be warned

Texas-based EV giant foresees profit crunch amid price drops, slowing growth

Tesla warned that sales growth this year may be “notably lower” than the 2023 growth rate, as it works to launch a more affordable next-generation vehicle at a factory near Austin. Photo courtesy of Tesla

Shares of Tesla tumbled at the opening bell Thursday as the electric vehicle, solar panel and battery maker warned investors of slower sales growth this year after posting fourth-quarter results that were weaker than most had expected.

In a letter to shareholders released Wednesday, Tesla warned that sales growth this year may be “notably lower” than the 2023 growth rate, as it works to launch a more affordable next-generation vehicle at a factory near Austin.

Tesla, the letter said, is between two big growth waves, one from global expansion of the Models 3 and Y, and a second coming from the new vehicle.

The company, which is headed by billionaire Elon Musk, reported a fourth-quarter adjusted profit of 71 cents per share on revenue of $25.17 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet predicted a profit of 73 cents per share. Revenue was expected to be $25.64 billion.

Profits were off because Tesla lowered prices worldwide through the year in an effort to boost its sales and market share.

Shares slid more than 9 percent in Thursday morning trading.

Wedbush's Dan Ives said in a client note that Tesla's conference call on Wednesday to go over its financial results left many frustrated.

“Consistent with last quarter’s call, investors wanted to get their arms around the falling margins and constant, never ending price cuts seen globally, but instead, we heard from a much more cautious Musk who focused on production, next-gen vehicle timelines, and FSD/AI investments where much of the larger Tesla story was talked about instead of concrete guidance,” Ives wrote.

Still, the analyst remains optimistic on Tesla, believing that electric vehicle adoption to a broader mass market is near. However, Ives concedes there are still challenges to contend with.

“This is a pivotal period for Musk to get Tesla through that will help shape (or haunt) its EV future," he said.

Jeffrey Osborne of TD Cowen said that in the short term, it will be hard for EV competitors to catch up to Tesla as the company focuses on electrical efficiency and investing in battery technology. However, the analyst said there is “a great deal” of production-related risk in coming quarters that could possibly pressure margins and the stock as Tesla ramps up new plants in Germany and Texas and new vehicles.

A year ago, Tesla announced its plans to expand its Texas facility.

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A View From HETI

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want. Photo courtesy of Boxes

With the help of a new conversational artificial intelligence platform, a Houston startup is ready to let brands get up close and personal with consumers while minimizing waste.

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want.

The Boxes device, about the size of a 40-inch television screen, dispenses products to consumers in a modern and sustainable spin on the old-fashioned large vending machine.

CEO Fernando Machin Gojdycz learned that business from his entrepreneur father, Carlos Daniel Machin, while growing up in Uruguay.

“That’s where my passion comes from — him,” Gojdycz says of his father. In 2016, Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay with some engineer friends

Funded by a $2,000 grant from the University of Uruguay, the company's mission was “to democratize and economize affordable and sustainable shopping,” in part by eliminating wasteful single-use plastic packaging.

“I worked for one year from my bedroom,” he tells InnovationMap.

Fernando Machin Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay before relocating the company to Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Boxes

The device, attached to a wall, offers free samples, or purchased products, in areas of high foot traffic, with a touch-screen interface. Powered by watsonx Assistant, the device asks survey questions of the customer, who can answer or not, on their mobile devices, via a QR code.

In return for completing a survey, customers can get a digital coupon, potentially generating future sales. The software and AI tech tracks sales and consumer preferences, giving valuable real-time market insight.

“This is very powerful,” he says.

Boxes partnered in Uruguay with major consumer brands like Kimberly-Clark, SC Johnson and Unilever, and during COVID, pivoted and offered PPE products. Then, with plans of an expansion into the United States, Boxes in 2021 landed its first U.S. backer, with $120,000 in funding from startup accelerator Techstars.

This led to a partnership with the Minnesota Twins, where Boxes devices at Target Field dispensed brand merchandise like keychains and bottles of field dirt.

Gojdycz says while a company in the Northeast is developing a product similar in size, Boxes is not “targeting traditional spaces.” Its software and integration with AI allows Boxes to seamlessly change the device screen and interface, remotely, as well.

Boxes aims to provide the devices in smaller spaces, like restrooms, where they have a device at the company's headquarters at climate tech incubator Greentown Labs. Boxes also recently added a device at Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters in Spring, as part of HPE’s diversity startup program.

Boxes hopes to launch another sustainable innovation later this year, in universities and supermarkets. The company is also developing a device that would offer refillable detergent and personal cleaning products like shampoo and conditioner with a reusable container.

Since plastic packaging accounts for 40 percent of retail price, consumers would pay far less, making a huge difference, particularly for lower-income families, he says.

“We are working to make things happen, because we have tried to pitch this idea,” he says.

Some supermarket retailers worry they may lose money or market share, and that shoppers may forget to bring the refill bottles with them to the store, for example.

“It’s about..the U.S. customer,” he says, “….but we think that sooner or later, it will come.”

Boxes has gotten funding from the accelerator startup branch of Houston-based software company Softeq, as well as Mission Driven Finance, Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, and Right Side Capital, among others.

“Our primary challenges are scaling effectively with a small, yet compact team and maintaining control over our financial runway,” Gojdycz says.

The company has seven employees, including two on its management team.

Gojdycz says they are actively hiring, particularly in software and hardware engineering, but also in business development.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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