Last week saw healthy levels of financing across the Canadian tech ecosystem, in both public and private markets. South of the border, Roblox should be an interesting stock to watch out for. Newsflow seems to be focused more on regulatory issues, and the CEOs of Facebook, Google, Twitter are expected to testify to the U.S. Senate before the election.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Sophic Capital client Kraken Robotics (PNG-TSXV) announces $10.0 million bought deal prospectus offering. Kraken Robotics entered an agreement with a syndicate of underwriters that agreed to purchase 15,000,000 common shares of the Company at a price of $0.67 per Common Share for aggregate gross proceeds of $10,050,000 to the Company. The Company has also granted the Underwriters an over-allotment option to purchase up to an additional 2,250,000 Common Shares at the Offering Price, exercisable in whole or in part at any time for a period of 30 days from the closing date of the Offering. If the over-allotment option is exercised in full, the aggregate gross proceeds of the Offering will be $11,557,500. https://bit.ly/2SmqCwR

WELL Health (WELL-TSX) announces $70 million bought deal financing. WELL Health Technologies Corp. announced that it has entered into an agreement pursuant to which Eight Capital and Stifel GMP, as co-lead underwriters and joint bookrunners, together with a syndicate of underwriters will purchase 10,372,000 common shares of the Company on a “bought deal” basis pursuant to the filing of a short form prospectus, subject to all required regulatory approvals, at a price per Share of $6.75 ( for gross proceeds of $70,011,000. The Company has agreed to grant the Underwriters an over-allotment option to purchase up to an additional 15% of the Shares at the Issue Price, exercisable in whole or in part, at any time on or prior to the date that is 30 days following the closing of the Offering. If this option is exercised in full, an additional approximately $10,500,000 will be raised pursuant to the Offering and the aggregate proceeds of the Offering will be approximately $80,500,000. https://bit.ly/2SjuO0j

Amazon-backed Ecobee said in talks with Canaccord SPAC. Ecobee Inc., a home automation startup backed by the Amazon Alexa Fund, is in talks to go public through a merger with blank-check firm Canaccord Genuity Growth II Corp., according to people with knowledge of the matter. A transaction is set to value the combined company at about $490 million, including debt, said one of the people. The Canaccord special purpose acquisition company has discussed raising about $50 million in new equity to support the deal, though terms could still change, the person added. As with all deals that haven’t been finalized, talks could fall apart. Toronto-based Ecobee also makes home security products including smart cameras and sensors, as well as air filters. The company in 2018 said it had raised more than C$200 million ($150 million) from investors including Energy Impact Partners, Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, Australia’s AGL Energy Ltd. and Business Development Bank of Canada. Other investors include Thomvest Ventures Inc., which invests on behalf of billionaire Peter J. Thomson, and Toronto-based Relay Ventures. https://bloom.bg/34qdlZx

Dye & Durham Limited (DND-TSX) announces new credit facility. The company entered into a new credit agreement that provides for a $140.0 million revolving term loan facility with an additional uncommitted accordion of up to $25.0 million, for an aggregate total availability of up to $165.0 million. The new Credit Agreement will provide a line of credit on a sliding-scale-based interest rate, relative to the company’s net-funded-debt-to-EBITDA ratio. The interest rate is expected to be approximately 3.0% versus the company’s prior term loan facility, which carried an interest rate of 8.5%  on June 30, 2020. The maturity date for the Credit Agreement is September 25, 2022. https://bit.ly/3kYBAVD

Properly receives $100 million in financing to fuel tech-enabled home buying process. The $100 million credit facility came from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and i80 Group, the latter of which is a “specialty finance firm” that provides capital to FinTech and Proptech companies. The financing follows the initial launch of Properly’s home buying service in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Ottawa, in August. Properly is a tech-enabled realty brokerage that allows people to buy a new home using their current home’s equity, before having to list the original home on the market. Anshul Ruparell, co-founder and CEO of Properly, told BetaKit that since launching last month, Properly has seen strong interest in its offering. He stated that thousands of homeowners in Toronto alone have started working with Properly, many of which have already bought and sold homes. It was this influx in interest, the CEO stated, that prompted Properly’s need to secure the $100 million credit facility. The financing will be used to help Properly purchase homes from its customers. The $100 million comes in the form of a warehouse facility, which are loans typically provided to mortgage lenders, allowing the borrower to access the capital anytime it is needed to purchase a property.  https://bit.ly/2G3av4R

Busbud raises $15 million Series C for worldwide expansion of intercity bus travel marketplace amid COVID-19 pandemic. Busbud , the online marketplace that enables global travelers to shop for and book intercity bus tickets on over 2.3 million bus routes worldwide, today announced the close of a $15 million Series C equity funding. This latest round brings total fundraising to date to $40 million. The Series C funds will be used to fuel technology development, further grow the team and accelerate geographic expansion. The equity round is led by the Canadian Business Growth Fund (CBGF) and Investissement Québec (IQ). New investors also include Export Development Canada (EDC), BDC Capital and Singapore-based K3 Ventures, along with current investors Inovia, Plaza Ventures, and Claridge increasing their investment. https://bit.ly/3kXuxMR

Vancouver’s Appnovation raises $11.6 million in Series B financing. Appnovation, a Vancouver-based software startup that develops applications focused on user experience for businesses, has raised $11.6 million CAD in Series B equity financing. The round was raised from previous investors, the Canadian Business Growth Fund (CBGF) and United Kingdom-based Business Growth Fund (BGF), and new investor Export Development Canada (EDC) through its investment matching program. https://bit.ly/2G62EmZ

Canada’s Global News featured Kontrol Energy’s (KNR-CSE, KNRLF-OTCQB, Sophic Client) COVID-19 detector – BioCloud.  Canadian technology claims to detect coronavirus in air. Ontario-based Kontrol Energy Corp. claims to have made a game-changing device that can detect COVID-19 particles in the air. Jeff Semple explains how the device works, and how it could be used. https://bit.ly/3l2U07x

Amazon announces plans to create 3,500 jobs at Vancouver and Toronto tech hubs. New corporate and technology jobs to be created in coming years will support business teams across the company, including AWS, Alexa, Amazon Advertising, and Retail and Operations Technology. More than 800 tech and corporate roles are currently open at Amazon in Canada. Amazon now has more than 21,000 full- and part-time employees across Canada. Three thousand of the new jobs will be in Vancouver, where Amazon will expand its footprint at The Post by more than 680,000 square feet. The company will lease 18 floors in the building’s North Tower and 17 floors in its South Tower, as the sole corporate tenant. https://bit.ly/339LvkX

Walmart Canada more than triples its order of Tesla Semis to 130 electric trucks. Walmart Canada announced Tuesday that it had more than tripled its reservations of the electric 18-wheelers, upping its total number of Semi orders to 130. Walmart Canada reserved 10 Semi trucks following Tesla’s reveal of the new truck back in November 2017, and ordered 30 more the following year. “Tripling our reservation of Tesla Semi trucks is part of our ongoing effort to innovate the business and prioritize sustainability,” said John Bayliss, senior vice president of logistics and supply chain at Walmart Canada. The electric Tesla Semis will reduce Walmart Canada’s operating costs while improving the sustainability of its fleet, the company said. Walmart Canada also cited the Semi’s safety features — including emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and lane-departure warning — as reasons for making the switch. The new order comes as part of Walmart Canada’s plan to convert 20% of its fleet to electric by 2022, and to run its entire fleet on alternative power by 2028. The company’s parent organization, Walmart Inc., aims to reduce its global carbon emissions to zero by 2040, and announced plans last week to “protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030.” https://bit.ly/36lx1Rc

D-Wave’s 5,000-qubit quantum computing platform handles 1 million variables. D-Wave launched its next-generation quantum computing platform available via its Leap quantum cloud service. The company calls Advantage “the first quantum computer built for business.” In that vein, D-Wave today also debuted Launch, a jump-start program for businesses that want to begin building hybrid quantum applications. “The Advantage quantum computer is the first quantum computer designed and developed from the ground up to support business applications,” D-Wave CEO Alan Baratz told VentureBeat. “We engineered it to be able to deal with large, complex commercial applications and to be able to support the running of those applications in production environments. There is no other quantum computer anywhere in the world that can solve problems at the scale and complexity that this quantum computer can solve problems. It really is the only one that you can run real business applications on. The other quantum computers are primarily prototypes. You can do experimentation, run small proofs of concept, but none of them can support applications at the scale that we can.” Based in Burnaby, Canada, D-Wave was the first company to sell commercial quantum computers, which are built to use quantum annealing. But D-Wave doesn’t sell quantum computers anymore. Advantage and its over 5,000 qubits (up from 2,000 in the company’s 2000Q system) are only available via the cloud. (That means through Leap or a partner like Amazon Braket.) https://bit.ly/2SbOFOT

SEC wins historic lawsuit against Kik over $100 million ICO. US District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein today granted the US Securities and Exchange Commission its motion for summary judgement against Kik Interactive, which the SEC alleged offered Kin digital tokens in violation of the federal Securities Act. The ruling comes more than six months after both sides filed motions for summary judgment, seeking to bring the court case to an end without trial. Now, the historic civil case is one step closer to its inevitable conclusion: penalties. Kik is a Canadian company with a messenger app of the same name. It saw creating its own cryptocurrency, Kin, as a way of monetizing app usage. Kik sold $50 million in Kin tokens from June to September of 2017 as part of a private pre-sale to 50 investors. As part of this “Simple Agreement for Future Tokens,” or SAFT, investors understood they were getting in at a discount. They explicitly agreed that they were buying a security. Later in September, Kik held a public sale of the token, during which it brought in an additional $49.2 million. https://bit.ly/33loZpe 

Apple sues Ontario electronics recycling firm, claiming it stole nearly 100,000 products for resale.  Apple is suing electronics recycling firm GEEP Canada for allegedly stealing and reselling nearly 100,000 iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches it was supposed to destroy. The tech giant claims that the resales damaged demand for new Apple products, created safety issues for consumers and hurt its brand by keeping products intended to be destroyed on the market. Barrie, Ont.-based GEEP has denied all wrongdoing and filed a third-party suit claiming that three of its employees engaged in the theft without its knowledge. https://bit.ly/2SrG0rC

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

Airbnb aims to raise roughly US$3 billion in IPO. Home rental company Airbnb Inc is aiming to raise around US$3 billion in its upcoming initial public offering (IPO), people familiar with the matter said on Friday, taking advantage of the unexpectedly sharp recovery in its business after the COVID-19 pandemic roiled the travel industry. Airbnb said in August it had filed confidentially for an IPO with U.S. regulators. The company’s current plan is to make its filing publicly available in November after the U.S presidential election and is targeting an IPO some time in December, the sources said, requesting anonymity as the plans are private. The company could achieve a valuation of more than US$30 billion in the IPO, the sources added, again cautioning this was subject to market conditions. This would be substantially higher than the US$18 billion Airbnb was valued at in April when it raised US$2 billion in debt from investors. Airbnb’s most recent independent appraisal of the fair market value of its stock pegged its worth at around US$21 billion. https://reut.rs/36senal

U.S. gaming platform Roblox prepares to go public. Roblox is working with investment banks to prepare for a U.S. stock market listing that could come early next year and which the online gaming platform expects could double its recent $4 billion valuation, people familiar with the matter said. U.S. consumer spending on video gaming hit a record US$11.6 billion in the second quarter, up 30% on the year-ago period, according to research firm NPD Group. Roblox is weighing whether to go public through a traditional initial public offering or a direct listing, the sources said, cautioning that the plans are subject to market conditions. For San Mateo, California-based Roblox, which was founded in 2004, the listing would come after it raised US$150 million in February at a US$4 billion valuation in a Series G funding round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. At the time of the fundraising announcement, Roblox said it had reached more than 115 million monthly active users and more than 1.5 billion hours of monthly engagement. https://cnb.cx/2HR8gSE

Cloud backup firm Datto files for IPO. Datto, the data management software company best known as the provider that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used to back up her emails, has filed to go public, after reportedly filing confidentially to do so in July. Founded in 2007 and owned by Vista Equity Partners, Datto reported revenue of US$458.8 million for its fiscal 2019 ended Dec. 31, up 18% from the previous year, along with a net loss of US$31.2 million. In the first six months of this year, Datto’s revenue was US$249.1 million, up 16% from the same period last year, along with a profit of US$10.1 million. Datto’s “net dollar retention” rate–which measures a company’s ability to keep customers and get them to increase their spending over time–was 119% in its fiscal 2019 and 115% in the first six months of this year. (Net retention rates of 120% and above are considered top-tier). https://bit.ly/2GpQPYy

Chip maker Kioxia postpones US$3.2 billion IPO amid U.S.-China tensions. Kioxia Holdings, the world’s second-biggest maker of memory chips partially owned by Japan’s Toshiba, said it will postpone its initial public offering that was expected to raise as much as US$3.2 billion. The company, which had planned to list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Oct. 6, cited recent stock market conditions and concerns about the coronavirus pandemic as factors behind its decision. But the Financial Times and other news outlets reported that the escalating tensions between the U.S. and China have prompted Kioxia and its shareholders to reconsider the company’s IPO plans. China accounts for 20% of Kioxia’s revenue, and Chinese smartphone maker Huawei is one of its clients. Last Friday, the U.S. added Chinese contract chip manufacturer Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation to its trade blacklist. Kioxia’s listing could have been Japan’s biggest IPO this year. Kioxia, formerly known as Toshiba Memory, is majority owned by a consortium led by Bain Capital, which acquired the business in a 2018 deal. Toshiba now owns a 40% stake. https://bit.ly/3jaw0yT

K-Pop sensation BTS’s agency prices Its IPO at high end of range. Big Hit Entertainment, the management company behind the world’s best-known boy group, will raise about 962.6 billion won ($820 million) from its initial public offering after pricing shares at the top end of their range, reflecting the continuing popularity of BTS. Big Hit priced shares at 135,000 won after setting an initial range of 105,000 to 135,000. Institutional investors oversubscribed by more than 1,000 times the shares allocated to them. https://bloom.bg/30jhwoR

Caesars Entertainment buys bookmaker William Hill for US$3.7 billion. Caesars Entertainment said Wednesday it is buying the British bookmaker William Hill for US$3.7 billion in a deal aimed at binding its casinos ever closer to the fast-growing legal sports betting industry in the U.S. Caesars said it is interested in the the company’s U.S. assets, and indicated it would seek to sell off William Hill’s assets in the United Kingdom and other countries. The private equity firm Apollo Global Management Inc. had also been interested in acquiring William Hill; it remains to be seen if the firm would be a potential purchaser for some of its European assets. Even before the sale was announced, the two companies had been drawing closer, agreeing on a joint venture in which Caesars owns 20% of William Hill’s U.S. business in return for the right to offer sports betting at the more than 50 casinos Caesars runs in the U.S. New Jersey gamblers set a nationwide record for the most money bet on sports in a single month, plunking down almost US$668 million in August on events including resurgent baseball, basketball and hockey seasons that had been interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. https://bit.ly/2GryJ8q

Tencent to take China’s Sogou private in US$3.5 billion deal. Sogou Inc said on Tuesday shareholder Tencent Holdings Ltd would take the web search firm private in a US$3.5 billion deal, making it the latest Chinese company to exit U.S. markets as tensions mount between the world’s two largest economies.The move comes a day after Chinese social network Weibo’s owner Sina Corp said it would be taken private in a US$2.6 billion deal. Rival e-commerce firms Alibaba and JD.com have also sought to return to equity markets closer home by making secondary listings in Hong Kong. https://reut.rs/36izzPZ

China preparing an antitrust investigation into Google. China is preparing to launch an antitrust probe into Alphabet Inc’s Google, looking into allegations it has leveraged the dominance of its Android mobile operating system to stifle competition, two people familiar with the matter said. The case was proposed by telecommunications equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd last year and has been submitted by the country’s top market regulator to the State Council’s antitrust committee for review, they added. A decision on whether to proceed with a formal investigation may come as soon as October and could be affected by the state of China’s relationship with the United States, one of the people said. The potential investigation follows a raft of actions by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to hobble Chinese tech companies, citing national security risks. https://reut.rs/33kNBi2

Shares in Chinese chip maker SMIC drop on U.S. sanctions. Shares in Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, China’s biggest contract chip manufacturer, fell sharply Monday after the U.S. government added the company to a trade blacklist. The decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce, announced late Friday, restricted SMIC’s access to U.S. equipment and software on national security grounds. SMIC’s biggest clients are Chinese companies such as HiSilicon, a chip development subsidiary of Huawei. SMIC’s stock, listed in Hong Kong, briefly fell more than 7%. The U.S. government’s latest move could further escalate the tensions between Washington and Beijing. The U.S. already has imposed export restrictions on Huawei, and President Donald Trump also is pressuring Chinese internet company ByteDance to turn its TikTok video app into a U.S.-controlled joint venture. https://bit.ly/2Ge59Dp

Tesla seeks to buy stake in South Korean battery supplier LG Chem. Tesla is seeking a stake in the soon-to-be spun off battery unit of South Korea’s LG Chem, The Korea Times reported. Tesla is looking at taking up to a 10% stake in the new spinoff, called LG Energy Solution, as it seeks to lock in key supplies. Tesla operates its Gigafactory in Nevada with Panasonic, the Japanese elecrtronics conglomerate, for batteries in the U.S. In China, it has partnered with Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., known as CATL, and LG Chem for batteries. https://bit.ly/36kbMiu

A US trading firm reportedly owns 15% of TikTok-owner ByteDance, a stake potentially worth more than US$15 billion. US trading firm Susquehanna quietly owns 15% of TikTok parent firm ByteDance, according to the Wall Street Journal, a stake potentially worth billions. Susquehanna’s stake may be worth as much as US$15 billion, according to PitchBook data cited by the Journal. This reportedly makes Susquehanna the biggest external investor in the Chinese social-media company. The firm is a giant in options trading, and is based just outside Philadelphia. PitchBook’s data also reportedly indicated Susquehanna joined a US$5 million investing round in ByteDance in 2012, the year the Chinese firm was founded. It separately invested in Musical.ly, the short-form video app that was purchased by ByteDance in 2017 in a deal valued at US$1 billion and which later merged into TikTok. TikTok now has nearly 690 million monthly active users across the world, with 100 million of these users located in the US. https://bit.ly/3iq3vMe 

App Store revenue grew 31% last quarter, helped by coronavirus. Apple’s App Store revenue grew 31% year-on-year in Q3, climbing from US$14.5 billion last year to US$19 billion this year, according to Sensor Tower analytics data. Google Play revenue grew even faster, with 33.8% growth, but still only managed a little over half of Apple’s numbers at US$10.3 billion. Sensor Tower says that consumers stuck at home due to the coronavirus boosted demand for entertainment apps. Mobile game spending had previously surged in the second quarter as consumers around the globe sheltered in place and sought out more entertainment options. The third quarter also saw significant growth for the category, climbing 26.7 percent Y/Y to reach US$20.9 billion in worldwide consumer spending on the App Store and Google Play. More than half of this revenue came from users on the App Store, which generated $12.4 billion from in-game spending, up 24 percent Y/Y from 3Q19. Games on Google’s platform generated US$8.5 billion in gross revenue, reflecting 30.8 percent Y/Y growth. https://bit.ly/2GjuYSX

Emerging Technologies

FedEx teams up with Reliable Robotics on autonomous cargo planes. FedEx is working with Reliable Robotics to pilot the use of an unmanned single-engine aircraft for cargo delivery, CEO Fred Smith said during the annual stockholder meeting. “This initiative deals with smaller turboprop airplanes and in this case the single-engine C208, which we are looking at putting in very remote and uninhabited areas as part of our network,” Smith said. The company does not have plans to replace its current aircraft fleet with autonomous alternatives, he said, adding that the crews should not be worried about the technology “for the foreseeable future — decades, I would say.” https://bit.ly/30elyPo

Scientists create a microscopic robot that ‘walks’.  Scientists at Cornell University have created a tiny micro-robot that “walks” using four legs. Invisible to the naked eye, 10 of the computer chip bots could fit within the full stop at the end of this sentence. Their legs can be independently triggered to bend using laser light. By toggling the laser back and forth between the front and back legs, the robot walks. https://bbc.in/348Q1zt

Compact nuclear fusion reactor is ‘very likely to work,’ studies suggest. A series of research papers renews hope that the long-elusive goal of mimicking the way the sun produces energy might be achievable. https://nyti.ms/3kWBEFl

Google is working on tattoos that turn your body into a touchpad. Undeterred by its historic Google Glass flop, Google is still investing heavily in various oddball forms of wearable technology. Recent projects, according to CNET, include new mixed reality glasses, virtual reality controllers that let you feel the weight of virtual objects, and new smartwatches. But perhaps the most unusual is a high-tech temporary tattoo that basically turns your flesh into a giant touchpad. https://bit.ly/36ygfOy

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

The European Esports Audience will grow to 92 million by the end this year—up +7.4% from 2019. Esports Enthusiasts—people who watch more than once a month—will account for 33 million this audience, while Occasional Viewers (those who watch less than once a month) make up 59 million. This strong engagement is also reflected in the market’s revenues. In terms of global revenues, esports is continuing up its trajectory of explosive growth, generating $973.9 million by the end of the year—a number that will skyrocket to $1.6 billion by 2023. European esports revenues are on a similar growth trajectory. https://bit.ly/3n5wclj

Amazon starts offering virtual classes and sightseeing tours via new Explore platform. Amazon has launched Explore, a new platform which it promises will let you “explore anything from lessons to landmarks.” It works via a video stream, with tour guides, instructors, and personal shoppers providing one-on-one sessions. Amazon says the video is one-way, meaning only the host is on camera during the virtual experience, but the audio is two-way so you can ask questions and make requests. Amazon is just the latest company to start offering virtual events this year, as people have had to cut down on trips and other in-person activities. Earlier this year, Airbnb launched its own virtual travel experiences, and fitness company ClassPass has shifted to offering online classes. Apple was initially criticized for taking a 30 percent cut of these virtual purchases, The New York Times reports, but last week said it would temporarily stop taking its cut on virtual purchases from Airbnb, ClassPass, and Facebook’s online events feature. Amazon’s Explore product pages note that customers are able to browse and purchase experiences on mobile phones and tablets, though it’s unclear whether these will be subject to Apple’s 30 percent commission. https://bit.ly/3ioVfwl

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

Cloudflare’s privacy crusade continues with a challenge to one of Google’s big data sources. The cybersecurity and content-distribution company Cloudflare has become a major part of the Internet’s infrastructure, so here’s a move that might cause concern at Alphabet HQ: Cloudflare is launching a privacy-friendly rival to Google Analytics. https://bit.ly/33eSUzn

Judge expects Epic vs. Apple trial in July 2021, says Epic was ‘not honest’ with its tactics. As the legal battle between Epic Games and Apple continues, both companies participated in a preliminary hearing today to discuss the removal of Fortnite from the App Store. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California doesn’t expect the trial to take place prior to July 2021, and she also criticized Epic’s tactics claiming they were “not honest.” During today’s hearing, Judge Rogers argued that the case should be tried by a jury and she gave us an idea of what to expect from this trial, which doesn’t seem as favorable to Epic Games as you might think. Epic tried to get a preliminary injunction against Apple so that Fortnite could return to the App Store while waiting for the final decision in the case, but this seems unlikely. Rogers accused Epic of knowing exactly what they were doing when they launched the Fortnite update and the public campaign against Apple, claiming that “it’s still not honest” even under the circumstances. https://bit.ly/3l1DC7r


Google Shopping now free globally. In April 2020, Google opened up Google Shopping to free listings for all U.S. merchants, starting with the Google Shopping tab and then expanding to the main search results section. Google announced on Wednesday that it is expanding Google Shopping listings for free globally. Why we care. As we said in our original story, opening up this feature to all merchants will enhance Google’s offering and its appeal to both sellers and consumers. And as on Amazon, merchants that want to ensure prominent visibility in the search results, due to increased competition with more products eligible to show, will continue to pay for ads. For e-commerce marketers and SEOs, the move adds a new layer to organic product search optimization efforts. https://bit.ly/2GrUGUS

Amazon launches a US$4.99-per-month ‘personal shopper’ service for men’s fashion. Amazon is introducing a personal shopping service for men’s fashion. The service, now available to Prime members, is an expansion of the existing Personal Shopper by Prime Wardrobe, a US$4.99 per month Stitch Fix rival, originally aimed at women. With Personal Shopper by Prime Wardrobe, an Amazon stylist selects an assortment of fashion items that match a customer’s style and fit preferences. These are then shipped to the customer on a monthly basis for home try-on. Whatever the customer doesn’t want to keep can be returned using the resealable package and the prepaid shipping label provided. At launch, the new men’s personal shopping service will include brands like Scotch & Soda, Original Penguin, Adidas, Lacoste, Carhartt, Levi’s, Amazon Essentials, Goodthreads and more — a mix of both Amazon’s own in-house brands and others. In total, Amazon says Personal Shopper by Prime Wardrobe will offer hundreds of thousands of men’s styles across more than a thousand different brands. The service itself is similar in many ways to Stitch Fix, as it also starts customers with a style quiz to personalize their monthly fashion selections. Also like competitive fashion subscription services, customers can reach out to their stylist with specific requests — like if they need a professional outfit for a job interview, for example, or some other occasion where they may want something outside their usual interests. But unlike Stitch Fix, which charges a US$20 “stylist fee” which is later credited toward any items you choose to keep, Amazon’s personal shopping service is a flat US$4.99 per month. Another difference is that the Personal Shopper service will alert you ahead of your shipment to review their picks. You then choose the up to eight items you want to receive, instead of waiting for the surprise of opening your box. https://tcrn.ch/3ie7GL5

Amazon will now let you pay with your palm in its stores. Amazon wants shoppers at its stores — and those of other retailers — to pay by palm with Amazon One. Amazon accounts for nearly 40 percent of e-commerce sales in the US today, and it takes a cut of even more online shopping by selling payments services and other technologies to external shopping sites. Now, the online retail giant is making a play to grab a piece of brick-and-mortar shopping, too — and it wants customers to literally lend a hand to do it. Amazon’s plan to license these two homegrown technologies to other retailers, whether competitor or not, is the real story: Amazon isn’t satisfied with e-commerce dominance, and wants to earn a cut of more transactions in the physical retail world, too, where 80-something percent of commerce still takes place in the US. So it’s building out a futuristic suite of services to court other retailers, while showcasing the technology in its own stores as case studies. One obvious question is whether retailers, many of which consider Amazon a competitor of one sort or another, will want to do business with the tech giant. https://bit.ly/3kQAivE

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

Square launches QR codes that let you order from your table at a restaurant. Square is giving restaurants another way to operate through the pandemic: QR codes that customers can scan to pull up a menu, order, and pay. It’s not a unique feature by any means — other restaurant point-of-sale systems already offer this feature, and a lot of restaurants have been offering makeshift versions of this for months. However, it’s still a notable addition from one of the most popular and accessible checkout providers. When using the feature, a restaurant can print a QR code out and leave it on a table. A customer would then scan the QR code, browse a menu, place their order, and pay from their phone. The restaurant would know what table placed the order, and then bring their food out when it’s ready. https://bit.ly/3jhLXmP

Google plans to shut the loophole that lets Netflix, Spotify, and Tinder avoid paying its 30% app tax. Google said it will clamp down on a loophole that allows big developers like Netflix and Spotify avoid paying 30% commission on in-app payments. Until now, developers have been able to side-step the 30% commission that comes with using Google’s in-app payment system by getting users to enter their card details directly. Google’s vice president for product management, Sameer Samat, wrote in a blog post on Monday that the company was giving “clarity” on its billing policies. Samat wrote that “all apps selling digital goods” will have until September 30, 2021 to move to Google’s billing system. The upshot is that apps that sell you subscriptions, digital media, or virtual items will have to shift to this system and pay Google’s 30% levy, and it may mean an accompanying rise in prices. https://bit.ly/3l03HDA

BitMEX executives including CEO face criminal charges. U.S. authorities charged the chief executive and three other executives of BitMEX, one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, with violating anti-money-laundering laws, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday. Federal prosecutors said the four executives effectively allowed the exchange to be used for money-laundering, having failed to maintain “even basic anti-money laundering policies.” The charges are some of the most high-profile to date in the crypto industry, as regulators have struggled to keep tabs on the young and fast-growing sector. CEO Arthur Hayes is a prominent figure in the crypto industry who often advocates for crypto trading on Twitter. A graduate of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Hayes launched BitMEX from Hong Kong in 2015 after working as a derivatives trader there. Authorities said Hayes and two other indicted BitMEX executives remained at large Thursday. CTO Samuel Reed was arrested in Massachusetts. https://bit.ly/33l6yRE

Winklevoss Twins’ crypto exchange is expanding into the U.K. Cryptocurrency exchange Gemini Trust Company LLC is expanding into the U.K. after being granted an electronic-money license from the Financial Conduct Authority. The New York-based firm was founded by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, who after claiming Mark Zuckerberg took their idea for a social-networking website to start Facebook Inc., moved on to become entrepreneurs in the digital-asset industry. Gemini will now let U.K. consumers buy products with Bitcoin using regular debit cards as a funding source. Investors in cryptocurrency will similarly be able to fund digital wallets via bank payments such as CHAPS, without incurring foreign exchange fees. https://bloom.bg/2EEh7pq

Jack Dorsey says Bitcoin and blockchain will shape Twitter’s future where ‘content exists forever’. Bitcoin and blockchain will shape Twitter’s future through a decentralized internet standard, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said at the Oslo Freedom Forum 2020 last week. BlueSky, a designated team tasked with developing the standard, will hire about five people to build a protocol enabling Twitter’s transition to a decentralized platform. Dorsey’s renewed motivation towards a “trusted system in a distrusted environment” comes after July’s massive security breach in which hackers took over dozens of high-profile Twitter accounts. “I fundamentally believe that security is something that can never be perfected,” he said. “It’s a constant race. It’s a constant push to be ten steps ahead of hackers.” https://bit.ly/3ib1vaI


Nvidia, VMware join forces for data center business. VMware and Nvidia unveiled a partnership that aims to make the former’s data center computing software work better with the latter’s artificial intelligence chips. The deal makes sense for Nvidia, which entered the market for data center chips with its US$6.9 billion acquisition of Mellanox in April, because VMware’s software is used by most of the world’s largest companies and many of them still operate private data centers. For VMware, the Nvidia agreement represents a stake in the ground for a potentially huge source of future business, as most large companies are still testing the waters on AI projects but are expected to increase their spending over time. On another level, the agreement reflects VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger’s strategy of forming strategic partnerships with companies at the forefront of major technology shifts. VMware’s 2016 agreement with Amazon Web Services–a former bitter rival–has turned into a solid revenue stream for both companies, as we’ve reported. https://bit.ly/3n6hVoo


Tesla is nixing one of the most controversial metals from some Model 3 battery production, report says. Tesla Model 3 sedans currently made at the automaker’s plant in China use nickel-manganese-cobalt — or NMC — batteries. But Tesla will soon make some cars with cheaper, cobalt-free batteries. Two unnamed sources told Reuters that Tesla will start making some Model 3s in China with lithium-iron phosphate — or LFP — batteries that contain no cobalt. Elon Musk has tweeted his intent to reduce the reliance on cobalt in Tesla’s batteries and said that the next generation of batteries “will use none.” https://bit.ly/3l52MCc

Sophic Capital Client Insights

Global News featured Kontrol Energy’s (KNR-CSE, KNRLF-OTCQB) COVID-19 detector – BioCloud. Watch Global’s feature here: https://bit.ly/3iod1ja


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