Top tech startup news for Tuesday, April 11, 2023: Alphabet, AlphaSense, Apple, Whizz, and Theranos
Good evening! Below are some of the top tech startup news stories for Tuesday, April 11, 2023.
Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes to go to prison by the end of April after losing a bid to remain free
Disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes will have to surrender to authorities at the end of the month after losing her bid to remain free while she appeals against her convictions. The 39-year-old Holmes is scheduled to report to prison on April 27 to start her prison sentence.
As we reported last year, Holmes was sentenced to 11 years in prison for defrauding investors after falsely claiming that her now-defunct blood-testing startup could revolutionize medical lab testing with technology that could enable a wide array of tests with a few drops of blood.
Holmes had previously said that her arguments could prompt a fresh trial by raising “significant questions.” Her legal team had contended that she should be allowed to stay out of prison to attend to her two young children, one of whom was born this year. However, a federal judge ruled on Monday that Holmes had not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that her appeals procedure would result in the reversal of her case.
“Contrary to her suggestion that accuracy and reliability were central issues to her convictions, Ms. Holmes’s misrepresentations to Theranos investors involved more than just whether Theranos technology worked as promised,” he said.
Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 after dropping out of Stanford University. She later used her parents’ education trust to found the company that would later be called Theranos. The company’s name was derived from a combination of the words “therapy” and “diagnosis.” At its peak, Theranos was valued at $10 billion and made Holmes a Silicon Valley star at the age of 19.
Alphabet’s CapitalG leads a $100 million funding in AI startup AlphaSense; now valued at $1.8 billion
Today, AlphaSense announced it has raised $100 million in a fresh round of funding led by Alphabet’s venture capital arm CapitalG, with participation from existing investors Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Viking Global.
The latest round values the 12-year-old AI startup at a valuation of $1.8 billion, making the startup a member of the highly-coveted unicorn club. AlphaSense said it will use the new cash infusion to further its advanced artificial intelligence capabilities. AlphaSense was last valued at $1.7 billion after raising $225 million in 2022.
Founded in 2011 by CEO Jack Kokko, AlphaSense offers a market intelligence platform that helps customers extract relevant information from a trove of public and private content such as equity research, earnings calls, company filings, and news. The company also competes with companies like Bloomberg, Norway-based Exabel, and FactSet in providing data on businesses that can help inform corporate and investment strategies.
In a statement, Kokko said the company is also working on a product feature that will automatically summarize financial documents for customers so they can more easily glean key points. Over the years, AI software has faced significant challenges in summarization, but the assistance of LLMs has greatly improved its effectiveness.
AlphaSense said its platform uses “proprietary search technology” powered by AI and natural language processing to “extract relevant insights from an extensive universe of public and private content.”
Whizz raises $3.4M to grow its e-bike rental platform for last-mile delivery drivers
The US last-mile delivery services market has seen explosive growth in recent years. It is estimated that the market will increase to about seven million gig delivery workers by 2025.
Currently, the majority of delivery services don’t offer vehicles, leaving many drivers unable to afford the cost of a $1,500 e-bike, particularly immigrant workers who may not have a credit history and do not meet the criteria for a loan. That’s why one startup is on a mission to address the challenges faced by these drivers.
Enter Whizz, a New York-based startup that offers an affordable alternative, enabling drivers to rent purpose-built e-bikes offering 8-hour battery life, GPS trackers, and built-in anti-theft systems, as well as on-demand maintenance and repairs.
To further the increasing demand for its services, Whizz announced today it has raised $3.4 million in a seed round of funding from Joint Journey, TMT Investments, and a group of angel investors. Whizz will use the fresh capital infusion to fuel its explosive growth, upgrade its Automation Platform, and set up new locations in New York equipped with lounge zones, bike maintenance, and repair stations, and overnight storage facilities.
Founded in 2021 by CEO Mike Peregudov and CPO Ksenia Proka, Whizz is an e-bike subscription platform that offers long-range e-bikes, on-demand maintenance, and same-day replacements for last-mile delivery drivers powered by its unique Whizz Automation Platform. The company operates in New York and works with drivers from the biggest names in last-mile delivery such as Uber Eats, Doordash, and Grubhub.
Bitcoin surges above $30,000 for the first time in 10 months amid optimism around interest rate curb
Amid rising optimism that the U.S. Federal Reserve will soon end its aggressive interest rate hikes, crypto investors flocked to Bitcoin causing the price of the world’s most popular cryptocurrency to breach the key $30,000 level for the first time in 10 months.
The price of Bitcoin soared to $30,100 on Tuesday. As of the time of writing, the crypto coin is currently trading at $30,188, almost double its price late last year when it was trading at $15,696.30 on November 9, 20220. In Asian trade, Bitcoin peaked at $30,438 and was last up 1.96% at $30,233. The world’s most popular crypto has gained nearly 6% since the start of April, after rising 23% in March.
The question many are asking is what’s driving the surge? First, several financial analysts had predicted that Bitcoin would regain its $30,000 price tag as the U.S. Federal Reserve ends its aggressive monetary tightening campaign.
While traders await the U.S. for the US Consumer Price Index (CPI) report tomorrow Wednesday, investors are hoping the Fed would ease the stress by putting a break on the interest rate hike that started almost a year ago.
Apple is investing additional $200 million in a carbon removal fund
Apple today made a major announcement regarding the expansion of its Restore Fund, which was created two years ago with the aim of promoting the development of high-quality, nature-based carbon removal projects.
Apple said on Tuesday it is investing up to an additional $200 million in the Restore Fund, doubling its initial $200 million commitment. The fund will be managed by Climate Asset Management, a joint venture of HSBC Asset Management and Pollination.
The Restore Fund is designed to pay for high-quality nature-based carbon removal projects to protect and restore “critical ecosystems.” Apple also wants to help scale viable carbon removal solutions for businesses that are unable to avoid or reduce their carbon emissions through existing technology.
The additional investment will help the fund launch new projects and double its previously stated goal to remove about 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, the company said.
The iPhone maker has pledged to double its initial commitment, which was launched in partnership with Conservation International and Goldman Sachs in 2021 with an initial investment of up to $200 million. The Restore Fund will now be bolstered by an additional fund and fresh investment from Apple, resulting in a new portfolio of carbon removal projects.
The new portfolio has a dual objective of generating a financial return for investors while also eliminating up to 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually at its peak. Additionally, Apple’s suppliers who collaborate with the fund can utilize it as a means of integrating impactful carbon removal initiatives into their decarbonization process, Apple said in a news release.