In light of ongoing market volatility, last week was unsurprisingly quiet in Canadian public markets. That said, Portage Ventures closed $788.5 million for its third FinTech fund, which could now be one of the largest early-stage FinTech-focused venture funds in the world. A recent Washington Post piece called out some unsavory behavior by esports organizations, however, public traded companies that are involved in esports, such as Enthusiast Gaming (EGLX-TSX) and GameSquare Esports (Sophic Client, GSQ-CSE), have long had policies that address and curtail these issues. Sophic Client, Clear Blue Technologies’ (CBLU-TSXV) CEO recently returned from overseas customer, prospect, and investor meetings where conversations increasingly focused on how Clear Blue’s renewable, solar power solutions can resolve these issues. Investors seeking exposure to this secular theme should consider Clear Blue Technologies. In the US, Fidelity, T. Rowe mark down their Instacart stake by up to 18%, in light of ongoing market turbulence, we would not be surprised to see additional mark downs in private VC backed companies’ valuations. Amazon announced a US$10 billion share buyback, 20-for-1 stock split, sending the stock up 6% after hours on the announcement. WeWork reports 7.8% increase in revenue for Q4, however some investors question if the company will need to raise capital in H2 2022. Intel’s Mobileye self-driving unit ‘confidentially’ files for IPO. Uber issued an upbeat outlook for the first quarter, declaring in a securities filing that its ride hailing business was “bouncing back from Omicron much faster than we expected.” Rivian stock fell by more than 14% after hours Thursday after the electric vehicle maker said supply chain snags would hinder production this year and indicated it still had a long way to go to deliver on a much-hyped partnership with Amazon. The ‘Jedi Blue’ ad deal between Google and Facebook sparked new Antitrust probes in EU and UK.
Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News
Portage Ventures closes $788.5 million for third FinTech fund.
Portage Ventures, the venture capital arm of investment firm Sagard, announced the sixth close of its Portage Ventures III LP. The VC firm said it has raised $788.5 million to date, and claims the fund is now one of the largest early-stage FinTech-focused venture funds in the world. https://bit.ly/3Kyzzw4
Ontario commits $25 million as Canadarm3 manufacturer MDA (MDA-TSX) creates $100 million space robotics centre.
Ontario’s aerospace program just got a big shot in the arm – in the Canadarm, that is. The province announced that with support from the Ontario government Canadarm manufacturer MDA is investing $100 million over five years for its new Space Robotics Centre of Excellence. The centre will house the design, development, and manufacturing of the Canadarm3. In addition, MDA – a space tech firm – will create more than 700 long-term jobs at its Brampton headquarters. https://bit.ly/3Cyq11g
OSINT-based threat detection firm Echosec Systems closes $10 million credit facility from Espresso Capital.
Victoria-based Echosec Systems has secured a $10 million credit facility from venture debt firm Espresso Capital. Formed in 2013 by veteran cartographer and former CEO Karl Swannie, Echosec offers an open-source intelligence platform that helps security teams detect web-based data for threat intelligence. The company uses machine learning technology to aggregate and map content from hundreds of sources. This includes social media sites, blogs, news, and the dark web. https://bit.ly/35Vj6TQ
Clinia closes $5 million to scale B2B health search infrastructure.
Montréal-based healthtech startup Clinia has closed $5 million to expand the reach of its artificial intelligence-powered search tools for the health space across North America. In an interview with BetaKit, Clinia co-founder and CEO Simon Bédard said that patients need help to access the right health resources. According to Bédard, general search engines like Google provide a glut of search results muddled with marketing, which can make it difficult for users with specific health issues to determine “what’s good and not good” for their individual situations. https://bit.ly/3KBDloj
Mayday marks calendar year with $3.8 million to help remote workers improve their time management.
Toronto startup Mayday has secured $3.8 million in seed capital as it prepares for the public launch of its automated calendar product. Mayday was co-founded by serial entrepreneur Jeremy Bell, who says his company is building a smarter scheduling and time management tool for remote teams and busy professionals. The seed round came from a group of United States venture firms and was led by 8VC, which has invested in the likes of Asana, Oculus, and Wish. Shasta Ventures, ff Venture Capital, Colle Capital, N49P, Panache Ventures, Ramen Ventures, Rogue Capital, and Globalive also invested, alongside angel investors, including Luke Vigeant of Inkblot, John Laban of OpsLevel, and John Maier, a director of data science at Shopify. https://bit.ly/3i2PZR0
Led by Serena Williams’ venture fund, Calico closes $2.6 million to help D2C fashion brands manage their supply chain.
Calico has raised $2.6 million to help direct-to-consumer (D2C) fashion brands improve their supply chain operations. Kathleen Chan, Calico’s founder and CEO, previously launched and scaled her own D2C jewellery and apparel companies, where she became familiar with the challenges associated with running a D2C brand’s supply chain activities. According to Chan, this process involves a lot of manual labour and a range of different, “siloed” tools, which can result in expensive production errors and make it tough for brands to get new products to market quickly. https://bit.ly/36eVytb
StoreToDoor secures $1.25 million to take same-day delivery service to new markets.
Regina-based same-day delivery startup StoreToDoor has raised $1.25 million in seed funding to fuel its expansion across Canada. StoreToDoor founder and CEO Scott Love has worked in the food industry for 25 years. After dabbling in Saskatchewan’s tech scene through angel investing and seeing the impact of Amazon and COVID-19 on local retailers, he decided to launch his own same-day delivery solution. https://bit.ly/367tgka
GameSquare Esports (Sophic Client, GSQ-CSE) related: Inside ‘Contract Hell’: Esports players say predatory contracts run ‘rampant’.
Publicly traded companies that are involved in esports, such as Enthusiast Gaming and GameSquare Esports (Sophic Client, GSQ-CSE), have long had policies that address harassment. According to Kyle Bautista, chief operating officer of Complexity Gaming, which was recently acquired by GameSquare Esports and includes Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as part of its ownership group, their policies include “protecting minors” with “mandatory parental or guardian involvement during the signing process and all official communications, [as well as] routine in-person check-ins with parents and guardians on site and at events, and support for continued education.” https://wapo.st/3t4mR2k
Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A
Fidelity, T. Rowe mark down Instacart stake by up to 18%.
Some large investors in Instacart have marked down the value of their stakes in the privately held grocery-delivery company by as much as 18% since it raised funds a year ago at a US$39 billion post-investment valuation, previously unreported figures show. The moves indicate that the recent sell-off in technology stocks may be starting to affect investor perceptions of startups that raised at high prices last year, particularly in competitive sectors like online delivery. Fidelity’s Growth Company Fund, which holds stock in both private and public companies, on November 30 valued Instacart shares at US$102 apiece, an 18% decline from the US$125 share price it paid when it invested in the startup’s Series I round in February 2021, according to public filings. The move implied the investor believed Instacart’s valuation had dropped on paper to a little under US$32 billion. Meanwhile, mutual fund T. Rowe Price’s Communications and Technology Fund, which first backed Instacart in a July 2020 Series G round, marked down the value of its stake in Instacart by 5% to $119 on December 31 from $125 in the February 2021 fundraising. Hedge fund D1 Capital Partners and venture firms Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital also participated in that round, though it’s unclear whether they adjusted the value of their stake. https://bit.ly/3t2OVD9
Amazon announces US$10 billion share buyback, 20-for-1 stock split.
Amazon said on Wednesday that the company’s board has authorized a US$10 billion share buyback plan and a 20-for-1 stock split. The buyback program is notable. Amazon had last authorized a buyback of its own stock in 2016 to the tune of US$5 billion, but it hadn’t used any of it until January of this year, securities filings show. The company has now used more than US$2 billion of that 2016 authorization, which has no expiration date. Amazon shares rose 6% in after-hours trading. The stock split marks Amazon’s first such move since the dot-com boom, when the company divided up shares on a two-for-one basis in 1998, a three-for-one basis in early 1999 and again later that year on a two-for-one basis. Amazon shares have risen by more than 4,500% since then. https://bit.ly/3MJFReb
WeWork reports 7.8% increase in revenue for Q4.
WeWork reported that it burned through US$467 million in cash in the fourth quarter, a sign that the co-working space provider’s financial condition remains weak, even as revenue rose 7.8% to US$718 million. For the full year, the company burned through US$2.2 billion. The company is forecasting a much better year in 2022. It projects revenue will bounce back to US$3.4 billion in 2022, up about a billion dollars from last year, and closer to what WeWork generated in 2020. That will cut WeWork’s loss, before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and stock compensation, by about a billion dollars to US$450 million. Helping drive the improvement is rising occupancy rates, as more people come back to office work. WeWork’s physical occupancy rate was 63% in December, up from 45% at the end of 2020. Meanwhile the number of memberships has increased to 469,000 from 387,000 a year earlier, although that is still well down from the 527,000 WeWork reported at mid-2019, when it was still being managed by cofounder Adam Neumann. The big question is WeWork’s cash position. The company finished the year with cash of about US$923 million, which given how much cash was burned last year won’t even last until mid-year. But if it meets its projections, its cash burn should drop sharply. WeWork noted it has about US$1.05 billion available in credit facilities as well as the cash. https://bit.ly/3tNCnPf
Investment service AngelList valued at US$4.1 billion by Tiger Global.
AngelList, the fundraising and investment platform for founders and investors, raised $100 million in new funding at a US$4.1 billion valuation including the new cash, the company announced Tuesday. Hedge fund Tiger Global Management and VC firm Accomplice are leading the new round. The raise comes amid strong business growth for AngelList during the pandemic, when the 12-year-old company benefited from the record amount of capital being raised by new fund managers to invest in startups. Over the past two years, the firm expanded beyond being a platform that connected startups with employees to offer new products like rolling funds, or investment vehicles that allow fund managers to raise capital on a quarterly basis from external backers. The San Francisco-based company said that almost 200 startups with billion-dollar valuations or higher raised capital from general partners of VC firms on AngelList. It’s unclear what the company, which historically avoided venture funding, will use the new capital for. https://bit.ly/3I51B0G
Intel’s Mobileye self-driving unit ‘confidentially’ files for IPO.
Shares of Intel Corp. rose 0.3% in premarket trading Monday, after the semiconductor maker disclosed that its Mobileye self-driving unit has “confidentially” filed for an initial public offering of common stock. The company said the number of shares to be offered and the expected price range of the IPO have not yet been determined. https://on.mktw.net/3J7qHgG
Indian food delivery giant Swiggy eyes US$1 billion IPO.
Indian food delivery giant Swiggy eyes US$1 billion IPO. Indian food delivery giant Swiggy has hired bankers as it gears up for an initial public offering next year, a source familiar with the matter said. The startup, which was valued at US$10.7 billion in its Series K financing in January this year, is looking to raise as much as US$1 billion in the IPO, which it plans to file as early as first half of next year, the source said, requesting anonymity as the deliberations are ongoing and details are private. https://tcrn.ch/3CD7fWp
Google to acquire Mandiant for US$23 a share in all-cash deal valued at about US$5.4 billion.
Google Inc. said Tuesday it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire cybersecurity company Mandiant Inc. for $23 a share or about $5.4 billion in cash. The stock closed Monday at $22.49. The deal, which was first reported Monday by The Information, is expected to close later this year, at which point Mandiant will join Google Cloud. https://on.mktw.net/3vZKOd4
Uber says ride hailing business is bouncing back faster than expected.
Uber issued an upbeat outlook for the first quarter, declaring in a securities filing that its ride hailing business was “bouncing back from Omicron much faster than we expected.” As a result, Uber projected stronger earnings, excluding a wide range of expenses, than it had previously. When Uber reported its fourth quarter results last month, CFO Nelson Chai said that the ride hailing business was expected to decline quarter over quarter thanks to the impact of Omicron. Today, though, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that demand was “healthy and growing” across travel, commuting or people going out at night. Uber projected that “adjusted EBITDA” would be between US$130 million and US$150 m illino in the first quarter, compared with its previous projection of between $100 million and $130 million. Adjusted EBITDA is Uber’s preferred profitability metric, although it excludes stock compensation expense as well as interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Uber shares, which has in recent days traded at its lowest levels since the summer of 2020, were up 3% in pre market trading. https://bit.ly/3t792jK
Uber adds fuel surcharge because of high gas prices.
Uber is adding a surcharge on fares and deliveries in the U.S. and Canada in response to surging gas prices, the company said on Friday. Riders taking Uber trips will pay a fee of US$0.45 to US$0.55 per trip, and Uber Eats deliveries will include a US$0.35 to US$0.45 surcharge, the company said. The fees are temporary and will last for at least two months. The company said that the fees will go to drivers, who are responsible for paying for gas they use. The surcharges can vary based on trip distance and gas prices in each state. They won’t apply in New York City because drivers already received a 5.3% pay increase on March 1, accounting for the increase in gas costs, Uber said. The move comes as the gas prices around the country are hitting all-time highs and energy prices are skyrocketing because of the Russian war in Ukraine. https://cnb.cx/3MHo5rX
Rivian warns supply chain woes will hit production.
Rivian stock fell by more than 14% after hours Thursday after the electric vehicle maker said supply chain snags would hinder production this year and indicated it still had a long way to go to deliver on a much-hyped partnership with Amazon. The company delivered 909 vehicles in the fourth quarter, for a total of 920 vehicles delivered to customers in 2021. Those deliveries netted Rivian US$54 million in revenue for the quarter. The company posted a negative gross profit of US$383 million and a net loss of US$2.46 billion for the period. Rivian said that it expects production to ramp up over the course of 2022. As of March 8, the company has produced 1,410 vehicles so far this year, or approximately 25 vehicles a day (not including a 10 day period earlier this year where it paused production for maintenance). Still, Rivian says that it expects to produce 25,000 vehicles by the year’s end. On a call with investors, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe declined to state the number of electric delivery vans that the company has delivered to Amazon thus far. Amazon, which has invested more than US$1.3 billion in the electric vehicle maker, owns a 22% stake in Rivian. In 2019, Amazon announced plans to buy 100,000 electric delivery vans from the company, with the expectation that it would have 10,000 vans on the road by the end of 2022. When asked for specifics on the state of Rivian’s arrangement with Amazon during a call with investors, Scaringe demurred. He said that Rivian was “in the process of ramping up production” on the electronic delivery vans, and that the fleet had yet to reach a “significant scale.” The delivery vans that Rivian has produced are currently being used to help refine the custom operating system developed by the company to better suit Amazon’s needs, Scaringe said. https://bit.ly/368De4O
Solar stocks are soaring as oil price spike furthers bets on pivot to renewable energy.
Shares of renewable energy companies jumped Tuesday on the back of soaring prices for oil and other fossil fuels. Enphase and FuelCell were among the stocks in the wider clean energy group that advanced. Brent crude topped US$130 a barrel as the US banned imports of Russian oil. Shares of renewable energy companies spiked higher Tuesday, highlighting moves by investors to capitalize on shortages of oil and other fossil fuels exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. https://bit.ly/3I7WFYG
Zoom Video workforce has nearly tripled in two years.
Zoom Video Communications Inc. disclosed late Monday that it had 6,787 full-time employees as of Jan. 31, 2022, nearly triple what the videoconferencing-service company’s workforce was two years ago, before the pandemic. The latest workforce count, which included 4,009 employees in the U.S., was 53.5% from 4,422 employees (2,662 in the U.S.) as of Jan. 31, 2021, which was up 74.6% from 2,532 employees (1,396 in the U.S.) as of Jan. 31, 2020, according to the company’s 10-K filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Zoom Video’s stock had rocketed 395.8% in 2020, as COVID-19-related shutdowns sparked a buying frenzy in shares of remote-work enabling companies, then dropped 45.5% in 2021 as the frenzy faded with vaccinations and the gradual lifting of restrictions. https://on.mktw.net/3vZBohF
Didi said to halt Hong Kong listing on cybersecurity probe.
Didi Global Inc. has suspended preparations for its planned Hong Kong listing after failing to appease Chinese regulators’ demands that it overhaul its systems for handling sensitive user data, according to people familiar with the matter. https://bloom.bg/36cQvZX
SEC proposes requiring firms to report cyberattacks within four days.
Federal regulators are considering a requirement that publicly traded companies disclose data breaches and other significant cybersecurity incidents within four days, as they seek to strengthen financial markets’ resilience to online attacks. https://on.wsj.com/3pXWKIt
Elon Musk wants out of an SEC settlement that requires tesla lawyers to approve his tweets, saying it stifles free speech.
Elon Musk asked a judge to toss out a settlement with the SEC that requires his tweets be approved. The 2018 settlement came after Musk tweeted that had secured funding to take Tesla private. Musk also urged the judge to block an SEC subpoena about his stock and option sales. Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday urged a federal judge to scrap a 2018 settlement between him and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, arguing that a stipulation about his tweeting practices stifles his free speech. https://bit.ly/3MTCgKK
Survey: 40% of iPhone users plan to get iPhone SE 3, most upgrading from iPhone 11.
A survey shows 40% of iPhone users are planning to buy this third-generation iPhone SE for themselves as their main device, an additional phone, or even as a gift to someone. https://bit.ly/36dTdPa
Tiny ‘skyscrapers’ help bacteria convert sunlight into electricity.
Researchers have made tiny ‘skyscrapers’ for communities of bacteria, helping them to generate electricity from just sunlight and water. The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, used 3D printing to create grids of high-rise ‘nano-housing’ where sun-loving bacteria can grow quickly. The researchers were then able to extract the bacteria’s waste electrons, left over from photosynthesis, which could be used to power small electronics. Other research teams have extracted energy from photosynthetic bacteria, but the Cambridge researchers have found that providing them with the right kind of home increases the amount of energy they can extract by over an order of magnitude. The approach is competitive against traditional methods of renewable bioenergy generation and has already reached solar conversion efficiencies that can outcompete many current methods of biofuel generation. https://bit.ly/368CZqq
Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting
Amazon launches live radio app Amp.
Amazon unveiled a new app called Amp, where users create live, shared radio shows with music. The app is Amazon’s answer to the rise of social audio products such as Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse, but it’s focusing on music, rather than hosting converations on a variety of topics. Social audio exploded during the pandemic with more people spending time online. Tech companies including Facebook, Spotify and Discord have all launched social audio features. On Amp, creators can play “millions” of licensed songs and accept “call ins” from their listeners, similar to a radio DJ. Amazon is tapping celebrity hosts including Nicki Minaj and Travis Barker for the new app. For now, there’s a waitlist to use Amp. Amp VP John Ciancutti told Protocol the team is still thinking about how creators could earn money on the app. https://bit.ly/37tYK4R
Apple TV+ begins rolling out to Comcast’s Xfinity platforms.
Apple TV+ is now available across Comcast’s Xfinity platforms, Comcast announced on Monday. The company said Apple TV+ is beginning to roll out on the Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex and XClass TV today and will be available across all eligible devices in the coming days. You can now access Apple TV+ by saying “Apple TV+” into your Xfinity voice remote or by saying the name of a movie or TV you want to watch from the streaming service, such as “Ted Lasso” or “The Morning Show.” https://tcrn.ch/3tQZuIt
Apple to livestream baseball games.
Apple has signed a deal with Major League Baseball to livestream two games on Friday nights on its Apple TV+ service. The tech giant has been discussing streaming live sports for some time. The Information reported last summer that Apple has been in talks with the National Football League about licensing the rights for the Sunday Ticket package which now airs on DirecTV — a deal that expires after the end of the 2022 season. For Apple, getting into live sports is yet another way to attract viewers to its streaming entertainment service. However, baseball doesn’t have the same fan base as professional football and it’s unclear if people would sign up for Apple TV+ just to get access to these games. And the league is currently stuck in contract negotiations with the MLB Players Association, which has delayed the start of the baseball season. Hopefully the two sides will come to an agreement so baseball fans, including those with Apple TV+, can watch these games. https://bit.ly/3w0AxwV
Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory
‘Jedi Blue’ ad deal between Google and Facebook sparks new Antitrust probes in EU and UK.
The European Commission and the U.K. have announced parallel formal antitrust investigations into Google and Facebook in relation to their online display ad businesses. The twin probes, announced today by the EU’s competition division and the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), are focused on allegations of collusion between Google and Facebook (aka Meta) via a September 2018 internal agreement known as “Jedi Blue,” which stands accused of undermining a competing ad system (header bidding) in favor of Google’s Open Bidding system. https://tcrn.ch/3MG8id1
U.S. Congressional committee is asking DoJ to investigate Amazon for possible criminal obstruction of Congress.
A U.S. congressional committee is asking the Justice Department to investigate Amazon.com Inc. AMZN and some of its executives for a potential criminal obstruction of Congress, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter and a letter it has obtained. The letter is dated March 9 and addressed to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland from Democratic and Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee. The letter accuses Amazon of refusing to provide information that lawmakers wanted as part of a probe by the body’s Antitrust Subcommittee into Amazon’s competitive practices. https://on.mktw.net/37nWnAp
Samsung says hackers breached company data, Galaxy source code.
Samsung Electronics Co. suffered a cybersecurity breach that exposed internal company data, including source code for the operation of its Galaxy smartphones, the company said on Monday. The statement came after a claim over the weekend that LAPSUS$, a hacking group that stole proprietary information from Nvidia Corp.’s networks, had gained access to Samsung data. The Korean electronics giant did not identify the attackers who compromised its systems. Measures to prevent further breaches have been put in place, a spokesperson said via text message, and customers’ personal data was not affected. https://bloom.bg/3w02qVR
Ubisoft says it experienced a ‘cyber security incident’, and the purported Nvidia hackers are taking credit.
Ubisoft experienced a “cyber security incident” last week that temporarily disrupted some games, systems, and services, the company reported Thursday. Ubisoft hasn’t said who might be responsible, but on Friday evening, the group who purportedly hacked Nvidia took credit. Ubisoft said it believes that “at this time there is no evidence any player personal information was accessed or exposed as a by-product of this incident” and says that games and services are now “functioning normally.” Out of caution, the company also “initiated a company-wide password reset.” When asked for comment, Ubisoft spokesperson Jessica Roache said the company had no additional details to share. https://bit.ly/3Czln3b
Cybercriminals who breached Nvidia issue one of the most unusual demands ever.
Data extortionists who stole up to 1 terabyte of data from Nvidia have delivered one of the most unusual ultimatums ever in the annals of cybercrime: allow Nvidia’s graphics cards to mine cryptocurrencies faster or face the imminent release of the company’s crown-jewel source code. A ransomware group calling itself Lapsus$ first claimed last week that it had hacked into Nvidia’s corporate network and stolen more than 1TB of data. Included in the theft, the group claims, are schematics and source code for drivers and firmware. A relative newcomer to the ransomware scene, Lapsus$ has already published one tranche of leaked files, which among other things included the usernames and cryptographic hashes for 71,335 of the chipmaker’s employees. The group then went on to make the highly unusual demand: remove a feature known as LHR, short for “Lite Hash Rate,” or see the further leaking of stolen data. https://bit.ly/3HZSUVe
Twitter shops will let sellers showcase more products on their profiles.
Twitter is rolling out a new shopping beta today: Twitter Shops, which lets sellers add a virtual storefront to their profiles for customers to browse. Notably, Twitter Shops won’t actually let you purchase things directly — instead, the shop listings will link you out to the company’s website in an in-app browser to actually complete your purchase. https://bit.ly/3KDM89u
DoorDash is testing a feature that lets you return packages to post offices, FedEx Or UPS.
DoorDash confirmed it’s testing a new feature called “Return a Package” that allows customers to use the service to return packages to the nearest post office, UPS or FedEx location. The feature is part of a small beta test and is not yet widely available, DoorDash said, and declined to share which markets are offering the option. https://tcrn.ch/37ol1Rs
Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency
Russian banks are planning a switch to China’s card payment system after Mastercard and Visa halted Operations, reports say.
Russian banks are making the switch as Mastercard and Visa suspended operations. China’s card system, UnionPay, provides access to making payments in over 180 countries. Some banks could issue cards with UnionPay alongside the domestic Mir payments system. Russian banks could switch to using China’s card payment system, UnionPay, after MasterCard and Visa suspended operations in Russia, according to media reports. https://bit.ly/3J5ppTr
Coinbase blocks 25,000 Russian accounts linked to illegal activity.
Coinbase said it’s blocked more than 25,000 accounts it believes are linked to illegal activity in Russia as the company made the pitch that crypto and blockchain technologies would actually help promote compliance with global sanctions. Paul Grewal, the company’s chief legal officer, made the disclosure in a blog post on Monday outlining Coinbase’s recent efforts to comply with sanctions linked to the invasion of Ukraine. “Today, Coinbase blocks over 25,000 addresses related to Russian individuals or entities we believe to be engaging in illicit activity, many of which we have identified through our own proactive investigations,” Grewal said. Lawmakers have raised fears in recent weeks that the crypto industry could be used by the Kremlin to side-step sanctions. Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong tweeted last week that “some ordinary Russians are using crypto as a lifeline” but that the company would comply with orders from the U.S. government. Coinbase’s post on Monday criticized money laundering and sanctions evasion which had been enabled by the traditional financial system. https://bit.ly/3HZMTbf
A crypto lobbying boom is sweeping Washington.
Crypto lobbying may be K Street’s hottest new business, according to a new report from Public Citizen. The left-leaning consumer advocacy group said the number of lobbyists representing the industry reached 320 last year — up from 115 in 2018. Spending quadrupled too, reaching US$9 million, from US$2.2 million just three years earlier. A lot of that money came from Coinbase, Ripple and the Blockchain Association: All three spent more than $2 million on lobbying during the years that the report examined, according to the group. https://bit.ly/3CBdWbI
Biden’s executive order on Cryptocurrencies zeros in on six priorities and ‘urgency’ in exploring the creation of a US Digital Dollar.
Protecting consumers, reducing crime risks, and examining a potential US digital dollar are among the directives in President Joe Biden’s executive order on cryptocurrencies which aims to unify the US government’s oversight of the $2 trillion market for digital assets. https://bit.ly/3pXguf4
UK regulator orders crypto ATM operators to shut down.
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has contacted crypto ATM operators to shut down their machines or face penalties since they are unlicensed. According to an FCA notice published on Friday, none of the crypto ATM operators in the UK are registered to do business in the country. As such, all such machines are operating illegally. https://bit.ly/3t3N3tO
Stripe begins integrating applications with crypto businesses.
Online payments processing giant Stripe unveiled features on Thursday that will allow crypto businesses to use its software to more easily convert fiat currency such as the U.S. dollar into cryptocurrencies, and vice versa, within blockchain applications. Stripe will also make its identity verification tools available to crypto businesses, along with know-your-customer features, to prevent fraudulent financial activity. The company announced a slate of high profile partners that would begin using its applications, including FTX and FTX US, the crypto exchange’s United States affiliate. The exchanges will use Stripe to allow users to buy cryptocurrencies using debit cards linked to bank accounts with fiat currencies. FTX will also use Stripe’s Radar application to analyze customer details in the background to detect fraudulent activity. Other partners include crypto trading and investment companies Blockchain.com and Just Mining, and NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway. Stripe began hiring more people to support its crypto work last year. The team is led by Guillaume Poncin, who previously led engineering for banking products. The company also appointed Matt Huang, who co-founded crypto venture capital firm Paradigm, to its board of directors in November. https://bit.ly/35MRMaC
Sam Bankman Fried’s FTX crypto exchange to expand into Europe after winning Cyprus License.
Cryptocurrency exchange FTX said it won a European operating license in Cyprus. FTX Europe will allow clients in the European Economic Area and the Middle East to access derivatives, options, and volatility products, among others. FTX completed a US$400 million funding round in January that valued the company at US$32 billion. FTX will offer services in Europe after securing a license from Cyprus, setting up a further expansion for one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges. https://bit.ly/3CyKSBu
LimeWire is coming back as an NFT marketplace a decade after shutting down following battle with music industry group.
LimeWire is preparing to relaunch as a marketplace for non-fungible tokens, making the move more than 10 years after shutting its doors as a file-sharing platform for music and other digital entertainment. The company on Wednesday said it has set up a waitlist for people interested in joining its NFT marketplace when it goes live in May. The site will allow people to buy and trade music-related assets, its initial focus. https://bit.ly/3J7B1oK
Electric car prices could go up even as fuel prices soar.
As US gas prices hit record highs in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it seems like electric vehicles may not be a safe haven for those looking to save money. That’s because Russia plays an important part in the production of the nickel that ends up in batteries used by many electric vehicles — a metal that’s rocketed up in price even faster than oil. On February 25th, nickel was trading on the London Metal Exchange for around US$24,000 a ton, according to The Wall Street Journal. By March 8th, it was trading at US$80,000 (down from a peak of over US$100,000), and the London Metal Exchange had suspended trading. There are a few reasons for the massive uptick in price — because it’s 2022, there are financial shenanigans involved, but it’s also impossible for the market to ignore the fact that an important nickel producer is at war and facing a flurry of international sanctions. https://bit.ly/3CzatdH
PG&E, Ford to explore electric pickup truck as backup generator for home.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and Ford Motor Company are collaborating to explore how Ford’s new F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck can provide backup power for customers’ homes in the California utility’s service area. https://tcrn.ch/3HZiQQJ
Microsoft’s pursuit of climate goals runs into headwinds.
Microsoft has an ambitious plan to cut its carbon emissions. But on Thursday, the company reported a big increase in the greenhouse gases emanating from its operations and its products, a reminder of the challenges that companies face as they try to clean up their businesses. https://nyti.ms/34z121c
Sophic Capital Client Insights
Sophic Client Clear Blue Technologies (CBLU-TSXV, CBUTF-OTC, 0YA-FRA): Powering critical infrastructure remotely with solar.
Clear Blue Technologies’ CEO recently returned from overseas customer, prospect, and investor meetings where conversations increasingly focused on how Clear Blue’s renewable, solar power solutions can resolve these issues. Investors seeking exposure to this secular theme should consider Clear Blue Technologies. https://bit.ly/3t59VsZ
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