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We Should Be Investing in Drones. Here Is Why.

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There is a driving trend and major boom behind the autonomous car industry, with financial potential looking particularly ripe. Even the U.S. government has recently appointed an advisory committee on autonomous cars. The news is also full of reports about cars, buses and even trains becoming driverless. Tesla, Google, Toyota, BMW, Daimler and many others are all investing in the billions in this regard. However, rest assured the future lies in drones, the other autonomous devices. The concept of autonomous vehicles, such as drones, has much more potential in the air, not the land, and this piece intends to provide the reasons why.

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The Air Is Limitless

Human drivers have been the factor behind our design of roads, highways, bridges and even overpasses. Designers are limited to the ground, a static concept with no future in enhancements. New cities are to be based on designs of traffic systems bringing about fundamental change. This network will be based on cloud technology, able to adapt to microscale adjustments. Millions of linked vehicles, in communication at all times, will be efficiently managed. Even if autonomous cars enter our roads, they will be alongside other cars driven by humans.

Untouched remains low-altitude airspace. With drones taking to the skies, stakeholders in the industry find themselves before an opportunity: designing a network to fit navigation with autonomous vehicles from day one. This will enjoy digital technology, connection and driven by data.

Flexible 3D commuting

The path taken by a drone is much more flexible than one traveled by a car. Let’s bring an end to the old forward-backward-right-left car travel. Drones enjoy freedom cars never will, with devices now capable of lifting up to 400 feet high (around 135 meters). With the norm shifting to autonomous flying, routes can be adjusted to bypass obstacles, hazards and other threats. A drone able to commute in three dimensions is far more flexible than any car limited to road lanes.

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Innovation, innovation, innovation

Drones, or unmanned aircraft as some describe them, enjoy being part of a more democratic system in comparison to cars. It is true that various drone technologies remain proprietary. However, there is a huge amount of cooperation across various platforms and even hardware manufacturers. Software developers and service providers also enjoy the same characteristic. Such partnership will boost innovation for the entire industry. Why? As anyone will be able to deliver a solution empowered or enabled by a drone.

Drones are easy to afford

Let’s face it. Entering the automotive market will have you digging deep into your wallet. However, drones are available at a range of different prices. This easily places forward ecosystems to an entire line of entrepreneurs and innovators. It is relatively affordable to purchase a drone to test a new app; check an innovative business model; or even launch a new company. Conclusion: adopting drone technology can be very fast. Drone businesses will iterate with quite a speed, allowing new innovations to root and shape up.

Such advantages bring this concept into life that millions of autonomous drones have the potential of flying above us far before driverless cars. Maybe we will find ourselves in flying cars far before autonomous cars on old-school roads.

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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I am tech/political analyst currently blogging at The Huffington Post and have recently posted articles on nativist.org, FINMAPS, Smart Cities Asia, Creative Design Studios and Independent Australia. I also have experience in ghostwriting for Forbes, Newsmax, The Hill, ArabNews, American Thinker, Canada Free Press and etc.




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Artificial Intelligence

YEXT: An Invisible Force In Artificial Intelligence

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YEXT, Inc. (NYSE: YEXT) is one of those behind the scenes companies involved in Intelligence Search that plays an important role in Artificial Intelligence. What does that mean? Remember the Amazon commercial? “Eco, order a 12” Pizza with pepperoni from Stromboli’s and have it delivered”.

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Today the vast majority of online searches go through third-party sources such as data aggregators, governmental agencies and consumers. The net result of this third party sourcing has been to produce “best guess” data that can often miss or misstate the target data field.

YEXT developed a better way to source critical digital knowledge.  For example business clients use YEXT to update public facts about their brands. They are building their based on the rapid and ever changing nature of data.  So far the YEXT Knowledge Network offers over 100 services to more than 110 corporate clients and has over $150 million in annual revenue.  So could YEXT play a key role in AI,  the next big thing?

How YEXT Works

Most of us are familiar with big time search engines like Google, Google Maps, Facebook, Instagram, Bing, Cortana, Apple Maps, Siri and Yelp.  These pioneering companies are the major drivers in information search today.  However, we also know, their accuracy is not exactly ideal.  

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This is where YEXT steps in.  Their knowledge engine platform lets business manage their digital knowledge in the cloud and sync it to over 100 services including the kingpins of search noted above.

Intelligent Search is the structured information that a business wants to make publicly accessible. In food service it could be the address, phone number or menu details of a restaurant; in healthcare, the health insurances accepted by a physician or the precise drop-off point of the emergency room at a hospital campus; or in finance, the ATM locations, retail bank holiday hours or insurance agent biographies.

Artificial Intelligence Offers a Potential $10 Billion Market

Improving search results in general is nice but not very sexy.  It doesn’t make you want to beg for more information.  However, when you consider the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our evermore data intense world, the importance of Intelligent Search and the opportunities for YEXT becomes a compelling story.  

The AI trend is already underway as YEXT is increasingly using the structured data on their platform to expand or add new integrations with vertically specialized applications, voice-based search and AI engines.

Just Right For Big Data Applications

YEXT customers use their platform to manage their digital knowledge covering over 17 million attributes and nearly one million locations. These customers include leading businesses in a diverse set of industries, such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, retail, financial services, manufacturing and technology.

Major customers include: AutoZone, Ben & Jerry’s, Best Buy, Citibank, Denny’s, Farmers Insurance Group, H&R Block, HCA, Infiniti, Marriott, Michael’s, McDonald’s, Rite Aid, Steward Health Care and others. The list is growing.

Management believes the market for digital knowledge management is large and mostly untapped with over 100 million potential business locations and points of interest in the world equaling over $10 billion.  

Shooting For Acquisitions and Broad AI Penetration

Founded in 2006 by serial entrepreneurs Howard Lerman (CEO) and Brian Distelburger, President these two are typical software guys whose vision appears much more broad based the their current focus with YEXT.  Here is where the prospectus from their April 2017 IPO offers some mystery and excitement to the story.

Unlike most rapid growth tech companies YEXT had no urgent need to go public.  They generated almost $60 million in gross profit in 2016 before heavy marketing costs resulted in a loss of $26.5 million.  Even so, they still ended the year with $20 million in cash. That’s a fair distance from being destitute.

The company’s real need for the IPO was to establish a liquid public market for the stock. They raised about $123.5 million, all of which will go into the bank.  The company is debt free and there are no insiders selling stock.  Very interesting.

Strong  Financial Results

For the latest reported nine months ended October 31, 2017 revenues grew 38% reaching $122 million.  The good news is the gross profits reached a record 75% or $90 million.  All of this was spent on sales and marketing to expand the business.  When all the beans were counted, YEXT lost $50 million producing a $30 million negative cash flow.  The balance sheet remains liquid with $120+ million in cash and securities.

FYI: In spite of some top notch bankers underwriting its IPO and analysts from those same five firms covering the company, the stock has done almost nothing for investors.  This $1.1 billion market cap was recently hanging out around $12 about the same as the IPO price.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.3 stars on average, based on 24 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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ETFs

Should You Use A Robo-Advisor? If So, How Do You Choose?

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Online financial advice is more available than ever, and more investors are taking advantage of these services. Whether or not a robo-advisor is the right choice depends on the complexity of one’s situation and their comfort level in working with advice that is mainly dispensed online, according to Investopedia.

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If an investor’s situation involves complex financial planning issues that extend beyond allocating investments and related services, they might be better served with a more traditional advisor who provides advice in areas such as estate planning.

For millennials and those with more modest portfolios who only require asset allocation advice and basic financial planning help, online advisers could well meet their needs.

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One of the major benefits of online advisors is the convenience and ease of accessing their services. Online advisers are accessible 24/7. With today’s busy schedules, this level of accessibility appeals to many investors.

How To Choose

If an online advisor is the right choice, the next question is how to evaluate and decide which robo-adviser to use.

Just as traditional financial advisers vary in their areas of expertise, how they are compensated and the types of clients they work with, the same differences exist among robo-advisors.

Most robo-advisors offer investment advice and portfolio management, Investopedia noted.

One exception among the major robo-advisors is LearnVest, which gives investment recommendations but not ongoing investment advice. LearnVest’s focus is financial planning and budgeting. The company also offers live help via the telephone.

Asset allocation and portfolio management are most robo-advisors’ dual focuses. They usually provide the service via EFTs and algorithms.

Beyond this basic service, robo-advisors provide tax-loss harvesting services which allow investors to take advantage of any losses in their taxable portfolio.

Robo-Advisors Have Different Strengths

Some robo-advisors focus on specialized areas. Rebalance IRA, for example, focuses on managing retirement accounts. The company also provides human interaction.

Folio Investing provides EFTs or stock portfolios. Motif Investing provides portfolios consisting of 30 stocks for a single price. Personal Capital gives clients the ability to manage their investments on a consolidated basis, focusing on customers with higher net worth.

Fees To Consider

Fees differ among robo-advisors. The fees usually run between 0.15% to 0.5% of the managed assets. Some also charge a one-time set-up fee.

LearnVest charges from $89 to $399 for an initial review and $19 per month thereafter.

Personal Capital charges 0.49% to 0.89% of the invested amount.

In addition to fees, there are also expense ratios of exchange traded funds and mutual funds. There can also be transaction costs for trading investments.

The option of interacting with a human about investments also varies among robo-advisors.

Because robo-advisors are fairly new, they do not have a lot of investment history pre-dating the current stock market rally. It is not known at the present time how well most robo-advisors will perform during the next major stock market downturn.

Established Players Enter The Space

Some traditional financial service players have embraced robo-advisors, which can be a consideration in choosing a robo-advisor. Traditional financial services firms have the funds to invest and the time needed to enable the services to grow. In addition, as a client’s need changes, they will be positioned to transition to the more traditional services these firms offer. Financial advisors working with these platforms could be a way to connect with younger clients and cultivate them as future clients.

Betterment, for instance, has partnered with Fidelity Investments. Fidelity’s institutional platform can provide a version of Betterment’s RIA version to its clients. Fidelity has also signed an agreement with LearnVest.

Vanguard has announced its own robo-advisor and is considering introducing the service to more customers in the near future.

Charles Schwab will introduce a financial advisor version of a robo-advisor that will allow advisors using its platform to white label the service to their clients for free. Charles Schwab will profit on the underlying assets.

Investors need to decide which robo-advisor best meets their needs. They need to consider the specific services the robo-advisors offer, the level of human interaction offered, the minimum investment required and any fees and expenses charged.

The growing interest of major financial service firms in this area is clearly a consideration for both prospective investors and financial advisors.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.8 stars on average, based on 4 rated postsLester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.




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Mazor Robotics: The Next Intuitive Surgical

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Conventional wisdom in choppy markets is to avoid high valuation stocks. The volatility will give you nightmares. If properly prepared, volatility can also give you opportunity.

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In a correction good young companies often see the price of their equity fall more than average. This is what successful investors look for in the overall strategy.  Let me give you an example.

Start with a long time favorite in the healthcare field: Intuitive Surgical (ISRG:NASDAQ).  I ran across ISRG in April 2008.  Wow that was right in the middle of the financial crisis when Bear Stearns was going out: volatile times back then.  

Intuitive Surgical  are the guys that pioneered robotic surgery.  Their Di Vinci surgical suite specializes in procedures like prostatectomies and hysterectomies.  

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From a patient perspective, Di Vinci offered faster, less invasive and quicker recovery times than conventional surgery.  For physicians it meant being able to offer a better service and a happier customer.  For Intuitive Surgical it meant big upfront revenues on the sale of the equipment and even more continuous income from sale of disposable products consumed during the surgery.  A true win win situation.

Back in 2008 when I discovered ISRG it was selling at nearly 100 times a token level of earnings.  The total market cap was somewhere around $500 million.  To rich for my blood at the time.  After all, it was the middle of the financial crisis.  Not a time to take chances.

Today Intuitive Surgical is worth just over $45 billion.  They are far and away the leader in robotic surgery.  The lesson: if there is a long term investment thesis, even a major financial crisis is a short term hurdle.

Along Comes Mazor Robotics For Spinal Surgery

Mazor Robotics (MZOR:NASDAQ) created the Renaissance Robotic Surgical System.   This dramatically simplifies the very nature of spinal surgery.  The system is 98%-99% accurate, reduces complications by more than two-thirds and reduces exposure to harmful radiation by 35%-50%.  Finally, it reduces recovery time and that makes for happy patients.  When it comes to alleviating back pain a satisfied customer is a walking endorsement for the Renaissance System.

Promising Agreement with Medtronic

The fun got started back in 2016 when Mazor signed a marketing and distribution agreement with Medtronic (MDT:NYSE) that represented a breakthrough for the Renaissance System.  Mazor is an Israeli company strong on technology but weak in global distribution.

The selling and distribution of surgical suites like Renaissance is long and involves entire project teams of medical experts and IT professionals to train hospital physicians and their surgical teams.  Once trained, it practically takes an Act of Congress to force doctors to change their habits.  So the long selling cycle tends to lead to long-term customer relationships.

How Mazor Makes Money

The company makes money from three sources.  The Renaissance Surgical suite sells for about $850,000.  With the sale, Mazor offers maintenance and service under contracts.  This is like annuity income that is highly profitable.  Disposables at a cost of $1,500 per operation are the second most important revenue stream.  The gross profit on these items is over $1,350.

Blade & Razor Business Model

The interesting thing about Mazor’s business model is the disposables business. One only needs to consider the potential 100,000 US procedures and 500,000 worldwide might do for the company. Of course there is a lot of blue sky thinking here.  For example, not every surgical procedure will be appropriate.  Sometime, patient characteristics like obesity etc. preclude the use of various surgical techniques. Also cost and reimbursement issues have to be taken into consideration. Having stated all these caveats the opportunities for Mazor are interesting, so say the least.

Constant Comparisons

Along the way Mazor’s potential will constantly be compared with Intuitive Surgical.

The most recent data shows Da Vinci was used in over 650,000 procedures last year employing 3597 machines.  That works out to one surgery suite for every 180 procedures.  If we use this as a proxy, Mazor will need to sell roundly 2800 Renaissance Systems to service 500,000, and that is just half the global market.

Will Mazor succeed or will something trip them up along the way. On the positive side, it has regulatory approval for use in the United States and most everywhere else in the world. However, the healthcare business is littered with promising companies that flamed out so the risks are there. For all their success, Intuitive Surgical’s path encountered a few bumps.

There are already over 200 systems in place worldwide.  Mazor is starting to catch on. The company expects to report full year 2017 revenues of about $65 million in mid February.  We think near term order backlogs could be a little soft.  If so the stock could be impacted and that is an opportunity to watch for.

Something to remember, Mazor’s current value at about $1.7 billion may sound sizable but Intuitive Surgical is a far more lofty $45+ billion. We are neither doctors nor investment advisors so we won’t give you advice on your aching back or you financial portfolio.  However, we will keep you informed as more information on Mazor becomes available about this technology.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.3 stars on average, based on 24 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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