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Secretive data startup Palantir has confidentially filed for an IPO



Secretive surveillance startup Palantir said late Monday it has confidentially filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to go public. 

Its statement for the secretive, government-friendly big data operation, co-founded by Peter Thiel, said little more. “The public listing is expected to take place after the SEC completes its review process, subject to market and other conditions.” 

Palantir did not say when it plans to go public nor did it provide other information such as how many shares it would potentially sell or the share price range for the IPO. Confidential IPO filings allow companies to bypass the traditional IPO filing mechanisms that give insights into their inner workings such as financial figures and potential risks. Instead, Palantir can explore the early stages of setting itself up for a public listing without the public scrutiny that comes with the process. The strategy has been used by companies such as Spotify, Slack and Uber. However, a confidential filing doesn’t always translate to an IPO. 

A Palantir spokesperson, when reached, declined to comment further.

Palantir is one of the more secretive firms in Silicon Valley, a provider of big data and analytics technologies, including to the U.S. government and intelligence community. Much of that work has drawn controversies from privacy and civil liberties activists. For example, investigations show that the company’s data mining software was used to create profiles of immigrants and consequently aid deportation efforts by the ICE.

As the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the world, Palantir pitched its technology to bring big data to tracking efforts. 

Last week, Palantir filed its first Form D in four years indicating that it is raising $961 million. According to the filing, $550 million has already been raised and capital commitments for the remaining allotment have been secured. 

With today’s news, the cash raise looks complementary to the company’s ambitions to go public. One report estimates that the company’s valuation hovers at $26 billion

Palantir’s filing is another example of how the IPO market is heating up yet again, despite the freeze COVID-19 put on so many companies. Last week, insurance provider Lemonade debuted on the public market to warm waters. Accolade, a healthcare benefits company, similarly is sold more shares than expected. 

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Daily Crunch: Uber confirms Postmates acquisition



You may have noticed that The Daily Crunch is publishing about six hours later than usual. Do not be alarmed! We decided that sending the newsletter later in the day was a better fit for the TechCrunch news cycle — hopefully, there will be fewer days when we hit Publish and then groan when we see a giant story break five minutes later.

We’re also taking the opportunity to rethink the newsletter format. The mission hasn’t changed — the goal is to deliver the day’s big tech headlines in an email that you can read in just a couple of minutes. But we know that different readers are focused on different areas of TechCrunch’s coverage, so moving forward, The Daily Crunch will be organized to make it easier to find the news that interests you.

Without further ado: Here’s your Daily Crunch for July 6, 2020.

The big story: Uber confirms Postmates acquisition

The reports last week were true: Uber announced today that it’s acquiring Postmates in an all-stock deal worth $2.65 billion. It looks like the restaurant delivery market is consolidating — Uber previously tried to acquire Grubhub, which ended up selling to the European company Just Eat Takeaway instead. The company said Postmates will continue to operate as a standalone app, but tech and delivery operations will be consolidated.

Meanwhile, Alex Wilhelm took a close look at Uber’s finances to help Extra Crunch readers understand why the company’s stock is up today, arguing that the acquisition could help Uber Eats “grow more quickly while bringing down its losses as a percent of revenue.”

The tech giants

US tech giants halt Hong Kong police help — After the Chinese government has passed a new security law undermining protections for Hong Kong, both Facebook and Twitter said that they will no longer process demands for user data from Hong Kong authorities. (In Facebook’s case, this also applies to WhatsApp.)

Instagram Reels tested in India following TikTok’s ban — Instagram may be taking advantage of India’s decision to ban TikTok by expanding its Reels feature, which allows users to create 15-second videos set to music.

Intel to invest $253.5 million in India’s Reliance Jio Platforms — Intel joins General Atlantic, Facebook and Silver Lake as an investor in India’s top telecom operator.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Here’s a list of tech companies that the SBA says took PPP money — Bolt Mobility, Getaround, Luminar, Stackin, TuSimple and Velodyne all took loans of $150,000 or more from the Paycheck Protection Program, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. But confusingly, some of the firms on the list (including Bird and Index) denied taking any loans.

Sequoia announces $1.35 billion venture and growth funds for India and Southeast Asia — Sequoia Capital India made more than 50 investments in India last year, putting it ahead of any other VC firm in the country.

Payfazz gets $53 million to give more Indonesians access to financial services — This Indonesian startup offers a number of mobile financial services, including bill payments and loans.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Four views: Is edtech changing how we learn? — Devin Coldewey, Natasha Mascarenhas, Alex Wilhelm and Danny Crichton have thoughts about whether digital learning can make quality education more accessible, or will simply widen existing divides.

As COVID-19 surges, 3D printing is having a moment — 3D printing has fallen out of the spotlight over the past couple of years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, designed to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

‘Hamilton’ gives Disney+ a holiday weekend bump in US, with app downloads up 74% — That’s according to data from Apptopia.

Original Content podcast: ‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga’ is a goofy delight — Every week, Darrell Etherington, Jordan Crook and I review the latest streaming movies and shows in a freewheeling discussion. In this episode, we were all pleasantly surprised by the new Will Ferrell movie on Netflix.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Tech shares set fresh records despite uncertain economy



Despite record-setting COVID-19 infections, American equities rose today. All major indices gained ground during regular trading, while tech stocks did even better.

The Nasdaq Composite set new 52-week and all-time highs, touching 10,462.0 points before closing at 10,433.65, up 2.21% on the day. Similarly, a basket of SaaS and cloud companies that has risen and fallen more sharply than even the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed this afternoon at 1,908.30 after touching 1,952.39 points. Both results were 52-week and all-time highs.

Such is the mood on Wall Street regarding the health of technology companies. It’s not hard to find bullish sentiment, jockeying to push tech shares higher. Some examples of today’s enthusiasm paint the picture:

  • The recent IPO Lemonade is now worth $4.7 billion, according to Yahoo Finance. That price gives it a Q1-annualized revenue run rate multiple of around 45x. For a SaaS company, that would boggle the mind. As we’ve written, however, Lemonade has very un-SaaS-like gross margins, and has higher churn. The company’s stock rose around 17% today for no clear reason.
  • Tesla rose over 13% today to $1,371.58 per share, another huge day of gains for the company now worth in excess of $250 billion. Analysts expect the firm to report $4.83 billion in revenue in its most recent quarter, according to Yahoo Finance. That’s less than the company reported in its year-ago June quarter when it saw $6.35 billion in revenue. Since July 1, 2019, Tesla shares have appreciated in excess of 450%, despite the company prepping to report what the market anticipates will be revenue declines.
  • Amazon and Netflix also set new records today to toss a few more names into the mix.

You can’t swing your arms without running into a reason why it makes sense for SaaS stocks to be trading at record valuation multiples, or why one company or another is actually reasonably valued over a long-enough time horizon.

It’s worth noting that this putatively rational public investor thinking doesn’t fit at all with what the tech set used to pound into my head about the public markets, namely that they are infamously impatient and thus utter bilge for most long-term value creation. Going public was garbage, I was told; you have to report every three months and no one looks out a few years.

Now, I’m being told by roughly the same people that the market is doing the very thing that they said it didn’t do, namely price firms for future results instead of trailing outcomes. Fine by me either way, frankly, but I’d like to know which story is true.

Happily, we’re about to see if all this high-fiving and enthusiasm is real.

Earnings season beckons, and it should bring with it a dose or two of clarity. If the digital transformation has managed to accelerate sufficiently that most tech companies have managed to greatly boost their near-term value, hats off to the cohort and bully for the startups that must also be enjoying similar revenue upswells.

But that doesn’t have to happen. There are possible earnings result sets that can cause investors to dump tech shares, as Slack learned a month ago.

The background to all of this is that there are good reasons to have some doubts about the current health of the national economy. And, sure, most people are willing to allow that the stock market and the aggregate domestic economy are not perfectly linked — this is no less than partially true — but each day the stock market steps higher and COVID-19 surges again leading to re-closings around the nation makes you to wonder if this is all for real.

Earnings season is here soon. Let’s find out.

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As COVID-19 surges, 3D printing is having a moment



COVID-19 will be remembered for many things — most undoubtedly negative. There are, however, some silver linings among the horrors of the deadliest pandemic in recent memory. Among them, if the sort of human ingenuity that shines whenever the world is faced with a similar crisis.

The simple truth of the matter is the world wasn’t prepared for a virus of this magnitude. It’s something that’s played out in country after country, as the novel coronavirus has continued to devastate communities across borders.

In spite of early warning signs, many nations — the U.S. certainly included — were caught off-guard, lacking the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and other necessities required to battle the virus for a prolonged stretch. For many, taking on COVID-19 has required improvisation and resourcefulness — both, thankfully, qualities found in good volumes among the maker community that helped give rise to 3D printing technology.

If you’ve followed the technology even in passing over the last decade, you’re no doubt aware how much time evangelists spend justifying the usefulness of 3D printing beyond the the confines of desktop hobbyists. The defensiveness is certainly understandable. Consumer 3D printing has all of the trapping of an overhyped boom and bust. The truth of the matter is that it simply wasn’t ready for the mainstream moment many investors and members of the press were ready to thrust upon it.

But even as desktop 3D printing companies begun to scale back or shutter at an alarming rate, the industry has continued to have success stories among those who have further innovated and targeted the right market. Formlabs jumps out amongst the desktop market, with Carbon presenting a success story on the industrial side of the fence. What unites both beyond innovation is a focus on real-world case uses.

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Here’s a list of tech companies that the SBA says took PPP money



The U.S. Treasury Department released Monday a highly anticipated trove of data identifying every company that has received a loan of more than $150,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — a list that includes some of the hottest names in the tech startup world, including Bolt Mobility, Getaround, Luminar, Stackin, TuSimple, and Velodyne.

The data, which lists the names of companies that received small business loans over $150,000, was the result of a push for greater transparency around the loans. The list also provides the number of jobs that each company said it plans to retain as a result of the funds.

The PPP loans became available to help prop up companies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted local and state governments to issue stay-at-home orders and close non-essential businesses.

As illuminating as this data is, it may contain inaccurate data. Both Bird and Index Ventures have issued statements that counter information provided by the federal government.

“Bird was erroneously listed as a company that filed for a PPP Loan,” according to an emailed statement from Bird. “We did not apply for nor did we receive a PPP Loan. We decided as a company not to file an application as we did not want to divert critical funding from small and local businesses.”

Bird CEO and founder Travis VandenZander tweeted Monday that Citi had started an application while it awaited the company’s decision on whether to formally apply. Bird told Citi it decided not to apply and the bank told the company the temporary application had been cancelled.

Index Ventures confirmed it has not applied for or received a loan.

Y Combinator Research received a loan between $150,000 to $350,000. The nonprofit company rebranded in May, and announced that it is operating independently from Y Combinator and will no longer be affiliated with the incubator. This renaming announcement came after the nonprofit applied for a PPP grant.

Below is a list of tech startups and companies, including some venture firms that received money, either for themselves or on behalf of portfolio companies, from the program. The story is developing and we’re seeking to confirm the loans with companies. We will update throughout the day.

$150,000 to $350,000 range

  • Stackin, which connects millennials to fintech startups, plans to retain 33 jobs. This loan is notable because the fintech company raised a $12.6 million Series B financing in May, is listed in the loan data. CEO Scott Grimes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
  • OpenResearch, formerly named Y Combinator Research, plans to retain 13 jobs.

$350,000 to $1 million range

  • Bolt Mobility, a city micromobility upstart, plans to retain 27 jobs

$2 to $5 million range

$5 to $10 million loan range

  • Getaround, a peer-to-peer car sharing service, plans to save 12 jobs
  • Luminar, a lidar sensor company, plans to retain 7 jobs
  • Velodyne, a lidar sensor company, plans to save 19 jobs

Developing …

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Mercedes-Benz 2021 S-Class jumps on the giant touchscreen bandwagon



Mercedes-Benz sent out a teaser image and video Monday of its upcoming 2021 S-Class that hints at a sleeker interior that forgoes the bevy of physical knobs and toggles found in previous models in favor of a digital centric design.

The teasers illustrate a movement in the automotive industry popularized by Tesla to incorporate large touchscreens in new models.

Little is known about Mercedes’ next-generation MBUX infotainment system, which will debut in the 2021 S-Class. It appears, based on Mercedes’ teaser image and latest video as well as leaked photos that a large portrait-style touchscreen will be the centerpiece of the new MBUX system. Mercedes didn’t reveal the size of the screen or what functions will be incorporated into it. However, it appears that the climate control functions are head to the central touchscreen.

Image Credits: Screenshot/Mercedes

More information about the system and the S-Class is coming in just a couple of days. Mercedes-Benz will unveil the next-gen MBUX system at 5:30 a.m. EST July 8 as part of a series of digital reveals that will give snippets of information on the 2021 S-Class. The other videos are set for July 29 and August 12. The world premiere of the S-Class is expected to be held in September.

The first-generation Mercedes-Benz User Experience or MBUX system was unveiled in January 2018 at the CES tech trade show and debuted in the automaker’s A Class hatchback. That was a departure for Mercedes, which has historically reserved its best tech for its highest-class models — the S Class being the first vehicle to typically get the latest and greatest tech. Mercedes appears to be returning to that strategy with the new version of MBUX heading to the 2021 S-Class.

Image Credits: Screenshot/Mercedes

The next-gen MBUX will likely continue its emphasis on voice, if the video with Daimler board member Markus Schäfer is any indication. The 2021 Mercedes S-Class will also have a head-up display, according to the video.

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Sequoia announces $1.35 billion venture and growth funds for India and Southeast Asia



Sequoia Capital India on Monday announced it has secured $1.35 billion from LPs for two new funds in the country as the storied venture firm looks to ramp up its investments in the world’s second largest internet market and Southeast Asia.

The two new funds — a $525M venture fund and a $825M growth fund — will help the venture firm, which already maintains a seed fund, more comprehensively serve the startup ecosystem in the region, said Shailendra Singh, a managing director at Sequoia Capital India.

“A fundraise represents a massive responsibility to deliver attractive returns to Sequoia’s Limited Partners, the majority of which are non-profits, foundations and charities. We do this by partnering with outstanding founders who are building category defining companies,” he said.

Sequoia Capital India, which roped in former Google India head Rajan Anandan last year, made more than 50 investments last year, more than any firm in the country.

Top VC firms in India last year based on the number of investments they made

The firm, which began investing in India 14 years ago, closed its last fund, of $695 million, for India and Southeast Asia in 2018. That was its sixth fund for the region.

The VC firm has made several high-profile investments over the years, including in edtech giant Byju’s, which is now valued at $10.5 billion, Singapore e-commerce startup Zilingo, and fintech startup PineLabs, online learning startup Unacademy, fintech firm RazorPay, and Khatabook, which offers bookkeeping services to merchants. Last year, Sequoia Capital India sold most of its stake in budget hotel startup Oyo.

The new funds from Sequoia comes as a time when several investors have lost appetite as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts businesses. The per capita income of Indians, which remains some of the lowest across the globe, has also not improved over the years.

“Due to frequent cycles of intense competition, startups in our region have struggled to grow rapidly with good unit economics, often posting very high losses for the scale of business. This has prevented very large profitable technology businesses in our region from emerging. To add to these challenges, startups in India do not have the benefit of a regulatory framework that allows listing on foreign exchanges like Nasdaq. In this market context, most start-ups have chosen to remain private, and raising capital has become a proxy for success,” said Sequoia’s Singh.

“We believe there is an opportunity to choose a different path. Our ecosystem has arrived at a fork in the road.”

Last year Sequoia Capital India launched an accelerator program, called Surge, for early-stage startups. Since then about 50 startups have participated in Surge, which some analysts told TechCrunch has reduced Y Combinator’s appeal in India.

More to follow…

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