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It's Monday, April 13th, 2020. Please enjoy ARK's weekly newsletter curated by our thematic analysts and designed to keep you engaged with disruptive innovation.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Accelerating the Adoption of Mobile Payments in Italy

Follow Max on Twitter @mfriedrichARK


Enabling consumers and merchants to maintain social distance while completing transactions, Milan-based mobile payments startup Satispay is helping Italians during the COVID-19 crisis, according to Satispay CEO Alberto Dalmasso.


In Italy, Satispay is connecting 1 million active users to 100,000 merchants, many of whom are struggling to survive in the face of the lockdown. Because Satispay enables consumers to purchase items remotely, merchants are asking their customers to call in orders and complete their transactions with Satispay. Shortly after Italy implemented social distancing, remote transactions grew from 10% to roughly half of Satispay’s total payment volume.


To simplify communication between merchants and consumers, Satispay recently launched a feature highlighting nearby merchants who are offering pick-up and/or delivery. In a podcast with ARK Invest, Dalmasso explained that the crisis has accelerated Satispay’s growth dramatically. In fact, Milan is promoting Satispay not only as a channel for the government’s shopping vouchers but also as a preferred payment method for purchases placed remotely.


Subscribe to ARK’s For Your Innovation podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify to listen the upcoming episode featuring Satispay’s CEO Alberto Dalmasso.



Alphabet’s Project Wing Is Responding to COVID-19 With Drones

Follow Tasha on Twitter @TashaARK


Because of COVID-19, Alphabet’s Project Wing has completed more than 1,000 drone deliveries in the last two weeks. In Virginia, local businesses have partnered with Project Wing to avoid human contact while transporting pasta, baby food, and other essential items to their consumers.


The FAA has given Alphabet approval to operate a drone airline with only one pilot, illustrating how innovation can gain traction in tumultuous times. Virginia-based businesses are experimenting with drone deliveries perhaps sooner than otherwise would have been the case. After the COVID-19 crisis subsides, consumers probably will continue to rely on drones delivering to their front doors. ARK estimates that global drone delivery revenues could scale from nil today to $275 billion by 2030.

AI Fixes Video Conferencing Woes 

Follow James on Twitter @jwangARK


With an unprecedented number of people working from home, video conferencing has become an instant hit; yet, background noise and choppy connections have added frustration to online meetings.


Google and Microsoft are using AI to attack these long running problems. Google’s Duo video calling app has added a feature called WaveNetEQ, a neural network that detects missing or garbled speech and fills in the words the speaker meant to say. Trained on more than 100 voices in 48 languages, WaveNetEQ enables agents to imitate a wide range of speakers. While subtle, it ameliorates the short bursts of distorted speech that result from unstable internet connections. Meanwhile, Microsoft is applying AI to eliminate background noise. In a video demo, it showed how video calls in Teams zero out the noise of a crinkly bag of potato chips and preserve the speaker’s voice.


Both companies are playing catch up with Zoom, whose video conferencing application has ballooned from 10 million to more 200 million daily active users during this crisis. In recent days, however, security woes have plagued Zoom, causing various companies and government organizations to ban it. How Zoom handles its first major crisis as a public company will determine if it can cement its lead in this hotly contested market and justify its lofty $35 billion market cap.

COVID-19 Cytokine Storms Could Cause Fatal Complications  

Follow Ali on Twitter @aurmanARK


In a strange pattern, some COVID-19 patients feel better and then crash. Researchers have discovered that the body’s own immune system could be the culprit.


Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) is a heightened immune response that causes inflammation after encountering infections like COVID-19 or medications like immunotherapies. In overdrive, cytokine storms can be life threatening.  


Medications like Roche’s Actemra have been approved for CRS in CAR-T cell immunotherapy. Other companies are updating delivery mechanisms. Precigen’s (PGEN) UltraCAR-T Therapeutic Platform controls T-cells with a kill switch technology to improve its safety profile, and Fate Therapeutics (FATE) uses natural killer (NK) cells that do not cause cytokine storms.


COVID-19 cytokine storm trials have begun in a collaborative study sponsored by Incyte in the United States and Novartis in the rest of the world. These trials will repurpose Jakafi, an approved myelofibrosis drug, to block cytokine storms.


Bitcoin Cash Has Undergone Its First Halving of Block Rewards 

Follow Yassine on Twitter @yassineARK


On Wednesday, Bitcoin Cash (BCH), a Bitcoin fork and the fourth largest cryptocurrency by network value, experienced its first block reward halving. Consistent with its disinflationary monetary policy, the halving cut the amount of Bitcoin Cash produced from each new block from 12.5 to 6.25 BCH.


BCH’s halving prompted discussion about the impact that Bitcoin’s (BTC) block reward halving in May will have on the price of bitcoin and the network’s hash rate. All else equal, if the demand for bitcoin were to remain constant as newly issued supply is cut in half, the price of bitcoin should increase. Historically, block reward halvings have been catalysts for price appreciation, but several analysts are skeptical about its impact on bitcoin’s price this time around because miner sales are a fraction of global trading volume now, suggesting that a 50% reduction in selling pressure will have an immaterial impact.


As to hash rate after the halving, if the bitcoin price does not double, the Bitcoin network’s hash rate could drop after the halving as miners shut down their operations in response to a sharp decline in their revenues. Bitcoin Cash suffered a 60% drop in the network’s hash rate, as miners redirected hash power to the Bitcoin network or shut down mining operations entirely.


When Bitcoin’s block reward halving occurs in May, ARK will pay close to attention to its impact on the price of bitcoin and the security of the Bitcoin network.

In Other Innovation News


Is Quibi Too Expensive?

Quibi, short for 'quick bites’, attracted more than 300,000 users after launching this week. The subscription-video-on-demand (SVOD) service prides itself on a content library of easily binge-able shows that are 10 minutes or less in length. Quibi is hoping to find a market of consumers that are looking for more short-form video. The short-form video market seems saturated with free options like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, so Quibi could be behind the ball because it is not offering a free ad-supported tier. Instead, its pricing with ads starts at $4.99 a month and scales to an ad-free service at $7.99 a month. Without premium content, Quibi will have to prove its worth.



The SBA Taps Amazon Web Services

The Small Business Administration (SBA) continues to face unprecedented challenges. Its computers, for example, crashed as it was distributing the government’s stimulus to small businesses. To alleviate the strain on its systems, the SBA has partnered with Amazon Web Services to onboard new lenders.



We hope you find this information useful and please stay safe.

ARK's statements are not an endorsement of any company or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any security. For a list of all purchases and sales made by ARK for client accounts during the past year that could be considered by the SEC as recommendations, click here. It should not be assumed that recommendations made in the future will be profitable or will equal the performance of the securities in this list. For full disclosures, click here.



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