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Not even 5G could rescue smartphone sales in 2020 – TechCrunch

This was going to be the year of 5G. It was going to be the year the next-generation wireless technology helped reverse some troubling macro trends for the industry — or at the very least helped stem the bleeding some. But the best laid plans, and all that. With about a week left in the […]

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Here’s to next year

This was going to be the year of 5G. It was going to be the year the next-generation wireless technology helped reverse some troubling macro trends for the industry — or at the very least helped stem the bleeding some.

But the best laid plans, and all that. With about a week left in the year, I think it’s pretty safe to say that 2020 didn’t wind up the way the vast majority of us had hoped. It’s a list that certainly includes the lion’s share of smartphone makers. Look no further than a recent report published by Gartner to answer the question of just how bad 2020 was for smartphone sales.

It was so bad that a 5.7% global decline year-over-year for the third quarter constituted good news. In a normal year, that wouldn’t qualify as good news for too many industries outside of wax cylinder and asbestos sales. But there are few standards by which 2020 was a normal year, so now we’ll take some respite in the fact that a 5.7% drop was a considerably less pronounced drop than the ~20% we saw in Qs 1 and 2.

Some context before we get into the whys here. A thing that’s important to note up front is that mobile wasn’t one of those industries where everything was smooth sailing before everything got upended by a pandemic. In 2019 I wrote a not insignificant number of stories with headlines like “Smartphone sales expected to drop 2.5% globally this year” and “Smartphone sales declined again in Q2, surprising no one.” And even those stories were a continuation of trends from a year prior.

The reasons for the decline should be pretty familiar by now. For one thing, premium handsets got expensive, routinely topping out over $1,000. Related to that, phones have gotten good. Good news for consumers doesn’t necessarily translate to good news for manufacturers here, as upgrade cycles have slowed significantly from their traditional every two years (also an artifact of the carrier subscription model). Couple that with economic hardships, and you’ve got a recipe for slowed growth.

This March, I wrote an article titled “5G devices were less than 1% of US smartphone purchases in 2019.” There was, perhaps, a certain level of cognitive dissonance there, after many years of 5G hype. There are myriad factors at play here. First, there just weren’t a ton of different 5G models available in the States by year’s end. Second, network rollout was far from complete. And, of course, there was no 5G iPhone.

I concluded that piece by noting:

Of course, it remains to be seen how COVID-19 will impact sales. It seems safe to assume that, like every aspect of our lives, there will be a notable impact on the number of people buying expensive smartphones. Certainly things like smartphone purchases tend to lessen in importance in the face of something like a global pandemic.

In hindsight, the answer is “a lot.” I’ll be the first to admit that when I wrote those words on March 12, I had absolutely no notion of how bad it was about to get and how long it would last (hello month nine of lockdown). In the earliest days, the big issue globally was on the supply side. Asia (China specifically) was the first place to get hit and the epicenter of manufacturing buckled accordingly. Both China and its manufacturing were remarkably fast to get back online.

In the intervening months, demand has taken a massive hit. Once again, there are a number of reasons for this. For starters, people aren’t leaving their homes as much — and for that reason, the money they’ve allotted to electronics purchases has gone toward things like PCs, as they’ve shifted to a remote work set-up. The other big issue here is simple economics. So many people are out of work and so much has become uncertain that smartphones have once again been elevated to a kind of luxury status.

There are, however, reasons to be hopeful. It seems likely that 5G will eventually help right things — though it’s hard to say when. Likely much of that depends on how soon we’re able to return to “normal” in 2021. But for now, there’s some positive to be seen in early iPhone sales. After Apple went all in on 5G this year, the new handset (perhaps unsurprisingly) topped sales for all other 5G handsets for the month of October, according to analysts.

The company will offer a more complete picture (including the ever-important holiday sales) as part of its earnings report next month. For now, at least, it seems that thing are finally heading in the right direction. That trend will, hopefully, continue as the new year sees a number of Android launches.

Perhaps 2021 will be the year of 5G — because 2020 sure wasn’t.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/12/24/not-even-5g-could-rescue-smartphone-sales-in-2020/

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Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin auctions off seat on first human spaceflight for $28M – TechCrunch

Blue Origin has its winning bidder for its first ever human spaceflight, and the winner will pay $28 million for the privilege of flying aboard the company’s debut private astronaut mission. The winning bid came in today during a live auction, which saw 7,600 registered bidders, from 159 countries compete for the spot. This was […]

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Blue Origin has its winning bidder for its first ever human spaceflight, and the winner will pay $28 million for the privilege of flying aboard the company’s debut private astronaut mission. The winning bid came in today during a live auction, which saw 7,600 registered bidders, from 159 countries compete for the spot.

This was the culmination of Blue Origin’s three part bidding process for the ticket, which included a blind auction first, followed by an open, asynchronous auction with the highest bid posted to the company’s website whenever it changed. This last live auction greatly ramped up the value of the winning bid, which was at just under $5 million prior to the event.

This first seat up for sale went for a lot more than what an actual, commercial spot is likely to cost on Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule, which flies to suborbital space and only spends a few minutes there before returning to Earth. Estimates put the cost of a typical launch at someone under $1 million, likely closer to $500,000 or so. But this is the first, which is obviously a special distinction, and it’s also a trip that will allow the winning bidder to pretty much literally rub elbows with Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, who is going to be on the flight as well, along with his brother Mark, and a fourth passenger that Blue Origin says it will be announcing sometime in the coming “weeks,” ahead of the July 20 target flight date.

As for who won the auction, we’ll also have to wait to find that out, since the winner’s identity is also going to be “released in the weeks following” the end of today’s live bidding. And in case you thought that $28 million might represent a big revenue windfall for Blue Origin, which has spent years developing its human spaceflight capability, think again: The company is donating it to its Club for the Future non-profit foundation, which is focused on encouraging kids to pursue careers in STEM in a long-term bid to help Bezos’ larger goals of making humanity a spacefaring civilization.

You can re-watch the entire live bidding portion of the auction via the stream below.

As for who won the auction, we’ll also have to wait to find that out, since the winner’s identity is also going to be “released in the weeks following” the end of today’s live bidding. And in case you thought that $28 million might represent a big revenue windfall for Blue Origin, which has spent years developing its human spaceflight capability, think again: The company is donating it to its Club for the Future non-profit foundation, which is focused on encouraging kids to pursue careers in STEM in a long-term bid to help Bezos’ larger goals of making humanity a spacefaring civilization.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/12/jeff-bezos-blue-origin-auctions-off-seat-on-first-human-spaceflight-for-28m/

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UBS investment makes Byju’s the most valuable startup in India – TechCrunch

Edtech giant Byju’s has become the most valuable startup in India after raising about $350 million in a new tranche of investment from UBS Group and Zoom founder Eric Yuan, Blackstone and others that valued the Bangalore-based firm at $16.5 billion (post-money). In a new filing, Byju’s revealed that scores of investors including Abu Dhabi […]

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Edtech giant Byju’s has become the most valuable startup in India after raising about $350 million in a new tranche of investment from UBS Group and Zoom founder Eric Yuan, Blackstone and others that valued the Bangalore-based firm at $16.5 billion (post-money).

In a new filing, Byju’s revealed that scores of investors including Abu Dhabi government fund ADQ and Phoenix Rising had together invested about $350 million in the startup. The new valuation helps Byju’s surpass Paytm, which was last valued at $16 billion, for the crown position in the Indian startup ecosystem. (Paytm is currently working on exploring the public markets and eyeing to raise as much as $3 billion and eyeing a valuation of up to $30 billion.)

The new tranche of investment is part of a larger round that Byju’s kickstarted earlier this year and is looking to secure over $1.5 billion. Some of its recent investors also include B Capital Group and hedge fund XN. The startup was valued at $11 billion late last year, and $5.75 billion in July 2019.

The startup plans to use the fresh capital, in part, to acquire more startups. Byju’s, which acquired Indian physical coaching institute Aakash for nearly $1 billion earlier this year, is conducting due diligence to buy and online learning startup Toppr and has also engaged with U.S.-based Epic, TechCrunch reported earlier this year.

Byju’s prepares students pursuing undergraduate and graduate-level courses, and in recent years it has also expanded its catalog to serve all school-going students. Tutors on the Byju’s app tackle complex subjects using real-life objects such as pizza and cake.

The pandemic, which prompted New Delhi to enforce a months-long nationwide lockdown and close schools, accelerated its growth, and those of several other online learning startups including Unacademy and Vedantu.

As of early this year, Byju’s said it had amassed over 80 million users, 5.5 million of whom are paying subscribers. Byju’s, which is profitable, generated revenue of over $100 million in the U.S. last year, Deborah Quazzo, managing partner of GSV Ventures (which has backed the Indian startup), said at a session in March held by Indian venture fund Blume Ventures.

The startup executives said at a UBS event earlier this year that Byju’s current revenue run rate is $800 million, a figure they expect will reach $1 billion in the next 12-15 months. It has also accelerated its international expansion plans in recent months.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/12/ubs-investment-makes-byjus-the-most-valuable-startup-in-india/

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Lightspeed buys Ecwid for $500M; NuOrder for $425M in ongoing e-commerce consolidation play – TechCrunch

Lightspeed, has picked up two more companies in what is shaping up to be an acquisition spree for the Canadian point-of-sale software provider. The company today announced that it would acquire e-commerce platform Ecwid for $500 million; and NuOrder, a B2B ordering platform servicing wholesales, brands and retailers, for $425 million. Together, the two deals […]

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Lightspeed, has picked up two more companies in what is shaping up to be an acquisition spree for the Canadian point-of-sale software provider. The company today announced that it would acquire e-commerce platform Ecwid for $500 million; and NuOrder, a B2B ordering platform servicing wholesales, brands and retailers, for $425 million.

Together, the two deals underscore the long-anticipated consolidation trend swirling around the fragmented e-commerce industry, at a time when digital transactions are playing an ever more critical role in the Covid-impacted global economy, and smaller players are looking for better ways to compete against behemoths like Amazon and Stripe with a mix of tools and services addressing the various needs of merchants, brands, suppliers and everything in between.

“By joining forces with Ecwid and NuOrder, Lightspeed becomes the common thread uniting merchants, suppliers and consumers, a transformation we believe will enable innovative retailers to adapt to the new world of commerce,” said Dax Dasilva, founder and CEO of Lightspeed, in a statement. “As economies reopen and business creation accelerates, we hope to embolden entrepreneurs with the tools they need to simplify their operations and scale their ambitions.”

Lightspeed will pay $175 million in cash and $325 million in shares for Ecwid; and it will pay $212.5 million in cash and $212.5 million in shares for NuOrder, the company said. Both deals are expected to close at the end of September, pending regulatory and other approvals.

Lightspeed is publicly traded and has a market cap of about $9.4 billion. It has been on an acquisition march in the last several months, with the bigger picture being to build a complete, end-to-end, one-stop-shop for customers beyond the basics of the point-of-sale software that helped the company make its name. That has also included acquiring Upserve in a $430 million deal in December to deepen its presence in the restaurant industry.

Ecwid itself has been around for years, initially making its name as a key partner of Facebook’s to help small businesses build commerce experiences on the social media platform, and eventually expanding to provide tools for merchants that use services like Square and Wix, as well as other third-party platforms like Instagram and Google — sometimes competing with but also potentially integrating with other e-commerce backends like Shopify.

The company — originally founded in Russia — had largely been under the venture radar until last year, when it raised $42 million from Morgan Stanley and PeakSpan Capital, to double down on growth.

And that growth has been good. It current has 130,000 paying customers across 100+ countries and Lightspeed said it had revenue of more than $20 million in the year that ended in March, with growth of 50% year-over-year.. The deal, which is subject to customary closing conditions and post-closing working capital adjustment, is expected to close during the quarter ended September 30, 2021 after the receipt of applicable regulatory approvals.

“The distinction between online and brick-and-mortar retail has disappeared. Lightspeed and Ecwid, two best-in-class platforms, will unite to truly empower businesses. By eliminating the barriers merchants face when selling online, we will only more rapidly achieve our common vision of democratizing retail for independent businesses worldwide and enrich the communities they serve,” said Ecwid CEO, Ruslan Fazlyev, in a statement.

NuOrder, meanwhile, will help Lightspeed deepen its role in supplier relationships and transactions — an essential cornerstone in how commerce works and one where Lightspeed had already been building a business, by way of its Lightspeed Supplier Network. NuOrder has 3,000 brand and 100,000 retailer customers — some of them include Canada Goose, Converse and Arc’teryx — and Lightspeed said that some $11.5 billion in orders were made through its platform in the year that ended in March.

Like Ecwid, NuOrder also posted revenues of $20 million in that period; its growth rate was 30% year-over-year.

“At NuORDER, we have been on a journey to revolutionize retail by building a global network for brands and retailers. The coming together of Lightspeed and NuORDER accelerates that vision exponentially. The power of connected commerce comes to life now,” said NuORDER co-founders and co-CEO’s Olivia Skuza and Heath Wells in a statement. “We are thrilled to join forces with Lightspeed to unlock transformative value for brands and retailers globally. This represents an inflection point in the history of retail.”

Lightspeed will pay $175 million in cash and $325 million in shares for Ecwid; and it will pay $212.5 million in cash and $212.5 million in shares for NuOrder, the company said. Both deals are expected to close at the end of September, pending regulatory and other approvals.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/07/lightspeed-buys-ecwid-for-500m-nuorder-for-425m-in-ongoing-e-commerce-consolidation-play/

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