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ARK Brainstorming: Insights on Tesla, Snapchat, and AquaBounty

This is a blog series based on ARK Brainstorming, a weekly discussion between our CEO, Director of Research, thematic analysts, ARK’s theme developers, thought leaders and investors. It is designed to keep you engaged in an ongoing discussion on disrupitve innovation.
1. Will Tesla’s Model 3 Include Quanergy LiDAR?
Recently, a Tesla owner spotted a Model S equipped with LiDAR driving around the automaker’s Palo Alto headquarters. LiDAR is a system of lasers that enables fully autonomous driving. Something new and an important change for Tesla…!

ARK’s research suggests that LiDAR is the crucial sensor in a fully autonomous car. If it were to incorporate LiDAR into the Model 3, Tesla would be in a position to collect the most detailed and comprehensive data set for autonomous driving in the world. Data is critical in the autonomous vehicle market because it trains the autonomous system used to drive the car.

Currently LiDAR is used only in small vehicle fleets, something that Tesla may be aiming to change. While Google has a small test fleet of 150 vehicles that uses LiDAR to collect data, Tesla could amass more data in days than Google has collected over the past few years if it decides to collect LiDAR data from the Model 3 cars in 2017. It has already collected massive amounts of data through its Autopilot system, but this camera-based data is much less detailed and can enable only semi autonomous, not fully autonomous, driving. If Tesla were to collect more mapping data than any other auto or technology company, ARK believes that it would attain a geographic monopoly in the autonomous transportation market.

A few years ago, Elon Musk said that LiDAR in the $50,000+ range was too expensive to scale. Now, a company called Quanergy says that it will release a LiDAR sensor at a price point of only $250, a small price to pay for much more safety. Will the Model 3 include Quanergy LiDAR? If so, Tesla will take a massive leap into the future of autonomous cars. 

2. Snapchat Goes Mainstream
Snapchat is no longer a gimmicky app used by teenagers. This week the WSJ reported that 14% of US smartphone users over the age of 35 are using the service, up from 2% three years ago. Almost 70% of 18-24 year olds use the app.

Over the years, various social networks have tried to supplant Facebook, among them Google+, Path, Ello. None have succeeded. Snapchat, however, has caught fire primarily because it doesn’t resemble Facebook or any other social network.
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Snapchat has eschewed all of the classic conventions of “social,” instead reviving old media conventions. It doesn’t have a newsfeed; nor does it have comments, likes, or shares. Snapchat doesn’t even link to news stories on the web. Instead, Snapchat reintroduces users to channels and curated stories, and all content hosted by Snapchat stays within the platform.

Video in particular is exploding on the platform. Snapchat says users view ten billion video clips a day. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat video plays full screen, mostly with sound, and without ad fraud issues.

Snapchat has succeeded where other “social networks” have failed, defying “social” conventions and doing its own thing. With older adults now jumping on the platform, a new advertising application programming interface (API) to accelerate revenue growth, and a financing specialist joining the board, Snapchat seems primed for an IPO.
3. The Dawn of Frankenfish
A recent Nature publication underscored the massive change in global “farmed fish” consumption. Also known as aquaculture, farmed fish has the potential to address global population growth and the sustainability problem associated with overfishing. Currently, the US imports 90% of its seafood.

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As with any type of genetically modified (GM) foods, some fear that aquaculture will disrupt natural habitats and cause the extinction of wild fish species. Historically, fish farms have run the risk of GM fish escaping and mating with unaltered fish species, threatening their extinction. To combat this risk, they have sterilized female GM fish.

Recently, after two decades of regulatory debate, the FDA approved AquaBounty’s Atlantic salmon aquaculture. To prevent the risk of habitat contamination, AquaBounty will have to manufacture/breed its salmon in large tanks located in Canada and Panama.

AquAdvantage Salmon offers other benefits related to fish farming and sustainability. They require a fraction of fish feed compared to other farmed Atlantic salmon and exhibits 23-25x less carbon footprint. The era of “frankenfish” has just begun!

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