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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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Cashing Out: Jeff Bezos Sells $2.5B Of Amazon Stock

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has continued his routine selling of Amazon shares to fund his other escapades. For a few years now, he's had an arranged trading plan that sees him regularly sell Amazon stock worth billions of dollars. Jeff Bezos' latest sell-off is of 739,000 Amazon shares worth around $2.5bn, SEC filings show. Another separate filing indicated that he plans to sell as many as 2 million shares that could net him nearly $7bn at current prices. This latest share sell-off from Bezos is noteworthy as one of his last in his position as Amazon's CEO which he's handing off soon to a top lieutenant named Andy Jassy. Jassy is currently CEO of AWS, Amazon's very profitable cloud computing division. Usually, a CEO offloading large amounts of stock in a company he leads draws some displeasure from investors, but as Jeff Bezos would soon no longer be Amazon's CEO, it opens up opportunities to sell larger amounts of shares than usual if the desires. Amazon's

EVs: Ford, BMW Co-Invest In An EV Battery Startup

It's currently of no doubt that electric vehicles represent the future for the automobile market, and many automakers have taken heed to that. Tens of billions of dollars in spending have been earmarked for the R&D and production of electric vehicles by global automakers, with efforts spanning battery development, building new factories, charging stations et al. Now, two of the world's biggest automakers, BMW and Ford, have jointly invested in a startup working on battery technology for electric vehicles. That startup is Solid Power, a Colorado-based startup developing solid-state batteries for EVs. Details: Solid Power has raised a $130 million Series B round  co-led by Ford and BMW. The two automakers were joined by green-focused venture fund Volta Energy Technologies in the round. As part of the strategic round, Ford and BMW have expanded their joint agreements with Solid Power to develop solid-state batteries for their use. In a way, the two automakers are funding and o

Is Apple Brewing A Major Digital Health Play?

That Apple has high ambitions in the digital health space isn't foreign news to anyone following the moves of the company. In fact, its CEO Tim Cook once referred to health as Apple's “greatest contribution to mankind.” Apple's main health product is the Apple Watch for which health represents a major use case and a selling point. The latest Apple Watch series has key health features including the ability to measure ECG (electrocardiogram) and oxygen saturation level in the blood. With all its grand ambitions, the reality is that Apple is progressing very well in the digital health space but yet hasn't gotten a big foothold in it like it's done in other markets. There still exists a large gap for Apple to conquer to make waves in the digital health market and the company seems much hell-bent on covering that gap. Details: A certain revelation has come out that details Apple's grand plans in the health sector, and it's that of a UK startup working on next-ge

Big Pay: AT&T Shareholders Vote Against Execs Pay

To bring back one of our most favorite sayings, "America is the land of many things, including very enormous executive pay". Executives of publicly-traded companies in the US are familiar with very large compensation packages on a scale not seen in other countries, take recent examples including Palantir CEO Alex Karp landing a $1.1 billion payday  and former T-Mobile CEO John Legere getting a $137 million severance pay . But with all the large executive pay packages flying around, it appears that the shareholders of one public company are not okay with it and that company is telecoms giant AT&T.  Details: AT&T in a statement  revealed that the majority of its shareholders voted not in favor of the compensation of its executive officers in 2020. Just under 49% of votes were cast in favor of the compensation, leaving the remaining majority 51%, not in favor.  Last year, AT&T had large pay packages for its top brass including $21 million for CEO John Stankey and $52

Deal: Verizon Sells Yahoo And AOL To PE Firm For $5B

Telecoms giant Verizon has found a buyer for its Verizon Media Unit which includes veteran internet properties like Yahoo and AOL, and that buyer is a major private equity firm. To note, though Yahoo and AOL have long faded from their glory days, they aren't exactly dead properties but ones still with a great deal of users bringing in a few billion in revenue annually. Details: Verizon has struck a deal to sell 90% of Verizon Media to private equity firm Apollo which will pay $5 billion for it, while Verizon retains a  10%  minority stake in the business. The deal takes off many internet properties off Verizon's hands, including bigger ones like Yahoo and smaller ones like technology news site TechCrunch operating under the AOL umbrella. Though it's selling for a seemingly huge price of $5 billion, Verizon paid a combined $9 billion to buy the web properties making up its Verizon Media unit so it doesn't come out on top financially from the sale.  Verizon paid $4.4bn t

Germany's SAP Fined $8M For Violating Iran Sanctions

SAP, the German software giant, has agreed to pay a fine in the US for violating sanctions imposed by the country on conducting business in Iran. It'll pay over $8 million in fines after admitting to handling thousands of exports of its software to Iran violating US law. Details: SAP admitted to exporting US-origin software to Iran beginning in 2010 up until 2017. The exports including delivering software upgrades and patches more than 20,000 times to Iranian users and offering Iranian users access to US-based cloud services. As charged, executives at SAP were aware that the company didn't have geolocation protections to block downloads of its US-origin software in Iran and turned a blind eye to the situation.  SAP was also charged with neglecting to put in place adequate export control for cloud services made by some US-based companies that it acquired and integrated into its software suite. For the charges, SAP admitted guilt and reached a  Non-Prosecution Agreement with the

IPO: Cybersecurity Startup Darktrace Debuts On UK Markets

A major cybersecurity startup from the UK has held an initial public offering (IPO) and debuted to positive investor fanfare on the domestic public markets. That startup is Darktrace, a fast-growing cybersecurity startup founded by a team of mathematicians in collaboration with British intelligence agencies in 2013. Darktrace sells cyber-defense software that's claimed to harness artificial intelligence in spotting and managing cyber threats. It listed on the London Stock Exchange under the symbol "DARK". By the numbers: Darktrace debuted to positive investor fanfare that saw its shares soar by 40% on its first day of trading. It raised £143 million ($198m) from the public float at a valuation of £1.7 billion ($2.3bn) which soared to almost £2.4 billion ($3.3bn) on its debut trading day. Darktrace's IPO prospectus reports $199 million in revenue in its most recent fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. This was up from $137 million in the previous year, 2019, and $79 mill

Earnings: Pfizer Rakes In Cash From COVID Vaccine

Pfizer, one of the few pharmaceutical companies worldwide to produce an approved Covid-19 vaccine, has unveiled its earnings report for the first quarter of this year. As usual, the report provides a solid peek into the company's financials and with very noteworthy nuggets this time around. One key nugget from Pfizer's earnings report is that the company brought in $3.5bn in revenue from its Covid-19 vaccine in Q1' 21. It made up nearly a fourth of the company's total $14.6bn revenue for the period. The Covid vaccine was the biggest single source of revenue for Pfizer in the quarter. It's definitely a good time for the company in that regard, as it elected to keep the profit from the sale of its vaccines unlike some of its competitors which volunteered to waive off any profit-seeking from their vaccines. Unlike some of its competitors also, Pfizer didn't take money from the US government to fund the development of its vaccine under the Trump administration'

Earnings: Covid Vaccines Deliver Big Sales, Profit For Moderna

Moderna was among the few biotech companies that saved the day with the development of an emergency-authorized vaccine to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a breakthrough for the company, which was before then a cancer-fighting moonshot with minimal revenues and no working product. Being a publicly-traded company, Moderna is mandated to release quarterly earnings reports to the public and it has done so this time around, releasing its financial results for the first quarter of this year 2021. Moderna's latest earnings report shows that of a company that saw big success from its Covid vaccines, as it reported record revenue and its first-ever net profit as a public company. By the numbers: Moderna made $1.9bn in revenue in Q1' 21, compared to a paltry $8mn for the same quarter in 2020. The revenue came wholly from Covid vaccine sales in the US and foreign markets. Moderna reported a huge net income of $1.2bn in the quarter, compared to a net loss of $124mn for the same perio

Court Docs: Fortnite Maker Epic Made $15B In 2018-2020

Fortnite maker Epic Games is having a court battle with Apple over the latter's App Store practices and that battle has led to several documents coming out of the shadows with valuable information about Epic Games not publicly known before.  Among the information revealed in court proceedings between Epic and Apple is the sheer scale of Epic's revenue largely gotten from its hit game Fortnite . Official documents indicate that Epic Games made respective annual sales of $5.6bn, $4.2bn, and $5.1bn in 2018, 2019, and 2020, summing up to just shy of $15bn. Epic's revenue in 2018 and 2019 was revealed in financial documents made public as part of its court battle with Apple while its revenue for 2020 was separately revealed in a court testimony by Epic CEO Tim Sweeney. The vast majority of Epic's revenue comes from Fortnite while its other products like the Unreal Engine and the Epic Games Store bring in a minority of revenues. Specifically, Fortnite brought in $5.5bn a