Last week saw a fair bit of news pertaining to Canadian VC activity, including a shout out from market intelligence firm CB Insights, indicating data indicates that Canadian startups this year have already raised more than double their 2020 totals. The same data set indicates that Canada’s venture capital results now rival those of the entire Latin American region. In the public markets small cap space, Kraken Robotics (Sophic Client, PNG-TSXV, KRKNF-OTC) signed definitive agreement to acquire PanGeo and announced a public offering of units for approximately $10 million and Body and Mind (Sophic Client, BAMM-CSE, BMMJ-OTC) closed a US$11.1 million debt financing. Sophic Client LuckBox (LUCK-TSXV, LUKEF-OTC) CEO, Thomas Rosander provided an investor update, which can be accessed HERE. In the USA, Robinhood plans to raise as much as US$2.3 billion in its upcoming stock-market debut. The popular investing app said it’s offering 55 million shares priced at between US$38 and US$42 each during its roadshow. At the top end of that range, Robinhood could have a market valuation of US$35 billion. Bitcoin mining firm Core Scientific is going public via SPAC in a US$4.3 billion deal. Lastly, with overhang on US listed Chinese equities increasing, the Nasdaq could rise 10%, according to investment firm Wedbush.
Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News
Portage FinTech SPAC boosts IPO target to US$240 million, begins trading on Nasdaq.
Sagard Holdings-backed blank cheque company Portage Fintech Acquisition has priced its planned Nasdaq initial public offering (IPO), increasing its target by US$40 million. The company, which began trading on the Nasdaq today, has priced its IPO of 24 million units at a price of US$10 per unit. This would give Portage Fintech Acquisition total gross proceeds of US$240 million, US$40 million more than its initial US$200 million target. Sagard is the alternative investment arm of Montréal-based Power Corp. and manager of Portage Ventures and Diagram Ventures. https://bit.ly/3rsTGDs
Kraken Robotics (Sophic Client, PNG-TSXV, KRKNF-OTC) signs definitive agreement to acquire PanGeo and announces public offering of units.
Kraken Robotics signed a definitive share purchase agreement (the ” PanGeo Agreement “) whereby Kraken Robotics Systems Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kraken, will acquire all of the issued share capital of PGH Capital Inc. (” PGH Capital “) on substantially similar terms to those set out in the non-binding letter of intent dated April 8, 2021 , and disclosed in the Company’s press release dated April 9, 2021 (the ” PanGeo Transaction “). The Company also announce that it has entered into an agreement with a syndicate of underwriters led by Canaccord Genuity Corp. (the ” Underwriters “), under which the Underwriters have agreed to buy on a bought deal basis 20,000,000 units (the ” Units “) at a price of $0.50 per Unit for gross proceeds of approximately $10 million (the ” Offering “). Each Unit will consist of one common share of the Company (a ” Common Share “) and one-half of one Common Share purchase warrant (each whole purchase warrant, a ” Warrant “). Each Warrant entitles the holder to acquire one Common Share (a ” Warrant Share “) at a price of $0.60 per Warrant Share for a period of two years following the closing of the Offering, subject to acceleration in certain circumstances. https://bit.ly/3iyV7fv
Body and Mind (Sophic Client, BAMM-CSE, BMMJ-OTC) closes US$11.1 million debt financing.
Under the terms of the Loan, the Company can immediately draw the initial term loan of US$6.67 million of which US$6 million in funds is advanced to the Company and the Company can draw on the delayed draw term loan of US$4.44 million prior to December 31, 2021 of which US$4 million in funds will be advanced to the Company. The Loan matures in four years and bears interest at a rate of 13% per annum payable on the first day of each month hereafter. There are fees, financial covenants, and prepayment fees associated with the Loan as well as a security agreement and other related agreements. As part of the terms of the Loan, the Company has issued an aggregate of 8,000,000 common stock purchase warrants (each, a ” Warrant “) to FGAM of which 4,800,000 Warrants will entitle the holder to acquire shares of common stock (each, a ” Warrant Share “) at an exercise price of US$0.40 per Warrant Shares until July 19, 2025 and 3,200,000 Warrants will be held in escrow by the Company and released to FGAM at the time the Company draws on the delayed draw term loan, or cancelled if the Company does not draw on the delayed draw term loan, which will entitle the holder to acquire a Warrant Share at an exercise price of US$0.45 per Warrant Share until July 19, 2025 . https://bit.ly/3wVGbNC
Intel-backed Untether AI raises $125 million, adds CPPIB, Tracker Capital as investors.
Toronto-based artificial intelligence (AI) hardware startup Untether AI has secured $125 million in new funding to support its expansion and product development efforts. The all-equity round, which Untether referred to as oversubscribed, was co-led by new investor, New York-based Tracker Capital and existing investor Intel Capital. It also saw participation from new investor Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), and Untether’s other previous investors, including Toronto’s Radical Ventures. https://bit.ly/3BzmSNF
Shopify (SHOP-TSX, SHOP-NYSE) invests in US-based Loop’s $65 million round.
Shopify is among of group of investors in the recent financing round for United States-based customer relationship software company Loop. Loop secured $65 million in Series B capital in a round led by CRV, along with Shopify and Renegade Partners. Existing investors FirstMark Capital, Ridge Ventures, Peterson Ventures, and Lerer Hippeau also participated. Loop marks the latest investment for Shopify, as the Canadian e-commerce giant accelerates its acquisition and investment strategy. https://bit.ly/3y3jHf7
Properly closes $44 million Series B from key strategics, US investors to tackle Canadian real estate market.
Toronto-based proptech startup Properly has raised fresh capital and strategic support to scale its tech-enabled real estate brokerage and tackle a hungry Canadian market. The $44 million all-equity, all-primary Series B round was led by Bain Capital Ventures (BCV), with participation from strategic investors Intact Ventures and FCT. A number of notable individuals participated in the round, including Wealthsimple’s Mike Katchen, Spencer Rascoff (co-founder and former CEO of Zillow), and Eric Wu (CEO of Opendoor), among others. Follow-on funding came from existing investors Prudence Holdings, FJ Labs, Golden Ventures,1984 Ventures, Max Ventures, Alleycorp, and Interplay. https://bit.ly/3y6YUHO
Paystone secures $30 million from Crédit Mutuel Equity as part of plan to expand beyond North America.
Payments and customer engagement software startup Paystone has secured a $30 million strategic investment from France’s Crédit Mutuel Equity (CME) to pursue its international expansion plans. The deal, which did not include any secondary capital, brings CME on as a minority shareholder in Paystone. The all-equity round comes about six months after Paystone raised $69 million from the Canadian Business Growth Fund and National Bank of Canada, and brings Paystone’s total institutional funding to $99 million. However, this total omits another $30 million in friends and family funding that came in before Paystone was formed through its predecessor company, Zomaron, which amalgamated into Paystone with its 2019 acquisition of DataCandy. This round also follows the startup’s expansion into the United States (US) market, earlier this year, and growth during the pandemic, as consumers shifted to cashless payments amid COVID-19. To build on this growth, Paystone has partnered with the French-based strategic investor CME as part of its strategy to attack both English and French-speaking markets outside of North America, including in Europe. https://bit.ly/3rAuWJr
Oxio secures $25 million to accelerate Canadian expansion.
Québec-based telecommunications startup Oxio has secured $25 million in Series A funding to fuel its expansion plans. Oxio is a digital internet service provider that was launched in 2019 and aims to offer Canadians more user-friendly internet services. The company uses its proprietary software platform and physical networks like Videotron and Rogers to provide users with internet connectivity. Following its recent growth in the Québec market and expansion to Ontario, Oxio plans to use the financing to accelerate its Canadian service roll out and further develop oxioOS, its proprietary internet operation software system. https://bit.ly/2UEFGut
Conquest Planning raises $7.5 million in follow-on investment to accelerate growth and reach new global markets.
Conquest Planning Inc., announced it has raised $7.5 million in funding from existing investors Portage Ventures, Fidelity International Strategic Ventures and IGM Financial, reflecting the company’s rapid growth and significant market demand for its financial planning software solution. The announcement comes less than 18 months after Conquest raised $3 million in a seed funding round and underscores investor excitement and strong support for the company’s mission of transforming the financial planning industry with beautiful, intuitive, and hyper personalized financial plans. https://bit.ly/3rHjgoF
Brokrete secures $2.7 million, launches e-commerce platform for construction suppliers.
As part of the launch of its new e-commerce platform for suppliers in the construction industry, Toronto-based startup Brokrete has announced the close of approximately $2.7 million in new seed funding. The all-equity round, which Brokrete referred to as oversubscribed, was led by European VC firm Xploration Capital and supported by new strategic investors and key employees. The company actually announced $3.8 million in seed-stage funding, but this total includes $900,000 USD in 2019 pre-seed funding from MaRS IAF, Calian Group director Ronald Richardson, and Avlok Kohli, the CEO of AngelList Venture. Both Richardson and MaRS IAF followed-on in the new round. https://bit.ly/3BAfv8M
Magna buys driver-assist supplier Veoneer for US$3.8 billion.
Magna International Inc. will acquire Veoneer Inc. for US$3.8 billion in cash, bolstering its business supplying advanced driver-assistance systems to automakers. The Canadian company’s $31.25-a-share offer represents a 57% premium to Veoneer’s closing price on Thursday. The transaction is expected to close toward the end of this year, according to a statement. https://bloom.bg/3x6YjUW
Accenture acquires Toronto consulting firm Cloudworks.
Accenture has acquired Toronto-based consulting firm Cloudworks in order to increase its capabilities to deliver cloud-based Oracle solutions to its clients. Cloudworks was founded in 2016 and offers a range of strategy, business, and technology consulting. It is focused on helping businesses implement cloud technology and has become know for its Oracle-cloud based solutions in the enterprise resource planning, enterprise performance management and human capital management spaces. Accentures stated the deal further enhances its capabilities to deliver Oracle solutions to its customers. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. https://bit.ly/2UxImu1
Canada’s startup market booms alongside hot global VC investment.
The country, now famous in the startup world for giving birth to Shopify, has already crushed prior yearly records for venture investment thus far in 2021. Indeed, CB Insights data indicates that Canadian startups this year have already raised more than double their 2020 totals. The same data set indicates that Canada’s venture capital results now rival those of the entire Latin American region, with exits and megadeals coming in roughly on par in the second quarter, and a similar number of total venture capital rounds in the period. https://tcrn.ch/3kKdK2Z
WELL Health (WELL-TSX) launches venture arm, announces investment in Bright.
Vancouver’s WELL Health Technologies has launched a new corporate investment arm, WELL Ventures, as the company looks to formalize its approach to making strategic minority investments in digital health and wellness startups. The move follows a year of significant growth in the healthtech sector amid COVID-19. WELL has been particularly active in the acquisition space during this period, setting its sights on more early-stage, Canadian digital health and wellness firms. https://bit.ly/2V9bl6Z
RBC launching Calgary Innovation Hub, with plans to hire 300 employees.
The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is launching an Innovation Hub in Calgary this September, focusing on creating jobs for high-demand areas in Calgary’s tech ecosystem. The Hub will create 300 tech jobs for Calgarians, over the next three years, in data engineering, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other areas. The hires will join 1,500 RBC employees in the city and 4,000 in the province. https://bit.ly/3BzcDsP
Central bank digital currencies could be necessary for digital innovation and competition, Bank of Canada says.
Central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) could be necessary to ensure innovation and competition in digital economies, the Bank of Canada said in a research paper published on Tuesday. As the economy becomes more and more digital, several issues have emerged that could be addressed through CBDCs. These include problems linked to competition in sectors like payment options, a resulting lack of innovation and development or exploration of new technologies, and an increased risk of market power abuse by large financial bodies as cash becomes less relevant in society. Introducing a CBDC could address these issues in a more effective way than regulations and policies would, according to the Bank of Canada. https://bit.ly/2V7sj5K
Ottawa tested facial recognition on millions of travellers at Toronto’s Pearson airport in 2016.
An initiative in 2016 at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport saw the federal government test facial recognition technology on millions of unsuspecting travellers. In an effort to identify potential deportees, the federal government quietly tested facial recognition technology on millions of unsuspecting travellers at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in 2016. https://tgam.ca/3zt2GeJ
Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A
Robinhood plans to raise as much as US$2.3 billion in its upcoming stock-market debut.
Robinhood is aiming to raise as much as US$2.3 billion in its upcoming stock market debut, the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday. The popular investing app said it’s offering 55 million shares priced at between US$38 and US$42 each during its roadshow. At the top end of that range, Robinhood could have a market valuation of US$35 billion. It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “HOOD” and is expected to go public by the end of next week. Under its new program to “democratize” IPOs, Robinhood plans to allocate 35% of its IPO shares to retail investors, The Wall Street Journal reported. https://bit.ly/36WGcGM
South Korea’s Kakao Bank IPO to raise US$2.2 billion after pricing at top of range.
South Korean digital bank Kakao Bank Corp will raise US$2.2 billion in its initial public offering (IPO), the company said in a filing on Thursday. The shares were priced at 39,000 won each, the top of the range announced in a regulatory filing this month, to raise about 2.6 trillion won (US$2.22 billion). The listing, expected in August, will be the country’s biggest since game company Netmarble raised 2.7 trillion won in its 2017 IPO, overtaking this year’s 2.2-trillion-won listing of battery material maker SK IE Technology Co Ltd. https://reut.rs/3kL7VCf
Apax-backed Paycor raises US$426 million in IPO priced above range.
Software maker Paycor HCM Inc., backed by the private equity firm Apax Partners, raised US$426 million in an initial public offering priced above a marketed range. The Cincinnati-based company sold 18.5 million shares for US$23 each on Tuesday after offering them for US$18 to US$21, according to a statement. The IPO gives the company a market value of US$3.9 billion based on the outstanding shares listed in its filing. https://bloom.bg/3rylGWy
Bitcoin mining firm Core Scientific is going public via SPAC in a US$4.3 billion deal.
Core Scientific, one of North America’s largest crypto miners, is going public via a SPAC merger in a deal that values the combined entity at US$4.3 billion, the firm said in a Wednesday announcement. The mining firm will merge with Power and Digital Infrastructure Acquisition Company, whose anchor investor is BlackRock. Following the transaction, the combined company will operate as Core Scientific and trade on the Nasdaq exchange. Core Scientific owns four US facilities where it operates proprietary mining facilities and hosts bitcoin and other digital asset mining hardware for customers. The company said it operates with 100% net carbon neutrality through using clean energy inputs and purchasing renewable energy credits. https://bit.ly/3kNUuSb
Indian food delivery firm Zomato’s stock jumps in market debut.
Indian food delivery app Zomato’s share price jumped on the first day of trading after its initial public offering, boosting the loss-making company’s market capitalization to more than US$13 billion. The stock opened on India’s National Stock Exchange at 116 rupees, 53% higher than its IPO price of 76 rupees. As of Friday afternoon, the stock was trading at around 125 rupees. At the price, Zomato’s market capitalization is about 980 billion rupees (US$13.1 billion). Zomato’s strong debut could pave the way for other Indian tech IPOs in the pipeline. Last week, digital payment startup Paytm filed for a listing that aims to raise up to US$2.2 billion. Zomato, whose major backers include China’s Ant Group, Uber and Sequoia Capital India, faces very high investor expectations to live up to. Based on the firm’s annual revenue of 19.94 billion rupees for its most recent fiscal year through March, the company’s price-sales ratio of nearly 50X is significantly higher than that of DoorDash, whose market capitalization is about US$60 billion, about 21X its 2020 revenue of US$2.89 billion. https://bit.ly/2UDhIQq
China’s regulators weigh serious penalties for Didi.
China’s regulators are considering serious penalties for Didi Global, less than a month after the Chinese ride-hailing giant went public in New York, Bloomberg reported. The regulators are weighing a range of possible punishments including a fine, a suspension of some operations, the introduction of a state-owned investor and a forced delisting of the stock, Bloomberg said, citing people familiar with the matter. Just days after Didi’s US$4.4 billion U.S. initial public offering, the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top internet regulator, earlier this month launched an investigation into the company and ordered its mobile apps to be removed from app stores, citing violations of laws regarding the collection and usage of personal information. Beijing’s crackdown has hurt Didi’s share price, which has stayed well below its IPO price for the past few weeks since the regulator launched its investigation. https://bit.ly/3y3fKap
Didi has fallen a stunning 52% since its US IPO as China’s crackdown pummels the ride-hail giant.
Didi is vying for China’s worst US IPO this year as the besieged ride hailing company’s stock has lost more than half its value. Compared to the market open price on the day of its IPO, Didi has crashed as much as 52.1% on Friday. The company’s IPO listing price was US$14, but the stock opened at US$16.65 on its first day of trading. It now sits around US$8, having fallen 31% this week alone. That was the second-worst US listing for a Chinese company so far this year, of which there have been 37, according to Bloomberg. Didi edged out Full Truck Alliance, the so-called Uber for trucks that went public a week before Didi, which has lost 50.5% since its market open. Both companies have been casualties of China’s rapidly enveloping cybersecurity probe. They have been barred from registering new users as the cyber ministry digs into alleged data-privacy risks for Chinese users. https://bit.ly/3i2ROhF
China orders Tencent to give up exclusive music licensing rights as crackdown continues.
China’s antitrust regulator has ordered Tencent to give up its exclusive music licensing rights and slapped a fine on the company for anti-competitive behavior, as Beijing continues to crack down on its internet giants at home. The State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) on Saturday imposed a fine of 500,000 yuan (US$77,141) on the company citing violations in its acquisition of China Music in 2016. Following that acquisition, Tencent owns more than 80% of exclusive music library resources, giving the company an advantage over its competitors as it is able to reach more exclusive deals with copyright holders, SAMR said in a statement. The competition watchdog ordered Tencent and its affiliates to relinquish exclusive music rights within 30 days, and to end requirements for copyright holders to grant the company better treatment than to its competitors. The latest regulatory crackdown comes as Beijing continues to curb the power of its domestic technology firms that have grown to become some of the most valuable companies in the world. China’s widening clampdown has ranged from anti-competitive practices, to data security as well as increased scrutiny on Chinese companies with overseas listings in the U.S. https://cnb.cx/3y5yyWy
The Nasdaq could rise 10% as investors flee Chinese tech companies and flock to US stocks amid Beijing’s crackdown, Wedbush says.
China’s increased regulatory crackdown on stocks like Didi and Alibaba will drive a major rotation out of China tech stocks and into US tech stocks, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note on Friday. Ives sees the Nasdaq surging 10% to 16,000 by year-end, driven by a “nirvana set up” for mega-cap tech stocks as growth stories continue to unfold as part of the “US$2 trillion digital transformation,” Ives explained. In recent weeks, ongoing regulatory scrutiny has hampered Chinese tech companies, with Didi falling to a post-IPO low on Friday as Beijing considers unprecedented penalties on the ride-hailing company. Meanwhile, Alibaba and Tencent have faced increased anti-monopoly scrutiny from China, while the Ant Group was forced to abruptly shelve its highly anticipated IPO late last year. “The recent Didi IPO and massive regulatory scrutiny out of left field from Beijing has been a major black eye for the Chinese tech sector,” Ives said. “We believe these dynamics will yet again bode well for US tech stocks as the favorable backdrop and rotation away from Chinese tech into US tech creates a ‘nirvana set up’ for FAANG names and the tech sector into the next 6 to 9 months,” Ives added. China’s crackdown extended to education stocks on Friday, with TAL Education, New Oriental, and Techedu all falling more than 50% on a report that China is considering making Chinese tutoring companies non-profits. https://bit.ly/3i2RMq3
Zoom buys cloud call center firm Five9 for US$14.7 billion.
Zoom is taking advantage of the impressive rise in its stock price in the past year to make its first major acquisition. The popular video conferencing firm, which was valued at about US$9 billion at its IPO two years ago, said last Sunday evening it has agreed a deal to buy cloud call centre service provider Five9 for about US$14.7 billion in an all-stock transaction. 20-year-old Five9 will become an operating unit of Zoom after the deal, which is expected to close in the first half of 2022, the two firms said. The proposed acquisition is Zoom’s latest attempt to expand its offerings. In the past year, the video conferencing software has added several office collaboration products, a cloud phone system, and an all-in-one home communications appliance. https://tcrn.ch/2WcuEx0
China’s Tencent is buying the video game developer behind Hitman 2, Team Sonic Racing, and LittleBigPlanet 3 for US$1.3 billion.
China’s Tencent is buying Sumo for nearly US$1.3 billion. Shares in Sumo, of Britain, jumped 42% on Monday to a record high. Tencent, the world’s largest gaming company, is on the hunt to acquire foreign video game developers. It already has stakes in Epic Games , the company behind Fortnite, Riot Games, and Ubisoft. Sumo has accepted Tencent’s offer of 513 pence (US$703 cents) cash per share, which values Sumo at £919 million (US$1.26 million), the companies said Monday. https://bit.ly/3rv6l8T
ChargePoint to buy European charging software startup for US$295 million.
ChargePoint struck a deal to buy European charging software company has·to·be for €250 million (US$295 million) in cash and stock, the electric vehicle charging network’s first acquisition since it became a publicly traded company. Through the deal, ChargePoint gains more than just 125 employees and the company’s operating software, which manages more than 40,000 networked ports in Europe. The acquisition will give ChargePoint a boost in its pursuit to gain market share beyond North America, as well as VW Group as a strategic partner. https://tcrn.ch/2TARrSg
AT&T looks to sell ad unit Xandr.
AT&T is in talks to sell its addressable advertising unit, Xandr, to InMobi, as it is losing millions of dollars a year, according to Axios. Xandr was the brainchild of former AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who said that by bringing together AT&T’s data, with WarnerMedia’s programming, the company could offer true addressable TV advertising where advertisers could serve ads that target individual households. But since then AT&T has agreed to sell WarnerMedia, as wel as a stake of its DirecTV satellite business so it is no surprise that Xandr is going as well. What is surprising is how many people, time and resources AT&T devoted to an effort only to unwind it within a few years. https://bit.ly/3xXEqB3
Apple delays office return by at least a month as Covid spikes.
Apple Inc. is pushing back its return to office deadline by at least a month to October at the earliest, responding to a resurgence of Covid variants across many countries, people familiar with the matter said. The iPhone maker becomes one of the first U.S. tech giants to delay plans for a return to normality as Covid-19 persists around the world and cases involving a highly transmissible variant increase. Apple will give its employees at least a month’s warning before mandating a return to offices, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing internal policy. https://bloom.bg/3BAr7sD
Ford’s self-driving cars will be available on Lyft’s platform in Miami and Austin.
Lyft customers in Miami will be able to hail a robotaxi from Argo AI, an AV startup backed by Ford and Volkswagen, by the end of the year, the companies announced Wednesday. Next year, riders in Austin, Texas, will be able to do the same. It’s the latest move to make more autonomous vehicles available for public use after initial predictions about the wide-scale availability of AVs failed to materialize. For years, Ford promised that it would launch a full-scale autonomous vehicle business, including robotaxis and driverless delivery, by 2021. That later got pushed to 2022, with the automaker citing delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. It also said it would use a purpose-built autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel or pedals to power its commercial ambitions, which it has yet to reveal. https://bit.ly/3rwU9os
Robotaxis: have Google and Amazon backed the wrong technology?
Since Google launched its self-driving car project in 2009, the biggest challenge has been one of technology: can it be safe enough to deploy at scale? That dispute is over. Google’s project, now branded Waymo, has experienced only minor incidents — about once every 210,000 miles — since 2019 when it began operating a driverless service in Phoenix, Arizona. Cruise, its GM-backed rival, received a permit last month to begin commercial operations in its home city, San Francisco. Both groups are valued at more than US$30 billion by the most reputable names in venture capital and tech. https://on.ft.com/2UhR9QD
CIRP: iPhone catches up to Android, now accounts for 50% of new smartphone activations in the US.
A new report today from analysts at Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) details that Apple and Google are nearing parity in terms of new smartphone buyers in the United States. According to the data, Android and iOS each accounted for 50% of new smartphone activations during the second calendar quarter of 2021. “CIRP estimates for customers that acquired a new phone in the year ending this quarter, Google Android and Apple iOS each had 50% of the new activations,” the analysts say. https://bit.ly/3hXlv3B
Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting
Netflix’s gaming expansion starts with mobile.
Netflix revealed that its initial efforts in gaming will be focused on mobile games and that the games will be included with users’ Netflix subscriptions, the company announced as part of its second-quarter earnings report on Tuesday. The news comes just days after the company said it hired former EA and Oculus exec Mike Verdu to head up its gaming work. https://bit.ly/2UIxLfJ
CNN plans to launch CNN Plus streaming service, but won’t say how much it will cost.
Cable news behemoth CNN said Monday it is joining the ever-crowded streaming marketplace, adding its CNN Plus service sometime in the first quarter, according to a press release. The new service “complements the core CNN linear networks and digital platforms to serve CNN superfans, news junkies and fans of quality non-fiction programming.” Conspicuously missing from the press release was any mention of how much the service will cost, and a spokeswoman declined to provide further details. According to Variety, the company is still determining the price for CNN Plus, but there will be no ad-supported version of the service at launch. It will launch in the US only, and CNN expects to hire 450 people over the next six to nine months, Variety reports. https://bit.ly/3zuvtQ8
Apple looks to lease Hollywood hub for filming shows and movies.
Apple Inc. told real-estate developers it wants to lease a large production campus in Los Angeles for its growing entertainment operations, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that would further deepen big tech’s presence in Hollywood. Apple told development executives it is looking at several possible locations, the people said. The new hub could exceed half a million square feet and would complement Apple’s current arrangement, where the company leases soundstages to film in the Los Angeles area and other parts of the world. https://on.wsj.com/3kKf71H
Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory
Spyware successfully broke into journalists’ iPhones by sending iMessages that didn’t even need to be read.
A forensic analysis by Amnesty International found a type of military-grade spyware was used to successfully break into journalists’ iPhones, apparently by sending iMessages that didn’t even need to be clicked. The spyware is made by Israeli company NSO Group, a private firm that sells advanced hacking tools to clients including governments. A group of 17 media outlets and Amnesty International published a report Sunday claiming NSO Group’s Pegasus software was used by its clients to hack the phones of at least 37 journalists, activists, politicians, and business executives around the world. NSO Group strongly denied the report, claiming it contained factual inaccuracies and lacked evidence. https://bit.ly/3wUAUGp
Senators target Section 230 to fight COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.
As coronavirus cases rise in unvaccinated populations, Democratic senators are introducing a new bill Thursday that would strip away Facebook and other social media platforms’ Section 230 liability shield if they amplify harmful public health misinformation. The Health Misinformation Act, introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) Thursday, would create a carveout in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act opening social media platforms like Facebook up to lawsuits for hosting some dangerous health misinformation. The bill directs the Health and Human Services secretary to issue guidelines on what should be classified as “health misinformation.” https://bit.ly/3x2ShEV
Saudi Aramco data breach sees 1 TB stolen data for sale.
Attackers have stolen 1 TB of proprietary data belonging to Saudi Aramco and are offering it for sale on the darknet. The Saudi Arabian Oil Company, better known as Saudi Aramco, is one of the largest public petroleum and natural gas companies in the world. The oil giant employs over 66,000 employees and brings in almost US$230 billion in annual revenue. The threat actors are offering Saudi Aramco’s data starting at a negotiable price of US$5 million. https://bit.ly/3y13maQ
Cyber attack disrupts major South African port operations.
A cyber attack has disrupted container operations at the South African port of Cape Town, an email seen by Reuters on Thursday said. Durban, the busiest shipping terminal in sub-Saharan Africa, was also affected, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. https://reut.rs/3hYXJnQ
UK government proposes new antitrust powers to overrule tech giants like Apple.
The British government has announced plans for new antitrust powers that would give it the ability to overrule commercial decisions made by tech giants like Apple. Apple has long held the position that it makes its own decisions in what it considers to be the best interests of its customers, and that it should not be forced by law to change its business models. However, the company has been facing global antitrust pressure on the App Store, default apps, relationships with carriers, and more. https://bit.ly/3rsFxWQc
FTC issues ‘Right to Repair’ and merger enforcement policies.
The Federal Trade Commission issued a pair of policy decisions Wednesday that will have lasting ramifications for antitrust enforcement in the technology industry. Though not specifically tailored to the tech sector, the agency said it will both increase enforcement against manufacturer-imposed repair restrictions and seek more aggressive settlements in merger cases. At the FTC’s second open meeting under new Chair Lina Khan, the five commissioners voted unanimously to “prioritize investigations into unlawful repair restrictions.” Companies including Apple and John Deere have lobbied heavily against so-called right-to-repair rules, which can make it easier for customers to access parts and software necessary to repair products such as iPhones and tractors. The agency said repair restrictions can often lead to consumers simply buying new products to avoid the hassle of fixing their existing devices. The FTC also rescinded a 1995 policy that made it easier for companies to settle merger cases. The new policy means that when companies reach a deal with the agency over a merger it is challenging in court, they must obtain the agency’s “prior approval” before they can make other acquisitions in the future. Though seemingly arcane, the move increases the FTC’s oversight of smaller deals that the companies might not announce or for which they might not seek antitrust approval. For Facebook, Amazon, and other tech firms in the agency’s crosshairs, that means more delays for or challenges to deals that were previously routine. https://bit.ly/3iFmvJ6
Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency
Square launches suite of savings, checking and loan services in major banking push.
Square is unveiling a new product suite that further blurs the line between the technology company and financial institutions. Building on the success of the Square Debit Card and Square Capital, the company is launching Square Banking, a combination of savings, checking and lending services for Square merchants. https://zd.net/2V8MArS
India is considering a phased roll-out of a central bank digital currency.
The Reserve Bank of India on Thursday said it is considering a “phased” rollout of a central bank digital currency. Deputy Governor T. Rabi Sankar during a speech said politicians are eyeing a CBDC to protect citizens from the volatility of cryptocurrencies, Bloomberg first reported. A digital currency, he said, will also decrease cash usage in India’s economy, especially as more consumers adopted offerings like contactless payments during the pandemic. “Central banks have increased their attention on digital currencies,” Sankar said. https://bit.ly/2UFduYo
‘I might pump but I don’t dump’: Elon Musk outlined his broad approach to crypto investing in a panel also featuring Cathie Wood and Jack Dorsey.
Elon Musk on Wednesday detailed his thoughts on cryptocurrencies, saying on a live panel that he is a supporter of bitcoin and would like to see the asset succeed. “If the price of bitcoin goes down, I lose money. I might pump but I don’t dump,” Musk said during “The B Word” event, which also featured Twitter chief Jack Dorsey and Ark Invest CEO Cathie Wood. He continued: “I definitely do not believe in getting the price high and selling or anything like that. I’d like to see bitcoin succeed.” The Tesla boss also admitted that he holds “far more” bitcoin than dogecoin or ether. https://bit.ly/3zw9nfR
DraftKings to launch NFT marketplace.
Shares of DraftKings Inc. shot up 3.2% in premarket trading Wednesday, after the esports and gaming company announced plans to launch DraftKings Marketplace, which will offer non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and will support secondary market transactions. DraftKings Marketplace will be the exclusive distributor of NFTs from Autograph, which has licensing deals with athletes and celebrities for digital collectibles. “The NFT boom has reinvented the collectibles industry and driven excitement to early-adopting audiences worldwide–including the DraftKings community,” said DraftKings President and co-Founder Matt Kalish. https://on.mktw.net/3eQxMoD
Intel CEO says chip shortage could stretch into 2023.
Intel Corp. Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger sees the global semiconductor shortage potentially stretching into 2023, adding a leading industry voice to the growing view that the chip-supply disruptions hitting companies and consumers won’t wane soon. The world-wide shortage has fueled rising prices for some consumer gadgets. Meanwhile, the auto industry has been particularly hard-hit as the lack of a key component causes production delays. German car maker Volkswagen AG this month warned the global shortage could worsen over the next six months. Others have said they were bracing for problems through next year. https://on.wsj.com/3hYZjGx
Electric car sales in the US will overtake those of combustion vehicles by 2036, according to an EY report.
Of the 78 million vehicles sold worldwide in 2020, 3.2 million were electric, according to the manufacturers’ organization OICA — and this growth looks like it will continue to accelerate over the next decade. A study by consultancy Ernst & Young (EY) claims that in just eight years, by 2028, more zero emission vehicles will be sold in Europe than combustion vehicles. This threshold will be reached in 2033 in China and in 2036 in the United States. https://bit.ly/3eO95cl
Mercedes-Benz says it will go all-electric in 2030, but with a major caveat.
Mercedes-Benz says it will go all-electric by 2030, but with conditions. The German automaker says it will only sell electric vehicles “where market conditions allow,” implying that Mercedes may still sell gas-powered vehicles after 2030 in countries that lack consumer demand for EVs. The company made the announcement during an EV strategy update Thursday morning, the latest in a series of automaker events to declare a major pivot to electric powertrains. But while other car companies have similarly promised to shift to all-EV production, Mercedes is notable by hedging its promise on external factors. https://bit.ly/3hXmDnR
GM confirms a third electric pickup truck is in development.
GM will add a full-size electric pickup truck to its GMC lineup, the latest in a string of EV product announcements by the automaker in the past year as it pushes to deliver more than 1 million electric vehicles globally by 2025. The EV pickup was shared in a slide deck during the media presentation and later confirmed to TechCrunch. Duncan Aldred, vice president of global Buick and GMC, didn’t provide further details about the vehicle or when it might go into production. https://tcrn.ch/2Wbx8LX
Elon Musk says Tesla will let other cars use its network of 25,000-plus Superchargers by the end of this year.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Tuesday that Tesla would let other brands’ electric vehicles use its Supercharger stations later this year. Replying to a tweet about Tesla’s charging stations, Musk said the company designed its own proprietary chargers after it launched because there was “no standard back then.” “That said, we’re making our Supercharger network open to other EVs [electric vehicles] later this year,” he added. Musk did not specify when exactly the network would open to other cars. https://bit.ly/36VWUGe
The ‘holy grail’ of batteries: Scientists develop an ‘iron-air’ battery that stores electricity for days through rusting – and is a fraction of the cost of lithium-ion equivalents.
An ‘iron-air’ battery has been developed in the US that can store electricity from wind or solar power stations for days at a time, slowly discharging it to the grid. It will help tackle climate change by reducing the need for fossil fuel power plants, according to technology startup Form Energy, from Massachusetts, US. The Iron-Air battery is a ‘new class of cost-effective, multi-day energy storage system,’ that can feed electricity for 100 hours at 1/10th the cost of lithium-Ion, the ‘holy grail’ in terms of renewable energy technology. It is made using iron, one of the most common elements on Earth, and works by breathing in oxygen, converting iron to rust, and turning rust back to iron. As it takes in the oxygen and converts the iron back and forth it is charging and discharging the battery, a process that keeps the energy stored for a longer period. The batteries are too heavy for use in electric cars, according to the firm, who say they are designed to meet the challenge of keeping a constant power supply. If development continues at pace, Form Energy hope the first batteries will be working to supply the grid by 2025. https://bit.ly/3kSKt6m
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