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Foundations & Frontiers

The electric grid is a mosaic of incredible feats of engineering. It is an elaborate web weaving together power from nuclear reactors, massive hydroelectric dams, and even solar farms into a network capable of powering our homes and charging our cars instantly and reliably.

All this is easy to take for granted. When we first discovered how to use electricity, it was an open question as to how replenishing electric power should happen. One option, as we mentioned in The Challenge of Building Better Batteries, involved the use of battery men who would deliver weekly supplies of electric power like milkmen once did with milk. There were even visions of giant acid battery tanks buried beneath homes that could be replenished like septic tanks.

Instead of all of this, the system that eventually won out was Thomas Edison’s. The most efficient system was one which could generate electric power as needed and transmit it instantly. No delivery men required.

It would take decades to be built out fully, but as it grew to encompass more and more of the North American continent, the model of distributing electric power from plant to home transformed society and our economy as we know it. And yet, for all the transformations the electric grid wrought, it is now time for the grid itself to transform if it is going to keep pace with the rapidly changing nature of power generation and electricity usage.

Such transformation, however, poses an unprecedented challenge. The flip side of the grid’s impressive complexity is the difficulty of altering any part of it. And although the electric grid is the very system powering the US economy, it is also becoming its greatest bottleneck in increasing the abundance of energy.

Further Reading on the Electric Grid:

  • A post by Casey Handmer explaining how batteries might be the most practical solution to onboarding renewables.
  • An essay by Brian Potter on the birth of the grid.
  • A video by Veritasium on the counterintuitive way energy travels through electric circuits.
  • The inside story of one of California’s largest battery storage plants.
  • An essay from the Hoover Institute on what’s required to transform America’s electric grid.

Contrary Research

Contrary Research publishes thoughtful analysis of the best private technology companies. Here are the latest reports published this week:

Lithic: Lithic provides the infrastructure to let companies issue physical, tokenized, and virtual cards to process transactions and ultimately own the customer relationship via a customized card program. Essentially, Lithic streamlines the card issuing process for companies by managing tasks such as the configuration of cards, reconciliation, and card network integrations. Read the full report here.

Intercom: Intercom is a customer interaction platform that includes chatbots, messaging, and automation for customers to engage with users both for support and marketing purposes. Increasingly, Intercom has rolled out AI features to further automate the customer interaction process. Read the full report here.

Squire: Squire is building an all-in-one platform tailored to barbershops. Beginning with a booking management system coupled with a point of sales system, Squire has evolved into an end-to-end solution including other products like inventory management, CRM, and finance. Read the full report here.

WorkOS: WorkOS offers a suite of enterprise-ready solutions for identity and access management (IAM). Its product lineup includes tools and APIs that enable developers to integrate crucial features into their applications, ensuring robust security and access control for enterprise clients. With WorkOS, developers can implement Single Sign-On (SSO), allowing users to access multiple applications with a single set of credentials. WorkOS also provides directory synchronization (SCIM) capabilities for seamless integration with existing user directories. Read the full report here.


Join Contrary Research on Thursday, July 27th for a virtual fireside chat led by Contrary Principal Megan Kao as we hear from three product leaders from Faire, Uber Eats, & ex-Gopuff about balancing marketplaces.

Express interest in joining us here: https://lu.ma/qmmid4cn. Space is limited so sign up soon — we’ll be in touch about your registration in the coming weeks.

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