Good News Piles Up for VinFast

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

Slate grey Vinfast car

VinFast, a Vietnamese electric vehicle startup with headquarters in Singapore and Los Angeles, is gathering serious momentum in the United States. In the last 7 days the company has announced a partnership with Taiwan-based solid state battery company ProLogium, opened 6 stores in California, and secured $1.2 billion in incentives for a manufacturing plant in North Carolina.

The partnership with ProLogium comes in the form of a memorandum of understanding, and an investment from the EV hopeful valued in the “tens of millions” of dollars. The memo outlines a business structure that gives VinFast priority to purchase ProLogium’s solid state battery packs and ancillary technology.

ProLogium will produce the solid-state batteries in one of its Asian manufacturing facilities, and—if all goes well—the batteries could be available in VinFast electric vehicles by 2023. A successful partnership could put VinFast on pace to be the first EV manufacturer with solid state battery tech in their cars.

The battery’s technical specifications have not been released —but solid-state technology offers myriad advantages over traditional lithium-ion architecture. Benefits include faster charging, better thermal properties, and potentially higher range. If the company can deliver on a 2023 timeline, they may be the first to market, ahead of hopefuls such as QuantumScape, Solid Power, and Mullen. The race is on. Stay tuned.

VinFast opened six stores this week in California, with locations in Santa Monica, San Mateo, La Jolla, Los Angeles, Berkeley, and the Bay Area. The showrooms are stocked with the company’s first two EV’s, the VF 8 and VF 9. Why the numbers start at 8 is anyone’s guess, but the VF 8 is a 5-seat AWD SUV with an expected range of just over 300 miles and a price tag starting at $40,700. The VF 9 is a full-sized SUV with 3 rows of seating, a max range of 369 miles, and a base price of $55,500.

VinFast showrooms will also likely serve as a forum for the company to explain its confusing battery leasing program. Yes, in addition to the sticker prices listed above, buyers will need to lease the battery packs for their cars. As Forbes reported:

The basic plan comes in at $35 a month for the VF 8 and $44 for the VF 9. Motorists will get up to 310 miles of free use each month. Motorists who go above that will pay an additional 11 cents per mile for the VF 8 and 15 cents with the VF 9. An alternate, all-you-can-drive plan will run $110 a month for the VF 8 and $160 for the VF 9.

VinFast’s good week was capped by the announcement that the company had secured $1.2 billion in incentives from the state of North Carolina to build a factory in Chatham County — the largest economic incentive package in state history. VinFast is planning for the plant to cover 2,000 acres, allowing for production of up to 150,000 vehicles per year. Construction is scheduled to start before the end of 2022 and production may come online as early as July 2024.

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How the 'Thrift Haul' Boosted Secondhand Ecommerce Platforms

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
How the 'Thrift Haul' Boosted Secondhand Ecommerce Platforms
Evan Xie

If you can believe it, it’s been more than a decade since rapper Macklemore extolled the virtues of thrift shopping in a viral music video. But while scouring the ranks of vintage clothing stores looking for the ultimate come-up may have waned in popularity since 2012, the online version of this activity is apparently thriving.

According to a new trend story from CNBC, interest in “reselling” platforms like Etsy-owned Depop and Poshmark has exploded in the years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. In an article that spends a frankly surprising amount of time focused on sellers receiving death threats before concluding that they’re “not the norm,” the network cites the usual belt-tightening ecommerce suspects – housebound individuals doing more of their shopping online coupled with inflation woes and recession fears – as the causes behind the uptick.

As for data, there’s a survey from Depop themselves, finding that 53% of respondents in the UK are more inclined to shop secondhand as living costs continue to rise. Additional research from Advance Market Analytics confirms the trend, citing not just increased demand for cheap clothes but the pressing need for a sustainable alternative to recycling clothing materials at its core.

The major popularity of “thrift haul” videos across social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok has also boosted the visibility of vintage clothes shopping and hunting for buried treasures. Teenage TikToker Jacklyn Wells scores millions of views on her thrift haul videos, only to get routinely mass-accused of greed for ratching up the Depop resell prices for her coolest finds and discoveries. Nonetheless, viral clips like Wells’ have helped to embed secondhand shopping apps more generally within online fashion culture. Fashion and beauty magazine Hunger now features a regular list of the hottest items on the re-sale market, with a focus on how to use them to recreate hot runway looks.

As with a lot of consumer and technology trends, the sudden surge of interest in second-hand clothing retailers was only partly organic. According to The Drum, ecommerce apps Vinted, eBay, and Depop have collectively spent around $120 million on advertising throughout the last few years, promoting the recent vintage shopping boom and helping to normalize second-hand shopping. This includes conventional advertising, of course, but also deals with online influencers to post content like “thrift haul” videos, along with shoutouts for where to track down the best finds.

Reselling platforms have naturally responded to the increase in visibility with new features (as well as a predictable hike in transaction fees). Poshmark recently introduced livestreamed “Posh Shows” during which sellers can host auctions or provide deeper insight into their inventory. Depop, meanwhile, has introduced a “Make Offer” option to fully integrate the bartering and negotiation process into the app, rather than forcing buyers and sellers to text or Direct Message one another elsewhere. (The platform formerly had a comments section on product pages, but shut this option down after finding that it led to arguments, and wasn’t particularly helpful in making purchase decisions.)

Now that it’s clear there’s money to be made in online thrift stores, larger and more established brands and retailers are also pushing their way into the space. H&M and Target have both partnered with online thrift store ThredUp on featured collections of previously-worn clothing. A new “curated” resale collection from Tommy Hilfiger – featuring minorly damaged items that were returned to its retail stores – was developed and promoted through a partnership with Depop, which has also teamed with Kellogg’s on a line of Pop-Tarts-inspired wear. J.Crew is even bringing back its classic ‘80s Rollneck Sweater in a nod to the renewed interest in all things vintage.

Still, with any surge of popularity and visibility, there must also come an accompanying backlash. In a sharp editorial this week for Arizona University’s Daily Wildcat, thrift shopping enthusiast Luke Lawson makes the case that sites like Depop are “gentrifying fashion,” stripping communities of local thrift stores that provide a valuable public service, particularly for members of low-income communities. As well, UK tabloids are routinely filled with secondhand shopping horror stories these days, another evidence point as to their increased visibility among British consumers specifically, not to mention the general dangers of buying personal items from strangers you met over the internet.

How to Startup: Mission Acquisition

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

How to Startup: Mission Acquisition

Numbers don’t lie, but often they don’t tell the whole story. If you look at the facts and figures alone, launching a startup seems like a daunting enterprise. It seems like a miracle anyone makes it out the other side.

  • 90% of startups around the world fail.
  • On average, it takes startups 2-3 years to turn a profit. (Venture funded startups take far longer.)
  • Post-seed round, fewer than 10% of startups go on to successfully raise a Series A investment.
  • Less than 1% of startups go public.
  • A startup only has a .00006% chance of becoming a unicorn.

Ouch.

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From The Vault: VC Legend Bill Gurley On Startups, Venture Capital and Scaling

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

Bill Gurley in a blue suit
Bill Gurley

This interview was originally published on December of 2020, and was recorded at the inaugural dot.LA Summit held October 27th & 28th.

One of my longtime favorite episodes of Office Hours was a few years ago when famed venture capitalist Bill Gurley and I talked about marketplace-based companies, how work-from-home will continue to accelerate business opportunities and his thoughts on big tech and antitrust.

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