Portfolio News: Pi can wirelessly charge your phone from a short distance

Despite Apple finally releasing phones with wireless charging, the technology has actually been around for several years. And the fact is, charging via a pad is still kind of a pain -- you can't really use them when they're being charged and you either need a charging pad for every device or one ginormous pad for all of your devices. There have been other companies that promise long-range wireless power before -- Energous' WattUp says it can charge devices up to 15 feet away -- but these products have yet to come to market. A new startup called Pi, however, aims to offer a wireless charging solution that is somewhere in between.

The device is called, well, Pi, and the company says it's the first-ever contactless wireless charging product to make it to market. It's shaped like a lampshade, or a cone with its tip cut off. It uses resonant induction, which is the same tech that Qi uses, but with a special beam forming algorithm that lets them shape and direct magnetic fields around the device. That means that instead of needing to put your phone directly on it, you can just put your phone next to it.

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In a demonstration on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, Macdonald and his business partner Lixin Shi, showed that you could bring a phone within a foot of the Pi in order for it to start charging. He says that you can move the device in whatever direction around the Pi, and in different orientations, and it'll still work. Then he added a second phone, a third, and a fourth, and they all started to charge. The tech applies to iPhones, Galaxy phones and even a large iPad, as long as they have the appropriate magnetic charging case. If the phone already has wireless charging built-in -- like the new iPhones, for example -- then a case is not required.

According to Macdonald, you can charge up to four phones at full speed if they're all 12-inches or so away from the Pi. Once you add more phones, it'll slow down slightly, but they'll still get well above the one watt required to turn on the charging circuit. Shi says that the maximum output right now is 20 watts, but it's theoretically possible to increase the power by integrating components with a higher power rating, which might be able to accommodate laptops in the future.

Right now, Macdonald and Shi plans on selling the Pi charger as a standalone product, but they're also talking to partners about possibly integrating the technology in other devices. One possibility is in smart speakers like Google Home or the Amazon Echo. Since the speakers are already supposed to be at the center of your home, integrating a charging tech into them makes sense.

As for pricing, well, they don't have that just yet. But Macdonald promises that it will be well under $200 when it does ship. And if you want, you can go to the company's website right now to reserve your own Pi. The first 314 people -- get it? -- will get a $50 discount code.

 

Link: https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/18/pi-can-wirelessly-charge-your-phone-from-a-short-distance/

Portfolio News: Boom Supersonic raises $33M to build the fastest airplane for passenger flight

Boom Supersonic has raised a new $33 million Series A round, which it says is enough to build and fly its first supersonic jet, the XB-1 demonstration and testing craft, which will be a 1/3-scale prototype version of the supersonic airliner it will eventually build and sell to air fleet customers. The final Boom jet aims to be able to make the trip from NYC to London in just three hours and 15 minutes, less than half the time it takes on current transatlantic flights, at a cost of $2,500 for a one-way flight in either direction.

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“This funds our first airplane, all the way through flight tests,” explained Boom founder and CEO Blake Scholl in an interview. “Now we have all the pieces we need – technology, suppliers and capital – to go out and make some history and set some speed records.”

The XB-1, or “Baby Boom” as its affectionately called at the company, will prove that Boom’s design for its final craft is sound in flight tests, paving the way for construction of its first full-size aircraft. Boom unveiled the design of the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator last November, and completed wind tunnel testing on a scaled down physical model earlier this year.

“We have almost all the engineering completed, and the first wing components are showing up in the office this week,” Scholl told me about their progress since wind tunnel testing. “We’re about to do structural tests, and then we’re probably about a year away from flight.”

Asked what the funding will cover specifically in terms of the demonstration plane’s development, Scholl said that the bulk will be committed to funding the existing team, and talent acquisition. The bill of materials for the plane itself is surprisingly low, given what it aims to achieve. Boom’s entire premise is that it can build supersonic jets at a price point that makes financial sense for global air carriers to purchase and operate, however, so that makes sense.

A mock-up of the cabin comforts Boom passengers can look forward to.

A mock-up of the cabin comforts Boom passengers can look forward to.

“It’s a combination of things,” Scholl said. “The build cost of the airplane itself is about $13 million. So that’s carbon fiber composites, and avionics and the hydraulics and fuel pumps and all the stuff of an airplane. The bigger cost is actually the engineering team, the development cost, so the $33 million is going towards continuing to fund the team as well as basically doubling in size this year.”

The investors contributing to the new round include 8VC, Caffeinated Capital, Palm Drive Ventures, RRE Ventures and YC’s Continuity Fund. YC President Sam Altman joins the board alongside this round, as does entrepreneur and investor Greg McAdoo. Boom’s total funding is now at $41 million, and also includes investment from Lightbank and Paul Graham.

The company will be announcing new customers (Virgin Galactic has secured the first order off the line as an early partner) later this year, Scholl says, and he suggests we’ll start to see those customers participating as strategic funding partners in future rounds.

 

Link: https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/22/boom-supersonic-raises-33m-to-build-the-fastest-airplane-for-passenger-flight/

VentureBeat: Why U.S. hardware startups will start moving to China

VentureBeat: Why U.S. hardware startups will start moving to China

Hardware startups seem to be “in” one minute and “out” the next in Silicon Valley. For years, venture capitalists wouldn’t go near hardware startups. They were, as Wired put it, “the ugly stepchild of venture capital.” This started to shift a couple years ago thanks to cheaper parts, rapid prototyping, and crowdfunding. However, the tide is turning once again. VC investments in hardware now seem to be slowing. We’re seeing a drop in funding to IoT, for example, and fewer deals in smart home hardware.

We’ve also seen some big failures in consumer hardware. Take Lily, a drone startup that raised $34 million in preorders in 2015 and announced in January that it will not be going into production. Or consider Google’s acquisition of Nest, which has been described as a “disaster.” Pebble is another example. The smartwatch startup sold to FitBit for a fraction of what it received during previous acquisition offers (and less than it raised in funding).

However, a drop in interest from U.S. VCs doesn’t mean hardware startups are left with no options. In fact, it opens up the opportunity to seek out funding in China, where VCs are not making the same mistakes. Chinese investment and home field advantages will spur the next era of innovative companies.

Here are five reasons why...

Techcrunch: Ruvento raises new seed fund to invest in hardware across Singapore, China and the U.S.

Techcrunch: Ruvento raises new seed fund to invest in hardware across Singapore, China and the U.S.

Today, Ruvento is announcing a new $25 million seed fund for hardware startups in need of capital from Singapore, China and the U.S. The fund, managed by Slava Solonitsyn and Alex Toh, will write 70 percent of its checks between $100k and $500k. The rest of the capital will be reserved for follow-on investments of up to $2 million.

Ruvento is not the first investor to take a cross-boarder approach to the hardware space. HAX, among others, has a large accelerator presence in Shenzhen. Meanwhile, it also operates a separate program in the United States for post-accelerator startups that already have their preliminary supply chains figured out.

Ruvento is particularly interested in infrastructure hardware. Specifically, the team believes there is a lot of untapped potential around IOT and sensor integrations. The firm also cites commercial applications of drones and robotics as areas of interest and plans to keep its eyes on startups creatively leveraging advancements in virtual reality and augmented reality to solve problems.

“Hardware shouldn’t mean gimmicks,” noted Slava Solonitsyn, managing partner of Ruvento. “We are not investing in things you don’t need.”