Connect with us

Startups

Asset financiers to the rescue as Bolt plans to sign-up 200,000 new drivers in Africa to meet growing demand for ride-hailing services – TechCrunch

Published

on

Bolt, the Estonian mobility tech company that recently closed a huge round, is planning to onboard an additional 200,000 drivers in Africa this year, as it kicks-off expansion to more cities within its existing markets while keeping up with the growing demand for e-hailing services across the continent.

Bolt’s Africa regional director, Paddy Partridge, told TechCrunch that the ride-hailing firm has experienced a spike in on-demand transportation services, and that the current drivers — especially in Ghana and Nigeria where “there’s a real shortage of cars” — are not enough to meet this growth.

Bolt currently has more than 700,000 drivers catering to about 40 million riders across its existing seven markets in Africa.

“One of the challenges we have with our growth at the moment is that on the ride-hailing side, the demand for our services is growing faster than we’re able to onboard drivers, particularly in West and Southern Africa. We’re just not able to continue keeping up with that growth because drivers are not able to access vehicles at an affordable rate,” said Partridge.

“We are having to find ways to really attract as many drivers as we can… like make their earnings potential as good as possible so that we can bring people (drivers) onto our platform…to solve this issue around access to cars.”

Paddy Partridge, Africa regional director, Bolt Ride Hailing. Image Credits: Bolt

Partridge said that Bolt already has vehicle-financing partnerships with banks in markets like Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, and its planning to form additional collaborations, and explore the expansion of the current ones to reach more markets and drivers.

The shortage, Partridge says, is as a result of supply-chain challenges brought about by the COVID pandemic resulting in an increase in the cost of vehicles. Also, a high inflation in some countries like Nigeria have undermined people’s buying power.

However, partnerships are set to bridge the financing gap. In November last year, Bolt partnered with Metro Africa Xpress (MAX), a Nigerian mobility-tech company, to extend lease-to-own financing to its drivers. The partnership with MAX will provide financing for 10,000 energy-efficient vehicles (both electric and gas-powered) providing the much-needed support to drivers using leased vehicles or those employed to operate taxis. The taxi company hinted that it will explore similar arrangements in other markets where MAX can deliver to its drivers.

In South Africa, Bolt has a similar arrangement with FlexClub, a vehicle subscriptions marketplace, that allows drivers to get into the taxi business through a lease-to-own financing model. In October last year, FlexClub signed a partnership with Untapped Global (a smart asset financing institution) to extend credit for 2,000 EVs (half of them motorcycles) to on-demand workers using platforms such as Bolt and Uber in Mexico and South Africa.

These recent partnerships with EV dealers add to the company’s long-term goal of increasing the number of clean energy vehicles onboarded on its platform as part of the company’s contribution toward cutting carbon emissions from gasoline and diesel use. Bolt is planning to ink more deals with EV dealers in Africa.

Bolt plans to enter at least two new markets in Africa this year, and expand to more cities within its existing (seven) markets. Image Credits: Bolt

“One of the models of partnership that we’re really expanding this year is around vehicle financing. So basically, finding ways to source vehicles and extend financing to drivers that want to drive on our platform…We have this partnership that we concluded recently with MAX in Nigeria, but we believe we can partner with them in other markets,” he said.

“What we’re really trying to do is to use our platform and our money to make these cars more affordable, and to de-risk the people that are providing the financing like banks or fleet managers. We are also seeing how we can work with the players that are developing the charging infrastructure, de-risking them to improve their economics (of scale) so they can roll that out faster.”

With the demand of electric vehicles by riders being slightly higher than regular taxis, the ride-hailing has had to conduct education on the value of owning one to increase uptake. Bolt shares drivers’ data, including their payment history, to help financiers assess their credit-worthiness.

The company plans to increase the adoption of EVs across all its categories, including the four-wheeled options, three-wheelers (tuk-tuks) and motorcycles (bodaboda/okada). On EVs, the focus at the moment is on the four-wheelers, where the adoption is still slow owing to the hefty costs.

Bolt told TechCrunch that it needs more vehicles to support its growth-plan for the region; that is, the planned expansion of its taxi-hailing business within its existing markets and the growth of its food-delivery business across the continent. In 2020, South Africa was the first African market for the firm’s delivery business, followed a year later by Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria.

Bolt, Uber’s main rival in Africa and Europe, is also planning to enter at least two new markets within the North and West Africa regions before the year ends. Its other current markets are Tunisia, Tanzania and Uganda.

The ride-hailing firm is looking to tap Africa’s increasing smartphone penetration, willingness to take-up new technologies, a youthful population and the overall demand for on-demand transportation services.

Bolt has recently fashioned itself as a transport and deliveries company. Image Credits: Bolt

Founded in 2013 by Markus Villig, Bolt has operations in 45 countries and has recently fashioned itself as a transport and deliveries company, after launching the car rental and the 15-minute grocery delivery services. While Villig said in a past interview that they will use its newly acquired $709 million funding to fuel the expansion of these new businesses, it seems that the focus on Africa for now will only be the ride-hailing and the food delivery businesses.

“These two sort of complement our portfolio of products that are basically designed to remove the need for people to own their vehicles. And we’ve seen promising results in the markets where we have rolled this out in Europe. And I think there is a big opportunity for this in Africa as well. But we’re trying to savor that opportunity and see if it makes sense to prioritize now,” said Partridge.

Meanwhile, the growth of the global ride-hailing service industry is expected to more than double over the next seven years to hit $98 billion, as the sector slowly recovers from the ravages of the COVID pandemic that paralyzed the industry. Globally, the sector is expected to grow by 10% CAGR year-on-year according to this report due to a spike in demand as the world embraces the “new normal” that has seen activities in industries like transport almost fully return in regions like Africa.

As the sector recovers, ride-hailing companies with operations in Africa and those eyeing the continent have picked up the momentum over the last few months, launching new products and setting up operations in new countries. China’s Didi finally made inroads into the rest of Africa after successfully operating in South Africa. Russia’s inDriver entered Algeria, as Uber introduced PoolChance, a feature that allows riders heading the same direction to get discounted rides when they share cabs.

As international e-hailing companies tap the African market, they are also increasingly having to bear with growing competition from homegrown e-mobility companies like Kenya’s Wasili and Little, and South Africa’s NextNow. Mass transit operators like SWVL, the Egyptian ride-sharing company with operations across Africa, South Asia and Middle-East, are breaking barriers by formalizing public transport in emerging markets.

Source link

Startups

LastPass hacked, OpenAI opens access to ChatGPT, and Kanye gets suspended from Twitter (again) • TechCrunch

Published

on

Aaaaand we’re back! With our Thanksgiving mini-hiatus behind us, it’s time for another edition of Week in Review — the newsletter where we quickly wrap up the most read TechCrunch stories from the past seven(ish) days. No matter how busy you are, it should give you a pretty good idea of what people were talking about in tech this week.

Want it in your inbox every Saturday morning? Sign up here.

most read

Instafest goes instaviral: You’ve probably been to a great music festival before. But have you been to one made just for you? Probably not. Instafest, a web app that went super viral this week, helps you daydream about what that festival might look like. Sign in with your Spotify credentials and it’ll generate a promo poster for a pretend festival based on your listening habits.

LastPass breached (again): “Password manager LastPass said it’s investigating a security incident after its systems were compromised for the second time this year,” writes Zack Whittaker. Investigations are still underway, which unfortunately means it’s not super clear what (and whose) data might’ve been accessed.

ChatGPT opens up: This week, OpenAI widely opened up access to ChatGPT, which lets you interact with their new language-generation AI through a simple chat-style interface. In other words, it lets you generate (sometimes scarily well-written) passages of text by chatting with a robot. Darrell used it to instantly write the Pokémon cheat sheet he’s always wanted.

AWS re:Invents: This week, Amazon Web Services hosted its annual re:Invent conference, where the company shows off what’s next for the cloud computing platform that powers a massive chunk of the internet. This year’s highlights? A low-code tool for serverless apps, a pledge to give AWS customers control over where in the world their data is stored (to help navigate increasingly complicated government policies), and a tool to run “city-sized simulations” in the cloud.

Twitter suspends Kanye (again): “Elon Musk has suspended Kanye West’s (aka Ye) Twitter account after the latter posted antisemitic tweets and violated the platform’s rules,” writes Ivan Mehta.

Spotify Wraps it up: Each year in December, Spotify ships “Wrapped” — an interactive feature that takes your Spotify listening data for the year and presents it in a super visual way. This year it’s got the straightforward stuff like how many minutes you streamed, but it’s also branching out with ideas like “listening personalities” — a Myers-Briggs-inspired system that puts each user into one of 16 camps, like “the Adventurer” or “the Replayer.”

DoorDash layoffs: I was hoping to go a week without a layoffs story cracking the list. Alas, DoorDash confirmed this week that it’s laying off 1,250 people, with CEO Tony Xu explaining that they hired too quickly during the pandemic.

Salesforce co-CEO steps down: “In one week last December, [Bret Taylor] was named board chair at Twitter and co-CEO at Salesforce,” writes Ron Miller. “One year later, he doesn’t have either job.” Taylor says he has “decided to return to [his] entrepreneurial roots.”

audio roundup

I expected things to be a little quiet in TC Podcast land last week because of the holiday, but we somehow still had great shows! Ron Miller and Rita Liao joined Darrell Etherington on The TechCrunch Podcast to talk about the departure of Salesforce’s co-CEO and China’s “great wall of porn”; Team Chain Reaction shared an interview with Nikil Viswanathan, CEO of web3 development platform Alchemy; and the ever-lovely Equity crew talked about everything from Sam Bankman-Fried’s wild interview at DealBook to why all three of the co-founders at financing startup Pipe stepped down simultaneously.

TechCrunch+

What lies behind the TC+ members-only paywall? Here’s what TC+ members were reading most this week:

Lessons for raising $10M without giving up a board seat: Reclaim.ai has raised $10 million over the last two years, all “without giving up a single board seat.” How? Reclaim.ai co-founder Henry Shapiro shares his insights.

Consultants are the new nontraditional VC: “Why are so many consultant-led venture capital funds launching now?” asks Rebecca Szkutak.

Fundraising in times of greater VC scrutiny: “Founders may be discouraged in this environment, but they need to remember that they have ‘currency,’ too,” writes DocSend co-founder and former CEO Russ Heddleston.

Source link

Continue Reading

Startups

Building global, scalable metaverse applications

Published

on

Previously we talked about the trillion-dollar infrastructure opportunity that comes with building the metaverse — and it is indeed very large. But what about the applications that will run on top of this new infrastructure?

Metaverse applications will be very different from the traditional web or mobile apps that we are used to today. For one, they will be much more immersive and interactive, blurring the lines between the virtual and physical worlds. And because of the distributed nature of the metaverse, they will also need to be able to scale globally — something that has never been done before at this level.

In this article, we will take a developer’s perspective and explore what it will take to build global, scalable metaverse applications.

As you are aware, the metaverse will work very differently from the web or mobile apps we have today. For one, it is distributed, meaning there is no central server that controls everything. This has a number of implications for developers:

Event

Intelligent Security Summit

Learn the critical role of AI & ML in cybersecurity and industry specific case studies on December 8. Register for your free pass today.


Register Now

  • They will need to be able to deal with data that is spread out across many different servers (or “nodes”) in a decentralized manner.
  • They will need to be able to deal with users that are also spread out across many different servers.
  • They will need to be able to deal with the fact that each user may have a different experience of the metaverse, based on their location and the devices they are using due to the fact not everyone has the same tech setup, and this plays a pivotal role in how the metaverse is experienced by each user.

These challenges are not insurmountable, but they do require a different way of thinking about application development. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Data control and manipulation

In a traditional web or mobile app, all the data is stored on a central server. This makes it easy for developers to query and manipulate that data because everything is in one place.

In a distributed metaverse, however, data is spread out across many different servers. This means that developers will need to find new ways to query and manipulate data that is not centrally located.

One way to do this is through the blockchain itself. This distributed ledger, as you know, is spread out across many different servers and allows developers to query and manipulate data in a decentralized manner.

Another way to deal with the challenge of data is through what is known as “content delivery networks” (CDNs). These are networks of servers that are designed to deliver content to users in a fast and efficient manner.

CDNs are often used to deliver web content, but they can also be used to deliver metaverse content. This is because CDNs are designed to deal with large amounts of data that need to be delivered quickly and efficiently — something that is essential for metaverse applications.

Users and devices

Another challenge that developers will need to face is the fact that users and devices are also spread out across many different servers. This means that developers will need to find ways to deliver content to users in a way that is efficient and effective.

One way to do this is through the use of “mirrors.” Mirrors are copies of the content that are stored on different servers. When a user requests content, they are redirected to the nearest mirror, which helps to improve performance and reduce latency.

When a user’s device is not able to connect to the server that is hosting the content, another way to deliver content is through “proxies.” Proxies are servers that act on behalf of the user’s device and fetch the content from the server that is hosting it.

This can be done in a number of ways, but one common way is through the use of a “reverse proxy.” In this case, the proxy server is located between the user’s device and the server that is hosting the content. The proxy fetches the content from the server and then delivers it to the user’s device.

Location and devices

As we mentioned before, each user’s experience of the metaverse will be different based on their location and the devices they are using. This is because not everyone has the same tech setup, and this plays a pivotal role in how the metaverse is experienced by each user.

For example, someone who is using a virtual reality headset will have a completely different experience than someone who is just using a desktop computer. And someone who is located in Europe will have a different experience than someone who is located in Asia.

Though it may not be obvious why geographical location would play a part in something that is meant to be boundless, think of it this way. The internet is a physical infrastructure that is spread out across the world. And although the metaverse is not bound by the same physical limitations, it still relies on this infrastructure to function.

This means that developers will need to take into account the different geographical locations of their users and devices and design their applications accordingly. They will need to be able to deliver content quickly and efficiently to users all over the world, regardless of their location.

Different geographical locations also have different laws and regulations. This is something that developers will need to be aware of when designing applications for the metaverse. They will need to make sure that their applications are compliant with all applicable laws and regulations.

Application development

Now that we’ve looked at some of the challenges that developers will need to face, let’s take a look at how they can develop metaverse applications. Since the metaverse is virtual, the type of development that is required is different from traditional application development.

The first thing that developers will need to do is to create a “space”. A space is a virtual environment that is used to host applications.

Spaces are created using a variety of different tools, but the most popular tool currently is Unity, a game engine used to create 3D environments.

Once a space has been created, developers will need to populate it with content. This content can be anything from 3D models to audio files.

The next step is to publish the space. This means that the space will be made available to other users, who will be able to access the space through a variety of different devices, including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Finally, developers will need to promote their space. This means that they will need to market their space to users.

Getting applications to scale

Since web 3.0 is decentralized, scalability is usually the biggest challenge because traditional servers are almost impossible to use. IPFS is one solution that can help with this problem.

IPFS is a distributed file system used to store and share files. IPFS is similar to BitTorrent, but it is designed to be used for file storage rather than file sharing.

IPFS is a peer-to-peer system, which means that there is no central server. This makes IPFS very scalable because there is no single point of failure.

To use IPFS, developers will need to install it on their computer and add their space to the network. Then, other users will be able to access it.

The bottom line on building global, scalable metaverse applications

To finish off, the technology to build scalable metaverse applications already exists; but a lot of creativity is still required to make it all work together in a user-friendly way. The key is to keep the following concepts in mind:

  • The metaverse is global and decentralized
  • Users will access the metaverse through a variety of devices
  • Location and device management are important
  • Application development is different from traditional development
  • Scalability is a challenge, but IPFS can help

Clearly, we can’t have an article series about building the metaverse without discussing NFTs. In fact, these might be the key to making a global, decentralized, metaverse work. In our next article, we will explore how NFTs can be used in the metaverse.

By keeping these concepts in mind, developers will be able to create metaverse applications that are both user-friendly and scalable.

Daniel Saito is CEO and cofounder of StrongNode

Source link

Continue Reading

Startups

Intel researchers see a path to trillion-transistor chips by 2030

Published

on

Intel announced that its researchers foresee a way to make chips 10 times more dense through packaging improvements and a layer of a material that is just three atoms thick. And that could pave the way to putting a trillion transistors on a chip package by 2030.

Moore’s Law is supposed to be dead. Chips aren’t supposed to get much better, at least not through traditional manufacturing advances. That’s a dismal notion on the 75th anniversary of the invention of the transistor. Back in 1965, Intel chairman emeritus Gordon Moore predicted the number of components, or transistors, on a chip would double every couple of years.

That law held up for decades. Chips got faster and more efficient. Chip makers shrank the dimensions of chips, and goodness resulted. The electrons in a miniaturized chip had shorter distances to travel. So the chip got faster. And the shorter distances meant the chip used less material, making it cheaper. And so Moore’s Law’s steady march meant that chips could get faster, cheaper, and even more power efficient at the same time.

But Moore’s Law really depended on brilliant human engineers coming up with better chip designs and continuous manufacturing miniaturization. During recent years, it got harder to make those advances. The chip design ran into the laws of physics. With atomic layers a few atoms thick, it wasn’t possible to shrink anymore. And so Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang recently said, “Moore’s Law is dead.”

Event

Intelligent Security Summit

Learn the critical role of AI & ML in cybersecurity and industry specific case studies on December 8. Register for your free pass today.


Register Now

Intel showed how it could build chips with complex interconnected packages.

That’s not good timing, since we’re just about to start building the metaverse. Moore’s Law is vital to addressing the world’s insatiable computing needs as surging data consumption and the drive toward increased artificial intelligence (AI) brings about the greatest acceleration in demand ever.

A week after Nvidia’s CEO said that, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said that Moore’s Law is alive and well. That’s no surprise since he has bet tens of billions of dollars on new chip manufacturing plants in the U.S. Still, his researchers are backing him up at the International Electron Devices Meeting. Intel made it clear that these advances are may five to ten years out.

In papers at the research event, Intel described breakthroughs for keeping Moore’s Law on track to a trillion transistors on a package in the next decade. At IEDM, Intel researchers are showcasing advances in 3D packaging technology with a new 10 times improvement in density, said Paul Fischer, director and senior principal engineer in components research at Intel, said in a press briefing.

“Our mission is to keep our options for process technology rich and full,” he said.

These packages have been used in innovative ways lately; Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices announced that its latest graphics chip has a processor chip and six memory chips — all connected together in a single package. Intel said it collaborates with government entities, universities, industry researchers, and chip equipment companies. Intel shares the fruits of the research at places like the IEDM event.

Intel also unveiled novel materials for 2D transistor scaling beyond RibbonFET, including super-thin materials just three atoms thick. It also described new possibilities in energy efficiency and memory for higher-performing computing; and advancements for quantum computing.

“Seventy-five years since the invention of the transistor, innovation driving Moore’s Law continues to address the world’s exponentially increasing demand for computing,” said Gary Patton, Intel vice president of components research and design enablement, in a statement. “At IEDM 2022, Intel is showcasing both the forward-thinking and concrete research advancements needed to break through current and future barriers, deliver to this insatiable demand, and keep Moore’s Law alive and well for years to come.”

The transistor’s 75th birthday

The layers between chip circuits can be as little as three atoms thick.

Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the transistor, Ann Kelleher, Intel executive vice president and general manager of technology development, will lead a plenary session at IEDM. Kelleher will outline the paths forward for continued industry innovation – rallying the ecosystem around a systems-based strategy to address the world’s increasing demand for computing and more effectively innovate to advance at a Moore’s Law pace.

The session, “Celebrating 75 Years of the Transistor! A Look at the Evolution of Moore’s Law Innovation,” takes place at 9:45 a.m. PST on December 5.

To make advances required, Intel has a multi-pronged approach of “growing signficance and certainly a growing influence within Intel” to look across multiple disciplines.
Intel has to move forward in chip materials, chip-making equipment, design, and packaging, Fischer said.

“3D packaging technology is enabling the seamless integration of chiplets,” or multiple chips in a package, he said. “We’re blurring the line between where silicon ends and packaging begins.”

Continuous innovation is the cornerstone of Moore’s Law. Many of the key innovation milestones for continued power, performance and cost improvements over the past two decades – including strained silicon, Hi-K metal gate and FinFET – in personal computers, graphics processors and data centers started with Intel’s Components Research Group.

Further research, including RibbonFET gate-all-around (GAA) transistors, PowerVia back side power delivery technology and packaging breakthroughs like EMIB and Foveros Direct, are on the roadmap today.

At IEDM 2022, Intel’s Components Research Group said it is developing new 3D hybrid bonding packaging technology to enable seamless integration of chiplets; super-thin, 2D materials to fit more
transistors onto a single chip; and new possibilities in energy efficiency and memory for higher-performing computing.

How Intel will do it

Intel foresees voracious demand for computing power.

Researchers have identified new materials and processes that blur the line between packaging and silicon. Intel said it foresees moving from tens of billions of transistors on a chip today to a trillion transistors on a package, which can have a lot of chips on it.

One way to make the advances is through packaging that can achieve an additional 10 times interconnect density, leading to quasi-monolithic chips. Intel’s materials innovations have also identified practical design choices that can meet the requirements of transistor scaling using a novel material just three atoms thick, enabling the company to continue scaling beyond RibbonFET.

Intel’s latest hybrid bonding research presented at IEDM 2022 shows an additional 10 times improvement in density for power and performance over Intel’s IEDM 2021 research presentation.

Continued hybrid bonding scaling to a three-nanometer pitch achieves similar interconnect densities and bandwidths as those found on monolithic system-on-chip connections. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.

Intel said it is looking to super-thin ‘2D’ materials to fit more transistors onto a single chip. Intel demonstrated a gate-all-around stacked nanosheet structure using a thin 2D channel just three atoms thick, while achieving near-ideal switching of transistors on a double-gate structure at room temperature with low leakage current.

These are two key breakthroughs needed for stacking GAA transistors and moving beyond the fundamental limits of silicon.

Researchers also revealed the first comprehensive analysis of electrical contact topologies to 2D materials that could further pave the way for high-performing and scalable transistor channels.

To use chip area more effectively, Intel redefines scaling by developing memory that can be placed vertically above transistors. In an industry first, Intel demonstrates stacked ferroelectric capacitors that match the performance of conventional ferroelectric trench capacitors and can be used to build FeRAM on a logic die.

An industry-first device-level model captures mixed phases and defects for improved ferroelectric hafnia devices, marking significant progress for Intel in supporting industry tools to develop novel memories and ferroelectric transistors.

Intel sees a path to trillion-transistor chips with several approaches.

Bringing the world one step closer to transitioning beyond 5G and solving the challenges of power efficiency, Intel is building a viable path to 300 millimeter GaN-on-silicon wafers. Intel breakthroughs in this area demonstrate a 20 times gain over industry standard GaN and sets an industry record figure-of-merit for high performance power delivery.

Intel is making breakthroughs on super-energy-efficient technologies, specifically transistors that don’t forget, retaining data even when the power is off. Already, Intel researchers have broken two of three barriers keeping the technology from being fully viable and operational at room temperature.

Intel continues to introduce new concepts in physics with breakthroughs in delivering better qubits for quantum computing. Intel researchers work to find better ways to store quantum information by gathering a better understanding of various interface defects that could act as environmental disturbances affecting quantum data.

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

URGENT: CYBER SECURITY UPDATE