Weekly Synthesis #19: Sep 18, 2020

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

Top News of the Week:

  • Oracle, Walmart may end up taking big stakes in TikTok (link)

  • Nvidia acquires ARM from Softbank for $40B (link)

  • VMWare, Twitter cut pay for workers who leave Bay Area (link)

  • Amazon launches 1st cashier-less grocery store in Los Angeles (link)

  • Publicly listed company buys another $175M in Bitcoin (link)

Weekly Synthesis:

This week, the TikTok saga crept a little closer to the finish line as Microsoft withdrew its acquisition bid, leaving only Oracle and Walmart as potential suitors. Everything is still up in the air, however, as Chinese state media continues to assert that TikTok’s algorithm won’t be sold—and perhaps the company won’t be sold to anyone at all. Overall, as tech stocks remained hot, tech startups continued to raise large venture capital rounds (e.g., Affirm) while others detailed their plans to go public (Unity, Opendoor).

Latest Blog: Fork Defenses in DeFi

This week, I wrote a blog post on “Fork Defenses in DeFi” that was published in Bankless, one of the leading publications in the crypto industry. (I was also added to Bankless as a regular contributor!) As the entire crypto industry and startups are built on open source protocols, competitors are starting to quickly copy existing startups’ open source code (aka ‘forking’) and deploy them into market to steal users. It’s a new phase of the crypto industry where competitive positioning and strategy now matter as much as openness and collaboration—and personally, I’m fascinated by it. Read the article here.

Covid-19 Related News:

  • Facebook buys REI’s custom HQ in Seattle due to Covid (link)

  • Stripe gives workers $20K to relocate—with 10% pay cut (link)

  • Brex latest tech company to go ‘remote first’ (link)

Artificial Intelligence:

  • Observe.ai raises $54M to analyze call center conversations (link)

  • RapidAI raises $25M to analyze medical scans with AI (link)

  • JupiterOne raises $19M to automate IT asset management (link)

  • Varada raises $12M to automate data lake management (link)

Autonomous & Mobility:

  • Alibaba launches robot for last mile deliveries (link)

  • Seegrid raises $52M for self-driving industrial vehicles (link)

  • Volansi raises $50M for high-speed delivery drones (link)


  • Square launches new payroll business (link)

  • Affirm raises $500M from GIC, Fidelity, Lightspeed (link)

  • Indian insurtech raises $60M from Amazon, Munich Re (link)

  • Market cap of big fintech companies eclipse large banks (link)

Blockchain & Crypto:

  • Uniswap launches token @ $3.5 valuation (link)

  • Coinbase lists Uniswap token hours after big airdrop (link)

  • SEC Commissioner encourages crypto safe harbor (link)

Consumer Tech:

  • Alibaba plans to invest $3B into Grab (link)

  • Apple launches $80/year fitness subscription service (link)

  • Home workout startup Tonal raises $110M (link)

  • Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo is growing fast (link)

AR / VR and Gaming:

  • Tencent picks Singapore as 2nd Asia hub after India ban (link)

  • Tencent U.S. gaming investments national security concern? (link)

  • Bunch raises $20M to help friends team in mobile games (link)

  • Virtual events platform Airmeet raises $12M (link)

Enterprise Tech:

  • Walmart partners with drone startup to take on Amazon (link)

  • Microsoft partnering with startups to take on AWS (link)

  • Google launches AI-powered meeting room hardware (link)

Venture Capital:

  • Atlassian launches $50M fund to invest in developers (link)

  • Justin Kan starts ‘Goat Capital’ incubator-fund (link)

  • The Chainsmokers raise $35M venture fund (link)

Mergers and Acquisitions:

  • ViacomCBS to sell CNET to Red Ventures for $500M (link)

  • Grab, Gojek restart merger discussions (link)

  • Uber plans to sell stake in China’s Didi (link)


  • Unity prices above IPO at $13.7B valuation (link)

  • OpenDoor to go public via Chamath SPAC (link)

Things I’m Involved In / Tracking:

  • fair launch capital announces first project: Marqet (link)

  • Liquidity 2020: I’ll be giving a talk on Fork Defenses (link)

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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