Last week, was full of corporate earnings, with plenty of high-profile companies reporting their quarterly results. Our favourite stock from our sell side equity research days, Shopify (SHOP-NYSE, SHOP-TSX), reported a monster quarter, in what is typically a seasonally soft period. We recently had a conversation with the Morning Brew on Shopify’s evolution and success during the COVID pandemic, as the company appears to be at a crossroads. Canadian VC backed firms, had an extraordinarily strong week with regards to fund raising, with news by Sonder, Vena, and Clio. Multiple Chinese tech giants seem to be coming under increasing government scrutiny, while Apple’s much anticipated iOS 14.5 was made available, which could cause some dislocation in the ad-tech ecosystem.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Sonder to go public on NASDAQ through SPAC deal.

Montréal-founded travel tech startup Sonder is set to go public on the NASDAQ through a merger deal with Gores Metropoulos II Inc. Sonder co-founder and CEO Francis Davidson officially announced the plans on Friday and SEC filings confirm that special purpose acquisition company Gores has entered into an agreement with Sonder. According to the companies, Sonder expects to raise US$650 million of cash proceeds through the deal, which is expected to bring Sonder’s enterprise value to US$2.2 billion. The value reportedly represents a 3.6 times increase in Sonder’s projected revenue for 2022. Existing Sonder stockholders are set to retain 74 percent ownership in the company. As reported by Bloomberg, the transaction includes a US$200 million private placement led by an affiliate of Gores Group, the investment firm founded by the SPAC’s CEO Alec Gores, and includes participation from Fidelity Management & Research Company, funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, Atreides Management, entities affiliated with Moore Capital Management, Principal Global Investors, and Senator Investment Group. https://bit.ly/3aUY8Um

exactEarth (XCT-TSX) announces $6 million revolving credit facility from National Bank of Canada.

The company entered into a new credit facility (“Credit Facility”) that provides for a $6 million secured revolving operating line with National Bank of Canada’s (“NBC”) Technology and Innovation Banking Group. https://bit.ly/3ub2Jtj

Vena raises $300 million in Series C funding to transform how businesses plan to grow.

The minority round is one of the largest for a Canadian tech company and is led by Vista Equity Partners (“Vista”), a leading global investment firm that exclusively invests in enterprise software, data and technology-enabled businesses. Vena will use the funds to accelerate growth and continue to provide a market-leading customer experience. With this round, Vena has raised over $450 million, positioning the company as the corporate performance management (CPM) platform of choice for finance and operations professionals and validating Vena’s mission to power its customers’ Plan to Grow™. 

Clio valued at US$1.6 billion with announcement of US$110 million Series E funding to support explosive demand for cloud-based Legaltech.

The company announced a new valuation of US$1.6 billion after raising US$110 million in its Series E. The funding round was led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. and also included OMERS Growth Equity. Clio will use the funding to further invest in its platform, strategic acquisitions, and partnerships aligned with the company’s mission to transform the legal experience for all. The funding will also expedite Clio’s plans to grow its workforce by 250 employees—an increase of 40 percent—in 2021, with a focus on bolstering its product and engineering teams to continue innovating and evolving its product offerings. https://bit.ly/3xLRmKP

Cannibble Food-Tech Ltd. is raising up to $2.5 million through a Canadian crowdfunding platform.

Cannibble FoodTech LTD www.cannibble.world an Israeli cannabis and food Product Company, developing premixed foods, beverages, nutritional supplements, and spices infused with active cannabinoids or hemp seeds, announced today that it is raising up to $2.5 million through the leading Canadian crowdfunding platform FronFundr. Cannibble’s products are being sold under our house brand “The Pelicann”. https://bit.ly/3e8y3na

Tokens.com (COIN-NEO) debuts on the NEO exchange.

“Through our unique business plan, we’ve created significant shareholder value as a private entity,” commented Andrew Kiguel, CEO of Tokens.com and an experienced blockchain entrepreneur. “We’re now ready to bring our platform to a broader audience through a public listing on the NEO Exchange. We are impressed with the professionalism and innovation shown by the NEO team and are excited to partner with them on the next stage of our growth.” https://bwnews.pr/3xyuP3X

Shopify (SHOP-TSX, SHOP-NYSE) helped generate US$307 billion in economic activity last year amid pandemic’s impact on retail.

Global economic activity from merchants on Shopify reached US$307 billion in 2020, according to a new report released by the company. The company says its global economic impact, when factoring gross merchandise volume, GDP, employment, and gross value of goods produced, represents a 125 percent increase from 2019. According to Shopify, combined merchant activity on its platform would form the seventh-largest company in the world in terms of revenue. From an employment perspective, 3.6 million jobs were created by Shopify merchants globally in 2020, meaning one in every 1,000 employed adults is supported by a Shopify merchant. “We’ve been conducting an experiment since Shopify was born,” said Tobi Lütke, Shopify CEO. “Our hypothesis is that all economies depend on entrepreneurs and small businesses to thrive. Over the years, we’ve found this to be true.” https://bit.ly/3xCKOOl

Shopify (SHOP-TSX, SHOP-NYSE) reports record sales amid leadership transition.

We recently had a conversation with the Morning Brew on Shopify’s evolution and success during the COVID pandemic, as the company appears to be at a crossroads. “Shopify has emerged as ‘the one to beat’ for mid-market commerce solutions,” Emily Pfeiffer, senior analyst at Forrester Research, told Retail Brew. Nikhil Thadani, VP, capital markets advisory at Sophic Capital, told Retail Brew that Shopify’s in-store point of sale products will become more important as retail reopens. Bottom line: “Organizations are determining whether or not they need to replace the platform they launched in 2020 with one that is more fit for purpose,” Jason Daigler, VP, analyst at Gartner, told us. https://bit.ly/3aUemgS

BlackBerry QNX and Carleton University join forces in US$21 million partnership to train next generation of software engineers.

BlackBerry Limited and Carleton University today announced a US$21-million, five year strategic partnership agreement that will provide software engineers and researchers access to BlackBerry® QNX® technology for use in a wide range of industries, including automotive, robotics, transportation, Internet of things (IoT), aerospace and medical devices. The partnership confirms Ottawa as a nexus for embedded software systems as it continues to attract world-class researchers and graduate students, creating a deep and more diverse workforce for BlackBerry QNX – a global leader in safety-certified, secure and reliable software for the world’s most critical embedded systems and industries that rely on the technology. https://bit.ly/3xE541Y

Redfin launches in Ottawa.

Redfin, the tech-powered real estate brokerage, announced its launch in Ottawa. People throughout the area can now buy and sell homes with Redfin’s full-service agents. On www.redfin.ca and Redfin’s mobile apps, customers can now search all the agent-listed homes for sale and see sale prices of homes in the greater Ottawa area. Homebuyers can receive instant updates the moment a new home hits the market and book a home tour with a Redfin agent with a few taps on a smartphone. https://bit.ly/3taugtN

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

Betway holding firm Super Group to list on NYSE in SPAC deal.

Super Group is to combine with Sports Entertainment Acquisition Corp. to create a New York Stock Exchange-listed global gaming company, according to a statement. Super Group is the holding company for global online sports betting and gaming businesses Betway, an online sports betting business, and Spin, a multi-brand online casino offering. Targeting the fast-growing U.S. online sports betting market, Super Group has also entered into an agreement to acquire Digital Gaming Corp., which will give the group access to an initial 10 U.S. states, according to the statement. Online gambling has surged in popularity, boosted by coronavirus-related lockdowns. In the U.S., the industry is growing following the legalization of sports betting by the Supreme Court in 2018. Online gambling operator 888 Holdings Plc said last month it was looking at ways to tap North American investors, while Ireland-based Flutter Entertainment Plc is considering options including listing in the U.S. The combined company intends to apply to list its shares on the NYSE. Upon closing of the transaction, the combined company will operate under the name Super Group. https://bloom.bg/2QIAqUw

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei hints for the first time that a public listing of one of its business units might be on the cards.

Ren Zhengfei, the leader of embattled Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co, hinted in a letter to employees on Sunday that the company may be exploring the capital market, marking a subtle shift from previous statements that it has no plans to go public. The letter, published on Huawei’s official employee website, tackled the uncertainties the company is facing as US trade sanctions continue to affect its business. Ren issued a warning to staff not to falsify accounts, or else they will face dismissal. While Ren was not explicit on whether Huawei has such a plan, the suggestion was a marked difference from the Shenzhen-based company’s previous statements, which have said it is not considering an IPO. Ren’s letter was dated March 30, the day before the telecommunications equipment giant reported its slowest annual revenue growth in a decade. https://bit.ly/3nMfisQ

Beijing-based ByteDance says it has no immediate listing plans.

ByteDance last month hired former Xiaomi executive Shou Zi Chew for a newly-created role as chief finance officer, suggesting the tech company was moving a step closer to a much-anticipated IPO. “There has been recent media speculation about our IPO plans. We would like to clarify that we’re not ready at this stage and do not have IPO plans yet,” TikTok owner ByteDance said in a statement to Reuters. Reuters has reported ByteDance has been exploring possibilities to list Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, in New York or Hong Kong, or obtain a public listing for some of its Chinese businesses including Douyin and news aggregator Toutiao. ByteDance has also been looking at a potential IPO for its non-China business, which includes TikTok that is not available in China, in Europe or the United States. https://reut.rs/2RciH87

Jack Ma’s Ant Group could see its value tumble to US$29 billion.

Bloomberg estimates that Jack Ma’s humbled online financial services platform, Ant Group, which has been forced to restructure after regulators killed its IPO last year, could be worth only US$29 billion – far less than the US$320 billion it had been estimated to be worth if it had gone public. That estimate is based on Ant Group, the financial affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba, being valued like a bank and having its loan and other businesses limited. A Bloomberg analyst said US$29 billion represented the lower end for a range for the company, which could be as much as US$115 billion – a big drop from its last round of private financing when it was valued at US$150 billion. https://bit.ly/3gV4rLK

Thoma Bravo buys cybersecurity vendor Proofpoint for US$12.3 billion in cash.

More M&A activity is underway in the red-hot field of cybersecurity. In the latest development, private equity giant Thoma Bravo is buying Proofpoint, the SaaS security vendor, for US$12.3 billion in cash. This bid, which will see the company go private, is a big hike on its latest share price. The deal has been endorsed by Proofpoint’s board. If approved by shareholders, it will close in Q3 of this year. The acquisition news is coming in the wake of Proofpoint making a number of acquisitions of its own over the years. Its deals have included Cloudmark, Weblife, OberserveIT and Meta Networks, all deals valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. But at the same time, it is also facing up against not only a growing pool of cybersecurity competitors, but also cyber threats — exacerbated in no small part by the huge shift the world has seen to cloud services, remote working and more transactions carried out online. https://tcrn.ch/3ub5NFP

Verizon exploring sale of its media assets led by Yahoo, AOL.

Verizon is exploring a sale of Yahoo and AOL that would end a rocky era for the telco as a media owner after a spate of disappointing acquisitions. A sale could bring US$4 billion to US$5 billion and giant investment group Apollo Global Management is said to involved, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The move, while a reversal, would not be surprising. Verizon bought the once mighty internet pioneer turned sort of punchline AOL for US$4.4 billion in 2015, and Yahoo for US$4.5 billion two years later. It merged them into a new venture it called Oath and named Tim Armstrong, AOL’s then CEO, to run it. He left in late 2018. Around then, Verizon announced a hefty US$4.6 billion write-down of Oath assets, saying competitive pressures in the digital ad business had quashed the potential of the Yahoo-AOL integration. It scrapped the Oath moniker and renamed the division Verizon Media Group. https://bit.ly/3e7ZGfO

Lyft sells self-driving unit to Toyota’s Woven Planet for US$550 million.

Ride-hailing company Lyft has sold off its autonomous vehicle unit to Toyota’s Woven Planet Holdings subsidiary for US$550 million, the latest in a string of acquisitions spurred by the cost and lengthy timelines to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology. Under the acquisition agreement announced Tuesday, Lyft’s so-called Level 5 division will be folded into Woven Planet Holdings. Lyft will receive US$550 million in cash, with US$200 million paid upfront. The remaining US$350 million will be made in payments over five years. The transaction will remove a costly annual expense from Lyft’s budget. The ride-hailing company said that by offloading Level 5 it expects to be able to remove US$100 million of annualized non-GAAP operating expenses on a net basis. Those savings will be critical for Lyft as it pursues profitability — a point co-founder and president John Zimmer made special note of in the announcement. https://tcrn.ch/3t5CJOQ

NYSE owner ICE sold its Coinbase stake for US$1.2 billion, securing a US$900 million profit.

Intercontinental Exchange, the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, sold 1.4% of its Coinbase investment worth US$1.2 billion, the company said. The divestment resulted in a net profit of about US$900 million for the company, ICE CFO Scott Hill said in an earnings call on Thursday, first reported by The Block. The proceeds, Hill said, were used to pay down debt. ICE sold its stake on April 14, the day Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the US, went public via Nasdaq listing. https://bit.ly/3gUOxkA

Andreessen Horowitz plans US$1 billion cryptocurrency VC fund.

The new fund, Andreessen’s third that is focused on cryptocurrency investments, is aiming to raise between US$800 million and US$1 billion from investors, according to four people with knowledge of the process. That would make it one of the largest pools of capital dedicated to crypto and potentially twice the size of its predecessor. The firm declined to comment. Andreessen’s fundraising push comes as other cryptocurrency investors are raising large war chests, spurred on by a surging market in bitcoin, ethereum and other digital assets. Cryptocurrency venture capitalists have begun to realise gains from Coinbase, the digital currency exchange which went public earlier this month and is currently valued at almost US$60 billion, and from direct investments in virtual currencies that have surged in value over the last 12 months. Pantera Capital, one of the earliest cryptocurrency investment firms, is aiming to raise US$600 million for a new blockchain fund that will combine investments in private companies and tradable tokens, it has said. Pantera’s latest venture fund raised US$175 million in 2018 and was worth 3.8 times that amount as of January, according to its website. Last month, investors including Sequoia Capital China committed US$225 million to the second cryptocurrency fund raised by Dragonfly Capital, more than doubling the sum Dragonfly raised for its debut version in 2018. https://on.ft.com/3ebEA00

XRP jumps 15% as Ripple’s largest outside shareholder says the company could look to go public following a settlement with the SEC.

XRP, the digital asset used in Ripple Labs’ payment network, soared Friday after Ripple’s largest outside shareholder said the cryptocurrency company wanted to go public after wrapping up a legal dispute with the US securities regulator. According to a Cointelegraph report, Yoshitaka Kitao, the CEO of the Japanese financial firm SBI Group, said on Wednesday that Ripple planned to become a public company after settling a lawsuit brought against it by the Securities and Exchange Commission. On an earnings call, Kitao said Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse and Executive Chairman Chris Larsen were planning to take the company public. The SEC in December filed a lawsuit against Ripple Labs, Garlinghouse, and Larsen alleging that XRP was a US$1.3 billion unregistered securities offering. https://bit.ly/3ud3qlR

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

Mark Zuckerberg announces new ways for Instagram creators to make money.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday announced a slew of features Instagram is working on to help creators generate more revenue from their content. This includes a marketplace that would help match brands with creators whose content fits the audiences that they are trying to reach. Already, many social media creators get paid to post sponsored content, but the goal of this marketplace would be for Instagram to play a more involved role in helping brands discover emerging creators, said Adam Mosseri, head of the Facebook-owned image- and video-sharing service. Zuckerberg also announced creator shops, which would allow creators to sell goods to Instagram users directly through their profiles on the social network. Last year, the company introduced Facebook Shops and Instagram Shops as part of a push to bring more commerce directly onto Facebook’s service. These shops allow businesses to sell directly to users. Some top creators, such as Kim Kardashian, already have shops on their Instagram profiles. Creator shops would allow more creators to sell through Instagram. https://cnb.cx/3nCZ9pk

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

EU commission says App Store in breach of competition law, Apple unfairly favored Apple Music over other music streaming services.

As expected, the head of the EU competition commission Margrethe Vestager said that in their preliminary conclusion, Apple unfairly favored Apple Music over rivals. This is due to the high commission fees Apple imposes on third-party apps in the App Store and the fact that Apple does not allow app developers to tell users that other purchase methods may be available outside of the application. As this is a preliminary judgement, no fines or regulations were announced by the commission today. The next step in the process is for the commission to review the case with Apple. When this period concludes, the commission will decide whether to proceed with formal charges and restitution. If found in breach of competition law, the commission can force Apple to change the rules of the App Store and issue a fine for past offences, worth up to 10% of annual revenue. Spotify first filed a complaint with the EU in 2019. Other companies like Match and Tile have also voiced their discontent with Apple’s App Store policy. https://bit.ly/3eL5nzF

Apple’s app store had 78% margin in 2019, Epic expert says.

Apple Inc.’s App Store had operating margins of nearly 78% in fiscal year 2019, according to testimony from an Epic Games Inc. expert witness based on documents obtained from the iPhone maker. The figures come from the testimony of Ned Barnes, a financial and economics researcher, on behalf of the video-game maker. He said he obtained documents “prepared by Apple’s Corporate Financial Planning and Analysis group and produced from the files of Apple CEO Tim Cook.” “I understand that the day before my expert report was due, Apple produced additional documents that I obtained and reviewed after submitting my report,” Barned wrote. “These documents show that Apple calculated its own operating margin percentage for the App Store to be 77.8% for FY2019 and 74.9% for FY2018.” In a statement Saturday, the Cupertino, California-based technology giant refuted the calculations, saying “Epic’s experts calculations of the operating margins for the App Store are simply wrong and we look forward to refuting them in court.” Analysts believe that Apple’s margins on the App Store may have grown since 2019. Sensor Tower estimates the App Store generated $22 billion in commissions last year for Apple, while Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi believes Apple will run the App Store this year with a gross profit of 88%. https://bloom.bg/3eKvVRn

U.S. Labor Secretary supports classifying gig workers as employees.

A lot of gig workers in the United States should be classified as “employees” who deserve work benefits, President Biden’s labor secretary said on Thursday, suggesting a shift in policy that is likely to raise costs for companies that depend on contractors such as Uber and Lyft. Shares of Uber fell as much as 8 percent while Lyft dived as much as 12 percent. Doordash fell nearly 9 percent and Grubhub was down 3.3 percent. As many as 55 million people in the United States were gig workers – or 34% of the workforce – in 2017, according to the International Labor Organization, and the total was projected to rise to 43% in 2020. https://reut.rs/3e9Us3p

Location info sold by smartphone apps revealed US military movements in Syria. US military movements in Syria were revealed by location info available for purchase from smartphone apps, says a new report. This included enough information to identify the location of an undeclared US military base in the country. The sensitive location information was harvested from weather, games, and dating apps on the phones of US soldiers, and appears to include special ops personnel. The WSJ said that the security breach came to light when a US contractor was working on software it hoped would enable the US to track the movements of Syrian refugees. https://bit.ly/3xGzlgz

China says 33 apps break rules in gathering user information.

China said thirty-three applications, including map navigation software provided by Baidu Inc. and Tencent Holdings Ltd., violated regulations, with most collecting personal information that weren’t relevant to their services. The operators of the apps were asked to rectify the issues within 10 working days or be subject to penalties, the Cyberspace Administration of China said in a statement, without elaborating. Authorities had carried out recent checks into apps that were widely used, the agency said. https://bloom.bg/2S9gFpx

China orders internet firms to fix problems in fintech businesses.

China’s central bank and other financial regulators have ordered 13 internet companies that operate online financial services to fix problems in their business practices, in the latest indication of how Beijing is tightening its control over the growing fintech sector. The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission said on its website that the regulators on Thursday jointly conducted interviews with internet firms including Tencent, ByteDance, Didi Chuxing, Meituan and JD.com, as part of the government’s effort to strengthen its supervision of online financial services. The regulators pointed out widespread problems in the sector such as the lack of corporate governance, unfair competition and violation of consumer rights, according to the statement. The statement comes as China’s government is stepping up its effort to rein in the country’s most powerful tech companies. Earlier this week, China’s market regulator launched an antitrust investigation into food delivery app Meituan. The regulator earlier this month slapped an anti-monopoly fine of nearly US$2.8 billion on e-commerce giant Alibaba. https://bit.ly/3ucULjx

China’s government prepares antitrust fine for Tencent.

China’s government is preparing a substantial fine for social network and videogame giant Tencent as part of its antitrust crackdown on tech companies, Reuters reported. The penalty is expected to amount to at least 10 billion yuan (US$1.54 billion), the report said. The penalty would be for Tencent’s failure to seek approval for its past acquisitions and investments, as well as some anti-competitive practices, according to Reuters. Such a move against Tencent, whose WeChat messaging app has 1.2 billion monthly active users, would be the latest example of how Beijing is tightening its control over the country’s biggest internet platforms. Earlier this month, China’s market regulator slapped an anti-monopoly fine of nearly US$2.8 billion on e-commerce giant Alibaba. Earlier this week, the regulator launched an antitrust investigation into Meituan, the country’s biggest food delivery and on-demand services app whose backers include Tencent. https://bit.ly/3nE4LQg


Mailchimp moves into e-commerce.

Over the course of the last few years, Mailchimp morphed from a basic newsletter platform to a fully fledged marketing company. And while the service already offered integrations with a number of e-commerce sites, it is now launching its own online stores for small and medium businesses, as well as a new appointment booking service. These new services will be part of MailChimp’s new “Websites & Commerce” plans, which starts with a free tier that offers most of the basic functionality. Users on the free plan will pay a 2% transaction fee. For US$10/month, Mailchimp will remove its own branding and users will get access to email and chat support and only pay a 1.5% transaction fee, while those who opt for the “Plus” plan at US$29/month will only pay a 0.5% transaction fee per order. All plans will let users build sites with unlimited pages and without bandwidth restrictions, and include SEO tools and integration with Google Analytics. As for the stores, users will be able to build their product catalogs and manage their orders, taxes and shipping configurations. All of this, as well as the appointments functionality, is obviously deeply integrated with the rest of the Mailchimp stack. https://tcrn.ch/3t8tInV

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

Binance may have violated securities rules by allowing token trading of some US stocks, Germany’s financial watchdog says.

Crypto exchange Binance this month began allowing non-US users to trade tokenized versions of some US stocks, including Tesla, Coinbase, and MicroStrategy. But Germany’s financial watchdog, BaFin, on Wednesday warned investors the exchange may have violated securities rules by failing to issue a prospectus detailing its offering of the assets. The regulator said such a violation constitutes an administrative offense that could be punishable with a fine of 5 million euros (US$6 million) or 3% of the issuer’s total turnover in the last financial year. BaFin also has the ability to ban the legal sale of securities. Binance, which does not have a single location for its headquarters, typically allows users to trade crypto derivatives – including futures and options. But as retail traders warmed up to round-the-clock stock trading in the past year, the exchange offered investors the option to trade fractions of shares using a German broker as an intermediary, according to the Financial Times. Binance’s stock token trading platform was said to still be accessible on Wednesday by users operating in the UK and Germany. Meanwhile, residents in the US, China, and Turkey are banned from using the service. https://bit.ly/3e9H8vT

Beijing to investigate energy consumption of crypto mining.

Beijing is launching an investigation into how much power is being sucked up by cryptocurrency mining from its main data centers, including those run by state-owned telecommunications companies. Computers use so much energy mining – performing the complex equations required to create new bitcoins and other digital currencies – that the industry threatens to derail China from its environmental goals of reducing carbon emissions. About 75% of the world’s bitcoin is still mined in China despite government crackdowns on the energy-guzzling industry. A serious slowdown could have huge implications for the overall supply of digital currencies. https://bit.ly/3aWD0NH

JPMorgan teams with Singapore’s DBS and Temasek to form a blockchain payment platform.

JPMorgan Chase announced it is teaming up with Singapore’s DBS Group Holdings and Temasek Holdings to form a blockchain payments platform in a bid to ease cross-border payments, trade, and currency settlements. The newly-established technology company, Partior, will leverage blockchain technology and digitize M1 commercial money, according to a statement Wednesday. The platform will develop wholesale payment rails based on digitized commercial bank money to enable “atomic” or instantaneous settlement for various kinds of financial transactions, according to a statement. Partior will be designed to complement ongoing central bank digital currencies initiatives and use cases. In the beginning, Partior will focus on facilitating flows primarily between Singapore-based banks in both US and Singapore dollars but will expand its service offerings to other markets and currencies. https://bit.ly/3tbJaQc

China’s e-commerce giant JD.com starts paying some staff in digital yuan.

China’s plan to introduce its digital currency is getting a lot of help from its tech conglomerates. JD.com, a major Chinese online retailer that competes with Alibaba, said Monday that it has started paying some staff in digital yuan (since January), the virtual version of the country’s physical currency. China has been busy experimenting with digital currency over the past few months. In October, Shenzhen, a southern city known for its progressive economic policies, doled out 10 million yuan worth of digital currency to 500,000 residents, who could then use the money to shop at certain online and offline retailers. Several other large Chinese cities have followed Shenzhen’s suit. The residents in these regions must apply through selected banks to start receiving and paying by digital yuan. https://tcrn.ch/3vwjtLL

Expected top NFL draft pick Trevor Lawrence reportedly signed an endorsement deal with crypto-investment app Blockfolio – and took his first payment in crypto tokens.

Trevor Lawrence, the expected top pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft, has signed a multiyear deal with investment app Blockfolio and was paid exclusively in cryptocurrency, DealBook first reported Monday. The first payment to the football star -a mixture of bitcoin, ethereum, and solana – was immediately transferred to his Blockfolio account. Future payments, however, are subject to whatever combination of dollars and cryptocurrencies from the initial basket the former Clemson quarterback desires, according to DealBook. Other terms of the agreement were not disclosed but a company spokesman revealed that the crypto signing bonus was already worth more on Sunday compared to when it was deposited on Friday. https://bit.ly/3nAgbVj

The NFT art market has grown more than 800% in 2021 so far to US$490 million – but the boom could now be heading towards bust.

The market for non-fungible token art has boomed in 2021, swelling by more than 800% from US$52 million at the start of the year to US$490 million at the end of the April. But there are growing signs that interest in NFT art is waning, with the creator of the most expensive digital art piece of all time himself labelling the market a bubble. In 2020, there had been just 53,663 unique works of NFT art sold on the five largest platforms, according to a new report from blockchain development company ConsenSys, in which JPMorgan and UBS recently invested. But the market has expanded rapidly, with 151,977 pieces of NFT art sold in the 30 days to Thursday, the report said. However, there are growing signs that the NFT market is slowing sharply, with art particularly hard-hit. The total amount of NFT sales has declined by almost 28% and the total value of sales fell by almost 14% between March 30th and April 28th, data from nonfungible.com showed on Wednesday. Sale volumes for art NFTs declined by almost 42%, making this the sector with the biggest losses. In the same timeframe, prices dropped by 40.5%. This translates to a sales value drop from over US$71 million to US$41.5 million. https://bit.ly/3aRueAn

Tesla reveals US$101 million bitcoin profit following its massive cryptocurrency investment.

Tesla made a splash when it announced that it had bought US$1.5 billion worth of bitcoin in February — and it’s already profited more than US$100 million from the investment. Elon Musk’s automaker on Monday said that it sold US$272 million worth of digital assets during the first three months of 2021 and that it netted US$101 million from the sale. Tesla still has US$1.33 billion in digital assets on its balance sheet, it said. It’s not clear exactly where the other US$171 million went, but converting bitcoin to US dollars can come with high fees. https://bit.ly/3t5VyRJ

Korean billionaire Kim Jung-ju’s gaming provider bets US$100 million on bitcoin in Tokyo’s largest-ever cryptocurrency purchase.

Tokyo-based Nexon said on Wednesday the company bought US$100 million worth of bitcoin, becoming one of a growing number of publicly-listed companies that owns the cryptocurrency.  The video-game provider, founded by Korean billionaire Kim Jung-ju, said it bought 1,717 bitcoins at an average price of US$58,226 per coin, including fees and expenses. The transaction represents 2% of Nexon’s total cash and cash equivalents as of December 2020, the company said. https://bit.ly/334nUl5


TSMC Update: 2nm in Development, 3nm and 4nm on Track for 2022.

Early this year TSMC significantly boosted its 2021 CapEx budget to a US$25 – US$28 billion range, further increasing it to around US$30 billion as a part of its three-year plan to spend US$100 billion on manufacturing capacities and R&D. About 80% of TSMC’s US$30 billion capital budget this year will be spent on expanding capacities for advanced technologies, such as 3nm, 4nm/5nm, and 6nm/7nm. Analysts from China Renaissance Securities believe that most of the money on advanced nodes will be used to expand TSMC’s N5 capacity to 110,000 ~ 120,000 wafer starts per month (WSPM) by the end of the year. Meanwhile, TSMC said that 10% of its CapEx will be allocated for advanced packaging and mask making, whereas another 10% will be spent on specialty technologies (which includes tailored versions of mature nodes). TMSC’s the most recent CapEx hikes announcements were made after Intel announced its IDM 2.0 strategy (that involves in-house production, outsourcing, and foundry operations) and to a large degree reaffirms TMSC’s confidence in both short-term and long-term future even ahead of intensified competition. “As a leading pure-play foundry, TSMC has never been short on competition in our 30-plus-year history, yet we know how to compete,” said C.C. Wei, president and CEO of TSMC, at a recent conference call with analysts and investors. “We will continue to focus on delivering technology leadership, manufacturing excellence, and earning our customers’ trust. The last point, customers’ trust, is fairly important because we do not have internal products that compete with customer.” https://bit.ly/3nAkoIq

EU kicks off race to produce advanced semiconductors by 2030.

The European Union outlined the bloc’s digital goals for the next decade, including plans to develop and manufacture the world’s most advanced semiconductors by 2030, in an effort to reduce reliance on foreign companies for critical technological components. Production of at least 20% of the world’s semiconductors in value is targeted by that date, the EU said Tuesday. Mature semiconductors are already produced in Europe, but officials want the region to manufacture chips that are faster than the most efficient currently made by industry leaders Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung Electronics Co. https://bloom.bg/2R6zxVW


1 in 5 electric vehicle owners in California switched back to gas because charging their cars is a hassle, new research shows.

In roughly three minutes, you can fill the gas tank of a Ford Mustang and have enough range to go about 300 miles with its V8 engine. But for the electric Mustang Mach-E, an hour plugged into a household outlet gave Bloomberg automotive analyst Kevin Tynan just three miles of range. That difference is night and day, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Energy by University of California Davis researchers Scott Hardman and Gil Tal that surveyed Californians who purchased an electric vehicle between 2012 and 2018. Roughly one in five plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) owners switched back to owning gas-powered cars, in large part because charging the batteries was a pain in the… trunk, the researchers found. Of those who switched, over 70% lacked access to Level 2 charging at home, and slightly fewer than that lacked Level 2 connections at their workplace. “If you don’t have a Level 2, it’s almost impossible,” said Tynan, who has tested a wide range of makes and models of PEVs over the years for his research. Even with the faster charging, a Chevy Volt he tested still needed nearly six hours to top its range back up to 300 miles from nearly empty — something that takes him just minutes at the pump with his family SUV. https://bit.ly/3xGVlbq

Sophic Capital Client Insights

Renoworks Software Inc. (RW-TSXV, ROWKF-OTC) – Visualizing the growth in a successful business.

Home renovations have boomed during the pandemic. That doesn’t mean homeowners haven’t felt the stress and disappointments that come with renovations.Renoworks digital visualization software simplifies the home renovation value chain for homeowners. https://bit.ly/3xFoWSE

The U.S. cannabis industry is just getting going, with 15 states having legalized marijuana for adults over the age of 21 and 36 states having legalized medical marijuana.

Sophic Capital client Body and Mind (BAMM-CSE, BMMJ-OTC) is a multi-state cannabis operator with retail, distribution, cultivation and/or processing operations in Nevada, California, Arkansas, and Ohio. We’re hosting an investor presentation Tuesday, May 4, 2021 at 12pm ET with Body and Mind CEO Michael Mills to learn more.. Register in advance for this meeting: https://bit.ly/3nFkNJD 


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