Facebook wants you to pay people on Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp with Facebook Pay

Square. Venmo. PayPal. Apple Pay. Google Pay.

There’s really no shortage of ways to give people money via your phone, but that — nor growing calls that the company is already getting too damned big — isn’t stopping Facebook.

Facebook just announced Facebook Pay, a single payment system that ties into all of the things under the FB umbrella — Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and, of course, Facebook proper (for sections like Marketplace). Add a payment method once, and it’ll work across any of the Facebook apps for which you enable it.

Facebook says that Pay should start rolling out this week, albeit only on Facebook/Messenger at first, and only for folks in the U.S. The company says it should work with most major credit/debit cards and PayPal, and they’re being careful to note that this is separate from its whole cryptocurrency wallet effort.

Does anyone need this? Probably not. It removes some friction from the Facebook Marketplace process and will probably find a natural user base there — but, honestly, when it comes to paying a friend back for dinner or paying for that used guitar, there’s an absolutely monstrous mountain of alternatives here.

Uber is entering the ads business

Uber will become an ad platform, selling space inside its Eats app to restaurants hoping to lure in more food delivery orders. A recent Uber job listing spotted by TechCrunch seeks an Uber Eats Ads Lead “to lead the team and efforts responsible for creating a new ads business that enables eaters to discover new foods and restaurants to grow their customer base.”

An Uber spokesperson confirmed the company would be entering the ads business, telling TechCrunch “We are exploring relevant ads in Eats.” Selling ads could help it improve margins on Eats, where it only takes 10.7% of gross bookings as adjusted net revenue since it pays out so much to restaurants and drivers.

The fresh opportunity in ads comes at a critical time when Uber is desperate to show its future potential in the face of a sagging share price that closed at $28.02 yesterday, down 40% from a high of $46.38 in June. Today, Uber’s post-IPO stock lock-up expires and early investors are able to sell their shares, putting newfound pressure on its stock.

TechCrunch was the first to discover a prototype of Eats ads in Decembe called Specials, where restaurants could get featured placement in the app in exchange for offering a discount. This demonstrated Uber’s ability to steer hungry users to order from particular restaurants.

I followed up with Uber’s senior director and head of Eats product Stephen Chau, who hinted at the company’s aspiration in the ads business. “There’s a bunch of different ways we can work with restaurants over time. If we have all the restaurants on the marketplace and we give them tools to help them grow, then this will be a very efficient marketplace. They’re going to be spending those ad dollars somewhere,” Chau told me. We’ve been checking on the company’s progress in ads ever since.

As we predicted, now instead of just a quid pro quo where Uber exchanges added visibility to restaurants willing to offer discounts that could keep users loyal to Uber Eats, it plans to formally sell ads.

“As this is a brand new space for Uber” the Toronto-based Eats Ads Lead “will be responsible for defining the vision for this new product area and determining where to start building.”

The job listing also notes whoever takes the role will “Help formulate our business, product and go-to-market strategy for ads” and “Creatively experiment and quickly iterate on early tests”. Signaling global ambitions for Eats ads, the Lead will “Customize and scale this offering across the world.”

The effort is separate from Uber’s own marketing efforts that see it spend over $1 billion per year to recruit riders, drivers, and Eats customers. Uber will start selling the ads, not just buying them.

The potential for Eats ads stems from Uber’s place as a destination for choosing what to eat, not just ordering it. Wherever there is discovery, there are opportunities for paid discovery. And as Uber focuses on cross-promoting Eats inside its main ride hailing app, it could suck in more users that are open to suggestions that restaurants pay to provide.

We don’t have details on exactly how Uber’s ads will look. However, you could imagine them appearing on the home page, the browse section, or even in search results for certain cuisines or restaurants. Restaurants hoping to boost orders could pay to appear to users who are hungry but don’t know what they want to eat, or to appear before competitors in the same food style.

Amazon successfully navigated a similar expansion from marketplace to ad platform. eMarketer expects Amazon’s US ads business will grow 33% this year to reach $9.85 billion, and claim 7.6% of the total US ad market which makes it the biggest search ad player behind Google.

Uber could use any revenue it can get. This quarter the company lost $1 billion, with $316 million of that loss coming from Eats. But Eats’ revenue grew 64% year-over-year, showing it’s increasingly popular, and could command enough user attention to make advertising lucrative.

Ads could also serve as a wedge for Uber to move deeper into business intelligence services for restaurants. It could apply its data on food delivery demand to help kitchens to optimize prices, allocate staff, and improve menus.

To save its share price, Uber’s best bet is to find new streams of cash it doesn’t have to share with drivers or restaurants. It may still be years until self-driving vehicles arrive to rescue Uber from its tremendous costs.

Where top VCs are investing in fintech

Over the past several years, ‘fintech’ has quietly become the unsung darling of venture.

A rapidly swelling pool of new startups is taking aim at the large incumbent institutions, complex processes and outdated unfriendly interfaces that mar billion dollar financial services verticals, such as insurtech, consumer lending, personal finance, or otherwise.  

In just the past summer, the startup community saw a multitude of hundred-million dollar fintech fundraises. In 2018, fintech companies were the source of close to 1,300 venture deals worth over $15 billion in North America and Europe alone according to data from Pitchbook. Over the same period, KPMG estimates that over $52 billion in investment pour into fintech initiatives globally. 

With the non-stop stream of venture capital flowing into the never-ending list of spaces that fall under the ‘fintech’ umbrella, we asked 12 leading fintech VCs who work at firms that span early to growth stages to share where they see the most opportunity and how they see the market evolving over the long-term.

The participants touched on a number of key trends in the space, including rapid innovation in fintech infrastructure, fintech companies embedding themselves in specific verticals and platforms, rebundling and unbundling of financial services offerings, the rise of challenger banks and the state of fintech valuations into 2020.

Charles Birnbaum, Partner, Bessemer Venture Partners

The great ‘rebundling’ of fintech innovation is in full swing. The emerging consumer leaders in fintech — Chime, SoFi, Robinhood, Credit Karma, and Bessemer portfolio company Betterment — are moving quickly to increase their share of wallet with their valuable customers and become a one-stop-shop for people’s financial lives.

In 2020, we anticipate continued entrepreneurial activity and investor enthusiasm around the infrastructure and middleware layers within the fintech ecosystem that are enabling further rebundling and a rapid convergence of product themes and business models across the consumer fintech landscape.

Many players now look like potential challenger bank models more akin to what we have seen unfold in Europe the past few years. Within consumer fintech, we at Bessemer are more focused on demographically-specific product offerings that tap into underserved themes, whether that be the financial problems facing the aging population in the US or new models to serve the underbanked or underserved population of consumers and small businesses.

Ian Sigalow, Co-founder & Partner, Greycroft

What trends are you most excited in fintech from an investing perspective? 

I suspect that many enterprise software companies become fintech companies over time — collecting payments on behalf of customers and growing revenues as your customers grow. We have seen this trend in many industries over the past few years. Business owners generally prefer a model that moves IT expenditures from Operating Expenses into Cost of Goods Sold, because they can increase prices and pass their entire budget onto the customer.

On the consumer side, we have already made investments in branchless banking, insurance (auto, home, health, workers comp), cross-border payments, alternative investments, loyalty cards/services, and roboadvisor services. The companies we funded are already a few years old, and I think we will have some interesting follow-on activity there over the next few years. We have been picking spots where we think we have an unfair competitive advantage.

Our fintech portfolio is also more global than other sectors we invest in. This is because there are opportunities to achieve billion dollar outcomes in fintech, even in countries that are much smaller than the United States. That is not true in many other sectors.

We have also seen trends emerge in the US and move abroad. As an example we seeded Flutterwave, which is similar to Stripe, and they have expanded across Africa. We were also the lead investor in Yeahka, which is similar to Square in China. These products are heavily localized —tin for instance Yeahka is the largest processor of QR code payments in the world, but QR code payments are not popular in the US yet.

How much time are you spending on fintech right now? Is the market under-heated, over-heated, or just right?

Fintech is about a quarter of my time right now. We continue to see interesting new ideas and the valuations have been more or less consistent over time. The broader market doesn’t impact us very much because we tend to have a 10 year holding period.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t?

Amazon now sells movie tickets in India

Amazon has set its eye on the next business it wants to disrupt in its key overseas market India: online movie tickets. The e-commerce giant said Saturday it has partnered with local online movie ticketing giant BookMyShow to introduce booking option on Amazon India shopping site and app.

The move comes months after the e-commerce giant began offering flight ticketing option in the country as it races to turn its payments service Amazon Pay into a “super app” — a strategy increasingly employed by players in emerging markets such as India.

Starting today, Amazon users in India can book movie tickets from the “movie tickets” category under “shop by category” on the shopping site or through the Amazon Pay tab, the e-commerce firm said. BookMyShow, which leads the online movie ticketing market, is the exclusive partner for this new offering, the two said.

To gain market share, Amazon said its credit card users in India will get a 2% cashback on each movie ticket purchase. Until November 14, it will also offer a cashback of up to Rs 200 on each ticket purchase.

Neither of the parties disclosed who will foot this cashback. However, BookMyShow is likely paying Amazon a fee for tapping “millions” of customers the e-commerce giant has amassed in the country.

For its flight ticketing service, Amazon India partnered with Cleartrip . Balu Ramachandran, SVP at Cleartrip, told TechCrunch in an interview earlier that the company was paying a promotional fee to Amazon, but declined to offer specifics.

An Amazon India spokesperson declined to comment on the financial arrangements of this five-year partnership.

BookMyShow, which employs 1,400 employees, sells about 15 million tickets each month. The service, which has a presence in over 650 towns and cities, today counts heavily-backed Paytm as one of its biggest rivals. Paytm, which entered the movie ticketing business three years ago, has been able to eat some of BookMyShow’s market share by offering cashback on each ticket purchase.

The media and entertainment business in India is worth $23.9 billion, a report from EY-FICCI said in March this year, which noted that consumer spendings on the web is increasingly growing. More than 50% of all tickets sold by the top four multiplex chains in the country in recent years have occurred on the web.

Ashish Hemrajani, founder and CEO of BookMyShow, said through the partnership the company will be able to access Amazon India’s “deep penetration across tier 2 and tier 3 cities.”

Mahendra Nerurkar, Director of Amazon Pay, said today’s partnership shows Amazon’s commitment to “simplify the lives of our customers in every possible way — as they shop, pay bills, or seek other services.”

Last month, Amazon introduced a new feature that allows Amazon Pay users to pay their mobile, internet, and utility bills. This is the first time Amazon is offering these functionalities in any market — it plans to bring this to the U.S. in coming months.

Amazon has been quietly expanding its payments offering, built on top of local banks-backed UPI payments infrastructure, in the country. Unlike its global rivals Google and Walmart that offer standalone apps for their payment services and also focus on transactions among customers, Amazon has kept Pay integrated with its e-commerce offering and focuses on consumer-to-business transactions.

The company maintains tie-ups with several popular Indian online services and frequently offers cashback to incentivize users to pick Amazon Pay over other solutions. Earlier this week, Amazon pumped about $634 million into its India business.

Japanese instant-credit provider Paidy raises $143 million from investors including PayPal Ventures

Paidy, a Japanese financial tech startup that provides instant credit to consumers in Japan, announced today that it has raised a total of $143 million in new financing. This includes a $83 million Series C extension from investors including PayPal Ventures and debt financing of $60 million. The funding will be used to advance Paidy’s goals of signing large-scale merchants, offering new financial services and growing its user base to 11 million accounts by the end of 2020.

In addition to PayPal Ventures, investors in the Series C extension also include Soros Capital Management, JS Capital Management and Tybourne Capital Management, along with another undisclosed investor. The debt financing is from Goldman Sachs Japan, Mizuho Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank. Earlier this month, Paidy and Goldman Sachs Japan established a warehouse facility valued at $52 million. Paidy also established credit facility worth $8 million with the three banks.

This is the largest investment to date in the Japanese financial tech industry, according to data cited by Paidy and brings the total investment the company has raised so far to $163 million. A representative for the startup says it decided to extend its Series C (announced last year) instead of moving onto a D round to preserve the equity ratio for existing investors and issue the same preferred shares as its previous funding rounds.

Launched in 2014, Paidy was created because many Japanese consumers don’t use credit cards for e-commerce purchases, even though the credit card penetration rate there is relatively high. Instead, many prefer to pay cash on delivery or at convenience stores and other pickup locations. While this makes online shopping easier for consumers, it presents several challenges for sellers, because they need to cover the cost of merchandise that hasn’t been paid for yet or deal with uncompleted deliveries.

Paidy’s solution is to make it possible for people to pay for merchandise online without needing to create an account first or use their credit cards. If a seller offers Paidy as a payment method, customers can check out by entering their mobile phone numbers and email addresses, which are then authenticated with code sent through SMS or voice. Paidy covers the cost of the items and bills customers monthly. Paidy uses proprietary machine learning models to score the creditworthiness of users, and says its service can help reduce incomplete transactions (or items that buyers ultimately don’t pick up and pay for), increase conversion rates, average order values and repeat purchases.

Latin America Roundup: Uber acquires Cornershop, SoftBank invests in Buser and Olist

Brazil continued to churn out unicorns this month, with Curitiba-based Ebanx becoming the first startup from the southern part of the country to top a $1 billion valuation. U.S.-based FTV Capital provided the investment but did not disclose the amount invested nor the exact valuation of Ebanx after the investment.

Ebanx is an end-to-end payment processor that helps international companies receive payments in the Latin American market, similar to Stripe. Their clients include Airbnb, AliExpress, Pipedrive, Spotify, Uber and Wish, and more than 50 million Latin Americans have conducted transactions with more than 1,000 companies through the Ebanx platform. This investment comes on the heels of exciting partnerships with Uber Pay, Shopify, Spotify and Visa to expand cross-border payment processing across the region.

Ebanx has operations in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, and will expand their local payment solution, Ebanx Pay, into Colombia in 2020. The company has grown its user base by offering a full-service product that includes market research, 24/7 customer service and anti-fraud technology.

The Ebanx investment is part of a growing interest in Latin American payments startups. Brazil’s PagSeguro and StoneCo had successful IPOs last year, while Mexico’s Conekta and Ecuador’s Kushki have raised large rounds to try to unite the region under a single processor as Latin America rapidly adopts e-commerce.

Uber acquires Cornershop, takes off where Walmart left off

The acquisition of the Chilean-Mexican grocery delivery startup Cornershop has been an emotional roller coaster for Latin American entrepreneurs and investors throughout 2019. First Walmart announced a $225 million deal that would be one of the bigger exits of the region, then the acquisition was blocked by Mexican antitrust institution COFECE. This announcement dealt a blow to the ecosystem as entrepreneurs and VCs had eagerly awaited this boost in liquidity in the local market.

Last-mile delivery and logistics became a very competitive space in Latin America in 2018.

Then in mid-October 2019, Uber announced it would take a 51% stake in Cornershop for a reported $450 million, quadrupling the startup’s value in the four months since the COFECE decision. This deal will consist of cash, investment in Cornershop’s growth and stock in Uber, which IPO’d earlier this year.

However, this deal must also be approved by the Chilean and Mexican antitrust boards, which are expected to release their decisions within the next two weeks. In the meantime, Cornershop will continue its expansion into the Colombian market after it added Peru and Canada in 2019.

Last-mile delivery and logistics became a very competitive space in Latin America in 2018, and many of the players are sitting on enormous pools of capital. Colombia’s Rappi raised $1 billion from SoftBank in early 2019, breaking records for startup investment for the region. Brazil’s iFood raised $500 million from Naspers at the end of 2018. However, delivery continues to be a cash-intensive business, with many of these companies burning through capital quickly to gain market share. Cornershop was an exception and had raised less than $50 million before the acquisition.

Brazil’s Buser, Olist, raise funding from SoftBank

Despite the WeWork crash, SoftBank has continued investing consistently in Brazilian startups. In early October 2019, the Japanese investor led an undisclosed Series B round for Brazilian collaborative bus chartering startup Buser. Buser’s team will invest more than $73 million in growth over the next 12 months to create new alliances for their network of operating partners.

Buser helps coordinate groups of people to charter buses at convenient times and lower prices, disrupting the bureaucratic, anti-competitive and inefficient bus system. The company has grown 1,500% over the past nine months and serves more than 3,000 people per day. While Buser has been popular with locals, traditional bus drivers are calling for regulation to slow the company’s meteoric growth. Buser plans to add more than 100 direct jobs in 200 cities over the next 12 months, and SoftBank’s most recent investment will help power this growth.

Brazil’s e-commerce marketplace integrator Olist also received investment from SoftBank for its Series C, coming in around $46 million. Redpoint eVentures and Valor Capital also participated in the round. 

This investment signals the increased interest by traditional retailers in startups that are slowly chipping away at their market share across the region.

Olist connects small businesses to larger product marketplaces to help entrepreneurs sell their products to a larger customer base. They will reportedly use this investment to investigate the development of financial products and look for collaboration with SoftBank’s other companies, like Rappi and Loggi. Based in Curitiba, Olist was founded in 2015 to help small merchants gain market share across the country through a SaaS licensing model to small brick and mortar businesses.

Today, Olist has more than 7,000 customers and uses a drop-shipping model to send products directly from stores to clients around the country, allowing them to grow with a capital-light model. They will use the investment to add up to 100 new employees.

Carrefour Brazil acquires 49% of Ewally

Grocery chain Carrefour acquired a large stake in Brazil-based Ewally after it completed Village Capital’s first regional acceleration program.

Ewally improves financial inclusion in Brazil through a mobile wallet app that allows unbanked clients to pay bills and make purchases online through the blockchain. Carrefour will reportedly use the acquisition to accelerate digital transformation and improve online payment mechanisms throughout Brazil.

Carrefour did not disclose the amount invested and the deal is still subject to approval by Brazilian financial regulation authorities. However, this investment signals the increased interest by traditional retailers in startups that are slowly chipping away at their market share across the region.

News and Notes: Early-stage rounds are getting bigger

Startups in Brazil, Colombia and Argentina raised several rounds this month, ranging from $1.5 million to $13 million. Brazil’s Xerpa, Colombia’s Sempli, Brazil’s Gorilla and Argentina’s Bitso and Worcket were among those that raised capital from local and international investors in October 2019.

Brazilian human resource management platform Xerpa raised $13 million from Vostok Emerging Finance to continue to help companies like MercadoLibre, iFood and QuintoAndar provide benefits for their employees. Previous investors include Nubank’s David Velez, Kaszek Ventures and QED Investors.

Sempli, an online lending platform for small businesses in Colombia, raised an $8 million Series A from new investors Oikocredit and Incofin CVSO, as well as previous investors BID LAB, XTPI Fund, Generación Exponencial, and Impulsum Ventures. To date, Sempli has raised more than $24 million in equity funding. The founders will use this round to grow their portfolio and improve their risk assessment technology to provide more small business loans in Colombia.

Brazil’s Quicko, an alternative mobility startup that uses big data, raised $10 million in October from Brazilian transport company CCR. Quicko’s technology integrates all mobility options — from bicycles to Uber and 99 — to help people get where they need to go as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

Also in Brazil, startup Gorilla Invest raised $8.4 million from Ribbit Capital, Monashees and Iporanga. Gorilla aggregates financial assets so that investors can review all their commitments in one place, and currently manages more than $1.2 billion for 40,000 clients.

Mexican cryptocurrency exchange Bitso raised an undisclosed round from Argentine startup Ripple to expand into the Southern Cone, especially Argentina and Brazil. Other investors in the round included Pantera Capital, Digital Currency Group, Jump Capital and Coinbase.

Looking ahead to November, with unsettled politics in several countries across the region, tech startups are growing despite governmental changes. Some of these changes will likely have a positive effect on the regional ecosystem as people push for more sustainable and equal economic growth.

What to watch next? Last year, Q4 was marked by a wave of large investments as funds and startups look to end the year strong. IFood raised its record-breaking $500 million round in December 2018. We may well see a similar uptick this year as mega-funds like SoftBank have been consistently investing multi-million dollar rounds since June. There is no sign international investment in Latin America will slow through the end of the year, so we can likely look forward to several more growth-stage rounds before the year is out.

Facebook staff demand Zuckerberg limit lies in politcal ads

Submit campaign ads to fact checking, limit microtargeting, cap spending, observe silence periods, or at least warn users. These are the solutions Facebook employees put forward in an open letter pleading with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and company leadership to address misinformation in political ads.

The letter, obtained by the New York Times’ Mike Isaac, insists that “Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing . . . Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for.” The letter was posted to Facebook’s internal collaboration forum a few weeks ago.

The sentiments echo what I called for in a TechCrunch opinion piece on October 13th calling on Facebook to ban political ads. Unfettered misinformation in political ads on Facebook lets politicians and their supporters spread inflammatory and inaccurate claims about their views and their rivals while racking up donations to buy more of these ads.

The social network can still offer freedom of expression to political campaigns on their own Facebook Pages while limiting the ability of the richest and most dishonest to pay to make their lies the loudest. We suggested that if Facebook won’t drop political ads, they should be fact checked and/or use an array of generic “vote for me” or “donate here” ad units that don’t allow accusations. We also criticized how microtargeting of communities vulnerable to misinformation and instant donation links make Facebook ads more dangerous than equivalent TV or radio spots.

Mark Zuckerberg Hearing In Congress

The Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, testified before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday October 23, 2019 Washington, D.C. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Over 250 employees of Facebook’s 35,000 staffers have signed the letter, that declares “We strongly object to this policy as it stands. It doesn’t protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.” It suggests the current policy undermines Facebook’s election integrity work, confuses users about where misinformation is allowed, and signals Facebook is happy to profit from lies.

The solutions suggested include:

  1. Don’t accept political ads unless they’re subject to third-party fact checks
  2. Use visual design to more strongly differentiate between political ads and organic non-ad posts
  3. Restrict microtargeting for political ads including the use of Custom Audiences since microtargeted hides ads from as much public scrutiny that Facebook claims keeps politicians honest
  4. Observe pre-election silence periods for political ads to limit the impact and scale of misinformation
  5. Limit ad spending per politician or candidate, with spending by them and their supporting political action committees combined
  6. Make it more visually clear to users that political ads aren’t fact-checked

A combination of these approaches could let Facebook stop short of banning political ads without allowing rampant misinformation or having to police individual claims.

Facebook’s response to the letter was “We remain committed to not censoring political speech, and will continue exploring additional steps we can take to bring increased transparency to political ads.” But that straw-man’s the letter’s request. Employees aren’t asking politicians to be kicked off Facebook or have their posts/ads deleted. They’re asking for warning labels and limits on paid reach. That’s not censorship.

Zuckerberg Elections 1

Zuckerberg had stood resolute on the policy despite backlash from the press and lawmakers including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). She left him tongue-tied during a congressional testimony when she asked exactly what kinds of misinfo were allowed in ads.

But then Friday Facebook blocked an ad designed to test its limits by claiming Republican Lindsey Graham had voted for Ocasio-Cortez’s Green Deal he actually opposes. Facebook told Reuters it will fact-check PAC ads

One sensible approach for politicians’ ads would be for Facebook to ramp up fact-checking, starting with Presidential candidates until it has the resources to scan more. Those fact-checked as false should receive an interstitial warning blocking their content rather than just a “false” label. That could be paired with giving political ads a bigger disclaimer without making them too prominent looking in general and only allowing targeting by state.

Deciding on potential spending limits and silent periods would be more messy. Low limits could even the playing field and broad silent periods especially during voting periods could prevent voter suppression. Perhaps these specifics should be left to Facebook’s upcoming independent Oversight Board that acts as a supreme court for moderation decisions and policies.

fb arbiter of truth

Zuckerberg’s core argument for the policy is that over time, history bends towards more speech, not censorship. But that succumbs to utopic fallacy that assumes technology evenly advantages the honest and dishonest. In reality, sensational misinformation spreads much further and faster than level-headed truth. Microtargeted ads with thousands of variants undercut and overwhelm the democratic apparatus designed to punish liars, while partisan news outlets counter attempts to call them out.

Zuckerberg wants to avoid Facebook becoming the truth police. But as we and employees have put forward, there a progressive approaches to limiting misinformation if he’s willing to step back from his philosophical orthodoxy.

The full text of the letter from Facebook employees to leadership about political ads can be found below, via the New York Times:

We are proud to work here.

Facebook stands for people expressing their voice. Creating a place where we can debate, share different opinions, and express our views is what makes our app and technologies meaningful for people all over the world.

We are proud to work for a place that enables that expression, and we believe it is imperative to evolve as societies change. As Chris Cox said, “We know the effects of social media are not neutral, and its history has not yet been written.”

This is our company.

We’re reaching out to you, the leaders of this company, because we’re worried we’re on track to undo the great strides our product teams have made in integrity over the last two years. We work here because we care, because we know that even our smallest choices impact communities at an astounding scale. We want to raise our concerns before it’s too late.

Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing.

Misinformation affects us all. Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for. We strongly object to this policy as it stands. It doesn’t protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.

Allowing paid civic misinformation to run on the platform in its current state has the potential to:

— Increase distrust in our platform by allowing similar paid and organic content to sit side-by-side — some with third-party fact-checking and some without. Additionally, it communicates that we are OK profiting from deliberate misinformation campaigns by those in or seeking positions of power.

— Undo integrity product work. Currently, integrity teams are working hard to give users more context on the content they see, demote violating content, and more. For the Election 2020 Lockdown, these teams made hard choices on what to support and what not to support, and this policy will undo much of that work by undermining trust in the platform. And after the 2020 Lockdown, this policy has the potential to continue to cause harm in coming elections around the world.

Proposals for improvement

Our goal is to bring awareness to our leadership that a large part of the employee body does not agree with this policy. We want to work with our leadership to develop better solutions that both protect our business and the people who use our products. We know this work is nuanced, but there are many things we can do short of eliminating political ads altogether.

These suggestions are all focused on ad-related content, not organic.

1. Hold political ads to the same standard as other ads.

a. Misinformation shared by political advertisers has an outsized detrimental impact on our community. We should not accept money for political ads without applying the standards that our other ads have to follow.

2. Stronger visual design treatment for political ads.

a. People have trouble distinguishing political ads from organic posts. We should apply a stronger design treatment to political ads that makes it easier for people to establish context.

3. Restrict targeting for political ads.

a. Currently, politicians and political campaigns can use our advanced targeting tools, such as Custom Audiences. It is common for political advertisers to upload voter rolls (which are publicly available in order to reach voters) and then use behavioral tracking tools (such as the FB pixel) and ad engagement to refine ads further. The risk with allowing this is that it’s hard for people in the electorate to participate in the “public scrutiny” that we’re saying comes along with political speech. These ads are often so micro-targeted that the conversations on our platforms are much more siloed than on other platforms. Currently we restrict targeting for housing and education and credit verticals due to a history of discrimination. We should extend similar restrictions to political advertising.

4. Broader observance of the election silence periods

a. Observe election silence in compliance with local laws and regulations. Explore a self-imposed election silence for all elections around the world to act in good faith and as good citizens.

5. Spend caps for individual politicians, regardless of source

a. FB has stated that one of the benefits of running political ads is to help more voices get heard. However, high-profile politicians can out-spend new voices and drown out the competition. To solve for this, if you have a PAC and a politician both running ads, there would be a limit that would apply to both together, rather than to each advertiser individually.

6. Clearer policies for political ads

a. If FB does not change the policies for political ads, we need to update the way they are displayed. For consumers and advertisers, it’s not immediately clear that political ads are exempt from the fact-checking that other ads go through. It should be easily understood by anyone that our advertising policies about misinformation don’t apply to original political content or ads, especially since political misinformation is more destructive than other types of misinformation.

Therefore, the section of the policies should be moved from “prohibited content” (which is not allowed at all) to “restricted content” (which is allowed with restrictions).

We want to have this conversation in an open dialog because we want to see actual change.

We are proud of the work that the integrity teams have done, and we don’t want to see that undermined by policy. Over the coming months, we’ll continue this conversation, and we look forward to working towards solutions together.

This is still our company.

PayPal reports solid third-quarter results, with total payment volume growing 25%

PayPal reported third-quarter results today that were slightly ahead of analysts’ expectations, driven by an increase in total payment volume.

The company’s quarterly revenue grew 19% year-over-year to $4.38 billion. Its GAAP net income was 39 cents per share, or $462 million, a 7% year-over-year increase. On a non-GAAP basis, net income was 61 cents a share, a 5% increase.

These figures included a negative impact from strategic investments in MercadoLibre and Uber; without that, GAAP net income would have increased 48% to 54 cents per share, and non-GAAP net income would have rose 31% to 76 cents per share.

During the third quarter, PayPal added 9.8 million active accounts, increasing the total number by 16% to 295 million. Total payment volume (TPV) increased 25% to $179 billion. Venmo processed more than $27 billion in TPV during the quarter, an increase of 64%.

For its full-year results, PayPal said it expects earnings per share ranging from $3.06 to $3.08 per share, on revenue of $17.7 billion to $17.76 billion.

In September, PayPal announced it will acquire a 70% equity interest in GoPay (Guofubao). The deal is expected to close during the fourth quarter and will make PayPal the first foreign payments company licensed to provide online payment services in China, an important potential driver of future growth.

Where are US fintech’s next billion-dollar startups?

As fintech investments soar to new heights, investors are looking at the bottom and top levels of the services stack to find the next billion-dollar startups.

That’s the word from seasoned investors like Andreessen Horowitz’s managing director, Angela Strange, who has invested in a number of successful financial services technology companies. For Strange and Chris Britt, co-founder and chief executive of financial services startup Chime Bank, the best opportunities are in customer-facing financial services and specific infrastructure opportunities that can support those  businesses.

For many large companies, financial services are already entering a twilight period. Markets like consumer and student lending, banking and financial management and business lending are becoming more crowded, and companies like Affirm, Betterment, Brex, Chime Bank, CommonBond, Kabbage, Robinhood, SoFi, Wealthfront and many others have raised hundreds of millions so they can take on established players in banking and finance.

Investments into financial technology companies in the U.S. exploded in 2019 with at least $12.7 billion flowing in the first half of the year alone. That figure — a 60% jump in dollars committed — came even as the number of deals remained relatively steady, according to data from Accenture.

Increasing capital commitments were even more pronounced in Europe and the United Kingdom, where a fintech boom has nearly doubled the amount of money committed to startups over the first half of 2019 from a year-ago period.

Amazon Pay users in India can now pay their utility, mobile and cable bills with Alexa

Amazon Pay users in India can now use voice command with Alexa to pay their utility, internet, mobile, and satellite cable TV bills, the e-commerce giant said on Wednesday. This is the first time, the company said, it is pairing these functionalities with Amazon Pay in any market.

The e-commerce giant, which competes with Walmart’s Flipkart in India, said any Alexa-enabled device such as the Echo Dot smart speaker, the Fire TV Stick dongle, or headphones from third-party vendors will support the aforementioned feature in India.

To be sure, Amazon has long allowed users in many markets to purchase items using voice command with Alexa. But this is the first time the American company is letting users pay their electricity, water, cooking gas, broadband, and satellite TV bills with voice and Amazon Pay.

Amazon Pay is available in many markets, but the service has become especially popular in India, where the concept of parking money to a digital wallet skyrocketed in usage in late 2016 after the Indian government invalidated much of the paper bills in circulation in the country.

Without disclosing specific figures, Amazon said “3X more customers” compared to last year’s event used Amazon Pay service to pay during the recent six-day festive sales. It said a quarter of all digital transactions during the event was carried out on its Pay service.

To boost Amazon Pay engagements in India, the company has offered lofty cashback on Pay on a number of purchases over the years. Users can also enjoy hefty discount if they use Amazon Pay to pay for their food, tickets, and other things on select popular third-party services.

During the holiday season, the company said, “customers booked flight tickets worth 300 trips around the earth.”

Amazon Pay makes it much more convenient for users to pay their digital purchases especially those that are recurring in nature, said Puneesh Kumar, country manager of Alexa Experiences and Devices.

The company says users can engage with Pay through voice commands like “Alexa, what’s my balance,” which will reveal the amount they have available for purchase in their Amazon Pay wallet. Users can also initiate the process of topping money to their mobile wallet using a voice command. They can say something like, “Alexa, add Rs 1000 to my Amazon Pay balance,” which will send a link as a text on their phones to complete the transaction.