Apple plans to build its own self-driving car

Apple chief executive Tim Cook - Bloomberg News

Apple chief executive Tim Cook – Bloomberg News

Apple’s talks with car manufacturers have fizzled out, reportedly leaving the company to take on the task of building its planned self-driving car itself.

The business is turning to the manufacturers who have for years built the iPhone, such as Foxconn, as it prepares to start building its own cars, according to a Bloomberg report.

Foxconn along with Magna are prime contenders to become the factories that build the Apple car, Bloomberg reported, helped along by the fact that both already have automotive experience.

Elsewhere, the price of Bitcoin has continued to rise, placing it within touching distance of its all-time high of $58,300 (£41,795).

12:59 PM

Apple turns to its own supply chain for self-driving cars

One of the worst-kept secrets in technology is the fact that Apple has its heart set on building a futuristic new type of car that would see it compete directly with Tesla. The project, known as “Titan” inside the company, has been in the works since 2014.

Apple had been hoping to partner with established carmakers for its electric, driverless vehicles, but these talks have “fizzled,” Bloomberg reports.

So instead of partnering with Hyundai or Kia as it had initially planned, Apple is now turning to its vast supply chain in Asia which it currently uses to produce products including the iPhone and its Mac computers.

About | Vehicle autonomy levels

About | Vehicle autonomy levels

Taiwan’s Foxconn and Canada’s Magna have become leading contenders to become the factories that bring the Apple car to life.

There are signs that the Apple car is inching closer to production. Apple’s special projects division, the growing part of the company working on cars, recently posted a job ad seeking a “senior hands on manufacturing engineer,” Bloomberg reported.

12:10 PM

Atom Bank’s valuation to halve in new funding round

Atom Bank chief executive Mark Mullen

Atom Bank chief executive Mark Mullen

The valuation of financial technology business Atom Bank has halved as part of its latest funding round, Sky News reports.

The challenger bank is raising £40m from backers but the deal is reportedly part of a so-called “down round” which will involve the company’s valuation dropping by half since 2019.

Atom Bank was reportedly valued at £530m in 2019 when it raised £50m from BBVA, meaning its valuation could now be as low as £265m.

Down rounds in financial technology businesses aren’t uncommon, especially as some have struggled during the pandemic due to a drop in card payments.

Monzo saw its valuation drop 40pc to £1.25bn in 2020 when it raised £60m in funding.

A spokesman for Atom Bank did not respond to a request for comment.

11:30 AM

University spin-outs struggling to raise first funding rounds

Cambridge university - Getty Images

Cambridge university – Getty Images

Academics are struggling to raise their first funding rounds for spin-out ventures, new data has shown, despite a rise in overall investment into university start-ups, Hannah Boland writes.

New figures from Parkwalk Advisors and Beauhurst this morning showed companies which were spun out of university research raised £1.35bn last year, just slightly below the record high of £1.36bn in 2018. The number of deals jumped to 371, from 366 last year and 362 the prior year.

However, there was a major drop-off in first-time deals. Those raising capital for the first time secured only £41m across 54 deals, compared to £101m across 76 deals the prior year, in a sign that the earliest-stage businesses were having difficulty securing backing from investors.

Parkwalk said the dramatic fall “was likely a consequence of fund managers concentrating on supporting their existing portfolio, which could impact on the next cohort of large spin-out companies”.

It said the bulk of the investment was focused on a small number of highly successful start-ups, with less than 3pc of the deals accounting for more than 40pc of capital invested.

Five deals by former Woodford favourite Oxford Nanopore, for example, accounted for 34pc of the £500m total raised by University of Oxford spin-outs.

10:53 AM

Wise co-founder sets up new investment firm

 Sten Tamkivi and Taavet Hinrikus - Johan-Paul Hion

Sten Tamkivi and Taavet Hinrikus – Johan-Paul Hion

Taavet Hinrikus, the co-founder of currency transfer business Wise (formerly known as TransferWise) has set up a new investment firm with Sten Tamkivi, the co-founder of Teleport.

The pair, both of whom are from Estonia, plan to back technology start-ups across Europe through the currently unnamed fund which will launch in April.

Investments will range in size from initial seed rounds between €250,000 (£214,000) and €1m, Hinrikus said, up to following their money through to an eventual float.

“We can take positions in crypto tokens, real assets or any alternative financial instruments, if that helps the mission of our world-changing companies,” Taavet Hinrikus said.

The current portfolio of the fund includes stakes in Wise, Bolt, Veriff, LHV, Xolo, Oyster HR, Pactum, Starship, Curve, Sunrise and Acapela.

09:43 AM

Monzo co-founder joins investing app Tickr

Gary Dolman, a co-founder of Monzo, has joined sustainable investing app Tickr as its chairman.

Tickr’s founders approached Dolman, who spent years Monzo’s chief financial officer since it was started in 2015, via LinkedIn two years ago and he initially became an advisor to the business.

The Tickr app has seen strong pandemic growth, growing to more than 400,000 customers. It announced last month that it had raised £2.5m in funding from Ada Ventures.

Here’s what Mr Dolman had to say about joining Tickr:

“Tickr is incredible. You can see the team really cares about generating a positive impact for its customers, whilst doing all it can to build a healthier world. The co-founders have a clear vision of what they want to do, coupled with enormous energy and enthusiasm to deliver on it. As an early adopter of tickr myself, I was very impressed by its ease of use and transparency.”

08:54 AM

Bitcoin price nears all-time high

The price of Bitcoin is close to its all-time high after interest from major companies has led to renewed interest in the digital asset.

The price of a single Bitcoin is close to $55,000 after dropping from more than $56,000 overnight. That has put it close to surpassing its all-time high price of $58,300 which it hit on Feb 21.

Some investors have hoped that the $1,200 stimulus cheques set to be issued to US citizens as early as next week could spur further interest in cryptocurrencies.

Other popular cryptocurrencies including Ethereum and Dogecoin have also seen price rises in recent days.

Support from businesses including Tesla, Mastercard and JP Morgan has helped push Bitcoin’s price higher. Tesla announced in February that it has spent $1.5bn on Bitcoin, an announcement that triggered an immediate 15pc spike in its price.

08:09 AM

Revenues hit £1.5bn at Bulb as losses are slashed

Bulb chief executive Hayden Wood - Julian Andrews/Eye R8 Production 

Bulb chief executive Hayden Wood – Julian Andrews/Eye R8 Production

Revenues at British energy provider start-up Bulb rose to £1.5bn in 2020, up from £823m in the previous year according to the company’s latest accounts released overnight.

The business also cut its losses, narrowing them to £63m from £129m in 2019.

The start-up, which is backed by billionaire Yuri Milner’s DST Global fund as well as venture capital firm JamJar Investments, is taking on incumbent energy suppliers using its own software designed to stop customers waiting on hold.

Bulb bosses previously said that losses are “part of the plan” for the business as it continues to spend heavily on expansion. It has grown to supply more than 1.7m households.

07:36 AM

Parler’s App Store re-entry is blocked by Apple

Parler - Getty Images Europe

Parler – Getty Images Europe

Apple has rejected an attempt by free speech social media app Parler to re-enter its App Store weeks after it was removed over hate speech concerns.

The iPhone maker rejected Parler’s application to list its app again in its digital storefront last month after claiming to have found swastikas on the service despite a new moderation policy, Bloomberg reports.

Parler’s app was removed from Apple and Google’s app stores in January following the violence that took place in Washington DC.

“After having reviewed the new information, we do not believe these changes are sufficient to comply with App Store Review guidelines,” Apple reportedly wrote to Parler’s chief policy officer on Feb 25. “There is no place for hateful, racist, discriminatory content on the App Store.”

Parler has since cut its three iOS app developers, a possible sign that it has entirely abandoned its attempt to return to iPhones.

07:27 AM

Five things to start your day

1) Data from almost 8,000 servers in UK could be stolen in Microsoft hack It comes after Microsoft revealed last week that Chinese hackers had exploited security flaws in its Exchange email services

2) Children’s video gaming company Roblox soars to $47bn in direct public listing Chief executive David Baszucki hailed the buoyant public listing as the first step towards an online ‘metaverse’

3) Facebook files to dismiss ‘misguided’ US monopoly lawsuits that could break up its business The social media giant said regulators had failed to show that its acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp harmed consumers or competition

4) Racist and sexist gadgets to be targeted in new product safety rules Business Minister Paul Scully says the planned overhaul is possible now the UK has left the European Union

5) British payments pioneer considers $1.5bn US Spac listing in blow to London Worldremit has held talks in recent weeks about a listing through a merger with a US special purpose acquisition company

Coming up today

3pm: Amy Klobuchar is set to hold her first competition hearing under Democrat antitrust committee control

Katherine E. Ackerman

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