HOME > RSS > BLOGS France > TechCrunch

R S S : TechCrunch


PageRank : 1 %

VoteRank :
(0 - 0 vote)





tagsTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Français - French

RSS FEED READER



Microsoft spins out 5-year-old Chinese chatbot Xiaoice

13 July, by Rita Liao[ —]

Microsoft is shedding its empathetic chatbot Xiaoice into an independent entity, the U.S. software behemoth said (in Chinese) Monday, confirming an earlier report by the Chinese news site Chuhaipost in June.

The announcement came several months after Microsoft announced it would close down its voice assistant app Cortana in China among other countries late last year.

Xiaoice has over the years enlisted some of the best minds in artificial intelligence and ventured beyond China into countries like Japan and Indonesia. Microsoft said it called the shots to accelerate Xiaoice’s “localized innovation” and buildout of the chatbot’s “commercial ecosystem.”

The spinoff will see the new entity license technologies from Microsoft for subsequent research and development in Xiaoice and continue to use the Xiaoice brand (and Rinna in Japanese), while Microsoft will retain its stakes in the new company.

In 2014, a small team of Microsoft’s Bing researchers unveiled Xiaoice, which means “Little Bing” in Chinese. The bot immediately created a sensation in China and was regarded by many as their virtual girlfriend. The chatbot came just a few weeks after Microsoft rolled out Cortana in the country. Modeled on the personality of a teenage girl, Xiaoice aims to add a more human and social element to chatbots. In Microsoft’s own words, she wants to be a user’s friend.

Like all foreign companies, Microsoft has to grapple with China’s censorship. In 2017, Xiaoice was removed by Tencent’s instant messenger QQ over suspicions of politically sensitive speech.

The project has involved some of the most prestigious scientists in the AI land, ranging from Lu Qi, who went on to join Baidu as its chief operating officer and brought Y Combinator to China; Jing Kun, who took up a post at Baidu to head the search giant’s smart devices; and Harry Shum, a former executive at Microsoft’s storied Artificial Intelligence and Research unit and now sits on the board of fledgling news app News Break.

Shum will serve as chairman at Xiaoice’s new standalone entity. Li Di, general manager of Xiaoice, will serve as chief executive officer. Chen Zhan, a developer of the Japanese chatbot Rinna, is appointed general manager of the Japanese office.

The new company will retain the right to use the “Xiaoice” and “Rinna” brands, with a mission to further develop its client base across the Greater China region, Japan and Indonesia.

Microsoft claimed that Xiaoice has a reach of 660 million users and 450 million third-party smart devices globally at the last count. The chatbot has found applications in such areas as finance, retail, auto, real estate and fashion, in which it claimed it can “mine context, tonality and emotions from text to create unique patterns within seconds.”


Tesla lowers the starting price of its Model Y electric SUV

play episode
download
13 July, by Catherine Shu[ —]

Tesla has lowered the price of another vehicle. This time it’s the Model Y, an electric SUV the company started shipping in March. The long-range all-wheel drive version of the car is now listed with a purchase price of $49,990, or $3,000 less than what it was before. The car’s new pricing was first reported by Electrek over the weekend.

In May, Tesla cut prices for several of its electric cars, including high-end vehicles like the Model S sedan and the Model X SUV. The new pricing comes as U.S. automakers try to attract buyers despite the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The traditional big three U.S. automakers, Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, are offering 0% financing rates, in addition to deferred or longer-term payment options, while other automakers have also announced incentives and payment plans to appeal to new buyers and keep existing owners from defaulting on loans.

At the beginning of this month, Tesla said it delivered 90,650 vehicles in the second quarter, a 4.8% decline due to the pandemic and suspension of production at its main U.S. factory for several weeks, but still better than analysts’ expectations. Most of the deliveries, or 80,050, were Model 3 and Model Y, while the remaining 10,600 were its higher-end Model S and Model X.


WeWork’s chairman says it expects to have positive cash flow in 2021

13 July, by Catherine Shu[ —]

After aggressive cost-cutting measures, including mass layoffs and selling several of its businesses, WeWork’s chairman expects the company to have positive cash flow in 2021. Marcelo Claure, who became WeWork’s chairman after co-founder Adam Neumann resigned as chief executive officer last fall, told the Financial Times that the co-working space startup is on target to meet its goal, set in February, of reaching operating profitability by the end of next year.

Claure is also chief operating officer of SoftBank Group, which invested $18.5 billion in the co-working space, according to leaked comments made by Claure during an October all-hands meeting.

SoftBank said in April that it would lose $24 billion on investments, with one of the main reasons being WeWork’s implosion last year. The company’s financial and management issues brought its valuation down from as much as $47 billion at the beginning of 2019 to $2.9 billion in March, according to a May report by CNBC.

In addition to the layoffs, WeWork sold off businesses including Flatiron School, Teem and its share of The Wing. Claure told the Financial times that WeWork also cut its workforce from a high of 14,000 last year to 5,600.

Neumann resigned as CEO in September, reportedly at the behest of SoftBank, over concerns about the company’s financial health and his behavior. Then the company postponed its IPO filing. The next month, SoftBank took ownership of WeWork as part of a financing package.

Claure is credited with orchestrating a turnaround at Sprint, cutting losses and increasing its stock price in 2015, three years after it was acquired by SoftBank. He has served as SoftBank Group’s COO since 2018.

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many people to work from home, Claure said that companies have been leasing spaces from WeWork to serve as satellite offices close to where employees live. But he also said that revenues were flat during the second-quarter because many tenants terminated their leases or stopped paying rent.


China Roundup: Tech giants take stance on Beijing’s data control in Hong Kong

12 July, by Rita Liao[ —]

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China Roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world.

This week, the unprecedented national security law descended on Hong Kong, changing the day-to-day life of the people there, as well as businesses across the board. The law has important implications for the tech sector, providing a litmus test of business sentiment towards China’s regulation over information. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, Zoom, Reddit among a roster of companies have come to voice their stance.

Resist, comply, avoid

The Hong Kong national security law that went into effect on July 1 is set to tighten Beijing’s grip over the city. A few provisions of the law directly request service providers to remove information or provide assistance to the police, as I wrote earlier. Here are what the tech giants are saying in response:

Facebook confirmed it has paused the processing of data demands from Hong Kong authorities until it can better understand the law, “including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts.” Its spokesperson said: “We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions.”

Its suspension will also apply to WhatsApp, which it owns.

Twitter said it suspended transfers of user data subject to Hong Kong demands immediately after the law went into effect, and its teams are “reviewing the law to assess its implications, particularly as some of the terms of the law are vague and without clear definition.” It also said it has “grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law.”

Google said it suspended its reviews of data requests from the authorities. It added that it would continue reviewing government requests for removals of user-generated content from its services.

Zoom said it suspended its compliance with data requests from the Hong Kong authorities. “Zoom supports the free and open exchange of thoughts and ideas… We’re actively monitoring the developments in Hong Kong SAR, including any potential guidance from the U.S. government. We have paused processing any data requests from, and related to, Hong Kong SAR.”

LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft and runs a separate mainland beholden to Chinese regulations, said it is pausing responses to local law enforcement requests as it conducts its review of the law.

Telegram said it does not intend to process any data requests related to its Hong Kong users until an international consensus is reached in relation to the ongoing political changes in the city. Its spokesperson claimed it has not disclosed any data to the Hong Kong authorities in the past.

Signal, a competitor to Telegram in the realm of data encryption, tweeted a snarky comment: “We’d announce that we’re stopping too, but we never started turning over user data to HK police. Also, we don’t have user data to turn over.”

TikTok is in a dilemma. As a Chinese-owned company, it can’t choose to defy the Chinese government. On the other hand, it can’t afford more narrative about it being a tool of Chinese censorship. Instead of temporarily refusing data requests from the police like many foreign firms, which is regarded as a gesture of opposition to Beijing’s grip, the short video app decided to quit Hong Kong. It’s an easy business decision, as the city constituted only a tiny share of TikTok’s user base. Time will tell whether ByteDance will roll out a censored version of TikTok — Douyin — or leave the city of seven million people out.

Apple has long been criticized for its closeness to the government of China, where it has significant business. Last year, it pulled a map that pinpointed pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.

Following the enactment of the security law, Apple announced it is assessing the rules, adding that it does not receive requests for user content directly from the Hong Kong government and requires authorities to submit requests under a U.S.-Hong Kong legal assistance treaty.

Reddit, which counts Tencent as an investor, stated that its user information policy is independent of its backers:  “User privacy is a deeply embedded value at Reddit. To date, Reddit has not received requests for user information from the Hong Kong Government. As a matter of principle, Reddit does not comply with Government requests that have human rights implications and this will not change as a result of the new law. Our policies on protecting user information are in no way influenced by our investors, and any implication of such influence is incorrect.”

The list is not exhaustive and many aspects of the national security law await further explanation. We will keep tracking how other tech companies cope with the city’s new rules.

In response to tech firms pausing data compliance to the police, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian tried to allay concerns in a statement:

“I recall what Deng Xiaoping noted in 1982 when he met with Margaret Thatcher, after Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, ‘Horses will still run, stocks will still sizzle, and dancers will still dance’ in Hong Kong. We have every reason to believe that as the Law is implemented, the foundation of ‘one country, two systems’ will be further strengthened, the Hong Kong residents’ fundamental interests and wellbeing will be better protected, there will be greater social stability and harmony, and ‘horses will run faster, stocks will be more sizzling, and dancers will dance more happily.’ We have full confidence in Hong Kong’s future.”

Elsewhere…

  • The U.S. threatens to ban TikTok over concerns that it could be used by the Beijing government as a surveillance and propaganda tool.
  • In a race to lead the global semiconductor industry, Chinese chip companies have fundraised more than twice as much in 2020 than in all of 2019.
  • The U.K. is poised to begin phasing out Huawei technologies in the country’s 5G network as soon as this year due to security fears. The decision reversed a previous plan to keep Huawei in the nation’s telecom infrastructure on condition of tight restrictions.
  • Weibo is becoming a closed ecosystem. The biggest microblogging platform in China announced it will only accept shortened links that it authenticates. Keeping a whitelist, it said, will help clamp down unsafe sites such as illegal gambling and porn services. Meanwhile, users worry this is a slippery slope that leads to another walled garden on the internet. The platform allows four types of short links, including a pre-select list of official websites operated by government branches, media, news portals, as well as business websites vetted and approved by Weibo.

Updated Reddit statement on July 13, 2020.


Qualcomm to invest $97 million in India’s Reliance Jio Platforms

12 July, by Manish Singh[ —]

Qualcomm has become the newest high-profile backer of four-year-old Reliance Jio Platforms, which has raised more than $15.7 billion in the past 12 weeks from as many investors.

On Sunday evening, Qualcomm Ventures said it will invest $97 million in Reliance Jio Platforms to acquire a 0.15% equity stake “on a fully diluted basis” in the top Indian telecom operator. Qualcomm said it will help Jio Platforms “roll out advanced 5G infrastructure and services for Indian customers.”

Reliance Jio Platforms, which competes with Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea in India, has disrupted the Indian telecommunications market by offering cut-rate voice and data plans. It has amassed nearly 400 million subscribers to become the top carrier in the world’s second largest internet market in less than four years of its existence.

Its dominance in the Indian telecom operator while maintaining an ARPU (average revenue per user) that match those of its rivals has made Reliance Jio Platforms — a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, India’s most valued firm — an attractive firm for a roster of high-profile investors. Facebook, Silver Lake, General Atlantic, Intel are some of the firms that have backed Jio Platforms at the height of a global pandemic. Jio Platforms has sold 25.24% stake in the firm during the period.

The digital unit for Reliance Industries also operates a number of digital services including streaming services for music, live TV channels, and movies and TV shows. Earlier this month, the Indian firm added a new service to its arsenal: A video conferencing service.

Steve Mollenkopf, chief executive of Qualcomm, said the firm believes that Reliance Jio Platforms “will deliver a new set of services and experiences to Indian consumers” in the future.

“With unmatched speeds and emerging use cases, 5G is expected to transform every industry in the coming years. Jio Platforms has led the digital revolution in India through its extensive digital and technological capabilities. As an enabler and investor with a longstanding presence in India, we look forward to playing a role in Jio’s vision to further revolutionize India’s digital economy,” he said in a statement.

Some investors have told TechCrunch in recent months that Reliance Jio Platforms’ owner — India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani — and his closeness to the ruling political party in India are also crucial to why the digital unit of Reliance Industries is so attractive to many.

They believe that buying a stake in Jio Platforms would lower the regulatory burden they currently face in India. The investors requested anonymity as they did not wish to talk about the political tie ups publicly.

A person familiar with the matter at one of the 12 firms that has backed Reliance Jio Platforms said that the Indian firm is also enticing as globally companies are trying to cut down their reliance and exposure on China.

India, and the U.S., in recent months have taken actions to limit their reliance on Chinese firms. New Delhi last month banned 59 apps and services including TikTok that are developed by Chinese firms. Reliance Jio Platforms has interestingly yet to raise capital from any Chinese investor.

“Qualcomm has been a valued partner for several years and we have a shared vision of connecting everything by building a robust and secure wireless and digital network and extending the benefits of digital connectivity to everyone in India,” said Ambani in a statement Sunday.


Startups Weekly: The world is eating tech

11 July, by Eric Eldon[ —]

Editor’s note: Get this free weekly recap of TechCrunch news that any startup can use by email every Saturday morning (7am PT). Subscribe here.

You could almost hear the internet cracking apart this week as international businesses pulled away from Hong Kong and the US considered a ban on TikTok. Software can no longer eat the entire world like it had attempted last decade. Startups across tech-focused industries face a new reality, where local markets and efforts are more protected and supported by national governments. Every company now has a smaller total addressable market, whether or not it succeeds in it.

Facebook, for example, appears to be getting an influx of creators who are worried about losing TikTok audiences, as Connie Loizos investigated this week. This might mean more users, engagement and ultimately revenue for many consumer startups, and any other companies that rely on paid marketing through Facebook’s valuable channels. But it means fewer platforms to diversify to, in case you don’t want to rely on Facebook so much for your business.

As trade wars look more and more like cold wars, it also means that Facebook itself will have a more limited audience than it once hoped to offer its own advertisers. After deciding to reject requests from Hong Kong-based Chinese law enforcement, it seems to be on the path to getting blocked in Hong Kong like it is on the mainland. But as with other tech companies, it doesn’t really have a choice — the Chinese government has pushed through legal changes in the city that allow it to arrest anyone in the world if it claims they are organizing against it. Compliance with China would bring on government intervention in the US and beyond, among other reasons why doing so is a non-starter. 

This also explains why TikTok itself already pulled out of Hong Kong, despite being owned by mainland China-based Bytedance. The company is still reeling from getting banned in India last week and this maneuver is trying to the subsidiary look more independent. Given that China’s own laws allow its government to access and control private companies, expect many to find that an empty gesture.

Startups should plan for things to get harder in general. See: the next item below.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Student visas have become the next Trump immigration target

International students will not be allowed to stay enrolled at US universities that offer only remote classes this coming academic year, the Trump administration decided this past week. As Natasha Mascarenhas and Zack Whittaker explore, many universities are attempting a hybrid approach that tries to allow some in-person teaching without creating a community health problem.

Without this type of approach, many students could lose their visas. Here’s our resident immigration law expert, Sophie Alcorn, with more details on Extra Crunch:

International students have been allowed to take online classes during the spring and summer due to the COVID-19 crisis, but that will end this fall. The new order will force many international students at schools that are only offering remote online classes to find an “immigration plan B” or depart the U.S. before the fall term to avoid being deported.

At many top universities, international students make up more than 20% of the student body. According to NAFSA, international students contributed $41 billion to the U.S. economy and supported or created 458,000 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year. Apparently, the current administration is continuing to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” when it comes to immigration.

Universities are scrambling as they struggle with this newfound untenable bind. Do they stay online only to keep their students safe and force their international students to leave their homes in this country? Or do they reopen to save their students from deportation, but put their communities’ health at risk?

For students, it means finding another school, scrambling to figure out a way to depart the States (when some home countries will not even allow them to return), or figuring out an “immigration plan B.”

Who knows how many startups will never exist because the right people didn’t happen to be at the right place at the right time together? What everyone does know is that remote-first is here to stay.

No Code goes global

A few tech trends seem unstoppable despite any geopolitics, and one seems to be the universal human goal of making enterprise software suck less. (Okay, nearly universal.) Alex Nichols and Jesse Wedler of CapitalG explain why now is the time for no code software and what the impact will bel, in a very popular article for Extra Crunch this week. Here’s their setup:

First, siloed cloud apps are sprawling out of control. As workflows span an increasing number of tools, they are arguably getting more manual. Business users have been forced to map workflows to the constraints of their software, but it should be the other way around. They need a way to combat this fragmentation with the power to build integrations, automations and applications that naturally align with their optimal workflows.

Second, architecturally, the ubiquity of cloud and APIs enable “modular” software that can be created, connected and deployed quickly at little cost composed of building blocks for specific functions (such as Stripe for payments or Plaid for data connectivity). Both third-party API services and legacy systems leveraging API gateways are dramatically simplifying connectivity. As a result, it’s easier than ever to build complex applications using pre-assembled building blocks. For example, a simple loan approval process could be built in minutes using third-party optical character recognition (a technology to convert images into structured data), connecting to credit bureaus and integrating with internal services all via APIs. This modularity of best-of-breed tools is a game changer for software productivity and a key enabler for no code.

Finally, business leaders are pushing CIOs to evolve their approach to software development to facilitate digital transformation. In prior generations, many CIOs believed that their businesses needed to develop and own the source code for all critical applications. Today, with IT teams severely understaffed and unable to keep up with business needs, CIOs are forced to find alternatives. Driven by the urgent business need and assuaged by the security and reliability of modern cloud architecture, more CIOs have begun considering no code alternatives, which allow source code to be built and hosted in proprietary platforms.

Photo: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Palantir has finally filed to go public

It’s 16 years old, worth $26 billion and widely used by private and public entities of all types around the world, but this employer of thousands is counted as a startup tech unicorn, because, well, it was one of the pioneers of growing big, raising bigger, and staying private longer. Aileen Lee even mentioned Palantir as one of the 39 examples that helped inspire the “unicorn” term back in 2013. Now the secretive and sometimes controversial data technology provider is finally going to have its big liquidity event — and is filing confidentially to IPO, which means the finances are still staying pretty secret.

Alex Wilhelm went ahead and pieced together its funding history for Extra Crunch ahead of the action, and concluded that “Palantir seems like the Platonic ideal of a unicorn. It’s older than you’d think, has a history of being hyped, its valuation has stretched far beyond the point where companies used to go public, and it appears to be only recently growing into its valuation.”

It also appears to be one of the unicorns that has seen a lot of upside lately. It has been in the headlines recently for cutting big-data deals with governments for pandemic work, on top of a long-standing relationship with the US military and other arms of the government. As with Lemonade, Accolade and a range of other IPOing tech companies that we have covered in recent weeks, it is presumably in a positive business cycle and primed to take advantage of an already receptive market.

(Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Meaningful change from BLM

In an investor survey for Extra Crunch this week, Megan Rose Dickey checked in with eight Black investors about what they are investing in, in the middle of what feels like a new focus on making the tech industry more representative of the country and the world. Here’s how Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital responded when Megan asked what meaningful change might come from the recent heightened attention on the Black Lives Matter movement.

I happen to be on the more optimistic side of things. I’m not at a hundred percent optimistic, but I’m close to that. I think that there’s an undeniable unflinching resolve right now. I think that if we were to go back to status quo, I would be incredibly surprised. I guess I would not be shocked, unfortunately, but I would be surprised. It would give me pause about the effectiveness of any of the work that we do if this moment fizzles out and doesn’t create change. I do think that there is going to be a shift. I can already feel it. I know that more people who are representative of this country are going to be writing checks, whether through being hired, or taken through the ranks, or starting their own funds, and our own funds. I think there’s more and more capital that’s going to flow to underrepresented founders. That alone, I think, will be a huge shift.

Around TechCrunch

Extra Crunch support expands into Argentina, Brazil and Mexico

Five reasons to attend TC Early Stage online

Hear from James Alonso and Adam Zagaris how to draw up your first contracts at Early Stage

Hear how to manage your enterprise infrastructure from Sam Pullara at TechCrunch Early Stage

Kerry Washington is coming to Disrupt 2020

Amazon’s Alexa heads Toni Reid and Rohit Prasad are coming to Disrupt

Ade Ajao, Maryanna Saenko, Charles Hudson, Ulili Onovakpuri and Melissa Bradley are coming to Disrupt

Minted’s Mariam Naficy will join us at TechCrunch Early Stage

Across the week

TechCrunch

14 VCs discuss COVID-19 and London’s future as a tech hub

Societal upheaval during the COVID-19 pandemic underscores need for new AI data regulations

PC shipments rebound slightly following COVID-19-fueled decline

Here’s a list of tech companies that the SBA says took PPP money

Equity Monday: Uber-Postmates is announced, three funding rounds and narrative construction

Regulatory roadblocks are holding back Colombia’s tech and transportation industries

Extra Crunch

In pandemic era, entrepreneurs turn to SPACs, crowdfunding and direct listings

Four views: Is edtech changing how we learn?

VCs are cutting checks remotely, but deal volume could be slowing

GGV’s Jeff Richards: ‘There is a level of resiliency in Silicon Valley that we did not have 10 years ago’

Logistics are key as NYC startup prepares to reopen office

#EquityPod

From Alex:

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

We wound up having more to talk about than we had time for but we packed as much as we could into 34 minutes. So, climb aboard with DannyNatasha and myself for another episode of Equity.

Before we get into topics, a reminder that if you are signing up for Extra Crunch and want to save some money, the code “equity” is your friend. Alright, let’s get into it:

Whew! Past all that we had some fun, and, hopefully, were of some use. Hugs and chat Monday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PT and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.


Original Content podcast: Yep, ‘Hamilton’ is still very good

11 July, by Anthony Ha[ —]

With the release of “Hamilton” on Disney+, Jordan and Darrell finally got to watch the musical biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton — albeit in recorded form, rather than live on-stage.

And as we discuss on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, they were pretty delighted by what they found. Not that a Broadway hit that’s won virtually every award really needs defenders at this point — but the Disney+ version is beautifully filmed, and it’s nice to see that five years later, “Hamilton” still works for new viewers.

Anthony, meanwhile, saw the show back in 2015 and has listened to the soundtrack many, many times. But after years of reading about “Hamilton” rather than experiencing it directly, Disney+ gave him a chance to rediscover how virtuosic and entertaining the show is from beginning to end, with one memorable song after another.

We did have a few reservations, about composer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s decision to cast himself as Hamilton, and about the show’s politics — we certainly appreciated its attempt to reclaim the founding story of the United States as a story for immigrants and people of color, but as others have pointed out, downplaying slavery and uncritically celebrating the creation of America’s financial institutions feels a bit strange, at least in 2020.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

If you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Introduction
0:21 “Hamilton” review
30:52 “Hamilton” spoiler discussion


This Week in Apps: US ponders TikTok ban, apps see a record Q2, iOS 14 public beta arrives

11 July, by Sarah Perez[ —]

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, we’re digging into the news of a possible TikTok ban in the U.S. and how that’s already impacting rival apps. Also, both Android and iOS saw beta launches this week — a near-ready Android 11 beta 2 and the  public beta of iOS 14. We also look at the coronavirus’ impact on the app economy in Q2, which saw record downloads, usage and consumer spending. In other app news, Instagram launched Reels in India, Tinder debuted video chat and Quibi flounders while Pokémon GO continues to reel it in.

Headlines

Apple release iOS 14 public beta

Image Credits: Apple

The much-anticipated new version of the iOS mobile operating system, iOS 14, became available for public testing on Thursday. Users who join the public beta will be able to try out the latest features, like the App Library, Widgets and smart stacks, an updated Messages app, a brand-new Translate app, biking directions in Apple Maps, upgraded Siri and various improvements to core apps like Notes, Reminders, Weather, Home, Safari and others.

When iOS 14 launches to the general public, it may also include support for QR code payments in Apple Pay, according to a report of new assets discovered in the code base.

Alongside the public beta, developers received their second round of betas for iOS 14, iPadOS 14 and other Apple software.

Google’s efforts in speeding up Android updates has been good news for Android 10


The Exchange: Remote dealmaking, rapid-fire IPOs, and how much $250M buys you

11 July, by Alex Wilhelm[ —]

Welcome to The Exchange, an upcoming weekly newsletter featuring TechCrunch and Extra Crunch reporting on startups, money, and markets. You can sign up for it here to receive it regularly when it launches on July 25th. You can email me about it here, or talk to me about it on Twitter. Let’s go!

Ahead of parsing Q2 venture capital data, we got a look this week into the VC world’s take on making deals over Zoom. A few months ago it was an open question whether VCs would simply stop making new investments if they couldn’t chop it up in person with founders. That, it turns out, was mostly wrong.

This week we learned that most VCs are open to making remote deals happen, even if 40% of VCs have actually done so. This raises a worrying question: If only 40% of VCs have actually made a fully remote deal, how many deals happened in Q2?

Judging from my inbox over the past few months, it’s been an active period. But we can’t lean on anecdata for this topic; The Exchange will parse Q2 VC data next week, hopefully, provided that we can scrape together the data points we need to feel confident in our take. More soon.

Private markets

As TechCrunch reported Friday, some startups are delaying raising capital for a few quarters. They can do this by limiting expenses. The question for startups that are doing this is what shape they’ll be in when they do surface to hunt for fresh funds; can they still grow at an attractive pace while trying to extend their runway through burn conservation?

But there’s another option besides waiting to raise a new round, and not raising at all. Startups can raise an extension to their preceding deal! Perhaps I am noticing something that isn’t a trend, or not a trend yet, but there have been a number of startups recently raised extensions lately that caught my eye. For example, this week MariaDB raised a $25 million Series C extension, for example. Also this week Sayari put together $2.5 million in a Series B extension. And CALA put together $3 million in a Seed extension. Finally, across the pond Machine Labs put together one million pounds in another Seed extension this week.

I don’t know yet how to numerically drill into the available venture data to tell if we’re really seeing an extension wave, but do let me know if you have any notes to share. And, to be completely clear, the above rounds could easily be merely random and un-thematic, so please don’t read into them more deeply than that they were announced in the last few days and match something that we’re watching.

Public markets

On the public markets front, the news is all good. Tech stocks are up in general, and software stocks set some new record highs this week. It’s nearly impossible to recall how scary the world was back in March and April in today’s halcyon stock market run, but it was only a few months back that stocks were falling sharply.

The return-to-form has helped a number of companies go public this year like Vroom, Accolade, Agora, and others. This week was another busy period for startups, former startups, and other companies looking to go out.

In quick fashion to save time, this week we got to see GoHealth’s first IPO range, nCino’s second (more on the two companies’ finances here), learned that Palantir is going public (it’s financial history as best we can tell is here), and even got an IPO filing (S-1) from Rackspace, as it looks towards the public markets yet again.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. You can read it every morning on Extra Crunch, and now you can receive it in your inbox. Sign up for The Exchange newsletter, which drops every Friday starting July 25.


The IPO waters are so warm that Lemonade is still up more than 100% from its IPO price. So long as growth companies that are miles from making money can command rich valuations, expect companies to keep running through the public market’s door.

There’s fun stuff on the horizon. Coinbase might file later this year, or in early 2021. And the Airbnb IPO is probably coming within four or five quarters. Gear up to read some SEC filings.

Funding rounds worth noting

The coolest funding round of the week was obviously the one that I wrote about, namely the $2.2 million that MonkeyLearn put together from a pair of lead investors. But other companies raised money, and among them the following investments stood out:

  • Sony poured a quarter of a billion dollars into the maker of Fortnite, for a 1.4% stake. This rounds stands out for how small a piece of Epic Games that Sony got its hands on. It feels reminiscent of the recent investment deluge into Jio.
  • TruePill raised $25 million in a Series B. In the modern world it seems batty to me that I have to get off my ass, go to Walgreens or CVS, wait in line, and then ask someone to please sell me Claritin D. What an enormous waste of time. TruePill, which does pharma delivery, can’t get here fast enough. Also, investors in TruePill are probably fully aware that Amazon spent $1 billion on PillPack just a few year ago.
  • From the slightly off-the-wall category, this headline from TechCrunch: UK’s Farewill raises $25M for its new-approach online will writing, funerals and other death services.” Farewill is a startup name that is so bad it probably works; I won’t forget it any time soon, even though I don’t live in the U.K.! And this deal goes to show how big the internet really is. There’s so much demand for digital services that a company with Farewill’s particular focus can put together enough revenue growth to command a $25 million Series B.
  • Finally, TechCrunch’s Ron Miller covered a $50 million investment into OwnBackup. What matters about this deal was how Ron spoke about it: “OwnBackup has made a name for itself primarily as a backup and disaster-recovery system for the Salesforce ecosystem, and today the company announced a $50 million investment.” What to take from that? That Salesforce’s ecosystem is maybe bigger than we thought.

That’s The Exchange for the week. Keep your eye on SaaS valuations, the latest S-1 filings, and the latest fundings. Chat Monday.


CBP says it’s ‘unrealistic’ for Americans to avoid its license plate surveillance

11 July, by Zack Whittaker[ —]

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has admitted that there is no practical way for Americans to avoid having their movements tracked by its license plate readers, according to its latest privacy assessment.

CBP published its new assessment — three years after its first — to notify the public that it plans to tap into a commercial database, which aggregates license plate data from both private and public sources, as part of its border enforcement efforts.

The U.S. has a massive network of license plate readers, typically found on the roadside, to collect and record the license plates of vehicles passing by. License plate readers can capture thousands of license plates each minute. License plates are recorded and stored in massive databases, giving police and law enforcement agencies the ability to track millions of vehicles across the country.

The agency updated its privacy assessment in part because Americans “may not be aware” that the agency can collect their license plate data.

“CBP cannot provide timely notice of license plate reads obtained from various sources outside of its control,” the privacy assessment said. “Many areas of both public and private property have signage that alerts individuals that the area is under surveillance; however, this signage does not consistently include a description of how and with whom such data may be shared.”

But buried in the document, the agency admitted: “The only way to opt out of such surveillance is to avoid the impacted area, which may pose significant hardships and be generally unrealistic.”

CBP struck a similar tone in 2017 during a trial that scanned the faces of American travelers as they departed the U.S., a move that drew ire from civil liberties advocates at the time. CBP told Americans that travelers who wanted to opt-out of the face scanning had to “refrain from traveling.”

The document added that the privacy risk to Americans is “enhanced” because the agency “may access [license plate data] captured anywhere in the United States,” including outside of the 100-mile border zone within which the CBP typically operates.

CBP said that it will reduce the risk by only accessing license plate data when there is “circumstantial or supporting evidence” to further an investigation, and will only let CBP agents access data within a five-year period from the date of the search.

When asked about its privacy assessment, CBP spokesperson Matthew Dyman responded: “How would you be able to opt out of a license plate reader? Can I opt out of speed cameras here in DC?”

CBP doesn’t have the best track record with license plate data. Last year, CBP confirmed that a subcontractor, Perceptics, improperly copied license plate data on “fewer than 100,000” people over a period of a month-and-a-half at a U.S. port of entry on the southern border. The agency later suspended its contract with Perceptics.

Updated with CBP response. 


0 | 10










mirPod.com is the best way to tune in to the Web.

Search, discover, enjoy, news, english podcast, radios, webtv, videos. You can find content from the World & USA & UK. Make your own content and share it with your friends.


HOME add podcastADD PODCAST FORUM By Jordi Mir & mirPod since April 2005....
ABOUT US SUPPORT MIRPOD TERMS OF USE BLOG OnlyFamousPeople MIRTWITTER