posted about 2 hours ago on techcrunch
You may well recognize Cassie as the basis of Agility Robotics’ delivery bot, Digit. If you’ve been following the tech’s progression at all, however, you no doubt know that it started life as the ostrich-inspired Cassie. The robot is all legs and not much else. In addition to fueling Agility’s commercial ambitions, the robot has proven a solid platform for exploring bipedal location. Announced by Oregon State University professor Jonathan Hunt in 2017, Cassie was created with the aim of a $1 million grant from the DoD — a pretty familiar story in the robotics world. Today, a team from the Dynamics Robotics Laboratory in OSU’s College of Engineering highlighted the ways they’re continuing to push Cassie to its bipedal limits. The team says the robot was able to run a 5K untethered, on a single charge. Cassie’s not going to beat any human world records anytime soon, but the 53-minute (and three second) run was still an impressive exhibition for the tech. The robot’s run time included around 6.5 minutes of troubleshooting, as the team dealt with an overheated computer and a botched turn that knocked it off its legs. “Cassie is a very efficient robot because of how it has been designed and built, and we were really able to reach the limits of the hardware and show what it can do,” Ph.D. student Jeremy Dao said in a statement. According to the team, Cassie essentially taught itself to run using a deep reinforcement learning algorithm, which allowed the system to figure out how to stay upright by shifting its balance while running. “Deep reinforcement learning is a powerful method in AI that opens up skills like running, skipping and walking up and down stairs,” undergrad student Yesh Godse adds. In May of this year, the OSU team also demonstrated how Cassie can walk up and down stairs without the aid of lidar or on-board cameras. 5 fundraising imperatives for robotics startups Cassie the ostrich bot does the bipedal robot chicken walk

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posted about 3 hours ago on techcrunch
To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here. Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for July 27, 2021. Today is a good day not only because the U.S. women’s national soccer team is heading to the Olympics quarter finals (shoutout Gotham’s Carli Lloyd!), but also because Danny Crichton just published an incredibly interesting EC-1 digging into RapidSOS. Danny has previously written extensively about disaster tech, a growth industry of sorts given the changing climate. OK, now to tech news! — Alex The RapidSOS EC-1 The TechCrunch Top 3 Edtech’s shifting center of gravity: The debris is still settling after China’s recent regulatory changes impacted edtech, on-demand and music-streaming businesses in the country. Natasha Mascarenhas dug into the edtech market, asking investors where they planned to invest in the future. The gist is that while China was once the center of the edtech universe, it may rapidly lose that crown to a more global set of edtech hotspots. Africa’s burgeoning startup ecosystem: TechCrunch’s long-running dive into the Q2 venture capital market is coming to a close this week, but not before we investigated the African startup market, a growing space that is attracting more and more investor and media attention. Some big exits certainly haven’t hurt. But while capital raised by African startups is growing rapidly, some blank spaces still exist. Let’s see if investors pounce. No-code is still super hot: If you want to have a weird day on Twitter, tweet that you don’t like no-code as a concept. You will get many notes from folks who disagree. That passion among the hoi polloi is also reflected in investor interest. This time ‘round the funding tree it’s Bubble, which just closed a $100 million round to help anyone “begin building modern web applications using a click-and-drag interface that can connect data sources and other software together in one fluid interface,” per our reporting. Startups/VC Kicking off today’s startup notes, let’s talk about stock. Startup shares, to be precise. Mostly investors get preferred shares, because they can demand better equity as they are bringing capital to the table. Founders and staff tend to get common stock. Which, as the name implies, is not as good as preferred. But there’s a venture capital firm in Boston called Pillar VC that buys common stock in its investments. One of its investors, Jamie Goldstein, wrote an essay for TechCrunch sharing what he’s learned from the process. It’s worth reading. Before we get into funding rounds, NowRx CEO and co-founder Cary Breese wrote an op-ed for TechCrunch discussing the delivery market. Given how much money is flowing into so-called instant grocery startups, it’s also worth your time. $200M for sensors as a service: That’s the news from Wiliot, which has just put a bunch of SoftBank Vision Fund 2 money into its pockets to turn its “ultra thin and light” processor that “runs on ambient power” into a service that it can sell to others. Very cool. Meet the latest crypto unicorn: It’s Fireblocks — with its new $310 million round, the company is now worth $2.2 billion. What does it do? According to our own reporting, Fireblocks “aims to offer financial institutions an all-in-one platform to run a digital asset business, providing them with infrastructure to store, transfer and issue digital assets.” Between this and the recent FTX deal, it’s clear that there is still ample investor appetite for continued crypto wagers. 1Password raises $100M more: Accel is at it again, putting big checks into largely self-sustaining businesses This time it’s a double down on 1Password, a software service that helps individuals and businesses alike create and manage supersecure passwords. The company competes with LastPass, among other companies. The company is now worth $2 billion and recently crossed the $120 million ARR milestone. That’s pretty darn good, even if the company’s revenue multiple implies that it is no longer growing at startup speeds. (How about an S-1? Anyone?) Oova wants to help people conceive: The startup just landed a $1.2 million round to help folks figure out their optimum fertility window and provide information that their healthcare provider may be able to use to confirm ovulation. There are two groups of people in the world. Those who have not dealt with fertility-related issues, and those who have. For the latter set, Oona’s newly released kit and goals are good news. The RapidSOS EC-1 According to one estimate, Americans place 240 million 911 calls each year. Sending emergency services to the right location sounds straightforward, but each call is routed through one of thousands of call centers known as public safety answering points (PSAPs). “Every 911 center is very different and they are as diverse and unique as the communities that they serve,” said Karin Marquez, senior director of public safety at RapidSOS. One PSAP that serves New York City is a 450,000-square-foot, blast-resistant cube set on nine acres, but “you have agencies in rural America that have one person working 24/7 and they’re there to answer three calls a day,” Marquez noted. Founded eight years ago, RapidSOS processes more than 150 million emergencies each year across approximately 5,000 PSAPs. The company’s technology helps call centers integrate requests from cell phones, landlines and IoT devices. “Its technology is almost certainly integrated into the smartphone you’re carrying and many of the devices you have lying around,” Managing Editor Danny Crichton writes in a four-part series that studies the company’s origins: Part 1: The early years and why a consumer app company turned to govtech and integrated services for technology and device companies. Part 2: How RapidSOS made its pivot and why its current business model has performed so well. Part 3: To transform 911 services, RapidSOS established dozens of corporate and individual partnerships. Part 4: Examines the future of 911 and RapidSOS in light of limited infrastructure funding. “I’ve honestly never met a company like RapidSOS with so many signed partnerships,” says Danny, who initially wrote about the firm six years ago. “It’s closed dozens of partnerships and business development deals, and with some of the biggest names in tech. How does it do it? This story is about how it built a successful BD engine.” The RapidSOS EC-1 (Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.) Big Tech Inc. TechCrunch is about to dive into a whole mess of Big Tech earnings in a moment, so we’ll be brief regarding Big Tech news today. Here’s a rapid-fire rundown: Shopify allows merchants to sell NFTs directly through their storefronts: The popular Canadian e-commerce platform supporting NFTs could be a boon to their broader adoption. Instagram now supports 60-second videos on Reels, its TikTok clone: Every major social network wants a piece of TikTok’s magic. Let’s see if Instagram can capture some of that sparkle. Google TV mobile app redesign adds new services and recommendations: Google TV is the updated Chromecast interface, if you were wondering. The redesign includes Rotten Tomatoes scores, just in case you want some extra input on what to watch. Pinterest rolls out new features that let creators make money from pins: More shoppable content at Pinterest? Not a surprise, but perhaps something that will allow the company to continue posting above-expectations revenue growth. TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images Have you recently worked with a growth marketer? We want to hear about your experience! Fill out the survey here. The answers to this survey will help shape our editorial coverage as we begin to dive into conversion optimization, social, paid ads and more! Find more details at techcrunch.com/experts. TechCrunch Experts

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Another excellent quarter for Apple, as the company posted $81.4 billion in revenue. That’s a 36% year-over-year jump for the company, besting Wall Street estimates of $73.3 billion by a considerable margin. “Our record June quarter operating performance included new revenue records in each of our geographic segments, double-digit growth in each of our product categories, and a new all-time high for our installed base of active devices,” CFO Luca Maestri said in a release. “We generated $21 billion of operating cash flow, returned nearly $29 billion to our shareholders during the quarter, and continued to make significant investments across our business to support our long-term growth plans.” Some strong figures for the company all around here, but it was iPhone sales and subscription services that continued to lead the way — a familiar story for anyone who’s followed the company the last several quarters. iPhone sales increased from $26 billion to $39.5 billion, on the continued strength of the company’s long-waited push into linewide 5G, while services rose from $13.1 billion to $17.5 billion for the quarter. Apple has continued to grow its services offerings, which now includes Music, TV+, iCloud, Arcade, News+ and Fitness+. The company clearly sees the subscription portfolio as the future of its revenue model. Greater China proved a strong market for the company in the third fiscal quarter. The company posted $14.76 billion in sales for the region, a more than 50% increase over the same time last year. The Americas region, meanwhile, rose from $ 27 billion to $35.89. In the earnings report, CEO Tim Cook made reference to pandemic-related issues, which highlighting broader societal focuses for the company. “This quarter, our teams built on a period of unmatched innovation by sharing powerful new products with our users, at a time when using technology to connect people everywhere has never been more important,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We’re continuing to press forward in our work to infuse everything we make with the values that define us — by inspiring a new generation of developers to learn to code, moving closer to our 2030 environment goal, and engaging in the urgent work of building a more equitable future. The company once again declined to offer guidance, owing to uncertainties during the pandemic. On a followup call with investors, however, Maestri noted, “We expect revenue growth to be lower than our June Quarter.” The CFO cited various issues including foreign exchange rates with the U.S. dollar, a slow down in the growth rate of services and continued supply chain issues for its hardware offerings.   What impact will Apple’s buy now, pay later push have on startups? Investors don’t seem that impressed by Apple’s $111 billion quarter

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posted about 4 hours ago on techcrunch
Today after the bell amidst a deluge of major technology company earnings reports, Alphabet reported its own second-quarter performance. The search-and-services company posted revenues of $61.9 billion in the June 30, 2021 quarter, net income of $18.5 billion, and earnings per share of $27.26. Those figures work out to top-line growth of 62%, and net income expansion of 166%. Naturally Google is currently being compared to pandemic-impacted Q2 2020 results, but its gains are noteworthy regardless. The Android-maker’s results trounced expectations, with the street only expecting Google’s parent company to post $56 billion in total top line and $19.14 in earnings per share. Notably Alphabet shares are up around a single percentage point after hours, mirroring a similarly muted market reaction to better than officially anticipated earnings results from Microsoft. Alphabet is a company with a number of moving parts, so let’s unpack the numbers a little bit. YouTube’s reported revenue of $7 billion is up 84% year over year. This feels like a strong result, frankly, given YouTube’s age. That said, your humble servant wonders how much heavier the ad load can get on YouTube before a rival service steals some of its oxygen. In a separate note, YouTube disclosed that its YouTube Shorts product has “surpassed 15 billion global daily views,” up 131% from the 6.5 billion global daily views that it detailed in March. (Everyone wants to eat TikTok, it seems.) Google Cloud reported revenue of $4.6 billion, up 54% year over year. That growth rate is slightly above what Microsoft posted for its Azure cloud unit. However, as the Microsoft effort is considered to be larger than Google’s own in revenue terms, investors might have anticipated a larger growth ∆ than what Mountain View just detailed. Google Cloud cut its operating loss from $1.4 billion in the year-ago Q2 to a far more modest $591 million deficit in its most recent quarter. That’s honestly rather good. On the Other Bets side of things, revenues rose! But so did losses. The skunkworks group at Alphabet posted $192 million in revenue, up from $148 million in the year-ago period. But the collection of trials and errors lost $1.4 billion in the quarter, up from $1.1 billion in the corresponding year-ago period. Naturally with operating income of $19.4 billion inclusive of its Other Bets cost center, Alphabet can well afford to continue spending on what projects that may in time generate material future revenues. Still, everything at Alphabet that is not Google’s core offerings (search, YouTube, etc.) lost money in the quarter: Image Credits: Alphabet The real story, however, is in the epic gains that Alphabet posted in operating income from Q2 2020 to Q2 2021. Just look at that acceleration in operating income! It’s a somewhat befuddling result in terms of its quality. What else to take note of? Google’s share repurchase program has been modified some, but not in a manner that should impact regular investors. So we can leave Alphabet’s quarter content that the company did well enough to defend its market cap of just over $1.75 trillion, even if it did not manage to add too much to the figure in after-hours trading thus far. It’s a great time to be a huge tech company. 5 advanced-ish SEO tactics to win in 2021

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posted about 4 hours ago on techcrunch
One of the world’s biggest video game companies is reeling after a state discrimination and sexual harassment suit kicked off a firestorm of controversy within the company. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Activision Blizzard last week, alleging that the company fostered a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.” Following a combative response to the lawsuit from corporate leadership, a group of employees at Blizzard will stage a walkout, which is planned for Wednesday at 10AM PT. Most employees at Blizzard continue to work remotely, but walkout participants will gather tomorrow at the gates to the company’s Irvine campus. “Given last week’s statements from Activision Blizzard, Inc. and their legal counsel regarding the DFEH lawsuit, as well as the subsequent internal statement from Frances Townsend, and the many stories shared by current and former employees of Activision Blizzard since, we believe that our values as employees are not being accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership,” the organizers wrote. In the new statement, they called for supporters to donate to organizations including Black Girls Code, the anti-sexual violence organization RAINN and Girls Who Code. Activision Blizzard publishes some of the biggest titles in gaming, including the Call of Duty franchise, World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Overwatch. Blizzard came under Activision’s wing through a 2008 merger and the subsidiary operates out of its own Irvine, California headquarters. In the suit, the state agency describes a “frat house” atmosphere in which women are not only not afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts, but routinely and openly harassed, sometimes by their superiors. The company pushed last week back in a fiery statement, blaming “unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California” for pursuing the lawsuit. Activision Blizzard Executive Vice President Frances Townsend, former Homeland Security advisor to George W. Bush, echoed that aggressive messaging in an internal memo, slamming the lawsuit as a “distorted and untrue picture of our company.” In an open letter published Monday, the walkout’s organizers condemned Blizzard’s response to the lawsuit’s allegations. “We believe these statements have damaged our ongoing quest for equality inside and outside of our industry,” they wrote. “… These statements make it clear that our leadership is not putting our values first.” More than 2,600 employees signed the letter, which demands an end to mandatory arbitration clauses that “protect abusers and limit the ability of victims to seek restitution,” improved representation and opportunities for women and non-binary employees, salary transparency and a full audit of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the company. On Twitter, streamers, gamers, game devs and former employees expressed support for Wednesday’s walkout under the hashtag #ActiBlizzWalkout, with some calling for a blackout on Activision Blizzard games as a show of solidarity. Others called for streamers to use the walkout time slot to raise awareness about rampant sexual harassment and discrimination in gaming culture at large. One Blizzard employee shared a photo of the company’s iconic statue depicting an axe-wielding orc, a central feature of its Irvine headquarters. Three plaques displaying corporate values that surround the statue had been covered with paper: “Lead responsibly,” “play nice, play fair,” and “every voice matters.” Twitch expands its rules against hate and abuse to include behavior off the platform

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posted about 4 hours ago on techcrunch
According to one estimate, Americans call 911 about 240 million times every year. Sending emergency services to the right location sounds straightforward, but each 911 call is routed through one of thousands of call centers known as public safety answering points (PSAPs). “Every 911 center is very different and they are as diverse and unique as the communities that they serve,” said Karin Marquez, senior director of public safety at RapidSOS. One PSAP that serves New York City is a 450,000-square-foot, blast-resistant cube set on nine acres, but you also have “agencies in rural America that have one person working 24/7 and they’re there to answer three calls a day,” Marquez noted. Founded eight years ago, RapidSOS processes more than 150 million emergencies each year across approximately 5,000 PSAPs. The company’s technology helps call centers integrate requests from cell phones, landlines and IoT devices. “Its technology is almost certainly integrated into the smartphone you’re carrying and many of the devices you have lying around,” Managing Editor Danny Crichton writes in a four-part series that studies the company’s origins and ensuing success: Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription Part 1: The early years and why a consumer app company turned to govtech and integrated services for technology and device companies. Part 2: How RapidSOS made its pivot and why its current business model has performed so well. Part 3: To transform 911 services, RapidSOS established dozens of corporate and individual partnerships. Part 4: Examines the future of 911 and RapidSOS in light of limited infrastructure funding. “I’ve honestly never met a company like RapidSOS with so many signed partnerships,” says Danny, who initially wrote about the firm six years ago. “It’s closed dozens of partnerships and business development deals, and with some of the biggest names in tech. How does it do it? This story is about how it built a successful BD engine.” Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week! Walter Thompson Senior Editor, TechCrunch @yourprotagonist The RapidSOS EC-1 How to prepare for M&A, your most likely exit avenue Image Credits: Reinhard Krull / EyeEm (opens in a new window) / Getty Images The headlines might be littered with mega deals, IPOs and SPACs, but in all likelihood, you will exit your startup via a relatively smaller merger or acquisition, Ben Boissevain writes in a guest column. “The IPO market is healthy again, but M&A still represents 88% of exits: So far this year, there were 503 IPOs and 5,203 deals,” writes Boissevain, founder of Ascento Capital. “While it is good to strive for a billion-dollar-plus sale, a successful IPO or a SPAC deal, it is practical to prepare your startup for a smaller transaction.” How to prepare for M&A, your most likely exit avenue Duolingo boosts IPO price target in boon to edtech startups Image Credits: Nigel Sussman (opens in a new window) U.S. edtech company Duolingo bumped up its IPO price range Monday morning, targeting $95 to $100 per share, up from previous guidance of $85 to $95 per share. “The fact that Duolingo is raising its IPO price range indicates that we are more likely on the path for a strong offering than a weak one,” Alex Wilhelm notes. Duolingo boosts IPO price target in boon to edtech startups Data-driven iteration helped China’s Genki Forest become a $6B beverage giant in 5 years Image Credits: VCG (opens in a new window) / Getty Images Many Extra Crunch readers will not have heard of China’s fastest-growing bottled beverage company: Genki Forest is a direct-to-consumer startup that started selling its sodas, milk teas and other products just five years ago. Today, its products are available in 40 countries and the company hopes to generate revenue of $1.2 billion in 2021. After closing its latest funding round, Genki Forest is valued at $6 billion. Industry watchers frequently compare the upstart to giants like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, but founder Binsen Tang comes from a tech background, having funded ELEX Technology, a social gaming company that found success internationally. “China doesn’t need any more good platforms,” Tang told his team in 2015, “but it does need good products.” Leveraging China’s robust distribution network, lighting-fast manufacturing capabilities and a vast pool of data that enables holistic digitization, Genki Forest sells more than 30% of its products online. “Everything feels right about the company,” said VC investor Anna Fang. “The space, the founder, the products and the back end … they exemplify the new Chinese consumer brand.“ Data-driven iteration helped China’s Genki Forest become a $6B beverage giant in 5 years Sequoia’s Mike Vernal outlines how to design feedback loops in the search for product-market fit Sequoia’s Mike Vernal joined us on TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising to discuss how founders should approach product-market fit, with a specific focus on tempo. It doesn’t mean fast in the kind of uncontrolled, reckless, crashing sense. It means fast in a sort of consistent, maniacal, get-a-little-bit-better-each-day kind of way. And it’s actually one of the top things that we look for, at least when evaluating a team: How consistently fast they move. Sequoia’s Mike Vernal outlines how to design feedback loops in the search for product-market fit As China shakes up regulations, tech companies suffer Image Credits: Nigel Sussman (opens in a new window) Alex Wilhelm spent the end of last week and the beginning of this one looking at Chinese regulations targeting its edtech sector, aiming to understand “precisely what is going on with the various regulatory changes.” “For startups, the regulatory changes aren’t a death blow; indeed, many Chinese tech startups won’t be affected by what we’ve seen thus far,” he writes. “But on the whole, it feels like the risk profile of doing business in China has risen.” As China shakes up regulations, tech companies suffer Automakers have battery anxiety, so they’re taking control of the supply Image Credits: Porsche AG To ensure a steady supply of batteries, automakers are increasingly looking to joint ventures. “Like if you’re VW, and you say, ‘We’re going to go 50% electric by whatever year,’ but then the batteries don’t show up, you’re bankrupt, you’re dead,” Sila Nano CEO Gene Berdichevsky said in a recent interview. “Their scale is so big that even if their cell partners have promised them to deliver, automakers are scared that they won’t.” Automakers have battery anxiety, so they’re taking control of the supply Pro tips from the team behind Kickstarter’s most funded app Image Credits: AndreyPopov / Getty Images The team at memoryOS “spent countless hours researching down the rabbit hole of crowdfunding tips and tricks” before it successfully became the most-funded app on Kickstarter, the company’s CEO, Alex Ruzh, writes in a guest column. “We’re sharing our approach (and secrets) to building a successful crowdfunding campaign because we know just how tough it can be to launch your own product,” he writes. Pro tips from the team behind Kickstarter’s most funded app SOSV partners explain how deep tech startups can fundraise successfully Startups developing so-called deep tech often find it challenging to raise capital for various reasons. At TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising, two experienced investors, SOSV partners Pae Wu and Garrett Winther, spoke on the subject and advised startups facing a challenging fundraising path. SOSV partners explain how deep tech startups can fundraise successfully Checkout is the key to frictionless B2B e-commerce Image Credits: Dilok Klaisataporn (opens in a new window) Processing payments, credit and authorizations for B2B purchases is all handled electronically, but that’s not a panacea. For example, volume sellers prefer to work through traditional accounts payable systems instead of paying the service fees smaller companies accept as the cost of doing business. However, the combination of fraud and identity protection with credit handling and digital payments “creates a powerful network, the type that can not only build trust but enable one-click transactions at scale,” says Andrew Steele, an investor at Activant Capital. Checkout is the key to frictionless B2B e-commerce   Cowboy Ventures’ Ted Wang: CEO coaching is ‘about having a second set of eyes’ At TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising, Cowboy Ventures’ Ted Wang spoke about why he encourages founders in his portfolio to work with executive coaches. I don’t think you need to limit advice from people who are “been there, done that.” I think it is really important to get input from those people, but in terms of personal development, I think you want insight from people who understand how human beings listen and learn and grow. Cowboy Ventures’ Ted Wang: CEO coaching is ‘about having a second set of eyes’

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Today after the bell, Microsoft reported its fiscal Q4 2021 earnings, the period corresponding to the second calendar quarter of this year. Microsoft posted revenues of $46.2 billion in the period, along with net income of $16.5 billion and earnings per share of $2.17. The company’s revenues grew by 21% compared to the year-ago quarter, while its net income expanded by a more toothsome 47% over the same time frame. The company’s results beat expectations, which Yahoo Finance reports were revenues of $44.1 billion and earnings per share of $1.90. Shares of the software giant fell after the news, perhaps due to the company’s results missing so-called whisper numbers; that Microsoft has traded at or near all-time highs in recent sessions puts the current 3% after-hours drop into context. Tech shares were broadly weaker in regular trading today, a session in which Microsoft shed just under 1% of its worth. Microsoft is so large a company that its top-level results are hardly clear, so let’s dig in a little more. First up, Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, posted 51% revenue growth in the quarter compared to the corresponding year-ago quarter, a figure that would dip to 45% if one was to remove currency fluctuations, according to the company. The 51% figure, per initial analysis, is the company’s best Azure growth result since its fiscal Q3 2020 quarter, or the first calendar quarter of last year. From that perspective, it’s hard to fault Azure’s growth over the last three months. Picking through the rest of the company’s results, we can rank its three main divisions’ revenue growth results as follows: Intelligent Cloud: 30% growth, a figure driven in part by Azure’s growth; Productivity and Business Processes: 21% growth, led by LinkedIn (46% growth), and the Dynamics 365 CRM product (49% growth); More Personal Computing: 9% growth, led by search growth (53%, excluding traffic acquisition costs) The weaker spots in the larger Redmond revenue review are not hard to spot. Office Consumer revenue expanded by 18%, a figure that feels somewhat modest; Windows OEM revenue slipped by 3%; and Surface revenue fell 20%. But those lowlights were not enough to derail the company’s aggregate growth picture and titanic profitability. How profitable is Satya Nadella’s company? Microsoft spent $10.4 billion on share buybacks and dividends in its most recent quarter. That’s a somewhat confusing amount of money, frankly. And at this point, we’re a bit flummoxed why Microsoft is buying back shares. Its market capitalization is a bit more than $2 trillion, implying that at best the company can gently chip away at its share count over time at huge expense. Surely there is a better use for its cash? Regardless, the company’s results indicate that the recent run of big technology companies posting impressively large and lucrative results is not behind us. That may help provide investor confidence for technology companies more broadly. Which, you know, would not be a bad thing for startups.

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Twitter’s recent acquisition spree continues today as the company announces it has acqui-hired the team from news aggregator and summary app Brief. The startup from former Google engineers launched last year to offer a subscription-based news summary app that aimed to tackle many of the problems with today’s news cycle, including information overload, burnout, media bias, and algorithms that promoted engagement over news accuracy. Twitter declined to share deal terms. Before starting Brief, co-founder and CEO Nick Hobbs was a Google product manager who had worked on AR, Google Assistant, Google’s mobile app, and self-driving cars, among other things. Co-founder and CTO Andrea Huey, meanwhile, was a Google senior software engineer, who worked on the Google iOS app and had a prior stint at Microsoft. Image Credits: Brief While Brief’s ambitious project to fix news consumption showed a lot of promise, its growth may have been hampered by the subscription model it had adopted. The app required a $4.99 per month commitment, despite not having the brand-name draw of a more traditional news outlet. For comparison, The New York Times’ basic digital subscription is currently just $4 per week for the first year of service, thanks to a promotion. Twitter says the startup’s team, which also includes two other Brief employees, will join Twitter’s Experience.org group where they’ll work on areas that support the public conversation on Twitter, including Twitter Spaces and Explore. While Twitter wouldn’t get into specifics as to what those tasks may involve, the company did tell TechCrunch it hopes to leverage the founders’ expertise with Brief to build out and accelerate projects in both those areas. Explore, of course, is Twitter’s “news” section, where top stories across categories are aggregated alongside trending topics. But what it currently lacks is a comprehensive approach to distilling the news down to the basic facts and presenting balance, as Brief’s app had offered. Instead, Twitter’s news items include a headline and a short description of the story, followed by notable tweets. There’s certainly room for improvement there. It’s also possible to imagine some sort of news-focused product built into Twitter’s own subscription service, Twitter Blue — but that’s just speculation at this point. Twitter says it proactively reached out to Brief with its offer. As part of its current M&A strategy, the company is on the hunt for acquiring talent that will complement its existing teams and help to accelerate its product developments. Over the past year, Twitter has made similar acqui-hires, including those for distraction-free reading service Scroll, social podcasting app Breaker, social screen-sharing app Squad, and API integration platform Reshuffle. It also bought products, like newsletter platform Revue, which it directly integrated. The company even held acquisition talks with Clubhouse and India’s ShareChat, which would have been much larger M&A deals. “We’re really glad we ended up at Twitter,” Hobbs told TechCrunch. “Andrea and I founded Brief to build news that fostered a healthy discourse, and Twitter’s genuine commitment to improve the public conversation is deeply inspiring,” he said. “While we can’t discuss specifics on future plans, we’re confident our experience at Brief will help accelerate the many exciting things happening at Twitter today,” he added. Hobbs said the team remains optimistic about the future of paid journalism, too, as Brief demonstrated that some customers would pay for a new and improved news experience. Brief’s mobile news app aims to tackle information overload and media bias “Brief pioneered a fresh vision for journalism, focused on getting you just the news you need rather than as much as you could withstand,” remarked Ilya Kirnos, founding partner and CTO at SignalFire, who backed Brief at the seed stage. “That respect for its readers made SignalFire proud to support founders Nick Hobbs and Andrea Huey, who are now bringing that philosophy to the top source of breaking news — Twitter.” To date, Brief had raised a million in seed funding from SignalFire and handful of angel investors, including Sequoia Scouts like David Lieb, Maia Bittner, and Matt Macinnis. As a result of today’s deal, Brief will wind down its subscription app on July 31. The company says it will alert its current user base today via a notification about its forthcoming shutdown but the app will remain on the App Store offering new features that allow users to explore its archives.

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posted about 5 hours ago on techcrunch
Apple is responding to user complaints and feedback about the controversial changes to the Safari mobile browser with today’s launch of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 beta 4. The new Safari design first introduced at WWDC had moved the tab bar (URL bar) to the bottom of the screen — a fairly radical change for one of the iPhone’s most-used apps. It was meant to make the controls easier to reach, if using a phone with one hand. But critics said that the change made other often-used features — like the reload button or Reader Mode — harder to find and use, impacting the overall usability of the mobile browser itself. To Apple’s credit, it’s clearly been listening to the feedback. In the pre-iOS 15 design, the tab bar sits in its traditional spot at the top of the screen, with an easy-to-access Reader Mode button (the double A’s) on the left and the reload button on the right. At the bottom, you’d find the forward and back buttons, a share button, reading list and tabs buttons. The iOS 15 design did away with all these useful access points to commonly used features, favoring the reachability of the tab bar over everything else. Instead, it used a three-dot “more” menu to hide everything else that you may want to do when browsing the web — like reload the website, share a link, view the page in Reader Mode, save an article to read later, and and so on. The list of actions that could be taken grew to over 20 items long, as a result. On Apple pundit John Gruber’s The Talk Show podcast, he noted the new design wasn’t even popular inside Apple in the weeks leading up to the Safari announcement at WWDC. The internal sentiment among some was that the new design may look cool, but wasn’t all that usable, he claimed. TechCrunch’s Editor-in-Chief Matthew Panzarino, who had joined as a guest on the July 21 episode, agreed that in theory, the idea of having less on the screen was a good idea. But in practice, it just didn’t work. “When you actually use it, you realize that it actually clutters the screen more and makes it a little more confusing,” he said. “And it doesn’t give you much more screen real estate unless you take action — like scrolling — which makes it kind of weird.” With the beta 4 update, Apple is trying to fix some of the issues that arose from this change in its new betas. For starters, it has re-added a Share button to the tab bar, and put additional controls under that menu. Sharing links it probably one of the most-common tasks for web users, so it makes sense to put the button back in a place where it only takes one tap to use. The Refresh button is now permanently showing in the iOS 15 Safari address bar #iOS15DevBeta4 pic.twitter.com/v8AoRB68QI — Apple Software Updates (@AppleSWUpdates) July 27, 2021 There’s also once again a reload button in the tab bar next to the domain name, though it’s a bit smaller compared with prior versions. Meanwhile, a Reader Mode button will appear in the tab bar when Reader is available, and it can be accessed with just one tap. The tab bar will also now minimize when you’re interacting with buttons on websites. Before, it had gotten in the way, causing usability issues where website buttons remained unreachable. Just another day being unable to order takeout because iOS 15 Safari’s bottom bar makes this checkout button untappable. thanks Safari for not letting me have that bruschetta pic.twitter.com/e23YTYzGM6 — Federico Viticci (@viticci) July 22, 2021 iPadOS 15 users will be able to choose between the separate tab bar design, which is the default, or the Compact tab bar, Apple noted. Apple isn’t the first to try to rethink the mobile browser design in this way. A former Google Chrome design manager, Chris Lee, recently wrote about his work on a similar redesign for the Chrome mobile browser with a bottom URL bar that Google ultimately decided never to launch. He said the changes had also received mixed reactions at the time. The new design had gained a cult following in the tech community but mainstream users found the changes “disorienting,” he explained. There is something to be said for the muscle memory with using an app that’s launched as frequently as Safari is. Although you may like the placement of the bar (I initially did!), over time, you may find that the changes made it more difficult when you wanted to do more than simply visit a website or swipe between tabs. And there’s a learning curve when it comes to remembering not to reach for the top of the screen for the shortcuts to various actions, too. The Safari update is one of several tweaks arriving with the new beta releases, which also include a way to share focus status with select contacts, a new XL widget size (which Apple Podcasts on iPad is using), and other, smaller updates.

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posted about 6 hours ago on techcrunch
Yes Virginia, there are advantages to exhibiting in (the sold-out) Startup Alley at TC Disrupt 2021. Out of all the early-stage startups ready to exhibit on September 21-23, Team TechCrunch hand-picked 50 to form the Startup Alley+ cohort. Startup Alley+ is a VIP experience designed to help founders grow their business and increase their opportunities right now in the run-up to Disrupt. Hold up: Don’t miss the opportunity to meet and network with all the innovative startups you’ll find in Startup Alley — including the Startup Alley+ cohort. Attend Disrupt for less than $100 — if you buy your early bird pass before prices go up on July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT). The VIP experience includes three masterclass sessions on crucial topics that all startup founders need to, well, master. Case in point: product-market fit. It’s an elusive and yet essential first step to unlocking growth. You can’t build success without a product that quenches the demand of a thirsty market. On August 24, Dan Olsen will conduct a masterclass on the art and science of product-market fit. Olsen, a product management trainer and consultant, works with CEOs and product leaders to build strong product teams. His clients include Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Box and Walmart. A best-selling author of The Lean Product Playbook, Olsen has literally written the book on product-market fit. In his masterclass, How to Create Product-Market Fit, Dan will draw on material in the book and share his simple but effective framework. He will explain his Product-Market Fit Pyramid and The Lean Product Process, a six-step methodology that guides you through how to: Determine your target customer Identify underserved customer needs Define your value proposition Specify your MVP feature set Create your MVP prototype Test your MVP with customers Dan will illustrate these concepts with real-world examples and a comprehensive case study. We’re especially excited to have Dan present his masterclass because he’s firmly rooted in TechCrunch lore. Way back in 2009, a company called YourVersion — founded by Olsen — won the peoples’ choice at TechCrunch50, the precursor to Disrupt. Olsen’s product-market fit expertise — and his personal connection to the early-stage founder experience — will help the Startup Alley+ cohort learn how to turn product management into more of a science than an art and improve their odds of success. TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place September 21-23. Don’t miss your opportunity to attend for less than $100. Buy your early bird pass here before the deal expires on July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT). Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form. ( function() { var func = function() { var iframe = document.getElementById('wpcom-iframe-82e7089bb76c80e1d7d73433ec8b0f47') if ( iframe ) { iframe.onload = function() { iframe.contentWindow.postMessage( { 'msg_type': 'poll_size', 'frame_id': 'wpcom-iframe-82e7089bb76c80e1d7d73433ec8b0f47' }, "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 ); } } )();

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posted about 6 hours ago on techcrunch
Cary Breese Contributor Share on Twitter Cary Breese is the CEO and co-founder of NowRx, a digital retail pharmacy. We have entered a whole new era of e-commerce centered on speed and convenience. Business leaders are being forced to prioritize delivery capabilities and push for more accelerated delivery services. “Fast/reliable delivery” was the most important online shopping attribute among the more than 8,500 consumers queried for PwC’s June 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey, making it clear that delivery services will only become more crucial across the e-commerce landscape. Now that consumers have grown accustomed to same-day (and same-hour) delivery service models, customer expectations for delivery options will only increase. In fact, according to a recent report from the mobile app intelligence platform SensorTower, the top food delivery apps saw continued growth in January and February 2021, with installs up 14% year over year. And yet, despite climbing user growth, DoorDash, Uber Eats and GrubHub remain unprofitable. So how can business leaders design rapid delivery models that meet consumer expectations — and still make money? If your delivery service results in a poor customer experience, you’ll be less likely to win customer loyalty just because you offer faster delivery. The challenge: Delivery apps need more than speed to drive profitability To remain competitive, delivery apps are rethinking their services and broadening their offerings. “Amazon powers next-day delivery,” Raj Beri, Uber’s global head of grocery and new verticals, said in May. “We’re going to power next-hour commerce.” But speeding up the delivery process won’t necessarily drive revenue. More importantly, if your delivery service results in a poor customer experience, you’ll be less likely to win customer loyalty just because you offer faster delivery. The primary challenge faced by delivery apps, or any e-commerce company looking to add delivery services as part of its offerings, is building a foundation that enables not only speed and convenience for the customer, but one that takes into account all aspects of the customer experience. For example, when delivering food, the business responsible for the delivery must make sure the food is handled safely and remain free of any contaminants. The temperature — whether hot or cold — must be maintained throughout the delivery process and the order itself must be correct. The solution: Same-day delivery relies on sophisticated technology platforms The “Uberization” of everything, combined with dramatically elevated consumer expectations, will take much more than a delivery app and fleet of drivers for businesses to be profitable. To follow through on the promise of same-day delivery services, a number of things need to happen without any missteps between when an order is placed and when it shows up at the customer’s door. The more complex the product being delivered, the more difficult the delivery process becomes. To enable same-day delivery services while also reaching profitability, a delivery app must take into account the technology needed to meet customer expectations. It involves much more than simply designing an app and growing user numbers. A truly successful same-day delivery model that provides an exceptional customer experience relies on a sophisticated software platform that can simultaneously manage various aspects of the customer journey, all while making it appear seamless from the customer’s point of view. Profitable delivery services are built on automated systems powered by artificial intelligence systems and robotics. The technology must come first, before the app and before user growth. Any other delivery business model is putting the cart before the horse. Domino’s Pizza is a brand that has perfected the delivery process and vastly improved the overall customer experience by making technology core to their business model. The key moment came when the brand defined itself as an e-commerce company that sells pizza. It committed to data applications and implemented a robotics technology platform that enabled electronic delivery systems that added speed and efficiency to the delivery process. In April, Domino’s began rolling out a robot car delivery service to select customers in Houston via Nuro. GrubHub is also taking steps to integrate robotic capabilities into its delivery process. According to recent reports, the company announced it would be adding self-driving units that deploy drone-like robots to deliver food to college students. The program, which will roll out on a limited number of U.S. college campuses this fall, aims to reduce delivery times and, hopefully, costs. This focus on technology is crucial in the world of delivery apps, or for any businesses forced to compete in the newly emerging category of next-hour commerce. The key to building a successful, profitable business model is to invest in technology platforms that can connect all components of the customer journey, from opening an app and clicking on a product to purchasing the product and scheduling the delivery, and beyond. Same-day delivery: Where to go from here In a world where everyone wants to open an app on their phone and have whatever it is they need to be delivered within an hour, it’s tempting for business leaders to focus on the delivery app itself, whether they are building their own or partnering with another company. But focusing on the app is a shortsighted view of same-day delivery models. Instead, business leaders must use a wide-angle lens and consider every single aspect of their customer journey: How do customers engage with their business? How do customers search for and find the products they offer? What does it take to complete an order and what conditions must be met before the order can be delivered? Also, what happens after the order to ensure it went smoothly and to the customer’s satisfaction? Some businesses are finding success partnering with delivery apps, but this comes with the risk of putting your brand’s reputation in the hands of another company that acts as a frontline employee with customers. Other companies are adding delivery service options to their current e-commerce model, relying on third-party software that can be plugged into an existing technology stack. Unfortunately, this comes with limitations and is not viable for regulated businesses that include multiple components. The only way to ensure a seamless customer experience on top of same-day delivery services is to build a proprietary software platform that puts the technology at the heart of your business, which allows you to automate key processes, adding speed and convenience to your delivery model. It also makes it possible to integrate robotic systems that can expedite orders, include artificial intelligence protocols that can accelerate business growth, and scale your delivery model as your business expands. Thriving in the new era of e-commerce “Next-hour delivery” is a catchy tagline that is sure to gain traction among consumers, but whether it will help drive profitability remains to be seen. As the CEO of a firm that has built a profitable business model centered on same-day delivery services, I’m skeptical that the promise of next-hour delivery will drive more revenue if the technology powering the delivery systems lacks automation, artificial intelligence and robotics. It’s true that businesses will be forced to compete on same-day delivery. But another truth that has emerged since the pandemic is that this new era of e-commerce comes with heightened customer expectations that won’t be met on speed alone. Consumer satisfaction hinges on more than the amount of time it takes to move an order from an app to the customer’s door. To succeed in the delivery service market, business leaders must ask themselves a number of questions: Which parts of their business are needed to complete a same-day delivery order? Is the ordering process intuitive? Can the order and delivery be monitored by the customer? Is the order correct when it arrives? Does it meet the customer’s expectations? And, most importantly, is their business built on a technology platform that can support the entire customer journey and delivery model, from product discovery and purchase to same-day delivery and beyond? The businesses that answer yes to these questions are the ones I expect to thrive in the post-pandemic world. How we got 75% more e-commerce orders in a single A/B test for this major brand

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posted about 7 hours ago on techcrunch
When Anada Lakra and Ilya Usorov first moved to the United States, they struggled to find their voices. They both knew and understood English, but when it came time to speak up, their accents became a hurdle. Usorov, for example, watched his Russian-born parents struggle to advocate for themselves, which limited work opportunities. While Lakra, who just started college at Yale University, was constantly asked to repeat herself. “Will I be able to express myself clearly enough? Will I be understood? Will I be as impactful?” Lakra remembers questioning herself. “My accent pronunciation made me feel like I really wasn’t my full self — and I lost a little of my personality.” It’s an issue experienced, to varying degrees, by many of the roughly 65 million nonnative English speakers in the United States. Viewing accent as a hurdle in jobs, confidence and relationship-building, the duo teamed up as co-founders to build a solution. Now, Lakra and Usorov are launching BoldVoice, an accent coaching app that helps users refine their pronunciation of the English language. The New York-based startup, currently going through Y Combinator’s summer 2021 batch, raised a pre-seed round of about $605,000 from the accelerator and XFund. Hollywood, meet edtech BoldVoice has a very specific user in mind: nonnative English speakers who learned the language on paper but now need help speaking and interacting with people. The startup uses short-form videos, taught by Hollywood accent coaches who traditionally help actors, to deliver content. The curriculum is built around three Ps: posture, to help with the physical feel of using an English R versus a Spanish R; phonology, the vowels and consonants; and porosity, which is the musicality of an accent. So far, there are two Hollywood accent and dialect coaches on the platform: Ron Carlos and Eliza Simpson. “We’re really thinking about this in the same way that an actor will learn an accent for a new role,” where they have to pick it up very quickly, Lakra said. “We want to bring the same discipline and process to everyone at home, so we have Hollywood accent coaches who are trained voice speech and dialect coaches” as well as advisers who have degrees in linguistics. Beyond its short-form videos, the company plans to integrate artificial intelligence into its product. When a user practices a speech, BoldVoice records the speech sample, feeds it into an algorithm and, over time, will be able to recommend more tailored exercises to their weak areas. It is using open-source software currently but is developing its own AI algorithm for the future. Real-time feedback would be a feat. Image Credits: BoldVoice product screen The sign-in process is pretty simple. Users are asked to set goals around accent confidence, explain English proficiency and identify native language, as well as the situation in which they want to improve, which can range from in the workplace to social settings. Users are also asked to commit pronunciation practice for 10 minutes a day, with the option to say no. Image Credits: BoldVoice/TechCrunch screenshot They are then given a lesson plan, which is only accessible through a subscription. The company charges $10 a month or $70 a year, which is meant to be more accessible than private accent coach tutoring, which can hit $200 per hour. There is currently no free experience for BoldVoice beyond a one-week free trial. After launching a little over a month ago, BoldVoice has attracted 1,000 users, most of whom come from India, China, or are Spanish speakers. The company is focusing on creating “hyper-personalized” content around these core users, and will have its work cut out for it: There are 121 languages spoken by more than 10,000 people in India, with the Indian constitution officially recognizing 22 languages. The owl is watching BoldVoice is looking to dig into the crowded market of language learning startups at a key time for the edtech subsector. Language learning unicorn Duolingo is set to go public this week, which could cast a golden halo on other consumer edtech businesses. The company has already raised its expected price range ahead of its public offering, a confident move. Other companies such as Busuu and Babbel have also made progress in carving out spheres of language learning. But Lakra doesn’t think any existing language learning apps have won over the accent market yet. She explained how learning a language is about memorization of vocabulary and grammar, while learning an accent is about working out your mouth through tongue exercises. The latter, which BoldVoice focuses on, doesn’t yet seem to be a priority for other businesses. She’s not wrong. Duolingo excels at reading and writing literacy, but it has not yet shared any known efficacy studies about its pronunciation efforts. The company tried launching a chatbot in its early days to help users practice conversations. The highly requested feature flopped, though, as 80% of users didn’t use it — a reaction that CEO Luis von Ahn thinks underscores how difficult it is to get consumers to practice speaking. Duolingo can’t teach you how to speak a language, but now it wants to try Duolingo is now building investment in a team around speech recognition technology, as well as eyeing M&A opportunities. BoldVoice, which similarly uses bite-sized content and streaks, could bring its product of confidence to Duolingo’s mission of motivation. Beyond the complementary yet competitive landscape, BoldVoice’s challenge ahead may just be that it is playing in a sensitive area. Someone’s voice is an integral part of their identity. BoldVoice will need to balance helping people, while also not erasing what makes them them. Lakra thinks that they can strike the balance. Her perception of the user is constantly evolving. “Users are already telling us that it would be awesome to get more tips around public speaking or how to interject in a meeting or how to give feedback politely,” she said. The requests are all about how to culturally and linguistically use English in a professional English-speaking environment, and BoldVoice is working with coaches to create content beyond pronunciation and into cadence, projection and intonation. “We definitely want to move and make this a tool that helps people not just say the word the right way, but just feel confident in everything they say.” Image Credits: BoldVoice. Co-founders Ilya Usorov and Anada Lakra.

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posted about 7 hours ago on techcrunch
Jamie Goldstein Contributor Share on Twitter Jamie is the founding partner of Pillar VC, a Boston-based seed-stage venture capital firm. He has spent the last 22 years investing in early-stage startups. More posts by this contributor Introducing the term-sheet grader From day one, Pillar VC has offered to buy common stock in startups. Instead of the standard 10-page venture capital term sheet riddled with terms and conditions, our team believed that a far simpler structure where we owned the same security as the founders would align interests, increase trust, and hopefully, enhance the performance of our investments. There are many terms and conditions in a preferred term sheet that can misalign investors and founders Five years since launching Pillar, as we finish investing our second fund and begin deploying our third, we thought it was a good time to reflect on whether buying common stock instead of preferred stock has offered the benefits that we had hoped for. Preferred stock can misalign incentives between parties There are many terms and conditions in a preferred term sheet that can misalign investors and founders — for brevity, I’ll highlight just two below. (For more, see the term-sheet grader). Preference: Preferred stock has a “preference” that gives the investor the right to choose whether they want to get their money back or take their percentage of the total proceeds. In downside scenarios, having an investor take their money back may mean that they are taking a far higher percentage of the proceeds than the founders “thought” they sold. For example, if an investor buys 25% of a company for $2 million in preferred stock, their break point on this decision will be $8 million, which happens to be the post-money valuation of the round. If the company is sold for less than $8 million, the investor would rather take their $2 million back. If the company is sold for more than that, the investor would choose to take 25% of the total. The founder thinks that they sold 25% of their company, but that percentage is actually determined by what the company is sold for. Yes, if the company is sold for $8 million or more, they sold 25%, but if the company is sold for, say $4 million, the investors will choose to take their $2 million back, which is 50% of the proceeds. Worse still, if the company is sold for just $2 million, investors will take all of it. Anti-dilution: This clause means that if an investor buys shares for $10 and the startup raises money in the future at a price point that is lower than $10, the investor’s share price will be recalculated retroactively to a lower price. How is this done? By issuing the investors more shares, which dilutes the rest of the ownership pie, especially the founders and employees. The company is not performing well and the investors are made whole at the expense of the founders. Aligned? Hardly.

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posted about 7 hours ago on techcrunch
Monte Carlo’s Barr Moses joins the data panel at TC Sessions: SaaS. See you there! As the clock ticks down on TechCrunch’s upcoming SaaS-focused event, we’re excited to announce that Monte Carlo co-founder and CEO Barr Moses will join us. Specifically, the startup exec will be joining our data-focused panel. What does Monte Carlo do? The startup works in the realm of data observability, making sure that companies’ data ingestion work is bringing in actual information, and not bunk. When I covered Monte Carlo’s Series B earlier this year, Moses was kind enough to walk me through her company’s market. Which makes her a perfect fit for our data-focused panel. We’re past the era in which saying “big data” could get you onto a stage. Today’s data gurus are now building lakehouses and going public for their work with hybrid structured-and-unstructured database tech. Meanwhile, Monte Carlo wants to make sure that companies around the world are alerted when some of their incoming data pipelines go off the rails. That way when the corporate world does run data analysis on their collected information, it isn’t skewed by zeroes and other effluent. It’s a big enough problem, and a hot enough market, that Monte Carlo raised its Series A in September of 2020, and its Series B mere months later in February of 2021. That’s a rapid-fire pace of capital accumulation; investors are betting that Moses and her team are onto something pretty big. Notably, TechCrunch also published an article the other month that included an interview with her cofounder, Yotam Hadass. Moses will join other tech folks at the event, including Javier Soltero, Google’s head of Workspace. Who else is coming? Databricks’ Ali Ghodsi, UiPath’s Daniel Dines, Puppet’s Abby Kearns, and investors Casey Aylward and Sarah Guo, among others. It’s going to be nerdy and kickass. Register today with a $75 early-bird ticket and save $100 before tickets go up. TC Sessions: SaaS takes place on October 27 and will feature chats with the leading minds in SaaS, networking and startup demos. ( function() { var func = function() { var iframe = document.getElementById('wpcom-iframe-c3280dd576e00396eceec395bb0a588b') if ( iframe ) { iframe.onload = function() { iframe.contentWindow.postMessage( { 'msg_type': 'poll_size', 'frame_id': 'wpcom-iframe-c3280dd576e00396eceec395bb0a588b' }, "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 ); } } )();

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posted about 7 hours ago on techcrunch
The Exchange is on a trip around the world, poking our heads into various startup markets to better understand how different geographies are faring during a historic boom in venture capital activity. Globally, the venture capital world is afire, pushing record sums into upstart technology companies. But the capital is not flowing evenly. For example, the explosion in capital raised by U.S. startups this year is contrasted by a modestly cooling Chinese venture capital scene. But apart from China, most key startup countries and regions are seeing strong investor interest. The continent of Africa is no exception. The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday. Early data indicates that Africa is set to trounce historical records in terms of venture capital raised in the year and that the first half of 2021 saw roughly twice the funds raised by African startups as was recorded in the first half of 2020. Startups across Africa have never had more access to capital than they do right now. But big numbers can be distorting. A few outsized rounds can make an overall investment picture appear rosier than it may actually be for startups on the ground. And to fully understand a startup market’s capital access, we’ll want to better understand the stages where capital is flowing quickly and the points of startup life where it’s more of a trickle. To that end, The Exchange collated a number of data sources concerning Africa’s Q2 2021 and H1 2021 venture capital performance and collected notes on the results from Dario Giuliani of Briter Bridges, a business data provider focused on Africa, and Julio Dibwe Mupemba of Toumaï Capital to expand our understanding of the continent. Let’s figure out which startup stages have the easiest and hardest capital access, whether Africa remains underfunded, understand changing diversity in founder funding, and just what’s up with impressive fintech venture totals in recent quarters. A 2021 comeback After a somewhat difficult 2020, venture capital flowing into African startups is back on the rise, with reports indicating that investments raised in the first half of 2021 totaled more than $1 billion, albeit with small variations – data discrepancies are a recurring issue when it comes to VC data. There are structural reasons for slightly divergent numbers that have not completely disappeared, but our different sources still concur on the general trend and ballpark results. For instance, the Africa-focused Substack newsletter The Big Deal reported a $1.14 billion H1 2021 total for deals above $1 million, and $1.19 billion when including deals in the $100,000 to $1 million range. Those numbers coincide with Briter Bridges’ own count of $1.2 billion in disclosed funding between January and June 2021, and with a $1.03 billion estimate from the Global Private Capital Association (GPCA). These figures are also in line with 2021 predictions from tech accelerator AfricArena, which in a report earlier this year estimated that “investment into [African] tech startups will be between $2.25 and $2.8 billion, making it the best year in the history of tech investment on the continent.”

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posted about 8 hours ago on techcrunch
Haven’t you heard that Instagram is no longer a photo-sharing app? Today, Instagram announced that users can now upload 60-second videos on Reels, the platform’s TikTok competitor. This update also adds functionality for a captions sticker on Reels, which transcribes audio to text. Instagram previously teased this sticker for Reels when they added it to Stories, making the platform more accessible for Deaf or hard of hearing users, as well as people who want to use the app without sound. Right now, the caption sticker is only available in a handful of English-speaking countries, but Instagram says they plan to expand to additional countries and languages soon. TikTok already has a similar feature. Reels. up to 60 secs. starting today. pic.twitter.com/pKWIqtoXU2 — Instagram (@instagram) July 27, 2021 Previously, Instagram only supported Reels of up to 30 seconds, while TikTok recently made it possible for users to create videos up to three minutes long. Still, the ability to post 60-second reels is especially useful for creators who want to re-post their existing content from TikTok or other competitor apps to grow their following across multiple platforms. More creators are making a living on social media than ever, but with so many platforms available to them (even Pinterest is investing in short-form video), it’s smart to cross-post content. So, this feature benefits Instagram creators who also have a following on TikTok, but it makes sense for the platform itself as well — the more eyes on Reels, the better. Instagram’s algorithm doesn’t promote content with a TikTok watermark, but savvy users have figured out how to recycle their videos without it. Currently, YouTube Shorts and Snapchat’s Spotlight also support videos of up to 60 seconds. In May, YouTube Shorts launched a $100 million creator fund to distribute among top Shorts creators over the course of 2021 and 2022; Snapchat distributed $1 million per day to viral Spotlight creators between its launch at the end of November through the end of 2020. Facebook and Instagram have also committed to investing in digital creators. To access this feature, navigate to create a new Reel, then press the down button on the left side of the screen to reveal the menu. Tap “length” to toggle among options to create a 15-second, 30-second, or 60-second Reel. Not all creators have access to 60-second Reels just yet, but it should roll out to all users soon. TikTok expands max video length to 3 minutes, up from 60 seconds

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posted about 8 hours ago on techcrunch
Shopify has made it possible for eligible sellers to sell NFTs (non-fungible tokens) via its platform, which opens up a whole new world for e-commerce merchants. On Monday, the NBA’s Chicago Bulls launched its first-ever NFTs –– including digital artwork of NBA championship rings –– by launching an online store on Shopify. Instead of having to go to an NFT marketplace, Bulls fans can now purchase the digital art directly with the team’s online store using a credit or debit card. In its first day of making them available, the NBA team sold out of the NFTs within just 90 seconds, according to Kaz Nejatian, Shopify’s VP of merchant services. “You could buy NFTs on credit cards before, but honestly the NFT buying experience outside Shopify isn’t awesome for anyone right now,” he told TechCrunch “That’s why we decided to do this work. Merchants and buyers shouldn’t have to take a course in crypto to buy things they care about.” It’s also about giving consumers more options to buy NFTs – especially those who are not well-versed in cryptocurrency. By making it possible for merchants to sell NFTs directly through their Shopify storefronts, the company says it’s creating access for merchants who want to sell NFTs. They will eventually be able to choose which blockchain they’d like to sell on based on their products and customer base since Shopify supports multiple blockchains, Nejatian said. “By contrast, if merchants want to sell on an NFT marketplace, they need to choose based on the blockchain supported by that marketplace,” he added. The Chicago Bulls selected the Flow blockchain for their NFTs, for example. But overall, Shopify merchants can today choose from Flow and Ethereum, but soon “will have more choice with other blockchains on Shopify,” according to Nejatian. The move was also driven by demand from merchants asking for the ability to sell NFTs and the desire to give creators and artists another forum to grow professionally. “Many creators are already seeing the value of selling NFTs to their fans, but we’re removing some of the friction for themselves and their buyers, allowing them to better monetize their work and their connection to their audience,” he added. “We’re opening up a world where their fans feel meaningful connection to their brands, and where NFTs just increasingly become part of how we buy and sell online.” The NFT market is just getting started, but where is it headed?

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posted about 8 hours ago on techcrunch
Following last fall’s debut of Google TV, the new user interface for Chromecast devices, Google is today giving its Google TV companion app for Android a makeover. The updated version of the mobile app for Google TV includes an updated user interface, expanded set recommendations, and more TV and movies to watch. The app in earlier days was known as “Google Play Movies & TV” (whew!) but rebranded to just “Google TV” alongside the changes that rolled out to Chromecast in September. Here, users can browse over 700,000 movie and TV episodes from across top streaming apps, find new things to watch, and rent or purchase movies and shows, including new releases. Now, Google is updating the app’s look-and-feel with new 16:9 widescreen movie and show posters which it says will give the app a more “cinematic” look. Image Credits: Google In addition, it’s adding the Rotten Tomatoes scores directly under each poster to help users make decisions about what they want to watch next. You can also visit a movie or TV show’s details page and mark it as “watched” in order to improve the app’s recommendations. This will allow Google TV to make further recommendations based on your watch history, and could be helpful if you’re not a regular app user to start tailoring its suggestions to your interests. However, the feature won’t help you keep up with your progress in a show, as the Reelgood or TV Time apps allow for, as you can’t mark individual episodes as watched, only entire series. The new Google TV brings streaming apps, live TV and search into a single interface The recommendations are another feature that’s been improved with the latest release to be more aligned with what you’d see with the TV experience. In addition to featuring more rows of personalized suggestions to browse through, the app’s recommendation system will now be based on what you’ve watched in the past, your interests from your Google account, and trending and popular content in your region. Trending recommendations are sourced from what’s popular or trending across Google products, what’s being mentioned across the web, as well as hand-picked selections from human editors. For instance, you could see recommendations that suggest “summer blockbusters,” or other timely suggestions. Users will also now see new movie and how recommendations as new content is released from services they subscribe to. Image Credits: Google The app has also expanded its content lineup by adding new providers like Discovery+, Viki, Cartoon Network, PBS Kids, and Boomerang, as well as on-demand content from live TV services, including of course, YouTube TV, as well as Philo and fuboTV. These providers were previously unavailable for search and discovery inside the mobile app, following the platform update in the fall. Google said during its I/O Developer conference in May that the Android TV OS had reached an install base of 80 million monthly active devices, but it didn’t break down how many consumers streamed on through the Roku and Fire TV rival, Google TV for Chromecast, which is powered by Android TV OS under-the-hood. Instead, Google combined that figure with the numerous Android TV OS-powered devices on the market that include those offered by other streaming device brand partners and TV service providers — meaning the number included operator-tier and set-top boxes, too, which is a different type of market. The company said the new features are available now on the Google TV Android app in the U.S. but couldn’t offer a timeline for other platforms or an international expansion.

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posted about 9 hours ago on techcrunch
It’s hard to keep up with the Olympics any year, let alone when they’re taking place in a time zone that’s 13 hours ahead of you (if you’re on the U.S. East Coast). Apple News on Monday announced a collaboration with NBCUniversal (the U.S. broadcast rights holder for the Olympics) to develop exclusive daily recaps and audio briefings, event schedules and medal counts to help fans keep tabs on the games. NBC Sports is the go-to app for streaming any Olympic event, but it’s a bit buggy. To their credit, streaming so many different feeds at once is hard to pull off, but the app can be tricky to navigate. Even though the app has an impressive catalog of every event, there’s no easy way to catch up with all the triumphs and defeats that took place while half the world was asleep, so this collaboration with Apple News fills a necessary void in NBC’s existing offerings. Image Credits: Apple News (Screenshots by TechCrunch) One of the most useful features is the News app’s user-friendly schedule of every single Olympic event by sport, which can set calendar reminders for the events you can’t miss. (Though you might need to set your alarm for certain events, like the women’s gymnastics all-around final, which starts at 6:50 a.m. ET on Thursday. But don’t worry, for these highly anticipated events, there’ll be prime-time coverage, too). NBC Sports sends push notification reminders for sports that you choose, but a pre-set calendar event might be more useful for planning your evening (or early morning) Olympics viewing. Of course, this partnership allows Apple to promote Apple Podcasts, which has more competition than ever as Spotify continues to grow and Facebook adds support for podcasts. NBC is pushing its Olympics podcasts like “The Podium” and “On Her Turf” pretty hard — “The Podium” often appears as a banner ad during live coverage on the web. Even though these shows aren’t exclusive to Apple, the partnership with NBC can only help drive traffic to their podcast platform. Why the Olympics should add esports

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posted about 10 hours ago on techcrunch
Three digits, so little time. Numbers can take on profound cultural significance, but few numbers have quite the resonance as 911, the emergency number for the United States. Few want to dial it, but when they must, it works — every single time. One industry trade association estimates that 240 million 911 phone calls are made every year, ranging from the quotidian loud dog to the exceptional terrorist attack. While it may be a singular number, 911 calls are directed to roughly 5,700 public safety answering points (PSAPs) across the country, all with independent operations, variegated equipment, disparate software, multifarious organizational structures, and vast inequalities of staffing and resources. “Every 911 center is very different and they are as diverse and unique as the communities that they serve,” Karin Marquez, who we will meet later, put it. You have massive urban centers with dozens of staffers and the best equipment, and “you have agencies in rural America that have one person working 24/7 and they’re there to answer three calls a day.” These organizations face a tough challenge: Transitioning their systems to incorporate information from billions of new consumer devices into the heart of 911 response. Location from mobile GPS, medical information from health profiles, video footage from cameras — all of this could be useful when police, firefighters and paramedics arrive on a scene. But how do you connect hundreds of tech companies to a myriad of 911 technology providers? Over the last eight years, RapidSOS has become the go-to solution for addressing this problem. With more than $190 million raised, including an $85 million round this past February, RapidSOS now covers nearly 5,000 PSAPs and processes more than 150 million emergencies every year, and it’s technology is almost certainly integrated into the smartphone you’re carrying and many of the devices you have lying around (the company counts about 350 million connected devices with its software). Yet, like many emergencies, the company’s story is one of reverses, misdirections and urgency as its founders worked to find a model to jump-start 911 response. RapidSOS may well be the only startup to pivot from a consumer app to a govtech/enterprise hybrid, and it has the most extensive directory of partnerships and integration relationships of any startup I have ever seen. Now, as it expands to Mexico, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, this startup with its roots in a rural farm in Indiana, is redefining emergency response globally for the 21st Century. The lead writer of this EC-1 is Danny Crichton. In addition to being the EC-1 series editor, managing editor at TechCrunch, and regularly talking about himself in the third person, Danny has been writing about disaster tech and first covered RapidSOS back in 2015 prior to its public launch. The lead editor for this story was Ram Iyer, the copy editor was Richard Dal Porto, and illustrations were drawn by Nigel Sussman. RapidSOS had no say in the content of this analysis and did not get advance access to it. Crichton has no financial ties to RapidSOS, and his ethics disclosure statement is available here. The RapidSOS EC-1 comprises four articles numbering 12,400 words and a reading time of 50 minutes. Here are the topics we’ll be dialing into: Part 1: Origin story “Smoking pizza ovens and pilfered dollar bills, or the early story of RapidSOS” (2,700 words/11 minutes) — explores the early years of RapidSOS and the company’s pivot from consumer app to govtech and integrated services for technology and device companies. Part 2: Product and business “RapidSOS learned that the best product design is sometimes no product design” (3,700 words/15 minutes) —analyzes how RapidSOS made its pivot and why its current business model has performed so well. Part 3: Partnerships “How RapidSOS used creative tactics to build partnerships and a BD engine at scale” (4,000 words/16 minutes) —investigates how RapidSOS has built up so many dozens of corporate and individual partnerships in its quest to transform 911. Part 4: Next-generation 911 “After a decade, Congress might finally bring 911 into the internet age” (2,000 words/8 minutes) —looks at the future of 911 after a decade of stagnation and limited funding from Capitol Hill as well as the future prospects of RapidSOS. We’re always iterating on the EC-1 format. If you have questions, comments or ideas, please send an email to TechCrunch Managing Editor Danny Crichton at [email protected] Smoking pizza ovens and pilfered dollar bills, or the early story of RapidSOS

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posted about 10 hours ago on techcrunch
The irony of 911 is that it’s a number that everyone knows (at least in the United States), and yet, no one really thinks about it. Few of us will dial 911 more than a handful of times in our lives, and even when we do, we will meet the police officers and paramedics who respond, never the 911 call taker who handled the dispatch. These systems and the people behind them garner meager attention, whether from Congress, state legislatures, the public or anyone else outside the emergency response community. Except, that is, for Michael Martin. RapidSOS’ story is one of a mission, a community, a team and a dream that every emergency should have the best chance to be resolved as positively as possible. He, along with Nick Horelik and Matt Bozik very early on, became fascinated by the complexity and lack of innovation in the sector. “Uber had just come out. I could press a button and get a car. Why can’t I just press a button and get an ambulance? And then it sparks this curiosity,” Martin said. He sought knowledge, but for such a critical system, information was sparse. “The Wikipedia article on George Clooney is way longer than the one on 911,” he noted. So began a nearly decade-long journey with RapidSOS that would see Martin and his team first attempt to build a consumer-safety app called Haven before pivoting exclusively to helping dozens of tech companies, including Apple and Google and device companies like SiriusXM, connect to a myriad of 911 software vendors. Along the way, they experienced the full vagaries of startup life, frenetically pivoting from product to product as they tried to get consumers to even care about emergencies. It wasn’t easy, and it took years before the company finally hit its stride. But RapidSOS’s story is one of a mission, a community, a team and a dream that every emergency should have the best chance to be resolved as positively as possible. Indiana: The callroads of America Martin grew up outside the rural town of Rockport, Indiana, population about 2,500 today. His mother was the local doctor, and he and his brother habituated to the openness and ennui of rural farming life. “We grew up on 35 acres of land; we had an enormous garden and a little hobby orchard and stuff like that,” he said. “We had ‘Drive-Your-Tractor-To-School Day.'”

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posted about 10 hours ago on techcrunch
Sometimes, the best missions are the hardest to fund. For the founders of RapidSOS, improving the quality of emergency response by adding useful data, like location, to 911 calls was an inspiring objective, and one that garnered widespread support. There was just one problem: How would they create a viable business? The roughly 5,700 public safety answering points (PSAPs) in America weren’t great contenders. Cash-strapped and highly decentralized, 911 centers already spent their meager budgets on staffing and maintaining decades-old equipment, and they had few resources to improve their systems. Plus, appropriations bills in Congress to modernize centers have languished for more than a decade, a topic we’ll explore more in part four of this EC-1. Who would pay? Who was annoyed enough with America’s antiquated 911 system to be willing to shell out dollars to fix it? People obviously desire better emergency services — after all, they are the ones who will dial 911 and demand help someday. Yet, they never think about emergencies until they actually happen, as RapidSOS learned from the poor adoption of its Haven app we discussed in part one. People weren’t ready to pay a monthly subscription for these services in advance. So, who would pay? Who was annoyed enough with America’s antiquated 911 system to be willing to shell out dollars to fix it? Ultimately, the company iterated itself into essentially an API layer between the thousands of PSAPs on one side and developers of apps and consumer devices on the other. These developers wanted to include safety features in their products, but didn’t want to engineer hundreds of software integrations across thousands of disparate agencies. RapidSOS’ business model thus became offering free software to 911 call centers while charging tech companies to connect through its platform. It was a tough road and a classic chicken-and-egg problem. Without call center integrations, tech companies wouldn’t use the API — it was essentially useless in that case. Call centers, for their part, didn’t want to use software that didn’t offer any immediate value, even if it was being given away for free. This is the story of how RapidSOS just plowed ahead against those headwinds from 2017 onward, ultimately netting itself hundreds of millions in venture funding, thousands of call agency clients, dozens of revenue deals with the likes of Apple, Google and Uber, and partnerships with more software integrators than any startup has any right to secure. Smart product decisions, a carefully calibrated business model and tenacity would eventually lend the company the escape velocity to not just expand across America, but increasingly across the world as well. In this second part of the EC-1, I’ll analyze RapidSOS’ current product offerings and business strategy, explore the company’s pivot from consumer app to embedded technology and take a look at its nascent but growing international expansion efforts. It offers key lessons on the importance of iterating, how to secure the right customer feedback and determining the best product strategy. The 411 on a 911 API It became clear from the earliest stages of RapidSOS’ journey that getting data into the 911 center would be its first key challenge. The entire 911 system — even today in most states — is built for voice and not data. Karin Marquez, senior director of public safety at RapidSOS, who we met in the introduction, worked for decades at a PSAP near Denver, working her way up from call taker to a senior supervisor. “When I started, it was a one-man dispatch center. So, I was working alone, I was answering 911 calls, non-emergency calls, dispatching police, fire and EMS,” she said. RapidSOS senior director of public safety Karin Marquez. Image Credits: RapidSOS As a 911 call taker, her very first requirement for every call was figuring out where an emergency is taking place — even before characterizing what is happening. “Everything starts with location,” she said. “If I don’t know where you are, I can’t send you help. Everything else we can kind of start to build our house on. Every additional data [point] will help to give us a better understanding of what that emergency is, who may be involved, what kind of vehicle they’re involved in — but if I don’t have an address, I can’t send you help.”

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posted about 10 hours ago on techcrunch
Our Extra Crunch Live series continues with some heavy hitters in August, including Jen Nwankwo, founder and CEO at 1910 Genetics, and Playground Global general partner Jory Bell. They’ll be with us live on August 11 at 12 p.m. PT (3 p.m. ET) to tell us all about how Nwankwo and her startup won over Bell and Playground as an investor, and as we do every week on Extra Crunch Live, we’ll conduct a live pitch feedback session featuring you, the members of our audience. Extra Crunch Live gives you the chance to hear live from entrepreneurs who have successfully raised significant rounds of venture capital — and from the investors who believed in them. We go into detail about how the deal got done, and you’ll hear from both about what it takes to pitch VCs and what industry-leading VCs look for in prospective portfolio companies. We’re thrilled to have Nwankwo and Bell joining us for this episode. Nwankwo founded and leads 1910 Genetics, which takes advantage of AI to accelerate the discovery and development of new drug therapies across a wide range of disease and condition categories. She has a Ph.D. in pharmacology and experimental therapeutics from Tufts University School of Medicine and participated in drug discovery development that led to the creation of Type 2 diabetes drug Trulicity prior to her graduate school work. Bell’s career includes designing and building autonomous robots for deep-sea exploration, as well as a six-year stint at Apple designing notebooks for the consumer technology leader. Bell’s venture investment work began at Playground Global in 2015; he focuses on deep tech investments, including in aerospace, genomics, synthetic biology, and AI-assisted drug discovery, as in the case of 1910 Genetics. Extra Crunch Live also features the ECL Pitch-off, where startups in the audience can virtually “raise their hand” to pitch their startup live on our stream. Our expert guests will give their feedback on each pitch. If you want to throw your hat in the ring, you have to show up. Extra Crunch Live is accessible to everyone, but only Extra Crunch members can access the content on demand. We do these every week, so there are scores of episodes across a wide variety of startup sectors in the ECL Library. It’s but one of many reasons to become an Extra Crunch member. Join here. Interested in hanging with us for this upcoming episode? Register here for free! 

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posted about 10 hours ago on techcrunch
One of the most challenging aspects of leading a startup is the seeming impossibility of building partnerships and executing business development. Large companies are sclerotic and bureaucratic, taking eons in terms of startup years to make decisions that for them are small, but for a new company, can be life itself. Every startup ultimately needs to break through those logjams, and sometimes, they need to lock in quite a few partnerships to be successful. And then there is RapidSOS. With a two-sided business built around relationships with dozens if not hundreds of companies on both sides of the coin, it needed to gain competency in building partnerships really early and really quickly as it scaled its data platform to improve emergency 911 calls. We’ve already covered the company’s origin story and business in parts one and two of this EC-1, and now I want to turn to the secret sauce: How a scrappy cadre of startup folks were able to break down the walls that imperil partnerships at some of the largest tech companies in the world. For RapidSOS, which had to scale to support hundreds of partners over the years, the key has been building its team and training them for the unique partners they have signed agreements with. The key, as we will learn, is a set of creative tactics that the company used to bind as many stakeholders into its business as possible. We’ll look at what these partnerships are and how they are formed, and then explore how RapidSOS integrated with software vendors in the 911 space. We’ll also explore how it educated call takers at public safety answering points (PSAPs), worked with its customer partners, and finally, how it built its advisory board and an industrywide initiative around health profiles to become a key thought leader in the market. The art of the partnership “Partnership” is a notably and intentionally vague term often thrown around startup circles. Simply put, it describes a business relationship, generally consummated with a contract or statement of work, that brings two companies together over a common initiative. Unlike a mere sale, where one company supplies a product and perhaps customer support in exchange for compensation, partnerships tend to be much broader and more strategic, and can include everything from cross-promotion and channel marketing to engineering assistance, venture investment, exclusivity commitments and more.

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posted about 10 hours ago on techcrunch
When it comes to user-interface design, 911 is about as good as it gets. It’s the “most recognized number in the United States,” Steve Souder, a prominent 911 leader, points out. Simple, fast, and it works from any telephone in the United States. No matter what the emergency is, the call takers on the other side will triage and dispatch assistance. I’ve taken that ubiquity and simplicity for granted over the past three parts of this EC-1 on RapidSOS as we’ve looked at the startup’s origin story, business and products, as well as its partnerships and business development engine. The company is deeply enmeshed with 911, which means that the prospects of 911 as a system will heavily determine the trajectory of RapidSOS in the coming years, or at least, until its international expansion hits scale and it isn’t so dependent on the U.S. market. Right now, a $15 billion funding bill to invest in NG911 has been proposed in Congress as part of the LIFT America infrastructure bill that is currently winding its way through the appropriations process and negotiations between Democratic and Republican leaders. Now, you might think, “911, how could they screw that up?” But this is America, and you’d be surprised. Despite the daily heroic work of tens of thousands of 911 personnel who keep this brittle system afloat, the reality today is that America’s emergency call infrastructure is in a perilous state. After more than a decade of heavy advocacy, the transition to the “next generation” of 911 (dubbed NG911), which would replace a voice-centric model with an internet-based one designed around data streams, has been trundling along, with some early traction but little universality. As a Congressional Research Service report described it just a few years ago, “funding has been a challenge, and progress has been relatively slow.” Three years later, the words are just as true as they were then. Given that RapidSOS’ future ultimately relies on a competent government capable of providing core infrastructure, this fourth and final part of the EC-1 will look at the current state of 911 services and what their prospects are, and finally, how one should ultimately judge RapidSOS given all that we have seen. The three-digit number that feels like it is three-digits old 911 was invented in the late 1960s to unify America around one emergency number. Early forays to create emergency lines had sprouted up across cities and states, but each used their own system and telephone number, creating massive complications for travelers and people living on jurisdictional boundaries. President Lyndon Johnson’s 1967 crime task force recommended creating a single number for emergency calls as a crime-prevention tool, and on February 16, 1968, the first 911 call was dialed in Haleyville, Alabama.

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