Top tech startup news for Thursday, February 16, 2023: Adalfi, Binance, Kern AI, Unisers, and YouTube
Good evening! Below are some of the top tech startup news stories for Thursday, February 16, 2023.
Susan Wojcicki steps down as YouTube CEO
Susan Wojcicki, one of Google’s first employees, said Thursday that she’s stepping down as the CEO of YouTube. She will be replaced by her deputy Neal Mohan, a senior advertising and product executive who joined Google in 2008. Mohan will take the lead as the senior vice president and new head of YouTube.
In a blog post, Wojcicki said: “Today, after nearly 25 years here, I’ve decided to step back from my role as the head of YouTube and start a new chapter focused on my family, health, and personal projects I’m passionate about.” She added that she will continue working with YouTube teams, coaching members, and meeting with creators. Wojcicki, 54, joined YouTube as CEO in 2014.
Wojcicki said she agreed with Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai to, in the longer term, take on an advisory role across Google and Alphabet. “This will allow me to call on my different experiences over the years to offer counsel and guidance across Google and the portfolio of Alphabet companies,” she wrote.
She added: “The time is right for me, and I feel able to do this because we have an incredible leadership team in place at YouTube. When I joined YouTube nine years ago, one of my first priorities was bringing in an incredible leadership team. Neal Mohan was one of those leaders, and he’ll be the SVP and new head of YouTube.”
Mohan, a Stanford graduate, was appointed chief product officer at YouTube in 2015. He was responsible for building YouTube Shorts, Music, and subscription offerings in the role. Prior to that, Mohan spent nearly six years at DoubleClick, a company Google acquired in 2008, and later served for about eight years as senior vice president of display and video advertising at Google.
Fintech startup Adalfi lands $7.5M in funding to help millions of Pakistanis get credit and gain access to loans
Globally, about 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked — without an account at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider, according to data from the World Bank. A large portion of the underbanked is in developing countries.
China has the world’s largest unbanked population, followed by India (190 million), Pakistan (100 million), and Indonesia (95 million). Currently, less than 4% of Pakistani consumers and businesses take bank loans because banks lack the data on customers’ credit histories required to decide whether to lend. That’s why one fintech startup wants to help banks offer their customers real-time loan products.
Enter Adalfi, a Lahore, Pakistan-based fintech startup that has developed AI-powered credit scoring and underwriting models solutions to help break the credit-loan logjam. AdalFi solves the chicken-and-egg money lending problem by building critical lending infrastructure to power smart, instant loans for consumers and SMEs in Pakistan. These include the offering of unsecured loan products such as term loans, credit cards, and revolving finance facilities for consumers and SMEs respectively.
The AdalFi tech stack also includes pre-built, bespoke customer journeys and integrations with major banking platforms. AdalFi has quickly signed up 14 banks (including 7 out of the top 10), on its mission to promote financial inclusion as it unlocks access to credit to millions of people and small businesses.
To further grow its first end-to-end digital lending infrastructure platform, AdalFi announced today that it has raised$7.5 a million funding round led by COTU Ventures, Chimera Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, and Zayn Capital alongside angel investors including execs from Plaid.
AdalFi’s proprietary technology scores the financial transactional data already possessed by banks enables personalized digital marketing to qualified prospects and, finally, provides the customer journeys which are embedded within the bank’s digital presence to enable real-time disbursement of loans.
AdalFi operates on an asset-light, a revenue-sharing model with banks that captures any downside risk exposure to banks such that any loan losses are accounted for, pro-rata, in fees due to AdalFi. These deep partnerships ensure banks and AdalFi are completely aligned in that AdalFi only makes money from loans that are actually paid back.
German tech startup Kern AI raises $2.9M seed funding to shape the future of data-centric machine learning
Kern AI announced today that it has raised €2.7 million ($2.9 million) in seed funding co-led by Seedcamp and Faber. Kern AI will also use the funding proceeds to help companies digitize workflows and build products that understand human language.
Since its inception about three years ago, the startup has seen a higher adoption rate of its platform by commercial customers, including insurance companies Barmenia and VHV Versicherungen, logistics firms such as Metro Supply Chain Group subsidiary Evolution Time Critical, and venture-backed startups such as Crowd.dev. Kern AI also said that its basic open-source platform has been used by data scientists at companies such as Samsung and DocuSign.
In a statement, CEO and co-founder Johannes Hötter said that he started the company “with the belief that NLP will turn into a core digitization technology,” acknowledging that developers need more control and flexibility over the NLP development process.
Johannes Hötter and Henrik Wenck started Kern AI during their master’s degree at Hasso Plattner Institute, where they both worked on modern natural language processing research. After having started a consultancy together in early 2020, the duo decided to build Kern AI as the data-centric developer platform for natural language processing to help companies turn their unstructured text into value.
Today, a single microchip contains up to 20 billion transistors. As such, there is no room for errors. However, silicon wafers used in the manufacturing of microchips and chips in electronic devices are known to have defects. A tiny particle that lands on a silicon wafer can cause a chip to malfunction. But the problem may not be discovered until months later, at the end of a production process of thousands of steps.
So detecting these particles early after they contaminate wafers saves money. As microchips perform faster and their circuitry gets tinier, particles of ever smaller dimensions become a major problem. It’s for this reason that Switzerland-based microchip toolmaker startup Unisers is on a mission to develop technology to help chip fabrication customers detect defects in their chip production.
Unisers is developing defect-detecting tools that can tell the source of yield-killer particles on silicon wafers. This technology helps the fab operator to take corrective action in the shortest possible time with the highest confidence level. Unisers’ technology is also aimed at detecting impurities in materials, which is another source of defects.
Today, Unisers announced it has raised $14 million in a funding round led by Intel Capital, with participation from M Ventures, Swisscom Ventures, and RSBG Ventures. During its early stages, Unisers also received awards, grants, and business coaching support from Gebert Ruef Foundation, Venture Kick (First round), Climate KIC, the Innosuisse Core Coaching Program, and private investors.
Unisers will use the funding proceeds to build new-technology demonstrator machines for trials by major chip-fabrication customers. Unisers CEO and co-founder said the new machines would offer a new level of performance in the difficult task of detecting extraneous extremely small particles that ruin chips in production.
“We are the only company which can detect these extremely small, small, smaller than 10 nanometer particles on wafer,” Altun told Reuters.
Unisers was founded on April 11, 2019, as a spin-off of ETH Zurich by Ali Altun (Ph.D.) and Timo Schneider. Before its founding, Unisers CEO Dr. Altun had received the Pioneer Fellowship Grant from ETH Foundation that includes a special entrepreneurship education program organized by the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab of ETH Zurich.
Binance moved $400 million from the bank account of a US partner to a firm managed by CEO Zhao via a secret access
Crypto giant Binance can’t seem to shake off the rumors and speculations surrounding the company. Early this month, Binance temporarily suspended U.S. dollar deposits and withdrawals, the world’s largest crypto exchange said in a tweet, without providing a reason for the decision.
Fast forward ten days later, Reuters is now reporting that Binance had moved $400 million from a U.S. partner to a firm managed by CEO Changpeng Zhao. In an exclusive report this evening, Binance had secret access to a bank account belonging to its purportedly independent U.S. partner and transferred large sums of money from the account to a trading firm managed by Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, Reuters said, citing banking records and company messages seen by the publication.
According to records for the quarter reviewed by Reuters, more than $400 million flowed from the Binance.US account at California-based Silvergate Bank to this trading firm, Merit Peak Ltd in the first three months of 2021. The records further show that the Binance.US account was registered under the name of BAM Trading, the U.S. exchange’s operating company. The company messages also show that the transfers to Merit Peak began in late 2020.