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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.”

Disney buys $1.58 billion stake in BAMTech

Commentary

The Walt Disney Company is ending its streaming and distribution partnership with Netflix in the hopes of starting its own digital video streaming service. Last week, Disney acquired majority ownership of BAMTech in a $1.58 billion deal. BAMTech is Major League Baseball’s interactive media and internet unit that provides video streaming for premium channels like HBO, NHL, PGA Tour and WWE. BAMTech claims to have around 7.5 million paid subscribers and this transaction values BAMTech at $3.75 billion. With more people migrating from cable TV to video streaming, this new partnership between Disney and BAMTech will help position Disney as a major player in the booming video streaming space and enable the company to be competitive amidst evolving consumer viewing habits. Furthermore, BAMTech will collaborate with ESPN to launch a “multi-sport” subscription streaming service for live regional, national and international sporting events.

Didi Chuxing invests in Taxify

Commentary

In an effort to dominate the global ride-sharing market, Didi Chuxing, the company that defeated Uber in China, has been expanding its reach and influence worldwide by investing in Uber’s rivals all across the globe. Last week, the company invested an undisclosed amount in Taxify, the Estonia-based ride-sharing startup that operates in 18 countries across Europe and Africa. Although Taxify has traditionally focused its operations in emerging markets, it is planning to expand to London later this year. This deal comes a week after Didi, along with SoftBank, invested $2 billion into Grab, Uber’s biggest competitor in Southeast Asia. Didi has also invested in other international ride-sharing companies including Lyft in the US, Ola in India, 99 in Latin America, and Careem in the Middle East.