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Latin America roundup: Neobanks raise $205M+; Softbank backs VTEX

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Argentina’s Ualá became the most recent Latin American fintech to receive a growth-stage funding ($150 million) from Asian investors, Tencent and Softbank. 

This marks Tencent’s second round of investment in Ualá, the first coming in April 2019. Tencent also invested $180M in Brazil’s leading neobank, Nubank in 2018. With Ualá, Tencent and Softbank will join a team of investors including Soros, Goldman Sachs, Endeavor, Monashees, Ribbit Capital, and Jefferies LLC, who have backed Ualá since it was founded in 2016. Ualá has provided over 1.3M accounts for unbanked and under-banked Argentine customers in the past two years and recently launched new products for lending and savings. 

Ualá was not the only neobank celebrating a significant round this month; Brazil’s Neon raised a $94M Series B round from Banco Votorantim and General Atlantic just one week earlier. Neon offers a fully-digital bank card to almost 2M customers across Brazil, mostly concentrated in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The round will enable Neon to expand beyond Brazil’s biggest cities and double its user base in 2020. 

Neon has raised $121M to date, with previous investors Quona Capital, Propel Venture Partners, Omidyar Network, and Monashees, also joining their most recent round. The two-year-old startup has been expanding its product offerings to include credit, investment, and most recently, a personal lending line in July 2019.

Neon’s products are helping to bring banking services to a famously complex and competitive market in Brazil. Brazil’s largest neobank, Nubank, is valued at $10B+, has 10M customers in Brazil and Mexico, and is now the most-downloaded neobank in the world. Brazil’s banking sector is one of the most lucrative in the world, with credit card interest rates reaching triple digits, whereas Nubank and competitors offer more US-style rates, putting Brazilian banks on the defensive against disruptors like Nubank and Neon who will drive competition. 

With strong funding from Asia, Brazilian, and US-based backers, these neobanks are gaining traction across the region to provide banking services to the 50% of Latin America’s population that is still excluded from traditional financial institutions. 

Softbank invests $140M in VTEX

VTEX, a Brazilian cloud e-commerce platform for large companies, joined the growing list of Softbank’s Brazilian portfolio companies, including QuintoAndar, MadeiraMadeira, Creditas, Buser, Gympass, and Loggi. The Japanese investor is supporting VTEX with a $140M investment to help the startup expand internationally and develop new products. 

VTEX already has 14 offices in Latin America, Europe, and the US, and serves over 2500 global clients including Ambev, Nestle, North Face, Coca Cola, and General Electric. VTEX’s solution involves a comprehensive digital commerce platform including order management, B2B marketplaces, web and in-store points of commerce, and customer service. As the back-end for some of the world’s largest companies, VTEX provides an enormous opportunity for integration with other marketplaces and platforms. 

LinkedIn expands to Mexico

Mexico is Latin America’s second-largest market after Brazil for many US tech companies like Uber and Facebook. In November 2019, both LinkedIn and Stripe announced their intention to expand into the Mexican market with offices and operations. Over 13 million of Linkedin’s 92 million total clients are in Mexico, making this country a logical place for Linkedin’s second Latin America office. Linkedin opened their first Latin America offices in São Paulo in 2013. 

The Mexican office will open in July 2020 and will help LinkedIn produce more Spanish-language content, as well as bring users closer to large clients like BBVA and Aeromexico. 

Notable Rounds and Acquisitions from November

  • Brazilian bank Itaú acquired growth-hacking and digital consulting startup, Zup, for a $140M deal that will be disbursed over four years. Zup will help the bank improve and develop digital channels for customer acquisition and management. Although Itaú now owns 51% of Zup, the two companies will continue to operate separately and under different brands for the foreseeable future. Acquisitions of this size are still very rare in Latin America and provide liquidity into the startup ecosystem that can promote the development of a more dynamic environment for tech companies. 
  • MUY Tech, a Colombia cloud kitchen startup, raised $15M this month to expand into Mexico and Brazil. MUY uses AI technology to predict food trends and create less waste, allowing users to order personalized meals from MUY’s physical restaurants or through a mobile app. The startup currently serves more than 200,000 meals per month, according to founder Jose Calderon, who previously exited Domicilios to Delivery Hero. Mexican investor ALLVP led the round with support from previous investor Seeya.
  • Brazilian mobility startup Kovi raised a $30M Series B led by Global Founders Capital and Quona Capital, with support from previous investors Monashees, Maya Capital, Kevin Efrusy, Y Combinator, Broadhaven Ventures, Justin Mateen, and ONEVC. Kovi rents cars to drivers that work for rideshare companies like Uber, Didi, or Cabify to make quality vehicles available to these potential gig-economy workers. They will use this investment to grow the team and fleet, as well as exploring new geographies. 
  • Mexico’s virtual supermarket, Justo, raised $10M in a seed round from Foundation Capital to continue growing in the local market. Justo is the first grocery store in Mexico with no physical branches, using a D2C model that has been increasing in popularity in Latin America. The startup was founded by Ricardo Weder, the former president of Cabify, earlier in 2019 to disrupt the wasteful grocery industry. 
  • Brazil’s identity verification startup, idwall, raised $10M from Qualcomm Ventures to continue developing facial recognition software that helps large companies like Loggi, 99, and OLX to verify the identity of their employees and customers.

Looking ahead to December, Latin American financial institutions are on the lookout for a shaky future based on the recent unrest in countries like Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia. This instability might provide a competitive edge for fintech startups who can use real-time data to adapt more quickly to the changing situation. 

What to watch next? International investors have not pulled out of the region despite recent political turmoil and many are willing to wait out this period to support their startups. While we may not have access to Q4 2019 for a few months, it will be interesting to see if growth and investment have been rocked by the changes of the past two months. Certainly the status quo for the traditional players in Latin America is rapidly changing, potentially leaving room for startups to take over more market share and compete for disgruntled customers.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/11/27/latin-america-roundup-neobanks-raise-205m-softbank-backs-vtex/

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Overview and Market Trends of Crypto Games in 2021

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The number of gamers worldwide is estimated at around 2.6 billion in 2020. The upward trend will add another 125 million by the end of 2021. About half of them hail from the Asia-Pacific region. The crypto gaming scene is representing an increasingly large portion of that number. Crypto games are still a relatively unknown term, at least to the general public, but in 2021 they are expected to explode due to various trends detected in this year. The potential is just too great to be ignored. Ability to reward players and let them trade for real money their in-game items is something a lot of games have tried – mostly unsuccessfully – to achieve in the past. Thanks to blockchain technology, that goal is possible now.

What Is Crypto Gaming?

Crypto games are a relatively new addition to the gaming world. The first games appeared just a few years ago. The main aspect of crypto games is collecting items that rise or fall in value and that can be sold at any time, provided you can find a buyer. One of the first popular crypto games was CryptoKitties. In the game, you can buy a cat and groom it. You can even buy two and breed new kittens. The price goes up and down and you can sell your cats or buy new ones. The most expensive cat ever sold on CryptoKitties reached an astonishing price of $117,000. It was to be expected that the first crypto games would be about cats, but they came in all shapes and flavors. You can collect heroes, monsters, fish, even hamsters. Considering the choice of genres, it is easy to find a game that suits your preferences.

Crypto and iGaming

The iGaming industry is one of the fastest-growing segments of gaming. It is expected to reach a value of 300 billion by 2025. It is no wonder then that a lot of crypto developers are pivoting to it, making their coins iGaming-friendly. 2021 will be huge in terms of using bitcoin for iGaming, judging by some indicators. There is even talk of creating digital coins exclusively for online gambling, although that is far-fetched at the moment. Already established coins, like Bitcoin, Tether, and Ethereum are functioning just fine and are being adopted by more and more online casinos. At this rate, there won’t be an online gambling platform that doesn’t accept them by the end of 2021.

The Trending Platform in 2021

Most crypto games available today are based on the Ethereum blockchain and we don’t see that changing in 2021. Simply put, the Ethereum blockchain is an extremely convenient platform for this kind of apps. IT is readily available, easily modified, and has great tech support to bail out developers when they hit a snag. All these attributes make Ethereum perfect for crypto gaming since the majority of the studios developing games are independent. As such, they can’t afford the muscle power large developers have at their disposal, and having friendly tech support and a platform that can be easily adapted to their needs is crucial. However, this too can change in the upcoming year, but more on that later.

The Developers

As we mentioned earlier, there is only a handful of big names in crypto gaming. Most developers are small indie companies and startups. For the last two or three years, they have been working diligently to create games and in 2021, they are poised to reap the benefits of their hard work. Some of the games, like My Crypto Heroes or Blockchain Cuties, already boast thousands of players and are ready to blow. This will allow their creators to emerge as the first crypto gaming powerhouses on the market. On the other hand, a lot of established studios are eyeing crypto gaming and making plans to join in the fray. They will bring to bear a massive amount of money, influence, and talent, which will affect the segment in a considerable way.

The Benefits of Crypto Gaming

Blockchain technology is on the verge of transforming the Internet. The benefits it offers are huge, but one thing that is slowing its implementation is that most people don’t know enough about it. Crypto games can help with that. By presenting this newfangled technology in a familiar manner – and what is more familiar than gaming – crypto games will allow people to get acquainted with it. This familiarity will make the adoption of all other applications of blockchain that much easier. Even casual gamers, who spend just a few hours weekly playing crypto games will be familiar enough with it that blockchain won’t sound so alien to them. Crypto games will help the world adjust to blockchain in preparation for its wide application.

Crypto Games That Will Mark 2021

Predicting which games will be huge in 2021 can be ungrateful, but we will give it a try. One of our favorites is Forgotten Artifacts. It appeals to our Dr. Indiana Jones fantasies, as it lets you collect various items and artifacts around the game world. The game is still in beta and one limitation is that it can only be played with an Enjin wallet. My Crypto Heroes is another game that shows tremendous potential. Based on Japanese mythology, it allows you to collect various heroes and train them to add new characteristics and increase their value. For our final recommendation, we have chosen Blockchain Cuties. Think of it as Tamagotchi, but with cute monsters instead. You can collect them, breed them, and train them to increase their skill in battle.

 

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Zumo launches smart portfolio feature to view and manage overall crypto assets

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  • Zumo Smartfolio allows users to clearly access the current and historical value of their digital currencies

 

  • The feature, included in the app’s 2.13 version, also provides insights into possible exchange opportunities to make a profit

 

Edinburgh, UK – 21 December 2020.- Zumo, the digital wallet and payments platform, has launched Zumo Smartfolio, the latest of the app’s innovative features enabling users to view and manage their overall crypto assets and track the relative position of each of their exchanges in a simple and intuitive way.

The introduction of Zumo Smartfolio in the 2.13 version of the app allows users to access the current and historical value of their exchanges, as well as to see how much gain, or loss, they have made on them over time. The new feature includes a smart portfolio score calculated by matching a user’s buying positions with their sales, providing insights into possible exchange opportunities that could make them profit.

In addition, Zumo Smartfolio has been designed to ensure users can view their data in an intuitive way through interactive pie and line graphs. Users can set the time frame of their Smartfolio to see how their asset values have changed with one day, one week, one month, three months, and all-inclusive timeframes.

Paul Roach, chief product officer of Zumo, said: “By offering Zumo users this feature, we make it even easier for them to take control of their own funds and become responsible smart money-savers, investors or traders. Or even all three.

“Zumo Smartfolio is the latest of a series of innovative features we are launching in the next few months. Users will soon be able to view and download their entire exchange history, as well as their associated Smartfolio data, and spend cryptocurrency alongside traditional money in everyday situations with the upcoming Zumo convertible debit card.”

Zumo App was launched in the UK to make the benefits of blockchain and cryptocurrencies more accessible to everyone by offering users the chance to buy, sell, spend, and send both fiat and cryptocurrencies. The launch of Zumo version 2.12 in November introduced Exchange Price Alerts, a feature that allows users to set up price alerts, notifying them when the price of Bitcoin or Ether reaches a certain level.

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

About Zumo

Founded in Edinburgh in 2018 by experienced entrepreneurs Paul Roach and Nick Jones, Zumo’s fully decentralized, patent-pending, HD wallet infrastructure is available direct to consumers through Zumo App and to businesses through ZumoKit (our SDK) and enterprise partnership solutions in the developing world.

 

Zumo is a purpose-driven fintech business with transparency and financial inclusion at the core of our values. We’re on a mission to bring the benefits of decentralization, digital assets, and blockchain technology to ordinary people, everywhere. Our platform enables users to safely store, send, spend, and exchange digital money anywhere in the world easily and cheaply from a mobile device. We do this in the fastest, most transparent, and secure way possible. Our core technology is patent-pending and massively differentiated, giving us the potential to create a world-leading position for a British company, whilst making a big contribution to financial inclusion at a time of the global crisis caused by Covid-19.

 

For more information

Scott Reid

Scott.reid@charlottestpartners.co.uk

Mob +44 7912 483423

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Beyond Limits to Expand Industrial AI in Energy with Nvidia

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LOS ANGELES, CA – December 16, 2020 – Beyond Limits, an industrial and enterprise-grade AI technology company built for the most demanding sectors, today announced it is working with NVIDIA to advance its initiative for bringing digital transformation to the energy sector.

Beyond Limits will collaborate with NVIDIA experts on joint go-to-market strategies for Beyond Limits’ products and solutions in the energy sector. The company will also take advantage of NVIDIA technical support and GPU-optimized AI software such as containers, models, and application frameworks from the NVIDIA NGC catalog to improve the performance and efficiency of its software development cycle.

“AI has the potential to make a major impact on problems facing the heart of the global energy business, but the technology requires high levels of computing power to operate on the level and scale required by many of today’s global producers,” said AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond Limits. “That’s why we’re so excited to collaborate with NVIDIA, a leading provider of AI computing platforms. With NVIDIA technology support and expertise, Beyond Limits is better positioned to offer faster, more intelligent, and efficient AI-based solutions for maximizing energy production and profitability.”

Breakthroughs in novel high-performance AI solutions are projected to have significant impacts throughout the energy industry. One key challenge facing the upstream oil and gas sector includes the resource requirement for optimizing well deployments, especially when data on a region’s geological properties is highly uncertain. To overcome this problem, Beyond Limits developed a novel deep reinforcement learning (DRL) framework trained using NVIDIA A100 Tensor Core GPUs, capable of running 167,000 complex scenario simulations in 36 hours. Following initial tests, the DRL framework yielded a 208% increase in NPV value by predicting and recommending well placements, based on the number of actions explored and the expected financial return from reservoir production over time.

“The NVIDIA A100 offers the performance and reliability required to meet the demands of the modern-day energy sector,” said Marc Spieler, Global Energy Director at NVIDIA. “The ability to process hundreds of thousands of AI simulations in real-time provides the insight required for Beyond Limits to develop scalable applications that advance energy technologies.”

Beyond Limits Cognitive AI applies human-like reasoning to solve problems, combining encoded human knowledge with machine learning techniques and allowing systems to adapt and continue to operate even when data is in short supply or uncertain. As a result, Beyond Limits’ customers are able to elevate operational insights, improve operating conditions, enhance performance at every level, and ultimately increase profits. For more information, please visit https://www.beyond.ai/solutions/beyond-energy.

About Beyond Limits

Beyond Limits is an industrial and enterprise-grade artificial intelligence company built for the most demanding sectors including energy, utilities, and healthcare.

Beyond traditional artificial intelligence, Beyond Limits’ unique Cognitive AI technology combines numeric techniques like machine learning with knowledge-based reasoning to produce actionable intelligence. Customers implement Beyond Limits AI to boost operational insights, improve operating conditions, enhance performance at every level, and ultimately increase profits as a result.

Founded in 2014, Beyond Limits leverages a significant investment portfolio of advanced technology developed at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA space missions. The company was recently honored by CB Insights on their 2020 List of Top AI 100 most innovative artificial intelligence startups and by Frost & Sullivan for their North American Technology Innovation Award.


For more information, please visit www.beyond.ai.

Contact Information:
Ed Cruz

LEWIS for Beyond Limits

619-308-5245

beyondlimitspr@teamlewis.com

 

 

 

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7 Ways to Skyrocket Business Growth Using Blockchain

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Every business owner is looking for ways to expand their market reach and boost their revenue generation. Luckily, technological advancements are providing new strategies that can set them apart from competitors in the market.

Blockchain technology is one of those fresh strategies that is quickly transforming the business realm. This technology stores transaction in an electronic register (database) in the form of blocks, where they cannot be altered in any shape or form. People only associate Blockchain technology with cryptocurrencies, misunderstanding that it is just a branch. This article highlights how your business can benefit by adopting the path of Blockchain technology.

Here are 7 ways to skyrocket your business growth using Blockchain:

1.    Helps Build Trust with Customers

Many businesses fear that changing up strategies can be detrimental to their success. But the truth is that if businesses want to stay relevant in the long-run, then they need to embrace new trends and technologies.

This fear is often associated with Blockchain technology as it is relatively new compared to more traditional systems. But leveraging Blockchain can help companies unlock unearthed potential and improve their audience reach. The best way to get started is by showing existing customers how this technology can offer a lot of advantages, the most important being increased confidentiality.

Businesses that aren’t ready to accept this change will get left behind, so now’s your chance to make the shift.

2.    Adds Ease In Employing Reliable Staff

Businesses need to have a cooperative and committing staff to be able to increase their business’s development because “team-work makes the dream work.”

However, it requires a lot of time and research to be able to recruit employees that are dedicated enough. Blockchain can ease that burden and does the job quickly.

Most candidates will add information in their CVs that might not be accurate; Blockchain can allow you to legally have access to all their personal records, like academic and past employment. This way, you can check the legitimacy of their aptitude and be able to recruit the most talented.

Hence, this method can help you hire the staff that will help you reach your goals in your business and gain success.

3.    Prevents Irrelevant Ads

Online advertisement has been around for a very long time. They can’t be taken down or get removed as a lot of money has been spent on them. How many times have we been interrupted by ads while browsing the web for something? Too many! Blockchain can play a major part in eliminating the amount of spammy content we’re subjected to while browsing. Since ads cannot be removed from the internet, Blockchain gives clients the liberty to choose what kind of ads they would like to see while surfing the net. This way, the person who creates those ads can also benefit from this by gaining qualified traffic and having more exposure.

4.    Makes Online Transactions Secure And Confidential

Most people worry about their personal information being compromised or getting hacked when performing online transactions. However, the Blockchain prevents that from happening.

It makes sure that all the weak points are fixed so that it cannot be tampered with or hacked. It allows you to perform online transactions on the internet without needing to use payment processors like PayPal, Bank, Credit Card, etc.

It also ensures that a customer’s previous transactions can’t be viewed unless it’s someone who is a relative or involved with the customer. For example, a carpet cleaning company leverages Blockchain technology to aid customers in conducting anonymous online transactions, eliminating all kinds of additional charges which are involved when using traditional payment methods. This will definitely act as a draw to those tech-savvy audiences that are keen to shop online without leaving any traceable tracks behind.

5.    Improved Auditing

The Blockchain serves as a balance sheet to document transactions and check if they are efficient and authentic. The process of evaluating recorded transactions to check if it is precise, applicable, and dependable is known as an audit.

For example, instead of asking third parties to send confirmation statements, auditors can easily validate transactions by using free Blockchain ledgers online.

6.    Easy to Raise Funds

There used to be a time where you would need to request a loan from a bank to be able to fund your business, but now the times have changed drastically. Now you can find multiple ways to fund your business.

ICO (Initial Coin Offering) has become the most well-known and admired way to raise capital for your business venture. It can also be known as a token sale. Investors are offered a token in the form of cryptocurrency in exchange for real money or any other digital currency. This new methodology helps to raise funds as it offers some form of value to the investor.

7.    Successful Marketing Campaign

Companies depend on data related to consumer interest’s drive better marketing. Market research is another area where Blockchain technology can help third-party companies to obtain actionable insights. There have been some notable use cases of Blockchain that are empowering digital marketers to build better relationships with customers. This is known as Blockchain Marketing.

Since Blockchain requires no middleman, there is an emphasis on consumer data confidentiality. And the data is owned by the customer, so they’re able to share it willingly with the advertising platform. Once the data is provided, marketers can direct more personalized campaigns towards specified audiences, so there are higher conversions. Moving forward, we are more likely to see this form of digital advertising being leveraged by companies.

Conclusion – Using Blockchain the Smart Way

If you are planning to upgrade your business through the implementation of Blockchain, it is advised to keep in touch with a legitimate Blockchain development firm. This technology has just entered the phase of implementation, with research being conducted to discover its range of applications. With little knowledge available about its hidden challenges, it will be tough to navigate obstacles due to lack of experience. But with its immense potential, it would be foolish not to harness the power of this technology.


Source: Shaheryar Sadiq. Shaheryar provides ghostwriting and copywriting services. His educational background in the technical field and business studies helps him in tackling topics ranging from career and business productivity to web development and digital marketing.

 

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