U.S. VC Fundraising Hits Record $69 Billion in 2020
U.S. venture capital funds have raised a combined $69.1 billion in 2020, edging past a 2018 record and defying the odds amid a pandemic-rattled economy. The high-water mark was set after Andreessen Horowitz recently announced a pair of mega-funds with $4.5 billion in commitments. The news reinforces the dominant theme of fundraising in 2020: Big investors have gotten bigger while smaller firms have struggled. The 2020 year-to-date fundraising total was set by just 287 funds, compared with 589 funds in 2018. Mega-funds of $1 billion or more represented a record 15% of the total number of US VC funds raised as of Sept. 30, according to the PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor. (https://pitchbook.com/news/articles/us-vc-fundraising-hits-record-69b-in-2020-after-a16z-closes-two-mega-funds)
Entrepreneurs Thrive in 10 U.S. Metros
New data from LinkedIn's Economic Graph team shows entrepreneurial spirit running strong in cities across the U.S. In summary, here are the Top 10 Metro Areas, followed by % of Total U.S. Entrepreneurs: San Francisco 15%; New York City 15%; Los Angeles 9%; Boston 5%; Seattle 2%; Miami/Ft. Lauderdale 2%; Denver 2%; Austin 2%; San Diego 2%; Salt Lake City 2%.
Here are the U.S. industries with the most entrepreneurs, followed by % of Total U.S. Entrepreneurs: software & tech 28%; media & communications 10%; healthcare 8%; finance 8%; consumer goods 7%; corporate services 7%; manufacturing 4%; wellness & fitness 4%; entertainment 4%; education 4%. (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/entrepreneurs-thrive-10-us-metros-9-arent-silicon-valley-anders/)
Los Angeles Sets Up Transportation Technology Innovation Zone
Mayor Eric Garcetti recently announced that the City of Los Angeles is launching a new Transportation Technology Innovation Zone, which will allow innovators to test their transportation tech solutions. The new zone-, located in the San Fernando Valley, around Warner Center, will initially launch with a project to test a zero-emissions, last-mile delivery service that connects individuals homebound by the pandemic to food from local businesses. The Mayor's office also said a second project will launch in the spring, focused on mini-mobility hubs throughout the Warner Center campus. (https://www.socaltech.com/fullstory/0080620.html)
BIG DEALS AHEAD
Wireless Charging for All Electric Vehicles on the Horizon
Automakers and suppliers from around the world have agreed to a system that makes it possible to charge electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids without ever actually plugging them into a wall outlet. Luxury vehicles like the $57,900 BMW 530e plug-in hybrid and $2 million McLaren Speedtail are ready for the system now, but expect more attainable EVs to offer it soon. The SAE International engineers association got an "astoundingly large" group of automakers and suppliers to cooperate to develop the universal charging system, the first step in making it affordable and easy for drivers to use. (https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2020/11/30/electric-cars-wireless-charging-pads/6461863002/)
What the $27.7B Salesforce, Slack Deal Will Mean for the Enterprise
CRM titan Salesforce announced it will acquire collaboration platform Slack in a stock and cash deal valued at $27.7 billion. The acquisition is set to bring about wide-ranging implications for enterprise software. Aligning Slack, a collaboration brand with a passionate user base, alongside Salesforce's digital toolkit for business, ties together two disparate parts of the business and gives Salesforce cross-enterprise exposure in the process. The deal signals a closer tie between collaboration and CRM functions, which is in tune with the trends that shape the future of work, according to Kate Leggett, VP and principal analyst at Forrester. (https://www.ciodive.com/news/slack-salesforce-acquisition-deal-saas-collaboration/589928/)
Apple's New Program Reduces App Store Commission to 15% for Small Biz
Apple recently announced it would be launching an "App Store Small Business Program" that would reduce its fees from 30% to 15% for developers earning less than $1 million per year from the App Store. Apple says that if you enroll by December 18, reduced fees should be active by January 1 of 2021. Existing developers can still enroll after that cutoff, but things get a bit more complicated, with reduced fees generally kicking in midway through the next fiscal calendar month. (https://techcrunch.com/2020/12/03/developers-can-now-enroll-in-apples-small-business-program-for-reduced-app-store-fees/)
How to Fix Zoom's Most Common Problems
In a recent article, Digital Trends has "collected the most common Zoom problems users face and provide step-by-step instructions on how to resolve them." In summary, they address: Webcam or audio not working; Echoes during a call; Zoom lags or freezes during meetings; Can't share a screen; No remote control while screen sharing; No email messages from Zoom; and Getting Zoom-bombed. (https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/common-problems-with-zoom-and-how-to-fix-them/)
Hacker Selling Access to Email Accounts of Hundreds of C-level Execs
A threat actor is currently selling passwords for the email accounts of hundreds of C-level executives at companies across the world. The data is being sold on a closed-access underground forum for Russian-speaking hackers named Exploit.in, ZDNet reported. The threat actor is selling email and password combinations for Office 365 and Microsoft accounts, which he claims are owned by high-level executives. Access to any of these accounts is sold for prices ranging from $100 to $1,500, depending on the company size and user's role. The easiest way of preventing hackers from monetizing any type of stolen credentials is to use a two-step verification (2SV) or two-factor authentication (2FA) solution for your online accounts. Even if hackers manage to steal login details, they will be useless without the proper 2SV/2FA additional verifier. (https://www.zdnet.com/article/a-hacker-is-selling-access-to-the-email-accounts-of-hundreds-of-c-level-executives/)
Amazon Urges Shoppers to Opt for Package Pickup
As online sales this holiday season are expected to spike 33% year over year to a record $189 billion, according to Adobe Analytics, Amazon is pushing holiday shoppers to retrieve their own packages from brick-and-mortar retail locations and neighborhood "hubs." The company recently announced that shoppers nationwide can now get their gifts delivered to one of its physical bookstores, called Amazon Books, or an Amazon 4-star location. It also highlighted its network of contactless pickup points, called Amazon Hub, as an alternative delivery location for orders - self-service kiosks and manned pickup counters, located inside local shops and in residential apartment buildings.
Amazon also pointed shoppers to its "Amazon Day" delivery option, which allows them to pick a day of the week to receive all of their orders, cutting down on the number of boxes and deliveries. It reduces the number of trips Amazon has to make to a single address. (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/23/amazon-pushes-holiday-shoppers-to-pick-up-packages-at-stores.html)
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Will Step Down on January 20
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced he will step down from his post on Jan. 20, the day President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. Pai's term was slated to expire in June 2021, though Biden will be able to choose a Democrat to chair the commission once in office. Commissioners must be confirmed by the Senate. Pai's decision to step down could have significant implications on net neutrality, an issue that helped define his term as chairman. In 2017, Pai voted with his fellow Republican commissioners to remove rules that prohibited internet providers from blocking or slowing traffic to particular sites and offering higher speed "lanes" at higher prices. Many major internet providers have not yet taken advantage of that rule change, however. (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/30/fcc-chairman-ajit-pai-will-step-down-on-january-20.html)
…AND JUSTICE FOR ALL
Federal Judge Halts Trump's H-1B Visa Rules
A federal judge recently struck down two Trump administration rules issued in October meant to restrict H-1B visas for highly skilled foreign workers. In a 23-page order, US District Judge Jeffrey White said the administration failed to show "good cause" for issuing the rules on an emergency basis, bypassing a customary comment period. The technology industry relies heavily on H-1B visas. About three-quarters of 85,000 allotted H-1B visas each year go to people who work in tech. The Trump administration had argued that the rules, which fall under the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security, needed to be issued quickly because of unemployment spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. The Labor Department rule, which went into effect in October, raised the minimum salaries employers were required to pay H-1B workers. While the Homeland Security rule, which was set to take effect this month, would've required foreign workers to have a degree in the "specialty occupation" they apply for - as opposed to any college degree. (https://www.cnet.com/news/federal-judge-halts-trumps-h-1b-visa-rules/)
Justice Dept. Suit Says Facebook Discriminates Against U.S. Workers
The Justice Department sued Facebook last week, accusing it of being un-American by favoring foreign workers with visas over those from the U.S., in a new push against tech companies in the waning days of the Trump administration.
In the complaint, the department's civil rights division said Facebook "refused to recruit, consider or hire qualified and available U.S. workers" for more than 2,600 positions, with an average salary of $156,000. Those jobs instead went to immigrant visa holders, according to the complaint. The action followed a two-year investigation into whether Facebook intentionally favored so-called H1-B visa and other temporary immigrant workers over U.S. workers, the Justice Department said. (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/03/technology/facebook-hiring-discrimination-suit.html)
Facebook, Google to Face New Antitrust Suits in U.S.
Authorities are readying as many as four more lawsuits targeting Google or Facebook by the end of January, people familiar with the matter said, following the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit against Google in October. Federal and state officials are probing whether the tech giants abused their power in the internet economy - Google to dominate search and advertising, and Facebook to dominate social media. Google and Facebook have denied doing so, saying they operate in highly competitive markets and that their services, which are mostly free, benefit consumers. In addition, the FTC has been investigating whether Amazon unfairly uses its size and platform against competitors and other sellers on its site, while the Justice Department has been examining Apple's use of its App Store for possible anticompetitive practices. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-google-to-face-new-antitrust-suits-in-u-s-11606742163)