26.05.2022: Newsletter |

Handshakr Hot#Takes – May 2022

Telecoms: Space – The Next Frontier For Telecoms

#1This month has seen satellite base-station company Lynk launch what it says will be the world’s first commercial cell tower in space. Tower 1 is the firm’s sixth satellite – but the first to be covered by an FCC licence to operate a satellite direct-to-phone service.

Lynk plans to begin commercial service later this year, claiming it will help solve the world’s ‘0G problem’ and enable subscribers to connect everywhere. So is this the future of global cell coverage?

An estimated two billion people worldwide live in areas that lack mobile coverage. Moreover, they’re primarily in remote areas, which makes building a network of terrestrial cell towers to connect them prohibitively expensive.

A cell network in space could plug the gaps in global mobile coverage by using satellites to connect to regular mobile phones and provide high-bandwidth mobile data anywhere on Earth. But building a mobile network in space is no mean feat. Mobile phones aren’t designed to communicate with satellites travelling at 17,000mph and 300 miles above the ground. Instead, they are optimised to connect with stationary cell towers just a few miles away.

An extraterrestrial mobile network will need antennas sensitive enough to collect the weak signals from our phones and powerful enough to return calls that our mobile phone receivers can pick up.

And a lot of satellites are required to provide truly global coverage around the clock. For example, with a few dozen satellites, a mobile phone user could expect a satellite to pass overhead every 90 minutes or so – providing just a few hours of connectivity a day.

A few hours is better than nothing for those living in remote areas with no existing coverage. But it’s going to take a while before everyone on Earth can take satellite connection for granted, any time of day or night

And then, of course, there’s the question of whether enough customers will be willing to pay for space-based satellite service. That will be particularly crucial in the early days when the service will be patchy. Still, satellite operators must raise substantial capital to launch enough satellites for seamless coverage.

Only time will tell whether we can expect out-of-this-world mobile coverage in the future. Watch this space…

Tech: Fast Shut Down After Fast Spending

#2

Sometimes trailblazers don’t make it to the mountain top. Those were the words of CEO and co-founder Domm Holland when online payments service Fast announced recently that it was shutting down after running out of money.

The future of the one-click-checkout software maker had been in doubt for days, after reports that its 2021 revenue growth was modest, its cash burn high and its fundraising options limited.

Founded in 2019, Fast promised to provide online shoppers with a single payment profile which could be used, instantly, across participating e-commerce retailers. In addition, its Fast Checkout product mirrored Amazon’s one-click ordering process in a bid to make buying and selling frictionless for everyone.

By 2021, the company had raised $102 million in a Series B funding round led by Stripe. But its sales last year were reported to be only $600,000 – and its cash burn rate was said to be a massive $10 million per month.

So what does this say about venture capital? Was it a case of too much too soon – a founder with a big vision but not enough proof points to justify the valuation and investment? Or is this kind of failure something we need to see as tech entrepreneurs – more people willing to invest and take risks in order to deliver something great?

The demise of Fast comes as some other highly valued start-ups have begun to pull back. Workrise, for example, is reported to have laid off hundreds of employees only a year after the workforce management platform company was valued at $2.9 billion following a $300 million funding round.

But, as Domm also pointed out when he announced that Fast was closing its doors, even failed trailblazers pave a way that others will follow. Let’s hope they don’t all follow Fast over the cliff edge.

B2B: Blockchain Use Cases To Ponder

#3

Enthusiasts have been predicting that blockchain could become as disruptive as the internet for a while. But, until relatively recently, for many people, it was the revolution that hadn’t quite happened.

Now, at last, it’s great to see some applications for the technology coming to life. Of course, the use cases differ from banking and insurance to food and pharmaceutical products, but the benefits of using blockchain are the same – transparency, immutability, redundancy, and security.

When JP Morgan, for example, launched its Interbank Information Network (IIN) powered by blockchain technology, the aim was to address the longstanding challenges of interbank information sharing and minimise friction in the cross-border payments process. Thanks to blockchain, payments have become faster, cheaper and more accurate. 

Meanwhile, Volkswagen Financial Services announced last year that it was using blockchain-verified e-signature solution Scrive for its latest digital financing solution in the UK. The e-signature uses Guardtime’s KSI blockchain and takes a cryptographic hash of the contract, like a fingerprint, and stores it on the blockchain – making it tamperproof.

In the world of retail, Walmart was one of the first to use blockchain technology to control the quality and trace the origin of food. The benefits have included better food safety through traceability of the supply chain and transparency of data on shelf life, manufacturer and methods and conditions of transportation. Food waste and spoilage during transport have also been reduced by identifying problem points causing the most damage to goods.

Another example of real-world applications is the blockchain-based MediLedger Network developed by pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer and Eli Lilly, to track prescription drugs across the supply chain to stop the flow of counterfeit medicines.

Blockchain is gaining momentum. And it’s no surprise that increased trust, security, and efficiency will always help B2B companies compete. And blockchain can boost all three.