The Daily Download - latest tech news for 2020-05-26, fan podcast based on @launchticker

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 2020-07-05 →


Privacy-centric search engine DuckDuckGo comes back online in India following a several-day outage that could have been associated with a nationwide ban of 59 apps linked to China; PA-based DuckDuckGo said the downtime was not the result of anything on the company's end, and that it worked with Indian ISPs to resolve a DNS block . link

The Washington Post interviews seven former Pinterest employees about alleged discrimination at the company; the group included former Public Policy & Social Impact Manager Ifeoma Ozoma, who previously said she experienced racism, misogyny, more; Pinterest has hired outside lawyers to investigate company culture . link

Esports tournament Evo cancels 2020 event, relieves Co-Founder and President Joey Cuellar of all duties following sexual misconduct allegations against him; the company said it would completely separate Cuellar from the organization; Tony Cannon will act as CEO; numerous commentators and players withdrew from the event following the public accusations . link

Reddit plans a July 14 update for iOS to stop the app from reading users' clipboard contents; a beta release of iOS 14, which notifies the user when an app reads clipboard contents, revealed the behavior; Reddit said the function enabled the app to recommend titles based on copied URLs; LinkedIn and TikTok recently promised to address similar issues in their apps . link

Pinduoduo CEO Colin Huang steps down; the Groupon-like shopping app is China's third-largest e-commerce platform; Huang controlled 43.3 percent of company shares but recently reduced his stake to 29.4 percent, leaving him with $30B; Huang will continue to serve as chairman, working on long-term strategy and corporate structure . link

Tesla denies a report that it fired two Fremont facility workers for choosing to stay home when Elon Musk reopened the facility in defiance of a country shelter-in-place order; Tesla said the employees quoted in the report are still employed at the company . link

Tencent launches CA-based game studio LightSpeed LA; the unit, led by former Rockstar veteran Steve Martin, will focus on AAA titles; Martin said the studio would target world-class development and a stress-free environment . link

The download for 2020-07-04 →


Seattle-based healthcare tech company Accolade raises $220M with Nasdaq debut, closes up 35 percent; the company, which provides benefits software serving 1.7M workers, listed 10M shares at $22 each, above the estimated range of $19 to $21 per share; the Thursday listing valued the company at $1.2B; claims 1.2k employees . link

Canada's top banks join the #StopHateforProfit boycott of Facebook advertising, seeking to pressure the company into better addressing hate speech on the platform; ~400 brands have pulled their advertising from Facebook as part of the initiative; Bank of Montreal, Bank of Nova Scotia, and Royal Bank of Canada are among the banks joining the cause . link

The iOS 14 beta, with its more stringent user permission standards, reveals a bug in LinkedIn's app causing it to copy the user's clipboard contents with every keypress; LinkedIn promised a fix; iOS 14 also revealed that TikTok was reading clipboard contents; the company said it was a fraud detection mechanism, but promised to remove it . link

Philippine authorities say documents indicating former Wirecard COO Jan Marsalek entered the country on June 23 might have been forged by immigration or airport personnel; investigators said officials could have created the entry to check for an Interpol notice regarding Marsalek; authorities are seeking the former executive as part of an investigation into a $2B accounting scandal resulting in the arrest of Wirecard's former CEO . link

Uber launches a taxi-hailing app in Tokyo in partnership with local cab companies Ecosystem, Hinomaru Limousine, and Tokyo MK; Japanese regulations regarding professional driver licensure prevent Uber from launching ride-hailing services in the country; the company has focused on Uber Eats in Japan . link

India-based Reliance Jio Platforms launches video conferencing service JioMeet; provides unlimited free calls supporting up to 100 participants; features screen-sharing, collaboration tools, more; JioMeet does not currently offer a paid tier . link

Foxconn says problems with customs clearance in India have been resolved; Reuters previously reported the Taiwan-based Apple supplier suffered disruptions due to India's increased scrutiny of Chinese imports following last month's clashes at the Himalayan border . link

Away Co-CEO Steph Korey will step down by year's end; Co-CEO Stuart Haselden will serve as sole CEO; Korey stepped down from the CEO role in December after The Verge reported on employees' criticism of her management style; she returned in January as co-CEO; this week, Korey wrote on social media about her complaints with journalism; some workers said it was inappropriate timing due to Black Lives Matter protests and Pride Month . link

Leaked recording from audio-based social network Clubhouse reveals VCs discussing the state of journalism and how to get better coverage, Vice reports; investor Balaji Srinivasan reportedly spoke about the accountability standards of cryptocurrency and GitHub as superior to popular journalism models; A16Z's Nait Jones reportedly said stories about abuse in the tech industry created a market, and pressure for journalists to find more . link

The UK government and Indian conglomerate Bharti Enterprises, operating through a joint venture, win an auction for broadband satellite operator OneWeb; a US judge will consider the $1B bid for approval next week; the deal would see each party take 45 percent of OneWeb, with Britain holding a golden share and the power to determine who can use the network . link

Walmart partners with film festival operator Tribeca Enterprises to temporarily convert the parking lots at 160 store locations for drive-in movies; the deal is an extension of the Drive-In initiative, which presents classic films for outdoor viewing around the country; Walmart will provide car-side snack and drink services; shows begin in August . link

Instacart raises $100M from T Rowe Price for a $13.8B valuation; last month the company closed $225M led by DST Global and General Catalyst; Axios notes Instacart faces a potential inflection point, as customers acquired due to lockdowns decide whether to continue ordering groceries for home delivery or to return to brick-and-mortar stores; raised ~$2.2B to date . link

The download for 2020-07-03 →


Elon Musk says Tesla will build mobile molecule printers designed by Germany's CureVac; the unit, which Musk described as an RNA micro-factory, was designed to serve doctors in remote locations, having the ability to produce a COVID-19 vaccine candidate and other mRNA-based therapies; CureVac is also building a stationary site with greater production capacity . link

Palmer Luckey's Anduril Industries wins five-year contract with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to deploy solar-powered surveillance towers, armed with thermal imaging, to form an AI-powered, virtual border wall; CBP has designated the system a program of record, meriting dedicated funding in the Homeland Security budget; Anduril recently raised $200M . link

The New York Times' Kevin Roose argues that social platforms' recent actions to address hate and misinformation signal the end of the Wild Wild Web, and the beginning of an era of accountability for web companies; Roose argues that each of the fruits of the web's early years came at a cost: convenient access to information came with political polarization, etc . link

Amazon to push Prime Day, its annual sales event that usually takes place in July, to October, according to an email sent to third-party sellers; this change included, the company has postponed the event three times over concerns about coronavirus' impact on supply chains, more; Amazon gave sellers the week of Oct 5 as a placeholder, but hasn't finalized a date . link

T-Mobile finalizes the shutdown of Sprint's mid-band 5G network as New T-Mobile integrates Sprint spectrum; T-Mobile has already reactivated networks, previously Sprint's, in Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles; some owners of early 5G Sprint phones will not have access to T-Mobile's new networks, but the company is offering deals on replacement devices . link

Data analytics company Palantir has raised $550M of a $961M target, according to an SEC filing; it's unclear if the sum includes previously undisclosed or secondary funding; the Form D might reflect a recent $500M raise from Sompo and $50M from Fujitsu; Palantir reportedly plans an IPO this fall; raised $3.3B to date, according to PitchBook data . link

Tesla ($224B market cap) shares surge after the company reported 90,650 vehicle shipments in the second quarter, handily beating analyst estimates of 74,130 units; the company did not break out figures for each model and country, but China saw 16.2k Tesla registrations in April and May; Tesla expects to produce 150k vehicles at its Shanghai factory by year's end . link

Sixteen EU banks expect to launch a new European payments system in 2022 to compete with Visa and Mastercard; BNP Paribas Deputy COO Thierry Laborde said the system, based on a pan-European infrastructure, would strengthen the continent and reduce dependencies; will cover online, in-store, peer-to-peer, and other payments . link

Apple launches a website for Apple Card, enabling users to check statements, make payments, etc; previously, those functions were accessible only via the Wallet app on iOS, or by calling Goldman Sachs support . link

Facebook discloses it inadvertently continued to share with 5k developers data on users that had been inactive in the developers' respective apps for more than 90 days; Facebook implemented the 90-day cutoff in its API following the Cambridge Analytica scandal; the company said the safety mechanism failed to activate under some circumstances . link

Vice details how police infiltrated the network of Encrochat, which provides secure devices with encrypted messaging used by organized crime gangs; authorities around Europe monitored ~100M messages detailing drug deals, murders, more; the investigation led to arrests in France, the Netherlands, Norway Sweden, and the UK . link

The download for 2020-07-02 →


Data analysis firm Palantir is raising ~$1B Series D, according to an SEC filing; the company has already secured ~$550M from Sompo Holdings and Fujitsu; Palantir has raised $3.3B to date, according to Pitch Book; previous reports indicate this will be the last funding round before an IPO . link

The UK’s House of Lords Gambling Committee says video game loot boxes should be regulated; the lawmakers have issued a report that draws a link between such in-game purchases and the possibility of gambling addiction; the committee says the British government should review existing gambling laws . link

UK-based team communication platform OurPeople raises $2M Series A led by Alpine Meridian; the startup offers app-based tools primarily aimed at dispersed and desk-free workforces; has raised $3M to date . link

Facebook will shut down Lasso on July 10; the TikTok-like app launched in 2018 and has been available in the US and several Latin American countries; follows the launch of Instagram Reels in Brazil, which lets users create 15-second music-based videos for sharing via Stories . link

UK-based online social care service Lifted raises £1.5M (~$1.8M) seed from Fuel Ventures; offers home care services for elderly and vulnerable adults, with bookings made via an app . link

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi deletes his account on the China-based social media platform Sina Weibo; Modi, who first opened the account in 2015, had 200k followers; comes amid a rift between India and China after a clash between their forces at the Himalayan border last month . link

Twitter removes an image tweeted by President Trump following a copyright complaint by The New York Times; the graphic featured a picture from an article in 2015, overlaid with Trump’s own message; represents the latest action Twitter has taken against Trump’s account after the labeling of several tweets . link

Chinese e-commerce platform Pinduoduo promotes CTO Lei Chen to CEO; Chen had been in the CTO position since 2016 and is also a co-founder of the company; replaces Zheng Huang, who will continue to serve as board chairman . link

Apple and Google have started blocking several China-made apps in India; follows an order from India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT, banning 59 apps; UC Browser, Shareit, Club Factory, and more are no longer available on the App Store or Google Play; Google says the removals are temporary as it reviews the government edict . link

Google discontinues Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL; neither product is available from Google’s online store; devices will only remain on sale via third-party resellers; rumored successor Pixel 4a is yet to launch . link

India-based B2B marketplace Zetwerk raises $21M Series C led by Greenoaks with participation from Accel, Kae Capital, Lightspeed, and Sequoia Capital India; the company connects manufacturing OEMs with suppliers; has raised $62M to date . link

VMware ($642B market cap) acquires cloud data recovery firm Datrium; terms undisclosed; Datrium provides tools for handling disaster situations such as ransomware attacks, system failures, and more; raised $120M to date . link

Video conferencing firm Zoom has missed a self-imposed deadline to publish its first transparency report; the company previously committed to releasing the report by June 30; it now says it will make it available some time later this year . link

Google told European publishers it would block them from the company's ad network and tools should they use coming data privacy measures to prevent Google from collecting information on readers, according to Reuters sources; News Corp complained to Australian authorities this year about Google taking advantage of publishers to collect audience data . link

Amazon Game Studios pulls its first big-budget title, the free-to-play link

Surveillance hard and software company Anduril Industries raises $200M at a $1.9B valuation led by A16Z; the company, which provides towers, drones, software for monitoring borders, and more, has 30-plus contracts with military and border agencies; the founding team includes Palmer Luckey and Palantir Technologies veterans; raised $241M to date . link

The Supreme Court rules 8-1 that domain names based on generic terms are trademarkable; Booking.com pursued the case after the US Patent and Trademark Office rejected a copyright application; Booking.com argued that the public associated the brand with reservations; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed, saying that the domain was not generic to consumers, and therefore not generic . link

Apple to close 30 more US stores due to resurgence in new coronavirus cases; the company re-closed 47 retail locations in recent weeks; the company has 271 stores in the US; the latest round of closures includes locations in the Los Angeles area and will leave FL with no open Apple stores . link

Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) drafts a new version of the Eliminating Abuse and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act, addressing tech industry concerns that the bill would weaken security for users; senators supporting the bill previously discounted such concerns; the draft makes best practices compliance voluntary, reducing the likelihood that platforms would lose Section 230 protections for fighting encryption compromises . link

Bloomberg details the demise of Canadian telco Nortel, how a China-backed hacking campaign could have resulted in Huawei benefitting from stolen IP, how Huawei poached Nortel researchers and customers, more; China and Huawei have denied any involvement in espionage campaigns against Nortel, but Cisco, Quintel, and others have accused the company of IP theft . link

Insurance tech company Lemonade increases its IPO price range from $23-$26 per share to $26-$28 per share; TechCrunch's Alex Wilhelm notes the increased valuation could bolster insurance startups looking to raise funds and rebuild; Lemonade plans to sell ~11M shares worth $286M to $308M; if the company sells an additional 1.65M shares to underwriters and hits the top of its price range, it will see a $1.58B valuation . link

Dish finalizes its $1.4B acquisition of Boost Mobile and other Sprint prepaid assets; T-Mobile agreed to the sale to ensure competition following that company's merger with Sprint, which established New T-Mobile; Dish plans to build out its 5G network in coming years and grow Boost's 9M-member subscriber base to compete with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile . link

Tesla shares surge to a record $1,133 each, making the company the world's most valuable automaker with a $209.47B market cap; the valuation surpassed Toyota's by $6B and more than tripled the combined value of Ford and GM; Tesla's stock is up more than 163 percent since the beginning of the year . link

China-backed hackers targeted Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang as far back as 2013 in a campaign that now appears much broader than previously reported, according to mobile security firm Lookout; researchers discovered eight relevant malware types, some previously unknown, used to pull data from smartphones and track Muslims who left for other countries . link

NY-based Andela, which helps companies develop remote teams using African engineers, goes fully remote; the firm is shutting down its physical campuses and expanding its talent pool from Africa's tech hubs to include the entire continent; Co-Founder and CEO Jeremy Johnson said the move would double the size of Andela's available workforce to 500k .Watch Jason speak with Jeremy on This Week in Startups: link

NASA announces $51M in grants to small businesses as part of its Small Business Innovation Research/Technology Transfer program, which helps teams commercialize their technologies; the administration disbursed Phase I grants of up to $125k to 300-plus businesses; recipients are eligible for larger Phase II grants . link

Wall Street data analytics firm Dun & Bradstreet raises $1.7B in NYSE listing for a market value of ~$8.8B; the company returns to public markets following its $5.4B acquisition by a group of investors in 2018, which took Dun & Bradstreet private; the firm claims its database contains comprehensive information on 360M business; it serves 135k clients . link

The download for 2020-07-01 →


B Capital, co-founded by Eduardo Saverin, closes its second fund at $820M; targets startups working in enterprise software, healthtech, fintech, logistics, and transportation; investments range from $100k to $100M; has previously backed scooter-sharing firm Bird and bill payments service Plastiq . link

Estonia-based ride-hailing firm Bolt launches a dockless e-bike service in Paris; costs €2 (~$2.20) for a 20 min ride; Bolt says it plans to launch in more European cities over the coming months; Bolt already operates a scooter-sharing service across 21 markets . link

Spotify launches its $13 a month Premium Duo plan in the US; offers ad-free listening for two accounts based at the same address; also includes a shared playlist featuring music that both listen to regularly . link

Mark Porter steps down as CTO of Singapore-based Grab; Porter says he wants to be nearer his family in the US; he is joining database company MongoDB as CTO; Porter has been a MongoDB board member since earlier this year . link

Robotics firm Rios emerges from stealth, raises $5M led by Valley Capital Partners (VCP) and Morpheus Ventures with participation from Grit Ventures and others; Steve O’Hara of VCP, Howard Ko of Morpheus, and Jennifer Gill Roberts of Grit Ventures have all joined Rios’ board; the company is developing supply chain robots that can grip and move a variety of items . link

China-based vehicle electronics supplier HiRain Technologies raises ~$30M from China Renaissance; HiRain provides parts for driver assistance, charging systems, and more; customers include GM, Ford, and Geely . link

Samsung says it will not be in attendance at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin this September; Samsung will instead hold a digital event, also in September; comes as CES says it will hold its annual Las Vegas event in January . link

ESPN+ increases its monthly subscription fee from $5 to $6 for new customers; existing subscribers will pay the new price after a year; internal docs viewed by The Verge indicate the annual price will remain unchanged at $50 . link

Over-the-top TV service FuboTV raises its monthly price for standard accounts from $55 to $65; will apply to billing cycles starting Aug 1; as part of the move, FuboTV will automatically upgrade customers to its Family Bundle which includes three simultaneous streams and 500 hours of cloud-based DVR space; follows a price increase for YouTube TV . link

Netflix names Bozoma Saint John as CMO; Saint John will start at the company in August; she is taking over from Jackie Lee-Joe, who is leaving for personal reasons; Saint John has previously held exec roles at Uber, Apple, and Pepsi-Cola . link

Two senior engineers at driverless tech firm Zoox have left to join Waymo, reports The Information; James Philbin and Marc Wimmershoff joined Waymo earlier this week; at Zoox, Wimmershoff served as senior director of planning and control, while Philbin was senior director of perception and prediction; Amazon recently acquired Zoox for more than $1B . link

Facebook showcases prototype VR glasses that have a much smaller profile than existing headsets; the concept device has a thickness of 9mm, but still promise a field of view comparable to current products; makes use of “holographic optics” and polarization to move light back and forth within its lenses; Facebook has not disclosed plans to launch such a product . link

Google announces Smart Fill for Sheets, a tool that automatically suggests content for cells; similar to Smart Compose in Gmail, Smart Fill will detect workflow patterns and propose formulas; also intoduces Smart Cleanup, which promises to remove duplicates and fix formatting issues; both set to launch later this year; Google has also made enterprise data tool Connected Sheets broadly available . link

Facebook shutters Hobbi, its app for documenting personal hobbies; it was built by Facebook’s NPE Team and launched on iOS in February; Sensor Tower estimates it was downloaded just 7k times . link

Google acquires Canadian smart glasses firm North; terms undisclosed; North says it will end support for its Focals product, which initially sold for $1k (discontinued last December); Google says the acquisition will contribute to its “ambient computing future” . link

Facebook removes 220 groups directly associated with the far-right extremist link

Microsoft aims to serve 25M people with free online classes and job hunting resources by year's end; the classes focus on skills applicable to 10 in-demand positions, including software development and data analysis; Microsoft of subsidiaries LinkedIn and GitHub provide the course content; some of the curricula focuses on Microsoft products . link

SpaceX successfully launches a GPS III satellite for the US Space Force; SpaceX landed the Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship; the company will also attempt to recover a fairing that protected the satellite during launch . link

YouTube TV increases its base monthly price from $50 to $65; effective for new members beginning today; existing users will see the price hike at the beginning of the next billing period; YouTube also added 14 ViacomCBS channels, including BET, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon, bringing its base plan to 85-plus channels . link

Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell, former Oculus EP Matt Hansen, former DoubleFine COO Matt Hansen, and Naughty Dog artist Richard Lyons found Mountaintop Studios; the team has not disclosed details about current projects but said it would focus on inclusivity and a healthy work-life balance . link

China-based smart EV company Byton suspends operations for six months, citing financial problems worsened by the pandemic; follows the April furloughs of hundreds of US employees and additional delays for the launch of the company's M-Byte SUV; employees in China complained that Byton owed them, collectively, millions of dollars . link

The FCC officially designates Huawei and ZTE as threats to national security, prohibiting American telecoms from using subsidies to purchase equipment from the companies; the FCC voted unanimously in November to block telecoms from using federal funds for purchases from Huawei; the final order went into effect today . link

Google is rolling out the AirDrop-like link

The UK's Department for Transport announces a program for electric scooter rental companies; under new rules, a scooter-share service can offer rentals for use on public roads in a trial lasting up to one year; the new regulations take effect on July 4, and the first trials could begin a week later . link

Facebook updates News Feed ranking to prioritize original reporting and demote content that isn't transparent about authorship; the company is using AI to analyze numerous articles on a given topic and determine which is most cited; currently limited to English; News Feed remains limited to displaying news items from outlets the user follows and those followed by friends . link

The download for 2020-06-30 →


Proptech firm Sundae raises $16M Series A from QED Investors and Founders Fund; Sundae provides a suite of tools to help homeowners sell their properties; includes video walkthroughs, home improvement visualizations, and more . link

Bulgaria-based business advice and funding platform Capital raises $9M seed led by AME Cloud Ventures, with participation from Future Ventures, Greycroft, and others; the company operates an AI-powered platform offering tips and financing to startups . link

US-Swedish fintech startup Willa raises $3M seed led by EQT Ventures with participation from Moonfire Ventures, Nordic Makers, and others; the firm has developed an app to handle invoice payments for contractors . link

Germany-based healthtech firm DeepSpin raises €600k (~$675k) seed from APEX Digital Health, Entrepreneur First, SOSV, and others; the startup is developing a lower-cost MRI system; has raised ~$1.1M to date . link

Facebook launches its Avatars feature in India; the Bitmoji-like graphics can be customized in a multitude of ways, with options for changing hairstyles, outfits, and more; Avatars launched in Australia and New Zealand last year, and have since expanded to Europe; it’s unknown if or when Avatars will roll out wider . link

The White House blocks the export of certain tech and defense products to Hong Kong; the Trump administration previously decided Hong Kong no longer has distinct autonomy from mainland China; US companies must now apply for special authorization to send hardware, software, and more to the region . link

AT&T expands its 5G coverage to 28 new regions; includes Miami, Austin, and Salt Lake City; the rollout covers AT&T’s low-band 5G service, which OpenSignal rates as slightly better than its 4G LTE; it’s unclear when AT&T will roll out its mmWave 5G, which promises speeds of faster than 1Gbps . link

Activision Blizzard (AB) CEO Bobby Kotick says China has not approved any of its games releases in the last year; speaking with Bloomberg, Kotick notes AB is working with Chinese rivals Tencent and NetEase to try and get titles released in the country . link

Google announces a smart home developer event for July 8; the link

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) approves Wirecard’s British subsidiary to continue trading; the watchdog previously ordered Wirecard to freeze operations following an accounting scandal, but the FCA notes the company has now met “certain conditions” .The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) says Wirecard is considering whether it can continue operating in Asia-Pacific; Wirecard’s regional operations are in Singapore; MAS says the company must provide ample warning to its customers if it plans to cease operations . link

Google says it has removed ads offering premium products to those looking for info on voter registration; follows an investigation by nonprofit Tech Transparency Project, which found multiple ads linking users to websites that charge users to register them as voters; some of the sites also harvest user data for marketing purposes . link

According to research firm CNG, the cloud gaming market in China is expected to be worth more than $560M by 2022; for comparison, it's predicted to reach a valuation of ~$140M this year; CNG anticipates rapid growth over the next three to five years . link

Germany-based fintech firm solarisBank raises €60M (~$67.5M) Series C led by HV Holtzbrinck Ventures with participation from Yabeo, Vulcan Capital, and others; solarisBank offers banking APIs to enterprise customers; has raised ~$175M to date . link

Social app Parler has banned a number of accounts despite claims it doesn’t censor users, reports Techdirt; reasons for the blocks vary, with some speculating Parler is less accommodating to left-leaning voices; the report posits all platforms that allow third-party content have to moderate the posts . link

Uber is in talks to acquire delivery firm Postmates for ~$2.6B, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; a deal announcement could come as soon as next week; Postmates has been in talks with several potential suitors since last year, but has also made plans for an IPO; it was last valued at $2.4B .Update: Uber has made an offer for Postmates, according to sources for The New York Times; talks are continuing and it’s possible the deal could still fall apart; Postmates previously held merger talks with DoorDash and GrubHub . link

Athletic apparel company Lululemon ($38B market cap) to acquire interactive home fitness company Mirror for $500M; Mirror produces a $1.5k device that displays guided exercise routines and information while reflecting the image of the user; Lululemon contributed to Mirror's $34M B-1 last October, which valued the firm at $300M; previously raised $75M . link

Microsoft to unveil the reportedly budget-friendly Xbox Series S in August, Eurogamer reports; the console codenamed Lockhart, will undercut the more powerful Series X; the company reportedly had planned to unveil the Series S at E3 2020, which was canceled due to coronavirus . link

Multiple ISPs to resume data caps, late fees, and nonpayment service terminations on June 30 with the expiration of the FCC’s pandemic-related Keep Americans Connected Pledge; the FCC has not revealed plans to extend the program . link

YouTube bans multiple channels associated with white supremacists, including David Duke, Stefan Molyneux, and Richard Spencer; a YouTube spokesperson said each channel had published content presenting members of protected groups as inferior; the company updated its policies on supremacist content last year and has terminated 25k accounts for violating hate speech rules since . link

Beyond Meat ($8.2B market cap) Founder and CEO Ethan Brown says his company is on track to underprice traditional meat, and that planned increases in production volume in 2021 and 2022 will enable Beyond Meat to be more aggressive in pricing; he also noted that the company's facilities are less crowded than industrialized meat facilities and require less human contact with the product . link

Online used car sales company Shift plans to go public in the third quarter via reverse merger with special-purpose acquisition company Insurance Acquisition Corp; the deal values Shift at $415M; competitors Carvana and Vroom have performed well since going public; Vroom shares have doubled since its debut in early June; Shift previously raised $215M . link

Amazon commits $500M to one-time bonuses for front-line employees and delivery partners; last month the company discontinued a short-term pandemic pay boost; Amazon will provide $500 checks for its full-time employees, those at Whole Foods, and for contracted delivery drivers; will provide smaller bonuses for part-time workers and other drivers . link

Pinterest hires outside lawyers to investigate the company's workplace culture following racial discrimination complaints from former employees; the probe will cover Pinterest's processes for employee compensation, evaluation, and promotion; former Public Policy & Social Impact Manager Ifeoma Ozoma said she spent a year fighting for equal pay, experienced harassment, and feared retaliation . link

The New York Times ends its partnership with Apple News, saying it didn't provide readers a direct path back to Times properties, where the Times can control presentation, relationships, etc; the Times declined to partner with Apple on its premium News+ service last year and reduced the number of articles it supplied to the free service; Times CEO Mark Thompson previously warned publishers against handing control to other platforms . link

Twitch temporarily bans President Trump's account, citing hateful conduct; Twitch has removed the relevant VOD content, which included a rally where Trump said Mexico was sending rapists to America and another event that allegedly included racist comments; Twitch does not make policy exceptions for public figures or newsworthy content . link

Reddit bans ~2k subreddits in violation of the platform's new policies regarding hate speech, harassment, more; includes the unofficial subreddit for President Trump, /r/The_Donald; CEO Steve Huffman said the community had consistently broken site rules for years; Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from Reddit's board in early June, calling for a black replacement; former interim CEO Ellen Pao accused the site of monetizing hate . link

Google to expand free product listings to Search results; Google made listings under the Shopping tab free in April to assist smaller companies during the pandemic, resulting in a significant increase in ad impressions and clicks; soon, free listings will appear in product Knowledge Panels; the link

Beam Interactive Co-Founder Matt Salsamendi, who at the age of 18 sold the company to Microsoft as the foundation for Mixer, agrees with Microsoft's decision to shut the service down; speaking with Wired, Salsamendi noted Mixer's strengths, including the Faster Than Light low-latency streaming protocol; he also spoke about Twitch's market power, streamer exclusivity agreements, more . link

India's Ministry of Electronics and IT bans 59 China-made apps, citing risks to the security of the state, public order, user privacy, more; includes TikTok (India is the app's largest market) and the Community and Video Call apps from Xiaomi (India's top mobile phone vendor); the apps currently remain available via the App Store and Google Play; the government has not detailed plans to implement the ban . link

The download for 2020-06-29 →


Cybersecurity firm Area 1 Security raises $25M led by ForgePoint Capital with participation from Kleiner Perkins, Icon Ventures, and Top Tier Capital; Area 1 offers AI-powered tools to foil phishing attacks; has raised more than $80M to date . link

Amazon says it has stopped using single-use plastic across its fulfillment centers in India; the company says it has swapped out bubble wrap with paper cushioning, and notes it’s using plastic-free paper tape to secure packages . link

Israel-based content library Artlist raises $48M led by KKR with participation from Elephant Partners; the premium service offers royalty-free video clips, music, and sound effects . link

Singapore-based foodtech firm TurtleTree Labs raises $3.2M seed from Green Monday Ventures, KBW Ventures, and others; TurtleTree is developing a method for creating milk using cell-based tech . link

US Department of Justice files criminal charges against former VC Mike Rothenberg; the DoJ accuses Rothenberg of multiple wire fraud violations, each of which carry a prison term and a fine; the DoJ alleges Rothenberg misappropriated loans, falsified banking paperwork, and deceived investors; Rothenberg has previously settled cases with the SEC . link

Germany-based healthtech firm Brainlab acquires surgery training firm Level Ex; terms undisclosed; the Chicago-based company offers several games aimed at helping doctors maintain and improve their clinical skills; raised $17.2M to date . link

The Australian government says it will give AU$19M (~$13M) over three years to AI-based health research projects; includes $3.4M for the Centre for Eye Research Australia and $4.8M for the University of Sydney . link

Nokia signs a ~$450M agreement to build out a 5G network for Taiwanese carrier Taiwan Mobile; Nokia will start on the project this month and aims to complete work within three years . link

Zuoyebang, a China-based edtech firm, raises $750M Series E led by FountainVest Partners and Tiger Global with participation from SoftBank's Vision Fund and others; the company offers a range of online learning services to school-age children; has raised ~$1.3B to date . link

SoftBank says it will buy back up to ~$1.9B worth of company bonds; will repurchase the bonds from June 30 through July 17; the move is part of a broader scheme to pay down debts; SoftBank is also selling as much as $21B worth of T-Mobile shares . link

Online code repository GitHub suffers an outage; the Microsoft-owned company says it has identified the issue and is working on a solution . link

Social media app Parler has seen its user numbers grow from 1M to 1.5M in a week, according to CEO John Matze; the platform claims to not censor its users; CNBC notes many Republicans and other conservative figures are encouraging their Twitter followers to move over to Parler; Matze says Parler is offering a $20k “progressive bounty” for a liberal pundit with at least 50k Twitter or Facebook followers to join the service . link

Organizers of the #StopHateForProfit campaign say they will encourage Europe-based marketers to join the protest; Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, says the group wants to see “global pressure” as it seeks to get Facebook to take a more stringent stance against hate speech; more than 160 companies have signed up to the boycott . link

Analyst Ming-chi Kuo predicts this year’s iPhone lineup will not include EarPods or a power brick in the box; Kuo suggests the company will sell a separate 20 watt power adapter . link

The download for 2020-06-28 →


Newzoo projects the video games industry will generate ~$159B in consumer spending in 2020, up 9.3 percent year-over-year; the firm expects the market to pass $200B by the end of 2023; the figures exclude ad revenue; Newzoo expects 2.69B people will play video games in 2020, and 3B in 2023 . link

Twitter says it's fine-tuning its automated labeling system for tweets containing coronavirus misinformation, noting that the system erroneously identified tweets and appended them with links to authoritative information; Twitter users discovered they could trigger a label by using the words oxygen and frequency in a single tweet; Twitter said it was developing new solutions . link

The PizzaGate conspiracy theory is seeing a resurgence on the same social media platforms that enabled its spread before the 2016 presidential election, and on new platforms, including TikTok; the theory links Democrats to a child sex-trafficking ring and a DC pizzeria; Google searches for the term have spiked in recent weeks; TikTok posts using the #PizzaGate hashtag have garnered 82M views in recent months . link

US federal judge sentences Russian hacker Aleksei Burkov to nine years in prison; Burkov operated the invite-only forum DirectConnection, which enabled cyber-criminals to sell stolen credentials and more, providing they had a $5k membership fee and three existing members to vouch; he also ran Cardplanet, a site for selling stolen card numbers . link

Spot.IM, which provides a commenting platform for websites, rebrands as OpenWeb; Co-Founder and CEO Nadav Shoval said the name better reflects the company's mission to take online conversations about content back to publishers; he said no single big tech company should have the power to control conversations; OpenWeb also announced updates intended to improve conversation quality across sites in different regions . link

Telegram to pay an $18.5M fine to settle SEC charges regarding the sale of 2.9M Grams - digital tokens under the TON blockchain project; the company will also return $1.2B to investors and dissolve TON; the SEC filed a complaint in Oct 2019, alleging Grams were securities; in March, a district court agreed and issued an injunction . link

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo calls for an investigation of a private Facebook group in which active and retired officers allegedly posted racist content; the San Jose Police Officers Association said the union would not protect anyone who participated . link

Singapore-based e-commerce company Lazada names Lazada Group President and Lazada Indonesia CEO Chun Li as CEO of the Alibaba-owned business; effective next month, Lu will replace Co-Founder Pierre Poignant; Li is Lazada's third CEO in three years; Reuters sources indicated the change was in response to the unit's performance, but Lazada denied . link

Alexis Ohanian to leave Initialized Capital, the VC firm he co-founded with Garry Tan in 2011; Initialized said Ohanian planned a new project to support a generation of founders in tech and other spaces; Axios reported the project would focus on pre-seed teams; Ohanian resigned from Reddit's board three weeks ago .Watch Jason speak with Alexis on This Week in Startups early this month: link

Autonomous truck company TuSimple targets $250M in new funding round, according to TechCrunch sources; the San Diego-based company, founded in 2015, has an R&D center in Beijing and a testing facility in Shanghai; UPS owns a minority stake; raised ~$300M to date, valued at $1B-plus . link

US-China trade tensions have driven investment in Chinese chipmakers, pushing share prices for the nation's 45 publicly listed chip companies to 100x earnings; investors and analysts have warned of an asset-price bubble as unproven early chip startups have garnered investment interest . link

Amazon and SoftBank have approached Russian conglomerate Sistema with interest in acquiring online retail business Ozon, according to Sistema majority owner Vladimir Evtushenkov; Sistema, which owns 40 percent of Ozon, revealed it had sought partners to invest in the business; it is unknown whether acquisition talks have continued . link

Facebook to label all content about voting and link to authoritative information; the company said the effort would address misinformation and attempts to disenfranchise voters for the coming presidential election; Mark Zuckerberg also announced a new initiative to label newsworthy posts that violate platform policy . link

The download for 2020-06-27 →


Facebook ($616B market cap) closed down 8.3 percent on Friday after consumer goods company Unilever announced it would pause advertising on Facebook and Twitter for the rest of the year; the drop in share value eliminated $56B from Facebook's market cap and $7.2B from Mark Zuckerberg's net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index . link

Coca-Cola pauses advertising on all social platforms globally for at least 30 days to reassess its advertising policies; the company has not joined the #StopHateforProfit boycott; that initiative has motivated numerous companies, including Verizon, The North Face, and Levi's, to pull advertising from Facebook properties . link

Court sentences 22-year-old botnet creator and operator Kenneth Currin Schuchman to 13 months in prison; he created IoT botnets based on the Mirai source code, used them to carry out attacks, and also rented out access; he continued to use botnets after his initial arrest, violating the terms of his pretrial release; two of Schuchman's associates face related charges . link

A panel of civilian experts recommend the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul, South Korea does not indict Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong as part of an ongoing investigation of potential financial fraud regarding a 2015 merger; the decision is not binding but the office has followed panel recommendations in the past; Lee escaped a prison sentence for bribery through appeal, but the Supreme Court struck down the appeal decision and ordered a new hearing . link

Alphabet is in the final stages of acquiring Ontario-based smart glasses company North for $180M, The Globe and Mail reports; reportedly follows dismal sales of North's Focals product, despite a 40-percent price cut at the beginning of 2019; North stopped selling Focals in December, saying it would prioritize Focals 2.0 and that the product would be the most significant in the category; previously raised $200M . link

Numerous British fintech companies halt services after the Financial Conduct Authority restricted Wirecard's UK unit due the company's accounting scandal and resulting insolvency; customers of firms using Wirecard's payment processing and other fintech solutions found they could not access services or funds following Wirecard's collapse . link

Santa Cruz, CA bans predictive policing tech, becoming the first US city to do so; Mayor Justin Cummings, the city's first African-American mayor, cited the possibility of disproportionate bias against people of color in predictive and facial recognition systems; digital rights experts said the move could spur similar action in other cities; Boston recently prohibited city use of facial recognition tech in most circumstances . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Backstage Capital Founder Arlan Hamilton, author of link

China-based Luckin Coffee notifies the SEC it will not contest Nasdaq's decision to delist the company following a $300M accounting scandal; the company's board discovered Luckin had affiliated companies place false orders to inflate sales; Nasdaq will halt LK trades on Tuesday . link

Trovo Live, a Tencent-owned streaming platform for gamers, announces its debut partner program, the $30M Trovo 500; the Twitch-like app formerly known as Madcat has been testing in the US at least since March; Tencent recently acquired control of China-based Twitch equivalent Huya, and bought content and tech from movie-streaming service iFlix . link

Apple announces that iOS 14 and macOS 11 will support DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH) and DNS-over-TLS (DoT); encrypted DNS prevents third parties from tracking queries; Apple plans to release the updates this fall . link

Microsoft plans two new Xbox models under Project Scarlett: the higher-end Series X and the budget-friendly Series S, according to a leaked document; internal codenames Anaconda and Lockhart represent the X and S, respectively; the Series X developer kit, Dante, features a Lockhart mode allowing game developers to test their titles against the specs of the lower-end hardware . link

Canada's Supreme Court rules an UberEats driver can pursue a class-action suit against Uber in which the driver seeks a minimum wage, vacation pay, overtime pay, and other benefits associated with employment; Uber's driver contract makes arbitration provisions but does not allow class-action suits; an Uber spokeswoman said the company would amend its contracts in alignment with the court's ruling . link

Consumer goods company Unilever, which owns brands including Lipton and Dove, to pause advertising on Facebook and Twitter through the end of the year, citing hate speech and divisive content; Verizon, Patagonia, and other brands have boycotted Facebook advertising as the #StopHateforProfit initiative has pushed Facebook to better address hate and misinformation on its platform . link

Microsoft to permanently shut down all 83 of its Microsoft Store retail locations and focus on its online store; as a result, the company expects a pre-tax charge of $450M this quarter ($0.05 per share); will continue to operate its Microsoft Experience Centers; Microsoft said it would provide job opportunities for all retail employees . link

The download for 2020-06-26 →


Google adds group video call support for Google Meet and Duo on Assistant-enabled smart displays; Duo works with a variety of devices and supports up to 32 participants; Meet works with Nest Hub Max at launch and can handle up to 100 users . link

Apple is set to launch two 4G versions of the iPhone 12, according to Omega Leaks; the smaller model will start at at $550, while the larger one will begin at $650; Apple is also rumored to be launching at least four 5G variants of the iPhone 12; all are expected this fall . link

Amazon launches a digital inventory system for independent brick-and-mortar stores in India; known as Smart Stores, the scheme lets merchants maintain a log of all their products; using their smartphones, shoppers can scan a QR code when they visit the store to see what’s available and read reviews from other customers; buyers can also complete purchases using Amazon Pay; Smart Stores is available in 10k locations at launch . link

Private space flight company Virgin Galactic successfully completes a second gliding test; the firm’s SpaceShipTwo Unity detached from a carrier aircraft at 51k feet, reaching a speed of Mach 0.85; Virgin Galactic plans to transition to powered test flights at some point . link

Alibaba names Chun Li as Lazada CEO; Li, who was already serving as president of the e-commerce unit, replaces Pierre Poignant; Poignant becomes special assistant to Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang . link

Blackstone names Alphabet and Google CFO Ruth Porat to its board; Porat is the third female board member at Blackstone, following Kelly Ayotte and Rochelle Lazarus . link

Google is set to add a “sharesheet” feature to Chrome OS; will let users easily share content between apps; 9to5Google notes the feature is similar to Android's Sharing Hub . link

India-based edtech firm Byju’s raises an undisclosed sum from BOND, which was co-founded by Mary Meeker; follows a report Byju’s was raising as much as $400M on a $10B valuation; the company had previously raised ~$1.4B . link

Google has filed the anticipated Pixel 4A with the FCC, reports XDA-Developers; paperwork references a “G025J,” which seemingly follows the “G020,” the codename for the higher-end Pixel 4; the filling indicates the Pixel 4A will not feature a Soli radar sensor . link

Waymo signs a partnership with Volvo to add its driverless tech to an EV that is purpose-built for ride-hailing; terms undisclosed, but the arrangement will also cover Volvo brands Polestar and Lynk & Co; the vehicle will be Level 4, meaning it’ll be capable of handling most road conditions in a predetermined geographical area . link

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs cuts ~20 staff, equal to ~13 percent of its overall workforce; most of the layoffs are in Toronto, where it will retain about a dozen team members; Sidewalk Labs shuttered plans for a smart city initiative because of economic uncertainty . link

Apple confirms it will not support Windows 10 via Boot Camp on ARM-based Macs; speaking on the Daring Fireball podcast, Apple SVP Craig Federighi says the Macs will only support other operating systems through virtualization . link

TikTok says it will stop reading data from user clipboards after it was shown doing so by the iOS 14 beta; iOS includes a feature to notify users of such behavior; TikTok says it checks clipboards to help protect against spam activity; numerous other apps including AccuWeather, Overstock, and Patreon also read clipboards . link

Amazon to acquire driverless tech firm Zoox for more than $1B, according to sources for The Information; follows an earlier report Amazon was looking to pay less than $3.2B, which was Zoox's previous valuation; an official announcement is expected as soon as today; Zoox has raised $990M to date . link

Verizon pulls advertising from Facebook and Instagram; the Anti-Defamation League published an open letter to companies advertising on the social network and mentioned that a Verizon ad appeared alongside extremist conspiracy theory content; Verizon joins a number of advertisers boycotting Facebook; the #StopHateforProfit initiative seeks to pressure Facebook into better addressing hateful content on the platform . link

Los Angeles-based professional networking company Valence launches a platform to help connect black founders with VCs looking to support black-led businesses; the network launched in beta in November and now claims 8k users; claims VCs from Accel, CapitalG, Sequoia, USV, and other firms . link

Apple is re-closing 14 more retail locations in FL, leaving two of the company's 18 FL stores open; out of 272 stores in the US, the company has closed 34; Apple began reopening most of its US retail locations last month, but shut down stores in a number of states last week due to spikes in COVID-19 cases . link

Trump administration officials have spoken with US tech companies, veteran telco execs, and PE firms about options for bolstering US competition against Huawei, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; options reportedly include pushing US tech companies to acquire Ericsson or Nokia, and supporting a PE firm in taking one of those companies private . link

Japanese telco Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) takes $600M-stake in fellow Tokyo company NEC, which makes 5G equipment; NTT CEO Jun Sawada noted that US-China relations could continue to deteriorate, referring to US efforts to prevent allies from using 5G equipment from Chinese supplier Huawei; NTT now owns five percent of NEC . link

YouTube announces its testing a mobile feature that enables users to create 15-second-long, multi-clip videos; the feature seeks to compete with TikTok and Instagram's Reels; selected mobile users will see the option to create a video when beginning the upload process; currently, the feature replaces the option to create videos longer than 15 seconds within the app, so users in the test will have to create long-form videos with other apps . link

Germany will not establish rules for foreign vendors participating in 5G infrastructure this summer, according to a government official speaking with Reuters; the Bundestag has one more meeting, on July 3, before its summer recess, and the source said IT security law would not be on the table; the Bundestag reconvenes in September . link

Facebook announces a notification pop-up that will warn users attempting to share stories older than 90 days; the window will provide options to go back or proceed with sending; the company said sharing old information out of context had contributed to misinformation campaigns and said news publishers had expressed concern about the practice . link

This Week in Startups: The Power of Accelerators E10Jason speaks with Pioneer Founder Daniel Gross about how his company gamifies the startup process to help founders maintain motivation and direction, the importance of mentorship in tech, advising breakout startups (that might ignore good advice), the challenges of remote teams, more . link

Google redesigns Photos, adds a map view enabling users to browse images by capture location; the design emphasizes important photos from the past; a new Recent Highlights section under the Memories tab features the automatically generated collages and animations that used to be in the For You section (now eliminated); the update is rolling out on iOS and Android . link

Target is rolling out fresh grocery pickup service across the US, starting with 400 stores in the Midwest; the company expects to expand to 1.5k stores by the holiday season; will initially offer 750 items (in addition to the non-perishables previously available for pickup); customers can pick up in-store or curbside; Target employees will pick the items . link

Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat joins the board of directors at PE firm Blackstone Group; she is the third woman to join the board following former senator Kelly Ayotte and former Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide CEO Rochelle Lazarus; Porat served as CFO at Morgan Stanley before joining Google in 2015 . link

Boston bans city use of facial recognition for identification and surveillance purposes; Boston is the second-largest US city to enact such a ban behind San Francisco; exceptions to the ordinance include city workers using face identification to unlock devices, and the use of facial recognition to redact images from records . link

Basecamp makes premium email service Hey available to all, removing the invite requirement; Apple recently approved a Hey app update for App Store listing following a dispute over the original app's on-boarding process, which required a paid signup outside the app; the latest version allows for free signup with a temporary, randomized email address . link

The download for 2020-06-25 →


Apple temporarily closes seven stores across Houston, TX amid rising cases of COVID-19; the stores were reopened in late May having been closed since mid-March; it’s unknown when they will be open again . link

TikTok announces a marketing solutions platform; TikTok for Business provides access to its various ad products and formats; the company is also rolling out a learning center to help marketers better understand TikTok and its offerings . link

France-based video platform api.video raises $5.5M seed led by Blossom Capital with participation from Kima Ventures and others; the startup offers tools for integrating video into websites and apps . link

Google announces a plan to offer loans to SMEs in India via its Google Pay for Business app; full details unclear, but Google says it will work with financial institutions to provide the loans . link

SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son steps down from Alibaba’s board; speaking with investors, Son says his departure was on good terms; comes roughly a month after Alibaba founder Jack Ma exited SoftBank’s board .Son says he fully supports Vision Fund head Rajeev Misra; responding to a shareholder question, Son says Misra has been key in helping the fund raise money; follows concerns about Misra’s compensation and criticism about perceived conflicts of interest; the Vision Fund lost ~$18M last year . link

Tencent acquires some content and tech from Malaysia-based video streaming service iFlix; terms undisclosed, but Bloomberg sources say Tencent will not take on debt from the Netflix-like firm; Tencent will initially operate iFlix as a standalone brand before rolling the assets into its WeTV service . link

Los Angeles-based startup financing platform Pipe raises $60M seed (extension) led by Fin VC with participation from Tribe Capital, Uncorrelated Ventures, and others; Pipe connects subscription-based SaaS companies with investors; helps firms raise funds backed by their recurring revenues; has raised $66M to date . link

Germany-based payments firm Wirecard files for insolvency; follows a possible accounting scandal in which ~$2.1B has disappeared from the company’s balance sheet; Wirecard’s shares have been suspended from trading .Update: Wirecard owes its creditors ~$4B, according to a Reuters source; the company’s share price has dropped 98 percent since it flagged the missing balance; Wirecard was valued at $28B at its peak . link

Amazon has established a Counterfeit Crimes Unit to tackle the sale of imitation goods via its marketplace; the division comprises data analysts, former federal prosecutors, and investigators; Amazon also says governments should provide law enforcement with more resources to deal with the trade in fake products . link

The US Department of Justice claims Julian Assange has conspired with Anonymous and LulzSec hackers; Assange allegedly sent a list of targets to LulzSec in 2012, advocating for hacks against the CIA, The New York Times, and the NSA; a hacker with links to both LulzSec and Anonymous passed along stolen info that was published by Assange’s organization, WikiLeaks; Assange is currently being held by UK authorities and fighting extradition to the US . link

OneZero investigates a real-world cult that has its roots in social media; Tumple started as an online meme group that claimed it was trying to deconstruct “white methodology”; Tumple has since morphed into an in-person collective known as DayLife Army, in which members sell their possessions and live together . link

Sonos announces plans to cut 12 percent of its global workforce (number of affected employees unclear); the firm cites uncertainties amid the coronavirus pandemic; Sonos notes it's also closing its brick-and-mortar store in New York City, along with six regional offices; the firm's board has also approved a short-term 20 percent salary cut for CEO Patrick Spence and other execs . link

A judge rules Rep Devin Nunes (R-CA) cannot sue Twitter over comments posted by its users; Nunes had filed lawsuits against the company over accounts from Devin Nunes’ Cow, Devin Nunes’ Mom, and Liz Mair; Judge John Marshall says Twitter is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act . link

ARM-based Macs may not be able to run Windows 10 via Boot Camp, reports The Verge; Microsoft currently licenses Windows 10 for ARM to PC manufacturers only; Microsoft has not said whether it plans to make the software available to purchase separately . link

Amazon Web Services announces Honeycode, a service enabling code-free app development; free for up to 20 users and 2.5k database rows; AWS GM Meera Vaidyanathan has used Honeycode to manage her organization's headcount; AWS customers Slack and SmugMug plan to use the service . link

EV company Rivian to transfer most of its Plymouth, MI engineering and product development teams to Irvine, CA; will also move some others from its 750-member MI workforce to Normal, IL: spokeswoman Amy Mast said the move to Irvine would consolidate engineering teams and reduce environmental impact from travel; the company recently expanded its MI facilities and expects to maintain a presence there . link

Daimler and Nvidia announce a partnership to co-develop a next-generation autonomous driving chip and software for Mercedes-Benz; the first models benefitting from the collaboration are expected to be on roads in 2024, initially limited to assistive driving features . link

The New York Times details the case of MI man Robert Julian-Borchak Williams, who police arrested due to a faulty facial recognition algorithm that identified him as a watch thief; the DataWorks software used incorporates tech that a federal study found to be racially biased; lawyer Clare Garvie of Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology said Williams' case likely isn't the first such mistake, but the first widely reported . link

Safari 14 will allow users to log into websites using Face ID and Touch ID on Mac and mobile; will require websites to integrate FIDO Alliance's WebAuthn API; the browser update will ship with iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur . link

iOS 14 makes Apple's Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) opt-in for every app; IDFA enables marketers to link ad views with app installs, and to target prospective customers based on the characteristics of users for which a given ad was effective; Forbes argues the change is a boon for user privacy and a significant problem for the mobile advertising industry . link

Google enables automatic user data deletion by default for new users; affects location history, search history, and voice command history; Google already allowed users to engage auto-delete on a three- or 18-month schedule; new accounts default to the 18-month deletion schedule; YouTube history defaults to a three-year schedule . link

President Trump's reelection campaign has considered shifting away from Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat to a smaller platform, building its own platform, or attempting to draw users to the official campaign app, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; Facebook, Twitter, and Snap have taken action against Trump's posts; campaign officials said they likely wouldn't stop advertising on Facebook . link

This Week in Startups: Pomp Podcast CrossoverJason speaks with Morgan Creek Digital Partner Anthony Pompliano about the most exciting crypto projects, Jason's Bitcoin position, Robinhood and Barstool traders, Hey vs Apple, Zuckerberg vs Bezos, more . link

Apple ($1.57T market cap) acquires device management and security company Fleetsmith; terms undisclosed; the startup automates device setup, patching, and more for Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV; Fleetsmith said it would continue to serve existing customers; previously raised $41M . link

The download for 2020-06-24 →


Japan-based Olympus plans to sell off its camera business and exit the sector entirely; the company has signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan Industrial Partners (JIP), which previously acquired the VAIO PC business from Sony; terms undisclosed; it’s unclear whether JIP will continue the Olympus brand; Olympus will continue to produce medical equipment . link

Nokia’s incoming CEO Pekka Lundmark will join the company on Aug 1, a month earlier than initially planned; Lundmark is joining from Finland-based utility company Fortum; he is taking over from Rajeev Suri at Nokia who has headed the firm for more than a decade . link

Huawei opens a new brick-and-mortar store in Shanghai, its largest to date; located in one of China’s most revered shopping neighborhoods, the three-story outlet is situated across the street from an Apple Store; Huawei also has flagship stores in Madrid, Paris, and elsewhere . link

Former Wirecard CEO Markus Braun has been released on bail following his arrest for suspected financial fraud; he was let go after posting €5B (~$5.6B) bail; Braun remains under investigation . link

The Central Bank of Brazil blocks WhatsApp’s peer-to-peer payments feature; monetary officials say the move is designed to ensure an “adequate competitive environment”; WhatsApp rolled out the service in Brazil earlier this month . link

Cards Against Humanity co-founder Max Temkin steps down as CEO; comes as Polygon publishes a report in which former staff allege Temkin fostered a toxic work culture; Temkin remains a one-eighth shareholder in the company . link

Apple drops Force Touch support for Apple Watch in watchOS 7; the feature previously provided access to hidden menus within apps; Apple is encouraging developers to relocate such menus to other parts of their apps . link

Several Senate Republicans introduce a bill aimed at giving law enforcement access to encrypted user info; the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act is proposed by Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN); the bill does not specifically require tech firms to provide backdoor access, but the Attorney General would be allowed to incentivize third-parties to develop tools to access such systems . link

French fintech firm Memo Bank (formerly Margo Bank) raises €20M (~$22.5M) from BlackFin Capital Partners, Daphni, Bpifrance, and others; the yet-to-launch challenger bank is set to exclusively focus on SMEs with revenues of over $2M per year . link

Google showcases 3D video tech that lets users view a scene from a broader perspective; the system makes use of a 46-camera spherical array, which stitches multiple shots into a seamless image, creating so-called “light field videos”; Google notes the videos can be viewed via VR headsets and web browsers .Sample footage: link

Automated legal advice startup DoNotPay raises $12M led by Coatue Management with participation from Andreessen Horowitz and others; the company offers offers tools for challenging parking tickets and more; has raised more than $17M to date .Watch Jason speak with DoNotPay founder and CEO Josh Browder on This Week in Startups: link

Big data firm Palantir names Alexandra Wolfe, Spencer Rascoff, and Alexander Moore to its board; Wolfe, a journalist for The Wall Street Journal, is Palantir’s first female board member; Bloomberg suggests Palantir may expand it’s board again ahead of an IPO . link

Amazon plans to add 24/7 live TV programming to its Prime Video service, according to a source for Protocol; the company is actively seeking licensing deals from a number of third-parties; Amazon already carries some live sports including select NFL and English Premier League games, as well as news from Cheddar and ABC . link

All-In with Chamath PalihapitiyaJason and Chamath welcome Craft Ventures' David Sacks and The Production Board's David Friedberg to discuss the politicization of the pandemic, police reform, Joe Biden's ideal VP, and Twitter vs Facebook regarding free speech . link

Dell ($36.3B market cap) explores spinning off its $50B stake in VMWare ($62.5B market cap) as a strategy to boost share value, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; Dell, reportedly working with advisors, has also discussed acquiring VMWare outright, sources say; shares in both companies spiked following the report . link

Japanese supercomputer Fugaku ranks as the world's fastest, executing 2.8 times more calculations per second than the runner up, IBM's system at Oak Ridge National Laboratory; IBM's system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory took third position; Chinese systems rounded out the top five; Fugaku is the result of a six-year, $1B budget . link

TaskRabbit CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot to step down after 7.5 years with the company (three-plus as COO, four-plus as CEO); Brown-Philpot didn't reveal her plans; she serves on the boards of HP and Nordstrom; during her time as TaskRabbit CEO, the company expanded rapidly and sold to Ikea; The New York Times referred to her departure as a setback for the tech industry, calling Brown-Philpot one of few prominent black women in Silicon Valley . link

Amazon announces the $2B Climate Pledge Fund, which plans investments in tech companies addressing climate change; target industries include transportation, energy generation, manufacturing, more; Amazon plans net-zero carbon emissions for its operations and other companies by 2040; Amazon said it could expand the $2B initial funding over time . link

Microsoft releases Defender ATP for Android in public preview; companies using Defender Advanced Threat Protection can deploy the new app to workers' Android devices; the software scans for malicious software, detects phishing websites, more; Defender ATP for Linux exited public preview and entered general availability today . link

Segway to retire the last model of its namesake personal transporters, the Segway PT, Fast Company reports; the company will terminate production at its Bedford, NH plant on July 15; will lay off 21 workers at the facility, but will retain 12 to handle warranties and repairs for existing customers; will also keep five people who work in the company's Discovery scooter-share solutions unit . link

iOS 14 includes a new Sound Recognition feature for the hearing impaired; found within the Accessibility settings; the user can enable notifications for specific sounds, selected from a list; options include smoke alarms, doorbells, running water, a baby crying, shouting, more . link

Twitch, YouTube, and other platforms launch investigations regarding complaints of sexual harassment and racism; Twitch said it was actively looking into accounts named in misconduct allegations; one Twitch streamer, SayNoToRage, publicly apologized after five women accused him of sexual harassment and unwanted advances . link

Video game industry workers take to social platforms to share experiences of discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual assault; more than 70 people, most of them women, spoke on Twitter, YouTube, and other networks about inappropriate conduct from streamers, game developers, and talent managers; Online Performers Group CEO Omeed Dariani resigned following allegations against him . link

Facebook announces it will stop selling Oculus Go this year and will not produce any more 3DOF VR headsets, which only track head rotation and not positional information; the company said it would double down on Quest and Rift offerings . link

Federal German court rules Facebook must abide by an antitrust watchdog order to limit user data collection and obtain explicit consent to link data from WhatsApp and Instagram (and other third-party services) to Facebook accounts; a lower court had ruled in Facebook's favor; the new ruling includes a stay order to suspend the lower decision; the Federal Cartel Office noted illegal data collection and use would constitute abuse of market dominance . link

Former Microsoft Community Acquisition Manager (Mixer/Xbox) Milan Lee says he experienced racism at Mixer and that management never passed his complaints to HR; Lee said someone told him the only reason the company hired him was that he was link

The download for 2020-06-23 →


Redwire acquires space tech firm Made In Space; terms undisclosed; Made In Space is developing in-space manufacturing techniques and systems . link

Fintech firm Celsius Network raises $10M led by Tether; Celsius operates a cryptocurrency-based lending platform; has raised $75M to date . link

SoftBank announces a plan to sell as much as $21B worth of T-Mobile shares; the stock will be sold via multiple complex transactions; the divestment is part of a broader $42B strategy as SoftBank seeks to enhance its cash reserves . link

iOS 14 adds the ability to perform quick actions by tapping the rear of an iPhone; known as Back Tap, the feature will let users lock their device, take a screenshot, launch specific apps, and more . link

Singapore-based Quantum computing firm Horizon Quantum raises $3.2M led by Sequoia Capital India with participation from SGInnovate and others; Horizon is developing software for quantum machines . link

Foxconn says it wants to expand its manufacturing operations in India; speaking at the company’s annual general meeting, Chairman Liu Young-way says Foxconn will make further investments in the country, details of which will likely be revealed in the coming months . link

French workplace benefits firm Swile (formerly Lunchr) raises €70M (~$79M) Series C led by Index Ventures with participation from Bpifrance and Idinvest; the company offers prepaid meal cards for employees; Swile will use the funding to expand into gift cards; will also move into new markets; has raised ~$125M to date . link

Singapore-based fintech firm Sparrow Exchange raises $3.5M Series A led by HDR Group with participation from Signum Capital, Du Capital, and FinLab EOS VC; Sparrow offers a platform for Bitcoin and Ethereum options trading; has raised more than $9M to date . link

Ex-Wirecard CEO Markus Braun has been arrested on suspicion of falsifying company revenue docs; German prosecutors allege Braun was trying to make the company seem stronger than it is in an effort to attract investors; comes as Wirecard tries to establish the reason for $2.1B missing from its balance sheet . link

Microsoft announces new consumer focused features for its Teams service; includes the ability to share calendars, docs, locations, lists, and more; Microsoft says the features will roll out in preview over the coming weeks . link

Apple says it will let developers appeal specific App Store violations; the company is also adding a new process for challenging the validity of certain guidelines; Apple will also not hold up app updates while disputes are ongoing; comes as Apple allows Basecamp to update its Hey app . link

Apple announces App Clips for iOS 14, small parts of an app that can be launched via NFC or a visual tag; App Clips are designed to be quickly downloadable and run on an ad hoc basis . link

iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 will let users change their default email and browser; users currently have to use Safari or Mail as defaults; it's unclear whether other apps such as music or digital assistants can also be changed . link

Apple announces that iOS 14 will include substantial updates to the Messages app, with enhanced support for group chats including inline replies and expanded notification options; the app will also see new Memoji; the features will come to the Mac version of Messages with the Big Sur update . link

Facebook ($682B market cap) acquires VR studio Ready at Dawn, known for the link

The New York Stock Exchange files an amendment to its December proposal with the SEC that would enable more direct listings; the SEC declined the December proposal; NYSE Vice Chairman John Tuttle said the amendment provided a granular and mechanical breakdown of how the exchange would process direct listings . link

Apple announces a Developer Transition Kit that includes an A12Z-powered Mac Mini with beta versions of macOS Big Sur and Xcode; intended to prepare developers for future versions of Mac and macOS; developers can join the Universal App Quick Start Program for $500; the company expects to begin shipping kits as soon as this week; developers must return the kits when the program concludes . link

Apple unveils macOS Big Sur, calling it the most significant redesign of the operating system since OS X; adds multiple iOS features and design choices, including a customizable Control Center, a new Notification Center with redesigned widgets, more; the menu bar and dock are taller and more translucent; windows are more translucent; the company redesigned a number of apps . link

Microsoft to shut down Mixer, its live-streaming platform for gamers, on July 22, at which point Mixer sites and apps will redirect to Facebook Gaming; the company is migrating existing streaming partners to Facebook Gaming starting today; Microsoft also said it would work closely with Facebook to bring the Microsoft xCloud game-streaming service to Facebook Gaming .Update: Microsoft is terminating exclusivity agreements with streamers . link

Apple announces it will transition its Mac lineup to ARM processors over the next two years, promising improved performance and the ability to run iOS and iPadOS apps natively alongside macOS apps; the macOS Big Sur update will include Rosetta 2, enabling support for iOS apps not fully translated for Mac use; Apple plans to launch its first ARM-powered Mac by year's end .Update: Apple will offer iOS titles in the Mac App Store . link

Apple announces tvOS 14; includes the Home app and native HomeKit integration, enabling security camera views with picture-in-picture alerts; Apple Arcade titles now support multiple users with resume functionality; the update also brings improved Xbox controller support . link

Hackers leak ~270GB of records from ~200 police departments spanning ~24 years; includes sensitive suspect data, ACH routing numbers, international bank account numbers, more; the National Fusion Center Association confirmed the validity of the data; preliminary analysis indicates the cache, known as BlueLeaks, came from web services company Netsential . link

Apple announces CarKey for iPhone, shipping with iOS 14 and coming to iOS 13 via update; enables the user to lock, unlock, and start an NFC-equipped vehicle via iPhone and Watch; can also share access via Messages; the owner pairs a device to a vehicle's app in the Wallet app; Apple is currently working with BMW to support the feature . link

Apple unveils iPadOS 14 with home screen widgets, updated stock apps with sidebars, Scribble support for system-wide handwriting recognition, more; also improves the Pencil and Magic Keyboard experiences; Spotlight Search more closely resembles the Mac experience . link

Apple announces a new Translate app for iOS 14; will support 11 languages at launch and feature an offline mode; a side-by-side view simplifies live translation of a multilingual conversation . link

Apple announces iOS 14 with home screen widgets; the user can select widgets for display in the Today view or placement on the home screen alongside app icons; can also sort apps automatically according to usage, or via Smart Stack; the update also includes a Widget Gallery and picture-in-picture support . link

Microsoft ($1.51T market cap) acquires CyberX, a cybersecurity platform serving IoT and industrial networks; terms undisclosed but TechCrunch sources indicate a deal worth ~$165M; Microsoft plans to integrate CyberX's tech into Azure's IoT security offerings; previously raised $47M . link

The download for 2020-06-22 →


Starting next month Apple will remove thousands of games from its iOS App Store in China, reports Bloomberg; Apple has informed multiple developers their titles need specific authorization from the Chinese government; China enforces licenses for games that are paid or offer in-app purchases, but titles have previously been allowed in the App Store while waiting for such approval . link

Indonesia-based proptech firm Jendela360 raises $1M led by Beenext; the startup offers a platform for connecting renters with property agents and landlords . link

Taiwan-based healthtech firm Deep01 raises ~$2.7M led by ASUS with participation from Digital Economy Fund; the startup offers AI-powered imaging tools for interpreting brain scans . link

$232B UAE state investment fund Mubadala is considering tech investments across India, China, and Southeast Asia; speaking during Bloomberg’s virtual Invest Global conference, Mubadala CEO Khaldoon Al Mubarak says the fund wants more exposure to tech; Mubadala has previously shown interest in US startups . link

Thailand-based fintech firm Synqa Holdings (formerly Omise) raises ~$80M led by SCB 10X and Sparx Group with participation from Toyota Financial Services and others; Synqa offers online payments tools to enterprise customers; has raised more than $105M to date . link

Virgin Galactic signs a partnership with NASA to carry private astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS); terms undisclosed; under the agreement Virgin Galactic will establish an “orbital astronaut readiness program” that will work with private firms and individuals that want to visit the ISS; NASA will ultimately approve the program and any resulting trips . link

Philippines’ central bank says none of Wirecard’s missing ~$2.1B ever entered the country’s financial network; the bank's governor Benjamin Diokno notes it's still investigating after two of the nation's financial institutions were linked to the Germany-based payments firm; former Wirecard CEO Markus Braun has suggested the company could be the victim of a significant fraud .Wirecard hires investment bank Houlihan Lokey to help it devise an investment strategy; the company is also in talks with its lenders amid concerns ~$2B worth of loans could be recalled .Update: Wirecard says the missing ~$2.1B likely never existed; explanation unclear, but Wirecard says it’s considering closing or selling off part of its business to avert a possible cash crunch . link

The first Arm-based Mac will be a 13-inch MacBook Pro, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo; the device is expected to launch in late 2020 or early 2021; will have a similar look to the current MacBook Pro lineup; Apple is also set to refresh the Intel iMac lineup later this year, with an Arm version to follow next year . link