GVA © 2017

01 February, Thu
2 acquisitions and 1 ICO: the Russian eSports market is heating up
The beginning of this year saw major moves on the Russian eSports scene, a sizable European market with established players operating globally. Thus, last week Mail.Ru Group — an LSE-listed Internet company which controls the largest Russian-language social networks and a range of online gaming companies — announced the full acquisition of ESforce.

This company, which generates around 60% of its revenues in euros and US dollars, owns two world-class clubs:  SK and Virtus Pro. It also controls 14 websites; 209 social media groups and video production studios; the event organizer Epic eSports Events; CyberBase, the largest eSports global database; as well as trading and analytics platforms.

ESforce is also behind Yota Arena, a huge eSports tournament venue in Moscow, and Fragstore, a merchandising retailer present in 20 countries, according to the company.

In 2017, these businesses attracted 116 million users with 440 million sessions and over 120 million hours watched of online content via streaming platforms, according to Mail.Ru Group’s press-release. The revenues of that year are expected to be around $19 million, up 150% from 2016. However, ESforce had negative EBITDA in 2017, estimated at $15 million.

ESforce’s acquisition — still subject to third party approvals — is expected to close in Q1 2018. Mail.ru Group intends to acquire 100% of ESforce in an all cash transaction; the amount has been defined as being “$100 million less any outstanding debt at closing, with a further KPI-based payment, likely to be around $20 million, at the end of 2018.”

Commenting on the acquisition, Mail.Ru Group CEO (Russia) Boris Dobrodeev said: “The very obvious strategic fit with Mail.Ru Group needs little explanation and we will be looking to leverage our unrivalled position inside of the social networks and gaming in order to drive ESforce to even greater success.”

A mobile operator in the running

Just days before, MTS, a leading Russian mobile operator, announced the acquisition of Praliss Enterprises, the parent company of Gambit Esports, for an undisclosed amount.

Gambit Esports has four teams (16 players in total) participating in the most popular cyber game disciplines: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), League of Legends (LoL), Dota 2 and FIFA. Gambit Esports teams have repeatedly earned world and European championship titles, as well as silver and bronze medals, in the largest international competitions. The club owns such exclusive assets as rights to participate in prestigious international tournaments, an own production of branded clothing and a studio for creating media content.

The primary sources of the club’s income are sponsorship contracts, prizes, sales of brand attributes and digital goods, remuneration for participation in leagues, as well as transfer revenues, according to MTS.

Gambit Esports will retain its 16 players and its staff while its CEO Konstantin Pikiner will continue leading the project as Chief Gaming Officer at MTS. The teams and players will continue competing at the international arena under Gambit Esports brand name.

“Our cybersport strategy includes marketing initiatives, as well as development of new products for gamers and their fans. To achieve these goals, we have created a separate eSports division within the company’s Innovation Center,”  MTS stated.

The operator intends to “utilize the opportunities offered by Gambit Esports for branding purposes” and to “offer sponsorship cooperation to interested corporate partners.”

A blockchain platform to reward eSports viewers

Meanwhile, Play2Live (P2L), a startup with roots in Belarus and Russia launched last year, is making its first steps on the eSports scene. It has just launched 24/7 live rebroadcasts in six languages: English, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese.

The platform also wants to attract eSports aficionados by increasing Internet speed. Play2Live is in the process of deploying blockchain-based decentralized P2P networks. Thus, users of the same content will join together to pool their own resources and bandwidth.

The startup also aims to “create a new economy” based on a revenue-sharing model. “Streamers will be able to monetize their content in 11 ways vs. just four or five on existing streaming platforms. They can earn right from their very first stream, regardless of the size of their follower base,” Play2Live’s founder and CEO Alexey Burdyko told East West Digital News.

Viewers, on their side, can monetize their content in several ways — a first in the eSports video-streaming industry, claims Play2Live.

“They can earn money by watching ads, performing tasks set by streamers, voting for content, and sharing their internet bandwidth via peer-to-peer CDN. Viewers may also place bets with bookmakers without leaving the P2L site, and purchase games using tokens,” said Burdyko.

Called Level Up Coin (LUC), these tokens will be the only mean of payment in use on the platform. They can be converted to other cryptocurrencies or to fiat money through a gateway/API.

A $1.5 billion market

The global eSports industry reached $1.5 billion and is forecasted to grow up to $ 2.3 billion in 2020, according to data from Superdata Research cited by MTS.

Another research by PayPal and Superdata Research indicates that the Russian eSports market (the second largest in Europe after Sweden) amounted to $35.4 million in 2016.

In 2016 the Russian government officially recognized eSports (also known as “competitive video gaming” or “computer sports” in Russian) as a sport discipline. Cyber-athletes can thus receive such official titles as “Master of Sports of Russia,” “International Master of Sports” and “Honored Master of Sports of Russia.”

In 2015, Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov announced an investment of “$100 million or more” in Virtus.pro. More recently Winstrike, a Russian globally-oriented eSports company, attracted $10 million from private investor Nikolai Belykh and several business angels.

Source: East-West Digital News
July 2017
17 July, Monday
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Powerful technology will threaten all human jobs, could even spark a war, Tesla CEO says

14 July, Friday
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13 July, Thursday
Uber, Yandex combine ridesharing and UberEATS in Russian markets in a $3.72B JV

Uber announced that it will be combining its rides-on-demand business and UberEATS, its food ordering and delivery business, in Russia and neighboring markets, with Yandex.Taxi, the ridesharing business.

12 July, Wednesday
Microsoft's new iPhone app narrates the world for blind people

The app uses AI to recognize people, objects, and scenes

07 July, Friday
Tesla will build world’s largest battery storage facility for Australian wind farm

Tesla will up its game in the renewable energy storage market with the largest lithium-ion battery storage facility in the world, to be built for Australia’s Hornsdale Wind Farm, with a completion date of December 1, 2017. 

05 July, Wednesday
Amazon’s Alexa passes 15,000 skills, up from 10,000 in February

Amazon’s Alexa voice platform has now passed 15,000 skills — the voice-powered apps that run on devices like the Echo speaker, Echo Dot, newer Echo Show and others. The figure is up from the 10,000 skills Amazon officially announced back in February, which had then represented a 3x increase from September.

June 2017
29 June, Thursday
Instagram now uses AI to block offensive comments

Instagram is introducing an enhanced comment filter today meant to wipe out nasty remarks using AI. 

28 June, Wednesday
Russia and Brazil aim to develop high tech partnerships

During official talks with his Brazilian counterpart, Michel Temer, in Moscow on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the cooperation between the two countries in the field of technologies.

Putin noted that Russia and Brazil already cooperate closely in space exploration and that there are plans to develop cooperation in Earth monitoring from space.

27 June, Tuesday
Apple acquires SMI eye-tracking company

In a move that is sure to stoke rumors about Apple’s future work in augmented and virtual reality technologies, Apple has acquired SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI), an eye-tracking firm, MacRumors reports.

22 June, Thursday
X-Ray Eyes in the Sky

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21 June, Wednesday
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20 June, Tuesday
Global risk analysis gets an artificial intelligence upgrade with GeoQuant

The global risk analysis used by big banks, hedge funds, and governments to inform their decision-making around everything from foreign currency investment to foreign aid is getting the machine learning treatment with the launch of the new startup GeoQuant.

May 2017
31 May, Wednesday
Elon Musk's Solar Roofs Have Some Serious (and Seriously Cheap) Competition

A team of researchers in Australia has created a solution that could make solar energy far more accessible.

25 May, Thursday
Airbnb is running its own internal university to teach data science

Tech companies, and increasingly even non-tech companies, are struggling with the fact that there are not enough trained data scientists to fill market demand. 

23 May, Tuesday
IKEA launches online sales and builds giant distribution center in Russia

Illustrating the appeal of the Russian e-commerce market, IKEA Russia has made a substantial part of its assortment available online to the inhabitants of Moscow, Saint Petersburg and their surrounding areas, as well as of several cities of Siberia, the Far East, the Central and Northwestern federal districts.

22 May, Monday
2017 VC Market: U.S. Startup Investment Picks Up In Q1

U.S. startup investment activity somewhat rebounded after a downturn late last year, with larger rounds and an improving environment for tech IPOs. However, funding totals are still below the highs set several quarters ago...

18 May, Thursday
Russian programing language - Kotlin - on Android. Now official

Today, at the Google I/O keynote, the Android team announced first-class support for Kotlin. We believe this is a great step for Kotlin, and fantastic news for Android developers as well as the rest of our community. We’re thrilled with the opportunities this opens up.

17 May, Wednesday
The thaw of the Russian venture market

From the seed stage to maturity deals, venture investment amounted to $894 million last year, up from just $383 million in 2015. “Market growth was essentially driven by a dramatic increase in expansion deals, whereas the volume of seed- and startup-stage deals fell to new lows,” notes Arseniy Dabbakh of RG Partners

16 May, Tuesday
Mid-sized Japanese firms invest in robots and automation due to labor shortage

Desperate to overcome Japan’s growing shortage of labor, mid-sized companies are planning to buy robots and other equipment to automate a wide range of tasks, including manufacturing, earthmoving and hotel room service.

According to a Bank of Japan survey, companies with share capital of 100 million yen to 1 billion yen plan to boost investment in the fiscal year that started in April by 17.5 percent, the highest level on record.

15 May, Monday
Lyft and Waymo Reach Deal to Collaborate on Self-Driving Cars

SAN FRANCISCO — As the race to bring self-driving vehicles to the public intensifies, two of Silicon Valley’s most prominent players are teaming up.