Top startup news for Wednesday, March 22, 2023: Fluidity, Indeed, Tron, Virgin Orbit, and Windfall Bio
Good evening! Below are some of the top tech startup news stories for Wednesday, March 22, 2023.
Job search platform Indeed to lay off 2,200 employees, or 15% of its workforce
Indeed announced on Wednesday it is laying off about 2,200 staff, or 15% of its workforce, making the popular job search platform the latest in a series of tech companies that have let go of their employees as part of the cost-cutting measure caused by softening economic growth amid the slowdown in the tech sector.
In addition to the layoff, Chief Executive Chris Hyams will also take a 25% cut in base pay. Indeed hired too quickly during the pandemic-fueled job boom. Hyams said the company was too large and that the future job openings, in general, were at or below pre-pandemic levels.
In a blog post, Indeed said affected employees will receive January through March bonuses, regular pay for the month, accrued paid time off, and access to mental health services, as part of the severance package.
“I am heartbroken to share that I have made the difficult decision to reduce our headcount through layoffs. This is a decision I truly hoped I’d never have to make,” the company said. “We anticipate we will be letting approximately 2,200 people go. This is roughly 15% of our team. The cuts come from nearly every team, function, level and region at Indeed and Indeed Flex.”
Hyams stated that Indeed’s earnings from human resource technology are expected to decrease during the fiscal years 2023 and 2024. Additionally, he mentioned that job vacancies in the United States are anticipated to drop to 7.5 million or possibly lower in the next two to three years, returning to pre-pandemic levels.
Virgin Orbit is close to raising $200 million in new funding from Texas-based venture capital investor Matthew Brown via a private share placement, according to an exclusive report from Reuters.
Although Virgin Orbit did not comment on the potential deal, the company said on Wednesday that it plans to restart operations on March 23 and will recall a number of its employees in preparation for its upcoming mission.
The news comes almost three months after Virgin Orbit rocket LauncherOne launched from a jumbo jet suffered an anomaly that prevented it to deploy nine small satellites into lower Earth orbit.
This deal could provide a much-needed injection of confidence for Richard Branson’s financially challenged space startup, which has been grappling with diminishing cash reserves and increasing losses amidst fierce competition in the market.
Citing the non-binding term sheet, Reuters also reported that Virgin Orbit and Matthew Brown are aiming to close the deal on Friday, which is not binding and remains subject to a final agreement. An individual familiar with the matter also told Reuters that Virgin Orbit’s board approved the transaction during a meeting on Tuesday.
As per the terms of the agreement, Matthew Brown will have the right to convert his preferred shares worth $200 million in Virgin Orbit to common shares at the volume-weighted average price in the 30 days leading up to the signing of the deal.
The market capitalization of the satellite launch company has plummeted to a historic low of $150 million as of Tuesday, a sharp drop from its previous value of over $3 billion two years ago when it went public through a blank-check deal.
Founded in 2017 by billionaire Richard Branson as a subsidiary of Virgin Group, a British multinational conglomerate, Virgin Orbit’s mission is to provide affordable and flexible launch services for small satellites, using a unique air-launch system that enables rockets to be launched mid-flight from a modified Boeing 747 aircraft named “Cosmic Girl.”
Windfall Bio announced today to the public for the first time that it has secured a $9 million round of funding from venture firm Mayfield, with participation from other investors, including Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures.
According to NASA, Methane gets removed from the atmosphere faster than carbon dioxide, but during its first two decades in the air, it’s more than 80 times as potent as CO2 at trapping heat. It’s for this reason that Silverman, the founder and CEO of Windfall Bio, has focused on methane for 15 years. While many companies and startups are working on reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere using carbon capture and other methods, Silverman has been focusing on the idea of using methane-eating microbes to combat climate change.
According to scientists, Methane-eating microbes, also known as methanotrophs, can be used to combat climate change by reducing the amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere.
Methanotrophs are naturally occurring bacteria that can use methane as a source of energy and carbon for their growth. They are found in a variety of habitats, including rivers, land, and sea. Methanotrophs can consume methane before it is released into the atmosphere and converted into carbon dioxide, which has less global warming potential than methane. This process is called methane oxidation.
One of the ways to use methanotrophs to combat climate change is through biofiltration, a process that uses a bed of organic material, such as compost or wood chips, to support a population of methanotrophs. So, as methane-containing gas is passed through the bed, the methanotrophs consume the methane, converting it into carbon dioxide and water.
Fluidity Money, a “spend-to-earn” decentralized finance (DeFi) protocol, has launched a cashback program with Request Finance, an enterprise crypto payments app.
The cashback program enables businesses to incentivize customers who pay with cryptocurrency, while also offering cashback rewards to merchants who accept crypto payments. Whenever a transaction is completed on the app, both the sender and recipient have the chance to earn stablecoins, which will be randomly distributed to their wallets after each payment.
As an example, a smart contract audit firm and their client can receive cashback rewards by utilizing Request Finance to pay invoices with Fluidity-wrapped stablecoins. The amount of cashback rewards earned can vary from a few cents to hundreds of dollars per transaction, depending on the overall payment volume of the program.
Currently, the cashback rewards are paid out in stablecoins, but Fluidity Money is looking to expand its offering to include other loyalty programs. This could potentially involve the distribution of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as rewards in the future. Depending on the nature of these NFTs, Request Finance and other crypto payment apps could offer rewards such as tickets to exclusive events, merchant credits (e.g. air miles), digital collectibles, and more.
Commenting on the launch, Fluidity Money founder and CEO said: “Request Finance helps thousands of enterprise teams and DAOs use stablecoins easily. We wanted to work with them to introduce this cashback program as a fun way of rewarding people for using stablecoins for payments.”
“Cashback and loyalty reward programs have proven incredibly effective at driving the adoption of Web2 digital payments. Google Pay’s 2019 #StampwaliDiwali campaign in India, and the 2022 Huat Pals campaign in Singapore are great examples of this. We believe that a similar strategy can help to drive the adoption of crypto payments”, said Vijay Garg, Founder at MapleBlock Capital.
SEC charges Tron founder Justin Sun, Linsday Lohan, Jake Paul, and other celebrities with crypto fraud
The founder of the Tronix and BitTorrent crypto assets, Justin Sun, who is also a Grenadian diplomat, has been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for fraud and offering unregistered securities. In addition, the SEC also charged celebrities and influencers including Jake Paul, Lindsay Lohan, and Soulja Boy, for crypto fraud and securities violations.
According to the SEC, Justin Sun is accused of fraudulent activity by manipulating the trading activity of Tronix and BitTorrent tokens to create a false impression of active trading. In addition, Sun is facing charges for offering and selling unregistered securities, a charge that has also been brought against other crypto exchanges and offerings such as Genesis, Gemini, and Do Kwon’s Terraform Labs.
“This case demonstrates again the high risk investors face when crypto asset securities are offered and sold without proper disclosure,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler.
Sun allegedly induced investors to purchase TRX and BTT tokens by “orchestrating a promotional campaign in which he and his celebrity promoters hid the fact that the celebrities were paid for their tweet,” Gensler said in a statement.
The eight celebrities and influencers were:
- actress Lindsay Lohan
- social-media personality Jake Paul
- musician DeAndre Cortez Way, also known as Soulja Boy
- musician Austin Mahone
- adult actress Michele Mason, known as Kendra Lust
- musician Miles Parks McCollum, known as Lil Yachty
- musician Shaffer Smith, also known as Ne-Yo
- musician Aliaune Thiam, also known as Akon
All except for Soulja Boy and Mahone agreed to pay a collective $400,000 in disgorgement, interest and penalties to settle the charges. The settlements were not an admittance or denial of guilt.
“On February 11, 2021, Lohan—a well-known actress, singer, and internet personality—touted on social media a crypto asset security that was being offered and sold. Lohan did not disclose that she was being paid to give publicity to such security by the entity offering and selling it to the public. Lohan’s failure to disclose this compensation violated Section 17(b) of the Securities Act, which makes it unlawful for any person to promote security without fully disclosing the receipt and amount of such compensation from an issuer,” SEC wrote.