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‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ is a bad movie, but it has a good take on tech



The new “Matrix” film released this holiday season is a bit of a disaster, but while it falls down on action, characters, pacing, visuals and most other measures, it succeeds on a surprising one: having something cogent to say about our relationship with technology.

(“The Matrix: Resurrection” spoilers ahead, but really … it kind of came out spoiled.)

The original “Matrix”‘s premise that the world we live in is not real was not quite original, but its deep sci-fi spin on it — a “Terminator”-esque robocalypse using a simulation to pacify the masses — was compelling and well executed. At the time, people had not yet developed the healthy fear of tech we now see daily: smartphones didn’t exist (and therefore neither could our unhealthy reliance on them), robots were rudimentary, AI was still sci-fi, and social media meant ICQ and chat rooms. Oh, blessed ignorance!

This meant that the fears and threats were only superficially technological: It happened to be machines that had yoked the human race into being living batteries, but ultimately the paranoia concerned an illuminati hiding the truth of the world from you, an idea that goes back centuries.

“Resurrections” is different. In the two decades since “The Matrix” came out, smartphones, AI and social media (among other things) have emerged not merely as influential technologies but the defining characteristics of this era, both in terms of what they enable and new terrors they inflict.

The fundamental threat described by “Resurrections” is not one of total deception but of targeted disinformation — perhaps the clearest and most present danger of our time. The solution proposed is not to simply pierce the veil, which as shown by the previous movies is only a partial one, but to live genuinely and humanely, in harmony and dialogue with others.

The situations we find the main characters — such as they are — in at the beginning of the movie represent different traps that we can fall into. The initially compelling and meta recasting of the original trilogy as a series of games is the half-truth more convincing than a lie; Neo, acclaimed but stalled professionally and creatively, is in therapy to treat his unhealthy perception of the games as reality. Trinity has had a comfortable routine as the path of least resistance. And (new) Morpheus lives in an inescapable echo chamber.

Image Credits: Warner Bros Pictures

It’s not hard at all to connect these ideas with the direst threats inherent to social media: self-delusion, doomscrolling and radicalization. The machines are machines of influence, making their ideas seem like one’s own.

It’s not so much any more that “this is not the real world,” though it isn’t, but rather that “my thoughts are not my real thoughts.” Well, if not yours, then whose? Answer that question, and you find your oppressor.

Elsewhere we find failed approaches to thinking for oneself. Outside in the real world humanity has stalled. The revolutionary original Morpheus is gone and the new leadership hobbled by risk aversion in the face of apocalyptic threat. Here one sees echoes of ineffectual government, unable to take the bold action required to move forward.

In the warehouse we have — however clumsily rendered — a sort of neophobic (pun intended, and purposeful) Boomer mentality of total rejection in the wild man Merv: “We had grace, we had style, we had conversation, not this … beep-beep-beep-beep! Art, films, books were all better! Originality mattered!” He wants to return to a bygone era of perceived greatness: a whiny, befouled barbarian blaming tech for his own inability to adapt.

And last there is the presence of a civil war among the machines: shades of tech, unsustainable but unable to stop, beginning to eat itself.

What “Resurrections” puts forth as a way forward is in some ways a hackneyed “let’s all work together!” But the subtext enriches it with a purposeful message: The common enemy is technological in nature, but not technology itself. And escape is an illusion if you are trapped in the prison of your own mind.

What’s important in the film is the rejection of the programming we’ve adopted as our own, whether it has been maliciously and deliberately engineered by a high-tech adversary or arrived at more naturally through a lack of self-reflection.

Coexistence is the path we should take, and to accomplish that we must question our own preconceptions about the other. That humans and the hated machines even can work together is shocking to Neo. Let us not read too far into this on the politics side — I don’t think this is an allegory for bipartisanship — but rather consider the new terminology introduced. They’re not robots but “synthients” — a pleasing portmanteau, offered in a gentle correction that mirrors the issue of pronouns and labels. Gender is a spectrum — why not consciousness?

In “Resurrections,” it is coexistence with the other that is the only realistic path, both in the “real world” where robots and humans must share the planet, and in the Matrix, where even AIs chafe under the overbearing management of their roles and agency.

Ultimately, after the requisite amor vincit omnia moment and subsequent overblown action scenes, the final showdown is one of perspectives. The “Analyst,” who has given humanity the rope with which it has bound itself, says that people are happier that way. Neo and Trinity propose that the technological treadmill on which people purportedly choose to walk only works because the system has been designed to prevent real connections and real joy.

Far from the solipsistic barbarians or the comfortably passive leadership, “Resurrections” endorses an inclusive and collaborative world where people are free to learn and grow — because the tools and entities that kept them ignorant and divided are the same that provide illumination and connection.

As an action flick, Lana Wachowski’s film barely holds together — it’s a mess (I watched “Commando” as a palette cleanser). But beyond its dubious execution, the mess it depicts is the message. We can see ourselves and our modern dilemma painted with unsettling accuracy in the movie, and the director’s belief that we are capable of more if we question not the world but our own self-imposed limitations is the “red pill” she suggests we take.

Source: Tech


Spendesk is the fifth French startup to reach unicorn status this month



Fintech startup Spendesk is announcing that it has raised an extension to its Series C round. Tiger Global is investing $114 million (€100 million) in the startup. Following today’s funding round, the company says that is has reached a valuation of more than $1.14 billion (more than €1 billion).

In other words, Spendesk is a new unicorn in the French tech ecosystem. Funding news has been accelerating over the last few months in France. In January alone, five startups announced that they have crossed the threshold to reach unicorn status — PayFit, Ankorstore, Qonto, Exotec and Spendesk.

Back Market, an e-commerce marketplace focused on refurbished smartphones and electronics devices, has also raised a mega round and reached a $5.7 billion valuation.

Let’s go back to Spendesk. The startup offers an all-in-one corporate spend management platform for medium companies in Europe. Originally focused on virtual cards for online payments, the company has expanded its product offering to tackle everything related to corporate spending.

Spendesk customers can order physical cards for employees, team members can use the platform to pay outstanding invoices, file expense reports, manage budgets and generate spending reports. By offering everything in a single service, Spendesk wants to simplify accounting and approvals in general so that money moves more freely.

The startup defines its platform as a “7-in-1 spend management solution”, meaning that Spendesk is no longer just a product that lets you order debit cards for your employees.

“We have had this goal since the beginning — we really want to become this platform, this operational system to manage your spending,” co-founder and CEO Rodolphe Ardant told me. “When we started working on the product, we looked at each use case and designed the right workflow for that.”

In particular, Spendesk helps you formalize your internal processes. You can define team budgets, set up complicated approval workflows for expensive payments, automate some pesky tasks, such as VAT extraction.

“We target mid-market clients. Those are customers with 50 to 1,000 employees. We have a few clients that are bigger than that and a few clients that are smaller than that,” Ardant said.

And the company currently has 3,500 clients — around half of them are based in France while other clients are mostly based in Germany and the U.K. Clients have spent €3 billion through Spendesk in 2021 alone.

With its central positioning in the financial stack, Spendesk needs to interface perfectly with other financial tools — banks on one side and ERP products on the other side.

The startup currently supports many of the popular accounting tools used by European companies, such as Xero and Datev. Spendesk customers can also export transaction batches and import them into Sage, Cegid and other accounting software solutions.

Spendesk is also working on automating the integrations with your bank accounts, which could be particularly useful for companies with multiple bank accounts. For instance, you could imagine setting up a rule that automatically triggers a transfer between your German bank account and your Spendesk account when you want to pay a German supplier.

Image Credits: Spendesk

Spend management in Europe

Spendesk isn’t the only spend management solution in Europe. There are some competitors, such as Pleo, which recently reached a $4.7 billion valuation, and Soldo — another well-funded competitor as it has raised $180 million last year.

In the U.S. as well, companies like Brex and Ramp have reached sky-high valuations. And yet, Spendesk doesn’t think it has the same positioning as American startups.

“On the American market, it shouldn’t be called the spend management industry — it’s the corporate card industry. Players like Brex and Ramp position themselves as a payment method,” Spendesk co-founder and CEO Rodolphe Ardant told me. “Europe’s corporate culture is a culture of debit — not credit. We don’t provide payment methods, we provide a process.”

It’s a slight difference in product positioning, so it’s going to be interesting to see if a European spend management startup can successfully enter the U.S. and vice versa.

When it comes to business model as well, Spendesk considers itself as a software-as-a-service company with recurring subscriptions. The startup didn’t want to share any hard numbers for its revenue. Its CEO just said that Spendesk’s revenue “more than doubles every year.”

With today’s funding round, Spendesk plans to triple the size of its team over the next two years. The company plans to have 1,000 employees by the end of 2023.

Source: Tech

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Tech expands venture arm to $500 million to back early-stage web3 startups


on, a popular cryptocurrency exchange, has extended its venture arm’s fund size to $500 million as it looks to more aggressively back early-stage startups to help the nascent ecosystem grow, following similar moves by rivals Binance, Coinbase and FTX.

The broadening of Capital comes less than a year after the Singapore-headquartered firm unveiled its maiden fund of $200 million. The fund, unlike those of many of its rivals, has no LPs (meaning, it’s fully financed by the firm’s balance sheet.)

The maiden fund, whose individual checks run up to $10 million in size, has been so far deployed to back about 20 startups including YGG SEA, multi-chain crypto portfolio tracker DeBank, cross-chain token infrastructure Efinity and Ethereum scaling solution Matter Labs. will continue to focus on backing early-stage startups, said Jon Russell, who joined the firm as a general partner this month, in an interview with TechCrunch.

With the fund, is broadly focusing on gaming, decentralized-finance and startups innovating on cross-chain solutions. But he cautioned that the industry could change and expand, as it has in recent years, to areas “we don’t know about,” hence the firm is keeping an eye out on everything.

Tuesday’s announcement also further illustrates the growing involvement of cryptocurrency exchanges in being the rainmaker – and beneficiary – of the ecosystem which encompasses the industry in which they operate.

FTX, which has backed over 15 startups, last week announced a $2 billion crypto fund. Its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, also owns Alameda Research, a venture firm that has backed close to 100 web3 startups.

Coinbase Ventures, the investment arm of the only crypto exchange that is publicly traded, and Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, are also among the most prolific investors in the web3 space.

Venture investment in crypto / web3 in 2021 by category (Image credits: Galaxy Digital)

The funding activity in the space, even as most of the aforementioned names often co-invest in startups, is at an all-time high. VCs invested more than $33 billion in crypto/web3 startups in 2021, more than all prior years combined, Galaxy Digital, another prolific investor in the space, wrote in a recent report.

“Valuations in the crypto/blockchain space were 141% higher than the rest of the venture capital space in Q4, highlighting a founder-friendly environment and the intense competition among investors for deal allocations,” the report added.

Scores of venture capital firms have also raised new funds for their crypto investments. Just last year, Andreessen Horowitz added a $2.2 billion crypto fund, Paradigm unveiled a $2.5 billion fund, and Hivemind Capital Partners announced a $1.5 billion fund. Katie Haun, who co-led a16z’s $2.2 billion crypto fund, has left the firm to launch her own crypto-focused fund.

Russell – a former journalist who previously had stints at TechCrunch, The Next Web, and The Ken – said is backing startups to help the ecosystem grow.

“If you’re in the industry, it’s in your interest to help companies grow in the ecosystem and the ecosystem itself to grow,” he said. (Worth pointing out that Solana, Avalanche, Polkadot — as well as some of their major investors — are also aggressively backing startups that are building applications for the native blockchains.)

The startups backs are under no obligation to list their tokens on over any of its rivals or offer the exchange any other preferential treatment, he said. The exchange team similarly doesn’t have a soft spot for the investment arm’s portfolio firms, he added.

(What’s up with the career move? “I’ve been crypto curious for a number of years but I wasn’t gasping to dive in full-time. This project appeals to me because is ambitious but yet it does things the right way. There’s certainly a lot of hype and hot air in crypto and web3 right now, but it’s impossible to ignore the talent that’s pouring into the industry,” he said.), which started its life as a blog of professor Matt Blaze (who sold the domain to the crypto exchange), has aggressively expanded in the past year as it looks to court more users. The Singapore-headquartered firm last year agreed to pay more than $700 million for the naming rights of the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The downtown Los Angeles complex has been rebranded as Arena for the next 20 years.

The firm, which bills itself as the “fastest-growing” crypto exchange, said at the time of the announcement that the move is positioned to make cryptocurrencies mainstream., which processes trade volumes of over $2.5 billion every day, also teamed up with Hollywood star Matt Damon last year to promote the brand and cryptocurrencies.

The Damon-starring ad equated buying crypto tokens and NFTs to one of the greatest and boldest accomplishments in the history of humankind. Hyperbole, to be sure, but having the most mainstream American actor as’s celebrity sponsor has certainly helped bring the trading platform, and all that it sells, into the mainstream. The ad went viral and also attracted criticism for being cringeworthy.

Source: Tech

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Focused on smaller cities, Vietnamese social commerce startup Mio raises $8M Series A



Mio, the Vietnamese social commerce platform, has raised an $8 million Series A, less than a year after announcing its seed round. The funding was led by Jungle Ventures, Patamar Capital and Oliver Jung, with participation from returning investors GGV, Venturra, Hustle Fund, iSEED SEA and Gokul Rajaram.

TechCrunch first covered Mio at the time of its $1 million seed funding in May 2021. Founded in 2020, Mio is a group buying platform that focuses on selling fresh produce and groceries in Tier 2 and 3 cities in Vietnam. The company is able to offer next day delivery because it built a logistics infrastructure that enables it to send produce directly from farms to customers.

The Series A brings Mio’s total raised to $9.1 million, and will be used to expand its logistics and fulfillment system, enter new areas in Vietnam and add new product categories like fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and household appliances.

Mio co-founder and chief executive officer Trung Huynh said that since TechCrunch first covered Mio seven months ago, it has achieved 10x gross merchandise value growth, a 10x increase in agents, or resellers, and grew its team from 60 people to 240. It now fulfills more than 10,000 pieces of fresh produce per day, operating in Ho Chi Minh, Thu Duc, Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Long An, with plans to expand into northern Vietnam.

The numbers “strengthened our conviction in this model and its potential,” he said. “We need fresh capital to accelerate hiring, product development and supply chain to keep up with the pace of growth as we deepen our presence in existing geographies and expand to new provinces.”

Mio is able to offer next day deliveries because its vertically integrated mayor layers of the value chain, including procurement, warehousing, order sorting and bulk delivery. The startup owns the majority of its logistics infrastructure and uses its own fleet of couriers. Its ability to delivery fresh produce directly from farms to customers in less than 16 hours contributed to higher customer retention and growth, Huynh said, and it will continue to shorten delivery times. .

Mio resellers are called Mio Partners. Huynh said one of the driving factors behind Mio is targeting the right people for the program, or “housewives and stay-home-moms in lower income regions who love sharing value-for-money products to their social circle of friends.”

They aggregate orders, usually from friends and family, and orders are delivered to them in batches for distribution. The startup claims Mio Partners can make up to $400 a month, including a 10% commission on each order and additional commissions based on the monthly performance of other resellers they referred to the program.

“There is a strong possibility” that Mio will expand beyond Vietnam, Huynh said, “but will only be considered at a more appropriate time after we successfully built our playbook for Vietnam.”

Source: Tech

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