Monday saw the one the highest number of SEC S-1 filings for high profile companies going public, as we have seen in nearly fifteen years in capital markets. September, should be a very interesting month!

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Gatekeeper (GSI-TSXV) announces $5 million financing at $1 per unit. The Company has received unsolicited interest for the entirety of the Financing, and does not anticipate any finders fees or commissions to be paid in connection with the Financing. The Company intends to use the proceeds of the Financing to fund growth initiatives and for general corporate purposes. Each Unit in the Financing will consist of one common share of the Company and one common share purchase warrant (each, a “Warrant”), with each Warrant entitling the holder to acquire one additional common share at a price of $1.10 for a period of twenty-four (24) months from the date of closing. Should the stock price trade over $1.35 per share for a period of ten consecutive trading days, the Company will have the right to accelerate the expiry of the Warrants by providing notice to the holders of the Warrants by news release that the Warrants will expire on the date that is not less than 30 days from the date the notice is provided. https://bit.ly/3gFKG7e

AlayaCare secures $15 million debt facility from CIBC Innovation Banking. The capital comes in the form of a debt facility that AlayaCare plans to use to “increase its presence in North America and Australia.” A spokesperson for CIBC declined to disclose the type of financing the debt facility entailed. Founded in 2014, AlayaCare has developed an end-to-end healthcare software platform that aims to help home and community care agencies manage their operations. The startup provides both traditional in-home and virtual care solutions that include clinical documentation, back-office operations, financial management, a mobile app, family portal, and remote patient monitoring. The $15 million debt facility follows a successful year of financing for AlayaCare. In January, the Montreal startup announced it had secured a $47.9 million extension for its Series C round, the first portion of which had been announced in July 2019. The extension brought AlayaCare’s Series C to $115.8 million. Notably, however, the initial Series C capital included an $18 million secondary buyout of the company’s early investors. https://bit.ly/32y0Ydc

Insurtech Breathe Life raises $11.5 million to accelerate go-to-market strategy. Breathe Life, the Montreal startup that has developed a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for insurance carriers, has raised $11.5 million CAD to further enhance its offering. The $11.5 million includes an all-equity $6.5 million Series A round that was co-led by new investor Investissement Québec and Real Ventures, which took part in Breathe Life’s seed financing. Diagram Ventures, which led the startup’s seed round, also participated in the Series A, alongside Clocktower Technology Ventures, Cameron Ventures, Desjardins, and the venture capital arm of National Bank, NAventures. https://bit.ly/2G3jt1z

Entertainment tech startup Wrapbook raises $4.7 million seed round. Toronto and New York-based Wrapbook, which creates software for workforces in the media production space, has raised a $4.7 million seed round of equity financing. This round represents Wrapbook’s first external round of funding. The round was led by Equal Ventures, with participation from Uncork Capital, founder of Paylocity, Steve Sarowitz, and other undisclosed investors also participated in the financing. Wrapbook plans to use the capital to enhance the user experience on its platform. Founded in 2018, Wrapbook has developed payroll software specifically for media production companies. Its digital onboarding tool allows producers to set up a cast and crew for a media production quickly, sometimes within days of shooting. The onboarding tool is aimed to save hours of startup and administrative paperwork. https://bit.ly/3hvDLhS

SeamlessMD raises $4 million Series A to meet increased demand for digital patient engagement due to COVID-19. Toronto healthtech startup SeamlessMD, which provides a cloud-based patient engagement app, has raised a $4 million Series A round led by Montreal’s MEDTEQ+, a federally and provincially-funded Quebec non-profit that invests in medical technology. The round, which the company said was oversubscribed, also included financing from Hikma Ventures, Anges Québec, AIoT Health, and health IT entrepreneur Sanjay Malaviya, the founder and former CEO of patient safety software company RL Solutions (now RLDatix). https://bit.ly/31zykcl

Verto Health raises $2 million seed round to better connect healthcare providers, patients. Toronto-based healthtech startup Verto Health has closed a $2 million seed round led by MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (MaRS IAF). The round also included financing from Verstra Ventures, Amplify Capital, and undisclosed strategic investors in digital health. Verto aims to improve clinical workflow by connecting healthcare providers and patients. The startup’s platform uses “digital twin technology,” which creates virtual replicas of physical entities, like bodies or devices. The company said it plans to use the new capital to grow its sales and marketing teams across North America, develop its products, and scale-up operational support “to address significantly increasing demand.” Verto told BetaKit investors have committed to providing additional support if required. https://bit.ly/3jA5PSb

SWTCH raises $1.1 million to expand smart electric vehicle charging across North America. SWTCH Energy Inc. and its co-founders Carter Li and Laura Bryson are looking to address the challenges of urban electric vehicle ownership in North America. The startup, which was founded in 2016, has created what it calls an end-to-end electric vehicle (EV) charging and energy management solutions. “[SWTCH is] trying to make it easier for the real estate developers and the property managers to provide this amenity to the tenants.” It sells the EV charging solution to multi-unit residential and commercial properties, and last year SWTCH pulled in more than $1 million in revenue. SWTCH has now raised a $1.1 million CAD seed round to fuel the expansion of its charging network across North America. The seed round was led by IBI Group, a Canadian design company focused on building infrastructure for cities of the ‘future’. Active Impact Investments, Cogito Capital, Export Development Canada (EDC), and Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) also participated in the round. Bryson (COO) and Li (CEO) founded SWTCH in 2016 after facing personal difficulties trying to install an EV charging station in their downtown Toronto condominium. https://bit.ly/2YDMPtP

Preciseley announces equity investment and partnership with Ace Equity Partners and BDC Capital. Precisely, a designer and supplier of MEMS-based micro-mirror solutions that form a critical component of high-speed optical communication network equipment, today announced a partnership with ACE Equity Partners (“ACE Equity”) and BDC Capital to support the Company with its next stage of growth. Through this new equity investment by ACE Equity and the Growth Equity division of BDC Capital, Preciseley will be able to leverage ACE Equity’s domain expertise in cross-border advanced industrial technologies and its relationships across the telecom value chain, as well as BDC Capital’s network and experience helping scale Canadian technology businesses, to continue Preciseley’s global expansion. https://bit.ly/34CMnQ9

Canadian venture capital investment hits record in Q2 2020 despite COVID-19. The second quarter of 2020 saw $1.66 billion in venture capital invested across 145 deals, a 23 percent year-over-year increase and more than double the amount invested in the first quarter of 2020 ($818 million). The almost $1.7 billion invested in the quarter is the highest amount of venture capital invested in a Q2 since the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) began collecting data on the industry in 2013. This quarter, which tracks VC activity between April and June, is the first quarter of 2020 that reflects the effect of the COVID-19 on the market. However, Kim Furlong, CEO of the CVCA, expressed surprise to see such a strong quarter. Furlong attributed the surprisingly high amount of venture capital to stimulus and incentives from the federal government, as well as VC firms “doubling down” on investing in the “leading stars” in their portfolios. https://bit.ly/3hCvV6q

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

Regulators approve NYSE for direct listings with capital raise. This is the exchange’s second attempt after the SEC rejected its first proposal for a rule change late last year. In the latest proposal, a company has to sell at least US$100 million worth of shares, or the combined value of outstanding shares must be at least US$250 million. Earlier this week, NYSE rival Nasdaq, filed with the SEC for approval of its own rule-change proposal to allow companies to do the same. The big picture: Since music streaming giant Spotify paved the way in 2018, only Slack has taken the direct listing plunge, with now Asana and Palantir set to do the same. https://bit.ly/3gDSE0k

China’s Ant Group files for IPO in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Ant Group, Alibaba’s financial services affiliate, filed for an initial public offering in Hong Kong and Shanghai Tuesday, officially kicking off the process for what is expected to be one of the world’s biggest ever IPOs. While the filing didn’t disclose the pricing or valuation for the listing, bankers expect the deal to value Ant at well over US$200 billion. Ant, which operates China’s biggest digital payment app Alipay, generates revenue by collecting fees from merchants for payment and other services, and also by providing financial institutions with technology services. According to the filing, Ant’s revenue in the first half of this year rose 38% to more than US$10 billion, while net profit rose more than eleven-fold to about US$3.2 billion. Its Alipay app had 711 million monthly active users as of June, up from 659 million six months ago. https://bit.ly/2CYLjLh

Airbnb IPO could be the ‘steal of the century,’ Jim Cramer says. The coronavirus pandemic has carved out a lane for lodging company Airbnb and it makes the forthcoming IPO even more enticing, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Monday. “I think it’ll be a steal,” the “Mad Money” host said. The ongoing global health crisis devastated the travel and hotel industries, as countries put flight restrictions and lockdown orders in place to stop the spread of the deadly virus. Airbnb, which connects travelers with property rentals, was not spared as conditions forced the company into cost-cutting mode where it laid off about 25% of its workforce and reduced marketing spending. Wall Street speculated whether Airbnb would shelve its plans to go public this year. https://cnb.cx/3lvTEaD

Asana files to go public through direct listing. Workplace software firm Asana, which last raised money at a valuation of US$1.5 billion in 2018, has filed to go public through a direct listing. For its 2020 fiscal year ended Jan. 31, Asana reported revenue of US$142.6 million, an 86% increase from the US$76.8 million it reported the previous year. Asana’s net loss more than doubled during the period, from US$50.9 million to US$118.6 million, according to the filing. Asana’s revenue grew 70% to US$47.7 million in the first three months of fiscal 2021 compared to last year. The Information reported earlier this month that Asana was projecting revenue of US$236 million for its fiscal 2021, which would be a 66% increase. One challenge for Asana is developing features to entice users of its free software to upgrade to paid plans, which requires heavy investment in hiring engineers and salespeople. But Asana, like many other software companies, is in a tough spot since its salespeople can’t meet face-to-face with customers due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. But Asana’s ratio of paid to free users has been improving steadily, growing from 3.6% in January 2018 to 4.8% in January of this year. https://bit.ly/2Qq6AAo

Highly valued software startup Snowflake files for IPO. Snowflake,  an enterprise-software startup valued at more than US$3 billion by private investors, is planning an initial public offering. The eight-year-old data-management company set a goal of raising US$100 million in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, though that is typically a placeholder amount that will be updated in future filings. Snowflake was expected to go public this year by many observers, and files amid a rush of IPO filings taking place despite a global pandemic. Other software companies to file for IPOs Monday included Unity Software Inc., Sumo Logic and Jfrog Ltd. The San Mateo, Calif., company reported that revenue more than doubled in its most recent fiscal year, which ended Jan. 31, to US$264.7 million from US$96.7 million; that growth stayed consistent in the first six months of the current fiscal year, when sales grew to US$242 million from US$104 million. Net losses also grew in the previous fiscal year, but are now declining – Snowflake reported a net loss of US$348.5 million in the 2020 fiscal year, up from a loss of US$178 million, but losses in the first six months of the current fiscal year totaled US$171.3 million after hitting US$176.9 million in the same period the year before. The company intends to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker SNOW, and the offering will be led by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. https://on.mktw.net/34xBeQU

Unity Software files for IPO with plans to list on NYSE under ticker ‘U’. Unity Software Inc., a maker of software for real-time 3D content, filed for an initial public offering on Monday, with plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “U.” In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it’s seeking to raise up to US$100 million, although that sum is likely a placeholder sum. There are 11 banks underwriting the deal, led by Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse. Proceeds of the deal will be used for general corporate purposes, as well as to repay US$125 million of debt under a credit facility. https://on.mktw.net/3b1AnJh

Telemedicine company Amwell files for IPO. Amwell has filed for an initial public offering, the Boston-based telemedicine company said late Monday. The number of shares to be offered and a price range have not been determined, and a SEC registration statement has been filed but it is not yet effective, the company said. Amwell has applied to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol AMWL. Deal managers include Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Piper Sandler. Amwell said it offers its telehealth products and services to more than 2,000 hospitals and 55 health plan partners with more than 36,000 employers. Separately, Amwell said it entered a partnership with Google Cloud “to deliver transformative telehealth solutions across the global healthcare ecosystem.” The coronavirus pandemic “has resulted in historic telehealth utilization, making it a priority and, in many cases, a preference for patients, providers, and health plans,” the companies said. Services range from automating checkouts, translations, and assisting with routine tasks, they said. Alphabet’s Google Cloud will invest US$100 million into Amwell “to evolve and scale its telehealth portfolio,” they said. Google Cloud’s investment will be through a concurrent private placement at a buying price to be the same as the IPO price, the companies said.  https://on.mktw.net/2EBK6dm 

Palantir files to go public, lost about US$580 million last year. Data analytics company Palantir Technologies has released its prospectus to debut on public markets. The company aims to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol PLTR. Rather than sell shares through an initial public offering, the company intends to debut with a direct listing, the same unconventional route taken by Slack in 2019 and Spotify in 2018. Palantir lost US$588 million, or US$580 million on a pro-forma basis, in 2019, according to the filing. Revenue grew almost 25% from the year earlier while the loss stayed about the same. In the first half of 2020, it lost US$165 million, or US$175 million on a pro-forma basis. https://cnb.cx/34LWVNa

Cloud software firm Sumo Logic files to go public. Cloud software firm Sumo Logic has filed to go public, becoming the latest software company headed to the public markets this fall. It joins Snowflake, which confidentially filed for an initial public offering, as well as Palantir and Asana, both of which are opting for direct listings. Redwood City, Calif.-based Sumo Logic has yet to be profitable. It lost US$92 million last year, according to securities filings. It had revenue last year of US$155 million, up 50% from the previous year. The company was last valued at US$1.2 billion in May 2019 and has raised US$346 million to date. Investors include Battery Ventures, IVP, Franklin Templeton Investments and Tiger Global Management, among others. https://bit.ly/2EtFOVb

Peter Thiel-backed startup Luminar to go public in US$3.4 billion merger. Driverless car startup Luminar Technologies Inc., backed by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, is going public via a US$3.4 billion merger with blank-check company Gores Metropoulos Inc., bolstering efforts to get its laser sensors onto the production lines of global automakers. Investors in Gores Metropoulos cheered the deal, sending the entity’s shares up as much as 10% to US$11.60 apiece, the biggest jump since March 2019. The deal will be paid for with US$400 million in cash from the blank-check company, as well as US$170 million from other investors including Thiel, a unit of Volvo Car AB and GoPro Inc. founder Nick Woodman, according to a statement on Monday that confirmed an earlier Bloomberg News report. Luminar is the latest entity to merge with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. The investment vehicles have gone mainstream this year, offering a faster route for startups seeking to go public without the scrutiny or risks of an initial public offering. Auto tech companies have benefited from the boom in blank-check deals, as investors who might have earlier favored traditional IPOs now seek businesses with higher growth. In June, another company that makes sensors used in self-driving vehicles, Velodyne Lidar Inc., announced a deal to merge with blank-check company Graf Industrial Corp. After the deal closes, Luminar will be traded on the Nasdaq Select Market under the ticker LAZR. https://bloom.bg/2EvPVZC

GoodRx files to go public, boasting profits. The wave of initial public offering filings doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. On Friday, prescription drug coupon company GoodRx joined the fray with one notable distinction: Profitability. In the first half of 2020, GoodRx netted US$55 million in profit, a 77% increase from the same period a year ago, during which it made US$31 million. According to the filing, the pharmacy tech company has been profitable since 2016, which sets it apart from the bumper crop of other tech companies who have filed paperwork to go public in recent weeks, such as Palantir, Snowflake, Asana and Unity Software. In 2018, GoodRx was valued at US$2.85 billion. It was an early entrant into what has become an increasingly competitive industry, and now faces competition from not only the traditional healthcare giants, but tech juggernauts like Amazon and Walmart. https://bit.ly/2GcuyNV

New China export controls raise questions about TikTok sale. New export controls announced Friday by China raise questions about the sale of TikTok to a U.S. buyer. China’s regulators added some types of artificial intelligence to its list of banned items, which potentially gives China’s government a role in the sale by possibly requiring Chinese government approval. The list, issued by the Ministry of Commerce, included technology that provided “personalized content recommendations based on data analysis,” according to the Nikkei Asian Review. The list didn’t specify TikTok, but its core technology is a personalized recommendation engine to serve up content to its users. The U.S. government has effectively ordered ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, to sell the popular video sharing app to a U.S. company to avoid getting banned over national security concerns. Different consortiums of bidders—the apparent top bids are led by Microsoft and Oracle—are vying to buy TikTok before a deadline set by the Trump administration’s executive order. ByteDance did not immediately reply to request for comment. https://bit.ly/31HNUCA

Walmart shares jump after report it’s partnering with Microsoft on TikTok bid. Walmart stock jumped 4.4% in Thursday trading after a CNBC report that it is teaming up with Microsoft on a bid for the video sharing site TikTok. Chinese-owned TikTok has been under pressure to sell its U.S. operations, with President Trump raising the specter of TikTok as a potential threat to national security. Microsoft and Oracle have been named as prospective buyers. CNBC reports that TikTok is close to selling operations in New Zealand and other countries, in addition to the U.S., in a deal that could reach US$30 billion. TikTok’s Chief Executive Kevin Mayer has resigned amid the discussions. Walmart stock has gained 14.8% for the year to date. Microsoft stock is up 45.6%. https://on.mktw.net/3hFM62H

Walmart wanted to be majority owner of TikTok, and was teamed up with Alphabet and SoftBank before Microsoft. Walmart and Microsoft might seem like an unlikely partnership to acquire TikTok’s U.S. assets, but until very recently the retailer had other plans. Before teaming up with Microsoft in recent days, Walmart was part of a consortium put together by SoftBank Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure, which also included Google parent company Alphabet, according to people familiar with the matter. https://cnb.cx/34NOQY2

Kevin Mayer quits as TikTok CEO due to ongoing political turmoil. TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer has left the company amid ongoing disputes with the Trump administration and sale talks. The news was first reported by the Financial Times. “We appreciate that the political dynamics of the last few months have significantly changed what the scope of Kevin’s role would be going forward, and fully respect his decision,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge. https://bit.ly/3ljNxpX

Airbnb extends employee work-from-home until the end of August 2021, the latest of any major tech company. https://bit.ly/34BMoDY

Emerging Technologies

Amazon introduces Halo fitness tracker and health subscription. Amazon.com is rolling out a new health service called Amazon Halo, combining artificial-intelligence tools with a wrist-worn fitness tracker, setting up competition with Fitbit and capitalizing on home workout trends amid the pandemic. The Halo app will provide “insights” into sleep patterns, activity, workouts and the like, Amazon said. Amazon will be working with the American Heart Association, the Mayo Clinic, Headspace, and other health organizations on some of the features, it said. The Halo Band has seven days’ worth of battery life and fully charges in under 90 minutes, the company said. Amazon is selling an “early access” package to the Halo for US$64.99, which includes six months of Halo membership. That membership then renews for US$3.99 a month afterward. The package will normally cost US$99.99, Amazon said. The announcement comes shortly after Fitbit introduced its newest products, which include a watch with stress-management capabilities and an upgraded version of its fitness tracker that comes with a one-year free trial of Fitbit’s own premium subscription service for health matters. https://on.mktw.net/31zM3Qf

Apple may be on track to extend its lead over rivals with rumored blood oxygen detection feature. Growing demand for health-focused features as a result of the pandemic largely helped drive the global smartwatch market in H1 2020. Counterpoint Research noted that smartphone shipments grew in the markets most affected by the pandemic, such as India and the US, which helped to soften the blow from other markets where shipments declined. And nearly 3 in 5 smartwatches shipped in H1 2020 featured heart rate monitoring. Apple may be on track to extend its lead over rivals with its rumored blood oxygen detection feature. At its annual WWDC conference, Apple signaled its commitment to building out the Watch’s health-focused capabilities when it announced new features including a sleep-tracking feature to monitor sleeping habits. However, Apple’s rumored SpO2 tracking (blood oxygen saturation) addition to the upcoming Watch Series 6 could be its key to further strengthening its hold on the smartwatch market. SpO2 levels are an important metric to track during this time, as they can alert users to a potential coronavirus infection — and new smartwatch models with health features like the ability to detect SpO2 levels should see mass adoption in the year ahead, Counterpoint Research notes. https://bit.ly/3gwThst

Elon Musk demonstrates Neuralink’s tech live using pigs with surgically implanted brain-monitoring devices. Elon Musk -founded Neuralink has made headlines over the past many years around it efforts to develop a new kind of interface between the human brain and computing devices. On Friday, the company provided a demo of the technology, and Musk kicked off the demo by saying that the purpose of the entire presentation was recruiting — not fundraising or any other kind of promotion. “We’re not trying to raise money or do anything else, but the the main purpose is to convince great people to come work at Neuralink, and help us bring the product to fruition — make it affordable and reliable and and such that anyone who wants one can have one,” he said. Musk then went on to say that the reason he wants to make it generally available is that just about everyone will have some kind of neurological problem over time, including memory loss, anxiety, brain damage, depression and a long list of other ailments. Of course, there’s no clear evidence that any of this long list of problems can be quickly and easily “solved” with any one solution, so it’s a bit challenging to see this as a reasonable end goal for the company. https://tcrn.ch/3baALFm

Elon Musk hints at major developments in battery technology in 3 to 4 years that could make next-generation electric planes possible. With the company’s hotly anticipated Battery Day just around the corner, Tesla CEO Elon Musk hinted at major developments coming to his company’s battery technology over the next few years. In a Monday tweet, Musk suggested that within three to four years Tesla could mass produce a battery with an energy density of 400 Wh/kg. That would represent a more than 50% increase in capacity over the batteries currently powering Tesla’s Model 3, which researchers estimate have a density of 260 Wh/kg, per Reuters. Musk has a history of being outspoken about the potential of electric aircraft becoming more common in everyday life, and has previously detailed ideas for a more advanced electric jet that could take off without a runway. But in a September 2018 interview with comedian and podcaster Joe Rogan, Musk said that he didn’t find the pursuit of a Tesla electric aircraft to be “necessary right now,” instead stating that he wanted to dial in on preserving energy. “Electric cars are important,” Musk said in the interview. “Solar energy is important. Stationary storage of energy is important. These things are much more important than creating electric supersonic VTOL [vertical take-off and landing].” https://bit.ly/3joh5kp

US announces US$1 billion research push for AI and quantum computing. The US government is announcing US$1 billion in new funding for multidisciplinary AI and quantum computing research hubs today, according to multiple reports. A total of 12 hubs will be funded, each embedded within different agencies of the federal government. Their work will span a diverse range of topics, from using machine learning for atmospheric and ocean science, to speeding up high-energy physics simulations with quantum systems. The investment is part of a slow push from the White House to fund emerging technologies. Many policy advisors have worried that America is falling behind in AI and quantum research compared to rivals like China, and warn that these technologies are instrumental not only for economic development but also national security. https://bit.ly/3hzTHzQ

An F-16 pilot took on A.I. in a dogfight. Here’s who won. A computer program easily beat a top U.S. fighter pilot in five rounds of simulated F-16 flight combat during a competition intended to spur the development of artificial intelligence that helps pilots during aerial dogfights. The A.I. program won all five rounds in under two minutes, showing the technology’s promise.

A Robot tried to fix value investing and ended up buying Amazon. Artificial intelligence has been touted as a solution for everything from ending lines at the checkout to rooting out systematic bias in Wall Street hiring. It was almost inevitable that someone would suggest using it to fix value investing. https://bloom.bg/2QrF9pW

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

Apple TV+ to add augmented reality bonus content next year. As we close in on Apple TV+’s first year, the service is gradually growing its library of premium-brand original shows and movies, with Apple ordering dozens of series this year to start production as coronavirus restrictions ease. Bloomberg reports that Apple is also planning to take TV+ into another dimension, with the addition of augmented reality content. Rather than fullly-fledged AR movies, Bloomberg describes the addition of AR into TV+ as a new form of bonus content offered alongside its originals, in a similar vein to directory commentary tracks or deleted scenes: In the new feature, elements of a TV show, like characters or objects, would be displayed on a viewer’s phone or tablet and integrated into the surrounding environment. For example, someone watching a moon-walking scene in the Apple show “For All Mankind” might be able to see a virtual lunar rover on their device’s display, seemingly perched atop their living room coffee table. https://bit.ly/2YD6utZ

PUBG Mobile is getting a big 1.0 update and a US$2 million eSports tournament. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds may have been eclipsed on console and PC by the flashier battle royale games it inspired, but the mobile version of the seminal shooter continues to be one of the largest and most successful games on the planet. And now it’s getting a 1.0 update that promises huge boosts to performance and other benefits just in time for a planned US$2 million esports tournament set to kick off in November. Starting in November, PUBG Mobile’s esports circuit will start hosting a combined World League and World Championship event, called the PUBG Mobile Global Championship, that will bring together pro players from the Americas, Europe, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and China to compete for a prize pool of US$2 million. “Due to the global pandemic, an onsite audience may not be possible for PMGC Season Zero, but if it is safe to do so, the league will begin in late November, taking place across multiple studios,” the team says. Since its release in 2018, PUBG Mobile has grown into one of the most successful games on the planet, out-earning the original PC version with an eye-popping US$1.3 billion in revenue last year, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. The game now has more than 600 million downloads and 50 million active players, not including the Chinese mainland where a rebranded version of the game called Game for Peace (redesigned to appease China’s strict censorship and content laws) reportedly has an additional 150 million active players. https://bit.ly/2YOxoPJ

Spotify is launching an exclusive League of Legends esports podcast. Spotify keeps adding to its exclusive podcast arsenal, and, it’s getting into the esports space. The company announced a multiyear partnership with Riot Games that’ll make Spotify the hub for all League of Legends audio content, including exclusive podcast series. At least one show will launch this year, called Untold Stories: Top Moments from Worlds, a nine-episode series that’ll lead up to the 10th League of Legends championship this fall. Listeners will hear about the players and top anthem through game highlights, interviews, and game sound effects. Two music playlists, including the existing, “This is League of Legends,” will be updated regularly, too. Spotify’s also planning to dedicate a day to the Worlds Anthem, a song Riot releases every year to kick off its annual championship competition, to give listeners a behind-the-scenes look at how the music was made. The partnership might seem somewhat unlikely, but it makes sense given how popular League of Legends’ music appears to be. The game’s YouTube channel has a playlist dedicated to music videos from the game, and more than 21 million people have watched. The game is also an official user on Spotify with its top track counting more than 154 million listens.

Apple pulls Epic’s App Store developer account, removing all of its games beyond ‘Fortnite’. Escalating its war with Epic Games, Apple on Friday canceled the videogame publisher’s account on the App Store. The two companies are locked in a legal dispute over the fees that Apple charges app makers. When Epic came up with an unauthorized payment system that sidestepped the tech giant’s 30% commission on in-app purchases, the hugely popular game “Fortnite” was yanked from the App Store, and updates such as this week’s new season will not be available on Apple devices. With Friday’s moves, the rest of Epic’s games will not be allowed in the App Store. As of Friday, a search for Epic Games in the App Store‌shows no apps. https://on.mktw.net/2QzNEi

Judge temporarily restrains Apple from blocking Unreal Engine, Fortnite ban upheld for now. Following a hearing between Apple and Epic’s lawyers about ten hours ago, the judge has made her first ruling on the case. Epic had asked for restraining orders to prevent Apple from blocking Fortnite and the Unreal Engine (as Apple had said it will terminate all of Epic’s developer accounts on the 28th). Epic ‘won’ on half of it. Apple has now been given a restraining order which prevents it from terminating developer accounts relating to Unreal Engine or other Epic properties. However, Epic did not get a temporary order to force Apple to put Fortnite back on the App Store. In the hearing, the judge announced at the beginning of the session that she was inclined to restrain Apple from blocking the Unreal Engine development and was inclined not to proceed with the Fortnite order. This filing reflects her initial intentions, so Apple and Epic’s lawyers clearly did not change her mind. https://bit.ly/32sE3Qi

Microsoft just joined Epic Games’ fight against Apple, with an Xbox leader arguing that banning the ‘Fortnite’ maker would hurt gamers and video game creators. In the ongoing legal spat between Apple and “Fortnite” maker Epic Games, the latter just got an unexpected ally. Microsoft general manager of gaming developer experiences Kevin Gammill officially submitted a letter to the court in support of Epic on Sunday. He wasn’t writing because he’s upset about “Fortnite” being pulled from the App Store, but because of the ripple effects of this particular legal battle between Apple and Epic. Gammill works with game developers on behalf of Microsoft’s Xbox, and he’s concerned that Apple’s move to cut development ties with Epic “will harm game creators and gamers.” That’s because, beyond “Fortnite,” Epic also makes the Unreal Engine software suite – a set of software that’s used to create games, including the smartphone versions of “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” and, of particular note here, Microsoft-published smartphone racer “Forza Street.” When Apple yanked “Fortnite” from the App Store, the company also canceled Epic’s Developer Program contracts effective August 28. Without access to Apple’s developer technology, Epic says that it would be unable to issue updates to the Unreal Engine on iOS or Mac, which would in turn mean that any developer using the software would be unable to update their own games to support the new versions of iOS and Mac OS coming this year. In short: A variety of games on Apple’s App Store could be affected by Epic losing access to Apple’s developer program. https://bit.ly/31lh8XY

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

Facebook again criticizes iOS 14 privacy changes, warns of drastic effect on advertising industry. Facebook continues to warn advertisers about the effects of the privacy and tracking changes that Apple has planned for iOS 14. While a pair of earlier reports indicated Facebook’s concerns, the company has now published a blog post detailing how advertisers will be affected by iOS 14’s new anti-tracking features. https://bit.ly/3b59pka

Zuckerberg discussed TikTok concerns with lawmakers in October. Months before President Trump signed executive orders banning TikTok and other Chinese apps, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with Trump and other U.S. lawmakers to discuss his concerns over Chinese Internet companies, reported the Wall Street Journal late Sunday. Zuckerberg had a private White House dinner with the president, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Facebook board member Peter Thiel in October to argue that Chinese internet companies threaten American business and should be more of a concern than reining in Facebook, the report said, citing unnamed sources. The Facebook CEO also spoke about TikTok with several senators, including Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), the report said. The meetings followed Zuckerberg’s speech at Georgetown University in which the chief executive, facing criticism over how Facebook has handled misinformation and political advertising, hit hard on the theme of free expression and was sharply critical of Chinese apps like TikTok, claiming they acquiesce to Beijing’s demands for censorship. A Facebook spokesperson said Zuckerberg had no recollection of talking about TikTok with Trump over dinner. The closed-door meetings suggest Facebook sought to redirect some political pressure away from itself onto TikTok, which competes with its apps for young social media users. More recently Zuckerberg told Facebook’s staff that a ban on TikTok would set “a really bad long-term precedent,” according to Buzzfeed News. https://bit.ly/3hCPdIV

Meet the star witness: Your smart speaker. When police and prosecutors collect smart home or speaker data, it’s typically used as evidence against suspects. In 2016, police in Bentonville, Arkansas, requested Amazon Echo data in connection with a man’s death, believed to be the first such request. Amazon initially tried to block the request, but later handed over the data. A murder charge against the defendant was later dropped, but speaker, smart home, and wearable data has figured into multiple cases since then. Earlier this month, Amazon said it had received more than 3,000 requests from police for user data in the first half of this year, and complied almost 2,000 times. That was a 72 percent increase in requests from the same period in 2016, when Amazon first disclosed the data, and a 24 percent jump in the past year alone. Amazon doesn’t provide granular data on what police are seeking, but Douglas Orr, head of the criminal justice department at the University of North Georgia, says police now look for smart home data as routinely as data from smartphones. Data on a smartphone often points officers towards other devices, which they then probe as the investigation continues. https://bit.ly/2Qh0YbI


BigCommerce teams up with Facebook to unlock checkout on Instagram feature for US Merchants. BigCommerce, announced the availability of checkout on Instagram for eligible US merchants. BigCommerce merchants can be among the first to adopt the new feature, which provides shoppers an intuitive, seamless and secure way to purchase products they discover on Instagram in a few clicks, without leaving the app. https://bit.ly/2Evagif

Amazon’s latest AR shopping tool fills your space with virtual furniture. Amazon’s newest AR shopping tool will let you see furniture and other home decor in your space before you buy it, TechCrunch reports. Coming to the Amazon shopping app for iOS and desktop browsers, “Room Decorator” will let you see multiple items at scale and simultaneously. You’ll be able to store photos of your home so you can use the feature remotely, and you’ll be able to save room layouts if you’re not ready to make a purchase. Amazon released a similar AR shopping tool in 2017, but you could only view one item in a space at a time. Like that version, the new tool is built with Apple’s ARKit. Amazon also has an online Showroom that lets you place items in a virtual room to see if they match or clash. That tool was built by Amazon’s furniture team. Room Decorator was built by Amazon’s visual search team. As you might expect, IKEA also has an AR furniture shopping tool. https://engt.co/34Jl3QB

Amazon expands grocery business beyond Whole Foods with first Fresh store in Los Angeles. Amazon is aiming to crack open a new segment of the U.S. grocery industry with the launch of its Fresh store, bringing the e-commerce giant into more direct competition with chains like Kroger and Albertsons. The new format incorporates a blend of in-store and online shopping, while offering consumers a variety of products at lower price points than Whole Foods. Whole Foods, acquired by Amazon for US$13.7 billion in 2017, is known for its focus on organic goods and doesn’t sell products with artificial ingredients. The 35,000-square-foot store, which is roughly the size of a Whole Foods, will be stocked with supermarket staples like Nabisco cookies, Coca-Cola drinks and Kellogg’s cereal, as well as products from Whole Foods’ cheaper private-label brand, 365. Store aisles will also feature Amazon’s own brands, including Happy Belly snacks, Cursive wine and a new line of Fresh-branded food products. https://cnb.cx/3lhwnJk

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

ConsenSys acquires JPMorgan’s Quorum blockchain. Quorum, the enterprise blockchain platform developed by mega-bank JPMorgan Chase, is being acquired by ConsenSys, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Ethereum venture studio. Additionally, JPMorgan has made an undisclosed strategic investment in ConsenSys, the companies said in a statement. Neither ConsenSys nor JPMorgan would confirm the size of the investment made by the bank. https://bit.ly/2EjTHWp


Europe’s 5G plans in limbo after latest salvo against Huawei. The U.S.’s latest salvo against Huawei is creating headaches for European telecom operators locked into contracts with the Chinese telecom giant. Last week, Washington announced it is blocking the use of any American technology in microchips powering Huawei’s smartphones and networking equipment, dealing what some analysts called a “lethal blow” to the company. The rule, which entered into force on Thursday, could jeopardize Europe’s own telecom networks, potentially ramping up costs and creating delays to the deployment of the bloc’s 5G networks. https://politi.co/3grBDXj



Mark Carney to head ESG investing at Brookfield Asset Management. The mystery of Mark Carney’s next job is solved.Brookfield Asset Management Inc., the global investment firm with about US$550 billion in assets under management, has hired the former Bank of England governor to lead an ambitious expansion into environmental and social investing. https://bit.ly/3gAJLod

‘First of a kind’ UK project aims to unleash residential grid flexibility. A new residential grid flexibility service available in parts of the U.K. will combine energy storage, vehicle-to-grid and smart EV charging for the first time. The project, led by energy technology firm Kaluza, will trade that flexibility in close to real-time conditions. The program looks to shift EV charging away from times of high demand while tapping those EV batteries and an existing network of sonnen battery systems to bolster the grid as required. In addition to helping to balance the local grid, consumers will be able to make money by selling power back to it from their car or home batteries. https://bit.ly/2YAsDcm


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