04 October 2022 |

Google: Search Reinvented


A product update from Google probably doesn’t warrant its own segment but I’m convinced Google Maps is the most underutilized product on the internet.

More than a billion people use Google Maps every month. It is the single best tool to get from one place to another that has ever been created. But while it is perfect to get directions it has zero social features — despite Apple’s Find My Friends being around for years — and it’s not great for what I’d call ‘casual discovery’. When you want to find an interesting place to get a drink but I don’t have an address.

This kind of casual discovery happens to be exactly what’s propelled TikTok to world domination and Google knows it’s a threat.

For all the Apple Maps users out there, I’ve heard it’s good now but I just can’t believe it.


Google is the internet’s front door. It’s the home of Search and Discovery on the internet. The score of last night’s game, the fastest route to that coffee shop you like, the faintest wonder about what the capital of Monoco… Google.

Or at least it was. Until…

TikTok’s For You Page is redefining search by delivering users content based on interests instead of search queries

Today, TikTok answers your searches before you make them. It learns what you like, finds incredible content in that niche, and delivers it to you via viral videos under 60 seconds long.

TikTok is the ultimate interest graph. And because it’s a social network you’re also getting it from people you trust: your friends or the people you follow.

Take the example of picking a restaurant for dinner in Manhattan. I default to Google of course but more and more I find my friends are turning straight to TikTok’s search bar. I have to admit, Google’s static restaurant profiles are not even close to as good as TikTok’s video and social content.

In Sum: TikTok is eating into Google’s search traffic and Google is trying to adapt.

Catching the Vibe

Enter Neighborhood Vibe and a whole new set of visual search features.

For core search, they’re adding knowledge panels — visual displays of information. This is similar to ‘featured snippets’ those instructions that they scrape straight from a website so you don’t even need to click. It will be most prominent on mobile of course.

They’ve also launched Multisearch Near Me to let users use photos and images to find local retailers selling the products they’re looking for.

Neighborhood Vibe: Google Maps users upload 20 million reviews and photos every day and Google plans to use AI to turn those reviews into a new discovery experience.

“Things that the community that live in that neighborhood have helped tell the map what matters” according to Chris Phillips General Manager of Geo at Google per Techcrunch.

OK. It’s a step in the right direction but it’s still missing one critical piece TikTok has and that Google Maps should have.

Multiplayer Maps

My biggest gripe with maps is that I can’t use it with friends. We can’t see each other when we’re on the way to meet. I can’t get their recommendations for places to go. I can’t follow the Infatuation to get restaurant reviews. In other words, it’s not social.

Sure, you could build all of this on top of the Google Maps API or even the Foursquare API but why hasn’t Google built it itself?

Yes, it turns out Foursquare still exists! They’ve turned into an API company that sells location data. The core selling point appears to be that it’s 40% cheaper than the Google Maps API.

Google Maps but with friends. Share your favorite places. Throw in pinned stories. Create ‘place’ influencers. It could be a thing.

But if Google took this step there’d be no stopping it.

Sarah Tavel is a partner at Benchmark focused on SaaS and consumer.

TLDR: Google is looking for new ways to compete with TikTok on ‘casual search’ — non-directed, interested-based search. To do it they’re taking steps to make search more visual and applying AI to surface interesting places.

My opinion is that they should also build a social company on top of Google Maps. If you disagree or you want to help me build it I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for indulging my rant we’ll be following up on Hugging Face on Friday.


In Other News…

Elon is buying Twitter once again! With the trial set for later this week, Elon is offering to buy Twitter at the original purchase price of $54.20 a share, per Bloomberg. Earlier this afternoon exchanges halted trading on the stock because it’s doing this:

Meta released one of the best text-to-video AIs yet: Meta Make-A-Video. The videos are still in the uncanny valley but it’s obvious Meta is already thinking about tools for Instagram.

With the speed AI is evolving it feels like we’re only 2 or 3 years away from anyone being able to create HD video of anything or anyone.

What happens to Instagram and Tiktok when most of the content online is generated by AI? How do we deal with the obvious hazards?

Party Round rebrands as Capital, a full-stack fintech for startups.

Party Round spent the last year giving a master class in marketing. When the NFT wave was just starting to take off they dropped ‘Helpful VCs’ and NFT collection featuring notable VCs. It played on a joke in tech and got the attention of 100+ investors. Since then they’ve done nearly a dozen drops.

Founder Jordi Hays was the first guest on the Just Raised podcast, where we broke down how Party Round manufactures virality. They’ve also got an awesome launch video.

Elon Musk unveils Optimus, Tesla’s humanoid robot. It doesn’t do much of anything yet and it’s not even close to the best humanoid robots we’ve built — that award goes to the Japanese — but we may see big strides in robotics over the next decade — again because of AI and machine learning.

For instance, Boston Dynamics’ robot dog Spot learned to walk and dance via AI algorithms. Their humanoid AI can do parkour.

Tesla Optimus Robot


Liquid Death

Raise: $70M from Science at a $700M valuation

Including: Live Nation and Swedish House Mafia

One Liner: Bottled water but in a can

Apparently, people on the internet think it’s crazy that a water company has a $700M valuation. Personally, I’m a huge fan.

Liquid Death sells water but like Redbull they’re really a brand and marketing company. Founded to kill single-use plastic, Liquid Death comes in aluminum cans because aluminum is the most recyclable material we have — 65% of aluminum in the US has been recycled.

They doubled down with a heavy metal brand — because aluminum — and sell for roughly the same price as plastic water bottles.

But do the metrics justify a $700M valuation? Well, they’re targeting $130M in revenue this year, 3x over last year’s $45M.

Peter Pham the cofounder of Science quoted my tweet this morning to say they’re planning to double next year:

That trajectory puts Liquid Death at $260M in revenue by the end of 2023. The valuation of $700M is still a 2.5x multiple on those predicted numbers — for a water company — but I don’t think it’s too crazy a bet.

Context: Science incubated Liquid Death in their studio and led both the last $75M round and this one. Known for incubating Dollar Shave Club which was acquired for $1B it looks like Science thinks Liquid Death is their next big win.

Mainspring Energy

Raise: $140M Series E from Lightrock

Including: Bill Gates, Shell, Khosla

One Liner: Generators that can run on a variety of biofuels

The image above is Mainspring’s linear generator. I had no idea what a linear generator was but I pieced together a few things.

Biofuels, Finally

Mainspring’s linear generator is powerful because it can run on hydrogen, ammonia, biogas, or any other type of alternative fuel. That flexibility means big companies like Kroger can run them to generate green energy at their stores and offset their carbon footprint.

PG&E the electricity utility has signed deals with Mainspring to use their linear generators as a peak energy supplier. Instead of burning coal to supply extra power during peak periods or to remote areas at the edge of the grid, Mainspring enables PG&E to use biofuels.

Mainspring linear generator, coming to a Krogers near you.

How It Works: The pistons in Mainspring’s linear generator float on a cushion of air and aren’t attached to a crankshaft — like the kind you’d have in a car engine to drive energy to the wheels. No crankshaft unlocks flexibility in fuels.

In a car, gasoline ignites in a tiny explosion driving a piston which drives a crankshaft which drives the wheels. It’s a finely tuned machine. You can’t use any fuel but gasoline in it because other fuels create different reactions — gasoline and diesel don’t explode the same way — and you’d break the crankshaft and wreck the engine.

The linear engine uses magnets to create electricity instead of a crankshaft and the pistons are in a long tube that can handle a whole variety of different reactions.

TLDR: Big or small, as long as the fuel explodes it will work in a Mainspring linear engine. Which may finally unlock more demand for biofuels.


I saw Crazy, Stupid, Love this weekend and now I finally understand all the memes…