Robert Downey Jr. announces the launch of FootPrint Coalition Ventures

Taking on the next phase of his efforts towards saving the planet, actor, producer and investor, Robert Downey Jr. has reportedly declared the establishment of FootPrint Coalition Ventures. Accessible to the public, the initiative represents a string of VC funds that are intended at making investments in organizations which are developing solutions for the purpose of addressing environmental problems.

The announcement was reportedly made by Downey Jr. at the digital Davos Agenda event of the World Economic Forum on Wednesday, 27th January 2021.

According to reliable sources, the rolling fund of FootPrint Coalition Ventures is accessible to ‘accredited and qualified’ investors via a partnership with the AngelList startup-investment platform. While almost 2,000 investors are fit for participation in each of the two initial funds, every backer must proceed with a minimum investment of $5,000 in every quarter, so that the opening FootPrint Coalition Ventures funds could secure a sum of over $80 million every year.

Furthermore, for promoting its endeavors, the VC organization will tap into the creative team of Downey Jr., and his massive footprint on social media, which comprises a follower count of over 100 million.

The objective is to utilize storytelling towards the translation of scientific concepts into accessible information for the purpose of attracting talent and awareness to the cause, added the actor, further stating that he is personally making investment in the VC funds, furnishing at least 10% of each of the initial two funds of the firm.

Designating the environmental threats an existential crisis at the global level, Downey Jr. has also stated that he believes in creative problem-solving. The producer has also highlighted that such daunting problems are bound to require an extensive set of new organizations that are focused on working on solutions in spite of a few upper class mega corporations.

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Chinese automaker Geely to back Faraday Future PSAC merger deal

Faraday will unite with PSAC (Property Solutions Acquisition Corp), while Geely will help bankroll a $775Mn funding in the form of PIPE

Geely, one of China’s leading automaker, will reportedly be an anchor investor in the merger deal between U.S. electric vehicle (EV) firm, Faraday Future and PSAC, a blank-check acquisition company.  The deal, soon to be announced in the U.S., will value Faraday at about $2.7 billion.

As per reliable sources, Faraday will merge with PSAC (Property Solutions Acquisition Corp), while Geely will help bankroll a $775 million financing package in the form of PIPE (private investment in public equity).

PSAC is a special purpose acquisition company, a category of firms that raise funds in an IPO (initial public offering) with an aim of buying a private company. This concept emerged last year as a popular investment vehicle on Wall Street. While for businesses that are being acquired by such firms, the merger acts as an alternative way for them to go public over a traditional IPO.

Founded in 2014, Faraday Future was the brainchild of Jia Yueting, a Chinese businessman who was once slated to be China’s answer to Tesla’s Elon Musk. Based in Los Angeles-based, Faraday first announced its plans to build the FF 91, an all-electric vehicle.

The company had touted plans for a 2019 launch but faced a delay in production plans multiple times given to a series of financing issues.

As of now, Faraday Future aims at setting up a new base in China and opt Geely for contract manufacturing services. Prior to this, the company had already established a plant in Hanford, California. Speculations are made that other Chinese state-owned companies such as Zhuhai Huafa Group and Zhuhai Gree Group are also looking to pump in funds in the SPAC deal.

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ByteDance starts employee layoffs after India announces permanent ban

ByteDance Co. Ltd., parent company of the popular video-sharing social networking platform TikTok, has reportedly started cutting down its workforce in India, after the country decided to extend a ban on the Chinese app.

For those unaware, the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had initially imposed a ban on TikTok as well as other 58 additional Chinese apps in June 2020 over high concerns regarding national security. India has now announced its decision to extend the ban, after the companies reportedly failed to convince the authorities of their compliance with essential privacy and security requirements.

According to TikTok, the company has always complied with the local laws and is in process of reviewing the current notice sent by the Indian government. TikTok added that despite its several efforts, the company has not received any clear direction on when and how its platforms can be reinstated, and hence is compelled to lay off around 2000+ employees.

Reportedly, TikTok’s VP Blake Chandlee and Interim CEO Vanessa Pappas have informed their employees through a letter that they will soon start cutting jobs and are unsure whether the company will be resuming operations in India. However, the letter did not mention how many jobs the company is planning to let go.

Several TikTok employees have been seeking jobs for a while now, with Indian rival apps looking to hire from the renowned Chinese platform. Sources confirmed that some staff have reportedly claimed to have received a pay hike despite the ban.

TikTok’s parent ByteDance has doubled its revenue in the year 2020, regardless of the troubles in the U.S. and Indian markets, sources claimed. The company amassed revenues worth USD 35 billion in 2020, with the operating profit reaching USD 7 billion as compared to USD 4 billion it generated in the year 2019.

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FreeWire bags funds worth $50Mn to expand EV charging solutions

California-based electric vehicle charging and power solutions- FreeWire Technologies has reportedly raised USD 50 million in Series C funding round led by Riverstone Holdings and saw the participation from existing shareholders bp ventures, TRIREC, Alumni Ventures Group, and Energy Innovation Capital.

For the record, the latest investment by Riverstone- a leading energy private equity company, marks the first private equity investment made in FreeWire and also showcases the significance of battery-integrated charging technology to meet the rapidly increasing demand for electric vehicle charging stations, globally.

Notably, with the new investment, the company aims at expanding the market for its flagship offering- Boost Charger™ along with expanding its production capacity to meet escalating customer demands.

According to a statement by Robert Tichio, Partner and Managing Director, Riverstone, the investment underlines the energy private equity firm’s aim to support innovation that meets the growing demand for energy along with managing climate change risks.

It is worth mentioning that, rise in awareness among people regarding the need to adopt sustainable mobility alternatives has supported the adoption of electric vehicles, further anchoring the development of EV charging stations.

Boost Charger, a product offered by FreeWire, helps connect to the present low-voltage grid infrastructures that allow high power DC fast-charging from its 160 -kWh lithium-ion battery. The company’s technology allows ultrafast charging where high-power connections are either expensive or unavailable.

Kevin Skillern, Managing Partner of Energy Innovation Capital, was reportedly quoted stating that the Boost Charger represents an evolution in charging technology and is an integral step to deliver fast, cost-effective, scalable, and a wide EV charging solution to the public.

Through the investment made by Riverstone joined by EIC and other investors, the deployment of EV charging technology by FreeWire will be accelerated, he further added.

As per reliable sources, the investment comes after the agreement between FreeWire and BP pulse- UK’s largest charging network solutions provider, under which for it to become an exclusive operator of the former’s Boost Charger technology across the UK.

Additionally, FreeWire has deployed more than 200 battery- integrated chargers with the Fortune 100 companies, retail locations, commercial customers, and gas stations. In addition to the above, the company plans to deploy over 2,500 ultrafast charging stations by 2025.

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Sky UK to boost original content catalogue to take on streaming rivals

Renowned British telecommunications company and broadcaster, Sky UK, is reportedly squaring up to Amazon, Disney+, and Netflix, in the battle to gain higher viewership by expanding its original British shows catalogue by over 50% and also releasing new, exclusive films every fortnight, which also includes a biopic backed by Danny Boyle about Creation Records, a Britpop record label.

Driven by Britain’s growing appetite for binging on new series during the COVID-19 pandemic, the total number of subscribers to the aforementioned three main streaming services has hit approximately 32 million, which is double that of the conventional pay-TV firms like BT, Virgin Media, and Sky.

With lockdowns across UK pushing up the digital content viewing numbers by over 38% in 2020, the hunger for newer content is booming and so is competition among big streaming enterprises. Recently, Netflix announced that it would start releasing one new movie a week.

Managing Director, Content, Sky UK, Zai Bennett, stated that the company would be doing the same starting 2022 and has increased the number of its original movies from two back in 2020 to over 30 this year.

Bennett stated that the main aim of this effort is to add more value to subscriptions of Sky Cinema. Adding that the movie investment was an addition to the approximately £1 billion Sky has allocated to spend on new and original series by 2024.

Apparently, Sky had already expedited its investment in films before the start of the pandemic and has tried as best it can to accelerate content creation even faster and make as many deals as possible.

The new movies include Alan McGee, starring newcomers James McClelland and Leo Harvey-Elledge as Noel and Liam Gallagher and Ewen Bremner, an adaptation of A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig featuring Maggie Smith, Stephen Merchant, and Kristen Wiig, and Creation Stories, which is cowritten by Irvine Welsh and revolves around the boss of Oasis’s record label.

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CapBay bags $20Mn in Series A funding, to expand P2P financing platform

Malaysia-based P2P supply chain financing medium- CapBay has reportedly secured USD 20 million in Series A funding round. As per sources, the funding round was led by existing investor – KK Fund- a Singaporean venture capital company that actively invests in new ventures across South East Asia and has a strong base in Malaysia since the year 2015.

It is worth noting that, in 2017, CapBay had raised nearly USD 500,000 during a funding round led by KK Fund. Other notable Malaysian investors include various angel investors holding expertise in technology, finance, and developing startup companies.

In a statement by the company, the raised funds will help with efficient financing and facilitate market expansion to reach a wider panel of investors and underserved small and medium- enterprises.

As per reliable sources, in December 2020, CapBay announced that it had injected RM 100 million or USD 24.71 million as funds across 500 investment notes on its P2P platform ever since its introduction in March 2020.

To date, the Malaysian startup has facilitated approximately USD 198 million across 10,000 transactions that cover SMEs.

Speaking along similar lines, CapBay has also widened its investment offerings for P2P investors through a strategic partnership with leading institutions. The company has emerged as one of the first fintech companies and became a part of the Vendor Financing Programme known as PERINTIS offered by the national telecommunications giant- Telekom Malaysia Bhd’s in September 2020.

Seemingly, the partnership between CapBay and leading institutions has allowed investors to pour funds alongside institutional investors in a safe asset class that is supported by corporate and government receivables.

Notably, the company has recently inked a strategic alliance with Kenanga to develop the country’s first Islamic Supply Chain Finance fintech company. Additionally, CapBay has also invested in building the Shariah-compliant supply chain finance system through the acquisition of Kenanga Capital Islamic Sdn Bhd.

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Interscope inks a new JV with Adam Mersel’s Immersive Records label

Interscope Geffen A&M has reportedly signed a joint venture deal with the Immersive Records, a label owned by renowned artist manager, Adam Mersel, who is presently guiding the career of Ben Platt, the Emmy, Tony, and Grammy Award-winning superstar. Prior to that, Mersel has also helped guide singer Bebe Rexha to a diamond-validated status, and worked closely with artists such as Robin Thicke and Sara Bareilles.

Sources cite that before the launch of Immersive Management in 2020, Mersel was working at First Access Entertainment and Career Artist Management, where he has worked with Thicke, Rexha, Bareilles, and other successful artists.

That same year, Mersel also looked after the releases of “Sing to Me Instead”, which was Ben Platt’s debut, and has also served as the Executive Producer for the Broadway star’s NETFLIX special “Ben Platt: Live From Radio City Music Hall”.

Under the JV, the release of a debut single by Chase Hudson, also known as LILHUDDY, the star of the latest Downfalls High musical feature of Machine Gun Kelly, is set to take place. Given the title of the “21st Century Vampire”, the debut single has reportedly been co-written by LILHUDDY, in addition to Andy Seltzer, Nick Long, and Jake Torrey.

The track, which released recently, is further accompanied by a new music video that was shot by Director Joseph Kahn and is reportedly available across all digital retail providers through Geffen/Immersive Records.

Commenting on the JV, Adam Mersel stated that some of his earliest experiences associated with working in the music industry are related to Interscope, underscoring that Steve, John, and other Interscope executives have played a part in raising him in the business.

Mersel is also grateful to the complete team for their belief and support and believes that Interscope stands as the perfect home for Immersive Records, as time and time again, the team has demonstrated its success in the establishment of career artists.

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SpaceX to offer early public access to Starlink in the UK & Canada

Elon Musk’s space transportation services venture SpaceX has recently announced its intention to start early public access to its Starlink satellite internet program in the UK and Canada. To date, the company has launched over 1,000 high-speed internet Starlink satellites and is seeking regulatory approvals in various nations.

During the recent launch webcast by the company, Jessie Anderson, lead manufacturing engineer at SpaceX reportedly stated that the company has expanded its ‘Better than Nothing Beta’ program earlier in the month, in an attempt to include customers throughout the UK.

She further went on to state that SpaceX is focusing on remote and rural regions in Canada and Northern U.S., where access to cable or fiber is limited.

The public beta program was commenced by the company in October 2020, with services offered at a price of $99 per month, in addition to an upfront cost of $499 for ordering the Starlink Kit. The kit consists of a user terminal, as well as a WiFi router to connect to the satellite network.

For the record, Starlink is an endeavor undertaken by SpaceX to create an interconnected internet ecosystem consisting of thousands of satellites, with an aim to provide high-speed internet access across the globe. The ambitious plan, which is estimated to cost approximately $10 billion or more to build, is expected by SpaceX leadership to bring in as much as $30 billion annually, which is over 10x the annual revenue brought in by its rocket business.

SpaceX is working towards expanding Starlink on a global scale. According to public records, the company is registered in South Africa, Austria, Spain, the Philippines, Brazil, Greece, Argentina, Ireland, Australia, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, New Zealand and Germany.

The firm has also made appeals for market access in Japan. Furthermore, Musk has spoken about the expansion of Starlink into the Caribbean and the Indian market as well.

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Office Depot rebuffs third takeover attempt by rival firm Staples

  • ODP Corp. chairman turns down unsolicited $2.1 billion takeover bid from Staples
  • The company has expressed its interest in an alternative deal, however, such as a joint venture or retail operations merger
  • This marks the third attempt made by Staples to acquire Office Depot

U.S.-based office supply retailer Office Depot has recently rejected another takeover offer from its industry rival Staples. In a letter exchanged between the company’s executives, the chairman of the board of the ODP Corporation, the parent company of Office Depot, allegedly rejected Staples’ $2.1 billion offer to acquire the business.

However, the company expressed its interest in forging an alternative deal that would draw less regulatory scrutiny, including a joint venture, or a partial sale of its e-commerce and retail businesses to Staples.

Joseph Vassalluzzo, ODP Chairman, reportedly stated in the letter that a full takeover deal, as proposed by Staples, would bring far too much regulatory risk. He went on to say that an alternative deal, such as a JV or a partial sale, may be more efficiently executed and will present greater certainty and draw less attention from regulatory authorities. Vassalluzzo further added that this would help maintain optimum competitiveness against non-conventional retailers, and present more lucrative ongoing choices for customers.

The letter was delivered to the MD of Staples’ owner Sycamore Partners and USR Parent board member, Stefan Kaluzny. Staples has made at least two other attempts to acquire ODP in the past.

The last merger attempt, which was made five years ago, was blocked by antitrust officials on grounds of a potentially massive reduction in competition in the office supplies market. In the recent takeover bid, Staples proposed to buy the company for over $40 per share, claim sources with knowledge of the matter.

For the record, apart from Office Depot, ODP Corp. also owns another office supply retail chain OfficeMax, as well as IT company CompuCom.

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inRiver buys Digital Online to boost customer insights through PIM™

inRiver AB- a Swedish product information management company, has reportedly announced the acquisition of Detail Online, an AI-led analytic solution that helps brands monitor product information across various online channels.

Reportedly, the transaction will aim at powering the only digital-first PIM™ system that drives faster time-to-market and improves the buying experience by leveraging the insights required to optimize the content performance and remedy channels that are underperforming in real-time.

Along similar lines, the deal to purchase Detail Online will see inRiver’s novel solutions bring life to the compelling product stories for highly customized items, obtaining guidance on what is influencing the buying decisions, and adapt to implement insights.

For the record, the Detail Online solution provides insights into crucial elements which include out of stock issues and poor product visibility that impacts the ability to sell. Both B2C and B2B companies could turn product information into strategic assets to increase their revenue scale.

According to a statement, Joakim Gavelin, CEO and Co-Founder, Detail Online, said that with the changing face of digital commerce, people engagement plays a key role in understanding how and where the product must be sold. Combined solutions by Detail Online and inRiver will help solve the commerce challenges of the future, he further added.

Notably, with the acquisition, the total number of inRiver employees has increased to over 240 and expands its footprint into the APAC region. The combined companies will work towards strengthening the global customer service and support to serve customers across the globe.

Incorporated in the year 2007, inRiver empowers companies to deliver revenue- increasing product information. The company’s digital-first PIM™ allows other companies to bring compelling product stories to life for customized purchases, achieve actionable guidance on what influencing purchasing decisions, and then adapt to put insights into action.

The company assists B2C and B2B organizations to turn product information into insightful strategic assets to boost revenue for more than 1,500 brands and nearly 500 customers across the world.

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