🎰 The week in figures
$10B: Jeff Bezos commits $10B to addressing climate change via the Bezos Earth Fund, which will begin issuing grants this summer; will fund NGOs, scientists, activists, others; details undisclosed.
$700M: Grab raises more than $700M from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFJ); as part of the deal, MUFJ will market a range of financial products such as insurance and loans to Grab customers; Grab started as a ride-hailing firm, but has since expanded to digital payments, food delivery, and more.
147M: Smart speaker sales grew 70% YoY to ~147M in 2019; Alexa-powered speakers represented 26.2% of the market; Assistant speakers represented 20.3% ; both categories saw a decrease in market share while Baidu, Alibaba, and Xiaomi increased their market shares.
5.5M: UK-based Challenger bank Monzo says it plans to hire 500 people and predicts it will have 5.5M users by the end of the year; Monzo currently has 3.8M users; the firm also plans to launch premium services this year, as it struggles on its aim to become profitable.
$50M: Udemy, an online learning marketplace, raises $50M on a $2B post-money valuation; Udemy offers more than 150k courses from 57k instructors; has raised ~$130M to date.
📰 What’s going on
Apple is on track to launch a ~$400 iPhone in March despite production delays due to coronavirus, according to Bloomberg sources, who say new iPad Pro models could be delayed.
Apple is considering allowing users to change the default browser and mail apps on iPhone and iPad; the firm is also thinking about opening its HomePod smart speaker to Apple Music rivals; Apple may also allow Siri to default to third-party music services.
Twitter introduces a feature to let users create threaded tweets while they’re being composed; Continue lets users find and link to previous tweets while in the compose section; rolling out to iOS and Android now.
Google plans to move accounts belonging to UK users to place them under US jurisdiction; the company currently manages UK users in Ireland, which remains in the EU and subject to GDPR.
Google launches Android 11 in developer preview, limited to Pixel devices; the update adds one-time app permissions, support for new display types, improved biometrics, more; Google expects to launch the OS in general availability in the third quarter.
Google is rolling out autocorrect and Smart Compose for Docs in general availability; autocorrect is enabled by default for all users and functions as is does in Gmail; Smart Compose is limited to paying customers, and initially, to English.
Gmail Summarization (Chrome Extension) promises to highlight and extract key info from messages in Gmail; the AI-powered tool places a short summary of important info at the top of the email; the app-maker claims it does not store or share data with others.
Lyft acquires Halo Cars, which enables rideshare drivers to earn additional revenue with rooftop digital advertising.
Microsoft launches its unified Office app in general availability for iOS and Android; includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint; also supports OneDrive browsing.
Microsoft is set to launch an organizational feature for Outlook named Spaces; full details unclear, but Microsoft describes the service as a web app that lets users pulls emails, meetings, and docs into collaborative project spaces.
Uber launches discreet reporting tool for non-emergency safety issues; enables a rider to notify the company if their driver is distracted, braking harshly, etc; Uber updated its app with a panic button in 2018.
The Wall Street Journal examines evidence that Uber and Lyft have contributed to traffic congestion, drawn people away from busses and trains, and failed to jumpstart a carpooling trend; numerous cities have implemented or are considering fees from rideshare companies to address congestion; both Uber and Lyft have launched bike- and scooter-share programs in major cities.
Visa grants Coinbase principal membership, meaning the exchange can issue debit cards for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies; cards will enable users to spend ether, XRP, etc at any merchant accepting Visa; Coinbase has the power to issue cards for other companies.
University of Chicago professors develop the “Bracelet of Silence,” a wearable that generates ultrasonic signals to prevent smart speakers from detecting and recording conversations; the creators said they could commercialize the prototype and manufacture at ~$20 per unit.
Austin-based code review tools company PullRequest acquires San Francisco-based Moonlight, a hiring platform for remote developers and designers; terms undisclosed; PullRequest Founder and CEO Lyal Avery said the deal would enable his company to move into the next phase of code review to fix coding problems for clients.
HQ, parent of the live-stream game show HQ Trivia, shuts down; the company launched its flagship title in 2017, enabling mobile players to win cash prizes twice daily; the company was unable to raise a new round and an outright sale fell through.
Facebook is testing a tabbed News Feed for mobile, allowing users to adjust how posts are ordered; app researcher Jane Manchun Wong uncovered code showing the News Feed being sorted by Most Relevant, Most Recent, and Already Seen; it’s unknown if or when it will launch.
Facebook cancels annual Global Marketing Conference due to coronavirus concerns; the company had planned to run the event March 9 to 12 at Moscone Center in San Francisco and expected ~4k attendees.
Shopify to join Facebook’s Libra Association and operate a node to process cryptocurrency transactions; Shopify will also contribute $10M; Libra currently faces regulatory scrutiny, but the currency could enable Shopify and its merchants to process payments with zero or very low fees.
Google indexes WhatsApp group invites, enabling anyone to find and join groups administrators likely intended to be private; using specific search terms, Motherboard was able to join a group for UN-accredited NGOs, and to view the names and phone numbers of other members; Google and WhatsApp noted that people should not publish invite URLs when privacy is a concern.
ByteDance is branching into e-commerce, games, and more, using TikTok’s popularity to drive use of new apps; the company has launched a financial-services app and is now testing a testing a music-streaming service.
The Chinese government is working with Alibaba, Ant Financial, and Tencent to develop a system to categorize citizens based on coronavirus exposure risk and to track and control their movement; Ant Financial said the system could launch as soon as this week.
👩🏾💻 Good reads
True product-market fit is a minimum viable company; by Ann Miura-Ko, co-founding partner at Floodgate, a seed-stage VC firm.
MIT Technology Review profiles OpenAI, a nonprofit that seeks to ensure artificial intelligence is beneficial to humanity; the Review reports that competitiveness and the need for funding has caused OpenAI to waver from its founding principles of transparency and openness; a spokesperson said safety and security concerns would result in decreased traditional publishing, but an increase in sharing safety, policy, and standards research.
Why Amazon knows so much about you. People love convenience and Amazon has prospered by obsessing about how to anticipate our wants before we’re even aware of them.
Facebook’s earnings report and advertising strategy. Interesting comment by Ben Thompson about Facebook’s latest earnings report and Facebook’s opportunity to develop a better platform strategy for advertising.