Amazon Introduces Build It To Test New Concepts
Late last year Amazon unveiled its Alexa-powered glasses called Echo Frames. The product was a result of the company's Day 1 Editions program, which uses consumer feedback while testing new products before introducing them more widely.
In an effort to include customers earlier in the process, Amazon announced yesterday a new program called Build It. Amazon will present some of their favorite concepts to customers who will then be given the opportunity to pre-order them.
If the concept product hits its pre-order goal within 30 days, Amazon will begin to manufacture the product as customers who pre-ordered it will be the first to receive it. Customers can lock in a special price in the pre-order state and will only be charged if and when the product ships.
With the announcement of Build It, Amazon also unveiled the first three concept products as part of the program, which will be available for pre-order through March 19.
The first three products—a smart sticky note printer, a smart nutrition scale, and a smart cuckoo clock, are each Alexa-enabled. Amazon says it will ship at least one of the products and will ship all three if they hit their pre-order goals.
The $89.99 Smart Sticky Note Printer uses voice-to-print technology so you can print shopping lists, to-do lists, reminders, calendar events and even puzzles. The printer uses thermal technology to eliminate the need for ink or toner.
The $34.99 Smart Nutrition Scale lets you ask Alexa for nutritional information on thousands of ingredients and food based on weight. Amazon touts an example where you can say "Alexa, ask Smart Scale how much sugar is in these blueberries" or "Alexa, ask Smart Scale to weigh 200 calories of blueberries."
Finally, the $79.99 Smart Cuckoo Clock features 60 LEDs, a mechanical pop-out cuckoo bird and built-in speakers for timers and alarms. The clock's settings allow you to set sound and motion schedules and even mute it. The clock allows users to prompt commands such as "Alexa, set a 20-minute timer," or "Alexa, set a dinner alarm for 6 p.m."
Amazon's take on crowdfunding is a fun way to get its die-hard customers more involved in the product creation process while testing demand for concepts to see if they're worth producing at scale.
Rising rates continue to hit mortgage demand. With the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgage jumping to 2.98% last week, its highest level since November, total mortgage application volume dropped by 5.1%, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Applications to refinance a home loan dropped by 5% while applications to purchase a home dropped by 6% for the week. The average purchase loan size reached a new high of $412,200, partly driven by a drop in FHA loan applications.
Texas weather forces Samsung to halt production. Freezing weather in Texas has led Austin Energy to shut off power to semiconductor manufacturers such as Samsung, NXP Semiconductors and Infineon Semiconductors. "In response to the dire situation of the Texas utility grid, Austin Energy ordered all industrial and semiconductor manufacturers to idle or shut down," the Coalition for Clean, Affordable, Reliable Energy said. "All companies complied and were able to safely do so." Samsung confirmed they had notice of the impending shutdowns so they could safely halt manufacturing. "With prior notice, appropriate measures have safely been taken for the facilities and wafers in production," a Samsung spokesperson said.
SpaceX valuation hits $74 billion. SpaceX reportedly raised $850 million in a new funding round last week at a $74 billion valuation. The valuation would mark a 60% increase from SpaceX's last funding round in August when it raised $2 billion at a $46 billion valuation. The deal price reportedly equated to $419.99 per share, which is just below the $420 per share SpaceX founder Elon Musk teased when he said he had "funding secured" to take Tesla private in 2018. Sources told CNBC that SpaceX's latest funding round saw "insane demand."
Amazon acquires Shopify competitor. Amazon has acquired Selz, which helps small businesses and entrepreneurs sell products online. The news was announced in a blog post by Selz founder and CEO Martin Rushe last month but went unnoticed until recently. Amazon confirmed the acquisition has closed, according to GeekWire. "We have signed an agreement to be acquired by Amazon and are looking forward to working with them as we continue to build easy-to-use tools for entrepreneurs," Rushe wrote. "Nothing is changing for our customers at this time, and we'll be in touch with customers as and when we have further updates."
BlackRock dabbles in bitcoin. BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, has started to "dabble" in bitcoin, according to chief investment officer of global fixed income Rick Rieder. "Today the volatility of it is extraordinary, but listen, people are looking for storehouses of value," Rieder said on CNBC. "People are looking for places that could appreciate under the assumption that inflation moves higher and that debts are building, so we've started to dabble a bit into it." Rieder's statement follows news last month that two of BlackRock's funds added bitcoin futures as a potential investment.