: Nikola and Tesla.

  • Nikola is an aspiring hydrogen heavy truck maker that is under some present controversy after being accused of 'being a system integrator rather than a full stack manufacturer'.
  • Setting the controversy aside, Nikola has enjoyed early buzz and have reportedly garnered partnerships with GM, Bosch, Iveco, HanwhaCHN and Anheuser-Busch.
  • Watch (first video) as Nikola's founder, Trevor Milton, demo a prototype of the Nikola Two.
  • A takeaway from the video is how a startup founder is the chief sales officer - Milton's enthusiasm might be one reason why Nikola has managed to rope in multiple branded partners.

  • Tesla could be the new Apple (nothing highly visible seems to be happening with the latter but some announcements later today) in terms of moving the innovation needle and random people speaking up for it.
  • Social Capital founder, Chamath, sees in it a (far out) potential to be in distributed energy (solar, batteries, EVs, and maybe even hydrogen in the future) in a post-carbon world.
  • YouTuber Ziroth makes a detailed presentation (second video) why electric trucks could be compelling: more efficient and less maintenance. In other words, cheaper to run. Which in the commercial transport world, could be self-selling if proven.

EV Updates

Some updates on electric vehicles:

There's an article going around that shows EVs could become skateboard-like. What does this mean? Lordstown Motors, an aspiring maker of electric pickups and vans (and potential beneficiary of a $800 million USPS electrification contract), shows it best in the above diagram. On the left is an internal combustion engine platform which consist of thousands of moving parts (cams, valves, pistons, pumps, belts, gears. shafts, differentials etc). On the right, the drivetrain is reduced to four electric engines contained within the wheels. Not only is the platform much simpler, it is now possible to divide the chassis (+ drivetrain) and cabin. Thus, you can swap the chassis (eg when it is under servicing) or the cabin (eg swap a sedan for a combi)

For EVs, charging is much more than phone charging. The engineers have to figure out how apartment dwellers can charge their cars, how they pay or be billed, how not to overload the electric grid and blackout the neighbourhood, how to get the best rates for time-based tariffs, how to share electricity if it is in finite supply, how chargers can communicate with owners ('it's done') or each other ('hey, do you have a spare charger?') etc.

For heavy trucking, other than charging (Semi), hydrogen (Xcient) and biomethane (Hyliion), there is a another 'electric fuel' candidate: ammonia (Hyzon). Ammonia is basically hydrogen stored in ammonia form. Thus, instead of storing and transporting hydrogen as a gas (bulky) or liquid (needs very low temps), crystalline ammonia is used as the medium with hydrogen extracted on-the-fly. Ammonia can be made from natural gas or coal potentially allowing these industries to continue a bit longer but without CO2 emissions (ammonia can also be made with renewalable or nuclear energy).

MoneyFest | AI Forum

MoneyFest is happening online Oct 26-29, 2020. Sample topics (only one panellist organisation shown):

Artificial Intelligence Forum
SAIF 2020 is happening Nov 2-3, 2020. Sample topics:
  • Causal Representations (what cause what) - Université de Montréal
  • Few Shot Learning (learning from little) - Stanford
  • Reconstruction of the Brain (reverse engineering) - Harvard
  • Multimodal AI (eyes, ears, nose etc working together) - GATech
  • Human Aware AI (how to have robots not harm humans) - ASU
  • AI for Robots and People - Samsung

Winner Takes It All

[Suggestion: listen to the song first before reading the text.] Joey Niceforo's rendition of The Winner Takes It All captures two distinctive elements: conversation-like singing and a message of temporal circumstance. The first half of the song tells 'the winner takes it all', the second, beyond that.

The video is the signature tune of Joey Nicerforo's self-published album Priceless. Recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios, the production took a ~80 person orchestra and a credited production team of 16. As a rough estimate, the video may have cost some $75K to make: $50K for the branded production and $25K for the 80+ piece orchestra [1 2]. Quite a sum for a self-published YouTube video and perhaps an example of investing in one's career and craft, the art of job creation and striving to do the best that one can.

Latest Drone Updates

Skydio (US) and Azur (EU) have been granted approval in their respective flight jurisdictions to fly autonomous drones [1 2 also 3 4]. This is a major step as previously drones had to be flown within the pilot's line of sight for security and safety reasons. For more on drones, check out a meetup happening tomorrow evening (MY, Thu, Oct 8th, 2020). In other drone news:
  • Skydio X2 - Goes enterprise: adds 360° cam, IR imaging
  • DroneKit X2 - Drone that specialises in diving (as in sky diving)
  • Lucid S1 - Fast, SOP-compliant, spray sanitisation of large spaces
  • DeDrone - When you have drones, you need counter drones
  • Volansi - Long distance, heavy duty VTOL drone wins USAF pick
  • GLOBHE - Signs big global drone services deal [with Ericsson?]
  • Rhaegal CAV - Receives $600M order for 102 heavy drones

The Triple Bottom Line

Triple Dimension
The world of business presently operates mainly in one dimension: economic. Wouldn't the world be richer and more balanced if it operates in 3 dimensions instead: economic, environmental and social.

'Profit' is great, it counts inputs, outputs and value-add in monetary terms. But it is limited. For example, you have probably seen a whole lot of plastic products and packaging. But have you ever seen a plastic company offering to take back its products to recycle or reuse? Never? That is because there is no environmental dimension to their business. So, profit is made by the present generation of plastic manufactures and cost is is borne by future generations in ocean pollution, microplastics etc.

This is a bit harder to discern. Popularly cited examples are businesses that use their ingenuity to reduce humans to disposable automatons and social media that builds addiction and stickiness by highlighting content that summon the base instincts of humans: fight, flight, sloth etc.

SWIFT Conference
Sibos (SWIFT International Banking Operations Seminar) is a premier online financial services conference organised by SWIFT. Happening today to Thurs (Oct 5-8, 2020). Sample conference topics (only one panellist shown):
  • The Triple Bottom Line - ING
  • The Future of Money - EY Parthenon
  • White Water World ['turbulence'] - RAND
  • Better Banking, Better Lives - BNP Paribas
  • Defining Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) - World Bank
  • Beyond Proof of Concept and Beyond Financing - Deutsche Bank

Musical High

From the TV series Glee ('a group of ambitious misfits try to escape the harsh realities of high school') comes two songs from musicals: I Don't Know How To Love Him performed by Jenna Ushkowitz and Don't Cry for Me Argentina by Lea Michele and tenor Chris Colfer.

Printed Meals

Looks like bugzilla is back. You cannot control what society does but businesses and individuals can do their own risk management. For example, for the weekend, consider food delivery or ordering groceries to cook at home. (Sidenote: DE has a bugzilla fighting tip: air your space regularly). No single measure is a 'silver bullet', but each measure (distancing, masking, ventilation etc) adds a percentage to de-risking.

On the topic of home cooking, we have previously highlighted fried rice can be a simple, minimalist dish where less is more. Other dishes where less is more are nasi lemak, rot canai (prata), chapati, sandwiches, fish & chips and soba. On the other hand, among the latest in foodtech is food printing. Artificial and unpalatable? Perhaps not. Imagine pasta or noodles being freshly printed on demand where you can specify the type of flour (standard, egg, wholemeal, rye, buckwheat, semolina, durum etc) and other ingredients like beetroot juice. Another use of food printing is to re-purpose surplus food, to be discussed in an online event titled Printed Meals happening Oct 21st.


A report hints KL might be switching off its coin-fed parking meters from tomorrow (Oct 1st, 2020) in favour of apps: FlexiParking, EZ Smart Park (no apps listed), Wilayah Parking (website directs to FlexiParking) and M-Cash (an ewallet, requires ID & contacts permissions). Apparently, established ewallets Boost and TnG are in the midst of implementation. No mention of JomParking.

Other Citiies
So happens, a few other cities are also in the midst of a switch:

As an illustration of the cauldron that is EV engineering, designers are mulling giving each EV a unique electronic id and a linked owner. When an EV is charged or filled with hydrogen, the owner's pre or post paid account gets billed. Could be applied to parking too. No wallet required.

Stand | Open Choir

In the course of everyday life, the word 'stand' is normally associated with a simple, mundane action (like standing up and going out for lunch with colleagues). But stand (and sit) has rich cultural and literary connotations both in the West and East. Here are two 'stand' music videos: I'll Stand By You by Morgan James and Stand By Me by Go Sing Choir.

Open Choir
Go Sing Choir is Munich-based ‘Open Pop Choir’ that is open to everybody. No knowledge of reading music is necessary, no regular attendance is required. Simply listen to the actual song, come along, meet new people and sing together as a choir.

Heavy Electric Vehicles

Electric Trucks
The other big EV market is for trucks. Particularly heavy trucks which are hard to electrify (heavy loads, long distances, remote locations, enormous batteries, long charging times etc).
  • The buzziest EV startup in this space is Hyliion.
  • Other entrants include battery-powered Tesla Semi, Mercs eActros, Volvo VNR (all WIP), BYD BTT (low key), and hydrogen-fueled Hyundai Xcient (WIP).
  • In comparison, Hyliion's propulsion is driven by an electric drivetrain with batteries charged onboard by an engine running on bio-methane.
  • Though the engine emits CO2, this is offset by the use of bio-methane, which is produced from carbon neutral plant cycles (vs diesel which is a fossil fuel).
  • The other big sell of Hyliion is it can be fitted or retrofitted into existing truck designs, avoiding it having to design a truck from scratch. It also leverages on existing networks of natural gas stations thus not requiring a build-up of charging or hydrogen infra.
  • Not a perfect combustion-less solution but takes the electrification of heavy transport one green step further. [By how much in concrete numbers and in scenarios where production of bio-methane has maxed out, and natural gas needs to be used instead, remain to be seen and not covered by Hyliion in its website.]

The countdown has begun. No further sales of petrol/diesel new cars and buses (sample countries and cities):
  • 2025: Netherlands, Norway
  • 2030: Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden
  • 2030: Auckland, CapeTown, Heidelberg, London, Seattle, Vancouver

  • When sales of new petrol/diesel cars are banned, those still allowed on the road will become premium (to fans of gas guzzlers).
  • Auto repair shops might see both a sunset (EVs require much less servicing) and sunrise (keeping the old jalopies going).
  • Alibaba and Tencent see a business opportunity in this and are enrolling auto repair shops to offer their services via apps.
  • The switch to EVs will see many economic changes and new business opps.