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Showing posts from September, 2019

Revolut To Hire 3,500 Staff For Global Expansion

Revolut founder and CEO Nikolay Storonsky Photo by Stephen McCarthy/MoneyConf via Sportsfile Revolut, a British fintech startup valued at $1.7 billion , has announced it'll hire 3,500 staff to cater for expansion into 24 new markets, thanks to a new partnership with payments giant Visa. Leveraging Visa's brand, scale, and global footprint, Revolut will launch in 24 new countries, starting in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and the U.S. [by the end of this year] This would be in addition to 34 markets Revolut already operates in. In a statement to Reuters , Revolut CEO Nikolay Storonsky indicated the company will hire 3,500 persons to cater for its expansion. “We are around 1500 people now and by summer next year we plan to be around 5000,” he said. Revolut's global expansion on the shoulders of Visa is built atop an already existing (four-year) partnership between both companies. Revolut began in 2015, has grown at a break-neck

Apple Will Reportedly Release Originals In Theaters Before Streaming

Apple co-heads of video programming, Zack Van Amburg (left) and Jamie Erlicht, talk about the company's new streaming service at an Apple event. Amburg and Erlicht previously served as presidents at Sony Pictures Television image: Apple According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal , Apple, which recently unveiled a new streaming service featuring exclusive productions from Hollywood bigwigs like Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and J.J. Abrams, will debut its feature-length films in theaters before making them available for streaming. According to the Journal, Apple has made precursory approaches to cinema chains and also consulted with an entertainment executive as it pursues a plan to keep its originals in theaters for weeks before they're made available on AppleTV+, its recently unveiled streaming app. The Journal reports Apple is currently reaching out to theater-industry representatives, and plans to release its movies first in cinemas in order to

Docker Trying To Raise Cash Amid "Significant Challenges"

Docker CEO Rob Bearden image: Docker Docker, a one-time superhot cloud software startup that cracked a $1 billion valuation in 2015, is apparently having some struggles, with CNBC reporting  of a company-wide email that acknowledged challenges as Docker tries to raise more funding. In an email [viewed and reported by CNBC] sent to Docker employees, its CEO Rob Bearden, who took up the position in May , thanked employees for “persevering in spite of the lack of clarity we’ve had these past few weeks.” He also made mention of  “uncertainty” at Docker, that “brings with it significant challenges”. “As shared at the last All Hands, we have been engaging with investors to secure more financing to continue to execute on our strategy.” Bearden, who is Docker's fourth CEO since inception, and most recently served as CEO at Hortonworks, said. “I wanted to share a quick update on where we stand. We are currently in active negotiations with two investors and are working through

Vox Media Scoops Up New York Media

Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff image: Web Summit on Flickr Vox Media, a New York-based digital media company that's behind popular news sites like The Verge , SB Nation , Recode , and Eater , has announced it has acquired New York Media, the publisher of the popular New York Magazine, alongside other well-known brands like The Strategist ,  Vulture , Intelligencer , Grub Street , and The Cut . The acquisition price is not disclosed, but the Wall Street Journal reports  it was an all-stock deal valued at $105 million. According to the Journal, the acquisition would give New York Media about 12% ownership in a combined entity consisting of Vox Media's and New York Media's media properties. In simple terms, the acquisition is said to be more of a merger between both companies than an outright acquisition that'll involve one party becoming a subsidiary of the other. According to the Wall Street Journal, the all-stock acquisition valued Vox Media at $750 million, do

WeWork Has Reportedly Considered Laying Off One-Third Of Its Employees

WeWork CEO Adam Neumann Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch According to a report from The Information , WeWork, whose CEO Adam Neumann just stepped down  amid an IPO debacle, has considered laying off as many as 5,000 employees, one-third of its workforce, to cut costs. The Information reports WeWork's executives discussed ways to reduce costs with bankers, and came up with the lay-off consideration. Other cost-cutting ideas also said to have been discussed includes slowing its expansion and shuttering side business related to education and housing. Such moves are likely aimed at restoring investor confidence after a cold reception stemming from its S-1 filing. A 5,000-person layoff doesn't sound at all good, and may count as one of the highest headcount cuts in a long time. However, with skyrocketing losses , it wouldn't be really surprising if WeWork pulls such a move. Companies looking to go public or those that have already gone public often lo

Amazon Rivals Revealed To Be Secret Funders Of Anti-Amazon Non-Profit

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos image: National Museum of American History on Flickr The  Free & Fair Markets Initiative is a non-profit group that's been behind campaigns criticizing the business practices of Amazon, with complaints ranging from hurting of small businesses to lobby dealings, working conditions and monopoly concerns, according to its own website . The Free & Fair Markets Initiative (FFMI for short), which abides by the slogan "Fighting for Competition & Protecting Consumers", launched a national campaign 18 months ago that criticized Amazon's business practices, accusing the company of stifling competition, limiting consumer choice, ravening on government subsidies, endangering warehouse workers and exposing consumer data to privacy breaches. FFMI claimed to have grass roots support from average citizens across the US. On the "About Us" section of its website, it describes itself as a "nonprofit watchdog committed to scr

Airbnb Employees Are Said To Be Disgruntled With IPO Delays

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky speaks during a keynote on the 22nd of February 2018 in San Francisco. image: Airbnb On Thursday, Airbnb issued a statement  that said it plans to go public next year. The statement was brief, with just 15 words of main content, and somewhat unusual for a company. Companies usually give signs before going public but not really in a way Airbnb did so. A statement such as Airbnb's hinted of a case of "more than meets the eye", and that may just be the case, in the light of a New York Times report  that said several Airbnb employees were somewhat frustrated with the inability to cash in their shares, and pushed for an IPO to happen. Airbnb's statement was likely a way of assuring such employees that they'll have the opportunity to reap monetary gains from their holdings next year. According to The New York Times, several Airbnb employees wrote a letter to the company's founders last summer, adjuring to be able to sell their Air

Fitbit Said To Be Exploring Sale

Fitbit CEO James Park Photograph by Stuart Isett/Fortune According to a Reuters report , Fitbit has held discussions with Qatalyst Partners, a famed investment bank that's been involved in the sale of several tech companies, to consider if it should engage with potential acquirers. Reuters reports Qatalyst has been seeking to persuade Fitbit to explore sale options, arguing it could be of acquisition interest from Google parent Alphabet as well as private equity firms. Fitbit's stock jumped more than 20% in light of Reuters' report, and (as of writing) trades at $4.10 per share, with a market cap hovering near $1.1 billion. This is in contrast to its 2015 IPO debut  at $20 a share, with a market cap of $4.1 billion. Several earnings misses and decreasing revenue in the face of heightened competition have plunged Fitbit's stock from an all-time high of $47.60 to a current $4. Such low stock price makes Fitbit a possible acquisition target for private equity fi

Procore Has Reportedly Tapped Goldman Sachs For An IPO

According to a Bloomberg report , Procore, a provider of cloud-based construction management software that was valued at $3 billion late last year, has tapped investment bank Goldman Sachs to lead an IPO that could value it at more than $4 billion. Bloomberg reports Procore is on track to generate more than $400 million in revenue this year, making a $4 billion+ IPO valuation very plausible. Procore may even be heading for a blockbuster IPO given the positive performance of several enterprise software companies that have recently gone public. Take two examples; Cloudflare surged 20%  on its market debut, Datadog surged 39%  during its debut, and was said to have rebuffed a $7 billion+ acquisition offer from Cisco prior to going public. Generally, enterprise-focused startups have fared well on the public markets, but that hasn't been the case for several consumer-focused startups, take for example; Lyft, Uber, and SmileDirectClub, which currently trade at prices below that w

Cisco Reportedly Offered $7 Billion+ For Datadog Before IPO

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins Photograph by Stuart Isett/Fortune Brainstorm Tech Late last month, Datadog filed for an IPO , and just went public with a quite blockbuster IPO that saw its stock surge 39% on the Nasdaq stock exchange. New York-based Datadog closed at $37.55 after opening at a slightly higher $40.35 during its market debut on Thursday. At the end of Thursday, Datadog had a market cap of nearly $11 billion. Some few moments before Datadog went public, a Bloomberg report  said Cisco offered to acquire the company for a value significantly higher than the $7 billion valuation it had aimed for its public debut, but got rebuffed as Datadog felt it could be worth more than that as a public company over time. With Datadog now public, talks between both companies are likely no longer active. A $7 billion acquisition would have been one of the highest and most talked out tech exits this year as such acquisitions are rare and hardly seen. Such acquisition would have been si

Airbnb Plans To Go Public Next Year

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky Photograph by Stuart Isett/Fortune Brainstorm Tech Airbnb has announced  an intention to go public next year, putting to rest several speculations concerning a future IPO. Airbnb's press release, which announced its plan, was brief and precise, with just 15 words of main content. Not long ago, Airbnb was reported  to have recorded a 40% year-on-year revenue increase in the first quarter of this year, coupled with a 31% surge in gross bookings. The San Francisco-based company reportedly had about $3.5 billion in cash on its balance sheet as of Q1 end. Airbnb is one company investors might be drooling for, thanks to being profitable and cash flow positive , unlike many of the tech companies that have gone public this year. This year has witnessed the IPOs of top tech companies like Uber, Lyft, Cloudflare, Datadog, Zoom, Pinterest, Slack and several more. However, out of the aforementioned companies, Zoom currently stands as the only profitable one, wit

Postmates Raises $225 Million, Valued At $2.4 Billion

Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann Photograph by Fortune Magazine Following reports of Postmates having held acquisition talks  even after earlier confidentially filing  for a public offering, the San Francisco-based food delivery startup has raised $225 million in funding from private equity firm GPI Capital at a $2.4 billion valuation, up from $1.85 billion earlier this year. According to Forbes , which first carried the news of Postmates' new funding, the capital infusion comes at the 11th hour of a possible IPO by Postmates. After confidentially filing for an IPO in February, Postmates delayed a public market debut but was later reported to be planning to unveil its IPO prospectus this month. Prior to this funding, Postmates had raised nearly $700 million in total funding. An 11th hour pre-IPO financing isn't unheard of, with some companies having done that in past time. Such occurrence could signify a company needing to add more cash to its coffers or looking to b

Stripe Is Raising $250 Million At A $35 Billion Valuation

Stripe co-founder and President John Collison Photo by Stephen McCarthy / RISE / Sportsfile Payments company Stripe has announced it's raising $250 million in additional financing at a pre-money valuation of $35 billion, up from $22.5 billion when it raised funding early this year. Investors in Stripe's new round include blue-chip VCs like General Catalyst, Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz. The San Francisco-based company says it'll use the new capital to accelerate its growth in three key areas; international expansion, its product suite and enterprise capabilities. Stripe has invested heavily in international expansion, and just recently launched in 8 new countries . The company says it'll expand to more "in the coming months", with a target to be operational in 40 countries by year end. It also says there are "many more launches" planned for next year. With majority (5 out of 6) of  new internet users coming online from areas o

Automattic Raises $300 Million Series D From Salesforce

Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg image: Web Summit on Flickr Automattic, the San Francisco-based company behind popular web publishing platform WordPress, has announced it has raised $300 million in Series D funding from Salesforce Ventures. The funding values Automattic at $3 billion post-money, up from $1.16 billion when it last raised funding in 2014. The funding will help fuel Automattic's growth, allowing it to scale its business and continue to invest in the WordPress ecosystem, according to its CEO Matt Mullenweg. Currently, WordPress powers 34% of all sites on the web, according to Automattic. Automattic's last known funding was a $160 million Series C in 2014 that catapulted it into unicorn status. Prior to that round, the company had raised relatively lesser amounts in funding. Automattic is quite unique, not only from a funding perspective, but for its corporate structure. Although it maintains an office in San Francisco, all of Automattic's employees,

AB5 Signed Into Law

California governor Gavin Newsom image: TechCrunch on Flickr Assembly Bill 5 (popularly known by its initials AB5), a bill introduced early this year in the state of California that focused on gig worker protections, has been signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom. This comes shortly after the bill was approved in the California State Assembly and Senate . AB5 generated much attention, thanks in part to large gig employers like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash being involved. Such companies connect customers with on-demand services (e.g. ride-hailing and food delivery) being offered by workers, who are normally classified as independent contractors. But with AB5 signed into law, such companies would have to reclassify workers as normal employees in the state of California. Essentially, that Uber driver or DoorDash courier would be classified as a full employee that's entitled to several benefits under this law. Shortly before AB5 passed the California State Assembl

Facebook Said To Be Working With Luxottica To Make AR Glasses

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg image: Anthony Quintano on Flickr According to a report from CNBC , Facebook has partnered with Luxottica to develop augmented-reality glasses that are designed to replace smartphones. For those not familiar, Luxottica is the world's largest eyewear company, that's behind several eyewear brands including the famous "Ray-Ban" collection. According to CNBC, Facebook has been working to develop AR glasses out of its Facebook Reality Labs in Redmond, Washington, but faced struggles that have led it to seek help from a company like Luxottica. CNBC reports Facebook hopes a partnership with Luxottica will get its AR glasses completed and ready for consumers between 2023 and 2025. According to CNBC, the glasses are internally codenamed "Orion", and would allow users to take calls, see information in a small display and live-stream their camera feed to social media friends and connections. CNBC previously reported of Facebo

Juul Sales Ceased In China Days After Launch

Juul co-founder and Chief Product Officer James Monsees Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch Just days after entering the Chinese market, Juul has halted sales in the country, with its products pulled from JD.com and Alibaba's Tmall, two of the biggest Chinese e-commerce marketplaces. No official reason for the halt was provided, but a statement from a Juul spokesperson hinted of regulatory issues. “While Juul products are not currently available on e-commerce Web sites in China, we look forward to continued dialogue with stakeholders so that we can make our products available again,” a spokeswoman for Juul said in a statement. Juul's products became available in China beginning on the 9th of September, but suddenly disappeared from Chinese e-commerce sites on Tuesday. The company's move into China happens to be at a time it's facing regulatory scrutiny in the U.S., with the Trump Administration having made plans to ban the sale of most flavo

Fair Raises $500 Million In Debt Financing

Fair founder and CEO Scott Painter Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Collision via Sportsfile Fair, a Santa Monica-based car leasing startup, has announced  $500 million in debt financing led by Mizuho Bank, with participation from Softbank and other unnamed credit providers. This follows a $100 million debt facility closed over the summer, and a $50 million increase to its credit line with Silicon Valley Bank in July. Fair also has credit lines from Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs, and previously raised $385 million in Series B funding led by Softbank. Fair will use the new capital to expand its Uber partnership, which involves leasing cars on flexible terms to Uber drivers. Fair's appeal is its more-flexible-than-normal car leasing model that allows its customers lease a car for as long as they want and be able to cancel any time, in contrast with the long-term commitments of conventional car-leasing services. Thanks to its partnership with Uber, drivers looking to earn money

GitLab Raising Funding At A $2.6 Billion Valuation

GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij image: GitLab GitLab has authorized the issuance of $268 million worth of shares that'll value it at $2.55 billion, according to a filing reviewed by the Prime Unicorn Index . Basically, it means the company, which was valued at more than $1 billion last year, plans to raise up to $268 million in funding at a $2.55 billion valuation. However, there's no guarantee the full amount will be raised, as it's dependent on investor interest and demand. GitLab was valued at $1.1 billion after it raised $100 million in Series D funding last September. ICONIQ Capital, an investment firm known to manage money for several Silicon Valley bigwigs , led that round. If GitLab successfully raises at its targeted $2.55 billion valuation, it would mean a more than double in valuation in a single year, a very impressive feat for a startup. This is just a speculation, but GitLab may have seen a strong increase in user numbers after the acquisi

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Okta Buys Cloud Security Startup Auth0 For $6.5B

A very big new acquisition has happened in the tech industry, with Okta (NASDAQ: OKTA), the publicly-traded cloud identity and access management software provider, announcing an agreement to buy Auth0, a fellow cloud identity software provider, for a price of $6.5 billion to be paid all with shares. A $6.5 billion exit for Auth0 marks a major win for the startup scene in Seattle, the tech hub where Auth0 is based and also a major win for the company's backers and investors. Auth0 last raised venture funding last year in July with a $120 million Series F round that valued the company at $1.9 billion. Now, it's about to sell for more than triple that amount. Auth0 has raised more than $330 million in total venture funding, with investors including the likes of Salesforce Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Telstra Ventures, Sapphire Ventures, and DTCP. Salesforce Ventures led Auth0's most recent $120 million Series F round. With its acquisition of a fellow cloud identity a

John McAfee Indicted For $13M Crypto "Pump And Dump" Scheme

In October last year, John McAfee who's a controversial entrepreneur best known for founding the cybersecurity powerhouse bearing his last name McAfee was indicted for tax evasion by US authorities  with accusations of earning millions of dollars from cryptocurrency schemes and failing to report income and pay taxes as required to the US government. Now, it appears that McAfee is facing even more charges from US authorities, with the District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) having just announced  further indictments of him for fraud and money laundering coming from alleged crypto "pump and dump" schemes. McAfee along with an associate, Jimmy Watson, are accused of hyping and promoting certain cryptocurrencies on social media in order to artificially inflate their prices without disclosing that McAfee owned large quantities of the promoted crypto and intended to profit from his promotion. McAfee, Watson, and other unnamed associates are alleged to have p

Peter Thiel Cashes Out Big From Palantir

After taking his data analytics and mining company, Palantir, public last year, it seems that Peter Thiel is keen on cashing out significantly from his stake in the company after getting an opportunity to do so on the public markets.  Thiel founded and helped build Palantir from the ground up into a data analytics powerhouse with annual sales of over $1 billion.   Palantir stayed as a private company for 17 years before hitting the public markets. According to regulatory filings and records , Peter Thiel has sold over $780 million of Palantir shares since the company began trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in September 2020.  Thiel's largest single sale transaction was an offloading of 20 million shares for $504.8 million on the 19th of February, 2020. His second-largest was the sale of 23 million shares in a transaction netting around $236 million on the 30th of September, 2020, which was the very day Palantir began trading on the NYSE. Altogether, Thiel has netted mor

New SPAC Deal: Bitcoin Mining Startup Cipher

The latest technology company to join the flurry of SPAC mergers is Cipher Mining, a newly-formed US-based bitcoin mining startup that's an offshoot of Bitfury, a leading maker of bitcoin mining hardware that's based in the Netherlands. Cipher Mining Inc will merge with Good Works Acquisition Corp (Nasdaq: GWAC) in a deal valuing the bitcoin mining startup at $2 billion. The SPAC will be anchored by a $425 million PIPE round committed by investors including Fidelity, Morgan Stanley (via its subsidiary Counterpoint Global), and Cipher's parent Bitfury. Bitfury will contribute a $50 million investment to the PIPE round that's structured as purchase credits for equipment and services from it for Cipher Mining. The SPAC merger will hand over $595 million in gross proceeds to Cipher Mining, consisting of the $425 million PIPE round and $170 million of cash held in trust by Good Works Acquisition Corp. Upon completion of the SPAC merger, the investors in Cipher's PIPE rou

Deal: Twilio Bets $750M On Mobile Comms Provider Syniverse

Twilio, the publicly-traded cloud communications company, has sought to strategically team up with an old-guard provider of mobile and wireless communications technology named Syniverse, with a formal business partnership just  announced between both parties that'll see Twilio invest up to $750 million for a minority stake in Syniverse under its terms. Twilio has agreed to invest up to $750 million in cash for a minority stake in Syniverse, buying the stake from the company's current owner which is the private equity firm Carlyle Group. The partnership between Twilio and Syniverse will see both companies enter into a major business partnership that entails a wholesale agreement whereby Syniverse will process, route and deliver application-to-person (A2P) messages originating and/or terminating between Twilio’s customers and mobile network operators. On Syniverse's end of the deal, the company is getting a business boost by providing services for Twilio which is one of the

American Drone Maker Skydio Raises $170M, Valued At $1B+

Skydio, an American startup that makes autonomous drones, has closed a new funding round of $170 million that values it above $1 billion. The round was led by the famous venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from existing backers Next47, IVP, and Linse Capital, plus a new investor UP.Partners. Andreessen Horowitz led the new Series D round for Skydio from its Growth Fund, and with it, Skydio has now raised a total of over $340 million in external funding and then with a $1 billion+ valuation that makes it the highest-valued drone startup in the US. It seems that Skydio has drawn wide investor attraction after the US government placed China's DJI on a blacklist last year. DJI made its mark as the biggest drone maker globally and the largest in the US market but got placed on a government Entity List last year that barred American companies from supplying it with components. The blacklist was instituted by the former Trump administration due to alleged ties to

Carmaker Volvo To Go Fully Electric By 2030

The latest global automaker to commit to transitioning to a fully-electric production output in the future is Swedish carmaker Volvo, which has announced plans to become a fully electric car company by 2030. By then, the company says it intends to have phased out any car in its portfolio with an internal combustion engine, including hybrids, and transition to producing fully electric cars. The announcement of Volvo's grand plan comes a year after the company launched its first fully electric car, the XC40 Recharge , around the globe, and with just one fully electric car in its product portfolio now, it's apparent that the automaker would need to put in hard work to achieve a fully-electric portfolio in nine years time. To work towards its goal, Volvo has announced that it'll roll out 'several' additional electric car models in the coming years, the word several making the number indistinct. The Swedish automaker is aiming for fully electric cars to make up half of

Jay-Z's Tidal Sells To Payments Company Square In $300M Deal

It seems that this is the season of deals for rapper-cum-businessman Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter as just barely two weeks after he reached a deal to sell half of his premium champagne brand to luxury goods giant LVMH, he's reached yet another deal to sell one of his main business ventures, the music streaming app Tidal. Tidal has agreed to be taken over by Square, the payments company led by Jack Dorsey who's more popular for his role as the CEO of Twitter. In a statement , Square said it'll pay the sum of $297 million in a mix of cash and stock to acquire a "significant majority ownership" stake in Tidal leaving the remaining minority stake will be held by Tidal's artist shareholders. The exact percentage that Square is buying in Tidal isn't disclosed but it's definitely over 50% given it's a majority stake. With Square's statement of acquiring a "significant majority ownership", one can guess somewhere between 50%-80% of the com

Smart TV Maker Vizio Files To Go Public

Vizio, a well-known maker of smart TVs and other complementary equipment such as soundbars, has filed an S-1 with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a public listing, seeking to do so for the second time after having previously filed to go public in 2015 but later withdrew its plan in lieu of a $2 billion sale agreement to a Chinese company that unfortunately didn't pan out. The market for technology IPOs has been very hot as of late and it seems that Vizio is coming in at the right time to capitalize on that hotness. A popular maker of smart TVs, Vizio has sold over 80 million TVs and 11 million soundbars since the company's inception, as indicated in its S-1 filing. The company sold 7.1 million TVs in 2020 alone. Vizio has strong revenues and is profitable, reporting $102 million in net income on over $2 billion in revenue in 2020. In the previous year, 2019, Vizio reported a net income of $23 million on $1.8 billion in revenue. Most of Vizio's revenue c

New SPAC Deal: Home Insurance Startup Hippo

Amid a flurry of SPAC mergers as of late, the latest technology company to tap into the boom and reach a deal to merge with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) is Hippo, a home insurance startup that makes use of satellite imagery and smart home sensors to gauge and offer better home insurance policies. Hippo will merge with Reinvent Technology Partners Z (NYSE:RPTZ), a SPAC formed by the respective founders of LinkedIn and gaming company Zynga, Reid Hoffman and Mark Pincus. Hippo will merge with  Reinvent Technology Partners Z in a deal that'll hand it over $230 million of cash held in trust by the SPAC, plus a $550 million PIPE round to be led by existing investors  Dragoneer, Lennar, and Ribbit Capital. The PIPE round will value Hippo at $5 billion. Following the merger's completion, Hippo expects to have $1.2 billion of cash at hand, fueled by the funds from its SPAC deal plus venture funding that it's already raised. A hot insurance startup, Hippo has raised o