Oil prices fall on concerns supply to rise as producers wrangle on cuts

Oil prices fall on concerns supply to rise as producers wrangle on cutsOil prices fell on Thursday, reversing gains in the previous session, on concerns that supply will rise if major producers are unable to agree to extend the depth of output cuts that have supported recent gains. Saudi Arabia and Russia, two of the world's biggest oil producers, have agreed to support extending into July the 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) in supply cuts backed in April by the OPEC+ group, comprised of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major producers. "The market has taken a look at that and said it's getting more complicated to get that deal over the line," said Lachlan Shaw, head of commodity research at National Australia Bank.


SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink satellites and achieves a reusability record for a Falcon 9 booster

SpaceX launched its second Falcon 9 rocket in the span of just four days on Wednesday at 9:25 PM EDT (6:25 PM PDT). This one was carrying 60 more satellites for its Starlink constellation, which will bring the total currently in operation on orbit to 480. The launch took off from Florida, where SpaceX launched astronauts for the first time ever on Saturday for the final demonstration mission of its Crew Dragon to fulfill the requirements of NASA’s Commercial Crew human-rating process.

Today’s launch didn’t include any human passengers, but it did fly that next big batch of Starlink broadband internet satellites, as mentioned. Those will join the other Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit, forming part of a network that will eventually serve to provide high-bandwidth, reliable internet connectivity, particularly in underserved areas where terrestrial networks either aren’t present or don’t offer high-speed connections.

This launch included a test of a new system that SpaceX designed in order to hopefully improve an issue its satellites have had with nighttime visibility from Earth. The test Starlink satellite, one of the 60, has a visor system installed that it can deploy post-launch in order to block the sun from reflecting off of its communication antenna surfaces. If it works as designed, it should greatly reduce sunlight reflected off of the satellite back to Earth, and SpaceX will then look to make it a standard part of its Starlink satellite design going forward.

Part of this launch included landing the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket used for the launch, which has already flown previously four times and been recovered – that makes this a rocket that has now flown five missions, and today it touched down safely once again on SpaceX’s drone landing barge in the ocean so it can potentially be used again.

SpaceX will also be attempting to recover the two fairing halves that form the protective nose cone used during launch at the top of the rocket to protect the payload being carried by the Falcon 9. We’ll provide an update about how that attempt goes once SpaceX provides details.

Tomorrow, June 4, actually marks the 10-year anniversary of the first flight of a Falcon 9 rocket – between this reusability record, and the much more historic first human spaceflight mission earlier this week, that’s quite the decade.

Google and Walmart’s PhonePe establish dominance in India’s mobile payments market as WhatsApp Pay struggles to launch

In India, it’s Google and Walmart-owned PhonePe that are racing neck-and-neck to be the top player in the mobile payments market, while Facebook remains mired in a regulatory maze for WhatsApp Pay’s rollout.

In May, more than 75 million users transacted on Google Pay app, ahead of Walmart -owned PhonePe’s 60 million users, and SoftBank -backed Paytm’s 30 million users, people familiar with the companies’ figures told TechCrunch.

Google still lags Paytm’s reach with merchants, but the Android -maker has maintained its overall lead in recent months despite every player losing momentum due to one of the most stringent lockdowns globally in place in India. Google declined to comment.

Paytm, once the dominant player in India, has been struggling to sustain its user base for nearly two years. The company had about 60 million transacting users in January last year, said people familiar with the matter.

Data sets consider transacting users to be those who have made at least one payment through the app in a month. It’s a coveted metric and is different from the much more popular monthly active users, or MAU, that various firms use to share their performance. A portion of those labeled as monthly active users do not make any transaction on the app.

India’s homegrown payment firm, Paytm, has struggled to grow in recent years in part because of a mandate by India’s central bank to mobile wallet firms — the middlemen between users and banks — to perform know-your-client (KYC) verification of users, which created confusion among many, some of the people said. These woes come despite the firm’s fundraising success, which amounts to more than $3 billion.

In a statement, a Paytm spokesperson said, “When it comes to mobile wallets one has to remember the fact that Paytm was the company that set up the infrastructure to do KYC and has been able to complete over 100 million KYCs by physically meeting customers.”

Paytm has long benefited from integration with popular services such as Uber, and food delivery startups Swiggy and Zomato, but fewer than 10 million of Paytm’s monthly transacting users have relied on this feature in recent months.

Two executives, who like everyone else spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of retribution, also said that Paytm resisted the idea of adopting Unified Payments Interface. That’s the nearly two-year-old payments infrastructure built and backed by a collation of banks in India that enables money to be sent directly between accounts at different banks and eliminates the need for a separate mobile wallet.

Paytm’s delays in adopting the standard left room for Google and PhonePe, another early adopter of UPI, to seize the opportunity.

Paytm, which adopted UPI a year after Google and PhonePe, refuted the characterization that it resisted joining UPI ecosystem.

“We are the company that cherishes innovation and technology that can transform the lives of millions. We understand the importance of financial technology and for this very reason, we have always been the champion and supporter of UPI. We, however, launched it on Paytm later than our peers because it took a little longer for us to get the approval to start UPI based services,“ a spokesperson said.

A sign for Paytm online payment method, operated by One97 Communications Ltd., is displayed at a street stall selling accessories in Bengaluru, India, on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Missing from the fray is Facebook, which counts India as its biggest market by user count. The company began talks with banks to enter India’s mobile payments market, estimated to reach $1 trillion by 2023 (according to Credit Suisse), through WhatsApp as early as 2017. WhatsApp is the most popular smartphone app in India with over 400 million users in the country.

Facebook launched WhatsApp Pay to a million users in the following year, but has been locked in a regulatory battle since to expand the payments service to the rest of its users. Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said WhatsApp Pay would roll out nationwide by end of last year, but the firm is yet to secure all approvals — and new challenges keep cropping up. WhatsApp declined to comment.

PhonePe, which was conceived only a year before WhatsApp set eyes to India’s mobile payments, has consistently grown as it added several third-party services. These include leading food and grocery delivery services Swiggy and Grofers, ride-hailing giant Ola, ticketing and staying players Ixigo and Oyo Hotels, in a so-called super app strategy. In November, about 63 million users were active on PhonePe, 45 million of whom transacted through the app.

Karthik Raghupathy, the head of business at PhonePe, confirmed the company’s transacting users to TechCrunch.

Three factors contributed to the growth of PhonePe, he said in an interview. “The rise of smartphones and mobile data adoption in recent years; early adoption to UPI at a time when most mobile payments firms in India were betting on virtual mobile-wallet model; and taking an open-ecosystem approach,” he said.

“We opened our consumer base to all our merchant partners very early on. Our philosophy was that we would not enter categories such as online ticketing for movies and travel, and instead work with market leaders on those fronts,” he explained.

“We also went to the market with a completely open, interoperable QR code that enabled merchants and businesses to use just one QR code to accept payments from any app — not just ours. Prior to this, you would see a neighborhood store maintain several QR codes to support a number of payment apps. Over the years, our approach has become the industry norm,” he said, adding that PhonePe has been similarly open to other wallets and payments options as well.

But despite the growth and its open approach, PhonePe has still struggled to win the confidence of investors in recent quarters. Stoking investors’ fears is the lack of a clear business model for mobile payments firms in India.

PhonePe executives held talks to raise capital last year that would have valued it at $8 billion, but the negotiations fell apart. Similar talks early this year, which would have valued PhonePe at $3 billion, which hasn’t been previously reported, also fell apart, three people familiar with the matter said. Raghupathy and a PhonePe spokesperson declined to comment on the company’s fundraising plans.

For now, Walmart has agreed to continue to bankroll the payments app, which became part of the retail group with Flipkart acquisition in 2018.

As UPI gained inroads in the market, banks have done away with any promotional incentives to mobile payments players, one of their only revenue sources.

At an event in Bangalore late last year, Sajith Sivanandan, managing director and business head of Google Pay and Next Billion User Initiatives, said current local rules have forced Google Pay to operate without a clear business model in India.

Coronavirus takes its toll on payments companies

The coronavirus pandemic that prompted New Delhi to order a nationwide lockdown in late March preceded a significant, but predictable, drop in mobile payments usage in the following weeks. But while Paytm continues to struggle in bouncing back, PhonePe and Google Pay have fully recovered as India eased some restrictions.

About 120 million UPI transactions occurred on Paytm in the month of May, down from 127 million in April and 186 million in March, according to data compiled by NPCI, the body that oversees UPI, and obtained by TechCrunch. (Paytm maintains a mobile wallet business, which contributes to its overall transacting users.)

Google Pay, which only supports UPI payments, facilitated 540 million transactions in May, up from 434 million in April and 515 million in March. PhonePe’s 454 million March figure slid to 368 million in April, but it turned the corner, with 460 million transactions last month. An NPCI spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

PhonePe and Google Pay together accounted for about 83% of all UPI transactions in India last month.

Industry executives working at rival firms said it would be a mistake to dismiss Paytm, the one-time leader of the mobile payments market in India.

Paytm has cut its marketing expenses and aggressively chased merchants in recent quarters. Earlier this year, it unveiled a range of gadgets, including a device that displays QR check-out codes that comes with a calculator and USB charger, a jukebox that provides voice confirmations of transactions and services to streamline inventory management for merchants.

Merchants who use these devices pay a recurring fee to Paytm, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, co-founder and chief executive of the firm told TechCrunch in an interview earlier this year. Paytm has also entered several businesses, such as movie and travel ticketing, lending, games and e-commerce, and set up a digital payments bank over the years.

“Everyone knows Paytm. Paytm is synonymous with digital payments in India. And outside, there’s a perceived notion that it’s truly the Alipay of India,” an executive at a rival firm said.

Risk on narrative continues to drive AUD upturn

Risk on narrative continues to drive AUD upturnPosted by OFX AUD - Australian Dollar The Australian dollar upturn continued through trade on Wednesday despite Q1 GDP data indicating the Australian economy had tipped into a technical recession. Equities and growth sensitive currencies rallied for an 8th consecutive day amid sustained appetite for risk and an upswing in Chinese macroeconomic … Continue reading "Risk on narrative continues to drive AUD upturn"The post Risk on narrative continues to drive AUD upturn appeared first on .


RiskIQ adds National Grid Partners as securing data becomes a strategic priority for utilities

RiskIQ, a startup providing application security, risk assessment and vulnerability management services, has added National Grid Partners as a strategic investor. 

The funding from the investment arm of National Grid, a multinational energy provider, is part of a $15 million new round of financing designed to take the company’s technology into critical industrial infrastructure — with National Grid as a point of entry.

Over 6,000 companies use the company’s services already and the roster list and technology on offer has attracted some of the biggest names in investing including Summit Partners, Battery Ventures, Georgian Partners and MassMutual Ventures.

“We view NGP’s show of support as an incredible opportunity to help customers in new markets thrive as their attack surfaces expand outside the firewall, especially now amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said RiskIQ chief executive Lou Manousos said, in a statement. 

RiskIQ has spent the past ten years spidering the Internet looking for all of the exploits that hackers use to penetrate networks and have built that into a database of threats. This inventory gives the company an ability to identify which assets within a company present the most obvious threats. Its automated services constantly scan third-party code, internet-connected devices and mobile applications for potential vulnerabilities, the company said.

As a staple platform in their core security environment, our cyber threat analysts use RiskIQ regularly to enrich and identify incoming threats,” said Lisa Lambert, president of National Grid Partners and Chief Technology and Innovation Officer of National Grid, in a statement.

National Grid’s investment is a piece of a deeper partnership that will see NGP providing strategic advice for the security company as it looks to expand its commercial operations among industrial and utility customers.

 

OPEC+ Coalition Shaken as Iraq Pushed to Atone For Oil Cheating

OPEC+ Coalition Shaken as Iraq Pushed to Atone For Oil Cheating(Bloomberg) -- The grand alliance that’s helped revive global oil markets is being rattled by a long-running feud over members breaking their promises.Just a day before a proposed gathering on Thursday, the OPEC+ coalition hurriedly backtracked from the meeting intended to green-light an extension of its deepest production cutbacks and prop up crude prices.Saudi Arabia and Russia -- the leading producers in the group -- have lost patience with the errant behavior of the next-biggest member, Iraq, according to people familiar with the matter. While most of the main players are delivering their agreed share of output curbs, Baghdad is once again reneging on its commitments.At stake is the unity of the 23-nation partnership, which has helped engineer a doubling in international oil prices following the battering meted out by the coronavirus crisis. If the Iraqis, and other delinquents such as Nigeria and Kazakhstan, don’t shape up then Riyadh and Moscow are warning they will start to phase out the supply curbs that are putting a floor under the market.The kingdom and the Kremlin are pushing the stragglers hard -- not just demanding they implement the cuts already promised, but asking for deeper curbs in the coming months to compensate for their earlier failings.“Riyadh and Moscow are not kidding about implementing some form of compliance-improvement mechanism,” said Bob McNally, founder of consultant Rapidan Energy Group and a former White House official. “Without it, they walk.Impossible ChoiceSuch penance would be difficult for Iraq to accept. It made less than half of its assigned cutbacks last month, so compensating fully would require it to slash production by a further 24% to about 3.28 million barrels a day, according to Bloomberg calculations.For a country still rebuilding its economy following decades of war, sanctions and Islamist insurgency, that’s a tall order. Resisting the temptation of selling crude during the current market rebound, which has brought prices back to about $40 a barrel, may prove impossible.While Iraqi Finance Minister and Acting Oil Minister Ali Allawi did pledge to improve compliance with pledged cuts in an unusual Twitter post on Tuesday, he didn’t go any further.The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies pledged in April to slash oil output by 9.7 million barrels a day, or roughly 10% of global oil supplies, to offset the unprecedented collapse in demand caused by coronavirus lockdowns.A few weeks later, Saudi Arabia and its closest allies in the Persian Gulf pledged additional supply restraint of 1.2 million barrels a day in June.Riyadh and Moscow are aligned on continuing cuts at the current level for an extra month beyond July 1, according to people familiar with the matter. But if they don’t receive assurances from Iraq and the other laggards at their next meeting -- currently scheduled for June 9-10 -- the group’s daily supply curbs will ease to 7.7 million barrels for the rest of the year.Prince’s PriorityEnforcing better compliance among OPEC+ nations has been a motif since Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman was appointed.In his first public outing after becoming energy minister, in Abu Dhabi last September, bin Salman was literally applauded for securing loud pledges of atonement from Iraq and Nigeria.But his tenure has also been stormy, and the latest move has high stakes. In March, the prince’s attempt to force Russia to make deeper output reductions backfired spectacularly, splintering the entire alliance and igniting a destructive price war.Two months ago, bin Salman’s achievement in successful restoring the OPEC+ coalition and forging an agreement for historic production cuts was delayed and ultimately overshadowed by a spat over Mexico’s contribution to the deal.Consistent LaggardIraq’s recalcitrance is as old as the OPEC+ partnership itself, which was founded in 2016 to shore up oil prices against the onslaught of American shale.Baghdad argued that the exemption from cutbacks it had received since the conflicts of the 1990s should continue. The central government also has limited influence over about 500,000 barrels a day of production from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.At the critical meeting where OPEC+ was formed, Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi had to leave the conference room and call his prime minister for approval to accept the new strictures.Nonetheless, recent history suggests the burden might not be as onerous as it appears, and that Iraq’s resistance could be overcome.Last December, Baghdad was pressed to accept additional supply reductions, even though it had barely managed to cut output earlier in the year. Iraq knew it wasn’t expected to implement the entire package, but rather consider the new target as a spur to improve its performance, analysts said at the time.“It feels like Groundhog Day again as compliance issues complicate the effort to conclude a short roll-over agreement,” said Helima Croft, head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets LLC. “Nonetheless, we still think these issues will be resolved and that a short extension will be announced.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Hong Kong Bull Market Found Dead in a Posh Flat

Hong Kong Bull Market Found Dead in a Posh Flat(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Hong Kong’s finance industry is thriving from the great divorce between the U.S. and China. Billion-dollar initial public offerings are on the horizon again, as New York-listed mainland companies seek a second home. The city’s blue-chip index has even revised its weighting rules so tech stocks can feature more prominently. But is this enough to rouse a sleepy stock market? While Hong Kong is on par with Shanghai in terms of total market capitalization, turnover pales in comparison, and it's practically a stagnant pool compared with the very liquid Shenzhen bourse. While mega IPOs are exciting, they are one-time events. Once bankers earn their fees and wave goodbye, trading could languish again.South Korea may offer some insights. One year ago, Seoul was still in a deep bear market, plagued by steep conglomerate discounts and historically low turnover. Now, it’s teeming with life. Since global markets started turning around in late March, the benchmark Kospi index has soared more than 40%, making it one of the world’s best performers.All of a sudden, Koreans, who dabbled in cryptocurrencies and all sorts of structured products, are frantically buying cash equities. Retail investors have single-handedly supported the main stock index as foreigners and domestic institutional investors sold.CLSA Ltd. recently conducted a fascinating study explaining what’s become one of the Kospi’s largest ownership changes in history. Survey data show a few usual suspects: historically low deposit rates, cheap valuations, and blow-ups in popular alternative investments, such as mezzanine convertible bonds and equity-linked securities. A liquidity crisis and global market meltdown have tamed Koreans’ taste for exotic products.But the most interesting finding is that investors are swapping their real estate holdings for stocks. This comes as President Moon Jae-in’s administration has made it harder to invest in residential property, with a recent ban on mortgage lending for anything valued over 1.5 billion won ($1.2 million). In the past few years, a series of tightening measures has worked: A flattening of home prices, along with dwindling sales volumes, dented investor sentiment.Apartments in Seoul were once considered one of Korea's best performing long-term assets. They registered a capital gain of 80.9% over the past 15 years, with flats in the affluent Gangnam district returning more than 200%, data provided by CLSA show. Yet property restrictions look set to remain as long as Moon’s around — and he’s not required to leave office until 2022. So people with money to invest have to look elsewhere. Samsung Electronics Co., which gained 443% over the same period, is a good alternative. Retail investors have poured $7.2 billion into the company’s shares this year. Many of the catalysts that drove Koreans to stocks are present in Hong Kong, too. Interest rates are even lower and high-profile stocks are landing, including NetEase Inc., while Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. completed its secondary listing last year. Meanwhile, local investors can no longer count on HSBC Holdings Plc for reliable dividend payouts, forcing them to look at tech companies instead. It’s no coincidence that the retail portion of NetEase’s Hong Kong listing was met with brisk demand on the first day, enabling the company to increase its allotment to local investors. The missing piece, however, is real estate. As soon as Hong Kong loosened its social distancing rules in May, secondary home-sales prices ticked up, along with transaction volume. The Land Registry recorded 6,885 property deals in May, a 12-month high. The faith that this sector can outperform stocks hasn’t broken yet.  For an equity market to shine, local retail participation is essential. Overseas institutional investors, the biggest contributors to Hong Kong’s turnover, come and go. Those from the mainland, now active players through the stock connect, are equally fickle, given they’re so used to liquidity-driven markets back home. So unless Hong Kong moms and pops can learn from the Koreans — trading away their flats in Gangnam for a slice of Samsung — the Hang Seng will remain asleep.  This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Shuli Ren is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian markets. She previously wrote on markets for Barron's, following a career as an investment banker, and is a CFA charterholder.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Decentralized identity management platform Magic launches from stealth with $4M

For developers looking to quickly build identity management into their platforms, the most readily available options don’t stray far from the internet’s biggest, most data-hungry platforms.

Magic, a small SF startup building a decentralized blockchain-based identity solution, wants to create a seamless experience that feels similar to login workflows from apps like Slack and Medium where users are sent a link to that they can click to immediately log-in. Magic’s SDK allows developers to craft similar experiences to Medium and Slack without building them from scratch, leveraging authentication via blockchain key pairs that allows users to securely log-in across devices.

“Our identity these days is mostly controlled by Facebook and Google, what’s cool about this identity solution is that it’s a decentralized identity,” Magic CEO Sean Su says.

The startup is launching out of stealth, rebranding from its previous company name Fortmatic,  and announcing that they’ve raised $4 million in a seed funding round led by Placeholder. A host of other investors participated in the company’s funding, including Lightspeed Ventures, SV Angel, Social Capital, Cherubic Ventures, Volt Capital, Refactor Capital, Unusual Ventures, Naval Ravikant, Guillermo Rauch, and Roham Gharegozlou.

Su has largely sought to minimize the blockchain aspect of the company’s tech in an attempt to keep the appeal more mass market, but Magic’s early customers are largely in the blockchain world, specifically Ethereum applications. The company is free for customers with less than 250 users, and past that subscription pricing scales from a $79/mo plan to custom pricing for full white-labeled enterprise roll-outs with custom integrations. Su says the Magic platform is SOC 2 compliant.

In the company’s security documentation, they note that any user keys completely bypass Magic servers and are stored encrypted on AWS’s Key Management Service, ensuring that Magic never sees private user keys. The company is currently building out their SDK to support authenticator apps and hardware-based authentication through UB keys.

“One big difference that we have compared with something like Medium, is if you’re trying to log into your laptop and click on the link on your phone, you’d be logged in on your phone and that’s not the ideal place to edit an article,” Su says. “But with our Magic link login you’re logged into the laptop and you can click your magic link from anywhere.”

Alongside the funding news, Magic announced partnerships with front-end developer platform Vercel, Cryptokitties-maker Dapper Labs and the Max Planck Society research institute.

For more equitable startup funding, the “money behind the money” needs to be accountable, too

As protests continue across the U.S. and beyond, there has been chatter this week in Silicon Valley and the venture industry more broadly about race and which venture firms have done a better job of diversifying their ranks and founder bets. There have been mea culpas, promises by firms to hold themselves more accountable, vows to “listen and learn.” SoftBank and Andreessen Horowitz have even announced new funds to invest in startups led by founders of color.

It’s heartening to see, but these efforts will only go so far in leveling the playing field for people who’ve largely been left out of the trillions of dollars of economic value produced by the global startup ecosystem. Let’s face it, the vast majority of VCs, like other business leaders, tend to forget about diversity when they aren’t being questioned about it.

In fairness, inertia is powerful. It’s also the case that venture teams are more fragile than they might appear to outsiders, and because they involve long-term partnerships of highly competitive alphas, changing their composition isn’t an overnight exercise. Still, the bigger obstacle is really perception: investors won’t say so publicly, but many don’t buy the argument that diversity generates returns. They need proof.

One surefire way to get it? Legislation.

Already, most VCs today sign away their rights to invest in firearms or alcohol or tobacco when managing capital on behalf of the pension funds, universities, and hospital systems that fund them. What if they also had to agree to invest a certain percentage of that capital to founding teams with members from underrepresented groups? We aren’t talking about targets anymore but actual mandates. Put another way, rather than wait for venture firms to organically develop into less homogenous organizations — or to invest in fewer founders who share their gender and race and educational background —  alter their limited partner agreements.

It may sound extreme, but study after study has shown that diversity pays dividends. Need one from an Ivy League economist to be persuaded? Try Paul Gompers of Harvard Business School, who has examined the decisions of thousands of venture capitalists and tens of thousands of investments in recent years and found that “diversity significantly improves financial performance on measures such as profitable investments at the individual portfolio-company level and overall fund returns,” as reported by HBR.

A separate Harvard-led study involving a broader basket of asset classes — hedge funds, mutual funds, and private equity funds among them — found that, in most asset classes, women and people of color in the finance industry performed at levels equal to their non-diverse counterparts.

Critics might note here that the world of academia is one thing while the business world is another. It’s the very reason we propose legislation that, for starters, would force state pension funds to incorporate diversity-related caveats into their dealings with asset managers, including VCs.

As for the private universities like Stanford and Princeton and Yale that also help fund the venture industry — and which say they are committed to diversity yet refuse to share the demographic data that would prove it — they receive billions of dollars in federal funding each year (and as nonprofit institutions, they don’t pay taxes on investment gains their endowments might make).

In short, if there is a will, there are legal levers that could be applied here, too.

We aren’t talking about funding exclusively or even predominately emerging managers. We’re aware that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, for example, recently ratcheted back its emerging manager program owing to slipping returns. Think instead of a hybrid approach that sees both new and existing managers required to diversify their teams and their portfolio companies in order to win over future commitments.

It’s seemingly the direction the U.S. needs to move in if it’s ever going to truly eradicate inequality and the conscious or unconscious bias that plagues many money managers. If the approach is codified into law, there might finally be enough data to establish with certainty that investing in more diverse teams pays, especially when investors are forced to make them work.

Some limited partners may lose access to certain venture managers, it’s true. But it wouldn’t be a good look for those managers. On the contrary, you can imagine how such moves would benefit both the institutions that implement them, and every asset manager they fund.

Talking and tweeting and carving out pools of dedicated capital is certainly better than nothing. But black Americans, women, and other underrepresented groups have waited long enough for the powers that be to figure out solutions. It’s time to consider fundamental change within the power structures at the root of the startup world — the money behind the venture firms. It’s time to turn theory into practice.

Paperwork automation platform Anvil raises $5 million from Google’s Gradient Ventures

Remote work has changed the tools offices need for communicating asynchronously across meetings and chat, but not all collaboration takes place in neat little chat bubbles.

Anvil is a San Francisco startup that’s aiming to transform how businesses collaborate around the humble PDF. Anvil’s automation platform levels up Google Forms and allows customers to digitize tiresome PDFs through dynamic forms that unify processes customers might have typically needed to use several pieces of software to access previously. Users can leverage the platform to create, share, fill in, sign and download completed docs without picking up a pen.

Anvil announced today that it had raised $5 million in a seed funding round led by Google’s Gradient Ventures .

The startup is competing directly with rivals like DocuSign, a product that Anvil CEO Mang-Git Ng believes is “great for completing and executing a document,” but is “lacking when it comes to actually creating the document.” Anvil integrates directly with DocuSign for customers that have already integrated the service into their workflows, but Anvil is also replicating some of the service’s functionality as they look to build out an end-to-end solution for document automation.

Anvil is focusing early efforts on courting customers in the wealth and banking space. On the pricing side, they have both per-project and subscription plans, which start at $99 per month.

Anvil’s team

The startup recently tested their own abilities to get up-and-running quickly as they partnered with a bank to create an online portal for filling out applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Ng says the startup helped Sunrise Bank customers apply for $127 million worth of PPP loans. “It was a whirlwind experience for us. We pretty much went from first conversation to deploying with them in six days,” Ng told TechCrunch.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitization of paper processes, Ng says that the company has seen a bump in interest as more companies have gone remote and discovered new needs around making paperwork more collaborative and more digital-friendly, especially when it comes to areas like onboarding, compliance and internal applications.

“The overall trend that we’ve been seeing is that people in these industries are thinking about going more digital, but generally speaking, the people who are at the forefront of that tend to be in larger organizations where squeezing a little bit more operational efficiency will save a ton of money,” Ng says. “But as we’ve gone into lockdown, everybody has to figure out how to do things remotely and the solutions that help people do things remotely are definitely pushing to the forefront.”

Citi Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Financial Venture Studio and 122 West also participated in Anvil’s seed round.