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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg rides an electric surfboard holding the American flag. July 4, 2021.
Mark Zuckerberg, Instagram

Mark Zuckerberg celebrated Fourth of July in unique fashion: Holding an American flag as he glided on a body of water, elevated on a board about a foot above the surface.

The Facebook CEO was hydrofoiling, which is a new type of watersport that has grown in popularity among outdoor enthusiasts — and those with plenty of cash to spend on a piece of sporting equipment that costs thousands of dollars. 

Though Zuckerberg is mostly known for being the awkward founder of the world’s largest social network and one of richest people on the planet, he’s also become one of the most visible hydrofoilers out there, bringing more attention to the up-and-coming sport. 

While surfing requires the power of a wave to get going, and wakeboarding relies on a boat to tow the rider, hydrofoiling uses a winglike structure under the surface of the water to create lift. The rider uses a handheld bluetooth controller that connects to an electric motor and underwater propeller, or creates momentum manually by pumping their legs up and down, as Zuckerberg does in his Fourth of July post

“It’s a hydrofoil. There’s a wing under the water that I’m riding that pushes the board into the air,” Zuckerberg wrote in a comment on his post. “It’s a lot of fun. There’s an electric-powered version that you can get, but in this video I’m riding a regular foil board and surfing a little wave.”

Electric boards cost upwards of $10,000

Surfers have been toying with the idea of using hydrofoil technology for decades, but the sport didn’t really take off until foil boards became commercially available in 2018, said Nick Leason, co-founder of Lift Foils, which was one of the first companies to sell them.

Prior to foil boards, Leason and his company had been selling boards for kite surfing, which uses a kite in the air to pull a rider on a board across the water. Kite surfing requires a lot of skill, however, which limits the size of the market, Leason said. Foiling is much easier to pick up, and it feels like you’re gliding. 

“It’s just this really unique feeling of flying over the water,” said Leason, whose company is based in Puerto Rico. “You kind of feel like a pelican, or a wannabe pelican.”

Puerto Rican company Lift Foils is one of the companies that sell hydrofoil boards.
Courtesy of Lift Foils

There are different kinds of hydrofoil boards.

Surf foils include the board and the foil but no motor, requiring users to create momentum with their own bodies, and typically cost about $2,000. Efoils have electric motors that let them reach speeds of 25 miles per hour and typically sell for at least $10,000. 

Although foiling requires less skill than kite surfing, the steep price limits its potential market to extreme watersport enthusiasts and people with deep wallets. Canadian company MSLR Electric E-Foil, for example, notes that many of its customers are NHL hockey players. 

“The boards are made out of such high-quality materials, said MSLR Founder and Owner Carey Missler. MSLR sells two efoil boards, the Navigator and the Player, both for $10,000. “It takes a while to custom build these boards, plus you’ve got your expensive components of lithium ion batteries and carbon fiber.”

For Zuckerberg, who is the fifth-richest person in the world, with a net worth of approximately $125 billion, according to Forbes, money is no problem. That’s why he owns numerous boards, including custom-painted and custom-built versions made by Lift Foil, Leason said. 

“That’s our product that he’s riding on in the video. He probably owns every model that we have,” Leason said. “He’s really into it. He loves it.”

Zuckerberg ‘was ripping’

Zuckerberg first began to post about hydrofoiling in August 2019, when he uploaded two photos of himself on a foilboard being towed by a boat. 

“Trying a new sport in Kauai with one of the best, Kai Lenny,” said Zuckerberg, referring to the professional surfer. 

Leason said Lenny has been essential to the growth of hydrofoiling as a sport, trailblazing how people use the unfamiliar gear and taking the time to teach new folks about foiling. That includes Zuckerberg, Leason said. 

“I think Kai, he’s like magical on a foil, and seeing all the stuff that he does,” Zuckerberg said on Instagram in April. “It’s sort of helped me get into the sport just watching him foil down a huge wave then turn around, go back up wind, up the wave, do a flip off the wave. It’s like Oh my god. It’s unreal.”

In December 2019, Zuckerberg posted a video of himself efoiling while wearing a bright orange helmet. Although helmets aren’t the most stylish getup, they are an important piece of equipment that experts recommend, especially for new foilers. Experts also recommend wearing impact vests. 

“The boards are made with carbon fiber. It’s a very, very durable material, which means that if your head was to strike it, it could be very harmful if you weren’t wearing a helmet,” said MSLR Co-owner Taylor Coulthard. 

Canadian company MSLR Electric E-Foil is one of the companies that sell hydrofoil boards.
Courtesy of MSLR Electric E-Foil

Zuckerberg was caught by paparazzi efoiling in Hawaii with his face completely covered in sunscreen in July 2020. The photo became an instant viral meme. 

“I was foiling around, and then I noticed there was this paparazzi guy following us. I was like ‘Oh I don’t want him to recognize me so you know what I’m gonna do? I’m just gonna put a ton of sunscreen on my face so he won’t know who I am,'” Zuckerberg said with a laugh on Instagram in April. “But that backfired.”

Zuckerberg later poked fun at himself about the whole thing last month when he posted a cartoon version of the picture.

“The sun never stood a chance,” Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook. 

But despite his awkward episodes, those in the world of foiling say Zuckerberg has actually gotten quite good at the sport. 

“It’s funny that most people think that Mark Zuckerberg is a little nerdy guy behind his computer in some lair somewhere, but he’s actually quite a good athlete as you see in that video,” Leason said. “He’s put in a lot of practice on the foil. He’s doing quite well.”

Perhaps more importantly for those that sell foil boards, Zuckerberg is also doing a lot to generate attention and buzz.

“It has brought some interest,” Missler said. “That was an incredible shot. He was ripping. He was doing amazing.”

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Bitcoin just completed its fourth-ever ‘halving,’ here’s what investors need to watch now

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Bitcoin just completed its fourth-ever 'halving,' here’s what investors need to watch now

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

The Bitcoin network on Friday night slashed the incentives rewarded to miners in half for the fourth time in its history.

The celebrated event, which takes place about once every four years as mandated in the Bitcoin code, is designed to slow the issuance of bitcoins, thereby creating a scarcity effect and allowing the cryptocurrency to maintain its digital gold-like quality.

There may be some speculative trading on the event itself. JPMorgan said it expects to see some downside in bitcoin post-halving and Deutsche Bank said it “does not expect prices to increase significantly.” However, the impact may be bigger months from now, even if bitcoin continues its trend of diminishing returns from its halving day to its cycle top. Two key things to watch will be the block reward and the hash rate.

“While the upcoming Bitcoin halving will create a supply shock as the previous ones had, we believe its impact on the cryptocurrency’s price could be magnified by the concurrent demand shock created by the emergence of spot bitcoin ETFs,” said Benchmark’s Mark Palmer.

The bigger immediate impact will be to the miners themselves, he added. They’re the ones that run the machines that do the work of recording new blocks of bitcoin transactions and adding them to the global ledger, also known as the blockchain.

“Miners with access to inexpensive, reliable power sources are well positioned to navigate the post-halving market dynamics,” said Maxim’s Matthew Galinko in a note Friday. “Some miners, many that are not public, could exit the market with a combination of poor access to power, efficient machines, and capital. Miners with capital and relatively expensive power will likely find opportunities in the wake of potential consolidation and disruption driven by the halving.”

The block reward

Miners have two incentives to mine: transaction fees that are paid voluntarily by senders (for faster settlement) and mining rewards — 3.125 newly created bitcoins, or about $200,000 as of Friday evening, when the mining reward shrunk from 6.25 bitcoins. The incentive was initially 50 bitcoins.

The reduction in the block rewards leads to a reduction in the supply of bitcoin by slowing the pace at which new coins are created, helping maintain the idea of bitcoin as digital gold — whose finite supply helps determine its value. Eventually, the number of bitcoins in circulation will cap at 21 million, per the Bitcoin code. There are about 19.6 million in circulation today.

“Miners utilize powerful, specialized computer hardware to validate transactions on the Bitcoin network and record them permanently on the blockchain,” Deutsche Bank analyst Marion Laboure said. “This process, known as mining, rewards miners with newly minted bitcoins. But with each halving, the reward to mining is decreased to maintain scarcity and control the cryptocurrency’s inflation rate over time.”

The hash rate

Historically after a halving, the Bitcoin hash rate – or the total computational power used by miners to process transactions on the Bitcoin network – has fallen, pricing some miners out of the market. It generally recovers in the medium term, however, Laboure pointed out.

The network hash rate has been hitting all-time highs for months as miners tried to take market share ahead of the halving. Growth in the Bitcoin hash rate dilutes individual miners’ contribution to the network hash rate.

“In the past three halvings, the network recovered its pre-halving hash rate levels within an average of 57 days,” she said. “It is also likely that the current elevated prices of bitcoin may limit this short-term dip in the hash rate, as bitcoin miners enjoy record high profits in the lead-up to the halving.”

Palmer said the impact of the halving on bitcoin miners’ economics could be “more than offset over time” if bitcoin’s price rallies keep pushing the cryptocurrency to new highs in the months ahead.

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The Bitcoin network completes the fourth-ever ‘halving’ of rewards to miners

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The Bitcoin network completes the fourth-ever ‘halving’ of rewards to miners

Breaking down Bitcoin's upcoming 'halving' event

The Bitcoin network on Friday evening completed its fourth “halving,” reducing the rewards earned by miners to 3.125 bitcoins from 6.25.

The price of bitcoin has been volatile ahead of the event, and fell about 4% this week to trade around $64,100, according to Coin Metrics.

Mechanically, the halving itself shouldn’t affect the price of bitcoin in the short term, but many investors are expecting big gains in the months ahead, based on the cryptocurrency’s performance after previous halvings. After the 2012, 2016 and 2020 halvings, the bitcoin price ran up about 93x, 30x and 8x, respectively, from its halving day price to its cycle top.

The event is a big test for mining companies, however.

“All else equal, the halving will cut industry revenues in half, triggering a wave of consolidation and business closures, while (hopefully) rationalizing the network hashrate and industry capex, which is ultimately good for the remaining operators,” JPMorgan analyst Reginald Smith said in a recent note to investors.

Hash rates are a measure of the computational power used to process transactions on the bitcoin network. The larger a miner’s hash rate, the greater of a revenue opportunity it has.

Mining stocks have been volatile in the days leading up to the event. Many are down by double digits for the year, after rallying between about 300% and 600% in 2023. Riot Platforms, for instance, is down about 41% in 2024 through Friday’s close, but it surged 356% in 2023.

“The market so far has seen bitcoin mining stocks as mere BTC proxies, in absence of bitcoin ETFs,” said Bernstein analyst Gautam Chhugani. “[The] halving would further differentiate the low cost, high-scale consolidating winners vs. rest of smaller miners which may be disadvantaged post-halving.”

Mining stocks in 2023 and 2024

2024 YTD 2023 return
MARATHON DIGITAL (MARA) -30.2% 586.84%
RIOT PLATFORMS (RIOT) -41.08% 356.34%
CLEANSPARK (CLSK) 54.4% 440.69%
IRIS ENERGY (IREN) -31.68% 472%
CIPHER MINING (CIFR) -7.63% 637.50%

Still, speculators may still trade on the event. Another JPMorgan analyst, Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, said Thursday that he expects the near-term bitcoin price to fall after the halving, citing overbought conditions and prices that are still above the cryptocurrency’s comparison to gold when adjusted for volatility. He also pointed to subdued venture capital funding of crypto projects.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank have a similar view.

“[The] Bitcoin halving is already partially priced in by the market and we do not expect prices to increase significantly following the halving event,” the firm’s Marion Laboure said in a note Thursday, adding that it “has been widely anticipated in advance due to the nature of the Bitcoin algorithm.”

“Looking ahead, we continue to expect prices to stay high,” she added, citing expectations of future spot Ethereum ETF approvals, future central bank rate cuts and regulatory developments.

Bitcoin is currently trading at just under $64,000, roughly 13% off its March 14 all-time high of $73,797.68.

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Drone startup Zipline hits 1 million deliveries, looks to restaurants as it continues to grow

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Drone startup Zipline hits 1 million deliveries, looks to restaurants as it continues to grow

Autonomous delivery drone startup Zipline said Friday that it hit its 1 millionth delivery to customers and that it’s eyeing restaurant partnerships in its next phase of growth.

The San Francisco-based startup designs, builds and operates autonomous delivery drones, working with clients that range from more than 4,700 hospitals, including the Cleveland Clinic, to major brands such as Walmart and GNC. It’s raised more than $500 million so far from investors including Sequoia Capital, a16z and Google Ventures. Zipline is also a CNBC Disruptor 50 company.

The company said its zero-emission drones have now flown more than 70 million autonomous commercial miles across four continents and delivered more than 10 million products.

The milestone 1 millionth delivery carried two bags of IV fluid from a Zipline distribution center in Ghana to a local health facility.

As the company continues to expand, it will bring on Panera Bread in Seattle, Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, and Jet’s Pizza in Detroit.

Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo Cliffton told CNBC that 70% of the company’s deliveries have happened in the past two years and, in the future, the goal is to do 1 million deliveries a day.

“The three areas where the incentive really makes the most sense today are health care, quick commerce and food, and those are the three main markets that we focus on,” Rinaudo Cliffton said. “Our goal is to work with really the best brands or the best institutions in each of those markets.”

The push into restaurant partnerships marks an “obvious transition” he said, due to the continuing growth in interest in instant food delivery. Zipline already delivers food from Walmart to customers.

“We need to start using vehicles that are light, fast, autonomous and zero-emission,” Rinaudo Cliffton said. “Delivering in this way is 10 times as fast, it’s less expensive … and relative to the traditional delivery apps that most restaurants will be working with, we triple the service radius, which means you actually [get] 10 times the number of customers who are reachable via instant delivery.”

Zipline deliveries for some Panera locations in Seattle are expected to begin next year, the Panera franchisee’s Chief Operating Officer Ron Bellamy told CNBC. Delivery continues to grow for its business, even in an inflationary environment, he said. Costs with Zipline are anticipated to be on par with what third-party delivery is now, he added, with the hope of that cost lowering over time. 

“I’m encouraged about it, not just even in terms of what I can do for the business, but as a consumer, I think at the end of the day, if it is economical, and it delivers a better overall experience, then the consumer will speak,” Bellamy said.

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