Acorns lands $105M Funding Round
On January 28, Acorns Grow Inc. completed a $105M funding round led by NBCUniversal and the Venture Capital arm of Comcast. Their investments were a surprise to many, but it appears CNBC will help produce personal finance videos for the Acorns app, which challenges the notion that millennials don’t save money. The app connects to users’ bank accounts and rounds up purchases to the nearest dollar, investing the spare change into a user-allocated selection of stocks and bonds. For this reason, Acorns CEO Noah Kerner identifies the firm as a “financial-wellness system” rather than a financial services app.
The latest round values Acorns Grow Inc. at $860 million, and they now have over $1B in assets under management. While rivals such as Betterment manage up to $14B in assets, the recent valuation actually puts Acorns above Betterment. Part of this is due to Acorns’ explosive growth. The app has surged in popularity and obtained funding from BlackRock, Paypal, Point72, Bain Capital, and others.
Brave Browser Launches Ad System, Opens College Internship Application
“Brave began its existence three years ago by blocking all ads by default. On Tuesday, it’ll start offering anyone using the developer version of Brave the option of seeing privacy-respecting ads. And, in a few weeks, when Brave 1.0 arrives on personal computers, Brave will give those users 70 percent of the ad revenue…
The first phase of Brave’s ad system won’t actually pay anybody anything, but instead will just get the system on its feet. Actual payments are scheduled to arrive in several weeks with the release of Brave 1.0. When it kicks in, you’ll get 70 percent of the ad revenue. Brave collects the rest. A slider will let you pick how many ads to see each day, from one to 20. Just seeing an ad generates a bit of revenue, but clicking on it generates more.”
Instead of US Dollars, Brave uses its native crypto asset Basic Attention Token for these payments. They can be converted to USD at any time, but Brave says that processing these payments on the blockchain significantly increases efficiency.
Note: Brave recently opened applications for a software engineering internship, which can be found here
Global Pharma Giant Merck Wins US Blockchain, AI Patent
Merck, the world’s first and one of the largest pharmaceutical firms, has recently won a blockchain patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a system that uses a combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology to establish authenticity for unique physical objects. As Merck reported in a press release Jan. 30:
“The new technology uses machine learning to link physical objects to a blockchain through their own unique identifiers or ‘fingerprints‘.”
According to the company, the technology can identify and record any unique feature of a physical object as its so-called “fingerprint,” including chemical signatures, DNA and image patterns.
The company claims that the technology described in the patent can increase the security of systems such as supply chains, aiming to eliminate counterfeit. The technology is reportedly being developed in Merck’s Innovation Center, the firm’s research and development subsidiary. Last week, U.S.-based health insurance giant Aetna partnered with tech giant IBM to build a blockchain network designed for the healthcare industry, specifically addressing insurance processes.
CBOE Re-Applies With US SEC to List Bitcoin Exchange-Traded Fund
The Chicago Board of Exchange (CBOE), investment firm VanEck, and financial services company SolidX, are reapplying with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a rule change in order to list a Bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded fund (ETF). A Bitcoin ETF would represent a great stride toward institutional adoption of crypto assets and enable more passive investments in Bitcoin, hopefully reducing volatility.
The CBOE had initially withdrawn its request for a rule change to list a Bitcoin ETF on Jan. 23. The decision to withdraw its request was the result of the U.S. government shutdown as the end of the review period on Feb. 27 approached.
(Also, Bitcoin turned 10 on January 3, 2019!)
N26 secures $300M Series D
The newest funding round sets N26 at a valuation of $2.7 billion, and, according to N26, is the “largest private equity financing round” for a European FinTech in recent years. The online retail bank reports 2.3 million total users, triple the figure it had during its 2018 Series C, when it was valued below $1 billion. Last year, N26 set the goal of reaching 5 million users by 2020, so there’s still a long way to go. However, N26 penetrated seven new markets in 2018 and plans to expand to the U.S. and UK in early 2019. For this reason, N26 doesn’t anticipate growth to slow down anytime soon.
The Series D was led by Insight Venture Partners with participation from GIC and others. Previous investors include Tencent and Allianz.
DX.Exchange Launches Digital Stocks Platform
The tokenization of securities has become a huge topic lately, giving real estate and art owners alike the ability to place ownership in real assets on the blockchain. Recently, there has been speculation that corporations might explore tokenizing equity as an alternative to issuing stock. In January, DX.Exchange previewed what that might look like.
The crypto asset trading platform is now offering trading services for ten NASDAQ-listed companies, including Tesla, Apple, and Facebook. Tokens are backed by one share of the respective stock, and will pay token holders appropriate dividends. Because the tokens are traded on the Ethereum platform rather than NASDAQ, they can be traded 24/7. DX.Exchange claims that its platform complies with Europe’s MiFID II framework and since trades don’t actually operate on NASDAQ, it doesn’t need to interact with the SEC.