All posts by Moderator

Bright Machines lands $179M to bring smarter robotics to manufacturing

Robotics has had a role in manufacturing since the 1970s, but even today they are aren’t often driven by the latest software. Bright Machines, a San Francisco startup wants to change that and it got a whopping $179 million Series A today to get this thing going. While it was at it, it also officially launched the company.

The startup wants to bring a software-driven approach to robotics, one that would let you take dumb robotics and program it in a more automated fashion to perform a set of tasks, taking advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning in ways that they say most manufacturing companies simply aren’t equipped to handle right now.

This is clearly not your typical Series A and Bright Machines does not appear to be a typical Series A company, feeling its way trying to get a product to market. Perhaps that’s because the company began life as incubated project inside Flex, a customized manufacturing company. It was then spun out as a startup called AutoLab AI and changed the name to Bright Machines today for the big company unveiling.

It already boast over 300 employees and brought in CEO, Armar Hanspal, who was most recently co-CEO at Autodesk to run the show. Former Autodesk CEO Carl Bass is a board member. Other board members include Mike McNamara, CEO of Flex and Steve Luszo, CEO of Seagate. Eclipse led the round.

What is attracting all of this money and talent to such a young company? Bright Machines is trying to solve a hard and expensive manufacturing problem. “We’re putting together the people, the tech stack and funding and other resources to go really go tackle this big under-served environment by bringing more automation and software to the factory floor,” CEO Hanspal told TechCrunch.

While he acknowledges we have seen a move toward automating the factor floor for decades, they are attacking an area that up until now has been underserved by robotics because the technology simply wasn’t ready to handle it. “What we’re doing that’s different is going from dumb, blind and costly robots to ones that are sensor rich, have computer vision, machine learning and are adaptable,” he said.

What’s more, they are bringing a subscription model to this approach, allowing customers to set up custom manufacturing lines on the fly with what they claim is much lower cost and fuss they faced with more traditional approaches. 

They are taking on this sum of money so early because they believe it is a huge market and if they can attract the right talent, they can bring a substantive change to manufacturing that is lacking today. Time will tell if the bet pays off.

Caterpillar shares fall after disappointing earnings forecast

Investors had been expecting upward revision of profit per share outlook

Caterpillar Inc disappointed investors on Tuesday by not raising its 2018 earnings forecast again, raising fears that the heavy-duty equipment maker may be signalling a slowdown despite posting better-than-expected quarterly profits.

The stock was last trading down 8% before the opening bell, weighing on the overall US stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which includes Caterpillar, was set to open down about 400 points.

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SABEW Fall Conference on Blogging, Podcasts & Financial Journalism

  SABEW is the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing; the group’s mission is to recognize and pursue “the highest standards of economic journalism.” I am humbled to be one of their featured speakers at this year’s Fall Conference (at Reuters HQ this Thursday). Member are a savvy, no BS group of professionals covering business, markets and…

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10 Tuesday AM Reads

My Two-for-Tuesday morning train reads: • How Best Buy survived the retail apocalypse (The Week) see also The Retail Apocalypse Can’t Keep Tractor Supply Co. Down (Bloomberg Businessweek) • The George Costanza Portfolio (AQR) • Can the Guy Who Fixed Twitter’s Fail Whale Save the DNC? (Bloomberg) • Don McGahn Leaves Trump With Big Wins — And Big Risks (Politico) see also Donald Trump…

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CBI urges government to end damaging Brexit uncertainty

Latest quarterly health check says impasse in talks will bring output growth to standstill

Britain’s leading employers’ organisation has urged the government to end Brexit uncertainty after warning that the deadlocked talks have already led to plunging investment, waning business confidence and the sharpest fall in order books in three years.

In its latest quarterly health check, the CBI said the impasse in the talks between London and Brussels would bring growth in manufacturing output to a standstill over the coming month.

Related: Brexit is like a Premier League side wanting to be relegated | William Keegan

Related: Brexit could kill off entire industries, says Jaguar Land Rover chief

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Philip Hammond can’t announce an end to austerity. Brexit won’t allow it

Despite Theresa May’s eye-catching pledge, the chancellor’s budget will have to factor in Britain’s precarious post-EU future

Philip Hammond’s budget next week is likely to be filled with initiatives and spending plans that, the NHS aside, add up to very little. Brexit, for so long an undetonated bomb, makes all predictions of economic growth and tax receipts more of a fiction than usual – and the chancellor knows it. The inescapable conclusion from a lack of clear visibility is that the Treasury can spend only what it must, he will say. In other respects, it must keep its powder dry. How could he not be cautious, when the most bloodcurdling predictions attached to Britain crashing out of the European Union could prove optimistic.

There may be a £16bn war chest, stored up since April from a combination of unexpectedly high tax receipts and low Whitehall spending, but spending pledges at this stage, with only months to go before the divorce deadline, would be reckless.

Related: Philip Hammond urged to make moves to end austerity

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