BioTech, Facebook and Ants

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BioTech, Facebook and Ants

Agenus announces biotech security token

On Tuesday, biotech company Agenus announced that they would be launching the world’s first ever asset-backed digital security offering. The Biotech Electronic Security Token (BEST) is a blockchain-based security token representing a real piece of biotechnology – specifically, an immunotherapy drug called AGEN2034, which Agenus is currently developing to treat cervical cancer and other solid tumours.

Agenus has found a way to add another, heretofore completely unheard-of way of raising investment capital – and one that avoids many of the problems typically associated with traditional investment methods. When traded as a blockchain security token, an asset’s value is no longer a function of the entire company’s portfolio – rather, investors are able to directly purchase shares in the product itself, with no effect on current shareholders in Agenus as a whole. Agenus has said that they will be looking to sell between $50-100 million worth of these tokens, which can be added to whatever capital they are able to raise through other traditional investment methods.

Although the move is undeniably bold and exciting, that is not to say it is without risk. AGEN2034 is currently in the middle of clinical trials, with approval for human use expected to be granted within 2 years. However, if for whatever reason the drug fails to obtain approval, any investors in the drug will have essentially wasted their money on nothing. However, if all goes ahead as planned, there is the potential for substantial profits to be made.

Whether this is the start of a new age for blockchain is unclear, however when the BEST comes on the market in February it will no doubt receive plenty of attention, and, depending on its performance, may be a major trend-setter for the future.

Facebook announces integration of WhatsApp and Instagram

Facebook announced last week that they were planning on merging Facebook Messenger with the messenger services of Instagram and WhatsApp. Although the three apps will still be run separately, consumers will eventually be able to send messages between them, will all three being linked together by a common core. The work on this has already begun and is expected to be completed by the end of 2019 or early 2020.

Mark Zuckerberg has personally been very vocal about his support of this initiative, even as Facebook continues to face accusations and criticisms over the way the company handles data Merging the three platforms will create a single uniform messaging service which should drive up Facebook’s overall user engagement, which will give the company a boost in value for advertisers – something that has taken a small dip in the light of recent controversies.

Recent episodes like the famous Cambridge Analytica scandal and an increase in public suspicion regarding how large companies store personal data contributed to a substantial dip in Facebook’s share price towards the end of the 2018 – although this didn’t seem to have any effect on the number of users, which Facebook says increased by 9% that same year – or on ad revenue, which jumped by 30%.

Although no doubt the joining together of the three platforms via a common messaging service will have positive effects in terms of easing communication and bringing people together, there is a serious question to ask about whether this will lead to further misuse of data down the line. Those users of WhatsApp or Instagram who actively avoid Facebook may be displeased to find out the three are now going to be linked. It is essential that this does not become another example of innovation at the expense of privacy.

Fintech investments reach record high for 2018

CB Insights announced on Tuesday that venture-capital-backed fintech firms raised a grand total of $39.57 billion from investors around the globe in 2018. This monumental sum was spread across 1707 deals throughout the year, up from the 1480 in 2017. In total, the money raised represents an increase of 120% from the previous year. There were 52 so called ‘mega-rounds’ of funding, containing investments upwards of $100 million – amounting to $24.88 billion altogether.

The star of the show in 2018 was Ant Financial, an affiliate of the Chinese Alibaba Group. Investments in Ant Financial (formerly Alipay) added up to $14 billion – meaning that Ant Financial alone accounted for 35% of all fintech investments last year. Ant Financial is the highest valued fintech company in the world, with a valuation of $150 billion, and serves over 700 million active users.

Another company that performed particularly well in 2018 was digital banking platform Monzo, who in 2018 joined the ranks of fintech unicorns – companies valued over $1 billion. In the last 3 months of 2018, five new companies achieved unicorn status.

Although CB Insights made the point that these monumental venture capital investments will no doubt delay the companies’ public offerings, these figures confirm what we already believed – that 2018 was a monumental year for fintech. For 2019 to surpass these record-breaking numbers will be no easy task.

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