This past week witnessed one of the most volatile stock reactions for multiple stocks on earnings we recall seeing. Amazon repurchased ~US$1.3 billion of its stock in January, the first buyback in a decade. After getting smashed earlier this year, Peloton stock shot up more than 30% after market on Friday after reports of Amazon’s acquisition interest. Facebook was set to shed about US$200 billion in market value, following its earnings report, in what would be one of the biggest one-day market capitalization wipeouts for any company on record. PayPal stock sank to a 21-month low Wednesday after the payments platform trimmed its financial forecast, citing the impact of inflation. On the flip side, The startup behind Bored Ape Yacht Club is reportedly in talks with Andreessen Horowitz for funding at a US$5 billion valuation. FTX, the third largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, raised US$400 million in a new funding round that valued the company at US$32 billion, the company announced Monday. Wag Labs Inc., the developer of dog-walking app Wag!, has agreed to go public through a merger with a blank-check company. San Francisco-based Wag and CHW Acquisition Corp. will have a value of about US$350 million as a combined company, according to a Thursday announcement confirming a Bloomberg News report. In Canada, this week we counted nearly a billion dollars of VC funding announcements, including a US$6 million investment by Stack Capital Group (STCK-TSX) into Montreal based Canadian travel Unicorn, Hopper. While announcements can be made after a decent amount of time has elapsed since the funding – this level of VC activity is nonetheless impressive in light of public markets volatility.
Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News
BlackBerry (BB-NYSE, BB-TSX) agrees to sell legacy patents for US$600 million.
BlackBerry announced that it has entered into a patent sale agreement with Catapult IP Innovations Inc., a Delaware company, pursuant to which BlackBerry has agreed to sell substantially all of its non-core patent assets to Catapult for total consideration of US$600 million. Patents that are essential to BlackBerry’s current core business operations are excluded from the transaction. BlackBerry will receive a license back to the patents being sold, which relate primarily to mobile devices, messaging and wireless networking. https://bit.ly/3Hyf5Ct
Healthspace Data Systems (HS-CSE) announces filing of prospectus supplement.
The Company announced the filing of a prospectus supplement (the “Prospectus Supplement”) to the Company’s base shelf prospectus dated September 14, 2021 (the “Base Shelf Prospectus”) with respect to the Company’s overnight marketed public offering (the “Offering”) of units of the Company (the “Units”), on terms previously announced in the Company’s news release dated January 26, 2022 and filed on SEDAR. The Offering will be conducted on a commercially reasonable agency basis for the issuance of up to 6,666,700 Units at a price of $0.60 per Unit for aggregate gross proceeds of up to $4,000,020. Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. is acting as sole agent and bookrunner for the Offering. https://bit.ly/3orkLXE
Stack Capital Group (STCK-TSX) investments US$6 million into Hopper.
The Company has committed to invest US$6 million into Hopper Inc. (“Hopper”) – the world’s fastest-growing AI-powered travel tech platform which strives to help consumers save money with more flexibility. Hopper has quickly become the #1 travel app downloaded in the US and, at the same time, grown its market share to solidify itself as one of the largest online travel providers. “Travel and leisure will undoubtedly be an extremely attractive sector coming out of the pandemic and Hopper is poised to capitalize on pent-up consumer demand,” said Jimmy Vaiopoulos, CFO of Stack Capital. https://bit.ly/3scLBn6
Koho secures $210 Million to give more Canadians access to wealth creation.
Spurred by the growth of financial products designed to support Canada’s underbanked, Toronto-based FinTech startup Koho has secured $210 million in Series D financing to democratize access to wealth creation in Canada. One of the largest FinTech funding rounds ever raised in Canada, the financing comprises $150 in primary capital, $10 million in secondary for early shareholders and members of the Koho team, and a $50 million debt facility. The round was led by US-based holding company Eldridge, with follow-on funding from past investors Drive Capital, TTV Capital, and Portage Ventures. BDC, HOOPP, and Round 13 Capital also participated in the round. According to the company, the new funding puts Koho “very close” to a $1 billion unicorn valuation. https://bit.ly/3rqLg0W
RenoRun closes $181 million Series B to fuel Canada, US expansion.
Montréal-based startup RenoRun has raised $181 million to scale its building material delivery model across North America. The company’s Series B round, which closed in late December, was co-led by New York’s Tiger Global and California-based Sozo Ventures with support from a large and diverse group of new and existing investors. RenoRun’s financing included an unspecified amount of debt and secondary capital. The company declined to disclose the exact breakdown to BetaKit, along with who sold shares as part of the round or RenoRun’s valuation. https://bit.ly/3AWoVLU
LeddarTech scores US$140 million in Series D funding and debt.
Québec City-based LeddarTech, which builds systems that help autonomous vehicles understand their surroundings, has secured US$140 million in Series D funding and debt. LeddarTech’s financing consists of US$116 million in equity Series D capital led by FS Investors, and a $24 million debt facility from Desjardins Group. The Series D round was first reported by La Presse. LeddarTech described this $116 million USD in Series D funding as its “first close,” and declined to disclose how much the company ultimately aims to raise as part of the round when reached for comment. LeddarTech plans to use the funding to support the development and commercialization of its sensor fusion and perception solutions. LeddarTech said the fresh capital will support the development and commercialization of its proprietary sensor fusion and perception automotive solutions. The Canadian firm also plans to use this funding to bolster its engineering capabilities as it looks to meet demand from global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and automotive customers. https://bit.ly/3orDqCw
League raises US$95 million in its bid to rule the world of healthcare platforms.
Digital health company League now has another US$95 million to put toward ambitions of building the leading digital platform for an integrated health system after its latest funding round, the company announced Tuesday. The Series C funding haul brings League’s total funding to more than $205 million, the company said. The most recent funding round was led by TDM Growth Partners with Workday Ventures and other unnamed existing investors also participating. League, which has offices in Toronto and Chicago, develops the operating system on which payers, providers, consumer health companies and employers can build their applications to increase engagement and personalization for consumers. https://bit.ly/3LmhCSP
Hydrogen production tech startup Ekona Power closes $79 million Series A. Burnaby-based cleantech startup Ekona Power has closed its $79 million equity Series A round. The financing was led by oilfield company Baker Hughes. The amount of Baker Hughes’ investment was undisclosed, but was reportedly the first tranche of its Series A round and gave it a 20 percent stake in Ekona, according to Business in Vancouver. A spokesperson for Ekona told BetaKit the $79 million marks the company’s total funding to date. https://bit.ly/3opjal8
Vosker receives $60 million investment from GardaWorld founder.
Remote monitoring startup Vosker has received a $60 million investment from entrepreneur Stéphan Crétier, along with “certain affiliates,” to support Vosker’s global expansion. Crétier is the founder of GardaWorld, a private security firm headquartered in Montréal. GardaWorld claims to operate in more than 425 locations in 35 countries worldwide.The funds will go toward improving Vosker’s technology, hiring staff, and pursuing acquisitions. The company has developed remote monitoring cameras that use artificial intelligence and internet of things technologies to survey areas and provide customers with imagery and data. https://bit.ly/3rrjOQV
Kognitiv Announces $48.5 million in financing.
Kognitiv Corporation, a global leader in the rapidly expanding market for collaborative commerce, today announced it has secured $48.5 million in financing transactions to expand its innovative collaborative-commerce (“C-commerce”) platform and fund working capital. https://bit.ly/3gm2fv8
Gandeeva Therapeutics raises $40 million in Series A funding to scale precision imaging tech.
Vancouver-based biotech firm Gandeeva Therapeutics recently secured $40 million in its Series A funding round. The lead investors were venture capital firm Lux Capital and Leaps by Bayer, the venture arm of pharmaceutics company Bayer. Obvious Ventures, Amgen Ventures, Amplitude Ventures, and Air Street Capital also participated in the round. A spokesperson told BetaKit that the $40 million (31 million USD) raised is Gandeeva’s total funding to date. Founded in 2018, Gandeeva is developing precision imaging solutions with the integration of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and artificial intelligence (AI). Its technology can be applied to advance drug discovery and by lowering risks of late-stage clinical failures. https://bit.ly/3L4i1cl
Amplify Capital closes $30.7 million for second fund, eyes Québec startups with Montréal office.
Toronto-based Amplify Capital has secured the final close for its second impact investment fund, raising a total $30.7 million exceeding its initial $30 million goal. Founded in 2016 as the MaRS Catalyst Fund with a $5.8 million Fund I, Amplify rebranded and spun out of the MaRS Discovery District in 2019. Fund II’s investor base includes limited partners Royal Bank of Canada, Fondation Lucie et André Chagnon, Fondaction, VanCity, Jona Capital, Toronto Foundation, Metcalf Foundation, Hamilton Community Foundation, Mirella and Lino Saputo Foundation, and a number of undisclosed family offices with ties to Canada’s tech and innovation sector. https://bit.ly/3HvtRKp
Data monetization platform TickSmith raises $20 Million Series A.
TickSmith, a startup with a data selling platform, has reeled in $20 million in Series A funding, bringing its total capital to $26.8 million.Launched in 2012 by co-founders Francis Wenzel (CEO), David Côté (COO), Marc-André Hétu (CPO), and Tony Bussieres (CTO), TickSmith offers an e-commerce data shopping experience for businesses. It provides the tools necessary to prepare, manage, package and monetize data. Its applications allow capital markets and financial institutions to “interpret value and gain insights” from financial data. Investissement Québec led the December round with participation from Fonds de solidarité FTQ, CME Ventures, Databricks Ventures, with additional funding from existing investors Anges Québec, Anges Québec Capital, and Illuminate Financial Management. https://bit.ly/32WYRno
CDPQ reinvests $20 million in Québec-based Laps.
Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) announces a $20 million reinvestment in Laps. The company now comprises three transactional sites specialized in the purchase and resale of reconditioned sports equipment: Golf Avenue and Golfbidder, respectively the North American and European leaders in the golf sector, as well as Cycling Avenue, the Canadian leader in the cycling sector. With this investment, the company intends to continue executing its ambitious growth plan, while pursuing its mission of maximizing product life. This transaction will also allow Laps to further optimize its technology platform by capitalizing on data science and artificial intelligence. Through its brands, Laps now has close to one million customers and expects to double its sales by 2024. https://bit.ly/3GuLloN
ClearEstate secures $13.25 million Series A led by OMERS Ventures.
OMERS Ventures leading the funding round, joining an ownership group including Diagram, Torstar, Triangle and National Bank of Canada. ClearEstate expanding, recruiting extensively in four largest US states. https://bit.ly/34BeHEy
Proptech startup VendorPM raises $6 million in Bessemer-led seed round.
Toronto-based SaaS startup VendorPM has closed a $6 million seed round led by Bessemer Ventures. Proptech and real estate inventors also participated in the financing, though their names were not disclosed. Built in 2019, VendorPM’s platform enables property management companies to organize all aspects of their vendor relationships and resources. Its two-sided marketplace supports both property managers and service vendors, enabling the latter to market their services, as well as provide quotations and proposals. The proptech startup said its technology supports over 400 building services across maintenance, operations, capital expenditures, and professional services. https://bit.ly/3gouNEb
Coinbase adds Shopify (SHOP-NYSE-SHOP-TSX) CEO to board of Directors.
Coinbase announced on Monday that Tobias Lütke, who leads the ecommerce giant Shopify, will be joining its board of directors. In a blog post, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong touted Lütke’s early support for cryptocurrency and suggested the Ottawa-based Shopify could play a key strategic role in crypto’s future. “Shopify sits at the nexus of three important areas that crypto seeks to revolutionize: Finance and payments, web applications, and the internet itself,” wrote Armstrong. The overlap between Shopify and Coinbase is not new. The latter has long used Coinbase Commerce to offer crypto payment options to the millions of merchants, which include the likes of Pepsi and Tesla, that use its web-shopping service. https://bit.ly/3HJiL4F
Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A
Startup investors cut valuations amid tech stock rout, dismal IPOs.
The recent stock rout is rattling the multitrillion-dollar market for startups after a long run of record investments, nosebleed valuations and rapid-fire deal-making. Venture capitalists say a significant reset in investment behavior is beginning to take hold that is poised to reduce initial public offerings, leave some companies short of funding and crimp valuations. Investors say several large startup backers are cutting back their investments, curtailing a flow that sprayed at full blast for most of the pandemic, particularly for older, more mature startups. And venture firms say they are advising their companies to prepare to conserve cash in a tougher funding environment. Tiger Global Management, one of the most prolific startup investors of the last two years, in recent weeks has been renegotiating investments that had been under discussion for numerous companies, reducing the valuations, people familiar with the deals said. Venture capitalists say other investors are doing the same. https://on.wsj.com/3goCBpz
Dog walking app Wag! to go public in SPAC deal with CHW.
Wag Labs Inc., the developer of dog-walking app Wag!, has agreed to go public through a merger with a blank-check company. San Francisco-based Wag and CHW Acquisition Corp. will have a value of about US$350 million as a combined company, according to a Thursday announcement confirming a Bloomberg News report. The company, to be named Wag! Group Co., is expected to be listed on the Nasdaq under the symbol PET. The company has raised an equity placement at US$10 a share from existing investors including Battery Ventures, ACME Capital, General Catalyst and Tenaya Capital. The transaction also includes US$30 million in debt financing from Blue Torch Capital. Wag in 2019 repurchased a 50% stake in itself from SoftBank Vision Fund, which first invested US$300 million in the company in 2018. In addition to dog walking, Wag provides on-demand services such as pet sitting, training and drop-in checks. It offers a monthly subscription for these services in 50 states. https://bloom.bg/3AZ0FJh
Vertical farming firm Kalera eyes SPAC deal.
Another vertical farming operation revealed its plans to hit Nasdaq by way of SPAC. This week, Florida-based Kalera announced plans to merge with Agrico Acquisition Corp. in a deal that values the agtech firm at US$375 million. The move comes as plenty of excitement swirls around the category, though Kalera, which currently lists on the Euronext Growth Oslo exchange, has seen a notable stock price drop over the last year. The company’s falling value is notable, as it has seen its stock fall from a 52-week high of US$5.99 per share to just US$0.91 as of its most recent close, per Google Finance data. (The company intends to delist from its current exchange as part of the transaction, its release states.) https://tcrn.ch/3sgBIoL
FTX valued at US$32 billion in new funding round.
FTX, the third largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, raised US$400 million in a new funding round that valued the company at US$32 billion, the company announced Monday. Among the investors participating were SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Paradigm, Tiger Global, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board. The new investment comes less than four months after FTX raised US$420 million at a US$25 billion valuation in October. Last week, FTX US, the company’s American trading affiliate, announced it raised US$400 million at an US$8 billion valuation. FTX makes money by charging transaction fees on trades. The company also recently launched FTX Ventures, a US$2 billion fund that invests in cryptocurrency startups. https://bit.ly/34iNKG4
The startup behind Bored Ape Yacht Club is reportedly in talks with Andreessen Horowitz for funding at a US$5 billion valuation.
The startup behind the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club non-fungible token collection is in talks with Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) for a funding round that would value it at up to US$5 billion, according to the Financial Times. Bored Ape Yacht Club is a collection of 10,000 digital images of cartoon apes with various attributes like hats or glasses, and count the likes of rapper Eminem, NBA star Steph Curry, and late-night television host Jimmy Fallon as owners. Yuga Labs is currently discussing selling a multimillion-dollar stake to venture capital giant a16z, among other firms, according to the FT. Any deal would signify the first institutional investment into Yuga Labs and signal its role as a major player in the growing world of digital collectibles. https://bit.ly/3GwUI7o
Meta set for US$200 billion wipeout, among worst in market history.
Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. is set to shed about $200 billion in market value, in what would be one of the biggest one-day market capitalization wipeouts for any company on record. Shares in the social media giant slumped as much as 22% in premarket trading after it gave a forecast for the first quarter that missed estimates amid stagnating user growth and increasing competition from TikTok. If those losses hold, Meta could see nearly $200 billion in value wiped out — more than the current market capitalizations of 460 of the S&P 500’s members. https://bloom.bg/3goYYLE
PayPal stock price sinks as inflation pressures lead to weak guidance.
PayPal stock sank to a 21-month low Wednesday after the payments platform trimmed its financial forecast, citing the impact of inflation. For 2022, PayPal now sees full-year revenue growth of 15% to 17%, lower than the company’s projection of 18% issued in November. “The persistence of inflationary effects on personal consumption, labor shortages, supply chain issues, and weaker consumer sentiment have led us to adopt a more cautious outlook,” said CFO John Rainey on an earnings call late Tuesday, according to a transcript. Shares dropped as much as 27% to US$129.01, hitting their lowest price since May 2020. Volume was heavy with more than 58 million shares exchanging hands. https://bit.ly/3LaVkmB
Amazon adds to Rivian stake, takes more than 5% stake in Uber-backed Aurora Innovation.
Amazon.com Inc. disclosed that it boosted its stake in electric-vehicle maker Rivian Automotive Inc. to more than 18% and initiated a stake in self-driving software company Aurora Innovation Inc. of more than 5%. Amazon said late Wednesday it now owns 162,086,884 shares of Rivian, or 18.1% of the shares outstanding, which at current prices would be valued at about US$9.75 billion at current stock prices. That would be enough to make the ecommerce giant Rivian’s largest shareholder, according to FactSet; Ford Motor Co. is the fifth largest with a 10.7% stake. https://bit.ly/3sjc1DL
Amazon repurchased stock in January, for the first time in a decade.
Amazon.com Inc. disclosed in its annual report Friday that it spent US$1.3 billion to repurchase 500,000 shares during the period from Jan. 1, 2022 to Feb. 2. The repurchases were significant, because that’s the first time the ecommerce and cloud giant has bought back stock since 2012, when it spent US$960 million to repurchase 5.3 million shares, despite having buyback programs in place since then. The company currently has a US$5 billion repurchase program in place, that was set in February 2016. The company has never paid a dividend. Amazon shares shot up 12.1% in premarket trading, after the company reported blowout fourth-quarter earnings late Thursday. https://bit.ly/3rrc4yf
Peloton stock shoots more than 30% higher after report of Amazon acquisition interest.
Peloton Interactive Inc. shares jumped more than 35% in after-hours trading Friday after a report that potential acquirers including Amazon.com Inc. are sizing up the exercise equipment maker. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday afternoon, citing “people familiar with the matter,” that Amazon had hired advisers to discuss a potential deal for Peloton, which has seen a pandemic boom in sales dissipate and take its stock price down with it. No other potential acquirers were named, but the report suggested there were others. An activist investor wants Peloton’s board to fire its chief executive and sell the company, which the Journal also first reported. Peloton’s stock closed at US$24.60 Friday, lower than the US$29 price charged in its 2019 initial public offering, but shares surged easily past US$30 in after-hours trading following the report. https://on.mktw.net/3GqOIgp
Vista and Elliott to buy Citrix for US$16.5 billion.
Private equity firm Vista Equity Partners and an affiliate of Elliott Investment Management are buying aging enterprise software firm Citrix Systems for US$16.5 billion in cash, reflecting Vista’s longstanding efforts to consolidate the enterprise software market. Citrix is one of a number of older enterprise software firms that is trying to shift its business towards the cloud and subscription-based software sales, and away from selling software on an a la carte basis. Its revenue has grown very slowly in recent years: Citrix reported fourth quarter numbers today that showed 2021 revenue fell slightly from 2020. Since 2016, Citrix’s revenue has grown only 18%. Vista and Evergreen said Citrix would be combined with TIBO Software, a firm Vista already owns. Vista has been investing in the enterprise software market for years, so far with mixed success. The Wall Street Journal reported today that Vista had repeatedly tried to sell Tibco. Vista is paying US$104 a share in cash for Citrix, which is below where the stock closed on Friday. Speculation about a deal has swirled in recent weeks: Bloomberg reported on the Vista interest in mid-January. But Citrix stock had been rising from around US$80 in early December. https://bit.ly/35RJDBk
Sony jumps after announcing deal to acquire Bungie for US$3.6 billion as video game M&A heats up.
Shares of Sony Group jumped on Monday after the company announced it is acquiring Bungie — the developer behind Destiny and Halo franchises — for US$3.6 billion as video game mergers and acquisitions heat up. Sony’s stock price surged 5.92% to US$113 at 1:22 p.m. in New York. It was last seen trading 3.78% higher to US$110 as of 2:55 p.m ET. The company’s American depositary receipts were halted pending the news. The move follows Microsoft’s blockbuster acquisition of Activision, the major video game publisher behind the “Call of Duty” franchise, in an all-cash deal valued at about US$68.7 billion, and Take-Two Interactive’s purchase of mobile game maker Zynga in a deal worth US$12.7 billion. Take-Two is the video game publisher behind “Grand Theft Auto” and “Red Dead Redemption.” https://bit.ly/3rpVxuh
‘Wordle’ acquired by New York Times for over US$1 million, could pave the way for an iOS App.
After quickly becoming a viral hit, the popular Wordle word game has now been acquired by The New York Times. The publisher announced the deal today, saying that Wordle will become an official part of The New York Times portfolio, but will also remain completely free to play. Will Shortz, editor of the New York Times Crossword said: “What’s nice about Wordle is how simple, pleasant and attractive the computer interface is. Limiting players to six guesses per day and rationing out one puzzle per day adds excitement to the solving process, he said. “It’s a great puzzle, and it doesn’t take long to play, which make it perfect for our age when people have short attention spans.” According to the announcement, The New York Times paid “an undisclosed price in the low seven figures” to acquire Wordle. The game was first developed by Josh Wardle, a software engineer based in Brooklyn. https://bit.ly/32Ywnd5
Pinterest adds augmented reality feature for home decor.
Pinterest Inc. is introducing a new augmented reality tool for home furniture, allowing consumers to see how the items would look in their homes via the company’s mobile app. The tool will initially work with 20,000 products from retail partners such as West Elm, Crate & Barrel Holdings Inc. and Wayfair Inc., according to Pinterest. It will be available on pins, as the company calls posts on its image-sharing platform. Price and further product details also appear within the pins. People use Pinterest partly as a way to discover products that they might want to buy, a habit that retail marketers want to encourage with augmented reality, said Jeremy King, the company’s senior vice president of engineering. And the ability to picture furniture in homes will help people make purchase decisions, as the company has seen with a similar virtual try-on tool for beauty products, he said. https://on.wsj.com/3rrdCZ6
Apple aims to debut a new low-cost 5G iPhone and iPad in early March.
Apple Inc. is targeting a date on or near March 8 to unveil a new low-cost iPhone and an updated iPad, according to people with knowledge of the matter, kicking off a potentially record-setting year for product launches. The announcement will mark Apple’s first major event since a new MacBook Pro debuted in October. Like the company’s other recent launches, it’s expected to be an online presentation rather than in-person, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. https://bloom.bg/3LnuOH0
Quest users have spent over US$1 billion on VR content, Meta announces.
Consumers have spent more than US$1 billion on virtual reality content in the Quest Store, Meta Platforms’ games and app store for its Quest line of headsets, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced. Zuckerberg also unveiled plans to launch a mobile version of its Horizon Worlds social app later this year. Meta did not, however, disclose sales figures for its Quest headsets. The company has not disclosed any sales figures since the headsets debuted in early 2019 but there was an expectation it might do so today, the first time it broke out financial metrics for Reality Labs, the unit overseeing AR and VR. It is not clear how users of a Horizon Worlds mobile app will be able to interact with or create content for VR users and vice versa. Using Horizon Worlds currently requires one of Meta’s VR headsets. Together with Horizon Workrooms and Horizon Home, the apps under the Horizon umbrella represent Meta’s early forays into development for the metaverse, which the company anticipates investing billions into over the next decade. https://bit.ly/3HwfZ2q
Microsoft’s next-gen HoloLens plans have reportedly been scrapped.
Microsoft’s mixed reality division has scrapped its plans for a successor to the HoloLens 2 enterprise headset in recent months, Business Insider reports. The change increases uncertainty around the HoloLens team as Microsoft pursues a hardware partnership with Samsung and suffers a drain on talent as engineers decamp for competitors like Meta Platforms and Google. Microsoft’s planned purchase of Activision Blizzard suggests company leadership sees growth in consumer gaming and entertainment as a key contributor to its metaverse plans. Meanwhile, some in the HoloLens team reportedly believe that Microsoft should continue to focus on mixed reality hardware for enterprise buyers and the military, even amid reports of setbacks for the US$21 billion IVAS U.S. Army headset project. HoloLens leader Alex Kipman previously confirmed that Microsoft was “working on a consumer journey” for the expensive headsets. In a statement, Microsoft asserted that HoloLens is still critical to the company’s metaverse and mixed reality plans and that it remains committed to “future HoloLens development.” https://bit.ly/3J3UBSu
DeepMind AI rivals average human competitive coder.
After simulating 10 contests, with more than 5,000 participants, AI system AlphaCode has ranked in the top 54% of competitors. https://bbc.in/3sabQuC
Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting
GTA 6 confirmed: Rockstar finally says it’s in development.
After years of rumours and reports, Rockstar has confirmed it’s working on a new Grand Theft Auto game, and said that it’s “well underway”. News of the game’s confirmation has sent shares of Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of Rockstar, up 7%. https://bit.ly/3uxzWSZ
Betting giant Entain stakes out its Metaverse bid with a plan to build immersive sports and gaming.
Sports betting and gaming giant Entain wants to become a metaverse pioneer, and it is investing US$133 million in a center to build immersive experiences for customers. Entain, which owns the Ladbrokes and bwin betting businesses, said Monday it will set up a “global innovation hub” called Ennovate to develop the sports and entertainment products. The UK-listed company will use the investment to back start-ups and develop applications for non-fungible tokens (NFTs), virtual reality, and augmented reality. https://bit.ly/3LcNw43
Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory
Snapchat sees recovery from Apple’s ad policy that’s hurting Facebook.
Apple’s new privacy policies have certainly had an impact on the advertising revenue of multiple companies like Meta. However, it’s not just the Facebook owner that has had its business hurt. Snap Inc. (which owns Snapchat) was also affected by the changes made to iOS, but now the company says that it is recovering from the impact. As reported by Wall Street Journal, Snap on Thursday shared its fiscal Q4 2021 results with great numbers that beat market expectations. The company had US$1.3 billion in revenue and a net income of US$22.6 million during the quarter. The social network (which calls itself a camera app) had 319 million daily active users, while the average revenue for each was US$4.06 – above the expectation of US$3.79. Prior to the announcement, Snap shares dropped more than 23% due to investor concern after Facebook revealed its losses in the last quarter. However, following Snap’s good results report, its shares were up 42% in after-hours trading. https://bit.ly/3rpzyUy
FTC to review Microsoft’s US$69 billion Activision deal.
The antitrust review of Microsoft and Activision Blizzard’s US$69 billion tie-up will be overseen by the Federal Trade Commission rather than the Department of Justice, Bloomberg reported late Monday. The two agencies share antitrust enforcement in the U.S. and split up merger reviews largely along industry lines, though the tech sector sometimes makes the divide less clear. The DOJ has historically reviewed software deals and has had jurisdiction over Microsoft’s acquisitions dating back to its landmark antitrust case against the company in the 1990s. The FTC however has historically reviewed gaming deals. The FTC taking the reins could be viewed as an acknowledgement of the DOJ antitrust head Jonathan Kanter’s years of work for Microsoft in private practice which would have likely required his recusal. Both FTC Chair Lina Khan and Kanter have taken a tough stance against dealmaking, so the fact that the FTC is handling the matter instead of the DOJ is unlikely to portend a more rigorous review. https://bit.ly/3gpnDzB
Biden administration considers rule change to address potential TikTok risks.
The Biden administration is weighing a possible rule change that would give the government greater control over foreign apps such as TikTok, after earlier revoking a Trump-era plan to ban the Chinese-owned app, the Wall Street Journal reports. The proposed rule would expand government oversight to cover apps that could be used by “foreign adversaries to steal or otherwise obtain data,” according to the Journal, which cited a filing in the Federal Register. That means the commerce secretary would essentially have the power to ban apps if they posed security risks. Under the proposal, apps such as TikTok may have to undergo third-party auditing and other data-transparency measures.
“That rule is going to be significant, and will be a tool in the way that we deal with the threat,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told the Journal. However some lawmakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), argue the government has been too slow to act. https://bit.ly/34hNYgF
Apple urges Senate against bill to allow apps outside app store.
Apple is once again fighting against bills that try to force the company to allow distribution of iOS apps outside the App Store. This time, the company urged US lawmakers to reject an antitrust bill in the US Senate that would allow users to install any apps on iPhone and iPad. As reported by Bloomberg, Apple has written a letter to Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin and Republican Chuck Grassley claiming that the S. 2710 bill will “hurt user privacy and security” if passed. The legislation would make Apple allow “sideloading” on iOS, which is the process of installing software downloaded through the web or sources other than the official App Store. Apple fears that “big media platforms” will bypass Apple’s guidelines for protecting user data if sideloading on iOS is allowed. Tim Powderly, Apple’s head of government affairs in the Americas, also said that enabling software installation outside the App Store would make it easier to spread malware and scams among iOS users. https://bit.ly/3AVjPja
Amazon is increasing the annual price of Prime to US$139 in the US.
Amazon is increasing the price of Prime in the United States, the company announced on Thursday as part of its quarterly and full-year earnings release. The monthly fee is going from US$12.99 to US$14.99 and the annual membership is rising from US$119 to US$139, marking a 17% increase. The price change will go into effect on February 18 for new Prime members. For existing members, the price will apply after March 25, on the date of their next renewal. The e-commerce giant says the reason for the increase is due to the continued expansion of Prime member benefits and the rise in wages and transportation costs. https://tcrn.ch/3gpZ9Xa
Losses mount for startups racing to deliver groceries fast and cheap.
A venture capital-backed battle is raging in New York City in the burgeoning field of instant delivery. At least six startups, including Gorillas Technologies Ltd., Jokr SARL, Getir Perakende Lojistik AS and Buyk Corp., are vying to win the chance to ferry groceries to customers within 10 to 20 minutes of their order placement on an app. https://on.wsj.com/3sdTTLA
Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency
Visa says crypto-linked card usage hit US$2.5 billion in its first quarter.
Visa said during its recent earnings call that customers made US$2.5 billion in payments with its crypto-linked cards in its fiscal first quarter of 2022.That was 70% of the company’s crypto volume for all of fiscal 2021. “To us, this signals that consumers see utility in having a Visa card linked to an account at a crypto platform. There’s value in being able to access that liquidity, to fund purchases and manage expenses, and to do so instantly and seamlessly,” Visa CFO Vasant Prabhu told CNBC in a phone interview, providing insight as the company reported better-than-expected earnings and revenue after the bell Thursday. https://cnb.cx/3BcbYxX
Facebook’s Diem to sell assets for US$200 million after botched stablecoin attempt.
Mark Zuckerberg’s stablecoin ambitions appear to be coming to an unceremonious end, with his Diem project folding and selling off its assets. According to sources, Diem is looking to sell its assets for UD$200 million after being frustrated by U.S. regulators who have been united against the project. https://bit.ly/3s4iIcR
India will launch a digital rupee in the next year and plans a 30% tax on crypto-related income, according to the finance minister.
India appears to be warming up to cryptocurrencies, with an announcement by the finance minister on Tuesday of plans for a digital currency rolled out by the central bank, along with a framework to regulate and tax crypto assets. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, as part of her annual budget speech, said the central bank would aim to roll out a digital rupee in the coming fiscal year. This marks a major U-turn for the government, which had signaled it could ban cryptocurrencies outright, until the upper house of parliament clarified that digital assets should be kept on exchanges and monitored correctly by a market regulator. https://bit.ly/3AXHwXU
Norway’s Central Bank is investigating Bitcoin SV (BSV) as a central bank digital currency.
Metaverse mortgages are being issued to buy virtual land — and one of the first ever was just signed for a property in Decentraland.
TerraZero Technologies has facilitated one of the first ever “metaverse mortgages” for a client buying virtual property in the ethereum-based metaverse platform Decentraland. The Web 3.0 company said it provided the majority of the financing, according to a statement released over the weekend. But financial terms nor the client’s identity were disclosed. TerraZero did not immediately respond to a request for comment. “Mortgages and financing availability will expedite the development and adoption of the metaverse,” CEO Dan Reitzik said in the announcement. “We are excited to be at the forefront of this new and exciting economy.” https://bit.ly/3rsreDo
Nike cries foul over virtual shoes, suing retailer that sells sneaker NFTs.
Sneaker giant Nike sued online reseller StockX in New York federal court on Thursday for selling unauthorized images of Nike shoes, marking the latest lawsuit over digital assets known as non-fungible tokens. Nike said StockX’s NFTs infringe its trademarks and are likely to confuse consumers. Its lawsuit asked for unspecified money damages and an order blocking their sales. Detroit-based StockX, a platform for reselling sneakers, handbags and other goods, was valued at more than US$3.8 billion last year. https://reut.rs/3shRnEb
GameStop enters NFT marketplace with Immutable X partnership.
GameStop Corp. said Thursday it has entered a partnership with Immutable X Pty Ltd., under which it will create a fund of up to US$100 million in Immutable X’s IMX tokens, which will be used for grants to creators of non-fungible token content and technology. “Immutable X will also become a layer-2 partner and platform for GameStop and the company’s NFT marketplace that is expected to launch later this year,” the videogame retailer said in a statement. Under the terms of the deal, Immutable X will provide up to US$150 million in IMX tokens to GameStop upon achieving certain milestones. The companies are now inviting creators from gaming studios, web 3.0 and metaverse developers to become content creators on its NFT marketplace. https://bit.ly/3L8jPAV
Ford will spend up to US$20 billion more in shift to electric vehicles.
Ford will spend as much as US$20 billion to reorganize its business for the electric future, according to Bloomberg. The automaker is also mulling whether to spin off some of its EV business as a special acquisition company (SPAC) in order to attract more investment. Ford has previously stated that it would spend US$30 billion on electric and autonomous vehicle development by 2025. Ford is reportedly putting former Apple and Tesla executive Doug Field in charge of the reorganization, which will include converting its factories from gas-powered to electric vehicle production and hiring more engineers. (General Motors, which is reporting its fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday evening, recently announced an initiative to hire 8,000 people to help staff up its EV efforts.) https://bit.ly/3gmSnRI
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