We witnessed another week of decent small tech capital markets activity in Canada. In the USA, with the Thanksgiving shortened holiday week, another massive Stripe up-round, Metromile’s SPAC and Discord’s financing were perhaps the most topical news items.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Loral enters into agreement with PSP Investments and Telesat to combine Loral and Telesat into a new public company. Loral Space & Communications Inc. (LORL-NASDAQ) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement with Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments) and Telesat Canada (Telesat) to combine Loral and Telesat into a new Canadian public company (New Telesat).  Upon closing of the transaction, the stockholders in Loral, together with PSP Investments and certain current and former management shareholders of Telesat, will beneficially own all of the equity in New Telesat in approximately the same proportion as their current, indirect ownership in Telesat. Loral stockholders not affiliated with the funds managed by MHR Fund Management LLC (MHR Funds) will beneficially own 26.1% of the economic interests in New Telesat, with the MHR Funds, PSP Investments and management shareholders of Telesat beneficially owning the remaining 36.6%, 36.7% and 0.7%, respectively, of the economic interests in New Telesat (such percentages have been subjected to rounding adjustments). New Telesat shares will initially be listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, and New Telesat is also considering a listing for its shares on a Canadian stock exchange. New Telesat’s governance provisions will contain special features designed to maintain majority Canadian board and voting control. https://bit.ly/2JfJCff

Canadian motor tech firm Exro (EXRO-TSXV) to raise $30 million with share offering. A Canadian company developing new control products to improve efficiency and performance in electric motors and powertrains is aiming to raise between $30 million and $36.5 million through a public offering of its shares. The offering is to be conducted on a “best efforts” basis by a syndicate led by Raymond James Ltd. and Gravitas Securities Inc., with an overallotment option of up to 15 per cent. The offering is to close on or about Dec. 8. The news comes a few days after Exro reported the engineering validation of its 100-volt coil driver, which it said was a “key milestone” for its entry into supplying commercial products to manufacturers in the electric car market. https://bit.ly/3levvUF

Ottawa-based rental platform Ruckify going public on TSX Venture Exchange. Ottawa-based online rental platform Ruckify is taking another big step toward accelerating its growth trajectory with plans to go public on the TSX Venture Exchange. Ruckify ​– which connects owners and renters in much the same way Kijiji connects buyers and sellers ​– said this week it’s reached an agreement with Toronto-based Apolo III Acquisition Corp. (TSXV: AIII.P) to complete a reverse takeover, subject to regulatory approval. https://bit.ly/2KD4cqo

Ruckify: Nashville local television coverage last week. https://bit.ly/3kSElHy

Voyager Digital (VYGR-CSE) announces proposed $7 million private placement of special warrants. Pursuant to the proposed Offering, the Company will issue special warrants of the Company at a price of $1.50 per Special Warrant. Each Special Warrant will be convertible into one unit of the Company without payment of any additional consideration upon certain conditions being met. Each Unit will consist of one (1) common share of the Company, and one–half of one (0.5) common share purchase warrant, with each Warrant being exercisable to acquire one common share of the Company (a “Warrant Share”) at an exercise price of C$2.50 per Warrant Share for a term of two (2) years following the closing of the Offering. https://bit.ly/37mm2pg

Baylin Technologies (BYL-TSX) announces $5 million best efforts private placement financing. The Company entered into an agreement with Paradigm Capital Inc. on behalf of a syndicate of agents, in connection with a proposed best efforts private placement financing for total proceeds of up to approximately $5 million, consisting of up to 6,666,700 units of the Company at a price of $0.75 per Unit. Each Unit will be comprised of one common share and one half of one common share purchase warrant of Baylin. Each whole common share purchase warrant will be exercisable for two years from the Closing Date at an exercise price of $1.05 per Common Share. If at any time following the Closing Date, the closing price of the Common Shares is equal or higher than $1.40 per Common Share for ten consecutive trading days, the Company may notify the holders of the Warrants that the Warrants will expire 30 days following the notice. https://bit.ly/2V2LJpi

(Killi, MYID-TSXV): Narrative partners with Killi to deliver a comprehensive set of customer-approved personal data that includes compensation for the consumer. With global data privacy regulations tightening every day,  Narrative, the enterprise data streaming company, announced they are partnering with Killi, a global leader in data and consumer privacy, to bring first-party, compliant data sets to customers committed to the innovative and ethical use of personal data sets. The partnership will give customers direct access via the Narrative data streaming platform to Killi’s Fair-Trade DataTM solution containing comprehensive consumer-approved personal information. As part of its Fair-Trade Data TM solution, Killi provides consumers direct compensation via a market-first weekly paycheck for the use of the personal data they are willing to share with marketers. https://prn.to/2HNcOda

Shopify (SHOP-NYSE,SHOP-TSX) announces record global black friday sales of US$2.4 billion. 2020 Black Friday global highlights — US$2.4 billion in Black Friday sales globally, a 75% growth in sales from last year, New York, London, and Los Angeles were the top-selling cities worldwide on Black Friday, with top-selling countries including US, UK,and Canada, Mobile sales on Black Friday were 67% compared to 33% of sales made on desktop. In 2019, 69% of Black Friday sales were made on mobile and 31% on desktop. Top product categories globally during Black Friday were apparel and accessories with health and beauty and home and garden following. Average Black Friday cart price globally was US$90.70, an increase of 11% from last year. 14% of cross-border orders placed on the platform on Black Friday. 20,000+ tonnes of carbon emissions offset from the delivery of every order placed on Shopify’s platform on Black Friday. https://bit.ly/39mm03l

Can Shopify (SHOP-NYSE,SHOP-TSX) compete with Amazon without becoming Amazon? Unlike Amazon, which is an online marketplace where customers go to buy stuff, Shopify is a software platform visible only to merchants. You don’t go shopping on Shopify the way you do on Amazon; Shopify doesn’t list products directly on Shopify.com. Though Shopify’s operations are by nature low-profile, the company’s success has made it a linchpin in what Ben Thompson, the author of the tech newsletter Stratechery, recently referred to as the “Anti-Amazon Alliance.” (Another member of the would-be alliance, whose name recognition probably resonates more than Shopify’s: Google Shopping.) In the last few years especially, Shopify has struck up partnerships with ad giants like Facebook and taken on the kind of real-world functions that Amazon dominates. The dream for businesses that sell online has long been to have the ability to offer things like two-day shipping, easy returns, premium customer service and overall operational efficiency without having to be on Amazon’s website. Except for established juggernauts like Nike, individual businesses seem unlikely to realize that vision. But in creating software infrastructure that can be shared between merchants, Shopify has not only strengthened the competitive prospects of existing e-commerce businesses; it has also facilitated the emergence of new ones. https://nyti.ms/33spwWb

Tulip secures growth capital financing from BDC Capital. The company has secured financing from BDC Capital as part of the bank’s support for high-potential Canadian tech innovators. Tulip will use the financing as capital to accelerate research and development, grow its sales, and further expand into global markets. https://bit.ly/33mo2gc

Brüush closes oversubscribed $6.5 million Series A round. Bruush Oral Care Inc. (Brüush), an e-commerce business poised to disrupt the oral care industry, closed an oversubscribed $6.5 million Series A financing round, far exceeding its original $4.0 million target. Gravitas Securities acted as sole lead agent and exclusive financial advisor on the financing. https://bit.ly/3lcsAfc

Q3 2020 venture capital investment in Canadian tech lowest in two years, CVCA finds. Venture capital investment in Canada took a major dip in the third quarter (Q3) of 2020, according to the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA). Investment in Q3 dropped by 63 percent year-over-year, with just $891 million across 126 deals. This is also 47 percent less than the total investments made in the second quarter (Q2) of 2020. The second quarter of 2020, which was the first quarter that reflected the effect of the COVID-19 on the market, saw Canadian venture capital investment reach a record high – much to the surprise of industry leaders. In the quarter, $1.66 billion was invested across 145 deals, a 23 percent year-over-year increase and more than double the amount invested in the first quarter of 2020. https://bit.ly/2JhbMqi

Telus announces $100 million tech-focused social impact fund. Telecommunications giant Telus has announced a new $100 million corporate venture capital fund focused on investing in early-stage technology startups that aim to drive social impact. Telus has currently invested $45 million into the Telus Pollinator Fund For Good. Telus is the fund’s only limited partner to date and a spokesperson for the company told BetaKit it is committed to providing $100 million. https://bit.ly/3fLg8lH

Loblaw partners with Gatik to bring first autonomous delivery fleet to Canada.  Palo Alto-based startup Gatik has signed a deal with Canada’s largest food retailer, Loblaw Companies Limited, to launch what it claims is the country’s first autonomous delivery fleet. Gatik and Loblaw will deploy five box trucks outfitted with autonomous vehicle technology across fixed routes throughout the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), beginning in January 2021. The partnership expands upon a 10-month pilot that began earlier this year, which saw Gatik and Loblaw testing one delivery vehicle in Toronto. Lauren Steinberg, senior vice president of Loblaw Digital, called the autonomous fleet “central” to Loblaw’s three-year growth strategy. The delivery fleet is part of a broader move by Loblaw to automate many aspects of its supply chain. Earlier this year, the retailer launched its first automated picking facility, located in Toronto. Major retailers across the globe, including Amazon and Walmart, are also working to automate various parts of their fulfillment operations as a way to increase efficiency. Gatik is a Palo Alto and Toronto-based startup, which has developed technology that automates short-haul delivery vehicles. It focuses on middle-mile delivery for the B2B retail industry. Gatik’s deal with Loblaw comes on the heels of a US$25 million Series A round, which initially closed in March with rolling closes throughout the year. Notably, the round was co-led by Loblaw-backed Wittington Ventures. https://bit.ly/3752LZC

Canada introduces bill to decriminalize single-event sports betting. Canada’s Minister of Justice has introduced a bill that proposes decriminalizing single-event sports betting across the country. Minister David Lametti introduced the bill, which seeks to amend Canada’s Criminal Code, on November 26. If passed, it would allow provinces and territories to regulate and license betting on a single sporting event. Currently, Canadians are only permitted to place bets on multiple games at once through Pro-Line and are not permitted to bet on the outcome of a single game, such as the Grey Cup. According to a release, the bill would not apply to horse racing, which the federal government would continue to oversee through pari-mutuel betting. In a pari-mutuel bet, money is pooled and divided amongst the winners. “The amendments we are proposing today will help create a safe and regulated environment for Canadians who wish to participate in single event sport(s) betting,” Lametti said. The Canadian Gaming Association estimates that Canadians spend approximately $10 billion per year on illegal single event sport betting through organized crime. An estimated $4 billion is spent through unregulated offshore internet sites. https://bit.ly/39rvVoC

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

Payments startup Stripe in talks for funding at US$70 billion valuation or more. Private financial technology business Stripe Inc. is in talks to raise a new funding round valuing it higher than its last private valuation of US$36 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. The valuation being discussed could be more than US$70 billion or significantly higher, at as much as US$100 billion, said one of the people, who asked not be identified because the matter is private. That would make it currently the most valuable venture-backed startup in the U.S., according to CB Insights. https://bloom.bg/3l72IRT

Stripe, SpaceX, Chime had largest valuation gains this year. The record amount of capital funneled into U.S. startups this year meant massive valuation gains for a handful of top companies. The value of fintech business Stripe, which benefited from new enthusiasm around digital financial services amid the pandemic, climbed US$13.5 billion this year to US$36 billion, for example. Stripe’s currently in talks with investors about a new round of capital, according to a recent Bloomberg report, that would increase its valuation even more. In addition, Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX accumulated US$10 billion in value this year with US$2 billion in fresh funding. It’s now valued at roughly US$46 billion. Chime, a fintech startup focused on digital banking, saw its valuation increase dramatically from about US$1 billion last year to more than US$14 billion this year. According to PitchBook’s ranking, Instacart, DoorDash and Robinhood were also among the companies with the largest valuation increases this year. https://bit.ly/37kjrMC

Metromile to go public via SPAC in US$1.3 billion deal. Insurtech Metromile announced Tuesday that it is the latest fintech to go public via a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) at a valuation of US$1.3 billion. Specifically, it will go public via INSU Acquisition Corp. II, a publicly traded SPAC sponsored by Cohen & Company. Upon closing of the transaction, the combined company will be named Metromile Inc. and is expected to remain listed on NASDAQ under the new ticker symbol “MLE”. Founded in 2011, Metromile launched its personalized pay-per-mile auto insurance a year later. The company has raised US$293 million in funding from the likes of NEA and Index Ventures. The premise behind Metromile is that if you don’t drive much, you shouldn’t have to pay as much for auto insurance as those who do drive a lot. Customers pay a base rate, and then pennies per mile, according to the company. The transaction includes a $160 million “PIPE” led by Social Capital (headed by Chamath Palihapitiya) and joined by Miller Value, Clearbridge, Hudson Structured, Mark Cuban and New Enterprise Associates. Looking ahead, Metromile is projecting US$1 billion of premium run-rate by year-end 2024. Its SaaS business segment lets it profit from large incumbent insurers’ profit improvements. This has led to growing and recurring high-margin revenue, which it estimates will reach US$48 million in 2024. https://bit.ly/3o0EYRn

Sequoia Capital led US$2 billion SpaceX financing. Venture firm Sequoia Capital led SpaceX’s recent US$1.9 billion financing, according to people familiar with the matter. The firm, known for its stakes in companies like Instagram, YouTube and Stripe, wrote a US$500 million check in the privately held aerospace business founded by Elon Musk at a valuation of US$46 billion this summer. The round’s lead investor has not been previously reported. Bloomberg previously reported the deal amount and valuation. The deal represents Sequoia’s largest-ever check for a U.S.-based company, the people said, as well as its first investment in SpaceX. News of Sequoia’s investment comes days after four astronauts, traveling in SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, successfully reached the International Space Station. The journey marked NASA’s first trip in a commercial spacecraft. SpaceX has raised close to US$6 billion in debt, equity and grant funding since it was founded in the early 2000s, according to financial data firm PitchBook. Its investors include Founders Fund, Valor Equity Partners and T. Rowe Price. Fidelity also participated in SpaceX’s recent financing, according to Bloomberg’s earlier reporting. https://bit.ly/376wpO2

Discord is close to closing a round that would value the company at up to US$7 billion. Discord, the communications service that’s become the 21st century’s answer to MUD rooms, is close to closing a new round of financing that would value the company at up to US$7 billion, according to sources with knowledge of the round. The new funding comes just months after a US$100 million investment that gave the company a US$3.5 billion valuation. Discord’s  doubling in corporate value comes as the persistent, inept, American response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to accelerate the adoption and growth of businesses creating virtual social networking opportunities. Those opportunities are apparent in Discord’s explosive growth. Monthly active users have almost doubled to 120 million this year and the company has seen 800,000 downloads a day thanks, in part, to the wildly popular game Among Us (which received a ringing endorsement from the popular congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). As analyst John Koetsier noted in Forbes back in 2019, there were already 250 million Discord users sending 315 million messages a day. Those are the company’s pre-pandemic numbers — and they’re impressive by any standards. To date, Discord has raised US$379.3 million, according to Crunchbase, from an investor group that includes Greylock, Index Ventures, Spark Capital, Tencent and Benchmark.  https://tcrn.ch/2KM4IT9 

Alibaba, Tencent put talks to buy iQIYI stake on hold due to price, regulatory concerns. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Tencent Holdings Ltd have each held separate talks with Baidu Inc to acquire a controlling stake in video streaming service iQIYI Inc, people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. But the discussions have stalled with little hope of recommencing soon as they balk at a valuation of around US$20 billion demanded by Baidu and as both companies, which have their own video streaming services, face heightened scrutiny by China’s antitrust regulators, two people said. Another Chinese tech giant, TikTok owner ByteDance has also internally looked at the possibility of acquiring a controlling stake in iQIYI, three sources said. Considered China’s equivalent to Netflix Inc, Nasdaq-listed iQIYI has a market capitalisation of $16.4 billion, which values Baidu’s 56.2% stake at about US$9.2 billion. https://bit.ly/37kjrMC

Slack’s stock soars on report of Salesforce deal talks. Shares of Slack jumped almost 30% on Wednesday after The Wall Street Journal reported that Salesforce is in talks to acquire the business messaging company. The companies could reach an agreement on a deal within days, the Journal reported. A transaction would value Slack at more than its US$17 billion market capitalization prior to the report. Salesforce’s shares dropped 3% on Wednesday morning following the report. Slack went public through a direct listing in June of 2019, but prior to news of its talks with Salesforce the company’s stock traded only slightly above its debut price.  https://bit.ly/33Dovef 

‘No longer a stock but a full casino’: Palantir will lose one-third of its value by year-end after surging more than 300% since going public, short-seller Citron Research says. Palantir will sink roughly 33% as reality catches up with its massive rally, Citron Research said Friday. In a tweet, the short-selling firm established a year-end price target of US$20 for Palantir shares. The data-mining company’s shares are up more than 300% since a direct listing on September 30. Citron’s target is still double Palantir’s debut price, but Citron said Palantir’s rally is unsustainable. https://bit.ly/3o4Fz4l

Emerging Technologies

This 2-acre vertical farm out-produces 720 acre ‘flat farms’. According to Nate Storey, the future of farms is vertical. It’s also indoors, can be placed anywhere on the planet, is heavily integrated with robots and AI, and produces better fruits and vegetables while using 95% less water and 99% less land. Plenty is an agtech startup in San Francisco that is reinventing farms and farming. Storey is the co-founder and chief science officer in a time when farming is going high-tech. Despite getting a bad rep in much of popular culture over the last few decades for lack of education, farmers have always been stealthily technical, fixing tractors, constructing buildings, and innovating new tools to making farming better or easier. Recently drones and robots are invading the world of “flat farming,” as Storey calls it, and the space is legitimately hot, with over 1,600 startups and tens of billions of dollars of investment. Plenty takes the flat farm and performs an Inception transformation on it: ripping up horizontal rows of plants and hanging them vertically from the ceilings. Sunlight from above is replaced by full-spectrum LED lights from all sides. Huge robots grab large hanging racks of growing vegetables and moves them where they’re needed. Artificial intelligence manages all the variables of heat and light and water, continually optimizing and learning how to grow faster, bigger, better crops. Water lost by transpiration is recaptured and reused. And all of it happens not 1,000 miles away from a city, but inside or right next to the place where the food is actually needed. https://bit.ly/3nVlKfJ

Nanobots will be flowing through your body by 2030. According to IFL Science, DNA robots are already being tested in animals to seek out and destroy cancer cells. These programmed strands of DNA have the capability to move through the bloodstream and injecting blood clotting drugs into blood vessels around tumors, cutting off their blood supply. If human trials go forward, these tiny robots could be revolutionary in treating cancer and in other cell research. There are still a large number of hurdles to overcome, however, before injected nanorobots would be able to surpass current forms of treatment. Cancer detection and treatment is one thing, but tiny nanobots could be big players in the future of medicine for other reasons. Researchers believe that nanobots could soon deliver drugs to humans with a high degree of accuracy, according to New Atlas. This would allow for delivery of micro dosages right where the patient needs them, and could help prevent harmful side effects. University scientists also believe that nanobots could one day be used to reduce plaque in veins and solve dietary issues, along with a whole slew of other medical uses. Extending beyond simple medicine, nanobots could allow humans to reach a greater state of connectivity. https://bit.ly/3nVAcV1

Prolonged AWS outage takes down a big chunk of the internet. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s internet infrastructure service that is the backbone of many websites and apps, experienced a multi-hour outage on Wednesday that affected a large portion of the internet. The service has been nearly fully restored as of 4:18AM ET on Thursday morning, according to Amazon. Many apps, services, and websites have posted on Twitter about how the AWS outage affected them, including 1Password, Acorns, Adobe Spark, Anchor, Autodesk, Capital Gazette, Coinbase, DataCamp, Getaround, Glassdoor, Flickr, iRobot, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pocket, RadioLab, Roku, RSS Podcasting, Tampa Bay Times, Vonage, The Washington Post, and WNYC. Downdetector.com also showed spikes in user reports of problems with many Amazon services throughout the day. https://bit.ly/3fIX8UN

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

Snapchat launches TikTok rival. Snapchat is taking on TikTok with a rival feature called Spotlight. To spur adoption, parent company Snap will pay over US$1 million a day to accounts who post top performing videos. Starting Monday, a dedicated tab in the Snapchat app featured a swipeable feed of videos submitted by users that is sorted by algorithms. Anyone on Snapchat can submit a video to be featured in Spotlight, though their account information will not be shown next to their videos unless they opt in. There are no visible likes on videos or ways to publicly comment on them, constraints the company thinks will limit the potential for bullying and other problematic behavior. If it catches on, Spotlight could open up a valuable source of ad inventory for Snap and increase engagement among its existing users. The feature is replacing a tab in the app previously dedicated to videos from premium publishers, which Snap is moving back to where it also shows disappearing Stories shared by friends. Snap’s push into short-form video follows earlier moves by Facebook and Google-owned YouTube to also compete with TikTok, which has exploded in popularity in the last two years. Unlike its rivals, all videos posted to Spotlight undergo human review before they are given distribution in Snapchat. That approach, while designed to weed out harmful videos, is likely to hinder the volume of videos that Spotlight surfaces. https://bit.ly/2UXwb66

Google says it’s got 400 games in the pipeline for Stadia. Google has around 400 games on the way for its Stadia game streaming service, according to Jack Buser, the service’s director of games. Buser gave the figure in an interview with MobileSyrup, where he said that the company has “a roadmap of about 400 games in development from 200 developers” for the service. Buser stopped short of giving specific information on individual games but said that most would be arriving in 2021 and beyond. This list of Stadia games maintained by Android Police, however, includes around 50 unreleased games that have been announced for the service, alongside another 100 or so that are already available. https://bit.ly/3l5AHu7

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

French tax authorities have started demanding U.S. firms pay digital tax: report. French tax authorities have started demanding U.S. technology groups pay their 3% digital services tax, the Financial Times reported, citing French officials, company officials and advisers. Facebook and Amazon are among the companies that have received communications, the report said. Paris’s demand to collect the tax represents the end of a truce with Washington, the report added. https://on.mktw.net/37625mK

US tech firms like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash could pay gig workers up to 15% of their compensation in stock under new proposal. US app-based technology firms like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash could offer equity compensation to their gig workers under a new SEC proposal announced Tuesday. The regulator proposed a pilot program for tech platforms that employ food-delivery workers or drivers to get paid up to 15% of their compensation in stock rather than cash. Gig workers could not be paid in equity previously, but regular employees could. Food delivery workers have especially played a critical role in the US economy during the pandemic. The proposal addresses labor activist efforts that aim to improve job security and employee benefits for the fast growing gig-economy. “Work relationships have evolved along with technology, and workers who participate in the gig economy have become increasingly important to the continued growth of the broader US economy,” SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said in a statement. https://bit.ly/377BMfJ

New extension gives TikTok parent more time to arrange sale. U.S. authorities have extended the deadline on their national-security review of TikTok, giving the video app’s Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance more time to strike a deal to sell the business. The review, which had been slated to wrap up this Friday, is now set to conclude on Dec. 4. It’s the second extension that the company has received since the Trump administration announced that it wouldn’t impose a pending ban on the company while awaiting the outcome of related litigation. The White House says that the video-sharing app presents a potential national security threat because it collects data on its U.S. users. The extension gives ByteDance more time to structure its pending sale to Oracle. Trump has said he will ban the app unless it is sold to a U.S.-based company. The security review is being conducted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or CFIUS, and stems from ByteDance’s purchase of Musical.ly in 2017. https://bit.ly/33n1FHl

eCommerce

Retail trade group says holiday sales could increase as much as 5.2% this year despite the pandemic thanks to a boom in online shopping. Retailers may closeout 2020 with a bang even as the ongoing pandemic batters small stores and keeps shoppers out of brick-and-mortar locations, according to a new holiday sales forecast from a retail trade group. The National Retail Federation announced Monday that it projects November and December holiday sales to jump 3.6% to 5.2%, as compared with the same period last year. The organization expects total holiday sales in the neighborhood of US$755.3 billion to US$766.7 billion, excluding car dealers, gas stations, and restaurants. https://bit.ly/2J0iS2F

 

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

PayPal and Square’s Cash App have scooped up 100% of newly mined bitcoins, report says. PayPal and Jack Dorsey’s Cash App have bought 100% of newly mined bitcoins as the digital token is seeing a record rally this year, according to Pantera Capital’s monthly blockchain newsletter. After PayPal announced it would allow its users to buy, sell, and hold the digital token, about 300 million active users got instant access to digital currencies. The US payments firm’s crypto-exchange platform, itBit, was recording only moderate volumes until PayPal’s announcement. But once PayPal’s service went live, itBit’s volumes started exploding within four weeks. PayPal is already buying 70% of the newly mined bitcoins while Cash App has bought about 40%, Pantera said. https://bit.ly/2HE2V1i

Coinbase disables margin trading following guidance from Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Just a few months after launching margin trading on Coinbase Pro, the company is disabling the feature. Margin trading lets you trade on leverage. But it works both ways — margin trading lets you multiply your gains and your losses. Starting on November 25, 2pm PT, users won’t be able to place new margin trades. Existing margin positions will expire over the coming days and weeks. Once those positions expire, margin trading will be disabled for good. The company is following guidance from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Interestingly, the CFTC was well aware of the company’s plans to launch margin trading. Coinbase says it has regular conversations with the CFTC and gives them a heads up about upcoming products and services. The same thing happened with margin trading. Margin trading hasn’t been available on Coinbase’s main website. It has been limited to some Coinbase Pro users with a cap on the number of users who can access the feature. https://tcrn.ch/3m6z4O0

Ripple’s XRP surges 70% as Bitcoin craze sends investors flocking to smaller cryptocurrencies. Ripple’s XRP surged as much as 70% on Tuesday as the third-biggest cryptocurrency extended a rally that has been kickstarted by mass interest in Bitcoin. Ripple’s price has risen about four-fold since the start of the pandemic, making gains alongside Bitcoin — which rose 4% to a near all-time high of US$19,241 on Tuesday. “XRP has been a speculative investment for a long time,” said Michael Anderson, co-founder of DeFi venture capitalist Framework Ventures. “There have been many partnerships announced but few practical applications.” The top cryptocurrencies have gained price momentum over the last week. Ethereum has gained 30% and Bitcoin by 8%, but XRP has led the way with a 70% jump. Bitcoin’s rally this year has been partly driven by its touted status as an inflation hedge, which in turn could be spreading to other cryptocurrencies. Investors pouring into Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple and other cryptos are looking to capitalize on a central bank rush to digitalize currencies, specifically the European Commission. ECB president Christine Lagarde has previously said the bank is seriously considering a digital euro. https://bit.ly/3q0cKI2

Facebook’s Libra currency to launch next year in limited format. The long-awaited Facebook-led digital currency Libra is preparing to launch as early as January, according to three people involved in the initiative, but in an even more limited format than its already downgraded vision. The 27-strong Libra Association said in April that it had planned to launch digital versions of several currencies, plus a “digital composite” of all of its coins. This followed concerns from regulators over its initial plan to create one synthetic coin backed by a basket of currencies. However, the association would now initially just launch a single coin backed one-for-one by the dollar, one of the people said. The other currencies and the composite would be rolled out at a later point, the person added. Meanwhile, PayPal, which was the first founding member to drop out of the Libra initiative, announced last month that it would launch support for cryptocurrencies, including at the checkout, with Dan Schulman, chief executive, calling the shift to digital forms of currencies “inevitable”. https://on.ft.com/3mnVFG4

Saudi unicorn looks beyond kingdom after Western Union deal. Saudi Arabian digital payments firm stc pay, which was valued at US$1.3 billion in a funding agreement with Western Union this month, is set to become profitable “very soon” and is in talks with regulators to expand into neighboring countries. The company, launched by the kingdom’s biggest mobile operator Saudi Telecom Co. in late 2018, wants to offer digital payments across the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, Chief Executive Officer Ahmed Alenazi said in an interview. https://bloom.bg/3nT8gkT

ESG

California wants its Imperial Valley to be ‘Lithium Valley’.  Dust storms laced with toxins sweep across California’s Imperial County, where mud volcanoes spit and hiss near the shores of the slowly shrinking lake known as the Salton Sea. The county is one of California’s poorest, most of its jobs tied to a thin strip of irrigated land surrounded by desert. San Diego and the Golden State’s prosperous coast lie only 100 miles away across a jumble of mountains, but it might as well be another world. Yet this overlooked moonscape may hold the key to America’s clean-car future. Hot brine trapped beneath the desert floor contains potentially one of the world’s biggest deposits of lithium. Demand for the metal is soaring as automakers worldwide shift to electric cars powered by lithium-ion batteries. Most of that lithium now comes from Australia, China, and South America. The U.S. badly wants its own supply. https://bloom.bg/3kX4XqL

Elon Musk says Tesla is working on a battery that drives more than 600 miles — and hints at a new compact car for Europe. Tesla is developing a battery with 600 miles of range, Elon Musk said Tuesday. The CEO also hinted that Tesla may develop a smaller, compact car for European markets. “I was driving around Berlin and in quite a bit of trouble finding a parking space where we could fit,” he said. https://bit.ly/3pVaO3L

Alibaba vies for a piece of China’s booming EV market. There’s no lack of news these days on China’s tech giants teaming up with traditional carmakers. Companies from Alibaba to Huawei are striving to become relevant in the trillion-dollar auto industry, which itself is seeking an electric transition and intelligent upgrade as 5G comes of age. State-owned automaker SAIC Motor, a major player in China, unveiled this week a new electric vehicle arm called Zhiji, in which Alibaba and a Shanghai government-backed entity are minority shareholders. The tie-up comes as Chinese EV startups like Xpeng and Nio and their predecessor Tesla see their stocks soaring in recent months. Alibaba’s ties with SAIC can be traced back to 2015 when they jointly announced a US$160 million investment in internet-connected cars. The partners moved on to form a joint venture called Banma (or “Zebra”) and Alibaba has since developed a slew of auto solutions for the Banma platform to enable everything from voice-activated navigation to voice ordering coffee, which is, of course, linked to the Alipay e-wallet. https://tcrn.ch/3qa2zko

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