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NBCUniversal is betting $500 million on Snap

Snap IPO Snapchat NYSE New York Stock Exchange

(Reuters) – Comcast Corp’s NBCUniversal said on Friday it had invested $ 500 million in Snap as it continues to spend heavily on digital media companies.

Snap’s shares jumped 8.6 percent to $ 26.59 in early trading. The company finished its first day of trading with a 44 percent gain compared to its IPO price of $ 17.00.

The investment was made as a part of the Snapchat owner’s initial public offering, NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke said in a memo to employees.

Earlier, CNBC reported that Snap’s stock allocation to NBCUniversal seems to be the only one made to a new strategic investor, making NBCUniversal the lone U.S. media company with a stake.

Comcast has invested heavily in digital-native companies such as BuzzFeed and Vox Media, partly in an effort to better service existing advertisers.

“With the Snap investment, we have invested over $ 1.5 billion in promising digital businesses in the last eighteen months,” Burke said in the memo.

NBCUniversal has already launched entertainment programs such as The Voice, SNL and E! News’ The Rundown on Snapchat. The media company said it expects to launch more Snapchat shows in the coming weeks.

NBCUniversal has agreed to hold Snap’s shares for at least a year, according to the CNBC report.

Snap disclosed last month that it expected investors buying up to a quarter of its shares in the company’s $ 3.4 billion initial public offering to agree not to sell them for a year.

Lock-up periods help companies moderate stock volatility by preventing company insiders from selling their shares within an allotted time.

NBCUniversal courted Snap co-founder Evan Spiegel for the past year, CNBC said, and both companies have been working on deepening their relationship.

Snap declined to comment beyond details noted in its prospectus and other U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Comcast’s shares were marginally lower.

(Reporting by Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Anya George Tharakan; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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Social – VentureBeat

Investors pour $2 million more into booze marketplace Drizly

DrizlyDelivery Boston-based Drizly used to be known as the on-demand delivery app for alcohol. More recently, the company evolved into a marketplace that helps brick-and-mortar liquor stores to connect with and sell to customers nearby through web and mobile commerce. The Drizly app shows shoppers different prices on the beer, wine and liquor that they’re looking for at local shops, along with… Read More
Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Twitter donates $1 million to ACLU to battle Trump’s immigration ban

Twitter and staff have donated more than $ 1 million to help the American Civil Liberties Union fight President Donald Trump and his immigration ban. With this move, the popular social media platform joins a long list of fellow tech companies that have pledged their support to ACLU’s cause. Following hefty contributions from Google, Uber and Lyft, the ACLU has reportedly accumulated over $ 24 million in online donations over the past few days. According to TechCrunch, nearly a thousand Twitter employees pledged the sum of $ 500,000, which was later matched by CEO Jack Dorsey and executive chairman Omid Kordestani. Among other industry heavyweights, Stripe…

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Google commits up to $4 million to help those impacted by Trump’s immigration order

Google CEO Sundar Pichai

As part of the largest crisis campaign of its company history, Google is expected to raise $ 4 million in support of people affected by President Trump’s immigration order, which was announced Friday.

News of Google’s campaign follows statements against the controversial ban by company CEO Sundar Pichai and the participation of its co-founder Sergey Brin in a protest at San Francisco International Airport, USA Today reports.

The $ 4 million—a composite of a $ 2 million fund put up by Google, and up to $ 2 million more in employee donations—will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the International Rescue Committee and the United Nation’s refugee agency (UNHCR.)

According to Pichai, Trump’s controversial order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. affects 187 members of Google’s staff alone.

“We’re concerned about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that could create barriers to bringing great talent to the U.S.,” he said in a statement. “We’ll continue to make our views on these issues known to leaders in Washington and elsewhere.”

Google is not the only tech company to speak out against Trump’s order.

Facebook, Apple, Lyft, and Uber have voiced varying degrees of alarm, Fortune’s Tory Newmyer reported Sunday.

Executives at Tesla Motors, Netflix and Airbnb (airbnb) have also denounced the policy. The latter announced this weekend it would offer free accommodation for refugees and others affected by the clampdown.

“Barring refugees and people who are not a threat from entering America simply because they are from a certain country is not right, and we must stand with those who are affected. The doors to America shall remain open, and any that are locked will not be for long,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote on a note to employees posted on the company’s website, Sunday.

This story originally appeared on Fortune.com. Copyright 2017

Social – VentureBeat

Jiobit finds $3 million for kid trackers that work indoors, not just at the park

Jiobit's kid trackers work indoors and outside. Chicago startup Jiobit wants to use wireless technology to bring parents peace of mind whenever and wherever their kids may roam. Its flagship product is a location tracker that can stand up to the rough and tumble activities of a toddler or a tween, with a long battery life, and mobile app that sends alerts to parents when a kid has gone outside an expected range. Jiobit CEO and founder… Read More
Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Sweden’s Stillfront Group buys Dubai-based Babil Games for up to $17 million

Admiral by Babil Games.

Sweden’s Stillfront Group, maker of games that include Call of War, has acquired Dubai-based Babil Games for $ 17 million.

The deal shows that the Middle Eastern and North African games market is becoming a significant market on the global stage of gaming.

Babil started in 2012, and it has 12 employees in Dubai and Amman, Jordan. It has several successful mobile games, such as Admiral, Niba Harb 2, Asefat Al-Dababat, and Jaish Al-Foolath.

Babil’s games are primarily sourced from Asia with long term exclusive publishing rights. All localized content belongs to Babil. The founders team of Babil will remain on board and also lead the company in the future — under the umbrella of Stillfront.

Babil will receive an upfront payment of $ 4.5 million plus earn-outs that can take the total to $ 17 million. The purchase price is payable 50 percent in cash and 50 percent in newly issued shares in Stillfront.

Jörgen Larsson, CEO of Stillfront Group, said in a statement, “Babil and Stillfront constitutes an excellent fit. We share the passion, philosophy, and cornerstones of Stillfront’s PLEX strategy, and Babil will strengthen Stillfront’s position in a number of strategic areas — for instance, in the mobile strategy games space and with publishing capabilities. The truly unique position of Babil, now within our Group, will create significant value going forward. I am extremely pleased to have the founders and their committed team as valuable new members to the Stillfront family.”

The deal is contingent on approval of the Creative City Free-Zone Authority in the Emirate of Fujairah, U.A.E.

Mohammed Fahmi, founder and CEO of Babil Games, said in a statement, “I am excited for Babil to be joining forces with Stillfront Group. We share a common vision and objectives, and I firmly believe this will be a great strategic advantage for both companies, enabling us to become a larger family that will strengthen our foothold in local and global markets.”

Agnitio Capital acted as exclusive financial advisor to Babil Games in this transaction.

Stillfront operates four near-autonomous subsidiaries: Bytro Labs in Germany, Coldwood Interactive in Sweden, Power Challenge in the UK and Sweden, and Dorado Online Games in Malta. Stillfront’s games are distributed globally. The main markets are Sweden, Germany, the United States, and South America.

Deals – VentureBeat

Airfare prediction app Hopper raises $61.2 million to go global

Hopper: Flight Predictions

Hopper, an app for predicting airfare and booking flights, is now flush with cash: The 6-year-old Montreal- and Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company has raised a $ 61.2 million round led by Canadian fund CDPQ ($ 82M CAD).

“We are selling $ 1 million of air a day,” Hopper CEO Frederic Lalonde told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “We’re a full blown agency, not like Hipmunk, not like Kayak. Completely standalone.”

For every ticket Hopper sells, it takes a commission — the company won’t say how much. And Hopper also charges users a $ 5 fee per ticket. Lalonde says customers don’t mind the fee because “on average people save $ 50 a ticket.”

“Our main competitor is your laptop,” Lalonde added. He hopes Hopper, which is only available on mobile devices, will become the “largest and most used travel app in the world.”

That’s why Hopper raised $ 61.2 million (on top of the $ 38 million it’s already raised). Lalonde says Hopper will triple its staff to 120 people next year, and the company plans to set up a “local presence” in 120 countries in order to find and sell low fares outside the U.S. and Canada.

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Deals – VentureBeat

Big data software company Databricks raises $60 million

Databricks cofounder and chief technologist Matei Zaharia at Spark Summit EU 2016.

Databricks, a startup that has pushed the commercialization of the Apache Spark open-source big data software, today is announcing a $ 60 million funding round.

Databricks offers cloud service based on Spark that can be used for data integration, data pipelines, and other tasks. The Spark data processing engine is considered faster than Apache Hadoop, which companies like Cloudera, MapR, and publicly traded Hortonworks sell distributions of. Earlier this year, Hadoop-as-a-service startup Altiscale was acquired by SAP.

NEA led the round, with participation from Andreessen Horowitz. Both firms also participated in Databricks’ previous funding round. To date, Databricks has raised $ 107.5 million.

Databricks was founded in 2013 and is based in San Francisco. Last year, it announced a partnership with IBM around machine learning capabilities in Spark.

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Deals – VentureBeat

Blackmore raises $3.5 million to fit roof-mounted sensors for self-driving cars onto a single chip

Google Self-Driving Car

Blackmore Sensors and Analytics today announced that it had raised $ 3.5 million to further develop its frequency-modulated continuous-wave (FMCW) Lidar for use in self-driving cars. The company aims to reduce the primitive-looking radar and camera systems atop today’s autonomous car prototypes to a single semiconductor mounted inside the vehicle’s front grill.

“The typical American consumer does not want a self-driving car with roof-mounted instruments,” Randy Reibel, CEO of Blackmore, told VentureBeat. “We’re reducing this to be stamped out on a single semiconductor so that it can fit in the front grill of a car and we can squeeze it in there, out of sight.”

Lidar stands for “light detection and ranging,” and it is the technology that helps autonomous cars “see.” Blackmore’s differentiated approach to Lidar relies on frequency-modulation, much the way FM radio differs from AM radio. It allows self-driving vehicles to detect range (how far away another car is) and spatial details (the shape and characteristics of that car), as well as speed (how fast the car is moving away from or toward you).

Next Frontier Capital and Millennium Technology Value Partners participated in the investment. “Blackmore’s Lidar engine provides advanced capabilities not available in competing systems,” said Next Frontier Capital managing partner, Richard Harjes, in a statement, “such as single photon sensitivity and the capability to simultaneously measure an object’s range and speed. These advanced capabilities will open up a new era of computationally efficient Lidar analytics that will lower the total cost of autonomous driving systems.”

Blackmore is one of a new generation of auto parts suppliers preparing to meet the component needs of self-driving cars. Automakers like Ford, Fiat Chrysler, and BMW are investing heavily in self-driving car technology, and Google‘s self-driving car is seemingly everywhere. Tesla provides an Autopilot system, and everyone from Apple to Uber seems interested in the space. Blackmore estimates that the annual Lidar market will reach $ 10 billion by 2020, fueled, in large part, by the rapidly growing demand for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Blackmore’s competitors include Velodyne and Quanergy. Tesla, famously, has not adopted Lidar for its ADAS.

Blackmore is located in Bozeman, Montana and has 22 employees. The company will use the investment to begin manufacturing its Lidar engine using semiconductor processes, which will enable it to produce sensors at scale and at low cost. “Blackmore’s current plan is to deliver prototype automotive Lidar and deployable surveillance systems using our new Lidar engine in mid-2017,” said Reibel.


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Deals – VentureBeat

Banks reportedly seek to invest $59 million in blockchain startup R3

global blockchain

(Reuters) – Banks involved in the blockchain consortium R3 CEV have expressed interest in investing $ 59 million in the company’s first funding round, less than half its overall target, a person close to the deal said on Friday.

R3, a New York-based startup, is seeking to raise $ 150 million from its members and strategic investors to fund its activities focused on developing blockchain-based technology for the financial services sector.

It had originally sought to raise $ 200 million, offering prospective investors a 90 percent stake in a new entity it would have run but restructured the deal to $ 150 million in return for a 60 percent stake in itself.

It has invited its original 42 bank members to invest first and will subsequently reach out to the other roughly 30 banks it works with as well as external companies, the person said. It plans to raise the overall amount over the next nine to 12 months.

Of those original members, 36 have expressed indications of interest through stakes ranging from $ 3.5 million to $ 1 million each, the person said, declining to be named because the fundraising is private.

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Banco Santander and National Bank of Australia have opted out of the fund-raising and are planning to leave the consortium, Reuters reported on Monday.

JP Morgan Chase has not yet made a commitment to invest but does not plan on leaving the consortium, according to a person close the bank.

Australia’s Macquarie bank has also not expressed interest in investing but is looking to remain a member of the group’s blockchain lab, a division that leads testing of new applications, according to a person familiar with the deal. Macquarie declined to comment.

Launched in September 2015, R3 has rapidly gained the backing of some of the world’s largest banks including UBS , Deutsche Bank  and HSBC. Its blockchain consortium and development lab count a total of 70 members, who have so far paid membership fees to participate.

The startup is part of a growing cohort of young companies looking to help large financial institutions adapt blockchain technology to carry out financial processes, such as making international payments or settling trades in securities.

Blockchain, which first emerged as the system underpinning the cryptocurrency bitcoin, is a distributed ledger of transactions maintained by a network of computers on the internet without the need of a central counterparty.

Banks are hoping that it can be deployed in finance to simplify some of their processes and slash back office costs.

(Reporting by Anna Irrera and Jemima Kelly; Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Cynthia Osterman)

Deals – VentureBeat