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Showing posts from September, 2019

Revolut To Hire 3,500 Staff For Global Expansion

Revolut, a British fintech startup valued at $1.7 billion, has announced it'll hire 3,500 staff to cater for expansion into 24 new markets, thanks to a new partnership with payments giant Visa. Leveraging Visa's brand, scale, and global footprint, Revolut will launch in 24 new countries, starting in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and the U.S. [by the end of this year] This would be in addition to 34 markets Revolut already operates in. In a statement to Reuters, Revolut CEO Nikolay Storonsky indicated the company will hire 3,500 persons to cater for its expansion. “We are around 1500 people now and by summer next year we plan to be around 5000,” he said.

Revolut's global expansion on the shoulders of Visa is built atop an already existing (four-year) partnership between both companies. Revolut began in 2015, has grown at a break-neck speed, and has been able to issue cards to its customers across Europe thanks to Visa. Revolut also levera…

Apple Will Reportedly Release Originals In Theaters Before Streaming

According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, Apple, which recently unveiled a new streaming service featuring exclusive productions from Hollywood bigwigs like Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and J.J. Abrams, will debut its feature-length films in theaters before making them available for streaming. According to the Journal, Apple has made precursory approaches to cinema chains and also consulted with an entertainment executive as it pursues a plan to keep its originals in theaters for weeks before they're made available on AppleTV+, its recently unveiled streaming app.

The Journal reports Apple is currently reaching out to theater-industry representatives, and plans to release its movies first in cinemas in order to avoid the tension created by another tech giant with major Hollywood ties; Netflix. Netflix typically asks theater owners to debut its movies at the same time they're made available for streaming, an approach that limits its ability to debut movies …

Docker Trying To Raise Cash Amid "Significant Challenges"

Docker, a one-time superhot cloud software startup that cracked a $1 billion valuation in 2015, is apparently having some struggles, with CNBC reporting of a company-wide email that acknowledged challenges as Docker tries to raise more funding. In an email [viewed and reported by CNBC] sent to Docker employees, its CEO Rob Bearden, who took up the position in May, thanked employees for “persevering in spite of the lack of clarity we’ve had these past few weeks.” He also made mention of  “uncertainty” at Docker, that “brings with it significant challenges”.
“As shared at the last All Hands, we have been engaging with investors to secure more financing to continue to execute on our strategy.” Bearden, who is Docker's fourth CEO since inception, and most recently served as CEO at Hortonworks, said. “I wanted to share a quick update on where we stand. We are currently in active negotiations with two investors and are working through final terms.” He said.

Although Docker has seen muc…

Vox Media Scoops Up New York Media

Vox Media, a New York-based digital media company that's behind popular news sites like The Verge, SB Nation, Recode, and Eater, has announced it has acquired New York Media, the publisher of the popular New York Magazine, alongside other well-known brands like The StrategistVulture, Intelligencer, Grub Street, and The Cut. The acquisition price is not disclosed, but the Wall Street Journal reports it was an all-stock deal valued at $105 million. According to the Journal, the acquisition would give New York Media about 12% ownership in a combined entity consisting of Vox Media's and New York Media's media properties. In simple terms, the acquisition is said to be more of a merger between both companies than an outright acquisition that'll involve one party becoming a subsidiary of the other.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the all-stock acquisition valued Vox Media at $750 million, down from roughly $1 billion in 2015. However, stock deals of such nature usual…

WeWork Has Reportedly Considered Laying Off One-Third Of Its Employees

According to a report from The Information, WeWork, whose CEO Adam Neumann just stepped down amid an IPO debacle, has considered laying off as many as 5,000 employees, one-third of its workforce, to cut costs. The Information reports WeWork's executives discussed ways to reduce costs with bankers, and came up with the lay-off consideration. Other cost-cutting ideas also said to have been discussed includes slowing its expansion and shuttering side business related to education and housing. Such moves are likely aimed at restoring investor confidence after a cold reception stemming from its S-1 filing.

A 5,000-person layoff doesn't sound at all good, and may count as one of the highest headcount cuts in a long time. However, with skyrocketing losses, it wouldn't be really surprising if WeWork pulls such a move. Companies looking to go public or those that have already gone public often look for ways to cut losses in order to bolster investor confidence, one example being U…

Amazon Rivals Revealed To Be Secret Funders Of Anti-Amazon Non-Profit

The Free & Fair Markets Initiative is a non-profit group that's been behind campaigns criticizing the business practices of Amazon, with complaints ranging from hurting of small businesses to lobby dealings, working conditions and monopoly concerns, according to its own website. The Free & Fair Markets Initiative (FFMI for short), which abides by the slogan "Fighting for Competition & Protecting Consumers", launched a national campaign 18 months ago that criticized Amazon's business practices, accusing the company of stifling competition, limiting consumer choice, ravening on government subsidies, endangering warehouse workers and exposing consumer data to privacy breaches.

FFMI claimed to have grass roots support from average citizens across the US. On the "About Us" section of its website, it describes itself as a "nonprofit watchdog committed to scrutinizing Amazon’s harmful practices and promoting a fair, modern marketplace that works …

Airbnb Employees Are Said To Be Disgruntled With IPO Delays

On Thursday, Airbnb issued a statement that said it plans to go public next year. The statement was brief, with just 15 words of main content, and somewhat unusual for a company. Companies usually give signs before going public but not really in a way Airbnb did so. A statement such as Airbnb's hinted of a case of "more than meets the eye", and that may just be the case, in the light of a New York Times report that said several Airbnb employees were somewhat frustrated with the inability to cash in their shares, and pushed for an IPO to happen. Airbnb's statement was likely a way of assuring such employees that they'll have the opportunity to reap monetary gains from their holdings next year.

According to The New York Times, several Airbnb employees wrote a letter to the company's founders last summer, adjuring to be able to sell their Airbnb stock options. With Airbnb being privately held, its shares cannot be easily traded or cashed in. As per The New York…

Fitbit Said To Be Exploring Sale

According to a Reuters report, Fitbit has held discussions with Qatalyst Partners, a famed investment bank that's been involved in the sale of several tech companies, to consider if it should engage with potential acquirers. Reuters reports Qatalyst has been seeking to persuade Fitbit to explore sale options, arguing it could be of acquisition interest from Google parent Alphabet as well as private equity firms. Fitbit's stock jumped more than 20% in light of Reuters' report, and (as of writing) trades at $4.10 per share, with a market cap hovering near $1.1 billion. This is in contrast to its 2015 IPO debut at $20 a share, with a market cap of $4.1 billion.

Several earnings misses and decreasing revenue in the face of heightened competition have plunged Fitbit's stock from an all-time high of $47.60 to a current $4. Such low stock price makes Fitbit a possible acquisition target for private equity firms looking to acquire, manage and later flip for a higher price, or…

Procore Has Reportedly Tapped Goldman Sachs For An IPO

According to a Bloomberg report, Procore, a provider of cloud-based construction management software that was valued at $3 billion late last year, has tapped investment bank Goldman Sachs to lead an IPO that could value it at more than $4 billion. Bloomberg reports Procore is on track to generate more than $400 million in revenue this year, making a $4 billion+ IPO valuation very plausible. Procore may even be heading for a blockbuster IPO given the positive performance of several enterprise software companies that have recently gone public. Take two examples; Cloudflare surged 20% on its market debut, Datadog surged 39% during its debut, and was said to have rebuffed a $7 billion+ acquisition offer from Cisco prior to going public.

Generally, enterprise-focused startups have fared well on the public markets, but that hasn't been the case for several consumer-focused startups, take for example; Lyft, Uber, and SmileDirectClub, which currently trade at prices below that which they…

Cisco Reportedly Offered $7 Billion+ For Datadog Before IPO

Late last month, Datadog filed for an IPO, and just went public with a quite blockbuster IPO that saw its stock surge 39% on the Nasdaq stock exchange. New York-based Datadog closed at $37.55 after opening at a slightly higher $40.35 during its market debut on Thursday. At the end of Thursday, Datadog had a market cap of nearly $11 billion.

Some few moments before Datadog went public, a Bloomberg report said Cisco offered to acquire the company for a value significantly higher than the $7 billion valuation it had aimed for its public debut, but got rebuffed as Datadog felt it could be worth more than that as a public company over time. With Datadog now public, talks between both companies are likely no longer active. A $7 billion acquisition would have been one of the highest and most talked out tech exits this year as such acquisitions are rare and hardly seen. Such acquisition would have been similar to that of Qualtrics, which got scooped up for $8 billion by SAP a few moments bef…

Airbnb Plans To Go Public Next Year

Airbnb has announced an intention to go public next year, putting to rest several speculations concerning a future IPO. Airbnb's press release, which announced its plan, was brief and precise, with just 15 words of main content. Not long ago, Airbnb was reported to have recorded a 40% year-on-year revenue increase in the first quarter of this year, coupled with a 31% surge in gross bookings. The San Francisco-based company reportedly had about $3.5 billion in cash on its balance sheet as of Q1 end.

Airbnb is one company investors might be drooling for, thanks to being profitable and cash flow positive, unlike many of the tech companies that have gone public this year. This year has witnessed the IPOs of top tech companies like Uber, Lyft, Cloudflare, Datadog, Zoom, Pinterest, Slack and several more. However, out of the aforementioned companies, Zoom currently stands as the only profitable one, with the rest having racked up losses ranging from relatively moderate amounts to as hi…

Postmates Raises $225 Million, Valued At $2.4 Billion

Following reports of Postmates having held acquisition talks even after earlier confidentially filing for a public offering, the San Francisco-based food delivery startup has raised $225 million in funding from private equity firm GPI Capital at a $2.4 billion valuation, up from $1.85 billion earlier this year. According to Forbes, which first carried the news of Postmates' new funding, the capital infusion comes at the 11th hour of a possible IPO by Postmates. After confidentially filing for an IPO in February, Postmates delayed a public market debut but was later reported to be planning to unveil its IPO prospectus this month.

Prior to this funding, Postmates had raised nearly $700 million in total funding. An 11th hour pre-IPO financing isn't unheard of, with some companies having done that in past time. Such occurrence could signify a company needing to add more cash to its coffers or looking to boost its valuation ahead of an IPO. However, there's no certainty Postma…

Stripe Is Raising $250 Million At A $35 Billion Valuation

Payments company Stripe has announced it's raising $250 million in additional financing at a pre-money valuation of $35 billion, up from $22.5 billion when it raised funding early this year. Investors in Stripe's new round include blue-chip VCs like General Catalyst, Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz. The San Francisco-based company says it'll use the new capital to accelerate its growth in three key areas; international expansion, its product suite and enterprise capabilities.

Stripe has invested heavily in international expansion, and just recently launched in 8 new countries. The company says it'll expand to more "in the coming months", with a target to be operational in 40 countries by year end. It also says there are "many more launches" planned for next year. With majority (5 out of 6) of  new internet users coming online from areas outside of North America and Western Europe, Stripe has a promising target in the form of growing digital…

Automattic Raises $300 Million Series D From Salesforce

Automattic, the San Francisco-based company behind popular web publishing platform WordPress, has announced it has raised $300 million in Series D funding from Salesforce Ventures. The funding values Automattic at $3 billion post-money, up from $1.16 billion when it last raised funding in 2014. The funding will help fuel Automattic's growth, allowing it to scale its business and continue to invest in the WordPress ecosystem, according to its CEO Matt Mullenweg. Currently, WordPress powers 34% of all sites on the web, according to Automattic.

Automattic's last known funding was a $160 million Series C in 2014 that catapulted it into unicorn status. Prior to that round, the company had raised relatively lesser amounts in funding. Automattic is quite unique, not only from a funding perspective, but for its corporate structure. Although it maintains an office in San Francisco, all of Automattic's employees, 900 in number, work remotely. Interestingly, they're spread acros…

AB5 Signed Into Law

Assembly Bill 5 (popularly known by its initials AB5), a bill introduced early this year in the state of California that focused on gig worker protections, has been signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom. This comes shortly after the bill was approved in the California State Assembly and Senate. AB5 generated much attention, thanks in part to large gig employers like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash being involved. Such companies connect customers with on-demand services (e.g. ride-hailing and food delivery) being offered by workers, who are normally classified as independent contractors. But with AB5 signed into law, such companies would have to reclassify workers as normal employees in the state of California. Essentially, that Uber driver or DoorDash courier would be classified as a full employee that's entitled to several benefits under this law.

Shortly before AB5 passed the California State Assembly and Senate, Uber, Lyft and DoorDash put together a $90 million fund to…

Facebook Said To Be Working With Luxottica To Make AR Glasses

According to a report from CNBC, Facebook has partnered with Luxottica to develop augmented-reality glasses that are designed to replace smartphones. For those not familiar, Luxottica is the world's largest eyewear company, that's behind several eyewear brands including the famous "Ray-Ban" collection. According to CNBC, Facebook has been working to develop AR glasses out of its Facebook Reality Labs in Redmond, Washington, but faced struggles that have led it to seek help from a company like Luxottica. CNBC reports Facebook hopes a partnership with Luxottica will get its AR glasses completed and ready for consumers between 2023 and 2025.

According to CNBC, the glasses are internally codenamed "Orion", and would allow users to take calls, see information in a small display and live-stream their camera feed to social media friends and connections. CNBC previously reported of Facebook developing an AI voice assistant that'll serve as user input for the g…

Juul Sales Ceased In China Days After Launch

Just days after entering the Chinese market, Juul has halted sales in the country, with its products pulled from JD.com and Alibaba's Tmall, two of the biggest Chinese e-commerce marketplaces. No official reason for the halt was provided, but a statement from a Juul spokesperson hinted of regulatory issues. “While Juul products are not currently available on e-commerce Web sites in China, we look forward to continued dialogue with stakeholders so that we can make our products available again,” a spokeswoman for Juul said in a statement.

Juul's products became available in China beginning on the 9th of September, but suddenly disappeared from Chinese e-commerce sites on Tuesday. The company's move into China happens to be at a time it's facing regulatory scrutiny in the U.S., with the Trump Administration having made plans to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes. The renewed scrutiny from the U.S. government came amid recorded cases of deaths from vaping-related …

Fair Raises $500 Million In Debt Financing

Fair, a Santa Monica-based car leasing startup, has announced $500 million in debt financing led by Mizuho Bank, with participation from Softbank and other unnamed credit providers. This follows a $100 million debt facility closed over the summer, and a $50 million increase to its credit line with Silicon Valley Bank in July. Fair also has credit lines from Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs, and previously raised $385 million in Series B funding led by Softbank.

Fair will use the new capital to expand its Uber partnership, which involves leasing cars on flexible terms to Uber drivers. Fair's appeal is its more-flexible-than-normal car leasing model that allows its customers lease a car for as long as they want and be able to cancel any time, in contrast with the long-term commitments of conventional car-leasing services. Thanks to its partnership with Uber, drivers looking to earn money through ride-sharing can easily lease a car and then drive for Uber, being able to cancel the le…

GitLab Raising Funding At A $2.6 Billion Valuation

GitLab has authorized the issuance of $268 million worth of shares that'll value it at $2.55 billion, according to a filing reviewed by the Prime Unicorn Index. Basically, it means the company, which was valued at more than $1 billion last year, plans to raise up to $268 million in funding at a $2.55 billion valuation. However, there's no guarantee the full amount will be raised, as it's dependent on investor interest and demand. GitLab was valued at $1.1 billion after it raised $100 million in Series D funding last September. ICONIQ Capital, an investment firm known to manage money for several Silicon Valley bigwigs, led that round.

If GitLab successfully raises at its targeted $2.55 billion valuation, it would mean a more than double in valuation in a single year, a very impressive feat for a startup. This is just a speculation, but GitLab may have seen a strong increase in user numbers after the acquisition of GitHub, another web-based Git repository, by Microsoft last…

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Velodyne Aims For Reverse Public Listing

Velodyne, the lidar manufacturer backed by among others Ford and Chinese search giant Baidu, is in talks for a reverse listing with Graf Industrial Corp in order to debut on the public markets, according to a source familiar with the matter. Graf is working with an adviser on a possible merger with Velodyne, according to our source. Last year, Velodyne was reported to have hired bankers to spearhead a possible public listing but it seems the company has decided to take the "backdoor" method of going public by merging with a Special Purpose Acquisition Corporation (SPAC). SPACs, in this case, are corporate entities taken public for the sole purpose of merging with another private company.

As a private company, Velodyne has raised some $225 million in funding. The company's last-known private funding gave it a valuation of $1.8 billion, a valuation Velodyne may be seeking to surpass on the public markets. Graf Industrial, the intended SPAC for Velodyne, held an initial pu…

Xpeng Begins P7 Deliveries

Just a short while after unveiling a new electric sports sedan named the P7, Chinese electric vehicle upstart Xpeng has begun making deliveries, notably a few weeks after the company formally opened a new factory to produce the new vehicle. Production has apparently begun at the newly opened plant and Xpeng says it aims to produce 100,000 P7 sedans annually. Xpeng surely moves fast, being a company founded only six years ago. The China-based company launched and begun making deliveries of its first vehicle, the G3 SUV, in 2018, four years after its launch. The P7 sports sedan is the company's second-ever vehicle. A picture below gives an encouraging look of a large number of P7 sedans awaiting delivery into customers' hands;


The Xpeng P7 costs anywhere between $32,000-$49,000 "post-subsidies", quoting Xpeng. It's available in 3 versions and 8 configurations. The vehicle's best feature happens to be its range, which Xpeng pegs at up to 706km on full-charge. T…

Tesla Now World's Most Valuable Carmaker

Electric car maker Tesla has been on a tear as of late, with its share price having shot past $1,100 a pop and given the company status as the world's most valuable automaker. Currently (as of writing), Tesla has a market capitalization hovering around $208 billion, beating the likes of Ford, GM, and Toyota which actually manufacture way more cars and mint much more revenue. Before now, Toyota had been the automaker with the largest public market capitalization. Toyota (as of writing) has a market capitalization hovering around $203 billion, a bit lower than Tesla's.

Investors seem to be drooling for Tesla shares given its valuation despite minting lesser revenue than other traditional automakers. For a quick comparison, Tesla delivered 367,500 vehicles last year while Toyota delivered 10 million, about 27 times Tesla's. Investors seem to have much courage in Tesla's future potential, given it's a company that only debuted on the public markets 10 years ago. The l…

DoJ Indicts VC Michael Rothenberg

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced an indictment of investor Michael Rothenberg, a once high-flying venture capitalist whose wings seemingly got clipped after the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) accused him of misappropriating $19 million of investors' funds. Rothenberg was slapped with more than $31 million in fines from the SEC as a result, but it appears authorities are still pushing for more, as the Justice Department has filed charges of fraud against him. The DoJ alleges Mike Rothenberg "orchestrated multiple schemes to defraud his victims", victims, in this case, being investors in Rothenberg Ventures, the eponymous venture capital firm Rothenberg founded.

The Justice Department accuses Rothenberg of bank fraud and defrauding investors. As for bank fraud, it's alleged that Rothenberg made false statements about his wealth to his bank while refinancing his home mortgage and obtaining a personal loan. As to allegedly defrauding investor…

Peloton Launches On Roku

Fitness sensation Peloton has formally launched its app on the Roku streaming platform, entailing its live fitness classes can now be streamed by Roku users in the comfort of their homes. The Peloton channel has been made available on the Roku Channel Store, enabling users to stream live fitness sessions for a fee. Payments will be processed on the Roku Pay platform, making signing up much easier for users. Existing Peloton subscribers can also automatically log-in using their credentials and gain access to live fitness sessions.

The coronavirus pandemic has largely driven people away from public gyms towards home fitness activities, and such, online fitness streaming activity has seemingly shot through the roof. According to Roku, streaming on its Health & Fitness category grew more than 130% in May alone. Peloton happens to be a benefit of the large pivot towards home fitness, thanks to its stationary bikes and treadmills with live-streamed fitness sessions that have garnered a…

Uber Reaches To Buy Postmates: Report

Uber is in talks to acquire food-delivery competitor Postmates in a $2.6 billion deal, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal, which notes that a deal could be announced by next week or even sooner. Postmates has been said to be targeting an initial public offering but while also shopping itself around to potential buyers. Uber is notably fresh off an attempt to acquire Grubhub, another food delivery competitor which was, however, sold to British food delivery company Just Eat Takeaway.com.

Postmates has raised about $900 million in funding so far, valued at $2.4 billion as of its last funding round. The company had confidentially filed for a public listing in February of last year but didn't follow up with a public filing. In the past, Postmates is said to have shopped itself to companies including Walmart and food-delivery competitor DoorDash. Postmates is known to be unprofitable, so the public markets may not favor the company as much as a private sale and it seem…

TuSimple Seeks New Funding

Self-driving truck startup TuSimple is seeking up to $250 million in new funding and has hired investment bank Morgan Stanley to help it raise that amount, as first reported by TechCrunch. Morgan Stanley is said to have sent out informational packets to potential investors in a bid to seek funding for TuSimple. Already, TuSimple has raised about $300 million in total funding but happens to be seeking more. The San Diego-based company last raised funding in September of last year.

TuSimple was founded in 2015, at a time when most of the self-driving industry was focused on passenger cars rather than big trucks. The company has managed to secure significant funding and attention since then, with backers including UPS, CDH Investments, and China's Sina Corp. Although based out of San Diego, TuSimple currently tests on public roads in the state of Arizona and also in Shanghai, China. The company is aiming to make a dent in the $800 billion U.S. trucking industry.

As of its last fundi…

Amazon Hands Bonuses To Frontline Workers

The coronavirus pandemic largely boosted the need for e-commerce and, in turn, the fortunes of Seattle-based e-commerce giant Amazon. It's such that Amazon hired 175,000 additional people to keep up with increased demand. Now, Amazon has announced it's doling out $500 million in combined bonuses to its frontline workers, who were employed at the company throughout the month of June. The bonus is divided into various grades, including $500 for full-time warehouse workers, $250 for part-time warehouse workers, $1,000 for warehouse leads, $3,000 for delivery service partners, and $150 for each Amazon Flex driver who drove more than 10 hours in June. The bonuses for warehouse workers also covers Whole Foods employees.

The bonus dole-out was announced by Dave Clark, Amazon's famed logistics chief, who has been instrumental in setting up and overseeing the company's mammoth logistics operations. Amazon dubs the bonus as a "Thank You" bonus for its workers, many of…

Tesla Delivered 90,650 Vehicles In Q2

As anticipated, Tesla just released its production numbers for the second quarter of this year and indicated it delivered 90,650 vehicles, a slight (4.8%) drop from the previous quarter. Tesla actually managed to beat expectations despite a pandemic that led it to suspend operation for weeks at its main production facility. The majority (80,050) of Tesla's deliveries were Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, its less expensive models, while Model S and Model X vehicles, the more expensive ones, accounted for a minority (10,600).

Analysts had anticipated lower delivery numbers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with some even forecasting as low as 39,000 deliveries in this quarter. A concord of analysts polled by FactSet indicated an average forecast of 72,000 vehicle deliveries for the quarter.

The release of Tesla's latest production results comes on the heels of the company surpassing Japanese automaker Toyota to become the world's most valuable automaker.





Personal Capital Sells For $1 Billion

Personal Capital, a Redwood City, California-based wealth management startup, has been sold to retirement plan provider Empower Retirement in a deal that adds up to $1 billion. Empower Retirement has reached a deal to acquire Personal Capital for an upfront payment of $825 million in cash plus $175 million in potential "planned growth" incentives. The acquisition seems like a win for Personal Capital, which has raised $265 million in funding as a private company. According to PitchBook data, Personal Capital was valued at $950 million as of its last fundraising in February of last year.

Personal Capital was founded in 2008. The company provides digital-based money management services, similar to the likes of Wealthfront, Betterment, and Acorns. Currently, Personal Capital manages a cumulative $12 billion in assets for some 2.5 million users. Personal Capital has offices in the cities of San Francisco, Atlanta, Denver, and Dallas. The company employs more than 400 people.

In…