Hello, hello! 👋🏻👋🏻
Welcome back to another edition of Tidbits covering all the recent things worth talking about in business, media, and technology.
🤑 Economics + Markets
#1 Ethereum Co-Founder Says Safety Concern Has Him Quitting Crypto
“It’s got a risk profile that I am not too enthused about,” said Di Iorio, who declined to disclose his cryptocurrency holdings or net worth. “I don’t feel necessarily safe in this space. If I was focused on larger problems, I think I’d be safer.”
“I want to diversify to not being a crypto guy, but being a guy tackling complex problems,” Di Iorio said. He is involved in Project Arrow, run by a high-school friend that’s building a zero-emission vehicle. He is also consulting a senator from Paraguay.
“I will incorporate crypto when needed, but a lot of times, it’s not,” he said. “It’s really a small percentage of what the world needs.”Source: Bloomberg
Although there are a lot of scams and wishful thinking in crypto, Ethereum remains one of the more / most interesting corners of the crypto universe. Almost everything interesting is built on top of it.
For that reason, it makes it doubly interesting that the cofounder / co-creator of Ethereum is giving up on crypto because it’s not “what the world needs”.
Also interesting that he wants this thing that crypto bros consider useless – US Dollars.
#2 Binance Froze When Bitcoin Crashed. Now Users Want Their Money Back.
Anand Singhal built up $50,000 in savings from the time he was 13 doing freelance coding from his bedroom in New Delhi. It was meant to pay for a dream—a master’s degree in computer science in the U.S. The money disappeared in seven minutes on May 19.
Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, froze for over an hour just as the price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies plunged. Mr. Singhal and others, who had made leveraged bets on their rise, were locked out.
As losses steepened, the exchange seized their margin collateral and liquidated their holdings. Mr. Singhal said he lost his $50,000 plus $24,000 he had made in previous trades.
Binance traders around the world have been trying to get their money back. But unlike a more traditional investment platform, Binance is largely unregulated and has no headquarters, making it difficult, the traders say, to figure out whom to petition. [Capital Flywheel’s emphasis]
To make returns more attractive, traders on its main website can make oversize bets with little money. Investors can get leverage of 125 to 1 for some futures contracts, meaning they can deposit just 80 cents to amass the equivalent of $100 of bitcoin or another currency.
Regulators in most countries oversee exchanges that offer stocks and other securities, and can force brokers to make investors whole after system outages. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the front-line inspector of broker-dealers in the U.S., recently ordered Robinhood Financial LLC to pay more than $12 million in restitution to thousands of customers, in part due to losses from platform issues during the March 2020 market panic.
Toronto resident Fawaz Ahmed, 33, had been trading full time since early 2020. He said he amassed coins trading futures on Binance and hoped to make enough to let his parents retire and help his siblings through college. He lives at home with his parents.
On May, 19 he said he had 1,250 ether coins, at the time worth around $3 million. When he saw ether begin to slide, he clicked the app to exit his positions, take losses and move on. But the Binance app on his phone was frozen and nothing would click, he said. He kept trying for about an hour.
Then he received a message saying he had been liquidated as his losses surpassed the collateral.
“It was the worst time of my life,” Mr. Ahmed said, adding he feels depressed and has had difficulties leaving his home. He hasn’t told his parents he lost millions.Source: WSJ
Some of these stories are tragic.
It’s tragic that a system that so strongly pushes the message of returning power to the average person and away from centralized, overbearing authorities is instead now full of people that take advantage of the average person that has no idea what type of complex financial transactions and leverage they are dealing with.
What’s even more tragic is that this system is designed to be government resistant, and now when things have gone really wrong, people are discovering that it’s…well…government resistant. Governments have no power to help or regulate…
#3 NoPixel and The New Creator Auteurs
Lately, I’ve been fascinated by NoPixel, a role-play (“RP”) server for Grand Theft Auto V. Many of the top Twitch streamers have flocked to NoPixel, helping drive game sales and user counts to incredible heights. Viewership on Twitch has also spiked as the server has gained notoriety for its revolving cast of characters and unique viewing experience.
More than simply a private server, NoPixel has added incredible depth to the Grand Theft Auto V experience. The NoPixel development team, led by Australian streamer Koil (himself an active roleplayer on the server), has built systems and tools enabling a human-controlled police force, player EMTs and doctors, custom emotes and chat systems, lawyers, shopkeepers, and even a bespoke economy filled with specialized items, food and drink (to satisfy each character’s hunger and thirst meter), illicit drugs, custom vehicles, weapons, and real estate.
Koil and his NoPixel colleagues and collaborators are early examples of a new wave of gaming creators, respected by players and developers alike for their ability to innovate new interactive experiences and bring massive audiences to bear against their collective vision. These neo-auteurs are supported by an increasingly robust ecosystem of tools, platforms, and services built to aid creators in standing up viable businesses without the need for publisher support. In fact, it may well be the case that publishers will be the ones that need these creators, rather than the opposite. This ecosystem will only strengthen over time, further enabling and empowering game creators of the future to reimagine what it means to develop new game IP.Source: Master the Meta
This is about games, but I think it’s really about society.
In the coming years, games and virtual environments will increasingly merge, infiltrate, and transform our lives.
This article explores some of the interesting areas of “modding” games as an increasingly dynamic and viable way for creators to do what they like to do as well as build businesses that can support themselves. This is important because as virtual worlds become more and more important, society has to figure out how to provide jobs. Not just society, but it will also be in the interest of the tech companies involved to figure this out, too.
The way the digital world (like games) works currently is that major companies have created platforms where we all like to live, but with limited opportunities for us to add value or generate income from within. This is like the creation of a new country (e.g. perhaps the US in the 1700s) but everything is owned and operated by the country itself! Currently that’s how all tech ecosystems almost work. Almost everything is owned and operated by the tech companies. But, obviously, if these are the new “countries” of the future, the macroeconomy cannot sustain itself that way. Eventually things need to “privatize” so that individual creators, people, and businesses can build and earn money on top of these ecosystems. And this includes games. Right now, most game items are solely created and sold by the game developer itself. That’s not a viable long-term system. It would be a more sustainable system if the “government” of these game ecosystems decide to finally open up and privatize the ability to create and do business within their worlds.
💬 Media + Games
#4 Netflix Plans to Offer Video Games in Push Beyond Films, TV
Netflix Inc., marking its first big move beyond TV shows and films, is planning an expansion into video games and has hired a former Electronic Arts Inc. and Facebook Inc. executive to lead the effort.
Mike Verdu will join Netflix as vice president of game development, reporting to Chief Operating Officer Greg Peters, the company said on Wednesday. Verdu was previously Facebook’s vice president in charge of working with developers to bring games and other content to Oculus virtual-reality headsets.
The idea is to offer video games on Netflix’s streaming platform within the next year, according to a person familiar with the situation. The games will appear alongside current fare as a new programming genre — similar to what Netflix did with documentaries or stand-up specials. The company doesn’t currently plan to charge extra for the content, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.Source: Bloomberg
Netflix is moving into other areas beyond video. This makes sense – We already spend a lot of time doing a lot of other things, and if what is truly valuable at Netflix is the IP of characters and shows you love, it makes sense to extend that IP to other areas where it can be monetized. For example, video games.
This has always been Disney’s model. IP that is monetized in multiple ways – TV shows, movies, toys, theme parks, etc.
In other words, Netflix is becoming Disney.
#5 Netflix to open world-first shop in Tokyo
Streaming giant Netflix Inc. is preparing to open its first shop, directly managed by the company, in Tokyo in the first half of 2022, a senior official of the U.S. firm’s Japanese arm said Friday.
The shop, where scenes from shows and films will be recreated and related goods will be sold, will be the first of its kind in the world for Netflix, which has been seeing increased subscribers as many people stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The company is aiming to accelerate efforts to “merge the virtual world of the internet with the real world” at a rare physical store setting, the official said.
“Opening amusement facilities is a future option, too,” said the executive of the Japan unit.Source: Japan Times
Is this Netflix’s dipping its toe into a mini-theme park?
#6 Inside Shonda Rhimes’ Second Netflix Pact: A “Significant” Raise and New Revenue Streams
The July 8 deal extension will keep Rhimes at the streamer for five more years. Sources say Rhimes scored a “significant” up-front raise from the $100 million to $150 million initial pact she inked in 2017. Rhimes again has multiple bonuses built in that, in success, could elevate its value to the $300 million to $400 million territory of fellow uber-producers Ryan Murphy and Greg Berlanti, per sources.
While Berlanti has separate film and TV pacts, Rhimes’ new deal includes film, games, VR, branding and merchandising, live events and experiences. Although Rhimes started her career in features, sources close to the Scandal creator note it’s the merchandising and live events and experiences that are of particular interest to Netflix as the streamer plots other revenue opportunities to help offset its slowed subscriber growth. Netflix reported 208 million subscribers in the first quarter, missing its own expectations of 210 million.
The plan, sources say, is for Netflix to build on its hit franchises — like the immersive Stranger Things: The Experience in L.A and New York — with additional live events including the upcoming London-set Bridgerton ball scheduled to launch in November. Such events are done in participation with Netflix and the series creators, who help deliver the authenticity that can justify the pricey ticket fees. A Bridgerton video game and, after Netflix’s virtual Witcher Con on July 9, a Bridgerton fan convention could be on the table, too. Such events will also help keep fans engaged in the long stretches between seasons of the streamer’s hit shows. (Stranger Things, for example, last aired in July 2019 with the drive-through event providing diehard fans and franchise newcomers a fun opportunity during the height of the pandemic stateside.)Source: The Hollywood Reporter
One way of interpreting what Netflix is doing is that it’s looking for ways to grow after reaching the stratosphere with its current strategy.
But another way of interpreting what Netflix is doing is that the world is changing. Maybe it’s not trying to be Disney. Maybe Netflix is trying to be Roblox. What might suggest this is Netflix’s interest in VR and “experiences” in the recent contract negotiation with Shonda Rhimes. Roblox is not a game. It’s a platform for people to experience things. Netflix is kind of the same. It’s not really a TV channel or even a bunch of TV channels. It’s a platform for people to experience things. You click a box, and it takes you into a specific universe. Which could be the Stranger Things universe or the Bridgerton universe. Roblox is kind of the same. You click a box, and you’re instantly transported into a unique experience and universe. In such a world, what’s the difference between a show and a game and an experience?
#7 Tinder, Netflix Team For Indian Dating Reality Show ‘IRL: In Real Love’ – Global Bulletin
Swipe cards will appear in between Tinder members’ stack of potential matches, and if they swipe right on the in-app casting call they will be redirected to a registration page.
“Tinder is thrilled to partner with Netflix to offer this generation’s hopeful romantics a chance to go after a flame that can’t be put out,” said Taru Kapoor, general manager, Tinder and Match Group, India. “Right from the casting process to its distinctive dating format, this show brings to the table, an opportunity to experience new connections, some heartbreaks, unmatched chemistry and a whole lot of fun. With Tinder’s diverse community of young singletons actively looking for real sparks, this show will provide them with exactly that and more. It’s a perfect match.”Source: Variety
Or this – You play the game called Tinder, and if you swipe the screen a certain way, you are transported to a Netflix casting location where you get to be on a show and be famous. The boundaries of the digital-to-digital and digital-to-physical and digital-to-physical-to-digital portals are blurring and currently being built.
#8 Free Fire Reaches 1 Billion Downloads on Google Play
Source: Garena via LinkedIn
Very few digital apps or services have ever achieved this milestone. Free Fire has about the same reach as WeChat and has greater reach than any game ever (but not yet most profitable, yet). Free Fire has more reach than many social media / networks like Snap, Pinterest, Twitter, and possibly Instagram.
#9 Square Building New Bitcoin-Inspired Financial Services Business
Square Inc. is creating a new business line to help developers build financial services products focused on Bitcoin, according to tweets from Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey.
Square is “building an open developer platform with the sole goal of making it easy to create non-custodial, permissionless, and decentralized financial services,” Dorsey tweeted Thursday, adding that the new business doesn’t yet have a name. “Our primary focus is #Bitcoin,” he said. A company spokeswoman declined to share further details.Source: Bloomberg
So here’s another funny one for you – While I’ve been watching the crypto space with some interest on and off for almost a decade now, I still continue to believe that the long-term winners will be the infrastructure and “portal / bridge” companies that figure out how to connect fiat world to crypto and vice versa. I remain skeptical that the crypto world itself will keep much of the value for itself.
Here is a company like Square that is leveraging the open nature of crypto to build a developer platform on top of it. And the value that will be ultimately created will accrue to Square.
Square obviously would LOVE for this to take off because Square itself is obviously tired of having to ask the centralized players in the financial system for permission, too (such as the payment network players like Visa or perhaps the banks). But the end game isn’t a world where there is no centralized player. The end game is a world where Square becomes the centralized player. A centralized developer platform on top of a decentralized network.
#10 Facebook’s payment system extends to online retailers in August
Now, just like Google’s stored cards, PayPal integrations, Amazon Pay, and others, Facebook Pay is opening itself up for use in transactions with participating retailers. Shopify merchants are first in line to add the system on their sites, with others to follow after it launches in August.
Of course, this isn’t just an easier way for retailers to get paid with cards customers have already stored in their Facebook profiles, it’s also a way to get even more data into Facebook.Source: The Verge
The Devil’s bargain.
Recently, Shopify announced that Shop Pay would be expanded deeper into Facebook and Google’s ecosystems beyond just Shopify merchants. Now we see the bargain that was made – Facebook gets to expand Facebook Pay to Shopify Merchants beyond Facebook’s own properties.
As I wrote almost two years ago, there’s a war for your wallet and payments is the battleground. All the walled gardens have walls that are tall and getting taller, but payments is the single Trojan horse that allows each player to extend its reach into other ecosystems.
#11 Apple plans ‘buy now, pay later’ service
Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is working on a service to let shoppers pay for purchases in instalments, Bloomberg reported, a move that could help the iPhone maker tap into the thriving “buy now, pay later” sector.
The U.S. tech giant will use Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N), its partner since 2019 for the Apple Card credit card, as the lender for the loans made through Apple Pay, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.
The service will allow Apple Pay users to pay for their purchases through four interest-free payments made every two weeks or across several months with interest, according to the report.Source: Reuters
BNPL stocks all fell rapidly on this news.
The service is still not, yet, available so it is hard to know the final shape or nature of Apple’s product. However, one thing is clear – BNPL is a feature, and BNPL players will need to evolve.
#12 UK’s Revolut rockets to $33 bln valuation after Softbank-backed fundraising
British-based digital banking app Revolut has raised around $800 million in a new funding round led by Softbank’s (9984.T) Vision Fund and Tiger Global Management, valuing the company at around $33 billion.
The fundraising makes Revolut Britain’s most valuable fintech firm and on paper it is now worth slightly more than the market capitalisation of mainstream lender NatWest (NWG.L).
Founded in 2015 by former Credit Suisse trader Nik Storonsky and developer Vladyslav Yatsenko, Revolut has won more than 16 million customers with products including foreign exchange, stock trading and cryptocurrencies, undercutting mainstream banks’ prices.Source: Reuters
As flagged in recent editions of Tidbits, Softbank has made a significant comeback from its WeWork issues. While Softbank has made significant mistakes (WeWork, Greensill, and others), these mistakes have been more than dwarfed by Softbank’s winners. It’s easy to point out the mistakes, but the way venture investing has always worked is that many investments are expected to not work. But the ones that do work, work so well that it can more than cover a significant number of duds. The winners in Softbank’s portfolio are numerous including Coupang, Uber, Didi, Slack, Doordash, and many more. And this is before including many major winners that have yet to go public including Bytedance.
Currently, Softbank looks like it’s trying to corner a single market (fintech) the same way that it tried to corner ride hailing / logistics in the past. Softbank seems to be pushing up valuations quite a bit. Time will tell if Softbank is making the right decisions, but fintech generally has more attractive economics than logistics and real estate (e.g. WeWork). In addition to Revolut, Softbank is a major investor in Klarna, Kabbage, PayTM, eToro, Nubank, and others.
#13 U.S. Consumer Agency Sues Amazon To Force A Recall Of Potentially Hazardous Products
A federal agency is suing Amazon in an attempt to force the retail giant to recall hundreds of thousands of potentially hazardous products — from hair dryers to children’s sleepwear — that the agency says pose a risk of serious injury or death.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission said the online retailer had to “accept responsibility” for the products listed on its platform and recall them.
Robert Adler, the commission’s acting chairman, said the complaint filed Wednesday is a “huge step across a vast desert—we must grapple with how to deal with these massive third-party platforms more efficiently, and how best to protect the American consumers who rely on them.”
The products in question include:
Nearly 400,000 hair dryers that did not provide “integral immersion protection,” which reduces the risk of electric shock, in compliance with standards set by Underwriters Laboratories, a global safety company;
24,000 carbon monoxide detectors that failed to trigger their alarms when carbon monoxide was present during tests conducted by the CPSC;
Children’s sleepwear garments, such as flannel and fleece bathrobes, that failed to meet federal flammability requirements when tested by the CPSC.Source: NPR
Similar to the Binance crypto article above, there are real questions about how cyberspace should be regulated and governed.
If you live in the US and you buy something on Amazon, you would probably expect the products to adhere to US regulations.
But that’s not always the case. Cyberspace (including e-commerce transactions) exist outside of current regulatory regimes. Those transactions made in cyberspace are not really made in any country (you may be in the US, but your merchant could be somewhere else, and possibly somewhere where there are no regulations on health or safety). And hence, whether something you buy is to the quality and standard you (or your country) expects are currently unsolved questions. It’s also not an easy problem to solve. Many products are shipped directly through mail from other countries. There is no easy way to inspect these items at the border for quality assurance. And if problems are discovered, there are limited ways for a government (like the US) to reach into another country to fine or regulate a problematic merchant.
Tech is extraterritorial. It does not exist on Earth. And that’s a problem for our existing systems of law.
#14 Harry Potter Goes Experiential in New York, Pointing to Retail’s Future
Imagine the wind whooshing through your hair and the London mist dampening your clothes as you soar high above Big Ben on your broom battling Death Eaters, magical energy crackling from the end of your wand.
Thanks to Harry Potter’s new flagship store in New York, that fantasy is now a virtual reality via one of two new experiences called Wizards Take Flight.
It was not all that long ago that VR skeptics abounded. But over the past two years or so, the technology has begun to win over critics and early adopters alike, from Roxane Gay, who enthusiastically described her use of an Oculus Quest 2 VR headset, to the Los Angeles Times game critic Todd Marten, who wrote of how his own skepticism about the technology dissipated during the pandemic.
Near term, the Harry Potter store’s use of VR points to how retailers might captivate consumers and attract shoppers to walk through their physical doors.
Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at research firm Forrester, likened the move to bringing the Universal Studios experience into a smaller format.Source: Adweek
So one way of thinking about retail is that it’s a store that has things in it.
But another way of thinking about retail is that it’s a portal to a world that has things you might want to buy in it.
This is not a new trend. Retail has been trending towards experiential environments for a long time already. This includes many high end luxury stores. They are designed to evoke a specific feeling and experience.
The evolution and addition of things like VR seem very natural in that progression. We all want to be transported to our fantasies when we walk into a store.
And it’s coming.
#15 Shop Tests Search to Improve Brand Rediscovery, Available To Eligible Merchants In Beta
In addition, our latest innovation, Shop search, will further advance brand rediscovery and loyalty within the Shop app. In the spirit of redefining the future of commerce together, Shop search is first available exclusively to eligible Shopify merchants in beta to test its functionality.
What makes Shop’s search feature different is that it prioritizes existing customer–merchant relationships. When a shopper searches for a product on Shop, they’ll see their loyalty results at the top of their list. Loyalty results are relevant products from brands they’ve already purchased from or follow in the Shop app. That’s why we call Shop search a brand-first discovery tool. It supports loyalty by helping shoppers discover more about the brands they already shop from and engage with. We’re helping merchants surface new and lesser-known products to their existing customers to increase brand awareness and loyalty.
If a customer doesn’t find what they’re looking for in their loyalty results, they can toggle over to their discovery results. Discovery results are relevant products from other Shopify merchants eligible for search on the Shop app. Discovery results are mutually beneficial for Shop users and merchants. They help Shop users discover new independent merchants. And they introduce Shopify merchants to Shop’s audience of ~24 million engaged shoppers—at moments of high purchase intent.Source: Shopify
Now this is interesting!
This is a fundamental change in how Shopify operates. Shopify used to be non-editorial. Shopify was only a back-end platform, and it is mostly up to the merchant to figure out how to get discovered. However, with the launch of the Shop app, Shopify now has a direct touchpoint with consumers, which allows Shopify to make editorial decisions on which merchants to surface. This is obviously a very powerful but sensitive position to be in. If Shopify abuses this power, it would become like Amazon or Google with enormous power to decide who shows up in search results. It would make Shopify a lot more money, but it would probably make merchants more and more concerned.
And for that reason, this choice of search presentation is an interesting one! In the existing search models, Amazon and Google’s algorithms determine what people “should” see, and then you as a merchant / advertiser can pay to show up at the top. This costs money and can get quite expensive.
Shopify is taking the opposite approach – Results from merchants you already have a relationship with show up first, and then there is a separate area for “new / discovery” results.
#16 Alibaba and Tencent Consider Opening Up Their ‘Walled Gardens’
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. BABA -1.24% and Tencent Holdings Ltd. TCEHY -1.60% are considering moves to gradually open up their services to one another, as Beijing’s tech crackdown makes it harder for China’s two online giants to maintain the virtual barriers they have built in recent years.
That would mark a big shift for China’s consumer internet, which has largely split into two camps built around the arch rivals. The restrictions mean, for example, that customers can’t use Tencent’s payment system to buy goods on an Alibaba platform.
Initial steps from Alibaba could include introducing Tencent’s WeChat Pay to Alibaba’s e-commerce marketplaces, Taobao and Tmall, some of the people said.
Tencent could make it easier to share Alibaba e-commerce listings on its WeChat messaging app, or allow selected Alibaba services to access WeChat users via so-called mini-programs, some of the people said. Mini-programs are light apps embedded in the main WeChat app.Source: WSJ
This would bring major changes to China tech if it happens.
One question I’ve always wondered about is whether China’s success with (and desire for) super apps is simply a function of these extremely tight walled gardens that everyone has built. If there are almost no linkages between the key ecosystems, this would naturally pressure each ecosystem to independently duplicate services and centralize it into a nice-to-reach spot (such as WeChat or Alipay homepages).
If things open up a bit, does the super app model still make as much sense?
#17 Intel Is in Talks to Buy GlobalFoundries for About $30 Billion
Intel Corp. is exploring a deal to buy GlobalFoundries Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, in a move that would turbocharge the semiconductor giant’s plans to make more chips for other tech companies and rate as its largest acquisition ever.
GlobalFoundries is one of the largest specialist chip-production companies. It was created when Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in 2008 decided to spin off its chip-production operations.Source: WSJ
This is ironic. AMD spun off Global Foundries a LONG time ago because they couldn’t catch up to Intel on manufacturing. AMD decided it needed to stop trying to manufacture its own chips and go with the rising manufacturing leader TSMC. Now AMD is ahead on manufacturing because of TSMC…and Intel now feels compelled to switch to TSMC in the coming years, while considering a bid for the Global Foundries fabs that AMD ditched?
#18 TSMC Exploring On-Chip, Semiconductor-Integrated Watercooling
TSMC, at the VLSI symposium, recently presented its investigations into on-chip watercooling as a way to battle issues with heat dissipation. And it involves integrating water channels straight into the chip’s design.
As transistors get increasingly compressed together due to denser manufacturing technologies and added vertical 3D chip stacking, temperature becomes an increasingly critical problem to address. TSMC’s researchers think the solution is allowing water to flow in-between sandwiched circuits. It’s an incredibly simple theoretical solution, but is an extremely difficult engineering feat to pull off safely –for the electronics, that is.Source: Tom’s Hardware
Very cool future tech.
#19 New Anthony Bourdain documentary deepfakes his voice
In a new documentary, Roadrunner, about the life and tragic death of Anthony Bourdain, there are a few lines of dialogue in Bourdain’s voice that he might not have ever said out loud.
Filmmaker Morgan Neville used AI technology to digitally re-create Anthony Bourdain’s voice and have the software synthesize the audio of three quotes from the late chef and television host, Neville told the New Yorker.
The deepfaked voice was discovered when the New Yorker’s Helen Rosner asked how the filmmaker got a clip of Bourdain’s voice reading an email he had sent to a friend. Neville said he had contacted an AI company and supplied it with a dozen hours of Bourdain speaking.Source: The Verge
Our reality is going to be augmented in more ways than we can imagine.
#20 Bytedance’s Douyin Conducts Internal Testing for Food Delivery Service, Confronting a Competitive Market
Chinese media outlet Tech Planet reported on Wednesday that Bytedance’s popular video-sharing platform Douyin recently set up a team for a food delivery business, launching an internal test of a mini-program named “Xindong Waimai”. The new service, which is embedded within the Douyin app, carries the slogan: “eat what you love with Xindong Waimai”.
Compared with Meituan and Eleme, two leading food delivery giants, dynamic information embedded in short videos on the wildly-popular Douyin platform can make users’ evaluations more realistic.
In September 2020, the “Xindong Restaurant” went live online, aimed at selecting the best-selling restaurant based on short videos. Using the feature, Douyin users can post videos with the restaurant’s ranking and some hashtags to nominate their picks. The selection aims to provide users with high-quality information, and help merchants improve their meals and services.
In April, 2021, Douyin launched QR codes based on food ordering. Under this arrangement, users can view the ordering page – which usually provides coupons like Meituan – by scanning the digital code on the dining table.Source: Pandaily
Douyin / TikTok continue to try to leverage their influencer and short video capabilities to expand into new areas. Not sure how many restaurants are worth influencer time, though.
🚀 Enterprise Software
#21 Twilio’s New Tools Will Let Anyone Add Live Video and Audio to Their Apps
Twilio, a company best known for its tools that help developers build text message/phone-call-powered apps, is branching out into a new category: livestreaming.
This morning the company announced Twilio Live, a platform meant to help developers more easily integrate live video/audio features into their apps.
We saw a massive rush of Clubhouse clones hit the market after that app’s spike in popularity, with even huge names like LinkedIn, Twitter and Discord rushing to replicate its best features. With Twilio effectively turning that feature set into a plug-and-play SDK here, I’d expect to see a lot more of that.Source: TechCrunch
#22 ZoomInfo to Acquire Conversation Intelligence Leader Chorus.ai to Enable Insight-Driven Targeting, Coaching, and Decision-Making for Go-to-Market Teams
More than 20,000 global revenue teams trust ZoomInfo to power their go-to-market motions and drive efficient results. The planned acquisition of Chorus will add a new category of actionable insights to ZoomInfo’s world-class intelligence layer, unlocking workflows and driving engagement informed by conversations. The acquisition expands ZoomInfo’s total addressable market to $70 billion, and is expected to be accretive to growth immediately, generate positive adjusted operating income within 12 months, and be accretive to cash flow in the second half of FY 2022.
Chorus uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to capture and analyze prospect and customer calls, meetings, and emails. It unearths insights that enable revenue teams to listen to previous conversations, learn from them, win business, and repeat these actions across all prospect and customer deals. Without Chorus, sales conversations are a major blind spot for sales leaders, especially given the increasingly digital go-to-market trends.
For example, the combined company will expand visibility into companies’ buying committees by identifying and recommending other key contacts involved in the buying decision or referenced by participants in conversations. As Chorus recognizes meeting invitees and participants and listens for their sentiments, motivations, and concerns, ZoomInfo will further enrich the profile of each member with detailed contact and company intelligence. By integrating keyword trackers from Chorus into ZoomInfo, revenue teams will also be able to create audiences based on insights from conversations, flag deals and renewals that could be in jeopardy, and trigger alerts to address concerns in real time.Source: ZoomInfo
ZoomInfo is still a fairly small company right now, but I think investors are underestimating its potential. It’s way more useful than Saleforce’s core CRM product. I think ZoomInfo will be bigger than Salesforce core CRM one day. ZoomInfo is not just a lead generation tool, but a data and intelligence tool.
#23 Moderna’s Next Act Is Using mRNA vs. Flu, Zika, HIV, and Cancer
A year ago, Moderna Inc. was an unprofitable company with no marketed products and a promising but totally unproven technology. None of its experimental drugs and vaccines had ever completed a large-scale trial. Experts were divided on how well the mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine it was about to enter in a Phase III trial would stack up against older, more established vaccine technologies.
This year, Moderna could deliver 1 billion doses of its Covid shot and bring in $19 billion in revenue. It’s become the rare biotech to hit the big time without being gobbled up by, or splitting profits with, a larger, more established company. Its market value—which hit $100 billion for the first time on July 14th—exceeds that of stalwarts such as Bayer AG, the German inventor of aspirin, and biotech peers such as Biogen Inc., founded three decades prior.
But for Moderna Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel, the Covid vaccine is just the beginning. He’s long promised that if mRNA works, it will lead to a giant new industry capable of treating most everything from heart disease to cancer to rare genetic conditions. Moderna has drugs in trials for all three of these categories, and Bancel says his company can also become a dominant vaccine maker, developing shots for emerging viruses such as Nipah and Zika, as well as better-known, hard-to-target pathogens such as HIV.
In the past 40 years, more than 50 new human viruses have been discovered. Only three have authorized vaccines. Bancel views that as an opportunity. “We are going to totally disrupt the vaccine market,” he says during a late May interview at Moderna’s Cambridge, Mass., headquarters, which fills a 10-story building north of the MIT campus. The Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG occupies labs in an adjacent building, and Pfizer and Merck & Co. have offices a few blocks away.Source: Bloomberg
Although Moderna is now a household name, the scope and potential of what they have accomplished still seem to be under-appreciated. This Bloomberg profile is well worth reading to understand Moderna’s history and where it may be going.
The article also profiles Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO. He’s been instrumental in guiding Moderna to where it is today. For how visionary Bancel has been, I continue to be surprised by how few articles profile him.
This article also goes into unusual detail into Moderna’s manufacturing process and supply chain. I LOVE this stuff. I don’t think I’ve seen these details anywhere else, yet.
Also – In other news, Moderna has crossed $100 billion market cap in the last few days, helped by S&P announcing Moderna’s inclusion in the S&P500 index. Moderna is being promoted into the big league.