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Business February 23, 2023

BlackRock Launches Thematic ETF for Metaverse Firms



BlackRock Launches Major Equity Fund Dedicated to Metaverse Development

New York-based financial services group BlackRock has launched a thematic equity fund aimed at tech companies molding the development of the metaverse.

The fund is linked to Morningstar Global Metaverse & Virtual Interaction Select Index, which selects constituents from a wide range of stocks from developed and emerging markets.

A company must have a total market capitalization above $300 million and an average daily trading volume more than $2m in order to be eligible for inclusion.

Also read: Is Your Privacy Protected in the Metaverse?

Seventh US metaverse ETF gets rolling

Writing for ETF Strategy, James Lord says the iShares Future Tech and Communications ETF (IVRS US) has been listed on the NYSE Arca with an expense ratio of 0.47%.

According to its prospectus, Morningstar’s Global Equity Research is responsible for assigning each company six thematic relevance scores. Each must be related to a specific metaverse-related sub-theme. These include Metaverse Platforms, Wearable Technology and VR/AR, Enhanced Social Media, Immersive Gaming, 3D Rendering and Simulation Software, as well as Digital Assets & Payments.

Scores ranging from from zero to three or four represents a forward-looking assessment of the potential for a firm to derive significant economic benefits from that sub-theme. This is reflected by the percentage of total company revenue estimated to be derived from that sub-theme in five years.

BlackRock Launches Thematic ETF for Metaverse Firms

Further, the index selects all ‘tier 1’ companies. These are firms with an aggregate exposure score of three or four and an overall revenue exposure of at least 25% towards the metaverse theme.

The index selects ‘tier 2’ companies in the event that less than 50 firms have been selected for the first tier.

Constituents are weighted by float-adjusted market cap subject to individual stock caps of 6% and 3% for first and second-tier constituents, respectively. And an aggregate cap of 20% on all tier-2 stocks.

The index is reconstituted on an annual basis in December, with buffer rules helping to limit unnecessary turnover.

The fund becomes the seventh ETF in the US to target the development of the metaverse. At $430 million, the Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF (METV US) is the largest with an expense ratio of 0.75%. The cheapest is the $10 million Fidelity Metaverse ETF (FMET US) which costs 0.39%.

Mixed investor interest

According to BlackRock, its fund will go towards companies that contribute in the development of virtual platforms, gaming, 3D software, digital assets, social media, and virtual and augmented reality.

The top five tech firms included in the holdings are Meta Platforms, Apple, Nvidia, Netease, and Roblox.

Since Neal Stephenson coined the term metaverse in 1992, the concept has grown and Mark Zuckerberg even rebranded his company to Meta from Facebook.

But a survey by KPMG shows that while over 90% of investors still believe the metaverse is the next phase of the internet, a large portion remain cautious on the back of regulatory, adoption, and privacy concerns.

Although tech giants like Microsoft and Meta were enthusiastic about the metaverse during the bull run, they have slowed their funding of virtual spaces.

Microsoft recently ended its project to encourage the use of the metaverse in industrial environments just four months after it was formed. Elsewhere, Meta lost about $14 billion in its Facebook Reality Labs division.

Nevertheless, BlackRock still sees potential in the concept and is positioning itself accordingly.

“(The metaverse)…is much like the internet of the early 1990s or the smartphone of the early 2000s. We expect it is going to be big and very likely change people’s daily lives,” said BlackRock Technology Opportunities Fund co-portfolio manager Reid Menge in a blog post.

ETFs, an olive branch for BlackRock

BlackRock predicts that bond ETF assets industry-wide will more than double to $5 trillion in 2030, from $1.8 trillion.

The world’s largest money manager sees ETFs as a significant revenue driver, and  is capitalizing on growing interest among wealth managers and other asset managers in using ETFs instead of, or in addition to, buying bonds directly.

During the period from March last year to the end of January, there were $146 billion net flows into BlackRock’s fixed-income ETFs, while competitors took in $134 billion.

During the fourth quarter to December 31, 2022, BlackRock recorded $300 billion of net inflows in positive organic base fee growth in 2022. The financial services group generated $230 billion of long-term net inflows in the US alone.

Flows were positive across each of the group’s three regions and iShares led the global ETF industry with $220 billion of net inflows, including record flows into bond ETF, according to chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) Laurence Fink.

The group ended the year with no shortage of momentum, generating $114bn of Q4 net inflows, representing 3% annualized organic base fee growth strength in ETFs and significant outsourcing mandates.

“Like our clients –pensions, insurers, governments, and individual savers – BlackRock’s focus remains on investing for the long-term.

“The current environment offers incredible opportunities for long-term investors, and we enter 2023 well-positioned and confident in our ability to deliver for our clients, employees and shareholders,” said Fink , reflecting on the Q4 performance.

The fact that the world’s largest asset manager has launched a metaverse-themed ETF is certainly a positive sign for the VR gaming sector. Particularly as it coincides with data showing young people prefer spending time in the metaverse to scrolling social media.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.


Block Share Price Plummets After Hindenburg Fraud Accusations



Block Share Price Plummets After Hindenburg Fraud Accusations

Jack Dorsey’s company Block saw a 20.13% drop in share price after Hindenburg Research accused it of allowing criminal activity and inflating Cash App’s user base.

“Our 2-year investigation has concluded that Block has systematically taken advantage of the demographics it claims to be helping,” Hindenburg said in its report.

Block’s Cash App succeeded by serving customers who are “unbanked,” according to the research firm.

The share price of Block Inc. (SQ) was open at $77.5 on Wednesday on NASDAQ. On Thursday, it closed at $61.88 after rebounding from a 24-hour low of $56.5.

Also Read:Dorsey-Backed Decentralized Twitter Rival Bluesky Launches in Beta

“Block Inc., formerly known as Square Inc., is a $44 billion market cap company that claims to have developed a “frictionless” and “magical” financial technology with a mission to empower the “unbanked” and the “underbanked,” said the report.

Hindenburg’s allegation is that those unbanked customers were involved in criminal or illicit activity.

“Beyond facilitating payments for criminal activity, the platform has been overrun with scam accounts and fake users, according to numerous interviews with former employees.”

Hindenburg Research’s comprehensive report includes internal system screenshots, employee messages, and allegations of financial misreporting.

Block denies Hindenburg claims

Responding to the claims, Dorsey’s Block denied the accusations and said it would explore legal action.

“We intend to work with the SEC and explore legal action against Hindenburg Research for the factually inaccurate and misleading report they shared about our Cash App business today,” said the company in a press release.

Hindenburg Research is known for “these types of attacks,” according to Block. Such reports “are designed solely to allow short sellers to profit from a declined stock price.

“We have reviewed the full report in the context of our own data and believe it’s designed to deceive and confuse investors,” added the firm.

Block is “a highly regulated public company with regular disclosure with confidence” and “will not be distracted by typical short seller tactics,” according to the release.

$526 million lost in a single day

In just one day, Dorsey’s wealth decreased by $526 million, reported Bloomberg.

“So Block is acting perfectly in line with the financial industry it finds itself in? Shocking,” wrote a Reddit user in response to the CNBC news.

“I didn’t want to believe-it before reading the report, which is well-researched, well-documented, thorough and eye-opening. “Say it ain’t so”, bc I’ve always liked/used Square, from day-one. But Dorsey has a lot of explaining to do,” wrote one Twitter user, Thomas C. Wynn.

Although the report may be “anecdotal and drummed up for their personal short game,” Thomas contends that “Block needs to answer point-by-point.”

The Hindenburg Research report follows a previous one on Indian conglomerate Adani Group, which lost over ₹12 lakh crore in market value.

“Today we reveal the findings of our 2-year investigation, presenting evidence that the INR 17.8 trillion (U.S. $218 billion) Indian conglomerate Adani Group has engaged in a brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme over the course of decades,” said Hindenburg at the time.

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Google Will Crush Microsoft and OpenAI, Argues Founder



Google Will CRUSH Microsoft and OpenAI, Argues Founder

OpenAI and ChatGPT may be making the early ground in the battle for chatbot supremacy, but Google and Bard will ultimately win.

This is the argument made by Tibo Louis-Lucas, the project founder of social media promotion apps TweetHunter and Taplio. The founder, known on Twitter simply by the handle ‘Tibo’, believes Google has more than enough to overtake their early advantage.

Also Read: AI Tool Race Heats Up and Everyone Wants to Win

The race to chatbot supremacy

Most impartial observers would agree that the early ground in the race to chatbot supremacy has been made by OpenAI and Microsoft, but complacency is something they can ill afford in the longer term.

Google’s Bard AI is still not open to the general public but when it launches, OpenAI should have a real fight on its hands.

According to Tibo, “as soon as Google launches Bard for the general public, it will get mass adoption.”

He added, “Although Bing has seen a 10x jump after its ChatGPT integration, it just cannot beat Google in the ‘number of users’ race.”

Tibo believes that higher user numbers will be an important differentiator, because greater user numbers mean greater feedback. With more feedback in the mix, Google will be able to improve and iterate Bard faster, he argues.

A history of success

When Google announced its ChatGPT competitor Bard early last month, the bot flubbed its lines. Google’s AI shared inaccurate information in a promotional video, resulting in $100 billion devaluation in the corporation’s stock.

Despite this, Tibo still believes Google has the upper hand in the battle for AI ascendancy. 

“Google is behind all major breakthroughs in the AI world. From beating a top player in a game of Go to solving the protein folding problem, they’ve been killing it for years,” he says. 

Google has invested billions in AI technology through DeepMind and Google Brain.

DeepMind is the division of Google building machine-learning algorithms such as AlphaGo, which beat the European Go champion Fan Hui. DeepMind has since diversified to beat human opponents in Chess, Shogi, and Atari 2600 games without human data knowledge or known rules. The AI was later turned to medical research and protein folding.

Google Brain is a deep learning system turned to varied applications including encryption, image enhancement, and Google Translate.

The Google backbone

Perhaps the strongest argument favoring Google over OpenAI is that the chatbot technology is built on Google research.

GPT stands for generative pre-trained transformer. That transformer was designed and built by Google. As Tibo describes, it is similar to the relationship between cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. Although there are many cryptocurrencies on the market (chatbots) they are all built on blockchain (Google’s transformer technology).

“OpenAI & ChatGPT might have hit a breakthrough, but they are built over the architectural model introduced to the world by Google,” says Tibo.

The TweetHunter founder further claims that Google will have an additional resource not available to OpenAI: transcripts of videos Google holds thanks to its ownership of YouTube. For all these reasons and more, Tibo believes Google will ultimately be victorious.

“Everyone thinks Microsoft [and] OpenAI will beat Google in the AI battle. I think Google will absolutely CRUSH them,” says an emphatic Tibo.

Who do you think will win the race to chatbot supremacy? Let MetNews know what you think on our social media channels.

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Script Writing and 5 Other Ways You Can Make Money Using GPT-4



Script Writing and 5 Other Ways You Can Make Money Using GPT-4

AI is revolutionizing the way businesses operate, allowing them to streamline and automate operations for maximum efficiency. It also opened up opportunities for entrepreneurs to monetize their skills by harnessing the power of tools such as GPT-4. Here are 6 ways you can make money using GPT-4 and other AI tools.

GPT-4 is the latest and most advanced generative AI from OpenAI. It is the direct successor to ChatGPT, the large language model AI chatbot that has taken the internet by storm due to its unique ability to complete a variety of complex tasks. This new bot, GPT-4, boasts of several features superior to its predecessor that can be monetized.

Content writing

One way of making money is through content writing services. Thanks to GPT-4, ordinary people can write like pros by simply asking the AI chatbot via text to create content. Users can create cool and catchy content for things like captions, tweets, and LinkedIn content. Beware however, the output of text can contain errors that may need correcting before forwarding or publishing the content.

In a Twitter thread, digital creator and software engineer Hasan Toor shared insights on how to leverage the power of GPT-4 to incubate businesses. He showed how he prompted the AI to write a Twitter hook on “How to start freelancing in 7 days”.

GPT-4 is also useful for copywriting. If you have always wanted to write e-books, and didn’t have time or the ability, this has changed. With the right wording in your prompt, GPT-4 can help write things like e-books, design courses, and guides.

After writing a book, one can always turn to AI again, for example, to design the cover. There is a ready market for such books on platforms like Gumroad. You can even ask GPT-4 to write an article about how to make it as a freelance.

Creating websites and landing pages

Creating landing pages using GPT-4 can turn in some dollars. This is because landing pages are key in lead generation and customer acquisition. GPT-4 is capable of “analyzing website traffic and user behavior to create high-converting landing pages to help grow client base.” This can be a lucrative business venture that can be scaled up and generate revenue.

Script Writing and 5 Other Ways You Can Make Money Using GPT-4

Toor said that GPT-4 “is insanely powerful [and] can transform a sketch into website code to create fully functional websites and apps.” Users can also leverage MidJourney, an AI image generator, to create landing page designs. A landing page is a “standalone web page that a person ‘lands’ on after clicking through from an email, ad, or other digital location.”

Translation services

As businesses expand their geographical reach, offering AI-powered language translation services may prove to be very valuable. GPT-4 can come in handy, helping users to translate manuals, training materials, and product descriptions for clients. This way, entrepreneurs can engage better with their customers.

Creating AI videos

Videos are an excellent tool for promoting products and services. Toor, the digital creator, said users can combine GPT-4 and other AI-powered products, such as Murf Studio, to create general and personalized videos that can be sold. This has the advantage of streamlining the production process, making it easier for entreprenuers to create high-quality videos without extensive video editing skills.

Murf is a web-based studio that provides creators with customisable features to make voice overs from scratch. The tool also works as a multimedia editor. Users can utilize hyper-realistic AI voices in over 15 languages and accents, which can be overlaid onto videos.

YouTube scriptwriting

GPT-4 is useful for writing YouTube scripts within minutes, according to Toor. Here is what to do: quickly select a topic and give a prompt to the AI chatbot. After a few seconds, your video scripts will be ready. GPT-4 can help users save time on brainstorming ideas and creating content.

As businesses seek to remain relevant in the crowded online space, “scriptwriters can scale their business by producing catchy, high-converting scripts that commercially promote their client’s services and products.”

Email marketing services

Lastly, you can leverage GPT-4 to offer AI-powered email marketing services. This is because 75% of small businesses make use of email marketing to reach their target markets and customers, experts say.

Script Writing and 5 Other Ways You Can Make Money Using GPT-4

By automating the email marketing process, entrepreneurs can save time and money, allowing them to focus on other critical aspects of their etenterprise. GPT-4 can personalize emails to customers to “create a more interactive feedback loop that reduces marketing costs while increasing conversion rates.”

Also read: AI Tool Race Heats up and Everyone Wants to Win

GPT-4 offers exciting business opportunities for those looking to monetize AI. Its ability to create landing pages, offer translation services, generate AI videos, YouTube scriptwriting, and email marketing services can help entrepreneurs scale their businesses and tap into new revenue streams. As AI technology continues to evolve, entrepreneurs should be ready to capitalize on new tools that enhance business processes.

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