SoftBank makes $100M minimum commitments on Vision Fund investments. It’s using that money to pick winners across industries and create an ecosystem of portfolio companies that can reinforce each other through partnerships.
P.S. On March 26, we’ll be discussing this year’s top payments trends to watch. Sign up here to join us at the briefing.
This week in data:
$31B: Airbnb is planning to acquire last-minute room booking service HotelTonight for an undisclosed sum. Airbnb, which was valued at as much as $31B in 2017, is reportedly looking to file for an IPO in the coming months. The company has stated that it has been profitable for two years. This acquisition follows other moves into the travel industry beyond room sharing, including its “experiences” run by locals and a business travel service.
2M hours: Waymo, the self-driving subsidiary of Alphabet, is looking to sell lidar sensors to companies that aren’t direct self-driving competitors. Lidar helps autonomous vehicles detect their surroundings with a level of high accuracy. Waymo says the intended customers for its “Laser Bear Honeycomb” lidar sensors include robotics, security, and agricultural technology companies. The company claims that the sensors have been road tested for over 2M hours. We recently investigated the state of the lidar landscape.
2: Two new companies joined the unicorn club this week. Beijing-based online apartment rental platform Danke Apartment reached a $2B valuation following a $500M round led by Ant Financial and Tiger Global. San Francisco-based challenger bank Chime reached a $1.5B valuation (tripling its last valuation from May 2018), following a $200M investment. Chime CEO Christ Britt will be joining our lineup at Future of Fintech this year — snag your tickets here.
18+ months: A patient in London has been free of HIV for more than 18 months after a bone marrow transplant, which he received as part of a cancer treatment. This is the second time that a patient has been cleared of HIV as a result of this procedure. The first was over a decade ago, but subsequent attempts had failed to work. Researchers have cautioned that the treatment isn’t yet ready as a large-scale strategy.
40 Gbps: A new open standard for USB connections has been proposed, promising to double the transfer speed of the current generation to reach 40Gbps. USB 4 could simultaneously power multiple 4K monitors and will use the USB-C connector. The new standard is not expected to reach consumers for around 2 years.
2,153: Jeff Bezos topped Forbes’ annual list of billionaires, pulling ahead of 2,152 others. The combined wealth of the list comes to $8.7T, a $400B decrease from 2018. Warren Buffett placed at number 3. We recently scoured his annual shareholder letters to unearth 24 key lessons.
100,000: Japanese startup Vaak is developing AI technology to detect shoplifters even before they steal, based on body language like fidgeting and restlessness. The goal is to identify risky shoppers who store personnel can then approach and offer to assist, an action that can prevent theft. Vaak began sending a market-ready version of its software this month, with a goal to be in 100K Japanese stores in 3 years. We previously covered how facial recognition tech is changing government surveillance in China — read more here.
12 characters: The mystery over why a seemingly random string of numbers and letters was regularly appearing in a password database has been solved. The 12 character long “Ji32k7au4a83” appears strong, but actually translates to “my password” when written using a keyboard with the Zhuyin Fuhao layout — a common way to type in Mandarin in Taiwan.