03 February 2022 |

2/3/2022: Alan’s Angle

By Alan Soclof

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Ubering? More Like Cruising

SoftBank invested another $1.35B in Cruise, a GM-owned company that’s rolling out an autonomous vehicle ride sharing program, on top of a previous $900M investment.

Cruise was founded in 2013 in San Francisco by Kyle Vogt and Dan Kan. They saw early success with an autonomous experience for Audi vehicles on highways, but they pivoted to focus specifically on cities and ride sharing — and now they’re cruising for Uber.

Alan’s Angle:

Autonomous ride sharing is an extraordinarily difficult space.

  • In 2019, Tesla announced they’d launch an autonomous ride sharing program by 2020… but last I checked, all Teslas still have drivers.
  • Uber, who suffers an existential threat from companies like Cruise, shut down and sold off their autonomous program, Aurora, in 2020. 

The difficulty of this space is why GM acquired Cruise. GM originally planned to make a minority investment, but were so blown away by Cruise’s technology, they went all in and acquired the company for $1B in 2016.

Cruise’s goal is to put 1M cars on the road by 2030 and, in doing so, cut the cost of ride-hailing from $5 to $1.50. 

The company has hit some bumps in the road (like losing their CEO, Dan Amman), but if they can hit this goal, they’ll have a big headstart on their competition — companies Amazon’s Zoox, Ford & Lyft’s Argo Ai, Google’s Waymo, and Tesla.

My take? Cruise will become the Uber of autonomous ride hailing. Instead of “Uber-ing” somewhere, we’ll be “Cruising”

An Epic Metaverse

Epic Games announced their participation in Spire Animation Studio’s $20M funding round. 

  • Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, is an absolute juggernaut — they raised $1B in April at a $28.7B valuation. (For context, Sony just acquired Bungie, the studio behind Halo, for $3.6B.)
  • Spire is a new animation studio launched by Brad Lewis, a Pixar alum, and P.J. Gunsagar, a tech entrepreneur.

On top of the investment, Epic Games will integrate their three-dimensional creation tool, Unreal Engine, with Spire’s production process. This means Spire’s characters and IP can be seamlessly launched into the metaverse.

Alan’s Angle: 

The biggest players in the gaming space — Epic Games, Roblox, Microsoft, and Facebook — are racing to see who can get to 1B users first, and this investment puts Epic one big step closer to winning.

Why? It’s all about the metaverse.

Epic’s CEO Tim Sweeney believes the metaverse is a “multi-trillion” dollar opportunity. He’s working to create a virtual destination beyond gameplay itself, something the company has already done with massive success with things like their Travis Scott and Marshmello concerts that each drove over 10M virtual attendees.

I’ve got 3 predictions here:

  1. Epic Games will acquire Spire Animation Studios to ensure the exclusivity of Spire Animation IP in the Fortnite universe. 
  2. Spire will start working on Fortnite TV shows and feature films over the next couple years.  
  3. Roblox will ultimately beat out Fortnite to the race for 1B – they currently have 190M MAUs vs. Fortnite’s 80M

Canva Is Building an Empire

Canva announced the acquisition of Flourish, a London based data visualization company that’s been crushing it. They launched in 2016 and already have over 800K customers, including corporate clients like Deloitte, BBC, and Sky.

Flourish only raised $1M in seed funding back in 2017, so a financing/M&A move was due.

Alan’s Angle: 

Canva isn’t building a product, it’s building an empire.

The acquisition of Flourish is Canva’s third significant acquisition over the past 15 months. The other two were: 

  • Kaleido: background removal service for images and videos 
  • Smartmockups: product markup generator

The integration of Flourish sets Canva up to compete with data visualization companies like Tableau and Adobe. The tool also serves as a strong churn deterrent, and a way to keep Canva’s rapid MAU growth on pace — they’re currently averaging 75M MAUs, up 67% YoY. 

Interestingly, this acquisition precedes the funds for the company’s most recent $200M raise at a $40B valuation, which means Canva’s bolt on acquisitions will continue.

My prediction? Canva will make 2022 their most acquisition filled year to date.