Off the Wires

Putting Robots To Work for Solar Energy

October 29th, 2013  |  Source: News

More than anything else, the solar industry remains laser-focused on reducing the price. Even though costs for solar systems have plunged in recent years, that's not enough to out-compete natural gas.

As we've reported on at length, efforts are underway on many fronts to get solar costs down, from reducing permitting costs to automating the sales process online.

Another method that has great potential is the use of robots, which at least two start-ups are focused on.

So far, the idea is to make constructing and operating large solar plants much cheaper and more efficient.
Alion Energy thinks it has a solution for the expensive, tedious process of building a large solar farm. Right now, those thousands of solar panels are screwed into the ground using human hands, one by one.

But Alion says "Rover" and "Spot" could do the job easier and cheaper.

Starbucks to open first Teavana store, in New York City

October 23rd, 2013  |  Source: Reuters

Having made its mark in the global coffee market,Starbucks Corp is setting its sights on tea - the world's most consumed beverage after water - which it dubs a $90 billion market opportunity.

On Thursday, the Seattle company will open its first Teavana tea store and bar on Manhattan's Upper East Side. The debut comes as Starbucks expands its reach with new shops focusing on everything from premium tea to pressed juices.

"This new store concept elevates the tea experience in the same way we've done for coffee," Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz said in a statement.

Gold Trade Most Bearish Since 2010 as Fed Spurs Drop

June 21st, 2013  |  Source: Bloomberg

Gold traders are the most bearish in 3 1/2 years after prices fell to the lowest since 2010 following Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s comments that the central bank may start curbing stimulus.

Fifteen analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expect prices to fall next week, with six bullish and five neutral, the largest proportion of bears since January 2010. The metal slumped below $1,300 an ounce for the first time since September 2010 yesterday. Investors sold 520.7 metric tons valued at about $21.7 billion from exchange-traded products this year.

Africa’s youngest billionaire pitches Africa as the next emerging market

June 15th, 2013  |  Source: Venture Beat

With more than 85% of its population under the age of 35, the most naturally rain fed arable land in the world, a huge power deficit, and over 650 million mobile phone subscribers, “Africa has arrived,” says Ugandan businessman Ashish Thakkar, founder and chief executive of pan-African business conglomerate Mara Group.

Mara Group operates 16 companies in 26 countries from its base in Dubai. It has over 7,500 employees across industries ranging from tech and call center businesses to glass manufacturing, steel, agriculture, sugar, banking, and insurance. The group has a billion-dollar portfolio, according to Thakkar.

He notes that today, Africa is where India and China were 10 years ago.
“The Indian tiger and the Chinese dragon have had their days, it’s now the African lion’s turn,” says Thakkar, emphasizing the huge market opportunity and the massive potential the continent presents. ‘Lion’ is also the logo of the Mara Group.


Boston woman pays $560,000 for two parking spots

June 14th, 2013  |  Source: BBC

Two adjacent parking spots in the US city of Boston have been auctioned for $560,000 (£357,000), almost double the average price of a home in the region.

Bidding for the patch of asphalt began at $42,000 during an onsite auction in the city's upmarket Back Bay area.

They were sold by the Internal Revenue Service, which had seized them from their original owner over a tax debt.

Lisa Blumenthal, who lives in a multi-million dollar home nearby with three existing parking spots, was the buyer.

She told the Boston Globe the spaces would be useful for guests and workers.

The record price for a single parking spot in Boston is $300,000, also in Back Bay.

The average price of a single-family home in Massachusetts is $313,000.

How America Lost Its Way

June 9th, 2013  |  Source:

It is getting ever harder to do business in the United States, argues Niall Ferguson, and more stimulus won't help: Our institutions need fixing.

Not everyone is an entrepreneur. Still, everyone should try—if only once—to start a business. After all, it is small and medium enterprises that are the key to job creation. There is also something uniquely educational about sitting at the desk where the buck stops, in a dreary office you've just rented, working day and night with a handful of employees just to break even.

As an academic, I'm just an amateur capitalist. Still, over the past 15 years I've started small ventures in both the U.S. and the U.K. In the process I've learned something surprising: It's much easier to do in the U.K. There seemed to be much more regulation in the U.S., not least the headache of sorting out health insurance for my few employees. And there were certainly more billable hours from lawyers.

Read on here:

IRS official in Star Trek spoof apologizes for lavish conference

June 6th, 2013  |  Source: Reuters

A top official at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service on Thursday acknowledged that it was "embarrassing" how much the tax agency spent on training videos, including a Star Trek spoof, and other lavish expenses during a 2010 conference in California.


AIG, GM Rejoin S&P 500 Nearly Five Years After Bailout

June 4th, 2013  |  Source:

American International Group and General Motors will rejoin the S&P 500 index this week, marking a key milestone in the recovery of two companies that needed billions of dollars to stay afloat during the financial crisis.

AIG and GM will rejoin the S&P 500 after the stock market closes on Thursday, the S&P Dow Jones Indices said on Monday.

The move represents a symbolic victory for AIG and GM, which have taken steps to overhaul their operations and return to viability since their near-collapse about five years ago.

Barry Diller Is Shopping Newsweek. Here's Why.

May 30th, 2013  |  Source: Forbes

Most rational business people wouldn’t go out of their way to deprecate the value of an asset a few weeks before they try to sell it. As he has made abundantly clear throughout his career, however,Barry Diller is not most people.
So, barely a month since he went on Bloomberg television and declared his purchase of Newsweek a “mistake” that he regretted, the billionaire IAC chairman is attempting to find a buyer for the magazine, according to a report by Variety, which I’ve independently confirmed. Despite its current owner’s best efforts, a source with knowledge of the situation says there’s significant interest, although the identity of any potential buyers remains a secret.

Read on here:

Finland Turns to Venture Funds to Rescue Economy

April 5th, 2013  |  Source: Bloomberg

Finland is turning to venture capital financing as it searches for ways to jolt the economy out of a recession without jeopardizing its AAA rating.

The northernmost euro member wants to attract investors for a new 1 billion-euro ($1.28 billion) program and help startup companies without adding to its budget deficit. Finland is promising that investors who buy into the venture will take the lion’s share of potential profits. The program will also target growth companies.

“The debt crisis caused investors to retrench from this riskier startup funding,” Petri Peltonen, head of the enterprise and innovation department at Finland’s Economy Ministry, said in a telephone interview. “We’re now trying to attract private investors to take more risk that will help boost economic growth and create jobs.”

While Finland has weathered the crisis better than southern Europe, its economy contracted for a second time in four years in 2012, stretching government finances as the nation faces a fifth consecutive year of budget deficits. Finnish bonds with maturities longer than one year have lost 0.2 percent this year, compared with a 0.7 percent gain for euro-area government bonds, according to Bloomberg/EFFAS indexes.

Full Story here:

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