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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News


This particle accelerator fits on the head of a pin

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 03:57 PM PST

If you know nothing else about particle accelerators, you probably know that they’re big — sometimes miles long. But a new approach from Stanford researchers has led to an accelerator shorter from end to end than a human hair is wide.

The general idea behind particle accelerators is that they’re a long line of radiation emitters that smack the target particle with radiation at the exact right time to propel it forward a little faster than before. The problem is that depending on the radiation you use and the speed and resultant energy you want to produce, these things can get real big, real fast.

That also limits their applications; You can’t exactly put a particle accelerator in your lab or clinic if they’re half a kilometer long and take megawatts to run. Something smaller could be useful, even if it was nowhere near those power levels — and that’s what these Stanford scientists set out to make.

“We want to miniaturize accelerator technology in a way that makes it a more accessible research tool,” explained project lead Jelena Vuckovic in a Stanford news release.

But this wasn’t designed like a traditional particle accelerator like the Large Hadron Collider or one at collaborator SLAC’s National Accelerator Laboratory. Instead of engineering it from the bottom up, they fed their requirements to an “inverse design algorithm” that produced the kind of energy pattern they needed from the infrared radiation emitters they wanted to use.

That’s partly because infrared radiation has a much shorter wavelength than something like microwaves, meaning the mechanisms themselves can be made much smaller — perhaps too small to adequately design the ordinary way.

The algorithm’s solution to the team’s requirements led to an unusual structure that looks more like a Rorschach test than a particle accelerator. But these blobs and channels are precisely contoured to guide infrared laser light pulse in such a way that they push electrons along the center up to a significant proportion of the speed of light.

The resulting “accelerator on a chip” is only a few dozen microns across, making it comfortably smaller than a human hair and more than possible to stack a few on the head of a pin. A couple thousand of them, really.

And it will take a couple thousand to get the electrons up to the energy levels needed to be useful — but don’t worry, that’s all part of the plan. The chips are fully integrated but can be put in series easily to create longer assemblies that produce larger powers.

These won’t be rivaling macro-size accelerators like SLAC’s or the Large Hadron Collider, but they could be much more useful for research and clinical applications where planet-destroying power levels aren’t required. For instance, a chip-sized electron accelerator might be able to direct radiation into a tumor surgically rather than through the skin.

The team’s work is published in a paper today in the journal Science.

How to tell if your startup deserves press coverage

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 12:37 PM PST

Tech reporters’ inboxes are filled with garbage pitches from misguided founders who assume that the smallest milestone warrants a write-up.

Founders dream of seeing their company’s name in headlines without knowing how that might help or hurt them. But with the proper intentions, strategy and timing, they can score press that makes their imagined future look inevitable.

Step one: accept the fact that you don’t get to decide what’s newsworthy.

Inside your company, you may have total control, but working with reporters requires abdicating that iron grip. They can’t be intimidated or paid off, but you can collaborate with them — take their success into account alongside your own, recognize their duty to serve the public, and you’ll learn to pitch like a pro.

Here we’ll discuss different reasons why you might want press, why maybe you shouldn’t, and how to understand what reporters consider newsworthy. You’ll learn about the three big benefits of coverage, what’s changed about readership over the past decade, the most common mistake in startup PR and how to combine your milestones into a compelling story.

In part two of this ExtraCrunch guide, I’ll explore how to pick specific publications and reporters to work with. Future posts will examine how to hire help with PR, formulate a pitch, deliver it to reporters, prepare for interviews and conduct an announcement. If you have more questions or ideas for ExtraCrunch posts, feel free to reach out to me via Twitter or elsewhere.

Why should you believe me? I'm editor-at-large for TechCrunch, where I've written 4,000 articles about early-stage startups and tech giants. For a decade, I've reviewed startup pitches via email and Twitter, at demo days for accelerators like Y Combinator and on stage as a judge of startup competitions. From warm introductions to cold calls, I've seen what gets reporters' attention, why some pitches are immediately rejected and how stories become enduring narratives supporting companies as they grow.

Let's start with why you should want startup press in the first place.

Three realistic goals for press coverage

What’s your objective? It won’t matter to the reporters or the readers, and it won’t get you written about. But you need goals to work towards even if you never speak them aloud in an interview.

First, you should know what you're giving up. To run an effective PR process, you'll be distracted from building product and running your business. An agency can help, but founders and key employees must still put in time to meet with the PR team to define and refine positioning and messaging, offer product updates and set priorities.

Talking to the public will expose your secrets to potential competitors who could use the info to copy what's working, learn from your mistakes and exploit the markets and opportunities you're not. It can also bring in new users or customers before you're ready, or before there's enough adoption around them to make your product work. If press exposes you to a scattered cadre of early adopters around the world who have no one to use your app with, they might never give you a second chance, so you have to grow thoughtfully.

There are three big benefits you can get from startup press, but perhaps not in the ranking you'd assume.

After 2019’s reality check, what’s ahead for driverless cars in 2020?

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 11:55 AM PST

If 2018 was when the industry was shocked into sobriety, 2019 would be a year when pragmatism and the challenges of trying to develop and scale a technology got a lot more real. The upshot: the industry is in the midst of its adolescent years, where change can occur suddenly, causing confusion and awkward encounters. It’s a time when others develop far faster than their peers.

And this coming year promises some of the same.

Cracks in the autonomous vehicle industry — concealed by quixotic zeal and a seemingly bottomless bucket of venture and corporate capital — became too conspicuous to ignore in the opening months of 2018.

A high-profile trade secrets case that pitted Waymo against Uber revealed a cutthroat and reckless side of the burgeoning industry. Just a few weeks later, a self-driving Uber vehicle killed a pedestrian while testing on public roads in Tempe, Arizona, leading Uber to immediately halt all testing. And while other companies only temporarily paused testing of their own, the incident cast a pall over an industry that aspires to make roads safer.

Flashy self-driving car demos slowed to a trickle and some grumbled to TechCrunch about raising capital. Timelines for commercial deployments of robotaxis got fuzzier. Research and advisory firm Gartner released its annual Hype Cycle chart and autonomous vehicles were shown entering into the trough of disillusionment. 

And so the chatter and announcements at CES 2019 — the giant tech show held each January in Las Vegas — shouldn’t have surprised anyone. It did anyway. Suddenly, or so it seemed, buzz words weren’t “driverless” and “robotaxis,” they were “safety” and “advanced driver assistance systems,” a less-capable level of automation that is found in new sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks.

This renewed focus on ADAS, along with flurry of partner-swapping, strategic deals and the beginning of consolidation in the industry would be the overarching themes in 2019. This year, with CES 2020 just days away, the ADAS love story will continue along with consolidation and a slow march towards limited robotaxi deployment.

ADAS resets industry expectations

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang set the stage for one of the themes at CES and the rest of 2019 when he introduced a Level 2+ system called Nvidia Drive AutoPilot. The new product was introduced as a reference platform that automakers and suppliers like Continental and ZF would be able to use to bring more sophisticated automated driving features — not full self-driving — into their production vehicles.

The reveal felt like whiplash to some industry watchers.

Just two years before, Jensen was on the CES stage touting how Nvidia’s tech would lead to Level 4 autonomy by 2020. Level 4 is a designation by the Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE) that means the vehicle can handle all aspects of driving in certain conditions without human intervention. Level 2 systems, in which two primary functions are automated, still have a human driver in the loop at all times.

“The idea of full autonomy went a bit behind the curtain in 2019 and ADAS took more of center stage,” Jeremy Acevedo, senior manager of insights at Edmunds told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

Nvidia was hardly alone. The shift was driven partly by technical and regulatory challenges for self-driving car developers. It was also in response to demand from automakers looking for nearer-term solutions that would improve the technical capabilities of consumer passenger vehicles.

It was a vindication of sorts for Intel, which had spent more than $15 billion back in 2017 to acquire Mobileye, a leading automotive developer and supplier of sensor systems that help prevent collisions. Mobileye, which operates as a subsidiary within Intel, believes that Level 4 or Level 5 (completely driverless in any and all conditions) can’t be reached without going through lower levels of automation first.

“You started to see a lot of Level 2+ kind of talk from players that were looking at platforms that were supposed to be for full autonomy now being repurposed for higher end ADAS,” said Jack Weast, a senior principal engineer at Intel and vice president of autonomous vehicle standards for Mobileye. “I think it was both a reflection of the realization that ‘hey, this is a little harder than we thought, to make something good enough to remove the human,’ and public perception.”

As a result, Weast thinks 2020 will be the year that ADAS-equipped vehicles will become the new normal. Customers will become more familiar with automated driving technology, which will hopefully lessen fear around fully autonomous vehicles, Weast added.

There’s already evidence that this has started. Consumers are opting to pay more for driver assistance and other “content” features in vehicles, according to Edmunds’ Acevedo.

In 2019, consumers spent on average $10,042 more than the base price of a vehicle, a 10.4% increase from the previous year. Look back a few more years and the gap is even wider. Consumers in 2019 spent 36.2% more on “content” add-ons in vehicles like ADAS compared to 2014.

And that’s been a boon for suppliers. Bosch generated 2 billion euros in sales from driver assistance systems in 2019, a 12% increase from the previous year, according to Kay Stepper, vice president at Bosch who heads the company’s driver assistance and automated driving regional business unit.

“That doesn’t even include what we’ve seen a renewed interest in, which is the Level 2 and Level 3 systems that will be rolled out in the next several years,” Stepper said.

Capital and consolidation

Daily Crunch: California’s privacy law takes effect

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 11:28 AM PST

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. The California Consumer Privacy Act officially takes effect

The CCPA is now officially the law in California, although there’s a grace period of six months before regulators penalize any tech companies that sell your personal data without your permission.

The law requires, among other things, that companies notify users of the intent to monetize their data, and give them a straightforward means of opting out of said monetization. Sounds simple, but it will probably take years before its implications for businesses and regulators are completely understood.

2. Google has little choice to be evil or not in today's fractured internet

Danny Crichton looks at some of the bigger implications behind the resignation of Ross LaJeunesse, who was head of international relations at Google and served for more than a decade in various roles at the company.

3. Trifo raises $15M, announces new robot vacuum

The company’s Lucy vacuum includes a pair of cameras, which combine 1080p color images with depth sensing to provide home surveillance and mapping in light and dark settings. (Whether or not that appeals to you will depend on your views about privacy.)

4. TRACED Act signed into law, putting robocallers on notice

The Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, a bipartisan bit of legislation that should make life harder for the villains behind robocalls, was signed into law by the president on Tuesday.

5. Lowkey.gg is an esports tournament platform for adult gamers

The hope for Lowkey is that it can connect adult gamers with one another to get the most out of their gaming experience. Everyone playing through Lowkey must be 18 years of age or older and have a full-time job.

6. TechCrunch Include yearly report

Our editorial and events teams work hard throughout the year to ensure that we bring you the most dynamic and diverse group of speakers and judges to our event stages. And finally, at the tail end of 2019, we bring you … 2018 data.

7. These 10 enterprise M&A deals totaled over $40B in 2019

The top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half of last year's, totaling a mere $40.6 billion. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

Travelex suspends services after malware attack

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 11:02 AM PST

Travelex, a major international foreign currency exchange, has confirmed it has suspended some services after it was hit by malware on December 31.

The London-based company, which operates more than 1,500 stores globally, said it took systems offline “as a precautionary measure in order to protect data” and to stop the spread of the malware.

Its U.K. website is currently offline, displaying a “server error” page. Its corporate site said the site was offline while it makes “upgrades.”  According to a tweet, Travelex said staff are “unable to perform transactions on the website or through the app.” Some stores are said to be manually processing customer requests.

Other companies, like Tesco Bank, which rely on Travelex for some services, have also struggled during the outage.

Travelex’s U.K. website is currently offline (Screenshot: TechCrunch)

The company said no customer data has been compromised “to date,” but did not elaborate or provide evidence for the claim.

The company declined to identify the kind of malware used in the attack, citing an ongoing forensic investigation. In the past year, several high-profile companies have been increasingly targeted by ransomware, a data encrypting malware which only unscrambles the data once a ransom has been paid. Aluminum manufacturing giant Norsk Hydro and the U.K. Police Federation were both hit in March, then Arizona Beverages and Aebi Schmidt in April, and shipping company Pitney Bowes in October.

Several local and state governments have also been attacked by ransomware. New Orleans declared a state of emergency last month after its systems were hit by ransomware.

A Travelex spokesperson would not comment beyond the statement.

Exhibit your startup at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 11:00 AM PST

Mobility mavericks, get ready to strut your stuff at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 on May 14. Don't miss our second annual day-long conference devoted to technologies that move people and parcels around the world in new, exciting ways.

More than 1,000 of the industry's mightiest minds, makers, innovators and investors will converge in San Jose for a mobile mind meld. That spells opportunity for early-stage mobility startup founders. Buy an Early-Stage Startup Exhibitor Package and plant your company in front of the influencers who can drive your mobility dreams to the next level.

Whether you're racing to perfect autonomous vehicles or flying cars, developing AI-based applications, focused on improving battery technology — or you want to recruit a few brilliant engineers — exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility offers invaluable exposure and opportunity.

Your exhibitor package includes a 30-inch high-boy table, power, linen and signage. Even better — it includes four tickets to the event. That's four times the networking power. And it gives you time to take in some of the show's many panel discussions, fireside chats and workshops.

Because, of course, the day will be loaded with top-notch speakers who, along with TC editors, will discuss the opportunities and challenges — social, economic and regulatory — that come from creating new mobile paradigms.

We're building our slate of speakers for this year's event, and we'll be announcing them on a rolling basis in the coming months. Know someone who should be onstage at this event? You can nominate a speaker here. In the meantime, here are just a couple of examples of what went down at last year's Session.

Alisyn Malek, co-founder and COO of May Mobility, an autonomous transportation startup, talked about making transportation easier and accessible for everyone, and Jesse Levinson, Zoox CTO and co-founder, shared specifics on the company's autonomous vehicle hardware design.

And here are just a few more of the speakers who graced the TC Sessions: Mobility 2019 stage:

  • Seleta Reynolds, head of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation
  • Caroline Samponaro, Lyft, head of Micromobility Policy
  • Ted Serbinski, Techstars, founder and managing director of The Mobility Program
  • Sarah Smith, Bain Capital Ventures, partner

You get the idea. And you can expect more high-caliber technologists, policy makers and investors to be in the house when TC Sessions: Mobility takes place May 14, 2020.

Plenty of reason to attend — and even more reason to exhibit. But don't wait. Exhibition space is limited, and so are the number of packages available. Reserve your demo table here, and get ready to move your early-stage mobility startup in a whole new direction.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Made in China: Tesla Model 3 deliveries to Chinese customers to begin January 7

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 10:32 AM PST

The first deliveries of Tesla Model 3 sedans made in China will begin January 7, one year after the U.S. automaker began construction on its first factory outside the United States.

The deliveries to customers — which Reuters was first to report based on confirmation from a Tesla representative — is a milestone for Tesla as it tries to carve out market share in the world’s biggest auto market, as well as lessen the financial pain caused by tariffs. Deliveries to customers will occur at the Shanghai factory. Earlier this week, more than a dozen Tesla employees took delivery of the Model 3.

"We believe China could become the biggest market for Model 3," the company said in its third-quarter earnings report.

Producing vehicles in China for Chinese customers allows Tesla to bypass tariffs, but it’s no guarantee that this will be the revenue-generating boon the company needs to push itself into sustained profitability. EV sales have been sluggish for other automakers in China over the past several quarters as the government has rolled back subsidies on new-energy vehicles.

The company and its CEO Elon Musk are jumping into the market with gusto, despite gloomy EV sales. Tesla has said the production line at the factory in China will have a capacity of 150,000 units annually and will be a simplified, more cost-effective version of the Model 3 line at its Fremont, Calif. factory.

Tesla China Model 3 parking lot

Aerial photo of Tesla factory in New Lingang District, Shanghai. The number of Model 3 cars in the parking lot is about 500.

Tesla also said this second-generation Model 3 line will be at least 50% cheaper per unit of capacity than its Model 3-related lines in Fremont and at its Gigafactory in Sparks, Nev.

Tesla struck a deal with the Chinese government in July 2018 to build a factory in Shanghai. It was a milestone for Tesla and CEO Elon Musk, who has long viewed China as a crucial market. And it was particularly notable because China agreed for this to be a wholly owned Tesla factory, not a traditional joint venture with the government. Foreign companies have historically had to form a 50-50 joint venture with a local partner to build a factory in China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has pushed forward plans to phase out joint-venture rules for foreign automakers by 2022. Tesla was one of the first beneficiaries of this rule change.

The opening of the China factory comes at a time of rising trade tensions between China and the United States. Tesla has been particularly exposed to relations between China and the U.S., and the resulting rising tariffs. Tesla builds its electric sedans and SUVs at its factory in Fremont, Calif. and ships them to China, which subjects the vehicles to an import tariff.

Apply to present your startup at TechCrunch’s CES Pitch Night

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 10:16 AM PST

CES is a magical place full of gizmos, gadgets and communicable diseases.

TechCrunch is hosting another pitch-off event this year. Called Pitch Night, select early-stage companies will take the stage and have 60 seconds to present their wares to TechCrunch editorial and industry experts.

This event is free. Obtain a ticket here. Want to pitch at the event? Apply below.

This Vegas Pitch Night isn't a polished show with massive screens, celebrity guests and life-changing cash prizes. This event is quick and efficient, held in a co-working event space outside of downtown Vegas. There will be coolers of beer, sodas and whatever snacks we can find at a 7-11.

We've held these events for years and they're among our favorite to host. There are countless startups in town for CES and we just want to hang out away from the noise of the Vegas strip.

Space is very limited. Register as soon as possible.

Moving storage in-house helped Dropbox thrive

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 10:03 AM PST

Back in 2013, Dropbox was scaling fast.

The company had grown quickly by taking advantage of cloud infrastructure from Amazon Web Services (AWS), but when you grow rapidly, infrastructure costs can skyrocket, especially when approaching the scale Dropbox was at the time. The company decided to build its own storage system and network — a move that turned out to be a wise decision.

In a time when going from on-prem to cloud and closing private data centers was typical, Dropbox took a big chance by going the other way. The company still uses AWS for certain services, regional requirements and bursting workloads, but ultimately when it came to the company’s core storage business, it wanted to control its own destiny.

Storage is at the heart of Dropbox’s service, leaving it with scale issues like few other companies, even in an age of massive data storage. With 600 million users and 400,000 teams currently storing more than 3 exabytes of data (and growing) if it hadn’t taken this step, the company might have been squeezed by its growing cloud bills.

Controlling infrastructure helped control costs, which improved the company's key business metrics. A look at historical performance data tells a story about the impact that taking control of storage costs had on Dropbox.

The numbers

In March of 2016, Dropbox announced that it was "storing and serving" more than 90% of user data on its own infrastructure for the first time, completing a 3-year journey to get to this point. To understand what impact the decision had on the company's financial performance, you have to examine the numbers from 2016 forward.

There is good financial data from Dropbox going back to the first quarter of 2016 thanks to its IPO filing, but not before. So, the view into the impact of bringing storage in-house begins after the project was initially mostly completed. By examining the company's 2016 and 2017 financial results, it’s clear that Dropbox’s revenue quality increased dramatically. Even better for the company, its revenue quality improved as its aggregate revenue grew.

2019 was podcasting’s breakout year

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 10:00 AM PST

2019 was a breakout year for the podcast industry with major shifts in industry dynamics. 

In my October 2018 post "What's next for podcasting?" I argued that Hollywood's surging interest in podcasts would bring greater investment in high-production quality shows and gradually realign the podcast industry around paid subscriptions and exclusive deals. 

That's still the direction the industry is heading but it's not happening overnight and it may look a little different than I initially expected. Here's a review of the state of podcasting as we conclude 2019.

Corporates vs. entrepreneurs

It is clear that the major music streaming platforms will dominate podcast distribution as well. The crowded landscape of startup podcast streaming apps will fade into 3-5 top platforms, much the same as music streaming consolidated. The top music streaming platforms have the user base and resources to promote podcasts to mass audiences, and Spotify has shown people are fine with both music and spoken audio in the same app. As with songs and videos, the consumer experience with podcasts is defined by the content so minor feature differences between the apps distributing the content are not going to pull consumers away from the audio apps they already use. 

This makes podcasting a tough market for VC investment; the incumbents are capturing the big tech platform opportunities and likely to own most of the advertising, infrastructure, and analytics tools as well through a mix of internal product development and acquisitions. The best position for entrepreneurs to be in podcasting is either a bootstrapped startup whose tool set can get acquired for tens of millions of dollars or a production company creating popular content in this boom.

Spotify's breakout performance

The most important player in the industry is now Spotify, even though Apple's Podcasts app remains the largest by global and US market share. In just three years, Spotify went from not being a destination for podcasts to being the first or second most used podcast service across dozens of countries and most US states. 2019 was its breakout year.

Spotify redesigned its app to give podcasts nearly equal footing as songs and it bought two of the leading podcast production companies (Gimlet, Parcast) and one of the most popular production tools (Anchor), positioning it at the heart of the podcast ecosystem and fueling investment interest in the sector more broadly.

For Spotify, podcasts are a rapidly growing new category of content that's still small enough that they as a $28 billion company could make a play to dominate. The company is battling to differentiate itself from Apple Music and other music streaming competitors who all have the same libraries of songs, and it's battling to improve its gross margins. Since 70% of all money earned from music on Spotify must be shared with music rights holders, expansion beyond music can improve the company's profitability. Its CEO Daniel Ek envisions over 20% of listening on Spotify to be non-music audio content within a few years. 

Most importantly for the industry, Spotify is expanding the overall pie and pushing more podcasts into mainstream pop culture by promoting shows to demographics of music listeners who weren't meaningfully engaged with podcasts before. The company is proactively recommending specific podcasts to users it predicts will like them and made a point to include podcasts in its popular year-end summaries of users' listening habits.

Justine Moore and Olivia Moore at VC firm CRV summarized the diversification of podcast listening in their TechCrunch op-ed in August:

"As podcasting grows, the listener base is diversifying. Edison Research looked into data on "rookie" listeners (listening for six months or less) and "veteran" listeners (listening for 3+ years), and found significant demographic differences. Only 37% of veterans are female, compared to 53% of rookies. While the plurality of veterans (43%) are age 35-54, 54% of rookies are age 12-34. Rookies are also 1.6x more likely to say they most often listen to podcasts on Spotify, Pandora or SoundCloud  (43% versus 27% of veterans)."

It will be surprising if Spotify doesn't make multiple podcasting-related acquisitions in 2020. It may buy more studios to bolster its in-house production team and its library of in-demand content that could eventually be made exclusive to the platform, but the primary acquisition targets are likely to be on the technology side. Tech solutions it may want are a programmatic advertising network for podcast ads, natural language processing tools that make podcast audio more easily searchable, and a flexible solution for media companies with subscriber-only podcasts to still have those podcasts available on Spotify. Fellow Stockholm-based company Acast seems like a natural, though still bold, potential target here.

Here’s where California residents can stop companies selling their data

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 08:46 AM PST

California’s new privacy law is now in effect, allowing state residents to take better control of the data that’s collected on them — from social networks, banks, credit agencies and more.

There’s just one catch: the companies, many of which lobbied against the law, don’t make it easy.

California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) allows anyone who resides in the state to access and obtain copies of the data that companies store on them, and the right to delete that data and opt-out of companies selling or monetizing their data. It’s the biggest state-level overhaul of privacy rules in a generation. State regulators can impose fines and other sanctions for companies that violate the law — although, the law’s enforcement provisions do not take effect until July. That’s probably a good thing for companies, given most major tech giants operating in the state are not ready to comply with the law.

Just as companies did with Europe’s GDPR, many companies have sprung up new privacy policies in preparation, as well as new data portals, which allow consumers access to their data and to opt-out of their data being sold on to third-parties, such as advertisers. But good luck finding them. Most companies aren’t transparent about where their data portals are, often out of sight and buried in privacy policies, near-guaranteeing that nobody will find them.

Just two days into the new law, and some are already fixing it for the average Californian.

Damian Finol created a running directory of company pages that allow California residents to opt-out of their data being sold and request their information. The directory is updated frequently, and so far includes banks, retail giants, airlines, car rental services, gaming giants and cell companies — to name a few.

caprivacy.me is a simple directory of links to where California residents can tell companies not to sell their data, and request what data companies store on them (Screenshot: TechCrunch)

The project is still in its infancy, but relies on community contributions (and anyone can submit a suggestion), he said. In less than a day, it already racked up more than 80 links.

“I’m passionate about privacy and allowing people to declare what their personal privacy model is,” Finol told TechCrunch.

“I grew up queer in Latin America in the 1990s, so keeping private the truth about me was vital. Nowadays, I think of my LGBTQ siblings in places like the Middle East, where if their privacy is violated, they can face capital punishment,” he said, explaining his motivations behind the directory.

There’s no easy way — yet — to opt-out in one go. Anyone in California who wants to opt-out has to go through each link. But once it’s done, it’s done. Put on a pot of coffee and get started.

Kicking off 2020 with 4 new members of the $100M ARR club

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 08:19 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 adding four new names to the growing $100 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) club. The firms — Sisense, SiteMinder, Monday.com, and Lemonade — add diversity to our current group of yet-private companies which have reached the nine-figure recurring revenue threshold.

Our goal in tracking the companies in this high-flying cohort is to keep tabs on the private firms (often unicorns, it should be said) that could go public if needed. While not every unicorn will or could go public, companies with nine-figure ARR have a clear path to the public markets provided that their economics are in reasonable shape.

And we’ve seen some remarkably efficient companies meet the mark, including Egnyte with just $137.5 million raised, and Braze, with only $175 million on its books. For growth-oriented, venture-backed companies, those are efficient results.

But let’s add a few more members to the club today. Please meet our new centurions, centaurs, or whatever we end up calling them.

Sisense: more than $100 million ARR

Sisense is a business intelligence company that merged with Periscope Data earlier this year. The combined firm has raised just over $200 million, according to Crunchbase, with the lion’s share of that landing in Sisense’s column (about $175 million).

What’s notable about the combination is that the two firms were public about saying that, when brought together, they would have combined ARR of $100 million. That was back in May. Today, Sisense has crested the $100 million mark by itself, according to an interview with TechCrunch. With Periscope added to the mix the company’s total ARR is naturally higher.

Sisense had a few original goals according to CEO Amir Orad, including helping businesses “take complex data and bring it together to get insights.” Its second focus is helping companies “take complex data sets and build [them out] as an analytical application in their products,” he said.

Periscope came into the picture when Orad and the smaller company’s CEO Harry Glaser (now Sisense’s CMO) started talking as friends about their respective markets. According to Orad, Glaser outlined a new sort of organization being built inside some companies that “were not traditional BI teams” or “traditional product teams,” but instead brought together “data engineers and data scientists and very capable individuals who [wanted] to make sense of [the] data sitting in the cloud.” Periscope had built “a very impressive business” supporting those new organizations, with “many hundreds of customers,” Orad said.

That meant that Sisense’s pair of focuses were somewhat two of out three, making the corporate combination an obvious bet.

Regarding what changed as Sisense grew, cresting the $50 million ARR mark and later the $100 million ARR mark, Orad told TechCrunch that what differed was “scale,” saying that at its size “what you do impacts more people, more individuals, more companies, [and] more customers.” (I have interesting notes on how the two companies managed their combination from a culture perspective, let me know if you’d like to read them.)

SiteMinder: AU$100 million ARR

The first Australian member of the nine-figure ARR club is SiteMinder, which we’re letting in on a technicality; the firm’s ARR figure is in Australian dollars, which works out to around $70 million USD. However, its growth curve appears steep so we’re not too worried about including it a little early from a domestic dollar perspective.

Ex-Google policy chief dumps on the tech giant for dodging human rights

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 08:18 AM PST

Google’s ex-head of international relations, Ross LaJeunesse — who clocked up more than a decade working government and policy-related roles for the tech giant before departing last year — has become the latest (former) Googler to lay into the company for falling short of its erstwhile “don’t be evil” corporate motto.

Worth noting right off the bat: LaJeunesse is making his own pitch to be elected as a U.S. senator for the Democrats in Maine, where he’s pitting himself against the sitting Republican, Susan Collins. So this lengthy blog post, in which he sets out reasons for joining (“making the world better and more equal”) and — at long last — exiting Google does look like an exercise in New Year reputation “exfoliation,” shall we say.

One that’s intended to anticipate and deflect any critical questions he may face on the campaign trail, given his many years of service to Mountain View. Hence the inclusion of overt political messaging, such as lines like: “No longer can massive tech companies like Google be permitted to operate relatively free from government oversight.”

Still, the post makes more awkward reading for Google. (Albeit, less awkward than the active employee activism the company continues to face over a range of issues — from its corporate culture and attitude toward diversity to product dev ethics.)

LaJeunesse claims that (unnamed) senior management actively evaded his attempts to push for it to adopt a company-wide Human Rights program that would, as he tells it, “publicly commit Google to adhere to human rights principles found in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, provide a mechanism for product and engineering teams to seek internal review of product design elements, and formalize the use of Human Rights Impact Assessments for all major product launches and market entries.”

“[E]ach time I recommended a Human Rights Program, senior executives came up with an excuse to say no,” LaJeunesse alleges, going on to claim that he was subsequently side-lined in policy discussions related to a censored search project Google had been working on to enable it to return to the Chinese market.

The controversial project, code-named Dragonfly, was later shut down, per LaJeunesse’s telling, after Congress raised questions — backing up the blog’s overarching theme that only political scrutiny can put meaningful limits on powerful technologists. (Check that already steady drumbeat for the 2020 U.S. elections.)

He writes:

At first, [Google senior executives] said human rights issues were better handled within the product teams, rather than starting a separate program. But the product teams weren't trained to address human rights as part of their work. When I went back to senior executives to again argue for a program, they then claimed to be worried about increasing the company's legal liability. We provided the opinion of outside experts who re-confirmed that these fears were unfounded. At this point, a colleague was suddenly re-assigned to lead the policy team discussions for Dragonfly. As someone who had consistently advocated for a human rights-based approach, I was being sidelined from the on-going conversations on whether to launch Dragonfly. I then realized that the company had never intended to incorporate human rights principles into its business and product decisions. Just when Google needed to double down on a commitment to human rights, it decided to instead chase bigger profits and an even higher stock price.

Reached for comment, a Google spokesman sent us this statement, attributed to a Google spokeswoman: “We have an unwavering commitment to supporting human rights organisations and efforts. That commitment is unrelated to and unaffected by the reorganisation of our policy team, which was widely reported and which impacted many members of the team. As part of this reorganisation, Ross was offered a new position at the exact same level and compensation, which he declined to accept. We wish Ross all the best with his political ambitions.”

LaJeunesse’s blog post also lays into Google’s workplace culture — making allegations that bullying and racist stereotyping were commonplace.

Including even apparently during attempts by management to actively engage with the issue of diversity…

It was no different in the workplace culture. Senior colleagues bullied and screamed at young women, causing them to cry at their desks. At an all-hands meeting, my boss said, "Now you Asians come to the microphone too. I know you don't like to ask questions." At a different all-hands meeting, the entire policy team was separated into various rooms and told to participate in a "diversity exercise" that placed me in a group labeled "homos" while participants shouted out stereotypes such as "effeminate" and "promiscuous." Colleagues of color were forced to join groups called "Asians" and "Brown people" in other rooms nearby.

We’ve asked Google for comment on these allegations and will update this post with any response.

It’s clearly a sign of the “techlash” times that an ex-Googler, who’s now a senator-in-the-running, believes there’s political capital to be made by publicly unloading on his former employer. 

“The role of these companies in our daily lives, from how we run our elections to how we entertain and educate our children, is just too great to leave in the hands of executives who are accountable only to their controlling shareholders who — in the case of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Snap — happen to be fellow company insiders and founders,” LaJeunesse goes on to write, widening his attack to incorporate other FAANG giants.

Expect plenty more such tech giant piƱata in the run up to November’s ballot.

Google has little choice to be evil or not in today’s fractured internet

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 07:43 AM PST

Well, we got to January 2nd before the latest angry resignation published by a tech executive on Medium.

Today's installment comes from Ross LaJeunesse, who was head of international relations at Google and served for more than a decade in various roles at the company. He denounces what he sees as Google's increasingly failed ambitions to be a company principled on human rights, and poses a series of questions about the future of tech and capitalism:

I think the important question is what does it mean when one of America's marque' companies changes so dramatically. Is it the inevitable outcome of a corporate culture that rewards growth and profits over social impact and responsibility? Is it in some way related to the corruption that has gripped our federal government? Is this part of the global trend toward "strong man" leaders who are coming to power around the globe, where questions of "right" and "wrong" are ignored in favor of self-interest and self-dealing? Finally, what are the implications for all of us when that once-great American company controls so much data about billions of users across the globe?

The whole read is interesting, and covers Google's China operations, its Project Dragonfly censored search crisis, Saudi Arabia's apps in Google Cloud and his own personal experience with Google HR.

It's a manifesto of sorts, and perhaps that isn't surprising, given that LaJeunesse is also running for the Democratic primary in Maine's senatorial election to compete against Republican incumbent Susan Collins. His critiques of Big Tech seem to be channeling Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), and that makes it a fascinating political strategy.

But let's focus in on the key question at the heart of this debate: does Google have the ability to be "good" or "evil" when it comes to tech's influence on society? Does it have agency to make a difference on human rights in countries around the world?

My answer is: Google used to have a lot of agency, which is unfortunately declining very, very rapidly.

I've talked about the fracturing of the internet into different spheres of influence for quite literally years. Countries like China in particular, but also Russia, Iran and others, are seizing more and more exacting control of the internet's plumbing and applications, subsuming the original internet's spirit of openness and freedom and placing this communications medium under their iron fists.

As this fracturing has occurred, companies like Google, or Shutterstock, or even the NBA, have increasingly faced what I’ve called an "authoritarian straddle" — they can either work with these countries and follow the local rules, or they can just get out, with serious ramifications for their home markets.

Those are the extent of the choices these companies have. Shutterstock is not going to change China's policy toward photos of the Tiananmen Square protests any more than Google can try to launch a search engine on the mainland or change Saudi Arabia’s deplorable women’s rights.

To have any agency here at all, you need a monopoly on a product or service so important that the dictatorship has to accept the terms you offer. In other words, these companies need extreme leverage, essentially the ability to go to the regimes and say, "No, fuck you, here's how it is going to work, we're going to follow human rights, and you have no choice in the matter."

What tech companies are discovering — even massive giants like Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft — is that they really, truly don't have that kind of leverage in these countries anymore. Not even Apple, which employs hundreds of thousands of manufacturing workers through its subcontractors in China, can move the needle in that country anymore. Iran shut off the internet for a period of time to dampen the intensity of political protests in that country. Russia last week tested shutting off the internet to make sure it can just pull the plug when it wants.

If whole countries can just flip the switch and turn off "tech," exactly what leverage do any of these companies have in the first place?

And that diminution of power is a trend that tech companies, and particularly American tech companies, haven't fully grappled with. They don't really get a choice anymore in the decisions here. China has its own search engine, and increasingly, its own mobile phone ecosystem unencumbered by U.S. patents — and therefore U.S. policy. If Azure leaves Saudi Arabia, Alibaba Cloud is more than willing to step into the gap and make the money instead.

So when you get to LaJeunesse's comments that he pushed Google internally to formalize some of its values:

My solution was to advocate for the adoption of a company-wide, formal Human Rights Program that would publicly commit Google to adhere to human rights principles found in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, provide a mechanism for product and engineering teams to seek internal review of product design elements, and formalize the use of Human Rights Impact Assessments for all major product launches and market entries.

… one can't help but feel solace for an optimistic world where a better product design review process might have once improved global human rights.

The issue is far simpler though than it was in the past. You don't need a human rights protocol, or some sort of review process for market entry. You are either in, or you are out. You either launch in these countries and deal with the inevitable human rights abuses and concomitant consumer protests in the home market, or you maintain your values and you walk away, ignoring the profit mirage from these regimes in the process.

That's why I recently argued that Google and the NBA should just walk away. I still hold that belief. It's also why I called on Shutterstock to leave China and return to its more open and free values. No U.S. tech company today has the leverage to make a dent on human rights the way they did a decade ago. The internet has fractured, data sovereignty is on the rise and there's a binary choice to be made whether to engage or to flee. Ultimately, I take LaJeunesse's side — these companies should walk, because there really isn't much choice otherwise.

Lowkey.gg is an esports tournament platform for adult gamers

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 07:00 AM PST

It’s tough to be a competitive gamer once you’re an adult. Simply fitting tournament time into a busy schedule is challenge enough, but even if you can make the time, where do you go to find other adults who are competitively playing the games you love?

That’s where Lowkey.gg comes in. Lowkey.gg is a tournament platform for adult gamers. The company is particularly focused on helping professional organizations set up their esports squads just like company basketball or softball teams.

One of the challenges here is that it’s incredibly difficult for adult gamers to find each other. Most of them don’t usually broadcast their affinity for video games. Searching for other competitive gamers who are above the age of 18 is a bit of a lost cause.

The hope for Lowkey is that they can connect adult gamers with one another to get the most out of their gaming experience. Everyone playing through Lowkey must be 18 years of age or older and have a full-time job.

Users can register as a solo gamer for $39, plus a subscription fee of $13/month, and get automatically matched with a team. Lowkey takes into account things like location, job, alma mater and other bits of information (all shown on your public Lowkey profile) to create teams with like-minded players. The company says this transparency reduces the toxicity around teammates. Conversely, users also can form a squad in real life and sign up as a pre-made team for $195/month.

Thus far, Lowkey has signed up teams from Google, Apple, Robinhood and Twitch.

Lowkey is launching with League of Legends as its first game, and Season 1 starts on January 13.

Seasons last a minimum of eight weeks, with players scheduled to play for one hour one night a week. Lowkey has also built a relatively sophisticated Discord chatbot that lets users check in to say they’re ready for a game and automatically puts the teams in a chat together to coordinate the match.

Like many startups, Lowkey is actually the result of a pivot. The company was originally called Camelot.

In March of 2017, Camelot launched out of YC to allow YouTube and Twitch audiences to pay to see what they want. Users could submit bounties to see their favorite YouTuber play a game with pistols only, or to play a game while standing on a skateboard.

Turns out, there were two big issues. Co-founder Jesse Zhang explained that it wasn’t sustainable to build a platform on top of a platform, particularly a platform that is incredibly top heavy and potentially overhyped.

“Sometimes hype can be misaligned with the size of the market, and it felt like streaming was one example of that,” said Zhang. “Even after we organically got several really large streamers using it, and the product performed almost perfectly, the volume is still not nearly the scale that you could turn into a real business.”

Which brings us to the second issue. The money that flows through Twitch from viewers to streamers is almost always based on altruism and emotion. It’s exciting to hear your favorite streamer thank you for a $5 donation or gifted sub. Viewers aren’t paying for the content; they’re paying for a connection.

So Camelot quickly went back to the drawing board and came out on the other side as Lowkey.gg.

Lowkey has raised capital but declined to share the amount. After the launch of League of Legends, the company plans to launch seasons for other titles, including Overwatch, TFT, DotA and Smash Ultimate.

The story of why Marc Benioff gifted the AppStore.com domain to Steve Jobs

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 06:55 AM PST

In Marc Benioff’s book, Trailblazer, he tells the tale of how Steve Jobs planted the seeds of the idea that would become the first enterprise app store, and how Benioff eventually paid Jobs back with the gift of the AppStore.com domain.

While Salesforce did truly help blaze a trail when it launched as an enterprise cloud service in 1999, it took that a step further in 2006 when it became the first SaaS company to distribute related services in an online store.

In an interview last year around Salesforce’s 20th anniversary, company CTO and co-founder Parker Harris told me that the idea for the app store came out of a meeting with Steve Jobs three years before AppExchange would launch. Benioff, Harris and fellow co-founder Dave Moellenhoff took a trip to Cupertino in 2003 to meet with Jobs. At that meeting, the legendary CEO gave the trio some sage advice: to really grow and develop as a company, Salesforce needed to develop a cloud software ecosystem. While that’s something that’s a given for enterprise SaaS companies today, it was new to Benioff and his team in 2003.

As Benioff tells it in his book, he asked Jobs to elucidate on what he meant by an application ecosystem. Jobs replied that how he implemented the idea was up to him. It took some time for that concept to bake, however. Benioff wrote that the notion of an app store eventually came to him as an epiphany at dinner one night a few years after that meeting. He says that he sketched out that original idea on a napkin while sitting in a restaurant:

One evening over dinner in San Francisco, I was struck by an irresistibly simple idea. What if any developer from anywhere in the world could create their own applications for the Salesforce platform? And what if we offered to store these apps in an online directory that allowed any Salesforce user to download them?

Whether it happened like that or not, the app store idea would eventually come to fruition, but it wasn’t originally called the AppExchange, as it is today. Instead, Benioff says he liked the name AppStore.com so much that he had his lawyers register the domain the next day.

When Benioff talked to customers prior to the launch, while they liked the concept, they didn’t like the name he had come up with for his online store. He eventually relented and launched in 2006 with the name AppExchange.com instead. Force.com would follow in 2007, giving programmers a full-fledged development platform to create applications, and then distribute them in AppExchange.

Meanwhile, AppStore.com sat dormant until 2008, when Benioff was invited back to Cupertino for a big announcement around iPhone. As Benioff wrote, “At the climactic moment, [Jobs] said [five] words that nearly floored me: ‘I give you App Store.”

Benioff wrote that he and his executives actually gasped when they heard the name. Somehow, even after all that time had passed since that the original meeting, both companies had settled upon the same name. Except Salesforce had rejected it, leaving an opening for Benioff to give a gift to his mentor. He says that he went backstage after the keynote and signed over the domain to Jobs.

In the end, the idea of the web domain wasn’t even all that important to Jobs in the context of an app store concept. After all, he put the App Store on every phone, and it wouldn’t require a website to download apps. Perhaps that’s why today the domain points to the iTunes store, and launches iTunes (or gives you the option of opening it).

Even the App Store page on Apple.com uses the sub-domain “app-store” today, but it’s still a good story of how a conversation between Jobs and Benioff would eventually have a profound impact on how enterprise software was delivered, and how Benioff was able to give something back to Jobs for that advice.

Trifo raises $15M, announces new robot vacuum

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 06:00 AM PST

Just over two years ago, PerceptIn announced an $8 million Series A. The funding followed a $2 million seed round, and found the startup essentially coming out of stealth to showcase the sensors it was building for a wide range of form factors, from cars to robot vacuums.

The company's been quite busy in the meantime. In fact, it even went so far as changing its name. PerceptIn is now "Trifo" — a punchier name, if not quite as memorable. The company's currently on its third robotic vacuum, announced today and set to be officially unveiled at CES in a few days.

Along with the arrival of "Lucy" comes some more big funding from the Samsung Ventures-supported startup. Trifo has just raised a $15 million Series B, bringing its total funding up to $26 million. The round includes backing from Yidu Cloud, Tsinghua AI Fund and Matrix Partners, with a focus on producing more hardware and software solutions in the home robotics space, additional hiring and pushing into the U.S. and European markets.

For now, robot vacuums appear to be the company's primary public-facing output. It's a tough market — one that's traditionally been dominated by one player (iRobot). Still, there's no shortage of alternatives from players big and small looking to crack it.

As for what sets Lucy apart, there are a pair of cameras on board — that could either be a plus or minus, depending on where you land on matters of privacy. The pair combine 1080p color images with depth sensing to provide home surveillance and mapping in light and dark settings. The robot can also be designed to "patrol" the home in predefined routes. 

Lucy also features built-in obstacle avoidance for objects as short as one inch, room-by-room cleaning and and a 5,200 mAh battery for up to two hours of cleaning on a charge. Pricing is $799, putting it in line with iRobot’s offerings. It’s set to arrive at some point in Q1. 

These 10 enterprise M&A deals totaled over $40B in 2019

Posted: 01 Jan 2020 01:00 PM PST

It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion.

This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would have been good for third place last year behind IBM’s mega deal plucking Red Hat for $34 billion and Broadcom grabbing CA Technologies for $18.8 billion.

Contributing to this year’s quieter activity was the fact that several typically acquisitive companies — Adobe, Oracle and IBM — stayed mostly on the sidelines after big investments last year. It’s not unusual for companies to take a go-slow approach after a big expenditure year. Adobe and Oracle bought just two companies each with neither revealing the prices. IBM didn’t buy any.

Microsoft didn’t show up on this year’s list either, but still managed to pick up eight new companies. It was just that none was large enough to make the list (or even for them to publicly reveal the prices). When a publicly traded company doesn’t reveal the price, it usually means that it didn’t reach the threshold of being material to the company’s results.

As always, just because you buy it doesn’t mean it’s always going to integrate smoothly or well, and we won’t know about the success or failure of these transactions for some years to come. For now, we can only look at the deals themselves.

Jumia, DHL and Alibaba will face off in African e-commerce 2.0

Posted: 01 Jan 2020 09:30 AM PST

The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but e-commerce is set to boom.

Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition.

To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and opportunity, perhaps more than any other market in the world. Across major African economies, many of the requisites for online retail — internet access, digital payment adoption, and 3PL delivery options — have been severely lacking.

Still, startups jumped into this market for the chance to digitize a share of Africa’s fast growing consumer spending, expected to top $2 billion by 2025.

African e-commerce 2.0 will include some old and new players, play out across more countries, place more priority on internet services, and see the entry of China.

But before highlighting several things to look out for in the future of digital-retail on the continent, a look back is beneficial.

Jumia vs. Konga

The early years for development of African online shopping largely played out in Nigeria (and to some extent South Africa). Anyone who visited Nigeria from 2012 to 2016 likely saw evidence of one of the continent’s early e-commerce showdowns. Nigeria had its own Coke vs. Pepsi-like duel — a race between ventures Konga and Jumia to out-advertise and out-discount each other in a quest to scale online shopping in Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation.

Traveling in Lagos traffic, large billboards for each startup faced off across the skyline, as their delivery motorcycles buzzed between stopped cars.

Covering each company early on, it appeared a battle of VC attrition. The challenge: who could continue to raise enough capital to absorb the losses of simultaneously capturing and creating an e-commerce market in notoriously difficult conditions.

In addition to the aforementioned challenges, Nigeria also had (and continues to have) shoddy electricity.

Both Konga — founded by Nigerian Sim Shagaya — and Jumia — originally founded by two Nigerians and two Frenchman — were forced to burn capital building fulfillment operations most e-commerce startups source to third parties.

That included their own delivery and payment services (KongaPay and JumiaPay). In addition to sales of goods from mobile-phones to diapers, both startups also began experimenting with verticals for internet based services, such as food-delivery and classifieds.

While Jumia and Konga were competing in Nigeria, there was another VC driven race for e-commerce playing out in South Africa — the continent’s second largest and most advanced economy.

E-tailers Takealot and Kalahari had been jockeying for market share since 2011 after raising capital in the hundreds of millions of dollars from investors Naspers and U.S. fund Tiger Global Management.

So how did things turn out in West and Southern Africa? In 2014, the lead investor of a flailing Kalahari — Naspers — facilitated a merger with Takealot (that was more of an acquisition). They nixed the Kalahari brand in 2016 and bought out Takelot’s largest investor, Tiger Global, in 2018. Takealot is now South Africa’s leading e-commerce site by market share, but only operates in one country.

In Nigeria, by 2016 Jumia had outpaced its rival Konga in Alexa ratings (6 vs 14), while out-raising Konga (with backing of Goldman Sachs) to become Africa’s first VC backed, startup unicorn. By early 2018, Konga was purchased in a distressed acquisition and faded away as a competitor to Jumia.

Jumia went on to expand online goods and services verticals into 14 Africa countries (though it recently exited a few) and in April 2019 raised over $200 million in an NYSE IPO — the first on a major exchange for a VC-backed startup operating in Africa.

Jumia’s had bumpy road since going public — losing significant share-value after a short-sell attack earlier in 2019 — but the continent’s leading e-commerce company still has heap of capital and generates $100 million in revenues (even with losses).

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