The Daily Download - latest tech news for 2019-10-09, fan podcast based on @launchticker

The download for 2019-10-09 →


Non-profit Fight For the Future publishes an open letter calling for Amazon-owned Ring to end deals with more than 500 police forces across the US; the letter claims the partnerships allow for a “privately owned, nationwide surveillance dragnet”; it is aimed at local, state, and federal officials, and signed by over 30 civil rights groups including Color of Change and the Center for Human Rights and Privacy; Ring says its products are designed to let users protect their privacy . link

“Call of Duty: Mobile” has been downloaded 100M times in its first week of release, according to Sensor Tower; compares with the first week success of popular titles “PlayerUnknown’s Battleground” which managed 26.3M downloads, and “Fortnite” at 22.5M; “Call of Duty: Mobile” is developed by Tencent and published by Activision Blizzard . link

Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) write to the CEOs of Visa, Mastercard, and Stripe, calling on them to end their support for the Libra cryptocurrency; Schatz and Brown claim Facebook has not provided satisfactory answers to regulatory questions, including how the Libra Association will tackle monetary policy, money laundering issues, and terrorism funding; they also indicate Libra Association members may face closer scrutiny . link

Activision Blizzard suspends professional “Hearthstone” player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai for voicing public support for Hong Kong protestors; Blitzchung made the proclamation during a live-stream of the Asia-Pacific Grandmasters event; Blizzard says Blitzchung broke competition rules; the company is withholding prize money and instituting a 12 month ban .Update: Epic, maker of “Fortnite,” says it will not ban content creators or players for making political statements; speaking with The Verge, Epic says it supports individuals rights speak about politics and human rights . link

Simon Morris has stepped down as head of product for the Libra Association, reports The Telegraph; Morris left the role in August; the reason for his departure is unclear; Morris previously served as an exec at BitTorrent, where he oversaw efforts to create a digital currency; Facebook is currently sponsoring Geneva-based Libra Association and also overseeing its staffing . link

Alibaba says it will end the sale of e-cigarette components in the US; the move follows an earlier company policy that prevents US distribution of complete e-cigarette products; follows a similar move by Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, and others . link

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts Apple will partner with third-party brands to launch AR headsets in Q2 2020; Kuo also says Apple will launch new iPad Pro models and an updated iPhone SE in Q1 . link

PayPal will write down $228M worth of investments in its Q3 earnings; PayPal says a $500M investment in Uber has declined 34 percent since the company went public, and a stake in payments firm MercadoLibre has declined 10 percent; PayPal is set to publish its earnings on Oct 23 . link

Chinese newspaper People’s Daily criticizes Apple for allowing an iOS app reportedly used in the organization of Hong Kong protests; Apple initially removed HKMap Live from its App Store, but reinstated it following backlash; People’s Daily, which is backed by the Chinese government, claims Apple is “protecting rioters,” and questions whether the company has fully considered the move . link

Sony confirms the name of its next console will be PlayStation 5, and that it will launch in time for holidays 2020; Sony execs say PlayStation 5 will make use of on-device ray-tracing tech, allowing for more natural lighting effects within games; titles will be available via 100GB optical disks, and the console will also serve as a 4K Blu-ray player . link

MIT says it’s reviewing its relationship with China-based facial recognition firm SenseTime after the company was added to a US trade ban list; the Commerce Department rules mean US-based organizations must apply for a license to work with companies placed on the Restricted Entities list; SenseTime says it hopes to resolve the issue .Update: Goldman Sachs says it’s reviewing its role in helping Chinese tech firm Megvii go public after the company was added to the Restricted Entities list; Megvii had planned to raise as much as $1B via the Hong Kong Stock Exchange; Goldman Sachs is set to underwrite the listing, alongside Citigroup, and JP Morgan . link

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) announces a clinic to treat people aged 13 to 25 whose quality of life is being severely impacted by time spent playing video games; health professionals in England can refer individuals to the service, with treatment being offered in-person or via Skype; the World Health Organization has previously recognized “gaming disorder” as a health condition . link

Facebook’s enterprise platform Workplace now has 3M paid users, up 1M in the past eight months; comes as Workplace adds Portal support for face-to-face calls, automatic video captioning, and more . link

The We Company will soon cut ~500 of its 1.5k software engineers, according to a source for The Information; ~350 will come from the firm’s corporate unit, and ~150 from the divestment of subsidiaries such as Teem and SpaceIQ; The We Company is expected to also cut an additional 1.5k to 2k workers across its business . link

Google launches stream transfer, a feature for moving video and audio playback between compatible devices; using Google Assistant, Home, or Nest apps, users can shift playing content such as YouTube videos or Spotify tracks across Chromecast, Home, and other compatible devices . link

Delivery firm Postmates has told investors it plans to delay its IPO, according to Recode sources; the company is citing market conditions; CEO Bastian Lehmann says Postmates will go public when it finds the right time, noting the market is currently “a little choppy”; Postmates was expected to list this year, but it may now wait until 2020 . link

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has ruled the FBI violated the Fourth Amendment and government policy by making tens of thousands of data search requests relating to US citizens; the database is primarily meant for the NSA, and searches are supposed to center on foreign individuals only; between 2017 and 2018, some FBI agents deliberately targeted US citizens by looking up emails, phone numbers, and more . link

Andy Rubin, Essential founder and CEO, tweets video and images of a new smartphone with a thin design; Essential followed up with its own shots, referring to the device as Project Gem; the smartphone comes in several colors and features a card-like UI; Essential says the product is now in testing, but it’s unclear when it will launch . link

Twitter says it unintentionally used phone numbers and email addresses provided for two-factor verification for ad-targeting purposes; the firm notes it's unsure how many users were impacted; it says it's taking steps to prevent the problem from recurring . link

Volusion, which offers customizable e-commerce shops, suffers breach in which attackers placed malicious code within a JavaScript file that serves at least 6.5k stores; the code collects payment information from customers; Sesame Street Live shut down due to the hack; the culprits gained access to Volusion's Google Cloud infrastructure . link

Customer engagement and payments company Everyware raises undisclosed Series A led by TTV Capital with participation from from Kinetic Ventures, Capital Factory, others; the Austin-based startup provides APIs to simplify integration of pay-by-text, appointment setting, more . link

Razberi Technologies raises $5.8M Series B led by LiveOak Venture Partners; offers IoT products, video surveillance, health monitoring software, and automated cybersecurity solutions; raised $9.3M to date . link

Marijuana companies MedMen ($750M market cap) and PharmaCann cancel $682M all-stock merger due to regulatory challenges; to settle a debt, PharmaCann will transfer to MedMen ownership of a grow facility, a retail location, and a license to open another retail shop in IL . link

Zero-fee stock trades company Robinhood announces Cash Management, enabling users to earn 2.05 APY on uninvested funds, accessible with a Mastercard debit; the company previously tried to launch a checking account earning 3-percent annual interest, but the insurer backed out; US users can now join the waitlist for Cash Management . link

Network visibility and management platform Forward Networks raises $35M Series C led by Goldman Sachs with participation from A16Z and others; creates an auto-updating software copy of a client's entire network infrastructure (cloud and on-premises); creates a map with hard and software inventory, more; raised $62M to date . link

Chicago-based fertility services company Nubundle acquires IP from the University of Michigan, including exclusive license for OnTrack, which provides fertility clinics with online tools for patients undergoing in-vitro fertilization; in addition to serving clinics, Nubundle helps employers establish fertility services for employees; raised $1.5M to date . link

Escalate Capital Partners announces first close of its fourth fund at $282M, with a cap of $290M; the Austin-based firm focuses on mezzanine loans to venture and growth capital-backed companies, but the fund will make some equity investments of $1M-$2M in portfolio companies to fuel growth . link

Jennifer Robertson, widow of QuadrigaCX CEO Gerald Cotten, to forfeit $12M in personal assets to Ernst & Young, the agency tasked with recovering customer funds that Cotten allegedly used to purchase personal luxuries including a jet and a yacht; Robertson denied knowledge of Cotten's theft from users of the crypto exchange . link

Medal, a PC platform for recording and sharing video game clips, acquires Megacool, which offers the same functions for mobile users; terms undisclosed; Megacool will continue to develop its SDK under Medal, and will expand partnerships with social networks; Medal has raised $12.5M to date; Megacool previously raised $1.5M . link

Norwegian e-paper tablet company reMarkable raises $15M Series A from Spark Capital; the company's Linux-powered 10.3-inch display supports stylus notations and new document creation; features low latency to simulate writing on paper; raised $25M to date . link

French customer feedback platform Critizr raises ~$16.4M Series B led by 83North Venture Capital; enables businesses to collect feedback through a variety of channels; automatically routes to relevant departments . link

Sales and engagement solutions company Tenfold raises $7.5M Series C led by Next Coast Ventures; platform integrates call center systems with CRM and sales software, data from various sources, more; raised $38M to date . link

Utopos Games, a new studio developing a title that introduces players to machine learning, raises $1M led by ByFounders; the game, link

New York City-based RapidSOS, which enables 911 centers to collect critical data from mobile phones and other sources, raises $25M Series B (extension) led by Energy Impact Partners; brings the round total to $55M; operates a cloud infrastructure that stores data from wearables, building sensors, medical records, more; offers APIs; raised ~$91M to date . link

Austin-based AI company SparkCognition raises $100M Series C led by March Capital Partners; PitchBook indicates a $770M valuation; develops solutions for predictive maintenance, improving manufacturing efficiency, more; serves clients in defense, oil and gas, and other industries; last year spun out SkyGrid in partnership with Boeing to develop a platform for autonomous aircraft; raised $175M to date . link

The download for 2020-09-25 →


Twitter outlines changes to its security processes following a mass hack earlier this year; the company has distributed security keys to staff who have access to user accounts; new employees are receiving enhanced security, privacy, and data protection training; Twitter also says its improving its internal monitoring and detection systems . link

China-based eSiM firm Showmac Tech raises ~$15M Series A+ led by Addor Capital with participation from GGV Capital and Hongtai Aplus; the company provides non-removable SIM tech for IoT products; claims to have provided eSIMS for more than 10M devices, a third of which are made by Xiaomi . link

TikTok says it will allow the Australian government to examine its source code and algorithm; in a letter to the Australian Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media, TikTok says officials will be able to review the tech at sites in Los Angeles and Washington DC: speaking with the committee remotely, TikTok’s Global Chief Security Officer Roland Cloutier says the platform’s code is not the same as its Chinese counterpart Douyin . link

English soccer club Manchester City has signed a two-year content deal with ByteDance-owned Douyin; financial terms undisclosed; the agreement gives the Chinese TikTok counterpart exclusive rights to game highlights, interviews, documentaries, and more; Douyin also has partnerships with German team FC Bayern Munich, and Spanish soccer league La Liga . link

Indonesia-based cloud kitchen firm Yummy raises $12M Series B led by SoftBank Ventures Asia with participation from Intudo Ventures and others; the startup operates Yummykitchen, a network of kitchens that fulfill orders for food delivery firms; has raised $19.5M to date . link

Facebook establishes new employee rules for its internal communications platform Workplace; the company’s staff must only use an image of themselves or their initials for their profile picture; Facebook is also expanding its definition of harassment, noting it will not tolerate comments or posts that could create a hostile work environment for individuals in a protected class; follows intervention from Mark Zuckerberg after comments on Workplace led to outrage among workers . link

Chip design startup Nuvia raises $240M from Mithril Capital, BlackRock, and others; founded in Feb 2019, the firm is developing Arm-based server processors for data centers; has raised $293M to date . link

Fintech firm Ant Group launches Trusple, a blockchain-based cross-border contracts service for SMEs; the open platform lets partners establish a digital agreement by uploading a trading order; the smart contract auto-updates as the parties work together . link

Multiple Google services have suffered a temporary outage; US users of Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, and more reported issues starting around 5:50 pm PST on Sept 24; the problems were seemingly resolved by 7 pm PST; Google has not provided an explanation but says it is investigating . link

Facebook has removed more than 200 fake accounts and 35 pages linked to Russia; the company says the actors were connected to the Russian military and the Internet Research Agency, noting they worked together to amplify misleading content on the platform . link

Epic, Spotify, and Match Group establish the Coalition for App Fairness; the pressure group, based in Washington DC, claims app stores collect excessive fees from developers; Epic has filed lawsuits against Apple and Google over their commissions for in-app payments . link

Apple confirms it has acquired podcast app Scout FM; terms undisclosed; Scout FM was shut down after it was purchased earlier this year; the app used to recommend shows based on listening history . link

Ring says it will offer customers end-to-end encryption for video feeds by the end of this year; enabling the feature will restrict other options including the ability to access videos via Echo Show; Ring will also let users disable the Neighbors feature . link

Customer engagement platform Airship acquires SMS commerce company ReplyBuy; terms undisclosed; ReplyBuy's entire seven-member team will join Airship; ReplyBuy CEO Brandon O’Halloran will serve as general manager of commerce; Airship will integrate some ReplyBuy features, but maintain ReplyBuy as a standalone product; ReplyBuy previously raised $4M . link

EV charging network ChargePoint to go public via merger with SPAC Switchback Energy Acquisition Corporation at a $2.4B market valuation; the merged entity, ChargePoint Holdings, will trade on the NYSE; Pasquale Romano will continue to lead as president and CEO, and the rest of the management team will remain in place; ChargePoint previously raised ~$660M . link

The European Commission proposes a regulatory framework for stablecoins and crypto assets; the proposal addresses assets not covered by existing financial services legislation, and specifically mentions the likelihood of stablecoins seeing broad adoption; the commission also proposed a regulatory sandbox enabling companies to test blockchain tech . link

Tesla files suit against the Trump administration in the Court of International Trade, seeking to block tariffs on products the company imports from China, including the computers and displays used in Tesla vehicles; Tesla requested an exemption from the 25-percent tariffs last year; the company also seeks a refund, with interest, for the tariffs paid to date . link

Amazon announces Guard Plus, a $50-per-year service that gives Echo devices enhanced security features; like the free Guard service, Guard Plus can detect the sounds of smoke alarms and more and notify users away from home; the Plus tier, which also works with third-party products, adds a helpline to connect with emergency services, and intruder warning sounds, like barking dogs . link

Ring announces the Always Home Cam, a drone that enables the owner to remotely issue commands to check various rooms and live-stream footage; the device can also automatically respond to Ring security alerts; it returns to its base automatically, and the camera is not useable while docked; the company expects to launch the Always Home Cam for ~$250 next year .Teaser: link

Amazon unveils the Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6 mesh networking routers; both support Wi-Fi 6; the base, dual-band model (for connections up to 500Mbps) runs $129, with a two-pack priced at $200 and a three-pack at $280; the triband Pro (for gigabit connections) is $230, with a two-pack priced at $400 and a three-pack at $600; the company sells extenders for $90 each; Amazon acquired Eero early last year . link

Ring unveils Car Cam, Car Alarm, and Car Connect; the dash-mountable $200 Car Cam can record video inside the car and through the windshield; it detects break-ins, accidents, and more, and sends alerts; can also contact first responders in case of serious crashes; the $60 OBD-II device Car Alarm offers similar detection features; Connect enables existing vehicle camera systems, including Tesla's, to integrate with Ring . link

Judge rules the Commerce Department must defend or delay a ban prohibiting US app stores from offering TikTok for download; TikTok requested an injunction to stop the ban, originally slated to take effect on Sept 20 but delayed by one week so the company could negotiate a sale/restructuring; the judge gave the administration until Friday to postpone the ban date or to file legal papers justifying the ban . link

Amazon announces cloud gaming service Luna and the Luna Controller; launch date undisclosed; the service runs $6 per month during early access, and the controller is $50; will feature publisher channels for premium subscriptions; initially coming to PC, Mac, Fire TV, and iOS/iPadOS; Amazon plans an Android app sometime after the official launch; integrates with Twitch . link

Amazon announces the new Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite, priced at $40 and $30, respectively; both devices will ship with a new UI, which will roll out to earlier Fire TV devices in the first quarter; supports up to six user profiles and promises a less cluttered design that simplifies finding free content and more; also offers improved support for security cameras and expanded Alexa interactions; pre-orders are now open; available Sept 30 . link

Amazon unveils the fourth-generation Echo, featuring a spherical design and local speech recognition processing via the AZ1 Neural Edge module; the device sends commands to the cloud post-processing, promising faster responses; functions as a Zigbee smart home hub, and works with Amazon's Sidewalk mesh networking system; the $100 device will be available in Charcoal, Chalk, and Steel Blue . link

This Week in Startups: Next Unicorns E19Jason speaks with Joe Thomas, co-founder and CEO of work video messaging company Loom; the conversation covers Loom's culture, creating new behaviors in the workplace, transitioning to remote work, viral marketing, the importance of having a best-in-class product, raising funds from Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, more . link

Telepath, an interest-based social network focused on civilized interactions and verified content, launches in private beta; users follow conversation networks; for example, #Deadpool focuses on failing companies; the company prioritizes moderation, inclusion, kindness, and safety; Co-Founder Marc Bodnick, who co-founded Elevation Partners and led Business & Community at Quora, serves as chairman . link

The download for 2020-09-24 →


UK-based cybersecurity firm Ripjar raises £28M (~$37M) Series B led by Long Ridge Equity Partners with participation from Winton Capital and Accenture; Ripjar offers AI-powered tools for monitoring network activity for criminal behaviour; has raised more than $40M to date . link

YouTube says it will add information cards alongside videos discussing mail-in voting; the panels will include links to think-tank the Bipartisan Policy Center; the company has previously used similar cards to address subjects such as COVID-19; YouTube is also rolling out a series of videos featuring facts about US elections . link

Telemundo says a clip from an interview with Joe Biden has been manipulated to spread misinformation online; numerous social media posts, including one from Eric Trump, incorrectly claim Biden used a teleprompter during the interview; the Trump presidential campaign has also run an ad featuring the misleading video . link

Walmart has seemingly put Google’s previously rumored Nest Audio smart speaker on display; a Twitter user has shared an image of the device in a store; there are no price details for the yet-to-be-announced product; packaging for Chromecast with Google TV has purportedly also leaked . link

Netherlands-based fintech startup Finom raises €10.3M (~$12M) seed from Target Global, Cogito Capital, and others; the company offers B2B invoicing services; currently operates in Italy, with plans to expand to France next month; has raised ~$20M to date . link

Tesla files a lawsuit against the Trump administration in an effort to annul specific tariffs for Chinese imports; the suit focuses on a 25 percent levy and a 7.5 percent one; the company has named US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer as a defendant; Lighthizer’s office previously refused Tesla an exemption for a chip it uses in its Autopilot tech . link

Google Maps rolls out an update that shows COVID-19 cases per 100k people in any given area; pulls data from multiple sources including Wikipedia, The New York Times, and more; available for all 220 countries and territories in which Google Maps operates . link

ByteDance has applied for a tech export license in China; the Chinese government has to approve the transferral of AI products to overseas entities; comes as ByteDance works to finalize its TikTok Global deal ahead of a Sept 27 deadline; Chinese media outlets have openly criticized the proposed arrangement . link

The Verge shares leaked audio of Mark Zuckerberg discussing Facebook’s policies and internal structure with staff; in one town hall discussion, Zuckerberg discussed VP Joel Kaplan, a well-known Republican; Zuckerberg said he had concerns about workers questioning Kaplan’s role and influence, saying he is “very rigorous and principled”; Zuckerberg has also noted that Facebook’s user base is generally more conservative than its workforce . link

TikTok files for an injunction to stop the ban of its app from US app stores; originally slated to take effect at the end of the day on Sept 20, the Department of Commerce delayed the ban by one week to allow TikTok to remain active in the US while navigating a sale; President Trump approved a deal with Oracle and Walmart, but ByteDance contested the terms . link

Telemedicine and prescription discounts company GoodRx closes up 53 percent in Nasdaq debut; the company priced shares at $33 apiece after marketing a range of $24 to $28; trading closed at $50.50; the listing raised $1.14B . link

Intel launches a series of processors targeting edge computing applications; the 11th Gen Core processors are enhanced for IoT use cases and the new Atom, Pentium, and Celeron chips represent the company's first processor platform designed specifically for IoT . link

The Atlantic examines how Reddit effectively eliminated QAnon communities and content from its platform, despite serving as the launching pad that brought the far-right extremist group from 4chan to mainstream networks; after Reddit banned the original QAnon subreddit in 2018, adherents moved into other communities ultimately banned or restricted for inciting violence, doxing, and other policy violations . link

Robinhood raises $460M Series G (extension) at an $11.7B valuation from A16Z, Sequoia, others; the tranche brings the round total to $660M; the company said the funding would support new features like cash management and recurring investments; raised $2.2B to date, ~$1.25B this year . link

Twitter will soon begin testing voice DMs; the company began testing audio tweets for iOS in June, enabling select users to record and send audio messages up to 140 seconds long; some users complained the audio tweet feature failed to take accessibility into account; Twitter previously relied on employee volunteers to address accessibility, but has since established a full-time accessibility team within product development . link

Samsung rolls out EKG monitoring to the Galaxy Watch 3 and Galaxy Active 2 after gaining the FDA's approval in August; US owners can now monitor for heartbeat irregularities and atrial fibrillation; users access the features via the ECG Monitor app, and can review readings via the Health Monitor app on Samsung phones; the Galaxy Watch 3's blood oxygen sensor is also now active . link

Shopify says two members of its support team stole merchant data, specifically seeking transactional records; the company said the scheme impacted fewer than 200 merchants, but customer records were exposed; Shopify is working with the FBI and international agencies on the investigation; the company has not found evidence of data use . link

NY-based SMS marketing company Attentive raises $230M Series D at a $2.2B valuation led by Coatue; enables brands to customize campaigns based on user behavior and include video, GIFs, etc; clients include Urban Outfitters and Jack in the Box; raised ~$394M to date (~80 percent raised this year) . link

Reuters sources say the Trump administration's Sept 20 deadline for TikTok to shut down or establish a sale agreement caused a rushed negotiation resulting in a messy term sheet and conflicting public statements from Oracle and ByteDance; the primary point of contention is whether ByteDance will hold any stake in new US company TikTok Global, which ultimately targets a public listing in the US . link

Bloomberg examines the rise and fall of Magic Leap and its struggle to continue through partnerships under new leadership (sources say the company is in talks with Amazon for a cloud services partnership); workers and investors cited Founder Rony Abovitz's ability to generate hype at the expense of facing technical realities, as well as his disinterest in details; former colleagues said he pitted teams against one another to no avail . link

Instagram is rolling out an update to its TikTok-like short-form video feature, Reels; the company has increased the maximum video length from 15 to 30 seconds, and the timer limit from three seconds to 10; the update also adds the ability to trim and delete clips . link

Purported leak shows Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite with a new Alexa voice remote that lacks volume and power controls but features a live TV button; Amazon has scheduled an Alexa hardware event for Thursday; some expect the company will unveil new Eero WiFi 6 routers . link

Volkswagen unveils the ID 4: an electric SUV bound for the US market, starting at $40k MSRP; it's the first vehicle built on the company's modular electric vehicle platform; the company expects the launch model will have 250 miles of range; supports AC and DC fast-charging; includes three years of free charging at Electrify America stations; qualifies for a $7.5k federal tax credit . link

Blue Origin publishes job listing for an Orbital Habitat Formulation Lead, indicating the hire will oversee development of commercial space stations in low Earth orbit; responsibilities also include identifying customers and partners, and involvement in acquisitions; the listing mentions the company's vision of millions of people living and working in space . link

The Department of Justice requests Congress adopt proposed legislation that would limit social media companies' liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and require that they moderate content within clear and consistent standards; Attorney General William P Barr said Section 230 had allowed online platforms to operate with impunity . link

The download for 2020-09-23 →


Apple launches its online store in India; represents the first instance of the company selling direct to the country’s consumers; the website supports English and Hindi, and offers regular sales as well as one-to-one virtual sessions, trade-ins, and more; Apple plans to eventually open brick-and-mortar stores . link

PE firm KKR acquires a 1.3 percent stake in Reliance Retail Ventures (RRV) for $754M; RRV is part of India-based conglomerate Reliance Industries; the deal values RRV at $57B; follows Silver Lake’s $1B investment . link

Gaming firm Manticore Games raises $15M led by Epic; the startup offers a Roblox-like platform, allowing players to connect and build virtual worlds; has raised $60M to date . link

Miami-based social connection firm Papa raises $18M led by Comcast Ventures with participation from Canaan, Initialized Capital, and others; the company connects elderly individuals with remote and in-person companions and assistants; has raised $31.2M to date . link

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts Apple will introduce mini-LED display tech in an upcoming iPad Pro; Kuo expects Apple’s suppliers will have mini-LED panels in mass production by Q4 this year; Kuo has previously forecast a range of mini-LED MacBooks . link

Data analytics firm Palantir expects revenue to surpass $1B this year; the figure is a 41 percent increase on last year’s income; Palantir made the projection in an SEC filing ahead of its direct listing, which is scheduled for Sept 30; the company has never made a profit . link

SXSW says it will hold a virtual festival from March 16 through March 20 next year; SXSW Online will feature film and music events, as well as exhibitions and networking; the organizers also say they’re working on holding a physical event of some sort in 2021, plans for which are currently unclear; SXSW canceled its event this year because of the coronavirus pandemic . link

Google’s Area 120 announces Tables, a tool for tracking collaborative projects; the AI-powered system can be used to automatically scheduled email reminders for overdue tasks, monitoring form submissions, and more; integrates with G Suite apps including Sheets and Docs; the free plan supports 100 tables and 1k rows; the $10 per month plan offers up to 1k tables and 10k rows . link

Chevron emails its global employees, telling them to uninstall WeChat from company devices, reports Bloomberg; referring to WeChat as a “non-compliant application,” Chevron warns staff will be blocked from its internal network if they do not remove it; represents the first US-based firm to take such action since President Donald Trump issued an executive order targeting the app; a CA judge has put a temporary injunction on the ban . link

Tesla’s share price drops 6.9 percent in after hours trading; its market cap fell by ~$50B following its Battery Day announcements; Roth Capital Partners analyst Craig Irwin says the presentation did not present anything tangible; some investors had expected the company would announce a power cell that could last 10 years . link

India-based edtech firm Byju’s raises $300M led by BlackRock, Sands Capital, and Alkeon Capital with participation from Tiger Global, General Atlantic, and Owl Ventures; the deal values Byju’s at ~$11B, according to a Bloomberg source; has raised $2.4B to date . link

Tesla announces Plaid, a new powertrain for its Model S sedan; promises a range of 520 miles, an acceleration of zero-to-60 in under two seconds, and a top speed of 200mph; the Plaid Model S starts at $140k, with delivery slated for late 2021 . link

Tesla says it’s working on batteries that will cost half as much to produce and almost double driving distance; speaking during the company’s Battery Day event, CEO Elon Musk also said Tesla is working on a $25k vehicle it plans to launch in the next three years; the firm is also planning on establishing a cathode production plant somewhere in North America .Tesla’s next-gen power cells will not use cobalt; traditionally, the metal is the most expensive part of a battery; Tesla has not provided a timeline for when its batteries will be completely cobalt-free . link

Social planning startup IRL raises $16M Series B led by Goodwater Capital; enables users to track live events in various categories; IRL curates events from Ticketmaster and other sources, and recommends local events; the company also launched a Groups feature and a college network; raised $28M to date . link

Samsung launches its Smart TV Plus streaming service on numerous Samsung mobile devices; the free, ad-supported service has proven a hit on Samsung's smart TVs, streaming billions of minutes per month; the company now offers TV Plus in 10 countries and plans new markets in coming months . link

Microsoft gets exclusive license for OpenAI's GPT-3 text generation model; Microsoft will also use some of the underlying tech it its products; Microsoft invested $1B in OpenAI last year, becoming OpenAI's exclusive cloud provider; OpenAI develops an API for general-purpose AI text processing, and GPT-3 is the most powerful model serving the API . link

Russia's Yandex to acquire the country's largest online bank, Tinkoff, in a $5.5B cash-and-stock deal; Tinkoff trades on the London Stock Exchange via global depositary receipts, and Yandex will purchase all share capital at an eight-percent premium; the US seeks to extradite Tinkoff Founder Oleg Tinkov, currently in London, to face charges related to his alleged underreporting of assets while taking Tinkoff public in 2018 . link

YouTube to deploy an AI system that automatically age-restricts videos; the company has used machine learning to detect violent extremism, hateful conduct, and more; YouTube doesn't expect the change will have significant impact on Partner Program members, noting that the videos most likely to trigger age restriction are from non-monetized accounts . link

Los Angeles-based Beyond Limits, which develops AI for industrial applications, raises $133M Series C led by Group 42 and BP Ventures; serves clients in oil, natural energy, manufacturing, more; plans to launch operations in Asia with a headquarters in Singapore; the firm will also invest in its product portfolio, focusing on SaaS offerings; raised ~$159M to date . link

Amazon schedules this year's Prime Day sale for Oct 13 and 14, according to an internal email viewed by The Verge, which indicated the company would announce the dates on Sept 27; the company postponed the event, originally scheduled for July, due to the pandemic; Tamebay, a publication for Amazon marketplace sellers, indicated Amazon would begin Black Friday deals around Oct 26 . link

Google to permanently prohibit premium Chrome browser extensions that collect payment via the Chrome Web Store; the company temporarily suspended all paid extensions in January following claims of fraudulent transactions, and developers haven't had the ability to submit such extensions since March; on Feb 21, Google will disable Web Store payments to extensions; later, the company will disable the API used to verify payments . link

Walmart launches trial for drone delivery of COVID-19 home test kits in North Las Vegas; the company plans to expand the program to Cheektowaga, NY early next month; Walmart is limiting delivery to qualifying customers who live within a mile of participating Supercenters; customers take a nasal swab sample and send it to Quest Diagnostics for analysis . link

This Week in Startups: Emergency Pod!Jason reflects on his interview with Trevor Milton now that the Nikola Founder has stepped down as chairman amidst reports that the SEC is investigating the EV company over allegations of fraud (the DOJ reportedly has joined the probe); Jason also covers an appearance on CNBC's Squawk Alley during which he discussed his rule for link

The download for 2020-09-22 →


Connected vehicle tech firm Aurora Labs raises $23M Series B from LG Technology Ventures, Porsche, and others; the company provides tools for monitoring and fixing software flaws in cars' electronics systems; has raised $34M to date . link

VR surgery simulation platform Osso VR raises $14M led by Kaiser Permanente with participation from SignalFire, GSR, and others; Osso VR’s software runs on Oculus Quest headsets, overlaying text and other visual instructions for surgical students; has raised $16M to date . link

Games company Activision Blizzard announces BlizzCon 2021 will be a fully online event; dubbed BlizzConline, it will run from Feb 19 to Feb 20; Blizzard canceled this year’s event because of the coronavirus pandemic . link

Elon Musk advises Tesla's next-gen battery tech will not be in high-volume production until 2022; Musk made the statement on Twitter ahead of Tesla's Battery Day event, scheduled for today; it's unknown what Tesla will announce, but Musk says mass manufacturing is exponentially harder than producing prototypes . link

The Trump administration is allowing Intel to continue supplying some tech to Huawei; it’s unclear what the approval covers; rival chipmaker SMIC has also sought permission to continue supplying the company; the US recently introduced stricter trade controls against Huawei . link

Gmail rolls out an iOS and iPadOS update, allowing it to be set as the default email client; requires iOS 14; users must set up the feature via Settings . link

TikTok says it removed more than 104M videos in the first half of this year for violating its policies; the company also claims it took down 96.4 percent of those clips before a user reported them, and that 90.3 were pulled before anyone had seen them; TikTok also says it received 1.8k official requests for user data during the same period, 16 percent of which came from US law enforcement .TikTok is proposing a coalition among social media firms, urging coordination in identifying and removing harmful content; TikTok says it has written to nine of its peers in an effort to set up a meeting, though it has not disclosed the identify of the companies . link

Germany-based VC firm Point Nine closes its fifth fund at €100M (~$118M); targets early-stage startups across Europe; plans investments of ~$600k to ~$3M; previous funding includes edtech business Brainly and food delivery company Delivery Hero . link

Chinese state media firm Global Times casts doubt on whether Beijing officials will approve the TikTok Global deal; the outlet says the US has demonstrated “hooligan logic,” calling the arrangement “unfair”; Global Times notes ByteDance will control just one of TikTok Global’s five board seats; it also takes issue with Oracle having access to TikTok’s code . link

Quibi has $200M on hand, according to a Recode source who is familiar with the company’s documents; follows a report the firm is considering a sale; Recode notes Quibi owns its tech but licenses most of its shows, which could dampen its valuation . link

China-based EV firm WM Motor raises ~$1.5B Series D led by SAIC Motor; WM says it will use the funding for R&D, marketing, and more; TechCrunch speculates the company may be planning an IPO; has raised ~$3B to date . link

Oracle and ByteDance make conflicting statements about a deal with the Trump administration to keep TikTok operational in the US; ByteDance said it would own 80 percent of new subsidiary, TikTok Global; Oracle said ByteDance's stake would be distributed to ByteDance investors, and that ByteDance would retain no stake in TikTok Global; President Trump said on Monday Oracle and Walmart would have total control . link

Nvidia apologizes for problems with pre-orders for the RTX 3080 graphics card; virtually every retailer sold out in minutes, and the company said it had to cancel website orders placed by bots; Nvidia said it was not prepared for such demand and that it would supply more stock weekly; the company also urged users not to purchase from scalpers, which have attempted to sell the cards for exorbitant prices on marketplaces . link

Nikola ($10.45B market cap) stock closes down ~19 percent after Founder Trevor Milton stepped down as chairman; the Department of Justice reportedly has joined the SEC in investigating whether Nikola misled investors by exaggerating the state of its tech; Nikola previously said a short-seller made false fraud claims to manipulate the stock price . link

Tesla ($418.75B market cap) stock continues to climb after Elon Musk reportedly said in an email the company could set a new record for deliveries in the third quarter; options indicate investors expect significant movement in the stock this week following Tesla's Sept 22 Battery Day, at which the company is expected to announce improved battery production, lifespan, more; Tesla saw its worst single-day percentage decline ever on Sept 8 . link

The Los Angeles Police (LAPD) have used facial-recognition tech ~30k times over the past 11 years, according to records viewed by the Los Angeles Times; the LAPD previously said it had no records regarding its use of the tech and has, at times, denied using it at all; the LAPD doesn't have facial recognition software but can access it through a regional database maintained by the LA Sheriff's Department; ~300 LAPD personnel have access . link

Tokyo-based mobile games company Playco emerges with $100M Series A at a $1B-plus valuation led by Josh Buckley and Sequoia; the company will focus on instant-play titles, shareable via URL, that simplify gaming with friends; Playco will unveil its first games by the end of the year; founded by Zynga Co-Founder Justin Waldron, Game Closure Co-Founder Michael Carter, and game producers Takeshi Otsuka and Teddy Cross . link

President Trump says he will not allow a deal in which ByteDance retains any control over TikTok; appearing on Fox & Friends, Trump said Oracle and Walmart would control the service; TikTok and ByteDance have said ByteDance would retain 80 percent ownership until TikTok Global went public; an Oracle executive said ByteDance would have no ownership in TikTok Global . link

The Commerce Department says it will challenge an injunction that suspended the department's rules prohibiting US app stores from offering WeChat for download; the rules also include language prohibiting US tech firms from serving WeChat, and US entities from executing financial transactions via WeChat; the Commerce Department defended the rules following the injunction, citing issues of national security . link

Beijing leadership debates publishing China's new unreliable entities list (similar to that of the US Commerce Department), with some arguing for a delay until after the US presidential election; China announced plans for the list in May, shortly after the US restricted Huawei's access to US chips and tech; China’s Commerce Ministry has not disclosed which US entities it will prohibit from transacting with and investing in Chinese firms . link

NBCUniversal launches streaming service Peacock on Roku devices following months-long negotiations focused on ad tech and inventory control; Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said the service garnered 15M signups in its first two months of availability (metrics regarding paid users and repeat users undisclosed); Roku claims 43M active user accounts serving households representing 100M people . link

Short-form mobile-first video streaming service Quibi is exploring strategic options including a potential sale, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; other options reportedly under consideration include raising funds (Quibi raised $1.8B pre-launch) and going public via SPAC merger; Founder Jeffrey Katzenberg previously blamed Quibi's lackluster debut on pandemic-related issues . link

Amazon to launch mesh-networking system Sidewalk by year's end; Sidewalk will extend Wi-Fi connectivity through Echo and other products via Bluetooth LE, enabling transmission of updates, commands, etc; will also support locating devices via triangulation; Tile is the first third-party partner; intended to operate at the neighborhood scale, and Amazon plans to integrate Ring devices later . link

Mozilla spins out open-source IoT platform WebThings; the project began as a framework based on the W3C's web of things standard, designed to enable software and services to communicate across devices; it eventually became Project Things, which enabled Raspberry Pi systems to control devices from the web; WebThings gives connected devices dedicated URLs and ensures adherence to standards for interoperability, privacy, and security . link

Genetic sequencing company Illumina ($40B market cap) to acquire cancer detection firm Grail, which spun out of Illumina in 2016, for $8B ($3.5B cash, $4.5B in stock); Illumina invested $100M in Grail at the time of the spinout, and Grail went on to raise $2B, according to Crunchbase . link

Microsoft ($1.51T market cap) to acquire ZeniMax Media, parent of game studio Bethesda Softworks, for $7.5B in cash; known for popular franchises including link

The download for 2020-09-21 →


GitHub says it will drop “master” references for new code repositories from next month; instead, the company will use “main” to denote primary repositories; comes as part of a broader move to replace racially insensitive phrases within the coding community . link

TikTok has written to Australia’s Senate Select Committee, saying it doesn’t want to be “a political football”; the firm made the filing as part of the committee's Foreign Interference Through Social Media investigation; TikTok says data for Australian users is stored on servers in the US and Singapore; it also says it has never shared Australian user data with the Chinese government . link

Malaysia-based price comparison firm iPrice raises an undisclosed Series B (extension) from JG Digital Equity Ventures; iPrice offers price aggregation services for numerous ecommerce websites across Southeast Asia . link

Trevor Milton, founder of EV firm Nikola, has stepped down as chairman; he is being replaced by board member Stephen Girsky; follows allegations the company misled investors; Nikola is being investigated by the SEC and The Department of Justice; the firm’s share price fell 22 percent in early trading .Watch Jason discuss Nikola on CNBC's Squawk Alley: link

France-based telco Iliad acquires Polish mobile carrier Play Communications for €2.2B (~$2.6B) cash and debt; represents a 39 percent premium on Play’s Sept 18 closing price; as part of the deal, Iliad will acquire a ~40 percent stake held by Greece’s Olympia Development and Iceland’s Novator Partners; Iliad says it plans to expand Plays offerings, including into fixed-line services . link

UK-based VC firm Kindred Capital closes its second seed fund at £81M (~$105M); targets early-stage startups across Europe; portfolio includes self-driving software business Five and SaaS firm Paddle . link

Several US-based experts criticize the TikTok Global deal; speaking with The New York Times, Carl Tobias, a professor of law at the University of Richmond, questions whether the arrangement is really about “the political benefit of trying to bash China”; former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler suggests the deal is aimed at satisfying President Donald Trump . link

ByteDance is facing criticism in China over the TikTok Global arrangement; social media users have accused the company of “kneeling down” and having “no backbone” when dealing with the Trump administration; ByteDance has sought to allay Chinese concerns in a post to its Toutiao platform, noting founder Zhang Yiming will be on the board of TikTok Global; ByteDance also says it will it will not be transferring any algorithms or other tech to the US . link

India-based gaming firm Mobile Premier League raises $90M Series C led by SIG, RTP Global, and MDI Ventures with participation from Sequoia India and others; the company operates an esports platform and game publishing services; has raised $130.5M to date . link

President Donald Trump says Oracle and Walmart will be paying $5B to the US Treasury as part of the TikTok Global (TG) deal; ByteDance says the figure is an estimate of corporate taxes and other levies that will be paid over the coming years; it notes the amount will depend on the state in which TG is headquartered; Trump says TG will be based in TX and create 25k jobs .Trump says the $5B will be used for an education fund, promising it will teach US children the country’s “real history”; Trump made the comments during a speech at the National Archives in Washington DC; according to Bloomberg sources, Trump spoke with McMillon and Oracle chairman Larry Ellison, insisting they make a payment to the US Treasury as part of the deal .ByteDance says Trump’s pronouncements about a $5B education fund are the first it has heard about such an arrangement; in a post on its Chinese-language Toutiao news service, ByteDance notes it plans to work with its global partners to establish “online classroom projects” around the world; it’s unclear how such projects relate to TG, if at all . link

Oracle and Walmart will collectively take a 20 percent stake in US-based TikTok Global (TG); Oracle’s stake will be 12.5 percent, and Walmart’s 7.5 percent; Walmart CEO Doug McMillon will serve on the five-member board; ByteDance will retain 80 percent of the company; an IPO is planned within the next 12 months .ByteDance is seeking $12B from Oracle and Walmart, valuing TG at $60B, according to Bloomberg sources; the report notes the companies are yet to settle on a final price, and relevant data security measures are also still to be agreed; Chinese regulators have not yet signed off on a deal, but are reportedly in favor an arrangement in which ByteDance retains control .ByteDance confirms it will hold an 80 percent stake in TG, despite previous statements from Oracle and Walmart that US-based firms would control most of the business; ByteDance has dismissed as “rumor” the idea US investors would have a majority holding; Reuters sources note ByteDance is 41 percent owned by US firms, which means they indirectly have a significant stake .ByteDance’s stake in TG will be distributed proportionally to its investors, rather than held by the company directly, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; with all arrangements considered, TG will be 53 percent owned by US-based entities; China-based investors are projected to hold 31 percent of TG after an IPO . link

Ant Group has increased its IPO target to $35B, according to Bloomberg sources; previous reports indicate the firm was aiming for a $30B dual-listing, which would still have been the largest stock market debut of all time; the company is also seeking a valuation of $250B, up from $225B . link

A federal court in CA institutes a temporary injunction against the Trump administration’s order banning WeChat; Judge Laurel Beeler, presiding over a lawsuit brought by a collective of WeChat users, says the plaintiffs have raised “serious questions” as part of their First Amendment arguments; the US Commerce Department previously announced WeChat would be blocked from Sept 20 .WeChat owner Tencent says the social platform may not be able to add new US-based users while it is in litigation with the Trump administration; in a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange, Tencent acknowledges WeChat may yet be removed from Apple’s App Store and Google Play in the US; Tencent notes it is continuing to engage with the US government . link

The download for 2020-09-20 →


Canadian authorities charge a Tesla Model S owner after he allegedly slept with the vehicle on Autopilot; a witness complained to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that the car was speeding with the front seats fully reclined; the vehicle allegedly reached speeds of 93 MPH; charges include dangerous driving and driving while fatigued . link

TikTok and parent ByteDance sue President Trump and his administration in a bid to stop a ban prohibiting US app stores from offering the TikTok app for download, slated to take effect and the end of the day on Sept 20; TikTok reportedly is awaiting Trump's approval to establish a new company, TikTok Global, and plans to take it public; US companies reportedly would hold stakes in the company, with Oracle managing US user data .President Trump says he has approved the deal in concept; TikTok Global would donate $5B to an education fund, which Trump said would satisfy his demand for payment to the US; Trump said the new company would likely be headquartered in TX and employ at least 25k workers; China must approve the deal due to AI export restrictions .A source for The New York Times indicated that US companies and investors would collectively hold 53 percent equity in the new company; TikTok said Oracle and Walmart would together take up to 20 percent; the investors include Coatue Management, General Atlantic, and Sequoia Capital . link

QAnon groups continue to flourish on Facebook, and the company's algorithms continue to drive traffic to QAnon content, The New York Times reports; the groups, which embrace conspiracy theories about Satanists and pedophiles in positions of power, have at times called for acts of violence and denounced wearing masks to mitigate the pandemic; Facebook has taken steps to reduce QAnon's influence . link

JFrog, which provides a DevOps platform and other tools, raised $509M in its Nasdaq debut on Wednesday; the company priced 11.6M shares at $44 apiece, valuing the company at ~$5B; shares rose as high as $77 before closing at $64.79; JFrog serves the ten largest tech firms in the Fortune 100, including Amazon, Google, and Netflix . link

Uber hires former Amazon VP Sukumar Rathnam to serve as CTO; Thuan Pham resigned from the position in May after seven years with the company; Rathnam joined Amazon in 2011 and most recently oversaw product selection and catalog systems . link

Mobile games company Scopely in talks to raise $200M-plus at a $3B valuation, according to Bloomberg sources, who say Wellington Management and NewView Capital are expected to lead; known for titles including link

TikTok and parent ByteDance sue President Trump and his administration in a bid to stop a ban prohibiting US app stores from offering the TikTok app for download, slated to take effect and the end of the day on Sept 20; TikTok reportedly is awaiting Trump's approval to establish a new company, TikTok Global, and plans to take it public; US companies reportedly would hold stakes in the company, with Oracle managing US user data .President Trump says he has approved the deal in concept; TikTok Global would donate $5B to an education fund, which Trump said would satisfy his demand for payment to the US; Trump said the new company would likely be headquartered in TX and employ at least 25k workers; China must approve the deal due to AI export restrictions .A source for The New York Times indicated that US companies and investors would collectively hold 53 percent equity in the new company; TikTok said Oracle and Walmart would together take up to 20 percent; the investors include Coatue Management, General Atlantic, and Sequoia Capital . link

TikTok and parent ByteDance sue President Trump and his administration in a bid to stop a ban prohibiting US app stores from offering the TikTok app for download, slated to take effect and the end of the day on Sept 20; TikTok reportedly is awaiting Trump's approval to establish a new company, TikTok Global, and plans to take it public; US companies reportedly would hold stakes in the company, with Oracle managing US user data .President Trump says he has approved the deal in concept; TikTok Global would donate $5B to an education fund, which Trump said would satisfy his demand for payment to the US; Trump said the new company would likely be headquartered in TX and employ at least 25k workers; China must approve the deal due to AI export restrictions .A source for The New York Times indicated that US companies and investors would collectively hold 53 percent equity in the new company; TikTok said Oracle and Walmart would together take up to 20 percent; the investors include Coatue Management, General Atlantic, and Sequoia Capital . link

Sony apologizes for PS5 pre-order problems, promises to make more units available for pre-orders in coming days; some retailers opened pre-orders on Wednesday, a day before Sony's official pre-order date; some customers saw their pre-orders automatically canceled; some retailers warned that pre-ordered systems could arrive after the official launch day . link

WeChat saw its most single-day downloads in ~two years on Friday after the Trump administration announced it would prohibit app stores from offering the software on Sunday, according to Sensor Tower preliminary data; TikTok, which faces the same ban, saw 247k installs, up 12 percent over Thursday . link

Epic denies claims Apple made in response to Epic's request for a preliminary injunction to keep link

Comcast and Roku reach an agreement that will see NBC's Peacock streaming service launch on Roku devices; follows months of negotiations hampered by disputes over Roku's control of advertising inventory; NBCUniversal also developed new ad tech for Peacock to achieve better tracking, targeting, and monetization, and reportedly resisted connecting it with third-party ad tech . link

Chamath Palihapitiya files three new SPAC vehicles with the SEC: Social Capital Hedosophia IV with a $350M headline value, V at $650M, and VI at $1B; Palihapitiya's first black-check company bought Virgin Galactic last year; his second recently revealed plans to take Opendoor public; his third raised funds in April, acquisition target undisclosed . Watch Chamath discuss SPACs on the All-In Podcast: link

Google's decision to follow Apple's lead and enable Chrome browser to block most ad trackers has fueled the Justice Department's antitrust case against the company, according to sources for The Information; publishers reportedly told the department and state attorney's general the move would hurt publishers while benefitting Google's ads business; Bloomberg previously reported numerous states could join the Justice Department's case . link

Iranian hackers, likely state-backed, have used a variety of malware over six years to intercept 2FA codes and otherwise access encrypted communications to surveil anti-regime organizations and others, according to reports from Check Point Software and human rights organization the Miaan Group; the hackers reportedly accessed Telegram and WhatsApp content; Telegram said no service could prevent phishing attacks . link

China’s Ministry of Commerce publishes new regulations establishing an unreliable entities list similar to that of the US Commerce Department; China did not reveal any companies for inclusion; the new rules, effective immediately, enable China to prohibit foreign entities from exporting to or importing from China, or investing in the country; in a statement, the Ministry of Commerce condemned US actions against WeChat and TikTok . link

NV judge dismisses defamation case from former Tesla employee Martin Tripp against the automaker; Tesla filed suit against Tripp in mid-2018 after he told Business Insider Tesla was wasting raw materials in Model 3 production; Tesla fired Tripp, and Elon Musk told The Guardian that a tipster had warned the company that Tripp planned to return and shoot people; the claim was unfounded; the NV judge cited Tripp's trade secret violations . link

The download for 2020-09-19 →


The Internet Archive announces a partnership with CDN provider Cloudflare that will see the latter automatically archive its clients' sites and pull backups from the Internet Archive during downtime; the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine currently hosts copies of 468B web pages and adds 1B URLs per day . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Brewster Kahle, entrepreneur, internet activist, and digital archivist; they discuss the purpose of Archive.org, the site's storage and funding, archiving social networks and video games, dealing with copyright issues, protocols over platforms, decentralized systems, the benefits of micro-schools, more . link

Unity closes up ~32 percent in NYSE debut; the company priced shares at $52 apiece and closed at $68.35 with a market value above $18B; the unprofitable company claims 1.5M monthly active creators use its game and content engine; Unity says 50 percent of mobile games, PC games, and console games use the engine . link

Salesforce ($221B market cap) Co-Founder and CEO Marc Benioff says the company will hire 4k people in the next six months and 12k total over the next year; Salesforce announced 1k layoffs at the end of last month following the company's first $5B-revenue quarter; the company currently employs ~53k . link

CA authorizes Amazon-owned autonomous driving and AI robotics company Zoox to test two self-driving vehicles on specific public streets without safety drivers present; Waymo, AutoX, and Nuro hold similar permits . link

Montreal-based financial services company Nuvei raises $700M in the Toronto Stock Exchange's largest-ever tech IPO; provides a payments platform serving retail, travel, and other sectors; the company priced shares at $26 apiece and closed up 31 percent on Thursday at $34.12 . link

Outschool (YC W16), a marketplace for live online classes, raises $45M Series B led by Lightspeed; the company, which had 25 employees at the beginning of the year and now has 60, plans to use the funding to grow its workforce; Outschool saw a 2k-percent increase in bookings during the year ending in August; achieved profitability due to pandemic-related demand; now claims a $100M ARR . link

Fintech company Chime raises $485M Series F at a $14.5B valuation from ICONIQ, General Atlantic, others; investors last valued the firm at $5.8B for a $700M Series E in December, up from $1.5B in March of 2019; offers consumer accounts with no minimum balance and no overdraft or monthly fees; promises rapid availability of direct deposits; raised ~$1.5M to date . link

German site WinFuture publishes purported leaked images of Google's coming Chromecast dongle; Google announced it would reveal a new Chromecast device on Sept 30; the apparent rendered marketing images show a remote with dedicated buttons for Netflix and YouTube . link

The Trump administration announces it will prohibit US app stores from offering TikTok and WeChat for download, effective Sept 20; the administration issued new rules that prevent payment processing and fund transfers via WeChat in the US; the regulations also restrict tech companies, including web hosts and CDNs, from serving WeChat; follows an August executive order banning US transactions with ByteDance and WeChat parent Tencent . The rules allow existing TikTok users in the US to continue using the app until Nov 12, but as Vice points out, the app store ban will prevent ByteDance from deploying security updates in the US; Vice also notes the WeChat ban will cut users off from loved ones in China .TikTok interim CEO Vanessa Pappas calls on Facebook and Instagram to publicly oppose the Department of Commerce's order to ban TikTok from US app stores; she said it was an issue of freedom of expression and due process of law; follows a tweet from Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, who said a TikTok ban would be bad for Instagram, Facebook, and the internet . link

The Trump administration announces it will prohibit US app stores from offering TikTok and WeChat for download, effective Sept 20; the administration issued new rules that prevent payment processing and fund transfers via WeChat in the US; the regulations also restrict tech companies, including web hosts and CDNs, from serving WeChat; follows an August executive order banning US transactions with ByteDance and WeChat parent Tencent . The rules allow existing TikTok users in the US to continue using the app until Nov 12, but as Vice points out, the app store ban will prevent ByteDance from deploying security updates in the US; Vice also notes the WeChat ban will cut users off from loved ones in China .TikTok interim CEO Vanessa Pappas calls on Facebook and Instagram to publicly oppose the Department of Commerce's order to ban TikTok from US app stores; she said it was an issue of freedom of expression and due process of law; follows a tweet from Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, who said a TikTok ban would be bad for Instagram, Facebook, and the internet . link

The download for 2020-09-18 →


Toronto-based online marketplace Rebelstork raises ~$1.5M seed from unnamed investors; Rebelstork offers a range of new and used baby products; founded in 2019, the company currently has 10 employees . link

Google removes fintech firm Paytm from its Google Play store in India; Google says Paytm’s app violates its gambling policies; TechCrunch sources say Paytm repeatedly broke the platform’s rules; it’s unclear what the exact violations were, but the report notes sports betting is banned in India . link

SoftBank sells a controlling stake in wireless distribution unit Brightstar to PE firm Brightstar Capital Partners (BCP); full terms undisclosed, but SoftBank will retain 25 percent of the company; BCP was established by former Brightstar COO Andrew Weinberg; SoftBank bought Brightstar in 2014 for ~$1.7B . link

Ericsson ($33.9B market cap) acquires US-based wireless solutions firm CradlePoint for $1.1B cash; Ericsson says the move will help with its commercial 5G strategy; CradlePoint will continue to operate as a standalone unit . link

Apple adds Music Recognition to its iOS 14.2 beta; available via Control Center, the feature lets users identify songs playing nearby or within apps; Apple owns audio recognition app Shazam; iOS 14.2 beta is currently available to developers . link

ByteDance is confident China will approve a US deal for TikTok, according to Bloomberg sources; Chinese regulators are likely to sign off on an arrangement as long as it does not involve the transfer of AI tech; ByteDance has said the Chinese government would need to sanction an agreement . link

Adam Rogas, CEO of NV-based fraud prevention firm NS8, has been arrested; 43-year-old Rogas is accused of falsifying company documents for more than a year to exaggerate its revenues; the Department of Justice says as much as 95 percent of NS8’s reported transactions during the period were falsified; the misleading paperwork was allegedly presented to investors as legitimate; the SEC has sought to freeze NS8’s assets and is looking to issue penalties . link

Alibaba unveils Wuying, a palm-sized cloud-based computer; full specs unknown, but runs Windows and Linux; promises support for a range of apps and services including development environments, video editing, and more; Alibaba says it will be tied to a subscription plan, though pay-per-use options will be available; will be initially offered to enterprise customers; price and launch date undisclosed . link

Fintech company Affirm raises $500M Series G led by GIC and Durable Capital Partners; Affirm offers in-store POS systems and customer financing services; has raised more than $1.3B to date . link

Game software firm Unity prices its IPO at $52 per share, raising $1.3B; values the company at $13.7B; Unity previously gave a guide price of $44 to $48 apiece; it will begin trading today on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol U . link

Twitter will start to downrank political accounts that spread QAnon conspiracies; the firm has previously said it will not recommend such posts on its platform, but also has another policy of generally not interfering with politicians’ tweets; Twitter notes its earlier action has reduced false QAnon content by more than 50 percent . link

Apple is launching an online store in India on Sept 23; will be the first time the company offers direct sales in the country; customers will be able to shop in English and Hindi; Apple has plans to also open brick-and-mortar Apple Stores at some stage . link

Operations and security intelligence company Sumo Logic closed up 22 percent in its Nasdaq debut on Wednesday; the company priced at $22 per share, above its initial range of $17 to $21; the company raised ~$326M and closed at $26.88 . link

Of the ~164k businesses that have registered closures on Yelp, ~98k, or 60 percent, have indicated permanent shutdowns; Yelp's Economic Average Report revealed a 34-percent increase in permanent closures since mid-July; Yelp said automotive and home professional services had weathered the pandemic better than restaurants, bars, and nightlife businesses . link

Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook will establish specific areas within its internal messaging system for debate and moderate such discussions; Zuckerberg said employees shouldn't have to confront social issues during day-to-day work; the company is still developing relevant policy and will disclose details next week . link

Woman dies after Duesseldorf University Hospital had to send her to another facility because that hospital was suffering a ransomware attack, Associated Press reports; German news source RTL reported that the attackers had intended to debilitate the university and not the hospital; the attackers reportedly halted efforts after authorities informed them of the mistake . link

Amazon opens its Fresh grocery store in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles to the general public; access was previously invite-only; features the company's Dash Cart, which uses a scale, cameras, and sensors to detect items; when a shopper leaves the store, Amazon automatically charges the default payment method associated with the customer's Amazon account . link

ByteDance plans to establish a new US-based company called TikTok Global and to list it publicly in the US, pending government approval of its creation, according to Reuters sources; the company, in which Oracle would have a stake, reportedly would debut in ~one year .Instagram Founder and CEO Kevin Systrom has had preliminary talks to serve as CEO of TikTok, according to sources for The New York Times; former CEO Kevin Mayer stepped down last month, saying he had intended to lead a global company and that political pressures would likely inhibit his goals; TikTok General Manager Vanessa Pappas currently serves as interim CEO . link

Mozilla to shut down encrypted file-transfer service Firefox Send and note-taking product Firefox Notes, available as a browser extension and a standalone app; the company suspended Send in July following reports of abuse, primarily regarding malware transfers; Notes, which the company said was an experimental product, will stop working in November . link

ByteDance plans to establish a new US-based company called TikTok Global and to list it publicly in the US, pending government approval of its creation, according to Reuters sources; the company, in which Oracle would have a stake, reportedly would debut in ~one year .Instagram Founder and CEO Kevin Systrom has had preliminary talks to serve as CEO of TikTok, according to sources for The New York Times; former CEO Kevin Mayer stepped down last month, saying he had intended to lead a global company and that political pressures would likely inhibit his goals; TikTok General Manager Vanessa Pappas currently serves as interim CEO . link

This Week in Startups: The Next Unicorns E18Jason speaks with Ghost Locomotion Founder and CEO John Hayes about the software issue for autonomous driving, what problems remain unsolved in the space, Ghost's custom self-driving kits, engineering for different types of vehicles, when autonomous driving will be safe enough that passengers won't need to pay attention, autonomous-only highways, more . link

Facebook updates its policy to better address rule violations in Groups and to inhibit the spread of misinformation; the company previously prohibited administrators of banned groups from immediately establishing new groups; the rule now applies to moderators as well; groups require active administrators; group members with violations cannot post without manual approval for 30 days; Facebook will no longer recommend health-focused groups . link

President Trump to make a decision regarding TikTok's US operations on Thursday or Friday, according to CNBC sources; the Treasury Department reportedly required significant revisions in ByteDance's term sheet for a deal with Oracle, and sources said ByteDance complied; the deal reportedly will see Oracle take a 20-percent stake with Walmart also participating . link

Angel investors Justin Kan and Robin Chan announce Goat Capital, a hybrid incubator through which the pair plans to collaborate with entrepreneurs and write checks for $500k to $3M; the firm (its name an acronym for Greatest of all Time) targets $40M for its first fund and investments in internet companies around the world . link

Unscripted competitive reality show link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Ritual Founder and CEO Katerina Schneider about the importance of strong domain names for direct-to-consumer brands, growth advantages in the D2C space, the benefits of subscriptions, her journey from skepticism regarding supplements to starting a vitamin company, raising funds while pregnant, switching from investor to founder, more . link

The download for 2020-09-17 →


Google’s main app for iOS adds a feature for reading aloud articles; the UI shows a speaker icon alongside the URL box; tapping the graphic loads an audio playback interface, which includes controls for managing audio speed, creating article playlists, and more; rolling out now . link

Infarm, a Germany-based agritech company, raises $170M Series C led by LGT Lightstone with participation from Hanaco and others; the firm is targeting $200M for the round; operates a vertical farming network; has raised $300M to date . link

Fitness startup Tonal raises $110M from L Catterton, Delta-v Capital, and others; the company offers a connected wall-mounted resistance workout system; has raised $200M to date . link

Germany-based esports firm Bayes (formerly Dojo Madness) raises $6M from Pohlad Family investment group, Fertitta Capital, and the Sony Innovation Fund; the company offers datasets for esports events; has raised ~$19M to date . link

China-based TikTok rival Kuaishou plans to raise as much as $5B via an IPO, according to Reuters sources; it’s aiming for a valuation of ~$50B; Kuaishou is looking to list on the Hong Kong stock exchange as early as Jan 2021; it has retained Bank of America, China Renaissance, and Morgan Stanley to work on the deal . link

The Libra Association names James Emmett as the head of its operational unit Libra Networks; he will oversee the Facebook-backed cryptocurrency’s payments system; Emmett previously served as HSBC’s European chief . link

Apple rolls out Safari 14 for macOS Catalina and High Sierra users; comes ahead of the public release of Big Sur, expected this fall; the update includes improved tab management, a new start page, and more . link

ByteDance says the Chinese government must approve its proposed deal with Oracle; the full terms of the arrangement have not been disclosed, but Oracle is set to operate as a trusted tech partner for TikTok; the social app’s global operations will reportedly also be based in the US . link

The Trump administration says it plans to nominate Nathan Simington to the FCC; Simington currently serves as a senior advisor at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (part of the Commerce Department); the White House previously pulled its third-term nomination for Republican FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly . link

Nintendo has ended production of its 3DS console, according to notices on its Japanese website; the company has also removed all references to the device from its US site; the original 3DS was announced in 2010 and released in 2011; Nintendo revised the product multiple times, including the launch of the 2DS in 2013; it sold more 75M 3DS and 2DS consoles . link

Facebook and The New York Times sign a multi-year deal to develop AR filters and effects for Instagram; financial terms undisclosed; the partnership promises to create unique experiences aimed at helping users contextualize reports from the publisher . link

Senate Republicans urge President Trump to reject a ByteDance proposal that seeks to keep TikTok operational in the US without conceding an outright sale; the senators expressed concern about the security of US users' data and the potential for future access by the Chinese government; the senators also requested that a national-security review panel keep Congress apprised of deliberations .Bloomberg sources said the proposal fell short of addressing the Trump administration's concerns about national security, but that the US could approve the deal if ByteDance resolved remaining issues . link

Delivery Hero acquires the Latin American operations of Spanish on-demand delivery company Glovo for $272M, including ~$70M in earn-outs; the deal represents eight markets: Argentina, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and Peru; Glovo exited two Latin American markets and the Middle East at the beginning of this year to focus efforts on growth markets; post-deal, Glovo serves 14 markets total . link

Facebook to launch Oculus Link in general availability this fall; enables Quest and Quest 2 owners to play Rift titles while PC-tethered; the company also plans a new Link UI that unifies Rift and Quest titles in a single library; will also bring other Rift features to Quest . link

Facebook announces Oculus Move: fitness-tracking software for the Quest and Quest 2 VR headsets; enables users to monitor calories burned, minutes of movement, and goals met while using other apps; provides a dashboard with visualized data . link

Facebook unveils the Oculus Quest 2, a $300 standalone VR headset offering fast-switching LCDs and a 50-percent resolution bump over its predecessor; supports a 90Hz refresh rate (limited to 72Hz at launch); available Oct 13; the base model features 64GB of storage, upgradeable to 256GB for an additional $100; Facebook will also offer a battery upgrade; the company will stop selling the Rift S in the spring . link

Facebook to launch its first pair of consumer smart glasses next year, branded as Ray-Bans; the product will not feature an integrated display or AR features; Facebook said it was working with Ray-Ban parent EssilorLuxottica to develop the first truly fashionable smart glasses; the company did not disclose features but said the product would give users better ways to connect with those closest to them . link

Enterprise data storage company Pure Storage ($4.1B market cap) acquires Kubernetes-based data storage and management platform Portworx for $370M; Portworx enables data migration, backups, simplified access, and more for customers including GE Digital, Kroger, and T-Mobile; Portworx previously raised ~$56M . link

Amazon plans to launch 1k small delivery hubs in US cities and suburbs, according to Bloomberg sources; the company expects to operate a total of 1.5k such hubs in the US to meet its pre-pandemic commitment to offer same-day Prime deliveries for many products; early on in the lockdown phase, the company failed to fulfill many two-day delivery orders . link

Amazon Music adds 70k podcasts, including some originals; podcasts are available for free to ad-supported and premium subscribers; the company has signed exclusivity deals with some shows, such as “Disgraceland,” which is currently available on competing services but will be limited to Amazon Music next year . link

WY's Banking Board authorizes cryptocurrency exchange Kraken to operate as a Special Purpose Depository Institution; Kraken CLO Marco Santori said the approval would allow new entity Kraken Financial to function as a crypto bank; it cannot lend on fractional reserves, but it can seek an account and membership with the Federal Reserve; Kraken is opening an office in Cheyenne and plans to offer asset custody, wire transfers, debit cards, more . link

Cloud data platform Snowflake raises $3.4B in NYSE debut after pricing shares at $120 each for a ~$33B market cap; the company raised funds at a $1.5B valuation in early 2018, and investors valued the firm at $12.4B for a Series G in February 2020; The Wall Street Journal reported the pricing on Tuesday, above the expected range of $100 to $100 per share; trading opened at $245; Renaissance Capital said it was the largest software listing on record .Edit: Snowflake closes at $253.93 after peaking at $319 . link

India's Flipkart plans to go public as soon as next year, according to Reuters sources; one source indicated the e-commerce company would seek a valuation between $45B and $50B; two other sources said the firm would likely list in the US or Singapore; Flipkart is incorporated in Singapore, while parent Walmart is headquartered in the US; Flipkart reportedly plans to hire external advisers soon . link

The download for 2020-09-16 →


Estonia-based sales and marketing firm Outfunnel raises €1.1M (~$1.3M) pre-seed led by Paua Ventures and byFounders with participation from Lemonade Stand and others; Outfunnel provides data handling tools that integrate with CRM software . link

Norway-based edtech firm Kahoot acquires Danish startup Actimo; the cash and stock deal values Actimo at between $26M and $33M; Actimo offers a business training platform; has raised $3.3M to date . link

Apple says “Fortnite” is able to return to the App Store as soon as Epic removes its own in-app payments system; in a legal filing, Apple suggests Epic has created its own problems and is trying to use the legal system to solve them; Apple also claims Epic is “holding its own customers hostage” . link

Sharp CEO Tai Jeng-wu says the company is postponing an IPO for its Dynabook PC unit until next year; Tai has not disclosed the reason for the delay, but says the listing will take place in the second half of 2021; it initially planned to list this year; Sharp (which is controlled by Foxconn) acquired Dynabook from Toshiba in 2018 . link

Dutch ebike firm VanMoof raises $40M Series B from from Norwest Venture Partners, Felix Capital, and Balderton Capital; the direct-to-consumer brand also oversees its own design and manufacturing; has raised $73M to date . link

Uber is selling its European freight unit to German logistics firm Sennder; full terms undisclosed, but a Bloomberg source says the all-stock deal is worth ~$1.1B; Sennder will absorb Uber’s freight operations in Amsterdam; as part of the arrangement Uber will take a minority stake in Sennder . link

Prosecutors in AZ charge a former Uber autonomous vehicle safety driver over a 2018 crash that killed a pedestrian; 46-year-old Rafaela Vasquez has been accused of negligent homicide after investigators found she was watching a video on her smartphone at the time of the incident; Vasquez denies the charge; Uber suspended its driverless program after the accident, but has since resumed testing . link

UK-based VR design platform Gravity Sketch raises $3.7M seed led by Kindred Capital with participation from Point Nine Capital and Forward Partners; the startup offers immersive 3D design and collaboration tools; has raised $5.4M to date . link

Spotify says Apple’s new Apple One services bundles are an abuse of its market position; Spotify is urging competition authorities to move quickly, claiming the company’s efforts will likely cause damage to the developer community; Apple says Apple One offers value to its customers . link

Virtual fitness app Zwift raises $450M from KKR, Specialized Bicycle Components, and others; the funding values the company at more than $1B post-money, according to Bloomberg sources; Zwift offers digital environments and leaderboards for use with stationary exercise bikes and running machines; has raised ~$620M to date . link

The Department of Justice joins the SEC in investigating Nikola over allegations that the EV maker misled investors by exaggerating the state of its technology, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; Nikola previously said the short-seller who made the claims had done so to manipulate the company's stock price . Watch Jason discuss Nikola on CNBC's Squawk Alley: link

Stripe will pay a one-time bonus of $20k to employees who opt to relocate out of New York City, San Francisco, or Seattle, but will also implement a 10-percent pay cut, according to a Bloomberg source; available to those who chose to move by year's end; the San Francisco-based company employs ~2.8k . link

Apple unveils the new iPad Air, starting at $600 and shipping next month; runs on the company's new A14 Bionic chip; Apple embedded Touch ID in the power button at the top of the device for the first time; features a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina, anti-reflective display with True Tone at 2360 x 1640; features USB-C; supports Wi-Fi 6 and will be available with LTE .Apple announces the new iPad with the A12 chip, up from the last generation's A10; it's the first base iPad with the Neural Engine for AI; features a 10.2-inch Retina Display with True Tone; the 32GB model is $330; ships Sept 18 . link

Apple unveils the new iPad Air, starting at $600 and shipping next month; runs on the company's new A14 Bionic chip; Apple embedded Touch ID in the power button at the top of the device for the first time; features a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina, anti-reflective display with True Tone at 2360 x 1640; features USB-C; supports Wi-Fi 6 and will be available with LTE .Apple announces the new iPad with the A12 chip, up from the last generation's A10; it's the first base iPad with the Neural Engine for AI; features a 10.2-inch Retina Display with True Tone; the 32GB model is $330; ships Sept 18 . link

Apple unveils the A14 Bionic chip, the company's first built on a 5nm process; will debut in the new iPad Air, which ships next month; features 40 percent more transistors than the company's 7nm chips; features a 16-core Neural Engine for AI . link

ByteDance to fold TikTok's global operations into a new US-headquartered business, according to Financial Times sources; as part of the deal, Oracle would take a minority stake in TikTok's global business, not just its US operations; Walmart and other US entities would also take minority stakes; ByteDance would remain the majority shareholder; ByteDance reportedly would create 20k US jobs . link

Apple launches bundled subscription service Apple One; the $15-per-month Individual plan includes Apple Music, Apple TV Plus, Apple Arcade, and 50GB of iCloud storage; the $20-per-month Family plan adds another 150 GB of storage; the $30-per-month Premier plan provides 2TB of storage and adds News Plus and Fitness Plus; Fitness Plus, which offers training for cycling, running, and more, will launch by year's end at $10 per month . link

Apple to begin rolling out iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14 on Sept 16; iOS 14 adds home screen widgets, App Library, picture-in-picture mode, a new Translation app, more; tvOS 14 adds support for HomeKit-enabled security cameras, the ability to pair up to two sets of AirPods, more . link

Apple unveils Watch Series 6 with blood oxygen monitoring via red and infrared light; the company is partnering with health networks to conduct studies using the feature, including potential COVID-19 detection; features the new S6 processor, promising a 20-percent performance boost over the last Watch; coming in gold, graphite, blue, and the new Product (RED) finishes; new Solo Loop strap has no buckles or clasps; will ship with watchOS 7 .Apple announces Family Setup, an iOS 14 feature enabling a single iPhone to setup and manage multiple Watches; enables guardians to select contacts for calls and messages, track locations, establish Schooltime (Do Not Disturb) schedules, more . link

The Trump administration will approve a ByteDance proposal to work with Oracle as a trusted technology partner, CNBC reports; Jim Cramer said an announcement would come Tuesday afternoon; another source confirmed; the proposal reportedly seeks to keep TikTok operational in the US without meeting President Trump's demand for an outright sale by Sept 15 to avoid a shutdown . link

Apple unveils Watch Series 6 with blood oxygen monitoring via red and infrared light; the company is partnering with health networks to conduct studies using the feature, including potential COVID-19 detection; features the new S6 processor, promising a 20-percent performance boost over the last Watch; coming in gold, graphite, blue, and the new Product (RED) finishes; new Solo Loop strap has no buckles or clasps; will ship with watchOS 7 .Apple announces Family Setup, an iOS 14 feature enabling a single iPhone to setup and manage multiple Watches; enables guardians to select contacts for calls and messages, track locations, establish Schooltime (Do Not Disturb) schedules, more . link

ViacomCBS to rebrand its CBS All Access streaming service as Paramount+ and relaunch it with an expanded catalog (resulting from Viacom's merger with CBS); the company didn't disclose pricing or advertising details; CBS All Access offers ad-supported and ad-free tiers at $6 and $10 per month, respectively; Paramount+ will feature exclusive shows . link

Google announces the Series One video conferencing hardware bundle for Meet, created in partnership with Lenovo; designed for conference rooms; includes the Meet Compute System, a Smart Audio Bar, and a 12MP Smart Camera or 20.3MP Smart Camera XL; the cameras automatically frame participants and detect how many there are without using facial recognition . link

Cloud data platform Snowflake to price its IPO above the expected range of $100 to $110 per share due to strong demand, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; one source said Snowflake could price at $120 per share, valuing the company at $30B; private investors last valued the firm at $12.4B for a Series G in February; the company plans to list on the NYSE under the symbol SNOW on Wednesday . link

Volansi (YC W17), which manufactures and operates long-range delivery drones, raises $50M Series B led by Icon Ventures; the company's Voly C10 can carry 10 pounds for up to 50 miles; the M20 boasts a 350-mile range with a top speed of 75 MPH; Volansi serves as a middle-mile provider, flying over rugged or otherwise inaccessible terrain; serves government and enterprise clients; raised ~$75M to date . link

Chamath Palihapitiya's SPAC Social Capital Hedosophia II announces it will take Opendoor public via reverse merger; Bloomberg sources revealed the deal last week; Chamath said in an announcement that a $1B-plus investment would help Opendoor to build a legacy company; the deal gives Opendoor a $4.8B enterprise value .Watch Chamath discuss the SPAC listing boom on the All-In Podcast: link

The download for 2020-09-15 →


Dell has informed staff it’s cutting an unspecified number of jobs, reports Bloomberg; COO Jeff Clarke explained during an all-hands meeting that layoffs would not be limited to specific departments; the company had 165k workers at the end of January; Dell has also implemented a flexible work scheme that will allow employees to continue operating from home when the coronavirus pandemic is over . link

VC firm Beacon announces a $50M fund targeting women-led startups across Southeast Asia; backed by Singapore-based Patamar Capital, Beacon says it has secured 25 percent of the fund so far; the company plans to offer 500k to $2M to firms working in edtech, agritech, healthtech, and more . link

Google Fiber says it will launch 2Gbps broadband plans in preview from next month; the $100 per month service promises up to 2Gbps down and 1Gbps up; will initially be available to select customers in Nashville, TN, and Huntsville, AL, with plans to roll out wider later this year . link

Apple is testing an express pickup service at its store in Burlingame, CA; located close to the entrance, the booth setup lets users collect online orders without having to walk through the store itself; the company is also offering Genius Bar appointments at a second booth; unknown if or when the concept will roll out to other Apple Stores . link

India-based virtual events platform Airmeet raises $12M Series A led by Sequoia Capital India with participation from Accel India and others; the platform lets users host online events and networking; has raised $15M to date . link

China-based robotics firm Idriverplus raises ~$14.6M Series C+ led by Xin Ding Capital and Huaxia Weiming Investment; the company makes automated street-cleaners and other robotic devices; it is also developing a self-driving car . link

Swedish fintech firm Klarna raises $650M on a $10.6B post-money valuation led by Silver Lake with participation from GIC and others; the company operates a digital payments platform; Klarna has previously indicated it has plans to IPO, but it is yet to discuss an official timeline; has raised ~$2B to date . link

Google announces a plan to run its entire operations using carbon-free energy by 2030; the company says it has purchased enough carbon offsets to negate all of its emissions since its founding in 1998; Google notes it will need to invest in more efficient batteries to store energy, and that it also plans to use AI to predict its electricity demands . link

The SEC is investigating fraud claims regarding electric vehicle firm Nikola, according to Bloomberg sources; follows a report from Hindenburg Research that alleges Nikola has overstated the abilities of its trucks; Nikola denies the allegations and says Hindenburg, a short seller, is making misleading assertions so as to manipulate its stock price; Nikola’s shares fell 11.7 percent following the initial report . link

API platform Courier raises $10.1M Series A led by Bessemer Venture Partners with participation from Matrix Partners, Twilio, and Slack Fund; offers no-code developer tools for adding user notifications to apps; has raised $12.4M to date . link

Microsoft retrieves an experimental data center it sunk off the coast of Orkney, Scotland, in 2018; at the time, the company theorized the watertight environment might be better for maintaining the temperature of servers; Microsoft notes the data center had one-eighth the failure rate of its more traditional counterparts; the firm plans to keep experimenting . link

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts the upcoming iPhone lineup will not feature 120Hz refresh rate displays; Kuo also says a rumored iPad Air update will feature Touch ID on the side button, and indicates that more Apple products will use the setup next year; Apple is expected to announce a new iPad and Apple Watch today . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie about leading through times of crisis, recognizing COVID as a different beast, adjusting to remote work, location-based pay scaling, the importance of HR for remote teams, the myth of the pipeline problem, championing diversity from the top down, the role of the modern CEO, more . link

Verizon to acquire prepaid wireless services company TracFone in a cash-and-stock deal worth up to $7B; TracFone, a unit of Mexico-based América Móvil SAB, also operates as StraightTalk and Net10 in the US, where it claims 21M prepaid customers; the company does not operate its own networks, but relies on other providers; Verizon said it had ~4M prepaid customers at the end of June; it claims ~120M total subscribers . link

YouTube announces an early beta of Shorts in India; the short-form video feature limits uploads to 15 seconds; provides a timer for hands-free recording, tools for editing clips together, a library of licensed music for lip-syncing and other music-based videos, time stretching and compressing effects, more . link

Red Ventures to acquire CNET from ViacomCBS for $500M; the deal includes CNET, GameSpot, and ZDNet; Red Ventures has acquired numerous media properties, including Bankrate and Reviews.com; a source for The Wall Street Journal indicated that Red planned to invest in growing CNET properties and to expand their e-commerce offerings . link

General Motors to unveil the all-electric GMC Hummer EV on Oct 20; the company originally planned the event for May 20 but postponed due to pandemic-related complications; the company has published some teaser media and confirmed the off road-tailored Crab Mode: a feature enabling the vehicle to travel diagonally via four-wheel steering . link

The FCC authorizes Microsoft to conduct proof-of-concept demonstrations of a planned service that would enable clients to transfer satellite data to Azure cloud for immediate processing; Microsoft expects to construct a ground station in Quincy, WA, and to use another existing station to pull data from Spanish imaging satellite Deimos-2; if the demos generate enough commercial interest, Microsoft will file for regular earth station authority . link

Amazon and Microsoft are offering to sell startups' products and services to win cloud contracts, The Wall Street Journal reports; Amazon entered an expanded AWS cloud agreement with cloud spend management company Apptio in January, and is now selling Apptio's products to other cloud customers; Microsoft, as part of its Azure contract with email security company Abnormal, will sell Abnormal products to large enterprise clients . link

The download for 2020-09-14 →


TikTok says it now has 100M users across Europe; the app is available in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia; TikTok recently revealed it has 100M users in the US . link

UK-based healthtech firm Medefer raises £10M (~$12.8M) led by Nickleby Capital; the company offers virtual outpatient services on behalf of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS); has raised ~$13M to date . link

India-based fantasy sports firm Dream Sports raises $225M from Tiger Global Management, TPG, and others; the deal values the company at $2.5B post-money, according to TechCrunch sources; Dream Sports owns and operates Dream11, an app that lets users create fantasy cricket teams, win prizes, and more; has raised $325M to date . link

Fashion company Burberry is partnering with Twitch to debut its newest collection via the live streaming platform; represents the first luxury brand to use Twitch in such a way; Burberry’s Spring/Summer 2021 show will not have any in-person guests . link

Alibaba is considering a $3B investment in Grab, according to Bloomberg sources; Alibaba will be the round’s sole investor; it will likely acquire some of Uber’s shares in the Singapore-based company; Grab, which started as a ride-hailing business but now offers a range of logistics and financial services, was last valued at $14B . link

Amazon says it plans to employ 100k new workers across the US and Canada; the full and part-time roles will pay at least $15 per hour, and an additional $1k signing bonus in select cities; follows an the firm’s previous announcement that it is adding 33k corporate and tech positions . link

Promotional videos showing Oculus’ Quest 2 VR headset purportedly leaks; the device is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 and promises an “almost 4K display”; also features 6GB RAM and up to 256GB storage; Quest 2 expected to be officially unveiled this week . link

Walmart partners with Zipline for a drone logistics service that is set to go into testing next year; the companies will offer on-demand deliveries for select wellness products in and around Bentonville, AR; the firms say the service will offer deliveries in less than an hour over a radius of 50 miles . link

Facebook says it is removing posts that make false claims about the origin of wildfires along the West Coast; the company previously said it would allow such posts to remain online, opting to limit their reach instead; follows concerns from law enforcement agencies who say they are having to spend time dispelling misleading rumors . link

The New York Times profiles Vanessa Pappas, TikTok’s interim CEO; Pappas, who previously served as a YouTube exec, notes she has not been directly involved with acquisition talks; Pappas says she is thinking about what could happen to the company if its global operations are split up; she also says she’s unconcerned about competition from Instagram Reels . link

ByteDance has no plans to sell or transfer TikTok’s main algorithm, according to a source for South China Morning Post; TikTok has not ruled out the possibility of TikTok’s US-based engineers developing a separate algorithm . link

Nvidia agrees to acquire chip design firm Arm from SoftBank for $40B; Arm will continue to operate as a standalone subsidiary based in the UK; SoftBank purchased Arm in 2016 for $31B . link

Microsoft says its bid for TikTok has been rejected by parent firm ByteDance; the company says it's confident its proposal would have been good for the social media platform and its users . link

The download for 2020-09-13 →


NY-based Orchard, which operates a residential real estate platform, raises $69M Series C led by Revolution Growth; provides listings as well as the ability to place offers and close; supports contingency deals (buyer must sell before closing new purchase); launched in 2017 as Perch . link

Kubernetes-native security company StackRox raises $26.5M led by Menlo Ventures; develops solutions for apps, containers, more; offers tools for developers and security engineers providing risk visibility, threat detection, compliance, more; clients include Reddit, Priceline, and Zendesk; raised ~$60M to date . link

EverC, which provides AI-powered tools to detect and prevent money laundering in online transactions, raises $35M Series B led by Israel-based Red Dot Capital Partners; serves payment processors, banks, law enforcement, more; also provides a product to keep marketplaces free of illegal products; raised $48M to date . link

Fintech company Oyster Financial raises $14M seed led by SV Latam Capital and monashees; primarily provides bank accounts and debit cards for SMBs in Mexico; uses machine learning to assess risk, promising a speedy approval process; Co-Founder and CEO Vilash Poovala previously served in roles at PayPal and Visa, and co-founded PayClip . link

Google's reported Android TV dongle, which rumors indicated would launch under the Nest brand, might launch as Google Chromecast with Google TV for $50; the branding reportedly appeared in Target's internal systems; Home Depot reportedly listed the device At $50 under Google's internal codename, Sabrina . link

Apple to launch Apple Card in multiple international markets as soon as this year, according to a MacRumors source close to an Australian bank, Apple job listings, and references in the code for the company's 8th beta of iOS 14; the code mentions GDPR in the context of Apple Card, potentially indicating a pending EU launch . link

Amazon announces 38 new partners have signed on to the company's Voice Interoperability Initiative, which aims to allow consumers to choose from numerous voice assistants on smart speakers and other devices; new members include Facebook, Garmin, and Xiaomi; 77 have signed on in total; Google has not . link

Google to launch its Groups redesign (based on Material Design) as the default for all users beginning this week; features updated collaborative inboxes, labels instead of tags, more; the mobile version allows users to change membership settings and simplifies searching and browsing . link

Elon Musk says SpaceX will finish construction of its Starship SN8 prototype in ~one week; unlike the SN5 and SN6 prototypes, which the company has used for recent ~500-foot link

Some of Tesla's Supercharger V3 stations in Europe are allowing non-Tesla vehicles to charge for free, according to multiple reports; the CCS charging standard requires a handshake with the vehicle, which enables linking to Tesla owners' accounts; apparently, a software flaw is preventing the handshake . link

Nvidia nears deal to acquire Arm from SoftBank for $40B-plus in cash and stock, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; SoftBank acquired Arm for $32B four years ago; sources said the companies had been in exclusive talks for weeks and could finalize a deal within a few days . link

TechCrunch examines the pros and cons of acqui-hiring teams laid off due to the pandemic; former employees of restaurant POS company Toast make up most of the team at online mortgage startup Stavvy; Co-Founder Kosta Ligris noted the benefits of knowing the former employer's hiring practices, but pointed out the potential for culture clashes . link

Facebook launches poll worker recruitment drive in News Feed, urging users to register to work in their home states; Mark Zuckerberg said the initiative was part of a broader initiative to encourage people to register to vote; Facebook will provide its workers a paid day off to work at polls . link

Spain proposes a new tax affecting companies that provide calling and instant messaging services; a new draft law, published Friday, indicated the country would impose telecom-like levies on messaging services; the tax would only target companies generating at least €1M per year, and would not exceed €1 per €1k of revenue . link

Tesla is in talks with Canada's Giga Metals to help develop a mine for low carbon nickel production, according to Reuters sources; Giga's president declined to confirm talks with Tesla but said the project would cost less than $1B, not including the hydroelectric power required at the site . link

Smart home platform Wink is suffering a widespread, multi-day outage; problems began Thursday, and the company said on Friday it was working to resolve issues not associated with an attack; as of Saturday the company's status page indicated its homepage and email support services were active, but many other services were down; Wink began charging for previously free features last month . link

Launch services startup Astra suffered a first-stage burn failure during a Saturday test launch from its AK facility; the company experienced multiple launch delays, some weather-related; Astra did not expect to achieve orbit, as the mission's purpose was to test Rocket 3.1's first-stage burn; the vehicle's automated safety system shut the burn down early . link

Sony announces a PlayStation 5 event for Sept 16; the company plans a 40-minute digital showcase of first- and third-party titles; many expect the company to disclose PS5 pricing and a launch date; Sony opened pre-registration for pre-orders last month . link

EQT Partners to acquire Madrid-based property classifieds site Idealista from Apax Partners for ~$1.5B; Apax valued Idealista at ~$278M for a minority stake purchase in 2015; Idealista operates in Italy, Portugal, and Spain and employs 750; the company has completed three acquisitions this year . link

Numerous states likely to join the Justice Department's antitrust suit against Google, according to Bloomberg sources; mostly Republican-led, the states reportedly have not yet viewed the Justice Department's complaint, so it's uncertain how many will sign on; TX Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading numerous states in a parallel Google investigation, could sign on but continue with his separate initiative . link

The download for 2020-09-12 →


Elon Musk says Tesla will offer efficient home HVAC systems with HEPA filtration; he tweeted the comment in reply to a San Franciscan who said the air quality in his house was so bad (due to the wildfires) he would sit in his Tesla and use the vehicle's Bioweapon Defense Mode, which cleans the air with a HEPA filter . link

Microsoft says Apple's concession to allow game-streaming apps ensures a bad experience for consumers; Apple updated its App Store Guidelines to allow services like Microsoft's xCloud and Google's Stadia, but with the stipulation that each title have its own App Store listing; Microsoft said game-streaming customers should not have to download numerous apps; Microsoft previously noted Apple does not restrict music or film in that way . link

Language education startup Toucan raises $3M seed led by GSV Ventures; the company offers a Chrome browser extension that translates any English-language page into a target language; currently supports French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish; hovering the cursor over a word reveals the English equivalent . link

The IRS publishes a request for proposals from developers and companies that can create tech for tracking the movement of anonymity-focused cryptocurrencies like Monero, and Bitcoin Lightning-based transactions; the IRS ultimately aims to integrate third-party source code and algorithms into its existing tools; the agency expects to spend $1M on the initiative . link

Palmer Luckey's Anduril Industries announces the Ghost 4: a UAV designed for military applications supporting remote and autonomous flight; the two-meter ruggedized craft collapses for backpack transport; promises 100 minutes of flight and carries up to 35 pounds; features onboard AI for detecting and tracking missiles as well as people and equipment on the ground . link

China would prefer the US shut TikTok down rather than force its sale, according to Reuters sources; officials reportedly believe a forced sale would make China and TikTok parent ByteDance appear weak; some sources said the Chinese government would use new export restrictions to delay a sale; Bloomberg sources said ByteDance was unlikely to meet a US deadline of Sept 20 to sell TikTok . link

A group of academic researchers develop a method of decrypting HTTPS communications by targeting servers using the Diffie-Hellman key exchange for TLS; dubbed Racoon attack, the process requires timing cryptographic operations and establishing equations to reconstruct the original premaster secret; the researchers noted the complexity of the attack and said it could only occur under rare circumstances . link

Podcast insights startup Chartable raises $2.25M seed led by Initialized Capital; the company enables podcast publishers and advertisers to track listening across apps, measure the efficacy of podcast ads and broader digital marketing campaigns, more; Chartable says it's now tracking 1B podcast downloads in total; Founders Dave Zohrob and Harish Agarwal previously launched the Hacker Daily podcast . link

Lab-grown salmon startup Wildtype opens pre-orders for select chefs; the company hopes to ship sushi-grade salmon, equivalent to saku blocks, for use in maki, nigiri, and sashimi dishes; the startup uses custom scaffolding and nutrients to grow muscle and fat tissue similar to wild salmon; the founders say it could take five years to reach commercial production . link

TikTok resolves four security bugs in its Android app that could have allowed other malicious apps to steal session tokens and hijack TikTok accounts; such malicious apps could also benefit from TikTok's app permissions, gaining access to the camera, microphone, photos, and videos . link

Apple updates its App Store Guidelines, allowing game-streaming services like Google's Stadia and Microsoft's xCloud; Apple said last month such services violated App Store policy; under the new rules, companies can offer such services through the App Store, but must submit every available title for Apple's App Review; each title must have its own App Store listing . link

Audio streaming revenue generated $4.8B in the first half of the year, up 12 percent year-over-year, according to the Recording Industry Association of America; US premium subscriptions grew 24 percent to ~72M; ad-supported streaming generated $421M; vinyl album sales generated $232M, up four percent year-over-year; represents 62 percent of physical media revenue; vinyl outsold CDs for the first time since the 80s . link

Epic says players of its Apple platform games can continue to log in with Sign in with Apple; Epic previously announced Apple planned to disable the feature on Epic Games' developer account on Sept 11; Epic tweeted on Sept 10 that Apple had issued an indefinite extension, but that players should prepare other login options as a precautionary measure . link