Venture Capital (VC) investment in the U.S. continued performing at a high level during Q1 ’19 with $32.6 billion invested as the U.S. economy remained strong, and increased IPO activity set the stage for further investment at all points of the deal spectrum — from early stage to late stage, according to KPMG’s Venture Pulse Q1′ 2019 report.
The largest deals in Q1’19 included a $5 billion raise by shared-space provider The We Company (formerly WeWork), and a $1 billion raise by freight logistics company Flexport – earning that company coveted unicorn status.
“In the past five years, the number of U.S. unicorns has more than doubled to over 160 as private capital is readily available allowing companies to stay private longer,” said Brian Hughes, National Co-leader, KPMG Venture Capital practice in the U.S. “We finally saw some unicorns choosing to go public in late 2018, and this unicorn IPO trend is expected to continue well into this year, spurred by recent high profile offerings and the ongoing strength of the public markets.”
Lyft hosted a successful IPO on Nasdaq in late March, raising $2.3 billion to value the company at $24 billion. It is the first in a line of large IPO unicorns expected in 2019, with ride-hailing company Uber also expected to file publicly, amongst others. The good performance of these unicorn companies in the early part of 2019 will trigger more investor interest in mature unicorns later in the year, in addition to providing additional capital for early stage deals.
U.S. investors continued to invest in established verticals in Q1’19, including food-delivery, healthcare and transportation, while mega-funds gained a significant amount of attention, coupled with strong activity in smaller-size funds.
Growth and Innovation Occurring Beyond Silicon Valley
The report found a growing boom of VC investment outside of Silicon Valley and the West Coast. In 2018, while 39 percent of VC deals occurred on the West Coast, 20 percent occurred in the Mid-Atlantic region, 9 percent in New England, and 9 percent in the Great Lakes region. These numbers reflect the growing number of innovation hubs appearing in cities such as New York, Boston and others –a trend continuing this year.
In Q1’19, New York and New Jersey both attracted big deals, such as The We Company’s $5 billion raise, and Knock’s $400 million raise.
Among companies headquartered in Silicon Valley, there has been a shift toward scaling outside of the Valley in order to access or attract talent and better manage labor and space costs. Late in 2018, for example, Slack announced a new Denver Office, while other companies set up offices in Arizona, Salt Lake City and beyond. This trend is only expected to continue as companies look to balance a presence in the Valley with the need to scale and grow efficiently.
Digital Banking Heats Up
The digital banking space in the US continued to gain traction in Q1’19. Chime’s Q1’19 $200 million raise earned it unicorn status, with a number of non-U.S.-based banks voicing plans to raise capital to fund a U.S. expansion.
The U.S. is well positioned for growth
The maturing fintech sector is also expected to see more M&A activity as companies are looking for scale and consolidate market share. In Q1’19, FIS announced plans to acquire Worldplay in a $34 billion deal.
“The story in the U.S. continues to be very positive. The 2018 IPOs generally performed very well and the pre-public companies that have completed financings recently have been at high valuations,” said Conor Moore, National Co-Lead Partner, KPMG Venture Capital practice in the U.S. “This should encourage greater investment at all points on the investment spectrum from seed to late stage.”
SOURCE KPMG LLP
Digital Securities Maven Thomas Carter Enlists Former Nike Brand Director, Jerome Conlon, to Bring Cryptocurrency to the Masses
Holders of bank stocks should avert their eyes. Having regained 2/3 of its value prior to last year’s sell-off, Bitcoin has risen nearly 200% so far this year. Many pundits and commentators are predicting another bull-run for Bitcoin before the end of the year. One such pioneer and FinTech veteran is Thomas Carter, founder of DealBox, a platform that empowers issuers and investors to take advantage of the current digital transformation of capital markets being driven by the emergence of STOs or Security Token Offerings.
The crafting of the narrative and strategy around this ambitious consumer education campaign — dubbed, “Make crypto easy” — will be led by branding guru Jerome Conlon.
Institutional investment is picking up; just about every Fortune 100 company is dipping in; Facebook just released Libra (for better or for worse); Blockstack launched the first SEC-qualified token offering in history. Bloomberg has finally admitted Bitcoin is a thing and President Trump is tweeting about it.
Those are just the highlights.
Even naysayers, at this point, can’t deny that cryptocurrency, Bitcoin and blockchain technology aren’t fading away. In fact, the often-cited tipping point of mass adoption seems to be fast approaching.
In his recently published book, “Life After Google,” economist and writer George Gilder, famous for predicting many of today’s technological advances back in the 80s, postulates that blockchain technology will have a bigger impact than all of the previous technological innovations combined.
Thomas Carter on the current situation:
“With blockchain tech and cryptocurrency, we aren’t dealing with a typical market adoption learning curve. Bitcoin was born of iconoclastic ideals and philosophy. If you were a technologist and you resonated with the philosophy behind Bitcoin, then you would figure out how to use it. In other words, user-friendliness wasn’t ever a consideration until now and that was mostly on purpose.”
Conlon has this to say about the project:
“This is the greatest business story never told. We need to tell it. People need to understand the massive change that blockchain is bringing to the world.”
The campaign will offer newbies to cryptocurrency solutions in four key areas:
Details on the solutions being offered, and the vision for each, will be revealed in forthcoming information releases over the coming weeks.
To learn more about the Make Crypto Easy campaign, please visit http://www.makecryptoeasy.io.
Ideanomics Unveils Plans For Fintech Village And Innovation Hub
Ideanomics Inc. (Nasdaq: IDEX), a global technology company based in New York City, NY, took the wraps off its plans to transform the former UConn West Hartford campus into its global headquarters for technology and innovation.
“Nearly one year ago, I expressed our hope to call West Hartford our home,” said Ideanomics Chair, Dr. Bruno Wu, at a news conference held at the neighboring University of Saint Joseph. “Today, I am pleased to be able to share with you the reality beyond the vision”.
“Starting today, we take our largest step from blueprint to reality. Here in Connecticut, the front yard of the insurance and financial centers that call Connecticut and the Northeast their home,” Dr. Wu said.
“Fintech Village will be a unique and special project, the likes of which Connecticut has not seen. I thank former Governor Malloy for his support and Governor Lamont for being such a great partner and helping to make this day happen.”
“We have spent the past 10 months with our partners to design a specialized workplace that will stimulate both innovation and collaboration, and be an open campus with features and benefits that West Hartford residents spoke of in their town-wide Community Visioning Process last year,” said Alf Poor, Ideanomics CEO and President of Fintech Village.
Fintech Village will be a walkable campus accessible to the community and designed to fit organically into the natural beauty and scale of the campus’ 58-acre landscape, with:
- Public plazas, open green spaces and recreational features
- Boardwalks and trails through the restored natural habitat
- Environmentally friendly and energy-efficient buildings
- Traffic-calming measures on Trout Brook Drive
- Small shops and places to eat
- Enhanced parking for the Little League and Miracle League sports fields
- A community center and an art gallery.
Neighborhood and community outreach begins
Poor stated that Ideanomics had begun its activities to engage, inform and solicit input from its West Hartfordneighbors and key community organizations.
“We wanted those living closest to campus to be among the first to hear about our plans through our neighborhood outreach program, which will soon spread to the West Hartford community as a whole,” Poor said, adding that the company will post and refresh information online at www.fintechvillage.us.
He said the company would also use, mail, social media, and traditional media outlets to provide updates on the project and inform residents throughout the public permitting process and project construction. Company representatives went door-to-door in a 500-foot zone around the campus, and will soon place information and descriptive imagery at the West Hartford Town Hall. It has offered to do the same at the Noah Webster Library and the Bishops Corner Branch Library.
Next steps: Environmental cleanup and local zoning and permitting process to begin
Poor said that Ideanomics was preparing to begin the environmental cleanup on site and the local zoning and permitting process with the town of West Hartford.
- Ideanomics has commenced the cleanup of the asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that were identified on site prior to its sale by UConn. The presence of these materials is relatively common for the type and age of the buildings currently on campus, and a licensed environmental contractor will contain, remove and safely dispose of all contamination.
- Ideanomics has filed asbestos abatement notifications with the Connecticut Department of Health. The company’s contractor has begun preparing for the asbestos abatement, which is scheduled to begin this week, and will last for approximately 3 months.
- The company is waiting for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve its proposed plan to remove and dispose of the PCB-contaminated soils. This will hopefully come within the late summer/early fall.
Ideanomics is also poised to begin the zoning and permitting process with the town of West Hartford.
“We will work collaboratively with town planning officials to prepare site plans and permit applications for their review. The process to secure the approvals for Fintech Village will be public, thorough and deliberative—and the town will set the manner and timeline of that process,” Poor said.
The next step will be to seek local zoning approval to create a “Technology Village District” zone—updating the town’s current “Business Office Laboratory” zone.
After the zoning rules are updated, Ideanomics will then submit all the required permit applications necessary to develop and operate the campus, following all the public procedures established by the town of West Hartford.
“This innovation hub will be a center of excellence and collaboration for cutting-edge solutions with applications in artificial intelligence, robotics, clean tech, med tech, accounting, insurance, financial services, transportation and more,” said Dr. Wu.
“We believe it will be a positive cultural, ecological and community asset to our neighbors in West Hartford, and I am so proud to share these plans today.”
Chinese Government Leads the World in Blockchain Standardized Certification
For years, governments around the world have been floundering with the challenge of how to respond to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. The Chinese Government has not been immune to the controversy taking a publicly conservative stance towards many aspects of the cryptocurrency world. However, a lesser known fact is that the Chinese Government has been regarding blockchain technology and its potential with a positive view. Starting 2017, China Electronics Technology Standardization Institute (CESI) – a government authorized institution founded in 1973, has been conducting Standard Blockchain System Function Test in order to pressure test and certify the top blockchain projects operating in China. Since inception, the organization has certified only 30 projects globally, including Lenovo, Alipay, and most recently, aelf.
The underlying thought behind this organization lies in the belief in the technology. Despite the appearance shared internationally because of its conservative stance on crypto currency, China in fact understands the benefits and application potential of the technology. At the launching ceremony and the first academic seminar of the Digital Finance Open Research Program held on July 8, 2019, Xin Wang, director of People’s Bank of China Research Bureau and head of the Monetary and Financial Bureau, remarked on the potential of blockchain based financial solutions.
“We need to strengthen the construction of digital financial solutions (based on blockchain). There are various technical shortcomings involving the current financial infrastructure in areas of privacy protection and the system security against malicious attacks.”
The creation of the Standard Blockchain System Function Test shows that China is on the forefront when compared with governments around the world, in regards to regulatory and development solutions. While many governments are struggling to regulate blockchain projects, China has taken a decisive stance and developed extensive guidelines and tests to validate the previously uncharted technology. The certification provides a standard that can be used by the general public and other enterprises to judge the foundation of the projects that otherwise would be difficult without the knowledge and manpower to independently conduct the validation.
Currently there is no obligation for any project to apply for certification, but those that do apply undergo rigorous testing and scrutiny to verify the quality of all aspects of the technology. Upon having an application approved, the project will then receive a visit from specialized government agents who complete a comprehensive process consisting of over 40 pages of tests and analysis. The test is so complex and difficult that a pass constitutes of a score above 60%. From application to certification, the process takes almost 4 months. Out of an unverified number of applicants, only 30 projects have received certification over the course of the past 2 years.
Aelf is the latest to receive certification and is the first international blockchain focused company to receive the globally recognized status with a score of over 90%. They have now joined the ranks with Lenovo and Alipay. Aelf’s CEO and Founder, Ma Haobo stated, “This certification shows the quality and core ability of not only our developers, but our blockchain platform. It is designed to meet the strict quality large enterprises are given to expect, and indeed require, to ensure they can function at the performance their clients expect.” He went on to explain that this certification is something other governments should take notice of and employ to aid in their ever-evolving regulatory solutions.
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