This past week saw more activity in VC funding relative public markets in Canadian tech and clean tech sectors. In the US, we are eagerly awaiting Robinhood’s S-1 filing, which is expected next week. Interestingly, Robinhood, SoFi and Public plan to give retail investors IPO allocation access, a great move, in our view. In the Fintech space, German trading app, Trade Republic saw a ~9x increase in its Series C financing to ~US$5.5 billion, and Fidelity plans to offer no-fee investment services for teenagers who want to trade stocks and ETFs. For investors, looking for exposure to a similar theme in Canada, Sophic client, AnalytixInsight (ALY-TSXV, ATIXF-OTC), should benefit from its deepening relationship with Intesa Sanpaolo, a major European bank. Outside North America, the Gojek-Tokopedia merger and IPO is anticipated by investors, as another potential super-app. Snap announced its next iteration of AR glasses. In the gaming sector, Saudi Arabia’s US$400 billion wealth fund doubled down on its stakes in US video-game makers and dumped a major oil position in Q1, at the same time, Netflix is looking to hire an executive to oversee an expansion into videogames.
Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News
Dye & Durham acquires future climate info for $94 million.
The acquisition expands Dye & Durham’s capabilities in the U.K. real estate value chain, adding products which are already utilized by Dye & Durham’s customer base and accessed through its platform today. Through its proprietary cloud based technology, Future Climate Info provides access to critical intelligence information that enables smarter insights for mission critical decisions on most real estate transactions. While the acquisition multiple is not disclosed, the Company believes that it will be able to achieve post-synergy returns that are consistent with the Company’s targeted return model. https://bit.ly/3yziugc
General Assembly Pizza set to go public on TSXV June 3.
Toronto’s General Assembly Pizza (GA Pizza) has filed its final non-offering prospectus and is set to begin listing on the TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV) on June 3 under the symbol ‘GA.’ The move follows GA Pizza’s pandemic-induced pivot from a brick-and-mortar pizza restaurant to an omnichannel brand. GA Pizza, which touts itself as “the world’s first pizza subscription,” doesn’t plan to issue any new securities as part of the listing, relying instead on the fresh financing it raised earlier this year. GA Pizza secured a $13 million Series A round via private placement in February led by Gravitas Securities before filing to go public on the TSXV in early March. Last month, GA Pizza also raised almost $503,000 in gross proceeds through an additional private placement. https://bit.ly/3wjvuEW
mCloud (MCLD-TSXV) signs Commitment Letter for $5 million operating line from ATB Financial.
The company executed a commitment letter with ATB Financial (“ATB”) for a $5 million secured operating line (the “ATB Facility”). Proceeds of the ATB Facility will be used to repay amounts owed by the Company to HSBC Bank Canada and for general working capital purposes. The ATB Facility is a demand operating line bearing interest at a floating rate equal to the prime rate per annum established by ATB from time to time for commercial loans denominated in Canadian dollars made by ATB in Canada, plus an applicable margin rate based on the senior debt to EBITDA ratio of the Company at the time of determination. Repayments under the ATB Facility will be made on a monthly interest-only basis until demand. The ATB Facility is secured against certain assets of the Company and its principal subsidiaries. https://bit.ly/3yzRqgK
Hardware startup Tenstorrent raises over $200 million in funding, claims $1 billion valuation.
Tenstorrent, a Toronto-based startup that develops computing hardware for artificial intelligence applications, has raised over $200 million in funding, which the company reported brings its valuation to $1 billion. The investment was led by Fidelity Management and Research Company, with participation from Eclipse Ventures, Epic CG, and Moore Capital. Real Ventures, an existing investor, also participated in this round. Reports from TechSpot and Private Capital Journal classified the $200 million as Tenstorrent’s Series C round of funding. Tenstorrent has developed a computer processing chip, called Grayskull, that is designed for machine learning platforms. The Grayskull chip has 120 processors called “Tensix” cores that make the chips suitable for deep learning forms of AI. The company plans to bring Grayskull to market later this year. The startup also plans to launch software, which will allow developers to run their models without first having to purchase hardware. https://bit.ly/3f8EGpY
Vancouver-based Dooly raises US$80 million Series B round.
Vancouver-based software startup Dooly, which offers a connected workplace solution for sales professionals, has closed an US$80 million Series B round of funding, bringing the startup’s total funding to date to US$105 million. News of the raise comes two months after Dooly announced $20.3 million in funding. The round was led by Spark Capital, with participation from new investors Greenspring, Tiger Global, and Lachy Groom, and existing investors Boldstart Ventures, BoxGroup, and Addition. Will Reed of Spark Capital has joined Dooly’s board following the round. According to sources that spoke with TechCrunch, the new funding values Dooly at $300 million. https://bit.ly/3bPdlqD
Knix reportedly secures $53 million in latest funding round.
Toronto-based startup Knix Wear, an e-commerce company that sells intimate apparel, has closed a new round of financing at a reported $53 million. Joanna Griffiths, Knix’s founder and CEO, revealed the company had raised new capital in a blog post Tuesday. She wrote that the funding comes as Knix gears up to exceed $100 million in revenue. According to The Globe and Mail, Knix raised $53 million and the round was led by New York-based private equity firm TZP Group. The growth equity round also included existing Knix investor Acton Capital as well as American supermodel Ashley Graham, Tom Williams, and Yard Ventures. https://bit.ly/34bsL4e
BuyProperly raises $2 million to expand real estate investment platform across Canada, US.
Toronto-based FinTech startup BuyProperly has secured a $2 million pre-seed round to fuel the growth of its online fractional real estate marketplace, which allows users to invest in portions of residential properties for as little as $2,500. The round was led by Nurture Ventures, and also saw continued participation from Fastbreak Ventures and angel investors, including Andrew Graham and Eva Wong of fellow Toronto FinTech company Borrowell. https://bit.ly/3hIYMZD
Wingocard secures $2 million, launches app to teach teens financial literacy.
Backed by $2 million in fresh seed funding, Montréal-based FinTech startup Wingocard has officially begun rolling out its financial literacy-focused mobile banking app to users in the United States. Wingocard’s seed round was led by Montréal’s Panache Ventures, with participation from prior investor Diagram Ventures and angel investors Cherif Habib of Dialogue and Francois Arbour of Premium Beat. Combined with the startup’s Diagram Ventures-led $2 million round last July, the new financing brings Wingocard’s total seed funding to date to $4 million. https://bit.ly/3yxjiCo
After pivoting to podcasts, LumiQ raises $1.1 million.
When Luminari launched its podcasting product in 2019, the startup considered it to be a valuable layer to its existing career management platform for chartered professional accountants (CPAs). Fast-forward two years, and this podcasting product, called LumiQ, has grown to become the core focus for the Toronto-based startup. The company now brands itself as LumiQ, and has found success in the Canadian market. With $1.1 million CAD in fresh funding, LumiQ is now setting its sights on an expansion to the United States. At the end of March, LumiQ closed $1.1 million in funding through a convertible note from a group of new and existing angel investors. https://bit.ly/2QNvQVi
BDC launches second $250-million growth equity fund to fill funding gap for scaling Canadian companies.
Business Development Bank of Canada has launched its second $250-million growth equity fund to fill what it says is a gap in domestic funding sources for expanding small and medium-sized Canadian business that don’t want to sell out. The federal Crown corporation’s private capital arm, BDC Capital, launched its first $250-million fund in 2017 aimed at funding companies with $10-million or more in revenue and between 100 and 499 employees. So far it has invested $175-million in 18 Canadian companies, including drugstore operator Neighbourly Pharmacy Inc., last-mile e-commerce delivery network operator Intelcom Courier Canada Inc., LiveBarn Inc., an on-demand broadcaster of amateur sports, and forestry equipment supplier BID Group Holdings Inc. https://tgam.ca/3hMRDHF
White Star Capital closes US$50 million fund focused on crypto and blockchain.
In the last few weeks, crypto has seized the global tech sector’s attention. From Tesla CEO Elon Musk going cold on bitcoin, to firms like Coinbase going public, the space has been buzzing with activity. Now, a global venture firm with Canadian operations and $700 million in assets under management is looking to throw its hat in the ring. White Star Capital recently completed the final close of its Digital Asset Fund, raising US$50 million from limited partners Bpifrance and Ubisoft, as well as several undisclosed family offices. The Digital Asset Fund, which represents White Star Capital’s first specialized fund and exceeded its original $30 million target, was created to invest in crypto networks and blockchain-enabled businesses. The fund has a focus on North America and Europe and has already invested in two Canadian startups. https://bit.ly/3udw05K
Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A
Robinhood plans to reveal its IPO filings as soon as next week.
Robinhood Markets Inc. plans to reveal filings for its initial public offering as soon as next week, as the trading app targets late June for its market debut, according to people familiar with the matter. While Robinhood’s IPO plans are advanced, the timing and details could change, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. A representative for Robinhood declined to comment. https://bloom.bg/2QM113g
Robinhood will give retail investors access to IPO shares.
Robinhood is giving amateur investors access to initial public offering shares in its latest move to democratize retail investing. IPO shares have historically been set aside for Wall Street’s institutional investors or high-net worth individuals. Retail traders typically don’t have a vehicle to buy into newly listed companies until those shares begin trading on an exchange, which is often after the share price has surged. “We’re starting to roll out IPO Access, a new product that will give you the opportunity to buy shares of companies at their IPO price, before trading on public exchanges. With IPO Access, you can now participate in upcoming IPOs with no account minimums,” Robinhood said in a blog post Thursday. Robinhood will not be an underwriter for companies hitting the public markets but will get an allocation of shares by partnering with investment banks. Online finance start-up SoFi made a move similar to Robinhood’s in March; however, Sofi will be an underwriter for its offered IPOs. https://cnb.cx/34cR3uA
Squarespace shares given US$50 reference price for NYSE debut.
Squarespace’s shares will begin trading Wednesday without the company raising any capital. As with previous direct listings, the company won’t issue new shares at a set price. Instead, current investors can simply begin selling shares based on demand when trading opens. The company is joining a cadre of technology-oriented firms that have gone public through direct listings, most recently cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global Inc. and online game maker Roblox Corp. this year. Palantir Technologies Inc. and Asana Inc. debuted through direct listings last year, following a trail blazed by Spotify Technology SA and Slack Technologies Inc. before them. Squarespace raised funding in March at an enterprise value of US$10 billion, an amount that would have included options and similar holdings. https://bloom.bg/3vcxHSx
Procore raises US$634.5 million in IPO priced above range.
Procore Technologies Inc., a cloud-based construction software company, priced its shares in an initial public offering above a marketed range to raise US$634.5 million. The company sold 9.47 million shares for US$67 each, according to a press release Thursday. It had marketed the shares for US$60 to US$65, an exchange filing showed. Procore has a market value in the listing of more than US$8.5 billion based on the outstanding shares listed in its filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Diluted to include employee stock options and restricted stock units, that value increases to at least US$9.6 billion. The listing is Procore’s second run at going public. Based in Carpinteria, California, it first filed in early 2020 for an IPO but postponed the transaction during the coronavirus pandemic. After the delay, it raised more than US$150 million in a funding round from investors including Dan Sundheim’s D1 Capital Partners at a US$5 billion valuation, Bloomberg News reported. The company continued to attract new users during the pandemic, growing its customer base by 19% in 2020. With more than 40% of construction firms reporting higher costs and slower project completion due to labor shortages, the digitization of the industry has accelerated during the past year, the company said. https://bloom.bg/3fFIoWV
Gojek, Tokopedia announce $18 billion merger, plan IPO this year.
Gojek and Tokopedia, two of Indonesia’s biggest tech startups, have combined their businesses to create GoTo, a giant in ride-hailing, food delivery, e-commerce and digital payment, the two companies said Monday. GoTo will pursue an initial public offering by the end of this year, executives said. Gojek, Gojek co-CEO Andre Soelistyo is the CEO of GoTo, a holding company that has Gojek, Tokopedia and fintech unit GoTo Financial under its umbrella. Ride-hailing and on-demand services app Gojek, valued at US$10 billion last year, is backed by Tencent, Google and Facebook as well as DST Global, Warburg Pincus and Sequoia Capital. Shopping app Tokopedia, valued at US$8 billion in December, is backed by SoftBank, Alibaba and Sequoia Capital. GoTo’s IPO plans come as Wall Street investors are paying more attention to Southeast Asia’s biggest tech companies. Singapore’s Grab, Gojek’s biggest rival in ride-hailing, food delivery and payment, is preparing to go public in the U.S. through a special purpose acquisition company in a deal that values it at US$40 billion. New York-listed Singapore’s Sea, whose e-commerce app Shopee competes with Tokopedia, has a market capitalization of about US$112 billion, making it one of Asia’s most valuable tech firms. https://bit.ly/3hLWiJP
1stDibs files to go public in latest test of used goods appeal.
1stDibs, an online seller of previously owned high-end furniture and other collectibles from brands like Cartier, filed to go public in what will be the latest test of the public market’s appetite for such businesses as the pandemic subsides and more shoppers return to physical stores. 1stDibs revealed its revenue rose 16% to US$81.8 million in 2020, while its operating loss fell by about half to US$13.5 million. But in the first quarter revenue rose 42%. The 20-year-old 1stDibs was last valued at US$520 million in 2019, according to Pitchbook. The most comparable stock to 1stDibs is The RealReal, which sells high-end used goods and whose market capitalization is US$1.3 billion. https://bit.ly/2RwwV4f
Flywire sets IPO terms, which could value the payments platform company at US$2.4 billion.
Flywire Corp. set terms of its initial public offering, in which the Boston-based payments enablement and software company is looking to raise up to US$208.8 million. The company said it will offer 8.7 million shares in the IPO, which is expected to price between US$22 and US$24 a share. At that pricing, the company could be valued at up to US$2.40 billion. The stock is expected to list on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “FLYW.” The company listed 13 underwriters, led by Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Citigroup and BofA Securities. Flywire recorded a net loss of US$8.7 million on revenue of US$45.0 million for the quarter ended March 31, after net income of US$781,000 on revenue of US$32.7 million in the same period a year ago. The company is looking to go public at a time that the Renaissance IPO ETF has dropped 22.6% over the past three months while the S&P 500 has gained 6.4%. https://on.mktw.net/3fb03H6
Mobile game maker Jam City to go public through SPAC merger.
The mobile games maker Jam City will go public through a merger with DPCM Capital, a special purpose acquisition company led by former Uber executive Emil Michael. The resulting publicly-traded company, to be called Jam City Holdings, will have an enterprise value of US$1.2 billion. The deal will add US$115 million in cash to the combined company’s balance sheet, including US$100 million from a form of financing called a private investment in public equity, or PIPE. The porfolio of Jam City—led by Chris DeWolfe, one of the founders of MySpace—includes games based on the Harry Potter and Jurassic Park franchises, along with Cookie Jam and Panda Pop. The combined company said it is expected to have US$868 million in bookings in 2022, for a compound annual growth rate of 23% between 2019 and next year. https://bit.ly/3bPm8ch
Redbox to go public after merger with SPAC Seaport Global, valuing company at US$693 million.
Redbox announced Monday plans to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in a deal valuing the new-release movies and home entertainment company at US$693 million. Redbox is owned by Apollo Global Management Inc., which acquired Redbox through its purchase of Outerwall in September 2016. After the deal closes, which is expected to occur in the third quarter of 2021, Redbox expects to have about US$209 million in cash, which it expects to use to pay down debt, fund digital expansion, content acquisition and for marketing. https://on.mktw.net/3bPP17Y
Amazon is in talks to buy MGM for US$9 billion.
Amazon has reportedly offered US$9 billion for the company, according to Variety, following a scoop from The Information that suggested a range of US$7-10 billion for a potential deal, and Variety suggests that US$9 billion was also the amount that MGM was reportedly hoping to get. Between those factors, the fact that MGM has been up for sale since December 2020, and the jealousy that comes with the sudden impending existence of a new media giant earlier today as AT&T spins off WarnerMedia and combines it with Discovery, it wouldn’t be very surprising if Amazon and MGM made a deal. The Information was slightly less bullish in its report today, though, writing that “The status of Amazon’s discussions with MGM is unclear and it’s possible no deal will result.” In December, The Guardian reported that MGM has a library of 4,000 films and 17,000 hours of TV. James Bond in particular is one of the most valuable film franchises ever made — a list that’s only growing smaller as the Disney umbrella and Marvel Cinematic Universe swallow as many rivals as it can. https://bit.ly/3uar164
Snap acquires AR startup WaveOptics, which provides tech for Spectacles, for over US$500 million.
Snap announced the latest iteration of its Spectacles augmented reality glasses, and the company revealed a bit more news: it is also acquiring the startup that supplied the technology that helps power them. The Snapchat parent is snapping up WaveOptics, an AR startup that makes the waveguides and projectors used in AR glasses. These overlay virtual images on top of the views of the real world someone wearing the glasses can see, and Snap worked with WaveOptics to build its latest version of Spectacles. The deal was first reported by The Verge, and a spokesperson for Snap directly confirmed the details to TechCrunch. Snap is paying over US$500 million for the startup, in a cash-and-stock deal. The first half of that will be coming in the form of stock when the deal officially closes, and the remainder will be payable in cash or stock in two years. https://tcrn.ch/3ucBDBk
Snap just unveiled new AR Spectacles glasses with built-in screens.
Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, on Thursday introduced its next-generation Spectacles product, the company’s first pair of glasses that use augmented reality. That means the wearer would be able to overlay anything they wanted to over the real world. The Spectacles can be used indoors or outdoors and come with two cameras, four microphones, and a touchpad. They’re integrated with Lens Studio software that allows creators to build their own designs to use with Spectacles. The new Spectacles have a 30-minute battery life and come equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 Platform chip, according to a press release. https://bit.ly/3vgUbBC
Oculus update set to enable impressive mixed reality capture on iPhone XS and later.
Oculus is close to releasing a new update for its Quest headsets and one of the most interesting new features is Live Overlay casting. Previously, capturing a mixed reality view required lots of hardware, but now the new version of the mixed reality casting can be used with just an iPhone XS or later. Reported by The Verge, Oculus will be launching version 29 of its software for the Quest and Quest 2 headsets before long and the headlining new feature will be Live Overlay casting. The feature will make it simple to record a mixed reality view of you “using VR superimposed over the content displayed in your headset.” And notably, Oculus says any VR app will work with Live Overlay casting. The feature will work through the updated Oculus iOS app with iPhone XS or later, although it sounds like Oculus won’t be making it available to everyone at first. https://bit.ly/3uar2Ha
Google meet melds with AR/VR in project Starline.
New signs of life appeared in Google’s AR/VR efforts Tuesday, at its first I/O conference in two years, when the company revealed an immersive video conferencing tool called Project Starline. Sitting inside a special booth, people can have a 3D videoconference with someone in another part of the country so realistically it looks as if they’re sitting across the table from each other. It’s a promising communication tool and is likely to draw plenty of interest after a year in which we’ve all been cooped up at home, relying on Zoom’s 2D video calls to stay in touch with friends and colleagues. But this isn’t something every family will be able to afford. It relies on large, sophisticated booths—each equipped with a giant light field display and an array of expensive cameras and depth sensors. Starline is more likely to be aimed at the business market, making it a detour from the consumer-focused path that competitors like Facebook are marching down. Still, as a high-end teleconferencing product, you could do worse. Starline doesn’t require a headset or special glasses. The light field display makes it possible for a user to move their gaze and head (within a small area, at least) and see the other caller with realistic depth and parallax cues. Streaming that 3D content in real time is no small feat either. Google claims its streaming method is efficient enough to work on its regular office network. https://bit.ly/348u18h
Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting
Why Twitch’s streaming cost-cuts make sense.
Twitch, the livestreaming platform popular with gamers, is making a big push to appeal to more viewers outside of the U.S. by slashing prices on subscriptions to its streamers’ channels. The move makes sense, given the wide gap between people who watch Twitch and those who want to pay for it regularly. But Twitch has to proceed gingerly: As star streamers like Ninja have shown, they’ll hop to rival platforms for the right deal. The Amazon-owned service on Monday said it will change the cost of subscriptions to streamers’ channels in most countries to better reflect the cost of living, starting in Mexico and Turkey. Channel subscriptions, which give fans perks like ad-free viewing or exclusive chats, are the most popular way for streamers to make money on Twitch. The cheapest subscription costs about US$4.99 a month in every country, with Twitch and streamers splitting revenue 50-50. That price is too rich for many would-be viewers, and Twitch is betting the changes will attract bigger audiences. In one recent test, Twitch said cheaper subscriptions in Brazil more than doubled creator revenue and total subscriber count. The percentage of Twitch subscribers in Europe or Asia is roughly 50% lower compared to North America, and it’s even more in Latin America. https://bit.ly/3fcmM5K
Tencent loses last major exclusive music licensing deal as NetEase, Sony seal distribution pact.
Sony Music Entertainment announced on Monday “a direct digital distribution relationship” with NetEase Cloud Music, a unit of Chinese video games giant NetEase, to effectively end an exclusive licensing deal in mainland China with Tencent Music Entertainment (TME). Under the agreement, NetEase will make Sony Music tunes available to mainland Chinese users and explore other areas of collaboration, including music vlogs – or what it calls Mlogs – and online karaoke with smartphones. Sony Music also said it has agreed to a “multi-year extension” of its digital distribution deal with TME. New York-based Sony Music is the last of three major international labels, including Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, to end exclusive licensing deals with TME. https://bit.ly/2RIfZHP
Sony patents its own eSports betting platform.
Sony files a patent for a gambling system that could potentially allow PlayStation users to make bets on live esports events. The patent was filed in 2019 but published this month, and describes a system that allows users to bet currency (including Bitcoin) or digital items, with odds determined by machine learning. The patent could, in theory, be used to allow live match betting on eSports games such as those held during the EVO fighting game tournament, which the PlayStation parent jointly acquired earlier this year. According to the patent, Sony’s system would use the past histories of players or eSports teams to determine betting odds offered to spectators viewing gameplay. This data could be determined from either the current video game being played or a player’s entire fighting game history, including win-loss ratios and more. https://bit.ly/345ABwt
The League of Legends 2021 World Championship will be in Shenzhen, China.
The 2021 League of Legends World Championship will be held in Shenzhen, China, Riot Games announced late Friday. The Worlds Final will be at the Universiade Sports Centre, a 60,000 capacity stadium that’s home to the Shenzhen FC football (soccer) club, on November 6th. The event usually rotates year-by-year among host countries in Asia, North America, and Europe, but 2021 is the second year in a row the event will be held in China. Last year’s finals were a scaled-back event; originally scheduled to take place across several cities in China, it ended up being confined to Shanghai, with players in in a quarantine bubble. https://bit.ly/3u6Jv7m
Saudi Arabia’s US$400 billion wealth fund doubled down on its stakes in US video-game makers and dumped a major oil position in Q1.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund boosted its holdings in US video-game makers and dumped a major oil stake in the first quarter this year, according to a 13F disclosure filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week. The fund more than doubled its position in Activision Blizzard to 33.4 million shares, from 15 million shares last quarter, and raised its shares in Electronic Arts to 14.2 million, from 7.4 million last quarter. It also bought more shares in Take-Two Interactive. That brought its total gaming holdings to $6 billion in the quarter, up from US$3 billion in the fourth quarter. Overall US stock holdings rose to US$15.4 billion from about US$12.8 billion at the end of last year, the filing showed. The fund is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is said to have a keen interest in video games – especially “Call of Duty.” He told Bloomberg Businessweek in 2016 that he grew up as part of the first Saudi generation to be exposed to gaming. https://bit.ly/3yzrbr5
Netflix seeks executive to expand game efforts.
Netflix is looking to hire an executive to oversee an expansion into videogames, a sign it is stepping up its efforts to grow beyond traditional filmed entertainment, according to people familiar with the situation. In recent weeks, Netflix has approached veteran game industry executives about joining the company, the people said. While the company has already dabbled in games—for example, it created a game based on “Stranger Things” with an outside developer—it is looking at boosting its investments in the category. One option the company has discussed is offering a bundle of games similar to Apple’s online subscription offering, Apple Arcade, one of the people said. https://bit.ly/3ulwYxb
Gucci brings digital items and experiences to Roblox in new partnership.
A new partnership between Roblox and Gucci brings digital items from the fashion house into the platform’s metaverse alongside a new limited-run digital experience. Gucci’s new experience teams a set of virtual spaces with a set of digital branded items in an effort to immerse Roblox users inside a world that feels unique to the Gucci brand and Roblox platform. The new space, called Gucci Garden, debuts today for a two-week run on the Roblox platform. The environment takes advantage of recent advances in the game engine powering Roblox, bringing users a high-dynamic set of environments that they can traverse as blank mannequins, which evolve visually as users move through different spaces. Different rooms in the experience draw influence from different Gucci campaigns of the past several years. The digital event’s rollout accompanies a real-world multimedia event in Florence, Gucci Garden Archetypes. In addition to experiments with Roblox, late last year Gucci partnered with startup Genies to outfit user avatars. https://tcrn.ch/3bMfzqR
Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory
Vaccinated? The White House highlights a plan to encourage singles to swipe right.
The Biden administration announced on Friday that they will partner with a number of popular dating apps like Tinder, OkCupid, Hinge, BLK and Chispa, to promote vaccination status among single people. The pandemic has also had a negative impact on young people’s social lives. Social distancing and dating were always a bit of a challenging combination. So, dating sites like Bumble, Tinder, Hinge, Match, OkCupid, BLK, Chispa, Plenty of Fish and Badoo are announcing a series of features to encourage vaccinations and help people with that — help people meet people who have that universally attractive quality: They’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19. These sites cater to over 50 million people in the U.S., and are some of the world’s biggest non-gaming apps. Here’s one for you: According to one of the sites, OkCupid, people who display their vaccination status are 14 percent more likely to get a match. https://nyti.ms/3wsD8Nf
Air India data breach impacts 4.5 million customers.
Air India disclosed a data breach after personal information belonging to roughly 4.5 million of its customers was leaked two months following the hack of Passenger Service System provider SITA in February 2021. The Indian national carrier first informed passengers that SITA was the victim of a cyberattack on March 19. https://bit.ly/3oHJRQX
Craig Federighi says the Mac has an ‘unacceptable’ malware problem.
The Apple executive also pointed to Android as another example of a platform with multiple app stores that suffers from security problems. “It’s well understood in the security community that Android has a malware problem,” he explained. “iOS has succeeded so far in staying ahead of the malware problem.” Federighi added that Apple is essentially playing “an endless game of whack-a-mole” with malware on the Mac and has to block “many instances” of infections that can affect “hundreds of thousands of people” every week. Since last May, Federighi testified there have been 130 types of Mac malware, and one of them infected 300,000 systems. When asked if the Mac is a safe platform, Federighi explained that in terms of “PC-class devices” the Mac is “the safest possible.” https://bit.ly/3yAm4GT
ByteDance founder to step down from CEO role.
Zhang’s resignation comes as China’s government is tightening its control over the country’s most powerful tech giants and antitrust regulators have investigated ByteDance’s rivals like Alibaba and Meituan. The ByteDance founder’s announcement follows a similar move by another Chinese tech billionaire Colin Huang, the founder of e-commerce giant Pinduoduo who stepped down as chairman in March. https://bit.ly/3veBheS
Google to open first brick-and-mortar store.
Google is opening its first retail store in New York City this summer, embracing a showroom brick-and-mortar model that rival Apple has long used to spotlight its phones, computers and wearables. The space will include Pixel phones, Fitbit devices, laptops and Nest products, Google said Thursday. The move makes Google a curator of its products in a way that it has previously left to wireless carriers and electronics stores. It will also feature help desk service for damaged devices ala Apple’s Genius Bar and allow people to pick up orders placed online. While Google has only announced plans for one location, the move signals an interest in more direct sales to customers, which can open the door to more brand-specific cross selling of accessories and gadgets. Until now Google has sold its devices directly only through its online store. The physical retail store, to be located in the Chelsea area of Manhattan, is part of the tech giant’s growing footprint on Manhattan’s west side, where more than 11,000 New York employees work. https://bit.ly/2Td0eJx
Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency
German brokerage app Trade Republic gets US$5.3 billion valuation.
A German-made alternative to Robinhood, Trade Republic, was valued at US$5.3 billion in a Series C funding round led by Sequoia, a year after being valued at US$600 million in an earlier round. The funding shows there’s still a hearty appetite among private investors for retail-trading apps. Berlin-based Trade Republic, with customers in Germany, Austria and France, allows users to buy and sell stocks, ETFs and cryptocurrencies and charges some fees for transactions. The company’s US$900 million round also included the firm’s previous backers, Accel and Founders Fund. Robinhood is expected to unveil details of a planned IPO some time next week, while Israeli day-trading app eToro recently announced plans to go public via a US$10 billion SPAC merger. https://bit.ly/3hN0QQo
Fidelity plans to offer no-fee investment services for teenagers who want to trade stocks and ETFs.
Teens will soon be able to use a new no-fee service from Fidelity Investments to buy and sell stocks, exchange-traded funds, and Fidelity mutual funds. The firm plans to offer investing accounts, along with debit cards and savings accounts, to 13- to 17-year-olds whose parents or guardians also bank with Fidelity, according to a Tuesday press release. The youth account, which will become a standard brokerage account with more options when the teen turns 18, will also offer educational resources. In a pilot program of the new offering, Fidelity said 90% of parents and guardians used the account as a “teaching moment” to discuss saving, spending, and investing. The offering comes amid the firm’s push to attract new investors. Fidelity added 1.6 million accounts for individuals 35 years old or younger in the first quarter of this year, which is more than three times the amount from a year earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing the firm. Bank of America analysts have previously said Gen-Z will be “the most disruptive ever” to the stock market, pushing it to focus more on technology, sustainability, and climate change, and less on classical institutions. https://bit.ly/3hIHjAt
U.S. Treasury calls for stricter cryptocurrency compliance with IRS, says they pose tax evasion risk.
The Treasury Department on Thursday announced that it is taking steps to crack down on cryptocurrency markets and transactions, and said it will require any transfer worth US$10,000 or more to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service. “Cryptocurrency already poses a significant detection problem by facilitating illegal activity broadly including tax evasion,” the Treasury Department said in a release. Bitcoin reversed course shortly after the Treasury’s announcement and was last seen trading up 1.6%, according to Coin Metrics. Previously in the session, it was up more than 9%. A growing number of Wall Street analysts have over the past month sounded the alarm that regulators at the Treasury and the Securities and Exchange Commission could soon take a more active role in cryptocurrency regulation. https://cnb.cx/3bJbDqM
Billionaire media mogul Barry Diller calls cryptocurrencies a ‘con’ and says price forecasts are ‘nutso’.
Cryptocurrencies are a “con,” the billionaire investor Barry Diller told CNBC on Friday. He voiced his distrust of the asset class that’s been dragged sharply lower this week largely on regulatory concerns. The chairman of IAC, which runs internet and media brands including Care.com and The Daily Beast, initially balked at the question from “Squawk Box” about his thoughts on digital currency but quickly proceeded to answer. “Yeah, absolutely,” he said as he confirmed his view that cryptocurrency is a con. “I watch some of the people that you have on and they talk about it – US$40,000, US$12,000, whatever. I think, ‘This is nutso talk,'” he said. Diller, also the chairman of Expedia and the founder of Fox Broadcasting, made his comments on the same day that bitcoin swung down 10% after China reiterated its call to restrict mining and trading activities surrounding the largest cryptocurrency. https://bit.ly/345AJfr
Bitcoin tumbles 8% after China reiterates call for a mining and trading crackdown.
Bitcoin turned sharply lower Friday following reports that China has reiterated its call to restrict mining and trading activities surrounding the world’s largest cryptocurrency. Bitcoin tumbled as much as 8%, to US$36,707.86, after earlier climbing as much as 5%. It traded 7% lower as of 11:55 a.m. in New York. It is necessary to “crack down on bitcoin mining and trading behavior, and resolutely prevent the transmission of individual risks to the social field,” Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and the State Council said in a statement released late Friday local time, according to CNBC. The statement derailed a recovery in bitcoin after the cryptocurrency suffered a more than 35% sell-off in a matter of days. Its most recent leg down was catalyzed by the People’s Bank of China saying digital tokens can’t be used as a payment form by financial institutions. China has previously pledged to crack down on mining operations in a bid to reduce carbon emissions. This week, the government in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region said it had set up a hotline, email, and mail address for the general public to report any outlying crypto-mining operations that are still active in the region. https://bit.ly/3fIM2Q9
Bitcoin price tumbles, dragging down crypto stocks.
The price of bitcoin slid Wednesday, at one point dropping to around US$30,000, its lowest level since January before rebounding slightly. The downturn came after regulators in China warned against speculation and banned financial institutions from handling transactions linked to cryptocurrencies. The prices of other popular digital tokens, including ethereum, XRP, dogecoin and cardano, saw their prices sink in the last 24 hours. The surge in trading activity appeared to cause problems for leading crypto platforms Coinbase and Binance, which both experienced serious technical disruptions early in the day. The drop in crypto prices pulled down prices for crypto-related stocks including Coinbase, Square, MicroStrategy and Silvergate Capital. Though bitcoin’s recent price decline is a sharp one, fluctuations in cryptocurrency are common. The price of bitcoin is still up almost 280% year-to-date, according to Coinbase. Earlier Wednesday, the Chinese government said that financial institutions can’t offer saving, trust or pledging services or issue financial products related to cryptocurrency. In 2017, China banned local crypto exchanges, with further restrictions in 2019. Nonetheless, China remains a center of the digital tokens, with about 70% of bitcoin mined there. Bitcoin enthusiasts are still voicing their support for the currency. Elon Musk, whose tweets about Tesla suspending vehicle purchases using bitcoin caused major price declines last, tweeted emojis Wednesday indicating that Tesla has “diamond hands,” crypto slang suggesting that the company will hang onto its bitcoin holdings. https://bit.ly/3hL5UV8
Elon Musk says bitcoin can shake off its bad climate reputation if top miners prove they’re using green energy.
Elon Musk said on Thursday top bitcoin miners should post audited data of the renewable energy they possibly use in order to ease concerns over the digital asset’s impact on the environment. The billionaire was responding to a tweet from Ark Invest’s director of research, Brett Winton, about bitcoin mining encouraging the adoption of renewables. “I agree that this can be done over time, but recent extreme energy usage growth could not possibly have been done so fast with renewables,” Musk said in a tweet. “This question is easily resolved if the top 10 hashing orgs just post audited numbers of renewable energy vs not.” https://bit.ly/3bPCn9g
MicroStrategy bought another US$10 million worth of bitcoin, now holds over 92,000 bitcoins.
MicroStrategy Inc. disclosed Tuesday that it just spent US$10.9 million to buy 229 bitcoins, at an average price of US$43,663 per bitcoin, including fees. Bitcoin was recently trading up 2.9% at US$45,012, according to FactSet, while MicroStrategy’s stock was up 1.3% in premarket trading. The enterprise software and bitcoin play, which has said it uses bitcoin as its primary treasury asset, said it now holds 92,079 bitcoins, acquired for US$2.25 billion at an average purchase price of US$24,450 per bitcoin. MicroStrategy shares have tumbled 47.3% over the past three months through Monday, while bitcoin has dropped 12.8%, the SPDR S&P Software & Services ETF has declined 11.4% and the S&P 500 has gained 6.4%. https://on.mktw.net/3oOrgCM
Chip delays enter ‘danger zone’ with Apple’s iPad and Mac expected to be affected.
The worldwide chip shortage that we’ve seen hit all industries is continuing to worsen with a new analyst report saying the lead times have hit a danger zone. While Apple was able to mostly avoid bottlenecks until now, its Mac and iPad lineups may be impacted this quarter as chip wait times climb to 17 weeks. Reported by Bloomberg, a new note from Susquehanna Financial Group says that chip delays went from 16 weeks in March to 17 weeks in April, “indicating users are getting more desperate to secure supply.” For more constrained components like power management chips, lead times are almost 24 weeks and for smaller companies trying to order chips, wait times are exceeding a massive 52 weeks. With Apple being an A-list customer for its vendors and being a master of manufacturing logistics, it’s been able to keep component supply steady so far. But during its Q2 earnings call, the company noted it expected to see the impact of the chip crisis affect Mac and iPad supply. Apple vendor Foxconn also recently warned about the situation worsening. It’s still unclear how much the shortage will impact Mac and iPad production and availability this year but automakers – the hardest-hit industry – are estimated to lose US$110 billion in sales due to the chip crisis in 2021. https://bit.ly/2Sg7wvu
Biden orders the government to prepare the economy for climate change.
A primary focus of President Joe Biden’s agenda is addressing the climate crisis, and on Thursday, he signed an executive order aimed at mitigating the financial risks the crisis brings onto American families and businesses. The White House released Biden’s executive order on climate-related financial risk, dedicated to analyzing and mitigating the risk the climate crisis poses to homeowners, businesses, consumers, and the government. This executive order comes as Biden is pushing his US$4 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes significant climate-change investments to create jobs and build sustainable housing, among other things. Specifically, his American Jobs Plan would invest $35 billion in climate research and development, US$213 billion to retrofit over 2 million housing units, and US$30 billion for innovation and jobs creation. https://bit.ly/3fdOUW9
Ford’s electric F-150 reveal is a pivotal EV moment.
It’s a big moment in the young movement toward pickups with a plug — and for electric vehicles more broadly. Ford won’t be the first to market with an electric truck, but the F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. The trajectory of electric trucks is far more than a business story — it’s a climate and air quality story too. “If electric pickup trucks are successful, that’s a big hit to improve the environment,” said Cox Automotive analyst Michelle Krebs. “Pickup trucks, while they have greatly improved, they get lower fuel economy than other vehicles and emit more pollution.” https://bit.ly/2T3a7cu
Lamborghini says it will make its first fully electric car after 2025 and invest US$1.8 billion in a ‘hybrid transition’.
Lamborghini has announced plans to make a fully electric car after 2025. The luxury carmaker also said it would start making hybrid versions of all of its vehicles, including the Huracan, Aventador, and Urus SUV, before transitioning to full EVs by the end of the decade. https://bit.ly/3hLWLvz
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