Top tech startup news for Thursday, March 9, 2023: KuCoin, Lilium, Monnai, Silvergate, and Spotify,
Good evening! Below are some of the top tech startup news stories for today Thursday, March 9, 2023.
Monnai lands $6.5M Series A funding to connect disparate data sources through a single API, so fintechs can focus on growth
The expansion of fintech companies into emerging markets presents a tremendous opportunity that could bring in tens of millions (if not hundreds) of new customers. However, both fintech companies and financial institutions are becoming more aware of the significant costs and damage to their reputation that can result from lax onboarding and identity standards.
Unfortunately, identity standards and customer data in these markets are fragmented, disparate, and constantly changing. This disorganized fragmentation is scattered among telecom providers, emerging credit bureaus, third-party data providers, and financial institutions. That’s why one fintech startup is on a mission to leverage AI to provide the infrastructure that connects disparate data sources through a single API, allowing fintech companies to concentrate on expanding their business.
Enter Monnai, a San Francisco-based startup and a provider of the world’s first global consumer insights infrastructure that empowers financial institutions to effectively navigate four essential pillars: onboarding, risk management and fraud prevention, credit evaluation, and collections.
To further support its mission of becoming the single source of truth for fintech decision-making globally, Monnai announced today it has closed $6.5 million in a Series A funding round led by Tiger Global, with participation from Better Tomorrow Ventures, which led the company’s seed round six months earlier. Addition backers include existing investors: 500 Global and Emphasis Ventures (EMVC). The latest round brings the company’s total funding raised to more than $10 million.
Founded in 2019 by CEO Pierre Demarche and Ravish Patel, Monnai empowers its clients to more efficiently and accurately leverage data to make decisions throughout the lifecycle of their customers, from onboarding to credit underwriting to all aspects of account transactions.
German eVTOL startup Lilium Air Mobility announced Thursday it had reached a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour with a technology demonstrator for its unmanned flying air taxis.
The 8-year-old company reached the threshold during the testing of the Phoenix 2 vehicle at a flight test center in southern Spain. The company said it plans a cruise speed of 250 km or 155 miles per hour. Lilium said the key milestone paves the way for the company to certify its electrically powered flying shuttles scheduled for 2025.
In a teaser video on Twitter, Lilium said: “136kt (250km/h, 155mph)! 💥 Even faster than the famous Harris Hawk. 😉 Full video coming soon but catch a glimpse of what’s to come here. #Lilium #eVTOL,” Lilium tweeted.
As we reported late last year, Lilium announced plans to mass-produce 400 unmanned flying air taxis a year, while looking to tap into public research support.
“I am pushing hard (for) a production system for 400 aircraft. And if by good luck one day, we need 800 we will just duplicate it, not here (in Germany)…but where the big markets are,” industry veteran and former Airbus executive Klaus Roewe told media outlets. “Let’s size it and let’s see how we have to design a production system including the whole supply chain for 400 aircraft,” Roewe added.
Lilium is one of the several tech startups competing in an already crowded market for electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) vehicles. The startup is hoping to replace road trips or short hops with aircraft or helicopters and makes it easy for anyone to order its flying taxi as simple as ordering a pizza.
Silvergate Capital, the crypto-focused bank at the center of the crypto industry crisis is finally shutting down its operations and liquidating after the market meltdown. In an announcement on Wednesday, Silvergate Bank said it will “voluntarily liquidate” its assets and wind down operations, its holding company, Silvergate Capital Corp.
In a press release, Silvergate said: “Silvergate Capital Corporation (“Silvergate” or “Company”) (NYSE:SI), the holding company for Silvergate Bank (“Bank”), today announced its intent to wind down operations and voluntarily liquidate the Bank in an orderly manner and in accordance with applicable regulatory processes.”
The news of the liquidation comes less than a week after Silvergate discontinued its payments platform known as the Silvergate Exchange Network (SEN).
As part of the announcement, Silvergate also provided clarification that all other deposit-related services remain operational as the company winds down. Customers will be notified should there be any further changes.
Before its demise, Silvergate is a central lender to the crypto industry and has served as one of the two main banks for crypto companies, along with New York-based Signature Bank. Its stock plunged more than 36% in after-hours trading. FTX, the crypto exchange founded by the disgraced San Bankman-Fried, was a major Silvergate customer before the company filed for bankruptcy last year. Silvergate has just over $11 billion in assets while Signature Bank has over $114 billion.
Founded in 1988 by Derek Eisele, the La Jolla, California-based Silvergate Capital was a publicly-traded bank holding company that provides innovative financial infrastructure solutions and services to clients in the crypto industry.
SEC charges software firm Blackbaud for misleading disclosures on ransomware attack that impacted 13,000+ customers, agreed to pay $3 million in settlement
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged software firm Blackbaud for making misleading disclosures about a 2020 ransomware attack that impacted more than 13,000 customers. The SEC also said that Blackbaud has agreed to pay $3 million in settlements.
“The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that Blackbaud Inc., a South Carolina-based public company that provides donor data management software to non-profit organizations, agreed to pay $3 million to settle charges for making misleading disclosures about a 2020 ransomware attack that impacted more than 13,000 customers,” the SEC said in a press release published Thursday.
According to the SEC, in July 2020, the South Carolina-based provider of donor data management software disclosed a ransomware attacker and said the attacker had not accessed bank account information or Social Security numbers of donors. However, “within days of these statements, however, the company’s technology and customer relations personnel learned that the attacker had in fact accessed and exfiltrated this sensitive information.”
“The SEC’s order finds that, on July 16, 2020, Blackbaud announced that the ransomware attacker did not access donor bank account information or social security numbers. Within days of these statements, however, the company’s technology and customer relations personnel learned that the attacker had in fact accessed and exfiltrated this sensitive information. These employees did not communicate this information to senior management responsible for its public disclosure because the company failed to maintain disclosure controls and procedures,” SE
Due to this failure, in August 2020, the company filed a quarterly report with the SEC that omitted this material information about the scope of the attack and misleadingly characterized the risk of an attacker obtaining such sensitive donor information as hypothetical.
Spotify reached a new milestone on Wednesday, crossing 500 million monthly active listeners as it launched a major app redesign with vertical feeds to help drive users to discover new content.
The music-streaming giant announced it’s rolling out what it calls its biggest app redesign to date which includes a new “dynamic” mobile interface aimed at helping listeners easily discover new audio content while giving creators new ways to share their work. The new features include smart shuffle and previews of podcasts and music playlists on its audio streaming platform.
Announcing the rollout, the company said: “The new Spotify will roll out in waves to our 500 million+ monthly active users beginning today.”
Spotify also provided an update on its annual music royalties report, revealing that the count of artists earning over $1 million and those generating over $10,000 had more than doubled over the past five years.
In recent years, the Swedish company has invested heavily in building up its podcast and audiobooks business as part of its effort to attract users and advertisers. The company also announced what it calls a “new re-imagined user interface” at its Stream On event.
Meanwhile, early this year, Spotify announced it was laying off 6% of its employees, as the chief content and advertising business officer, Dawn Ostroff, departed from the company.
Clean energy startup ClearFlame raises $30M in funding to make heavy-duty diesel engines run on renewable fuels
The transportation sector is the largest domestic contributor to climate change. According to the US Department of Transportation (DOT), the U.S. transportation sector is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector of our economy.
A large portion of this comes from trucks and vehicles with heavy-duty internal combustion engines. In fact, diesel fuel consumption accounts for approximately 26% of overall CO2 emissions from the U.S. transportation sector. It is for this reason that one startup is trying to reverse the trend and make heavy-duty diesel engines run on decarbonized, renewable fuels.
Enter ClearFlame Engine Technologies, a Chicago-based Black- and Women-founded and led startup that has kept the heavy-duty, internal combustion engine and modified it to break free from diesel fuel and run on decarbonized, renewable, liquid fuels already in existence across the globe. After years of research at Stanford University and Argonne National Laboratory, the ClearFlame team has found the answer: “The diesel engine, without the diesel fuel,” the company said on its website.
While electric powertrains face significant barriers for heavy-duty applications, ClearFlame’s technology offers a solution for heavy-duty applications where electric powertrains encounter significant obstacles. It can fulfill the requirements for heavy-duty performance and reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by almost 61%, using low-soot renewable fuels, which is better than what EVs can achieve.
In addition, according to a study conducted by industry analysts Gladstein, Neandross, and Associates, the implementation of ClearFlame engines would result in lower lifetime ownership costs for fleet operators.
To further commercialize its technology and to market its solutions that reduce carbon and soot, ClearFlame announced today it has raised $30 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Mercuria Energy Group, one of the world’s largest privately held energy and commodities companies, with Mercuria and Breakthrough Energy Ventures both making second investments.
New investors, including mining corporation Rio Tinto, and WIND Ventures, the strategic venture arm of Copec, one of Latin America’s leading mobility and energy companies, see ClearFlame as part of a holistic suite of strategies to advance environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals.
New York’s attorney general Letitia James on Thursday sued KuCoin for failing to register with the state before allowing investors to buy and sell cryptocurrencies on its platform. The move is part of the state’s effort to rein in what she calls “shadowy” cryptocurrency companies as the state continues its crackdown on unregistered cryptocurrency platforms.
Attorney General James said added that KuCoin violated the Martin Act, an important state securities law, by transacting in cryptocurrencies, selling the product “KuCoin Earn” to generate income for itself and investors, and wrongfully calling itself an “exchange.”
The announcement comes just a month after she sued the CoinEx cryptocurrency platform for failing to register with the state. In a statement, James said:
“One by one my office is taking action against cryptocurrency companies that are brazenly disregarding our laws and putting investors at risk. Today’s action is the latest in our efforts to rein in shadowy cryptocurrency companies and bring order to the industry. All New Yorkers and all companies operating in New York have to follow our state’s laws and regulations. KuCoin operated in New York without registration and that is why we are taking strong action to hold them accountable and protect investors.”
In a lawsuit filed against KuCoin with the New York state court in Manhattan, James said the crypto exchange failed to “register as a securities and commodities broker-dealer and falsely representing itself as an exchange.” She is seeking a permanent injunction to stop KuCoin from operating in New York until it complies with the law.
KuCoin has not immediately responded to requests for comment.