Last week, Dow Jones was up 5.1%, its best week in a year. S&P 500 rose 5.85%, Nasdaq composite was up 6.6% — both had their best weeks since early November 2022. The Biden administration on Monday issued a far-reaching executive order, that requires Google, OpenAI and others to share data. Separately, the FTC said it would look closely at tech companies’ AI, and cloud deals. Amazon Web Services announced a new service aimed at helping developers access Nvidia’s hard-to-get graphics processing units—a potentially threatening move for the flurry of GPU rental startups that are attempting to compete with the cloud provider. Nvidia has US$5 billion of China orders that could also be in limbo after latest U.S. curbs. SpaceX’s Starlink has “achieved breakeven cash flow,” CEO Elon Musk said Thursday. Earnings season continued to roll on, Apple’s revenue fell, despite 16% services growth. AMD stock rose more than 8.5% on Wednesday, a day after CEO Lisa Su projected her company’s forthcoming graphics processing units for artificial intelligence would eat into Nvidia’s dominant market share. Qualcomm reported a 24% drop in revenue, a continuation in what has been a poor year for the mobile chip giant thanks to an 18-month long slump in smartphone sales. Airbnb said Q4 growth will be slower than expected. Pinterest jumped 14% in extended trading on better-than-expected Q3results. In Canada, Sophic Client UGE International announced an extension of maturity date debentures. Sophic Client Kraken Robotics receives another Synthetic Aperture Sonar Order from HII, this one worth $1 million. Sophic Client OneSoft presented at the AI and Big Data Virtual Investor Conference. Vancouver-based electric motorcycle company Damon Motors is looking to list on the Nasdaq through a reverse merger.
Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News
Sophic Client UGE International (UGE-TSXV, UGEIF-OTC) announces extension of maturity date debentures.
UGE announced that, with the consent of affected holders, it is extending the maturity date on$1,446,000 of aggregate principal amount of its 6.5% convertible debentures originally due October 31, 2023 (the “Debenture”), out to October 31, 2025. In consideration for extending the maturity date, holders of the extended Debentures will now receive interest at a rate of 7% per annum (previously 6.5%). The remaining $544,000 in aggregate principal amount of the Debentures were not extended by their holders, and are being repaid in accordance with their terms. The extension of the Debentures remains subject to the final approval of the TSX Venture Exchange. The Company also wishes to clarify that the 150,267 underwriter warrants issued on August 24, 2023 were in fact issued with an exercise price of $1.35 (previously disclosed as being $1.3392). All other terms of such underwriter warrants as previously announced on August 24, 2023 are unchanged. https://tinyurl.com/mrxu9zua
Sophic Client Kraken Robotics (PNG-TSXV, KRKNF-OTC) receives Synthetic Aperture Sonar Order from HII.
Kraken announced an initial order of its AquaPix® Miniature Synthetic Aperture Sonar (MINSAS) System for HII’s new REMUS 620 Medium Class UUV. Synthetic Aperture Sonar is quickly becoming the tool of choice for mine countermeasure (MCM) operations due to its significantly increased resolution and higher area coverage rates compared to legacy side scan sonar. This order is valued at $1 million and will be fulfilled in 2024. https://bit.ly/3QHvhIz
Sophic Client OneSoft Solutions Inc. (OSS-TSXV, OSSIF-OTC) presented at the AI and Big Data Virtual Investor Conference.
OneSoft Solutions Inc., a North American developer of cloud-based business solutions, had President and COO Brandon Taylor present at the AI and Big Data Virtual Investor Conference, hosted by VirtualInvestorConferences.com. Access the replay of OneSoft Solutions’ presentation at the link below. https://bit.ly/3tWmwS5
Damon Motors revs up to go public on the Nasdaq via reverse merger.
Vancouver-based electric motorcycle company Damon Motors is looking to list on the Nasdaq through a reverse merger with a spin-off of Inpixon, a California-based IoT company. Inpixon plans to spin off its United Kingdom-based data analytics and statistical visualization solutions business into a holding company called Grafiti, which will then be acquired by Damon “to which Damon and a newly-formed, wholly-owned subsidiary of Grafiti will amalgamate and form a continuing entity, which will be wholly owned by Grafiti. The combined company will then be listed on the Nasdaq, pending approval of its application. Damon now produces its own line of electric motorcycles itself, including its “superbike” models HyperSport and HyperFighter. Damon claimed it had secured more than US$85 million for its motorcycles. A statement by the companies said Inpixon’s independent financial advisory firm ascertained Damon’s enterprise value to be up to US$284 million ($393 million). Damon raised a $2.5 million seed round in 2019, backed by firms like Round13 Capital. Inpixon, which trades on the Nasdaq under the symbol INPX, develops real-time location systems for industrial use through its Indoor Intelligence product. https://tinyurl.com/yvtdza9e
Promise Robotics nets $20.8-million Series A to speed up home building with robots.
Toronto-based proptech startup Promise Robotics has closed $20.8 million (US$15 million) in Series A financing as it looks to commercialize its robotic factory platform. The round was led by Horizons Ventures and saw participation from Radical Ventures, the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Relay Ventures, and Alate Partners. Promise Robotics says it uses artificial intelligence to analyze a building design, generate machine instructions and communicate the instruction via cloud to robots that work collaboratively and autonomously to produce components of the building. Promise Robotics has raised $34 million (US$25 million) to date. https://tinyurl.com/2p8nefab
Brickeye secures $5 million in convertible debt round with participation from BDC and Graphite Ventures.
Toronto-based Brickeye, a construction-focused internet of things (IoT) and data analytics company, has secured the first $5 million tranche of its convertible debt financing round led by BDC Capital with its IP-backed Financing Fund. The funding round consists of two $5 million tranches. https://tinyurl.com/mrjcxry2
Kento Health raises $4.1 million to bring AI to cardiovascular care.
Montréal-based healthtech startup Kento Health has closed a $4.1 million (US$3 million) pre-seed financing round. The round was led by Boreal Ventures and N49P, and saw participation from Broom Ventures, Graphite Ventures, and several other strategic angel investors as well as an undisclosed US-based medical institution. https://tinyurl.com/39c4bs2e
BDC Capital recommits to leading seed deals in startups across Canada with new $50 million fund.
The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has launched a new $50 million Seed Venture Fund, committing $10 million annually over the next five years to pre-seed and seed-stage software startups across Canada through BDC Capital. Via its Seed Venture Fund, BDC Capital aims to back a total of 40 companies and lead as the first institutional investor in the majority of these rounds. The fund is now actively exploring new investments. BDC Capital’s cheque sizes will range from $100,000 to $1 million, with the flexibility to invest up to $2 million per company in total “on an exceptional basis.” https://tinyurl.com/2p9xdkyp
Faire cuts 250 employees in its second layoff round in last year.
Kitchener-Waterloo and San Francisco-based online wholesale marketplace Faire has laid off 250 employees. According to individuals familiar with the situation who spoke to Business Insider, Faire’s engineering, product, design, and data science were impacted by the staffing cut. This marks Faire’s second round of layoffs in the last year. This marks Faire’s second round of layoffs in slightly more than a year, and comes 18 months after the company raised US$416 million in a Series G extension. Other Canadian companies that have cut staff recently include StellarAlgo, Vendasta, 7shifts, Andgo Systems, Paper, Athennian, Top Hat, Fable, Dapper Labs, and Loopio. Per Layoffs.fyi, as of publication time, 1,069 tech companies globally have laid off over 244,000 employees since January. However, September 2023 marked the eighth consecutive month of declining tech layoffs with the lowest count since January 2022. https://tinyurl.com/4zaxuz8y
Nova Scotia taps Maple to expand free virtual care to the entire province.
Toronto virtual care platform Maple and the province of Nova Scotia are expanding YourHealthNS, an app which provides access to healthcare services, resources, and information, to support the province’s over one million residents. The partnership first launched in 2021 to provide virtual care access to the 145,000 Nova Scotia residents on the province’s Need a Family Practice Registry through VirtualCareNS. https://tinyurl.com/3nu8pzkx
Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A
Waystar IPO delayed until December or 2024.
One of the last big IPOs of the year just got delayed as the short-lived rebound in the new-issue market unravels. Waystar was set to launch its roadshow to pitch investors this week, but now is not expected to do so until December at the earliest, people familiar with the matter said. The healthcare-payments company, which at one point was expected to fetch a valuation in the high-single-digit billions, will likely wait until 2024, some of the people said. The delay is a sign of how fragile the U.S. IPO market is after nearly two years in the dumps. There had been recent signs of a rebound, with four big companies including Arm and Instacart listing their shares in September and October, but all four now trade below their IPO prices. The most recent offering, by German shoemaker Birkenstock, fell 13% on its first day of trading. That, along with recent declines in the stock market as well as comments from Federal Reserve officials indicating interest rates may stay higher for longer and war in the Middle East, played into the decision to delay Waystar’s offering, the people said. Last year, traditional IPOs in the U.S. raised the smallest amount in at least two decades, Dealogic data show. This year looks better, but nowhere near back to normal. Through Tuesday, traditional IPOs in the U.S. have raised roughly US$19 billion, well below the US$59 billion annual average over the past decade. Waystar provides large healthcare providers with payments software. Its main private-equity backer, EQT, invested in the company in 2019, acquiring a majority stake alongside Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. That deal valued the company at US$2.7 billion. Prior owner Bain Capital still owns a minority stake. https://tinyurl.com/bdeyrtkf
Biden’s AI executive order requires Google, OpenAI and others to share data.
The Biden administration on Monday issued a far-reaching executive order that gives the federal government the authority to vet the most advanced artificial intelligence software developed by companies such as OpenAI and Google before they release it publicly. Under the order, companies are required to provide federal officials with detailed information about how and where they are developing AI such as large language models that underpin ChatGPT, including their cybersecurity protections. The Biden administration said it wanted to prevent bad actors from using such models to develop biological, radiological and nuclear weapons or discover software vulnerabilities as well as “software or tools to influence real or virtual events.” Biden tasked a unit of the Commerce Department to develop standards for how companies should test, or “red-team,” the AI models before their release. The new reporting requirements may only apply to the biggest and most advanced AI developers and cloud providers, for now. The order covers large models that were trained with at least 10 to the 26th power floating-point operations, or flop. One AI practitioner estimated that it would be the equivalent of training a model using an Nvidia H100 chip for 28 million hours, which would cost of tens of millions of dollars. The government also wants information about computing clusters that can handle 10 to the 20th power flop per second, or flops, which the AI practitioner estimated would be the equivalent of 50,000 H100 server chips. It isn’t clear how many cloud providers or companies have such clusters. The new rules also task the Commerce officials with developing a way to “watermark” or label AI-generated content, and asks federal health officials to review reports of “harms or unsafe healthcare practices involving AI.” The rules may not persist after the Biden administration ends unless the next president OK’s the order or Congress passes a law affirming aspects of it. https://tinyurl.com/mp9u97dm
AWS launches product aimed at AI chip shortage.
Amazon Web Services announced a new service aimed at helping developers access Nvidia’s hard-to-get graphics processing units—a potentially threatening move for the flurry of GPU rental startups that are attempting to compete with the cloud provider. In a press release, AWS said the demand for Nvidia’s GPUs has outpaced supply, leading some customers to resort to purchasing large amounts of capacity “only to have it sit idle when they aren’t actively using it.” David Brown, vice president of compute and networking at AWS, said the new service, dubbed “Capacity Blocks,” is a way for companies to “predictably acquire” GPUs, “without making long-term capital commitments.” It allows customers to reserve up to 512 Nvidia H100 chips for up to two weeks at a time. The GPU capacity crunch led to the quick rise of nearly a dozen startups that are trying to compete with AWS by making it easier and cheaper for developers to rent GPUs. (Today, yet another GPU rental startup emerged from stealth, called Voltage Park). Although AWS’s move could hurt upstart cloud providers, there are no signs that Nvidia is slowing down its support by giving them generous allocations of its AI chips. https://tinyurl.com/4vfbmrte
Alibaba unveils new LLM as China’s domestic AI race heats up.
Alibaba Group, China’s biggest e-commerce company and cloud computing service provider, unveiled a new version of its conversational artificial intelligence software known as a large language model. Alibaba’s announcement of Tongyi Qianwen 2.0, its upgraded model, fuels the AI competition among Chinese tech giants. Last month, Baidu, China’s biggest search provider, launched Ernie 4.0, a new version of its LLM. In the U.S., OpenAI, Google and others are battling for supremacy in the development of generative AI. In China, where the government blocks those U.S. companies’ internet services, a parallel race is heating up among domestic companies like Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and ByteDance. https://tinyurl.com/3aj99a6t
Nvidia’s US$5 billion of China orders in limbo after latest U.S. curbs.
New U.S. export controls may compel artificial-intelligence giant to cancel billions of dollars in next-year orders for its advanced chips to China, a move that could deprive Chinese tech companies of crucial AI resources. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company had already finished delivering orders of its advanced AI chips to China for this year, according to people familiar with the matter, and was pushing to deliver some 2024 orders in advance before the new rules were scheduled to come into effect in mid-November. https://tinyurl.com/325mptmy
Musk: SpaceX’s Starlink ‘has achieved breakeven cash flow’.
SpaceX’s Starlink has “achieved breakeven cash flow,” CEO Elon Musk said Thursday, a milestone achievement for the rocket company’s four-year-old satellite internet business unit. He announced the news in a post on X, the social media platform that he also owns. He added that Starlink “is also now a majority of all active satellites and will have launched a majority of all satellites cumulatively from Earth by next year.” It is unclear whether the breakeven milestone is for the quarter or a specific period of time. Regardless, the achievement leaves open the question of whether SpaceX may be nearing taking Starlink public via IPO — a move that Musk once said the company would execute once the cash flow became predictable. Starlink’s mega-constellation currently sits at around 5,000 satellites, all of these launched by SpaceX rockets. That vertical integration has been key to the company expanding the Starlink network at such aggressive rates — SpaceX launched the first operational Starlink birds in 2019 — and being able to grow at a pace that far outstrips competitors. Since then, the network has grown to around 2 million subscribers and spans verticals from consumer to maritime and aviation. SpaceX is valued at around US$150 billion. The company posted revenues last year of US$1.4 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported in September. https://tinyurl.com/3cbkncs7
X Valued at US$19 billion, company tells employees.
X is valued at US$19 billion, the company told employees on Monday in an internal note announcing their equity grants, almost exactly one year after Elon Musk bought the company then known as Twitter for US$44 billion. Since last fall, the company’s advertising revenue has plummeted, and it has shed over 80% of its staff. In March, Musk promised his remaining employees equity at a US$20 billion valuation, before providing no further details for more than seven months. The employee equity was granted at a share price of US$45, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation. The company’s internal valuation, which represents a 55% discount from Musk’s purchase price, is still higher than how others have valued the company. Fidelity, which invested in Musk’s takeover, has marked down the value of its shares by 65%, Axios has reported. https://tinyurl.com/yr8chvfe
Apple revenue falls, despite 16% services growth.
Apple’s growth challenges continued in all of its major business categories, with the exception of services. For the company’s fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 30, Apple reported a 1% decrease in total revenue to US$89.5 billion compared to the same period a year earlier. Sales of the iPhone, which accounts for nearly half of Apple’s revenues, increased 2.8% to US$43.81 billion compared to a year earlier, while services rose 16% to US$22.31 billion. Apple reported declines in all of its other major product categories, led by the Mac business, which fell nearly 34% to US$7.61 billion in revenue. Apple had warned Wall Street to expect those declines. Investors haven’t seriously penalized the company yet for its lack of revenue growth—the company’s stock is up 42% for the year and fell less than 1% in after-hours trading on Thursday. For the most recent quarter, that may have partly been because Apple reported a nearly 11% increase in net income to US$23 billion. https://tinyurl.com/4p686e6j
14% of iPhone units shipped in 2023 were assembled in India.
Apple has invested a lot of money in assembling some of its products in India to reduce its reliance on China. Although it still has a long way to go, a report today by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo revealed that nearly 14% of iPhone units shipped in 2023 were assembled in India, showing that Apple is progressing towards its goals. iPhone production scale in India grows considerably Kuo said on Wednesday that around 12 to 14% of global iPhone shipments were “made in India.” Of those shipments, Foxconn was responsible for about 80% of the production capacity in the country. The analyst predicts that by 2024, Foxconn’s production scale in Zhengzhou will decrease by around 35 to 45%. The production scale is also expected to decrease by around 75 to 85% in Taiyuan. Luxshare, another manufacturing company that serves Apple, has also been relocating part of its production to India. Apple relied solely on China for years, but this proved dangerous after the COVID-19 pandemic, as many iPhone assembly plants had to halt their operations. The COVID-19-related disruption was estimated to have cost the company a billion dollars per week. Diplomatic disagreements between the US government and China have also affected Apple’s Chinese suppliers. In recent years, Apple has been diversifying its production chain and investing in its assembly plants in Brazil and Vietnam. However, India has shown enormous potential to replace China in the long term on a global scale. A recent report revealed that Apple has already moved a total of US$7 billion worth of iPhone production to India. The same report says that Apple plans to reach US$40 billion in the next five years. https://tinyurl.com/2pstbhy4
AMD stock jumps on GPU revenue projections.
Advanced Micro Devices shares rose more than 8.5% on Wednesday, a day after CEO Lisa Su projected her company’s forthcoming graphics processing units for artificial intelligence would eat into Nvidia’s dominant market share. Su said AMD’s data center GPU revenue, which includes the new chips, will be around US$400 million in the fourth quarter of this year, then top US$2 billion in 2024. The ramp in revenue growth next year will mostly come from AMD’s new GPUs, she said. AMD’s projected revenue would still be much smaller than Nvidia’s US$16 billion in revenue it projected for the current quarter, primarily from GPU sales, but it reflects an early sign of traction. AMD plans to sell its GPUs, known as the MI300 series, to large cloud providers and enterprise customers who want to use the chips to train and run AI software. https://tinyurl.com/5xe343n9
Qualcomm’s Q4 revenues plunge 24%.
Qualcomm reported a 24% drop in its fiscal fourth quarter revenues, a continuation in what has been a poor year for the mobile chip giant thanks to an 18-month long slump in smartphone sales. Qualcomm, which supplies key chips for a wide variety of smartphones including the iPhone and Samsung devices, reported a 27% decline in handset revenues in the quarter ended September. Revenues fell every quarter in the fiscal year, with the rate of decline worsening through the year. Qualcomm finished the year with revenues down 19%. The sales drop sent net income falling 48% in the fourth quarter, and nearly as much for the full year. Still, there are signs of a recovery coming in the smartphone market, research firm IDC reported last week. https://tinyurl.com/uksthehx
Airbnb says fourth-quarter growth will be slower than expected.
Airbnb beat Wall Street analysts’ revenue and profit expectations in the third quarter, but said it expected softer growth to end the year, the company reported Wednesday. Airbnb reported revenues of US$3.4 billion, up 18% year-over-year, and US$1.3 billion of free cash flow, up 37% year-over-year, in the third quarter, typically its biggest quarter of the year due to summer travel. The company called it a “record summer travel season.” The growth is notable considering recent stringent regulatory enforcements in major markets like New York City. Still, the company’s stock fell by close to 3% in after-market trading, after it chilled some expectations. It said it expects a key top-line metric, “room nights,” to slow next quarter, although it said revenue would still keep pace. https://tinyurl.com/3bazd5zt
Pinterest jumps on better-than-expected third-quarter results.
Pinterest reported third-quarter earnings on Monday that beat on the top and bottom lines. The stock jumped 14% in extended trading. The number of global monthly active users in the quarter rose 8% from a year earlier to 482 million. Analysts were expecting Pinterest to report 473 million global monthly active users. Average revenue per user was US$1.61, which was higher than analysts’ projections of US$1.59. “As we lean into Pinterest’s unique differentiators as a visual search, discovery, and shopping platform, we’re finding our best product market fit in years,” Pinterest CEO Bill Ready said in a statement. “Our users are engaging deeply and we’re delivering better results for advertisers through improved measurement and innovation across the full funnel.” For the fourth quarter, Pinterest said it expects revenue growth of 11% to 13%. The midpoint is higher than analyst estimates, which call for growth of 11.3%, according to LSEG. https://tinyurl.com/4z3czj97
Roku benefits from streaming price hikes.
Roku reported 20% higher revenue of US$912 million in the third quarter, noting that it was benefiting from recent price increases by streaming services. The streaming TV device maker said it generated US$787 million in platform revenue in the third quarter of 2023, a jump of 18% year over year. Roku defines platform revenue as revenue primarily generated by ad sales and a cut of revenues generated by subscriptions and content sales on its TV platform. Revenue from its cut of subscriptions grew faster than overall platform revenue, the company said in its earnings. The company also said it is seeing signs of a rebound in the ad market, but did not provide specific figures on how much ad-sales revenue it generated during the third quarter. It expects that to continue in the fourth quarter, while adding that it remains cautious “amid an uncertain macro environment and an uneven ad market recovery.” https://tinyurl.com/b6vzznu4
Musk says Tesla aims to make 200,000 Cybertrucks a year.
Tesla is aiming to make 200,000 units of its electric pickup truck, Cybertruck, per year, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said on Tuesday. The company had earlier said that Tesla had the capacity to make more than 125,000 Cybertrucks annually, with Musk adding there was potential to lift it to 250,000 in 2025. The deliveries of the much-awaited pickup truck will begin on Nov. 30, nearly four years after it was unveiled by Musk at an event in Los Angeles, where his head of design cracked the vehicle’s “armor glass” window with a metal ball while demonstrating a series of tests to the audience. https://tinyurl.com/mvn84a3w
Chinese EV darling Nio to cut 10% staff amid ‘fierce competition’.
Nio, the Chinese carmaker known for its sleek, premium electric SUVs, has started a new round of layoffs as intense competition propels it to cut costs and regroup resources. In an internal letter seen by TechCrunch on Friday, Nio’s CEO William Li says the company is expected to reduce “around 10%” of its positions after weeks of discussions over the firm’s two-year operational plans. The decision was made based on its newly defined priorities to continue its long-term investment in core technologies; ensure it has the sales and service capabilities to compete; ensure its products and brands are released as scheduled; consolidate duplicate departments and remove inefficient positions; and improve resource efficiency and cut project investment that doesn’t contribute to its financial performance in the upcoming three years. The reorganization will be completed in November. In June, Nio slashed the prices of all its models by 30,000 yuan or US$4,200 as it marched into a price war triggered by Tesla in China, the world’s largest auto market. https://tinyurl.com/2hfmkkpf
OpenSea lays off 50% of staff.
OpenSea has laid off roughly 50% of its staff, a company spokesperson said on Friday, marking the latest rounds of cuts at the NFT marketplace that had landed a valuation of US$13.3 billion at the start of 2022. An OpenSea spokesperson declined to say how many employees were laid off in the latest round of cuts. OpenSea laid off 20%, or roughly 60 people, of its staff in July 2022, leaving it with about 230 employees. The company also cut roughly 10 employees as part of a restructuring in May 2023, The Information previously reported. OpenSea’s trading volume has plunged 99% since the start of 2022 as the hype around NFTs faded. It also lost market share when Blur, a competitor that doesn’t charge trading fees, launched last October. OpenSea CEO Devin Finzer said in a tweet thread on Friday that the company is transitioning to “OpenSea 2.0” and making a “big upgrade” to its product, but did not elaborate on exactly what that would look like. https://tinyurl.com/mrxvy2un
Disney to buy out Comcast from Hulu.
Walt Disney Co. said it would buy Comcast’s 33% stake in Hulu for at least US$8.6 billion, as Comcast exercised an option to sell the stake to Disney, which owns the rest of the streaming service. The final price, however, could change. Comcast’s move kicks off a process under which the two companies have to decide on the “fair value” of the service. The US$8.61 billion price is the guaranteed minimum value set in a 2019 agreement between the companies. If the two companies agree that the fair value is higher, Disney will pay the extra. A few weeks ago, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said he believed Hulu was worth way more than the minimum price. Others will likely disagree. As The Information reported in April, industry executives believe Hulu isn’t even worth the minimum price put on it in the 2019 agreement. That valuation was set when the streaming market was growing quickly. Since then, asset prices have fallen across the board, while the streaming market has stalled. Either way, the appraisal process will likely be completed next year, Disney said. https://tinyurl.com/y743napm
FAA completes Starship safety review clearing major hurdle to license.
The Federal Aviation Administration has completed a safety review of SpaceX’s Starship license, the agency said Tuesday. The safety review was one of two hurdles for the FAA to issue a license to SpaceX for its second planned test launch of Starship, the 400-foot-tall rocket that Elon Musk hopes will eventually take humans to Mars. On October 19, SpaceX executive William Gerstenmaier testified to congress that delays at the FAA were impacting the company’s ability to make progress on a contract to help NASA send astronauts to the moon as part of its Artemis mission. It’s unclear when SpaceX will get the go-ahead to finally launch Starship again. The FAA is still working on its environmental review in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a specific focus on the impact on endangered species in the vicinity of SpaceX’s launch site, the agency said. That launch site in Boca Chica, Texas is home to piping plovers, which are considered a threatened species in the state. https://tinyurl.com/y54z9e47
Humans could become ‘part AI’ to keep up with superintelligent machines, OpenAI’s chief scientist says.
OpenAI’s chief scientist has said that people may choose to become “part AI” in the future to compete with superintelligent machines.,Ilya Sutskever told the MIT Technology Review that the rise of superintelligent artificial intelligence in the future could encourage people to merge with AI in order to avoid being left behind — but said that he wasn’t sure if he would choose to become “part AI” himself. “Once you overcome the challenge of rogue AI, then what? Is there even room for human beings in a world with smarter AIs?” he said. Despite this, Sutskever told MIT Tech Review that he was unsure whether he would ever choose to merge with AI, should it become possible. Elon Musk has said that the ultimate goal of his brain implant company Neuralink is to “achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” allowing humans to merge with AI so that they aren’t “left behind” by superintelligent machines. Neuralink is a long way from that goal, however, and is currently facing controversy over claims that monkeys implanted with the company’s brain chip suffered gruesome and painful deaths. OpenAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider, made outside normal working hours. https://tinyurl.com/3x5hwjtu
Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory
Meta to offer ad-free subscriptions for Facebook, Instagram in EU.
Meta Platforms will begin offering subscriptions for ad-free versions of Facebook and Instagram next month, the company announced Monday. The move comes in response to new regulations in the region that affect how tech companies use personal data. The company said in a blog post that users in Europe will have the option to subscribe for €9.99 (US$10.60) per month on the web or €12.99 (US$13.79) for iOS and Android devices. People who do not subscribe will continue to see ads. Explaining its decision, Meta cited “evolving European regulations” in Europe, which impose new restrictions on how tech companies handle user data. Meta tried to challenge a series of legal decisions on these issues in recent years, but, realizing the direction the region was going on privacy matters, began discussing the idea of a subscription for Facebook and Instagram back in 2021, The Information previously reported. https://tinyurl.com/mke6k2fp
FTC looking closely at tech companies’ AI, cloud deals, says Khan.
The Federal Trade Commission is looking closely at “each of the layers” of artificial intelligence development for anti-competitive behavior, Chair Lina Khan said at an event in San Francisco on Thursday. That scrutiny extends to large cloud providers’ investments in AI startups, she said. “With AI, we are already hearing concerns about potential bottlenecks,” Khan said. As the FTC eyes the industry, it is asking: “Are there layers where we think there’s concentrated control? Is there risk that companies could use that control in a way that undermines competition or innovation?” Khan also said the FTC is “looking at very closely” how large tech companies have been investing in AI startups. Microsoft earlier this year invested $10 billion in cash and cloud computing credits in large-language model developer OpenAI. Recently, Google committed $2 billion to Anthropic, another LLM developer that is also a Google cloud customer. “We have heard concerns about providers conditioning access to the base model on firms reupping their cloud contracts and about whether those cross market ties are anti-competitive,” she said. As the market for initial public offerings remains cool, startups hoping for acquisition offers may be concerned the FTC could prevent such offers, Khan acknowledged. But these moves encourage a market where “firms can compete on the merits and the best ideas,” she said. Khan is meeting with Y Combinator CEO Garry Tan and startup founders on Friday to discuss these concerns, she said. “A lack of competition can render startups and entrepreneurs worse off because there’s less competition in valuation and less competition in deal terms,” she said. https://tinyurl.com/bdhvfdz4
Amazon unveils buy now, pay later option from Affirm for small business owners.
Amazon is unveiling its first buy now, pay later checkout option for the millions of small business owners who use its online store, CNBC learned exclusively. The tech giant confirmed Thursday that its partnership with Affirm is expanding to include Amazon Business, the e-commerce platform that caters to companies. Affirm shares jumped 19% on the news. The service, with loans ranging from US$100 to US$20,000, will be available to all eligible customers by Black Friday, or Nov. 24. It is specifically for sole proprietors, or small businesses owned by a single person, the most common form of business ownership in the U.S. Amazon Business was launched in 2015 after the company realized businesses were using its popular retail website for office supplies and bulk purchases. The division reached US$35 billion in sales this year and has more than 6 million customers globally. If approved, users can pay for Amazon purchases in equal installments over three to 48 months. They are charged an annualized interest rate between 10% and 36%, based on the perceived risk of the transaction, according to Affirm Chief Revenue Officer Wayne Pommen. https://tinyurl.com/yk3hfncw
Amazon made US$1 billion through secret price raising algorithm – US FTC.
Amazon.com used a series of illegal strategies to boost profits at its online retail empire, including an algorithm that pushed up prices U.S. households paid by more than US$1 billion, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission detailed in a new court filing on Thursday. The FTC lawsuit was filed in September, but many details were withheld until Thursday when a version of the lawsuit with fewer redactions was made public in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Amazon, which has 1 billion items in its online superstore, created a “secret algorithm internally code named ‘Project Nessie’ to identify specific products for which it predicts other online stores will follow Amazon’s price increases. Amazon used Project Nessie to extract more than a billion dollars directly from Americans’ pocketbooks,” the FTC said. https://tinyurl.com/mrxbs2me
Toyota to invest another US$8 billion into North Carolina EV battery factory.
Toyota said Tuesday it will invest another US$8 billion into its first EV battery factory in North America, as the Japanese automaker tries to ramp up its electrification program and introduce 30 battery electric models globally by the end of the decade. The North Carolina-based factory, which is slated to go into production in 2025, is now valued at US$13.9 billion. That’s a jump from Toyota’s initial plans to make a US$1.29 billion investment to build a North American factory that will make batteries for hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles. This latest investment will add eight battery electric and plug-in hybrid battery production lines to the facility located on 1,825 acres in Liberty, North Carolina. Once completed, the factory will have 10 lines and will reach a total production capacity of 30 GWh annually by 2030. To put that into perspective, the so-called Tesla gigafactory, which is a joint venture between the automaker and Panasonic, has the capacity to make 35 GWh of cells annually. Toyota was long seen as a laggard in its commitment to moving its entire lineup to battery electric. The automaker, which has more recently ramped up its EV program, still stands by its approach to produce and sell a mix of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles. Toyota’s expansion plans come as other automakers tap the brakes on EVs. Last week, Ford said it was delaying about US$12 billion in EV-related investments. Still, the EV factory boom is still chugging along, particularly in the so-called battery belt that stretches from Michigan down to South Carolina. North Carolina has become a hotspot for EV battery factories and other facilities related to EVs. More than US$11 billion has been invested in the EV industry in the state since 2020, including a US$2 billion investment from Vietnamese auto manufacturer VinFast and Wolfspeed’s plan to build a US$5 billion semiconductor manufacturing plant. https://tinyurl.com/5n6x6hm9
Carbon offset market faces chaos as African mega-project collapses.
The integrity of one of the largest single sources of credits in the US$2 billion carbon market faces serious doubt following the collapse of the partnership behind Kariba, a mega-project in Zimbabwe backed by the world’s top seller of carbon offsets. South Pole, the company that sold most of the credits tied to the forest-protection project, said on Friday that it terminated its contract with Carbon Green Investments, which owns and develops the site. Dozens of corporate giants, including Volkswagen AG, Nestle SA, L’Oreal SA, Gucci and McKinsey, have purchased credits from Kariba representing millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Business practices at the mega-project have come under repeated scrutiny, including an investigation that found significant flaws in accounting behind carbon credits from Kariba. Most of the project’s proceeds have gone to the two partners rather than people in the rural communities who fight deforestation, as the companies have claimed. Over the past decade, Kariba’s carbon credits have underpinned claims of breakthrough progress on cutting emissions from its corporate clients. The project has generated nearly US$100 million by selling credits for more than 23 million tons of heat-trapping emissions, roughly equivalent to half the annual climate footprint of Switzerland. The news risks undermining one of the market’s underlying insurance mechanisms, known in the industry as the credit buffer pool. Such backstops are necessary because hundreds of carbon projects around the world are tied to forests or other natural landscapes that are vulnerable to wildfires and droughts. https://archive.ph/OUW82
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