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Apple releases torrent of updates, and Wall Street yawns

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Today’s WWDC keynote from Apple covered a huge range of updates. From a new macOS to a refreshed watchOS to a new iOS, better privacy controls, FaceTime updates, and even iCloud+, there was something for everyone in the laundry list of new code.

Apple’s keynote was essentially what happens when the big tech companies get huge; they have so many projects that they can’t just detail a few items. They have to run down their entire parade of platforms, dropping packets of news concerning each.

But despite the obvious indication that Apple has been hard at work on the critical software side of its business, especially its services-side (more here), Wall Street gave a firm, emphatic shrug.

This is standard but always slightly confusing.

Investors care about future cash flows, at least in theory. Those future cash flows come from anticipated revenues, which are born from product updates, driving growth in sales of services, software, and hardware. Which, apart from the hardware portion of the equation, is precisely what Apple detailed today.

And lo, Wall Street looked upon the drivers of its future earnings estimates, and did sayeth “lol, who really cares.”

Shares of Apple were down a fraction for most of the day, picking up as time passed not thanks to the company’s news dump, but because the Nasdaq largely rose as trading raced to a close.

Here’s the Apple chart, via YCharts:

And here’s the Nasdaq:

Presuming that you are not a ChartMaster™, those might not mean much to you. Don’t worry. The charts say very little all-around so you are missing little. Apple was down a bit, and the Nasdaq up a bit. Then the Nasdaq went up more, and Apple’s stock generally followed. Which is good to be clear, but somewhat immaterial.

So after yet another major Apple event that will help determine the health and popularity of every Apple platform — key drivers of lucrative hardware sales! — the markets are betting that all their prior work estimating the True and Correct value of Apple was dead-on and that there is no need for any sort of up-or-down change.

That, or Apple is so big now that investors are simply betting it will grow in keeping with GDP. Which would be a funny diss. Regardless, more from the Apple event here in case you are behind.

read more about Apple's WWDC 2021 on TechCrunch

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/07/apple-releases-torrent-of-updates-and-wall-street-yawns/

Fintech

Australian fintech Zeller lands $50M AUD led by Spark Capital at a $400M AUD valuation

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Zeller, a Melbourne-based fintech founded by former Square executives to serve small- to mid-sized businesses, has raised $50 million AUD (about $37.5 million USD) led by Spark Capital, the investment firm whose portfolio also includes Twitter, Slack and Coinbase. Zeller’s valuation is now $400 million AUD (about $301 million USD).

The funding included participation from returning investors Square Peg, Apex Capital Partners and Addition, and brings Zeller’s total raised in under a year to $81 million AUD. This amount includes a pre-launch Series A led by Addition, the investment firm started by Lee Fixel, and seed funding.

Zeller was founded last year by Ben Pfisterer, Square’s former Asia Pacific and Australia head, and Dominic Yap, the fintech’s former strategy and growth lead. The company launched its first products for small businesses on May 4, including EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at point of sale) terminals, business accounts and cards.

The company says more than 1,500 Australian businesses signed up in the month after its launch, and weekly payment volume has been growing 200%. About 80% of businesses who started using Zeller switched from Australia’s four biggest banks, citing their desire for lower fees and better customer support.

Zeller’s new funding will be used to grow its research and engineering hub, including filling 18 new engineering roles that will support Zeller’s plan to become a fully-regulated business bank.

In a press statement, Spark Capital investor James Kuklinski said, “From our first meeting with Ben, we knew we wanted to be a part of Zeller. Australia’s business banking landscape is dominated by a small group of incumbents, and is ripe for disruption through simpler, more transparent pricing, best-in-class technology and better customer service.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/22/australian-fintech-zeller-lands-50m-aud-led-by-spark-capital-at-a-400m-aud-valuation/

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Techcrunch

MAJORITY raises $19 million for its mobile banking service for migrants

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More than a million people migrate to the U.S. each year. Upon their arrival, they face challenges in opening a local bank account and accessing financial services at regular rates.

These challenges for migrants, a significant portion of whom also need to send money home, have persisted globally for decades, despite large government support programs.

Now an entrepreneur, who in his previous venture fought exorbitant phone tariff charges to help people make phone calls at low-cost, believes he has found the solution — and definitely a vote of confidence from investors.

MAJORITY said on Tuesday it has raised $19 million in its seed funding. The financial round was led by Valar Ventures while Avid Ventures, Heartcore Capital and several prominent Nordic fintech unicorn founders participated in it.

The two-year-old startup operates an eponymous mobile banking service. MAJORITY, whose name is a play on bringing financial inclusion to more people, runs a subscription service where it charges $5 a month to individuals and provides them with a range of financial services including an FDIC-insured bank account with early direct deposit at no overdraft fee, a debit card, mobile credit, and at-cost international phone calls.

Credit: Majority

Another reason why so many migrant communities are apprehensive of opening accounts with traditional banks, said Magnus Larsson (pictured above), founder and chief executive of MAJORITY, is that they don’t feel welcome there.

“You might not speak the language, or understand the cultural differences,” he said. To tackle this, MAJORITY has hired customer and sales relation representatives from various communities to work with customers to understand their needs.

Houston and Stockholm-headquartered MAJORITY also runs a community on its app to help individuals who have moved to the U.S. find familiar people and a “home” environment, he said. “Customers there find how to get a VISA as well as things like information about places to do local shopping,” he said.

“As veterans within the migrant tech sector, the team behind MAJORITY has already established themselves as builders of disruptive solutions for the world’s immigrants,” said James Fitzgerald, Founding Partner at Valar Ventures. “By supporting them for continued growth, we are confident that they will bring better and well-needed banking services to immigrants in the U.S.”

Starting today, the service is available in all 50 U.S. states and complies with local regulations, said Larsson, who previously served as the chief executive of Swedish technology firm Rebtel. Sutton Bank is MAJORITY’s banking partner.

The startup plans to deploy the new funding to expand its product offerings and broaden its team of about 80 people currently. “Since we are a company of immigrants for immigrants, we also look forward to hiring diverse talent that exists within the different immigrant communities we serve. This is more important now than ever given that many have been hit hard by the pandemic,” he said.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/22/majority-raises-19-million-for-its-mobile-banking-service-for-migrants/

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Techcrunch

As venues reopen, Mixhalo announces new tech for in-person live event streaming

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As venues reopen across the U.S., Mixhalo has announced a pair of additions to its in-person audio live event audio streaming platform: Mixhalo Over Cellular and Mixhalo Rodeo.

The first is, more or less, what it sounds like. Rather than relying on Wi-Fi, the leverages 5G. The company says it will be able to offer a similar “ultra-low latency” that made the initial Wi-Fi product so compelling.

Mixhalo is working with a carrier to roll out the feature, but won’t say which. It notes, however, that while it would work with LTE, for obvious reasons, 5G provides a greater opportunity to decrease latency.

Rodeo, meanwhile, is designed to work with existing venue wireless to circumvent the need to install an additional overlay system.

“The Rodeo system actually reduces network strain since the existing access points are now aware of the Mixhalo traffic and can plan for and buffer network data accordingly,” CEO John Vars tells TechCrunch. “If a venue has installed a wireless system post-2015, they are likely to have the necessary hardware to support Rodeo in their venue. We do need to install a server in the venue’s server room, but that is the only hardware component of Rodeo.”

Image Credits: Mixhalo

Co-founded by Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger, Mixhalo launched its product onstage at Disrupt 2017 (with some help from Pharrell), promising to deliver live event sounds through its ultra-low latency streaming tech.

Naturally, 2020 and the first half of this year have been a pretty major trial for a startup so tied to live events. Vars tells TechCrunch that the company was forced to reduce headcount at the beginning of the pandemic as contracts were ended, but adds that the company has managed to grow since, in part on the strength of a number of partnerships.

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NEW YORK, NY – MAY 17: (L-R) Pharrell Williams, Founder and CEO of MIXhalo Mike Einziger and TechCrunch senior writer Anthony Ha speak onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017 – Day 3 at Pier 36 on May 17, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch) *** Local Caption *** Pharrell Williams;Mike Einziger;Anthony Ha

“The silver lining in all of this is that we got a chance to step back and laser-focus on improving our core product,” says Vars. “These improvements include this announcement of Mixhalo Rodeo and Mixhalo over Cellular, as well as the capability to dynamically adjust latency based on physical position in the venue — we may not have had the time and opportunity to work on these improvements in the full swing of pre-pandemic business. With these new features, we’ve seen piqued interest from partners in the sports world and are excited to see this use case of Mixhalo really take off.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/22/as-venues-reopen-mixhalo-announces-new-technology-for-in-person-live-event-streaming/

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Startups

A rewards program for your rent payments? Meet Bilt

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Kairos, the startup studio led by Ankur Jain, is launching a new brand today called Bilt Rewards. Bilt is a rewards program that lets renters earn each time they make a rent payment.

The company is funded by Kairos, which is the studio that is also responsible for brands like Rhino, Alloy, and Little Spoon.

Bilt has two main pieces, a rewards platform and a credit card, powered by Mastercard.

On the rewards side, Bilt has partnered with estate owners and property managers including the Blackstone Group, The Related Companies and Equity Residential. Folks who rent with these entities can now earn rewards each time they pay their rent, with the opportunity to earn even more rewards for things like lease renewals or lease signing bonuses.

The co-branded Bilt Mastercard credit card allows renters at those properties, or any other renter, to pay their rent with the credit card. As a renter myself, and as one that is still forced to pay by check via snail mail, this is a welcome offering.

Folks who use the Bilt Mastercard will earn 2x points on rent payments and one point per dollar spent on the card elsewhere.

These points, whether earned through spending on the card or by paying rent at Bilt-partnered properties, can be used toward travel with airlines and hotels, as well as other perks like group fitness classes. But perhaps the most significant option for spending points is to use them toward a mortgage payment.

Bilt worked with regulators, as well as Fannie Mae and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to gain approval for using rewards points toward a mortgage. So not only can people use their rewards points toward their down payment on a home, but folks using the Bilt Mastercard can also build their credit score and earn rewards at the same time, bringing down the rates on their mortgage.

On the revenue side, Bilt takes a cut of the transaction fee alongside Mastercard for purchases made through the Bilt credit card. The startup also generates revenue by charging property managers for the points they distribute to their tenants.

“Three years ago, if you asked us if we could bring together an alliance of property owners to work together under one unified rewards program, it would have been hard to imagine,” said Jain. “If you think about getting payment networks to collaborate on a credit card or fees on rent, most people would have said that’s not possible. Getting regulatory approval from the U.S. government was a huge hurdle we had to overcome. Building out every airline and hotel partnership was huge. That’s why it’s taken three years. This has been the hardest project we’ve worked on.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/22/a-rewards-program-for-your-rent-payments-meet-bilt/

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