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Google Inc. Plans to Make Its Self-Driving Cars Unit

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Google Inc. plans to make its self-driving cars unit, which will offer rides for hire, a stand-alone business under the Alphabet Inc. corporate umbrella next year, a person briefed on the company’s strategy said.

Google’s autonomous vehicles have logged more than 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) on public roads, mostly around San Francisco and Austin, Texas, making these cities logical places for launching a service, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. The fleets ­– which would include a range of large and small vehicles — could be deployed first in confined areas like college campuses, military bases or corporate office parks, the person said.

The race to develop a self-driving vehicle fleet has intensified since February when Bloomberg reported that Google was developing a rival to Uber Technologies Inc., most likely in conjunction with its driverless-car project. Uber is pursuing its own autonomous capabilities, while automakers are deploying semi-autonomous technologies and experimenting with so-called shared mobility.

By challenging ride-sharing pioneers like Uber and Lyft Inc., as well as traditional taxis, Google is providing the clearest indication yet how it plans to make money from self-driving automotive technologies that it began testing in 2009. Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano declined to comment.

Self-Standing Business

In August, the Mountain View, California-based company reorganized itself into a conglomerate called Alphabet. The company said it plans to spin out several of its advanced-technology units into stand-alone companies within the Alphabet portfolio, including its robotics division, its health-care company Verily, the Google Ventures and Google Capital investment firms, and Google Inc., the search-engine company. The company’s self-driving car unit now resides in the research division called Google X.

In September, Google X hired John Krafcik, an auto-industry veteran, as chief executive officer of its cars project. Krafcik was then working as president of TrueCar Inc., the online auto-shopping service. He’d previously been a senior sales executive at Hyundai Motor Co. and a truck engineer at Ford Motor Co. He didn’t respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

When announcing Krafcik’s hiring in September, Google said it had no immediate plans to make self-driving cars a free-standing business unit, but that it was “a good candidate to become one at some point in the future.” Google executives have said they have no plans to mass-produce cars and trucks.

In the meantime, Uber is spending some of the more than $10 billion it has raised in private markets to develop self-driving cars. Uber has recruited dozens of autonomous-vehicle researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics program and in June hired Brian McClendon, Google’s former vice president of engineering, to run Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center. But Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick acknowledged at a conference in October that Google has the lead in developing a robot car.

Google executives have said they’re interested in self-driving cars primarily to reduce traffic accidents, which claim about 33,000 lives in the U.S. each year.

Google and Alphabet co-founder Sergey Brin suggested in September that self-driving cars could first appear in the form of a service, saying it would let a lot of people try the technology and that having “the vehicle come back to us every day” meant Google could rapidly update the machines.

Bloomberg

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Fund Raising

E-commerce Startup Sendbox Raises $1.8M to Digitise Deliveries for African SMEs

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Sendbox, the Nigeria-based e-commerce fulfilment platform for merchants in Africa, has announced the completion of a $1.8 million seed round from investors, including 4DX Ventures, Enza Capital, FJLabs and Golden Palm Investments.

With participation from Flexport and YC Combinator as part of its 2021 winter cohort, Sendbox’s total investment raised has now reached $2 million following a pre-seed round from Microtraction and 4DX Ventures in 2018.

Starting with logistics and fulfilment, Sendbox is building the operating system for e-commerce in Africa. Launched in 2018, the company provides affordable access to local and international delivery options for small-scale merchants selling on e-commerce and social media platforms. Accessible to iOS and Android users, via the web application, on Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and other e-commerce platforms, and through developer APIs, Sendbox is providing a single location to manage both local deliveries and international shipments to the EU, UK, US and Canada.

To date, over 10,000 Nigerian SMEs have sent 200,000 products through Sendbox, saving on average 30-40 percent per item by eliminating the need to work with separate logistics providers. Through its delivery management platform, which aggregates logistics providers and enables tracking, the company also offers a solution for merchants who lack the high volumes required to attract discounted delivery fees.

The next stage of the company’s growth will see a move towards financing & payments, followed by e-commerce & marketplace integrations across West Africa and further afield. According to the company, the new funding will be used to expand the company’s operations in other countries across West Africa, bolster the development of its product range, and hire new talent.

Commenting on Sendbox’s fundraise and growth ambitions, Emotu Balogun, CEO and Co-Founder of Sendbox said, “No matter where in the world customers are, we want African SMEs to be able to reach them.” He continues, “Deliveries in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Ibadan have made up a large proportion of business for our domestic merchants. On top of that, affordable access to the UK, EU, US, and Canada has created an opportunity to sell products to hundreds of millions of previously unreachable buyers. With this fund, we aim to support more and more SMEs and help them grow both locally and internationally, scaling alongside them as we connect African merchants with a global community of consumers.”

“African e-commerce is accelerating faster than anybody could have imagined a decade ago, and it needs smart solutions to ensure that logistics and fulfilment capacity doesn’t lag behind,” said Walter Baddoo, Co-Founder and General Partner at 4DX Ventures. “Not only were we impressed by Sendbox’s 300 percent year-on-year growth since launch, but we’re seeing the market potential balloon with over 40 million Nigerian SMEs and a projected industry value for social and e-commerce reaching $45 billion on the continent by 2025.”

Prolific mobile penetration on the continent, the rise of social media and knock-on impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted additional momentum towards e-commerce and social commerce, doubling monthly revenues for Sendbox since March 2020.

Made in Africa products are now in higher demand across local and international markets. With 200 million Instagram users and 1 million Instagram businesses in Nigeria alone, Sendbox is well-positioned to serve this growing market and multiply its merchant count over the coming months.

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Fintech

Interswitch Unveils Whitepaper on Blockchain Technology Plans To Drive Growth of African Businesses

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Africa’s leading integrated digital payment and e-commerce company, Interswitch Group, has unveiled its whitepaper on blockchain technology titled “Blockchain Technology: The Future of Africa’s Digital Economy” to help drive the growth of African businesses.

The white paper document contains details on how businesses can leverage blockchain technology to transform their businesses and the prospects it portends for the future of Africa’s digital economy.

Blockchain technology is a digital ledger that stores transactions. Essentially, it is a digital system for recording transactions in multiple places at the same time thereby making it impossible to falsify the data stored on it.

Akeem Lawal, Managing Director, Transaction Switching and Payment Processing at Interswitch commented, “The whitepaper document was inspired by the need to demystify the ambiguity around blockchain technology for African businesses thereby driving digitization and socio-economic growth across African markets. We are passionate about empowering Africans and advancing the African payment landscape, and we are consistently identifying opportunities and exploring innovative ways to enable businesses to transform and scale.”

He revealed that the whitepaper document encapsulates the benefits of blockchain technology and how it will help strengthen businesses because of its efficiency, better security in keeping records, and safety.

He further said: “While the blockchain technology is a relatively new phenomenon in Nigeria and Africa, we are particularly excited about our partnership with Interstellar with whom we are developing a native blockchain infrastructure that is tailored to suit the African market. This initiative will deepen digital payment, lower the cost of local and cross border payment as well as champion the cause for localization of emerging technology”.

He urged everyone to read the whitepaper document because it addresses existing challenges in the Fintech sector and simplifies the use of blockchain technology in unraveling these challenges. Download the whitepaper here.

Blockchain technology is evolving globally and businesses are integrating blockchain technology into their business infrastructure.

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Technology

Zoom Retains Pandemic Gains and Doubles Half-Year Revenue to Nearly $2B

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Despite security concerns and reports of possibly problematic ties to Chinese authorities, Zoom Video Communications remained a major beneficiary of the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, video conferencing apps saw an unprecedented surge in usage, with Zoom as one of the most popular options available. The impressive growth continued in 2021, driving the company’s revenues to all-time highs.

According to data presented by StockApps, Zoom Video Communications generated nearly $2bn in revenue in the first half of 2021, more than double compared to the same period a year ago.

Quarterly Revenue Surpassed $1 Billion for the First Time

Despite many workers returning to their offices once fully vaccinated, companies worldwide continue using a hybrid work model, which has proven effective in keeping the business going during the pandemic and became popular with workers who embraced the new freedom of working from anywhere.

This enormous shift has allowed Zoom Video Communications to hold on to its pandemic gains. The company’s financial report showed Zoom saw its revenue skyrocket throughout the fiscal year ended January 31, 2021.

After an impressive 169% YoY jump in the Q1 FY2021, revenue growth accelerated to 355%, 367% and 369% in the second, third, and fourth quarters of the year. Statistics show that in the twelve months ended January 31, Zoom’s revenue amounted to $2.65bn, up from $623 million the previous year. Moreover, the video conferencing company ended the year with a net profit of $671 million, up from just $22 million in fiscal 2020.

The impressive growth continued in the FY2022, with the company’s revenue surging to $956 million in the first quarter, showing a massive 191% increase year-over-year. In the next three months, Zoom hit a new benchmark, with its quarterly revenue rising to over $1 billion for the first time.

Revenues Rise While Market Cap Drops

Analyzed by geography, the Americas remain Zoom’s largest market, with a 67% revenue share in Q2 FY2022. Statistics show users from this region generated $681 million in revenue, up from $454 million in the same period a year ago. EMEA countries ranked second with $205 million in revenue and a 20% share. The APAC region follows, with $135 million in revenue, respectively.

However, while revenues continue rising, the company’s stock price has been hugely affected by security concerns and reports of possibly problematic ties to Chinese authorities. According to YCharts, the market cap of the video conferencing company hit $76bn last week, which is 53% less than its all-time high of $161.5bn in October 2020.

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