Top tech startup news for Tuesday, February 28, 2023: Bitwise, Bonusly, Realme, Mastercard, and Visa
Good evening! Below are some of the top tech startup news stories for today Tuesday, February 28, 2023.
Chinese startup Realme launches its $649 GT3 smartphone it says can be fully charged in just 9.5 minutes
Realme, a Chinese smartphone maker that spun out of sister brand Oppo, is finally bringing its 240W SuperVOOC fast-charging GT3 smartphone to the international market by way of a familiar-looking device.
Announcing the launch at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Tuesday, Realme claims the new GT3 can be fully charged in 9 minutes and 30 seconds. At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the largest mobile trade show in the world, Realme unveiled its GT3 smartphone that starts at $649, putting the five-year-old startup in extreme competition with Chinese rivals like Xiaomi.
Realme was founded on May 4, 2018, by the former vice president of Oppo Li Bingzhong (known as Sky Li). Since its inception, Realme looking to grow its business outside of China, and joins a flurry of Chinese vendors looking to target overseas markets.
The Realme GT3 shares similarities with the Chinese GT Neo5 variant, enabling it to enjoy the same fast charging capabilities. Using a customized 12A cable, the device can charge up to 20% within just 80 seconds, and a full charge can be achieved in a brief 9.5-minute charge session.
Realme was created to compete with Xiaomi’s Redmi series of smartphones, which were popular in India and other developing markets. Its smartphones quickly gained popularity in India and other markets. Realme GT 3 is a solid mid-range smartphone that offers a good balance of features, performance, and affordability.
In a statement, Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight told CNBC via email that “Realme is chasing the low margin segment of the market by offering extremely competitively priced products aimed at value seekers.” Wood added, “However, this is an extremely difficult part of the market to play in. Low single-digit margins can evaporate if the dollar moves quickly, component prices rise, or shipping cost soar – all headwinds Realme has had to face.”
Visa and Mastercard suspend plans to partner with crypto companies in wake of recent crypto collapse and bankruptcies
Since the collapse of stablecoin terraUSD last spring, at least eight crypto companies including FTX filed for bankruptcy in 2022. As the crisis roils the crypto industry, global payments companies are now rethinking their partnerships with crypto companies.
U.S. payment giants Visa and Mastercard have suspended plans to partner with crypto companies following a string of high-profile collapses that shook faith in the industry, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The report underscores the risky practices and lack of strict government regulation in the nascent industry.
In addition, the sources, who asked not to be named as talks were confidential, also told Reuters that the two companies have decided to push back the launch of certain products and services related to crypto until market conditions and the regulatory environment improve.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Visa, the world’s largest payment processor, said: “Recent high-profile failures in the crypto sector are an important reminder that we have a long way to go before crypto becomes a part of mainstream payments and financial services.” The spokesperson however added that the current setback in the crypto industry does not change the company’s crypto strategy and focus.
A spokesperson for Mastercard said: “Our efforts continue to focus on the underlying blockchain technology and how that can be applied to help address current pain points and build more efficient systems.”
Another source familiar with the matter also told Reuters that the companies don’t view crypto tokens as a strategic priority in the near term.
Crypto payment startup FLUUS has closed a $600,000 pre-seed round to further develop these products and roll out FLUUS’ services, bringing crypto-fiat payments to a global audience. The round, which comes ahead of its beta launch, was backed by FHS Capital, Base64 Ventures, and a number of angel investors.
Founded just a year ago, FLUUS is creating a fiat-crypto on- and off-ramp that will give consumers access to web3 services including token swapping and staking. Its best-in-class payment solution is designed to eliminate friction and simplify the process of entering and exiting the crypto economy.
“We are excited to have the support of FHS Capital and Base64 Ventures, two highly reputable investment firms,” said Tey El-Rjula, co-founder and CEO of FLUUS. “Their experience and resources will be invaluable as we continue to grow and scale our business to provide financial technology solutions to onboard the next billion into web3.”
Dr. Fady and Mr. Hesham Hannah-Shmouni, Managing Partners at FHS Capital, said: “Our investment in FLUUS fits perfectly with our vision for empowering exceptional founders and technologies in the web3 space, enabling customers and partners across key industry verticals to benefit from using blockchain technology.”
More than $1 million in cryptocurrency has already been successfully off-ramped in a private trial of FLUUS’ payment gateway. Funds were used to provide aid in Ukraine with the support of an international NGO. The next development phase will see the beta version of FLUUS’ payment solution opened to a broader market segment.
Bonusly is a Boulder, Colorado-based tech startup that connects teams and enriches company culture through its engaging recognition and rewards platform. In just a few years after launch, Bonusly is now ranked by G2 as No. 1 in Employee Recognition ahead of the big players in the space. That’s not all, Bonusly is also ranked No. 3 in Employee Engagement, used by top-tier companies including Chobani, ZipRecruiter, Pender Veterinary, and SDMI.
Today, Bonusly announced it has closed $18.9 million in Series B funding to enhance its recognition platform and build out its analytics capabilities. The round was led by Ankona Capital, with participation from existing investors FirstMark Capital, Access Venture Partners, and Next Frontier Capital. Bonusly will also use the new capital infusion to invest in sales and marketing to further expand go-to-market activities
Founded in 2012 by John Quinn and Raphael Crawford-Marks, Bonusly’s platform empowers real-time recognition to highlight accomplishments big and small in a very positive and public way, which fosters stronger cultures and builds resilient companies. The company also provides strong support for an organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs by recognizing and encouraging inclusiveness.
While other employee engagement companies offer little more than gift card programs, Bonusly’s recognition platform captures and analyzes a treasure trove of real-time data on how organizations really work, communicate, and connect, informing HR teams and managers so they can make powerful behavior change throughout an employee population.
“We saw almost instant engagement with Bonusly after deployment, and the recognition our people have given and received has had a big positive impact on employee morale,” said Daniel McAdams, President at Andiamo. “We’ve seen significant, measurable increases in our employee retention and engagement rate, which has translated to greater productivity. And just as important is the rich, current data Bonusly provides on the interconnections within our organization. We’re a stronger organization thanks to Bonusly.”
In addition, Bonusly’s proprietary graph database also enables management to gain a keen understanding of how their company actually functions. With this information, HR and managers can better help team members continuously improve, foster collaboration and belonging, and assess behavior changes to predict turnover.
Goldman Sachs backs an $80M investment in tech service startup Bitwise Industries to train workers in underrepresented communities
Bitwise Industries, a tech service provider that trains workers in underrepresented communities, has raised $80 million in new funding led by existing investors Kapor Center and Motley Fool, with participation from the Growth Equity business within Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Citibank.
The round, which brings the company’s total funding to $180 million, valued the tech hub creator at over $600 million, people familiar with the matter said, from a $200 million valuation in early 2021. Bitwise Industries will use the new cash infusion to drive economic transformation in the cities Bitwise serves through its Salesforce managed services, DocuSign, and Digital Product Development offerings, the company said in a news release.
Founded in 2013 by Irma Olguin Jr and Jake Soberal, the Fresno, California-based Bitwise invests in tech real estate, runs apprentice programs for marginalized communities, and sells managed tech services to government and traditional businesses. Since its launch a decade ago, Bitwise has expanded training hubs into 10 cities across the United States, including Toledo, Ohio, and Bakersfield, California, with plans of growing to Chicago’s South Side this year.
The company said it supported the creation of over 15,000 jobs in just one of its cities and the training of over 10,000 individuals, 80% of whom have received technical employment. Half of its apprentices are female and about 20% are Black.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have surged in popularity in recent years. In just two years, Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have grown from under $100 million in 2020 to a whopping $40 billion in 2021. Unfortunately, the NFT boom has also attracted a deluge of NFT scams as hackers and fraudsters stole millions from investors.
It’s for this reason that Geneva, Switzerland-based tech startup Wakweli has made its mission to help eliminate NFT scams in web3 and secure and authenticate NFTs and protect NFT owners. Wakweli is a revolutionary protocol based on a new and decentralized consensus algorithm that issues certificates of authenticity for NFTs to secure the Web3 ecosystem.
Today, Wakweli announced today it has closed its first funding round in the amount of $1.1 million to back its vision of a protocol based on a decentralized consensus algorithm called Proof-of-Democracy (PoD). The round was led by blockchain investment firm Summit.
The fresh capital infusion will help Wakweli to roll out its product offerings, including a community-driven core protocol that enables NFT marketplaces, buyers, and creators to benefit from a provable mark of authenticity for NFTs and other tokenized assets.
“We are incredibly thrilled and fortunate to have onboarded investors and partners who share Wakweli’s vision to increase trust in the web3 ecosystem,” said Co-Founder and CEO Shaban Shaame.
“Collaborating with partners who share the same values and aspirations allows us to work towards a common goal to build a better future through innovation and trust. We appreciate the confidence our partners have placed in Wakweli and are excited to start this journey together.”
Shaame’s sentiments were echoed by Mathieu Vincent, CEO of Summit Mining and Summit Gravity: “We are delighted and proud to be able to contribute to web3 development through ambitious startups that build projects such as Wakweli. It is thanks to the implementation of innovative solutions like Wakweli that trust in the blockchain, crypto and NFT ecosystem will grow to the point where this universe will become obvious to everyone.”
FunFair Ventures COO Lloyd Purser praised Wakweli’s principal use case, stating, “The problem Wakweli is solving is very real and needs addressing, it is a critical part of web3’s journey to mass adoption. The team is hugely experienced and passionate and has shown great trajectory, and we firmly believe that Wakweli will be a key enabler in the growing use of web3 technology in the years ahead.”
Incubated by software firm EverdreamSoft, the Geneva-based Wakweli project was founded in 2021 and aims to become the reference of trust for the decentralized ecosystem, preserving the market integrity of tokenized assets and driving its liquidity.