Weekly Synthesis #18: Sep 10, 2020

This Week's Top Tech & Innovation News for Busy Executives

Top News of the Week:

  • Twitter starts subleasing 100K sq. ft. of its SF HQ (link)

  • Citigroup’s Fraser is first woman CEO of big bank (link)

  • AstraZeneca halts Covid-19 vaccine due to illnesses (link)

  • GM takes $2B stake in electric truck startup Nikola (link)

  • Santander spins out $400M fintech VC arm (link)


Weekly Synthesis:

This week, the biggest news in Silicon Valley were the growing fires and apocalyptic views of San Francisco (actual photo below)—causing more people and companies to question amidst the global pandemic and economic crisis whether living in the Bay Area is still worth it. This, as Pinterest cancelled its SF HQ last week, and Twitter announced that it will start subleasing a significant portion of its SF HQ. I believe more of this is likely to happen in the coming months as a vaccine and any sense of normalcy are still months (or a year) away. Meanwhile, as the TikTok vs. U.S. and Epic Games vs. Apple dramas continued to play out, pandemic-resistant businesses in the areas of e-commerce (Shopify, Reliance), delivery (Walmart), home fitness (Peloton), home entertainment (Netflix), gaming (Unity, Twitch), fintech, and crypto (Square, Mastercard) showed signs of continued growth and investment.

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Latest Blog: The Future of Finance is Decentralized:

This week, my latest blog post was featured in The Defiant, a leading publication in the crypto industry run by Camila Russo (ex-Bloomberg). In it, I discuss why the future of finance is decentralized—and how decentralized finance (DeFi) services enabled by crypto-networks will eat banks, fintechs, and centralized crypto companies (aka CeFi) from the ground up. You can read the post here—I’ll also be adding it to Synthesis next week after giving The Defiant a week of exclusivity. You’ll see more guest posts from me in the near future!



Covid-19 Related News:

  • Netflix CEO: “I don’t see any positives” from remote work (link)

  • Shopify worth $117B—one of big winners from pandemic (link)

  • Airbnb bouncing back faster than hotel industry (link)

  • Century 21 files for bankruptcy—to close all stores (link)


Artificial Intelligence:

  • Facebook bots shut down after chatting in new language (link)

  • Replicant raises $27M for voice AI for customer service (link)

  • Iron Ox raises $20M for robotic farms (link)


Autonomous & Mobility:

  • Ford’s new CEO is focused on data-driven revenues (link)

  • Uber aims for 100% zero-emission transport by 2020 (link)

  • Lidar sensor startup Ouster raises $42M for autonomous (link)


Fintech:

  • Payments startup raises $144M from AMEX, Bessemer (link)

  • Dutch payments startup raises $106M @ $1B valuation (link)

  • Orchard raises $69M for AI for home buying, selling (link)


Blockchain & Crypto:

  • Square launches Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance (link)

  • Lagarde: EU to reveal stance on cryptocurrencies soon (link)

  • Mastercard launches CBDC platform (link)

  • Binance launches $100M fund to bring DeFi to CeFi (link)


Consumer Tech:

  • Peloton launches Bike+ and smart treadmill (link)

  • Facebook launches college only social network (link)

  • Restaurant delivery startup raises $20M from Thiel (link)

  • Walmart tests drone deliveries in North Carolina (link)


AR / VR and Gaming:

  • Ninja returns to Twitch for multi-year exclusive deal (link)

  • Apple countersues Fortnite maker Epic Games (link)

  • Microsoft to bring virtual fans to NFL (link)

  • Ubisoft announces diversity initiatives amidst problems (link)


Future Tech:

  • Amazon hires first head of space policy (link)

  • Sarcos Robotics raises $40M for industrial exoskeletons (link)


Mergers and Acquisitions:

  • Progress acquires automation platform Chef for $220M (link)

  • Tiffany’s sues LVMH for backing out of $16B acquisition (link)

  • Reliance to offer Amazon $20B stake in retail arm (link)


IPOs:

  • Salesforce, Berkshire invest in Snowflake pre-IPO (link)

  • Unity seeks $1B IPO valuation (link)

  • Palantir pre-IPO valuation at $10B—half of 2015 value (link)


Tech vs. Government:

  • TikTok in discussions with U.S. to avoid sale (link)

  • Microsoft: Russia, China, Iran trying to hack U.S. elections (link)

  • WeChat, TikTok taking Chinese censorship global (link)

  • PUBG circumvents India ban by cutting ties with Tencent (link)


Leadership:

  • Netflix names Bela Bajaria as new head of global TV (link)

  • Softbank’s chief compliance officer resigns (link)

  • Morgan Stanley expands plan to close VC gap for minorities (link)

  • Theranos Elizabeth Holmes may claim mental illness (link)


Hiring:

  • IDEO-backed crypto governance platform - first hire (apply)



About Synthesis

Synthesis is a weekly newsletter of the top tech and innovation news for busy executives. Stay up to date, and save time. Delivered every Friday.


About the Author

I’m Ian. I’ve been in the venture and corporate innovation space for the last 10 years and helped build and operate investing, venturing, and innovation units at IDEO, Citigroup, and Deloitte. You can find me on Twitter here, mostly rambling about the latest in decentralization and crypto.


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