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Monday, January 13, 2020

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News


Kids with lazy eye can be treated just by letting them watch TV on this special screen

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 04:23 PM PST

Amblyopia, commonly called lazy eye, is a medical condition that adversely affects the eyesight of millions, but if caught early can be cured altogether — unfortunately this usually means months of wearing an eyepatch. NovaSight claims successful treatment with nothing more than an hour a day in front of its special display.

The condition amounts to when the two eyes aren’t synced up in their movements. Normally both eyes will focus the detail-oriented fovea part of the retina on whatever object the person is attending to; In those with amblyopia, one eye won’t target the fovea correctly and as a result the eyes don’t converge properly and vision suffers, and if not treated can lead to serious vision loss.

It can be detected early on in children, and treatment can be as simple as covering the good eye with a patch for most of the day, which forces the other eye to adjust and align itself properly. The problem is of course that this is uncomfortable and embarrassing for the kid, and of course only using one eye isn’t ideal for playing schoolyard games and other everyday things.

And you look cool doing it!

NovaSight’s innovation with CureSight is to let this alignment process happen without the eyepatch, instead selectively blurring content the child watches so that the affected eye has to do the work while the other takes a rest.

It accomplishes this with the same technology that, ironically, gave many of us double vision back in the early days of 3D: glasses with blue and red lenses.

Blue-red stereoscopy presents two slightly different versions of the same image, one tinted red and one tinted blue. Normally it would be used with slightly different parallax to produce a binocular 3D image — that’s what many of us saw in theaters or amusement park rides.

In this case, however, one of the two tinted images just has a blurry circle right where the kid is looking. The screen uses a built-in Tobii eye-tracking sensor so it knows where the circle should be; I got to test it out briefly and the circle quickly caught up with my gaze. This makes it so the other eye, affected by the condition but the only one with access to the details of the image, has to be relied on to point where the kid needs it to.

The best part is that there isn’t some treatment schema or tests — kids can literally just watch YouTube or a movie using the special setup, and they’re getting better, NovaSight claims. And it can be done at home on the kid’s schedule — always a plus.

Graphs from NovaSight website.

The company has already done some limited clinical trials that showed “significant improvement” over a 12-week period. Whether it can be relied on to completely cure the condition or if it should be paired with other established treatments will come out in further trials the company has planned.

In the meantime, however, it’s nice to see a technology like 3D displays applied to improving vision rather than promoting bad films. NovaSight has been developing and promoting its tech over the last year; It also has a product that helps diagnose vision problems using a similar application of 3D display tech. You can learn more or request additional info at its website.

Oscar Health now has 400,000 members and expects to bring in $2 billion by the end of 2020

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 04:18 PM PST

Oscar Health, the upstart healthcare insurance company and technology developer, expects to have roughly 400,000 members insured under its healthcare plans, who collectively will bring in roughly $2 billion in revenue for the company by the end of 2020, according to slides of a presentation from the JP Morgan Healthcare conference seen by TechCrunch.

Those figures, based on the open-enrollment period that just closed, would represent 50% growth both in membership and revenue for the healthcare provider co-founded by Mario Schlosser and Joshua Kushner, founder of VC firm Thrive Capital and the brother of senior Trump advisor Jared Kushner.

Earlier today, Oscar announced that it was partnering with Cigna to provide services to small business owners. Commercial health insurance is a small but growing proportion of Oscar’s total membership, and it’s one area where the company hopes to expand. Essentially, Oscar can bring its technology-enabled healthcare services to small businesses in concert with the large healthcare networks that businesses are used to working with.

To date, Oscar counts around 375,000 individual members on its insurance plans, with another 20,000 coming through small-group insurance and the balance derived from Medicare Advantage customers, according to a person familiar with the company’s business.

Only three years ago, Oscar was a much smaller business with only 70,000 members after retrenching its coverage and pulling out of markets in Dallas-Fort Worth and New Jersey. From a footprint that encompassed New York, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Francisco, Oscar now expects to operate in 29 markets by the end of 2020.

Fueling that expansion is prodigious capital infusions the company has received over the past few years. In 2018 alone, Oscar raised $540 million from investors including Alphabet, Founders Fund, Capital G (Alphabet’s later-stage investment firm) and Verily, Alphabet’s investment firm focused on life sciences. In all, Oscar Health has raised $1.3 billion to fulfill its vision of providing better healthcare services through technologies like a mobile app for telemedicine, physician consultations, booking appointments, prescription refills, and a more concierge-like healthcare experience for its members.

Initially, the company took advantage of the Affordable Care Act’s creation of new marketplaces for individuals to buy health insurance when it launched in 2012, but is now looking to buoy its growth by adding more deals with insurance providers like Cigna for small businesses.

Ultimately, the company envisions a healthcare industry where employer-defined plans will disappear as more consumers turn to Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangements. In that environment, Oscar’s bespoke services — like the recent partnership with the startup Capsule Pharmacy to provide same-day prescription delivery for Oscar’s members in New York — or the company’s tight relationship with providers like the Cleveland Clinic, become competitive advantages.

Atrium lays off lawyers, explains pivot to legal tech

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 03:20 PM PST

Seventy-five-million-dollar-funded legal services startup Atrium doesn’t want to be the next company to implode as the tech industry tightens its belt and businesses chase margins instead of growth via unsustainable economics. That’s why Atrium is laying off most of its in-house lawyers.

Now, Atrium will focus on its software for startups navigating fundraising, hiring and collaborating with lawyers. Atrium plans to ramp up its startup advising services. And it’s also doubling down on its year-old network of professional service providers that help clients navigate day-to-day legal work. Atrium’s laid-off attorneys will be offered spots as preferred providers in that network if they start their own firm or join another.

“It’s a natural evolution for us to create a sustainable model,” Atrium co-founder and CEO Justin Kan tells TechCrunch. “We've made the tough decision to restructure the company to accommodate growth into new business services through our existing professional services network,” Kan wrote on Atrium’s blog. He wouldn’t give exact figures, but confirmed that more than 10 but less than 50 staffers are impacted by the change, with Atrium having a headcount of 150 as of June.

The change could make Atrium more efficient by keeping fewer expensive lawyers on staff. However, it could weaken its $500 per month Atrium membership that included some services from its in-house lawyers that might be more complicated for clients to get through its professional network. Atrium will also now have to prove the its client-lawyer collaboration software can survive in the market with firms paying for it rather than it being bundled with its in-house lawyers’ services.

“We’re making these changes to move Atrium to a sustainable model that provides high-quality services to our clients. We’re doing it proactively because we see the writing on the wall that it’s important to have a sustainable business,” Kan says. “That’s what we’re doing now. We don’t anticipate any disruption of services to clients. We’re still here.”

Justin Kan (Atrium) at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017

Founded in 2017, Atrium promised to merge software with human lawyers to provide quicker and cheaper legal services. Its technology can help automatically generate fundraising contracts, hiring offers and cap tables for startups while using machine learning to recommend procedures and clauses based on anonymized data from its clients. It also serves like a Dropbox for legal, organizing all of a startup’s documents to ensure everything’s properly signed and teams are working off the latest versions without digging through email.

The $500 per month Atrium membership offered this technology plus limited access to an in-house startup lawyer for consultation, plus access to guide books and events. Clients could pay extra if they needed special help such as with finalizing an acquisition deal, or access to its Fundraising Concierge service for aid with developing a pitch and lining up investor meetings.

Kan tells me Atrium still has some in-house lawyers on staff, which will help it honor all its existing membership contracts and power its new emphasis on advising services. He wouldn’t say if Atrium is paid any equity for advising, or just cash. The membership plan may change for future clients, so lawyer services are provided through its professional network instead.

“What we noticed was that Atrium has done a really good job of building a brand with startups. Often what they wanted from attorneys was…advice on ‘how to set my company up,’ ‘how to set my sales and marketing team up,’ ‘how to get great terms in my fundraising process,’ ” so Atrium is pursuing advising, Kan tells me. “As we sat down to look at what’s working and what’s not working, our focus has been to help founders with their super-hero story, connect them with the right providers and advisors, and then helping quarterback everything you need with our in-house specialists.”

LawSites first reported Saturday that Atrium was laying off in-house lawyers. A source says that Atrium’s lawyers only found out a week ago about the changes, and they’ve been trying to pitch Atrium clients on working with them when they leave. One Atrium client said they weren’t surprised by the changes because they got so much legal advice for just $500 per month, which they suspected meant Atrium was losing money on the lawyers’ time as it was so much less expensive than competitors. They also said these cheap legal services rather than the software platform were the main draw of Atrium, and they’re unsure if the tech on its own is valuable enough.

One concern is Atrium might not learn as quickly about which services to translate into software if it doesn’t have as many lawyers in-house. But Kan believes third-party lawyers might be more clear and direct about what they need from legal technology. “I feel like having a true market for the software you’re building is better than having an internal market,” he says. “We get feedback from the outside firms we work with. I think in some ways that’s the most valuable feedback. I think there’s a lot of false signals that can happen when you’re the both the employer and the supplier.”

It was critical for Atrium to correct course before getting any bigger, given the fundraising problems hitting late-stage startups with poor economics in the wake of the WeWork debacle and SoftBank’s troubles. Atrium had raised a $10.5 million Series A in 2017 led by General Catalyst alongside Kleiner, Founders Fund, Initialized and Kindred Ventures. Then in September 2018, it scored a huge $65 million Series B led by Andreessen Horowitz.

Raising even bigger rounds might have been impossible if Atrium was offering consultations with lawyers at far below market rate. Now it might be in a better position to attract funding. But the question is whether clients will stick with Atrium if they get less access to a lawyer for the same price, and whether the collaboration platform is useful enough for outside law firms to pay for.

Kan had gone through tough pivots in the past. He had strapped a camera to his head to create content for his live-streaming startup Justin.tv, but wisely recentered on the 3% of users letting people watch them play video games. Justin.tv became Twitch and eventually sold to Amazon for $970 million. His on-demand personal assistant startup Exec had to switch to just cleaning in 2013 before shutting down due to rotten economics.

Rather than deny the inevitable and wait until the last minute, with Atrium Kan tried to make the hard decision early.

Visa is acquiring Plaid for $5.3 billion, 2x its final private valuation

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 02:06 PM PST

Visa announced today that it is buying financial services API startup Plaid for $5.3 billion. 

Plaid develops financial services APIs. It is akin to what Stripe does for payments, but instead of facilitating payments, it helps developers share banking and other financial information more easily. It’s the kind of service that makes sense for a company like Visa.

The startup bought Quovo two years ago to move beyond just banking, and into broader financial services and investments. The idea was to provide a more holistic platform for financial services providers. As the founders wrote in a blog post at the time of the acquisition, “Financial applications have historically used Plaid primarily to interact with checking and savings accounts. In acquiring Quovo, we are extending our capabilities to a wider class of assets.”

The deal is expected to close in the next three to six months, pending regulatory approval.

The price

Plaid's exit price is a triumph for its investors, who put a combined $353.3 million into the company, according to Crunchbase data. Most important among those rounds was a $250 million infusion that came in late 2018. Index and Kleiner led that round, valuing Plaid at $2.65 billion, or 50% of its final sale price (we doubt that that ratio is a coincidence).

At the same time, it was later revealed, Mastercard and Visa also took part in the round, with TechCrunch reporting in 2019 that the two payments giants "quietly participated in the round." 

Whether those investments were large enough to grant Visa information rights isn't clear, but certainly the two credit card giants had more insight into what Plaid was doing than they did before their investment. We can presume, then, that Plaid was doing well as a private company; no one pays twice a multi-billion-dollar valuation for a firm unless they want to keep it away from their core business, or a key competitor. 

Or perhaps both, in the case of Plaid.

The Twilio comparison

Plaid is often compared to Twilio, another API-first company that sits in the background, helping other players do business. Noyo, on the early-stage front, is doing something similar with its healthcare information and insurance APIs. Stripe, as mentioned above, is similar but in the payment space. The model has proved lucrative for Twilio, which has soared as a public company; Plaid's huge exit will add extra shine to the startup varietal.

However, unlike Twilio, Plaid was bought while still private, depriving us of a good look into its figures. We anticipate that they would show growth in high-margin revenues. That's something that all companies, public and private, covet.

For Visa, however, there's likely something more to the deal. Namely, it now has a view into scads of high-growth, private companies that are reinventing the world in which Visa operates. Buying Plaid is insurance against disruption for Visa, and also a way to know who to buy. 

But for today, it's a win for Plaid shareholders (including employees).

Have we hit peak smartphone?

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 12:02 PM PST

Last Halloween, we broke down some "good news" from a Canalys report: the smartphone industry saw one-percent year-over-year growth — not exactly the sort of thing that sparks strong consumer confidence.

In short, 2019 sucked for smartphones, as did the year before. After what was nearly an ascendant decade, sales petered off globally with few exceptions. Honestly, there's no need to cherrypick this stuff; the numbers this year have been lackluster at best for a majority of companies in a majority of markets.

For just the most recent example, let's turn to a report from Gartner that dropped late last month. The numbers focus specifically on the third quarter, but they're pretty indicative of what we've been seeing from the industry of late, with a 0.4 percent drop in sales. It's a fairly consistent story, quarter after quarter for a couple of years now.

Transforming #MeToo into the industry’s first investor clause

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 11:25 AM PST

"Keep your head high and give them hell."

My grandma, Opal Thompson, once wrote that to me in a letter, like the dyed-in-the-wool, strong Texan woman she was. It is now tattooed on my forearm for all to see. Memories of her powerful presence and great advice have been a North Star on my path to entrepreneurship, as well as the kick in the pants I have needed along the way to confidently go toe-to-toe with nonbelievers in my industry. "Honey, you need to work harder and smarter than men and get ‘er done," she once told me. It may sound folksy, but it's gotten me to where I am today.

Last October, my fearless cofounder Carolyn Rodz and I "gave them hell" with an announcement of which I couldn't be prouder: our small business growth platform Alice just closed a Series A round of funding. That's a major accomplishment that I think is newsworthy in its own right. But, the headline is even better. We required a morality clause in the funding agreement, legally demanding repercussions in the event of racial, gender, or sexual orientation discrimination.

As we were pitching Alice for funding, Carolyn and I went back to the fundamentals of why we started Alice for small business owners in the first place. Our platform exists to break down barriers to growth for our community of more than 100,000 business owners — especially entrepreneurs who are women, veterans, people of color, or members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Whether that means access to tips and best practices or funding opportunities of which they otherwise wouldn't be aware, our job is to help small business owners "get 'er done" — whatever that means to them. For us, there is an immense responsibility in being a comprehensive resource that small business owners trust to help them grow their ventures. We're always encouraging our owners to try new approaches and go big in every aspect of their development, and that includes pushing owners to challenge institutions that stand in the way of their successes.

One institution that has long stood in our way is the silent perpetuation of discriminatory and predatory behavior by influential investors. While we've seen a rise of so-called "Weinstein" clauses drafted in the wake of the watershed #MeToo movement two years ago, most of those cases refer to protections for investors against investee executives who have outstanding allegations.

This is an important step in the right direction of instilling accountability at all levels of business. But we were left asking ourselves, "what happens when an investor is the one #MeToo'd?"

We at Alice were troubled by the lack of legal consequences for key decision makers, from board members to venture capitalists, given the reputational harm their actions could inflict on the businesses they touch. So to protect the reputation we have worked so hard to build for Alice and to protect the business owners who seek us for help every day from across the globe, Carolyn and I decided to lead by example and take a stand with our own investors. We took the "Weinstein" clause and flipped it, giving our board members the agency to use corporate governance mechanisms to vote for removal of any board member in the event of a #MeToo event, racial discrimination, or sexual orientation discrimination incident. Simply put, Alice and its investors are not afraid to show you the door if your behavior doesn't serve the best interests of our community of entrepreneurs.

Including this provision was crucial to our vision for the company as we continue to grow. It echoes our core values of inclusivity within our online business community. And, as our users seek venture capital, we want them to know that they have the right to stipulate what should be common sense legal protections while still securing the funding they need. We have provided the clause openly here so everyone can take advantage — and not have to pay the legal bills we did.

Making sure that this information is available to anyone who wants it is part of our commitment to ensuring that everyone in business gets a fair shake. To have other founders include morality clauses like ours in their funding agreements is as important to me as the fact that we did it ourselves. We must make this a trend.

Our morality clause is also important to us as we strive to improve the broader business community and the way we all seek funding. Small businesses represent nearly 95 percent of all U.S. employers and support the careers of more than 50 percent of Americans.

But, while the small business landscape is changing into a New Majority, with more women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ folks starting businesses every day, the demographic of venture capitalists is much slower to change. To date, 89 percent of venture capital deciders are still men, and of all the investments they make, only 2 percent of them are in female-owned businesses. Less than half of a percent of women who receive venture capital are Latina, and the representation is even worse for other minority communities of entrepreneurs.

By now, Carolyn (who is Latina herself) and I have learned that we have to make our presence known in a business world that has often excluded us. And as more #MeToo behaviors come to light across industries, we'll be able to protect our businesses and entrepreneurs making lasting impacts on our communities.

As we look to the next chapter of Alice and its expansion into new markets in 2020, we will continue to share our unique funding story with hopes that other small businesses will be inspired and empowered to do the same.

Venture capitalists be warned: the New Majority of entrepreneurs is here to stay, and our morality clause is just the beginning of a new path to small business success.

I think Grandma Opal would be proud.

Google brings IBM Power Systems to its cloud

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 10:55 AM PST

As Google Cloud looks to convince more enterprises to move to its platform, it needs to be able to give businesses an onramp for their existing legacy infrastructure and workloads that they can’t easily replace or move to the cloud. A lot of those workloads run on IBM Power Systems with their Power processors, and, until now, IBM was essentially the only vendor that offered cloud-based Power systems. Now, however, Google is also getting into this game by partnering with IBM to launch IBM Power Systems on Google Cloud.

“Enterprises looking to the cloud to modernize their existing infrastructure and streamline their business processes have many options,” writes Kevin Ichhpurani, Google Cloud’s corporate VP for its global ecosystem, in today’s announcement. “At one end of the spectrum, some organizations are re-platforming entire legacy systems to adopt the cloud. Many others, however, want to continue leveraging their existing infrastructure while still benefiting from the cloud's flexible consumption model, scalability, and new advancements in areas like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and analytics.”

Power Systems support obviously fits in well here, given that many companies use them for mission-critical workloads based on SAP and Oracle applications and databases. With this, they can take those workloads and slowly move them to the cloud, without having to re-engineer their applications and infrastructure. Power Systems on Google Cloud is obviously integrated with Google’s services and billing tools.

This is very much an enterprise offering, without a published pricing sheet. Chances are, given the cost of a Power-based server, you’re not looking at a bargain, per-minute price here.

Because IBM has its own cloud offering, it’s a bit odd to see it work with Google to bring its servers to a competing cloud — though it surely wants to sell more Power servers. The move makes perfect sense for Google Cloud, though, which is on a mission to bring more enterprise workloads to its platform. Any roadblock the company can remove works in its favor, and, as enterprises get comfortable with its platform, they’ll likely bring other workloads to it over time.

Another former Kleiner partner launches a fund; this time it’s Lynne Chou O’Keefe with Define Ventures

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 10:52 AM PST

Kleiner is known for many things. Among them, increasingly, is the growing number of people who’ve logged time at the firm, then struck out on their own to hang their own shingles.

The latest among them: Lynne Chou O’Keefe, who joined Kleiner Perkins in 2013 as a partner in its life sciences group, where she focused on digital health and connected devices. Today, Chou O’Keefe is taking the wraps off a new firm, Define Ventures, and announcing a debut fund with $87 million in capital commitments.

We’d first written about the fund back in October, when we spied an SEC filing for it. As we reported then, Chou O’Keefe spent six years with Abbott Vascular, a division of the healthcare giant Abbott, as a global product manager and later as a global marketing director. She also logged a couple of years with Guidant (which is part of Boston Scientific and Abbott Labs) and, before that, worked in venture with Apax Partners.

That SEC filing listed a target of $65 million. But Chou O’Keefe, with whom we chatted on Friday, suggested that interest in the fund was even greater than imagined, thanks in part to investors she got to know through her work as a former board member of Livongo, a now publicly traded company that monitors and coaches patients with chronic diseases like diabetes.

Unsurprisingly, she says founders are also excited about her new firm, suggesting they’d been looking for a firm that doesn’t just dabble in digital health but that focuses expressly on it, as does Define Ventures .

“A lot of founders have said, ‘It’s so nice not to have to explain the space to you.’ Having true partnerships is something they’ve needed and something you can do with a sector-focused fund.”

Define may be announcing its final fund close today, but the firm, which is interested in telemedicine startups and teams focused on chronic disease management, among others, has been actively investing in startups over the last year.

Among its bets so far: HIMS, the direct-to-consumer digital health and wellness company focused on men; Tia, a startup that plans to open membership-only women’s health clinics across the country, after opening its first location in New York last March; Verana Health, a clinical data startup that initially focused on ophthalmology but has been expanding into other areas; Unite Us, a care coordination software maker that looks to connect social services with healthcare; and Lightship, a startup that’s working to find and connect patients with the companies that need them for their clinical trials.

Though the lone general partner, Chou O’Keefe isn’t running the fund single-handedly. Helping her is principal Chirag Shah, who was most recently a vice president with Imagine Health, a Utah-based company that builds custom teams of healthcare providers for employers with large concentrations of employees in a single geography. He has also worked as a senior manager at the publicly traded company Castlight Health and as an associate with The Carlyle Group.

The two had numerous mutual connections, says Chou O’Keefe, adding that they plan to invest in between 15 and 18 startups altogether from their debut fund, writing checks that range from $750,000 on the earlier side to upwards of $6 million.

Whether Define proves smart to focus more narrowly on digital health will take time to know, but certainly, there’s growing interest in virtual healthcare across the board. According to one research outfit, Grand View Research, the global digital health market size is expected to reach $500 billion by 2025, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of roughly 27% between now and then.

In the meantime, Chou O’Keefe becomes part of a group of former Kleiner investors who are now in charge of their own destiny. Among other Kleiner alums who’ve since co-founded their own shops is Beth Seidenberg of Westlake Village Biopartners, Chi-Hua Chien of Goodwater Capital, Trae Vassallo of Defy, Mary Meeker of Bond and Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures, to name just a handful.

Wear your helmet, concludes new study showing electronic scooter injuries have nearly tripled in the last four years

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 10:27 AM PST

Taking a ride on an electronic scooter soon? Wear your helmet! According to a recent study published in JAMA Surgery, not wearing headgear or taking other precautions while riding is increasingly sending young people to the hospital — leading to more than 40,000 broken bones, head wounds and other injuries.

Unfortunately, less than 5% of riders in the study were found to be wearing their helmet, leading to nearly one-third of patients having a head injury. That’s more than double the rate of head injuries experienced by bicyclists.

The rise is likely due to the increasingly popular adoption of scooters among young people in urban areas. Electronic scooter injuries for those aged 18-34 increased overall by 222%, and injuries sending riders to the hospital rose by 365% from 2014-2018, with the most dramatic increase in the last year. Close to two-thirds of those with scooter injuries were young men, and most were not wearing head protection.

“There was a high proportion of people with head injuries, which can be very dangerous,” said Dr. Benjamin Breyer, an associate professor of urology and chief of urology at UCSF partner hospital Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. “Altogether, the near doubling of e-scooter trauma from 2017 to 2018 indicates that there should be better rider safety measures and regulation.”

Right now there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of requirements for head gear while scootering in California, thanks to a change in the law that went into effect at the beginning of last year. Those over the age of 18 who want to ride without a helmet are free and legal to do so in California. Several other states also don’t require helmet-wearing while on a motorized scooter.

The laws may need an update after recent revelations, but in the meantime, perhaps the scooter companies themselves can help ensure safety precautions. We reached out to several electronic scooter companies and only heard back from a few about this issue. Lime tells TechCrunch it is committed to safety by encouraging users to wear a helmet, offering discounts to buy one and giving away more than 250,000 as part of a campaign. Bird and others also encourage helmet-wearing on their site, and some companies offer helmets for rent at another location.

But the promise of scooters is their convenience. You don’t have to carry anything. You just click on the app and hop on your ride. It’s too easy to just hop on a scooter without prior planning or helmet in tow.

So what’s the solution? Rider responsibility at this point. You’re free to take your chances but, though inconvenient, wearing your helmet on that scooter ride could prevent a serious accident.

“It’s been shown that helmet use is associated with a lower risk of head injury,” said first author Nikan K. Namiri, a medical student at the UCSF School of Medicine. “We strongly believe that helmets should be worn, and e-scooter manufacturers should encourage helmet use by making them more easily accessible.”

 

Building long-tail success after a breakout game

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 10:07 AM PST

For many gamers, Pokémon GO was an exciting fad that ate up their summer and was just another chapter in a franchise. A lot of these people would already treat the game like some sort of nostalgic mid-2010s hit, but the game is minting cash from users at a more expansive rate that ever. A report in Sensor Tower this week estimated that 2019 was Niantic’s best year to date in terms of in-app purchase revenue from Pokémon GO users, noting that the company likely pulled in nearly $900 million according to its estimates.

The rate of user revenue is still lower now than it was following launch, Pokémon GO launched in just a few markets at the beginning of July 2016 and Sensor Tower estimates its revenue reached $832 million in the final six months of that year. But with higher year-over-year totals compared to 2017 and 2018, the estimates do suggest that Niantic’s aggressive updates to gameplay and its in-game social features helped boost revenues.

The truth is, every couple years there’s a new gaming title that accumulates users at a startling pace. What happens after the press cycle churns and the game is left to its own devices is where the great studios prove themselves. Niantic is in a cushy position as its breakout title fills its coffers, but the company still has some soul-searching ahead of it as it simultaneously aims to chase a follow-on hit and a developer platform.

Disrupting Space: A new event from TechCrunch

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 09:16 AM PST

Every radical turn in technology history has its great entrepreneur, and for space that person is SpaceX founder Elon Musk. His unswerving conviction that "space must be affordable" led him to disrupt the old-school space launch industry with reusable Falcon 9 boosters, an achievement that has inspired hundreds of entrepreneurs and investors to take up the challenge of space.

In 2018 alone, venture investments in space topped $2 billion for the first time, and 187 investors wrote checks to 90 startups, according to Bryce Space and Technology.

Space represents the most extreme business and technical challenges imaginable, but SpaceX's $30 billion valuation today is a stunning example of what space startups can achieve. Add to that the incomparable allure of space, to "boldly go where no man has gone before," and who can look away?

In that spirit, TechCrunch is pleased to announce our first TC Sessions: Space, a single-day show dedicated to this fast-emerging startup category. The show will be held at Gateway Sheraton Hotel in Los Angeles on June 25, right in the neighborhood of America's most powerful players in space, including Boeing, Northrop, Lockheed, Raytheon, Teledyne, The Aerospace Corporation, the U.S. Air Force and, of course, SpaceX. 

Darrell Etherington, Jon Shieber and Devin Coldewey have led TechCrunch's coverage on space startups and they are already working hard on a stellar programming line-up that will feature top founders and investors, as well as key players from the industry's top established companies, NASA, The Aerospace Corporation, the U.S. Air Force and more. 

They will lead a day of fireside chats and panel discussions on the big topics facing the space category at this historic moment, when technology and market developments are converging to bring about dramatic advances, from sci-fi-worthy manned space travel and colonization, to revolutions in broadband communications, earth observation data, manufacturing in space and, yes, even conduct of war in space. 

In addition to Main Stage programming, TC Sessions: Space will feature breakout sessions on specialized topics, as well as audience Q&A with Main Stage speakers and an exhibit area for partners as well as startups. 

And to top off the show, TechCrunch will also feature a space startup pitch-off featuring five early-stage founders chosen by the editors from a large application pool. Applications open today; apply here

You can grab your ticket for a front-row seat to this event for the early-bird price of $349. If you are interested in bringing a group of five or more from your company, you'll get an automatic 20% discount. We even have discounts for the government/military, nonprofit/NGOs and students currently attending university. Grab your tickets at these reduced rates before prices increase.

PRO TIP: Annual or multi-year subscribers to TC's Extra Crunch premium content also get 20% off all events that TechCrunch hosts. If you are a current Extra Crunch subscriber, you can find out how to redeem your discount on this event here.

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Quibi execs Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman explain their big vision

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 09:15 AM PST

Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Quibi executives — including CEO Meg Whitman and founder/chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg — took the stage in a keynote laying out their vision for the mobile video service.

Katzenberg is a longtime Hollywood executive who led Walt Disney Studios during its animation renaissance in the late ’80s and early ’90s before co-founding Dreamworks Animation. Whitman worked at both Disney and Dreamworks, but she’s best known as the former CEO of eBay and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

So it’s fitting that they presented Quibi as a company that exists at the intersection of Hollywood and Silicon Valley — as Whitman put it, creating “the very first entertainment technology platform optimized for mobile viewing.”

Away co-founder Steph Korey, who allegedly fostered a toxic culture, is back

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 09:06 AM PST

Away co-founder Steph Korey, the one who stepped down as CEO following reports of her role in creating a toxic culture, is back at the helm of the luggage startup, The New York Times reports.

The original plan was for Lululemon COO Stuart Haselden to take over today and, in a way, he will. Though, Haselden will now be co-CEO along with Korey. In an interview with the NYT, Korey said the board changed its mind after realizing it wasn’t the right move.

This all comes after The Verge’s explosive investigation into Away’s toxic workplace. Since then, the company has hired a lawyer, Elizabeth M. Locke, though has not filed a lawsuit. If Locke’s name sounds familiar, it may be because she’s the one who successfully sued Rolling Stone for defamation regarding an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia.

“Steph Korey responding to our reporting by saying her behavior and comments were 'wrong, plain and simple' and then choosing to step down as CEO speaks for itself,” The Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel said in a statement to the NYT.

Following The Verge's story, which described a workplace where Korey was known for berating employees via Slack, Korey tweeted last month that she was "making things right" at the company.

"I'm not proud of my behavior in those moments, and I'm sincerely sorry for what I said and how I said it," she tweeted. "It was wrong, plain and simple."

She added that she had also been working with an executive coach since those incidents the report highlighted. According to The Wall Street Journal, Away had been looking for Korey's replacement since the spring.

In a Slack note sent to employees today, Korey said what happened in December created a lot of confusion, and more questions than answers. She added that it “unleashed a social media mob — not just on me, but also on many of you.”

At this point, Away’s plan is to consider legal action against The Verge and try to improve lines of communication within the company.

Adobe Experience Manager now offered as cloud-native SaaS application

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 08:48 AM PST

Adobe announced today that Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) is now available as a cloud-native SaaS application. Prior to this, it was available on premises or as a managed service, but it wasn’t pure cloud-native.

Obviously being available as a cloud service makes sense for customers, and offers all of the value you would get from any cloud service. Customers can now access all of the tools in AEM without having to worry about maintaining, managing or updating it, giving the marketing team more flexibility, agility and ongoing access to the latest updates.

This value proposition did not escape Loni Stark, Adobe’s senior director of strategy and product marketing. “It creates a compelling offer for mid-size companies and enterprises that are increasingly transforming to adopt advanced digital tools but need more simplicity and flexibility to support their changing business models,” Stark said in a statement.

AEM provides a number of capabilities, including managing the customer experience in real time. Having real-time access to data means you can deliver the products, services and experiences that make sense based on what you know about the customer in any given moment.

What’s more, you can meet customers wherever they happen to be. Today, it could be the company website, mobile app or other channel. Companies need to be flexible and tailor content to the specific channel, as well as what they know about the customer.

It’s interesting to note that AEM is based on the purchase of Day Software in 2010. That company originally developed a web content management product, but over time it evolved to become Adobe Experience Manager, and has been layering on functionality to meet an experience platform’s requirements since. Today, the product includes tools for content management, asset management and digital forms.

The company made the announcement today at NRF 2020, a huge retail conference taking place in New York City this week.

Tesla surges past $500 on back of analyst upgrade, China momentum

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 08:42 AM PST

Today in regular trading, shares of American electric car manufacturer Tesla surged past the $500 mark.

Tesla, perhaps the most famous electric vehicle company in the world, has had a tumultuous last 12 months on the public markets. The company’s shares have traded as low as $176.99 in the past 52 weeks, and, as has high as $507.50 today.

The company is worth $507.28 per share at the moment, valuing Tesla at $91.38 billion according to Google Finance. As is often pointed out, Tesla is worth more than Ford and General Motors combined. In a slightly more exotic formulation, Tesla is worth just under 64 times as much as Aston Martin.

What’s going on?

Why is Telsa surging? We presume that it’s not the latest from Musk, that “Teslas will soon talk and make fart noises,” according to CNBC. (At least we hope not.)

Instead, an investor upgrade this morning could be the key reason for the company's gains today. As IBD points out, the new target from Oppenheimer is over $600 per share.

That’s today’s runup explained. The morning’s rally, however, is tied to the company’s rising growing operations in China and global delivery figures.

China’s automotive market is moribund and shrinking at the moment, and the Chinese government’s incentives for electric cars have fallen. Small issues, it appears, for Tesla bulls. (Tesla’s success allowed NIO to go public, a China-based electric car company; another is hoping to follow in its footsteps.)

Since delivering its first China-produced cars earlier this month, Tesla shares have shot higher. After cracking $400 in early December, Tesla is now up another 20%.

There is more good news to point to at Telsa, like its recent car delivery results. As TechCrunch’s own Kirsten Korosec reported earlier this month:

Tesla said Friday that it delivered 367,500 electric vehicles in 2019 — 50% more than the previous year — a record-breaking figure largely supported by sales of the cheaper Model 3. More than one-third of those deliveries — about 112,000 vehicles — occurred in the fourth quarter. The electric automaker reported production also grew 10% from the previous quarter, to 105,000 vehicles.

That said, the company’s detractors point to mix shift harming year-over-year revenues, and lower-margin cars taking over its sales volume. Maybe.

Today, however, the longs have it and shorts are eating their, well, pants.

Grab ’em quick: More tickets released for 3rd Annual Winter Party at Galvanize

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 08:30 AM PST

You better move fast if you want to party with us and 1,000 of your closest startup entrepreneur and investor friends. We just released a fresh round of tickets to our 3rd Annual Winter Party at Galvanize in San Francisco on February 7. Tickets are limited, and they fly off the shelf faster than you can say seed funding. Don't get shut out — buy your tickets here.

What can you do at the Winter Party? Plenty. Commune with the Silicon Valley community over craft beer and signature cocktails. Nosh on delectable appetizers. Converse and connect in a fun, relaxed setting. You never know who you'll meet, but you can be sure to find influencers eager to meet and greet.

Demo your startup and introduce your genius product to the Valley's finest thinkers, makers and investors. We have a very limited number of tables available — only two demo tables left — so get cracking. FYI: The price of a demo table includes four tickets to the party. Bring your crew and maximize your networking mojo.

What else goes down at the Winter Party? Lots of laughter, party games and activities — killer karaoke, anyone? — and plenty of photo ops. You might even score door prizes, like TC swag and tickets to Disrupt SF, our flagship event coming in September 2020. We'll toss in a few surprises that night, too. Sweet!

Here's the Winter Party lowdown.

  • When: Friday, February 7, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • Where: Galvanize, 44 Tehama St., San Francisco, CA 94105
  • Ticket price: $85
  • Demo tables: $1,500 (buy tickets and tables here)

Remember, we release tickets in batches. If you don’t score a ticket this time, keep your eyes peeled for the next round. Don't miss out!

Come to the 3rd Annual Winter Party at Galvanize and hang out with your people. Enjoy the food, the drinks, the fun and the opportunity to expand your network in a relaxed setting. We'll see you in February!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at the 3rd Annual Winter Party at Galvanize? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Casper’s IPO could be a bellwether for unprofitable startups in the post-WeWork era

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 08:20 AM PST

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

Today we’re working to figure something out, namely the tradeoffs that D2C unicorn (and soon to be public company) Casper faces as it seeks to balance growth and profitability. And then we’re going to stack it next to its most obvious public comp, Purple, to figure out what it might be worth.

This is going to be a little more wonky than usual, but I can’t help myself. Let’s go.

Profit v. Growth

Every growing company faces a tradeoff in growth and profitability. The faster a company grows, generally speaking, the lower its profitability. In reverse, companies that grow more slowly can focus on wringing profits from existing operations. Companies that grow quickly while generating profit are rare (the Zooms of the world).

The tension between growth and profit is so well-known and understood that startups are held to a rule regarding the pair, called the Rule of 40. (In the post-WeWork IPO era, get used to hearing about this sort of thing more often.)

Google Cloud launches new solutions for retailers

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 08:00 AM PST

It’s no secret that the Google Cloud management team has decided to focus its efforts on a select number of enterprise verticals like healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, energy and life sciences. Retail, too, has long been a growth market for the company, especially as Amazon’s competitors are looking to run their services on clouds that are not AWS. Current customers include the likes of Kohl’s, Lowe’s and France’s Carrefour. It’s maybe no surprise, then, that Google today used NRF 2020, one of the largest retail events, to launch a number of updates to its services for retailers.

Some of the announcements today focus on specific vertical editions of existing services, including Google Cloud API Management for Retail, powered by Apigee, or Google Cloud Anthos for Retail, which specifically targets retailers that want to modernize their store operations and infrastructure. There also is Google Cloud Search for Retail, powered by Google Search, which promises to bring better product search results to a retailer’s applications.

In addition, Google also is expanding to more customers programs like its Retail Acceleration Program and making its white-glove Customer Reliability Engineering service, which helps retailers better plan for and manage their peak shopping days, available to more customers.

What’s maybe more interesting, though, is new services like Google Cloud 1:1 Engagement for Retail, “a blueprint and best-practice guide on how to build these types of data-driven solutions effectively and with less up-front cost.” The idea here is to help retailers make use of Google’s big data platform to build personalization and recommendation models to better understand and engage their customers.

Also new is a buy optimization and demand forecasting service that aims to help retailers better plan their logistics operations.

We’ll likely see Google use a similar playbook for more verticals over time. We know that Google Cloud has ambitions to become the No. 2 cloud provider within a few years, and, to do so, it needs to get large enterprises — and especially those that are still trying to figure out their cloud strategies — to opt for its services.

Samsung acquires TeleWorld Solutions to help build 5G infrastructure

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 07:45 AM PST

Samsung this morning announced that it has completed the acquisition of TeleWorld Solutions. The Virginia-based telecommunications company provides wireless networking and consulting services. It's TWS's 5G solutions that Samsung is clearly the most interested in as part of this deal.

The electronics giant says it plans to leverage TWS's services to help U.S.-based networks build out the next generation of wireless.

"The acquisition of TWS will enable us to meet mobile carriers' growing needs for improving their 4G and 5G networks, and eventually create new opportunities to enhance our service capabilities to our customers," Samsung EVP Paul Kyungwhoon Cheun said in a release. "Samsung will continue to drive innovation in communications technology, while providing optimization services for network deployments that accelerate U.S. 5G network expansion."

The deal will make TWS a wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung, allowing the brand to continue to offer its consulting services to existing clients. That last bit is important, so as to not leave companies in the lurch over the course of the next year, as 5G becomes an increasing focus beyond just smartphone connectivity.

Equity Monday: Away’s CEO plans comeback while SaaS valuations rise and epiFI raises

Posted: 13 Jan 2020 07:39 AM PST

Good morning friends, and welcome back to TechCrunch’s Equity Monday, a short-form audio hit to kickstart your week. Regular Equity episodes still drop Friday morning, so if you’ve listened to the show over the years don’t worry — we’re not changing the main show. (Here’s last week’s episode with Danny Crichton, which was a lot of fun.)

What was on our minds this morning? Brian Heater’s CES overview of sleeptech from the weekend, which made the argument that not all gadgets are bad for our sleep, even if there is some irony in using tech to help cure our tech-addled brains. Here’s to something a bit more substantial than blackout shades.

Also, Facebook closed out last week after setting some record valuations — so much for the techlash — and Casper’s IPO filing landed to much impact just as everyone was trying to get away from their desks and onto their couches.

Looking at the coming week, earnings season is upon us, but not quite yet for companies that we care about, the recently public tech and venture-backed firms of the world. There are some big names that are reporting this month, but over the next five days expect things to be a bit quiet. Pending news, of course.

And in terms of the Twitter forecast, with the CEO of Away coming back to her company as early as today, expect your timeline to feature one topic in particular. Can you guess what it is?

This morning we also took a look at two funding rounds:

  • Former Google Pay execs raise $13.2M to build neo-banking platform for millennials in India (TechCrunch)
  • Legalpad Raises $10M To Help Immigrant Entrepreneurs With The Visa Process (Crunchbase News)

And we wrapped with notes on the Casper IPO filing, and why it’s attracting so much commentary, and criticism.

Hit play, and let’s get this week started!

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.