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Do China tech giants pose a risk for European banks?

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China’s Ant group may have been dealt a setback with the shelving of its IPO but European banks remain wary that Chinese tech giants may soon be their main competitors.

The European finance sector has in recent years seen the emergence of a large number of startups—called fintech—which have sought to disrupt brick and mortar banks by offering digital services.

While they have yet to really threaten established banks, the fintechs have forced them to dust off their operations and invest massively into providing similar digital services.

“The real competitor of tomorrow will likely be the GAFAM or the Ants of the world which have the capacity to invest considerable sums,” the head of France’s Societe Generale bank, Frederic Oudea said recently, using a French acronym for Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.

US tech giants have been making more beachheads in financial services an area where their Chinese rivals are already well advanced.

From chat to super app

Ant Group, which was hoping to raise a record $34 billion with its IPO before the Chinese government pulled the rug out from under the operation, is the owner of Alipay, a payment platform which is now an unavoidable element of daily life in China.

Its prinicipal rival in China is WeChat Pay, owned by Internet giant Tencent.

“The companies which originally developed chat software have a strong interest in enhancing these activities as they enable them to cover an even broader range of people’s day-to-day activities,” said Christopher Schmitz, an expert on fintech at Ernst & Young.

“Gradually, an ever larger-growing share of people’s spending goes to these companies,” he added.

The Chinese have widely adopted paying by flashing QR codes of vendors on their smartphones using Alipay or WeChat Pay due to its convenience.

Alipay alone has 731 million monthly users.

In just a few years these two platforms have transformed China from a country where cash was king to a society where smartphones are the payment medium of choice.

These companies are not content with just offering payments. They offer more financial services, including the ability to obtain a loan with just several clicks.

“Alipay generates more revenue from the financial services that it offers, such as investment schemes and loans, than the payments themselves, which is really just the tip of the iceberg of what has become a super app,” said Adrien Boue, a consultant on the electronic commerce market.

He said “the goal is that users stay in the app as long as possible. From morning to night, there is always a functionality there: speaking with friends, ordering a taxi, ordering food and even working on collaborative projects.”

Cultural barriers

“The most advanced model in the financial sector—it’s China,” said Oudea.

The question is just how much of this model can be reproduced in Europe, especially after Ant Group’s IPO setback, which some observers see as a move by the Chinese authorities to bring an overly ambitious firm to heel.

“Our banks are still a bit protected,” said Julien Maldonato, a financial services expert at the Deloitte France consultancy. “There are still cultural barriers, but these won’t protect us forever.”

One of those cultural barriers are QR codes.

“In Europe, payments based on QR codes are noy very popular,” said Ernst & Young’s Schmitz.

The fragmented nature of Europe with its different languages and cultures also makes it difficult for an outsider.

But Maldonato noted that American tech companies are already very much present in the daily lives of Europeans, and China’s TikTok has attracted young users who are “the banking clients of tomorrow”.

It is the capacity of the Chinese companies to plough money into developing new technologies and acquiring customers—they each plan to invest some $70 billion over the next five years—that could really change the game.

“That worries the Americans who will accelerate” their investments as well, said Maldonato, while European companies will have trouble coming up with even a few billion.

Source: https://www.fintechnews.org/do-china-tech-giants-pose-a-risk-for-european-banks/

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Google launches suite of AI-powered solutions for retailers

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Google today announced the launch of Product Discovery Solutions for Retail, a suite of services deigned to enhance retailers’ ecommerce capabilities and help them deliver personalized customer experiences. Product Discovery Solutions for Retail brings together AI algorithms and a search service, Cloud Search for Retail, that leverages Google Search technology to power retailers’ product-finding tools.

The pandemic and corresponding rise in online shopping threaten to push supply chains to the breaking point. Early in the COVID-19 crisis, Amazon was forced to restrict the amount of inventory suppliers could send to its warehouses. Ecommerce order volume has increased by 50% compared with 2019, and shipment times for products like furniture more than doubled in March. Moreover, overall U.S. digital sales have jumped by 30%, expediting the online shopping transition by as much as two years.

Product Discovery Solutions for Retail, which is generally available to all companies as of today, aims to address the challenges with AI and machine learning. To that end, it includes access to Google’s Recommendations AI, which uses machine learning to dynamically adapt to customer behavior and changes in variables like assortment, pricing, and special offers.

Recommendations AI, which launched in beta in July and is now generally available, ostensibly excels at handling recommendations in scenarios with long-tail products and cold-start users and items. Thanks to “context-hungry” deep learning models developed in partnership with Google Brain and Google Research, it’s able to draw insights across tens of millions of items and constantly iterate on those insights in real time.

From a graphical interface, businesses using Recommendations AI can integrate, configure, monitor, and launch recommendations while connecting data by using existing integrations with Merchant Center, Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics 360, Cloud Storage, and BigQuery. Recommendations AI can incorporate unstructured metadata like product name, description, category, images, product longevity, and more while customizing recommendations to deliver desired outcomes, such as engagement, revenue, or conversions. And it lets Google Cloud customers apply rules to fine-tune what shoppers see and diversify which products are shown, filtering by product availability and custom tags.

Product Discovery Solutions for Retail also includes access to Google’s Vision API Product Search, which allows shoppers to search for products with an image and receive a ranked list of visually and semantically similar items. Google says Vision Product Search taps machine learning-powered object recognition and lookup to provide real-time results of similar, or complementary, items from retailers’ product catalog.

Beyond Recommendations AI and Vision API Product Search, Product Discovery Solutions for Retail ships with Cloud Search for Retail. Cloud Search for Retail, which is currently in private preview, pulls from Google’s understanding of user intent and context to provide retail product search functionality that can be embedded into websites and mobile apps.

“As the shift to online continues, smarter and more personalized shopping experiences will be even more critical for retailers to rise above their competition,” Google Cloud retail and consumer VP Carrie Tharp said in a statement. “Retailers are in dire need of agile operating models powered by cloud infrastructure and technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to meet today’s industry demands. We’re proud to partner with retailers around the world and bring forward our Product Discovery offerings to help them succeed.”

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/01/19/google-launches-suite-of-ai-powered-solutions-for-retailers/

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Trovata.io raises $20 million to aggregate enterprise bank accounts with AI

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Banking technology startup Trovata.io today announced it has raised $20 million in a series A round led by Wells Fargo Strategic Capital. The investment will be used to deliver new services and accelerate multi-bank APIs globally, the company says, and to add more bank distribution partners.

Trovata founder and CEO Brett Turner, who has spent time at Deloitte and Amazon, predicted that the rise of consumer bank aggregators driving fintech would lead to direct APIs for commercial banking and treasury services from banks globally. These prebuilt bank integrations, he believed, would remove enterprises’ need for legacy implementations or IT support and enable self-setup.

Turner launched 35-employee Trovata in 2019 in anticipation of the transformation, with a platform to aggregate companies’ bank balances and transactions natively on wholesale banking APIs. Using AI and machine learning, Trovata can automate cash-centric workflows such as cash reporting, analysis, and forecasting, allowing companies to see how much cash they have in real time while managing cash flow and building and maintaining forecasts.

Trovata acts as a high-performance data lake to store and manage bank data in a scalable multi-bank environment. The platform collects and normalizes data and then generates a forecast, leveraging machine learning to establish a baseline and analyze historical trends to increase forecast accuracy.

Trovata lets customers including Square tag data by region, entity, division, or arbitrary label. It also translates all non-USD denominated amounts into USD equivalents, offering the ability to drill down and generate forecasts for subsidiaries individually. A Google-like natural language search tool with a 300 millisecond response rate lets users find and tag key vendors, customers, and partners across millions of transactions.

“The tipping point is near, and … Trovata can play [a profound role] in wholesale banking and treasury services. The pandemic has spurned the need for better cash visibility, bank data in real time, and more proactive cash forecasting. Companies growing and contracting are in need of these things which have only accelerated interest,” Turner said in a statement. “Revenue is confidential, but our average deal size is roughly $25,00 and we’ve grown from 0 to nearly 100 mid-market and small enterprise customers in 18 months. We’ll be announcing a new up-market product for the enterprise later this month and expect to grow 4 times to 5 times this year.”

“We are keen on how technology is reinventing the treasury function into a modern, insight-driven operation that helps our clients deliver on their business strategy,” Wells Fargo Strategic Capital managing director Basil Darwish added. “Trovata provides distinctive technology and a client-centric approach to automating treasury services, and we’re excited to support their ongoing growth with this investment.”

Capital One Ventures and Pivot Investment Partners also participated in Trovata’s series A announced today, as well as existing early investors J.P. Morgan and Fintop Capital. This brings the San Diego-based company’s total raised to over $30 million, following seed and venture rounds totaling $10.6 million.

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/01/19/trovata-io-raises-20-million-to-aggregate-enterprise-bank-accounts-with-ai/

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OncoHost raises $8 million to develop AI that predicts cancer treatment responses

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OncoHost, a company developing AI technology to characterize, analyze, and predict patient response to treatment, today announced it raised $8 million. The company says the funds will be used to finance OncoHost’s ongoing clinical trials, open a U.S.-based affiliate, and prepare for the upcoming launch of the company’s AI-based host response profiling platform.

The death rate from cancer declined by 2.2% from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop ever, according to the American Cancer Society. But there’s an upward trend in cancer incidence. People born since 1960 will have at least a one-in-two chance of getting cancer over their lifetime, according to a recent study. While some cancers, like breast cancer, have a five-year relative survival rate of nearly 100%, others are difficult to treat and have high rates of recurrence. For example, glioblastoma and ovarian cancer recurs in nearly all patients, regardless of treatment.

OncoHost is a clinical stage precision oncology company developing a platform for predicting responsiveness to cancer therapies. Yuval Shaked, a member of Technion’s department of cell biology and cancer research, cofounded OncoHost in 2017 based on his research demonstrating that cancer therapies induce a range of unintended effects in healthy tissue, some which can promote tumor aggressiveness.

Cancer treatment modalities including immunotherapy, chemotherapy, targeted drugs, radiation, and surgery can trigger a range of physiological reactions in patients, Shaked says. These effects include elevated levels of cytokines, a broad and loose category of small proteins important in cell signaling, as well as growth factors, enzymes, and chemokines (a subcategory of cytokines) in the blood. OncoHost’s technology aims to identify and characterize responses to treatments and discover new targets to overcome treatment resistance.

Applying AI to predict cancer treatment response isn’t a new idea. A recent study published in Clinical Cancer Research found that an algorithm trained on standard CT scans could anticipate tumor response in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. And in June, researchers in France launched a new trial to monitor patients for immune-related markers, gut microbiota, pharmacokinetics, pharmacogenomics, pharmacogenetics, and multiple biological parameters using an AI system.

But OncoHost uniquely analyzes changes in blood to monitor the dynamics of biological processes in response to a given cancer therapy, and to identify potential drug targets. The company’s lab uses protein analysis technology to determine the levels of thousands of proteins associated with therapy resistance and tumor spread in a single plasma sample. By analyzing these levels, OncoHost says it’s able to monitor a patient’s response to treatment in real time.

OncoHost says it’s established a preclinical program to test the efficacy of novel drug combinations in tumor models in mice. Moreover, the company says it’s launching a clinical trial for glioblastoma patients undergoing standard-of-care therapy.

“This investment round supports our mission to better predict response to immunotherapy and identify personalized treatment options for cancer patients, as we continue to expand our collaboration with pharma on clinical trials and drug development,” Shaked said. “Proteomic analysis is allowing us to make great advances in personalized cancer care, and we are grateful to our investors for their support in the midst of this particularly challenging time of a global pandemic. The future of personalized cancer care is no longer a distant reality, but within our reach.”

OurCrowd led the series B investment in Binyamina, Israel-based OncoHost, joined by a group of family offices and private investors. The round follows a $1 million grant from the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation, which OncoHost received together with its life sciences partner RayBiotech.

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/01/19/oncohost-raises-8-million-to-develop-ai-that-predicts-cancer-treatment-responses/

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Swimlane raises $40 million to automate cybersecurity operations

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Swimlane, a Denver-based security operations management software provider, today announced it raised $40 million. The funding will be put toward accelerating partnerships and alliances, expanding R&D, and enabling further global expansion, the company says.

According to Markets and Markets, the security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) segment is expected to reach $1.68 billion in value this year, driven by a rise in security breaches and incidents and the rapid deployment and development of cloud-based solutions. According to Risk Based Security, data breaches exposed 4.1 billion records in the first half of 2019. That’s perhaps why 68% of business leaders in a recent Accenture survey said they feel their cybersecurity risks are increasing.

Swimlane’s suite of SOAR tools can automate 80-90% of the incident response process, the company claims, with extensible automated workflows and playbooks that interface with organizations’ existing tools while addressing data compliance laws and regulations. Swimlane’s platform offers dashboards and reports that spotlight metrics of note, including remediation cases in progress, alert levels, and threat intelligence, and which track (and allow admins to execute) scenario-specific security tasks and actions.

With its Technology Alliance Program, Swimlane teams up with companies to develop active integration points with security products, and through its free community (SecOpsHub.com) and content-sharing (AppHub) sites, it encourages customers and non-customers to collaborate to solve problems with Swimlane’s out-of-the-box integrations and common scripting language.

Swimlane recently launched Swimlane Analyst Hub, a way to aggregate its developer tools and content for security analysts, including PowerShell-based digital forensics and incident response tools. And in April, the company acquired Syncurity, a security orchestration company based in Bethesda, Maryland that provided incident response and case management to customers across health care and managed services industries.

Swimlane claims to support hundreds of organizations directly and through managed service security providers, largely in sectors like energy, finance, retail, and government.

“Without a doubt, automation will be one of, if not the biggest change realized by security operations in a generation. Security automation is a multibillion dollar market, and while hundreds of organizations already benefit from its initial adoption, the broad application of intent-based automation to every aspect of security is still in front of us all,” newly appointed CEO James Brear, former head of VMWare acquisition target Veriflow, said in a statement. “Swimlane is acutely focused on improving the automation piece of today’s SOAR solutions.”

EIP led Swimlane’s funding round announced today. The capital brings the company’s total raised to date to over $80 million following a $23 million round in May 2019.

VentureBeat

VentureBeat’s mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact. Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/01/19/swimlane-raises-40-million-to-automate-cybersecurity-operations/

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