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Current and upcoming trends in Latin America’s mobile growth

28 d'octubre, per  Walter Thompson[ —]

Latin America (LATAM) is home to one of the fastest-growing mobile markets in the world. In 2018, there were 326 million mobile internet users in the region, and that figure is anticipated to increase to over 422 million users by 2025. Part of the reason for such exponential growth is that mobile is the main tool for internet access in Latin America, providing a portable way for people living in rural areas to get online. The social media boom and rise in messaging platforms in recent years have also spurred demand for optimized mobile services.

As mobile penetration continues in LATAM, it is facilitating innovative apps that promote opportunities for social mobility, financial control, access to overseas markets and societal development. And while a difference in maturity levels and local regulations dictates the mobile landscape for individual countries, there are visible trends throughout the region.

These trends are both reactions to LATAM’s unique mobile conditions and broader international influences, so can be telling of future mobile user expectations and behaviors. By recognizing and assimilating these trends, new mobile apps and services can disrupt the market in a more meaningful way.

Here are the current and upcoming trends of mobile growth across Latin America:

Digital wallets

Approximately 70% of Latin America’s population is unbanked or underbanked, meaning there is a huge opportunity to improve financial access. One emerging solution is digital wallets, which work via top-ups and don’t require a bank account with a physical company or branch to set up. Digital wallets, therefore, bypass the mistrust that many Latin Americans have around official banking institutions.

COVID-19 has certainly contributed to the heightened demand for mobile wallets in LATAM. As a predominantly cash-driven location, concerns about handling paper money have been confirmed as new studies reveal that the virus can survive on physical currency for 28 days. In turn, masses of citizens and consumers have begun looking for safer alternatives to cash. In Mexico, digital wallets are thought to occupy a 27.7% share of the business-to-consumer e-commerce payments market by 2021, while Argentina has also been showing high in-store use of digital wallets during the pandemic.

Over in Venezuela, AirTM’s digital wallet has been processing funds promised by interim President Guaidó to essential workers. The company has been instrumental in delivering the money to healthcare staff after the Maduro regime blocked the provider operating in the country. Beyond financial aid, digital wallets in Venezuela and other countries with high inflation rates mean locals don’t have to carry large amounts of bills and coins with them.


Kandji hauls in $21M Series A as Apple device management flourishes during pandemic

28 d'octubre, per  Ron Miller[ —]

Kandji, a mobile device management (MDM) startup, launched last October. That means it was trying to build the early-stage company just as the pandemic hit earlier this year. But a company that helps manage devices remotely has been in demand in this environment, and today it announced a $21 million Series A.

Greycroft led the round, with participation from new investors Okta Ventures and B Capital Group, and existing investor First Round Capital. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $28.4 million, according to the company.

What Kandji is building is a sophisticated zero-touch device management solution to help larger companies manage their fleet of Apple devices, including keeping them in compliance with a particular set of rules. As CEO and co-founder Adam Pettit told TechCrunch at the time of his seed investment last year:

We’re the only product that has almost 200 of these one-click policy frameworks we call parameters. So an organization can go in and browse by compliance framework, or we have pre-built templates for companies that don’t necessarily have a specific compliance mandate in mind.

Monty Gray, SVP of corporate development at Okta, says Okta Ventures is investing because it sees this approach as a valuable extension of the company’s mission.

“Kandji’s device management streamlines the most common and complex tasks for Apple IT administrators and enables distributed workforces to get up and running quickly and securely,” he said in a statement.

It seems to be working. Since the company’s launch last year it reports it has gained hundreds of new paying customers and grown from 10 employees at launch to 40 today. Pettit says that he has plans to triple that number in the next 12 months. As he builds the company, he says finding and hiring a diverse pool of candidates is an important goal.

“There are ways to extend out into different candidate pools so that you’re not just looking at the same old candidates that you normally would. There are certain ways to reduce bias in the hiring process. So again, I think we look at this as absolutely critical, and we’re excited to build a really diverse company over the next several years,” he said.

Kandji - Zero Touch Deployment

Image Credits: Kandji

He notes that the investment will not only enable him to build the employee base, but also expand the product too, and in the past year, it has already taken it from basic MDM into compliance, and there are new features coming as they continue to grow the product.

“If someone saw our product a year ago, it’s a very different product today, and it’s allowed us to move up market into the enterprise, which has been very exciting for us,” he said.


Mophie introduces a modular wireless charging module

27 d'octubre, per  Brian Heater[ —]

Here’s a clever addition for Mophie, one of the longstanding battery case makers, which is now a part of the same smartphone accessory conglomerate as Zagg, Braven, iFrogz and InvisibleShield. The Juice Pack Connect is a modular take on the category, with a battery pack that slides on and off.

For $80 you get a 5,400mAh battery (that should get you plenty of additional charge time) and a ring stand that props the phone up. Mophie may offer additional models at some point, but right now, the biggest selling point is less about add-ons and more the fact that you can slip the battery off the device when not needed and still use the case.

Image Credits: Mophie

It’s not entirely dissimilar from the modular uniVERSE case OtterBox introduced a bunch of years ago, but the big advantage here is that the charging works via Qi, so you don’t have to plug it into the phone’s port.

It’s not cheap (Mophie isn’t, generally). And, no, it’s not a MagSafe accessory. Instead, the add-on attaches to your case (needs to be one thin enough to support the charging, mind) using adhesive. The upside is that it works with a much larger number of phones, including multiple generations of iPhones and wireless-capable handsets like Samsung Galaxies and Google Pixels.


Instagram extends time limits on live streams to 4 hours, will soon support archiving

27 d'octubre, per  Sarah Perez[ —]

Instagram is adapting to the way creators have been using its service during the coronavirus pandemic. With individuals and businesses now limited from hosting in-person events — like concerts, classes, meetups, and more — users have turned to Instagram to live stream instead. Today, the company says it’s significantly expanding the time limit for these streams, from 1 hour to now 4 hours for all users worldwide.

The change, the company explains, is meant to help those who’ve had to pivot to virtual events, like yoga and fitness instructors, teachers, musicians, artists and activists, among others. During the height of government lockdowns in the U.S., Instagram Live became a place for people to gather as DJ’s hosted live sets, artists played their music for fans, celebs hosted live talk shows, workout enthusiasts joined live classes, and more. Live usage had then jumped 70% over pre-coronavirus numbers in the U.S. as people connected online.

Many of these Instagram Live creators had wanted to extend their sessions beyond the 60 minute time limit without an interruption.

The change puts Instagram on par with the time limits offered by Facebook for live streams from mobile devices, which is also 4 hours. (If live streaming from a desktop computer or via an API, the Facebook time limit expands to 8 hours.)

While the longer time limit is opening up to all creators worldwide starting today, Instagram says the creator’s account has to be “good standing” in order to take advantage. That means the account can’t have a history of either intellectual property or policy violations.

Related to this change, Instagram will also update the “Live Now” section in IGTV and at the end of live streams to help direct users to more live content.

Instagram also today pre-announced another feature which has yet to arrive.

It says that it will “soon” add an option that will allow creators to archive their live streams for up to 30 days.

Image Credits: Instagram

Before, users could archive their Feed posts or their Stories to a private archive, but the only way to save a live stream was to publish it to IGTV immediately after the stream, through a feature introduced in May. 

The company says the new option to archive live broadcasts will mirror the existing archive experience for Stories and Feed Posts.

The difference is that archived live videos will be permanently deleted after 30 days.

But up until that time, the creator has the option to return to the video to save it or download it. This would allow the creator to publish the video on other social platforms, like Facebook or YouTube, or even trim out key parts for short-form video platforms, like TikTok. The Archive feature also means if a creator’s Live stream crashes for some reason — or if the creator forgot to download it in the moment — it can still be downloaded later on.

The news follows another recent Instagram update which introduced a new way for creators to monetize their Live streams.

The company earlier this month began rolling out badges in Instagram Live to an initial group of over 50,000 creators who will test the feature by selling badges at price points of $0.99, $1.99, or $4.99. These badges help fans’ comments stand out in busy streams, allow fans to support a favorite creator, and places the fan’s name on the creator’s list of badge holders.


Upstream aims to be the new home for your professional social life

27 d'octubre, per  Anthony Ha[ —]

Last fall, social analytics startup SocialRank sold its product and business to Trufan, allowing the team to focus on something new: a professional social network. Today, they’re officially unveiling Upstream to the public.

To be clear, CEO Alex Taub told me that he’s not trying to replace LinkedIn — he acknowledged that thanks to network effects,”If you want to go and try to take down LinkedIn, you’re not going to be able to take them down.”

Instead, the goal is to create something that fulfills a different need. Where LinkedIn works primarily as an online résumé and rolodex, Upstream aims to help users build the connections and relationships that are important to their careers — something that’s sorely needed at a time when large-scale meetups and conferences aren’t really possible (though we’re certainly trying to create the virtual equivalent at TechCrunch).

“This is the place for your professional social life,” Taub said.

Upstream’s first product focused on professional groups and communities, allowing users to post what the company called Professional Asks, like if they’re looking to hire someone for a certain position or need an introduction at another company.

Taub suggested that things really took off with Upstream’s next product, Upstream Events, where Upstream would host a guest speaker, then attendees were matched up for five-minute, one-on-one video chats with the other people at the event.

Upstream

Image Credits: Upstream

Upstream says it’s already hosted more than 100 events, with 72% of people who who attend one event subsequently attending another.

While the team has built multiple products (and we’ve covered some of them already), they’re outlining the broader vision today and launching some new features at the same time.

For one thing, while communities were previously shared via a private, unlisted link, you can now browse all the different communities in a Discovery section. At the same time, community organizers will be still be able to control who joins by approving or rejecting new members.

There’s also a new spin on Events called Office Hours, allowing users to set aside structured time for virtual one-on-one sessions with anyone who’s interested in speaking to them. These sessions can be listed publicly, or they can be unlisted, so that you only share them via email or within a certain community.

Upstream screenshot

Image Credits: Upstream

In a blog post, Taub noted that he met his SocialRank/Upstream co-founder and CTO Michael Schonfeld via Ohours.org, and they’re trying to replicate that experience here:

Let’s say you are the CMO of a large company and you want to give your people the opportunity to meet 1:1. The thought of coordinating the individual scheduling of ten minute blocks using your Outlook calendar and email is not attractive. But with Upstream, you are able to choose the 30min block you want to offer and how long you want the sessions to be. You decide you want to run your office hours every other Friday at 2pm ET for the rest of the year. The event is built and able to be shared seamlessly to whoever you choose to offer the Office Hours to.

In fact, Taub’s post lists more than 30 different people who are already offering office hours on Upstream, including New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz, Foursquare co-founder/Expa partner Naveen Selvadurai and Amazon Photo Head of Product Nate Westheiemer.

Upstream is also announcing that it has raised an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding from 8-Bit Capital, Human Ventures, Basement Fund, NYVP and various angel investors.

Looking ahead, Taub said that the next big priority is launching a web version of Upstream (which is currently available via mobile app), and to continue building live experiences, asynchronous experiences and features that provide real utility.

“We imagine a future when professionals come to Upstream for an event or Ask, and stay for the compelling opportunities that make Upstream an energizing and beneficial experience for them,” he wrote.


TCL announces a $400 5G handset

27 d'octubre, per  Brian Heater[ —]

What’s most remarkable about the push for 5G is how quickly the prices came down on handsets sporting the next-gen wireless technology. The push toward affordable 5G devices is clearly as much an indicator as the current state of the smartphone space as anything — people just aren’t upgrading devices as quickly as they used to. And even more to the point, they’re reluctant to pay $1,000 when they do.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G has been a piece of that puzzle. And unsurprisingly, the mid-tier chip found in TCL’s new $400 5G handset. Of course, TCL is positioning it as “under-$400” with that $399.99 price tag, which is technically correct — the best kind of correct.

It’s also not really right to say that the TCL 10 5G UW’s a “premium blend of performance, power, stylish design and 5G connectivity that until now has only been available on more expensive flagship smartphones.” Affordable 5G handsets aren’t an entirely new phenomenon — nor are affordable 5G handsets with decent specs and design. But even so, the price point is still notable at this stage in the 5G upgrade cycle — which, frankly, is why we’re writing about it here.

The price/5G combo is the main thing to like here, coming in at even less than, say, the OnePlus Nord, a recent high-water mark in the 5G/price point combo. And there are a few other things that should appeal to potential buyers, as well, including a 4,500mAh battery coupled with reverse charging for other devices. There are three rear-facing cameras: a 48-megapixel main, an eight-megapixel ultra wide and a five-megapixel macro, the latter of which is starting to appear on more phones.

It arrives October 29, and is, notably, a Verizon (TechCrunch’s parent company) exclusive here in the U.S., using the carrier’s mmWave technology.

 


Linktree raises $10.7M for its lightweight, link-centric user profiles

26 d'octubre, per  Anthony Ha[ —]

Simple, link-centric user profiles might not sound like a particularly ambitious idea, but it’s been more than big enough for Linktree.

The Melbourne startup says that 8 million users — whether they’re celebrities like Selena Gomez and Dua Lipa or brands like HBO and Red Bull — have created profiles on the platform, with those profiles receiving more than 1 billion visitors in September.

Plus, there are more than 28,000 new users signing up every month day.

“This category didn’t exist when we started,” CEO Alex Zaccaria told me. “We created this category.”

Zaccaria said that he and his co-founders Anthony Zaccaria and Nick Humphreys created Linktree to solve a problem they were facing at their digital marketing agency Bolster. Instagram doesn’t allow users to include links in posts — all you get is a single link in your profile, prompting the constant “link in bio” reminder when someone wants to promote something.

Meanwhile, most of Bolster’s clients come from music and entertainment, where a single link can’t support what Zaccaria said is a “quite fragmented” business model. After all, an artist might want to point fans to their latest streaming album, upcoming concert dates, an online store for merchandise and more. A website could do the job in theory, but they can be clunky or slow on mobile, with users probably giving up before they finally reach the desired page.

Linktree founders Anthony Zaccaria, Alex Zaccaria and Nick Humphreys

Linktree founders Anthony Zaccaria, Alex Zaccaria and Nick Humphreys. Image via Linktree.

So instead of constantly swapping out links in Instagram and other social media profiles, a Linktree user includes one evergreen link to their Linktree profile, which they can update as necessary. Selena Gomez, for example, links to her latest songs and videos, but also her Rare Beauty cosmetics brand, her official store and articles about her nonprofit work.

Zaccaria said that after launching the product in 2016, the team quickly discovered that “a lot more people had the same problem,” leading them to fully separate Linktree and Bolster two years ago. Since then, the company hasn’t raised any outside funding — until now, with a $10.7 million Series A led by Insight Partners and AirTree Ventures. (Update: Strategic investors in the round include Twenty Minute VC’s Harry Stebbings, Patreon CTO Sam Yam and Culture Amp CTO Doug English.)

“We had the option to just continue to grow sustainably, but we wanted to pour some fuel on the fire,” Zaccaria said.

In fact, Linktree has already grown from 10 to 50 employees this year. And while the company started out by solving a problem for Instagram users, Zaccaria described it as evolving into a much broader platform that can “unify your entire digital ecosystem” and “democratize digital presence.” He said that while some customers continue to maintain “a giant, brand-immersive website,” for others, Linktree is completely replacing the idea of a standalone website.

Zaccaria added that Instagram only represents a small amount of Linktree’s current traffic, while nearly 25% of that traffic now comes from direct visitors.

Linktree activism

Image Credits: Linktree

Black Lives Matter has also been a big part of Linktree’s recent growth, with activists and other users who want to support the movement using their profiles to point visitors to websites where they can donate, learn more and get involved. In fact, Linktree even introduced a Black Lives Matter banner over the summer that anyone could add to their profile.

Linktree is free to use, but you have to pay $6 a month for Pro features like video links, link thumbnails and social media icons.

Zaccaria said that the new funding will allow the startup to add more “functionality and analytics.” He’s particularly eager to grow the data science and analytics team, though he emphasized that Linktree does not collect personally identifiable information or monetize visitor data in any way — he just wants to provide more data to Linktree users.

In a statement, Insight Managing Director Jeff Lieberman said:

As the internet becomes increasingly fragmented, brands, publishers, and influencers need a solution to streamline their content sharing and connect their social media followers to their entire online ecosystem, ultimately increasing brand awareness and revenue. Linktree has successfully created this new “microsite” category enabling companies to monetize the next generation of the internet economy via a single interactive hub. The impressive traction and growing number of customers Linktree has gained over the last few months demonstrates its proven market fit, and we could not be more excited to work with the Linktree team as they transition to the ScaleUp phase of growth.


OnePlus’s 8T handset brings faster charging and a 120Hz display for $749 

23 d'octubre, per  Brian Heater[ —]

OnePlus continues its twice-yearly smartphone cycle with today’s arrival of the 8T. The latest device isn’t a huge upgrade over April’s OnePlus 8, but continues the company’s longstanding tradition of offering some of the most solid Android handsets at a reasonable price point. The cost has edged up a bit in recent years, but $749 is still pretty good for what the 8T offers.

The big updates this time out are the 120Hz refresh rate for its 6.55-inch display and super-fast charging via the Warp Charge 65. That should get the 4,450 mAh of battery capacity up to a full day’s charge in 15 minutes, with a full charge taking a little less than 40 minutes.

There are an abundance of cameras here — four in total. That includes a 48-megapixel main (with built in optical image stabilization), 16-megapixel ultra-wide angle and, more surprisingly, a macro and monochrome lens. The handset joins the even more affordable Nord, which is set to arrive in the U.S. in the near future at a sub-$500 price point.

OnePlus has been undergoing some corporate changes in recent weeks, as well. Co-founder Carl Pei recently announced he will be leaving the company. “These past years, OnePlus has been my singular focus, and everything else has had to take a backseat,” he told TechCrunch. “I’m looking forward to taking some time off to decompress and catch up with my family and friends,” he wrote. “And then follow my heart on to what’s next.”


Daily Crunch: Quibi is shutting down

22 d'octubre, per  Anthony Ha[ —]

The end is in sight for Quibi, PayPal adds cryptocurrency support and Netflix tests a new promotional strategy. This is your Daily Crunch for October 21, 2020.

The big story: Quibi is shutting down

The much-hyped streaming video app led by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, which raised nearly $2 billion in funding, is shutting down, according to reports in The Information and The Wall Street Journal.

Katzenberg, a longtime Hollywood executive, had blamed the coronavirus pandemic for a lackluster launch in May — an app designed for on-the-go viewing didn’t have much appeal when people were largely stuck at home. And whatever the reason, none of Quibi’s shows ever became a breakout hit.

Quibi executives confirmed the news in a post on Medium.

The tech giants

PayPal to let you buy and sell cryptocurrencies in the US — In partnership with Paxos, PayPal plans to support Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin at first.

Facebook is working on Neighborhoods, a Nextdoor clone based on local groups — Facebook said that Neighborhoods currently is live only in Calgary, Canada.

Netflix to test free weekend-long access in India — The streaming service recently stopped offering a month of complimentary access to new users in the United States.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Syte, an e-commerce visual search platform, gets $30M Series C to expand in the US and Asia — Launched in 2015 to focus on visual search for clothing, Syte’s technology now covers other verticals, like jewelry and home decor.

June’s third-gen smart oven goes up for pre-order, starting at $599 — It’s been two years since the smart oven’s last major update.

Mine raises $9.5M to help people take control of their personal data — Mine scans users’ inboxes to help them understand who has access to their personal data.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Founders don’t need to be full-time to start raising venture capital — John Vrionis and Sarah Leary of Unusual Ventures told us that lightweight investing matters in the early days of a company.

Dear Sophie: What visa options exist for a grad co-founding a startup? — The latest edition of immigration lawyer Sophie Alcorn’s column answering immigration-related questions about working at tech companies.

Lessons from Datto’s IPO pricing and revenue multiple — How do you value slower, more profitable software growth?

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Sam’s Club will deploy autonomous floor-scrubbing robots in all of its US locations — Sam’s Club parent company Walmart is already using robotics to perform inventory in its own stores.

AOC’s Among Us stream topped 435,000 concurrent viewers — The purpose of the stream, which drew a massive crowd, was to get out the vote as we head into the general election.

Coalition for App Fairness, a group fighting for app store reforms, adds 20 new partners — The coalition claims that both Apple and Google engage in anti-competitive behavior.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.


Watch the trailer for ‘First Person,’ a climate-focused series shot on Snapchat Spectacles

21 d'octubre, per  Anthony Ha[ —]

Snapchat is about to launch “First Person,” the first of its original series to be shot on Snapchat Spectacles.

The idea of filming a documentary using AR-centric eyewear might sound gimmicky, but “First Person” is tackling a weighty topic: climate change.

The series is produced by journalist Yusuf Omar (who said he’s been wearing Spectacles “every day of my life since 2016”) and his Hashtag Our Stories program, which has trained more than 10,000 people in 140 countries to create journalism with their mobile phones.

“First Person” sounds like an extension of that work — the team sent Spectacles to subjects in six countries so that they could document the work that they’re doing to fight climate change.

“When Covid-19 hit, a lot of global media productions stopped shooting,” Omar told me via email. “But our innovators didn’t stop working. Shipping Spectacles to them allowed us to reach stories, otherwise impossible to tell during the coronavirus crisis.”

He added that filming with Spectacles isn’t just a production method — it also allows viewers to literally see things from a climate activist’s perspective.

“The beauty of capturing POV Specs footage for a series like this is that we get to witness change makers actually getting their hands dirty and creating, upcycling, recycling and making the change they want to see,” he said. “Their physical actions, seeing both hands at work, through their vantage point make their actions relatable, interesting and immersive. When young audiences watch it, they think ‘I can probably do that too.’”

In fact, the series also includes AR lenses for each episode — one lens, for example, will add cracks to your floor to indicate water shortage, while another will add carbon dioxide clouds in the sky to illustrate carbon emissions.

“First Person” premieres this Saturday, October 24. You can watch the trailer below.

 


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