IPO activity in the USA cooled a bit after a few heated weeks, while M&A kept chugging along. In Canada, publicly listed technology companies announed ~$85 million in bought deals.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Dye & Durham Limited (DND-TSX) announces $53 million acquisition of Property Information Exchange Ltd. and $50 million bought deal private placement financing. Property Information Exchange Ltd. is a leading U.K. cloud-based real estate due diligence platform. All-cash transaction is expected to be immediately accretive to shareholders on an Adjusted EBITDA basis. Acquisition of a direct in-market competitor that is expected to provide significant near-term synergies. The acquisition is consistent with Dye & Durham’s strategy of acquiring, integrating and operating core cloud-based technology businesses in its industry that have deeply imbedded customer bases. $50 million bought deal private placement financing will assist in funding the acquisition by replenishing cash-on-hand. https://bit.ly/2HvyFFf

Converge Technology Solutions Corp. (CTS:TSXV, 0ZB:FSE, CTSDF:OTCQX) announces upsize to previously announced bought deal financing. Under the amended terms, the Underwriters have agreed to purchase, on a bought deal basis, 14.65 million common shares of the Company at a price of $2.05 per Offered Share for gross proceeds to the Company of $30 million. In addition, Converge has granted the Underwriters an option, exercisable at any time, in whole or in part, until the date that is 30 days following the closing of the financing, to purchase up to an additional~ 2.2 million common shares of the Company solely to cover over-allotments, if any, and for market stabilization purposes. In the event the over-allotment option is exercised in full, the aggregate gross proceeds of the Offering will be $34.5 million. https://bit.ly/2S4lgG

CloudMD (DOC-TSXV) announces closing of $20.79 million oversubscribed bought deal financing. Essam Hamza, CEO of CloudMD commented, “Closing this financing is a very important inflection point for the Company as we continue our North American and global expansion plans. The capital raised from this bought deal allows us to continue making accretive acquisitions synergistic to our vision of providing whole person, continuity of care, while adding immediate value for our shareholders. We would like to thank our syndicate for their diligent efforts and welcome our new shareholders. We are excited to further execute on our growth strategy and this injection of capital will accelerate our M&A growth efforts.” https://bit.ly/2G7i22l

PopReach (POPR-TSXV) signs binding agreement for US$7.5 million debt refinancing facility with a leading Canadian Schedule I Bank. PopReach, a free-to-play mobile game publisher focused on acquiring and optimizing proven game franchises, announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, PopReach Incorporated, has signed a binding agreement for a US$7.5 million senior secured credit facility with a leading Canadian Schedule I Bank. The New Facility, once closed, will have a 24 month term, with the US$6.5 million term portion bearing interest at the Lender’s U.S. Base Lending Rate plus 3.50% per annum, and the US$1.0 million revolving portion (which is available in US dollars or Canadian dollars) bearing interest at the Lender’s U.S. Base Lending Rate or Prime Lending Rate, as applicable, plus 2.00% per annum. https://bit.ly/2RYlf6Z

Waterloo robotics startup Clearpath extends Series C with $6.6 million. As it looks to secure more enterprise customers and grow its global network of delivery partners, Clearpath Robotics has raised an additional $6.6 million as part of its Series C round. Clearpath originally announced the Series C in June, at the time pulling in $40 million. The capital was slotted specifically to further expand the Waterloo startup’s industrial autonomous mobile robot division, Otto Motors. Canadian Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) venture firm, McRock Capital, provided the $6.6 million CAD in equity financing, joining existing investors Kensington Capital Partner, Bank of Montreal Capital Partners, Export Development Canada (EDC), iNovia Capital, and RRE Ventures in the round. https://bit.ly/2Enj1u

Omnirobotic raises $6.5 million as it looks to develop industrial autonomous robots. Laval, Quebec-based Omnirobotic, a startup specializing in robotics automation for industrial and factory applications, has closed $6.5 million in financing, bringing the company’s total funding to date to $7.5 million. Fonds de solidarité FTQ (Fonds) and Export Development Canada (EDC) led Omnirobotic’s round, while other participants included previous investor Real Ventures and a joint venture involving Omnirobotic’s employees that holds equity and rewards it to employees as they pay into it. https://bit.ly/2G3AsR

London lab develops device to test air for traces of coronavirus.  A Toronto company developed a device in its London lab that will test air in an enclosed area for traces of COVID-19. BioCloud, developed by Kontrol Energy Corp. (KNR-CSE, Sophic client), cycles air in a room and other enclosed spaces five times every hour to test for the virus, said Paul Ghezzi, chief executive of Kontrol. The company plans to have 20,000 units ready to ship later this year and envisions selling them to school boards, businesses and long-term care homes at a cost of US$12,000 per unit, he said. “Our focus is on a government order. We expect school boards and long-term care will be our first priority,” Ghezzi said. The National Research Council provided $50,000 in funding to Kontrol for the research, it stated. The federal organization helps Canadian companies bring new technologies to market. The NRC will not fund product development until it verifies research, and it agreed that BioCloud will do what Kontrol claims it can, said one NRC staff person, who declined to be identified. https://bit.ly/36bluD

Wealthsimple launches cryptocurrency platform. Toronto-based FinTech startup Wealthsimple has launched its cryptocurrency platform, which provides users with commission-free trading of Bitcoin and Ethereum. Until now, the platform, called Wealthsimple Crypto, has existed in private beta with a user waitlist. As of today, users can buy, sell, and hold coins within the app, with no waitlist requirement. Some of the features of the new platform include trading available all hours of the day and all days of the year, real-time quotes, as well as withdrawals and deposits in Canadian dollars. Wealthsimple claims 130,000 people joined the waitlist for the platform. https://bit.ly/3mHjOrH

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

Robinhood valued at US$11.7 billion. Robinhood has raised another US$460 million in venture capital funding, bringing its Series G to a grand total of US$660 million. The company previously announced US$200 million in Series G funding in August. The new capital values the company at US$11.7 billion, according to the company’s announcement. A combination of new and existing investors backed the deal, including Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital, Ribbit Capital and D1 Capital Partners. Robinhood, founded in 2013, is a financial services firm behind the popular stock-trading app. It’s raised more than US$2 billion in VC funding to date, according to financial data firm PitchBook. In its announcement, the company underlined the growth of its podcast, Robinhood Snacks, which now counts 2 million monthly active listeners. The Menlo Park-based business also said it’s actively hiring across its offices in Southlake, Texas and Tempe, Arizona to fuel growth. https://bit.ly/2S44SWu

Jack Ma’s Ant Group raises its funding target to US$35 billion, likely making it the largest IPO ever. Billionaire Jack Ma’s Ant Group is seeking to lift its funding target to $35 billion through its IPO, after considering early investor interest, Bloomberg said. The Alibaba affiliate’s new target is based on an expanded valuation of US$250 billion, revised from a previous estimate of US$225 billion which could have raised $30 billion, Bloomberg said, citing sources. Mobile-payment company Ant’s parallel listings on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges would mark the biggest float on record, beating Saudi Aramco’s record-shattering US$25.6 billion IPO. https://bit.ly/2FVGDaa

Solar panel mounting manufacturer Array Technologies files for a US$100 million IPO. Array Technologies, which manufactures ground-mounting systems used in solar energy projects, filed on Tuesday with the SEC for current shareholders to sell up to US$100 million in an initial public offering. The Albuquerque, NM-based company was founded in 1989 and booked $975 million in sales for the 12 months ended June 30, 2020. It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol ARRY. Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Guggenheim Securities, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Barclays and UBS Investment Bank are the joint bookrunners on the deal. No pricing terms were disclosed. The article Solar panel mounting manufacturer Array Technologies files for a $100 million IPO originally appeared on IPO investment manager Renaissance Capital’s web site renaissancecapital.com. https://bit.ly/3mEFGnk

Electric vehicle charging network ChargePoint to go public at US$2.4 billion valuation. ChargePoint Inc, one of the world’s oldest and largest electric vehicle charging networks, said on Thursday it will go public by merging with Switchback Energy Acquisition Corp SBE.N in a deal that values the company at US$2.4 billion. The deal is expected to close near the end of the year and the company will be named ChargePoint Holdings Inc. A trading symbol on the New York Stock Exchange has not been identified. Reuters last week reported ChargePoint and Switchback were nearing a deal. Switchback is a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that raised US$300 million in an initial public offering in July 2019. “The EV charging industry is accelerating and it is expected that charging infrastructure investment will be $190 billion by 2030,” Switchback Chief Executive Scott McNeill said. “We believe (ChargePoint) will continue to grow its strong market position as the EV industry evolves.” https://reut.rs/341TijZ

Used-Clothing platform Poshmark says it filed to go public. Poshmark Inc., an online resale marketplace for second-hand clothing, said it has filed confidentially for an initial public offering. The number of shares and the price range for the IPO haven’t been determined, Poshmark said in a statement Friday. The Redwood City, California-based company had put off a potential IPO to focus on boosting sales and improving its execution, people familiar with the matter said last September. Poshmark rival ThredUp Inc. is also pursuing an IPO, people familiar with the San Francisco-based company’s plans said in August. ThredUp’s IPO, targeted for early next year, could raise US$200 million to US$300 million, one of the people said. https://bloom.bg/3jbfQ8g

GoodRx prices IPO at US$33 per share, valued at US$12.7 billion. GoodRx, a price comparison app for prescription drugs at local pharmacies, on Tuesday night raised US$1.14 billion in its IPO, Axios has learned. By the numbers: GoodRx priced its shares at US$33 a piece, above its US$24-US$28 per share offering range, which will give it an initial market cap of around US$12.7 billion. Existing investor Silver Lake agreed to buy another US$100 million of stock via the IPO. Prior to the IPO, Silver Lake had a 35.3% ownership stake. Other investors include Francisco Partners (23.7% pre-IPO stake) and Spectrum Equity (15.4%). https://bit.ly/2RQdwb1

Nikola’s founder steps down from board as company faces fraud allegations. Nikola founder and executive chairman Trevor Milton is stepping down from the company’s board of directors after allegations that the zero-emission vehicle start-up misled investors, the company announced on Sunday. Milton will be replaced by existing board member Stephen Girsky, a former vice chairman of GM, who will become Chairman of the Board. On September 10th, shortly after GM announced it would be taking an 11 percent stake in Nikola, short-selling firm Hindenburg Research released a report titled “Nikola: How to Parlay An Ocean of Lies Into a Partnership With the Largest Auto OEM in America.” Hindenburg accused the company of exaggerating the progress of its technology, in particular claiming that the company had staged a video showing one of its trucks cruising down a hill. Milton says he’ll defend himself against the “false allegations”. Nikola called the report “false and defamatory” and said that it contained “dozens” of inaccurate statements. It did not dispute that it staged the video showing the truck as functional, however, but it said that it had described the truck as being “in motion” rather than “under its own propulsion.” It claimed that Hindenburg was attempting to use its report to negatively manipulate the market. https://bit.ly/3cpIT5t

Quibi explores strategic options including possible sale. Streaming service Quibi is exploring several strategic options including a possible sale, according to people familiar with the situation, as the company founded by Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg struggles to sign up subscribers in a competitive online-video marketplace. Quibi, which launched its short-form, mobile-focused video service in April, is also considering raising more money or going public through a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC—essentially a blank-check company that helps fund deals, the people said. Quibi is working with advisers to review its options. In March, Quibi said it closed a US$750 million funding round, bringing the total amount of money it had raised to US$1.75 billion. https://on.wsj.com/35WVz2B

TPG buys sports sites amidst pandemic. TPG has acquired a majority stake of DAZN Group’s Goal digital soccer brand as well as two other sports sites, German Spox and Dutch VoetbalZone. Digital sports streaming company DAZN , which is backed by billionaire investor Len Blavatnick, has made a big bet by focusing on international sports rights but now is offloading assets as its business has gotten hit by the cancellation and postponement of so many sports around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. TPG, which made the acquisition through its two year-old Integrated Media Company division that focuses on digital media, is using the opportunity of the current climate to invest in areas, like sports, which will for sure come back one day. The question for DAZN is if it will need to find buyers for more assets to make it until the world goes back to normal. https://bit.ly/3mTV9zX

William Hill, the US$4 billion gambling giant, received takeover offers from private-equity firm Apollo and casino group Caesars. US private equity firm Apollo Global Management and casino group Caesars Entertainment have each offered to take over William Hill, the British gambling group valued at US$4 billion (£3.2 million). William Hill confirmed the separate approaches on Friday, Bloomberg reported. It said that there was no certainty of any deal. Under UK takeover rules, both Apollo and Caesar must announce their intention to make a firm offer by October 23 or walk away. Shares in William Hill, which have dropped since the start of the pandemic, surged by more than 20% on Friday. https://bit.ly/2S3hH37

Chinese leaders split over releasing blacklist of U.S. companies. Beijing has sped up development of a blacklist that could be used to punish American technology firms, but officials say leaders are hesitating to pull the trigger, with some arguing a decision on the list should wait till after the U.S. election. The debate highlights Beijing’s continued grappling with how to respond to the Trump administration without driving the relationship closer to collapse. So far, the Chinese leadership has tried to respond in kind to Washington’s actions but has tried to avoid measures that go beyond those of the U.S. A well-timed strike can sometimes work in Beijing’s and Chinese companies’ favor. After President Trump’s campaign for a U.S. company to take over video-sharing app TikTok, Chinese regulators rolled out new export-control rules that have helped TikTok parent ByteDance Ltd. set terms that could help it avoid losing control of the platform’s U.S. operations or crucial technology. https://on.wsj.com/2RRQwYQ

Google CEO Sundar Pichai considering ‘hybrid’ work from home models. Google is rethinking its long-term work options for employees, as most of them say they don’t want to come back to the office full-time. Sixty-two percent of Google employees want to return to their offices at some point, but not every day, according to a recent survey of employee office preferences the company released this week. So Google is working on “hybrid” models, including rearranging its offices and figuring out more long-term remote work options, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said in an interview with Time magazine on Wednesday. https://cnb.cx/2G3BKvB

A US$50 phone is Ambani’s weapon to dominate India telecom market. Reliance Industries Ltd. has asked local suppliers to ramp up production capacity in India so they can make as many as 200 million smartphones over the next two years, according to people familiar with the matter, a potentially enormous boost for the country’s technology ambitions and a warning shot to rivals such as Xiaomi Corp. India’s most valuable company is in talks with domestic assemblers to make a version of its Jio phone that would run on Google’s Android and cost about 4,000 rupees (US$54), said the people, asking not to be identified since the plans are private. The inexpensive phones will be marketed with low-cost wireless plans from Reliance Jio, the parent company’s carrier, they said. https://bloom.bg/3hTas8j

Emerging Technologies

Amazon’s Zoox gets green light for robotaxi tests in California. Amazon.com Inc.’s self-driving-car unit, Zoox Inc., is getting a green light from California to test autonomous vehicles on public roads without a safety driver, becoming the fourth company to receive the state’s blessing for truly driverless testing. The permit allows Zoox to operate two vehicles without a driver behind the wheel, a step up from approval it received four years ago that required the presence of a person to take control if needed, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles said in a statement. https://bloom.bg/32Qyw7u

Amazon unveils new Echo and Ring products, confirms game streaming service. Amazon unveiled a slew of new Echo and Ring products, as well as announcing its Luna subscription game streaming service that goes up against similar offerings from Microsoft and Google. The new Echo line includes the Echo Show 10, with a video screen that doubles as a camera and swivels with you as you move around the room. It streams both phone calls and entertainment, including from Netflix. Then there is the Ring Always Home Cam, a camera that flies around a room recording video. Amazon emphasizes that these are designed with privacy in mind but the potential for privacy violations with cameras that record inside people’s homes is obviously enormous. Whether consumers will care is the big question. Luna, the game streaming service, is being launched as Microsoft has beefed up its subscription gaming service by buying big game developer and publisher Bethesda for US$7.5 billion. Microsoft’s service is dubbed the ‘Netflix for gaming.’ Just as Amazon has its own video streaming service to compete with Netflix, it appears it will do the same in gaming.  https://bit.ly/3j9eYRD

Magic Leap tried to create an alternate reality. Its founder was already in one. Reality finally set in for Rony Abovitz in May. The augmented reality headset that had been under development for nine years inside his company, Magic Leap Inc., had been a colossal flop. In a tearful address over video conference, Abovitz told employees that he would resign. Magic Leap once burned bright. Many high-profile investors made the pilgrimage to a swampy, downtrodden suburb of Miami, where they became convinced Abovitz was building a kind of Apple Inc. for computers strapped to people’s faces. Private demonstrations of the technology, which made it appear as though digital objects viewed through the headset existed in the physical world, helped procure capital from China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., AT&T Inc., Google and the chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. Magic Leap’s plan was to squeeze the technology down into a consumer device, construct a factory to manufacture it at scale, design an operating system, video games and films and spark the creation of a vast new content industry. At its peak—a peak that predated any public evidence of an actual product—technologists raved about Magic Leap’s potential. Shortly before he was appointed CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai joined Magic Leap’s board in 2014 and declared the product would “revolutionize the way people communicate, purchase, learn, share and play.” Pichai quietly withdrew from the board in 2018 and installed a Google subordinate in his place. After Magic Leap’s US$2,300 headset bombed, the startup narrowed its focus to professional applications, tried unsuccessfully to sell the company and fired more than half of its staff. Investors wrote down their stakes by an average of about 94% over a 12-month period ending in June, a steeper decline than WeWork, according to data collected by Zanbato, a research firm that tracks institutional investors. The new CEO, Johnson, is trying to revive the business through partnerships. Magic Leap is engaged in discussions with Amazon.com Inc. about packaging the headsets with Amazon’s cloud services, according to three people familiar with the talks. The conversations are at an early stage and may not result in a deal. https://bloom.bg/3kLcxVP

A.I. algorithms had to change when COVID-19 changed consumer behavior. During the past few years, many consumer-focused businesses have used artificial intelligence to help increase sales. The technology, for example, can more successfully suggest products that online shoppers end up buying. But once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, A.I. systems had to be overhauled. The software, it turns out, had never been trained with data reflecting a drastic upheaval in consumer behavior caused by the virus and therefore couldn’t adjust to the new reality. https://bit.ly/3csTug0

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

GameStop surges 28% after co-founder of Chewy.com pitches plan to turn it into Amazon rival, report says. GameStop surged on Tuesday after a report from Bloomberg detailed an investor’s yet to be seen plan to turn the video-game retailer into an Amazon rival. Ryan Cohen, co-founder of Chewy.com, wants to apply the same successes employed at the pet supply ecommerce retailer to GameStop, according to the report, which cited a person familiar with the matter. That is, mainly, to sell a wider range of gaming related merchandise and services online, and to ship it to customers quickly, essentially replicating one of Amazon’s many core strengths. One example of an imitative Cohen is advocating for, according to Bloomberg, is for GameStop to allow customers to sell used games to the company online and ship them the used game rather than only being able to do that in a physical store. https://bit.ly/33Q4oIQ

The future of the movie theater. eMarketer forecasting analysts Eric Haggstrom and Peter Vahle and vice president of content studio at Insider Intelligence Paul Verna discuss the future of the movie theater. Will movies make a comeback and what will they look like? They then talk about HBO Max with ads, AT&T’s possible wireless phone plans subsidized by ads, and Apple One subscription bundles. https://bit.ly/3kFrCIj

Microsoft’s big bet on a ‘Netflix of gaming’ is paying off: The service now has over 15 million users. In the summer of 2017, Microsoft made an ambitious bet on a new Xbox service: Game Pass. And this week, alongside news that Microsoft bought the game publisher Bethesda Softworks for US$7.5 billion, the company also revealed just how successful Xbox Game Pass has been: The service now has over 15 million subscribers, up from 10 million back in April. In the years since its launch, Xbox Game Pass has become one of the best deals in gaming, costing just US$10 a month for a curated library of over 100 games — a coup from Microsoft’s Xbox division in a console cycle dominated by Sony’s PlayStation 4. Moreover, every major Xbox game published by Microsoft — from “Halo” to “Gears of War” to “Forza Motorsport” — is published to the service’s library. While it sounds a lot like Netflix, games in the library must be downloaded, not streamed, to play. Microsoft’s success with Game Pass has been a notable exception across the last seven years, as Sony’s PlayStation 4 regularly outsells Microsoft’s Xbox One. https://bit.ly/3j2amwB

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

Facebook users in Illinois may qualify for a US$400 settlement check after the social media company used facial-recognition technology. Some Facebook users in Illinois are eligible for up to US$400 after a settlement was reached involving Facebook’s tagging feature, according to the Chicago Sun Times. In July, Reuters reported that Facebook agreed to pay US$650 million after a lawsuit was filed alleging the company violated the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act. The law states “[no] private entity may collect, store, or use biometric identifiers or information without providing prior notice to and obtaining a written release or consent from the subject,” according to Bloomberg Law. This isn’t the first time that Facebook has received pushback for its facial-recognition feature. In 2019, Facebook began requiring users to opt-in to use their facial-recognition tool, after the FTC fined the tech giant US$5 billion for its role in the the Cambridge Analytica privacy breech, as previously reported by Business Insider. https://bit.ly/30bSTdM

Facebook says new EU data regulation threatens ability to operate. Facebook warned that it may have to pull its main service and Instagram from the European Union due to a preliminary order barring its ability to store European user data on U.S. servers. The social network’s head of data protection in Ireland, Yvonne Cunnane, said in a recent court filing that the company wasn’t clear how it “could continue to provide the Facebook and Instagram services in the EU” following an order last month issued by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC). The order would prohibit Facebook from storing data about its 410 million users in the EU on servers located in the U.S. The DPC argues that the order is meant to protect European citizens from American government surveillance, while Facebook argues that blocking data transfers would harm its ability to provide its services. Like the ongoing deal saga involving TikTok and the White House, this is another example of how global internet companies are increasingly being caught up in geopolitics. https://bit.ly/2FMXGvo

Facebook accused of watching Instagram users through cameras. Facebook Inc. is again being sued for allegedly spying on Instagram users, this time through the unauthorized use of their mobile phone cameras. The lawsuit springs from media reports in July that the photo-sharing app appeared to be accessing iPhone cameras even when they weren’t actively being used. https://bloom.bg/33LE1nn

Despite past denials, LAPD has used facial recognition software 30,000 times in last decade, records show. The Los Angeles Police Department has used facial recognition software nearly 30,000 times since 2009, with hundreds of officers running images of suspects from surveillance cameras and other sources against a massive database of mugshots taken by law enforcement. The new figures, released to The Times, reveal for the first time how commonly facial recognition is used in the department, which for years has provided vague and contradictory information about how and whether it uses the technology. The LAPD has consistently denied having records related to facial recognition, and at times denied using the technology at all. https://lat.ms/3kId4Yr

eCommerce

Amazon quietly expands large-scale Covid testing program for warehouses. After months of trials, Amazon’s program to test its warehouse workers for Covid-19 is ramping up. The e-commerce giant is now testing warehouse workers in at least 23 states for Covid using its own federally certified laboratories to process samples, The Information has learned. It’s part of a secretive Amazon initiative called Project Ultraviolet, which aims to develop the diagnostic capacity to regularly test all of the e-commerce giant’s several hundred thousand warehouse workers for the virus, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms. Amazon’s success in launching the testing program is critical for the company, which has come under fire since the pandemic took off over complaints that it was allowing workers in its warehouses to be exposed to the virus. Despite instituting a host of new safety measures, the company has struggled to control outbreaks at fulfillment centers in the U.S. Eight Amazon employees have died of Covid, even as the company’s business boomed during the lockdowns as consumers turned to Amazon to order everyday goods. https://bit.ly/2EFn7hQ

Why Walmart thinks TikTok is the future of its business. For the past five years, nearly every one of Walmart’s big moves has seemingly had one goal: to narrow Amazon’s embarrassingly huge lead in e-commerce. From Walmart’s US$3 billion acquisition of Jet.com in 2016 to its US$16 billion deal for India’s Flipkart in 2018, as well as its recent launch of the Walmart+ membership program, Amazon and its Prime membership service seemed to always be at the forefront of Walmart’s corporate mind. For the first time in a long time, though, the giant brick-and-mortar retailer is expected to make a big bet that isn’t solely about chasing the Seattle-based tech giant founded by Jeff Bezos: a multibillion-dollar investment in, and multifaceted business partnership with, TikTok, the global sensation and short-form video-sharing app. Whether the partnership with TokTok turns out to be a brilliant chess move for Walmart or a disastrous distraction, it still shows the traditional retailer is trying to invent a digital future where it will be a leader of Amazon rather than a follower. If successful, Walmart could become a leader in online video commerce — an area of retail that has been a hit in Asia, but is still nascent in the US. https://bit.ly/2G7kdm8

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

ECB to consult public on digital euro: Lagarde.  The European Central Bank is exploring the pros and cons of introducing a digital euro to complement cash and will publish its findings in the coming weeks before launching a consultation, ECB President Christine Lagarde said on Thursday. Major central banks across the world are studying the creation of officially sanctioned digital currencies to fend off competition from Bitcoin and other crypto tokens. https://reut.rs/3kDoRHK

‘One day everyone will use China’s digital currency’. Chandler Guo was a pioneer in cryptocurrency, the digital currencies that can be created and used independently of national central banks and governments. In 2014 he set up an operation to produce one of those currencies, Bitcoin, in a secret location in western China. “Mining” Bitcoin is a power hungry enterprise involving dozens of computers so he used power from a hydroelectric station, in partnership with a local Chinese government official. At its peak his machines were capable of mining 30% of the world’s Bitcoin. He believed Bitcoin would one day change the world and replace the dollar. But now he sees a new force emerging – a payment system created by the Chinese state and known as Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP). https://bbc.in/2FQAAEc

A top crypto exchange CEO explains why the 2020 boom is different. Crypto is hot this year again. In 2020 we’ve not only seen a substantial rally across a lot of different coins, there’s been an emergency of new experiments, categories, and protocols. Is it more sustainable this time around, or is it going to fizzle like it did last time? On this episode, we speak with Catherine Coley, the CEO of Binance US about trends in this market, why she left the traditional finance world to go crypto, and where all of this new activity is actually going. https://bloom.bg/3iOQs8c

Crypto is beating Gold as 2020’s top asset so far. A cryptocurrency mania known as decentralized finance has helped to turn digital currencies into this year’s best-performing asset by far. The Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index of digital coins is up about 66% in 2020, exceeding gold’s jump of more than 20% as well as returns from global stocks, bonds and commodities. A key reason for the move higher is a surge in Ethereum, which accounts for more than a third of the crypto gauge’s weight. Increased adoption of decentralized finance, or DeFi, has driven the climb in Ethereum, which “appears to be maintaining its platform leadership status” in the sector, said Mike McGlone, a strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence. https://bloom.bg/3kH67qS

ESG

Global climate tech investment reached US$16 billion last year. Climate tech startups have raised US$60 billion in venture capital funding since 2013, according to a new report from PwC. Total investment in the sector continues to climb as corporations and investment firms get serious about climate change. Last year alone, climate tech startups secured US$16.1 billion, up 3750% from US$418 million in 2013. The coronavirus outbreak has not slowed investment in climate tech, which is defined as businesses focused on reducing the impacts of climate change. Rather, the crisis has inspired high-profile commitments to funding climate tech from Amazon, Unilever and Microsoft, among others. VC firms including Sequoia Capital, Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins and Union Square Ventures have also committed to funding climate tech startups. https://bit.ly/3i5IN4c

High valuations go to those with low carbon footprints. Markets have been rewarding companies with low carbon footprints, and penalizing those with high fossil fuel consumption. In major exchanges, large fuel producers and consumers that once dominated the markets (think Exxon, GM, Chevron) are now worth a tiny fraction of tech behemoths like Google and Apple, companies with core offerings of software and power-efficient gadgets. Meanwhile, in private markets, it’s hard to find a single member of the Crunchbase Unicorn Leaderboard that’s a heavy fossil fuel producer or consumer. Rather, companies like payment tech provider Stripe, electric truck maker Rivian, and video game and software company Epic Games top the ranks in the list of private companies valued at US$1 billion and up. The closest any get to a big carbon user are platforms like Instacart and DoorDash that make deliveries. But often they are just offsetting trips customers would otherwise make themselves. https://bit.ly/3l4nUIP

Walmart said it will eliminate its carbon footprint by 2040 — but not for its supply chain, which makes up the bulk of its emissions. Walmart aims to reduce its global emissions to zero by 2040, the retail giant announced on Monday — but the goal does not apply to emissions from its supply chain, which dwarf its direct carbon footprint. The goal covers “scope-one emissions,” from operations Walmart owns or directly controls, and “scope-two emissions,” which cover its indirect emissions from sources such as electricity and heating. The target excludes “scope-three emissions,” which are all other indirect emissions the company incurs, including in its supply chain. Bloomberg estimated that these emissions make up 95% of Walmart’s carbon footprint. In 2017 it launched Project Gigaton, which aims to reduce these scope-three emissions. Walmart said Monday it will achieve its zero target without carbon-offsets — measures that reduce carbon emissions in some areas to compensate for higher carbon emissions in others. The retail giant said it will hit its target by powering its facilities with 100% renewable energy by 2035. Currently, around 29% of its energy is from renewable sources, it said. By 2040 it will also use electric vehicles with zero emissions, and adopt more environmentally friendly systems for cooling and heating across its sites. https://bit.ly/3cgSnzY

Lion Electric to deliver 10 battery electric trucks to Amazon. Lion Electric said Wednesday it will deliver 10 battery electric trucks to Amazon.com Inc. , with the first two delivered this year. The e-commerce giant is expected to use Lion’s trucks for transport within Amazon’s network. Privately held Lion will provide training to Amazon drivers and establish a maintenance program for the trucks. The trucks will be made at Lion’s facility in Canada, which has a capacity to manufacture 2,500 electric trucks per year. https://on.mktw.net/2HtWVrD

Here are Tesla’s biggest announcements from Battery Day. At Tesla’s Battery Day event, CEO Elon Musk made some big announcements: the company’s moves toward eliminating cobalt in its batteries, a new Plaid powertrain for the Model S that could get to speeds of 200 mph, and a new cathode plant to streamline its battery production. And, with the new battery technology, Musk has said Tesla will make a US$25,000 car. Tesla plans to manufacture its own “tabless” batteries, which will improve its vehicles’ range and power. The new batteries will be produced in-house, which Musk says will reduce costs and bring the sale price of Tesla electric cars closer to gasoline-powered cars. Musk has been teasing the Plaid powertrain for a while, which will be a step above its Ludicrous model. It will have a range between charges of 520 miles, get from 0-60 mph in under two seconds, and a top speed of 200 mph. The price is listed on Tesla’s website at US$139,990. Musk said Tesla will build a new cathode plant for its batteries in North America, part of its quest to reduce supply chain costs and simplify cathode production. It’s also making improvements to its process that will make cathodes 76 percent cheaper, and produce zero wastewater. https://bit.ly/3hXjGAH

Volkswagen introduces ID 4 electric SUV with 250 miles of range and a $40,000 price tag.  On Wednesday, Volkswagen officially unveiled the ID 4, the first electric vehicle built on the automaker’s mass-manufactured modular electric vehicle platform, or “MEB,” to be sold in the US. The ID 4 will also be VW’s first affordable crossover SUV to reach America, with a suggested retail price of just under $40,000. https://bit.ly/2FMhmzz

There’s an ulterior motive to China’s carbon neutral pledge: cornering the green tech market. At the United Nations general assembly on Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared China would achieve “carbon neutrality before 2060,” after reaching peak carbon emissions “before 2030.” The targets have yet to be padded out with details, but Xi’s vague goal-setting was heralded as a bold step in advancing international action on climate change—a step forward while the U.S. continues to turn inward. Even without providing details of the plan, Xi’s announcement asserted China as a global leader in the fight against climate change, signifying that the country is willing to take drastic action to keep global warming to a minimum. But China’s bold moves are likely driven by an ulterior motive—that, as the world’s leading producer of green energy tech, China stands to emerge as a global powerhouse in the post-oil world. https://bit.ly/360Bt7K

California will ban new combustion-engine vehicles starting in 2035. Banning the sale of combustion-engine vehicles follows the news earlier this year that California would require all commercial trucks and vans sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2045. In total, California is the first state in the US to move to prohibit the sale of nearly all fossil fuel-burning vehicles in its borders. California’s new rules could have much broader consequences, too, thanks to its role as a standard bearer for clean air regulations. To date, 14 other states have adopted its progressive zero-emission vehicle program for passenger vehicles, which was launched in the early 1990s and has spurred automakers into developing hybrid and fully electric cars. https://bit.ly/3310XQx

Forget rooftop pools and private yoga rooms — the most important new luxury home amenity is a state-of-the-art air filtration system. Real-estate developer and investor Gregory Malin told the Times that he’d begun marketing filtered air as a wellness amenity over a decade ago, recently adding a nearly US$200,000 ventilation system to a 12,000-square-foot Bay Area home project he worked on. Cleaner, more filtered air isn’t just a draw in single-family residences. Luxury apartment buildings are also taking note of the interest and adjusting offerings accordingly. https://bit.ly/2G3XE2b

Sophic Capital Client Insights

Sophic clients at MicroCap Leadership Summit. This past week, Kraken Robotics (PNG-TSXV) and OneSoft Solutions (OSS-TSXV; OSSIF-OTC) presented at the MicroCap Leadership Summit virtually.

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