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Fintech companies raised a record $39.6 billion in 2018: research

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Fintech companies raised a record $39.6 billion in 2018: research

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Venture capital-backed financial technology companies raised a record $39.57 billion from investors globally in 2018, up 120 percent from the previous year, according to research by data provider CB Insights published on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A logo of Ant Financial is displayed at an event of the company in Hong Kong, China November 1, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Funding was raised through 1,707 deals, up from 1,480 in 2017, the research said.

The surge in funding was due in large part to 52 mega-rounds, or investments larger than $100 million, which were worth $24.88 billion combined, the research said.

A $14 billion investment in Ant Financial, the payment affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, accounted for 35 percent of total fintech funding alone last year, the research said.

In the last three months of the year, five companies joined the coveted ranks of fintech “unicorns”, or companies valued at more than $1 billion. These include credit card provider Brex, digital bank Monzo and data aggregator Plaid.

Venture capital investors have been pouring billions of dollars into fintech companies, in the hopes that they can gain market share from incumbent financial institutions by offering easier to use and cheaper digital financial services.

Fintechs have emerged globally across all sectors of finance, including lending, banking and wealth management.

While the large rounds minted new unicorns and led funding to hit a record high in 2018, CB Insights estimates these will likely delay initial public offerings.

“IPO activity is likely to remain lackluster in 2019,” the research reads.

Asia saw the biggest jump in number of deals in 2018, growing 38 percent from the previous year and accounting for a record $22.65 billion, according to the study.

In the United States, fintechs raised a record $11.89 billion through 659 investments, while the number of deals dropped in Europe, but funding reached a record $3.53 billion.

Reporting by Anna Irrera; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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NASA releases sharpest-ever images of distant Kuiper Belt object

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The space agency is keen to brag about the feat. New Horizons got closer to MU69 than it did its main target, Pluto, thanks to “unprecedented precision” in calculations across multiple countries. There was a real chance the camera would miss the object entirely, according to mission team Principal Investigator Alan Stern.

You’re not going to get better pictures than this, unfortunately. However, they’re good enough that they could provide further insights around the object’s formation and the kind of interactions it has roughly 4.1 billion miles from Earth. They’re brief snapshots, but they could provide years of insights.

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Judge says Washington state cyberstalking law violates free speech

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The ruling came after a retired Air Force Major, Richard Rynearson III, sued to have the law overturned. He claimed that Kitsap County threatened to prosecute him under the cyberstalking law for criticizing an activist involved with a memorial to Japanese victims of US internment camps during World War II. While Rynearson would use “invective, ridicule, and harsh language,” the judge said, his language was neither threatening nor obscene.

Officials had contended that the law held up because it targeted conduct, not the speech itself. They also maintained that Rynearson hadn’t shown evidence of a serious threat — just that the prosecutor’s office would see how Rynearson behaved and take action if necessary. A county court had already tossed out the activist’s restraining order against Rynearson over free speech.

It’s not clear whether Washington will appeal the decision. If the ruling stays, though, it could force legislators to significantly narrow the scope if it wants a cyberstalking law to remain in place. This might also set a precedent that could affect legislation elsewhere in the country.

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Steam now supports NextVR’s virtual reality broadcasts

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The Steam version of the software works with the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive and Windows Mixed Reality devices. NextVR rolled out an iteration of the app for the Rift late last year, and it has supported the Vive and Windows Mixed Reality headsets longer than that. Its arrival on Steam means users don’t have to download it from the headsets’ app stores, though, such as HTC’s Viveport, which used to be infamously buggy.

David Cole, NextVR CEO, said in a statement:

“NextVR is driven to engage the largest possible audience to experience our content in virtual reality. Steam is a critically important platform to reach active virtual reality users. We’re excited to put our unparalleled live sports and entertainment experiences at the fingertips of the vibrant Steam user-base.”

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