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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

A Fight Over Specialized Chips Threatens an Ethereum Split

The Ethereum community is divided over whether some chips are too powerful, pricing out small miners. The dispute also reflects heightened US-China tensions.
Source: Wired

Pinterest sets IPO range at $15-17, valuing it at $10.6B vs previous valuation of $12.3B

After dropping its IPO filing two weeks ago, today Pinterest, the social media platform where people can discover and share ideas and content through grids of “pinned” images, filed an updated S-1 where it set the price range at $15-17 per share for a sale of 75 million shares. At this range, the company will raise between $1.125 billion and $1.275 billion. In terms of valuation — if you calculate Class A, Class B, plus options for additional Class B for total shares outstanding totalling 664.84 million shares — this values Pinterest at $10.64 billion in the midrange ($16/share), with the full range being $10 million (at $15/share) and $11.3 billion (at $17/share).

That is a tough (or, you might argue, conservative) picture, as the range values Pinterest about $2 billion below its last valuation of around $12.3 billion, when it raised as a private startup in 2017. In social media, Pinterest competes against the likes of Facebook for sharing ideas and links, and in e-commerce it also a plethora of competitors, including Amazon, eBay and more.

The underwriters for Pinterest’s IPO are Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Allen & Co.

The San Francisco-based company will trade under the ticker symbol “PINS” on the New York Stock Exchange.

In the original S-1 it revealed that it had revenue of $755.9 million in the year ending December 31, 2018, up from $472.8 million in 2017. It has roughly doubled its monthly active user count since early 2016, hitting 265 million late last year. The company’s net loss, meanwhile, shrank to $62.9 million last year from $130 million in 2017.

In total, Pinterest has posted $1.525 billion in revenue since 2016.

Pinterest has raised $1.5 billion to date and was last valued at $12.3 billion, in 2017. Its investors include Bessemer Venture PartnersAndreessen Horowitz, FirstMark Capital, Fidelity and SV Angel.

For some context, in September 2018 the company reported that it had 250 million monthly active users across desktop and mobile apps, up 25 percent on the year before, with more than half coming from outside the US. It had been estimated that Pinterest generated around $700 million in ad revenue in 2018, up 50 percent on the year before as it launched new formats and options for marketers.

Originally the company filed confidentially to go public after retaining Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan to lead its listing. Filing confidentially is a route that startups can opt to take if their annual revenues are less than $1 billion, so that they can go through the back-and-forth of preparing for their IPO outside of the public eye (and consequent scrutiny that this might bring to these startups’ often less traditional business lines and business models).

Pinterest’s move to go public now amidst a rush of tech IPOs, although not all listings have been rosy. After early and strong trading in its debut, Lyft saw a big dip, although it seems to slowly be climbing back up to its debut pricing again.

  • Note: an earlier version of this post noted that Pinterest’s valuation was $9 billion at the higher end (or $9.19 billion if you add in the greenshoe, which would raise $1.466 at the top end if the full allocation is taken). This did not take into account the 66 million in options to purchase Class B shares outstanding at listing, which will be potentially traded from Pinterest’s debut onward.

Additional reporting Jon Russell


Source: TechCrunch

UK sets out safety-focused plan to regulate Internet firms

The UK government has laid out proposals to regulate online and social media platforms, setting out the substance of its long-awaited White Paper on online harms today — and kicking off a public consultation.

The Online Harms White Paper is a joint proposal from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Home Office. The paper can be read in full here (PDF).

It follows the government announcement of a policy intent last May, and a string of domestic calls for greater regulation of the Internet as politicians have responded to rising concern about the mental health impacts of online content.

The government is now proposing to put a mandatory duty of care on platforms to take reasonable steps to protect their users from a range of harms — including but not limited to illegal material such as terrorist and child sexual exploitation and abuse (which will be covered by further stringent requirements under the plan).

The approach is also intended to address a range of content and activity that’s deemed harmful.

Examples providing by the government of the sorts of broader harms it’s targeting include inciting violence and violent content; encouraging suicide; disinformation; cyber bullying; and inappropriate material being accessed by children.

Content promoting suicide has been thrown into the public spotlight in the UK in recent months, following media reports about a schoolgirl whose family found out she had been viewing pro-suicide content on Instagram after she killed herself.

The Facebook -owned platform subsequently agreed to change its policies towards suicide content, saying it would start censoring graphic images of self-harm, after pressure from ministers.

Commenting on the publication of the White Paper today, digital secretary Jeremy Wright said: “The era of self-regulation for online companies is over. Voluntary actions from industry to tackle online harms have not been applied consistently or gone far enough. Tech can be an incredible force for good and we want the sector to be part of the solution in protecting their users. However those that fail to do this will face tough action.

”We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to go online, and the best place to start and grow a digital business and our proposals for new laws will help make sure everyone in our country can enjoy the Internet safely.”

In another supporting statement Home Secretary Sajid Javid added: “The tech giants and social media companies have a moral duty to protect the young people they profit from. Despite our repeated calls to action, harmful and illegal content – including child abuse and terrorism – is still too readily available online.

“That is why we are forcing these firms to clean up their act once and for all. I made it my mission to protect our young people – and we are now delivering on that promise.”

Children’s charity, the NSPCC, was among the sector bodies welcoming the proposal.

“This is a hugely significant commitment by the Government that once enacted, can make the UK a world pioneer in protecting children online,” wrote CEO Peter Wanless in a statement.

For too long social networks have failed to prioritise children’s safety and left them exposed to grooming, abuse, and harmful content.  So it’s high time they were forced to act through this legally binding duty to protect children, backed up with hefty punishments if they fail to do so.”

Although the Internet Watch Foundation, which works to stop the spread of child exploitation imagery online, warned against unintended consequences from badly planned legislation — and urged the government to take a “balanced approach”.

The proposed laws would apply to any company that allows users to share or discover user generated content or interact with each other online — meaning companies both big and small.

Nor is it just social media platforms either, with file hosting sites, public discussion forums, messaging services, and search engines among those falling under the planned law’s remit.

The government says a new independent regulator will be introduced to ensure Internet companies meet their responsibilities, with ministers consulting on whether this should be a new or existing body.

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has been rumored as one possible contender, though the UK’s data watchdog, the ICO, has previously suggested it should be involved in any Internet oversight given its responsibility for data protection and privacy. (According to the FT a hybrid entity combining the two is another possibility — although the newspaper reports that the government remains genuinely undecided on who the regulator will be.)

The future Internet watchdog will be funded by industry in the medium term, with the government saying it’s exploring options such as an industry levy to put it on a sustainable footing.

On the enforcement front, the watchdog will be armed with a range of tools — with the government consulting on powers for it to issue substantial fines; block access to sites; and potentially to impose liability on individual members of senior management.

So there’s at least the prospect of a high profile social media CEO being threatened with UK jail time in future if they don’t do enough to remove harmful content.

On the financial penalties front, Wright suggested that the government is entertaining GDPR-level fines of as much as 4% of a company’s annual global turnover, speaking during an interview on Sky News…

Other elements of the proposed framework include giving the regulator the power to force tech companies to publish annual transparency reports on the amount of harmful content on their platforms and what they are doing to address it; to compel companies to respond to users’ complaints and act to address them quickly; and to comply with codes of practice issued by the regulator, such as requirements to minimise the spread of misleading and harmful disinformation with dedicated fact checkers, particularly during election periods.

A long-running enquiry by a DCMS parliamentary committee into online disinformation last year, which was continuously frustrated in its attempts to get Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to testify before it, concluded with a laundry list of recommendations for tightening regulations around digital campaigning.

The committee also recommended clear legal liabilities for tech companies to act against “harmful or illegal content”, and suggested a levy on tech firms to support enhanced regulation.

Responding to the government’s White Paper in a statement today DCMS chair Damian Collins broadly welcomed the government’s proposals — though he also pressed for the future regulator to have the power to conduct its own investigations, rather than relying on self reporting by tech firms.

“We need a clear definition of how quickly social media companies should be required to take down harmful content, and this should include not only when it is referred to them by users, but also when it is easily within their power to discover this content for themselves,” Collins wrote.

“The regulator should also give guidance on the responsibilities of social media companies to ensure that their algorithms are not consistently directing users to harmful content.”

Another element of the government’s proposal is a “Safety by Design” framework that’s intended to help companies incorporate online safety features in new apps and platforms from the start.

The government also wants the regulator to head up a media literacy strategy that’s intended to equip people with the knowledge to recognise and deal with a range of deceptive and malicious behaviours online, such as catfishing, grooming and extremism.

It writes that the UK is committed to a free, open and secure Internet — and makes a point of noting that the watchdog will have a legal duty to pay “due regard” to innovation, and also to protect users’ rights online by paying particular mindful not infringe privacy and freedom of expression.

It therefore suggests technology will be an integral part of any solution, saying the proposals are designed to promote a culture of continuous improvement among companies — and highlighting technologies such as Google’s “Family Link” and Apple’s Screen Time app as examples of the sorts of developments it wants the policy framework to encourage.

Although such caveats are unlikely to do much to reassure those concerned the approach will chill online speech, and/or place an impossible burden on smaller firms with less resource to monitor what their users are doing.

“The government’s proposals would create state regulation of the speech of millions of British citizens,” warns digital and civil rights group, the Open Rights Group, in a statement by its executive director Jim Killock. “We have to expect that the duty of care will end up widely drawn with serious implications for legal content, that is deemed potentially risky, whether it really is nor not.

“The government refused to create a state regulator the press because it didn’t want to be seen to be controlling free expression. We are skeptical that state regulation is the right approach.”

UK startup policy advocacy group Coadec was also quick to voice concerns — warning that the government’s plans will “entrench the tech giants, not punish them”.

“The vast scope of the proposals means they cover not just social media but virtually the entire internet – from file sharing to newspaper comment sections. Those most impacted will not be the tech giants the Government claims they are targeting, but everyone else. It will benefit the largest platforms with the resources and legal might to comply – and restrict the ability of British startups to compete fairly,” said Coadec executive director Dom Hallas in a statement. 

“There is a reason that Mark Zuckerberg has called for more regulation. It is in Facebook’s business interest.”

UK startup industry association, techUK, also put out a response statement that warns about the need to avoid disproportionate impacts.

“Some of the key pillars of the Government’s approach remain too vague,” said Vinous Ali, head of policy, techUK. “It is vital that the new framework is effective, proportionate and predictable. Clear legal definitions that allow companies in scope to understand the law and therefore act quickly and with confidence will be key to the success of the new system.

“Not all of the legitimate concerns about online harms can be addressed through regulation. The new framework must be complemented by renewed efforts to ensure children, young people and adults alike have the skills and awareness to navigate the digital world safely and securely.”

The government has launched a 12-week consultation on the proposals, ending July 1, after which it says it will set out the action it will take in developing its final proposals for legislation.

“Following the publication of the Government Response to the consultation, we will bring forward legislation when parliamentary time allows,” it adds.

Last month a House of Lords committee recommended an overarching super regulator be established to plug any legislative gaps and/or handle overlaps in rules on Internet platforms, arguing that “a new framework for regulatory action” is needed to handle the digital world.

Though the government appears confident that an Internet regulator will be able to navigate any legislative patchwork and keep tech firms in line on its own — at least, for now.

The House of Lords committee was another parliamentary body that came down in support of a statutory duty of care for online services hosting user-generated content, suggesting it should have a special focus on children and “the vulnerable in society”.

And there’s no doubt the concept of regulating Internet platforms has broad consensus among UK politicians — on both sides of the aisle. But how to do that effectively and proportionately is another matter.

We reached out to Facebook and Google for a response to the White Paper.

Commenting on the Online Harms White Paper in a statement, Rebecca Stimson, Facebook’s head of UK public policy, said: “New rules for the internet should protect society from harm while also supporting innovation, the digital economy and freedom of speech. These are complex issues to get right and we look forward to working with the Government and Parliament to ensure new regulations are effective.”

Stimson also reiterated how Facebook has expanded the number of staff it has working on trust and safety issues to 30,000 in recent years, as well as claiming it’s invested heavily in technology to help prevent abuse — while conceding that “we know there is much more to do”.

Last month the company revealed shortcomings with its safety measures around livestreaming, after it emerged that a massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand which was livestreamed to Facebook’s platform, had not been flagged for accelerated review by moderates because it was not tagged as suicide related content.

Facebook said it would be “learning” from the incident and “re-examining our reporting logic and experiences for both live and recently live videos in order to expand the categories that would get to accelerated review”.

In its response to the UK government White Paper today, Stimson added: “The internet has transformed how billions of people live, work and connect with each other, but new forms of communication also bring huge challenges. We have responsibilities to keep people safe on our services and we share the government’s commitment to tackling harmful content online. As Mark Zuckerberg said last month, new regulations are needed so that we have a standardised approach across platforms and private companies aren’t making so many important decisions alone.”


Source: TechCrunch

Veratrak wants to digitise the pharmaceutical supply chain

Veratrak, a London-based startup that aims to digitise the pharmaceutical supply chain, has picked up £1 million in seed funding. Leading the round is Force Over Mass, with participation from Seedcamp, Ascension Ventures, Blockchain Valley Ventures, and Truesight Ventures.

A number of individual investors have also backed the young company. They include ex-Head of Corporate Strategy for Microsoft, Charlie Songhurst, current EVP of Operations at Vectura Group and previous Vice President of Global Supply Chain at Baxter, Tony Fitzpatrick, and Antonin de Fougerolles, CEO of Evox Therapeutics.

Launched in August 2018, Veratrak offers a “document collaboration and workflow management platform” targeting the pharmaceutical industry. The SaaS enables organisations to on-board both internal and external partners to verify, authenticate, review, and sign-off on “critical documentation” related to various stages of the supply chain. These span the production, packaging, shipping and dispensing of medicine.

Specifically, users can communicate with supply chain partners at different organisations seamlessly, and chronologically execute the steps required to release a product to market.

Noteworthy, the Veratrak platform using blockchain technology to create what it calls an “iron-clad audit trail” of all document events, and in doing so claims to reduce the regulatory burden on Veratrak customers.

The overall result, claims Veratrak, is increased visibility for supply chain partners, and the ability to better react and adjust to events — which ultimately leads to better care for patients.

“There are a variety of cloud-based document management services operating in other industries, however, they are not regulatory compliant for the pharmaceutical industry,” says Veratrak co-founder and CEO Jason Lacombe.

“From the inception of Veratrak, we have built our software to be GAMP 5 compliant, to the highest security and quality standards, and have worked alongside users at pharmaceutical and life sciences companies to test our solution and provide feedback on what we are building”.

Meanwhile, Lacombe says the focus of blockchain companies to date has been on “serialisation” and getting companies ready to meet the European and U.S.’s track and trace regulations. “We chose to enter the market via the document sharing use-case, and not the serialisation use-case, because the serialisation space is already crowded with blockchain,” he adds.

A classic SaaS play, Veratrak charges customers a monthly per head license fee. The pricing is volume-based depending on the number of licenses that an organisation purchases.

“We also offer all our paying customers free guest licenses to invite on their external partners to collaborate on document workflows,” explains Lacombe. “This creates some significant network effects and virality. We have seen this work well with other companies like Docusign that invite collaborators via email to sign documents”.


Source: TechCrunch

European VC firm Octopus Ventures launches £83M growth fund

Octopus Ventures, the European venture capital firm that’s part of Octopus Group, is launching an £83 million growth fund to further invest in its most promising portfolio companies.

The new fund, which is backed by a number of undisclosed institutional investors rather than individual investors, brings the total Octopus Ventures’ various funds has under management to over £1 billion. Taken as a whole, it also means the VC firm now invests between £250,000 and £20 million in startups at various stages of growth.

Headquartered in London and New York, but with Venture Partners also in San Francisco, Shanghai and Singapore, Octopus Ventures has backed over 100 companies to date. They include allplants, Elvie, Depop, Big Health, Graze.com, Eve, Magic Pony, Secret Escapes, Sofar Sounds, Swiftkey, Swoon Editions, tails.com and Zoopla Property Group.

Meanwhile, the new growth fund coincides with a new strategy for Octopus Ventures more broadly, and will see the VC focus on three key areas: fintech, health tech, and industry 4.0.

In the firm’s own words:

  • The Future of Money: Seeking pioneering entrepreneurs who want to improve the way society interacts with money and risk by building products that will transform payments, investments, markets and insurance.

  • The Future of Health: Healthcare will soon be the world’s biggest industry and we back the teams revolutionising health and wellness through patient-driven medicine, clinical decision tools, digital health and disease prevention technologies.

  • The Future of Industry: Focused on the bleeding edge technologies that will drive the next industrial revolution. These include advanced manufacturing, materials, Internet of Things, robotics and artificial intelligence, as well as those technologies which will keep a fully digitally connected society secure.

Below follows an email Q&A with Alliott Cole, CEO of Octopus Ventures, where we discuss the growth fund’s premise and timing, the new investment focus for Octopus Ventures, industrial competition in Europe, America and China, and — of course — the thorny issue of Brexit.

TC: What’s the thinking behind raising a dedicated later-stage fund and why now?

AC: We have been fortunate to back some really talented entrepreneurs who have gone on to build sizeable, successful companies in recent years. Companies like Zoopla, Secret Escapes, Swiftkey, Tails.com, Cazoo, Big Health require capital to build teams and to accelerate growth, and so it makes perfect sense to us for continue to back them as they progress through the initial stages of company formation to the later stages of growth.

TC: Is this new dedicated follow on fund also a sign of how high European valuations are right now, in the sense that it is designed to ensure Octopus Ventures doesn’t get too diluted in future rounds?

AC: We manage around £800m in an evergreen venture fund which invests close to £200m a year into Seed and Series A, with a focus on the future of money, health and industry. This makes Octopus one of the most active venture investors in Europe.

Because this fund is evergreen it is a great vehicle to take a very long-term view on investing and can be far more patient than a more traditional limited life venture fund which normally will invest for 3-4 years and then look to exit in the next 4-6 years.

Our latest growth fund will invest in the best performing companies out of this venture fund when the founders are comfortable with their product market fit, and are ready to scale to the next level.

TC: Did Brexit come into your thinking here or complicate things with regards to raising this new fund?

AC: You can’t ignore Brexit entirely, clearly, but I wouldn’t say it was a significant hurdle. We are backing genuinely pioneering entrepreneurs with the talent and ambition to radically disrupt their industries. That’s where we see the big opportunity for this fund, and I don’t think Brexit changes that.

For the most part, entrepreneurs we are investing in are looking to make their own “dent in the Universe” and while they are starting their journey in London and the U.K., their ambitions will lead them to build for an international audience. This is why we have an office in New York, and Venture Partners on the ground in Silicon Valley, Singapore and Beijing.

TC: More broadly, what would be your favoured outcome for the U.K. and Brexit?

AC: When you speak to the entrepreneurs and founders in our portfolio, it’s clear that availability of talent is one of the critical issues. So from that perspective, while I’m sure members of our team have their own views, we are agnostic in terms of the outcome so long as our portfolio companies continue to have access to the talent they need to grow and scale. That said, I wholeheartedly believe the U.K. and London will continue to be a global leader in innovation and entrepreneurship regardless of the outcome.

TC: Looking at “the future of money” aspect of Octopus Ventures’ new strategy, what specific opportunities do you see left in fintech? It seems that we are mainly past the first phase where various financial services have been unbundled from the banks and made more consumer friendly, while there are a number of platform plays, including some neo banks or banking appS, seeking to re-bundle these services in a more consumer-centric way. So, what’s left or next?

AC: The opportunities in financial technology are many and diverse. It is certainly true that we have seen the start of consumer banking services being unbundled, but whether we have reached a new point at which this market will re-integrate is by no means clear to me.

Outside of consumer banking, we are really excited by the opportunity in the insurance sector. Despite it being ten times the size of the banking sector it has only received one tenth of the funding. It’s an area where incumbents are paralysed by regulation, legacy technology and bureaucracy meaning they are unable to effectively tackle emerging opportunities themselves, so we see a huge opportunity in this space. As we invest in teams like Bought By Many, DeadHappy and ByMiles, we’re starting to go deeper and learn more about these industries.

TC: The second aspect is “the future of health”. What do you see as the biggest obstacles in this space (e.g. regulation, the different way healthcare is funded etc.) and also the biggest opportunities?

AC: Innovation in health, quite rightly, has a number of unique constraints which can make it more challenging for companies to start and scale quickly. These are both regulatory and commercial in nature – for instance a medical commissioning group can introduce the best digital health therapeutic but if the nurses on the front line in a GP surgery are unaware of the benefits, then these businesses may be overlooked and a great product will struggle to find its way into the hands of the patients.

Some of the biggest opportunities lie in areas where there is far-reaching demand, but this demand is simply not being filled due to stigma or taboo. Take Elvie for example, it is brilliant to see a fem-tech company designing and distributing pelvic floor trainers and breast pumps. The impact it has made in the market in such a short time is remarkable. Equally Big Health, with its initial focus on insomnia, will have a broader application to anxiety, depression and stress – all linked to mental wellbeing.

TC: Lastly, “the future of industry” — or industry 4.0 — is an increasingly common theme within VC and arguably a European strength. Do you think that is true, and if so, why?

AC: Europe, despite what people may think, still boasts a strong manufacturing hub. In fact, the European Union ranks second in the world in manufacturing output, secondly only to China, and ahead of the U.S., according to data from the World Bank. European manufacturing is also relatively high-tech compared to other countries. When you combine this with its ability to educate top talent – we produce more PhDs per capita than any other country in the world – it provides a fuel that drives development and productivity improvements in the industrial sector.

Having the perfect crucible of manufacturing expertise, experience, and existing business combined with top technical talent, results in a combination which naturally leads to Europe being considered a place to look at for ‘the’ Future of Industry. What we’ve historically lacked is the funds to back the emerging winners in this space – but things are changing here.

We have also enjoyed investing in some harder technologies – early on we backed William T-P at True Knowledge, which was acquired by Amazon and now has become the backbone of Alexa, the machine learning and artificial intelligence companies Swiftkey (acquired by Microsoft) and Magic Pony (acquired by Twitter).

TC: With that said, are we more likely to see multibillion dollar industry 4.0 companies coming out of Europe, America or China?

AC: Looking ahead, this is very hard to call, as in reality, industry is blooming across all three areas, and it is likely that we will see multibillion-dollar industry 4.0 companies from Europe, America and China.

In Europe, London leads the way in unicorns, hosting 17 start-ups that have broken the $1bn valuation barrier since 2010. We expect to see many more from London, and indeed the rest of Europe as they expand and grow across the continent. That being said, we cannot ignore the huge potential China offers in this space. According to the World Bank, China are the world leaders in manufacturing output, with a huge 40% of their GDP coming from manufacturing in 2017. Chinese companies have been setting themselves to take Industry 4.0 by storm for a while now, so to ignore the market potential of China would be nothing short of naïve. The same, however, could be said for the U.S. With the likes of American companies Apple and Amazon becoming the first trillion-dollar businesses last year, they too cannot be ruled out.

The truth is that increasing numbers of companies across the globe are heading for that multibillion-dollar status, and I think industry 4.0 is likely to boom across the three continents sooner than we expect.


Source: TechCrunch

In the future, A.I. medicine will let patients own their health data

The key to A.I.-based medical research is patients owning their own data. Rather than storing patient records in the cloud, researchers want patients to house their own data on their phones. This data could then be shared and pooled to create massive troves of anonymized information for clinical studies.

The post In the future, A.I. medicine will let patients own their health data appeared first on Digital Trends.


Source: Digital trends

WWE WrestleMania 35: Results, ratings, surprises and new champions – CNET

It was the best WrestleMania in years.
Source: CNET

Grab plans to raise $2B more this year to fund an acquisition spree in Southeast Asia

Always be raisin’. That appears to be the motto of Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing companies Grab and Go-Jek.

Fresh from closing a near-$1.5 billion raise from SoftBank’s Vision Fund as part of a huge, multi-billion Series H deal, Grab said today that it plans to extend the round to $6.5 billion to amp up its battle with Go-Jek, which recently raised $1 billion of an ongoing Series F round.

A spokesperson for Grab told TechCrunch that the $6.5 billion will include additional money into that Series H deal, and it may include debt funding. The money announced so far this year — that $4.5 billion from the Series H — is included in that $6.5 billion goal, the Grab rep explained, so that means Grab is aiming to raise a further $5 billion in 2019 a further $2 billion in 2019. (Update: yes, it’s confusing so we’ve corrected our numbers because Grab said the $6.5 billion includes the entire Series H, some of which was announced last year, not just the portion raised in 2019.)

Grab’s Series H has already swollen to $4.5 billion, to give you an idea of its cash pile right now. Grab’s valuation is around $16 billion, according to sources, and it has raised $7.5 billion to date.

While the money will no doubt go towards ‘growth’ — and particularly to develop Grab’s ‘super app’ strategy of offering more than just rides in its app — Grab said that it plans to make “at least 6 investments or acquisitions” in Southeast Asia this year.

That acquisitive approach would be unprecedented for Southeast Asia, a region of few tech exits despite its growing potential. That is beginning to change with the rise of Grab and Go-Jek, local companies that are buying up smaller startups to add tech and expertise under that aforementioned ‘super app’ strategy, which is aimed at expanding to become the on-demand app of choice for Southeast Asia’s 600 million consumers.

But still, half a dozen deals will bring even more liquidity to Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem and help VCs turn some of their paper valuations into actual transactions and value for their funds and LPs.

Grab spent $100 million on Indonesia-based Kudo in 2017, while Go-Jek has been more acquisitive with more than half a dozen deals under its belt, including the purchase of three fintech startups in 2017 and, most recently, Philippines-based wallet Coins for $72 million.

Grab CEO and co-founder Anthony Tan put out an interesting statement that specifically notes SoftBank President Masayoshi Son’s apparently unwavering support for his business. He also dropped some shade on Go-Jek, which has only expanded beyond its home in Indonesia over the last six months, with a claim that Grab will soon be four-times bigger than its arch rival.

Here’s Tan’s statement in full:

I met Masayoshi-san last week where he gave his unlimited support to power our growth. The support from strategic investors like SoftBank and others, will allow us to grow very aggressively this year across our verticals of payments, transport and food. At our current growth rates, we expect to be four times bigger than our closest competitor in Indonesia and across the region by the end of the year. As we grow to become the leading super app in Southeast Asia, we see massive opportunities to expand our business and continue to serve our customers, driver-partners and merchants across Southeast Asia.

Acquisitions aside, there’s a lot happening within Grab. The company is mulling a move to spin out its financial services unit, with PayPal and Ant Financial among the interested parties it is talking to, as TechCrunch reported last month.

Note: The headline and text of this article have been updated to reflect that Grab plans to raise $2 billion more this year.


Source: TechCrunch

New Logitech Zone Wireless headphone is built for the open office – CNET

The new Zone Wireless and Zone Wireless Plus feature active noise-cancelling, an integrated boom microphone and wireless charging.
Source: CNET

Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital makes $406M first close of new fund

B Capital, the VC firm from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, has made the first close of its second fund.

The firm has closed out $406 million in initial capital, according to a filing lodged with the FCC last month. The document doesn’t include details of a target raise or which LPs have committed. Saverin came to prominence as a co-founder of Facebook, but he has rebuilt himself as an investor with a particular focus on Asia.

B Capital is a relatively new entrant but already this new fund represents an upsized raise, even without the final close. B Capital’s first fund closed $360 million last February with consulting firm BCG a major backer from the get-go. The firm pitches itself as a bridge between the corporate world and quality startups, an area where its BCG alliance no doubt carries significant weight.

The firm is based out of Southeast Asia — where Saverin has lived since renouncing his U.S. citizenship in 2011 — but it investors globally and has a San Francisco office. Its focus covers financial services, insurance, health, industrial, transportation and “consumer enablement.” To date, B Capital has invested in 19 startups, according to its website, and those include scooter startup Bird, insurance-focused CXA — which raised $25 million last month — Indian fintech startup Mswipe — which announced a $30 million round last week — and logistics firm NinjaVan.

Saverin has also made investments via his family fund, Velos, but its involvement has tapered down since B Capital launched.


Source: TechCrunch

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