posted about 22 hours ago on techcrunch
The Russian government has blocked another encrypted email provider, according to a Russian digital rights organization and the email provider. Last Wednesday, Roskomsvoboda, which describes itself as “the first Russian public organization active in the field of protecting digital rights and expanding digital opportunities,” reported that an unknown Russian state organization ordered the block of Skiff, an email and cloud service provider launched last year. Since then, Skiff’s chief executive Andrew Milich shared evidence of the block with TechCrunch. The block against Skiff comes three years after Russia blocked similar email encrypted services Proton Mail and Tutanota, showing that President Vladimir Putin’s regime is decidedly clamping down on encrypted communication services that allow its citizens to conduct conversations that are harder to spy on. The Russian Embassy in Washington D.C. did not respond to a request for comment. The Russian government’s censorship authority, commonly known as Roskomnadzor, also did not respond to an email asking for comment. Roskomnadzor’s register of blocked sites does not list Skiff as blocked at the time of publication. Stanislav Shakirov, technical director and co-founder of Roskomsvoboda, told TechCrunch that the block is in full effect and that “the blocking is done by the ISP on their equipment by the URL mask (*.skiff.com) and IP addresses.” Shakirov explained that this has the effect of blocking Skiff.com and all of its subdomains, “thus, Russian users who are not using VPN, browser plugins, or censorship bypass tools like Tor or Psiphon can’t get access to Skiff services.” Skiff’s Milich told TechCrunch that the company has seen an 81% decrease in traffic from Russia since last week, and he also shared a video of a user in Russia trying to log onto Skiff, which ends with the user seeing a connection error. Milich added that he has received several complaints from users in Russia that the service is not usable anymore. According to Skiff, the company has half a million users in Russia. “I started Skiff with a more private vision for the internet, where our personal information is not shared, bought, and sold. [Skiff’s co-founder ] Jason [Ginsberg] and I have both had personal or professional connections to Russia — mine through Stanford, and Jason’s family escaped the Soviet Bloc in the late 1970s via a covert radio network,” Milich said. “With fast adoption of our products and now suppression of them, we’re even more confident and determined in our mission to build products for private communication and freedom.” Russia is blocking encrypted email startup Skiff by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai originally published on TechCrunch

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posted about 22 hours ago on techcrunch
Impossible Foods, which makes plant-based nuggets, burgers and patties, is reportedly laying off 20% of its staff, Bloomberg reported first. According to the story, the 12-year-old company currently employs about 700 workers, which could then affect over 100 employees. This comes as the company made a 6% reduction in its workforce last October. Impossible Foods did not respond to a request for a comment about the layoffs. While we know layoffs can happen anytime, it seems like the company was doing well. Earlier this month, the Redwood City, California–based company reported a year of record sales that included over 50% dollar sales growth in 2022. The company also touted that its Impossible Beef product was “the best-selling product by volume of any plant-based meat brand in the U.S.” Months before that, CEO Peter McGuinness said in an interview with Bloomberg Technology that the company had a strong balance sheet, good cash flow and growth of between 65% and 70%. The most recent stats were given as the company also announced it brought on Sherene Jagla, previously senior vice president and general manager at Newell Brands, as Impossible’s first chief demand officer. Her role is to “bring its sales, marketing, insights and product development teams into one integrated function under her leadership as it prepares for its next phase of growth.” In total, Impossible raised $1.9 billion in venture capital, according to Crunchbase data. The last time the company raised capital was a $500 million Series H round in November 2021, and it was at that time that the company was valued at $7 billion. Founder Pat Brown spoke at the TC Sessions: Climate event last June and said that his vision for the company was to be the conduit that helps the world be less reliant on animals for food. “I don’t think the company will have a monopoly on making meat, fish and dairy foods for the whole world, for a lot of reasons,” he explained. “The critical function that we service is basically serving the scientific problem and developing the technology platform that enables it. Right now, we’re the only company in the world that has seriously done that, and obviously to continue to fund the business, we’re in the food business. My guess is in 10 years or so, to accelerate the scaling, we’ll be working with a lot of partners licensing the technology and allowing partners to carry the ball for us.” Even though Impossible and other plant-based companies have tried to go mainstream via grocery stores and restaurant partnerships, like Impossible’s with Burger King, plant-based meat remains quite a niche industry as a Yahoo article pointed out last week. My colleague Tim De Chant also noted that when meat prices rose during the global pandemic, the gap between traditional meat and meat alternatives was closing. However, that changed with the recent inflation. And the scale still isn’t there as Stray Dog Capital’s Lisa Feria explained to TechCrunch. “Early-stage companies in the space don’t always have the scale to offer pricing that is on par with traditional dairy or meat products,” Feria said. “Ultimately, when the industry is at scale, we expect many plant-based alternatives to be more affordable.” Impossible is not the only plant-based meat alternative company to make layoffs in recent months. In a regulatory filing made last October, Beyond Meat said it planned to lay off about 200 employees, or 19% of its workforce, as part of cost-saving measures as sales were slumping. Plant-based foods investor says her focus is more on teams than taste Report: Impossible Foods planning to lay off 20% of staff by Christine Hall originally published on TechCrunch

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posted about 22 hours ago on techcrunch
Nearly a year after ViacomCBS announced its rebrand to become Paramount, the company is now making a major change to its portfolio with today’s news that it will be fully integrating Showtime into Paramount+ — the streamer known in previous years as CBS All Access. The integration will include both streaming and linear platforms, the company noted, meaning Paramount+ will now be renamed “Paramount+ with Showtime,” while the Showtime linear TV network will also be renamed the same in the U.S. This sort of consolidation was bound to happen, given today’s competitive streaming environment where even Netflix has seen tougher quarters and has had to embrace advertising in order to further grow its business. There are many options for consumers to choose from in the streaming market, and a standalone service like Showtime simply doesn’t have the breadth and depth of content required to stand on its own. Showtime first launched its over-the-top streaming service in 2015, six years before CBS All Access was rebranded to Paramount+. However, Showtime is not as popular as its younger sister, Paramount+, which makes up the bulk of the company’s direct-to-consumer subscriber base. The streaming service reported 46 million subscribers in Q3 2022. Paramount itself has almost 67 million global subscribers across Paramount +, Pluto TV, Showtime, Noggin and BET+. The integration isn’t just aimed at boosting Paramount+’s profile on the market, it will also help the linear Showtime network. Paramount said select Paramount+ original programs will soon join the TV network, which provides incremental value for Showtime’s distributors and potentially, more linear customers as well. The changes will roll out later this year and will only involve the premium tiers at Paramount+, the company clarified. This will allow Paramount+ to better compete agains other premium streamers, like HBO Max, while also differentiating its streaming service by offering a combination of original and premium content, linear channels, live news and sports and Paramount Pictures movies. Similar to HBO, Showtime’s content tends to have more mature themes, which appeals more to a certain demographic beyond the general market Paramount+ targets. However, both services would benefit from a combined user base and the ability to cross-promote titles. “This new combined offering demonstrates how we can leverage our entire collection of content to drive deeper connections with consumers and greater value for our distribution partners,” wrote Paramount CEO Bob Bakish in a memo to employees, announcing the news. “This change will also drive stronger alignment across our domestic and international Paramount+ offerings, as international Paramount+ already includes Showtime content. And, very importantly, this integration will unlock operational efficiencies and financial benefits across our broader portfolio,” he said. Alongside the news, Paramount announced that Chris McCarthy will continue to lead the Showtime studio and oversee network operations for the linear channel. He will also work closely with Tom Ryan, who will oversee the “Paramount+ with Showtime” streaming business. The company warned that other changes to programming may come about with this transition. For example, in order to focus on building franchises out of Showtime’s hit shows, it will divert investment from underperforming areas that “account for less than 10% of our views.” That means, likely, some cancellations or removals are in order. Paramount says it has begun those discussions with its production partners, but didn’t announce either which shows are being cut or are being elevated by way of these changes. The newly merged Paramount+ with Showtime service will be in direct competition with Warner Bros. Discovery, which has 94.9 million global subscribers across HBO, HBO Max and Discovery+. In September, during Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia + Technology Conference, Bakish, confirmed that a merger had been discussed internally. “It shouldn’t surprise you that as we look to have optionality in the future…Quite frankly, if we weren’t having that conversation, you should fire all of us because we should have that conversation,” Bakish had said. In August 2022, Paramount+ launched an in-app Showtime bundle for U.S. customers that wanted to upgrade to a plan that included both Paramount+ and Showtime. Paramount had already integrated Showtime content with its streaming product in international markets, as a precursor to the company’s domestic integration plans. Amid growing competition, Paramount+ and Showtime are combining in the U.S. by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

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posted about 24 hours ago on techcrunch
A new app called Rewind wants to make it easier for music fans to explore the top songs of decades past. Hoping to cater to consumer demand for nostalgic music experiences, Rewind allows users to “time travel” through the music charts from 1960 through 2010 to learn about how older songs have influenced today’s hits. The app was built by developer Ziad Al Halabi, whose day job involves mobile app development at music streaming service TIDAL. The developer says he enjoys working on music apps, having earlier launched an audio player for musicians, Backtrackit, which gained some 2 million installs. With Rewind, which originally began as a weekend project, the goal is to offer a portal to explore the older tunes that once ruled the top charts. “[What] would it be like  if you opened your favorite music app in 1991? Or 1965?,” the app’s description asks. “What are the biggest hits at the time? Who are the top artists or the rising new ones?” Image Credits: Rewind For older music fans, those questions may be easier to answer. But Gen Z brings a new group of users who are exploring music through apps like TikTok, where a song’s release date doesn’t necessarily matter. Already, TikTok has proved successful in introducing younger people to popular tracks from past generations, like Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” or Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” — both of which went viral on the video app, breaking into the top charts years after their original run. And they are not alone. This interest in older music dovetails with other Gen Z “nostalgia” trends, like their embrace of flip phones, Y2K fashion, wired headphones, disposable cameras, 90s music (a preference spanning generations, in fact), and of course, vinyl. “I’ve always been interested in how music has changed over time,” said Ziad. “Rewind is a capsule of all the music, artists, and major events in one place. The app offers a new way of discovering new old music which is based on historical eras with a little hint of nostalgia,” he continues. “It’s exciting to see momentum with thousands of listeners, Rewind is perfect for tastemakers and fans looking to discover new music from the good old days,” Ziad added. Image Credits: Rewind The app isn’t just a way to browse the charts from years past, however. It takes things a step further and even includes some modern twists. For starters, users can explore the music from a given year by top albums and top music videos, in addition to growing the top Billboard charts. It also delves into relevant trends from a given time period. For instance, browsing the year 1991 offers a selection of “grunge-defining records,” like Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten, among others. Other sections present tracks that saw major radio airtime that year, highly anticipated releases and newly formed bands that emerged that year, and so on. In addition, Rewind features a “news” section that includes major events and moments from the year in question. It also includes ads that give it a retro feel. For example, in 1965, listeners will see ads for the first distortion guitar pedal while users browsing the 1980s might see ads for new synth instruments which helped shape 80s sounds. For a bit of fun, the app leveraged ChatGPT to write short reviews for music albums in its “Weekly Discovery” feature and used the AI technology to put together mixtapes for different years by asking ChatGPT questions like “can you make me a mixtape of 90’s best guitar riffs?” Another feature offers a way to scroll through a TikTok-style music feed that accompanies each year. Here, you can listen to song clips from the time period in a vertical feed. This particular feature could be better developed to include “like” or “comment” buttons, but for now you can play or pause the track or open the song directly in TIDAL. Image Credits: Rewind Not surprisingly, given Ziad’s job, Rewind integrates more deeply with TIDAL, allowing subscribers to stream tracks in full.  Explains the developer, this is because his work at TIDAL allowed him to easily access the API and the TIDAL catalog. But if Rewind catches on, he would like to add support for other music apps. However, even without a TIDAL subscription, users can stream the 30-second previews and scroll through the app’s TikTok-like feed. “The feedback I’m getting from users is that despite not having a TIDAL subscription, it is still a fun experience to browse the different years, get weekly discovery of albums, scroll through the TikTok style feed,” Ziad tells us. Launched last month, the app gained a few thousand downloads on its debut weekend and is slowly growing. It’s available as a free download on both Android and iOS and doesn’t currently generate revenue.     Rewind’s new app lets you ‘time travel’ through music from decades past by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

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posted about 24 hours ago on techcrunch
Welcome back to Equity, the podcast about the business of startups, where we unpack the numbers and nuance behind the headlines. I’m back, I’m drinking an iced Americano maybe because I miss Alex, maybe because I just feel different today, and I’m ready to start our week together. Here’s what I got into on today’s Equity Monday: Big tech: Marqeta’s nine-figure acquisition of a two-year-old fintech, and which bucket of deals I think it falls into – complete with a comparison of this deal and a hypothetical McDonalds acquisition. Plus, Stripe’s whole 12-month timeline thing and my edit for your incoming thought pieces.  Big idea: My latest Startups Weekly column is all about the latecomer advantage. I talk about the idea, and its nuance, in the context of building startup rivals. Big innovation: We end with a look at Atomos, which landed $16 million to tug vehicles through space, and a bright spot of an analysis, coming from the TC+ world, on Black Web3 founders.  As always, thanks for listening. Let’s end our start to the year strong! You can support me by following me on Twitter and Instagram. The show also tweets from @equitypod, so follow us there! Equity drops at 10:00 a.m. PT every Monday and at 7:00 a.m. PT on Wednesdays and Fridays, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify and all the casts. TechCrunch also has a great show on crypto, a show that interviews founders, one that details how our stories come together, and more! If, and only if, McDonalds had an appetite for acquisitions by Natasha Mascarenhas originally published on TechCrunch

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posted 1 day ago on techcrunch
I have wanted a robot pet at least since Sony introduced the original Aibo in 1999 – probably earlier, but Aibo made it seem tangible. Since the, there’s been a steady stream of attempts at making robot pets a reality that matches what we often see in futuristic science fiction – including a recent Aibo reboot, Pleo the animatronic pet dinosaur, Furby, Jibo, Anki’s Cosmo and many more. Loona the Petbot threw its hat into the ring via Kickstarter late last year, and based on some very impressive demo videos, this looked like the actual achievement of a Pixar character come to life. Loona is actually shipping out to some of its earliest backers, with April set as the timeframe for current orders made via Indiegogo, and KEYI, the company behind it, was demoing the adorable little bot at CES earlier this month. The company also sent a Loona my way at the time, and I’ve been testing/developing a deep emotional bond with this bundle of electronics and ABS plastic ever since. The basics At heart, Loona is a four-wheeled image recognition and robotics tech demonstration in a surprisingly affordable package. The asking price right now on Indiegogo via its “indemand” pre-order arrangement is $359 for a package that includes some accessories, which is a discount from the planned $500 retail asking price. With its debut crowdfunding campaign video and GIFs, Loona aimed to hit would-be buyers right in their adorableness glands, showing a robot that manages to exude charm and personality through expert combination of animated eyes on its display ‘face,’ articulating ears with glowing tips, and two arm/leg combos with a wheel at either end that can propel it forward and help it make hand or paw gestures. Image Credits: TC / Darrell Etherington The screen face is bright and high-resolution, and the camera array that powers Loona’s recognition capabilities rests just below that, on what we might as well call a ‘chin’ since we’re well down the anthropomorphization road at this point. The robot also has touch sensors for interaction purposes, including a pat-able top of head. There’s a mic onboard as well as speakers, so that Loona can hear its owner and also respond (though strictly non-verbally). When you set Loona up using the companion smartphone app, it allows you to set your voice recognition language and provides you with a range of prompts that the robot is pre-programmed to respond to so you can test them out. Design Loona’s core strength lies in its industrial design, which blends a retro-futuristic sci-fi robotics aesthetic (which is very evocative of WALL-E’s EVE, imo) with a hyper-efficient approach to mechanical engineering that nonetheless allows the robot to express a wide range of possible emotions and communicate fairly expressively. The outer ABS plastic shell and rubber-tracked wheels also all feel durable, which is good for a robot that’s going to spend a lot of time bumping into things and potentially getting harassed by real live animal pets, and/or human children. There’s one noteworthy exception to this, which is clearly indicated on Loona out of the box: The robot’s ears are particularly susceptible to damage if yanked around too much, which makes sense given that they have built-in motors and probably feature the lightest-weight connectors of the whole thing. In other words, Loona’s ears are its Achilles heels, which is probably why they were the first thing my dog tried to (gently) chew on. But if you can keep treatment of those relatively light, there’s no reason to expect Loona can’t survive bumps, scrapes and even the occasional fall. ( function() { var func = function() { var iframe = document.getElementById('wpcom-iframe-cb79df7998bc2b3769ed08e536c11aa1') if ( iframe ) { iframe.onload = function() { iframe.contentWindow.postMessage( { 'msg_type': 'poll_size', 'frame_id': 'wpcom-iframe-cb79df7998bc2b3769ed08e536c11aa1' }, "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 ); } } )(); A great deal of Loona’s flexible mobility and expressiveness comes from one key element of the robot’s design: Its four wheels attach via a single axis located in the middle of its body. This allows Loona to do things like turn on a dime, raise its ‘paw,’ lift and lower its head and much more, all in a relatively simple mechanical package that avoids introducing multiple points of potential failure and a lot more complexity on the movement programming side. All-in-all, Loona combines some incredible ingenuity in terms of its design to significantly lower costs while also introducing the charm and visual appeal of far more complicated robotic pets. Performance Loona’s physical design may be a masterclass in making the most of smart constraints, but the robot’s programming, performance and interactivity behavior is an abject example of overpromising and underdelivering. When the crowdfunding campaign first debuted, we made sure to check that the videos were real footage and not renders, and while the company says they are, using Loona in practice reveals that those shots must be carefully shot, selected and edited to convey the level of sentience that they manage to communicate. In really, Loona has lots of charisma and is indeed a technical achievement in terms of its movements and mannerisms, but using it is less like living in a Pixar movie, and more like having a Roomba that also coos at you. I will say that I really like the setup and first-run experience, which provides a needlessly overwrought, but fun origin myth for Loona. A short animation implies that your robot is animated by some kind of seed spirit made by a rock monster – a seed spirit that of course has a super adorable bubble butt, as is de rigeur now for cutesy animated characters. The spirit travels through a portal and appears inside your Loona, animating its screen and adding new meaning to the old ‘toys-to-life’ product category. Loona’s mythos includes this sweet dumper. Image Credits: Loona Once it’s been connected to your Wifi network and imbued with the spark of life, the Loona app takes you through some demos of its capabilities, including face recognition (and marking you as its owner) and then some basic voice commands. This is where the experience went from magical to muddling: During the initial face setup Loona lost sight of me and just spun forlornly in a circle making somewhat plaintive whimpering noises while trying to find me again. Quitting and restarting the app fixed this, but then moving on to the audio commands, I had a hard time first figuring out how to tell when Loona was in listening mode after saying its wake word (“Loona,” unsurprisingly) and then it would hear the actual command and translate it into action at best half the time. Overall, this is where Loona really falls short of its promise – the vision system seems to work only some of the time, despite my attempts to lower or raise myself to optimize its line-of-sight. Similarly, trying to get it to engage with two toys provided by the company, including a ‘fold-it-yourself’ cardboard ball and a red fabric bullfighting cape, worked only some of the time (not at all for the cape). When it does work, it is indeed delightful, as when it found the ball and approached it, trying to bat it around with its arms. But it was at best hit-or-miss for both visual and audio input in my use. ( function() { var func = function() { var iframe = document.getElementById('wpcom-iframe-c1b452bcd244c952fbcf434d1474037a') if ( iframe ) { iframe.onload = function() { iframe.contentWindow.postMessage( { 'msg_type': 'poll_size', 'frame_id': 'wpcom-iframe-c1b452bcd244c952fbcf434d1474037a' }, "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 ); } } )(); Loona offers a lot of other interactivity options, including direct remote control with the app’s virtual controller, which is fun and a good way to ensure you get a lot of value out of this when playing with it with kids. There’s also a programming tool that allows you to run Loona through fully custom routines and sequences, which is also fun and educational as an activity with children. The robot is also effortlessly charming when just left on and to its own devices, as it wanders around, cooing, discovering random things, occasionally getting stuck on furniture (it’s supposed to have object avoidance to not do this) and generally seems intent on amusing itself. This behavior is when it is perhaps most pet-like, inscrutable and adorable in its pursuit of god knows what. Bottom line Given how impressive its launch visuals were, there was no real chance that Loona could live up to expectations. But the robot also fails to live up to its most basic promises when it comes to sound and image recognition, which is a much harder pill to swallow. That said, when it does work, it actually does provide a genuinely delightful and impressive performance, and it seems like its creators are taking an iterative approach to improving the platform via software updates and more. Image Credits: TC / Darrell Etherington I want to be clear: Loona is fun, especially for kids, but it can also be frustratingly rough around the edges. That said, its planned retail pricing of $500 does massively undercut something like the Aibo. It’s still a decent chunk of money to spend – about the same as an entry-level iPad, which is far more capable, but far less cute. Anki’s spiritual successor hits Kickstarter with some impressive moves Like me, Loona the Petbot is dumb but lovable by Darrell Etherington originally published on TechCrunch

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After eight months, Netflix’s Kids Mystery Box feature has officially rolled out to Android devices today. Android users worldwide can now discover new children’s shows and TV characters by clicking on the “Mystery Box” in the “Favorites Row” at the top of the Netflix homepage. The company today updated its previous announcement post from May, stating, “This feature is now available on Android devices for all global members.” The Mystery Box feature works similarly to a shuffle button and gives kids and their caregivers the ability to find new content in a more playful way. The content in the mystery box changes daily, ranging from shows and characters like Ada Twist, Iggy and Rosie from “Ada Twist, Scientist” to dinosaurs from “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous.” Netflix has a decent slate of kids’ shows and films, including popular titles like “Cocomelon,” “Gabby’s Dollhouse” and Guillermo del Toro’s “Pinocchio,” which was just nominated for the 2023 Oscars. The streaming service also has dedicated kids’ profiles, which allow parents to block specific shows and access viewing history. Netflix has historically experimented with new ways to introduce its content to consumers, ranging from personalized recommendations to screensaver promos and even a shuffle button that plays a random title. For instance, the Play Something feature selects a title for the user that’s based on their preferences. The Kids Mystery Box feature uses that same idea but is made to be more interactive and fun for younger users. Kids can use the feature to find their next series or maybe rewatch content they haven’t seen in a while. The update comes on the heels of Netflix revamping its iOS app, which features a new billboard layout, card transitions, animation for profile screens and more. It isn’t clear if the Android app will get the same upgrade. Netflix launches a new ‘Mystery Box’ feature to help kids discover new content Netflix’s ‘Kids Mystery Box’ feature now available on Android devices by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

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Instagram head Adam Mosseri announced today that the social network is launching its text update Notes feature across Europe and Japan. Notes are short posts of up to 60 characters that include just text and emojis, and appear above your profile photo. Prior to this expansion, Notes was already accessible everywhere Instagram is available beyond Europe and Japan since the feature’s initial roll out in December. Users can post Notes by navigating to the top of their inbox, then selecting the followers they follow back or others from their existing “Close Friends” list. They can then type out the note itself, after which it will appear at the top of friends’ inboxes for 24 hours. If a user responds to a Note, the reply will arrive as a DM. Notes Launch Worldwide Notes are now available in Europe and Japan. Check it out and let me know what you think! pic.twitter.com/MSSjQZVIuZ — Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) January 30, 2023 In a video posted to his social accounts, Mosseri explained that Europe and Japan weren’t included in the initial roll out of Notes because Instagram needed to ensure that the feature complied with local regulations before bringing it to these regions. At the time of the initial launch of Notes, Instagram said that during testing it found people appreciated having a way to start conversations in a lightweight way. The goal of the feature is to give users a casual and spontaneous way to express themselves and connect with others. In December, the New York Times reported that Meta was considering turning Instagram Notes into a more fully fledged Twitter rival to capitalize on the chaos at Twitter following Elon Musk’s acquisition. The report said the company had been weighing whether Notes should even be its own standalone app or another feed inside Instagram. Instagram now supports text updates with launch of Notes, adds other new sharing features Instagram’s text update Notes feature is expanding to Europe and Japan by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

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Despite continuing talk about a possible recession, slumping tech stocks and a slowdown in the world of startup investing, the business of funding was positively humming last week. After slowing way down last spring, venture outfits disclosed a stunning $8 billion in new capital commitments in the span of just five days. Consider the following: NEA revealed that it closed its two newest funds adding up to $6.2 billion; Cowboy Ventures announced two funds totaling $260 million; and FJ Labs also disclosed two funds totaling $260 million. Then there’s Sapphire Sport (it closed a second fund of $181 million), Volition Capital (it announced $675 million for its fifth fund), Kearny Jackson ($14 million) and Dimension ($350 million). Even non-U.S. outfits got into the act, including Highland Europe, which announced a new €1 billion fund, and a Japanese chemical giant that revealed a $100 million fund. So what’s going on exactly? Are we already through this downturn? While impossible to know, the flurry of activity likely owes itself instead to a few unsurprising things. For starters, a lot of “new” funds were actually closed last year but not announced for one reason or another. Defy.vc, for example, an early-stage venture outfit based in Woodside, California, said it is now investing out of a $300 million third fund (compared with a $151 million debut fund and a $262 million sophomore fund that it closed in 2019). Defy actually closed the fund in the middle of last year but didn’t say anything until now because it was actively investing its previous fund until a few months ago, co-founder Neil Sequeira said. At the time, he said, the moment didn’t seem right. “It was an interesting time in the Nasdaq and [regarding] world geopolitical issues,” he said, referring to the confluence of events that made 2022 a year that many would sooner forget, from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and disrupted supply chains to surging inflation around the world. Is venture funding already back? by Connie Loizos originally published on TechCrunch

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Sovereign Labs has raised $7.4 million in seed funding led by Haun Ventures, co-founders Preston Evans and Cem Özer told TechCrunch. The startup is building an “open, interconnected rollup ecosystem” with a software development kit (SDK) to provide a framework for secure and interoperable zero-knowledge rollups (ZK-rollups). “Sovereign’s goal has always been to make scaling [blockchains] simple,” Özer said. “For people who have been in this space for four-plus years, it’s pretty clear that rollups and ZK-rollups are the way to scale blockchains to the masses.” A rollup is a blockchain that gets security from another blockchain, so it’s a way to add functionality to an existing chain without sacrificing security, Evans said. Rollups can be used to support different use cases like tokens, NFTs, smart contracts and so on — but they’re cheaper to operate because they outsource transactions. The capital will be used to build its SDK and hire protocol engineers and researchers with expertise in blockchains and their frameworks, Özer said. Its SDK wants to help Rust (and eventually C++) developers to use ZK technology across any blockchain without having to be experts in cryptography, both the co-founders said. Some major ZK-rollup blockchains that exist today include Polygon, zkSync and StarkWare’s StarkNet platform, which all aim to increase scalability and security for developers off-chain through higher speeds and lower fees before combining and submitting them to Ethereum. Ethereum-focused ZK-rollup projects like dYdX, Sorare and Immutable are also working on scaling the space and improving user experiences through other areas like decentralized exchanges, dApps and gaming. “Without scaling, current blockchain systems today are unusable,” Özer said. “The moment an application reaches product-market fit and there’s demand, the fees skyrocket and it becomes unusable […] applications have to figure out how to be scalable.” Most ZK-rollup solutions are standalone products built by and for the teams that work on them, Özer said. Sovereign Labs “isn’t in the business of building rollups ourselves,” but instead wants to build frameworks for others, he added. “We want to give this technology to everyone so they can leverage it easily and create [their own] ecosystems.” The team will work on creating different monetization strategies, but its SDK framework will be open source, free and “always will be,” Evans noted. In the near term, the co-founders expect rollups to be widely inaccessible until frameworks like its SDK are developed. “Over time, SDK products will become accessible,” Özer said. “We expect an explosion of ZK-rollups and for most developers to leverage it.” Haun Ventures leads Sovereign Labs’ $7.4M seed round to help scale blockchains by Jacquelyn Melinek originally published on TechCrunch

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“I can’t explain it. It’s weird,” Alphonzo “Phonz” Terrell said. After losing his job at Twitter when Elon Musk took over, the former global head of Social & Editorial didn’t want to rest — he wanted to build. “Coming straight out of it, I was just like, ‘Oh, it’s time. It’s time to build, whether we get support or not.'” Luckily for Terrell, his new social media app Spill has already raised a $2.75 million seed round, the company announced today. Since revealing the project in mid-December, Spill reached 60,000 handle reservations. Spill currently employs less than 10 people and has three strategic advisors, including former Twitter design chief Dantley Davis, #OscarsSoWhite creator and DEI advocate April Reign, and civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson. Serving as CTO is DeVaris Brown, a former Twitter product manager who left in 2020 to found Meroxa, a Series A startup that makes it easier for companies to build their data pipelines. Terrell has more than a decade of director-level experience in marketing and social content, running campaigns for companies like HBO and Showtime before Twitter. If there’s any tech founder who can put his finger on the pulse of what social media users actually want, it’s Terrell — especially with an all-star team of advisors and colleagues in his corner. Like Twitter, Spill will have a live news feed where users can post “spills,” a reference to the phrase “spill the tea.” Spill is also building a feature called “tea parties,” where users can host both online and IRL events, then get in-app bonuses to apply to things like boosting their posts — these bonuses will also be for sale.  “We’re really leaning into meme culture, making it easier to put text on images or gifs — little touches and tweaks like that have been really exciting,” Terrell said. As Black social media founders, Terrell and Brown have observed the way that Black cultural contributions are ripped off or overshadowed, while white creators get credit for creating dances or memes that they had nothing to do with. Spill plans to incorporate blockchain technology to credit and pay creators who start trends and wide-ranging conversations, though Terrell is adamant that Spill is not a crypto project and will not pay in crypto. Rather, it’s just another technological tool that will exist under the hood. On traditional social media platforms, Black people have carved out their own communities, like Black Twitter. Spill hopes to be a home for Black users from the get-go, since the very people building the app are part of that community. Terrell has been consulting Black creators about what they’re looking for on Spill, while Brown is building an AI moderation model that incorporates Black dialects in its DNA. Historically, studies have shown that tweets written in AAVE (African American vernacular English) were 2.2 times as likely to be mistakenly flagged as offensive. That’s because most AI can’t understand the cultural context in which certain speech is being used, especially if the humans behind the algorithm don’t understand either. “We’re going to be more intentional and be more accurate around things that will be deemed offensive, because, again, this is our lived experience or learned experience,” Brown told TechCrunch in December. “It’ll be much more accurate to catch those kinds of things that will detract from the platform that would not lend to creating a safe space for our users and our creators.” With its $2.75 million in pre-seed funding, the app will begin expanding its team — first, it will hire for four roles in engineering and community management. Leading the investment are MaC Venture Capital and Kapor Center, with participation from Sunset Ventures. As reported by TechCrunch, Black founders remain disproportionately overlooked in venture capital, raising just 1% of funds in 2022. “We knew we were up against quite a lot,” said Terrell. But when Terrell pitched Spill to the Kapor Center, a fund that specifically works to close access gaps for diverse founders, the investors decided to contribute within ten minutes of their pitch. “We are excited that Spill aims to address major challenges created by existing social media platforms and utilize technology to build more diverse, equitable, and inclusive online communities,” said Allison Scott, CEO of the Kapor Center, in an emailed statement. Spill plans to launch in alpha during the first quarter of this year. Users can reserve their handles on Spill’s website. Twitter is a mess, so former employees are creating Spill as an alternative Three months ago, he was laid off from Twitter. Now, his competing app Spill is funded. by Amanda Silberling originally published on TechCrunch

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Arrival is going through another restructuring — this time led by a newly appointed CEO — that will slash its workforce by about 50% as the the U.K.-based commercial EV company attempts to reduce operating costs and preserve cash. The company said Monday that Igor Torgov, former executive VP of digital at the company, has been hired as its CEO. Prior to Arrival, Torgov held a number of CEO, COO and other leadership positions at Atol, Bitfury, Yota, Columbus IT and Microsoft. The cuts announced Monday would reduce its workforce by 50% to about 800 employees globally. Arrival said the layoffs along with other reductions in real estate and third-party spending will help it cut operating costs by $30 million a quarter. This is the third time since July that Arrival has taken drastic measures to stay viable. The company, which went public in 2021 via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, announced in July a restructuring plan that included a 30% reduction in spending across the entire business that could “potentially impact up to 30% of employees globally.” Arrival said, at the time, the plan would allow the company to meet its targets through late 2023 using the $500 million of cash it had on hand. As of December 31, 2022, that cash-on-hand number had dropped to $205 million. The company, which has centered its business plan around using microfactories to build its products, was initially focused on its electric bus product, which achieved certification in the European Union in May 2022. The plan was to start producing with customer models by the second half of the year. In October, just a few months from its first restructuring, the company said it was shifting its focus to the United States and away from the UK market, where it is headquartered and where the first EV vans were supposed to be delivered. Arrival said it expects to start production of the van in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2024, subject to raising additional capital. EV company Arrival to cut workforce by 50% in third restructuring effort by Kirsten Korosec originally published on TechCrunch

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A bug in a new centralized system that Meta created for users to manage their logins for Facebook and Instagram could have allowed malicious hackers to switch off an account’s two-factor protections just by knowing their email address or phone number. Gtm Mänôz, a security researcher from Nepal, realized that Meta did not set up a limit of attempts when a user entered the two-factor code used to log into their accounts on the new Meta Accounts Center, which helps users link all their Meta accounts, such as Facebook and Instagram. With a victim’s phone number or email address, an attacker would go to the centralized accounts center, enter the phone number of the victim, link that number to their own Instagram or Facebook account, and then brute force the two-factor SMS code. This was the key step, because there was no upper limit to the amount of attempts someone could make. Once the attacker got the code right, the victim’s phone number became linked to the attacker’s account. A successful attack would still result in Meta sending a message to the victim, saying their two-factor was disabled as their phone number got linked to someone else’s account. “Basically the highest impact here was revoking anyone’s SMS-based 2FA just knowing the phone number,” Mänôz told TechCrunch. An email from Meta to an account owner telling them that their two-factor protections have been switched off. Image Credits: Gtm Mänôz (screenshot) At this point, theoretically, an attacker could try to take over the victim’s account just by phishing for the password, given that the target didn’t have two-factor enabled anymore. Mänôz found the bug in the Meta Accounts Center last year, and reported it to the company in mid-September. Meta fixed the bug a month later, and paid Mänôz $27,200 for reporting the bug. It’s unclear if any malicious hackers also found the bug and exploited it before Facebook fixed it. Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Facebook is making two-factor mandatory for high-risk accounts Hacker finds bug that allowed anyone to bypass Facebook and Instagram 2FA by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai originally published on TechCrunch

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Meta is killing off yet another project from its in-house R&D group, the NPE Team, following the company’s sizable layoffs announced in November, impacting 13% of its workforce. The latest experiment to be wound down is the social to-do list app called Move, launched last spring, which allowed users to earn points for completing tasks on either their personal or group to-do lists. These points, in turn, could be used to customize an alpaca avatar with accessories like hats, clothing, sunglasses, and more. Move’s broader idea had been to encourage group participation as the avatar’s customization let users see which members were the most productive, based on how many accessories the user had earned for their alpaca. However, despite the app’s lighthearted nature and potential to gamify to-do lists, the company quietly announced the app will be closing down in March. In an iOS app update published on Sunday, Move informed its users the app would be shutting down and would no longer be available after March 2, 2023. As a part of this process, new user sign-ups are now disabled and existing users can log in to download their data ahead of the app’s final closure. Meta’s NPE Team launches a new tasks app, Move, for group organization and to-dos The shutdown notice is the latest in a string of closures from Meta’s in-house incubator, NPE Team. First launched in mid-2019, the group’s original focus had been on building consumer-facing apps that would allow Meta to test out new social features and gauge their impact. But the incubator has yet to produce a product successful enough to remain an independent brand. Instead, over the years, Meta’s NPE Team has launched then shuttered a number of social experiments, ranging from dating apps to calling apps to meme-makers to TikTok, Twitter and Clubhouse competitors, and many more. More recently, it announced its plan to shut down Super, a Cameo-like app aimed at the creator community. That service will close down in February 2023. Last year, it also killed off a video speed-dating service called Sparked and Tuned, an app for couples that had just over 900,000 downloads at the time of its closure. While many of the experiments may have generated data and insights that helped inform other developments at Meta, the initiative seemed incapable of producing breakout hits on its own. As a result, NPE Team began shifting its priorities last year to focus its efforts more globally and make seed-stage investments in other businesses. It established offices in emerging markets, like Lagos, Nigeria, and backed startups, like the A.I developer platform Inworld AI, for example. Meta’s NPE team takes a global focus with seed-stage investments, offices in emerging markets With the changes, there are now few active NPE Team-developed apps left on the app stores. On Google Play, a couple of NPE Team apps’ URLs are still accessible directly, including a live sports podcasting app Venue, and a friend finder called Bump — but they’re not available through search and have not been updated since 2021 and 2019, respectively. On the App Store, only Move and a music app called BARS remain. It’s unclear how much time BARS has left, however, as it hasn’t been updated since June 30, 2022. Across the tech industry, experimental projects inside larger companies have been impacted by widespread layoffs. At Google, for example, the majority of projects inside its own in-house incubator Area 120 were being wound down, the company said earlier this month. Only three projects will go on to graduate to other parts of Google this year, TechCrunch had reported. We understand NPE Team was impacted by Meta’s layoffs as well, but the company has not yet shared a statement about its future plans for this org, specifically. Meta was asked for comment on Move’s closure; we’ll update if one is provided. However, the app’s closure notice can be read directly on the App Store. Meta is killing Move, another experimental social app from its in-house incubator NPE Team by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

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Netflix announced today that its “One Piece” live-action series would be available to stream sometime in 2023. The company tweeted the announcement alongside a new poster of the upcoming series. The poster shows the main character, Monkey D. Luffy (played by Iñaki Godoy), with his back turned. Adventure is on the horizon! One Piece sets sail in 2023 https://t.co/5YhPXFt8GS pic.twitter.com/GQH2MSAvCF — Netflix (@netflix) January 30, 2023 A specific release date for the live-action series has yet to be revealed. It was first announced in January 2020. Other cast members include Emily Rudd as Nami, Mackenyu Arata as Roronoa Zoro, Jacob Gibson as Usopp, Peter Gadiot as Shanks, Morgan Davies as Koby, Vincent Regan as Garp, and Taz Skylar as Vinsmoke Sanji. “One Piece” is centered around Luffy, an impulsive and optimistic teenager that has the power to make his body act like rubber, allowing him to bounce, twist, and bend away from his enemies. Luffy is on a journey to find a mythical treasure called the One Piece, so he can become the King of the Pirates. Based on the long-running pirate manga and anime, Netflix’s “One Piece” is an adaptation that millions of viewers will likely be excited to watch. “One Piece” is arguably the most popular manga series, with over 500 million copies sold. For comparison, “Dragon Ball” has sold more than 300 million copies. However, many fans on Twitter are skeptical that Netflix can pull off a live-action anime. “One Piece” is being produced by Tomorrow Studios, the same company that produced Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop” live-action series, which was canceled after one season. Netflix also released a “Death Note” movie in 2017, which was also considered a flop. In general, live-action anime shows and movies are widely disliked by fans, whether it be because the original story gets ruined or the adaptation fails to bring the characters to life. Netflix likely feels the pressure to do right by this fan-favorite anime. Anime streaming services to try in 2023 ‘One Piece’ live-action series set to arrive on Netflix this year by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

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Ford said Monday it has increased production and cut the price of its all-electric Mustang Mach-E crossover, the latest automaker to join an EV price war started by Tesla. Ford Mustang Mach-E vehicles are now between about 1% to 8.8% lower, depending on the trim level, according to the company, which emphasized that the discounts are possible now that its new EV supply chain is coming online and production is “significantly increasing.” “We are not going to cede ground to anyone. We are producing more EVs to reduce customer wait times, offering competitive pricing and working to create an ownership experience that is second to none,” Marin Gjaja, the chief customer officer of Ford Model e, said in a statement. “Our customers are at the center of everything we do – as we continue to build thrilling and exciting electric vehicles, we will continue to push the boundaries to make EVs more accessible for everybody.” Image Credits: Ford Those lowered prices will also extend to existing customers awaiting delivery of their vehicle, the company said. Ford said it will reach out to customers who purchased the Mustang Mach-E after January 1, 2023 and already have taken possession of the vehicle. The move is clearly aimed at distinguishing itself from rival Tesla. Some new Tesla owners, particularly in China, have demanded rebates or credit after the company slashed prices. Tesla has discounted its vehicles, or offered credits, at least four times in the past several months, kicking off what many in the industry have dubbed an EV price war. The price reduction trend kicked off in October when Tesla announced price cuts in China up to 9% on the Model 3 and Model Y.  Tesla reduced prices for Chinese buyers in January by nearly 14% and as much as 20% for vehicles sold in North America. The company has also tried to woo U.S. and Canadian buyers with price reductions. Tesla in early December offered U.S. buyers a $3,750 credit toward a Model Y or Model 3 if they had their vehicle delivered in December 2022. In the last week of the year, the automaker upped that discount to $7,500, according to the company’s website. Tesla’s decision to drop the price of its EVs, which some analysts have suggested was due to softening demand, has put pressure on the rest of the industry. Tesla has among the highest profit margins in the business, allowing it to experiment with price changes. It’s also the EV sales leader. Those two factors mean that most, if not all, automakers making a run at Tesla will also lower prices of their EV models. Ford discounts its all-electric Mustang Mach-E in response to Tesla’s EV price war by Kirsten Korosec originally published on TechCrunch

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Two quantum-adjacent technologies — quantum sensing (QS) and quantum communication (Qcomm) — are as important as quantum computing hardware itself since they help make quantum computers function more accurately.  A Sydney-based startup called Q-CTRL has built quantum-sensing software that helps reduce errors on quantum computers. Today, the company announced that it has raised another $27.4 million in funding. The Series B extension comes nearly 14 months after the startup raised its $25 million Series B in November 2021. CEO of Q-CTRL, Michael Biercuk, told TechCrunch the startup made major discoveries and demonstrations of its technology almost immediately after its last raise. Sydney-based quantum sensing startup Q-CTRL raises $25M Series B led by Airbus Ventures “We had spent almost four years building core capabilities and then finally put them all together to show how we could improve the performance of an entire quantum algorithm beyond just the individual components of the hardware,” Biercuk told TechCrunch. “By March 2022, we had achieved up to approximately 9,000 times improvement in the likelihood that a quantum algorithm executed using our tools would give the correct answer.”  Biercuk explained this discovery was one of many benchmarks that help prove the startup could transform the performance of quantum computers, delivering enhanced utility to end users.  The significant breakthroughs also led to growth in sales. Q-CTRL’s sales bookings grew three times to over $15 million in CY 2022, Biercuk said. The startup has more than 8,000 users, including government contracts with the U.S., defense agencies in Australia and quantum computing companies like Rigetti, IonQ, IBM, Atom Computing, Alice & Bob, Nord Quantique and Pasqal, among others. Universities and national labs also use Q-CTRL’s tools; many corporations (EY, KPMG, Capgemini, Quanscient, Xerox PARC and Classiq) have sealed commercial partnership deals with Q-CTRL.  The outfit has four products: Black Opal, Boulder Opal, Fire Opal and Open Controls. Last October, Q-CTRL, which focused on making quantum computers useful (sooner), launched a learning platform, Black Opal Enterprise, designed to help corporations and organizations understand quantum computing to build quantum-ready teams. That was followed by the release of Black Opal in April 2022 to help individuals learn quantum computing.  Salesforce Ventures, Alumni Ventures, ICM Allectus, Mindrock Capital, Bill Lightfoot (a former partner at General Dynamics) and John Eales (an Australian business leader and global rugby legend) participated in the latest round. Previous investors include Airbus Ventures, Data Collective, Horizons, Main Sequence Ventures and Ridgeline Partners.  The company did not provide valuation information, but says it will use the proceeds to continue developing its quantum technology, concentrating on product engineering, sales and marketing capacity. It also plans to grow its team from 80 to approximately 120 this year across Sydney, Los Angeles and Berlin offices.  Applications of quantum sensors range from bioimaging, spectroscopy, navigation that provides high-accuracy GPS, environmental monitoring (volcanic disruption prediction, CO2 emission measurement) and more, per a McKinsey report.  “Hiring teams of specialists can be risky and expensive. Q-CTRL’s frictionless quantum infrastructure software has a shallow learning curve and allows CIOs and CTOs to become quantum ready today, reducing enterprise risk,” said Heather West, IDC research manager, in a statement. “Q-CTRL anticipates that with its software, enterprises will be able to leverage the skills of their current IT developers to easily develop, optimize and execute quantum algorithms and obtain high levels of performance on any given hardware at a low net cost.”  “Q-CTRL’s technology stands head-and-shoulders above the rest of the industry in tackling the most foundational challenge in quantum computing,” said Robert Keith, managing director of Salesforce Ventures. “Q-CTRL’s products are essential for enterprise adoption of quantum computing, and their use of AI is delivering critical insights across hardware platforms that no one else can match.”  Quantum Machines continues to grow in spite of economic uncertainity Quantum sensing startup Q-CTRL raises another $27.4M by Kate Park originally published on TechCrunch

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A not-so-humble brag here, so brace yourself. The programming at TechCrunch Early Stage — April 20 in Boston, Massachusetts — is gonna be off the proverbial hook. How do we know? We read hundreds of applications from experienced founders and startup ecosystem experts eager to participate in Audience Choice for a chance to present at the show. Be in the room: Take advantage of early-bird ticket pricing. Buy your pass now and save $200. Audience Choice Voting Opens at TC Early Stage Choosing the finalists wasn’t easy, but we’re excited to announce that Audience Choice voting opens today, January 30, and runs through February 17. We selected a total of 20 contenders in two categories for your voting pleasure — 10 roundtable discussions and 10 breakout sessions. Go read the abstracts and vote for the presentations you want at TC Early Stage. The top five vote-getters from each category will join us to present live and in-person at TC Early Stage, so vote early and vote often. How do roundtables and breakouts differ? Excellent question. Roundtable Sessions: One person leads a 30-minute interactive conversation with up to 20 founders. Each roundtable occurs twice during the event. Breakout Sessions: A 20-minute presentation followed by a 20-minute Q&A from an audience of up to 125 founders. Each breakout occurs once during the event. Audience Choice voting is open now through February 17. Vote here for your favorites, buy your TC Early Stage pass and save $200, and join us in Boston on April 20 to learn new skills, accelerate your learning curve and move your startup dream into reality. Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Early Stage 2023? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form. ( function() { var func = function() { var iframe = document.getElementById('wpcom-iframe-993d01d25859c24ae22ff27863e93e71') if ( iframe ) { iframe.onload = function() { iframe.contentWindow.postMessage( { 'msg_type': 'poll_size', 'frame_id': 'wpcom-iframe-993d01d25859c24ae22ff27863e93e71' }, "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 ); } } )(); It’s time to cast your votes for TC Early Stage Audience Choice by Lauren Simonds originally published on TechCrunch

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Nothing wrong with your calendar, folks — it’s the end of January. Although TechCrunch Disrupt 2023 takes place months from now — on September 19–21 in San Francisco — we believe in two things: planning ahead and rewarding those who do. Right now — and for a limited time only — take advantage of our Disrupt 2023 ticket presale offer. Simply sign up right here to receive an exclusive two-for-one pass when we release tickets. You’ll save a serious chunk of cheddar. If you’ve attended TC Disrupt in the past, you know the outstanding ROI you can expect. For the new folks, you’ll gather with 10,000 of the smartest founders, investors and makers. Meet tomorrow’s unicorns today and hear from trendsetters, rising stars and iconic successes. Learn from the leading experts across the entire startup spectrum. Drive your business forward. Last year, Disrupt returned live and in-person for three off-the-hook days. Here’s just a small sample of some of the amazing speakers who graced the stage: Toyin Ajayi, co-founder and CEO, Cityblock Health Parker Conrad, co-founder and CEO, Rippling Chris Dixon, founder and managing partner, a16z crypto Serena Williams, founding and managing partner, Serena Ventures Don’t forget about world-class networking, the Startup Battlefield 200 companies exhibiting on the floor show and the dozens of breakout sessions and smaller roundtable discussions where you can dig deeper into a topic and connect with like-minded people. Here’s how Jessica McLean, director of marketing and communications for Infinite-Compute, described some of the benefits of going to Disrupt: “Tech startups go to Disrupt to show off their stuff. It’s the perfect place to scope out the competition, network with potential investors, get a feel for how other companies position themselves and to see what’s trending.” TC Disrupt offers virtually limitless opportunities, and your first one starts right here and now. Sign up here to receive your two-for-one pass when we release tickets for Disrupt 2023. Plan-ahead reward: unlocked. Now, with one less task to think about, you’re ready to unlock even more rewards and opportunities at TechCrunch Disrupt on September 19–21. We can’t wait to see you there! Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form. Jump on our limited two-for-one Disrupt 2023 presale offer by Lauren Simonds originally published on TechCrunch

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Amazon is going to start charging delivery fees for Fresh grocery orders that are under $150, the company said in an email to Prime members. Prior to this change, Amazon offered Prime members free grocery deliveries on orders above $35. The company says the move will keep prices low on its services. With this new policy, Amazon will charge a $3.95 delivery fee for orders between $100-$150, a $6.95 fee for orders between $50-$100, and $9.95 for orders under $50. The new fees, which will be charged on top of the $140 annual Prime membership, will go into effect starting February 28. “This service fee will help keep prices low in our online and physical grocery stores as we better cover grocery delivery costs and continue to enable offering a consistent, fast, and high-quality delivery experience,” Amazon said in the email to Prime members. The company says it will continue to offer two-hour delivery windows for all orders, and that customers in some areas will be able to select a longer, six hour delivery window for a reduced fee. Amazon also plans on testing and adding more delivery options as it continues evolving its grocery service. People have taken to social media to point out how significant the price jump is when qualifying for free delivery. Given the current economic outlook, not everyone will be able to afford the new $150 minimum. In addition, some people have also noted that Amazon Fresh became their only option for grocery shopping using SNAP/EBT during the pandemic, and that the new fees will be an issue for them, especially since they will be unable to use their EBT cards to cover the delivery fee. Amazon operates dozens of Fresh grocery stores across the United States and expanded its push into the grocery space by acquiring Whole Foods in 2017. In 2021, the company added a $10 service fee for Whole Foods delivery orders, which were previously offered at no extra charge. The decision to introduce new fees comes as Amazon has been reining in costs amid a worsening economic outlook. In the past few months, Amazon has frozen hiring in its corporate workforce, axed some parts of its business and has said it will lay off 18,000 workers. Amazon to cut 18,000 jobs as tech layoffs continue Amazon ends charity donation program AmazonSmile Amazon will soon start charging delivery fees on Fresh grocery orders under $150 by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

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A week ago activist investor Elliott Management announced it had made a multibillion dollar investment in Salesforce. By Friday, the company announced it was bringing in three new board members, and the Wall Street Journal was reporting that Elliott planned to nominate its own slate of directors. According to people familiar with the situation, that Wall Street Journal story is accurate. Salesforce isn’t just dealing with Elliott though. Starboard Value bought a “significant stake” in the company in October, and two other firms, ValueAct and Inclusive Capital are also active inside the firm, per Reuters. Perhaps it’s not surprising that Mason Morfit, CEO and chief investment officer of ValueAct Capital is one of the three new members. He joins Arnold Donald, former president and CEO at Carnival Corporation and Mastercard CFO Sachin Mehra. They will replace Bret Taylor, co-chair and co-CEO, who announced in November that he is stepping down at the end of the month along with long-time board members, Sanford Robertson and Alan Hassenfeld, both of whom have been on the board since 2003. Patrick Gadson, a partner at the law firm Vinson & Elkins who is in charge of shareholder activism and mergers and acquisitions, said that Elliott usually asks for board seats as a starting point in discussions with a company where it is operating to help cement their demands. “They want much firmer commitments that usually include board representation of some sort that can help push through their thesis. So whatever it is they’re looking to do, they usually want someone in the boardroom who can hold the incumbent directors’ feet to the fire and make sure they actually do that thing,” Gadson told TechCrunch. He says the same is true for the other activists in play. All of this appears to be moving extremely quickly, but Yahoo Finance reported on Friday that the discussions around changes in board makeup have been on-going since last summer. That would suggest that some combination of these activists have been working behind the scenes for quite some time. The new board members are probably a starting point as the activists push to make Salesforce more efficient and more profitable. Equity Research firm William Blair wrote in a note published on Friday that Salesforce falls well short of its peers, which it defines as software companies with over $10 billion in revenue, when it comes to operating margins. “In comparison, this group of five companies has a similar revenue scale to Salesforce, yet has an operating margin profile of 41%, well above Salesforce, largely due to more efficient sales and marketing spend,” the company wrote. It believes that Salesforce probably couldn’t achieve that, but could reach 30%. And it’s entirely likely that Elliott and its fellow investors are looking for something in that range. It’s worth noting that the company has already committed to margins of 25% by 2026, but that may not be bold enough or fast enough for the Elliott and company. For now, Elliott wants board representation, but it’s probably just the beginning of a long process where Elliott and its fellow activists try to force changes on the company to get spending down and profitability up in order to increase the value of the stakes these companies have taken in the CRM leader. Board changes could signal Salesforce’s willingness to appease activist investors by Ron Miller originally published on TechCrunch

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With the economy teetering on recession, and sales of mobile phones and other consumer electronics slowing right down globally, a U.K. startup called Raylo that’s leaning into both of those themes has picked up £110 million ($136 million) to grow its business, offering consumers access to new gadgets by way of short-term leases. The London-based company currently operates in the U.K. selling monthly subscriptions for phones, tablets and laptops, and it plans to use the funding both to expand that list to a wider range of gadgets like e-bikes, as well as to continue investing in its tech, which includes an AI-based platform to assess risk for each sale, recommendation tech, and a platform called “Raylo Pay” that is embedded by third-party merchants for Raylo to power leasing services for them. The circular aspect of its sales model, the company said, is also the basis of another development at the business: Raylo said it now has “B Corp” status — which signifies that as a for-profit company, Raylo also is operating with a view to making “a material positive impact on society and the environment through their operations,” as laid out by the B Corp organization. Notably, this funding is coming mainly in the form of debt, with a portion as equity, although CEO and co-founder Karl Gilbert would not disclose the exact amount. NatWest and Quilam Capital are providing that debt, with unnamed previous backers providing equity. (Existing investors include Telefonica, Guy Johnson of Carphone Warehouse fame, Octopus Ventures, Macquarie Capital and others.) This is a significant injection of financing for Raylo: prior to now, it had raised only about £12 million in equity, including $11.5 million in 2021, and about £30 million in debt. Raising debt at the moment is significantly easier than equity-based for many startups that are generating cash: they are using the funding as they might a more traditional raise but without giving up a stake in the company, nor facing negative pressure on their valuations as a result of doing that. “This round transforms our finance infrastructure so that we don’t need a lot of equity going forward,” Gilbert said, adding that the round “is designed for us to hit profitability.” Raylo has been growing at a fast clip, with its subscriber base doubling in the last year and Gilbert noting it’s on track to double again this year, and Raylo Pay growing 10x in the last six months to a “£3 billion opportunity.” The actual numbers of users and revenues are not being shared but it appears that the activity off Raylo’s platform is the big prospect: Gilbert describes his company not as an e-commerce platform, but a “fintech” because of the roles that Raylo Tech and the other technology play, and how all of that aligns the startup more closely with neo-banks and other financial services startups using personalization, AI and related tools to better target their services — which in turn are built not for acquiring goods as such, but for helping people to manage their money better. All the same, as far as consumers are concerned, the crux of Raylo’s business, and what it is built on, is the idea that people want the latest gadgets — be they phones and laptops, or VR headsets and e-bikes — but most do not have the disposable income to buy outright all of the items they’d like to have. And so it’s created a platform to cater to this, offering shorter-term ownership of those gadgets for a lower price. The per-month rate goes down depending on the length of the lease, but currently the cheapest models are leased at £7.31/month, tablets at £10.72 and laptops at £17.92. Gilbert tells us that while customers are given the possibility of buying the equipment, most do not. The average loan is 19 months, from a stock pool that is typically 60% brand new and 40% certified refurbishments, Gilbert said. Very few opt to buy products at the termination of those leases. “The proposition is designed for pure rental,” Gilbert added. Between 5-10% contact the company to keep merchandise for good, but “it’s rare that consumers want to own the product at the end.” There are, and have been, a number of other players in the circular economy landscape. Some like Grover (which also focuses on gadgets and “leases”), BackMarket (refurbished gadgets), and Vinted (clothes) have scaled up over the years, with lots of funding, big valuations and many customers. Others like Lumoid have found it hard to get the right kind of traction to stick around. In that context, Raylo is taking an interesting approach by focusing on its technology and services for third-party platforms. “Renting” phones is not particularly a new concept: this is effectively what mobile carriers offering handset subsidies were doing for years when they “sold” phones on two-year plans with the idea being that in theory a user would trade it in or return it at the end of that contract. That model has proven to be a challenging one for carriers, who in years past had the double whammy of analysts slamming them for carrying heavy sums on their balance sheets as handset subsidies, and consumers gravitating away from these to SIM-only plans to have more flexibility (and churn-ability) in the long run. Carriers however still may want to offer these options, which is where a company like Raylo can step in to provide both the lease and the management of that lease. (Notable that mobile behemoth Telefonica is one of the startup’s key backers.) Needless to say, that model has cataclysmically backfired for some. A startup called Fair, heavily bankrolled by SoftBank, once took on Uber’s car leasing business when Uber found it to be too much of an operational and financial burden on its business. The logic was that an independent company could do a much better job managing and growing that business. Alas, it was not to be and Fair did not fare very well, either. Gadgets are much, figuratively speaking, faster-moving — not to mention cheaper — than cars and so a business offering outsourced financing for gadget leases, as Raylo is doing, may well prove to have a better shot at success, meeting with a market of merchants that might not want to handle that kind of business themselves but have that option for customers who need it. “We may have started with our own channel, but we see ourselves as a platform that enables others’ distribution of their brands,” Gilbert said. “It’s like a new category of BNPL, offering crucial affordability channels, not to mention helping with sustainability commitments, for those brands. from OEMs.” The focus on sustainability motivating Raylo’s backers, it seems. “We are delighted to have been able to support Raylo’s future growth ambitions with this new financing facility. The business’ commitment to changing the way consumer electronics are sold and enjoyed is extremely well aligned with NatWest’s ESG objectives and passion for innovation and disruptive technologies.” said Milena Sheahan, senior director at NatWest, in a statement. “Raylo are a progressive, forward thinking business, with a solid platform to positively influence consumer behaviour and attitude towards use of technology in the future. We are proud to have Rayo join us as a valued client within NatWest’s Speciality Finance customer franchise.” Raylo raises $136M to build out its gadget lease-and-reuse ‘fintech’ platform by Ingrid Lunden originally published on TechCrunch

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Marqeta has agreed to acquire two-year-old fintech infrastructure startup Power Finance for $223 million in cash, marking the first acquisition in the publicly-traded company’s 13-year history. About one-third of the purchase price is payable over a two-year period subject to certain undisclosed conditions. And, if one undisclosed milestone in particular is met within the next 12 months, Marqeta said it will pay an additional $52 million for the startup, bringing the total acquisition price to $275 million. Founded in early 2021 by Randy Fernando and Andrew Dust, New York-based Power Finance announced last September that it had raised $16.1 million in a seed funding round co-led by Anthemis and Fin Capital. Other backers include CRV, Restive Ventures (formerly Financial Venture Studio), Dash Fund, Plug & Play and a group of angel investors. The company at the time had also announced a $300 million credit facility. Oakland, California-based Marqeta, which went public in 2021 and is today valued at nearly $3.7 billion, touts that it “provides a single, global, cloud-based, open API Platform for modern card issuing and transaction processing.” In other words, it provides the tools for companies — fintechs and otherwise — to provide cards, wallets and other payment mechanisms. Its customers include Block (formerly known as Square), Uber, Google, Affirm, DoorDash, JP Morgan, Citi, Goldman Sachs, Instacart and Ramp, among others. Power’s first product is a credit card issuance program, which is designed for companies, brands and banks to offer embeddable fintech experiences, such as customized credit card programs, targeted promotions and personalized rewards, into existing mobile and web applications. Marqeta’s main goal with the purchase is to expand and “significantly accelerate the capabilities” offered in its credit product. Specifically, the acquisition will give Marqeta customers a way to launch “a wide range” of credit products and constructs, the company said, by incorporating Power’s data science toolbox and its ability to embed experiences inside existing mobile and web applications into its own offering. Historically, Marqeta was focused on debit and prepaid cards, but in February 2021, it formally expanded into the consumer credit card space to help other brands launch credit card programs. Once the deal closes, Power Finance CEO Randy Fernando will lead the product management of Marqeta’s credit card platform. In a written statement, Fernando said: “Companies like ours were made possible because of the path Marqeta blazed in modern card issuing, demonstrating the possibilities in payments with flexible and modern payment infrastructure. At Power, we built a full-stack, cloud-native credit card issuance platform, and by becoming a part of Marqeta we have the ability now to bring this innovation to a much larger market at global scale.” News of the buy comes just three days after Marqeta revealed that it had tapped Simon Khalaf to serve as its new CEO, effective January 31. Khalaf joined Marqeta in June of 2022 as its chief product officer and began leading the company’s go-to-market organization last August. Founder Jason Gardner, who has been vocal about his belief that running a public company is “foundationally different from running a private company,” will transition into an executive chairman role. In an exclusive interview, Khalaf told TechCrunch that Marqeta “definitely felt that the Power team has built something unique and something that aligns with Marqeta’s mission and who we cater to.” “Our approach to credit so far has been the processor, but as customers have been asking us to do a lot of things in a highly innovative way, we looked at it and said, ‘We do need to own the full stack,’ ” Khalaf said. Rather than spend the resources to attempt to build out the technology it wanted to be able to offer its customers, Marqeta decided to explore acquisition targets. Some, Khalaf admits, were open to talks while others were not. The company ended up deciding that Power was the best fit both culturally and technologically. Marqeta, he said, is operating under the premise that consumers increasingly want personalization. “If you look at a credit card, not much innovation has happened to it,” Khalaf told TechCrunch. “But a lot of folks want a credit card to become alive with a credit limit that changes dynamically based on a user’s current financial situation, with rewards that change dynamically, and more importantly, that they can integrate into their e-commerce or retail workflows…That’s what Power has built.” “Most” of Power’s nearly 30 employees will be joining Marqeta, the company said. Presently, Marqeta has nearly 1,000 employees. Generally, Khalaf said that Marqeta has been witnessing hypergrowth but is now moving into a sustainable and profitability phase. “We’re highly focused on sustainable, mature and predictable operating cadences for the company,” he said. “The embedded finance market is growing very fast and it’s a market we’re going to spend a lot of energy on. The way we deliver products, and have packaged them to be API first….the embedded finance space is made for us, and we’re made for them. It’s a perfect match.” Through the acquisition, Khalaf said Marqeta hopes also to meet increasing demand from emerging, mobile-first retailers, creator marketplaces and labor marketplaces. “We’re going to see a lot of new demand around co-brands,” he said. “Businesses want a branded card that is alive that is integrated with their properties. And we’re going to be able to serve that market better versus just issuing a piece of plastic with standard rewards.” In November, Marqeta reported a third quarter net loss of $53.2 million, adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (Ebitda) of $13.6 million and revenue of $191.6 million – which compared to $131.5 million in the same quarter of the prior year. Meanwhile, it reported that total processing volume rose by 54% to $42 billion. Once valued at $18 billion, Marqeta has — like many other fintechs — seen its stock price and valuation drop thanks to high inflation and a rising interest rate environment. Still, the company has continued to win new customers and grow its relationships with existing ones while beating analysts’ estimates. In appointing Khalaf as Marqeta’s new CEO, Gardner told investors that his goal was to find a leader “who would take Marqeta to the next level” after he had taken the company “from Zero to 1.” “That meant finding a leader with experience in building and operating a global business at scale while also focusing on a path to profitability,” he added. “…Our board of directors concluded that Simon was the clear choice to be Marqeta’s next CEO. His previous CEO experience and decades of experience scaling large technology organizations such as Twilio, Verizon, Yahoo, and Novell, his product insight, and his relentless focus on customer experience, will serve us well as we look to enter the next phase of our growth.” For his part, Khalaf said that further acquisitions were not out of the question but also would be very deliberate. “Acquisitions is not a strategy, more of a tactic,” he told TechCrunch. “You decide which customers we want to serve, which market you want to go after and then you evaluate whether you build, buy or partner. That’s what we’re focused on right now.” Marqeta’s acquisition is just one of several M&A deals in the fintech space so far this year. Want more fintech news in your inbox? Sign up here. Got a news tip or inside information about a topic we covered? We’d love to hear from you. You can reach me via Signal at 408.404.3036. Or you can drop us a note at [email protected] Happy to respect anonymity requests.  So much fintech M&A Fintech startup Power flexes its credit card muscle following $316M equity, debt injection Marqeta buys fintech Power Finance in $275M all-cash deal, its first acquisition by Mary Ann Azevedo originally published on TechCrunch

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Hypernative, a crypto security-focused startup, has raised $9 million in seed funding as it emerges from stealth, co-founder and CEO Gal Sagie exclusively told TechCrunch. The funding round was led by boldstart ventures and IBI tech fund, with strategic investments from Blockdaemon, Alchemy, Borderless, CMT Digital, Nexo and angel investors. The company was started by Sagie and Dan Caspi, who’s also Hypernative’s CTO. The co-founders collectively have backgrounds in cloud infrastructure, building large-scale distributed systems and security, and have worked at places like IBM, Google and Microsoft. “We created Hypernative early last year when we saw huge amounts of money getting stolen or phished or scammed in crypto,” Sagie said. “We saw huge gaps between tools that existed and money being invested, so we wanted to create something to help prevent [attacks].” In September, the team launched its first product, Pre-Cog, a platform that monitors on- and off-chain data sources to predict threats before they occur. Since its launch, it has helped users save “tens of millions” of dollars, Sagie said. The startup concentrates on “building detection early” and manually connecting its tools through customer workflows, Sagie said. Its ideal client base ranges from asset managers, hedge funds, traders and market makers interacting with crypto to blockchains and protocols, he added. “We’re doing detection beforehand,” Sagie noted. “A lot of incidents alerted [users] within minutes or hours before an attack happened so we’ve helped prevent attacks through alerts.” In the future, Hypernative aims to build prevention workflows that give “end-to-end systems that mitigate risk without doing anything,” Sagie added. Even though crypto markets may be down, there’s still billions of dollars invested in the space, which makes it a target for attacks by those looking to make (and take) money quickly. In 2022, the majority of losses, or $3.77 billion, were from hacks across 134 specific incidents, according to Immunefi’s Crypto Losses 2022 report. Last year, every quarter had a handful of multimillion-dollar losses, some bigger than others. The fourth quarter in 2022 saw the most, with $1.62 billion in total losses across 55 incidents, accounting for almost half of the total losses in the year, the report showed. “From my experience hackers don’t sleep,” Sagie said. “They don’t care if it’s a bull market or bear market. Where there’s money and opportunities, they go.” The crypto industry needs more tools to help prevent hacks before they transpire, so “there’s a big opportunity” to improve the space, Sagie said. “Hackers enjoy when there’s risk and volatility in the market and leverage that,” he added. “It’s a problem we need to solve.” Crypto security startup Hypernative raises $9M to help prevent web3 cyber attacks by Jacquelyn Melinek originally published on TechCrunch

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Ardy Esmaeili Contributor Share on Twitter Ardy Esmaeili, CPA, is a startup tax accountant and managing director of tax services at Burkland. More posts by this contributor Starting up remotely? Keep these labor laws and tax guidelines in mind What US startup founders need to know about the R&D tax credit Trends indicate that a majority of businesses plan to fully adopt software as a service (SaaS) by 2025, and if the past is any indicator, that means state legislatures are working hard to capture revenue from this new sales stream. As with many U.S. laws and regulations, tax laws regarding SaaS vary quite a bit and continue to evolve. Currently, some states consider SaaS to be software while others categorize it as a service. In addition, some states tax all services regardless of type, and more than 20 have a way to target SaaS. At least four states (New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington) are aggressively pursuing SaaS. There’s also the issue of bundling — on its own, SaaS might not be taxed, but it will be when paired with hardware. In the early days of a startup, there’s a tendency to think that the only tax worry would be an audit in the future, the likelihood of which is low. However, tax issues become a problem when you’re fundraising or facing due diligence for mergers and acquisitions. The party conducting due diligence will be focused on sales and use tax, as any liability could transfer to the buyer. We saw this with a new client recently — they hadn’t performed a risk assessment and the buyer identified almost $1 million dollars in tax liability. This reduced the purchase price significantly. Startups think they’ll have lots of time to get to this point, but they actually need to focus on it right away. Any negligence, if identified, could exclude a company from any statute of limitations. While no business is exempt from taxes, it’s critical for startups to understand when they’re liable for tax, and if offering a SaaS solution, how each set of local laws applies. Do not assume that your product or service is non-taxable or that you’ve identified all your areas of potential tax liability. Determining your taxability To identify which states you’ll owe sales taxes to, first establish your nexus by determining your physical or economical presence. You can determine your physical nexus by examining which states you have employees, office, property or agents in. Are you “maintaining, occupying or using permanently or temporarily, directly or indirectly, an office, place of distribution, sales or sample room or place, warehouse, server, storage place or other place of business?” Or is there an “employee, representative, agent or salesperson working in the state under the authority of the company on a temporary or permanent basis?” An economic nexus is established for sellers “not having physical presence in the state.” In this case, the state will collect sales tax from customers and remit if the seller meets a set level of sales or number of transactions in that state. With broad definitions like these, it’s easy to see how complex taxes can become.What do recent changes to state taxes mean for US SaaS startups? by Ram Iyer originally published on TechCrunch

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