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Showing posts from April, 2019

Elastic Acquires Endgame For $234 Million

Elastic -- a publicly traded company that builds custom search solutions for enterprises -- has announced it's acquiring cyber-security startup Endgame in an all-stock deal worth $234 million. The acquisition is subject to customary adjustments. Endgame has raised $111 million in total funding according to Crunchbase data. The $234 million acquisition price is a near 50% discount to a previous $465 million valuation (Pitchbook data).

Endgame's backers include Kleiner Perkins, Bessemer Venture Partners, Columbia Capital, Edgemore Capital, Savano Capital Partners and Paladin Capital Group. The Arlington, Virgina-based security startup's customers include the U.S. military and some Fortune 500 companies.


Elastic says the addition of Endgame will further advance its ability to offer a comprehensive security solution that's integrated with its own security information and event management (SIEM) products. "....By joining forces with Elastic, we will be able to take ou…

Eric Schmidt And Diane Greene To Step Down From Alphabet Board

Alphabet has announced that former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and ex-Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene will not seek re-elections to its board after the expiration of their current tenures on the 19th of June 2019. This entails Schmidt and Greene are stepping down after 18 years and 7 years on the company's board respectively. Schmidt who ran Google from July 2001 to April 2011 will continue as technical advisor to Alphabet.

Alphabet made this announcement while also announcing a new board member, Robin Washington, who notably serves as CFO of Gilead Sciences and is also a board member at Salesforce. She previously served in a number of executive positions at PeopleSoft and as CFO of enterprise software company Hyperion Solutions.


Greene stepped down as CEO of Google Cloud January this year to be replaced by ex-Oracle executive Thomas Kurian. She became CEO of Google Cloud in December 2015.



Altice Pays $200 Million For Cheddar

Altice USA has agreed to acquire Cheddar, the digital media company known for its millennial-focused news network available on lots of streaming networks and some cable systems. The cable operator is paying $200 million for Cheddar, with an acquisition expected to close in the next two months. Cheddar will be added to Altice's news offerings which include the News 12 and i24NEWS networks.

Cheddar CEO Jon Steinberg will join Altice USA to now lead its news division, consisting of Cheddar itself and the News12 and i24NEWS channels. Cheddar -- known for its flagship newscast on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange -- broadcasts 19 hours of live news via two networks each day. The company's viewership is most concentrated on ages 25-34. Cheddar also operates CheddarU, a closed-circuit network spanning 1,600 screens in public spaces at 600 college campuses.


Cheddar has some noteworthy links to BuzzFeed, another digital media company backed by $500 million in funding ac…

UiPath Raises $568 Million At $7 Billion Valuation

Robotic process automation (RPA) company UiPath has raised $568 million in Series D funding at a $7 billion post-money valuation. Coatue Management led the round, with participation from Dragoneer, Wellington, Sands Capital, funds advised by T. Rowe Price, and existing investors Sequoia Capital, Alphabet's CapitalG, Accel, IVP, and Madrona Venture Group.

New York-based UiPath has grown its employee count to more than 2,500, a 16x increase from when it closed Series A funding in April 2017. The company says its annual recurring revenue (ARR) has grown to over $200 million, having exceeded 400,000 users of its RPA software worldwide. As of recent, UiPath has attracted new customers like Google, Duracell, McDonalds, Uber, The US Navy, Virgin Media, and Orange. The company has now raised $1 billion in total funding according to Crunchbase data.


“UiPath is improving business performance, efficiency and operation in a way we’ve never seen before,” Coatue Management founder, Philippe La…

Samsung Records 60% YoY Drop In First Quarter Profit

Samsung Electronics has posted its financial results for the first quarter of this year, recording 52.4 trillion Korean Won ($45 billion) in revenue and 6.2 trillion Korean Won ($5.4 billion) in profit for the period. This is down 60% from last year's first quarter profit, attributable to a drop in memory chips prices and slowed display sales. Yet, Samsung said the newly launched Galaxy S10 logged strong sales.

Samsung's Display unit turned a quarterly loss, citing lowered demand for flexible displays and increasing market supplies for large displays. For its smartphone division, profitability declined year-on-year despite strong sales of the Galaxy S10. Samsung cites softer demand in the overall smartphone market and a revamping of its product line-up as a reason for this.


On the other hand, sales of premium TVs like QLED TVs and ultra-large size models contributed to year-on-year earnings growth in the company's Consumer Electronics (CE) Division. Samsung is projecting …

Vector Maker Anki Shuts Down

Anki, the San Francisco based robotics startup behind popular consumer robots like Vector and Anki and backed by nearly $200 million in funding according to Crunchbase data is shutting its doors and laying off its entire staff. Recode first reported this on Monday. According to its report, CEO Boris Sofman -- at a teary all-hands meeting - told Anki's staff (close to 200 employees) that they would be terminated on Wednesday and paid a week of severance.

The report also says Sofman had earlier told employees that the company was scrambling to find more funding after a new financing round receded at the last minute. This isn't a small shut-down as Anki said last fall it had "approached" $100 million in 2017 revenue and expected to surpass that figure in 2018. Anki's leadership had previously told employees that it was looking after acquisition interest from companies like Comcast, Microsoft, and Amazon.


Anki's consumer robots like Vector and Cozmo saw high sal…

Apple Defends Pulling Of Parental Control Apps

Apple has made an official statement blaming its removal of several parental control apps from the App Store on privacy and security concerns, after a piece from The New York Times generated attention over fears of Apple restricting competition. According to research from NYT and app-data firm Sensor Tower, Apple has restricted or removed at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded parental-control and screen-time apps on the App Store.

Among those affected is OurPact, the top parental control app with more than three million downloads on the App Store. Apple pulled the app from the App Store in February, putting a hold on what accounted for 80% of OurPact's revenue according to the New York Times article. Apple says the parental control apps affected made use of a "highly invasive" technology called 'Mobile Device Management (MDM)' which gives a third party control and access over a device and its sensitive information.


MDM is mainly used by businesses on enterprise …

Comparing The BMW M121 And P48 Engines

BMW has launched a new powerful engine -- the P48 -- that will make its debut in the BMW M4 DTM race-car when this season's Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) kicks off at the start of May. The new engine works thanks to BMW Turbo Power, an initiative that kicked off some 50 years ago.

Just like the P48, BMW debuted the M121 engine 50 years ago. But despite the long time difference, both engines are similar in some ways. They:
Are both straightHave four-cylinder engines with a two-litre capacity Have turbo chargersHave sensitive engine components that must be protected by a heat shield from the heat emitted by the turbo chargerCome with a mechanical injection pump that supplies the engine with fuel


On the other hand, there are notable differences between both. Components like the wet sump, boost valve, fan, ignition distributor, and direct charge air pipe have disappeared in the P48. More efficient methods have been developed to perform the same functions at even better rates. For…

Verkada Raises $40 Million At $540 Million Valuation

Verkada -- an enterprise video security startup that counts the co-founder of Meraki (acquired by Cisco for $1.2 billion in 2012), Hans Robertson among its founding team -- has raised $40 million in Series B funding co-led by Sequoia and Meritech at a $540 million valuation.  Existing investors First Round Capital and Next47 also participated in the round. Verkada previously raised $15 million in Series A funding April last year.

The company says it has now has more than 1,000 clients, including more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies. In simple terms, Verkada sells an end-to-end video security system that enables users monitor cameras on a centralized platform. The company's custom cameras offer up to 120 days of built-in storage and can also send footage to the cloud for back-up.


Verkada differentiates from competition with smart features like object detection and the ability to trigger alerts in the event of set unusual activities. Its security system's cloud-based managem…

PayPal To Take $500 Million Stake In Uber

Ahead of an IPO, Uber and PayPal have reached an agreement to extend its global payments partnership, with the latter agreeing to invest $500 million in the ride-hailing company. PayPal is paying $47 per share for a $500 million stake in Uber, giving the company a valuation of $78.8 billion.

This purchase is similar to one made by Salesforce in video-conferencing company Zoom ahead of its just recent public market debut. Salesforce invested $100 million in Zoom before the company debuted on the Nasdaq Stock Market. PayPal's Uber investment was announced by CEO Dan Schulman in a LinkedIn post and also made known in Uber's S-1 filing.


Schulman's post said both companies "intend to explore future commercial payment collaborations,", including working on Uber's digital wallet. Not much was made known in the announcement. Uber is set to debut soon on the public markets along with other companies like Slack and Fastly which recently filed for IPOs.

Slack and Uber h…

More Details From Slack's S-1 Filing

Slack has officially filed to go public via a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange. As usual, a company's S-1 filing reveals several key details about its operations. A previous article made note of some stats revealed by Slack in its filing like revenue, amount of users, amount of paying customers, executive compensation, and stakes held by VC funds. But there's more info in Slack's S-1 filing. They include:
$180.8 million cash and cash equivalents held (as of January 31, 2019)$8.8 million committed so far to The Slack Fund, a VC style fund it holds 52% voting interest in. The Slack Fund was established in partnership with Kleiner Perkins, Spark Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, Index Ventures, and Social Capital who are all also investors in Slack$10.1 million total invested in 46 companies from The Slack Fund$157.5 million R&D spend for the year ended January 31, 2019, compared to $141.3 million in 2018 and $96.7 million in 2017$233.2 million sales and m…

Slack Files To Go Public

Slack has filed to go public via a direct listing on the NYSE, adding to the list of expected IPOs this year that includes other notable names like Uber and Fastly. The company is planning to list Class A common stock directly on the public markets just like Spotify did last year. As always, Slack's S-1 filing revealed some key stats previously not public information about the company. They include:
$400.6 million revenue for the year ended January 31, 2019, up from $220.5 million in 2018 and $105.1 million in 2017$138.9 million loss for the year ended January 31, 2019, compared to $140 million in 2018 and $146.9 million in 201788,000 paying customers customers in 2019, compared to 59,000 in 2018 and 37,000 in 2017575 paying customers (more than $100,000) in 2019, compared to 298 in 2018 and 135 in 2017More than 450,000 third-party apps currently used by organizations on SlackMore than 36% of revenue gotten outside the U.S.600,000 organizations -- with three or more users -- make …

Carbon Seeking Up To $300 Million In Funding

According to a piece from Pitchbook, 3D printing startup Carbon is seeking up to $300 million in Series E funding that could value the company at $2.5 billion, up from a previous $1.7 billion valuation. The company has already scooped up some $422 million in funding according to Crunchbase data.

Founded in 2013, Silicon Valley based Carbon manufactures 3D printers and makes other hardware and software for the 3D printing industry. The company partners with customers like Aptiv, Adidas, Proterra, Ford, Delphi, and Oracle to develop custom 3D solutions for their industries. For an example, it recently partnered with sports equipment manufacturer Riddell to 3D print custom football helmet liners.


Carbon is backed by the likes of Baillie Gifford, Emerson Collective, Sequoia Capital, Silver Lake Kraftwerk, GE Ventures, Adidas (via its VC arm Hydra Ventures), Johnson & Johnson, and Fidelity. The company's board includes CEO Joseph DeSimone, Sequoia's Jim Goetz, Adidas executiv…

Magic Leap Raises $280 Million From Japan's Docomo

Magic Leap has raised $280 million in funding from NTT Docomo, Japan's largest mobile operator, and partnered with the company for use of its products in Japan. Docomo will be the exclusive telecom partner of Magic Leap in the country and work together with the company to create a media platform that'll utilise Magic Leap devices and Docomo's planned 5G network.

Magic Leap and Docomo will also collaborate to customize the AR device manufacturer's operating system for the Japanese market. Magic Leap is getting access to Docomo's 70 million customer base as part of this partnership. The company says the partnership also furthers the realization of "Magicverse", its planned virtual world that harnesses  the field of augmented reality.


Magic Leap has now raised $2.6 billion in total funding according to Crunchbase data. Other notable investors in the company include Google, Alibaba, Fidelity, Grupo Globo, Vulcan Capital, Obvious Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz…

Starry Raising Up To $125 Million At $870 Million Valuation

According to a Delaware stock authorization filing unearthed by Pitchbook, Starry -- a wireless broadband internet service startup that offers its service to consumers for $50 a month -- is raising up to $125 million in Series D funding that could value it at $870 million post-money (if Starry raises the full intended amount).

This is in addition to more than $160 million already raised by Starry since its launch in 2016. The Boston based company is backed by investors including Tiger Global, KKR, Fidelity, IAC, Firstmark Capital, and Quantum Strategic Partners. In the past year, Starry expanded outside its home market of Boston into NYC, LA, Denver, and DC.


Starry claims its $50 per month bundle offers customers up to 200 Mbps download/upload speed, and a no-data caps, no-contract, no-hidden fees plan. The company developed its entire tech stack -- consisting of the network node (Starry Beam), a transceiver (Starry Point), and in-home WiFi hub (Starry Station) -- in house.

Starry is…

Comcast Reportedly In Talks To Sell Hulu Stake To Disney

Just after AT&T sold back its 9.5% stake in Hulu to the company for $1.43 billion, Comcast is reportedly in talks to sell its 30% stake in the video streaming service to Disney (a majority shareholder in Hulu). The report comes from CNBC which says Comcast is now weighing the pros and cons of selling its stake now rather than later.

The 9.5% stake sold back to Hulu recently at a $15 billion valuation is set to be split between Disney and Comcast, unless Disney gets hold of the entire company. After Comcast agreed to acquire NBCUniversal in 2011, the company was barred from having influence in Hulu's strategy. This went on till 2018 when the decree phased out.


But just as Comcast was due to have a say, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox and got its 30% stake in Hulu in addition to its previous 30% stake, making it a majority shareholder in Hulu. This may have led to lesser power by Comcast over Hulu's strategy.

Assuming the recent valuation of $15 billion, Comcast -- which h…

Coursera Raises $103 Million Series E

Coursera has announced it has raised $103 million in Series E funding led by education focused company Seek Group, with participation from existing investors NEA and Future Fund. A TechCrunch article says the company is now valued at 'well over' $1 billion, citing a source close to Coursera.

Coursera says its user base has grown from 26 million to 40 million since it last raised funding in 2017. It now has 3,200 courses and 310 specializations available on its platform. Coursera has partnered with top learning institutions like the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins, and Columbia University to offer courses to its users.


The company not only meets individual needs but also has an enterprise solution users by more than 1,800 companies to educate their employees. Coursera is backed by other notable VCs like GSV Capital, Learn Capital, New Enterprise Associates, and Kleiner Perkins.



Samsung To Invest $116 Billion In Chip Businesses Through 2030

Samsung has announced it's investing 133 trillion South Korean Won ($116 billion) in its chip businesses through 2030, with plans to create 15,000 jobs in research and development to strengthen its tech. Out of the total, 73 trillion South Korean Won (nearly $64 billion) is geared for domestic R&D while the remainder 60 trillion South Korean Won (roughly $52 billion) is set for investments in domestic infrastructure.

Samsung has been a powerhouse in the chip manufacturing scene, with its prowess enabling it debut products like the Galaxy Fold, Galaxy A80Galaxy A50 and A30 and a collection of wearables recently. The Korean company recently kicked off mass production of 5G chipsets, a market competitor Intel recently opted out of.


This investment commitment comes a few days after Samsung announced it's delaying the launch of the Galaxy Fold amid reports of breakdowns during tests.



Getaround Acquires Drivy For $300 Million

Getaround has announced an acquisition of Drivy -- a carsharing service operating in six European countries -- for $300 million. With this acquisition, Getaround is expanding internationally from the U.S. for the first time, now operating in 300 cities across the U.S. and Europe. Both companies have more than five million users between them.

Paris headquartered Drivy has presence in France, Spain, Austria, Germany, Belgium, and the U.K. It offers a similar carsharing service just like Getaround does in the U.S. This merger creates a leading carsharing company on a global scale. Post-acquisition, Drivy CEO Paulin Dementhon will remain in his role, heading Getaround's operations in Europe. Drivy's executive team will also remain in their roles.


Drivy currently employs 130 people in officies in Paris, London, Barcelona and Berlin. The company says it has 2.5 million users who share some 55,000 cars available on its platform.



Ford Invests $500 Million In Rivian

Just a while after raising a $700 million round led by Amazon, Rivian Automotive -- an electric vehicle manufacturer expected to launch its first vehicle in 2020 -- has raised $500 million from Ford and agreed to work together to develop a new electric vehicle for the Detroit based auto manufacturer using its modular platform. Ford's president of Automotive, Joe Hinrichs will be joining Rivian's board as part of this investment.

Ford intends to develop an electric vehicle based on Rivian's platform in addition to its plans to develop a portfolio of EVs. The company has already confirmed two fully electric vehicles -- a Mustang-based crossover and an electric version of the F-150 pickup -- in the works. Rivian itself is working on two electric vehicles -- a five-passenger pickup and a seven-passenger SUV -- that it aims to deliver beginning late next year.


Rivian says its new vehicles will deliver up to 400-plus miles of range on full charge. The company currently has deve…

SoFi Reportedly In Talks For $500 Million Round From Qatar

According to a Bloomberg piece, SoFi is in talks to raise $500 million from the Qatar Investment Authority and other investors, citing four persons familiar with the matter. The report says the funding would value SoFi at an amount similar to the $4.3 billion valuation it garnered after a $500 million investment in 2017.

Investors were said to be asking for more protections should SoFi raise money or get acquired for a lower price tag in the future, in order to raise at the same valuation. Terms of the deal haven't been finalized and are subject to change. SoFi has raised $1.9 billion in total equity funding so far. The company originated $3.6 billion in loans in the first quarter of 2018, up 27% from the same period in 2017.


Investors in SoFi include Softbank, Silver Lake Partners, DCM Ventures, Third Point Ventures, Manhattan Venture Partners and RSC Capital.



Jyoti Bansal's Harness Raises $60 Million Series B

Harness - a DevOps startup founded and led by Jyoti Bansal, notably the former CEO and founder of app monitoring company AppDynamics which sold to Cisco for $3.7 billion in 2017 -- has raised $60 million Series B funding led by Alphabet's GV, IVP, and ServiceNow Ventures, with participation from existing investors Menlo Ventures and Unusual Ventures (a VC firm co-founded by Bansal).

The company was valued at $500 million with this round according to a Techcrunch piece. Harness has now raised some $80 million in total funding according to Crunchbase data. The company says it'll make use of this new funding to expand investment in R&D and scale is engineering, sales, and customer success teams. Since launch, Harness has attracted customers like SoulCycle, Bank of Santander, Home Depot, McAfee, and Beachbody.


In simple terms, Harness makes of machine learning and AI to automate software deployments and also check for defaults for companies. The company claims its customers h…

Facebook Hires Top Attorney Jennifer Newstead As General Counsel

Facebook has announced it has hired Jennifer Newstead, the Legal Adviser to the United States Department of State, as its general counsel, replacing Colin Stretch who announced his planned departure from Facebook July last year. Stretch will stay at Facebook through summer to aid the transition.

Newstead earlier in her career served in some senior roles in the U.S. government, including as a Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, General Counsel of the Office of Management and Budget, and an Associate White House Counsel. She has quite a history, having helped bring about the U.S.A. Patriot Act according to a 2002 press release.


The Patriot Act is an Act signed into law by former U.S. President George W. Bush in October 2001 in response to the September 11 attacks and the 2001 anthrax attacks. It involved the permission to use make use of surveillance "against more crimes of terror", "obtain a search warrant anywhere a terrorist-…

KeepTruckin Raises $149 Million Series D At $1.25 Billion Valuation

KeepTruckin -- a San Francisco based provider of fleet management software for the trucking industry -- has raised $149 million in Series D funding led by Greenoaks Capital, with participation from existing investors Index Ventures, Alphabet's GV, Scale Venture Partners, and IVP. This round brings the total raised by KeepTruckin to $228 million and values it at $1.25 billion, as confirmed by CEO Shoiab Makani to TechCrunch.

KeepTruckin -- whose software is used on more than 250,000 vehicles -- says it'll use the funds to fuel its growth via hiring, investing in hardware, furthering advancements in machine learning, and building partnerships. The company doubled its global headcount across seven offices in the past year and says software from its App Marketplace are now used in more than 130,00 trucks.The company's fleet management system help with tasks like navigation, maintenance, and fuel management.


September last year, On-demand trucking startup Convoy (also backed b…

Samsung Delays Launch Of Galaxy Fold

Samsung has delayed the launch of the Galaxy Fold, the foldable smartphone it unveiled in February amid reports of breakdowns during tests ahead of an official launch previously scheduled for the 26th of April. Samsung says initial findings from the assessment of report issues on the phone's display showed that the breakdowns could be linked to impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge.

The company also said there was an instance where substances founded inside the device affected the performance of its display. "We will take measures to strengthen the display protection. We will also enhance the guidance on care and use of the display including the protective layer so that our customers get the most out of their Galaxy Fold." Samsung said in a statement.


The company says some reviews showed "how the device needs further improvements that could ensure the best possible user experience" and that it plans to announce a new release date "in the…

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Angela Ahrendts Joins Airbnb's Board

Airbnb has added former Apple retail chief and ex Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts to its board. She'll serve as the company's third independent non-affiliated board member, the other two being former American Express CEO Ken Chenault and former Pixar Studios CFO Ann Mather (who also serves on the boards of Netflix, Alphabet, Arista Networks, Glu Mobile and Shutterfly).

Ahrendts led global retail at Apple for five years before stepping down this year to be replaced by three decade running Apple Veteran Deirdre O’Brien. Prior to Apple, she spent eight years as CEO of British luxury brand Burberry. She also spent 25 years in New York as an executive at fashion brand Liz Claiborne and as President of Donna Karan International prior to Burberry.


Other notable Airbnb board members include LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Sequoia's Alfred Lin, Andreessen Horowitz's Jeff Jordan, and co-founders Joe Gebbia, Brian Chesky, and Nathan Blecharczyk.



Boosted Boards Nabs $60 Million Series B Funding

Electric skateboard manufacturer Boosted has raised $60 million Series B funding co-led by Khosla Ventures and iNovia Capital with participation from existing investors Stanford-StartX Fund and Bay Meadows. This rounds brings the total raised by Boosted to over $70 million and will see former Google CFO and iNovia partner Patrick Pichette move from an existing independent board position at the company to a preferred board seat.

"Today’s generation is quickly adopting light electric vehicles as a superior way to commute, saving both time and money over existing options while enjoying the ride," Boosted CEO Jeff Russakow says. "However, the majority of lightweight vehicles on the street today are leisure-grade or toy-grade products, when riders need vehicle-grade products that provide exceptional acceleration and braking performance, safety, durability, and superior design."


"Boosted has been perfecting street-quality technologies for the electric skateboard ma…

Meet goPuff, A Low-key Delivery Company Worth $1 Billion

The food-delivery market is one with intense competition. The likes of DoorDash, Uber Eats, Postmates, Deliveroo, Swiggy, Just Eat, Yelp Eat 24, and more are steadily competing for global market share while also raising huge funding. Just recently, Deliveroo raised $575 million in a round led by Amazon. DoorDash has also raised $600 million Series G funding at a $12.6 billion valuation.

Amid the intense battle, it turns out there's one hot startup that has stayed low key to avoid the eye of rivals, but it seems word is getting out. That low-key hot startup is goPuff, on-demand convenience store delivery app that was valued at $1 billion last November after a financing round, according to regulatory filings reviewed by The Information. goPuff ships products to customers from centrally located facilities -- as opposed to direct pickup from stores -- in 81 U.S. cities.


The company -- based in Philadelphia -- stocks more than 3,000 products at its facilities which it then ships to cu…

Private equity giant Hellman & Friedman buys into home security startup SimpliSafe at a reported $1 Billion Valuation

image credit : SimpliSafe

Boston based home security startup SimpliSafe which provides self-installed security systems which are used by a huge number of homes in the U.S. has now sold a major interest in the company to Global private equity and investment giant Hellman & Friedman for an undisclosed sum which according to various sources values the company at a huge $1 Billion

The company which last raised $57 million in a Sequioa Capital led round and has been growing very well with the company counting over 300,000 customers as far as 2015 and a vast number of consumers currently making use of its suite of home security products.

This majority acquisition represents another move by Hellman & Friedman making huge acquisitions and bets in the technology space with the investment company's tech portfolio including notable companies like DoubleClick, Getty Images, Customer experience solutions company Genesys amidst other of its notable investments.

SimpliSafe will now conti…

Affirm Raises $300 Million Thrive Capital Led Round

Affirm - the online lending startup led by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin - has raised $300 million Series F funding led by Joshua Kushner's Thrive Capital, with participation from new investors Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures, Baillie Gifford, Wellington Management and Fidelity, and returning investors GIC, Founders Fund, Spark Capital, Ribbit Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Moore Asset Backed Fund.

Affirm has now raised $800 million in total funding, with this round valuing the company at $2.9 billion according to Axios. Thrive Capital is getting a board seat at Affirm with its investment. The company has also announced new additions to its board and executive team. Former Groupon executive Silvija Martincevic is joining as Chief Commercial Officer, former PayPal executive Greg Fisher is joining as Chief Marketing Officer, ex OpenTable CEO Christa Quarles is joining as an independent board member.


Affirm, which allows its customers get loans of up to $15…

Wall Street Arrange Big Loans For China's Unicorns

Several investment banks -- like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley -- are known to have arranged big loans for U.S. tech unicorns. Companies that have taken on such big loans include the likes of Uber, Opendoor, WeWork, Dropbox, SpaceX, SoFi and Affirm to name a few. But recently, China's Bytedance got a $1.34 billion loan from a group dominated by Wall Street banks, pointing to a new area of interest from Wall Street lenders; Chinese companies.

China's tech unicorns are not conventionally known for taking on big loans, but this may be changing, with a Bloomberg piece stating that Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are arranging an up to $1 billion debt facility for Chinese real estate brokerage Beike Zhaofang, not too long after the brokerage secured $800 million in funding. Bloomberg also says Guazi -- fresh off  $1.5 billion in funding from Softbank earlier this year -- is in talks with banks for a credit facility of up to $400 million.


With historically low borrowing costs, …

Grab Reportedly Eyeing Banking License

According to a Reuters report, Grab -- the Singapore-based ride-hailing company valued at $14 billion -- is considering getting a banking license to offer online-banking services in Singapore as regulators in the city-state consider allowing online-only banks to operate. Reuters says Grab is close to enlisting a consultancy to give advice on its banking potential and is preparing to apply for a digital-only bank license if Singapore regulators open up the sector.

If this happens, it'll mark Grab's first foray into banking, not surprising given its massive funding ($8.8 billion total, according to Crunchbase data). Grab may be looking for ways to expand its reach and market prospects, with digital banking being attractive thanks to Southeast Asia’s growing payments market.


The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said last month that it was looking into the potential for letting “digital-only banks with non-bank parentage” into Singapore's market. According to Reuters, th…

Hyundai Takes Stake In Aurora

Shortly after Aurora partnered with Fiat Chrysler to develop self-driving vehicles, Hyundai has announced it has invested an undisclosed sum in Aurora, cementing a strategic partnership -- to work on self-driving technologies -- formed between both parties in 2018. With this investment, Hyundai and Aurora have agreed to expand research to other vehicle models, with the latter now working to build a custom self-driving platform for Hyundai and -- its subsidiary brand -- Kia's driverless vehicles.

Hyundai says its self-driving vehicles will "enhance their ability to monitor, react, and adapt to different surroundings" with the addition of "Driver", Aurora's self-driving stack. This stack is what Aurora earlier agreed to sell to Fiat Chrysler. Hyundai has made some waves in the driverless vehicle world, having successfully demonstrated self-driving tech in urban environments at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The company also debuted a fleet of driv…

Volvo And Uber Debut New Automated Car

Volvo and Uber have teamed up for a new self-driving car that'll be equipped with self-driving features at the factory level as opposed to fitting already made cars with Uber's own self-driving technology. The new vehicle is a Volvo XC90 SUV that the automaker says is "capable of fully driving itself" when combined with technology developed by Uber ATG.

The new self-driving vehicle is equipped with more safety features, the most prominent being back-up systems for steering and braking functions. The systems are designed to get the vehicle to a halt if any of its primary systems fail. There's also battery back-up power for the vehicles.


Volvo and Uber entered a commercial agreement in 2016 for Volvo to supply tens of thousands of self-driving vehicles in coming years. This new vehicle is based on the partnership.

Volvo plans to put this new vehicle to work by 2020.



Juul Sales Boom

According to a Bloomberg piece, popular e-cigarette maker Juul has told investors that sales have gotten stronger after a short period of lowered sales late last year, due to a pulling off of some flavored vape products in the U.S. stemming from increasing popularity with underage users. According to Bloomberg, Juul said -- in a letter to investors -- that its first quarter sales were $528 million, up 23% from $430 million a year earlier.

Juul was previously reported to be expecting $3.4 billion in sales this year. An earlier conference call from Altria -- which purchased 35% of Juul for $12.8 billion in December -- said Juul sold 175 million refill pods in the U.S. in Q1, up from 64 million a year earlier. In Q4 2018, Juul told investors it had $70.4 million in adjusted losses and more than $700 million cash on hand.


But increased sales come with increased scrutiny. Juul is facing increased probes from regulators in the U.S., India and other places, with critics saying the company h…