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Pure Storage, the public enterprise data storage company, today announced that it has acquired Portworx, a well-funded startup that provides a cloud-native storage and data-management platform based on Kubernetes, for $370 million in cash. This marks Pure Storage’s largest acquisition to date and shows how important this market for multi-cloud data services has become. Current Portworx enterprise customers include the likes of Carrefour, Comcast, GE Digital, Kroger, Lufthansa, and T-Mobile. At the core of the service is its ability to help users migrate their data and create backups. It creates a storage layer that allows developers to then access that data, no matter where it resides. Pure Storage will use Portworx’s technology to expand its hybrid and multi-cloud services and provide Kubernetes -based data services across clouds. Image Credits: Portworx “I’m tremendously proud of what we’ve built at Portworx: an unparalleled data services platform for customers running mission-critical applications in hybrid and multi-cloud environments,” said Portworx CEO Murli Thirumale. “The traction and growth we see in our business daily shows that containers and Kubernetes are fundamental to the next-generation application architecture and thus competitiveness. We are excited for the accelerated growth and customer impact we will be able to achieve as a part of Pure.” When the company raised its Series C round last year, Thirumale told me that Portworx had expanded its customer base by over 100 percent and its bookings increased by 376 from 2018 to 2019. “As forward-thinking enterprises adopt cloud native strategies to advance their business, we are thrilled to have the Portworx team and their groundbreaking technology joining us at Pure to expand our success in delivering multi-cloud data services for Kubernetes,” said Charles Giancarlo, Chairman and CEO of Pure Storage. “This acquisition marks a significant milestone in expanding our Modern Data Experience to cover traditional and cloud native applications alike.” Portworx raises $27M Series C for its cloud-native data management platform

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E-bike startup VanMoof, has raised a $40 million investment from Norwest Venture Partners, Felix Capital and Balderton Capital. The Series B financing comes after a $13.5 million investment in May. The funding brings VanMoof’s total raised to $73 million and furthers the e-bike brand’s ultimate mission of getting the next billion on bikes. The Series B funding will be used to meet the increased demand, shorten delivery times and build a suite of rider service solutions. It also aims to boost its share of the e-bike market in North America, Europe and Japan. Partly driven by the switch of commuters away from public transport because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the e-bike craze is taking off. Governments are now investing in cycling infrastructure and the e-bike market is set to surpass $46 billion in the next six years, according to reports. Ties Carlier, co-founder VanMoof commented: “E-bike adoption was an inevitable global shift that was already taking place for many years now but COVID-19 put an absolute turbo on it to the point that we’re approaching a critical mass to transform cities for the better.” VanMoof says it realized a 220% global revenue growth during the worldwide lockdown and sold more bikes in the first four months of 2020 than the previous two years combined. Stew Campbell, Principal at Norwest said: “Taco, Ties and the VanMoof team have not only built an unparalleled brand and best-selling product, but they’re reshaping city mobility all over the world.” Colin Hanna, Principal at Balderton: “As the COVID-19 crisis hit supply chains worldwide, VanMoof’s unique control over design and production was a key advantage that allowed the company to react nimbly and effectively. Moreover, VanMoof’s direct to consumer approach allows the company to build a close relationship to their riders, one that will be strengthened by new products and services in the years to come.” VanMoof launched the new VanMoof S3 and X3 in April of this year. I reviewed the S3 here and checked out the earlier X2 version here.

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There are some changes at the helm of Blade, the French startup behind Shadow. Mike Fischer is going to work for the company and become Chief Executive Officer. Jean-Baptiste Kempf is joining the company as Chief Technology Officer. Shadow is a cloud computing service for gamers. For a monthly subscription fee, you can access a gaming PC in a data center near you. Compared to other cloud gaming services, such as GeForce Now or Google’s Stadia, Shadow provides a full Windows 10 instance. You can install anything you want — Steam, Photoshop or Word. The company has been growing rapidly over the past few years and raised more than $100 million in total. Last year, the company announced ambitious plans with a wide-ranging partnership with OVHcloud and high-end configurations. At the same time, co-founder Emmanuel Freund stepped aside as CEO with Jérôme Arnaud taking over. There have been multiple delays with the new product offering and the company is no longer working with OVHcloud. Freund left the company in April and, as INpact Hardware reported in July, Arnaud has been on the way out for a couple of months. All of this leads us to today’s announcement. Mike Fischer, the company’s new CEO, has been quite active in the video game industry. In the past, he has worked at Sega, Bandai Namco, Microsoft and Epic Games. He was the president and CEO of Square Enix between 2010 and 2013. Jean-Baptiste Kempf is a well-known figure in the open source community. For the past 14 years, he has been the president of VideoLAN, the organization behind popular media player VLC. VideoLAN has also contributed to widely used video encoding technologies. He also founded VideoLabs, a company that works on VLC-related integrations and support. The company is still working on rolling out the new Ultra and Infinite configurations to European users who pre-ordered. It originally planned to start rolling out new tiers in the U.S. starting this summer but the company now says it expects to launch these new tiers by the end of the year. For customers in the U.S., there are no pre-orders, there will simply be a button to upgrade in your account when it’s available. LG invested in the company earlier this year and the service will go live in South Korea later this year as well.

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Suranga Chandratillake has (almost) seen it all. After being the early CTO for Autonomy, he went on to found the blinkx video search engine in 2004, long before many thought we’d even need one. He scaled the company to San Francisco and the US market, eventually IPO’ing blinkx for over $1 billion. On his return to Europe, he joined Balderton Capital, of Europe’s top-tier VCs, and has invested in many of Europe’s hottest startups. As part of TechCrunch Disrupt 2020, we caught up with him. Last year Balderton raised a $400 million fund. But has the way that fund is being invested changed because of COVID-19? “In many ways, nothing has changed,” he said. ”We have been a series a focused pan-European VC for 20 years… If anything, I think COVID-19 has demonstrated how tech can help us get through various challenges, and I mean all of the work from home stuff…It’s been really weird, not being able to spend time in person with [entrepreneurs] those people… But the overall strategy of investing in tech in Europe, it’s exactly the same as it was before.” Although it’s not that simple. For instance, Balderton invested in car rental startup Virtuo to the tune of 20 million euros. And travel is not exactly a great sector right now. Chandratillake admitted, “some industries we have had challenges this year.” However, he said they “had a difficult April and May, but they’ve actually had a booming August” as holidays came back. “I would say that by and large, most [startups] have navigated fairly well.” He noted that European governments have put in place funds to support tech companies, and of course, other sectors of tech have boomed. During the pandemic lockdown, many consumers jumped into virtual networking via apps like Zoom and Houseparty, but Balderton did a small investment into a stealth-mode startup called Riff, which, not unlike Clubhouse, is using audio in a new way. He hinted that this will be an enterprise-play on Audio. “Funnily enough, the closest to it right now is probably Discord which obviously is already a large network, but really a very much a vertical app aimed at gamers… But I think there’s a there’s an opportunity to do something similar in enterprise in the same way that Slack, you know, arguably got a lot of its initial cues from consumer messaging [such as] from WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. I think we’ll see a similar thing where the enterprise gets something that’s based a bit on what we’ve seen in consumer products.” He said Riff solves the “classic cliche of the watercooler moment when you bump into someone in the office and have a chat, and it’s really hard to do that in this new reality.” He also said there are interesting sub-markets following on in the coattails of Zoom “that also need to be worked out.” Balderton invested in a company called DemoDesk (a cloud-based screen sharing platform), which looks at, for example, “webinars and sales meetings and specific kinds of conversations like that, where the requirements are a bit different.” Chandratillake is of the opinion that the world will have to live with COVID-19 for many years, but that new solutions will emerge to mitigate the downsides: “Anything that helps you stay more connected to your colleagues and your co-workers is going to be interesting from a VC point of view, right?” In terms of the diversity issues thrown up by the Black Lives Matter movement, Balderton has backed initiatives such as Diversity VC in Europe. “If you’ve got a more diverse venture capital industry, they will start to back more diverse founders doing more diverse things, and that will naturally propagate. That’s really important to me and that’s a big part of what we focused on…. “In the last three years, we’ve hired more women than we have men into the investment team. We recently hired our first female general partner directly into the firm… three more people of color in the partnership and so on. So it’s beginning to change to where it should be, but I think it’s one of these things where you have to battle on many fronts.”

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Europe will propose its own digital tax early next year if there’s no agreement at a global level on how to update taxation rules for the Internet age, EU president Ursula von der Leyen said today, reiterating the bloc’s determination not to let tax reform slide in a ‘state of the union’ speech to the European Parliament. “We will spare no effort to reach agreement in the framework of OECD and G20. But let there be no doubt: should an agreement fall short of a fair tax system that provides long-term sustainable revenues, Europe will come forward with a proposal early next year,” she told MEPs. In the wide-ranging speech — which also called for the 2020s to be Europe’s “digital decade” — von der Leyen committed the bloc to spending a fifth (€150BN) of the €750BN coronavirus support fund announced earlier this year on digital investments. “There has never been a better time to invest in European tech companies with new digital hubs growing everywhere from Sofia to Lisbon to Katowice,” she said. “We have the people, the ideas and the strength as a Union to succeed. And this is why we will invest 20% of NextGenerationEU on digital.” “We are reaching the limits of the things we can do in an analogue way. And this great acceleration is just beginning. We must make this Europe’s Digital Decade,” von der Leyen added. “We need a common plan for digital Europe with clearly defined goals for 2030, such as for connectivity, skills and digital public services. And we need to follow clear principles: the right to privacy and connectivity, freedom of speech, free flow of data and cybersecurity. “But Europe must now lead the way on digital – or it will have to follow the way of others, who are setting these standards for us. This is why we must move fast.” Beneath the rousing ‘digital sovereignty’ rhetoric, the speech didn’t offer much new on the tech policy front — but the EU president confirmed that updates to Europe’s competition rules and regulation on the use of AI are coming next year. The Commission is currently consulting on whether a new competition tool is needed to respond to digital network effects that can lead to tipping markets, as well as more widely around a forthcoming Digital Services Act (which didn’t get any direct mentions in the speech). “On personalized data — business to consumer — Europe has been too slow and is now dependent on others,” she said. “This cannot happen with industrial data. And here the good news is that Europe is in the lead — we have the technology, and crucially we have the industry.” “We presented our new industry strategy in March to ensure industry could lead the twin green and digital transition. The last six months have only accelerated that transformation — at a time when the global competitive landscape is fundamentally changing. This is why we will update our industry strategy in the first half of next year and adapt our competition framework which should also keep pace,” she said. Tech investment priorities Priorities for digital investment she highlighted are the plan to build a European cloud — which will be based on the GaiaX federated data infrastructure that’s developing common requirements for pan-EU data sharing. (This is part of a major Commission push around industrial data reuse, announced earlier this year.) The second area of investment focus named was artificial intelligence — with the EU president citing the tech’s potential to deliver innovations such as “precision farming in agriculture, more accurate medical diagnosis and safe autonomous driving”. However she also emphasized the importance of having rules in place to wrap around the tech, reiterating EU lawmakers’ conviction that a framework is needed to ensure what they dub ‘human-centric’ AI. Earlier this year the EU put out a white paper — setting out proposals for regulating ‘high risk’ applications of artificial intelligence. Though the final shape of the proposal will have to wait for 2021. von der Leyen also suggested lawmakers are looking for ways to give consumers more control over how their data is used in the big data-powered AI era. “We want a set of rules that puts people at the centre. Algorithms must not be a black box and there must be clear rules if something goes wrong. The Commission will propose a law to this effect next year,” she said today. “This includes control over our personal data which [we] still have far too rarely today. Every time an App or website asks us to create a new digital identity or to easily log on via a big platform, we have no idea what happens to our data in reality.” To this end, she said the Commission wants to develop “a secure European e-identity” that EU citizens could use anywhere in the bloc — “to do anything from paying your taxes to renting a bicycle”. It would be “a technology where we can control ourselves what data and how data is used”, she added, riffing on her digital sovereignty theme. The Commission is reviewing existing regulations around eID, including running a consultation that’s due to end next month — where it says it’s looking at barriers to uptake of eID and trusted services, and considering how to evolve the framework towards an “EU digital identity”. It now sounds like lawmakers have concrete plans to overhaul eID — with the aim of promoting a proprietary digital authentication mechanism that can help drive the wider strategy around digitization and data reuse. The third focus for ‘COVID-19 relief’ digital spending is infrastructure, with a push planned around broadband access. “The investment boost through NextGenerationEU is a unique chance to drive [broadband] expansion to every village. This is why we want to focus our investments on secure connectivity, on the expansion of 5G, 6G and fiber,” said von der Leyen, adding: “NextGenerationEU is also a unique opportunity to develop a more coherent European approach to connectivity and digital infrastructure deployment.” Her speech also highlighted a planned €8BN investment in developing next-gen supercomputers. And reiterated calls for European industry to develop its own next-generation chips — “that will allow us to use the increasing data volumes energy-efficient and securely”. “None of this is an end in itself — it is about Europe’s digital sovereignty, on a small and large scale,” she added. Green Deal von der Leyen also spend a fair amount of time on the environment and the risks attached to climate change. The European Green Deal is set to account for a larger chunk of COVID-19 relief spending than digital projects — although there could, presumably, be some overlap, with von der Leyen talking about “a world where we use digital technologies to build a healthier, greener society”. She said 37% (€277BN) of the NextGenerationEU fund to be spent directly on Green Deal objectives. This spending looks set to give a major boost to electric cars via investment in charging infrastructure. Other areas of focus she mentioned are hydrogen replacing coal for industrial production; and adapting the construction industry to make it more sustainable and less polluting, including by the use of AI and smart technologies. “NextGenerationEU should invest in lighthouse European projects with the biggest impact: hydrogen, renovation and 1 million electric charging points,” she said. “I want NextGenerationEU to create new European Hydrogen Valleys to modernise our industries, power our vehicles and bring new life to rural areas.” “Our buildings generate 40% of our emissions. They need to become less wasteful, less expensive and more sustainable,” she added. “And we know that the construction sector can even be turned from a carbon source into a carbon sink, if organic building materials like wood and smart technologies like AI are applied.” The systemic change needed to support a wholesale shift to a circular economy was dubbed”a new cultural project for Europe”. “Every movement has its own look and feel. And we need to give our systemic change its own distinct aesthetic – to match style with sustainability,” she said, announcing a plan to set up “a new European Bauhaus” — aka “a co-creation space where architects, artists, students, engineers, designers work together to make that happen”.

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Outfunnel, a startup that has built software to help companies “bridge the gap between marketing and sales functions,” has quietly raised €1.1 million in funding. The pre-seed round was led by Paua Ventures and byFounders, with participation from Lemonade Stand, Omnisend and various angel investors. The latter includes Bolt co-founders Markus and Martin Villig, Matterport CMO Robin Daniels, Pipedrive co-founder Ragnar Sass, and long-time Skype exec Sten Tamkivi, amongst others. Formed in 2017, Outfunnel’s founders are marketing veteran Andrus Purde (previously of Skype and Pipedrive), Andris Reinman (creator of open-source email projects like Nodemailer and WildDuck) and Markus Leming. The startup has developed what it dubs a “revenue marketing automation tool” that is designed to enable sales and marketing functions to work together to drive revenue. “SMBs still struggle to unite sales and marketing data,” Purde tells me. “Money and time is wasted setting up workflows, connecting databases with digital duct tape and manually pulling reports… This [also] means that everyone misses opportunities, as well as revenue goals”. Furthermore, salespeople have no context for sales conversations and don’t know which leads are ready to buy, and the leadership don’t easily have “big picture” visibility into the effectiveness of campaigns. “Last but not least, all of us receive lots of ‘spam’ instead of relevant messages,” he says. To solve this, Outfunnel’s secret sauce sees it integrate deeply with CRMs (currently Pipedrive, Copper, and Hubspot CRM, with more to follow) coupled with various features such as automated emails in sync with CRM data, reporting, and precise targeting. The startup has already won over more than 400 paying customers, with North America being its biggest market, followed by larger European countries and Australia. “Our typical customer is a small to medium-sized business that needs both sales and marketing and where sales cycles are longer, not transactional,” adds Purde. “That’s roughly 25% of all SMBs according to our estimations e.g. businesses selling professional services, consulting, real estate, healthcare… That said, we have some better-known scale-ups as customers, too, such as Bolt”.

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Norwegian company Kahoot originally made its name with a platform the lets educators and students create and share game-based online learning lessons, in the process building up a huge public catalogue of gamified lessons created by its community. Today the startup — now valued at over $2 billion — is announcing an acquisition to give a boost to another segment of its business: corporate customers. Kahoot has acquired Danish startup Actimo, which provides a platform for businesses to train and engage with employees. Kahoot said that the purchase is being made with a combination of cash and shares, and works to to a total enterprise value of between $26 million and $33 million for the smaller company, with the sale expected to be completed in October 2020. It may sound like a modest sum in a tech market where companies are currently and regularly seeing paper valuations in the hundreds of millions at Series A stage, but it also presents a different kind of trajectory both for founders and their investors. This is actually a strong exit for Actimo, which had raised less than $500,000, according to data from PitchBook. And it puts Actimo under the wing of a company that has been scaling globally fast, finding — like others in the areas of online education and remote working — that the current state of social distancing due to Covid-19 is resulting in a boost to its business. To give you an idea of the scale and growth of Kahoot, the company says that currently it has over 1 billion active users, on top of some 4.4 billion users in aggregate since first launching the platform in 2013. In the last 12 months, some 200 games have been played on its platform. In June, when Kahoot announced that it had raised $28 million in funding, it told us that 100 million games had been played. In light of its growth and the future opportunity — even putting aside the progression of the coronavirus, it looks like remote work and remote learning will at the least become a lot more common as a longer-term option — the company has also seen a rise in its valuation. With some of its shares traded on the Merkur Market in Norway, the company currently has a market cap of 18.716 billion Norwegian Krone, which at today’s rates is about $2.08 billion. That figure was $1.4 billion in June. Kahoot’s targeting of the corporate sector is not new. The company has been building a business in this space for years. It says that in the last 12 months, it logged 2 million sessions across 20 million participating “players” of its corporate training “games”, with some 97% of the Fortune 500 among those users. Customers include the likes of Facebook (for sales training), Oyo (hospitality training and onboarding) and Qualys (for taking polls during a conference), among others. Critically, while a lot of Kahoot’s audience is in education, its corporate most of the revenues come in, one reason why it’s keen to grow that segment with more services and users. The aim with Actimo, Kahoot says, is to build out a product set aimed at helping organisations with company culture — which, with many organisations now going on eight months and counting of entire teams working regularly outside of their physical offices, has grown as a priority. Keeping a team feeling like a team, and an individual feeling more than a transactional regard for an employer, is not a simple thing in the best of times. Now, as we continue to work physically away from each other, it will take even more tools and efforts to get the balance right. In that context, Actimo’s solution is just one aspect, but potentially an interesting one: it has built a platform where employees can track the training that they have done or need to do, engage with other co-workers, and provide feedback, and employers can use it to generally track and encourage how employees are engaging across the company and its various efforts. It counts some 200 enterprises, including Circle K, Hi3G, and Compass Group, among its customers, and has current ARR of $5 million. For comparison, Kahoot, in its Q2 financials published in August, reported ARR of $25 million, with invoiced revenue for the quarter at $9.6 million, growing some 317% on the same quarter a year before. The company has also raised some $110 million in private funding from the likes of Microsoft and Disney. As Kahoot looks to find more than just a transient place in a company’s IT and software fabric — transience of attention always being a risk with anything gaming-based — it makes a lot of sense to pick up Actimo and work on ways of coupling the platform with its other corporate work. You can also imagine a time when it might create a similar kind of dashboard for the educational sector. “We are excited to welcome the Actimo team to be part of the fast-growing Kahoot! family,” said Kahoot! CEO, Eilert Hanoa, in a statement. “This acquisition will further extend Kahoot!’s corporate learning offerings, by providing solutions tailored for the frontline segment, as well as to solidify company culture and engagement among remote and distributed teams in companies of all types and sizes. This continues our expressed ambition to also grow through M&A by adding strategic capabilities that we can leverage across our global platform.” “We are thrilled to join forces with Kahoot! in our mission to develop next-level solutions that connect remote employees and boost employee engagement and productivity,” said Eske Gunge, CEO at Actimo, in a statement. “Being part of Kahoot! and with our experience from working with innovative and ambitious enterprises across industries, we can together set a new standard for corporate learning and engagement.”

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At the beginning of the previous decade, Facebook had a tiny presence in India. It had just started to slowly expand its team in the country and was inking deals with telecom operators to make access to its service free to users and even offer incentives such as free voice credit. India’s internet population, now the second largest with more than 500 million connected users, itself was very small. In early 2011, the country had fewer than 100 million internet users. But Facebook ended up playing a crucial role in the last decade. So much so that by the end of it, the social juggernaut was reaching nearly every internet user in the country. WhatsApp alone reaches more than 400 million internet users in India, more than any other app in the country, according to mobile insight firm App Annie. This reach of Facebook in India didn’t go unnoticed. Politicians in the country today heavily rely on Facebook services, including WhatsApp, to get their message out. But it has also complicated things. Rumors have spread on WhatsApp that cost lives, and politicians from both the large political parties in India in recent weeks have accused the company of showing favoritism to the other side. To address these issues, and the role Facebook wishes to play in India, Ajit Mohan, the head of the company’s business in the country, joined us at Disrupt 2020. Following are some of the highlights. On controversy A recent report in WSJ claimed that Ankhi Das, one of Facebook’s top executives in India, decided against taking down a post from a politician from the ruling party. She did so, the report claimed, because she feared it could hurt the company’s business prospects in India. In Mohan’s first interview since the controversy broke, he refuted the claims that any executive in the country holds power to influence how Facebook enforces its content policy. “We believe that it’s important for us to be open and neutral and non-partisan,” he said. “We have deep belief and conviction that our enabling role is as a neutral party that allows speech of all kinds, that allows expression of all kinds, including political expression, and a lot of the guidelines that we have developed are to make sure that we really enable our diversity of expression and opinion so long as we’re able to make sure that the safety and security of people are protected.” Mohan said the internal processes and systems inside Facebook are designed to ensure that any opinion and preference of an employee or a group of employees is “quite separate from the company and the company’s objective enforcement of its own policies.” He said individuals can offer input on decisions, but nobody — including Ankhi Das — can unilaterally influence the decision Facebook takes on content enforcement. “We do allow free expression inside the company as well. We don’t have any constraints on people expressing their point of view, but we see that separate from the enforcement of our content policy. […] The content policy itself, in the context of India, is a team that stands separate from the public policy team that is led by Ankhi,” he added. This photo illustration shows an Indian newspaper vendor reading a newspaper with a full back page advertisement from WhatsApp intended to counter fake information, in New Delhi on July 10, 2018. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP) On India and monetization Even as Facebook has amassed hundreds of millions of users in India, the world’s second largest market contributes little to its bottom line. So why does Facebook care so much about the country? “India is in the middle of a very exciting economic and social transformation where digital has a massive role to play. In just the last four years, more than 500 million users have come online. The pace of this transformation probably has no parallel in either human history or even in the digital transformation happening in countries around the world,” he said. “For a company like ours, if you look at the family of apps across WhatsApp and Instagram, we believe we have a useful role to play in fueling this transformation,” he said. Even as Facebook does not generate a lot of revenue from India, Mohan said the company has established itself as one of the most trusted platforms for marketers. “They look to us as a material partner in their marketing agenda,” he said. He said the company is hopeful that advertising as a GDP will go up in India. “Therefore ad-revenue will become substantial over time,” he said. For Facebook, India is also crucial because it allows the company to build some unique products that solve issues for India but could be replicated in other markets. The company is currently testing an integration of WhatsApp, which currently does not have a business model despite having over 2 billion users, with new Indian e-commerce JioMart, to allow users to easily track their orders. “We think there is opportunity to build India-first models, experiment at scale, and in a world where we succeed, we see huge opportunity in taking some of these models global,” he said. Facebook as a VC Facebook does not usually invest in startups. But in India, the company has invested in social-commerce firm Meesho, online learning platform Unacademy — it even participated in its follow-up round — and it wrote a $5.7 billion check to Jio Platforms earlier this year. So why is Facebook taking this investment route in India? “We wanted to create a program for taking minority investments in early-stage startups to figure out how we could be helpful to startup founders and the ecosystem as a whole. The starting point was backing teams that were building models that in some ways were unique to India and could go global. Since we made an investment in Meesho, they have made a strong thrust in Indonesia. These are the kind of companies where we feel we can add value as well as we can learn from these startups,” he said. The partnership with Jio Platforms follows a different rationale. “The transformation we talked about in India in the last few years, Jio triggered it,” he said. Other than that, Facebook is exploring ways to work with Jio, such as with its partnership with Jio’s venture JioMart. “It can really fuel the small and medium business that is good for the Indian economy,” he said. Mohan said the company continues to explore more opportunities in Indian startups, especially with those where the teams think Facebook can add value, but he said there is no mandate of any kind that Facebook has to invest in, say dozens of startups in three to four years. “It’s not a volume play,” he said. During the Q&A part of the interview, Mohan was asked if Reliance Industries, which operates Jio Platforms and Reliance Retail, will receive any special access on Facebook’s services. What if Amazon, BigBasket, Grofers, or Flipkart want to integrate with WhatsApp, too? Mohan said Facebook platform is open for every firm and everyone will receive the same level of access and opportunities. In the interview, Mohan, who ran the Disney-run Hotstar on-demand streaming service in India, also talked about the growing usage of video in India, the state of WhatsApp Pay’s rollout in the country, what Facebook thinks of India’s ban on Chinese apps, and much more. You can watch the full interview below.

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Zwift, a 350-person, Long Beach, Calif.-based online fitness platform that immerses cyclists and runners in 3D generated worlds, just raised a hefty $450 million in funding led by the investment firm KKR in exchange for a minority stake in its business. Permira and Specialized Bicycle’s venture capital fund, Zone 5 Ventures, also joined the round alongside earlier backers True, Highland Europe, Novator and Causeway Media. Zwift has now raised $620 million altogether and is valued at north of $1 billion. Why such a big round? Right now, the company just makes an app, albeit a popular one. Since its 2015 founding, 2.5 million people have signed up to enter a world that, as Outside magazine once described it, is “part social-media platform, part personal trainer, part computer game.” That particular combination makes Zwift’s app appealing to both recreational riders and pros looking to train no matter the conditions outside. The company declined to share its active subscriber numbers with us — Zwift charges $15 per month for its service — but it seemingly has a loyal base of users. For example, 117,000 of them competed in a virtual version of the Tour de France that Zwift hosted in July after it was chosen by the official race organizer of the real tour as its partner on the event. Which leads us back to this giant round and what it will be used for. Today, in order to use the app, Zwift’s biking adherents need to buy their own smart trainers, which can cost anywhere from $300 to $700 and are made by brands like Elite and Wahoo. Meanwhile, runners use Zwift’s app with their own treadmills. Now, Zwift is jumping headfirst into the hardware business itself. Though a spokesman for the company said it can’t discuss any particulars — “It takes time to develop hardware properly, and COVID has placed increased pressure on production” — it is hoping to bring its first product to market “as soon as possible.” He added that the hardware will make Zwift a “more immersive and seamless experience for users.” Either way, the direction isn’t a surprising one for the company, and we don’t say that merely because Specialized participated in this round as a strategic backer. Cofounder and CEO Eric Min has told us in the past that the company hoped to produce its own trainers some day. Given the runaway success of the in-home fitness company Peloton, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a treadmill follow, or even a different product entirely. Said the Zwift spokesman, “In the future, it’s possible that we could bring in other disciplines or a more gamified experience.” (It will have expert advice in this area if it does, given that Swift just brought aboard Ilkka Paananen, the co-founder and CEO of Finnish gaming company Supercell, as an investor and board member.) In the meantime, the company tells us not to expect the kind of classes that have proven so successful for Peloton, tempting as it may be to draw parallels. While Zwift prides itself on users’ ability to organize group rides and runs and workouts, classes, says its spokesman, are “not in the offing.”

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Gravity Sketch, the London-based product design and collaboration platform that utilises virtual reality, has raised $3.7 million in funding. The seed round was led by Kindred Capital, with participation from Point Nine Capital and previous investor Forward Partners. It brings the total amount raised by Gravity Sketch to $5.4 million. In addition, the startup previously received grant funding from InnovationRCA and the James Dyson Foundation. Founded in 2014 by Oluwaseyi Sosanya, Daniela Paredes and Daniel Thomas, Gravity Sketch wants to change the way physical products are designed, developed, and brought to market. It offers 3D design software for cross-disciplinary teams so that they can “create, collaborate, and review” in a much more frictionless way, including via virtual reality in which collaboration can take place in 3D and real-time. The idea is to help speed up development cycles, especially involving globally-distributed and increasingly remote teams. “Collaboration is increasingly important as time frames are shortened and consumers request products sooner, with more features, and produced more sustainably,” says Oluwaseyi Sosanya, CEO and co-founder of Gravity Sketch. “There is also a surge in multinational companies growing globally distributed design and engineering teams, who need to stay connected in order to deliver with the same accuracy they once did being in the same location. Small-to-mid-sized design firms who service large companies must also adopt this approach in order to win business — they often gain work from international clients that are unable to meet face to face as frequently as their domestic clients, and are also held to extremely high standards of delivery”. In addition to pressure brought about by faster product cycles and remote working, the product design process itself isn’t always optimum, involving multiple teams with different disciplines and software tools and a jump from 2D to 3D. “When we talk about designing a physical product, we’re imagining this object in 3D,” says Sosanya. “However, for many years we have had to bring out that idea through 2D mediums, or through rough physical models. All physical products start with 2D sketches, which are then painstakingly translated to digital 3D models and then produced through standard manufacturing processes”. To mitigate this, Gravity Sketch brings the designer into the digital 3D space from the initial sketch phase, which gives them greater control over the initial idea and how it develops. The full design team can then join the same VR space to get a full understanding of the design from the designer’s perspective before investing time and resources. “The designer can more accurately get all stakeholders on the same page at the ideation phase,” Sosanya explains. “With VR we can leverage the fact that everyone thinks in 3D and offer a solution that sidesteps the 2D visualisation step which is present in every design process, so users can think in 3D and create in 3D. It’s sort of like a Zoom meeting in 3D, helping everyone understand the yet to be materialised product from their own vantage point”. Furthermore, content created in Gravity Sketch can further the design pipeline, meaning there is no need to create different views of a design or have to create a 3D model in another tool. Gravity Sketch designs can be exported to almost all of the CAD tools on the market with a claimed 100% accuracy. It seems to be resonating, too, with some of the world’s leading companies, such as Ford, Nissan, and Reebok, using Gravity Sketch, alongside 60 universities and over 50,000 creative professionals worldwide. Meanwhile, Gravity Sketch says the new funding will enable the company to scale up the platform to become “entirely hardware-agnostic”. It currently works with a range of virtual reality hardware, and is in beta for iPad, mobile, and desktop.

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Over 110 million users in China have signed up for 5G plans, announced president of the China Academy for Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), a think tank under the telecoms watchdog Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, at an industry event on Wednesday. That makes China the largest 5G market in terms of user size, the think tank president said. The milestone came in less than a year after China’s top carriers rolled out  5G plans for consumers, and just over a year after the authority began issuing 5G licenses for commercial use. The number is still a small fraction of the overall subscription. In June, China’s three state-run carriers collectively commanded some 1.6 billion mobile subscribers (suggesting China’s 1.4 billion population owned over one mobile device per capita). China’s 5G ambition is a multi-pronged effort among the government, network carriers, telecoms equipment makers, device makers, and software developers. Policymakers need to show consumers visible improvement on network speed, and as such the carriers have been aggressively setting up 5G base stations across the country — more than 460,000 towers by July. China was adding an average of 15,000 new 5G base stations every week, said an official in July. The government has plans to raise that number to 600,000 by the end of 2020, covering all prefectural-level cities nationwide. A clear winner in China’s 5G push is Huawei, which makes both 5G devices and the infrastructure that undergirds the next-gen network. In the meantime, Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi and their rivals are rushing to launch 5G compatible handsets. China has sold over 93 million units of 5G mobile phones this year so far, according to recent data released by CAICT. 5G phones accounted for 60% of total shipments in August. China’s rapid shift to 5G is also driving the need for new hardware parts like integrated circuits. The country produced over 100 billion units of ICs during the first half of 2020, representing a 16.4% year-over-year gain, said an industry official in July, adding that much of the demand came from 5G-related projects.

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It’s always a pleasure to chat with Homage co-founder and chief executive Gillian Tee because of her nuanced take on how technology can help elderly and other vulnerable people.  According to the United Nations, people 65-years-old and over is the fastest-growing age group worldwide. At the same time, there is also an acute shortage of caregivers in many countries, complicated by high rates of burnout in the profession. “It’s absolutely one of the most important social topics and global issues,” Tee said during her Disrupt session (the video is embedded at the bottom of this article). Launched in Singapore four years ago, Homage’s platform uses a matchmaking engine to help families find the best caregivers, while its telehealth platform provides services like online medical consultations and screenings. It has since expanded in Malaysia and yesterday announced a new strategic investment from Infocom, one of the largest healthcare technology companies in Japan. The partnership will enable Homage to accelerate its Asia-Pacific expansion. Before launching Homage, Tee was co-founder of New York-based Rocketrip. A ticket-booking platform created to reduce work travel-related costs for companies, Rocketrip attracted investors like Google Ventures, Y Combinator and Bessemer Ventures, and raised more than $30 million. But in 2016, Tee decided to return to Singapore, her home country, after living abroad for about 15 years. In her Disrupt session, Tee said this was to be closer to her mother, and because she felt that her startup experience could also be applied to Southeast Asia. Tee knew that she wanted to launch another company, but she didn’t decide to tackle the caregiving space immediately. That idea materialized when several of her close relatives were diagnosed with chronic conditions that needed specialized care. “We didn’t know how to cope or how even to start thinking about what was required, and that was when I realized, wow, I needed to get myself schooled in many ways,” Tee said. Many families around the world are dealing with the same challenges as their populations age and social dynamics shift. Family members who traditionally would have been carers for relatives are unable to do so because they have moved away or need to work. Families often rely on word-of-mouth or agencies to find caregivers, a complicated, time-intensive and often emotionally difficult process. Homage uses matching algorithms to make it easier. One of the most unique things about the platform is how much detail it goes into. Providers are not only screened based on their certifications and the kind of care they provide (for example, long-term care, respite care, physical therapy or rehabilitation), but specific skills. For example, many patients need mobility assistance, so Homage assesses what kind of transfers they are able to safely perform. Then its matching technology decides which caregivers are best suited for a patient, and final assignments are made by Homage’s staff. By making the process more efficient, Homage also lowers its costs, making its services accessible to more people while increasing pay rates for providers. This taps into another one of Homage’s goals: expanding the caregiving pool in its markets and retaining talent. Other ways it addresses the issue is by placing caregivers on its platform into the jobs they are best suited for, organizing continuing education programs and making sure they are not over-scheduled. Some caregivers on the platform have long-term contracts, while others work with Homage clients only a few days a week. A holistic approach to “age-tech” In June, Homage launched its telehealth service. Called Homage Health, the platform has been in development for a while, but its launch was accelerated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote consultations fit into the “high-touch,” or in-person, care side of the company’s business because many patients need regular screenings or consultations with doctors and specialists. For patients who have limited mobility or are immunocompromised, this makes it easier for them to make routine consults. Hardware, including wearable sensors, also show promise to identify any potential health issues, like heart conditions, before they require acute care, but one challenge is making them easy for patients to integrate into their daily routines or remember to wear, Tee said. Overall, Homage’s mission is to create a holistic platform that covers many caregiving needs. Its new partnership with strategic investor Infocom will help bring that forward because the company, which Tee said Homage has been talking to for several years, works with about 13,000 facilities in Japan, including senior residences and hospitals. Infocom develops software for a wide range of verticals, including drug, hospital and medical record management, and medical imaging. Infocom also runs its own caregiving platform, and its partnership with Homage will enable the two companies to collaborate and reach more patients. Japan has one of the largest populations of elderly people in the world. Tee said at minimum, half a million caregivers need to be mobilized within the next five to ten years in Japan in order to meet demand. “We need to start building infrastructure to enable people to be able to access the kind of care services that they need, and so we really align in terms of that mission with Infocom,” said Tee. “They also have a platform that engages caregivers to apply for jobs in Japan and they see the Homage model as being particularly applicable because it’s curated as well.”

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Crista Galli Ventures, an early-stage health tech fund in Europe, is officially launching today. The firm offers “patient capital” — with only a single LP (the Danish family office IPQ Capital) — and promises to provide portfolio companies with deep healthcare expertise and the extra runway needed to get over regulatory and efficacy hurdles and to the next stage. Companies already backed by Crista Galli Ventures (CGV) include Skin Analytics, which is using AI to improve diagnosis of skin cancer; Quibim, which is applying AI to the field of radiomics; and Ampersand Health, which is developing digital therapies for patients with inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease, to name just three out of 15. Led by consultant radiologist Dr. Fiona Pathiraja, and with offices in London and Copenhagen, CGV operates as an “evergreen” fund, meaning it doesn’t follow traditional five-year VC fundraising cycles. Initially, the VC firm has $65 million in deployable — so called — patient capital. “We like to invest across the broad areas of deep tech, digital health and personalised healthcare,” Pathiraja tells TechCrunch. “We prefer technology solutions that make the lives of patients easier and better and, in some cases, that help support people’s health before they become patients. Part of our remit is also for tech solutions within the healthcare industry that improve efficiency and productivity of providers.” Alongside the main fund, CGV is also unveiling Crista Galli LABS, which, in part, aims for greater diversity in health tech by backing founders from underrepresented backgrounds at the pre-seed stage. In addition to pre-seed investment, startups accepted into the program have access to mentoring and coaching from the CGV team. “When I was in hospital, there were people from all backgrounds there and this was the norm… [but] this really wasn’t my experience when I started investing,” explains Pathiraja. “I am struck by how homogeneous both founder teams and investment teams can be. Whilst our core investment focus is seed and Series A, Crista Galli LABS invests smaller ticket sizes in outstanding pre-seed founders and ensures that at least 50% of these are from under-represented backgrounds. This means those who are female, BAME, LGBT to start with.”

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Twitter has flagged a post from Indian politician T. Raja Singh for violating its policy days after TechCrunch asked the social giant about the three-year-old questionable tweet. In a video tweet, Singh urged India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and others citizens in the country to move Rohingya Muslim immigrants, including those “who supported terrorism,” out of the nation as he feared that they would become a “headache for the nation” in the future. “#Deport RohingyaMuslims,” he tweeted. Singh, who belongs to India’s ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party and has made hateful speeches in public appearances in the past, also urged his followers to make his tweet “viral” on the platform so that every “Hindu and [other] Indians” see it. He did not respond to a request for comment. It’s a similar message that Singh had also posted on Facebook, which ultimately led the Menlo Park-headquartered firm to permanently ban him from the platform. Facebook has received some of the harshest backlash it has seen to date in the country in part for its initial inaction on Singh’s posts. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that a top Facebook executive in India had decided to not take action on Singh’s posts as she feared it could hurt the company’s business prospects in the country. In a statement to TechCrunch, a Twitter spokesperson said that Singh’s tweet was “actioned” for violating its hateful conduct policy. “Twitter has zero-tolerance policies in place to address threats of violence, abuse and harassment, and hateful conduct. If we identify accounts that violate these rules, we’ll take enforcement action,” the spokesperson added. A September 13 tweet, which Singh has retweeted from his account, shows a warning message from Twitter that says his account was locked for the aforementioned tweet. Singh has posted several tweets since September 13, suggesting the matter has been resolved. The aforementioned tweet still shows it is in violation of Twitter rules. The slow reactions from Twitter and Facebook, both of which count India as an important market, illustrates lapses in their content moderation efforts in the world’s second largest market. Twitter, which had about 70 million monthly active users on its official app in India last month (according to mobile insights firm App Annie, data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch), has been particularly slow — or unresponsive — in the country in taking actions despite reports from users. In January, India’s ruling party was accused of running a deceptive Twitter campaign to gain support for a controversial law — nothing new for Twitter in India — but the company never responded to questions. A month before that, snowfall in Kashmir, a highly sensitive region that hasn’t had internet connection for months, began trending on Twitter in the U.S. It mysteriously disappeared after many journalists questioned how it made it to the list. A Twitter spokesperson in India pointed TechCrunch to an FAQ article at the time that explained how Trending Topics work. Nothing in the FAQ article addressed the question.

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Dropbox CEO and co-founder Drew Houston, appearing at TechCrunch Disrupt today, said that COVID has accelerated a shift to distributed work that we have been talking about for some time, and these new ways of working will not simply go away when the pandemic is over. “When you think more broadly about the effects of the shift to distributed work, it will be felt well beyond when we go back to the office. So we’ve gone through a one way door. This is maybe one of the biggest changes to knowledge work since that term was invented in 1959,” Houston told TechCrunch Editor-In-Chief Matthew Panzarino. That change has prompted Dropbox to completely rethink the product set over the last six months, as the company has watched the way people work change in such a dramatic way. He said even though Dropbox is a cloud service, no SaaS tool in his view was purpose-built for this new way of working and we have to reevaluate what work means in this new context. “Back in March we started thinking about this, and how [the rapid shift to distributed work] just kind of happened. It wasn’t really designed. What if you did design it? How would you design this experience to be really great? And so starting in March we reoriented our whole product roadmap around distributed work,” he said. He also broadly hinted that the fruits of that redesign are coming down the pike. “We’ll have a lot more to share about our upcoming launches in the future,” he said. Houston said that his company has adjusted well to working from home, but when they had to shut down the office, he was in the same boat as every other CEO when it came to running his company during a pandemic. Nobody had a blueprint on what to do. “When it first happened, I mean there’s no playbook for running a company during a global pandemic so you have to start with making sure you’re taking care of your customers, taking care of your employees, I mean there’s so many people whose lives have been turned upside down in so many ways,” he said. But as he checked in on the customers, he saw them asking for new workflows and ways of working, and he recognized there could be an opportunity to design tools to meet these needs. “I mean this transition was about as abrupt and dramatic and unplanned as you can possibly imagine, and being able to kind of shape it and be intentional is a huge opportunity,” Houston said. Why Dropbox shares are soaring after it reported earnings Houston debuted Dropbox in 2008 at the precursor to TechCrunch Disrupt, then called the TechCrunch 50. He mentioned that the Wi-Fi went out during his demo, proving the hazards of live demos, but offered words of encouragement to this week’s TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield participants. Although his is a public company on a $1.8 billion run rate, he went through all the stages of a startup, getting funding and eventually going public, and even today as a mature public company, Dropbox still evolving and changing as it adapts to changing requirements in the marketplace.

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Apple unveils new hardware and new subscriptions, Spotify adds virtual event listings and Opendoor is going public via SPAC. This is your Daily Crunch for September 15, 2020. The big story: Apple announces new iPads and Apple Watches Apple had a big hardware event today. And while you should check out our full roundup if you want to see all the announcements, I’ll do my best to cover the big ones in a couple of paragraphs. First up: The new Apple Watch Series 6, priced at $399, with Apple’s S6 silicon chip and a blood oxygen sensor. The company is also expanding the Watch lineup with a more affordable Apple Watch SE, which will cost $279. Plus, there’s a new iPad Air with Touch ID built into the power button, the previously rumored Apple One subscription bundle (which starts at $14.99 per month), a new fitness subscription and a September 16 launch date for iOS 14 — in other words, tomorrow! The tech giants Spotify adds virtual event listings to its app — TechCrunch previously detailed Spotify’s plans in this area, but today the company made the news official. Twitter debuts US election hub to help people navigate voting in 2020 — That tab will serve as Twitter’s central source for hand-picked election news in English and Spanish, debate live streams, state-specific resources and candidate information. Waze gets smarter with trip suggestions, lane guidance, traffic notifications and more — Among the changes, Waze is gaining personalized recommendations based on a user’s trip history. Startups, funding and venture capital Opendoor to go public by way of Chamath Palihapitiya SPAC — The transaction comes during a wave of market interest in special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, often called blank-check companies. Kleiner prints gold with Desktop Metal, netting a roughly 10x return — Yes, the startup’s technology is designed to “print metal.” The Chainsmokers just closed their debut venture fund, Mantis, with $35 million — The musical duo has some major-league backers for their fund, including Mark Cuban, Keith Rabois, Jim Coulter and Ron Conway. Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch If you care about remote employees, start tracking their performance — Remote work has been thrust upon us, but are business leaders ready for it? What’s ahead in IPO land for JFrog, Snowflake, Sumo Logic and Unity — Alex Wilhelm reminds us that some losses are very bad and others are pretty OK. (Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.) Everything else CBS All Access to rebrand to Paramount+, expand internationally in 2021 — The name change is designed to better reflect the expanded content lineup that has joined the service following the Viacom-CBS merger in 2019. Watch the first official trailer for The Mandalorian Season 2, premiering October 30 on Disney+ — Baby Yoda time! 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 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Freelance marketplace Fiverr launched a new service today designed to help teams at larger companies manage their work with freelancers. CEO Micha Kaufman told me via email that Fiverr had already begun working with larger clients, but that Fiverr Business is better-designed to meet their needs. “Organizations require tools to manage their team accounts, defining projects, assigning budgets, tracking progress and collaborating internally,” Kaufman wrote. “Fiverr Business provides all of that and much more, including exclusive access to Fiverr’s personal executive assistants which are always available to Fiverr Business customers to help with administrative account tasks, general project management, talent matching, and more.” He also suggested that with the pandemic forcing companies to adopt remote work and placing pressure on their bottom lines, many of them are increasingly turning to freelancers, and he claimed, “2020 marks the beginning of a decade where businesses will invest and learn how to truly integrate freelancers into their workflows.” Image Credits: Fiverr Fiverr Group Product Manager Meidad Hinkis walked me through the new service, showing me how users can create projects, assign team members and set freelance budgets, then actually hire freelancers, as well as offering internal and external feedback on the work that comes in. He also noted there’s a special pool of curated freelancers available through Fiverr Business, and like Kaufman, emphasized that customers will also have access to assistants to help them find freelancers and manage projects. (On the freelancer side, payments and the rest of the experience should be pretty similar.) On top of the freelancer fees, Fiverr Business will cost $149 per year for teams of up to 50 users, and Hinkis said the company is offering the first year for free. “We so believe in product and the direction that we want people to get real value before they decide,” he said. Fiverr CEO says he’s building the ‘everything store for digital services’

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A few weeks ago, Facebook Messenger introduced new rules around message forwarding to limit the spread of misinformation on its platform. Speaking today at TechCrunch Disrupt 2020, Facebook Messenger VP Stan Chudnovsky offered more detail about how Facebook views its role in fighting the spread of misinformation and other harmful content across its messaging platform, while still balancing the idea that Messenger is meant to be a platform for private and, at times, encrypted conversations (aka “secret” messages). Chudnovsky explained that Facebook’s goal is to make Messenger feel like the digital equivalent of having a private conversation between friends and family in the living room. But the company also acknowledged that with the rise of digital tools and new mediums, there are things that Facebook needs to be cognizant of, when it comes to how those tools can be abused. “Messenger is obviously a private means of communicating. And we want to make sure it is private. This is a very important priority for us,” Chudnovsky started. But when users began forwarding messages at scale, Messenger is then no longer about having a private conversation. It becomes a tool for one-to-many information sharing, he explained. “This is…more like a public broadcast,” he said. Facebook had first announced last year that it was “adding friction” to message forwarding for Messenger users in Sri Lanka, so people could only share a particular message a certain number of times. The limit was set to five people or groups at the time. Those same rules have now expanded across the Messenger platform, with the same forwarding limit of five people or groups. The new limits, the exec continued, aim to stop this spamming behavior. “Certain pieces of information cannot be forwarded too many times…that’s something that we think is really going to help in stopping the spread of the misinformation, especially in the times that we are in right now,” he added. Chudnovsky also noted that because of how Messenger is connected to Facebook, when false information gets flagged by Facebook’s partnered fact checkers, that same warning about the information’s inaccuracy can then be inserted into any Messenger conversations, to warn users who may have been sent the misleading or otherwise harmful content. “That doesn’t violate privacy at all because it all comes through the same big pipelines,” he pointed out.’ Facebook’s website that details how its fact-checking program works doesn’t yet include a mention of Messenger, only Facebook and Instagram. One thing Facebook won’t consider is putting an end to link-sharing entirely, Chudnovsky said. “I think those things are core to the internet,” Chudnovsky said of link-sharing and forwarding. “[Completely banning] the ability for people to exchange information on the internet defeats the purpose of [the] internet itself,” he said.

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In March, famed investment firm Sequoia Capital published the Black Swan Memo, warning founders about the potential business consequences of the coronavirus, which had not yet been labeled a pandemic. “It will take considerable time — perhaps several quarters — before we can be confident that the virus has been contained. It will take even longer for the global economy to recover its footing,” the memo read. Six months later, Sequoia’s Roelof Botha is “surprised” at the state of venture capital and startups in the country, which are largely benefitting from — not struggling with — from COVID-19 tailwinds. VCs are pouring money at a rapid clip into edtech, SaaS, low-code and no code, as well as telemedicine. In some cases, investors say venture funding has been hotter than ever ahead of the U.S. elections, beating not just March 2020, but 2019 records overall. Sequoia, it seems, is happy to be wrong. This week, Sequoia Capital will have backed three of the 12 companies going public: Sumo Logic, Unity, and Snowflake. Snowflake is expected to go out at $30 billion valuation, which some say will be the largest U.S. software company to ever go public. Beyond the firm, numbers of unicorns are gearing up, or teasing, to go public in the coming weeks. “I’m proud of the fact that we saw a few things and anticipated a few things,” he said during TechCrunch Disrupt. “But we also got many things wrong.” Botha pointed to a few factors that saved startupland from freezing up. First, he said the U.S. government’s stimulus package helped make sure that there was not a “complete economic meltdown.” “I didn’t quite expect that scale reaction,” Botha said. He’s referring to the $2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress and signed by President Trump, which included PPP loans designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. Tech recipients included Bolt Mobility, Getaround, Luminar, Stackin, TuSimple and Velodyne. Botha addressed how tech companies have helped sustain businesses and operations amid the pandemic, which has trickled down to new customer growth and revenue. Zoom, a Sequoia portfolio company, might be one of the best examples of how a tech company was poised to skyrocket during the pandemic. According to Botha, the firm, which still owns shares in the company, wishes it had held onto more of its position longer. Sequoia invested in Zoom when it was valued at $1 billion. Today, it is worth more than $100 billion, graduating from an enterprise videoconferencing service graduated to a household consumer product. To be fair, some of Sequoia’s warning signs proved true: Layoffs inundated Silicon Valley; companies shuttered citing a drop in revenue; and the market remains volatile. “We also have to realize there’s a lot of pain and there are many mainstream businesses and local services and restaurants and coffee shops that often suffer economically,” he said. “I don’t want to be overly sanguine just because technology stocks have had a good run. As a country, we need to brace ourselves for helping everybody.”

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If you listed the trends that have captured the attention of 20 Warsaw-focused investors who replied to our recent surveys, automation/AI, enterprise SaaS, cleantech, health, remote work and the sharing economy would top the list. These VCs said they are seeking opportunities in the “digital twin” space, proptech and expanded blockchain tokenization inside industries. Investors in Central and Eastern Europe are generally looking for the same things as VCs based elsewhere: startups that have a unique value proposition, capital efficiency, motivated teams, post-revenue and a well-defined market niche. Out of the cohort we interviewed, several told us that COVID-19 had not yet substantially transformed how they do business. As Michał Papuga, a partner at Flashpoint VC put it, “the situation since March hasn’t changed a lot, but we went from extreme panic to extreme bullishness. Neither of these is good and I would recommend to stick to the long-term goals and not to be pressured.” Said Pawel Lipkowski of RBL_VC, “Warsaw is at its pivotal point — think Berlin in the ‘90s. It’s a place to observe carefully.” Here’s who we interviewed for part one: Bryony Cooper, managing partner, Arkley Brinc VC Anna Wnuk-Błażejczyk, investor relations manager, Experior.vc Rafał Roszak, investment director, YouNick Mint Michal Mroczkowski, partner, Market One Capital Marcus Erken, partner, Sunfish Partners Borys Musielak, partner, SMOK Ventures Mathias Åsberg, partner, Nextgrid Kuba Dudek, SpeedUp Venture Capital Group Marcin Laczynski, partner, Next Road Ventures Michał Rokosz, partner, Inovo Venture Partners For the conclusion, we spoke to the following investors: Karol Szubstarski, partner, OTB Ventures Michał Papuga, partner, Flashpoint VC Michal Bachmacz, partner, Aper Ventures Pawel Lipkowski, partner, RBL_VC Tomasz Golinski, partner, CofounderZone Szymon Janiak, partner, Czysta3.vc Bogy Skowronski, partner, Mitefcee.org Boris Kocot, partner, AIP Seed Bartosz Lipnicki, partner, Alfabeat Radek Czyrko, partner, THC Pathfinder VC Karol Szubstarski, partner, OTB Ventures What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally? Gradual shift of enterprises toward increased use of automation and AI, that enables dramatic improvement of efficiency, cost reduction and transfer of enterprise resources from tedious, repeatable and mundane tasks to more exciting, value added opportunities. What’s your latest, most exciting investment? One of the most exciting opportunities is ICEYE. The company is a leader and first mover in synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) technology for microsatellites. It is building and operating its own commercial constellation of SAR microsatellites capable of providing satellite imagery regardless of the cloud cover, weather conditions and time of the day and night (comparable resolution to traditional SAR satellites with 100x lower cost factor), which is disrupting the multibillion dollar satellite imagery market. Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now? I would love to see more startups in the digital twin space; technology that enables creation of an exact digital replica/copy of something in physical space — a product, process or even the whole ecosystem. This kind of solution enables experiments and [the implementation of] changes that otherwise could be extremely costly or risky – it can provide immense value added for customers. What are you looking for in your next investment, in general? A company with unique value proposition to its customers, deep tech component that provides competitive edge over other players in the market and a founder with global vision and focus on execution of that vision. Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about? No market/sector is too saturated and has no room for innovation. Some markets seem to be more challenging than others due to immense competitive landscape (e.g., food delivery, language-learning apps) but still can be the subject of disruption due to a unique value proposition of a new entrant. How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less? OTB is focused on opportunities with links to Central Eastern European talent (with no bias toward any hub in the region), meaning companies that leverage local engineering/entrepreneurial talent in order to build world-class products to compete globally (usually HQ outside CEE). Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not, long term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders? CEE region is recognized for its sizable and highly skilled talent pool in the fields of engineering and software development. The region is well-positioned to build up solutions that leverage deep, unique tech regardless of vertical (especially B2B). Historically, the region was especially strong in AI/ML, voice/speech/NLP technologies, cybersecurity, data analytics, etc. How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city? CEE (including Poland and Warsaw) has always been recognized as an exceptionally strong region in terms of engineering/IT talent. Inherent risk aversion of entrepreneurs has driven, for a number of years, a more “copycat”/local market approach, while holding back more ambitious, deep tech opportunities. In recent years we are witnessing a paradigm shift with a new generation of entrepreneurs tackling problems with unique, deep tech solutions, putting emphasis on global expansion, neglecting shallow local markets. As such, the quality of deals has been steadily growing and currently reflects top quality on global scale, especially on tech level. CEE market demonstrates also a growing number of startups (in total), which is mostly driven by an abundance of early-stage capital and success stories in the region (e.g., DataRobot, Bolt, UiPath) that are successfully evangelizing entrepreneurship among corporates/engineers. Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work? I believe that local hubs will hold their dominant position in the ecosystem. The remote/digital workforce will grow in numbers but proximity to capital, human resources and markets still will remain the prevalent force in shaping local startup communities. Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times? OTB invests in general in companies with clearly defined technological advantage, making quantifiable and near-term difference to their customers (usually in the B2B sector), which is a value-add regardless of the market cycle. The economic downturn works generally in favor of technological solutions enabling enterprise clients to increase efficiency, cut costs, bring optimization and replace manual labour with automation — and the vast majority of OTB portfolio fits that description. As such, the majority of the OTB portfolio has not been heavily impacted by the COVID pandemic. How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now? The COVID pandemic has not impacted our investment strategy in any way. OTB still pursues unique tech opportunities that can provide its customers with immediate value added. This kind of approach provides a relatively high level of resilience against economic downturns (obviously, sales cycles are extending but in general sales pipeline/prospects/retention remains intact). Liquidity in portfolio is always the number one concern in uncertain, challenging times. Lean approach needs to be reintroduced, companies need to preserve cash and keep optimizing — that’s the only way to get through the crisis. Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic? A good example in our portfolio is Segron, a provider of an automated testing platform for applications, databases and enterprise network infrastructure. Software development, deployment and maintenance in enterprise IT ecosystem requires continuous and rigorous testing protocols and as such a lot of manual heavy lifting with highly skilled engineering talent being involved (which can be used in a more productive way elsewhere). The COVID pandemic has kept engineers home (with no ability for remote testing) while driving demand for digital services (and as such demand for a reliable IT ecosystem). The Segron automated framework enables full automation of enterprise testing leading to increased efficiency, cutting operating costs and giving enterprise customers peace of mind and a good night’s sleep regarding their IT infrastructure in the challenging economic environment. What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two. I remain impressed by the unshakeable determination of multiple founders and their teams to overcome all the challenges of the unfavorable economic ecosystem.

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Just three months after LanzaTech announced a spinout aimed at selling sustainable aviation fuel, the company is already preparing for two more. LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren said Tuesday on the Disrupt 2020 virtual stage that the carbon capture technology company is planning to use its core technology to create two other businesses. LanzaTech captures waste gas emissions and uses bacteria to turn it into useable ethanol fuel. A bioreactor is used to convert captured and compressed waste emissions from a steel mill or factory or any other emissions-producing enterprises into liquids. The core technology of LanzaTech — and its future businesses — is a bacteria that likes to eat these dirty gas streams. As the bacteria eats the emissions it essentially ferments them — a bit like how beer is made, Holmgren recently explained — and emits ethanol. The ethanol can then be turned into various products. “Using a technology like ours that can use so many different feedstocks — waste biomass, industrial gases, CO2 from the air — you’re going to be making so much ethanol, that I think of ethanol as the feedstock of the future. In other words, you’re going to use ethanol to make other products.” In June, LanzaTech did just that and announced a spinoff called LanzaJet. The new company launched with commitments from Japanese trading and investment company Mitsui & Co. and Canadian oil and gas producer Suncor Energy, which will invest $85 million to fund pilot and development-scale facilities for LanzaJet. Now it seems that LanzaTech has plans to find pursue other pieces of the supply chain. Holmgren said the company is focused on a couple of use cases on the chemical side. Ethanol, for instance, can be  converted to ethylene, which is used to make polyethylene for bottles and PEP for fibers used to make clothes. “We see a path from ethanol to products using today’s supply chain,” Holmgren said. More importantly, LanzaTech has focused on synthetic biology. The company has learned to modify the bacteria that it already uses to make ethanol, and instead harnesses it to make other chemicals directly. “So you can imagine someday, we’re not just gonna make a fuel for a plane, we’re going make the seatbelts and upholstery — all of these things through synthetic biology,” she said, adding that this will likely become a spinoff. The second spinoff company focuses on a byproduct it already makes. The bacteria that eats carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide is a “skinny bacteria” as Holmgren calls it because it is mostly protein. LanzaTech already sells this skinny bacteria as a co-product of its technology. “Not in the too distant future we will want to run a reactor with all of these gases, not to make ethanol, but to make protein, and I see that as an ultimate spin out as well,” she said. Holmgren didn’t provide a specific timeline of these spinouts. Although she added that the company is putting together a plan now and will begin to make some moves in the next three months. There is of capital that will be needed to get these enterprises up and running. The synthetic biology spinoff, which Holmgren said is further along, will need a couple hundred million dollars up front. Holmgren also announced Tuesday during Disrupt 2020, a new small-scale waste biomass gasifier in India. The new gasifier will be hosted at Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemical, one of India’s largest refiners. The LanzaTech gasifier, which will be built in partnership with Indian project development firm Ankur Scientific, will use waste to make ethanol and chemicals rather than power.

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Spotify is embracing virtual events. The company today announced the addition of virtual event listings in the Spotify app, which will allow music fans to see when their favorite artists will be playing live — even if only via a livestream. These listings will be available through the “On Tour” section of artist profiles as well as in Spotify’s Concerts hub, the company said. TechCrunch previously detailed Spotify’s plans in this area, but today the company made the news official. The streaming service says artists will be able to list their events streaming on any platform, including Twitch, Instagram Live, YouTube Live, a hosted website or anything else. Image Credits: Spotify Other virtual events will be automatically imported to the platform courtesy of Spotify’s existing partnerships with Songkick and Ticketmaster. Virtual events uploaded through Songkick will now begin to automatically show up on both the artist profiles and the Concert hub. Artists can also choose to set their own events as their “Artist Pick.” A select number of Ticketmaster events will be listed on Spotify, as well, the company says. Image Credits: Spotify These new integrations aren’t surprising, given that most major ticketing services have shifted their focus to online and virtual events in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which has limited real-world gatherings, like concerts. At the same time, artists have been trying to connect with fans online, often doing live streams or even paid live-streamed concerts. However, today’s virtual concerts business is only helping to offset lost touring revenue for most, not fully replace it. “With most tours postponed until 2021 and online concerts set to continue, Spotify wants to make it easy for fans to learn about virtual events—whether for artists you already love or for those you’re discovering for the very first time,” the company said, in an announcement. The feature is rolling out now to the Concerts hub under Browse on desktop and Search on mobile as well as to participating artist profiles.

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The healthcare industry, even prior to the current pandemic, has never looked much like other industries when it comes to hiring and career management. That was the impetus behind Incredible Health, a startup founded by medical doctor Iman Abuzeid and Amazon alum Rome Portlock. The platform Incredible Health built is all about connecting nurses with jobs – but it goes above and beyond your typical online job board in order to provide better service both to job seekers and hospitals, and to help nurses throughout the course of their careers. I spoke to Abuzeid, who serves as Incredible Health’s CEO, about some new features that Incredible Health has just introduced, in part to address the particular needs of nurses and hospitals considering the constraints of COVID-19 and the ongoing challenges it presents. She first explained why Incredible is a unique platform to begin with, among a sea of relatively undifferentiated job search products. “There are three unique things about the platform,” she said. “The first is that the employers apply to the nurses instead of the other way around – which we can do because of this huge supply-demand imbalance. The second is that we’ve automated the screening and pre-vetting of the nurses, so we’re able to automatically verify things like licenses and certifications, and experiences and so on, because we’ve integrated with so many databases. And the third thing we do is custom matching algorithms.” That means Incredible Health provides hospitals with only matches that meet their exact needs for a specific position requirement, rather than forcing them to wade through large numbers of potential applicants who might not have the skills they need. In a field like nursing, which has a lot of specific professional designations and certifications, specificity actually helps both sides quite a bit. “The end result of all of that is hires that happen at least three or four times faster,” Abuzeid told me. “Our average right now is 13 days, and the efficiency is about 30 times more efficient than a standard job board. Really, some of the biggest impacts we have are financial – we save on average, each hospital we work with, about $2 million per year. We do that by reducing their travel nurse budget, because they don’t have to use as many contract workers when they’re permanently staffed. And we also reduce their overtime costs, and their HR costs.” Abuzeid also told me that nurses hired through Incredible Health tend to stick around longer. The startup only has about a year of historical data to check against so far, but she said that so far, they’re seeing about 25% percent higher retention vs. the industry average. She added that they suspect this is due largely to the fact that nurses are able to consider multiple offers and hospital options on the platform, since there are often multiple employers vying to hire the same employee, especially in the case of specialization like ICU nurses. As for what’s new to Incredible Health, the company has introduced automated interview scheduling. Abuzeid says that has led to 70% of interviews being scheduled via automation within 36 hours on the platform currently. The platform has also introduced remote interviewing for safely distanced pre-hiring interactions, and in-app chat between potential employers and nurses right in the iOS, Android and web apps that Incredible Health offers. Profiles for nurses on the platform also now list socialites and skills, from a pre-set catalog of 45 specialities and 250 skills that are specific to the nursing field, like ICU or OR expertise. Abuzeid said that most of these were fast-tracked due to significant changes they were seeing in the hiring process as a result of the COVID pandemic. “We saw several impacts,” she told me. “First is like the number of offers that started to go out – we see one go out every few hours now. And the number of interview requests is up to one being sent every few minutes. So it’s really accelerated, and that’s been a combination of two things. One is just that we made the software better and more efficient – but the other thing is the urgency also increased on the hospital end given the pandemic.” Aside from improving the process of hiring vs. traditional methods, and supporting more remote hiring and onboarding workflows, Incredible Health also addresses some of the diversity gaps in the current healthcare industry hiring process. Abuzeid explained that that’s due in part to built-in features of the platform like salary estimate calculators, and adds that some tweaks have been created intentionally to level the playing field. “30% of nurses identity in the U.S. identify as minorities, so we take diversity pretty seriously because that’s a huge chunk of our user base,” she said. “By giving nurses salary data, it democratizes that and makes you more informed. We also provide talent advocates who are also nurses on our team that support every single nurse, helping them almost as career coach to support them throughout the hiring process.” Incredible Health also takes steps to ensure the product isn’t itself reinforcing any existing biases that may be present, consciously or otherwise, on the part of hiring parties. “We random sort the list of the list of nurses as they’re displayed in front of employers and the application, or we use avatars instead of profile pictures,”  We’re also constantly monitoring the data that that that’s in the platform. So for example, we noticed that recruiters were biasing against nurses that lived further away. And so we just removed the current location of the nurse, we just stopped displaying that, and that bias went away. So it’s really important that the software and our algorithms actually counter human bias.” So far, Incredible Health has raised $17 million in funding, including a Series A last year led by Jeff Jordan at Andreessen Horowitz. The company is already in use at over 200 hospitals across the U.S., as well as at a number of the largest health care networks in the country, like HCA and Baylor, and at academics medical centres including Cedar Sinai and Stanford as well. The startup is growing quickly by addressing a long-standing need with software designed specifically to the challenge, and looks poised for even more future growth as the demand for qualified, well-supported healthcare professionals grows.

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Alex Pall and Drew Taggart are best known as The Chainsmokers, an electronic DJ and production duo whose first three albums have given rise to numerous Billboard chart-topping songs, four Grammy nominations, and one Grammy award, for the song “Don’t Let Me Down.” Soon, they hope they’ll be known as savvy venture investors, too. They already have some major-league believers, including investors Mark Cuban, Keith Rabois, Jim Coulter and Ron Conway, who are among the other individuals who provided the Chainsmokers’s new early-stage venture firm, Mantis, with $35 million in capital commitments for its debut fund. It’s a surprisingly traditional vehicle in many ways. For starters, Mantis is being managed day-to-day by two general partners who respectively offer venture and operational experience: Milan Koch graduated in 2012 from UCLA and has been an investor ever since, including as a venture partner with the seed-stage fund Base Ventures; Jeffrey Evans is a record label founder who has long known the Chainsmokers’s business manager, Josh Klein. With fundraising begun earlier this year, the firm has already made a handful of investments, too, including the fitness app Fiton (Pall says they “squeezed into the A round after its close”), and Loansnap, a mortgage-lending startup that was founded by serial entrepreneur Karl Jacob. Pall and Taggart take their health seriously, so the fitness app is easy to understand. As for why the world’s highest-paid DJs would be interested in such a seemingly staid business as mortgage lending, Taggart says the firm’s mission is ultimately to find and fund a wide range of startups that could potentially benefit its young audience, and that he and Pall are happy to use their star power to help related founders when a particular technology catches their eye. In the case of Loansnap, he says that he and Pall were impressed by Loansnap’s promise to process loans more efficiently than other lenders. By getting involved in the company, all sides also recognized a “massive press opportunity for Loansnap at a time when COVID was hitting and there was going to be billions of dollars in refinancing going on that [the company] wanted to participate in,” he says. Indeed, despite investing a relatively small in what was ultimately a $10 million round for Loansnap in May, Mantis was credited in numerous reports as being the deal lead.) Taggart and Pall say they also take inspiration from singer Jimmy Buffett, who has co-created numerous businesses to both benefit, and capitalize off, his own fan base. Though Buffett started with Margaritaville — a hospitality company with a casual dining American restaurant chain, a chain of stores selling Jimmy Buffett-themed merchandise, and casinos with lodging facilities — he has more recently begun building retirement communities in Florida for aging Buffett acolytes, and Pall and Taggart says the strategy resonates, “When we started eight years ago, our fans were primarily all in college,” says Taggart. “Now they are dealing with paying back their college loans, and they’re probably applying to buy their first house, so a company like Loansnap feels like one of those startups whose services our fans have grown into needing.” Pall and Taggart aren’t entirely brand new investing. Pall says they’ve been making seed-stage bets as angel investors for several years, including in Ember, an eight-year-old, L.A.-based company that makes temperature-controlled mugs and travel mugs and has raised roughly $25 million altogether, shows Crunchbase. “I’d like to say that we were like thinking In this incredible way about the business at the time, but we were just like, ‘This is a really great product and we love the founder,” Pall says. In fact, the two got into a number of “diverse deals,” he continues, but “all of it was inbound” until two years ago, when they “decided to kind of change our strategy and go seek out the opportunities that we thought were out there…  We thought that maybe if we institutionalize this process, [we’ll discover] a lot more opportunity out there for us to work with dynamic founders and interesting founders who are going to change the landscape of tomorrow.” Soon after, Pall and Taggart were introduced to Koch; Koch meanwhile knew Evans through a mutual friend in the music industry. Things began coming together from there. Pall and Taggart — who say that all four members of the team have to want to do a deal for it to move forward — are certainly entrepreneurial themselves. Aside for performing roughly 100 shows last year before beginning work this year on a fourth album, the two also run a production studio. They are stakeholders in a small batch spirit brand called JaJa Tequila. Last year, they also co-founded YellowHeart, a ticketing platform that aims to put more power in the hands of performers, rather than scalpers. Mantis was originally targeting $50 million in capital commitments, as reported by Bloomberg. Asked if that target proved too ambitious, Koch says the original idea was to raise $30 million, and that though the fund’s limited partner agreement stated that it could raise up to $50 million, the team “just decided that for a first time fund, in order for us to produce a great IRR, we’d just rather stick to the target.” Pictured above, left to right: Jeffrey Evans, Alex Pall, Drew Taggart, Milan Koch.

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Apple announced a ton of new devices and features today at its September hardware event, but no word on its upcoming iPhones. That’s expected later in the month, maybe next. In case you missed Apple’s hour-long keynote, here’s everything that was announced — including some things you might have missed. Apple Watch One of Apple’s big announcements is the new Apple Watch Series 6, priced at $399. The new wearable comes with a new Apple S6 silicon chip with an always-on energy-saving display. It also lands with a blood oxygen sensor. Apple also announced a newer low-cost wearable, Apple Watch SE, which it priced at $279. Family Setup: The new Family Setup option lets families stay connected, even when some members of the family don’t have an iPhone. It also comes with a family tracking feature, which lets parents make sure their kids have checked into school or sports practice, for example. Fitness+: Apple is launching a new fitness subscription, landing at $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year. The service is available from inside the Activity app, and takes aim at in-home fitness services, which have taken off in part because of the ongoing pandemic. But so far, the fitness market doesn’t seem too flustered by the move. Solo Loop: You can now get a Solo Loop for your Apple Watch, a single band that drops the standard clasp in favor of stretchy silicon. It comes in seven colors and a range of sizes. The new Apple Watch Series 6 arrives September 18. Apple iPad Next up, the iPad. Apple said it’s refreshing the iPad line-up with a new fourth-generation iPad Air. The new slimline iPad Air lands with a 10.9-inch 2360×1640 resolution Retina display and replaces the Lightning port with a USB-C cable. The new iPad Air comes with a Touch ID fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button, and a new 12-megapixel, 4K-capable rear camera. New A14 Bionic chip: Apple unveiled its new, super-fast five nanometer A14 Bionic chip, landing in the new iPad Air. It’s packed with close to 12 billion transistors, 40% up on the previous iteration of chips, and has a 16-core neural engine for apps that rely on machine learning and artificial intelligence. New colors: Apple has two new colors on top of the existing silver, space gray and rose gold to now include green and sky blue. New eighth-generation iPad: The new eighth-generation iPad got a refresh, too, packed with an earlier A12 Bionic chip, giving the iPad a much-needed performance boost. Apple One With an Apple subscription for TV, music, games, as well as iCloud storage charges, Apple is rolling its subscriptions into one place under its new Apple One plan. There are three tiers — one for individuals, another for families, and the top-tier includes the full package of Apple’s subscription services. iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 14, and tvOS 14 Apple said its long-awaited software updates will arrive tomorrow — September 16. That includes iOS 14 for iPhones, iPadOS 14 for iPads, watchOS 14 for Apple Watch wearables and tvOS14 for Apple TV boxes. And iOS 14 comes with new privacy and security features, a new and improved Maps, a redesigned Siri and a new in-built translator app. No word yet on macOS Big Sur, Apple’s next desktop and laptop operating system. A release date is expected out in the next few weeks ahead of the holiday season. Apple to release iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 14 and tvOS on September 16

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