Have some stuff going on around the house today. Will keep it short and just dive right in.
#1 Hackers Thrive in Putin’s Russia as U.S. Seeks New Strategy
Early in his rise to the pinnacle of Russian cybercrime, Maksim Yakubets, leader of one of the most successful hacking syndicates in the world, was asked if he was worried about being arrested. “I don’t give a shit about K and FSB,” replied Yakubets, referring to Department K, Russia’s cyberpolice, and the FSB, the main successor to the Soviet KGB, according to a transcript of a 2014 web chat obtained by Scylla Intel, a threat intelligence firm. “My neighbor is the second man in the whole FSB.”
In just the past three months, criminal hackers tied to Russia have used ransomware attacks to paralyze a key oil pipeline company and cripple one of the world’s largest meat producers. The neighborly relationships some of these hackers have with Vladimir Putin’s government make it extremely difficult for the U.S. to pursue them, an arrangement with clear appeal to the Russian president. “For Putin, it’s a proxy force,” says James Lewis, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The Kremlin has criminal ties that would just be shocking to any Western capital.”
Yakubets’s operation is a prime example of how the Russian government interacts with criminal hackers. Around the same time he was boasting about his relationship with the FSB, researchers discovered that GameOver Zeus, a type of malware he and his gang had created, had been altered to conduct espionage. It was used to target classified documents in Turkey and Georgia, according to Mark Arena, founder of Intel 471, a cybersecurity firm that tracks Russia’s hackers.
By 2018, Yakubets was in the process of obtaining an FSB license to work with Russian classified information, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, which has sanctioned him and his gang, Evil Corp. A $5 million reward by the U.S. for information leading to Yakubets’s arrest so far has had no effect.Source: Bloomberg
Wars of the 21st century are cyber-driven. Most countries are already at war, but they’re slow burning.
And the nature of these wars are often driven by proxies. This is reminiscent of how India was effectively conquered by the East India Company, a private organization but very much supported by the English state.
#2 Mark Cuban Calls for Stablecoin Regulation After Trading Token That Crashed to Zero
Here’s a chart you never want to see. It’s of the DeFi Titanium token, which in one day went from being valued around $60 to $0. Even in the world of crypto, where massive drawdowns are commonplace, 100% washouts are pretty rare, especially in such short a time.
The token is/was part of an algorithmic stablecoin project called Iron Finance. Stablecoins are pretty hot these days. Some (like USDT and USDC) maintain a peg to the dollar by holding a basket of dollar-denominated assets. Others (like Dai) are backed by overcollateralized crypto assets. And then there’s this breed of so-called algorithmic stablecoins, which use a dual-currency structure and attempt to hold a peg by creating arbitrage opportunities between coins. See Frances Coppola’s walkthrough of how the stability mechanism was designed to work. Also for more on the technical aspects, you can check out the description of another stablecoin project called Frax, from which Iron Finance was a fork.
“The investment wasn’t so big that I felt the need to have to dot every I and cross every T. I took a flyer and lost. But if you are looking for a lesson learned , the real question is the regulatory one. There will be a lot of players trying to establish stable coins on every new l1 and L2. It can be a very lucrative fee and arb business for the winners.“Source: Bloomberg
Regulations are boring. Volatility is fun. Or is it?
Every generation somehow needs to (wants to?) rediscover why regulations exist along with the power and dangers of leverage, especially hidden leverage.
Don’t cry for Mark Cuban. Cry for everyone that bought Titanium after he put his stamp of approval on it a few weeks ago. And…even Mark Cuban himself noted that he was “getting” 206% annualized returns…maybe the right question to ask isn’t “where do I sign up?” but rather “how is that sustainable?”.
#3 Thai SEC Orders Exchanges to Delist Meme Coins, NFTs and Social Tokens
Pisscoin, CumRocket, Dogecoin—none were funny enough to stop Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission from banning meme coins.
The ban, passed on Wednesday, implemented yesterday and announced today, also bars cryptocurrency exchanges from listing NFTs, utility tokens and social tokens. Exchanges have 29 days to delist the coins.Source: Decrypt
The Thais don’t like to have fun unlike El Salvador.
#4 China’s tech workers pushed to limits by surveillance software
Andy Wang, an IT engineer at a Shanghai-based gaming company, occasionally felt a pang of guilt about his job.
Most of his hours were spent on a piece of surveillance software called DiSanZhiYan, or “Third Eye.” The system was installed on the laptop of every colleague at his company to track their screens in real time, recording their chats, their browsing activity and every document edit they made.
Working from their floor in a downtown high-rise, the startup’s hundreds of employees were constantly, uncomfortably aware of being under Third Eye’s intent gaze.
Just as algorithms have come to govern the workdays of blue-collar warehouse workers at Alibaba Group Holding and food delivery riders for Meituan, elsewhere, white-collar workers are becoming affected by the creep of software-driven management and monitoring into their professional lives.Source: Nikkei
This was a really eye-opening piece. China is a really fascinating place. China has materially leapfrogged the West in terms of technology adoption and applications. As many now know, this has put China squarely ahead of the West in terms of consumer technology and fintech.
But China is also pushing technology applications much more deeply into the enterprise with lots of expected and unexpected results.
Unfortunately there aren’t many concise quotes from that piece…you’ll have to read it to get the picture, but it’s well worth your time, including an anecdote about Alibaba’s employee bathroom monitoring capabilities.
#5 Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Working From Home
A six-minute meeting drove Portia Twidt to quit her job.
She’d taken the position as a research compliance specialist in February, enticed by promises of remote work. Then came the prodding to go into the office. Meeting invites piled up.
The final straw came a few weeks ago: the request for an in-person gathering, scheduled for all of 360 seconds. Twidt got dressed, dropped her two kids at daycare, drove to the office, had the brief chat and decided she was done.Source: Bloomberg
While Chinese workers are struggling ever more to be productive, US workers are increasingly saying, “Nope!”.
#6 Clothes That Don’t Exist Are Worth Big Money in the Metaverse
Of course the fashion world is interested in NFTs: In an industry obsessed with authenticity and exclusivity, a token that guarantees precisely those qualities makes perfect sense.
Paying for purely cosmetic digital items isn’t a new idea. Gamers have been purchasing add-ons such as stickers or character armour since at least the mid-2000s. And looking good online is something more and more of us are invested in, after months of pandemic-induced virtual meetings (and a decade and a half of social media). You may well already know someone who has spent a three-digit sum on a selection pack of Zoom backgrounds, or a ring light to better illuminate their face on-screen. Think of virtual fashion as a step further down that digital path.
NFTs transform digital garments from a sophisticated form of marketing into tradable design objects. By recording ownership of an asset on the blockchain, they ensure ownership, authenticity and scarcity.
“It’s about exploring parts of your identity and maybe expressing parts of yourself that you wouldn’t normally within your physical world,” said Michaela Larosse, head of content and strategy at The Fabricant, a digital fashion house that sold a shimmering blockchain dress for $9,500 in 2019.Source: Bloomberg
NFT mania seems to have died down, but mostly just the noise about making money really fast. I can get onboard with NFTs are purely a consumption mechanism, though.
#7 OnlyFans is reportedly in talks to raise new funding at a valuation above $1 billion, as it plots a move away from adult content to become more mainstream
Adult-entertainment site OnlyFans is reportedly in talks to raise new funding at a valuation of more than $1 billion, sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg on Wednesday.
The online platform, which charges users a subscription to view pictures and videos of celebrities, influencers, and adult-film stars, was teaming up with an advisor to bolster interest from investors, one of the sources told Bloomberg. The source wanted to remain anonymous because the talks were private.
The source also said the advisor was helping OnlyFans become a more mainstream online media site, and that it hoped to move away from its reputation for adult content.
OnlyFans boomed during the pandemic — the number of users jumped to 120 million, from 20 million before coronavirus struck, and users spent $2.4 billion on the site in 2020. People joined the website as a way to earn money after losing their jobs in COVID-19 layoffs.
“Athletes are a creator genre we’re seeing a lot of growth in,” OnlyFans founder and CEO Tim Stokely said in a press release June 5, when Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. joined the site.Source: Business Insider
Maybe this company is a bit taboo / controversial, but…that valuation looks insanely wrong! Probably by at least an order of magnitude.
#8 Who Knows Generation Z Best? Soul App Gives the Answer as A New Social Playground for A Hundred Million Gen Z
Social networking has not been a “blue ocean”, but a rising star is indeed leading the market. Soul App – Chinese version, a representative of new social connections, has recently reached over 100 million registered users and over 30 million monthly active users (MAU) around the world. Topping the Social category list of the App Store in mainland China, SOUL has been a key player in this industry. With their aggressive market entry plans into oversea markets, Soul App has already launched in North America, Japan, and South Korea.
Gen Z, on the other hand, does not view the Internet as a supplementary part of their real life, but an indispensable lifestyle and life scene. In contrast, they are no longer satisfied with replicating offline interpersonal relationships online, and have new requirements for online social networking that are separate from offline and free from the social pressure of real relationships. Generation Z demands a completely new and different ambiance in the virtual world where they can relieve the stress and revitalize.
Soul App saw this unique market opportunity and delivered in a different way. SOUL focuses on spiritual needs of users to help them relieve the real life social pressure. The app explores users’ inner characteristics, and identifies people with common interests and similar characteristics, offering them a platform to share common interest topics with each other. The matching mechanism is based on Soul’s innovative big data and AI technologies.Source: AP News
Soul is currently in the process of going public. The positioning of the company taps into what a lot of young people are already well-attuned to: Common interests / hobbies tend to be the drivers of friendship in the long-run. In the offline world, friendships are often defined by proximity or local interests. But in the digital world, people are free to bond over anything.
#9 62 percent of UK adults played online games during the pandemic, says UK regulator
The organization said that online gaming saw a big increase in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with 62 percent of all adults and 92 percent of those aged between 16 and 24 explaining they played games on an electronic device as the country grappled with shifting restrictions, tiers, and lockdowns.Source: Gamasutra
As Nvidia’s executives have stated before, everyone born today will be a lifelong gamer.
#10 PUBG Maker Plans to Raise $5 Billion in Landmark Korea IPO
Krafton Inc., the company behind hit mobile game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, filed to raise as much as 5.6 trillion won ($5 billion) in a South Korean initial public offering that’s likely to be the country’s largest ever.
The key question Krafton will have to answer is whether it can grow to become more than a one-hit wonder. The company is almost wholly dependent on its blockbuster, genre-defining PUBG, which produced most of its 1.67 trillion won revenue last year, according to a regulatory filing. Analysts also worry about how much Covid-19 lockdowns helped Krafton’s numbers over the past year — the company’s filing showed sales dropped 11.6% and operating profit was down 33% in the first quarter of this year. Krafton’s prospectus warns that the amount of time and money spent in its games could diminish as the global virus situation improves.
Krafton’s investment in other titles such as Elyon hasn’t yet paid off. Now it’s betting on expanding the PUBG universe with next-generation games, an animated show and a web cartoon, according to Chief Executive Officer Kim Chang-han. This time, it plans to directly publish upcoming games on the global market instead of partnering with third-party publishers, a move that would partly help hedge some geopolitical risks it’s encountered. Krafton took over from Tencent Holdings Ltd. as publisher of PUBG in India last year, where the game had notched up 175 million downloads before it was banned following heightened political tensions with China.
The firm is also looking to expand into fields like artificial intelligence, deep learning and entertainment to broaden its portfolio of growth drivers.Source: Bloomberg
Krafton is the company behind PUBG, one of the largest games ever. While PUBG effectively created the battle royale category, it’s been replicated / eclipsed by a few similar offerings including Sea’s Free Fire. Whereas Free Fire and Fortnite have done very well to expand the in-game experience to be more social (including as an entertainment space), PUBG has not.
Will be curious to watch where PUBG evolves from here, and what Krafton does next. Seems like Krafton wants to become more of a tech company than a game / media company.
#11 ByteDance scores its first mobile game hit in China in ongoing battle with market leader Tencent
A video game developed by TikTok owner ByteDance was China’s fifth-biggest mobile game by revenue in May, demonstrating the company’s potential as a challenger to Tencent Holdings’ dominance of the lucrative sector.
One Piece: The Voyage, a pirate-themed game developed by CMGE Technology Group and Nuverse, a game studio wholly owned by ByteDance, was launched on April 23 in China and quickly gained popularity, becoming the Beijing-based company’s first title to break into the top 10 list compiled by Chinese market app tracking firm CNG.Source: SCMP
#12 “The Netflix of Wellness”: Inside the Hollywoodization of Peloton
That year, 2018, also marked a metamorphosis in the company’s brand, from being known for its bikes to being known for its content. That summer was when Peloton first released its digital app, allowing people who didn’t (yet) want to pony up for pricey Peloton bikes (and treadmills) to tap into the cult of instructors like Robin Arzón (who now has 770,000 followers on Instagram) and Cody Rigsby (730,000 followers). It was also when Peloton announced it had closed a $550 million round of fundraising to build “a media company akin to Netflix,” as Foley put it at the time.
Three years later, much of what Foley set out to accomplish has come to be. The company, which went public in 2019, has a market cap of around $30 billion. It has signed deals with Peloton member Beyoncé (on classes that celebrate her music) and member Shonda Rhimes (on a campaign called Year of Yes, designed to build self-confidence and encourage regular exercise). And Peloton, whose bikes start at $1,895, has done it all by carefully controlling its production values, smartly promoting its instructors, and making music integral to its ethos, as 17 interviews (with company execs, instructors, industry sources and former employees) attest.Source: Hollywood Reporter
I don’t really understand the appeal of Peloton as a consumer, but I do have to say it’s a very different company vs other exercise equipment peers. Really fascinating look into how the company operates and where it wants to go.
#13 Shop Pay becomes first Shopify product to extend beyond Shopify merchants, soon available to any business selling on Facebook and Google
Today, Shop Pay—the highest-converting checkout on the Internet—takes a critical step in becoming the preferred checkout for all merchants. Starting with Facebook and Instagram later this summer and followed by Google in late 2021, Shop Pay will be available to more than one million merchants across both platforms—even if they don’t use Shopify’s online store.
“Since launching, Shop Pay has set the standard for checkout experiences, facilitating more than $24 billion in orders,” said Carl Rivera, VP, Product, Shop. “According to studies, cart abandonment averages 70%, with nearly 20% occurring because of a complicated checkout process***. Shop Pay makes that process fast and simple, and the expansion to all merchants selling on Facebook and Google is a mission-critical step in bringing a best-in-class checkout to every consumer, every merchant, every platform, and every device.”Source: Shopify
This is likely a really big deal. This turns Shopify from a integrated platform into much more of a partner to external ecosystems. Shopify was already doing this as a marketplace aggregator by allowing their merchants to plug into a lot of different marketplaces. And now this takes it a step further. Not only does this increase Shopify’s hooks into other ecosystems, it allows Shopify to retain more value and more leverage by directly connecting Shopify with consumers.
#14 Investors Clamor for a Bigger Piece of Payments Company Stripe
The company, which processes payments for e-commerce businesses, recently offered investors the chance to acquire sizable stakes in the company from existing shareholders, including current and former Stripe employees, according to people familiar with the transaction. Bids from those investors exceeded $4 billion, some of the people said.
But only about $1 billion of those bids were filled, one of the people said, suggesting that many current Stripe shareholders believe their stock has a long way to climb. Among the largest buyers were mutual-fund giant Capital Group Cos., venture-capital firm Sequoia Capital, e-commerce company Shopify Inc. SHOP 1.21% and buyout firm Silver Lake, some of the people said.Source: WSJ
Shopify’s payment efforts are enabled by Stripe. Not surprised to see Shopify take a stake in Stripe. For years, I’ve thought it would make all the sense in the world for Shopify and Stripe to combine. This was true when Shopify was a $5 billion company and Stripe was a $3 billion company. And I think it remains true today even with Shopify at $170 billion and Stripe at $100+ billion.
Shopify and Stripe are both aiming for very, very similar things – to enable commerce everywhere.
#15 Stripe Terminal is now generally available in the US
Today we’re excited to make Stripe Terminal available to all users in the US. Terminal is a set of SDKs, APIs, and pre-certified card readers that lets you extend your Stripe integration to accept in-person payments.
Speaking of Stripe…Stripe is launching a programmable terminal. Programmable payments is starting to really change how commerce is done online. What new things and ways of transacting will the creatives of the world come up with when offline payments is also fully programmable?
#16 Stripe Goes Beyond Payments with Stripe Identity to Provide AI-Based ID Verification for Transactions and Much More
The company is launching a new product called Stripe Identity — a self-serve tool that companies can use to verify user identities, with Stripe managing the customer data in an encrypted format, using computer vision and machine learning to “read” and match up government IDs with live selfies.
“Businesses have been asking us for an easy and fast way to verify identities online. Stripe Identity offers them just that,” said Rob Daly, head of Engineering for Stripe Identity. “Now, any internet business — from a five-person startup to a multinational enterprise — can begin securely verifying the identities of their users in a matter of minutes, not weeks or months.”
Of course, payments remains at the heart of Stripe, and identity verification definitely has a connection to that — it can help with preventing e-commerce fraud, for starters — but as you can see, ID authentication also covers a number of other use cases, such as in helping prevent account takeovers, or to verify someone’s age, or to comply with other “know your customer” regulations, or to stamp out bots and trolls: no payments necessary. For this reason, Stripe’s confirmed that you don’t have to be an existing Stripe customer in order to use Stripe Identity.Source: TechCrunch
#17 Visa Brings Its Tap to Phone Payments to U.S. Merchants in a Pilot
Visa Inc. is bringing a point-of-sale payment-acceptance application that uses commercially available consumer smart phones on tour to U.S. small businesses, it announced Wednesday.
Using a smart phone from ZmBizi LLC loaded with the POS app, 50 small businesses in Washington, D.C., will be able to accept payments without having to use a dedicated point-of-sale terminal. For the introduction, Visa is giving 500 small businesses the device along with a Visa prepaid card. It’s starting first in Washington, D.C., and will travel to Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Miami later with a focus on small businesses. Visa has piloted the Tap to Phone technology in 30 countries already.Source: Digital Transactions
Visa already launched this a while back, but Visa is finally bringing it more aggressively to the US.
As we’ve discussed before, this could materially change how the current landscape works, especially for merchant acquirers. Long live merchant acquirers. The networks used to need merchant acquirers. Increasingly, that might not be true.
#18 The Metaverse Will Radically Change Retail
When it comes to retail, there are those that foresee the creation of shopping venues — stores, malls and more — in the Metaverse. This is probably short-sighted. To simply transport industrial age shopping concepts and conventions to the Metaverse would be both unimaginative and ineffective. The creation of the Metaverse will allow us to break free from the current industrial form and function of physical stores and move light years beyond even the best digital shopping experiences of today.
Why would one create a virtual replica of a Canada Goose store when in the Metaverse I could potentially shop for a new Canada Goose coat from inside an Arctic exploration experience led by Iditarod champion and Canada Goose spokesperson Lance Mackey? There I can gain first-hand, contextual knowledge of the garment’s technical quality and performance, order it and have it delivered to my real-world home. I can buy my new car in the Metaverse — not from a static showroom of cars but while taking an adrenaline-pumping test drive on the racetrack of my choosing. I can get beauty advice from a personal advisor that I pull from the Metaverse into my living room. In a world where any experience is possible, why on earth would we use our industrial-era version of retail as a template for the future? Marketers, store designers, merchandisers and more will have to begin thinking very differently about what a “store” is.
As we spend more time in the Metaverse, status symbols like the virtual home you own, the virtual clothing and jewellery you wear or the virtual cosmetics you use will become every bit as important as those same real-world purchases and possessions are today. Brands will capitalise on this demand by creating an ever-growing assortment of virtual products at real-world prices. Indeed, the sheer amount of time that one can spend in the Metaverse, as opposed to the real world, may in itself be viewed as a status symbol.Source: Business of Fashion
There’s going to be a really interesting convergence between games, commerce, and advertising / branding / marketing in the coming years.
#19 Wayfair’s $112 billion plan to take over your entire home
Wayfair is deceptively difficult to analyze, even for business analysts. It appears to be a massive furniture and home goods website, but it’s also a large infrastructural network that delivers products from manufacturers to people’s homes, and a technology company powered by 3,000 engineers and zero furniture designers. Wayfair doesn’t just want to sell you your next love seat; it wants to be your destination for every future home project, from remodeling a bathroom to redecorating your whole house, with just a few taps.
By current projections in the growth of the home industry, Shah explains that even without gaining more market share, Wayfair will be selling $112 billion a year in home goods by 2030. “We obviously intend for our share capture to build over time,” he says. But Wayfair’s competition is robust across the fragmented home industry. It includes home improvement chains like Lowe’s, big-box retailers like Walmart, furniture giants like Ikea, decorating services like Houzz, and countless direct-to-consumer startups dipping their toes into the furniture and housewares market. Wayfair’s quest to rule the home sounds impossible, but so does turning a website that sells speaker stands into a $14 billion business.Source: Fast Company
#20 Pinterest Launches New Virtual Test Drive Ad Experience With VolkswagenShoppers Can Test Drive Volkswagen’s New ID.4 All-Electric Vehicle on Pinterest
Pinterest has launched a new virtual test drive ad experience with Volkswagen, which could also introduce a new, engaging ad option for auto brands on the platform.
As part of the campaign for the new Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV, Volkswagen is running a new, interactive, in-car experience, which can be activated from its Promoted Pin.
It’s a first-of-its-kind integration for Pinterest, which leans into immersive, AR-like experiences, which will eventually become commonplace in all forms of eCommerce and online product discovery. In addition to this, Pinterest will further the promotion by partnering with selected Pinterest Creators who will walk consumers through their personal favorite features of the car, boosting exposure and connection in the app.
It’s an interesting development for Pinterest on two fronts. First, and as noted, the promotion leans into enhanced virtual experiences, which will increasingly become a part of online shopping as platforms look to merge in-store and online buying wherever they can. eCommerce is not the same as being able to touch and feel – or test drive – a product yourself, and it never will be, but with new advances in AR and VR, we could be getting close, in many ways. And as these tools evolve, that will become the expectation over time.Source: Social Media Today
Echoing above – games and advertising.
#21 Everyone You Know is a Disney Princess, Which Means AR is Queen
On Thursday, Snapchat released a Cartoon 3D Style Lens, which uses AR to make you look like a background character from “Frozen.” On Snapchat, over 215 million users have engaged with the Cartoon 3D lens, and it’s been viewed more than 1.7 billion times. Naturally, even though TikTok’s own AR cartoon effects aren’t quite as convincing as Snapchat’s, people are turning to TikTok to share videos of themselves as Disney princesses, because of course they are.
This isn’t the first time that a Disney-esque AR trend has gone viral. In August 2020, Snapchat had 28.5 million new installs, which was its biggest month since May 2019, when it got 41.2 million new installs. It might not be a coincidence that in early August 2020, Snapchat released the Cartoon Face lens, which users realized could be used to “Disneyfy” their pets — the tag #disneydog got 40.9 million views across platforms on TikTok. Then, Snapchat struck viral gold again in December, when they released the Cartoon lens, which rendered more realistic results for human faces than the previous iteration.Source: TechCrunch
I know…it’s not really a game. But it IS a game! And it’s definitely advertising.
This isn’t that different from how Dungeons and Dragons nerds have always thought about games. It’s make-belief. It’s allowing the imagination and mustering the courage to envision yourself as who you truly are or want to be in a way that life and stereotypes do not allow. 30 years ago, only nerds would spend time imaging themselves as something else, maybe a wizard. And this was something only few people would do because only weird people did that.
But increasingly, young people do not have that stigma. Imagination is the first step to being free. Everyone born today is a child of fantasy.
#22 Wix Acquires Modalyst to Provide Its Own eCommerce Supplier Marketplace and Native Dropshipping Solution
Wix (Nasdaq: WIX), a leading global SaaS platform to create, manage and grow an online presence, today announced the acquisition of Modalyst, a leading marketplace and dropshipping platform. The acquisition will continue extending the Wix eCommerce platform and contribute to the success of businesses on Wix, connecting Wix merchants to a vast supplier marketplace where they can create lasting, scalable relationships and source millions of high-quality products synced directly to their store to sell and fulfill online.
With the acquisition of Modalyst, Wix business owners can seamlessly connect their online store to an established marketplace of thousands of suppliers, manufacturers and wholesalers where they have access to products spanning name brands, trending items and independent labels with the option to white-label products with their own branding. Merchants then import the products directly to their online store, including details and image options from the supplier, which continually update with the suppliers’ pricing and inventory. When a purchase is placed, orders are packaged and fulfilled by the supplier and can be fully branded for a full white-label solution. The merchant receives tracking numbers and is updated on the fulfillment status of each order via their Wix dashboard.Source: Wix
Okay, back to more nuts and bolts commerce. Wix is acquiring Modalyst, which is effectively a B2B platform. Lots of really interesting things going on in B2B space.
What’s interesting is how perceptions of the e-commcerce value-chain remains stuck.
People still mostly think of e-commerce as a 2-sided marketplace like this:
Consumers <–> Platform / Marketplace (Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, etc) <–> Merchants (Brands or mom and pops)
But, e-commerce is really evolving to become a two-step marketplace:
Consumers <–> Platform / Marketplace <–> Merchants <–> B2B Marketplace <–> Suppliers
Big merchants / brands like Nike have all the supplier relationships they need already. Existing offline merchants also have the suppliers they need already.
But new merchants, especially new digital-first merchants, do NOT have supplier relationships. Finding the right suppliers is one of the biggest barriers for forming new online commerce businesses. And every commerce platform needs to help solve this bottleneck.
#23 Amazon Got Us Hooked on One-Day Delivery—Now Small Businesses Are Paying for It
In the Amazon AMZN -0.07% era, selling online is one thing, but actually getting products to customers fast enough to make them happy is something else. It’s especially difficult if, like the Wilsondebrianos, a merchant isn’t selling via Amazon, but still feels obligated to match the e-commerce giant’s promises of free and fast delivery.
America’s small and medium-size online merchants are being separated into winners and losers according to their ability to adapt to changes in logistics driven largely by Amazon and other big retailers. Amazon’s continuing hiring binge and warehouse building spree facilitate ever-faster, free Prime shipping.
As a result, even merchants who don’t sell on Amazon are racing to ship products as fast as they can, either eating the extra cost or raising prices and watching their sales decline—while simultaneously coping with supply-chain bottlenecks.Source: WSJ
Another reminder at how deeply important logistics has become for the Amazon experience. In a way, Amazon’s key value proposition today is increasingly just speed. Not price (plenty of articles over the past few years increasingly show Amazon isn’t cheapest). Not even selection (maybe Amazon still has the deepest selection for truly niche goods, but most platforms are now at parity for core goods). Just logistics and speed.
All the more reason to be fearful if Shopify’s fulfillment network gains momentum.
#24 Retailtainment: a deep dive into the new shopping experiences
A century later, Emile Zola’s vision of shopping as a mass leisure activity is still relevant. However, in 2021, the playing field underwent a significant transformation. With the onset of the pandemic over a year ago and no respite in sight, digital escapism continues to fuel retailtainment with multiple facets and subtle undertones. If you are under the impression that you have seen everything associated with shopping-entertainment, you are in for a ride. Because this is just the beginning.
All of these innovations denote one thing for sure – the world of retailtainment is changing fast. As Arthur C.Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” and precisely, the r@bbits are about to rush out of the h@ts. So, get ready world!Source: In Bed With Social
I won’t spoil this one for you. Fantastic overview of all the new experimentation going on in commerce.
#25 NVIDIA, Arm CEOs Share Vision of a Deal Made for a Hypergrowth Era
“One of the things people love about this combination is that NVIDIA’s AI technology can be brought out to the far edges of the market where Arm has such a great presence. That’s where the IoT and edge AI is going to happen, but the fundamental technology of AI isn’t out there yet,” said NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang, wearing a pandemic ponytail.
“The benefits to customers will be more and better IP, more accelerated roadmaps and hopefully taking Arm from the cloud to the edge to IoT and HPC — everything. The breadth of computing today is gigantic,” he said.
Together, NVIDIA and Arm aim to create a platform with broad reach and deep AI capabilities others can build on.
“With this combination, we’ll be able to look at more markets at the same time and go deeper and further up the stack, creating a richer portfolio of IP that companies can then innovate on top of to create even more competitive products — so I think this is great for competition,” Segars said.Source: Nvidia
Nvidia’s stock has been pretty strong recently. Despite, the media continuing to suggest the ARM deal faces hurdles, the company has been consistently suggesting it is on track.
The discussion above sheds more light on how Nvidia thinks of ARM, and why the company believes it is good for everyone, not just Nvidia.
#26 Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang weighs in on the metaverse, blockchain, and chip shortage
Using a supercomputer to simulate architecture, I think this is going to happen for all buildings in the future. You’re going to design a building completely in virtual reality. The building is also designed to accommodate many robots. You’ll notice the hallways are very wide. In the future we imagine robots roaming the hallways carrying things to people, but also for telepresence, virtual presence. You can upload yourself into a robot and sit at your desk in your VR or AR headset and roam around the campus.
Using the virtual world to design and create the physical world. Trippy.
I believe we’re right on the cusp of it. The metaverse, as you know, for all of you who are learning about it and hearing about it, it’s a virtual world that connects to the world that we live in. It’s a virtual world that is shared by a lot of people. It has real design. It has a real economy. You have a real avatar. That avatar belongs to you and is you. It could be a photoreal avatar of you, or a character.
In these metaverses, you’ll spend time with your friends. You’ll communicate, for example. We could be, in the future, in a metaverse right now. It will be a communications metaverse. It won’t be flat. It’ll be 3D. We’ll be able to almost feel like we’re there with each other. It’s how we do time travel. It’s how we travel to far places at the speed of light. It could simulate the future. There will be many types of metaverses, and video games are one of them, for example. Fortnite will eventually evolve into a form of metaverse, or some derivative of it. World of Warcraft, you can imagine, will someday evolve into a form of metaverse. There will be video game versions.
There will be AR versions, where the art that you have is a digital art. You own it using NFT. You’ll display that beautiful art, that’s one of a kind, and it’s completely digital. You’ll have our glasses on or your phone. You can see that it’s sitting right there, perfectly lit, and it belongs to you. We’ll see this overlay, a metaverse overlay if you will, into our physical world.Source: VentureBeat
This I can also get behind.
#27 TikTok Owner ByteDance’s Annual Revenue Jumps to $34.3 Billion
ByteDance Ltd., the owner of popular short-video app TikTok, told employees that its revenue last year more than doubled to $34.3 billion, underscoring why the Chinese technology giant is one of the world’s hottest startups.
ByteDance had about 1.9 billion monthly active users across all its platforms as of December 2020, according to the memo. The company also runs viral apps such as Douyin, the domestic Chinese equivalent of TikTok, and a news aggregation app called Jinri Toutiao.Source: WSJ
Monster. Just a bit shy of Facebook’s 2.5 billion users. Incredible.
And the revenues are also equally insane. Bytedance hasn’t even started monetizing outside of China, yet.
#28 Oculus: Testing In-Headset VR Ads
Last month, we announced that we’re starting to test ads in the Oculus mobile app to give developers a new way to showcase their VR applications. Today, we’re excited to share a look at the next phase of that exploration: a small test of in-headset ads. The experiment will begin with Blaston from Resolution Games and a couple other developers that will be rolling out over the coming weeks.Source: Facebook / Oculus
Uh oh. Facebook hasn’t gotten the memo that no one wants to see floating ads.
The lack of creativity here is breathtaking. I mean…obviously, games and ads, again, is the way to go. Facebook is so well positioned for VR / AR, but they seem to sometimes miss the forest for the trees.
#29 CureVac’s Flop Shows Pfizer, Moderna Made mRNA Look Too Easy
The rapid development and remarkable efficacy of Covid-19 shots from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. created sky-high expectations for the novel technology they employ. CureVac NV’s vaccine disappointment shows that not every messenger-RNA project will live up to hopes.
The company lost more than half of its market value after it disclosed that the vaccine was only 47% effective against Covid infections in an interim analysis. The shares regained a bit of that Friday, rising 10% in premarket U.S. trading.
The efficacy rate is far below the levels hit by Moderna and Pfizer. While it’s too early to call the CureVac shot a failure, the weak preliminary results have thrown the company’s choices into question, suggesting that virus variants alone may not account for the vaccine’s poor performance relative to rivals.Source: Bloomberg
One of the challenges for Moderna’s narrative is that there are a lot of companies that claim to know how to do mRNA vaccines. In addition to that, the US government owns the patents for mRNA tech.
But the truth is, the mRNA itself is not really where the magic happens. The magic of Moderna (and BioNTech) is the superior ability to get that mRNA into the right places.
Moderna continues to look incredibly good from a risk / reward perspective.
#30 With iOS 15, Apple reveals just how far Health has come — and how much further it can go
“It’s been amazing how much it’s evolved over time,” Lynch said, referring to the original Health app. “It actually started from Apple Watch, where we were capturing heart rate data for calorimetry activity, and [Activity] ring closure, and we needed a place to put the heart rate data. So we created the Health app as a place to store the data.”
From there, Lynch says Apple realized that once you had this centralized location, they could develop a system that could store other data types, as well, and create an API and architecture that allowed developers to store related data there, as well, in a privacy-respecting way. In the early days, the Health app was still essentially a passive storehouse, providing users one touchpoint for various health-related information, but the company soon began thinking more about what else it could offer, and inspiration came from users.
Apple’s health story to date is largely one made up of realizations that the sensors the iPhone and Apple Watch carry, originally for other purposes, can provide tremendous insights into our health on a continuous basis — something that previously just hasn’t been possible or practical. That evolved into an intentional strategy of seeking out new sensor technologies to integrate into Watch and other Apple devices to address even more daily health concerns, and Apple continues to figure out new ways to use the sensors that are there already — the addition of respiratory rate measurement during sleep in iOS 15 is a prime example — while working on what new hardware comes next to do even more.Source: TechCrunch
Slowly, Apple Health is building up to something pretty big.
#31 Apple Struggles in Push to Make Healthcare Its Greatest Legacy
Apple Inc. AAPL -1.01% Chief Executive Tim Cook has said the company’s greatest contribution to mankind will be in health. So far, some Apple initiatives aimed at broadly disrupting the healthcare sector have struggled to gain traction, according to people familiar with them and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Apple has envisioned an audacious plan for healthcare, offering its own primary-care medical service with Apple-employed doctors at its own clinics, according to people familiar with the plan and documents. To test that and other bold healthcare ideas, it took over clinics that catered to its employees and built a team with scores of clinicians, engineers, product designers and others.
Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, who oversees the health team, urged employees to think big. He said Apple should disrupt what he called the “363” and “break fix” model of care in the U.S., where patients may not see their doctors 363 days a year and only visit when something goes wrong, according to people familiar with his ideas.
The team decided one of the best ways to realize that vision was to provide a medical service of its own, said people familiar with the plan, linking data generated by Apple devices with virtual and in-person care provided by Apple doctors. Apple would offer primary care, but also continuous health monitoring as part of a subscription-based personalized health program, according to these people and the documents.
If Apple could prove that its combination of device sensors, software and services could improve people’s health and lower costs, the company could franchise the model to health systems and even other countries, according to the documents.Source: WSJ
Seems like the vision is even bigger than what people think. But, still a long way to go to get there.
#32 Ex-Facebook VR exec says he’ll turn U.S. troops into ‘invincible technomancers,’ just raised $450 million
Anduril founder Palmer Luckey announced Thursday that his start-up has raised an additional $450 million in funding, which will be used to “turn allied warfighters into invincible technomancers.” The company is now valued at $4.6 billion.
“We just raised $450M in Series D funding for Anduril,” Luckey said on Twitter. “It will be used to turn American and allied warfighters into invincible technomancers who wield the power of autonomous systems to safely accomplish their mission. Our future roadmap is going to blow you away, stay tuned!Source: CNBC
Okay, so I’ve talked a lot about games eating the world including advertising. But Ender’s Game is probably coming, too. One day, killing people will just be a game, too. Hopefully by then, we learn to just be nice to each other without having to do the killing part.