Mentioned Companies: FB, SOL

#287: JB Straubel Offers a Sneak Peek into Redwood Materials’ Master Plan, & More

#287: JB Straubel Offers a Sneak Peek into Redwood Materials’ Master Plan, & More
by ARK Invest, September 20, 2021

1. JB Straubel Offers a Sneak Peek into Redwood Materials’ Master Plan

Founded by Tesla Co-Founder JB Straubel who also served as its Chief Technology Officer for 15 years, Redwood Materials is a battery recycling company. In an article this week, Straubel revealed that, in addition to battery recycling, Redwood Materials plans to build battery cathode factories that also will manufacture copper foils for anodes in the US. The 100 gigawatt-hour cathode factory should be able to accommodate the production of more than one million electric vehicles. For perspective, Tesla manufactured roughly 500,000 electric vehicles last year.

Thus far, China has dominated the world’s battery supply chain including raw material processing. ARK believes that battery production in the US will solve the supply chain issues facing EV manufacturing today, obviating the logistical burden of shipping materials to Asia. At Musk’s side for nearly 15 years, we believe Straubel clearly understands the concept of exponential growth opportunities and is likely to attract more capital to recycling batteries. In his words, “Somebody’s got to do this. In fact, we need at least four companies doing similarly aggressive, crazy things all in the same timeline.”


2. Facebook Develops a Speech-to-Speech Natural Language Processing (NLP) Model

While NLP models like GPT-3 typically have been trained on large corpora of text data, Facebook has created a different type of language model. Instead of text data, Facebook created a model trained entirely with audio data. With 6,000 hours of audiobook recordings, Facebook used an encoder to convert speech into sound units, creating a language model to predict the next sound and a decoder to convert sound into words.

Among its benefits, the model can learn any language because audio data is more pervasive than text data. Moreover, the model can encode emotions like anger and excitement as well as non-word vocalizations like laughter. In our view, speech-to-speech NLP is an exciting step forward in human-computer interfaces. We look forward to sharing many exciting downstream use cases in the months and years ahead.


3. Solana Blockchain Faces Mainnet Issue

A smart contract blockchain focused on high throughput and low fees, Solana faced a major production issue this week as a surge in transactions overwhelmed validating nodes and halted block production. On Tuesday, unable to produce new blocks Solana froze, preventing token holders from moving funds and Solana-based decentralized apps from functioning. Responding to the emergency, core developers and node operators coordinated with a software patch and a full restart of the network.

In August, Solana attracted significant media attention as its token price tripled amid a broad-based altcoin rally. Founder Anatoly Yakovenko, who had scaled networks at Qualcomm, has proposed eight innovations to allow Solana to function at 50,000 transactions per seconds (TPS), more than 3,000 times faster than Ethereum’s 13 TPS and 10,000  times faster than Bitcoin’s 5 TPS. Now critics are pointing out that Solana’s validator requirements are too high and will cause too much centralization, compromising the network’s security.

Despite centralization concerns, users have given Solana a try. Total DeFi (Decentralized Finance) value locked on Solana crossed $10 billion, and its NFT ecosystem has heated up. Notable among Solana’s supporters are cryptocurrency exchange FTX, which created both a decentralized exchange and an NFT marketplace on its platform, as well as venture capital investors including Multicoin Capital, Polychain Capital, and Andreesen Horowitz.

Tuesday provided an important reminder of the scalability trilemma that blockchains face: while decentralization, scalability, and security all are important, only two of the three can be optimized for at a given time. While ease of use might top users’ priorities in the short term, ARK believes that ultimately decentralization and security will create the most value for blockchain technologies.

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