This is the lil tech news you need to know for the week commencing Feb 1, 2021.
Major hedge funds got rocked with losses last week after a 5.1 million member Reddit community led a surge in stock purchases of struggling video game retailer, GameStop. The collective buying power was enough to drive the heavily shorted stock up ~2,300% from its more stable early January price.
The stock became so en vogue that popular retail investor trading platform Robinhood shut down, and later substantially limited, trading of the volatile stock. This flex of control over users’ activity has not been uncontroversial. The decision was so unpopular that it gave even Ted Cruz and AOC common ground, and the SEC announced it will review the situation.
Even Elon Musk weighed in on the situation–which we get, considering his history with short sellers of Tesla stock (lol). His company went so far as releasing Tesla brand short shorts for the highly meme-able price $69.420 to debase Tesla’s short sellers.
Our Take: On one hand, it’s an incredible example of the power of technology to decentralize and democratize access to complex institutions like the financial markets–and what individuals can do to impact them.
On the other, it’s also an example of how quickly that power can be taken away when an access provider–like Robinhood–decides to step in. We’ll be watching with great interest for the ramifications (if any) to the platforms or the traders involved.
General Motors announced plans to take its entire vehicle line up fully electric by 2035. GM has been around as a car company basically since “car company” was a thing. By no coincidence, this is the same year in which California will no longer allow sales of new combustion engine passenger vehicles.
GM’s storied history brought us everything from American muscle like Corvettes and Pontiac GTOs to workhorses like Chevy Silverados and family-friendly Suburbans. With the exception of the Bolt, introduced in 2016, every successful vehicle in its portfolio has been based on internal combustion engine architecture. With the sheer variety of models under GM ownership, this is no small undertaking.
GM plans to start with 19 (yes, nineteen) different battery and drive unit configurations to cover models ranging from affordable cars to pickup trucks and luxury SUVs. Fortunately, they’ll have some help thanks to a joint venture with LG, who will develop and mass produce battery cells for the lineup.
Our Take: All-electric vehicle architectures can offer significant user experience benefits. Fewer mechanical parts and fluids could mean fewer problems and lower maintenance costs for owners.
We hope that this kind of user-first thinking in improving the hardware leads to continued improvement of the in-vehicle user experience with vehicle software as well.
SpaceX announced intentions to civilian, commercial “astronauts” to Earth orbit for the first time in 2021.
The first among them will be billionaire startup founder Jared Isaacman, who will donate full spacefare for the other three seats aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft to “individuals from the general public who will be announced in the weeks ahead.”
Our Take: Hey Jared, call me! 🚀
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