Top startup news for Wednesday, March 15, 2023: Adept, ByteDance, G42, Mint Mobile, and Stellar Cyber
Good evening! Below are some of the top tech startup news stories for Wednesday, March 15, 2023.
Federal Reserve to launch a new instant payments system called “FedNow” in July
The rumors about central bank full-reserve digital currency or Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) have been swirling for over three years. Now, the US Federal Reserve announced it will launch a new instant payments service called “FedNow” in July, the U.S. central bank said on Wednesday, with certification and testing for early adopters starting in the first week of April.
Originally announced in 2019, FedNow will allow banks to instantly transfer payments across the financial system. Late last year, New York Federal Reserve and global banking giants Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Mastercard started a 12-week Digital Dollar pilot to test how the participating banking institutions using digital dollar tokens in a common database can help speed up payments.
The announcement was the latest in a series of the world’s central banks’ efforts to create their own digital currencies called CBDC. Last year, China’s municipal government announced a plan to hand out $1.5 million in a digital currency test during the Chinese Lunar New Year. As part of the trial testing, Beijing said it will select 50,000 from a pool of applicants to receive a value of 200 yuan, or about $30 each, in digital currency.
In 2020, we wrote about the US Federal Reserve after the central bank announced a plan to create its own Digital Dollar Wallet in 2021. It was part of the U.S. government’s efforts to launch the U.S. central bank digital currency (CBDC) and maintain the dollar hegemony as a global reserve currency in international payments.
Adept raises $350M in fresh funding for its AI assistant that automates software tasks
Adept, an AI tech startup co-founded by a former OpenAI engineer, has raised $350 million in Series B funding led by General Catalyst and Spark Capital, with participation from existing investors, new financial partners, and some of the most “iconic companies” in technology.
Adept is the latest in a series of AI startups to tap the chatbot frenzy sparked by the success of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Forbes had previously disclosed that the funding round would result in a post-money valuation of “at least $1 billion” for the company.
The latest round follows the $65 million round the startup raised in April 2022. The San Francisco-based startup plans to use the new cash infusion to launch its initial products, train models, and onboard more talent. The fresh funds will support the company’s product development, model training, and headcount growth.
What sets Adept apart from ChatGPT and other AI tools is that the 4-year-old startup is building AI tools that can actually execute commands based on human prompts instead of giving written responses.
Founded in 2018 by David Luan (CEO), Adept specializes in natural language processing (NLP) technology and provides AI-powered solutions for businesses. They focus on developing intelligent software tools that help organizations automate various tasks and improve their operational efficiency.
One of its AI’s flagship products is its chatbot platform, which enables businesses to create virtual assistants that can interact with customers in a natural and conversational way. These chatbots can be used for customer support, sales, and marketing, among other things.
Adept has also developed an advanced software tool called ACT-1, which has the ability to execute intricate user requests across multiple software applications. It can even coordinate actions between different applications, if necessary. Adept recently showcased how it integrated ACT-1 into a Chrome extension to monitor browser activity and execute commands like clicking, typing, and scrolling.
T-Mobile acquires Ryan Reynolds-backed Mint Mobile for $1.35 billion
Actor Ryan Reynolds has achieved yet another major success with the sale of his budget wireless provider Mint Mobile to T-Mobile US Inc. for over a billion dollars.
On Tuesday, T-Mobile announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Ka’ena Corporation and its subsidiaries and brands: Mint Mobile and Ultra Mobile, for $1.35 billion, which includes 39% cash and 61% stock. The deal is a further signal that T-Mobile is looking to boost its prepaid offerings.
“The actual price to be paid by T-Mobile will be based upon Ka’ena’s performance during certain periods before and after the closing,” T-Mobile said in a news release. T-Mobile, which is the second-largest US mobile service provider, has been in talks with Mint for many months.
“Mint has built an incredibly successful digital direct-to-consumer business that continues to deliver for customers on the Un-carrier’s leading 5G network and now we are excited to use our scale and owners’ economics to help supercharge it – and Ultra Mobile – into the future”
In an interview, Mint Mobile co-founder David Glickman said Reynolds, who owns an undisclosed but “significant” stake in the company, will continue to make commercial appearances on the company’s behalf.
As part of the acquisition agreement, T-Mobile will also own the brands’ sales, marketing, digital, and service operations, and plans to use its supplier relationships and distribution scale to help the brands to grow and offer competitive pricing and greater device inventory to more U.S. consumers seeking value offerings. The Mint and Ultra brands are complementary to the company’s current prepaid service offerings Metro by T-Mobile, T-Mobile branded prepaid, and Connect by T-Mobile.
“Mint has built an incredibly successful digital direct-to-consumer business that continues to deliver for customers on the Un-carrier’s leading 5G network and now we are excited to use our scale and owners’ economics to help supercharge it – and Ultra Mobile – into the future,” said Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile. “Over the long-term, we’ll also benefit from applying the marketing formula Mint has become famous for across more parts of T-Mobile. We think customers are really going to win with a more competitive and expansive Mint and Ultra.”
Abu Dhabi AI firm G42 acquires $100 million stake in ByteDance at $220 billion valuation
Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence company G42 has acquired a $100 million-plus stake in Tiktok-parent ByteDance, valuing the company at $220 billion, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Founded in 2018, G42 specializes in artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing. Launched in 2018, the company has since grown to become one of the key players in the AI space across the Middle East region.
In 2020, G42 made headlines when it partnered with China’s BGI Group to set up a massive COVID-19 testing laboratory in Abu Dhabi that could process tens of thousands of tests per day. The lab utilized G42’s AI and big data capabilities to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of the testing process.
G42 focuses on developing advanced technologies such as AI, machine learning, and big data analytics, and providing these technologies to various industries such as healthcare, finance, and energy. One of its primary objectives is to accelerate the digital transformation of industries through its AI and cloud computing solutions.
G42 has also established partnerships with several global tech giants such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and IBM, to leverage their technologies in its solutions. The company has been recognized for its contributions to the development of the AI industry in the UAE and the Middle East and is expected to continue to play a key role in the region’s digital transformation.
Stellar Cyber launches InterSTELLAR Partner Program to accelerate revenue for resellers of its Open XDR platform
Open XDR innovator Stellar Cyber today announced the launch of its InterSTELLAR Partner Program to accelerate revenue for resellers of its Open XDR platform. Stellar Cyber was recently named one of the 10 Hot XDR Security Companies You Should Watch In 2023 by CRN magazine, as well as a Top Cybersecurity Vendor Assisting MSSPs by MSSP Alert.
Gartner expects XDR technology to be a top priority for CISOs in 2023, and InterSTELLAR is an innovative program that enables reseller partners to become proficient and compete quickly for this massive market opportunity with the leading Open XDR solution.
The InterSTELLAR Program 5-STAR and STAR levels reward partners with Market Development Funds (MDFs), lead sharing, SPIFF programs (paid to both sales reps and SEs), and a partner portal that offers a library of collateral, sales tools, campaign ideas, and more. The 5-STAR level is designed for partners that engage more deeply with Stellar Cyber and its Open XDR platform and offers additional benefits.
In a statement, Don Scott, Director, Emerging Business Group, Advanced Solutions, Ingram Micro, said: “The opportunity around cybersecurity-as-a-service continues to grow, and demand for XDR is on the rise as more and more companies look to channel partners to help them become more secure and digitally fit.”
Scott continued, “Stellar Cyber’s new InterSTELLAR Partner Program provides the training, enablement, and flexibility channel partners need to confidently grow and expand their cyber practice—earning them more business with existing customers and attracting new ones.”