Top tech startup news for Thursday, April 20, 2023: Accredify, Alphabet, BuzzFeed, Tawal, and Whole Foods
Good evening! Below are some of the top tech startup news stories for Thursday, April 20, 2023.
Amazon-owned Whole Foods plans to lay off several hundred corporate employees
Whole Foods becomes the latest to join the layoff train. The Amazon-owned company announced Thursday that it will be laying off several hundred corporate jobs as part of a planned reorganization of select teams.
The move comes as its parent company evaluates costs. According to a spokesperson for Whole Foods, the cuts amount to less than 0.5% of the company’s global workforce. In addition, the company is also consolidating its operational regions from nine to six. In a memo to employees, the executive team explained that certain global and regional support teams will be reorganized over the next two months, resulting in layoffs.
“We often talk about how simplifying our work and improving how we operate is critical as we grow,” the executive team wrote in the memo. “We’ve made great progress in these areas through previous operational and organizational changes. As the grocery industry continues to rapidly evolve, and as we – like all retailers – have navigated challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic and continued economic uncertainty, it has become clear that we need to continue to build on these changes. With additional adjustments, we will be able to further simplify our operations, make processes easier, and improve how we support our stores.”
Amazon purchased Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion in June 2017. As part of the company’s effort to expand to some unreachable areas, Amazon acquired some former Sears and Kmart locations from Sears Holdings which filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection on October 15, 2018. These vacant locations would be demolished or remodeled into new Whole Foods Market locations. There are currently 487 Whole Foods stores in the U.S.
Singapore-based Accredify announced today that it has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by iGlobe Partners and SIG Venture Capital, with participation from returning investors including Pavilion Capital and Qualgro.
“What intrigued me was the capability of the technology to allow for real-time authentication,” Quah told TechCrunch. “That was mind-blowing because fundamentally, accountants are there to match certain transactions and make sure everything tallies up against one another. When I realized that technology can completely displace that activity, it intrigued me.”
Currently operating in nine markets, the Singapore-based Accredify plans to use the fresh capital infusion to invest in its Sydney office and also open a new office in Japan. The startup also announced its plans to expand the application of verifiable technology solutions beyond its current use cases and into industries such as human resources and finance. The company plans to increase its presence in the education, healthcare, and aviation sectors as well.
Founded just three years ago, Accredify uses blockchain to ensure the authenticity of a document that is shared or received through a digital verification process.
“The team at Accredify has been building on this for years and are now seeing exciting traction serving industry leaders across multiple verticals,” said Blake Ong of SIG Venture Capital. “As more countries continue to chart towards their digital ambitions we believe that trust technologies like Accredify’s are foundational to enabling that secured connected future.”
Saudi telecom giant TAWAL enters the European market with a $1.3B acquisition of 4,800 telecom towers
TAWAL, an infrastructure provider that emerged from Saudi Telecom Company (STC) in 2018, has agreed to acquire tower infrastructure valued at 1.22 billion euros ($1.34 billion) from United Group in its initial venture into Europe’s telecommunications market, the southeast European firm announced on Thursday. The $1.34 billion acquisition marks TAWAL’s entry into the European market.
The acquisition includes the mobile infrastructure unit of United Group, which comprises over 4,800 towers in Bulgaria, Croatia, and Slovenia, United Group said in a statement released on Thursday.
The acquisition “supports STC Group’s ambitious strategy to expand its international footprint in key markets with significant growth potential,” STC, majority owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, said in a statement.
United Group, which is backed by private equity firm BC Partners, said it was TAWAL’s first investment in Europe’s telecoms sector.
“Upon completion, TAWAL’s operations in the European market will be rebranded as “TAWAL Europe” and will serve as TAWAL’s platform for any future expansion in Europe,” STC said.
Founded in 2004 as a division of Saudi Telecom Company, TAWAL is a Saudi Arabian company that offers infrastructure and services for telecommunications. The company has been operating independently since 2008. Towers, fiber optic networks, and other related infrastructure are among the areas of expertise for TAWAL in the design, building, and operation of telecommunications infrastructure.
TAWAL provides fiber optic network solutions, microwave links, and other telecommunications infrastructure services in addition to building, leasing, and managing towers. Its clients include mobile network operators, internet service providers, and governmental organizations.
BuzzFeed News, a news outlet that aimed to revolutionize how people get news on the Internet, is finally shutting down after 12 years of online, marking the end of an era. According to a Twitter post by prominent CNN reporter Oliver Darcy, BuzzFeed’s CEO Jonah Peretti apparently told employees via a memo that the company is going to be making some significant cuts.
“We are reducing our workforce by approximately 15% today across our Business, Content, Tech and Admin teams, and beginning the process of closing BuzzFeed News,” Peretti wrote in the email.
This decision is undoubtedly a tough blow for the dedicated team of journalists and editors who have worked tirelessly to make BuzzFeed News the respected news outlet it is today.
BuzzFeed News burst into the scene in 2011, just five years after BuzzFeed’s original launch in 2006. BuzzFeed News. With a committed staff of reporters, editors, and producers, BuzzFeed News evolved from a small team within BuzzFeed that concentrated on covering breaking news and investigative journalism to a significant news organization in its own right. Before its shutdown, BuzzFeed News covered news on different themes including politics, social justice, business, science, and more.
Borderless fintech startup Gluwa eyes partnership with Federal Government of Nigeria on Crypto Legalization
In just a little over a decade, cryptocurrencies have evolved from a niche digital currency used by a small group of enthusiasts to becoming a significant player in the modern financial landscape. As of last year, at least ten countries have legalized the use of cryptocurrency. Nigeria, the biggest economy in Africa, is now poised to join a list of existing countries, such as Canada, El Salvador, Estonia, Germany, Switzerland, and others.
Late last year, NASDAQ reported that the Nigerian government is looking at the use of Bitcoin in Africa’s largest economy. Citing a Nigerian local newspaper, the publication reported that Nigeria “will soon pass a law making the usage of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies legal.” But to make the implementation a success, the Nigerian government is going to need all the help it can get, especially from blockchain companies with a vast array of experience in cryptocurrency.
It’s for this reason that Gluwa, a prominent global blockchain company has reached out to the Federal Government of Nigeria to provide assistance in creating a policy framework for cryptocurrency that may help to unleash the potential of blockchain in the continent’s largest economy. This could pave the way for novel avenues for economic progress and innovation.
With expertise in blockchain technology, the Seattle, Washington-based Gluwa is at the forefront of change with experience building the world’s first blockchain-based credit repository, enabling financial institutions to tackle fraud and credit scoring using trustless, on-chain, credit history verification via its Creditcoin network.
Gluwa offers a versatile non-custodial wallet called the Gluwa Wallet, which enables users to invest their USDC in a range of global fintech lending partners through the blockchain. In addition, Gluwa’s venture branch, Gluwa Capital, invests in startups and has pledged $35 million to assist in the advancement of African-owned financial service providers and cryptocurrency exchanges.
As the AI race enters a new phase, Google’s Alphabet announced today the consolidation of its AI research divisions to better position itself in its battle with Microsoft.
In a blog post on Thursday, Alphabet said that DeepMind and the Brain team from Google Research will be joining forces as a single, focused unit called Google DeepMind. In addition, the company also announced that Google’s head of AI, Jeff Dean, was promoted to the position of Chief Scientist.
“When Shane Legg and I launched DeepMind back in 2010, many people thought general AI was a farfetched science fiction technology that was decades away from being a reality. Now, we live in a time in which AI research and technology is advancing exponentially. In the coming years, AI – and ultimately AGI – has the potential to drive one of the greatest social, economic and scientific transformations in history. That’s why today Sundar is announcing that DeepMind and the Brain team from Google Research will be joining forces as a single, focused unit called Google DeepMind. ”
DeepMind also confirmed the news in a post on Twitter.
“We’re proud to announce that DeepMind and the Brain team from @Google Research will become a new unit: . Together, we’ll accelerate progress towards a world where AI can help solve the biggest challenges facing humanity. →,” DeepMind tweeted.
The news comes just a week after Google DeepMind demoed its AI-powered robots that taught themselves to play soccer without being programmed by humans.
Over the weekend, DeepMind demoed how its AI-powered robots taught themselves to play soccer during an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday. The interview featured a soccer match between two DeepMind robots at Google’s AI lab in London.
DeepMind was founded in London in 2010 by Demis Hassabis, along with his childhood buddy Mustafa Suleyman, and Shane Legg. Google acquired the firm in 2015, and it is now a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. DeepMind is building AI that can learn and reason like people, as opposed to ChatGPT, which simply reacts to discussions by prompts.