Vancouver blockchain tech startup, LayerZero Labs is the latest Canadian company to join the country’s growing group of unicorns, as it raised $135 million that values LayerZero at $1 billion. LayerZero’s financing was tri-led by notable venture capital firms Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and FTX Ventures, which is the fund launched by crypto exchange FTX. As Canadian VC seems more active in tumultuous public markets, Mogo (MOGO-TSX, MOGO-NASDAQ) announced the formation of Mogo Ventures to manage its $124 million investment portfolio. SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son has told the company’s top executives to slow down investments, as the Japanese investment giant tries to raise cash amid a global stock market turmoil, the Financial Times reported. OnlyFans, the subscription-based social platform, has spoken with several blank check companies known as SPACs about a merger to take it public, Axios reported. The SEC is taking aim at SPACs with proposed rules to make disclosures more like those in a traditional IPO. Apple is planning to cut production of some of its most popular products due to macroeconomic factors such as the war in Ukraine and rising inflation, which are impacting demand, Nikkei Asia reported. Huawei’s 2021 revenue was down 29% as U.S. sanctions hurt smartphone sales. A bug that exposed Facebook users to a swell of posts containing misinformation persisted for six months on the platform before it was fixed, The Verge reports. The DOJ backs a bill targeting business practices of Amazon, Apple and Google. The Justice Department threw its support behind bipartisan legislation forbidding large internet companies from favoring their own products and services over those from competitors, according to the Wall Street Journal. Singapore’s giant Sea said on Monday it is shutting down its e-commerce business, Shopee, in India, months after the firm began recruiting sellers in the country.
Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News
LayerZero Labs reaches $1 billion valuation in round backed by Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz.
Vancouver blockchain tech startup LayerZero Labs is the latest Canadian company to join the country’s growing group of unicorns, as it raised $135 million that values LayerZero at $1 billion. The round attracted commitments from big names in the crypto and FinTech industry. LayerZero’s financing was tri-led by notable venture capital firms Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and FTX Ventures, which is the fund launched by crypto exchange FTX. https://bit.ly/3uHPTEq
Bonsai closes $21 million to scale embedded commerce solution for publishers like BuzzFeed, Vox.
Toronto-based Bonsai has secured $21 million in Series A financing to build on the recent growth of its “point of discovery” online checkout technology. Launched in 2016 as a men’s streetwear shopping and news app, Bonsai shifted into a commerce tech company for media publishers in 2020. Bonsai founder and CEO Saad Siddiqui called the startup’s latest financing “evidence that the pivot worked.” https://bit.ly/3qRIXne
PocketHealth secures $20 million to put medical records in US patients’ pockets.
After seeing significant growth in Canada during the pandemic, Toronto-based PocketHealth is ready to ramp up its presence in the United States (US). Since closing its first round of venture financing in early 2020, PocketHealth has grown the user base of its medical imaging storage and sharing solution from 150,000 to over 600,000 patients—the majority of which are based in Canada—and increased its revenue run rate sevenfold. https://bit.ly/3qXd9xg
Citylitics closes $6.2 million to help companies spot public infrastructure sales opportunities.
Fuelled by $6.2 million in Series A funding and the backing of investors with industry expertise, Toronto-based Citylitics wants to expand its predictive intelligence platform to cover more types of infrastructure. https://bit.ly/3LEbvbL
FutureFit AI raises $5.7 million to scale career navigation platform.
Toronto-based FutureFit AI (formerly AudaciousYou) has secured $5.7 million in an all-equity funding round. Closing the raise in December, this represents the company’s first institutional funding round. https://bit.ly/3K4M4iY
Mogo (MOGO-TSX, MOGO-NASDAQ) announces formation of Mogo Ventures to manage its $124 million investment portfolio.
Mogo announced the formation of Mogo Ventures to manage its existing investments in strategic partners and companies that support Mogo’s ecosystem, including: a 39% stake in Coinsquare; investments in leading and emerging crypto and Web3 platforms including Gemini, NFT Trader and Tetra Trust; investments in gaming companies including Enthusiast Gaming (NASDAQ:EGLX) and Eleven Gaming; and investments in Bitcoin and Ether. Mogo Ventures will also manage the Company’s portfolio of legacy investments, including its investments in Hootsuite, Blue Ant Media and Alida, with a focus on monetizing these investments. https://bit.ly/3LzrBDf
The NYSE is investigating a sharp spike in Shopify’s (SHOP-NYSE, SHOP-TSX) price that led to an estimated US$18 million in losses.
The New York Stock Exchange is investigating a spike in Shopify stock, according to New York Magazine. Shopify surged US$100 to US$780 in the last minute of trading on March 18. The stock closed the day up 18.65% but immediately tumbled in post-market trading. https://bit.ly/3LypmQH
FanDuel Group to launch sportsbook and casino in Ontario.
FanDuel Group, North America’s premier online gaming company, is expanding its fan-focused gaming offering to Canada, beginning with Ontario. FanDuel’s launch is subject to successful AGCO registration and execution of an Operating Agreement with iGaming Ontario. https://bit.ly/3NShjjV
Meta to hire up to 2,500 workers in Canada, open engineering hub to build metaverse.
Meta (Facebook) announced that it plans to hire up to 2,500 employees across Canada over the next five years as part of a new Canadian engineering hub. The news was shared at Meta’s Canadian office in downtown Toronto, at the MaRS Discovery District, by Ontario Premier Doug Ford. https://bit.ly/3iRTPwW
Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A
SoftBank to slow down investments as market turmoil hurts portfolio.
SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son has told the company’s top executives to slow down investments, as the Japanese investment giant tries to raise cash amid a global stock market turmoil, the Financial Times reported. Son’s message to the executives at a recent meeting came at a challenging time. The volatility of tech stocks in recent months has hurt the value of SoftBank’s vast portfolio, and the market continues to face uncertainties due to rising interest rates and Russia’s war against Ukraine. SoftBank is evaluating options including the possibility of selling more of its assets, according to the report. Last month, SoftBank said its net profit for the quarter through December dropped 98%, due in part to a decline in the shares of Alibaba, one of its most valuable holdings. https://bit.ly/37bmcDq
OnlyFans weighs going public via SPAC.
OnlyFans, the subscription-based social platform, has spoken with several blank check companies known as SPACs about a merger to take it public, Axios reported, citing sources. Last year, the company tried to raise outside funding from investors, but struggled due to its reputation for adult content, Axios previously reported. OnlyFans’ popularity skyrocketed during the pandmic. The U.K. startup drew the ire of its creators last year when it announced plans to ban explicit content, blaming “unfair” treatment by banks. It quickly reversed the decision. In December, OnlyFans founder and CEO Tim Stokely stepped down. Ami Gan, previously chief marketing and communications officer for OnlyFans, stepped in as chief executive. The company has tried to expand beyond explicit content. Last year, it also launched a streaming app called OFTV that doesn’t offer any adult videos. https://bit.ly/3IVPGCE
SEC investigates Faraday Future as regulatory crackdown on EV SPACs continues.
Several executives at EV company Faraday Future have been subpoenaed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as part of an investigation into inaccurate statements made to investors, according to a securities filing issued Thursday. https://tcrn.ch/3x4MJ06
The SEC is taking aim at SPACs with proposed rules to make disclosures more like those in a traditional IPO.
The US securities regulator has put forward a clutch of new rules for SPACs, including a measure that would limit backers’ ability to make too-rosy projections about revenue growth. But critics — including one of its own commissioners — have said the changes amount to a crackdown canceling out SPAC advantages over traditional IPOs, threatening to bring them to a halt. https://bit.ly/3J4mWHU
Robinhood’s stock pops 25% on news of extended trading hours.
Robinhood, the popular investing app for consumers, announced on Tuesday it would extend its stock trading hours in the morning and in the evening as it works toward its goal of 24/7 investing. Previously, the app offered trading from 9 AM ET to 6 PM ET — 30 minutes before the market opened and two hours after its close. The app’s new trading hours are now 7 AM ET to 8 PM ET. https://tcrn.ch/3wVprd4
Food delivery stocks lose US$24 billion in just three months.
In a market gripped by concerns over rising interest rates and soaring inflation, investors are avoiding European food delivery companies, turned off by their steep losses and determined efforts to expand. https://bloom.bg/3K46Qzh
DoorDash stock jumps after partnership with BJ’s Wholesale on grocery delivery.
Shares of DoorDash Inc. climbed 1.6% in premarket trading Monday, after the delivery app announced a partnership with BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings Inc. on grocery deliveries. BJ’s stock was still inactive ahead of the open. BJ’s, the membership-based warehouse retailer, said it will offer “on-demand grocery delivery” from 226 of its stores in 17 states. https://on.mktw.net/35yAuOi
Apple cuts production on Ukraine war, rising inflation.
Apple is planning to cut production of some of its most popular products due to macroeconomic factors such as the war in Ukraine and rising inflation, which are impacting demand, Nikkei Asia reported. The move is an early sign of how global brands are adjusting to the global slowdown in consumer spending. Apple plans to cut production of the new version of its cheaper iPhone SE by as much as 3 million units for the current quarter, the publication reported. Nikkei Asia also reported that Apple plans to cut output of its signature AirPods earphones by as much as 10 million units for the year, without specifying the model. Apple gives it suppliers weekly forecasts about its demand, though suppliers still are on the hook if they make too many components and finished products that Apple ultimately doesn’t take delivery of. https://bit.ly/35AX3lq
Huawei’s 2021 revenue down 29% as U.S. sanctions hurt smartphone sales.
China’s Huawei said its annual revenue dropped 29% last year as the U.S. government’s sanctions dealt a severe blow to its once-thriving smartphone business. The Chinese tech giant’s revenue from its consumer business, which consists mainly of smartphones, fell 50% last year. The steep decline came after the U.S. government in 2019 blocked Huawei’s access to American technology, including chips and other components as well as key software from Google. Huawei, which was the world’s second-largest smartphone vendor after Samsung in 2019, fell out of the top five last year as its global shipments plummeted, according to research firm IDC. Huawei, which also sells telecommunications equipment to carriers, said its revenue fell to 636.8 billion yuan (US$100 billion) last year, from 891.4 billion in 2020. But the company said its net profit rose 76%, as it focused on profitability over growth. Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who returned to China last year after being detained in Canada on fraud charges for nearly three years at the request of U.S. authorities, said in a statement that Huawei’s ability to make a profit is increasing and the Chinese company is now “more capable of dealing with uncertainty.” https://bit.ly/3uMiNDr
Consortium to buy Nielsen for US$10 billion.
Nielsen Holdings agreed to sell itself to a group of private-equity firms in a deal that values the media-measurement company at around $10 billion, resurrecting a deal after talks fell apart last week. https://on.wsj.com/36H8eK0
Waymo begins fully autonomous rides for employees in San Francisco.
Alphabet-owned autonomous vehicle company Waymo has begun offering robotaxi service, without human backup drivers, to its employees in San Francisco, its latest step towards offering fully driverless service to the broader public in a complicated urban environment. The move, announced Wednesday, follows six months of the company testing its robotaxi service with “trusted testers” in San Francisco, who are members of the public that agree to go for rides with human drivers at the wheel and provide feedback. The path to fully autonomous taxi service in broad swaths of major cities is long because of the complexity of streetscapes in urban environments. Cars have to contend with unpredictable foot and bike traffic along with other vehicles, and finding safe places to pull over to pick up or drop off passengers can be fraught. At the same time, major cities are where robotaxis stand the best chance of making money from people who don’t own cars and are receptive to new forms of transit. Waymo isn’t the only firm testing autonomous vehicles. GM-owned Cruise in February began offering free, driverless rides to the public without human safety drivers. https://bit.ly/3uO05eK
Apple ups driver count for self-driving car tests, signaling increase in program resources.
Apple is continuing to slowly expand its autonomous vehicle testing program in California. According to new data published by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Apple now has 10 new drivers registered to its crew. The number of self-driving vehicles, however, remains the same at 69 vehicles. https://bit.ly/3qUfJEi
Foldable iPhone coming in 2025 at the earliest, may actually be iPad or tablet/phone hybrid.
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is revising his prediction about when Apple could launch a foldable iPhone. After saying last year it could be as soon as 2024, the analyst expects this rumored product to be released in 2025 “at the earliest.” This foldable iPhone could take an approach similar to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold instead of the Galaxy Z Flip. The former is a phone that turns into a tablet, while the latter is a phone that just folds as the old cellphones did. It’s still not clear whether Apple will end up entering the foldable display market. But if analysts are predicting right, this won’t happen until at least 2025. https://bit.ly/3qWdhNx
Apple working to bring more financial services in-house.
Apple Inc. is developing its own payment processing technology and infrastructure for future financial products, part of an ambitious effort that would reduce its reliance on outside partners over time, according to people with knowledge of the matter. https://bloom.bg/3tYdlxY
Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting
Sony merges PS Now and PS Plus to create a three-tier subscription service.
PlayStation is uniting PS Now and PS Plus to form a new three-tier subscription service. The new service, sitting under the PS Plus brand, is set to go live in June and will include a number of new features. https://bit.ly/3qWSHfL
Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory
Facebook bug exposed users to surge of harmful content.
A bug that exposed Facebook users to a swell of posts containing misinformation persisted for six months on the platform before it was fixed, The Verge reports. The issue, first identified by engineers in October, was caused by a “massive ranking failure,” according to an internal report cited by The Verge. Meta’s system pushed harmful posts that had been flagged by fact-checkers, rather than suppressing them, which drove up views of the material by almost 30%. Meta’s system for identifying such content also failed to demote posts containing nudity and violence during the period, the report said. Meta spokesperson Joe Osborne told The Verge the company “detected inconsistencies in downranking on five separate occasions, which correlated with small, temporary increases to internal metrics.” Meta “traced the root cause to a software bug and applied needed fixes,” he said. https://bit.ly/3K1vxfK
Hackers steal around US$600 million worth of crypto from Axie Infinity blockchain.
Ronin Network, the blockchain protocol derived from Ethereum and the main network that powers popular video game Axie Infinity, was subject to a hack worth hundreds of millions of dollars, it said in a blog post on Tuesday. The network said 173,600 Ethereum and 25.5 million USD Coin were stolen, an amount equivalent to approximately US$600 million dollars, making it one of the largest crypto-related hacks yet. The network said the attackers used a “backdoor” in Ronin’s blockchain architecture. Approximately 2.6 million players are estimated to have played Axie Infinity over the last 30 days, according to gaming statistics website ActivePlayer.io. Over that time period, 107,000 users have completed transactions, according to DappRader, totaling US$486 million in trading volume. RON, the native token of Ronin Network, fell more than 20% in value on Tuesday, bringing the market cap of US$271 million. AXS, the native token of Axie Infinity, fell more than 7% in value to a market cap of $3.96 billion. In October, Sky Mavis, the company behind the popular video game, raised money at a US$3 billion valuation from investors. https://bit.ly/3r0hDTF
DOJ backs bill targeting business practices of Amazon, Apple and Google.
The Justice Department threw its support behind bipartisan legislation forbidding large internet companies from favoring their own products and services over those from competitors, according to the Wall Street Journal. The letter to U.S. Senators sponsoring the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, the DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs does not call out any companies by name, but says “The Department views the rise of dominant platforms as presenting a threat to open markets and competition, with risks for consumers, businesses, innovation, resiliency, global competitiveness, and our democracy.” The bill, whose sponsors include Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Iowa Republican Charles Grassley, would prevent companies from discriminating against smaller rivals. Amazon for example could be barred from competing against third party retailers on its marketplace. Though the bill has wide bipartisan support, it is yet to be voted on by the entire Senate, and is unlikely to be prioritized during a fiercely competitive midterm election cycle. And while the DOJ is supportive, its sister antitrust enforcer, the Federal Trade Commission, remains silent. https://bit.ly/3jfydLf
Uber wins a 30-month London license, ending a lengthy battle with city regulators.
Uber has secured a 30-month license to continue operating in London, ending a protracted battle with city regulators over whether the ride-hailing app was “fit and proper.” “Uber has been granted a London private hire vehicle operator’s license for a period of two and a half years,” a Transport for London spokesperson said in a statement Saturday. https://cnb.cx/3K2UeIG
Sea’s Shopee shutting down India operations.
Singapore’s giant Sea said on Monday it is shutting down its e-commerce business, Shopee, in India, months after the firm began recruiting sellers in the country. The announcement follows India’s decision to ban Sea’s popular title “Free Fire” in the country last month, a move that contributed to a loss of over US$15 billion in Shopee’s market cap. https://tcrn.ch/3K2YmZp
Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency
MicroStrategy has borrowed US$205 million to buy more bitcoin as CEO Michael Saylor remains committed to the cryptocurrency.
A MicroStrategy unit has taken out a US$205 million loan to buy more bitcoin, extending the company’s commitment to buy the cryptocurrency. The three-year term loan is collateralized by about $820 million worth of bitcoin. MicroStrategy’s bitcoin holdings were worth around US$5.9 billion as of Tuesday. https://bit.ly/3NIUoaA
Uber CEO says cryptocurrencies need to become more efficient for the ride-hailing company to accept them as payment.
Uber won’t be accepting cryptocurrencies just yet because they aren’t efficient enough, the CEO said on Tuesday. An average Uber trip costs between US$15 to US$20, and crypto isn’t yet an efficient exchange of value, Dara Khosrowshahi told Bloomberg. Tesla, Starbucks, PayPal, and eBay are among thousands of companies already accepting crypto for services. https://bit.ly/3iWxHBx
Visa is launching an NFT program for small businesses as it sees e-commerce opportunities in a US$100 billion ‘creator economy’.
Visa is launching a program for entrepreneurs working in the creative arts to accelerate their businesses using NFTs. The Visa Creator Program will work with people in the worlds of art, music, fashion, and film to “deepen their fluency in crypto commerce and traditional payments.” The size of the so-called creator economy is estimated at more than US$100 billion. https://bit.ly/3K27IVc
Apple could use a Chinese chipmaker for the first time for iPhone storage chips.
A disruption to Apple’s supply chain for iPhone storage chips could see the Cupertino company buying flash memory from a Chinese supplier for the very first time. It’s not an ideal situation at the best of times, given that Apple is aiming to reduce, rather than increase, its dependence on China. But it may prove particularly controversial in the current climate. https://bit.ly/3uL4PSc
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