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Photo: David Santaolalla/EyeEm via Getty Images

Quartz reports Tuesday that a California startup called Kobold, which has developed advanced methods to chase down supplies of cobalt, has won backing from the Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures and the VC powerhouse Andreessen Horowitz.

Why it matters: Cobalt is a critical component in batteries needed for smartphones and the growth of EVs, so demand is growing.

The impact: The majority of the world's supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where mining is associated with human rights and environmental problems.

The intrigue: Per Quartz, Kobold employs experts in fields ranging from quantum computing to economic geology and says it can bring advanced digital tech to bear on finding supplies outside the DRC.

  • "Kobold's bet is that it can sniff out new cobalt reserves by deploying machine learning and other AI techniques to large sets of geological, physical, and chemical data," Akshat Rathi reports.

Go deeper: The Congo's chaotic election throws the future of cobalt in doubt

Go deeper

Banks cash in as Wall Street blows out Main Street

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America’s big banks capped off a winning year, led by soaring Wall Street-facing business lines.

Why it matters: Banks cashed in on the white-hot IPO market, record debt issuance, and sky-high trading volume — all of which played out as economic peril softened the consumer side of their businesses.

Updated 11 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden to attempt "emergency economic relief" by executive order

President Biden. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Biden will continue his executive action blitz on Friday, issuing two more orders in an attempt to provide immediate relief to struggling families without waiting for Congress.

Why it matters: In his second full day in office, Biden is again resorting to executive actions as he tries to increase payments for nutritional assistance and protect workers' rights during the pandemic.

23 mins ago - Economy & Business

What Biden's EV push could mean for jobs

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden's swift effort to re-establish stricter fuel efficiency mandates, along with his broader push toward vehicle electrification, is as much about creating new jobs as it is protecting the environment.

Why it matters: The U.S. lags far behind the rest of the world in electric vehicle adoption. Catching up will require big investments in EV production — including battery cell manufacturing and mining of raw materials — to avoid dependence on imports and foreign supply chains.