The Daily Download - latest tech news for 2019-09-09, fan podcast based on @launchticker

The download for 2019-09-09 →


Reuters profiles Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma as he prepares to step down on Sept 10; Ma announced his departure last year, noting he is leaving on his 55th birthday; Ma will remain a part of Alibaba’s corporate governance group, which is separate from its board of directors; Alibaba is set to host a farewell party at the 80k capacity Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center stadium . link

Expense management firm AppZen raises $50M Series C led by Coatue Management with participation from Redpoint Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners; TechCrunch says the firm is now valued at $500M; the company offers AI-powered auditing solutions to enterprise customers; has raised ~$100M to date . link

Carmaker Daimler starts testing Level 4 autonomous trucks on public roads in VA; each vehicle has a safety driver behind the wheel and an engineer to monitor the truck’s systems; follows the Daimler signed a partnership with BMW earlier this year to develop driverless tech . link

Healthtech firm Vim raises $24M Series B led by Optum Ventures with participation from Premera Blue Cross, Great Point Ventures, and Sequoia Capital; the company provides online tools to connect patients with healthcare providers; has raised $37M to date . link

Binny Bansal, co-founder of Flipkart, plans to launch a Singapore-based VC fund with a target of $300M to $400M, according to sources for The Times of India; the fund will primarily focus on Indian startups, but it will also consider other companies across Southeast Asia; Bansal will serve as a general partner, while current Flipkart exec Rajneesh Baweja will handle the VC firm’s finance and legal operations; it’s expected to go live later this year . link

India-based Good Capital closes its first fund at $25M; the VC firm plans to invest between $100k and $2M in early-stage companies; targets Indian startups working on solutions for new internet adopters; Good Capital was founded by Rohan Malhotra and Arjun Malhotra who previously established startup networking firm Investopad . link

Google says it has received a notice from the Department of Justice, asking for details relating to previous antitrust investigations; represents the first acknowledgement that the company is facing a federal competition probe; the DoJ previously announced a broad antitrust inquiry into large tech firms; Google notes it expects similar requests from state attorney generals . link

Huawei accuses US officials of pursuing a “selective prosecution” against a Chinese professor with links to the company; Bo Mao, an associate professor at Xiamen University and a visiting professor at the University of Texas, has been charged with trying to steal IP from an unnamed CA-based tech firm; Huawei indicates the case relates to semiconductor company CNEX and a civil lawsuit which has found Huawei misappropriated a trade secret . link

Uizard, a Denmark-based app prototyping platform, raises $2.8M seed led by byFounders with participation from LDV Capital, av8 Ventures, and others; the startup offers an AI-powered platform that promises to convert hand-drawn concept app designs into wireframe development models; has raised $3.6M to date . link

Apple and manufacturing partner Foxconn have broken Chinese labor laws by using too many temporary staff, reports Bloomberg; advocacy group China Labor Watch says nonpermanent staff made up ~50 percent of the workforce last month at a Foxconn facility in Zhengzhou; the legal limit is 10 percent; Apple says its working with Foxconn to fix the issue .Update: Apple also confirms interns have been made to work overtime at night; the company says it has since rectified the problem; follows a report that Foxconn has hired schoolchildren under the guise of internships to assemble devices for Amazon and others; it’s unclear whether school-age workers worked on Apple products . link

Apple will stream its Sept 10 event live on YouTube, marking the first time the company has ever done so; the company traditionally streams its iPhone events via its own website, but last year expanded to also include Twitter; users can watch the event via this link, and set a reminder to be notified when its starts . link

Germany-based VTOL firm Volocopter raises €50M (~$55M) Series C led by Zhejiang Geely; the company is developing multi-occupancy aerial vehicles for use within cities; Volocopter hopes to launch an aerial taxi service by 2022; has raised more than $90M to date . link

France-based fintech firm Spendesk raises $38.4M Series B led by Index Ventures; the company provides expense management tools to enterprise customers; has raised ~$50M to date . link

VentureBeat profiles TCL’s DragonHinge, a folding-screen concept smartphone with a clamshell design; the report notes the hinge is relatively loose and that it doesn’t fully lock in place; TCL says development on the device is still in the early stages, so it’s unclear if or when such a product may launch . link

Italy-based female-focused media company Freeda raises $16M Series B led by Alven with participation from Endeavor Catalyst and others; the firm operates multiple social media accounts offering short-form interviews, videos, articles, and more; has raised $30M to date . link

Russian officials say Facebook and Google allowed political ads on Sept 8, an election day; media regulator Roskomnadzor claims both companies had been asked to block such marketing and suggests their actions could be viewed as a form of interference; it’s unknown what consequences the firms will face, if any .Update: Google says it supports responsible political ads in accordance with local laws; it has not confirmed whether it did allow such marketing to run during yesterday’s local elections . link

Switzerland-based ProtonMail is in talks with Huawei about the prospect of bundling its encrypted email app with future devices, reports Bloomberg; ProtonMail CEO Andy Yen notes a final decision is yet to be made, but says the app could also be included in Huawei’s AppGallery store; Yen says Huawei sees ProtonMail as a potential alternative to Gmail; US companies are currently restricted from working with Huawei . link

Bug bounty firm HackerOne raises $36.4M Series D led by Valor Equity Partners with participation from Benchmark, New Enterprise Associates, and others; the company provides a platform for running bug reporting schemes; partners include PayPal, Twitter, and the Department of Defense; has raised $110M to date . link

The download for 2020-01-27 →


Israel-based AI management firm Iguazio raises $24M led by INcapital Ventures with participation from Samsung SDS and others; the company offers a suite of tools for overseeing AI-powered apps; has raised $72M to date . link

UK-based fintech startup Teller raises $4M seed from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Founders Fund, and others; the company offers APIs to banks and other financial institutions . link

Google and Microsoft are collaborating on improved tab management for Chromium-based browsers, according to code logs; Microsoft’s Edge browser supports the ability to move multiple to tabs another window in a single action, and it’s now adapting the feature to work in Chrome; it’s unknown when it will roll out . link

India-based procurement platform BazaarNXT raises $450k seed from SureCash CFO Suresh Mahadevan, GrabFood exec Saad Ahmed, and others; the startup operates a marketplace connecting restaurants with food container suppliers . link

Richard Corbett, Bird’s head of UK and Ireland operations, exits the company; Corbett has cited difficulties in getting legislators to approve scooters in the UK; Bird launched a limited service on private land in London’s Olympic Park in 2018, but it is yet to expand the scheme further . link

WeWork signs a three-year to provide office space for gym app Gympass, according to Reuters sources; full terms unknown; WeWork will provide space for 250 Gympass staff; SoftBank controls WeWork’s parent firm and is also an investor in Gympass . link

Tokyo police have arrested a former SoftBank employee suspected of passing along trade secrets to Russia; police say 48-year-old Yutaka Araki admitted to taking info from SoftBank’s telco unit in February last year; Araki allegedly passed the data along to a trade representative based at the Russian Embassy in Tokyo . link

India-based B2B platform Bizongo raises $30M Series C led by Schroder Adveq with participation from B Capital, Accel, Chiratae Ventures, and IFC; Bizongo operates a marketplace connecting packaging firms with enterprise customers; has raised ~$56M to date . link

Dom Hofmann, founder of newly launched short video platform Byte, says the company is focused on tackling bot accounts; Hofman says dealing with spam and other types of comments is Byte’s priority; he also says users will soon also be able to filter and block comments; Hofman previously co-founded Vine, which was subsequently acquired by Twitter; it shutdown in 2017 . link

Hundreds of Amazon workers plan to openly criticize the company this week, potentially threatening their jobs, reports Recode; follows a report Amazon has warned those who identify themselves as employees when speaking publicly about the company; staff are being encouraged to add their names to pre-written statements, or to post their own comments; The Washington Post says more than 300 people will participate in activities .Update: more than 350 Amazon staff provide comments for a Medium post criticizing the company; the post from Amazon Employees for Climate Justice includes attributed quotes calling on the company to do more to tackle the climate crisis . link

Apple files a patent for a desktop computer that combines the screen, keyboard, and touchpad in a single unibody design; the filing notes the keyboard could be removable; illustrations also indicate the lower section could fold up to make the device easier to stow away; unknown if or when it will be incorporated into a real product . link

Vivo overtakes Samsung to become the second most popular smartphone brand in India, according to Counterpoint data; in Q4 2019 Vivo had 21 percent market share, up 131 percent year-on-year; Samsung had 19 percent, down 1 percent year-on-year; Xiaomi is first with 27 percent, unchanged from the previous year . link

Multiple state attorneys general will meet with officials from the Department of Justice to discuss ongoing probes into Google, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; it’s believed the meeting could lead to more formal coordination as the separate investigations continue; Google is reportedly being investigated over practices relating to Search and its control of Android . link

UK-based challenger bank Monzo has met with SoftBank as it seeks to raise $100M, according to sources for The Telegraph; talks are still at an early stage and no deal has been signed; Monzo has raised ~$425M to date and is valued at $2.5B . link

Jeff Bezos and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) of Saudi Arabia were in personal contact about Amazon investing in the country, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the nation is developing NEOM, a $500M city, and Amazon was one of the few Western firms interested in participating; in return, Saudi Arabia offered 99 years of free rent; Bezos was reportedly ready to commit as much as $4B to Amazon’s Saudi operations; the relationship soured because of certain Amazon decisions and Bezos’ ownership of The Washington Post; follows reports Saudi Arabia hacked Bezos’ phone . link

President Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have discussed a pending decision about whether to allow Huawei access to Britain’s 5G network, reports Bloomberg; the report indicates Johnson is likely to let the company participate in some areas of the system; the Financial Times reports the UK might impose a limit on how much market share Huawei can hold; a decision is expected this week . link

Bangladesh-based mobility startup Jatri raises an undisclosed seed from Superangel, Falcon Network, and others; the firm offers an app that lets users track the real-time location of buses and purchase tickets; since launching eight months ago, Jatri says it has attracted 30k users taking more than 50k trips . link

Motorola publishes a video about caring for the new Razr foldable smartphone, warning that display “bumps and lumps are normal”; the company advises to avoid sharp objects and to not get the device wet; the $1.5k Razr begins shipping Feb 6 . link

UK-based fintech firm Currencycloud raises $80M Series E from Visa, BNP Paribas, and others the company offers global remittance APIs to financial institutions; has raised $140M to date . link

The download for 2020-01-26 →


The UK will not adopt the EU Copyright Directive, according to Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore; EU member states must implement reforms by June 7, 2021; the UK will have exited the EU by that time; many tech companies have argued against the new regulations, which will require platforms to police user-generated content for copyrighted material . link

NJ prohibits police in the state from using Clearview AI's software, which compares suspect photos to a database of 3B images scraped from social media and other sources; state Attorney General Gurbir S Grewal expressed concern about data privacy, the integrity of investigations, cybersecurity, more; the NYPD recently said Clearview AI lied in its marketing about playing a role in a terrorism investigation . link

Cloud container security management company Anchore raises $20M Series A led by SignalFire; offers container inspection and compliance, and supports heavily regulated industries; the funding will fuel R&D, and CEO Saïd Ziouani said the company is ready to scale sales, services, and engineering; raised $30M to date . link

Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galha says central banks should handle digital currencies, not private companies; he said central banks planning digital currencies are not reacting to Facebook's Libra, but responding to consumer sentiment and technology; he also noted the rapid decline in the use of cash in parts of northern Europe . link

EV company Rivian unveils its R1S SUV and R1T pickup models, says prices will be lower than previously announced; Founder and CEO RJ Scaringe once said the R1S would run ~$72k and the R1T would cost ~$69k; the company plans a charging station network but says most existing stations will support Rivian vehicles; founded in 2009, the company unveiled its first prototype in 2018; raised $3.6B to date . link

The Guardian's Samuel Gibbs reviews Fossil's Gen 5, says it's the best Wear OS smartwatch available; the 1.28-inch AMOLED screen is always on by default and automatically adjusts for visibility in direct sunlight; overcomes the sluggishness and poor battery life of many other Wear OS devices; Gibbs notes that Wear OS, despite recent improvements, still lags behind Apple's watchOS and Samsung's Tizen in features and sheen . link

The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern analyzes the features that have made TikTok a phenomenon app that's difficult to close; TikTok's algorithm creates a personalized, endless feed of videos created by strangers, usually devoid of controversial and emotionally charged topics; the button-free swipe interface encourages extended viewing without distraction . link

Canceled taxes on Chinese goods clear the way for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and Switch Pro; Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo sent US trade representative Joseph Barloon a joint letter in June of last year urging the cancelation of a planned 25-percent import tax on goods affecting the console makers; President Trump did delay the tax twice; following the signing of a trade deal with China, President Trump said the new taxes were off the table . link

India surpasses the US for the first time (on an annual basis) to become the world's second-largest smartphone market, according to Counterpoint's Market Monitor; the country saw 158M shipments, up seven percent year-over-year; Chinese brands drove the growth, and Xiaomi represented 28 percent of the Indian market last year . link

Jury reduces Apple's patent infringement payment to WiLan from $145M to $85M; in 2018 a jury found Apple had violated two WiLan patents that enable simultaneous phone calls and data transfers; the second trial reviewed damages only . link

Wired examines the state of tech-centric oral hygiene products, including sonic- and AI-powered toothbrushes with sensors to detect plaque, LED teeth whitening kits, more; Oral-B showcased its smart iO brush at CES; a companion app displays information about the average time spent cleaning, percentage of mouth brushed, more . link

Latest Tesla software update includes references to integrated Qi phone chargers for Models S and X, new battery types for S and X, a new charge port type, a new suspension version, and a change to lumbar support, according to an owner on Twitter . link

Google now charges police departments and other agencies to fulfill user data requests; the company charges $60 for a wiretap, $45 for a subpoena, and $245 for a search warrant, according to a notice reviewed by The New York Times; federal law allows such charges and a Google spokesperson said the fees would help to offset the costs of compliance . link

Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor who wrote “The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail,” dies at 67 from leukemia treatment complications; he founded Rose Park Advisors and Innosight, and served as an advisor to Intel . link

Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip, the company's second device with a folding display, will support bidirectional wireless charging up to 15 watts, according to a new leak; features a side-mounted fingerprint scanner and an external display that shows charge information, time, and likely notifications; the internal screen is Ultra-Thin Glass with a Dynamic AMOLED underneath . link

5G could improve remote working conditions and enable more people to work from home, The Wall Street Journal reports; increased speeds mitigate the performance problems of connecting to work securely through a VPN; reduced latency provides better teleconferencing and screen and file sharing; though remote work allows people to move out of expensive cities, 5G will likely serve large metro areas years before rural areas . link

In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Harvard Kennedy School Fellow Bruce Schneier argues that restrictions on facial recognition tech miss the more significant point: that facial recognition is just one method of identification used by a surveillance infrastructure that ultimately enables discrimination; alternative identification methods include gait recognition, heartbeat monitoring, iris and fingerprint scans, more . link

Prosecutors have evidence Jeff Bezos' girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, gave intimate text messages to her brother, who sold them to the National Enquirer, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the Enquirer quoted the messages when reporting on Bezos' affair with Sanchez; the US attorney office is investigating whether the Enquirer attempted to extort Bezos, and, sources say, the alleged hack of Bezos' phone . link

Online education tech and curriculum company K12 ($806M market cap) to acquire Denver-based Galvanize, which operates coding bootcamps and co-working spaces, for $165M cash, according to an email viewed by The Information; the companies reportedly plan to announce the deal on Jan 27 . link

Samasource Founder and CEO Leila Janah passes away at 37 due to complications from Epithelioid Sarcoma; before creating AI training data company Samasource, she founded luxury skincare company LXMI; she also served on multiple boards .Watch Jason speak with Leila on This Week in Startups in 2018: link

Vine Co-Founder Dom Hofmann launches short-form video clips app Byte for iOS and Android; like Vine, Byte enables users to create and share videos with a six-second time limit; features an Explore section, a feed, profiles, etc; plans to launch a pilot of its partner monetization program soon; initially, the company will pay partners directly and share revenue . link

The download for 2020-01-25 →


Berlin court rules Facebook's terms of service violated local GDPR interpretation regarding informed consent for user data collection; the decision partially upheld a complaint from the Federation of German Consumer Organizations, which said the ruling demonstrated the group could file such claims without the involvement of affected customers . link

Activision Blizzard enters multi-year agreement with Google that gives YouTube exclusive streaming rights for e-sport competitions; includes the popular link

The Wall Street Journal profiles Apple VP of Procurement Tony Blevins, known for hardline tactics in negotiating with suppliers and depriving competitors of subcontractor options; he reportedly arranged a 50-percent discount on Intel modems compared to what Samsung paid; Tim Cook called on Blevins to negotiate the glass for the company's new headquarters in Cupertino . link

The Shlayer trojan accounted for 29 percent of all attacks on macOS in 2019, according to Kaspersky; the virus installs numerous adware applications; also intercepts search and other traffic to trick users into clicking ad links; the perpetrators also trick content creators to insert malicious links in their video descriptions and more . link

Google to adjust desktop Search redesign that made ads less distinguishable from content links; in response to user criticism, the company said the intent was to align the desktop look with mobile Search; Google plans to experiment with visual changes for desktop Search over the coming weeks . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Emmanuel Straschnov, co-founder and co-CEO of no-code app development platform Bubble; the conversation covers insights on bootstrapping to 300k users, developing skills while scaling, more . link

Amazon researchers detail an AI-powered system for automated movie dubbing; the speech-to-speech pipeline aligns dubbed audio with the original, and can adjust word duration to better match actors' mouths; also reproduces original emotion; the system automatically adds reverberation and background sounds . link

Autonomous vehicle company Aurora, founded by former Waymo engineer Chris Urmson, demonstrated its tech to journalists for the first time just before the new year, ~three years after launching; The Verge's Zoe Schiffer took a test ride in a modified Lincoln MKZ and observed the company's core product, Aurora Driver; Aurora plans to test on public roads this year and to outfit a tractor-trailer; raised $690M to date . link

Sen Edward Markey (D-MA) urges Tesla to rebrand its assistive driving system, Autopilot, calling the name inherently misleading; Markey also called for revised marketing to reduce misuse, and for Tesla to develop monitoring tools to ensure drivers don't fall asleep at the wheel; Tesla responded that it had taken numerous steps to ensure driver engagement . link

Marina Del Rey-based commercial real estate marketplace CREXi raises $29M Series B from Lerer Hippeau, Industry Ventures, others; generates revenue via a broker subscription service, an auction service, and a data and analytics service; raised $53M to date . link

The Trump administration plans to pressure e-commerce platforms, logistics providers, and others to better combat online sales of counterfeit goods; a new report from the Department of Homeland Security seeks new laws empowering the government to seek injunctive relief against violators; the report indicates Customs and Border Protection will scrutinize US warehouses and fulfillment centers receiving foreign goods . link

The Department of Commerce withdraws proposed regulations that would have made it more difficult for US companies operating overseas to do business with Huawei, The Wall Street Journal reports; the decision reportedly followed objections from the Defense and Treasury Departments; the Pentagon reportedly expressed concern that such restrictions could reduce R&D spending and harm the US as a tech leader . link

Wired explores the Pwn2Own Miami hacking contest, the first of the biannual event to focus exclusively on penetrating industrial control software; the goal of Pwn2Own, which debuted in 2007, is to help companies strengthen product security; winners often take home successfully hacked gadgets; the most recent event rewarded successful breaches with cash prizes . link

Accenture, which operates a YouTube content moderation office in Austin, recently required moderators to sign a document to acknowledge awareness that the job can cause post-traumatic stress disorder, The Verge reports; Accenture distributed the documents four days after The Verge reported on PTSD at the facility .Update: Accenture has distributed a similar document to Facebook content moderators in Europe, according to Financial Times sources . link

AZ-based adult site SextPanther, which enables models to interact with and send explicit media to paying customers, exposes 11k-plus worker identity documents in an unsecured AWS storage bucket (now offline); the bucket also contained ~100k media files belonging to workers; webcam affiliate network IML SLU recently exposed data belonging to ~4k models . link

The download for 2020-01-24 →


Multiple Japanese lawmakers are working on a proposal that could eventually see the country launch its own stablecoin; vice minister Norihiro Nakayama says the government could develop a cryptocurrency with private sector partners; Nakayama notes China is developing a crypto yuan and says Japanese policymakers want to counter its efforts . link

Jack Dorsey rejected a request to hold a fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, according to a Recode source; Gabbard’s team proposed the idea to Dorsey last year; he was initially interested in hosting an event alongside Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian; Dorsey - who has donated to Gabbard’s campaign - ultimately declined, saying he did not want to fully support any specific candidate . link

London’s Metropolitan Police announces it will soon begin using facial recognition cameras on the city’s streets; the tech will be in action for five to six hours per day, with checks run against specific lists of suspects; privacy campaigners say the move is a threat to civil freedoms . link

Wikipedia says it now hosts more than 6M English-language articles; English is the platform’s most popular language followed by German (2.3M articles), and French (2.1M); English Wikipedia articles see an average of 255M visitors daily, according to SimilarWeb data . link

India-based fintech firm Pine Labs raises an undisclosed investment from Mastercard; The Economic Times has indicated the funding could value Pine Labs at $1B; the company offers a suite of merchant services across India and Malaysia; previously raised more than $310M . link

DNA testing firm 23andMe cuts 100 staff, equal to 14 percent of its workforce, reports CNBC; CEO Anne Wojcicki notes slowing demand for the company’s products and says user privacy concerns may be a factor; Wojcicki says the firm will focus more on its direct-to-consumer and therapeutics divisions; it will also scale back on its clinical studies operations . link

Detroit-based drone-flight management firm Airspace Link raises $4M led by Indicator Ventures with participation from 2048 Ventures and others; the FAA-approved startup offers airspace monitoring tools to municipalities . link

Italy’s antitrust watchdog launches official proceedings against Facebook, claiming the company has not complied with a previous order; the agency fined Facebook €5M (~$5.5M) in 2018 and told the company it had to inform Italian users how their data is being used via a statement on its platform; regulators say Facebook has not displayed the notice . link

Transport for London (TfL) makes public a report outlining the reasons why it has not given Uber a permanent license; Uber did not properly report several allegations of sexual assault and rape, and also failed to validate IDs for multiple drivers; TfL blocked Uber’s permit last November; the company is allowed to keep operating as it awaits an appeal . link

Facebook’s VP of global affairs Nick Clegg says he’s “very, very confident” Jeff Bezos’ phone was not hacked via WhatsApp; speaking with the BBC, Clegg suggests the vector of the attack was the device OS, rather than WhatsApp itself; security researchers have previously identified vulnerabilities within WhatsApp . link

Foxconn founder Terry Gou says he will fully return to the company in a leadership capacity; Gou stepped down as chairman last year to run for president of Taiwan, though he remained on Foxconn's board; Gou is set to head a new global fund targeting tech firms in the US, Japan, Germany, and Israel; Liu Young is expected to remain in the chairman role . link

Facial recognition firm Clearview AI has made misleading claims about the use of its products, according to BuzzFeed News; the firm says its tech was used by law enforcement to identify a terrorism suspect, a claim the New York City Police Department says is wrong; the report also says Clearview AI CEO Hoan Ton-That has links to white nationalists . link

Netherlands-based Takeaway.com says UK regulators are probing its ~$8.2B merger with fellow food delivery firm Just Eat; the deal was initially agreed last July but it was complicated by a rival bid from Prosus; Just Eat stakeholders approved the Takeaway.com arrangement earlier this month; Takeaway.com says it believes the merger will close slightly later than planned . link

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will announce a plan to tackle the online availability of counterfeit goods, reports The Wall Street Journal; the agency will warn Amazon, Shopify, and other e-commerce firms that they must do more to block the sale of fake products, or risk closer scrutiny and possible fines; DHS also says US-based warehouses will face checks even after products have cleared the border . link

Google’s Dataset Search exits beta; the tool allows the scientific community to search open datasets provided by universities, government agencies, and others; Dataset Search has added new features including more filtering options and the support for the mobile web . link

Samsung plans to launch an AirDrop-like feature for Galaxy smartphones, reports XDA Developers; known as Quick Share, it will let users send photos, videos, and other files to nearby compatible devices; unlike AirDrop, Quick Share passes files along via the cloud; expected to launch alongside Samsung Galaxy S20 on Feb 11 . link

Uber gets approval to operate in Vancouver; a licensing tribunal in British Columbia granted the permit after many years of lobbying; Uber first launched in the city in 2012 but was soon forced to cease operations; the company says it expects to roll out services across the Vancouver metro area in the coming days . link

Chipmakers Qorvo and Skyworks Solutions are considering bids for Broadcom’s RF chip unit, according to Bloomberg sources; the report notes other buyers could be interested, but their identities are unknown; The Wall Street Journal reported last month Broadcom is looking to offload the division . link

Sonos CEO Patrick Spence apologizes for confusion over the future of the company’s older products; the firm announced earlier this week it will stop providing software patches for certain devices from May this year; Spence says the products will continue to work as they currently do, and that the company will provide updates for as long as possible . link

Mobile adtech firm Aki Technologies acquires assets from defunct rival Eyeview; terms undisclosed; Eyeview offered targeted video ads; Aki has also hired some of Eyeview’s staff . link

Broadcom announces two agreements to supply Apple with wireless components; along with previous contracts to supply Apple with radio frequency components and modules, Broadcom could earn $15B from the partnership . link

Google launches Dataset Search in general availability; the product launched in beta in September 2018, enabling scientists to search open-access data from universities, government agencies, and other sources that provide open-source metadata tags; with the launch out of beta, Google added filtering options, expanded dataset descriptions, mobile access, more . link

Uber to deploy three autonomous vehicles in Washington, DC on Jan 24; the company's Advanced Technologies Group will initially operate the vehicles in manual mode to collect mapping and scenario data; Uber is doing the same in San Francisco, Dallas, and Toronto . link

TX-based launch services company Firefly Aerospace is investigating a fire that interrupted the company's first hot test of its Alpha launch vehicle's engines; Firefly said the facility fire suppression system extinguished the flames, and neither company personnel nor the pubic were ever in danger . link

Q&A platform Quora is conducting layoffs at its Bay Area and New York City offices; in his announcement, CEO Adam D'Angelo did not disclose the number of affected employees or other details; he cited the need to reduce the company's burn rate to a sustainable level and to focus on responsible long-term growth . link

The Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issues an alert regarding the link

One in ten central banks likely to roll out a digital currency in the next few years, according to a 2019 survey by the Bank for International Settlements; those responding positively could serve one-fifth of the world's population; with the timeframe expanded to six years, nearly two of ten banks expected to launch digital currencies . link

Microsoft is rolling out SDKs and emulators for dual-screen apps; the company released the SDK for its Surface Duo Android phone in preview on Jan 22, and plans to release the preview SDK for Windows 10x dual-screen devices in coming weeks; plans to release the Hyper-V dual-screen emulator on Feb 11 . link

Swatters are increasingly targeting tech executives and employees, The New York Times reports after contacting six police departments; there is no central database tracking the incidents, in which perpetrators make false reports about target addresses in the hope that SWAT will respond; attackers reportedly have focused on Facebook employees, and have targeted Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri in two locations . link

The Department of Energy earmarks ~$300M for grants supporting sustainable transportation; $133M from the DOE's Vehicles Technologies Office will go to groups working on battery, engine, and fuel technologies; the agency's Fuel Cells Technologies Office will grant $64M for hydrogen fuel cell tech; the Bioenergy Technologies Office will give $100 million to support work on alternative fuels . link

Switzerland's national postal service to resume drone deliveries after suspending the program in August of last year due to two crashes; Swiss Post and US drone company Matternet, which provided the fleet, have since established an independent board to review the program's safety processes and make recommendations; Matternet and Swiss Post are working to implement the recommended changes . link

Membership-based primary care company One Medical seeks a valuation of $1.71B to $1.96B for its IPO; the company's S-1/A indicates an expected price range of $14 to $16 per share; CNBC reported that One Medical's last round, in August 2018, valued the firm at $1.5B and that the company has since traded on secondary markets at ~$2B; raised $532M to date . link

Amazon has padded its Prime Video library with amateur and questionable content to inflate the number of titles it offers, The Wall Street Journal reports; Amazon claims the largest selection of streaming content with ~65k titles; 66 percent of those titles are user uploads, which include instructional clips and conspiracy videos; some of the low-quality content bears titles apparently intended to confuse consumers and trade on the names of popular works . link

Niantic says public events for its walking games, like link

Facial recognition tech company Clearview AI, which compares photos to billions of images scraped from social media for criminal investigations, lied in its marketing efforts about playing a role in solving a terrorism case, according to the New York Police Department; the NYPD said Clearview was not involved in the investigation after the company used the claim to sell its product to police departments across the country . link

Google's search redesign for desktop, which mitigates visual differentiation between search results and ads, has caused users to click more ads, according to Digiday data; The Verge refers to the changes as an intended dark pattern; the only indicator for ads is a small link

The download for 2020-01-23 →


Apple launches a gym partnership scheme; known as Apple Watch Connected, the program comprises exercise incentives, GymKit connectivity, and more; Apple is working with Orangetheory, Basecamp, YMCA, and Crunch Fitness at launch . link

The US government plans to offer financial assistance to other countries so they can purchase non-Huawei 5G network equipment, according to an unnamed official speaking with The Wall Street Journal; the official notes the White House is not concerned about China accessing direct secure comms between the US and UK, but suggests a telco could be compromised, leading to other issues . link

Microsoft, Cloudflare, and others will offer free or reduced cost cybersecurity services to presidential campaigns; follows a push by advocacy group Defending Digital Campaigns (DDC), which is also assisting tech firms in navigating campaign finance rules; DDC was founded by Matt Rhoades, campaign manager for Mitt Romney in 2012, and Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager in 2016 . link

Twitter sends a cease and desist letter to facial recognition firm Clearview AI, ordering it to stop scraping images and other data from the social platform; Twitter has also demanded Clearview delete previously collected info; follows a report profiling Clearview’s activities building a database of publicly available photos and selling search access to law enforcement agencies . link

VMware ($61.4B market cap) acquires IT analytics firm Nyansa; terms undisclosed; Nyansa offers AI-powered tools for monitoring the performance of Wi-Fi networks; VMware plans to combine Nyansa’s products with its own AIOps products; the deal is expected to close in FQ1 2021; Nyansa raised $27M to date . link

Pornhub adds support for tether stablecoin (USDT), allowing models to receive crypto payments tied to the US dollar; the company is also offering Cosmo Payment which allows for money to be sent via prepaid cards; PayPal ended its relationship with Pornhub last year . link

ByteDance-owned TikTok signs a deal with music licensing agency Merlin; the arrangement allows TikTok to feature tracks controlled by tens-of-thousands of independent music labels; a TechCrunch source says the agreement also covers ByteDance’s music streaming service Resso, which is currently being tested in India and Indonesia . link

Visitor management firm Proxyclick raises $15M Series B led by Five Elms with participation from Join Capital; the company offers tablet-based sign-in kiosks to enterprise customers; has raised ~$18M to date . link

Serial Productions, the company behind the popular “Serial” podcast, is exploring a sale, according to a source for The Wall Street Journal; the first season of “Serial” has registered more than 300M downloads; The New York Times is among the potential buyers; Serial Productions is owned by host Sarah Koenig, and fellow founders Julie Snyder and Ira Glass . link

Tesla’s market cap passes $100M, making it the world’s second most valuable car company; the firm is now placed ahead of Volkswagen which has a market cap of ~$99.6B; Toyota has a valuation of $231.6B .Update: Elon Musk could receive bonus compensation worth at least $370M if Tesla’s valuation holds, reports The New York Times; if Tesla’s market cap remains at an average of at least $100M over six months, including a consecutive 30-day period, Musk can purchase 1.7B shares . link

UK business minister Andrea Leadsom says the government will soon decide whether to allow Huawei to participate in the country’s 5G network; speaking with broadcaster Sky, Leadsom notes there are other providers, but she says they’re limited in what they can provide; follows pressure from the US to not allow Huawei’s involvement .Update: US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he will meet with his UK counterpart later this week to discuss the possibility of Britain allowing Huawei access to its network; speaking with reporters, Mnuchin says the situation is “complicated,” but says the US has made clear it has significant concerns . link

Match Group has made a strategic investment in safety-monitoring app Noonlight, reports The Wall Street Journal; terms undisclosed, but Match has taken a seat on the board; as part of the deal, Noonlight will soon power new safety features within Tinder; includes support for check-ins and the ability for users to notify authorities of their location; other Match-owned dating apps are also set to get the features . link

India-based mobility firm Bounce (formerly Metro Bikes) raises $105M Series D led by B Capital and Accel Partners; Bounce offers electric and gas-powered moped-sharing services, overseen by a network of independent merchants; has raised $194M to date . link

Google researchers say they found multiple flaws in Safari that could have allowed users to be followed across the web, even if they had opted out of tracking; the issues related to Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention tool, meant to block third-party cookie tracking; Google informed Apple of five bugs last August; Apple all the issues been fixed . link

Twitter begins rolling out emoji reactions within Direct Messages; similar to Apple’s iMessage, users can add select emojis to specific chats; available via desktop web and mobile . link

UK-based Busuu acquires fellow language-learning firm Verbling; terms undisclosed; Verbling provides one-to-one video tutoring, offering lessons in more than 50 languages; Verbling CEO Mikael Bernstein and CTO Gustav Rydstedt will join Busuu . link

Amazon files an injunction request to temporarily stop Microsoft from working on a $10B Pentagon contract; Amazon is challenging the decision to award the JEDI program to Microsoft, claiming it was likely influenced by President Trump’s bias . link

TripAdvisor is laying off ~200 staff, according to Bloomberg sources; it's unclear which departments will lose workers; the firm had 3.8k employees at the end of last September; the report notes TripAdvisor is facing increased competition from Google . link

Foodtech firm Memphis Meats raises $161M from SoftBank, Norwest, and Temasek; the company is developing tech to create meat derived from animal cells; has raised $180M to date . link

Seven tech companies spent ~$500M on lobbying over the past 10 years, The Washington Post reports; the paper analyzed federal filings and other data for Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Uber; Facebook spent ~$17M last year, the most of any year so far . link

Collaborative email company Front raises $59M Series C from Atlassian Co-Founder Cannon-Brookes and President Jay Simons, Okta Co-Founder Frederic Kerrest, and others; the company said its valuation quadrupled over its last round; raised $197M to date . link

Amazon Music now claims 55M users globally, compared to Apple Music's 60M (as of June); Amazon charges Prime members $10 per month for its Music Unlimited product, which offers an expanded catalog; the company launched an ad-supported tier late last year . link

United Nations special rapporteurs demand US inquiry regarding the alleged 2018 hack of Jeff Bezos' phone; Agnès Callamard and David Kaye expressed grave concern that the attack, reportedly linked to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's WhatsApp account, could have been an effort to influence or silence The Washington Post's reporting on Saudi Arabia . link

MI agrees to settle suit from Tesla, will allow the company to sell directly to consumers in the state and indirectly own service and repair facilities via subsidiary Tesla Michigan; sales contracts must reflect sales take place elsewhere, as local laws require automakers to sell through third-party dealerships; Tesla can walk customers through the sales process in showrooms and deliver . link

ByteDance is seeking a US-based CEO for TikTok and has interviewed several candidates, according to Bloomberg sources; the company reportedly has considered giving the US CEO domain over marketing and non-technical issues but keeping current CEO Alex Zhu in charge of product and engineering in China . link

Microsoft to set Bing as the default search engine in Chrome for Office 365 ProPlus users next month; will forcibly install the link

Culver City-based mobile game developer Scopely to acquire the FoxNext game development studio from Disney, which purchased the division from Fox; terms undisclosed; includes Aftershock LA Studios and Cold Iron Studios; Scopely announced in October it had raised $200M at a $1.7B valuation to accelerate its M&A strategy . link

Microsoft discloses a database misconfiguration that exposed 250M customer service and support records to public access via web browser; a security researcher notified the company on Dec 29 and Microsoft fixed the issue two days later; the company said it found no evidence of malicious use . link

Google discovered multiple security flaws in Apple's Safari browser and notified the competitor in August, Financial Times reports; the vulnerabilities affected a tool designed to protect users' privacy; the flaws could have enabled third parties to obtain data on browsing habits . link

King County, WA, which includes Seattle, will allow 1.2M voters to cast ballots via computers and mobile devices starting Wednesday; the race is for a board seat at the King Conservation District, which promotes environmental sustainability; local officials believe it represents the most extensive use of mobile voting for a US election to date . link

Britain plans new data-privacy rules to protect children online; will require social networks, apps, and other products to disable data collection by default for kids, enable the highest possible data-privacy settings by default for kids, more; lawmakers will review the new code and it likely will go into effect eight to 10 weeks later . link

Motorola to launch the new Razr phone with folding display on Feb 6 for $1.5k; pre-orders, limited to Verizon, Walmart, and Motorola’s website, open Jan 26; the company originally planned to open pre-orders on Dec 26, but delayed the launch to better prepare to meet demand . link

Law enforcement in at least 11 states has spent ~$4M on phone cracking tools over 10 past ten years, OneZero reports; the publication submitted FOIA requests to 50-plus police departments, sheriffs, and district attorneys, and obtained records from CA, CO, FL, IL, MA, MI, NM, NY, OH, TX, and WA; OneZero noted that not all agencies responded and more likely purchased tools . link

Digital forensics investigators found no malware on Jeff Bezos' iPhone following an apparent hack, according to the report from FTI Consulting, obtained by Motherboard; however, an encrypted downloader accompanied a video file sent to Bezos via WhatsApp; Bezos' data egress increase 29k percent; some reports suggested the presence of Israel-based NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, but FTI's analysis did not prove NSO involvement . link

The download for 2020-01-22 →


Analytics firm Placer.ai raises $12M Series A led by JBV Capital with participation from Aleph and others; the company offers brick-and-mortar retailers SaaS tools for tracking real-time foot traffic . link

Serverless tooling firm Thundra raises $4M Series A led by Battery Ventures with participation from York IE and others; Thundra offers enterprise systems for monitoring, debugging, and securing cloud-based workloads; the startup has also hired Ken Cheney as CEO and named Serkan Ozal CTO . link

Workflow optimization firm ServiceNow acquires Israel-based AIOps startup Loom Systems; terms undisclosed; Loom Systems offers AI-powered tools for processing and analyzing data; raised $16M to date . link

The United Nations will officially respond to reports Saudi Arabia hacked Jeff Bezos via WhatsApp; David Kaye says he and fellow UN special rapporteur Agnès Callamard will address the allegations later today; it’s unknown if the UN will take any actions against Saudi Arabia . link

Digital media firm Barstool Sports agrees to delete two tweets that imply anti-union attitudes at the company; includes a tweet from Barstool co-founder David Portnoy in which he threatened to fire workers for participating in union activity; follows an investigation by the National Labor Relations Board says Barstool was also behind an account that indicated it might publicly name union members . link

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff says he and his wife Lynne Benioff will finance 1t.org, a scheme that aims to plant, conserve, or restore 1T trees over the next 10 years; Benioff made the announcement at the World Economic Forum, where he suggested other high-profile tech figures should be participating in efforts to tackle the climate crisis . link

Sundar Pichai posits AI could have a more significant impact on human society than either fire or electricity; speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Pichai also says multiple countries need to be working on AI regulations, suggesting the Paris Accord climate treaty as a good model . link

Xerox plans to nominate as many as 11 members to HP’s board, according to The Wall Street Journal; Xerox recently acquired a small stake HP, allowing it to put forward nominations; follows Xerox’s $33B hostile takeover; HP has refused the bid, saying the offer is too low, while also questioning Xerox’s financial stability . link

Nigeria-based digital payments company Paga acquires Ethiopian software development firm Apposit; terms undisclosed; Paga will incorporate Apposit’s resources as it expands into more markets across Africa and Latin America . link

Meg Whitman, CEO of yet-to-launch video subscription service Quibi, criticized the media during a recent all-hands meeting, according to sources for The Information; Whitman allegedly compared journalists to sexual predators when discussing company leaks; Quibi says it respects the media . link

UK telco Vodafone exits the Libra Association; the company says it believes it can better serve under-banked populations via its own offerings; Vodafone was one of the 28 founding members of Libra Association, which plans to launch the Facebook-incubated Libra cryptocurrency later this year; the body now counts 20 members after Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, and others also stepped away . link

Brazilian prosecutors bring cybercrime charges against journalist Glenn Greenwald; Greenwald is accused of being part of a “criminal organization” that allegedly hacked the cellphones of several justice figures in Brazil; follows a report by The Intercept (which Greenwald co-founded) probing key individuals in the country’s judicial system; Greenwald says the charges are an attack on the free press . link

Tencent offers $148M to acquire full control of Norway-based games company Funcom; Tencent currently owns 29 percent of the firm; it’s offering ~$1.80 per share to stakeholders, which is 27 percent higher than yesterday’s closing price; Funcom titles include “Conan Exiles” and “Age of Conan”; the studio is also developing an open-world game based on Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series . link

Boeing signs a partnership with Israel-based Tactical Robotics (part of Urban Aeronautics) to work on VTOL tech; terms undisclosed; the companies will jointly develop systems for possible use in autonomous and manned light aircraft; Tactical Robotics already makes Cormorant, a UAV that can be used to deliver supplies in combat and emergency situations . link

Apple will launch a successor to the iPhone SE as soon as March, according to Bloomberg sources; the device will be modeled on the iPhone 8 with a 4.7-inch display, but feature an A13 Bionic chip, the same as iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro; pricing unknown, but the report notes iPhone 8 currently starts at $450 . link

France-based intranet firm LumApps raises $70M Series C led by Goldman Sachs Growth with participation from Bpifrance, Idinvest Partners, and others; the company offers a platform for enterprise customers that integrates with third-party services such as G Suite and Office 365; has raised $100M to date . link

Blossom Capital closes its second fund at $185M; targets early-stage startups with a focus on several areas including finance, design, and travel; co-founded by Ophelia Brown, previously of Index Ventures and LocalGlobe . link

GM-controlled Cruise announces Origin, a fully autonomous passenger vehicle with no steering wheel or pedals; roughly the size of an SUV, it features doors that slide apart and two bench seats that seat a total of six people; rated to last for 1M miles; Cruise says it plans to launch the vehicle as part of a ride-hailing service; it's unclear when the company plans to roll it out .Update: Cruise claims its autonomous ride-sharing service could save the average household $5k per year; CEO Dan Ammann indicates the service will cost less than current ride-sharing options and be more economic than vehicle ownership . link

Skylo, which has developed technology for connecting IoT devices via satellites, emerges with $103M Series B led by SoftBank; the Stanford Space Systems Development Laboratory spinout offers a network, a data platform, and a hardware hub that acts as a hotspot; raised $116M to date . link

Netflix ($148B market cap) Q4 beats: $5.47B revenue, up 31 percent year-over-year ($5.45B expected); added 8.76M subscribers globally (net), surpassing internal forecasts and analyst expectations; added 420k paid subscribers in the US, short of its guidance for 600k; the company will no longer breakout US numbers for earning reports, but will combine the market with Canada . link

Qualcomm announces three new chipsets supporting Wi-Fi 6 with WPA3 encryption and India's NavIC GPS; the snapdragon 460, 662, and 720G target entry-level, mid-range, and high-end devices, respectively; each features a dedicated AI Engine; the 720G will be available in phones as early as this quarter; devices featuring the 460 and 662 are slated to launch by year's end . link

US officials say China is exploiting relationships between American academic institutions and Chinese universities, targeting specific technology to fill gaps in its military and economic initiatives; the US and China signed the first phase of broader deal last week and addressed some of China's trade practices, but The Wall Street Journal notes it did not address China's acquisition of sensitive and strategic US tech . link

Jeff Bezos' phone hacked in 2018, likely via malicious media file sent from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's WhatsApp account, according to sources for the Guardian; an investigation reportedly found the two were conversing when the file arrived and exfiltrated data; five months later, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered; another four months later, the National Enquirer published Bezos' private messages and photos . link

Tesla could announce availability of the Model Y at its Jan 29 earnings call, Teslarati reports; reports of release candidate sightings have increased on social media and Tesla has taken steps historically indicative of a pending launch, including registering VINs with the NHTSA and registering with the California Air Resources Board . link

Vox Media, Business Insider, The Information, and Politico all turned profits last year, some for the first time, according to sources for Axios, which also profited in 2019; BuzzFeed, Vice, and The Atlantic expect to achieve profitability this year; Axios examines the trends working in digital media's favor, but notes large publishers and high-quality niche sites have the best chance to succeed . link

Apple TV+ signs overall deal with Julia Louis-Dreyfus to act and executive produce; the company did not disclose any specific projects with the star; Meryl Streep is narrating an Earth Day feature called “Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth,” slated to debut on April 17; Apple also announced documentary series “Dear…,” which will feature Oprah Winfrey, Gloria Steinem, Spike Lee, and others . link

Apple to launch a 6.7-inch iPhone that's 10 percent thinner than the iPhone 11 Pro Max, according to Japanese site Mac Otakara, which cites supply chain sources; the company reportedly plans a 5.4-inch model and two 6.1-inch devices; all four 2020 iPhones reportedly will feature OLED displays and Face ID; the largest will have a triple-lens rear camera . link

The Wall Street Journal's Julie Jargon speaks with high school students about social media overload as part of her national tour covering teen issues; the kids expressed stress regarding drama, competitive popularity, and peer pressure to engage; Pew found 45 percent of teens were overwhelmed by social media . link

Google launches three experimental Android apps targeting reduced phone usage; Activity Bubbles creates a dynamic wallpaper; every time the user unlocks the device, a new bubble appears in the background and grows according to usage time; Screen Stopwatch displays a cumulative timer for phone usage; Envelope asks the user to print out a sleeve that blocks most phone functions . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with author Matt Mochary, who coaches CEOs and investors in San Francisco; the conversation covers insights on the development of Matt's method, understanding and overcoming primal fear, addressing imposter syndrome, more . link

YouTube TV launches for PlayStation 4 as the first third-party subscription TV service on the console; Sony previously disallowed TV streaming apps on PlayStation, driving users to its Vue TV service, which will shut down on Jan 30; Sony cited the competitive and expensive business of acquiring and producing content in the shutdown announcement . link

Dallas federal court overturns 2017 decision against Nintendo, which found the company's Wii and Wii U remotes violated a patent belonging to iLife; iLife's 1999 patent covered a body-mounted fall-detection system; federal judge Barbara Glynn found iLife's original description of its tech too vague for patents; she reversed a $10.1M judgment against Nintendo . link

MA-based Berkshire Grey, which develops AI-powered pick-and-place robots, raises $263M Series B led by SoftBank; enables automated omni-channel fulfillment for enterprises; the company plans to grow its headcount, pursue acquisitions, and expand internationally . link

Apple canceled plans to allow users to encrypt device backups stored in iCloud after the FBI complained it would hamper investigations, according to Reuters sources; Apple reportedly abandoned the planned feature two years ago; President Trump and US Attorney General William Barr have publicly criticized Apple for refusing to unlock iPhones belonging to suspected killers . link

The download for 2020-01-21 →


Code security firm Snyk raises $150M on a $1B valuation led by Stripes with participation from Coatue, Tiger Global, and others; the company offers developer tools to help find issues in open source code; has raised more than $240M to date . link

Adtech firm AppsFlyer raises $210M Series C led by General Atlantic; the company offers real-time ad analytics tools to marketers; has raised $294M to date . link

China-based local services firm Meituan Dianping says co-founder Wang Huiwen will step back from daily duties later this year; Wang will remain on the board and serve as an advisor; SVP Elaine Liu will also transition to a consultant role; Meituan says it will roll out a talent pipeline program, aimed at developing its staff and providing more growth opportunities . link

India-based mobility firm Zoomcar raises $30M as part of its ongoing Series D; the funding is led by Sony Innovation Fund; the company operates a P2P car rental service across multiple Indian cities; has raised ~$150M to date . link

Fintech firm Flutterwave raises $35M Series B and signs a strategic partnership with WorldPay FIS; the company provides B2B financial service tools; Flutterwave will serve as Worldpay’s payments provider across Africa; has raised $55M to date . link

Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei says the company is ready for further “attacks” by the US; speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Ren also posits the tech industry will likely not split into separate ecosystems influenced by either China or the US . link

IBM formally announces Policy Lab, a scheme to provide lawmakers with recommendations and guidance on issues relating to tech; Policy Lab also says it wants to see “precision regulation” in the field of AI; the unit (which soft-launched in Nov 2019) is overseen by Ryan Hagemann and Jean-Marc Leclerc . link

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the UK and Italy will face trade tariffs if they move forward with taxes aimed at large tech firms; follows an agreement by France to delay its own 3 percent levy on tech companies after the Trump administration threatened tariffs . link

French challenger bank Qonto raises $115M Series C led by Tencent and DST Global with participation from Valar, Alven, and others; the firm offers a suite of online financial services to enterprise customers; has raised ~$150M to date . link

A UK consortium starts testing unmanned driverless pods at Cribbs Causeway mall in Gloucestershire, England; known as CAPRI, the vehicles use a range of sensors to navigate pathways that are also shared by pedestrians; the team plan to eventually test the self-driving pods on public roads . link

Taiwan-based device manufacturing firm Pegatron plans to establish operations in Vietnam, according to Bloomberg sources; Pegatron, a supplier for Apple, Samsung, and others, has rented a facility in the north of the country and is now looking for another site for a factory; fellow supply firms Wistron and Hon Hai Precision have also expanded to Vietnam . link

Disney announces its Disney+ streaming service will launch in Western Europe on March 24, a week earlier than originally planned; it will be available in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, and Italy; it will roll out to more European countries later this year; the service will cost £6/€7 (~$7.80) per month, or £60/€70 (~$78) per year . link

Tencent begins testing a media-sharing feed within its WeChat messaging app, reports Bloomberg; currently available to select accounts, the feature lets users share photos and short videos with followers; WeChat previously rolled out a Snapchat-like feature in 2018, but it has not proven popular . link

Uber begins testing a bidding feature that lets drivers set their own fares, reports The Wall Street Journal; starting today, CA drivers who serve airports in Sacramento and Palm Springs will be able to bid for jobs, setting their rate at as much as five times the fare Uber suggests; riders will then be matched with the driver offering the lowest rate; Uber says it will look at feedback before deciding whether to roll the scheme out wider . link

Home, a Germany-based proptech firm, raises €11M ($12M) Series A from Capnamic, EQT Ventures, FJ Labs, and Redalpine; the company offers a full-stack property management service for rented homes . link

Toshiba plans to launch a quantum cryptography service in the US later this year, reports Nikkei Asian Review; the system transmits light packages containing encrypted messages along fiber-optic lines; if a third-party tries to interfere with the comms, the container changes itself to prevent unauthorized access; Toshiba will initially market the services to financial and medical institutions; the global quantum cryptography market is predicted be worth $5B by 2025 . link

Stasher, a UK-based short-term luggage storage firm, raises $2.5M led by Venture Friends; the company connects travelers with a network of stores and hotels who will hold onto customer luggage for a period of time; operates in 250 cities across Europe, the US, and Australia . link

GM-controlled Cruise to showcase its first fully autonomous vehicle today, according to Bloomberg sources; it's expected the all-electric vehicle will forgo a steering wheel and pedals, allowing for more passenger space; Cruise has been testing its driverless tech using modified Chevrolet Bolts . link

Germany-based cloud HR platform Personio raises $75M Series C led by Accel with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners and others; the company provides a range of staff management services to SMEs in Germany, the UK, and Ireland; has raised $130M to date . link

Uber sells its food delivery operation in India to local competitor Zomato; the all-stock deal gives Uber a ~10 percent stake in Zomato; as part of the agreement, Uber Eats will shutdown in the country and redirect all business to Zomato .Sources for The Economic Times say the Uber-Zomato deal is worth ~$350M; Uber Eats staff are not moving over; before the arrangement, Uber Eats ranked third in local market share behind Swiggy and Zomato . link

Swiss researchers say high-fidelity 3D tracking is critical for the use of AR in surgical procedures; surgeons can use AR for mapping patients' anatomy, but the limits of current technology cause hologram drift and other problems; the researchers used Microsoft's HoloLens, modified for improved tracking, to perform a simulated spinal fusion surgery . link

Cambridge-based Soft Robotics, which develops autonomous gripping and sorting machines, raises $23M Series B led by Calibrate Ventures and Material Impact; co-founded by Harvard University Whitesides Research Group member George Whitesides, who developed some of the tech as part of DARPA's ChemBots program; now serves Dow 30 and Fortune 500 customers in multiple industries . link

The US and China are likely to embrace mutually exclusive tech and standards for internet access, electronic devices, apps, and telecommunications, The Wall Street Journal reports; the battle initially focused on telecommunications and the US' efforts to see Huawei blacklisted globally but has since expanded into virtually all aspects of tech . link

French President Emmanuel Macron says he and President Trump will work to avoid tariff increases; a diplomatic source for Reuters said the leaders agreed to stay a tariff war until the end of the year and to negotiate on a digital tax during that time; France decided last summer to levy a three-percent digital tax on French companies above a revenue threshold; Washington responded with a threat to tax French products . link

Tesla says petition urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall vehicles over an alleged unintended acceleration problem was the work of a Tesla short-seller who included falsehoods in the petition . link

AI-powered supplier discovery platform Scoutbee raises $60M Series B led by Atomico; the company is exploring acquisition options and plans to grow its Berlin and DC teams from 160 total to 260 this year; the SaaS benchmarks suppliers based on track records and client relationships; raised $76M to date . link

Facebook gave Puerto Rico's Justice Department access to private information from student news publications, according to documents obtained by defense attorneys for seven University of Puerto Rico students facing trial for participating in nonviolent protests; the warrant used to obtain the information was part of what The Intercept called a link

President Trump's trade approach with China has accelerated a technology arms race between the countries, The New York Times reports; the administration's moves to restrict sales of US products to China and China's desire to reduce its dependency on the US have motivated China to expedite efforts to produce semiconductors, AI tech, more . link

Apple TV+ sees its first Screen Actor's Guild award with Jennifer Aniston's win as the best female actor in a drama series for her role in Apple TV original link

Women's March Foundation used the new SameSide organizational tool to plan this year's Women's March in Los Angeles; pre-launch social AR app Mark enabled permanent virtual art installations along the march path; Mark is also donating money to the cause; the march represented the public launch of both apps . link

Federal court orders former VC Mike Rothenberg to pay $31.4M to settle a case from the SEC; Rothenberg previously settled SEC charges regarding the misappropriation of ~$7M; later, a forensic audit revealed he had misappropriated $18.8M; he must now pay $9M in civil penalties and $3.7M in interest . link

Tech companies will likely face increased criticism this year, but election politics will delay regulatory decisions, according to policy and legal experts; Democrats have pushed for antitrust investigations and action, and both parties have worked on bills to give consumers greater control over their data; a Wedbush Securities analyst expects tech companies will self-impose modest changes to avoid court battles and regulation . link

Europe's regulators have imposed $126M in fines for GDPR violations, according to law firm DLA Piper; France's $55M fine against Google is the largest so far; Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands have led in data-breach notifications . link

Yandex, the most popular search engine in Russia and the fifth-largest worldwide, has fallen behind competitors in fighting the spread of images of child sex abuse, according to cyber-crime experts; a lack of controls reportedly makes the site a friendly portal for sites with illegal images . link

Dutch security researcher discovers publicly accessible facial-recognition database containing information on thousands of Chinese children; the data came from schools and businesses in the Sichuan and Gansu provinces, which have large populations of Tibetans and other minority groups; the database administrator has since secured the information . link

Browser company Opera ($778M market cap) is running a predatory loans business in Africa and India, according to Hindenburg Research; the Oslo-based company sold to a Chinese investor group before its 2018 IPO; the group's largest investor, now Opera's CEO, previously led a US-listed Chinese lending business that faced allegations of fraud; Opera reportedly uses bait-and-switch tactics to issue loans with interest rates up to 876 percent . link

The download for 2020-01-20 →


Tomomi Nakamura, CEO of Japanese car company Subaru, says the US market for EVs and hybrids is “challenging”; speaking to journalists, Nakamura suggests US consumers looking to purchase EVs are primarily interested in Tesla vehicles; he also suggests tighter emissions regulations will be difficult to implement because of the nascent demand for greener cars . link

Sweden-based open banking platform Tink raises €90M (~$100M) led by Dawn Capital, HMI Capital, and Insight Partners; the company offers a suite of APIs to banks and other financial service providers; has raised more than $200M to date . link

Google signs a partnership with Indian telco Airtel; terms undisclosed; the deal lets Airtel sell G Suite products to SMEs; follows a similar arrangement between carrier Reliance Jio and Microsoft . link

SpaceX successfully tests the emergency escape process for its Crew Dragon astronaut capsule; the company simulated an in-flight failure, and the Crew Dragon aircraft propelled itself away from the falling Falcon 9 rocket before safely deploying its parachute system; NASA has previously indicated Crew Dragon could be ready for a human-crewed flight as early as Q1 this year . link

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel suggests TikTok could become bigger than Instagram; speaking at a conference in Germany, Spiegel says he’s a fan of the platform; App Annie data shows Instagram currently has more MAUs than TikTok . link

Tim Cook says the global corporate tax system needs to be overhauled; speaking to journalists in Ireland, Cook says he’s hopeful the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) can institute changes; Cook notes taxing multinational firms is complex, indicating Apple wants the process to be fair; Cook also says the company wants to see more consumer privacy protections . link

The Chinese government says Canada should release Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, calling her detention a “serious political matter”; Meng has been held since Dec 2018; she is fighting extradition to the US, where she faces charges relating to bank fraud and more . link

Facebook removes a network of dozens of pages voicing support for Republican House candidate Robert Hyde; follows an investigation by Storyful which showed many of the pages, which claimed to be owned by supporters of President Trump, had contact info that matched Hyde’s congressional campaign; Facebook says the page owners did not make proper ownership disclosures . link

Multiple US hospitals have given tech firms access to detailed patient data, reports The Wall Street Journal; Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM all have partnerships with various medical facilities; the report notes federal privacy laws allow hospitals to share their patient’s medical info; follows an earlier report profiling Google’s health data efforts . link

Amazon is developing checkout terminals that let users authorize payments with a handprint, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; plans are at an early stage, but Amazon intends to offer the tech to brick-and-mortar retailers; the system will be powered by AWS; Amazon has previously filed a patent for palm-recognition tech . link

Samsung is set to invest $500M in a new manufacturing plant in India; once complete, the factory, which will produce smartphones display, will be located close to a pre-existing Samsung facility; TechCrunch notes the company will likely benefit from local tax breaks . link

Facebook has apologized after it mistranslated the name of China’s president to “Mr Shithole” when converting Burmese to English; the issue was first noticed on posts referencing a visit by China’s President Xi Jinping to Myanmar; Facebook says the problem was caused by a “technical error,” but has not provided specifics . link

TikTok-owner ByteDance is establishing a mobile gaming division, according to Bloomberg sources; the unit has more than 1k staff; ByteDance has purchased several gaming studios including Mokun Digital and Levelup.ai; it has also acquired exclusive distribution rights for numerous titles; ByteDance will launch its first two games this spring . link

Singapore-based foodtech firm TurtleTree Labs raises an undisclosed seed from Lever VC, KBW Ventures, and VC fund K2 Global; the company is developing lab-produced milk; the startup says it will showcase cultivated animal milk and human breast milk products this spring . link

Multiple Wall Street analysts posit Alphabet could reach a valuation of $2T over the coming years, reports The Guardian; Paul Lee of Deloitte notes Google Search is currently centered around words but suggests image recognition-based systems could prove to be even faster and more accurate; Brian White of Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co says Alphabet is undervalued when taking into account its growth prospects . link

Boston-based Catalyst Fund raises $15M from JP Morgan and UK Aid; the accelerator says the money will be used to back 30 fintech startups across Africa, Asia, and Latin America over the next three years; Catalyst will provide firms with grants of upto $100k each, as well as additional support . link

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will likely approve the use of Huawei tech in the country’s 5G network, according to former national security advisor Mark Lyall Grant; Britain’s security services have previously concluded they can deal with potential threats associated with Chinese tech; the lawmakers are expected to make a final decision later this month; follows lobbying from the US, urging the UK government to not allow Huawei tech . link

Sundar Pichai says AI needs to be regulated, but posits how that happens is key; in a Financial Times op-ed, Pichai says GDPR and other rules can help serve as starting frameworks; Pichai notes regulation for self-driving will have to consider costs and benefits . link

Samsung names Roh Tae-moon as head of its smartphone division; Roh takes over from DJ Koh, who will continue to oversee the company’s IT and mobile comms unit; Samsung has also promoted several other execs including Kyungwhoon Cheun, who is now head of networking . link

The download for 2020-01-19 →


Cloud infrastructure company DigitalOcean conducts layoffs, sources report up to 10 percent of the company's 500 workers are affected; the company, which appointed a new CEO and CFO last summer, said the new organizational structure would enable accelerated profitable growth . link

Amazon partners with 20k-plus neighborhood shops in India, known as kirana stores, to store and deliver Amazon goods; the shops are partners in Amazon's link

SoundCloud's ARR passed $200M for the first time last quarter, up from $127M in 2018; the company reduced its operating loss by ~50 percent in 2018, and surpassed its growth targets for 2019; in 2018, the company generated $97.8M from subscriptions and $27.5M from advertising; SoundCloud hosts ~200M tracks . link

The New York Times profiles Clearview AI, a facial recognition tech company that has provided software to police departments, the FBI, and the DHS; the app performs a reverse image search, comparing a given photo to a database of ~3B images scraped from social sites and more; enables authorities to take a picture of a person and immediately match it to online profiles, videos, etc . link

The Verge examines Armslist.com, a classifieds site for gun sales, and how a hands-off platform approach results in background check-free sales to criminals; law requires people engaged in the business of gun sales to run background checks on customers, but an individual not operating a gun business can sell weapons without checks; individuals can use Armslist to flip guns, riding the line between personal sale and business . link

Microsoft opens Xbox One streaming to Android for all Insiders; the public preview requires an Android device running Marshmallow or higher and a Bluetooth Xbox One controller . link

Cloud-native networking company Containous raises $10M Series A led by Balderton; provides an open-source multi-cloud networking platform for containerized apps and services; the company's cloud-native edge router Traefik claims 1.4B downloads from Docker Hub; users include Mozilla Foundation and eBay . link

Netherlands-based TomTom announces deal enabling Huawei to use the former's maps and related services in mobile apps; Huawei had to find alternatives to Google services after replacing Android with a custom OS due to the US blacklisting the Chinese company; TomTom sold its telematics business last year and is moving away from hardware to focus on maps . link

Instagram removes the button for its standalone video app IGTV from the Instagram home page; IGTV has garnered ~7M total downloads (1.1M in the US) since its June 2018 launch, according to Sensor Tower; compares to TikTok's 1.15B global downloads and 80.5M US downloads during the same period . link

Disney to rebrand assets obtained via last year's acquisition of 20th Century Fox, removing the link

Recent reports indicating that a European Commission initiative to enforce rules regarding phone charger standards could require Apple to change the iPhone's charging port to USB-C are incorrect, The Verge reports; the EC's statement regarded chargers only, and Apple's existing products likely satisfy the rules, as the company offers a plug with a USB-C port and a Lightning-to-USB-C cable . link

Continuous delivery platform LaunchDarkly raises $54M Series D led by Bessemer; the platform enables teams to deploy and manage features for small groups fo users, specific countries, etc; currently has offices in Oakland and New York City, plans teams in London and Sydney; raised $130M to date . link

Lenovo is developing another standalone VR headset, according to company documents and an FCC filing; Lenovo previously launched the standalone Mirage Solo, which used Google's discontinued Daydream platform; the new product's platform is unknown . link

The Wall Street Journal's Joshua Fruhlinger examines the state of TV projector tech, noting costs have dropped in recent years (Best Buy's average projector price fell from $1.3k in 2018 to $800 today); Ultimate Short Throw projectors sit inches from the viewing surface and support 4K and HDR; they also function as soundbars; laser projectors work well in rooms full of sunlight . link

Marijuana delivery company Eaze is low on cash and has conducted unannounced layoffs, according to TechCrunch sources; the company reportedly raised a $15M bridge round to meet payroll and other expenses through a pivot to selling marijuana products; a pitch deck indicates the company plans to raise a $35M Series D; had raised ~$166M before the reported bridge round . link

Airbnb will consider guest safety and other metrics when issuing employee bonuses; the company has taken various steps to make the platform safer for guests and hosts; will also establish two teams, one consisting of board members and the other of employees, dedicated to the interests of guests, hosts, communities, investors, and employees . link

Amazon is developing palm scanners for checkout payments at brick-and-mortar businesses, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Synchrony Financial reportedly have expressed interest in supporting the system; Amazon has experimented with automatic payments in its Go stores and has expanded the Amazon Pay service, which allows customers to pay via Amazon accounts at third-party sites . link

Representatives from Tile and Sonos appear at a congressional hearing regarding a broader antitrust probe, accuse Apple and Google, respectively, of abusing market position to inhibit smaller businesses and steal or mimic products; PopSockets' founder complained of Amazon's restrictions on third-party sellers; Basecamp's co-founder pleaded for congressional intervention . link

Microsoft to patch an actively exploited security bug in Internet Explorer; affects all supported versions of Windows, including Windows 7, for which the company will no longer issue security updates after this week; Microsoft expects to patch the flaw, which allows attackers to remotely execute malicious code in target machines, on Feb 11 . link

Spotify is in early talks to acquire digital entertainment network The Ringer, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; ESPN commentator Bill Simmons founded the company in 2016; now represents 30 podcasts covering sports, tech, and pop culture; Spotify spent $400M last year acquiring podcast companies . link

FBI seizes domain for WeLeakInfo, a site that offered for sale 12B credentials from 10k-plus data breaches; police in the Netherlands and Northern Ireland arrested two suspects believed to have connections with the operation; the site presented itself as a security research tool and claimed to have an API available . link

The download for 2020-01-18 →


Peloton's patent-infringement suits against Flywheel Sports and Echelon Fitness will determine its power in the market, according to intellectual property attorney William Stroever; if Peloton loses, the gates are open to many competitors modernizing old exercise techniques with digital tracking and competitive elements . link

Istanbul-based rapid delivery services company Getir raises $38M Series A led by Michael Moritz's investment vehicle Crankstart; the company is currently live in five Turkish cities and plans international expansion beginning with London, Paris, São Paulo, and Mexico City; raised $42M to date . link

Charlotte-based AvidXchange, which provides a SaaS solution for accounts payable and invoice management, raises $260M from TPG Sixth Street Partners and others; the company had achieved unicorn status before this round, for which the valuation is undisclosed; raised $800M-plus to date . link

Some FBI officials worry that Attorney General William Barr's aggressive approach to consumer data encryption could sour valuable relationships with tech companies, The Wall Street Journal reports; sources say Barr likens the encryption conflict to tech's disruption of wiretapping efforts when he led the Justice Department in the early 1990s . link

Boeing is working to resolve a software problem affecting the flight-control computer in the 737 MAX aircraft; the glitch reportedly prevents computers from powering up before flight; Boeing grounded the 737 Max following two crashes, and technical problems have delayed the craft's return to the sky . link

UK ISP BT partners with Google to bundle the Stadia game streaming service with broadband plans; BT will offer three plans that provide free access to Stadia Premiere Edition; Google recently announced Stadia would see 120 titles in 2020 . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Mahmee Co-Founder and CEO Melissa Hanna about how the company guides new mothers through postpartum care, improving the experience for women of color, bringing structure to a fragmented industry, insights on getting Serena Williams and Mark Cuban to invest, more . link

The link between social media use and adolescent depression and anxiety is weak and inconsistent, according to multiple academic studies; Stanford Social Media Lab Founder Jeff Hancock said tobacco abstinence, proper eating, and sufficient sleep have much more impact on the well-being of young people than mobile device usage . link

The European Commission is considering a three- to five-year ban on the use of facial recognition tech in public spaces, according to a leaked draft white paper on AI; the ban would apply to public and private actors, and would delay widespread deployments so the Commission could first establish methodology for determining impact and measures to manage risks . link

Drug dealers are using Instagram, Facebook, and other social platforms to market illicit substances, NBC News reports; specifically problematic are black market THC vape pens; the CDC has linked cartridges from Dank Vapes to link

New York City-based Cargo, which provided ride-share drivers with snack boxes that allowed riders to make digital purchases without an app download, pivots to car-top advertising; the company laid off fewer than 30 as part of the shift in strategy; Cargo began testing car-top ads in partnership with Uber in Atlanta a few months ago, and will soon expand to Dallas and Phoenix; drivers share ad revenue . link

Cruise Co-Founder Kyle Vogt argues that the CA DMV should change the metrics it uses when reporting on the public-road testing of autonomous vehicles in the state; one key metric for the DMV is the number of disengagements, or incidents where a safety driver took control of a vehicle; Vogt said disengagement stats are not indicative of readiness for commercial deployment . link

More than 100 brands unwittingly ran ads that financially rewarded climate change misinformation videos on YouTube, according to Avaaz, a non-profit activist group that focuses on human and animal rights, poverty, more; Avaaz searched climate-relevant terms and found numerous disinformation videos promoting anti-science arguments; brands including Samsung and L’Oreal ran promotions on videos and pages . link

Sens Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rep Anna Eshoo (D-CA) call on the FTC to investigate fintech company Yodlee; specifically, the legislators question whether Yodlee sells consumers' data without proper consent and whether the company engages in deceptive, unfair, or abusive practices; the Envestnet unit operates a data aggregation and analysis platform that enables various products and services . link

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is evaluating consumer complaints that Tesla vehicles accelerate without user intent; someone petitioned for a formal investigation and law requires the agency to consider whether the complaints warrant such a probe; regards 127 claims and a reported 110 crashes and 52 injuries . link

Joe Biden argues Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects tech companies from liability for user-generated content, should not apply to Facebook and similar platforms; he said Facebook is not just an internet company, and it's irresponsible and unaccountable for knowingly publishing falsehoods . link

Google to update Chrome OS with official Steam support, according to Director of Product Management Kan Liu; Liu did not specify a timeline, nor disclose whether Google was working directly with Valve on the project; Liu did say the platform would work via Linux on Chrome, and that more powerful and gaming-capable Chromebooks were on the way . link

The download for 2020-01-17 →


Facebook faces a lawsuit from four competitors who are asking a San Francisco court to force Mark Zuckerberg to cede control of the company; Reveal Chat, Lenddol, Cir.cl, and Beehive Biometric say Zuckerberg is overseeing broad anticompetitive behavior; they also claim assets from WhatsApp and Instagram will likely be integrated into Facebook, consolidating its power . link

The European Commission (EC) is considering a five-year ban on facial recognition tech in public spaces; the EU regulatory body says it needs to establish methods to prevent the tech from being abused; the EC notes it could make exceptions for research and security projects . link

Google develops a new text interpretation system capable of processing whole books; known as Reformer, it replaces the company’s previous model which was limited to processing smaller blocks of text . link

Elon Musk shares new details on SpaceX’s Starship project; responding to questions on Twitter, Musk says the current prototype is known as SN1, and that the company hopes to produce 100 Starships per year; Musk says SpaceX plans to transport 1M people to Mars by 2050 . link

Jack Dorsey asks Elon Musk what he would do to improve Twitter; Dorsey and Musk had a video conversation during an internal Twitter event, where Musk suggested the company should work to identify bots on its platform; Musk suggested it’s hard to tell what people really feel if the system is being manipulated by “various interest groups” . link

Isabelle de Silva, head of the French Competition Authority, says regulators should have blocked Facebook’s $22B acquisition of WhatsApp; speaking with Reuters, de Silva says the way Facebook and Google collect and exploit data was previously not well understood; she also says Facebook’s continued success has come from being able to merge its community with those of WhatsApp and Instagram . link

The Wall Street Journal profiles AI-powered compliance tools developed by brewing conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev; known as BrewRight, the analytics system allows the company to monitor its network of operations, proactively rooting out legal risks and potential sources of corruption . link

Volkswagen (VW) acquires a 20 percent stake in China-based battery firm Guoxuan High-tech (GH), according to Reuters sources; terms unknown; the deal is awaiting approval from Chinese regulators; GH manufactures power cells for EVs; VW will be the company's second-largest shareholder after GH's parent firm Zhuhai Guoxuan, which owns 25 percent . link

The We Company is in talks to sell a majority of its Chinese operations to Temasek and Trustbridge Partners, according to Reuters sources; the potential deal values WeWork China at ~$1B; Temasek and Trustbridge previously invested in the unit when it was valued at $5B . link

McAfee CEO Chris Young is stepping down; Young will joining private-equity firm TPG, where he will serve as a senior advisor; TPG took a 51 percent stake in McAfee after it was spun out by Intel in 2016; former BMC Software CEO Peter Leav will replace Young at McAfee; Young will continue to advise McAfee during the transition process . link

Space tech firm SpinLaunch raises $35M Series B from Airbus Ventures, GV, KPCB, and others; the company is developing a rocket-free launch system that promises to use rotational acceleration to propel spacecraft beyond Earth’s atmosphere; SpinLaunch says it will demonstrate the tech this year; has raised $80M to date . link

SoftBank is prepared to invest $30B to $40B in Indonesia’s new capital, reports Bloomberg; Indonesian government minister Luhut Pandjaitan says President Joko Widodo will make a decision about the potential investment at a later date; the new city is expected to cost $34B to build; Indonesia named SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son to a steering committee earlier this week . link

Chinese property development firm Country Garden says it will start mass producing construction robots next year; the company says the machines will help it reduce costs and improve efficiencies; Country Garden began investing in robotics research in 2018; it says it plans to eventually have at least one robot on every work site . link

Amazon says it will create 1M new jobs in India by 2025; Jeff Bezos made the announcement while in the country, claiming the roles will be in tech, infrastructure, and logistics; follows criticism from India’s trade minister, and the launch of antitrust investigations into Amazon and rival Flipkart . link

Alphabet’s market cap passes $1T for the first time; represents only the fourth company to reach the milestone following Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft; former Google exec Marissa Mayer sent a tweet recollecting that when she joined in 1999, the firm had just raised funds against a $100M valuation . link

DoorDash pays contractors an average of $1.45 per hour, according to workers rights group Working Washington; the group looked at pay reports for 229 deliveries and found DoorDash pays an average of $15.76 per hour; DoorDash says it pays ~$18 per hour, but Working Washington notes the company does not include the time between jobs and other real-world factors such as payroll taxes, fuel, and vehicle depreciation . link

NBCUniversal announces its Peacock streaming service will go live on July 15, offering three pricing tiers; Peacock Free, $0 per month, has ads and limited programming; Peacock Premium is available at $5 per month with ads, or free to Comcast customers; subscribers can also opt for a $10 ad-free version of Premium . link

Swedish SaaS firm Funnel raises $47M Series B led by Eight Roads Ventures and F-Prime Capital with participation from Balderton Capital and others; the company provides tools to help digital marketers collect and organize advertising data; has raised $68M to date . link

Xiaomi spins off its POCO smartphone brand as a standalone company; it’s unclear how the company will be structured; the unit has only launched one device to date - the $300 POCO F1 - which was released in 2018 . link

Major companies used the same vulnerable VPN software that enabled a debilitating attack on international currency exchange Travelex, according to cybersecurity firm Bad Packets; Texas Instruments, Purdue Pharma, and other firms used Pulse Secure VPN to give employees remote access to company systems; Bad Packets indicated cyber criminals exploited a loophole in Pulse Secure's system . link

Fiat Chrysler and Foxconn to establish joint venture to co-develop and produce EVs, and to operate internet-connected vehicles; Foxconn will own 40 percent or less of the enterprise; The Wall Street Journal reports the deal could help Fiat Chrysler sell EVs in China; Fiat Chrysler also plans to merge with Peugeot Owner PSA, which will aid in the former's development of advanced tech . link

WhatsApp cancels plan to sell advertising space in the app, an initiative that drove its founders to leave parent Facebook in 2018, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the team WhatsApp dedicated to the effort reportedly disbanded in recent months, and the company removed relevant code from the app . link

Subscription podcast company Luminary lowers monthly fee from $8 to $5, launches a $35 annual plan for users in the US; the startup faced criticism last year when numerous podcasts requested removal from the platform, accusing Luminary of distributing their shows without permission; the company raised $100M before launching its product . link

The number of hours watched on Twitch fell 9.8 percent in the fourth quarter to ~2.3B, the platform's lowest total since the third quarter of 2018, according to StreamLabs and Newzoo; follows the departure of popular streamers who signed with rivals; Twitch's total hours streamed fell to 82.7M hours in the fourth quarter of last year; the platform's full-year hours watched grew 12 percent year-over-year in 2019 . link

Webcam affiliate network IML SLU, which owns ImLive and other adult cam sites, exposes personal data belonging to ~4k models in an unsecured Amazon storage bucket, according to vpnMentor researchers; the ~875k files, representing ~20GB, include scans of government-issued IDs with photos, fingerprints, dates of birth, more . link

Twitter apologizes for allowing advertisers to micro-target users who had written about or searched for terms including link

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accuses Facebook executives of schmoozing the Trump administration to secure tax cuts and avoid antitrust action; she leveled the allegations during her weekly press briefing, saying Facebook was motivated by profits alone, without concern for its impact on kids or the dissemination of misinformation . link

Google announces Premium Support plan for enterprises using the company's cloud infrastructure; Google charges based on a client's existing monthly spend; the plan starts at $12.5k per month; Google promises a 15-minute response time for issues that render mission-critical apps or infrastructure unusable . link

Google's Stadia announces 120-plus games will come to the service this year; Stadia targets ten launch exclusives in the first half of the year; in the first quarter, Stadia plans to enhance web play with 4K support, wireless play via the Stadia controller, and improved Assistant support; also plans support for more Android devices . link

AR contact lens company Mojo Vision plans to launch its product as a medical device initially; the FDA gave the company Breakthrough Device Designation, meaning Mojo will get rapid review when the product is ready; the company has partnered with the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in the Bay Area; raised $108M to date . link

Former Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman J Christopher Giancarlo announces the Digital Dollar Foundation, a nonprofit think tank dedicated to identifying and addressing issues surrounding the digitization of the US dollar; Giancarlo previously said the US risks losing the advantages of having the dominant global currency if it doesn't lead the way in digitized national currencies; China plans to digitize the yuan . link

Strategy management SaaS company WorkBoard raises $30M Series C led by A16Z's David Ulevitch; provides objectives and key results (OKR) software; CEO Deidre Paknad told TechCrunch the need to educate prospects was far greater five years ago; the company more than tripled ARR in 2018 and tripled it again last year; raised ~$67M to date . link

Microsoft plans to go carbon negative by 2030 and to remove the same amount of carbon dioxide it has released into the atmosphere by 2050; the company will spend $1B over four years on research to reduce, capture, and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere . link

The Wall Street Journal interviews several people about the pros and cons of LinkedIn; while many users spam connection requests and use their networks for cold sales attempts, the platform does connect people in related fields and results in opportunities; it is useful for personal brand-building, which requires regular content updates . link

Jeff Bezos and his top-level S-Team set a goal in 2017 to attain $1B in economic incentives, separate from any secured for HQ2, for other real estate projects, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the team reportedly abandoned the goal in 2018 after failing to meet it in 2017; Amazon canceled plans to split HQ2 between VA and NY due to New Yorkers' resistance to a $3B incentive plan; VA is providing $1B in incentives . link

Turkey lifts two-year Wikipedia ban, one month after the country's Constitutional Court ruled the restriction was an unconstitutional violation of free expression; the government restored access on Wednesday; Turkey blocked access to Wikipedia in 2017 because the site refused to remove references to the country's relationships with state-sponsored terrorists and Syrian militants . link

The download for 2020-01-16 →


Indian trade minister Piyush Goyal dismisses Amazon’s commitment to invest $1B in the country’s SMEs; speaking at a New Delhi conference, Goyal suggests Amazon will still seek to make up the $1B through other means; follows the launch of government antitrust investigations into Amazon and Flipkart . link

Estonia-based mobility firm Bolt raises €50M (~$56M) debt from the European Investment Bank; Bolt operates food delivery, scooter sharing, and ride-hailing services across Europe and Africa; has raised ~$280M to date . link

India-based Wipro Ventures announces it has raised $150M for its second fund; targets early stage and growth startups with a focus on cybersecurity, cloud infrastructure, analytics, and more; Wipro has previously invested in 16 firms including security business Demisto, which was sold to Palo Alto Networks . link

Wired profiles A Starting Point, a yet-to-launch civics understanding website co-founded by actor Chris Evans; the platform will feature short videos featuring politicians answering questions about aspects of politics; Evans and co-founders Mark Kassen and Joe Kiani established a set of rules for the videos, including not interrupting or editing lawmakers’ comments, and allowing for a variety of responses; A Starting Point has also hired fact-checkers; the site is set to launch next month . link

AT&T-owned Warner Bros and Comcast’s Universal Pictures announce a plan to merge their home entertainment physical products units; terms undisclosed; the joint venture will handle DVD and Blu-ray distribution for both companies in North America; the agreement is subject to regulatory approval; DVD sales in the US have fallen ~80 percent since their peak in 2005; digital entertainment revenues surpassed that of physical media in 2016 . link

Snap co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel has sold ~$50M worth of company stock; SEC filing shows Spiegel sold off ~2.8M shares at $18 apiece; he previously sold ~$22M worth of shares at the end of 2019, and ~$50M in Feb 2018; Spiegel owns 5.8 percent of Snap . link

Three Uber finance execs exit the company, according to sources for The Information; global finance head Delphine Bernard left this month; Sujoy Haldar, head of rides finance, and Sam Sharma, who oversees finance for Uber Eats, are also scheduled to leave; reasons for the departures unknown . link

The US and Iranian embassies in China are openly criticizing each other via social media platform Weibo, reports The New York Times; writing in Chinese, the Iranian Embassy has criticized the US for the killing of Qassim Suleimani and committed itself to ending the nation’s influence in Asia; the US Embassy, also writing in Chinese, says Iran has left “bloodstains everywhere” . link

Far Point Acquisition is in talks to acquire Switzerland-based payments firm Global Blue for $2.6B from Silver Lake, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; Global Blue provides tax-free shopping services to merchants; includes point-of-sale units and real-time currency conversions; Global Blue CEO Jacques Stern is expected to retain his position; Far Point co-founder Thomas Farley will become chairman . link

Amazon announces its first UK corporate office will be located in Manchester; the company will lease 90k square feet across six floors in the Hanover Building; Amazon plans to add 600 new jobs in the city, including roles for developers and branding specialists; the firm operates multiple sites across the UK, though most of them are distribution centers or R&D facilities . link

MA-based audio equipment firm Bose announces the closure of all its brick-and-mortar retail stores across North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia; the firm has not disclosed how many jobs will be lost, but The Verge reports layoffs will number in the hundreds; Bose says it made the decision because its products are increasingly purchased online . link

Fitbit starts rolling out blood oxygen monitoring to some of its devices; the update fully activates the SpO2 sensor found on Fitbit Charge 3, Ionic, Versa, Versa Lite, and Versa 2; once updated, users will be able to get an estimate of their blood oxygen levels . link

Chinese ride-hailing firm Dida Chuxing (not to be confused with rival Didi Chuxing) plans to raise as much as $300M and is considering an IPO, according to Bloomberg sources; Dida has pitched possible investors on the round, and is looking at listing in Hong Kong or mainland China; Dida claims it has 1.2M drivers on its platform and says it is profitable . link

Arrival, UK-based firm developing all-electric delivery vehicles, emerges from stealth, raises $111.5M from Hyundai and Kia; as part of the arrangement the three companies will jointly develop EVs and share insight; Arrival launched in 2015; it says it plans to release its first vehicle in the next few years .Arrival render: link

Tesla says it plans to open a design and research facility in China; the company made the announcement via its WeChat account, where it noted it wants to produce “Chinese-style” vehicles; it’s unclear where the site will be located or when it will open, but Tesla has asked designers to submit job applications . link

The US and China agree to work together to tackle the sale of counterfeit goods via online marketplaces; China says it may revoke licenses for e-commerce platforms that repeatedly violate rules around fake products; the US has agreed to look into additional measures for dealing with the spread of such goods online; the provision forms part of a newly-signed trade agreement .The New York Times profiles the new US-China trade agreement; the accord includes a commitment from both countries to deal with intellectual property (IP) protections, including a promise from China to no longer force US companies into ceding control of their tech to Chinese counterparts; the report notes enforcing the deal could be difficult as the nations say they will deal with any disputes themselves, rather than involving a third-party . link

Joby Aviation, a CA-based firm developing air taxis, raises $590M Series C led by Toyota with participation from Baillie Gifford and others; Toyota is investing $394M; established in 2009, the company is developing an electric VTOL aircraft; has raised $720M to date . link

UK-based VC firm Atomico promotes Irina Haivas to partner; as a principal Haivas - a former surgeon - has overseen investments in healthtech firms Healx, Accurx, and Kheiron Medical Technologies; Haivas will continue to lead Atomico’s investments in healthcare and biotech . link

Collaborative Fund hires Ian Friedman, formerly of Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs, to serve as a general partner; TechCrunch indicated the hire signaled Collaborative Fund's expansion into later-stage deals; Friedman did not disclose whether the firm planned to launch a new fund, but said he would focus on spaces he knows well, including marketplaces, digital subscription media, API businesses, more . link

TechCrunch details Intel-owned Mobileye's expansion from producing autonomous driving tech into operating a robotaxi service; the conversation with Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua covers the economics of autonomous ride-share services, the company's partnerships in various markets, and Intel's acquisition power . link

Bose to shutter all retail locations in North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia; will lay off hundreds as a result; the company cited an increase in e-commerce purchases when announcing the decision; will close 119 stores total, and continue to operate 130 stores in Greater China and the United Arab Emirates (and some stores in other regions) . link

The National Retail Federation’s 2020 Vision conference featured companies pitching tech designed to draw customers into brick-and-mortar locations and to enhance the in-store shopping experience; demos included facial recognition-based payments, self-serve grocery shopping, more . link

Polygon speaks with former Microsoft employees and third-party game developers about the Kinect motion sensor add-on for Xbox; the conversations cover early optimism about the tech, why Microsoft units beyond Xbox became involved in its development, how it promised to change the future of computing, how Kinect-specific games let players down, and why Kinect ultimately died . link

Indoor positioning company NextNav raises $120M in debt and equity to expand its Metropolitan Beacon System; infrastructure bolts onto cell towers and uses cell signals to determine the location of a device with a building, including the floor number; applications include helping emergency responders determine how many people are on a floor and where; the FCC will soon require cell carriers to provide vertical location data for 911 callers . link

Mozilla lays off ~70, TechCrunch reports; an internal memo from interim CEO Mitchell Baker indicated that company's 2019 plan underestimated how long it would take to develop and ship new revenue-generating products; the company had anticipated new revenue from subscription and non-search products in 2019 and 2020 . link

YouTube launches Profile cards in general availability on Android; tapping a user's name opens the card, which features a photo, subscriptions, recent comments (only from the channel where the profile was accessed), more; also features a Subscribe button if the viewer hasn't already subscribed .YouTube updates its iOS app with Subscriptions feed filters, enabling users to see a list of unwatched titles only, partially watched videos, clips published within the previous 24 hours, and livestreams; also features an option to see Community posts only; coming soon to Android . link

Apple ($1.36T market cap) acquires Seattle-based edge AI computing company Xnor.ai for ~$200M, according to GeekWire sources; the startup spun out of Paul Allen’s AI2 research institute; Xnor focuses on low-power image recognition tools and enables simple integration of AI code and libraries into device-centric apps; previously raised $14.6M, according to Crunchbase . link

Sprint ($20B market cap) shares are trading at a 40-percent discount compared to the value of T-Mobile's proposed all-stock merger; lawyers made final statements in defense of the merger in court today, in a suit brought by 13 states and DC; The Wall Street Journal reports investors are increasingly nervous about the fate of the deal, pessimistic of Sprint's prospects should the merger fail . link

The New York Times' Brian Chen explains how to back up data stored in subscription cloud services (in case you want to cancel your subscription) and private cloud alternatives for media and files . link

Cloudflare makes its security tools available for free to US political campaigns; the Cloudflare for Campaigns product offers website protections including load balancing, DDoS mitigation, bot detection, more . link

US signs phase one of a broader trade deal with China; China promised to spend an additional $200B on US products over two years to resolve the US-China trade imbalance; the agreement requires China to do more to combat the theft of US tech and corporate secrets; also requires Beijing to address currency manipulation . link

US brokerage firms express concern that the Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT) stock-market surveillance system will put their data at risk for hacks; the CAT would monitor trades and collect data to enable the SEC to more thoroughly investigate market manipulation an anomalous trades; the ACLU and others have expressed concerns about investors' data safety . link

YouTube launches Profile cards in general availability on Android; tapping a user's name opens the card, which features a photo, subscriptions, recent comments (only from the channel where the profile was accessed), more; also features a Subscribe button if the viewer hasn't already subscribed .YouTube updates its iOS app with Subscriptions feed filters, enabling users to see a list of unwatched titles only, partially watched videos, clips published within the previous 24 hours, and livestreams; also features an option to see Community posts only; coming soon to Android . link

A16Z Partner Jonathan Lai says game streaming services like Google's Stadia will open the door to new types of gaming experiences and business models and will expand the market to people leery of buying consoles and gaming rigs; instant-play demos will change game advertising, and some titles will grow like social networks; remote storage and compute will enable AI- and machine learning-based real-time content generation . link

Jack Dorsey says it's unlikely Twitter will ever implement a feature enabling users to edit tweets after publishing, despite many users calling for the functionality since Twitter's launch in 2006; Dorsey noted that an edit button would allow users to fix typos and broken links, but some could use it for nefarious purposes . link

The download for 2020-01-15 →


UK-based healthtech startup Oviva raises $21M Series B led by MTIP with participation from Earlybird, AlbionVC, and others; the company offers an app for those living with Type 2 diabetes; includes diet advice and personalized coaching; has raised $34M to date . link

Austria-based text recognition firm Anyline raises $12M Series A led by Project A with participation from Senovo and others; the company offers optical character recognition (OCR) tools to enterprise customers; has raised $17M to date . link

CA-based field service management firm Zinier raises $90M Series C led by ICONIQ Capital with participation from Tiger Global Management, Accel, and others; Zinier offers automated tools to telcos and power companies; has raised $120M to date . link

Erin Grau, VP of direct-to-consumer luggage firm Away, will leave in the coming months, reports Recode; reasons for the departure unclear; Grau oversees internal comms and recruitment; comes as Steph Korey announces she will return to the company in a co-CEO capacity; Korey initially stepped down following a report about Away’s work culture . link

India is considering a range of incentives to attract phone manufacturers to the country, reports Bloomberg; an unnamed official at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology indicates the government may offer OEMs subsidies to offset interest on loans; officials also plan to establish new industrial zones, featuring independent water and power supplies; the areas would also be subject to special taxation and customs clearance; an official announcement is expected Feb 1 . link

The Trump administration plans to clamp down on US tech exports to China that could ultimately be used by Huawei or other firms under trade restrictions, reports The Wall Street Journal; the Department of Commerce is considering special licenses to regulate the flow of tech to the country; comes as President Trump is set to sign the first stage of a trade agreement with China . link

Google says it will phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome over the next two years; the company says it’s responding to user’s demand for better privacy across the web; Google notes first-party cookies, which are often used for remembering logins and other website settings, will not be impacted . link

Microsoft rolls out a Windows patch that was detected by the US National Security Agency (NSA); the flaw makes it possible for hackers to surveil systems, and evidence indicates an unidentified party has exploited it; the NSA says network operators should deploy the fix as soon as possible . link

Google updates its Smart Lock app for iOS, providing two-factor authentication for Google logins; when a user tries to login via desktop Chrome, they will see an alert on their nearby iPhone, asking them to confirm the activity; the process is similar to Google Prompt (part or the Gmail and Search apps), but requires an active Bluetooth connection between the iPhone and PC . link

Officials in India have ordered a partial restoration of internet services in Kashmir, more than five months after the region lost connectivity; the Home Department of Jammu and Kashmir says residents will only have access to whitelisted websites such as online banking; social media and VPNs will continue to be blocked; follows a ruling by India’s Supreme Court which called the government mandated shutdown an “abuse of power” . link

Olive oil producer CHO begins using IBM’s blockchain tech to authenticate the origin of its products; starting with its Terra Delyssa brand, customers can scan a QR code to see the source of the olive batch, as well details for processing and bottling . link

UK-based Felix Capital closes its latest fund at $300M; the firm will target on growth rounds in Europe and the US; it will focus on startups working on consumer, creative, and fintech; previous investments include fashion marketplace Farfetch, Peloton, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s media firm GOOP . link

Microsoft officially starts rolling out its Chromium-based Edge browser; the software will automatically replace older versions of Edge on consumer devices running Windows 10 April 2018 update or later; businesses users can block the update . link

Jeff Bezos and Amazon India head Amit Agarwal announce a $1B plan to help Indian SMEs digitize their offerings; full details unclear; the announcement came at the opening of the company’s two-day Amazon Smbhav conference; comes as Amazon faces an investigation by a government agency over suspected anti-competitive practices . link

MA-based insurtech firm Insurify raises $23M Series A led by MTECH Capital and VIOLA FinTech with participation from MassMutual Ventures and Nationwide; the company offers online insurance products from a range of providers; has raised ~$30M to date . link

Cellebrite rolls out an update for a tool that could help law enforcement unlock the iPhones linked to the Pensacola shooting, reports South China Morning Post; in an email to customers, Cellebrite VP Shahar Tal claims an update for its UFED Physical Analyser allows for “full file system extraction” on devices that were previously incompatible; it purportedly works on iPhones launched between 2011 and 2017 . link

Uber exec Rachel Holt is leaving the company to launch a VC firm, reports Axios; Holt joined Uber in 2011, her most recent role being head of its mobility unit; Holt will now oversee Construct Capital, full details of which are unclear . link

Travel services firm Hipmunk announces it will shut down on Jan 23; reasons for the move undisclosed; it's unknown if or how many jobs will be lost; SAP Concur acquired the company in 2016 .Update: Hipmunk co-founders Adam Goldstein and Steve Huffman unsuccessfully tried to buy back the company, reports TechCrunch; it's unclear why the deal failed but TechCrunch notes SAP Concur has moved some patents over from Hipmunk . link

Apple is preparing itself for a legal challenge from the Department of Justice over its refusal to unlock iPhones, according to sources for The New York Times; the report draws parallels between the Pensacola iPhones situation and a similar dispute in 2016 between Apple and the FBI in relation to San Bernardino shooting; regarding Pensacola, Apple is hoping to guide law enforcement toward an outside solution, though the report does not indicate what that could be . link

President Trump criticizes Apple on Twitter, saying the company is refusing to unlock iPhones used by “killers, drug dealers and violent criminal elements”; Trump also suggests his administration is helping Apple on trade; follows comments from US Attorney General William Barr, claiming the firm has not provided substantial assistance unlocking iPhones linked to the main suspect in the Pensacola shooting . link

Travel services firm Hipmunk announces it will shut down on Jan 23; reasons for the move undisclosed; it's unknown if or how many jobs will be lost; SAP Concur acquired the company in 2016 .Update: Hipmunk co-founders Adam Goldstein and Steve Huffman unsuccessfully tried to buy back the company, reports TechCrunch; it's unclear why the deal failed but TechCrunch notes SAP Concur has moved some patents over from Hipmunk . link

Samsung's Galaxy S20+ flagship will feature an ultrasonic under-display fingerprint scanner and 120Hz display, according to an XDA Developers source who provided supporting screenshots and photos; the device reportedly will ship with a Super Fast charger . link

Supply chain payments platform Tradeshift raises $240M debt and equity; the company noted the raise would put the business on a path to near-term profitability; TechCrunch reports Tradeshift is likely delaying a public listing to improve its financials for an increasingly skeptical IPO market; investors valued the company at $240M for a $250M Series E in May 2018 . link

Facebook's Oculus Quest untethered VR headset has seen strong demand compared to the original Oculus Rift, The Wall Street Journal reports; Quest launched in May 2019; SuperData estimates 388k units sold by the end of the third quarter; Quest comes with the Star Wars game link

Disney+ led US downloads in Apple's App Store and Google Play during the fourth quarter, according to Sensor Tower data; the app launched mid-November and saw 30M downloads by year's end, more than double that of the number two app, TikTok; Disney+ garnered 18M downloads from the App Store and 12M from Google Play . link

Amazon lifts ban on marketplace merchants using FedEx Ground for Prime deliveries; Amazon enacted the restriction in December, citing a decline in FedEx's performance in the period leading up to the holidays; an Amazon spokesperson said on Monday that FedEx had improved; FedEx stock rose ~three percent following the reinstatement . link

Google acquires Seattle-based no-code development platform AppSheet; terms undisclosed; AppSheet focuses on multi-platform enterprise apps; Google Cloud VP Amit Zavery said the deal would enable customers to build scale apps that integrate various data sources and Google tech including Maps and Forms; AppSheet previously raised $18.5M . link

Instagram is testing direct messages on the web; the feature is limited to a small percentage of global users, and Instagram hasn't disclosed plans for a broader rollout; users can share photos, create groups, more . link

This Week in Startups: #AskJasonJason answers listener questions about avoiding first-time founder mistakes, running a US-based startup as an international student, the importance of having a strong lead investor, participating in a Series A as an angel, the causes of big tech layoffs, more . link

Google acquires Dublin-based Pointy, which provides brick-and-mortar retailers with hard and software solutions that automatically list products for sale online and track inventory; terms undisclosed, but a TechCrunch source indicated a price of $163M; Pointy Co-Founder and CEO Mark Cummins previously sold visual search startup Plink to Google; Pointy previously raised ~$19M . link

Google's Chrome browser team to begin publicly testing link

The Wall Street Journal examines Amazon's efforts as a book publisher and its early success in contracts with popular authors including Dean Koontz and Patricia Cornwell; Koontz and Amazon launched a collection of short stories called link

Apple shipped 5.26M Macs in the fourth quarter, down three percent year-over-year, according to Gartner; Apple's market share fell from 7.9 percent to 7.5 percent over the same period; Apple remained in fourth position for sales behind Lenovo, HP, and Dell; the overall PC market saw growth for the first time since 2011 . link

Apple begins selling the rack-mounted Mac Pro, starting at $6.5k ($500 more than the desktop version, which became available in December); features the same base specifications and upgrade options as the desktop model, apart from the desktop's optional wheels; Apple expects to begin shipping the rack-mount model in February . link

Google's Chrome browser team to begin publicly testing link

Security and digital forensics experts say the Justice Department's argument that Apple hampers criminal investigations by refusing to create a backdoor in iPhone encryption is no longer valid, as tools for accessing data on locked iPhones are becoming more accessible and affordable; US-based Grayshift and Israel-based Cellebrite have sold such tools to American authorities . link

India's Delhi High Court orders WhatsApp and Google to retain data potentially relevant to the Jan 5 attack on Jawaharlal Nehru University, in which dozens of masked assailants stormed the school and injured 32 students and two faculty members; lawyers said the gang used WhatsApp to plan the attack; WhatsApp has said it cannot access encrypted message content . link

Popular dating and period-tracking apps share intimate user data with dozens of companies for ad-targeting purposes, according to a study by the Norwegian Consumer Council; data-sharing apps include Grindr, OkCupid, Tinder, Clue, and MyDays; Amazon, Facebook, and Google are among the companies collecting the data . link

The download for 2020-01-14 →


IBM, Microsoft, Mozilla, and others file briefs in support of Google as the US Supreme Court considers Oracle’s claims of copyright infringement; Oracle claims Google took 11.5k lines of code from Java and deployed it in Android without permission; multiple organizations say developers need to be able to share and modify openly available code for innovation to continue . link

Amazon will provide law enforcement with more info on counterfeit products it discovers on its platform, according to a Reuters source; the company will notify authorities in the US and Europe every time it identifies the sale of a fake product; Amazon has previously waited until it has gathered a significant amount of evidence on a seller before passing it along . link

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says those opposed to Britain’s use of Huawei tech should suggest alternatives; speaking with the BBC, Johnson notes he doesn’t want to jeopardize the UK’s relationship with its intelligence-sharing partners; follows a visit from a US delegation, urging the British government to use Huawei tech in the nation’s 5G network . link

Global PC shipments grew in Q4 2019 helping the industry record annual gains for the first time since 2011, according to both IDC and Gartner; IDC says Q4 PC shipments hit 71.8M units, up 4.8 percent year-on-year; Gartner, which classifies PCs differently, says 70.6M devices shipped, up 2.3 percent year-on-year; both firms attributed the rise to Microsoft ending support for Windows 7 . link

Microsoft officially ends support for Windows 7 today; some companies have extended support through 2023; follows reports Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users with authorized copies of the software can still upgrade to Windows 10 free of charge . link

Spotify signs a global licensing deal with Warner Music Group (WMG) unit Warner Chappell; as part of the agreement, WMG will end litigation against Spotify in India; Spotify launched in India in 2019 without first securing a contract with WMG . link

Vietnam-based conglomerate Vingroup cancels plans to launch an airline, saying it will instead remain focused on tech and manufacturing; CEO Nguyen Viet Quang says the Vietnamese flight industry has grown, but notes there is a risk of oversupply; the company will now explore opportunities related to AI; Vingroup operates many divisions, offering smartphones, TVs, vehicles, and more . link

Cloud data firm Cloudera names current board member Rob Bearden as CEO; Bearden takes over from Martin Cole, who has served as interim CEO since Tom Reilly retired last year; Bearden previously served as CEO of data software company Hortonworks . link

Amazon will ask a court to issue a temporary injunction to stop Microsoft from working on the Department of Defense JEDI program; Amazon has launched a legal challenge after the Pentagon awarded the $10B contract to Microsoft; Amazon claims President Trump has shown a bias against the firm, but Defense Secretary Mark Esper says the decision to work with Microsoft was free of outside influence; Amazon is set to file the motion on Jan 24, with a judge’s decision expected on Feb 11 . link

BMW says it will end production of its i8 hybrid sports car this April; the company has previously announced it will focus on EVs; BMW is expected to begin production on the all-electric iX3 SUV later this year . link

The Indonesian government names SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to a panel overseeing construction of the country’s new capital; Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan will chair the advisory committee; Son has previously said SoftBank is considering investing in the $34B project; Indonesia plans to start work on the city later this year . link

SoftBank-backed hospitality firm Oyo has cut more than 65k rooms in India since October last year, ~25 percent of its offerings, reports The New York Times; the firm has also retreated from ~200 smaller Indian cities; follows a round of layoffs affecting ~2k staff; the Gurgaon-based company says the report is inaccurate but has not provided specifics; SoftBank and its Vision fund own ~50 percent of Oyo . link

AI-related startups in the US raised $18.5B in 2019, according to the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA); compares with $16.8B for 2018; NVCA says US-based startups raised $136.5B last year, which contrasts with $140.2B the previous year . link

Thailand-based e-commerce support firm aCommerce raises $15M from Indies Capital Partners; the company offers a suite of end-to-end tools to online retail businesses; includes software for marketing, web store design, and more; has raised ~$110M to date . link

Microsoft is expected to roll out a security patch for a cryptographic component present in all versions of Windows, according to sources for KrebsOnSecurity; the company has already sent out updates to US military agencies, along with other high value targets; the report posits the vulnerability could be exploited to allow the installation of malware via legitimate software; the patch will be available from today . link

Sony says it will not appear at this year’s E3 video games conference; the company also skipped the event last year; Sony says it does not believe E3 is the right venue to showcase its products this time, and says it will instead make appearance at hundreds of other events; the firm is set to launch PlayStation 5 later this year . link

Apple rejects a request by US Attorney General William Barr to help unlock two iPhones linked to Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the main suspect in a fatal shooting at a naval base in Pensacola, FL; Barr says the incident was an act of terrorism and claims Apple has not provided “substantive assistance”; Apple says it has given ongoing support to the investigation and notes bad actors can exploit security backdoors .Update: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says “backdoors are a terrible idea”; speaking with journalists, Nadella says Microsoft cares about privacy and public safety, suggesting an escrow system could serve as an alternative solution . link

Russia-based hackers have infiltrated Ukrainian gas company Burisma, according to cybersecurity firm Area1; hackers sent phishing emails to Burisma staff, through which they accessed the firm’s servers; it’s unknown how much data the hackers have taken . link

Biotech firm Coadagenix raises $20M led by Adjuvant Capital with participation from Euclidean Capital and Topspin Partners; the company is developing a range of treatments for various viral infections; has raised $49M to date . link

Five US prepaid wireless companies are vulnerable to SIM-swapping attacks, according to an academic study at Princeton University; the customer support teams at AT&T, T-Mobile, Tracfone, US Mobile, and Verizon Wireless reportedly use security measures insufficient to protect against attackers who transfer targeted phone numbers to SIM cards under their control to circumvent two-factor authentication for various services . link

Instacart workers plan a national boycott of the company for next week in a bid to reinstate a default 10-percent tip; participants are urging people to use the hashtag #DeleteInstacart beginning Jan 19, and to delete the app from their devices until the company restores the 10-percent tip; Instacart lowered the default tip to five percent in 2016 and introduced a new earnings structure in 2018 . link

US delegation presents the UK government with a dossier on the risks of allowing Huawei to contribute to 5G networks, Financial Times reports; the UK expects to decide on Huawei's participation soon; MI5 head Andrew Parker recently said he didn't believe allowing Huawei to contribute would affect the UK's relationship with the US . link

Mobile gamers spent $61.7B on iOS and Android titles last year, according to Sensor Tower; up 12.8 percent year-over-year; games represented 74 percent of mobile app spending in 2019 . link

Visa ($421B market cap) to acquire Plaid, which provides APIs for financial services integration, for $5.3B; Plaid enables clients including Venmo, Robinhood, and Coinbase to connect their apps to users' bank accounts; the company raised a Series C in December 2018 at a $2.7B valuation; raised $353M in total . link

Elon Musk says Teslas will soon be able to talk to pedestrians; in a clip shared to Twitter, one car tells an onlooker to hop in; the feature will work via internal or external speakers; Tesla began adding external speakers to meet safety regulations regarding artificial noise . link

The FBI arrests an alleged serial swatter who reportedly recorded calls for an audience of white supremacists; John William Kirby Kelley reportedly participated in the swatting of hundreds of targets, potentially including journalists and a Facebook executive; he could face five years in prison . link

Former Kleiner Perkins Partner Lynne Chou O’Keefe launches Define Ventures with $87M in capital commitments; Chou O’Keefe focused on life sciences at Kleiner Perkins and her new fund targets investments in digital health; Define set a $65M target when filing with the SEC, but found stronger interest than the firm anticipated . link

Steph Korey, co-founder of luggage brand Away, will return to the CEO position weeks after stepping down due to a report about her management style; Away's board hired Lululemon's Stuart Haselden to replace Korey as CEO; the two will now serve as co-CEOs; Away disputes The Verge's reporting regarding working conditions at Away and has hired a defamation attorney . link

The Wall Street Journal's Liz Hoffman explores big tech's expansion into financial services, notes advertising-relevant data is the primary motivation; financial services also lock users into a company's given ecosystem; products like the Apple Card, Facebook's Libra, and Google's coming checking accounts incentivize users with features not available in traditional financial products . link

Automakers are focusing on SUVs and pickups in the shift to EVs, The Wall Street Journal reports; sources say GM plans to sell an electric Hummer under the GMC brand; Jeep's Wrangler and Ford's F-150 are expected to be available in EV variants within the next few years; Ford's Mustang Mach-E and an electric version of Toyota's RAV4 are slated to launch this year . link

TikTok is considering a curated content feed that would ensure advertising space free from disturbing and controversial content, Financial Times reports; sources say the stream could include user-generated and professionally produced content; the feed could enable TikTok to charge higher advertising rates . link

Chinese hacking group uses front companies to recruit hackers for state-backed campaigns, according to Intrusion Truth, a group of anonymous security analysts; FireEye and Kaspersky said Intrusion Truth's analysis refers to APT40, a group operating out of the Hainan province; the front companies, which share contact information, publish ads seeking cybersecurity experts with offensive skills . link

The consent management platforms used to serve cookie notification pop-ups allow and sometimes incentivize illegal configurations, according to a multi-university study; the platforms, which have proliferated due to GDPR, often allow users to close or ignore notices without giving explicit content regarding use of their data; EU law states it should be just as easy for a user to decline tracking . link

Justin Kan's legal workflow automation company Atrium is laying off most of its attorneys and paralegals, will focus on tools for lawyers and firms; in a draft announcement of the changes, Kan explained that growth in the company's legal services wasn't enough; Atrium will retain some lawyers (and refer to outside firms) to help clients with complex issues .Watch a February 2019 episode of This Week in Startups with Justin Kan: link

Twitter Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour says that platform can still incentivize toxic behavior and details how the company is addressing that and working to make conversations easier to follow; he explains timeline ranking, and the threaded conversations feature slated to roll out broadly this year . link