Top tech startup news for Wednesday, April 26, 2023: Axoni, First Republic Bank, GM, Microsoft, and Relay
Good evening! Below are some of the top tech startup news stories for Wednesday, April 26, 2023.
General Motors to stop making its best-selling electric vehicle Chevy Bolt
Just like that, General Motors’ most popular electric car is on its way out. General Motors announced it will discontinue production of its Chevrolet Bolt models by the end of this year. General Motors CEO Mary Barra made the announcement during an earnings call Tuesday that it would end the production of its small, best-selling Chevrolet Bolt electric models at the end of the year.
GM also revealed plans to convert its local plant, which is currently responsible for manufacturing the Bolt, into a facility for producing electric pickup trucks. This move reflects the company’s shift towards more sustainable transportation options and commitment to staying at the forefront of electric vehicle technology.
Barra said the decision was made to reorient operations at their assembly plant in Orion Township, Michigan, to focus on producing two electric trucks – the GMC Sierra EV and the Chevy Silverado EV. This move reflects the company’s commitment to developing sustainable vehicles and embracing new technology in the automotive industry.
“We’ll need this capacity because our trucks more than measure up to our customers’ expectations, and we’ll demonstrate that work and EV range are not mutually exclusive terms for Chevrolet and GMC trucks,” Barra told investors.
The Bolt, launched by GM in 2017 as America’s most affordable EV, quickly became a popular choice among consumers seeking sustainable transportation options. However, in recent years, the model has faced a series of battery issues that could potentially lead to fires, resulting in two recalls by GM and warnings for drivers to park their vehicles outside after charging the battery.
Despite the importance of gas- and diesel-powered trucks and SUVs to GM’s current sales, the company announced two years ago its ambitious goal to exclusively produce electric vehicles by 2035. This demonstrates the company’s commitment to creating a more sustainable future for transportation and investing in cutting-edge technology to achieve this vision.
“When the Chevrolet Bolt EV launched, it was a huge technical achievement and the first affordable EV, which set in motion GM’s all-electric future,” GM spokesperson Cody Williams told the media.
Britain’s antitrust regulator announced on Wednesday that it would block Microsoft’s attempt to acquire the creator of “Call of Duty” Activision Blizzard for $69 billion, citing concerns about potential competition constraints in cloud gaming.
The move dealt a surprise blow to the gaming industry’s largest-ever transaction. The regulator claimed that Microsoft’s proposal to provide access to Activision’s lucrative “Call of Duty” franchise to major cloud gaming platforms would not adequately address its concerns, Reuters reported.
The news comes a little over a year after Redmond-based Microsoft announced it was buying video game giant Activision Blizzard in a $68.7 billion all-cash deal. Microsoft said at the time that the acquisition would bolster Microsoft’s Game Pass portfolio with plans to launch Activision Blizzard games into Game Pass, which has reached a new milestone of over 25 million subscribers.
Despite the decision, Microsoft stated that it still fully intends to pursue the acquisition and plans to appeal the decision. Meanwhile, Activision declared that it would collaborate closely with Microsoft in a concerted effort to overturn the ruling.
“We will reassess our growth plans for the UK,” Activision said. “Global innovators large and small will take note that – despite all its rhetoric – the UK is clearly closed for business.”
Activision, which is known for popular games such as “Call of Duty” and “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater,” has been mired in controversy for the last several months following reports of sexual misconduct and harassment among the company’s executives. On Monday, Activision said it fired dozens of executives after an investigation.
Microsoft has gotten more aggressive with gaming over the past several years. It bought “Minecraft” maker Mojang for $2.5 billion in 2014. And in 2020, Microsoft completed a $7.5 billion acquisition of game maker Bethesda.
One of the challenges facing frontline teams is the inability to quickly and easily communicate. Today, software is the driving force behind the majority of the workforce except for 55 million frontline team members who either lack access to communication tools or rely solely on walkie-talkies.
It’s against this backdrop that the Raleigh, North Carolina-based SaaS startup Relay is seeking to help frontline teams, which comprise 80% of the global workforce, to enhance their communication, elevate employee safety, and digitize their physical workflows to attain higher levels of efficiency and become more data-driven.
To further grow its operations, Relay announced today it has closed $13 million in a Series-A funding round backed by Sovereign’s Capital, Wind River Ventures, and existing shareholders. Relay will use the fresh capital infusion to continue accelerating its rapid growth rate, scale its team, “and support further product R&D innovation.”
Relay has grown exponentially in the past year. The demand for its platform has witnessed an unprecedented surge, with over 130% YoY revenue growth and the addition of renowned customers in frontline industries like Hospitality, Healthcare, and Facilities Management, among others.
Founded by Chris Chuang, Relay develops a communication solution that incorporates cellular push-to-talk, GPS tracking, panic button functionality, and software integration. Relay also helps frontline teams digitally transform their operations with the modern tools they need to be successful and the actionable real-time data they need to track performance and improve their operations.
San Francisco-based First Republic Bank is expected to be seized by the US government, according to a report by Fox Business’ Charles Gasparino, citing sources from the bank. The sources told Fox that they believe that the distressed bank will eventually end up in government receivership.
This outcome is expected after the bank exhausts all private sector options, including asset sales and finding a buyer, both of which seem challenging to accomplish. First Republic Bank has lost at least $102 billion in customer deposits since March, as worried depositors and investors withdrew their deposits.
The news comes just a month following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, another San Francisco-based bank that provides loans and other financial services to startups and tech companies, and venture capital firms across the United States and around the world.
Per the announcement made by First Republic Bank on Monday, the bank’s deposits decreased by more than 40 percent, which amounts to approximately $72 billion, in the first quarter of this year. This decline resulted in a nearly 50 percent drop in the bank’s shares, which was observed as of the end of Tuesday.
First Republic Bank is a private bank that offers services such as personal banking, business banking, and wealth management. It was started in San Francisco, California, in 1985, and has since expanded to service clients throughout the United States.
Axoni, a New York-based fintech startup at the forefront of building the next generation of capital markets technology, has raised $20 million in equity financing led by EJF Ventures, with participation from Laurion Capital, Communitas Capital, and existing investors.
The latest round, which brings the total raised since the company’s inception to $110 million, will use the funding proceeds to facilitate further advancement of its technology as well as our continued global expansion, Axoni CEO Greg Schvey said in a statement.
Founded in 2017, Axoni helps financial institutions navigate the rapidly evolving landscape of blockchain technology. Its innovative solutions are specifically designed to streamline operations, reduce costs, and boost efficiency by tapping into the power of distributed ledger technology.
At the heart of Axoni’s offerings is the AxCore blockchain platform, a cutting-edge tool built from the ground up to meet the rigorous demands of enterprise use cases. With its unparalleled performance and scalability, this platform is fast becoming a go-to solution for institutions seeking to optimize complex financial transactions.
Axoni’s AxCore software also solves the coordination problems that have plagued the financial industry for decades. By ensuring data is continuously and accurately replicated in real-time, AxCore allows for seamless synchronization of critical information between financial institutions, significantly reducing costs, risks, and errors associated with the movement of trade data.
AxCore has already been successfully deployed across various asset classes and markets, revolutionizing the way institutions handle the internalization of data. By standardizing the process, Axoni has made it easier for companies to leverage existing familiarity with their software, further reducing costs and streamlining operations.
But Axoni is much more than just a provider of game-changing technology. Their deep industry partnerships with heavyweights like JPMorgan Chase, Citi, and Goldman Sachs are a testament to their expertise and reputation for delivering results. And with backing from top venture capital firms like Andreessen Horowitz and Coatue Management, Axoni is clearly a company to watch in the dynamic and exciting world of blockchain innovation.