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Cyber Monday: up to $12.7B will be spent online, marking biggest-ever US shopping day

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Thanksgiving and Black Friday online shopping this year had big gains on 2019, but both still fell somewhat short of expectations in what is proving to be a good if more muted holiday shopping season, without the usual physical crowds to help enforce Covid-19 social distancing and many feeling the economic strain of the health pandemic.

Now all eyes are on “Cyber Monday,” which has for the last several years has been the biggest online shopping day of the four-day stretch. Adobe predicts that it will be the biggest shopping day yet in the US, with between $10.8 billion and $12.7 billion spent, while Salesforce’s forecast is in the middle of that range, $11.8 billion. Globally, Salesforce believes the figure will be $46 billion.

Adobe figure of 40% of sales on smartphones has been relative steady all week. Shopify, which typically works with smaller merchants, has put the figure closer to 70%.

For some context, Black Friday came in at $9 billion and Thanksgiving at $5.1 billion this year according to Adobe’s figures. And last year $9.4 billion was spent on Cyber Monday 2019.

Salesforce was more optimistic: it said that digital revenues on Black Friday were $12.8 billion with global figures coming in at $62 billion, while Thanksgiving was closer to $6.8 billion in online sales in the US, with the global figure around $30.4 billion.

“Cyber Monday is on track to break all previous records for online sales. Consumers will likely take advantage of the best discounted items today like TVs, toys and computers before price levels start creeping back up throughout the rest of the season,” said Taylor Schreiner, director, Adobe Digital Insights. “Shoppers are encouraged to do their gift buying soon as shipping in time for Christmas will get more expensive in the coming weeks.”

We will continue to update these figures as we get more data in. Adobe, for example, said that it believes that a whopping 29% of today’s revenue will come only between 7pm and 11pm Pacific (after work is over for the day).

(Part of the disparity in the two companies’ figures is based on methodology. Adobe bases its figures on 80 of the top 100 retailers in the US, covering some 1 trillion transactions. Salesforce is using data gleaned from its Commerce Cloud, covering billions of engagements and millions of social media conversations, which it then combines with further analytics in its Shopping Index.)

One thing that is clear from both companies is that Cyber Monday continues to be the biggest day of them all. Why? It’s a perfect storm: the big rush of sales for the holiday season are up, but everyone is back at work, so they shop online instead of in person. Hence, big numbers on Cyber Monday.

As with the other days of the long weekend, one thing that has been impacting sales numbers is the fact that sales are starting earlier and earlier, but Adobe said that many consumers still believe that big bargains are laid on for the specific day. Some of the most popular shopping categories have included computers (marked down 30% on average), toys (20% discount), appliances (21%) and electronics (26%).

Bigger businesses continue to reap the biggest spoils in online shopping — not least because they still provide the best range of delivery, pick-up and return options to consumers, which become an even bigger set of priorities as you move further away from more amenable early adopters and into the more general population and potentially less experienced online shoppers. The conversion rates for big retailers (over $1 billion in revenues annually) are typically 70% higher than for smaller businesses.

Still, small businesses have tried to spend years catching up, boosted by various startups and companies like Shopify building tools for them to “be like Amazon” in their fulfillment, delivery and other features. Adobe said that Small Business Saturday, the newest of the Thanksgiving shopping holidays, saw $4.7 billion spent, a record for the day and up 30.2% on 2019. And to underscore just how tough times are for small businesses, Adobe said that the money small businesses were bringing in online this year was a whopping 294% higher than an average day in October.

So far some $23.5 billion has been spent during the holiday weekend.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Will this time be any different for Twitter?

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As Twitter seems to buy its way into competing with Clubhouse and Substack, one wonders whether the beleaguered social media company is finally ready to move past its truly awful track record of seizing opportunities.

Twitter’s pace of product ambition has certainly seemed to speed in the past several months, conveniently following shareholder action to oust CEO Jack Dorsey last year. They’ve finally rolled out their Stories product Fleets, they’ve embraced audio both in the traditional feed and with their beta Spaces feature, and they’ve taken some much-publicized steps to reign in disinformation and content moderation woes (though there’s still plenty to be done there).

In the past few weeks, Twitter has also made some particularly interesting acquisitions. Today, it was announced that they were buying Revue, a newsletter management startup. Earlier this month, they bought Breaker, a podcasting service. Last month, they bought Squad, a social screen-sharing app.

It’s an aggressive turn that follows Twitter’s announcement that it will be shutting down Periscope, a live video app that was purchased and long-neglected by Twitter despite the fact that the company’s current product chief was its founder.

TikTok’s wild 2020 success in fully realizing the broader vision for Vine, which Twitter shut down in 2017, seems to be a particularly embarrassing stain on the company’s history; it’s also the most crystallized example of Twitter shooting itself in the foot as a result of not embracing risk. And while Twitter was ahead of that curve and simply didn’t make it happen, Substack and Clubhouse are two prime examples of competitors which Twitter could have prevented from reaching their current stature if it had just been more aggressive in recognizing adjacent social market opportunities and sprung into action.

It’s particularly hard to reckon in the shadow of Facebook’s ever-swelling isolation. Once the eager enemy of any social upstart, Facebook finds itself desperately complicated by global politics and antitrust woes in a way that may never strike it down, but have seemed to slow its maneuverability. A startup like Clubhouse may once seemed like a prime acquisition target, but it’s too complicated of a purchase for Facebook to even attempt in 2021, leaving Twitter a potential competitor that could scale to full size on its own.

Twitter is a much smaller company than Facebook is, though it’s still plenty big. As the company aims to move beyond the 2020 US election that ate up so much of its attention and expand its ambitions, one of its most pertinent challenges will be reinvigorating a product culture to recognize opportunities and take on rising competitors — though another challenge might be getting its competition to take it seriously in the first place.

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Sila Nanotechnologies raises $590M to fund battery materials factory

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Sila Nanotechnologies, a Silicon Valley battery materials company, has spent years developing technology designed to pack more energy into a cell at a lower cost — an end game that has helped it lock in partnerships with Amperex Technology Limited as well as automakers BMW and Daimler.

Now, Sila Nano, flush with a fresh injection of capital that has pushed its valuation to $3.3 billion, is ready to bring its technology to the masses.

The company, which was founded nearly a decade ago, said Tuesday it has raised $590 million in a Series F funding round led by Coatue with significant participation by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. Existing investors 8VC, Bessemer Venture Partners, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Sutter Hill Ventures also participated in the round.

Sila Nano plans to use the funds to hire another 100 people this year and begin to buildout a factory in North America capable of producing 100 gigawatt-hours of silicon-based anode material, which is used in batteries for the smartphone and automotive industries. While the company hasn’t revealed the location of the factory, it does have a timeline. Sila Nano said it plans to start production at the factory in 2024. Materials produced at the plant will be in electric vehicles by 2025, the company said.

“It took eight years and 35,000 iterations to create a new battery chemistry, but that was just step one,” Sila Nano CEO and co-founder Gene Berdichevsky said in a statement. “For any new technology to make an impact in the real-world, it has to scale, which will cost billions of dollars. We know from our experience building our production lines in Alameda that investing in our next plant today will keep us on track to be powering cars and hundreds of millions of consumer devices by 2025.”

The tech

A lithium-ion battery contains two electrodes. There’s an anode (negative) on one side and a cathode (positive) on the other. Typically, an electrolyte sits in the middle and acts as the courier, moving ions between the electrodes when charging and discharging. Graphite is commonly used as the anode in commercial lithium-ion batteries.

Sila Nano has developed a silicon-based anode that replaces graphite in lithium-ion batteries. The critical detail is that the material was designed to take the place of graphite in without needing to change the battery manufacturing process or equipment.

Sila Nano has been focused on silicon anode because the material can store a lot more lithium ions. Using a material that lets you pack in more lithium ions would theoretically allow you to increase the energy density — or the amount of energy that can be stored in a battery per its volume — of the cell. The upshot would be a cheaper battery that contains more energy in the same space.

The opportunity

It’s a compelling product for automakers attempting to bring more electric vehicles to market. Nearly every global automaker has announced plans or is already producing a new batch of all-electric and plug-in electric vehicles, including Ford, GM, Daimler, BMW, Hyundai and Kia. Tesla continues to ramp up production of its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles as a string of newcomers like Rivian prepare to bring their own EVs to market.

In short: the demand of batteries is climbing; and automakers are looking for the next-generation tech that will give them a competitive edge.

Battery production sat at about 20 GWh per year in 2010. Sila Nano expects it to jump to 2,000 GWh per year by 2030 and 30,000 GWh per year by 2050.

Sila Nano started building the first production lines for its battery materials in 2018. That first line is capable of producing the material to supply the equivalent of 50 megawatts of lithium-ion batteries.

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Daily Crunch: Calendly valued at $3B

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A popular scheduling startup raises a big funding round, Twitter makes a newsletter acquisition and Beyond Meat teams up with PepsiCo. This is your Daily Crunch for January 26, 2021.

The big story: Calendly valued at $3B

Calendly, which helps users schedule and confirm meeting times, has raised $350 million from OpenView Venture Partners and Iconiq.

Until now, the Atlanta-based startup had only raised $550K, but the company says it has 10 million monthly users, with $70 million in subscription revenue last year.

“Calendly has a vision increasingly to be a central part of the meeting life cycle,” said OpenView’s Blake Bartlett.

The tech giants

Twitter acquires newsletter platform Revue — Twitter is getting into the newsletter business.

TikTok is being used by vape sellers marketing to teens — Sellers are offering flavored disposable vapes, parent-proof “discreet” packaging and no ID checks.

PepsiCo and Beyond Meat launch poorly named joint venture for new plant-based food and drinks — The name? The PLANeT Partnership.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Fast raises $102M as the online checkout wars continue to attract huge investment — The new funding was led by Stripe.

SetSail nabs $26M Series A to rethink sales compensation — SetSail says salespeople should be paid them throughout the sales cycle.

Mealco raises $7M to launch new delivery-centric restaurants — By launching a restaurant with Mealco, chefs don’t sign a lease or pay any other upfront costs.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Ten VCs say interactivity, regulation and independent creators will reshape digital media in 2021 — We asked about the likelihood of further industry consolidation, whether we’ll see more digital media companies take the SPAC route and, of course, what they’re looking for in their next investment.

The five biggest mistakes I made as a first-time startup founder — Finmark CEO Rami Essaid has some regrets.

Does a $27B or $29B valuation make sense for Databricks? — A look at Databricks’ growth history, economics and scale.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

President Joe Biden commits to replacing entire federal fleet with electric vehicles — His commitment is tied to a broader campaign promise to create 1 million new jobs in the American auto industry and supply chains.

Meet the early-stage founder community at TC Early Stage 2021 — Early Stage part one focuses on operations and fundraising and takes place on April 1-2, while Early Stage part two focusing on marketing, PR and fundraising and runs July 8-9.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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