The death of strategy. Drones get into everything. Google will make your calls.

Disrupting consultants


We've seen a lot of talk recently about voice becoming the new dominant computing platform. 

The future isn't in touchscreen devices or wearables or smart gadgets, according to this chatter.

Instead it's in all of the above, operated by the human voice. Amazon had the first hit in this category with the Echo and its Alexa assistant. 

But this week Google announced an early version of Duplex, an AI that makes phone calls for you. 

In other words, not a voice-operated computer — but a computer-operated voice.

Duplex sounds like a real human, complete with pauses and all the "um..." and "uh..." sounds a real caller uses.

Duplex can call to arrange dinner reservations for you, or check what time your dry cleaner closes. In short, it's a digital assistant unleashed from the cyber world and into what some tech people call "meatspace," i.e. the real world. 

We dig into Duplex and its ramifications for Google's push into voice computing and AI in this analysis. What's certain is that when it comes to voice computing, Google has just kicked over the game board

The anti-strategy strategy

For most companies in America, "strategy" did not exist until management consultants entered the scene in the early 1960s. Now strategy is a $250B industry, and every company understands its value.

But that doesn't mean that management consulting isn't vulnerable to disruption. We dive into the four main functions of consulting firms to understand how technology is shaking them up. Check it out.

There's a drone for that

Defense organizations and tech-savvy consumers have been using drone technology for a while now, but these are far from the only areas where UAVs are proving to be useful.

From fitness and food services to news and journalism, we take a look at 33 industries being impacted by drones.

Yes, hi, this is Google

After years of playing catch-up, Google seems to have taken a big jump ahead of Amazon and Apple in the virtual assistant arena.

Along with user friendly updates to its Assistant, Google is launching Duplex, which can have phone conversations on your behalf. It will start testing Duplex this summer.

We look at all the ways Google wants to help you "get things done" here.

A quintacorn is born

Today, Robinhood confirmed its $363M Series D, backed by DST, Sequoia, Capital G, and others. The Series D quadruples Robinhood’s valuation to $5.6B — quintacorn status.

Looking forward to hearing how the company will put that investment to work at Future of Fintech (June 19 - 21), where co-founder Vlad Tenev will join us.

Purchasing a pair of tickets gets you one of our best rates for this event. If you’d like to attend solo, the code quintacorn offers $500 off. Prices go up May 16.

Warning: FOMO-inducing

We sent out our 11th client note yesterday, which covered:

  • Blue Apron didn’t completely kill the meal kit market
  • A looming European fintech IPO
  • The third-largest VC M&A exit of 2018
  • Is Rent the Runway’s total addressable market (TAM) just too small?
  • Uber isn’t the only one targeting flying cars
  • Startups attacking the ISP
  • Tesla’s factory automation woes
  • Google’s high-speed internet ambitions

If you're a client, you can log in to your account and read the whole thing here.

Have a great rest of the week.


P.S. If you missed Tuesday's Future of Blockchain webinar, you can download the slides and recording here.

P.P.S. Bring new subscribers to the CB Insights newsletter and win free swag through our CB Insiders rewards program. Happy referring!

This week in data:

  • 70%: At Google’s I/O developer's conference this week, the company revealed new features to help reduce digital addiction after citing that 70% of its users want to find better balance in their digital lives. Google has a number of wellness initiatives in the works, including other mental and behavioral health projects. We detail these and more in our Google in Healthcare Teardown.


  • 30,000: On Friday, Wisconsinite Don Gorske ate his 30,000th Big Mac at the same McDonald’s where he first tried the burger 46 years ago. Gorske holds the world record for “Most Big Macs consumed,” eating 2 of the burgers nearly every day since May 17, 1972. For some alternatives to Gorske’s favorite food, check out our in-depth report on the growing meatless food industry.
  • 1st: Coworking space startup WeWork announced earlier this week that it will bring on Bjarke Ingels as its first “chief architect.” The announcement comes just a few weeks after the $20B unicorn raised $702M in debt financing, a move that has some speculating the company is gearing up for an IPO. Our WeWork Strategy Teardown breaks down WeWork’s many strategic initiatives, from co-management deals to its private elementary school.

  • 600 hours: The time it took to embroider the bodice of the extravagant dress Blake Lively wore to Monday’s Met Gala. The red and gold Versace gown was so large, it had to travel by party bus. We look at some slightly more efficient manufacturing practices in our Future of Fashion report, which dives into how AI is influencing design, blockchain’s potential in the fashion supply chain, the fabrics of the future, and more. Check it out.

  • 1.75M: More ukuleles are now sold in the US than acoustic guitars, according to an FT article released earlier this week. While acoustic guitars held an obvious lead in sales through 2015, in 2017, ukulele sales reached 1.75 million, surpassing acoustic guitar sales, which hovered around 1.51 million. Rock on.
  • 3: Facebook recently implemented its largest restructuring in company history, reorganizing into three key groups: apps, new platforms, and central products. Notably, the company also created a new exploratory blockchain group headed by the former head of Messenger (and former PayPal head), David Marcus. For some clues as to what Facebook’s new blockchain group might focus on, check out our report on 8 trends shaping the future of blockchain technology.

  • $134B: The pizza sales projected for 2018. Our new pizza tech report digs into the major trends shaping the pizza market, including startups that are making crusts and toppings healthier, pizza chain concepts on the rise, and more. If you're a client, you can check it out here.
One more thing...


Meet what might be the world's most versatile seed: the makhana.

This superfood comes from lotus flowers, which are native to India, Japan, Korea, and China. It has almost as many names as it has uses, commonly referred to as the "fox nut," "lotus seed," and "gorgon nut." It is reportedly one of eastern India's oldest aquatic cash crops.

Makhana seeds can be roasted, ground into a powder and used as seasoning, puffed into a popcorn-like snack, used to make sweets, etc.

But don't bother looking for makhana on the menus of trendy restaurants. Food writer Anoothi Vishal says makhana-based dishes are typically cooked at home and reserved for celebrations and fasting periods.

You can, however, find the nutrient-rich seeds online and in some supermarkets.

So how long do you think it'll be before makhana milk is a thing?

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