Weekly Reads - April 17, 2023
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The reallocation of capital outside of the risky space sector will help fund companies in other sectors with more proven unit economics and a clearer path forward toward profitability, which is an overall positive for financial markets.
Funding the new space race has hit a snag with investors tightening their wallets amid the bankruptcy of Virgin Orbit and the lack of foreseeable profit opportunity in the sector amid a weakening macro backdrop. Venture investment in space startups has dropped 50% YoY to $21.9 billion. Investors are fleeing this sector in search of safer bets with proven business models and more scalable unit economics. With many space startups burning millions of dollars per month it has become a scramble for many startups to get funding to secure their survival. Unlike established space giants SpaceX and ULA that are constantly launching rockets and satellites, many startups are years removed from launching anything into orbit. Even if a startup can survive the production phase and launch something there is no guarantee the launch will end successfully. It took space leader SpaceX eight years to successfully launch its first rocket and many product iterations (with billions of dollars in spending) before reaching widespread success. With the average space startup unlikely to even reach the launch phase it’s no shock that investors are pulling out capital. The rationalization of the space sector should help refocus capital on the projects and companies with the clearest path toward eventual profitability and strong unit economics
The launch of the Apple Savings account is another dangerous push toward the widespread repricing of deposit rates that could jeopardize the stability of smaller banks across the country.
Apple is not making the lives of regional and national banks any easier with the launch of its Apple Card savings account. With the Apple Card savings account users receive 4.15% APY with no minimum deposit or balance. Apple is connecting this new account offering with its Apple Card reward program that offers 3% back on purchases which can be deposited directly into the user’s account. The national average APY on savings account is just 0.35% according to the FDIC, a pittance compared to what Apple is now offering. The banking sector is seeing an outflow of deposits from traditional savings accounts to money market funds as consumers seek higher yield alternatives. Apple is taking advantage of this trend by streamlining the signing up process (via the Wallet App), integrating high value services like the Apple Card, and offering a competitive rate unlikely to be matched by rival banks. This new launch continues the aggressive expansion of Apple into financial services which has proven to be highly successful. The ability to have a high yield savings account alongside convenient tools like Apple Pay will be attractive to consumers seeking a new financial services relationship
The calls for TikTok regulation are likely to spread to other sectors like fast fashion which have giant foreign competitors that are potentially wielding unfair competitive advantages and collecting massive amounts of consumer data for the Chinese government.
Fast fashion is in the crosshairs of U.S. politicians who are becoming increasingly concerned about the growing popularity of foreign companies Shein and Temu. Shein, which is headquartered in Singapore but was founded in China, has become a global fast fashion juggernaut with ultralow prices and wide selection of apparel and products. Both these companies have raised concerns from regulators who believe that these companies might be using forced labor and lack data security protocols. Shein has a checkered past with criticisms around their negative environmental impact, poor labor practices, and connections with the Chinese government. What concerns U.S. regulators and politicians the most with Shein and Temu is their access to data from U.S. consumers. Shein’s business model revolves around on tracking and analyzing user data to determine fashion trends and then gets its clothes manufactured and delivered in 5 to 7 days versus weeks for competitors. Shein also asks users to help with its intelligence gathering by getting them to share their data and activity on other social media apps to get discounts. These companies (like TikTok) take in a lot of data from U.S. consumers which can be given to foreign governments. With bipartisan support growing to regulate these foreign companies we should see a significant change in how these companies operate and rules for collecting data from consumers.