Afternoon Coffee: AvidXchange raises $260m; Scoutbee raises $60m; U.S.-China deal may hurt tech overall; Amazon map; 2020 supply chain trends

The AP automation and payments provider AvidXchange has announced that it has raised $260 million from TPG Sixth Street Partners and other investors, the North Carolina company said in a press release. It plans to expand with more innovation and hiring as well as upgrading its headquarters — all with the goal of reaching more of the middle market, the press release said.

"More than 60% of U.S. businesses still pay bills with paper checks, accounting for more than $2.7 trillion in administrative costs annually," Michael Praeger, CEO and co-Founder of AvidXchange. "We're shaping the future of the B2B payments industry by fundamentally changing the way businesses pay their bills, providing a single platform for AP and payments with the largest payments network for the middle market."

The company has raised $800 million in its 20-year history, it said in the release.

Scoutbee raises $60 million

Scoutbee, a supplier discovery provider that uses AI and big data, announced that it has raised $60 million in a Series B round led by the investor Atomico, according to a press release. The vendor is based in Berlin and Washington, D.C., and it plans to invest in R&D, hiring and considering acquisitions, the press release states.

Hiro Tamura, Partner at Atomico, said in the press release: "Using databases and online searches in a vacuum, procurement professionals commonly don't know what proportion of suppliers they have visibility over, nor the suppliers' level of quality or experience. The industry requires far more effective information gathering. We are proud to partner with scoutbee's talented and dedicated team who are focusing on exactly this — a smarter way to find suppliers. We were blown away by their deep knowledge in the procurement space in geographies from Asia, Europe and America, and their product-first approach to solving procurement for the world's top-tier companies."

New U.S.-China deal could hurt tech firms

The initial trade deal between the United States and China offers a degree of protection for U.S. tech companies, and also makes it easy for them to operate in China. After all, the pact has provisions meant to protect American technology and trade secrets.

But in order to reduce its reliance on American components, China has accelerated efforts to produce its own semiconductors, artificial intelligence and other technologies. Those efforts, along with the Trump administration’s desire to restrict the sales of American tech products to China, could hurt the very companies the U.S. wants to protect, according to an analysis in The New York Times.

“Let’s be clear, the trade war has been very bad for the semiconductor industry in several ways,” said Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank funded by the tech industry. “It’s like China woke up and said, ‘We’ve relied too much on the United States.’ ”

Alphabet CEO supports EU’s caution on facial recognition

Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google-owner Alphabet, has backed an EU proposal to temporarily ban facial-recognition technology, and he asked that regulators  take a “proportionate approach” when it comes to drafting rules for artificial intelligence (AI), Reuters reports.

His statement comes just days before the European Commission is due to publish proposals on the issue, reports Reuters. Saying there was no question that AI needs to be regulated, Pichai cautioned rule-makers to tread carefully.

“Sensible regulation must also take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities. This is especially true in areas that are high risk and high value,” he said in prepared remarks for a conference in Brussels organized by think tank Bruegel.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration came out with guidelines for future regulation of artificial intelligence (AI), according to The Associated Press.

“The White House said the proposals … are meant to promote private-sector applications of AI that are safe and fair, while also pushing back against stricter regulations favored by some lawmakers and activists,” the AP reports.

Map shows growth of Amazon fulfillment centers

Amazon has over 110 active fulfillment centers in the U.S. and more than 185 centers globally. Of the centers on this map of its network, 33 are planned locations that have either been confirmed by Amazon or published in media reports.

How has Amazon managed to set up such a sprawling network of warehouses in the U.S.? These facilities are typically at least 100,000 square feet in size and house all kinds of product inventory. Within the last two decades, Amazon fulfillment centers have popped up in almost every corner of the U.S., as the company has pushed to bring items closer to customers to enable faster deliveries.

5 supply chain trends to watch out for in 2020: IGD

A report by research and training charity IGD has identified a selection of trends in supply chain that are developing rapidly.

The article looks at the five trends:

  1. Green thinking first
  2. Power of partnerships
  3. The never-ending chain
  4. Plug-and-play supply chain
  5. Modeled and measured risk

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