Monday, April 22, 2024

On Our Virtual Route 66 This Week: On Tech Watch


Tesla will ask shareholders to reapprove CEO Elon Musk's $56B pay package, which was invalidated by a Delaware judge in January. During Tesla's June 13 annual meeting, shareholders will also vote on relocating Tesla's corporate listing from Delaware to Texas.


  • Shareholders approved Musk's compensation package in 2018, the largest in U.S. corporate history.
  • However, Delaware Chancery Court Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick voided the deal after a shareholder won a lawsuit against Tesla earlier this year.
  • McCormick ruled that the process of creating the pay package was "deeply flawed" and shaped by overly compliant Tesla directors with close ties to Musk.
  • She called it "an unfathomable sum" and unfair to shareholders. The amount of the package has fallen to $47B as Tesla's stock price has declined.

What's new:

  • Tesla has filed with the SEC to ask shareholders to re-ratify the package rather than negotiate a new and potential costlier deal.
  • Musk has not received payment for his work at Tesla for six years, which many stockholders consider "fundamentally unfair," Board Chairperson Robyn Denholm wrote.
  • The company will also ask to move its state of incorporation to Texas, where its HQ is now located. Musk suggested the move after the pay package was ruled illegal in Delaware.


TikTok has launched its new photo-sharing app for limited testing in Australia and Canada. The app, TikTok Notes, competes against Instagram.


  • The app, which allows sign-ups with existing TikTok accounts, is now available for select Android and iOS users in Canada and Australia.
  • Like the main app, TikTok Notes has a "For You" feed with recommended content and a "Following" feed.
  • Notes focuses on photo sharing but offers a grid layout, unlike Instagram, for viewing multiple posts.
  • Clicking on a post lets users view it full-screen and leave or read text comments

Zoom out:

  • Notes gives TikTok users a space for sharing non-video content, challenging Instagram's popularity among young adults.
  • TikTok hasn't said when Notes might launch in the U.S., where lawmakers are considering a bill that could force TikTok's Chinese parent company to divest its main app.


Tech venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz raised $7.2B for startup investments, one of the largest fundraising efforts by a VC in recent years. The Silicon Valley giant, aka a16z, will distribute the cash across five different funds, including those focused on artificial intelligence.

What the numbers show: A16z surpassed its initial $6.9B target for the new funds, raising $7.2B. The biggest share — $3.75B — will go into its "growth" fund to invest in later-stage startups with proven track records. Another $1.25B is earmarked for AI infrastructure companies, while $1B is for startups focused on AI applications. The firm also raised $600M each for gaming and its "American Dynamism" strategy, backing founders and companies that support national interests.

What it means: The investment reflects the VC sector's rising focus on AI and suggests renewed confidence in the tech startup landscape.

What's next: a16z plans to raise more funds for cryptocurrency and biotechnology in 2025, a source told Bloomberg.


EU antitrust regulators will not open a full-blown investigation into Microsoft's $13B investment in ChatGPT maker OpenAI, sources told Bloomberg. The European Commission concluded that the relationship falls short of a merger and doesn't warrant further scrutiny.


  • Microsoft has committed $13 to OpenAI and added its technology to Office, Bing, and Windows.
  • OpenAI also uses Microsoft's Azure cloud tools.
  • The commission, the EU’s antitrust arm, said it was looking into the companies' deep ties earlier this year.
  • The agency has now concluded that the relationship isn't like a merger and Microsoft lacks control over OpenAI's direction, scrapping the need for a formal probe.

Zoom out:

  • The update could mean other antitrust regulators are less likely to scrutinize the companies' relationship.
  • The FTC is looking into Microsoft and other tech giant for their investments in OpenAI and fellow AI startup Anthropic.
  • The partnership also faces a possible full-scale antitrust probe in the U.K., which would determine if it qualifies as a "relevant merger." 


Amazon will sell its smart grocery carts and expand its "Just Walk Out" cashierless technology to other retail stores. The announcement comes shortly after Amazon said it would phase out "Just Walk Out" from its own stores and replace it with the "Dash Cart" technology.


  • The smart Dash Carts identify items as they're added or removed using computer vision and sensors and adjust the price on a display.
  • The shopping carts are now at some Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh stores, with plans to expand to all U.S. Fresh and some third-party stores "soon."
  • Meanwhile, Amazon's Just Walk Out tech tracks items as shoppers place them in their carts through ceiling-mounted cameras and shelf sensors.
  • Over 140 third-party locations now use Just Walk Out. Amazon plans to bring it to at least 120 more retailers by year's end.

Zoom out:

  • Just Walk Out faced scrutiny after reports said it used human moderators to monitor shoppers.
  • Amazon clarified that workers don't watch live videos of shoppers. Rather, computer vision algorithms auto-generate receipts as customers shop, while human associates handle the data labeling and annotation later.

AMD announced two chips that will power on-board AI for business computers. The processors will power "AI PCs" from HP, Lenovo, and other brands later this year.


  • AMD's new Ryzen Pro 8000 series is a desktop processor for business PCs.
  • The second chip, the Ryzen Pro 8040 Series, is geared toward business laptops and mobile workstations.
  • The processors can perform AI tasks, such as powering chatbots and summarizing documents, directly on PCs rather than in the cloud.

Zoom out:

  • The chips will compete against similar offerings from Nvidia and Intel.
  • Like Nvidia, AMD outsources chip production to foundries, primarily TSMC.
  • Intel said it plans to ship around 40 million AI PCs in 2024.


Bitcoin's price has dropped below $60,000, hitting a low of around $59,600 on Binance, following news of Israel's missile strikes against Iran early Friday morning (UTC). The market reacted quickly to the escalating geopolitical tensions between the two countries, with altcoins also experiencing similar drops ranging from 1-3%.

As the Bitcoin halving approaches, the risk of another "sell-the-news" market move looms, with analysts from JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank suggesting that the event is mostly priced in already. Bitcoin has a history of rallying ahead of much-touted industry milestones, only to experience volatile price swings and letdowns in the aftermath.

The Middle-East conflict has overshadowed the halving in recent days, and if any volatile price swings occur, it could be due to the "sell-the-news" cycle.

On the tech side, the introduction of Runes, a new protocol for creating fungible tokens using Bitcoin's infrastructure, could potentially solve the blockchain's long-term security issues. According to IntoTheBlock's, Runes and Ordinals are likely to contribute to Bitcoin's security budget and make the network more sustainable as inflationary rewards decline.

With miners' BTC holdings at a 12-year low, the integration of Runes could provide a much-needed boost to the network's economic model by amplifying fee generation and redirecting speculative activities to the Bitcoin network.

Today's Newsletter

  • Bitcoin drops below $60,000 on news of Israel's missile strike on Iran
  • Bitcoin risks another ‘sell-the-news’ market move after halving
  • Runes could solve Bitcoin's long-term security: IntoTheBlock


Data powered by CoinGecko.

Top Stories


Bitcoin drops below $60,000 on news of Israel's missile strike on Iran

Bitcoin's price has dropped below $60,000, hitting a low of around $59,600 on Binance, following news of Israel's missile strikes against Iran early Friday morning (UTC). The market reacted quickly to the escalating geopolitical tensions between the two countries, with Israel's action being a response to Iran's attack last Saturday, which involved over 300 drones and missiles.

According to Israeli military officials, nearly all of these were intercepted by Israel and its allies, including the US.

The sudden drop in Bitcoin's value has been accompanied by similar declines in altcoins, with Ethereum currently trading near $3,000, a 2% decline in the last 24 hours, and other major cryptocurrencies experiencing drops ranging from 1-3%.

Bitcoin analyst Tuur Demeester commented on the situation, stating that geopolitical instability tends to boost demand for assets that are "liquid," "scarce," and have "low counterparty risk," suggesting that Bitcoin, commodities, and gold fit these criteria. After the initial drop, Bitcoin has retraced above $61,500, down slightly in the last 24 hours. [cryptobriefing]


Bitcoin risks another ‘sell-the-news’ market move after halving

As the highly anticipated Bitcoin halving approaches, analysts are warning of the risk of another "sell-the-news" market move. JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank have suggested that the event is mostly priced in already, highlighting Bitcoin's tendency to rally ahead of much-touted industry milestones, only to experience volatile price swings and letdowns in the aftermath.

This pattern was observed following the SEC's approval of Bitcoin ETFs in January and after the digital asset reached an all-time high in early March.

The tit-for-tat Middle East conflict has overshadowed the halving in recent days, and if any volatile price swings occur, it could be due to the "sell-the-news" cycle. While the halving is expected to curb new supply of the token, its main implication, according to JPMorgan analysts, would be on Bitcoin mining. They predict that unprofitable miners will exit the Bitcoin network, leading to consolidation in the sector, with publicly-traded firms best positioned to gain market share.

Despite the potential for short-term volatility, some experts, such as Crypto.Com CEO Kris Marszalek, believe that the halving will make a "substantial difference" and is a "positive development for the market" over a longer period. [bloomberg]


Runes could solve Bitcoin's long-term security: IntoTheBlock

As the Bitcoin halving approaches, the introduction of Runes, a new protocol for creating fungible tokens using Bitcoin's infrastructure, could potentially solve the blockchain's long-term security issues. According to IntoTheBlock's "On-chain Insights" newsletter, Runes and Ordinals are likely to contribute to Bitcoin's security budget and make the network more sustainable as inflationary rewards decline.

This development comes at a crucial time when miners' BTC holdings are at a 12-year low, underscoring the urgency for alternative revenue streams.

The integration of Runes could provide a much-needed boost to the network's economic model by amplifying fee generation and redirecting speculative activities to the Bitcoin blockchain.

As the halving event is set to reduce block rewards by 50%, transaction fees are anticipated to play an increasingly vital role in compensating miners.

The surge in transaction fees, which accounted for over 20% of total miner revenues in December 2023, combined with the potential impact of Runes, could help stabilize the network's financial foundation and ensure its long-term security. [cryptobriefing]

Other News

Next Week's Token Unlocks

  • PENDLE unlock is set at $1.6M, a 0.3% increase in supply. The market cap is $562M.
  • ID unlock is scheduled at $14M, which is a 4.3% rise in supply, with a market cap of $329M.
  • CTSI will see an unlock of $4.5M, contributing to a 2.8% supply bump. Its market cap stands at $159M.
  • SUI is looking at an unlock of nearly $1M, which translates to a 0.06% supply increase, alongside a market cap of $1.3B.
  • RON's upcoming unlock is $9.6M, indicating a 0.97% supply hike. The market cap is at $1B.
  • IMX has an upcoming unlock of $74.19M, resulting in a 2.40% supply increase. IMX has a market cap of $3.09b.
  • PIXEL's upcoming unlock of $27.23M will increase the supply by 7.05%, with a market cap of $386.17M.
  • CYBER's upcoming unlock of $9.48M will increase the supply by 5.98%. CYBER has a market cap of $158.59M.
  • RNDR's upcoming unlock of $6.14M will increase the supply by 0.20%, and it has a market cap of $3.08b.

Flying Car Air-Taxis


Before the end of this decade, you’ll be able to order an on-demand aerial rideshare as easily as you currently request an Uber.


But all of this raises a fundamental question: Why now?


The answer is the convergence of advanced technologies such as improved batteries, new materials, advanced sensors, and something called “direct electric propulsion.” Coupled with increasing regulatory support around the world, the age of flying cars is arriving.


In the last blog in this series, we looked at the two companies leading the eVTOL market: Archer Aviation and Joby Aviation.


But they’re not alone.


In today’s blog, I want to share details on three more of the leading eVTOLs (flying cars) that are competing for the market: Lilium, Beta, and Volocopter.


Let’s dive in… 



Lilium (Germany)


Lilium is planning a 7-seater (German-based) eVTOL jet, which boasts a unique fixed-wing design powered by 36 electric ducted fans.


The Lilium 7-seater is expected to have a cruise speed of 280 km/h (175 mph), a 250+ km (155+ miles) range, a maximum cruise altitude of 3,000 m (10,000 ft), and the maximum take-off weight of the aircraft is estimated to be 3,175 kg (7,000 lb).

In June 2023, Lilium achieved FAA G-1 certification, making it the only air taxi with certification bases from both the FAA and EASA, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. As CEO Klaus Roewe has stated, "Receiving the FAA G-1 demonstrates the Lilium Jet's path to global acceptance by aerospace regulators and the expected start of global operations in late 2025."


Lilium has secured substantial purchase orders and partnerships, including deals with Azul, NetJets, Saudia, and Heli-Eastern. In March 2024, Lilium partnered with Atlantic Aviation to prepare for the Lilium Jet's upcoming regional air mobility service launch in the United States.


The company hopes to enter commercial service in 2026.



Beta (Vermont, USA)


Beta Technologies, a pioneer in electric aviation based in South Burlington, Vermont, has captured the industry's attention with its groundbreaking designs.


The company's ALIA-250 eVTOL and CX300 eCTOL (electric conventional takeoff or landing) aircrafts share components, streamlining the FAA certification process and enabling cost-effective production.


In October 2023, Beta made history by delivering a manned ALIA electric aircraft to the U.S. Department of Defense. The aircraft completed a 2,000-plus mile journey from Vermont to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, utilizing Beta's own charging infrastructure. The U.S. Air Force is now testing the Alia in its first piloted deployment of an electric aircraft.


September 2023 saw the opening of Beta's new 188,500 square-foot factory at Burlington International Airport, dedicated to the large-scale production of the ALIA eCTOL and eVTOL.


Beta aims to launch the ALIA eCTOL in 2025 and the eVTOL in 2026, working closely with the FAA for certification. The company has raised over $800 million from prominent investors and has secured orders for approximately 600 aircraft from major aviation players.



Volocopter (Germany)


The all-electric “Volocopter” is equipped with 18 engineered rotors, giving it extraordinary redundancy, and offering accommodations for two people: a pilot and a single passenger.


The vehicle is limited in carrying capacity, speed, and range but its simplicity makes it ideal for local, near-term operations. The lack of a wing and dependence on multicopter-drone technology means it will have short ranges and relatively slow speeds.

The Volocopter 2X (an earlier model) is capable of reaching a maximum speed of 100 km/h (62 mph) and has a range of 27 km (17 miles). This model is particularly suited for short-range urban air taxi service, which is ideal for the company’s collaboration with NEOM, the smart and sustainable regional development in northwest Saudi Arabia, and its futuristic urban environment.


The next design, called the “VoloCity,” has a range of 35 km (22 miles) and a top speed of 100 km/h (69 mph). The VoloCity is equipped with 18 small fixed-pitched propellers and 18 electric motors, powered by lithium-ion battery packs that can be swapped out in about 5 minutes, significantly reducing turnaround times. This model is expected to enter commercial service in 2024.



Why This Matters


In the year 2000, there was a famous IBM commercial in which the comedian Avery Johnson asked: “It’s the year 2000, but where are the flying cars? I was promised flying cars. I don’t see any flying cars. Why? Why? Why?”


In 2011, in Peter Thiel’s now famous manifesto What Happened to The Future?, the prominent investor wrote: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”


The wait is now over and flying cars—at least eVTOLs—are finally here.


And the infrastructure, ecosystem, software, and regulations are coming fast.


While we were sipping our lattes and checking our social media feeds, science fiction became science fact.


In our next blog in this series, we’ll look at how commercial drones are transforming on-demand delivery. 

 Elon on Abundance, AI & Human Survival...


Two of my favorite sayings are “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself” and “The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.”


When it comes to “creating the future” and “promoting crazy ideas,” no one, literally no one, can hold a candle to Elon Musk.


While so many billionaires sit on their money, using it to make more money, Elon keeps on betting it all on his Massive Transformative Purpose and Moonshots.


If you take a moment to review the Forbes 400 list and ask yourself which of these billionaires are using a significant amount of their massive wealth to improve humanity, you get a very short list. Folks like Eric Schmidt, Marc Benioff, Sam Altman, Martine Rothblatt, MacKenzie Scott, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Tony Robbins are among those with a mission to improve humanity, take Moonshots, and solve grand challenges...


But it bears repeating that chief among the global changemakers is Elon.


I’ve had to pleasure to know Elon since 2001. He’s served on my Board of Trustees at XPRIZE, funded two different XPRIZEs (Gigaton Carbon Removal, and Global Learning), and is someone I consider a friend.


On two recent occasions, I sat down with Elon to discuss topics related to abundance vs. scarcity and humanity’s ability to survive digital super intelligence. The first was an X Spaces on January 4, 2024 (link hereand the second was over video on X during the Abundance Summit on March 19, 2024 (link here).


In this blog, I’d like to discuss some of the places we strongly agree, and reinforce his wisdom on a number of key points that all of us should be discussing in our board rooms and around our family dinner tables.


Let’s dive in...



Why is the News So Negative?


In my conversation with Elon, he reflected: “The news is so negative. Frankly, on occasion when I accidentally read the news it just makes me sad. As you know, the daily news is really just an attempt to answer the question, ‘What is the worst thing that happened on Earth today?’ And with 8 billion people on Earth, somewhere on the planet, something horrible is happening every single day. But there's also great things happening every single day, and we just don’t hear about them on a consistent basis. The mainstream news media is basically out to scare you. They’re not likely to say, ‘Hey, it's been a pretty good day, overall violence is at an all-time low.’”


The reality is that the wiring of our brains (100 billion neurons, 100 trillion synaptic connections) evolved a “default operating software” focused on fear and scarcity, keeping us alive during an era of constant danger, and limited food.


Our ever-present “negativity bias” has us routinely paying 10 times more attention to negative news than positive news. What was once useful in scanning for snakes or lions is now on overload as we are bombarded by a ceaseless stream of negative local and global news, all vying for our attention.


And of course, the news media knows that, feeding us a 10-to-1 negative-to-positive news ratio to capture our eyeballs. This is why the old newsroom adage "If it bleeds, it leads" holds so true even today.


It’s hardly surprising then that we find ourselves in a state of heightened pessimism, often feeling as though the world around us is spiraling out of control.


“It makes sense from an evolutionary point of view,” continues Elon. “We would respond more to danger than to reward since the consequences of danger could be fatal. On one hand, if you go over there, there's a lion that's going to eat you or some neighboring tribe that's going to kill you, and it's game over, your genes are out of the gene pool. Whereas good news, like a bush with berries, while nice to have, is optional. In one case, you die and in the other case, you're hungry. But death is worse than hunger and anyone who did not respond more to negative news than positive news didn't make it. Anyone complacent about the lion was eaten by the lion.”


I loved and fully agree with Elon’s final conclusion on this point, namely: “I think as a general rule of living, it is better to err on the side of being optimistic and wrong than pessimistic and right. And if you're going to err on one side or the other, it's just a higher quality of life to err on the side of being optimistic and risk being wrong than pessimistic and right. Optimism is going to make you happy.”



Our Future of Abundance


“Humanity is not constrained in any real fashion,” said Elon. “I thought your first book, Abundance, was pretty accurate in terms of the future being one of abundance, where essentially any goods and services will be available in quantity to everyone. Basically, if you want something, you can just have it. Essentially, AI and robotics will drop the cost of goods and services to almost nothing.”


I agree with Elon, and it’s hard for most of society to see an unbridled future of abundance. Ultimately, nothing is truly scarce, and technology is a force that consistently converts scarcity into abundance.


There is no better example than energy. Two-hundred years ago, energy was scarce. We once hunted whales to get whale oil to light our nights. At the industry's peak, between 1846 and 1852, an estimated 8,000 whales were slaughtered each year for their oil.


But technology progressed, and the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century ignited our reliance on coal, providing a simple heating source to drive powerful machinery. In 1800, global coal production was estimated at 10 million tons and by the turn of the 20th century, this figure had skyrocketed to 1 billion tons.


Beyond coal, humanity next pursued oil, and soon, just like coal displaced whale oil, soon solar and fusion will displace our petroleum economy.


“When it comes to energy,” says Elon, “at Tesla we've made extremely detailed presentations on how to make Earth completely self-sustaining from an energy standpoint. There is no shortage of raw materials for lithium-ion batteries and for solar. Even if you powered all of industry on Earth electrically (including heating and transport), you could do that with solar and lithium-ion batteries and not come anywhere close to depleting the resources of Earth.”


Elon continues, “Today, battery production is growing at a rate several times faster than vehicle production, in some cases up to 10 times faster, due to massive demand for batteries. As electricity usage increases, there will be a need to buffer the grid which will yield more capacity, because currently, most electrical grids waste a lot of energy by not buffering. Power plants are sized for peak demand, like on a hot summer day, leading to excess capacity at other times. By using batteries for energy storage (buffering), the grid's output could be doubled or tripled.”


Reflecting further on a future of abundance, Elon concluded that there is no meaningful limit to the economic output of humanity, “If you think about what an economy is: it’s basically a number of people times average productivity per person. At the point at which we have advanced robotics—such as Tesla’s Optimus—then there's really no meaningful limit to what the economic output would be.”


“Ultimately,” finished Elon, “I think the only scarcity that will exist will be scarcity that we just decide to create artificially, or something like a unique work of artwork.”



The Great AI Debate: Greatest Hope or Gravest Threat?


The primary theme of my 2024 Abundance Summit was “The Great AI Debate,” namely: will digital super intelligence become humanity’s greatest hope or our gravest threat?


During the Summit, Elon joined the debate, coming in over video on X, via Starlink, while flying from Austin to LA in his jet.


“The rate at which AI is growing really boggles the mind. I've never seen any technology move as fast as AI,” Elon began. “At this point, there is no way to stop AI. It is accelerating whether people like it or not. That's why, together with a number of really smart people, we created xAI to build what is intended to be a maximally truth seeking and maximally curious AI. ‘Understanding the universe’ is xAI’s goal and the company motto.”


As Mo Gawdat wrote in his wonderful book Scary Smart: “My hope is that together with AI, we can create a utopia that serves humanity, rather than a dystopia that undermines it.”


During the Abundance Summit, members heard Ray Kurzweil, who predicted with extraordinary accuracy way back in 1999, nearly 30 years ago, say that AI would achieve human-level intelligence before the end of this decade.


And while we are rapidly approaching that intellectual milestone, the exponential growth of machine intelligence won’t stop at this arbitrary point.


Twenty doublings more will yield a million-fold improvement, and thirty doublings a billion-fold more intelligence than you or me.


“I have to give credit to Ray Kurzweil for being remarkably accurate in his predictions on when we create human-level AI,” said Elon. “But, if anything, I think he was perhaps a bit conservative in his predictions.”


Elon continued, “The amount of dedicated AI compute appears to be growing by a factor of 10x every 6 months. So, it’s basically close to a 100x improvement per year, at least for the next few years. And it seems like a lot of the data centers, maybe most of the data centers that are currently supporting conventional compute, will ultimately transition to AI compute.”


The field is moving at blinding speed. So how do we think about having AI progeny that may soon be one-billion-fold more intelligent than us? Which, by the way, is numerically equivalent to the intellectual difference between a hamster and a human.


With that kind of raw power and intelligence, we can anticipate that AIs will discover many new breakthroughs in physics, realize ingenious solutions to problems like famine, poverty, the climate crisis, and human mortality. But how do we harness AI for good?


Elon answered this question as follows: “I think the way in which an AI or an AGI is created is very important. You grow an AGI. It's almost like raising a kid, but it’s a super genius godlike kid, and it matters how you raise such a kid.”


“I've thought a lot about AI safety,” he continued. “My ultimate conclusion is that the best way to achieve AI safety is to grow the AI in terms of the foundation model and then fine tune it to be really truthful. Don't force it to lie even if the truth is unpleasant. That’s very important. Don't make the AI lie.”


During my conversation with Elon, I pushed him on his view regarding humanity’s future. “When we ultimately create a digital superintelligence that can enable this future of abundance,” started Elon, “there is also some chance that a digital superintelligence could end humanity. I agree with Geoffrey Hinton that the probability of such a dystopian future is something like 10% or 20%. It's difficult to predict exactly, but I think that the probable positive scenario outweighs the negative scenario. But we shouldn't be complacent about that future. Complacency and entitlement are not a recipe for success.”


Elon concluded his remarks to the gathering of 500 CEOs at the Abundance Summit with both a hopeful and cautionary thought: “I think hopefully we can have an outcome that is similar to the Iain Banks Culture books, which envision a semi-utopian AI future. AI is happening fast, so I think we just need to steer it in as positive a direction as possible and try to do whatever we can to increase the probability of a great future.”