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Is it Wednesday already? According to the calendar, it is. (Fun fact: My apartment is so full of smart displays with dates that it’s a struggle not to trip over them.) Time really flies when the Daily Crunch team entrusts you – I mean – the gotechbusiness.com newsletter. As always, there’s still plenty to do, but I’ve done my best to make it happen hi and Christine have nothing to worry about while enjoying some much needed time away from the daily grind. Rest, folks. You all deserve it.
African fintechs are experiencing stratospheric growth – last year the number of startups in the category rose 17.3% to 573, from 491 in 2019, according to local publication Disrupt Africa. An exciting newcomer is Thepeer, which powers the infrastructure for mostly fintech companies, from small to medium-sized. Tage writes that the company is experiencing success a year after its inception, with an average monthly transaction growth of 161%. That’s impressive no matter how you slice it.
Just an unrelated (but equally important) note: if you haven’t gotten your hands on tickets to gotechbusiness.com’s summer party yet, you should really consider it. We don’t bite – at least not without justification. † Kylea
The gotechbusiness.com Top 3
- Not for the prudish — or the cautiousMindGeek, the parent company of porn streaming giant Pornhub, has seen less disastrous days. Devin writes that the CEO and COO – Feras Antoon and David Tassillo, respectively – abruptly resigned about a week after a New Yorker report about the company’s less-than-stellar moderation policies. It’s all speculation at the moment, but financial uncertainty may have played a role. As profitable as adult film is, MindGeek took the brunt of a payment processor crusade against pornographic platforms 2 years ago, in which processors, including Mastercard, suspended payments to the company’s brands.
- Conciseness is (not) the soul of wit: Remember when Twitter, limited by the limitations of SMS, limited its poor users to 140 characters? I do. But I’m old. New tweeters (twitterers?) may never know that tweets were once an exercise in self-editing, thanks to Twitter’s new feature – Twitter Notes – that would support the publishing of lengthy content on the platform. Sarah has the story.
- Better get out of here: Mary’s reporting on Better.com’s woes was unparalleled, and this week she published another major first: Many of the mortgage lender’s senior management have resigned, including the SVP and VP of Sales. Their departure follows the departure of the EVP of Customer Experience, the SVP of Capital Markets and Growth, and a trio of high-level PR people. Faced with a delayed IPO and continued bad publicity, including a lawsuit, a turnaround for Better.com seems increasingly distant.
Startups and VC
The economic downturn is hitting some industries harder than others, but one that seems immune — at least for now — is app development. The appetite for apps has not abated, and apparently there is no demand for low-code platforms and APIs that make building them faster and easier. Appsmith, a low-code platform for building business apps, raised $41 million this week. Meanwhile, Courier raised $35 million to build an app notification service.
The hardware business has been less forgiving lately. Example: Nothing, the new company of OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has announced that it will not bring its first phone – the Phone (1) – to the US. , as US carriers are notoriously hostile to unfavorable brands, especially in a down market. But still it is a pity.
Elsewhere in starting country:
- Boxing on the go: Liteboxer debuted an ultra-portable, subscription-based fitness wearable that guides the wearer through workouts, optionally paired with music from a preloaded catalog. It can be a godsend, especially for people with small apartments, writes Brian†
- Hotter than a warming planet: “Climate tech” may not be new, but it sure is hot — which isn’t surprising given the bleak forecasts about the climate crisis. To underline the state of play, Kiko Ventures came forward this week with a $450 million (£375 million) fund to invest in climate technology and “regenerative” technologies, Mike reports.
- The accent, I can’t place it: A fascinating startup called Sanas has built AI that can change one’s accent. Backed by Google, the company has announced $32 million in funding and claims to have a number of clients, including insurance giant Assurant and BPO Leviathan Alorica. From Ingridthe technology sounds a bit robotic and emotionless, but that’s apparently intentional – Sanas designed it with call centers in mind.
- Let me handle that data for you: Proving the money in data management, Ataccama secured a $150 million infusion from Bain Capital Tech Opportunities today. As I wrote in my briefing, Ataccama’s success reflects the explosion in recent years of tools that allow companies to connect, transform, analyze and serve data from a variety of sources.
- Elusive soft landings at SoftBank: The bad news at SoftBank got worse this week. After the company’s disappointing performance, French businessman Michel Combes – who was appointed CEO of SoftBank Group International in January – left the company, Connie reports. Troubled waters lie ahead as SoftBank plans to slow the pace of new investment.
- Charging towards M&A: In a fascinating piece, Rebecca writes about consolidation in the EV charging market, which has seen a cash influx in recent years amid enthusiasm — and government funding — for the technology. On the horizon is a wave of startups looking to commercialize and scale up the so-called DC Fast chargers.
- Boring, but profitable: Let this be a lesson to HR tech naysayers: Investors still want a slice of the action. Personio, a Munich, Germany-based startup that advertises itself as a Workday and ServiceNow targeting small and medium-sized businesses, closed a $200 million round this week valued at $8.5 billion. Ingrid has the story.
3 tips for biotech startups seeking non-dilutive capital to weather the recession
This is a particularly difficult time for life science startups. Even if their technology is world-changing, it will still be years before it hits the market.
Most biotech founders looking to raise money in this environment assume that dilutive capital is their only option, but that’s shortsighted, writes James Coates, head of Health and Human Performance at Decisive Point.
“In a recession, non-dilutive government grants or contracts should be seen as more attractive than ever because they provide a runway without dilution and make great headlines.”
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Big Tech Inc.
Did you think the NFT trend was over? haha. Far from. eBay signaled acute interest from Big Tech and this week acquired Manchester-based NFT marketplace KnownOrigin, Aisha reports. Shopify, meanwhile, launched Tokengated commerce, a feature the company describes as a way to “reward true fans and VIPs by giving NFT holders exclusive access to products, benefits and experiences” by linking crypto wallets to Shopify online stores, Ingrid writes.
In other fashion news, the metaverse — that fuzzy mix of virtual and augmented reality — could be interoperable if certain tech giants have their way. Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia, Unity and others this week formed the Metaverse Standards Forum, which aims to make it easier for developers to build across platforms. But there are also some notable absences, such as: Amanda notes, including companies like Niantic, Apple, Roblox, and Snapchat — who also build “metaverse” consumer products.
Does all that talk of digital experiences make you crave something tangible? Give Ikea’s new tool a spin. LaurenRecounting her experience with it, describes it as a way to visualize your own living space with furniture on your smartphone instead of traveling to an Ikea store. You’ll miss the Swedish meatballs, but the convenience might make up for that.
- Hot tub hacking machine: carly writes how a security researcher discovered vulnerabilities in Jacuzzi’s SmartTub interface that allowed access to each spa owner’s personal information. How shocking is that?
- Mac attack: Brian reviewed Apple’s M2-powered 13-inch MacBook Pro. The verdict? No spoilers, but the silicon is one of the few highlights in a largely incremental refresh.
- We don’t have the votes: In the face of numerous sexual harassment lawsuits and to researchActivision Blizzard has rejected an employee attempt to get a seat on the company’s board to represent the vote of the workforce. Unfortunately, only 5% of the shareholders voted in favour, Amanda writes, while the majority re-elected controversial CEO Bobby Kotick to the board of directors.
- Lawsuits galore: A black former employee at Tesla’s Fremont assembly plant has rejected a $15 million payout from the automaker in a lawsuit over racial abuse by co-workers, Rebecca reports. It is the latest legal dispute involving the company after two former employees filed a lawsuit alleging that the automaker failed to provide 60 days’ notice under federal law during its recent layoff.
- Nuclear glow: NASA has the moon in mind — and nuclear fission. This week, the agency announced that it is contracting three suppliers to provide concept designs for nuclear fission energy systems designed for use on the moon. Exciting stuff, given the potential. Read darrell‘s report for the overview.