It’s great to see Nuvei have a successful IPO on the TSX last week — we believe robust IPOs are a very important part of the Canadian public markets ecosystem, even as US capital markets rediscover SPACs. Canadian VC also reported strong activity.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Nuvei’s (NVEI-TSX) red-hot IPO marks Canada’s largest tech offering. Payments company Nuvei Corp. jumped 31% in its trading debut on Thursday, riding the wave of demand for technology shares that has swept the globe in recent months. Montreal-based Nuvei, which supplies payment technology to the retail, travel, gaming and other sectors, is among a cluster of firms benefiting from the shift to e-commerce during pandemic lockdowns. The deal raised $700 million, making it the biggest tech offering in the history of the Toronto Stock Exchange, the exchange said in a statement. Information technology stocks are up 80% from their March 16 low on Canada’s largest exchange, compared to a 57% gain in the S&P 500 information tech index. Nuvei’s listing follows Dye & Durham Ltd.’s July offering, which raised $172.5 million (US$131 million). Another Montreal company in the merchant software business, Lightspeed POS Inc., raised $276 million in an IPO last year.

Shopify (Shopify-TSX, Shopify-NYSE) completes offerings of Class A subordinate voting shares and convertible senior notes, including full exercise of over-allotment option for convertible senior notes. The company completed its previously announced public offering of 1,100,000 Class A subordinate voting shares at a price to the public of US$900 per share and its previously announced public offering of US$920,000,000 aggregate principal amount of convertible senior notes due 2025, which includes the full exercise of the over-allotment option of US$120,000,000 aggregate principal amount of the Notes.

AppDirect closes US$185 million led by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. AppDirect, a San Francisco-headquartered startup founded by two Canadians, has raised US$185 million in funding, bringing the company’s total funding to date to approximately US$465 million. The financing was led by new investor the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, with participation from previous investors Inovia Capital, JPMorgan Chase, and Mithril Capital. AppDirect said the new funds will go toward the company’s “organic expansion,” acquisitions, and new hires. AppDirect’s last financing was a US$140 million round in 2015. According to The Globe and Mail, AppDirect will hire 150 new team members in its Montreal office, which opened in 2014, making it the company’s largest office by headcount.

Shoppers Drug Mart to expand Canadians’ access to virtual care through $75 million investment in Maple. Prior to the Transaction, Shoppers Drug Mart worked closely with Maple on two strategic initiatives that gave the Company an opportunity to more deeply understand Maple’s service offering.  Maple virtual care is currently available in more than 160 Shoppers Drug Mart locations in British Columbia. Additionally, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the two companies worked together to make virtual care more accessible for Canadians. In less than a month, this initiative enabled nearly 20,000 virtual care visits, during a time when Canadians were asked to stay home and stay safe. In addition to these initiatives, Maple’s strong history of implementing custom telehealth solutions for governments, hospitals, employers, and insurers made the investment in Maple an attractive choice.

ApplyBoard secures $70 million, pens deal to expand EdTech platform’s capabilities. ApplyBoard, which runs a recruitment platform helping international students apply to education abroad, has secured $70 million in a Series C extension and a new strategic partnership that extends the company’s capabilities. Remote learning and travel restrictions are some of the reasons ApplyBoard has seen “huge acceleration.” The $70 million all-equity extension came from non-profit education testing company Education Testing Services (ETS), Index Ventures, Blue Cloud Ventures, Harmonic Growth Partners, and other undisclosed investors. The majority of the financing was primary, with a minor secondary portion for ApplyBoard employees. In addition to the investment, ETS and ApplyBoard have penned a deal that will allow the two companies to create a more seamless application experience for international students that require language testing. ApplyBoard raised the significant extension five months after initially closing its $100 million Series C, a round that brought the Kitchener-Waterloo startup’s valuation to $2 billion. The latest capital brings ApplyBoard’s Series C to $170 million and total funding to date to $242 million.

Employee wellness startup LifeSpeak raises $42 million in first round of institutional financing. Kensington Partners and Roynat Capital also participated in the investment. Sanjiv Samant, founder and managing partner of the Round13 Growth Fund, told BetaKit LifeSpeak will use the new capital to build out its sales and marketing team and grow the company. LifeSpeak was founded in 2004 and targets its solution across 25 industries, ranging from financial institutions and telecommunications to governments and school boards. Until now, the startup has been funded by its co-founders, some senior executives, and a small number of individual and angel investors. LifeSpeak’s platform offers more than 2,000 video training sessions, podcasts, tip sheets, and other content that covers topics such as preventative health and mental health. LifeSpeak’s hope is to be both a proactive and reactive solution to well-being and training needs.

Virtual care software startup OnCall Health raises $7.9 million Series A. Toronto-based startup OnCall Health, which provides virtual care software to healthcare providers, has raised a $7.9 million Series A round, bringing the company’s total funding to date to over $10.5 million. Base10 Partners led the round, and OnCall Health’s existing investors, Ripple Ventures, Panache Ventures, and Stout Street Capital participated. OnCall Health will use the new funding to expand its customers across North America, build out its available integrations and developer tools, and grow its partnerships with payers and software vendors. Founded in 2016, OnCall enables healthcare enterprises to rapidly launch their own virtual care platform that is highly configurable to their brand and workflow. The startup also offers a real-time virtual care analytics dashboard, automated patient triage, self-scheduling, payment processing, insurance billing, and online prescriptions. Since being launched, OnCall Health raised a $2 million seed round, and its team has grown to just over 30 full-time employees. The startup claims it currently supports over 600 healthcare organizations and more than 7,000 primary care, mental health, and paramedical service providers in North America.

EdTech startup Edsby raises $5.3 million Series A. Edsby, a Toronto-based EdTech startup that offers a digital learning and data platform for K-12 education, has closed $5.3 million in Series A financing. The investment was led by education technology executive Chris Besse, with participation from existing investors MindAngler Capital, Byye Management, and XDL Capital Group. Edsby will use the funding to scale sales and marketing, as well as accelerate its global growth.

Shopify announces initial US$5 million in investments through sustainability fund. One year after the launch of the Shopify Sustainability Fund, the e-commerce giant has announced US$5 million in investments into 11 cleantech companies focused on reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. “In order for us all to thrive, including our merchants … we need to make a low carbon future reality.” Of the 11 total carbon capture companies that received an investment from the Shopify fund, three are Canadian cleantech startups. Shopify refused to disclose how much of the US$5 million each individual company received, citing the desire to maintain a competitive advantage across the companies, which operate in very similar areas.

Baby goods marketplace Rebelstork raises $2 million seed round. Toronto-based e-commerce startup Rebelstork, which has developed an online marketplace for buying and selling baby gear, has closed a $2 million seed round. This represents the first round of funding for the startup. “There’s a $2.1 billion market for used baby goods in Canada, and no one’s really monetizing it.” https://bit.ly/32J9wiF


Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

Tech veterans Hoffman and Pincus join hunt for SPAC targets. LinkedIn Corp. co-founder Reid Hoffman and Zynga Inc. founder Mark Pincus are looking to set themselves apart from the ultra-wealthy who have started special purpose acquisition companies. For their SPAC, which began trading Thursday after raising US$600 million, the high-profile pair want to draw upon their experience building companies and taking them public without losing a “growth mindset,” they said in an joint interview. Despite their track records and reputations in Silicon Valley, Hoffman and Pincus are entering a crowded space where potential targets are being acquired quickly by SPACs, also known as blank-check companies. This year, 102 SPACs have raised more than US$39 billion in initial public offerings on U.S. exchanges, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s more than half the total raised by SPACs in all previous years, the data show. Billionaire investor Bill Ackman, whose US$4 billion SPAC that went public in July is the largest ever, has already spoken to Airbnb and Stripe Inc. Deals for venture-backed companies are being announced weekly.

Sequoia Capital considered forming SPAC, says partner. Sequoia Capital has considered forming a special-purpose acquisition company amid record hype for these “blank check” IPOs across Silicon Valley. One of the top global venture capital firms, Sequoia forming a SPAC could inspire a wave of venture firms to join the 2020 SPAC frenzy. At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference on Tuesday, Sequoia partner Roelof Botha, who leads the firm’s core U.S. business, said he’s thought about forming a SPAC but acknowledged doing so might be too complex for a VC firm. “When you establish a SPAC, you can’t have a specific target in mind,” he explained. “[Sequoia] couldn’t start a SPAC to acquire our own company.” Botha added that he loves “the fact that there’s innovation” in the IPO market but “it’s not obvious to us that [a SPAC] fits with … our vision.” Sequoia wouldn’t be the first VC firm to form a SPAC, however. Fintech fund Ribbit Capital filed to raise US$350 million for its SPAC, Ribbit LEAP, in late.

Home buyer Opendoor is going public in US$4.8 billion merger. Opendoor, an online platform that lets homeowners quickly sell their houses, announced on Tuesday that it will go public through a merger with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings II, a shell company helmed by Chamath Palihapitiya, a venture capitalist and early Facebook executive. The deal values Opendoor at an enterprise value of US$4.8 billion, and will generate up to US$1 billion in cash proceeds, the company says. Palihapitiya himself is putting US$100 million into the business. Founded in 2014, Opendoor is the dominant player in the “iBuying” space, a term for start-ups that let homeowners rapidly sell their homes to the company, which then lists it on its platform—taking a cut from both sides of the transaction. Opendoor utilizes data analysis to determine its pricing, a central element of its business plan; if it overpays for a home upfront, it could take a loss. If it tries to underpay, sellers will look elsewhere. The firm’s valuation has soared in recent years—it was most recently pegged at US$3.8 billion in 2019—helped along by a US$400 million infusion from SoftBank in 2018. Opendoor generated US$4.7 billion in revenue last year on 18,000 home sales across 21 markets. Still, the company is operating at a substantial loss. In April, it laid off a third of its employees.

Walmart’s Flipkart eyes overseas listing as early as 2021. Walmart controlled Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart is preparing for an initial public offering overseas as early as 2021, which could value the firm up to US$50 billion, sources familiar with the company’s plans told Reuters. Bengaluru-based Flipkart, which vies with players such as Amazon.com’s local unit in India and India’s Reliance Industries, will be aiming for a valuation in the US$45-US$50 billion range, according to one source with knowledge of the matter. If achieved, that would mean Walmart would have more than doubled its investment. Flipkart is likely to choose between Singapore, or the United States for the initial public offering (IPO), said two other sources, who asked not to be named as discussions are private.

SoftBank Group executives consider taking company private. SoftBank Group’s executives have revived discussions about taking the Tokyo-listed company private, the Financial Times reported. The executives are considering buying out public shareholders in part because they are frustrated by the wide gap between the Japanese tech investment company’s own market capitalization and the value of its shareholdings, the FT reported. Going private could also allow SoftBank to make key decisions without coming under intense shareholder scrutiny. Still, it is unclear whether the discussions will result in a privatization deal. SoftBank has considered such a move in the past, but internal opposition prevented it from happening, according to the FT. The talks come as SoftBank is selling its assets to finance share buyback plans and reduce its debt. On Sunday, U.S. chip maker Nvidia said it has agreed to buy chip design firm Arm from SoftBank for up to US$40 billion. SoftBank’s shares jumped nearly 10% Monday due to the Arm sale.

Alibaba is in talks to invest US$3 billion in Grab. The Chinese e-commerce giant, a sole investor in the round, will spend a portion of the funds to acquire some of the Grab stock held by Uber Technologies Inc., one of the people said, asking not to be named as the discussions are private. The deal may represent one of Alibaba’s biggest bets on Southeast Asia since its first investment in Lazada in 2016. China’s largest corporation has previously had limited forays in ride-hailing but a potential tie-up with Grab gives it access to data on millions of users in eight countries, a growing delivery fleet as well as a stake in digital wallet and financial services. One specific plan under discussion is to integrate Grab’s delivery network into Lazada, giving the Singaporean startup access to a wider network of consumers, one of the people said. The funding — about a fifth of Grab’s last known valuation of $14 billion — comes amid growing questions over the company’s ability to live up to its lofty price tag as it grapples with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Chief Executive Officer Anthony Tan said the company is facing its “single biggest crisis,” while co-founder Tan Hooi Ling warned in May of a “long winter.” Existing investors have also been frustrated by what they see as value-destroying competition with Grab’s regional arch-rival Gojek.

Nvidia’s purchase of Arm creates an A.I. computing juggernaut. Jensen Huang, the chief executive officer of chipmaker Nvidia, has presented his decision to purchase semiconductor design firm Arm from Japan’s SoftBank as all about artificial intelligence. “A.I. is the most powerful technology force of our time,” Huang said in a press conference on Monday and that by purchasing Arm for US$40 billion, “together we will create the world’s premier computing company for the age of A.I.”

TikTok deal with Oracle wins Trump’s approval, delaying ban. U.S. authorities delayed a looming ban on new downloads of TikTok shortly after President Trump told reporters Saturday he had given a corporate restructuring deal with Oracle his “blessing.” The deal will see Oracle become TikTok’s cloud hosting provider and manage its data for U.S. users, both companies said. TikTok also will enter into a “commercial partnership” with Walmart, allowing the retailer and Oracle to buy up to a combined 20% stake in a “pre-IPO financing round” for a new entity called TikTok Global. Oracle said separately that it will buy a 12.5% stake in the new entity. The Department of Commerce said Saturday that it will delay a ban on new downloads of TikTok in the U.S. that was set to go into effect on September 20—presumably to give more time for the deal with Oracle and Walmart to be finalized. Another U.S. ban on new downloads of the Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat starting September 20 isn’t changed. In a statement to TikTok’s staff seen by The Information, the app’s interim head Vanessa Pappas said the company was pleased with Trump’s approval of its proposal that “settles questions around TikTok’s future in the U.S.” TikTok said the deal will create 25,000 U.S. jobs. The full ownership structure of the TikTok Global entity, including what will be owned by TikTok’s current parent company, the Beijing-based ByteDance, is unclear. Under the Commerce Department’s new ruling, TikTok now has until September 27 to complete a deal that resolves national security concerns or be booted from U.S. app stores. If a deal can’t be completed by November 12, TikTok will be forced to shut down in the U.S. completely.

Investments between U.S. and China fall to nine-year low. Investments between the U.S. and China in the first half of 2020 dropped to a nine-year low, according to a research report from consultancy Rhodium Group. The decline was due to escalating political tensions between the two nations as well as the global economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Rhodium said. Capital flows between the U.S. and China, including foreign direct investments and venture capital deals, fell to US$10.9 billion in the period, the lowest level since the second half of 2011, Rhodium said. U.S. venture capital investment in China fell to its lowest level in four years, while Chinese VC investment in the U.S. also dropped to a six-year low, according to the report. In recent years, the Trump administration has blocked some Chinese tech deals in the U.S. and stepped up its crackdown on major Chinese tech companies such as Huawei and ByteDance on national security grounds. “Unless Beijing demonstrates serious commitment to market reform and at least some political liberalization, the systematic concerns driving caution on Chinese investment in high technology, critical infrastructure and personal data assets will not subside,” Rhodium said. https://bit.ly/2EhFGbJ

Emerging Technologies

Telehealth transformation will still take years despite pandemic boom, says Amwell co-CEO.  Telehealth company Amwell made its public market debut Thursday after months of rapid growth because of the coronavirus pandemic. But co-CEO Ido Schoenberg told CNBC that the “enormous” digital transformation of health care remains a process that will take years. “This giant surge in visits may not be continuing into the same pace, and we fairly expect it to go down for a little bit,” Schoenberg said on “The Exchange.” “Our goal is not to count visits. … Our main performance indicator is the number of active providers on our platform.” https://cnb.cx/32IpMA

Alibaba unveils its own smart factory in China. Alibaba on Wednesday unveiled its own smart apparel factory that uses the internet giant’s manufacturing software as well as data on e-commerce sales and consumer preferences. The Xunxi Digital Factory, located in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou where Alibaba is based, is part of the company’s push to apply its technology to China’s old-fashioned manufacturing sector. If successful, the move could pave the way for a new business opportunity where Alibaba sells its technology services to many factory operators across China. Alibaba already has used a similar model to expand into China’s offline retail sector. Five years ago, it opened its own supermarket called Hema, hoping to use it as a prototype to show other Chinese retailers how their stores could benefit from Alibaba’s software and data. https://bit.ly/33DdBnX 

Facebook’s Quest 2 VR headset is lighter, faster and cheaper. Facebook Inc. is upgrading its Oculus Quest all-in-one virtual reality headset with a faster processor for improved gaming, higher-resolution screens and a lighter design as it looks to fend off rivals in the growing VR space. The new headset’s power improvements have given the company enough confidence to discontinue its PC-connected Oculus Rift from next spring. The social network’s hardware arm announced the Quest 2 on Wednesday at its virtual Facebook Connect conference about a year and a half after the first iteration went on sale. The initial model was praised for its all-in-one capabilities — functioning without the need to tether to an external computer — but was constrained by supply shortages and some basic hardware and form factor limitations.

How traders use Google searches to see the economic recovery in real time. The use of so-called “alternative data” has been gathering attention for some time. Investors have been looking at things like credit cards or satellite photos of Walmart parking lots for insights into businesses before earnings or official government numbers come out. But during this crisis, alternative data has really come into its own. The speed of the crash and recovery happened so fast, it was clear that traditional numbers weren’t timely enough to get a read on what was going on. On this episode, we speak with Ben Breitholtz of Arbor Data Science, who explains how he’s been able to monitor thousands of different categories of Google Search queries to know instantly when the recovery started to happen and what sectors of the economy were leading the way.

IBM launches autonomous ship with a trans-Atlantic crossing scheduled in 2021. Artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous vessels are set to revolutionize the shipping industry in the years ahead. AI-guided ships instrumented with a suite of sensors could become the seafaring standard in the not-so-distant future. These highly sophisticated vessels exist in stark comparison to the wooden sailing ships of centuries past. To mark the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower launch in 1620, IBM in partnership with oceanic research nonprofit ProMare, have launched an AI-enabled robotic research ship with some 21st century cargo in tow. The vessel will allow researchers to gain insights related to global warming, animal conservation, and the accumulation of oceanic microplastics. https://tek.io/2FOgKJi

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

Amazon gets into podcasting. Amazon wants to be in the podcasting game. The company announced today that it is going to be carrying 70,000 podcasts within its Amazon Music service, available to both the free and paid subscribers. It faces fierce competition from Spotify and Apple, which have both built far larger libraries of podcasts along with exclusive titles. Given the head start that those two have in podcasting, it’s hard to see how Amazon will catch up. It does own Audible which has a large userbase and has been leaning into its Audible Originals program, which are podcast-like. But its real advantage here are the popular Echo devices. If Amazon can push its exclusive podcasts to Echo owners, it could open up the still-growing podcast market to an new audience.


YouTube is launching Shorts, a short-form video feature for smartphones that looks a lot like TikTok. Google’s YouTube announced Monday that it is rolling out YouTube Shorts “is a new short-form video experience for creators and artists who want to shoot short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones,” according to a company blog post. Shorts videos will be 15 seconds or less and will allow users to use a new, multi-segment camera to stitch multiple clips together as well as the option to record video with music from a selection of songs, similar to how users can create TikTok videos. Shorts has reportedly been in the works for a while, according to an April report from The Information, but Google did not confirm the new feature at the time. Shorts will get a beta release in India this week for testing. India banned TikTok as well as dozens of other apps owned by China-based firms in June, citing national security concerns.


DraftKings seals exclusive partnership with NFL’s New York Giants. New York-listed DraftKings has been unveiled as the exclusive sports betting, iGaming and daily fantasy sports operator of the NFL’s New York Giants. The multi-year deal grants DraftKings access to official Giants marks and logos, in addition to a first of its kind virtual SportsLounge which will open on Giants’ game days and provide fans with unique and innovative ways to engage on all DraftKings platforms. The Giants and DraftKings have worked together for a number of years, with the operator set to benefit from a brand presence across MetLife Stadium during Giants home games. In addition, DraftKings will be recognized as a sponsor and exclusive category advertiser across all team-controlled media, including television (NBC, MSG Networks, MY9), radio (Entercom/WFAN), and digital and social (Giants.com and the official Giants mobile app). https://bit.ly/3kzClUZ 


Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

Nearly 2000 Magento 1 stores hacked over last weekend. Over the weekend, almost two thousand Magento 1 stores across the world have been hacked in the largest documented campaign to date. It was a typical Magecart attack: injected malicious code would intercept the payment information of unsuspected store customers. Inspected stores were found running Magento version 1, which was announced End-Of-Life last June. The Sansec early breach detection system, which monitors the global ecommerce space for security threats, detected 1904 distinct Magento stores with a unique keylogger (skimmer) on the checkout page. On Friday, 10 stores got infected, then 1058 on Saturday, 603 on Sunday and 233 Sunday. https://bit.ly/3izoxcq

The EU’s top court just closed a major loophole in Europe’s net-neutrality rules. Telecommunications providers in the European Union will have to stop the practice of “zero rating,” where they bundle their Internet access with services whose use is exempted from customers’ data caps—data-intensive content-streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix, as well as operators’ own rivals to those services, are popular examples.

SEC requires Seattle e-sports platform Unikrn to repay funds raised in crypto deal. Seattle e-sports platform Unikrn has agreed to pay more than US$6 million to settle a complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that the gambling site, initially backed by celebrities including Ashton Kutcher and Mark Cuban, raised US$31 million by selling unregistered securities. The US$6.1 million, substantially all of the company’s current assets, will go to investors who purchased the cryptocurrency UnikoinGold, issued by Unikrn in June 2017. The company promised investors UnikoinGold would become more valuable as Unikrn developed cryptocurrency-enabled gambling features for its platform and listed UnikoinGold on cryptocurrency exchanges, according to a cease-and-desist order filed Tuesday by the SEC. Those promises implied UnikoinGold was, in effect, a security similar to a share of company stock, the SEC alleged, meaning Unikrn was in violation of regulations requiring companies to register initial public offerings with the federal government.

iPhone’s new ‘orange dot’ feature warns you when an app is listening. Many iPhone owners are seeing a strange orange dot appearing from time to time in the top right corner of their screen. The dot is part of Apple’s latest iOS software update, and is part of Apple’s ongoing campaign to provide better privacy services. If you see the dot, it means an app is accessing your iPhone’s phone or camera. In many cases, this will come as no surprise—we use many apps precisely because they can take pictures or record a sound. https://bit.ly/3hIEPhR


Amazon is reportedly taking aim at Walmart’s greatest strength by establishing a fleet of 1,000 delivery hubs. Amazon’s latest barrage against brick-and-mortar rival Walmart is taking shape in the form of more than 1,000 small delivery hubs launching across the US. According to a report from Bloomberg, the tech giant is looking to expedite consumers’ online shopping experiences by opening warehouses that should help the e-commerce giant improve delivery times. The company ultimately hopes to open around 1,500 hubs each in suburbs and cities across the country in the future. The move also comes as the shipping wars between Amazon and major competitors like Walmart continue to heat up. While Amazon is an e-commerce native, Walmart has long held a key advantage in the form of its store footprint. As of 2019, 90% of US residents live within 10 miles of a Walmart, allowing the Arkansas-based retailer to convert its stores into fulfillment centers. Walmart has also launched its own Amazon Prime rival — Walmart Plus — on Tuesday.

Amazon hiring 100,000 workers in U.S. and Canada to meet surge in lockdown shopping. Amazon stepped up its hiring spree on Monday, saying it would recruit 100,000 more workers to meet the growing demand for online shopping, which has spiked during the pandemic. The roles offer a starting wage of at least US$15 per hour, and Amazon is offering sign-on bonuses up to US$1,000 to new hires in select cities. The news marks Amazon’s fourth hiring spree in the U.S. so far this year, and comes ahead of what it expects to be one of the busiest holiday shipping periods ever. United Parcel Service said last week it expects to add more than 100,000 extra workers to help handle an increase in packages during the peak festive season. https://on.mktw.net/3hyj8Rw

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

SoftBank wants to burn money. SoftBank Group, Japan’s most aggressive venture capital investor, thinks they might be onto something. Its latest multibillion-dollar technology bet is being marketed on a simple proposition: In the age of the coronavirus, cash is immensely dangerous. “Many people don’t want to touch paper bills and coins that may have been touched by someone else,” said Ichiro Nakayama, CEO of the new SoftBank-created digital payment app PayPay, in a livestreamed news conference in July. “Cashless is the way to enable touchless and contactless.” Cash phobia could not have come at a better time for SoftBank’s massive bet on digital payments in Japan. Cashiers across the country have begun asking customers to take extreme sanitary measures when paying, such as placing bank notes on a tray, wiping the tray with a sanitizer after each transaction, often while wearing plastic gloves. In South Korea, people have been cooking bank notes in microwaves to disinfect them. https://s.nikkei.com/3mk9UvX


Sony cuts PlayStation 5 forecast by 4 million due to chip woes. Sony Corp. has cut its estimated PlayStation 5 production for this fiscal year by 4 million units, down to around 11 million, following production issues with its custom-designed system-on-chip for the new console, according to people familiar with the matter. The Tokyo-based electronics giant in July boosted orders with suppliers in anticipation of heightened demand for gaming in the holiday season and beyond, as people spend more time at home due to the coronavirus. But the company has come up against manufacturing issues, such as production yields as low as 50% for its SOC, which have cut into its ability to produce as many consoles as it wishes, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the deliberations aren’t public. Yields have been gradually improving but have yet to reach a stable level, they added. Sony shares erased gains and closed down 2.4% Tuesday, their lowest level since July. A Sony spokesman declined to comment. https://bloom.bg/3bZiPxU


Coffee giant Nespresso commits to making all products carbon neutral by 2022. The company told Business Insider that by 2022, every cup of coffee and espresso drink it produces in-store, as well as at-home pods, will be carbon neutral. In other words, all the carbon emissions associated with the growing, production, and brewing of each coffee will be offset, so the net emissions of damaging greenhouse gasses is zero. “We can’t wait, simply said. We have to do it now. We have to act now. Everyone — customers, employees —is expecting brands to generate more positive impact,” Guillaume Le Cunff, CEO of Nespresso told Business Insider. The announcement comes just days after 150 business leaders and investors, including Google and Apple, published an open letter calling on the European Union for tougher carbon emissions standards, and right before the business and nonprofit community convene for Climate Week 2020 in the US. It also comes as the US faces some of the most devastating wildfires, which have been worsened by climate change. To reach this ambitious two-year goal, Nespresso will have thousands of trees planted in and around coffee farms to sequester carbon and rejuvenate the soil, which is stripped of its nutrients through farming practices. It will also invest in “clean energy solutions,” which can range from everything from solar energy to wind power turbines for its approximately 110,000 farmers in 15 countries including Colombia, Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Costa Rica. https://bit.ly/33A4vr

Google has offset all the carbon it has ever produced, says CEO Sundar Pichai. Google announced Monday that it has offset all its historical carbon emmissions, claiming to be the first major company to do so. The tech giant’s CEO Sundar Pichai says it has offset all the carbon it has ever produced since it first launched in 1998. In a blog post on Monday, he said Google is aiming to run all of its campuses and data centers entirely on carbon-free energy by 2030, which is the company’s “biggest sustainability moonshot yet.” Pichai said that the multinational internet firm will pair wind with solar power sources, increase battery storage, and use artificial intelligence to optimize its electricity demand and forecasting. These measures will create 12,000 jobs by 2025, he said. Google’s other sustainability commitments include helping 500 cities across the world reduce annual carbon emissions by a total of 1 gigaton by 2030, as well as investing in manufacturing regions to enable 5 gigawatts of new carbon-free energy. Google’s efforts to reduce and eliminate its carbon footprint echo those of other large technology companies. Apple and Microsoft have set targets to become carbon neutral by 2030, and Amazon is aiming for 2040.

Walmart and Schneider Electric team up to increase supplier access to renewable energy PPAs. While corporate renewable energy procurement is on the rise, the overall number of companies involved is still relatively low, with just over 100 unique companies participating in the U.S. renewable energy market since 2008, according to the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance Deal Tracker. Some of the challenges to accessing renewable energy experienced by smaller companies include a lack of size needed to approach the market individually, insufficient education on the specific mechanics of renewable energy transactions and guidance on how to secure renewable energy. Walmart Inc. and Schneider Electric are collaborating to change that and increase access to renewable energy for Walmart’s US-based suppliers. The Gigaton PPA Program is designed to educate Walmart suppliers about renewable energy purchases and accelerate renewable energy adoption by participating suppliers through aggregate power purchase agreements. https://bit.ly/33BU9Ym

Sophic Capital Client Insights

Esports & Advertisers: A Primer. Brands cannot ignore those aged under 35 years. But these “Under-35s” don’t respond to traditional advertising. What sets this lucrative demographic apart from their elders is their interest in playing video and mobile games. But few brands know how to advertise to gaming and esports markets. We know who’s figured it out, though. https://bit.ly/35Oowhb

Reciprocity: Connecting Brands to esports. Those aged under 35 years (“Under-35s”) make up almost 47% of the U.S. population, yet many brands still haven’t resonated well with them. Part of the reason is that Under-35s need to trust brands before committing. A second reason for this disconnect is that brands haven’t leveraged one of the most appealing channels for Under-35s – gaming & esports. Reciprocity has the gaming & esports network and industry influencers to connect brands to these young eyeballs. https://bit.ly/3ciqdEA



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