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Samsung enters the self-driving cars industry

Commentary

To strengthen their capabilities in the connected car and autonomous technologies space, Samsung has established a $300 million fund aimed at supporting auto-related technology startups. As its initial investment, Samsung will invest €75 million (around $90 million) in TTTech, an Austria-based software company that runs the semi-autonomous and automatic safety features of the latest Audi A8. This investment follows Samsung’s $8 billion acquisition of HARMAN, a leader in connected car technology. The company made it clear through a press release that it has no plans of manufacturing its own smart vehicles. Rather, its aim is to build an open-source suite of self-driving software solutions.

SoftBank invests $1 billion in Fanatics

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SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the world’s largest private equity fund, has invested $1 billion in Fanatics. Fanatics is a Florida-based online sports firm that handles the merchandise sales of all major professional sports leagues (such as NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, PGA, NASCAR), collegiate teams, and major media brands (NBC Sports, FOX Sports, CBS Sports). The funding round valued the ecommerce company at $4.5 billion. The deal follows SoftBank’s massive $2 billion investment in India’s Flipkart last August and underscores the company’s ambitious push into ecommerce.

Are you ready for ICO?

Commentary

There has been a gold rush in ICO (Initial Coin Offering) and investors are all scrambling to get into this new mode of investment. According to sources, almost $2 billion has been invested in ICOs and surpassed early stage VC funding. A recent example is FileCoin, a blockchain storage network which has raised almost $200 million in funding from accredited investors in less than an hour. Last week, blockchain startups like Loopring and BetKing have both raised funding via ICO, while Canadian messaging app startup Kik has disclosed its plans to raise $125 million ICO this month. So why do tech startups and investors love ICOs? ICOs provide blockchain startups a way to raise money efficiently outside the traditional venture capital world. They are also cheaper than IPOs and require less documentation. On the downside, ICOs are unregulated and can attract a lot of scammers. There’s also the lack of transparency from the exchanges on which the coins are traded thus it will be easy for participants to manipulate prices.

Google acquires AIMatter

Commentary

The market for artificial intelligence (AI) is booming. According to Narrative Science’s survey last year, AI is already being used by 38% of enterprises and is predicted to grow to 62% by 2018. In addition, Tractica estimates that AI-related revenue will reach $37 billion by 2025. With so much at stake, it’s no wonder that companies are investing in AI. Last week, Google beefed up its AI portfolio by acquiring Belarus-based based startup AIMatter for an undisclosed amount. AIMatter is the creator of the Fabby app, a computer vision app that uses AI technology to instantly recognize and process facial characteristics the way humans do. Fabby uses filters to identify different parts of a selfie and aptly applies hairstyle, makeup, and backgrounds. Although Google did not disclose how it intends to use AIMatter’s technology, the acquisition underscores Google’s big shift from “mobile-first” to “AI-first.”