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Scientists Say That The Planet Mercury Is Still Shrinking

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We’ve known since the 1970s that the planet Mercury was, at one point, shrinking as its core cooled. But we didn’t know if it was still happening…until now.

Scientists from The Open University in the United Kingdom have published new research in the journal Nature that indicates that Mercury’s tectonic shifts, and specifically compression, is ongoing.

The team analyzed images taken by NASA’s Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission spacecraft, which orbited Mercury from 2011 to 2015. They noticed a depression in the grounds called “grabens,” which typically appear along a fault as a planet’s surface is stretched or compressed and are a clear indication that the planet was still changing in size at the time the photos were taken.

The key finding was that these shallow valleys did not appear to have been impacted by incoming debris like meteorites, which would have left craters on the planet’s surface and the grabens themselves. Because of that, Open University’s research team estimated that the age of the grabens in the images was about 300 million years old. That may sound like an incredibly long time ago, but considering that Mercury’s thermal contraction started around 3 billion years ago, it’s relatively recent.

It’ll be at least another two years until we know more about Mercury’s shifting surface as, per Space.com, a joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will enter the planet’s orbit in late 2025.



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Here’s Why It Is Celebrated On February 28

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Every discovery comes with claims of ‘we-did-it-first’ and so did Grigory Landsberg and Leonid Mandelstam of the Moscow State University in 1928. They independently discovered the scatterings.  While the Russian scientists too were nominated for the Nobel, they, however, didn’t receive one due to a few factors, including having discovered the phenomenon only in crystals as opposed to all states of matter. Although they made the scattering discovery on 21 February, a week earlier than Raman. 



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Spain’s Embat, which has raised $16M, plans to compete with Trovata in real-time accounting

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For obvious reasons, financial teams can spend a great deal of time on corporate treasury management, accounting and bank reconciliation, so anything that speeds up that process usually garners a lot of interest.

Today Embat, a Spanish fintech which does what they call “real-time treasury management,” has closed a financing round of $16 million Series A led by Creandum. Also participating was Spanish VC Samaipata, 4Founders and Venture Friends in Greece.

Angels investing in the round included Kilian Thalhammer (head of Deutsche Bank) and Martin Blessing (former CEO of Commerzbank).

Co-founders Antonio Berga, Carlos Serrano (both former JP Morgan executives) and Tomás Gil started the company in 2021 to digitize and automate process for finance teams. Their solution automates accounting and bank reconciliation, and deals with corporate treasury management, centralizing collections, payments and treasury processes, thus saving time, says the startup.

It claims to have 150 corporate clients across Europe, including Playtomic, Cabify, Wallapop and Fever. Last year Embat partnered with Google Cloud’s Vertex AI platform in an effort to reduce errors for accounting teams.

Tomás Gil, co-founder and CTO of Embat, said the company has “significantly improved” its accounting and bank reconciliation module and was now applying AI to its platform.

However, its competitors include Kyriba and Sage XRT. But a startup it competes with in the U.S. is Trovata, which has raised $57.6 million to date and is now post-Series B.

The solution has been bought by National Australia Bank and J.P. Morgan.

Co-founder Antonio Berga said he would not comment on competitors but did tell me: “From a broad perspective we are driven by APIs versus traditional protocols like SWIFT. This allows clients to connect globally and it saves a lot of money. Secondly, we do automated cash accounting, so all the treasury, without doing this manually in the ERP.”



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MWC: Ethiopian fintech eQub digitizes peer-to-peer credit

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Ethiopian startup eQub is the winner of the fintech pitch-off at 4YFN 2024, Mobile World Congress’ startup event. TechCrunch was on the ground in Barcelona to meet its business development lead Nahom Michael this week.

The startup’s name is an Amharic word referring to a local form of peer-to-peer credit, Michael said. An Equb is a group of people who join forces to save money, which is then distributed on a rotating basis.

Known as a rotating savings and credit association, or ROSCAS, this financing modality is common in many countries, especially across Africa, where it is used both for personal and for business loans; but it has yet to enter the digital age.

That is the opportunity that eQub wants to tap. Starting with an app, it targets users among the growing number of Ethiopians who have bank accounts and mobile phones, but limited access to credit.

Making an Equb digital is an improvement in itself: For eQub members with bank accounts, they can add money without having to go to an ATM. For eQub administrators, it also means not having to deal with piles of cash.

Convenience aside, eQub’s points system is also a way for users to build credit history by showing that they are consistent savers. In the long run, it could help eQub expand into BNPL, regular loans and more; but for now, it is sticking to the original ROSCAS model: no collateral and no interest. Instead, it makes money by charging a transaction fee when money gets taken out.

In the traction slide of its pitch, Michael told the jury and audience that the app had attracted some 25,000 users since its launch, translating into 200 saving groups. He also showed TechCrunch that the app gives users two options: Either join an existing group, or join a curated one generated by the startup.

eQub app

Image Credits: eQub

In both cases, eQub is taking measures to make sure savings are secure. For self-managed groups, it does detailed KYC, which is already more than traditional, offline Equbs. This makes sense: these people usually share personal ties, which isn’t the case with curated eQubs.

But, Michael explained to TechCrunch via text, requirements “become rigorous” for such groups, “including Digital National ID, Employment letter or business license for proof of consistent income, 3 – 6 months bank statements, a digital agreement is also signed that allows us (eQub), to pursue legal action in case of such instances.”

Michael said that the startup now has more than 10 banking partners, an approach that can also help limit risks thanks to data sharing. There could be more to come: “recently, Michael said, “insurance companies have offered to create a special limited insurance policy for saving groups where defaults occur due to the death of an eQub member.”

In addition, the startup has 20 corporate partners as part of its B2B2C strategy: If employees of a company already participate in Equbs, the app now gives the employer a way to make this digital.

One of its next targets will be gig workers, a major component of the workforce in sub-Saharan cities. eQub hopes to reach 1 million of these users by 2025. But while there’s built-in virality to the app, faster growth will require more marketing, which is one of the reasons why the company is seeking to raise a $500,000 pre-seed round. The visibility it got at MWC may help it with this, but also with another goal: expanding into other countries in the near future.

Read more about MWC 2024 on TechCrunch



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