Welcome to the first KingsCrowd News Roundup of 2021!
I’ll be honest with you, writing this without talking about what happened in the nation’s capital on Wednesday is… tough. But sometimes it’s also important to remember that life keeps moving even when it feels like it shouldn’t. And there was still plenty of important business news happening this week. Let’s get to it.
The Business Buzz
Will they, won’t they? The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) did a surprising 360 this week as it reversed the reversal of a decision to delist three Chinese telecom companies. On New Year’s Eve, NYSE announced that it would be delisting China Mobile Ltd., China Telecom Corp., and China Unicom (HongKong) Ltd. as part of an investment ban mandated by a November 2020 executive order. Then on Monday night, the exchange released a statement saying that it was not delisting the companies after all. Why the sudden change of heart? The aforementioned executive order dictates that American investors can’t invest in Chinese companies that aid the Chinese military, intelligence, and security services — but there were questions as to whether the publicly traded branches of China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom (Hong Kong) fit that description. The Treasury Department provided guidance by updating its FAQ to explicitly name the three telecom companies. Under that guidance — and after a direct call from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin — NYSE accordingly re-announced the delisting of all three entities on Wednesday.
The executive order officially goes into effect on January 11. American investors will have until November 11, 2021 to sell any relevant holdings they might have.
A new kind of union. Labor unions in the tech world are unusual. Tech workers are often highly paid — negating the need for salary negotiations through a union. And they’re often geographically dispersed, which makes organization difficult. But this week a new kind of union was formed at Google. It’s called the Alphabet Workers Union, and it’s more concerned with issues of discrimination, sustainability, and justice than salaries. Essentially, this union is focused on issues of activism within Google — a situation which Google has been poorly handling for years.
In 2018, thousands of Google employees staged a walkout to protest how the tech giant was handling sexual harassment and misconduct within itself. Around 5 months later, Google employees planned a sit-in in response to retaliation some employees received after the walkout. Most recently, AI researcher Timnit Gebru was fired in December 2020 after she expressed frustration with Google’s minority hiring practices and how it was handling the presence of bias in AI. And the National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against Google that accuses it of using surveillance on employees before firing them.
The Alphabet Workers Union partners with the Communications Workers of America and represents workers from across the US. Members will contribute 1% of their salaries as union dues that will be used to support workers in the case of a strike.
The Private Market
Get ready for the public offering hype again. Social gaming platform Roblox announced its intention to go public this year via a direct listing. It also finished a Series H round, raising a hot $520 million. That brings the gaming company’s valuation up to $29.5 billion — making it one of the most highly valued private companies right now. That’s also an impressive increase from February 2020 when Roblox raised $150 million at a $4 billion valuation. But some of that growth is warranted. 2020 was very good to the gaming platform. Roblox saw $1 billion in global revenue and more than 30 million daily active users last year.
Roblox has not announced a date for its direct listing yet — but it’s expected to happen sooner rather than later.
Just one more 2020 round up — this time crowdfunding style. I promise I won’t say that 2020 was an incredible year for the private markets (though it was). Instead, I want to highlight five big events from last year that are going to keep affecting the crowdfunding and crypto ecosystems this year.
- The SEC announced that the limit on Reg CF raises would increase from $1.07 million to $5 million.
- The European Union simplified its own crowdfunding regulations to make it easier for companies to raise capital from investors outside their home country.
- Republic made a lot of news — there were the acquisitions of Fig, Compound, and the NextSeed Small Business platform as well as the announcement of a new crypto-based offering called an Initial Litigation Offering.
- UK-based crowdfunding platforms CrowdCube and Seedrs merged.
- And the largest Southeast Asian private investment platform — Fundnel — joined Phillip Capital and Prime Partners in the creation of Hg Exchange, a private securities exchange.
Oh, and American crowdfunders committed more than $210 million to startups through Reg CF in 2020 — with $28 million of that in December alone!
The Fun Stuff
A little bit creepy, a little bit cute. Robotics company Boston Dynamics released a video just before 2020 wrapped up that shows a robot dance party set to “Do You Love Me.” Technologically, the movements are impressive and display noteworthy mobility from the various models. And there is an impressive dedication to the song as well — the robots do indeed do the Mashed Potato and the Twist in the video. This writer is not ashamed to say those robots definitely dance better than she does — and not all of them even have two legs to stand on.