The Daily Download - latest tech news for 2020-02-04, fan podcast based on @launchticker

The download for 2020-02-04 →


Lawyers for Jeff Bezos claim a lawsuit brought by his girlfriend’s brother amounts to extortion; Michael Sanchez is suing Bezos, saying accusations he shared intimate communications between his sister and Bezos with The National Enquirer are defamatory; in a court filing, Bezos’ lawyers allege Sanchez is trying to use the legal system as a method to extract money; they also claim the case is a threat to Bezos’ freedom of speech . link

Google says a bug in its data download tool Takeout led to some videos stored in Google Photos being shared with strangers; the firm says the problem occurred between Nov 21 and Nov 25 last year; Google has not disclosed how many videos were passed along, but 9to5Google reports less than 0.01 percent of users were impacted . link

Fintech firm Finix raises $35M Series B led by Sequoia Capital with participation from Activant Capital and Inspired Capital; the company provides payments software to enterprise customers; has raised more than $55M to date . link

Tesla ($140.6B market cap) shares rise as much as 16 percent in early trading following 19.9 percent rise on Feb 3; the company’s share price has passed $900 for the first time; follows an advisory note from Argus Research analyst Bill Selesky, raising his target share price to $808 from $556, and maintaining a buy rating . link

Home fitness firm Peloton says it has settled a legal dispute with rival Flywheel Sports; Peloton had accused Flywheel of infringing on its patents; full details of the settlement undisclosed, but Flywheel will no longer use a leaderboard system; it will also drop its own challenge against the validity of Peloton’s patents . link

Denmark-based customer service platform Dixa raises $36M Series B led by Notion Capital with participation from Project A Ventures and SEED Capital; the firm provides online customer engagement tools to enterprise users; has raised more than $50M to date . link

HPE acquires app security service Scytale; terms undisclosed; Scytale provides service authentication tools to enterprise customers; raised $8M to date . link

Workflow platform Asana confidentially files an S-1, saying it plans to go public via a direct listing; the company, which offers enterprise tools for team projects, has raised $213M to date; Asana was last valued at $1.5B . link

Xiaomi-owned Poco launches 6.7-inch Poco X2, which features a 120Hz display and quad-array rear camera system; also features an embedded selfie camera and a HD display; available with 6GB or 8GB RAM; starts at $225, available in India; unknown if or when it will launch in other markets . link

Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says the company pulled out of the Libra Alliance because it had concerns about compliance and dealing with the threat of money laundering; in an interview with the Financial Times Banga also says it was unclear how the Libra stablecoin could make money; Banga notes he also had concerns about Libra being tied to Facebook’s Calibra wallet . link

Dyson files a patent for headphones that also double as an air purifier; illustrations show the headphones feature section to be place near the nose and mouth, providing filtered air; it’s unknown if or when the headphones will become a real product . link

Twitter shuts down a network of fake accounts it says were being used to match phone numbers to user accounts; Twitter has not disclosed how many accounts it has suspended, but says they were located across a range of countries including Iran, Israel, and Malaysia; the firm notes the activity may be linked to state-backed actors; follows a report highlighting an API flaw that let users pair numbers to user accounts via Twitter’s Android app . link

An app used to gather data from the Iowa Democratic caucuses was not fully tested ahead of time, according to sources for The New York Times; comes as results from the statewide caucuses have been significantly delayed; multiple Iowa Democratic county chairs say they struggled to use the app; created by Shadow Inc, it’s also set to be used by Nevada Democratic Party during the next Democratic Party caucus .Update 1: the Iowa Democratic Party refused to reveal details of the app ahead of the caucuses, claiming any disclosure could leave it vulnerable to hackers; organizers had also chosen not to name Shadow Inc as the company behind it .Update 2: the Iowa Democratic Party says the app did not go down and was not hacked; Joe Biden's presidential campaign has written to caucus organizers, saying the app and the backup phone system failed . link

Alphabet ($1T market cap) Q4 mixed: $ $46.1B revenue, up 17.3 percent year-on-year ($46.9B expected); $46B revenue ($46.9B expected); $37.9B ad revenue, up 11.8 percent year-on-year; $4.7B YouTube ad revenue, up 30.5 percent year-on-year; $2.6B Google Cloud revenue, up 52.9 percent year-on-year .YouTube Music and YouTube Premium collectively have more than 20M subscribers; YouTube TV has 2M paid users; Sundar Pichai says YouTube’s non-ad revenue equates to an annual run-rate of $3B; Pichai notes YouTube’s 22M paying subscribers represent 1 percent of its MAUs .Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat says Google’s hardware unit has become a multibillion-dollar business over the last three years; the company does not provide product shipping figures, but Pichai notes the Nest Mini and Nest Hub Max sold well over the holidays . link

London-based fintech firm Azimo secures €20M (~$22.1M) debt from the European Investment Bank; Azimo offers a cross-border money transfer service; has raised $70M debt and equity to date . link

Facebook names Dropbox co-founder and CEO Drew Houston to its board; Houston is the first new board member since Dr Susan Desmond-Hellmann stepped away last October; TechCrunch notes Houston and Mark Zuckerberg have been close for many years . link

EVs accounted for 44.3 percent of new car sales in Norway last month, up 17.1 percent year-on-year; the Audi e-tron SUV was the top-selling vehicle last month . link

UK-based fintech startup Rimilia raises $15M from Eight Roads Ventures, Kennet Partners and Silicon Valley Bank; the company provides enterprise AI-powered SaaS tools for managing working capital; has raised $40M to date . link

Apple News announces special US presidential election coverage in a dedicated section of its app; the aggregation service will pull stories and analysis from multiple sources including ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, CNN, and FiveThirtyEight; Apple News will run the section through to the 2021 presidential inauguration . link

Amazon is in talks with Goldman Sachs to offer loans to SMEs, according to multiple reports; full details unclear, but the companies could launch a product as early as next month; Amazon launched Amazon Lending in 2011, and it has since loaned out more than $860M to date; Goldman Sachs previously partnered with Apple for the Apple Card . link

Ubisoft acquires mobile games developer Kolibri Games; terms undisclosed; Kolibri is known for titles such as “Idle Factory Tycoon” and “Idle Miner Tycoons,” which has been downloaded more than 100M times . link

CA-based spacetech firm Astra emerges from stealth, has raised more than $100M from Innovation Endeavors, Airbus Ventures, and others; the company has been developing and testing rockets that promise to carry loads of up to 450 lbs; Astra says it can launch flights at a cost of $2.5M each, but is aiming for $1M . link

Uber has informed the Colombian government it’s considering international arbitration following its recent exit from the country; the nation’s competition authority ruled Uber had violated market rules; Uber claims Colombia has contravened its trade deal with the US, and suggests it could claim more than $250M in damages . link

The Dutch government is offering subsidies for residents purchasing EVs, reports local outlet RTL; those eligible will receive up to ~$4.4k toward the cost of a new all-electric vehicle; those purchasing a used EV can claim up to ~$2.2k; the scheme applies to certain cars purchased from approved dealers . link

Teleconferencing firm Solaborate raises $10M Series A from EPOS and Demant Group; the company offers video calling products that work with smart TVs and support services such as Skype, Hangouts Meet, and more; as part of the deal Solaborate will also work on products under the EPOS brand . link

TCL says its license to produce and sell BlackBerry-branded smartphones will end on Aug 31; TCL notes existing devices will continue to receive support; the company has been producing Android-powered BlackBerry products since 2016 . link

VC firm Sequoia Capital plans to open a London office later this year, reports British newspaper The Sunday Times; full plans unclear, but the company is yet to decide who will oversee its UK operations . link

Accenture ($136.5B market cap) acquires UK-based data consultancy firm Mudano; terms undisclosed; Mudano provides analytics tools to enterprise customers; Accenture says it will roll the Mudano team into its Applied Intelligence unit . link

Foxconn has temporarily suspended almost all manufacturing in mainland China due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a Reuters source; plants have been shuttered until at least Feb 10, and the source suggests the delay may impact Foxconn’s clients including Apple; the firm has made use of facilities in other countries such as Vietnam and India to make up for the production shortfall . link

Scaled Robotics, a Barcelona-based construction robotics startup, raises €2M (~$2.2M) seed from Norwegian Construct Venture and PropTech Fund Surplus; the firm has developed a sensor-enabled four-wheeled robot for mapping building sites; has raised ~$3.3M to date . link

Microsoft Teams suffers a temporary outage due to an expired security certificate; Microsoft says it’s working to implement a fix . link

Bloomberg profiles Sandeep Mathrani, incoming CEO at The We Company; Mathrani previously oversaw General Growth Properties, which was acquired in 2018 by Brookfield Property Partners in a deal worth ~$15B; Mathrani will report to Marcelo Claure, who serves as chairman of The We Company and is also COO at SoftBank . link

Japan-based vacation rental platform H2O raises $7M Series B from Samsung Ventures, Stonebridge Ventures, and others; the firm provides property management tools for hosts; has raised $18M to date . link

The download for 2020-06-03 →


Brazil-based mobility firm Tembici raises $47M Series B led by Valor Capital and Redpoint Ventures with participation from the International Finance Corporation and others; Tembici operates bike-sharing services across Latin America . link

French VC firm C4 Ventures raises €80M (~$88M) for its second fund; described as a post-Series A vehicle, it has already invested in homeware marketplace Trouva, electric bike-sharing service Zoov, and more . link

Warehouse robots firm Locus Robotics raises $40M Series D led by Zebra Ventures with participation from Scale Venture Partners and others; the firm’s LocusBots are designed to operate alongside humans; has raised $105M to date . link

Germany-based healthtech startup Vara (formerly Merantix Healthcare) raises $7M Series A led by Omers Ventures with participation from Think.Health and others; the company is developing an AI-powered system for detecting breast cancer; has raised $10.5M to date . link

Google is facing a lawsuit that alleges the company’s Chrome browser tracks users when they’re in Incognito mode; the plaintiffs are seeking $5B in damages, and are asking for class-action status; Google denies the claims; the case has been filed with the Northern CA District Court . link

Facebook signs a global licensing deal with Indian music label Saregama; terms undisclosed; the agreement allows Facebook to use Saragama’s tracks in videos and more across its platforms . link

Canada-based SaaS firm Poka raises an undisclosed sum from Schneider Electric; the company provides workforce training tools to enterprise customers; has raised more than $23M to date . link

The BBC launches the first beta of its Beeb voice assistant; available to UK-based testers via the Windows Insider Program, Beeb is being designed to understand a broad array of accents; it will eventually be integrated into the BBC’s various digital offerings including its streaming platform iPlayer . link

Google pulls a mobile app that lets users remove China-built apps from their Android devices; known as Remove China Apps, the app was available via the Google Play store in India; it had accrued more than 5M downloads; its popularity climbed amid border tensions between India and China . link

Indonesia-based ride-hailing and payments firm Gojek raises undisclosed sums from Facebook and PayPal; the investments are part of Gojek’s ongoing Series F; has raised more than $3B to date . link

Zoom confirms its upcoming end-to-end encryption feature will be available to premium customers only; CEO Eric Yuan says it wants to keep full encryption away from free users so law enforcement has access in situations of misuse . link

Zoom ($58.7B market cap) Q1 beats: $328.2M revenue, up 169 percent year-on-year ($202.7M expected); $0.20 EPS ($0.09 expected); reports 265.4M customers that have more than 10 staff, up 354 percent year-on-year; Zoom does not disclose full user numbers . link

Bird shuts down its Circ scooter-sharing operations in the Middle East; Bird acquired the firm in January; TechCrunch sources say 100 Circ workers have been let go; as many as 10k scooters will also be scrapped . link

EV startup Rivian lays off ~40 staff, ~2 percent of its workforce, reports The Verge; the company has also hired Rod Copes, who replaces Jim Morgan as COO; Copes previously spent 19 years at Harley-Davidson; the company has also brought in Matt Horton to oversee its charging division . link

Twitter names Inovia Capital GP and former Google CFO Patrick Pichette as chairman; Pichette served as lead independent director for Twitter's board starting at the end of 2018; investor Elliott Management previously sought to push Jack Dorsey out of the CEO position but came to an agreement with the company in March that allowed Dorsey to stay - with the addition of three new directors . link

Used car marketplace Vroom sets IPO price range at $15 to $17 per share, seeking a valuation of $1.69B to $1.91B; the company expects to sell 18.75M shares, generating up to ~$319M; private investors last valued the company at ~$1.5B for a $254M Series H in December; raised ~$720M to date . link

Samsung launches its rotating 4K QLED TV, Sero, in the US and UK for $2k; previously launched in South Korea; a user with a compatible smartphone can tap that device to the TV to pair for screen mirroring; the display rotates to accommodate the orientation of the content: landscape or portrait . link

AT&T (which owns HBO parent WarnerMedia) will not count data used for HBO Max toward data caps, but will count data for competing services like Netflix; AT&T counts HBO Max's data use as sponsored, and any company can pay AT&T to ignore data caps for their services; The Verge previously reported the only services using AT&T's sponsored data program were AT&T-owned . link

Global PC shipments to fall seven percent year-over-year in 2020, according to Canalys data; the report noted that the industry is largely passed the worst of the pandemic as Chinese suppliers resume operations; however, Canalys expects the recession will continue to impact demand . link

Civil, a blockchain-powered journalism network, is shutting down; Founder and CEO Matthew Iles and his seven-member tech team will fold into blockchain studio ConsenSys, Civil's primary investor; ConsenSys, after several rounds of layoffs, cut funding to Civil, and Civil was unable to raise a substitute round . link

Purported leaked marketing material appears to show Google's rumored Android TV-powered streaming dongle, reportedly codenamed Sabrina, a remote, and the UI; previous reports indicated Google would launch the device under the Nest brand, and that it would come with a remote control and a new UI designed to highlight movies and shows . link

Shanghai-based chip manufacturer Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), which is publicly listed in Hong Kong, plans to raise ~$2.8B with a Shanghai listing; in its prospectus, SMIC mentioned US restrictions on Chinese chip makers as a risk; the company announced last month it had raised $2.2B from state investors for one of its plants . link

Apple's iOS 13.5.5 beta includes code for the previously reported News Plus Audio feature: spoken-word versions of long-form news articles; 9to5Mac reports the Audio tab isn't available for use in the beta, but the site was able to access it; Apple reportedly has sought publishers' permission to produce and publish audio content under the same revenue-split terms it uses for written articles . link

India's tech minister announces the launch of a $6.7B initiative to foster domestic electronics manufacturing; will initially select five global smartphone makers for incentives to establish or expand Indian production; the government will pay those companies an additional four to six percent of their domestic sales over five years; the program, and others, will also apply to Indian companies . link

The download for 2020-06-02 →


France rolls out its coronavirus contact-tracing app; known as StopCovid, the app notifies a user if have spent 15 mins or more in the within a meter of someone with COVID-19 . link

Switzerland-based fintech firm Appway raises $37M from Summit Partners; founded in 2003, the investment represents its first-ever funding round; the company offers a suite of customer engagement tools to financial services institutions . link

Apple Music joins the Black Out Tuesday campaign, aimed at raising awareness of issues affecting black lives; Beats 1 has suspended its regular programming, and is instead focusing on celebrating black music; Apple Music’s For You playlists have been swapped out for a single playlist titled For Us, By Us .Update: Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon Music pledge support for Black Out Tuesday; the companies are adding special playlists, moments of silence, and more . link

Amtrak discloses a data breach that may have exposed customers’ personally identifiable info; Amtrak says it discovered on April 16 that hackers had accessed its Guest Rewards service; the firm says some user data was viewable, but it has not disclosed what that was or how many customers were impacted; Amtrak is notifying those affected . link

Cisco postpones its Cisco Live online event amid ongoing protests; Cisco Live was supposed to start today; it’s unclear when it will now happen; follows moves by Sony and Google to delay their own product announcements and rollouts . link

China-based robotics firm Fourier Intelligence acquires healthcare provider Zhuhai RHK; terms undisclosed; Fourier produces smart exoskeletons, designed to help people with physical disabilities resulting from neurological impairment; Fourier plans to introduce its tech at Zhuhai RHK facilities . link

UK-based wellness platform Tictrac raises £6M (~$7.5M) led by Puma Private Equity; TicTrac operates a SaaS service with tips and insight to encourage health-focused activities; has raised ~$17M to date . link

Tai Jeng-wu, CEO of Sharp, steps down from the board of parent company Foxconn; Tai says he wants to focus on Sharp and further developing its global market; Tai took up his post at Sharp when Foxconn took control of the firm in 2016 . link

Personal styling platform Stitch Fix will cut 1.4k jobs in CA, equal to ~18 percent of its staff; the San Francisco-based will terminate stylist roles in September; those affected will have the option to relocate to other parts of the US, where the company says it plans to hire 2k stylists at a lower cost . link

Volkswagen closes a $2.6B investment in Pittsburgh-based self-driving startup Argo AI; follows a $1B investment from Ford in 2017; under the terms of the deal, VW and Ford will share development costs for Argo’s autonomous driving tech, though the two carmakers will not collaborate directly .Update: VentureBeat says the deal values Argo at $7.2B; $1B of VW’s investment is capital, while $1.6B comes from merging its Munich-based subsidiary AID with Argo to serve as its European HQ . link

Twitter suspends hundreds of accounts for spreading false claims about comms blackouts in Washington, DC; Twitter says it took action following the spread of a #dcblackout hashtag; the tag was initially tweeted by an account with three followers, but was spread ~500k in roughly nine hours . link

DoorDash, Uber, and Lyft suspend operations in some US cities amid protests against police violence; a full list of affected locations is unclear, but Uber has paused services in Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Los Angeles . link

Twitter adds an advisory notice to a tweet from Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL), noting it glorifies violence; Gaetz questioned wether the US government could “hunt down” anti-fascist activists . link

Australian court rules news outlets that publish content on Facebook are liable for defamatory comments other users leave in response to those posts; New South Wales' highest court found that media companies encourage and facilitate comments, and should be considered the publishers of those comments; the defendants in the suit are considering an appeal . link

Bipartisan group of legislators led by Sen Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to unveil the Exposure Notification Privacy Act, which would regulate contact-tracing and exposure-notification apps to ensure users' privacy; would protect people from unwanted tracking and prohibit the commercial use of collected data . link

Amazon takes unspecified action against someone who associated images containing racist content with listings for Apple AirPods and other wireless headphones; shoppers at Amazon's UK site saw the images, which included multiple instances of the N-word, on the first page of results for popular search terms; the company has removed the images . link

The Wall Street Journal examines social media's role in making the world aware of George Floyd's death, mobilizing protesters, and shaping the story around the actions of protesters and law enforcement; Alex Stamos, director of Stanford's Internet Observatory, noted that coverage of Floyd's death might have been limited to local media, had it occurred 20 years ago . link

Apple releases updates for iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, HomePod, and Apple TV, addressing security issues; the update inhibits a jailbreaking tool recently released by cracking group Unc0ver . link

Google to update Android with new tools for Bedtime mode, previously known as Wind Down; the feature turns on Do Not Disturb, fades the display to grayscale, more; the Digital Wellbeing update enables the user to create a Quick Settings option for activating Bedtime and set Bedtime to take effect whenever the device is plugged into a charger; now rolling out to Pixel devices, will come to other devices this summer . link

Sony postpones June 4 PlayStation 5 event, citing nationwide protests; Sony had planned to unveil in-development titles for the PS5 over a one-hour presentation; the company has not yet rescheduled; follows similar moves by Google and EA (Madden NFL 21 event) . link

Google rolls out the Pixel 4's Personal Safety app to all Pixel devices; enables first responders to get a user's medical information; provides emergency contact features and the ability to share location information; Pixel 3 and 4 can detect a vehicle accident and notify authorities via the app; new Safety Check tool enables the user to set a check-in time and notify emergency contacts if the user doesn't check in . link

Pax Labs launches web app for its connected marijuana vaporizers six months after Apple banned Pax's mobile software from the App Store as part of a broader initiative to address vape-related lung injuries; the Android version remains available via Google Play; the web app does not support mobile browsers . link

Book publisher group files copyright infringement suit against Internet Archive, alleging the site made digital copies of ~1.3M books without permission and made them available to the general public without compensating publishers and authors; the Internet Archive then expanded its book-lending program and established the National Emergency Library, citing displaced learners during the health crisis . link

Google placed ads on 84 percent of 49 sites promoting coronavirus conspiracy theories or COVID-19 misinformation, according to research group Global Disinformation Index; the group estimated the sites collectively earned $135k per month, with most of the revenue coming from Google-placed ads . link

Google updates its Advanced Protection Program with support for Nest devices; the program limits access to account data, protects against malware, supports physical security keys, more; primarily serves users at high risk for attack, such as politicians; Google said the change was a top user request . link

Samsung launches Access: a subscription upgrade plan available to customers purchasing the Galaxy S20, S20 Plus, or S20 Ultra; starts at $37 per month and includes a premium Microsoft 365 subscription, 1TB of OneDrive storage, more; enables a customer to trade in a device every nine months (or sooner, for a $100 fee), rolling any remaining balance to a new device . link

The download for 2020-06-01 →


CO-based employee rewards firm Bonusly raises $9M Series A led by Access Venture Partners with participation from Next Frontier Capital and others; Bonusly lets companies recognize workers with cash awards, gift cards, and more; has raised ~$14M to date . link

Apple plans to reopen its Japanese stores this week; the company has 10 locations across the country, all of which are set to be open by midweek; Apple has been reopening stores across the world including in Australia, Germany, and South Korea . link

Q1 global smartphone shipments fell 20.2 percent when compared with the previous year, according to Gartner data; Samsung dropped 22.7 percent, Huawei 27.3 percent, Oppo 19.1 percent, and Apple 8.2 percent; Xiaomi grew its market share by 1.4 percent . link

Apple has temporarily closed some of its US stores amid protests across the country; some locations will remain shuttered following extensive damage; Apple had recently started to reopen stores following coronavirus lockdowns . link

China-based games company NetEase plans to raise $2B to $3B via a secondary listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to Reuters sources; the company is starting the bookbuild process today, with the retail offering set to run through the end of the week; NetEase is already listed on the Nasdaq . link

Trade group Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) plans to lobby for $37B in federal funding on behalf of US chipmakers, reports The Wall Street Journal; SIA has drafted plans that will push for subsidies for new chip facilities and R&D projects; includes calls for $15B to attract chipmakers to various states . link

Malaysia-based insurtech firm PolicyStreet raises $1.8M Series A led by KK Fund with participation from Spiral Ventures; the startup operates an online insurance portal; has raised $3.6M to date . link

The Indian government has ordered ISPs to block file-sharing service WeTransfer; reasons for the move unclear; WeTransfer says it is working to get service restored . link

Forbes profiles eBay’s $4B sale of StubHub to rival Viagogo, which closed weeks before the coronavirus pandemic caused mass lockdowns across the US; Viagogo, founded by StubHub co-founder Eric Baker, has also been forced to operate the two companies separately because of an ongoing UK antitrust probe . link

Indian regulators refuse to let Walmart-controlled Flipkart launch a food retail operation, reports TechCrunch; the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade says Flipkart’s proposal does not meet regulatory guidelines; Flipkart says it plans to re-apply . link

Zynga ($8.7B market cap) acquires Turkey-based games company Peak for $1.8B (cash and stock); represents Zynga’s largest-ever acquisition; the deal is expected to close in Q3; Peak is known for mobile titles “Toon Blast” and “Toy Blast” . link

Singapore-based mobility firm Beam raises $26M Series A led by Sequoia India and Hana Ventures with participation from RTP Global and others; the company operates an electric scooter-sharing service across several markets including Australia and Malaysia; has raised $32.4M to date . link

Facebook commits $10M to organizations focused on racial justice; announcing the pledge on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg says the company needs to do more to ensure it doesn’t amplify bias . link

Tim Cook writes to Apple employees about the issue of racial justice following the death of George Floyd; Cook says the company will donate to multiple groups including the Equal Justice Initiative; Apple will also match staff donations to such organizations through June . link

The Kenyan government plans to introduce a 1.5 percent tax on digital transactions, reports Bloomberg; the levy will apply to streaming platforms, ride-hailing firms, and more; the country’s revenue agency has proposed the levy, but it’s unclear if or when it will be introduced . link

YouTuber Jake Paul denies being involved in looting and vandalism at a mall in AZ; Paul was filmed at the mall in Scottsdale, but says he and his team were only there to document what was happening; several other YouTubers and influencers have criticized Paul, with some suggesting he was trying to exploit the situation . link

UK-based digital freight forwarding startup Beacon raises $15M Series A from Jeff Bezos and others; Beacon offers real-time cargo delivery data, access to global shipping costs, and more; previous investors include Travis Kalanick, Eric Schmidt, and others . link

Mark Zuckerberg has told President Trump some of his posts are putting the company in a difficult position, according to an Axios source; follows the refusal by Facebook to remove a post in which Trump said “...when the looting starts, the shooting starts” .Update: Several senior Facebook employees criticize the company over its inaction in relation to Trump’s posts; product design director Ryan Freitas posted on Twitter, claiming “Mark is wrong,” noting he is still working to change Zuckerberg’s mind; design manager Jason Stirman has also voiced discomfort with Zuckerberg’s stance . link

YouTube pledges $1M to non-profit the Center for Policing Equity; the organization works with police departments to tackle discriminatory practices . link

The download for 2020-05-31 →


NASA and Caltech select eight US companies to manufacture the NASA-designed COVID-19 ventilator for which the FDA provided Emergency Use Authorization; Caltech manages NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and offered to license the design for free during the pandemic, drawing ~100 applications; JPL is currently evaluating international manufacturers and will provide fee-free licensing for selected companies during the pandemic . link

TechCrunch recaps Huawei's defeats over the past week, including the UK's reversal of stance on allowing the company to participate in UK 5G networks, Britain's reported efforts to establish a coalition of Democratic nations in pursuit of an alternative source of the equipment Huawei provides, and a Canadian court's ruling that the US met the legal standard to request extradition of CFO Meng Wanzhou . link

The New York Times examines Twitter's decision to place an interstitial warning on one of President Trump's tweets (the first such decision regarding a public figure), the internal and public debates that led to it, Twitter's development of the infrastructure and policy that enabled it, and the broader circumstances surrounding the decision . link

Huawei has stockpiled ~two years' supply of US chips to mitigate the impact of Washington's restrictions on the company's business, according to Nikkei Asian Review sources; Huawei reportedly has focused on chips from Intel and Xilinx, which largely power the company's base station and cloud businesses; Huawei reportedly began to accumulate chips shortly after the Canadian arrest of CFO Meng Wanzhou, who faces US charges . link

SpaceX livestream shows NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley - the first astronauts launched into space via privately-owned rocket - controlling the Crew Dragon craft via touchscreens; Crew Dragon is mostly autonomous, but SpaceX had the astronauts test the control system's functionality; SpaceX recently launched an online simulator featuring a similar UI . link

TikTok clone Zynn (iOS) rose through App Store ranks by promising to pay users for watching videos; developer Kuaishou operates the second-largest video app in China, and used a similar tactic to gain attention in that market, The Information reported; China's top video app, Douyin, is ByteDance's Chinese-market version of TikTok; Kuaishou recently raised $2B from Tencent . link

Facebook's Oversight Board, a recently launched body that will make final decisions about content on the platform, tweets that it expects to begin operations later this year; the tweet acknowledged significant issues people want the board to address; follows Mark Zuckerberg stating that Facebook would not take action against tweets President Trump cross-posted to Twitter, which Twitter tagged as potentially misleading and glorifying violence . link

Apple pays $100k bug bounty to Indian researcher Bhavuk Jain, who discovered a vulnerability in the link

SpaceX launches NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken from Kennedy Space Center aboard the Crew Dragon capsule; the company will deliver the astronauts to the International Space Station following a 19-hour flight; NASA last used the same launch pad in 2011, when Doug Hurley piloted the final space shuttle flight; NASA astronauts have launched via Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft since then . link

This Week in Startups: AMA with Ben NarasinNEA Venture Partner Ben Narasin answers live questions from the This Week in Startups founder community on Slack, covering the most important content in a pitch deck, COVID's impact on dealmaking, founder traits he looks for, more . link

The Tech industry has cut 40k jobs since the start of the pandemic, according to Bloomberg analysis of Layoffs.fyi data; travel and transportation companies have seen the worst cuts, with a combined total of ~14K; the retail, food, and fitness category is second with ~9k cuts; Bloomberg noted the pandemic reversed the trend of private tech companies dramatically outperforming their public counterparts on the Nasdaq 100 Index . link

Brex, which provides credit cards for startups, cuts 62 jobs, citing the need to align priorities with a new reality and to accelerate product; will provide affected workers with eight weeks of severance, their computers and equipment, and job placement assistance; that company has adjusted equity cliffs and extended health care coverage through the end of the year; Brex recently reduced customer credit limits to reduce risk . link

Microsoft lays off dozens of journalists and editorial workers at MSN and Microsoft News as part of a broader push into using AI for content curation; the company said the cuts were not a result of the pandemic; when Microsoft News launched ~two years ago, the company claimed ~800 editors; current reports indicated the cuts affected 50 US jobs and 27 in the UK . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Initialized Capital Co-Founder and Managing Partner Garry Tan about dealing with downstream investors as a seed-stage firm, software companies acting as governments, the possibility of building IPO-level companies while fully distributed, more . link

Waymo plans to return its fleet of autonomous minivans to Bay Area roads to make deliveries for two non-profits starting June 8; the company pulled its fleet from service in early March due to stay-at-home orders; its deliveries qualify as an essential service; will serve #DrawTogether, which provides art kits for children, and Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired; Waymo has also resumed testing in Phoenix . link

Former Lyft driver sues the company, alleging it failed to provide paid sick days to drivers in Washington, DC during the pandemic; the suit seeks unspecified damages and class-action status; the plaintiff based the case on the belief that drivers qualify as employees . link

Video conferencing company Zoom announces plan to offer upgraded encryption for paying customers; Alex Stamos, who works as a security consultant for the company, said the plan remains fluid and the company might offer the feature for free to nonprofits, political dissidents, others; Zoom has seen rapid adoption due to stay-at-home orders but faced criticism for security design issues and insufficient encryption practices . link

Amazon marketplace sellers are labeling products as collectible, apparently to circumvent the platform's automated price-gouging detection, The Verge reports; the article lists numerous products with no collectible value marked as collectible and priced at ~five times their pre-pandemic prices; sellers said the loophole existed before the pandemic, but merchants only used it when Amazon's vaguely understood price ceilings were problematic . link

Google cancels online event, Android 11: The Beta Launch Show, originally scheduled for June 3; the company cited protests across the country, indicating it wasn't a good time for celebration; Google had planned to stream talks originally slated for the physical I/O conference, which the company canceled due to the pandemic; Google still plans to release Android 11 in the third quarter . link

Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook will not take any action regarding a tweet President Trump cross-posted to Facebook in which he indicated the military could take control of Minneapolis, using the phrase link

The download for 2020-05-30 →


Facebook employees press executives to remove tweets President Trump cross-posted to the platform after VP of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert said the tweets (tagged by Twitter as potentially misleading) did not violate Facebook policy, according to leaked comments from the internal post; Trump then cross-posted a tweet threatening violence in Minneapolis; Facebook employees asked if policy addressed such a tweet . link

Chile's antitrust regulator approves Uber's acquisition of grocery delivery company Cornershop without condition; Uber plans to expand the service, which currently operates in Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru; Uber also needs Mexico's antitrust approval for the deal . link

Audi establishes Artemis, a new business unit dedicated to bringing EVs with autonomous and connected tech to market more quickly; Artemis expects to design and build a pioneering model as soon as 2024; CEO of Volkswagen Autonomy Alex Hitzinger is leading the unit; he previously served as head of product design under Apple's Special Projects Group . link

SpaceX loses Starship SN4 prototype in static-fire test explosion; it was SpaceX's fourth static-fire test of the Raptor engine in the craft, an early version of the design the company expects will replace Falcon and Falcon Heavy; this week the FAA approved SpaceX to conduct short suborbital test flights using SN4 . link

Four senators urge the FTC to investigate TikTok over children's privacy issues; the group said the platform failed to remove videos published by kids under the age of 13, which the company agreed to do under a 2019 consent agreement with the commission; the senators also said TikTok failed to provide guardians with direct notice of its data practices before collecting children's data, and did not link to its privacy policy from its home page . link

Volkswagen to increase its stake in an existing EV joint venture with China's JAC Motors; Volkswagen will pay $1.1B to acquire half of JAC's parent, the state-owned Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group, and increase its stake in the venture from 50 percent to 75 percent; Volkswagen separately invested $1.1B in EV battery producer Gotion High-Tech to become its largest shareholder with 26 percent . link

Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) urges the Departments of Justice and Treasury to launch investigations to determine if Twitter is violating US sanctions against Iran by allowing that nation's leaders to maintain accounts on the platform; FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and other conservatives have questioned why Twitter has flagged President Trump's tweets but hasn't done the same for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei . link

Britain has approached Washington about establishing D10, a group of 10 Democratic nations (G7, Australia, India, and South Korea) cooperating on 5G strategy, The Times reports; the group would funnel investments to technology companies within its member states to ready alternative 5G equipment suppliers and reduce reliance on Chinese firms . link

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) approves the $620M sale of gay dating app Grindr to San Vicente Acquisition, according to current owner Beijing Kunlun; the CFIUS ordered Kunlun to divest itself of the business last year due to concerns regarding the safety and privacy of user data, including members' HIV statuses . link

The National Security Agency urges users of the Exim mail transfer agent to update to the latest version, which contains a patch for a vulnerability that Russian military threat actor Sandworm Team has exploited since August; the flaw enables an attacker to gain root access to a server after sending a malicious email . link

Reddit and Twitter jointly file an amicus brief supporting a suit by Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute that challenges a State Department rule requiring visa applicants to disclose social media account handles, and rules regarding the retention and dissemination of those records . link

Uber to launch hourly rates in select US cities on June 2; the company previously trialed the Hourly feature in other countries; enables a customer to book a ride with multiple stops for $50 per hour, plus mileage overages, which vary by market; the Hourly feature promises newer, roomier vehicles, like Uber Comfort . link

Comcast spins off TV ad-targeting unit Blockgraph, sells one-third to Charter Communications and one-third to ViacomCBS; financial terms undisclosed; Blockgraph enables advertisers to match purchased ad-targeting data sets (people looking for a new car, for example) with pay-TV account addresses, then purchase ads for those markets . link

Sony has begun manufacturing PlayStation 5, says the console is on track for a global launch this year; the company's hardware engineers have used cameras to remotely develop prototypes and oversee production; Sony plans to unveil first- and third-party titles in development for PS5 on June 4 . link

Location tag company Tile urges the European Commission to investigate Apple's business practices; in a letter to European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, Tile alleged that Apple selectively changed iOS features to inhibit the capabilities of Tile's app ahead of the launch of Apple's own tracking tags . link

Facebook's NPE team launches Venue, a mobile app serving as a second screen for live events; will provide celebrity and expert commentary and enable fans to engage with content and one another; the app will debut with a June 1 NASCAR race . link

Google rescinds offers to temporary and contract workers, according to a notice the company sent to multiple contracting agencies viewed by The New York Times; sources said the move impacted 2k-plus people around the globe who had signed offers but hadn't yet on-boarded; CFO Ruth Porat said last month the company was cutting expenses by scaling back hiring plans; she did not mention contract workers at that time . link

The download for 2020-05-29 →


Uber launches Work Hub in the UK, a service to connect drivers with gig economy roles; available via the driver app, Work Hub lists jobs from third party providers; Uber introduced a similar feature in the US earlier this year . link

SoftBank has doubled the compensation for Rajeev Misra, CEO of its Investment Advisers unit, to $15M; Misra heads the Vision Fund, which lost ~$18B last year; Misra’s remuneration is second only to that of SoftBank COO Marcelo Claure who earned $19.5M . link

Fintech firm Marqeta raises $150M on a $4.3B post-money valuation from an undisclosed investor; the company offers digital payment infrastructure tools to enterprise customers; has raised more than $500M to date . link

China’s foreign ministry claims Canada is an accomplice of the US government in its efforts to take down Huawei; the remarks follow a Canadian court ruling that found the US has met the correct legal standard in its efforts to extradite Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou; Canada detained Wanzhou in late 2018; she faces charges of IP theft and sanctions violations in the US . link

CVS partners with Nuro to start testing driverless medical prescription deliveries in parts of Houston; starting next month, customers will be able to choose the autonomous delivery method when ordering from CVS’s website or app; Nuro will initially use Toyota Prius cars with a safety driver, rather than its unmanned R2 vehicles . link

Fintech firm Belvo (YC W20) raises $10M led by Founders Fund and Kaszek; the startup offers an API to connect apps with financial service providers across Latin America; has raised $13M to date . link

ACLU files a lawsuit against facial recognition firm Clearview AI in IL; ACLU accuses the company of capturing and storing data on IL residents without their consent, which contravenes the states privacy laws; Clearview AI previously said it would stop offering its services in IL . link

Didi Chuxing’s driverless unit raises more than $500M led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund; represents the largest ever funding deal within the Chinese self-driving industry; Didi spun out the division in 2019 . link

Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo criticizes Facebook, saying the platform “largely determines whether [people are] happy, sad, angry”; Costolo made the comments on Twitter, citing a poll that showed 50 percent of Fox News viewers believe an unproven conspiracy about Bill Gates . link

Twitter rolls out the ability to schedule tweets from its web app; the feature is available via a calendar icon at the bottom of the compose window; users can also save drafts, though they do not sync across Twitter’s mobile apps . link

The New York Times posits President Trump’s executive order could see social media firms take more aggressive action against his posts; the report notes that legal protections provided by Section 230 have allowed tech firms to not take action against posts that can be viewed as misleading, inflammatory, or harassing . link

Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz announces he will step down; he will remain in the role until his replacement is found; Abovitz says he will continue to offer “strategy and vision” as a board member . link

Twitter flags a tweet from President Trump in which he references protests in Minneapolis, stating “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”; Twitter says the post violates its rules about glorifying violence, but notes it’s leaving the tweet in place because it could be in the public interest .Update: Trump criticizes Twitter, claiming the platform is not taking action against China or the Democratic party; he says the platform is targeting himself, Republicans, and conservatives; Trump also says Congress should revoke Section 230 . link

Tesla approves the first tranche of Elon Musk’s multi-million-dollar performance-related compensation package; the arrangement allows Musk to purchase ~1.7M Tesla shares at $350 apiece; Tesla's shares are trading publicly at $805 each . link

President Trump's executive order targeting Section 230 protections for online platforms is based on a previously unused order, reports Protocol; the order requires the Department of Commerce to call on the FCC to review Section 230; a former FCC official says it's uncertain if the agency has jurisdiction .Update 1: Trump’s executive order is likely unenforceable, according to several legal experts; Kate Klonick, professor of internet law at St John’s University, says the order is “political theater” .Update 2: Twitter responds to Trump's executive order, saying it is “reactionary and politicized”; in a tweet from Twitter's public policy handle the company says attempts to undermine Section 230 threaten online speech .Update 3: YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki responds to Trump’s executive order, saying the company has worked hard to ensure all its link

Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook and other social networks should not fact check posts from politicians; speaking with CNBC, Zuckerberg says “people should be able to see what politicians say”; Zuckerberg notes politicians are not allowed to use the platform to stoke violence or harm against others . link

Salesforce ($163B market cap) FQ1 beats: $4.87B revenue, up 30 percent year-over-year ($4.85B expected); guidance for Q2: $4.89B to $4.9B revenue ($5.03B expected); full-year guidance: $20B in revenue, up 17 percent year-over-year ($20.73B expected); the company noted it had provided temporary financial flexibility for customers heavily impacted by the pandemic . link

VMWare ($60B market cap) FQ1 beats: $2.73B revenue, up 12 percent year-over-year ($2.64B expected); $1.23B subscription, SaaS, and license revenue, up 17 percent year-over-year; $418M GAAP operating income . link

Cisco ($1.93B market cap) acquires digital experience monitoring and analytics company ThousandEyes; terms undisclosed but Bloomberg sources indicated a deal worth ~$1B; Cisco said the deal would give its customers an end-to-end view into app and service delivery; ThousandEyes previously raised $111M . link

Update: President Trump signs executive order targeting the perceived bias of social-media companies, acknowledging the order will likely be contested in court; speaking at the signing, Attorney General William Barr said the Department of Justice would draft legislation to reduce liability protections for social-media companies .Earlier post: A draft executive order viewed by The Wall Street Journal details how President Trump plans to address perceived political bias on social media; would call for state attorneys general to investigate complaints of such bias; would call for a proceeding to determine the scope of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and would call for the removal of its protections for companies under some circumstances . link

Tencent raises $6B via dollar bond sale; represents the largest dollar bond sale by a Chinese company this year; a banker involved in the deal told Financial Times there was significant participation from US investors, despite the Trump administration declaring on Wednesday that it no longer viewed Hong Kong as autonomous from mainland China; that announcement could indicate increased trade tension with China . link

Qualcomm announces its first chips supporting Wi-Fi 6E, which promises faster, more reliable connectivity than current-generation Wi-Fi; the chips utilize 6GHz spectrum, which the FCC cleared for unlicensed use last month; routers featuring the new chips are launching now; the company expects phones with the tech will launch in the second half of the year . link

Twitter applies fact-checking labels to hundreds of tweets; the company recently tagged two of President Trump's tweets about mail-in ballots as potentially misleading; Trump then threatened to regulate or shut down social platforms to address perceived anti-Conservative bias (later signed a relevant executive order); Twitter applied the same criteria to China's Foreign Ministry spokesman and others . link

Facebook to verify the identities of people operating accounts displaying patterns of inauthentic behavior and posts going viral in the US: if a user provides ID that doesn't match the name on their account, or if the user refuses to provide ID, Facebook will limit the reach of their posts; the company will also block them from publishing to Pages they administer until they complete the Page Publisher Authorization process . link

This Week in Startups: The Power of Accelerators E6Jason speaks with TechStars Co-Founder and CEO David Brown about leading the virtual accelerator trend, the benefits of going global, the temporary vs sustained changes brought on by COVID-19, more . link

YouTube is rolling out its chapters feature to all users across desktop and mobile; enables an uploader to create timestamps within a given video and display a title for each stamp in the video description; a viewer can click a given chapter name to jump to the start of the chapter in the video . link

Hulu begins testing Launch Party, a social feature, currently limited to a few titles at Hulu.com, that enables users to virtually watch shows and movies together remotely; requires an ad-free subscription; a user can initiate a group session by clicking the Launch Party icon and copying a link for sending to up to seven others; the playback window features a chat section to the right of the content . link

Update: President Trump signs executive order targeting the perceived bias of social-media companies, acknowledging the order will likely be contested in court; speaking at the signing, Attorney General William Barr said the Department of Justice would draft legislation to reduce liability protections for social-media companies .Earlier post: A draft executive order viewed by The Wall Street Journal details how President Trump plans to address perceived political bias on social media; would call for state attorneys general to investigate complaints of such bias; would call for a proceeding to determine the scope of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and would call for the removal of its protections for companies under some circumstances . link

Amazon plans to offer permanent jobs to ~70 percent of the 175k warehouse workers it hired since February to handle pandemic demand; will select 125k of the new hires for long-term work and notify them next month; the remaining 50k will have seasonal contracts lasting up to 11 months . link

ByteDance's hiring of Disney EVP and Chairman Kevin Mayer to serve as COO at ByteDance and CEO at TikTok was part of a broader initiative to shift company power out of China due to international tension, according to Reuters sources; the company reportedly has in recent months moved decision-making and research out of China; TikTok reportedly has hired 150 engineers in Mountain View, CA . link

Microsoft confirms Xbox Series X will, at launch, have the ability to apply machine-learning-powered HDR reconstruction and frame-rate upgrades to titles from previous Xbox consoles; the HDR upgrade will require no input from game developers; the frame-rate upgrade will convert 30 fps titles to 60 fps, and 60 fps titles to 120 fps; older titles will run natively on the Xbox Series X hardware, and will benefit from the quick resume feature . link

Google announces a pending change in Search ranking based on page experience metrics; will analyze Core Web Vitals (which provide information about page load speed, responsiveness, more) with other signals and emphasize pages that offer the best overall user experience; Google is also removing the requirement that pages must have an AMP version for Top Stories placement; Google will provide six months notice before the changes go live . link

The download for 2020-05-28 →


UK-based recycling tech firm Greyparrot raises £1.8M (~$2.2M) seed led by Speedinvest with participation from Force Over Mass; the startup has developed computer vision tools for identifying various recyclables such as glass, paper, and cans; has raised ~$3.4M to date . link

UK-based fintech firm Meniga raises €8.5M (~$9.3M) led by Groupe BPCE with participation from Grupo Crédito Agrícola and UniCredit; Meniga provides a digital banking platform to financial institutions; has raised more than $40M to date . link

Microsoft is considering a $2B investment in India-based carrier Reliance Jio Platforms (RJP), according to sources for Mint; Microsoft is looking to purchase as much as 2.5 percent of RJP; the telco has raised ~$8.5B over the last month . link

Huawei has stockpiled as much as two years worth of chips from US-based Intel and Xilinx, according to sources for Nikkei Asian Review; the company started accumulating the silicon in late 2018; recent US trade restrictions now limit such trade with Huawei; the chips are an important for the firm’s base station business . link

HBO Max launches; the $15 per month service features classic and new content including DC Universe movies, shows from HBO, Cartoon Network, and more .HBO Max is not available on Amazon Fire TV or Roku at launch; the service is supported by Chromecast, Apple TV, as well as some Samsung and Sony smart TVs . link

Google may acquire a 5 percent stake in India-based telco Vodafone Idea, reports the Financial Times; terms unknown; Google has also held talks with rival firm Reliance Jio Platforms (RJP), which has already attracted significant investment from Facebook and others . link

AZ Attorney General Mark Brnovich files a lawsuit against Google, accusing it of “deceptive and unfair practices” relating to location data collection; Brnovich claims the firm often gathers such info without proper user knowledge or consent; Google says Brnovich is mischaracterizing its services . link

Wearables firm Siren raises $11.8M Series B led by Anathem Ventures with participation from Khosla, DCM, and others; the company is developing smart fabrics that can be used in diabetes detecting socks; has raised ~$22M to date . link

Apple has acquired the rights to old episodes of “Fraggle Rock,” reports Vulture; the company has also agreed a deal with the Jim Henson Company to produce a full reboot of the show for Apple TV+; the streaming service has recently added several “Fraggle Rock” shorts to its lineup .Update: The Verge posits Apple’s acquisition of previously aired content represents a strategy shift for Apple TV+; the report notes Tim Cook told shareholders in February the service was “about original programming,” and not old shows and movies . link

Logistics firm DHL acquires a minority stake in e-commerce business Link Commerce; exact amount and terms undisclosed; Link Commerce provides white-label tools for setting up a digital store in emerging markets; Link Commerce is headed by Chris Folayan, who previously founded MallforAfrica . link

Apple acquires the rights to Martin Scorsese’s next film “Killers of the Flower Moon,” according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; terms unknown, but follows reports the film is set to cost ~$200M; Leonardo DiCaprio is set to star .Deadline reports the film will be an Apple Original, but Paramount Pictures will distribute it theatrically; Paramount has held the rights to the project for many years . link

Recode profiles efforts by billionaires Reid Hoffman, Eric Schmidt, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Dustin Moskovitz to support the Joe Biden and the Democratic party leading up to the 2020 US election; Hoffman has invested $18M in data-handling organization Alloy; Schmidt has established OneOne Ventures, which reportedly invests in politically-focused startups; Recode sources say Powell Jobs and Moskovitz are supporting voter-registration programs . link

Uber scraps tens of thousands of Jump e-bikes, claiming it would be too complicated to donate them; Uber says the bikes require specialist parts and knowledgeable engineers to maintain them; the company transferred its Jump division to Lime as part of an investment arrangement . link

Apple ($1.4T market cap) has acqui-hired Canada-based data science startup Inductiv; terms undisclosed; Inductiv developed ML-powered tools for automatically finding and fixing data errors; the Inductiv team are now working on Siri’s underlying tech . link

President Trump plans to sign an executive order that could remove protections for tech firms relating to content on their platforms, according to sources for The Washington Post; it would eliminate the Section 230 shield that stops companies from being held liable for content posted by users; the FTC would also handle political bias complaints . link

Twitter applies fact-check labels to tweets from China Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian; the labels note the tweets could contain “potentially misleading content”; Zhao’s tweets, posted in March, include suggestions the US Army brought COVID-19 to Wuhan, China . link

Twitter says the company's head of site integrity is not responsible for fact-checking labels applied to two of President Trump's tweets; several conservative figures have singled out Yoel Roth, citing old tweets critical of Trump; Twitter says numerous employees were behind the decision to flag Trump's posts .Update 1: Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook has a different approach to Twitter when it comes to fact-checking content; speaking with Fox News, Zuckerberg says “Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online” .Update 2: Jack Dorsey says he is ultimately accountable for Twitter’s actions, asking that the company’s employees be left out of the dispute; Dorsey also says the company is not an “arbiter of truth” . link

Box ($2.96B market cap) FQ1 beats: $183.6M revenue, up 13 percent year-over-year ($182M expected); $0.10 EPS (non-GAAP, $0.05 expected); $368.3M deferred revenue as of April 30; $39.8M free cash flow; the company expects $189M to $190M revenue for FQ2 . link

Academic researchers develop the USBFuzz tool to reveal vulnerabilities in the USB driver stack used by Linux, Windows, macOS, and FreeBSD; the software-emulated USB device generates random device data to reveal flaws; the researchers found 26 total bugs; Linux had 18 bugs, 11 of which are now patched . link

India's Competition Commission is investigating a complaint that Google is abusing its market position in the country to unfairly promote Google Pay, according to Reuters sources; authorities have not revealed the identity of the complainant; the complaint alleges Google gives its mobile payments app priority placement in the Indian Android app store, affording it more visibility than competing products . link

Jeff Bezos says Amazon has taken coronavirus seriously from the beginning and that he's proud of the board and senior leadership for doing a remarkable job; Bezos made the comments during a virtual shareholder meeting after other participants raised questions about the company's response to the virus; Bezos also noted the company changed procedures in its warehouses to adapt to conditions and was building COVID-19 testing labs . link

Microsoft is rolling out the first of this year's biannual Windows updates, adding an improved Windows Subsystem for Linux, upgrades for various apps including Task Manager and Notepad, more; Cortana now supports calendar event creation, sending emails, etc; Microsoft also launched a standalone Cortana app for Windows 10 . link

SpaceX and NASA delay Demo-2 launch due to bad weather; the operation will see SpaceX, in its first crewed mission, carry two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station; President Trump was slated to attend the launch . link

Canadian judge rules the US met the legal standard to request the extradition of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, whom authorities arrested in Dec 2018 and have detained in Vancouver, BC since; Meng has filed numerous extradition challenges and could appeal Wednesday's decision, the first significant ruling in her case; the US has accused her of IP theft, fraud servicing the violations of sanctions against Iran, more . link

Recode examines how Democratic billionaires, including Eric Schmidt, Reid Hoffman, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Dustin Moskovitz are spending tens of millions to ensure Joe Biden wins the presidential election; initiatives include generating partisan content, improving Biden's digital presence and impact, political science experiments, more . link

Coinbase acquires Chicago-based prime brokerage platform Tagomi; terms undisclosed; a Coindesk source indicated an all-stock deal worth significantly less than the $150M price tag reported last year; Coinbase said it would integrate Tagomi to serve as the foundation of its institutional trading business; Tagomi previously raised $28M . link

B2B company information provider ZoomInfo Technologies expects to price shares between $16 and $18 a piece for its Nasdaq debut, which would give the company a $6.89B valuation and an $801M raise (at the top of the range); the business intelligence platform is offering 44.5M class A shares . link

The European Commission proposes a $2T coronavirus response plan including $824M for recovery and a seven-year budget; if all 27 EU member states approve, the plan would represent a historic integration of finances across the bloc; bloc-wide taxes and increased member contributions to budgets would repay the commonly-issued debt beginning in 2028 . link

HBO launches its $15-per-month Max streaming service; not to be confused with Go, which provides on-demand catalog access for cable subscribers, or Now, which offers the same as a standalone service; Max offers the same content as Now, but adds exclusives and some non-HBO content; HBO is upgrading Now subscribers to Max . link

YouTube resolves moderation error that resulted in the automatic deletion of comments containing certain Chinese-language phrases critical of China's Communist Party; the company said it was relying more heavily on automated moderation due to the pandemic, but did not explain why those particular phrases were flagged; users had complained of the issue since October . link

Federal appeals judge dismisses suit from right-wing YouTuber Laura Loomer and nonprofit group Freedom Watch that claimed Alphabet, Facebook, Twitter, and other tech companies had conspired to suppress Conservative voices; the suit also argued anticompetitive practices; the court found there wasn't enough evidence to support the antitrust claims and that the First Amendment prohibits only the governmental abridgment of speech . link

Tesla institutes price cuts across most of its lineup in North America; Model 3 is down $2k for all powertrain options; the Model S Performance and Long Range Plus are down $5k each; the Model X is also down $5k; the Model Y, which recently started shipping, did not see any cuts . link

President Trump says Republicans will strongly regulate or shut down social platforms before allowing them to silence Conservative voices; follows Twitter fact-checking and tagging two of Trump's tweets about mail-in ballots as potentially misleading; Trump claimed mail-in ballots would be fraudulent and result in a rigged election; Twitter added text reading “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” linked to a Twitter Moment debunking the claims . link

The download for 2020-05-27 →


Biotech firm AbCellera raises $105M led by OrbiMed and DCVC Bio with participation from Founders Fund and others; AbCellera has developed antibody identification tech; the company is currently working with several partners to develop coronavirus therapies . link

EV firm Rivian has started to reopen its plant in IL; the company closed the facility in March because of the coronavirus outbreak; Rivian brought back some essential workers in mid-May, with more set to return next week; Rivian plans to launch its first SUV next year . link

Games firm Blizzard Entertainment cancels BlizzCon 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic; the conference traditionally happens in the fall; Blizzard notes it may still hold an online event, though it’s yet to confirm any details . link

YouTube adds YouTube Kids to Apple TV; works with fourth and fifth gen Apple TV devices; parents and guardians must still set viewer restrictions via the YouTube Kids mobile app . link

Sweden-based scooter-sharing firm Voi Technology hires Richard Corbett to oversee its operations in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands; Corbett previously served as an exec at Bird where he headed its UK and Ireland business . link

Apple rolls out macOS 10.15.5 which introduces a new Battery Health Management feature for MacBooks; analyzes the battery health and usage patterns and implements charging limitations to extend the power cell’s life . link

The Indian government makes its contact-tracing app Aarogya Setu open source; the app has been downloaded more than 114M times since it was launched for Android in April; officials say they will also pay security experts up to $1.3k for each bug they uncover . link

Private equity firm KKR partners with entrepreneur Franek Sodzawiczny to establish Global Technical Realty (GTR), a new company that plans to build European data centers for tech firms; KKR is committing at least $1B to the venture; Sodzawiczny will serve as CEO of GTR . link

Ola Electric (part of ride-hailing firm Ola) acquires Dutch mobility firm Etergo; terms undisclosed; Etergo offers electric mopeds that feature swappable batteries; raised $22.2M to date . link

Switzerland starts testing SwissCovid, a coronavirus contact-tracing app that uses a Bluetooth-centric API co-developed by Apple and Google; Swiss university EPFL claims SwissCovid is the first to use the framework; it is expected to remain in the pilot phase for a few weeks before rolling out fully . link

France-based enterprise comms service Aircall raises $65M Series C led by DTCP with participation from eFounders and others; the company offers a cloud-based phone service to SMEs; has raised ~$106M to date .Bloomberg reports Aircall has a post-money valuation of $500M; Aircall will use the investment to expand to more markets . link

AI data platform DefinedCrowd raises $50.5M Series B from Semapa Next, Hermes GPE, and others; DefinedCrowd offers training data for AI systems; has raised more than $63M to date . link

Israel-based visual masking firm D-ID (YC S17) raises $13.5M led by AXA Ventures with participation from Pitango, Y Combinator, and others; the company has developed tools that promise to thwart image recognition software; has raised ~$23M to date . link

Facebook is testing CatchUp, an app for making audio calls with up to eight participants; users can indicate when they’re available for a call; works without a Facebook account; CatchUp was developed by Facebook’s NPE Team, which previously created meme app Whale . link

Singapore-based fintech firm GoBear raises $17M from Walvis Participaties and Aegon NV; the startup offers a comparison service for banking and insurance products; has raised $97M to date . link

Some of Quibi’s ad partners are seeking to defer payments, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; firms such as PepsiCo, Walmart, and others have asked for new schedules because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic or low viewing numbers for the streaming service; Quibi promised marketers it would deliver a certain amount of ad views over a specified period . link

Amazon sent video clips and scripts to multiple regional TV news stations across the US which subsequently reported the stories, seemingly verbatim; Zach Rael of KOCO 5 News in Oklahoma City flagged the PR move on Twitter; Amazon says it created the package to help news outlets who want to cover its worker health and safety program . link

Twitter labels two of President Trump’s tweets as “potentially misleading”; represents the first time the platform has taken such action on Trump's tweets; the tag was added to tweets pertaining to mail-in ballots for the 2020 election; Trump subsequently claimed Twitter is suppressing free speech . link

Amazon is in talks to acquire driverless tech firm Zoox, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the deal reportedly values Zoox at less than $3.2B, the valuation it reached in 2018; the report notes the deal may still collapse .Update: Bloomberg reports several unnamed firms have shown interest in acquiring Zoox; the report also speculates Zoox will likely not sell for less than $1B . link

Google CEO Sundar Pichai notifies employees that the company targets July 6 to begin reopening offices for employees that want to come in; will initially operate at 10 percent of capacity and ramp-up to 30 percent by September; for employees who wish to stay at home, the company will provide up to $1k for home office expenses . link

Facebook's NPE (New Product Experimentation) Team launches CatchUp, an audio group calling app supporting calls with up to eight participants; the app relies on users' contact lists and does not require Facebook membership; it displays which users are available for calls and supports groups (friends, family, etc) . link

Blizzard cancels the 2020 BlizzCon due to coronavirus, hopes to run an online substitute event early next year; the company usually runs BlizzCon in November; Blizzard is looking at options to conduct the tournaments that usually take place at BlizzCon, including contests for link

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel seeks to delay an October auction that will disburse $16B to ISPs to upgrade rural broadband access because data on service areas is flawed; ISPs, per FCC regulations, report a census block as connected if a single home within that block has access; FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has rejected Rosenworcel's objections, saying that the auction will benefit communities regardless of flawed data . link

Uber and Lyft drivers, in cooperation with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, file suit against Gov Andrew Cuomo and the NY Department of Labor, alleging the state failed to pay drivers unemployment benefits in a timely manner; the state claims an average two-to-three-week wait for most workers, but gig drivers say it can take months, if they get paid at all . link

SpaceX signs three-year R&D agreement with the US Army, which will test the company's Starlink satellite broadband service; SpaceX plans to launch Starlink commercially by year's end, delivering high-speed, low-latency connectivity around the world, specifically targeting underserved and unserved areas; the Army reportedly plans to analyze the costs of ground-station infrastructure and integrating Starlink with existing Army systems . link

Advertisers look to renegotiate terms with Quibi following the short-form video service's lackluster debut, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; PepsiCo, Taco Bell, Walmart, and others reportedly have sought to defer payments, revise billing schedules, etc; Quibi, which has raised ~$1.75B, targeted 7M users in the first year and 16M within three years; the company currently claims 1.5M unpaid users . link

Nokia announces it shut down a telecom equipment manufacturing plant in southern India last week after an undisclosed number of workers tested positive for COVID-19; a Reuters source indicated 42 cases; the company said it had already implemented social distancing at the factory in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu when it resumed limited operations after the government relaxed stay-at-home restrictions . link

Facebook executives largely disregarded internal research about the platform's divisiveness, and weakened or blocked efforts to address conclusions in its products, according to internal documents and sources for The Wall Street Journal; a 2018 presentation indicated the company's algorithms exploited the human brain's attraction to divisive issues and would, if unchecked, feed users increasingly divisive content . link

Chinese officials are updating coronavirus-tracking apps with new features, despite signs that the worst of the pandemic has passed in the country, The New York Times reports; citizens have expressed concerns about their data privacy as apps continue to collect location and other data; the Communist Party's secretary of Hangzhou reportedly said that city's app should remain an intimate health guardian that people won't live without . link

Apple announces plans to reopen ~100 US stores; will limit most locations to curbside pickup, but will offer walk-in service at some stores; the company will conduct temperature checks and maintain social distancing at walk-in service locations; will require customers at those stores to wear masks, and will provide masks; Apple will conduct regular enhanced cleanings at the walk-in service locations . link

ARM announces the Cortex-A78 CPU, promising a 20-percent increase in sustained performance compared to the Cortex-A77; the new Mali-G78 24-core GPU promises a 25-percent performance improvement over the Mali-G77; both chips target mobile devices; the company's next neural processing unit for IoT and edge devices promises a 25-percent performance boost over its predecessor . link

Apple issues fix to address an iOS and iPadOS issue that prevented some apps from opening over the weekend; users reported the error, “This app is no longer shared with you,” indicating a problem with Apple’s Family Sharing system; after the error, many users saw a flood of old app updates . link

Timothy Klausutis writes Jack Dorsey, requesting Twitter remove tweets from President Trump that support a conspiracy theory indicating former Rep Joe Scarborough murdered Klausutis' deceased wife Lori, who worked for Scarborough; Timothy Klausutis said in a letter obtained by The New York Times that his wife had a heart condition that caused her to fall and hit her head on her desk .Update: Twitter says it will not remove the tweets but is working to update relevant policy . link

YouTube is automatically deleting certain Chinese-language phrases critical of China's Communist Party, despite the platform being banned in the country; YouTube said the deletions were a result of an error in the company's enforcement systems; The Verge found complaints of the issue going back to October; Google previously canceled a censored search product for the Chinese market following public backlash . link

SpaceX announces a $346.2M raise the day before its first crewed mission, which is slated to carry two astronauts to the International Space Station in the NASA-funded initiative; President Trump is expected to attend the event at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in FL on Wednesday; CNBC reports SpaceX has raised $567M total and achieved a $36B valuation . link

Facebook rebrands its Calibra digital wallet as Novi; Facebook rebranded the subsidiary that develops the wallet as Novi Financial; Novi will enable users to store and use multiple currencies under the Libra project; Novi will launch a dedicated app and also integrate with WhatsApp and Messenger . link

The download for 2020-05-26 →


Google is testing voice-based authentication for payments made via Google Assistant; some users are seeing a setting within the system’s Voice Match feature, allowing them to use it as a verification method; the feature is currently limited to in-app purchases and restaurant orders . link

Compass Group acquires UK-based food tech firm Feedr for ~$24M; the firm partners with food suppliers to deliver daily meals to office workers; had raised ~$3.3M to date . link

Data analytics firm Palantir could go public within the next year, according to CEO Alex Karp; speaking with “Axios on HBO,” Karp says Palantir has focused on building products to demonstrate the robustness of the company; he also says being listed can be “culturally corrosive” for a firm . link

Germany-based health recruitment platform Medwing raises €28M (~$30M) Series B led by Cathay Innovation with participation from Northzone and others; Medwing offers an automated job-matching service, connecting health professionals with hospitals, nursing homes, and more . link

Switzerland-based barcode scanner firm Scandit raises $80M Series C led by G2VP with participation from Atomico, GV, and others; the company provides enterprise OCR and AR tools; has raised $123M to date . link

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is reviewing Huawei’s participation in the country’s 5G network; The Guardian reports the NCSC is likely to find US sanctions will make it impossible to use Huawei tech as planned; follows reports Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked officials to find a plan for revoking Huawei's involvement in Britain’s infrastructure . link

The New York Times profiles Booking.com CEO Glenn Fogel and his actions leading the company during the coronavirus outbreak; Fogel, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 in late March, says the pandemic has been worse than any natural disaster, political coup, or data breach; the company lost $699M in the first quarter of 2020, which compares with $765M profit the year before . link

China-based Tencent says it will invest ~$70B over the next five years in cloud computing, AI, IoT, cybersecurity, and more; the company’s stock price rose 2.5 percent on the news; Tencent is primarily known for its WeChat messaging service and its video games operations . link

Indonesia-based data analytics startup Bonza raises an undisclosed sum from East Ventures; Bonza is developing a big data platform; founded earlier this year by Philip Thomas and Elsa Chandra, who previously served as execs at travel company Traveloka . link

Estonia-based ride-hailing firm Bolt raises €100M (~$109M) on a €1.7B (~$1.9B) post-money valuation from Naya Capital Management; Bolt operates across numerous markets in Europe and Africa; has raised $409M to date . link

French quantum computing startup Alice&Bob raises $3.3M led by Elaia Partners and Breega; the firm is developing a system that can overcome so-called “quantum errors,” which have thus far held back quantum computers . link

Realme announces 6.6-inch €500 (~$540) Realme X3 Superzoom; features a 120Hz LCD screen with a 32MP selfie camera alongside an 8MP wide lens; the rear camera module features 64MP wide lens, an 8MP ultra-wide, a 2MP macro, and an 8MP periscope lens with 5x zoom; launching in the UK and Spain on June 4 . link

South Korean authorities question Samsung Vice Chairman Jay Y Lee as part of an investigation into alleged improprieties at the company; officials are looking into allegations of accounting fraud, suspicions over a 2015 merger, and questions about Samsung’s succession plans; Lee was previously jailed following a bribery scandal . link

TikTok and its Chinese counterpart Douyin collectively generated the most in-app revenue globally among non-game apps during April, according to Sensor Tower; the data does not count income from ads; the ByteDance-owned companies drew $78M last month, 86.6 percent of which came via Douyin . link

Uber lays off 600 staff in India, equal to 25 percent of its regional workforce, citing the coronavirus pandemic; the cuts impact multiple parts of the business including customer and driver support, marketing, and more; Uber is providing 10 to 12 weeks of severance pay . link

VR firm XRSpace announces $600 Mova, a standalone headset it says will launch in Q3 (exact date unknown); XRSpace is founded by former HTC CEO Peter Chou; the Mova will run on a Snapdragon 845 processor and promises 5G support and hand-tracking; it will also include Manova, an expansive VR world . link

Latvia is set to be among the first countries with a coronavirus contact-tracing app built on Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification API; the developers say they believe the app will see widespread adoption among the country’s population of ~2M; Latvia’s app is being designed to interface with apps for Germany, Switzerland, and Estonia . link

Telegram withdraws its appeal relating to its GRAM crypto tokens; a court previously backed the SEC in blocking the issuance of the digital coin; Telegram canceled its GRAM rollout recently . link

Virgin Orbit's first full test flight fails; the company flew a modified Boeing 747 to 35k feet, and then its LauncherOne rocket successfully detached; LauncherOne was supposed to continue into orbit, but the mission was quickly aborted; it's unclear what went wrong . link

The download for 2020-05-25 →


SaaS management platform BetterCloud raises $75M Series F led by Warburg Pincus; integrates with Dropbox, Salesforce, Zendesk, and more, enabling clients to optimize SaaS spending, configure numerous services, control security, etc; raised $187M to date . link

MasterClass, an education platform with high-profile teachers, raises $100M Series E led by Fidelity Management & Research Company; Bloomberg previously reported an $800M valuation for the round; Masterclass said the valuation was higher without disclosing details; 100 percent of the company's revenue comes from its $180 annual subscription fee; the company has produced 85 courses; raised $236M to date . link

9to5Mac details the plans Apple has for numerous products, as revealed in the code from a leaked early version of iOS 14; iOS will feature a new home screen that can filter app views; iOS will support bulk setup for the coming AirTag item trackers, which will have user-replaceable batteries; Apple Stores will support AR views for additional product information . link

White House officials expect the official unemployment rate to pass 20 percent by the end of May, according to administration economic adviser Kevin Hassett, who said the number should start to fall within a few weeks; Hassett said that without a vaccine by the end of July, we should expect unemployment to remain in the double digits until the presidential election in November . link

South Korea's ‘Smart City’ data system, designed to enable authorities to share urban planning information, serves as the foundation of the Epidemic Investigation Support System (EISS), which merges cell phone location data and credit card activity to track people exposed to COVID-19; authorities already had access to that data, but EISS digitizes and speeds up the request process; Reuters details the system's efficacy and limitations . link

Elon Musk says he does not expect the production version of Tesla's Cybertruck will be much smaller than the prototype; he previously said the final version would be ~five percent smaller, but Tesla reviewed the design and found that a three-percent reduction in size would be too drastic; he noted that the company would likely produce a different, smaller truck in the future . link

The Washington Post examines how pandemic lockdowns have driven demand for home office products while inhibiting supply chains; webcams have proven particularly popular, with online shops around the world indicating they are sold out and on backorder . link

Amazon has not been cooperative with public health officials in Kenosha County, WI, according to local health officer Jen Freiheit, who said she would consider shutting down Amazon's Kenosha campus if the company continued to resist officials' efforts to track coronavirus cases, inform employees at high risk, more; The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported 32 cases at the facility . link

Virgin Orbit misses Sunday launch window due to sensor problem, hopes to launch Monday afternoon; the test represents the company's first launch using a modified 747 called Cosmic Girl to carry the LauncherOne rocket to ~35k feet for release; if all goes according to plan, the rocket will take a small test payload into low orbit . link

Anti-vax conspiracy theorists repurpose a years-old hoax video, claiming it features Bill Gates pitching a vaccine against religious fundamentalism; the video, which does not feature Bill Gates, has spread across YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter; though not directly related to coronavirus, those spreading it often link it conceptually to conspiracy theories about a coming COVID-19 vaccine; YouTube said the video does not violate company policy . link

Jailbreaking group Unc0ver releases a new tool that unlocks all versions of iOS from 11 to 13.5; the group claims the crack leaves all data protection and sandbox features intact and allows the user to access all Apple services; available via AltStore and Cydia . link

The download for 2020-05-24 →


Brazil's telecom regulator says the pandemic will result in additional delays for the nation's 5G spectrum auction; in early April, the regulator still hoped to conduct auctions this year, despite earlier delays; President Leonardo Euler de Morais said lockdowns had underscored the importance of digital solutions and that, in the long run, it would fuel 5G deployment and fiber expansion . link

Apple plans to update the Messages app for macOS with features from the mobile app, according to leaked iOS 14 code; 9to5Mac found references to a new macOS Messages app based on Catalyst, which enables developers to efficiently port iOS and iPadOS apps to the desktop . link

The City of New Orleans, with the help of New York City-based public safety communications platform Carbyne, upgraded its emergency systems to enable paramedics to conduct remote video assessments of callers to determine appropriate responses; in March a vast majority of calls regarded coronavirus; The New York Time examines how such upgrades have helped to improve response efficiency . link

Singaporean shopping mall operator CapitaLand to launch two e-commerce platforms on June 1, one for food delivery and one for other products, serving retailers established in its 18 malls; will also integrate existing loyalty programs; the e-commerce platform, eCapitaMall, will enable customers to try products in person before ordering online and to research products online before buying in person . link

Reliance Jio Platforms rolls out its JioMart e-commerce business in dozens of new Indian markets; previously limited to three Mumbai suburbs; the business also launched sales of perishable items; Jio Platforms has raised $10B-plus over the past month with investments from KKR, General Atlantic, Silver Lake and others; claims 388M telecom subscribers . link

Facebook's leniency regarding anti-vax misinformation conflicts with the company's policy on coronavirus misinformation, BuzzFeed News reports, and anti-vaxxers are already making false claims about a pending coronavirus vaccine; Facebook Head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert said the company's policy to remove items contradicting official WHO coronavirus information was due to risk of imminent physical harm . link

London-based Blink launches an app for deskless frontline employees and raises ~$10M from Partech and angels; the app enables companies to send their workers documents, pay stubs, etc, and enables employees to interact with one another and submit company feedback; the company previously deployed the app in limited availability to 100 organizations across 14 countries . link

Google Messages to support end-to-end encryption for RCS, according to code in a leaked internal version of the app: RCS, the successor to SMS and MMS, brings iMessage-like features to Android messaging across carriers, including read receipts and typing indicators; code also indicates users will have the option to protect encrypted conversations from apps that have permission to access Messages . link

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the country will ramp up COVID-19 testing and tracing efforts as provinces gradually relax stay-at-home orders; he also said the federal government was working closely with Apple and Google on an exposure notification app . link

Spencer Meyer, who initiated an antitrust suit against Uber that sought a ban on surge pricing, claims an arbiter sided with Uber in the price-fixing case due to partiality; a transcript of the arbitration indicated the arbiter, Les Weinstein, feared that he couldn't walk the streets at night if he ruled against Uber . link

VentureBeat examines how governments and organizations are using contact-tracing and smartphone data, wearables and apps, thermal scanning, facial recognition, and other tech to track the spread of coronavirus, mitigate the potential for spread, and to better understand COVID-19 . link

SpaceX's NASA-funded Demo-2 mission, which will take astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station, faces one final safety review; SpaceX conducted a static fire test on Friday; assuming favorable data from that test and this weekend's dress rehearsal, the company is prepared to launch on Wednesday evening . link

New York International Auto Show organizers cancel 2020 event; the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association had planned the event to begin April 10, but rescheduled for August due to the pandemic; the next show is slated for April 2-11 of next year . link

Australian researchers achieve 44.2 Tbps data transfer over standard optical fiber using a single integrated chip; they ran the fiber between university campuses in Melbourne and Clayton, duplicating the infrastructure used by Australia’s National Broadband Network, but with the addition of a micro-comb; one of the researchers said the tech could drastically improve speeds for existing infrastructure with minimal expense . link

Amazon confirms a woman who worked in the company's Randall, OH facility has died of COVID-19; Amazon said management sent the woman home on April 30 and she tested positive on May 8; she is the eighth known Amazon employee to die of the disease; Amazon does not disclose employee infection rates but has said they are at or below that of the communities in which the company operates . link

The Wall Street Journal examines how large, dominant tech companies weather crises that damage smaller firms; companies benefiting from increased social media use, video conferencing software, and other pandemic-resistant services continue to spend on R&D, acquisitions, and customer acquisition; the Journal notes that Facebook and Google, for example, could significantly cut spending should advertising revenues dry up . link

Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and other American firms are providing essential web services to Chinese surveillance companies the US government has blacklisted and accused of human rights abuses, according to VPN reviewer and privacy researcher Top10VPN; US companies reportedly have provided site and email hosting, authentication services, more . link

Microsoft announces HoloLens 2 will roll out to 15 more countries this fall; will be available at the Microsoft Store this summer for $3.5k; Windows Holographic version 2004, the latest version of the software, adds a dark mode, improved hand tracking, support for new voice commands, and support for 5G via dongle . link

Venezuela’s Supreme Court orders DirecTV to restore local service after parent AT&T shut it down due to sanctions; the sanctions, intended to push President Nicolas Maduro out of office, disallow companies from contracting with state agencies; Venezuela's laws require subscription TV services carry government stations; DirecTV was the country's most popular TV provider . link

Judge approves Faraday Future Founder Jia Yueting's bankruptcy restructuring plan; much of the tycoon's $3.6B in personal debt is the result of the collapse of LeEco, and many of the people and entities to whom Jia owes money have agreed to excuse debts in exchange for stakes in Faraday Future; Jia has said Faraday would need another $850M to enter production of its FF91 EV; Faraday said the restructuring approval paves the way for fundraising . link

British PM Boris Johnson has called on officials to develop a plan to eliminate Huawei's involvement in Britain's 5G infrastructure by 2023, The Telegraph reports; Johnson has said the UK must become more self-reliant and less dependent on China for goods . link

President Trump is considering the establishment of a panel that would review complaints of politically-motivated bias and censorship by social media platforms, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; Trump recently tweeted about allegedly anti-conservative deplatforming, calling the practice illegal; sources said that in addition to creating a dedicated commission, the White House might encourage relevant reviews by federal agencies . link

The download for 2020-05-23 →


A coalition of tech companies and privacy advocates calls on the House of Representatives to protect Americans' search and browsing histories from warrantless searches after the Senate rejected (by one vote) an amendment to the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act that would have provided such protection; the coalition hopes the House will adopt the amendment . link

CVKey Project launches with an app to ease the reopening of businesses; founded by Brian McClendon, who previously co-founded Keyhole, which Google acquired in 2004 and used as part of the foundation of Google Maps and Earth; CVKey allows users to self-report symptoms and use a QR code as a sort of pass to enter businesses using the app . link

Bloomberg examines China's plans to spend $1.4T over six years to deploy 5G networks, cameras and sensors, and AI-powered software for surveillance, factory automation, and autonomous driving; the country will work with local governments and private companies, including Alibaba, Huawei, and SenseTime; the government is expected to announce ~$560M in infrastructure funding this year . link

Seattle District Court judge rules the FBI cannot access a mobile device's lock screen without a warrant, calling it an unconstitutional violation of a citizen's Fourth Amendment rights; arresting police can access a device's lock screen if incidental to a lawful arrest or as part of efforts to inventory personal effects; pressing a phone's power button to wake the screen qualifies as a search . link

Reuters analyzes smartphone data from SafeGraph to determine how people in various states are responding to the relaxing of stay-at-home orders; grocery and speciality food stores saw a slight bump in traffic in mid-May; foot traffic at bars and pubs was down 60 percent from the first week of March; AL, which reopened restaurants, bars, and breweries on May 11, saw a surge in traffic at those locations; WI saw a jump in visits to state parks . link

Box CEO Aaron Levie announces employees will have the option to work remotely until at least January, and that the company will work toward a long-term office-remote hybrid model; Box is developing a remote hiring process, shifting all-hands meetings to virtual, and offering stipends to workers needing to upgrade home offices . link

This Week in Startups: AMA with Ilir SelaSlice Founder and CEO Ilir Sela answers live questions from the This Week in Startups founder community on Slack, covering tips on selling to scattered markets, CODIV-19's impact on the restaurant industry, scaling his company's $43M Series C, more . link

Shanghai-based e-commerce company Pinduoduo ($81B market cap) Q1 beats: $916M revenue, up 44 percent year-over-year ($700M expected); $580M net loss; 628M active buyers in the year ending in March, up 42 percent year-over-year; the company reported 65M daily orders as of this month . link

Wired interviews Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai about how Google was positioned to respond to coronavirus, collaborating with Apple on the exposure notification API, how the pandemic has accelerated the shift to remote work and telehealth, Alphabet's holding company model, increased antitrust scrutiny, Google's diversity initiatives, the company's attitude toward China, more . link

NetEase and JD.com plan secondary listings on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in the second and third weeks of June, respectively, according to Reuters sources; the sources expect NetEase to raise ~$2B and JD.com to raise ~$3B; both companies are listed on the Nasdaq; follows the Senate passing legislation that would require stricter oversight for Chinese companies listing publicly in the US . link

Dutch District Court judge rules woman who refused to remove photos of her grandchildren from Facebook and Instagram violated Europe's GDPR because she didn't have the mother's (her daughter's) permission to publish them; GDPR requires guardian permission when posting images of minors under 16; the mother and grandmother hadn't been in touch after a falling out . link

Hackers and security researchers have had access to an early version of iOS 14 since at least February, Motherboard reports; Apple released a beta version of iOS 13.5 this week and isn't expected to release iOS 14 until the fall; sources from the jailbreaking community believe someone purchased a developer's iPhone 11 from a source in China and extracted the operating system, which was dated December 2019 . link

This Week in Startups: News RoundtableJason speaks with Coelius Capital MP Zach Coelius and The Hustle CEO Sam Parr about Barstool Sports vs the link

Amazon plans a summer sale to help merchants move excess inventory they haven't been able to sell due to the company's focus on essential items, The New York Times reports; the company reportedly pushed its annual Prime Day event from July to September due to strain on warehouse operations; Amazon also reportedly lifted restrictions to resume acceptance of an unlimited amount of nonessential items at its facilities . link

Urban air mobility startup Archer emerges from stealth with plans to launch an eVTOL craft that carries up to four passengers for 60 miles at up to 150 mph; Founders Brett Adcock and Adam Goldstein previously founded talent marketplace Vettery, which sold for ~$100M; their team includes veterans from NASA, Airbus, more; Archer expects to begin flight tests next year . link

Amazon-owned audiobook business Audible is in talks to acquire new podcast projects, according to Bloomberg sources; the company reportedly has offered up to a few million dollars per show, surpassing offers from all competitors except Spotify; Audible reportedly has acquired shows starring comedians Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, and is considering selling shows individually, outside of its monthly membership . link

The download for 2020-05-22 →


Chief, a NY-based online network for female leaders, raises $15M from General Catalyst, GGV Capital, Primary Venture Partners, and others; the firm provides a platform for C-level and VP figures to connect; has raised $40M to date . link

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) says it will cut jobs and lower exec pay as part of a $1B cost-cutting plan; HPE will also simplify its product lineup, address its real estate strategies, and more; comes as the company reports a 16 percent drop in quarterly sales . link

Online property title firm States Title raises $123M Series C led by Greenspring Associates with participation from Horizons Ventures and others; the company provides services for closing mortgages; has raised $229M to date . link

Hackers threaten to leak data for 200M voters in Indonesia; the country’s election commission says 2.3M records have already been posted to a hacker website; the data dump includes national ID numbers, addresses, and more; it’s unclear how the info was obtained . link

Payroll firm Deel (YC W19) raises $14M Series A led by Andreessen Horowitz; A16Z partner Anish Acharya joins the board; Deel provides enterprise tools for onboarding and paying remote workers; has raised $18M to date . link

WhatsApp is testing a feature to let users add contacts via QR codes; currently available in beta for iOS and Android, it allows users to display their own QR code, as well as scan others; Instagram has a similar feature . link

Proxy advisory group Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has recommended Alphabet stakeholders vote against a proposed exec payouts, reports Reuters; ISS says Alphabet’s compensation committee has shown “poor stewardship”; it also says shareholders should not support reelection for four board members including Alan Mulally and Robin Washington . link

Google introduces new accessibility features for Android; includes Action Blocks, a tool that lets users set one-touch home screen buttons for tasks such as calling a specific number or playing music; the company has also added an update to Live Transcribe, allowing a user’s smartphone to vibrate if someone nearby speaks their name . link

Huawei is in talks with chipmaker MediaTek as it seeks a new supplier for its high-end smartphones, according to sources for Nikkei Asian Review; MediaTek already provides chips for lower-end devices; follows reports TSMC has canceled chip orders for Huawei . link

IBM has cut an undisclosed number of jobs across five US states, reports Bloomberg; the report, citing internal comms, estimates the figure is in the thousands; IBM has laid of staff in NC, CA, PA, NY, and MO . link

On-demand storage firm MakeSpace raises $55M Series E led by Iron Mountain with participation from 8VC, Upfront Ventures, and others; the company provides pick-up and drop-off services, as well as a user app to see what items are stored; has raised $150M to date . link

China-based online grocery firm MissFresh E-Commerce is raising ~$510M led by Tencent, according to Bloomberg sources; the firm has closed a ~$300M tranche, and is near to securing another ~$210M; the company is valued at $3B pre-money . link

China-based games company NetEase has applied for a secondary listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to Chinese media; the firm is looking to raise as much as $2B, with the IPO happening as early as June; NetEase first listed on the Nasdaq in 2000; the report notes several Chinese businesses including Baidu and Trip.com are looking at alternatives to American listings following a new bill from the US Senate that could force more transparency . link

Israel-based remote working firm Monday.com has seen its valuation rise 42 percent to $2.7B following secondary share sales, according to Bloomberg sources; the company was valued at $1.9B upon its last funding round in 2019; Monday.com provides a suite of online collaboration tools . link

Care19, the official coronavirus contact-tracing app for ND, is sharing location data with Foursquare, Google, and others, according to Jumbo Privacy; Care19 is also sharing device data with a software debugging firm in Spain; Jumbo says Care19’s privacy policy does not adequately disclose the data it sends out . link

Taiwan-based social media firm M17 Entertainment sells its online dating unit Paktor to Kollective Ventures; terms undisclosed; M17 says the move will allow it to focus on its live streaming platform, which it plans to expand to new markets including the US and Middle East . link

The New York Times profiles the trend of popular young social media influencers moving into large shared houses together in Los Angeles; includes the Sway House, a group based in a Bel Air mansion, and Vibe House in Beverly Hills which is recruiting TikTok stars; the report notes many are still moving in despite the coronavirus pandemic . link

Private equity firm KKR acquires a 2.3 percent stake in India-based carrier Reliance Jio Platforms (RJP) for $1.5B; the deal values RJP at $65B; follows investments from General Atlantic ($870M), Facebook ($5.7B), Silver Lake ($747M), and Vista Equity Partners ($1.5B); RJP has sold ~17 percent of its business in the last month . link

Workplace sensor firm VergeSense raises $9M led by Allegion Ventures with participation from MetaProp NYC and others; the company provides hardware for monitoring a workers’ location and physical activity; has raised $10.6M to date . link

Online events startup Run The World raises $10.8M Series A led by Andreessen Horowitz and Founders Fund; the company operates digital gatherings with support for networking and more; has raised ~$15M to date . link

Waymo CSO Deborah Hersman steps down, will continue to serve the company as a consultant; Director of Operational Safety and Sustainability Tracy Murrell will serve as interim head of safety; Hersman previously worked at the National Safety Council as president and CEO . link

Fitbit launches COVID-19 Study to determine if the company can analyze customer health data to detect the virus before symptoms become apparent; Fitbit has requested US and Canadian users who have flu-like symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19 to take a survey; Fitbit will analyze those users' data in search of patterns . link

Facebook announces availability of its $1k enterprise edition Oculus Quest as part of the Oculus for Business program, which previously relied on the Oculus Go; business edition Quests have custom software and no consumer store; clients can load custom software, set up multiple devices simultaneously, more . link

Magic Leap raises $350M and withdraws a layoff warning notice sent on April 22, according to an email from CEO Rony Abovitz to employees viewed by Business Insider; the company cut ~half of its workforce in a shift to the enterprise market; the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires employers notify workers of pending mass layoffs, and the withdrawal of the April 22 notice indicates Magic Leap doesn't plan any more significant layoffs . link

Netflix to cancel inactive subscriptions; the company will contact customers who haven't used the service in the past year and will deactivate accounts for those who don't respond; Netflix will begin sending emails and in-app notifications this week; the company claimed 183M subscribers at the end of the first quarter . link

All-In with Chamath PalihapitiyaJason and Chamath speak with David Sacks and David Friedberg and cover the modern cold war between the US and China, economic recovery, potential mass migration out of San Francisco, pandemic politicization, more . link

Apple is looking for an executive to lead new podcast initiatives, including the production of original series and the purchase of podcasts for exclusive rights, according to Bloomberg sources; Apple reportedly has been buying audio spin-offs of movies and shows available on Apple TV+, and original podcasts that could be adapted for the screen . link

Ottawa-based Shopify will allow its 5k-person staff to work from home permanently; the company will keep its offices closed for the remainder of the year and redesign them to optimize for remote work; once Spotify reopens offices, in will limit occupancy to 20-25 percent of capacity . link

Facebook says its business communications app Workplace has 5M paid users, up from 3M in October; the company also announced new features, including Rooms, which enables video chats with up to 50 people . link

Baidu ($30B market cap) is considering delisting from the Nasdaq in favor of listing in another country for a higher valuation, according to Reuters sources; the Senate passed legislation this week that could force public Chinese companies to face stricter oversight or delist from US exchanges; Baidu Co-Founder and CEO Robin Li told China Daily on Thursday that there are many options for listing a good company outside the US . link

Reps Greg Walden (R-OR) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) write ByteDance Founder and CEO Zhang Yiming to question him about his company's data practices and ties to Beijing; the representatives questioned Zhang about what information ByteDance collects on Americans, whether the company stores that data in China, and what data it shares with the state and state-owned entities; they also specifically asked about children's data . link

T-Mobile launches Connecting Heroes, a program through which first responders can get 10 years of free mobile service; available to law enforcement, fire department, and EMS workers; the plan features unlimited talk, text, and data (4G and 5G); T-Mobile committed to the program as a condition of regulatory approval for the company's merger with Sprint . link

Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook will be the most forward-leaning company regarding remote work at scale; he said the transition would be measured and responsible and that it was likely half of Facebook's workforce would be working from home within ten years; the company has launched a remote hiring program and will allow employees to request permanent remote work going forward . link

This Week in Startups: The Power of Accelerators Jason speaks with Capital Factory Founder and CEO Joshua Baer about lessons from investing in 400-plus startups, best practices for transitioning accelerators to remote programs, insights on the cancelation of SXSW, more . link

Samsung unveils the ruggedized Galaxy S20 Tactical Edition, developed in cooperation with the Department of Defense; connects with tactical radios and mission systems; supports Private SIM 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and CBRS; stealth mode disables LTE and RF broadcasting for off-grid communications; features DualDAR encryption; launching in the third quarter . link

Amazon pushes its annual Prime Day event from July to September, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the people also said the company had resumed accepting unlimited nonessential goods at its warehouses in a step toward resuming normal operations . link

The download for 2020-05-21 →


Facebook introduces a safety feature for users in India, allowing them to block those they are not friends with from viewing or downloading their full-size profile or header photos; the company say the changes are in response to user concerns - particularly young girls - about their images being misused . link

Samsung says it has started initial work on a line of logic chips for smartphones and PCs; the company will produce the chips for other manufacturers; Samsung expects to begin producing 5 nm chips at a South Korean facility next year; the company now operates five domestic silicon foundries, plus one in the US . link

Cloud database firm Couchbase raises $105M Series G led by GPI Capital with participation from Accel and others; the company offers NoSQL services to enterprise customers; has raised ~$250M to date . link

NY-based fashion rental service Rent the Runway is raising a $25M down round, according to Bloomberg sources; the funding will value the company at ~$750M, below its previous $1B valuation; T Rowe Price is leading the investment; T Rowe Price also invested in the firm’s $125M round last year . link

Tesla has dropped legal action against Alameda County, CA, reports The Verge; the company filed a lawsuit against the county following a dispute over the reopening of its Fremont factory amid the coronavirus pandemic; Tesla has not provided a reason for ending the suit; the facility has since resumed operations . link

Japan-based messaging platform Line says it will launch a telemedicine service this summer; the app will be operated by subsidiary Line Healthcare, and is anticipated to provide video access to more than 2k doctors; Line notes the service will also feature a payments system . link

The UK government says it’s having some technical difficulties with its coronavirus contact-tracing app; the Bluetooth-based app is currently being tested on the coastal island Isle of Wight, where ~70k people (roughly half the population) have downloaded it; it’s unclear what the problems are, but follows reports it doesn’t run in the background; the government says it will rely on traditional track-and-trace methods until the app is fully working . link

SoftBank partners with US-based mapping firm Mapbox to establish Mapbox Japan (MJ); the jointly-owned MJ will offer Mapbox’s suite of APIs, SDKs, and more to Japanese developers;; SoftBank’s Vision Fund previously led a $164M investment in Mapbox . link

Panasonic plans to close an appliance factory in Thailand and move production to Vietnam to help with procurement and reduce costs, reports Nikkei Asian Review; the facility near Bangkok will fully close by March 2021, and 800 jobs will be lost; Panasonic has manufactured products in Thailand since 1979 . link

Amazon launches a restaurant delivery service in India; Amazon Food is available in select parts of Bangalore, where it has reportedly been in testing since earlier this year; TechCrunch notes the launch follows announced layoffs from rivals Swiggy and Zomato . link

The US Senate passes legislation which could force Chinese firms to remove their public listings from American stock exchanges; follows long-standing disputes over the right to audit China-based businesses; the SEC and Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) have previously tried to negotiate with Chinese authorities to allow such oversight; the Senate bill would force the SEC to block any firm that hasn’t submitted to PCAOB inspection for three years . link

Apple rolls out iOS 13.5 (previously available as a beta), featuring the Exposure Notification API for coronavirus contact-tracing apps; three states - AL, SC, and ND - have so far announced plans to use the framework to build such apps .Apple and Google say authorities in 23 countries have expressed interest in their jointly-developed Exposure Notification API; includes Austria, Germany, and Switzerland; those that implement the API are blocked from collecting and retaining phone numbers, personal info, or GPS location data . link

Expedia says its Q1 revenue fell 39 percent year-on-year due to the coronavirus outbreak; it recorded $2.2B revenue, down 15 percent year-on-year; CEO Peter Kern notes sales have started to pick up this month; Expedia’s share price rose 4 percent on the news . link

Craig Barratt steps down as head of Intel’s Connectivity Group; Barratt joined the company less than a year ago when Intel acquired network programmability firm Barefoot Networks, of which he was CEO; Intel says Barratt is leaving to pursue another career opportunity . link

SoftBank announces a plan to raise as much as $2.9B by selling off 5 percent of its carrier network, SoftBank Corp; it will sell 240M shares, reducing its stake in the wireless unit to 62.1 percent; SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son has previously committed to raising $42B for stock buybacks and debt repayments by trading company assets .Reuters says SoftBank Corp’s share sale could be worth as much as $3.1B; the subsidiary's share price closed 0.8 percent down ahead of the announcement . link

Communications firm New Vector raises $4.6M Series A (extension) from WordPress owner Automattic; the company has developed decentralized messaging platform Matrix and Slack-like Riot (which is built on Matrix); has raised $18.1M to date . link

The National Advertising Review Board (NARB) recommends AT&T stop using 5GE branding for its higher speed 4G LTE service; NARB says the term is misleading and could confuse customers; AT&T says it will stop using 5GE in its advertising, but notes it will remain as a network logo on user devices . link

Intel ($267.1B market cap) acquires network card firm Rivet Networks; terms undisclosed; Rivet produces Killer-branded products, as found in devices from Dell, HP, and others . link

Coinbase says it will transition to a remote-first firm, allowing most staff to work from home on a permanent basis; the company notes it will still provide office space for those who want it . link

Virgin Orbit is set to launch its first non-test orbital flight on May 24; Virgin’s LauncherOne rocket will launch from a modified Boeing 747 mid-flight; LauncherOne is designed to carry small satellites into orbit . link

Israel-based surveillance tools company NSO Group established a domain to impersonate Facebook's security team to get visitors to install the Pegasus spyware, Motherboard reports; Facebook previously filed suit against NSO, alleging the company sold a WhatsApp exploit and violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act with a malware campaign targeting WhatsApp users . link

Privacy-focused Signal Messenger launches Signal PINs, which the company refers to as the first step to abandoning phone numbers as profile IDs; Signal will use PINs when encrypting user data, and says they will simplify migrating accounts across devices; PINs do not apply to conversations, which the company does not store . link

AT&T to stop using “5G Evolution” language in marketing campaigns in compliance with a recommendation from the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), but will not stop displaying the link

Coinbase will allow most employees to work from home permanently; CEO Brian Armstrong said in his announcement that Coinbase will be a remote-first company after governments lift pandemic-related lockdowns; he said the vast majority of roles will have the option to work at an office, from home, or a mix of both . link

This Week in Startups: News RoundtableJason speaks with David Rosenthal and Ben Gilbert, co-hosts of Acquired Podcast, about Clubhouse's $100M pre-launch valuation, Joe Rogan's exclusive deal with Spotify, Uber's layoffs, Facebook's acquisition of Giphy, food delivery wars, more . link

Sen Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) leads a group of Democratic senators in calling on the Trump administration to launch an antitrust investigation should Uber and Grubhub reach an acquisition agreement; Grubhub reportedly declined a recent offer; the senators requested the FTC and Justice Department closely monitor deal talks . link

ByteDance sees $100B-plus valuation in secondary share transactions, according to Bloomberg sources; one source indicated trades valuing the company at up to $140B; a $3B Series E in 2018 valued the company at ~$75B; the company's apps, which include TikTok, Douyin, and Toutiao, collectively claim 1.5B monthly active users . link

Verizon activates 5G Ultra Wideband uploads in 34 markets, indicating users can expect a 30-percent increase in upstream bandwidth (PCMag found better performance); the company previously routed all upstream data through 4G connections; the upgrade should improve the quality of video calls, livestream broadcasting, etc . link

Google announces a contract with the Department of Defense; the company told Axios it was a seven-figure deal; the Defense Department's Defense Innovation Unit will use Google's Cloud Console to manage apps across Google Cloud, AWS, and Microsoft Azure; Google previously bid for the Pentagon's $10B JEDI contract, which Microsoft won . link

Hulu launches an updated UI for tvOS and Roku devices, coming to all platforms this summer; the update approximates the layouts of many other streaming services, with horizontally scrollable rows for recently watched shows, unwatched titles in link

Consumer and educational robotics company Sphero spins off its Public Safety Division as Company Six, targeting clients in the military, law enforcement, and emergency response; former Sphero COO Jim Booth, who co-founded Company Six, is serving as its CEO; former Sphero CEO Paul Berberian is serving as Chairman of both companies; Sphero promoted President Paul Copioli to CEO . link

Twitter confirms it's testing a new feature that enables tweet authors to determine who can reply to a given tweet: everyone, only people mentioned in the tweet, or only people the author follows; the company announced plans for the feature in January; a globe icon with text at the bottom of the compose window indicates the current setting and allows changes . link

Apple might not include wired EarPods with the iPhone 12, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who noted Apple could heavily promote and discount AirPods this holiday season; Kuo also increased his sales estimate for this year's AirPods sales from 80 to 93M . link

Shopify announces business debit account product Balance, slated to launch in early access this year; also announced consumer product Shop Pay Installments, which enables shoppers to split purchases between $50 and $1k over four payments with no interest; will initially limit both products to US merchants; Local Delivery, slated to launch globally this year, enables merchants to establish local delivery fees, fulfill their own deliveries, more . link