PLUS: A comical look at Microsoft’s $1B+ acquisitions.
September 22, 2020
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On Monday, EV truck maker Nikola announced the resignation of Trevor Milton, its embattled CEO. This outcome was highly predictable after the release of Hindenburg Research’s scathing short-seller report. 

Milton is walking away with $3.1B (92m shares of $NKLA), per CNBC. But, with the stock down 19% on Monday, he might be losing a comma soon.

The Big Idea

What to expect from Tesla’s Battery Day

Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting is today. However, the real show will be the carmaker’s reveal of its new battery technology (AKA Battery Day).

To grasp the significance of Battery Day, The Hustle spoke with Omar Qazi, a software engineer and prominent Tesla writer.
(So prominent, in fact, that $TSLA short sellers are currently suing Qazi along with Elon Musk).

Tesla wants to make 20m cars/year…  

… from a 500k delivery goal for 2020. 

To do so, it’s vital that the electric vehicle (EV) maker can create an affordable battery.

Qazi tells us that a gas car costs about $125 per kWh. Once battery tech improves to that range of energy efficiency, the case for gas cars will not be great.

“Batteries are the largest cost of an EV,” Qazi says. “If EVs hit $100 per kWh, we’re talking about an option that is cheaper than a gas car, has less maintenance, and doesn’t pollute. That would be the tipping point for mass adoption of EVs.”

Such battery tech would usher in a new energy paradigm

Clean energy (wind, solar) has an infinite supply but — in industry parlance — it is intermittent. The sun doesn’t always shine, and wind doesn’t always blow. 

The right battery tech provides a cost-effective way to store renewable energy.

“Renewables are incredibly cheap,” Qazi says. “We’re talking as low as $0.02 per kWh. The key is matching demand with supply. A cheap enough battery can help facilitate this need and, ultimately, replace all fossil fuel plants.” (Here’s one recent example in the UK.)

Will Tesla make its own battery tech?

At present, Tesla has a number of partnerships with the likes of Panasonic and LG Chem to manufacture batteries (Gigafactories). 

“Tesla is probably making their own battery cell,” Qazi posits. “They want technology that can best integrate with their software and achieve the maximum battery life with the best performance.”

While Qazi expects Tesla to maintain its battery partnerships, the most viable way for the company to achieve its mass production targets is to control the battery tech from A through Z. 

That very well could be today’s announcement. 

(Editor’s note: Shout out to Johan Moreno @ Inside Transportation for the introduction — and to Elon Musk for replying to Trung’s tweet 👇.)

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Snippets
Overscheduled

HotSchedules, Slack’s clunky older cousin, is having a moment

If you’ve worked in retail this century, the word “HotSchedules” might give you, well, hot flashes. 

The shift-scheduling app has been helping hourly workers trade shifts since 1999.

While most ’90s tech has long since been phased out, HotSchedules is bigger than ever: It’s currently one of the top 10 paid apps on Apple’s App Store charts, and it’s used at ~35k places of business across the country.

Why is HotSchedules so hot right now?

There’s one big reason: Tons of retailers require their workers to fill out a health checklist each day before they show up to work.

Most of those checklists are on HotSchedules. But as the pandemic keeps messing with scheduling, workers are swapping shifts like crazy. 

HotSchedules’ messaging tool — which looks more like an email account, circa 2008 — is also suddenly all the rage.

It’s starting to look like a social platform 

This past spring, workers took to HotSchedules to swap tips about navigating the unemployment system, while employers sent out updates on how to pick up checks. 

In some darker cases, workers only found out they’d been laid off after discovering they were locked out of HotSchedules.

More recently, the sheer uncertainty of work during the pandemic has started to shape HotSchedules into something of a Slack rival — an old-school, distraction-free alternative to all of those corporate #pets channels. 

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Scamception

A fraud-detection company just got busted for committing fraud

Just to be safe, we’re going to need a team of fraud investigators to keep tabs on our fraud investigators.  

A few months ago, the startup NS8 was riding high. The online shopping boom made its major product — analytics software that sleuths out identity theft in online purchases — more important than ever. 

In June, NS8 claimed to see a 200% revenue jump, with $62m in profits in its bank account. But according to the SEC, the company only had $28k on hand.

Talk about a payday  

NS8’s CEO Adam Rogas allegedly funneled $17.5m+ out of the corporate account and into his own pockets.

Last week, authorities arrested Rogas, and NS8 laid off most of its 200+ staffers. Few in the company seem to have known about the scam. 

NS8’s high-profile backers — like Lightspeed Venture Partners, who’d showered the company with a whopping $123m in funding — were also purportedly in the dark. 

A season of scams 

The NS8 saga is the latest in a series of recent corporate flubs:

  • Nikola…
  • China-based Luckin Coffee was caught inflating its sales by $300m.
  • Electronic payment firm Wirecard collapsed after being wrapped up in a ~$4B global fraud.
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Big Game Hunting

A comical look at Microsoft’s $1B+ acquisitions

Like a spurned lover, Microsoft quickly pivoted from its failed TikTok bid and dropped a cool $7.5B to acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of game publisher Bethesda Softworks (Doom, Fallout, Elder Scrolls). 

It’s Microsoft’s largest game acquisition ever and the tech giant’s 11th acquisition of $1B+ since 1987. 

Here are the others, with our takes on the deals

  • The priciest (and spammiest) acquisition: LinkedIn for $26.2B in 2016.
  • The “I’ve never heard of this company, but its early employees are def way richer than me” acquisition: Fast Search & Transfer for $1.2B in 2008.
  • The “Are these tech companies or the place we get our eyewear prescriptions done?” acquisitions: Tied — Visio Corp ($1.4B in 1999) and Navision ($1.2B in 2002).
  • The Ron Burgundy “I immediately regret this decision” acquisition: Tied — Skype for $8.5B in 2011 and Nokia for $7.2B in 2014.
  • The “Let’s piss off software engineers” acquisition: GitHub for $7.5B in 2018.
  • The “Parents love this because it’s a nanny substitute” acquisition: Mojang (Minecraft) for $2.5B in 2014.
  • The “Who needs Zuckerberg when you can have David Sacks?” acquisition: Yammer for $1.2B in 2012.
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