The Daily Download - latest tech news for 2021-04-22, fan podcast based on @launchticker

The download for 2021-04-22 →


TikTok is banning users that post porn and other graphic content as their profile images; the company is also banning hashtags that link to the trend which is dubbed “don’t search this”; the BBC notes the craze, which centers around shocking images and clips, has generated almost 50M views so far . link

NY-based cybersecurity firm Deep Instinct raises $100M led by BlackRock with participation from Tudor Group, Untitled Investment, and others; the company offers AI-powered tools that promise to predict and prevent malware and ransomware attacks . link

Seven House Republicans say they will no longer accept donations from big tech firms; citing bans against Parler, the House members claim tech companies have unfairly limited the reach of conservative voices . link

UK-based challenger bank Revolut announces an expansion into India; the firm has hired Paroma Chatterjee, who previously held executive roles at Flipkart and Lendingkart, to oversee the operation; Revolut says it will invest $25M in the country over five years and launch a local app in 2022 . link

Luggage firm Away names co-founder Jen Rubio as permanent CEO; Rubio has held the role on an interim basis since Stuart Haselden stepped down as CEO in January; Haselden himself served just a few months after replacing co-founder Steph Korey . link

Walmart is phasing out its automated in-store pick-up towers, reports The Wall Street Journal; the company installed the 17-foot towers in more than 1.5k stores, where they have served as online order collection points; towers have since been removed or switched off at more than 300 sites, partly driven by Walmart moving to a curbside collection model . link

Fintech firm Rapyd is raising ~$250M on a ~$5B valuation, according to sources for The Information; the funding is being led by Target Global; Rapyd, which offers a payments platform that integrates with other apps, has previously raised $470M . link

Data management firm CluedIn raises $15M Series A led by Dawn Capital; the startup, which has operations in Denmark, the US, UK, and Australia, offers database tools to enterprise customers; CluedIn has raised $16M to date . link

Twitter begins testing Professional Profiles; the feature gives companies, creators, and nonprofits an About section where they can add specific information about their operations; unclear if or when it will roll out wider . link

Elon Musk says Tesla’s solar products will only be sold alongside its Powerwall home battery product from next week; writing on Twitter, Musk says the firm’s roof solar panels will feed directly into Powerwall, which will then work with a property’s main breaker and utility meter; Musk also suggests the setup will allow customers to be “their own utility” . link

Twitter rolls out support for 4K image uploads via iOS and Android; users must enable the feature via the data usage section of the settings menu; the company’s web app has supported high-res images for some time . link

Volvo says it may face further manufacturing disruptions because of the ongoing global semiconductor shortage; the carmaker previously warned of temporary factory shutdowns in the current quarter, and posits there could be more to come; multiple vehicle companies have paused production lines over recent months . link

Google announces changes to its Meet UI for desktop users; promises improvements to the navigation bar, updates to presentations, a better low-light mode, and more; the updates will roll out next month . link

Roku announces original content initiative Roku Originals, will initially feature Quibi's original content, which Roku acquired rights for in January; Roku will eventually expand the Roku Originals catalog with new productions; the company said it would reveal more details in May . link

Signal Founder Moxie Marlinspike claims his team hacked a Cellebrite device, which law enforcement uses to circumvent encryption for searches; Marlinspike said he obtained the device after it fell off a truck and that the company found multiple security vulnerabilities; he said a device containing a custom-crafted file could execute arbitrary code on a connected Cellebrite device . link

Brooklyn-based Per Diem (YC W21), which helps brick-and-mortar businesses offer subscriptions, raises $2M seed led by Two Sigma Ventures; Per Diem enables companies to create subscriptions limited to their own products and services, but also works with multiple companies to offer subscriptions covering multiple establishments within a community; supports local delivery and shipping . link

This Week in Startups: Emergency Pod! | Apple's Spring Loaded EventJason reacts to Apple's April 20 product event, which introduced the M1 iMac, new iPad Pros, AirTags, and new Podcasts initiatives; he covers Apple's new rules for apps that track users, Facebook's partnership with Spotify, more; (also features a clip of Jason asking Steve Jobs about podcasts in 2005) . link

RapidAPI, a marketplace for APIs, raises $60M Series C led by Green Bay Ventures; the platform helps developers to discover and connect with APIs for currency conversion, file storage, statistics, more; also offers a white-label private API marketplace solution for enterprises . link

Network software company Mavenir raises $500M from Koch Strategic Platforms, according to Bloomberg sources; Siris Capital affiliates will remain majority shareholders; Mavenir serves wireless providers including Dish; the firm delayed a planned IPO in October . link

Automation software company UiPath opens at $65.50 per share in NYSE debut after pricing at $56 for a $1.3B raise; shares rose past $68 in the afternoon, driving UiPath's market cap beyond the $35B valuation it saw for a $700M round that closed in February; UiPath reported $608M revenue for a 12-month period ending in January .Update: UiPath closes up 23 percent at $69 per share with a $35.8B market cap . link

Welcome Tech, which develops mobile tools for US-based immigrant communities, raises $35M Series B led by Owl Ventures, SB Opportunity Fund, and TTV Capital; the startup provides banking and credit services, messaging, resources for accessing healthcare, more . link

Creator+, which plans to finance features by digital artists and storytellers, emerges with $12M led by Petra Group and Freestyle Capital; the company will produce movies and offer them for individual sale via a subscription-free VOD streaming service; Creator+ will split revenues 50/50 with artists, and will share audience data . link

US-based startups collectively raised $69B in the first quarter, 41 percent more than the previous quarterly record, set at the end of 2018, according to PitchBook data; the average valuation was a record $1.6B for later-stage firms; industry insiders speaking with The Wall Street Journal said startups are raising more than they're seeking and closing more quickly than in previous quarters . link

Automation software company UiPath opens at $65.50 per share in NYSE debut after pricing at $56 for a $1.3B raise; shares rose past $68 in the afternoon, driving UiPath's market cap beyond the $35B valuation it saw for a $700M round that closed in February; UiPath reported $608M revenue for a 12-month period ending in January .Update: UiPath closes up 23 percent at $69 per share with a $35.8B market cap . link

Amazon begins testing its palm-scan payments system, Amazon One, at a Whole Foods in Seattle; Amazon previously deployed One at Amazon Go and Amazon Books locations in the area; a customer can sign up for the service at a store and associate a payment card with their palm scan . link

NJ-based Misfits Market, which delivers discounted produce and irregular grocery items, raises $200M Series C led by Accel and D1 Capital; the company operates fulfillment centers and buys products from farmers and grocery chains; sends subscribers weekly boxes based on their preferences, discounted for various reasons, such as crooked labels . link

Magic Leap plans to launch its second-generation AR headset in limited quantities by the end of the year, and to expand availability in 2022; the device is smaller and lighter than its predecessor, has an expanded field of view, and is designed for long sessions in professional environments; the firm is no longer targeting consumers . link

Israel-based Outbrain, which provides content recommendation and advertising solutions, confidentially files for US IPO; the firm has not yet disclosed the size of the offering or other details; serves CNN, BBC, The Washington Post, and others, generating 344B recommendations per month . link

The download for 2021-07-28 →


Berlin-based content platform Contentful raises $175M Series F at a ~$3B valuation led by Tiger Global; the platform serves apps and sites, enabling developers to pull text and media from storage buckets via APIs; raised $335M to date . link

Ed-tech firm PowerSchool raises $711M at IPO, selling 39.5M shares priced at $18 apiece after marketing at $18-$20; the offering valued the firm at $3.5B; the company's software serves districts and organizations representing 70 percent of K-12 students in the US and Canada . link

Duolingo raises $521M at IPO after pricing 5.1M shares at $102 apiece, above the final marketed range of $95M-$100M; the offering gave the Pittsburgh-based company a fully-diluted value of $4.4B-plus; Duolingo will debut on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on Wednesday, trading under ticker symbol link

Indian auto marketplace Droom is raising ~$200M in pre-IPO funding at a $1.2B valuation from 57 Stars, Seven Train Ventures, others; investors valued the firm at $500M for a $30M Series E in October of 2018; Droom claims a $1.7B annual run-rate (GMV) . link

Intel's new foundry business will manufacture chips for Qualcomm; the company expects to recapture the lead position in the market by 2025 and has secured AWS as a customer; Intel also revealed its roadmap to launch five generations of chip tech over the next four years . link

This Week in Startups | Rapid Fire NewsJason covers recent events, including China's restrictions on Tencent, China's restrictions on education-related companies, the government's motivations for the regulatory push, Tesla's second-quarter profits, crypto investors moving from Tether to USDC, a crypto pump-and-dump group on Instagram, more . link

Data engineering firm Treeverse raises $23M Series A from Dell Technologies Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, and Zeev Ventures; the startup's open-source LakeFS platform offers version control, similar to Git, enabling clients to manage data as they do code; the Tel Aviv-based company ultimately plans a premium version with managed hosting and more . link

Digital wallet startup Eco raises $60M Series B led by Activant Capital and L Catterton, with participation from a16z Crypto and others; the company offers a fee-free wallet with rewards; raised $94.5M to date . link

Covariant, which develops universal, AI-powered software for industrial robots, raises $80M Series C led by Index Ventures; the firm employs 80 and serves grocery, pharmaceutical, and other clients in Asia, Europe, and North America; raised $147M to date . link

Blaize, which develops platforms for AI edge computing, raises $71M Series D led by Franklin Templeton and Temasek; the company is developing solutions for the automotive, computer vision, and enterprise markets; Blaize also offers a code-free software platform for developing and deploying apps . link

Apple ($2.49T market cap) FQ3 beats: $81.41B revenue, up 36 percent year-over-year ($73.3B expected); $39.57B iPhone revenue, up 49.8 percent ($34.01B expected); $17.48B Services revenue, up 33 percent ($16.33B expected); $8.76B Other Products revenue, up 40 percent; $8.24B Mac revenue; $7.37B iPad revenue; $1.30 EPS ($1.01 expected) . link

Microsoft ($2.18T market cap) FQ4 beats: $46.15B revenue, up 21 percent year-over-year ($44.24B expected); $17.38B Intelligent Cloud revenue, up 30 percent ($16.33B expected); Azure revenue was up 51 percent (Microsoft doesn't break out Azure revenue); $14.69B Productivity and Business Processes revenue, up 25 percent; $2.17 EPS (adjusted, $1.92 expected) . link

Alphabet ($1.8T market cap) Q2 beats: $61.88B revenue, up 62 percent year-over-year ($56.16B expected); $50.44B total ad revenue, up 69 percent; $7B YouTube revenue, up 83 percent; $4.63B Google Cloud revenue ($4.4B expected); $27.26 EPS ($19.34 expected) . link

Warehouse robotics firm InVia raises $30M Series C led by Microsoft’s M12 Ventures and Qualcomm; the company sells subscription access to autonomous robots, required software, and a dedicated team of monitors; the robots feature hot-swappable self-charging batteries . link

Twitter ($54.8B market cap) acqui-hires Brief, a news aggregation and summarization app; terms undisclosed; the subscription app sought to provide unbiased news without algorithmically amplifying particular viewpoints; the team will join Twitter's Experience group, which works to improve conversations on Twitter . link

The download for 2021-07-27 →


IoT platform Wiliot raises $200M Series C led by Softbank’s Vision Fund 2; the Tel Aviv-based company has developed a processor that runs on ambient energy, and has agreements to license the tech; going forward, the firm will offer a sensing-as-a-service product, providing software that uses AI to interpret data from the chip . link

Password management company 1Password raises $100M Series B at a $2B valuation led by Accel; the firm offers personal and business subscriptions, and recently expanded into secrets management; 1Password also recently launched an API enabling developers to link sing-in data to security tools . link

EV company Lucid Motors rises 11 percent in Nasdaq debut following SPAC merger; the SPAC, Churchill Capital Corp, closed at $24.25 per share on Friday; Lucid closed at $26.83 on Monday following the reverse-merger, which valued Lucid at $24B; the company claims 10k-plus pre-orders for its Air sedan, and plans to begin production this year . link

Team messaging startup Element raises $30M Series B from Automattic, Notion, and others; the decentralized platform, based on the Matrix protocol, offers end-to-end encryption for messaging, voice calls, and video communications; the London-based firm offers plans starting at $3 per month per person . link

Federal judge extends its deadline for the FTC to re-file an antitrust suit against Facebook; the DC judge previously dismissed the case, saying the FTC had failed to demonstrate Facebook held monopoly power in the personal social-networking market; the FTC now has until Aug 19 to file an amended suit, and Facebook will have until Oct 4 to respond . link

This Week in Startups | Emergency Pod!Jason covers a recent report that the Department of Justice launched an investigation into whether Tether executives concealed the nature of their business when dealing with banks years ago, Tether's response to the report, the firm's previous admission to banking problems, whether the report impacted the price of Bitcoin, more . link

Teamflow, a virtual office with audio chat based on the user's proximity to other video avatars, raises $35M Series B led by Coatue Management; the platform also supports group video calling, collaborative app use, events, more; customers include Atlassian, Netflix, and Uber . link

Lordstown Motors secures an agreement to sell $400M in shares over three years to a Yorkville Advisors-managed hedge fund; the company recently warned the SEC it might not survive without additional cash, and the firm's CEO and CTO resigned over inaccurate pre-order disclosures; Lordstown now faces separate investigations by the SEC and the Justice Department . link

Swedish EV company Polestar plans to launch in nine more markets and double the number of its global retail locations to 100 (some pop-up) by year's end; Polestar also plans to launch new service centers, bringing the total to 780-plus; the planned new markets include Australia, Hong Kong, and South Korea . link

Tesla ($633.5B market cap) Q2 beats: $11.96B revenue ($11.3B expected); $1.45 EPS (adjusted, $0.98 expected); $1.14B net income (GAAP, the company's first $1B-plus quarter); $10.21B automotive revenue (3.5 percent from regulatory credit sales); $801M energy revenue . link

Duolingo increases its target IPO price range from $85-$95 per share to $95-$100, seeking a valuation of $3.41B-$3.59B; investors last valued the firm at ~$2.4B for a Series H at the end of last year; the company plans to offer 3.7M shares and existing shareholders plan to sell 1.41M; underwriters have the option to buy ~766k at the IPO price for 30 days post-listing . link

PE firm Thoma Bravo to take customer survey software company Medallia ($5.33B market cap) private in a $6.4B cash deal; the price represents a 20-percent premium on Medallia's closing price on June 10, the last trading day before the first reports that Medallia was exploring a sale; Medallia shareholders will see $34 per share . link

The download for 2021-07-26 →


China issues new regulations requiring online food platforms to pay workers at least the local minimum wage, more; China's largest food delivery firm, Meituan, was already facing an investigation regarding alleged anticompetitive practices; the company's stock has fallen 50 percent since February . link

Indonesia's GoTo, established through the merger of ride-hailing firm Gojek and e-commerce company PT Tokopedia, is raising $1B-$2B at a valuation of $25B-$30B, according to Bloomberg sources; investors reportedly last valued the company at $18B; GoTo reportedly plans domestic and US public listings . link

Byju's to acquire fellow Indian ed-tech firm Great Learning for $600M in cash and stock; Great Learning works with leading higher education institutions, including Stanford's Center for Professional Development and Northwestern's School for Professional Studies to offer subscription access to programs in data science, AI, cybersecurity, more . link

NASA announces SpaceX will launch the agency's mission to Jupiter moon Europa; the $178M mission is slated to launch October of 2024, and to enter Jupiter's orbit in 2030; the Europa Clipper will capture high-resolution images of the moon's surface, data about its ocean, more . link

General Motors sues Ford over the branding of the latter's hands-free driving feature, BlueCruise; GM introduced its Super Cruise hands-free driving tech in 2017 and operates autonomous driving subsidiary Cruise; Ford argued that every automaker offers cruise control, and that cruise is a well-known term . link

Cryptocurrency exchanges FTX and Binance announce reduced limits on margin trading; FTX said it would reduce available leverage from 101 times holdings to 20 times; Binance said it would also reduce available leverage to 20x, starting with new signups and eventually for existing customers . link

New regulations in China prohibit ed-tech firms from earning profits, raising funds, M&A, and going public; the new rules from the State Council also apply to companies that provide tutoring services for required school curricula; the regulations also prohibit teaching foreign curricula . link

Sproutl, a marketplace for gardening supplies and outdoor home goods, raises $9M seed led by Index Ventures; the startup curates items from third-party merchants and handles logistics and delivery; Sproutl features outdoor furniture, seeds, gardening tools, more . link

Auto supplier Magna ($24B market cap) to acquire Stockholm-based Veoneer ($3.48B market cap), which develops advanced driver-assist systems, for $3.8B in cash; the $31.25-per-share price represents a 57-percent premium on Veoneer's Thursday closing price; the companies expect to close the deal by year's end . link

Payments and customer engagement firm Paystone raises ~$24M from Crédit Mutuel Equity; the Ontario-based startup supports loyalty programs, gift cards, and automated marketing, all with analytics; the company also offers point-of-sale systems and online and in-person payments; Paystone expanded to the US this year . link

NH-based AuthenticID, which provides identity protection and fraud prevention services, raises $100M led by Long Ridge Investment; the company automates the identity proofing process, serving governments, telecommunications firms, financial service providers, and others . link

Mobile games company Jam City and SPAC DPCM Capital terminate reverse-merger plans, citing market conditions; Jam City, known for titles including link

The download for 2021-07-25 →


Alphabet launches Intrinsic, an link

Password-free authentication startup Magic raises $27M Series A led by Northzone; the company's solution, which integrates with a few lines of code, supports OAuth via social platforms, email link verification, biometric and FIDO2 devices, more; raised $31M to date . link

Email and SMS marketing company Sendlane raises $20M Series A from Five Elms Capital and others; the company's 1.7k-plus clients use the platform to send ~40M emails per day, driving retention and revenue; raised $24.5M to date . link

Amazon posts a job listing for a Digital Currency and Blockchain lead; the company currently doesn't accept cryptocurrencies for payment, but a spokesperson said the firm was exploring how it could implement related innovations . link

This Week in StartupsJason covers recent news, including Dfinity's class-action complaint, Snap and Twitter's quarterly earnings, China considering making its ed-tech sector non-profit, Alphabet's industrial automation initiative, San Francisco's real estate market, an update on Disney+ predictions, more . link

China's Administration for Market Regulation orders Shenzhen-based Tencent and its affiliates to terminate exclusivity contracts with music rights holders within 30 days and to stop requiring rights holders to show Tencent preferential treatment over its competitors; the agency also imposed a ~$77k fine related to the firm's 2016 acquisition of China Music . link

The download for 2021-07-24 →


Indian food-delivery firm Zomato closed up 65 percent in its public debut on the Bombay Stock Exchange on Friday, leaving the company with a $13.2B market cap; investors valued Zomato at $5.4B for a $250M round that closed in February; the firm raised $1.3B with the offering . link

Tesla launches its Virtual Power Plant program in beta in CA, enabling Solar customers to support the state's grid when it's under stress by supplying energy from their Powerwalls; customers already on power metering programs will earn money for energy supplied . link

Apple updates its Music app for Android with lossless and spacial audio streaming; the company launched the free features, which require a compatible listening device, for iOS in June; lossless streaming is currently limited to select tracks, but the company plans to upgrade its entire 75M-song catalog . link

Facebook announces the Passthrough API, which will enable developers to use live video from the Quest 2 headset's sensors to create mixed reality apps; processing happens on-device, so third-party apps don't capture or save real-world imagery; the experimental API will launch with the next Quest SDK . link

3D and VR modeling firm Matterport debuted on the Nasdaq Friday through a $640M SPAC deal; the company serves clients in real estate, insurance, retail, and more, providing cameras and software for capturing and virtually duplicating 3D items and environments . link

Outbrain closed flat in its Nasdaq debut on Friday after raising $160M at a $1.25B valuation; the firm priced 8M shares a $20 apiece and trading closed at $20.15; the company, which offers a widget for recommended links and ads at the bottom of articles, generated $228M in revenue and $53M in gross profit during the first quarter . link

MI-based EV company Rivian raises $2.5B from Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, D1, Ford, and others; this week, the company confirmed it is exploring locations for a second US-based assembly plant, and Reuters sources indicated the site would also manufacture batteries; the raise brings Rivian's total funding to ~$10B . link

The download for 2021-07-23 →


Portland-based business education startup OpenSesame raises $50M Series D led by JMI Equity; the platform allows administrators to create customized education paths covering cybersecurity, warehouse safety, leadership development, more; raised $97M to date . link

Brain-machine interface startup Paradromics raises $20M seed led by Prime Movers Lab; the Austin-based company focuses on therapies for brain-related disorders and is developing tech to help the blind, deaf, and paralyzed; plans include brain-controlled prosthetics, speech systems, more . link

This Week in StartupsJason covers recent news, including China pressuring Didi on data privacy, Twitter testing an upvote/downvote system for tweet replies, and the UAE using drones to seed clouds; next, he welcomes Terraform Labs Founder and CEO Do Kwon to discuss centralized stable coins vs decentralized finance, Terra's price fluctuations, China's crypto strategy, more . link

OH-based Loop Returns, which automates much of the refund/exchange process for Shopify businesses, raises $65M Series B for a $340M post-money valuation led by CRV; Loop asks customers questions focused on retaining business, creates return shipping labels, more . link

Couchbase closed up 26.7 percent in its Thursday Nasdaq debut; the NoSQL cloud database firm priced shares at $24 apiece after marketing at $20-$23 per share; trading closed at $30.40, leaving the company with a $1.25B market cap; Couchbase raised $200M with the offering . link

MI-based EV company Rivian is exploring locations for a second US assembly plant; Reuters sources indicated a new facility would also manufacture batteries; Rivian reportedly targets net-zero carbon emissions at the new site; the company currently operates a factory in Normal, IL and employs 7k . link

Sens Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) introduce the Health Misinformation Act: a bill that would restrict internet companies' protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in cases where they hosted health misinformation related to a public health emergency and algorithmically amplified its reach; the Department of Health and Human Services would issue guidelines for identifying such content . link

Snap ($98.9B market cap) Q2 beats: $982M revenue, up 116 percent year-over-year ($846M expected); $153M loss; $0.10 EPS (adjusted, -$0.01 expected); 293M daily active users, up 23 percent; $3.35 average revenue per user; shares jumped 16 percent following the report . link

Twitter ($55.5B market cap) Q2 beats: $1.19B revenue, up 74 percent year-over-year ($1.07B expected); $65.6M profit; $0.20 EPS (adjusted, $0.07 expected); 206M monetizable daily active users; shares are up ~29 percent since the start of the year; Twitter launched its first premium subscription product, Blue, during the quarter, and saw its fastest revenue growth since 2014 . link

Enterprise video solutions firm Kaltura closes at $12 per share in its Nasdaq debut, up 20 percent from the company's $10-per-share offer price; the offering valued Kaltura at $1.2B; the New York City-based firm powers video meetings, messaging, town halls, events, more . link

Tailor Brands, which offers an online logo creation tool, marketing services, and more, raises $50M Series C led by GoDaddy; the company says 30M businesses are using its platform, and 700k new users sign up every month; raised $70.6M to date . link

Facial recognition tech company Clearview AI raises $30M Series B from undisclosed investors, who requested to remain anonymous; Clearview faces class-action lawsuits, as well as investigations in Australia and the UK regarding potential privacy violations; the firm serves law enforcement, counter-terrorism units, intelligence and crime analysis units, others . link

Philadelphia-based on-demand delivery firm Gopuff files to raise $1B at a $14B pre-money valuation, according to documents viewed by TechCrunch; in March, the company closed a $1.15B Series G at an $8.9B valuation; investors valued Gopuff at $3.8B in October . link

The download for 2021-07-22 →


New York City-based Vincent, which helps investors discover alternative assets, raises $6M Series A led by LAUNCH; the fee-free platform allows investors to search based on asset class, lockup periods, more; the system integrates with numerous investing platforms and lets users track opportunities . link

Austin-based legal software firm Disco closes up 28 percent in NYSE debut under the ticker symbol link

Altice-owned video ads marketplace Teads prices IPO at $18-$21 per share, indicating a top-end raise of $808M and a $5B valuation; the firm saw $28M in profit during the first quarter, up from a $1M loss during the year-earlier period; the company expects to list on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol link

Visa ($520B market cap) acquires Currencycloud, which facilitates B2B international payments, in a $963M deal; the London-based firm makes APIs for remittance and currency exchange; investors last valued Currencycloud at $500M, according to TechCrunch sources . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks about Tether's CTO and general counsel appearing on CNBC, the whereabouts of the company's CEO and CFO, commercial paper concerns, and the company using offshore accounting firms; next, Jason covers Netflix's quarterly earnings, its gaming initiative, etc; then, Jason welcomes Vincent Founder Slava Rubin to discuss required changes in US alternative asset investing and more . link

Salesforce completes its $27.7B acquisition of Slack; Slack will continue to operate under its brand and leadership for the time being; Salesforce announced an Aug 17 event where the company will reveal how Slack will integrate with Salesforce's existing offerings, including Customer 360 . link

Microsoft ($2.1T market cap) acquires CloudKnox, which manages permissions for cloud infrastructure access; terms undisclosed; CloudKnox, which already supports Microsoft Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud, can detect unusual activity, inactive accounts for employees and virtual identities, more . link

Automotive software startup Sonatus raises $35M Series A from Kia, LG Electronics, and others; the company offers an in-vehicle product for gathering data and a cloud solution for ingesting that data, storing it, and making it available to clients and their partners; the company ultimately hopes to use driver behavior data to inform autonomous driving systems . link

Bill.com, which automates bill payments and invoicing, acquires Invoice2go, which provides invoice and estimate software for SMBs and freelancers, for $625M in cash and stock; Bill.com said the buy would improve its existing accounts receivable offering; in May, Bill.com acquired expense management and corporate card firm Divvy in a deal worth $2.5B . link

HR and payroll software company Paycor closes up 13 percent in its Nasdaq Global Select Market debut; the company priced shares at $23 apiece after setting a range of $18-$21 per share; trading opened at $28 and closed at $26.05; the company raised $426M with the offering . link

link

Life insurance company Ethos raises $100M from SoftBank's Vision Fund 2 for a $2.7B-plus post-money valuation; currently live in 49 states, Ethos uses ~300k data points to determine eligibility and offers term and whole life plans; the company is on track to issue $20B in coverage this year; Ethos plans expansion into critical illness insurance, more . link

Santa Monica-based LiveControl, which enables remote video production and live-streaming, raises $30M Series A led by Coatue; the company sends each customer two remote-controlled cameras and an encoder, then connects them with a contracted remote producer; LiveControl also distributes videos and feeds via third-party platforms . link

Twitter is experimenting with an upvote/downvote system for tweet replies on iOS; the company said a small group of users would see the option; in some cases, a downvote button appears next to the like heart; in others, users will see upvote and downvote buttons featuring arrows or thumbs . link

Vice Media's SPAC talks stall as the company struggles to raise funds for the deal at its target valuation, according to sources for The Information; The Wall Street Journal reported in May that Vice was in talks with SPAC 7GC & Co Holdings for a deal valuing the company at ~$3B, down from a $5.7B valuation in 2017; The Information reports investors could value Vice at $2B . link

The download for 2021-07-21 →


This Week in Startups | Rapid Fire NewsJason breaks down recent events, including Jeff Bezos' trip to space, Robinhood reserving 35 percent of its IPO shares for retail investors, the crackdown on crypto in the Far East, the NSO Pegasus leak, Zoom's acquisition of Five9, more; then, he welcomes Flock Safety Founder and CEO Garrett Langley to discuss his company's goals, protecting data, and the potential for cities to ban some cameras . link

VA-based event management and marketing firm Cvent to go public through a reverse-merger with SPAC Dragoneer Growth Opportunities Corp in a deal valuing the company at $5B, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; Vista Equity Partners took Cvent private in 2016; Cvent earns $500M in annual sales, with virtual events representing $100M . link

Austin-based last-mile delivery company Fetch Package raises $50M Series C led by Ocelot Capital, plus $10B in debt; the company focuses on doorstep delivery at apartment buildings and complexes; shippers take packages to a central location, and managers use the Fetch app to coordinate door delivery with residents based on their schedules . link

Intel-owned Mobileye expands its autonomous driving program to New York City; the company is currently testing a camera-only system with safety drivers present; Mobileye plans to offer the camera-only system for consumer driver-assist features and to combine that system with its lidar-and-radar system for redundancy in self-driving taxis . link

Indian ed-tech firm Byju's acquires CA-based e-book and learning platform Epic for $500M in cash and stock; Epic targets kids 12 and under and claims a presence at 90 percent of US elementary schools, serving 2M teachers and 50M students; the company has also published hard copies of some of its original titles . link

Pivot Bio, which offers modified microorganisms that produce nitrogen for soil, raises $430M Series D led by DCVC and Temasek; farmers can add the product as they plant seeds, saving the costs and labor of typical fertilizer distribution; Pivot's product is a fraction of the weight and volume of traditional fertilizers . link

London-based fintech firm Revolut launches Stays, enabling customers to book hotels and other accommodations; the feature marks the company's first foray outside of financial services as it looks to become a super app firm; customers get 10 percent cashback on bookings . link

One-click checkout company Bolt is raising $333M Series D for a $4B post-valuation, according to sources for The Information; Bolt's product replaces existing checkout solutions and integrates with e-commerce platforms, plugins for tax and shipping, more; once a user signs up for Bolt through a client's checkout, they never have to re-enter their information for a Bolt network shop . link

Elon Musk says Tesla will make its Supercharger network available to non-Tesla vehicles this year; Tesla uses standard charging connectors in Europe, but a proprietary solution in the US; Musk said the company would ultimately make the transition in all countries it serves . link

HR and payroll software company Paycor raises $426M at IPO; the Cincinnati-based firm sold $18.5M shares at $23 apiece after setting a range of $18-$21 per share, valuing the company at ~$3.9M; Apax Partners will own 82 percent of common stock following Paycor's Nasdaq Global Select Market listing on Wednesday . link

R-Zero, which produces hospital-grade disinfection systems, acquires CoWorkr, which makes room occupancy sensors and accompanying software; terms undisclosed; R-Zero claims ~1k clients, public and private, including sports venues, school districts, and correctional institutions; the company plans to use CoWorkr's tech to manage cleaning schedules and concentration of people in closed spaces . link

VC firm Hyper launches, offering $300k checks in exchange for five percent equity; the firm will also operate an eight-week founder program in which participants will consult with partners from a16z, AngelList, Sequoia, and others; Hyper, co-founded by Product Hunt CEO Josh Buckley, will function as a Product Hunt sister company, and Hyper plans to acquire other companies that can provide value to portfolio startups . link

Netherlands-based solar EV firm Lightyear partners with Finnish contract manufacturer Valmet Automotive, which has contracted for Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Saab; the pair plan to begin work early next year and to start a 1k-unit run mid-year; Lightyear has raised ~$100M to date . link

Indian ad-tech firm InMobi is in talks to acquire AT&T's ($199B market cap) Xandr ad unit, according to Axios sources; AT&T established Xander in 2018, combining AppNexus, which AT&T acquired for $1.6B, with TV ad tech company Clypd; Microsoft, Roku, and others reportedly have passed on buying Xandr, which AT&T reportedly has been marketing . link

Indian ad-tech firm InMobi is in talks to acquire AT&T's ($199B market cap) Xandr ad unit, according to Axios sources; AT&T established Xander in 2018, combining AppNexus, which AT&T acquired for $1.6B, with TV ad tech company Clypd; Microsoft, Roku, and others reportedly have passed on buying Xandr, which AT&T reportedly has been marketing . link

Crypto exchange FTX raises $900M at an $18B valuation from SoftBank, Sequoia, Third Point, and others; the platform supports popular cryptocurrencies, altcoins, and in some markets, stock derivatives; FTX processes $10B in trades per day, according to CryptoCompare . link

The download for 2021-07-20 →


Dish to pay AT&T at least $5B over ten years to act as the primary service provider for Dish's MVNO brands; the non-exclusive agreement allows Dish to continue using T-Mobile to serve some subscribers; Dish-owned Boost Mobile still relies on T-Mobile's CDMA network, which will soon shut down; in two years, AT&T, which doesn't operate a CDMA network, must cooperate to continue service for Boost's CDMA subscribers . link

Tilting Point, which helps free-to-play mobile games acquire users, raises $235M led by General Atlantic; the company accesses its line of credit to pay for advertising campaigns and more; Tilting Point shares in proceeds and invests in publishers with the strongest growth . link

Colombia-based on-demand delivery firm Rappi raises $500M-plus Series F at a $5.25B valuation led by T Rowe Price; in addition to same-day and rapid delivery, Rappi offers link

Visual collaboration company Mural raises $50M Series C at a $2B-plus valuation led by Insight Partners and Tiger Global; investors last valued the company at ~$500M for a $118M round in August; Mural offers a digital whiteboard supporting notes, images and GIFs, drawings, more . link

Capchase, which provides cash to companies with recurring revenue, raises $280M (debt and equity) led by i80 Group; currently live in the US, the UK, and Spain, plans European expansion this year; the company also announced Expense Financing, a new loan product with quarterly terms enabling customers to cover the costs of legal services, cloud hosting, more . link

Carlyle Group ($15.9B market cap) acquires LiveU, which produces hardware and software for broadcast-grade live streaming; terms undisclosed, but TechCrunch sources indicated a price above $400M; LiveU serves 3k media organizations, offering multi-camera field devices for wirelessly streaming video, encoders, decoders, more . link

New York City-based NFT marketplace OpenSea raises $100M Series B at a $1.5B valuation led by a16z; previously limited to Ethereum transactions, the company now supports Polygon transactions; OpenSea also announced it is eliminating Ethereum gas fees . link

SmartRecruiters, an end-to-end recruitment platform for enterprise, raises $110M Series E at a $1.5B valuation led by Silver Lake Waterman; offers tools for job advertising, AI/chatbot/text recruiting, applicant tracking, and more; customers include LinkedIn, McDonald's, and Visa . link

CNN announces streaming service CNN+, promising live and on-demand content not available on cable; the company plans to offer eight to 12 hours of new topical and lifestyle content per day; CNN does not plan an ad-supported tier at launch; pricing undisclosed, slated to launch during the first quarter of next year . link

Boston-based security data and analytics firm Rapid7 ($5.6B market cap) acquires New York City-based threat intelligence firm IntSights for $335M in cash and stock; Rapid7 plans to integrate IntSights' features into its InsightIDR offering in coming weeks; IntSights previously raised $71.3M . link

Uber is expanding its grocery delivery service in the US to 400-plus cities and towns this week; the expansion will more than double Uber's US coverage; the company has partnered with 1.2k Albertsons Companies locations, which include Safeway, Jewel-Osco, and other grocers . link

Blue Origin plans to launch Jeff Bezos into space at 9 AM ET on Tuesday; the company's New Shepard vehicle will lift off from Van Horn, TX, taking Bezos, his brother, 82-year-old Wally Funk (the oldest person ever to go to space) and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen (the youngest person ever to go to space); the group will fly to an altitude of 62 miles and experience a few minutes of weightlessness . link

Snap ($93.6B market cap) acquires 3D and AR commerce company Vertebrae; terms undisclosed; Vertebrae enables brands to create 3D models of their products so a customer can visualize a chair in a room, glasses on their face, etc; clients include Adidas and Toyota; previously raised $10M . link

Duolingo sets its initial IPO price range at $85 to $95 per share, indicating a top-end raise of $485M and a $3.4B valuation; the language learning app firm will sell 5.1M shares, 1.4M from existing shareholders; the company expects to trade on the Nasdaq under symbol link

The download for 2021-07-19 →


Robinhood sets IPO price range at $38 to $42 per share, indicating a top-end raise of $2.3B and a $35B valuation; the company generated $522M in revenue during the first quarter and expects $546M to $574M for the second quarter; Robinhood plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol link

Indian eyewear company Lenskart raises $220M for a $2.5B post-valuation led by Falcon Edge Capital and Temasek; the company makes glasses and contacts and sells through its online portal and ~750 retailer locations; Lenskart is India's largest eyewear firm . link

NC-based insightsoftware, which provides enterprise management and financial reporting software, raises $1B at a $4B valuation from London-based PE firm Hg, which will share joint control with Boston-based PE firm TA Associates; insightsoftware claims 500k-plus users . link

British online grocer Ocado suffers a warehouse fire likely resulting from three robots colliding; the robots carry items around a grid system, less than one percent of which was damaged; the facility in Erith, which reportedly processes 150k orders per week, should resume operations in a few days . link

Blackstone acquires majority stake in Simplilearn, which operates an education platform offering professional certifications and boot camp programs, for $250M; course topics include cloud computing, data science, and machine learning; certificates come from partner institutions including Purdue University . link

Tencent to acquire UK-based, publicly-traded game studio Sumo for $1.27B, a 43-percent premium on Sumo's market cap at close on Friday; the company is known for developing link

Zoom ($106.7B market cap) to acquire Five9, which offers cloud-based software for call centers, for $14.7B in an all-stock deal; Five9 processes ~7B minutes of calls per year for 2k clients, including Citrix and Under Armour; Five9 will become an operating unit of Zoom . link

Additive manufacturing services company Fast Radius to go public through a SPAC deal valuing the Chicago-based firm at ~$1.4B, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the company reportedly could announce the reverse-merger with SPAC ECP Environmental Growth Opportunities Corp as soon as this week; raised $68M to date . link

Specright, which proves software for managing and sharing supply-chain data, raises $30M Series B led by Sageview Capital; organizations including Beyond Meat and Johnson & Johnson have used Specright to track 60k-plus products, including raw materials, formulas, and packaged goods . link

Foundry, which plans to acquire and optimize brands to maximize sales on marketplaces, such as Amazon and Walmart, launches with $100M from LightBay Capital and Monogram Capital Partners; Foundry also plans to support brands earning up to $50M in annual revenue . link

Apple's coming iPhone lineup might feature an always-on display, according to Mark Gurman; he also reported a smaller display notch, longer battery life, improved video recording, and a faster A15 chip; in February, leaker Max Weinbach said Apple planned to bring the LTPO display tech from Watch, which features an always-on-display, to the iPhone; Bloomberg previously reported Apple would launch at least one LTPO iPhone this year . link

TurboTax parent Intuit to exit the Free File Alliance, through which tax firms work with the IRS to offer taxpayers free preparation and filing services; Intuit cited the restraints of the program; ProPublica previously reported TurboTax and H&R Block had worked to make their free filing software difficult to find online; the IRS modified the terms of its program to allow the IRS to establish its own free online filing system . link

The download for 2021-07-18 →


Equity management firm Carta is raising $500M to $600M at a ~$7.4B post-valuation led by Silver Lake Partners, according to sources for The Information; the company helps investors and companies manage investments, cap tables, employee compensation, more; this reported round not included, Carta has raised $628M to date . link

India-based supply chain services company Delhivery raises $100M at a $3B valuation from FedEx; the Gurgaon-based company, which offers services including warehousing, freight, and delivery, raised $277M in May ahead of a planned IPO and has raised $1.3B to date . link

Mortgage software company Blend Labs closed up more than 21 percent at $20.90 in its Friday NYSE debut; the firm priced shares at $16-$18 apiece, and trading opened at $18; shares rose another 3.8 percent in after-hours trading; the company raised $360M with the IPO . link

Tesla launches a $200-per-month subscription for its Full Self-Driving package; the company sells the upgrade for $10k outright; customers who purchased the now-discontinued Enhanced Autopilot package can subscribe for $99 per month . link

Daloopa, which uses AI to extract data from a variety of document types, closes $20M Series A led by NEXT Investors; the startup focuses on financial institutions, which often spend significant resources on data extraction and manual spreadsheet entry; Daloopa officially launched six months ago and now claims 40 enterprise customers . link

This Week in Startups | Rapid Fire NewsJason speaks about a new documentary that uses AI to imitate Anthony Bourdain's voice and the broader issue of deep-faking voices of the dead; he then addresses SPAC-listed Lordstown Motors' problems with preorder disclosures and more, and whether the EV firm could go to zero; lastly, he talks about the COVID Delta variant, CA's latest rules for indoor masking, more . link

OpenAI disbands robotics team, will shift focus to more data-rich domains; the organization spent years on robotics projects, teaching a robot to solve a Rubik's cube and more; OpenAI noted that through its robotics research, it found that human feedback sped progress in reinforcement learning scenarios . link

The download for 2021-07-17 →


VA Gov Ralph Northam (D) announces the state will use $700M from the federal government's $1.9T American Rescue Plan to fund broadband expansion in underserved areas; the state estimates the initiative will connect or upgrade internet for 233.5k homes by the end of 2024, with most of the expansion completed within 18 months; the state previously planned to complete the project in 2028 . link

Lordstown Motors confirms a Justice Department investigation focused on the company's 2020 SPAC merger and inaccurate preorder disclosures; the SEC is conducting a similar probe; two Lordstown executives previously resigned over preorder reporting, and the company warned the SEC that insufficient funding could impact order fulfillment . link

Field Service Management software provider ServiceMax to go public through a $1.4B reverse-merger with Nasdaq-traded SPAC Pathfinder Acquisition Corp; ServiceMax expects to see ~$355M in cash process and will use the funding for the $145M acquisition of LiquidFrameworks, which provides software for managing mobile operations in the industrial and environmental service industries . link

The download for 2021-07-16 →


This Week in Startups | Rapid Fire NewsJason breaks down Facebook's decision to shut down CrowdTangle, which stories get the most engagement on Facebook, the company's $1B creator fund, FL Gov Ron DeSantis' Cuban internet proposal, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's position on stable coins, Big Tech vs new FTC Chair Lina Khan, more . link

This Week in Startups | The Next UnicornsJason speaks with Divvy Homes Founder and CEO Adena Hefets about Divvy's model of purchasing homes on behalf of customers and renting to those customers until they can purchase, financing details, whether we are in a real estate bubble, institutional investors buying single-family homes, the American home shortage, more . link

Paytm files for IPO, plans to raise up to $2.2B; the Indian company, which claims ~330M users, operates an e-commerce marketplace, an investment platform, a bill payments service, merchant tools, more; investors include Berkshire Hathaway, and SoftBank . link

Harvard spinout Verve Motion, which has developed an exo-suit to reduce back strain for laborers, raises $15M Series A led by Construct Capital; the company conducted a successful pilot of its fabric-based SafeLift product with grocery distributor Ahold Delhaize's warehouse workers . link

Netradyne, which uses computer vision to monitor driver behavior, raises $150M Series C led by SoftBank's Vision Fund 2; the company focuses on fleets, and Amazon recently agreed to use Driveri, an in-cabin camera with AI software, in its delivery vehicles; the system detects vehicle spacing, lane drift, attentiveness, and more, issuing alerts to drivers and sending data to fleet managers . link

Intel ($228.2B market cap) is in talks to acquire integrated circuit manufacturer GlobalFoundries from an investment arm of Abu Dhabi's government in a deal valuing GlobalFoundries at ~30B, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; a buy would mark Intel's largest acquisition to date; GlobalFoundries has been planning an IPO . link

E-book, audiobook, and podcast platform Scribd is in talks to go public via IPO or SPAC merger, according to Bloomberg sources, one of which said a 2021 float was possible; a deal reportedly could value the company at ~$1B; sources said investors last valued Scribd at ~$450M in 2019 . link

Square is building a platform to enable developers to create decentralized financial services; CEO Jack Dorsey said the as-yet-unnamed business would focus on Bitcoin; he said the software would make it easy to establish non-custodial, permissionless services . link

Teikametrics, which uses AI to optimize merchant listings on third-party marketplaces, raises $40M Series B from Intel Capital, GoDaddy, and others; the platform identifies the best search keywords, optimal ad bids, and more; Teikametrics claims it optimizes $8B in listings across Amazon and Walmart's marketplaces each year . link

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission files suit against Amazon over sales of potentially unsafe products, forcing recalls; the commission said it warned Amazon, but the company failed to respond sufficiently; impacted products include hairdryers lacking electrocution safeguards, faulty carbon monoxide detectors, and children's sleepwear that could catch fire . link

Chipmaker TSMC says automakers will see some relief from the global chip shortage this quarter; the firm has ramped up production and expects to increase its output of microcontrollers for automakers by 60 percent year-over-year; TSMC said the broader semiconductor shortage impacting other industries could last into next year . link

Genvid, which develops a platform for conducting live interactive events on any streaming platform, raises $113M led by Valor Equity Partners and Atreides Management; in the spring, the company launched a show called link

Blue Origin reveals its first paying customer for a space tourism flight, 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who will be the youngest person to fly to space so far; the flight, slated for July 20, which will take Jeff Bezos to space, will also carry 82-year-old Wally Funk, who will be the oldest person to have visited space; the anonymous winner of a $28M auction for a seat on the flight has rescheduled for a later launch . link

Valve unveils SteamDeck, a handheld gaming device starting at $400 with 64GB of storage; the company will also offer 256GB and 512GB versions, priced at $530 and $650, respectively; the device, slated to ship in December, features two thumbsticks, two trackpads, a D-pad, four face buttons, two shoulder bumpers, two triggers, and a seven-inch touch screen; also connects to displays . link

The download for 2021-07-15 →


Netflix hires former Atari Studio Head Mike Verdu as VP of game development; Verdu previously served in SVP positions at Electronic Arts and Zynga, co-founded Legend Entertainment, and founded TapZen; he most recently worked as VP of AR/VR content at Facebook; a Bloomberg source indicated Netflix planned to roll out video games within the next year . link

Amplitude, which helps companies optimize digital products by analyzing which features drive the best outcomes, fils confidentially to go public via direct listing; details undisclosed; investors valued the firm at $4B for a $150M Series F in June, up from a $1B valuation for a $50M round in May of last year . link

IBM ($125.3B market cap) acquires Bluetab, which helps enterprises transition to hybrid, multi-cloud data solutions; terms undisclosed; Bluetab employs ~700 data experts, who will ultimately join IBM's Global Business Services unit . link

Toyota subsidiary Woven Planet, which develops and invests in transportation tech, acquires HD mapping and navigation tech company Carmera; terms undisclosed; Carmera will continue to operate as a wholly-owned Woven Planet subsidiary; Woven Planet acquired Lyft's autonomous driving unit, Level 5, in April . link

London-based fintech firm Revolut raises $800M Series E at a $33B valuation led by Tiger Global and SoftBank's Vision Fund 2; the company's consumer services include single-use card numbers for online shopping, international money transfers, and rapid payday deposits; Revolut's business products include subscription and expense management . link

Miami-based Unybrands, which acquires Amazon marketplace merchants and direct-to-consumer-brands and scales them, raises $300M Series A from Crayhill Capital Management; the company is on track to complete 20-plus acquisitions this year; Unybrands closed a $25M seed round in February . link

NortonLifeLock ($15.77B market cap) is in advanced talks to acquire Avast ($7.24B market cap) in a cash-and-stock deal (pricing undisclosed); NortonLife Lock has until Aug 11 to present a formal offer, as per UK regulations; both firms focus on consumer device and data security . link

Square ($110B market cap) acquires Crew, a communications app for teams and workforces; terms undisclosed; the app enables workers to read company announcements, study training materials, submit and see shift cover requests, manage tasks, more; customers include McDonald's, ShopRite, and Taco Bell . link

Microsoft announces Windows 365, a remote desktop service for businesses launching Aug 2; a user can access a persistent instance via any modern web browser or through the Remote Desktop app; the company will charge per-user-per-month rates for Business and Enterprise plans with various performance tiers . link

Concert-streaming startup Flymachine raises $21M led by Greycroft and SignalFire; the startup partners with venues and live streams shows with audiences present; Co-Founder and CEO Andrew Dreskin previously co-founded Ticketfly; Co-Founder Rick Farman co-founded Superfly, the organization behind the Bonnaroo music and arts festival . link

Cardless, which enables clients to launch customized credit cards, raises $40M Series B led by Activant Capital; the startup creates co-branded cards with custom rewards; for example, a sports team card offering a chance to have a remote conversation with a professional athlete; Cardless handles underwriting, issuance, customer service, and more, essentially offering cards as a service . link

Stytch, which provides APIs for password-free user authentication, raises $30M Series A led by Thrive Capital; the company is also launching out of beta; Stytch provides a variety of SDK templates so clients can create brand-compliant onboarding and more . link

Bevy, a platform for managing in-person and virtual events, acquires Eventtus, a platform for selling tickets and more (terms undisclosed); through the deal, Bevy gains a mobile app for in-person conference attendees and more; Bevy has raised $64M to date; Eventtus previously raised $2.6M . link

Collaborative productivity tools startup Meister raises $52M from PE firm Verdane; the German company offers three products: task management service Meister Task, mind-mapping toolset Mind Meister, and collaborative document editing service Meister Note; the company offers each service as a standalone subscription as well as a bundle subscription . link

Phantom, which develops a browser extension for sending and receiving digital currencies, swapping tokens, and collecting NFTs, raises $9M Series A led by a16z; the company's wallet is the most popular for using decentralized apps on the Solana blockchain; the startup plans to expand support to numerous blockchains . link