NASDAQ hit a record close Thursday, then fell 1.6% Friday, ending the week down 0.45%. During the week, S&P 500 lost 1.55%, Dow Jones was down 2.4%. The CBOE Volatility index rose to 17.31 Friday, with a its 19.20 session peak, the highest since last fall. Ibotta Inc., a digital marketing software firm that counts Walmart Inc. as a backer, and shareholders are seeking to raise as much as US$472.5 million in an initial public offering. Tech stocks saw inflows of US$18.6 billion in Q1, the third largest quarterly inflow on record, Bank of America said. OpenAI has told some former employees they can sell shares in an extension of a recent tender offer that valued it at US$86 billion. Investors are seeking US$3 billion for Musk’s xAI at US$18 billion valuation. Intel, Meta and Google are releasing new chips. Adobe is buying videos for US$3 per minute to build AI models. Traders piled into shares of Rent the Runway on Thursday, sending the shares up by more than 220% after the apparel rental firm said it was betting on artificial intelligence tools to power its growth in the current year. Salesforce is in advanced talks to buy Informatica, according to the WSJ. Shares of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company rose as much as 3.2% on Monday as President Joe Biden’s administration approved nearly US$12 billion in grants and loans. In Canada, Galaxy closed its upsized US$125 million bought deal financing. Sophic Client OneSoft announced the expansion of its operations to EMEA. The Company also presented at the AI & Technology Hybrid Investor Conference. Sophic Client, UGE International energized the largest rooftop community solar project in Maine. An independent third party valued the project at US$2.5 million, or US$2.62/Watt. The Canadian federal government committed $2.4 billion to AI compute, startups, and safety through Budget 2024.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Galaxy (GLXY-TSX) announces closing of its US$125 million bought deal financing.

Galaxy Digital Holdings has closed its previously announced bought deal financing. Canaccord Genuity Corp. acted as lead underwriter to the Offering on behalf of a syndicate of underwriters which included Jefferies Securities Inc. and Stifel Nicolaus Canada Inc. Pursuant to the Offering, the Company issued a total of 12,100,000 ordinary shares on a bought deal basis at an offering price of $14.00 per Ordinary Share for aggregate gross proceeds of $169,400,000 (or approximately US$125 million equivalent). Certain shareholders, including Galaxy Group Investments LLC, have granted the Underwriters an option to purchase up to an additional 1,815,000 Ordinary Shares at the Offering Price, to cover over-allotments, if any, and for market-stabilizations purposes exercisable for a period of 30 days following the date hereof. The net proceeds of the Offering to the Company will be used for general corporate purposes and working capital as set forth in its prospectus supplement to its base shelf prospectus dated March 26, 2024. The Company will not receive any proceeds from the sale of Ordinary Shares in connection with the Over-Allotment-Option. https://bit.ly/3VRZDLy

Sophic Client OneSoft Solutions Inc. (OSS-TSXV, OSSIF-OTC) announces expansion of operations to EMEA.

OneSoft Solutions Inc. a North American developer of cloud-based business solutions, announces that its wholly owned OneBridge Solutions subsidiary has established sales operations to target potential customers in the European, Middle East and African regions (“EMEA”), who collectively operate more than 250,000 miles of oil and gas (“O&G”) pipelines. https://bit.ly/3PSjAxY

Sophic Client OneSoft Solutions Inc. (OSS-TSXV, OSSIF-OTC) presented at the AI & Technology Hybrid Investor Conference April 11, 2024.

President and COO Brandon Taylor presented at the AI & Technology Hybrid Virtual Investor Conference presented by Water Tower Research and hosted by VirtualInvestorConferences.com, on April 11, 2024. Watch the replay here. https://bit.ly/3PigAdM

Sophic Client UGE International (UGE-TSXV, UGEIF-OTC) energizes largest rooftop community solar project in Maine. Independent Third Party Values Project at US$2.5 million, or US$2.62/Watt.

UGE International Ltd., announced that its 1-megawatt community solar farm in Dover-Foxcroft Maine reached commercial operation and has begun generating electricity. Built atop an 80,000-square-foot fieldhouse at Foxcroft Academy, the project is now the largest rooftop community solar project in the state of Maine. Foxcroft Academy, which is a hybrid public-private high school, will earn long-term lease income from UGE for use of the rooftop space. Every year, the project will offset over 1,200 metric tons of CO2, equivalent to the amount produced by burning roughly 140,000 gallons of gasoline. In addition to the Foxcroft community solar project, UGE’s portfolio in Maine includes a 1MW project in the town of Norway which began operating in October 2023, and nine projects totaling 17MW under development. With the completion of this project, UGE’s operating portfolio now stands at 6.6MW. In addition to its operating portfolio, UGE has eight projects totaling 17.7MW in deployment and construction, the final phases of development. https://bit.ly/3TWLnP6

Government software provider Clariti Cloud secures $24.6 million from Vistara Growth.

Vancouver-based Clariti Cloud, which provides a SaaS solution for government permit and license processing, has secured an US$18 million ($24.6 million) investment from Vistara Growth. Clariti has snagged almost 10 municipalities as customers over the past year, most recently selected by Honolulu, Hawaii. The growth financing, which closed in Q1 2024, will help expand Clariti’s go-to-market teams, build relationships with system integrators, and support “an increased number of implementations.” Clariti provides state, provincial, and local governments in the United States and Canada with a low-code platform, digitizing the traditionally paper-based issuance, enforcement, and management of permits and licences. Clariti has snagged almost 10 municipalities as customers over the past year, including Bakersfield, California; Nanaimo, British Columbia; and, most recently, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://tinyurl.com/4xtch7yy

Electronics startup SmartD Technologies powers up with $14.2-million Series A.

Montréal-based power electronics startup SmartD Technologies has raised $14.2 million in Series A financing. The round, announced by the startup this week, was led by Investissement Québec, with participation from Hammond Power Solutions and existing investors Boreal Ventures and SE Ventures. SmartD Technologies develops variable frequency drives (VFD) for motor control. A VFD is a type of motor controller that powers an electric motor by changing the frequency and voltage of its power supply, and is used in a number of industrial and infrastructure sectors. By adjusting the motor’s speed to match the required load, VFDs can drastically reduce the energy consumption of motors. Revenue in the global VFD market size was estimated to be worth $21.2 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach $36.79 billion by 2032. According to SmartD, motor VFDs offer both energy savings and increased control in many industries, but tend to generate excessive vibrations, noise, and heat. SmartD’s Clean Power VFD combines three technologies designed to power motors more smoothly and give them better performance: silicon carbide transistors, multi-level inverters, and modulation and control algorithms. The Clean Power VFD delivers a sine wave—a smooth, continuous waveform—to minimize harmonic distortion and improve the lifespan of equipment. The startup was founded in 2018 by CEO Simon Leblond and CTO Simon Caron, who had both previously co-founded SCL Medtech in 2004 and SCL Elements in 2009. The latter, which developed controllers for building automation, was acquired by Schneider Electric in 2013. The startup claims its Clean Power VFD can increase motor efficiency, reduce wear and tear on equipment, save energy, and lower costs for organizations across many industries, including infrastructure, utilities, agriculture, mining, transportation, among others. https://tinyurl.com/yc2tzxc7

Harvest Ventures, New York-based IA Capital back Summit’s $3.5-million seed round.

Kelowna-based digital insurance brokerage Summit has raised $3.5 million in seed funding to build out its technology infrastructure and revenue teams. The all-equity seed round was led by New York-based venture capital (VC) firm IA Capital Group with a follow-on investment from Calgary-based Harvest Ventures. Founded in 2022, Summit calls itself a national insurance brokerage and risk management firm with technology-driven solutions. It offers various types of insurance across many different businesses, including construction, nonprofits, and even other FinTech businesses. https://tinyurl.com/4r6jadhv

Federal government commits $2.4 billion to AI compute, startups, and safety through Budget 2024.

Canada’s Liberal government unveiled a $2.4 billion package of measures designed to boost the country’s artificial intelligence (AI) sector. In its announcement, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made at Scale AI’s offices in Montréal, the Government of Canada noted that while the nation has a “world-leading AI ecosystem,” other countries have been racing to catch up and made big investments in AI. “To maintain Canada’s competitive edge, and secure good paying jobs and job security for generations of young Canadians, we must raise the bar.” Through its upcoming 2024 budget, the Government of Canada plans to pump $2 billion into increasing the computing power available to the nation’s AI researchers, startups, and scaleups. https://tinyurl.com/2uzf9aj5

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

Walmart-backed Ibotta, holders seek up to US$472.5 million in IPO.

Ibotta Inc., a digital marketing software firm that counts Walmart Inc. as a backer, and shareholders are seeking to raise as much as US$472.5 million in an initial public offering. The Denver-based company, which helps brands deliver mobile promotions through rewards and rebates, is offering 2.5 million shares for US$76 to US$84 each, according to a filing Monday with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Shareholders including Chief Executive Officer Bryan Leach and Koch Industries Inc.’s venture capital arm are offering 3.125 million existing shares, the filing shows. The company handles promotions for more than 2,400 brands, such as Coca-Cola, Whirlpool and Hallmark, its filings show. It had net income of US$38 million on revenue of $320 million last year, compared with a net loss of US$55 million on revenue of US$211 million the previous year, according to the filings. https://archive.ph/deV2y

First-quarter flows to tech stocks third largest on record – BofA.

Tech stocks saw inflows of US$18.6 billion in the first quarter of the year, the third largest quarterly inflow on record, and also attracted funds in the past week, along with large flows to cash and bonds, Bank of America Global Research said Friday. Cash equivalent money market funds saw US$81.8 billion of inflows in the week to Wednesday, the largest in 13 weeks, BofA said in its weekly roundup of flows in and out of world markets, which cites data from EPFR. The bank attributed that inflow to quarter-end effects. There were US$14.2 billion of inflows to stocks in general, with US$1.1 billion to tech specifically, in the week and US$13.4 billion to bonds, with US$9.7 billion to investment grade corporate debt BofA said. The data does not include Thursday, which saw all three major U.S. indexes fall around 1%, dragged down by elevated oil prices on the back of tensions in the Middle East, and leaving the S&P heading for its biggest weekly fall since October. That weekly milestone is, in part, a reflection of the relentlessness with which U.S. stocks rose in the first quarter, with tech names to the fore, helping major indices to repeatedly hit new record highs. As for flows to cash, BofA note that in the past five Fed rate cutting cycles, flows to money market funds rose in anticipation of the first cut, slowed meaningfully once the Fed began cutting, and outflows started 12 months into the cutting cycle. https://tinyurl.com/yckrwv4e

OpenAI expands US$86 billion tender offer, inviting former employees.

OpenAI has told some former employees they can sell shares in the artificial intelligence developer in an extension of a recent tender offer that valued it at US$86 billion, according to two people who reviewed the offer. Previously, the company did not invite some ex-employees. Former staffers have until April 15 to decide whether they want to participate in the share sale, one of the people and a third who reviewed the offer said. The extension of the share sale hasn’t been previously reported. The move suggests there is continued investor demand for stock in the ChatGPT-maker, which surpassed US$1.6 billion in annualized revenue last December from sales of its conversational AI software. That’s even though OpenAI’s rising stock price has turned away some investors. The recent tender offer prices the company’s stock at US$150 a share, two of the people said, up from US$67 a share in the tender offer that closed early last year. OpenAI declined to comment. It’s unclear why the company’s valuation has risen more than its per share price. One explanation could be that the company’s valuation was calculated off of its preferred shares, which are typically priced higher than the common shares that employees own, said Evan Epstein, a law professor at the University of California, San Francisco. OpenAI has been regularly holding sales for employees or other investors, following a model employed by other highly valued private startups such as SpaceX, Stripe and Canva. https://tinyurl.com/mr2vdx6k

Investors seek US$3 billion for Musk’s xAI at US$18 billion valuation.

Gigafund and Steve Jurvetson are among investors looking to invest in a new xAI funding round that could raise US$3 billion for the company at an US$18 billion valuation, according to the Wall Street Journal. The terms of the deal aren’t final, according to the report. xAI created the Grok chatbot which is available to the public through Musk’s social media site X. Last week, xAI announced Grok 1.5, which the company describes as “capable of long context understanding and advanced reasoning.” But Grok’s ability to understand context was called into question on Friday when Grok appeared to generate misleading headlines on X, including the fake news that Iran had struck Tel Aviv. The proposed mega-round comes just one year after Elon Musk founded the artificial intelligence startup to compete with OpenAI and Google. In December, xAI disclosed US$1 billion in funding in an SEC filing. The majority of that funding came from Musk, people close to the company said. https://tinyurl.com/5bxhukm9

Salesforce in advanced talks to buy Informatica.

Deal for data-management software firm would be among Salesforce’s largest if completed. Salesforce is in advanced talks to acquire data-management software provider Informatica, according to people familiar with the matter. Redwood City, Calif.-based Informatica has a market capitalization of more than US$11 billion after a 43% run-up in its shares this year as traders bet on a deal. https://tinyurl.com/4yahsmub

Intel unveils latest AI chip as Nvidia competition heats up.

Intel on Tuesday unveiled its latest artificial intelligence chip, called Gaudi 3, as chipmakers rush to produce semiconductors that can train and deploy big AI models, such as the one underpinning OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Intel says the new Gaudi 3 chip is over twice as power-efficient as and can run AI models one-and-a-half times faster than Nvidia’s H100 GPU. It also comes in different configurations like a bundle of eight Gaudi 3 chips on one motherboard or a card that can slot into existing systems. Intel tested the chip on models like Meta’s open-source Llama and the Abu Dhabi-backed Falcon. It said Gaudi 3 can help train or deploy models, including Stable Diffusion or OpenAI’s Whisper model for speech recognition. Intel says its chips use less power than Nvidia’s. Nvidia has an estimated 80% of the AI chip market with its graphics processors, known as GPUs, which have been the high-end chip of choice for AI builders over the past year. Intel said that the new Gaudi 3 chips would be available to customers in the third quarter, and companies including Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Supermicro will build systems with the chips. Intel didn’t provide a price range for Gaudi 3. https://tinyurl.com/adja6zac

Meta releases details about new AI chip.

Meta Platforms has unveiled its new artificial intelligence chip, which it says will “significantly improve” the performance of the systems that rank advertisements and recommend content to users of its apps. The new Meta Training and Inference Accelerator chip is the second version of its chip developed in-house to power Meta’s AI models. “This chip’s architecture is fundamentally focused on providing the right balance of compute, memory bandwidth and memory capacity for serving ranking and recommendation models,“ Meta said in a blog post Wednesday. The first version was announced in May 2023. Meta is investing heavily in AI as it tries to incorporate the technology into more of its products. AI chips are central to that work—and Meta has been spending huge amounts buying chips from Nvidia. Meta’s in-house silicon effort is also a costly endeavor, which the company said in ITS blog post will involve “investing not only in compute silicon but also in memory bandwidth, networking and capacity, as well as other next-generation hardware systems.” https://tinyurl.com/2eu3hm3w

Google cloud unveils homegrown server chip.

Google Cloud CEO Thoman Kurian unveiled the cloud provider’s first in-house central processing unit, a standard type of computing chip, which it hopes will reduce the cost of operating its data centers and improve performance for its cloud customers. Kurian announced the new chip, known as Axion, on stage in Las Vegas during Google Cloud Next, the cloud unit’s annual customer conference. He said the chip will be available to some customers later this year. Unlike Google’s tensor processing units, which are designed for artificial intelligence, the new server chip is designed for more general types of computing. Google is the last major cloud provider to unveil an in-house CPU, about six years after Amazon Web Services launched its successful Graviton chip. All of the cloud providers’ homegrown CPUs, which are Arm-based, aim to lessen their reliance on x86-based chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices. The Information previously reported that Google Cloud is developing two server chips, known internally as Maple and Cypress, that were expected to launch as soon as 2025. It is unclear whether one of those is the chip Google debuted Tuesday. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. https://tinyurl.com/3mtxpyes

ByteDance recorded higher profitability in 2023.

TikTok owner ByteDance’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization—a measure of the company’s operating performance—jumped to more than US$40 billion in 2023 from US$25 billion in 2022, Bloomberg reported. This is yet another indication of how ByteDance’s core business has performed well over the past year despite all the geopolitical headwinds facing TikTok in the U.S. Last month, The Information reported that ByteDance’s operating profit for the first nine months of 2023 surged 53% year on year to nearly US$23 billion. ByteDance’s profits are driven by its China business, which also generates the majority of the company’s revenue. Investors say Douyin, ByteDance’s Chinese version of TikTok, is the primary contributor to the Chinese tech giant’s profitability. In China, Douyin is one of the country’s biggest advertising and e-commerce platforms. https://tinyurl.com/4d4asrnz

ByteDance expands buyback to non-U.S. employees.

ByteDance has offered to buy shares held by employees outside the U.S. for about US$171 each, expanding an earlier buyback program, the Financial Times reported. In March, the TikTok parent company notified employees of its latest buyback plans, The Information was first to report. It offered to buy back shares from current employees at about US$171 a share and former employees at US$145 a share, an increase from last fall, when it offered staff who worked there less than two years US$160 a share. In a message to global staff, ByteDance said it “received feedback that some employees would like this opportunity to meet their cash and liquidity needs,” according to the FT. https://tinyurl.com/3p6te8rw

Adobe is buying videos for US$3 per minute to build AI model.

Adobe Inc. has begun to procure videos to build its artificial intelligence text-to-video generator, trying to catch up to competitors after OpenAI demonstrated a similar technology. The software company is offering its network of photographers and artists US$120 to submit videos of people engaged in everyday actions such as walking or expressing emotions including joy and anger, according to documents seen by Bloomberg. The goal is to source assets for artificial intelligence training, the company wrote. Over the past year, Adobe has focused on adding generative AI features to its portfolio of software for creative professionals, including Photoshop and Illustrator. The company has released tools that use text to produce images and illustrations that have been used billions of times so far. Adobe is requesting more than 100 short clips of people engaged in actions and showing emotions as well as simple anatomy shots of feet, hands or eyes. The company also wants video of people “interacting with objects” such as smartphones or fitness equipment. It cautions against providing copyrighted material, nudity or other “offensive content.” Pay for the submission works out, on average, to about US$2.62 per minute of submitted video, although it could be as much as about US$7.25 per minute. https://archive.ph/c7wkb

MicroStrategy leads crypto sector short losses with US$2 billion hit since March.

Short sellers betting against MicroStrategy have lost US$1.92 billion since March, according to data from S3 Partners, highlighting the hit from a rally that has helped the stock outperform bitcoin. The approval of several spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in January has brought the once-nascent asset class closer to the mainstream. Traders betting against crypto exchange Coinbase and bitcoin miner CleanSpark also lost US$593.50 million and US$106.40 million, respectively, the data showed. MicroStrategy held nearly 190,000 bitcoin on its balance sheet as of the end of 2023 and has indicated it would continue increasing its exposure. It sold convertible debt twice within a week last month to raise money to buy more bitcoin. “The premium (for MicroStrategy) is supported by a desire for investors to have exposure to bitcoin who may be unable to invest directly in bitcoin or in ETFs,” analysts at BTIG said in a note earlier in April. The company’s ability to raise capital to purchase additional bitcoin is also a positive for shareholders, the brokerage added. But despite the recent optimism, the crypto industry continues to be heavily shorted. Short interest in nine of the most-watched companies in the crypto space stood at 16.73% of the total number of their outstanding shares, more than three times the average in the United States. The SEC also remains uncomfortable with crypto and its approval of the spot bitcoin ETFs might not signal willingness to embrace other similar products, like spot ethereum ETFs, Reuters has reported. The spot bitcoin ETF decision was not “indicative of a change in philosophy at the Commission,” said Alan Konevsky, chief legal and corporate affairs officer at online investment platform tZERO. “I don’t think it’s a harbinger of more good things to come,” he said. Short sellers sell borrowed shares and hope to buy them back at a lower price later, pocketing the difference. https://tinyurl.com/44ex84vz

Rent the Runway shares get caught up in AI frenzy, surge over 200%.

Traders piled into shares of Rent the Runway on Thursday, sending the shares up by more than 220% after the apparel rental firm said it was betting on artificial intelligence tools to power its growth in the current year. More than 34 million shares had changed hands, far surpassing the usual calm trading in a stock that coming into Thursday only had a market value of US$26.27 million. But numerous companies have kicked off rallies in their stocks over the last year by talking up their plans to use artificial intelligence to boost their businesses – and Rent the Runway is now the latest to join that frenzy. The company has forecast revenue to grow between 1% and 6% in the current fiscal year, compared with a 0.6% rise in 2023, and expects breakeven free cash flow. “Rent the Runway has just become the poster girl for investors that believe AI can help small business and not just large behemoths,” said Michael Ashley Schulman, chief investment officer at Running Point Capital Advisors. Shares of the company were last up 138.7% at US$17.82, giving it a market capitalization of about US$63.3 million. Last week, the company put into effect a one-for-20 reverse stock split to regain compliance with the minimum bid price requirement for continued listing on the Nasdaq. Following the move, it now has a free float of about 2.6 million shares, according to LSEG data. Strong buying pressure on a low float stock is causing sharp pressure, said Ihor Dusaniwsky, managing director of predictive analytics at S3 Partners. Rent the Runway, which focuses on selling designer brands, had seen a hit to demand due to quality issues and outdated product assortments. The company went public in 2021 and the stock was priced at US$21. CEO Jennifer Hyman said customer loyalty rate in the fourth quarter was up 10% year-over-year and the company has planned new designer launches for 2024. https://archive.ph/KUCke

Emerging Technologies

JPMorgan’s Dimon Compares AI Impact to Printing Press.

JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon said he is “completely convinced” artificial intelligence will transform society in a way that’s comparable to the invention of the “printing press, the steam engine, electricity, computing and the Internet.” In his influential annual letter to shareholders released on Monday, Dimon said his bank was using AI and machine learning in areas such as marketing, fraud and risk management. “While we do not know the full effect or the precise rate at which AI will change our business—or how it will affect society at large—we are completely convinced the consequences will be extraordinary,” he said. Dimon also warned that inflation could rise higher than markets expected—as high as 8%. He pointed to potential risks to the private credit industry, arguing that the fast-growing sector was full of smart operators but that “not all players are that good.” He said problems could lead to a government crackdown. In a separate proxy filing, JPMorgan said its board was spending “significant time” developing some of its executives as potential successors to Dimon, who has been CEO for 18 years. https://tinyurl.com/xwtt8zum

Microsoft to spend US$2.9 billion on Japan data centers amid AI dush.

Microsoft will spend US$2.9 billion in Japan over the coming two years, primarily to build new data centers to help support the company’s AI ambitions, company president Brad Smith told Nikkei Asia on Tuesday. The company will also spend several million dollars to fund new AI research in Japan, Smith said. The announcement comes as Microsoft is bulking up its AI infrastructure worldwide to support the high compute needs that AI applications require. The company spent US$9.7 billion on capex in the last quarter alone, primarily on building out data centers for AI, and has discussed building a $100 billion supercomputer meant to run OpenAI’s models, which Microsoft has the rights to reuse in its own products, The Information previously reported. https://tinyurl.com/3ah7y34f

Humane AI hands-on: My life so far with a wearable AI pin.

The Humane AI Pin (US$699) wants to be a self-sufficient phone replacement, a shiny voice-controlled communicator that also throws out laser displays you can control with your hands, like a magically projected dashboard. It’s amazing in concept, but so frustrating in execution. Humane’s Pin could be the future of wearables beyond our watches, but right now it doesn’t have enough consistency or connectivity. This also won’t be the last AI wearable we see: Meta’s Ray-Ban glasses already have AI capabilities rolling out to the public in the next month; startup Brilliant is making display-enabled AI glasses; and the Rabbit R1 is a handheld AI-powered gadget, like a phone-meets-AI GameBoy. https://tinyurl.com/3kjt9an3

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

Google and world’s largest ad group announce landmark AI collaboration.

The groundbreaking partnership implies Google’s robots could begin creating ads for world-leading brands like Coca-Cola. The world’s biggest advertising group announced a major collaboration with Google that will see it utilize Gemini AI to help produce its ads, including: Ad narration, Voiceover script generation, and Product image creation. The landmark partnership with WPP means that Google’s robots could potentially end up creating ads for some of the biggest brands in the world, such as the Coca-Cola Company, L’Oréal and Nestlé. PPC experts have consistently emphasized the importance of leveraging AI to stay ahead in marketing. With the world’s biggest ad group actively incorporating Google’s Gemini into their strategy, it’s a pivotal moment and advertisers should pay attention as this integration holds the promise of transforming the industry landscape. WPP is the parent company of renowned ad firms like Ogilvy, Wunderman Thompson, and VMLY&R. The UK-based ad company reported a global revenue of US$18.9 billion in 2023, and employs approximately 114,000 members of staff worldwide, according to Statistica. https://tinyurl.com/ymxayppc

Google rolling out Find My Device network for Android.

Google is launching its new Find My Device (FMD) network in the US and Canada. It will initially find lost Android phones and tablets, with headphones coming soon after. Support for third-party Find My Device Bluetooth tags are coming in May. This crowdsourced FMD network will use over a billion Android 9+ devices to find your lost items. It was first announced at Google I/O 2023 and missed the original summer target. Previously, the Find My Device app required your lost phone to have an Internet connection (no Wi-Fi or cellular). This new offering works even if they’re offline by leveraging Bluetooth. The Pixel 8 and 8 Pro can be found even “if they’re powered off or the battery is dead.” Google credits “specialized Pixel hardware,” while it’s working with other Android OEMs and chipmakers on expanding this capability to premium devices. Meanwhile, you’ll be able to find compatible Bluetooth tracker tags in May, which is when iOS 17.5 is expected with unknown tracker alerts. Chipolo and Pebblebee will release FMD devices next month, with “eufy, Jio, Motorola, and more” expected to release accessories “later this year.” You can also expect JBL, Sony, and others to update their headphones to support the Find My Device network. Google has nothing to share today about Wear OS smartwatches getting this capability. https://tinyurl.com/2tbmdxf5


DHS announces crackdown on trade ‘loophole’ popularized by Shein, Temu.

The Department of Homeland Security outlined a plan Friday to increase screenings of textile shipments imported through a trade provision used heavily by e-commerce giants including Temu and Shein. The increased scrutiny is part of a push to better identify products that are violating a U.S. import ban on goods made with forced labor. Imports under the “de minimis” exemption allow individuals to import parcels valued at US$800 or less into the U.S. duty-free and with minimal inspection by customs officials. The number of these imports has skyrocketed as Temu and Shein have grown in popularity and U.S.-based brands have increasingly shipped directly from China manufacturers to shoppers. The DHS said it will also make more audits of “high-risk” facilities overseas and could potentially expand the list of entities that are banned from shipping to U.S. shoppers under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Some lawmakers have been asking federal agencies, including DHS, in recent months to name Temu as a violator of the UFLPA, The Information previously reported, arguing the site hasn’t done enough to prevent the use of forced labor in its supply chain. https://tinyurl.com/mxat77ev


US to award Samsung up to US$6.6 billion chip subsidy for Texas expansion, sources say.

The Biden administration plans to announce it is awarding more than US$6 billion to South Korea’s Samsung next week to expand its chip output in Taylor, Texas, as it seeks to ramp up chipmaking in the U.S., two people familiar with the matter said. The subsidy, which will be unveiled by Commerce Department Secretary Gina Raimondo, will go toward construction of four facilities in Taylor, including one US$17 billion chipmaking plant that Samsung announced in 2021, another factory, an advanced packaging facility and a research and development center, one of the sources said. It will also include an investment in another undisclosed location, the source said, adding that Samsung will more than double its U.S. investment to over US$44 billion as part of the deal. https://tinyurl.com/5828eh2h

TSMC stock jumps on Biden’s US$11.6 billion funding to boost US chip manufacturing.

Shares of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company rose as much as 3.2% on Monday as President Joe Biden’s administration approved nearly US$12 billion in grants and loans for the world’s leading semiconductor company to boost manufacturing operations in the US. TSMC stock traded at an intraday high of US$145.92 per share around 10:30 am ET, paring that gain to about US$143 shortly after 1 p.m. The deal positions the Taiwanese chip company to receive as much as $6.6 billion in grants and US$5 billion in direct funding from the Biden administration as part of the CHIPS and Science Act that was passed in 2022. https://tinyurl.com/2p9p8spy


America’s roads and bridges to get US$830 million for a climate makeover.

The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) is doling out nearly US$830 million in grants to 80 different projects aimed at strengthening US infrastructure against climate change. The funding will fan out over 39 states and territories to projects ranging from refurbishing aging bridges to expanding emergency evacuation routes. The grants are “the first of their kind,” according to USDOT, which is partnering with state, local, and tribal governments thanks to funding made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Climate change is intensifying risks to the nation’s transportation infrastructure. The number of billion-dollar weather disasters reached a record high last year. And even slow-moving calamities like rising seas are forcing communities to adapt to changing landscapes. The number of billion-dollar weather disasters reached a record high last year “From a drought causing the halt of barge traffic on the Mississippi River to subways being flooded in New York, extreme weather, made worse by climate change, is damaging America’s transportation infrastructure, cutting people off from getting to where they need to go, and threatening to raise the cost of goods by disrupting supply chains,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press release. The USDOT has pots of cash for four different types of projects. Roughly US$45 million will go into 10 projects to build out evacuation routes. Another US$45 million will be funneled into planning projects that include preparing for evacuations and conducting vulnerability assessments. Eight projects to protect or relocate coastal infrastructure, including roads and highways, will get US$119 million, including the Manasota Key Bascule Bridge used for storm evacuations in Florida and a stretch of the Newport Cliff Walk in Rhode Island that collapsed in 2022. The biggest chunk of money — US$621 million — is earmarked for other types of “resilience improvement.” That includes 36 projects aimed at making roadways, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure more impervious to flooding, rising temperatures, and other consequences of climate change. https://tinyurl.com/ycx5sv2f


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