Last week was a welcome relief for markets, as the Nasdaq ended the week up 7.5%, and the S&P 500 was up 6.6% for the week. BlockFi signed a term sheet with crypto exchange FTX to access a US$250 million revolving credit line. Polestar goes public amid uncertainty around EV stocks, via a SPAC. Elon Musk says Tesla’s new factories are ‘gigantic money furnaces’ that are losing billions of dollars from EV-battery shortages and supply-chain snags. Shares of Zendesk Inc. soared 29.5% in premarket trading Friday, after the customer experience platform company confirmed a deal to be acquired by an investor group in an all-cash deal valued at about US$10.2 billion. DocuSign’s CEO Dan Springer is stepping down, the virtual signature company announced Tuesday. DocuSign did not specify why Springer was leaving, but the company’s share price has fallen more than 75% over the past year. Apple’s mixed reality headset will “likely release in January 2023,” according to reliable supply chain analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo. Meta revealed VR headset prototypes designed to make VR ‘indistinguishable from reality’. A Congressional report said Robinhood understated liquidity problems during meme stock craze. Intel delays groundbreaking ceremony for Ohio plant amid uncertainty over chips legislation. Tesla and California utility PG&E launched a new program that will pay eligible Powerwall owners to send extra electricity to the grid when it’s vulnerable to blackouts. An electric Mercedes-Benz drove 747 miles without recharging, nearly twice the range of Tesla’s Model S. In Canada, Toronto-based startup, Ataccama secured $194 million in growth capital from American private investment firm Bain Capital. Twitter partnered with Shopify to bring merchants’ products to Twitter Shopping. Shopify launched around a 100 new features last week, including in social commerce, local shopping offers with Google, cryptocurrency, B2B selling. Sophic Client, Reklaim (MYID-TSXV, MYIDF-OTC) closed $1.3 million non-brokered private placement and streamlined operations to cash neutral.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Rogers, Shaw to sell mobile unit to Quebecor for US$2.2 billion.

Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. said they’ve reached a deal to sell Shaw’s wireless division to rival Quebecor Inc., taking a major step in their effort to solve antitrust concerns about their merger. Quebecor agreed to pay $2.85 billion (US$2.2 billion) for Shaw’s Freedom Mobile unit, the three companies said in a release Friday night. The deal is subject to approval by Canada’s antitrust body and the federal government. https://bloom.bg/3zSV6gI

Sophic Client Reklaim (MYID-TSXV, MYIDF-OTC) closes $1.3 million non-brokered private placement and streamlines operations to cash neutral.

The Company announced the closing of the first tranche of a non-brokered private placement offering (the “Offering”) comprised of 19,214,406 units (the “Units”) at a purchase price of $0.0675 per Unit for aggregate gross proceeds of approximately $1,296,972. Each Unit consisted of one common share (a “Common Share”) and one-full common share purchase warrant (each, a “Warrant”), with each Warrant exercisable to acquire one common share of Reklaim at $0.10 for 36 months from the date of issuance provided that in the event that the volume-weighted average trading price of the Common Shares on the TSX Venture Exchange (the “TSXV”) is in excess of $0.15 for a period of 20 consecutive trading days, the Company may accelerate the expiry date of the Warrants to 30 days from the date on which the Company provides written notice to the holders of the Warrants. The Company reserved the purchase price for the Offering by way of a price reservation form filed with the TSXV. The Company may complete one or more additional tranches of the Offering for aggregate gross proceeds of up to $2,500,000 (including the gross proceeds of the Offering). https://bit.ly/3Ol4ApJ

Twitter partners with Shopify to bring merchants’ products to Twitter Shopping.

As part of its ongoing efforts to expand into e-commerce, Twitter today announced a new partnership with Shopify. The deal will see Twitter launching a sales channel app that will be made available to all of Shopify’s U.S. merchants through its app store. The app allows merchants to onboard themselves to Twitter’s Shopping Manager, the dashboard offered by the social media company where sellers can access product catalog tools and enable other shopping features for their profiles. Meanwhile, Shopify says orders placed through partner integrations, like Twitter, quadrupled in the first quarter of 2022. Unlike Meta’s e-commerce efforts, where many shopping transactions take place in-app using Meta’s own payments system Meta Pay (previously Facebook Pay), Twitter directs users’ clicks to brands’ own websites. However, Meta has a more developed e-commerce strategy, where it’s given “Shops” its own tab in the Instagram app. https://tcrn.ch/3OoMiny

Shopify breaks out of the website with 100+ new features including NFTs, local shopping and more.

After two years of a COVID-19 e-commerce boom, digital shopping is happening on an ever-expanding range of platforms. So to address that shift, Shopify is launching a raft of tools for customers interested in spinning up social commerce, local shopping offers with Google, cryptocurrency, B2B selling and more — some 100 new features in all. https://tcrn.ch/3briMPm

Ataccama secures US$150 million from Bain Capital’s Tech Opportunities fund.

Toronto-based startup Ataccama has secured $194 million (US$150 million) in growth capital from American private investment firm Bain Capital. The all-equity financing, which was made through Bain Capital’s Tech Opportunities Fund, represents a minority investment in Ataccama. Ataccama was bootstrapped up until this point, and the US$150 million marks the company’s first external investment. TechCrunch reported that the round values Ataccama at US$550 million. Spun out of Toronto data governance firm Adastra in 2007, Ataccama offers a data management platform for global enterprises. Bain Capital announced in November that it plans to raise US$1.5 billion for its second Tech Opportunities Fund. The private equity investment firm raised US$1.25 billion for the first edition of the Fund. https://bit.ly/3OlCNFy

Potloc raises $35 million to expand social media sampling tech across North America, Europe.

The market research startup announced a $35 million Series B round, and, after expanding from 60 to 230 employees in the past year, plans to hire 120 more staff in Montreal, New York, and Paris. Potloc describes itself as a tech-enabled consumer research company that conducts survey sampling through social networks. The startup claims its sales have more than doubled annually for the past four years, and that leading consumer brands in retail, consumer goods, food services, financial services, healthcare, transport/automotive, manufacturing, and industrial equipment use Potloc’s market insights. Some of its customers include L’Oréal, Cadillac Fairview, Carrefour, Loblaws, and Aldo. The new funds consist of $25 million in equity and $10 million in debt. The round was done in two tranches, with the equity closing in December, and the debt closing in May. https://bit.ly/3OBS5Wn

Vision Greens raises $7 million for NASA vertical farming tech.

Welland, Ontario-based startup Vision Greens has secured $7 million in all-equity seed funding to support the expansion of its operations and distribution systems. According to Vision Greens, the financing closed at the end of February and came from a group of existing investors, board members, and new investors including members of Canada’s grocery sector. The company declined to name any investors in the round, but does list the Niagara Foreign Trade Zone, Intravision, the City of Welland, and the University of Guelph as supporters on its website. A spokesperson for Vision Greens told BetaKit that the startup originally intended to raise $6 million, which it secured by December. They added that Vision Greens had to extend the timeline because the round was oversubscribed. The Welland farm joins a number of startups across Canada that want to take a bite out of the global vertical farming market that is projected to reach $19.86 billion by 2026. https://bit.ly/39QerVn 

Autodesk alums close $5.3 million to automate building design with Augmenta.

Toronto-based startup Augmenta wants to help contractors and engineers design fully-detailed, code-compliant, constructible building systems “in hours rather than weeks or months.” Founded by a group of former Autodesk employees who built the California construction software company’s generative design tool, Augmenta has set its sights on automating the complex, traditionally manual-labour intensive process of building design. Augmenta has secured $5.3 million (US$4.1 million) in seed funding and the support of construction and real estate industry players to refine its artificial intelligence (AI)-powered building design solution. https://bit.ly/3bkEYdP 

Autozen secures $5.1 million to expand car marketplace in Canada, US.

Vancouver-based startup Autozen has secured over $5.1 million in what it said was an oversubscribed seed round. The all-equity, all-primary capital financing, which closed on June 16, was led by Vanedge Capital with participation from Anges Québec.  Autozen noted that a group of investors from Anges Québec and Angelist also made contributions to the raise, along with a former vice president at Shopify, an SF-based YCombinator entrepreneur, and partner at a major accounting firm. Autozen declined to disclose the investors by name, as well as any prior investors that participated in the round. Founded in 2020, Autozen provides an online marketplace for cars.  Autozen previously raised $4.2 million last year after emerging from stealth mode.  https://bit.ly/3QNEUnh 

Impro.AI secures $2.25 million to improve its AI-augmented corporate coaching solution.

Impro.AI has raised a $2.25 million seed round, with plans to use the fresh funds for more research and development for its platform, AI, and methodology, as well as for expansion globally. Impro offers a platform that provides executives, leaders, and employees with an AI-augmented coaching and consulting solution.  Impro is not alone in the digital mentoring space. Together, a software company that pairs mentors and mentees, raised $6.2 million in January. https://bit.ly/3tZ0XO6 

Ritual lays off 16 percent of staff to “prepare for a recession”.

Toronto-based food ordering and mobile pickup app Ritual has laid off 23 employees to “prepare for a recession.” The staff cuts, which impact about 16 percent of Ritual’s 148-person team, were announced by Ritual co-founder and CEO Ray Reddy in an all-hands meeting and then published via a LinkedIn post. Reddy did not disclose which Ritual teams were impacted by the layoffs. It has been a tough few years for Ritual, which previously laid off half of its team and reduced its operations during the early days of the pandemic, pointing to the “devastating impact” COVID-19 had on the restaurant industry. Founded in 2014, Ritual had cumulatively raised more than $143 million prior to the pandemic. Following those early pandemic layoffs, Ritual reportedly raised about $30 million from existing investors. https://bit.ly/3I4EfKh

Canada to compel YouTube, TikTok and streamers to boost domestic content.

Canada approved legislation that targets what video- and audio-sharing platforms like YouTube and TikTok can broadcast to a Canadian audience, as the country follows in Europe’s footsteps in imposing a heftier regulatory burden on the digital sector.This marks the second attempt in as many years by Canada’s Liberal government to compel digital platforms, including streaming companies like Netflix Inc., to prominently feature Canadian artists on their services when users with a Canadian internet-protocol address log in. As contemplated under the new measures, users who search for music, television programming, films or do-it-yourself video shorts would get results incorporating a certain quota of Canadian-made content. https://on.wsj.com/3yehlMT

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

Polestar goes public amid uncertainty around EV stocks.

Polestar is the latest electric vehicle company to go public, listing its stock on the Nasdaq exchange Friday after successfully merging with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. The company plans on using the US$850 million in fresh capital to fund its three-year plan to make several new electric models and become profitable. The Swedish company, which is a joint venture between Volvo and its parent company Geely, is going public amid broader uncertainty around EV stocks. Several EV startups have gone the SPAC route to becoming publicly traded only to see their stock price tank after early stumbles. Polestar is slightly different, having been selling and delivering its Polestar 2 electric fastback sedan to customers in the US, Europe, and China since late 2020. The company’s next EV, the Polestar 3 SUV, will debut in October 2022 and will be manufactured in the US. And, it recently secured a deal estimated to be worth over US$3 billion to sell 65,000 vehicles to Hertz. https://bit.ly/3nj8Vh0

Blockchain payments company Roxe eyes public listing via SPAC.

Roxe, a blockchain payments infrastructure company, has announced its intention to list on the Nasdaq via a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called Goldenstone Acquisition. The company, which aims to connect banks, payment firms and consumers with a private blockchain to facilitate cross-border transactions, will be valued at US$3.6 billion after the merger, according to a statement on Tuesday. Stockholders in the company will roll 100% of their equity into Goldstone with no minimum cash requirement. This move stands in direct contrast to the current volatility plaguing the crypto market. Over the weekend, bitcoin dropped below US$20,000 amid a border market downturn with companies such as Babel Finance and BlockFi taking steps to shore up their finances. https://bit.ly/39RsvOf

BlockFi receives US$250 million bailout from FTX.

BlockFi has signed a term sheet with crypto exchange FTX to access a US$250 million revolving credit line to bolster its balance sheet, the crypto lending firm announced on Tuesday. BlockFi has been under financial pressures in recent weeks, laying off 20% of its employees earlier this month. It’s also in the process of raising a down round that would slash its valuation by one-fifth, The Block reported on June 6. Most recently, the firm liquidated a loan to crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital, according to the Financial Times. “Today’s landmark announcement reinforces the commitment that BlockFi has to serving its clients and ensuring their funds are safeguarded,” said Zac Prince, co-founder and CEO of BlockFi. BlockFi is one of several crypto companies that has struggled amid a sharp downturn in crypto prices in recent weeks. Crypto lending companies Celsius and Babel Finance both froze customer withdrawals last week. This is the second time in the past week that Sam Bankman-Fried, co-founder and CEO of FTX, has had ties to crypto company bailouts. Voyager Digital, a crypto financial services company, announced last Friday that it has secured a roughly $485 million cash and bitcoin credit line from Alameda Research, a trading platform Bankman-Fried founded in 2017. https://bit.ly/3blM55D

Altria plunges 10% after report says FDA will ban Juul vaping products from the US market.

Altria stock tumbled as much as 10% on Wednesday after The Wall Street Journal reported that the FDA plans to ban Juul vaping products from the US market as early as today. Investors are selling Altria’s stock because the cigarette maker purchased a 35% stake in Juul Labs for US$12.8 billion in 2018. Back then, the investment looked smart as Juul’s fruity vaping flavors caught on with teens and led to a surge in vaping among young adults. But shortly after Altria’s investment, flavored vape pods were banned from the US market and Juul saw a decline in sales. The e-cigarette company also faced scrutiny from regulators due to its marketing tactics that lured teenagers into picking up the habit of consuming nicotine. The FDA required all US e-cigarette manufactures to submit their products for review in 2020, and based on reporting from the WSJ, Juul didn’t make the cut. Altria most recently valued its stake in Juul at US$1.6 billion. https://bit.ly/3tZY2Vc

Elon Musk says Tesla’s new factories are ‘gigantic money furnaces’ that are losing billions of dollars from EV-battery shortages and supply-chain snags.

Elon Musk said during a recent interview that electric-car-battery shortages and supply-chain snags were costing Tesla billions of dollars. The richest man said during the interview that one of his biggest concerns was how to keep Tesla factories running without going bankrupt. Tesla recently opened factories in Texas and Berlin. The company’s largest manufacturing facility is in Fremont, California. Last week, Musk said he’s planning to cut salaried staff at Tesla by 10%. Insider’s Isobel Asher Hamilton reported that several employees had been laid off as a result of the edict. The decision came after Musk said the US was probably in a recession that could last 18 months. https://bit.ly/3Oz9yP8

Uber rejects claim that it explored exiting India.

Uber said on Thursday it has never explored exiting India, a key overseas market for several tech giants, dismissing a claim that it has had held discussions to sell the local unit. Bloomberg reported earlier in the day that the San Francisco-headquartered firm had explored selling the India business, but “suspended discussions after tech startup valuations cratered.” Uber, whose shares like those of many other tech firms have tanked in recent quarters, competes with SoftBank-backed Ola in India. Both Uber and the Bengaluru-headquartered startup, valued at about US$7.3 billion, claim tentpole position in the country. Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi told employees last month that the firm is focused on reaching profitability. The firm, which is not profitable in India, according to a person familiar with matter, sold the India unit of Uber Eats to food delivery firm Zomato in early 2020. https://tcrn.ch/3QIAFcs

Zendesk stock soars after US$10 billion buyout deal confirmed at a 34% premium.

Shares of Zendesk Inc. soared 29.5% in premarket trading Friday, after the customer experience platform company confirmed a deal to be acquired by an investor group that includes Permira and Hellman & Friedman in an all-cash deal valued at about US$10.2 billion. Under terms of the deal, the Permira and H&F will pay US$77.50 for each Zendesk share outstanding, which represents a 33.7% premium to Thursday’s closing price of US$57.95. The Wall Street Journal had reported late Thursday that a deal with a group including Hellman & Friedman and Permira could be announced in the coming days. The investor group buy Zendesk also includes the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and GIC. Zendesk’s stock has tumbled 44.4% year to date through Thursday, while the S&P 500 has lost 20.4%. https://bit.ly/3QWkWqu 

Bidders weigh offers valuing Toshiba at up to US$22 billion.

Bidders for Toshiba Corp are considering offering up to 7,000 yen (US$51.41) per share to take the troubled Japanese conglomerate private, three people familiar with the situation told Reuters, valuing the deal at about US$22 billion. Toshiba, which is exploring strategic options, said this month it had received eight initial buyout proposals and two for capital alliances that would see it remain listed. The bidders are now discussing an offer price range of up to 7,000 yen a share with Toshiba’s shareholders, the people said, representing up to a 27% premium to Toshiba’s share price of 5,501 yen as of Wednesday’s close. https://reut.rs/3OiN8SF 

Fanatics is in talks to buy sports betting company Tipico, sources say.

Fanatics, the sports merchandising company, is in talks to acquire sports betting company Tipico, according to two people familiar with the matter. A deal hasn’t yet been reached, and the two sides are currently at an impasse on price, though talks are ongoing, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Tipico has a small U.S. sports gambling business, with licenses in New Jersey and Colorado, but is the leading sports betting provider in Germany, according to its website. Fanatics has completed several acquisitions in recent years as a closely held company. In 2020, it acquired sports merchandise manufacturer WinCraft, and earlier this year it bought trading card company Topps for US$500 million. Fanatics has a private valuation of US$27 billion. https://cnb.cx/3OouYPd

Netflix confirms another round of layoffs as it continues to grapple with slowing growth, cutting around 300 roles.

Netflix conducted more layoffs on Thursday, as it continues to grapple with slowing growth. 300 roles were cut, a Netflix spokesperson confirmed to Insider.”  After a decade of rapid growth that saw it reach over 220 million global subscribers, Netflix reported in April that it lost 200,000 subscribers in Q1. It anticipates losing another 2 million in Q2, despite launching new seasons of hit shows like “Stranger Things” and “The Umbrella Academy.” Netflix partly blamed password sharing on the subscriber loss, saying that it estimates an additional 100 million households are using the service through a password shared with them, including 30 million in North America. https://bit.ly/3ODd7DX

DocuSign CEO steps down as company’s Covid bump wears off.

DocuSign CEO Dan Springer is stepping down, the virtual signature company announced Tuesday. DocuSign did not specify why Springer was leaving, but the company’s share price has fallen more than 75% over the past year. Springer’s resignation goes into effect immediately, the company said, and board chairman Maggie Wilderotter will serve as interim CEO while DocuSign searches for Springer’s replacement. Springer has served as CEO since 2017, and oversaw DocuSign’s initial public offering in 2018. Wilderotter also currently serves as CEO of Grand Reserve Inn, a luxury hotel. The company’s value surged during the pandemic as companies embraced its suite of virtual collaboration tools amid remote work. But its growth has slowed in recent quarters. In the three months ending in April, its net losses widened to US$27.4 million from US$8.3 million during the same period the year prior, prompting the company to tell investors earlier this month that it was slowing hiring. DocuSign shares were trading at US$62 on Tuesday, down 80% from their 52-week high in September. https://bit.ly/3njG0cW

Emerging Technologies

Apple AR/VR headset will ‘likely release’ in January, says Ming-Chi Kuo.

Apple’s mixed reality headset will “likely release in January 2023,” according to reliable supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. The latest release date prediction was shared in a new analyst note examining growth focuses of the VR headset industry. Specifically, the analysis looks at how the industry is set to change in the months ahead as Facebook-turned-Meta has to deal with the iPhone maker competing in the VR headset space. Kuo argues that Meta has been key to VR industry growth over the last few years as it sold VR headsets at a less. “In addition, the vast potential demand in the Chinese market and Apple AR/MR, which will likely release in January 2023, will also favor the continued rapid growth of the headset sector,” Kuo writes. That’s ahead of schedule compared to Kuo’s prediction earlier this month. The analyst goes on to describe Apple’s headset as “the most complicated product Apple has ever design,” which is saying something for the iPhone company. https://bit.ly/3nhce8G

Meta reveals VR headset prototypes designed to make VR ‘indistinguishable from reality’.

Meta says its ultimate goal with its VR hardware is to make a comfortable, compact headset with visual finality that’s ‘indistinguishable from reality’. Today the company revealed its latest VR headset prototypes which it says represent steps toward that goal. Meta has made it no secret that it’s dumping tens of billions of dollars in its XR efforts, much of which is going to long-term R&D through its Reality Labs Research division. Apparently in an effort to shine a bit of light onto what that money is actually accomplishing, the company invited a group of press to sit down for a look at its latest accomplishments in VR hardware R&D. https://bit.ly/3OrPZsr

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

Meta to roll out new monetization tools on Instagram and Facebook, including a creator marketplace.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company is rolling out more ways for creators to make money on Facebook and Instagram, and is also expanding some of its current monetization tools to more creators. Zuckerberg also said in order to get more money directly to creators, Meta is going going to keep paid online events, fan subscriptions, badges and its upcoming independent news products free for creators until 2024. The company had previously said it was going to do this until 2023. Once a brand finds a creator that they want to partner with, they can send a project with the details to them, including information about deliverables and payment. The Reels Play Bonus program is a part of Meta’s larger $1 billion creator fund. https://tcrn.ch/3OHtI9V 

Telegram’s Premium subscription is here and it costs US$4.99 / month.

After announcing Telegram Premium earlier this month, the messaging app has finally rolled out the paid tier, which gives users access to extra features for $4.99 / month (via TechCrunch). All the features are outlined in a post on Telegram’s blog, with some of its bigger draws including faster downloads and a larger maximum file upload size of 4GB (rather than the standard 2GB). Premium subscribers will also get double the limits imposed on standard users. Instead of joining up to 500 channels, subscribers are capped at 1,000 channels. The same goes for other features on Telegram — subscribers can create 20 chat folders with 200 chats each, save up to 10 stickers, pin up to 10 chats, and add a total of four accounts to Telegram instead of three. Premium users also get to have longer bios with a link. https://bit.ly/3N8VgDQ

NBCUniversal, Google compete to help Netflix develop ad-backed tier.

Netflix’s subscriber count fell for the first time in nearly a decade, causing its stock to post its worst one-day percentage decline since 2004. Comcast Corp. ‘s NBCUniversal and Alphabet Google have emerged as top contenders to work with Netflix and help the streaming company create an advertising-supported tier of its service, according to people familiar with the matter. Netflix, which is hoping to boost revenue by selling ads around its programming, is still in the early stages of developing the strategy and has explored a range of tie-ups in recent weeks. https://on.wsj.com/3OsDYCK

How the once-frothy scene for sports-betting startups is being shaken by the choppy economy.

The startup scene surrounding sports betting exploded in recent years as new regulation in the US helped turn online gambling into big business. During 2021, PitchBook tracked in late December, 44 venture-capital deals totaling US$700 million in US sports betting, up from 32 deals worth less than US$200 million the year before. But the rocky economy is bringing the once-frothy startup landscape back down to earth. Sports-betting startups aren’t immune to the trends that are driving down valuations for late-stage tech startups and leading to layoffs in the creator economy. One reason many sports-betting startups aren’t yet panicking, like some in other sectors are, is that the public online-gambling companies like DraftKings and Penn National Gaming haven’t yet been as impacted by inflation as other businesses, like tech and media companies, that rely heavily on advertising. And investors’ long term views on the industry remain largely steady, as sports betting continues to expand into more states and reach new audiences. https://bit.ly/3tZsD5a

Chinese video gaming revenue falls in May, a third month of decline amid slowing economy and less player spending.

Chinese video gaming revenues dropped in May, according to a new report, as the industry struggles to bounce back from the impact of regulatory uncertainties and a slowing economy. Industry revenue declined 6.74 per cent last month year on year to 22.9 billion yuan (US$3.4 billion), and it was down 0.31 per cent from April, according to a report published by research firm Gamma Data on Wednesday. The decline was primarily driven by a drop in mobile game revenue, which fell 10.85 per cent year on year to 16.6 billion yuan for the month. The figure was also down 2.15 per cent from April, according to the new report. TikTok owner ByteDance also reportedly shut down a game development studio it acquired just three years ago, cutting more than 100 jobs in a major retreat from the country’s once-booming gaming industry. https://bit.ly/39NkHNw

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

TikTok moves all U.S. user data to Oracle servers.

TikTok will move all U.S. user data to cloud servers operated by Oracle, the app’s owner ByteDance said on the same day a BuzzFeed article revived lingering questions over the app’s data security. The BuzFeed article suggests that China-based engineers working for ByteDance have repeatedly accessed TikTok’s U.S. user data. Back in 2020, when President Trump was pursuing a ban of the popular app, Oracle entered the picture as a potential partner for TikTok. Efforts to ban it have since fizzled though concerns remain about the potential security risks of the app. ByteDance said in a blogpost that all U.S. user traffic is now routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, and eventually even backups currently stored in private U.S. and Singapore data centers will move to Oracle servers based in the U.S. https://bit.ly/3bmYM09

Congressional report says Robinhood understated liquidity problems during meme stock craze.

A Congressional report released on Friday found that retail brokerage firm Robinhood understated financial pressures during last year’s meme stock craze. The report, put together by Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee, stated that the retail brokerage firm popular with meme stock traders “exhibited troubling business practices, inadequate risk management, and a culture that prioritized growth above stability” during the frenzy, which began in late January 2021. The report also stated that, without a waiver from the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, Robinhood would have defaulted on its regulatory collateral obligations. In public comments and in testimony to the committee, Robinhood executives said they were “always comfortable with [its] liquidity” leading up to trading restrictions during the craze. The report said those statements were “despite” their actions during the crisis—such as alerting the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation that it could not meet its collateral payments. Committee members reported that high order flow and a unique way of calculating how to pay out those orders introduced risk into the stock market as users flocked to the platform to invest in meme stocks like GameStop and AMC. During the height of the meme stock craze, Robinhood halted some transactions and later raised US$3.4 billion from investors for emergency funding. Robinhood went public last July in an initial public offering. Robinhood stock price is currently trading around US$8, down 55% so far this year. Robinhood said in a statement that the report was “nothing new” and that Robinhood “took the appropriate and responsible steps necessary to protect and support our customers.” https://bit.ly/3ykAzRi


Chinese online shopping giant JD.com Inc.’s midyear e-commerce extravaganza recorded the slowest sales growth in at least five years, in the latest gauge of the hit to consumer appetite from stringent restrictions under the country’s zero-Covid policy.

JD.com said Monday that turnover on its platforms during this year’s June 18 shopping festival, known as 618, grew by 10.3% to 379.3 billion yuan, equivalent to US$56.5 billion, the slowest expansion since the e-commerce giant first disclosed numbers for the event in 2017. JD.com started the campaign in 2004 as a promotion marking the date of the company’s foundation. The promotion is now China’s second-largest online shopping event by sales after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Singles Day on November 11. Bargain hunters typically hold off purchases ahead of such shopping festivals to see what steep discounts are on offer. https://on.wsj.com/3by8Rrm

Amazon announced its first ‘fully autonomous’ warehouse robot that doesn’t have to be caged away from human workers.

Amazon workers could soon see squat green robots weaving between them and their coworkers on the warehouse floor. Amazon announced in a blog post Tuesday it has created its first “fully autonomous” warehouse robot, named Proteus. Proteus looks a lot like Amazon’s current warehouse robots, but whereas its regular robots have to operate in a caged area away from human workers, Amazon says Proteus will be able to roam free in the warehouse, dodging human employees as it goes. Amazon said in its blog Proteus will first be deployed in warehouses moving “GoCarts” — Amazon’s term for tall, wheeled cages containing packages that need to be moved around the warehouse. Although Amazon likes to tout its robotics as a way to reduce the physical burden on its workers, leaked internal data published by Reveal in 2020 showed robotic warehouses had higher rates of injury than warehouses that don’t use robots. Reveal’s investigation suggested robotic warehouses have higher production quotas than non-robotic ones, meaning the physical strain on workers is greater. Amazon’s focus on robots could also be a way to reduce its reliance on its human workforce. A leaked 2021 memo reported by Recode last week showed Amazon believes it could run out of people to hire in the US by 2024. https://bit.ly/3OiAfI1

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

eBay now has an established NFT marketplace at its bidding.

eBay made its biggest move yet into the world of digital collectibles with news today of the company acquiring NFT marketplace KnownOrigin. The online auction company is keeping lips sealed on the deal’s value but confirmed in the press release that the deal is closed as of June 21st. KnownOrigin describes itself as “one the world’s first, and largest, NFT Marketplaces,” and it currently ranks No. 12 on all-time trading volume for Ethereum-backed NFTs at US$7.8 million, according to DappRadar. Higher ranked, more popular marketplaces include OpenSea (No. 1) with an all-time trading value at US$30.43 billion and Decentraland (No. 8) at US$155.66 million. https://bit.ly/39LfwO8 

Hockey-loving HODLers, rejoice: the NHL is launching an NFT program.

The league is partnering with Sweet to build a marketplace of digital collectibles including everything from iconic moments in hockey history to “3D interactive trophy rooms where users can display their collections.” The league made the announcement during NFT.NYC (and also during the Stanley Cup Finals) but plans to launch the marketplace before next season. Sweet is a much smaller platform than OpenSea or SuperRare, but it’s among the more user-friendly of NFT marketplaces, allowing users to buy stuff with crypto or just with a credit card. It already has a lot of sports content, too, including collectibles from a number of Formula 1 and NBA teams. The only surprising thing about this announcement is how long it took the NHL to make it. Digital collectibles have been taking over the sports world for the last couple of years: the NBA has Top Shot; the NFL has All Day; the MLB and Topps keep rolling out new digital cards; Sorare is partnering with seemingly every soccer club in Europe; and there’s even UFC Strike and a handful of others. https://bit.ly/3A3YDZK


Intel delays groundbreaking ceremony for Ohio plant amid uncertainty over chips legislation.

Intel has told lawmakers and officials that it is delaying indefinitely the groundbreaking ceremony for a planned multibillion-dollar chip-manufacturing facility in Ohio, signaling frustration over uncertainty in Congress about legislation that would provide support for the U.S. chip industry. The ceremony had been tentatively scheduled for July 22. Intel informed the office of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and members of Ohio’s congressional delegation on Wednesday that it was delaying the groundbreaking “due in part to uncertainty around” the chips-related legislation, known as the Bipartisan Innovation Act, according to an email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3OiisAQ


Toyota will recycle electric vehicle batteries with Tesla co-founder’s project.

Toyota is partnering with Redwood Materials, a battery recycling company helmed by Tesla co-founder JB Straubel, to collect and recycle vehicle batteries. The plan is to take old, worn-out batteries and either refurbish them or break them down so their materials can be used to create new batteries. Redwood specifically plans on producing materials for anodes and cathodes — two major components of a battery cell. The company’s ultimate goal is to create a “closed-loop supply chain for electric vehicles,” meaning that it takes batteries from old EVs and turns them into batteries for new cars. Making EV batteries is extremely expensive, and some companies are struggling to do it at scale, which hampers their ability to make EVs. It doesn’t seem like that process is going to be getting cheaper any time soon, so there is definitely incentive for automakers to look for and help fund recycling efforts. https://bit.ly/3HOYWtc

Tesla partners with California utility on virtual power plant.

Tesla and California utility PG&E launched a new program that will pay eligible Powerwall owners to send extra electricity to the grid when it’s vulnerable to blackouts. Working together, the Powerwalls create a “virtual power plant” that can help keep the lights on during emergencies or energy shortages. By signing up, Powerwall owners will receive US$2 for every additional kilowatt-hour they feed to the grid during designated “events” when the grid is under a lot of stress. That includes any time the California grid operator, CAISO, issues an energy alert, warning or emergency. In California, PG&E customers who own a Powerwall can sign up to join the virtual power plant through the Tesla app. Once they’re in the program, called the Emergency Load Reduction Program, they’ll start receiving push notifications ahead of events when the grid needs emergency support. https://bit.ly/3OFlgba

An electric Mercedes-Benz drove 747 miles without recharging, nearly twice the range of Tesla’s Model S.

Mercedes-Benz’s ultra-long-range electric car traveled 747 miles without stopping to charge, beating its previous record, the company said Thursday. The sleek Vision EQXX, drove from Stuttgart, Germany, to Silverstone in the UK. Earlier this year, Mercedes took the concept car on a 626-mile drive but estimated it could have gone considerably farther.  The Vision EQXX previews a future when, potentially, electric vehicles can travel such great distances that people won’t need to worry much about where to charge up. Today, range anxiety — the fear of running out of energy before making it to a charging station — ranks among the biggest concerns for existing and would-be electric-car owners. With this latest trip, Mercedes-Benz handily beat every electric vehicle on sale today. Tesla’s longest-range vehicle, the Model S, can travel a bit over 400 miles per charge, The Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Lucid Motors, a new startup, sells a US$169,000 sedan that’s rated to travel 520 miles between stops, making it the rangiest vehicle on the market. Mercedes doesn’t plan to actually sell the EQXX. Rather, it’s a hyper-efficient research vehicle the German carmaker built to test new technology and explore the limits of EV range. https://bit.ly/3Nnp53J


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