Twitter voice (140s), Product/Market fit, Gmail updates, Amazon Prime Day, Robinhood new funding round, Facebook to bypass App store rules, & more

Welcome to a new edition of el producto

🎰 The week in figures

$7.5B: Microsoft ($1.51T market cap) to acquire ZeniMax Media, parent of game studio Bethesda Softworks, for $7.5B in cash; known for popular franchises including “Fallout” and “The Elder Scrolls,” Bethesda previously launched titles on Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass; future Bethesda titles will launch on Game Pass the same day they launch for Xbox or PC; Microsoft said the deal would not impact Bethesda’s PS5 exclusives

$5.5B: Russia’s Yandex to acquire the country’s largest online bank, Tinkoff, in a $5.5B cash-and-stock deal; Tinkoff trades on the London Stock Exchange via global depositary receipts, and Yandex will purchase all share capital at an 8% premium

$460M: Robinhood raises $460M Series G (extension) at an $11.7B valuation from A16Z, Sequoia, others; the tranche brings the round total to $660M; the company said the funding would support new features like cash management and recurring investments

$300M: Colombia-based general-purpose local delivery company Rappi (YC W16) raises $300M-plus Series F at a ~$3.5B valuation; raised $1.7B to date

$300M: France-based Mirakl, which offers a platform for operating e-commerce marketplaces, raises $300M Series D at a $1.5B valuation; 300 companies use the platform for consumer-facing marketplaces, including Best Buy Canada and Office Depot; Airbus Helicopters and Toyota Material Handling use the platform for bulk B2B transactions

$230M: NY-based SMS marketing company Attentive raises $230M Series D at a $2.2B valuation; enables brands to customize campaigns based on user behavior and include video, GIFs, etc; clients include Urban Outfitters and Jack in the Box

📰 What’s going on

Uber hires former Amazon VP Sukumar Rathnam to serve as CTO; Thuan Pham resigned from the position in May after 7 years with the company; Rathnam joined Amazon in 2011 and most recently oversaw product selection and catalog systems

Twitter will soon begin testing voice DMs; the company began testing audio tweets for iOS in June, enabling select users to record and send audio messages up to 140 seconds long; some users complained the audio tweet feature failed to take accessibility into account; Twitter previously relied on employee volunteers to address accessibility, but has since established a full-time accessibility team within product development

Apple confirms it has acquired podcast app Scout FM; terms undisclosed; Scout FM was shut down after it was purchased earlier this year; the app used to recommend shows based on listening history

Apple allows Facebook to bypass App Store fees for users’ paid online events; Facebook launched the feature this year as an alternative revenue source for businesses impacted by the pandemic; Facebook isn’t charging fees on such events until August of next year; Apple initially refused to suspend its fees or allow external payments, but will now let companies use Facebook Pay for online events until year’s end

Epic, Spotify, and Match Group establish the Coalition for App Fairness; the pressure group claims app stores collect excessive fees from developers; Epic has filed lawsuits against Apple and Google over their commissions for in-app payments

Deliveroo could reportedly be preparing a 2021 IPO. The company neither confirmed nor denied the speculation. The news comes just months after Amazon made a $575M investment in the company for a 16% stake.

Gmail rolls out an iOS and iPadOS update, allowing it to be set as the default email client; requires iOS 14; users must set up the feature via Settings

YouTube to deploy an AI system that automatically age-restricts videos; the company has used machine learning to detect violent extremism, hateful conduct, and more; YouTube doesn’t expect the change will have significant impact on Partner Program members, noting that the videos most likely to trigger age restriction are from non-monetized accounts

Google Maps rolls out an update that shows COVID-19 cases per 100k people in any given area; pulls data from multiple sources including Wikipedia, The New York Times, and more; available for all 220 countries and territories in which Google Maps operates

Google launches in general availability AI Platform Prediction; the service, available with full management, enables developers to prepare, build, deploy, and share machine learning models; Google-owned Waze uses the service to power its Carpool ride-sharing product

Google’s Area 120 announces Tables, a tool for tracking collaborative projects; the AI-powered system can be used to automatically scheduled email reminders for overdue tasks, monitoring form submissions; integrates with G Suite apps including Sheets and Docs; the free plan supports 100 tables and 1k rows; the $10/month plan offers up to 1k tables and 10k rows

Instagram is rolling out an update to its TikTok-like short-form video feature, Reels; the company has increased the maximum video length from 15 to 30 seconds, and the timer limit from three seconds to 10; the update also adds the ability to trim and delete clips

Microsoft launches Azure Communication Services, a managed communication platform enabling app developers to integrate, via APIs and SDKs, telephony, video chat, text messaging, and more; the global services are encrypted and compliant with HIPPA and GDPR

Amazon schedules this year’s Prime Day sale for Oct 13 and 14; the company postponed the event, originally scheduled for July, due to the pandemic; Tamebay, a publication for Amazon marketplace sellers, indicated Amazon would begin Black Friday deals around Oct 26

Amazon unveils the fourth-generation Echo, featuring a spherical design and local speech recognition processing via the AZ1 Neural Edge module; the device sends commands to the cloud post-processing, promising faster responses; functions as a Zigbee smart home hub, and works with Amazon’s Sidewalk mesh networking system; the $100 device will be available in Charcoal, Chalk, and Steel Blue

Amazon reveals the $250 Echo Show 10 with a motorized base that automatically turns the screen toward the user; the device tracks the position of the user during video calls to ensure the 13MP camera keeps the user in frame; the device only tracks position when in use; like the fourth-generation Echo, the new Echo Show handles speech processing locally

Amazon announces Guard Plus, a $50-per-year service that gives Echo devices enhanced security features; like the free Guard service, Guard Plus can detect the sounds of smoke alarms and more and notify users away from home; the Plus tier, which also works with third-party products, adds a helpline to connect with emergency services, and intruder warning sounds, like barking dogs

Amazon announces the new Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite, priced at $40 and $30, respectively; both devices will ship with a new UI, which will roll out to earlier Fire TV devices in the first quarter; supports up to six user profiles and promises a less cluttered design that simplifies finding free content and more; also offers improved support for security cameras and expanded Alexa interactions; pre-orders are now open; available Sept 30

Amazon announces cloud gaming service Luna and the Luna Controller; launch date undisclosed; the service runs $6 per month during early access, and the controller is $50; will feature publisher channels for premium subscriptions; initially coming to PC, Mac, Fire TV, and iOS/iPadOS; Amazon plans an Android app sometime after the official launch; integrates with Twitch

Ring unveils Car Cam, Car Alarm, and Car Connect; the dash-mountable $200 Car Cam can record video inside the car and through the windshield; it detects break-ins, accidents, and more, and sends alerts; can also contact first responders in case of serious crashes; the $60 OBD-II device Car Alarm offers similar detection features; Connect enables existing vehicle camera systems, including Tesla’s, to integrate with Ring

Ring announces the Always Home Cam, a drone that enables the owner to remotely issue commands to check various rooms and live-stream footage; the device can also automatically respond to Ring security alerts; it returns to its base automatically, and the camera is not useable while docked; the company expects to launch the Always Home Cam for ~$250 next year

Oracle and Walmart will collectively take a 20% stake in US-based TikTok Global (TG); Oracle’s stake will be 12.5%, and Walmart’s 7.5%; Walmart CEO Doug McMillon will serve on the five-member board; ByteDance will retain 80% of the company; an IPO is planned within the next 12 months

Samsung launches its Smart TV Plus streaming service on numerous Samsung mobile devices; the free, ad-supported service has proven a hit on Samsung’s smart TVs, streaming billions of minutes per month; the company now offers TV Plus in 10 countries and plans new markets in coming months

Fintech firm Ant Group launches Trusple, a blockchain-based cross-border contracts service for SMEs; the open platform lets partners establish a digital agreement by uploading a trading order; the smart contract auto-updates as the parties work together

Alibaba unveils Xunxi, a smart, connected factory the company has been operating in stealth on the outskirts of Hangzhou; the facility has produced apparel for Taobao and Tmall merchants; the factory showcases the back-end tech and analytics Alibaba offers manufacturers to customize and optimize production according to consumer demand

Mozilla spins out open-source IoT platform WebThings; the project began as a framework based on the W3C’s web of things standard, designed to enable software and services to communicate across devices; it eventually became Project Things, which enabled Raspberry Pi systems to control devices from the web; WebThings gives connected devices dedicated URLs and ensures adherence to standards for interoperability, privacy, and security

The UK government rolls out a contact-tracing app based on Apple and Google’s decentralized Exposure Notification API; available in England and Wales, NHS COVID-19 (iOS, Android) uses Bluetooth to keep track of proximity between individuals for an extended period

👩🏾‍💻 Good reads

7 strategies for better group decision-making. Larger pools of knowledge are by no means a guarantee of better outcomes. HBR shares some actionable ways to get the best out of group decisions

Checkout free shopping and the future of payments. Cashierless checkout is more than Amazon Go. Crunchbase looks at different implementations of checkout-free tech, and hints at what the future of payments could look like

Nailing Product/Market Fit, by Chris Barton (founder of Shazam and Guard)

Embracing the Art of Prioritisation. A helpful list of a list of do’s and don’ts by Emily Tate, Chief of Staff at Mind the Product. “Prioritisation is a messy process and you should embrace that messiness rather than trying to find a way to make it easy.”

🙂 #alwaysbekind

During the upcoming weeks (for as long as the Covid-19 crisis goes on) I will keep dedicating my evenings to offer free consultation / advice / coaching / casual chats to any impacted professionals that would like to reach out. Don’t be a stranger, reach out by DM if you are interested, and let’s help each other. We are all humans after all, and we are all on the same boat

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