The Daily Download - latest tech news for 2021-02-22, fan podcast based on @launchticker

The download for 2021-02-22 →


Lightspeed COO David Baga is leaving to join fintech firm Even as CEO, reports TechCrunch; Baga will take over from Even co-founder John Schlossberg, who will continue as executive chairman; Baga has previously served as chief business officer at Lyft and chief revenue officer at RocketLawyer . link

UK-based logistics startup Gophr raises £4M (~$5.6M) led by Nauta Capital; the firm works with other companies to provide same-day deliveries; partners include HelloFresh, Boots, and Selfridges; has raised ~$7M to date . link

India’s Competition Commission (CCI) has launched an antitrust probe into Google Pay, according to Livemint sources; full details unclear, but CCI is speaking with rival services PhonePe and Paytm; CCI wants to understand whether Google is offering Android users alternatives to its own payments offerings . link

Video of a purported Samsung AR headset leaks; reputable leaker WalkingCat has shared clips that demonstrate a sunglasses-like product known as Glasses Lite; it’s unclear whether Glasses Lite is a product in development or just a concept . link

Indonesia-based investment platform FUNDtastic raises $7.7M Series A led by Ascend Capital Group with participation from Indivara Group and others; the startup offers a robo-trading app . link

China-based esports firm VSPN is considering a US IPO as soon as this year, according to Bloomberg sources; it’s expected the company will seek to raise several hundred million dollars; established in 2016, VSPN operates multiple tournaments centered around popular titles such as “Honor of Kings” . link

The EU announces several space programs, including a Starlink-like orbital satellite network; the European Commission says it wants to offer “reliable, secure and cost-effective connectivity” for governments and businesses within the bloc; it will also establish a scheme to manage satellite traffic and more . link

UK-based international remittances firm TransferWise rebrands as Wise; the company notes it will fully switch its branding next month; follows reports the firm is preparing for an IPO . link

Bitcoin drops to ~$55k from a record high of $58.3k; ethereum has dropped 7 percent to ~$1.8k; follows a tweet from Elon Musk suggesting the price of bitcoin and ethereum seem high .Update: Bitcoin has dropped to ~53k in early trading; Bloomberg notes the decline is likely in part linked to institutional investors in Europe responding to Musk’s tweet . link

Baidu and Geely name Xia Yiping as CEO of their EV joint venture; Xia is a co-founder and former CTO of bike-sharing company Mobike; he previously also worked for Ford and Fiat Chrysler . link

The download for 2021-02-24 →


Home services platform Workiz (formerly Send a Job) raises $13M Series B led by New Era Capital Partners with participation from Aleph, Magenta Venture Partners, and others; the startup provides tools to let locksmiths, appliance repair firms, and others manage jobs and teams; has raised $20.3M to date . link

India-based e-commerce firm Flipkart says it will deploy more than 25k EVs across its supply chain by 2030; the Walmart-controlled company is aiming for 100 percent electric mobility over the next decade; Flipkart is partnering with EV firms such as Hero Electric, Mahindra Electric, and Piaggio to build out its fleet . link

GameStop CFO Jim Bell is stepping down; Bell has been with the company since 2019; reasons for the departure undisclosed, but activist investor Ryan Cohen has previously been critical of Bell and other executives; Chief Accounting Officer Diana Jajeh will hold the CFO role on an interim basis as the company seeks Bell’s replacement . link

VTOL firm Joby Aviation to go public via a SPAC merger with Reinvent Technology Partners; Reid Hoffman and Mark Pincus established Reinvent; the combined firm will have an implied valuation of $6.6B; Joby plans to launch an air-taxi service in 2024 . link

Some M1 Mac users are reporting excessive SSD data writes; in severe instances, devices have used up as much as 13 percent of warrantable total bytes written, which could dramatically shorten the life of those machines; the cause of the issue is unknown . link

Facebook says it will pay global news publishers at least $1B over the next three years; Nick Clegg, Facebook’s VP of global affairs, disclosed the figure in a post discussing the company’s recent dispute with Australian lawmakers; Clegg says Facebook pulled support for news articles in the country because the original version of the news media bargaining code would have let media firms demand a “blank check” from the platform . link

LG announces a scheme to license its webOS smart TV software to other manufacturers; initial partners include RCA, Ayonz, and Konka, with plans to offer it to more firms; LG notes licensees get access to the webOS UX, content support, voice search, and more . link

The Australian Senate has passed an amended version of the news media bargaining code bill; the legislation, which effectively mandates Google and Facebook must pay publishers for featuring news content, will go back to the House for a vote on the changes; the legislation has bipartisan support and it’s expected it could be signed into law as soon as this week . link

Mozilla’s Firefox rolls out a tool to stop cookies from tracking users across multiples sites; known as Total Cookie Protection, the feature is included in the latest build of the browser; also adds support for multiple picture-in-picture windows at the same time; available for Windows, macOS, and Linux . link

Sequoia Capital is raising funds for a second seed fund targeted at Indian startups, reports DealStreetAsia; SEC filings show the company is raising money for India Seed Fund II less than two years after its first such fund; Sequoia has not disclosed how much it’s looking to raise; it is separate from its Surge incubation program, which focuses on startups across India and other South Asian nations . link

A US district court denies a motion filed by several ISPs seeking to block CA’s net neutrality rules; the state introduced its own law following the 2017 repeal of Obama-era net neutrality standards; the legislation is yet to go into force; trade groups representing the ISPs say they are considering their next steps; follows a decision by the Department of Justice to drop a Trump-era challenge to CA’s rules .CA Attorney General Xavier Becerra says the state should implement the law soon; CA had agreed not to enact it while legal action was ongoing . link

Brick-and-mortar retailer Fry’s Electronics is closing its stores across the US, according to multiple reports; the company is expected to make an official announcement today; the firm has more than two dozen locations, most of which are in CA and TX . link

An SEC filing confirms SpaceX has raised $850M in new funding, reports TechCrunch; Sequoia Capital led the investment; the initial report notes existing stakeholders were able to sell as much as $750M worth of shares on the secondary market . link

The SolarWinds supply-chain attack impacted NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration, according to officials speaking with The Washington Post; officials previously revealed that the attackers went beyond the mass initial access attack to penetrate nine federal agencies and 100 private companies; the seven other impacted agencies said the hackers stole unclassified data only and did not breach operational systems . link

Square ($115.7B market cap) FQ4 beats: $3.16B revenue, up from $1.31B during the year-earlier period ($3.1B expected); $0.32 EPS ($0.24 expected); $987M merchant business revenue; $2.17B Cash app revenue ($1.76B of which was from Bitcoin); $32B gross payment volume, up from $28.6B during the year-earlier period . link

Sony will launch a new VR headset for PlayStation 5; details undisclosed, but PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan said the unit would be less cumbersome than the PS4 VR headset; he also said the company planned to ship developer kits soon; Ryan said PS5 demand was higher than expected; that, along with the global semiconductor shortage, resulted in PS5 supply constraints . link

President Biden plans to sign an executive order that will establish a new national supply-chain policy, Nikkei reports; a draft of the order referenced semiconductors, EV batteries, rare-earth metals, and medical products; the administration reportedly plans to work with allies to secure resilient supply chains, consider complementary production, evaluate stock-sharing during times of emergency, more . link

Square purchased $170M in bitcoin in its fiscal fourth quarter; in October, the company revealed it had purchased $50M in bitcoin; in total, the firm bought 8k-plus bitcoin; the cryptocurrency represented ~five percent of the company's assets at the end of fiscal 2020 . link

Google rolls out Android update with new Password Checkup feature, which checks saved passwords against known compromises and duplicates; also adds scheduled texts in Messages, an improved version of TalkBack for the hearing impaired, new lock screen abilities for Assistant, an updated Android Auto and a dark mode for Maps . link

Botnet operators encode fallback control server's IP address in the Bitcoin blockchain, according to CDN Akamai; if authorities were to deactivate the botnet's primary command-and-control server, infected computers on in the botnet would look up the address for the backup server on the blockchain; the botnet operators broke the IP address up across several wallet transactions . link

Productivity communications startup Quill emerges with $14.5M, launches Slack-like app for web, Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android; features channels, third-party app integrations, etc; Quill targets focused communications and auto-sorts conversations; the company plans voice channels, end-to-end encryption, more . link

Reddit raises $116M Series E (extension) at a $6B pre-valuation from undisclosed investors, bringing the round total to $367M; CEO Steve Huffman said when announcing the first tranche that it was a good time to raise funds due to high valuations; raised ~$917M to date . link

Gaming platform Roblox plans to go public via direct listing on March 10; the company had planned to debut via IPO last year but postponed due to an unusual pricing environment; Roblox revealed in January, along with a $520M round, that it had changed its plans from IPO to direct listing . link

French antitrust investigators say Google violated orders from the state competition authority regarding copyright negotiations with publishers, according to Reuters sources; Google said it would review the 93-page report and work with authorities to address any issues; France's competition authority can fine companies up to 10 percent of their sales for violations . link

Digital advertising tools company VidMob raises $50M Series C from Adobe, Shutterstock, others; sources for The Wall Street Journal indicated a $290M post-valuation; the platform analyzes creative content and provides data and insights to help customers improve campaign performance; raised ~$100M to date . link

Alphabet is in licensing talks with Spanish news organizations in an attempt to relaunch Google News in Spain, according to Reuters sources; the company shut down News in the country in 2014 due to a law requiring a mandatory collective licensing fee; a Google spokesperson said Spanish publishers should be free to negotiate their own deals . link

The download for 2021-02-23 →


Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives posits Tesla’s valuation is tied to bitcoin; the company recently disclosed a $1.5B stake in the cryptocurrency; speaking with CNBC, Ives estimates Tesla has already made more than $1B from its investment but says the digital currency’s volatility is now a part of Tesla’s story . link

Estonia-based enterprise resource planning platform Katana raises $11M Series A led by Atomico; the startup offers a suite of process management tools to manufacturing firms; has raised $16.5M to date . link

Elon Musk claims SpaceX’s Starlink broadband satellite service will provide speeds of 300Mbps later this year; Musk made the claim in a tweet where he also promises latency will drop to ~20ms; Starlink currently offers 50Mbps to 150Mbps; in a separate tweet, Musk suggests Starlink will be operational across the whole planet by the end of next year . link

South Africa-based fintech firm TymeBank raises ~$109M from Apis Growth Fund II and JG Summit Holdings; the company operates a mobile-centric challenger bank; launched in 2019, TymeBank claims 2.8M customers . link

Germany-based cloud spreadsheets startup Rows (formerly Dashdash) raises $16M Series B led by Lakestar with participation from Accel and others; Rows offers a collaborative spreadsheets platform (currently in public beta) that integrates with Salesforce, Slack, Stripe, Google Maps, and more; has raised $24M to date . link

A UK court rules Epic Games cannot pursue legal action against Apple over its App Store policies in the country; the antitrust tribunal says the US is a better venue for Epic to make its case against Apple; the court notes Epic can still pursue its claims against Google in Britain; Epic has filed suit against Apple and Google over in-app payments fees . link

Google names Anne Wall as head of strategy and external affairs; Wall, who previously served in the Obama administration, will lead Google’s government affairs and policy teams in the US and Canada; Wall will report to VP Mark Isakowitz . link

UK-based agritech startup Better Origin raises $3M seed led by Fly Ventures and entrepreneur Nick Boyle with participation from Metavallon VC; Better Origin offers a so-called autonomous insect mini-farm, designed to generate animal feed from flies reared on food waste . link

Singapore-based fintech firm ErudiFi raises $5M Series A led by Monk’s Hill Ventures and Qualgro; the company offers online financing plans to those in fee-based education . link

EV firm Lucid Motors to go public via a SPAC deal with Churchill Capital IV; the arrangement values the combined company at $24B; Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund will continue to be the single largest stakeholder in the operation . link

Epic Games receives preliminary approval to settle a class-action lawsuit in NC; plaintiffs have claimed the company’s old loot box system was unfair as players could not see what they were purchasing until the transaction was completed; Epic says it will give ~$8 worth of in-game currency to any player who has purchased a loot box in “Fortnite” or “Rocket League,” irrespective of where they are based; the company will also set aside a $26.4M fund to resolve other claims; a final ruling on the settlement is expected in May . link

LG denies a Yonhap News report it is delaying the launch of its rollable display smartphone; the firm unveiled the device, known as Rollable, last month, saying it will be available later this year; Yonhap claims the company has since told suppliers Rollable is on hold . link

Bitcoin drops below $50k; the cryptocurrency’s valuation has fallen ~12.5 percent in early trading; it shed as much as 17 percent on Monday; bitcoin is still up ~390 percent over the past year . link

Seattle-based sales training and management tools company Highspot raises $200M at a $2.3B valuation led by Tiger Global; enables management to roll out training content, marketing materials, more; the company tracks employee engagement to determine which materials are most effective for each client; customers include General Motors and Nestle; raised $397M to date . link

SEC delists Long Blockchain due to its failure to file financial reports since 2018; the company, initially focused on drinks under the brand Long Island Iced Tea, sought investments in blockchain-related tech; Long Blockchain has traded over-the-counter since Nasdaq prohibited the company in 2018; the SEC said the firm's plans to transition to a crypto business never materialized . link

Gurgaon-based food delivery company Zomato raises $250M at a $5.4B valuation from Kora, Fidelity, and others; investors valued the firm at $3.9B for a $660M round in December; in September, the company said it planned to go public in the first half of 2021; raised $1.9B to date . link

FCC moves to finalize rules for Congress-funded program to subsidize consumer connectivity; the $3.2B fund will provide lower-income Americans with discounts on monthly internet service (up to $50, $75 on Tribal Lands) and computer and tablet purchases (up to $100); the program will run for at least six months . link

Cloud network platform Aviatrix Systems raises $75M Series D at a reported $700M-plus valuation led by General Catalyst; investors last valued the firm at $346M for a $40M round in 2019; provides multi-cloud native networking software to 500 customers, including NASA and Raytheon; expects to reach $40M ARR by year's end; raised ~$140M to date . link

EV firm Lucid Motors nears deal to go public via SPAC merger, according to Bloomberg sources; banker Michael Klein's Churchill Capital Corp IV reportedly has held talks to raise $1B-$1.5B to finance the deal; the combined entity could be valued at up to $15B, sources said . link

Stock option marketplace EquityBee raises $20M Series A led by Group 11; links investors to startup employees, enabling workers to finance the purchasing and exercising of options; investors share in profits; EquityBee charges investors at the time of investment and earns interest at exit; CEO and Co-Founder Oren Barzilai previously founded Tapingo, which sold to Grubhub for $150M in 2018; EquityBee has raised $28M to date . link

Apple surpassed Samsung to become the world's largest smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter, selling 80M new iPhones globally, according to Gartner; Apple sold 69.5M during the year-earlier period; Samsung shipped 62M in the fourth quarter of 2020, and Xiaomi, 43M . link

Spotify announces the Spotify Audience Network, an audio advertising marketplace selling spots for Spotify's ad-supported music offering and Spotify's Originals and Exclusives; will also sell podcast space via Megaphone, which Spotify acquired for $235M in November .Spotify announces HiFi, a streaming plan promising lossless, CD-quality sound; the company currently offers a max audio quality of 320kbps; HiFi will initially be limited to select markets; pricing and other details undisclosed .Spotify plans to begin beta testing paid podcast subscriptions this spring; using the Anchor podcast creation tool, creators will have the ability to publish premium episodes .Spotify to launch in 85 new markets representing 1B-plus people over the next few days; currently serves 93 markets; will serve 178 following the expansion; as of the fourth quarter, the company claimed 345M monthly active listeners .Spotify announces new creator tools, including a self-serve version of self-promotion tool Marquee, Discovery Mode (beta - enables artists to select specific songs for recommendations), and visual looping feature Canvas . link

Battery maker Enovix to go public via $1.1B SPAC deal; the firm raised $405M via private investment and the reverse-merger with Rodgers Silicon Valley Acquisition Corp; Enovix uses 3D wave array tech to maximize the density of lithium-ion batteries; the company is building its first commercial factory in Fremont, CA, and is scouting a location to produce smartphone batteries; also plans to offer EV batteries after 2025 . link

Google notifies ad partners it will resume running political ads on Wednesday, Axios reports; the company enacted the most recent ban following the Jan 6 attack on the US Capitol Building; Google instituted a limited version of its sensitive events policy on Jan 13; advertisers must use the Google Ads appeals tool to have Google re-review existing ad campaigns before resuming them . link

Spotify announces the Spotify Audience Network, an audio advertising marketplace selling spots for Spotify's ad-supported music offering and Spotify's Originals and Exclusives; will also sell podcast space via Megaphone, which Spotify acquired for $235M in November .Spotify announces HiFi, a streaming plan promising lossless, CD-quality sound; the company currently offers a max audio quality of 320kbps; HiFi will initially be limited to select markets; pricing and other details undisclosed .Spotify plans to begin beta testing paid podcast subscriptions this spring; using the Anchor podcast creation tool, creators will have the ability to publish premium episodes .Spotify to launch in 85 new markets representing 1B-plus people over the next few days; currently serves 93 markets; will serve 178 following the expansion; as of the fourth quarter, the company claimed 345M monthly active listeners .Spotify announces new creator tools, including a self-serve version of self-promotion tool Marquee, Discovery Mode (beta - enables artists to select specific songs for recommendations), and visual looping feature Canvas . link

Spotify announces the Spotify Audience Network, an audio advertising marketplace selling spots for Spotify's ad-supported music offering and Spotify's Originals and Exclusives; will also sell podcast space via Megaphone, which Spotify acquired for $235M in November .Spotify announces HiFi, a streaming plan promising lossless, CD-quality sound; the company currently offers a max audio quality of 320kbps; HiFi will initially be limited to select markets; pricing and other details undisclosed .Spotify plans to begin beta testing paid podcast subscriptions this spring; using the Anchor podcast creation tool, creators will have the ability to publish premium episodes .Spotify to launch in 85 new markets representing 1B-plus people over the next few days; currently serves 93 markets; will serve 178 following the expansion; as of the fourth quarter, the company claimed 345M monthly active listeners .Spotify announces new creator tools, including a self-serve version of self-promotion tool Marquee, Discovery Mode (beta - enables artists to select specific songs for recommendations), and visual looping feature Canvas . link

Sydney-based design and publishing platform Canva acquires Australian visual AI company Kaleido and Czech Republic-based Smartmockups, which enables design mockups for shirts, mugs, etc; terms undisclosed; Canva now claims 50M monthly active users, up 100 percent over the past year; Canva has raised $302M to date . link

The download for 2021-02-22 →


Lightspeed COO David Baga is leaving to join fintech firm Even as CEO, reports TechCrunch; Baga will take over from Even co-founder John Schlossberg, who will continue as executive chairman; Baga has previously served as chief business officer at Lyft and chief revenue officer at RocketLawyer . link

UK-based logistics startup Gophr raises £4M (~$5.6M) led by Nauta Capital; the firm works with other companies to provide same-day deliveries; partners include HelloFresh, Boots, and Selfridges; has raised ~$7M to date . link

India’s Competition Commission (CCI) has launched an antitrust probe into Google Pay, according to Livemint sources; full details unclear, but CCI is speaking with rival services PhonePe and Paytm; CCI wants to understand whether Google is offering Android users alternatives to its own payments offerings . link

Video of a purported Samsung AR headset leaks; reputable leaker WalkingCat has shared clips that demonstrate a sunglasses-like product known as Glasses Lite; it’s unclear whether Glasses Lite is a product in development or just a concept . link

Indonesia-based investment platform FUNDtastic raises $7.7M Series A led by Ascend Capital Group with participation from Indivara Group and others; the startup offers a robo-trading app . link

China-based esports firm VSPN is considering a US IPO as soon as this year, according to Bloomberg sources; it’s expected the company will seek to raise several hundred million dollars; established in 2016, VSPN operates multiple tournaments centered around popular titles such as “Honor of Kings” . link

The EU announces several space programs, including a Starlink-like orbital satellite network; the European Commission says it wants to offer “reliable, secure and cost-effective connectivity” for governments and businesses within the bloc; it will also establish a scheme to manage satellite traffic and more . link

UK-based international remittances firm TransferWise rebrands as Wise; the company notes it will fully switch its branding next month; follows reports the firm is preparing for an IPO . link

Bitcoin drops to ~$55k from a record high of $58.3k; ethereum has dropped 7 percent to ~$1.8k; follows a tweet from Elon Musk suggesting the price of bitcoin and ethereum seem high .Update: Bitcoin has dropped to ~53k in early trading; Bloomberg notes the decline is likely in part linked to institutional investors in Europe responding to Musk’s tweet . link

Baidu and Geely name Xia Yiping as CEO of their EV joint venture; Xia is a co-founder and former CTO of bike-sharing company Mobike; he previously also worked for Ford and Fiat Chrysler . link

The download for 2021-02-21 →


Former General Catalyst and General Atlantic investor Addie Lerner's firm, Avid Ventures, launches $68M debut fund; Avid targets $500k-$1M Series A and B investments in startups in the US, Europe, and Israel; focuses on fintech, consumer internet, and software . link

Silicon Valley Leadership Group reveals 20 businesses, institutions, and organizations that have signed a pledge to increase diversity in leadership positions to at least 25 percent, or by at least 25 percent, by the year 2025; the group includes Facebook and Twitter . link

Electronic Arts ($42B market cap) closes its $1.2B acquisition of Codemasters; shareholders approved the deal early this month; Take-Two Interactive made Codemasters a non-binding offer of $960M in November; EA announced its winning price in December . link

Boston-based Reprise, which provides a no-code solution for creating software demonstrations, raises $17M Series A led by Bain Capital; designed for sales and marketing teams, captures an app's front end and hosts a modified interactive version that uses demo data; raised $20.2M to date . link

Austin-based identity and access management company SailPoint ($5.76B market cap) to acquire New York City-based Intello, which offers a platform for managing SaaS spend, usage, access, compliance, more; terms undisclosed; Intello previously raised $5.8M . link

Blockchain-based video games company Lucid Sight acquires open-source multiplayer engine and server Colyseus; terms undisclosed; Colyseus creator Endel Dreyer will join Lucid Sight, which plans a cloud-hosted Colyseus service; Lucid Sight has raised $11M to date . link

Ed-tech company Renaissance acquires Miami-based Nearpod, which develops a platform for K-12 teachers, enabling them to create mobile interactive slides for quizzes, etc; terms undisclosed; integrates with educational tools from Google, Microsoft, more; Nearpod previously raised $30.7M . link

Apple's App Tracking Transparency policy, which will limit ad networks' ability to target users and measure campaign efficacy, could ultimately lead to more walled gardens and hardware-independent platforms, Mobile Dev Memo argues; Zynga, which recently disclosed plans to establish its own ad network, could also turn to different platforms for engagement . link

Data automation platform Census raises $16M Series A led by Sequoia Capital with participation from A16Z, others; enables clients to sync customer data with business tools and platforms including Mailchimp and Salesforce; clients include Drizly, Figma, and Notion; raised $20.3M to date . link

App-monitoring platform Sentry raises $60M Series D for a $1B post-valuation led by Accel and New Enterprise Associates; the software monitors apps to detect issues that could ultimately result in outages and other problems; clients include Disney, Cloudflare, and Slack; the funding will facilitate improved language and framework support, as well as hiring at Sentry's San Francisco, Toronto, and Vienna offices; raised $127M to date . link

PromisePay (YC W18), a payments solution targeting governments, raises $20M Series A from First Round, Kapor Capital, others; the SaaS acts as a middleman between the general public and utilities, municipalities, and other entities accepting payments; Promise manages flexible payment agreements and passes funds to the client; some clients pay via subscription, others through transaction fees; raised ~$30M to date . link

ReverseLogix, which enables e-commerce clients to manage and automate reverse logistics (product returns and repairs), raises $20M Series A led by Cambridge Capital; the SaaS connects with manufacturers, logistics providers, and brands to provide an end-to-end solution . link

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Facebook has reentered negotiations after blocking Australian news on the platform; a bill likely to pass Australia's Senate would require platforms to pay publishers for their content; Canada has signaled a similar initiative; Google has chosen to negotiate with publishers . link

Anthony Levandowski, who received a presidential pardon and avoided an 18-month prison term for theft of trade secrets, shuts down The Way of the Future: a churched he established in 2015 to accept AI as godhead; the organization donated all remaining funds, ~$175k, to the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund . link

Kalshi (YC W19), a pre-launch trading platform that will enable users to wager on yes/no questions under a variety of categories raises $30M from Sequoia and others; the Commodity Futures Trading Commission approved the startup in November to operate a derivatives exchange; the company plans to go live in March . link

This Week in Startups | Ask Jason!Jason answers viewer questions about the origins of the All-In Podcast, building an MVP for a custom-made marketplace, investment potential for media startups, SPACs, the top mistake in angel investing, lifestyle businesses vs venture-scale businesses, more . link

More than 4k SpaceX workers volunteered for monthly blood tests to facilitate a COVID-19 antibody study; researchers published their peer-reviewed findings this week with Elon Musk listed as a co-author; the study found people with milder symptoms have fewer antibodies and are therefore unlikely to benefit from long-term immunity; SpaceX began collecting blood samples at worksites across the country in April . link

Coinbase valued at $100B for secondary share sale the company launched last month via the Nasdaq Private Markets, according to Axios sources; the crypto exchange reportedly conducted the sale to establish reference pricing for its pending direct listing; the first batch of shares sold gave the company a $54B valuation, up from the $8B valuation it achieved from its last venture round in 2018 . link

The download for 2021-02-20 →


Google concludes its investigation regarding the circumstances surrounding the departure of ethical AI researcher Timnit Gebru, announces changes to research and diversity policies; Google plans to streamline the process for publishing research, link diversity and inclusion performance to VP-plus compensation, more .Former Google Staff Research Scientist Margaret Mitchell, who co-led the company's Ethical AI team alongside Gebru, reveals her termination; Google locked Mitchell out of her corporate email account last month; an Axios source said she had been searching for evidence of discrimination and harassment against Gebru; Google told Axios Mitchell exfiltrated business documents and data on other employees . link

The European Commission announces it has begun adopting measures to accept UK privacy protections and maintain EU-UK data sharing after the Brexit stop-gap solution expires; the measures still require approval from bloc nations; data-sharing arrangements will enable companies to do business between the EU and UK, and will facilitate cross-border law enforcement . link

Chinese grocery delivery company Xingsheng Youxuan raises $2B at a $6B pre-valuation led by Sequoia Capital China, according to Reuters sources; Tencent reportedly participated; Xingsheng Youxuan reported $6.18B GMV for 2020; claims 8M orders per day; this unconfirmed round included, the company has raised $3.9B to date . link

Fintech company Brex applies for a UT bank charter to operate wholly-owned subsidiary Brex Bank, with former Silicon Valley Bank COO Bruce Wallace serving as CEO; Brex said the bank would target SMBs, offering FDIC insured deposit products and credit solutions; the company currently offers a startup-focused credit card issued by Emigrant Bank . link

The Brave browser, which features a Tor Mode, used public DNS rather than Tor nodes to resolve .onion dark web addresses; ZDNet notes that such DNS records could pose a problem for users living under oppressive regimes; Brave has announced a fix and will include it in the next browser update . link

NASA releases the first images taken by the Perseverance rover following its successful Thursday touchdown on the surface of Mars; the agency expects to release video with audio in coming days; the rover features numerous instruments, including a laser that targets rocks to produce vapor for analysis . link

This Week in Startups | News!Jason speaks with Acquired Podcast Co-Hosts Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal about advisor agreements, rolling funds vs syndicates for capital allocators, bitcoin pricing and potential bubble, Tesla's bitcoin bet, whether institutional investment has raised the bitcoin floor, Clubhouse valuation and monetization, Twitter and Facebook's social audio, more . link

Apple subpoenaed Valve Software in November as part of its legal battle with Epic, demanding information about Steam; Valve did provide some information but argued the scope of Apple's request, which at one point included the prices and dates of availability for virtually every title ever available on the platform, was unreasonable; Valve argued Apple sought irrelevant competitor data and said Valve was not a competitor in the mobile space . link

Microsoft announces Office 2021 for consumers and Office LTSC (Long-Term Servicing Channel) for commercial customers; the standalone software does not require a subscription, like the cloud-based Microsoft 365 suite; the company will launch Office 2021 for Windows and Mac this year; Microsoft plans to launch a preview for the LTSC version in April . link

Bitcoin market cap passes $1T for the first time as the price for a single bitcoin reaches $55k; the price passed $51k for the first time on Wednesday; follows several large and high-profile investments, including Tesla's acquisition of $1.5B in bitcoin in February . link

Apple is in talks with multiple suppliers to buy Lidar sensors for consumer vehicles, according to Bloomberg sources; multiple Lidar companies' stocks jumped on the report; Apple began testing autonomous vehicles on public CA roads in 2017; the company set out with off-the-shelf Lidar components but reportedly has transitioned to bespoke solutions . link

The download for 2021-02-19 →


Denmark-based audio platform Podimo raises €11.2M (~$13.5M) led by Chr Augustinus with participation from Aldea Opportunity Fund and others; the startup operates a podcast and short-form audio stories service; has raised more than $20M to date . link

Apple is developing a magnetic battery pack accessory for its iPhone 12 lineup, according to Bloomberg sources; the power pack is designed to connect to the back of the iPhone via its MagSafe connection; the device launch has been slowed because of software issues, and there’s some indication it may ultimately be canceled . link

China-based carmaker Geely has plans for a dedicated EV unit, according to Reuters sources; the division will oversee its all-electric chassis, as well as marketing and sales for EVs in certain markets; the division will also be able to set its own pricing and inventory . link

YouTube pulls a video from Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg for violating its platform rules; Kjellberg targeted popular children’s channel Cocomelon in the video, making fun of kids who watch its content; YouTube says it took down the video for violating its policies on cyberbullying and child safety; the company notes Kjellberg, who has 109M subscribers, will not face any other penalties . link

Ireland-based fintech firm AccountsIQ raises €5.8M (~$7M) from Finch Capital; the company offers cloud-based enterprise tools for processing financial results; clients include Asavie Technologies and PwC . link

YouTube says it will not reopen its Spaces studios; YouTube first introduced the locations in 2012 to provide creators with resources for making videos; it had sites in Berlin, London, Paris, New York City, and more; YouTube says it will instead focus on pop-up facilities and virtual events . link

Sweden-based Acast acquires fellow podcast network RadioPublic; terms undisclosed; RadioPublic offers hosting as well as a suite of tools designed to help podcasters grow their listener base; raised $1.2M to date . link

WhatsApp says it will institute a controversial policy change in May; there has been a backlash because the new terms mean WhatsApp will be able to share some data with parent firm Facebook; WhatsApp says it will only impact conversations with businesses, but many users have moved over to alternative services such as Telegram; WhatsApp says it will provide users with additional information about the incoming policy . link

Japanese car company Honda names Toshihiro Mibe as its next president and CEO; Mibe, who currently serves as head of R&D, will take over from Takahiro Hachigo, who has led the company for six years; Hachigo will officially retire in June; Honda is aiming to produce mostly EVs by 2030 . link

Apple has plans to produce iPads in India, according to Reuters sources; comes as the Indian government is reportedly set to introduce a cash incentive scheme to boost device manufacturing in the country; authorities are planning a program offering ~$965M worth of support over a five-year period; Apple and other companies are lobbying for ~$2.7M . link

The New York Times explores the various responses to Facebook’s decision to remove news articles in Australia; some say the law, which is expected to pass in the coming days, is bad; many suggest it incentivizes clicks over quality journalism; others say Facebook deliberately pulled articles relating to weather and health to make a point about what it can do; Facebook has since said it will reinstate links relating to key services . link

Google adds Apple TV app support to its Chromecast with Google TV device; it is also now available to TVs from TCL and Sony that have Google TV built in . link

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev, and others testify at congressional hearing regarding the GameStop short squeeze; lawmakers aggressively questioned Robinhood and Citadel Securities' chiefs, but, as CNN reports, were more supportive of Reddit and prominent /r/WallStreetBets user Roaring Kitty, who urged retail investors to hold GameStop stock during the squeeze . link

On Jan 28, the SEC classified 1M-plus GameStop shares as failed-to-deliver; the stock, which was one of the most heavily shorted on the NYSE, surged ~1.7k percent between Jan 1 and Jan 27 due to a retail rush and short squeeze; Bloomberg notes the data supports claims that hedge funds engaged in naked short-selling . link

Dropbox ($10B market cap) Q4 beats: 504.1M revenue, up 14 percent year-over-year ($498M expected); $0.28 EPS ($0.24 expected); $345.8M net loss (GAAP); 15.48M paid users, up from 14.31M for the year-earlier period; $130.17 average revenue per paid user, up from $125; $2.02B ARR, up 11 percent . link

The House Energy and Commerce Committee schedules a March 25 hearing on platform misinformation; Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, and Jack Dorsey are slated to testify; the committee said in its announcement that self-regulation had failed to address the distribution of blatantly false information and that the government needed to change social media companies' incentives . link

Oracle marketed its data analysis services to police and security contractors in China, according to company documents viewed by The Intercept; in 2018, a China-based engineer gave a presentation detailing how police in Liaoning used Oracle's products to identify people linked to suspects (potentially dissidents), to more easily trace people, etc; Oracle based its bid for TikTok's US operations on its ability to protect user data from China . link

The Chamber of Commerce and multiple lobbying groups file suit against MD, alleging the state's new online advertising revenue tax, the nation's first, is unconstitutional; the plaintiffs also said the tax violated federal laws prohibiting state levies on online services; the complaint includes the Internet Association, which claims Amazon, Facebook, and Google as members . link

This Week in Startups | Angel S5 E5Jason speaks with Mark Cuban about the resurgence in retail investing, his most prescient bets, his entrance into the movie business, the vertical integration of the film industry, the risks of AI investing, AI impacting the NBA, what's changed since Mark bought the Dallas Mavericks, the NBA's future with crypto, more . link

Palantir ($43.5B market cap) stock falls ~eight percent following the expiration of a share lockup the company imposed as part of its direct listing on the NYSE; ~one-fifth of shares were available for trades at the time of the September debut; now, almost all shares are available; Bloomberg reports some long-term investors plan to hold but George Soros plans to exit . link

A Facebook product manager suggested the firm change the definition of an ad-reach metric to make it more accurate but executives worried about potentially significant revenue impact, according to emails unredacted on Wednesday; a class-action suit accuses Facebook of using an inaccurate and inflated link

Nvidia announces four Cryptocurrency Mining Processors (CMPs): essentially GPUs without display ports, optimized for mining; will launch two in the first quarter and two in the second; the company also announced that drivers for the coming GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card would limit crypto-mining efficiency by ~half; Nvidia said it wanted to ensure stocks of gaming cards would be available for gamers, not sold to miners . link

Google releases Android 12 developer preview for Pixel devices; has new features for handling media, including a transcoding layer for HEVC video, support for 24 audio channels (up from eight), spacial audio, more; a new API will enable users to more easily drag-and-drop or copy-paste text and media between apps; features minor UI changes, but as The Verge notes, it's likely the final version will include more visual updates . link

China-based WeBull parent Fumi Technology raises $150M at a $1B-plus valuation, according to Bloomberg sources; the platform offers fee-free stock trades for US retail investors; at the end of last year, the company claimed it was transferring 850 users from other brokerages per day, and that Robinhood represented ~half . link

Cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike ($52.8B market cap) acquires London-based log management and analysis platform Humio for ~$400M, mostly cash; founded in 2016; clients include Microsoft and Bloomberg; previously raised ~$32M .Correction: A previous version of this post indicated CrowdStrike's market cap was $52.8M. It was actually $52.8B at the time of the post. link

The download for 2021-02-18 →


ByteDance-owned short video app Douyin reports 550M MAUs for its built-in search feature; compares with 544M MAUs for Baidu’s main app; Douyin, which is often described as the Chinese version of TikTok, added a search function in 2018 . link

Event management startup Grip raises $13M Series A led by Kennet Partners; Grip offers tools for hosting online networking events; has raised $14.5M to date . link

Google is set to reorganize its Ethical AI team under VP Marian Croak, according to Bloomberg sources; follows controversy over the departure of AI researcher Timnit Gebru; Megan Kacholia, who was criticized for her role in Gebru’s dismissal, will no longer oversee the researchers . link

Amazon launches Build It, a Kickstarter-like platform. that lets users pledge support for new products; if a project garners enough backing over a 30-day period, Amazon will put it into production; launch products include an Alexa-powered nutrition scale and a sticky note printer; early backers can purchase goods at a discount; Amazon previously offered a similar program known as Day 1 Editions . link

The White House says the SolarWinds supply-chain hack has impacted nine federal agencies and 100 private companies; Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger has not disclosed which organizations have been affected, but notes the government’s investigation is still at the early stages; previous reports have suggested as many as 250 businesses and agencies have been infiltrated; the attack has been linked to Russia, though Neuberger says it was seemingly launched within the US . link

Former Waze CEO Noam Bardin discusses his reasons for leaving the company; Bardin says Google promised Waze autonomy when it was acquired in 2013; Bardin believed he would be able to grow the firm within Google, but says, ultimately, he was naive; he claims many of Waze’s ideas were co-opted by Google Maps; he also says his team was often bogged down with policy and legal work, which he attributes to operating within a larger corporation . link

YouTube announces its TikTok-like service Shorts will launch as a beta in the US next month; YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan notes Shorts, which launched as an early beta in India last year, is receiving more than 3.5B views per day; YouTube also has plans for an integrated shopping feature that is set to roll out later this year . link

Key Apple engineer Benjamin Lyon is leaving the company; Bloomberg reports Lyon has worked on Apple’s long-rumored EV project since 2014, having most recently overseen a team working on sensors; satellite startup Astra has named Lyon as its chief engineer . link

Baidu says it has decided on a name for its EV joint venture with Geely; Baidu CEO Robin Li discussed the company during an earnings call but did not reveal what it would be called; Li also says Baidu has settled on a CEO for the unit, but again, did not release details; Baidu is the majority stakeholder; the venture plans to launch its first product within three years . link

LG is developing a foldable display for Apple, according to DigiTimes sources; it is working on a flexible OLED panel for use in a future folding iPhone; Samsung has also provided samples; follows reports Apple is planning a 7-inch device with Apple Pencil support which could launch as soon as 2023 . link

iHeartMedia ($1B market cap) acquires adtech firm Triton Digital for $230M from Scripps; Triton provides audio ad tools and distribution; it was purchased by Scripps in 2018 for $150M . link

Twitter begins testing audio messages in DMs, limited to users in Brazil, India, and Japan; only iOS and Android app users can record and send messages; web users can listen to messages; Twitter limits the messages to 140 seconds, the same as voice tweets . link

The New York Times profiles cloud computing advisor Corey Quinn, who serves some of Amazon's largest AWS customers; in addition to helping clients reduce their cloud computing costs, Quinn writes a weekly newsletter, runs a podcast, and publishes YouTube videos . link

T-Mobile and Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center announce the 5G Connected Future incubator program in Atlanta; the program, an extension of T-Mobile's Accelerator, will focus on 5G use cases including mixed reality and autonomous vehicles . link

Hackers are now writing malware natively for Apple's M1 processors, according to Objective-See creator and security researcher Patrick Wardle; one early adware app installs as a Safari extension and collects data; also displays pop-ups, banner ads, and coupons . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Tiny Co-Founder Andrew Wilkinson about his firm's approach to sourcing and buying companies, acquiring Dribbble, taking WeCommerce public, listing in Canada vs the US, ad-supported vs subscription businesses, Twitter's best monetization options, copycatting in the social space, more . link

Google updates Maps with the ability to buy train tickets and pay for parking; the company has integrated parking payment services Passport and ParkMobile, enabling users to pay at meters and to find and rent lot spaces . link

Google announces numerous education-focused updates for Classroom, Meet, and Workspace for Education; the company said the 50-plus new features would address the needs of administrators, teachers, and students; coming changes include new Classroom add-ons, roster and grade synching with the Student Information System, engagement tracking, more . link

Waymo begins testing its robo-taxi service in San Francisco with employee volunteers as riders; the company launched the commercial service Waymo One in the Phoenix area in 2018, and the San Francisco tests represent the first new market for that program; Waymo's modified Chrysler Pacificas and Jaguar I-Pace SUVs have driven 20M autonomous miles on public roads in 25 cities . link

Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger says investigators believe Russian hackers executed the SolarWinds supply-chain attacks from within the US; she said nine federal agencies and ~100 private-sector companies were compromised beyond the initial SolarWinds entry point; the hackers breached ~18k entities, but were more selective for deeper attacks . link

London-based crypto exchange and noncustodial wallet provider Blockchain.com raises $120M from Lightspeed, GV, and others; the company originally launched as Blockchain.info, providing a blockchain explorer; now claims 65M wallets; raised $190M to date . link

Coinbase facilitated Tesla's recent purchase of $1.5B in bitcoin, according to sources for The Block; the crypto exchange reportedly executed the buy over several days in early February; one source said Coinbase's prime brokerage arm serves more than five Fortune 500 companies . link

MA-based warehouse robotics company Locus Robotics raises $150M Series E at a 1B valuation led by Tiger Global Management and Bond; the company leases modular fleets for automating operations; clients include DHL and Radial; raised $249M to date . link

The Justice Department announces charges against three alleged North Korean military hackers, saying the trio conspired to steal and extort ~1.3B from banks and businesses; they also allegedly developed and distributed malicious cryptocurrency apps; they allegedly conducted spear-phishing campaigns against the Departments of Defense and State, tech and aerospace companies, more . link

News Corp announces three-year global content deal with Google; News Corp properties including The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and a variety of Australian publications will appear in Google's News Showcase; Google is in talks to establish deals with Australian publishers due to a bill that seeks to require platforms to pay news outlets for content; News Corp and Google will also develop a premium subscription platform and support audio and video journalism . link

Facebook elects to block Australian users from viewing and sharing news links rather than pay publishers; will ban all users, globally, from viewing and sharing news from Australian publishers; the Australian House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that would require platforms to pay media organizations for featuring their content; the Senate has yet to vote; Google has chosen to negotiate deals with publishers . link

The download for 2021-02-17 →


Cybersecurity startup vArmour raises $58M led by AllegisCyber Capital and NightDragon with participation from Standard Chartered Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, and others; the company offers multi-cloud security tools to enterprise customers; has raised $185M to date . link

SpaceX has raised $850M on a ~$74B post-money valuation, according to CNBC sources; compares with a $46B valuation last August when the company raised $2B; existing investors were reportedly also able to sell $750M worth of shares via a secondary transaction; SpaceX has previously raised $5.4B . link

Swedish cloud communications company Sinch acquires interconnect provider Inteliquent from GTCR for $1.1B; additionally, Sinch has raised $986M from Handelsbanken, Danske Bank, and others, which it will use to finance the deal; Chicago-based Inteliquent provides software tools for third-party voice and messaging services . link

UK-based decisions platform Peak AI raises $21M Series B led by Oxx with participation from MMC Ventures, Praetura Ventures, and Arete; the startup offers an AI-powered service for helping enterprise customers make data-driven choices; has raised $43M to date . link

Danish customer support firm Dixa acquires Australia-based product knowledge service Elevio; terms undisclosed, but TechCrunch says the deal is worth ~$15M; Elevio’s platform provides contextual information to customer service agents; raised ~$900k to date . link

Sonos has filed a patent for headphones in Germany; previous rumors indicate the headphones will feature active noise cancellation and the ability to hand off audio to Sonos speakers; Sonos CEO Patrick Spence confirmed last month that the company will launch a new product in March . link

JPMorgan Chase predicts bitcoin volatility will have to settle down if it is to hold its high valuation; the cryptocurrency has passed $51k, a new record; JPMorgan Chase says bitcoin’s market valuation has climbed by ~$700B over the last five months . link

Salesforce says the US Department of Justice has asked for documents relating to its $27.7B Slack acquisition; CNBC notes the second request review is not without precedent when it comes to such large takeovers; Salesforce says it expects the deal will close by the end of the next quarter . link

A hacker known as Clop claims to have taken more than 100GB of documents belonging to global law firm Jones Day; Jones Day says Accellion, a service it uses to transfer files, was recently compromised; Jones Day represents many high profile clients, including Donald Trump and others . link

Epic Games has filed an antitrust complaint against Apple with the EU’s policy body the European Commission; Epic claims Apple has “completely eliminated competition” for app distribution and payments on iOS; Epic also alleges Apple’s Arcade games bundle is unfair because developers cannot easily offer a competing service for iPhones and iPads; Apple removed Epic’s “Fortnite” from the App Store last year after the company introduced its own in-app payments . link

Los Angeles-based royalty attribution engine Pex raises $57M from Tencent Music Entertainment and others; serves copyright holders, creators looking to license works, distribution platforms, and enforcement agencies; the company acquired rights management platform Dubset last year; raised $64M to date . link

Microsoft expands its gaming accessibility program, allowing PC and Xbox game developers to send titles to Microsoft for assessment; the company will determine whether games meet the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines and will have disabled players test the games; reports will include feedback from those players as well as screenshots, steps to recreate potential problems, etc; Microsoft will provide information about inclusive design, more . link

The Biden administration is consulting tech companies including Amazon regarding COVID-19 vaccine distribution; White House spokesperson Kevin Munoz said firms with tech and logistics expertise could ensure efficient and equitable vaccinations; Amazon has offered to help with IT and operations; Airbnb has suggested creating vaccine depots; Google has offered advertising services . link

A small collection of hedge funds acquired or increased GameStop long positions in the fourth quarter, according to regulatory filings; those who sold during the retail rush on shorted stocks might have seen gains of more than 1.6k percent . link

Houston-based Axiom Space, which produces commercial modules for the International Space Station, raises $130M Series B led by C5 Capital; the company ultimately plans to deploy its own fully private orbiting space platform for scientific research, tourism, more; raised $150M to date . link

Microsoft is testing a new Kids Mode with Edge Insiders; the mode enables SafeSearch, strict tracking protections, fun browser themes, more; also includes kid-friendly content about safe browsing; Edge users can enable Kids Mode with the profile picker but exiting the mode requires a password . link

Amazon pushes the release of MMO title link

Cloud password management service LastPass announces it will limit unpaid users to a single device type: computer or mobile; new users will see the option at signup; existing free users will automatically make their selection based on which device they use to first sign in on or after March 16; LastPass will remain fully cross-platform for paid users; the company will also limit some support services, including email, to premium users . link

Amazon ($1.65T market cap) acquires e-commerce platform Selz; terms undisclosed; the platform enables individuals and small businesses to build website storefronts, and can integrate with existing websites; clients can sell via social media, marketplaces, and POS systems; founded in Sydney in 2013, employs less than 50; previously raised $11M . link

Palantir ($49.4B market cap) Q4 mixed: $322M revenue, up 40 percent year-over-year ($300.7M expected); -$0.08 EPS; the company closed 21 new contracts in the quarter, 12 worth $10M-plus; $7.9M average revenue per user for 2020, up 41 percent from 2019; the company expects at least 30 percent revenue growth this year; Palantir debuted on the NYSE in September via direct listing . link

Roku to produce original series and features, according to a now-closed job listing seeking a lead production attorney; the position requires contract work regarding script acquisitions, interaction with guilds and unions, and other responsibilities associated with original content; Roku acquired the rights to Quibi's library this year, reportedly for less than $100M . link

The download for 2021-02-16 →


IT services startup Zomentum raises $13M Series A led by Elevation Capital, Accel, and Greenoaks Capital with participation from Eight Roads Ventures; the company offers product procurement services to SMEs . link

Germany-based VC firm Revent announces its first fund with a target of €50M (~$60M); aimed at early-stage startups across Europe with a focus on companies working on societal and environmental challenges; Revent has already invested in fintech business Tomorrow Bank, carbon offset operation Sylvera, and more . link

Bitcoin’s valuation passes $50k for the first time; the cryptocurrency is up 73 percent this year; it has climbed more than 400 percent over the last 12 months . link

Microsoft updates its Office app for iOS and iPadOS; offers improved compatibility for iPad models; combines Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; also includes tools for working with PDFs . link

Amazon will partner with Foxconn to produce Fire TV sticks in India later this year; represents the first time Amazon has established a manufacturing operation in the country; the firm says it plans to produce hundreds of thousands of units each year at a facility in Chennai; output will be aimed at Indian consumers . link

India-based dating app Aisle raises an undisclosed pre-Series A led by Kongo Ventures; Aisle matches users based on language, interests, and more; the startup says it will use the investment to expand to more cities . link

Japanese VC firm Uncovered launches a $15M fund targeting startups across Africa; Uncovered notes it expects to close the fund later this year; it is focused on seed and Series A, with plans for investments of $50k to $500k; Uncovered was established in 2019 by Takuma Terakubo, who previously served as CEO of Leapfrog Ventures . link

Israel-based foodtech startup Redefine Meat raises $29M Series A led by Happiness Capital and Hanaco Ventures with participation from CPT Capital and others; the company offers plant-based meat alternatives; Redefine Meat notes it is planning an international expansion this year; has raised $35M to date . link

Deep Science, a China-based firm offering AI-powered live capture animation tools, raises an undisclosed Series A led by GSR ventures with participation from MyEG Capital and Peakview Capital; the company offers tools for generating avatars that can react in real-time . link

South Korea-based battery company SK Innovation (SKI) says it is committed to producing EV power cells in the US; follows a 10-year US product and materials import ban by the ITC, which has found SKI stole trade secrets from rival LG Energy Solution; the ruling includes partial exemptions so it can honor existing contracts with Ford and Volkswagen; SKI said last year it would build a plant in GA . link

Germany-based travel platform GetYourGuide secures an €80M (~$97M) credit facility led by UniCredit with participation from CitiGroup, Silicon Valley Bank, Deutsche Bank, and KfW; GetYourGuide lets travelers find and book tours across multiple cities . link

TX-based VC firm Ironspring Ventures closes its first fund at $61M; established by Adam Bridgman, Peter J Holt, and Ty Findley the company is focused on “digital adoption” across legacy heavy industries; Ironspring has invested in connected worker platform Augmentir, import processes startup Mercado, and more . link

Berlin-based Lengoo, which develops customized language translation solutions for enterprise, raises $20M Series B led by Inkef Capital; the platform uses neural networks to localize websites, technical manuals, etc; raised $26.6M to date . link

Miami-based banking tech company Nymbus raises $53M Series C led by Insight Partners; provides banking-as-a-service, enabling banks and credit unions to launch digital services and new revenue streams; raised ~$98M to date . link

Dick Costolo and Adam Bain's VC firm, 01 Advisors, closes its second fund at $325M; the firm raised $135M for its first fund a year-and-a-half ago; 01 invests in consumer and enterprise startups, sometimes in later-stage rounds; portfolio includes book club company Literati, payment automation company Tipalti, and payments company SpotOn Transact . link

Apple issues a WatchOS update that addresses a problem that can cause some devices, the Watch Series 5 and SE, to stop charging; the company said users who continue to experience the issue after the update can send in their devices for charge-free repair . link

Electronic component manufacturer II-VI ($9.42B market cap) bids ~$6.5B in cash and stock for laser maker Coherent ($6.31B market cap); Coherent agreed to sell to optical component manufacturer Lumentum for ~$5.7B in January, but MKS Instruments entered with a higher bid this month . link

Notion's Friday outage was the result of phishing complaints, according to Name.com, the registrar through which Notion purchased notion.so; Hexonet, which manages the . so domain, reported complaints that Notion users had generated pages intended for phishing, and suspended service . link

Ontario-based Lithium-ion battery recycler Li-Cycle nears deal to go public via SPAC merger at a $1.7B valuation, according to Reuters sources; the SPAC is the Carnelian Energy Capital Management-led Peridot Acquisition Corp, which raised $300M with an NYSE listing in September . link

Chicago-based Nature's Fynd, which develops meat- and dairy-free foods based on Fy, a protein from a microbe found in geothermal springs, opens pre-orders for its first product: a $15 Breakfast Bundle that includes six sausage-like meatless patties and eight ounces of dairy-free cream cheese; raised $158M to date . link

Marlin Equity Partners acquires majority stake in Paris-based e-commerce automation platform Lengow; terms undisclosed; Lengow enables sellers to list items on multiple platforms simultaneously; integrates with Shopify, Magento, and other platforms to draw from existing inventory, product descriptions, etc; also provides inventory alerts, order tracking, more; previously raised $13.4M . link

Nothing, a stealth firm founded by OnePlus Co-Founder Carl Pei, acquires Danger and Android Co-Founder Andy Rubin's Essential, which announced its shutdown in Feb 2020; Nothing reportedly plans wireless earbuds that integrate with smart home tech; Essential developed a smart home hub that never launched; deal terms undisclosed; Nothing's investors include Steve Huffman, Kevin Lin, and Josh Buckley . link

Philadelphia-based goPuff, which delivers daily essential items, is in talks to acquire London-based counterpart Fancy (YC S20), TechCrunch reports; both companies operate micro-fulfillment centers (dark stores) selling the goods they deliver; goPuff has raised $1.2B to date; Fancy has raised $125k . link

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) announces the Jaguar brand will only produce all-electric vehicles starting in 2025; Land Rover will launch its first all-electric vehicle in 2024, and the company plans another five all-electric vehicles over the following five years; JLR plans to invest $3.5B per year in electrification and related tech; all new Jaguars and 60 percent of new Land Rovers will be zero-emission by 2030 . link

Parler, the lightly-moderated social network that went down in January after service providers blacklisted the app over posts calling for violence, relaunches for existing users, plans to accept new signups next week; the app remains unavailable from Apple and Google's stores; Parler sued Amazon over that company's termination of Parler's cloud services . link

The download for 2021-02-15 →


India-based fintech firm KreditBee raises $75M Series C from Premji Invest, Mirae Asset Naver Asia Growth Fund, and others; the company offers online loans to traditionally underserved communities; has raised $118M to date . link

India-based Byju’s is close to acquiring fellow edtech firm Topper Technologies, according to a Bloomberg source; the deal will value Topper at ~$150M; the company offers online learning tools to school-age children . link

Ratio, a Singapore-based coffee shop company that uses robotic arms to produce drinks, raises $10M Series A led by Frasers Property with participation from JustCo and zVentures; customers order drinks via an app that robots then make; Ratio has locations in Singapore and China; has raised $12M to date . link

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess says the company is not afraid of possible competition from Apple; speaking with German publication Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Diess says the car industry is not a sector that can be taken over “at a single stroke”; Diess notes it would be logical for Apple to enter the vehicle industry because of its expertise in battery tech and software, as well as its financial wealth . link

Apple will add an always-on display to its next iPhone lineup, according to leaker Max Weinbach; devices will show the time and battery icon without needing to be unlocked; notifications will also briefly show without having to illuminate the whole screen; additionally, the iPhone 13 will feature stronger MagSafe magnets; it will also add a portrait video feature . link

Bitcoin reaches a record valuation of $49.7k; the cryptocurrency is up ~20 percent since Tesla announced last week it had purchased $1.5B worth of Bitcoin . link

The download for 2021-02-14 →


Google expects to add 100 more games to Stadia this year; the company teased some of the titles, including link

The Wall Street Journal details the history of the feud between Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook; the pair most recently exchanged public jabs over changes to iOS that protect user privacy but damage Facebook's ability to target and measure ads; the Journal covers Zuckerberg's position that Apple is abusing its power, Cook's distaste for Facebook's business model, more . link

The New York Times examines the Rationalists, who seek to apply dispassionate and scientific criticism to social and political issues, and their significance in positions of tech leadership; the Times also covers the now inactive Slate Star Codex, a blog that fostered discussions about philosophy and more; the owner of the blog disputed the Times' characterizations of some the controversial content . link

The Miami City Commission votes to move forward with a plan by Mayor Francis Suarez (R) to enable city residents and businesses to pay fees and taxes in bitcoin, and for city workers to have the option of salary payment in bitcoin; Suarez said he wanted to attract tech firms and become one of the most tech-forward cities in the US; he recently revealed he had spoken with Elon Musk about contracting The Boring Company for a tunnel project in Miami . link

Ontario Securities Commission approves Purpose Investments' Bitcoin ETF, Purpose Bitcoin ETF; will invest directly in physically settled Bitcoin and no derivatives; Bitcoin is up ~1.1k percent since March of last year . link

Bumble Founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd became the world's youngest self-made woman billionaire following her company's strong debut on the Nasdaq, Forbes reports; she owns 21.54M shares, 11.6 percent of the firm; she is also the youngest woman CEO to take a company public in the US; she is 31 . link

Russia's Yandex discloses it caught an employee, a systems administrator, selling access to user email accounts; the company said it would contact the owners of the ~4.9k affected accounts; Yandex said it would conduct a through investigation and change administrators' access to user data . link

Mercedes to recall 1.29M vehicles due to a problem with the company's eCall system, which reports vehicle location to emergency responders following a crash; an issue could cause eCall to relay the wrong coordinates; the company will provide a free, OTA software update at dealerships beginning April 6 . link

Atlanta-based health engagement platform Sharecare to go public via merger with SPAC Falcon Capital Acquisition Corp for an expected combined value of $3.9B; Koch Strategic Platforms is leading a $425M investment to fund the deal; Co-Founder Jeff Arnold, who previously founded WebMD, will serve as CEO and chairman of the combined entity; Sharecare previously raised $425M . link

Twitter permanently suspends conservative activist group Project Veritas after the account published a video of group members confronting Facebook VP of Integrity Guy Rosen at his home; Twitter cited its policy on posting private information; Twitter also temporarily suspended the personal account of Project Veritas Founder James O’Keefe, saying it would reactivate the account once O'Keefe deleted a policy-violating tweet . link

ZeniMax Media Co-Founder, CEO, and Chairman Robert Altman dies at 73 following medical procedure complications; Altman co-founded ZeniMax in 1999; Microsoft agreed to acquire the company for $7.5B last year; The New York Times covers Altman's life, including his involvement in a financial fraud scandal in the 90s . link

Ebay says a majority of its sellers will use eBay-managed payments (as opposed to PayPal) by year's end; the company is contacting users in waves, saying that a linked bank account is required for creating and revising listings, and for relistings; eBay expects to contact all users by next year . link

The Stanford Internet Observatory says it confirmed suspicions that Shanghai-based real-time engagement company Agora provides backend services for audio social network Clubhouse; the observatory noted Clubhouse transmits user IDs and chatroom IDs in plaintext and said Agora likely has access to China-based conversation audio; Clubhouse noted it hasn't officially launched in China, and said it would add new encryption protections and prevent pings to Chinese servers . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Box CEO Aaron Levie about his B2B sales strategy, going public during the link

Microsoft's Edge extension store hosted pirated copies of popular and classic video games including link

Dutch physicist and Microsoft Principal Researcher Leo Kouwenhoven, along with 21 co-authors, releases a paper discrediting Kouwenhoven's 2018 claim to have observed the hypothetical Majorana fermion particle, upon which Microsoft had hoped to build its quantum computing tech . link

US companies raised ~$150B in VC funding last year, but Black and African-American-founded companies only represented $1B, according to Crunchbase News, which profiles Black-led startups that raised large early-stage rounds; the list includes trucker app CloudTrucks, cold chain packaging company Vericool, and HR platform Bambee . link

ByteDance in talks to sell its Indian TikTok operations to Glance, according to Bloomberg sources; SoftBank, which has interest in ByteDance and Glance parent InMobi, reportedly initiated the talks; India banned TikTok in the country due to its links to China; ByteDance recently announced job cuts in India . link

The download for 2021-02-13 →


LinkedIn is building a creator management team; EIC Dan Roth said he would hire a head of community, reporting to Roth; the job listing indicated the company wanted to support and grow its creator base and to improve and retain creators . link

Insight Partners plans to raise $12B-plus for next flagship fund, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the firm closed fund XI at $9.5B last April; Insight is also raising $875M for a preferred equity investments fund; exits include HelloFresh, Qualtrics, and Shopify . link

Collaborative workspace platform Notion suffers downtime due to a DNS outage; users were unable to access their spaces this morning; the company didn't disclose details but reached out to Name.com for assistance; blogger Jane Manchun Wong noted a domain configuration issue . link

Google to pay a group of French publishers $76M over three years to settle copyright disputes, according to documents viewed by Reuters; the company will sign licensing agreements with 121 national and local French news organizations and pay them collectively $22M per year; Google will pay an additional $10M in exchange for the group ending and abstaining from copyright claims .Spiil, a French union for independent online news publishers, said the agreement would not ensure the fair treatment of all publishers, noting Google hadn't disclosed the payout calculation formula; Spiil also said divisions within the industry enabled Google to advance its interests through the deal . link

This Week in Startups | Startup Finance BasicsJason speaks with Kruze Consulting COO Scott Orn about managing cash and building a model, using financial models to communicate strategy, communicating a model to investors, what investors are looking for, more .(Part 4 - see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) link

Facebook is developing an Android-powered smartwatch, according to sources for The Information, who said the company plans to launch next year; reportedly will focus on messaging and health/fitness features, and will integrate with systems from third-party fitness companies like Peloton . link

Some Amazon drivers say Mentor, the app the company uses to track and score the driving habits of delivery partners, is buggy and triggers unnecessary disciplinary actions, CNBC reports; some drivers said the app was invasive and tracked them after work; Amazon recently announced it was using AI-powered cameras to monitor some drivers . link

Cloud monitoring and analytics company Datadog ($34.4B market cap) to acquire cloud app security management platform Sqreen (YC W18); terms undisclosed; Sqreen provides a sandboxed agent that monitors cloud apps in real-time for vulnerability and threat detection, more; the companies expect the deal to close in the second quarter; Sqreen previously raised ~$16M . link

Facebook limits the distribution of content posted by Myanmar's military; the company said the country's armed forces, known as Tatmadaw, had used the platform to spread misinformation; Facebook also suspended Myanmar's government agencies from using channels reserved for authorities to issue takedown requests; the military government previously restricted internet access following a coup . link

Spotify launches Work from Anywhere model, enabling employees to choose office, remote, or hybrid schedules; the company also plans more flexibility regarding which cities and offices employees choose; Spotify will provide memberships to co-working spaces for remote workers who want offices . link

Google, Microsoft, and Qualcomm have pressed US antitrust officials to intervene in Nvidia's $40B acquisition of Arm, according to Bloomberg sources, who say at least one US company wants the deal canceled; the UK's Competition and Markets Authority announced a probe of the sale in January, and reports indicate other regulatory authorities have expressed concern; AI chipmaker Graphcore filed a complaint in the UK .Qualcomm has contacted the FTC, the European Commission, antitrust officials in China, and others to contest the deal, according to CNBC sources; sources also said the FTC's probe had moved into its second phase and that the agency had requested more information from Nvidia and Arm . link

Seoul-based e-commerce platform Coupang files for US IPO; a Reuters source said the company sought a $50B valuation; private investors last valued the firm at ~$9B for a $2B round in Nov 2018, according to PitchBook; the company generated $12B in revenue last year, up 91 percent from 2019; Coupang plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under ticker symbol CPNG; privately raised $3.4B . link

Google to pay a group of French publishers $76M over three years to settle copyright disputes, according to documents viewed by Reuters; the company will sign licensing agreements with 121 national and local French news organizations and pay them collectively $22M per year; Google will pay an additional $10M in exchange for the group ending and abstaining from copyright claims .Spiil, a French union for independent online news publishers, said the agreement would not ensure the fair treatment of all publishers, noting Google hadn't disclosed the payout calculation formula; Spiil also said divisions within the industry enabled Google to advance its interests through the deal . link

Amazon sues NY AG Letitia James to prevent her from charging the company with workplace safety violations, The New York Times Reports; the suit asks James to declare that she doesn't have the authority to investigate pandemic workplace safety or claims of company retaliation against protesting workers; Amazon said James threatened to sue first and made a list of demands . link

The download for 2021-02-12 →


Canada-based fintech firm Mogo acquires a ~20 percent stake in crypto exchange Coinsquare for CAD$56.4M (~$44.5M); as part of the deal, Mogo has the option to purchase an additional 20 percent from existing stakeholders; the agreement is subject to regulatory approval; Coinsquare lets users buy and sell bitcoin, ethereum, and more . link

Pakistan-based fintech startup SafePay raises a seven-figure sum led by Stripe (exact amount undisclosed); operates a digital remittance service; previous investors include Global Founders Capital and HOF Capital . link

Google is testing a Chrome feature for iOS that lets users secure incognito tabs with Face ID; The Verge notes references to the feature in some versions of the Chrome 89 beta, but it’s unclear whether it will be included when the update rolls out next month . link

SoftBank and India-based hotel business Oyo announce the closure of a joint-venture focused on Latin America; Oyo Latam was established less than six months ago to oversee Oyo’s operations across the region; SoftBank’s Latin America Fund had invested $75M in the business; Oyo says it will continue to serve Latin America, but everything will be overseen from its HQ in Gurgaon, India . link

Seattle-based pet care app Rover to go public via a $325M SPAC merger with Nebula Caravel Acquisition, which is controlled by True Wind Capital; the deal values the combined firm at $1.3B; Rover has previously raised $281M . link

LG says it will invest $750M to expand its OLED manufacturing facilities in Hai Phong, Vietnam; to date the company has committed ~$3.2B to its Vietnamese operations . link

Jack Dorsey partners with Jay Z to establish ₿trust, an endowment fund focused on bitcoin development projects; Dorsey and Jay Z are collectively putting 500 bitcoin into the operation, currently worth ~$23.6M; the fund will initially target operations in India and multiple African countries; neither Dorsey nor Jay Z will direct how ₿trust operates . link

NY-based financial institution BNY Mellon announces support for cryptocurrencies; BNY Mellon, the oldest bank in the US, says it will issue, hold, and transfer bitcoin and other digital currencies on behalf of asset-management clients . link

The hackers who stole game source code from developer CD Projekt Red (CDPR) have reportedly sold the material; the hackers set up an auction offering files for “Cyberpunk 2077” and more after CDPR refused to engage with their ransom demands; the sale was made outside of the auction process; it’s unknown who purchased the code or how much was paid . link

PayPal CFO John Rainey says the company is unlikely to follow Tesla’s lead by directly investing in bitcoin; speaking with CNBC, Rainey notes the company is interested in capitalizing on cryptocurrencies as a growth opportunity; PayPal added support for buying and selling select digital currencies last October . link

TikTok-like social platform Clapper permanently bans QAnon and anti-vaxx content; CEO Edison Chen says the company has removed 400 videos and 20 accounts for sharing such misinformation; Clapper launched last summer, positioning itself as a “free speech platform”: Chen says it will likely take up to 10 days to thoroughly audit the 1M videos uploaded by its users . link

Disney Plus reaches ~95M subscribers, beating a target initially set for 2024; Disney revealed the figure in an earnings call where it set a new target of 230M to 260M customers by 2024 . link

Google Photos makes some previously Pixel exclusive editing features available for other Android devices; includes Portrait Blur and Portrait Light; users must have an active Google One subscription to access the features . link

Black doctors and medical professionals using audio social app Clubhouse to counter misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines say they face harassment, false accusations that they're shilling for Big Pharma, more, Bloomberg reports; Clubhouse users have established rooms dedicated to spreading conspiracy theories .OneZero questions the app's somewhat aggressive use of users' contacts to grow the platform; users who share phone contacts with the app see notifications when contacts sign up, and the app prompts to tap through and welcome the contact in a room that could host friends of friends; when a user accesses the link

Bumble ($7.7B market cap) closes up 63.5 percent in Nasdaq debut after raising $2.2B; the dating app company priced shares at $43 after setting a range of $37 to $39 per share; trades opened up 77 percent at $76; the freemium app, which generates revenue via profile boosts, travel mode, and more, requires women to initiate contact . link

Black doctors and medical professionals using audio social app Clubhouse to counter misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines say they face harassment, false accusations that they're shilling for Big Pharma, more, Bloomberg reports; Clubhouse users have established rooms dedicated to spreading conspiracy theories .OneZero questions the app's somewhat aggressive use of users' contacts to grow the platform; users who share phone contacts with the app see notifications when contacts sign up, and the app prompts to tap through and welcome the contact in a room that could host friends of friends; when a user accesses the link

Disney ($346B market cap) Q1 beats: $16.25B revenue ($15.9B expected); $0.32 EPS (adjusted, -$0.41 expected); $3.5B direct-to-consumer revenue, up 73 percent year-over-year; 95M paid Disney+ subscribers, each generating an average of $4.03 in revenue; 146M total paid streaming subscribers (includes ESPN+, Hulu, more) . link

This Week in Startups | Angel S5 E4Jason speaks with Stocktwits Co-Founder and SocialLeverage GP Howard Lindzon about investing stories from the first dot-com bubble, why VCs fled public markets following the bust and how that links to the current SPAC movement, SPACs as a hedge against investing laws, investing in Robinhood and that company's current situation, more . link

Twitter to label personal accounts belonging to heads of state, starting next week; the company previously said it would not label such accounts as their owners are well known; the company also said it would expand its program to label state-affiliated media accounts; Twitter plans to make these labels more specific than previous account labels . link

The Medium Workers Union, which seeks Medium's voluntary recognition, now claims 70 percent of eligible employees - 140 people across editorial, engineering, and other departments - have signed cards in support; employees are working with the Communications Workers of America to establish the new union, which is not focused on a single issue and has not provided a list of demands . link

The Biden administration is examining semiconductor supply chains to address the global shortage, which has impacted automotive production schedules, more; the European Union is considering a manufacturing facility to reduce reliance on the US and Asia, and aid targeting manufacturers; President Biden is likely to sign a relevant executive order in coming weeks; the US reportedly might incentivize semiconductor manufacturing in the country . link

Apple's iOS 14.5B directs traffic for Safari's Safe Browsing feature to Apple servers; past releases have relied on Google's Safe Browsing servers, which provide blacklists of URLs facilitating phishing and other scams; Google's servers don't see users' full target URLs, but as Apple's head of engineering for WebKit said, switching to Apple servers reduces the risk of customers' data being leaked . link

Apple launches AR app For All Mankind: Time Capsule, a tie-in with the Apple TV+ original show; the second season debuts next week; the show explores an alternate history in which Russia was the first nation to set foot on the moon; the free AR app provides ~45 minutes of content for a fast play-through, Engadget reports . link

Mental health platform Modern Health raises $74M Series D for a $1.17B post-valuation led by Founders Fund; the firm works with licensed therapists to offer telehealth sessions; also offers wellness advice, more; clients include EA, Lyft, and Pixar; raised $167M to date . link

The Biden administration asks a federal appeals court to pause the Trump administration's efforts to ban WeChat in the US; on Feb 10, the Biden administration asked a separate appeals court to do the same for the Trump administration's efforts to force ByteDance to sell TikTok's US operations; the Biden administration said it would review both initiatives . link

The download for 2021-02-11 →


Google is testing a dark mode for Search on desktop; the company is making the feature available to users who have set their device’s OS to dark mode, though it’s unclear how widespread the rollout is; unknown if or when it will be made more widely available . link

Fintech startup Pngme raises $3M seed from Radical Ventures, Raptor Group, Lateral Capital, and EchoVC; the company offers data infrastructure tools to financial services firms; the US-based firm is currently focused on serving clients across Africa; has raised $3.5M to date . link

TX-based OnwardMobility partners with Foxconn to develop a BlackBerry-branded 5G smartphone; OnwardMobility founder and CEO Peter Franklin says the device will feature a physical keyboard, and notes a planned launch later this year; Franklin says the smartphone will be available in the North America, Europe, and Asia; TCL previously licensed the BlackBerry brand, but stopped producing such devices last year . link

United Airlines (UA) says it intends to purchase up to 200 electric-powered air taxis from CA-based Archer; Archer says the deal is worth up to $1B; UA is partnering with NV-based Mesa Air, which will use the eVTOL aircraft to ferry passengers to the airport; Archer expects to begin production in 2023; comes as Archer announces it will go public via a SPAC deal with Atlas Crest Investment; UA is investing $20M in the combined entity . link

Cloud automation startup Spacelift raises $6M Series A led by Blossom Capital with participation from Inovo Venture Partners and Hoxton Ventures; the company offers infrastructure tools for creating automated processes; has raised $7.6M to date . link

UK-based challenger bank Monzo names Carol Nelson as CEO of its US operations; Nelson previously served as head of Cascade bank and as an SVP at Bank of America; Monzo UK CEO TS Anil had also overseen the US division before Nelson’s appointment . link

Dating app Bumble prices its shares at $43 a piece, raising $2.2B in its IPO; the company previously gave a guide price of $37 to $39 each; it is valued at more than $7B; Bumble will begin trading today on the Nasdaq under the symbol BMBL . link

India-based payments platform BharatPe raises ~$108M Series D on a $900M post-money valuation led by Coatue Management with participation from Ribbit Capital, Insight Partners, and others; it was previously valued at $425M; the company offers tools to let offline merchants accept digital payments; has raised $268M to date . link

Zillow (~$39.3B market cap) acquires fellow real estate service ShowingTime for $500M; the Chicago-based company offers a suite of tools for agents and brokers; raised $2.2M to date; the announcement comes as Zillow reveals quarterly profits of $170M EBITDA . link

Clubhouse has been downloaded 4.7M times, according to data firm Apptopia; the audio social platform, currently iOS only, had been downloaded 1M times at the end of last year; Axios says the platform was initially the domain of Silicon Valley figures, but is now attracting a more diverse set of users . link

Microsoft has approached Pinterest about a possible acquisition, according to sources for the Financial Times; Microsoft made the proposal in recent months, but discussions between the firms are presently not active; Pinterest currently has a market cap of $51B; its valuation has climbed more than 600 percent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic . link

Mastercard to support select cryptocurrencies on its network starting next year; the company previously launched cards for spending crypto, but they don't use the company's network; Mastercard didn't disclose which currencies it planned to support . link

Ad-tech firm Viant pops 90 percent in Nasdaq debut; the company, which operates demand-side ad platform Adelphic, priced shares at $25 each; trading opened at $44 and closed at $47.72; founded in 1999, Viant acquired MySpace in 2011 and helped create Xumo, which Comcast purchased last year . link

This Week in StartupsJason appears on CNBC's Power Lunch to discuss Uber's Q4 results, how the pandemic has impacted rides vs deliveries, Dara Khosrowshahi's push to cut fat, why Jason plans to hold his Uber position for the next decade, the likelihood of consolidation in the delivery space, more . link

The hackers who breached CD Projekt Red (CDPR) leak some stolen code and start auctions for more valuable code, The Verge reports; the initial leak apparently includes source code for the game link

Uber ($117B market cap) Q4 mixed: $3.17B revenue ($3.58B expected); -$0.54 EPS ($0.56 expected); $6.79B gross mobility bookings, down 50 percent year-over-year; $10.05B gross delivery bookings, up 130 percent; Uber Eats claimed 600k-plus restaurant partners during the quarter . link

ND-based network security company Tenable ($4.62B market cap) to acquire Parisian Active Directory security company Alsid for $98M in cash; Tenable plans to integrate Alsid's SaaS offering; the companies expect the deal to close in the second quarter . link

Twitter has considered how it might pay employees or vendors with bitcoin and whether it should maintain bitcoin on the company balance sheet or exchange funds at the time workers or vendors request payment . link

Apple to update Maps with crowdsourced incident information; with the iOS 14.5 beta, Maps gains tools for reporting accidents, hazards, and speed traps; Google Maps and Waze offer similar tools, plus those for reporting lane closures and more; Apple's CarPlay-compatible solution also offers hands-free reporting . link

The Trump administration's initiative to force the sale of TikTok's US operations to US entities is on indefinite hold, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; TikTok parent ByteDance mounted successful legal challenges, and President Biden reportedly will review Trump's efforts to address national security risks from China; sources say ByteDance continues talks with US officials to address concerns .Update: The Biden administration confirms it has asked a federal judge to place relevant litigation on hold . link

Facebook is developing a Clubhouse-like audio chat product, according to sources for The New York Times; Mark Zuckerberg recently appeared on a Clubhouse talk show, and sources say he has expressed interest in audio communications; Facebook's would-be competitor reportedly is in the early stages of development . link

Twitter says Donald Trump's ban is permanent, regardless of whether he runs for president again; CFO Ned Segal revealed the decision on CNBC, saying the company's policies do not allow an individual banned for inciting violence to return to the platform; Twitter banned Trump for his role in the Jan 6 Capitol Building attack . link