The Daily Download - latest tech news for 2020-02-01, fan podcast based on @launchticker

The download for 2020-02-01 →


Russian legislation slated to go into effect in July will require phone manufacturers to preload applications that could provide the Russian government with data on users' locations, finances, and communications; media has referred to the legislation as the link

Twitter removes an account run by the NH Republican Party for violating the company's policy on impersonation; the account used the handle @Feltes2020 and the profile displayed the name of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Feltes; the account began attacking Feltes on Wednesday . link

Tesla releases the first image of the production version of the Model Y; features the link

The Trump administration announces plan to suspend immigrant visas for Nigeria, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, and Myanmar; Nigeria is Africa's largest economy and leads the continent's tech sector; the restrictions will not apply to temporary visas; the Department of Homeland security cited the named countries' failure to meet security standards . link

The Department of Justice seeks a court order to block telecommunications companies from transmitting robocalls; the department named multiple businesses that transmitted VOIP calls to the US telecommunications network, enabling robo-callers to spoof numbers and otherwise disguise call origin . link

Hulu CEO Randy Freer to depart as the business reorganizes under Disney Direct-to-Consumer Chairman Kevin Mayer; remaining top Hulu executives will report to Disney division leaders; Disney gained majority control of Hulu through the acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets . link

Michael Beckerman, the founding president and CEO of Internet Association, to step down and join TikTok as VP of US public policy; the association's general counsel, Jon Berroya, will serve as interim president; the trade group counts Amazon, Google, and Facebook as members . link

Roku removes all Fox apps from its platform, cites the expiration of a distribution agreement; Fox said Roku was using its customers as pawns in a carriage dispute ahead of the Super Bowl; an NFL spokesperson noted that the NFL app for Roku will stream the game, but not in 4K HDR . link

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announces that the commission's Enforcement Bureau has completed its investigation regarding Motherboard's 2019 report that cell carriers sold customers' real-time location data to data brokers; Pai said one or more carriers violated federal law; he indicated fines were likely; consumers previously filed a class-action suit over the issue . link

This Week in Startups: News Roundtable!Jason speaks with Machine Zone CEO Kristen Dumont and journalist Iain Thomson (The Register) about the hack of Jeff Bezos' phone, Tesla's rising valuation, coronavirus, Uber-DoorDash merger talks, more . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Jeff Dachis, founder and CEO of diabetes self-management company One Drop; the conversation covers insights on making data actionable, One Drop's strategic partnership with Bayer, issues with US healthcare, the potential for life-expansion, more . link

The Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD) says 137 national governments have agreed to adjust their cross-border tax laws; the agency says changes will be made over the coming months; Pascal Saint-Amans, head of tax policy for the OECD, cites the threat of international taxes on tech firms and possible trade disputes as a key motivator . link

Facebook Gaming launches a set of tools to give streamers more control over comments and other follower activities; creators and moderators can establish guidelines for their followers, with the ability to mute and ban violators . link

Google launches an open source project for building physical security keys; known as OpenSK, it provides resources for building FIDO2 and FIDO U2F-compliant dongles based on Nordic chip hardware . link

The FBI has opened an investigation into Israel-based spyware firm NSO Group, according to Reuters sources; the agency is probing the company’s possible role in hacking US organizations and individuals; the FBI has been looking into NSO since at least 2017 when it was trying to establish if any hackers based in the US contributed code for the company’s tools . link

Online fashion marketplace Moda Operandi raises $100M led by NEA and Apax Partners; offers high-end runway apparel; has raised $345M to date . link

UK-based luxury car firm Aston Martin delays its EV plans; the company previously said it would introduce its first EV, the Rapide E, followed by an all-electric version of its Lagonda in 2022; Aston Martin says it’s rethinking its strategy following a £500M (~$660M) investment from Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll . link

The FCC proposes a ~$13M fine for Scott D Rhodes who is accused of initiating more than 6k racist and anti-Semitic robocalls; Scott allegedly targeted newspapers, political candidates, and other individuals across six states; Rhodes runs a website which has previously admitted to placing such calls; the FCC will soon vote on whether to impose the fine . link

Samsung files a patent for a mobile device with rounded ends; the unit comprises a main display accompanied by two smaller screens at each end; the filing indicates the rounded displays will feature touch controls and be able to show a range of icons; unknown if or when it will be a real product . link

Media monetization firm Insticator acquires New York City-based comments platform Squawk-It (formerly SolidOpinion); terms undisclosed; Squawk-It offers ad-supported comments tools to digital publishers . link

Huawei files a patent for a new foldable device; illustrations indicate the product will fold inwards, and that it will have a stylus as well as a sidebar which could be used for notifications and more; Digital Trends suggests the product could be the Mate X2, the successor to the Mate X which was the company’s first foldable smartphone; Huawei is expected to announce a refresh of the Mate X at IFA 2020 in September . link

Cannabis dispensary firm MedMen announces CEO Adam Bierman will step down effective Feb 1; Bierman is also signing over his Class A super voting shares to the company; it’s unclear who will replace him; follows reports MedMen has missed payments to vendors and is struggling with debt .Update: COO Ryan Lissack will take over as interim CEO; Bierman will remain on the company's board . link

Amazon’s market cap rises above $1T following its Q4 earnings; the firm’s shares opened 9.7 percent up on their Jan 30 closing price, adding more than $100B to the company’s valuation . link

Photo services firm Shutterfly is cutting ~150 jobs in Redwood, CA, reports Business Insider; the firm is axing 66 roles entirely, and relocating 87 positions to Eden Prairie, a town near Minneapolis, MN; Shutterfly subsidiary Lifetouch is already based in the town; it’s unknown if any affected Shutterfly staff will move; company execs, engineering, and support staff will remain in Redwood . link

Huawei calls on Australian lawmakers to allow it to participate in the country’s 5G network; the Australian government banned Huawei from its next-gen infrastructure in 2018, citing security concerns; Jeremy Mitchell of Huawei Australia says the UK’s decision to allow its participation shows Australian policymakers received incorrect advice; the office of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says there will be no policy change . link

The download for 2020-04-02 →


Lyft hires former Waymo engineer Sacha Arnoud, reports The Information; at Waymo, Arnoud led the company’s perception software team; Arnoud previously worked with Lyft’s self-driving head Luc Vincent when they were both at Google; Lyft established its autonomous driving unit in 2017 and now has 400 people working on the tech . link

Chinese coffee company Luckin Coffee fabricated $310M worth of transactions in 2019, roughly half of its $732M sales, according to an internal investigation; the preliminary findings also show Luckin substantially inflated some costs and expenses; shares in firm fell 84 percent on the news . link

The Trump administration has settled on a new set of rules designed to stop US exports falling into the hands of the Chinese military, according to Reuters sources; the White House has signed off on three separate measures to control the sale of semiconductors, optical materials, and radar equipment, though it’s unclear if President Trump will approve them all; it’s unclear if or when the rules will be announced . link

SpaceX bans the use of Zoom citing “significant privacy and security concerns,” reports Reuters; in an email to staff, SpaceX says all staff access to Zoom has been revoked with immediate effect; the company has told employees to email, text, or call instead . link

The FCC will vote April 23 on whether to allow Wi-Fi devices to take advantage of currently unused spectrum; relates to the 6GHz band, which would free up over 1,200MHz of bandwidth; 6GHz can only be utilized by next-gen Wi-Fi 6E devices; FCC chair Ajit Pai has previously indicated support for the move . link

Google donates 4k Chromebooks to students living in rural areas of CA amid the coronavirus outbreak; the company is also providing free Wi-Fi hotspots to 100k rural households; CA Governor Gavin Newsom suggests the state still needs an additional 163k Wi-Fi hotspots to help students who have to study from home . link

Microsoft plans to make many of its internal and public-facing events digital-only for the upcoming fiscal year, reports ZDNet; F2021 calendar (which runs from July 2020 to June 2021) will mean events such as July’s Ignite 2020 will not include an invited audience; some events are yet to be decided . link

Apple Card customers are being given the option to defer their April payments without incurring interest or other penalties because of the coronavirus pandemic, reports Bloomberg; Apple has written to customers informing them of the option, noting they will have to enroll in its Customer Assistance Program . link

President Trump says he’s considering stopping flights to and from US cities that have reported high cases of coronavirus; the US has more than 216k confirmed cases . link

Vietnam is to institute a new law which bans fake online news; under the rules, anyone proven to have posted or shared misinformation can face fines of up to $850, equal to several months salary in the country; authorities can also force people to take down such posts; Vietnam’s definition of fake news includes posts that slander firms, insult the “honor and dignity” of individuals, and more . link

AT&T appoints Jason Kilar as CEO of WarnerMedia, effective May 1; Kilar co-founded Hulu, where he also served as CEO; Kilar will report to WarnerMedia president and COO John Stankey, who is stepping away from the CEO role . link

OH-based healthtech firm Olive raises $51M led by General Catalyst with participation from Drive Capital and others; the company is developing AI-powered tools to help hospital administrators better manage back-end operations; has raised ~$124M to date . link

Google is closing its community-centric app Q&A Neighbourly, which launched in India in May 2018; the app was built by Google’s Next Billion Initiative and was intended as a way of letting users ask and answer both region specific and more general questions; Google says Neighbourly did not get the traction it was hoping for; it will shutter May 12 . link

Video teleconferencing firm Zoom says it will address a series of recently highlighted security and privacy problems over the next 90 days; CEO Eric S Yuan says the firm will pause development on new features and work with third-party experts to conduct an extensive review of its platform; Zoom will also expand its current bug bounty program, and more; Yuan notes Zoom had an average of 10M DAUs last December; that figure is now 200M . link

The FTC has filed a lawsuit to try and roll back a $12.8B investment by tobacco conglomerate Altria in vaping firm Juul; the FTC claims Altria backed Juul because it saw it as a competitor; Altria once made its own vape products, but stopped producing them just before it invested heavily in Juul; the FTC says Altria then used its market influence to ensure Juul had favorable shelf space in stores . link

T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom is considering M&A deals within Europe as a method of growing the company, reports Bloomberg; Tim Hoettges, CEO of the German firm, says the European telco market is too fragmented and posits he would investigate any possible opportunities for consolidation; follows T-Mobile’s $26.5B takeover of Sprint, which closed yesterday . link

Former Uber exec Anthony Levandowski has filed a motion to try to force the company into arbitration; Uber signed an indemnity agreement with Levandowski when it acquired his autonomous truck firm Otto, promising to protect him against any actions from his former employer Google/Waymo; Levandowski has since been ordered to pay Google $179M for stealing trade secrets relating to driverless car tech . link

SoftBank reneges on a $3B tender offer for WeWork shares; SoftBank says it has a duty to its shareholders, and says it cannot continue with the deal because of ongoing criminal and civil probes into WeWork; a WeWork board committee says it’s considering legal action .Update: WeWork co-founder and former CEO Adam Neumann was set to receive almost $1B from the deal, reports Yahoo Finance . link

Workplace productivity platform Notion raises $50M on a $2B post-money valuation from Index Ventures and others; the company provides online collaboration tools to enterprise customers; has raised $67M to date . link

YouTube plans to launch a TikTok competitor, according to sources for The Information; known as Shorts, the feature will exist within the current YouTube app; it will let users create and upload short video clips, taking advantage of YouTube’s record label licensing deals; it’s unclear when the service will roll out . link

Slack rolls out a feature that allows users to launch Microsoft Teams calls from its own service; it does not let Slack users handle the calls through Slack; Slack will also let users set Microsoft Teams Calls as their default calling service; additionally, Slack is adding support for VoIP services from Zoom, WebEx, Jabber, RingCentral, and Dialpad . link

UK-based games equipment firm Roto VR raises £1.5M (~$1.8M) led by Pembroke VCT with participation from TVB Growth Fund; the company has developed a chair for use during VR gaming sessions, featuring haptic feedback, cable management, and more . link

British-Israeli EV battery firm Addionics raises $6M led by Next Gear Ventures; includes a $2.5M grant from the EU’s Horizon2020 innovation competition; the company has developed a new rechargeable battery design that it says can perform better than current models . link

An unknown number of Whole Foods employees have called in sick to work as part of a coordinated movement to demand a better company response amid the coronavirus outbreak; workers are calling on the Amazon-owned company to provide more sick pay and better protections for store employees; staff have circulated a petition that has garnered more than 10.5k signatures backing the action . link

Biotech firm Aspen Neuroscience raises $70M from OrbiMed, ARCH Ventures, Frazier Healthcare Partners, and others; the firm is developing treatments for Parkinson disease, and plans to soon start clinical trials; Aspen has also named new board members Faheem Hasnain of Gossamer Bio, Tom Daniels of ARCH Ventures, and Peter Thompson of OrbiMed . link

Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn says it’s still possible it can produce 5G iPhones in time for a fall launch; investor relations head Alex Yang says Foxconn lost time because of Chinese travel restrictions linked to the coronavirus outbreak, but suggests the firm will be able to catch up; Yang notes any further controls would likely impact a fall launch . link

Business communications platform Orion Labs raises $29M Series B led by Dell Technologies Capital with participation from WRVI Capital and others; the company offers real-time communication tools for distributed teams; has raised $63M to date . link

Officials in Russia announce an app for tackling the spread of coronavirus; residents in Moscow who have been diagnosed with the virus must download the app so authorities can monitor their movements; the city also plans to roll out a QR system that allocates individual ID codes to all residents . link

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is considering investments in companies hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, reports The Wall Street Journal; Buffett and his team are looking at companies in the travel entertainment sectors, and are prepared to offer financial lifelines if needed; it’s unknown if or when Berkshire Hathaway will make any investments . link

Amazon warehouse workers in Detroit walk out over the company’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak; staff based at a facility near to the city say management has not properly kept them informed of COVID-19 cases at the site; employees also claim they’re working in cramped conditions and that there is a shortage of cleaning supplies . link

Indonesia-based agritech firm TaniHub raises $17M led by Openspace Ventures and Intudo Ventures with participation from UOB Venture Management and others; the company operates a platform offering a range of services to farmers including peer-to-peer loans, access to trading networks, and more; has raised $29M to date . link

WeWork is offering some tenants discounts of up to 50 percent if they sign longer-term leases, according to Bloomberg sources; the company is targeting a range of clients including those who currently operate on month-to-month contracts; WeWork is reportedly being more aggressive with its discounting because of the coronavirus pandemic . link

French groceries firm Carrefour partners with Uber Eats to deliver essential items in Paris; starting April 6, Uber Eats customers will be able to purchase items for delivery from Carrefour convenience stores; the companies say deliveries should take ~30 minutes . link

T-Mobile closes its merger with Sprint; as part of the move, John Legere has officially stepped down as T-Mobile CEO, with president and COO Mike Sievert taking over; the change in leadership was previously announced, but was expected to happen on May 1; Sievert says T-Mobile immediately plans to start using former Sprint bandwidth for its 5G network . link

The download for 2020-04-01 →


Samsung launches a Galaxy S20 buyback program that promises up to 50 percent of the full retail price; customers have to have purchased their device directly from Samsung, and it can be returned any time within 24 months; rebates will be based on the condition of the handset . link

UK-based edtech startup Lingumi raises £4M (~$5M) led by North Summit Capital with participation from LocalGlobe, ADV, and Entrepreneur First; Lingumi provides online English learning tools aimed at preschoolers; has raised ~$7M to date . link

New York City’s Commission on Human Rights is launching an investigation into Amazon after the company fired a worker who led a strike; Chris Smalls organized a walkout in protest over working conditions amid the coronavirus outbreak; Amazon claims it fired Smalls for violating its quarantine rules . link

VR firm Strivr raises $30M Series B led by Georgian Partners; Strivr offers VR-based training tools to companies such as FedEx, JetBlue, and Walmart; has raised $51M to date . link

Ride-hailing firm Via raises $400M Series E on a $2.2B post-money valuation, according to a TechCrunch source; the funding was led by Exor with participation from Macquarie Capital and others; the company operates an on-demand shuttle service in Chicago, Washington, DC, and New York City; has raised ~$600M to date . link

Teleconferencing firm Zoom is leaking some email addresses and user profile images, reports Vice; the issue comes from Zoom’s Company Directory, which automatically adds users to a others' contact lists if they signed up for the service using an email address with the same domain; some Zoom users also say the firm is grouping them into company directories based on where they work, even if they used a personal email address at signup; the grouping means users can theoretically start calls with strangers . link

Uber says it will provide 10M free rides and food deliveries to some of those impacted by the coronavirus outbreak; the company says it will offer services to healthcare workers, senior citizens, and others; Uber plans to roll out the scheme over the coming months, focusing it on those most in need; the company is inviting enquiries from senior centers, hospitals, and more . link

Facebook launches Community Help, a tool that connects those offering help with neighbors who need it; Facebook says the service is aimed at facilitating grocery shops, food bank donations, and more; the company is testing Community Help in the US, the UK, France, Australia, and Canada; it says it will roll it out to more locations over time . link

NY-based Games studio Rockstar Games says it will donate 5 percent of the next month’s revenue from “GTA Online” and “Red Dead Online” to coronavirus relief efforts; the company says it will provide more details of the donations it’s making at a later date . link

China-based EV battery company Farasis Energy receives regulatory approval to raise as much as ~$480M via a public listing on the country’s Nasdaq-like STAR board; Farasis is aiming for a $4.2B valuation; Farasis is also building a factory in Germany in partnership with Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz . link

SoftBank names Taiichi Hoshino as head of a new investment planning unit; Hoshino previously oversaw various hedge funds at Goldman Sachs; Hoshino also worked at Japan Post Bank alongside Katsunori Sago, who became SoftBank’s chief strategy officer in 2018 . link

Amazon and Walmart have ended e-commerce affiliate partnerships with media firms such as BuzzFeed, according to sources for The Information; media outlets who provide links to marketplace products get a cut from any follow-on sales; such arrangements reportedly make up ~20 percent of BuzzFeed’s annual revenue . link

CA-based plastics alternatives firm Vericool raises $19.1M from Radicle Impact Partners, The Ecosystem Integrity Fund, and others; the company provides coolers and packaging made from 100 percent plant-based materials; Vericool says its products are curbside recyclable and compostable . link

Singapore-based ride-hailing firm Grab names Peter Oey as CFO; Oey previously served as CFO of online legal services company LegalZoom; he also held the CFO position at identity aggregation service Mylife.com; Oey will be based in Singapore and report directly to CEO Anthony Tan . link

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has partnered with data analytics firm Palantir to see how well US hospitals are prepared for the coronavirus outbreak, according to Forbes sources; Palantir has built a system that allows CDC staff to see the spread of the virus in the US, and how well regional facilities are equipped to handle a spike in cases .Update: Palantir is in talks with several European governments to provide tools for handling the coronavirus outbreak, according to a Bloomberg source; the company already has a deal with the UK, and is speaking with health officials in France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland . link

Xerox says it’s ending its attempted hostile takeover of HP; the company had launched a more than $30B tender offer after HP rejected multiple overtures; Xerox also sought to nominate a number of new board members to HP's board; Xerox says the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic turmoil makes any such deal difficult . link

Games company Niantic acquires AR firm 6D.ai; terms undisclosed; 6D.ai offers software tools to help smartphone cameras quickly interpret 3D spaces; Niantic will shutter 6D.ai’s third-party developer tools over the coming months and integrate the tech into its Niantic Real World Platform . link

Hotel company Marriott discloses a data breach impacting 5.2M guests; full details unclear, but the company says it uncovered the activity in late February, noting it happened in mid-January; Marriott says the hacker had access to names, mailing addresses, emails, details for linked airline loyalty programs, and more; the firm says it doesn’t seem financial data was breached; follows the disclosure of a separate breach of the company’s Starwood Hotels system, first revealed in Nov 2019 . link

Apple acquires weather app Dark Sky; terms undisclosed; Dark Sky co-founder Adam Grossman says there are no changes currently planned, but notes the Android version is no longer available to download; Dark Sky’s API will stop receiving support at the end of 2021, but it’s not accepting new sign-ups . link

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Research and Development Authority (BARDA) signs a $13M contract with biotech firm Cue Health to ramp up the development of a handheld mini-lab for coronavirus tests; the device is designed to work with small cartridges, and promises to deliver results to an app-based dashboard . link

Huawei predicts US firms could face retaliatory restrictions in China if the White House introduces new controls; Huawei Rotating Chairman Eric Xu says “the Chinese government will not just stand by” as the US implements stricter controls against Huawei; Xu suggests China could stop US companies from making use of 5G networks . link

Singapore-based healthtech firm Doctor Anywhere raises $27M from Square Peg, EDBI, and others; Doctor Anywhere provides telemedicine services for patients in Singapore and Thailand; the firm has raised more than $40M to date . link

General Catalyst raises $2.3B for three new funds; comprises a $600M early-stage fund, a $1B growth fund, and a $700M “endurance fund”; Managing Director Hemant Taneja notes there are startups working on “massive ideas” amid the coronavirus outbreak . link

Spotify launches its Spotify Kids app in the US, Canada, and France; listed as a beta app, it’s aimed at users aged aged three to 12; provides a playlists themed around movies, TV shows, and stories, as well as activities such as learning or playing . link

Palo Alto networks acquires software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) firm CloudGenix for $420M; the company provides enterprise tools for managing security protocols across multiple locations; the deal is expected to close in Q4; CloudGenix has raised ~$100M to date . link

China-based edtech firm Yuanfudao raises $1B on a $7.8B valuation led by Tencent and Hillhouse Capital Group; the company offers online classes and homework plans; Yuanfudao claims $400M users . link

Canada-based electric motorcycle startup Damon raises $3M from from undisclosed investors; the company has also acquired IP from EV firm Mission Motors; Damon announced its first e-motorbike in January the $24k Hypersport, which promises a top speed of 200 Mph . link

Teleconferencing firm Zoom does not use end-to-end encryption (E2E) despite marketing its services as such, reports The Intercept; instead, Zoom uses so-called transport encryption; Zoom has acknowledged it doesn’t use E2E for video calls, saying its current setup doesn’t allow it . link

Apple says it will pay hourly contract workers who had recently been told their roles would be suspended without compensation amid the coronavirus pandemic; CEO Tim Cook previously said Apple would continue to pay hourly staff, but some had recently learned they would be losing wages and healthcare benefits; Apple spokesperson Kristin Huguet says the firm is working with its partners to ensure staff are being paid . link

Facebook has deleted a video posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that makes false claims about the treatment of coronavirus; follows a similar move by Twitter, which has also removed tweets featuring misinformation from Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro; Facebook has previously said it would allow politicians to share posts that contained lies . link

LCD manufacturer Japan Display says it has secured a $200M investment from an unnamed overseas customer; Reuters sources say the investor is Apple, which is one of its main clients; the arrangement will see the outside company purchasing equipment at Japan Display’s main plant, which produces smartphone screens; Japan Display previously owed Apple $800M for cost of building the facility . link

Samsung’s display division says it will stop producing LCDs by the end of this year; the company notes it's moving toward quantum dot displays; Samsung currently operates four LCD production lines - two in South Korea, and two in China . link

76-year-old computer scientist and co-creator of the internet Vint Cerf has contracted COVID-19; Cerf, who currently serves as chief internet evangelist at Google, announced the news on Twitter; Cerf says he’s recovering . link

The download for 2020-03-31 →


Tom Blomfield, CEO of UK-based challenger bank Monzo, says he will forgo his salary for 12 months amid the coronavirus outbreak; the company’s senior management and board have also volunteered to take a 25 pay cut; some Monzo employees are also being asked to consider a two month furlough . link

Uber co-founder Garret Camp is stepping back as a board director, transitioning to a board observer position; Camp says he plans to work with CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and the product and technology teams to brainstorm new product ideas; fellow co-founder Travis Kalanick left Uber’s board entirely late last year and has since sold all his shares in the firm . link

France-based server-heater firm Qarnot raises €6M (~$6.5M) from Banque des Territoires, Caisse des Dépôts, and others; the firm manufactures indoor heaters and boilers that get their heat from built-in servers; the servers are then rented by firms such as BNP Paribas, Société Générale, and Natixis; has raised more than $11M to date . link

South Korean chip company MagnaChip Semiconductor agrees to sell its foundry business for $435M to a group of investors led by Alchemist Capital Partners and Credian Partners; as part of the deal MagnaChip will receive $345M, and the consortium will take on $90M of debt; MagnaChip says it will use the money to pay down its other debts . link

Tiger Global has established an unknown stake in TikTok-owner ByteDance via share purchase activity over 21 months, according to sources for the Financial Times; ByteDance’s shares have reportedly been selling on the secondary market at a company valuation of $90B to $100B; marks at least a 20 percent increase in ByteDance's worth since it received a $3B investment in 2018 led by SoftBank . link

A federal court in Washington, DC, rules violating terms of service for a website does not constitute a crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; the case was brought by a collective of academics and journalists, with the support of the ACLU; the group wants to look into possible racial discrimination among online job portals by creating fake companies and job seekers, something most platforms do not allow; Judge John Bates says most websites terms are long and are often changed many times, making it unreasonable that users should be held criminally liable . link

Apple is allowing some staff to take home prototype devices to continue development amid the coronavirus outbreak, reports Bloomberg; the company operates a strict protocol around the handling of unreleased products, and it’s still enforcing many of those policies while items are off-site; it is also allowing select individuals to work on pre-release software from home . link

Amazon fires a warehouse worker who led a strike against a New York City facility; the company says it took action against Chris Smalls for violating the company’s quarantine measures; Smalls claims he was let go because he took action; NY Attorney General Letitia James says the firing was “immoral and inhumane,” and has encouraged the National Labor Relations Board to investigate . link

Huawei says its income grew 19.1 percent last year to $121B; the company suggests the figure would have been even greater if not for a US trade ban; Huawei says the US is unwilling to discuss measures to get it removed from the blacklist, though it notes it remains hopeful the situation will eventually change .Update: Reuters notes Huawei’s net profit is up 5.6 percent year-on-year, it’s smallest annual growth in three years; at the same time last year, Huawei reported 25 percent growth; Huawei’s carrier business, which includes its 5G networking operations, grew 3.8 percent year-on-year . link

China-based e-commerce platform Pinduoduo raises $1.1B via a private share placement, financed by its long-term investors; Pinduoduo recently warned of losses because of the coronavirus outbreak; the company now says the funding gives it “strategic flexibility” . link

NY Attorney General Letitia James writes to Zoom enquiring about its privacy practices; James has asked the company if it has instituted any new security practices to help deal with the surge in traffic since the coronavirus outbreak; James notes the firm has been slow to address specific security flaws including allowing third-party access to webcams; Zoom says it will respond . link

Germany-based meal-kit firm HelloFresh says it expects quarterly revenue of €685M (~$755M) to €710M (~$783M), indicating growth of as much as 69 percent year-on-year; the company notes a surge in demand amid the coronavirus outbreak; shares in the company have risen as much as 14 percent . link

Airbnb announces a $250M Host Relief Fund, which promises to help hosts with some costs amid the coronavirus outbreak; the company is also launching a $10M Superhost Relief Fund, offering grants of up to $5k to those who rent their personal homes on the platform . link

Sony delays its slate of major upcoming film releases because of the coronavirus pandemic; “Morbius,” which was set to release in July, has been pushed to next March; “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” also originally scheduled for July, will now release in March 2021 as well . link

Fintech firm Kabbage says it will furlough a significant portion of its 500 staff based in the US because of the coronavirus pandemic; full numbers unknown; the company, which offers online loans to SMEs, is also closing an office in Bangalore, India; Kabbage has told workers the executive team will also take a significant pay cut . link

India-based online travel service Ixigo cuts salaries for all its workers amid the coronavirus outbreak; CEO and co-founder Aloke Bajpai says the company’s leadership team has agreed to a 60 percent pay cut; the rest of the staff have agreed to reductions of 50 percent to 20 percent, Bajpal and fellow co-founder have opted to forgo their salaries entirely . link

WeWork sells Meetup.com to a group of investors including AlleyCorp; terms undisclosed; Meetup.com is an online tool to facilitate in-person meetings; WeWork bought the company in 2017 for $156M . link

MIT open sources the design for a low-cost ventilator amid the coronavirus outbreak; knowns as E-Vent, the device is intended to cost ~$100 to build; a team from MIT has produced a prototype; it is also seeking feedback from the FDA . link

Huawei open sources MindSpore, its AI app development framework; similar to Google’s TensorFlow or Facebook’s PyTorch, MindSpore works across devices, edge computing, and cloud environments; Mindspace has the support of Imperial College London, the University of Edinburgh, Peking University, and others . link

Microsoft replaces its Office 365 consumer plans with Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscriptions; Personal will be billed at $7 per month (single user), Family $10 per month (up to six users); both plans offer access to Office, and will eventually include a consumer version of Microsoft Teams; the company will also introduce a Family Safety app for sharing personal location, managing users’ screen time, and more; the plans go live April 21 . link

The German government plans to launch a coronavirus tracking app in the coming weeks, reports Reuters; similar to an app launched by the government of Singapore, it would be able to anonymously record and report back interactions between individuals; Germany’s data protection commissioner Ulrich Kelber has voiced support for the use of location and contact data on a voluntary basis . link

Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin has been officially designated an essential business by the US government, allowing it to continue operating during the coronavirus pandemic; the firm has a $500M contract with the US Air Force to develop its New Glenn rocket system; Blue Origin notes its work falls within the aerospace and defense sectors, both of which have been deemed essential . link

28 percent of investors have backed out of seed-stage deals in the UK this month because of fears the coronavirus outbreak will cause a global recession, according to SeedLegals; despite there being less active investors, deals are up 19 percent since January as firms seek to close out their financial year ahead of April; SeedLegals posits some investors are nervous while many firms are less investible than they were before the pandemic . link

Telegram is seeking clarification on whether it can still issue crypto tokens following a preliminary injunction against its GRAM ICO; the company has written to a NY federal court seeking clarification on how the ban impacts non-US investors; Telegram suggests it could implement technical measures to stop those outside the US from reselling GRAM tokens in the US . link

Twitter has deleted a couple of tweets from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that questioned the necessity of quarantine zones amid the coronavirus pandemic; the company has also removed a tweet from former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani that contained misinformation about possible treatments for the virus; Axios notes Twitter has strengthened its rules during the outbreak, but suggests it hasn’t necessarily enforced them equally . link

No-code app service Turbo Systems names Jen Grant as CEO; Grant previously served as a VP at Box, and as chief marketing officer at both Elastic and Looker . link

One.com acquires rival hosting firm Hostnet; terms undisclosed; Netherlands-based Hostnet provides website solutions, domain name services, and more; serves ~210k customers . link

MA-based biotech firm ElevateBio raises $170M Series B from The Invus Group, Surveyor Capital, EDBI, and others; the company is developing a range of cellular and genetic therapies; has raised more than $300M to date . link

Google removes Infowars’ Android app from the Play Store for violating the company’s policies relating to misinformation; follows reports Infowars is spreading misleading info about the coronavirus outbreak; Apple banned Infowars from its App Store in 2018 . link

The New York Times looks at President Trump’s use of social media in comparison with the Democratic Party; notes Trump has 75M Twitter followers, which compares with presidential candidate and former VP Joe Biden who has 4.6M; the report highlights competing ideas within the Democratic Party on how best to take on Trump and the GOP online . link

Facebook signs a multi-year deal to purchase all AR displays produced by UK-based firm Plessey, reports The Information; terms unknown; Apple reportedly considered acquiring Plessey recently; Plessey has developed microLED displays that it claims consume less power than more traditional screens . link

Edtech firm Preply raises $10M Series A led by Hoxton Ventures with participation from Point Nine Capital and others; the company operates a tutoring marketplace for online learning; has raised $11.3M to date . link

PayPal’s Australian unit warns it may face financial implications once an external compliance audit has been completed; the division says it “cannot estimate the potential impact” of the audit, which was instigated by the Australian government; follows concerns over whether PayPal has properly followed Australian anti-money laundering laws . link

The download for 2020-03-30 →


New York City-based WeWork competitor Knotel reduces its global workforce by 200, equal to 50 percent of its staff; 30 percent of those cut have been permanently let go, while the remainder have been furloughed; Knotel says its taking the steps to prepare itself for the worst case scenario during the coronavirus pandemic . link

The UK’s data regulator says the British government can utilize anonymized cell phone data to track the spread of coronavirus; the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) says if the data not personally identifiable it may be used without violating privacy laws; it’s unknown if or when the UK will use such info for tracking the outbreak . link

~100 Amazon workers are set to go on strike today at a fulfillment center in New York City; the staff claim management have been unresponsive to their safety concerns amid the coronavirus outbreak; workers want the Staten Island facility closed for two weeks so it can be thoroughly sanitized; they’re also demanding pay for those who have stayed away because of concerns about catching the virus at work . link

Foxconn’s profit fell to ~$3.8B in 2019, down 6 percent on the year before; Bloomberg notes a reduced demand for new smartphones and the US-China trade war likely impacted its business; the accounting period does not cover the coronavirus outbreak; sources also say a 5G iPhone will launch this year, but other products could be delayed .Update: Foxconn’s profit dropped 23.7 percent during the last quarter of 2019; the company registered income of $1.6B for the period; Foxconn warned earlier this month that it expects a 15 percent revenue drop for Q1 2020 . link

Teleconferencing firm Zoom updates its iOS app, removing code that transmits data to Facebook; the firm had been passing along info about a user’s location and their device whenever they opened the app; Zoom says it did not send personally identifiable data . link

Alphabet commits more than $800M of services and supplies to help with the coronavirus pandemic; the firm is working with Magid Glove and Safety to produce up to 3M face masks; Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai notes the company will also financially support the production of other necessary medical equipment; Alphabet will also offer $250M in grants to the World Health Organization and regional health groups; Alphabet’s Google will provide $340M worth of ad credits to SMEs . link

Facebook announces a $100M scheme aimed at supporting journalism amid the coronavirus outbreak; the company has committed $25M in grants to local news outlets and $75M in “additional marketing spend”; the figures are in addition to $300M the company has previously pledged to local news companies; Facebook VP Campbell Brown says the company feels an obligation to help such media firms during the economic downturn . link

US officials are using mobile ad networks to track the spread of coronavirus, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the CDC is working with local and state authorities to pull location data from users in specific geographic regions; the exact data collection method is unclear, but it comprises info from multiple providers, all of which is anonymized; researchers are trying to understand the movements of individuals and how they may be spreading the virus . link

SoftBank’s share price drops 10 percent after portfolio firm OneWeb files for bankruptcy protection; the satellite internet firm has raised at least $1B debt and equity from SoftBank; in its Chapter 11 filing, OneWeb listed liabilities and assets of more than $1B . link

Instacart says it will distribute hand sanitizer to its workers (aka shoppers) amid the coronavirus outbreak; follows complaints from shoppers that the company has not done enough to protect their wellbeing; shoppers are demanding the company provide them with $5-per-order hazard pay and broaden its sickness policy; a collection of shoppers say they will refuse orders today in protest . link

Amazon is offering warehouse staff higher rates if they move over to its Prime Now groceries business, reports Reuters; follows a spike in demand for fresh produce amid the coronavirus outbreak; those chosen to move over can earn $19 an hour, $2 more than those working with non-perishable goods . link

The presidential campaign for Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has open sourced some of the apps and other code it put together; includes Spoke, a peer-to-peer messaging app, and Pollaris, a location lookup tool; Warren suspended her campaign earlier this month . link

An unnamed buyer has acquired app-based game show firm HQ and relaunched HQ Trivia, reports Axios; terms unknown; HQ shutdown in February, and the company fired all its staff; former CEO and co-founder Rus Yusupov is said to still be involved with HQ . link

The government of Saudi Arabia is seemingly tracking its citizens when they’re in the US by exploiting flaws in the SS7 global messaging architecture, reports The Guardian; an unnamed whistleblower has presented evidence of millions of secret tracking requests over a four month period; the cell phone requests are typically used by telcos to properly monitor roaming charges; Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) has previously urged FCC chair Ajit Pai to act to secure SS7 protocols . link

Microsoft Azure cloud services have seen a 775 percent increase in usage across regions where home shelter orders are in place; Microsoft says since the coronavirus outbreak demand for Windows Virtual Desktop has tripled, and notes Teams is seeing an average of 44M daily users; the company says it’s prioritizing support and connectivity for “critical health and safety organizations” . link

The New York Times profiles the challenges social networks face ahead of the 2020 US presidential election; explores how actors backed by Russia, Iran, and others have adjusted their tactics from the 2016 campaign, including using more advanced bots; notes the coronavirus pandemic is making it harder for Facebook and Twitter to coordinate their various teams; Google has placed security engineers across its business to look for signs of foreign interference . link

Healthtech firm Air Doctor raises $7.8M Series A led by Kamet Ventures and The Phoenix Insurance Company; provides medical services tools to travelers who get sick while abroad; provides access to a network of doctors and healthcare professionals across 42 countries . link

The download for 2020-03-29 →


Organizers cancel the 2020 Detroit Auto Show due to coronavirus; the annual event will return to Detroit's TCF Center in June of next year; organizers expect FEMA will designate the venue as a field hospital; officials are considering more than 100 other facilities to serve as temporary COVID-19 hospitals . link

Infotech consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton publishes report detailing 15 years of Russian military hacking operations; the report contextualizes various campaigns that supported Russia's foreign policy around the world and focuses on the operations of the GRU intelligence agency . link

Tencent and Huawei to co-develop the GameMatrix mobile cloud gaming platform and establish a lab to experiment with AI, VR/AR, etc; will leverage Huawei’s Kunpeng processor; the lab will also explore engine optimization, create new debugging tools, more . link

NASA selects SpaceX to deliver cargo, experiments, and other supplies to the Lunar Gateway as part of NASA’s Artemis program, expected to deliver the first woman and next man to the moon by 2024; the Gateway will orbit the moon and serve as astronauts' living and working spaces as they conduct missions to the lunar surface . link

The total number of domains including or referencing coronavirus/COVID-19 grew to 68k-plus this year, according to intelligence company DomainTools; many are associated with cyber-criminals and spammers; domain investor Jon Schultz, who sold Ebola.com in 2014 for $200k, bought several coronavirus-related domains, but was unable to buy coronavirus.com (currently forwards to the WHO), reportedly owned by GoDaddy . link

Britain's major ISPs agree to temporarily lift data caps on fixed broadband; BT, Sky, and others agreed to terms with the government, promising to assist customers unable to pay due to coronavirus, more . link

The FDA grants emergency use authorization for a point-of-care COVID-19 testing device made by healthcare tech company Abbott; the Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 testing unit weighs 6.6 pounds and is about as large as a small toaster; produces positive results in five minutes, negative results in under 15 minutes; Abbott plans to begin production next week and expects to reach a capacity of 50k units per day . link

NY Gov Andrew Cuomo announces postponement of the state's presidential primary election, from April 28 to June 23; NY had already scheduled state race elections for June 23; ~a dozen states have postponed their presidential primaries, and some have switched entirely to mail-in voting with extended deadlines; NY could lose some National Convention delegates due to its delayed voting . link

ProPublica details how propaganda campaigns tied to the Chinese government rely on hacked and stolen Twitter accounts to spread disinformation; ProPublica has tracked 10k suspect accounts since August; some target Chinese users living outside China; some accounts post in English only; ProPublica linked some of the accounts to a marketing agency contracted to boost the twitter following of a major state-owned news agency . link

The Covid-19 Mobility Data Network is providing state and local governments with insights regarding the efficacy of lockdowns, levels of compliance with social distancing recommendations and shelter-in-place orders, which businesses are drawing crowds, more; the program uses anonymized consumer location data from ad-tech companies; a source for The Wall Street Journal said a planned portal for officials could include data on 500 US cities . link

Microsoft says it will sell its stake in Israeli facial recognition company AnyVision and will no longer make minority investments in such companies; Microsoft participated in AnyVision's $74M round last summer, and later hired former US Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate claims that AnyVision's tech enabled surveillance of Palestinians living in the West Bank; Palestinian activists and Microsoft employees called on the company to divest . link

Career planning and salary negotiations company Candor finds 267 companies, ~60 percent of the 400 companies for which Candor has recent reports, have enacted hiring freezes due to coronavirus; job candidates reported 36 rescinded offers; 44 companies laid workers off; 111 companies, including Zoom, Amazon, and Palantir, continued hiring . link

Rental fashion company Rent the Runway lays off all retail employees; the company operates brick-and-mortar locations in CA, NY, IL, and DC, though all are currently shut down due to coronavirus; Rent the Runway recently told employees on a Zoom call that the company didn't know when or if it would reopen its stores; the company is providing severance pay and two months of health insurance . link

Wired explores how the UK is transforming the ExCeL London convention center into a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients; ExCeL, which has ~330k square feet of convention space, plans to open to patients next week, initially housing 500 of a planned 4k beds; National Health Service CEO Simon Stevens said the government would establish makeshift hospitals in Birmingham and Manchester as well . link

Amazon is offering warehouse workers a boost in pay to pick and pack Whole Foods groceries for delivery, according to an internal document viewed by Reuters; Amazon announced this month it would hire 100k warehouse workers and delivery drivers in the US and raise pay for those roles by $2 per hour through April; the new labor-sharing initiative adds another $2 per hour, and will see some workers earn $19 per hour . link

The UK's National Health Service (NHS) has partnered with Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Palantir, and London-based Faculty AI to develop computer dashboards that track the spread of coronavirus, the risks for various population segments, and the NHS's ability to address new cases; the group expects to make a dashboard available to government decision-makers next week, enabling them to effectively distribute equipment and other resources . link

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Huawei, and two state-run companies propose a new standard for core internet tech at the UN’s International Telecommunication Union; Western representatives speaking with Financial Times indicated support from Russia and potentially Saudi Arabia; critics say the standard, New IP, could give authoritarian regimes granular control over internet access .Huawei, which masterminded New IP, is leading a group within the UN’s International Telecommunication Union focused on network technology required by 2030; Huawei says it is tailoring New IP to meet those criteria; the company claims the tech has no built-in governance model, and aims to facilitate connected vehicles and other tech . link

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Huawei, and two state-run companies propose a new standard for core internet tech at the UN’s International Telecommunication Union; Western representatives speaking with Financial Times indicated support from Russia and potentially Saudi Arabia; critics say the standard, New IP, could give authoritarian regimes granular control over internet access .Huawei, which masterminded New IP, is leading a group within the UN’s International Telecommunication Union focused on network technology required by 2030; Huawei says it is tailoring New IP to meet those criteria; the company claims the tech has no built-in governance model, and aims to facilitate connected vehicles and other tech . link

Satellite broadband company OneWeb files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, expects to sell; a GeekWire source indicated the London-based company was unable to secure additional financing from existing backer SoftBank; OneWeb currently has 74 satellites in orbit, and has either completed or started development on ~half of its 44 planned ground stations; raised $3B to date . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Figma Co-Founder and CEO Dylan Field about crucial moments during the company's creation, convincing Greylock and Sequoia to invest after initially passing, active vs passive user-pricing, overcoming SaaS burnout, more . link

Amazon raised prices and sometimes engaged in price gouging alongside third-party marketplace sellers, according to Jungle Scout, which tracks Amazon sales data and sells it to vendors; Amazon announced this week it had removed 500k listings and locked 3.9k seller accounts due to coronavirus-related price gouging; Jungle Scout said Amazon had at one point listed a four-pack of its house-brand toilet paper for $72 . link

GameStop ($278M market cap) to permanently close 320-plus locations this year; CEO Jim Bell made the announcement during a fourth-quarter earnings call, reporting a full-year revenue decline of 22 percent; the company made $62M in operating income in 2019 ($0.22 EPS); GameStop shuttered 320 locations globally last year . link

The download for 2020-03-28 →


Beijing-based AI and big data company MiningLamp raises $300M Series E led by Temasek and Tencent; launched in 2014 with fraud detection and ad performance analysis, has since expanded into smart cities, public safety, and other areas; sometimes referred to as China's Palantir . link

NY Court of Appeals rules Postmates couriers are employees, as the company could not operate without them; Postmates had argued its platform merely connected couriers with customers; State Attorney General Letitia James called the ruling a victory for gig workers across NY, and said delivery drivers deserve the same unemployment benefits that other workers access . link

The CDC reports that 13 of 23 people at a WA nursing home who tested positive for COVID-19 were asymptomatic at the time of their tests; the facility had restricted visits and isolated symptomatic residents; the CDC noted some asymptomatic residents had the same levels of virus in their respiratory systems as the symptomatic residents . link

The Walt Disney Company announces Disneyland and Disney World will remain closed until further notice; the company had planned to reopen the amusement parks on April 1, but extended indefinitely in accordance with recommendations from authorities and experts; Disney will pay its hourly park workers through April 18 . link

President Trump signs $2T coronavirus relief package into law; authorizes the IRS to make $1.2k payments to millions of Americans; also establishes programs to disburse ~$1T in business loans; the labor department reported a record ~3.3M unemployment claims for last week .The law provides unemployment to some gig workers, such as Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts, impacted by the pandemic; Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR), who helped create the legislation, said our Depression-era unemployment insurance system is out-of-date and unequipped to address the pandemic . link

Microsoft's ($1.14T market cap) deal to acquire Affirmed Networks values the network virtualization company at $1.35B, according to Bloomberg sources; Affirmed primarily serves telecoms using 5G tech; Affirmed revealed the appointment of Anand Krishnamurthy as CEO and president this week . link

Bird lays off ~30 percent of its employees, providing four weeks of pay and three months of health coverage; affected employees can exercise stock options for one year; Bird suspended services last week as did competitor Lime, which is reportedly raising funds at a dramatically reduced valuation . link

Cybersecurity experts form the COVID-19 CTI (cyber threat intelligence) League to combat hackers exploiting the pandemic; ~400 volunteers from 40-plus countries are monitoring for and addressing campaigns against medical facilities and frontline workers; the group includes people in senior positions at Microsoft, Amazon, and other major companies capable of mitigating attack efficacy and damage . link

The New York Times examines how lockdowns and self-isolation are affecting elderly people, many of whom struggle with modern technology; the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently urged people to help the elderly set up telemedicine and similar services; senior living communities have replaced visits with phone and video calls; some have focused on video games and other activities . link

MIT researchers launch a project to track coronavirus patients; participants download an app and enter their COVID-19 status; the app tracks users' anonymized locations and alerts those who come into contact with the potentially contagious; the developers are in talks with the World Health Organization about deployment; sources for The Wall Street Journal said the researchers were in contact with the White House . link

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield says the company is working on calling integration with Microsoft's Teams; launch timing and other details undisclosed; Slack revealed in October it had 12M daily active users; Butterfield recently said coronavirus and the shift toward working at home had fueled an increase in signups; Microsoft said last week Teams had 44M daily active users . link

Google commits $800M in cash and advertising to address COVID-19 and its impact; includes a $200M fund for nonprofits and financial institutions that give small businesses access to capital, $250M in ad grants for the WHO and other government agencies, $340M in Google Ads credits for current and recent customers, more; Google is also providing funding and expertise to assist in the production of protective and medical equipment . link

Ontario-based John Strupat, a retired respiratory therapist, open-sources plans for his $500 pandemic ventilator; Strupat debuted a prototype two weeks ago, hoping for a partnership with the Canadian or US government; Strupat said while no governments expressed serious interest, healthcare workers inundated him; he also saw interest from older people afraid they would not be treated if ventilator demand exceeded supply as COVID-19 cases increase . link

Instacart contractors threaten nationwide strike, demanding hazard pay of $5 per order, free safety supplies (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, etc), and expanded sick pay for those with preexisting conditions whose doctors have advised them not to work; Instacart recently announced plans to hire 300k shoppers over three months in North America . link

Apple launches COVID-19 app and website, created in partnership with the CDC, FEMA, and the White House Coronavirus Task Force; provides screening, best hygiene practices, information on social distancing and self-isolation, recommendations for coronavirus testing, more; also provides frequently asked questions and recommended resources . link

The download for 2020-03-27 →


Online content filtering firm L1ght says there has been a 900 percent increase in anti-Chinese hate speech on Twitter since the coronavirus outbreak started; L1ght also says there has been a 200 percent increase in traffic to posts and websites that discriminate against Asian people . link

The Trump administration is considering new measures that could impact Huawei’s global chip business, according to Reuters sources; the White House may introduce a new rule that would require overseas firms that use US semiconductor facilities to obtain a license before supplying chips to Huawei . link

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) commits $25M to help discover and develop coronavirus treatments; CZI is giving the money to the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, which is also being backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mastercard, and others; the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator is working in partnership with the World Health Organization . link

Insurance firm Chubb discloses a data breach; full details unclear, but the company says it’s investigating unauthorized access of data belonging to an unnamed third-party; security analyst Brett Callow says Chubb was targeted in a ransomware attack; the unidentified hackers reportedly posted some details of the breach online earlier this month . link

Tesla’s battery plant in NV will reduce on-site staffing levels by ~75 percent during the coronavirus outbreak, according to Austin Osborne, the local county manager; follows a decision by partner Panasonic to close its operations at the plant for 14 days . link

Apple’s manufacturing partner Wistron says it could base half of its operations outside of China within a year; Wistron is producing some iPhones in India, and has started to expand into Mexico and Vietnam; comes as fellow assembly firm Pegatron announces plans to move into Vietnam next year; Pegatron operates a plant in Indonesia, and is considering locations in India . link

Huawei partners with Tencent to develop a cloud gaming platform; full plans unclear, but the GameMatrix service will make use of Huawei’s Kunpeng processor; both companies say they will explore other collaborations including in the areas of AR and AI . link

WeWork says it will likely miss its 2020 financial targets because of the coronavirus pandemic; CEO Sandeep Mathrani and Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure have written to bondholders informing them they are now revising their previous goals; Mathrani and Claure also say WeWork’s revenue grew 90 percent in 2019 to $3.5B, though it’s unclear if the company turned a profit . link

Google says it will resume its Chrome and Chrome OS release schedule after temporarily pausing rollouts amid the coronavirus outbreak; Chrome 80 will begin receiving updates next week; Chrome 81, originally set for March 17, will now appear on April 7; Chrome 82 has been cancelled, but Chrome 83 is expected mid-May . link

Sony announces it will spin off its Electronics Products & Solutions (EP&S) unit into a standalone company on April 1; EP&S includes the company’s imaging and mobile operations; Sony says the move will allow it to “optimize its organizational structure, talent and business portfolio” . link

Amazon says it unintentionally hid some competitor listings that offer faster delivery options for non-essential items on its marketplace; comes as the company prioritizes delivery for essential products amid the coronavirus outbreak, which it says led to certain products not being shown to customers; Amazon says it’s working on a fix . link

Facebook names Robert M Kimmitt as lead independent board director; Kimmit previously served as former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and as the US Ambassador to Germany; he replaces Dr Susan Desmond-Hellmann who left the board last October; Jeffrey D Zients, CEO of The Cranemere Group, will not seek re-election to Facebook’s board . link

Apple is temporarily extending the trial period for its pro software Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X from 30 days to 90 days; follows similar moves from other software makers amid the coronavirus outbreak . link

Yelp has stopped automatically adding GoFundMe donation buttons for local businesses on its platform; Yelp and GoFundMe rolled out the scheme earlier this week in support of firms amid the coronavirus outbreak; follows complaints from companies who tried to opt out; Yelp says the program will now be opt-in only . link

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts Apple will launch a line of ARM-based Macs and MacBooks in Q4 2020 or Q1 2021; Kuo says moving to arm will allow Apple to shrink processor costs by 40 to 60 percent; Kuo als forecasts Apple will add USB4 support in 2022; based on Thunderbolt 3, USB4 promises transfer speeds twice as fast as current-gen USB 3.2 . link

Teleconferencing firm Zoom is using Facebook SDKs for its iOS app and is sending data for users to the company even if they don’t have a Facebook account, reports Vice; Privacy Matters activist Pat Walshe says nothing in Zoom’s terms of service indicate its passing such info along . link

Slack ($15.86B market cap) stock closes up ~10 percent after CEO Stewart Butterfield reveals details about the pandemic's impact on the company; namely, Slack added 9k new customers in the first quarter, up from 5k in the previous quarter; Slack's shares are up 30 percent for the year, despite the S&P being down more than 20 percent; teleconferencing company Zoom's stock is up 112 percent for the year . link

Patreon saw 30k new creator signups during the first three weeks of March; since March 13, the company has seen creators sign up at a faster rate than at any other time in the company's history; creators are also gaining followers and generating revenue more quickly than usual; many creators have joined the platform due to revenue losses attributable to coronavirus . link

Verily publishes a video explaining Project Baseline, the company's effort to screen, advise, and test people potentially infected by coronavirus; currently limited to the San Francisco Bay Area; the screening website asks visitors about work conditions, symptoms, ages, etc; the company books test appointments, often at drive-through stations, for qualifying people; the video also details the testing process . link

iOS bug affecting versions 13.3.1 and later weakens VPN security, as the OS fails to close existing connections when starting a VPN session; some internet connections will terminate and re-connect through a VPN tunnel, but others will remain open and active outside the VPN tunnel, while the user believes all traffic is protected . link

The Wall Street Journal examines the challenges Apple faces in estimating demand for the next iPhone lineup as supply chains face significant delays and consumers cut back on nonessential spending; former employees speaking with the Journal said Apple generally begins ordering iPhone parts and components in March or April; the company reportedly plans to launch a new low-price iPhone this year . link

Cybersecurity insurance provider Chubb reveals incident in which someone gained unauthorized access to a third party's data; Chubb said its own network was unaffected and operational but did not disclose other details, such as impact, if any, on client companies; Emsisoft analyst Brett Callow attributed the attack to the Maze ransomware group, which deploys software that exfiltrates data as it encrypts target systems . link

Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Honda, and Toyota extend North American factory closures; some had hoped to reopen facilities at the end of March; Ford and Honda now expect to open after the first week of April; Fiat Chrysler's facilities will remain closed until mid-April; Toyota expects to reopen on April 17 and resume production on April 20 . link

Two Tesla employees tested positive for COVID-19, according to an internal email viewed by TechCrunch; the employees had been working at home for ~two weeks at the time of diagnosis, and were never symptomatic in the office; both are now self-quarantined; the email did not reveal the work location(s) of the employees . link

Airbnb announces a program to house 100k coronavirus responders; will place first responders, healthcare professionals, and others closer to their places of work; hosts can opt to donate stays via the Open Homes platform, which Airbnb established in 2012 as an emergency housing program; for hosts that cannot donate stays, Airbnb will waive all fees . link

Huawei announces Celia, a voice-activated digital assistant for markets outside China; the company operates a voice assistant called Xiaoyi for devices sold in China; Huawei is developing alternatives to the Google software and services it previously relied upon, as US trade restrictions prohibit Google from working with Huawei . link

The Labor Department reports 3.2M-plus unemployment claims for last week, a new record; the previous record, set in Oct 1982, stood at 695k; Great Recession claims peaked at 665k in March of 2009; a Dow Jones survey of economists established a consensus estimate of 1.5M claims resulting from coronavirus last week, though various Wall Street forecasts indicated much higher numbers . link

The UK government orders 10k ventilators from Dyson to treat COVID-19 patients; the company designed and built the ventilator, the CoVent, in 10 days after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson contacted James Dyson for assistance in addressing coronavirus; James Dyson said he would also donate 5k ventilators to the international effort; the company expects to fill the order in early April . link

Some Amazon warehouse workers are filling shifts while sick, according to employees speaking with CNBC; some complained facilities were crowded, with few or no sanitation supplies; workers have circulated a petition calling on the company to take additional steps to protect employees' safety; reports indicate Amazon workers at 10 US facilities have tested positive for COVID-19 . link

Microsoft ($1.16T market cap) acquires MA-based Affirmed Networks, which specializes in cloud-native network virtualization for telecoms; terms undisclosed; Affirmed serves more than 100 enterprise customers, including Orange, Vodafone, and AT&T; Affirmed revealed on March 25 it had appointed Anand Krishnamurthy as CEO and president; previously raised $155M . link

Epic Games announces Epic Games Publishing, a label that funds up to 100 percent of projects, allowing developers to retain 100 percent of IP and full creative control; developers earn at least 50 percent of profits after recoupment; launch partners include link

The download for 2020-03-26 →


Meri Williams steps down as CTO for UK-based challenger bank Monzo, reports TechCrunch; Williams is reportedly stepping away help with cost-cutting measures, but a TechCrunch source says she has been consulting for other firms for some time, spending just one day at week at Monzo; it’s unknown who will replace Williams . link

A coalition of 33 state attorneys are calling on Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Facebook, and Craigslist to do more to prevent price gouging amid the coronavirus outbreak; the group, led by PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro, have written a letter to the companies urging them to take proactive steps; Amazon and eBay have stopped new sellers from listing face masks and hand sanitizer, while Facebook has banned ads for masks . link

Germany-based compliance service DataGuard raises $20M from One Peak; the company provides cloud-based tools for ensuring GDPR compliance . link

Data virtualization toolkit Dremio raises $70M Series C led by Insight Partners with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners and others; the company offers tools for working with data across Hadoop, NoSQL, ElasticSearch, and other databases; has raised $115M to date . link

Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei says 90 percent of the company’s 150k employees are back to work following the coronavirus outbreak; Ren also claims no Huawei worker based outside of Hubei province has been diagnosed with COVID-19; Ren notes the firm will likely lower its financial projections for the year . link

Driverless tech firm Helm.ai emerges from stealth, raises $13M seed from A.Capital Ventures, Amplo, and others; the startup is developing self-driving software using unsupervised learning; Helm.ai plans to license its tech for use in Level 2 and Level 4 vehicles . link

Fintech firm Plastiq raises $75M Series D led by B Capital Group with participation from Kleiner Perkins, Khosla Ventures, Accomplice, and Top Tier Capital Partners; the company provides payment tools that let customers use credit cards in places they’re not typically accepted; has raised $137.8M to date . link

Online checkout startup Fast raises $20M led by Stripe with participation from Index Ventures and Susa Ventures; Fast provides login and payments tools to e-commerce companies; has raised $22.5M to date . link

AMD says a hacker has stolen source files relating to some of its current and future GPUs; the batch reportedly includes code for Arden GPU, rumored to be used in the upcoming Xbox Series X console; details of Arden, Navi 10, and Navi 21 GPUs appeared on GitHub, but AMD has filed numerous takedown notices . link

Twitter temporarily suspended an account for conservative website The Federalist after it shared an article encouraging young people to spread coronavirus among themselves in the hope of building up immunity; Twitter has also added a label to the article, advising the link is “potentially harmful” . link

Deepinder Goyal, CEO of India-based restaurant delivery app Zomato, says hundreds of employees have agreed to voluntary salary cuts to help the company during the coronavirus pandemic; the firm has also started a fund to help its delivery partners; Goyal notes the Zomato is hoping for financial assistance from the Indian government . link

Global smartphone sales fell 14 percent in February amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to Counterpoint Research; Chinese government data indicates Apple sold less than 500k iPhones in the country last month; Counterpoint analyst Jean Park posits “the worst is yet to come” in many markets . link

Mobility firm Lime is raising new funds at 80 percent of its previous valuation, according to sources for The Information; the firm is seeking emergency funding based on a worth of $400M, which compares with a $2.4B valuation it held last year; Lime currently has $50M to $70M cash on hand; it has suspended operations in multiple markets because of the coronavirus pandemic . link

Netflix says it has fixed an outage affecting some users in the US and the UK; the company notes it had issues for about an hour, but says the problem is now resolved . link

Facebook removes dozens of Pages, Groups, and user accounts linked to a white supremacist group based in the Pacific Northwest; includes 36 Facebook accounts and 10 Instagram accounts; Facebook notes it previously banned the hate group but says many created new accounts using pseudonyms . link

Groupon removes Rich Williams as CEO and Steve Krenzer as COO; both will remain with the company; Groupon’s North American president Aaron Cooper will serve as interim CEO as the firm looks for a permanent replacement; Groupon’s share price is down 63 percent this year . link

HP is encouraging shareholders to reject Xerox’s hostile takeover bid, saying such a merger could be “disastrous” for the company; in a letter to stakeholders, HP notes the global financial market has shifted dramatically since Xerox first made its approach; Xerox has said it will temporarily suspend its efforts to merge the two firms because of the coronavirus outbreak, but plans to continue when the situation improves . link

Foxconn-controlled Sharp acquires a controlling stake in NEC’s display unit NDS; terms undisclosed; NDS produces LCDs, digital cinema products, and more; as part of the deal Sharp and NDS will form a joint venture to bring their products to market . link

Apple may not launch a 5G iPhone until next year, according to sources for Nikkei Asian Review; the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the firm’s supply chain and may impact demand for new devices; Apple is expected to make a final decision around May; follows reports the next iPhone lineup could be pushed to November . link

China-based cyberthreat actor APT41 conducted a global campaign attempting to exploit vulnerabilities in NetScaler, Cisco, and Zoho products in the first quarter, FireEye reports; the campaign targeted finance, defense, healthcare, and other industries; FireEye indicated it was one of the broadest such campaigns in recent years . link

Elon Musk says Tesla will reopen and repurpose its NY plant as soon as humanly possible to manufacture ventilators for COVID-19 patients; medical device maker Medtronic previously revealed it was working with Tesla on ventilator production; the automaker is also rushing to make ventilators at its Fremont, CA factory; Musk recently announced Tesla bought 1,255 ventilators from China for use in CA . link

IBM and subsidiary The Weather Channel launch COVID-19 mapping and analysis for the Weather Channel app and weather.com; uses the same data sources that inform tools by the World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins University; displays confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world, more; IBM created a Watson-powered analytics dashboard primarily targeting researchers and officials . link

Reps Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and Katie Porter (D-CA) contact the CEOs of health tech companies Carbon Health, Everlywell, and Nurx, seeking information about the firms' business and testing practices; each company rushed a COVID-19 specimen collection kit to market; the representatives noted that the FDA had not approved any such kit . link

AngelJason speaks with Greylock General Partner Sarah Guo about her firm's link

Tim Cook announces Apple has secured 10M masks for donation to American healthcare workers and millions more for Europe; Cook noted Apple's operations teams were working in coordination with governments around the world to source more masks; Ford and other companies have transformed facilities to produce masks . link

Cybersecurity incidents associated with coronavirus-related shutdowns and changes in work behaviors could go unnoticed for weeks or longer, according to experts speaking with The Wall Street Journal; as companies cut costs and adopt remote work arrangements, sophisticated hackers could exploit the opportunity to delve deep into networks and collect valuable data . link

Seattle-area marketplace OfferUp raises $120M led by online classifieds business OLX Group, will acquire competing marketplace Letgo; terms undisclosed; OLX, which was already a majority Letgo investor, will own 40 percent of the combined entity; OfferUp has raised $381M to date; Letgo previously raised $975M . link

Amazon workers at ten US warehouses test positive for COVID-19, The Washington Post reports; ~1.5k Amazon workers around the world have signed a petition demanding the company take additional steps to protect employees against infection, including adjusting performance metrics to take into account social distancing and handwashing . link

The FBI promotes its FitTest app, encouraging home-bound users to engage in physical activities, but the app collects location and Wi-Fi data; the FBI launched the app years ago and privacy experts speaking with CNBC in 2018 then said it was difficult to determine what data the app collected; Business Insider also reports vagueness in the FBI's data collection policy . link

The World Health Organization partners with multiple tech companies to establish the #BuildforCOVID19 hackathon, which will encourage participants to develop projects that address coronavirus or its fallout; will accept submissions from March 26 through March 30, and announce top projects on April 3; Twitter, Slack, and others will offer resources for participants . link

Zeus Living, which provides furnished accommodations for month-plus stays, cuts 30 percent of staff (~80 workers) due to a pandemic-related decrease in demand; serves six metro areas in the US, primarily catering to business travelers; investors valued Zeus at $205M for a $55M Series B in December; raised $79M to date . link

Corporate travel management company TripActions lays off hundreds of workers due to a coronavirus-related decrease in demand, according to a source for The Wall Street Journal; the layoffs reportedly affect one-fifth to one-quarter of the company's workforce; investors valued TripActions at $4B for a $250M round in June; raised $1.2B to date . link

Google launches its Podcasts app for iPhone and iPad, unveils a redesigned version for Android (rolling out this week); the new app features Home, Explore, and Activity tabs; users can sync across iOS and Android via Google Podcasts for Web . link

Facebook and Google could collectively lose $44B in ad revenue this year due to coronavirus, according to Cowen & Co analysts; the investment bank has lowered its estimate for Google's annual revenue by 18 percent: from ~$156B to $127.5B; Facebook recently announced weakened ad demand; the company also disclosed increased overall usage, but said free services represented most of the new engagement . link

The download for 2020-03-25 →


Customer service firm Espressive raises $30M Series B led by Insight Partners with participation from General Catalyst and Wing Venture Capital; Insight’s Jeff Horing joins the board; Espressive provides chatbot tools to enterprise customers; has raised $53M to date . link

Corporate travel service TripActions has cut hundreds of staff amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to a source for The Wall Street Journal; the firm has let go a quarter to a fifth of its employees; TripActions confirms it has has laid off some workers, though it has not confirmed numbers; the company says it aims to hire back individuals when the economy and travel industry strengthens . link

UPS partners with German firm Wingcopter to develop a new delivery drone; the electric aircraft promises a range of up to 75 miles and a top speed of up to 150 Mph; Wingcopter has previously demonstrated its UAVs carrying small packages such as medical supplies; unknown if or when it will go into service . link

The Singaporean government says it will make its contact-tracing app open source in an effort to help other nations dealing with the coronavirus outbreak; known as TraceTogether, it has been downloaded more than 620k times since it launched late last week; TraceTogether makes use of Bluetooth to identify when someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 is within 2 meters (~6.5 feet) of others . link

The FDA approves experimental treatments that use the blood of recovered COVID-19 sufferers; in extreme cases where an individual’s life is seriously threatened, doctor’s are able to use “convalescent plasma” from those who have beaten the virus; such transfusions have previously been used in the treatment of H1N1 flu, SARS, and MERS, but with mixed results . link

Apple may push the launch of its next iPhone lineup to November, according to tech leaker Jon Prosser; Prosser claims the company has not completed prototyping for iPhone 12 as the process requires Apple execs to travel to China; Prosser also says mass manufacturing is still scheduled for May, but posits the firm will likely miss that time-frame . link

Indonesia-based Gojek says the company’s top execs will donate 25 percent of their salaries to support merchants, drivers, and other partners amid the coronavirus outbreak; known as the Gojek Partner Support Fund it's reportedly worth at least $6M; the firm will also redirect its annual salary increases to the fund . link

Facebook says the coronavirus outbreak is negatively impacting ad sales; the firm says it’s seen weaker marketing activity in countries that have implemented aggressive social distancing measures; Facebook also notes parts of the platform that have seen an uptick in activity are not typically well-monetized; Facebook’s messaging services have seen a 50 percent increase in use over the last month in many hard-hit countries . link

YouTube Music adds lyrics support to its iOS and Android apps; the lyrics are static and do not play along with the track itself . link

Walmart-controlled e-commerce firm Flipkart pauses operations amid the national lockdown edict in India; the company will still provide bill payment services and video streaming, but all delivery options are suspended; Flipkart has not said when it will return to regular service . link

The French government announces a €4B (~$4.3B) liquidity support plan aimed at startups; full details unclear, but follows previous measures by President Emmanuel Macron who has said he wants France to be a startup nation .Update: as part of the package, startups that were raising new funds when the coronavirus outbreak hit will be able to apply for a bridge round; firms can also borrow up to two years of payroll, or 25 percent of annual revenue (whichever is greater); startups can also get access to tax refunds more quickly . link

Foxconn and Wistron suspend iPhone manufacturing in India following a “total lockdown” order by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi amid the coronavirus pandemic; Foxconn’s factories will be closed through April 14; it’s unclear when Wistron will resume operations . link

“Second Life” creator Linden Lab ends direct development on follow-up title “Sansar”; the company says it has sold the assets to Wookey Search Technologies, which will continue to work on it; terms undisclosed; Linden notes it will continue to support “Second Life” . link

Twitter donates a total of $1M to two journalism organizations amid the coronavirus pandemic; the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation will be able to use the money to directly help fund the work of journalists; follows similar grants from Facebook . link

WeWork offers some staff an additional $100 per day - up to $500 per week - to go to work at its brick-and-mortar locations amid the coronavirus outbreak; the bonus is being offered to so-called “community teams” who help oversee the daily-running of locations; the company is providing the money to workers through April; WeWork says it has to keep sites open as many of its clients run essential businesses . link

A federal court in NY issues a preliminary injunction against Telegram’s blockchain project GRAM; Telegram raised $1.8B for the ICO in 2018; the court says the arrangement likely violates US securities rules . link

Instagram says it is hiding accounts from search that reference coronavirus unless they are from credible health organizations; the company says users who search for info about the outbreak will first see an educational message from the World Health Organization (WHO) and local health bodies; Instagram is also adding new Stories stickers to remind others to wash their hands, adhere to social distancing, and more . link

US Senate leaders and the Trump administration reach an agreement on a $2T stimulus package to help with the coronavirus outbreak; Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are expected to discuss the deal later today; the arrangement will still need to be approved by Senate members and the House .Update: Schumer says the bill includes unemployment benefits for gig economy workers; Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi explicitly asked the Trump administration and lawmakers to include a provision for such workers . link

Apple plans to resume reopening retail stores in the first half of April, according to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg; the company first shuttered 42 stores within Greater China before closing down 458 locations elsewhere; Apple has since reopened its Chinese stores; the memo indicated the company would open stores on a staggered basis, with consideration for local conditions . link

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announces three-week nationwide lockdown, ordering 1.3B people to stay home; he used the phrase link

Apple updates Safari to block all third-party cookies; the change prevents advertisers and websites from tracking users' activities across other properties; Google announced in January that Chrome would prohibit all third-party cookies in 2022 . link

O’Reilly Media cancels all scheduled in-person conferences, announces the shutdown of its Events division; President Laura Baldwin said the coronavirus crisis had changed the events industry forever, and that vendors were moving all events online as part of the new normal . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with CoderPad Founder and independent journalist Vincent Woo about his piece link

Bill Gates says the US acted too slowly, missing its chance to avoid shutdowns; speaking for an online TED Connects event, Gates said the necessary period of self-isolation would be disastrous for the economy; he suggested six to 10 weeks; President Trump recently said that nonessential businesses should reopen by Easter, drawing criticism from experts . link

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention find coronavirus RNA on surfaces in Carnival-owned Princess Cruise ships in Japan and CA up to 17 days after passengers disembarked; passengers on both ships were quarantined on board; symptomatic and asymptomatic people infected with COVID-19 left the RNA on a variety of surfaces, and it survived longer than previous research indicated it could . link

Amazon Logistics now provides paid time off for all regular part-time and seasonal workers in the US: contractors began accruing time this week, useable immediately; a group of workers began demanding the benefit last year, but Amazon reserved PTO for full-time employees; the company reversed its stance after an online petition garnered 4.3k signatures . link

Health-tech companies Carbon Health and Nurx halt marketing and sales of COVID-19 home test kits following a Food and Drug Administration warning that the government had not authorized any such product; the companies offered swabbing kits consumers could use to collect samples for mail-in analysis . link

US executives sold ~$9.2B in shares of their own publicly-traded companies between the start of February and the end of last week, The Wall Street Journal reports; the Journal's analysis indicates the sales averted losses of ~$1.9B; Jeff Bezos sold $3.4B of Amazon stock in the first week of February; had he held the stock through March 20, he would have incurred paper losses of $317M, the Journal reports . link

YouTube sets default stream quality at standard definition, globally, for one month; the company previously enacted the policy in Europe to reserve residential internet bandwidth for people working and schooling from home; users will have the option to select higher definition playback, but all videos will initially load in SD . link

Apple releases new macOS (10.15.4), iOS (13.4), iPadOS (13.4), watchOS (6.2), and tvOS (13.4); iPadOS features full, system-wide support for trackpads and mice; developers can provide a single point of purchase for multiplatform apps; iOS now includes a CarKey feature that will enable some users to unlock and start their NFC-equipped vehicles via iPhone . link

London-based neobank Revolut launches in the US after garnering 10M+ customers in Europe; provides a mobile app for sending, receiving, and managing money; also offers a debit card; deposits are FDIC insured for up to $250k; investors last valued the company at $5.5B; raised $837M to date . link

Facebook ($442B market cap) in talks to acquire a ~10-percent stake in Indian telecom Reliance Jio in a multi-billion-dollar deal, according to Financial Times sources; the parties reportedly paused talks due to coronavirus-related travel bans . link

Dieter Bohn reviews the 2020 iPad Pro for The Verge, notes potential buyers should factor in the costs of a keyboard case and storage upgrade; Bohn says the iPad Pro competes with other iPads, not laptops; for instance, iPadOS requires an app be in the foreground to access the camera (camera is this model's most significant upgrade, with a LIDAR sensor that could go unused); starts at $800 for the 11-inch model, $1k for the 12.9-inch . link

The download for 2020-03-24 →


An internal report shows more than half of all recent articles consumed by US Facebook users relate to the coronavirus pandemic, reports The New York Times; US traffic from Facebook to other sites increased by more than 50 percent last week; the report, authored by Facebook data scientist Ranjan Subramanian, notes many users have clicked links from high-quality publications . link

Fintech firm Brex acquires Neji, Compose Labs, and Landria; terms undisclosed; Neji offers data protection tools across cloud deployments; Compose Labs provides info videos for coding and more; Landria provides tools for managing SaaS tech; 12 workers are joining Brex as a result of the takeovers . link

Taiwanese tech trade show Computex postpones its June event, rescheduling it for late September; follows requests from several manufacturers asking for the show to be delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak . link

Yelp is partnering with GoFundMe to let people send donations to local businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak; donation buttons are being added to Yelp for a range of firms including restaurants, gyms, beauty parlors, and more; Yelp and GoFundMe also say they will match up to $1M of pledges . link

Ford partners with 3M and GE to produce respirators and ventilators amid the coronavirus pandemic; the carmaker is also working with the United Auto Workers union to increase manufacturing of plastic medical face shields; Ford has temporarily suspended vehicle production . link

Netflix says it will temporarily reduce bandwidth demands in India by 25 percent amid the coronavirus outbreak; the company says the measure is designed to help avoid network congestion; Netflix has taken similar steps in Europe . link

The Indian government establishes a WhatsApp chatbot to help disseminate info about the coronavirus outbreak; known as MyGov Corona Helpdesk, it lets users get details and find resources; India’s IT ministry has also told social media firms to immediately remove or block misinformation about the virus . link

Singapore-based grocery delivery firm Honestbee says it has found “numerous irregularities” relating to ex-CEO Joel Sng and ex-director Jeffrey Wong; the company has investigated the purchase of a house in 2015 which Sng authorized; Sng and Wong also founded a separate company in 2017 that Honestbee partially supported; Sng started a separate e-wallet business that same year, which was later sold to Honestbee . link

Streaming service fuboTV says it will merge with VR/AR entertainment tech firm FaceBank Group (formerly Pulse Evolution); terms undisclosed, though it’s an all-stock deal; FaceBank is known for creating 3D holograms such as a realistic Michael Jackson at The Billboard Music Awards in 2014, and Tupac Shakur at Coachella in 2012; the combined company will retain the fuboTV branding . link

Toyota partners with Japanese telco NTT to develop a smart cities platform; the companies say they will work on a data analysis system which compiles and looks at info relating to homes, vehicles, and public institutions; the firms will then use that data to develop new services; as part of the arrangement, Toyota will take a ~$1.8B stake in NTT, and NTT will take a ~$1.8B holding in Toyota . link

Facebook lowers video streaming quality across its main platform and Instagram for users in Latin America; the company says it wants to mitigate against possible network congestion amid the coronavirus outbreak; Facebook has taken similar steps in Europe . link

Disney+ launches in multiple European countries including the UK, Ireland, and Spain; the service is launching with decreased bandwidth demands following a request from an EU commissioner amid the coronavirus outbreak; Disney+ costs £6 (~$7) per month in the UK, €7 (~$7.50) in other countries; annual plans start at £60 (~$70), and €70 (~$75) respectively; Disney+ will launch in France on April 7 . link

SoftBank will sell ~$14B worth of stock in Alibaba as part of a plan to raise ~$41B, according to Bloomberg sources; the report notes the sale could generate ~$12B to ~$15B; the firm is considering raising the rest of the money by selling a stake in its Japan-based telco (also called SoftBank), and Sprint, which is set to merge with T-Mobile . link

Amazon has suspended almost ~4k seller accounts for price gouging amid the coronavirus pandemic; the company says it used a dedicated team to identify and investigate in-demand items that were “unfairly priced”; includes hand sanitizer and face masks; Amazon says it is also sharing info about those sellers with federal regulators and state attorney generals . link

Verizon will automatically apply 15GB of high speed data to all mobile plans free of charge amid the coronavirus outbreak; the data will be added to plans between March 25 and April 30; the company is also waiving overage charges and late fees for those impacted; it will also not charge service fees for those on its discount Lifeline plan; follows a commitment from T-Mobile to give customers 20GB of tethering/hotspot data; AT&T is also waiving certain overage charges . link

HP teases a new VR headset developed in partnership with Microsoft and Valve; specs, price, and release date unknown, but HP says the device is “more immersive” than its earlier Reverb headset . link

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi writes to President Trump, asking the government to help drivers whose livelihoods have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic; Khosrowshahi also says lawmakers should establish a “third way” of classifying gig economy workers to better provide them long-term protections; Khosrowshahi has also reached out to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and others . link

Apple says it will expand the App Store to 20 more countries starting next month; includes Afghanistan, Cameroon, Iraq, and Myanmar . link

Google announces Stadia Makers program aimed at bringing more independent games to the platform; the firm is working with Unity and targeting experienced developers; the scheme offers free development hardware, funding, and technical assistance from Unity . link

The Wall Street Journal examines how the pandemic has affected Joe Biden's political campaign; sources say the Democratic frontrunner is expanding his 12-member digital staff, hiring for roles in digital advertising, social media engagement, and other online efforts; Biden has canceled events and instructed his staffers to work from home . link

FDA approves AliveCor's consumer ECG device, the KardiaMobile 6L, for expanded use by health professionals treating COVID-19 patients; current coronavirus medications can produce potentially fatal prolonged heartbeats; the KardiaMobile 6L enables mobile monitoring and could relieve overwhelmed hospitals . link

Zillow pauses home purchases due to lockdowns and social distancing; the real estate company buys houses from consumers in 24 markets; other real estate companies, including Opendoor and Redfin, have paused home purchases . link

The coronavirus has accelerated trends benefitting big tech, including increased video conferencing and remote learning, The New York Times reports; video streaming sites are thriving as theaters remain closed; consumer demand for delivered groceries has overwhelmed Amazon; the Times argues that tech companies could emerge from the crisis stronger as other parts of the economy struggle . link

Twitter ($19.3B market cap) withdraws first-quarter guidance and outlook due to the impact of coronavirus; the company noted that decreased costs were unlikely to offset reduced revenue, and said it expected a year-over-year decline in revenue for the first quarter . link

SoundCloud partners with Twitch to help musicians generate revenue despite tour cancellations; independent artists in particular have turned to Twitch streaming to make up for the loss of concert income; now SoundCloud Pro, Premiere, and Repost artists can fast-track to Twitch affiliate status, which includes multiple revenue options . link

Coming 6.7-inch iPhone will support sensor-shift image stabilization, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo; the feature functions independent of camera lens, so unlike iPhone 11, the new phone will support image stabilization for the Ultra-Wide lens; Kuo expects a 2022 iPhone to feature a periscopic lens enabling more powerful optical zoom . link

Instacart to hire 300k full-service shoppers over the next three months in North America; CEO Apoorva Mehta said in a message to Instacart shoppers that the last few weeks were the busiest in company history; he said all in-store shoppers now have access to sick pay, with extensions for those under mandatory quarantine and those diagnosed with COVID-19; Mehta also shared health and safety guidelines for essential workers . link

Britain has spoken with Amazon and other companies about delivering coronavirus tests to health workers, Financial Times reports; the government reportedly wants to work with established delivery networks to deliver tests to medial workers initially, and eventually to the general public . link

Foxconn hires seasonal workers ahead of schedule, says it's prepared to meet demand at its Chinese plants; has tested 55k for coronavirus and x-rayed 40k; the Apple partner saw production rates halve due to coronavirus; Foxconn should hit peak production in summer in preparation for the fall launch of new iPhones . link

The New York Times Company acquires Audm (YC S17), which has professional voice actors read long-form journalism for audio content; terms undisclosed; Audm works with numerous publishers including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and Rolling Stone; going forward, Audm will produce Times audio articles every Sunday; the Audm app will feature items from The New York Times Magazine . link

The US Trade Representative approves Apple's request that Apple Watch be excluded from a 7.5-percent tariff on Chinese goods; President Trump imposed a 15-percent tariff on a list of goods including Apple Watch in September; he cut the tariff to 7.5 percent as part of an initial trade agreement in February . link

Senate Democrats block coronavirus relief legislation; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the bill included massive bailouts for corporations without any accountability for recipients nor protections for workers; Schumer also noted insufficient support for hospitals and health care workers . link

3D-printing companies are donating medical equipment and components to hospitals as suppliers fall behind demand; numerous companies around the world have donated ventilator valves, face shields, and other items; Copper3D released plans for the link

Amazon is now estimating an April 21 Prime express delivery date for some in-stock nonessential items, Recode reports; other nonessential items indicate a five-day wait; the company generally delivers Prime express items in one or two days; Amazon is currently focusing its efforts on household staples . link

The New York Times examines how countries like South Korea and Italy are tracking citizens' movements and behavior to mitigate the coronavirus, and how acceptance of such surveillance could change civil rights; civil liberties experts compare current public sentiment to Americans' sacrifice of privacy after 9/11, noting that today's surveillance apparatuses are more sophisticated and ubiquitous . link

The download for 2020-03-23 →


The Polish government introduces an app that forces those ordered to self isolate to snap and upload a selfie to prove they’re staying inside; known as Home Quarantine, the app is aimed at those who’ve recently returned to the country; users receive intermittent requests for geo-tagged selfies for 14 days; if they fail to respond police are notified . link

The UK government is in talks with Amazon and others about using their logistics capabilities to deliver coronavirus testing kits to health authorities, reports the Financial Times; the report claims officials are exploring ways to distribute kits to medical workers, and possibly the general public at a later date . link

German e-commerce firm Global Savings Group (GSG) acquires France-based fintech company iGraal for €123.5M (~$132M) cash and stock; iGraal offers advertiser-backed loyalty reward schemes; GSG says it will expand iGraal’s offerings to other European markets . link

UK-based rebate management service Enable raises $13M Series A led by Menlo Ventures with participation from Sierra Ventures; Menlo’s Steve Sloane joins the board; Enable offers B2B distributor tools for tracking and optimizing rebates; has raised more than $15M to date . link

Walmart temporarily raises wages by $2 per hour for entry-level workers at its e-commerce warehouses amid increased orders because of the coronavirus outbreak; the company will pay workers $15 to $19 per hour through Memorial Day (May 25); follows similar moves by Target and Amazon . link

Uber and Ola suspend all rides in New Delhi, India, until March 31; follows a local government edict amid the coronavirus outbreak; Ola is also restricting its ride options across the whole country, saying it will still run a minimal number of vehicles to “support essential services” . link

Disney delays the launch of Disney+ in France by two weeks following a request from the French government; the company says it will still launch the service in several other European markets on March 24, but notes video quality will be downgraded in accordance with an EU request amid the coronavirus pandemic . link

Airbnb’s board has met to evaluate a range of measures amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Bloomberg sources; the company is considering raising new funds, acquiring distressed assets, and possibly making changes to its planned direct listing; Airbnb has received interest from VC and PE firms, as well as sovereign wealth funds; the company is weighing potential investments of $100M to $1B . link

Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook has donated its reserve of 720k face masks amid the coronavirus outbreak; the company stockpiled the masks because of wildfires in CA; Zuckerberg has not disclosed the recipients; follows similar equipment donations from Microsoft, Jack Ma, and Elon Musk . link

Mobility firm Lime is considering job cuts, according to a Bloomberg source; the company is looking to layoff 50 to 70 workers, most of which are based at its San Francisco HQ; Lime had ~$50M cash-on-hand in January, but it has a monthly burn rate of $22.5M; it’s estimated Lime has about 12 weeks of cash left; Lime has suspended services in multiple cities around the world amid the coronavirus pandemic . link

Apple drops a two-device limit for customers buying iPhones via its online store; the company introduced the restriction only recently; limits still apply for some iPad and Macbook models . link

Facebook announces a new program to support health organizations around the world amid the coronavirus pandemic; the company will provide resources to help agencies utilize Messenger for sharing info about the outbreak; Facebook developers will show health departments how to push out updates, transition chatbot conversations to a human agent, and more; Facebook says it’s also considering limiting forwarding features within Messenger in an effort to tackle misinformation . link

UK-based used car platform Cazoo raises £100M (~$116M) led by DMG Ventures with participation from General Catalyst and others; the startup offers a buying portal featuring a range of used vehicles that can be delivered to customers; has raised ~$210M to date . link

A special board committee for The We Company (aka WeWork) is preparing to challenge SoftBank if it reneges on a $3B tender offer; the committee says SoftBank’s reasons for not yet closing the deal are “inappropriate and dishonest”; SoftBank says it has the right to back out of the deal if it concludes there is any material liability; the firm says WeWork still needs to satisfy parts of the arrangement . link

Facebook says it will downgrade the quality of video streams on its main platform and Instagram for European users amid the coronavirus outbreak; follows a request from EU Commissioner Thierry Breton, calling on platforms to reduce bandwidth demands; YouTube, Amazon, Netflix, and others have also temporarily reduced video bitrates . link

IBM partners with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the US Department of Energy, and others to provide coronavirus scientists access to 330 petaflops of computing power; known as the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, the scheme will allow researchers to model complex algorithms as they try to model the disease and work on possible treatments . link

The CDC partners with Microsoft to launch Clara, a chatbot to help users get advice for symptoms they suspect may be linked to coronavirus; the AI-powered tool runs through a series of check-box questions and then provides advice based on the answers . link

SoftBank says it will sell or monetize up to ~$41B of assets to repurchase ~$18B of stock and reduce its debt; the move is in addition to a previously announced ~$4.5B stock buyback; the company has not disclosed what will be sold; follows pressure from activist investor Elliott Management which sought $20B in buybacks . link

The Taiwanese government rolls out a cell phone-based geofence system for monitoring people’s movements amid the coronavirus outbreak; the system sends an alert to police if an individual in a quarantine zone moves away from their home or turns off their device for an extended period; officials also call intermittently to ensure a person has not left their phone at home; Taiwan’s Department of Cyber Security head Jyan Hong-wei says the aim is to prevent the community spread of the virus . link

Best Buy transitions to curbside pickup only amid the coronavirus outbreak; only staff will be allowed into stores to gather items for customers; online pickup orders are also being handed off outside of stores; the measure also include returns and exchanges . link

The download for 2020-03-22 →


The Wall Street Journal examines how hospitals are using AI to monitor patients, regulate the flow of visitors to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, and screen visitors for coronavirus symptoms via facial scan; sensors, AI, and remote monitoring are facilitating makeshift facilities for COVID-19 patients . link

Disney to delay the launch of its Disney+ video streaming service in France, as per the country's request; scheduled to launch in most of Europe on March 24; like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and several other services, Disney+ will stream at reduced bitrates in Europe to conserve residential internet bandwidth for people working and learning from home .Disney also delayed the launch in India . link

Jeff Bezos says he is wholly focused on COVID-19 and how Amazon can best respond; in a memo to employees, now public, Bezos said he hoped people laid off from their jobs would come to work at Amazon temporarily; Bezos also said Amazon had ordered millions of face masks for employees, but few of the orders had been filled . link

Facebook employees knew the company was overestimating ad reach numbers for sales, according to amendment documents in a suit against the company that seeks class-action status; in one document, a product manager reportedly referred to the situation as a lawsuit waiting to happen . link

The FAA temporarily halted departures leaving New York City and Philadelphia on Saturday after a New York Air Route Traffic Control Center trainee in Long Island tested positive for coronavirus; the FAA sanitized all potentially affected areas . link

GameStop to close US-based storefronts to customers on March 22; will continue digital sales for delivery only; the company previously fought to stay open in locked down cities as an essential service . link

Hacking group Digital Revolution claims to have breached a contractor working for Russia's FSB national intelligence service and discovered an IoT hacking program called Fronton; documents indicated the FSB wanted an IoT botnet similar to Mirai, which executed DDoS attacks against ISPs and others in 2017 and 2018 . link

Twitter is verifying authoritative COVID-19 information resources and authenticating their profiles with blue badges; the company is prioritizing coronavirus-relevant verifications over others; Twitter sent a series of tweets on Friday, urging experts to associate institutional email addresses with accounts, link profiles to places of employment, etc . link

Microsoft makes its Healthcare Bot service available to organizations that will use it to screen people for coronavirus, provide assistance, etc; the CDC used the AI-powered tech to power a COVID-19 assessment bot; Microsoft is providing a number of templates for frequently asked questions, metric reports, more . link

Amazon warehouse workers express concern that safety procedures are inadequate or unevenly enforced as they work through the quarantine as essential service providers; warehouse workers and delivery drivers speaking with The Verge reported large groups of people working in close proximity, a lack of cleaning supplies, and no screening for COVID-19 infection . link

Amazon to pause the sale and shipment of nonessential items to customers in Italy and France; the company cited the need to observe coronavirus-related safety measures in its facilities during a period of high demand; Amazon considers grocery, baby, pet, personal care, industrial, scientific, and other products essential . link

Four Democratic senators contacted Jeff Bezos on Friday, expressing concern that Amazon wasn't providing proper support for warehouse staff working through the pandemic; the lawmakers mentioned reports that employees didn't have adequate sanitation supplies, and that taking the time for proper hygiene harmed their performance metrics . link

This Week in Startups: News Roundtable!Jason speaks with Index Ventures Partner Sarah Cannon and TechCrunch journalist Alex Wilhelm about the impact of COVID-19 to date, endgame plans, Sarah's stimulus plan, more . link

The New York Times examines the growing trend of Zoombombing: entering public Zoom video chats and using unrestricted screen-sharing to broadcast pornography and shocking media to unsuspecting chat participants; Zoom has reminded users that chat hosts can password-protect chats and restrict screen-sharing abilities; attackers are targeting public chats . link

CT Gov Ned Lamont to sign executive order requiring all nonessential businesses in the state shut down; grocery stores, pharmacies, major construction projects, and defense industry manufacturing will remain operational; effective March 23; part of CT's broader link

Amazon boosts overtime pay for hourly warehouse workers from time-and-a-half to double-time, effective March 15 through May 9; the company noted the change affects all hourly workers in Amazon's US operations network . link

February saw the most significant year-over-year decline in global smartphone shipments ever, according to Strategy Analytics data; manufacturers shipped 61.8M devices, down 38 percent from February of last year, which saw 99.2M units shipped; the firm expects smartphone shipments will remain weak through March . link

Politico speaks with academics and others about how coronavirus could permanently alter society; among the predicted outcomes are an increase in telemedicine, more activities shifting online, and more faith in experts; one associate professor expects a new kind of patriotism that honors doctors, nurses, and others as frontline service members . link

Google launches a dedicated COVID-19 information and resource site; features safety and prevention tips, local information, and more from authoritative sources including the WHO and the CDC; currently limited to English, but Google plans support for more languages; videos are available with ASL translation; the site is separate from Verily's COVID-19 resource site, which currently offers limited service in the Bay Area . link

IL Gov JB Pritzker orders the state's 12.6M residents to remain home except for essential errands; effective Saturday at 5 pm local time, expires April 7; Pritzker noted Illinoisans could shop at grocery stores and pharmacies, and visit gas stations and banks; all nonessential stores will remain closed . link

NY Gov Andrew Cuomo announces statewide lockdown, effective from Sunday at 8 pm local time; all nonessential businesses will remain closed; group activities, such as team sports, are banned; nonessential workers, public and private, must work from home; the city plans to open 93 enrichment centers, which will care for the children of city workers during the lockdown . link

The download for 2020-03-21 →


NY Attorney General Letitia James orders Craigslist to remove all ads and listings for fraudulent coronavirus treatments and related items that are overpriced; James also contacted six domain registrars requesting they disable existing domains used for coronavirus-related scams and stop registering new domains usable for such scams . link

Kraft Heinz has increased and focused manufacturing efforts to optimize shipping; the company has daily talks with Amazon and Walmart to determine how to fulfill demand as quickly as possible; Kraft Heinz has reduced manufacturing for less popular items and shifted resources to high-demand products; CEO Miguel Patricio said the company was breaking production records every day . link

The Wall Street Journal examines Elon Musk's apparently contrarian nature, how it fuels and shapes his efforts to innovate, and how it often leads to controversial interactions and decisions; the Journal specifically looks at Musk's skeptical attitude toward fear surrounding coronavirus and his reluctance to shut down facilities . link

The World Health Organization partners with WhatsApp to launch a Health Alert messaging service; WhatsApp users can send the text link

US and Mexico close mutual border to nonessential travel days after the US and Canada did the same; the Trump administration had already made efforts to reduce crossings at the Mexican border, including blocking migrants and asylum seekers; beginning Saturday, the US will block entry at both borders for anyone lacking proper documentation (will no longer process and hold) . link

YouTube launches a dedicated homepage section for COVID-19 videos from authoritative sources; includes live news, press conferences, educational clips, etc; YouTube has battled coronavirus misinformation videos on its platform, including conspiracy theory videos claiming 5G causes COVID-19 . link

Netflix establishes $100M fund to support workers affected by the company's content production suspension; the two-week shutdown has left carpenters, electricians, actors, drivers, and others out of work; Netflix promised regular wages to workers on suspended shows and films . link

IBM expands this year's Call for Code Global Challenge to include a focus on coronavirus; specifically, IBM challenges developers to address emergency communications, remote learning, and inspiring communities to cooperate in times of crisis; the challenge also calls for climate change-related entries; IBM will give the grand prize winners $200k . link

Google announces it will not host any I/O events this year; early this month, the company canceled the physical conference originally scheduled for May; at that time, Google was exploring options for delivering relevant content; today, in a tweet announcing the cancellation, Google cited the Bay Area's shelter-in-place policy and the need to focus on health and safety . link

MIT's Solve, which hosts social innovation challenges for individuals, startups, nonprofits, and others, announces a global health security challenge; MIT expects ~five to 10 winners for each of its challenges, the themes of which are usually crowdsourced; the latest challenge urges innovators to address pandemics and their fallout; will connect participants with networks of investors, service providers, etc . link

The Wall Street Journal's Julie Jargon provides online resources for families in isolation, including options for exercise, entertainment, learning, mindfulness, more; covers ages two and up . link

Goldman Sachs expects initial unemployment claims will spike to ~2.25M for the week of March 15-21 due to coronavirus impact; would represent the most substantial increase and total ever; CNN recently reported the Department of Labor contacted state labor agencies, requesting they delay the release of unemployment stats to avoid market panic . link

Walmart plans to hire 150k temporary workers to meet coronavirus-related demand through the end of May; includes positions in stores and distribution centers; the company has reduced the application process time from two weeks to one day; Walmart said many of the roles would convert to permanent positions; the company also expects to spend $550M on bonuses for current employees; Amazon plans to hire 100k in the US . link

Amazon launches a diagnostics development unit within AWS, commits an initial $20M to develop faster, more affordable testing for coronavirus; will fund research and provide infrastructure; Amazon said improved diagnostics would accelerate treatment and containment of COVID-19 . link

Yelp to waive fees and provide free services for restaurants and nightlife businesses impacted by coronavirus, up to $25M total; consumer interest in both categories has dropped significantly due to government recommendations for social distancing; Yelp said it would offer free advertising, free page upgrades, and more to help businesses tell customers about new and temporary business models . link

Amazon reduces Prime Video streaming bitrates in Europe to alleviate residential internet congestion caused by workers and students staying home; Netflix and YouTube reduced bitrates in Europe following a request from EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton; Amazon is also evaluating bitrate reduction in other markets . link

The download for 2020-03-20 →


Twitter declines to remove a tweet from Elon Musk in which he made a seemingly misleading statement about coronavirus; Musk tweeted that children “are essentially immune” to the virus, noting elderly people with underlying conditions are at risk; Twitter has updated its policies to cover misinformation about the disease, but says Musk’s tweet does not violate its terms . link

Amazon temporarily suspends its Prime Pantry boxed-goods service because of “high order volumes” amid the coronavirus outbreak; visitors the Prime Pantry website are being redirected to other parts of Amazon including Fresh and Whole Foods . link

AR glasses firm North (formerly Thalmic Labs) is in talks to sell itself, according to Bloomberg sources; the company has been meeting with possible buyers since last summer, but it’s unclear how close the firm is to a deal; North has raised $170M to date; it is thought to have enough money to see it through until July . link

India-based restaurant discovery and delivery app Zomato plans to launch a grocery service, according to a source for The Economic Times; Zomato is in talks with grocery firms Grofers and BigBasket to act as suppliers; known as Zomato Market, it's expected the delivery service will roll out next week . link

Kickstarter says creators currently running live campaigns can request to extend them by seven days amid the coronavirus outbreak; Kickstarter says it is taking the step after hearing from some creators; the company notes creators may need to rethink previously stated production timelines because of the pandemic . link

Chinese edtech firm Yuanfudao is near to closing a funding round that will value it at $7.5B, according to Reuters sources; the round is being led by Tencent, which has previously backed the company; Yuanfudao provides online courses and more; previously valued at $3B, it has raised $544M to date . link

UK-based internet satellite firm OneWeb is considering filing for bankruptcy, according to Bloomberg sources; the company is reportedly struggling with high costs and increasing competition; OneWeb has raised $3.3B debt and equity from SoftBank, Qualcomm, and others . link

Uber says ride bookings over recent days have dropped 60 percent to 70 percent in Seattle and some other cities amid the coronavirus pandemic; in a call with investors, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says the company is in a place where it can wait things out, even if rides are down as much as 80 percent for the whole year; Khosrowshahi notes Uber is already exploring the prospect of using its driver network to deliver medicines and basic goods; Khosrowshahi also says the company has $10B cash-on-hand . link

Indonesia-based online groceries service Chilibeli raises $10M Series A led by Lightspeed Ventures with participation from Golden Gate Ventures and others; the startup operates a platform connecting farmers, suppliers, consumers, and delivery agents . link

UK-based SaaS firm Claimer raises £300k (~$350k) seed; the startup offers enterprise tools for claiming R&D tax credits (government subsidies) . link

Facebook begins rolling out its desktop redesign; adds a dark mode option, tabbed home screen, and more; first announced at F8 last year, the company started testing it publicly last October; the new design is currently opt-in but will become the default next year . link

Instagram confirms it’s testing ephemeral messaging; the Snapchat-like feature will erase a chat thread once its been viewed; app researcher Jane Manchun Wong uncovered the mode, noting it’s activated by swiping up within the Direct (messages) section; unknown if or when it will roll out . link

Autonomous trucking firm Starksy Robotics is shutting down; CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher says the company is closing because the space is “too overwhelmed with the unmet promise of AI,” noting “the downpour of investor interest became a drizzle”; Seltz-Axmacher also outlines his skepticism of self-driving tech as it currently exists; follows reports Starsky was seeking a buyer at the end of last year . link

CA Governor Gavin Newsom issues a state-wide shelter-in-place order amid the coronavirus outbreak; follows an earlier order from Mayor London Breed for almost all residents in the Bay Area to remain at home; essential businesses across CA will be able to continue operating, including gas stations, pharmacies, and grocery stores; Newsom previously said 56 percent of Californians are expected to contract COVID-19 . link

Conference firm Informa Tech announces Game Developers Conference (GDC) Summer as a replacement for its previously postponed event; GDC Summer will run Aug 4 through Aug 6 in San Francisco; the organizers say it will be distinct from the previously slated event . link

Apple’s global supply chain has not fully recovered amid the coronavirus outbreak, reports Bloomberg; the company is being impacted by supplier shutdowns in Malaysia, Italy, and elsewhere; Apple’s next iPhone lineup in not expected to face major delays as production will likely start in May . link

Disney postpones the launch of Disney+ in India; the service was set to launch through subsidiary Hotstar in conjunction with the new Indian Premier League cricket season; the games have been delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak; it’s unknown when Disney+ will now launch . link

Former Uber exec Anthony Levandowski pleads guilty to one count of stealing trade secrets from Google as part of a plea deal; Levandowski was charged with 33 federal counts last year; his penalty is yet to be decided but he could face up to 30 months in prison . link

Tesla to temporarily close its Fremont, CA plant on March 23; the company previously announced it would temporarily reduce the number of people coming in to work from 10k to 2.5k, in compliance with a local shelter-in-place order; Tesla said it would also suspend most operations at its Buffalo, NY factory . link

Google announces Camera Go app for Android, designed and optimized for devices with modest storage capacity; will first appear on the Nokia 1.3 and then come to other Android Go devices; Android Go is Google's OS for low-end devices; it recently surpassed 100M users . link

All-InJason speaks with Chamath Palihapitiya and David Friedberg about the US response to COVID 19 and its impact on startups, VC and public-market reactions to coronavirus, more .Listen to the full episode here link

The Association for Computing Machinery announces this year's Turing Award will go to former Pixar and Disney Animation President Ed Catmull and Tableau Co-Founder and Stanford Graphics Professor Pat Hanrahan for their pioneering work in CGI; the pair, who worked together on link

ON-based North, developer of the Focals AR glasses, is low on cash and looking to sell, according to Bloomberg sources; one source said North began meeting with potential buyers last summer and has ramped up efforts to sell due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic; North has raised $200M to date . link

As musicians cancel tours due to coronavirus, some artists are turning to Twitch to generate revenue via link

Microsoft unveils DirectX 12 Ultimate, slated for launch this year; the API collection unifies graphics tech for Windows and Xbox Series X gaming, adds improved Ray Tracing (v1.1), more; ensures games optimized for the platform will support variable-rate shading and other features on Nvidia and AMD graphics cards and multiple Xbox models . link

AngelJason speaks with Bessemer VP Partner David Cowan about the best founders and CEOs he's worked with, top traits for becoming a VC, insights on his anti-portfolio, understanding sunk cost, more . link

EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton urges Netflix and other streaming platforms to reduce video quality to free up bandwidth for those working and schooling from home; Breton recently spoke with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings about the issue; Hastings did not confirm Netflix would switch to SD streaming .Update: Netflix agrees to reduce bitrates for video streams in Europe for 30 days, reducing its network impact there by 25 percent . link

Intel to launch neuromorphic computing system Pohoiki Springs this month; the experimental system mimics human brain functions to perform rapid computations using minimal energy; the company will allow members of the Intel Neuromorphic Research Community, which includes government labs, Airbus, and others, to access the system via the cloud . link

Microsoft sees Teams adoption jump, likely due to coronavirus-related work-from-home policies, surging from 32M daily active users to 44M in one week, TechCrunch reports; Teams also launched new features for work-from-home users; Facebook recently made its competitor, Workplace, free for governments and emergency workers . link

The Department of Justice and state attorneys general are considering developers' concerns about Google's Firebase as part of antitrust investigations, according to Reuters sources; developers reportedly said Google increasingly pressured them to embed Google code into their apps, giving the company access to user data and therefore advantage over competitors . link

Amazon contacts customers who purchased overpriced items from third-party marketplace sellers, urges them to cooperate with a Justice Department price-gouging investigation, Reuters reports; four US lawmakers requested on Wednesday that the department launch a probe; Amazon previously announced it was working with state attorneys general to identify and prosecute third-party sellers exploiting coronavirus-related fears and demand . link

Increasing availability of Apple products suggests the company's China-based suppliers are returning to normal production, according to Loup Ventures Managing Partner Gene Munster; the firm has tracked Apple product availability across a number of countries since mid-February . link

SoftBank seeks to raise $10B to support companies in the first Vision Fund portfolio struggling due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to Bloomberg sources; the money reportedly would also enable portfolio companies to acquire rivals as valuations drop; SoftBank reportedly plans to contribute $5B and raise $5B from external investors . link

Vodafone reports a 50-percent increase in internet traffic in some parts of Europe and a 30-percent increase in the UK, where the company has 18M customers; Vodafone did not reveal which markets had seen the greatest increase in usage; the company claims ~120M customers across a dozen European countries . link

EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton urges Netflix and other streaming platforms to reduce video quality to free up bandwidth for those working and schooling from home; Breton recently spoke with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings about the issue; Hastings did not confirm Netflix would switch to SD streaming .Update: Netflix agrees to reduce bitrates for video streams in Europe for 30 days, reducing its network impact there by 25 percent . link