Top of Mind. Happy Sunday! This week brings interesting news on opposite sides of the spectrum – while some governments are creating hostile environments for tech companies, others are validating it and empowering the next generation of founders.
In today’s edition:
- Donald Trump might be making a comeback
- Vladimir Putin plays defence
- Big news for Cowrywise
Is Former President Donald Trump making a social media comeback?
The short: Former President Trump’s executive team launched a social media app called Gettr, which eerily looks and sounds like Twitter. The app’s stated mission is to fight cancel culture and challenge social media monopolies. Go figure.
First impressions: Short for “getting together”, Gettr has a 777 character limit to Twitter’s 280, 3 minutes video length, and ability to go Live. In addition, it allows you import your content and followers from Twitter if you maintain the same username. I’m curious to see if this data scraping violates any of Twitter’s data policies.
Gettr’s Executive Team: Gettr’s CEO is Trump’s former Senior Advisor and Chief Spokesperson Jason Miller. Tim Murtaugh, a former spokesperson on Trump’s presidential campaign, is on board as a consultant.
Why it matters to MAGA: The MAGA base has longed for a platform to express themselves without moderation. Parler, the right-wing driven platform, was removed from the iOS store and Playstore for violating content policies following the Capitol riots in January. Amazon Web Services followed suit by kicking them off their servers, leaving the base in limbo. So here comes Gettr riding in on a chariot.
Since then… Trump has made efforts to re-engage with his support base since he was kicked off social media after inciting the Capitol riots in January. He launched a website called “From the
Desk of Donald Trump”, which was shut down in February after a month of poor readership and engagement, bruising his ego.
By the numbers: Before he was booted off all social media platforms, Trump had 88 million followers on Twitter, 35 million on Facebook, 24 million on Instagram and 2.5 million subscribers on YouTube. Sensor Tower recorded only 8,000 worldwide downloads on Gettr since the June launch, “low ratings”! Even with a new platform, building the audience he once had is a long shot.
It is much harder than it looks: Building a new social media app is harder than it seems, even for an individual with a massive support base like Trump. It requires millions of dollars to maintain computer servers to support traffic from millions of users, attract top engineering talent and migrate users from established platforms.
Bottom line: The level of Trump’s involvement in the app remains unclear. His team reserved his name and are leaving the decision to join the app up to him. I reckon Trump is waiting to see how the app is received with his name attached to it. The only way he shows up on this app is if it’s a success. February wasn’t too long ago. He must still be nursing the hurt from shutting down his poorly received blog. “MAGA Rise! Don’t waste his money.”
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin comes for big tech
The short: President Vladimir Putin fulfilled a threat to big tech by signing a law that compels foreign social media companies to open offices in Russia. Companies in this bucket are companies with over 500,000 daily active users.
Not a big surprise: Historically, Putin has maintained an aversion to social media giants operating on Russian soil. Organizing protests or publicly criticising the government on social media is frowned upon. This new law exerts Russia’s control over big tech and forces them to comply with local laws.
Russia v Twitter: Russia threatened to block Twitter for failing to delete banned content relating to child pornography, drug abuse, etc., from its platform but instead instituted punitive measures by slowing Twitter’s services down for months. Twitter denies it allows these kinds of content on its services.
Russia v Google: A case was opened against Google for failing to store personal user data belonging to Russians in Russia. Failure to comply could rake in over $82,000 in fines. It is not a lot of money for Google, but it threatens their corporate existence if they don’t comply.
Russia v Facebook: Facebook got fined over $350,000 for not deleting posts Russia considers illegal. Some of these posts were calls for protests to challenge the detention of Putin’s nemesis Alexei Navalny.
Setting a standard: Russia’s new law sets off a wider trend for countries to exercise control over the internet by limiting big tech’s powers in its territories. Expect to see more countries compel social media giants to establish local offices bound by local laws and then wield more power to dictate what kinds of content are allowed on the platform.
Bottom line: Big tech has long used the excuse of its status as a private company to control how it engages with governments. It seems the bough is broken on that argument. There will be legal ramifications on tech companies that allow users to criticise governments publicly. It’s a tough place for tech giants as the line between free speech, and state sovereignty blurs by the second.
Nigeria’s Fintech Company Cowrywise crosses a major milestone
The Short: Cowrywise is one of Nigeria’s notable fintech startups, offering wealth management services. Founded by Razaq Ahmed and Edward Popoola in 2017, it offers accessible investment opportunities to non-traditional investors like Millenials and the middle class.
Major milestone: Cowrywise is the first fintech company to get a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) license in the fund/portfolio management category.
By the numbers: Launched in 2017, Cowrywise has over 300,000 users on its platform. It offers 20% of Nigeria’s mutual funds as part of its investment products and recently raised $3 million in pre-series A funding.
Why it matters: I shared some thoughts when the announcement was made. Not only is this news great for investors and offers them better protections, but Cowrywise is also making their API public! This will allow fund managers from across the world to access its services and offer users access to additional investment opportunities. Exciting!
Bottom line: It’s a great win for Nigeria’s tech ecosystem. The license by the SEC is further validation of the viability of fintech companies, and an acknowledgement of the value Cowrywise offers to a middle class seeking sustainable wealth management opportunities and creating employment in an economy crumbling under a failed leadership and abysmal unemployment figures. Yikes.
Being a super reader of this newsletter, you know this is where I remind you to join the conversation on big tech that I Co-host every Sunday with Esther Kuforiji on Twitter Spaces. Today, we are taking a break and meeting in person. We resume next Sunday with a special guest and an hour of great fun and entertainment.
The bane of my existence are the words “Send scanned copies of the document” – especially those requests that don’t acknowledge a good ol’ camera photograph of said documents.If you’re an iPhone user, I’ve got a plug for you. Click on the link and thank me by responding to this email 🙂
This week’s industry trends covers big tech doing good in the name of anti-trust by slashing developer fees, billionaires in Space, new newsletter platforms (👀), TikTok’s underage problem and trillion-dollar market caps.
- Shopify announced developers would keep 100% of revenue from the first $1 million they make on the store
- Sir Richard Branson made an announcement reminiscent of the Avengers, and one-ups Jeff Bezos by going to Space 9 days earlier
- Facebook launched its newsletter platform Bulletin to selected writers, including author Malcolm Gladwell
- TikTok deleted over 7 million accounts belonging to minors
- Facebook becomes the youngest tech company to reach the trillion-dollar club after 17 years
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That’s it for this week. Have a delightful week, and see you next Sunday!