We had a busy week in Canadian capital markets, marked by fundraising in public and private markets, as well as M&A activity. Public markets interest seems focused on the crypto, healthcare tech, esports/sports betting and ESG sectors. In the USA, high profile SaaS companies issued converts & bonds. High profile IPOs performed well, with the Visa-Plaid acquisition called off, with some speculating the company could choose to go public in an enthusiastic public market.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Voyager (VYGR-CSE) announces upsized private placement. The company announced that it increased the size of its previously announced best efforts private placement with Stifel GMP where the Company shall be offering for sale common shares of the Company (the “Shares”) for aggregate gross proceeds to the Company of approximately US$40,000,000 at a price US$5.50 per Share (equivalent of C$7.00 per share) (the “Offering”). http://bit.ly/3nT6Ia1  & http://bit.ly/3nOGpBW

Bitfarms (BITF-TSXV) announces $20.0 million private placement with U.S. institutional investors. http://bit.ly/3qgsDJL

Boardwalktech Software (BWLK-TSX) announces upsizing to previously announced private placement to $8 million. The company upsized its previously announced brokered private placement for gross proceeds of approximately $5 million. http://bit.ly/3qdKiSo

TGS (TGS-TSXV) announces $1 million strategic financing. The company announced a non-brokered private placement (the “Offering”) consisting of the issuance of up to 5,555,555 units (each, a “Unit”) at a price of $0.18 per Unit for aggregate gross proceeds of $1,000,000. Each Unit is comprised of one common share (each, a “Share”) and one non-transferrable common share purchase warrant (each, a “Warrant”). Each Warrant will entitle the holder thereof to acquire one Share (each, a “Warrant Share”) at a price of $0.25 per Warrant Share for a period of two years from closing of the Offering, subject to acceleration in the event that the Shares trade at or above $0.40 for ten consecutive trading days. http://bit.ly/3qrCV9Y 

Wishpond (WISH-TSXV) to acquire PersistIQ Inc. – a cutting edge sales automation technology company. PersistIQ has a user base of approximately 780 users, and generated revenue of US$1.1 million with EBITDA margins of approx. 20% in 2020.  PersistIQ is expected to expand Wishpond’s capabilities into the sales automation and communication space, thereby creating significant cross-selling opportunities and opening new customer segments for the Company. PersistIQ’s client base is primarily comprised of small medium sized businesses (SMBs), which is consistent with Wishpond’s target market.  In consideration for the Transaction, Wishpond expects the total purchase price to be approximately US$3 million, consisting of: (i) an aggregate of US$1 million paid on the closing date from cash on hand; (ii) US$1 million paid in common shares of Wishpond (each, a “Share”) at a price per Share equal to the 5-day VWAP of the Shares on the TSX Venture Exchange (the “TSXV”) on the closing date; and (iii) a one year earn-out of approximately US$1 million, based on the projected revenue of the business (the “Earn-Out”). http://bit.ly/3ihlQwC

EdTech startup Prodigy Education raises $159 million Series B round. Oakville, Ont.-based EdTech startup Prodigy Education, which offers an e-learning platform and math-focused games for elementary and middle school students, has raised a $159 million Series B round of financing. Prodigy Education recently expanded to India, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The round was led by TPG Growth, with participation from previous investor the Canadian Business Growth Fund (CBGF). Proceeds from the round will be used to help bolster the advancement of the startup’s Math Game, and strengthen its tutoring offering. Following the deal, David Trujillo, partner at TPG as well as TPG growth principal Jacqui Hawwa will join Prodigy’s board. http://bit.ly/2XMUu8c

Edmonton-based Jobber raises $76 million growth equity round. Jobber, the startup on a mission to become a comprehensive software provider for home service businesses, has raised $76 million in a growth equity round led by US investment firm Summit Partners. The financing will be used to continue the growth of Jobber’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) business, which provides management software for the home services sector, companies such as home repair, landscaping and cleaning providers. The round also saw investment from Tech Pioneers Fund, and longtime Jobber investors Version One Ventures and OMERS Ventures, the latter of which led the startup’s $8 million Series A round in 2015. http://bit.ly/2XJ6Aiz

Nuclear fusion tech developer General Fusion now has Shopify and Amazon founders backing it. In a brief announcement, the Canadian nuclear fusion technology developer General Fusion announced that the investment firm created by Shopify founder Tobias Lütke has joined the company’s cap table. The size of the investment made by Lütke’s Thistledown Capital was not disclosed, but with the addition, General Fusion has the founders of the two biggest e-commerce companies in the Western world on its cap table. Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, first invested in the company nearly a decade ago and General Fusion has been steadily raising cash since that time. In 2019, the company hauled in US$100 million. That capital commitment is part of a haul totaling at least, US$192 million, according to Crunchbase although the real figure is likely higher. http://tcrn.ch/2LuYEzh

Popular jewelry startup Mejuri is one of the most affordable places to buy everyday pieces, from solid gold hoops to stacking rings. Mejuri is a Canadian jewelry startup that makes affordable, fine jewelry meant to be worn every day. Bucking the idea that “nice” jewelry is for special occasions and gifts, 90% of its customers are purchasing jewelry for themselves. The lean D2C model makes it possible to order a 14K gold diamond necklace for US$300, and the company ensures the use of ethically sourced materials. http://bit.ly/3oN4Gtg

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

Three cloud firms issue convertible notes and bonds. Three cloud-based tech firms are raising money through either bonds or convertible notes, following a spate of convertible note issuance last year. DocuSign plans to issue US$500 million worth of convertible notes, while CrowdStrike plans to raise US$750 million in senior unsecured notes. And Box plans to issue US$315 million in convertible notes. That’s not all, though. Even electric vehicle maker Nio announced it issued US$1.3 billion in convertible notes this week. Convertible notes have features of both bonds and stocks. On one hand, they pay a fixed return in the form of a coupon, or interest payment. On the other hand, if the company’s stock price reaches a certain level, the note-holder can convert the bond to stock. The current low interest rate environment means that it’s cheaper for companies to issue convertible notes. http://bit.ly/3nDunej

Bumble files for IPO, to list on Nasdaq under the ‘BMBL’ ticker symbol. Bumble Inc. disclosed Friday that it has filed for an initial public offering, as the Texas-based dating-app maker is looking to go public at a time of strong investor for IPOs and after a strong year for rival Match Group Inc. . Bloomberg had reported last month that Bumble had filed confidentially for an IPO, and was seeking a valuation of US$6 billion to US$8 billion. Bumble has not yet determined the number of shares it will offering in the IPO, the expected pricing or the number of shares it expects have outstanding after the IPO. The stock is expected to list on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker symbol “BMBL.” Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are the lead underwriters. From Jan. 29, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2020, the company recorded a net loss of US$84.0 million on revenue of US$376.6 million. The company is looking to go public at a time that the Renaissance IPO ETF has run up 23.1% over the past three months while, which Match shares have soared 35.4% and the S&P 500 has gained 8.5%. http://on.mktw.net/35N2xXf

EV-tech company Proterra to go public through ArcLight SPAC. Proterra Inc., which makes electric buses and batteries, agreed to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company ArcLight Clean Transition Corp. The deal represents an enterprise value of $1.6 billion for Proterra and includes $415 million from investors Daimler Trucks, Franklin Templeton, Fidelity Management & Research Co. and funds and accounts from BlackRock, among others, according to a statement. It’s expected to close in the first half of 2021 subject to approval by ArcLight Clean’s shareholders. ArcLight Clean’s shares surged by as much as 78%. https://yhoo.it/3qdISY4

Poshmark surges 150% on its first day of trading after US$277 million IPO. Poshmark surged as much as 150% on Thursday as the second-hand goods provider made its public-market debut. The company’s shares quickly jumped above the offering price of US$42. This comes after Poshmark had initially marketed its shares in a range between US$35 to US$39. The Redwood-city based company raised US$277 million by selling 6.6 million shares in its initial public offering. Poshmark’s listing was led by the likes of Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Barclays Plc. Poshmark boasts one of the most successful online second-hand good marketplaces with 4.5 million active sellers as of Sept. 30, some of whom have made six figures on the site. The company offers over 200 million items to its 6.2 million active buyers, earning money by charging a 20% fee for sales of US$15 or more. https://bit.ly/3nXCToY

Affirm extends its 2-day post-IPO surge to 160%. Affirm extended its two-day post-IPO streak on Thursday as shares surged 31% at intraday highs. The stock has now skyrocketed as much as 160% since it began trading publicly on Wednesday. CEO Max Levchin said in a prepared video address after the IPO that more than 6 million consumers have used Affirm to pay-over-time since its founding. He also noted over 6,500 vendors have used the online lending platform to help drive sales, and the company has done all this without “charging a penny” in late fees or hidden interest. The online lender has seen over US$10 billion in Gross Merchandise Volume transacted through its platform since July 1, 2016, according to recent SEC filings. And it appears Affirm has been able to secure customer loyalty as well, with 64% of all loans being taken out by repeat customers. Still, some questions remain around Affirm’s reliance on one major customer, Peloton. The exercise equipment and media company represents some 30% of Affirm’s total revenue.

Playtika skyrockets 34% after raising US$1.88 billion in IPO. Shares of Playtika soared as much as 34% on Friday, giving the mobile game-developer a valuation of almost US$15 billion in its first day of trading on the open market. The jump comes after Playtika’s Thursday IPO raised US$1.88 billion for the firm as 69.5 million shares were priced at US$27 apiece. The share price exceeded the company’s initial targeted range of between US$22 to US$24, making the offering the largest Israeli IPO in history. Playtika shares trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “PLTK.” Caesars Entertainment then acquired Playtika before eventually selling the company to a group of Chinese investors in 2016. The firm now boasts over 3,700 employees in 19 offices around the world and notched revenue of $2.3 billion and adjusted EBITDA of $815 million for the 12 months ending Sept. 30. http://bit.ly/3suhA1v

FuboTV climbs over 35% in 2 days after accelerating plans to launch sports-betting platform. FuboTV shares are up over 35% in just two days after the company doubled down on its sports betting ambitions. The sports-streaming platform announced Wednesday it is set to acquire a sports betting and interactive gaming company called Vigtory. Vigotry is led by digital sports wagering entrepreneur Sam Rattner and former MGM Resorts president of interactive gaming Scott Butera, who was instrumental in launching BetMGM. David Gandler, co-founder and CEO of fuboTV, said he believes the move toward sports gambling will be highly complementary to fuboTV’s sports-streaming service. The CEO cited an estimate from Zion Market Research that predicts the online sports betting market will be worth over US$155 billion by 2024. http://bit.ly/2LUQRur

Motorsport Games shares soar 80% in trading debut. Motorsport Games Inc. shares soared 80% in their trading debut Wednesday, after the company’s initial public offering priced at US$20, the high end of its upwardly revised range. The Miami-based racing game developer sold 3 million shares to raise US$60 million. Underwriters Canaccord Genuity and The Benchmark Co. have the option to acquire an additional 450,000 shares. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, the company recorded net income of US$875,419 on revenue of US$16.11 million, after a loss of US$2.95 million on revenue of US$9.57 million in the same period a year ago. The Renaissance IPO ETF has gained 114% in the last 12 months, while the S&P 500 has gained 16%. http://on.mktw.net/3bM4I10

China’s Megvii kick-starts IPO on Shanghai’s Star Market after Trump added facial recognition giant to entity list. China’s Megvii Technology, one of the foremost developers of facial-recognition technology, is looking to favourable policies and more receptive investors at home to help bankroll its expansion in artificial intelligence. The Beijing-based owner of facial-recognition software Face++ has kick-started an initial public offering (IPO) on the Nasdaq-like Star Market in Shanghai. The Post reported in April that it was mulling such a plan. Megvii attempted to list in Hong Kong but let its application lapse in February last year after it was included on the Trump administration’s trade blacklist in October 2019. Inclusion on the blacklist meant that investment banks and overseas investors were likely to eschew taking part in the listing. China is nurturing local hi-tech companies to fulfil its ambitions of becoming the global leader in fields such as artificial intelligence by 2030 and trying to offset any damage to promising start-ups from the US-China trade war. http://bit.ly/3qesvum

Tencent-backed video-sharing app Kuaishou wins green light from Hong Kong to raise up to US$6 billion. The company, in which Tencent Holdings, China’s largest games publisher, owns a 21.6 per cent stake, was cleared by the listing committee of the Hong Kong stock exchange on Thursday night. The nine-year-old company can now launch its premarketing road show before final pricing on January 28 or 29. Its shares are expected to start trading before the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts on February 12, several people familiar with the matter have said. Kuaishou, which means speedy hands in Chinese, is one of two dominant players in China’s video-sharing market, which had 818 million short video users at the end of June 2020, according to the China Netcasting Services Association. It was valued at more than US$30 billion in its last funding round. Last year, it reported a first-half loss of 68 billion yuan (US$10.53 billion), or 373 million yuan in losses a day. It has a user base of 300 million daily live-streaming users, which makes it the world’s second-largest short video platform. ByteDance, the parent company of Tiktok, said Douyin, the Chinese version of the app, had 600 million daily users on average as of August last year, which makes it the largest such platform. http://bit.ly/39wQZbG

Visa will not acquire Plaid after running into regulatory wall.  Visa and Plaid called off their agreement this afternoon, ending the consumer credit giant’s takeover of the data-focused fintech API startup. The deal, valued at US$5.3 billion at the time of its announcement, first broke cover on January 13, 2020, or nearly one year ago to the day. However, the Department of Justice filed suit to block the deal in November of 2020, arguing that the combination would “eliminate a nascent competitive threat that would likely result in substantial savings and more innovative online debit services for merchants and consumers.” At the time Visa argued that the government’s point of view was “flawed.” However, today the two companies confirmed the deal is officially off. In a release Visa wrote that it could have eventually executed the deal, but that “protracted and complex litigation” would take lots of time to sort out. http://tcrn.ch/3oWoI4Q

Plug Power jumps 20% on joint venture with Renault to develop hydrogen vehicles. Shares of Plug Power soared as much as 20% on Tuesday after Renault said the two companies would form a joint venture to develop hydrogen powered commercial vehicles and taxis. Plug Power traded to levels not seen since 2006 on the news, hitting a high of US$65.45 in Tuesday trades. The 50/50 joint venture will be based in France and is set to launch by the end of the first half of 2021, according to Renault. http://bit.ly/35JzNOM

Beyond Meat stock leaps 16% after Taco Bell announces partnership with the faux-meat producer. Beyond Meat rose as much as 16%, to US$144.78 a share, after Taco Bell announced it’s partnering with the faux-meat producer to explore plant based protein menu options on Thursday. Taco Bell said that it’s partnering with Beyond Meat to create an “innovative new plant-based protein that will be tested in the next year.” Taco Bell’s parent Yum! Brands gained as much as 2.3% on Thursday. https://bit.ly/2LCgoIM

Emerging Technologies

Uber, Moderna to collaborate on supporting COVID-19 vaccine uptake.  Uber Technologies Inc. and Moderna Inc. said Tuesday they will collaborate to explore ways to support the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines. The ridesharing and delivery company and the biotech said they will work together to provide “credible information” on vaccine safety through Uber’s in-app messaging, and will look to identify opportunities to broaden access to COVID-19 vaccines. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine was authorized in December for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration, along with a vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE , but the administration of the vaccines has fallen well short of expectations. “As part of our commitment to help address COVID-19, Moderna will be working with a coalition of partners to educate, build trust around and increase awareness of the importance of vaccination in those communities significantly impacted by the pandemic,” said Moderna Chief Executive Bancel. “We look forward to combining our expertise with Uber’s capabilities and platform to support this important effort.” http://on.mktw.net/3bIR7Yf

GM unveils electric delivery van with 250 miles of range as part of new spinoff business. General Motors announced Tuesday it will be spinning out a new delivery and logistics business called BrightDrop, the first products of which will be an electrified pallet and delivery van. Both vehicles, which will be powered by GM’s Ultium battery platform, are slated for release this year. The announcement of the new logistics business comes as GM is undergoing a massive, US$27 billion pivot to the business of designing and manufacturing electric vehicles. BrightDrop will be a key piece of that pivot, in which hundreds of thousands of electric delivery vehicles are expected to hit the road in the years to come. GM envisions the new company “creating a one-stop shop, a complete ecosystem” for electric-powered delivery, including vehicles, software, and other services, said Pamela Fletcher, VP of GM’s global EV program. http://bit.ly/3nOH5Hr

Mobileye is bringing its autonomous vehicle test fleets to at least four more cities in 2021. Mobileye, a subsidiary of Intel, is scaling up its autonomous vehicle program and plans to launch test fleets in at least four more cities over the next several months, including Detroit, Paris Shanghai and Tokyo. Mobileye president and CEO Amnon Shashua said Monday during the virtual 2021 CES tech trade show that if the company can receive regulatory approval it will also begin testing on public roads in New York City. The expansion announcement, along with details about a new lidar System on Chip product that is under development and will come to market in 2025, illustrates Mobileye’s ambitions to commercialize automated vehicle technology and bring it to the masses. The selection of the cities and countries is based on two factors: customers and the regulatory environment, according to Jack Weast, a senior principal engineer at Intel and the Vice President of Automated Vehicle Standards at Mobileye. Mobileye has long dominated a specific niche in the automotive world as a developer of computer vision sensor systems that help prevent collisions. In 2018, the company expanded its focus beyond being a mere supplier to becoming a robotaxi operator; now it’s aiming to bring autonomous vehicle technology to passenger cars by augmenting its computer vision technology with the new lidar SoC it is developing with Intel. http://tcrn.ch/2LTEvT9

Apple allegedly held talks with EV startup Canoo about developing its own car. Rumors about Apple Car have become more frequent in recent weeks, and it seems there’s more to come. The Verge reported today that Apple had talks last year with Canoo, a startup focused on electric vehicles and related technologies, to push the development of the long-rumored Apple-branded car. According to the report, both companies discussed the possibility of investments and even an acquisition by Apple in the first half of 2020. Sources told The Verge that Apple was widely interested in Canoo’s scalable electric vehicle platform, which is called a “skateboard.” It consists of integrating more of the car’s electronics using steer-by-wire technology, which allows increased flexibility in cabin design. Apple was looking to acquire Canoo, but the startup was only interested in working with the Cupertino-based company by taking investments. Both companies stopped negotiations after Canoo entered on the NASDAQ stock exchange in December. http://bit.ly/2KjgnZF

Bloomberg: Apple developing foldable iPhone prototypes, launch is still unclear. In November last year, a report citing Chinese suppliers claimed that Apple began testing folding iPhones for a launch in 2022. Bloomberg corroborated that rumor with a new report about Apple now working on an iPhone with a foldable screen — although the launch schedule is unknown. According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple is developing a new iPhone model that can be folded. This new version is expected to compete with similar Samsung devices such as Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Flip. However, it’s unclear whether this folding iPhone will see the light of day. http://bit.ly/3qrDqB8

FAA approves first fully automated commercial drone flights. U.S. aviation regulators have approved the first fully automated commercial drone flights, granting a small Massachusetts-based company permission to operate drones without hands-on piloting or direct observation by human controllers or observers. The decision by the Federal Aviation Administration limits operation of automated drones to rural areas and altitudes below 400 feet, but is a potentially significant step in expanding commercial applications of drones for farmers, utilities, mining companies and other customers. It also represents another step in the FAA’s broader effort to authorize widespread flights by shifting away from case-by-case exemptions for specific vehicles performing specific tasks. The FAA’s decision, after four years of testing across eight states, is expected to quickly open up additional opportunities for larger-scale testing as well as some fledgling new commercial markets eyed by the fast-growing drone industry. The immediate users will be agricultural operations in Kansas, Massachusetts and Nevada. But by authorizing the company’s fully automated imaging drones to routinely fly in designated zones with remote control and monitoring, the agency opened the door to a range of additional uses that eventually could include other drone models, with higher and longer flights over more-populated areas. http://on.wsj.com/39A0JSo

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

Esports streaming numbers for 2020 up 69 percent YOY in latest report from Engine Media’s Stream Hatchet. Engine Media’s (TSX-V: GAME; OTCQB: MLLLF) gaming live streaming data analytics and analysis experts Stream Hatchet have highlighted the ever-expanding popularity of esports streaming in 2020 – maintaining growth despite the return of traditional sports in the second half of the year. Stream Hatchet has released its 2020 industry trend report, highlighting the esports market’s continued growth, which rode an initial wave in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. https://cutt.ly/rjRhQU7

Video game spending increased 27% in 2020. According to the latest figures from NPD, spending on gaming hardware, software and accessories was up 25% in December and 27% for the full year. Hardware specifically increased 38% year-over-year for December to US$1.35 billion, with the arrival of next-gen consoles from Sony and Microsoft. That’s the highest figure since the US$1.37 billion hit in December 2013, the year the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 arrived. In spite of this year’s new arrivals (which were hampered by limited availability), Nintendo’s Switch once again dominated sales for the month, with the PS5 grabbing the No. 2 spot. The Switch’s 2020 was the second-highest annual performance for a console, after the Wii in 2008. http://tcrn.ch/3bTbWAp

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

Tech giants risk breakup under strict EU digital rules. U.S. and other major tech platforms that treat their own services more favorably, at the expense of rivals, could be forced to sell businesses and pay billion-dollar fines under strict rules unveiled by the European Union. Under the EU’s new Digital Markets Act, companies deemed to be so-called “gatekeepers” won’t be allowed to rank their offerings above rivals on their own platforms, or use competitors’ data to compete with them, according to the proposed regulation released on Tuesday. https://bloom.bg/3bxmvc3

EU court says all states can take data cases against Facebook. Data protection authorities in any European Union member state can pursue privacy complaints against Facebook even though it is based in Ireland, the European Court of Justice has said. If upheld, the advocate general’s opinion issued on Wednesday would mean any of the 27 member states’ data authorities could take action against the social media giant headquartered in Dublin, potentially unleashing a flood of complaints against big tech companies. https://bit.ly/3nEUCBa

DuckDuckGo surpasses 100 million daily search queries for the first time. Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo reached a major milestone in its 12-year-old history this week when it recorded on Monday its first-ever day with more than 100 million user search queries. The achievement comes after a period of sustained growth the company has been seeing for the past two years, and especially since August 2020, when the search engine began seeing more than 2 billion search queries a month on a regular basis. But the search engine’s rising popularity is also due to its stated goal of not collecting user data and providing the same search results to all users. DuckDuckGo’s historical milestone comes in a week when both Signal and Telegram, two other privacy-centric apps, also announced major periods of growth. Telegram announced on Monday that it reached 500 million registered users, while Signal’s servers went down on Friday after seeing “millions upon millions of new users” in a sudden influx the company said exceeded even its most optimistic projections. http://zd.net/3qrrdMx

WhatsApp hits back over user exodus. Facebook is scrambling to deal with a sudden competitive threat to its messaging platform WhatsApp after a change to its terms of service sparked privacy concerns and prompted users to turn to rivals such as Signal and Telegram in droves. The encrypted messaging app, which has more than 2bn users globally, tried to clarify forthcoming privacy policy changes covering the data that can be shared between WhatsApp and its parent company now that it is deepening its push into ecommerce. Signal was downloaded 8.8m times globally in the week after WhatsApp’s changes were announced on January 4, versus 246,000 times the week before, according to data from Sensor Tower. https://on.ft.com/3ssEkiG

WhatsApp delays enforcement of privacy terms by 3 months, following backlash. WhatsApp said on Friday that it won’t enforce the planned update to its data-sharing policy until May 15, weeks after news about the new terms created confusion among its users, exposed the Facebook app to a potential lawsuit, triggered a nationwide investigation and drove tens of millions of its loyal fans to explore alternative messaging apps. http://tcrn.ch/2LUQxfd

Signal sees meteoric rise in daily installs as people look for WhatsApp alternatives. The number of new users installing messaging app Signal every day is on track to cross 1 million, putting it closer to levels seen by larger rival WhatsApp, following an update to the Facebook Inc-owned app’s privacy policy. About 810,000 users globally installed Signal on Sunday, nearly 18-fold compared with the download numbers on Jan. 6, the day WhatsApp updated its privacy terms, according to data from research firm Apptopia. https://reut.rs/35xc3gI 


Walmart is piloting smart boxes that will keep grocery deliveries fresh as more people turn to online ordering. Walmart announced Tuesday that it will partner with smart-box company HomeValet to facilitate deliveries of perishable groceries. The pilot starts this spring in Bentonville, Arkansas, where the retail giant is headquartered. Customers participating in the program will get a HomeValet smart box for their front door or porch. Inside, the boxes are divided into sections for frozen, refrigerated, and pantry items to keep them fresh. The delivery person will be able to communicate with the HomeValet to unlock it and leave deliveries. Like with Walmart’s current delivery platform, customers order groceries in the store’s app and schedule a delivery time. The added benefit here is that groceries can potentially be delivered at any time, even if the homeowner is out. For Walmart, the delivery window is expanded far beyond what it was. http://bit.ly/2XNwbXG

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

Walmart to create fintech start-up with investment firm behind Robinhood. Walmart said Monday that it’s creating a fintech start-up with Ribbit Capital, one of the venture capital firms behind Robinhood. The big-box retailer did not share the name of the new company or say when its services will be available. It said it will develop unique and affordable financial products for Walmart employees and customers. The fintech start-up will be majority-owned by Walmart and its board will include several company executives, including Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs and Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner. Walmart said it will also name independent industry experts to the board and may acquire or partner with other fintech companies. With more than 4,700 stores across the country, Walmart interacts with millions of customers each year – including some who don’t have a relationship with a bank or a financial advisor. Six percent of adults don’t have a checking, savings or money market account, according to the Federal Reserve. About 16% are “underbanked,” meaning they have a bank account but also use alternative financial service products, like a money order. Those Americans are more likely to turn to short-term solutions, such as a pawn shop or a payday loan, which can lead to additional charges or high interest fees. http://cnb.cx/3bLtWfF

Bitcoin frenzy drives 900% surge in assets for crypto investment firm Grayscale. Crypto investment firm Grayscale saw assets under management surge tenfold in 2020 as wider adoption of bitcoin drove billions into its trusts. The firm’s assets leaped to US$20.2 billion from US$2 billion last year, according to a quarterly report published Thursday. Grayscale’s Bitcoin Trust garnered the bulk of the inflows, surging to US$17.5 billion from US$1.8 billion in assets under management as the popular cryptocurrency’s price rocketed higher. On average, the bitcoin trust took in US$90 million a week. Institutional investors’ newfound interest in cryptocurrencies was also a boon for the firm. Such funds made up 86% of all investment in Grayscale products through the year and 93% of all fourth-quarter inflows. Such funds largely turn to Grayscale’s crypto trusts for regulatory reasons instead of directly investing in digital tokens. The average commitment from institutional investors also ballooned in the fourth quarter, climbing to US$6.8 million from US$2.9 million in the quarter prior. http://bit.ly/3swXBzh

‘Shark Tank’ star Mark Cuban compares the Bitcoin boom to the dot-com bubble, warning many cryptocurrencies won’t survive the coming crash. Billionaire investor Mark Cuban compared the Bitcoin boom to the dot-com bubble in a flurry of tweets this week, predicting a large number of cryptocurrencies won’t survive the coming crash. “Watching the cryptos trade, it’s EXACTLY like the internet stock bubble,” the “Shark Tank” star and Dallas Mavericks owner said. The cryptocurrency market recently achieved a US$1 trillion market capitalization for the first time, as Bitcoin and other digital coins more than quadrupled in value over the past year. “I think Bitcoin, Ethereum, a few others will be analogous to those that were built during the dot-com era, survived the bubble bursting and thrived, like Amazon, eBay, and Priceline,” Cuban continued. “Many won’t.” Finally, Cuban downplayed claims that crypto is an alternative to fiat currency or a hedge against currency debasement, describing them as “sales pitches.” Insiders also tried to justify the sky-high prices of internet companies in the late 1990s, he pointed out. “Crypto, much like gold, is supply and demand driven,” he tweeted. “The biggest sales pitch is scarcity vs demand. That’s it.” http://bit.ly/3qrrPlk

Billionaire ‘Bond King’ Jeff Gundlach says bitcoin appears to be in ‘bubble territory’. “Bond King” Jeffrey Gundlach told CNBC on Monday bitcoin hit “bubble territory” once it passed US$23,000, and he doesn’t feel comfortable with the coin’s current levels. “I don’t like bitcoin here, I don’t like things that are up on a stilt like that,” the DoubleLine Capital founder said of the coin that rallied nearly 300% in 2020. “People seem to be so much on one side of the boat that I just really don’t really believe the boat can sail that well, and I think that’s where bitcoin is on the bullish side right now,” he said. The investor added that bitcoin has a “terrific supply and demand dynamic” if institutions get involved. The total number of bitcoins that can ever be mined is 21 million, which means that the supply stays scarce even if demand grows. He’s insisted that he’s not a “bitcoin hater” and told CNBC he went neutral on bitcoin after it hit US$23,000. http://bit.ly/3oPsnB7

Bitcoin has enabled criminal money laundering and needs to be regulated at a global level, ECB president Lagarde says . Bitcoin needs to be regulated on a global level, ECB president Christine Lagarde told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. Lagarde said bitcoin is not a currency, but is instead a “highly speculative asset which has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity,” according to the interview. Bitcoin isn’t a currency as evidenced by its wild swings over the past few weeks, Lagarde argued. The cryptocurrency has surged more than 300% in 2020, but after topping out above US$40,000 last week the digital asset dropped by more than 20%. “I think that there are criminal investigations that have taken place that I’m sure will continue to take place that demonstrate it very clearly,” Lagarde said. http://bit.ly/3qrF0my

Bitcoin: be prepared to lose all your money, FCA warns consumers. Consumers should be prepared to lose all their money if they invest in schemes promising high returns from digital currencies such as bitcoin, the City watchdog has warned. The volatile nature of cryptoassets was highlighted again on Monday as bitcoin dropped 28% from Friday’s record high of $42,000, having doubled its value in less than a month. Despite the day’s decline to $30,200, bitcoin is still only at its lowest level since the first day of the new year. As the popularity of crytocurrencies grows, the Financial Conduct Authority urged consumers to understand what they were investing in and the financial risks involved, given they were unlikely to be protected by UK schemes that help investors reclaim cash when companies go bust. https://bit.ly/38EpkGB

US Treasury rule draws crypto sector opposition. A planned US Treasury rule aimed at stamping out illicit cryptocurrency transactions has drawn strong opposition from the industry, setting up a battle that threatens to cast a shadow over the digital currency boom. The proposal would require custodians and exchanges to collect and report identifying information about large transactions involving unhosted wallets — cryptocurrency accounts held outside financial institutions. https://on.ft.com/3nvVk3K

Goldman Sachs to enter crypto market ‘soon’ with custody play: Source. U.S. banking powerhouse Goldman Sachs has issued a request for information (RFI) to explore digital asset custody, according to a source inside the bank. When asked about timing, the Goldman source said the bank’s custody plans would be “evident soon.” Goldman’s digital asset custody RFI was circulated to at least one well-known crypto custody player toward the end 2020. A tectonic shift took place in the world of crypto custody this week, as San Francisco-based Anchorage attained conditional approval from the OCC to become a national digital bank and “unequivocally” meet the definition of “qualified custodian” in the process. http://bit.ly/39JCnpv

Lost passwords lock millionaires out of their Bitcoin fortunes. Stefan Thomas, a German-born programmer living in San Francisco, has two guesses left to figure out a password that is worth, as of this week, about $220 million. The password will let him unlock a small hard drive, known as an IronKey, which contains the private keys to a digital wallet that holds 7,002 Bitcoin. While the price of Bitcoin dropped sharply on Monday, it is still up more than 50 percent from just a month ago, when it passed its previous all-time high of around $20,000. https://nyti.ms/2N2ty2f 


Missing chips snarl car production at factories worldwide. More than a year after its outbreak, the coronavirus keeps finding new ways to hit carmakers. After first wiping out auto demand, the virus is now hindering parts supply: chips used in vehicles are harder to come by because semiconductor manufacturers allocated more capacity to meet soaring demand from consumer-electronics makers such as Apple Inc. https://bloom.bg/3byvoSK


Occidental to strip carbon from the air and use it to pump crude. Deep in the Permian Basin, America’s biggest oilfield, Occidental Petroleum Corp. plans to build a facility that it believes could change the way the world thinks about fossil-fuel emissions. The globe’s first large-scale direct air capture (DAC) plant will remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and pump it deep underground, where it will remain for millions of years. The process would essentially be the reverse of what oil and gas companies do today. The goal is to lower emissions of the primary greenhouse gas responsible for global warming—and one day even produce a carbon-negative barrel of oil. But to cover the cost of operating the plant, Occidental will initially use much of the CO2 to push out lucrative oil from underground reservoirs, thereby replacing one pollutant with another. The facility, expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, will also need support from tax credits and outside investors to be financially viable. Occidental’s plant, which it aims to have operating by 2023, changes the model because it takes CO2 directly from the air, allowing the facility to be built anywhere. The plant will be designed to capture as much as 1 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, equivalent to the emissions from about 215,000 cars, or a quarter of what a coal power plant produces. The company will license the DAC technology from Carbon Engineering, a Canadian startup that counts Occidental, Chevron Corp., and Bill Gates among its investors. http://bloom.bg/3ik1OSa


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