Top tech startup news for Wednesday, May 3, 2023: Advance Intelligence, Meta, Pando, TIDAL, and Unity
Good evening! Below are some of the top tech startup news stories for Tuesday, May 3, 2023.
FTC says Facebook misled parents and failed to guard kids’ privacy; proposes ban on Meta profiting from minors’ data
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on Wednesday that Meta’s Facebook deceived parents about protections for children, which included misrepresenting the level of access it granted to private user data to app developers. The Agency said that Facebook neglected to safeguard the 2020 privacy order of children who used its Messenger Kids application.
FTC said that an independent assessor found “several gaps and weaknesses in Facebook’s privacy program” that posed “substantial risks to the public.” To address the privacy issue, the agency proposed tightening an existing agreement on privacy to include a “ban on making money from minors’ data.”
The FTC’s proposed changes include prohibiting Facebook from monetizing data collected from users under the age of 18, including within its virtual reality business. Additionally, Facebook would face increased restrictions on the use of facial recognition technology. Meta, which is the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, generates more than 98% of its revenue from targeted digital advertising based on user data.
Early this year, Facebook’s Meta was fined over $400 million by the EU privacy regulator for forcing users to accept targeted ads. The Irish Data Protection Commission fined Facebook’s parent company Meta after finding that Facebook and Instagram services breached the EU privacy rules.
Advance Intelligence Group announced today it has raised $80 million from a consortium led by existing investors Warburg Pincus and Northstar Group. The latest funding follows the company’s previous Series D round of over US$400 million in 2021. The latest round brings the total raised by the company to more than $700 million since its inception in 2016.
Additionally, Advance Intelligence announced that it has obtained over $1 billion in capital to support its credit book. The company also has Standard Chartered Bank as one of its regional strategic partners.
Founded in 2016 and based in Singapore with operations across Asia, Advance Intelligence offers a range of credit-enabled products and services powered by AI. These include Atome, a “buy now, pay later” platform, Kredit Pintar, a digital lending platform in Indonesia, ADVANCE.AI, a provider of enterprise digital identity, compliance, and risk management solutions through software-as-a-service (SaaS), and Ginee, an omnichannel e-commerce merchant services platform.
“Since our previous raise in 2021, we have taken a disciplined approach and made good progress in fulfilling our vision of advancing tomorrow’s digital ecosystem across the region. This new investment will help accelerate our program of using AI technology to streamline consumer transactions and enable greater and fairer access to credit and financial products and services. We appreciate our investors’ continued faith and confidence in us,” Jefferson Chen, co-founder, group chairman and CEO of Advance Intelligence Group, said in a statement.
Saurabh Agarwal, partner and managing director, Warburg Pincus, says: “Advance Intelligence Group and its leadership team continue to execute on their vision of advancing the digital ecosystem in the region. Southeast Asia remains one of the fastest-growing digital markets globally with a 680 million population, the majority of whom still lack affordable and equitable access to credit. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Jefferson and helping the company deliver its commitment to millions of customers across the region.”
Video game developer Unity Software becomes the latest tech company to announce job cuts as the tech layoff trend continues without signs of slowing down. On Tuesday, Unity said it will lay off 600 employees, equivalent to 8% of its workforce, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Tuesday.
“On May 2, 2023, Unity Software Inc. (“Unity” or the “Company”) announced the reduction of approximately 600 employee roles, or 8% of its workforce,” the company said in the SEC filing.
The disclosure comes less than a year after AppLovin offered to buy the gaming software giant in a deal valued at $17.5 billion. Unity said it plans to “restructure specific teams in order to continue to position itself for long-term and profitable growth.”
Unity is one of the several tech companies that have implemented cost-cutting measures in recent months as concerns grow over the global economic slowdown, the possibility of a looming recession, and the impact of generative AI. This week, IBM announced it plans to suspend hiring for approximately 7,800 jobs that will be replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the coming years. Lyft also laid off 1,072 workers or 26% of its workforce, just a month after the founders stepped down.
Tech giants like Spotify, Google’s Alphabet, and Nvidia have all taken measures to rein in spending. Other companies like Coinbase, Shopify, Netflix, and Twilio have also announced layoffs. In March, Facebook-parent company Meta announced it would cut 10,000 jobs, just four months after it let go of 11,000 employees, making the social giant the first Big Tech company to announce a second round of mass layoffs.
Supply chain disruptions have reached their peak in recent years, hindering business growth and limiting consumers’ access to quality products. In addition, siloed logistics software has also hampered business operations. In a recent survey conducted by Deloitte, over 70% of manufacturing executives reported that their companies were impacted by supply chain disruptions in the past year, with 90% of those companies experiencing increased costs and declining productivity.
With global enterprises seeking to improve agility, efficiency, and resilience through investment in supply chain technology, the logistics tech market is projected to grow to $25 billion by 2025. That’s why one logistics tech startup is on a mission to address these challenges and drive supply chain agility for the 2030 economy.
Enter Pando, a Silicon Valley-based startup and provider of Pando AI-powered no-code Fulfillment Cloud platform that unifies logistics data including rates, carriers, costs, contracts, customers, and suppliers, while also bringing together logistics stakeholders and unifying your processes in one place.
Today, Pando announced it has raised $30 million in Series B funding led by marquee Silicon Valley investors Iron Pillar and Uncorrelated Ventures, with participation from existing investors Nexus Venture Partners, Chiratae Ventures, and Next47.
The round, which brings the company’s total funding raised to $45 million, also includes backing from prominent CEOs and angel investors. Pando will use the funding proceeds to drive growth across geographies and industries.
Founded in 2016 by Abhijeet Manohar and Nitin Jayakrishnan (right), Pando provides a platform for businesses to optimize their supply chain operations. The platform uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide real-time visibility and predictive analytics, enabling businesses to make data-driven decisions and improve their supply chain performance.
Mohanjit Jolly, Partner at Iron Pillar, said: “The Logistics Tech market is ripe for disruption – there is high demand caused by volatility, legacy competition that is trying to catch up, and a trend towards bundling point solutions. Pando addresses the problem holistically and, with its world-class talent in India and the US, takes a global view to IP-led product development.”
San Francisco-based Databricks announced today that it has acquired Okera, the world’s first AI-centric data governance platform. The two companies did not disclose the terms of the acquisition. A spokesperson for Databricks said the completion of the acquisition is “imminent.” Databricks said the acquisition will enable the company to address the challenges of data governance in this new world.
The news of the acquisition comes two months after Databricks released its own AI-powered chatbot called Dolly to take on OpenAI’s ChatGPT. However, unlike ChatGPT, Dolly is an open-source chatbot tool developed using large language models (LLMs) from projects at Stanford and Meta.
“Okera solves data privacy and governance challenges across the spectrum of data and AI. It simplifies data visibility and transparency, helping organizations understand their data, which is essential in the age of LLMs and addressing concerns about their biases,” Databricks said in a news release.
“As data continues to grow in volume, velocity, and variety across different applications, CIOs, CDOs, and CEOs across the board have to balance those two often conflicting initiatives – not to mention that historically, managing access policies across multiple clouds has been painful and time-consuming,” writes Li in today’s announcement. “Many organizations don’t have enough technical talent to manage access policies at scale, especially with the explosion of LLMs. What they need is a modern, AI-centric governance solution. We could not be more excited to join the Databricks team and to bring our expertise in building secure, scalable and simple governance solutions for some of the world’s most forward-thinking enterprises.”
According to the announcement, Databricks intends to integrate Okera’s technology into its Lakehouse Platform to expand its data governance capabilities, which is an essential need for AI, machine learning, and large language models (LLMs) that rely on vast amounts of data.
TIDAL, a global music streaming platform owned by Jack Dorsey’s Block and musician Jay-Z, today announced the relaunch of TIDAL RISING, a program that levels the playing field for all artists.
Originally launched in 2015, TIDAL RISING was designed to showcase emerging artists from various music genres by utilizing playlists, video content, online articles, and marketing support to aid these artists in taking their careers to the next level. While doing so, TIDAL RISING has also provided music enthusiasts with the opportunity to discover new albums and songs.
As part of the relaunch, TIDAL is offering a selection of emerging artists new ongoing support through custom promotion, education, and direct funding so they can grow, thrive and build their careers. TIDAL said that the first wave of rising artists to receive support includes Alex Vaughn, Baby Storme, Cheekface, Reuben Vincent, Sunny War, and more.
Since its inception eight years ago, TIDAL RISING has helped many artists, including 21 Savage who chronicled his first tour with TIDAL, Chloe x Halle who established a content series to engage with their fans, and Megan Thee Stallion, who received support from TIDAL in the form of industry connections and performance opportunities before signing with a record label.
In the last year alone, TIDAL RISING has provided emerging artists with exceptional opportunities, including performing in Meta Horizon Worlds and composing unique tracks for designer Kim Shui’s runway fashion show at New York Fashion Week.
“Our TIDAL RISING program has always been a vessel to help emerging artists connect with their fans and open up new opportunities,” said Jason Kpana, Senior Vice President of Artist & Label Relations. “We’ve increased our investment by 10x to do more than one-off campaigns with a focus on how we help propel artists within the TIDAL universe and beyond. We’re excited to see the impact of providing scalable support for rising artists, starting in the U.S. before expanding TIDAL RISING internationally later this year.”