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Showing posts from October, 2019

DJI Debuts A New Lightweight Drone

Mavic Mini image: DJI Popular drone maker DJI has debuted a new drone, this time a lightweight one that weighs just 249 grams. The new drone, named the Mavic Mini , is the smallest and lightest drone DJI has ever made, and costs $400 (for the standard package; that is the drone itself, one battery, a remote controller, extra propellers and all required tools and wires). There's a higher package, costing $500, that includes all the components of the standard version plus a Two-Way charging Hub, three batteries, three sets of extra propellers, a propeller cage and a carrying case. Already available for pre-order, the Mavic Mini will begin shipping on the 11th of November. The Mavic Mini comes with several features that are standard for DJI drones. They include a high-grade camera that's able to capture footage at a resolution of up to 2.7k, Wi-Fi transmission to enable stable control and an HD live feed when in use, and GPS receivers and downward visual sensors to

Report: Apple Will Use Qualcomm 5G Chips In 2020 iPhones

Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller image: Apple According to a new report from the Nikkei Asian Review , Apple is adopting Qualcomm's X55 5G chip for three iPhones that it's expected to launch next year, and is already mobilizing suppliers to assemble its first ever 5G iPhones. According to Nikkei, Apple has also set a target of shipping at least 80 million of the new 5G phones. Apple is betting on 5G-enabled phones to help it topple Huawei's current position as the second-largest smartphone maker, Nikkei reports. If such report stands true, then 5G-enabled phones from a much-patronized manufacturer like Apple will also likely be an incentive for global carriers to roll out 5G telecoms infrastructure. Nikkei's report kind of corroborates with a previous one from Bloomberg  that said Apple will wait until at least 2020 to release a 5G phone. The X55 is the most advanced chip designed by Qualcomm, which Apple had fought a long-standing business

Scopely Raises $200 Million, Now Valued At $1.7 Billion

Steve Case's Revolution Growth participated in the funding Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch Scopely, an LA-based mobile games developer, has announced $200 million in Series D funding led by NewView Capital, with participation from Baillie Gifford and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) alongside existing investors like Greycroft, Revolution Growth, and Sands Capital Ventures. According to a Bloomberg piece , the funding values Scopely at $1.7 billion, up from $710 million in early 2018. Scopely says it'll use the new funding to accelerate mergers & acquisitions and expand its game portfolio.The funding comes after the Los Angeles-based company crossed more than $1 billion in lifetime revenue, as made known in an official press release. Scopely also says it's "profitable and growing", after having previously said it was on pace to eclipse $400 million in annual sales. Scopely, since its founding in 2011, has devel

Alphabet Has Reportedly Offered To Buy Fitbit

image: Fitbit Not long after a previous report of Fitbit exploring putting itself up for sale, Reuters has reported that Google parent Alphabet has made a offer to acquire the smartwatch maker. A situation where Google's parent Alphabet acquires Fitbit isn't far-fetched, and was one actually speculated in a previous Reuters report . In that report, which first touched on the topic of Fitbit putting itself up for sale, Reuters said Fitbit held discussions with Qatalyst Partners, a famed investment bank known for its involvement in several big tech deals, which in turn argued that Fitbit could be of acquisition interest to Alphabet as well as private equity firms. With Reuters' new report, it turns out Qatalyst may have just been right with its argument. Alphabet acquiring Fitbit would not be a surprising move, given it has yet to develop any wearable offerings even when it has joined other major tech companies in making smartphones and several smart home products. 

Care.com Said To Be Exploring Sale

Care.com CEO Sheila Lirio Marcelo image: BlissDom on Flickr According to a Bloomberg report , Care.com, a popular online marketplace for babysitters and caregivers, is working with financial advisers on a strategic review, which includes exploring a potential sale. This report comes after several hassles at the Waltham, Massachusetts-based company, whose share price tumbled after a Wall Street Journal story  raised concerns that it wasn't adequately vetting its caregivers. A few months after the Journal's story was published, Care.com's CFO, Michael Echenberg, announced he was resigning. Its CEO, Sheila Lirio Marcelo, followed suit, announcing she would step down in August, although she continues to hold the position as the company seeks a new chief executive. After the Journal's story, Care.com made amendments to its vetting process by issuing a new set of guidelines to govern that, and also took steps to boot fake day-care center listings off its platform.

Microsoft Wins $10 Billion Military Cloud Contract

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella image: Microsoft The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has announced it has awarded a $10 billion 10-year running cloud contract to Microsoft. The contract involves provision of enterprise cloud services that'll support the DoD's business and mission operations. The Department of Defense opened bids for the contract nearly two years ago, and happens to have selected Microsoft over several other cloud providers that competed for the contract. Being a very large one, the $10 billion contract's bidding process involved dramatic competition between top cloud players like Microsoft, Amazon and Oracle. Oracle even went as far as suing the U.S. government , claiming the contract's single-vendor nature (to be awarded to only one company) was unfair and illegal. The bidding process started out with several cloud providers including Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, IBM and Google, but was later streamlined to only Microsoft and Amazon, which the

Hyundai Debuts Robotaxi Service

image: Hyundai Hyundai has announced a new robotaxi service that'll launch in the city of Irvine, California on the 4th of November. The new robotaxi service, dubbed BotRide , is developed in collaboration with Pony.ai, a well-known self-driving startup, and Via, a popular ride-sharing service. Pony.ai is responsible for the self-driving technology while Via caters to the app required to match passengers with the self-driving vehicles. The vehicle adopted by BotRide is the Hyundai Kona electric SUV, a fleet of which will be available for free rides to Irvine residents. The Hyundai Konas that'll be used will be equipped with sensor hardware and proprietary software from Pony.ai, designed to navigate roads autonomously as the case has been with several robotaxi services. Via on the other hand is responsible for algorithms that'll enable multiple riders share the same vehicle. BotRide will be accessible via dedicated iOS and Android apps. In-app, passengers will be d

Gojek Plans Dual Listing After CEO Departure

Gojek co-founder Nadiem Makarim Photo by World Economic Forum / Sikarin Thanachaiary via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license The new co-CEOs of Gojek, Indonesia's largest startup, have said they plan to take the company public, likely via a dual listing (a situation where a company trades on more than one stock market). They made this known in a brief to reporters on Thursday, a brief that came shortly after its co-founder and long-running CEO Nadiem Makarim announced he's stepping down to join Indonesia's cabinet. Gojek co-CEO Andre Soelistyo, in his brief, didn't specify a particular time for an IPO, but said it could be “a few years” away. “We don’t have a set target yet when, but we’re already moving along,” He said. Soelistyo noted that Gojek would like to provide opportunity for Indonesian investors to participate, and said the company was also considering a secondary listing in a not-yet-decided location. Soelistyo alongside Kevin Aluwi, two Gojek veterans, ha

Fair Cuts 40% Of Staff, As CFO Departs

Fair founder and CEO Scott Painter Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Collision via Sportsfile Fair, a Softbank-backed car leasing startup that recently raised $500 million in debt financing, said today that it'll be cutting 40% of its staff. Atop that, its CFO, Tyler Painter, is also leaving, to be replaced in the interim by another executive. Deducing from an official memo [first reported by TechCrunch ], profitability is apparently the major reason for the layoffs, with Fair stating that it "must demonstrate a path to sustainable growth and profitability". "As one of the pioneers in automotive fintech, we now need to focus on being a profitable company." Fair's memo said. "....While we are proud of our growth, we are here for the long term. This means that we’ve decided to take proactive steps now to ensure we are a profitable public company later." It read. At a time investors have soured to money-losing startups, it's no surprise a c

Bill McDermott Lands New CEO Gig At ServiceNow

Bill McDermott image: Silicon Valley Leadership Group Just after stepping down from SAP where he served as CEO for 9 years, Bill McDermott has been announced as the new CEO of ServiceNow. McDermott will officially join ServiceNow as CEO by year-end, replacing current CEO John Donahoe, who is in turn taking the position of CEO at athletics powerhouse Nike, where he already holds a board seat. McDermott's new appointment means he's getting to head another large software company shortly after stepping down from another. Heading ServiceNow will add to his series of executive stints, which includes top positions at Siebel Systems, Gartner and Xerox alongside SAP. McDermott is replacing Donahoe, who has been ServiceNow's CEO for only two years. Before joining ServiceNow, Donahoe held CEO roles at Bain & Company and eBay. Currently, he also holds the role of chairman at PayPal. At Nike, he's set to replace Mark Parker, who is stepping down after 13 years as

Revolut Taps Mastercard For U.S. Launch

Revolut CEO Nikolay Storonsky Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch Revolut has announced a partnership with payments giant Mastercard that'll enable it launch Revolut cards in the U.S. by the end of this year. The announcement happens to occur shortly after Revolut announced it's hiring 3,500 additional staff  to expand into 24 new countries, starting in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and the U.S. Revolut is leveraging on two well-known payments firms for its planned expansion, having previously announced an extended partnership with payments company Visa to enable it expand into new markets. With Mastercard -- a Visa competitor -- now on board, Revolut seems to be in for a good ride in the financial services scene. Just like Visa, Mastercard has also been a Revolut partner since 2015, the year it launched. Both payments companies have enabled Revolut to build out its payments network and issue cards to customers acros

Apple Begins Selling Locally Assembled iPhone XRs In India

image: Apple Apple has began selling iPhone XRs assembled in India, as indicated by boxes of the smartphone with an “Assembled in India” tag sighted on Monday at several of the country's electronics retailers. The sighted iPhone XRs starts from 49,900 Indian rupees ($704) for the 64 GB version, as first reported by Reuters . The “Assembled in India” iPhones corroborate a previous report that Foxconn, a well-known Apple supplier, was looking to start assembling high-end iPhones in India. Apple assembling iPhones in India isn't quite surprising. Assembling locally is not only a way to avoid high levies usually placed on fully-imported devices, but could also be a way to meet local sourcing demands for Apple, which is said to be looking to open its first retail store in India. There's also an ongoing trade war between the U.S., where Apple is based, and China, where most of its phones are manufactured. Companies like Apple are looking to use India as an export hub to

Casper Said To Be Working With Banks On IPO

Casper CEO Philip Krim Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch According to a Bloomberg report , Casper, an online mattress retailer valued at $1.1 billion earlier this year, is working with investment banks Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs on a U.S. initial public offering (IPO). Bloomberg reports the New York-based company could go public as soon as this year or the first half of next year. According to Bloomberg, Casper could be valued at more than its last private valuation ($1.1 billion) on the public markets. Despite bleak performances of some high-profile IPOs this year, several companies are still aiming to public before this year's end. The bleak performances of some IPOs were fueled in part by substantial losses and concerns around growth potential of the newly-public companies. Casper had previously said it topped $400 million in revenue last year, but there's no word on if it's profitable or not. The New York-based company seems to be aimi

Ford Debuts 12,000-Wide Charging Network In North America

image: Ford Ford has announced  the launch of a large charging network spanning 12,000 locations and 35,000 charging plugs in the North American continent, a charging network that easily makes for the largest in the region (based on publicly available information). The move is aimed at making it easier for customers to charge their Ford vehicles when the automaker begins delivering all-electric models next year. Ford touts the planned 12,000-wide charging network as "making public chargers as common as some of the most popular pharmacy or coffee chains." Ford isn't actually building the charging network on its own, instead it's collaborating with EV charging companies Electrify America and Greenlots to create a charging network consisting of 35,000 charging plugs that users of its electric vehicles can be directed to via an app or an in-vehicle touch screen. Ford is preparing to launch fully electric vehicles (designed from the ground up) for the first tim

Report: Airbnb's Q1 Loss More Than Doubled To $306 Million

Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky Photograph by Kevin Moloney/Fortune Brainstorm Tech According to a report from The Information , Airbnb's operating loss in the first three months of this year more than doubled to $306 million, attributable in part to increased sales and marketing spend which The Information says was $367 million, a 58% increase from the same period last year. The Information reports Airbnb's sales and marketing spend surpassed that of any other category, including product development, which grew by 51% from the same period last year. Operations and support, which includes customer service, climbed 30% year-on-year according to The Information. Citing undisclosed financial data, The Information reports Airbnb's revenue grew 31% year-over-year to $839 million, while expenses climbed 47%. Its report also says Airbnb has more than $3 billion in cash on its balance sheet despite the losses, and that it has a $1 billion line of credit it has

Tesla Gets Clearance To Begin Manufacturing In China

Tesla CEO Elon Musk image: Daniel Oberhaus (2018) Tesla has been added to a government list of approved automotive manufacturers in China, entailing it's been granted a license to begin producing cars in the country. China is the world's biggest electric vehicle market , so it's no surprise Tesla is doubling down on that region. Rather than having to export cars produced in the U.S., which are usually subject to tariffs, Tesla began constructing a new auto manufacturing facility; the Gigafactory 3 , in December last year. The factory, located in Shanghai, is rumored to be heading for completion by year end . Earlier this month, news outlet Reuters reported  that Tesla targeted to begin producing cars at the Chinese factory this month. Although there's no certainty on that, Tesla just getting approval to begin producing in China sounds like a correlation to a situation where it'll begin rolling out cars from its Chinese factory in soon time. Tesla, whose

EU Imposes Interim Restriction Order Against Broadcom

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager Photo by David Fitzgerald/Web Summit via Sportsfile The European Union (EU) has issued an interim antitrust order against Broadcom, ordering the chip manufacturer to halt certain exclusivity deals it has with six customers. "Broadcom's behaviour would cause serious and irreparable harm to competition." the EU said in a press release  that announced the antitrust order. Interim antitrust orders of this type are uncommon but applicable in some cases. Essentially, such orders are imposed when the EU observes actions by companies that it considers "at first sight to be illegal". It's sort of a temporary restrain, albeit one that gives the concerned company a right to defend itself before an official decision is taken. The EU says it received information that Broadcom, which controls a significant share of the chipset industry, "may be imposing exclusivity and quasi-exclusivity restrictions on its cust

Uber, Lyft Decline To Testify Before U.S. Congress

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi image: Mike Bloomberg on Flickr Uber and Lyft, the two biggest ride-hailing companies in the U.S., declined to appear today (Wednesday) at a U.S. Congress hearing on matters related to the ride-hailing industry, a congressional committee said. The two companies had been requested to appear as part of an inquiry from the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, a standing committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, on safety and labor practices in the ride-hailing industry. The inquiry happens to be at a time U.S. lawmakers are looking to pass legislation that will impact the ride-hailing industry. In an official statement , Peter DeFazio, a U.S. rep who serves as chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, took a jab at Uber and Lyft, casting nets on several topics including increase in traffic congestion, labor issues, background checks, wages, and even sustainability of the ride-hailing business model. 

Level Home Emerges From Stealth With $71 Million In Funding

image: Level Home Key points: Level Home has secured $71 million in funding from the likes of Walmart, real estate giant Lennar, and Hut 8 Ventures. Level Home's smart lock; the Level Lock, fits inside existing deadbolts, meaning it can convert any door to a smart one The Level Lock supports Apple HomeKit Level Home was founded in 2016, and is based in San Francisco A new and seemingly interesting smart lock startup; Level Home, just emerged from stealth, with an announcement of $71 million in funding and a new product; the Level Lock (pictured above). Level Home's $71 million in funding comes from strategic investments led by Walmart and Lennar Homes, a Miami-based construction and real estate giant that's known to be the largest home-builder in the U.S . Level Home was founded in late 2016 by John Martin, who serves as CEO, and Ken Goto (CTO), two former Apple employees. It seems Apple employees have a thing for starting smart lock startups as another well-k

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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