Elon Musk’s proposal to build a satellite-based “space internet” has a very low likelihood of getting off the ground, says Brian Piccioni. This has been a good week for tech news.
The CEO of Blackberry embarrassed himself with an absurd letter to the FCC, there was a fair bit of noise on Bitcoin, none of which was particularly positive, idiots made stupid investments (including a Bitcoin investment, making a twofer) and no less than two groups announced plans to launch Low Earth Orbit Satellite Constellations to bring “Internet to the masses”.
We will, no doubt, ridicule the investments and LEOSAT plans in the future after they fail.
This has to be the funniest thing I’ve heard in years: setting asides the question as to whether the FCC has any authority whatsoever over software development, I want to know what sort of delusional state leads somebody to believe you could ever compel software developers to support a platform in the absence of market demand? If so, where would it end? Would developers be equally forced to support Amazon, Firefox OS, etc.? Would websites be taken down because they don’t render properly on a certain device? Blackberry shareholders, if this is the sort of thinking you expect to drive a turnaround, you might want to hedge your downside.
“With its market share continuing to flounder at levels that see it lumped with others in at least one market survey, BlackBerry CEO John Chen has written a letter to US Congress members calling for the prohibition of app developers choosing to ignore BlackBerry. “Neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open, and non-discriminatory internet,” Chen said in his letter. “All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer’s mobile operating system.””
Apparently, this provides a market capitalization of $490 million. The total value of Bitcoin is $3.19B. Much of this is, purportedly, in the possession of one person and a considerable proportion of the rest held by criminals (notably the folks who steal Bitcoin). Ignoring the plummeting value of Bitcoin, the limited “float”, the “currency’s” association with criminals, and the questionable legal status, this values the company at 15% of the total value of the “currency”. The total money supply (M1+M2+M3) of Canada, is C$3.6 trillion while the total market cap of the “big 5” Canadian banks is around $300B, or 8.3% of the money supply. Who says people make intelligent investment decisions? Thanks to Stephen Jakob of Osprey Capital for this item.
“In total, Coinbase has collected over $105 million in venture capital. Andreessen Horowitz, which led a $25 million investment round in Coinbase in December 2013, also participated in Coinbase’s most recent fund-raising, along with existing investors Union Square Ventures and Ribbit Capital.”
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If there was ever an industry in need of a shake up, it has to be the high margin garbage business. After all, there has to be a better way of dealing with waste than having relatively low paid, hard working men come by in a great big truck and take it away. Yes sir, this has to be the investment opportunity of a lifetime – except there are no barriers to entry, no sustainable competitive advantage, etc.. I am guessing the investors haven’t watched many seasons of the Sopranos.
“Nate Morris, CEO and co-founder of Rubicon Global, says his company is trying a different approach. It doesn’t own any landfills, or garbage trucks for that matter. Instead, its sole purpose is to help businesses cut their garbage costs and maximize the amount of waste being diverted from landfills. This strategy has earned Rubicon large contracts across the country with the likes of 7-Eleven and Wegman’s, but the company’s national footprint is set to double in the coming months. Today, Rubicon announced it has raised $30 million, which it will use to scale operations across the country and invest in new recycling technology research.”
This idea has been thought of before and was very popular during the prior dot com bubble. My rule of thumb is that, if it involves a satellite and there is any other option, it is probably a bad idea. This is because satellites take a long time and money to design and build and, in the specific case of non-geostationary satellites, the constellation has little use until the whole thing is up and running. Meanwhile, terrestrial options progress apace, and, as consequence only the company who buys the operation out of bankruptcy has any chance of making money off it. There are very rare exceptions such as satellite TV which was a regulatory arbitrage. None of this even considers the technical challenges of creating such an option at a reasonable price. There is a very low likelihood any of these proposals will ever get off the ground.
“The Space Internet venture, to which Musk hasn’t yet given a name, would be hugely ambitious. Hundreds of satellites would orbit about 750 miles above earth, much closer than traditional communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit at altitudes of up to 22,000 miles. The lower satellites would make for a speedier Internet service, with less distance for electromagnetic signals to travel. The lag in current satellite systems makes applications such as Skype, online gaming, and other cloud-based services tough to use. Musk’s service would, in theory, rival fiber optic cables on land while also making the Internet available to remote and poor regions that don’t have access.”