The Daily Download - latest tech news, byte sized. Based on @launchticker

The download for 2021-01-22 →

Yin Ming steps down as the head of Ant Group’s insurance unit; Yin had been in the role for five years; reasons for the departure unclear; Ant Group VP Shao Wenlan will take over the division; comes as the company reorganizes its operations, as directed by Chinese regulators . link

EV charging firm EVgo announces a deal to go public via a $575M blank check merger; EVgo is combining with Climate Change Crisis Real Impact I Acquisition Corporation (CCCRI), which trades on the New York Stock Exchange; CCCRI is investing $175M; the remaining $400M is being raised in a funding round; CCCRI was established by David Crane, who previously served as CEO of NRG, the same company that established EVgo more than a decade ago . link

Tucows shuts down its software marketplace Tucows Downloads (TD), the first iteration of which was established in 1993; Tucows notes its core business is now as a domain registrar, but that it had kept TD running for sentimental reasons; the company says TD is old, and that maintaining it is a challenge; the TD library has been transferred to the Internet Archive . link

Amazon says it will establish a pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic at its Seattle HQ on Jan 24; the company, working with WA’s Vaccine Command Center and Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, plans to inoculate 2k eligible people on the first day; follows Amazon’s offer to help the Biden administration roll out vaccines nationwide . link

Elon Musk says he will donate $100M to a prize fund for the best carbon capture tech; Musk, who currently ranks as the world’s richest person, made the announcement via Twitter; he says he will provide more details next week; carbon capture is seen as a critical component in tackling the climate crisis . link

Apple is developing a thinner and lighter version of the MacBook Air, according to Bloomberg sources; it will retain its 13-inch display but have thinner bezels; it will also feature Apple Silicon and a MagSafe charger; the company plans to launch the product in the second half of 2021, or early 2022; additionally, Apple is considering a 15-inch MacBook Air, but it won’t launch at the same time . link

Samsung is considering plans for a $10B chip facility in Austin, TX, according to Bloomberg sources; a final decision is yet to be made, but Samsung is looking to begin work on the plant as soon as this year; if the project goes ahead, it could be operational by 2023; the factory would be the first to use extreme ultraviolet lithography to build next-gen chips . link

Intel says it will probably outsource more of its chip manufacturing over the coming years; Pat Gelsinger, who will soon take over from Bob Swan as CEO, says the company will likely increase its use of third-party foundries because of its broad portfolio; Intel has long designed and produced its key products, but it has run into numerous delays over recent years; follows reports the company is in partnership talks with TSMC . link

Bitcoin’s valuation has dropped 11 percent this week to ~$32k; the cryptocurrency hit a record high of $42k two weeks ago; Reuters notes the decline follows comments from European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, who is calling for digital currencies to be regulated; Janet Yellen, President Biden’s pick to be US Treasury Secretary, has also expressed concerns about crypto-coins being used for illicit purposes . link

Multiple podcasters who publish episodes via Spotify-owned Anchor raise doubts about the platform’s ad inventory; The Verge has spoken with nine podcasters, all of whom say their most prominent advertiser is Anchor itself; Anchor automatically matches ads to shows, with some of the revenue going to creators . link

President Biden names Rebecca Slaughter as acting FTC chair; Slaughter, a Democrat, will replace Republican Joe Simons, who exits at the end of this month; Slaughter has been at the FTC since 2018; she has a reputation for consumer advocacy, having pushed the agency to take action against data abuses, biased algorithms, and more . link

Alphabet announces the closure of Loon, its internet balloon service; the company says it’s been unable to bring down costs low enough to make it a long-term sustainable operation; Loon, which started as a moonshot project, says it hopes its tech will “live on to support the next generation of innovators” . link

Imperfect Foods, which delivers groceries that otherwise would go to waste, raises $95M Series D for a reported $700M valuation led by Insight Partners and Norwest Venture Partners; the company requests subscriber preferences and makes weekly deliveries of groceries based on availability; the firm collects items that stores reject for aesthetic issues, items with short shelf-lives, etc; raised $214M to date . link

San Diego-based Soci, which offers a marketing platform enabling multi-location clients to run localized campaigns, raises $80M Series D led by JMI Equity; the company claims hundreds of enterprise clients, including Ace Hardware and Hertz; integrates with Facebook, Google, and Yelp; offers location-specific analytics, more; raised ~$131M to date . link

TripActions, which provides tools enabling corporations to book travel accommodations, raises $155M Series E for a $5B post-valuation led by A16Z, Addition Ventures, and Elad Gil; investors valued the firm at $4B for a $250M Series D in mid-2019; the company confirmed layoffs last March; raised $1.3B to date . link

Intel ($256B market cap) Q4 beats: $20B revenue ($17.49B expected); $1.52 EPS (adjusted, $1.10 expected); the company noted sales of PCs with Intel chips were up 33 percent year-over-year; Intel's sales for enterprise server systems was down 16 percent; Intel forecasts $18.6B revenue for the first quarter . link

President Biden names FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel as acting chairwoman of the agency; the Democrat attorney will oversee implementation of a new broadband subsidy program; she served at the FCC under Obama and Trump; she supports net neutrality and has opposed large mergers such as that of T-Mobile and Sprint . link

YouTube makes hashtag landing pages available to all users; a video creator can establish or join a topic by including a hashtag (ex: #puppy) on their video's page and viewers can click through to a page of other videos that share that tag; YouTube plans to add a hashtag search function as well . link

This Week in Startups | Angel S5 E1Jason speaks with BoxGroup Investor and TechStars New York City Co-Founder David Tisch about post-Great Recession angel investing, investing in 350-plus companies, portfolio expectations, BoxGroup's big winners to date, dealing with bad and sharp-elbowed investors, investing one's own money vs others' money, more . link

Berlin-based luxury fashion retailer Mytheresa opens at $35.85 in New York Stock Exchange debut after pricing at $26 per share; the company raised ~$407M with the offering; Mytheresa generated $545M in net sales in fiscal 2020 and $7.8M net income; claimed 486k active customers during the period . link

Instacart to eliminate ~1.9k positions; will impact the 10 IL workers who last year became the first Instacart employees to vote for unionization; Instacart, which has grown its contractor network to 500k during the pandemic, said it would pursue new models, such as providing retailers with tech so store employees could prepare customer orders . link

The download for 2021-01-21 →

India-based healthtech startup Pharmarack says it’s close to securing ~$13.7M for its Series B; investors undisclosed; Pharmarack offers order management tools to the healthcare industry; has previously raised $3M . link

Singapore-based digital securities platform iSTOX closes its Series A at $50M; includes backing from the Development Bank of Japan, JIC Venture Growth Investments, Juroku Bank, and Mobile Internet Capital; iSTOX lets users invest in startups, hedge funds, and more from as little as ~$75; the company makes use of blockchain tech to handle securities and contracts; has raised $58M to date . link

Germany-based no-code platform Softr raises $2.2M seed led by Atlantic Labs; the startup offers simplified tools for building websites and web apps; Softr uses Airtable for underlying databases . link

Epic Games has hired two lobbying firms based in Washington DC, reports Axios; filings show Epic, maker of “Fortnite,” has retained the services of Subject Matter and Gibson Group; the report notes Epic generated $1.8B revenue in 2019, and that it’s currently engaged in a legal battle with Apple pertaining to its App Store policies . link

UK-based IG Group (~$4.5B market cap) acquires online brokerage platform Tastytrade for $1B cash and stock; Tastytrade provides trade and investments content; IG Group notes the deal will help its expansion in the US . link

Apple’s first VR/AR headset will be a high-price product aimed at a select market, according to Bloomberg sources; the company does not anticipate it will sell many units but will instead position it as a product intended to prepare developers and consumers for more mainstream devices in the future; Apple is set to launch the headset next year, with a primary focus on VR features; the company is also developing an AR-only device, but it’s not expected for several years . link

Game engine firm Unity hires Peter Moore as SVP of sports and live entertainment; Moore has previously held executive roles at EA, Microsoft, and Sega; Moore left EA in 2017 to serve as CEO of English Premier League soccer club Liverpool FC . link

Tencent faces a lawsuit by multiple WeChat users based in CA for allegedly spying on their conversations; Citizen Power Initiatives for China (CPIFC), a US-based non-profit, has filed the suit claiming Tencent-owned WeChat is monitoring messages between users in the US and those in China on behalf of the Chinese government; CPIFC also says there’s no realistic alternative for people in the US to stay in touch with friends and family in China . link

Online thrift store Curtsy (YC S16) raises $11M Series A led by Index Ventures with participation from Y Combinator, FJ Labs, 1984 Ventures, and others; the marketplace lets users list and purchase apparel via a mobile app; has raised $14.5M to date . link

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calls for Europe and the US to work together in regulating Big Tech, noting the risk of hate speech and disinformation undermining democracies; she made the comments in a speech before the European Parliament, marking President Biden's inauguration; she said internet giants with uncontrolled political power must face limits under democracy . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with CEO Emery Wells about how distributed work is changing the film industry, how production companies work, transitioning from filmmaking to running a software company, pitching to VCs for the first time, fielding a pre-launch acquisition offer, more . link

Michael Pack, who served as CEO of the US Agency for Global Media under Donald Trump, resigns per the Biden administration's request; journalists at government-funded media outlets criticized Pack for decisions apparently intended to give the Trump administration control over content . link

Criminal activity represented $10B in crypto payments last year, or 0.34 percent of all crypto spending, Chainalysis estimates; compares to $21.4B, or 2.1 percent, in 2019; scams represented the majority of crypto-crime-related spending last year at $2.6B; dark market transactions represented $1.7B . link

Twitch bans Donald Trump indefinitely; the company restricted his account the day after the US Capitol Building attack, saying it would reassess the situation once Trump left office; today Twitch said Trump's channel posed an ongoing risk of further incitement of violence . link

Google urges court to transfer ten-state antitrust suit from TX to CA, saying that all relevant witnesses and documents are near the company's headquarters; TX Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading the suit, which accuses Google of rigging ad auctions . link

Amazon offers to assist the Biden administration in reaching 100M COVID vaccinations within the first 100 days of President Biden's term; SVP of Worldwide Operations Dave Clark said the company had an agreement with a health care provider to administer vaccinations at Amazon locations; he did not specify which facilities could serve the public in such a scenario . link

The People’s Bank of China releases draft rules targeting anti-competitive practices in the nation's online payments market; the rules state that any non-bank company controlling half of an online payments market, or two companies controlling a collective two-thirds of a market, will face an antitrust investigation and potential breakup . link

Facebook does not plan to lift its indefinite ban on Donald Trump's account, according to NBC News sources; the company enacted a 24-hour suspension on Jan 7, later extending it to a minimum of two weeks, citing content supporting or condoning the Jan 6 Capitol Building attack . link

Chicago-based Fyllo, which provides compliance solutions for the cannabis industry, acquires Scottsdale-based DataOwl, which serves the cannabis industry with tools for online orders, customer messaging, loyalty programs, more; Fyllo has raised $28M to date . link

SpaceX takes 60 more Starlink satellites into orbit with first launch of the year; it was the company's 17th such delivery, and brought the constellation to 1k units; SpaceX also set a record for its reusability program, launching a Falcon 9 rocket for the eighth time and landing it; Starlink recently expanded its US beta program with launches in Canada and the UK . link

Norwegian browser company Opera acquires UK-based game engine company YoYo Games for $10M, launches a new division branded Opera Gaming; in addition to its flagship browser product (which claims 380M global users), Opera offers a gamer-focused browser called Opera GX (7M users); YoYo developed GameMaker Studio 2, which enables entry-level game makers to produce 2D titles . link

The download for 2021-01-20 →

Germany-based HR startup HiPeople raises $3M seed led by Moonfire with participation from Capnamic Ventures, and Cherry Ventures; the company offers tools for automating employee reference checks; has raised $4.1M to date . link

Landbot, a Spain-based chatbot platform, raises $8M Series A led by Swanlaab with participation from CDTI, Nauta Capital, and others; the startup offers no-code tools for building chatbots; has raised $10.2M to date . link

Google removes social platform Wimkin from the Play Store, citing posts that called for violence; comes a few days after Apple pulled the app from its App Store; Wimkin founder Jason Sheppard says he’s working to update its policies and institute better content moderation tools . link

Incoming President Biden has named Gary Gensler as head of the SEC; Gensler, a former banker, has taught courses on blockchain tech at MIT; he also previously headed the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission . link

Warner Bros-owned DC Entertainment will relaunch its $8 per month subscription service DC Universe on Jan 21; it launched in 2018 as a hub for accessing DC comics, movies, and TV shows; many DC movies and shows have since moved over to HBO Max; subscribers to the rebranded DC Universe Infinite will get early access to digital comics; also promises an improved user experience . link

Taiwan-based chipmaker MediaTek announces Dimensity 1200, a 5G chipset designed for smartphones; MediaTek claims the chip is 22 percent more powerful and 25 percent more efficient than its predecessor; Xiaomi’s Redmi and Oppo’s Realme both say they will use the chip in upcoming devices . link

Citrix agrees to acquire project management platform Wrike from Vista Equity Partners for $2.2B; Wrike offers collaborative tools aimed at enterprise teams; Wrike CEO Andrew Filev will also move over to Citrix; the deal is expected to close in the first half of 2021 . link

Apple names JP Richards as the head of film marketing strategy for Apple TV+; Richards previously served as co-president of Worldwide Marketing at Warner Bros; he will report to Chris Van Amburg at Apple when he officially joins next month . link

LG is considering several options for its smartphone business, including a possible sale, reports The Korea Herald; an unnamed official says it’s time for LG to make a “cold judgment” about the unit; CEO Kwon Bong-seok has sent a memo to staff advising significant changes are coming, though he assures the company will not lay off workers . link

South Korean carmaker Kia says it's considering self-driving and EV partnerships with multiple overseas firms; follows a report that parent firm Hyundai would likely task Kia with overseeing a partnership with Apple; Hyundai has been identified as a possible manufacturing partner for a long-rumored Apple car . link

President Trump issues an executive order placing new restrictions on cloud computing operators; the edict allows the Commerce Department to block companies such as AWS and Microsoft’s Azure from operating in countries where their cloud services could be used to perpetrate cyber attacks against the US; overseas entities can also be stopped from opening US-based cloud accounts; it remains to be seen whether the incoming Biden administration will uphold the order . link

Cybersecurity firm Malwarebytes discloses a data breach; Microsoft told the company about the hack on Dec 15 after it identified unusual activity emanating from the dormant Office 365 security app; Malwarebytes says it believes the attackers only managed to access internal emails; it's thought the Russia-backed team behind the SolarWinds supply-chain attack are responsible, though it's not connected to that particular event . link

South Korean internet firm Naver acquires Canada-based story platform Wattpad for ~$600M cash and stock; Naver will incorporate some of Wattpad’s operations into its user-generated comics service Webtoon; Wattpad raised $117.8M to date . link

Andreessen Horowitz plans to add an opinion section to its website, reports The Information; the investment firm is hiring for an executive editor and an opinions editor, noting it has plans to “dramatically scale” its editorial operations; the company will invite outside individuals to contribute articles with a focus on tech and business . link

Search marketing intelligence company Adthena acquires Kantar's paid search business; terms undisclosed; the deal will give Kantar clients access to Adthena's product suite; Adthena previously made its data available for Kantar's ad intelligence solution; Adthena has raised $23M to date . link

Short-term rentals company Vrbo reverses stance on DC-area bookings during the period surrounding Inauguration Day, announces it will block new reservations and re-vet those existing; last week Airbnb canceled all existing DC reservations and blocked new bookings; Vrbo initially said it would not cancel or block reservations . link

WeChat says it facilitated ~$250B in mini-program transactions last year, up ~100 percent over 2019; the company's app platform enables users to hail rides, order food, etc; WeChat also said mini-games on the platform collectively claimed 500M-plus monthly active users . link

Autonomous driving tech company Aurora partners with truck manufacturer Paccar to develop and deploy self-driving semi-trucks; the companies plan a rapid development program for Peterbilt's 579 and Kenworth's T680; Aurora said it would work with Paccar toward an expansive plan; Aurora agreed in December to acquire Uber's self-driving tech unit . link

Brave browser update adds native support for the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) protocol, which enables peer-to-peer, decentralized file storage; allows users to store content across many systems, accessible via URI (ipfs://'hash ID'); users under oppressive regimes can access an uncensored Wikipedia, for example, and can optionally install an IPFS node to help host content . link

Netflix ($222B market cap) Q4 mixed: $6.64B revenue ($6.63 expected); $1.19 EPS ($1.39 expected); 8.5M net new paid subscribers (6.47M expected); now claims 204M total paid subscribers globally; Netflix said it was returning to free positive cash flow and would no longer raise external funding for daily operations; the company also said it would explore returning cash to shareholders . link

Miami-based micro-mobility company Bolt to expand into 48 new markets after acquiring US assets from the defunct BC-based Last Mile Holdings via auction; the assets included Gotcha Mobility and Ojo Electric; Bolt works with local partners who operate fleets; the company, which offers rental electric scooters, has a bike in production and plans a moped . link

Facebook continued to recommend political groups despite claiming it had stopped, according to The Markup; Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in October the platform had stopped recommending all political content and social interest groups; Facebook reiterated on Jan 11 it would not recommend civic groups; the Citizen Browser project found Facebook recommended political groups in December and January . link

ViacomCBS to relaunch its CBS All Access streaming service on March 4 as Paramount Plus; the company will hold a promotional event on Feb 24; will feature 30k-plus movies and shows from BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, more; will also offer new original titles . link

Volta Charging, which produces EV charging stations with 55-inch advertising displays, raises $125M from Energize Ventures, others; the company's network includes stations in parking lots at grocery stores, hospitals, more; partners include Albertsons and Wegmans; customers do not pay for charging; raised $375M to date . link

Verizon partners with Unity to develop tools for creating 3D content for 5G mobile devices; the Unity platform will integrate Verizon's 5G and mobile edge compute services; edge computing enables rapid delivery of 3D assets and content, facilitating more robust mobile apps . link

Forbes to launch newsletter platform, split subscription revenue 50/50 with writers; writers will also take a cut of advertising revenue; Forbes will initially hire 20-30 popular writers and provide them with base salaries, benefits, etc; will also offer editorial guidance, copy editing, and legal support; the company ultimately plans to open the platform to its 2.8k-member contributor network . link

MN-based EV manufacturer Rivian raises $2.65B at a $27B valuation led by T Rowe Price funds and accounts; the company targets the adventure/off-roading market with the R1T pickup (starts at $67.5k) and the R1S SUV (starts at $70k); Rivian expects to produce 250k vehicles per year by mid-decade; raised $8.25B to date . link

GM-owned autonomous vehicle company Cruise raises $2B-plus for a $30B post-valuation from Microsoft, Honda, others; GM also contributed and remains the majority stakeholder; Cruise will use Microsoft’s Azure as part of a new partnership; investors last valued the firm at $19B for a $1.2B round in spring 2019; raised $7B-plus to date . link

Optical component manufacturer Lumentum to acquire laser maker Coherent in a $5.7B cash-and-stock deal; Lumentum primarily targets cloud networking and data transmission; Coherent's products target medical and scientific equipment, semiconductor production, more . link

The download for 2021-01-19 →

Healthtech firm K Health raises $132M Series E on a $1.5B post-money valuation led by GGV Capital and Valor Equity Partners; the company operates a telemedicine service; has raised $271M to date . link

India-based delivery firm Dunzo raises $40M Series E from Google, Lightbox, Evolvence, and others; the company offers hyper-local on-demand deliveries across a dozen cities; has raised $121M to date . link

The Indian government has asked WhatsApp to cancel a planned update to its privacy policy; India’s tech ministry says the changes “raise grave concerns”; Facebook-owned WhatsApp has opted to delay its new user terms following misinterpretation by some users . link

Adtech firm Taboola rolls out a stories feature in beta; Taboola Stories presents embedded sponsored content that, when launched, presents in a swipeable, vertical layout, reminiscent of social media platforms . link

UK-based logistics firm AnyVan discloses a data breach; hackers gained access to users names, encrypted passwords, and more; AnyVan says it was made aware of the attack on Dec 31, but notes the incident occurred in late Sept 2020 . link

French insurtech startup LeoCare raises €15M (~$18.2M) from Felix Capital, Ventech, and Daphni; LeoCare offers a suite of insurance products via a mobile app; the company also has plans for a marketplace for professional home services . link

ByteDance-owned Douyin launches a digital wallet; Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, has added Douyin Pay as an option for users to send and receive payments; additionally, Douyin is serving as the official digital red envelope partner of Chinese broadcaster CCTV for this year’s New Year celebrations . link

India-based agtech firm DeHaat raises $30M Series C led by Prosus Ventures with participation from RTP Global, Sequoia Capital India, and others; the company operates a platform connecting farmers with financiers, buyers, and more; claims to serve ~400k farms across the country; has raised ~$50M to date . link

Twitter signs a content partnership with India-based social app Dailyhunt; financial terms undisclosed; under the agreement, Dailyhunt will showcase Twitter Moments (curated tweets relating to a specific topic) within its app; according to App Annie data, Twitter currently has less than 75M monthly active users in India; by comparison, Dailyhunt has 285M daily active users . link

Skyqraft, a Swedish startup that provides drone-based infrastructure inspections, raises $2.2M seed led by Subvenio Invest with participation from Antler, Next Human Ventures, and others; the company uses UAVs to capture images of powerlines and AI-powered tools to help identify potential issues . link

Chinese carmaker Geely signs a strategic partnership with Tencent; terms undisclosed; the companies will jointly develop smart car tech and test autonomous driving features; Geely has recently signed a similar deal with Baidu . link

ByteDance stops developing smartphones under its Smartisan brand, reports South China Morning Post; the company acquired Smartisan assets in 2019 and launched the ~$400 Jianguo Pro 3 the same year; the Smartisan team is being folded into ByteDance’s Dali unit, which produces devices for the education sector; ByteDance notes it will continue to support its existing smartphone customers, while also exploring opportunities for its Smartisan OS . link

UK-based online flower delivery service Bloom & Wild raises £75M (~$102M) Series D led by General Catalyst with participation from Index Ventures, Novator, and others; the company delivers flowers by mail; operates in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, and Austria; has raised ~$137M to date . link

Zoom closed a $2B stock offering on Friday; the teleconferencing company initially targeted $1.5B but expanded the offering due to strong investor demand; CFO Kelly Steckelberg said the firm hadn't earmarked funds for specific investments and had chosen an equity raise over debt, in part, for that reason; the raise, Zoom's first since its 2019 IPO, doubled the company's cash on hand . link

AT&T, Verizon, and others committed a collective total of $81B in a recent 5G spectrum auction, and The Wall Street Journal says carriers are likely to turn to banks and bond markets to finance their winning bids; sources said AT&T was in talks with banks for a one-year $14B loan; analysts indicated Verizon would likely issue bonds in coming weeks; the total set a new record for FCC airwave auctions . link

Sequoia and Lone Pine Capital have agreed to buy stock in Germany-based online car-sales platform Auto1, which is preparing for IPO, at a $7.2B valuation, according to Bloomberg sources; the shares come from early investor DN Capital; Sequoia and Lone Pine plan to invest in the IPO as well . link

Telegram Founder Pavel Durov says the company has removed hundreds of public calls for violence over the past week; follows the announcement that the company shut down dozens of channels supporting white supremacy, Nazi ideals, etc; the Coalition for a Safer Web recently filed suit against Apple for allegedly failing to take action against Telegram following hate speech on the platform . link

Parler's website goes live with limited functionality one week after going down due to a ban from AWS; Parler filed suit against Amazon for the disruption, which also impacted the Parler apps, already removed from Apple and Google's app stores; all of Parler's vendors dropped the firm; CEO John Matze published a message on the revived site, indicating the service would return . link

Cryptography researcher Nadim Kobeissi, who created the now-defunct encrypted desktop chat app Cryptocat, raises $100k pre-seed at a $10M valuation after tweeting about his concept for a decentralized social network based on mesh-networked micro-services; Kobeissi is currently prototyping Capsule and hopes to have a web app MVP ready by March . link

Maps.Me, which provides an offline maps app for travelers, raises $50M led by Alameda Research; the company plans to update the platform with a multi-currency wallet and a decentralized finance ecosystem supporting payments and investments; claims 140M users . link

German HR and recruiting solutions company Personio raises $125M Series D at a $1.7B post-valuation led by Index Ventures and Meritech; offers tools for recruitment and offer processes, onboarding, managing personal data and documents, more; claims 3k clients including HelloFresh and Spendesk; raised $254M to date . link

Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga says she will meet with competition authorities this week to discuss sanctioning social media companies engaging in what she referred to as systematic abuse of free speech; Varga said Facebook had inhibited the spread of Christian, conservative, and right-wing opinions; she added that the European Union should address the issue, but Hungary could take action as a stop-gap . link

Amazon commits ~$278M to establishing two new logistics centers in Italy: one in Novara and one near Modena; the company expects to create ~1.1k new jobs over three years; Amazon currently employs ~8.5k in Italy . link

Capital rioter planned to sell Nancy Pelosi's laptop to the Russian government, according to an FBI affidavit charging Riley Williams with unlawful entry and impeding government functions; UK media identified Williams last weekend; The Verge reports a video taken inside the Capitol Building on Jan 6 shows Williams directing other rioters to Pelosi's office . link

Tesla starts deliveries of China-made Model Y units; the company began constructing its Shanghai facility two years ago to avoid the shipping costs and import duties associated with manufacturing elsewhere for the Chinese market; Tesla began delivering Model 3 units in China one year ago and sold 138k-Plus in 2020, making it the top-selling EV in the country . link

Houston-based database tools company Idera acquires Vienna-based cloud API and micro-services company apilayer; terms undisclosed; founded in 2015, apilayer provides tools for converting, verifying, and incorporating real-time data; clients include Amazon, Facebook, and Slack; Idera plans to integrate apilayer into its developer tools business . link

The download for 2021-01-18 →

UK-based research network proSapient raises $10M Series A led by Smedvig Capital with participation from 24 Haymarket and others; the startup operates a platform to connect machine learning experts; has raised $18M to date . link

Nonprofit Coalition for a Safer Web (CSW) files a lawsuit against Apple, urging it to remove Telegram from its App Store; CSW alleges Apple has failed to take action against Telegram, which they say is being used to spread hate speech; the encrypted messaging service has recently removed dozens of channels relating to White supremacy and other forms of hate . link

ProPublica publishes an interactive timeline of more than 500 videos from the Jan 6 insurrection at the US Capitol; shows how events unfolded over six hours; Trump rally attendees originally posted the clips to Parler; a researcher subsequently scraped them before Parler went offline . link

Amazon says it will invest €230M (~$278M) in two new Italian logistics hubs; it will open a distribution center in Novara and a fulfilment site close to Modena; both locations will open this year and are set to add 1.1k jobs over the next three years; Amazon currently employs 8.5k people in the country . link

Google says a lawsuit led by TX Attorney General Ken Paxton makes misleading claims about its ad operations; in a blog post, Google’s Economic Policy Director Adam Cohen argues the firm’s ad rates are fair and that it operates an open marketplace; Cohen also says the company doesn't favor Facebook or any other partner . link

India-based messaging platform Hike has shut down; reasons for the closure unknown, but Bloomberg notes Hike has struggled to compete against WhatsApp; the app, founded by Kavin Bharti Mittal, was previously valued at $1.4B; backers include SoftBank and Tencent . link

Chinese EV firm Xpeng Motors announces Navigation Guided Pilot (NGP), an advanced driver assist feature for its P7 sedan; similar to Tesla’s Autopilot, NGP promises to handle lane changes, overtaking, and more; NGP will form part of Xpeng’s XPILOT 3.0 driver assist service, which it plans to launch in Q1 . link

The Vietnamese government approves a $270M Foxconn factory; the plant, overseen by Foxconn subsidiary Fukang Technology, will manufacture ~8M tablets and laptops annually; Vietnamese officials say Foxconn plans to hire 10k people in the country this year . link

Samsung vice chairman Jay Y Lee has been ordered back to prison for 30 months in South Korea on bribery charges; Lee was initially convicted in 2017, but the country’s Supreme Court later overturned the case and ordered a new trial; Samsung’s share price dropped 3.4 percent on the news .Bloomberg explores the history of the case against Lee; notes Lee’s return to prison could impact Samsung’s ability to finalize major decisions, M&A deals, and more . link

European games startup Savage Game Studios raises $4.4M led by Makers Fund and Play Ventures; based in Finland and Germany, the studio is developing a mobile shooter game . link

Virgin Orbit successfully deploys orbital satellites for the first time; the company flew a customized Boeing 747 to 35k feet, from where it set off a rocket carrying the satellite payload; that rocket subsequently reached its target orbit; Virgin Orbit failed in its first test flight last year . link

The Trump administration denies trade licenses for many Huawei’s suppliers, according to Reuters sources; the move impacts Intel, Japanese chip firm Kioxia, and others; a letter from trade group Semiconductor Industry Association notes many of the affected companies have been waiting months for White House approval; the Trump administration added Huawei to a restricted entities list in 2019 . link

Singapore-based superapp Grab plans to launch an IPO this year, according to Reuters sources; the firm is yet to finalize its plans, though one of the sources speculates Grab could raise at least $2B; any public listing would happen after merger talks with rival Gojek have concluded . link

Parler posts a notice to its main URL, promising the platform will be back soon; the note, published under the banner “technical difficulties,” claims the company will resolve the challenges it faces; Parler was taken offline when AWS ended its hosting agreement last week; CEO John Matze initially said Parler would be back within a week; he has also suggested the platform might not return . link

The download for 2021-01-17 →

A lawsuit seeking class-action status accuses Amazon of driving up e-book prices for all consumers, indicating its deals with five major book publishers prevent other retailers from selling the publisher's digital titles at lower prices; the deals require the publishers ensure other stores sell at the same prices as Amazon . link

Apple announces 20-plus temporary retail store closures in GA, NC, and TX due to spikes in COVID cases; the company will allow customers to pick up products currently in the shop for repair . link

Facebook blocks events near the White House, the Capitol Building, and state capitol buildings through Inauguration Day; the company is also conducting additional reviews of inauguration-related events; Facebook has banned phrases used in the lead-up to the Jan 6 Capitol Building attack, such as link

NASA cuts its first Space Launch System hot fire test short; NASA had intended to fire the system's four RS-25 rockets for eight minutes, simulating an actual launch burn, but stopped the test after two minutes; NASA has been developing the system for a decade and plans to use it to return astronauts to the moon . link

London-based Deliveroo raises $180M at a $7B-plus valuation led by Durable Capital Partners and Fidelity Management; Amazon and other investors reportedly valued the firm at between $3B and $4B for a $575M round in May 2019; the company plans a public listing as soon as April, but hasn't indicated if it will list in New York or London; raised ~$1.7B to date . link

Dating apps including Bumble and Tinder are using photos taken inside the Capitol Building during the Jan attack to identify riot participants on their platform and close their accounts; vigilante app users have lured rioters to share photos and their accounts of the siege, then forwarded the materials over to law enforcement . link

Investors who participated in a pre-IPO round for Ant Group subsidiary Ant International were stuck with illiquid stakes when Chinese regulators disqualified Ant Group from launching its planned $37B dual-IPO; Financial Times sources say sovereign wealth funds, private equity firms, and others invested a collective $10.3B, and haven't received information about a potential IPO revival or how restructuring could impact valuation . link

Ford delays deliveries of the all-electric Mustang Mach E to perform additional quality checks; the company delivered a small number of units in December; Ford recently contacted several hundred customers to notify them of the delay, saying some would have to wait for up to a month; Ford did not disclose the nature of the problem . link

Online election fraud misinformation declined 73 percent after numerous social platforms deactivated President Trump's accounts, according to Zignal Labs; user mentions of election fraud across multiple platforms fell from 2.5M in the days before the Jan 8 ban to 688k in the days after . link

Short-term rentals company Vrbo elects not to cancel reservations in DC during the week of Joe Biden's inauguration; Airbnb canceled reservations for the week and prohibited new reservations; Vrbo has instead reminded users of its policies and urged hosts to cancel potentially problematic bookings; the FBI has issued warnings regarding the potential for armed violence in DC and at state capitols . link

Uber plans to spin out Postmates X, the robotic delivery division it obtained through its $2.6B acquisition of Postmates last year, according to TechCrunch sources; using the name Serve Robotics, the unit reportedly seeks investors to establish the new company; the name refers to the autonomous Serve robot, which will deliver for some Pink Dot locations in CA; Uber reportedly will maintain a ~25-percent stake . link

Facebook suspends ads for gun accessories and military-like protective gear until Jan 22 at the earliest; follows a BuzzFeed News story that Facebook had displayed ads for such items in the News Feeds of users who engaged with content referencing the attempted insurrection at the US Capitol Building on Jan 6; the company previously prohibited ads for guns, ammo, and add-ons like silencers . link

IBM ($114.4B market cap) acquires IT infrastructure consulting and services company Taos Mountain; terms undisclosed; Taos Mountain helps companies migrate their apps and data from self-managed, in-house servers to the cloud; clients include Netflix, Sephora, and Target; employs 600 across the US and Canada; the companies expect the deal to close this quarter . link

Tencent acquires Shenzhen-based audiobook platform Lazy Audio for $417M, mostly cash; founded in 2012 and owned by Shenzhen Lanren, Lazy Audio focuses on audiobooks but also offers radio shows and podcasts; it generates revenue via premium subscriptions, individual title sales, and advertising . link

The download for 2021-01-16 →

Twitter outlines its plans for Inauguration Day, including live streams, curated Moments, and the archival and transfer of institutional White House accounts (such as @WhiteHouse, @POTUS, and @PressSec); Twitter notes that institutional accounts will not retain the outgoing administration's followers . link

Apple has prototyped folding displays but hasn't engineered devices to employ them, according to a Bloomberg source; the company reportedly has discussed an iPhone display that folds out to 6.7 inches; Bloomberg notes that should Apple pursue a device with folding display, it won't launch for years . link

Sen Roger Wicker (R-MS), who serves as the Republican chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, asks the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and other companies for details about the decision-making process to suspend and terminate social accounts belonging to Conservative users; he also mentioned actions against apps like Parler; he said the efforts appeared to be politically biased censorship . link

Amazon workers at the company's fulfillment center in Bessemer, AL to vote on joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, marking the company's first union election since 2014; the board will mail out ballots on Feb 8 and begin counting votes on March 30; ~6.2k hourly employees work at the warehouse; the board needs a simple majority of submitted ballots . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Indie Hackers Founder Courtland Allen and Pioneer's Daniel Gross about working with very early-stage founders, why so many VCs have moved downstream, incentivizing customer success over growth at any cost, more; the trio also discusses several specific early-stage startups . link

Walmart President and CEO of US eCommerce Marc Lore, who joined the retailer when it purchased Lore's in 2016, will retire on Jan 31 and remain a consultant through September; Walmart shut Jet down in mid-2019 and unified its US physical and online operations in 2020; EVP Casey Carl will assume e-commerce and digital responsibilities . link

Group Nine Media's SPAC raises $200M with Nasdaq debut under the symbol $GNACU; The Information previously reported the vehicle would target a digital media deal; Group Nine Media owns Thrillist, PopSugar, The Dodo, and other properties . link

Desktop Metal ($5.3B market cap) acquires 3D printer company EnvisionTEC for $300M; EnvisionTEC's tech supports printing in 190-plus materials; the company claims ~1k customers in the dental space, including Smile Direct Club; also serves Ford and Hasbro; will continue to operate as a standalone division within Desktop Metal; the companies expect the deal to close this quarter . link

GitLab CEO Sid Sijbrandij confirms a report that the company allowed employees to sell up to 20 percent of their equity holdings in a share sale valuing the firm at $6B (up from $2.7B for a round in late 2019); the company previously revealed plans to go public by last November, but GitLab delayed due to the pandemic; Sijbrandij said he still plans to take the company public and expressed interest in the SPAC route . link

WhatsApp postpones privacy policy changes after a misinterpretation led to user confusion and churn; the High Court of Delhi agreed to consider a petition challenging the new policy; WhatsApp had planned to institute the policy on Feb 8 but will now wait until May 15 . link

Austin-based dating app Bumble, which requires women make the first move, files for IPO; Founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe previously co-founded Tinder and ultimately sued that company for harassment and discrimination; Bumble claims 42M monthly active users as of the third quarter; 2.4M paid for services during the first nine months of the year; the company plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol BMBL . link

Apple plans its first iMac redesign since 2012 in its shift away from Intel processors, according to Bloomberg sources; the redesign reportedly will reduce bezel size and eliminate the link

Apple is testing vapor chamber cooling systems for iPhone, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo; Kuo said Apple was highly likely to implement the tech in a coming model, though it might not be ready for this year's lineup; Kuo noted Apple would need vapor chamber tech to handle the thermal demands of 5G and increasing CPU thermal loads . link

Apple is considering a podcast subscription service through which users would purchase access to individual shows, according to sources for The Information; despite helping to create the podcast industry at the turn of the century and still operating the world's most widely used podcasting app, the company has not profited from podcasts to date; Apple has ramped up podcast efforts in recent years and reportedly bid for Wondery . link

The download for 2021-01-15 →

Amazon announces Alexa Custom Assistant (ACA), an enterprise product that lets companies build their own voice assistant; Fiat Chrysler is the first to adopt the tech, with plans to build a branded assistant that uses a custom wake word; Amazon is making ACA available in multiple countries including the US, Canada, Brazil, France, and Germany . link

Amazon is facing a class-action lawsuit over its ebook pricing; the suit, filed by law firm Hagens Berman, alleges Amazon has colluded with the five largest US publishers to maintain pricing practices that negatively impact consumers; the legal action follows an announcement from CT Attorney General William Tong that the state is investigating Amazon’s ebook business . link

NY-based employee health benefits service Nayya raises $11M Series A led by Felicis Ventures with participation from Social Leverage, Guardian Life, Cameron Ventures, and Unum Business Ventures; Nayya offers tools to enterprise customers that help staff navigate available healthcare plans; has raised $14M to date . link

Bumble has temporarily removed a feature that lets users filter matches based on their political leanings; the company says it took the step to “prevent misuse and abuse”; follows reports some Bumble users were spotted among the rioters at the US Capitol last week . link

Chinese regulators announce an antitrust investigation into Tencent-backed e-commerce platform Vipshop; the full nature of the probe is undisclosed, but the watchdog says it’s exploring claims of unfair competition; follows complaints from competitors that Vipshop is enforcing unreasonable contracts that make it harder for merchants to sell their products elsewhere . link

Trade experts say the Trump administration's sanctions against Xiaomi will likely have limited impact; according to IDC data, North America accounts for 0.1 percent of Xiaomi's global operations; the company does rely on Qualcomm chips for a majority of its smartphones, but it's unclear how the new restrictions will impact its supply chain; Xiaomi says it only makes consumer products and does not have ties to the Chinese military . link

CNBC explores the decision-making processes behind Facebook’s and Twitter’s suspensions of President Trump; sources for the report say Mark Zuckerberg began considering an indefinite ban against Trump immediately after the Jan 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, believing the president had crossed a line; Jack Dorsey discussed a permanent ban against Trump on Jan 6, but instead opted for a 12-hour suspension; Twitter later removed Trump’s account entirely . link

UK-based broadband satellite operator OneWeb raises $1.4B from SoftBank and Hughes Network Systems; OneWeb, which emerged from bankruptcy in November, currently has 110 satellites in orbit; it’s aiming to launch another 540 by mid-2022 . link

Apple removes social platform Wimkin from its App Store after users posted calls for violence; Wimkin, which has ~300k users, positions itself as a platform for uncensored speech; Wimkin founder Jason Sheppard says the small company has removed dozens of posts and suspended almost 400 members for organizing militia activity; Sheppard notes Wimkin is adding some automated moderation tools to block specific keywords . link

Video Q&A platform Capsule raises $2M led by Array Ventures with participation from Bloomberg Beta and others; launched last year, Capsule offers tools to solicit feedback from consumers in the form of self-taped clips; built by the team behind defunct social platform Phhhoto and marketing service Hypno . link

The High Court of Delhi in India will consider a petition that challenges WhatsApp's updated privacy policy; WhatsApp has recently informed users it reserves the right to share location data, phone numbers, and more with Facebook and Instagram; the petitioners claim WhatsApp’s move will lead to national security risks; Facebook has sought to dispel rumors about its privacy changes . link

Seattle-based home services platform Porch acquires four companies: insurance firm Homeowners of America for $100M, marketing and data platform V12 for $22M, home inspection business Palm-Tech, and iRoofing, which provides a SaaS solution for roof contractors; Porch did not disclose the financial terms of the last two deals; Porch went public via SPAC merger late last year . link

A leaked near-final version of Windows 10X reveals a lightweight operating system focused on web apps; the company originally conceived the OS for dual-screen devices but changed course to target laptops with a Chrome OS competitor; the centered Start button functions as a launcher and doesn't feature the Live Tiles of Windows 10; the user can pin Progressive Web Apps to the taskbar; launch details undisclosed . link

Samsung launches the $200 Galaxy Buds Pro; the IPX7-rated fully waterproof buds support USB-C and wireless charging; features active noise-canceling and Ambient mode (when paired with Android phones) that allows the user to hear the environment around them; Buds Pro detects when the user starts an in-person conversation, lowers music volume, and activates Ambient mode . link

Samsung announces the Tile-like Galaxy SmartTag, available Jan 29 for $30; the Bluetooth Low Energy device features a hole for keychain attachment; trackable via the SmartThings app, which displays the tracker's last registered location on a map; tracking support limited to Galaxy devices . link

Samsung launches the Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, and S21 Ultra, starting at $800, $1k, and $1.2k, respectively; the 6.2-inch S21 and 6.7-inch S21 Plus have reduced resolution and RAM compared to their predecessors and also lack curved display edges, but their prices are $200 less than last year's models; the S21 Ultra is the top-of-the-line flagship; Samsung will not include headphones or charging adaptors; all models are now available for preorder and will be available Jan 29 . link

Medium acquires Paris-based social e-reading platform Glose; terms undisclosed; users can create bookshelves with notes, enabling followers to read and discuss the same titles; Glose gamifies reading, rewarding users for streaks, etc; the company also operates an education program, which adds class assignments, group reading, more; Medium has raised $132M to date; Glose previously raised ~$3.5M . link

The Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), which includes Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce, as well as other health and tech firms, is working to establish a system for storing COVID immunization records in digital wallets; VCO is using the SMART Health Cards specification, which supports digital wallets; such records could serve as the standard for allowing people into events, onto airplanes, etc . link

Used apparel marketplace Poshmark opens at $97.50 in its Nasdaq debut after pricing at $42 per share for a $3B valuation - above the company's target range of $35-$39 per share; private investors valued the firm at $600M for a Series E in November 2017; founded in 2011, raised $153M before going public .Update: Poshmark closes its first day of trading up 141 percent . link

Axios to launch internal communications tool AxiosHQ next month, starting at $10k per year; launch customers include Delta Air Lines and AT&T; the SaaS provides templates for company-wide communications and analyzes text in real-time to assign a link

Google closes its $2.1B Fitbit acquisition; EU antitrust regulators approved the deal last month with conditions intended to protect Fitbit user data and competition in the wearables market; in his announcement of the closure, SVP Rick Osterloh said the acquisition was always about devices, not data; the Justice Department responded to that announcement, saying its Antitrust Division had not yet completed its investigation of the deal . link

Cisco signs new agreement to acquire optical interconnect manufacturer Acacia; Cisco agreed to buy Acacia for $2.6B in 2019, but Acacia recently canceled the deal, saying it failed to obtain Chinese regulatory approval in time; Cisco responded with a suit against Acacia last week; now Cisco has agreed to boost the original purchase price by 64 percent, valuing Acacia at ~$4.5B, fully diluted . link

The download for 2021-01-14 →

CT Attorney General William Tong announces an antitrust investigation into Amazon’s ebook business; Tong cites potential issues concerning the company’s contracts with publishers; CT has previously filed actions against Apple over its ebook operations . link

Germany-based freight forwarding company Sennder raises $160M Series D on a ~$1B post-money valuation from Accel, Lakestar, and others; Sennder operates a platform to connect logistics firms with enterprises; has raised $260M to date . link

Sweden-based subscription management platform Minna Technologies raises €15.5M (~$18.8M) Series B from Element Ventures, MiddleGame Ventures, Nineyards Equity, and Visa; the company provides its tools directly to banks, who in turn let customers manage subscriptions via their proprietary apps; has raised ~$25M to date . link

China-based self-driving startup WeRide raises $310M led by Yutong Group; the company is developing driverless systems for third-party automakers; WeRide raised $200M Series B in December (unclear if the new funds are an extension) . link

Google says it will support President-elect Biden’s plans to reform US immigration laws; additionally, its philanthropic unit will cover costs for ~500 undocumented young people seeking work authorization under the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program; Biden has not outlined his immigration proposals, but has suggested he will focus on immediate action . link

Universal Studios Japan delays the opening of the Super Nintendo World (SNW) theme park in Osaka; the site was set to open on Feb 4, but the city has announced a state of emergency linked to the COVID-19 pandemic which is scheduled to run until Feb 7; Universal says it will announce a new opening date soon; SNW was initially supposed to open last year . link

The Chinese government drafts legislation to allow the testing of driverless vehicles on public highways; the proposed rules were published earlier this week, and it's expected they will soon go into force; China has allowed autonomous car testing on city streets since 2018 . link

Philadelphia-based healthtech startup NeuroFlow raises $20M Series B led by Magellan Health; the company offers a telemedicine service providing support to those living with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions; NeuroFlow makes use of AI to help identify at-risk patients; has raised $31M to date . link

Singapore-based Grab Financial (a division of superapp Grab) raises $300M on a $3B post-money valuation led by Hanwha Asset Management with participation from GGV, Flourish Ventures, and others; Grab Financial says it will used the investment to establish a challenger bank in the city-state . link

Online used apparel marketplace Poshmark has priced its shares at $42 apiece ahead of its IPO: the company previously offered a guide price of $35 to $39; it is selling 6.6M shares, raising $277M on a $3.5B valuation; it's expected to begin trading on the Nasdaq today under the symbol POSH . link

Amazon-owned Ring begins rolling out end-to-end encryption for its video doorbells, indoor cameras, and more; Ring notes it will block certain other features such as the ability to view footage via Echo Show; users have to activate the setting . link

Parler CEO John Matze says he’s uncertain if the social media company will ever return; speaking with Reuters, Matze adds the company is in talks with several cloud computing providers but notes he would prefer if AWS would reinstate their hosting; Matze also says multiple other partners have terminated contracts with Parler, including database firm Scylla Enterprise and Slack . link

Snapchat says it will permanently ban President Trump’s account on Jan 20 because of public safety concerns; the platform locked Trump’s account following the insurrection at the US Capitol; an Axios source says Trump had violated Snapchat’s policies on dozens of occasions, but the firm had taken down the content before it could gain traction . link

Jack Dorsey shares his thoughts about Twitter’s decision to remove President Trump’s account; Dorsey says the company made the right call, but posits it has failed to promote healthy conversation; he also says Twitter did not work in unison with other tech firms, but suggests they may have been emboldened to see fellow platforms taking action . link

Poland-based InPost, which operates e-commerce parcel lockers, plans to debut on Euronext as soon as next month; InPost is popular with sellers at Polish online marketplace Allegro; the company operates in Poland and Britain and is exploring expansion to France, Italy, and Spain; Reuters previously reported IPO preparations, indicating plans for an $8.5B to $9.85B valuation . link

Apple reveals new projects under its $100M Racial Equity and Justice Initiative; when announcing the effort in June, the company said it would target investments in education, economic equality, and criminal justice reform; Apple plans to establish a Developer Academy in Detroit to help Black entrepreneurs, and will invest in two funds and the Propel Center, a hub for Historically Black Colleges and Universities . link

Telegram has removed dozens of public channels since Tuesday, targeting posts promoting white supremacy, Nazi iconography, and violence; one Nazi-friendly channel had 10k-plus subscribers; TechCrunch noted that many extremist groups began establishing backup channels and notifying their followers on Tuesday . link

Google to suspend political advertising on all of its platforms beginning Jan 14, according to an email to advertising partners obtained by Axios; Google cited the Jan 6 failed insurrection at the Capitol Building, and said the ban would include ads referencing that event; Google said the riot triggered link

Qualcomm ($178B market cap) acquires chip design startup Nuvia for $1.4B; three former Apple engineers and chip specialists who worked on that company's A-series chips founded Nuvia in 2019; Qualcomm said the buy would enable the company to meet demands for 5G computing; Nuvia previously raised $293M . link

Dropbox to cut 11 percent of its global workforce, 315 people; the company previously committed to maintaining all positions through the end of last year; in a Wednesday memo to workers, CEO Drew Houston said Dropbox had to take painful steps to establish a healthy business for the future; Dropbox also announced COO Olivia Nottebohm would leave the company on Feb 5 . link

The Department of Defense halts deployment of a $2B cybersecurity project, the Joint Regional Security Stack, which was intended to monitor and protect Pentagon networks; Robert Behler, chief of the Pentagon's testing office, said in a report obtained by Bloomberg that the initiative was not effective against operationally realistic cyber-attacks; in 2015, the Defense Department directed the system be deployed and operational by 2019 . link

The Trump administration cancels plan to blacklist Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent, according to Reuters sources; the move would have prohibited US investment in the Chinese firms; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly fought against the effort; the administration reportedly plans to add up to nine other Chinese companies to the list this week . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with DocSend CEO Russ Heddleston about his company's Fundraising Network, his fundraising strategy, DocSend's most successful user acquisition channels, building his last startup in the wake of the financial crisis, being acqui-hired by Facebook, more . link

Digital asset platform Anchorage obtains federal bank charter from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, making it the first crypto company to do so; enables Anchorage to serve banks and other traditional financial institutions; CEO Nathan McCauley expects to increase partnerships rapidly; the platform offers secure crypto trading, custody, governance, more; raised $57M to date . link

Intel announces that CEO Bob Swan will step down Feb 15; VMWare CEO Pat Gelsinger will take his place; Swan served as interim CEO for seven months before Intel named him as CEO in January 2019; last December, hedge fund Third Point pressed the board to explore strategic options after Intel lost market share to AMD, Samsung, and TSMC . link

Hardware crypto wallet company Ledger offers a 10-Bitcoin bounty (currently worth ~$360k) for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator(s) behind a user data hack and dump; Ledger also said that rogue actors at Shopify, upon which Ledger relies for its online shop, exposed 20k Ledger customer records that included personal information . link

Airbnb cancels reservations for DC-area units during the week of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, and will block users from creating new reservations; the company said it would refund renters and reimburse hosts for lost revenue; the FBI has recently issued warnings that people around the country plan armed protests in DC and at state capitols . link

Point-of-sale lender Affirm opens at $90.90 per share in Nasdaq debut after increasing its target range to $41-$44 then pricing at $49; Affirm provides an e-commerce checkout option enabling consumers to pay off purchases in monthly installments; claims 6.5k retail clients, including Walmart and Peloton; Affirm raised $1.5B before going public .Update: Affirm closes at $97.24, up ~100 percent . link

The download for 2021-01-13 →

TikTok changes its default settings for users below the age of 18; those age 13 to 15 can only let friends comment on their videos; TikTok’s Duet and Stitch features are now limited to users aged 16 and over; users aged 16 and 17 can only use Duet and Stitch with their friends; TikTok has also made changes to what content users can download . link

UK-based fintech firm Rapyd raises $300M Series D on a $2.5B valuation led by VC Coatue with participation from Spark Capital, Avid Ventures, and others; the company offers an API platform for integrating payments services and more; has raised $470M to date . link

Boeing agrees to pay $25M to settle a Department of Justice lawsuit relating to its Insitu drone unit; follows allegations Insitu charged customers for new parts, despite knowingly using refurbished and recycled components; as part of the settlement, Boeing has not accepted responsibility; the issue was first flagged by a whistleblower who, under US law, will receive a ~$4.6M payout . link

AT&T stops accepting new signups for its AT&T TV Now live television service; the company says AT&T TV Now is being merged with the similarly-named AT&T TV, which doesn’t require proprietary equipment or a minimum contract . link

The Google News Initiative establishes a $3M global fund to tackle misinformation relating to COVID-19 vaccines; the money will support efforts to fact-check reports relating to immunisation efforts; the fund will pay particular attention to projects focused on communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic . link

President Trump says he believes big tech firms are “doing a horrible thing for our country”; Trump made the comments at the start of a trip to TX, calling Silicon Valley firms “dividing and divisive”; Trump also spoke of a “counter move,” but did not disclose specifics; follows action against Trump’s accounts by Facebook, Twitter, and others following the insurrection at the US Capitol . link

Email security service Mimecast discloses a data breach; the company says it learned of the hack via Microsoft, and indicates it was perpetrated by a “sophisticated threat actor”; Mimecast notes the attackers seemingly hacked ~3.6k customers, but were primarily focused on just a handful of users; unnamed cybersecurity investigators posit the breach is linked to the SolarWinds attack . link

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni blocks citizens' access to Facebook ahead of the country's general election; follows actions by Facebook to remove fake accounts linked to the Museveni government; during a television address, Museveni accused Facebook of link

Lenovo announces plans for a secondary listing on China’s STAR Market; the company will issue Chinese depositary receipts that represent no more than 10 percent of the total enlarged number of its ordinary shares; Lenovo, which currently trades on the Hong Kong stock exchange, has seen its stock price rise as much as 9.4 percent on the news . link

Amazon launches a mobile-only Prime Video service in India; the offering, launched in collaboration with carrier Airtel, lets users stream up to 6GB of standard definition content for ~$1.22 per month; Netflix has offered its own mobile-centric service to Indian customers since 2019 . link

Foxconn and China-based carmaker Geely establish a joint venture; terms undisclosed; full plans for the JV unclear, but the companies say the unit will provide manufacturing and consultancy services to third-party vehicle endeavors; Bloomberg notes Foxconn is a key partner for Apple, which is reportedly making plans to launch an autonomous EV in the coming years . link

The Wall Street Journal explores the challenges Parler faces in getting itself back online; a source for the report notes Parler has no plans to use Oracle for hosting after AWS terminated its contract; suggests it could turn to a smaller cloud provider such as DigitalOcean, but notes Parler could face capacity constraints as conservative users continue to turn to the platform as an alternative to Facebook and Twitter; Parler has moved its domain registration to Epik, which also counts Gab as a customer . link

Panasonic estimates it will launch a cobalt-free battery for Tesla vehicles in two to three years; Panasonic executive Celina Mikolajczak notes the company recycles many of the metals used in its power cells, but says the volume its producing means they still have to find other efficiencies; Nikkei Asia says the cost of an EV’s battery can contribute as much as 40 percent to the overall price of a vehicle . link

YouTube takes down a video from President Trump’s account for violating its policies against inciting violence; the platform has also blocked Trump from uploading any new content or live streaming for seven days; YouTube notes it could still extend the ban; additionally, the company is blocking comments on Trump’s videos because of the potential for violence . link

Rioters penetrated deep into the Capitol Building, according to GPS data gleaned from archived Parler videos; Gizmodo obtained GPS coordinates from 618 videos taken by people at and near the Capitol on Jan 6; Gizmodo also used geolocation data to identify posts from riot participants and bystanders; a source indicated that FBI investigators had expressed interest in Parler's GPS data . link

Apple ($2.17T market cap) held talks with Torrance-based EV company Canoo in the first half of last year, according to sources for The Verge; the companies reportedly discussed an investment or acquisition; Apple reportedly was interested in Canoo's scalable link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Coda Co-Founder and CEO Shishir Mehrotra about his years at YouTube, that company's relationship with creators, the costs of music licensing, his experience on Spotify's board, how to improve Section 230 reasonably, a renaissance of productivity, the maker generation, Coda's origins and mission, more . link

Barbecue grill company Weber acquires smart oven company June; terms undisclosed; June Co-Founder and CEO Matt Van Horn will lead June as a distinct business unit within Weber; June will continue to develop new products; the companies previously partnered to launch a smartphone-connected grilling gadget; June recently announced the third generation of its smart oven; previously raised $30M . link

Visa ($488B market cap) cancels $5.3B deal to acquire fintech APIs company Plaid; the Justice Department filed suit to block the deal in Nov, arguing the acquisition would have terminated a nascent Visa competitor that could provide savings and new online solutions for merchants and customers; Visa said it could have pursued the deal, but it would have required protracted litigation . link

Google launches the $3M COVID-19 Vaccine Counter Misinformation Open Fund, intended to support journalism that fact-checks misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccination; Google noted that such misinformation often targets specific groups who are less likely to seek out facts; Google specifically targets efforts to reach those groups . link

German authorities shut down dark web marketplace DarkMarket, which featured listings for weapons, drugs, etc; the market used CyberBunker for hosting; CyberBunker stores servers in underground bunkers and has served the Pirate Bay, WikiLeaks, and other dark web markets; German police raided CyberBunker's headquarters in 2019; Europol began the DarkMarket probe while investigating CyberBunker . link

Facebook launches redesign of its Access Your Information tool, which provides options for deleting posted content, profile information, etc; the company also expanded the data to eight categories with subcategories; also now features a search function . link

About 20 percent of the 18.5M Bitcoin in existence appear to be in lost or stranded wallets, according to Chainalysis; currently represents ~$140B inaccessible to owners; individual investors with hundreds of millions worth of Bitcoin cannot withdraw funds due to forgotten passwords . link

Univision announces PrendeTV, a free, ad-supported streaming service featuring Spanish-language movies and shows; Univision expects to launch this quarter with 30 live channels and 10k-plus hours of on-demand content; Univision competes in the Spanish-language US market with Telemundo, which does not yet offer a streaming service . link

Tel Aviv- and London-based ride-hailing platform Gett raises $115M led by Pelham Capital Investments; founded in 2010, Gett initially competed with Uber and Lyft but has since pivoted to focus on ground transportation for corporate clients; Gett claims operational profitability and says it is hitting budget targets; raised ~$1B to date . link

Nvidia announces partnerships to launch 70-plus laptops featuring GeForce RTX 30-series GPUs this year; the Ampere architecture lineup includes the RTX 3060, RTX 3070, and RTX 3080 units; laptops with 3070 and 3080 processors will launch this month . link

Zoom ($98B market cap) plans to raise $1.5B via stock offering, will give underwriter Chase the option to purchase $225M of Class A shares at the public offering price; Bloomberg sources indicated the new shares would begin trading Jan 13; Zoom's stock has risen 362 percent over the past 12 months as more people have turned to remote work and learning . link

House Democrats plan to examine the role of social media in the Capitol attack as part of a broader inquiry regarding disinformation; Rep Frank Pallone Jr (D-NJ) said the House Energy and Commerce Committee would investigate and hold hearings to determine how social platforms could better police and address misinformation and incitements of violence . link

The download for 2021-01-12 →

UK-based fintech startup Curve raises $95M Series C led by IDC Ventures, Fuel Venture Capital and Vulcan Capital; offers a money-management app and debit card that combines multiple other cards; the company says it will use the investment to launch in the US; has raised ~$169M to date . link

UK-based payments company raises $450M Series C on a $15B post-money valuation led by Tiger Global Management with participation from Greenoaks Capital and others; the firm offers a suite of remittance handling services to online merchants; has raised $830M to date . link

SoftBank has sold more then $2B worth of Uber stock, according to regulatory filings; the company sold 38M shares at ~$53 apiece on Jan 7; it now has 184.2M shares, worth ~$10B; SoftBank also holds stakes in Didi Chuixng, Ola, and Grab . link

Twitter says it has recently removed more than 70k accounts promoting QAnon conspiracies; the company notes it has taken the steps because such content has the potential to lead to offline harm; Twitter also says it has taken more action to deal with false information about the US presidential election, suspending those who repeatedly share misleading posts . link

LG showcases the world’s first smartphone with a rollable display; the company says it will launch later this year, though specs, price, and availability are undisclosed; a source for Nikkei Asia says LG is working with China-based BOE Technology to manufacture the rollable OLED screens . link

Amazon has started to remove QAnon-related products from its marketplace; the company offers a range of items via third-party sellers; the company notes the removal process could take several days; follows calls by employees for the Amazon to remove merchandise linked to militias . link

South Korea-based content discovery service Dable raises $12M Series C led by SV Investment with participation from KB Investment, K2 Investment, and others; the company operates a recommendation platform operating across multiple Asian markets; has raised ~$19M to date . link

LG says it will add native support for Google’s Stadia and Nvidia’s GeForce Now to its 2021 TV lineup; the cloud gaming services will be included on OLED, QNED, and NanoCell TVs, with Stadia available in the second half of 2021; the rollout date for GeForce is unclear . link

Walmart partners with Ribbit Capital to establish a fintech joint venture; full details unclear, but Walmart says the company will will develop and offer financial services products for its employees and customers; financial terms undisclosed, but the JV will be majority owned by Walmart . link

Ubiquiti, which offers routers, webcams, and more, discloses security breach, says it can't be certain customer data wasn't exposed; potentially exposed data included names, email addresses, mailing addresses, more; the company did not reveal details of the breach . link

Intel announces four new processor families that will be available in 50 variants; the company expects to introduce 500 PCs featuring the new chips this year; the 11th-Gen Intel Core vPro and Intel Evo vPro platforms focus on hardware security; the N-series 10-nm Intel Pentium Silver and Intel Celeron processors target affordable performance; Intel also unveiled the 11th Gen Intel Core H-series mobile processor for gaming . link

Qualcomm announces the second generation of its ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor; the 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2 features 77 percent more surface area than its predecessor, promising easier unlocks; also includes a performance upgrade, and Qualcomm promises 50-percent faster unlocks; the company expects the new sensor will be available in consumer devices early this year . link

Taiwanese companies are shifting manufacturing away from China due to US tensions with Beijing and America's efforts to remove China from global supply chains, Financial Times reports; for 30 years, China has served as the logical option for Taiwanese companies looking to expand operations but reduce costs; the Times notes the shift could significantly impact global manufacturing . link

Facebook says it will treat the next two weeks as a major civic event and employ the same teams and tech to combat misinformation and violence-inciting content as used during the general election; Facebook and Instagram are removing content that contains the phrase “stop the steal” as per the company's Coordinating Harm policy; Facebook maintains its suspension of political advertising in the US . link

Last year the PC market saw its strongest growth since 2010, according to Canalys, Gartner, and IDC; IDC's global 2020 shipments estimate was the highest of the three at 302M units, indicating a year-over-year increase of 13.1 percent; IDC said remote learning and working had driven demand, and Chromebooks were expanding beyond education; laptop supply constraints drove customers to purchase desktops . link

Facebook hires civil rights attorney Roy Austin as VP of Civil Rights, a new position; he will also serve as the company's deputy general counsel; Austin will continue to work in DC, where he previously served on the Domestic Policy Council under Barack Obama; he also spent five years at the Justice Department . link

Amazon employees call on the company to remove third-party merchant listings for products supporting and promoting militia groups; in the weeks ahead of the insurrection, workers had questioned Amazon about products bearing the names and logos of The Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters; one Capital rioter wore an Oath Keepers badge; the workers are now demanding action; Recode found Amazon provides fulfillment for some of the products . link

Snap ($81.38B market cap) acquires New York City-based StreetCred, which developed a platform for real-time data on places; terms undisclosed; Co-Founders Randy Meech and Diana Shkolnikov, as well as two other team members, will join Snap to work on map- and location-related efforts; the StreetCred platform will shut down; Snapchat's Snap Map enables users to see Snaps from specific areas; Local Lenses offer AR effects tied to locations . link

Encrypted communications app Signal sees downloads surge after WhatsApp updated its privacy policy on Jan 6 reserving its right to share user data; Signal saw 810k global downloads on Jan 10, up 18-fold from Jan 6; WhatsApp saw 1.2M installs on Jan 10; last week, Elon Musk urged his followers to try Signal, causing shares in the unaffiliated Signal Advance to spike . link

Alternative social apps and messengers, including MeWe and CloutHub, see downloads spike following the de-platforming of President Trump and Parler; two apps, Parlor and Gab News, unaffiliated with the right-wing-focused Parler and Gab, have also seen downloads jump . link

Facebook, Google, and Microsoft freeze political spending due to the insurrection at the Capitol; Facebook said it would halt political contributions through the first quarter and review political spending practices; Google said it would review and reassess relevant policies; Microsoft said it would pause political giving while the company assessed the implications of last week's events . link

Parler files suit against Amazon after AWS terminated the app's cloud services due to user posts calling for violence and murder; Parler CEO John Matze said the app could be down for a week after all of its vendors blacklisted the social network; Apple and Google have banned Parler from their respective app stores; Matze said the de-platforming was a coordinated attack by big tech intended to destroy competition . link

The download for 2021-01-11 →

OnePlus announces a ~$34 fitness tracker; OnePlus Band features heart rate tracking, blood oxygen monitoring, and more; also promises a battery life of up to two weeks; works with Android at launch with plans for future iOS support; available in India later this month; unknown if or when it will launch in more markets . link

Indonesia-based investment platform Ajaib Group (YC S18) raises $25M Series A led by Horizons Ventures with participation from SoftBank Ventures Asia, Insignia Ventures, and Y Combinator; operates a stock brokerage app; has raised $27M to date . link

San Francisco police have made preparations for a pro-Trump protest at Twitter’s HQ today; follows posts on various websites calling for President Trump’s supporters to rally at the Market Street location; most of Twitter’s employees are not working from the site because of the COVID-19 pandemic . link

China-based fitness app Keep raises $360M Series F led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund with participation from Hillhouse Capital, Coatue Management, and others; the company has a $2B post-money valuation, according to TechCrunch sources; Keep offers online fitness classes; claims more than 300M users; has raised ~$614M to date . link

Tesla plans to establish a vehicle design studio in China, according to Reuters sources; the company will locate the studio in either Beijing or Shanghai; it is currently seeking a lead designer to help develop cars aimed at the Chinese market; Tesla wants to settle on an expert with a “bi-cultural” understanding, and at least 20 years industry experience . link

LG showcases a bendable 48-inch OLED TV at this year’s virtual CES event; lets users transform it from flat to curved and back again at the push of a button; the TV has a variable refresh rate of 40Hz to 120Hz; also has a sound-emitting display; price and availability unknown . link

Baidu confirms it has partnered with carmaker Geely to establish an EV joint venture; Baidu will be the majority stakeholder in the standalone firm, though financial terms are undisclosed; Baidu will develop vehicle tech, while Geely will focus on manufacturing; the cars will make use of Baidu’s DuerOS voice assistant, which also has a maps component; Baidu is developing driverless tech, though it’s unclear if the JV will incorporate it . link

The New York Times explores the actions taken against Parler by big tech firms; the report notes its treatment has “become a test case in a renewed national debate over free speech on the internet”; ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner posits by removing Parler from their platforms, Apple, Google, and Amazon to have gone further than Facebook or Twitter; Parler CEO John Matze says he believes multiple tech firms have conspired to shut the app down .Parler Chief Policy Officer Amy Peikoff says the company is “clearly being singled out”; speaking with Fox News, Peikoff says she believes the company is not necessarily being targeted by tech firms, but by individuals putting pressure on them; Peikoff also posits Parler has been “set up” because some objectionable content is from newly created accounts . link

GoFundMe has deactivated multiple campaigns set up to support individuals who attended President Trump’s Jan 6 rally; numerous Trump supporters had used the platform to solicit money for hotel stays, gas, airfares, and more; GoFundMe says, where possible, money will be returned to donors; the company notes it does not “tolerate fundraisers supporting hate, violence, harassment, or spreading misinformation about the 2020 election” . link

Bitcoin’s valuation drops 21 percent to ~$32k from a record high of ~$42k; represents the biggest two-day dip since March 2020; ethereum also also fallen as much 21 percent, down to ~$1k . link

The download for 2021-01-10 →

The download for 2021-01-09 →

Twitter announces it will permanently suspend accounts dedicated solely to sharing QAnon content; the company also suspended accounts belonging to people who promoted QAnon conspiracy theories, though they had used their accounts for other purposes; among those suspended were Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell . link

Equifax ($22.6B market cap) to acquire Boise-based identity verification and fraud prevention company Kount for $640M; Kount uses AI to analyze transactions and cull data; the company is shifting to predictive fraud prevention; previously raised $80M . link

Nissan and Honda say they will cut production for the first quarter due to a global semiconductor shortage; Volkswagen said last month it would cut first-quarter production by 100k vehicles in North America, Europe, and China; suppliers Bosch, Continental, and Valeo all noted market shortages . link

BuzzFeed has held merger talks with SPAC Supernova Partners, according to sources for The Information; the sources also said Vox Media was looking to raise funds for acquisitions this year, potentially via public listing; The Information noted that Group Nine Media had launched a SPAC targeting digital media . link

WarnerMedia extended its AWS contract as part of its negotiations with Amazon to make HBO Max available on Fire TV, according to sources for The Information; the deal also reportedly includes Amazon offering Warner movies and shows for rental and sale . link

Chinese online grocery company Xingsheng Youxuan raises $100M at a $5B valuation from Tencent, according to Bloomberg sources; Tencent invested in a June round valuing the firm at $3B; the company reportedly is in talks to raise more . link

Fintech company SoFi to go public via reverse merger with Chamath Palihapitiya and Ian Osborne's SPAC Social Capital Hedosophia V in an $8.7B deal; SoFi will see $805M from the SPAC at IPO and has commitments for $1.2B from investors; SoFi will use $150M to obtain a national bank charter; the company announced preliminary approval in October . link

Cisco files suit against optical interconnect manufacturer Acacia after the latter terminated an acquisition agreement; Cisco agreed to buy Acacia for ~$2.6B in 2019; Acacia said it failed to obtain Chinese regulatory approval in time to complete the deal; Cisco also requested a temporary order requiring Acacia to comply with the terms of the agreement until a court hears the case . link

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concludes its investigation into Tesla customers' reports of unintended acceleration, attributes incidents to pedal misapplication, not design flaws; the administration launched the probe ~one year ago, examining 246 incidents, 203 involving crashes . link

Tesla's market cap passes $800B for the first time ever as shares jump more than seven percent; CEO Elon Musk, who holds a 21-percent stake in the company, became the world's richest man this week, with $188B in personal wealth; Tesla stock represented ~$170B of Musk's net worth at one point on Friday . link

Apple's App Store saw ~$64B in gross sales last year, CNBC reports; up from an estimated $48.5B in 2018 and $50B in 2019; revenue grew 28 percent during 2020, compared to 3.1 percent in 2019; the company recently revealed that customers spent $1.8B in the App Store between Dec 24 and Dec 31, and a record $540M on New Year’s Day alone . link

Roku acquires the rights to Quibi's content; The Wall Street Journal reported talks early this month; Journal sources said the final price was less than $100M; the short-form video streaming company raised $1.7B from investors; generated ~$3.3M in subscription revenue from the time of its April launch until its October shutdown announcement; Roku will have exclusive global distribution rights to ~75 titles . link

The newly established Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) calls on YouTube to permanently ban President Trump from the platform; YouTube and Facebook removed a video in which Trump addressed the storming of the Capitol Building and reiterated claims that the presidential election was rigged; the AWU said the removal was insufficient; Michelle Obama recently called on YouTube and other platforms to ban Trump . link

Reddit bans the /r/donaldtrump subreddit, saying the community violated site policies regarding the glorification and incitation of violence following the Jan 6 siege on the US Capitol Building; /r/donaldtrump served as a replacement subreddit for /r/The_Donald, the once de facto subreddit supporting President Trump, which Reddit banned in June for repeatedly violating platform rules . link