Volvo to Create the Next Flying Car?

Volvo to Create the Next Flying Car?

access_time Jul/07/2017

Can we expect flying-hybrid cars from Volvo in the future? In the wise words of Justin Beiber, never say never. The Chinese company that owns Volvo, Geely, has just acquired the startup known for the world's most promising flying car. Terrafugia is a small American corporation that has developed a roadable aircraft called the Transition, best known for its ability for a vertical takeoff and landing and the fact that the cars are approved for both the road and air. 

A UK-based startup that lets you book a video consultation with a doctor raised $26.1 million in Series B funding. Push Doctor is a health service app that lets you manage, schedule and see a doctor via a video call. This app isn't just for people who want to skip a trip to the urgent care. These doctors can also help you out with prescriptions, chronic pain management and overall health and wellness. 

IKEA announced the launch of its first-ever startup program, IKEA Bootcamp. The accelerator will launch this September in partnership with Rainmaking, a global collective of serial entrepreneurs who bring together startups to scale new businesses. IKEA Bootcamp is looking for 10 startups that want to solve the IKEA big problems. The best part? You can have your meatball and eat it too, cause it won’t take equity in your startup. Startups that want to join can apply until Aug. 6. 

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Tesla Is Making the World's Largest Lithium Ion Battery for Australia

In September last year, Australia was hit by an extreme storm, which managed to knock the power out for the entirety of South Australia. As an idea of how big South Australia is, it's 40 percent larger than Texas and home to 1.7 million people.

The reason for the power outage was the storm's mix of thunderstorm activity, heavy rain and twin tornadoes that saw wind speeds reach 120km/h. Since then, South Australia has experienced repeated blackouts, which grabbed Elon Musk's attention followed by him offering to solve the state's power problem.

 

The solution Musk proposed was of course a rechargeable battery. His offer also came with a guarantee: if it wasn't up-and-running within 100 days of the contract being signed it would be free.

According to the BBC, Australia accepted Musk's offer and now the world's largest lithium-ion battery will be manufactured and installed in South Australia. And it's the largest by some margin.

Currently the record holder is a 30 megawatts battery. Tesla is joining forces with energy company Neoen to install a 100 megawatts battery. The battery will be hooked up to a Neoen wind farm and be available 24/7 to kick in when there's a power emergency.

According to Jay Weatherill, current Premier of South Australia, "It will completely transform the way in which renewable energy is stored, and also stabilise the South Australian network as well as putting downward pressure on prices."

If he's right, then this is great publicity for Tesla and could trigger other governments around the world to more quickly embrace huge batteries to support their power networks.


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EU Considers Another Massive Fine for Google Over Android

The European Union and Google aren't the best of friends right now. Late last month, the European Commission issued its largest ever fine, demanding $2.7 billion from Google along with a change to its shopping comparison practices. Google, of course, is determined to appeal the decision and fine.

According to Reuters, that fine may soon look small if EU antitrust regulators decide to punish Google over its anti-competitive practices with regards to Android.

 

Following a complaint by lobby group FairSearch, the European Commission charged Google last year with shutting out rivals on Android. More specifically, the practice of requiring smartphone manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and the Chrome web browser. If that isn't done, Google may choose to lock those devices out of other services such as Google Play. The Commission is also not happy with Google paying to ensure Google Search is the default on devices.

Before the potentially huge fine can be agreed upon, a panel of experts has been set up and asked to review the case. This will form a second opinion and help guide the Commission not only on the size of the fine, but also what action Google is required to take going forward.

It's those actions that could end up being the most damaging for Google. They could include allowing a choice of default search, the ability to install alternative app stores meaning Google Play is no longer guaranteed on the majority of devices, and similar rules for other Google-owned services that you typically find on new Android phones and tablets.


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China Just Built a 250-Acre Solar Farm Shaped Like a Giant Panda

Most solar farms align their solar arrays in rows and columns to form a grid.

A new solar power plant in Datong, China, however, decided to have a little fun with its design. China Merchants New Energy Group, one of the country's largest clean energy operators, built a 248-acre solar farm in the shape of a giant panda.

The first phase, which includes one 50-megawatt plant, was completed on June 30, according to PV magazine. The project just began delivering power to a grid in northwestern China, and a second panda is planned for later this year.

Called the Panda Power Plant, it will be able to produce 3.2 billion kilowatt-hours of solar energy in 25 years, according to the company. That will eliminate approximately a million tons of coal that would have been used to produce electricity, reducing carbon emissions by 2.74 million tons.

China Merchants New Energy Group worked with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to make the Panda Power Plant a reality. The project is part of a larger effort to raise awareness among young people in China about clean energy, the UNDP wrote in a statement. 

The groups hope to build more panda-shaped solar plants throughout China in the next five years.


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Technology's Daydream Is Becoming the Nightmare of Brick-and-Mortar Retail

Recently, Amazon announced that it would be buying Whole Foods for an astounding $13.7 billion. To those who have followed Amazon’s trajectory for a while now, this was an obvious next step in parallel with their grocery delivery service, AmazonFresh. To those who still see Amazon as nothing more than a technology company overextending itself, let me explain what this deal means.

Related: The Winners and Losers in Amazon's Whole Foods Deal

We’re past the point of offline businesses looking to understand how to get online -- a pain point from the mid 2000s -- and we’re now entering an age where companies that started online are bringing their business offline. They’re jumping out of the computer screen and into real life.

For big retail, and age-old companies that were behemoths before the internet, this is a nightmare. For tech companies and .com disruptors, this is a daydream come true. The internet is big. But when an internet company can move from the computer and into the real, physical world, suddenly that world just got exponentially bigger. Amazon buying Whole Foods is yet another step in this direction.

Some see this sort of development as terrifying, threatening, even unfair. As someone who not only watched the first .com boom in 1999, but was building my business, Interline Brands, I can tell you that this sort of rampant growth isn’t new. It just looks bigger, faster and stronger because of the size of the companies. The internet expanded everything in its sight, but the underlying principles, changes, twists and turns are all familiar.

This is why, if you are an entrepreneur in today’s day and age, this is the one thing you need to do in order to survive, thrive and not get swept up in the tide of the changing landscapes. You have to go all in and commit to being a “business bachelor” in the sense that you can’t be married to the way your business has always done things. You have to be willing to pivot and adjust as new trends reveal themselves and rules bend.

In the past year, top retailers have closed hundreds of store fronts across the U.S. When Amazon announced its acquisition of Whole Foods, Kroger’s stock plummeted 13 percent. Along with it, shares of other retailers with grocery sections such as Target, Costco, SuperValu and Sprouts all plunged as well. You can see this as a looming cloud for your business, especially if you are in retail. Or, you can see this sort of behavior as an opportunity.

Related: 8 Interesting Tidbits From Whole Food's Town Hall Following the Amazon Acquisition

I have been building businesses for a long time. Build long enough, and each decade you’ll start to realize that while the variables may change, the underlying principles remain the same. My most recent company, LendingOne, provides real estate bridge and rental loans to non-owner occupied real estate investment property owners. Now, when I started down this road, I very well could have looked at what had been done already in these markets, followed a similar blueprint and been on my merry way. But any aware entrepreneur in today’s day and age knows that the waves are moving fast, and you can’t base decisions on where the ball was. You have to look hard for where the ball is going to be.

Instead, I decided to structure the company with the same fundamental principles that are leading today’s booming startups. Our technology at LendingOne works similar to Uber. They don’t own any cars, and we don’t own any loans. If you’re interested, I tell the full story about how we came up with the idea for LendingOne in my book ALL IN: 101 Real Life Business Lessons For Emerging Entrepreneurs.

So, the takeaway for today’s entrepreneurs is this: Don’t become blinded by the big numbers of today’s hottest companies.

As the internet enters its next stage of maturity and begins bringing its online successes offline and into the real world, a lot is going to change. Acquisitions are going to be rampant, and they are going to be publicized accordingly. News is going to spread fast because of the internet, and shockwaves are going to be felt through parallel industries, as seen by Kroger’s stock price after Amazon’s announcement about acquiring Whole Foods.

Related: With Whole Foods Purchase, Amazon Just Bought a Playground for Big Data

These things are important to take note of, but they should also be kept in proportion to your own business. What matters is that you keep your focus on what your business needs, where the trends are moving and remaining unmarried to the “way things have always been done” so that you can pivot accordingly.

If you spend too much time wrestling with the fear of change, you’ll miss the wave. You need to know when to pivot, and do so quickly and effectively.

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Here's How Small Businesses Beat the Ecommerce Big Guys

Lately, ecommerce order and fulfillment seems dominated by Goliaths. In 2016, ecommerce giant Amazon set a new precedent -- delivering more than two billion items for other merchants, double the number from just one year before. It may seem like Amazon is going to gobble up all of ecommerce any day now, but as more vendors default to FBA, Fulfillment by Amazon, I see a golden opportunity to embrace smallness.

You’ve heard it before -- your small business’s indie cred has market cache. It makes you personable, unique and accessible. It makes you desirable. And I’m here to tell you that you can have all of that plus a speedy and accurate delivery system, just like the big guys. Indie cred with two-day delivery -- the David that slays Goliath.

Related: 5 Rules for Staying Ahead in the Ecommerce Race

Here’s a story: A few weeks ago I ordered a shirt from one of my favorite clothing outlets, a boutique men’s apparel company called Buffalo Jackson out of rural North Carolina. Now, Buffalo Jackson does a lot of things right. Its clothing is rugged and good-looking, rough-and-tumble chic. They have a mission statement that reads like a novel, about how the owner, who was raised a “southern gentleman” became disillusioned by men’s fashion and decided to create apparel that he’d be proud to wear; about how he marketed the company by word of mouth because he didn’t have money for anything more than that. He ends with a call-to-action that invites you to be a part of the Buffalo Jackson family -- this, he writes, is “our story of how we began. We sure would love to have you part of it.”

Buffalo Jackson has indie cred to spare. And it’s appealing.

The company’s mission statement coupled with a sleek and punchy website -- think black background with every model backlit by the sunset -- really brings home the personality of this small company. But this alone wouldn’t keep me coming back. There are, after all, plenty of other small clothiers aiming for the same rugged aesthetic.

What does keep me coming back is how quickly I get my clothes in the mail. How they’ve never screwed up an order. How if the clothes don’t fit well, or I just plain don’t like them, I can return them easily, and I’ll be reimbursed quickly. No hassle. No delay. Just like the big boys.

Related: What Small Businesses Need to Do to Win in Online Retail

How does Buffalo Jackson do it? They’re careful about who they choose as their order and fulfillment vendor. A good delivery vendor can get your product to the customer as fast or faster than Amazon, and as accurately. And if you’re a small retailer trying to build your base, the story behind your product isn’t enough on its own -- you need to back it up with flawless service.

Here’s how to compete with the big guys in ecommerce:

Build your own platform.

Relying exclusively on an Amazon listing can limit your business significantly because of Amazon’s one-size-fits-all rules. To expand your reach, also consider selling on your own website. An independent site will allow you to build brand equity, create an email list of customers and pursue lucrative B2B bulk sales. Plus, you can design your product page with the perfect aesthetic to compliment your unique company.

Expand your reach.

A lot of Etsy sellers ship from small warehouses or even their home-based workshops. Problem is, that means there’s inevitably a part of the country that’s difficult to reach and therefore more expensive. Shipping globally? Expect a long delivery time and a hefty fee. Consider partnering with an order and fulfillment vendor to guarantee quick delivery anywhere in the country at a reasonable price -- they’ll likely have reasonably priced global options, too.

Add custom inserts, holiday coupons or other unique gifts.

My recent Buffalo Jackson order came with a note inside the package -- the Teddy Roosevelt ode to determination “Man in the Arena” nicely printed on a piece of heavy stock paper. This is the kind of personal touch that can set your indie business apart from corporate giants.

Related: The Small Business Owner's Guide to Choosing the Right Ecommerce Platform

Invest in customer service.

Strong customer service is crucial, and innovations in order and fulfillment technology can help. You want a vendor that can integrate with your ecommerce platform so that you can keep tabs on an order wherever it is in the chain -- one that makes it easy for you to respond quickly to complaints, refund requests and other issues. Smart warehouse technology gives you the quick and accurate insight into your order and fulfillment process that you need to stay competitive, so make sure your vendor has that 21st century tech-savvy.

A good symptom of the rise of FBA is the concurrent rise of other players in the order and fulfillment arena. That’s why it’s a great time to resist the urge to join the herd, and instead find a vendor that is better equipped to help you maintain your indie uniqueness without sacrificing razor-sharp order and delivery services.

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