Posted In:

AI, Poker, Portfolio News

Know When To Fold 'Em


Jul 27, 2019


Posted In:

AI, Poker, Portfolio News


Jul 27, 2019



No Limit Texas Hold 'Em has long been heralded as the last "skill game" where artificial intelligence (AI) has failed to conquer humans.Relative to other games, Poker is complicated by multiple players, imperfect information, and the ability to go "all-in” at any moment. As a result, poker is frequently cited as a top benchmark for advanced game theory and AI algorithms.

Recently, an AI-driven bot developed by Facebook and Carnegie Mellon (named Pluribus) achieved a significant milestone in AI research by beating 15 professional players in the upper echelon of game. Like the systems trained to play Go and StarCraft, Pluribusachieved greatness by training in matches versus itself – it started from scratch and gradually improved as it determined the optimal strategy.

The crazy thing is that Pluribus proved that it was exceptionally good at “bluffing” – normally a characteristic we associate only with humans. Moreover, it achieved its goal with just $150 worth of cloud computing power for its training!

So all this begs the question, how would our resident ranked poker player turned VC, Sean Lippel, fair against Pluribus?

Judging by his performance at the 2019 World Series of Poker Main Event, let’s just say we are skeptical that these facial expressions will help versus the well-oiled machine that is Pluribus…

Portfolio News

MoneyLion raises $160m Series C - Portfolio company MoneyLion goes beyond rebundling the bank to create an immersive, holistic digital offering for 90m working Americans. Credit scores going up, savings going up, life management improving. Congratulations to such a phenomenal team! Read more

New York City is at the forefront of real estate data - Over the past 10+ years, New York City has become the real estate data capital of the world, thanks in part to favorable open data legislation. Portfolio company Reonomy has been at the forefront of cultivating New York's data for commercial use, and is taking what it has learned in New York and is now applying its knowledge to other markets. Read more

Flutterwave participates in Visa roundtable - Portfolio company Flutterwave was one of four West Africa-based fintech companies that participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by Ryan Mclnerney, Visa's Global President, in Lagos, Nigeria. Participants discussed promoting growth in the industry and the digitization of economies across the continent. Read more

Most important cricket match of the year [on Shelter Island] - Hot on heels of England's emphatic win in the Cricket World Cup, Gareth talks to the Shelter Island Reporter about the 7th nail biting encounter between the Shelter Island Cricket Club and the “Rest of the World." The match starts around 10am on Saturday, July 27th. Proceeds from the fundraiser benefit the Shelter Island Ambulance Foundation - more details can be found at Read more

Know When To Fold 'Em

Facebook and CMU’s ‘superhuman’ poker AI beats human pros -According to The Verge, "we're at a superhuman level for AI - and that's not going to change." Pluribus, the AI bot trained by Facebook to play poker, won an average of $5 per hand with hourly winnings of $1,000 versus the top human No-Limit Hold 'Em poker players. Read more

Industry News

"Car, how is my portfolio doing today?" - TD Ameritrade announced that drivers will now have the ability to check their stock portfolios and get financial news through the company's integration with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Echo Auto. For now customers can't trade through the in-car integration, so hopefully prices don't move too much before the next red light. Read more

China's new Nasdaq-style exchange had crazy first day - Stocks listed on China's new "Star Market," which is part of China's broader initiative to entice local wealth away from New York and Hong Kong-based exchanges, surged 140% on average at the end of the exchange's first day of trading. The 25 companies raised more than $5.4b, with some stocks closing as high as 400% on the day. Read more

Decade after the Great Recession, rates are still low – Continuously low rates since the Great Recession have reshaped a generation of investors, traders, savers, and policymakers. This global phenomenon has sent investors searching in every nook and cranny for more returns. Read more

Japan remains obsessed with cash - Japan's aging population, low crime rate, and a mistrust of financial systems have led to Japan being one of the world’s most cash-obsessed societies. As the country works towards a cashless society, it has a long way to go, and it is currently costing the country ~$15b every year to handle its cash.Read more

Profitability metrics take a back seat - Maximilian Tayenthal, co-founder of Europe’s most valuable fintech, N26 (valued at $3.5b), was recently quoted as saying “profitability isn’t a ‘core metric’” for today’s innovative companies. Read more

Coinbase's internal conflicts have led to recent executive departures -Over the past few months Coinbase has lost a number of senior executives, including its Chief Operating Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Head of International, and Director of Institutional Sales. Recent reports have indicated that these departures may be related to the company's internal struggle of whether to become more like a traditional financial services firm or to "lean into the industry’s wild side." Read more

Betterment announces new cash management offerings - New York City based smart money manager announced a new no-fee checking account and savings account offering 2.69% annual percentage yield (APY), both of which are insured. Read more

Beware the activity metrics of lesser-known cryptocurrencies - In order to attempt to gain more legitimacy, people with stakes in obscure cryptocurrencies have begun hiring firms to inflate trading volumes in order to get listed on CoinMarketCap. The manipulation occurs by programming bots to trade a token back and forth with each other until the cryptocurrency has enough “volume.” Read more

Big banks get more leeway to expand under Trump - Policies being encouraged by the Trump administration have led to a more favorable regulatory environment for large banks. The U.S.'s primary regulators have given banks more leeway to expand and introduce new products, and in the first five months of 2019 banks have announced more mergers and acquisitions than during any full-year period in the past decade. Read more

Circle is moving its crypto exchange offshore - Boston based provider of peer-to-peer payments technology announced that it is moving operations of its crypto exchange, Poloniex (which it acquired in February 2018 for $400m), amid mounting regulatory pressures in the U.S. Read more

"Safe" deposit boxes - A recent case of Wells Fargo mishandling the contents of a customer's safe deposit box, resulting in an estimated $10m of lost items, highlights the risks of not-so-safe safe deposit boxes. A combination of mismanagement and the 10% decrease in the number of bank branches of the U.S. has resulted in many safe deposit boxes being relocated, removed, and misplaced, but without proper regulation and oversight in place most banks are unlikely to pay more attention to this problem. Read more

Lendable strikes deal with Goldman - UK based provider of machine-learning technology to automate credit underwriting and offer personal loans has struck a £200m deal with Goldman Sachs in which Goldman has agreed to buy loans originated by Lendable. Read more

Ideanomics to create fintech innovation hub - New York City based provider of "smart" financial services through the application of AI, blockchain, and more, announced its plans for a $400m fintech innovation hub and fintech village at the site of a former UConn campus in West Hartford, CT. Read more

Africell announces $100m to spend on mobile infrastructure and fintech - African telecom firm Africell announced its plans to spend $100m to expand its infrastructure and fintech services, such as mobile payments, micro-insurance, and micro-finance. Read more

Interswitch renews IPO plans - Nigeria based payments firm has renewed plans for an IPO, hiring JPMorgan, Citigroup, and Standard Bank to IPO later in 2019 valuing the firm at an estimated $1.3 - 1.5b. Interswitch, which is owned by private equity firm Helios Investment Partners, had previously contemplated an IPO two years ago. Read more

Electric toothbrush startup Quip launches dental insurance in NYC -Quip's insurance service, "Quipcare," is built on the system designed by Afora, which Quip acquired in May 2019, and leverages Afora's pre-existing provider network. Quipcare is initially being offered in New York before launching in other markets next year. Read more

Select Financings

Atom Bank - UK based challenger bank has raised £50m from BBVA, Toscafund, Woodford Patient Capital Trust and funds advised by Perscitus, valuing the company at an estimated £530m. Read more

Aura - San Francisco based provider of a social bonds program, which enables banks and other financial institutions to invest in loans to low-income individuals, has raised $28.7m in residual debt financing from Angel Island Capital. Read more

Ethic - New York City based provider of RIA services and tech-driven asset management raised $13m in Series A funding led by Nyca Partners. Read more

Gusto - Denver based provider of payroll and HR benefits software for SMBs has raised $200m in Series D funding, co-led by Fidelity and Generation Investment Management. Read more

Hippo Insurance - Palo Alto based insurtech startup redefining home insurance has raised $100m in Series D funding, led by Bond. Read more

Homeward - Austin, Texas based financing platform for homebuyers has raised $4m in equity funding led by LiveOak Venture Partners and $21m in debt funding from Genesis Capital and Keystone Bank. Read more

Liquefy - Hong Kong based blockchain agnostic issuance platform for security tokens raised $2.6m in funding led by Ideanomics and NEO Global Development. Read more

PayMate - Mumbai based payment automation platform for enterprises has raised $25m in Series D funding, securing commitments from Recruit Strategic Partners, Visa, Brand Capital and return backer Mayfair 101. Read more

Robinhood - Menlo Park, CA based provider of free stock trading services raised $323m in Series E funding led by DST Global at a valuation of $7.6b. Read more

Secfi - San Francisco based provider of loans against employee shares in startups has raised $6m in Series A funding, led by Rucker Park Capital. Read more

VNPAY - Vietnamese based payments startup is in talks to raise around $300m from a group that includes SoftBank Vision Fund and GIC. Read more

Zeta - India based provider of a full stack neo-banking platform and enterprise payments solutions raised a Series C round from Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services (BRS), which valued the company at $300m. The amount of funding has not been announced, but is reported to be less than $60m. Read more


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