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Facebook Ready To Launch Digital Wallet This Year

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Facebook is ready to launch a digital wallet that would let users store cryptocurrencies, a senior company executive said in a US media interview Wednesday.

David Marcus, head of Facebook’s crypto unit, told The Information news site that company leaders “feel pretty committed” to launch the digital wallet called Novi this year.

Marcus said he would have preferred to release Novi alongside Diem, a digital currency tied to the dollar that the company is also developing, but Diem’s timing was uncertain.

“In theory, Novi could launch before Diem, but it would mean launching without Diem and that’s not necessarily something that we want to do,” Marcus told The Information.

“It all depends on how long it’s going to take for Diem to actually go live and that’s not something I’m personally looking after.”

In 2019 Facebook said it plans to introduce a cryptocurrency that at the time was called Libra. The project however faced regulatory resistance over concerns about security and reliability.

In December 2020 the Libra changed its name to Diem and moved its operations from Switzerland to the United States as part of a “strategic shift.”

Social Media

YouTube To Generate Over $280 Million From US Premium Subscribers In 2021

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Youtube - Investors King

YouTube Premium is starting to generate sustainable revenues from its paid ad-free subscription services. It took more than six years since relaunch to see significant growth. 

A recent report projects that with an estimated 23.6 million unique users by the end of 2021, revenues are expected to climb to $282.96 million in the US alone, representing an impressive +18% Year-Over-Year (YoY) growth.

Premium subscriptions are projected to top 25 million unique users by the end of next year, exceeding $300 million in revenues. By the end of 2024, totalling $334.52 million with nearly 28 million sign-ups. The projected revenues are expected to keep a steady growth after 2023.

Video streaming services are gaining popularity, growth accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic

In addition to promising growth in the US, YouTube Premium services reached 50 million subscribers globally since September, beating an important milestone. YouTube Premium’s recent success can be attributed to both Covid-related, as well as non-Covid-related factors.

The global video streaming market is expected to expand at a 21% growth rate between 2021 and 2028 – highly driven by the increase in smartphone and internet usage. Live-streaming, music streaming, the adoption of cloud-based solutions could all be contributing factors.

The HelpCenter app’s co-founder Ernestas Petkevicius commented on the continuous growth of YouTube Premium:

“YouTube is playing in its own category. I do not see any competition for user-generated content which is now the main driver of tutoring, know-how, and news/comments. YouTube has lots of quality content and an army of creators who rely on the platform as their main source of income. Music services and ad-free mode are only an extra catalyst for revenue growth. YouTube has no competitors when it comes to these services, therefore, the revenue numbers potentially could be much bigger.”

In terms of market shares, 39% of the video streaming market is found to be driven by the US and Canada, which would explain the US-driven revenue growth of 18% Year-over-Year (YoY). What is more, subscription-model accounted for 43% revenue share of the total video streaming services in 2020.

Music streaming is another possible factor for revenue growth from premium sign-ups. Music streaming market in isolation is expected to reach a good 9.8% growth between 2021 and 2027.

And even though video streaming was popular prior to the pandemic, the extreme acceleration in growth has been due to the COVID-19 crisis. As many countries declared nationwide lockdowns, people stayed home more, thus increasing the use of digital services like social media, as well as online video streaming. Consumer engagement on social media video sharing platforms like YouTube grew significantly.

Whether this growth is driven by the all-encompassing features (ad-free videos, YouTube TV, music streaming for $11.99), changes in the consumer behavior, or technological advancements, revenues from YouTube Premium subscriptions in the US are expected to keep growing at a steady rate.

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Fintech CEO: Abdullahi Right to Push Children to Aspire to Tech, But Government Must Set the Table

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Artificial Intelligence

In a speech this month, Nigeria’s Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, spoke to children attending a STEM Training of the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Within the speech, he instructed them to aspire to be like tech innovators Bill Gates and Elon Musk. In the speech, he also noted that there were limited educational offerings in the STEM area, which is why such trainings were necessary.

“There’s no doubt about it. Abdullahi is absolutely correct. Many of our early tech innovators began young at the outset of the industry, developed talents, and grew them into enormous MNCs. All you need to be successful in tech is the ability to create useful, cool things that enhance the lives of the citizenry or the bottom line of companies. If you can do either one, you’ve got something special,” said Richard Gardner, CEO of Modulus, a US-based developer of ultra-high-performance trading and surveillance technology that powers global equities, derivatives, and digital asset exchanges.

“You can start building your own software to be the next Bill Gates, Elon Musk. Some of these technocrats started when computers started and they developed their talents to be where they are today… Develop yourself and stop spending much time watching games. You need to develop the mindset of teamwork with others to learn more and succeed,” Abdullahi said.

“Tech is different from most other segments. It is, for example, much easier to innovate within the tech arena than to build your own insurance company from the ground up. To be successful in tech, you need to work hard and hone your skill set. I’d rather have a recent, self-taught community college graduate who understands how to code than somebody who came from a decades-long career at a top firm with two advanced degrees who, at the end of the day, doesn’t understand today’s technologies. The tech arena truly is the last frontier,” said Gardner.

“However inspirational the speech was, the government has a place in determining how likely a self-starter is to succeed. Do those kids have the STEM-related learning opportunities to succeed? STEM education is a line-item in a budget. That’s a question of resource allocation. Right now, we’re in the midst of a revolution in blockchain technologies. There’s a place where new innovators can build their own niche. Unfortunately, the government in Nigeria has taken a hard line against cryptocurrencies. That’s not to say that the only way to make a name in blockchain is via cryptocurrencies. That’s not true at all. However, if you’re trying to inspire young people to invest in themselves and pursue technological aspirations, that’s a much tougher sell when your government is also making innovation more difficult,” said Gardner.

Modulus is known throughout the financial technology segment as a leader in the development of ultra-high frequency trading systems and blockchain technologies. Over the past twenty years, the company has built technology for the world’s most notable exchanges, with a client list which includes NASA, NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays, Siemens, Shell, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago.

“Let’s be clear. I’m not questioning the message. More kids need to hear it. More kids need to develop STEM skill sets, which will set them up for long, successful careers in technology, the sciences, and engineering. However, I think our leaders need to be cognizant that it isn’t just what they say that matters. Their actions matter just as much. It’s time for action,” said Gardner.

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Releaf Secures $4.2M in Seed Funding Plans To Drive Industrialisation of Food Processing in Africa

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Releaf-Investors King

Nigerian agritech start-up, Releaf, has just announced a $2.7 million seed funding led by Samurai Incubate Africa, Future Africa and Consonance Investment Managers with participation from Stephen Pagliuca, Chairman of Bain Capital and Justin Kan (Twitch).

In addition to the seed round, Releaf also secured $1.5 million in grants from The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) and USAID.

The seed funding will enable the development of industrial food processing technology in Nigeria’s smallholder-driven Oil Palm sector, while the grant will enable Releaf to provide working capital and other value-added services for smallholders and small-scale processors. Grant funding will support the training, recruitment and retention of more women and youth in Nigeria’s Oil Palm sector by creating both digital and technical jobs.

Nigeria’s oil palm industry is dominated by smallholder farmers, with 80 percent of the local market share. However, production rates are low because many still rely on inefficient processes for de-shelling, including the use of rocks and inappropriate hardware. These ineffective processes also lead to low-quality palm kernels, largely unfit as input for high-quality vegetable oil manufacturing. As a result, food factories are unable to purchase these raw materials and operate significantly under capacity. On average, food factories have 3X more installed capacity than utilisation, which impacts the cost of food and further investment into processing capacity.

Releaf acts as a bridge between smallholder farmers and food manufacturing companies with its proprietary patent-pending machinery, Kraken. Kraken can process any quality of palm nut into premium quality (95 percent purity) inputs for food factories. Releaf’s software connects the start-up to more than 2,000 smallholder farmers, ensuring consistent, large-scale supply. While palm kernel oil production is not foreign to Nigeria, Releaf’s technology and scale mean it can process 500 tonnes of palm nuts per week. The software offerings also allow the start-up to receive inbound supply requests from farmers via USSD, provide working capital financing, and collect proprietary data on supply availability.

Speaking about the new funding, Ikenna Nzewi, CEO and co-founder of Releaf, said, “our mandate is to industrialise Africa’s food processing industry. This round of funding enables us to develop and prove our technology with smallholder farmers in the oil palm sector. Given Nigerians spend ~60 percent of their income on food and Africa’s population is set to increase by 100,000 people per day over the next three decades, we’re presented with an incredible opportunity to feed more people, reduce consumer costs, and supply the fastest-growing food market in the world. Releaf is committed to harnessing technology to accelerate the economic wealth of rural, agrarian societies throughout the Continent. We firmly believe that a robust real economy is the foundation for long-lasting and shared prosperity for Africans and are excited to deepen partnerships with like-minded organisations, governments, and firms.”

Rena Yoneyama, Managing Partner at Samurai Incubate Africa who led the round, commented, “Releaf’s novel approach to operating within the value chain with proprietary technology set it aside from many agritech startups we have spoken about to. We believe the firm’s thesis on decentralizing food processing would strongly match Africa’s economic development landscape for the next few decades. Ikenna and Uzo are the perfect founders to disrupt this market in Nigeria and beyond. We are thrilled to back them as they innovate in providing both agro-processing and financial services to rural communities and farmers.”

Iyin Aboyeji, General Partner at Future Africa noted, “more than 50% of the goods in supermarkets globally contain glycerine – an extract made from palm oil – a cash crop that is passed down from generation to generation. The team at Releaf is building the agro-allied industry of the future from the ground up, starting with palm oil which they have developed a novel technology to aggregate, deshell and process into critical ingredients like vegetable oil and glycerine. Future Africa is delighted to back Releaf to build the future of modern agriculture.”

Dr. Nneka Enwonwu, Country Relationship Manager, from The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE), said, “We are thrilled to partner with Releaf on their mission to improve efficiency and profitability for farmers and food factories in Africa. The founders’ vision and the team’s enthusiasm gave us confidence that Releaf will deliver real value for rural communities and create digital/technical jobs for women and youth. We are looking forward to their results and success over the coming years and continuing to support their work.”

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