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Firm Unveils Outdoor 3D Digital Billboard




Alpha and Jam has unveiled the Maslow Billboard, adjudged as world’s largest digital outdoor advert screen, at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal Two (MMA2), Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria.

Chief Executive Officer of Alpha And Jam, Samuel Ajiboye said the billboard is said to also be the first Truecorner LED screen in West, East and Central Africa, and the largest 3D digital billboard in Africa. 

“This is so because the world’s largest 3D digital billboard in Dubai, UAE, was installed indoors, making ours the largest outdoor screen in the world,” Ajiboye told newsmen, while lighting-up the billboard over the weekend, symbolizing the commencement of its operation.  

Ajiboye revealed that the Maslow has a display size of 800 square meters and will be seen by an audience of at least 800,000 every day, including both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. It is visible to inbound and outbound traffic from both domestic and international airports and an average of 36,000 vehicles per day with a dwell length of 35 minutes. It has a total display time of 24 seconds per brand, and 19 hours per day.
He added that Maslow is undoubtedly at the top of its class in Africa with its strikingly realistic 3D display provides a unique advertising experience. It is a milestone contribution to the evolution of advertising and marketing in Nigeria, and Africa at large.

Explaining the concept behind the innovation, Ajiboye said the introduction of the 3D digital billboard would enhance advertising and marketing in the country. 

“Alpha And Jam is redefining how out-of-home campaigns are done on the continent, we will continue to stay true to our objective of empowering immersive digital out-of-home campaigns across Africa.

“The launch of The Maslow is evidence of our commitment to innovate and to provide value for our clients. It is the largest 3D billboard in Africa. It accommodates any format and has a clear view from over 800 meters away. It is simply breathtaking. We are confident that it will become a significant monument in Nigeria,” he stated.

BASL’s Head of Corporate Communications, Oluwatosin Onalaja, added that a brand’s visibility and differentiation have always been crucial to securing the acceptance, patronage, and loyalty of its audience. 

“This is the rare opportunity that the MMA2 Terminal in collaboration with Alpha And Jam are providing for Nigerian corporate entities through the Maslow Billboard,” he said 


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Youtube Introduces A New App, Youtube Create For Editing Videos, Adding Effects And More



YouTube this morning introduced a new app for creators, YouTube Create, that will offer a suite of easy-to-use and free tools that will allow them to make both Shorts and longer videos. The tool aims to address some of the challenges creators face, including the editing process and the ability to leverage creative tools, including things like stickers, GIFs and effects, for example.

The company said it consulted with 3,000 creators on the development of the new app and designed it according to their feedback.

To use the tool, creators would add their clips, then choose from a range of editing tools to begin creating their video. With the app, they can do things like preview splits and trim their clips as they’re putting together a video. There are also thousands of stickers, GIFs, and a set of effects available within the app.

In addition, the app will provide access to YouTube’s library of royalty-free tracks, so creators can choose from thousands of songs to complement their videos. All these songs are copyright-safe, so creators can monetize their videos without worry, the company says. Plus, the tool will match the beats of the song to the video clips to keep everything in sync — a feature popularized by TikTok.

Plus, the app can do audio cleanup to remove unwanted background sounds, automatically generate captions that can be added to the video with a tap of a button, and export the final product to the creator’s YouTube channel.

The idea to offer a separate app for creation is popular among the creator community. Despite the numerous built-in effects on TikTok, for example, many creators turn to ByteDance’s other creative app CapCut to prepare their TikTok videos.

The new app, initially available for Android, is launching into beta starting today across eight markets worldwide. (The U.S., Germany, France, United Kingdom, Indonesia, India, Korea, and Singapore).

The company says it will continue to expand the app will more features and bring it to more creators over time.

Tech Chrunch

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Fintech Faces Its Reckoning: It’s Only A Matter Of Time Until The House Of Cards Collapses



The 2008 Global Financial Crisis was easily the most destructive economic crisis since the Great Depression. And yet, it’s not without a touch of irony that without it, we wouldn’t have a thriving startup ecosystem.

In an attempt to reboot the global economy, central banks slashed interest rates to almost zero, resulting in an era of cheap money.

This resulted in two things. First, it incentivized investors to fund promising (and, in many cases, not so promising) young tech companies. But it also allowed for the emergence of business models that, in any other circumstance, would be completely unviable.

For examples of the latter, you only need to look at the fintech world. Over the past decade, a dizzying array of challenger banks, e-money services, digital wallets, and more have managed to claw market share away from the legacy incumbents.

They accomplished this by offering a product that, from the consumer’s perspective, was undoubtedly superior.

Consumers were easily convinced by these slick apps, low or nonexistent fees, and higher rebates or interest rates. But they didn’t think about whether the business fundamentals of these fintechs were sustainable in the long-term or whether they could weather a broader change in macroeconomic conditions. They didn’t need to.

But now fintech faces a reckoning. Over the past two years, central banks have hiked interest rates from their COVID-era lows to the highest levels for a generation. And now the business models that won consumers’ affection look increasingly tenuous.

It’s only a matter of time until the house of cards collapses.

Fintech’s Achilles’ heel

For countless fintech providers, the main source of revenue comes from interchange fees. These are, essentially, the commissions paid to card issuers, payment networks, and banks whenever a consumer buys something.

Many fintech companies rely on interchange fees to varying degrees, although in each case, they account for a significant part of their income. For example, U.S. neobank Chime made $600 million from interchange fees in 2020 alone. From the consumer’s perspective, the interchange is completely invisible, although for many fintechs, it’s a financial lifeline.

Ultimately, fintechs need to remember that they are, first and foremost, technology companies.

There are two things you need to know here: First, although interchange fees vary depending on the type of card, such as whether it’s a debit or credit card, and the jurisdiction where the payment occurred, they nonetheless are capped to a fixed percentage of the transaction price.

The other thing? Interest rates, by their very definition, aren’t. They’re set by central banks, with the percentage rate influenced primarily by external economic conditions. When times are tough — like a recession or a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic — they go down to stimulate spending and bolster consumer confidence. When inflation spikes, so too do the interest rates as central banks try to dampen economic activity (and thus, demand).

By itself, this presents a serious dilemma for fintechs wholly or primarily reliant on interchange fees. While their revenue potential is capped as a fixed percentage of their customers’ purchasing activity, their borrowing costs can spiral dangerously out of control.

This issue is compounded further by the fact that, in many cases, these fintechs aren’t keeping the interchange fees for themselves. As we’ve seen over the past decade, one of the most valuable barometers of a startup’s future prospects is its customer acquisition rate, and the easiest way to juice this metric is to offer generous rebates or interest rates.

And so, to keep the lights on, they’re burning through their runway or looking for funding through equity or debt deals. But runway doesn’t last forever, and as the broader macroeconomic situation worsens, additional funding has become harder to obtain, and likely is smaller or given under less advantageous conditions.

A lack of flexibility

It’s worth noting that this crisis is one shared almost exclusively by the newest fintech startups, and not, as you perhaps might expect, legacy financial institutions. One reason — albeit a small one — is that these businesses don’t have the same pressing need to acquire new customers. A bank with a hundred-year legacy doesn’t have to rely on sign-ups to prove its long-term viability as a business.

But the biggest advantage these incumbents enjoy is the fact that they’re, as businesses, incredibly diversified. Time has allowed them to offer a broad range of services, from loans and insurance to credit cards and mortgages. This diversification offers a degree of insulation from interest rate changes and is why the notoriously stodgy traditional financial sector will weather the coming few years.

Additionally, banks have traditionally enjoyed the cheapest forms of funding, because they store and hold deposits, often paying interest rates to their customers that are far below those established by central banks.

By contrast, most of the challenger fintech startups lack that extent of product diversity. They may be exclusively reliant on interchange fees for revenue or, if they have alternative products, are yet to achieve any level of critical mass or adoption. Often, this is because they’ve yet to become registered and regulated banks, or they’ve willingly chosen to focus on one particular segment of the market.

In the U.S., banks are the only institutions that can hold depositor funds. They have more freedom in the types of products they can offer and thus have greater opportunities for diversification. But the formal process of becoming a bank is long, tiresome, and expensive — and it’s only getting harder. For fintechs, it simply isn’t worth the effort — or, rather, it’s a problem to circumvent by partnering with a fintech-friendly bank.

Becoming a bank also carries some serious downsides. It involves a high degree of oversight, which many startups may find too difficult to bear. And what happens if a fintech changes its mind? Then things get tricky.

Renouncing a banking charter is a logistical nightmare and carries a degree of stigma, as it’s often the result of some kind of failure or malfeasance. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen or that there aren’t legitimate (and even strategically sound) reasons for doing so. The Utah-based Marlin Bank gave up its state charter to merge with a larger investment fund. But these divorces — for lack of a better term — are never easy. There’s the thorny issue of what to do with client accounts or the products you can no longer sell or manage. The transition takes time, effort, and money.

The difficult road ahead

The original sin of many startups — including, but not limited to, fintech companies — is believing that the rosy macroeconomic conditions of the 2010s would continue indefinitely. That inflation and interest rates would stay low forever and that they’ll never run short of affordable, easily accessible capital.

That there would be no pandemic. No war in Ukraine. Nothing that could shake the foundations of their businesses.

For many companies, this myopia will be their downfall. They’ve boxed themselves in, either by offering a limited product lineup or by providing incentives that their customers will be reluctant to abandon. This is especially true for those businesses in the corporate card market that depend primarily on interchange fees but give most or all of their revenue to customers in the form of rebates and interest rates.

This fear is shared by McKinsey, which, in its 2022 Global Payments Report, warned about the impact of rising interest rates and fixed interchange fees on fintechs, noting that the business models of many fintech startups — particularly for buy now, pay later firms — have yet to prove their viability in such choppy macroeconomic conditions.

One thing is clear: The stubbornly high rates of inflation aren’t, as once thought, a transitory problem but something that will be with us for a long time. This means we’re unlikely to see low central bank rates — the secret sauce that allowed these fundamentally precarious business models to last so long — for several years to come. The fintechs that survive this period will be those who adapt, either by making hard decisions about the incentives they offer customers or by expanding their product portfolio.

They can accomplish this without fundamentally undermining their value propositions. As some of the most successful fintech companies prove, the best way to drive volume is to offer a customer experience that’s unambiguously better than the legacy alternatives.

Ultimately, fintechs need to remember that they are, first and foremost, technology companies. And the way to win is to build incredible software.

Great software gives consumers a reason to pay rather than use a free alternative. It unlocks new revenue models beyond relying on interchange fees or other commission-based payments. By thinking about your business as one that tries to identify and solve problems, rather than one centered on customer acquisition and transaction volumes, it becomes vastly simpler to identify new opportunities, be they new features to distinguish your business from the competition or new products that you can upsell to existing customers.

Crucially, by treating software as a first-class citizen, fintechs can license their software to other organizations, unlocking an additional revenue stream. If the biggest threat to existing fintech companies is an overreliance on interchange fees, the easiest way to achieve resilience is by aggressively pursuing diversification.

This isn’t an inherently novel concept. Look at Microsoft, which makes money from a variety of sources — operating systems, office software, cloud computing, games consoles, and laptops. The same could be said for Google, Apple, Amazon, and countless others. Although the highly regulated nature of the financial services sector makes expansion a complicated and often-bureaucratic process, it’s by no means impossible.

Obviously, it takes time to build new features and unlock additional revenue models. Great software — truly great software — takes talent, money, and a roadmap that stretches beyond a single quarter. For many organizations, achieving this sustainability is a long-term ambition. But it’s worth remembering that we’re still in a tough macroeconomic environment, and profitability is no longer a dirty word for investors — or, at the very least, something that’s secondary to growth.

Showing you’re serious about long-term sustainability and have a pathway to profitability will hold you in good stead in your next funding round.

And finally, they should consider whether the incentives they offer still make sense, given the turmoil we’ve seen in the financial services sector. This year isn’t yet over, and we’ve already witnessed three major bank failures and the collapse or acquisition of countless other smaller providers. Given the ongoing consternation, stability — and, most importantly, the ability to project an image of stability — can be a useful marketing tool.


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Cruise Nears Approval To Mass-Produce Robotaxis With No Steering Wheel, Pedals



Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt said Thursday at an investor conference that the company is close to from getting the green light to begin mass production of its purpose-built autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel or pedals.

“We’re testing it and we are, from what we’ve heard from [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration], just days away from the last regulatory approval, which would let us start production and almost immediately start putting these vehicles on the road,” Vogt said at a Goldman Sachs event.

NHTSA told TechCrunch that no decision to grant or deny GM’s petition has been reached, nor has a deadline been set for such a decision. That said, federal safety regulators are expected to announce a new rule-making in September. If passed, it also will benefit Amazon’s Zoox, which has built and is testing a similar type of vehicle to Cruise’s Origin.

Cruise first unveiled its Origin AV — built for both autonomous ride-hail and delivery — in early 2020. The GM-backed company has promised to put “tens of thousands” of Origins on streets in major U.S. cities over the next few years, but its ability to begin mass production has been hampered by lengthy regulatory processes.

Cruise, via GM, has been waiting for an exemption from the federal government’s motor vehicle safety standards, which require vehicles to have a steering wheel and pedals. NHTSA only grants 2,500 such exemptions each year, but there is legislation to increase that number to 25,000.

Cruise has still been testing its Origins in cities where it operates like San Francisco and Austin.

Vogt’s announcement comes a few weeks after one of those test vehicles drove off the road and into a small electrical building, according to Austin Transportation Department records obtained by Axios. The Origin hit the building with enough force to break some off, the report said. Because the vehicle had no steering wheel, emergency personnel couldn’t quickly move it, and had to wait for a tow truck.

Cruise said the Origin test vehicle had experienced a system fault during testing and pulled over safely, but when live support re-engaged the vehicle, it shifted out of park and rolled into the building at six miles per hour.

Much of Cruise’s ability to score regulatory approval will depend on how the company answers questions regarding the safety of its vehicles that are already on the road.

Today, Cruise operates fleets of Chevy Bolt AVs in San Francisco, Austin and Phoenix, with plans to expand to a handful more cities. The company has come under the microscope in its hometown of San Francisco, where it operates around 400 robotaxis, after a string of incidents of stalled vehicles that have caused traffic jams and blocked emergency responders. The California Department of Motor Vehicles asked Cruise to reduce its fleet size after one of its vehicles collided with a fire truck, injuring one passenger. This happened days after Cruise, and its competitor Waymo, had received final approval to expand commercial, fully autonomous services across the city 24/7.

Earlier this week, protestors rallied outside of Cruise headquarters after the fire department accused the company of allowing its robotaxi to block the path of an ambulance which carried a passenger who later died. Cruise showed footage of the incident to TechCrunch that backed its denial of the incident as the fire department described, but the company suffered a reputation hit anyway.

While speaking at the investor event, Vogt expressed concern that too much pushback against the robotaxis — simply for being pioneer technology that will make mistakes — will stall important technological advancements that could make roads safer and save lives.

“I worry that we’re going to set society back a decade when it comes to road safety,” he said. “That’s just something we can’t do.”

Building cheaper AVs for better unit economics

Vogt noted that while the Origin is designed to be “a party on wheels” or a “Zen oasis between meetings or on your way to work,” it’ll also present an opportunity to build more vehicles at a cheaper cost.

The executive and Cruise founder said the Origin costs GM less to build than its Chevy Bolts because all of the sensors, compute systems and software are simplified to lower the upfront cost of the vehicle. And in a few years, the Origins will rely on Cruise’s custom, in-house designed chips, which Vogt says takes a lot of cost and complexity out of the equation.

“Working closely with GM, we’ve done a lot of work to increase the lifespan of this vehicle,” said Vogt. “An average car has maybe 150,000 miles, 200,000 miles, something in that range. The Origin is designed to last 1 million…and so you put that long lifetime, lower upfront cost together, that’s a dramatic reduction in the cost per mile to operate these vehicles, which is a key unlock for profitability.”

Vogt went on to say that once the Origin goes into production, it can scale very quickly. He declined to provide a timeline or capacity at GM’s plant.

“We have a great deal of precision around both the final cost of this and the timing, which means that in 2025, the hardware we build will be capable of reaching those unit economics,” said Vogt, reiterating Cruise’s goal of getting down to a cost of operating at $1 per mile.

Cruise has stated its goal of reaching $1 billion in revenue by 2025, a target that Vogt said the company is on track to hit and one that might even help Cruise finally break even. That is, if Cruise can start mass-producing its cheaper Origin vehicles, scale to new markets, and operate more vehicles at more hours of the day.

Tech Crunch

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