The Daily Download - latest tech news for 2019-08-04, fan podcast based on @launchticker

The download for 2019-08-04 →

AllTrails, a community for outdoor recreation enthusiasts, acquires Berlin-based GPSies, which develops GPS tech for outdoor activities; terms undisclosed; AllTrails provides its users with maps, reviews, more; the deal will expand the company's trail coverage in Europe . link

London-based property management software company Askporter raises ~$1.8M seed from Venture University, Pi Labs, others; uses AI to automate or assist in common tasks, such as arranging viewings, collecting past-due rent, more . link

The Entertainment Software Association leaks private information belonging to ~2k journalists, content creators, and others via the E3 Expo website; the association removed the spreadsheet file containing the data, but it is circulating online; contains personal phone numbers, home addresses, more . link

The US military is testing high-altitude balloons for wide-area surveillance across six Midwestern states, according to documents that aerospace and defense company Sierra Nevada Corporation filed with the FCC; the project will use up to 25 solar-powered, autonomous balloons to monitor for drug trafficking and national security threats . link

Deliveroo acquires software design and development consultancy Cultivate; terms undisclosed; Cultivate previously built Deliveroo's payments system; Deliveroo plans to establish a tech hub in Cultivate's hometown of Edinburgh; Deliveroo has raised $1.5B to date . link

Mathy Vanhoef and Eyal Ronen, the security researchers who reported five vulnerabilities in the WPA3 WiFi standard in April, have disclosed two more flaws in the security recommendations the WiFi Alliance issued to mitigate attacks exploiting the first vulnerabilities; collectively known as Dragonblood, the vulnerabilities enable hackers to brute-force network passwords, more . link

Munich-based Wellington Partners closes Life Science Fund V at ~$230M; the fund targets 15-20 investments, mostly in Europe, with a specific focus on German-language teams; exits include Definiens, Rigontec, and Symetis . link

Barcelona-based travel management company Aervio raises ~$830k from TheVentureCity and others; uses natural language processing to accelerate corporate travel planning; handles searching, pricing, booking, and invoicing; claims 200 customers . link

Class-action suit filed in CA alleges GitHub violated the federal Wiretap Act in its failure to remove from its platform data stolen in the Capital One data breach, which affected 106M Canadian and US consumers; Capital One and GitHub said the data uploaded to GitHub did not include any sensitive consumer information; the FBI arrested a former AWS employee for the hack . link

HTC to update the Vive Focus Plus VR headset with 5G Wi-Fi streaming, enabling untethered, PC-powered use; limited to members of the company's $100-per-year Viveport Infinity service, which provides access to a catalog of games; HTC plans to launch the feature in the early fourth quarter . link

Online fashion marketplace StockX's recent user base password reset was due to a data breach, according to a TechCrunch source who was offering data from 6.8M StockX accounts for sale on the dark web; TechCrunch verified the authenticity of some of the data . link

Toronto-based AccessNow (iOS, Android), which crowdsources and maps information about accessibility features at businesses and public spaces, raises ~$2M from the Canadian government's Accessible Technology Program; AccessNow plans new community partnerships and unannounced features . link

Cannabis business investment network Leafwire raises $1M seed from Network Ventures, Silverleaf Venture Partners, others; the site enables startups and investors to search for compatible relationships; Leafwire is also launching a directory/marketplace for legal services, payment processing, etc . link

Austin Code Department-commissioned study determines 75 percent of the ~10k short-term rentals in the city are unlicensed; the contractor that conducted the study, Host Compliance, is working to identify unlicensed hosts to facilitate enforcement actions and improve short-term rental tax revenue . link

Goldman Sachs customer agreement indicates the Apple Card will not support the purchase of cryptocurrencies, lottery tickets, race track wagers, or any form of gambling chips (physical or virtual); Apple and Goldman Sachs plan to launch the card next month . link

Prince Edward Island-based business incubator Startup Zone launches early-stage Accelerator program; expects 20 teams will participate; founded in 2016, Startup Zone focuses on business model development, legal support, assistance in scaling, more . link

Chicago-based trade association CompTIA, which issues professional certifications for tech skills, acquires MA-based deep learning analytics company Metacog; terms undisclosed; Metacog develops systems for online learning and assessment; CompTIA will integrate the platform to improve its online education and certification products; Metacog previously raised $3.6M . link

Elizabeth Yin covers the right and wrong times for a startup to seek funding; founders with traits considered desirable to VCs (proper schooling, impressive work with a tech giant, etc) can build relationships early on because VCs will want to get in first; founders without such backgrounds should approach the right VCs at a critical point in the life of a startup, based on momentum, milestones, more . link

Elon Musk announces The Boring Company will launch a unit in China; Musk revealed the launch in reply to a user tweeting that Musk would attend the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, which is slated for the last three days of August; Musk indicated he would make a launch announcement during the trip . link

Amazon now enables Alexa users to opt out of manual recording reviews and to delete existing recordings; Apple recently suspended Siri QA reviews following a report that workers frequently heard private conversations and activities; Google also paused manual Assistant reviews; Alexa users can opt out via the app or web . link

Valve cancels pre-orders and issues refunds for the VirtualLink USB-C cable, which would have reduced the lines required for the Index VR headset from three to one; Valve noted a lack of VirtualLink adoption in the PC industry and said the solution was not reliable for Index . link

Tesla reinstates free unlimited supercharging for new Model S and X orders; the perk was a standard package feature in Tesla's early years, but the company began phasing it out in early 2017; Elon Musk once said the offering was unsustainable; Tesla saw record vehicle deliveries in the second quarter, but losses exceeded expectations . link

The download for 2019-08-22 →

UK-based online fashion retail firm ASOS has asked its suppliers for a 3 percent discount on incoming orders, according to industry publication Draper’s; it’s unclear whether the company’s suppliers will offer price concessions; ASOS has issued two profit warnings within the last 12 months, and its share price has dropped more than 60 percent over the same period . link

Amazon will launch two-hour grocery deliveries in India on Aug 23; starting with Bengaluru, customers will be able to choose from 5k Amazon Fresh products including fruits, vegetables, and meats; Amazon Fresh will later roll out to additional markets including Mumbai and Hyderabad . link partners with Proxima Capital to acquire a controlling stake in Russia-based car-sharing firm YouDrive; financial terms and the size of the stake are undisclosed; YouDrive operates Zipcar-like short-term vehicle rentals; says it may transfer its shares to a consumer services venture it jointly owns with Sberbank . link

China-backed hackers are targeting US-based cancer research centers, according to cybersecurity firm FireEye; the report suggests China is taking data in the hope it can establish its own oncology treatment firms; cancer is the number one cause of death in China . link

Apple’s next iPhone lineup will include Pro branding, according to Bloomberg sources; the company is expected to announce new iPhones next month that feature three lenses on the back; Apple will reportedly also launch updated iPad Pros this fall, and it will discontinue the 9.7-inch iPad; the firm is also developing waterproof airpods, though it’s unclear when they will be released . link

Huawei used codenames and a network of subsidiaries to manage operations in Syria, Sudan, and Iran, according to US authorities; the claims are included in Canadian court docs that also feature an alleged confession by Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou that the firm has business in Iran; Meng and Huawei are accused of violating US sanctions . link

Facebook shuts down 216 Pages, Groups, and accounts based in Myanmar citing inauthentic behavior; the action includes 89 Facebook accounts and five Instagram accounts, some of which have links to the Myanmar military . link

Fitbit signs a partnership with the government of Singapore to provide residents with fitness trackers; Singaporeans will be entitled to a free Fitbit Inspire band if they sign up for a $10 per month coaching plan for a minimum 12 month term; users will also be asked if they want to share their data with Singapore’s Health Promotion Board . link

Toronto-based rewards firm Drop raises $44M Series B led by HOF Capital with participation from Royal Bank of Canada and others; the company offers rewards and incentives based on credit card purchases; has raised $75M to date . link

Google delays the closure of Hangouts for G Suite customers; the app was set to close in October, but it will now continue until at least June 2020; once the combined messaging and calls service is closed, users will be migrated over to Slack-like Hangouts Chat and video conferencing tool Hangouts Meet . link

Switzerland-based fintech firm Numbrs raises $40M on a $1B post-money valuation from unnamed investors; the company offers an app for managing multiple bank accounts and other financial services; has raised ~$200M to date . link

Device-maker HMD Global plans to release a lower-cost 5G Nokia-branded smartphone in 2020; full plans unclear but HMD exec Juho Sarvikas suggests the company could launch a product that costs half as much as other 5G devices . link

Eminem’s music publisher Eight Mile Style files a lawsuit against Spotify claiming the company has violated the artist’s copyright; the suit cites ~250 tracks, noting Spotify does not have a license to reproduce Eminem’s music; it also claims Spotify has not properly paid for the streams, only delivering “random payments of some sort” . link

Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of Google-owned DeepMind, has been placed on leave, reports Bloomberg; reasons unknown but follows controversy over the company’s AI-powered healthtech product Streams, which was overseen by Suleyman; Google has since absorbed DeepMind Health; it’s unclear if or when Suleyman will return to DeepMind . link

Google launches Play Store redesign for Android; makes use of Google’s Material Theme, introducing more white space and rounded icons; also adds a bottom navigation bar and distinct destinations for apps and games; rolling out now . link

Google plans to launch updated Home Mini, renamed Nest Mini, according to a source for 9to5Google; the device will feature a similar form factor as its predecessor but feature a wall mount, improved sound, and a 3.5mm stereo jack; expected to launch this fall . link

Google, Mozilla, and Apple all say they will block a root certificate issued by the government of Kazakhstan; the certificate is designed to let authorities spy on citizen’s browser usage, including access to encrypted data for social networks and more; people were told to download the tool, but officials now claim it was just a test . link

Fashion resale marketplace ThredUp raises $100M from Park West Asset Management, Irving Investors, and others; the company lets users buy and sell used clothes; has raised $300M to date . link

T-Mobile suffers an outage preventing some users from placing calls and sending text messages; it's unclear how many customers were impacted or what caused the issue; data transmission was reportedly unaffected . link

Atlanta-based Phobio, which develops device trade-in platforms, launches business communications spin-off company Rodio; AI-powered software targets retail and health care applications; Rodio will hire in Atlanta and Austin . link

Data analytics company Splunk ($19.3B market cap) to acquire cloud monitoring platform SignalFx for ~$1B: 60 percent cash, 40 percent common stock; Splunk will integrate SignalFx's tech to provide its customers with realtime app and infrastructure monitoring tools; SignalFx previously raised ~$180M . link

The contractors Microsoft pays to transcribe and classify Cortana interactions have listened to audio captured by Xbox, Motherboard reports; contractors said their target samples, recordings intentionally triggered by users, were intermingled with accidentally initiated recordings; contractors also said accidental recording has diminished over time . link

The Linux Foundation announces the Confidential Computing Consortium, which plans standards, frameworks, and tools for protecting data used by apps, services, and devices; members include Google, Microsoft, Red Hat, IBM, Intel, and Alibaba . link

St Louis-based knowledge-sharing platform Capacity raises $13.2M Series B from undisclosed investors; AI-powered software indexes data from numerous sources (including CRM systems, email, websites, more) and provides natural language search functions; raised ~$20M to date . link

Residential real estate lending platform Fund that Flip raises $11M from Edison Partners; matches brokers with developers for short-term loans of up to $5M to purchase, renovate, and resell properties; targets experienced flippers; raised ~$15M to date . link

Marketing tech company TapClicks raises $10M from Boathouse Capital; platform automates campaign performance analysis and social reporting; also provides SEO tools and more; raised $29M to date . link

Berlin-based COSI, a pre-launch hospitality startup, raises ~$5.5M seed led by Cherry Ventures; the company leases units directly from landlords and designs the spaces for rental to travelers; plans full guest services . link

Harley-Davidson unveils prototype line of electric bicycles designed for urban use; details and specifications on the pedal-assist models are undisclosed; the company stressed they are prototypes but said production versions would vary, so an eventual launch is likely; the bikes are part of Harley-Davidson's More Roads initiative . link

Montréal-based global emissions monitoring solutions company GHGSat secures ~$2.5M from Sustainable Development Technology Canada; the funding will facilitate a project using satellites and aircraft to measure emissions from oil and gas facilities in British Columbia; slated to begin next year . link

Internal, which provides a SaaS that limits client access to customer data, raises $5M led by Craft Ventures with participation from Pathfinder and undisclosed angels; the company launched its product today with a free trial; provides granular access control over app data, automatic redactions, audits, more . link

Autonomous trucking company is raising $200M at a $1B-plus valuation, according to Bloomberg sources who say previous investors Sequoia and Full Truck Alliance are participating; the company reportedly plans a joint venture with truck manufacturer FAW Jiefang, a subsidiary of China FAW Group; is currently testing prototypes in CA and China . link

Waymo launches Open Dataset, making 1k 20-second clips of synchronized camera and LiDAR data available to researchers; includes 12M 3D object labels and 1.2M 2D labels; Waymo indicated the data could help not only autonomous driving tech companies, but those working on perception, behavior prediction, more . link

Philadelphia-based Crossbeam, which provides a data platform enabling partnered companies to share and organize data, raises $12.5M Series A led by FirstMark Capital; integrates with Salesforce, Hubspot, more; also supports standard file types, such as .csv; reveals shared clients, shared prospective clients, more; raised ~$16M to date . link

German AR startup eyecandylab raises ~$1.5M seed led by Band of Angels; enables clients to produce AR content triggered by standard video content; for example, a consumer watching a TV commercial can hold a phone up to see an augmented version of the ad; clients include Viacom, SoftBank, and NBCUniversal . link

Online fashion marketplace StockX faces class-action lawsuit over data breach affecting a reported 6.8M users; the filing plaintiff alleges the company was slow to report the breach and failed to protect personal data belonging to minors from resale on the dark web; the breach did not include payment information, but did include names, shipping addresses, email addresses, and hashed passwords . link

New York City-based coworking spaces company Knotel raises $400M Series C at a $1B valuation led by Wafra (part of Kuwait’s Sovereign Wealth Fund); leases, remodels, and manages spaces to house business clients including Twilio, Cheddar, and Monday; raised $560M to date, according to Crunchbase . link

The download for 2019-08-21 →

YouTube says it will shut down it’s built-in Messages feature next month; launched in 2017, Messages let users share videos and chat within YouTube itself; YouTube says it wants to focus on improving public conversations . link

Fintech firm Tala raises $110M Series D led by RPS Ventures with participation from GGV Capital and others; the company operates an online lending platform aimed at emerging markets; has raised $215M to date . link

Intel unveils Springhill, its first AI-centric chip designed for data centers; based on the company’s 10 nanometer Ice Lake processor, the chip promises to manage large workloads using minimal energy; Facebook is already using Springhill . link

YouTube plans to end targeted advertising for videos that will likely appeal to children, according to Bloomberg sources; it’s unclear how the company will implement the change but the report suggests it will likely impact YouTube’s revenue; Bloomberg also suggests the move is designed to avoid future regulatory action . link

DoorDash is yet to institute a promised new tipping policy, reports Recode; last month CEO Tony Xu said the firm would introduce a new tips model “in the coming days”; Xu had also emailed the company’s contractors telling them they would soon receive specific details; the commitment followed renewed coverage of DoorDash using delivery tips to make up base pay . link

Remote working platform Tandem (YC S19) is raising $7.5M led by Andreessen Horowitz, according to TechCrunch sources; the report notes the round is yet to close and the target amount could change; the startup offers a virtual office environment, promising easier collaboration between workers based in different locations . link

Atlanta-based mobile testing platform Kobiton raises $5.2M Series A led by BIP Capital with participation from KMS Technology and others; the company offers cloud-based testing tools for a multitude of devices; has raised $8.2M to date . link

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou allegedly told Canadian authorities the company has an office in Iran, according to court docs; Wanzhou was detained in Canada last year on behalf of the US and is said to have admitted to Huawei’s presence in the country; the US is seeking to extradite Meng, claiming both she and the company have broken sanctions rules . link

Gmail adds a desktop web tool that automatically highlights and fixes typos when composing a new email; the tool will also highlight grammatical errors, underlining them with a blue squiggle; rolling out now to G Suite users . link

Amazon opens its largest-ever campus building in Hyderabad, India; the facility covers 1.8M square feet and can accommodate 15k workers; Amazon’s largest buildings in Seattle houses up to 5k staff . link

Israel-based semiconductor firm TriEye raises $2M Series A (second tranche) from Porsche; the company is developing short wave infrared (SWIR) tech which is intended to help vehicles better cope with adverse weather conditions; has raised $22M to date . link

Movie ticket subscription firm MoviePass has exposed credit card details for tens of thousands of customers, according to security researcher Mossab Hussein; data for MoviePass cards (a special debit card tied to each user) was also discovered via an online database; none of the data is encrypted; MoviePass is yet to respond . link

The EU launches an initial probe into Facebook’s Libra project, reports Bloomberg; the European Commission (EC) is investigating whether the digital payments system could stymie competition; the EC is reportedly also concerned about how data will be exchanged when Libra eventually launches . link

Xiaomi announces $180 Mi A3, a 6-inch Android One device with a 48MP back camera; also features a second 8MP rear camera, and a 5MP front camera; available in India, it’s unclear if or when it will roll out to other markets . link

Walmart files a lawsuit against Tesla claiming the company’s solar installations allegedly led to fires at seven of its locations; Walmart is accusing Tesla Energy Operations (formerly SolarCity) of negligence; Walmart asked Tesla to disconnect the solar systems in May 2018, but says another fire still occurred . link

Google expands its lightweight Search app Google Go to Android users worldwide; first launched in 2017 Google Go takes up ~7MB of device storage and promises to use as much as 40 percent less data than Google’s standard Search app; Google Go was previously limited to a handful of markets including India, Indonesia, and Brazil . link

Facebook starts rolling out its Clear History tool in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain; first announced in 2018 the feature was delayed; Clear History promises to give users more control over how their data is used by Facebook and its partners; set to be available to more markets in the coming months . link

DoorDash acquires self-driving startup Scotty Labs; terms undisclosed; Scotty is developing remotely accessed autonomous driving systems; it’s unclear how DoorDash will implement the company’s tech; Scotty has raised $6M to date . link

Theater film subscription company MoviePass exposed unencrypted customer credit card data on an unprotected server, according to a SpiderSilk security researcher; in addition to credit card numbers and other data required for fraudulent purchases, the database contained MoviePass debit card information . link

Zendrive, which monitors driver behavior via mobile devices, raises $37M Series B led by XL Innovate; serves fleet operators, insurance providers, and others, enabling companies to track employees' driving safety, and to reward customers for safe practices; raised ~$57M to date . link

Apple launches the Apple Card in general availability in the US; created in partnership with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard and accepted by all businesses that accept Mastercard; fully integrated with Apple Pay and offers visualized spending analysis; Apple Pay purchases get two percent cash back; the physical titanium card provides one percent cash back . link

Bellevue, WA-based CDB company Oleo raises $1.5M from undisclosed investors; sells CBD-infused drinks and drink mixes with no THC; the ready-to-drink products come in numerous flavors; offers flavored and unflavored drink mix powders; also offers teas . link

A ransomware attack targeted 23 TX towns on Friday; the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) indicated one threat actor was responsible, targeting specific governmental departments; a DIR spokesman said none of the towns had paid the ransom, to his knowledge; impact details undisclosed . link

Twitter ($33B market cap) acqui-hires app creation team Lightwell; terms undisclosed; the team will focus on improving conversations on Twitter; the company's premium subscription toolset will be available for free going forward; enables developers to create animated interfaces and interactions for iOS apps . link

This Week in Startups episode 966: Jason speaks with charity: water Founder and CEO Scott Harrison about raising $400M to bring clean water to 5k new people every day, scaling via equity sharing and a SaaS model, combatting charity distrust, more . link

Ontario-based Innovation Guelph, which funds and supports local entrepreneurs, secures ~$1.4M from the federal government under its $2B Women's Entrepreneurship Strategy; the program aims to double the number of women-owned businesses in Canada by 2025; Innovation Guelph's Rhyze Project also seeks to foster women-led companies through funding and mentorship . link

Waymo to test its modified Chrysler Pacificas and a Jaguar I-Pace autonomous vehicles in Florida's rainy season; trained drivers will manually operate the vehicles, as the purpose of the tests is to collect data and to assess sensor performance; Waymo has conducted most of its autonomous vehicle testing to date in Mountain View and Phoenix . link

English software testing startup SpotQA raises ~$3.2M seed led by Crane; also launched its flagship product Virtuoso, which uses machine learning and robotic process automation to increase the speed of app testing and reduce QA costs . link

Amsterdam-based Shleep, which provides an app and services to improve sleeping habits, raises ~$1.6M from Global Founders Capital and others; serves companies looking to improve employee health and performance; clients include The Huffington Post and Spotify . link

Holding company IAC ($21.4B market cap) acquires NurseFly, a marketplace for temporary nursing positions; terms undisclosed, but a TechCrunch source valued the deal at $15M; displays positions from multiple agencies in various cities; nurses prepared to travel for work can analyze cost of living, etc; claims 30k listed jobs . link

Machine learning platform raises $72.5M Series D led by Goldman Sachs and the Ping An Global Voyager Fund; the company's Driverless AI product builds models automatically, so teams without expertise in AI can utilize machine learning; 175 employees; raised ~$146M to date . link

Homies, an online network for foreign-born nationals and expats, raises $12M Series A led by Canaan Partners and Spark Capital; creates communities based on users' countries of origin and residence; Co-Founder Ran Harnevo previously sold syndication platform 5min to AOL and served as president of video at Oath; Co-Founder Hanan Laschover previously served as CEO for AOL Israel; raised $16M to date . link

Sidewalk delivery robot company Starship Technologies raises $40M Series A led by Morpheus Ventures; the company also announced it surpassed 100k commercial deliveries and 350k miles traveled; Starship launched its first university deployment in June of last year; plans to expand to 100 more university campuses over the next two years; raised ~$85M to date . link

The download for 2019-08-20 →

Yubico launches $70 YubiKey 5Ci, the first security key that’s compatible with Lightning port devices; the key also features a USB-C port, though it doesn’t support iPad Pro; features support for LastPass and 1Password; available now . link

Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announces a plan that promises ban to the use of facial recognition tech by police; Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, says the measure is designed to ensure law enforcement oversight; follows bans by several US cities . link

YouTube files a lawsuit against Christopher Brady, claiming he misused copyright rules to file false claims against video creators; YouTube is seeking an injunction against future claims from Brady, as well as unspecified monetary damages; Brady is alleged to have demanded payments from some YouTube creators, threatening to file copyright claims if they didn’t comply . link

Brand management firm raises $30M led by Ascension Ventures with participation from Akkadian Ventures and others; the company provides tools for tracking product reviews, social media mentions, and more; has raised $117M to date . link

Facebook will hire a team of journalists to work on its upcoming News Tab, reports The New York Times; the company plans to hire experienced reporters to help it curate news stories, though most of the articles will be algorithmically sorted and ranked; it’s unclear when News Tab will launch, but Facebook says it’s planning on rolling it out by the end of 2019 . link

As many as 20 state state attorneys plan to launch a joint antitrust investigation into large tech firms, according to multiple reports; the probe is expected to start as early as next month; it’s unknown which companies will be investigated but the reports suggest Google, Amazon, and Apple could all face scrutiny . link

China says it has a right to voice its opinions over Hong Kong protests; Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang did not directly address the actions by Twitter and Facebook, but says state-backed media outlets use overseas social platforms to “tell China’s story” . link

Brainbase, a Los Angeles-based IP management software firm, raises $3M from Struck Capital; the company offers a licensing service that lets companies manage their properties; also offers a marketplace for potential licensees to pitch product ideas; has raised $4M to date . link

President Trump claims Google manipulated millions of votes ahead of the 2016 presidential election; Trump made the allegation in a tweet referencing an unspecified study; reports indicate Trump is referring to a 2017 paper, since debunked; in a follow-up tweet (since deleted) Trump said his administration is watching Google closely .Update: Google responds to Trump’s claim, saying it has never altered search results to try to affect political sentiment; the company also says its focus is to provide users with relevant info, regardless of viewpoint . link

Twitter says state-controlled media will no longer be allowed to advertise on its platform; the company says it will make determinations based on editorial freedoms and financial ownership of companies; follows a report that China-backed news agency Xinhua used Twitter to spread propaganda . link

Twitter says China has sponsored more than 900 accounts in an attempt to sow political discord in Hong Kong; the company also says it has identified large clusters of accounts being used in a coordinated manner; Twitter notes it suspended ~200k accounts before they could become significantly active on the platform .Update: Facebook says it has removed five accounts, seven Pages, and three Groups with links to the Chinese government; the firm says the activity centered around Hong Kong and the current political situation; Facebook was tipped off to the scheme by Twitter . link

Bill Stasior, the former head of Apple’s Siri division, joins Microsoft’s AI unit, reports The Information; Stasior will serve as a VP of tech at Microsoft, reporting to CTO Kevin Scott; a source for The Information says Stasior will oversee an AI team, though he will not be involved with Cortana . link

Apple plans to invest $6B in its Apple TV+ streaming service, according to the Financial Times; the company initially committed $1B to programming, but has upped its investment to better compete with Netflix, Disney, Amazon, and others .Update: Apple TV+ will cost $10 per month and launch in November, according to Bloomberg sources; the streaming service will initially offer a small selection of shows, adding more over time; the sources also indicate Apple is likely to offer a free trial . link

Software testing platform SpotQA raises $3.2M seed led by Crane Venture Partners with participation from Forward Ventures, Downing Ventures, and Acequia Capital; the startup offers automated testing for web and mobile apps . link

WhatsApp plans to launch a mobile payment wallet in Indonesia, according to Reuters sources; the company is in talks with several digital remittance firms about offering their services via its platform; WhatsApp has launched a peer-to-peer payments service in India, but it’s yet to receive full government approval . link

Toronto-based AR advertising tech company NexTech closes ~$870k private placement financing; provides virtual try-on solutions for apparel, 3D product capture and advertising for Google and Facebook, more; also plans a studio solution for immersive content . link

Nvidia to launch its game-streaming service, GeForce NOW, for Android this fall; the service is currently in beta, available for PC, Mac, and Nvidia Shield; the company also announced it is launching RTX servers for GeForce Now in Northern California and Germany . link

England-based Optimus Vitrum, a University of Leeds spinout developing flexible and break-resistant glass for mobile device displays, raises ~$725k from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance; the company uses lasers rather than chemicals to treat glass, promising more uniform strength; the funding will facilitate prototypes and commercialization . link

Chicago-based Cameo, a marketplace for personalized celebrity greeting videos, hires former TikTok Head of Global Marketing Stefan Heinrich Henriquez to serve as CMO; he also worked as the global product marketing lead for YouTube Red; he will work out of Cameo's Los Angeles office .Watch Jason speak with Cameo CEO Steven Galanis on This Week in Startups: link

WordPress parent Automattic acquires ZBS CRM, a free CRM plugin for WordPress; terms undisclosed; Automattic will rebrand the plugin as Jetpack CRM; the company plans to launch v3 of the software in the fall with new mailing capabilities . link

VMWare ($59B market cap) acquires network security and verification company Veriflow; terms undisclosed; Veriflow's tech helps to predict outages before they happen and identify vulnerabilities before they are exploited; previously raised ~$11M . link

E-cigarette company Juul raises $325M in debt and equity; the debt ratio of the round is undisclosed; a Reuters source indicated Juul sold convertible debt; the company has focused on international expansion over the past year; sold a $12.5B stake to Marlboro parent Altria in December . link

Sony ($71B market cap) acquires Insomniac Games, developer of link

OH-based auto insurance company Root raises $350M Series E at a $3.5B valuation led by Coatue Management and DST Global, according to Axios sources; provides an app that uses telematics to assess risk for prospective customers; allows for lower rates and reduced churn; raised 577M to date, this unconfirmed round included . link

Ally, which provides an Objectives and Key Results (OKR) solution, raises $8M Series A led by Accel; tool integrates with Slack and simplifies quarterly, biannual, and annual goal creation and tracking; serves Remitly and hundreds of other companies across 70-plus countries; plans start at $7 per user per month . link

Reddit is testing a live video streaming feature for users this week; the Reddit Public Access Network is limited to standard work hours and is monitored and moderated by Reddit employees; limited to 100 Reddit-curated streams at a time, with each stream limited to 30 minutes . link

iOS developers accuse Apple of anti-competitive behavior related to location privacy changes in iOS 13; Apple updated controls that give apps access to user location; the link

NY-based Simon Data, which provides customer data insights for personalization and marketing purposes, raises $30M Series C led by Polaris Partners; also offers abandoned cart alerts and other services; clients include WeWork, Venmo, and Equinox; raised $59M to date . link

Microsoft ($1T market cap) acquires London-based jClarity, which provides app performance management, specifically for Java workloads; jClarity is the lead contributor for the AdoptOpenJDK project; JClarity CEO Martijn Verburg will serve as an engineering group manager; the acquisition will bolster Azure's Java support and offerings . link

The Department of Commerce announces a temporary license extension enabling US companies to do business with Huawei 90 days beyond the previous deadline, Aug 19; Reuters reported the extension on Friday, citing anonymous sources; on Sunday Donald Trump said the government would not issue such an extension; Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also said the department would add 46 more Huawei entities to the blacklist . link

New York City-based direct mortgage lender raises $160M Series C at a $600M post-valuation led by Activant Capital; automates and streamlines much of the home buying process; promises faster rate quotes and pre-approvals compared to traditional lenders, enabling borrowers to compete with cash buyers; raised $254M to date . link

The download for 2019-08-19 →

Google has ended a program that shares network coverage issues with carriers, according to Reuters sources; known as Mobile Network Insights, the free service showed carriers details of their network penetration; Google reportedly shutdown the scheme because it had concerns that the sharing of Android device data may attract scrutiny from regulators . link

Huawei’s Mate X folding smartphone is set to launch in November, according to reports; Huawei initially scheduled it for a June launch before delaying it until September; Huawei said last week it would push back the device until later this year; regulatory images also suggest the device will have an updated time-of-flight (ToF) sensor alongside a triple-array back camera . link

Crypto exchange Binance announces plans for Venus, a regional stablecoin; Binance says Venus will be tied to fiat currencies in each region of availability; the company also says it’s encouraging other firms and governments to work with it on the project; it’s unknown when Venus will launch . link

Apple launches an Apple Arcade early access scheme for employees; gives users access to titles such as “Way of the Turtle” and “Hot Lava”; the service offers a one-month free trial, then charges users $0.50 per month thereafter; it’s unknown how much Apple Arcade will cost when it rolls out fully, or when it will launch . link

IA-based supermarket chain Hy-Vee discloses a security breach; impacts those who have paid using credit cards at its brick-and-mortar and online outlets, though it’s unclear how many customers have been affected; the firm is advising customers to monitor for suspicious card transactions . link

State-backed Chinese media outlet Xinhua is paying Twitter to promote tweets that attack Hong Kong protestors, according to reports; Xinhua is promoting tweets in support of the Chinese government and says the protests are affecting Hong Kong’s “social order”; critics say Twitter is profiting from the spread of propaganda . link

Microsoft partners with Nvidia to add more realistic graphics to “Minecraft” on PCs; terms undisclosed; the title will make use of Nvidia’s real-time ray tracing tech to create more natural lighting effects; Microsoft recently canceled a long-awaited “Minecraft” graphical update for being too technically demanding . link

UK carrier Three launches a 5G home broadband service; the £35 (~$42) per month plan offers unlimited data; requires a special hub and is currently limited to customers in London; Three says the service will be available in 25 cities by the end of this year . link

File-sharing firm WeTransfer discloses a €35M (~$39M) secondary funding round led by HPE Growth with participation from Highland Europe; HPE’s Jonne de Leeuw joins WeTransfer’s board; the company has not disclosed its valuation, but it says it has been profitable for six years . link

Spotify adds parental controls for its family plan; lets the primary Spotify account holder control whether other users linked to the plan can listen to explicit content; comes as the company also announces Family Mix, a custom playlist designed to appeal to a family of users; the features are rolling out now, starting with users in Ireland . link

China-based smartphone firms Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo partner to develop an AirDrop-like file transfer system; the companies say the tech will work across their Android-based devices, using Bluetooth to authenticate connections; the system promises to support 20MB per second transfers; a beta version of the service will launch later this month . link

Energy company Shell rolls out EV chargers in Singapore, its first in Southeast Asia; known as Shell Recharge, the units will be available at 10 of the company’s gas stations by the end of October; the firm says vehicles can expect to go from 0 percent power to 80 percent in ~30 minutes . link

Huawei officially responds to claims it helped the governments of Uganda and Zambia to spy on political opponents; in a letter to The Wall Street Journal, Huawei says the original article does is “neither a fair nor a responsible representation” of its operations in those countries; Huawei also says the report damages its reputation around the world . link

Tesla’s solar division (formerly SolarCity) launches a rental option for homeowners; the program lets users rent solar panels starting at $65 per month; there’s no long-term contract, but customers must pay $1.5k to have the panels removed . link

President Trump says Tim Cook has raised concerns that US tariffs on Chinese imports will negatively impact Apple, which in turn could help Samsung; Trump notes Cook made a “compelling argument” that Samsung will not be subject to the same import tariffs as Apple; the majority of Apple’s devices are made in China, while Samsung manufactures in many countries; the Trump Administration is set to introduce an additional 10 percent import levy from Sept 1 . link

RedDoorz, a Singapore-based hotel-booking platform, raises $70M Series C led by Asia Partners with participation from Rakuten Capital and Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund; the company lets users find and book stays at budget hotels; has raised $140M to date . link

The download for 2019-08-18 →

MasterClass Co-Founder and former CTO Aaron Rasmussen launches Outlier, an online learning startup offering college classes; will begin its first two pilot courses, Introduction to Psychology and Calculus I, this fall; each course runs $400, including textbooks; students earn transferrable credits from the University of Pittsburgh . link

Cloud backup and recovery startup Clumio emerges with $51M Series A and B led by Sutter Hill Ventures and Index Ventures, respectively; the AWS-based SaaS enables enterprises to manage backups remotely; co-founded by Poojan Kumar, who previously sold PernixData to Nutanix; the other co-founders are VMware and Nutanix veterans . link

Mitchell Reichgut steps down as CEO of New York City-based mobile ads platform Jun Group after 18 years; COO and President Corey Weiner is taking over as CEO; Reichgut said the change was gradual and that managers had taken on more responsibilities as he reduced his role; Advantage Solutions acquired Jun Group last year . link

Manchester-based logistics platform Sorted raises ~$18.3M Series B led by Merian Chrysalis; follows a ~$19M raise in May; provides an API enabling retailers to display delivery options, a carrier and shipping management platform, and a tracking platform with communications . link

Berlin-based property management tech company Zenhomes raises ~$14.4M Series A; operates platforms that connects landlords, tenants, and service providers; supports asset management, building maintenance, more . link plans US IPO for online supermarket Dada-JD Daojia, according to sources for The Information; JD controls the joint venture; Walmart owns 10 percent; JD reportedly is in talks with US banks for a May 2020 debut, and expects to raise ~$500M . link

Estonia-based building-integrated solar panel company Solarstone raises undisclosed funding from renewable energy company Sunly; Solarstone, which has serviced 100-plus buildings in Estonia, now plans to enter new markets including Scandinavia and Germany . link

Screen annotation and augmentation company Polarity emerges and announces its first office in DC; the 20-person team has mostly worked remotely to date, with some executives in CT; the company already claims commercial and government customers in the DC area; Polaris analyzes screen content, regardless of app, and augments the display with annotations and real-time data from multiple sources . link

Ontario-based FanSaves, which provides an app enabling sports teams and other organizations to engage with fans, wins the second annual RC100 startup competition; the prize is a ~$75k seed from the Renfrew County Community Futures Development Corporation; the app provides discounts from customers' partners . link

Microsoft pays contractors $12-$15 per hour to transcribe and classify Cortana interactions, according to documents obtained by Motherboard and a contractor who spoke with the site; the company expects contractors to complete ~200 tasks per hour; Microsoft recently disclosed the practice after Apple, Google, and Facebook paused human reviews of such interactions . link

Hustle Fund GP Elizabeth Yin publishes a Google Doc listing the questions early-stage VCs are likely to ask fundraising founders; covers details about the team, the problem the startup is addressing, differentiation from the competition, traction, fundraising to date, more . link

YouTube's Originals, including series, features, and live events, will be ad-supported and available to all users starting on Sept 24; Premium members will still have ad-free access, the ability to watch all episodes in a series on launch day, offline viewing, and other benefits . link

Google's Area 120 incubator is testing Fundo, which enables YouTube creators to offer premium services and events, such as customized video shoutouts and virtual meet-and-greets; the program is in beta, currently invite-only . link

Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke announces support for amending Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act to remove language that limits the liabilities of social platforms that knowingly support and promote hateful and pro-violence content; follows a report that an executive draft order that would do just that; O'Rourke also calls for the FBI and DOJ to prioritize right-wing extremists . link

Apple is preparing to revive the ceramic Watch and to launch the first titanium model, according to image assets in watchOS 6; iHelpBR found assets referring to 40mm and 44mm versions for each material; analyst Ming-Chi Kuo previously predicted Apple would launch a ceramic Watch by year's end . link

Patchr, which provides drag-and-drop tools for online PCB design, is raising an undisclosed amount in a seed round; the company raised $100k last year; founded by Eric Schneider, who previously worked as a creative technologist at Chaotic Moon; Patchr outsources PCB manufacturing to Royal Circuits, then ships final boards to customers . link

SpaceX and NASA conduct evacuation exercise for the GO Searcher water vessel, which is designed to recover astronauts and spacecraft; the test simulated a scenario in which Crew Dragon astronauts needed airlifting from the GO Searcher; SpaceX and NASA plan to eventually cooperate crewed missions . link

Ikea announces the Home smart business unit, which will oversee all of the company's smart home products; Ikea has rebranded its connected light bulb app as Home smart, and will update it to manage numerous devices; details about planned products undisclosed, but Ikea's partnership with Sonos will lead to new audio products . link

Department of Commerce to issue a temporary license extension enabling American companies to sell to Huawei for another 90 days, according to Reuters sources; the license, initially issued in May, is currently scheduled to expire on Aug 19; one source said Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping would speak about the issue this weekend . link

Germany-based vehicle rental company Nextmove cancels a $5.5M order for 85 Tesla Model 3 units due to quality issues; the company initially ordered 100 vehicles last year and took delivery of the first 15 this year; Tesla replaced those cars due to paint scratches, wiring problems, more . link

Apple sues FL-based mobile device virtualization company Corellium, alleging illegal sales of iOS and iPadOS replica software; the startup enables security researchers to investigate potential vulnerabilities in different hardware models; Apple accuses Corellium of copying the GUI and underlying code, and says the company encourages users to sell information about vulnerabilities . link

SoftBank plans to lend employees up to $20B for investing in the company's second Vision Fund, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; up to half of the loan could go to CEO Masayoshi Son; the fund targets a $108B raise; SoftBank is investing $38B directly, and has commitments from Apple and Microsoft . link

The download for 2019-08-17 →

Upfront Ventures names Michael Carney (who joined the firm as a principal in 2015) and entrepreneur and former Google Product Manager Aditi Maliwal as general partners; Carney will remain focused on later-stage investments in portfolio companies; Maliwal will act as a bridge between the LA-based firm and the Bay Area, focusing on SaaS, B2B, fintech, and with less frequency, consumer startups . link

Modular smartwatch company Block is liquidating assets after running out of money; the company unveiled its concept in 2014 and went on to raise $1.6M from Kickstarter backers; Block failed to raise adequate additional funding in April of last year and never shipped its product . link

Google reveals it acquired New York City-based e-learning company Socratic (iOS, Android) last year; terms undisclosed; Google has re-launched the app for iOS, now with AI integrations; founded as a social Q&A site for students, the company has removed those features to focus on automated math help and more . link

Huawei is developing a mapping service to power third-party apps, China Daily reports; Map Kit will enable developers of navigation apps, ride-hailing apps and more to integrate real-time location information; will also support augmented reality features . link

Networking infrastructure company Zenlayer raises $30M Series B led by Forebright Capital; operates 100-plus data centers on six continents to offer on-demand bare-metal cloud hardware, SD-WAN, and edge computing solutions, more; raised $40M to date . link

This Week in Startups episode 965: Jason speaks with Kim Scott, author of link

Toronto-based Nudge Rewards, with offers employee performance management tools for customer-facing businesses, raises $9.3M Series B led by Jump Capital; targets retail, foodservice, and hospitality companies; offers a CMS and an employee app; enables managers to track performance, up-train workers, more; raised ~$15M to date . link

Alibaba to acquire NetEase-owned, China-based e-commerce company Kaola for $2B in cash, according to Chinese news outlet Caixin; sells apparel, household goods, more; Chinese magazine Caijing reported in February that Amazon's China unit was in talks to merge with Kaola . link

Security company Trend Micro discovers 85 Google Play apps representing 8M downloads serving adware; all have since been removed from the store; included photo editing and games; the apps provided functionality but registered fake ad clicks in the background . link

San Antonio-based VC firm Scaleworks acquires Toronto-based e-commerce merchandising company Nextopia; terms undisclosed; Nextopia, which focuses on search and navigation products, serves 1.6k customers including BenQ, Delta Apparel, and Sears Hometown . link

Brazilian digital marketing company RD Station raises $50M Series D led by Riverwood Capital; founded in 2011, employs 700; claims 13k customers across 20 countries; also offers a CRM solution, obtained via last year's acquisition of Plug CRM; raised ~$90M to date . link

NY's Department of Financial Services authorizes cryptocurrency platform Bakkt to provide custody services with the launch of its bitcoin futures contract service; Bakkt is affiliated with New York Stock Exchange parent Intercontinental Exchange; the company will serve institutional investors . link

San Francisco permits Postmates to operate its Serve autonomous delivery robots on public streets in designated parts of the Inner Mission and Potrero Hill; requires nearby human supervision; delivery robot company Marble has an application pending . link

Nashville-based SmileDirectClub, which offers an at-home teeth straightening service, files for IPO; the company used a placeholder target and other details of the listing are undisclosed; SmileDirectClub ships impression kits and operates brick-and-mortar locations where customers can give dental impressions; ships plastic aligners; last valued at $3.2B; raised $380M to date . link

YouTube disables the Manual Claiming tool, which enabled copyright owners to collect all revenue from videos featuring clips of their music; copyright holders can now choose to disable monetization on such videos or have them blocked; YouTube noted copyright holders were using Manual Claiming when extremely short clips appeared, sometimes unintentionally, and YouTubers were losing revenue for their own content . link

The download for 2019-08-16 →

Alibaba is considering multiple dates for its Hong Kong IPO, according to Reuters sources; the firm is weighing its options as political protests continue across the city; the listing is expected to raise $10B to $15B . link

The Trump Administration asks Congress to reauthorize an NSA program that gathers data on phone calls and text messages, reports The New York Times; the NSA has shut down such a program, but the White House is asking policymakers to make permanent a law that allows the agency to collect such data; the current authorization is set to expire in December . link

UPS acquires a minority stake in autonomous truck firm TuSimple for an undisclosed amount; the companies are collaborating on some tests; TuSimple has raised more than $280M to date . link

Apple opens pre-orders for HomePod in Japan; the Siri-powered speaker costs ~$300 and is set to begin shipping Aug 23 . link

Purported images of GoPro Hero 8 and Max 360 leak; reports claim Hero 8 will feature HD video at up to 480 fps, and 4K at up to 60 fps; it will also be able to support mountable accessories such as lights and mics; Max 360 is reportedly a 360-degree camera, GoPro’s first since it launched the Fusion 360 in 2017 .Rumored Hero 8: link

Jack Cheng, co-founder of China-based EV firm NIO, is leaving the company; an internal memo says Cheng is retiring; Cheng previously oversaw Ford’s operations in China; his co-founders William Li and Lihong Qin continue to serve as CEO and president, respectively . link

China-based Segway-Ninebot showcases a semi-autonomous e-scooter than can return itself to a charging station; Ninebot says the scooter will roll out next year and cost $1.4k, which is significantly higher than vehicles it currently sells to e-scooter companies; Ninebot also says Uber and Lyft will be among its customers, though neither have confirmed the claim . link

Details included in the latest iOS developer beta indicate the company may announce its new iPhone lineup on Sept 10, reports Portuguese-language iHelpBR; the Calendar app icon is set to Sept 10, and it’s accompanied by the filename HoldForRelease; Apple is expected to announce an iPhone with a triple-array back camera . link

Microsoft’s head of gaming Phil Spencer says the company has no plans for a streaming-only Xbox; speaking with Gamespot, Spencer says the firm is looking to smartphones for streaming, while it’s focused on the home console for local gaming; Microsoft is developing a next-gen Xbox known as Project Scarlett which is slated to launch in 2020 . link

Instagram is set to begin rolling out a feature for reporting misinformation; the company will look at such reports and measure it against an account’s previous behavior to determine whether a third-party fact checker should review the content . link

India-based fintech firm Paytm says it will invest $105M in its operations as it aims to reach 250M MAUs by March 2020; the firm currently has 140M MAUs; Paytm expects its Inbox messaging service will be a key driver of growth . link

India-based social platform Sharechat raises $100M led by Twitter with participation from TrustBridge Partners and others; Sharchat offers a network with support for more than a dozen Indian languages; has raised $224M to date . link

Budapest-based connected vehicle tech company Commsignia raises $11M led by Karma Ventures and the Samsung Catalyst Fund; develops technology enabling autonomous and human-driven vehicles to communicate with other vehicles and with infrastructure . link

Google's Password Checkup Chrome extension, which monitors website logins to determine if credentials are compromised, finds 1.5 percent of all site logins use exposed credentials; the data is based on logins by 650k users; Google co-developed the extension with Stanford cryptology experts to prevent Google from seeing user passwords . link

Reddit announces a new dedicated office at Chicago's Merchandise Mart; the company opened its first Chicago office in a WeWork space in April of last year; currently has 15 workers in the city; the new location, which will focus on ad sales, accommodates 25 workers . link

Seattle-based real estate tech company Flyhomes raises $141M: $21M Series B led by Canvas Ventures and $120M in debt financing; operates mortgage, brokerage, and closing products and services; has facilitated 1k closures via the Cash Offers, Trade Up, and Guaranteed Offers products . link

Data insights company Incorta raises $30M Series C led by Sorenson Capital; the platform eliminates the ETL (extract, transform, load) step required by most data analysis software, reducing processing time; founded in 2013, claims 250 employees; raised $73M to date . link

Alternative proteins company Motif rebrands as Motif Foodworks, raises $27.5M Series A (extension), bringing the round total to $117.5M; General Atlantic led the original raise; sells protein alternatives to food companies and is currently in negotiations with seven universities . link

Gradjoy (YC S19 - iOS) provides student loan repayment management, refinancing benefit analysis, more; claims $20M in loans under management one week after launch; allows the borrower to adjust income and spending habits to preview payment changes; plans to raise upon graduating YC . link

Pittsburgh-based Gather, a startup using UAVs and AI to track warehouse inventory, emerges with $2.5M seed led by Expa; Gather's system connects with existing warehouse management software and various sensors; motion sensors can trigger automatic scans; uses computer vision to identify and count inventory . link

Cloudflare files for IPO with a $100M placeholder target; Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, and others are underwriting; the CDN, DNS, VPN, and registry provider will list on the NYSE under symbol link

Ripple investment subsidiary Xpring grants 1B XRP (~$260M) to web content monetization platform Coil; coil provides micropayments for journalists, video creators, others; Coil also raised $4M seed, in which Xpring participated . link

European Central Bank shuts down one of its websites after hackers installed malicious software; the attack affected the bank's Integrated Reporting Dictionary, which informs advisory reports; hackers accessed the system in December and went undetected for months; the bank said no market-sensitive data was compromised . link

DC-based flower delivery company UrbanStems raises $12M Series B led by Motley Fool Ventures and SWaN & Legend Venture Partners; offers next-day delivery and bike courier service; has also expanded into plants; raised $37M to date . link

Germany-based professional coaching site CoachHub raises ~$6.7M from HV Holtzbrinck Ventures, Partech, others; covers leadership skills, stress management, more; uses AI to match workers with appropriate coaches; currently features 300 coaches covering ~30 languages . link

Birth control delivery company Nurx raises $32M Series C at a $300M valuation led by Kleiner Perkins and Union Square Ventures; also raised $20M in debt; Nurx prescribes and ships birth control pills and HIV prevention medication; also offers STI test kits; raised ~$93M in debt and equity funding to date . link

German game studio Klang raises $22.3M Series B led by Novator Partners (Birgir Ragnarsson joins board as chairman); the funding will fuel development of space colony simulation title link

Fitz Frames, which 3D prints customized prescription eyewear, launches out of beta with $2.5M seed; serves families but primarily targets kids; provides an app that measures the customer's face to ensure a proper fit; sells glasses for $95 a pair, but offers a $185-per-year subscription plan so guardians can replace frequently lost or damaged glasses . link

The download for 2019-08-15 →

Amazon says it will start donating unsold Marketplace stock in the US and UK, rather than disposing of it entirely; known as Fulfilled by Amazon Donations, the scheme will send excess stock to nonprofits such as Barnardo’s, Newlife, and the Salvation Army; follows reports of Amazon throwing out stock it couldn’t sell . link

Vietnamese POS software firm KiotViet raises $6M Series A led by Jungle Ventures and Traveloka; the company offers cloud-based tools for merchant terminals . link

OnePlus CEO Pete Lau says the company will release a second 5G smartphone in 2019; Lau confirmed the launch in an interview with the Financial Times; full details unclear, but some outlets speculate the firm will release a OnePlus 7T with 5G support . link

Google Assistant adds a feature that lets users send reminders to others; available for Family Group members, it allows users to assign tasks and notes that show on smart displays and smartphones; creators can set a reminder for a specific time or location, and reminders can be set to repeat . link

UK-based global remittance firm TransferWise expands its debit card service to Australia and New Zealand; launched in Europe last year, the card lets users spend their TransferWise balance online and in brick-and-mortar stores; the card was also introduced in the US in June; the company says it will launch in Singapore soon . link

Adam Neumann, CEO and chairman of The We Company, has taken out loans from WeWork while also renting property to the company, reports Bloomberg; the firm’s IPO filing shows Neumann borrowed $7M from WeWork in 2016, paying it back in full by Nov 17 with ~$100k interest; more recently he took out a $362M loan from the firm, paying it back by surrendering stock; the company’s structure also shows several of Neumann’s family hold executive roles; Neumann himself does not take a salary from the firm and is not entitled to severance should he leave . link

China-based Lenovo says it may have to increase its PC prices to absorb planned US tariffs; the company’s shares dropped 6.5 percent after the announcement; Lenovo Chairman Yang Yuanqing notes moving manufacturing from China to the US would also lead to a rise in prices . link

Spotify plans to test a more expensive subscription plan in Scandinavia, according to Bloomberg sources; the company intends to increase the price of Spotify Family by 13 percent, raising it from ~$15 to ~$17 per month; the firm has also tested Spotify Premium Duo, which offers two paid accounts for ~$14 per month; it’s unclear when the testing will begin and whether it will expand to other markets . link

Huawei is developing its own maps service, according to state-owned China Daily; known as Map Kit, the service is not expected to be used directly by consumers; it will reportedly offer real-time traffic updates, AR features, and more; Huawei has also signed partnerships with Yandex,, and others . link

Huawei delays the launch of its Mate X folding smartphone; it was initially set to go on sale in June before it was rescheduled for September; the company has not provided a new release date, only saying it will be beyond next month; reasons for the delay unclear . link

VMWare ($62.6B market cap) is in talks to acquire cloud computing software provider Pivotal for $15 per share, an 80.7 percent premium on yesterday’s closing price; Pivotal’s shares have dropped 66 percent over the last year; its stock value surged by as much as 72 percent after VMWare’s announcement . link

Huawei staff have helped at least two African governments spy on their political opponents, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the activity includes monitoring social media and intercepting encrypted communications; Huawei technicians have allegedly also accessed cell tower data to establish the location of select individuals; Huawei denies the claims . link

Sega announces $80 Genesis Mini, which is 55 percent smaller than the original games console; comes with 42 classic titles including “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Ecco the Dolphin”; also features two three-button USB controllers; available Sept 19 . link

UK-based proptech firm Flatfair raises $11M Series A led by Index Ventures with participation from Revolt Ventures, Adevinta, and others; the company offers a property protection scheme that lets users pay a one-time fee at a lower rate than a standard deposit; Flatfair still offers landlords protections, promising to pay out for damage or lost income . link

Facebook changes its Groups settings to public or private; public groups are accessible to all and anyone can see who is in the group, while users must be invited to join a private group; additionally, admins for groups that are private can set them to visible or hidden; visible means anyone can find the group, while a hidden group can only be found by its members . link

Power storage firm Energy Vault raises $110M led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund; the company is developing a system of concrete blocks and cranes that uses excess energy on a power grid to stack those blocks; when more power is needed, the blocks go through a controlled fall, turning a generator and producing electricity . link

Hundreds of Google employees sign a petition demanding the company not bid on a cloud computing contract with Customs and Border Protection; the petition cites human rights abuses and the deaths of children in custody; it refers to the Trump administration's family separation policy and says those who sign will not be complicit in illegal and immoral practices . link

Microsoft updates its privacy policy and websites to clearly indicate that employees and contractors listen to recordings of Cortana and Skype Translator users; follows a Motherboard report revealing the practice; the company provides an online tool enabling customers to delete recordings; Google, Apple, and Facebook recently paused such human reviews, and Amazon provided an opt-out . link

House Homeland Security Committee subpoenas 8chan owner Jim Watkins to testify about the site's use by mass shooters as a platform to disseminate manifestos and announce attacks; 8chan Founder Fredrick Brennan, who is no longer involved with the site, said it should be shut down due to some users' celebration of violent attacks; hosting providers have de-platformed the site . link

Scoop, a carpooling service for commuters, raises $60M Series C led by Activate Capital; users enter location information and set preferences, including whether they prefer to drive or ride; riders pay $2 to $10 per trip; Scoop takes $1 per ride and the rest goes to the driver; raised ~$106M to date . link

Customized apparel company Custom Ink's subsidiary Represent acquires concert merchandising platform Sidestep; terms undisclosed; Represent offers a digital marketing platform and enables fans to purchase band shirts and more during shows, avoiding lines; Sidestep previously raised $1.7M . link

Misfit launches the $280 Vapor X Wear OS-powered smartwatch; features a Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor; the device is smaller and lighter than its predecessor; water-resistant to 30 meters; promises 24 hours of full functionality per charge; charges to 80 percent in 50 minutes . link

Austin-based Alegion, which uses humans and machine intelligence to label data for machine learning and model development, raises $12M Series A-2 led by RHS Investments; clients include Charles Schwab, Conde Nast, and the State of TX; raised ~$16M to date . link

Berlin-based RV rental marketplace PaulCamper raises ~$7.8M Series A led by Adevinta; supports motorhomes, trailers, and camper vans; claims 5.5k vehicles and 500k total nights booked . link, which markets a human-assisted but mostly AI-powered app development service, has lied about its use of AI, according to current and former employees speaking with The New York Times; reportedly relies on developers from India for rapid coding, but plans AI tech; CBO Robert Holdheim sued the company earlier this year, claiming promoted the use of AI to attract funding and customers; raised ~$30M . link

FCC Chair Ajit Pai formally endorses T-Mobile's $26B merger with Sprint; the Department of Justice approved the deal last month with conditions, including that Dish buy Sprint's Boost Mobile; numerous states are suing to block the deal, arguing it would harm competition; T-Mobile and Sprint said they would not close the merger before resolving the suit . link

The government is investigating Capital One hacker Paige Thompson for the alleged theft of data from 30-plus other organizations, court documents reveal; in the course of the investigation of the Capital One hack, authorities seized Thompson's computer and found terabytes of data belonging to companies, educational institutions, others . link

Berlin-based used car marketplace Heycar launches in the UK with 100k vehicles listed across 1.4k dealerships; features 400k vehicles in Germany; the company limits sales to vehicles built within the last eight years and with less than 100k miles; also requires a warranty . link

Fort Lauderdale-based boat rental marketplace Boatsetter raises $10M Series A (extension) led by Valor Equity and WestCap Group; operates the top such marketplace in the US; provides insurance through a partnership with Geico; raised $31M to date . link

Video infrastructure and analytics company Mux (YC W16) raises $20M Series B led by Evolution Media; Co-Founded by Jon Dahl and Steve Heffernan, who sold cloud encoding company Zencoder to Brightcove; Mux provides APIs to simplify the integration of video features; raised $32M to date . link

India-based hotel-booking company Oyo commits $335M to its vacation rental business; Oyo created the Vacation Homes brand with its May acquisition of Amsterdam-based Leisure; Oyo currently operates ~1M rooms across 80 countries . link

Seattle-based Mason, which provides customized mobile hardware and software solutions, raises $25M Series A led by Coatue Management (Thomas Laffont and Arielle Zuckerberg join board); offers white-box touchscreen devices and an Android-based operating system called MasonOS; also provides warehousing, white-label packaging, more . link

The download for 2019-08-14 →

Security researchers uncover a flaw in Suprema’s biometric security platform Biostar 2; Noam Rotem and Ran Locar - working with vpnmentor - have discovered a publicly accessible database containing 27.8M records; includes fingerprint records, facial recognition data, unencrypted usernames and passwords, and more; Biostar 2 is used by the UK’s Metropolitan Police; Suprema says it’s investigating . link

Coinbase UK and Barclays have ended their banking relationship, according to CoinDesk sources; reasons unclear, but Coinbase is now working with UK-based challenger bank ClearBank; sources say the change is the reason Coinbase UK no longer supports zcash . link

The We Company (aka WeWork) files for an IPO; the company’s S-1 filing does not disclose how much it plans to raise; the firm recorded revenues of $1.8B in 2018 and losses of $1.6B . link

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) requests info from Facebook on its audio transcription practices; DPC - which oversees Facebook in Europe - says it wants to know if and how the company is staying in compliance with the EU’s GDPR rules; DPC has also requested similar insight from Google, Apple, and Microsoft . link

Brick & Mortar Ventures raises $97.2M for its first fund; targets startups working in architecture, construction, engineering, and facilities management; founded by Darren Bechtel, whose family established the Bechtel construction firm; LPs include Autodesk, CEMEX, and Ferguson Ventures . link

The Trump Administration delays a 10 percent tariff on certain Chinese imports including smartphones; the reprieve also includes wired headphones, computer monitors, and streaming boxes such as Apple TV and Roku devices; a 10 percent levy will be added to lithium‐ion batteries, Apple Watch bands, and more from Sept 1. link

Twitter exec Kayvon Beykpour says the company has no current plans to introduce an edit feature; speaking at a press event in San Francisco, Beykpour says he thinks it’s something Twitter should work on but notes it’s not among the firm’s priorities . link

Mario Gabelli - head of GAMCO Investors - says the firm is considering legal action to block the CBS-Viacom merger; GAMCO is Viacom’s largest outside voting shareholder; Gabelli says the deal values his stock at below market value; GAMCO owns 8.9 percent of Viacom’s voting shares . link

Device-maker OnePlus says it will launch the OnePlus TV next month; the company has not disclosed details of the product but says it will feature smart features and offer a link

India-based ride-hailing firm Ola acqui-hires computer vision and data analysis firm; terms undisclosed; founders Inder Singh and Ritwik Saikia will join Ola; it’s unclear how Ola will make use of’s tech . link

Spotify is in talks with Apple about adding Siri support, according to sources for The Information; the companies are discussing the possibility of letting users ask Siri to play tracks, albums, and playlists via Spotify; follows a dispute between the firms over Apple’s control of iOS; Spotify has mentioned the lack of Siri support in a complaint to the EU . link

Snap announces Spectacles 3 featuring an HD camera for portrait-style images; the company is also introducing new 3D effects that will be exclusive to Spectacles; available in two colors (black and off-gold), launching Nov 30 for $380 . link

Twitter is set to introduce a feature that lets users see curated tweets about specific topics in their timeline; users will be able to choose subjects such as sports teams, TV shows, and celebrities; additionally, users can mute topics to avoid spoilers such as sports scores or movie plotlines; launch date unclear . link

Nigerian logistics firm Kobo360 (YC W18) raises $30M Series A (cash and debt) led by Goldman Sachs; the company offers a service that connects businesses with freight shippers; operates across Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Kenya; has raised $37M to date . link

FTC Chairman Joe Simons says the commission is prepared to roll back tech mergers to ensure a fair market; Simons is leading a review of the tech sector; the FTC is investigating Facebook and other dominant tech firms . link

Canada's Chamber of Digital Commerce recommends the federal government establish a framework for blockchain advancement; the blockchain industry association said the lack of clear regulations and government commitment are hampering country's digital asset ecosystem, and that coordination would encourage new businesses . link

This Week in Startups episode 964: Jason speaks with PodShare Co-Founder and CEO Elvina Beck about her company's transferrable co-living memberships, why her customers trade privacy for affordable living in desirable places, bootstrapping to profitability, more . link

Facebook paid contractors to transcribe Messenger users' audio recordings to verify speech-to-text accuracy; the company said it stopped the practice more than a week ago; Google and Apple recently suspended human QA reviews of digital assistant interactions, and Amazon provided an opt-out option; Facebook's policy allowed human reviews of conversations in which only one party had consented . link

SannTek Labs (YC S19) is developing an alcohol and marijuana breathalyzer for law enforcement; the device, the SannTek 315, detects Delta-9 THC molecules in the breath; the level of marijuana in blood declines rapidly, so post-arrest blood tests can't reveal how intoxicated a driver was when pulled over . link

CBS ($18.3B market cap) and Viacom ($12B market cap) agree to all-stock merger; the companies split in 2006; Viacom CEO Bob Bakish will lead the combined company, ViacomCBS; CBS CEO Joe Ianiello will serve as CBS chairman; the companies plan to accelerate streaming strategies with the deal . link

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg announces his $80B Internet for All initiative, which would establish a public broadband service in rural areas lacking coverage or ISP competition; competing candidate Elizabeth Warren recently announced her $85B broadband subsidization plan, which would issue grants to nonprofits and local governments . link

OpenSpace, a machine vision company targeting the construction industry, raises $14M Series A led by Lux Capital with participation from WeWork, Suffolk Construction, others; the company's software uses AI to analyze 360-degree images and create navigable, 3D representations of build sites; provides a visual record of progress; raised $17.5M to date . link

German company Springlane, which manufactures kitchen products and publishes food-related content, raises ~$11M Series C from Apeiron Investment, SUBG, others; sells grills, pots, ice cream machines, and more under the Springlane and Burnhard brands; previously acted as a retailer, now only sells its own products . link

Snap unveils Spectacles 3, the latest version of its camera-equipped glasses for capturing content and publishing to Snapchat; unlike its single-camera predecessors, Spectacles 3 uses two cameras to capture the depth data needed for advanced AR post-processing; now available for pre-order at $380 . link

Supercomputer company Cray wins $600M contract with the Department of Energy; plans a new system called El Capitan, promising exascale performance for 3D simulations, AI, more; Cray says the computer will perform 1.5 quintillion calculations per second, making it more powerful than the world's current top 100 systems combined; the government will use El Capitan for nuclear weapons simulations . link

Postmates to go public this year, according to TechCrunch sources, who say the company's S-1 will be public next month; Postmates confidentially filed for IPO in February, then reportedly went on to hold sale talks with DoorDash and others; the company has raised $681M to date and was last valued at ~ $1.8B . link

Cloud data management company Kasten raises $14M Series A led by Insight Partners; the funding will facilitate a new R&D center in Salt Lake City; supports public and private Kubernetes deployments, offering backup, recovery, migration, more; raised $17M to date . link

Oculus Co-Founder Nate Mitchell announces his departure from Facebook, which acquired the VR headset company in 2014; the other co-founders, Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe, previously left Facebook; Mitchell did not disclose future business plans in his announcement; the trio founded Oculus in 2012 and raised initial funding via Kickstarter . link

Architecture-focused VC firm Brick & Mortar Ventures closes $97.5M from construction industry and related businesses; founded by Darren Bechtel, whose family owns the 120-year-old construction and engineering company Bechtel; Brick & Mortar saw its first exit with Autodesk's December acquisition of construction software company BuildingConnected . link

Amazon ($902B market cap) is in advanced talks to acquire up to 10 percent of India's Future Retail, according to Bloomberg sources; the brick-and-mortar retailer is India's second-most successful in terms of turnover; Future reportedly seeks a valuation of ~$280M for the stake . link

The download for 2019-08-13 →

Russia-based logistics firm Dostavista raises $15M Series B led by Vostok New Ventures with participation from Flashpoint and Addventure; the company offers same-delivery services by using crowdsourced labor; has raised more than $20M to date . link

Colombian authorities fine Uber ~$630k for obstructing a regulatory process in 2017; Uber reportedly told staff to not provide officials with details about its operations; Uber is not authorized to operate in the country, but it is broadly available; officials say anyone caught driving for the platform could lose their license for up to 25 years . link

Nintendo is set to launch a SNES-style controller for the Switch, according to an FCC filing; The Verge suggests the company may do the same launch the controller alongside SNES games on the Switch; Nintendo launched a NES-style Switch controller last year alongside access to several NES games . link

CT-based info analysis firm Polarity raises $8.1M led by TechOperators with participation from Shasta Ventures and others; the company offers AI-powered tools for analyzing and contextualizing onscreen data; has raised $11.6M to date . link

Games company Singularity 6 raises $16.5M led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from London Venture Partners and FunPlus Ventures; the company is developing its first title which it describes as a “virtual society” where players can form relationships with in-game characters; launch date unknown . link

Facebook is developing a dark mode for Android, according to app researcher Jane Manchun Wong; Wong notes only parts of the app go dark, suggesting it may be some time before the feature is fully ready . link

Rocket Internet-founded enterprise catering service Caterwings acquires Germany-based counterpart Lemoncat; terms undisclosed; Rocket Internet is among Lemoncat’s investors; Lemoncat has raised ~$10M to date . link

Facebook denies it misled a British parliamentary committee over its knowledge of Cambridge Analytica’s activities, reports Bloomberg; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport recently asked Facebook to explain discrepancies in its statements to US regulators and non-US lawmakers; Facebook says it has been truthful about its knowledge of the scandal . link

India-based call center tech firm Uniphore Software Systems raises $51M from March Capital Partners, Chiratae Ventures, and others; the company offers AI-powered tools including a digital assistant, call analysis, and more . link

Huawei hires three Washington, DC lobbyists, reports The Information; the hires from lobbying firm Sidley Austin will work on export controls, economic sanctions, trade and issues of national security; Huawei is currently restricted from freely trading with US businesses . link

Singapore-based Secretlab, maker of the S’pore gaming chair, raises an undisclosed amount from Temasek-owned Heliconia; the investment values the firm at over $200M; represents Secretlab’s first outside investment since it launched in 2014 . link

Twitter begins testing notifications for replies to specific tweets; currently available via Twitter’s iOS and Android apps, the feature is activated through the notifications tab . link

Yet-to-launch cryptocurrency exchange Blade raises $4.3M seed from Coinbase, SV Angel, and others; the startup will focus on altcoins and utilize perpetual swap contracts, a trading instrument that lets traders bet on the future values of crypto tokens . link

23 job search services have asked the EU to investigate Google over possible anti-competitive behavior, reports Reuters; the firms claim to have lost market share since the launch of Google Jobs; the EU has levied several fines against Google including a ~$1.7B penalty over its Google Shopping results . link

Microsoft cancels a planned Minecraft update saying it is “too technically demanding”; the company first announced the Super Duper Graphics Pack in 2017, promising it would improve the games’ visual assets such as lighting. enhanced water, and more; speculates Microsoft pulled it the update because it would not run well on older machines . link

China-based Q&A platform Zhihu raises $434M Series F led by Beijing Kuaishou with participation from Baidu, Tencent, and others; the company lets users ask and answer questions on a range of topics; has raised $880M to date . link

Public shell company Black Ridge ($32M market cap) merges esport venues and events company Allied Esports International with World Poker Tour creator WPT Enterprises to create a public company called Allied Sports Entertainment; now trading on the Nasdaq under symbol AESE . link

Pre-launch cryptocurrency derivatives exchange Blade raises $4.3M seed from Coinbase, SV Angel, others; expects to go live with perpetual swap contracts, which enable investors to bet on the future relative performance of cryptocurrencies, in three weeks; Co-Founders Jeff Byun and Henry Lee previously founded OrderAhead, which sold to Square in 2017 . link

WordPress parent Automattic to acquire Tumblr from Verizon; terms undisclosed, but an Axios source values the deal at less than $20M; Verizon took ownership of Tumblr when it acquired Yahoo (which acquired Tumblr for ~$1B in 2013); with the latest transfer of ownership, ~200 Tumblr employees will join Automattic . link

Wonderschool, which offers a platform for operating child development programs at in-home daycares and preschools, announces Denver as its third market; currently claims 140 locations in CA and NY; programs include immersion, Montessori, and play-based schooling; Wonderschool takes 10 percent of revenue; raised $20M Series A led by A16Z last year . link

Facebook ended acquisition talks with group video chat startup Houseparty last year due to antitrust concerns, according to sources for The New York Times; the company reportedly intertwined messaging under Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp specifically to make it more difficult to break up the company; Epic Games acquired Houseparty; Facebook developed and shut down a clone called Bonfire . link

Microsoft, Google, and Apple have failed to satisfy a 2016 request from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that the companies add railroad crossing information and alerts to their navigation apps; the NTSB contacted 14 companies in total; three have responded since 2016 . link

Canada-based SomaDetect, which provides dairy farmers with a sensor and machine learning-powered software to analyze milk, raises ~$2M from New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and others; the system checks fo overall quality and health indicators, including fat, protein, and somatic cell counts . link

PopBase, which enables social media entertainers to monetize content and engage with fans, launches for Android in early access (iOS release planned); creators can publish exclusive videos, quizzes, etc; PopBase plans to add games, VR experiences, more . link

Munich- and Barcelona-based Inflight VR, which develops VR entertainment products, primarily for the travel industry, raises ~$4.5M from Motu Ventures, CBC Investments, others; provides standalone VR headsets for bus operators, airlines, and lounges . link

New York City-based Attentive, which provides a mobile messaging platform for marketers, raises $40M Series B led by Sequoia; offers SMS engagement for retailers, with abandoned cart reminders and more; supports A/B testing, user segmentation, etc; raised $53M to date . link

OR joins 14 other states and DC in a suit that aims to block T-Mobile's $26B merger with Sprint; the Department of Justice approved the deal last month with conditions, including the requirement that Dish buy Sprint's Boost Mobile; T-Mobile and Sprint said they would not close the deal until the multi-state lawsuit was resolved . link

Deliveroo to cease German operations this week; the food delivery company claims 1.1k drivers and ~100 employees in the country; competitors and Just Eat recently finalized merger terms that would make the combined entity the market leader in Germany and other nations (pending shareholder vote); acquired Delivery Hero's German business last year . link

Enterprise search solutions company Lucidworks raises $100M from Francisco Partners​ and ​TPG Sixth Street Partners​; the AI-powered search-as-a-service product enables companies to provide customized searches for customers, taking into account purchase history, location, more; raised $209M to date, according to Crunchbase . link

London-based LeadInvest, a marketplace for property lending and investing, secures ~$242M from the National Australia Bank; the funding will enable the company to expand its UK Buy-to-Let mortgage program, which has lent €400M to date . link

Light Field Lab, which is developing holographic volumetric display tech, raises $28M Series A from Khosla Ventures, Samsung Ventures, Verizon Ventures, others; the company is currently focusing on a modular solution for venues, and plans multi-display wall installations for large 3D experiences; raised $35M to date . link

Membership-based private aviation company Wheels Up raises $128M Series D at a $1.1B valuation from Franklin Templeton, T. Rowe Price, others; the funding will fuel acquisitions, tech platform development, and marketing; members book private and ride-share flights via mobile app; targets professional athletes and brand ambassadors; claims 6k customers . link

The download for 2019-08-12 →

South Korea-based messaging app Kakao announces plans for a cryptocurrency wallet known as Klip; full details unclear but Kakao says the wallet will launch later this year; it’s being developed by Kakao’s blockchain subsidiary GroundX . link

Arcane Office (web) launches a set of online office tools; includes Docs, Sheets, Photos, and Marks (a PDF markup tool); promises GDPR compliance and support for docs created in Google Docs in and Microsoft Office; supports online collaboration and more . link

Austria-based sensor firm AMS offers $3.8B for German lighting company Osram; follows a $3.4B joint-bid from Bain Capital and Carlyle; AMS says if its proposal is successful, it could wrap up the acquisition by the middle of next year . link

Coinbase’s UK subsidiary is ending support for privacy-focused cryptocurrency zcash (ZEC), reports Coindesk; Coinbase UK has emailed customers notifying them they need to convert or remove their ZEC holdings by Aug 26 or risk losing them; the exchange has not explained why it’s dropping the digital token; Coinbase’s main platform and other exchanges are seemingly unaffected . link

The UK government is considering empowering media regulator Ofcom to oversee video-sharing platforms such as YouTube; under the plan, Ofcom would be able to levy multi-million-pound fines if it deems young people have been exposed to inappropriate content such as porn or violence; the measure is part of a broader EU directive, but it could be ignored if Britain completes it’s exit from the union . link

Bytedance launches Toutiao Search, a mobile-only search engine for the Chinese market; separate from its Toutiao news search feature, the service pulls results from across the web and other Bytedance apps; as will all Chinese search tools, results are censored . link

China’s central bank says it’s close to launching its own digital currency; full details unclear, but the People’s Bank of China says the cryptocurrency - tied to the yuan - could be issued by “commercial entities”; patents indicate the bank will also launch a digital wallet for managing the currency . link

Telegram introduces a feature to limit the amount of messages users can send via group chats; referred to as Slow Mode, admins can control how frequently a group members can send texts; the company has also added a feature to let users send messages that will not trigger an audible ping on the recipient’s device . link

Huawei will announce Mate 30 Pro on Sept 19, according to Russian outlet Hi-Tech; the device will feature the company’s new Kirin 990 chip and feature two 40MP cameras on the back; Huawei exec Wang Chenglu recently told reporters the device will launch first in Europe . link

Uber implements a hiring freeze across the US and Canada; the company says it has exceeded its current goals for recruiting software engineers and product managers; follows the company’s FQ2 financials in which it reported a $5.2B loss . link

Microsoft signs a 10-year partnership with Reliance Jio (a division of Reliance Industries) for cloud-based datacenters aimed at SMEs across India; Jio will utilize Azure and Microsoft AI to offer Microsoft 365 and more; Jio will also migrate all its non-networking apps to Azure; comes as Jio also announces a fiber-optic broadband business, an IoT platform, and a blockchain platform . link

Russian authorities warn Google to stop promoting “illegal mass events” on YouTube following a large political protest in the country; communications watchdog Roscomnadzor claims some entities have purchased ad tools to spread info about the rallies; protestors are demanding free elections for Moscow’s city legislature . link

Popular video game streamer Tyler Blevins (aka Ninja) says Twitch has used his old profile to promote other channels including one streaming porn; Blevins recently moved from Twitch to rival Microsoft Mixer; Twitch CEO has apologized to Blevins, saying the company is experimenting with promoting other streamers via offline accounts . link

India-based online marketplace Meesho raises $125M Series D from Naspers, SAIF, and others; the company provides a platform that connects merchants and customers via social media; has raised $190M to date . link

Apple plans to launch an iPad Pro with a triple-array back camera this October, according to a source for Mac Otakara; the 10.2-inch iPad is expected to get twin back cameras . link

The download for 2019-08-11 →

Walmart instructs store managers to remove signs, ads, and demos for video games featuring violent content, but denies a report that indicated the chain would stop selling such games; Walmart attributed the decision to the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso . link

China-based e-commerce company JollyChic raises $65M Series C from G42 Group; sells clothing, accessories, baby items, electronics, and more, primarily in the Middle East; plans to develop third-party payment platforms and e-wallets . link

London-based Cypher, which operates coding camps for kids, raises ~$300k seed (extension); the company plans to launch classes in more UK schools and to franchise the program internationally; courses focus on coding but cover other skills for future employment, including problem-solving and communications . link

Singapore-based VC firm Cocoon Capital closes its second seed fund at $22M; primarily targets enterprise startups in medtech, fintech, insuretech, and various deep tech categories; also announced public mentoring hours across numerous Asian cities . link

Truman Kain of information security company Tevora demonstrates Surveillance Detection Scout, a Tesla Model 3 and S mod that uses a vehicle-connected computer and open-source machine learning software for face and license plate detection via vehicle cameras; the system can send notifications for repeat plates and faces . link

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency demonstrates the use of an autonomous drone swarm and ground robots for military missions; the agency published a video of the OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program test, in which UAVs and robots analyzed two city blocks to identify and surround a building for a military exercise . link

Multiple robocall blocking apps sent user data to third parties without user consent, according to security researcher Dan Hastings; TrapCall sent user phone numbers, Hiya and Truecaller sent data before the user accepted a privacy policy, and some apps sent information to Facebook at app launch . link

From the VCs:--Tomasz Tunguz reveals the categories of startups that are on the rise in terms of seed fundraising, and those that are in decline; the hottest sectors include AI, blockchain, and food & beverage; among the waning categories are big data, analytics, advertising, and social media .--Fred Wilson highlights the value of streaks, both in life and in products; he notes Union Square portfolio companies Duolingo, which uses streaks to keep users motivated to study new languages, and Foursquare, which rewards Swarm users for streaks; he quotes Seth Godin, saying that streaks turn commitment into practice, and practice into habit . link

Saskatchewan-based SalonScale, which provides an app and connected scale for hair salon owners and stylists, raises ~$755k seed from Conexus Venture Capital Fund and others; the product weighs, tracks, and charges for hair dye usage; the company established nine new roles as a result of the funding . link

Social screen-sharing app Squad (iOS, Android) raises $5M seed led by First Round Capital GP Hayley Barna; enables up to nine people to join a video chat and share their screens; the women-led company has 450k registered users eight months after launch, 75 percent of which are teenage girls . link

The People’s Bank of China announces it will soon launch the central bank digital currency (CBDC) after five years of development; the bank's Digital Money Research Group has already adopted the blockchain infrastructure; the bank will not use blockchain tech for retail transactions . link

Hustle VC Co-Founder Elizabeth Yin shares thoughts on balancing a startup and family life, with a focus on saving and optimizing time; she covers the importance of relying on the support of others, avoiding unnecessary meetings and other time wasters, simplifying and reducing home responsibilities, more . link

New York Fire Department discloses the potential exposure of data belonging to ~10k people who used the department's Emergency Medical Services; an employee who was authorized to access the data loaded it onto a personal external hard drive and lost it; affects patients who used services between 2011 and 2018; ~3k records included social security numbers . link

Luxembourg’s National Commission for Data Protection is in talks with Amazon regarding consumer privacy as it pertains to Alexa quality assurance recordings; Amazon recently enacted an opt-out policy for consumers; Google and Apple stopped human reviews of digital assistant interactions this past week . link

Huawei unveils the Honor Vision smart display; it's the first device running Huawei's Android alternative, HarmonyOS; ultimately, the operating system will power smart speakers, in-car systems, more; Vision acts as a TV and a control center for connected devices; will launch two versions this month, both 55 inches with 4K support, but with differing storage options . link

A Norwegian gunman who attempted to carry out mass murder in a mosque posted his intentions on an 8chan forum, screenshots indicate; the man reportedly referenced the Christchurch killings and said he intended to live-stream his attack on Facebook, though he was unable to do so; 8chan went offline after the El Paso shooter published his manifesto there . link

Visa to shut down online payments service Checkout next year, 9to5Google reports; the service worked with Google Pay, alongside PayPal; Google recently updated its Pay documentation to remove mention of Visa Checkout; Google also said Visa was deprecating the service . link

McAfee acquires cloud workload security company NanoSec; terms undisclosed; McAfee plans to integrate NanoSec's tech into the MVISION Cloud and MVISION Server Protection products; McAfee has shifted its focus to cloud services since its 2017 split from Intel (which acquired McAfee in 2011) . link

MD-based anaerobic waste digestion company Bioenergy DevCo raises $106M and acquires Italian peer Biogas; the funding will facilitate the building of North American facilities that convert organic waste to natural gas; terms undisclosed . link

Energy infrastructure asset management company Universal mCloud secures $13M from Integrated Private Debt Fund; in addition to financing operations, the funding will repay outstanding notes on the company's July acquisition of industrial automation consultancy Autopro . link

Tucson-based Vector, which is developing a rocket for frequent small satellite launches, pauses operations; the company cited a significant change in financing; Vector won its first US Air Force launch contract, valued at $3.4M, this week; also announced the departure of CEO Jim Cantrell; President and CTO John Garvey will take over as CEO; Cantrell previously worked at SpaceX, which recently announced a small satellite launch service . link

The download for 2019-08-10 →

Beijing-based consumer lending marketplace 9F sets IPO terms: will offer 8.9M American depositary shares at $7.50 to $9.50 each; the midpoint would value the company at $1.7B; plans to raise $76M with the NYSE debut under the symbol JFG . link

Discord to launch Go Live, enabling gamers to livestream their play to a limited audience of 10 people within a given chat server; will be available in the Discord desktop app on Aug 15; almost anyone in a chat server will have the option to go live, though server admins can disable the feature; only Windows users can broadcast; Mac and Linux users can watch . link

This Week in Startups episode 963: Jason speaks with Steven Galanis, co-founder and CEO of Cameo, a marketplace for personalized celebrity greeting videos; the conversation covers Steven's founding story, raising $50M, insights from massive growth, expanding into global markets, more . link

Ontario-based Reebee, which enables consumers to browse and use coupons from local retailers, raises an undisclosed strategic investment from RHI Group with participation from M33 Growth; serves Walmart, Home Depot, Staples; the app claims 5M users . link

Sales, commission, and quota tracking startup QuotaPath launches with $5M from ATX Seed Ventures and others; the Austin- and Philadelphia-based company employs 15; co-founded by executives from TrendKite, an ad-tech company that sold to Cision this year for $225M . link

Group dating app 3Fun leaks sensitive data belonging to 1.5M users; Pen Test Partners said 3Fun likely had the worst security of any dating app the security firm had ever seen; the app, which caters polyamorous and kink-focused users, revealed real-time locations, photos, and more; Pen Test was also able to spoof other users' locations . link

The Trump administration terminated a committee on autonomous transport under the Department of Transportation earlier this year; The Verge reports that nobody notified members of the advisory group of the termination; the Obama administration created the Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation as part of a broader initiative for self-driving vehicles; the group only met once, four days before President Trump's inauguration . link

Seattle-based Glow Technologies, which provides a payments solution for podcasters, raises $2.3M seed led by Greycroft; the platform launched in beta in June; Glow hosts a site for each podcast, processing payments and enabling subscribers to access shows through numerous services; claims 100 podcasting clients . link

Electric bus company Proterra files to raise $75M at a $1B valuation; Reuters reported last month the company had hired banks in preparation for an IPO; Proterra's buses, which can travel 350 miles per charge, serve federal, municipal, and commercial transit agencies, raised ~$550M prior to this round . link

New executive order draft intended to address perceived political bias in social media practices reportedly would reduce the protections tech companies enjoy under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which reduces liability for user-generated content; the Protecting Americans from Online Censorship order would call on the FCC to establish new regulations . link

Boston-based Torii (iOS, Android), a mobile solution for homebuyers, raises $1.4M seed from undisclosed investors; enables users to browse properties, make offers, follow offer statuses, more; currently employs five . link

Cyprus-based identity authentication company AU10TIX raises $60M for a $260M post-valuation led by TPG; provides a customer on-boarding solution that authenticates driving licenses, passports, more . link

DoorDash is raising $400M in debt led by JPMorgan ahead of IPO, according to Bloomberg sources; reportedly plans to go public as soon as next year; the local delivery company has raised $1B this year and $2B to date . link

Zurich-based silicone 3D printing company Spectroplast raises ~$1.5M seed led by AM Ventures; primarily serves customers in healthcare, but additive silicone manufacturing has other applications . link

Huawei commits $800M over three years to a new Brazilian factory, according to the governor of São Paulo; the Chinese company is preparing for increased demand in the country after Brazil conducts its first 5G spectrum auction, slated for March 2020; Huawei already has a São Paulo factory that employs 2k . link

The download for 2019-08-09 →

The Trump 2020 campaign, Republican Party, and several GOP-affiliated groups pause their Twitter ad spending after the platform temporarily suspends an account linked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); Twitter took action after McConnell’s campaign account shared a video that showed protestors yelling violent threats; Twitter says the video is in violation of its terms . link

India-based fintech firm Lendingkart raises $30M Series D from Fullerton Financial Holdings, Bertelsmann India Investments, and India Quotient; the company provides online loans to SMEs; has raised $143M to date . link

Mario Queiroz, the Google VP overseeing Pixel smartphones, transitions to a new role under CEO Sundar Pichai, reports Axios; it’s unknown what that role is; Queiroz has overseen several hardware projects including Chromecast and Google Home; Rick Osterloh, SVP of devices and services, will now be directly responsible for Pixel . link

Vodafone New Zealand signs a 5G partnership with Nokia; terms undisclosed; Nokia will provide 5G infrastructure, making it the country’s first commercial next-gen network; Vodafone says it will launch in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown later this year . link leads a $142M investment in China-based offline ad firm Xinchao Media; has not disclosed how much it invested; says it hopes the stake will help it drive more traffic to its online properties; Xinchao places ads in elevators and other public spaces . link

Foxconn is employing schoolchildren to assemble Echo and Kindle devices for Amazon, according to a report by The Guardian; Foxconn is reportedly recruiting kids as young as 16 from schools in and around Hengyang, China; the children are working under the guise of internships, but their teachers are being paid to accompany them; those teachers are allegedly tasked with encouraging the kids to work nights and overtime, which contravenes China's employment laws . link

Alibaba president Michael Evans is among 17 current and former Goldman Sachs execs indicted by Malaysian prosecutors over the 1MDB scandal; Evans served as director for a Goldman Sachs unit based in the country; he is one of a number of people accused of misleading investors over deals for the state-owned investment fund 1MDB; Evans joined Alibaba in 2015; Alibaba says it's monitoring the situation . link

Digital marketing firm Hyp3r takes its services offline after it was removed from Facebook’s ad platform for allegedly violating the company’s terms; Hyp3r is accused of scraping public Instagram data to build ad profiles of individual users; Hyp3r says it plans to meet with Facebook next week to discuss the issue . link

The White House has paused its approvals process for US companies wishing to work with Huawei and other restricted firms, according to Bloomberg sources; Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently said his department had received 50 requests, and that decisions were pending; comes amid further trade tensions between the US and China . link

Apple expands its bug bounty program to include macOS, watchOS, and tvOS; the firm is also increasing its maximum payout to $1M, up from $200k; additionally Apple is opening the scheme to all security researchers (previously restricted to those signed up to its bug bounty program) .Update: Apple will offer special iPhones to select security researchers; those signed up to the iOS Security Research Device program will be able to access iPhones with advanced debug capabilities, ssh, and a root shell; Apple says the program will be open to those with a record of high-quality security research . link

Apple expands its bug bounty program to include macOS, watchOS, and tvOS; the firm is also increasing its maximum payout to $1M, up from $200k; additionally Apple is opening the scheme to all security researchers (previously restricted to those signed up to its bug bounty program) .Update: Apple will offer special iPhones to select security researchers; those signed up to the iOS Security Research Device program will be able to access iPhones with advanced debug capabilities, ssh, and a root shell; Apple says the program will be open to those with a record of high-quality security research . link

Google begins including individual podcast episodes in search results; users have to add the word “podcast” to their search, and episode results play in the Google Podcasts web app; the company plans to add playback support via third-party apps . link

Podcast monetization platform Glow raises $2.3M seed led by Greycroft with participation from Norwest Venture Partners and others; the startup offers tools to let fans directly support their favorite podcasts . link

Uber ($72.8B market cap) FQ2 misses: $3.1B revenue, up 14 percent year-on-year ($3.3B expected); $5.2B loss; $1.3B loss when excluding stock-based compensation; Uber Eats saw $3.4B in gross bookings ($3.5B expected) . link

Huawei officially announces HongmengOS - aka HarmonyOS - an operating system for use on smart speakers, smartphones, and more; Huawei’s head of consumer products Richard Yu says the OS will first appear on yet-to-be-announced smart screen products but notes it can work with wearables, IoT sensors, and more; Yu says the company would prefer to use Android for its smartphones, but claims the company could quickly transition to HongmengOS if it had to . link

Facebook is in talks with multiple news outlets to license content for a dedicated news section, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the firm is offering media firms as much as $3M per year for access to headlines and previews of articles; Facebook has approached companies such as ABC News, The Washington Post, and Dow Jones; the section is expected to launch later this year .Update: Facebook confirms it plans to launch a news tab this fall; the company has not disclosed many details, but says it will feature “trustworthy news” . link

Broadcom ($108B market cap) acquires Symantec's ($14B market cap) enterprise division for $10.7B in cash; expected to close by year's end; the companies reportedly halted previous negotiations for a full buyout due to pricing disagreements; Symantec expects to provide shareholders with a $12-per-share dividend following deal closure . link

Groupon ($1.52B market cap) acquires B2C calling and messaging platform Presence AI; terms undisclosed; Groupon will add the automated communications tech to its booking products; the Presence AI team will join Groupon; previously raised $20k . link

Distributed network platform SignalWire raises $11.5M Series A led by Storm Ventures; enables 5k enterprise clients to build infrastructure, communications products, more; offers a managed elastic framework for apps . link

Pre-launch Ramp Financial, which reportedly plans a Brex-like corporate credit card for startups, raises $7M from Founders Fund, BoxGroup, and Coatue Management, TechCrunch reports; reportedly raised on a $25M pre-valuation; the company is in a very early stage and might rebrand before launching . link

New York City-based Valar Ventures closes Fund V at $150M; closed Fund IV in September 2018 at $133M; founding members James Fitzgerald and Andrew McCormack are managing Fund V; the Thiel Capital spinout primarily targets early-stage investments; portfolio includes TransferWise, BlockFi, and Breather; exits include Xero . link

Webflow, which provides a code-free tool for building responsive websites, raises $72M Series A led by Accel; a Forbes source indicated a post-valuation of $350M to $400M; claims 47k business customers; profitable for two years with $20M in annualized revenue; raised $75M to date . link

Video-native computer vision tech company Voxel51 raises $2M seed led by eLab Ventures; provides an image and video analysis platform for identifying and tagging objects, understanding motion over time, etc; has applications in autonomous driving, robotics, more; raised $3.25M to date, including a NIST grant . link

Automotive parts supplier Continental says it will no longer invest in internal combustion engine components; will shift efforts and resources to the electric powertrain; the company cited increasing and consistent demand from partners for electrification tech . link

Federal court rejects Facebook's appeal of a class-action suit that alleged Facebook broke the law by collecting and storing users' biometric data without their permission; IL users filed the case in 2015, citing the state's Biometric Information Privacy Act; Facebook faces potential damage claims in the billions . link

Apple launches its Music for Artists dashboard out of beta; previously a web-only product, the company now offers a dedicated iOS app; enables artists to see visualized data on commercial performance, more; also provides Shazam data; stats are viewable by city . link

GitHub launches continuous delivery and integration with the new beta of workflow automation product Actions; plans general availability in November; enables developers to build, test, and deploy on any platform; link

Twitch launches broadcasting app Twitch Studio in beta for Windows; to date, creators have relied on third-party solutions, such as OBS and Streamlabs; Studio primarily targets new streamers with a simple interface for arranging a picture-in-picture headshot, displaying link

Austin-based accounting and finance software company ScaleFactor raises $60M Series C led by Coatue Management; provides a back-office SaaS suite for SMBs; employs 200 people, including 30 CPAs; raised $100M total, all since last July . link

Cybersecurity and compliance startup emerges with $31M from Mayfield and General Catalyst; employs 130, including former Symantec, Cisco, and Blue Coat workers; provides tools for orchestration and automation in retail, financial services, insurance, more . link