Snapchat paved the way for social media photo sharing, but increased competition (particularly from Instagram) has seen it struggle to hold onto users. Now the company is branching out into new territory with a startup accelerator called Yellow. Snap Inc. this week unveiled the nine companies that will receive US$150k in funding in exchange for a 7-10% stake. The inaugural class includes quite the variety of startups, ranging from augmented reality and citizen journalism-focused ventures, to ConBody, which pairs customers with ex-convicts for a workout. Snapchat sees each one as an opportunity to help its app innovate and stay relevant with users, as well as being a potential new line of revenue should the company opt to pivot away from its traditional business model.
Printing giant HP is aiming to transform the future of factory production. The company this week unveiled its Metal Jet 3D printing technology, which can create mechanically functional parts at 50x the productivity levels of traditional 3D printing methods. HP will initially focus on printing stainless steel, but hopes to expand to other metals with an eye toward supplying factory parts for auto, industrial and health care companies – it already has a deal in place with Volkswagen, for instance. “We’re at the tipping point of an exciting new era from which there will be no return: the future of mass production with 3D printing,” said Peter Oberparleiter, CEO of GKN Powder Metallurgy, which is partnering with HP on the project. In the future, factory floors may even have printers of their own, allowing them to replace nearly any part at a moment’s notice.
Apple’s popular iPhone got an update this week with the unveiling of the XS and XS Max. The iPhone’s enduring popularity, despite its high sticker price (roughly US$1k), has helped contribute to the company’s recent US$1trn valuation. The XS Max boasts a 6.5 inch display, and both phones have updated Face ID and other features. Apple also showed off its new smartwatch, which includes an extended display and a special focus on health features. But it’s not just the phone world the tech giant dominates; its watches have helped it overtake FitBit and Xiaomi as the world’s most popular wearable tech manufacturer. Both devices are proof that Apple continues to lead the way in personal tech innovation.
The push for carbon neutrality got a major boost this week with the news that California has passed a law to phase out fossil fuels entirely by 2045. The US state, which boasts the world’s fifth-largest economy, says it plans to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 40% over the next 12 years. As the home of electric vehicle giants such as Telsa and Google, California hopes to lead the way in pushing the large-scale expansion of the green technology industry. Beyond just transportation, California’s new bill requires that 60% of its electricity comes from solar, wind or other renewable sources – something that is sure to serve as inspiration for Silicon Valley innovators of all stripes.
The rise of e-commerce giants such as Amazon have changed the way many traditional brick and mortar retailers around the world do business. Nowhere is that more evident than in department stores, many of which have struggled to keep up with 21st century shopping habits. This week, Germany’s two major department store chains, Galeria Kaufhof and Karstadt, announced they were joining forces in what they called a 'merger of equals'. The deal will see the new yet-to-be-named entity put a special emphasis on internet shopping. Combined, Galeria and Karstadt produced €5.4bn in sales at 243 locations across Europe last year, but the need to innovate never ceases. Their success could serve as a model for businesses across the retail industry looking to update their operations.