posted 3 days ago on techcrunch
Venmo is going after small businesses. The PayPal-owned mobile payments app maker announced today it’s piloting a new feature called Business Profiles that offers small sellers and other sole proprietors a more professional profile page on its platform, allowing sellers to share key business details like their address, phone number, email website, and more. By adopting a Business Profile, sellers will be able to raise awareness about their business through Venmo’s social feed and search, as well as keep their personal transactions separate from those for their business, for accounting purposes. The profiles give smaller sellers a way to do business without having to necessarily establish a larger web presence, like a Facebook Page or Google Business listing, for example. Instead, Venmo’s Business Profiles may be better suited to sellers such as local artists, crafters, or farmer’s market booth holders, or those who casually use Venmo to support their side hustle income, like that from mowing lawns or doing neighborhood home repair jobs. As Venmo users pay these small sellers, the payment is published to the Venmo social feed where friends or even the public can view the transaction, depending on the user’s privacy settings. Interested friends and neighbors could then click on the Business Profile to learn more about the seller, as these new profile pages also offers a space to write a short introduction to business. They’ll also be able to see how many customers the seller has and if any of their Venmo friends have ever transacted with the seller. Sellers can also email, print out, text or AirDrop their Venmo QR code for their profile to make it easier for customers to find their business on the app. In addition, a new Venmo Search experience would allow users to switch between a “People” and “Business” tab when looking for a particular Venmo username. Businesses with a profile page will be able to more easily track their transactions without having to create a separate account. Instead, users will be able to switch between their personal account and business profile from the same login. Venmo says the new feature will also offer transactional insights and information, including number of customers and a customer list. The system would formalize what’s already a top use case for Venmo’s platform. It would also offer Venmo a way to expand its revenue opportunities. Though the service is free during the pilot, Venmo indicates that may not always be the case. In an online FAQ about the new feature, Venmo notes that in the future, business owners would be changed a per-transaction fee of 1.9% + $0.10 on every payment made to their profile. This is still a lower fee than Square charges or even Venmo parent PayPal. The new feature, however, isn’t just about offering a new way for sellers to transact. Because Venmo is also a social platform, sellers can tap into the network effects its provides — similar to Messenger or WhatsApp, where businesses often now have their own profiles. The Business Profiles feature is starting to pilot today with a limited number of users on iOS. It will roll out to Android in he week ahead and in the coming months will become more broadly available.

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T-Mobile today announced that it has closed a deal that divests Sprint’s pre-paid businesses, including Boost and Virgin Mobile. The news finds Dish entering the wireless carrier game in earnest, courtesy of the $1.4 billion deal. The whole thing was, of course, a key part of T-Mobile’s bid to merge with Sprint. It was a relatively small concession to those worried that such a deal would decrease competitiveness in the market, as the number of major U.S. carriers shrunk from four down to three. The $26 billion T-Mobile/Sprint deal was finally completed April of this year, and has already resulted in hundreds of lost jobs, as reported on last month by TechCrunch. T-Mobile officially completes merger with Sprint, CEO John Legere steps down ahead of schedule The deal gives Dish a nice head start in the pre-paid phone game, with north of nine million customers and access to T-Mobile’s wireless network for the next seven years. It also finds current Dish’s COO John Swieringa stepping in to lead the new subsidiary. Oh, and there’s a new Boost logo, too, seen below, Dish See? It’s basically the old Boost Mobile logo, but with the little Dish wireless symbols in the middle, to really show you who’s boss. Dish used the opportunity to announce a new plan for Boost users with 15GB of data for $45, and has already begun switching consumers with compatible devices over to the new T-Mobile-backed network.

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Meet Envision, a new startup accelerator. The group, built and run by a collection of students and recent graduates, just closed the application process for its first cohort of startups. Its goal isn’t merely to find some companies and give them a boost, however. According to Annabel Strauss and Eliana Berger, two co-founders of Envision, it’s to shake up the diversity stats that we’ve all come to know. “We started Envision because we believe in a future where womxn, Black, and Latinx founders receive more than 3% and 1% of venture funding, respectively,” they said in an email. “As a team of students, we wanted to take matters into our own hands to help founders succeed — it’s our mission to support entrepreneurs early in their journeys, and amplify voices that are often underestimated.” According to its own data, Envision attracted 190 applications, far above its initial, stretch-goal of 100. From its nearly 200 submissions, the group intends to select 15 entrants. According to Strauss and Berger, their initial goal was to winnow it to just 10. But, the pair told TechCrunch in an interview, they doubled the starting cohort size based on the strength of applications. Envision will provide an eight-week curriculum and around $10,000 in equity-free capital to companies taking part (the group is still closing on part of the capital it needs, but appears to be making quick progress based on numbers shared with TechCrunch). Each of the eight weeks that Envision lasts will feature a theme, 1:1 mentorship, office hours with startup veterans and, at the end, a blitz of investor-focused mentorship, and an invite-only demo day. The core of the Envision accelerator rotates around the mentors and other helpers it has accreted since coming into existence in early June. Envision, run by 11 college students and recent graduates, quickly picked up enough startup veterans to run its program (names like Ryan Hoover and Alexia Tsotsis), and seemingly ample corporate support. In an email this morning, Envision told TechCrunch that Soma Capital, Underscore VC, Breyer Capital, Grasshopper Bank and Lerer Hippeau have joined as sponsors. Indeed, looking at Envision’s partner page reads a bit like a who’s who of Silicon Valley and startup names that you know. Talking to Envision I was slightly surprised how many students are involved in venture capital today. The Envision team is a good example of the trend. Strauss is involved with Rough Draft Ventures, for example, which is “powered” by General Catalyst. Quinn Litherland from the Envision team is also part of the Rough Draft crew. Contrary Capital, which TechCrunch covered this morning and focuses on student founders, is represented by Timi Dayo-Kayode, James Rogers, Eliana Berger, and Gefen Skolnick on the team. For Strauss, Berger and the rest of the Envision team the pressure is now on to select intelligently from their 190 applications, and provide maximum boost to their first cohort. If the program goes well, and the demo day it has planned in two months proves useful to both startups and investors alike, I don’t see why Envision wouldn’t stage another class down the road. Though of course, it might want to follow in the footsteps of Y Combinator, TechStars and 500 Startups at that point and take an equity stake in the companies it works with. Envision says in large letters at the top of its website that it is “helping diverse founders build their companies.” If the group succeeds in meeting that mark, it will be an implicit critique of the old-fashioned venture capital world that has historically not invested in diverse founders. If a dozen college students and recent grads can spin up an accelerator in a few weeks, get nearly 200 applications, and select a diverse cohort to support, then what’s everyone else’s excuse.

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The first wave of AR startups offering smart glasses is now over, with a few exceptions. Google acquired North this week for an undisclosed sum. The Canadian company had raised nearly $200 million, but the release of its Focals 2.0 smart glasses has been cancelled, a bittersweet end for its soft landing. Many AR startups before North made huge promises and raised huge amounts of capital before flaring out in a similarly dramatic fashion. The technology was almost there in a lot of cases, but the real issue was that the stakes to beat the major players to market were so high that many entrants pushed out boring, general consumer products. In a race to be everything for everybody, the industry relied on nascent developer platforms to do the dirty work of building their early use cases, which contributed heavily to nonexistent user adoption. A key error of this batch was thinking that an AR glasses company was hardware-first, when the reality is that the missing value is almost entirely centered on missing first-party software experiences. To succeed, the next generation of consumer AR glasses will have to nail this. Image Credits: ODG App ecosystems alone don’t create product-market fit

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Instagram Stories has grown to become one of Facebook’s best products to date. As of last year, roughly half of Instagram’s users — or 500 million people — were interacting with Stories on a daily basis. That’s nearly double the entire daily active user base of all of Snapchat, which first popularized the Stories format. Now, it appears Instagram is testing a way to expand the Stories experience, making it a more of a central focus in the Instagram app. The company is newly testing a feature that will allow Instagram users to see more Stories at once, both on the home screen and in a new Stories-only experience. In the test, users will initially see two rows of Stories instead of one at the top of the screen when they first open the Instagram app. A button will also appear beneath this expanded Stories area that lets you click to “See All Stories.” This will then launch a new screen where you can view and scroll through all your available Stories in a full-screen experience. You've heard of two rows of Instagram Stories… Now prepare for "SEE ALL STORIES" pic.twitter.com/vs42wwHuh0 — Julian Gamboa (@JulianGumbo) June 26, 2020 The feature was first spotted by California-based social media manager Julian Gamboa late last week, who shared a screenshot of the new Stories interface to Twitter. Instagram confirmed to TechCrunch this is a test with a small number of users for the time being. The company declined to provide further details, but said the test has been live for over a month. It’s not surprising to see Facebook toying with ideas that would allow it to push more users to engage with Stories, given the product’s massive appeal, growth, and increasing importance to Facebook advertisers. In Q3 2019, Facebook called Stories one of its biggest growth areas, noting that then 3 million of its 7 million total advertisers were now advertising across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger Stories combined. By Q4, the number of advertisers using Story Ads had grown to 4 million. Image Credits: Julian Gamboa (opens in a new window) To cater to advertisers’ needs, Facebook last year introduced customizable templates where businesses can upload their photos and videos, then choose from different layouts, color and text options to make more engaging Stories. And to make it easier to participate in Stories, Facebook now allows advertisers to buy across Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram all at once. When Facebook reported its Q1 2020 earnings, it noted the total number of ad impressions across its services had grown by 39%. It attributed the jump to both engagement increases across feed products and Stories combined. However, Facebook has often said that Stories ads monetize at lower rates than News Feed — something the company believes will change in the long run as more advertisers migrate to Stories. Given this context, it’s interesting to see Instagram testing a full-screen, scrollable Stories experience in the app. If Instagram decided to launch this product publicly, it could capture more daily users and then, in turn, more advertisers. “We’re always testing new ways to improve the Instagram experience for our community,” a Facebook company spokesperson said, in reference to the test.

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Last week, we discussed the possibility that Dell could be exploring a sale of VMware as a way to deal with its hefty debt load, a weight that continues to linger since its $67 billion acquisition of EMC in 2016. VMware was the most valuable asset in the EMC family of companies, and it remains central to Dell’s hybrid cloud strategy today. As CNBC pointed out last week, VMware is a far more valuable company than Dell itself, with a market cap of almost $62 billion. Dell, on the other hand, has a market cap of around $39 billion. How is Dell, which owns 81% of VMware, worth less than the company it controls? We believe it’s related to that debt, and if we’re right, Dell could unlock lots of its own value by reducing its indebtedness. In that light, the sale, partial or otherwise, of VMware starts to look like a no-brainer from a financial perspective. At the end of its most recent quarter, Dell had $8.4 billion in short-term debt and long-term debts totaling $48.4 billion. That’s a lot, but Dell has the ability to pay down a significant portion of that by leveraging the value locked inside its stake in VMware. Yes, but … Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. As Holger Mueller from Constellation Research pointed out in our article last week, VMware is the one piece of the Dell family that is really continuing to innovate. Meanwhile, Dell and EMC are stuck in hardware hell at a time when companies are moving faster than ever expected to the cloud due to the pandemic. Dell is essentially being handicapped by a core business that involves selling computers, storage and the like to in-house data centers. While it’s also looking to modernize that approach by trying to be the hybrid link between on-premise and the cloud, the economy is also working against it. The pandemic has made the difficult prospect of large enterprise selling even more challenging without large conferences, golf outings and business lunches to grease the skids of commerce.

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Google’s SmartReply, the four-year old, A.I.-based technology that helps suggest responses to messages in Gmail, Android’s Messages, Play Developer Console, and elsewhere, is now being made available to YouTube Creators. Google announced today the launch of an updated version of SmartReply built for YouTube which will allow creators more easily and quickly interact with their fans in the comments. The feature is being rolled out to YouTube Studio, the online dashboard creators use to manage their YouTube presence, check their stats, grow their channel, and engage fans. From YouTube Studio’s comments section, creators can filter, view and respond to comments from across their channel. For creators with a large YouTube following, responding to comments can be a time-consuming process. That’s where SmartReply aims to help. Image Credits: Google Instead of manually typing out all their responses, creators will be able to instead click one of the suggested replies to respond to comments their viewers post. For example, if a fan says something about wanting to see what’s coming next, the SmartReply feature may suggest a response like “Thank you!” or “More to come!” Unlike the SmartReply feature built for email, where the technology has to process words and short phrases, the version of SmartReply designed for YouTube has to also be able to handle a more diverse set of content — like emoji, ASCII art, or language switching, the company notes. YouTube commenters also often post using abbreviated words, slang, and inconsistent use of punctuation. This made it more challenging to implement the system on YouTube. Image Credits: Google Google detailed how it overcame these and other technical challenges in a post on its Google AI Blog, published today. In addition, Google said it wanted a system where SmartReply only made suggestions when it’s highly likely the creator would want to reply to the comment and when the feature is able to suggest a sensible response. This required training the system to identify which comments should trigger the feature. At launch, SmartReply is being made available for both English and Spanish comments — and it’s the first cross-lingual and character byte-based version of the technology, Google says. Because of the approach SmartReply is now using, the company believes it will be able to make the feature available to many more languages in the future.

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We’re excited to announce that we’ve added Extra Crunch support in Ireland, Portugal and Greece. That adds to our existing support in Europe as we are already in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and the U.K. Portugal’s 10 million citizens are no strangers to startup investment, with the country totting up 813 to date, according to Crunchbase. Notably, of that total, 113 have been announced in 2020 thus far. That means that in 2020, despite COVID-19 and its ensuing economic impacts, Portugal is on track to best its 2019 startup round total of 206. And it’s not just small companies that Portugal is building. OutSystems, now based in Boston and worth north of $1 billion, was founded in the country, for example. As Europe recovers from COVID-19, perhaps Portugal can take a larger share of the continent’s startup activity. It appears to have the momentum it would need to do so. There’s been data from the last few years to indicate that the Greek startup scene is also growing nicely. With larger seed deals and more deal volume, Greece has seen its startups raise more money, more quickly in recent years. It appears that 2020 is no exception to the trend. With 43 known startup rounds in the country so far in 2020, Greece is set to storm its 2019 total of 59. Indeed, the country could nearly double the number of startup deals it saw in 2019 during a pandemic-disrupted year. In the past 18 months, the country has seen around 38% of its all-time total known startup deals. Surely that means the country is at a local maxima when it comes to startup activity. Ireland is a startup powerhouse. Crunchbase has 2,327 known rounds for companies based in the country, including 539 in 2019 and 335 so far this year. So like our other two countries, we can spot acceleration in deal volume. Irish startups raised over $5 billion in 2020 so far, according to Crunchbase. There are going to be more names bubbling up from the island that are worth getting to know. As a nation, Ireland has a history of startup successes. Software company FINEOS was founded in Ireland back in 1993, and today it’s a public company worth more than a billion dollars. Havok, another software company from the country sold to Microsoft in 2015. And Ireland has other neat tech startups that are still coming up, like Farmflo, to pick one from the list we made this morning. We’re excited to welcome readers from Greece, Portugal and Ireland to our growing community of startups, investors and entrepreneurs. You can sign up for Extra Crunch here. What is Extra Crunch? Extra Crunch is a membership program from TechCrunch featuring market analysis, weekly investor surveys and interviews on growth, fundraising, monetization and other work topics. Members can save time with access to an exclusive newsletter, no banner ads or video pre-rolls on TechCrunch.com, Rapid Read mode and our List Builder tool. Committing to an annual and two-year plan will save you a few bucks on the membership price and unlock access to TechCrunch event discounts and Partner Perks. The Partner Perks program features discounts and savings on services from AWS, DocSend, Crunchbase and more. Thanks to everyone who voted on where to expand next. If you haven’t voted and you want to see Extra Crunch in your local country, let us know here. You can sign up or learn more about Extra Crunch here.

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BMW today announced a number of updates to its in-car software experience during a VR press event, complete with a virtual drive through Munich to show off some of these features. These new updates will come to most recent BMWs that support the company’s Operating System 7 later this year — and new cars will already have them built-in. The company is able to launch these regular updates because it is now able to not just update the car’s infotainment system but virtually every line of code that’s deployed to the various compute systems that make up a modern vehicle. And because of this, the company is now also able to bring a couple of features to market that it has long talked about. One of those features — and maybe the key announcement from today’s event — are updates to BMW program for subscribing to specific hardware features that are may already be built into your car, like heated seats or advanced driver assistance systems, but that you didn’t activate when you bought the car. BMW has talked about this for a while, but it is now making this a reality. That means if you didn’t buy the heated seats and steering wheel, for example, your new BMW may now offer you a free three-month trial and you can then essentially buy a subscription for this feature for a set amount of time. Image Credits: BMW “We offer maximum flexibility and peace of mind to our customers when it comes to choosing and using their optional equipment in their BMWs, whether this BMW is new or used,” a company spokesperson said during today’s press event. “So flexible offers, immediate availability, simpler booking and easy usability for choice, at any time, when it comes to your optional equipment. We already started connectivity over 20 years ago and since 2014, we are online with our Connected Drive Store, where digital services can already be booked.” Those were very much infotainment features, though. Now, BMW will let you enable vehicle functions and optional equipment on demand and over the air. The company started offering some features like active cruise control with stop and go functionality, a high beam assistant and access to the BMW IconicSounds Sport. The carmaker will add new features to this line-up over time. Surprisingly, it’s often easier and cheaper for car manufacturers to build some hardware into cars, even if it is not activated, simply because it removes complexity from the production process. A lot of the features that BMW is talking about consist of a combination of software and hardware, though. What’s new here is the ability to only subscribe to some features for a short time. “In the near future, we will not only be able to add more functions here, but we will also be able to add even more flexibility for our customers with temporary bookings so booking of options for three years, for one year, or even shorter periods of time, like a few months,” a spokesperson said. Image Credits: BMW The company also notes that this will give somebody who buys a used car a lot more flexibility, too. It’s worth noting that Apple CarPlay support was also originally a subscription feature in new BMWs, costing $80 a year. The company’s customers were not very happy about this, though, and the company reversed that decision last December. That really felt like nickel-and-diming drivers, though, since none of BMW’s competitors charged for this. It’ll be interesting to see how drivers will react to additional subscription services, but the focus now is more on convenience features that would usually be an option when you buy a new car, so my guess is that this will be less of an issue. Among the other new and updated digital services the company showcased today is support for Apple’s new ‘Car Keys,’ which BMW brands as the BMW Digital Key, as well as an updated BMW Personal Assistant. Some of these new Assistant features are more cosmetic and about how it is showcased on the in-car display. But one nifty new Assistant feature here, for example, is a kind of IFTTT for your car, where you can easily program it to automatically roll down your windows when you enter your company’s parking garage, for example, so that you can easily scan your badge to open the boom gate. Image Credits: BMW Other updates include the new BMW Maps, the company’s built-in GPS system, which the company described as a ‘major leap.’ This cloud-based service can now find routes faster, has more granular traffic data and also includes the ability to find parking spaces for you — and that parking feature itself is based on a lot of work the company is doing in aggregating sensor data from across its fleet, which already covers and maps close to 99% of the German highway system once a day in HD. Image Credits: BMW Talking about maps, the company, which is still in the middle of the roll-out of its hybrid-electric vehicles, BMW also today announced that its hybrid fleet will make it easier for drivers to find charging stations and will automatically switch to electric driving when they enter low-emission zones in 80 European cities, with support for additional cities coming over time. “Digital technologies belong to the core of BMW – because hardware and software are of equal importance for premium cars,” said Oliver Zipse, the Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW. “Our mission is to integrate advanced digital technologies with highest product excellence to enhance our customers’ experience and driving pleasure even more.”   Apple turns the iPhone into the key for your car BMW launches gaze detection so your car knows what you’re looking at

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Ahead of its expected IPO pricing later today, SoftBank -backed insurtech startup Lemonade has raised its expected price range. After initially targeting $23 to $26 per share in its debut, Lemonade now intends to sell its equity for $26 to $28 per share. The Exchange is a daily look at startups and the private markets for Extra Crunch subscribers; use code EXCHANGE to get full access and take 25% off your subscription. The new range boosts Lemonade’s expected value, a boon for insurtech startups like Root, Kin, MetroMile, Hippo and others. Had Lemonade been forced to reduce its pricing, the valuations of its contemporaries could have come under pressure when they went to raise more capital. But with Lemonade noting that the market will bear a higher price for its equity, it’s a good day for startups looking to rebuild insurance products in a digital-first manner. This morning, let’s work out the Lemonade’s new valuation range, compare it to the company’s final private valuation and figure out if we can understand why the stock market may support the company at its new price. After that, we’ll share a few notes from folks about the IPO and how they think it might go, just for fun. Upward Lemonade intends on selling 11 million shares as before, so the company is not targeting a larger bloc of shares to disburse. At its new price range, Lemonade will sell shares worth between $286 million and $308 million, a few dozen million more at the top end of its new range than it had anticipated with its first IPO pricing interval ($253 million and $286 million). The company has two valuation ranges: one without the 1.65 million shares its underwriters may purchase at its IPO price if they choose, and one including those shares. Without the extra equity, Lemonade is aiming at a $1.43 billion to $1.54 billion valuation; including the extra equity, Lemonade is worth $1.47 billion to $1.58 billion.

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A few months back, Google announced plans to reopen some U.S. offices after the July 4th holiday. But the best laid plans, and all of that. Things have obviously not been going great in terms of the United States’ battle with COVID-19, and Google once again finds itself proceeding on the side of caution. As was first reported by Bloomberg, Google has since confirmed with TechCrunch that it will be pushing back reopening at least until September 7, after the Labor Day holiday in the States. Along with other tech giants like Facebook, Google has noted that it will continue to offer employees the option of working from home through the reminder of the year. Google outlines plan to get some employees back to the office It’s a smart choice, as many no doubt still feel uncomfortable returning to an office situation — not to mention questions around the public transit that may use to get there. Twitter, meanwhile, made waves in May by announcing that employees would be allowed to indefinitely work remotely. Yesterday, the United States reported more than 47,000 new COVID-19 cases, marking the biggest single day spike since the beginning of the pandemic. Arizona, Florida and Texas have all become epicenters as many other states have seen their own increases in recent weeks. Reopening plans have been put on hold or rolled back in many locales, amid increased concern over the virus’s continued spread. It seems likely other big tech companies will delay their own reopening plans. In most cases, shifting back to the office simply isn’t worth the risk. 

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Tesla hits a financial milestone, Discord is now valued at $3.5 billion and we unpack the phenomenon. Here’s your Daily Crunch for July 1, 2020. 1. Tesla blows past Toyota to become most valuable automaker in the world In 10 years, Tesla has gone from public market newbie to the most valuable automaker in the world. The electric automaker had long since passed the valuations of Ford and GM — and in January, it became the most valuable U.S. automaker ever when its market capitalization hit $81.39 billion. Still, a few automakers remained ahead of Tesla globally, until today. Tesla shares popped this morning, and the company’s market cap now stands at nearly $208 billion, surpassing Toyota. 2. Discord now has a $3.5B valuation and $100M for a sales pitch lighter on the gaming “It turns out that, for a lot of you, it wasn’t just about video games anymore,” wrote co-founders Jason Citron and Stanislav Vishnevskiy in a blog post. Discord, they said, is “a place to have genuine conversations and spend quality time with people, whether catching up, learning something or sharing ideas.” 3. What .fm means for Silicon Valley In 36 hours, a diverse group of young entrepreneurs and technologists used a mysterious meme to raise more than $200,000 for three charities supporting people of color and the LGBTQ community: The Okra Project, The Innocence Project and The Loveland Foundation. 4. Facebook bans ‘violent network’ of far-right boogaloo accounts Facebook took action to remove a network of accounts Tuesday related to the “boogaloo” movement, a firearm-obsessed anti-government ideology that focuses on preparing for and potentially inciting a U.S. civil war. 5. Dear Sophie: Is immigration happening? Who can I hire? Lawyer Sophie Alcorn lays out the current immigration landscape for a Bay Area recruiter. (Extra Crunch membership required.) 6. YouTube TV hikes price to $64.99 per month following new channel additions The bump in pricing is now one of several price increases YouTube TV has seen since its debut, due to the rising costs of programming for the streaming TV service — with the cord cutting trend now accelerating due to the pandemic. 7. NASA pays out $51 million to small businesses with big ideas NASA has announced its latest batch of small business grants, providing more than 300 businesses a total of $51 million in crucial early-stage funding. These “phase I” projects receive up to $125,000 to help bring new technologies to market. The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Jüsto, the Mexico City-based delivery only grocery store chain, has raised another $12 million in financing as it looks to expand its now pandemically-relevant business of “dark stores” across the country. The COVID-19 pandemic is changing consumer habits and increasing the use of delivery services across the world, and consumers n Mexico are no different. A recent Nielsen study cited by the company found that 11 percent of respondents had purchased fresh food online for the first time in 2020, as lockdowns in cities across the world restricted movement for everyone but essential workers — with 70 percent of those surveyed saying they’d do it again within the year. “Despite Covid-19 dramatically accelerating the curve of adoption of e-commerce, the penetration rate of e-grocers is still less than 1 percent,” in Latin America, according to Jüsto founder and chief executive, Ricardo Weder, in a statement. “That means there’s an enormous opportunity—and all the right conditions—to disrupt the grocery industry in Latin America.” With the new bridge round Jüsto’s financing has hit just over $20 million in less than a year. Part of that can be attributed to the pedigree of the company’s founder. Weder was instrumental to Cabify’s growth in Latin America, according to Rodolfo Gonzalez, a partner at Foundation Capital, who led the firm’s investments into Jüsto. And Gonzalez also saw the opportunity in the company’s business model. “We’ve seen that type of model of warehouse and D2C for groceries be very successful in other geographies,” Gonzalez told Crunchbase, when Jüsto announced its previous $10 million seed round. “But that model didn’t quite exist in Mexico yet.” Other investors in Jüsto’s round include Mountain Nazca, FEMSA Ventures, Quiet Capital, and 500 Startups. The Mexican company prides itself on selling both local and international brands in categories including: fresh produce, dry goods, personal hygiene and beauty care, home and cleaning goods, beverages, organic food, and pet supplies. “We have these darkstores and hold the delivery,” says Manolo Fernandez, a spokesperson and member of Jüsto’s founding team. “At traditional supermarkets the fill rates are lower and the product is less fresh. One of our core tenets is to reduce waste. We don’t have fruits and vegetables sitting outside in the store.” Jüsto also claims that it’s prices come in at roughly equivalent to those of a regular supermarket. The company has delivery options ranging from express delivery, same day, and next day delivery. The company isn’t the first startup to look at unused real estate and internet shopping habits and see an opportunity. Darkstore is a company that has raised nearly $30 million to convert empty space into third-party fulfillment centers. Istanbul’s Getir, which recently raised $25 million from Sequoia’s Michael Moritz, is doing the same thing. And Samokat has adopted a similar strategy in Russia, promising over 3,000 SKUs and an under 45 minute delivery time fulfilled via their urban darkstores. These companies are focused on being third party logistics players for delivery rather than creating their own brands, but Jüsto shows that there’s an opportunity for purpose built direct to consumer grocery businesses to use the same infrastructure and create actual brand loyalty. “We have the technology, talent, and infrastructure to scale our expansion to more cities in Mexico and begin our international expansion, beginning with Colombiam” Weder said. 

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“The Moving Forward Act reads like a $1.5 trillion validation of our fund’s thesis — that upgrading cities and related infrastructure is key to fighting the existential threat of climate change and improving lives,” said Stonly Baptiste, co-founder and partner at venture capital fund Urban Us. Democrats in Congress are wrestling with the twin problems of mass unemployment and a long-delayed need to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure. Now, with just 124 days until the election, the party is building a platform that supports national funding to boost employment and develop more sustainable infrastructure heavily focused on renewables. Some venture investors have long supported aspects of the bill, but persistent gridlock made any movement on new policy unlikely — at least in the near term. The proposed legislation contains provisions that would use $1.5 trillion to overhaul the nation’s transportation infrastructure, schools, affordable housing, renewable energy capacity and postal service. “[In] this time of strong political division in Washington, D.C., we’ll have to see what if anything can get done on this topic in the Senate. I do have some hope that as we get closer to the election, standing in the way of clean energy is going to be seen by many in the Senate as a vote-loser, and that could sway some votes to support something bipartisan,” said Rob Day, a longtime investor in sustainable technologies and a general partner at Spring Lane Capital. “But I’m not really expecting anything to come close to what’s in this House bill. So as an investor I support what they’re doing here, but I’m not yet changing any investment strategies around it.” Baptiste said investors already support many of the initiatives under the Moving America Forward Act, but the incentives proposed under the Democratic plan could redouble those efforts. “In general, it seems like it would incentivize private capital to further align and mobilize in the climate-change battle,” Baptiste said. “Over the last 10 years, VC capital has been increasingly invested in transit in general and there is a 20-year history in the clean energy sector.”

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Twitch had already broken viewership records in the first quarter of 2020 amid coronavirus lockdowns, surpassing 3 billion total hours watched in a single quarter for the first time. In the second quarter, it appears that Twitch has broken that record and several others once again. According to a new report from Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet, Twitch saw a massive 62.7% increase in hours watched from Q1 2020 reach 5 billion hours watched in the second quarter. This figure was also up by 83.1% year-over-year and helps to cement Twitch’s place as the leader among game-streaming services, with a 67.6% market share. Twitch also broke records for hours streamed, unique channels and average concurrent viewership in Q2, the report found. In terms of streaming, Twitch jumped 58.7% from 121.4 million hours in Q1 to 192.7 million in Q2. Unique channels increased from 63.9% quarter-over-quarter from 6.1 million in Q1 to nearly 10 million in Q2. And average concurrent viewership, meaning the number of viewers watching Twitch at the same time, grew 63.4% over last quarter to reach 2.4 million in Q2. Image Credits: Streamlabs & Stream Hatchet Of course, the headline news this quarter was Microsoft’s announcement about its plans to shut down its game-streaming service Mixer. The service will wind down on July 22, and Microsoft has teamed up with Facebook to give users a new home. But that doesn’t guarantee Mixer users will make the switch — and Mixer’s exit may instead help propel Twitch to acquire even more market share than it does today. Image Credits: Streamlabs & Stream Hatchet Though Mixer is soon exiting, it had one of its best quarters to date in Q2, reaching 106 million hours watched, up 30.6% from Q1. It also grew its lineup to over 5 million channels. But in context of the broader market, Mixer wasn’t making a dent — it only managed to secure 1.4% market share by Q2, a figure that had actually fallen by over half a percentage point from the prior quarter. Meanwhile, YouTube Gaming Live increased its hours watched 39.6% from Q1 to Q2 to reach 1.5 billion. To some extent, the growth stems from recent acquisitions of top talent, including Jack “CouRage” Dunlop and Rachell “Valkyrae” Hofstetter, as well as the continued success of CouRage, noted the report. Image Credits: Streamlabs & Stream Hatchet YouTube Gaming Live also saw a 19.1% increase in hours streamed in the quarter to reach 16.9 million and unique channels grew 22.7% in the quarter to 1.1 million. It’s still too early to know if Facebook Gaming will end up benefiting from Mixer’s exit, as planned. But hours watched on the service grew 48.5% quarter-over-quarter to reach 822 million; hours streamed hit 6.1 million; and unique channels reached 203,554. However, Facebook still only has an 11% share of the market and that hasn’t changed since Q1, the report found. Image Credits: Though Twitch — and to a lesser extent, other game-streaming services — have clearly gained in usage as more consumers look for ways to be entertained at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Amazon-owned game-streaming site this year. In recent days, Twitch streamers were hit with a deluge of new RIAA takedown notices that required creators to painstakingly dig through hundreds of hours of past footage to find the infringing content, as Twitch didn’t offer robust search tools or bulk deletion capabilities. But more concerning is that Twitch has come under fire for its failures to properly protect its community members from abuse and harassment, predatory behavior from adult streamers toward children, and other issues. In June, over 70 people in the gaming industry came forward with allegations of gender-based discrimination, harassment and sexual assault. Twitch vowed to do better, but its failure to set the proper tone for its community in the early days may work against it. To date, these problems haven’t dampened Twitch’s growth from a viewership or market share perspective, but they could handicap its potential as a revenue-generating business. Already, Twitch has been struggling to generate ad revenue, and its failures to detoxify its community could only make things worse. Marketers today are growing increasingly concerned about having their messages positioned next to hate speech and other divisive and toxic content. Currently, an ongoing Facebook ad boycott has grown to now officially include over 400 advertisers and has pushed giants like Unilever, Coca-Cola and Pfizer to pause their ad spend on Facebook’s social network. These same advertisers won’t likely jump at the chance to market their products and services on a game-streaming site that can’t control sexual abuse, either. The full Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet report is here.

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Meet Point, a new challenger bank in the U.S. that has been available as a private beta for the past year. Today, the company is launching a major new version of its service and opening its doors to everyone. But you’ll have to get an invite to get in at first. Point is a consumer banking app combined with a debit card. The company wants to reproduce the experience of credit cards but with debit cards, thanks to rewards and a point-based system. There’s no credit check when you sign up. The startup raised a $10.5 million Series A funding round led by Valar Ventures with Y Combinator, Kindred Ventures, Finventure Studio and business angels also participating. Valar Ventures has backed several high-profile fintech startups, such as N26, TransferWise and Stash. As a user, you get many features you’d expect from a challenger bank. The debit card is tightly integrated with the app, which means that you can receive notifications every time you make a transaction and manage your card from the app. You don’t pay any foreign transaction fees for international transactions — the company uses Mastercard’s exchange rate for those transactions. In addition to your physical Point card, you can access a virtual card from the app. Point has partnered with Evolve Bank & Trust for the banking infrastructure, an FDIC-insured bank. When it comes to points, every transaction lets you earn points. For each $0.01 spent, you get one point. You get 2X points on groceries and dining and 5X points on subscriptions, such as Spotify and Netflix. It then works like a cash-back system; you can redeem points for dollars and they’ll appear on your checking account. The company uses Plaid to link your Point account with a third-party bank account. You can then move money from your existing account to your Point account and top up your account with payment apps, such as Venmo, Cash App and PayPal. Points’ biggest competitor is probably Chime, the challenger bank that has attracted 8 million customers. Chime doesn’t currently offer rewards. Let’s see if Point can convince customers who have yet to try out a challenger bank that Point is a better option. Image Credits: Point

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IAC and Match Group announced that they have completed a “full separation.” Previously, Match Group (which owns Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, PlentyOfFish and Match itself) was a publicly-traded company, with digital holding company IAC as its majority shareholder. Last year, the companies announced a plan that would see IAC’s ownership of Match distributed to IAC’s shareholders — a plan that is complete as of this morning. The separation also involves a leadership change, with Mark Stein and Gregg Winiarski stepping down from the Match Group board. The company has four new board members: ExecOnline CEO Stephen Bailey, the NBA’s executive president for digital media Melissa Brenner, investor and entrepreneur Wendi Murdoch and actor Ryan Reynolds (also an owner of Aviation American Gin and Mint Mobile). “Most millennials and Gen Z can’t remember what dating was like before the advent of Tinder, OkCupid and Hinge,” Reynolds said in a statement. “These brands have enormous responsibility and opportunities to affect societies, all while embracing new technologies and remaining at the forefront of pop culture. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and work with the team on their future growth and success.” Shar Dubey will continue to serve as Match Group’s CEO, a position she took at the beginning of this year, while Joey Levin remains a both IAC’s CEO and Match Group’s executive chairman. “This is just the largest transaction at the core of our strategy throughout these 25 years,” said IAC Chairman Barry Diller in a statement. “Be opportunistic, be balance sheet conservative, build up enterprises and when they deserve independence let them have it. Be a conglomerate and an anti-conglomerate, a business model that has been unique to us.” IAC outlines its plans for a Match Group spin-off

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European startup studio eFounders has looked back at the first half of 2020 to share some metrics about its portfolio companies. The startup studio that is focused on building software-as-a-service enterprise startups has now launched 25 companies in total. Those startups have raised $148 million in 2020 alone. You may remember that the portfolio of eFounders reached a total valuation of $1 billion late last year. After those new funding rounds, the consolidated valuation of eFounders companies is now at $1.5 billion. And because we’re talking about SaaS, the monthly recurring revenue has also doubled year over year compared to the first half of 2019. Overall, those companies now generate around $10 million in monthly recurring revenue. Of course, some companies are doing better than others. In particular, Front and Aircall have raised $59 million and $65 million respectively. Back when I wrote on those stories, Front said its valuation had quadrupled compared to its previous funding round, while Aircall said it had done more than 3x on the valuation. Slite, Bonjour, Folk, Cycle and Equify have also raised smaller funding rounds. Yousign, an e-signature startup, has also experienced an important growth bump with demand exploding. eFounders seems particularly well positioned for the current situation. Due to lockdowns around the world, many companies have been looking at tools that help them work remotely and work more efficiently. “We build the future of work,” eFounders writes on its website. “The changes that were naturally, but slowly, occurring in companies for a decade have accelerated in a matter of months. We've certainly gained a few years of digitalisation in the space of a quarter,” eFounders co-founder Thibaud Elziere said in a statement. If you’re not familiar with eFounders, the company first comes up with an idea for a new company and hires a founding team. The core team works alongside the founders for a year or two to define product-market fit — eFounders keeps a stake in those startups. After that initial launch, portfolio companies usually raise a seed round, which helps them build a solid team. eFounders can switch their focus and start working on new startups.

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The robotics category has been building to a kind of critical mass in recent years, but the past six months of the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed many otherwise wary investors over the top. Today, Shenzhen-based Pudu Robotics announced that it has completed a $15 million Series B, with Beijing food services group, Meituan as the sole investor. Pudu describes itself as a “smart delivery robotics” company, with a majority of its products falling within the food services category. There are multiple robotic SKUs for food delivery and dish return, all of which are indoor models. Rather than focusing on delivery apps, the robotics are designed for a variety of scenarios under the same roof, including hotels, restaurants and office buildings. Last month, Pudu noted that it has deployed “hundreds” of units to hospitals in South Korea and its native China amid the pandemic. Other existing clients include restaurants and hotels, all of which are looking for methods for reducing human contact as a means of transmitting the novel coronavirus. In total, it says its robots have been deployed in 200 cities across 20 countries. “Non-human physical contact means safety, and automation means saving human efforts. In the event of human life, these two advantages will be magnified,” CEO Zang Tao said in a press release issued last month. “Many technology companies have played an important role in intelligent disinfection, unmanned delivery and intelligent diagnosis during COVID-19, which made an irreversible influence to the public health system.” The “irreversible” bit remains to be seen, of course. What does seems certain, however, is that COVID-19 will be in important testing ground for the efficacy and need for these sorts of technologies. What seemed like, at best, an indulgence a year ago is now being viewed as a potentially necessary part of the food handling process. The virus has certainly driven investor interest, but it will be up to the startups to show they’re really to deliver on the promise.

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While many investors say sheltering in place has broadened their appetite for funding companies located outside major hubs, one firm is doubling down on backing startups in America’s heartland. Launched in 2016 by Brett Bohl, The Syndicate Fund rebranded to Bread & Butter Ventures earlier this month (a reference to one of Minnesota’s many nicknames). Along with the rebrand, longtime Google executive and Revolution partner Mary Grove joined the team as a general partner and Stephanie Rich came aboard as head of platform. The growth of the Twin Cities’ startup ecosystem is precisely why The Syndicate Fund rebranded. The firm, which has $10 million in assets under management, will invest in three of Minneapolis’ biggest strengths: agriculture and food, health care and enterprise software. Agtech interest spans the entire spectrum from farming to restaurants and grocery stores. The firm is also interested in the “messy middle” of supply chain and logistics around food, said Bohl and is interested in a mix of software, hardware and biosciences. Within health care, the firm evaluates solutions focused on prevention versus treatment, female health startups working on maternal health and fertility and software focused on the aging population and millennials. It’s also looking at enterprise software that can serve large businesses and scale efficiently.

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Contrary Capital, which has raised money from Tesla, Reddit, SoFi and Twitch, knows a thing or two about how to work with tech’s brightest mafias. Now it wants to invest in them, before anyone else. The San Francisco fund and accelerator, which traditionally invests in student entrepreneurs, is betting on the idea that the best founders are early-career employees first. Today Contrary Capital is publicly launching its next big bet: Contrary Talent, a new arm within the fund that will invest and support early-career folks and students to grow their tech ambitions. While Contrary Capital founder Eric Tarczynski said the new focus is not a pivot for the firm, he added that he wouldn’t be surprised if early-career professionals become the bulk of the portfolio in years to come. Contrary Talent will source the top engineers, designers and managers at top tech companies and pair them with top operators in tech for mentorship and job consultancy. It’s giving startup employees access to great minds before they have a pitch deck, or even know how to make one. Talent members will only be admitted to the group through a referral from one of Contrary Capital’s hundred-plus venture partners, or scouts. The firm’s venture partner network has operated for the past four years to help the firm find talent on college campuses, so now it will shift to also focus on early-career talent. The goal is to have a diverse end result, so it doesn’t hurt that Contrary Capital’s venture partner network is currently 40% female and 60% non-white. Contrary Talent is also launching a venture partner team at an undisclosed HBCU this fall to increase representation. Along with the announcement, Contrary Capital shared it has hired Triplebyte’s former head of talent, Ellis Briery, to lead this new arm of the fund. Once a candidate is referred, they will have to go through multiple rounds of interviews before being selected to join the Talent community. Members receive access to job opportunities, mentorship, invites to annual retreats and funding when (and if) they do decide to start a company. The program has been in stealth for six months so far and has 150 members. Contrary Talent will admit roughly 100 new members annually, and there will be continuous light learning on job resources, 1:1 training for career paths and AMAs with top people within tech. Think of the curriculum as a steady, but small, drip of asynchronous and live learning. Contrary founder Eric Tarczynski said there is reserved capital for Talent members, but did not disclose how much. Contrary has low tens of millions in assets under management. “Because of the long-term nature of the program and that we want to support Talent members regardless of whether or not they’re starting companies right now, we’ll be investing in Talent member-started companies across many funds,” Tarczynski said. He estimated that about 33% of investments from the current fund will come from the Talent community. “Candidly, we’re not expecting Facebooks to be kind of falling off of trees,” Tarczynski said. Talent is Contrary Capital’s first move beyond investing in students since its inception in 2016. “As time went on and we spent more time on the ground at tech campuses, we realized not only were the number of young founders going up, but so were the number of top engineers, designers and product heads who were interested in working in tech,” he said.

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Finding out how many Black founders have successfully raised venture capital, and which venture capital firms invested in their startups hasn’t been an easy task, historically. Venture capital data is often diceable by stage, say, or by startup type. But if you wanted to know how many Black founders a particular firm had invested into, that information has been hard to come by. Until now, that is. Earlier this year, a group called People of Color in Tech compile what it called “the most comprehensive list of US-based venture-backed Black founders ever.” You can check out the data here. It’s an extraordinary document, both for its usefulness and its brevity. This morning the list is just 283 names long, though it appears to be expanding over time. The same group recently put together more data. Now, the same public spreadsheet includes details on which venture capital firms have invested in Black-founded startups. (The founder list came during Black History month, while the VC list was put together around Juneteenth, People of Color in Tech wrote; for more on how tech recently discovered Juneteenth, head here). There are more VC firms that have invested in Black founders than there are Black founders who have raised money from VCs. This makes sense, as there is often more than one VC firm in any given round. But while the number of VCs detailed is encouraging at first glance, there’s nuance to the data. TechCrunch spoke with James Norman, CEO of Pilot.ly, a partner at the Transparent Collective and a contributor to the dataset, who told TechCrunch that he was initially “overwhelmed by the sheer number of investments made from 570 different firms,” but that “after one look, roughly 75% of the names had one black founder investment.” Even more, Norman told TechCrunch that after reviewing the data he “realized most of the firms on this list are likely follow-ons piling into single rounds of funding.” That most VC firms on the list of groups that put capital into a single Black-founded startup “highlights the lack of capital deployed to black founded startups in general” he continued. Still, having the founder and VC data compiled is useful on its own. In Norman’s view, the dataset will allow other orgs to ingest and parse the data, hopefully yielding useful knowledge that was previously occluded. Sefanit Tades, another contributor to the Black founder and VC lists, told TechCrunch that response to the databases has been “overwhelmingly positive, with a number of people reaching out to provide support to expand the list and provide additional data points.” She also said that user “feedback is also driving our iterations on The Black Founder List database,” so there should be more to come from the effort. That’s exciting and welcome. Silicon Valley loves to say things like “measure what matters.” Well, here’s a list of Black founders and the VCs who have cut one, two, or more checks into their startups. It matters that both lists get longer, and we can now measure progress.

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LogBox, a South African medical data startup that bills itself as an “absolutely secure” way of replacing paper forms for sharing patient data with doctors, has exposed user accounts and patient data following a security lapse. Security researcher Anurag Sen found an exposed database belonging to the company containing account access tokens for thousands of LogBox users, which if used would grant full access to users’ accounts without requiring their password, Sen said. Sen reported the exposed database to the company but did not hear back. After TechCrunch reached out, the database was pulled offline. When reached, LogBox director Neal Goldstein declined to comment by our deadline or answer any of our questions, specifically if LogBox planned to inform users or customers that data was exposed or if the company plans to report the incident to regulators. Founded in 2010, LogBox has become a rising star in South Africa, just last year partnering with Lancet Laboratories, a medical diagnostics company that operates in 11 African countries. South Africa is one of Africa’s top tech hubs, attracting $206 million in VC in 2019, according to Partech. Healthtech ventures have been on the rise across Africa, with medical related startups accounting for a third of all investment deals on the continent in 2019, per WeeTracker’s last annual investment report. LogBox’s database exposure comes as South Africa’s new data privacy laws — advanced by the country’s president Cyril Ramaphosa — take effect on July 1. South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) seeks to better safeguard personal data and protect against data breaches, per a statement of the country’s president. The measure includes guidelines that apply to LogBox’s business activities and database exposure. Did African startups raise $496M, $1B or $2B in 2019?

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When the inventor of AWS Lambda, Tim Wagner, and the former head of blockchain at AWS, Shruthi Rao, co-found a startup, it’s probably worth paying attention. Vendia, as the new venture is called, combines the best of serverless and blockchain to help build a truly multi-cloud serverless platform for better data and code sharing. Today, the Vendia team announced that it has raised a $5.1 million seed funding round, led by Neotribe’s Swaroop ‘Kittu’ Kolluri. Correlation Ventures, WestWave Capital, HWVP, Firebolt Ventures, Floodgate and Future\Perfect Ventures also participated in this oversubscribed round. (Image Credits: Vendia) Seeing Wagner at the helm of a blockchain-centric startup isn’t exactly a surprise. After building Lambda at AWS, he spent some time as VP of engineering at Coinbase, where he left about a year ago to build Vendia. “One day, Coinbase approached me and said, ‘hey, maybe we could do for the financial system what you’ve been doing over there for the cloud system,’ ” he told me. “And so I got interested in that. We had some conversations. I ended up going to Coinbase and spent a little over a year there as the VP of Engineering, helping them to set the stage for some of that platform work and tripling the size of the team.” He noted that Coinbase may be one of the few companies where distributed ledgers are actually mission-critical to their business, yet even Coinbase had a hard time scaling its Ethereum fleet, for example, and there was no cloud-based service available to help it do so. Tim Wagner, Vendia co-founder and CEO (Image Credits: Vendia) “The thing that came to me as I was working there was why don’t we bring these two things together? Nobody’s thinking about how would you build a distributed ledger or blockchain as if it were a cloud service, with all the things that we’ve learned over the course of the last 10 years building out the public cloud and learning how to do it at scale,” he said. Wagner then joined forces with Rao, who spent a lot of time in her role at AWS talking to blockchain customers. One thing she noticed was that while it makes a lot of sense to use blockchain to establish trust in a public setting, that’s really not an issue for enterprise. “After the 500th customers, it started to make sense,” she said. “These customers had made quite a bit of investment in IoT and edge devices. And they were gathering massive amounts of data. And they also made investments on the other side, with AI and ML and analytics. And they said, ‘well, there’s a lot of data and I want to push all of this data through these intelligent systems. And I need a mechanism to get this data.’ ” But the majority of that data often comes from third-party services. At the same time, most blockchain proof of concepts weren’t moving into any real production usage because the process was often far too complex, especially enterprises that maybe wanted to connect their systems to those of their partners. Shruthi Rao, Vendia co-founder and CBO (Image Credits: Vendia) “We are asking these partners to spin up Kubernetes clusters and install blockchain nodes. Why is that? That’s because for blockchain to bring trust into a system to ensure trust, you have to own your own data. And to own your own data, you need your own node. So we’re solving fundamentally the wrong problem,” she explained. The first product Vendia is bringing to market is Vendia Share, a way for businesses to share data with partners (and across clouds) in real time, all without giving up control over that data. As Wagner noted, businesses often want to share large data sets but they also want to ensure they can control who has access to that data. For those users, Vendia is essentially a virtual data lake with provenance tracking and tamper-proofing built-in. The company, which mostly raised this round after the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S., is already working with a couple of design partners in multiple industries to test out its ideas, and plans to use the new funding to expand its engineering team to build out its tools. “At Neotribe Ventures, we invest in breakthrough technologies that stretch the imagination and partner with companies that have category creation potential built upon a deep-tech platform,” said Neotribe founder and managing director Kolluri. “When we heard the Vendia story, it was a no-brainer for us. The size of the market for multi-party, multi-cloud data and code aggregation is enormous and only grows larger as companies capture every last bit of data. Vendia’s Serverless -based technology offers benefits such as ease of experimentation, no operational heavy lifting and a pay-as-you-go pricing model, making it both very consumable and highly disruptive. Given both Tim and Shruthi’s backgrounds, we know we’ve found an ideal ‘Founder fit’ to solve this problem! We are very excited to be the lead investors and be a part of their journey.”

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In 10 years, Tesla has gone from public market newbie to the most valuable automaker in the world by market value. The electric automaker had long since passed the valuations of Ford and GM and in January became the most valuable U.S. automaker ever when its market cap hit $81.39 billion. Still, a few automakers remained ahead of Tesla. Until today. Tesla shares popped Wednesday after the market opened, rising nearly 4% to $1,129.18 — hitting a new 52-week high. The company’s market capitalization now stands at nearly $208 billion, surpassing Toyota to become the world most valuable automaker by market value. Toyota’s market cap is $202.74 billion. The automaker’s stock price has confounded some analysts as it continued to rise and fall and then rise, rise, rise again despite a series of controversies and set backs. Tesla’s new status as most valuable automaker in the world doesn’t match up with its global volume, but that hasn’t dampened investor spirits. Tesla has certainly accelerated production and deliveries. Tesla delivered 367,500 electric vehicles in 2019 — 50% more than the previous year — a record-breaking figure largely supported by sales of the cheaper Model 3. Toyota produces 10 million vehicles annually. Tesla has escaped the rules that investors have applied to traditional automakers. The company is viewed more as a tech company than an automaker. Analysts’ forecasts often focus as much on CEO Elon Musk’s promises on future products that might never materialize as they do on the more pedestrian quarterly figures such as delivery and production numbers and revenue. Tesla’s share price also appears immune to the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the rest of the automotive industry. While even Tesla has experienced COVID-19 related slowdowns as well as temporary suspension of production, investors have continued to buy in and push the share price higher. Tesla’s share price could rise again if its second-quarter delivery and production figures, which should be reported today or Thursday, meet or surpass analysts expectations. Analysts polled by FactSet expect sales of 72,000 vehicles in the second quarter.

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