Meta Building a Safe Metaverse While Expanding VR Holdings

Social media platforms, which have had challenges maintaining a safe, socially conscious online environment — as the year’s spate of whistleblower disclosures and global regulatory hearings proves — may face an even tougher time maintaining civility in the metaverse. The shift from monitoring text, images and video to supervising a live 3D world will be orders of magnitude more complicated, observers say. According to a 2020 safety video for “Horizon Worlds,” a game Facebook developed for its virtual reality platform Oculus Quest, the company plans to record what happens in the metaverse, storing data that transpires in users’ VR headsets. Continue reading Meta Building a Safe Metaverse While Expanding VR Holdings

Money Management Firms Surpass VCs in Funding Startups

In Q2 of this year, large money-management companies including hedge funds, mutual funds, pensions and sovereign-wealth groups became bigger players in Silicon Valley than venture capitalists with regard to startups. According to PitchBook Data, these nontraditional funders took part in 42 percent of startup financing deals, forming more than 75 percent of the invested capital. PitchBook added that, in the first half of 2021, investment in U.S. startups reached $150 billion, more than funding in every year prior to 2020. Continue reading Money Management Firms Surpass VCs in Funding Startups

More First-Time Entrepreneurs Launching Online Businesses

More Americans are opening small online businesses, and many of them are subscribing to Shopify for tools to build their websites, accept online payments and ship and track orders. This boom is fueling Shopify’s growth, but analysts say two factors could slow it down: fewer e-commerce businesses as the pandemic dies down and the failure of many of the nascent small businesses that are subscribers. Meanwhile, Amazon has acquired Shopify rival Selz, an Australia-based company that supports small- and medium-sized e-commerce businesses. Continue reading More First-Time Entrepreneurs Launching Online Businesses

Facebook Developing a Product to Rival Chat App Clubhouse

According to sources, Facebook is developing an audio chat product to compete with Clubhouse, a social networking app that has gained popularity with young people who gather and chat about various topics. Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, reportedly interested in audio products, has appeared on Clubhouse to chat about augmented reality and virtual reality. Facebook is also known for cloning popular products. Facebook’s audio product is, added the sources, in an early stage of development. Continue reading Facebook Developing a Product to Rival Chat App Clubhouse

Pandemic Could Have Long-Term Impact on Gaming Industry

The COVID-19 pandemic is boosting the multi-billion-dollar video-game industry into the stratosphere, and Big Tech companies predict the trend will endure past the pandemic. Microsoft, for example, plans to acquire the company behind the “Doom” game franchise for $7.5 billion. NPD Group reported that about 244 million people in the U.S. play video games, up 15 percent from a 2018 study. The report added that, “Americans spend an average of 14 hours a week playing video games … compared with 12 hours weekly in 2018.” Continue reading Pandemic Could Have Long-Term Impact on Gaming Industry

Pandemic Tests Big Tech Firms, Slows VC Money for Startups

This week, big tech companies such as IBM and Intel will report quarterly earnings, followed by Apple, Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft next week. Some companies — such as Amazon, Intel, Micron Technology and Microsoft — are doing well, even growing, whereas Facebook and Alphabet deal with a dramatic plunge in advertising. Even Apple issued a “rare profit warning.” The pandemic is hitting startups particularly hard, as venture capital money dries up and they are forced to lay off staff. Continue reading Pandemic Tests Big Tech Firms, Slows VC Money for Startups

Houseparty Chat Expands Beyond Teens to Wider Audience

Zoom has gotten a lot of attention as the popular video chat platform that’s soared in usage since the COVID-19 shutdown. But Houseparty is another video chat platform with free mobile and desktop apps that’s gaining traction. Originally targeting teens, Houseparty offers features designed to encourage interaction, such as jumping into a conversation or playing trivia games remotely. In the last month, Houseparty has had 50 million signups, about 70 times its typical number in some markets, said cofounder and chief executive Sima Sistani. Continue reading Houseparty Chat Expands Beyond Teens to Wider Audience

As Values Crash, Startups Focus on Profitability, Not Growth

This year, Silicon Valley companies — most notably WeWork and Uber Technologies — are estimated to have lost about $100 billion in value. Car subscription company Fair and software company UiPath are two others that have downsized, and scooter company Lime has had to tweak its operations to prove it can be profitable. As a result, startup executives are honing their pitches and venture capitalists are more wary of investing. Ahoy Capital’s Chris Douvos noted that the five-year “rollicking” party appears to be over. Continue reading As Values Crash, Startups Focus on Profitability, Not Growth

Consolidation Is Reducing the Number of Indie Ad Tech Firms

As Google and Facebook lock up their dominance over advertising dollars, smaller ad tech companies are withering. In 2015, according to CB Insights, venture capital financing for these smaller companies peaked at $2.92 billion. This year, the total dollars going to these firms is slated to be half of that number. As a result, the number of smaller independent firms is diminishing, plummeting 21 percent since 2013. LUMA Partners reported that, by Q2 2018, there were only 185 such companies left. Continue reading Consolidation Is Reducing the Number of Indie Ad Tech Firms

Apple to Purchase Music Recognition App Shazam for $400M

Apple is purchasing Shazam Entertainment Ltd. for a reported $400 million. Shazam’s music recognition app, which lets users identify songs that are playing nearby, skyrocketed in popularity when it debuted in 2009, and has been downloaded more than one billion times. If the transaction is successful, Apple could integrate the Shazam feature into its iPhones, thereby helping the company gain an edge over the latest phones from Google and Samsung. Google already has a similar feature in its Pixel 2 smartphone. Continue reading Apple to Purchase Music Recognition App Shazam for $400M

SoundHound Raises $75M to Advance AI Speech Recognition

Twelve-year old audio recognition company SoundHound just raised $75 million to build its speech recognition AI-based platform, Houndify, betting that voice will become the dominant form of interaction with Internet-connected devices. Although large companies like Apple, Baidu and Microsoft dominate the space, SoundHound has built its own AI technology to identify audio. In contrast to these other companies, SoundHound also plans to offer its voice AI tools to other device manufacturers. Continue reading SoundHound Raises $75M to Advance AI Speech Recognition

Established Companies Look to Startups for New Tech Growth

Major U.S. corporations are beginning to see acquisitions of startups as a way to purchase rather than develop new technologies, a major turnaround from many decades of avoiding Silicon Valley. Until recently, established manufacturers preferred to build their own new products or buy other deep-rooted companies. Then, in 2015, Ford Motor Company bought Chariot, a crowd-sourced commuter-shuttle startup for $65 million, signaling a change in strategy, not just among auto-manufacturers, on how to move into future technologies. Continue reading Established Companies Look to Startups for New Tech Growth

Apple Steps Up Its VR Efforts with Acquisition of Flyby Media

While Facebook, Google and Microsoft have already invested significant resources in developing virtual reality and augmented reality, Apple is just getting started. The tech giant acquired an augmented reality startup called Flyby Media, which develops technology for image-recognition on smartphones. Flyby Media previously worked with Google on “Project Tango.” Apple also hired Doug Bowman, an expert in human-computer interaction and immersion in virtual environments. Continue reading Apple Steps Up Its VR Efforts with Acquisition of Flyby Media

Over 131 Startups Now Valued at $1 Billion, Says CB Insights

Two years ago, venture investor Aileen Lee coined the term “unicorn” for what was then a fairly rare commodity: a startup company that investors valued at $1 billion. In the current market, at least 131 startups are valued at a total of $485 billion, says research firm CB Insights, making the designation “unicorn” — a mythical beast — less accurate. Apparently, unicorns not only exist, but only half of the current crop hail from their birthplace in Silicon Valley. And they now focus on a wide variety of industries. Continue reading Over 131 Startups Now Valued at $1 Billion, Says CB Insights