It is Monday and we start the week looking at the most interesting tech headlines from the past week. We will discuss the developments in the Big Tech Bills that will be voted on by the US House on Wednesday, and give you updates on the China crypto mining spread. We will also look at NFTs after Coinbase co-founder claimed 90% of them will be worthless within the next five years and the possibility of Digital Naira launch this year. What else are we looking at today? Margrethe Vestager trying to smooth things over after The White House criticized the proposed Digital Media Act package and the UK Commissioner voicing her concerns regarding the Facial Recognition Technology. We do not forget about tech startups and will share some of the most important breakthroughs and funding rounds, including the AI speech analytics platform from Scotland, the largest UcaaS platform in Europe, and cybersecurity startup used by Pfizer, Coca-Cola, and General Motors.
Aveni, a Scottish fintech company has just secured a £1.1 million investment. The company’s new funding will be used to launch what they refer to as a ground-breaking AI platform for speech analytics in business.
The investment was led by the Tricapital Angel syndicate and aimed at accelerating Aveni’s growth and helping them expand beyond financial services and starting to focus on other regulated industries as well. The other participants in the round included Scottish Enterprise’s Growth Investments, Old College Capital – the University of Edinburgh’s in-house venture investment fund – and Wallace Equity. It is the second investment round for Aveni.
Joseph Twigg, CEO of Aveni said: “Consumer behavior and business needs have changed significantly over the past 18 months as the service industry digitized in response to the pandemic.
“This created a new base of consumers comfortable with video conferencing led, digital-first services. But it also created a major challenge for firms to monitor and assess these calls,” he explains. “By using AI to help automate processes like quality assurance and risk monitoring, material cost reductions can be achieved. At the same time, companies gain targeted insights on customer experience and training opportunities for customer-facing staff.” Twigg adds.
Aveni get funding advice by the law firm Harper Macleod. Jo Nisbet, partner at Harper Macleod, said: “Aveni is a brilliant example of a potentially world-leading tech business coming out of Scotland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. “It is phenomenal to see the business grow so rapidly and to play a part in helping them negotiate the challenges associated with scaling up.”
On Wednesday, the package of six antitrust bills targeting the big tech will be voted on by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. Two of the bills focus on the tech giants such as Apple, Amazon, or Google and ensuring that there is a fair competition and a possibility for new market entry. They are also the most controversial bills as they have been met with a low of criticism by the pro-tech groups that believe that they will mean the end of Amazon Prime free shipping and iMessages (as one of the bills would basically force companies to sell businesses).
A third bill would require a tech platform to refrain from any merger unless it can prove the company being acquired does not compete with any of the products or services the platform is in. The next bill requires platforms to let their users transfer data elsewhere, even if it is to a competing business. The fifth bill mandates increased budgets of antitrust enforcers and making companies that are planning the largest mergers to pay more fees. The final bill requires the state attorney’s general to remain in the court they have selected instead of having the case moved to a court selected by the defendant.
In the past two weeks, we have been informing about China’s crypto mining crackdown and its gradual spread. Now, it extends to the southwest province of Sichuan where the authorities have declared this week cryptocurrency mining projects must be closed.
China is a leader in crypto mining, accounting for over half of global bitcoin production. However, since last month, China’s cabinet has introduced a series of measures to control financial risks and limit bitcoin.
On Friday, The Sichuan Provincial Development and Reform Commission, and the Sichuan Energy Bureau issued a joint notice demanding the closure of 26 suspected cryptocurrency mining projects by Sunday. The impact of it is expected to be huge as Sichuan is the second-biggest bitcoin mining province in China. Now, the local authorities are obliged to perform checks, order crackdowns, and ban new projects.
“Renewable power does not help,” said Winston Ma, NYU Law School adjunct professor and author of the book “the Digital War”. “The four largest mining regions – Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Yunnan, and Sichuan – have implemented similar crackdown measures, even though mining in the latter two are mostly based on hydropower, whereas the first two are on coal,” he added.
On Friday, Reuters reported that Nigeria’s Central Bank could launch its digital currency as early as the end of this year. Back in February, the country has banned banks and financial institutions in Nigeria from dealing or managing crypto transactions and since then, the work on digital currency has increased.
However, Central Bank director of information technology Rakiya Mohammed said the project to create some form of digital currency had been in the works for two years.
“We’re all aware that about 80% of central banks in the world exploring the possibility of issuing central bank digital currency, and Nigeria cannot be left behind,” Mohammed said in the June 10 virtual briefing with bankers. “If you have a central bank digital currency that is backed by the government, then people can make transactions online without fear of any default,” he added.
Destiny just became the leading European SME-focused secure cloud communication provider after it has signed two strategic acquisitions today. Acquiring two Swedish UCaaS providers significantly strengthens Destiny’s position on the market. Because of the two ned additions to Destiny, the company will be able to accelerate its growth as a scalable UCaaS platform on the European market.
Daan De Wever, CEO Destiny said: “We are thrilled to announce this exciting news of the acquisition of these two fantastic and strong companies. This is the next level of Destiny’s big play to own the European cloud communication space. Our combined forces give us our own IP, technology that is easy to adopt, use and integrate, great partners, talented local teams, and ambition to invest in further developing our innovative and market-leading UCaaS platform for SME’s, today and tomorrow. It also reinforces the hunger to grow Destiny as the reference for our businesses and service provider audience. Our customers are always at the heart of all our decision-making. It’s the increasing levels of service and innovation that they’ll enjoy that led us to take this unprecedented step. We’ll continue to develop human-centric communication services for the cloud, and make sure they serve all our client’s and partner’s ambitions in their local market and specific sector.”
Destiny was founded back in 2008 and was primarily a Belgian provider of cloud communication solutions. By 2020, their turnover was 90 million euros and the company employed over 600 people in 6 different countries. In 2021, the annual turnover is expected to nearly double, reaching 170 million euros.
Rami Houbby, General Manager at Telepo commented: “This is an important and transformational step for Telepo and its Service Provider partners, and I could not be more excited with the synergies between our companies. This marks the start of an incredible new chapter in our journey as a win-win for both companies. Destiny will be able to standardize on Telepo as its own IP for the group-wide platform to drive consistency and future growth. The Telepo team will benefit from Destiny’s strategy and resources to accelerate innovation and enhance their offering portfolio directly benefiting our Service Provider partners to compete and win in their markets. I am super delighted with this acquisition and the benefits it brings to all the stakeholders in our ecosystem. I very much look forward to working with Daan and his team, and I know we will make a winning combination.”
Margrethe Vestager has finally publicly commented on the claims that the Digital Markets Act (DMA) that was recently proposed by the European Commission is targeting solely American companies. After the EU’s head of digital and competition policy has revealed the plan, the White House quickly responded, warning Brussels that its new policy sends a negative message indicating the EU “is not interested in engaging with the United States in good faith”.
In her most recent interview with Financial Times, Vestager said, “The [DMA] is not directed toward certain businesses or toward certain nationalities of businesses.” She pointed out the act is meant to give some guidelines for platforms that can act as “gatekeepers”.
“What we have been developing while trying to figure out who should be in the scope and who should be a possible gatekeeper, it has been about the market effects,” said Ms Vestager.
Vestager added that the legislation that has to be debated by the European Parliament focuses on the “market effects” and that the criteria that EU will outline will help to shape the act so it focuses on more than just the big tech companies. As Vestager is trying to smooth the tensions between the EU and the US that arose after the act proposal, other people closely linked to the matter are not as diplomatic. To illustrate, Andreas Schwab, the German MEP who will help steer the DMA legislation through the European parliament, said US tech companies were “the biggest problems.”
“Let’s focus first on the biggest problems, on the biggest bottlenecks. Let’s go down the line – one, two, three, four, five – and maybe six with [China’s] Alibaba,” he said.
Elizabeth Denham, the UK Information Commissioner has spoken out about her deep concerns connected to live facial recognition and its possibility for inappropriate and reckless use. She pointed out that a particularly concerning element is combining the possibilities of LFR with big data and social media and what are the possible consequences.
Dunham claimed that while facial recognition technology is useful in cases such as unlocking a mobile phone or setting up a bank account, there are large privacy risks that occur at the same time.
“We should be able to take our children to a leisure complex, visit a shopping center or tour a city to see the sights without having our biometric data collected and analyzed with every step we take,” she wrote.
Based on the new investigation, it was shown that all six cases into LFR systems that ICO had open showed every system lacked compliance with data protection law. After the investigation was finished, all of the systems were discontinued
The industrial cybersecurity company Claroty has just secured $140 million in its Series D funding round that was co-led by Bessemer Venture Partners’ Century II fund, specifically designed for growth-stage market-leading companies, and 40 North, the investment arm of privately held global industrial company Standard Industries. Other investors also included
LG and I Squared Capital’s ISQ Global InfraTech Fund. All previous investors, including Team8, Rockwell Automation, Siemens, and Schneider Electric, also participated in the round, bringing the company’s total capital raised to $235 million.
Claroty was founded back in 2015 and is known for its work across industries and providing companies from all large sectors risk management, threat detection, and operational security technology. Some of Claroty’s customers include Pfizer, General Motors, Coca-Cola EuroPacific Partners (Australia, Pacific, Indonesia), Rockwell Automation, Siemens, and Schneider Electric.
“Our mission is to drive visibility, continuity, and resiliency in the industrial economy by delivering the most comprehensive solutions that secure all connected devices within the four walls of an industrial site…,” said Yaniv Vardi, CEO of Claroty. “With this new investment from the most prestigious firms in the world, we have the financial runway to execute on our proven product strategy in a hyper-growth market, with a world-class leadership team and a strong ecosystem of partners to take us there.”
The co-founder of the cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase has spoken out about NFTs, claiming that 90% of them will be worthless within the next three to five years. His criticism was met with a lot of controversy as NFTs popularity has been extreme since the beginning of the year. Ehrsam, however, pointed out during an interview with Bloomberg that he did not see much difference between NFTs and other crypto projects that were born out of hype overnight.
“People are going to try all sorts of things. There’ll be millions and millions of cryptocurrencies and crypto-assets, just like there were millions and millions of websites. Most of them won’t work,” Ehrsam said.
However, the enthusiast does not seem to share Ehrsam’s concerns, as NFT continues to take the world by storm. The first NFT that was ever created has just been sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $1.47 million.