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Turkey’s Spyke raises $55M in a seed round to bring a social twist to casual mobile games – TechCrunch

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Istanbul has become a city to watch when it comes to casual gaming startups, boosted by the likes of Peak (acquired by Zynga for $1.8 billion) and Dream (valued at $1 billion in a funding round last year). Now, a new startup is announcing a major round of funding to make its own mark on the space. Spyke Games, which hopes to bring a new dimension to casual games by using multiplayer functionality and other social elements, has raised $55 million in a seed round of funding.

“Teams and alliances, clans, tournaments — these exist in the midcore genre and that is why they are so sticky,” co-founder and CEO Rina Onur Sirinoglu said in an interview. “They let people play together and compete together. We are betting this will start happening in casual games, too.”

The funding is coming from a single investor, Griffin Gaming Partners, a VC that focuses (as you can guess by its name) on startups working in and around the games industry. Other companies in its portfolio include Discord, Forte, AppLovin, Overwolf and WinZO.

This is a big sum for a seed round in any country, but as it happens, it’s the largest seed round to date for a startup out of Turkey, underscoring just how much things have evolved in the country when it comes to attracting investment. As a point of reference, when Peak was acquired for $1.8 billion by Zynga, it had raised a mere $19 million in 10 years.

What’s even more notable is that Spyke has raised this money before it’s even launched anything. Its first game, Royal Riches, has been out in a limited release and is due to launch globally this month.

Part of the reason for the strong investor interest lies in the co-founders and their collective track record. Co-founder and CEO Rina Onur Sirinoglu had also been a co-founder at Peak and its chief product officer; COO Remi Onur was previously Peak’s head of design; CPO Barkin Basaran had been a senior product manager both at Peak and then Zynga, CTO Fuat Coşkun was Peak’s director of engineering; and CMO Mithat Madra had been an executive at Riot Games, among other places.

For Spyke, the outsized round was raised to match the startup’s ambitions. Sirinoglu acknowledged that the round is an outsized one for the Turkish market.

“Turkey has always been known as a capital-efficient place for startups,” she said in an interview, referring to the fact that there is a strong pipeline of engineers coming out of education in the country, but also the fact that hiring them is “super affordable” compared to hiring equivalent talent in London or the Bay Area. “Historically startups have been able to stretch a couple of million dollars to great lengths.”

But she added that Spyke decided to take a different approach. “We are doing this a second time around, and we think we have landed on something huge,” she said. “We have long-term goals to be one of the largest gaming companies in the world, and we want to be able to reach that goal in a quick amount of time.”

Spyke’s arrival in the market comes at an interesting crossroads for casual gaming. On one side, the genre has been around for years now, and so the time is ripe to try to disrupt it. The big question will be whether it will be another casual gaming company, or another kind of entity altogether that is also vying for the same engagement hours as casual games.

“It’s not just competing against the world of other casual games, but also companies like TikTok,” Sirinoglu said.

The hugely popular video app has not, to date, published any games that you actively play in the app, but it has very much carved out a place for itself in the gaming community. Last November it launched a new games experience, The Game Room, where people go to watch a live show where high profile people play games. Others regularly post gameplay videos in the app. It feels sometimes like it’s just a short step further for TikTok itself to launch games within the app.

It’s for this reason that Spyke’s basic premise is not just to make more casual games, but to bring in more social elements into the mix, something that she and her co-founders started to see hints of while still at Peak.

She said the team there “unintentionally” built in social elements into Toy Blast and “stumbled” on to a community of players.

“With Peak, we didn’t have the infrastructure but across games we noticed a cross pollination between Toy Blast, Toon Blast and other similar games.” User patterns that they found, meanwhile, are going to be applied at Spyke.

“The interesting thing about the social studio is that the majority of revenues came not from chips or coins but those selling virtual items in private chat rooms,” she said. These were related to games, but also to relationships being formed among players. “That was in the back of our minds and so we want to create technology to keep that activity within our infrastructure.”

Their decision to leave and build a new company to explore this says a lot about how often some of the best ideas at startups are easier to explore at a clean slate than trying to carve out a place for disruption within an existing entity. It’s all the more interesting considering Zynga’s track record in social gaming over the years, and its early days of looking to build in social elements by way of Facebook integrations.

“Spyke has the perfect combination of a deeply experienced team with proven success developing games and an unwavering  focus on execution,” said Griffin Gaming Partner’s MD Phil Sanderson. He has joined Spyke’s board of directors with this round.

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These are the 12 big bets of future disruptive technologies

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The 12 big bets on future technologies as per Nasscom report

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) and Boston Consultancy Group (BCG) have identified 12 big bet technologies that can potentially disrupt markets in the next 3-5 years.

A report titled “Sandboxing into the Future: Decoding Technology’s Biggest Bets”, has identified these technologies of the future: autonomous analytics, Artificial Reality and Virtual Reality, autonomous driving, computer vision, deep learning, distributed ledger, edge computing, sensortech, smart robots, spacetech, sustainability tech, and 5G/6G.

AR VR concept image

The report noted that these 12 technologies will unravel in diverse ways, giving way to regional and vertical-specific big bets. While buyers in North America and Europe are betting on technologies such as autonomous analytics, APAC is likely to focus more on 5G/6G technologies, sensortech and smart robotics. Overall, technology buyers anticipate that investments in emerging technologies will account for 70%- 80% of tech spending by 2030.

“Going forward, it will be interesting to see how businesses will put their bets on emerging technologies and how they would be taking ahead the tech revolution for the larger good of the society,” said NASSCOM President Debjani Ghosh.

Cognizant acquires Utegration

Leading technology services company Cognizant has said it bought Houston-based Utegration LLC, a full-service consulting and solutions provider specializing in SAP  technology and SAP-certified products for the energy and utilities sectors.

Cognizant will gain approximately 350 employees in North America and India upon the close of this acquisition.

“We believe Utegration’s rich industry expertise and differentiated portfolio of energy and utilities-focused products and accelerators is a perfect complement to our SAP practice,” said Rob Vatter, Executive Vice President of Cognizant’s Enterprise Platform Services.

Utegration serves over 50 North America-based clients in the energy and utilities sector with solutions across four domains aligned to market needs: customer experience, billing and advanced metering infrastructure, managed services, data science and analytics, and finance and asset performance management.

HCLTech partners with Intel and Mavenir for 5G solutions

HCLTech, a leading Indian technology services company revealed a new collaboration with Intel Corporation and Mavenir to develop and provide scalable private 5G network solutions for communication service providers (CSP) and broader cross-vertical enterprises.

Through this new collaboration, the companies will work closely on a range of projects and activities across enablement, go-to-market and sales acceleration, with the goal of delivering more 5G solutions to CSPs, Internet of Things (IoT) and enterprise verticals, a statement said.

HCL

The three companies will work cross-functionally to add new offerings and help generate greater value for enterprises. The companies will develop a cloud-native enterprise-to-enterprise (E2E) architecture of an Intel Xeon processor-based 5G solution leveraging Mavenir RAN, Intel SmartEdge and HCLTech’s management, orchestration and automation services.

“There is currently a great need for scalable, reliable 5G solutions across nearly every enterprise and industry,” said Kalyan Kumar, Chief Technology Officer, HCLTech. “This need represents a major opportunity to innovate and deliver solutions that will have a major impact on business operations and outcomes.”

Collins Aerospace to expand operations in India

Collins Aerospace, which is part of Raytheon Technologies has announced that it will be expanding its operations in India. The company inaugurated its Global Engineering & Tech Centre and a new India Operations Centre to mark its 25th year in Bengaluru.

Collins Aerospace has also pledged significant capital and manpower investments over the next five years given that the Indian aerospace & defence (A&D) market is projected to reach $70 billion by 2030.

The team at Collins India is actively collaborating with Indian R&D organisations like NAL, CMTI, DRDO for study into materials, additive manufacturing, pre-qualification tests and other important projects.

Wipro bags top honour for workplace inclusion

Wipro Limited, a leading Indian technology services and consulting company, has been recognised as a ‘Gold’ employer by the India Workplace Equality Index (IWEI) 2022.

Awarded to the top employers by IWEI, the gold employer is the highest of 3 levels, where an organisation is credited with ‘embedding inclusion in the workplace.’ Highlights of Wipro’s efforts in this journey include recognition of Wipro’s leadership in India to advance LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace, from organisational policies to external communications.

wipro

It also demonstrates a long-term and in-depth commitment towards LGBTQ+ inclusion, where Wipro has implemented several initiatives enabling its employees to become active allies for the community.

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Corraling Kafka: New ecosystem simplifies, democratizes event-streaming data for enterprises

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Aiven, a cloud-data platform based in Helsinki, has fleshed out an open-source ecosystem for Apache Kafka, a popular event-streaming platform. The new offerings promise to help enterprises consolidate their Kafka infrastructure using open-source components. 

“Event streaming is transitioning toward the main stack of the IT infrastructure,” Filip Yonov, director of data streaming product management at Aiven, told VentureBeat. “At Aiven, we have witnessed the fastest growth in the event-streaming domain compared to all other products.”

Apache Kafka provides the infrastructure for wiring streams of data together from databases, apps, IoT devices, and third-party sources. Kafka helps organize raw data into event streams that reduce data size and are easier to integrate into event-driven apps and analytics. Enterprises use it to improve customer experiences, build the industrial metaverse and monitor patients. 

However, building out a Kafka infrastructure involves a lot of moving parts. Aiven has consolidated all the necessary tooling into one place to simplify this process. Key new enhancements include support for Apache Flink and data governance. These complement existing tools for connecting services, replicating data and managing schemas for Kafka deployments.

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The need for simplicity

LinkedIn originally developed Kafka to integrate data across its large microservices infrastructure and open-sourced it in 2011. Over the intervening years, large enterprises have customized the tooling for their own needs, and several vendors have rolled out proprietary enhancements to fill in gaps around governance and integration. Many organizations use Kafka for various data pipeline scenarios, such as transferring data between applications in real-time or moving data from a database to a data warehouse.

Yonov told VentureBeat that as Kafka clusters become larger and more complex, they require additional tooling and governance to ensure proper operation and management. “Unlike existing Kafka solutions, Aiven’s offering does not require organizations to choose between proprietary tools and vendor lock-in or open-source technologies without support,” he said.

Improving the developer experience with event streaming

One essential aspect has been to democratize the experience for working with event-streaming data. The open-source tool, Klaw, provides a self-service interface for managing Kafka clusters. Kafkawize, which develops Klaw, recently joined Aiven’s open-source development office in September to help integrate their tools together. Now they are working together to improve self-service, simplify user management and enforce data governance. 

Another significant development was to connect streaming data to SQL queries familiar to data engineers. The new Aiven for Apache Flink tools allows teams to process larger volumes of events and run real-time analytics using SQL. Aiven provides this as a fully managed service that reduces the complexity of deploying a Flink cluster. It also simplifies the integration with Aiven for Apache Kafka to filter, enrich and aggregate events on the fly. 

Aiven hopes to replicate the success of other open-source frameworks like PostgreSQL, Kubernetes and Linux, built by a healthy mix of contributions from various communities. 

“We truly believe that fostering an open-source, community-driven and inclusive ecosystem of technologies around Apache Kafka can drive further innovations and new developments in the data-streaming domain, ensuring the long sustainment of the technology in the future,” Yonov said.

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How do tech layoffs impact PERM and the green card process? • TechCrunch

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Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

TechCrunch+ members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

I handle HR and immigration at our tech company. We filed a PERM for one of our team members about five months ago for her EB-2 green card, and we’re awaiting certification from the Labor Department. We’ve been gearing up to start PERM for another employee.

Will the layoffs in the tech industry affect the PERM process for EB-2 and EB-3 green cards? What will happen to my team members’ green cards if our company has to do layoffs?

— Pondering in People Ops

Dear Pondering,

It’s wonderful that you’re steadfastly supporting your team with green card sponsorship. This can provide unfathomable peace of mind for people still on non-immigrant status in the U.S. through the green card process. We’re here to help ease the holiday season with education on the options for both companies and individuals.

Let’s dive into the winter wonderland of PERM and employment-sponsored green cards.

Will tech layoffs impact the PERM process?

For the permanent labor certification application — or PERM — your company is currently working on, the short answer is yes, the layoffs may have several different effects depending on where your company is in the process.

The PERM green card process is a multistep and time-intensive one involving a labor market recruitment test requiring employers to demonstrate to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that there are no qualified U.S. workers (U.S. citizens and green card holders) who are qualified, willing and able to fill the EB-2 or EB-3 PERM position. PERM also aims to ensure that the opportunities, wages and working conditions of U.S. citizens and green card holders are protected.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

If you are in or will soon start the PERM recruiting phase, you may receive a larger number of job applicants for your job posting due to the recent layoffs in the tech sector. With an uptick in potentially qualified applicants, it could prove more difficult to demonstrate that there is no qualified U.S. worker to fill the PERM role. If a qualified U.S. worker is ready, willing and able to fill the PERM role, the labor market test fails and the DOL will not grant the company’s PERM labor certification.

Keep in mind that unemployment is a big concern for the DOL. During the last recession, when millions of jobs were lost, DOL increased its scrutiny of the adjudication of PERMs, particularly within the financial sector, to ensure displaced U.S. workers were considered for positions before international talent.

At the moment, the U.S. unemployment rate is under 4%, so we have a ways to go before we match the 10.6% unemployment rate in 2010. Although there have been many layoffs in tech, I remain optimistic, as there are other indicators that the economy is still strong and there are many job requirements in and beyond the tech sector.



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