As market volatility continued early last week after tumultuous trading the previous week, our discussions with our capital markets contacts suggest new issue pipelines remain exceptionally busy, which, in our view, bodes well for public markets relating to Canadian tech and clean tech. In the Canadian small cap space, we were encouraged to witness Sophic Client small-cap stock Luckbox (LUCK-TSXV), and separately, EMERGE Commerce (ECOM-TSXV) both close recently announced upsized financings. We’re also eagerly anticipating Telehealth provider Dialogue’s IPO. With Bitcoin hitting US$60K over the weekend, we expect crypto to remain an active theme globally. In the USA, Roblox and Coupang, both had strong public market debuts last week, as generally expected.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Telehealth startup Dialogue to go public on Toronto Stock Exchange, targets $100 million IPO.

Telehealth startup Dialogue has officially filed to be public on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) amid the increasing trend of Canadian tech companies, and notably healthtech startups, turning to public markets. Dialogue has set a target of $100 million for its IPO and hopes to issue between 8.33 million and 11.11 million shares at a targeted price of between $9 and $12 per share. Dialogue was founded in 2016 and incubated in Diagram Ventures. It offers a telemedicine solution targeted to employers, with services to access front-line healthcare providers through its virtual care platform. Dialogue is going public after seeing rapid growth in 2020. The startup reported its revenues grew by 187 percent, compared to 2019, with $60 million of annual recurring revenue as of the end of January. Dialogue has raised more than $100 million to date, including a $43 million round led by Canadian life insurance company Sun Life Financial in July 2020. The startup is backed by the likes of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Portag3 Ventures, White Star Capital, and First Ascent Ventures. The public offering is being conducted through a syndicate of underwriters led by National Bank Financial, RBC Capital Markets, Scotiabank and TD Securities. It also includes CIBC World Markets, Desjardins Securities, Canaccord Genuity, iA Private Wealth, INFOR Financial and Laurentian Bank Securities. http://bit.ly/3crJpAC

Lightspeed to acquire Vend for $350 million. Lightspeed POS (LSPD-TSX, LSPD-NYSE) is set to acquire Vend, a retail management software company based in New Zealand, for approximately US$350 million in a cash and stock deal.

The companies have entered into a definitive agreement, and the deal is set to close at the end of April. The proposed transaction would consist of $192.5 million in cash and the issuance of subordinate voting shares in the capital of Lightspeed, totalling $157.5 million. The deal would approximately double Lightspeed’s customer base in the Asia-Pacific. http://bit.ly/30IArcs

CryptoStar Corp. (CSTR-TSXV) announces $25 million private placement with institutional investors.

CryptoStar, a cryptocurrency mining and data centre operator, is pleased to announce that it has entered into a securities purchase agreement for a private placement of its common shares (“Common Shares”) and warrants to purchase common shares (“Warrants”) to institutional investors for gross proceeds of approximately $25.0 million (the “Private Placement”). Pursuant to the Private Placement, the Company will issue up to 83,333,334 Common Shares and Warrants to purchase up to 83,333,334 Common Shares at a purchase price of $0.30 per Common Share and associated Warrant. Each Warrant will entitle the holder to purchase one Common Share at an exercise price of CAD$0.40 per Common Share for a period of three and one-half (3.5) years following the closing date of the Private Placement. http://bit.ly/3cwOCal

Real Luck Group (LUCK-TSXV, Sophic Client) announces closing of upsized [and oversubscribed] $17.8 million private placement of special warrants led by Gravitas Securities.

“Luckbox’s strong leadership team paired with the current size and growth potential of esports and sports betting led to the Offering being heavily oversubscribed, as investors begin to recognize this attractive sector and opportunity”, Company Chairman Drew Green said. “We are grateful to our investors for their support and this financing puts Luckbox in a strong position to execute on our goals as we strive to further establish the business as a global leader in the esports betting space.” http://bit.ly/3qKBi7c

EMERGE (ECOM-TSXV) announces closing of upsized $11.9 million private placement of special warrants led by Canaccord Genuity and Gravitas Securities.

http://bit.ly/3laukr0

Ether Capital Corp. (ETHC-NEO) announces proposed offering of units.

The Offering is expected to be priced in the context of the market, with the final terms of the Offering to be determined at the time of pricing. There can be no assurance as to whether or when the Offering may be completed, or as to the actual size or terms of the Offering. The closing of the Offering will be subject to market and other customary conditions, including requirements of the Neo Exchange Inc. http://bit.ly/3vjnJPy

Boardwalktech (BWSL-TSXV) announces share for debt agreements as part of paydowns.

The company has entered into a Shares for Debt agreement, with its term loan lender SQN Venture Income Fund LP (“SQN”), pursuant to which the Company proposes to issue 2,242,568  common shares at a deemed price per common share of US$0.660  to settle US$1,480,095.46 of principal indebtedness (the “SQN Transaction”). http://bit.ly/3bGma6n

Koho secures $70 million Series C to scale adoption of its digital banking services.

Koho has secured $70 million in Series C financing, which sources estimate put its post-money valuation at $300 million. The Toronto FinTech startup raised the capital from TTV Capital, Drive Capital, and Portag3 Ventures as it aims to increase the utility and adoption of its alternative financial service offerings. The round was led by new investor TTV Capital, a United States firm focused on FinTech and claiming an unparalleled network of major banks, processors, and other payment ecosystem participants. TTV invested in Koho through its US$127 million early-stage FinTech fund, which closed last year. http://bit.ly/3ti6agS

BrandProject raises $54 million venture fund focused on early stage investing.

BrandProject, a Toronto-based investment firm, has raised $54 million in the final close of its first venture fund, BrandProject Capital Fund LP. BrandProject was founded in 2013 by Andrew Black, the co-founder and former CEO of Virgin Mobile. The fund represents BrandProject’s second after the firm closed a $12 million round in 2013 that ran on an evergreen structure where some of the capital was continually reinvested. The firm invests in next-generation consumer products, services, and technology and has invested in 22 companies, seven of which had successful exits. Some of its most successful investments to date include Freshly, which was acquired by Nestle; Hello Products, acquired by Colgate Palmolive; and Chefs Plate, which was acquired by Hello Fresh. BrandProject is reportedly one of Canada’s most successful investment firms given its exits, which according to reporting from The Globe and Mail, generated more than 10 times BrandProject’s original invested capital. http://bit.ly/3tbRwrM

D-Wave receives $40 million from federal government for quantum computing tech.

Burnaby, BC-based D-Wave Systems has secured $40 million from the Government of Canada to support its quantum computing systems and software. The $40 million in government funding comes in the form of Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) financing. It will support a $120 million project D-Wave is working on to develop quantum computer hardware and software systems. The goal behind the government capital and project is to ensure Canada “remains at the forefront of quantum technology development” and help D-Wave prove the advantage of quantum technology over classical computers. The project has also received assistance from the Sustainable Development Technologies Canada program and the Government of British Columbia, though dollar figures were not disclosed. Despite its long history, which has seen more than US$300 million raised to date, D-Wave has struggled to become a sustainable company and faced increased competition from the likes of Google, Microsoft, Intel, and IBM, among others. The Globe reported last year the company had secured just US$75 million in customer contracts over its lifespan. The company also reportedly raised $40 million in financing last year, which was part of a capital restructuring and cut D-Wave’s valuation to less than US$170 million from US$450 million. This led to long-time investors, such as the venture arm of the US Central Intelligence Agency venture and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, seeing their stakes fall significantly. http://bit.ly/3tgteN1

Wrapbook raises $34 million to capitalize on digital transformation in entertainment industry.

Wrapbook, a Toronto and New York-based startup at the intersection of entertainment and FinTech, has raised a $34 million Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz. Wrapbook offers payroll software specifically for media production companies. Cast and crew members create profiles that allow media companies to complete payroll without users having to refill employment paperwork with every new company they work with. The Series A round involved all new capital and Wrapbook has raised approximately $40 million total, to date. After launching during COVID-19, the startup claims its revenue has increased “sevenfold.” The Series A round is a significant one for Wrapbook, which raised its first external round of financing just last year. The latest round also included entertainment industry executives Michael Ovitz, founder of the talent agency behind Barbra Streisand and Steven Spielberg, and WndrCo, the investment company of Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder of DreamWorks SKG and former Walt Disney Studios and Paramount Studios executive. Equal Ventures and Uncork Capital, which both invested in Wrapbook’s seed round, reinvested in Wrapbook’s Series A round. http://bit.ly/3bBo2h1

Heyday AI raises $6.5 million seed extension to bring its chatbot software to more retailers.

Heyday AI, a retail tech startup based in Montréal, has extended its seed round by $6.5 million. With this new funding, the startup has raised approximately $8.5 million to date. “Retailers need new ways to bring their in-store experience online, via their customers’ preferred digital channels.” The startup raised $2 million in its initial seed round in April 2019. The extension consists of a loan provided by Investissement Québec and a convertible note from Innovobot and Desjardins Capital. http://bit.ly/3v8SQxj

PitchPoint Solutions secures $4.5 million from CIBC Innovation Banking to grow fraud prevention service.

Toronto and Florida-based FinTech company PitchPoint Solutions has secured $4.5 million in financing from CIBC Innovation Banking for its software service, which aims to prevent fraud. PitchPoint’s data and analytics software provides fraud prevention services across the United States (US) for a variety of industries, including the mortgage, background and tenant screening, and anti-money laundering sectors. http://bit.ly/3ldqrl3

Trufan looks to consolidate audience analytics products with $2.3 million seed round.

Toronto-based startup Trufan has raised a $2.3 million seed round of funding, as the company looks to consolidate its two core products and offer a first-party audience analytics platform. Trufan is looking to combine its two products to help brands better leverage first-party data. The seed round was led by Moneta Ventures, with participation from GP Ventures, Protocol Ventures and a handful of angels, including Innovative Fitness founder Curtis Christopherson, Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favours, and Chicago Bulls forward Thaddeus Young. The athlete angel investments were facilitated by Athlete Technology Group, a venture event and media company. http://bit.ly/3rxnSwx

DeFi Ventures announces launch and closing of seed financing.

The company has raised $2 million in its seed financing round, which closed on March 8. The round included investments by several prominent Canadian angels and VCs, and strategic investments by a US-based technology hedge fund, BIGG Digital and First Block Capital. DeFi Ventures is a technology company seeking to streamline access to the assets and technology that power the new era of decentralized finance. http://bit.ly/2Nfr5SD

WELL Health (WELL-TSX) to boost its digital health SaaS revenue and to expand EMR business to international markets with proposed acquisition of Intrahealth.

The company entered into a share purchase agreement dated March 7, 2021 (the “Agreement”) with the shareholders of Intrahealth Systems Limited, a New Zealand company (“Intrahealth”), whereby WELL has agreed to acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of Intrahealth (the “Transaction”) for total consideration of approximately $19,250,000.  Intrahealth is a provider of enterprise class EMR(1) and clinical healthcare software with customers in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Intrahealth supports approximately 15,000 clinicians providing care for millions of patients in its combined databases across its global network of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Over the past 12 months Intrahealth generated approximately $9 million in revenues with over 20% in EBITDA margin. Over 80% of Intrahealth’s revenue is high margin recurring revenue. http://bit.ly/3vnSZ02

Wealthsimple launches peer-to-peer payment Cash app nationwide.

Toronto-based FinTech startup Wealthsimple has launched its new consumer payment app, Wealthsimple Cash, for users across Canada. Similar to Venmo, Wealthsimple Cash is currently a peer-to-peer payment app that allows users to send, receive, and request cash instantly. First announced in January 2020, Wealthsimple began rolling out the first feature of its new Cash product in beta to select employees and clients last November. As of today, the app is now available to all Canadian users in the Apple App Store and Google Play. http://bit.ly/3vhwtWC

Carbon Engineering inks Shopify as its first partner for carbon removal as a service.

Carbon Engineering is moving ahead with its carbon removal service business, allowing customers to buy the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using its direct air capture technology. The launch of the service, and the announcement that Shopify will be the company’s first customer, comes as the company’s most direct competitor, Climeworks, made moves of its own — striking a deal with the Swedish sequestration services company Northern Lights to move forward with its own direct air capture as a service offering. With the Shopify agreement, Carbon Engineering has the first paying customer for 10,000 tonnes of permanent carbon removal capacity from a large-scale DAC project. The removal and sequestration will be done by CE’s plant development partner, 1PointFive — the U.S. development company that’s currently engineering CE’s first industrial-scale facility, the company said. That facility is due to be completed in 2024. http://tcrn.ch/38zKrJF

Amazon ordered to close Canadian facility on Covid-19 cases.

Amazon.com Inc. has been ordered to close a facility outside Toronto for two weeks as public health officials worry about rising Covid-19 cases inside the complex. While the rate of Covid-19 infection has been falling in the Peel region in the past few weeks, the rate inside the Brampton, Ontario, fulfillment center “has been increasing significantly,” the local health authority said Friday in a statement. Every employee at the site may have experienced “high-risk exposure,” the agency said. Amazon disagreed with the health authority’s conclusions. “We just completed our most recent round of mandatory testing with less than a 1% positivity rate, and there appears to be little risk of spread within our facility,” a company spokesperson said in an email. “We do not believe the data supports this closure and we will appeal this decision.” Amazon has been dealing with Covid-19 in its warehouses and other logistics facilities for more than a year after the first cases were detected among its workforce in early European hotspots for the virus. http://bloom.bg/3lhyUDJ

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

‘SPAC king’ Chamath Palihapitiya is planning a US$1 billion listing of a climate company, according to reports.

Billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya is taking his hunt for businesses to Britain. Social Capital Hedosophia – the investment firm run by Palihapitiya and his partner Ian Osborne – is eyeing a US$1 billion London listing for a company focused on fighting climate change, Bloomberg reported on Friday. http://bit.ly/3qK8RGC

Coupang’s stock soars above pricing of upsized IPO, boosting market cap to just below US$100 billion.

Shares of Korea-based ecommerce site Coupang Inc. blasted out of the gate Thursday, as they opened 81.4% above their initial public offering price. The company’s 130 million share IPO, up from a previous plan of 120 million shares, of which 100 million shares was from the company and 20 million shares were from selling stockholders, priced at US$35. That was above the expected range of between US$32 and US$34 a share. The stock showing for the IPO came on a day that the Renaissance IPO ETF rose 4.1% and the S&P 500 rallied 1.4%. http://on.mktw.net/30IzBN3

SoftBank-backed Grab weighs U.S. IPO through SPAC merger.

Grab Holdings Inc. is exploring going public in the U.S. through a merger with a blank-check company as the Southeast Asian ride-hailing and delivery giant seeks to expedite its listing process, according to people familiar with the matter. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley, which are already advising Grab on its initial public offering plans, are working with the startup to identify special purpose acquisition companies that it could combine with, the people said. Still, a U.S. listing via a traditional IPO isn’t off the table, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private. http://bloom.bg/3ey9Qan

BuzzFeed in talks to go public through merger with 890 Fifth Avenue, a SPAC focused on media and telecom.

BuzzFeed is considering going public through a merger with the special-purpose acquisition company 890 Fifth Avenue Partners, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. The terms of the deal aren’t publicly known, and talks are ongoing and can still fall apart, according to Bloomberg. BuzzFeed, a New York City-based digital-media company, was founded in 2006 and completed its acquisition of HuffPost from Verizon last month, before laying off 47 staffers earlier this week. In its initial public offering in January, 890 Fifth Avenue raised US$287.5 million, according to a press release. The “blank-check” company, which is named after the fictional Avengers mansion, said it planned to focus on media and entertainment businesses. http://bit.ly/2PP9QIB

Reddit takes step toward eventual IPO, naming Vollero first CFO.

Reddit Inc., one of the world’s most popular internet forums, appointed Drew Vollero as its first chief financial officer, taking a step closer toward an initial public offering. Vollero led Snap Inc.’s IPO preparations when he served as CFO at the social media company from 2015 to 2018. He has also lead finances for Mattel Inc. and most recently at security and facilities services firm Allied Universal Corp. At Reddit, Vollero will expand the finance team as the company grows and looks toward an IPO. https://bloom.bg/3rttNTo

IonQ to become first publicly traded quantum computing company via merger with SPAC dMY Technology Group.

IonQ Inc. said Monday it will become the first publicly traded pure-play quantum computing company when it completes a merger with special purpose acquisition corporation dMY Technology “Group III . The deal has a pro forma implied market capitalization for the combined company of about USD2 billion, the companies said in a joint statement. Once the deal closes, IonQ shares will trade on the New York Stock Exchange, under the ticker symbol ‘IONQ.’ The deal will generate US$650 million in gross proceeds and will include investment from Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, Silver Lake, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, MSD Partners, L.P., Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Corporation, and other institutional investors. “In addition to producing the first and only quantum computer available via the cloud on both Amazon Braket and Microsoft Azure, IonQ has defined what it believes to be the best path forward to scaling quantum computing power,” the company said. “By 2023, IonQ plans to develop modular quantum computers small enough to be networked together, which could pave the way for broad quantum advantage by 2025.”  http://on.mktw.net/3lb8jIF

Bitcoin mining machine maker Canaan skyrockets 37% as bitcoin pushes past US$1 trillion market cap for the second time.

Bitcoin mining machine maker Canaan saw its stock skyrocket as much as 37% on Tuesday as bitcoin pushed past $1 trillion in market capitalization for the second time in its history. Beijing-based Canaan was founded in 2013 by Nangeng Zhang. The company manufactures supercomputers for use in bitcoin mining and is known for having invented the world’s first ASIC(application-specific integrated circuit)-powered bitcoin mining machine. Canaan’s stock has been on a historic run over the past six months, rising more than 1,000% as bitcoin continues its mainstream breakout. The mining machine maker traded at just US$2.06 per share in September of last year. Canaan recently announced that it had received “purchase orders totaling more than 100,000 units of bitcoin mining machines from customers in North America.” Previously the company had been selling bitcoin mining machines mostly to individual mining operators, but in late 2020 the client base shifted to mainly publicly traded companies and bitcoin-focused investment funds. As an example of the mining machine manufacturer’s new business model, on February 7 Canaan sold 6,000 of its A1246 model AvalonMiners to Core Scientific. And Hive Blockchain ordered some 6,400 next-generation bitcoin miners from the company on Jan 23. https://bit.ly/3l5H8yI

Bilibili wins nod for US$3 billion Hong Kong second listing.

Chinese video streaming platform Bilibili Inc. has received the green light from the Hong Kong stock exchange for its proposed second listing, people familiar with the matter said. The U.S.-listed technology firm could raise about US$3 billion from the share sale, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. Details of the offering are not final and could change, the people said. http://bloom.bg/3bKVEJq

JD.com may withdraw fintech unit’s stock sale in Shanghai’s Star Market after restructuring at JD Technology, sources say.

JD Technology, the fintech unit of one of China’s largest online shopping platforms, is likely to withdraw its initial public offering (IPO) from Shanghai’s Star Market, amid changing business circumstances after the halt of Ant Group’s stock sale last November, according to sources. The company, renamed from JD Digits since absorbing JD.com’s businesses in artificial intelligence and cloud computing in January, may resubmit a listing application in future, according to two sources briefed about ongoing discussions who declined to be named. The company feels it’s appropriate to withdraw the IPO plan because its name, its business and its senior management team have all changed since the initial listing plan was first filed, said one source who is involved in the listing discussions. Any postponement in the listing of JD Technology, 36.8 per cent owned by JD.com, would not be a heavy blow to the e-commerce company, as investors are convinced of the company’s business prospects and are unlikely to force the parent into a buy-out, another source said. Executives of JD.com and JD Technology in Beijing did not respond to requests for comment. http://bit.ly/30CDvqE

Tencent, Walmart to invest in Japan’s Rakuten in US$2.2 billion deal.

Rakuten, Amazon’s main rival in Japan, said it will raise 242 billion yen (US$2.2 billion) by selling its shares to Chinese internet giant Tencent and U.S. retailer Walmart as well as Japan Post, a postal and financial services group. Japan, the world’s third-largest economy after the U.S. and China, is one of Amazon’s biggest international markets. Rakuten, which operates the country’s largest homegrown online marketplace, faces tough competition not only from Amazon but also from SoftBank’s Yahoo Japan unit. Rakuten and Japan Post said they are discussing strategic collaborations in logistics, digital payment and other areas. Rakuten’s Tokyo-listed stock surged 8.6% Friday, as the news of its fundraising was reported earlier by Japan’s national broadcaster NHK. http://bit.ly/3eCd1xI

Emerging Technologies

How Google’s new career certificates could disrupt the college degree.

Google is announcing the next steps in its plan to disrupt the world of education, including the launch of new certificate programs that are designed to help people bridge any skills gap and get qualifications in high-paying, high-growth job fields–with one noteworthy feature: No college degree necessary. https://bit.ly/3rTtCRe

Apple VR/AR headset in 2022 for US$1000, AR glasses in 2025.

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is out with a new investor note today detailing Apple’s roadmap for virtual reality and augmented reality products. Kuo predicts that Apple will release a new “helmet type” headset with AR and VR capabilities, followed by AR glasses in 2025 and eventually an AR contact lens product between 2030-2040. As for the AR and VR headset coming as soon as next year, Kuo says that current prototypes currently weigh between 200 grams and 300 grams. “If Apple can successfully solve the significant technical problems, the final product weight will be reduced to 100–200 grams,” he writes. Next, Kuo says that Apple will release AR glasses by 2025 “at the earliest” and that Apple has yet to begin prototype production. The key feature here will reportedly be Apple’s custom “optical see-through AR experience” to overlay the AR elements onto the real-world. http://bit.ly/3cpZwOO

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

Disney+ crosses 100 million paying subscribers, plans to be ‘more ambitious’ going forward.

Disney+ has crossed a major milestone in terms of paid subscribers. Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced during the company’s annual meeting of shareholders that Disney+ now has over 100 million paying subscribers, just 16 months after the service first launched. For comparison’s sake, Netflix has 204 million paying subscribers, but of course it has been on the market for far longer than Disney+. Apple does not disclose subscriber numbers for Apple TV+, and it just extended the free trial period by another six months. http://bit.ly/3bDyBjD

What is everybody doing on Discord?

Discord nearly tripled its revenue last year solely by selling subscription access to exclusive perks for users. By contrast, the companies behind other free online hangouts—including Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Snap Inc. —primarily sell targeted ads built around sharing users’ personal information. San Francisco-based Discord got its start in 2015 as a platform that made it easy for videogame enthusiasts to chat while playing online games together. Mr. Citron, an avid gamer and game developer, billed its technology as a more robust alternative to existing options at the time. Discord’s appeal has since expanded to include groups of high-schoolers doing homework together, friends watching a movie over a shared screen and individual investors from Reddit Inc.’s WallStreetBets community, which gained notoriety earlier this year due to its role in the GameStop trading frenzy. Discord said it has doubled its monthly user base to about 140 million as daily life moved online in the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, the company generated US$130 million in revenue, up from nearly US$45 million in 2019, according to a person familiar with the company’s finances. http://on.wsj.com/2ORhphC

Newzoo anticipates global esports market will grow to US$1.08 billion in 2021.

In its 2021 Global Esports & Live Streaming Market Report, the firm anticipates revenues to grow 14.5% year-over-year from US$947.1 million in 2020. Last October, Newzoo revised its original forecast of global esports revenues hitting US$1.1 billion down to US$950.3 million, attributing the change to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic preventing in-person attendance at esports events. Though esports attendance will still be impacted by the pandemic, Newzoo anticipates US$833.6 million — or 77% — of 2021 revenues will come from media rights and sponsorship. Newzoo also anticipates that the global live-streaming audience for games will reach 728.8 million in 2021, growing by 10% from 2020, and that by 2024 that number will climb to 920.3 million. It notes that the pandemic has accelerated — and will continue to accelerate — growth in the live-streaming audience, but the firm expects that will stabilize as the pandemic subsides. http://bit.ly/38w8nNZ

Blockchain esports platform FYX partners with leading esports betting operator Unikrn to deliver next-generation iGaming products.

FYX Gaming, the Raleigh-based esports infrastructure and technology provider specializing in the development of blockchain-based solutions, today announces that it has entered into a partnership with leading esports betting operator Unikrn. The deal will see the two leading esports companies collaborate to deliver next-generation iGaming products and technology. https://bit.ly/3vefxQq

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

Amy Klobuchar, now Chair of Senate antitrust subcommittee, plans to investigate the App Store.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a close ally of President Biden, is now the Chair of the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee. With a democrat as influential as Klobuchar at the helm, companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and more will be facing off against a powerful new adversary.CNN’s Brian Fung reported that Klobuchar plans to hold “standalone hearings on app store policies” among other things.  Klobuchar says that she has not reached out to any major tech executives yet to testify at these hearings, but Politico notes that she is “particularly interested” in the issues that surround Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. http://bit.ly/38upMXr

Tech war with news media flares in U.S. with new Congress push.

The battle between news publishers and Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. that flared up in Australia recently is coming to the U.S. Lawmakers re-introduced legislation Wednesday to allow news organizations to band together to negotiate with the technology companies over payment for content and the data the companies have about readers. The legislation, which was proposed in the Senate and House with bipartisan support, shows the U.S. is becoming the next front in the news industry’s war against Facebook and Google. Publishers scored a major victory last month when Australia passed a law to force the companies to pay for news content. In Europe, publishers have been lobbying European Union lawmakers to copy parts of the Australian law. “Local news is on life support in this country,” Democratic Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island said in an interview. Cicilline who chairs the House antitrust subcommittee is one of the sponsors. “And so this approach creates an opportunity to protect a free press and make certain that they have the ability to negotiate the use content,” he said. http://bloom.bg/3bKNdxI

Google must face suit over snooping on ‘incognito’ browsing.

Google failed to kill a lawsuit alleging that it secretly scoops up troves of internet data even if users browse in “Incognito” mode to keep their search activity private. The consumers who filed the case as a class action alleged that even when even they turn off data collection in Chrome, other Google tools used by websites end up amassing their personal information. A federal judge on Friday denied the Alphabet Inc. unit’s initial request to throw out the case. http://bloom.bg/3ldoF3n

Chinese regulators considering huge fine against Alibaba.

Chinese regulators are considering fining Alibaba more than US$975 million over anticompetitive practices, the Wall Street Journal reported. At the same time, the government will force Alibaba to end a practice under which the company has penalized merchants for selling items on both Alibaba and rival ecommerce sites. The government is also considering weather to require Alibaba to divest some assets unrelated to its online retailing business, the Journal said. The article also outlines rising pressures facing Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who upset the government with critical comments about China’s financial system. It said employees are internally calling Ma a major source of instability for the company. The government wants Alibaba to dissociate itself from Ma and align itself more closely with the Communist Party. http://bit.ly/2Q4iGCF

Microsoft attack blamed on China morphs into global crisis.

A sophisticated attack on Microsoft Corp.’s widely used business email software is morphing into a global cybersecurity crisis, as hackers race to infect as many victims as possible before companies can secure their computer systems. https://bloom.bg/2OAQNkx

Hackers breach thousands of security cameras, exposing Tesla, jails, hospitals.

A group of hackers say they breached a massive trove of security-camera data collected by Silicon Valley startup Verkada Inc., gaining access to live feeds of 150,000 surveillance cameras inside hospitals, companies, police departments, prisons and schools. Companies whose footage was exposed include carmaker Tesla Inc. and software provider Cloudflare Inc. In addition, hackers were able to view video from inside women’s health clinics, psychiatric hospitals and the offices of Verkada itself. Some of the cameras, including in hospitals, use facial-recognition technology to identify and categorize people captured on the footage. The hackers say they also have access to the full video archive of all Verkada customers. https://bloom.bg/2OFCg7v

eCommerce

Online spending soared 54% in February, signaling a permanent shift in Americans’ shopping habits, Mastercard says.

Online sales jumped 54% in February from a year ago — a month before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the US. The pandemic forced e-commerce adoption to accelerate by about two years, Linda Kirkpatrick, president of North America at Mastercard, told CNBC on Tuesday. Consumers have “really built a digital commerce muscle that we believe is here to stay,” she said. Online apparel sales now account for about three-fourths of all clothing purchases in the US, Kirkpatrick said, noting that’s a 47% jump from a year ago. Online jewelry sales have also seen a bump, rising 63% year-over-year, CNBC reported. http://bit.ly/3etToYI

Amazon spends US$131 million for stake in cargo airline ATSG.

Amazon.com Inc. has scooped up a minority stake in a cargo airline that operates a portion of its fast-growing air-cargo division, the latest sign of the retailer’s long-term ambitions to expand its air-freight operations. Earlier this year, Amazon announced its first aircraft purchases, buying 11 Boeing Co. 767-300 jets to join a fleet of leased planes. The company is also set to complete work later this year on an air-cargo hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Amazon uses the air operation to speed goods from its warehouses to shoppers, reducing its reliance on logistics partners like United Parcel Service Inc. http://bloom.bg/3eIqrrQ

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

The COO of Goldman Sachs says client demand for bitcoin is rising as the cryptocurrency flirts with record highs.

Goldman Sachs chief operating officer and bank president John Waldron on Wednesday said he has seen an increase in interest from his clients when it comes to investing in bitcoin. “Client demand is rising,” Waldron said in a Wolfe Virtual FinTech Forum. “We are regulated on what we can do. We continue to evaluate it…and engage on it.” Waldron told Reuters that the bank can keep digital assets “but can’t principle” them. The executive also said Goldman is discussing with regulators how banks can deal with digital assets moving forward. The US Securities and Exchange Commission in December 2020 has sought public comment regarding the custody of digital assets. http://bit.ly/30A2r1S

WisdomTree files to launch a US bitcoin ETF, joining a growing list of firms seeking SEC approval.

The New York-based exchange traded fund sponsor and asset manager filed an S-1 on Thursday to list the WisdomTree Bitcoin Trust on the Cboe BZX Exchange. The ETF aims to provide investors with exposure to the price of bitcoin and would trade under the ticker symbol “BTCW.” WisdomTree’s fund will track the CME CF Bitcoin US Settlement Price, which calculates the bitcoin price based on trade flow of major bitcoin spot exchanges. Delaware Trust Company is the trustee of the fund and the custodian of the fund has not yet been named, according to the filing. https://bit.ly/3eC1vCE

A bitcoin ‘fear gauge’ measuring the cryptocurrency’s volatility has begun trading for the first time.

A bitcoin “fear gauge,” similar to the Cboe Volatility Index (VIX) investors use to gauge volatility in the stock market, saw its first trades on Wednesday. The T3i BitVol Index measures the expected 30-day implied volatility in bitcoin derived from tradable bitcoin option prices. It was launched in July 2020 by T3 Index, a research-driven financial firm. It also has a separate index for ethereum. http://bit.ly/3cxcdaP

Norwegian conglomerate Aker ASA sets up unit to buy bitcoin.

Norweigian billionaire Kjell Inge Rokke joins a growing list of billionaires who have declared their support for bitcoin. Rokke, chairman of Aker ASA, a $6 billion industrial holding company that controls construction and oil services companies, said that the company set up a unit dedicated to investing in bitcoin and blockchain technology in in a statement Monday. The unit, called Seetee AS, is initially capitalized with around US$58.6 million and has plans on keeping its liquid assets in bitcoin. Seetee will focus initially on four things: investing in and owning bitcoin, establishing partnerships with leading bitcoin players, launching bitcoin verification operations, and building and investing in innovation projects. https://bit.ly/3vhoBnJ

MicroStrategy spent US$15 million to buy another 262 bitcoin.

MicroStrategy Inc. disclosed Friday that it just spent US$15.0 million to buy 262 bitcoins, for an average price of US$57,146, including fees. Shares of the enterprise software and bitcoin holder fell 4.5% in premarket trading, bitcoin dropped 3.2%. MicroStrategy said it now owns about 91,326 bitcoins, which it bought for US$2.21 billion at an average price of US$24,214 per bitcoin. At current prices, that bitcoin holding would be valued at about US$5.1 billion. MicroStrategy’s stock has soared 181.1% over the past three months through Thursday, while bitcoin has run up 209.4% and the S&P 500 has advanced 7.5%. http://on.mktw.net/3rJHmhr

Mark Cuban says the Dallas Mavericks are the largest Dogecoin merchant in the world – and predicts the token’s price could eventually hit US$1. Billionaire Mark Cuban announced on Saturday the Dallas Mavericks have completed more than 20,000 transactions in Dogecoin, making his NBA team the largest merchant of the meme-based cryptocurrency. The “Shark Tank” host said if his team sells merchandise worth another 6.5 billion Dogecoin, the digital asset’s price could hit $1. Dogecoin was last trading 8% higher at US$0.055 per coin on Monday. http://bit.ly/38qKdEj

Beeple sold an NFT for US$69 million.

Until October, the most Mike Winkelmann — the digital artist known as Beeple — had ever sold a print for was US$100.An NFT of his work sold for US$69 million at Christie’s. The sale positions him “among the top three most valuable living artists,” according to the auction house. The record-smashing NFT sale comes after months of increasingly valuable auctions. In October, Winkelmann sold his first series of NFTs, with a pair going for US$66,666.66 each. In December, he sold a series of works for US$3.5 million total. And last month, one of the NFTs that originally sold for US$66,666.66 was resold for US$6.6 million. “I do view this as the next chapter of art history.” NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique files that live on a blockchain and are able to verify ownership of a work of digital art. Buyers typically get limited rights to display the digital artwork they represent, but in many ways, they’re just buying bragging rights and an asset they may be able to resell later. The technology has absolutely exploded over the past few weeks — and Winkelmann, more than anyone else, has been at the forefront of its rapid rise. http://bit.ly/3rLKZn0

Bitcoin’s energy consumption has jumped 80% since the beginning of 2020, according to a study from Cambridge.

Bitcoin’s energy consumption has jumped 80% since the beginning of 2020 amid a meteoric rise for the digital currency. According to Cambridge’s Centre for Alternative Finance, the cryptocurrency’s estimated annualized electricity consumption at the beginning of 2020 was 71.07 terawatt-hours. On March 11 of this year, that figure hit 128 terawatt-hours. For reference, in all of 2019, Australia’s main electric grid used only 192 terawatt-hours. And the entire country of Argentina uses just 125 terawatt-hours annually. Bitcoin now represents 0.59% of total worldwide energy consumption, according to Cambridge, and if you were to rank every country in terms of their total energy consumption including bitcoin, the digital asset would be the 29th largest consumer of power on the planet. http://bit.ly/3vgCSkN

US$200 million stolen in 5 days via DeFi.

Three major decentralized finance (DeFi) exploits have taken place within the last week. This time around, we are seeing DeFi projects on emerging platforms like the Binance Smart Chain become the victim of hacks, exploits, and security breaches. These aren’t the first DeFi exploits of 2021, however, they are unlikely to be the last. https://bit.ly/3qCQoLU

Semiconductors

Apple announces 1 billion euro investment in new Munich chip design facility, focus on 5G and wireless technologies.

Apple announced a major new investment project, revealing its plans to establish a European Center for Chip Design in Munich, Germany. The financial commitment will exceed 1 billion euros over the next three years. The facility will hire hundreds of employees and focus on advancing mobile and wireless technologies, including 5G. The research and development will ultimately inform future Apple silicon chip designs. http://bit.ly/38vfuWL

Qualcomm struggles to meet chip demand as shortage spreads to phones.

Qualcomm Inc is struggling to keep up with demand for its processor chips used in smartphones and gadgets, as a chip shortage that first hit the auto industry spreads across the electronics business, industry sources told Reuters. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, the world’s largest smartphone maker, is experiencing a shortage of Qualcomm’s application processors, the heart of smartphones, two people at suppliers for the South Korean giant told Reuters. Demand for Qualcomm’s chips has soared in the past months as Android phone makers seek to win over customers abandoning phones produced by Huawei Technologies Co Ltd due to U.S. sanctions. Qualcomm has found it hard to meet this higher-than-expected demand, in part due to a shortage of some subcomponents used in its chips. http://reut.rs/3bJGwM2

ESG

Biden administration backs nation’s biggest wind farm off Martha’s Vineyard.

The Biden administration took a crucial step Monday toward approving the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind farm about 12 nautical miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., a project that officials say will launch a massive clean-power expansion in the fight against climate change. https://wapo.st/38rDryi

Huge potential for ‘low-impact’ solar on Long Island, N.Y., roadmap says.

The Long Island Solar Roadmap, a new report and interactive online map from The Nature Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife, outlines how Long Island, New York, could produce more electricity than the region uses all year by developing solar arrays on “low-impact” sites such as parking lots, capped landfills, and commercial building rooftops. https://bit.ly/3vlhJFV

Tesla’s utility-scale batteries are coming to Texas.

An under-the-radar Tesla subsidiary has been at work building a 100 MW energy storage project in Angleton, Texas, according to an application with the Public Utilities Commission of Texas, and other documents. Bloomberg was the first to report on the documents and link a previously unknown subsidiary to Tesla. Gambit Energy Storage LLC applied for an application with the Public Utilities Commission of Texas, the regulatory body charged with overseeing the state’s electric utilities, in June of last year. Gambit said in the application, viewed by TechCrunch, that it intends to provide wholesale electricity and grid-balancing services on the Energy Reliability Council of Texas grid. The project is located in Angleton, a town about 50 miles west of Galveston near the Gulf Coast. http://tcrn.ch/3rJQWAR

Israeli start-up H2Pro backed by Li Ka-shing and Bill Gates joins race to make hydrogen cheaper.

Israeli start-up H2Pro joined the race to make cheap green hydrogen after securing investments from funds backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing. As governments and industries get serious about cutting greenhouse gas emissions, demand has grown for hydrogen produced by splitting water – using renewable electricity – as a potential carbon-free fuel to replace coal, oil and natural gas. H2Pro said on Tuesday it raised US$22 million to move its technology from the lab to the factory floor. Japan’s Sumitomo and carmaker Hyundai Motor also invested. http://bit.ly/2NjlwTc

Gates backs Icelandic startup that turns carbon dioxide into stone.

Reykjavik-based Carbfix captures and dissolves CO₂ in water, then injects it into the ground where it turns into stone in less than two years. “This is a technology that can be scaled—it’s cheap and economic and environmentally friendly,” Carbfix chief executive officer Edda Sif Pind Aradottir said in an interview. “Basically we are just doing what nature has been doing for millions of years, so we are helping nature help itself.” Once considered a pipe dream, capturing and storing CO₂ has in the last few years become an area of immense interest for high-profile investors, such as Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk, who are searching for solutions to avoid the worst effects of global warming. http://bit.ly/3tfLOVB

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