Given market volatility in the technology and growth sectors over the past few weeks, this last week saw a muted level of new growth sector equity financings in Canada once again. That said, new offering pipelines appear healthy, and our contacts at various investment banks suggest there could be up to ten newly minted tech companies in Canada relatively soon. Sophic client, AnalytixInsight (ALY-TSX), could be an interesting stock to watch over the next few weeks, as the company could benefit from increased retail investor trading globally – the company, last week, also announced a new ESG focused offering. In this regard, we are also watching eToro’s SPAC in the USA, as well as public debuts by Deliveroo, Coinbase, Stripe.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Secondary deal will see Nuvei stakeholders sell US$494 million in company shares.

Nuvei has announced its CEO, chief financial officer, as well as two of its investors, will sell US$494 million worth of shares in the Montréal-based company. The deal is expected to close by March 24. The transaction involves the sale of 8.2 million subordinate voting shares at a price of US$60.22 USD per share. The selling shareholders include Nuvei CEO and chair Philip Fayer through his holding company Whiskey Papa Fox, Nuvei CFO David Schwartz, Novacap, and CDP Investissements, a subsidiary of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ). In recent months, Nuvei has looked to grow in the sports betting and online gaming segments. This week, the company received approval to support sports betting in the state of Virginia. Nuvei can now offer its payment technology to licenced gaming operators across the state. http://bit.ly/3r091JW

Vendasta files for public listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Saskatoon-based Vendasta, which has created a cloud commerce platform for small and medium businesses, has filed its preliminary long-form prospectus to go public on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). The filing was made public on Tuesday after it was first reported by The Globe and Mail that the company had confidentially filed documents with regulators earlier this month. Vendasta has yet to price the offering. It is set to be listed in the TSX under the symbol ‘VND.’ The company’s offering is being underwritten by CIBC World Markets, TD Securities and National Bank Financial (as joint bookrunners) as well as BMO Nesbitt Burns, Canaccord Genuity, Desjardins Securities and Paradigm Capital. Launched in 2008, Vendasta offers B2B software aimed to help local businesses with their digital needs. Vendasta allows users to brand its platform as their own and provides those local businesses with re-sellable products and services. The startup sells its software through channel partners such as agencies, broadcasters, publishers, banks, and telecoms. Vendasta has raised more than $50 million to date, its largest round being $40 million in private equity growth funding it pulled in in 2019. The round comprised of $25 million led by the Canadian Business Growth Fund (CBGF) and $15 million with participation from longtime investor Vanedge Capital and BDC Capital through its IT Venture Fund. Vendasta is the latest in a slew of Canadian tech companies turning to the public markets. The Globe also reported that Magnet Forensics and Thinkific both recently confidentially filed documents with regulators to go public. http://bit.ly/3qYeDo4

Tokens.com announces closing of $25 million private placement.

Tokens.com Inc. (“Tokens”) and COIN Hodl Inc. (COIN-TSXV) are pleased to announce the closing of Tokens’ previously announced private placement, pursuant to which it raised aggregate gross proceeds of $25.0 million from the sale of subscription receipts of Tokens (each, a “Subscription Receipt”) at a price of $2.35 per Subscription Receipt (the “Offering”). http://bit.ly/3s5UZYF

Helix (HELX-TSXV) announces non-brokered private placement.

The company intends to complete a non-brokered private placement of up to 2,000,000 common shares of the Company at a price of CAD$1.50 per share for gross proceeds of up to CAD$3,000,000 (the “Private Placement”). http://bit.ly/3s69r2O

Enthusiast Gaming (EGLX-TSX) to acquire Icy Veins, expanding its owned and operated platform.

The company entered into a binding term sheet to acquire Vedatis SAS (“Vedatis”), owners of Icy Veins (www.icy-veins.com), for €7 million (approximately US$8.3 million) in cash and stock, plus an earnout subject to certain milestones being achieved. Completion of the acquisition is conditional upon Enthusiast Gaming and Vedatis entering into a definitive agreement as well as the satisfaction of a number of customary conditions, including due diligence and TSX approval and is expected to close in Q2 2021. http://bit.ly/2Ny8X6q

AnalytixInsight (Sophic Client, ALY-TSXV) launches ESG analytics, expands Refinitiv AI-driven research initiative.

Under the Refinitiv initiative, the Company has already published more than 13,000 reports on company earnings, dividend quality, and pre-revenue company analysis, and will now embed ESG scores and ESG metrics into its proprietary analysis and narratives, through its financial analytics platform, CapitalCube.  Refinitiv, an LSEG (London Stock Exchange Group) business, is one of the world’s largest providers of financial markets data and infrastructure. http://bit.ly/3cUHB2X

Nearing the first close of his US$500 million private equity fund, Maverix’s John Ruffolo wants to help build “another 10 Shopifys”.

Notable Canadian investor John Ruffolo has pulled the curtain off his new venture, Maverix Private Equity, a private equity (PE) fund with a target size of US$500 million. The fund is nearing its first close, which is expected to take place in the coming weeks. In an interview, Ruffolo said Maverix has closed a “substantial chunk” of its target, though did not disclose exact numbers. “My test is, could I help build or be a part of another 10 Shopifys? That is really the output or end result that I’m hopeful for.” Maverix is a slight departure from Ruffolo’s venture investments history, which includes early investments in Shopify, Hootsuite, Wave, and Wattpad, among others. Rather than tech companies and startups, the PE firm is focusing on what Ruffolo called “traditional businesses” of around $100 million revenue in size, in the areas of healthcare, financial services, transportation and logistics, and retail.Maverix has faced significant delays in its run-up to launch, including COVID-19 and Ruffolo’s near-fatal cycling accident in September, which left the investor paralyzed from the waist down. Neither setback has stopped Ruffolo and the Maverix team. As The Globe and Mail reports, investors were not dissuaded by Ruffolo’s accident, with one even offering to double their commitment. http://bit.ly/3c522em

Inovia Capital raises US$450 million Growth Fund II to find another Lightspeed.

Inovia Capital has raised US$450 million for its second growth stage fund as the Montréal-based venture firm aims to build on its success with Lightspeed and create more Canadian unicorns. The new fund exceeds Inovia’s target raise of US$400 million and brings the firm’s total capital under management to more than US$1.5 billion. Around 80 percent of the capital for Fund II came from recurring Inovia investors; limited partners that participated in Fund I or other Inovia funds. LPs for Fund II included the Bank of Montreal (BMO), Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), Northleaf Capital, Investissement Québec, Alberta Enterprise Corp. (which invested $15 million USD), Fonds de solidarité FTQ (which invested $26.25 million USD), and Kensington Capital Partners. Inovia does not traditionally name investors in its funds and didn’t disclose all LPs that invested in Fund II.  Inovia’s portfolio consists of a number of companies that have seen success as of late, including Top Hat, Clearbanc, Vidyard, and Sonder. Recent liquidity events for the company include Rubikloud, which was acquired by Ottawa-based Kinaxis, as well as North, which was acquired by Google last year after struggles with its smart glasses products. http://bit.ly/3s7bJi2

Greensoil PropTech Ventures secures around half of US$100 million USD target for Fund II.

Greensoil PropTech Ventures has secured around US$50 million in a first close, plus additional commitments, towards a targeted $100 million for its second fund. The venture fund received backing from notable Canadian real estate organizations and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, one of Canada’s largest pension investment managers, which served as anchor investor for Fund II. LPs also included new and returning investors such as Starlight Investments, the country’s largest owner of rental units with $20 billion of assets under management. Tridel Group CEO Leo Del Zotto, ex-Kingsett Capital president Peter Aghar, Bayshore Capital chairman and CEO Henry Wolfond, and Osgoode Properties president Stephen Greenberg also invested, according to The Globe and Mail. Greensoil was founded in 2015 and touts itself as one of the world’s first venture capital funds focused entirely on real estate technology. http://bit.ly/3eZcqX5

After bootstrapping its way to profitability, Maropost acquires Neto for $58 million.

Toronto-based Maropost, which offers a customer engagement platform that aims to help companies with commerce, marketing, clienteling, and referrals, has acquired Australia-based Neto for $58 million ($60 million AUD). This acquisition is the latest development in its push into the e-commerce market. Maropost was founded in 2010 by chairman and CEO Ross Andrew Paquette, who claims he bootstrapped the startup until 2016 to $30 million in revenue. The CEO said the company has doubled its annual growth each year since its founding and is currently generating $50 million in annual revenue. Maropost’s goal is to help companies increase customer engagement and improve the customer experience. http://bit.ly/3s5w0EU

Brim Financial raises $25 million Series B to transform the way people bank and shop.

Brim, a Canadian next-generation Fintech company and certified credit card issuer, announced the close of a $25 million Series B, co-led by Desjardins Group and US-based EPIC Ventures with strong participation from Canadian and US based investors including goeasy Ltd., White Owl and Impression Ventures. Brim’s state-of-the-art technology stack and credit cards infrastructure leverages the company’s ability to directly access the payment rails as an issuer, enabling Brim to deliver a fundamentally transformative ecosystem of financial products for consumers and businesses. http://bit.ly/30YT8c9

Launchtrip raises $4.7 million seed round as tourism industry eyes pent-up demand for travel.

Vancouver-based travel-tech startup Launchtrip has raised a $4.7 million seed round of funding, as the travel sector is hoped by many to bounce back following the COVID-19 pandemic. The round was led by Axis Capital, with the remainder coming from investors described as “friends and family.” This investment represents Launchtrip’s first funding round. The proceeds will be put toward marketing, product development, and adding 30 people to Launchtrip’s currently 20-person team. http://bit.ly/3c2JVWG

Livescale raises US$2.5 million.

Livescale on Tuesday announced a new US$2.5 million fundraising led by Granicus Group and Luge Capital. The seed funding round will help the live shopping software startup, which powers video events for retailers in North America, expand internationally and invest in new technology to enhance its services, the company said. Livescale’s last fundraising was US$800,000 in June 2019. The Montreal-based company’s software allows retailers to host live video events on their own apps and integrates each merchant’s e-commerce checkout systems into their livestreams. Last June, the company partnered with Shopify to make its services available to the more than 1 million merchants that use the Ontario-based ecommerce giant’s platform. In 2020, Livescale earned a profit before interest, taxes and other charges, CEO Virgile Ollivier told The Information. But the company’s business is still diminutive compared to other companies in the live shopping industry. Last year, Livescale’s revenue was about half a million dollars, Ollivier said. http://bit.ly/3cLAM3K

NuPort Robotics receives $1 million from Ontario for autonomous trucking project with Canadian Tire.

Toronto-based autotech startup NuPort Robotics has received $1 million in funding from the Ontario government for a new automated heavy duty trucking initiative alongside Canadian Tire. The project, which aims to equip two Canadian Tire trucks with NuPort’s artificial intelligence (AI) tech, has been backed by $1 million from the Government of Ontario through the province’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) R&D Partnership Fund. This investment has been matched by $1 million commitments from NuPort and Canadian Tire for $3 million in total project funding. The project aims to equip two Canadian Tire trucks with NuPort’s artificial intelligence technology. The fresh funding represents another in a series of Ontario government investments in the autonomous vehicle space through AVIN. Earlier this month, the province gave Gatik, a California and Toronto-based autotech startup, nearly $1 million to accelerate the research and development of the company’s autonomous vehicle tech. http://bit.ly/3c3IeIi

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

Stripe raises new capital, reaching US$95 billion valuation ahead of highly anticipated market debut.

Online payments technology provider Stripe announced last Sunday that it has raised a new US$600 million round of funding that values the company at US$95 billion — nearly triple its last reported valuation of $36 billion from April 2020, according to PitchBook data. Stripe, which makes software that allows businesses to accept payments over the internet, intends to invest the new capital into its European operations, the company said in a release. Thirty-one of the 42 countries that Stripe operates in are located in Europe, and President and Co-Founder John Collison singled out Ireland — where the company is headquartered — as a particular area of focus. Founded more than a decade ago, today Stripe is by far the most valuable private fintech company, with Robinhood trailing at a roughly US$11.7 billion valuation after investors wrote the company a US$3 billion check amid this year’s GameStop chaos. http://cnb.cx/3tFbefx

Coinbase, the largest crypto exchange in the US, valued at US$68 billion ahead of direct listing.

Coinbase Global, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the US, on Wednesday revealed that the company now has a valuation of US$68 billion ahead of its planned direct listing due in large part to recent private transactions, Reuters first reported. The increased valuation signifies how much the company’s value has surged alongside the huge rally in the price of bitcoin, which hit record highs in March. The company in a regulatory filing that Reuters first reported said its shares in the private market traded at an average price of US$343.58 per piece in the first quarter of 2021, a massive rise from US$28.83 per piece in the third quarter of 2020. If the filing is approved by regulators, it will mark a significant milestone for the digital currency ecosystem that has sometimes struggled to earn the confidence of more conservative regulators and investors. The San Francisco-based company, however, did not indicate if the US has authorized it to trade cryptocurrencies, which the government classifies as securities. Founded in 2012, Coinbase has registered roughly 114.9 million shares for its direct listing. Coinbase has 43 million users in more than 100 countries. Its competitors include Grayscale, Kraken, and Gemini, as well as broader consumer digital wallets like Square, PayPal, and Robinhood. http://bit.ly/3lz9v8D

Amazon-backed Deliveroo seeking US$1.4 billion in IPO.

Amazon-backed Deliveroo is seeking to raise more than US$1.4 billion by selling new shares in the food delivery company in a hotly-anticipated IPO on the London Stock Exchange. The London-based company—which hires riders to deliver food and groceries, just as rivals UberEats and Doordash do—released details of its upcoming public offering on Monday. The company said it was seeking to sell more than US$1.4 billion in new shares, while confirming a proposed dual class structure, which will see U.S.-born founder Will Shu given outsized influence over the future of the company. Deliveroo said Shu, as CEO, would be granted Class B shares worth 20 votes the regular Class A shares. Deliveroo’s prospects are being closely watched by the U.K. tech community for a number of reasons, not least because the home-grown company is set to be the first to make use of the dual-class share structure for premium companies in London. The company has also attracted big name investors over the years, including Amazon, which previously led a $575 million funding round in Deliveroo, giving the U.S. giant a 16% stake in the firm. http://bit.ly/3cLYGvY

Online broker eToro seeks US$10.4 billion value in SPAC deal.

Israeli online broker eToro—one of the big beneficiaries of the recent day-trading boom—has announced it will go public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company at a valuation of US$10.4 billion. The share-trading platform, founded in Tel Aviv in 2007, said the company had agreed to go public by merging with a SPAC, Fintech Acquisition Corp V, led by the entrepreneur Betsy Cohen. According to the details of the deal announced Tuesday, eToro will receive US$250 million from Cohen’s SPAC, along with US$650 million from large institutional investors, including ION Investment Group, Fidelity and SoftBank’s Vision 2 Fund. Like Robinhood, eToro has benefited enormously from the recent surge in interest in retail trading in stocks. The company claims to now have 20 million registered users and added 5 million new registered users in 2020. The platform’s trades per month have more than tripled from 2019 to 2020, according to the company, from 8 million to 27 million. http://bit.ly/2OBfIVQ

DigitalOcean sets IPO terms, to be valued at nearly US$5 billion.

DigitalOcean Holdings Inc. disclosed Monday that it set terms of its initial public offering, as the New York-based cloud computing company looks to raise up to US$775.5 million and be valued at up to US$4.95 billion. The company is offering 16.5 million shares in the IPO, which is expected to price between US$44 and US$47 per share. The company is expected to have ab out 105.3 million shares outstanding after the IPO. The stock is expected to list on the NYSE under the ticker symbol “DOCN.” Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan are the lead underwriters. The company recorded a net loss of US$43.6 million on revenue of US$318.4 million in 2020, after a loss of US$40.4 million on revenue of US$254.8 million in 2019. The company is looking to go public at a time that the Renaissance IPO ETF has edged up 0.8% over the past three months, while the S&P 500 has gained 6.7%. http://on.mktw.net/3c3Qrw4

DraftKings stock drops after plans for US$1 billion in convertible debt offering.

Shares of DraftKings Inc. took a 3.6% hit in premarket trading Monday, after the digital sports gaming company announced plans to offer US$1 billion worth of convertible debt. The private offering will be made to qualified institutional investors. DraftKings plans to use the proceeds from the offering for working capital and general corporate purposes, which could include acquisitions and technology investments. The debt will be unsecured senior obligations, and will be convertible to cash, Class A shares or a combination of both, at the company’s election. The interest rate of the debt and conversion rate have not yet been determined. DraftKings’ stock has rallied 42.1% over the past three months through Friday, while the S&P 500 has tacked on 6.7%. http://on.mktw.net/3eMW8k0

DraftKings upsized US$1.1 billion notes offering prices, with initial conversion rate 40% above stock’s last close.

DraftKings Inc. announced Tuesday the pricing of its upsized US$1.1 billion private offering of convertible senior notes, which will pay 0% interest and mature on March 15, 2028. On Monday, the digital sports gaming company said it was planning a US$1.0 billion convertible debt offering. The company said the initial conversion rate of the notes is 10.5430 shares of common stock per US$1,000 principal amount of notes, which is the equivalent of US$94.85 a share, which is 40% above Monday’s stock closing price of US$67.75. The notes will not be redeemable, at DraftKings’s election, before March 15, 2025. DraftKings’s stock, which rose 1.1% in premarket trading, has rallied 25.9% over the past three months, while the S&P 500 has tacked on 7.2%. http://on.mktw.net/3vI7M5L

Didi Chuxing said to seek an IPO as early as this summer.

Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing giant that’s bounced back from Covid and a regulatory crackdown, is speeding up plans for an initial public offering, and could list as soon as this summer, Bloomberg reported. Bloomberg said the company is targeting a valuation above the US$62 billion it reached in its last round of private financing, and could raise some US$9 billion if it were to pursue a listing in Hong Kong, where a 15% float is common. In response to the report, Didi Chuxing said it doesn’t have a definite IPO plan. The Information earlier said that Didi Chuxing finished last year with a 10% increase in rides compared to 2019 and a net profit from its core ride-hailing business of roughly US$1 billion in 2020, and was considering an IPO in the second half of this year. An IPO would mark another win for SoftBank, the Japanese tech conglomerate which counts Didi as one of its largest investment. Didi’s fortunes first took a hit in 2018 after two female passengers were killed by their drivers and again during the pandemic last year. http://bit.ly/393YN5g

Bilibili eyes US$2.8 billion Hong Kong share sale.

Bilibili Inc., the operator of a video app popular with young Chinese videogame and animation fans, is capitalizing on a huge run-up in its shares to raise nearly US$3 billion in Hong Kong. The planned secondary listing for Bilibili, whose shares already trade on Nasdaq, comes soon after Kuaishou Technology, the group behind one of China’s most popular TikTok-style apps, raised US$6.2 billion from a February initial public offering in Hong Kong. http://on.mktw.net/3r9e62t

Zhihu sets IPO terms, as the Hong Kong-based online community looks to raise up to US$633 million.

Zhihu Inc. has set terms of its initial public offering in the U.S., as the Hong Kong-based Q&A-inspired online content community looks to raise up to $632.5 million. The company is offering 55 million American depositary shares, representing 27.5 million ordinary shares, in the IPO, which is expected to price between US$9.50 and US$11.50 a share. With 279.5 million ordinary shares expected to be outstanding after the IPO, the company could be valued at up to about US$6.4 billion. The stock is expected to list on the NYSE under the ticker symbol “ZH.” Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan are the lead underwriters. The company had 76 million monthly average users in the fourth quarter and 676 million average monthly interactions. The company recorded a net loss of RMB517.6 million (US$79.3 million) on revneue of RMB1.35 billion (US$207.2 million) in 2020, after a loss of RMB1.00 billion on revenue of RMB670.5 million in 2019. http://on.mktw.net/3vIujPV

Investors value China’s Ant Group at over US$200 billion after IPO halt.

Some of Ant Group’s global investors have valued the Chinese fintech firm at over US$200 billion based on its 2020 performance, said people with knowledge of the matter, offering a more sober estimate after the shelving of its IPO and forced restructuring. The number is about a third above Ant’s valuation after its last fundraising in 2018 when it emerged as the world’s most-valuable unlisted tech firm, yet is far below the US$315 billion it touted for what was set to be the world’s largest IPO. Investor hopes for a huge windfall crashed when regulatory scrutiny scuppered the US$37 billion initial public offering (IPO) days ahead of Ant’s November listing. Regulator-mandated restructuring as a financial rather than tech firm has since made some more conservative with their analysis as the former typically carry lower valuations, sources and analysts said. http://reut.rs/30Xp8NM

A small innovation ETF inspired by Cathie Wood is returning 10 times Ark Invest’s flagship fund this year.

A small ETF that aims to give investors exposure to the most innovative companies in the US has outperformed the flagship fund of Cathie Wood’s Ark Invest by 10-fold this year. The Direxion Moonshot Innovators ETF (MOON) tracks 50 US companies that pursue innovative technologies, similar to the stated goal of the Ark Innovation ETF (ARKK). But MOON has gained roughly 39% in 2021, far outpacing ARKK’s 3.5% rise. Bloomberg first reported on the fund’s outperformance. The Direxion ETF tracks the S&P Kensho Moonshots Index, an index of 50 US companies that pursue innovative technologies that have the potential to disrupt existing industries and have the highest “early-stage composite innovation scores.” That innovation score is determined by “a natural language processing review,” of each company’s latest regulatory filing for the use of “words and phrases that are related to innovation,” according to the Direxion website. https://bit.ly/3r7CnWK

Investment adviser launches the first ETF dedicated to professional sports teams and leagues.

Roundhill Investments and Huddle Up newsletter founder Joe Pompliano launched the first-ever exchange-traded fund dedicated to professional sports teams and leagues on Wednesday. The ETF consists of 36 sports-related holdings including sports teams, leagues, media companies, and even sports-related SPACs. The fund will trade under the ticker “MVP” on the New York Stock Exchange. As of March 17, the MVP ETF consisted of 53.9% pro sports teams, 17.4% apparel companies, 14.1% pro sports leagues, 8.3% SPACs, and 6.2% media firms and others. http://bit.ly/3s6uP8f

Emerging Technologies

Amazon is launching its medical care business for its employees and other companies across the US.

Amazon on Wednesday said it’s rolling out its telehealth service in all 50 states for its employees starting starting this summer. It will also expand to other employers later this year. On Friday, Insider reported that the launch was imminent. And in December, Insider broke that Amazon was incubating “Amazon Care” as a business for other companies and undertaking a national expansion. In-person services of Amazon Care, like home visits by nurses, will be available in Washington state. It’s planning to add in-person services to cities including Washington, D.C., its second headquarters, and Baltimore as well as other cities this year, the company said. This is the first time that the company has made clear the purpose behind Amazon Care, which is to not just serve Amazon’s own employees but also stand up a lucrative healthcare business in the US$3.8 trillion healthcare industry, while solving for other employers their shared cost headaches. It’s also the first time that the US$1.6 trillion tech and shipping giant has put a stake in the ground in healthcare delivery, not just pills and devices. The healthcare industry is taking notice to Amazon’s ambitions in medical care. On Wednesday morning after the national expansion became official, telehealth company Teladoc sank more than 7%, while rival Amwell was down more than 5%. http://bit.ly/3vJQ7dW

2022 Apple headset will track eye movement, blinking, and possibly authenticate users with iris recognition.

While the sci-fi-sounding “Apple Glasses” remain many years off in the future, rumors and reports continue to swirl around the Apple virtual reality and augmented reality headset. Apple is believed to be releasing this headset next year, as a kind of precursor to the mass consumer glasses. Today, Kuo says that specifications for the product indicate that it will feature a sophisticated eye-tracking system. The headset will be able to detect where the user is looking, if they are blinking, and possibly even include iris recognition that will be able to identify users automatically (the equivalent of Touch ID or Face ID for a headset form factor). Kuo has previously described the device as “portable,” not “mobile.” This means it can be used wirelessly but is not intended to be worn all day out and about like a phone; it will probably work best in people’s homes. Kuo’s report from today distinguishes it from the glasses project by describing the 2022 as a head-mounted display. As reported previously, Kuo believes the headset will go on sale next year for around $1,000. The product is expected to be niche and high-end; Bloomberg has said Apple expects to only sell one per day per retail store. The device is believed to feature dual high-resolution displays and will be powered by Apple silicon that rivals or exceeds the M1 in performance. http://bit.ly/3cQGdyp

Facebook testing wrist-based inputs for its AR glasses.

Facebook has been over the past year accelerating its efforts on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies, which co-founder Mark Zuckerberg anticipates to be the next major computing platform. Last year, the social media firm announced ‘Project Aria’, a research project that will help the company build the first generation of wearable AR devices. https://bit.ly/38TINCR

Your face is not your own.

In May 2019, an agent at the Department of Homeland Security received a trove of unsettling images. Found by Yahoo in a Syrian user’s account, the photos seemed to document the sexual abuse of a young girl. One showed a man with his head reclined on a pillow, gazing directly at the camera. The man appeared to be white, with brown hair and a goatee, but it was hard to really make him out; the photo was grainy, the angle a bit oblique. The agent sent the man’s face to child-crime investigators around the country in the hope that someone might recognize him. https://nyti.ms/2ORKMAu

Foxconn to build electric vehicles in North America by 2023, but calls Apple Car deal ‘still a rumor’.

Foxconn is a key partner for Apple with the iPhone, and is believed to be one of the leading manufacturing partners for Apple’s upcoming Apple Car project. The company even confirmed that it plans to build electric vehicles in North America by 2023, and is currently hunting locations in the US and Mexico. Naturally, Foxconn was asked about whether its electric vehicle plans were somehow related to an Apple deal. Foxconn’s CEO simply said that the Apple Car is “still a rumor”. Foxconn says it will choose a site location before the end of 2021. Candidate locations include Wisconsin and Mexico. http://bit.ly/2Nyh9Ug

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

Activision fires dozens amid shift away from live events.

Activision Blizzard Inc. fired dozens of people on Tuesday across various departments, including 50 employees who handled e-sports programming and other live events. The cuts signal that Activision plans a broader shift away from in-person events after a year of coronavirus lockdowns. “Players are increasingly choosing to connect with our games digitally and the e-sports team, much like traditional sports, entertainment and broadcasting industries, has had to adapt its business due to the impact the pandemic has had on live events,” a company spokesperson said. Last month, Blizzard held a virtual version of its annual BlizzCon convention that was more diminished than previous shows. Even as it reduces staffing in some divisions, Activision Blizzard, known for franchises including Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, gave an optimistic outlook for this year and next and said it expects to hire 3,000 people in 2021. http://bloom.bg/3ly6JR0

Bally’s enters sports-betting agreement with MLB.

Bally’s Corp. said Thursday that it has entered into an agreement to an authorized gaming operator of Major League Baseball (MLB). The agreement provides Bally’s with access to official MLB league and team marks, logos and data. Financial terms were not disclosed. The casino and horse racetrack operator and sports betting company said the deal with MLB is the third sports-betting agreement with a professional sports league, following previous agreements with the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League. http://on.mktw.net/3satKMw

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

Google halves app store commissions for small developers.

Google said it would halve to 15% the fee it charges most developers selling goods or services through the Google Play app store, the latest sign that tech giants are responding to political pressure over how they run app stores. In a blog post, Google said it will cut the fee starting July 1 for the first US$1 million in revenue a developer earns in a year. Google said that would cut by 50% fees for 99% of developers. Apple took a similar step last fall. Both Apple and Google have come under attack on a wide range of fronts for the rigid control they exercise over their app stores, particularly the 30% commission they take on money that developers make. Arizona’s legislature is considering a bill that would prevent both companies from forcing app developers to use their in-app payment system, which takes the cut of transactions. Epic Games has sued both companies over the same issue, and the government is investigating the companies over their app store policies. http://bit.ly/3vyaOJH

UK Uber drivers get minimum wage, holidays, and pensions – with a big catch.

UK Uber drivers will be paid at least the National Living Wage of £8.72 (US$12.12) alongside holiday pay and pension contributions. The company made the announcement a month after a court ruling decided that Uber drivers in the UK are employees, not self-employed contractors, as the ride-sharing company had claimed. Uber has insisted its fares will not rise after saying that its 70,000 UK drivers will be guaranteed a minimum wage, holiday pay and pensions. The ride-hailing giant said drivers would earn at least the National Living Wage, or £8.72 an hour, in a move that could shake up the wider gig economy. There is, however, a big catch to the minimum wage element: Drivers are only considered to be working from the moment they accept a fare to the moment the journey ends. They will still be paid nothing for time spent waiting for their next trip. Unions have said that this does not meet the terms of the court ruling. http://bit.ly/3rdo1V7

Visa says DOJ to look into its debt practices in the U.S.

Visa Inc. said in a filing Friday that the Justice Department has informed the company it plans to open an investigation into Visa’s U.S. “debit practices.” Visa has received a notice to preserve documents related to the investigation but not yet a civil investigative demand, the company said. “We believe Visa’s U.S. debit practices are in compliance with applicable laws,” and is cooperating with authorities, Visa said, without elaborating further. Shares of Visa were flat in the extended session Friday after ending the regular trading day down 6%. http://on.mktw.net/2Nz8bWP

eCommerce

2022 is expected to be the first trillion-dollar year for online sales, largely thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

E-commerce will have its first trillion-dollar year of sales in 2022 as people continue to shift their spending habits online amid the COVID-19 pandemic, new data from Adobe projects. The pandemic gave e-commerce sales an “extra boost” as consumers moved online to meet their daily needs, Adobe said in its report. In 2020, online consumer spending hit a record US$813 billion, which was a 42% increase from 2019. For the current year, Adobe predicts online sales will be between US$850 billion and US$930 billion, paving the way for 2022 to become the first trillion-dollar year in e-commerce. Those sales are likely to come through smartphones, Adobe reported, estimating that the devices would account for more than half of e-commerce spend in 2022. http://bit.ly/2Nz43WP

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency inflows hit record high of US$4.2 billion for the first quarter.

Inflows to cryptocurrency investment products reached a new high of US$4.2 billion for the first quarter of 2021, according to data from digital assets investment firm CoinShares. The new record broke the previous quarterly high of US$3.9 billion in the fourth quarter of last year, CoinShares data show. Year to date, bitcoin has seen the highest inflows at US$3.3 billion. Ethereum followed with US$731 million. Crypto assets under management, according to CoinShares, have also risen to US$55.8 billion versus US$37.6 billion at the end of 2020. http://bit.ly/3lwHzSW

Morgan Stanley becomes the first big U.S. bank to offer its wealthy clients access to bitcoin funds.

The investment bank, a giant in wealth management with US$4 trillion in client assets, told its financial advisors Wednesday in an internal memo that it is launching access to three funds that enable ownership of bitcoin, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. The move, a significant step for the acceptance of bitcoin as an asset class, was made by Morgan Stanley after clients demanded exposure to the cryptocurrency, said the people, who declined to be identified sharing details about the bank’s internal communications. Bitcoin’s rally in the past year has put Wall Street firms under pressure to consider getting involved in the nascent asset class. But, at least for now, the bank is only allowing its wealthier clients access to the volatile asset: The bank considers it suitable for people with “an aggressive risk tolerance” who have at least US$2 million in assets held by the firm. http://cnb.cx/2QpmtKS

Visa takes a step forward in the world of cryptocurrencies: the payment giant prepares its payment network to support bitcoin.

The rise of cryptocurrencies is unstoppable and not to gain followers like the company Tesla and some detractors like Bill Gates. Be that as it may, in the face of this new situation that seems to be making its way, traditional payment systems do not want to be left behind. Now the giant Visa says it is preparing to be compatible with Bitcoin throughout its payment network. Alfred Jelly Jr, CEO of the company, has explained that they are working on ways to use Bitcoin to pay using a Visa card or device, as the executive explained on Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast, which reports Xataka. The payments giant is also reportedly looking for new ways to buy bitcoin with a Visa card. However, the first step would be to allow the purchase of Bitcoin with a Visa system. This would mean converting euros or dollars, for example, into Bitcoin, depending on its value at any given time. The latter could be helped by Coinbase. http://bit.ly/2NE66ZSs

India to propose cryptocurrency ban, penalising miners, traders.

India will propose a law banning cryptocurrencies, fining anyone trading in the country or even holding such digital assets, a senior government official told Reuters in a potential blow to millions of investors piling into the red-hot asset class. The bill, one of the world’s strictest policies against cryptocurrencies, would criminalise possession, issuance, mining, trading and transferring crypto-assets, said the official, who has direct knowledge of the plan. The measure is in line with a January government agenda that called for banning private virtual currencies such as bitcoin while building a framework for an official digital currency. But recent government comments had raised investors’ hopes that the authorities might go easier on the booming market. Instead, the bill would give holders of cryptocurrencies up to six months to liquidate, after which penalties will be levied, said the official, who asked not to be named as the contents of the bill are not public. If the ban becomes law, India would be the first major economy to make holding cryptocurrency illegal. Even China, which has banned mining and trading, does not penalise possession. http://reut.rs/3cG7V0W

Semiconductors

Chip shortage ‘affecting everybody except Apple,’ Android flagships could be delayed.

Samsung has warned that there is a “serious imbalance” in semiconductors globally and a chip shortage could delay the launch of its Note flagship. Analysts also point out that this shortage is affecting almost everyone except Apple. According to a Bloomberg report, “Samsung expects the crunch to pose a problem to its next quarter.” Co-chief executive officer Koh Dong-jin said during an annual shareholder meeting in Seoul that the company could skip the introduction of a new Galaxy Note this year, after more than a decade of annual launches. Industry giants from Continental AG to Renesas Electronics Corp. and Innolux Corp. have in recent weeks warned of longer-than-anticipated deficits thanks to unprecedented COVID-era demand for everything from cars to game consoles and mobile devices. http://bit.ly/3f2iPke

ByteDance team to develop AI chips as China aims for self-reliance.

The plan is still at an early stage and the company’s focus is on Arm-based server-side chips, the person told Reuters. Beijing-based ByteDance has posted a dozen semiconductor-related job advertisements on its official website, based mainly in Beijing and Shanghai. The company has established a team to explore the development of artificial intelligence chips, ByteDance told Chinese business magazine Caijing. Baidu is also considering making the unit a standalone company to commercialise its chip design capabilities. Alibaba Group, China’s e-commerce giant, unveiled an AI chip for its cloud computing products in late 2019. China’s AI unicorn SenseTime started work on developing homegrown AI chips after being added to a U.S. trade list by Washington in 2019, Reuters has reported. http://reut.rs/3s0UkaP

ESG

Volkswagen surges 17% after revealing plans to build battery factories to compete with Tesla.

Shares of Volkswagen surged 17% on Tuesday after the German car maker revealed plans aimed at dethroning Tesla as the world’s biggest manufacturer of electric cars by boosting key production capacities. During its “Power Day” on Monday, the company presented its strategy to expand battery production in Europe, as well as massive plans to make investments in charging infrastructure. During the live stream in front of investors, executives said Volkswagen intends to build six battery production plants in Europe by 2030. By improving its cell design, production processes, and materials, the company sees the possibility of decreasing battery costs by up to 50%. “E-mobility has become core business for us,” Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess said in a statement. “We are now systematically integrating additional stages in the value chain. We secure a long-term pole position in the race for the best battery and best customer experience in the age of zero-emission mobility.” https://bit.ly/3s97zpZ

Rivian planning to install 10,000 EV chargers across the US and Canada by 2023.

Amazon-backed electric vehicle startup Rivian will install more than 10,000 fast chargers across the US and Canada by 2023, the company announced. The Rivian Adventure Network is designed to allow quick recharges along highways and also includes Level 2 charges at more remote locations near parks and other destinations. Each site will have multiple chargers and will be conveniently located on highways and main roads, often by cafes and shops. http://bit.ly/2OLKdZg

Chuck Schumer wants to replace every gas car in America with an electric vehicle.

With the US$1.9 trillion COVID relief bill signed into law, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is ready to tackle the next major challenge: President Joe Biden’s call for a massive infrastructure bill. As part of that package, Schumer said he plans to include his ambitious proposal to get every American to swap their gas-guzzling car for an electric one.  “It’s a bold new plan designed to accelerate America’s transition to all electric vehicles on the road, to developing a charging infrastructure, and to grow American jobs through clean manufacturing,” Schumer told The Verge in a brief interview this week. “And the ultimate goal is to have every car manufactured in America be electric by 2030, and every car on the road be clean by 2040.” The top-line details of the “cash for clunkers’’-style plan haven’t changed much since Schumer first proposed it in an op-ed in The New York Times in late 2019. But the political landscape has certainly shifted in favor of the Democrats, breathing new life into the idea. Under the proposal, anyone who trades in their gas car for an electric one would get a “substantial” point-of-sale discount, Schumer says. He wouldn’t say how much of a discount, only that it would be “deep.” A spokesperson later confirmed they are eyeing rebates that are “more generous” than the current US$7,500 federal EV tax credit. He also wants to provide direct incentives to auto manufacturers to phase out their production of internal combustion engine vehicles and tax breaks for property owners to install EV chargers at their homes or apartment buildings. Lastly, he proposes to send direct subsidies to local governments to improve and expand the nation’s network of EV charging stations. Schumer would deploy US$45 billion in grants to upgrade the nation’s charging infrastructure and US$17 billion to encourage manufacturers to retrofit their facilities for EV production. http://bit.ly/3eXMCdS

Apple touts progress of US$4.7 billion clean energy investment.

In 2016, Apple issued its first bond of US$1.5 billion towards the project, followed by US$1 billion in 2017. In 2019, Apple invested US$2.2 billion. Last year, Apple funded more than 17 projects, resulting in the reduction of nearly 1 million metric tons of carbon emissions globally, equivalent to removing 200,000 cars from the road, according to Apple. In addition to its investment in clean power, Apple has also allocated US$2.8 billion into researching and funding new projects that “support low carbon design and engineering, energy efficiency, renewable energy, carbon mitigation, and carbon sequestration.” The investments come on top of Apple’s commitment last year to become fully carbon neutral across its entire business by 2030. http://bit.ly/3d6InKH

Sophic Capital Client Insights

AnalytixInsight’s (Sophic Client, ALY-TSXV) MarketWall at the confluence of emerging fintech trends. 

Despite the fury from the WallStreetBets / Robinhood saga, investors downloaded trading apps at record levels. The SEC and Congress aren’t laughing – many retail investors were financially devastated. AnalytixInsight’s machine learning/artificial intelligence solutions are poised to benefit from these trends. http://bit.ly/2QqdARf

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