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The thing we thought was happening with robotic investments is definitely happening

There was a brief, beautiful moment for a few months in 2021 when it felt like robotic investments might be immune from broader market forces. We all fundamentally…

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There was a brief, beautiful moment for a few months in 2021 when it felt like robotic investments might be immune from broader market forces. We all fundamentally and implicitly understood this to not be the case, but it was a nice moment nevertheless.

Truth is, there was a bit of insulation in there. There was still enough forward momentum to keep cruising for a bit, even as headwinds grew. But everything comes down to Earth eventually. Now that we’re roughly a month into 2023, we can begin assessing the damage. Looking at these graphs collated by Crunchbase, things seems fairly stark.

Image Credits: Crunchbase

A couple of top line points:

  • 2022 was the second worst year for robotics investments over the past five years.
  • The figures have been on a fairly steady decline for the past five quarters.

Per the first point, 2020 was the lowest. It was also an anomaly, what with the global pandemic. Uncertainty doesn’t breed investing confidence. The full year figure is even more striking given how investor confidence extended into early last year. Things really started slowing down in Q2. A cursory look at the bar graph might suggest that 2021 is an anomaly. Yes and no. Yes, as far as acceleration. No, as far as the long view. The question is not if those bars will start growing year over year, but when.

Image Credits: Crunchbase

The same thing that stalled investments in 2020 accelerated them the following year. Even as things reopened, jobs were increasingly difficult to fill and companies across the board were in a desperate push to automate. As nice as it might be, we’re not ready to classify automation and robotics as “recession-proof” just yet. I do, however, suspect that those who control the purse strings fundamentally understand that these downward trends are more a product of the macroenvironment than anything specific to robotics.

For some early-stage startups, however, that’s cold comfort. A lot of runways shortened dramatically this year. Consolation could come somewhere down the road, but in a lot of cases decisive action needs to be taken for those who suddenly find themselves unable to close a round that might have felt like a foregone conclusion 12 months ago.

Given the choice between getting acquired and shutting down that some will inevitably face, it seems likely that M&A activity will spike. Sure there’s less money floating around, but few can turn down a good fire sale. In some cases, that will go a ways toward strengthening products and portfolios.

Anecdotally, I’m seeing investments ramp up for the year, but that appears part of the natural cycle of companies waiting until after the holidays to announce. A proper bounce back, on the other hand, seems inevitable, but only those with high-powered crystal balls can say precisely when.

The thing we thought was happening with robotic investments is definitely happening by Brian Heater originally published on TechCrunch

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‘The Scandal Would Be Enormous’: Pfizer Director Worried About Vax-Induced Menstrual Irregularities

‘The Scandal Would Be Enormous’: Pfizer Director Worried About Vax-Induced Menstrual Irregularities

Project Veritas on Thursday released a…

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'The Scandal Would Be Enormous': Pfizer Director Worried About Vax-Induced Menstrual Irregularities

Project Veritas on Thursday released a new segment of undercover footage of Pfizer director Jordon Walker in which the Director of R&D within the company's mRNA operation expressed concern over how the COVID-19 vaccine may be affecting women's reproductive health.

"There is something irregular about the menstrual cycles. So, people will have to investigate that down the line," Walker told an undercover journalist he thought he was on a date with.

"The [COVID] vaccine shouldn’t be interfering with that [menstrual cycles]. So, we don’t really know," he added.

Walker also hopes we don't discover that "somehow this mRNA lingers in the body and like -- because it has to be affecting something hormonal to impact menstrual cycles," adding "I hope we don’t discover something really bad down the line…If something were to happen downstream and it was, like, really bad? I mean, the scale of that scandal would be enormous."

Watch:

 

Tyler Durden Thu, 02/02/2023 - 19:30

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Rebar robotics firm Toggle adds another $3M to its fundraising tally

There’s no denying that the robotics startup world has taken a hit during the ongoing economic downturn. Recent numbers prove what we’ve all suspected…

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There’s no denying that the robotics startup world has taken a hit during the ongoing economic downturn. Recent numbers prove what we’ve all suspected for some time. But two things are true: 1) The lull is temporary; and 2) While robotics isn’t recession-proof, construction might as well be.

This is certainly a theme of late — as other categories of robotics have struggled to raise, those operating in construction appear relatively unimpacted. New York-based Toggle this morning announced that it has added another $3 million to its coffers as part of a “Series A Extension.” The initial $8 million Series A was announced back in 2021. Japanese firm Tokyu Construction is a first-time investor in the startup, whose total raise is currently at $15 million.

Image Credits: Toggle

Toggle CEO Daniel Blank tells TechCrunch:

With a renewed interest in American manufacturing and production capacity and the investments pouring into infrastructure and renewable energy in particular (but also batteries and microchips manufacturing), we have been successful at navigating the difficulties whether due to our category, a slowing economy or the pandemic. In this round, adding strategic investors, we’ve demonstrated that the problem of labor cost, availability and speed is really at the forefront for construction firms and they are going directly to the tech startups rather than through VCs to access solutions.

Toggle makes robots that bend rebar, the steel skeletal reinforcement you find in all manner of heavy construction. The company’s headcount is currently at 40, which the company plans to double over the course of the next year, following an upcoming Series B raise. Those roles will primarily be focused on engineering and operations.

Blank notes that the pandemic has contributed to an increased interest in automating difficult and expensive pieces of the construction process.

Image Credits: Toggle

“The pandemic has had a significant impact on the construction industry, leading to increased costs and complexity. Supply chain disruptions, inflation, and rising labor costs have all played a role,” he explains. “To combat these challenges, there has been a growing interest in the adoption of robotics in construction. This trend is consistent across different segments of the industry, as owners and contractors seek ways to save time and money. Robotics and automation, similar to those used in manufacturing, are seen as a solution. This has also led to an acceleration in the use of prefab and modular construction methods.”

In addition to hiring, the new funds will be used to ramp up its robotic production.

Rebar robotics firm Toggle adds another $3M to its fundraising tally by Brian Heater originally published on TechCrunch

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January Employment Preview

On Friday at 8:30 AM ET, the BLS will release the employment report for January. The consensus is for 185,000 jobs added, and for the unemployment rate to increase to 3.6%.There were 223,000 jobs added in December, and the unemployment rate was at 3.5…

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On Friday at 8:30 AM ET, the BLS will release the employment report for January. The consensus is for 185,000 jobs added, and for the unemployment rate to increase to 3.6%.

There were 223,000 jobs added in December, and the unemployment rate was at 3.5%.

From BofA economists:
"Nonfarm payrolls likely rose by 225k in January, little changed from the December increase. Payrolls were likely boosted by the end of the strike by University of California workers in late December. The strike affected 36k workers according to the BLS and likely largely explained the ~24k drop in state education employment in December. These workers should return to payrolls in January."
From Goldman Sachs:
"We continue to expect a strong employment report, and we left our nonfarm payroll forecast unchanged at +300k (mom sa)."
Click on graph for larger image.

• First, as of December there were 1.24 million more jobs than in February 2020 (the month before the pandemic).

This graph shows the job losses from the start of the employment recession, in percentage terms.  As of August 2022, the total number of jobs had returned.

Annual Benchmark Revision: The benchmark revision for 2021 will be released with the January employment report. The above graph doesn't include the preliminary benchmark revision that showed there were 462 thousand more jobs than originally reported in March 2022.

ADP Report: The ADP employment report showed 106,000 private sector jobs were added in January.  This suggests job gains below consensus expectations. ADP chief economist Nela Richardson noted: "In January, we saw the impact of weather-related disruptions on employment during our reference week. Hiring was stronger during other weeks of the month, in line with the strength we saw late last year."

ISM Surveys: Note that the ISM indexes are diffusion indexes based on the number of firms hiring (not the number of hires).  The ISM® manufacturing employment index decreased in January to 50.6%, down from 50.8% last month.   This would suggest the number of manufacturing jobs was mostly unchanged in January.

The ISM® services employment index for January has not been released yet.

Unemployment Claims: The weekly claims report showed a decrease in the number of initial unemployment claims during the reference week (includes the 12th of the month) from 216,000 in December to 192,000 in January. This would usually suggest fewer layoffs in January than in December. In general, weekly claims were below expectations in January.

•  COVID: As far as the pandemic, the number of weekly cases during the reference week in January was around 332,000, down from 458,000 in December.  

•  Weather: As ADP noted, there was severe weather during the reference week. After the release, I'll check the San Francisco Fed estimate of Weather-Adjusted Change in Total Nonfarm Employment.

Conclusion: This employment report is especially hard to predict.  There is a significant seasonal adjustment for January (there are always a large number of jobs lost in January NSA).  And there are other factors - severe weather, end of a strike - that will likely impact hiring.  My guess is the report will be below consensus.

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