Highlights this week: 🦊Foxconn saves Lordstown, 🤖Amazon’s new robot, and 💰DoD getting into VC

Foxconn Comes to Lordstown

Foxconn Comes to Lordstown, Foxconn has reached an agreement with electric truck maker, Lordstown Motors, to help develop Lordstown’s vehicles and potentially take over it’s Ohio-based factory.
FYI: Foxconn has reached an agreement with electric truck maker, Lordstown Motors, to help develop Lordstown’s vehicles and potentially take over it’s Ohio-based factory
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‍Why it’s important: Lordstown Motor Corp’s stock has tumbled over 75% from it’s high of $30 after going public via SPAC last October. They made big promises to shareholders, employees, and the village of Lordstown, and are now at risk of coming up short unless saved by Taiwan-based Foxconn.
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‍The details: Lordstown is manufacturing electric trucks to compete with players like Rivian, Tesla, and Ford.
  • The company has been underperforming relative to expectations, going from projecting 1,000 production vehicles by year-end to building only validation (non-consumer) vehicles through the first part of 2022.
  • The company went public via reverse-merger with a SPAC created by real-estate and wall street magnate, David Hamamoto, and acquired the Ohio-based plant for $20M from GM in August.
  • Foxconn is looking to come in and purchase the plant for up to $230M, along with investing $50M into Lordstown. Some say this is a quick flip, given Lordstown’s real-estate-heavy board. Others say this is an efficient way for Foxconn to wade into the auto manufacturing world, expanding out of its core electronics manufacturing business.
  • Lordstown CEO, Daniel Ninivaggi, says this deal will allow them to focus more on sales and distribution, with manufacturing now taken care of by the experts at Foxconn.
We’ve seen this before: In 2015, a Chinese glass manufacturer took over a shuttered GM plant in Ohio, bringing back about 2,000 jobs. Lots of interesting culture and technical challenges ensued. There is an incredible documentary on the experience, American Factory, available on Netflix.

Amazon Astro and Canary Testing Hardware

Amazon Astro
Amazon has unveiled over 10 new hardware products over the past few months — everything from Amazon-branded TV’s to smart thermostat. Perhaps most unusual, hinting at a new category of products, is the Astro home robot. The advertised use-cases include home surveillance and security, checking up on elders, and in-house notifications. Astro is available for $1,000 to select buyers in Amazon’s Day 1 Editions program. Amazon is hoping this canary-testing method will unveil additional use-cases (and limitations) before releasing wide to the rest of the world.

Government:

Last week, the Defense Department launched National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC), a program to help fund hardware startups and accelerate product development. Headquartered in Mountain View, CA, NSIC addresses the shortfall of trusted funding from private venture capital sources for the development of new hardware technologies that have both commercial and national security applications. Since February, NSIC has received $15M from congress, with plans to completely deploy these funds in the coming weeks. Some examples of recent contracts awarded include:
  • New Frontier Aerospace is developing a new rocket engine design intended for hypersonic vehicles.
  • FuelX is developing a manufacturing process that produces a material for the safe storage and transportation of hydrogen.
  • A stealth startup (TBA — any leads?) is building a domestic manufacturing facility to produce qualification cells based on a next-generation battery chemistry.

Funding Rounds:

  • Syng, an audio hardware startup, raised $48M in a series A led by Eclipse Ventures.
  • StreetDrone, a delivery drone startup, raised $3M from Wilko in a pre-series-A round.
  • Elvie, a women’s health-tech startup, raised a $97M series C from BGF, BlackRock, and Octopus Ventures.
  • Humane, a stealthy startup co-founded by former Apple employees, raised a $30M series A led by Sam Altman and Lachy Groom.
  • DroneSeed, a reforestation startup, raised a $36M series A led by Chamath’s Social Capital and Seven Seven Six

One Interesting Picture:

A computer on wheels: The Average Car is packed with 1400 semiconductors that control everything from airbags to the engine. Modern cars simply cannot run without chips.

One Interesting Tweet: