Money transfer company TransferWise debuted a new service that allows users to send money internationally through Facebook Inc’s chat application, as competition in the digital payments landscape intensifies.
The London-based startup said on Tuesday that it had developed a Facebook Messenger “chatbot”, or an automated program that can help users communicate with businesses and carry out tasks such as online purchases.
TransferWise’s chatbot enables customers to send money to friends and family to and from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Europe from Facebook Messenger. It can also be used to set up exchange rate alerts.
Facebook already allows its users to send money domestically in the United States via its Messenger app, but has not yet launched similar services internationally. TransferWise said its service will be the first to enable international money transfers entirely within Messenger.
Facebook opened up its Messenger app to developers to create chatbots in April in a bid to expand its reach in customer service and enterprise transactions.
Chatbots have become a hot topic in enterprise technology over the past year because recent advances in artificial intelligence have made them better at interacting. Businesses, including banks, are hoping that they can be used to improve and reduce the cost of their customer service operations.
One of Europe’s most well-known fintech companies, TransferWise was launched in 2011 by Estonian friends Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann out of frustration with the high fees they were being charged by banks for international money transfers.
The company, which is valued at more than $1 billion, is backed by several high profile investors including Silicon Valley venture fund Andreessen Horowitz, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, and PayPal co-founders Max Levchin and Peter Thiel, through his fund Valar Ventures.
Customers in more than 50 countries send roughly $1 billion through its website every month.
While the TransferWise chatbot is now only available in Facebook Messenger it can be adapted to work with other popular chat services, Scott Miller, head of global partnerships for TransferWise said. He said the service would eventually be extended to work in other countries and money transfer routes that the company operates in.
Snap Inc hit the roads of London on Monday promoting its initial public offering with a daring proposition: that it can build hot-selling hardware gadgets and ad-friendly software features fast enough to stay one step ahead of Facebook.
No longer just a purveyor of a smartphone app for disappearing messages, Snap has hired hundreds of hardware engineers, built a secretive product development lab and scoured the landscape for acquisitions as it pursues its newly stated ambition to be “a camera company.”
These efforts, which are aimed at developing hardware and so-called augmented reality technologies, are central to the strategy of a company that is seeking a valuation of up to $22 billion in its early March IPO despite heavy losses and the specter of stiff competition for advertising dollars with a far-larger Facebook.
It is a big gamble and the odds against Snap are long.
There is little precedent for a company with its roots in software and social networking succeeding in the notoriously difficult consumer hardware business. Few U.S. firms aside from Apple have made big profits on hardware, and camera and wearable gadget makers have much lower valuations than Snap is seeking. Once-hot camera start-up GoPro is a cautionary tale: its stock sits 61 percent below its 2014 IPO price.
More broadly, creating new products and features that have mass-market appeal and cannot be readily mimicked is a huge challenge, analysts say.
“It’s worrisome,” said Paul Meeks, chief investment officer at Sloy, Dahl & Holst, which manages more than $1 billion in assets. “Snapchat is going to have to continue to be really innovative and distinctive. It’s going to be very tough to trump Facebook.”
Snap declined to comment for this story.
Snap first signaled its new focus with the September reveal of Spectacles, funky sunglasses with an embedded video camera for posting to the Snapchat app. The company spent $184 million on research and development last year, nearly half its revenue.
The $4.8 billion deal was originally slated to close in the first quarter, but that was before Yahoo reported two massive data breaches that analysts say may scrap the entire deal.
Although Yahoo continues to work to close the acquisition, there’s still work required to meet closing the deal’s closing conditions, the company said in an earnings statement, without elaborating.
Verizon has suggested that the data breaches, and the resulting blow to Yahoo’s reputation, might cause it to halt or renegotiate the deal.
In September, Yahoo said a “state-sponsored actor” had stolen details from at least 500 million user accounts in late 2014. As if that weren’t enough, the company reported another breach in December, this one dating back to August 2013 and involving 1 billion user accounts.
Both breaches were detected months after Verizon announced last July that it would buy the ailing internet company. Reportedly, Yahoo is facing an investigation from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over whether the breaches should have been reported to investors earlier.
The breaches may have shaken confidence in Yahoo’s internet business. But the company has since taken measures, such as password resets, to secure user accounts.
Nevertheless, some user accounts are still vulnerable. On Monday, Yahoo said 90 percent of its daily active users were protected from the breach. That leaves another 10 percent potentially exposed.
Among the information stolen in the breaches were names, email addresses, telephone numbers, hashed passwords and security questions and answers meant to protect the accounts.
Yahoo said in a November 2016 quarterly filing that it was “cooperating with federal, state and foreign” agencies, including the SEC, that were seeking information and documents about a “security incident and related matters.”
The SEC is investigating whether two massive data breaches at Yahoo should have been reported sooner to investors, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Yahoo has faced pointed questions about exactly when it knew about a 2014 cyber attack it announced in September that exposed the email credentials of half a billion accounts.
In December, Yahoo said it had uncovered yet another massive cyber attack, saying data from more than 1 billion user accounts was compromised in August 2013.
The SEC issued requests for documents in December, as it probes whether the technology company’s disclosures about the cyber attacks complied with civil securities laws, the people said, according to the Journal.
Securities industry rules require companies to disclose cyber breaches to investors. Although the SEC has long-standing guidance on when publicly traded companies should report hacking incidents, companies that have experienced known breaches often omit those details in regulatory filings, according to a 2012 Reuters investigation.(reut.rs/2dblx5S)
Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner asked the SEC in September to investigate whether Yahoo and its senior executives fulfilled obligations to inform investors and the public about the 2014 hacking attack.
The disclosures from Yahoo about both breaches came after the company agreed to sell its main business to Verizon Communications Inc in July, triggering questions about whether the deal would still be viable and, if so, at what price.
Blue has reported its 19th straight quarter of declining revenue, but forecast full-year earnings above what the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street thought.
The company’s revenue fell 1.3 percent to $21.77 billion in the quarter ended December 31, but beat analysts’ expectations of $21.64 billion.
The better figures were thanks to growth in newer areas such as cloud-based services and analytics.
Investments to drive growth in the cloud business and the company’s shift to a subscription-based as-a-service model hit its operating gross margin by 1.8 percentage points to 51 percent in the fourth quarter.
IBM’s forecast adjusted earnings of at least $13.80 per share for fiscal 2017, beat the average analyst estimate of $13.74.
Chief Executive Gini Rometty’s transition efforts have shown revenue growth across some areas in recent quarters, with newer businesses driving the efforts.
Revenue from “strategic imperatives”, which includes cloud and mobile computing, data analytics, social and security software, rose 11 percent to $9.5 billion in the fourth quarter, from a year earlier. It contributed 41 percent to IBM’s total revenue in 2016.
Cloud computing revenue across IBM’s segments rose 33 percent. The business includes services such as SoftLayer, which leases online storage space to companies, as well as the BlueMix cloud platform.
Financial technology vendor Misys is rolling out software that will allow banks to provide peer-to-peer lending to their customers as competition from young companies in the sector continues to intensify.
The technology would enable retail and corporate banks to connect their customers looking for loans with individual or institutional investors digitally, the private London-based software company said on Tuesday.
P2P lenders, which allow consumers and small businesses to borrow from investors online, emerged in response to a contraction in bank lending following the financial crisis of 2008.
Misys said the software would allow banks to maintain a relationship with clients that they would otherwise have to turn away without have to originate loans from their balance sheet.
“Banks are losing market share to P2P platform providers. By embedding crowdlending into the overall credit lifecycle, a bank can maintain and expand its client base, recapture business from alternative finance marketplaces and boost lending growth,” Jean-Cedric Jollant, senior product officer at Misys, told Reuters.
The launch comes as the nascent peer-to-peer lending sector expands, despite facing some growing pains. Research by Morgan Stanley estimates that P2P lending companies, also known as marketplace lenders, could originate up to $490 billion in loans globally by 2020.
Banks have been reacting to the trend by either partnering with younger companies or launching their own online lending operations. Spanish banking group Banco Santander in 2016 partnered with U.S. small business lender Kabbage to provide loans, while JP Morgan Chase & Co. previously partnered with OnDeck.
Jollant said Misys was launching the product because it was already an established provider of financial lending software to many large global lenders. He added that the company was in discussions “with a number of interested banks in the U.S., Europe and India.”
LG says that all its products will ship with Wi-Fi connectivity from this year.
LG marketing VP David VanderWaal says that “starting this year” all of LG’s home appliances will feature “advanced Wi-Fi connectivity”.
One of the flagship appliances that will make good on this promise is the Smart Instaview Refrigerator, a webOS-powered Internet-connected fridge that among other things supports integration with Amazon’s Alexa service.
While this might be a good thing in cases of flagship devices but just sticking Wi-Fi in everything is going to create a security nightmare. After all how are LG or anyone planning to update their appliances? Most people who don’t use the Wi-Fi are never going to bother connecting to anything and that is just going to be an open port sitting waiting some hacker’s attention.
What is also a problem is that if your whole house gets a virus you are going to have a hell of a job finding out what the source was and what you are supposed to unplug.
Also, there is the small matter of some appliance makers might be a little naughty about using their smart devices to serve up ads or give audio or video recordings to law enforcement.
LG might be more likely than most to know what it is doing, but the life of a fridge or washing machine is a lot longer than a computer. Our fridge is 15 years old and works fine, what will be the state of computer security in 15 years’ time? Many are going to find that their fridge is running the security equivalent of Windows XP.
The venture capitalists divisions of Microsoft and Qualcomm have invested in Team8, an Israeli creator of cybersecurity start-ups, as big multinational companies back Israel’s burgeoning cyber industry in the face of growing threats.
Team8, which also announced on Monday a strategic partnership with Citi to help develop its products, said the most recent investment brings its total raised to more than $92 million.
Its other investors are Cisco, AT&T, Accenture, Nokia, Singapore’s Temasek, Japan’s Mitsui, Bessemer Venture Partners, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors and Marker LLC.
Israel has some 450 cyber start-ups, which receive 20 percent of global investment in the sector. Although the need for security is growing quickly, the proliferation of start-ups means that several companies compete in every subsector.
“A large part of companies created won’t get to the finish line,” Nadav Zafrir, Team8 chief executive and former commander of the Israeli army’s technology and intelligence unit 8200, told a news conference.
He said he believes Team8’s strong partners and its plan to build a portfolio of different technologies gives it an edge. Team8 confirmed that Microsoft had been an investor since last June.
“The expectation of our investors is to build independent companies that will lead their sectors,” he said.
Israel has a well established high tech industry, using skills of workers trained in the military and intelligence sectors. Tax breaks and government funding have encouraged start-ups, and also drawn in entrepreneurs from abroad.
Launched in 2014, Team8 employs 180 people in Israel, the United States, Britain and Singapore and plans to hire 100 more workers in 2017.
Two companies it created are Illusive Networks, which uses deception technology to detect attacks and has been installed at banks and retailers, and Claroty, which secures critical infrastructure sites such as oil and gas fields.
Details of two more companies it has set up will be announced this year, Zafrir said.
Electric vehicle start-up Faraday Future debuted in Las Vegas a prototype of a vehicle set for production next year as the China-backed company attempts to garner credibility in the crowded sector and overcome its funding challenges.
The “FF 91”, described by its designer Richard Kim as “weird-pretty”, is a luxury electric SUV Faraday executives say will be the most technologically advanced on the market when it goes into production in early 2018. Advance reservations for the car – which insiders say will retail for about $180,000 – are being taken for $5,000.
“You’re about to witness day one of a new era of mobility,” said Nick Sampson, senior vice president of engineering and research and development. “We’re going to show the first of a new species.”
Faraday is funded and controlled by Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, the chief executive officer of China’s Leshi Holdings Co Ltd, also known as LeEco, which is showing its own prototype electric car, the LeSee Pro, at CES. He is also an investor in California-based Lucid Motors, a competing electric vehicle start-up attending CES this year.
Faraday debuted at CES last year with a concept car not intended to be produced, raising eyebrows over the company’s legitimacy and Jia’s overall strategy. A cash crunch at LeEco and Faraday’s missed payments to a contractor working on its $1 billion Nevada factory have spurred more questions in recent months over Faraday’s financial situation.
In late December, LeEco said it was in talks to secure 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) from an unidentified strategic investor.
Faraday executives would not comment on the company’s financials.
It has taken a while, but we are finally getting analysts to describe situations in the way we do. Trip Chowdhry, the managing director of equity research at Global Equities Research shocked the market when he described Twitter as being “toast.”
We would have liked it better had he added Twitter was now the Norwegian Blue of the tech world but we can’t have everything.
Chowdhry’s comment followed chief technology officer, Adam Messinger, tweeted that he would leave the company and “take some time off.” Meanwhile Josh McFarland, vice president of product at Twitter, also said he was exiting the company. Both exits were announced on the same day.
Last month, Adam Bain stepped down as chief operating officer last month to be replaced by chief financial officer Anthony Noto, who has yet to be replaced. Twitter has also lost leaders from business development, media and commerce, media partnerships, human resources, and engineering this year.
Chowdhry said that many Twitter investors were foolishly building an investment thesis based on complete stupidity. The company was toast and not worth $10 a share, he added.
A $10 price tag would represent a more than 44 percent decline in the U.S. technology company’s shares on Tuesday’s closing price.
He said Twitter’s data quality was “horrible.” Many pollsters used Twitter data to predict a Hillary Clinton win in the US election but the fact that Donald Trump won shows that data quality is poor. This was because Twitter allowed too many fake users on the platform, Chowdhry claims.
“If data quality is bad, ad targeting is bad, and if ad targeting is bad, advertisers are not happy, and hence monetisation will remain challenging for Twitter,” Chowdhry said.
Twitter’s average monthly active users for the third quarter increased to 317 million, up 4 million from its second quarter, while earnings beat market expectations. The US social media giant also announced plans to lay off about 350 people, or 9 percent of its global workforce.
The mobile application works by applying network-level monitoring and blocking of known spam calls using the company’s voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) network data capabilities. Since the network is IP-based, it resembles a traditional email spam filter by analyzing incoming calls and labeling them as spam. Second, the app will display an on-screen message warning users before answering their phones.
The app also features a temporary call block to manually block unwanted calls for up to 30 days. When spam calls are added to a filter list, users can select callers to block and have the numbers renewed after the filters expire.
AT&T’s VoLTE network was introduced May 2014 beginning with four states in the Midwest and is now available in 96 percent of its LTE coverage area. As such, there may be a small percentage of customers who will not be able to regularly use the Call Protect service.
In addition, a user’s smartphone also need to be compatible with HD Voice in order to use Call Protect, and should include most mid-range and higher-end devices produced during or after 2012, when mainstream LTE coverage began rolling out across the US.
Messinger had been working with Twitter for five years and became the CTO in March 2013. Prior to joining Twitter in 2011, he was vice president of development at Oracle Corp.
Engineering Vice President Ed Ho will now take over all product and engineering and report directly to Chief Executive Jack Dorsey, Recode reported, citing people familiar with the restructuring.
“We’re taking steps to streamline and flatten the organization by elevating our engineering, product and design functions, with each area now reporting directly to Jack,” a company spokesperson said in an email.
As chief technology officer, Messinger was responsible for engineering, product development, and design at the microblogging company, amid efforts to find new products and features to grow its user numbers.
San Francisco-based Twitter has faced a string of departures, including in its product team, which has had three heads in less than a year.
No one individual was essential, but the fact that they all left should be concerning, especially since Dorsey is splitting his time between Square Inc and Twitter, Wedbush Securities Inc analyst Michael Pachter said.
Twitter’s Chief Operating Officer Adam Bain left the company last month, handing over the reins to Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto.
Josh McFarland, vice president of product at Twitter, also said on Tuesday that he would leave the company to join Silicon Valley venture firm Greylock Partners.
Twitter said in October it would lay off 9 percent of its employees and shut down video app Vine to keep its costs down.
SoftBank Group Corp announced intentions to invest $1 billion in OneWeb Ltd, which is building a constellation of satellites to improve global broadband access, the Japanese Internet conglomerate and the U.S. startup firm said.
The investment is part of a $1.2 billion fundraising by OneWeb, with the remaining $200 million funded by its current investors.
The announcement comes after SoftBank’s founder billionaire businessman Masayoshi Son pledged a $50 billion investment in the United States in a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump this month.
Existing investors in OneWeb include Qualcomm Inc and Airbus Group.
The Berlin-based company is backed by Li Ka-shing, one of Asia’s richest men and Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, along with other investors including Berlin’s Earlybird Ventures and Zurich-based Red Alpine.
The company, which received its own banking license from German financial regulator Bafin this year, offers online accounts for cash withdrawals, savings and insurance services that users manage on their mobile phones.
Without the expense of branches or legacy computer infrastructure and by relying on selective outsourcing, mobile-first banks can challenge established banks by promising lower lending rates and higher rates on savings.
Established banks have responded by plowing more money into upgrading their own computer systems, rolling out mobile apps of their own, closing retail bank branches and investing in fintech startups.
N26, which first launched in 2015 in Germany and Austria, then moved into Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Ireland and Slovakia, is now adding the Benelux countries, the Baltics, Finland, Portugal and Slovenia.
“We have built Europe’s most modern mobile bank,” Number26 Chief Executive and co-founder Valentin Stalf said in a presentation at the TechCrunch Disrupt London conference.
“We are getting closer to building a truly European bank.”
Oracle plans to purchase internet performance and DNS provider Dyn in an effort to boost its cloud-based offerings as well as challenge infrastructure and platform service leaders like Amazon and Microsoft.
Dyn, in the news last month when it was targeted in a massive distributed denial-of-service attack, operates a global network that makes 40 billion traffic optimization decisions each day for more than 3,500 enterprise customers, including Netflix and Twitter.
Dyn monitors and optimizes internet applications and cloud services with the goal of delivering faster access and reduced page-load times. Dyn’s services will give Oracle a one-stop shop for enterprise customers looking for infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS), Oracle said in a press release Monday.
Oracle has made an aggressive play in the cloud in recent months, with Executive Chairman Larry Ellison promising in September to give Amazon’s AWS “serious competition.” Some observers have questioned whether the company can catch up to Amazon and Microsoft, however.
Oracle has invested heavily in its cloud platform and has ambitions to be a market leader, but its strength right now lies in cloud support of its own applications, said Paul Miller, a senior analyst at Forrester.
“Oracle’s cloud makes most sense to customers already heavily invested in Oracle’s ecosystem of tools and applications,” Miller said.
Many existing Oracle customers also have a big investment in their own data centers, and that isn’t likely to change for several years, Miller added. So Oracle “mostly tells a hybrid cloud story in which some workloads run in public clouds, and others run on a customer’s premises, in a customer’s chosen co-location facility, or wherever,” he said.
In the hybrid service model, the Dyn acquisition makes sense, Miller said. Dyn’s network optimization services can help Oracle speed up its own network traffic and help the company and its customers “optimize the flow of data between Oracle’s data centers and a customer’s own facilities,” he added. “That optimization makes data flow faster and also saves everyone money.”
Customers should keep an eye on Oracle, he said.
“With a clear commitment to public cloud platforms and a strong history of success, clients would be foolish to write off this provider,” Forrester said in a report last month. “For those already invested in Oracle’s platform and applications, there may be no better choice.”
Oracle declined to comment on the acquisition and didn’t release terms of the deal.