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23 March 2018

Business

23 March 2018

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Venezuelans are taking cash into their own hands; Ford is helping to launch the assembly line of the future, whilst Instagram rolls out its shopping functionality in eight countries.

 

A cash-based solution:

Venezuela’s deepening economic crisis has left citizens struggling with a cash shortage and rapid inflation. In a bid to curb the problem, one resourceful community in the country has decided to go it alone when it comes to money. The western city of Elorza this week launched its own currency that can be exchanged for Venezuela’s national tender, the Bolivar. The move comes just in time for local residents to be able to splash the new cash with confidence at the city’s annual festival commemorating St. Joseph this week. 

Lauda’s low-cost launch:

Former F1 great Niki Lauda’s efforts to grow a low-cost air carrier in his native Austria got a major boost this week with the news that Ryanair was investing €50 million in his LaudaMotion airline, with an additional €50 million to help fund initial startup and operating costs. LaudaMotion, which was formed out of now-defunct airline Niki, is hoping to soon launch service from Austria, Germany and Switzerland to leisure destinations mainly in the Mediterranean. The move is expected to help the giant of low-cost air travel, Ryanair, gain inroads on a German and Austrian market dominated by Lufthansa. “A new player in the aviation market is born and I am looking forward to offering our passengers an extensive route portfolio at competitive air fares,” said Niki Lauda.

Shop the Gram:

Instagram’s next-level advertising went global this week with the news that its in-app Shopping feature was launching in eight new countries, including the UK, Germany and Brazil. The new service, which has been on a trial run in the US over the past year, allows posts to literally be “shoppable.” Items in photos are given virtual price tags that users can click to view the name of a product or find a link for purchasing. It’s not yet possible to buy a product directly in the app, but it’s the next big step in transforming the Facebook-owned Instagram from an outlet for visually-appealing photos into a fully-integrated shopping and lifestyle experience.

The future of car manufacturing:

Automotive giant Ford this week gave a glimpse into the next generation of vehicle assembly lines with the news it was investing a whopping $65 million in Desktop Metal, a 3D printing company. Desktop Metal, which was already reportedly valued at $1 billion prior to this latest round of funding, is hoping in 2019 to launch a scalable version of its technology that allows it to “print” out car parts, instead of using the old injection mold method. “The age of metal 3D manufacturing is here and this strategic partnership with Ford, along with our portfolio of investors, validates our vision to transform the way metal parts will be designed and mass produced,” said Desktop Metal CEO Ric Fulop.

Japan banks on the cosmos:

Countries like China and India have dominated the headlines in recent years when it comes to space-related innovations emanating from Asia. But Japanese space exploration took a huge step forward this week with the news that the country was earmarking nearly $1 billion over the next five years in public funds for space-related startups. The initiative is aimed at fostering innovation in Japan’s commercial space industry as the country looks to catch up with leaders in the US and Europe, as well as in Asia itself. The move also includes talent-search projects and will alter Japanese law to support companies in the industry. Japan is about due for a space revolution, and this monetary momentum might just be the ticket to getting it off the ground. 

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