Aquifer Tech Snapshot - August 10-14
Source: Epic Games
Fortnite, an interactive video game enjoyed by 350 million players worldwide, has been kicked off the app store by both Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) amidst claims of Epic Games violating app guidelines by allowing users to purchase in-game currency outside of the app store’s proprietary payment system. Epic Games has responded by suing both tech giants, claiming their app stores are monopolies that are not willing to work with game developers.
For many young gamers who are stuck at home during the pandemic, Fortnite is the sole medium for entertainment and keeping in touch with friends and fellow gamers around the world. Removing Fortnite from the app store deals a huge blow to gamers who seek comfort during these times, which may in turn make gamers feel resentment towards the tech giants. Note that users who already had the Fortnite app installed prior to its app store removal will still be able to play the game. On the other hand, there will be no further updates to the app as of now.
If Epic Games wins the lawsuit, Apple and Google may no longer be able to take a cut of in-app purchases (they currently take a 30% cut). If Epic loses, Apple and Google may remain the rulers of the app store monopoly and developers may seek alternatives to their app store services. Or, the tech giants may quietly settle with Epic Games and update their policies.
Only 2.5% of American colleges will have fully in-person courses this coming semester. With the world of higher education being turned upside down (online courses may not be conducive to proper learning, on-campus housing being canceled), students may be attracted to tangible work experience that startups can provide, and startups are competing for top talent which they hope will stay with them and not leave for a larger company. The pandemic may be an exciting time for both students and startups, as they change trajectory and ride out the effects of the global pandemic.
Microsoft’s oldest franchise, Flight Simulator, is nearly 38 years old, and Microsoft is giving it a reboot with new features, such as live weather, traffic, and realistic worldly sights. Players will select a flight path, gain momentum to achieve liftoff, and maintain balance while avoiding obstacles, all while taking in the sights along the way. The new version of Flight Simulator will cost $59.99 and will be released on August 18 for both Windows and Xbox.
Impossible Foods, the company developing meat-replacement foods, is now valued at $4B.
Its most recent round of funding came from Coatue, a tech-based hedge fund, and XN, a New York-based hedge fund. The company said it would use the new round of funding for R&D on new product ideas such as replacements for pork, steak, and milk. In order to shift the focus away from animal products (a process which leads to climate change), Impossible Foods will need to sustain their sales growth and master their R&D.
With an additional $200M round of funding for Gong, a revenue intelligence service based in San Francisco, led by Coatue, Salesforce Ventures, and Thrive Capital, that totals $305M in funding within the past 18 months. Gong CEO Amit Bendov describes that Gong transforms the sales process by using artificial intelligence to analyze interactions between paying customers and companies, rather than salespeople or CSR’s manually interpreting data. Bendov also reports that they have remaining cash from their Series B round and they’ve seen a 2.5x in revenue this year.
Till, a platform that serves as an intermediary between landlords and tenants, raised $8m from Route 66 Ventures. Till realized that not every tenant is able to pay the hefty rent price by the 1st of every month. So, they have introduced flexible payment plans to renters that aligns with their monthly cash flow. They report that pre-covid, delinquent rent totaled $50B/year with late fees totaling $5B, which led to 3 million families being evicted in the U.S. which disproportionately affected minorities. Till estimates it helps to cut eviction rates by 50% with their flexible rent schedule, charging renters $3 if they pay on time and $9 if they do not. Till also offers loan plans at varying rates.
Till intends to use its new round of funding to seek out more landlords to join their platform. They believe that if renters are successful at paying rent on time, landlords will also be better off.
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Research contributed by Stephanie Heinsohn