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Despite today’s bucket of plus-and-minus economic data, stocks are heading higher in regular trading. And among the shares rising the most are today’s two venture-backed IPOs: Lemonade and Accolade. TechCrunch wrote this morning that the firms’ aggressive IPO pricing arcs boded well for the IPO market itself, that investors were willing to price growth-y shares of unprofitable companies with vigor, which could help other companies looking at the public markets get off the sidelines. Then the two companies opened sharply higher, and at the current moment stand as follows (Data via Yahoo Finance): Lemonade: $61.62 per share, up $32.62 or 112.48% Accolade: $34.39 per share, up $12.39 or 56.32% Yep those are big numbers. Expect the regular round of complaints that the firms were mispriced (maybe) and could have charged more from their equity in their public debuts (again, maybe). But for the two companies, it’s still a lovely day. Pricing above range and then seeing public investors frantically bid your equity higher is much better than the alternatives. High-flying IPOs for Lemonade and Accolade may encourage other unicorns to go public How the companies will fare when they report earnings (Q3 is upon us, making Q2’s earnings cycle just around the bend) will help settle their real valuations. But, for today at least, Lemonade and Accolade have done their yet-private brethren a solid by going up and not down.

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Greg Law Contributor Share on Twitter Greg Law is the co-founder and CTO at Undo.io, a software failure replay platform provider. It’s the summer of 1858. London. The River Thames is overflowing with the smell of human and industrial waste. The exceptionally hot summer months have exacerbated the problem. But this did not just happen overnight. Failure to upkeep an aging sewer system and a growing population that used it contributed to a powder keg of effluent, bringing about cholera outbreaks and shrouding the city in a smell that would not go away. To this day, Londoners still speak of the Great Stink. Recurring cholera infections led to the dawn of the field of epidemiology, a subject in which we have all recently become amateur enthusiasts. Fast forward to 2020 and you’ll see that modern software pipelines face a similar “Great Stink” due, in no small part, to the vast adoption of continuous integration (CI), the practice of merging all developers’ working copies into a shared mainline several times a day, and continuous delivery (CD), the ability to get changes of all types — including new features, configuration changes, bug fixes and experiments — into production, or into the hands of users, safely and quickly in a sustainable way. While contemporary software failures won’t spread disease or emit the rancid smells of the past, they certainly reek of devastation, rendering billions of dollars lost and millions of developer hours wasted each year. This kind of waste is antithetical to the intent of CI/CD. Everyone is employing CI/CD to accelerate software delivery; yet the ever-growing backlog of intermittent and sporadic test failures is doing the exact opposite. It’s become a growing sludge that is constantly being fed with failures faster than can be resolved. This backlog must be cleared to get CI/CD pipelines back to their full capabilities. What value is there in a system that, in an effort to accelerate software delivery, knowingly leaves a backlog of bugs that does the exact opposite? We did not arrive at these practices by accident, and its practitioners are neither lazy nor incompetent so; how did we get here and what can we do to temper modern software development’s Great Stink? Ticking time bombs

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Scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, have begun trials of a new spit test for COVID-19 infections developed by the university’s Innovative Genomics Institute. Since the disease was first identified on U.S. shores, the Berkeley research institute led by the trailblazing CRISPR researcher Jennifer Doudna has worked tirelessly to bring innovative methods to diagnose and process viral samples and develop potential treatments for the disease to production. The new saliva-based samples that the university is trialing would obviate the need for trained medical staff wearing personal protective equipment to conduct tests to determine whether an individual is infected. If the study proves that the new testing method can work as well as nasal swabs, then the Berkeley campus will be able to increase testing of students, faculty and staff ahead of the beginning of the school’s fall semester in late August, according to a statement from the University. Jennifer Doudna talks with Alex Ehrenberg, a graduate student in integrative biology who is helping organize the FAST trial of saliva tests for COVID-19. (UC Berkeley photo by Irene Yi) “At Berkeley, we hope to bring at least some of our undergraduate students back to campus safely in the fall, and one way to do that is to provide them with asymptomatic regular testing, so that we can be monitoring their health and insuring that they are not transmitting the virus,” said Jennifer Doudna, who spearheaded the pop-up diagnostics lab and the saliva testing, in a statement. Doudna thinks the tests could be conducted in as little as five or six minutes. The study is already open to faculty, staff and students who can sign up to participate in the Free Asymptomatic Saliva Testing study on the institute’s website. “As opposed to swab testing, saliva testing is a lot simpler and allows people to literally spit into a tube,” Doudna said. “We think it will take about five or six minutes as they pass through our testing center here, so we hope to make this very painless, easy and simple for people to come by and get tested.” Graduate students, faculty and staff who are authorized to work on campus can sign up to participate in the Free Asymptomatic Saliva Testing (FAST) study on the IGI website. The tests rely on polymerase chain reactions which have already received Emergency Use Authorization for at-home testing from the Food and Drug Administration. Using the CRISPR-Cas proteins, whose application for genetic engineering was pioneered by Doudna and her fellow researchers, the IGI is working on a less expensive, point-of-care home test that could give people results in minutes without the need for a laboratory analysis. The Innovative Genomics Institute was founded by Doudna in 2014 and by Berkeley and the University of California San Francisco to advance CRISPR-based genome editing. Earlier in June, the institute brought a new robotic handling system to accelerate testing capacity for the disease to 1,000 tests per day, according to a statement from the University.  “When the pandemic hit, we asked ourselves, ‘What do we as scientists do to address the COVID-19 health emergency?’” Doudna said, in a statement. “That effort has focused on testing. We set up a clinical laboratory, we are now getting asymptomatic saliva testing going for the UC Berkeley campus. We hope that if it works well here, we can help disseminate this strategy elsewhere.”

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Jennifer Doudna, a woman whose work has triggered the explosion in innovation in the field of synthetic biology and has given researchers around the world a way to program and reprogram the living world, will be speaking at Disrupt in September. From her positions as the Chancellor’s Chair Professor in the University of California, Berkeley’s Chemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology Departments and a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institutes and professor at the University of California, San Francisco, Doudna has been at the forefront of research into CRISPR gene editing technology. It was only eight years ago that Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier first proposed that CRISPR-Cas9 enzymes (which direct immune responses in microbes) could be used to edit genomes. That discovery would prove to be one of the most significant advancements in the history of the human understanding of biology, and it has the potential to reshape the world. Doudna describes her own journey into the field of biochemistry beginning back in Hawaii with the discovery of James Watson’s book “The Double Helix” on her father’s bookshelf. From an early age growing up in Hawaii as the daughter of a literature professor, Doudna knew she wanted to pursue a career in science. But it was Watson’s famous book that opened her eyes to the human side of science. Now her scientific research and startup endeavors have the potential to open humanity’s eyes to the potential benefits of this revolutionary field of science. Because in addition to her research work, Doudna is also a co-founder of a number of companies including: Mammoth Biosciences, Caribou Biosciences, Intellia Therapeutics and Editas Medicine. These companies are tackling some of the biggest challenges that the world faces. Mammoth is working on a new type of COVID-19 test, Caribou is pursuing novel cancer therapies, and publicly traded Editas is pursuing treatments for ocular, neurodegenerative, and blood diseases as well as cancer therapies. There’s almost no industry where gene editing hasn’t had some sort of effect. From material science to food science and agriculture to medicine, CRISPR technology is creating opportunities to remake entire industries. Genetically modified organisms are already making Impossible Foods meat replacements taste meaty; they’re used in Solugen’s bio-based chemicals; and CRISPR edited cells have been proven safe in early trials to treat certain kinds of cancer. Given the breadth of applications and the questions that the technology’s application raises about how and what limitations researchers should put on the technology, there will be plenty for Doudna to discuss on the Disrupt stage, including but certainly not limited to her recently announced work on making college campuses safer via a fast saliva-based COVID-19 test. Disrupt is all virtual in 2020 and runs September 14 to September 18, and we have several Digital Pass options to be part of the action or to exhibit virtually, which you can check out here. Doudna joins an incredible line-up of Disrupt speakers including Sequoia’s Roelof Botha and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes. We’ll be announcing even more speakers over the coming weeks, so stay tuned. (Editor’s Note: We’re watching the developing situation around the novel coronavirus very closely and will adapt as we go. You can find out the latest on our event schedule plans here.) ( function() { var func = function() { var iframe = document.getElementById('wpcom-iframe-782cbcb2c00c3b27bcf0c98c267ec587') if ( iframe ) { iframe.onload = function() { iframe.contentWindow.postMessage( { 'msg_type': 'poll_size', 'frame_id': 'wpcom-iframe-782cbcb2c00c3b27bcf0c98c267ec587' }, "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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The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the music industry to experiment seriously with virtual concerts. Historically, musicians and their managers have been careful about challenging the traditional concert model that became their main source of income as revenue from album sales disappeared. Is the current surge of virtual concerts here to stay or will it be abandoned as soon as large in-person gatherings are permitted again and the novelty of concerts in Fortnite wears off? For the middle tier of recording artists, virtual concerts are shaping up to be a worthwhile part of their business portfolio, generating healthy income and engaging a geographically dispersed base of core fans. For the top tier of artists — those who perform in stadiums and arenas — the opportunity cost of virtual concerts doesn’t make financial sense to do very often once in-person concerts return. That said, a couple such performances each year can unlock a lot of the untapped potential revenue from fans who can’t attend their normal concerts. Virtual concerts are having their moment There’s no opportunity cost to trying a virtual concert during a pandemic. Artists aren’t performing, touring, shooting videos or even doing in-person sessions with songwriters. With everyone stuck at home, fans will forgive a disappointing attempt at performing online and artists have time to experiment. Live Nation, the dominant concert promotion and venue management company, has even converted its site to curating a schedule of virtual performances. Virtual concerts have been growing in three formats: video streaming platforms, within the virtual worlds of video games and virtual reality. Concerts via video

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Banned Chinese apps are beginning to disappear from India’s app stores, Palantir is raising more funding and Venmo starts testing Business Profiles. Here’s your Daily Crunch for July 2, 2020. 1. Apple and Google block dozens of Chinese apps in India Two days after India blocked 59 apps developed by Chinese firms, Google and Apple have started to comply with the government’s order and are preventing users in the world’s second-largest internet market from accessing those apps. UC Browser, Shareit, Club Factory and other apps are no longer listed on Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store. In a statement, a Google spokesperson said that the company had “temporarily blocked access to the apps”on Google Play Store as it reviews the order. 2. SEC filing indicates big data provider Palantir is raising $961M, $550M of it already secured Palantir, the controversial and secretive big data and analytics provider, has reportedly been eyeing up a public listing this autumn. But in the meantime it’s also continuing to push ahead in the private markets. 3. Venmo begins piloting ‘Business Profiles’ for small sellers Business Profiles offer small sellers and other sole proprietors the opportunity to have a more professional profile page on its platform. Sellers can share key business details like address, phone number, email, website and more. 4. Tesla delivered 90,650 vehicles in second quarter, a smaller than expected decline Tesla said Thursday that it delivered 90,650 vehicles in the second quarter, a 4.8% decline from the same period last year, prompted by challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic — like suspending production for weeks at its main U.S. factory. But the company still managed to beat expectations despite the headwinds. 5. Top LA investors discuss the city’s post-COVID-19 prospects From larger fund investors like Mark Suster and Kara Nortman at Upfront Ventures to Dana Settle at Greycroft Partners; to early-stage investors like Will Hsu at Mucker Capital; TX Zhuo at Fika Ventures, the responses were generally upbeat about the future opportunities for Los Angeles startups. (Extra Crunch membership required.) 6. Dish closes Boost Mobile purchase, following T-Mobile/Sprint merger T-Mobile today announced that it has closed a deal that divests Sprint’s pre-paid businesses, including Boost and Virgin Mobile. The whole thing was a key part of T-Mobile’s bid to merge with Sprint. 7. AR 1.0 is dead: Here’s what it got wrong Many AR startups made huge promises and raised huge amounts of capital before flaring out in a similarly dramatic fashion. Lucas Matney argues that a key error was thinking that an AR glasses company should be hardware-first, when the reality is that the missing value is almost entirely centered on first-party software experiences. (Extra Crunch membership required.) The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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The art of the pitchdeck. Few things are more critical to the success of startups seeding capital. And make no mistake, it is an art. At TechCrunch Early Stage, our two-day virtual event focused on giving entrepreneurs all the resources they need to build incredible, high-growth early stage companies, we have plenty of content dedicated to the pitchdeck. From a session on how to think like a PM for VC pitch success led by Lo Toney, to a session on how to time your fundraising sprint led by Jake Saper, to seed funding tips and tricks from Jeff Clavier, there’s something for everyone. Even if you don’t have a product, Charles Hudson will teach you how to sell your idea to investors. The cherry on top of that pitch perfect sundae? The Pitchdeck Teardown. Accel’s Amy Saper and Bessemer’s Talia Goldberg will lead the Pitchdeck Teardown, going over the look, feel and information provided within individual pitchdecks to share what they look for, what they don’t want to see, and how to get the best outcome when you send a VC your deck. The coolest part is that the pitchdecks aren’t theoretical. Early Stage attendees can submit their pitchdecks ahead of time for a chance to see those decks critiqued live on stage. Interested in being a part of it? Submit your pitchdeck here. But remember, you must be registered as an attendee of Early Stage to be selected. TC Early Stage has so much to offer. The show will bring together 50+ experts across startup core competencies, such as fundraising, operations, and marketing. Cyan Bannister is set to explain how to get an investor to say yes to your startup. Asher Abramson will be sharing how to create growth assets for paid channels, lawyers James Alonso and Adam Zagaris will share how to draw up your first contracts, and Priti Choksi is hosting a session on how to get a company acquired rather than selling. The two-day show features more than 50 sessions, but don’t worry; attendees will get transcripts for all of them. What’s more, most of the speakers, who happen to be investors, are participating in TechCrunch’s CrunchMatch, our platform that connects founders to investors based on shared interests.  Here’s the fine print. Each of the 50+ breakout sessions is limited to around 100 attendees. We expect a lot more attendees, of course, so signups for each session are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Buy your ticket today, and you can sign up for the breakouts we are announcing today, as well as those already published. Pass holders will also receive 24-hour advance notice before we announce the next batch. (And yes, you can “drop” a breakout session in favor of a new one, in the event there is a schedule conflict.) Get your TC Early Stage pass today and jump into the inside track on the sessions we announced so far, as well as the ones to be published in the coming weeks. Possible sponsor? Hit us up right here.

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David Cancel Contributor Share on Twitter David Cancel, a five-time entrepreneur and author of the book "Conversational Marketing," is CEO and founder of Drift. More posts by this contributor 3 key secrets to building extraordinary teams Most people would agree that a chief revenue officer is a pretty significant hire, but I have yet to meet mine in person. Right now, our only face-to-face interaction is over video. In fact, that’s how our relationship began — like many business leaders during this pandemic, I had to hire Todd through a series of video calls. The pandemic has caused me to question and reevaluate many of my own assumptions. This not only led me to hire our CRO remotely, but it is ultimately why I also decided to allow employees to work from home until 2021. While it’s tempting to call this a pivot, those who have worked with me would probably describe it more accurately as a flip-flop. I used to believe that you could build an in-person culture or a remote work culture, but that a hybrid of the two was destined to fail. The realities of COVID-19 have not just changed my outlook, but transformed the way I think about how work should get done —and how leaders need to show up for their team, even if they can’t “show up” in any physical sense. The remote work debate changed in an instant Before the pandemic, the debate over remote work revolved around its perceived impact on productivity, collaboration, employee engagement and culture.

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Facebook accidentally allowed around 5,000 developers to access data from their app’s inactive users, even though that access should have been cut off. The company explained on Wednesday it recently discovered an issue that had allowed app developers to continue receiving this information beyond the 90 days of inactivity that is meant to cut off data access until the user returns to the app and again re-authenticates. In 2018, Facebook had announced a change to the way app developers would be able access Facebook user data in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal which saw the personal data of 87 million Facebook users compromised. Among many new restrictions to Facebook’s API platform, it introduced a stricter review process for the use of Facebook Login for apps and said it would block apps’ access to user personal data after three months of non-use. This latter change is the one that was not adhered to, in the case of this latest data sharing incident. Facebook Login, by way of background, gives app developers a way to make it easier for users to sign into apps using their Facebook sign-in credentials. But it also allows developers to request access to a subset of that person’s data on Facebook, including things like email, user likes, gender, location, birthday, age range, and more. It’s unclear among the 5,000 apps how many access which specific user details. Facebook says apps accessed “for example, language or gender” but Facebook Login isn’t limited to just those two attributes when requesting user data. According to Facebook’s announcement, the issue didn’t impact all apps using Facebook Login but only occurred in certain circumstances. For example, it said, if someone used a fitness app to invite friends to a workout, Facebook didn’t recognize that some of those invited friends had been inactive for many months — meaning, beyond the cutoff data of 90 days. This new issue is not the same as the one that occurred during the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when an app’s user provided access to their all their friend network’s user data, due to the app’s shady use of access permissions. But it is another example of how Facebook’s friend network leads to data being compromised through someone’s personal associations. In this case, the user data was inadvertently shared with developers because of a user’s connection to a friend who used an app and invited them to try it, too. Facebook said the issue has since fixed and it’s continuing to investigate. Related to this, the company also introduced new Platform Terms and Developer Policies to push more of the data-minding aspects, legally speaking, into developers’ hands. The terms now limit the information developers can share with third-parties without explicit consent from users, strengthen data security requirements, and clarify when developers must delete data. For instance, the terms now require developers to delete data that’s no longer required for a legitimate business purpose, if the app is shut down, if Facebook tells them to, or if data was received in error, the announcement states. Those last two stipulations are interesting, as Facebook could reach out to developers in the future if it noticed other data access problems, like this latest, and inform the developer that they’ve received user data in error. Facebook’s Terms also allow Facebook to audit third-party apps by requesting either remote or physical access to the developers’ systems, according to these terms, to ensure compliance with its policies. Facebook could then ask the developer to delete the data that is non-compliant, as required by these new Terms. To what extent the wider world would know about any later issues would be up to Facebook to disclose, as it does today by blog posts. Developer policies were only one area that received an update. Facebook also updated its Business Terms, including its Business Tools Terms, to also cover data involved with certain usages of the Facebook SDK, Facebook Login, and social plugins. It’s making changes to its Commercial Terms to make the terms clearer, as well, it says. It will take time to fully analyze what loopholes Facebook is closing with an comprehensive update to terms like this and how these will impact user data and transparency about subsequent data access issues. Facebook says the new policies and terms will go into effect August 31, 2020. Developers don’t have to take any action to agree to the updates.

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Just ahead of the Fourth of July weekend, Walmart announced a partnership with Tribeca Enterprises (most notably the purveyors of the film festival of the same name) that’s set to convert 160 store locations into makeshift drive-in movie theaters. The move is an extension of the existing Tribeca-led Drive-In program that has already announced events for a handful of cities, including Los Angeles, New York, Arlington, TX, Miami and Seattle, with help from IMAX and AT&T. The Hollywood Reporter has a bit more detail about the new initiative. Details are still pretty thin, but the involvement of such a ubiquitous retailer could help extend the program to communities outside of the aforementioned urban centers. Starting in August at select Walmart stores, we’re partnering with @Tribeca and rolling out the red carpet for drive-in movie premieres, complete with car-side and service. Stay tuned for more details. See you at the movies! https://t.co/JfUPB6QK8C pic.twitter.com/t4Enk8aYzL — Walmart (@Walmart) July 1, 2020 Walmart Drive-In follows a number of smaller scale initiatives that have helped the largely extinguished category see a resurgence as consumers are understandably wary of returning to an indoor theater experience as COVID-19 continues to spike across the country. Most theaters have relied on older films — in fact, Jurassic Park recently hit number one at the U.S. box office nearly 30 years after its release on the strength of the new trend. Theaters are ready to reopen, but is America ready to go back to the movies? The Walmart screenings are set for August through October, with Tribeca at the helm of the film selection. No word yet on the schedule, but Tribeca’s previously announced selection includes Selena, The Bodyguard, Straight Outta Compton, Creed, Jerry Maguire, Space Jam, Love & Basketball, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Back to the Future, Mean Girls, Superbad, Girls Trip, Bridesmaids, Talladega Nights, The Fast and The Furious, Goldfinger, Casino Royale,  Inside Out, The Lego Movie and Spy Kids.

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QuestDB, a member of the Y Combinator summer 2020 cohort, is building an open source time series database with speed top of mind. Today the startup announced a $2.3 million seed round. Episode1 Ventures led the round with assistance from Seedcamp, 7percent Ventures, YCombinator, Kima Ventures and several unnamed angel investors. The database was originally conceived in 2013 when current CTO Vlad Ilyushchenko was building trading systems for a financial services company and he was frustrated by the performance limitations of the databases available at the time, so he began building a database that could handle large amounts of data and process it extremely fast. For a number of years, QuestDB was a side project, a labor of love for Ilyushchenko until he met his other co-founders Nicolas Hourcard, who became CEO and Tancrede Collard, who became CPO, and the three decided to build a startup on top of the open source project last year. “We’re building an open source database for time series data, and time series databases are a multi-billion dollar market because they’re central for financial services, IoT and other enterprise applications. And we basically make it easy to handle explosive amounts of data, and to reduce infrastructure costs massively,” Hourcard told TechCrunch. He adds that it’s also about high performance. “We recently released a demo that you can access from our website that enables you to query a super large datasets — 1.6 billion rows with sub-second queries, mostly, and that just illustrates how performant the software is,” he said. He sees open source as a way to build adoption from the bottom up inside organizations, winning the hearts and minds of developers first, then moving deeper in the company when they eventually build a managed cloud version of the product. For now, being open source also helps them as a small team to have a community of contributors help build the database and add to its feature set. “We’ve got this open source product that is free to use, and it’s pretty important for us to have such a distribution model because we can basically empower developers to solve their problems, and we can ask for contributions from various communities. […] And this is really a way to spur adoption,” Hourcard said. He says that working with YC has allowed them to talk to other companies in the ecosystem who have built similar open source-based startups and that’s been helpful, but it has also helped them learn to set and meet goals and have access to some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, including Marc Andreessen, who delivered a talk to the cohort the same day we spoke. Today the company has 7 employees including the three founders, spread out across the US, EU and South America. He sees this geographic diversity helping when it comes to building a diverse team in the future. “We definitely want to have more diverse backgrounds to make sure that we keep having a diverse team and we’re very strongly committed to that.” For the short term, the company wants to continue building its community, working on continuing to improve the open source product, while working on the managed cloud product.

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Venture capital is “not the only fruit” for entrepreneurs, as the often quieter ‘Growth Capital’ can also see great returns for entrepreneurs who prefer to retain a lot of ownership and control but are also willing to bootstrap over a longer period in order to reach revenues and profits. With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing millions of people online, tech investors of all classes are now reaping the dividends in this accelerated, Coronavirus-powered transition to digital. Thus it is that Kennet Partners, a leading European technology growth equity investor, has raised $250m (€223m) for its fifth fund, ‘Kennet V’, in partnership with Edmond de Rothschild Private Equity, the Private Equity division of the Edmond de Rothschild Group. Kennet is perhaps best know for its involvement in companies such as Receipt Bank, Spatial Networks and its exist from Vlocity, IntelePeer, and MedeAnalytics. It’s also invested in Eloomi, Codility, Nuxeo and Rimilia. In raising this new fund, Kennet says it exceeded its target and secured new investors from across Europe and Asia. The Kennet V fund has already started to deploy the capital into new investments in B2B, SaaS across the UK, Europe and the US. Typically, Kennet invests in the first external funding that companies receive and is used to finance sales and marketing expansion, particularly internationally. It’s cumulative assets managed are approximately $1 billion. Hillel Zidel, managing director, Kennet Partners, told me by phone that: “We were fortunate in that most of the capital was raised just before Covid hit. But we were still able to bring additional investors in. Had we been designing a fund for now, then this would have been it, because people have rushed towards technology out of necessity. So this has brought forward digitization but at least five years.” Johnny El-Hachem, CEO, Edmond de Rothschild Private Equity said in a statement: “We partnered with Kennet, because we liked the dynamism of the team coupled with their strategy of financing businesses providing mission-critical technology solutions. The COVID crisis has underscored the importance of many of these tools to business continuity.”

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If you’d predicted in late March and early April that Q3 would kick off with a wide-open IPO market and receptive investors, I doubt anyone would have believed you. If you suggested that valuations would look pretty good as well, you might even have been laughed at. And yet, here we are. The Exchange is a daily look at startups and the private markets for Extra Crunch subscribers; use code EXCHANGE to get full access and take 25% off your subscription. Yesterday Lemonade and Accolade priced above their expected ranges, with Lemonade pricing above its raised range and Accolade selling more shares than expected. It’s hard to read the moves as anything other than the market demanding growth-oriented equities and not worrying too much about profitability. Or more precisely: it’s the golden moment to go public for unprofitable unicorns seeking liquidity but worried about defending their private-market valuations. This sentiment is backed up by Agora’s solid pricing and explosive debut in recent days. How long this public market moment will last is not clear. With the United States recording 50,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day yesterday and the national economy beginning to slow once again, perhaps the window is short. Perhaps not — we were wrong before about the IPO market in 2020, so let’s not get too hasty to make more predictions — but it is clear that Q4 2019 wasn’t the only time when unicorns might have been able to attract the prices they wanted. This morning let’s briefly go over the final pricing for Lemonade and Accolade, and give them new revenue multiples ahead of their first days as trading entities. We need to start their public life knowing how they were valued ahead of their debut so that we can better understand the next set of companies that are bold enough to get off their backside and go public. Roll out the welcome mat We’ve abused every possible IPO metaphor in recent weeks. Open windows. Warm waters. But without cliché, we can state that IPOs are performing very well in recent weeks, with IPO Boutique reporting this morning that 17 of the last 27 IPOs have priced above the range that they first set.

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When it comes to venture capital, Los Angeles is a city on the rise. In the past year, it’s seen one of the most profitable venture-backed exits of any tech ecosystem (with the $4 billion sale of Honey to PayPal) and investors are minting billion-dollar companies in the region at a torrid pace. It’s also the city where investors are spending the most money outside of venture capital’s big major hubs: San Francisco, Boston and New York. While Los Angeles has a lot going for it, that also means it potentially has a lot to lose in the current economic downturn. California continues to be hard-hit by COVID-19, despite local and state officials working to reopen businesses. TechCrunch surveyed some of the city’s leading investors in sectors like property technology and cannabis to get their take on how the city may survive — and potentially thrive — in a new era ushered in by the response to the pandemic. From larger fund investors like Mark Suster and Kara Nortman at Upfront Ventures to Dana Settle at Greycroft Partners; to early-stage investors like Will Hsu at Mucker Capital; TX Zhuo at Fika Ventures, the responses were generally upbeat about the future opportunities for Los Angeles startups. Even specialist fund investors like Karan Wadhera of the cannabis-focused investment firm Casa Verde Capital and Brendan Wallace at the real estate-focused firm Fifth Wall believe that Los Angeles will thrive in the post-COVID world. As Mucker Capital co-founder Hsu writes, “There are far more great companies than there are venture dollars here in LA. Investors in other cities should continue to see LA as an underserved ecosystem with huge opportunities.” Mark Suster, managing partner, Upfront Ventures Kara Nortman, partner, Upfront Ventures Will Hsu, Mucker Capital Dana Settle, Greycroft Partners Karan Wadhera, Casa Verde Capital Brendan Wallace, Fifth Wall TX Zhuo, Fika Ventures Image Credits: Getty Images/ROBYN BECK/AFP Mark Suster, managing partner, Upfront Ventures How much is Upfront focused on investing in the local LA ecosystem versus less geographically focused?  Upfront invests about 40% of its investment dollars in the great LA market and invests about 40% split between the Bay Area and NYC. Upfront has always invested nationally and internationally with the final 20% and we have produced significant exits in Chicago, Baltimore, Paris, London and Las Vegas to name a few. Where we do invest outside of LA of course we bring all of our contacts and relationships to bear, which makes us a logical choice for any startup raising capital where having access to the biggest influencers, media companies, academic institutions and medical professionals can help propel the company’s success. How do you think COVID-19 will change entrepreneurial activity in Los Angeles? It’s true that some startup businesses have been impacted by this pandemic but as we’re learning a few short months in, there has been much more acceleration of the trends leading toward technology growth that were already in place. Specifically addressing some LA-based companies we can share with you the trends we see directly with demand data: We already knew that telemedicine made sense for doctors and patients and now this trend has accelerated, regulations being lessened and cultural barriers overcome. We see a huge growth in food production and preservation (Apeel Sciences, for example) and food distribution (such as ChowNow). The need to reduce people in warehouses has propelled demand for robotics/automation for companies like inVia Robotics and the need for remote monitoring has helped LA-based DroneBase.

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Ad measurement company DoubleVerify announced this morning that it has a new CEO: Mark Zagorski, who was most recently president and COO of adtech company Rubicon Project. DoubleVerify’s previous CEO Wayne Gattinella stepped down earlier this year following a troubling New York Post report claiming that he had been engaged in an extramarital affair with a woman who was found dead in 2018. (Gattinella accused The Post of making “factually false and defamatory statements.”) Since then, board member Laura Desmond has served as the company’s interim CEO. In addition to his roles at Rubicon, Zagorski has also served as CEO of Telaria, where he led the merger with Rubicon, and as CEO of eXelate, where he led the company’s sale to Nielsen. He’ll be based in DoubleVerify’s New York office (at least, whenever that office reopens) and will lead a workforce of more than 550 employees. “DoubleVerify is the industry leader in powering media quality and performance – giving global brands the confidence and clarity needed to make advertising investments on every digital platform,” he said in a statement. “Through their innovative service and solutions, DV has developed deep customer relationships and an outstanding market reputation. There is a huge opportunity to continue to grow the business, and I am energized and excited to leverage my experience in CTV, data and analytics to make this happen.” DoubleVerify’s technology is supposed to help advertisers eliminate fraud and ensure brand safety. The company launched a product earlier this year that was more focused on measuring ad effectiveness. DoubleVerify launches a new way to measure online ad effectiveness

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Tesla said Thursday that it delivered 90,650 vehicles in the second quarter, a 4.8% decline from the same period last year prompted by challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that included suspending production for weeks at its main U.S. factory. Tesla still managed to beat expectations despite the headwinds. The vast majority of deliveries — some 80,050 — were Model 3 and Model Y vehicles. The remaining 10,600 were its more expensive Model S and Model X vehicles. Tesla doesn’t provide break downs of each model separately nor does it give information about regional deliveries. Analysts, who had anticipated lower numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, had varying forecasts with some predicting as few as 39,000 deliveries and as many as 83,000. A consensus of analysts surveyed by FactSet expected Tesla to deliver 72,000 vehicles in the second quarter. The results pushed shares up nearly 9% in pre-market trading $1,218.21 Thursday morning. Here’s a quick breakdown: Tesla delivered 90,650 vehicles in Q2 compared to 88,400 in Q1 and 95,200 in Q2 2019) Tesla produced 82,272 vehicles in Q2 compared to 103,000 in Q1 and 87,048 in Q2 2019) In the weeks leading up to the end of the second quarter, new sales goals were placed on employees, according to several sources who work for the company. Tesla also reduced the prices of its vehicles in China and North America. Both strategies aimed to spur demand for its electric vehicles. The scheme appears to have worked in the second quarter, which could prompt analysts to place loftier expectations on Tesla for the remainder of the year. Tesla shares popped Wednesday after the market opened and pushed the company’s market capitalization to nearly $208 billion, surpassing Toyota  to become the world’s most valuable automaker by market value. The shares rose in part on reports of a companywide email from CEO Elon Musk congratulating employees on reaching its sales and production goals.

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Palantir, the secretive big data and analytics provider that works with governments and other public and private organizations to power national security, health and a variety of other services, has reportedly been eyeing up a public listing this autumn. But in the meantime it’s also continuing to push ahead in the private markets. The company has filed a Form D indicating that it is in the process of raising nearly $1 billion — $961,099,010, to be exact — with $549,727,437 of that already sold, and a further $411,371,573 remaining to be raised. The filing appears to confirm a report from back in September 2019 that the company was seeking to raise between $1 billion and $3 billion, its first fundraising in four years. That report noted Palantir was targeting a $26 billion valuation, up from $20 billion four years ago. A Reuters article from June put its valuation on secondary market trades at between $10 billion and $14 billion. The bigger story of that Reuters report was that Palantir confirmed two fundraises from strategic investors that both work with the company: $500 million in funding from Japanese insurance company Sompo Holdings, and $50 million from Fujitsu. Together, it seems like these might account for $550 million already sold on the Form D. It’s not clear if this fundraise would essentially mean a delay to a public listing, or if it would complement it. To date Palantir has raised $3.3 billion in funding, according to PitchBook data, with no less than 108 investors on its cap table. But if you dig into the PitchBook data (some of which is behind a paywall) it also seems that Palantir has raised a number of other rounds of undisclosed amounts. Confusingly (but probably apt for a company famous for being secretive) some of that might also be part of this Form D amount. We have reached out to Palantir to ask about the Form D and will update this post as we learn more. While Palantir was last valued at $20 billion when it last raised money four years ago, there are some data points that point to a bigger valuation today. In April, according to a Bloomberg report, the company briefed investors with documents showing that it expects to make $1 billion in revenues this year, up 38% on 2019, and breaking even in the first time since being founded 16 years ago by Peter Thiel, Nathan Gettings, Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen, and current CEO, Alex Karp. (The Bloomberg report didn’t explain why Palantir was briefing investors, whether for a potential public listing, or for the fundraise we’re reporting on here, or something else.) On top of that, the company has been in the news a lot around the global novel coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, it’s been winning business, in the form of projects in major markets like the UK (where it’s part of a consortium of companies working with the NHS on a COVID-19 data trove) and the US (where it’s been working on a COVID-19 tracker for the federal government and a project with the CDC), and possibly others. Those projects will presumably need a lot of upfront capital to set up and run, possibly one reason raising money now.

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In Indonesia, there are about 60 million “micro-merchants,” typically small store owners who sell food and other staple items, and have close relationships with their customers. Many often extend informal lines of credit to shoppers, but much of their financial tracking is still done with pen and paper ledgers. Chinmay Chauhan and Abhinay Peddisetty, the co-founders of BukuWarung, want to digitize the process with a financial platform designed especially for small Indonesian businesses. Their goal is to start with bookkeeping tools, before expanding into services including access to working capital. The startup is currently taking part in Y Combinator’s startup accelerator program. BukuWarung has also raised seed funding from East Ventures, AC Ventures, Golden Gate Ventures, Tanglin Ventures, Samporna, as well as strategic angel investors from Grab, Gojek, Flipkart, PayPal, Xendit, Rapyd, Alterra, ZEN Rooms and other companies. Chauhan and Peddisetty met while working together at Singapore-based peer-to-peer marketplace Carousell, where they focused on developing monetization products for sellers. Chauhan also worked on products for merchants at Grab, the largest ride-sharing and on-demand delivery company in Southeast Asia. But the inspiration behind BukuWarung is also personal, because both Chauhan and Peddisetty’s families run small neighborhood stores. “We can look at this more deeply given the experience we have monetizing merchants at Grab and Carousell,” Chauhan said. “We also know good potential exists in Indonesia, where we can help 60 million micro-merchants come online and digitize. From a macro-level, we felt this would be a huge opportunity, and there is also the personal element of being potentially being able to impact millions of merchants.” Paper records not only make tracking finances a labor-intensive process, but also means it is harder for merchants to gain access to lines of credit. Chauhan and Peddisetty told TechCrunch that their goal is to expand the company to financial services as well, doing for Indonesian merchants what KhataBook and OKCredit have done in India. Since launching last year, BukuWarung has signed up 600,000 merchants across 750 cities and towns in Indonesia and currently has about 200,000 monthly average users. The founders say their goal is to reach all 60 million micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses in Indonesia. It has already made its first acquisition: Lunasbos, one of the first Indonesian credit tracking apps. BukuWarung founders Chinmay Chauhan and Abhinay Peddisetty While preparing to launch BukuWarung, the founders traveled through Indonesia, speaking to almost 400 merchants about their challenges with bookkeeping, credit tracing and accounting. Based on those conversations, the two decided to start by focusing on a bookkeeping app, which launched 10 months ago. Despite a partial lockdown in Indonesia from April to June, BukuWarung continued to grow because most of its users sell daily necessities, like groceries. In smaller cities and villages, merchants often offer credit lines because their customers’ cash flow is very tight, and many do not have a regular monthly paycheck, Chauhan said. “Everyone is buying and selling on credit, that is something we validated in our research.” Then there is the community aspect, where many merchants are close to their customers. “This changes depending on the location of the business, but business owners have often known a lot of people in their neighborhoods for a long time, and when it comes to credit, they typically offer 500 Indonesian rupiah all the way up to about one million rupiah [about USD $70.56],” Chauhan said. But when it’s time to settle bills, which often means going to customers’ homes and asking for payment, many merchants feel hesitant, he added. “They will never chase or call the person. The app we built sends automatic reminders to customers, and this ‘soft message’ really helps merchants not feel shy while at the same time professionally giving customer reminders.” While talking to merchants, BukuWarung’s founders also realized that many were using pay-as-you-go data plans and lower-end smartphones. Therefore, their app needed to be as lightweight as possible, and work offline so users could access and update their records anytime. This focus on making their app take up as little data and space as possible differentiates them from other bookkeeping apps, the founders said, and helps them sign up and retain users in Indonesia. Chauhan and Peddisetty said the company will partner with financial tech companies as it grows  to give users access to online payment systems, including digital wallets, and financing. In a statement to TechCrunch, Y Combinator partner Gustaf Alströmer said, “Building digital infrastructure for emerging economies is a huge opportunity, especially in the post-COVID world. And we believe BukuWarung is a team that can take on this challenge. We have seen this journey before with Khatabook and OkCredit in India and see that BukuWarung is on a similar growth trajectory to empower micro-businesses in Indonesia.”  

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OurPeople, the U.K. startup that’s built a team communication and engagement platform for desk-less workers, has raised $2 million in Series A funding. Leading the round is Alpine Meridian, an investment firm that specialises in digital media, e-commerce and healthcare, and entrepreneur Robert Neveu, who also joins OurPeople as managing partner. It brings total funding to $3 million. Founded in 2016 by Ross McCaw, Bristol-based OurPeople offers a secure mobile platform to let businesses communicate digitally with employees, ensuring teams can stay connected. The startup primarily works in industries with large numbers of desk-less workers, such as fitness and leisure. Clients currently include West Ham United Foundation, Virgin Active UK, Paulton’s Park and Serco Leisure. McCaw — who used to be a part-time lifeguard and swim teacher — previously founded CoursePro to improve the way swim lessons were administered in the U.K. and other countries. At the time the company was fully acquired by Jonas Software in 2014, over a million swimmers had enrolled. After the success of CoursePro, he spotted another opportunity and launched OurPeople. “I saw first-hand how companies struggled to communicate with their employees,” says McCaw. “Specifically their remote, desk-less team members who, more often than not, do not have access to a company email but who are the people with the most direct exposure to their customers”. What really stood out was how many of the trainers were not engaging with company news and announcements. “This was bad for both the company and them. I looked at a number of other sectors and saw that this was a wider issue amongst many industries with high numbers of desk-less workers”. McCaw describes the OurPeople solution as a “highly-sophisticated yet simple to use” messaging service that ensures the right people in an organisation receive the information they need when they need it. He reckons it’s this targeted nature and being mobile-first that sets the communication platform apart from competitors. “Generally our competitors come in one of two categories: the workplace social network or the consumer-style workplace chat groups. Both, in our opinion, create too much noise and chatter. They are not targeted enough,” says McCaw. “Employees want to see content that is relevant to them and incredibly quick to read or watch. The employer, on the other hand, wants to know that the communication has been seen and acknowledged. To achieve this we have a ‘tagging’ system so that only the people that absolutely need to see that message receive it”. Furthermore, the OurPeople founder says the platform is different because the startup is not attempting to create a workplace social network “where vital information can get lost in all the typical noise”. “OurPeople is about crucial, relevant information at the right time that engages those hard to reach employees and won’t slow them down as they carry out their customer-facing duties. We make internal communications, especially with remote and desk-less colleagues, effective and efficient”.

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Zetwerk, an Indian business-to-business marketplace for manufacturing items, has raised $21 million in a new financing round as it looks to scale its operations in the nation and help local businesses find customers overseas. San Francisco-based investment firm Greenoaks led the two-year-old Indian startup’s Series C financing round. Existing investors Accel, Kae Capital, Lightspeed and Sequoia Capital India also participated in the round, which brings Zetwerk’s to-date raise to $62 million. Founded by Amrit Acharya, Srinath Ramakkrushnan, Rahul Sharma and Vishal Chaudhary in 2018, Zetwerk connects OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and EPC (engineering procurement construction) customers with manufacturing small-businesses and enterprises. Unlike the more typical e-commerce firms, Zetwerk sells goods such as parts of a crane, doors, chassis of different machines and ladders. The startup operates to serve customers in fabrication, machining, casting and forging businesses. These are all custom-made products. “Nobody has a stock of such inventories. You get the order, you find manufacturers and workshops that make them. Our customers are companies that are in the business of building infrastructure,” said Acharya, who serves as Zetwerk’s chief executive. “We index these small workshops and understand the kinds of products they have built before. These indexes help bigger companies discover and work with them,” he added. Once a firm has placed an order, Zetwerk allows them to track the progress of manufacturing and then its shipping. In this line of business, this “hand-holding” is crucial as manufacturing and shipping of these items typically take more than two to three months. Currently, Zetwerk works with more than 150 enterprises and 2,500 small and medium-sized businesses, it told TechCrunch. The startup delivers more than 30,000 parts each month, up 100% since December last year, and has enabled several manufacturers in India to discover clients overseas. “Zetwerk is bringing Indian manufacturing to the global stage, and I’m proud to be part of their story,” said Prayank Swaroop of Accel. Zetwerk has developed “unique software to enable an enormous global manufacturing marketplace connecting OEMs and EPCs with industrial suppliers,” said Neil Shah of Greenoaks Capital. “Increasingly, companies are looking to diversify their supply chain globally and Zetwerk’s platform allows them to identify and collaborate with supplier partners to deliver projects on-time and with high quality. We are thrilled to continue to partner with the Zetwerk team,” he said. Manufacturing contributes to 14% of India’s GDP, but the nation lacks a supporting ecosystem to execute projects more efficiently, said Acharya. The startup will deploy the fresh capital to fund its international expansion and launch new categories, he said. Commenting on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted Zetwerk, Acharya told TechCrunch that the startup works across multiple industries, some of which are still growing. “Overall, we are doing well,” he said.

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Two days after India blocked 59 apps developed by Chinese firms, Google and Apple have started to comply with New Delhi’s order and are preventing users in the world’s second largest internet market from accessing those apps. UC Browser, Shareit, and Club Factory and other apps that India has blocked are no longer listed on Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store. In a statement, a Google spokesperson said that the company had “temporarily blocked access to the apps”on Google Play Store as it reviews New Delhi’s interim order. Apple, which has taken a similar approach as Google in complying with New Delhi’s order, did not respond to a request for comment. Some developers including ByteDance have voluntarily made their apps inaccessible in India, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. India’s Department of Telecommunications ordered telecom networks and other internet service providers earlier this week to block access to those 59 apps “effective immediately.” Thursday’s move from Apple and Google, whose software power nearly every smartphone on the planet, is the latest escalation in an unprecedented tension in recent times between China and India. A skirmish between the two neighbouring nations at a disputed Himalayan border site last month left 20 Indian soldiers dead, stoking historical tensions. Earlier this week, India blocked 59 Chinese apps including ByteDance’s TikTok citing national security concerns in a move that some saw as retaliation. In its order, India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT alleged that these apps were “compiling, mining, and profiling” users’ data that posed threats to “national security and defence of India.” The Indian government has invited executives at these companies to give them an opportunity to answer concerns. Kevin Mayer, the chief executive of TikTok, said on Wednesday that his app was in compliance with Indian privacy and security requirements and he was looking forward to meeting with various stakeholders. On Thursday, Chinese social network Weibo said it had deleted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s account at the request of the Indian embassy. Modi had amassed about 200,000 followers on Weibo before his account was deleted. India has emerged as the biggest open battleground for Silicon Valley and Chinese firms in recent years. Like American technology groups Google, Facebook, and Amazon, several Chinese firms including Tencent, ByteDance, and Alibaba Group also aggressively expanded their presence in India in the last decade. TikTok, which has 200 million users in India, counts Asia’s third largest economy as its biggest overseas market. The 59 blocked apps that include Likee, Xiaomi’s Mi Community, and Tencent’s WeChat, had a combined monthly active user base of over 500 million users in India last month, according to mobile insights firm App Annie — data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. (A significant number of smartphone users in India use several of these apps so there’s a lot of overlap.)

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ZenGo, a startup that is building a mobile cryptocurrency wallet, has discovered a vulnerability in some of the most popular cryptocurrency wallets, such as hardware wallet Ledger, BRD and Edge. Named BigSpender, the vulnerability might lead to an incorrect balance on your wallet as unconfirmed transactions are taken into account in your total balance. The attacker could revoke the transaction before it is confirmed, which could lead to some confusion. Even if you’re not familiar with cryptocurrencies, that type of attacks is quite popular on peer-to-peer marketplaces, such as Craigslist. Let’s say you’re trying to sell a phone. Somebody might tell you that they want to buy your device and send you a fake PayPal transaction email. If you just look at the email, you might think the buyer has already sent you the money. But if you load your PayPal account, you might notice that the buyer never sent you anything — it was a fake payment notification email. BigSpender could be used in the same way, but with cryptocurrencies. The potential attacker leverages a feature in the bitcoin protocol called Replace-by-Fee. This feature lets you send some bitcoins with a low transaction fee and then send the same crypto assets but with a higher transaction fee. The original transaction is canceled and replaced with the new one. This way, the new transaction should be confirmed more quickly as miners process transactions with higher transaction fees first. But some cryptocurrency wallets take unconfirmed transactions for granted a bit too quickly. When you check your balance, it looks like you’ve receive some bitcoins, but the sender may have canceled it to replace that transaction with another one to another wallet — a wallet that they control. Even though the transaction has been canceled, the balance still reflects those fake transactions. If the attacker is trying to fake-buy something really expensive, they can use the BigSpender attack multiple times even if they don’t have a lot of money. For instance, they could initiate ten transactions each worth 0.1 BTC, the recipient would see a balance of 1 BTC even though they received 0 BTC. And because the wallet has miscalculated the balance, attackers could also leverage the BigSpender vulnerability to freeze your crypto assets using with a “denial-of-service” attack. When the victim tries to send some bitcoins after receiving a ton of fake transactions, the wallet might try to send crypto assets that never arrived. The transaction fails. To be clear, your existing bitcoins remain safe. Usually, clearing the app cache and resyncing your wallet with the bitcoin blockchain solves that issue. But you might not understand why you can’t use your crypto assets. BigSpender isn’t a vulnerability in the bitcoin protocol — it doesn’t let you steal bitcoins. But it can be used to confuse users. Going forward, wallets should clearly mark unconfirmed transactions with a big “pending” label without increasing the balance of the wallet. Transactions that have been replaced using Replace-by-Fee should also be identified as failed. ZenGo has disclosed the vulnerability with Ledger, Edge and BRD 90 days ago. Ledger and BRD have handed bug bounty awards to ZenGo. BRD has released a fix already while BRD and Ledger are working on fixes. ZenGo also released an open-source tool to test your wallet against BigSpender to see the behavior.

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Facebook is no longer betting on Lasso, an app it launched a year and a half ago, to take on TikTok . The social juggernaut’s TikTok clone is shutting down on July 10, Lasso alerted users on Wednesday. Launched in late 2018, Lasso was seen as Facebook’s answer to TikTok that’s gained ground with young users, both in China and in the West. Lasso allowed users shoot up to 15-second long videos and overlay popular songs. The app centered around an algorithmic feed of recommended videos, but also allowed users to tap through hashtags or a Browse page of themed collections. As of February, Lasso was available in Colombia, Mexico, the U.S., Argentina, Chile, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ecuador, and Uruguay, research firm Sensor Tower told TechCrunch. Earlier this year, Facebook added support for Hindi language in Lasso, suggesting that it may have had plans to bring Lasso to India, its biggest market by users account. Lasso’s demise comes ahead of the launch of Instagram Reels — the new horse Facebook is counting on to steal TikTok’s lunch, said Josh Constine, who first spotted Lasso’s announcement. Facebook’s TikTok clone lasso is shutting down ahead of the Instagram Reels launch, so basically Fb lost 2 years by half-assing. Brb, gotta go save my zero Lassos pic.twitter.com/VgKImjgWM4 — Josh Constine -SignalFire (@JoshConstine) July 2, 2020 It’s unclear why Facebook never expanded Lasso to more markets. But what is clear is that Lasso’s journey was troubled from the beginning. Brady Voss, who led the development of this app, left Facebook days after the launch of Lasso. We have reached out to Facebook for comment.

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Self-driving trucks startup TuSimple laid out a plan Wednesday to create a mapped network of shipping routes and terminals designed for autonomous trucking operations that will extend across the United States by 2024. UPS, which owns a minority stake in TuSimple, carrier U.S. Xpress, Penske Truck Leasing and Berkshire Hathaway’s grocery and food service supply chain company McLane Inc. are the inaugural partners in this so-called autonomous freight network (AFN). TuSimple’s AFN involves four pieces: its self-driving trucks, digital mapped routes, freight terminals and a system that will let customers monitor autonomous trucking operations and track their shipments in real-time. For now, TuSimple will operate the trucks and carry goods for its customers, which now number 22.  TuSimple wants to eventually be able to sell its autonomous trucks so customers can choose to operate their own fleets. The plan was made public just days after TechCrunch learned that TuSimple had hired investment bank Morgan Stanley to help it raise $250 million. Morgan Stanley recently sent potential investors an informational packet, viewed by TechCrunch, that provides a snapshot of the company and an overview of its business model, as well as a pitch on why the company is poised to succeed — all standard fare for companies seeking investors. TuSimple, which has raised $298 million to date, has also shared its plans to build its autonomous freight network with potential investors. “Our ultimate goal is to have a nationwide transportation network consisting of mapped routes connecting hundreds of terminals to enable efficient, low-cost long-haul autonomous freight operations,” TuSimple President Cheng Lu said in a statement. “By launching the AFN with our strategic partners, we will be able to quickly scale operations and expand autonomous shipping lanes to provide users access to autonomous capacity anywhere and 24/7 on-demand.” TuSimple already carries freight in its autonomous trucks (always with human safety operators on board) along seven different routes between Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso and Dallas. TuSimple said it will expand its service area with existing customers UPS and McLane. U.S. Xpress is a new partner. Penske will help TuSimple scale its fleet operations nationwide and provide preventative maintenance for the self-driving trucks, the company said.  TuSimple said the network will be rolled out in three phases, starting with a focus on a service area in the Southwest where it already operates. Phase 1, which will launch in 2020 and into 2021, will cover service between cities Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. TuSimple plans to open this fall a new shipping terminal in Dallas. TuSimple said these terminals are designed to be shared by mid-sized customers. TuSimple will carry freight directly to a company’s distribution center if it is a high-volume customer. The second phase will begin in 2022 and expand service from Los Angeles to Jacksonville and connect the east coast with the west, the company said. The final phase will expand across the lower 48 states, beginning in 2023. The company said it will replicate the strategy in Europe and Asia after the AFN rolls out nationwide.

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Questionable stories on COVID-19 from state-backed outlets in Russia, China, Turkey and Iran are being shared more widely than reporting by major news organizations around the world, according to Oxford analysts. French, German, Spanish and English news sites see far less social engagement than these foreign-originated ones in their languages. The study is part of ongoing monitoring of COVID-19 disinformation campaigns by the Computational Propaganda Project. The group found that major outlets like Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El Pais are being out-shared four or five to one in some metrics by content from Russia Today, China Radio International, and other state-backed organizations. Earlier reports focused on English-language sharing of this type of media, which can be generally described as fact-adjacent with a strong emphasis on certain narratives. The repeated finding was that although mainstream news outlets have an overall stronger presence, state-backed and junk news is way ahead in engagement per post or article. In the latest report it is shown that on average, mainstream articles collect about 25 engagements per post, while state-backed items get 125. When multiplied by millions of users and followers, that becomes an enormous discrepancy. There is more nuance to the data than that, of course, but it gives a general idea of what’s happening: Disinformation is being spread widely, whether by bots or organic reach, while ordinary news sources only reach a similar amount of people through more output and wider initial reach. It wasn’t, however, clear whether this was the case outside English-language media. It certainly seems to be, according to data collected over three weeks from a variety of news sources. Mainstream media had a larger overall reach, but state-backed media often produced far higher engagement per article. This is perhaps explained by the fact that the state-backed organizations tended to pursue and push controversies and divisive narratives. As the study puts it: Russian outlets working in French and German consistently emphasized weak democratic institutions and civil disorder in Europe, but offered different kinds of conspiracy theories about the pandemic. Chinese and Turkish outlets working in Spanish promoted their own countries’ global leadership in combating the pandemic, while Russian and Iranian outlets generated polarizing content targeted at Latin America and Spanish-speaking social media users in the United States. That sort of clickbait spreads like wildfire on social media, of course, and few of those who thoughtlessly hit that share button will have the inclination to check whether the source is a government-backed news agency plainly attempting to sow discord. On the other hand, it seems as if some consider turnabout fair play. For example, a Chinese state-backed news countering the flourishing U.S. conspiracy theory that the virus is a Chinese bioweapon with a counter-theory that it is a U.S. bioweapon released in and blamed on China. “Many of these state-backed outlets blend reputable, fact-based reporting about the coronavirus with misleading or false information, which can lead to greater uncertainty among public audiences trying to make sense of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Oxford’s Katarian Rebello in a news release. The countries and state-backed outlets mentioned also have a major presence in Arabic-language markets and the researchers are working on a follow-up study inclusive of those.

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