Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

SoftBank Group confirmed today it is considering selling its T-Mobile U.S. shares.

Bloomberg reported last month that SoftBank was nearing an agreement to sell about $ 20 billion of its T-Mobile U.S. shares to investors including Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile’s controlling shareholder, in an effort to offset major losses from its investment business, including the Vision Fund.

In today’s notice, SoftBank Group, which owns about 25% of T-Mobile U.S. shares, said it is exploring transactions that could include private placements or public offerings and transactions with T-Mobile or its shareholders, including Deutsche Telekom AG, or third parties.

The potential sale would be part of SoftBank Group’s program, announced in March, to sell or monetize up to $ 41 billion in assets to reduce debt and increase its cash reserves. The company said, however, that it cannot assure any of the transactions involving T-Mobile shares will be completed.


TechCrunch

French VC firm Idinvest has compiled some data about the European tech ecosystem. The firm has decided to focus on consumer tech in general, and there are some interesting trends that I’m going to break out here. You can read the full report here.

The team has analyzed and surveyed 1,500 companies over multiple months. And Idinvest has identified rising stars in multiple different verticals, such as fintech, mobility, healthcare or travel. If a startup has raised more than €100 million or has been acquired, Idinvest considers them as giants already.

Lesson #1: VC funding is growing at a faster pace in Europe than in the rest of the world

Notice that jump from €4.4 billion in 2014 to €16.6 billion in 2019.

Lesson #2: The European fintech boom is real

Fintech is now the largest vertical in Europe. On average, European startups attract 16% of global VC investments. But Europe is grabbing a bigger piece of that pie with fintech as European fintech startups have attracted 26% of total VC investments in that space.

And it’s not just challenger banks, such as N26, Monzo or Revolut. There are trading startups, lending startups, API-driven companies and more.

Lesson #3: Mobility is fragmented

While mobility is a huge vertical in Europe, there are countless of players that do more or less the same thing — multiple scooter startups (Voi, Dott, Tier…), multiples ride-hailing startups (Bolt, Heetch, FreeNow, Cabify…), etc.

Some of them are thriving, but you’re not going to see any of the big names you’d expect in the list of giants as those companies are not European — Uber, Didi, Bird… In other words, Europe is mostly a fast follower in this space, and it’s been working fairly well.

Lesson #4: Health is regulated as hell

This isn’t surprising, but European healthcare startups seem to be mostly active in Europe. Similarly, American healthcare startups don’t seem to have a huge presence in Europe.

I personally think European healthcare startups have a shot at becoming global leaders for two reasons. First, it’s a privacy-sensitive industry and European startups tend to care more about privacy due to the legal framework. Second, the tech lash against big tech companies, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple, is going to be particularly strong with healthcare products.

Lesson #5: Food startups could reshape cities

Let me quote Idinvest’s report directly here because it is spot on: “In the Middle-Age, posting houses became inns to feed and offer rest to travelers. In the 20th century, McDonald’s restaurants grew exponentially around the U.S. road infrastructure. In the past 18-24 months, we have seen the rise of dark kitchens (Keatz, Taster) and dark groceries (Glovo) which are both piggybacking this new food delivery infrastructure and adding to it a real estate layer. Dark kitchens and groceries are selling products exclusively through delivery. The customer facing location of a restaurant or a grocery shop is replaced by a cheaper real estate location optimized for order preparations.”

Lesson #6: Travel is a bigger industry in Europe than in the U.S.

Tourists spend more money in Europe than in the U.S. Given that many travel startups start with a simple marketplace to improve liquidity, pricing, listings, discovery or open up a whole new segment, it makes sense to start it from Europe.

Lesson #7: Gaming is big in Europe

Gaming, and in particular mobile gaming, has been thriving in Europe. Many casual games have emerged from European startups. There’s no European Netflix, but Minecraft, Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds were all born in Europe.

All the rest

Idinvest’s report covers other verticals but I don’t have much to add. I’m just going to share the mapping of those verticals and you can read the report if you want to dig deeper.


TechCrunch

Hours after security researchers at Citizen Lab reported that some Zoom calls were routed through China, the video conferencing platform has offered an apology and a partial explanation.

To recap, Zoom has faced a barrage of headlines this week over its security policies and privacy practices, as hundreds of millions forced to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic still need to communicate with each other.

The latest findings landed earlier today when Citizen Lab researchers said that some calls made in North America were routed through China — as were the encryption keys used to secure those calls. But as was noted this week, Zoom isn’t end-to-end encrypted at all, despite the company’s earlier claims, meaning that Zoom controls the encryption keys and can therefore access the contents of its customers’ calls. Zoom said in an earlier blog post that it has “implemented robust and validated internal controls to prevent unauthorized access to any content that users share during meetings.” The same can’t be said for Chinese authorities, however, which could demand Zoom turn over any encryption keys on its servers in China to facilitate decryption of the contents of encrypted calls.

Zoom now says that during its efforts to ramp up its server capacity to accommodate the massive influx of users over the past few weeks, it “mistakenly” allowed two of its Chinese data centers to accept calls as a backup in the event of network congestion.

From Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan:

During normal operations, Zoom clients attempt to connect to a series of primary datacenters in or near a user’s region, and if those multiple connection attempts fail due to network congestion or other issues, clients will reach out to two secondary datacenters off of a list of several secondary datacenters as a potential backup bridge to the Zoom platform. In all instances, Zoom clients are provided with a list of datacenters appropriate to their region. This system is critical to Zoom’s trademark reliability, particularly during times of massive internet stress.”

In other words, North American calls are supposed to stay in North America, just as European calls are supposed to stay in Europe. This is what Zoom calls its data center “geofencing.” But when traffic spikes, the network shifts traffic to the nearest data center with the most available capacity.

China, however, is supposed to be an exception, largely due to privacy concerns among Western companies. But China’s own laws and regulations mandate that companies operating on the mainland must keep citizens’ data within its borders.

Zoom said in February that “rapidly added capacity” to its Chinese regions to handle demand was also put on an international whitelist of backup data centers, which meant non-Chinese users were in some cases connected to Chinese servers when data centers in other regions were unavailable.

Zoom said this happened in “extremely limited circumstances.” When reached, a Zoom spokesperson did not quantify the number of users affected.

Zoom said that it has now reversed that incorrect whitelisting. The company also said users on the company’s dedicated government plan were not affected by the accidental rerouting.

But some questions remain. The blog post only briefly addresses its encryption design. Citizen Lab criticized the company for “rolling its own” encryption — otherwise known as building its own encryption scheme. Experts have long rejected efforts by companies to build their own encryption, because it doesn’t undergo the same scrutiny and peer review as the decades-old encryption standards we all use today.

Zoom said in its defense that it can “do better” on its encryption scheme, which it says covers a “large range of use cases.” Zoom also said it was consulting with outside experts, but when asked, a spokesperson declined to name any.

Bill Marczak, one of the Citizen Lab researchers that authored today’s report, told TechCrunch he was “cautiously optimistic” about Zoom’s response.

“The bigger issue here is that Zoom has apparently written their own scheme for encrypting and securing calls,” he said, and that “there are Zoom servers in Beijing that have access to the meeting encryption keys.”

“If you’re a well-resourced entity, obtaining a copy of the internet traffic containing some particularly high-value encrypted Zoom call is perhaps not that hard,” said Marcak.

“The huge shift to platforms like Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic makes platforms like Zoom attractive targets for many different types of intelligence agencies, not just China,” he said. “Fortunately, the company has (so far) hit all the right notes in responding to this new wave of scrutiny from security researchers, and have committed themselves to make improvements in their app.”

Zoom’s blog post gets points for transparency. But the company is still facing pressure from New York’s attorney general and from two class-action lawsuits. Just today, several lawmakers demanded to know what it’s doing to protect users’ privacy.

Will Zoom’s mea culpas be enough?


TechCrunch

Japan’s trade ministry said today that it will restrict the export of some tech materials to South Korea, including polyimides used in flexible displays made by companies like Samsung Electronics. The new rules come as the two countries argue over compensation for South Koreans forced to work in Japanese factories during World War II.

The list of restricted supplies, expected to go into effect on July 4, includes polyimides used in smartphone and flexible organic LED displays, and etching gas and resist used to make semiconductors. That means Japanese suppliers who wish to sell those materials to South Korean tech companies such as Samsung, LG and SK Hynix will need to submit each contract for approval.

Japan’s government may also remove South Korea from its list of countries that have fewer restrictions on trading technology that might have national security implications, reports Nikkei Asian Review.

Earlier this year, South Korea’s Supreme Court ruled several Japanese companies, including Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, that had used forced labor during World War II must pay compensation and began seizing assets for liquidation. But Japan’s government claims the issue was settled in 1965 as part of a treaty that restored basic diplomatic relations between the two countries and is asking South Korea to put the matter before an international arbitration panel instead.


TechCrunch

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