Messaging firm Line launches a dedicated crypto fund

Messaging company Line is continuing to burrow deep into the crypto space after it announced the launch of a $10 million investment fund. The fund will be operated by Line’s Korea-based blockchain subsidiary Unblock Corporation, which is tasked with research, education and other blockchain-related services. The fund will be called Unblock Ventures and it’ll initially have a capital pool of $10 million but Line said that is likely to increase over time. The company said the fund will be focused on early-stage startup investments, but it didn’t provide further details. Line is listed in Tokyo and on the NYSE. This fund makes it one of the first publicly traded companies to create a dedicated crypto investment vehicle. The objective, it said, is “to boost the development and adoption of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.” Line claims nearly 200 million users of its messaging app, which is particularly popular in Japan, Taiwan,
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Come watch the Equity podcast record live at Disrupt SF 2018

Disrupt SF is right around the corner, which means startupland is prepping to congregate once again in the city for another epic run of investors, startups and celebrities. This year, Disrupt is heading to Moscone West, so the event will be bigger and better than ever. And I have some good news for you. Initialized Capital’s Garry Tan will join Connie Loizos and Alex Wilhelm live on the Showcase Stage at 3 pm on Thursday, September 6, to dig through the latest, greatest and worst from the world of venture capital. That’s right, you can come to Disrupt and watch us sit on tall stools holding mics while we talk about the week’s money news in front of a bustling crowd of onlookers. Live tapings are fun because we can’t run the intro a second time if we mess it up. So come on down and hang out with us.
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Ethereum’s falling price splits the crypto community

Hello And Welcome Back To The Latest Edition Of All The Cryptos Are Getting Rekt Right Now. Crypto bloodbaths have become fairly common in 2018 — mainly because of the insane growth in 2017 — but we’ve not covered them all because they are so numerous and often include so-called ‘flash crashes’ or small drops, but the fall happening today is worth noting for several wider reasons. Primarily that’s because this is a major test for Ether — the token associated with the Ethereum Foundation that is the second largest cryptocurrency by volume — has been on a downward spiral with little sign of change. Ether, which is the preferred platform of choice for most developers building on the blockchain, is down nearly 17 percent over the past day. That’s erased billions of dollars in paper (crypto) value as the bear market for cryptocurrencies continues to pull markets south. The drop also
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California may mandate a woman in the boardroom, but businesses are fighting it

California is moving toward becoming the first state to require companies to have women on their boards –assuming the idea could survive a likely court challenge. Sparked by debates around fair pay, sexual harassment and workplace culture, two female state senators are spearheading a bill to promote greater gender representation in corporate decision-making. Of the 445 publicly traded companies in California, a quarter of them lack a single woman in their boardrooms. SB 826, which won Senate approval with only Democratic votes and has until the end of August to clear the Assembly, would require publicly held companies headquartered in California to have at least one woman on their boards of directors by end of next year. By 2021, companies with boards of five directors must have at least two
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Offering a white-labeled lending service in emerging markets, Mines raises $13 million

Emerging markets credit startup Mines.io has closed a $13 million Series A round led by The Rise Fund, the global impact fund formed by private equity giant TPG, and 10 others, including Velocity Capital.

Mines provides business to consumer (B2C) “credit-as-a-service” products to large firms.

“We’re a technology company that facilitates local institutions — banks, mobile operators, retailers — to offer credit to their customers,” Mines CEO and co-founder Ekechi Nwokah told TechCrunch.

Most of Mines’ partnerships entail white-label lending products offered on mobile phones, including non-smart USSD devices.

With offices in San Mateo and Lagos, Mines uses big-data (extracted

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Slack raises, Dropbox and Snap report earnings, and Magic Leap is real

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. This week Matthew Lynley and Alex Wilhelm were joined by 500 Startups CEO Christine Tsai for what turned out to be a super packed episode. We kicked off with the latest from Slack: $400 million new dollars at a shiny, new $7 billion valuation, according to TechCrunch. The new capital comes after the firm raised a huge sum last year from SoftBank’s Vision Fund. We dug into why the company would raise again, and what competitors it has left after the Atlassian deal. Next up, two earnings reports. Continuing our tradition of keeping tabs on recent tech IPOs, we talked through Snap and Dropbox which reported earnings this week. Both lost ground after doing so. Ironically, they each beat financial expectations. Snap ended up dropping value over a DAU decline,
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Singapore’s Golden Gate Ventures announces a $10M fund for crypto deals

VCs around the world are trying to wrap their head around crypto, and the new investment paradigm it brings. Some have made one-off deals but a few have jumped in off the deep end with dedicated crypto funds, with A16z in the U.S. the most prominent example. Now Singapore has its first from the traditional world after prominent firm Golden Gate Ventures announced a spinoff fund called LuneX Ventures. The fund is focused on crypto and it is targeting a $10 million raise. Its announcement comes weeks after we reported the first close for Golden Gate’s new $100 million fund, its third to date, which is backed by Naver, Mistletoe and others. Golden Gate already has some exposure to ICOs, having backed the company behind OMG, and plenty of rumors have done the rounds about its plans for a standalone fund considering the surge in ICOs, which have
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Neat is a challenger bank for early-stage startups and SMEs

With the growth in cross-border payment services and ‘challenger’ bank cards for consumers, you’d be forgiven for wondering where the options are for small business — where cash is particularly precious. They do exist. One of the newer options is Neat, which is nested in Hong Kong but open for business worldwide. The startup started off following the same track as the likes of Monzo, Starling and Revolut in Europe, developing a ‘new’ kind of account free of branch-based banking and tedious paperwork. But quickly the team realized that its service was being adopted in large by startups and SMEs as a way to get more flexible financing and perks like install balance/billing. Neat still offers a consumer service in Hong Kong, but it places a heavy focus on developing its business service. Right now, that helps companies who can’t apply for credit cards get a Neat Mastercard which can
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With no white knight in sight, Tesla shares plummet from Musk’s tweet-related highs

Investors definitely aren’t stoked by the deafening silence coming from Tesla after its chief executive announced in a tweet that he plans to drop a fat sack of cash on public shareholders in a bid to take the company private. Tesla’s shares have tumbled from their post-tweet highs as investors are now left with the embers of what is increasingly looking like a Musk-induced pipe dream to lift the economic burdens the company faces by delisting it. At the close of the market Tesla shares were down $17.89 to $352.45, basically erasing the gains it had earned based on speculation of an acquirer at a $420 price tag. Days after Tesla chief executive Elon Musk tweeted a $420 per share buyout offer for the company, no new details have emerged and several potential contenders for Tesla’s white knight have basically said “It wasn’t me.”

Coinbase adds instant trading and increases daily limits

Coinbase just announced two new perks that should please regular cryptocurrency traders. Starting on Tuesday, new Coinbase users will no longer have to wait out for five days to trade after signing up for the exchange. As the company explained in a blog post:
… When someone makes the decision to sign up, they don’t want to wait days before they can start buying cryptocurrency. While we do support instant transfers via wire transfer and debit cards, purchases via direct debits from your bank account can take days to appear. With this update, customers will receive an immediate credit for the funds being sent from their bank account. They can then buy and sell crypto to and from their USD wallet right away, but cannot send their funds off the Coinbase platform until the funds coming from their bank have settled.
With the new trading restriction lifted, Coinbase is also
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Even Financial raises $18.8 million Series A from GreatPoint Ventures, Goldman Sachs and others

Even Financial, a fintech startup that connects the disparate entities of the financial services industry, recently raised a $18.8 million Series A round led by GreatPoint Ventures with participation from Goldman Sachs, Canaan Partners, F-Prime Capital, Lerer Hippeau and others. The close of its Series A comes on the heels of a $3 million investment from American Express Ventures, Plug & Play and Arab Angels in February. “The round is notable because it signifies the buy-in we’re seeing from the largest institutions in the country,” Even co-founder and CEO Phillip Rosen told TechCrunch. “This is really about the maturation of the fintech ecosystem.” Even offers products like a pre-approval API, real-time pricing, machine learning optimization, a product comparison and recommendation engine for consumers and more. “We provide a Twilio-style API for any consumer facing app or site to integrate,” Rosen said. “Ideally, a consumer doesn’t know Eden Financial
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Twilio came ahead of expectations and the stock is going nuts

Twilio today reported a positive quarter that brought it to profitability — on an adjusted basis — ahead of schedule for Wall Street, sending the stock soaring 16 percent in extended hours after the release came out. While according to traditional accounting principles Twilio still lost money (this usually includes stock-based compensation, a key component of compensation packages), the company is still showing that it has the capability of being profitable. Born as a go-to tool for startups and larger companies to handle their text- and telephone-related operations, Twilio was among a wave of IPOs in 2016 that has more or less continued into this year. The company’s stock has more than doubled in the past year, and is up nearly 170 percent this year alone. Twilio also brought in revenue ahead of Wall Street expectations. Still, as a services business, Twilio has to show that it can continue to
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July sets a record for number of $100M+ venture capital rounds

In July 2018, the tech sector’s leisure class — venture capitalists — kicked investments into overdrive, at least when it comes to financing supergiant venture rounds of $100 million or more (in native or as-converted USD values). With 55 deals accounting for just over $15 billion at time of writing, July likely set an all-time record for the number of huge venture deals struck in a single month. The table below has just the top 10 largest rounds from the month. (A full list of all the supergiant venture rounds can be found here.) It’s certainly a record high for the past decade. Earlier this month, we set
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Apple is worth over $1,000,000,000,000

It happened. Apple won the race to $1 trillion in market capitalization. Following this week’s earnings release, Apple shares (NASDAQ:AAPL) briefly traded at $207.05, which values the company sightly over $1 trillion based on the most recent share count of July 20. While the smartphone market is more or less saturated, Apple managed to increase its margins and the average selling price thanks to the iPhone X. iPhone sales grew by 1 percent, but revenue jumped by 20 percent. With $53.3 billion in revenue, the company managed to grow by 17 percent year-over-year. iPad sales are more or less flat while Mac sales are down. For the past few years, Apple has been saying that services are going to become a key part of the company’s bottom line. All various services (Apple Music, iCloud, Apple Pay, etc.) now represent $9.6 billion in revenue.
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Apple comes close to reaching $1 trillion

Apple has been performing incredibly well on the stock market for the past few days (NASDAQ:AAPL). While Yahoo Finance says that Apple is now worth over $1 trillion, this hasn’t yet happened. The company sent a filing to the SEC with an updated share count. While everyone thought the magic number was $203.45, it was based on an outdated number. According to the filing, there are 4,829,926,000 Apple shares in circulation. Apple is going to hit $1 trillion when shares are worth $207.043 — so let’s say $207.05. That’s why I posted a post earlier today claiming that Apple already hit $1 trillion — I’m sorry for the confusion. Shares are currently trading at $205.62. So Apple shares still need to jump by 0.7 percentage point to reach the market capitalization of $1 trillion. Public companies don’t always have the same number of
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The dramatic rise and fall of online P2P lending in China

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on TechNode, an editorial partner of TechCrunch based in China. When Emily Zhang was interning with a peer-to-peer (P2P) lending firm in the Summer of 2016, her main task was to carry out research on other P2P lending firms. She found the rates of return tempting and some underlying assets reliable, so she decided to invest in the market herself. Until now, none of her investments have matured, but she worries about whether she can actually withdraw her profits, much less get back the principal. Even so, Zhang considers herself lucky that the companies that sold her the assets are still in business while many other P2P companies have collapsed, leaving their investors in despair. Stories have been circulating across Chinese social networks about desperate investors who have lost their life savings. Zhang Xue, for instance, a 47-year old single mother with a
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Golden Gate Ventures hits first close on new $100M fund for Southeast Asia

One of the fascinating things about watching an emerging startup ecosystem is that it isn’t just companies that are scaling, the very VC firms that feed them are growing themselves, too. That’s perhaps best embodied by Golden Gate Ventures, a Singapore-based firm founded by three Silicon Valley entrepreneurs in 2011 which is about to close a huge new fund for Southeast Asia. Golden Gate started out with a small seed investment fund before raising a second worth $60 million in 2015. Now it is in the closes stages of finalizing a new $100 million fund, which has completed a first close of over $65 million in commitments, a source with knowledge of discussions told TechCrunch. A filing lodged with the SEC in June first showed the firm’s intent to raise $100 million. The source told TechCrunch that a number of LPs from Golden Gate’s previous funds have already signed
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Apple Pay is finally coming to CVS and 7-Eleven, and will soon expand to Germany

Longtime Apple Pay holdout CVS will finally be adding support for Apple’s mobile payments platform this fall, along with 7-Eleven, Apple CEO Tim Cook said this afternoon on the company’s earnings call. The news is particularly notable because CVS was one of the first major retailers to snub Apple Pay, choosing instead to launch its own barcode-based mobile payments solution “CVS Pay” back in 2016, following the failure of the retailer-backed Apple Pay rival CurrentC. CVS Pay had become the first mobile payments solution the pharmacy chain adopted, after having purposefully avoided support for Apple Pay or any other rival NFC (tap to pay) technologies at its register. The company believed there was value in offering its own end-to-end solution to customers that combined both payments and loyalty, it had said. In addition, CVS had earlier backed an Apple Pay alternative called CurrentC, which was developed by the merchant
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Gusto raises $140 million to go after small business payroll and benefits with more gusto

Gusto, which sells payroll, benefits and human resources management and monitoring services to small businesses, has raised $140 million in its latest round of funding. The company said it will use the money to add new services to increase payment flexibility for employees. The company launched a new service called Flexible Pay, which gives employees a way to get paid no matter when a company’s pay schedule dictates. It seems sort of like a payday loan, where a percentage of the salary is taken by Gusto for providing money upfront. The late-stage round was led by T. Rowe Price Associates portfolio, MSD Capital (the family investment fund for Michael Dell), Dragoneer Investment Group and Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund. Previous investors, including General Catalyst, CapitalG, Kleiner Perkins, 137 Ventures and Emergence Capital, also participated in the round. The company claims that it processes tens of billions of dollars in payroll
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What every startup founder should know about exits

The dream of a startup founder can often be summarized by the following well-intentioned, and mostly delusional, quote: “We’ll raise a few rounds and in a few years we’ll IPO on Nasdaq.”
But a more likely scenario looks something like this: You invest a few years of hard work to build something of value. One day you receive an acquisition offer out of the blue. You’re elated. And you’re not prepared. You drop everything to focus on this opportunity. Exclusive due diligence starts. Your company is a mess (IP, contracts, burn). Days become weeks; weeks become months. You’ve neglected business and fundraising. You’re running out of money. M&A is now your one and only option. The buyer says they found a bunch of cockroaches in the
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