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Samsung invited to another US meeting on global chip shortage [ChosunMedia]
Samsung has been invited to another US government meeting with global businesses next week on the worldwide shortage of semiconductors. The virtual meeting will be held on May 20th, a day ahead of the first summit between President Moon Jae-in and his US counterpart Joe Biden. The Biden administration is pressing the tech giant to expand its investment in semiconductors in the US. The administration previously held a meeting on the issue on April 12th. The Commerce Department said the meeting aims to foster "an open dialogue around semiconductors and supply chain matters.” Other key suppliers of chips such as Intel and TSMC, as well as tech giants such as Amazon and Google, are also invited.
Google Pay US users can now send money to users in India and Singapore [TechCrunch]
Google Pay users in the US can now send money to GPay users in India and Singapore, Google said on Tuesday, making its first push into the remittances market. The company has partnered with Western Union and Wise, both of which have integrated their services into Google Pay. Josh Woodward, director of Product Management at Google, told in an interview that the company is kickstarting its cross-border payments feature with India and Singapore and intends to expand this worldwide by the end of the year. As part of the partnership, Western Union will power cross-border payments on Google Pay in over 200 countries, while Wise — formerly known as TransferWise — will extend the support in over 80 countries.
YouTube announces a $100 million fund to reward top YouTube Shorts creators over 2021-2022 [TechCrunch]
YouTube is giving its TikTok competitor, YouTube Shorts, an injection of cash to help it better compete with rivals. The company introduced the YouTube Shorts Fund, a $100 million fund that will pay YouTube Shorts creators for their most viewed and most engaging content over the course of 2021 and 2022. YouTube will reach out to creators each month whose videos exceeded certain milestones to reward them for their contributions. These creators do not need to be in the YouTube Partner Program to qualify — anyone is eligible to receive rewards by creating original content for YouTube Shorts.
Apple, Google privacy shift helps Ad firms recover from pandemic [Bloomberg]
Google is phasing out third-party online tracking cookies and Apple is requiring app owners to ask for explicit permission to track users across other companies’ apps. The changes make it harder for companies to follow our every move online, so marketers are devising new ways for brands to find out what consumers are doing and pitch products to them. It will not threaten the tech giants’ status as gatekeepers to billions of consumers, a role that’s only growing as more economic activity shifts online. Yet it’s an opportunity for ad agency groups such as WPP, Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe to reassert their relevance. Adtech firms that develop alternative tools to target consumers have seen a rise in demand, in particular contextual advertising companies that target ads based on the content of web pages, not who is viewing them.
Facebook ordered not to apply controversial WhatsApp T&Cs in Germany [TechCrunch]
Smart home networking standard Project CHIP rebrands as 'Matter' [Engadget]
Project Connected Home over IP (Project CHIP) is now known as Matter. The Connectivity Standards Alliance, an organization made up of more than a hundred device manufacturers, including giants like Apple, Amazon, Google and Samsung, announced the rebranding on Tuesday. Those companies came together to work on CHIP in 2019 with the hopes of building out an open smart home standard that connects all their disparate devices together. Matter will allow users to buy a device and use it with the voice assistant of choice and easily connect it to existing home network. At launch, Matter will support Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, as well as Ethernet, WiFi, Thread and Bluetooth LE. Some of the first devices featuring Matter branding will go on sale in late 2021.
TikTok is reportedly testing a job recruitment tool [Engadget]
TikTok is reportedly testing a recruitment tool, to help people find jobs and companies, recruiters and brands to unearth solid candidates. The feature reportedly will not be baked into the core TikTok app. It's said to be a webpage where job listings are posted, most of which will likely be entry-level positions. Since this is TikTok, user will be able to post a video resume rather than a written-format one, according to the report.
TikTok rolls out a Guardian's Guide to help parents understand the platform [Engadget]
TikTok has revamped its Safety Center and published the Guardian's Guide, a resource that breaks down how the app works and outlines best practices for keeping users safe. It's aimed at parents and caregivers, and describes features like Family Pairing, which lets guardians manage a teen's account, including setting restrictions on screen time, search and direct messages. The TikTok Safety Center has also rolled out a lineup of fresh articles about privacy, security and bullying. The Bullying Prevention Guide is a new resource that TikTok's US Content Advisory Council developed in partnership with the Cyberbullying Research Center, Net Family News and other organizations. It offers tips on identifying bullying behavior, ways to prevent harassment on the platform, and where victims can find help.
Palantir CFO says company is considering holding bitcoin on its balance sheet [CNBC]
Palantir, a software company that offers analytics tools to the defense industry and large corporations, is planning to add bitcoin to its balance sheet. CFO David Glazer said in the company’s first-quarter earnings call that bitcoin was “definitely on the table” and that it would also consider holding other cryptocurrencies on its balance sheet. Glazer went on to say that Palantir already accepts bitcoin as a form of payment from customers. In February, Tesla disclosed in an SEC filing that it had bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin for “more flexibility to further diversify and maximize returns on our cash.” It sold some of its holdings in Q1, which helped it reduce operating expenses by more than $100 million, and was sitting on $2.5 billion at the end of the quarter.
GM and LG Chem’s Ultium Cells partners with Li-Cycle to process manufacturing waste [TechCrunch]
Ultium Cells, a joint venture between General Motors and LG Chem, has been steadily building up its battery cell manufacturing capacity in the US since the venture was first announced in December 2019. But with each battery cell they produce, they will also produce waste, and instead of throwing it away, Ultium is sending it to a recycler. The venture has executed an agreement with Canadian company Li-Cycle to recycle critical materials from the scrap produced from Ultium’s manufacturing processes from its Lordstown plant, starting later in 2021. The materials from the Lordstown location will be sent to Li-Cycle’s recycling location in Rochester, New York, to be processed and returned to the battery supply chain. Li-Cycle uses a low-temperature mechanical process that shreds — actually shreds, like a paper shredder — the battery materials in a submerged, proprietary solution. Doing it this way reduces the thermal risk of a fire and recovers up to 95% of the battery materials.
Biden administration approves first large offshore wind power farm in the US [Engadget]
The Biden administration is quickly acting on its promise of boosting offshore wind power in the US. The cabinet has approved the Vineyard Wind project, the first "large-scale" offshore wind farm in the US. The 84-turbine array will sit 12 nautical miles off Martha's Vineyard and generate 800 megawatts, or enough power for 400,000 homes and office buildings. The administration claimed the project would create 3,600 jobs. It should help fulfill a goal of producing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, although the government didn't say when it expected Vineyard Wind to come online. Massachusetts already greenlit the project.
VW plans to have autonomous microbus ready for roads in 2025 [Bloomberg]
Volkswagen plans to offer a highly automated version of the hippie-era microbus it’s reviving as an electric van as the carmaker commercializes self-driving technology along with startup Argo AI. VW is preparing an ID.Buzz with Level 4 autonomy -- meaning the vehicle can drive itself under certain conditions -- to be ready for commercial transport of people and goods for 2025. It’s testing Argo AI’s technology at six U.S. locations and will expand to a site in Munich this year to further refine the system. The ultimate development focus will be on densely populated urban areas that pose “high complexity for the technology, but also offer the basis for intensive use of mobility offerings,” said Christian Senger, the head of autonomous driving at VW’s van unit.
Investment and M&A
Bill Gates-backed Ginkgo Bioworks going public via $15 billion SPAC [CNBC]
Boston-based biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks will make its market debut by merging with Soaring Eagle Acquisition Corp., the blank-check company led by former MGM CEO Harry Sloan. Ginkgo was started in 2009 by a team of MIT scientists intent on building made-to-order microbes that enable customers to grow rather than manufacture better products. The company calls itself the “organism company” because it designs and prints DNA, the building blocks that support all living things. The company, ranked No. 44 on last year’s CNBC Disruptor 50 list, was most recently valued at $4.86 billion following a May financing round. The deal, worth $17.5 billion, including a $15 billion valuation for Ginkgo and $2.5 billion in deal proceeds, would make it one of the largest SPAC mergers to date.
SoftBank-backed mortgage lender Better going public via $7.7 billion SPAC [CNBC]
Digital mortgage lender Better.com will make its market debut by merging with Aurora Acquisition Corp., valuing Better at $7.7 billion. The company, ranked No. 15 on last year’s CNBC Disruptor 50 list, was most recently valued at $6 billion following an April 2020 investment from SoftBank. Better’s platform moves the mortgage process completely online, giving customers the ability to upload and eSign documents, and claims to cut the closing time from an industry average of 42 days down to 21 days. It extended nearly $25 billion in loans last year and $14 billion in the first quarter of 2021 alone. Additionally, the company not only generated $800 million in revenue last year, but also profits.
Cisco to acquire Sedona Systems to boost optical networking chops [CRN]
Cisco Systems plans to acquire Sedonasys Systems, also known as Sedona Systems, a maker of communications technologies, for its NetFusion platform, its Hierarchical Controller (HCO) for optimizing, simplifying and automating network control, in a deal estimated to be worth $100 million. The NetFusion platform automatically discovers, aggregates, and analyzes network data from multiple online systems and optical and IP sources, providing real-time, network-wide data that is then used by different NetFusion products. These products reduce the complexity, cost, time, and resources needed to plan, forecast, and operate the optimal network infrastructure. Sedona Systems, founded in 2013, employs 45 people and has raised a total of $13.5 million from investors including Intel Capital.
Kakao to buy two US storytelling apps for $950 million [Reuters]
South Korea's Kakao Entertainment is acquiring US-based online comic app Tapas and serialized fiction app Radish for $510 million and $440 million, respectively. The purchase will make Kakao, the online comic, talent agency and movie-making unit of South Korean tech giant Kakao Corp, the latest South Korean entertainment firm to expand in North America as Korean entertainment's global reach widens. Kakao Entertainment has seen success with its online-based web cartoons or "webtoons" at home and in Japan, with Kakao-backed 'Piccoma' becoming one of Japan's highest-grossing mobile apps outside games. Kakao also owns serialized fiction IPs, movie production companies, actors' talent agencies, K-pop artists' labels plus performance and content companies, making it "unique" in its ability to convert a single IP into many channels and forms.
Lidar startup Innovusion closes $64 million round led by Temasek [TechCrunch]
Innovusion, a five-year-old lidar company and a supplier to Chinese electric car upstart Nio, raised $64 million in Series B funding, taking its total investment to over $100 million. Temasek, the Singaporean government’s sovereign wealth fund, led Innovusion’s latest financing round. Other investors included Bertelsmann Asia Investment Fund, Joy Capital, Nio Capital, Eight Roads Ventures, and F-Prime Capital. China is the largest market for Innovusion. The startup is scheduled to ship a few thousand units this year, mainly for smart transportation and industrial use. Next year, it has a target to deliver several tens of thousands of units to Nio’s luxury sedan, ET7, which is said to have a scanning range of up to 500 meters, an ambitious number, and a standard 120-degree field of view.
Huma, which uses AI and biomarkers to monitor patients and for medical research, raises $130 million [TechCrunch]
Huma, which combines data from biomarkers with predictive algorithms both to help monitor patients, and uses the same technology to help researchers and pharmaceutical companies run clinical trials, has closed funding of $130 million, a Series C that includes $100 million in equity, and $30 million in credit. The company can also extend this to $200 million by way of an extra $70 million in equity if it chooses. Huma can pick up data that patients contribute via smartphones, or by way of diagnostic devices that measure glucose, blood pressure or oxygen saturation, and the plan will be to use the funding to augment that in a couple of ways: to continue investing in R&D to both expand the kinds of biomarkers that Huma can measure and to work on more research and trials; to continue expanding London-based Huma’s business particularly in newer geographies like the US, alongside a strong wave of business it’s been seeing in Europe, specifically the UK and the DACH region.