The Daily Download - latest tech news for 2020-02-13, fan podcast based on @launchticker

The download for 2020-02-13 →


Tesla announces a $2B stock offering; the company says it wants to use the money for general corporate purposes and to make its balance street stronger; Tesla’s share price dropped ~7 percent in early trading . link

Spanish police evacuated Amazon’s Madrid HQ following a bomb threat; police have since confirmed it was a hoax and the building’s staff have since returned to work; it's unclear who is responsible for the incident . link

Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer Nathan Blecharczyk says the company almost gave up at the end of its first year in operation; speaking during an event at NYU, Blecharczyk notes it was Y Combinator’s early support that encouraged the founders to keep going; Blecharczyk says the team worked hard over the 13 week YC accelerator program to improve the firm’s growth . link

Sen Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduces a new bill that proposes the creation of a federal agency to oversee how businesses collect and manage consumer data; the president would nominate the director of the Data Protection Agency, and the Senate would confirm them . link

Grab’s personal mobility unit GrabWheels raises $30M Series A from EV firm Kymco; as part of the deal, the two companies will work on schemes to deploy Indonesia-based Kymco’s electric motorbikes and EV charging stations across Southeast Asia . link

Apple launches its Swift Playgrounds coding app on macOS; first launched for the iPad in 2016, Swift Playground is aimed at novices who want to get into coding . link

Intuition Robotics, maker of the ElliQ companion robot, raises $36M Series B led by SPARX Group and OurCrowd with participation from Toyota AI Ventures and others; the company has developed an assistance robot for aged adults; raised $58M to date . link

SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son confirms the company is scaling back plans for its second Vision Fund, noting investor concerns; in an earnings call, Son says the firm will likely reduce the size of the fund which had an initial target of $108B; he also says SoftBank will now focus on a bridge fund with a shorter maturation period; the current Vision Fund will run through 2029 . link

Data storage firm Seagate announces Lyve Labs, an innovation facility in Tel Aviv, Israel; Seagate says it wants to work with local tech firms on data challenges; the company has already partnered with earthquake detection firm SeismicAI and cybersecurity business Hub Security . link

ICANN is expected to give final approval for a .com domain registration price increase, according to reports; Verisign, which oversees the top-level domain, has asked for permission to raise trade prices from their current cap of $7.85 to a new limit of $13.50 over the next 10 years . link

An Australian court approves a ~$10B merger between carriers Vodafone Hutchison and TPG; the deal was initially blocked by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC), which claimed it would harm market competition; the merger, once completed, will leave three major cellular players . link

Google has organized its multiple health products into a single unit led by David Feinberg, according to CNBC sources; Google Health consists of more than 500 people working on a multitude of projects that were previously spread across the company; Feinberg reports to Jeff Dean, who serves as Google’s head of AI projects . link

Google completes its $2.6B takeover of data analytics firm Looker; the acquisition has received final approval from the UK’s competition watchdog; the US Department of Justice and the Austrian Federal Competition Authority have also signed off on the deal . link

Foxconn says recent Reuters reports about resumption schedules at its Chinese factories are “mostly not factual” and that the stories have caused confusion for workers, investors, and the broader public; it’s unclear what aspects of Reuters reporting are incorrect; the outlet has recently reported that Foxconn has received approval to reopen a plant in Shenzhen amid the coronavirus outbreak, and that it hopes to reach 50 percent of regular production output by the end of February . link

EV firm Karma Automotive cuts 60 jobs at its HQ in Irvine, CA; follows layoffs for 200 staff late last year; Karma says the restructuring is necessary as it establishes new partnerships with other OEMs . link

T-Mobile’s parent firm Deutsche Telekom (DT) wants to renegotiate the $26B merger with Sprint, according to sources for the Financial Times; DT is wants to lower the price of the deal because Sprint’s share price has dropped since the arrangement was first announced in April 2018; DT and SoftBank, which owns a majority of Sprint shares, are yet to enter such talks; the arrangement recently received judicial approval . link

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) blocks the launch of Facebook Dating in the EU because the company has not provided regulators with enough info about how it works; the DPC, which serves as the de facto data oversight body for Facebook in Europe, says the firm first notified it of the service on Feb 3, with a plan to roll it out today, Feb 13; the DPC notes companies are required to demonstrate how they protect user privacy before launching new products . link

Snap is working on a redesign of its Snapchat app, reports The Verge; the company is testing new placements for Snap Map and original shows; it’s also piloting breaking news segments within Stories; it’s also testing a navigation bar; it’s unknown if or when it will roll out any of the changes . link

Mark Zuckerberg wrote up ideas to create “dark profiles” for people who were not on Facebook, according to a book about the company’s history by Steven Levy; the idea was to let users create profiles on behalf of others; the book also claims Zuckerberg verbally accepted a $1B takeover offer from Yahoo, but then-CEO Terry Semel tried to renegotiate the deal . link

Facebook shuts down a several accounts linked to an Iran-based misinformation campaign targeting US users; the company says it closed six Facebook accounts and five Instagram profiles; Facebook says the accounts were trying to contact public officials and posting news stories focused on politics, religion, and more . link

Microsoft names Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk as head of its Israel Development Center; she replaces Assaf Rappaport who left the role in January; Braverman-Blumenstyk will also continue to hold her existing position as CTO of Microsoft Cloud and Artificial Intelligence Security . link

Cybersecurity startup Deep Instinct raises $43M Series C led by Millennium New Horizons with participation from Unbound and others; the company offers AI-powered threat detection tools to enterprise customers; has raised $100M to date . link

Smartphone firm Essential, founded by Andy Rubin, is shutting down; the company says it couldn’t find a way to bring its Project Gem smartphone to market; the firm launched with the $700 Essential Phone in 2017, later cut to $200 . link

Microsoft rolls out a Windows 10X emulator and a new SDK; lets developers see how Windows will work on new form factors such as dual-screen devices; apps will run in containers - Win32, MSIX and Native (UWP); Microsoft is set to launch dual-screen Surface Neo and Surface Duo later this year . link

SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son says the company may put plans for its second Vision Fund on hold; the firm is raising a $108B fund, but Son indicates SoftBank may focus on a smaller fund first; comes as the original $100B Vision Fund records a $2B loss . link

FSB, Russia’s security service, has ordered local ISPs to give it access to their networks, according to Russian-language website The Bell; the report claims telcos have to install equipment that provides the FSB with constant access to their systems; follows an edict by media regulator Roskomnadzor that demands user data from Telegram, VK, and other social platforms . link

Facebook enlists Reuters to serve as a fact-checker for English-language content; terms undisclosed, though Reuters says Facebook is paying for the service; the newly established Reuters Fact Check (RFC) team will review content forwarded by Facebook and Reuter’s own editorial team; includes user-generated videos and photos, media headlines, and more; RFC will then publish its findings to a standalone blog . link

Meditation app Headspace raises $93M equity and debt from Pacific Western Bank and others; the firm offers users a range of guided meditations; Headspace plans to expand into mental wellness tools for those living with chronic illness; has raised $168M to date . link

Radar, a New York CIty-based location data service, raises $20M Series B led by Accel with participation from Two Sigma Ventures and others; the company offers location-aware tools to enterprise customers; Radar claims to not sell or share the user data it collects; has raised $30.5M to date . link

Apple Pay accounts for 5 percent of global card transactions, according to data from research firm Bernstein; the company predicts Apple Pay will reach 10 percent by 2025; Quartz notes Apple Pay transactions and revenue more than doubled in the last reported quarter . link

The FTC says it will probe smaller acquisitions made by large tech firms over the last decade; includes takeovers by Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple; the FTC says it’s primarily focused on purchases that did not garner broad attention at the time; the agency says it wants to see how the firms performed after they were acquired . link

CoStar Group ($26.8B market cap) acquires GA-based property search platform RentPath (formerly Primedia) for $588M; comes as RentPath, which was owned by TPG Capital and Providence Equity Partners, applies for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection; RentPath notes it will consider alternative offers should they be made . link

Samsung makes the Galaxy Home Mini available to customers that pre-order a Galaxy S20 device in South Korea; it was not featured at yesterday’s press event, and the company has not announced broad availability for the smart speaker; Samsung previously announced the larger Galaxy Home in Aug 2018, but the product is yet to ship . link

New York City-based fintech firm Ramp raises $25M from BoxGroup, Coatue, and Conversion Capital; the company offers a credit card service for enterprise customers that includes expense accounting tools . link

Foxconn hopes to resume half its regular production output by the end of February, according to a Reuters source; the company has staggered the return of its Chinese factory workforce after the Lunar New Year because of the coronavirus outbreak; device shipments will likely be affected, but to what extent is unclear . link

Battery Ventures (BV) raises $2B for two new funds; the firm has closed its twelfth flagship fund at $1.2B and raised $800M for a companion fund; BV notes it’s targeting early-stage startups and growth companies . link

WhatsApp claims 2B users around the world, up from 1.5B two years ago; WhatsApp is Facebook’s second app to pass 2B active accounts (it’s main platform has 2.5B users) . link

GSMA is likely to cancel this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) following vendor concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, according to Bloomberg sources; GSMA is reportedly meeting today and an official announcement is expected later; MWC is currently scheduled for Feb 24 to Feb 27 .Update: GSMA cancels MWC 2020; the organization says the coronavirus outbreak has made it impossible to hold the event; GSMA says it will continue to work with organizers for MWC 2021 . link

The download for 2020-02-19 →


Groupon says it will stop selling merchandise by the end of this year; the company cites “a fiercely competitive” landscape that is not always economically viable; Groupon says it will move away from its focus on deals, and instead look to help customers discover local experiences such as wine tastings at restaurants or painting classes at nearby stores; the firm has also made interim CFO Melissa Thomas permanent to the position . link

Mozilla launches a $5 per month VPN service for Android devices (currently in beta); Firefox Private Network (FPN) makes use of the WireGuard standard which promises better encryption and faster speeds; FPN also has servers in more than 30 countries; prospective users have to join a waitlist . link

Udemy, an online learning marketplace, raises $50M on a $2B post-money valuation from Benesse Holdings; Udemy offers more than 150k courses from 57k instructors; has raised ~$130M to date . link

Samsung says the display on the Galaxy Fold Z comprises flexible glass with a plastic overlay; Samsung notes its Ultra Thin Glass was developed in collaboration with Dowoo Insys, of which it is a major shareholder; follows a durability test by YouTuber Zack Nelson (JerryRigEverything), which questioned the Samsung’s claims about the screen being glass . link

Cybersecurity firm Huntress raises $18M Series A led by ForgePoint Capital; Huntress offers threat monitoring and analysis tools; has raised $19.8M to date . link

Meal kit firm Blue Apron says it’s considering a sale or a merger; it is also looking at the possibility of selling off certain assets, as well as raising money via public or private markets; Blue Apron’s net revenue for Q4 2019 fell to $94.3M, down 33 percent year-on-year . link

Lyft-owned Motivate relaunches its electric bikes in New York City; the company pulled the bikes in several markets last year due to braking issues; the Citibike-branded e-bikes cost 15 cents per minute, or 10 cents per minute for annual subscribers . link

Alphabet says it will no longer try to monetize its wind energy unit Makani; a former X project, Makani operates proprietary kites that can generate energy which is then sent back down via a tether line; Alphabet spun out Makani as a standalone unit last year, but now says the path to profitability is riskier than first thought; Alphabet says it hopes Makani will continue to work with Shell on various projects . link

Grab signs a memorandum of understanding with Germany-based VTOL company Volocopter with a view to developing an air-taxi service; the agreement covers an exploratory period as the two firms investigate the feasibility of an air-taxi service in Southeast Asia; Volocopter has previously committed to launching a commercial operation in 2022 . link

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts Apple’s rumored tracking tags will launch in Q3; expected to be known as AirTags, the discs will feature the U1 locator chip, which is already present in iPhone 11 devices . link

LendingClub acquires fellow fintech firm Radius Bancorp for $185M; Radius Bancorp offers digital banking services including checking accounts, loans, and more; the deal is subject to regulatory approval, but LendingClub expects it will close in 12 to 15 months . link

SoftBank says it will borrow as much as $4.5B over two years, using shares in its telco business as collateral; the loan comes from 16 financial institutions; SoftBank says the money will go toward operational purposes . link

Grab raises more than $700M from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFJ); as part of the deal, MUFJ will market a range of financial products such as insurance and loans to Grab customers; Grab started as a ride-hailing firm, but has since expanded to digital payments, food delivery, and more . link

Porsche confirms an all-electric Taycan caught fire in FL at the weekend; nobody was injured, and Porsche says the cause of the fire is unknown; the Taycan launched at the end of 2019 . link

India-based edtech startup Unacademy has raised ~$100M Series E led by General Atlantic, according to TechCrunch sources; Facebook has also participated in the funding; Unacademy offers online exam preparation tools; has previously raised $88.5M . link

SpaceX announces a plan to carry up to four private citizens into space by the end of 2021 or early 2022; the firm is partnering with Space Adventures, which has previously arranged similar flights via Russian rockets; cost and other details of the SpaceX trip are undisclosed, but the passengers will experience a journey around the Earth before returning home . link

Uber has shuttered its customer support office in downtown Los Angeles and cut ~80 jobs, according to sources for The Los Angeles Times; staff have been told their roles are being transferred to Manila in the Philippines; mostly affects staff who worked with Uber drivers, resolving account issues, explaining promotions, and more . link

Twitter ($29.5B market cap) acqui-hires Chroma Labs, a provider of story-creation tools to enterprise customers; terms undisclosed; the company’s offerings have been shut down and its team will join Twitter’s product, design, and engineering teams . link

Facebook is testing a tabbed News Feed for mobile, allowing users to adjust how posts are ordered, reports TechCrunch; app researcher Jane Manchun Wong uncovered code showing the News Feed being sorted by Most Relevant, Most Recent, and Already Seen; it’s unknown if or when it will launch . link

Ring updates security policy, now requires all customers to use email- or SMS-based two-factor authentication; the company has paused the use of most third-party analytics and plans to implement more data-control options for users; Ring has added an option to opt-out of data collection for targeted advertising . link

A single employee is operating Moviefone following the bankruptcy of parent Helios and Matheson Analytics; the company struggled with losses accrued by now-defunct theater film subscription service MoviePass; the bankruptcy filing indicated Moviefone was worth ~$4.38M, 1.1 percent of the $388M AOL paid (in stock) for the business in 1999 . link

Puerto Rican ISP AeroNet announces six-month pilot program in which Facebook's Terragraph WiFi tech is providing high-speed internet access in Old San Juan; the system uses short-distance cell towers and millimeter-wave wireless to beam data through buildings in areas where new infrastructure is not desirable . link

Federal judge rejects Huawei's constitutional challenge to a law that limits the company's ability to do business with US federal agencies and associated contractors; the TX judge ruled that Congress did not exceed its powers when including the restriction (which also affected ZTE) in the National Defense Authorization Act . link

Fulton, WI gives Microsoft's ElectionGuard voting software its first real-world test; a voter makes selections via touchscreen and prints out two paper copies: one that goes in the ballot box for counting by election workers, and another with a QR code that enables the voter to verify accurate submission; the system aims to make hacks and tampering readily apparent . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Basecamp Co-Founder David Heinemeier Hansson about big-tech disappointments, the remote work paradigm shift, more; they also debate reigning in capitalism, the wealth tax, the benefits of state-run education and health care, more . link

Patreon, which enables online creators to collect recurring subscription fees from supporters and provide them with exclusive content, launches Patreon Capital; creators borrow against and repay from future earnings; the company has issued a dozen cash advances through the program so far . link

The Chinese government is working with Alibaba, Ant Financial, and Tencent to develop a system to categorize citizens based on coronavirus exposure risk and to track and control their movement; Ant Financial said the system could launch as soon as this week . link

MIT Technology Review profiles OpenAI, a nonprofit that seeks to ensure artificial intelligence is beneficial to humanity; the Review reports that competitiveness and the need for funding has caused OpenAI to waver from its founding principles of transparency and openness; a spokesperson said safety and security concerns would result in decreased traditional publishing, but an increase in sharing safety, policy, and standards research . link

Elon Musk says all organizations developing AI, including Tesla, should be regulated; Musk sent the tweet in response to an MIT Technology Review profile of nonprofit AI research organization OpenAI, which Musk co-founded with Sam Altman and others . link

US prosecutors overlooked HSBC sanctions violations in exchange for cooperation in investigating Huawei, according to Huawei lawyers; the lawyers also alleged HSBC worked with the US to depict Huawei as orchestrating HSBC's violations of sanctions against Iran . link

Qualcomm unveils the Snapdragon X60 discrete 5G Modem, built on a 5nm process; the premium model targets smartphones and industrial applications, supporting up to 7.5Gbps downstream and 3Gbps upstream; rollout schedule unknown . link

SpaceX partners with space tourism company Space Adventures to send up to four people into Earth orbit for pleasure in late 2021 or early 2022 in SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft; pricing and other details of the trip are undisclosed . link

Apple is on track to launch a ~$400 iPhone in March despite production delays due to coronavirus, according to Bloomberg sources, who say new iPad Pro models could be delayed; Bloomberg examines the company's reliance on China after Apple announced it would miss revenue guidance due to store closures and weakened demand resulting from the coronavirus outbreak . link

Kickstarter employees vote to unionize under the Office and Professional Employees International Union, which currently represents 100k-plus workers; Vice reports Kickstarter employees are the first white-collar workers at a major tech company to unionize, though the move comes during a period of labor organization efforts at Google, Microsoft, more . link

PE consortium led by Symphony Technology Group acquires RSA Security from Dell for $2.075B in cash; the consortium includes Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board and AlpInvest Partners; the deal includes several products (RSA SecurID, RSA Archer, etc) as well as the RSA Conference . link

The download for 2020-02-18 →


Cyber-criminals are using an imitation Epic Games launcher to deploy the LokiBot trojan, which creates a backdoor in Windows systems and runs a keylogger to steal banking credentials, digital wallet information, more; the perpetrators have used spam phishing campaigns to distribute the malware . link

Japan's cabinet approves a bill to support companies developing secure 5G and drone technology; if approved by parliament, the bill would give companies meeting governmental security standards access to zero-interest loans from government-affiliated financial institutions . link

Singapore directs Facebook to block local access to a user page that refuses to comply with the country's Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA); authorities ordered the page administrator to post a notice that the page regularly published falsehoods, but he has failed to do so; Singapore previously ordered Facebook to publish a correction on the page, and the company complied . link

PE firm STG Partners nears deal to acquire Dell's RSA Security business for $2B-plus, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; RSA claims 30k clients, offering identity verification and other cybersecurity services; RSA also operates security conferences . link

Tesla's link

Microsoft launches its unified Office app in general availability for Android; includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint; also supports OneDrive browsing; currently does not support tablets or Chromebooks . link

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip's display is prone to scratches, according to a durability test by JerryRigEverything; the device's screen features link

University of Chicago professors develop the link

The Wall Street Journal examines evidence that Uber and Lyft have contributed to traffic congestion, drawn people away from busses and trains, and failed to jumpstart a carpooling trend; numerous cities have implemented or are considering fees from rideshare companies to address congestion; both Uber and Lyft have launched bike- and scooter-share programs in major cities . link

Extortionists are targeting web owners, threatening to flood sites with botnet ad clicks to trigger Google AdSense fraud detection, KrebsOnSecurity reports; the attackers contact web owners via email and demand bitcoin, threatening to have ad-supported sites effectively demonetized . link

British nanotechnology company Nanoco files patent infringement suit against Samsung and affiliates over their use of quantum dots in displays; Nanoco previously worked with Samsung to develop the tech; Nanoco said Samsung ended the partnership and launched QD-based TVs without licensing or other agreements in place . link

EU regulators could reinforce Facebook's power if they follow the company's suggestions on new regulations, TechCrunch reports; Mark Zuckerberg is lobbying regulators in Brussels as the EU considers new rules for AI, platforms' responsibility for user-generated content, more; Josh Constine argues Facebook-approved rules could hamstring companies with fewer resources . link

EU industry commissioner Thierry Breton says it is up to Facebook to adapt to the standards of the EU, and not vice-versa; Breton made the statement after a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg; Breton also dismissed a Facebook discussion paper calling for loose regulations regarding platforms' responsibility for user-generated content . link

Web-services company Micfo and Founder Amir Golestan plead not guilty in a federal fraud case The Wall Street Journal says could determine future limitations on the use of internet infrastructure; the Department of Justice accused the defendants of defrauding the American Registry for Internet Numbers to obtain ~800k IP addresses for leasing to VPNs and other clients whose end users likely masked their identities to perpetrate crimes . link

The Trump administration is considering regulatory changes that would enable the US to prevent global suppliers, including Taiwan’s TSMC, from shipping chips to Huawei, according to Reuters sources; the draft proposal is among several slated for discussions at meetings this week and next . link

TCL had planned to reveal a phone with a flexible slide-out screen at Mobile World Congress, according to a CNET source (the GSMA canceled the event due to coronavirus); a panel on the back of the phone slides horizontally, revealing the full screen, half of which is concealed in the closed state; CNET also published leaked images . link

Apple announces it does not expect to meet the quarterly guidance it issued on Jan 28 for the quarter ending March 28; the company cited the coronavirus outbreak, including its impact on iPhone demand in China and the closure of Apple stores in the region . link

Global investor funds are replacing government support for solar initiatives as panels become more affordable and solar becomes a viable competitor to other energy sources in some regions, The Wall Street Journal reports; the International Energy Agency estimates solar will represent nine percent of the world’s electric-power capacity by year's end, compared to one percent a decade ago . link

Smart speaker sales grew 70 percent year-over-year to ~147M in 2019, according to Strategy Analytics; Alexa-powered speakers represented 26.2 percent of the market; Assistant speakers represented 20.3 percent; both categories saw a decrease in market share while Baidu, Alibaba, and Xiaomi increased their market shares . link

Sports-focused digital entertainment network Overtime acquires e-sports organization Evade; terms undisclosed; Overtime has merged its link

Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, who wrote a viral blog post about sexual misconduct and discrimination at the company, says she was targeted by hackers, stalkers, private investigators, and others apparently seeking to discredit and frighten her; Fowler recounts the ordeal in her book link

Jeff Bezos commits $10B to addressing climate change via the Bezos Earth Fund, which will begin issuing grants this summer; will fund NGOs, scientists, activists, others; details undisclosed . link

Austin-based code review tools company PullRequest acquires San Francisco-based Moonlight, a hiring platform for remote developers and designers; terms undisclosed; PullRequest Founder and CEO Lyal Avery said the deal would enable his company to move into the next phase of code review to fix coding problems for clients; PullRequest has raised $12.7M to date . link

SpaceX successfully launches its fifth batch of Starlink satellites into orbit, loses Falcon 9 booster at sea; it was the booster's fourth flight; the rocket was last used on Dec 16, 63 days ago; SpaceX's previous booster turnaround record was 72 days . link

The UK's weather service, Met Office, to acquire the world's most powerful climate supercomputer for $1.6B; the system will use a virtual duplicate of the atmosphere to predict conditions for areas as small as .62 miles across, and for airports, areas as small as 1k feet across; the Met will also work with universities, making the computer available for drug design, AI research, more . link

Sundar Pichai, Mark Zuckerberg, and Apple SVP of AI John Giannandrea go to Brussels to meet with officials as EU lawmakers debate new policies that will affect how companies deploy AI, more; governments outside the EU are likely to follow the EU's lead; officials expect to release a draft policy on Wednesday, along with other digital policy recommendations .Update: Facebook expresses concerns that new regulations will hold internet companies responsible for hate speech and other content on their platforms, says such rules would stifle innovation and freedom of expression . link

Sundar Pichai, Mark Zuckerberg, and Apple SVP of AI John Giannandrea go to Brussels to meet with officials as EU lawmakers debate new policies that will affect how companies deploy AI, more; governments outside the EU are likely to follow the EU's lead; officials expect to release a draft policy on Wednesday, along with other digital policy recommendations .Update: Facebook expresses concerns that new regulations will hold internet companies responsible for hate speech and other content on their platforms, says such rules would stifle innovation and freedom of expression . link

The Trump administration is considering new trade restrictions that would limit China's ability to use American equipment in semiconductor manufacturing, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the Department of Commerce reportedly is drafting changes to rules that prohibit foreign companies from using US tech for military and national-security products . link

US government reveals North Korean hacking operation and exposes associated malware; the US Cyber Command tweeted a link to files hosted on Alphabet's VirusTotal repository, noting the software had been used for phishing, remote access, stealing funds, and other illegal activity; the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency referred to the state-backed hacking group as Hidden Cobra, but it's also known as Lazarus and Zinc . link

The download for 2020-02-17 →


UK-based Challenger bank Monzo says it plans to hire 500 people and predicts it will have 5.5M users by the end of the year; Monzo currently has 3.8M users; the firm also plans to launch premium services this year . link

Gmail Summarization (Chrome) promises to highlight and extract key info from messages in Gmail; the AI-powered tool places a short summary of important info at the top of the email; the app-maker claims it does not store or share data with others . link

Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany, says President Trump contacted him with a directive to make clear that any nation using tech from an “untrustworthy 5G vendor” will face intelligence-sharing issues; follows reports Trump is frustrated at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for allowing Huawei to participated in the UK’s 5G network . link

Samsung’s successor to the Galaxy Fold will feature an under-display selfie camera, according to South Korean outlet Aju News; Ross Young of Display Supply Chain Consultants also suggests the device will feature Ultra Thin Glass; the foldable will reportedly have a 7.7-inch display, which compares with the 7.3-inch screen of the Galaxy Fold; it’s expected in Q3 this year . link

Nintendo is likely to suffer supply issues to the US and Europe in the coming months due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, according to Bloomberg sources; the company’s assembly partners in Vietnam are struggling to get enough components from China; Nintendo has recently warned shipments from China to Japan are constrained; Nintendo says it does not foresee any issues, but says it will take actions as necessary . link

Google shutters the free Wi-Fi service it has operated at more than 400 transportation hubs in various global locations; Google Station first launched at train stations in India in 2015 before expanding to Indonesia, Mexico, and Nigeria; the company says data have gotten cheaper over time, negating the need for the service; Google also it has become difficult to sustainably grow the project . link

Indonesia-based ride-hailing firm Gojek acquires a 4.3 percent stake in local taxi firm PT Blue Bird (PTBB) for $30M, according to Bloomberg sources; the Gojek already lets PTBB customers book rides through its app . link

Self-proclaimed bitcoin creator Craig Wright says he is the rightful owner of the cryptocurrency’s registry; in a blog post, Wright says bitcoin derivatives have no right to the underlying database, and suggest he could file lawsuits; Wright names Bitcoin Core and Bitcoin ABC as alleged violators, and says he will take “charge and control” of the system . link

TikTok is recommending videos relating to eating disorders after users watch just a single video on the issue, reports BuzzFeed News; anecdotal evidence suggests the For You section of the app is suggesting videos that contain potentially harmful advice . link

A German court orders Tesla to pause work on its Gigafactory project near Berlin; follows action by environmentalists who have raised concerns about the volume of trees that are being cut down; the project requires 92 hectares of forest to be cleared, though Tesla is yet to get full permission for the site . link

Twitter says official accounts for the Olympics and the International Olympic Committee media team were hacked over the weekend; it’s unclear how the accounts were breached, but Twitter says it occurred via a third-party service; Twitter notes Spanish soccer club FC Barcelona was also hacked . link

NBC News speaks with 40 police departments across eight states that have partnered with video doorbell firm Ring, allowing them access to user’s video content; 13 of the respondents say they haven’t made a single arrest based on the footage, while 13 others say they have; none of the police departments could provide data linking Ring doorbells to a drop in property crime . link

NY officially drops legal action against the T-Mobile-Sprint merger; a judge approves the deal last week; NY Attorney General Letitia James confirms her office will not appeal the decision; CA Attorney General Xavier Becerra says his office is considering its options . link

Nikkei Asian Review profiles how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting VC deals in relation to China-based businesses; an unidentified VC firm says it’s paused all deals in the country, and in some activity in other Asian markets; Andreessen Horowitz partner David Ulevitch recently noted on Twitter that he’s not canceling pitches, but says he will only hold video calls with anyone who has visited China recently; the report notes investments dropped in China during the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003, but activity soon recovered . link

YouTuber Zack Nelson (JerryRigEverything) tests the durability of the Samsung Galaxy Flip Z screen, raising doubts of whether it’s truly glass; Nelson notes the display can be dented with a thumbnail and shows damage at about the same scale as other plastic screens; Samsung has branded the display Ultra Thin Glass, but it’s unclear how the flexible display is produced . link

India-based hospitality firm Oyo reports losses of $335M for 2019, equal to 35 percent of revenue; the company’s revenue grew from $211M in 2018 to $951M last year; Oyo says it’s on a path to profitability, but it’s not yet set a timeline; backer SoftBank has recently said it’s helping Oyo with governance . link

The download for 2020-02-16 →


Launch services company Rocket Lab wins NASA contract to deliver a CubeSat into orbit as part of the administration's CAPSTONE experiment; the satellite will orbit in the cislunar region between the earth and moon, where NASA plans to deploy its Gateway space station; Rocket Lab's Photon will deliver the CubeSat next year . link

Pakistan passes new rules for regulating social media; the country will require platforms to prevent the live-streaming of content that promotes terrorism, spreads hate, defames, more; social media companies must have representative offices in the country to operate there; Pakistan's National Coordinator can demand content be removed, and companies have 24 hours to comply . link

Google says the Play Store saw a 90-percent drop in apps accessing call logs and SMS data last year; the company has been working to reduce app abuse permissions and established a new policy against unnecessary access in Oct 2018; the company also said new vetting mechanisms blocked ~800k apps from publication . link

Jeff Bezos to buy Warner Estate in Beverly Hills from David Geffen for $165M, setting a new CA record for home price, according to sources for The New York Times; Bezos Expeditions, the organization overseeing The Washington Post and Bezos' charitable foundation, reportedly is purchasing an additional 120 undeveloped acres in Beverly Hills for $90M . link

Twitter says hackers breached accounts belonging to the Olympics and the International Olympic Committee via an undisclosed third-party platform; the company has temporarily locked both accounts; soccer club FC Barcelona experienced a similar breach; details of the breaches are undisclosed . link

Palantir to update employee compensation, favoring restricted stock over cash bonuses, according to Bloomberg sources; the company reportedly aims to cut costs in preparation for an IPO; an internal email regarding the change did not disclose a timeline for a listing; one Bloomberg source said the company was considering a direct listing . link

Target-owned delivery services company Shipt has censored and retaliated against workers for speaking out against company practices and policies, Vice reports; Shipt reportedly selects moderators to remove and disable comments in Facebook groups when those comments might cast the company in a negative light; other workers say Shipt deactivated their work accounts in retaliation . link

Ring to implement new privacy options for customers after a study indicated the company was sharing user data with Facebook, Google, and others without users' consent; new settings will enable users to opt out of sharing some, but not all, data; details undisclosed . link

Hunter Walk criticizes tech leaders and tech media for falling into non-beneficial behavior patterns; Walk says tech industry workers should not dismiss or insult news media and portray themselves as underdogs; he also urges techies using content marketing to respond to follow up questions; Walk accuses media workers of Red Teaming into bias, blaming others for headlines and content, and over-granting anonymity . link

The Department of Defense drops its opposition to Trump administration efforts to limit the abilities of US companies with overseas operations to do business with Huawei, The Wall Street Journal reports; the Pentagon previously argued such limitations would damage American companies' revenue streams and negatively impact R&D . link

Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook should stand somewhere between a newspaper and a telecommunications company in terms of regulation; he noted that the responsibility news media companies carry for content is a result of having editors involved in the selection and development of stories, and that telecommunications companies are not responsible for transmitted content . link

Google cuts an undisclosed number of jobs from its cloud computing division; the unit saw more hires in the fourth quarter than any other company unit; Google said the reorganization would improve operations, and that the company was working to transfer affected employees to other positions . link

Facebook opens its branded content tool to US-based political candidates; enables campaigns and groups to work with influencers on sponsored post campaigns; requires Facebook's ID verification and political advertising authorization, but the company will not catalog content in its advertising library . link

Ring doorbell security cameras have not contributed to a reduction in crime rates nor proven effective in the identification and arrest of suspects, according to numerous police departments that partnered with Ring, CNBC reports; in one commercial, a police chief cited the value of Ring in investigations, but a department spokesperson said Ring hadn't facilitated any arrests . link

Google removes secure communications app ToTok from the Play Store for the second time; Google and Apple removed the app from their respective stores in Dec, shorty before The New York Times reported the app was a surveillance tool for the United Arab Emirates, citing American officials familiar with a classified intelligence assessment . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Laura Huang, author of link

DVD and video game kiosk company Redbox launches ad-supported video streaming service; the link

Facebook cancels annual Global Marketing Conference due to coronavirus concerns; the company had planned to run the event March 9 to 12 at Moscone Center in San Francisco and expected ~4k attendees; the GSMA recently canceled Mobile World Congress after numerous companies withdrew over coronavirus concerns . link

HQ, parent of the live-stream game show HQ Trivia, shuts down; the company launched its flagship title in 2017, enabling mobile players to win cash prizes twice daily; in an email obtained by CNN Business, Co-Founder and CEO Rus Yusupov said the company was unable to raise a new round and an outright sale fell through . link

AngelJason speaks with Coatue Management Chairman Dan Rose about leading a $700M early-stage fund, insights on working with Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg through pivotal periods, standout founder traits, more . link

The download for 2020-02-15 →


Russia-based internet company Yandex says its autonomous vehicles have driven 2M miles to date, which is up from 1M last October; Yandex first announced its driverless program in 2017, and says it has spent $35M on R&D since; the firm has not disclosed other key indicators such as how often a safety driver has to take over . link

GSMA says it’s asking Mobile World Congress (MWC) vendors and attendees to absorb their own costs after canceling this year’s event in Barcelona; GSMA director general Mats Granryd says the group is an NGO, and that it doesn’t make a profit; the organization canceled MWC after multiple companies pulled out citing concerns over coronavirus; GSMA says it’s monitoring the situation ahead of MWC Shanghai in June . link

Boston-based fintech firm Toast raises $400M on a $4.9B valuation led by Bessemer Venture Partners and TPG with participation from Tiger Global Management and others; the company provides payment terminals to restaurants; Toast was last valued at $2.7B when it raised $250M last year; has raised ~$900M to date . link

The Indonesian government proposes new rules to make it easier for startups to hire overseas talent; President Joko Widodo has put forward legislation that would simplify the hiring of foreign nationals; Nikkei Asian Review notes local unicorns such as Tokopedia and Gojek attract most Indonesian-born engineers, thereby pushing up software engineer salaries . link

Starting Feb 15, UK regulator Ofcom will compel suppliers of broadband, phone, and TV services to provide customers greater transparency about their contracts; firms must send alerts notifying customers about expiring contracts, price increases, and alternative plans that could offer savings; Ofcom has previously found, on average, customers can save up to £150 (~$200) annually by renegotiating contracts . link

Mark Zuckerberg is expected to publicly acknowledge Facebook will have to pay more taxes overseas, reports Reuters; Zuckerberg is set to speak at the Munich Security Conference this weekend, where it’s anticipated he will welcome a plan by the OECD to rework international tax rules . link

Switzerland-based chocolatier Barry Callebaut says it has started 3D printing chocolate at scale; the company says it's able to create unique chocolate shapes at its Mona Lisa studio, which it claims is the world’s first facility for producing 3D-printed confections . link

Microsoft will announce a new Surface Book 3 and Surface Book 2 this spring, according to sources for Petri; the devices are expected to maintain familiar designs but feature updated internal components; Surface Book 3 will feature tenth gen Intel processors and 16** series Nvidia GTX GPUs; Surface Go 2 will add a Core M option . link

Security researchers uncover a public database owned by France-based imaging firm NextMotion containing ~900k records for plastic surgery patients; the server included sensitive before-and-after shots of patients, many of which were nude images; the database also exposed invoice details with identifying info; NextMotion says it has now secured the database . link

Image printing PhotoSquared exposed users photos, addresses, and more, reports TechCrunch; security researchers uncovered a public AWS storage bucket containing at least 10k shipping labels; it’s unknown how long the data was exposed or whether it was taken by any third-parties; PhotoSquared is yet to publicly acknowledge the situation . link

Facebook says paid partnerships between Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign and popular Instagram accounts will not be automatically subject to its usual political ad rules; Facebook says partners must disclose the sponsorship, but notes they will not be added to the company’s Ad Library unless creators pay to boost the reach of posts . link

Google is in talks to pay publishers a licensing fee for news content, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; full details unknown, but most of the publishers are based outside the US and the content will be used in an unidentified product; Google says it wants to support a sustainable news industry . link

Uber has paid Google $9.7M on behalf of Lior Ron who was found to have improperly recruited staff away from the firm, reports Forbes; Ron co-founded self-driving firm Otto after leaving Google’s own autonomous unit (now Waymo); Otto was later sold to Uber; Waymo subsequently filed a lawsuit against Uber, accusing Ron and Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski of multiple infractions; the judicial case was settled, but Waymo later took Ron and Levandowski to arbitration in CA, which they won . link

The download for 2020-02-14 →


White House official Robert Blair says the US wants to work with the telecoms industry to counter Huawei’s tech; speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, Blair notes a partnership would be different to taxpayer money to purchase an enterprise stake; follows a call from US Attorney General William Barr for American companies to invest in such firms . link

The FTC will likely re-examine Google’s $1.1B acquisition of mapping app Waze, suggest several antitrust experts; the agency approved the deal in 2013, but it’s expected to look into the deal once more because Google also owns Google Maps; the FTC has said it will revisit multiple big tech acquisitions over the last decade . link

CA’s Supreme Court says Apple violated store workers’ rights by making them wait for mandatory bag searches after they’d officially finished their shifts; Apple Store staff said they’d regularly be held back by as much as 20 minutes without compensation; Apple had argued workers could have chosen not to bring their bags and iPhones to work, thereby negating the need for checks; Apple has been ordered to retroactively pay workers for the time dating back to summer 2009; some estimate it will cost the company as much as $60M . link

MIT researchers say they have uncovered a number of exploits in Voatz, an app used by overseas voters registered in WV to submit ballots; the team says it has found bugs that can be used to “alter, stop, or expose how an individual user has voted”; the researchers also say Voatz has privacy problems due to reliance on certain third-party services; Voatz says it’s aware of the issues, but claims the MIT team used an older version of the app . link

Jailed Samsung board chairman Lee Sang-hoon steps down; Lee was sentenced to 18 months in prison last December for his role in illicit union-busting activities; Samsung is yet to name a replacement . link

Vox profiles backlash to popular Instagram accounts sharing sponsored content from Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign; followers of tank.sinatra, grapejuiceboys, and others are criticizing the accounts for sharing the paid-for memes . link

Roku CEO Anthony Wood says the company anticipates by 2024 half of all US households with a TV will have dropped cable entirely, or never have signed up for it; Roku notes its users streamed 40.3B hours of content in 2019 . link

Instagram is testing a feature for displaying a user’s latest posts, according to app researcher Jane Manchun Wong; Wong notes the feature is similar to chronological ordering, though not exactly the same; Instagram used to time-order posts but switched to algorithmic sorting in 2016; unknown if or when it will roll out . link

Jordan-based games publisher Tamatem raises $3.5M led by Wamda Capital with participation from Modern Electronics Company and North Base Media; the company publishes Arabic-language mobile games; has raised more than $6M to date . link

Soylent CEO Bryan Crowley steps down; reasons for the move unknown; the company has named Demir Vangelov as Crowley’s replacement; Vangelov previously served as Soylent’s CFO . link

Sony is struggling to keep the price of the PlayStation 5 below $450, according to Bloomberg sources; parts are currently around ~$450 for each console, which compares with ~$380 for PlayStation 4; Sony has struggled to secure a reliable source of DRAM and NAND flash memory; the report claims Sony will also launch a new PlayStation VR, expected after the Holiday 2020 launch of the PS5 . link

India-based social commerce startup Simsim raises $16M (seed, Series A, and Series B); the funding comes from Accel Partners, Shunwei Capital, and Good Capital; Simsim operates a video-centric app featuring influencers talking about products that viewers can then purchase via onscreen links . link

Facebook launches Hobbi (iOS), a photo and video sharing app for documenting personal hobbies; lets users create highlight videos to showcase completed projects; Hobbi is built by Facebook’s NPE unit which focuses on experimental apps . link

Boston-based fintech firm Flywire raises $120M Series E on a valuation of more than $1B led by Goldman Sachs; Flywire also says it has acquired healthcare payments business Simplee; terms undisclosed; Flywire focuses on digitizing payments across various markets; has raised more than $260M to date . link

YouTube TV is ending support for subscriptions managed via Apple’s App Store; from March 13 customers will have to handle their monthly payments via Google’s own payments system; YouTube TV has not said why it’s making the change, but Apple charges a percentage fee for such payments . link

The Verge profiles the work culture at AI startup Clinc, including claims of sexual harassment by former CEO Jason Mars; Mars, who is also a professor at the University of Michigan (UM), allegedly harassed and intimidated female employees, clients, and others; UM says Mars is still employed by the school . link

The Department of Justice indicts 36-year-old Larry Harmon from Akron, OH, on bitcoin-related money laundering charges; Harmon is accused of operating Helix - a so-called bitcoin mixer - between 2014 and 2017; Helix, available via the dark web only, helped users disguise the origins of money by splitting sums up into thousands of transactions, only to later recompile it at the original amount; Helix allegedly handled ~$300M worth of bitcoin . link

US federal prosecutors announce 16 new charges against Huawei and its execs including detained CFO Meng Wanzhou; the company is accused of racketeering, including taking trade secrets from US partners; the Department of Justice claims Huawei paid workers bonuses for stealing IP; the DoJ also says the firm broke international sanctions against North Korea and Iran; Huawei says the indictments are false and unfair; Meng is currently fighting extradition from Canada . link

A federal judge orders a temporary block on the $10B JEDI contract the Department of Defense awarded to Microsoft; the action is in response to a legal motion filed by Amazon which is suing the Pentagon over its decision-making process; Amazon claims it missed out on the contract because President Trump has a bias against it . link

Foxconn’s Chinese factories will take a couple of months to return to normal production capacity in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a source for Nikkei Asian Review; the delay is partially due to the company working to ensure its factories are as virus-proof as possible; the source also notes many of Foxconn’s workers do not live near its factories and have been impeded by travel restrictions . link

Facebook releases an internal dataset to select academic researchers; the scheme is aimed at letting scholars study the impact of social media on society and elections; Facebook first announced the program in 2018, but says it was delayed because it had to ensure user privacy wouldn't be compromised . link

Alibaba says it will likely report a drop in e-commerce trade for the current quarter because of the coronavirus outbreak; speaking on an earnings call, CEO Daniel Zhang said an extended break after China’s Lunar New Year has caused disruptions for merchants and order fulfillments; Investing.com analyst Jesse Cohen predicts the impact from the virus will affect Alibaba for the next couple of quarters . link

Cyfirma, a Singapore-based cybersecurity firm, raises an undisclosed amount from Z3Partners; the company notes it has raised $8M in the last five months; it raised $5M from Goldman Sachs and Zodius Capital last October; Cyfirma offers threat visibility and analysis tools . link

Internet satellite firm Astranis (YC W18) raises $90M Series B (debt and equity) led by Venrock with participation from Andreessen Horowitz; the company plans to launch low Earth orbit satellites for delivering broadband connectivity; has raised $103.5M to date . link

The presidential campaign for Democratic candidate Michael Bloomberg hires newly-formed social media branding outfit Meme 2020, reports The New York Times; Mick Purzycki, CEO of online marketing firm Jerry Media, serves as lead strategist for Meme 2020; Jerry Media founder Elliot Tebele is not involved with the organization; Bloomberg’s campaign has started posting sponsored posts via popular Instagram accounts including @GrapeJuiceBoys and @tank.sinatra . link

Walmart is shutting down its members-only shopping business Jetblack and cutting more than 290 jobs; the $50 per month service launched in New York City in 2018; The Wall Street Journal says Walmart was in talks last year to spin out the money-losing unit, but it did not find a suitable partner; Walmart will fold some Jetblack tech into its larger operations . link

Online furniture company Wayfair cuts 550 jobs, equal to 3 percent of its global workforce, reports The Boston Globe; the firm is laying off 350 people at its Boston HQ, and a source for the report says the firm has cut its entire IT team in Berlin, Germany .Update: Wayfair confirms it has cut more than 500 jobs worldwide; the company says it over-invested recently, growing its OpEx team from 4k to 8k in two years . link

Fashion rental firm Rent the Runway hires Brian Donato as chief supply-chain officer; Donato previously worked at Amazon where he oversaw customer returns, Amazon Fresh, and more; Rent the Runway has also named former Amazon VP Mike Roth to its board . link

Flip, a Germany-based enterprise messaging startup, raises €3.6M (~$4M) from LEA Partners, Cavalry Ventures, and others; the firm offers GDPR-compliant chat tools; clients include Porsche and Bauhaus . link

Crypto fintech firm BlockFi raises $30M Series B led by Valar Ventures with participation from Morgan Creek Digital, PJC, and others; the company offers loans guaranteed by bitcoin and ethereum; has raised more than $78M to date . link

Microsoft demonstrates its upcoming Surface Duo in a live-stream; the Android-based software suffered some glitches, which were reshot for a video shared after the event . link

China-based online travel platform Trip.com is in talks to raise a $1.2B loan, according to Bloomberg sources; the company wants to use the money for refinancing and working capital; follows a $2B loan that Trip.com secured last July . link

India-based edtech firm Vedantu raises $24M Series C (second tranche) led by GGV Capital; the company offers a range of online classes for students aged 12 to 18; has raised $82M to date . link

The download for 2020-02-13 →


Tesla announces a $2B stock offering; the company says it wants to use the money for general corporate purposes and to make its balance street stronger; Tesla’s share price dropped ~7 percent in early trading . link

Spanish police evacuated Amazon’s Madrid HQ following a bomb threat; police have since confirmed it was a hoax and the building’s staff have since returned to work; it's unclear who is responsible for the incident . link

Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer Nathan Blecharczyk says the company almost gave up at the end of its first year in operation; speaking during an event at NYU, Blecharczyk notes it was Y Combinator’s early support that encouraged the founders to keep going; Blecharczyk says the team worked hard over the 13 week YC accelerator program to improve the firm’s growth . link

Sen Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduces a new bill that proposes the creation of a federal agency to oversee how businesses collect and manage consumer data; the president would nominate the director of the Data Protection Agency, and the Senate would confirm them . link

Grab’s personal mobility unit GrabWheels raises $30M Series A from EV firm Kymco; as part of the deal, the two companies will work on schemes to deploy Indonesia-based Kymco’s electric motorbikes and EV charging stations across Southeast Asia . link

Apple launches its Swift Playgrounds coding app on macOS; first launched for the iPad in 2016, Swift Playground is aimed at novices who want to get into coding . link

Intuition Robotics, maker of the ElliQ companion robot, raises $36M Series B led by SPARX Group and OurCrowd with participation from Toyota AI Ventures and others; the company has developed an assistance robot for aged adults; raised $58M to date . link

SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son confirms the company is scaling back plans for its second Vision Fund, noting investor concerns; in an earnings call, Son says the firm will likely reduce the size of the fund which had an initial target of $108B; he also says SoftBank will now focus on a bridge fund with a shorter maturation period; the current Vision Fund will run through 2029 . link

Data storage firm Seagate announces Lyve Labs, an innovation facility in Tel Aviv, Israel; Seagate says it wants to work with local tech firms on data challenges; the company has already partnered with earthquake detection firm SeismicAI and cybersecurity business Hub Security . link

ICANN is expected to give final approval for a .com domain registration price increase, according to reports; Verisign, which oversees the top-level domain, has asked for permission to raise trade prices from their current cap of $7.85 to a new limit of $13.50 over the next 10 years . link

An Australian court approves a ~$10B merger between carriers Vodafone Hutchison and TPG; the deal was initially blocked by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC), which claimed it would harm market competition; the merger, once completed, will leave three major cellular players . link

Google has organized its multiple health products into a single unit led by David Feinberg, according to CNBC sources; Google Health consists of more than 500 people working on a multitude of projects that were previously spread across the company; Feinberg reports to Jeff Dean, who serves as Google’s head of AI projects . link

Google completes its $2.6B takeover of data analytics firm Looker; the acquisition has received final approval from the UK’s competition watchdog; the US Department of Justice and the Austrian Federal Competition Authority have also signed off on the deal . link

Foxconn says recent Reuters reports about resumption schedules at its Chinese factories are “mostly not factual” and that the stories have caused confusion for workers, investors, and the broader public; it’s unclear what aspects of Reuters reporting are incorrect; the outlet has recently reported that Foxconn has received approval to reopen a plant in Shenzhen amid the coronavirus outbreak, and that it hopes to reach 50 percent of regular production output by the end of February . link

EV firm Karma Automotive cuts 60 jobs at its HQ in Irvine, CA; follows layoffs for 200 staff late last year; Karma says the restructuring is necessary as it establishes new partnerships with other OEMs . link

T-Mobile’s parent firm Deutsche Telekom (DT) wants to renegotiate the $26B merger with Sprint, according to sources for the Financial Times; DT is wants to lower the price of the deal because Sprint’s share price has dropped since the arrangement was first announced in April 2018; DT and SoftBank, which owns a majority of Sprint shares, are yet to enter such talks; the arrangement recently received judicial approval . link

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) blocks the launch of Facebook Dating in the EU because the company has not provided regulators with enough info about how it works; the DPC, which serves as the de facto data oversight body for Facebook in Europe, says the firm first notified it of the service on Feb 3, with a plan to roll it out today, Feb 13; the DPC notes companies are required to demonstrate how they protect user privacy before launching new products . link

Snap is working on a redesign of its Snapchat app, reports The Verge; the company is testing new placements for Snap Map and original shows; it’s also piloting breaking news segments within Stories; it’s also testing a navigation bar; it’s unknown if or when it will roll out any of the changes . link

Mark Zuckerberg wrote up ideas to create “dark profiles” for people who were not on Facebook, according to a book about the company’s history by Steven Levy; the idea was to let users create profiles on behalf of others; the book also claims Zuckerberg verbally accepted a $1B takeover offer from Yahoo, but then-CEO Terry Semel tried to renegotiate the deal . link

Facebook shuts down a several accounts linked to an Iran-based misinformation campaign targeting US users; the company says it closed six Facebook accounts and five Instagram profiles; Facebook says the accounts were trying to contact public officials and posting news stories focused on politics, religion, and more . link

Microsoft names Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk as head of its Israel Development Center; she replaces Assaf Rappaport who left the role in January; Braverman-Blumenstyk will also continue to hold her existing position as CTO of Microsoft Cloud and Artificial Intelligence Security . link

Cybersecurity startup Deep Instinct raises $43M Series C led by Millennium New Horizons with participation from Unbound and others; the company offers AI-powered threat detection tools to enterprise customers; has raised $100M to date . link

Smartphone firm Essential, founded by Andy Rubin, is shutting down; the company says it couldn’t find a way to bring its Project Gem smartphone to market; the firm launched with the $700 Essential Phone in 2017, later cut to $200 . link

Microsoft rolls out a Windows 10X emulator and a new SDK; lets developers see how Windows will work on new form factors such as dual-screen devices; apps will run in containers - Win32, MSIX and Native (UWP); Microsoft is set to launch dual-screen Surface Neo and Surface Duo later this year . link

SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son says the company may put plans for its second Vision Fund on hold; the firm is raising a $108B fund, but Son indicates SoftBank may focus on a smaller fund first; comes as the original $100B Vision Fund records a $2B loss . link

FSB, Russia’s security service, has ordered local ISPs to give it access to their networks, according to Russian-language website The Bell; the report claims telcos have to install equipment that provides the FSB with constant access to their systems; follows an edict by media regulator Roskomnadzor that demands user data from Telegram, VK, and other social platforms . link

Facebook enlists Reuters to serve as a fact-checker for English-language content; terms undisclosed, though Reuters says Facebook is paying for the service; the newly established Reuters Fact Check (RFC) team will review content forwarded by Facebook and Reuter’s own editorial team; includes user-generated videos and photos, media headlines, and more; RFC will then publish its findings to a standalone blog . link

Meditation app Headspace raises $93M equity and debt from Pacific Western Bank and others; the firm offers users a range of guided meditations; Headspace plans to expand into mental wellness tools for those living with chronic illness; has raised $168M to date . link

Radar, a New York CIty-based location data service, raises $20M Series B led by Accel with participation from Two Sigma Ventures and others; the company offers location-aware tools to enterprise customers; Radar claims to not sell or share the user data it collects; has raised $30.5M to date . link

Apple Pay accounts for 5 percent of global card transactions, according to data from research firm Bernstein; the company predicts Apple Pay will reach 10 percent by 2025; Quartz notes Apple Pay transactions and revenue more than doubled in the last reported quarter . link

The FTC says it will probe smaller acquisitions made by large tech firms over the last decade; includes takeovers by Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple; the FTC says it’s primarily focused on purchases that did not garner broad attention at the time; the agency says it wants to see how the firms performed after they were acquired . link

CoStar Group ($26.8B market cap) acquires GA-based property search platform RentPath (formerly Primedia) for $588M; comes as RentPath, which was owned by TPG Capital and Providence Equity Partners, applies for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection; RentPath notes it will consider alternative offers should they be made . link

Samsung makes the Galaxy Home Mini available to customers that pre-order a Galaxy S20 device in South Korea; it was not featured at yesterday’s press event, and the company has not announced broad availability for the smart speaker; Samsung previously announced the larger Galaxy Home in Aug 2018, but the product is yet to ship . link

New York City-based fintech firm Ramp raises $25M from BoxGroup, Coatue, and Conversion Capital; the company offers a credit card service for enterprise customers that includes expense accounting tools . link

Foxconn hopes to resume half its regular production output by the end of February, according to a Reuters source; the company has staggered the return of its Chinese factory workforce after the Lunar New Year because of the coronavirus outbreak; device shipments will likely be affected, but to what extent is unclear . link

Battery Ventures (BV) raises $2B for two new funds; the firm has closed its twelfth flagship fund at $1.2B and raised $800M for a companion fund; BV notes it’s targeting early-stage startups and growth companies . link

WhatsApp claims 2B users around the world, up from 1.5B two years ago; WhatsApp is Facebook’s second app to pass 2B active accounts (it’s main platform has 2.5B users) . link

GSMA is likely to cancel this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) following vendor concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, according to Bloomberg sources; GSMA is reportedly meeting today and an official announcement is expected later; MWC is currently scheduled for Feb 24 to Feb 27 .Update: GSMA cancels MWC 2020; the organization says the coronavirus outbreak has made it impossible to hold the event; GSMA says it will continue to work with organizers for MWC 2021 . link

The download for 2020-02-12 →


Ireland-based fintech firm Fenergo raises $80M on an ~$800M valuation from ABN AMRO and DXC Technology; the company offers a suite of tools for financial organizations including compliance and data management; has raised $155M to date . link

Lyft ($16B market cap) Q1 beats: $1B revenue, up 49 percent year-on-year ($986M expected); $130.7M loss ($163M expected); 22.9M active riders, up 23.1 percent year-on-year (22.8M expected) . link

Samsung announces $150 Galaxy Buds+; the wireless earbuds promise 11 hours use and 11 hours of charging via the included case; also claim improved sound quality, though they do not have active noise canceling features . link

Samsung will launch its AirDrop-like feature Quick Share with the Galaxy S20 lineup; lets users share photos, videos, and other files with nearby contacts; supports sharing with up to five friends at the same time . link

Nokia pulls out of Mobile World Congress (MWC) because of concerns over the potential spread of coronavirus; represents the latest vendor to cancel its appearance at the Barcelona event; follows reports MWC organizer GSMA may cancel the event .Update 1: GSMA will meet today to discuss MWC, according to Spanish media reports; the organization were initially set to meet on Feb 14; comes as European carriers Deutsche Telekom, BT, and Orange also pull out of the event .Update 2: Axios notes Facebook, Intel, and Cisco have also pulled out of MWC . link

Flipboard launches a premium short-form video service; Flipboard TV, which is part of the main app, costs $3 per month and features ad-free professionally produced content from more than 100 publishers; Galaxy S20 customers can get exclusive access to the service for three months . link

HP says it will respond to Xerox’s latest takeover offer on Feb 24 when it reports its quarterly earnings; HP notes it will also share additional info on its plan to increase long-term shareholder value; Xerox has already said it plans to launch a $24 per share tender offer on March 2 . link

US intelligence has evidence Huawei has been able to covertly access carrier networks around the world for more than a decade, reports The Wall Street Journal; the company’s equipment features secret back doors for use by law enforcement and other agencies; Huawei is able to monitor third-party telco systems without alerting carriers; Huawei denies the claims . link

UK media regulator Ofcom is to get additional powers, allowing it to moderate harmful content on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, reports the BBC; full plans unclear, but Ofcom will be able to levy fines for online harassment, bullying, and child abuse content; the British government is expected to make an official announcement today .Update: the UK government confirms Ofcom will oversee social media platforms; the agency will be able to issue fines, but it’s unclear how the penalties will work or how it will monitor the flow of online content; the government says it will publish additional details this spring . link

SoftBank’s Vision Fund lost more than $2B in its fiscal Q3; compares with $1.6B profit the year before; SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son says things are improving for SoftBank in general, noting judicial approval for Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile (SoftBank owns ~85 percent of Sprint) .Update: Son says activist investor Elliott Management is an “important partner,” noting he broadly agrees SoftBank should implement stock buybacks to increase shareholder value; Elliott has established a SoftBank stake worth almost $3B; it’s advocating ~$20B worth of buybacks . link

Spotify is paying ~$250M for The Ringer, according to a Bloomberg source; Spotify is paying €180M (~$196M) upfront, followed by an additional ~$50M at a later date; Spotify has now spent over $600M on podcasting companies, including €300M (~$330M) for Gimlet Media and Anchor . link

Airbnb recorded a $322M loss for the first nine months of last year, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; compares with a $200M profit for the previous year; the report notes the company has increased spending on safety features; Airbnb has previously said it will likely IPO this year; sources indicate it will probably go public in Q3 or later . link

Samsung announces $1.4k Galaxy Flip Z; the 6.7-inch foldable smartphone features Ultra Thin Glass, which Samsung says is a “flexible glass” product it developed in-house; promises to last for up ~200k folds; has two 12MP cameras on the back and a 10MP selfie camera; available Feb 14 .Update: Samsung says it will use Galaxy Z branding for its folding devices going forward; the company’s first folding device was branded Galaxy Fold . link

Samsung announces 6.2-inch Galaxy S20 (starts at $1k), 6.7-inch S20 Plus (starts at $1.2k), and 6.9-inch S20 Ultra (starts at $1.4k); all feature 120Hz displays and triple-array rear cameras; S20 and S20 Plus have 12MP wide lenses, 64MP telephoto, 12MP ultra wide; S20 Ultra features 108MP wide, 48MP telephoto, 12MP ultra wide; all can shoot 8K video; all support 5G; available March 6 .The wide-angle lens on the Galaxy S20 Ultra offers a 100x hybrid zoom; makes use of an optical folded lens combined with a digital sensor crop; also has 4x optical zoom, and up to 10x zoom that incorporates a digital binning process which promises lossless image quality . link

Mark Zuckerberg will meet with EU privacy and antitrust officials on Feb 17; Zuckerberg is set to talk with European Commissioners Margrethe Vestager and Thierry Breton, as well as justice chief Vera Jourova; Reuters says Vestager and Breton will also announce plans for an EU-wide data market on Feb 19 . link

Satellite-radio firm SiriusXM invests $75M in SoundCloud; the size of SiriusXM’s equity stake is undisclosed, but it’s a minority holding; SiriusXM is taking two seats on SoundCloud’s board; SiriusXM acquired music streaming service Pandora in 2018 . link

UT-based productivity startup ‘nuffsaid emerges from stealth, raises $4.3M seed from General Catalyst, Gradient Ventures, and others; the firm offers ‘nflow (currently limited early access), a premium AI-powered unified inbox for managing Slack messages, email, texts, calendars, and more . link

Adranos, an IN-based rocket fuel startup, raises $1M led by Sextant Group chairman Archibald Cox Jr; the firm is developing ALITEC, a solid propellant it says is better for rocket launches; Adranos has also named Stefan Coburn as VP of Business Development and Strategy; Coburn previously worked in business development and government sales at Blue Origin . link

JP Morgan is in talks to merge its Quorum blockchain division with New York City-based crypto startup ConsenSys, according to Reuters sources; terms unknown, though an official announcement is expected within the next six months; JP Morgan developed the ethereum-based Quorum to run its Interbank Information Network, a banking system that connects more than 300 financial institutions . link

Social video streaming platform Caffeine signs a multi-year deal with rapper Drake; terms undisclosed; as part of the agreement Drake will bring battle rap show “Ultimate Rap League” to the service; Drake will also maintain a personal channel on Caffeine . link

Crypto AG, a Switzerland-based cryptography firm, was secretly co-owned by the CIA and German counterpart BND for multiple decades, according to reports; docs show the two governments were able to monitor allies and enemy states via Crypto AG equipment; the reports note there have been long-running rumors about the US government having backdoor access . link

NASA and SpaceX are aiming to launch the first human-crewed Crew Dragon flight in May, according to Mark Geyer, director of the Johnson Space Center; Geyer notes the launch date is tentative, saying conversations between officials are ongoing; NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine previously indicated Crew Dragon could be ready in Q1 . link

Sprint’s share price is up more than 70 percent on its Feb 10 closing price following judicial approval for its $26B merger with T-Mobile; SoftBank’s 85 percent stake in Sprint has risen in value from ~$17B to ~$29B . link

Germany-based Deutsche Bank is seeking bids from Microsoft, Google, and Amazon as it looks to overhaul its IT infrastructure, according to Reuters sources; the move is part of a €13B (~$14.2B) multi-year plan as Deutsche Bank works to recover from continued losses; the bank says it’s in talks with several cloud providers and hopes to settle on an arrangement in the coming months . link

Egypt-based healthtech firm Vezeeta raises $40M Series D led by Gulf Capital with participation from Saudi Technology Ventures and others; the company lets users find and rate healthcare professionals; has raised $63M to date . link

Video streaming services accounted for 19 percent of viewing on TV sets in Q4 2019, according to Nielsen data; of that figure, Netflix made up 31 percent of content, followed by YouTube with 21 percent; Hulu ranks third with 12 percent . link

GSMA is considering whether to cancel this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), according to Spanish media reports; multiple companies have pulled out of the event citing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak; GSMA is set to meet to discuss the situation on Feb 14; MWC is currently scheduled for Feb 24 through Feb 27 . link

Shippeo, a France-based supply chain platform, raises €20M (~$22M) Series B led by NGP Capital and ETF Partners with participation from Bpifrance Digital Ventures and Partech; the startup offers AI-powered tools for freight shipment firms; has raised ~$35M to date . link

The download for 2020-02-11 →


New York City-based Equal Ventures closes its first fund at $56M; targets seed round startups with a focus on retail, logistics, and more; founded by Richard Kerby, formerly of Venrock, and Rick Zullo, who used to be an investor at Lightbank . link

Customer engagement platform MoEngage raises $25M Series C led by Eight Roads Ventures with participation from F-Prime Capital, Matrix Partners India, and Ventureast; the company offers a suite of tools to help businesses understand user engagement and interactions; has raised $40M to date . link

UK-based hotel API firm Impala raises $20M Series B led by Lakestar with participation from Latitude Ventures; the company offers data management tools that integrate with existing hotel systems; has raised $32.8M to date . link

An app used by Israel’s Likud party has exposed info for all 6.5M Israeli voters, according to reports; the app made it possible to view names, addresses, and more; unknown if any data was taken; it’s unclear how the issue occurred, but the Justice Ministry says it’s investigating the matter . link

A US District Court in Los Angeles rejects a request by Uber and Postmates to block a CA law intended to give gig economy workers more rights; Judge Dolly Gee notes both companies have shown they may suffer irreparable harm, but says improving worker conditions is in the greater public interest; Uber says it’s considering its options; Postmates says it will move forward with a lawsuit, seeking to overturn the law . link

Amazon hires Mike Hopkins to oversee Amazon Studios and Prime Video; he will join later this month, reporting directly to Jeff Bezos; Hopkins is coming from Sony Pictures Television, where he served as chairman; Amazon’s film and TV business was previously overseen by Jeffrey Blackburn, who announced last year he would be taking a sabbatical; Amazon Studios has most recently been led by Jen Salke; she will now report to Hopkins . link

Lawyers for Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and former exec Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani have asked a court to dismiss federal charges against them, arguing the case is too vague; the lawyers say allegations of fraud at Theranos are broad and that it’s impossible to prove incorrect blood test results led to direct harm; Holmes and Balwani face 11 counts in total, and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted . link

The campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg has reached out to multiple Silicon Valley firms to ask for personnel support, reports Recode; the campaign held a conference call where some of Bloomberg’s key team members pitched the firms on supplying talent for Bloomberg’s bid . link

Multiple companies have said they will not attend this year’s Mobile World Conference (MWC) because of concerns over the spread of coronavirus; includes Vivo, MediaTek, and CommScope; other firms who have dropped out include Amazon, Sony, and LG; MWC organizer GSMA says 2.4k firms will exhibit at the event . link

The White House proposes an increase for annual R&D funding to more than $2B within the next two years; it also wants to see spending on quantum computing rise to $860M; the figures form part of the Trump administration’s non-binding budget for fiscal 2020 . link

Alphabet has moved its Jigsaw unit back into Google, reports The Information; reasons for the change unknown; first launched as Google Ideas in 2010, Jigsaw is a think-tank operation focused on building apps and services to tackle a range of issues including online misinformation, harassment, and more; products include Tune, an experimental Chrome extension for filtering out toxic comments across the social web, and DDoS protection service Project Shield . link

Direct-to-consumer personal care firm Brandless shuts down; the company is no longer taking orders, and it’s cutting 70 jobs; Brandless says outstanding orders will still be honored; launched in 2017, the firm raised $240M from SoftBank’s Vision Fund in 2018; some of that money was reportedly withheld due to corporate governance issues . link

A federal court will approve the $26B merger between T-Mobile and Sprint as early as today, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the parties have been advised of Judge Victor Marrero’s decision already; the legal challenge was brought by several states who say they are concerned about the possibility of rising prices for consumers .Update 1: Sprint’s stock price rises more than 60 percent in after-hours trading; T-Mobile’s shares climbed 8 percent; CNBC notes even with the court’s approval the final deal would still need to be signed off by the CA Public Utilities Commission .Update 2: the merger has been approved; Judge Marrero has rejected the states’ argument that the merger will likely reduce market competition . link

European VC firm Oxx raises $133M for backing SaaS companies; targets Series A and later stage firms with a focus on software apps and infrastructure; Oxx says it expects to make investments in the $5M to $20M range . link

Eileen Naughton is stepping down as Google’s head of human resources; Naughton, who has been with the firm since 2006, will transition to a new unspecified role within the company; Naughton says she’s making the change for family reasons, noting she has relocated to multiple cities over the years . link

Several British lawmakers from the governing Conservative party have written to colleagues expressing concerns about allowing Huawei to participate in the UK’s 5G network; signatories say high-risk vendors should be banned, and note they are working to find an alternative solution; follows public criticism of the government’s approval from former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith . link

Court docs show Amazon wants to depose President Trump over the $10B JEDI contract that the Pentagon awarded to Microsoft; the firm is also seeking deposition from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, his predecessor James Mattis, and others; Amazon claims Trump used his position to influence the decision-making process because of a personal animus against the firm . link

Danish wind-farm company Vestas says Google has pulled out of a Kenya-based energy plant because of delays to the project; Google previously agreed to acquire a 12.5 percent stake in the 310 megawatt Lake Turkana facility, which was set to open in 2017; Vestas notes Google canceled the arrangement last year; the site went fully live in mid-2019 . link

Over 300 Chinese firms including Xiaomi and Didi Chuxing are seeking bank loans totaling $8.2B to ease the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, according to Reuters sources; comes as factories remain closed and government mandated travel restrictions continue; China’s central bank has put more money into circulation in an effort to settle market concerns . link

Slack signs a partnership with IBM, reports Business Insider; terms undisclosed; numerous IBM teams have been using Slack for a while, but now all 350k of its staff will use the messaging platform going forward; IBM is Slack’s single-biggest customer .Update: Slack’s stock price climbs as much as 21 percent on the news . link

UK-based childcare network Tiney raises £5M (~$6.5M) led by Index Ventures with participation from LocalGlobe and others; the startup provides tools for home-based licensed childcare providers; also connects parents and guardians looking for suitable carers . link

Foxconn has received government approval to reopen a plant in Shenzhen, China, according to a Reuters source; follows a report officials rejected an earlier application because of inadequate measures to deal with the threat of coronavirus; ~20k workers have already returned to the facility . link

Japanese carrier NTT Docomo pulls out of Mobile World Congress (MWC) citing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak; represents the latest firm to back out of the event following similar moves by Sony, Amazon, and others; Huawei, ZTE, and more have confirmed they will be in attendance; MWC is set to run from Feb 24 through Feb 27 . link

Edgewell Personal Care officially cancels its $1.4B takeover of direct-to-consumer shaving firm Harry's after the FTC blocked it; Harry's co-founders Jeff Raider and Andy Katz-Mayfield have expressed their disappointment, noting they believe the deal would have succeeded if Edgewell had entered into litigation with the agency; Raider and Katz-Mayfield also say they are link

Google will formally challenge a €2.4B (~$2.6B) antitrust fine from the European Commission (EC) this week; the EC issued the penalty after finding Google guilty of unfair practices in relation to its Shopping product; Google is set to argue against the fine at a three-day hearing in Luxembourg’s General Court . link

UK-based fintech firm Starling Bank raises £60M (~$78M) from Merian Global Investors and others; the challenger bank offers consumer and enterprise services; has raised ~$418M to date . link

Video of Microsoft’s yet-to-launch Surface Duo purportedly leaks; YouTube user Israel Rodriguez posted video of the Android-powered device being used on a Vancouver’s SkyTrain; Microsoft has previously said the Surface Duo will launch in September this year . link

US federal prosecutors link four Chinese intelligence officers to the 2017 Equifax breach which affected ~150M people around the world; the identities of those charged is unclear, but the report suggests there’s little chance the Department of Justice will be able to bring them to trial . link

Arm announces Cortex M55 processor, which is designed for edge-based AI tasks; Cortex M55 can also be paired with Ethos-U55, a neural processing unit that promises to boost machine learning capabilities; Arm claims chips featuring Cortex-M55 and Ethos-U55 will offer upto 48 times the performance of older Cortex-M setups; Arms says the products will likely appear in devices next year . link

Bill Gates has commissioned a ~$650M hydrogen-powered yacht, reports The Sunday Telegraph; it will feature two 28-ton capacity tanks for carrying liquid hydrogen; the custom designed vessel is being made by Dutch firm Feadship and is scheduled to be ready by 2024 .Update: yacht design firm Sinot Yacht & Architecture Design denies the report; the company designed the 367-foot superyacht; Sinot says it is still just a concept and notes it has no relationship with Gates . link

The download for 2020-02-10 →


Xerox increases its hostile bid for HP by $2 per share to $24 apiece; represents a 41 percent premium on HP’s 30-day volume weighted average of $17 per share; Xerox says it will launch a tender offer on or around March 2; follows an earlier announcement that Xerox will nominate 11 HP board members . link

Vantage Data Centers raises $800M and acquires rival Etix Everywhere; the funding comes from Digital Colony Partners and others; Etix operates data centers across Europe, Africa, and Latin America; Vantage says it also plans to open new locations in Germany, Switzerland, and Poland . link

Netflix received 24 nominations at this year’s Academy Awards, but only won in two categories; Laura Dern won Best Actress in a Supporting Role for “Marriage Story,” and “American Factory” took the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature; Netflix had more nominations than any other studio; the company reportedly spent more than $100M to promote its films this awards season . link

Internet usage in North Korea has grown 300 percent since 2017, according to threat intelligence firm Recorded Future; the report claims the increased activity comes as the North Korean government has improved its abilities to steal and mine crypto tokens, seemingly allowing it to bypass some economic sanctions; Recorded Future also claims North Korea has expanded its encryption techniques, suggesting it could be useful for hiding nuclear developments . link

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates say they plan to tackle gender inequality and the climate crisis as they mark 20 years of their philanthropic organization; to date, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent $53.8B on a range of global health and development initiatives . link

Research firm Canalys posits Q1 smartphone sales could dip by as much as 50 percent in China due to the coronavirus outbreak; the research note says many brands have had to cancel launch events because of local restrictions on travel and large gatherings; Canalys also says the rollout of 5G-enabled devices has also been impacted . link

Foxconn is starting to manufacture face masks in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak; the firm says it will initially distribute masks to staff at its Chinese plants before making them more publicly available; Foxconn is aiming to produce 2M masks a month . link

Carmaker Nissan says it will temporarily suspend production at a plant in Kyushu, Japan, because of difficulties in getting supplies from China in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak; represents the first Japanese plant to halt manufacturing; South Korea’s Hyundai and subsidiary Kia have also paused some factory lines . link

Purported video of the Samsung Galaxy Home Mini leaks; follows an earlier leak indicating the smart speaker will include an IR sensor for controlling nearby TVs and more; reports suggest the device will go on sale Feb 12 . link

Sony pulls out of Mobile World Congress citing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak; represents the latest company to pull out following Amazon, LG, Nvidia, and Ericsson; the GSM Association, which oversees the event, has published details of the measures it’s taking to prevent the possible spread of the virus . link

Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Buds Plus purportedly leak in a new video; WinFuture’s Roland Quandt says an unnamed retailer shipped the earbuds early; seemingly offer a longer battery life than previous Galaxy Buds; Quandt says the earbuds will sell for $170; expected to be announced on Feb 11 . link

The British government says it’s confident it will secure a post-Brexit trade deal with the US despite issues over Huawei; UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says both countries believe there has been a market failure to establish “high-trust vendors” for telco networks; follows Britain’s decision to allow Huawei’s participation in its 5G network . link

The Chinese government has rejected an application from Foxconn to reopen a plant in Shenzhen, according to a Reuters source; the plant was expected to re-open today but will remain closed until at least later this week when officials will check the facility to ensure correct virus control measures are in place . link

Elon Musk tweets “#DeleteFacebook It’s lame”; the tweet was in response to criticism of the company by actor and filmmaker Sacha Baron Cohen; Musk has previously criticized Mark Zuckerberg over his stance on AI . link

A long-running tax dispute between Facebook and the IRS will go to court this week; the IRS says more of Facebook's income should have been taxed in the US, rather than in Ireland where it's subject to lower levies; The Wall Street Journal says the company could face a bill of up to $9B should it lose . link

Malaysia-based edtech startup Forward School raises $500k from Exabyte’s Chan Kee Siak, Vitrox’s Chu Jenn Weng, and others; the firm provides students with project-based STEAM lessons; currently offers developer bootcamps for learning Android and iOS . link

Airbnb temporarily suspends check-ins in Beijing due to the coronavirus outbreak; affects bookings for the rest of this month; Airbnb says the measure is in accordance with local rules and notes it's refunding those affected; rival vacation rental service Xiaozhu is also canceling and refunding all bookings scheduled before March . link

Data warehouse firm Snowflake raises $479M on a $12.4B valuation led by Dragoneer Investment Group with participation from Salesforce Ventures and others; the company was last valued at $3.9B; Snowflake provides cloud database tools to enterprise customers; CEO Frank Slootman suggests the firm could go public within the next two years; has raised more than $1.4B to date . link

Mobile World Congress organizer GSMA prohibits attendees from China's Hubei province, the capital of which, Wuhan, is thought to be the point of origin for the coronavirus outbreak; travelers who have been to China will have to furnish proof before admission that 14 days have passed since they left the country; the organizers will also screen attendees for high temperatures . link

Amazon withdraws from this year's Mobile World Congress due to coronavirus concerns; the company had planned a significant AWS presence; numerous companies have pulled out over fears about the virus, including LG, Nvidia, and Ericsson; convention organizers remain committed to running the event as planned, Feb 24-27; the annual conference usually draws ~100k attendees . link

Cryptocurrency scams garnered ~$4.3B last year, according to Chainalysis; compares to $3B for 2017 and 2018 combined; Ponzi schemes are the most popular form of cryptocurrency fraud, and represented ~90 percent of the money stolen in 2019 . link

Pew Research Center finds 30 percent of adults in the US have used a dating app or site, up from 11 percent in 2013; 12 percent of US adults have established long-term relationships through dating apps and sites; of those that used such services, 37 percent said someone had continued to contact them after rejection; 35 percent reported unwanted explicit messages or media; 28 percent received insults, and 9 percent reported threats of harm . link

Beijing-based dockless bike-share company Ofo pivots to an e-commerce platform featuring channels for JD.com, Ele.me, others; also features bike rentals, but the company has scaled back its fleets after facing lawsuits from suppliers, and consumers demands for deposit returns; the app offers discounts in place of deposit returns . link

Domain name investor Mike O'Connor puts Corp.com up for sale for $1.7M, with the hope that Microsoft will buy it; in earlier versions of Windows, Active Directory used the default path of link

AngelIn the Season 4 premiere of Angel, Jason speaks with Index Ventures Partner Sarah Cannon about her work as a policy advisor for the National Economic Council under the Obama administration, improving American upward mobility, underrated emerging startup markets, more . link

This Week in StartupsJason speaks with Sachin Monga and Alex Cornell, co-founders of Cocoon, a social app for family members and close friends; the conversation covers the product's standout features, breeding user trust, raising funds as a messaging app, more . link

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier says Tesla could get state subsidies for its coming Gigafactory in Brandenburg; the company agreed to pay ~$45M for a 700-acre site; the country has earmarked funds to support the local production of EV batteries . link

London-based mobile operator Vodafone to remove Huawei equipment from the cores of its networks; Britain recently decided to restrict the company's contributions to 5G; Vodafone expects to spend $200M-plus over five years removing Huawei tech . link

The download for 2020-02-09 →


Tesla remotely disables Autopilot features in a used Model S after second-hand sale, says the customer never paid for them; Tesla refused to reactivate the features for the consumer who bought the car from the dealership that bought the car at a Tesla auction; the consumer sent a test email requesting such features be disabled on another car and Tesla said it wasn't possible; the dealer noted something similar had happened once before with a Model X . link

The New York Times examines the use of algorithms in predicting crime in areas and criminality in people, setting prison sentences and supervision terms, more; most US states and many European countries use governance algorithms; civil rights activists and others worry that such algorithms could use discriminatory criteria, as many governments using the tech lack regulation regarding transparency . link

Facebook ($605B market cap) acquires London-based computer vision company Scape Technologies; terms undisclosed but TechCrunch reports the price was likely ~$40M, based on recent filings; founded in 2017, the company developed computer vision for location tech more accurate than GPS; previously raised $8M . link

The Verge rounds up reports on the impact of coronavirus on the tech industry, including the closures of stores and other facilities, production delays, more; multiple companies have withdrawn from the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona; Tesla blamed coronavirus for delayed Model 3 deliveries; could also delay Nintendo, numerous phone makers, etc . link

Hacking group OurMine claims responsibility for hijacking Facebook's Twitter, Instagram, and Messenger accounts, one week after claiming the same for NFL and ESPN social accounts; the group apparently used social media management platform Khoros to compromise accounts . link

The Department of Justice closes an antitrust investigation into automakers that struck a deal with CA to reduce vehicle emissions, having determined they did not violate the law, according to sources for The New York Times; BMW, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen entered a pact with the state in defiance of the Trump administration's planned rollback of fuel economy standards . link

The Wall Street Journal examines how power companies are using AI, sensors, and drones to improve efficiency, predict outages, recover from disasters, more; such tech improves grid integration of wind and solar power and helps companies handle changes in electricity usage patterns, such as nighttime charging of electric vehicles . link

Facebook was responsible for ~85 percent of reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding child sex abuse images and videos in 2019; the company reported 60M of the 70M photos and videos reported last year; the number of reported files increased 50 percent year-over-year in 2019, and the number of reported videos surpassed the number of reported images for the first time . link

Coronavirus mitigation efforts have revealed the potential of China's surveillance and tracking capabilities, Reuters reports; police used facial recognition tech to identify a man visiting an area impacted by the virus, and to track his movements after they requested he quarantine himself; AI-powered camera systems can detect people with mild fevers in crowds; consumers can check apps to see if they've been on a flight or a train with virus carriers . link

This Week in Startups: #StartupTuneup at Founder.UniversityJason and Freestyle Capital's David Samuel provide feedback on six founders' pitches (Part 2); categories include AI-powered assistive driving, B2B food analytics, sleep-aid wearables, marijuana, more . link

This Week in Startups: #StartupTuneup at Founder.UniversityJason and Freestyle Capital's David Samuel provide feedback on six founders' pitches; categories include athlete performance tracking, smart tabletop gaming, women's clothing, more . link

The download for 2020-02-08 →


Google plans to increase its Canadian workforce from 1.5k to 5k staff by 2022; the firm says it will expand offices in Montreal, Toronto, and Waterloo; Google had 119k staff worldwide at the end of 2019, up 20 percent year-on-year . link

The DC Court of Appeals declines to take up a case challenging the FCC’s repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules; the legal action was brought by 15 states and multiple advocacy groups; a spokesperson for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who oversaw the repeal, welcomed the court’s decision . link

French regulators fine Apple €25M (~$27.5M) for not telling users it was throttling the performance of older iPhones; the company previously capped performance for devices that had degraded batteries; users have been able to control iPhone performance since iOS 11.3; Apple has accepted the penalty and published a statement on its website . link

Ericsson pulls out of MWC 2020 citing concerns over coronavirus; follows a similar move by LG; Huawei, Qualcomm, ZTE, and others say they will be at the event in Barcelona later this month . link

SoftBank says it’s working closely with India-based hospitality firm Oyo to help it reach profitability; Ken Miyauchi, CEO of SoftBank’s telco division, notes it’s helping Oyo to with its governance; Miyauchi admits 40 of Oyo’s 200 partnerships mean the company is liable for hotel revenue shortfalls; SoftBank, which owns 25 percent of Oyo, is now trying to help the firm adjust terms for many of its contracts . link

ViacomCBS is considering a number of strategies for CNET including the possibility of a sale, according to Bloomberg source; the firm has received interest from several parties; CBS acquired CNET for $1.8B in 2008; it’s current value is unknown . link

YouTube Music is set to add support for user-uploaded tracks, according to 9to5Google sources; the company is testing the feature internally, but it’s unclear when it will launch; Google Play Music offers support for uploading tracks via the desktop web, but the service is being phased out . link

India-based agtech firm WayCool Foods raises $32M Series C led by Lightbox with participation from FMO and others; WayCool operates a B2B fresh produce service; the company says it will use the funds to add more automation to its platform . link

Direct-to-consumer mattress firm Casper debuted on the New York Stock Exchange at $14.50 a share; it closed at $13.50 a share on its first day of trading; it raised $100M on the IPO; the firm was valued at more than $1.1B last year, but its market cap is currently below $400M . link

India-based edtech firm Byju’s raises $200M on an $8B valuation from General Atlantic, reports TechCrunch; follows a $200M raise from Tiger Global last month; the firm offers exam prep and online learning via an app; has raised more than $1.1B to date . link

Foxconn has asked factory workers at a Shenzhen facility to not return to work on Feb 10 as initially planned, reports Bloomberg; in a memo to staff, the company says it’s trying to minimize the risk of coronavirus spreading; Foxconn says it will announce a new return date soon; the firm has previously said it will reopen its main plant in Zhengzhou next week . link

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has purchased access to commercial databases of cell phone location data so it can track suspected undocumented immigrants, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; ICE, which is part of DHS, has used the info to monitor and detain individuals after they have entered the country; DHS has spent more than $1M acquiring database licenses since 2018 . link

The download for 2020-02-07 →


Instagram is testing a partners program to let creators monetize IGTV content; full details unclear, but TechCrunch speculates the scheme could be modeled after Facebook Watch which gives creators a 55 percent revenue share for mid-roll ads; it’s unclear if or when Instagram will launch the program . link

Motorola announces two new Moto G smartphones; $250 Moto G Power features a 5,000 mAh battery that promises to last up to three days; $300 Moto G Stylus features a stylus that can launch a quick menu as well as a notes app; both devices feature a 6.4-inch display, 4GB RAM, 16MP embedded selfie camera, and 3.5mm headphone jack; available this spring (exact date unknown) . link

CNET tests the durability of the relaunched Motorola Razr and says it started to fail after ~27k folds; the smartphone was tested in an automated folding device; in a video, CNET shows the foldable stopped closing properly, but notes the screen still works; Motorola has not said how many folds the Razr should endure, though it suggests it should last two years of normal use . link

AllVoices, a Los Angeles-based enterprise feedback startup, raises $3M seed from Crosscut, Greycroft, and others; the firm offers anonymous employee reporting tools, allowing users to pass along info to company leadership; AllVoices clients include The Wing, Instacart, GoPro, and more . link

European VC firm A/O PropTech closes its first fund at €250M (~$275M); targets real estate startups; focused on Series A and growth stage companies; investments include Plentific, Bricklane, and Fornova . link

SoftBank-backed car-lease firm Fair is ending a scheme that lets Uber drivers rent cars on a week-by-week basis, reports TechCrunch; the company’s Fair Go program will shut down in April; Fair will still let Uber drivers lease vehicles, but they will have to transition to a month-by-month plan; follows reports the company has struggled to remain solvent; Fair laid off 40 percent of its staff last October . link

Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) says it will not pursue “strategic opportunities” relating to eBay; follows a report ICE made a takeover offer for the firm which would have valued it at ~$30B; ICE’s stock price dropped 7.5 percent on Feb 4 on news of the bid, followed by another 3 percent on Feb 5; shares have rallied 3 percent after ICE’s statement . link

UK-based running wearable firm NURVV raises $9M Series A led by Hiro Capital; the startup offers a sensor-equipped shoe insert that monitors a runner’s cadence, pace, and more; provides audio coaching via a companion app . link

SEC commissioner Hester Peirce proposes a three-year grace period for digital token sales before they are subject to securities evaluations; Pierce announced the plan at the International Blockchain Congress, where she noted crypto assets might not maintain the features of a security after they’ve launched; Coindesk notes the proposal would temporarily protect tokens from state securities actions, but they would not be immunized from other investigations . link

Los Angeles-based ride-sharing firm HopSkipDrive raises $22M from Cyrus Capital Partners, State Farm Ventures, and others; the company operates a ride-hailing service for transporting children to school, extra activities, and more; lets parents and guardians track kids in real-time . link

Activist investor Elliott Management has established a $2.5B stake in SoftBank, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the company is now pushing for changes at the company in an effort to boost its share price; Elliott employees have met with SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son and other key execs to discuss ways of improving its corporate governance .Update: Ken Miyauchi, CEO of SoftBank’s telco division, says Elliott Management’s stake in the business is “positive”; SoftBank’s stock closed 7 percent up following the initial report . link

US Attorney General William Barr says American investors should consider backing Huawei’s rivals such as Nokia and Ericsson; Barr suggested the move during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he posited US support for the firms would make them more “formidable” in dealing with Huawei . link

Recently merged ViacomCBS is developing a new video streaming service that will build on CBS All Access, according to CNBC sources; the company is considering bundling in content from Pluto TV, Nickelodeon, BET, MTV, Comedy Central, and Paramount Pictures; the firm will offer an ad-supported free version, as well as a premium version that includes Showtime; it’s expected ViacomCBS will discuss the service during an earnings call on Feb 20 . link

Huawei acknowledges a backdoor on chips produced by subsidiary HiSilicon, but says it’s the fault of OEMs who failed to remove debugging tools; the chips are used in DVRs, NVRs, and more; the problem only seems to affect devices running software from China-based security camera vendor Xiongmai .Update: Vladislav Yarmak, the researcher who uncovered the backdoor, says Xiongmai devices using products from other suppliers also have the same vulnerability; Yarmak says based on this info, HiSilicon cannot be held responsible for the backdoor . link

Uber ($63.2B market cap) Q4 beats: $4.1B revenue, up 37 percent year-on-year ($4B expected); $0.64 LPS ($0.68 expected); 111M monthly active platform consumers, up 22 percent year-on-year; 1.9B trips, up 28 percent year-on-year .Uber lost $8.5B for fiscal 2019; CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says the firm is aiming for profitability in Q4 2020; the firm had previously set 2021 to become profitable . link

Apple files a patent for creating live video streams that can be viewed from multiple angles; VentureBeat suggests the content could be viewed via an AR/VR headset, allowing users to switch between perspectives; it’s unknown if or when the tech will be implemented in an actual product . link

Apple will likely face supply shortages due to travel restrictions in China following the coronavirus outbreak, according to sources for Nikkei Asian Review; it's believed tens of thousands of workers will be unable to return to factories when they reopen on Feb 10; Foxconn has already said it will isolate some staff for up to two weeks . link

Qualcomm says the coronavirus outbreak could negatively impact smartphone production and sales; during an earnings call, CFO Akash Palkhiwala said there is uncertainty to how the situation will affect supply and demand within China; Qualcomm’s stock price fell 3.7 percent in after-hours trading . link

TikTok waited three hours to inform local police when a Brazilian 19-year-old live-streamed their suicide on the platform last February, reports The Intercept; TikTok reportedly took the video down after ~90 minutes and engaged its PR team; managers ordered staff to monitor other social platforms in case the story went viral, and the company composed a condolence memo in preparation; the report claims it was only then the firm contacted police . link

South Korean carrier Korea Telecom (KT) purportedly leaks details of the rumored iPhone SE successor, suggesting it will be known as iPhone 9; a KT store has displayed posters advertising the iPhone 9 and the yet-to-be-announced Samsung Galaxy S20; the iPhone SE follow-up is expected to have a similar design to the iPhone 8 . link

Reddit signs a partnership with broadcast software firm Tagboard to provide TV networks access to its content; terms unknown; the deal will allow TV shows to display Reddit posts, AMAs, and more . link

SpaceX COO and president Gwynne Shotwell indicates the firm could spinout its Starlink internet satellite business; speaking at a JP Morgan Chase conference, Shotwell notes Spacex will likely take the unit public; SpaceX is a privately-held company . link

Apple sold more watches than the entire Swiss watch industry in 2019, according to data from Strategy Analytics (SA); Apple sold 30.7M units, which compares with 21.1M for all Swiss manufacturers combined; SA analyst Steven Waltzer posits apps, attractive design, and easy-to-use tech make the Apple Watch a compelling device for buyers in North America, Western Europe, and Asia . link

The European Commission (EC) is investigating Facebook’s use of its Onavo VPN app, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; Onavo let Facebook see how users interacted with other apps on their device; EU officials are also looking at changes the company made to its own software, allowing third-party firms to access its data . link

The Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have approved Nuro’s autonomous R2 delivery vehicle for testing on US public roads; Nuro is allowed to not put wing mirrors from the R2 and swap out the windshield with an opaque panel because it does not require a safety driver; the vehicle will also feature external cameras and other sensors; following a testing period Nuro hopes to start home delivery trials in Houston, TX . link

Nintendo says deliveries of Switch consoles from China to Japan are delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak; the company notes Joy-Con controllers and other related accessories are also held-up; it’s unclear when shipments will return to normal; follows speculation other companies including Apple, Microsoft, and Sony could also be impacted . link

The New York Times profiles the implementation of facial recognition tech in a school district in upstate NY; the Lockport City School District has installed facial recognition cameras in eight schools, claiming it will keep students and faculty safer; critics say the system is an invasion of privacy, while also highlighting the potential for inaccuracies based on race . link

The European Commission has launched an antitrust investigation into Qualcomm; the EC is probing the company’s tactics to sell radio frequency front-end (RFFE) chips by seemingly tying orders to 5G chips; if proven, Qualcomm could face penalties equal to 10 percent of annual revenues . link

The Wall Street Journal profiles Shadow Inc, the developer behind the Iowa Democratic caucuses app; notes the firm was established by Gerard Niemira, a former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer, though it is also linked to Democratic action organization Acronym; Shadow received ~$120k from the Iowa Democratic Party and the Nevada Democratic Party to build the app; Neil Haldar of app consulting firm HALDAR+CO suggests such an app should have cost $150k to $200k to develop and test . link

Cloud management firm HashiCorp hires Brandon Sweeney as its first Chief Revenue Officer; Sweeney previously served as SVP of global cloud sales at VMWare; he was with VMWare for 16 years total . link

India-based audio content firm Kuku FM raises $5.5M Series A led by Vertex Ventures with participation from Shunwei Capital, 3One4 Capital, and India Quotient; the startup operates a podcast platform offering shows in local languages . link

The download for 2020-02-06 →


Chinese smartphone firms Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo are partnering on a rival to the Google Play Store, according to Reuters sources; the companies will establish the Global Developer Service Alliance (GDSA) which will offer apps, games, movies, and more; the platform will initially launch in nine countries including India and Russia; it was set to go live next month, but that timeframe is now in doubt . link

A coalition of child protection groups writes to Facebook, criticizing its plan to fully encrypt all its messaging services; the collective, led by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), say predators will be freely able to utilize platforms for nefarious means; Facebook says it’s developing tools to keep kids safe . link

Twitter Q4 ($25.9B market cap) mixed: $1B revenue, up 11 percent year-on-year ($994.5M expected); $0.15 EPS, down 55.5 percent year-on-year; 152M DAUs, up 21 percent year-on-year; Twitter notes it added 26M DAUs for the whole of fiscal 2019 . link

Chinese authorities suspend a year-long antitrust probe into Tencent Music, according to Bloomberg sources; China’s State Administration of Market Regulation (SAMR) has informed Tencent the investigation is on hold without explaining why; SAMR had been investigating Tencent’s licensing deals with Universal Music Group, Sony Music, and Warner Music Group . link

VC firm and company builder Antler raises $75M from Schroders, FinTech Collective, and Ferd; Antler’s portfolio includes Indonesia-based on-demand workforce startup Sampingan and Australia-based computer vision firm Xailient . link

Ancestry cuts ~100 jobs, equal to 6 percent of its workforce, following a slowdown in the home DNA testing market; the firm notes most early adopters have purchased products, and says it will now focus more on the healthcare side of its business; follows layoffs by rival 23andMe . link

Google announces it will begin restricting certain kinds of video ads in Chrome; starting Aug 5, Chrome will block video ads that don’t offer a skip option after five seconds; mid-roll ads and ads that cover a significant portion of the video will also be restricted . link

Superhuman CEO Rahul Vohra and Eventjoy founder Todd Goldberg announce a $7M fund; known as The Todd & Rahul Angel Fund, it plans to invest between $75k and $200k in early-stage startups; the fund is focused on SaaS firms working in a range of areas including space and business infrastructure . link

UK-based on-demand merchandise firm Moteefe raises $5M Series A led by Gresham House and Force Over Mass Capital; the startup offers tools for creating and selling small-run products such as T-shirts and phone cases; has raised $12.5M to date . link

Apple is set to introduce universal app purchases across its various platforms, according to developer Steve Troughton-Smith; code in Apple’s Xcode 11.4 beta indicates developers will be able to allow one-time purchases for apps across macOS, iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS; unknown when the feature will roll out . link

Huawei files two patent infringement lawsuits against Verizon; the company claims Verizon is violating 12 of its patents relating to security, networking, video comms, and more; Huawei says it tried to negotiate with Verizon for almost a year but the companies could not reach a licensing agreement . link

FBI Director Christopher Wray says the agency is still unable to access the data from a damaged iPhone retrieved from the scene of a mass shooting at a naval base in Pensacola, FL, last year; appearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee, Wray says the FBI is talking with Apple to see if it can “get better help” to access the info on the device; Apple has previously said it’s provided assistance with the data it has, but notes it will not create an iOS backdoor . link

Google Maps marks its 15-year anniversary with an app icon redesign and new features; the app replaces the For You tab with Saved, and adds Contribute and Updates tabs; Google Maps will also introduce more crowdsourced info for public transport next month, as well as a lightweight version of its Live View AR mode . link

Facebook and YouTube have sent cease-and-desist letters to facial recognition firm Clearview AI following reports it’s scraping images from a number of social media platforms; both Facebook and YouTube claim Clearview AI is violating their terms of service; follows a similar move by Twitter; speaking with CBS, Clearview AI CEO Hoan Ton-That claims his company has a First Amendment right to the data . link

Google says it will launch a free tier for its Stadia gaming service in the coming months; speaking with Protocol, Google exec Phil Harrison promises users will be able to play Stadia titles without having to make any purchases ahead of time; Stadia currently costs $130 for the Founder’s Edition, plus a $10 per month subscription . link

Netflix rolls out support for the AV1 video codec in its Android app, which promises to use less data; the firm claims the royalty-free codec is 20 percent more efficient at compressing data than VP9; users can watch select content in the format by selecting the Save Data mode in the app settings . link

Amazon launches Brand Voice, a cloud-based tool to let enterprise clients build their own text-to-speech services; part of Amazon Polly, the service promises lifelike speaking styles that can be tailored for each company; supports a range of accents, cadences, and more . link

Apple adds CarKey API to iOS 13.4 beta which will allow iPhone and Apple Watch users to unlock and start a compatible car via NFC contact, reports 9to5Mac; documentation notes a user can opt not to use Face ID to authenticate actions; users must have the app for their car installed, and they then pair with their vehicle via Apple’s Wallet app; it’s unknown which vehicles will support the feature, or when it will be released . link

Jeff Bezos sells $1.8B worth of stock, equal to 0.2 percent of the company; Bezos sold 905k shares on Jan 31 and Feb 3; Bloomberg estimates Bezos has sold ~$12B worth of shares to date, a majority of which has occurred over the last four years; Bezos has previously noted he’s using Amazon stock sales to invest ~$1B per year in space company Blue Origin . link

Microsoft combines its Windows software team and hardware unit, placing it under the stewardship of CPO Panos Panay, reports ZDNet; the unit will be rebranded Windows Experience and Devices; current Experiences head Joe Belfiore will move over to Office, partnering with Ales Holecek to run the Office Experience Group; the changes will occur on Feb 25 . link

Logistics firm Deliverr raises $40M Series C led by Activant Capital with participation from 8VC, GLP and others; the company offers fulfillment services to e-commerce firms; has raised ~$70M to date . link

Aiven, a startup offering managed cloud services, raises $40M Series B led by IVP with participation from Earlybird VC and others; the company offers a suite of database products built upon Apache Kafka, PostgreSQL, and more; has raised $50M to date . link

Elon Musk tweets a poll, asking his followers if they'd like to see a Tesla Gigafactory in TX; by late Tuesday roughly 80 percent of the votes were in favor of the plant; Tesla currently operates two Gigafactories, one in NV and one in Shanghai, China . link

Healthtech firm Verana Health raises $100M from GV, Bain Capital, and others; the company provides data analysis tools to pharmaceutical firms and medical facilities; has raised ~$138M to date . link

The British government says it will work with its international partners as it seeks to find alternatives to Huawei tech for its 5G network; speaking with journalists, digital minister Nicky Morgan says the UK government has decided another provider is needed to give the system the robustness it needs; Britain recently announced it would allow Huawei to participate in parts of the network; it’s unclear if or how today’s announcement impacts that decision . link

Iranian-backed actors are posing as journalists to try and spear-phish media figures, academics, and others, reports Reuters; cybersecurity firm Certfa has linked the activity to Iranian hacking group Charming Kitten; ClearSky Cyber Security has also provided details highlighting targets in the US and Germany; Secureworks has also verified the actions are linked to Charming Kitten . link

The Department of Justice has approached more than a dozen companies as part of its investigation into Google’s ad business, according to sources for The Wall Street Journal; the agency is looking into Google’s requirements that marketers use its tools to advertise on YouTube, and its decision to integrate its ad server with its ads network . link

Zenius Education, an Indonesia-based edtech firm, raises $20M Series A led by Northstar Group with participation from Kinesys Group and Beenext; the company has also named former Gojek COO Rohan Monga as CEO; former CEO Sabda PS will serve as Zenius’ chief education officer . link

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner will step down in June; he has been in the role for 11 years; Weiner will transition to board chairman, with SVP of product Ryan Roslansky taking over as CEO; VP Tomer Cohen will fill Roslansky’s current position . link

Restrictions on travel between mainland China and Hong Kong are impacting local IPOs, reports Nikkei Asian Review; authorities have implemented travel bans in an attempt to contain the spread of coronavirus, but that has led to postponements for multiple IPO roadshows; sources say fintech firm Yeahka is considering delaying its listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, while is InnoCare Pharma is also weighing its plans . link

Berlin-based dockless scooter firm Tier Mobility names Moritz Werner as CCO and Roger Hassan as COO; Werner joins from Boston Consulting Group where he oversaw its BCG Digital Ventures unit; Hassan previously served as CEO for London-based healthtech company Echo . link

India-based Instamojo acquires fellow merchant services firm GetMeAShop from Times Internet; the deal is valued at $5M and includes an investment in Instamojo from Times Internet; GetMeAShop helps SMEs establish an online presence, providing e-commerce tools and more . link

Electric skateboard company Boosted is considering layoffs or a sale, according to sources for The Verge; the report notes 20 key employees have left the business in recent months, including CMO Noriko Morimoto and VP of engineering Michael Hillman; CEO Jeff Russakow says the firm is raising new funds and is not planning any job cuts . link

Foxconn says it will isolate staff for upto 14 days when it reopens its main factory in Zhengzhou, China on Feb 10; the company says the move is necessary to deal with the threat of coronavirus spreading; workers from outside Henan province will be sequestered for two weeks, while those from the region will face seven days of isolation; the Zhengzhou plant is the main facility for iPhone production .Update: Foxconn does not expect to resume full manufacturing capacity until late February, according to a Reuters source; the delay is due to travel restrictions and other factors linked to the coronavirus outbreak; Reuters posits the hold-up could impact Apple and other Foxconn clients . link

Hedge fund Starboard Value again calls on eBay to divest itself of its classified ads unit; Starboard and Elliott Management urged the company to sell the division roughly a year ago; Starboard says eBay’s classifieds business often competes with its main marketplace; the investor suggests separating out the unit would be more beneficial and assist growth . link

Google begins offering Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 for direct sale; the $1k AR headset was previously limited to select partners; Google says it has seen strong demand from developers and certain businesses who want to create custom apps for the device . link