2019 unicorns, China’s GPS alternative and digital currency, Microsoft-Linkedin integrations, Grab’s banking license, The evolution of Facebook & Twitter, & more

Happy 2020, and welcome to el producto!

🎰 The week in figures

$122B: Huawei claims it recorded revenues of $122B in 2019, up 18% YoY; the firm says it sold 240M smartphones, which compares with 206M in 2018.

$120.1B: Video games generated $120.1B in 2019; +4% YoY; the report covers mobile, PC, console, and XR titles; free-to-play titles represented 80% of $ spent on digital games; “Fortnite” was the highest earner for the second year running with $1.8B.

$14.5B: India-based tech startups have raised $14.5B this year; the figure is up from $10.5B in 2018; early stage firms have raised $6.9B, which compares with $3.3B last year.

$3.1B: Egypt approves Uber’s $3.1B acquisition of Dubai-based ride-hail company Careem; Egypt’s Competition Authority studied data on 270M rideshare trips and precedent acquisitions; the authority set conditions for the deal, including price caps, a surge multiple cap, a commission fee limit, the requirement that Uber share map data, more.

$2.7B: VMWare ($62.4B market cap) completes its $2.7B acquisition of digital transformation company Pivotal; VMWare also closed the purchases of Heptio and Bitnami this year in an expansion from its original focus on virtual machines to offer cloud-native infrastructure management; VMWare’s Tanzu platform enables management of VMs and Kubernetes containers.

$210M: Google Play and Apple’s App Store collectively generated $210M in worldwide games sales on Christmas Day; the figure is up 8% on Christmas Day 2018; “PUBG Mobile” was the most popular title generating $8.5M worldwide, up 431% YoY; gamers in the US spent $58M, up 2% YoY.

$50M: TikTok’s in-app purchase revenue passed $50M in Q4; up from $20M in Q3 and up 310% YoY.

200K: China-based bike-sharing firm Meituan Bike (formerly Mobike) says it has lost more than 200k bikes to theft and vandalism; the company notes Beijing police have arrested ~2.6k people for such crimes; Meituan Bike previously pulled its dockless bikes from several UK cities due to vandalism.

142: As of Dec 25, 142 companies became unicorns in 2019; compares to the all-time high of 158 companies in 2018; the US led the 2019 pack, with 78 companies achieving a $1B-plus valuation; China followed with 22; Brazil and Germany tied with five companies each; Britain, Israel, and India tied with four companies each.

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8%: Top-level domain (TLD) licensing represents ~8% of the gross national income of the island nation Tuvalu, which controls the .tv TLD; Amazon’s Twitch uses the suffix, as do other streaming and entertainment services; Tuvalu’s Minister of Finance said .tv represents a certain income that provides essential services including education and medical care.

📰 What’s going on

Google disables Google Home and Assistant integrations with Xiaomi products due to security concerns; a Xiaomi Mijia camera owner attempting to stream content to his Google Nest Hub reported seeing still images from other people’s homes.

Google develops AI tools that could be better at identifying breast cancer than human doctors; researchers have shown evidence of Google’s pattern recognition tools being more reliable in spotting tumors in mammograms; more research is required, and the tech is yet to be rolled out for actual diagnosis purposes.

WhatsApp will end support for iOS 8 and older versions from Feb 1 2020; the Facebook-owned app will also no longer work on Android 2.3.7 from the same date, while support for Windows Phone devices has ended this week.

Snap is customizing Snapchat for the Indian market and working with local smartphone companies and telecoms in pursuit of growth; the company opened its first Indian office and added support for multiple Indian languages this year; Snap has also expanded support for vernacular language; Snapchat’s Indian user base grew 80% between Nov 2018 and Nov 2019.

Snap acquires Ukraine-based computer vision company AI Factory, at a reported price of ~$166M; Snap previously worked with AI Factory on Snapchat’s Cameo feature, which enables users to integrate live video of their faces into various scenes; one of AI Factory’s co-founders also co-founded Looksery, which Snap acquired in 2015 to power animated lenses.

China expects to launch two more satellites in June to complete the Beidou Navigation Satellite System, a rival to the US GPS; provides location and communications services; 70% of Chinese smartphones are compatible; will also serve South and Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner says parent Microsoft plans more product integrations; Microsoft closed the $26.2B acquisition (Microsoft’s most significant buy) three years ago, and has allowed LinkedIn to remain mostly independent; Weiner said that while Microsoft has been slow to deliver on promised integrations, LinkedIn profiles and other data will ultimately be available to more Microsoft products.

Ride-hailing firm Grab partners with Singapore-based telco Singtel to apply for a full banking license; if approved, the partnership will be able to launch credit and investment products, before eventually expanding to a full suite of financial services; Grab will hold 60% of the joint venture, with Singtel owning the remainder.

Trip.com and Netease are considering secondary listings on the Hong Kong stock exchange; both companies are currently listed on the Nasdaq; interest in the Hong Kong exchange has increased since Alibaba’s secondary listing in Nov 2019.

South Korea’s early adoption of 5G has shown the tech is a promise for future capabilities rather than an instant upgrade; 5G was available to ~half of the country’s population in April; users report less-than-impressive speed, connectivity issues due to devices switching between 4G and 5G sessions, more; experts say 5G’s most significant advantages will be evident in connected cars, smart cities, etc.

Dell announces Latitude 9510, a 5G-ready 15-inch convertible laptop; also promises 30-hour battery on a single charge and features a 10th gen Intel Core processor; starts at $1.8k, launches March 26.

Tesla delivered 112k vehicles in the last three months of 2019, a 23% increase over the same period of 2018; Wall Street expected 106k units in the calendar quarter; Elon Musk delivered on his promise to ship 360k EVs in 2019, with a final tally of 367.5k; company stock jumped ~5.5% on the news.

The New York Times highlights companies that used tech for positive social impact in 2019 with “The Good Tech Awards”; includes an open-source platform for air quality data, three companies addressing the opioid crisis, several startups working to feed the hungry, more.

👩🏾‍💻 Good reads

BuzzFeed News traces the evolution of Facebook and Twitter over the past ten years, with a focus on how the companies’ focus on growth and influence came at the expense of safety and integrity; covers fake news, election interference, toxic content, more.

WIRED explores the impact of real-time metrics on the music industry and how they inform record labels, streaming services, and artists; data helps musicians to plan tours and possibly gain label interest, but could also reduce labels’ interest in placing bets on daring artists.

The Wall Street Journal examines China’s plans for a national digital currency and the potential elimination of cash; will not require a bank account, but a bank-issued digital wallet that supports offline transactions; will enable what officials call “controlled anonymity” to prevent tax evasion, money laundering, and financing of terrorism; critics have expressed concern about the potential for surveillance.

Uberbuses. Helsinki, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Singapore, and other metros have been experimenting with on-demand buses — and not seeing a lot of success.

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Written by

Full-time learner, product stuff, “triathlete” & global traveller. Creating cool products @ Revolut, formerly @ Booking.com and @ Just Eat.

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