Innovation Wrap: Esports On The Rise, AI Chips, Arctic Code Vault

By Thomas Rice | More Articles by Thomas Rice

Here’s your weekly wrap of technology, innovation, and finance news.

🎮 Esports

Esports is on the rise with revenue, viewers, and investor interest growing according to a survey of more than 200 esports executives.

Immortals Gaming Club has sold the Houston Outlaws Overwatch team to Beasley Media Group with price estimates ranging from $35 million to $60 million. Teams originally sold for $20 million when Overwatch League was set up in 2017.

ImageThe New York Times looks at the business of esports by profiling FaZe Clan which operates an esports team, sells merchandise, creates video content, and manages talent: Can FaZe Clan Build a Billion-Dollar Business?

A small university in Pennsylvania has decided to specialise by only having one varsity program: esports.

Currently, 26 student athletes are enrolled at Harrisburg, playing League of Legends, Overwatch, and Hearthstone. They have full scholarships, and were recruited from all over the world. The program keeps a high-profile coaching staff full of former competitive players, at the top of which is a de facto athletic director, Chad Smeltz, a Harrisburg native who made his name as a League of Legends e-sports personality and coach.

💻 Chips and Computing

Competition for AI chips is increasing with Intel demonstrating its first-generation Neural Networking Processing chips at their AI summit last week and with Graphcore’s AI accelerator chips launching on Microsoft Azure.

IBM launched a new global weather forecasting system that should improve the use of weather information in applications by providing granular forecasts down to a 3 sqkm radius and with hourly updates. The system runs on IBM’s new supercomputer DYEUS, named after the ancient god that ruled the daylight sky.

“We’re actually getting down to the cellular level of the thunderstorms now, where we weren’t able to do that before. And with that information, we can provide better support to critical decision-makers,″ said Kevin Petty, head of science and forecasting at The Weather Company.

🛰️ Space

As SpaceX launches 60 Starlink satellites into space, astronomers worry that an increasing number of low-orbit satellites will eventually make ground-based astronomy impossible to do.

On Earth we build infrastructure such as roads to make transportation more efficient. What would space infrastructure look like? Kurzgesagt explains the concept of a space skyhook in this 8 minute video.

🛍️ Ecommerce

Facebook announced Facebook Pay, which will let Facebook users send money to one another directly.

Alibaba sold $38.8 billion worth of merchandise on Singles Day, up from $30.8 billion last year.

Nike have decided to stop selling on Amazon after a two-year-old partnership and instead focus on selling direct to consumers.

In the US, TikTok is experimenting with ecommerce by allowing a small number of users to link their videos to Amazon. Eugenia Chen posts videos of her dog Huxley wearing outfits made by her company, Pandaloon. Now those videos link to her Amazon store. Her dog has 2.1 million followers.

The Atlantic and the WSJ both talked about TikTok becoming the most downloaded app in India with 200 million users. Apparently long commutes help.

💲 Finance

A biography of Jim Simons, The Man Who Solved the Market, came out last week. The Economist calls it a compelling read.

Mr Simons is less famous than Mr Soros or Mr Buffett, but no less successful. He founded Renaissance in 1982, aged 44, after a successful career in mathematics and code-breaking. Its flagship Medallion fund has earned $100bn in trading profits since 1988, mostly for its employees. The average annual return of 66% before fees makes Mr Simons one of the most successful investors of all time. He is now worth $21bn.

Visual Capitalist has an infographic on the History of Interest Rates over 670 Years.

▶️ Streaming

Disney+ launched last week in the US, Canada, and the Netherlands and achieved 10 million signups in its first 24 hours. The strong early launch led to a number of investment banks raising their subscriber estimates for the 2020 financial year; Credit Suisse went from 15m to 25m (+55%), JP Morgan went from 15m to 25m (+67%), while Deutsche Bank went from 16m to 30m (+88%).

Disney’s new Star Wars show The Mandalorian received positive reviews, but without a global launch it’s set to become 2019’s most pirated show. Disney+ will launch in Australia and New Zealand tomorrow. I have spoken.

⚙️ Mobility

Daimler is reducing its spend on autonomous robotaxis after concluding that costs and regulatory hurdles have spiralled, leading to a reassessment of the business potential.

Chinese EV startup XPeng Motors raised $400 million for electric, autonomous vehicles. The startup is backed by Alibaba and Foxconn, and took on Xiaomi as a strategic investor in this round.

Uber has been fined $649 million in New Jersey for treating drivers as contractors rather than employees.

💊 Health

A new AI-powered model can predict epileptic seizures up to one hour before onset with 99.6% accuracy.

After two decades of research, an Ebola vaccine has been approved for the first time.

⚡ Other Snippets

VC funding for startups with at least one female founder more than doubled in 2018.

Apple is expected to launch its first augmented reality headset in 2022, followed by augmented reality glasses in 2023.

Google has made its Contact Centre AI generally available. The service helps automate interactions with customers in call centres

A company called Common Networks is betting that 5G wireless technology will replace cable internet in your home.

GitHub wants open source code to survive the apocalypse so is storing it in an Arctic Code Vault designed to last 1,000 years.

Thomas Rice

About Thomas Rice

Thomas Rice is the portfolio manager for the Perpetual Global Innovation Share Fund, based in Sydney, Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @thomasrice_au.

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