Inflation-Strapped Rideshare Drivers Get Cash Offer from Hyundai and Firefly. This is an IoT-meets-Advertising Startup Backed by Google Ventures. These types of cash offers will propel critical EV adoption and growth.
Gas Prices and Chip Shortages Push Costs
With gas prices reaching an all-time high and chip shortages pushing the cost of vehicles to stratospheric levels, the rideshare industry is fast approaching a crisis point. Unfortunately, the crisis’s point is amplified, ironically enough, by low unemployment levels, which often disincentive drivers with easy access to jobs paying competitive rates.
The cities most dependent on rideshare services will also feel this pinch when pulling the camera back.
Firefly — A Google Ventures-Backed Startup
One possible solution was just announced by Firefly, a Google Ventures-backed startup that’s not actually in the rideshare space. Instead, the company creates and manages high-res smart screens on taxis and rideshare services operating in cities across the US.
If you’ve ordered a Lyft or Uber in Los Angeles, New York, and other metro areas, chances are you rode with a driver partnered with Firefly, visible by the large cartop display screen. These screens not only display ads, but because they essentially have all the functionality of a giant iPhone, they can serve customizable ads.
Having customizable local area ads serves the entire local area with an audience that can bring in revenue if they choose. In addition, ads can cover current environmental conditions with relevant ads. For example, if it’s a cold and rainy day, you might see a cartop ad suggesting you try a nearby ramen joint.
Firefly is Digital Ads-Meet-the Internet of Things
So basically, Firefly is digital ads-meet-the Internet of Things. Over the years, rideshare drivers and fleet owners have used this option to earn extra income during their shifts. This new announcement, a partnership with Hyundai Motor America, takes this functionality to the next level.
“The idea is to leverage the revenue we already share with rideshare drivers to help finance new vehicles pre-integrated with our smart screens,” founder and CEO Kaan Gunay explained in a recent conversation.
Qualified Drivers Lease Options
Dubbed Hyundai Drive-by Firefly, the program gives qualified drivers the option of leasing a new Hyundai while earning cash benefits that can total up to $3,600 a year on the high end. That’s about enough to cover most of the monthly lease fee – and more than cover the recent increase in gas costs. The program also covers the car giant’s EV and hybrid vehicles line, which is very much by design.
“We’re thrilled that Hyundai Motor America shares our vision to totally reinvent the future mobility while using programs like ours to grow adoption of zero-emission vehicles,” Kaan tells me.
Good for the Environment
While EVs and hybrids are good for the environment, their high purchase price can be bad for many people’s wallets. State and federal tax rebates somewhat reduce that cost – at the high end, a California buyer can get a rebate of up to $9500 total from the state and feds – but even the most affordable EVs can have a starting price between $30,000-$40,000.
Kaan’s vision is not just to give advertisers a new way of connecting with consumers. Ultimately, he wants to help build the architecture for smart cities that are sustainably green, and digital ads subsidize public transportation.
To illustrate that goal, Kaan showed me slides from a recent vision for the future of mobility that Firefly created in partnership with Hyundai. These companies imagine cities where public transportation is powered by autonomous EV vehicles, which look very different from cars today, architected for comfort and mass transit, subsidized by dynamic advertising displays that wrap around the entire body.
Optimized Vehicle Traffic in Real-Time
Incorporated into a network that encompasses a whole urban area, location-aware technology like this can help create smart cities where vehicle traffic can be optimized in real-time. This trend can be further accelerated when vehicles reach a point where autonomous robotaxis can freely operate within cities.
The Hyundai/Firefly initiative suggests a path where robotaxis might eventually be offered entirely free to end-users, fully subsidized by advertising.
Transforming How We Live and Work
“We’re at an inflection point where IoT, mobility, and ad tech can come together to transform how we live and work,” as Gunay put it. “And the need to experiment with new ways to accelerate EV adoption is more crucial than it’s ever been before.”
While it’s too early to say how well this specific program will fare, it’s exciting to see an established automotive company working with an agile startup on new ideas like this. At the very least, it’s a significant test case for other IoT-powered collaborations which also seek to reinvent how cities can sustainably operate in the future.
Much Needed Revenue for Inflation Weary Drivers
In the meantime, the program offers much-needed revenue for inflation-weary drivers and owners of rideshare fleets. In the program’s first phase, Firefly is enrolling drivers and fleet operators who purchase new Hyundai vehicles through this program.
Participants can go here to request interest in the pilot program.
Image Credit: Mike; Pexels; Thank you!
Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending
London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.
According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.
The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:
“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”
The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:
“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”
The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.
The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.
Featured Image Credit: Photo from Kennek.io; Thank you!
Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs
As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.
Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI
In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.
According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.
One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.
To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.
Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.
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UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations
As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.
Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation
To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.
The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.
Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!