IN GOLDMAN WE TRUST
Apple announced on Monday that it would release a flashy new credit card to consumers. Dubbed “Apple Card,” it lives in the iPhone’s Wallet app where purchases are automatically totaled and organized by color-coded categories. It’s clean, it’s beautiful, it’s Apple.
After the announcement, I saw headlines like, ‘Apple Wants to Be the Only Tech Company You Trust.” Except it’s not. Apple’s asking you to put your trust in Goldman Sachs and Mastercard, too. The company partnered with the firms in order “to provide the support of an issuing bank and global payments network.”
Apple promises that Goldman “will never share or sell your data to third parties for marketing or advertising.” The caveat being that, “Of course, Goldman Sachs will use your data to operate Apple Card.” 🤔 Although Apple will not have access to the credit card data, Goldman will as it builds up its consumer banking arm. Jerry Neumann tweeted, “So Apple won’t see the credit card data but Goldman Sachs (and, I assume, Mastercard) will? Is that supposed to be comforting?” People responded with questions around how the data will be used for targeting and underwriting purposes.
My friend and CoVenture founder Ali Hamed made a larger, thought-provoking observation. He said, “Fascinating that we’ve finally hit a point in time where people trust Goldman Sachs more than they trust tech companies.”
Research consultancy HarrisX surveyed American adults last year about their opinions on major tech companies and issues around privacy, security and government regulations. It found that people were losing faith that tech giants were able to adequately protect their data. A whopping 83% said we need tougher regulations and penalties for breaches of data privacy.
On the other hand, Goldman Sachs, which played a role in the 2008 financial crisis, seems to have largely rebuilt the trust in its brand. Slightly more American adults would now feel “proud” to work for the Wall Street giant, as opposed to “embarrassed,” according to data from YouGov’s Plan & Track, a research firm tracking brand awareness and perception. Two-thirds of respondents who said they are open to working at Goldman Sachs also said they trust banks and credit unions, compared to 47% of U.S. adults overall.
So yes, the same Goldman Sachs that was famously referred to as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money,” is now asking consumers to trust that it will keep their data safe. “Simplicity, transparency and privacy are at the core of our consumer product development philosophy,” said David Solomon, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs.
It’s pretty wild to see how public sentiment can reverse in a single decade.
NEW FIRM ALERT: Jon Sakoda has revealed his new venture. Sakoda, who spent 12 years as an investor at New Enterprise Associates, launched a venture capital firm called Decibel. Cisco is backing the firm by making an investment of an undisclosed amount. Note that Cisco already has a corporate venture arm, Cisco Investments, that invests in later-stage companies. Sakoda’s Decibel will be independent and focused on early-stage — it plans to write checks between $5 million and $15 million during a startup’s seed and Series A rounds.
The fund hasn’t closed yet and no numbers have been disclosed, but a Securities and Exchange Commission filing from October shows that Sakoda was initially targeting $500 million.
THE BUSINESS OF YOUR FACE: While you weren’t looking, tech companies helped themselves to your photos to power a facial recognition boom. For now, there are few legal restrictions on facial recognition software, meaning there is little you and I can do to stop companies using our faces in this manner.
My colleague Jeff John Roberts reports:
In the race to produce the best software, the winners will be companies whose algorithms can identify faces with a high degree of accuracy without producing so-called false positives. As in other areas of artificial intelligence, creating the best facial recognition algorithm means amassing a big collection of data—faces, in this case—as a training tool. While companies are able to use the sanctioned collections compiled by government and universities, such as the Yale Face Database, these training sets are relatively small and contain no more than a few thousand faces.
“Hundreds are not enough, thousands are not enough. You need millions of images. If you don’t train the database with people with glasses or people of color, you won’t get accurate results,” says Peter Trepp, the CEO of FaceFirst, a California-based facial recognition company that helps retailers screen for criminals entering their stores.
• MineralTree, a Cambridge, Mass.-based accounts payable and payment automation solution provider, raised $50 million in funding. Great Hill Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including .406 Ventures and Eight Roads Ventures.
• TerViva, an Oakland-based agriculture technology firm, raised $20 million in Series D funding. Investors include Evans Properties, The Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust, Elemental Excelerator, the Yield Lab, Astia Angels, Allotrope Ventures and Howard Fischer of Gratitude Railroad.
• Ubiquity Retirement + Savings, a fintech company focused on flat-fee small business retirement plans, raised $19 million in Series D funding. The investors were not named.
• SentiLink, a San Francisco-based fraud visualization platform, raised $14 million in Series A funding. Andreessen Horowitz led the round, and was joined by investors including Nyca Partners, Goldcrest, Felicis Ventures, Caffeinated Capital, Max Levchin and Zach Perret.
• Linear Labs, a Fort Worth, Texas-based smart electric motor company, raised $4.5 million in seed funding. Science Inc. and Kindred Ventures co-led the round, and were joined by investors including Chris and Crystal Sacca, Ryan Graves of Saltwater Ventures, Dynamic Signal CEO Russ Fradin, Masergy Executive Chairman and former-CEO Chris MacFarland, and Ustream co-founder Gyula Feher.
• Revvo, a startup that offers an internet of things “smart” sensor for vehicle tires, raised $4 million in Series A funding. Norwest Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including Vulcan Capital and AngelList.
• MaintainX, a mobile-first workflow management platform, raised $3.8 million in seed funding. August Capital and Amity Ventures led the round, and were joined by investors including Ridge Ventures and TCL Ventures.
• Teraki, an automotive AI startup, raised $2.3 million in funding. Investors include Horizons Ventures and American Family Ventures.
• Talkoot, a Portland, Ore.-based cloud-based content production platform for global brands, raised $1.65 million in seed funding. Seven Peaks Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Cascade Angels and Willamette Valley Capital.
• OncoLens, a technology company serving cancer care programs, raised $1.35 million in seed funding. BIP Capital and Atlanta Technology Angels co-led the round.
• ChargeWheel, a provider of mobile charging hubs for micro-mobility fleets and electric vehicles, raised $1 million in seed funding from Right Side Capital.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Dyal Capital Partners acquired a passive non-voting minority stake in HGGC, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based private equity firm. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• TPG Capital will acquire Entertainment Partners, a provider of production workforce management and automated production software. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• HCAP Partners made an investment in Confirm BioSciences, a diagnostic testing and health & wellness solutions for the corporate community and individual consumers. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Resilience Capital Partners acquired Systron Donner Inertial, a Concord, Calif.-based supplier of quartz microelectromechanical systems. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Bessemer Investment Partners acquired the assets of KorMex Foods, Inc. through a new portfolio company platform set up for this purpose called MAS Restaurant Group. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Ferrero and Hostess Brands are lead contenders to buy Kellogg’s Keebler, Famous Amos and fruit snacks business, according to CNBC. The deal could value the brands at $1.5 billion. Read more.
• Olympus Partners acquired Tank Holding Corp, a maker of rotationally molded polyethylene tanks and containers. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Leonard Green Partners was the seller.
FIRMS + FUNDS
• Nautic Partners, a Providence, R.I.-based private equity firm raised $1.5 billion for its latest fund, Nautic Partners IX.
• GED Capital, a Spain-based private equity firm, raised €100 million ($113 million) for its fund, GED VI España.
• 500 Startups, a Mountain View, Calif.-based incubator, venture capital firm, and accelerator, raised $33 million for its MENA region focused fund, 500 Falcons.