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Everyone wants to invest in open-source startups now

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Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

Ready? Let’s talk money, startups and spicy IPO rumors.

Happy weekend, everyone. I hope that your week wasn’t too hectic and that you are getting a good recharge in. That said, we have a lot to talk about.

Something that has been cropping up more and more in my inbox, SMS folder and Twitter DMs are venture rounds from startups with an open-source backbone. Essentially, startups have roots in an open-source project, often with the progenitors of that open tech inside the company itself.

A good example of this at the very end stage of the startup world was Confluent. The company went public this week to pretty good effect, pricing above its IPO range and later appreciating further. Confluent is predicated on the open-source tech Kafka, which you’ve probably heard of.

The Exchange caught up with Mike Volpi of Index Ventures, an early backer of Confluent, on the company’s IPO day. During our chat, we got to nibble on the open-source (OSS) startup world, which Volpi said changed dramatically in recent years. From his telling, venture investors back in 2015 weren’t too hyped about open-source startups, arguing that there already was one (Red Hat), and that that was going to be roughly about it.

If we did our math correctly, Index wound up with a stake worth in excess of $1 billion in Confluent at its IPO price. So, the haters were wrong about OSS.

That said, Volpi added that while he’s as bullish on open-source-focused startups as before, the market has become increasingly picked over as more investors pile into backing the model. That inventors are putting more money to work in the space is not a surprise if you’ve been reading startup funding coverage. BuildBuddy is an example that I wrote about last December. Ron covered Tecton and Airbyte recently.

The trend of venture interest in OSS has been building for some time. Hell, VCs wrote about an explosion of open-source startups for TechCrunch back in 2017. But the Confluent IPO and the recent wave of funding rounds for startups in the space seem to indicate that market appetite for such companies has reached a new, higher plateau. (If you are building an OSS-focused startup and recently raised capital, say hi.)

More on Confluent’s IPO

The Exchange also spoke with Confluent CEO Jay Kreps on his company’s IPO day. A few notes from that chat are worth our time. Here are our key takeaways:

Investing is never going back to “normal”: That venture capitalists were able to start doing deals over Zoom was only so surprising. After all, you’d expect your average VC to be somewhat technology savvy. But Kreps said that his IPO roadshow worked well over digital channels, and that he was able to talk to more folks, more quickly than if he had been jet-hopping around the country for face-to-face meetings. If the even more conservative public-market investor set is fine with Zoom, digital pitching is a done deal.
Public markets are still burn friendly: Confluent is a quickly growing software company that is not yet profitable. Its IPO reception is a good indication that losing money remains perfectly acceptable in today’s market. Per Kreps, if you have a huge market — he reckons that Confluent has a $50 billion market to attack — and can show that capital is being invested — CEO code for not being utterly torched by an inefficient business model and cost structure — then losses are just fine. This matters for Q3 IPO hopefuls who have more growth than net income. Which is most of them.
Even public investors like open source: The Exchange also asked Kreps about being an open-source company approaching the public markets. Was it a positive or negative? A positive, per the CEO, adding that technology has a history of being built around open standards, which means that OSS fits neatly into historical trends. And he added that because open-source projects can have strong organic momentum, it can help public investors see future growth at the corporate level. Neat.

OK, how about even more open source news?

Hope you like open-source software news, because I have even more for you. Earlier this month, Prefect raised a $32 million Series B. I didn’t get to cover the round when it happened, but did catch up with the company this week for a quick chat.

The company is based around the PrefectCore, an open-source project. PrefectCore helps companies make sure that their data inflow is set up correctly, focusing on things like scheduling, monitoring, logging and so forth. The company calls this sort of work negative engineering; it falls into a dead space of sorts. No one really wants to work on it, per the startup.

Notably, Prefect, instead of offering a hosted version of its open-source project, instead sells a monitoring service. It thinks that hosting OSS projects is a somewhat old-hat way of monetizing such projects. So, instead of selling hosting or feature-gating, the company’s commercial product is an API that tracks what PrefectCore is managing. If it reports all green lights, good shit, you’re in swell shape. If not, you have an issue.

But what matters is that Confluent shows that OSS startups can reach a huge scale and become big IPOs. And Prefect indicates that there may be even more ways to skin the OSS cat when it comes to making money off open-source software.

So, expect more OSS VCs deals to land this year.

Alex

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Egypt’s Minly raises $3.6M to connect celebrities and fans through personalized experiences

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In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a growing trend of creators adopting digital and social media, not just as a supplement to their media presence but also as a cornerstone of their personal brand.

The pandemic has surely accelerated creator economy trends. Many popular artists and figures have had to postpone concerts and live events, subsequently using social media to carry out these activities and engage their fans. Proliferating through Western and far East markets, the creator economy bug, which has made platforms like Cameo and Patreon unicorns, is beginning to take center stage in MENA.

Today, Minly, an Egypt-based creator economy platform, is announcing that it has closed a $3.6 million seed round to allow stars across the MENA region to create authentic, personalized connections with their fans.

The round, which Minly says was oversubscribed, was co-led by 4DX Ventures, B&Y Venture Partners and Global Ventures. It also included participation from unnamed regional funds and angel investors like Scooter Braun, founder of SB Projects, and Jason Finger, co-founder of Seamless and GrubHub. 

Experts say time spent viewing social media surpassed time spent viewing TV within the MENA region. But one shortcoming with social media is that its content often feels mass-produced. When creators make posts, it’s most times void of personalization. In a way, this dilutes the fan experience and limits the extent and number of ways the creator can monetize.

This is where Minly, founded last year by Mohamed El-Shinnawy, Tarek Hosny, Tarek ElGanainy, Ahmed Abbas, and Bassel El-Toukhy, comes in. It provides tools for creators to craft what it calls ‘authentic connections’ with their superfans and audience at scale. “In short, our goal is to eventually deliver tens of millions of unique, unforgettable experiences to fans each year,” El-Shinnawy told TechCrunch.

Shinnawy, who brings more than 15 years of media and technology experience to the table, is the chief technology officer at Minly. He sold his first company, Emerge Technology, to a U.S.-based media company. He has also delivered work for Hollywood’s top studios, such as Sony Pictures, Universal, Disney, Fox and Warner Brothers, while playing a role in the global expansion of Apple TV+, Disney+, and Netflix to the MENA region.

Mohamed El-Shinnawy (co-founder and CTO, Minly)

Minly has experienced rapid growth since launching late last year. It has more than 50,000 users and an impressive list of popular regional celebrities ranging from actors and athletes like Fifi Abdou and Mahmoud Trezeguet to musicians and internet influencers like Assala Nasri and Tamer Hosny.

On the platform, users can buy personalized video messages and shoutouts from these celebrities, and they, in turn, connect with their fans on a more personal level.

We think that we have already differentiated ourselves from other creator economy platforms in the region. We do this by offering the best catalogue of stars and user experience. And our entire team is working hard to grow this gap even further,” said El-Shinnawy on the crop of celebrities Minly has onboarded to the platform

Some of the instances where celebrities connected with their fans on Minly include when actress and dancer Fifi Abdou sent a personal message to one of her biggest fans who has Down syndrome and when Egyptian singer Tamer Hosny made a surprise appearance at two fans’ engagement party in March.

Minly takes a small commission on transactions made through its platform. However, the majority of the transaction price, a figure Minly didn’t disclose, goes directly to creators. And at the same time, Minly urges celebrities to automatically donate a portion of their earnings to partner charities on the platform.

Minly’s knack for creating a personalized experience is why Pan-African VC firm 4DX Ventures invested. The firm’s co-founder and general partner Peter Orth, who will be joining Minly’s board, said the company is fundamentally changing the relationship between celebrities and fans in the MENA region. “The team has both the ambition and the expertise to build a full-stack digital interaction platform that could change the way digital content is created and consumed in the region,” he added. 

The creator economy market surpassed $100 billion in value this year and is still growing at an impressive rate. The pace of content creation will only speed up since surveys suggest that being a YouTuber or TikTokker or the most common term, vlogger, is one the most desirable careers among Gen Zs. VC heavyweights like Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Partners, and Tiger Global have also heralded this growth considerably, contributing to the more than $2 billion invested in creator economy platforms this year.

In MENA, there’s a huge opportunity for Minly. The region has over 450 million people, of which 30% are between the ages of 18 to 30. This demographic is known to have a deep connection with social media, and El-Shinnawy believes MENA will soon contribute to a large part of the total creator economy.

For Minly, the goal is to capture a huge portion of that spend and become a multibillion-dollar, category-leading company. The creator platform has a case to do so. As it stands, the opportunity to build a creator economy one-stop-shop in MENA is huge compared to other regions that already have multiple entrenched incumbents. Also, Minly is one of the few platforms in the region with meaningful venture funding.

“The creator economy is in its infancy and growing at lightning speed. We have the opportunity to build this category’s first unicorn in MENA,” the CTO remarked.

With this investment, Minly is doubling down on building local celebrity acquisition teams in Egypt and other parts across MENA and the GCC, where it has seen significant traction. The company will also scale its engineering team to churn out more products to build a horizontal creator platform.

 

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Do tech mafias need a modern refresh?

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Rumor has it, if you whisper mafia to a venture capitalist or tech reporter, a seed investment and headline appears within minutes. That process quickly turns into seconds if the mafia reference includes the letters S, T, R, I, P and E before it.

Tech mafias, otherwise known as a group of early employees within a company who spin out to start their own, independently successful companies, became a popularized term thanks to PayPal in the early 2000s. As my lede alludes, the term has since become a cliche of sorts. Everything is a mafia, including you, dear Startups Weekly newsletter subscribers. Jokes aside, I’d argue the term is still a helpful way to track the way talent moves in the ever-growing world of startups.

Many venture capitalists have been making subtle, and not-so-subtle efforts, to back the next cohort of star employees turned star entrepreneurs. Wave Capital originally began as an institutional venture capital fund explicitly for Airbnb alumni starting new companies. Ross Fubini of XYZ Ventures introduced Palantir’s first business hire to its first engineer and now invests in the community out of his fund. Eric Tarczynski of Contrary Capital launched Contrary Talent, a program that helps early career professionals navigate the world of entrepreneurship.

This newsletter was going to be about the undercovered mafias that are brewing in tech, but a recent exchange with some of you on Twitter took me in an entirely new direction. Check out the thread if you want to know the next mafioso, but today, I want to explore a more modern way to think about these entities.

Glamorization of mafias

Image Credits: Britt Erlanson / Getty Images

Rebekah Bastian, the chief executive and founder of OwnTrail, isn’t the biggest fan of mafias — even though she’s technically a part of one herself. The first-time founder was the former Zillow VP of Product and VP of Community & Culture who thinks that the growing world of mafias comes with some problematic truths.

“While it’s true that these ‘mafias’ are good for the people within them and often touted with pride, there are reasons that they are problematic from an equity perspective,” she said. First, she pointed to how hiring from and funding employees from a given company, if that company doesn’t have diverse representation (particularly at the leadership level), propagates the inequitable cycles of who is getting hired and funded. Second, she thinks that the press focuses on startups coming out of these companies that serve a privileged subset of the population, instead of mission-focused ones.

What do you think? Her argument is essentially to not glamorize the concept of hiring within existing networks, because if white, male entrepreneurs only hire from within their existing networks, the resulting company will look and act white and male. On the flip side, and this is what gets me excited, underrepresented founders who raise millions of dollars, suddenly have the power to usher in an entirely different group of techies into this world. The Glossier mafia would look quite different than the PayPal mafia.

As I said before, I think “mafias” are certainly a compelling way to track how talent moves. I don’t think we should stop paying attention to the phenomenon or shame people for being opportunistic about alumni groups. It’s how the world works. Instead, I think that there’s hope that problems inherent to them are changing as founding groups themselves become more diverse. To Bastian’s point, I think there’s a way to be more intentional about what is idolized and what is not.

A new descriptor

A few people also mentioned that we should start using a different word to describe this dynamic instead of “mafia” due to its more nefarious connotations. Here’s a list of your best suggestions:

Tribe
Chaos
Cabal
Expats
Posse

Let me know what you think about all of the above by responding to @nmasc_. In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll chat about BuzzFeed’s SPAC, the early-stage venture market and GM’s startup incubator strategy.

The public market gets buzzed

Image Credits: Malte Mueller / Getty Images

We kicked off Equity Live this week with a hot news item: BuzzFeed is going public via a SPAC and will merge with 890 Fifth Avenue Partners Inc., a publicly traded company. BuzzFeed also disclosed that it will purchase Complex, another media company, for $300 million in cash and shares in BuzzFeed itself; the SPAC deal will help finance its purchase of Complex.

Here’s what to know: Alex gave you five takeaways from BuzzFeed’s SPAC deck so you can better understand what’s going on, beyond the cat pictures and fun quizzes.

As for other public market news, subscribe to The Exchange written by Alex, which includes a smattering of the below:  

Investors’ thirst for growth could bode well for SentinelOne’s IPO
SPAC charts are exercises in the limits of hype

Late to the early-stage party?

Image Credits: belterz (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

No worries. Here’s what to put on your early-stage bingo board: emerging fund managers are popping off thanks to new capital support, Li Jin of Atelier Ventures has a must-read thread, and even as summer is in swing, deals still feel frenetic. 

Here’s what else to know: Kirsten took Extra Crunch readers inside GM’s startup incubator strategy, including how they take early concepts and turn them into startups and the company’s favorite messy-stage ideas.

Around TC

Next week, we’re taking you to Pittsburgh to hear from Karin Tsai, the head of engineering there, as well as Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian, Mayor Bill Peduto and a smattering of local startups.

Our TC City Spotlight: Pittsburgh event will be held on June 29, so make sure to register here (for free) to listen to these conversations, enjoy the pitch-off and network with local talent.

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

Andreessen Horowitz triples down on blockchain startups with massive $2.2 billion Crypto Fund III
Edtech startups and VCs rally around a memo of their own
An interview with a leading venture capitalist
Facebook adds Shops to WhatsApp, among other e-commerce updates

Seen on Extra Crunch

Investor Marlon Nichols and Wonderschool’s Chris Bennett on getting to the point with a pitch deck 
Musculoskeletal medical startups race to enter personalized health tech market
Practice agile, iterative change to refine products and build company culture
Reform your startup’s meeting culture

Thanks all,

N

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This Week in Apps: Android apps on Windows 11, App Store Search Ads hit China, Apple argues against sideloading

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Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This week, there’s big news with the expansion of Android apps to Windows. Apple also came out swinging against sideloading and expanded its profitable Search Ads business to China…with more than a few caveats. Meanwhile, TikTok launched its own take on mini-apps after tests, making its videos more interactive.

This Week in Apps will soon be a newsletter! Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

Microsoft brings Android apps to Windows 11

Image Credits: Microsoft

Microsoft surprised industry observers this week at its Windows 11 event with news that it will make Android apps available on the next version of its operating system. The apps will run natively on Windows 11 and can be downloaded from Amazon’s Appstore through the new Windows Store included in the updated OS. They’ll also be able to be integrated into the Start menu and pinned to the taskbar, and can tile or “window” as part of the OS’s new application placement user interface.

The Amazon partnership will bring increased attention to the Amazon Appstore, whose importance has somewhat fizzled over the years given the general lack of investment and its close ties to Amazon Fire devices, which are outsold by iPad. App developers today tend to focus initially on the App Store and Google Play, not Amazon’s Appstore. However, bringing some 3 million Android apps to Windows users opens up a huge new potential market for Android. But could it actually make coding for “iOS first” less of a given for certain types of applications — like those that complement the productivity environment enabled by a Windows PC, perhaps?

In the near-term, more consumers may begin to sideload the Amazon Appstore app on their Android devices for their paid app installs in order to gain access to the cross-platform support a Google Play version would not necessarily provide.

Microsoft noted during the event that it’s partnering with Intel to use its Intel Bridge technology to make this Appstore integration possible on x86 systems. However, the Intel-powered apps will also run on AMD and Arm processors, The Verge noted, though the technical details of how that will work were not immediately available.

Microsoft during the event demonstrated how the app integration would work by showing off TikTok running in a vertical format on the new Windows OS. This may not have been the best example, as TikTok has a fairly usable website for watching videos. Meanwhile, the image of the Amazon Appstore in the Windows Store showed other apps including those from Ring, Uber, Yahoo, Khan Academy, Kindle, Game of War: Fire Age, My Talking Tom Friends, and more, which indicates this is a comprehensive rollout.

Ahead of this news, Amazon announced it would soon lower its cut on app developer revenues from 30% to 20%, as part of a new program for small businesses. The program, which also includes promotional credits for AWS, could help boost developer support for the Appstore. Plus, on the larger Windows Store, non-game developers can keep 100% of their revenue if they use their own payment platforms for in-app purchases. Apps and games using Microsoft’s payment platform split revenue with the company at 85%/15% and 88%/12%, respectively. This sort of commission structure combined with the introduction of Android apps makes the Windows Store seem more developer-friendly than Apple’s App Store, which Microsoft likely hopes will keep it out of antitrust crosshairs.

Apple launches Search Ads in China

Apple this week brought its search advertising business to China five years after its U.S. debut. The system allows developers to bid on an advertising slot based on keywords users search for in the App Store. Though the move opens up a major new market for app developers, the system in China is fairly complex and comes with several caveats. Developers will need to upload documents, including business licenses and other files, that confirm their account has been approved before being able to run ads. Apple may then submit these documents to third-party databases and government entities for validation.

According to Apple’s guidelines, the industry-specific licenses required exclude most foreign businesses from directly advertising in mainland China. Instead, they’ll need to work with local partners who will run ads on their behalf.

The expansion for now only includes the Search Ads in the App Store and not the newly added Search Tab ads, where developers can bid on a slot directly on the Search tab in the App Store itself.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

Apple released iOS 15 beta 2 and iPadOS 15 beta 2 for app developers. New features include support for SharePlay, updated Memoji outfits, a new Maps icon, a welcome screen in the updated Weather app, access to launch Quick Note with a swipe from bottom-right on iPad, Shortcuts improvements, bug fixes for iCloud Private Relay, and more. WatchOS 8 beta 2 was also released.

The iOS 15 beta code also revealed Apple is working on a feature that will allow users to update to a beta release when restoring a device from backup instead of being told that you can’t use backups of newer iOS versions.

iOS and iPad apps will now be able to request privileged access to more RAM in iOS 15, exceeding normal system memory limits, 9to5Mac also discovered.

Apple this week published a white paper (PDF) where it presents its argument against any legislation that would force the company to allow sideloading of apps on iOS or iPadOS devices outside its App Store. While there are consumer benefits to allowing for choice — like getting your hands on apps that don’t fit Apple’s rules, for example — Apple makes the case that sideloading could compromise user privacy and security in a number of ways, including potentially opening up users to being scammed and making it more difficult for parents to lock down kids’ iPhones, among other things. Pirated apps could also eat into legitimate developer revenue, not to mention Apple’s own. Apple’s Director of User Privacy Erik Neuenschwander went into further detail with Fast Company about Apple’s position, noting attackers could even trick users into thinking they were downloading from the App Store when they were not.

Platforms: Google

Google’s Android Essentials is now generally available through additional partners in the U.S., the U.K, Japan, France and Germany, with more countries coming soon after a more limited testing period. Essentials makes it easier for companies to manage and secure Android devices in the workplace by enabling features like remote wiping of lost or stolen devices, enforcing a screen lock, and preventing sideloading of applications.

Google opened its Play Media Experience Program globally. The program allows developers to invest in scaling their services beyond mobile to reach other devices including experiences across Video (Android TV, Google TV, Google Cast); Audio (Wear OS, Android Auto, Android TV, Google Cast); and Books (tablets, foldables, integration with the new Entertainment Space.)

E-commerce

Facebook announced a trio of new commerce features this week, including the expansion of its Shops service to WhatsApp as well as Marketplace in the U.S.; Shop Ads, including AR try-on ads in the U.S., and an A.I.-based Visual Search feature on Instagram, where users can upload photos to find similar items.

Augmented Reality

Apple launches an AR-enabled Snapchat Lens to promote Apple Pay Express Transit in New York. The Lens lets users ride the subway through Kings Theater in Flatbush, the Sea Glass Carousel in Battery Park, and the Great Hall at the New York City Hall of Science.

TikTok and Spotify teamed up with makeup brand MAC on a digital campaign that offers an AR lens with lip colors users can virtually try on. The campaign involves MAC’s Love Me Liquid Lipcolor and is running in the U.K. across both apps.

Social

TikTok launched its own mini-app integrations. With its new Jump feature, creators can add interactive third-party integrations to their videos from services like Whisk, Quizlet, Breathwrk, StatMuse, Tabelog, BuzzFeed, Jumprope, IRL and WATCHA.

Instagram said it’s testing a new feature in English-speaking markets that will mix Suggested Posts into your Feed. The company will use its algorithmic suggestions to help point people to accounts they may want to follow, with an apparent goal of increasing time spent in the app.

Twitter announced a new feature will make it possible to share tweets directly to Instagram Stories. To use the feature, which is only on iOS for now, you’ll tap the share icon on a tweet and select “Instagram Stories.” When the Instagram app opens, you can resize or reposition the tweet sticker before posting.

Snap made a deal with Universal Music Group. The deal allows Snapchat users to add song clips from the UMG catalog to their Snaps and on Spotlight, Snap’s TikTok rival.

Twitter has opened up applications for U.S. users who want to test its Ticketed Spaces and Super Follows features. The company said only a “small group” will be able to test the features for the time being. Super Follows lets creators charge $2.99, $4.99, or $9.99 per month for exclusive content. Ticketed Spaces lets creators charge between $1-$999 for access to live audio rooms.

Messaging

Newly relaunched mobile app Squad debuted an audio-based mobile messenger that allows friends to send voice messages to one another that expire after 14 hours.

Dating

After a handful of competitors took on Tinder with video-based dating, Tinder this week introduced a feature that allows daters to upload up to nine videos to their profiles. It also added a speed-dating feature called “Hot Takes” that lets unmatched users chat for a short period before swiping left or right, from 6 pm to midnight on weekdays.

Streaming & Entertainment

YouTube for iOS is officially gaining support for picture-in-picture in the U.S. The feature will allow all users, both free and paid, to watch YouTube while using other apps on their iPhone.

Clubhouse was spotted working on DM text chat feature called Backchannel that would allow users a new way to connect.

Kuaishou, the operator of China’s second-largest short-form video app behind TikTok (Douyin in China), reaches 1 billion monthly active users. The company says the MAU figure includes all of its existing platforms in China, plus its Kwai and Snack Video apps in international markets.

Wattpad and WEBTOON merged their studio divisions to create Wattpad WEBTOON Studios. The deal follows South Korea-based Naver’s recent acquisition of Wattpad in a transaction estimated to be more than USD$600 million, which aligns the two storytelling and entertainment divisions. Both will benefit from the company’s data-driven approach to sourcing content from storytelling apps to turn into TV shows, movies and books.

Gaming

New titles came to Google Stadia, including Madden NFL 2022 — the first sports title to launch on a cloud gaming platform. Google Stadia’s Android TV app also launched on the Play Store with a “Coming Soon” message.

Player spending in U.S. mobile sports games rose 16% year-over-year to $648.8 million, according to Sensor Tower data. The top app by player spending in the U.S. between June 1, 2020 and May 31, 2021 was Golf Clash from Playdemic, which generated $132.8 million. The No. 2 and No. 3 grossing Sports titles were 8 Ball Pool from Miniclip and Fishing Clash from Ten Square Games.

More than half of the $175 billion earned by the games industry this year will come from mobile games, per Newzoo and Arm’s annual report. Mobile games will be increasingly high-fidelity and cross-platform, the report said.

Classic mobile game Jetpack Joyride is also being added to Apple Arcade, following a recent announcement that more classic games would be soon added to the subscription gaming service.

Health & Fitness

Google and the state of Massachusetts got busted by silently installing the state’s COVID-tracking service, MassNotify, on users’ devices without consent. The auto-installed version isn’t an app and instead is only available as a setting users could enable or disable.

Government & Policy

Indian microblogging app Koo is selling itself as a partisan Twitter alternative in Nigeria by supporting government restrictions on social media platforms.

A French court has set a date in the case over allegedly abusive App Store developer contracts brought by the finance ministry against Apple. The hearing will take place Sept 17, 2021, and could influence Apple’s decision to change developer terms and agreements.

Google may soon face antitrust claims over its Play Store from several U.S. states, Reuters reported. A group of state attorneys general may file a lawsuit against Google as early as next week, the report claims, citing sources. The investigation is being led by Utah, Tennessee, North Carolina and New York.

Security & Privacy

Enterprise customers using Jamf to manage Macs gained access to a new Jamf Unlock app for iPhone, which allows users to unlock their Macs using Face ID on their iPhone.

Funding and M&A

MAJORITY raised $19 million in seed funding for its mobile banking service for migrants. The app offers a $5 per month subscription that offers an FDIC-insured bank account, debit card, mobile credit, and at-cost international calls. The round was led by Valar Ventures, with participation from Avid Ventures, Heartcore Capital and several Nordic fintech founders.

Mobile commerce startup Via raised $15 million in Series A funding for its suite of mobile marketing tools for e-commerce apps. The round was led by led by Footwork, the new venture firm co-founded by former Stitch Fix COO Mike Smith and former Shasta Ventures investor Nikhil Basu Trivedi. The startup has generated $51 million in sales since May 2020.

Viva Republica, the maker of Korean financial super app Toss, raised $410 million at a $7.4 billion valuation. The app offers standard neobanking features, as well as P2P payments, money transfers, loans and more.

Sporttrade raised $36 million for its sports betting and stock trading combo service, which is set to release its app in New Jersey later this year. Investors included former heads of Nasdaq and MGM Resorts.

EA is acquiring Warner Bros. Games’ Playdemic mobile games studio for $1.4 billion in cash. Playdemic is best known for “Golf Clash,” a top mobile game in the U.S. and U.K. with over 80 million installs to date.

Charlotte, N.C.-based mobile payments platform Payzer raised $19.5 million according to an SEC filing. The company offers an end-to-end management platform for contractors on a subscription basis.

Happs raised $4.7 million in post-seed funding for its multicast livestream platform aimed at the creator economy. Users can broadcast live to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Twitch simultaneously via the app, and view live comments from all supported social media sites.

 Amazon’s AWS is acquiring  the secure messaging app Wickr, which has been providing services to government and military groups and enterprises. Wickr had raised just under $60 million in funding, per Pitchbook data.

Downloads

Brave

Image Credits: Brave

Alternative browser Brave this week introduced its own search service, Brave Search, now available in beta across all platforms — including web, Android and iOS. The service is different from other search engines because it does not track or profile users, and it leverages its own search index for answering queries instead of relying on other providers. Its ranking algorithms will be community-curated and open. Soon, it will also offer options for both an ad-free paid search and an ad-supported search option, allowing users to decide how they want to proceed.

Brave Search was announced in March when Brave acquired Tailcat. The company says the new service will later this year become the default in the Brave browser.

Moonbeam

Image Credits: Moonbeam

Kayak’s co-founder Paul English this week officially launched Moonbeam, a podcast discovery app that leverages a combination of machine learning and human curation to create a newsfeed-style stream of audio content, similar to Podz. Podcasters can also select clips of their shows to feature on the app. Plus, the app allows fans to tip creators directly — and Moonbeam doesn’t take a cut. The app learns what sort of podcasts you may like based on how you interact with those it features, so your recommendations improve over time. Moonbeam can also serve as your podcast player, offering the ability to play back full episodes.

Reading Rec’s

A very brief history of every Google messaging app by The Verge: Over a decade and a half, Google has introduced over a dozen messaging services — so don’t feel back if you can’t keep up with what Hangouts and Chat are these days.
Uber, Lyft Drivers Race to Apps that Make Contract Work a Better Gig by The Wall Street Journal. The report examines the adoption of mobile apps that help contractors track their pay, keep tabs on events and foot traffic at airports, turn phones into dash cams, dispute passenger complaints and more.
Companies navigate ethical minefield to build proof of vaccination apps by TechCrunch’s Ron Miller. An examination of the problems facing the companies trying to build vaccine passport apps, including a lack of consensus over ethical questions, the various laws in different U.S. states, practical issues, and more.
Annotating Apple’s Anti-Sideloading White Paper by Daring Fireball. John Gruber adds his thoughts on Apple’s arguments against this sort of system.

Tweets

Feels very much like Amazon and Microsoft trying to team up to take on Apple. https://t.co/ELWCrYcK0c

— Dan Moren (@dmoren) June 24, 2021

Gives a boost to Amazon for more developers who will want apps there to leverage Windows. Probably most important partnership announced

— Michael Gartenberg (@Gartenberg) June 24, 2021

App Store revolution has been temporarily delayed.
Screenshots are back for the installed apps in the search results in iOS 15.0 beta 2 pic.twitter.com/DDvk1brQgK

— ilia kukharev (@ilyakuh) June 25, 2021

(Quick, painful aside: On the podcast I explained that Apple completely broke the method @LaunchCenterPro has been using for Home Screen customization. We now have to remove the feature from the app and somehow explain it to our users who paid for that feature. It’s crushing.) pic.twitter.com/k5nOVZHDXz

— David Barnard (@drbarnard) June 23, 2021

Original Source: feedproxy.google.com

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