Grob<>Gojek merger, Spotify’s playlist videos, Product Ops pitfalls, Facebook News UK launch, Best of 2020 apps, Smooth navigation experiences, & more

Welcome to a new edition of el producto

$35B: Airbnb plans to price its IPO at $44-50 / share, implying a valuation of up to ~$35B and a ~$2.75B raise; investors valued Airbnb at $31B early this year, but the company later raised emergency funding at an $18B valuation due to the pandemic; Airbnb plans a roadshow over the next week, and to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol “ABNB”

$35B: DoorDash raises its IPO price range to $90-$95 per share, increasing its target raise from $2.8B to $3.1B; the top of the new range would give the company a fully diluted market value of $35B; DoorDash plans to trade under the ticker symbol DASH

$27.7B: Salesforce ($220B market cap) confirms it will acquire Slack ($25B market cap) for $27.7B, based on the former’s common stock price at market close on Nov 30; Slack shareholders will see $26.79 and 0.0776 Salesforce shares for each Slack share

$3.5B: JD.com’s health-care unit, JD Health, raises $3.5B in Hong Kong IPO; the company issues ~382M shares priced at $9.11 each; operates an online pharmacy, offers online consultations, more; JD Health generated $1.34B in revenue in the first half of the year; JD.com owned ~78% of the firm

$300M: Amazon is in exclusive talks to acquire podcast company Wondery at a $300M-plus valuation; investors valued the startup at $100M for a $10M Series B in June of last year; one source indicated Wondery was on track for $40M-plus in revenue this year, with 75% coming from ads; raised $15M to date

300M: Xiaomi aims to ship as many as 300M smartphones next year; the firm has secured enough components for 240M devices; if the company meets its goals, it would likely outsell Apple, which typically ships ~200M units annually; it would also challenge Huawei, which shipped 240.6M smartphones in 2019. Xiaomi also raised~$3.9B this week via a top-up share placement and bond offering; the Hong Kong stock exchange temporarily suspended Xiaomi’s stock

$264M: Point-of-sale lender Affirm to acquire Toronto-based PayBright for ~$264M; like Affirm, PayBright offers installment plans during e-commerce checkouts; also serves brick-and-mortar merchants; the companies expect the deal to close in the first quarter; Affirm, which filed for IPO in October, has raised $1.5B to date; PayBright previously raised $60M

$160M: Stockholm-based micro-mobility company Voi Technology raises $160M Series C; offers electric scooters via day passes and monthly subscriptions; claims two-thirds of city license tenders across Europe; raised $388M to date

$138M: Events platform Bizzabo raises $138M Series E; the company offers enterprise tools for creating and hosting in-person and online events; has raised $195M to date

$70M: HungryPanda, a food delivery firm based in the UK, raises $70M Series C; the company specializes in offering restaurant orders to the Chinese diaspora community across multiple countries; its app supports English and Mandarin; has raised $90M to date

$50M: Teen-centric mobile banking company Step raises $50M Series B led by Coatue with participation from celebrities in sports, music, and social media; the company garnered 500k users within two months of its official launch; offers fee-free, FDIC-insured accounts and secured credit cards; also supports peer-to-peer payments; raised $76M to date

$31M: Snapchat announced it will divvy up $1M a day until the end of the year among people who submit the most popular content on its new Spotlight feature.

427k: Amazon has hired more than 427k staff since the start of the coronavirus pandemic; the company now has a global workforce of over 1.2M; a majority of the new employees have been warehouse operatives; the figures do not include 100k seasonal staff, or ~500k contractor delivery drivers

$130: Apple begins selling its $130 MagSafe Duo charger; first announced in October, the device charges an Apple Watch and iPhone simultaneously; does not come with a power brick

Southeast Asia-based superapp companies Grab and Gojek are close to agreeing terms for a merger; SoftBank chairman Masayoshi Son is assisting in the talks; one proposal is for Grab co-founder Anthony Tan to serve as CEO of the combined firm, while Gojek will continue to operate under its own brand in its native Indonesia

Twitter disables threaded replies feature, citing user feedback that threads made conversations more difficult to read and join; Twitter said it would work on other ways to improve conversations on the platform; the company also announced it would shut down twttr, an app Twitter uses to test experimental features

Spotify begins testing stories-like videos alongside some of its playlists; the short clips feature artists sharing personal anecdotes

2020 Wrapped by Spotify

Stripe partners with Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Citigroup and others to provide third-party business banking services; Stripe Treasury will soon power financial offerings on behalf of its enterprise customers; includes Shopify’s upcoming Balance offering, which will provide merchants with a debit card, cashback rewards, and more

Facebook ($781B market cap) to acquire CRM platform Kustomer; terms undisclosed but sources indicated a $1B-plus valuation; New York City-based Kustomer, which offers a high-volume customer-service platform and chatbots, claims Glossier, Ring, and Sweetgreen as clients; the company announced Instagram messaging integration in October; previously raised $174M

Facebook will launch its News product in the UK next month; as with the US version, the dedicated News tab will feature stories from a variety of national and local publications including The Guardian, The Independent, and The Daily Mirror; publishers will be compensated when their articles are read by users

Zoom ($136B market cap) FQ3 beats: $777M revenue, up 367% YoY ($694M expected); $0.99 EPS (adjusted, $0.76 expected); ~80% of quarterly revenue came from new signups; claimed ~434k businesses with at least 10 employees as customers in the quarter; the company expects $806M to $811M in revenue for Q4

Apple and Google announce their “Best of 2020” apps, ranking titles based on design, usability, more; Apple named productivity app Fantastical as the Best Mac App of the Year, Zoom as the best free iPhone app, Disney+ as the top Apple TV app, and relaxation and sleep app Endel as the best Watch app; Google chose sleep app Loóna as its top US app of the year; Google users chose Disney+

YouTube launches a feature that analyzes pending comments for potentially offensive content and prompts commenters to consider before publishing; the company is also rolling out improved content filtering tools in YouTube Studio, which creators use to manage their channels

YouTube adds new features to its Premieres tool; lets creators add trailers, live pre-shows, and new countdown timers; trailers and pre-show features are rolling out now to some accounts, with additional countdowns launching in the coming months

Google Maps adds the ability for users in some locations to generate and upload Street View images using an Android smartphone; available as a beta, contributors must use an ARCore-enabled device; the scheme is currently accepting submissions in Toronto, New York City, and Austin, as well as Nigeria, Indonesia, and Costa Rica; Google Maps will show user-generated Street View content when its own images are not available

Google is rolling out the ability to schedule sending in its Messages app; the company tested the feature with a small group of users at the beginning of November; users can access the option by long-pressing the send SMS button

Google says News Showcase will soon give users free access to some paywalled articles; the scheme, currently operating in several countries including the UK, Brazil, and Canada, offers payments to select publishers; Google notes premium publications will still require users to register with an email address in order to view content

Google Assistant gains the ability to read and reply to messages in WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack, and other apps; previously, the feature was limited to Android’s Messages app; Assistant will now read aloud new messages from multiple apps when the user says “read my messages”

The latest Telegram beta is the first third-party app to support Siri’s Announce Messages feature; enables the user to listen and reply to messages via AirPods when their device is locked; Apple released an API for Announce Messages last year

iOS 14 debuts the computer vision-powered Screen Recognition system for the visually impaired; Screen Recognition uses machine learning to identify and label every button, tab, and slider in virtually any app

Apple adds 1080p HD FaceTime support for some older iPhone models; starting with iOS 14.2, calls made and received via iPhones 8, X, XR, XS, SE, and 11 devices are in full HD when connected to Wi-Fi (cellular data calls default to 720p HD); iPhone 12 lineup has supported 1080p on Wi-Fi since launch

Apple opens enrollment for the App Store Small Business Program; Apple will take 15% of App Store revenues from member developers rather than the previously standard 30%; limited to developers generating <$1M in revenue per year (post-commission); the discounted rate goes into effect Jan 1

Apple is considering adding a periscope-style optical zoom lens to future iPhones; the company is in talks with Samsung and other South Korean firms about potential partnerships for the tech; phonemakers such as Huawei and Samsung already offer devices with periscope lenses

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts Apple will launch two MacBook Pros featuring mini-LED screens in 2021; Kuo also says the company plans to release a “more affordable” MacBook Air in 2022; mini-LED promises better quality displays

Amazon announces Amazon Connect Voice ID, offering voice recognition-based caller identity authentication as part of its suite of call center services; the company also announced machine learning-powered services helping agents to answer customer questions, more

Amazon launches a US public preview for Type with Alexa on iOS, enabling users to type questions and commands rather than speak them; the Alexa app’s main menu now features a keyboard icon for accessing the feature; Google’s Assistant and Apple’s Siri have offered the option for years

Amazon announces AWS products targeting the industrial sector; machine learning-powered end-to-end equipment monitoring service Monitron learns a machine’s normal state and sends mobile app alerts to the company’s engineering team when it detects potential issues; hardware product Panorama Appliance enables companies with existing camera systems to integrate computer vision capabilities

Uber ($93B market cap) is in advanced talks to sell its Elevate autonomous air taxi unit to personal aircraft company Joby Aviation; Uber was considering strategic options for Elevate after selling parts of its unprofitable freight and self-driving units; Joby has raised $721M to date

Alphabet-owned Loon, which operates stratospheric balloons that provide data connectivity, announces a new reinforcement learning-based flight control system that writes algorithms for AI-powered navigation; the company has deployed the system in Kenya, replacing human-developed navigation software; Loon said it was the first such system deployed in commercial aerospace

ByteDance’s Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok) has developed a tool that promises to automatically detect fake accounts; the system is designed to identify activity generated by so-called group control software (GCS); GCS is used to control hundreds of smartphones for the purpose of generating social media likes, follows, and comments for monetary purposes; unknown if or when TikTok will make use of Douyin’s tech

Chinese researchers claim to have developed a quantum computing system capable of calculating in 3 minutes what would have taken the nation’s most powerful supercomputer more than 2B years to complete; the system, known as Jiuzhang, was developed by a team at the University of Science and Technology of China; Jiuzhang uses different tech to Google’s Sycamore quantum computing system

The Chinese government proposes new rules to limit the amount of user data that some apps can collect; the Cyberspace Administration of China has put forward regulations that would block payment companies, ride-hailing firms, and others from gathering data not related to the primary functions of their apps; the rules could go into effect as soon as this month

China-based autonomous driving firm AutoX starts testing cars without safety drivers; represents the first Chinese company to test human-free vehicles; AutoX is piloting a fleet of 25 robotaxis in Shenzhen, though it notes the cars are not yet available for public use

Walmart is introducing free next-day and two-day shipping for Walmart+ subscribers; customers currently have to spend a minimum of $35 to qualify for free delivery; the fee will remain in place for grocery products

Projects or Products? by Antonio Tegtmeier. A nice revisit of some familiar principles, and a practical guide for digital leaders to understand how to deal with unpredictable scenarios

Understanding Fogg behaviour model: the psychology behind what causes user behaviour changes. “With the correct prompts, right amount of motivation, and progressive growth into higher ability, you will be delivering a product that users will want to keep alongside them for a lifetime”

The Founder’s guide to actually understanding users “if we are to build great products that people love, we have no choice but to do the hard work of talking to our users in the right way and the even harder work to gain consensus as a product team about their actual jobs to be done“

Practical tips for creating smooth website navigation experience. Helping users navigate should be a top priority for every app or website; Nick Babich shares 5 key focus areas to improve it

3 common Product Ops pitfalls, by Adam Thomas. Product Ops, the discipline’s latest way to track and understand the inputs that drive product strategy, is important. The data we collect there can lead to massive insights that scale and build across the entire organisation. Having it available and consistent is a huge plus when it comes to finding alignment, and making things happen at high velocity

How to avoid rushing to solutions when problem-solving, by Daniel Markovitz. Before you can solve a problem, you need to know what exactly you’re trying to solve. Unfortunately, too many of us want to rush to conclusions before clearly understanding the problem. The author describes a 4-step process that helps you define the problem

el producto is a curated selection of Tech&Product happenings within the last few days from a curious and frequently skeptical Product leader perspective. Free forever. Sign-up here

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

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store