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#180 – If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

by | Jul 1, 2024 | Recent Newsletters

Hi Shopifreaks! 

Today marks my 180th consecutive weekly edition of Shopifreaks! I've never missed a Monday edition in over three and a half years now, with no plans of slowing down anytime soon. I hope that my newsletter continues to bring value to your e-commerce business in the years to come. 

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Thank you for being a Shopifreak. I greatly appreciate your readership and support of this publication.

And now, onto your regularly scheduled programming…

In this week's edition I cover:

  • The effectiveness of Meta's Oversight Board
  • Amazon's new direct-from-China marketplace
  • Upcoming sales events from Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and… TikTok?
  • Amazon's newest attempt at an AI chatbot
  • The UK's latest £2.7B lawsuit against Amazon
  • Apple's 30% ad tax is going global
  • Arkansas is suing Temu
  • Shopify parts ways with Amazon Pay in the EU
  • Amazon is investigating Perplexity AI
  • Walmart's 11th Annual Open Call event
  • Klarna Plus reaching 100k users in the US

All this and more in this week's 180th Edition of Shopifreaks. Thanks for subscribing and sharing!

Stat of the Week

Meta's Oversight Board made 53 decisions out of the 398,597 appeals they received globally last year. The board wrote in their annual report, “While we can only review a small number of cases, we continue to select cases that often raise underlying issues facing large numbers of people around the world and make recommendations to address them.”

Meta Oversight Board 2023

1. Amazon launches a direct-from-China marketplace

Fast Delivery or Cheap Price? For a while, Amazon had the monopoly on both — offering same-day and next-day delivery to millions of customers in the U.S. while simultaneously squeezing vendors and third-party sellers to offer their products at the lowest prices online. But then along came Shein and Temu and suddenly Amazon wasn't the cheapest seller on the block, while 3rd party sellers ran out of margin to squeeze.

Despite Amazon's decades-long plan of becoming the fastest delivery service in the U.S., it turned out that customers didn't need everything delivered within 48 hours and were willing to wait a week or two if the price was right, which meant that Amazon began to feel the effects of Shein, Temu, and other Chinese retailers.

As much as some retailers are pretending that the threat of Shein & Temu doesn't exist (see story #1), Amazon is apparently well aware of the shift in consumer sentiment and is making moves to capitalize on the momentum. 

The Information reports that Amazon plans to take a page from the Shein and Temu playbook and open a new online store featuring low-cost items shipped directly from China.

  • The marketplace will focus on selling unbranded clothing (Shein) and household items (Temu) priced under $20 and weighing less than a pound.
  • The orders will take up to 11 days to arrive and will ship tariff-free under the de minimis threshold.

Amazon informed select Chinese sellers in an invite-only meeting last week in Shenzhen that it would start signing up merchants this summer and begin accepting inventory in the fall. Amazon also noted that sellers who join the marketplace can determine their product selection and pricing, and can produce in small batches to test the demand for new products. 

Amazon didn’t confirm or deny the report, only telling Reuters that, “We are always exploring new ways to work with our selling partners to delight our customers with more selection, lower prices, and greater convenience.”

Here are a few questions to think about with this new “Amazon Express” marketplace: 

  • How will it affect Amazon's relationship with third-party FBA sellers who are already feeling squeezed by Amazon's increasing fees and relentless efforts to offer the best prices online at their expense? Third-party sellers have already had to compete directly with Amazon's own private label brands in the past, and now they'll have to also compete with China?
  • Should domestic sellers prepare for a scenario where a customer is browsing their listing for a $20 cell phone charger with free same day delivery, only to have Amazon prompt the shopper with a recommendation, “Buy it for $7 and have it in 11 days”?
  • How will it affect Amazon's relationship with customers? Amazon has already earned a reputation in recent years of having a marketplace flooded with cheap Chinese goods. Will this new marketplace confirm that bias?
  • Is the move shortsighted? One of my 2024 Predictions is that the de minimis rule gets revised. Similar tariff-bypassing rules are already being revised in other countries, and it's only a matter of time before the U.S. takes action to end de minimis abuse and even the playing field for domestic retailers. Or perhaps I'm wrong and this tariff-free loophole will exist for years to come. 

What are your thoughts on the move? Hit reply and let me know. 

2. The Summer of Deal Days

Amazon confirmed that its 10th annual Prime Day sales event will be held this year from July 16-17. The event will feature another round of invite-only deals, where Prime members can request an invitation to exclusive deals that are expected to sell out.

However other retailers aren't letting Amazon have all the fun this year…

1) TikTok is challenging Amazon's Prime Day with its own sales event this month called “Deals For You Days” starting on July 9th. The announcement came a few days after Amazon revealed the dates of this year's Prime Day. 

TikTok says the event will offer deals on fashion, beauty products, backyard entertainment, home decor, summer reading best sellers, and more, featuring exclusive sales on products from L’Oréal Paris, Maybelline New York, NYX Professional Makeup, Our Place, Too Faced and Zwilling USA.

During the sales event, brands and merchants will participate in content challenges for short videos and live shopping events, where they can interact with their followers and offer discounts on popular products in real time.

2) Walmart is kicking off its Walmart Deals event on Monday, July 8th this year and running it for four full days until midnight July 11th. Walmart+ members will get early access to deals starting at 12pm EST on July 8th, a full five hours before the event opens to the general public. 

The retailer will be offering deals on electronics like smart TVs and laptops, home essentials like vacuum cleaners and air purifiers, toys, patio furniture, and travel accessories.

3) Best Buy is holding its “Black Friday in July” event from July 15 to July 17th with members of its loyalty program getting access to exclusive deals.

4) Target is running its Circle Week from July 7th to July 13th, offering savings up to 50% off thousands of items. 

One question comes to mind when reporting on all these upcoming sales events — where is Shopify in all this?

Would it make sense for Shopify to host a coordinated sales event each year for its D2C merchants, possibly through its Shop App marketplace?

“It's not a marketplace!” … Sure, but still.

Shopify Shop App Week could:

  • Encourage more customers to download the app.
  • Provide a sales outlet for smaller D2C brands that get drowned out by deals on Amazon and larger retailers this summer.
  • Offer a great way for Shopify to put Shop Cash into more customers' wallets through Shop App Week incentives.
  • Funnel a portion of this massive summer deal revenue through Shop Pay, which is good for Shopify's bottom line.

What are your thoughts? Should Shopify get in the sales event game? Or are they smart to leave promotions in the hands of their merchants instead? Hit reply and let me know or join the convo on my LinkedIn post.

3. Amazon Metis – the AI Greek Goddess of Wisdom

Amazon is working on an AI chatbot to compete directly with OpenAI's ChatGPT, according to Business Insider.

The secret internal project is code-named “Metis” in reference to the Greek goddess of wisdom and is designed to be accessed from a web browser like other AI assistants. Metis is powered by an internal Amazon AI model called Olympus, which is a more powerful version of the company's publicly available Titan model.

Metis, like other AI chatbots, gives text and image answers in a conversational manner, as well as shares links to the sources of its responses and suggests follow-up queries.

Metis will use an AI technique called retrieval-augmented generation (RAG), which means it will be able to retrieve information from beyond the original data use to train its underlying model. In other words, it can search the web.

Metis is also expected to work as an AI agent, capable of automating and performing complex tasks like making a vacation itinerary, turning on your lights, and booking a flight for you.

I can't keep up with Amazon's AI efforts. There's Metis, Titan, Olympus, Q, Rufus, Alexa, Alexa Plus…. am I missing any?

The company's attempts to catch up with its consumer facing AI has been the most fragmented and discombobulated effort I've seen from any big tech company in the past couple years.

It's such a wasted opportunity too because Amazon already had one of the most well-known and longest running names in virtual assistants on the planet — Alexa!

My recommendation for quite some time has been that everything AI-powered at Amazon should be “Alexa.”

She has become a household name in the past decade and should follow me around the entire Amazon ecosystem as my personal assistant and gateway to shopping, customer service, and product comparison on Amazon, as well as to the rest of the Internet at this point.

If you really want a rebrand, take an acronym strategy from Apple's playbook at this point and call her upgraded version “Alexa Infinity” — but keep Alexa front and center in users' minds. She's already earned our trust and is part of our homes.

AI companies in general (not just Amazon) are obsessed with naming and differentiating their new LLMs — but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what other nerds in the industry think. It all comes down to consumer adoption.

An entire generation and their children have grown up with Amazon's Alexa in their homes. Their kids have talked to her as if she's part of the family since the day they were old enough to speak. You literally can't buy that type of adoption.

Amazon's entire AI strategy at this point should be predicated around a simple campaign — “Look what Alexa can do now!”

4. Amazon's new £2.7B lawsuit in the UK

Amazon has been hit with another competition lawsuit in the U.K. seeking £2.7B in damages (or around $3.4B) before the U.K.'s Competition Appeals Tribunal.

The case is being brought by Andreas Stephan, a professor of competition law at the University of East Anglia, on behalf of more than 200,000 third-party Amazon sellers in the U.K. The lawsuit is “opt-out” meaning that eligible sellers are automatically included at no cost unless they ask not to be included.

The lawsuit argues that Amazon:

  • Favored its own retail offerings over those of third party sellers.
  • Favorited its own FBA logistics service.
  • Unfairly conditioned access to its Prime membership on the use of FBA.
  • Made it harder for third-party sellers to sell cheaper on other platforms.

Stephan wrote in a press release, “As a result of these abuses, third-party sellers have lost sales, faced increased costs and paid higher fees to Amazon for its services than they would have under normal conditions of competition.”

An Amazon spokesperson responded by saying, “We are confident that these claims are baseless and that this will be exposed in the legal process. Over 100,000 small and medium sized businesses in the UK sell on Amazon’s store, more than half of all physical product sales on our UK store are from independent selling partners, and the fact is that we only succeed when the businesses we work with succeed.”

Outside of the US, the UK is Amazon's largest international market, where it made $33.6B in revenues in 2023 out of $575B in global revenues.

Does this lawsuit feel familiar? 

That might be because last month I reported (story #7) that the British Independent Retailers Association filed a £1.1B damages claim against Amazon with similar accusations. At the time, it was the the biggest ever collective action to be launched by retailers in the U.K., but it didn't hold the record for very long!

5. Get ready to pay more for Meta ads on iOS

Apple is extending its 30% fee on Facebook and Instagram ad purchases made through iOS devices to advertisers worldwide, starting today.

Quick Backstory: Back in February, Apple made policy changes that required iOS users in the U.S. to pay through Apple Pay when boosting a post on Instagram or Facebook, instead of with their card on file at Meta. This meant that Apple would now be getting a 30% cut of the advertising transaction, as they do with other mobile purchases like gaming and music / video streaming subscriptions. 

This change prompted Meta to begin adding an “Apple service fee” to each boost transaction to cover the cost of the Apple tax. At the time, Meta published an announcement advising Facebook and Instagram users to boost content from their websites instead of the apps to bypass the new fee.

Flash Forward To July 2024: Apple's requirement that Instagram and Facebook users on iOS pay for their boosts via Apple Pay is now expanding globally, which means advertisers around the world will have to absorb the 30% Apple tax if using their iPhones or iPads to boost posts. 

Pedro Pavón, who leads Monetization and Ads Policy at Meta, wrote on LinkedIn:

“It's clear to me that Apple is creating a highly-controlled system that limits user choices, increases costs for users and app developers, and reduces competition for Apple. The 30% Apple tax gives them an unfair advantage over competitors, making it harder for them to compete on pricing. None of this strikes me as a good outcome for users or fair dealing with competitors.”

Apple Pay is supposed to be a more convenient and secure way to make purchases through iOS, but now Meta users are having to bypass their iOS apps to avoid being charged more. That doesn't seem convenient or secure, especially for business owners who have their Apple Pay tied to a personal credit card, but need to pay for their Meta ads with a business card. 

I'm glad that more companies are beginning to bring attention to the Apple Tax with “Apple Service Fees” and announcements to their customers. If using an Apple device becomes visibly more expensive or inconvenient to iOS users, something will eventually have to give.

6. Arkansas is suing Temu for being a data-theft business posing as a retailer

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin filed a lawsuit against Temu for allegedly violating the state's Deceptive Trade Practices Act, as well as its Personal Information Protection Act.

The lawsuit calls for an end to Temu's “deceptive trade practices and violation of users' privacy” and seeks to impose civil penalties and other “monetary and equitable relief.”

Griffin didn't mince words about Temu, calling the platform a “data-theft business that sells goods online as a means to an end.” He went on to say:

“Though it is known as an e-commerce platform, Temu is functionally malware and spyware. It is purposefully designed to gain unrestricted access to a user’s phone operating system. It can override data privacy settings on users’ devices, and it monetizes this unauthorized collection of data.”

Griffin claims that Temu can sell products for so low because retail is effectively a loss leader for the company and that their actual business is the data.

In response to the allegations, Temu said, “Where the hell is Arkansas?”

Temu actually said it cares “deeply about privacy” and that it doesn't “sell” its users personal information, but only provides it to certain entities to create a better and more personalized service for users.

That's not the only hot water Temu is finding itself in this week…

EU regulators demanded detailed explanations from both Temu and Shein about how these companies comply with stringent online content regulations, setting a deadline of July 12th to provide comprehensive information on their adherence to the Digital Services Act.

Last week, the European Commission also reached a preliminary conclusion that Apple is in breach of the bloc's Digital Markets Act regulation and launched a second probe into the company over its restrictions on steering, which is when developers encourage users to make purchases on platforms other than the App Store to avoid the hefty fee (like in the Meta story above).

7. Shopify says adios to Amazon Pay in Europe

Shopify notified users in Europe that Amazon Pay will no longer be available as a payment option from August 6th onward, but did not provide any reason why.

Amazon's only response was an e-mail to merchants the next day informing them that Amazon Pay may require an additional reserve amount in between now and then to ensure that the merchant's account is sufficiently funded for outstanding claims and refunds. 

What's going on? I thought Shopify and Amazon were best friends — or at least frenemies — after coming to agreements over Buy with Prime?

ChannelX summed it up nicely: 

“This looks like a typical ‘Mom & Pop’ disagreement with both sides likely holding out for a better deal. We’ve seen it with Amazon and Visa back in 2022, although they came to a last minute deal to continue to accept Visa credit cards and frankly it’s just tiresome for merchants.”

ChannelX also pointed out that Shopify's notification e-mail suggested that merchants contact Amazon support for additional assistance, which they called a “classic way of getting merchants to do your lobbying for you.”

Yet another feud between tech giants that leaves merchants and consumers in its wake. 

8. Amazon is investigating Perplexity AI

Amazon Web Services started an investigation into Perplexity AI to determine whether the search engine, which is hosted on AWS, is ignoring the Robots Exclusion protocol (or robots.txt file), which contains instructions on whether bots can or cannot access a particular page.

Complying with those instructions is not a legal requirement, however it is required by AWS in order to use their servers.

Despite being legally voluntary, crawlers from reputable companies have generally respected the Robots Exclusion protocol since the standard went into place in the 90s.

Scrutiny of Perplexity's practices follows a report from Forbes that accused the startup of stealing at least one of its articles. WIRED investigations confirmed the practice and found further evidence of scraping abuse and plagiarism by Perplexity’s search chatbot.

In their investigation, WIRED found that Perplexity had scraped pages from Condé Nast, The Guardian, Forbes, The New York Times, and other news publications that forbid bots from accessing their content.

Perplexity CEO Aravind Srinivas responded to WIRED’s investigation by saying the questions that they posed to the company “reflect a deep and fundamental misunderstanding of how Perplexity and the Internet work” and that the secret IP address WIRED discovered scraping websites without permission was operated by an unnamed third-party company that performs web crawling and indexing services.

WIRED asked Srinivas if he would ask the third party to stop crawling the websites, to which he replied, “It's complicated.”

Sara Platnick, a Perplexity spokesperson later told WIRED that the company respects robots.txt and confirmed that “Perplexity-controlled services” are not crawling in any way that violates Amazon's TOS — which sounds to me like Perplexity is simply outsourcing its violation of Amazon's TOS to a third party!

9. Other e-commerce news of interest

Walmart began accepting applications for its 11th annual Open Call event, which invites small business owners in the U.S. to apply for the opportunity to pitch their products to be sold on Walmart and Sam's Club shelves and websites. At last year's event, Walmart heard over 1,000 pitches from more than 700 businesses from all 50 states. Applications are open until July 15th.

Wix launched a new tool that allows designers to export their Figma designs into the Wix Studio platform and generate fully functional websites using AI. The import automates no-code animations and even works in conjunction with Wix's built-in business solutions and CMS.

Thousands of South Africans have signed an online petition protesting the government's introduction of a higher import tax of 45% plus VAT on clothing items ordered from Shein and other foreign retailers. The South African Revenue Service says it's looking to impose measures like this to ensure local firms manufacturing or selling clothing items can compete on a fair basis with global online retailers. Opponents of the tax claim that it will have a detrimental impact on individuals, local couriers, cargo businesses, and the economy at large. 

2024 is on track to be an even worse year for Amazon aggregator funding than 2023. Just two equity funding rounds were closed through June 27th, compared to five at the same time last year and a total of 12 last year. In 2021, at its peak, Amazon brand acquirerers spent more than $6B across 80+ acquisitions, whereas this year they've only spent $100M.

Shopee agreed to make changes to its services in Indonesia after admitting to the country's antitrust agency that it had violated anti-monopoly rules by directing customers to certain delivery services after being accused of breaches last month. The company said that it has proposed changes on its user interface to demonstrate compliance in according with the feedback from the agency.

Hibbett, an athletic fashion retailer headquartered in Birmingham, AL, is now offering same-day and next-day delivery via Walmart GoLocal, the company's white-label delivery service for retailers. Hibbett customers can now place orders for sneakers, apparel, and accessories and have them fulfilled same day or next day via Hibbett's over 1,000 stores nationwide.

Microsoft unveiled details of an AI security flaw called Skeleton Key that can bypass ethical safeguards built into AI models of OpenAI, Google, Meta, and others, and pose a risk to e-commerce platforms, fintechs, and customer support operations. Skeleton Key works by using a multi-step strategy to cause a model to ignore its guardrails, allowing malicious users to manipulate AI systems to generate harmful content, provide inaccurate financial advice, or compromise customer data privacy, raising concerns about the integrity of operations at businesses that use AI chatbots and recommendation engines.

Shopify announced the winners of this year's Shopify Build Awards at its event. Best app awards went to Bundle Builder, O:Request a Quote, Seguno Email Marketing, Combine, Glossier, Nour Hammour, and Post Familiar Wines.

Amazon is combining its Amazon Clinic telehealth service into its primary care business, One Medical, to simplify its medical care offering for customers. The service has now been rebranded to Amazon One Medical Pay-per-Visit and costs $49 for a video call or $29 to text message a doctor.

Albertsons partnered with Grubhub to provide grocery delivery services from 1,800 of its 2,200 supermarkets across the country including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw's, Acme, and Tom Thumb. The partnership marks the first national grocery partner for Grubhub as the restaurant delivery service looks to compete in the grocery delivery arena.

Amazon reached a market cap of $2 trillion for the first time last week after seeing its stock gain 52% in the past 12 months, partly driven by enthusiasm for the company's investments in AI. Amazon now joins Alphabet, Microsoft, Apple, and Nvidia in the club of companies worth over $2T.

Google is rolling out a new WordPress specific conversion code for Google Ads, first spotted by David Quaid who posted about it on X and wrote, “Google giving WP specific tracking code has never happened to me before today, I have 25 Ad Accounts.” Others reported seeing the same prompt for Squarespace websites. 

Klarna Plus, a membership program that provides subscribers with exclusive benefits like waived service fees, rewards, and access to special deals, reached 100,000 subscribers in the U.S. since its launch earlier this year. The company boasts that members have utilized more than 27,000 discount offers at various retail partners and have saved over $1.8M per month.

Adept, a startup developing AI-powered agents to complete software-based tasks, agreed to license its tech to Amazon with the co-founders and portions of its team joining the company. The deal provides a lifeline for Adept, which has been in talks with Meta and Microsoft over the past few months about a potential acquisition, and bolsters Amazon's generative AI ambitions.

Vevol Media launched their first Shopify theme called Noblesse, a fashion-focused theme that includes a new interactive video storytelling feature that recreates the Stories user experience to showcase products. The company plans on introducing 4 new themes in the next 3 years.

Two members of the US House of Representatives reintroduced the SHOP SAFE Act of 2024, legislation that seeks to protect U.S. consumers from unknowingly purchasing counterfeit goods by incentivizing e-commerce platforms to implement certain guidelines and subjecting the platforms to liability for the actions of third-party sellers. The act was previously introduced without movement, and it remains to be seen whether it moves forward this time toward passage. 

Remember, the direct-from-China website that was popular for a time before Temu?  The company, which sold to Qoo10 earlier this year, launched Wish+ to shoppers in US and Canada, which integrates Qoo10's existing retail platform with From what I could tell, Wish+ appears to look and function like the old, but now there's a plus sign in the logo. So we'll see what happens with that.

Sezzle is expanding its Payment Streaks loyalty program to users in Canada, with the except of shoppers in Quebec for some reason, to reward consumers for consistent and timely payments. The program gamifies payments by offering advancement to higher loyalty tiers for accumulating streaks of on-time payments. “Great job you made an on time payment and unlocked the reward of us not dinging your credit score!”

Amazon Canada partnered with Visa to integrate BNPL installment plans at the point of sale on its marketplace. When shopping on or the Amazon app, cardholders will have the option to select “installments by Visa” as their payment method. Amazon joins around 100 other merchants in Canada offering installment payments enabled by Visa. 

eBay promoted a special Elton John Aids Foundation Charity livestream last week that auctioned off clothing from the musician to raise funds for HIV/Aids awareness, but the company completely blundered the event with a terribly pixelated livestream and extreme lag that turned everyone on camera into “unidentifiable blogs of color moving around the screen” according to Liz Morton of Value Added Resource. The technical issues persisted throughout the entire event and were so bad that eBay disabled the replay feature.

Flipkart started rolling out its own payments app called that allows users to make mobile payments via UPI. To entice customers, is promising “real cashback” and not “useless rewards” for paying, sending, or receiving money via the app. The company plans to expand its offering in the future to include secured cards and lending. 

Last week the WSJ reported that Apple was considering integrating Meta's generative AI model into its new Apple Intelligence system, but according to a new report by Bloomberg, Apple has rejected the move due to privacy concerns. Bloomberg reported that the two companies haven't spoke about using Meta's chatbot in an AI partnership since March when they held “brief talks” about it, during which Apple was courting several companies. Meta must've been like, “You can use our AI if you let us track conversions again on iPhone and stop with this 30% tax on our ads nonsense.”

A recent study by PYMNTS Intelligence found that only a small fraction of consumers paid for their most recent e-commerce purchases using BNPL — roughly 1% in most countries surveyed. The report found that only 0.9% of U.S. consumers used BNPL to pay for their last online purchase compared to 2.5% of consumers in Australia.

Etsy updated their policies on mature content, cracking down on particular categories of items that have spread across the site in recent years. Key changes to the policy include significantly limiting the types of adult toys and accessories that can be sold, prohibiting items that depict certain acts, and introducing stricter criteria for images with mature content.

10. Seed rounds, IPOs, & acquisitions

Route, a post-purchase tracking and protection solution, raised $40M in a Series C round led by Hanaco VC at a $1.4B valuation. Route empowers more than 13,000 brands with shipment tracking, package protection, and carbon offsetting solutions and reached $100M in revenue in 2023.

Pear Commerce, a retail enablement platform for omnichannel brands, raised $10M in a Series A round led by Stage 2 Capital. The funding follows the company's launch of Pear Connect, a shoppable ad unit that integrates where-to-buy technology directly into the ad itself, bridging the gap between a brand's digital ads and its retail website.

Comfi, a Dubai-based fintech that enables manufacturers and suppliers to offer their buyers flexible payment solutions, secured a $5M debt facility from an undisclosed Abu Dhabi-based private family office. The funding will support the launch of its embedded BNPL solution as well as facilitate $40M in B2B transactions across the UAB over the next year.

Formic Technologies, a Chicago-based startup that rents automation robots by the hour to manufacturers, raised an additional $27.4M to its Series A round led by Blackhorn Ventures, bringing its total amount raised in the round to $50M. In the past year, the startup has seen sevenfold growth in total robot production hours for U.S. manufacturers and has doubled its customer base. 

Clay Labs, an AI-driven sales and marketing startup that offers data enrichment tools, raised $46M in a Series B round led by Meritech Capital Partners LP, bringing its total amount raised to $66M. The funding will be used to enhance its platform for data aggregation, which automates research and analysis of various data sources to help businesses improve engagement and conversion rates by tailoring communications to individual prospect's needs. 

Unicoin, a cryptocurrency backed by real estate and equity in high-growth companies, is planning to go public later this year. The company filed for approval with the SEC this past February and shared in a recent letter to shareholders that its exploring various avenues to go public, including direct listing, reverse merger, or engaging in a traditional IPO.

k-ID, an online safety and compliance platform that aims to create safer online communities for young people, raised $45M in a Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz and Lightspeed Venture Partners. The funds will support the company's mission to set a global benchmark for age-appropriate video game experiences and create a safer online gaming experience for youth.

Tata Sons, the investment holding company and owner of Tata Group, one of India's largest and oldest conglomerates, halted fresh investment into its e-commerce businesses including Tata Neu, Croma, Tata Cliq, and others, for the first time in eight years. The group said it wants to focus on rewiring strategy and improving accountability and operating efficiencies to ensure profitable growth.

Klarna sold its online checkout service, Klarna Checkout, to a consortium of investors led by Kamjar Hajabdolahi, CEO of BLQ Invest, for $520M so that the company can concentrate on its flexible payment methods. Klarna has previously run into conflicts by offering its own payment system to merchants, so by divesting itself of checkout, the company eliminates that competition and friction with other checkout partners like Stripe and Adyen. Klarna Checkout launched in 2012 as a complete payment solution in North Europe where it currently maintains a 40% market share in Sweden and 20% across the Nordics. 

Zyod, an Indian tech platform that helps Indian factories manufacture fashion wear for global brands, raised $18M in a Series A round led by RTP Global. Through its ERP platform, the company tells factories what needs to be produced, how it should be made, and when it should be made to help them utilize their capacity, which its co-founder, Ankit Jaipuria, says is only 33% utilized across more than 80,000 small factories in the country.

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Paul E. Drecksler
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PS: Why do melons have to be married in a church? Because they cantaloupe!