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Class is in session with Prof. Alexa

Class is in session with Prof. Alexa
June 10, 2020

Bamboo Learning, a startup that is led by a former Amazon executive and that primarily delivers educational content to Alexa-enabled smart speakers, comes this Monday to Google's rival ecosystem for the first time.

Smart speakers offer opportunities for new categories of applications, but it remains difficult to make money in the market, which helps explain the relative dearth of startups focused on the space.

Bamboo is bringing to Google Assistant its Bamboo Luminaries app, a trivia game that covers both prominent and lesser-known influential historical figures, from literature and science to sports, film, and social justice. Bamboo's other titles, which include math, music, and book apps, remain Amazon-only for now. Most of Bamboo's apps and content are free.

The company says it has seen a marked increase in usage this year, as kids were sent home from school during the pandemic. Giving kids a laptop and Zoom can work for older students, but it's not an option for working parents with kids in the early grades. 

 


 


A major reason banks were rolling in so much dough last quarter is the explosive growth of the U.S. personal savings rate, which hit the highest since the 1980s in March and a historic 33% in April.

There is an aspect of “forced savings,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, told CNBC. " Megan Greene, a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, told CNBC: “With shops all closed and everybody locked up, the ‘shopportunities’ have dried up. That speaks to a kind of demand shock.” 

Many economists have worried about the coronavirus pandemic leading to a more structural change in saving and spending habits leading to a permanently higher savings rate.

The U.S. economy is much more dependent on consumer spending than it has been historically, especially now. Businesses are looking to bounce back from losses suffered during government-imposed lockdowns to contain the COVID-19 outbreak and will need savings rates to fall quickly and for consumers to return to previous spending patterns.

This paradigm presents an opportunity for challenger banks that can provide a smoother online saving experience, with fewer clicks, a smoother UI, and better saving rates for customers. A study from 2020 estimated that within 5 years 44% of Britons will have a digital-only bank. The pandemic-led savings rate increase should accelerate digital bank adoption.

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Digital-Only Challenger Banks:

Starling Bank is a digital, mobile-only challenger bank based in the United Kingdom and focusing on business account products. Headquartered in London and founded in January 2014, Starling Bank is a licensed and regulated bank, founded by former Allied Irish Banks COO, Anne Boden.

Monzo Bank Ltd is an online bank also based in the United Kingdom. Monzo was one of the earliest of a number of new app-based challenger banks in the UK. Monzo Bank Ltd was founded in 2015 by Gary Dolman, Jason Bates, Jonas Huckestein, Paul Rippon, and Tom Blomfield. Originally operating through a mobile app and a prepaid debit card, in April 2017 its UK banking license restrictions were lifted, enabling it to offer a deposit account. As of February 2020, Monzo had 3.5M customers.

Chime Bank is a privately-held company that operates in the investment management & financial advisory industry. Chime Bank was founded in 2013 by Chris Britt and Ryan King. Headquartered in San Francisco, California, Chime is an American technology neobank which provides financial services through a mobile app, without charging overdraft or maintenance bank fees. Chime is currently considered the leader in the US challenger bank space.

Monese is a UK company that offers current accounts and money transfer services as an alternative to traditional banks. The mobile-only service provides accounts in Pounds sterling, Euros, and Romanian leu, and is available in 31 countries across the European Economic Area. As of January 2020, it has over 2M customers.

Koho, a Toronto-based digital banking startup offers checking accounts, debit cards, personal finance management services, foreign exchange tools, and cash back programs for Canadian consumers. Its CEO is Daniel Eberhard.

Funding & Deal Highlights:

TonicPow is a peer-to-peer digital advertising system. For individual users, it is an easy way to earn small amounts of Bitcoin by recommending things one likes to friends and family. For a business, it's a powerful tool that lets the business create flexible, incentive-based advertising campaigns. It allows both sides to leverage the power of micro transactions without needing to understand Bitcoin.

Quaise Inc., a Cambridge, Mass.-based energy company advancing millimeter-wave drilling technology to access deep geothermal energy, raises $6M in seed funding. Quaise is developing and commercializing novel millimeter-wave drilling systems to harness geothermal energy around the globe. Its technology uses a gyrotron to generate millimetric electromagnetic waves for drilling at depths and the company is working toward accessing depths of up to 20 km.

Clover Biopharmaceuticals, a global clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing novel and transformative biologic therapies, announces the completion of a $US 43M (RMB 304M) Series B financing. This financing round brings Clover’s total capital raised since 2016 to over US$100M (over RMB 750M).

Wahed Invest, a New York-based fintech startup that describes itself as the world’s first halal robo adviser, announces that it has raised $25M in a funding round. In 2016, Wahed launched what it describes as the “world’s first automated Islamic investment platform, with the aim of providing access to halal portfolio management for 2B Muslims around the world.” The proprietary platform uses real-time software the company says is fully-automated and utilizes customized financial optimization algorithms.

Non-invasive robotics platform and sonic beam therapy developer HistoSonics announces that it closed a Series C-1 financing worth $40M. Minneapolis-based HistoSonics intends to use the proceeds to accelerate activities centered around its Edison platform for non-invasive, personalized treatments with histotripsy for destroying targeted tissues at sub-cellular levels. Other funds may be used to launch new strategic projects as well.

TaxProper raises $2M to automate getting your property taxes lowered. TaxProper, a company out of Y Combinator’s Summer 2019 batch, will utilize the funds to simplify the tax assessment appeal process.

Fivetran, a startup that specializes in data integration, is in advanced talks to raise new funding from investors including General Catalyst and Andreessen Horowitz, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The new round is slated to value Fivetran at over $1B, said these people, who requested anonymity because the talks are private. A term sheet has yet to be signed, and as with all deals that aren’t finalized, components of the transaction could be adjusted, cautioned one of the people.

Orion Innovation, a global business and technology services firm that provides digital transformation and product development services, announces the acquisition of Zodiac Systems, a New York-based video service delivery software company.  Zodiac provides advanced cloud and device software and engineering services for Tier 1 media and telecom operators globally.

Overground Cloud Services announces the acquisition of DecisionPoint Selling, one of the leading business process consulting firms in the nation. This acquisition allows OCS to offer a unified and process-driven sales performance solution to its clients. The combined companies will operate under the Overground Cloud Services brand.

ECI Software Solutions, a leader in cloud-based business management solutions, announces that it has settled its lawsuit against Prosperity Computer Solutions, LLC and, in connection with the settlement, has agreed to acquire substantially all of the assets of Prosperity, a software company serving the lumber, building materials (LBM) and hardlines industry. Prosperity will become part of ECI’s LBMH Group.

India’s Reliance Jio Platforms to sell a $750M stake to Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

Tidewater Express Inc. announces the acquisition of KT’s Disposal.

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