VBT Newsletter

September 14th

Good morning!

A quick programming note before we begin - I am off the rest of the week so I will see you all back here for the Sunday edition on September 19th 👋

This Tuesday newsletter features:

  • A Miami-based NFT startup raises funds

  • What to expect at Apple’s event today

  • Palo Alto Networks unveiled a malware-detecting WiFi router for WFH employees

  • China will reportedly break up Alipay

  • And Walmart will not be accepting payment in Litecoin

It’s September 14, 2021.

1. #MiamiTech

Billionaire Steve Cohen helps NFT firm reach $333 million valuation (Bloomberg)

Miami-based NFT company, Recur, has reached a $333 million valuation after a funding round led by an investment platform backed by billionaire Steve Cohen’s family office. Recur will soon introduce NFTU, a marketplace that will allow sports fans to own highlights from college sports, starting with the Pac-12.

Recur is partnering with AI company Veritone and collegiate trademark licensing company CLC on NFTU. As the exclusive content licensing partner for the Pac-12 Networks, Veritone will license Recur-approved Pac-12 moments across all sports available for NFT creation.

The Series A round, which raised $50 million, was led by metaverse investment platform Digital. Recur, founded by Zach Bruch and Trevor George, will use the funds to support licensing rights and partnerships, and to build out its team. Cohen will serve on Recur’s board as Digital’s initial designated director.

Recur had announced a $5 million fundraising in March that attracted investments from the likes of Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’s Gemini, JST Capital and Defi Alliance. 

2. 🍎

What to expect from Apple’s iPhone 13 event (The Verge)

Apple’s first fall event begins today at 1pm ET. Like last year’s event, today’s will be entirely digital, in the slick, over-produced style that’s become Apple’s trademark. Here’s a short list of what to expect:

  • An iPhone 13 with a familiar design and maybe a new nighttime camera trick

  • A flat-edged Apple Watch Series 7 with a bigger screen and the same health features

  • Third-generation AirPods with some AirPods Pro-inspired looks

  • The Launch of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and Mac Monterey, with a few ingredients missing

  • Possibly a longer wait for new iPad Minis, iPads, and Macs of all stripes

That’s a whole lot of possible announcements, not even taking into account a tease for longer-term Apple projects like the company’s continued exploration of AR and VR. Tune into the event later today to find out.

3. Cybersecurity

Palo Alto Networks reveals malware-detecting WiFi router (SiliconANGLE)

Palo Alto Networks’ newest product is called the Okyo Garde, a wireless mesh router with built-in cybersecurity capabilities that businesses can use to protect remote workers’ home networks from hacking attempts.

  • The router detects when a worker clicks on a malicious link and prevents the malicious website from loading.

  • Okyo Garde spots phishing attempts as well as provides features for blocking cyberattacks that target an employee’s smart home appliances.

  • Administrators can manage employees’ Okyo Garde deployments through an easy-to-use mobile app.

  • For enterprises that have broader security requirements, Palo Alto Networks will sell an edition integrated with its Prisma Access service.

  • The standard version is set to begin shipping in the fall.

Okyo Garde will expand Palo Alto Networks’ lineup of offerings in a time when such products are experiencing strong demand. It will also enable the company to more directly compete for small businesses’ cybersecurity spending.

Okyo Garde may also give the company a product edge over some of the other providers offering software for employee connections to business apps. If the device proves successful, competitors may be prompted to launch rival products. 

4. Fintech

China will reportedly break up Ant Group’s Alipay and force creation of new loans app (CNBC)

Beijing plans to break up Alipay and create a separate app for the fintech giant’s loans business. Regulators previously ordered Ant to split AliPay from lending businesses Huabei and Jiebei but now want the credit businesses to be split into an independent app as well.

According to the plan, Ant will turn over user data underpinning loan decisions to a new credit scoring joint venture. The JV will be partly state-owned. Hong Kong-listed shares of Alibaba fell more than 4% Monday afternoon following the report.

The decline weighed on the broader Chinese tech sector as the Hang Seng Tech index declined almost 3%, with shares of other Chinese tech heavyweights like Tencent and Meituan also taking a beating.

The latest developments marked more challenges for Ant’s business. The comapny’s planned $34.5 billion IPO in November was scuttled after regulatory discrepancies were flagged.

5. Crypto

No, Walmart isn’t accepting cypto payments in Litecoin (CNET)

Walmart yesterday confirmed that a press release published by GlobeNewswire that said the retailer was going to offer a pay-with-Litecoin option was fake. The hoax sent the value of Litecoin soaring nearly 30% to about $225. It has since dropped back down to around $178.

While the press release was fake, Walmart does appear to be exploring how it could work with cryptocurrencies in the future. Last month, a career listing on its website said it was looking to hire a cryptocurrency product lead who would develop a digital currency strategy and road map. 

A representative for the Litecoin Foundation said that it hasn't entered into a partnership with Walmart, adding that the group has "no idea where this story came from." Walmart's statement directed further questions to GlobeNewswire, which also verified that the release was a fake in its "notice to disregard" the earlier information.

6. Funding, IPOs, M&As

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