The latest news and insight on how the technology sector is reacting to Covid-19.
Netflix adds 15.8 million subscribers in lockdown surge
Streaming giant Netflix added 15.8 million paying subscribers between January and March, as global coronavirus lockdown measures saw millions largely confined indoors during the first quarter of 2020. The company’s own pre-pandemic forecasts have more than doubled.
It brings Netflix’s total paid subscriber count to 182.86 million, further cementing its position as the world’s largest streaming service. Netflix has proved to be one of the pandemic winners, with its share price up 32% since the start of the year. The S&P 500, by contrast, is down 16% for the same period.
US Senate passes relief bill, covering small business loans
The US Senate has passed a new federal aid package that will provide economic relief to businesses immobilised by the pandemic, as well as send more funding to hospitals. The package, worth $484bn in total, has been signed off after two weeks of negotiations between America’s political parties.
The new legislation will add a further $310bn to the paycheck protection scheme that was a feature of the first US relief package. Of this money, $60bn will go to smaller lenders and credit unions which will then provide loans to small businesses – some of which may not bank with major institutions.
The bill now passes to the House of Representatives, which is expected to vote on the package on Thursday.
Manchester-based accommodation startup secures £100,000 seed funding
Student accommodation startup Housemates, based in Manchester, has secured £100,000 in pre-seed funding from GC Angels.
The mobile platform automates the process of onboarding students into accommodation, by removing the need for letting agents and their associated fees. Housemates is also free for property owners to sign up to. Lydia Jones, CEO and founder of Housemates, now intends to expand the platform’s reach across the UK and internationally. The money raised from this funding round will pay for a web app to launch this year, and to create jobs in design, marketing and software development.
Zoom rolls out update to combat security concerns
Zoom, the video conferencing tool that has seen a surge in numbers during lockdowns worldwide, is rolling out a new update to address the many complaints that it has faced about its security. A new security icon will enable users to quickly lock meetings, remove participants, and restrict screen sharing and chatting in meetings.
Most of the new features in the update are in response to concerns over “Zoombombing”, including the now-default password stage. Zoom is also improving its encryption, upgrading to the AES 256-bit GCM standard.
In December, Zoom reported 10 million daily users – by March, there were more than 200 million daily meeting participants.
Spotify launches fundraising feature for artists struggling during pandemic
Spotify has launched a new ‘artist fundraising pick’ feature, off the back of an announcement it made last month. The feature allows artists to fundraise for themselves, for their crews, or for one of the verified music relief initiatives that Spotify has already vetted as part of its Spotify Covid-19 Music Relief project.
The music streaming platform is currently working with a small group of fundraising partners that include Cash App, GoFundMe, and PayPal.me. Cash App has also established its own $1m relief fund for artists – which means that artists using it through Spotify will receive an additional $100 (until a collective $1m has been spent). This is the case both in the US and in the UK.
Spotify has stressed that this is a “first version” of a brand new feature, and that it will evolve over time and based on artist’s feedback.