VBT Newsletter

September 21

Good morning!

This edition features:

  • Google partners with Dapper Labs to scale its Flow blockchain

  • A new report finds there is no new Silicon Valley in sight

  • Pokémon Go maker Niantic is shutting down its AR Catan game

  • iOS 15 is now available for download

  • And megacap tech stocks got pummeled yesterday

It’s Tuesday, September 21, 2021.

1. NFTs

Google takes giant step towards powering Blockchain-based Web 3 (Forbes)

Google Cloud recently announced it has joined forces with Dapper Labs to support and scale Dapper’s Flow blockchain. This summer, Dapper users conducted between 500,000 and one million transactions per week, and the NFT platform is the fourth largest by sales volume.

Google Cloud will act as a network operator, offering its infrastructure to help Flow scale. The Flow network already supports over 50 applications and now more than 2,000 developers building on Flow will be able to connect to Flow access nodes at lower latency through Google’s suite of cloud services.

During the transition to what is called Web 3.0, this move positions Google to go after a chink in Amazon’s armor by branding itself as a developer-friendly alternative. Though Google doesn’t allow the actual process of mining crypto on its cloud services, devs will be able to choose which regions power their platforms.

With Google’s help, Dapper Labs hopes to scale NBA Top Shot and other NFT lines running on Flow to billions of users. In 2015, Microsoft became one the first tech leaders to provide their cloud-based infrastructure and management as blockchain-as-a-service, followed by Amazon, which launched its own blockchain support in 2019.

2. Startups

No other Silicon Valley in sight, report finds (Crunchbase)

Is Silicon Valley losing its edge? Are we experiencing an exodus of tech workers and companies from Silicon Valley? Where is the next Silicon Valley? These have been the most asked questions in the Bay Area for a while and particularly during the pandemic.

In seeking to answer these–and other–questions, Mind The Bridge dug deep into the Crunchbase database to collect more data points. The result is the new report “Tech Scaleup Silicon Valley” which was published on Sept. 15. Here are some key findings:

  • The Bay Area hosts 7,894 scaleups; tech companies that have raised over $1 million since inception. Elsewhere, it takes an entire continent or country such as Europe or China to provide similar figures. Silicon Valley has about 5x more scaleups than Israel, for example.

  • Scaleups headquartered in the Bay Area raised $501.3 billion, about half of the total capital made available to U.S. tech companies. This is about 2.6x more than the amount raised by European scaleups and 1.1x higher than China.

  • Silicon Valley hosts 2.3x more scaleups than New York, 4.6x more than LA, slightly less than 7x more than Texas, 8x more than Boston/Cambridge, and 11x more than Seattle and Chicago. Atlanta and Miami are not comparable in size.

  • Investments in Silicon Valley scaleups are 4.9x higher than in New York, about 7x more than in LA, slightly less than 7x Austin, over 10x more than Boston/Cambridge, and over 30x more than the other hubs.

In the end, rumors of the supposed “death” of Silicon Valley appear to be greatly exaggerated, data says. It is unlikely that a single hub might reach the density levels of the Bay Area. Nevertheless, there will likely be multiple clusters in different places (U.S. and abroad) able to get beyond critical mass. But there’s no new Silicon Valley in sight.

3. AR

Pokémon Go maker Niantic is shutting down its AR Catan game (Protocol)

Niantic is shutting down Catan: World Explorers, one of its more high-profile augmented reality follow-ups before it even fully launches. The game will be gone for good on Nov. 18, the developer announced.

"After a year of exploring the world together, we are announcing today that CATAN – World Explorers will not be rolling out to more countries and instead we will be winding down the game over the coming months. The team thanks all of you, our dedicated players, for your feedback and your fun," the development team wrote in the blog post. It's not entirely clear what went wrong, but the post goes on to say that the project "got a little too complicated."

The game was announced in 2019 and it promised to translate the German board game's iconic settler theme into the real world. The game soft-launched in an early access stage in various territories over the past 18 months, but never officially launched for players in the U.S. or any other major markets.

The shutdown marks a rare failure for Niantic. Since Pokémon Go, Niantic landed a series of licensing deals with iconic brand names, such as Harry Potter and Transformers. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is still active, and Niantic is currently developing the Transformers title, as well as an AR game in Nintendo's Pikmin series.

4. iOS 15

Apple just released its big new iOS 15 update for iPhones - here’s what’s new (CNBC)

Apple released iOS 15 yesterday and this year’s version has some big changes. IOS 15 is also available for a lot of older phones, too, all the way back to the iPhone 6S. Here’s what you get:

  • FaceTime that includes Windows and Android users

  • New Messages integration

  • AI that can tell what’s in a photo, including text

  • More control of notifications during off-hours

  • Apple Maps reminders

  • New Safari redesign

  • Better system search

  • Privacy protections

  • Faster Siri

  • Driver’s license and keys in Apple Wallet

There is one big delay, however: Apple is planning to launch a feature called SharePlay that lets you watch a movie or TV show with other people over FaceTime. But that feature isn’t included yet and is now promised for later this year.

Downloads to OS 15 are also available for iPads and Macs.

5. Tech Stocks

Megacap tech selloff hits $500 billion since Nasdaq 100 peak (Bloomberg)

Megacap technology stocks were pummeled yesterday, adding to a recent slump that is evoking September 2020, when the Nasdaq 100 Stock Index tumbled nearly 13% over a three-week span. Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet, and Microsoft have shed more than $500 billion since the Nasdaq 100 peaked on Sept. 7. 

  • Amazon led the declines in the group, falling as much as 4.6% before paring the drop and closing down 3.1%.

  • Facebook sank as much as 4.1% before closing with a 2.5% loss, deeper than the 1.7% decline for the S&P 500 Index.

  • The one-day slump for both tech giants was the worst in nearly two months. The one-day slump for both tech giants was the worst in nearly two months.

While the pain in U.S. stock markets on Monday was broad-based amid speculation over the fallout of China’s real-estate industry slowdown, it was particularly acute for the megacap tech companies that have a disproportionate influence on the S&P 500 due to their market values.

Up until this month’s peak, tech stocks had been on a winning streak this year, with the Nasdaq 100 posting a nearly 22% return. Apple, the world’s largest publicly traded company, has since fallen more than 8%, erasing more than $220 billion in market value. Facebook has fallen nearly 7%.

6. Funding, IPOs, M&As

As always, please feel free to share questions, feedback, or requests for future newsletters.