How Much Will Reusable Rockets Save SpaceX?

SpaceX recently landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship, allowing them to reuse that stage of the rocket. Hypothetically, being able to reuse the first stage of a rocket in this way would be a huge cost saving measure, at least that has been the company’s goal in developing a reusable first stage.

The Falcon 9 marks the first reusable space vehicle since the orbiter which was part of NASA’s space shuttle program. But according to a former NASA administrator, Dan Dumbacher, the space shuttle program never really saved that much money. Sure it reduced cost a bit and reused materials, but the cost savings were not overwhelming. He warns that SpaceX isn’t likely to see the kinds of savings they expect.

There are a lot of cost saving ideas that already went into the Falcon 9, like using the same engines throughout the vehicle. Customers, like Luxembourg’s SES, are interested in the idea of reusable rockets saving them money, but it’s not clear yet how much SpaceX might save, or how much off that will be passed on to their customers. SES has agreed to be the first customer of the reusable system, but they’d like to see the price drop, for the first flight at least, by nearly 50%.

That might be extreme, as analysis of SpaceX’s plan seems to make a 40% savings about the best they can do for their customers, maybe even themselves. The problem with that analysis is that SpaceX doesn’t release their financial information, so it’s based on some estimates of cost and savings that haven’t been proven.

SpaceX has come a long way in a short time though, and they obviously employ some very smart people. They might just know something we don’t, and will be able to not only reduce cost but pass the saving son to their customers in a way that will make the ne rocket system well worth it.

New Battery is Cheaper, More Powerful


Rechargeable batteries play an important role in supporting the existing power grids of much of the United States, and they have numerous other roles as well, from powering iPhones to cars. Normally, they come in two forms: lithium-ion batteries like you find in smart phones, and lead-acid batteries in cars.

Pretty much since the development of lithium-ion batteries, scientists have been looking for ways to make them cheaper, and they’ve been trying to make zinc-manganese batteries but keep finding that those batteries lose their potency after only a few cycles of use. According to new research by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) though, there’s a way around that.

PNNL researchers figured out why zinc-manganese batteries lose their potency, and then figured out how to stop that. The result is a powerful battery that is as cheap to produce as a lead-acid car battery, but far more powerful. Why is this a big deal?

We use lead-acid batteries because they’re cheaper to produce than lithium-ion batteries, but not quite as potent. That’s why these batteries have to be so much larger than the one in your laptop. The expense of lithium-ion batteries is part of why devices like iPhones are so expensive (but only part).

Successfully putting zinc-manganese batteries to use could be huge. The materials used are really common, which cuts costs right there, but they’re also more efficient than lead-acid batteries, which means longer lasting car batteries and power grid backups.

The team is still working on their new batteries, but they’re pretty excited and very confident about the usability of this new technology. These batteries should have a broad appeal, to companies looking to save money on production, to consumers looking to get more power for their money, and to municipalities looking to upgrade their power systems.

Leveraging Your Skills and Connections to Find Work


You don’t need to be told that getting a job can be difficult in this day and age. Even if you can afford to get a college degree, you’ll face a lot of competition from other professionals when you get out there and actually start looking for work. If you want to become successful, learning how to leverage your skills and learning how to effectively network will come in handy.

Take law student Anya Freeman as an example. During law school, she used to look at her fellow classmates and wish that she had the same networking opportunities they did to market her Russian-speaking skills. After graduating and finding work at Florida law office Coffey Burlington, she was guided by Kendall Coffey and encouraged to found the Russian American Bar Association of South Florida. Now that’s the way to use your skills and connections for good use!

Maybe you don’t speak Russian, but you definitely have your own skills that you can leverage during your job search. Here are a few suggestions on how to do just that.

What are your skills?

What kinds of skills do you have, and where will they take you? The types of skills you possess will determine what kind of network you’re trying to cultivate, the types of jobs you’ll apply for, and the image you’ll aim to create for yourself as a professional.

Note that this is not the same as choosing a career path (i.e., do I want to be a doctor or a lawyer?). Many people have varied interests and therefore a complex, nuanced set of skills with connections to match. It’s all about creating options for yourself!

Participate in your alumni association

Most large schools have alumni networks, where past graduates of that institution can help younger graduates find employment, network with others in relevant industries, and more.

Being involved in your school’s alumni association will create a lot of networking opportunities that will be easy to take advantage of. The advantage, when compared to regular networking, is that you start the conversation with a lot in common already—being from the same school, having a similar background, likely having similar goals, and so on.

Maintain a solid online presence

In this modern age of technology, it is commonly expected that professionals will have their own online portfolios, where their past work and skills can be showcased for potential employers to see. Regardless of the field you wish to enter, obtaining your own website should absolutely be on your list of things to do!

Do a bit of research on other people in your industry (or the industry you’d like to be in) to get a good idea what type of website you should create.

What’s more, maintaining a solid online presence (especially on social media websites like LinkedIn) can naturally create new networking opportunities for you.

What are your tips for using your skills and networking connections to find work? Let us know in the comments section below!

Should All Companies Participate in ESG Investing?

company donation

As the world warms up and resources dwindle and disappear, this is the time for businesses to make their investments do more good than just to earn profits and boost shares. Socially responsible investing is increasingly becoming a core part of companies’ missions as they seek to generate returns while simultaneously doing good things for the world in which they work. It’s time for all companies to work towards benefiting social issues as well as themselves.

Environmental, social, governance concerns, and profits must exist together, argues Ken Mehlman, global head of affairs at private equity firm KKR, which has spent billions of dollars on initiatives for clean water and food sanitation around the world. Mehlman does not believe that companies should have to choose between social responsibility and profits. “The world will only be saved at a profit, and the only way you are going to make a profit today is to understand the world. ESG can help you do both,” he said.

In the United States, $7 trillion has already been invested in ESG strategies, a $4 trillion increase since 2010. The ESG sector is expanding, and that’s a good thing.

“I’ve see more interest in the past two years than I’ve seen in the past 17 years,” said Joe Keefe, chief executive at Pax World Management. Part of this increase, he adds, is because women and Millennials, who tend to be the most interested in giving and charity, are becoming larger parts of the American workforce.

With that kind of money and power behind it, ESG investing is poised to do so much good for the world. KKR has invested in new farming techniques, water cleanliness, and food sanitation for millions of people in China. And another of KKR’s investments has made it possible for millions of workers to receive a retirement pension, a good thing for people and for business.

ESG opportunities are good for the business, too. According to a 2012 study by the Harvard Business Review, $1 invested in 1993 in companies with good social and environmental policies would be worth $22.60 in 2010. That same dollar from 1993, invested in a company without those policies, would only be worth $15.40.

Given the good these investments have already done, imagine what else we could do if we are smart with our businesses! What more could your company be doing?

Vietnamese Startups Drawing Investors from Around the World


Vietnam is turning into an investment hotspot thanks to a number of promising tech startups in that country. Although hard data is difficult to come by, Singapore based Tech in Asia, a startup which apparently researches other startups, says there about 1,500 tech startups in Vietnam at the moment, which is a larger number per capita than Indonesia, China, or India.

Those startups benefit from a tech-savvy population with a median age of 30, in a country where the average 15 year old beats out American, British, and Australian kids in maths and science. Startups there don’t receive much support from the government, just around $10,000 cash and some legal advice, so there are plenty of investment opportunities.

Investments are coming from all over the place, but especially from other Asian countries, like Japan and South Korea. In fact, South Korea’s Samsung has had production in Vietnam for years, and are being joined by a number of other companies seeking cheaper labor than China, closer ties to the European Union, and incentives to lure investors away from the country’s neighbors. Toshiba, Panasonic, and LG have all been producing in Vietnam for quite some time as well. American firms are shoring up or expanding their investments there as well. Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered PLC just invested another $28 million, and 500 Startups from Silicon Valley pitched in another $10 million.

eCommerce is one of the main focuses of a lot of these startups, and there’s plenty of room for that growing segment to keep up steam. But Vietnam also gave us the international hit mobile game Flappy Bird, which took the world by storm a few years ago. Although China and India are investing a lot of their own money into local startups, the Chinese market at least is harder for foreign investors to access, but those barriers don’t seem to exist with Vietnam.

Verizon Faces Huge Strike

Verizon, which is the nation’s leading wireless provider, is facing a massive strike, one of the largest in recent years. 40,000 workers walked off on April 13th, although none of those workers are part of the company’s wireless operation, and while the East Coast will see some disruption of service to Verizon’s Fios TV, Internet, and landline operations, the rest of the country should be fine.

The workers are members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which primarily represent customer service and network technicians at Verizon. The strike follows a standstill in contract negotiations, following the end of the previous contract back in August of 2015. Previously, contract negotiations in 2011 had led to a strike, which ended in two weeks.

Verizon has claimed that they have 10,000 trained, non-union workers who should be able to keep service outages to a minimum, but the CWA claims that those workers can’t possibly take up the slack, which will likely push Verizon towards a speedy resolution. The negotiations are bogged down in a number of issues, namely demands for workers to temporarily relocate, and cuts to healthcare and pensions, and outsourcing call-enter jobs.

The company has been accused of shipping jobs overseas and of instituting lay-offs by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, though Verizon holds that these aren’t even on the table. They do face some pretty solid criticism from their workers though, such as Anita Long, who has worked at Verizon for 37 years and claims that the company makes around a billion dollars a month, which makes their “inability” to pay decent wages or preserve healthcare seem absurd.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), which helped mediate in the 2011 negotiations, has offered to help, but the CWA denies having contacted them. They don’t want to go to Washington and involve the federal government, they simply want Verizon to address their concerns.

Is the $13 Billion Markit and IHC Merger Good for the Financial Data Industry?

data industry


On March 26 IHS announced a $13 billion merger with Markit to form IHS Markit. Leading members of the financial community are paying attention this merger, particularly those on Markit’s board of directors, which includes Edwin Cass, Canada Pension Plan; Bill E Ford, Chief Executive Officer at General Atlantic; and James Rosenthal, Morgan Stanley.

IHS supports businesses, governments, and industries with information analysis for easier decision-making processes. They’re active in a variety of sectors including aerospace, automotive, chemical, defense, energy, and technology.

The merger is an all-stock transaction and will include a move of company headquarters from Colorado to London. Jerre Stead, the IHS chairman and chief executive, said in a statement quoted in a NY Times article that “this transformational merger brings together two information-rich companies to create a powerful provider of unique business intelligence, data and analytics to a broad and complementary customer base. IHS Markit and its shareholders will benefit from enhanced product innovation to deliver strong returns across economic cycles.”

Markit’s chief executive, Lance Uggla, has a passion for making deals. His enthusiasm for this $13 billion merger will be needed to ensure its success. The merger has created a new authority in the specialist financial data market. Uggla created Markit to sell credit data to banks, a product that is difficult to value, but one with large growth potential. The Financial Times reports that in 12 years he has completed 30 deals and transformed the once small company into a major player, “offering data, analytics, outsourcing, and derivatives trade processing in off-exchange markets.”

Information Handling Services (IHS) was launched in 1959 as an information supplier servicing aerospace engineers with microfilm databases. Over the years the company made a variety of acquisitions and became the largest commercial producer of microfilm in the industry. They expanded into digital databases in 1995 and began offering consulting services to government markets.

Some members of the financial community have expressed concern about the merger. “We worry that in three years when the merger benefits are realized, the increased scope of the products being sold to the larger client list will dilute the sales focus,” read a statement from Deutsche Bank, concerned about too much diversification. The industry will be sure to keep a close eye on the results of this merger.

In San Francisco, It’s Even Expensive to Live in a Box


If you’ve ever thought to yourself that you would like to pay money to live in a box, there’s a city out there for you: San Francisco! Now the most expensive city in the United States, it’s no secret that San Francisco’s housing market is nothing short of awful. As a result, the city now also has one of the largest homeless populations in the country, and its housing crisis has reached a fever pitch. Luckily, a young Google engineer named Peter Berkowitz has found a housing solution that works for him: he rents a pod for $400 a month.

“When you live in a city with a housing crisis, like I do, you have to be creative about how to reduce the rent,” Berkowitz said. He has certainly been creative. Currently, one-bedroom apartments in the city rent for $3,670 a month. To afford that, the average person would have to make about $132,000 a year. So, to save cash, Berkowitz asked his friends to host his pod, a box eight feet long and four and a half feet tall.

Berkowitz describes his box as being “honestly very comfortable.” It’s cutely decorated, with string lights and fashionable cushions, room for books, and a little desk big enough for a laptop. “I really don’t feel like I’ve taken a hit in terms of my quality of life,” Berkowitz said. “I don’t really notice I live in the pod anymore.” It helps that he has access to the home’s other amenities, like a kitchen and bathrooms.

Berkowitz is hardly alone in finding an innovative place to live in such an expensive city. In 2015, John Potter was able to list a nine-by-seven Coleman tent, sitting in his parents’ back yard, on Airbnb for $969 a month. Tenants who elected to stay there were allowed to use the house shower and the Wi-Fi. Another young engineer made an efficient home out of a sixteen-foot box truck for $10,000, where he currently lives with a bed, a clothes rack, and a dresser. Yet another resident, James Rice, pays $825 a month to rent a large closet in a house.

Experts can’t seem to agree whether the San Francisco housing bubble is set to pop anytime soon. Experience suggests that at some point, the prices must come down; but those numbers aren’t coming down. Instead, they’re increasing. If prices do continue to increase the way they have been, more and more people may follow Berkowitz’s example.

Tesla Earns $7.5 Billion in One Day


This week, people lined up around the country or online to preorder Tesla’s new Model 3 car, placing $1,000 deposits on the vehicle. Preorders became available on Thursday, and in the 24 hours since then, the company has received more than 200,000 orders for the Model 3. That means Tesla will make that many cars and at about $42,000 per car, the profits are incredible.

The Model 3 comes with a base price of $35,000, making it Tesla’s most affordable offering and provides a nice offering for car shoppers on a budget. Versions of the car with more bells and whistles are to follow with higher price tags to attract more customers who can’t afford their pricier Roadsters, which click in at about $101,000.

As of this morning, Tesla’s shares were up by 7% after the sale began. The new vehicles should be available starting in late 2017, though previous auto sales have fallen behind by several months. Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley predicts that the Model 3 will also arrive late, suggesting that Tesla won’t sell 249,000 cars until about 2020, though the company hopes to sell 500,000.

This time last year, Tesla’s shares hit a low mark of $141.05; they’re currently sitting at a comfortable $230 a piece, a number subject to change based on how many more vehicles Tesla sells—and how many potential buyers will actually keep their bid for a Model 3. It’s worth noting that deposits for the car are entirely refundable, meaning that sale expectations are indeed likely to change.

These changes are “important to the industry because [they] will signal whether or not Tesla Motors is a major threat to the status quo or just another wannabe care company with a fleeting chance for long-term success,” cautioned Jack Nerad of Kelley Blue Book.

GM is currently on track to defeat Tesla’s numbers with a Chevrolet Bolt electric car, launching later this year, which will offer about 200 miles of electric driving range. That car will also cost about $35,000, making it potentially a very fierce competitor for the Model 3.

Happy 10th Birthday, Twitter!

Rather than be the center of discussion for global milestones, this year Twitter celebrates a milestone of its own: its tenth birthday. From a tiny IPO to a kind of leading newsroom, Twitter has seen a lot of news, a lot of changes, and a lot of headlines. Here’s a brief history of the service in honor of its anniversary as our favorite way to complain at companies and connect with one another.

Twitter is now worth more than $5 billion and climbing every day. The tweets we see today really started as a product that would turn messages into MP3s, a product which was then called Odeo. That company then became a podcasting platform, but Odeo also rose just as Apple announced that iTunes, a far more popular service, would also offer a podcasting service. Odeo’s founders began to see cracks in their foundation. So after a lot of conversation that current CEO involved Jack Dorsey, then an Odeo employee, something called “Twttr” was born. That product was honed and changed until it’s become the neat little tool we know today.

More things have happened in Twitter’s history than we can cover here, but part of why they’ve become so successful has a lot to do with how prepared they were to make an IPO, as Henry Kravis would advise. When Twitter offered its IPO in 2013, it put a lot of effort into how it moved forward: Twitter sold 70 million shares for $26 each. The IPO was generally a successful one because, compared to other IPOs like Facebook’s in 2012, Twitter’s was very small, and the IPO itself was blissfully free of technical issues. And while Twitter lost a lot of money in the months following its IPO, Twitter was ultimately able to meet investor expectations—and that’s always a good thing.

Twitter has become a key component of the social fabric not just of the United States but of the world. It’s what we use to connect to each other in times of joy and in sorrow: people were providing live updates about the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon, making that experience collective rather than localized. People have united in feminist hashtags like #YesAllWomen and shared amusing insights about media and art. The beauty of what Twitter has really done is that it’s opened up conversation all around the world, between every person.

Happy birthday, Twitter, and #thanksforthememories.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 520 other followers

%d bloggers like this: