posted about 1 hour ago on techcrunch
What is that we hear? Is that the Friday, May 20, 2022, on the calendar and the soft, alluring siren’s song of a weekend that’s right around the corner? Why, yes, that must be it! Our events team is busy putting together an awesome TechCrunch Disrupt, and we are psyched about Startup Battlefield, where the winner will walk away with a $100,000 check to continue building the future it is envisioning. Here’s how to be in the running. — Haje and Christine The TechCrunch Top 3 UST UGH: Terraform Labs founder Do Kwon has some ’splaining to do with South Korea’s special financial crimes unit, which has launched an investigation into the collapse of Terraform’s stablecoin TerraUSD (UST) and its sister token Luna earlier this month. Prosecutors might be first in line, but the line is growing, with investors filing a lawsuit against Kwon and his co-founder Daniel Shin over alleged charges of fraud and other financial regulation violations. Also joining are Luna Foundation Guard advisors who tell Jacquie that they have not heard from Kwon in weeks. Standoff: We enjoyed reading Carly’s piece outlining what happened with Costa Rica’s ransomware attacks — the Conti gang is attempting to overthrow the government — and who could be next. As of our newsletter time, the ransom part was still going on. The deadline given was May 23. Klarna konundrum: The payments company is reportedly the latest to be fine with lowering its valuation, and in its case, there is some capital attached. We think Alex sums it up well saying, “No one likes a down round. They are dilutive, messy and demoralizing. But they are also miles better than not raising money and dying, so companies raise them when required.” He goes into why Klarna taking an insider round with a cut valuation is worth it or not. Startups and VC Today, we got a wee bit excited about Haje’s somewhat-expletive-filled rant about Coca-Cola’s new bottle caps that don’t detach from the bottle, against a backdrop of greenwashing. We also loved Brian’s piece about Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky’s love for small phones. “If no one else makes one I guess I will be forced to make it myself,” Migicovsky laments. Also, Brian and Haje tag-teamed on a pair of articles about Sony’s new earbuds. Brian covers the buds themselves (“As someone who tests a lot of earbuds over the course of a year, the LinkBuds S are among the best sounding and most comfortable I’ve had in my ears”), and Haje double-clicked on the Endel soundscape-creating app. Strap on your dancing shoes, there’s a veritable dance party of more news coming your way: Not half baked: Galley Solutions, a food data company providing food operators with technology to make more profitable decisions around their culinary operations, raised $14.2 million in Series A funding, Christine reports. Covid has us feline fine: Tell you who isn’t upset by COVID: The litany of apps offering pet insurance. Mike reports that “Some seven in 10 pet parents take their pet’s physical and mental health more seriously than their own.” Taking stock of what’s next: Not happy with just trading crypto, FTX launches a stock-trading feature as well, Anita reports. Pumping the brakes: Brian has the behind-the-scenes on what’s going on with the startup slowdown. Getting ships in shipshape: Shipping is dirty business, and Harri reports on Seabound,  a startup that is gearing up to help decarbonize the big boats that bring us our goods. We also have a roundup of some of the awesome stories that came out of our Mobility event: Pitch-off winners: Swyft Cities is the winner of the TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility 2022 pitch-off! Lidar ftw: Luminar’s Austin Russell: ‘We probably shouldn’t have existed’ but lidar will drive next-gen safety anyway. Arrival prototype arrives: Arrival unveils prototype of dedicated ride-hail vehicle at TC Sessions: Mobility What we learned from Nuro:  Top three takeaways from Nuro’s session at TC Sessions: Mobility A certifiably strategic acquisition: Joby Aviation acquires Avionyx to accelerate aerospace software certification Keep on trucking, now with less trucker: Aurora expands autonomous freight pilot with FedEx in Texas More driverless in Phoenix: Waymo is expanding its driverless program in Phoenix Three things to remember when diversifying your startup’s cap table Image Credits: redmal (opens in a new window) / Getty Images Just as a sales team builds and refines its funnel, early stage founders in fundraising mode can create an investor funnel that will help sustain their company for years to come. Oriana Papin-Zoghbi, CEO and co-founder of women’s health startup AOA Dx, shared her investor breakdown with TC+: 35% private investors 34% women (female investors or female-headed funds) 26% venture capitalists 23% family and friends 18% international investors 15% angel groups “When building an investor funnel, vocalizing what you want is crucial to finding the right investors,” says Papin-Zoghbi. “Finding the right investors is like finding the right team members — you need to be upfront about your expectations and address what you want them to bring to the table.” 3 things to remember when diversifying your startup’s cap table (TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.) Big Tech Inc. Deposit 25 cents: If you’re a gamer, we presume you have some thoughts on God of War: Ragnarök. Devin’s take is that this game “may be the most accessible title yet, and that’s saying something.” It’s good to see Microsoft create a game that offers features that are customizable for people with certain specific disabilities, like a visual or hearing impairment. The family that Snaps together stays together: For every parent dying to know who their teen is interacting with on Snapchat, the social media giant is close to launching its parental control feature, “Family Center.” For those of you not on Snapchat, or don’t have children, Sarah tells us this is important because it is one of the few social networks where you can’t see someone’s friend list. Holy Poké Balls!: There’s now a Poké Ball reward for being both a Pokémon GO player and an Amazon Prime member. Dating update: It looks like Match Group, the parent company of dating apps Tinder, Hinge and OkCupid, is on good terms with Google again. Crisis averted?

Read More...
posted about 2 hours ago on techcrunch
Amazon’s cute little Astro robot has been scurrying its way around my apartment for the past few weeks. It has no arms to scratch its own head in confusion, but I am willing to do that for him. As part of Amazon’s Day 1 Editions program, the robot is a $1,000 invitation-only program with limited numbers of robots available, as the company is trying to get them into consumers’ hands with a question: How would you use this? The company suggests that some use cases include home monitoring — an autonomous home-security system that can wander around from room to room. Astro has the ability to patrol a home with Ring Protect Pro, pop its periscope camera to see the counters, detect unidentified people when in “away mode,” send alerts when it hears sounds like glass breaking and more. You can also use it when you’re home — if you hear the dog barking at night, you can send Astro to see what’s happening without having to leave the cozy cocoon of your duvet-burrito. The company also suggests that Astro might be a good solution for offering remote care. Your loved one can ask Astro to set and deliver reminders, or you can use Drop In to stay connected. Plus, Astro works with Alexa Together, which allows for remote care for aging loved ones, or for offering care for people who have mobility challenges or other disabilities. Amazon also offers companionship as a potential use case — it suggests all the fun things Astro can do (things like “Astro beatbox,” or “what’s your favorite animal?” are top items, the company suggests), and it has other features that make it seem more like a pet than a Skynet-harboring robot of death and destruction. The whole purpose of a Day 1 Edition product is for Amazon’s product teams to get their most ambitious projects into customers’ hands faster so they can provide feedback that, in this case, will help shape the Astro experience. It makes sense. Right now, Astro is a robust system and can handle a wide array of commands and tasks that customers are finding useful. The robot has a little carrying tray and a USB port for extensions that will give it any number of interesting new powers, extendable by hackers and tech-savvy users, much in the same way that someone can write and deploy an Alexa skill today. Astro’s sensors mean it doesn’t bump into things too often. And the paint along the bottom of the chassis, and the scrapes on the walls of my apartment, indicate that Astro still has a little bit of learning to do on that front. Image Credits: Haje Kamps for TechCrunch Personally, throughout my time with Astro, I thought the robot was adorable. The speakers are good, and it’s kinda fun to have a boombox trail around and play your tunes or podcasts as you are doing chores. As a piece of first-generation tech, it’s an impressive feat that has tremendous potential. But that alone isn’t enough to make a product. In a world where the environment is front of mind, we could do with fewer gadgets that will end up in landfills eventually, not more, and so I find myself wondering what this thing is for. I can imagine a number of niche use cases — including the ones listed above — but I keep being unclear on whether this is a device that needs to exist at all. I spoke with Anthony Robson, the principal product manager for robotic technologies and consumer robotics at Amazon, to try to get to the bottom of things. It quickly became clear that Astro’s ambition is sky-high, and that the Amazon team doesn’t quite know which direction that ambition will take it. By design, it claims, which I have some respect for, but it seems weird to me to take a “let’s build it and see if they will come, and what they will use it for” approach. Don’t misunderstand me; I do believe there are places and use cases where Amazon’s adorable little robot friend makes a lot of sense — but when I talk to startups day in and day out, it feels really jarring. I wouldn’t let a startup get away with a solution looking for a problem, and so it feels curious to be tempted to let Amazon — who really should know better — off the hook. “This is the very first robot in a brand new category of robots. When we started this program, we were like, why not us? Why not Amazon? You know, we have this great ecosystem with Alex and the AI chops to be able to do this. Let’s do it, let’s learn from customers,” comments Robson. “We went out and did a lot of research around what kinds of things people could envision robots helping them in their home. The home monitoring capabilities were certainly the most popular thing people could envision. I’d love to be able to check if I left the stove on, or whether my back door is unlocked. I’d love to be able to check if I need to buy bananas because the fruit bowl is empty. I want to be able to check if the kids came home or to be notified when they come home. I want to be able to talk to them and find them in the house. So that was a very popular use case that people identified. There are a number of use cases.” Astro’s cargo bay is sizeable and has a USB-C port to extend its functionality further. An SDK to build software for Astro is in the works, Amazon suggests. Image Credits: Haje Kamps for TechCrunch The ideas came fast and thick, and every time I found myself wondering; yes, but… Really? Would customers potentially pay $1,000 to solve this problem? Of course, the additional flexibility of the Astro platform broadens the potential quite a bit. “We insisted on having some level of extensibility. We’re gonna learn so much about every home — and every home is going to be different and have different needs. So we added a cargo bay area with a USB port, and asked the question ‘how can we extend this platform to do more things for more people?’ We didn’t envision at the beginning of this program that we would have a pet food dispenser at the launch event,” marvels Robson. “We have customers who are working in their home offices on either side of the house sending things to each other using their Astro. We are learning, we are listening and we are adapting. We’re going to extend Astro’s capabilities as we learn from customers.” The product team does have a few things on its wish list that it wasn’t able to prioritize for launch for various reasons. “There are a lot of things that, simply from a practical perspective, we couldn’t add. Astro doesn’t climb stairs, for example. The level of complexity that would add to the product would simply make it too costly, and make it so it’s not accessible to as many people as we would like,” explains Robson. “We had to make trade-offs like that. We would have liked the periscope camera to go that little bit higher. But we had to compromise and say, you know, this is just enough to see over the counters. That is perfect — that keeps the device small.” The product team also suggests that it wanted Astro to be able to move around much faster. At its current pace, you can out-walk it if you stroll briskly through the hallways of your mansion — but speed also equals trade-offs. The laws of physics start getting in the way pretty quickly, in other words. “Again, the complexity of being able to make sure that it can be safe at all times goes up exponentially. A factor of two, with every increase in speed,” explains Robson. “You have to be very judicious about how much speed you put in because it’s going to make your sensing and your safety solutions twice or multiple times more complex.” The Astro team hasn’t launched a developer toolkit for the Astro robot yet, but that’s on its way, too. “We’re working hard with strategic partners. I think [an Astro SDK] is going to be happening. We want to bring that intelligent motion capability to more and more skills and accessories in the future,” says Robson. “It is not something we have ready today, but it’s coming very soon. We’re working on it as hard as we can.” The periscope camera pops out and extends telescopically, enabling Astro to look over obstacles and on countertops. A very elegant design choice. Image Credits: Haje Kamps for TechCrunch The comms team for Astro is excited about the potential of the robot as a comms and monitoring tool. It tells the story of one customer; their father-in-law had fallen out of his wheelchair. The family used Astro to communicate and coordinate emergency service responses to help him get back up. Giving additional, roaming assistance to people living independently seems like a powerful use case — except for the quirk of Astro not being able to climb stairs or open doors. I did have a couple of fun interactions with Astro that surprised and delighted me. For example, as one part of the setup process, Astro tells you to take a couple of steps back to make space for it to leave its charging dock. As it did that, I swear it flicked the screen representing its “face”, much like one would wave one’s hands to shoo someone away. I was never able to get Astro to do it again, and the product team wasn’t able to confirm whether I hallucinated that, or whether that’s something Astro actually does. “You know, that’s the thing when you give a robot a body language, depending on what it has to do, it’s going to move in the way it needs to move. Sometimes those things end up being interesting combinations,” laughed Robson. “So I can’t think of exactly why that would happen, but… I have been surprised by Astro before.” Astro is an extraordinarily well-thought-out robot on a technical level. The big wheels mean it can climb over thresholds between rooms with no issues. It got stuck on my bath mat a few times but managed to dislodge itself every time, which is impressive. When I was testing Astro, I also had a foster kitten, and Astro and Chairman Meow seemed to become good friends, with the two of them chasing each other around the apartment. Astro ran over Meow’s tail once, and Meow got his revenge by folding over the bath mat, trapping Astro in the bathroom for a few hours. I’m not convinced Meow did that on purpose, to be fair, but it did strike me as funny. The periscope camera is an extraordinarily clever feature that dramatically increases the usefulness of Astra, and the wayfinding tech is impressive. Telling Astro to go to the kitchen, and having it dutifully scurrying its way around my stacks of Amazon deliveries, office chairs and the odd shoe strewn along the flow was entertaining. A lot of work went into making Astro seem non-threatening. It moves slowly and gingerly near people and pets, it doesn’t bump into stuff all that much, and when it does, it does so carefully. The screen and Astro’s “face” are expressive, and cute, and invite a high degree of trust and user-friendliness. It shows that Amazon has the capacity of building incredibly capable robotics, even when it is compromising on product issues along the way. It’s been fun to have Astro wandering about my apartment for a few days, and most of the time I seemed to use it as a roving boom box that also has Alexa capabilities. That’s cute, and all, but $1,000 would buy Alexa devices for every thinkable surface in my room and leave me with enough cash left over to cover the house in cameras. I simply continue to struggle with why Astro makes sense. But then, that’s true for any product that is trying to carve out a brand new product category. I won’t miss it when I return it to its corporate office to be passed on to the next journalist who will be taking a closer look, which is rarely a good sign, but I hope that Amazon learns enough so it becomes better at telling the story of its adorable little robot. It is, truly, a solution that is carefully and adorably scurrying around looking for a use case. If Astro’s persistence is any indication, it will eventually find one.

Read More...
posted about 2 hours ago on techcrunch
Hyundai is the latest automaker to announce plans to open an EV factory in Georgia, the same state where Rivian is preparing to break ground on its controversial plant. Hyundai’s $6.5 billion EV and battery manufacturing facility outside of Savannah will further the state’s goal of becoming a major regional hub for the EV industry. As sales of electric vehicles start to surge, the Peach State aims to establish a statewide, closed-loop battery-electric ecosystem that includes rare earth mining, battery and chip production, and auto parts manufacturing, according to state officials. Hyundai’s capital investment, which includes $1 billion from non-affiliated suppliers, represents the largest economic development deal recruited by Georgia, officials said Friday. Hyundai expects to create 8,100 jobs at the 2,293-acre site. Georgia has become aggressive in its efforts to attract manufacturers, awarding Rivian the state’s largest-ever incentives package of $1.5 billion to build a plant on 2,000 acres east of Atlanta. In return, Rivian has pledged to hire 7,500 workers at an average annual salary of $56,000 by the end of 2028. However, the project has stirred up local controversy; residents have rallied around concerns ranging from land preservation to the use of tax dollars. The issue became political, as opponents of the Rivian plant mobilize against Gov. Brian Kemp ahead of his race for re-election in November. Rivian plans to break ground this summer and open by early 2024. Hyundai’s site represents a collaboration among four Georgia counties that used proceeds from selling property to Amazon to help fund the $61 million land purchase. The partnership which calls itself the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority (JDA), pooled the plots to create a “shovel-ready mega-site” for a large manufacturer. Hyundai said the plant will begin production in 2025 with the capacity to build 300,000 vehicles per year. Officials hope to replicate the model to attract more mega-site manufacturing projects to the state. SK On, a South Korean EV lithium-ion battery maker, is building a $2.6 billion EV battery complex nearby. The company, which said its plant will be able to power 310,000 electric vehicles annually, has contracts with Ford and Volkswagen.

Read More...
posted about 3 hours ago on techcrunch
Skyroot, the first private Indian company to design, build and test a solid rocket propulsion stage, has reached another key milestone in the development of its Vikram-I launch vehicle: a full-duration test of the rocket’s third stage. The third stage, dubbed Kalam-100 in homage to Indian rocket scientist and former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, is just one part of the company’s debut rocket. Vikram-I includes three solid fuel stages, plus a liquid-fueled kick stage that’s designed to serve the small satellite launch market. It’s designed to carry up to 480 kilograms to low-inclination orbits, and the company says on its website that it’s designed to be assembled and launched from any launch site within 24 hours. Vikram-I is one of a trio of rockets Skyroot is currently developing; the other two, Vikram-II and Vikram-III, will be able to carry heavier payloads with multiple orbital insertions, Skyroot says. The test-firing of the rocket stage took place at a private test range in Nagpur City, India, CEO Pawan Kumar Chandana told TechCrunch in an email. That range belongs to Skyroot investor and industrial explosives, ammunitions and propulsion systems manufacturer Solar Industries India. The next steps will be test firings for Stage 1 and Stage 2, Chandana said. The company’s existing funding, including an $11 million Series A and a $4.5 million bridge round, will cover most of the costs of testing. Skyroot is in the process of raising a Series B to take the company to “multiple orbital launches,” he said. All this funding should get Skyroot to a technology demonstration launch by the end of this year, with the company’s first commercial orbital mission early next year. That launch would take off from India’s spaceport on Sriharikota Island, and would make Skyroot the first private Indian company to build and launch private rockets.

Read More...
posted about 4 hours ago on techcrunch
Sunny Kumar Contributor Share on Twitter Sunny Kumar, MD, MBA is a partner at GSR Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm focused on healthcare technology with more than $3.5 billion under management. Blood pressure, body temperature, hemoglobin A1c levels and other biomarkers have been used for decades to track disease. While this information is essential for chronic condition management, these and many other physiological measurements are typically captured only periodically, making it difficult to reliably detect early meaningful changes. Moreover, biomarkers extracted from blood require uncomfortable blood draws, can be expensive to analyze, and again, are not always timely. Historically, continuous tracking of an individual’s vital signs meant they had to be in a hospital. But that’s not true anymore. Digital biomarkers, collected from wearable sensors or through a device, offer healthcare providers an abundance of traditional and new data to precisely monitor and even predict a patient’s disease trajectory. With cloud-based servers and sophisticated, yet inexpensive, sensors both on the body and off, patients can be monitored at home more effectively than in a hospital, especially when the sensor data is analyzed with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning technology. Opportunities for digital biomarkers A major opportunity for digital biomarkers is in addressing neurodegenerative diseases such as mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Neurodegenerative disease is a major target for digital biomarker development due to a lack of easily accessible indicators that can help providers diagnose and manage these conditions. A definitive diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease today, for example, generally requires positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or other imaging studies, which are often expensive and not always accurate or reliable. Cost savings and other benefits Digital biomarkers have the potential to unlock significant value for healthcare providers, companies and, most importantly, patients and families, by detecting and slowing the development of these diseases.

Read More...
posted about 4 hours ago on techcrunch
You thought the market was bad for venture capitalists, but what about the actual workers behind the tech companies they’ve backed? Reluctantly, we’re writing a tech layoffs roundup for the third week in a row, because once again, there have been reductions across stages and sectors. Over the past month, public and private tech companies have been announcing mass layoffs across sectors. Employees from Section4, Carvana, DataRobot, Mural, Robinhood, On Deck, Thrasio, MainStreet and Netflix have been impacted by the workforce reductions. Some bigger companies are instituting hiring freezes, such as Twitter and Meta, or announcing a shift in strategy, such as Uber. As has been our mantra while reporting on the layoffs sweeping the tech industry: layoffs don’t happen to companies, they happen to people. Especially for the U.S.-based tech employees, layoffs don’t just mean a loss of income — they mean a medically dangerous loss of healthcare. Let’s take a look at which companies announced reductions this week. Netflix layoffs continue  After layoffs hit Netflix’s content arm Tudum a few weeks ago, 150 more primarily U.S.-based employees were let go, plus 70 other employees in the animation division. A Netflix representative wrote in an emailed statement, “As we explained on earnings, our slowing revenue growth means we are also having to slow our cost growth as a company.” Netflix reported revenue of $7.87 billion for the first quarter of 2022 and a significant loss of 200,000 subscribers. Contractors were also impacted by these layoffs, but the number of affected workers in that designation is unclear. TechCrunch asked Netflix about reports that staff running diverse social channels like Strong Black Lead, Golden, Most and Con Todo were laid off, but Netflix said that the company decided not to renew contracts with certain agencies it used to recruit contractors. Still, it doesn’t feel great to see queer people and people of color losing their jobs, which helped Netflix cater to these audiences. Picsart’s unicorn status didn’t save it  Less than a year ago, Picsart raised $130 million from SoftBank, putting the visual creator tools startup into unicorn territory with a valuation exceeding $1 billion. A leaner, hipper version of Adobe, things seem to have taken a downturn for Picsart, which laid off 8% of its staff this week, affecting 90 people. Other SoftBank-backed companies like Cameo, which also became a unicorn last year, just conducted layoffs. When Alex Wilhelm last covered Picsart, he noted that the company was expected to go public — that still hasn’t happened, which may be a clue into what’s going on at the company to precipitate such cuts. India’s Cars24 cuts 600 jobs Cars24, a marketplace for used cars last valued at $3.3 billion by its venture capital investors, cut 600 jobs — or 6% of its entire workforce — this week. The Series G startup had just raised a $400 million round, making the reduction more about runway extension than lack of ability to pay the bills. As our own Manish Singh reports, Cars24 is one of many Indian startups that fired people in the last few weeks. Employees from Vedantu, Unacademy, Meesho, OkCredit, Trell, Furlenco and Lido have also cut several roles, he says. Marketplace startups, such as Cars24, feel especially vulnerable during a downturn. Consumer spending habits can get extremely fickle, which means that demand may decline while supply stays consistent or even grows. Balancing the two sides is the biggest art for any marketplace startup, but it becomes especially difficult to predict stability in revenue when everyone else has hit pause. Skillz scales back esports biz team  Esports company Skillz laid off 70 employees, around 10% of the team, earlier this week, the company confirmed to TechCrunch. No executives were impacted by the cuts. “We decided to reorganize our resources and investments to increase our profitable growth and further deliver against our vision of building the competition layer of the internet,” the company said in an emailed statement. “This realignment resulted in changing some of our programs and consequently people on our team as we prioritize our resourcing levels to continue to offer a great player experience and enable more game developers to bring their creations to life.” The company’s statement is ironic; to better support its external community, it is cutting its internal community. The company says it plans to continue hiring in some areas of the business but did not mention which ones.

Read More...
posted about 5 hours ago on techcrunch
The technological advances we’ve made over the last few thousand years are stunning, but the construction industry still relies on centuries-old technology. Configuring a robot to mix cement is easy, but delivering a CementTron 3000 to a job site, training employees on its use, and keeping it maintained are not the kinds of disruptions builders are looking for, especially when margins are so thin and experienced workers are hard to find. Even so, investors are backing startups bringing robotics, data management, automation and augmented reality into the construction process. Many major construction firms operate their own R&D divisions, but that hasn’t substantially changed attitudes about adopting new tech: in one survey, more than one-third of respondents who worked in the industry said they are ambivalent about using new tools. Despite their reluctance, growing numbers of construction tech startups are helping builders with bidding, scheduling, modeling software, and, quite frequently, drones. To learn more about the market forces shaping construction tech in 2022, we spoke to five investors: Nikitas Koutoupes, managing director, Insight Partners Heinrich Gröller, partner, Speedinvest Momei Qu, managing director, PSP Growth Suzanne Fletcher, venture partner, Prime Movers Lab Sungjoon Cho, general partner, D20 Capital 5 construction tech investors analyze 2022 trends and opportunities Full TechCrunch+ articles are only available to members Use discount code TCPLUSROUNDUP to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/Sophie Alcorn On Tuesday, May 24 at 8:30 a.m. PT/11:30 a.m. ET, I’m hosting a Twitter Space with Silicon Valley immigration lawyer Sophie Alcorn, who writes the “Dear Sophie” advice column for TechCrunch+ each Wednesday. If you have questions about working and living legally in the United States, please join the conversation. To get a reminder before the chat, follow @TechCrunchplus on Twitter. Thanks very much for reading: I hope you have a relaxing weekend. Walter Thompson Senior Editor, TechCrunch+ @yourprotagonist For better or for worse: Managing founder-CEO tension inside a startup Image Credits: Flashpop (opens in a new window) / Getty Images Technical founders often recruit a CEO who can fill in gaps in their business experience, but if they cannot build a strong partnership, everyone suffers. Metaphorically, imagine two people in a lifeboat arguing over which direction leads to land. Managing potential points of tension is critical, but founders must be pragmatic: Only choose someone you respect, and be prepared to invest time and energy into cultivating a close relationship, advises Max Schireson, an executive-in-residence at Battery Ventures. Previously, the co-founders of MongoDB hired him to be their CEO. “In the best case, a strong partnership can pioneer new models and build a lasting and impactful company,” says Schireson. For better or for worse: Managing founder-CEO tension inside a startup Dear Sophie: Can I do anything to speed up the EAD renewal process? Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch Dear Sophie, I’m on an L-2 visa as a dependent spouse to my husband’s L-1A. My EAD (work permit) is expiring in May — we filed for the extension of both my visa and EAD a few months ago. How long is the current process? Might there be anything I can do so my employment isn’t affected? — Career Centered Dear Sophie: Can I do anything to speed up the EAD renewal process? The one-chart argument that tech valuations have fallen too far Image Credits: Nigel Sussman (opens in a new window) As you may have heard, tech companies are having a bit of a whoopsie. But is it possible that stock sellers have gone overboard when it comes to devaluing these startups so deeply and so quickly? Alex Wilhelm says they have, in large part because “select tech concerns are now worth less than they were before the pandemic, despite having a few years of growth in the bank.” To make his case, he tracked the share price for Okta and found that the identity platform’s share price has rolled back to where it was in early 2019. “It’s also about three times as large,” writes Alex. “But it is now worth less today than it was back then. Chew on that.” The one-chart argument that tech valuations have fallen too far 3 things to remember when diversifying your startup’s cap table Image Credits: redmal (opens in a new window) / Getty Images Just as a sales team builds and refines its funnel, early-stage founders in fundraising mode can create an investor funnel that will help sustain their company for years to come. Oriana Papin-Zoghbi, CEO and co-founder of women’s health startup AOA Dx, shared her investor breakdown with TC+: 35% private investors. 34% women (female investors or female-headed funds). 26% venture capitalists. 23% family and friends. 18% international investors. 15% angel groups. “When building an investor funnel, vocalizing what you want is crucial to finding the right investors,” says Papin-Zoghbi. “Finding the right investors is like finding the right team members — you need to be upfront about your expectations and address what you want them to bring to the table.” 3 things to remember when diversifying your startup’s cap table Pitch Deck Teardown: BoxedUp’s $2.3M seed round pitch deck Image Credits: BoxedUp (opens in a new window) When video production equipment rental company BoxedUp launched, it initially focused on serving corporate customers who hosted events and conferences. And then, it pivoted: Earlier this year, BoxedUp raised a $2.3 million seed round to scale up its rental marketplace where individuals can rent high-end equipment directly to creators. “We found a $10 billion opportunity where owner-operators are renting things out via Instagram and rental shops are still using really old websites,” said CEO and founder Donald Boone. “Instead of spending $30,000 to buy a camera to rent out one at a time, we could instead create the platform to connect people that have that $30,000 camera,” he told TechCrunch in March. To help other founders replicate his success with BoxedUp’s seed round, he’s shared the unreacted 22-slide pitch deck with TechCrunch+. Pitch Deck Teardown: BoxedUp’s $2.3M seed round pitch deck

Read More...
posted about 5 hours ago on techcrunch
Match Group, the parent company of dating apps Tinder, Hinge and OkCupid, is getting along better with Google, just by a little bit. On Friday, Match withdrew its request for a temporary restraining order against the company, which it accuses of wielding unfair monopoly power in its mobile app marketplace. Match filed an antitrust lawsuit against the search giant earlier this month over the company’s restrictions on Android in-app payments, which drive app users toward remaining in its mobile ecosystem. The company filed the temporary restraining order request a day after suing Google. Match cited a handful of “concessions” from Google in its decision to withdraw the restraining order request, including assurances that its apps would not be rejected or deleted from the Google Play Store for providing alternative payment options. The company will also place up to $40 million aside in an escrow account in lieu of paying fees to Google directly for Android app payments that happen outside of Google Play’s payment system, arguing that those fees are “illegal under federal and state law.” The escrow account will remain in place while the case awaits its day in court. Match’s lawsuit is the most recent example of app makers objecting to Google and Apple’s practice of extracting steep fees for in-app payments. Developer frustration around the issue boiled over two years ago when Epic Games sued Apple for antitrust violations, a case that didn’t result in a straightforward victory for either side but did force Apple to allow developers to offer their users alternative payment options. Match Group sues Google over ‘monopoly power’ in Android app payments

Read More...
posted about 5 hours ago on techcrunch
The next bottleneck in lithium-ion battery supplies isn’t cobalt, even though China has a stranglehold on the market, and it’s not nickel, either, despite nickel prices nearly doubling in the past five months. Cobalt can be partially replaced with nickel, nickel can be partially replaced with manganese, and both can be completely replaced with iron phosphate, which is cheap and plentiful.  But there’s no substitute for one crucial component of these batteries: Lithium. Today’s lithium mines can’t hope to meet the skyrocketing demand for the next decade and beyond. Spotting an opportunity, startups like Lilac Solutions and Vulcan Energy Resources have leaped into action with new lithium extraction processes that are more efficient and potentially better for the planet. The crunch As automakers have fleshed out their electrification plans, they’ve caused an unprecedented rush for lithium. Over the last six months, lithium prices have gone on an epic bull run. It started in January, when prices jumped to $37,000 per metric ton from $10,000 a month earlier, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. Then it got worse in February, with spot prices rising to $52,000 per metric ton before rising again to $62,000 in March. Things have stabilized since then, but prices are still five times above the average price from 2016 to 2020. Large companies of all stripes have been racing to secure supplies. Automakers like Ford and Tesla have signed huge contracts, and battery manufacturers and miners are rushing to secure supplies. Last year, for example, a three-way bidding war broke out for Canadian miner Millennial Lithium, which has large reserves in Argentina, and the winning bid ended up more than 40% higher than the initial offer. Yet, those deals probably won’t be enough to fulfill the predicted demand for lithium, based on automakers’ current plans. Benchmark Mineral Intelligence is expecting demand to grow to 2.4 million metric tons in 2030 from less than 700,000 metric tons today. Supply won’t be able to keep up given the current pace of new lithium projects. “By the end of the decade, where we’re at now with the pipeline, we’re going to see significant deficits starting to grow,” said Daisy Jennings-Gray, a senior price analyst at Benchmark. Last year, lithium supply fell short of demand by more than 60,000 metric tons. Jennings-Gray’s firm predicts that the deficit will be over 150,000 metric tons by 2030. To meet demand, Benchmark says that $42 billion will need to be invested in the space by the end of this decade. Without new lithium projects coming online, it’ll likely get worse throughout the 2030s. By 2040, the International Energy Agency expects lithium demand to be 42 times higher than it is today. “It’s an insane number,” said Jordy M. Lee, a program manager at the Payne Institute for Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines. What’s more, it might even be too low. “We’ve consistently underestimated how much demand for lithium-ion batteries we’re going to have in the coming years,” he said. As the rise in demand shows no signs of abating, startups have surged into the space, pitching novel techniques to coax the volatile metal out of the earth.

Read More...
posted about 5 hours ago on techcrunch
Unless you live near a port, you probably don’t think much about the tens of thousands of container ships tearing through the seas, hauling some 1.8 billion metric tons of stuff each year. Yet these vessels run on some of the dirtiest fuel there is, spewing more greenhouse gases than airplanes do in the process. The industry is exploring alternative fuels and electrification to solve the problem for next-generation ships, but in the meantime a Y Combinator-backed startup is gearing up to (hopefully) help decarbonize the big boats that’re already in the water. London-based Seabound is currently prototyping carbon capture equipment that connects to ships’ smokestacks, using a “lime-based approach” to cut carbon emissions by as much as 95%, co-founder and CEO Alisha Fredriksson said in a call with TechCrunch. The startup’s tech works by routing the exhaust into a container that’s filled with porous, calcium oxide pebbles, which in turn “bind to carbon dioxide to form calcium carbonate,”— essentially limestone, per Fredriksson. Though carbon capture has yet to really catch on for ships, Seabound is just one of the companies out to prove the tech can eventually scale. Others, including Japanese shipping firm K Line and Netherlands-based Value Maritime, are developing their own carbon-capture tech for ships, typically utilizing the better-established, solvent-based approach (which is increasingly used in factories). Yet this comparably tried-and-true method demands more space and energy aboard ships, because the process of isolating the CO2 happens on the vessel, according to Fredriksson. In contrast, Seabound intends to process the CO2 on land, if at all. When the ships return from their journey, the limestone can be sold as is or separated via heat. In the latter case, the calcium oxide would be reused and the carbon sold for use or sequestration, per Fredriksson, who previously helped build maritime fuel startup Liquid Wind. Her co-founder, CTO Roujia Wen, previously worked on AI products at Amazon. Seabound says it has signed six letters of intent with “major shipowners,” and it aims to trial the tech aboard ships beginning next year. To get there, the company has secured $4.4 million in a seed round led by Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital. Several other firms also chipped in on the deal, including Eastern Pacific Shipping, Emles Venture Partners, Hawktail, Rebel Fund and Soma Capital. Beyond carbon capture, another Y Combinator-backed startup is setting out to decarbonize existing ships via a novel battery-swapping scheme. New Orleans-based Fleetzero aims to power electrified ships using shipping container-sized battery packs, which could be recharged through a network of charging stations at small ports.

Read More...
posted about 6 hours ago on techcrunch
In 2017, we noted that smartphone screen sizes had settled into a sweet spot between five and six inches. In hindsight, that may well have been wishful thinking. A brief respite aside, it seems that phones have only continued to embiggen, driven by a continued spec war and panel manufacturers like Samsung. Heck, even Steve Jobs famously missed the boat when he declared the 3.5-inch a platonic ideal a dozen years ago. “You can’t get your hand around it,” he noted about the four- to five-inch being manufactured by Samsung, “no one’s going to buy that.” Now, the comparison isn’t entirely Apples to apples, as it were. For one thing, hardware makers have gotten much better at shrinking the phone around the screen in the intervening decade. That is to say that a five-inch phone in 2010 is a very different beast than a 2022 version. Even so, big phones are big. They’re so big, in fact, that folding the screen in half seems like the only reasonable exit ramp. Where, Eric Migicovsky wonders, did all the small phones go? The man behind Pebble and Beeper (who also serves as a Y Combinator partner), is talking things into his own (self-described large) hands. Or, perhaps more accurately, he’s nudging it in someone’s direction in hopes that he doesn’t have to do the famously hard work of launching yet another hardware startup. Noting that the dream of a premium, sub-six-inch Android handset is dying or dead, Migicovsky launched Small Android Phone. “My hope is that we can gather support from the community and convince Google (ideally) or another Android manufacturer to build this phone,” he writes on the site. Google may well have been the tipping point here, as the company notably abandoned smaller phones with hardware restructuring that gave us the Pixel 6. ok we makin phones now pic.twitter.com/PdRA9mDHSc — Eric Migicovsky (@ericmigi) May 17, 2022 He noted in an email to TechCrunch that he’s already had conversations with hardware companies and launched the site/petition in hopes of getting them to see things his way. “I am busy and happy running Beeper. My goal is to encourage someone else [to] make one.” The petition cites the following bullets as driving factors in returning to a simpler, smaller, safer time: Fits nicely in pocket Are much lighter Are easy to use one-handed without dropping Won’t fall out of my pocket while bicycling Currently around 20,000, Migicovsky believes 50,000 is the sweet spot for convincing a manufacture to go all in on small. “Just back-of-the-napkin math, but it feels right,” he says. “Probably ~$10 million [non-recurring engineering], means 50K units makes a decent profit at [an] $800 selling price.” One wonders, ultimately, why the proliferation of the smartphone and increased competition have seemingly resulted in homogeneity. Certainly it’s not for lack of trying. When I mention the Palm Phone, he retorts, “I love that they tried! Also the Light Phone 2 is really interesting, but not great as primary phones.” He adds that — at the very least — he needs a good camera. That certainly doesn’t seem like too much to ask for these days. Launching a new phone company isn’t an impossibility. We’ve got a close eye on Nothing and OSOM’s efforts. But one certainly questions the soundness of doing so in 2022, based entirely on a potentially niche corner of the market. On his site, Migicovsky makes it clear that he’d rather someone else do it. “If no one else makes one I guess I will be forced to make it myself,” he writes, “but I really, really don’t want it to come to that.”

Read More...
posted about 6 hours ago on techcrunch
The other day, Brian reported on Sony’s new LinkBuds headphones, including its partnership with “what if Brian Eno was a piece of computer software” app Endel. The company uses really fascinating AI technology to generate soundscapes and music tracks to help your brain do its best work — to help you focus deeper, sleep more easily or to relax you. I spoke with one of Endel’s founders to learn more about the tech and its deal with Sony. “Endel is first and foremost a technology that was built to help you focus, relax and sleep. And the way this technology works, it procedurally generates a soundscape in real time on the spot, on the device. It is personalized to you based on a number of inputs that we collect about you; things like the time of day, your heart rate, the weather, your movement and your circadian rhythms, like how much sleep you got last night,” explains Oleg Stavitsky, CEO and co-founder at Endel. “This technology listens to all of this data, plugs into the algorithm, which creates the soundscape in real time, which allows us to react in real time to the changes in you. Using this technology, we are building an ecosystem of products, so that our soundscapes can follow you everywhere during the day across all these channels and platforms. We are pretty much everywhere at this point; iOS, Android, Apple Watch, Mac or Apple TV, Alexa… you name it.” In reviewing the product I did stumble across a couple of glaring omissions in where it is available: There was no way of streaming it to my Sonos speakers (the workaround is to install Alexa on Sonos), and the Endel app doesn’t support casting, so you can’t stream to Google Home either. Running the app using earphones, however, creates an intimate and beautiful experience. The audio tracks are Eno-esque in their expansiveness; it’s like a slowly evolving ambient soundtrack to your day. Sitting at my desk, I felt myself focus; a combination of the music and blocking and drowning out distractions. The soundscapes are stem-based — professional music industry jargon for snippets of sounds, think of them as samples. The app has a huge library of samples and stems, and the algorithm picks the right stems to sequence the audio together. On top of the basic sequencing, the software runs additional adjustments on top. “We have a few AI systems on top of that sequencer; AI systems that generate melodies basically. There are millions and millions and millions of variations,” says Stavitsky. “Some of the soundscapes on the app are done in collaboration with some of the biggest artists on the planet. We have Grimes and Miguel and James Blake and Plastic Man and others that we’ve worked with, so they are good. The way they work with us is they prepare a stem pack, a sound pack. They never submit a musical composition. They just are the building blocks that the algorithm then uses to assemble tracks on the fly.” The company says it’s approached by companies all the time, and have to consider whether partnerships are a cost or a benefit at any given time. It decided to say “yes” to headphones giant Sony, resulting in this collaboration. “Sony’s headphones innovation department approached us. They said we’re working on this new model that will somehow understand the context of where you are, and we want those headphones to proactively activate a certain soundscape,” says Stavitsky, “I’m frankly very, very skeptical about all these integrations, for a number of reasons. There’s always an opportunity cost. Being a small company, you’re wondering if we should do this. What got me excited about this is that the fundamental idea of Endel is that it’s an always-on soundscape that follows you everywhere during the day. Sometimes you can barely hear it, and sometimes it’s like front and center and it shields you from the rest of the world. I think this idea of headphones that proactively trigger a certain kind of soundscape depending on the context of what’s happening with you is exactly how we envision how our product is used. This is just going to be one huge play button — you press that button, and it listens to your calendar, listens to your heart rate, and it proactively shifts between all of the soundscapes. That’s what we are working toward, and these headphones make that real.”

Read More...
posted about 7 hours ago on techcrunch
At TC Sessions: Mobility, Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell admitted that his now successful company was founded in hubris, but that a skeptical eye during peak lidar hype helped them focus on real markets. “It’s no longer about some theoretical promise — you actually have to show real results, real deliveries, real technology and product. There’s been too many promises made out there that were broken.” In an interview with TechCrunch transportation editor Kirsten Korosec, Russell noted that he, like pretty much everyone else, was convinced early on that self-driving cars were just around the corner. (Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.) “The reality is, I think that the sheer complexity of solving an end to end autonomous driving problem in urban environments was underestimated in terms of the difficulty by at least a couple orders of magnitude,” he said. “If something is at peak hype cycle, it’s something you should be skeptical about. There was just a massive disconnect between the core engineers behind the actual tech, and leadership at the time, in terms of what was possible.” It was in 2017, he recalled that the company made the decision to pursue other applications for high-performance lidar tech: “It became very clear that the level of requirements for an R&D test platform, versus a true series production vehicle, is a completely different game altogether. The huge roof racks that you see that are $100,000 and a supercomputer in the trunk… it needs to be more like $1,000. And by the way, economies of scale are fundamentally required to be able to build a product, the cost is a significant factor at the end of the day.” The question became not one of raw capability or even just cost, but what would consumers, and by extension OEMs, pay for? Safety. And as it turns out, even top of the line ADAS and collision avoidance tech is seriously lacking right now. “It’s surprising to see how ineffective the current assisted driving systems are just at being able to do basic things like… not letting you smash into the thing right in front of you in your car, right? It sounds like a simple problem, like you wouldn’t even need lidar for that,” he said. “But the reality is it’s a lot more complicated, a lot more difficult than that — to even confidently understand what’s going on around you and come to a safe stop is not a solved problem.” The company has set up numerous examples of these failures — one of which showing a small fake pedestrian being plowed down by an ADAS-equipped car went viral. The combination of robo-taxis being far further out than expected and of ADAS systems as being both desirable and incapable seems to have spurred mainstream automakers to invest heavily in something better. “The transformation is that this is no longer about being an option on a high end, niche vehicle,” he explained. “This is something that has the opportunity to truly go mainstream, in the mass market… Nissan, they were actually showing off crash avoidance scenarios made possible by Luminar lidar; in their case they actually said they want to be able to standardize this type of tech on every vehicle they build by the end of the decade. Which I think is probably faster than any major tech adoption cycle, not for initial adoption, but full standardization across the lineup.” There will of course be Luminar-powered cars out there sooner than that: “Within the next 12 months there’s going to be series production cars that are Luminar equipped that are out there advancing this industry forward,” Russell confirmed. It’s funny to think, however, that a company born out of a plan to obsolete traditional vehicles has become the biggest proponent of its use in those vehicles. But an early recognition of the future of the industry made all the difference. “We probably shouldn’t have existed,” Russell said when asked about taking part in the hype cycle he later distanced himself from. “There’s no reason why any of the Googles, Apples, all the major automakers and other stuff couldn’t have, in some theoretical world, done exactly what we did.” “But the reason why were were able to build this company, this technology, this product and help lead the industry with it is just fundamentally because we had a completely different viewpoint. I guess what’s titled here [i.e. the name of the panel, A Contrarian View on Deploying Autonomy at Scale], the contrarian view,” he said, laughing. As for another contrarian view, the oft-repeated jibe by Elon Musk that lidar is unnecessary and Tesla will get by without it, Russell took it in good humor as well: “If somebody didn’t go out and say, ‘this is a fool’s errand, this shouldn’t exist, we made the right decision and we’re sticking to our guns!’… that’s the irony around all these things. It actually just calls attention to what’s important, because you only say that if you’re really self-conscious about it.”

Read More...
posted about 7 hours ago on techcrunch
Time is a flat circle, and all that was once old is new again. For example, back in the venture days of yore, inside rounds were considered a poor market signal; if a startup could not attract a new lead investor for its next round, what did that say about the company? Last year, that bit of conventional wisdom was inverted by abnormal market conditions and greed; inside rounds became a sign of strength as venture players doubled and at times tripled down on their portfolio companies, looking to get as much capital in the door as they could while the startup was still in its growth phase. The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on TechCrunch+ or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday. And now we’ve returned to the prior state of affairs. Inside rounds are once again signs of things not going perfectly at companies that pursue them. Buy now, pay later outfit Klarna makes the point: The richly valued BNPL giant is looking to take on new capital from existing backers at a discount to its prior valuation. The Wall Street Journal reports: The Sweden-based payments company is aiming to raise up to $1 billion from new and existing investors in a deal that could value it in the low $30-billion-range after the money is injected, the people said. That would represent a roughly 30% drop from the previous round. No one likes a down round. They are dilutive, messy and demoralizing. But they are also miles better than not raising money and dying, so companies raise them when required. Our question this morning is not whether it makes sense for Klarna to raise inside capital at a lower price. As the WSJ notes, the company tried to bump up its valuation slightly before changing course and pursuing a lower price. We know why Klarna is pursuing a down round: necessity. Instead, our question is whether the company is cutting its valuation enough to bring its worth in line with present market pricing. Let’s find out. Klarna, Affirm and the BNPL valuation revision Thankfully for our needs, there are public BNPL players for us to observe as we work to better understand what the particular fintech revenue is worth. Affirm is public and other players that have BNPL services are also publicly traded. Affirm, being effectively a pure BNPL play, and one that has some market overlap with Klarna, is a perfect floating comp for the Swedish company. And the U.S. company released its calendar Q1 2022 (Q3 fiscal 2022) results a little over a week ago. This means we have fresh-off-the-vine data from a public company. To understand how well Klarna is repricing itself, let’s do a little bit of data collection and math. We start with the collection side of things (all periods calendar; data via the companies):

Read More...
posted about 7 hours ago on techcrunch
I don’t cover post-IPO companies a lot, and Coca-Cola is def on the list of ones I can generally ignore. But when the company sends out a hand-wringing press release about how awesome they are for launching a bottle cap where the cap stays attached to the bottle “for environmental reasons,” I’m sorry, my blood just boils. Don’t get me wrong, better recyclability is a good thing, and fewer bottle caps failing to make their way to recycling? I’m all for it. But the context for this is that in the U.K. — like in the U.S. — bottles are recycled, rather than reused. And they’re recycled at rates that are pitiful. 14 climate tech investors share their H1 2022 strategies In the rest of Europe, Coca-Cola and other drink manufacturers figured out a functioning system: pay a deposit when you buy a bottle or aluminum can and you get a deposit back when you return it. It works: In Norway, for example, in 2018, the return ratio of reusable bottles was 95%, and aluminum cans were returned in upwards of 98% of all cases. After being returned, the packaging is reused in some cases, or recycled in others. There’s a bigger reliance on plastic bottles that are sturdy enough that they can be reused 20 times before they are recycled; and beer often comes in reusable glass bottles that are actually re-used by the breweries, rather than having to melt and re-make the bottles after a single use. In the U.S., in contrast, not only are the bottles not re-used, less than 30% of bottles are even recycled — the rest goes to landfill. In the U.K. — where Coca-Cola is patting itself on the back about its cap-connecting prowess — the number is around 45%. “Coca-Cola Great Britain takes another step towards a World Without Waste for PET bottles,” good heavens, come the hell on. You know that this is bollocks, as they would say in the U.K. Congratulations, Coca-Cola, on figuring out some details here, but as a company, you know that there are better solutions, and if you wanted to, you could put systems in place to drive recycling rates to 90%+, rather than the paltry 30-45% we’re seeing in the U.K. and U.S. Yes, the markets are bigger. Yes, cultural differences exist. But if you really gave two shits about the environment, how about you lean on local governments and recycling infrastructure, and help make some difference that actually matters, rather than incremental bullshit that really only serves to entice journalists to blow smoke up your asses?

Read More...
posted about 8 hours ago on techcrunch
Do Kwon, the creator of the stablecoin TerraUSD (UST) and its sister token Luna, is facing legal prosecutions in South Korea over the collapse of the two coins that have wiped billions of dollars off investors around the world earlier this month. The Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office said Friday that it has kicked off an investigation on Terraform Labs, the organization behind the stablecoin project Terra led by Do Kwon, and assigned the case to its Financial and Securities Crime Joint Investigation Team, a special financial crimes unit brought back recently by the newly appointed justice minister Dong-hoon Han, according to local media. Luna Foundation Guard adviser says Do Kwon hasn’t reached out since UST crash The announcement came a day after five Korea-based crypto investors with combined damages of 1.4 billion won (about $1.1 million) filed criminal complaints against Kwon and his Terraform co-founder Daniel Shin over charges of fraud and other violations of financial regulations. South Korea’s financial authorities estimated that about 280,000 users owned a combined amount of 70 billion Luna in Korea. “The design and issuance of Luna and Terra to attract investors, but the failure to properly inform them about the flaws, and the unlimited expansion of Luna’s issuance amounted to defrauding investors,” said a representative from LKB & Partners, the law firm hired by the five investors bringing charges against Terraform Labs. Do Kwon is also reportedly facing a tax fine of 100 billion won ($78 million) for evading corporate and income tax payments. UST, which was once one of the most promising stablecoins, depegged from its $1 value last week and has since dropped to $0.079. Rather than being backed by fiat money or real life assets like some other stablecoins, the value of UST is maintained by “burning” its sister token Luna. The price of Luna has plummeted over 99% since last week. The Block first reported Terraform Labs’ in-house legal team has resigned in the wake of the UST and Luna collapse. Terraform Labs is incorporated in Singapore but was registered to operate its business as Terraform Labs Korea in South Korea Terra’s UST crash will make life harder for crypto as regulation looms

Read More...
posted about 8 hours ago on techcrunch
Galley Solutions, a food data company providing food operators with technology to make more profitable decisions around their culinary operations, raised $14.2 million in Series A funding. Ian Christopher, COO, started the company with his brother-in-law, Benji Koltai, CEO, in 2017. The food enterprise resource planning tool came out of Koltai’s previous work at Sprig, a delivery-only restaurant started by CEO Gagan Biyani and former Google executive chef Nate Keller. Christopher explained that in the early days, there was not a system of record, so much of the work was done in a low-tech environment — spreadsheets or pen and pencil. Koltai, who has food sensitivities, kept getting mislabeled meals and having health reactions. “He went to the culinary team and just said, like, ‘Why are we getting this wrong?’” Christopher told TechCrunch. “We have this source of truth for our recipes, so why isn’t this propagating every other corner of this operation, including the labeling and the allergen information. That was when a sous chef kindly walked him through the chaos that was their kitchen operations.” Koltai, working with Keller, took a recipe-centric approach and coded the first version of Galley, which provides clean recipe data, predictive purchasing, smart inventory and accurate food production planning. Keller is now working with Galley as a part of its customer success program. Galley Solutions website example. Image Credits: Galley Solutions The company’s technology is a kitchen productivity tool that focuses on core recipe data, and the purchasing and inventory aspects stem from that. For example, the carrots for a carrot soup are mapped to real-time vendor items so the kitchen can make better purchasing decisions and more accurate recipe margins. Galley works with companies like DoorDash, Aramark and Chowbotics. The company grew its subscription revenue by 280% from last year and saw a 146% net dollar retention in the first quarter of 2022, Christopher said. It was also at the point in its growth where it was reaching profitability and was close to cash-flow positive when leadership decided to take advantage of its position to aggressively scale. That’s where the Series A comes in. The investment was led by Astanor Ventures and includes participation from existing investor Zetta Venture Partners. This gives the company $20 million in total funding to date. Galley is the latest startup, bringing technology into the kitchen, to receive funding. Earlier this year, we also saw Meez raise $6.5 million for its recipe software. Meanwhile, the new funding enables the company to scale and move into secondary marketplaces to connect supply and demand with a focus on automating the purchasing decision and purchasing activity. “We were able to get to millions of dollars in revenue with two salespeople in our organization, so we have to scale our sales team,” Christopher said. The new funding will also go toward product and engineering. Up next, the company is focusing on sustainability as part of its partnership with Astanor, including sustainability impacts and initiatives around food waste. Why SaaS is bucking the venture slowdown

Read More...
posted about 9 hours ago on techcrunch
Most folks enjoy a good how-to — they’re useful, and they can make life a little easier. This is not a good how-to. This one’s a life-changer. Just imagine what $100,000 of equity-free funding could do for your startup. This how-to begins here, and it ends on stage at  TechCrunch Disrupt, which takes place in San Francisco on October 18-20. The Startup Battlefield 200 “Please listen to the following instructions as our menu items have changed.” In other words, the selection process for Startup Battlefield, our legendary pitch competition, is new. Lean in and learn how to apply for your shot at $100,000. The only way to compete in Startup Battlefield is by first earning a spot in the Startup Battlefield 200 — a curated cohort of 200 early-stage startups. Competition will be fierce. TC editors will vet thousands of applications and select 200 startups.Those fortunate founders will receive full access to Disrupt, exhibit space for all three days, exclusive workshops, training and other perks.  Plus, all SB 200 founders get to flash-pitch in front of investors and TechCrunch editors. This entire opportunity is 100% free from start to finish. TechCrunch does not charge any application or participation fees and does not require an equity cut. We’ve done away with pay-for-play. The SB 200 are the only early-stage startups allowed to exhibit at Disrupt.  From those 200 companies, TechCrunch editors will choose 20 startups as Startup Battlefield finalists. Those founders will be featured on the TechCrunch website, receive private coaching and pitch live in front of the entire TechCrunch audience. We believe this new process allows more outstanding startups to participate in the Startup Battlefield program. They’ll gain invaluable global exposure to investors, the media and to potential customers. And, if they’re good enough, founders will have a shot at taking home $100,000 in equity-free funding. Talk about serious bragging rights. You’re eligible to apply if you: Lead an early-stage startup. Have a minimally viable product. Represent any vertical. Represent any geography. Have step-function innovation in your vertical. Are bootstrapped or have pre-scale funding (variable by industry). This is a huge opportunity and, again, it will be highly competitive. Don’t wait — place this how-to at the top of your to-do list. Apply here no later than July 31. We’ll start rolling out acceptance notices on July 1. TechCrunch Disrupt takes place in San Francisco on October 18-20 with an online day on October 21. If you want a shot at the Startup Battlefield title, the equity-free $100K — and all the other perks — apply to TechCrunch Startup Battlefield 200 before July 31. Or if you want to be there in-person to meet all of the Startup Battlefield 200 companies, you can grab your pass to attend before prices increase! Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TechCrunch Disrupt? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form. ( function() { var func = function() { var iframe = document.getElementById('wpcom-iframe-088e45f6eab558a21a147cdc3ae12365') if ( iframe ) { iframe.onload = function() { iframe.contentWindow.postMessage( { 'msg_type': 'poll_size', 'frame_id': 'wpcom-iframe-088e45f6eab558a21a147cdc3ae12365' }, "https:\/\/tcprotectedembed.com" ); } } // Autosize iframe var funcSizeResponse = function( e ) { var origin = document.createElement( 'a' ); origin.href = e.origin; // Verify message origin if ( 'tcprotectedembed.com' !== origin.host ) return; // Verify message is in a format we expect if ( 'object' !== typeof e.data || undefined === e.data.msg_type ) return; switch ( e.data.msg_type ) { case 'poll_size:response': var iframe = document.getElementById( e.data._request.frame_id ); if ( iframe && '' === iframe.width ) iframe.width = '100%'; if ( iframe && '' === iframe.height ) iframe.height = parseInt( e.data.height ); return; default: return; } } if ( 'function' === typeof window.addEventListener ) { window.addEventListener( 'message', funcSizeResponse, false ); } else if ( 'function' === typeof window.attachEvent ) { window.attachEvent( 'onmessage', funcSizeResponse ); } } if (document.readyState === 'complete') { func.apply(); /* compat for infinite scroll */ } else if ( document.addEventListener ) { document.addEventListener( 'DOMContentLoaded', func, false ); } else if ( document.attachEvent ) { document.attachEvent( 'onreadystatechange', func ); } } )();

Read More...
posted about 9 hours ago on techcrunch
It’s been a rough start for the newly-elected Costa Rica president Rodrigo Chaves, who less than a week into office declared his country “at war” with the Conti ransomware gang. “We’re at war and this is not an exaggeration,” Chaves told local media. “The war is against an international terrorist group, which apparently has operatives in Costa Rica. There are very clear indications that people inside the country are collaborating with Conti.” Conti’s assault on the Costa Rican government began in April. The country’s Finance Ministry was the first hit by the Russia-linked hacking group, and in a statement on May 16, Chaves said the number of institutions impacted had since grown to 27. This, he admitted, means civil servants wouldn’t be paid on time and impact the country’s foreign trade. In a message posted to its dark web leaks blog, Conti urged the citizens of Costa Rica to pressure their government to pay the ransom, which the group doubled from an initial $10 million to $20 million. In a separate statement, the group warned: “We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power.” Conti is among the most prolific hacking groups. The FBI warned earlier this year that the gang was among “the three top variants” that targeted businesses in the United States, and it has been blamed for ransomware attacks targeting dozens of businesses, including Fat Face, Shutterfly, and the Irish healthcare service. But Conti has picked up its pace in recent months: in January and February it published 31 victims on its leaks blog. In March and April, it posted 133 victims. Why Costa Rica? Some believe that Conti’s campaign against Costa Rica is motivated for siding with Ukraine. Experts say all signs point to money. Brett Callow, a ransomware expert and threat analysis at Emsisoft, told TechCrunch that “there’s no reason to believe that the attack on Costa Rica is other than financially-motivated.” And Maya Horowitz, the vice president of research at Check Point Software, said based on their research, Conti’s extortion planning is “very focused and based on the ability of the victim to pay.” Read more on TechCrunch The year the tide turned on ransomware Are embedded devices the next ransomware target? Conti’s internal chats leaked online after declaring support for Russian invasion Chaves has repeatedly blamed the attack on his predecessor, former president Carlos Alvarado, for not investing in cybersecurity. While it’s unclear exactly what measures the country had implemented to protect against cyberattacks, Jorge Mora, the country’s director of digital governance recently said that four million hacking attempts were recently blocked thanks to “protection systems” installed across institutions. But it’s more likely that Costa Rica was just unlucky and targeted as part of a wider operation rather than due to any perceived weakness. “Situations like this reflect the asymmetric realities of attack and defense where attackers only need to be lucky once,” Jamie Boote, a software security consultant at the Synopsys Software Integrity Group, told TechCrunch. “If one in one hundred targets becomes a victim that can pay out millions in ransom, then it pays to target hundreds.” Callow adds that it’s also possible that Conti targeted Costa Rica due to the increased success U.S. and European law enforcement have seen in disrupting their operations. “They may not make as much money off attacks in countries like Costa Rica and Peru, but they’re not going to end up with a multi-million dollar bounty on their heads or with U.S. Cyber Command in their servers,” said Callow. “Less gain, less risk. Or, at least, that’s what they may believe.” An inside job? In a message posted to its dark web blog over the weekend, Conti claimed it had “insiders in [the Costa Rican] government,” which could go some way to explaining why the country became a target, or why the attack had such a devastating impact. This claim was echoed by  President Chaves earlier this week, saying “there are very clear indications that people within the country are collaborating with Conti.” However, security experts tell TechCrunch that Conti’s claims should be treated with a heavy dose of skepticism. “Dark web records reveal a user by this moniker has only been active on a popular cybercrime forum since March 2022 — around a month before the attacks on Costa Rica started,” Louise Ferrett, threat analyst from Searchlight Security, tells TechCrunch. “So, while it’s possible Conti could have bribed or socially engineered insiders within the country’s government, it seems unlikely they would have amassed so much influence so quickly.” “It is a known tactic for ransomware gangs to make exaggerated and outlandish threats in order to instill a sense of urgency in the victim and obtain a ransom payment,” Ferrett said. What — or who — is next? “The success of these attacks should concern smaller governments around the world,” Allan Liska, an intelligence analyst at Recorded Future tells TechCrunch. He added: While many ransomware groups won’t touch national governments, others, like Conti feel they are untouchable and will go after whatever victim they want because they assume there will be no consequences. This is going to be an increasingly bigger problem and governments have to take firm action against ransomware actors. These are non-nation-state groups engaging in essentially nation-state-style attacks and there should be appropriate repercussions for these actions. This is a viewpoint shared by Callow, who tells TechCrunch that we can expect to see organizations in countries outside of the U.S. receive more attention from ransomware gangs, particularly in low-income countries where cybersecurity spending is lower. “The U.S. public and private sectors are vulnerable to cyberattacks, and may be even more vulnerable in other countries,” he said. But we are already seeing the emergence of similar attacks on smaller nation states. Greenland’s government this week confirmed that the island’s hospital system was “severely” impacted by a cyberattack, which has meant that hospital workers cannot access any patient medical records. Conti’s attack against Costa Rica is ongoing. In a post on Friday, Conti said it will delete the encryption keys used to lock Costa Rica’s government systems on May 23. As of the time of writing, Costa Rica’s government has refused to give in to Conti’s ransom demands. The year the tide turned on ransomware

Read More...
posted about 10 hours ago on techcrunch
Welcome to Online Day at TC Sessions: Mobility 2022! Opportunity knocks just as loud online as it does IRL, but this knock can be heard around the world. You’ll find everything listed in the event agenda, but here’s a quick rundown of what’s in store. Plan your day to reap optimal opportunities! But first: If you attended the live show in San Mateo, your pass includes access to our online day. Need a ticket? Buy a $65 online-only pass here. VW’s Path to Become a Global EV and Tech Powerhouse: VW Group CEO Herbert Diess is in a race to transform the automaker into a global leader in software, EV sales and autonomous vehicles. Hear from Diess about the challenges that remain and how VW plans to take the EV crown from Tesla and keep legacy automakers in the rearview mirror. TechCrunch Mobility Desk Analysis: Get the lowdown on what went down at TC Mobility on days one and two. Hear TC editors offer fresh analysis and see clips from the in-person interviews and presentations. Speed Networking: Pretty much what it sounds like. A series of random, rapid connections and 3-minute conversations with other attendees based on specific topics. It takes place on CrunchMatch, our AI-powered networking platform.  Startup Pitch Feedback Sessions 1 and 2: Don’t miss 18 innovative early stage startups as they pitch to TC’s own Jeff Taylor and receive invaluable feedback on ways they can improve. These intrepid startups all exhibited live for 2 days on the TC Sessions: Mobility expo floor, and we recorded the pitch sessions so you’d have a chance to check ’em out. Watch and learn how you can improve your own pitch. Take a gander at the afternoon’s pitch lineup. Startup Pitch Feedback Session 1: Carbon Origins Confer Dronamics Earth Rides Exovolar Industries Faction  Graviti Technologies GridMatrix Hyperspec AI Pix Moving RideWith Trusli Startup Pitch Feedback Session 2: BuuPass Clip Gemini Motor Ivee Perceptive Zycada Opportunity’s knocking today, May 20, online at TC Sessions: Mobility 2022. Don’t have a ticket? Get a move on — buy a pass for $65 right now and get ready to connect with the global mobility community! ( function() { var func = function() { var iframe = document.getElementById('wpcom-iframe-e7dd6bbdbceb829774052566487b4cc4') if ( iframe ) { iframe.onload = function() { iframe.contentWindow.postMessage( { 'msg_type': 'poll_size', 'frame_id': 'wpcom-iframe-e7dd6bbdbceb829774052566487b4cc4' }, "https:\/\/tcprotectedembed.com" ); } } // Autosize iframe var funcSizeResponse = function( e ) { var origin = document.createElement( 'a' ); origin.href = e.origin; // Verify message origin if ( 'tcprotectedembed.com' !== origin.host ) return; // Verify message is in a format we expect if ( 'object' !== typeof e.data || undefined === e.data.msg_type ) return; switch ( e.data.msg_type ) { case 'poll_size:response': var iframe = document.getElementById( e.data._request.frame_id ); if ( iframe && '' === iframe.width ) iframe.width = '100%'; if ( iframe && '' === iframe.height ) iframe.height = parseInt( e.data.height ); return; default: return; } } if ( 'function' === typeof window.addEventListener ) { window.addEventListener( 'message', funcSizeResponse, false ); } else if ( 'function' === typeof window.attachEvent ) { window.attachEvent( 'onmessage', funcSizeResponse ); } } if (document.readyState === 'complete') { func.apply(); /* compat for infinite scroll */ } else if ( document.addEventListener ) { document.addEventListener( 'DOMContentLoaded', func, false ); } else if ( document.attachEvent ) { document.attachEvent( 'onreadystatechange', func ); } } )();

Read More...
posted about 10 hours ago on techcrunch
Hello and welcome back to Equity, a podcast about the business of startups, where we unpack the numbers and nuance behind the headlines. The whole team was back together this week, which was pretty darn good as there was a lot to get through. Alex Wilhelm, Natasha Mascarenhas and Mary Ann Azevedo were on the mic, with Grace handling production. What did we get into? A better question might be what did we not get into: We started with an update from the TechCrunch Mobility event, thanks to Natasha who is on-site and up in the air. From there it was time to talk deals, with the crew parsing Arrived’s latest round, and why Kolkata Chai took some external capital, but very much on its own terms. Then it was time to chat Zenly’s new mapping news, and why startups are critical when it comes to taking on incumbents. From there we had to ask if Elon Musk really wants to buy Twitter (seemingly no?), and how tired we are about the topic itself. Then we chatted through the recent unicorn vibe check that the market got, and the fact that most unicorns are not true IPO candidates. (Along with news from SpotOn, and Unit!) And to close, we asked about the responsibilities of tech platforms in the wake of a number of mass shootings in the United States; where should our expectations for content moderation on platforms start, and end? There are no easy answers for tech in the aftermath of the Buffalo tragedy Hugs from us to you, and we will talk to you Monday! Equity drops every Monday at 7 a.m. PDT and Wednesday and Friday at 6 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify and all the casts.

Read More...
posted about 10 hours ago on techcrunch
It has been almost two weeks since Terraform Labs’ cryptocurrency LUNA and algorithmic stablecoin Terra USD (UST) imploded, bringing down the crypto markets with them. There have been public conversations from both the creator of the project, Do Kwon, and entities associated with it about the next steps that will attempt to revive the Terra ecosystem. But inside Luna Foundation Guard (LFG), there have been close to no conversations between Kwon and his team with advisers, and UST is “pretty much defunct at this point,” Jonathan Caras, an LFG governing council adviser, told TechCrunch. (LFG was Terra’s Singapore-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting UST.) “It’s been pretty quiet,” said Caras, one of the four advisers for Kwon’s LFG. According to Caras, there hasn’t been any communication with the advisers since May 7, when UST began depegging from its (what was supposed to be) stablecoin value, Caras said. LUNA has fallen over 99% from its peak to $0.0001398, or less than one-hundredth of a cent, while UST fell 92.1% to $0.079 from its $1 peg, according to CoinMarketCap data on Friday. UST’s market capitalization collapsed from all-time highs nearing $19 billion to less than $1 billion. “There were a lot of brainstorming and conversations [that day], but since then there hasn’t been much of a conversation, or at least one that I’ve been invited to,” Caras said. The relationship of the advisers at LFG was more a role of being “thought leaders” than operators for UST, Caras noted. They weighed in on how to design or manage the mechanics of transitioning UST from a purely algorithmic stablecoin to a semi-backed, blended basket of crypto assets, so the conversations were more focused on the technical aspects as opposed to actual tactics, which he didn’t have visibility to, he added. “The truth is, I found my information [about this situation] on Twitter like everyone else,” Caras said. One of the other advisers for LFG, Kanav Kariya, who is also the president of Jump Crypto, tweeted the following on May 13: “I don’t know exactly what to say. This week has been hell for our entire community. I know we’ll come out of this stronger, but that doesn’t make this any easier.” Although LUNA and UST plummeted in value, Caras believes that Terra’s ecosystem is far from over. Now, Terra has a governance proposal live for community members to vote on, which would involve renaming the existing network Terra Classic and LUNA Classic (LUNC) and the “rebirth a new Terra blockchain,” Kwon tweeted on May 18. Terra had – and still has – a massive community, known as LUNAtics, who believe in the long-term success of the ecosystem, even if UST died. “I’m a believer in the longevity of the industry,” Caras said.

Read More...
posted about 12 hours ago on techcrunch
Technology turned out to be a boon for pets during the pandemic. Without ready access to vets, pet owners turned to mobile apps to keep track on their pet’s health, often via educational content, and in some cases that was linked to insurance providers. The behavior has lit up the VC world as startups roll out these relatively simple ups which turn out to be big money-spinners when this insurance angle is attached. This is why pet app and insurance provider Lassie has today closed an €11m Series A round led by Felix Capital. Also participating were existing investors Inventure and Passion Capital, as well as prominent angels such as Josefin Landgård (co-founder KRY & Mantle), Fredrik & Caroline Hjelm (VOI siblings) and Karl-Johan Persson (Chair H&M). The proceeds will be used to scale the business beyond its home base of Sweden. Some seven in 10 pet parents take their pet’s physical and mental health more seriously than their own, so Lassie’s pitch is that it reduces not just vet costs but also prevents injuries from happening in the first place. 
Pet owners are then rewarded with lower insurance prices if they complete educational courses on good pet care. 
 Lassie co-founder and CEO Hedda Båverud Olsson said in a statement: “We see a big shift as now people start to view their insurance as something that can help prevent illnesses. We are now looking to bring more products to market and take our preventive pet insurance beyond Sweden.” Susan Lin, Partner at Felix Capital added: “Over the past decade, we’ve seen a continued shift in modern family structures and attitudes towards pets as an increasingly critical member of the family. Along with tremendous interest and engagement in preventive health and wellness, these trends have only been further accelerated through COVID-19.” Lassie’s biggest current competitors are Bought by Many (ManyPets) and Dalma. Olsson told me: “We’re all transforming Pet Insurance to become more digital, empathy-driven, and seamless. What makes Lassie very unique (and our blue ocean strategy) is our preventative business model…. We’re on a mission to become a central pet-care platform and we’ve already established a large database on pet health, enabling us to make market-leading discoveries about preventive health.”

Read More...
posted about 12 hours ago on techcrunch
CleverTap, a retention marketing platform which has raised $76.6M to date, is to fully acquire Bulgarian-originated but San Francisco-based Leanplum, a customer engagement platform which has raised $131.2M, for an undisclosed amount. The news was broken by South Eastern European startup news site The Recursive. Sunil Thomas, CleverTap Cofounder and Executive Chairman said: “Like many private company transactions we are not disclosing the price and terms of the acquisition. This is a cash and stock transaction that is being funded by internal accrual and CleverTap stock.” The deal is expected to close in Q2 of 2022. The most recent Series D investors in Leanplum included LAUNCHub Ventures, Shasta Ventures, Canaan Partners, and Kleiner Perkins. This acquisition will give more global reach to CleverTap, with development centers and customer-facing teams across North America, Europe, Latin America, India, South East Asia and the Middle East. The company says it now has a total customer base of 1200 customers. Thomas added: “Users today demand to be treated as individuals, and this has forced brands to change how they engage with them. CleverTap and Leanplum have both purposely built for a mobile-centric omnichannel world.” “When we started Leanplum, our vision was to meet customers’ real-time needs at the cutting edge of technology,” said Momchil Kyurkchiev, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Leanplum in a statement. “We have succeeded in that, but as the market has matured, to fully meet the increasing demands put on brands today, we needed to bring in the best analytics, segmentation, and engagement tools, to help our customers build valuable, long-term relationships with their customers. This is why joining forces with CleverTap makes the most sense.” CleverTap and Leanplum are well known in the retention marketing space but also compete with marketing automation software and that is a crowded category. The acquisition is a possible sign that this market is consolidating.

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on techcrunch
Thursday May 19, 2022, and it’s the last day of our in-person Mobility event. Tomorrow we take the journey to the mean streets of the world wide web, and you can still join us virtually! — Haje and Christine The TechCrunch Top 3 Tl;dr: We know you don’t have 32 minutes to read Meta global affairs president’s new manifesto, so Natasha skim-read it for you. In short, the future of the metaverse, excuse us, “metaverse spaces,” is uncertain, complicated and needs a truckload of developers to do it. We also still don’t have the 411 on how Meta plans to make money in the metaverse, particularly, as Natasha points out, since the company does a lot of tracking and profiling. That may come in Nick Clegg’s next manifesto. We’re here for it. What happens when a vertical farming company cracks the code?: Spoiler alert, it’s delicious! Oishii started out selling strawberries from its New Jersey facility at $50 for eight to 11 berries, and with a new facility up and running, the company is now able to reduce that to $20. Not on par yet with what we get at the grocery store, but if food prices keep rising, they may eventually meet in the middle. Turn the beat around: Could tech valuations be lower than they need to be? That’s certainly the argument Alex is making, with one chart showing how Okta’s shares are now selling even below early 2019 — before the pandemic and before all of the revenue multiples went sky-high. He lays out some examples of why the tech sell-off may have gone too far. Startups and VC The team at Y Combinator just waded in and told its founders to strap in and prepare for the worst. “If your plan is to raise money in the next 6–12 months, you might be raising at the peak of the downturn. We recommend you change your plan,” Manish reports. We’ve spent the last couple of days immersing ourselves in the world of mobility at TC Sessions. Here’s the top three takeaways from Nuro’s awesome session, as distilled by Rebecca. For TechCrunch Plus, Haje did a teardown of BoxedUp’s $2.3 million seed round pitch deck. It has some really elegant storytelling and some fixable quirks; we think you’ll pick up a tip or two from this story for your own fundraising efforts, so come check it out! A smattering more: Spend now, pay later: Untapped Global wanted to rethink the collateral gap for African companies by allowing small businesses to use their ongoing revenues as collateral, Mike reports. Home is where the buffalo roam: Belong, a startup that aims to shake up property management, has just raised $50 million to grow its footprint, Mary Ann reports. A little bit o’ this, a little bit o’ that: Framework’s user-repairable laptop gets an upgrade. It’s a little ironic at first glance, but Brian outlines why it makes sense. Soaring over the Sahara: A new deal sets a lofty goal of deploying 12,000 of Wingcopter’s 198 drone systems across Africa over the course of the next 5 years, Brian reports. A budding romance: Brian is on a roll today, also covering the launch of the $200 LinkBuds earbuds from Sony. Game on, my wayward son: Andreessen Horowitz debuts $600 million fund for games investments. The new vehicle, called Games Fund One, joins other industry-specific arms at a16z, including its crypto and bio divisions, Lucas reports. Dear Sophie: Can I do anything to speed up the EAD renewal process? Dear Sophie, I’m on an L-2 visa as a dependent spouse to my husband’s L-1A. My EAD (work permit) is expiring in May — we filed for the extension of both my visa and EAD a few months ago. How long is the current process? Might there be anything I can do so my employment isn’t affected? — Career Centered Dear Sophie: Can I do anything to speed up the EAD renewal process? (TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.) Big Tech Inc. WhatsApp’s new business app should have companies on cloud nine. The new version of the Business API is not only free, which will attract smaller businesses, but will also take minutes instead of weeks to implement and reduce some of those pesky server costs. In Netflix news, we were initially excited at the prospect of a “Mystery Box” feature. Granted, maybe we put too much on a pedestal. As it turns out, it’s a way for children to rewatch their favorite shows more easily. In addition, Netflix is also rolling out some additional features so that content is more accessible — think subtitles and languages. Twitter has a new crisis misinformation policy that will slap a warning on tweets that are deemed “misleading” during times of crisis and will prioritize those on high-profile accounts or tweets that have gone viral. Here are a few more for your Thursday: The U.S. Justice Department says it will not bring charges under federal hacking laws against security researchers and hackers who act in good faith. Half of the North American smartphone shipments belonged to Apple in the first quarter. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating a Tesla crash that killed three people where the car may have been in Autopilot. More information is being uncovered regarding the Buffalo shooter and how he used social media in the days leading up to the incident that left 10 people dead and three injured.

Read More...