Top tech startup news for today Friday, January 13, 2023: Crypto.com, Meta, SmartNews, Tencent, and WeChat
Good evening and happy Friday! It’s a super light news day so we’re not going to cover much ground today. With that, below are some of the top tech startup news stories for Friday, January 13, 2023.
Tencent bets big on WeChat Channels in a push to take on ByteDance with its own TikTok
WeChat is China’s most popular messaging app with over 1.1 billion daily users. Now, WeChat owner Tencent is aiming to promote the app’s short-video platform in a bid to create its own version of TikTok and take on ByteDance.
Reuters reported today that Tencent Holdings has tapped other entertainers including the 90’s boy band Backstreet Boys, Taiwan’s Jay Chou, and Irish boy band Westlife for live-streamed concerts. Sources also told Reuters that the Chinese tech giant has set up a team to build a community of content creators as it seeks to challenge the dominance of ByteDance, the owner of TikTok and Douyin, and Kuaishou in the short-video business.
Two sources familiar with Tencent also told Reuters that the importance of Channels has been repeatedly communicated within the company. This week, Tencent revealed that the total number of views on Channels surged more than three-fold in 2022, its latest growth figures for the platform. In addition, the company said its daily active creators and video uploads more than doubled.
The company also added that the gross merchandise value (GMV) from livestreaming e-commerce, where telegenic personalities hawk goods online in real-time, jumped more than 800% on Channels, However, a report from LatePost says Channels’ daily transactions from livestreamed sales pitches reached more than 100 million yuan ($15 million) in September 2022 for the first time, indicating an annual rate of about 36 billion yuan.
“Tencent hopes it can turn Channels into the next WeChat Pay. It has a shot at it. But it is also going to be difficult,” said Liao Xuhua, a senior analyst at research firm Analysys.
WeChat is a Chinese multi-purpose social media mobile application software developed by Tencent. It is similar to WhatsApp. It was first released in 2011, and by 2017 it was one of the largest standalone messaging apps by monthly active users, with over 1 billion monthly active users (1.1 billion daily active users).
News aggregation site SmartNews lays off 40% of US and China staff, with further reductions planned in Japan
We’re only two weeks into 2023 and more than 23,000 tech workers have already been laid off. The latest is SmartNews, a Tokyo, Japan-headquartered news aggregation website and app. SmartNews announced today it is laying 40% or around 120 of its U.S. and China workforce, TechCrunch reported, citing sources familiar with the company’s plans.
According to the report, U.S. and Chinese employees including those in engineering, product, and data science will be impacted by the recent layoff. While SmartNews employees in the U.S. and China were let go, SmartNews says its employees in Japan will soon undergo a “voluntary departure program,” but the company didn’t provide any specifics about that will play out. The news was announced on Thursday in an all-hands meeting attended this evening by SmartNews staff, TechCrunch reported.
“This isn’t your fault and I am sorry to see you leave,” SmartNews CEO Ken Suzuki said when making the announcement.
SmartNews was founded in 2012 in Japan. The company made its US debut in 2014 and expanded its local news footprint in early 2020 to cover thousands of U.S. cities. SmartNews has partnerships with over 3,000 global publishing partners whose content is available through its service on the web and mobile devices.
Crypto winter has come for Singapore-based Crypto.com. The crypto exchange announced on Friday it would be laying off about 20% of its workforce, as the crypto industry continues to deal with the fallout of FTX. The latest layoff would be the company’s second in about six months after it reduced jobs in July last year to weather the storm of the economic downturn and rising interest rates.
Crypto.com is the latest in a series of crypto companies to cut staff due to inflation and the slowdown in the global economy. Just a few days ago, rival exchanges Coinbase and Huobi also announced plans to lay off about 20% of their staff. Reuters also reported that Genesis, too, had cut jobs, equating to 30% of its workforce, citing a source familiar with the matter.
Crypto.com’s layoff announcement comes as investors lose confidence in crypto exchanges amid concerns about reserves and solvency across the sector. According to a study conducted by Bankless, more than 450,000 bitcoins were moved from crypto exchanges and hot wallets to cold wallets in 2022.
In a statement, Crypto.com CEO Kris Marszalek said that the recent FTX collapse “significantly damaged trust in the industry.
Meta sues AI startup Voyager Labs for allegedly creating fake accounts to scrape Facebook and Instagram users’ data
Meta platforms filed a lawsuit against Voyager Labs on Thursday, alleging that the AI tech startup created fake Facebook accounts as part of a scheme to collect information from real Facebook and Instagram users. Meta alleged that Voyager Labs then used the improper data for its own business purposes.
According to the filing in the District Court for the Northern District of California, Meta alleged that Voyager Labs created over 38,000 fake Facebook user accounts, that the startup later used to exploit publicly posted information from over 600,000 other users, including posts, likes, photos, and friends lists.
Meta said it has disabled over 60,000 Voyager Labs-related Facebook and Instagram accounts and pages, including at least 38,000 fake accounts.
The data scraping lawsuit against Voyager Labs is just one of the many legal cases against data companies using APIs to scrape users’ data from popular social sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
World View, a stratospheric ballooning space startup on a mission to turn space tourism into Earth activism, today announced it has agreed to go public through a merger with a blank-check firm Leo Holdings Corp in a $350 million deal, as the company builds out what it called “the stratospheric economy.”
According to a regulatory filing on Friday, the combined company generate gross proceeds of up to $121 million, plus an option to enter into additional equity financing agreements for up to $75 million. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of this year.
The Tucson, Arizona-based company is focused on remote sensing and stratospheric surveillance. The company has completed over 115 successful stratospheric flights and 10,274,598 vertical feet flown, as of November 2022. Investors appear to love what the company is doing and have since opened up their wallets with a total of $48.9 million in funding over 5 rounds. Now, the startup just announced its IPO.
Founded in 2012 by Alan Stern, Jane Poynter, and Taber MacCallum, World View has innovated exploration of the stratosphere through advanced research, discovery, and now human spaceflight. Stratollite, one of its flagship products, is a high-altitude balloon system that can be used for a variety of applications, including remote sensing, earth observation, and telecommunications. The Stratollite platform is designed to provide an alternative to traditional satellite systems, at a lower cost, and with greater flexibility.
We wish you a happy weekend everyone!