Markets fell yet again last week, ending a terrible September, and Q3 — the longest stretch of down quarters since 2008. The Dow Jones was down 2.9%, S&P 500 fell 2.9%, and the Nasdaq composite was down 2.7%. The Vision Fund, a venture capital arm of SoftBank, has launched a sweeping layoff process, cutting at least 30% of its workforce globally, or approximately 150 of the 500 employees. Mark Zuckerberg says Meta will freeze hiring and cut costs. DocuSign to cut workforce by 9% as part of restructuring plan. Peloton added Dicks Sporting Goods to the retail outlets that will sell its exercise bike. Shares of Peloton dived 15% on the news to just below US$7, its lowest point yet. Intel’s self-driving unit Mobileye on Friday unveiled its IPO filing. The tech IPO market globally is in the middle of its worst drought in nearly two decades. U.S. listings have raised a little over US$7 billion so far this year, according to data from Dealogic. Last year traditional IPOs, excluding special purpose acquisition companies, had raised a record US$154 billion. Mobileye’s IPO, coming on the heels of Porsche’s blockbuster debut in Europe, could, however, be an early sign of improving investor sentiment. TripActions reportedly files to go public at US$12 billion valuation. Stripe revenue rises 66% to US$2.255 billion. Uniswap Labs eyes over US$100 million in new funding, as the parent firm of the world’s largest decentralized exchange gears up to broaden its offerings.
In Canada, Sophic Client, Clear Blue Technologies (CBLU-TSXV): received $5 million grant funding from SDTC. This grant combined with a June $4 million non dilutive funding from the Government of Canada, supports the $10 million market cap company’s 2023 growth. BuildDirect (BILD-TSXV) announced the upsizing of a private placement. Kitchener-Waterloo startup Avidbots secured US$70 million in a Series C funding round to expand its fleet of floor scrubbing robots.
Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News
Sophic Client Clear Blue Technologies (CBLU-TSXV, CBUTF-OTC, 0YA-FRA) receives $5 million grant funding from SDTC.
The Company announced a $5 million grant from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (“SDTC”). Clear Blue Technologies is part of a cohort of six innovative Canadian companies, who were selected to receive a cumulative $18.7 million in funding, following a process that began at the beginning of 2022. SDTC will release these funds to Clear Blue in equal installments over the next 3 years. This funding will allow Clear Blue to launch its recently announced Pico-Grid product line and accelerate the Company’s market leadership in smart analytics via the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies. Pico-Grid, which was announced earlier in 2022, is expected to begin shipping in early 2023. The Company’s remote management and control technology allows Clear Blue to provide smaller, more cost-effective power systems while still meeting operators’ availability targets. In a recent collaboration with Meta, a study found that Smart Off-Grid lowers the upfront cost of telecom site power by 40%. https://bit.ly/3BRjDlS
BuildDirect (BILD-TSXV) announces upsizing of the private placement and close of the second tranche of the private placement.
The Company announced that the non-brokered private placement of common shares (the “Private Placement”) previously announced on August 30, 2022 (see the news release of the Company dated August 30, 2022 and September 8, 2022) has been upsized to 6,847,830 common shares (“Common Shares”) at a price of $0.46 per Common Share for total gross proceeds of $3,150,000. BuildDirect also announced the closing of the second tranche of this Private Placement (the “Second Tranche”). In connection with the Second Tranche, the Company issued a total of 1,413,045 Common Shares (each a “Common Share”) at a price of $0.46 per Common Share for total gross proceeds of $650,000. https://bit.ly/3SHEtuA
Think Research Corporation (THNK-TSXV) announces amended debt facility with ScotiaBank and termination of agreement with PI Financial.
The following material elements have been updated in the Amended Credit Agreement: The financial covenants will now conform to the financial covenants in the credit agreement with Beedie Capital; The amortization period for the term loan has been updated from 4 years to 3 years; The first principal repayment date for the term loan has been moved up by one month, from October 31, 2022 to September 30, 2022; In the event the Company wishes to use the loan proceeds to make acquisitions under the operating line or term loan, it will need to obtain the consent of BNS for acquisitions which would exceed, individually or in the aggregate, $3 million in any twelve month period; A most favoured nation clause in favour of BNS has been included, which provides that if the Company agrees with Beedie Capital to more favourable financial covenants from a lender’s perspective, the Company will amend the Amended Credit Agreement agreement to make conforming changes. Think also announces that upon mutual agreement with PI Financial Corp. (“PI Financial”), PI Financial’s engagement for market-making services for the Company will terminate September 30, 2022. https://bit.ly/3fCsvUM
Link says Dye & Durham (DND-TSX) deal not proceeding after rejecting offer.
Australia’s Link Administration Holdings Ltd. has pulled the plug on a potential takeover by Canadian technology company Dye & Durham Ltd., ending a two-year process that was at one point worth $3.2 billion (US$2.4 billion). The time for the satisfaction of outstanding conditions has expired, and there is no expectation they would be resolved, the Sydney-based data services firm said in an exchange filing Friday. https://bloom.bg/3fq7Zaa
Avidbots closes US$70 million Series C round to grow fleet of commercial cleaning robots.
Kitchener-Waterloo startup Avidbots has secured US$70 million in a Series C funding round to expand its fleet of floor scrubbing robots. Both new and returning investors took part, with Asia-based growth capital asset manager Jeneration Capital leading Avidbot’s round. The Series C round comes more than three years after Avidbots raised a US$23.6 million ($31.5 million) Series B round. According to the startup, its total funding to date sits at US$107 million. Existing investors True Ventures, Next 47, SOSV, GGV Capital, BDC Capital, Golden Ventures, and Kensington Capital Partners, all took part in the most recent round. BMO Capital Partners, Golden Vision Capital, and Nicola Wealth joined as first-time investors in Avidbots. Existing Avidbots investors that did not take part in this round include Real Ventures and 500 Startups Canada. Autonomous floor-cleaning robots are a growing market with reports projecting expansion from US$9.8 billion in 2022 to US$25.9 billion by 2027. https://bit.ly/3rc0OVJ
Numida secures $16.7 million in Serena Ventures-led round to equip more African SMEs with working capital.
Numida, which is incorporated in Canada and operates in Uganda, has raised $16.7 million (US$12.3 million) in a pre-Series A round. Serena Ventures, the venture fund of four-time Olympic tennis champion Serena Williams’, led the $7.3 million equity portion of the round, with participation from Breega, 4Di Capital, Launch Africa, Soma Capital, Y Combinator, and existing investor MFS Africa, which is following on. Numida also received a $5 million debt facility from Lendable Asset Management. https://bit.ly/3y01Esn
Giatec receives $5 million from BDC Capital’s Cleantech Practice to bolster concrete testing tech.
Ottawa-based Giatec, which provides concrete testing technologies, has secured a $5 million investment from BDC Capital’s Cleantech Practice. Giatec announced the financing last week, months after Heidelberg Cement made a minority investment in the company in May. https://bit.ly/3BRdqq6
HelloSafe secures $4.2 million to expand its financial comparison solution across Canada.
Montréal-based FinTech company HelloSafe has secured $4.2 million in a seed round led by OneRagtime and Kima Ventures. This funding will be allocated towards increasing the size of HelloSafe’s teams, improving the user experience on its platforms, and expanding into new product categories in Canada, according to HelloSafe. Since launching its platform last year, https://bit.ly/3E6fGwc
Crypto exchange FTX wins auction for bankrupt firm Voyager’s assets.
FTX US, the digital-asset exchange founded by billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, won the auction for the assets of bankrupt crypto brokerage Voyager Digital Ltd. The agreement is valued at about US$1.4 billion, comprising an “additional consideration” worth about US$111 million and the US$1.3 billion market value of all the cryptocurrency at the bankrupt platform, according to a statement from Voyager Digital on Monday in New York. https://bloom.bg/3CgX8rX
Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A
SoftBank Vision Fund is reportedly laying off 30% of its workforce, or at least 150 employees.
The Vision Fund, a venture capital arm of SoftBank, has launched a sweeping layoff process, cutting at least 30% of its workforce globally, or approximately 150 of the 500 employees, according to a report by Bloomberg. The news comes nearly two months after SoftBank chief executive officer and founder Masayoshi Son said the company would review the organization’s size and structure and that it planned to do some cost-cutting due to a record 3.2 trillion JPY (about US$23.4 billion) loss in the three months ended in June. It is unclear which regional offices would be affected by the layoffs. The London-headquartered VC firm has offices in the U.S. and Asia. SoftBank declined to comment when reached by TechCrunch. The majority of SoftBank’s record loss — approximately US$17.3 billion — ties to the Vision Fund, which has backed more than 470 startups globally in the past six years. https://tcrn.ch/3dTCqoy
Mark Zuckerberg says Meta will freeze hiring and cut costs.
After a decade of explosive growth, the company formerly known as Facebook is planning to trim down. Bloomberg reports that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to freeze hiring and restructure some groups within the company Thursday in an internal all-hands call. According to Bloomberg, Meta plans to shrink budgets widely within the company, including to teams that it was recently investing in. Meta has thrown a lot of weight behind VR and creating its own metaverse in recent months and is also scrambling to build out short-form video products, like Reels, that can compete with TikTok. Meta is far from the only tech company downsizing at the moment, but a hiring freeze still signals relatively dire times for the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. While many companies in tech are battening down the hatches at the moment given a worsening global economic outlook, Meta is also grappling with fresh threats to its advertising business, most notably from iOS privacy changes implemented by Apple last year. https://tcrn.ch/3LTbCkZ
DocuSign to cut workforce by 9% as part of restructuring plan.
DocuSign will lay off 9% of its workforce as part of a major restructuring plan, the company announced Wednesday. The plan is designed to support the company’s growth and profitability objectives and improve its operating margin. As of January, DocuSign had 7,461 employees, and it said the restructuring plan will largely be complete by the end of fiscal year 2023. Shares of DocuSign closed up 5.09% on Wednesday. It expects to incur charges between US$30 million and US$40 million, largely in the third and fourth quarter of fiscal 2023, as part of the changes. The electronic signature software maker enjoyed a wave of greater interest among investors during the Covid pandemic as consumers and corporate workers became more reliant on digital ways to sign documents. But the interest has died down, and shares have fallen 65% so far this year. https://cnb.cx/3SM9nC8
Peloton to sell through Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Peloton added Dicks Sporting Goods to the retail outlets that will sell its exercise bike, as the struggling exercise equipment firm endeavors to broaden its customer outreach. Shares of Peloton dived 15% on the news to just below US$7, its lowest point yet, signaling that investors were unimpressed by the move. By selling through mass market outlets, Peloton risks turning its bikes into commodities as they will compete more directly with other exercise bikes. In late August, Peloton announced a similar arrangement with Amazon. That was the first time Peloton had made its equipment available for sale outside its own stores and web site. https://bit.ly/3dVFVel
Intel’s Mobileye files for listing in first sign of thawing tech IPO market.
Intel Corp’s self-driving unit Mobileye on Friday unveiled its filing for a U.S. initial public offering, testing support for a high profile stock debut even as the market for new issues has virtually collapsed. The tech IPO market globally is in the middle of its worst drought in nearly two decades. U.S. listings have raised a little over US$7 billion so far this year, according to data from Dealogic. Last year traditional IPOs, excluding special purpose acquisition companies, had raised a record US$154 billion. Mobileye’s IPO, coming on the heels of Porsche’s blockbuster debut in Europe, could, however, be an early sign of improving investor sentiment. If Mobileye’s debut is received well, it may embolden other big names such as Instacart, Reddit and ServiceTitan, which postponed their IPOs earlier this year until the market improves. Mobileye, which confidentially filed for its IPO earlier this year, reported first-half revenue of $854 million, a 21% jump from the year-ago period, according to its IPO filing. In 2021, Mobileye posted $1.4 billion of revenue. Mobileye plans to list shares on Nasdaq under the ticker “MBLY.” Mobileye has not set a price range for its IPO yet, but Reuters has reported that the company could target a valuation as high as $50 billion for its share sale. https://reut.rs/3RnDcb3
TripActions reportedly files to go public at US$12 billion valuation.
TripActions is said to have filed confidentially to go public in the second quarter of next year at a US$12 billion valuation. Citing an unnamed source, Business Insider broke the news on Wednesday that the company had filed confidential paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering. Bloomberg’s Katie Roof in early August had reported that the move was coming. Last October, TripActions raised US$275 million in a Series F “growth” funding round at a US$7.25 billion valuation. Greenoaks led the company’s most recent financing, which also included “strong participation” from Elad Gil, Base partners and “all key existing financial investors.” Other backers in the company include Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), Zeev Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Group 11. https://tcrn.ch/3SNrJTc
Stripe revenue rises 66% to US$2.255 billion for Dublin-based unit.
Stripe, financial software provider, increased revenue at its Dublin-headquartered unit to US$2.255 billion from US$1.358 billion last year, while pre-tax losses fell to US$22.12 million from US$135.5 million, The Independent reported, citing public filings. The company’s Dublin-headquartered unit covers sales in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, according to The Independent. Globally, Stripe processed US$640 billion in payments last year, the filings showed. Stripe generates most of its money by charging a 2.9% fee to merchants for each online purchase. Stripe then turns over most of those gross revenues to credit card companies and other financial institutions that help facilitate the payments, resulting in net revenue that is only a tiny fraction of the total processing volume. Last year, Stripe’s valuation rose from US$36 billion to US$95 billion after the company raised a US$600 million Series H round in March 2021. This July, Stripe slashed its own internal valuation to US$74 billion, amid a broader stock market sell-off. https://bit.ly/3E4ZdZm
Uniswap Labs eyes over US$100 million in new funding.
Uniswap Labs is in early stages of putting together a new round, according to four sources familiar with the matter, as the parent firm of the world’s largest decentralized exchange gears up to broaden its offerings. The startup is engaging with a number of investors, including Polychain and one of Singapore’s sovereign funds, to raise an equity round of US$100 million to US$200 million at a valuation of about US$1 billion, two of the sources said, who, like others, requested anonymity sharing private information. The new funding is indicative of Uniswap’s ambitious plans to expand its offerings. The decentralized exchange commands 64% of all DEX volumes, according to DeFi Llama. And the exchange protocol’s token has a market cap of nearly US$5 billion despite the market downturn. (During the peak bull cycle last year, Uni’s market cap exceeded US$22.5 billion). https://tcrn.ch/3y8VNAS
Grab sees slower growth while it pursues 2024 profitability.
Grab Holdings Ltd. expects revenue to slow sharply as the Southeast Asian internet giant targets profitability in 2024, speeding up efforts to reverse years of losses. The ride-sharing and delivery provider gave the forecast for a 45% to 55% increase at its first investor day, trying to reassure shareholders it’s on the rebound. Analysts were projecting 49% growth for 2023 on average. The company backed by SoftBank Group Corp. also said it anticipates breaking even in the second half of 2024 on a conditional basis, and excluding one-time items. The shares climbed more than 3% in pre-market trading. Grab, long considered one of the rising stars of Southeast Asia, has struggled since it went public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company in December. Shares have tumbled more than 70% as the company wracked up losses in the post-Covid era and the stock market soured on unprofitable tech ventures. Grab, which went public by merging with Altimeter Capital Management’s SPAC in what was originally a US$40 billion deal, is now worth about US$10.8 billion. In the meantime, the company said it has about US$6 billion of cash and liquid items on hand, giving it time to turn its on-demand and fintech services around. https://bloom.bg/3fBbg6j
Tesla just gave us a fresh glimpse of its humanoid robot ahead of its big AI Day event.
What we know so far about the Optimus project. It’s designed for manual labor, It will be ‘friendly’ and definitely not dystopian, It will use Tesla’s automated driving tech, Musk sees it as Tesla’s most important work. Consumers will be able to buy one someday. A grain of salt — Musk is adding the Tesla bot to a plate already piled high with ambitious projects that haven’t seen the light of day. There’s the new Roadster, a US$200,000 sports car that was supposed to launch in 2020 with acceleration-boosting rocket thrusters. Then there’s the Cybertruck, a pickup truck that wowed onlookers with its stainless-steel body and doorstop shape when it debuted in 2019 but also hasn’t materialized. For years, Musk has vowed that Teslas would soon be able to drive themselves. Against this backdrop, it’s difficult to know when to take Musk’s pronouncements and timelines seriously. We’ll all learn more about his robotic ambitions soon enough. https://bit.ly/3BW9p3L
Judge denies Musk request for more Twitter documents.
Elon Musk’s request for more documents from Twitter was denied on Friday in the latest blow to his efforts to get out of acquiring Twitter for US$44 billion. Musk had asked Twitter to hand over every single document that contained the phrase “mDAU” which stands for monetized daily active users. Twitter previously said it handed over most of the documents, but that it withheld some including large spreadsheets which contained the word “mDAU” but did not specifically discuss the term. The judge also denied Musk’s request for more documents using the search terms “stickiness” and “UAM” which stands for “user active minutes.” She separately appointed a “Special Discovery Master,” a third party who will double check documents marked as privileged over video to ensure that the opposing party hasn’t withheld any documents. Musk signed a contract to acquire Twitter in April before claiming in May that the deal was on hold because Twitter would not provide him data on the number of bots on its platform. He argues that Twitter committed fraud by misrepresenting the percentage of its users that are spam or bots. If Musk loses in court, he may have another exit strategy: Ari Emanuel, the Endeavor CEO who was photographed with Musk on a yacht in Greece this July. Emanuel reached out to Twitter board member and Silver Lake partner Egon Durban to negotiate a settlement between Musk and Twitter, Bloomberg reported Friday. Bloomberg said it was not able to find out whether Twitter’s board ever reached out to Emanuel about the negotiation. https://bit.ly/3E9sQc6
Velodyne Lidar stock jumps after deal to sell sensors to Stanley Robotics for automated valet parking.
Shares of Velodyne Lidar Inc. jumped 5.2% in premarket, putting it on track to open above the US$1 mark, after the autonomous technology company announced an agreement to provide sensors to Stanley Robotics for an automated valet parking product. Financial terms of the multiyear agreement were not disclosed. “High-performance sensors are key to enabling our autonomous mobile robots to reliably navigate and maneuver in narrow parking lanes,” said Stanley Robotics Chief Operating Officer Mathieu Lips. Velodyne’s stock, which last closed at or above US$1.00 on Sept. 22, has plunged 79.3% year to date through Monday, while the S&P 500 has shed 23.3%. https://on.mktw.net/3dKfnwF
Micron shares perk up premarket on news Japan to grant it US$320 million subsidy to make advanced memory chips at Hiroshima plant.
Micron Technology Inc. shares perked up in premarket trade Friday, after news that Japan will give the company a subsidy of up to 46.5 billion yen (US$320 million) to make advanced memory chips at its Hiroshima plant. The news was announced by Japan’s industry ministry, Reuters reported. It comes after a visit to Japan by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and is the latest example of cooperation between Tokyo and Washington in chip manufacturing. “Micron appreciates the support of the Japanese government, and are proud to be a global partner in Japan’s effort to expand semiconductor production and advance innovation,” Micron’s executive vice president of global operations, Manish Bhatia, said in a press release, Reuters reported. The news comes after Micron late Thursday posted quarterly earnings that included a forecast for a loss in the coming quarter and plans to scale back on plans to build out capacity as it strives to emerge from an “unprecedented” current market downcycle. Shares were up 2.5% premarket, but are down 46% in the year to date, while the S&P 500 has fallen 24%. https://on.mktw.net/3UQnIzm
FaZe stock falls after filing for the sale of up to 70 million shares.
Shares of FaZe Holdings Inc. fell 4.0% in premarket trading Tuesday, after the lifestyle and media platform filed for the sale of up to about 70.0 million common shares, as well as 173,333 warrants to buy stock. Of the total being offered, 5.9 million shares would be offered by the company and 64.0 million shares offered for resale by selling stockholders. Based on Monday’s stock closing price of $14.75, the total number of shares being offered would be valued at up to about $1.03 billion, which compares with FaZe’s market capitalization of $1.07 billion. The stock has run up 48.2% over the past three months while the S&P 500 has lost 6.3%. https://on.mktw.net/3SuTArH
Saudi Arabia outlines plans to invest US$38 billion in e-sports.
Saudi Arabia plans to invest 142 billion riyals (US$38 billion) to turn the kingdom into a hub for e-sports by 2030, part of plans to diversify the economy of the world’s biggest oil exporter. Savvy Games Group, a unit of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, will spend 50 billion riyals to acquire and develop a games publisher and 70 billion riyals to take minority stakes in gaming companies, according to a statement. https://bloom.bg/3Cha3Kp
Apple ditches iPhone 14 Pro production increase after demand falters.
Apple Inc. is backing off plans to increase production of its new iPhones this year after an anticipated surge in demand failed to materialize, according to people familiar with the matter. The Cupertino, California-based electronics maker has told suppliers to pull back from efforts to increase assembly of the iPhone 14 product family by as many as 6 million units in the second half of this year, said the people, asking not to be named as the plans are not public. Instead, the company will aim to produce 90 million handsets for the period, roughly the same level as the prior year and in line with Apple’s original forecast this summer. https://bloom.bg/3BU7mx5
BMW will use Amazon Alexa to build its next voice assistant.
Amazon Alexa will be the foundation of BMW’s next-generation voice assistant, the companies announced Wednesday at Amazon’s annual Devices and Services launch event. The German automaker and Amazon have had a business relationship for years now; BMW started offering the Alexa assistant in select cars starting in 2018 and the partnership has grown from there. This announcement stands out, however. BMW won’t just embed Alexa into vehicles as it has in the past. It will use the Amazon technology to build its own assistant. The first vehicles with the new generation of BMW’s voice assistant will launch within the next two years. https://tcrn.ch/3E17v4u
Meta’s new text-to-video AI generator is like DALL-E for video.
A team of machine learning engineers from Facebook’s parent company Meta has unveiled a new system called Make-A-Video. As the name suggests, this AI model allows users to type in a rough description of a scene, and it will generate a short video matching their text. The videos are clearly artificial, with blurred subjects and distorted animation, but still represent a significant development in the field of AI content generation. https://bit.ly/3CmsQUC
Intel and Samsung are getting ready for ‘slidable’ PCs.
Intel has been experimenting with new PC form factors for years and was initially preparing for a dual-screen and foldable future before Microsoft dropped its plans for Windows 10X on foldables. These types of new form factors desperately need the software and apps to make them shine, and it’s not clear yet how Intel will make slidable PCs a reality. The prototype device that Samsung Display and Intel have shown off essentially turns a 13-inch tablet into a 17-inch monitor with a flexible display and a sliding mechanism. Intel was quick to demonstrate its new Unison software on this display, which aims to connect Intel-powered computers to smartphones — including iPhones. https://bit.ly/3dYNBMU
NASA just crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid to see what would happen.
A NASA spacecraft slammed into the surface of a distant asteroid at 7:14PM ET on Monday night, the climax of the agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). An hour before impact, the target asteroid, Dimorphos, wasn’t even visible in the images from the spacecraft. In some of the early images sent back to Earth, even Dimorphos’ larger companion Didymos, looked like a single speck against a sea of black. The DART spacecraft was moving at 14,000 miles per hour, and details quickly came into view. Viewers on Earth saw the rough surface of Didymos zip by as the spacecraft cruised autonomously towards Dimorphos. Boulders filled the screen just before it went bright red, indicating a loss of signal — DART had reached its final destination. https://bit.ly/3C1j88J
Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting
Walmart enters the metaverse with Roblox.
Walmart is entering the metaverse with two experiences premiering Monday on online gaming platform Roblox. The retail giant’s first foray into the virtual world will feature a blimp that drops toys, a music festival with hot artists, a bunch of different games, and a store of virtual merchandise, or “verch,” which matches what customers may find in Walmart’s stores and on its website. The two experiences are called Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play. Walmart is experimenting with new ways to reach shoppers, particularly after seeing the pandemic shake up shopping habits and fuel consumers’ engagement with social media, apps and gaming websites. Walmart quietly filed for metaverse-related trademarks earlier this year. Some of the trademarks indicated interest in making or selling virtual goods and offering users virtual currency, as well as non-fungible tokens or NFTs. https://cnb.cx/3ymtsrd
Actor Bruce Willis becomes first celebrity to sell rights to deepfake firm.
Action movie legend Bruce Willis has just become the first Hollywood actor to sell his rights to the possibility of a “digital twin” to the US firm Deepcake, according to The Telegraph. With the use of deepfake technology, Willis has offered his likeness to be used onscreen for future projects, following his first experience with the digital media manipulation in a commercial for Russian phone service, MegaFon, last year. Through the use of machine learning and AI, it’s possible to create a visual and audio “twin” of someone in videos. Though the ability to recreate someone so nearly-flawlessly does raise a few ethical questions, the technology has already been utilized within the Star Wars universe with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as well as The Mandalorian Season 2. In 2021, Willis gave permission to Deepcake in order to appear in a commercial, allowing his face to be “digitally transplanted onto another performer.” Now, the actor has officially sold the rights to his likeness to be essentially “hired” by Deepcake for future productions. https://bit.ly/3SKbSoF
Netflix is building its own game studio.
Netflix is no longer relying exclusively on third-party teams to bolster its game catalog. The streaming giant is forming an in-house game studio in Helsinki, Finland to create “world-class” original games without ads or in-app purchases. While it’s too soon for details of the games themselves, Zynga and EA alumnus Marko Lastikka will serve as director. Helsinki is a good fit as the home to some of the “best game talent” on the planet, according to Netflix. This includes The Walking Dead mobile developer Next Games (which Netflix bought in March). Netflix has purchased multiple developers, including Boss Fight and Oxenfree creator Night School Studio, but hasn’t built a developer from scratch until now. You won’t see the first fruits of this internal studio for “years,” Netflix says. Still, this and recent acquisitions show how the company’s gaming strategy is evolving. https://engt.co/3LV3XTi
Google Stadia shutting down in January, all purchases refunded.
After nearly three years of operation, Google is shutting down its game streaming service Stadia, effective January 2023. Google has confirmed that its once flagship game streaming service, Google Stadia, which offered unique features like 4K resolution, HDR color, and 5.1 surround sound audio, will be shutting down. Notably, this is the first communication from Google’s Vice President and General Manager of Stadia, Phil Harrison, in well over a year. The primary reason Harrison cites for the shutdown is that “it hasn’t gained the traction with users that we expected.” Reporting in early 2021 indicated that Stadia missed its user targets by “hundreds of thousands.” The shutdown announcement comes less than two years after the winding down of Stadia Games & Entertainment, Google’s ill-fated effort to create original first-party and second-party games for Stadia. Following that shutdown, momentum for the service faded quickly, with next to no AAA game releases in 2022. https://bit.ly/3UTNJO8
Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory
TikTok reportedly moving toward U.S. security deal.
TikTok and the Biden administration are moving toward a deal, where the short-form video app would make changes to its data security and governance without its Chinese parent company ByteDance needing to sell it, according to The New York Times. The two sides have drafted a preliminary agreement to resolve national security concerns, according to the report. The two sides are still discussing the potential deal. A TikTok spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the discussions, but said it was “confident” that it was “on a path to fully satisfy all reasonable U.S. national security concerns,“ the Times said. Concerns over TikTok’s Chinese ownership have permeated for years. In 2020, the Trump administration threatened to ban the app in the U.S. https://bit.ly/3E8sxOt
Microsoft says hackers are breaching exchange servers.
Microsoft is urging some customers of its widely used Exchange Server email software to change their settings in order to stop hackers that have successfully exploited two newly discovered security flaws. Microsoft said it’s working on a software update to fix the Exchange security vulnerabilities, which were first disclosed on Thursday by Vietnamese threat intelligence firm GTSC. Microsoft told customers using on-premise versions of Exchange from 2013, 2016 and 2019 to change some of the settings to block potential attacks. The news comes more than a year after the disclosure of four major vulnerabilities that enabled hackers to break into hundreds of thousands of Exchange servers across the globe. Unlike with the 2021 security flaws, hackers don’t appear to have shared the “exploit code” they are using to breach Exchange, according to GTSC, meaning that damage from the ongoing attacks is unlikely to be as widespread. Microsoft, which is the No. 1 target of hackers and has faced a wave of security lapses involving its products this year, declined to comment. https://bit.ly/3SO17BO
SEC sues former MoviePass executives for fraud.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has sued former top executives at MoviePass and its parent company, Helios & Matheson , for fraud. The complaint, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for New York’s southern district, alleges Ted Farnsworth and Mitch Lowe “intentionally and repeatedly disseminated to the public materially false or misleading statements concerning MoviePass and key aspects of MoviePass’s business model.” The suit charges Farnsworth and Lowe misled investors by suggesting the company could profit by offering all-you-can eat moviegoing for US$9.95 a month. Farnsworth is the former chief executive of analytics firm Helios & Matheson Analytics Inc., which acquired MoviePass in 2017 and ran it until it sank into bankruptcy in 2020. Lowe was MoviePass CEO from 2016 to 2020. https://on.mktw.net/3y82K5s
Oracle to pay more than US$23 million to settle SEC’s bribery charges.
Shares of Oracle Corp. rose 1.2% in morning trading Tuesday, after the Securities and Exchange Commission said the enterprise software company will pay more than US$23 million to settle bribery charges. The SEC had charged Oracle for violating provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), saying subsidiaries in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India created and used slush funds to bribe foreign officials in return for business between 2016 and 2019. As part of the settlement, Oracle agreed to “cease and desist” from violating the FCPA without admitting and denying the SEC’s findings. The payment includes US$8 million in disgorgement and a US$15 million penalty. Oracle’s stock has dropped 26.4% year to date through Monday, while the S&P 500 has lost 22.3%. https://on.mktw.net/3rj1iJt
Amazon’s Prime early access sale will take place on October 11th and 12th.
The rumors were true: Amazon’s holding a second Prime-exclusive sales event starting on Tuesday, October 11th at 3AM ET / 12AM PT and running through Wednesday, October 12th. We first heard about the possibility of another day of deals back in June, but now Amazon has made it official — the only difference is that it’s calling the event Prime Early Access Sale instead of Prime Day. Besides the name, it doesn’t look like too much is changing between the two events. Of course, no details have been provided by Amazon as to exactly what deals will be offered, but Amazon mentioned some brands it will feature during the sale. This includes products from Peloton, New Balance, Philips Sonicare, Lego, Adidas, KitchenAid, Samsung, iRobot (which Amazon is currently in the process of acquiring), and more. It’s also trying out a new top 100 list of the “most popular and giftable items” that it will drop deals from throughout the event. https://bit.ly/3SBRUwe
Amazon urges call center staff to work from home, plans closings.
Amazon.com Inc. is encouraging customer service employees at some US call centers to work from home, signaling the company’s preference for remote work in certain roles that would help save money on real estate, according to people familiar with the matter. The shift is part of a plan to close multiple call centers around the country, including one that opened in 2005 in Kennewick, Washington, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak about the plans. https://bloom.bg/3CjnNEz
Amazon launches QVC-style livestream shopping in India.
Amazon has launched a QVC-style livestream shopping in India, broadening its offerings in the key overseas market where it has deployed over US$6.5 billion to win customers. The retail group on Friday rolled out the new service, called Amazon Live, bringing an army of over 150 creators to host livestreams and plug products in the videos. The idea is, influencers, with already a large following, will drive their fans to the shopping app and influence them into buying products. They get a cut each time they are able to make a sale. The e-commerce spending in India, the world’s second largest internet market, is expected to double in size to over US$130 billion by 2025. https://tcrn.ch/3E6kdis
China’s Nio joins the race for lithium, buys 12% of Australia’s Greenwing Resources.
China’s electric vehicle upstart Nio has joined Tesla in sourcing raw materials directly from mines rather than its own battery suppliers as soaring prices of lithium, a critical component of EV batteries, hurt manufacturers’ supply chain stability and bottom lines. Nio, an eight-year-old premium EV maker, has agreed to pay US$12 million for a 12.16% stake in Greenwing Resources, an Australian lithium mining company, Greenwing said in a filing with the Australian Stock Exchange. As part of the deal, Nio obtains the right to one nominee on Greenwing’s board and a call option to acquire between 20% and 40% of the issued capital of Andes Litio SA. Bought by Greenwing last year, Andes Litio holds options rights over the San Jorge Lithium Project located in the prolific Lithium Triangle, which spans Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia and contains most of the world’s lithium resources. China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology, the world’s largest EV battery provider by usage and a supplier to Tesla and Nio, has been particularly aggressive. Last year, CATL paid nearly US$300 million to buy out Vancouver-based Millennial Lithium — which makes Nio’s check for Greenwing look humble. https://tcrn.ch/3y3jyKH
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