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Friday, January 31, 2020

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News


Latin America Roundup: Loft raises $175M, SoftBank invests in Mexico’s Alphacredit and Rappi pulls back

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 03:14 PM PST

Brazil's famously tricky real estate market has long drawn international investors to the region in search of tech solutions. This time, Brazilian startup Loft brought in a $175 million Series C from first-time investor in the region, Vulcan Capital (Paul Allen's investment arm), alongside Andreessen Horowitz. Loft is also a16z's first and only Brazilian investment. 

Co-founded by serial entrepreneurs and investors Mate Pencz and Florian Hagenbuch in 2018, Loft uses a proprietary algorithm to process transaction data and provide more transparent pricing for both buyers and sellers. The startup uses two models to help clients sell properties; either Loft will value the apartment for listing on the site, or they will offer to purchase the property from the buyer immediately. Many real estate platforms in the U.S. are shifting toward a similar iBuyer model; however, this system may be even more apt for the Latin American market, where property sales are notoriously untransparent, bureaucratic and tedious.

Loft will use the capital to expand to Rio de Janeiro in Q1 2020 and to Mexico City in Q2, bringing on at least 100 new employees in the process. It also plans to scale its financial products to include mortgages and insurance by the end of the year. 

AlphaCredit raises $125M from SoftBank

Mexican consumer lending startup AlphaCredit became SoftBank's new Mexico bet this month, with a $125 million Series B round. AlphaCredit uses a programmed deduction system to provide rapid, online loans to individuals and small businesses in Mexico. To date, the startup has granted more than $1 billion in loans to small business clients in Mexico and Colombia, many of whom have never previously had access to financing. 

AlphaCredit's programmed deductions system enables the startup to lower default rates, which in turn lowers interest rates. For more than eight years, AlphaCredit has encouraged financial inclusion in Mexico and Colombia through technology; this round of investment will enable the platform to consolidate its holding as one of the top lending platforms in the region. The investment is still subject to approval by Mexico's competition authority, COFECE, which has previously blocked startup deals such as the Cornershop acquisition in 2019. 

SoftBank's biggest bets back off in Latin America

While SoftBank is still rapidly deploying its Latin America-focused Innovation Fund, some of its largest companies are stepping on the brakes. In particular, SoftBank's largest LatAm investment, Rappi, recently announced that it would lay off up to 6% of its workforce in an effort to cut costs and focus on their technology. The Colombian unicorn has been expanding at a breakneck pace throughout the region using a blitzscaling technique that has helped it reach nine countries with 5,000 employees in just two years, including Ecuador in November 2019.

Rappi has stated that it will focus on technology and UX in 2020, explaining that the job cuts do not reflect its long-term growth strategy. However, Rappi is also facing legal action for alleged intellectual property theft. Mauricio Paba, José Mendoza, and Jorge Uribe are suing Rappi CEO Simon Borrero and the company for stealing the idea for the Rappi platform while providing consulting for the three founders through his firm, Imaginamos. The case is currently being processed in Colombia and the U.S. 

One of SoftBank's biggest bets in Asia, Oyo Rooms, is facing similar challenges. Just months after announcing their expansion into Mexico, Oyo fired thousands of employees in China and India. Oyo plans to be the largest hotel chain in Mexico by the end of 2020, according to a local spokesperson.

Argentina's Agrofy breaks regional agtech records

With a $23 million Series B from SP Ventures, Fall Line Capital, and Acre Venture Partners, Argentine agricultural supply marketplace Agrofy has raised the region's largest round for an agtech startup to date. The platform provides transparency and ease for the agricultural industry, where users can buy and everything from tractors to seeds. In four years, Agrofy has established itself as the market leader in agricultural e-commerce; it was also Fall Line Capital's first investment outside of the U.S.

Agrofy is active in nine countries and receives over five million visits per month, 60% of which come from Brazil. However, the startup faces the challenge of low connectivity in rural areas, where most of its customers live. The investment will go to improving the platform, as well as integrating new payment types directly into the site to help clients process their transactions more smoothly. 

News and Notes: Fanatiz, Pachama, Moons, Didi and IDB

The Miami-based sports-streaming platform, Fanatiz, raised $10 million in a Series A round from 777 Partners in January 2020 after registering 125% user growth since July 2019. Founded by Chilean Matias Rivera, Fanatiz provides legal international streaming of soccer and other sports through a personalized platform so that fans can follow their teams from anywhere in the world. The startup provided the Pope with an account so that he could follow his beloved team, San Lorenzo, from the Vatican. Fanatiz has previously received investment from Magma Partners and participated in 500 Startups' Miami Scale program.

Conservation-tech startup Pachama raised $4.1 million from Silicon Valley investors to continue developing a carbon offset marketplace using drone and LIDAR data. Pachama was founded by Argentine entrepreneur Diego Saez-Gil in 2019 after he noticed the effects of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. After participating in Y Combinator in 2019, Pachama now has 23 sites in the US and Latin America where scientists are working alongside the startup's technology to certify forests for carbon sequestration projects. 

Mexico's Moons, an orthodontics startup that provides low-cost invisible aligners, has raised $5 million from investors such as Jaguar Ventures, Tuesday Capital, and Foundation Capital and was recently accepted into Y Combinator, bringing the startup to the US. Moons provides a free consultation and 3D scan to patients in Mexico to determine if they are a good fit for the program, then supplies them with a yearlong invisible braces regime for around $1200. With 18 locations in Mexico and two in Colombia, Moons is expanding rapidly across the region, with ambitions for providing low-cost healthcare across several verticals in Latin America. 

Chinese ridehailing startup Didi Chuxing recently launched a sustainable fleet of over 700 electric and hybrid cars for its Mexico City operations. After two years operating in Mexico, Didi announced that it would establish its headquarters in the capital city to manage its new low-emissions fleet. The company will provide financing to help its drivers acquire and use the vehicles, in an effort to reduce Didi's environmental impact.

The IDB Lab released a report on female entrepreneurs in Latin America, finding that 54% of female founders have raised capital and 80% plan to scale internationally in the next five years. The study, entitled "wX Insights 2020: The Rise of Women STEMpreneurs," finds that female entrepreneurship is on the rise in Latin America, particularly in the areas of fintech, edtech, healthtech, and biotech. Nonetheless, 59% of the 1,148 women surveyed still see access to capital as the most significant limitation for their companies. However, as women take center-stage in Latin American VC, such as Antonia Rojas Eing joining ALLVP as Partner, we may see funding tilt toward female-founded firms.

This month has set 2020 on a course to continue the strong growth we saw in the Latin American ecosystem in 2019. It is always exciting to see international investors make their first bets in the region, and we expect to continue seeing new VCs entering the region over the coming year.

Trump to halt immigration from Africa’s top tech hub, Nigeria

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 02:28 PM PST

The Trump administration announced Friday it would halt immigration from Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with the continent’s largest economy and leading tech hub.

The restrictions would stop short of placing a full travel ban on the country of 200 million, but will suspend U.S. immigrant visas for Nigeria, along with Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar.

That applies to citizens from those countries looking to live permanently in the U.S. The latest restrictions are said not to apply to non-immigrant, temporary visas for tourists, business, and medical visits.

The news was first reported by the Associated Press, after a press briefing by Acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. The Department of Homeland Security later provided TechCrunch with  Wolf’s remarks and a summary on the measures.

The primary reason for thew new restrictions, according to DHS, was that the countries did not “meet the Department’s stronger security standards.”

Secretary Wolf noted, “the restrictions are not permanent if the country commits to change.”

The move follows reporting over the last week that the Trump administration was considering adding Nigeria, and several additional African states, to the list of predominantly Muslim countries on its 2017 travel ban. That ban was delayed in the courts until being upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.

Restricting immigration to the U.S. from Nigeria, in particular, could impact commercial tech relations between the two countries.

Nigeria is the U.S.'s second largest African trading partner and the U.S. is the largest foreign investor in Nigeria, according to USTR and State Department briefs.

Increasingly, the nature of the business relationship between the two countries is shifting to tech. Nigeria is steadily becoming Africa's capital for VC, startups, rising founders and the entry of Silicon Valley companies.

Recent reporting by VC firm Partech shows Nigeria has become the number one country in Africa for venture investment.

Much of that funding is coming from American sources and the U.S. is arguably Nigeria’s strongest partner for tech and Nigeria, Silicon Valley’s chosen gateway for Africa expansion.

There are numerous examples of this new relationship.

In June 2019, Mastercard invested $50 million in Jumia — a Pan-African e-commerce company headquartered in Nigeria — before it became the first tech startup on the continent to IPO on a major exchange, the NYSE.

One of Jumia’s backers, Goldman Sachs, led a $20 million round into Nigerian trucking-logistics startup, Kobo360 in August.

Software engineer company Andela, with offices in the U.S. and Lagos, raised $100 million from American sources and employs 1000 engineers.

Facebook has senior management from Nigeria, such as Ime Archibong, and opened an innovation lab in Nigeria in 2018 called NG_Hub. Google launched its own developer space in Lagos last week.

Nigerian tech is also home to a growing number of startups with operations in U.S. Nigerian fintech startup Flutterwave, whose clients range from Uber to Cardi B, is headquartered in San Francisco, with operations in Lagos. The company maintains a developer team across both countries for its B2B payments platform that helps American companies operating in Africa get paid.

MallforAfrica — a Nigerian e-commerce company that enables partners such as Macy's, Best Buy and Auto Parts Warehouse to sell in Africa — is led by Chris Folayan, a Nigerian who studied and worked in the U.S. The company now employs Nigerians in Lagos and Americans at its Portland, Oregon processing plant.

Africa's leading VOD startup, iROKOtv maintains a New York office that lends to production of the Nigerian (aka Nollywood) content it creates and streams globally.

Similar to Trump’s first travel ban, the latest restrictions on Nigeria may end up in courts, which could delay implementation.

More immediately, the Trump administration’s moves could put a damper on its own executive branch initiatives with Nigeria. Just today the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy — who was appointed by President Trump — posted a tweet welcoming Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama to the State Department Hosted Nigeria Bicentennial, planned to start Monday.

The theme listed for the event: "Innovation and Ingenuity, which reflects the entrepreneurial, inventive, and industrious spirit shared by the Nigerian and American people.”

Update: This article was updated to include information provided by Department of Homeland Security

Maxar and NASA will demonstrate orbital spacecraft assembly with a new robotic arm

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 02:14 PM PST

NASA has awarded Maxar an estimated $142 million contract to demonstrate in-orbit spacecraft refueling and assembly of new components using a custom robotic platform in space.

The space infrastructure dexterous robot, or SPIDER, program will be part of NASA’s Restore-L mission to demonstrate automation of proposed orbital tasks like reconfiguring or repairing a satellite or manufacturing new components from scratch.

The first thing the Restore-L spacecraft will do is show that it can synchronize with, capture, connect with and refuel a satellite in orbit, then release it into a new orbit. Afterwards the craft will use the Maxar-built robotic arm to assemble a multi-panel antenna reflector, then test it.

Last, a separate piece of hardware, Tethers Unlimited’s MakerSat, will extrude a beam some 10-20 meters long, which will be inspected by the parent satellite, then detached and reattached to demonstrate its robustness.

“We are continuing America's global leadership in space technology by proving we can assemble spacecraft with larger and more powerful components, after launch,” said NASA’s Jim Reuter in a news post. “This technology demonstration will open up a new world of in-space robotic capabilities.”

There’s no hard timeline for the mission yet, but it’s intended to take off the mid 2020s. This isn’t a small-scale experiment that can fly up next week in an Electron — it’s a big, expensive one that will likely take up most of a large rocket’s payload.

Although it’s only a demonstration, a Maxar representative pointed out that it is very close to what would be an operational system on other satellites in the future. It has also been previously demoed on the ground, though of course that’s no substitute for the real thing.

Robotic arms are something of a specialty for Maxar, which has delivered six total for NASA, including the one on Insight (currently on the Red Planet) and the Mars 2020 Rover (due to receive its official, inspirational name any day now).

We’ll have Maxar’s head of space robotics onstage at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI in March at UC Berkeley, so be sure to join us there if you’d like to hear more about the business of building space robots.

Customer feedback is a development opportunity

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 01:36 PM PST

Online commerce accounted for nearly $518 billion in revenue in the United States alone last year. The growing number of online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay will command 40% of the global retail market in 2020. As the number of digital offerings — not only marketplaces but also online storefronts and company websites — available to consumers continues to grow, the primary challenge for any online platform lies in setting itself apart.

The central question for how to accomplish this: Where does differentiation matter most?

A customer's ability to easily (and accurately) find a specific product or service with minimal barriers helps ensure they feel satisfied and confident with their choice of purchase. This ultimately becomes the differentiator that sets an online platform apart. It's about coupling a stellar product with an exceptional experience. Often, that takes the form of simple, searchable access to a wide variety of products and services. Sometimes, it's about surfacing a brand that meets an individual consumer's needs or price point. In both cases, platforms are in a position to help customers avoid having to chase down a product or service through multiple clicks while offering a better way of comparing apples to apples.

To be successful, a company should adopt a consumer-first philosophy that informs its product ideation and development process. A successful consumer-first development resides in a company's ability to expediently deliver fresh features that customers actually respond to, rather than prioritize the update that seems most profitable. The best way to inform both elements is to consistently collect and learn from customer feedback in a timely way — and sometimes, this will mean making decisions for the benefit of consumers versus what is in the best interest of companies.

Legacy, a sperm testing and freezing service, just raised $3.5 million to send the message to men: get checked

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 01:17 PM PST

Legacy, a male fertility startup, has just raised a fresh, $3.5 million in funding from Bill Maris’s San Diego-based venture firm, Section 32, along with Y Combinator and Bain Capital Ventures, which led a $1.5 million seed round for the Boston startup last year.

We talked earlier today with Legacy’s founder and CEO Khaled Kteily about his now two-year-old, five-person startup and its big ambitions to become the world’s preeminent male fertility center. Our biggest question was how Legacy and similar startups convince men — who are generally less concerned with their fertility than women — that they need the company’s at-home testing kits and services in the first place.

“They should be worried about [their fertility],” said Kteily, a former healthcare and life sciences consultant with a master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. “Sperm counts have gone down 50 to 60% over the last 40 years.” More from our chat with Legacy, a former TechCrunch Battlefield winner, follows; it has been edited lightly for length.

TC: Why start this company?

KK: I didn’t grow up wanting to be the king of sperm [laughs]. But I had a pretty bad accident — a second-degree burn on my legs after having four hot Starbucks teas spill on my lap in a car — and between that and a colleague at the Kennedy School who’d been diagnosed with cancer and whose doctor suggested he freeze his sperm ahead of his radiation treatments, it just clicked for me that maybe I should also save my sperm. When I went into Cambridge to do this, the place was right next to the restaurant Dumpling House and it was just very awkward and expensive and I thought, there must be a better way of doing this.

TC: How do you get started on something like this?

KK: This was before Ro and Hims began taking off, but people were increasingly comfortable doing things from their own homes, so I started doing research around the idea. I joined the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. I started taking continuing education classes about sperm…

TC: Women are under so much pressure from the time they turn 30 to monitor their fertility. Aside from extreme circumstances, as with your friend, do men really think about testing their sperm? 

KK: Men should be worried about it, and they should be taking responsibility for it. What a lot of folks don’t know is for every one in seven couples that are actively trying to get pregnant, the man is equally responsible [for their fertility struggles]. Women are taught about their fertility but men aren’t, yet the quality of their sperm is degrading over the years. Sperm counts have gone down by 50 to 60% over the last 40 years, too.

TC: Wait, what? Why?

KK: [Likely culprits are] chemicals in plastics, chemicals in what we eat eat and drink, changes in lifestyle; we move less and eat more, and sperm health relates to overall health. I also think mobile phones are causing it. I will caveat this by saying there’s been mixed research, but I’m convinced that cell phones are the new smoking in that it wasn’t clear that smoking was as dangerous as it is when the research was being conducted by companies that benefited by [perpetuating cigarette use]. There’s also a generational decline in sperm quality [to consider]; it poses increased risk to the mother but also the child, as the risk of gestational diabetes goes up, as well as the rate of autism and other congenital conditions.

TC: You’re selling directly to consumers. Are you also working with companies to incorporate your tests in their overall wellness offerings?

KK: We’re investing heavily in business-to-business and expect that to be a huge acquisition channel for us. We can’t share any names yet, but we just signed a big company last week and have a few more in the works. These are mostly Bay Area companies right now; it’s an area where our experience as a YC alum was valuable because of the founders who’ve gone through and now run large companies of their own.

TC: When you’re talking with investors, how do you describe the market size? 

KK: There are four million couples that are facing fertility challenges and in all cases, we believe the man should be tested. So do [their significant others]. Almost half of purchases [of our kits] are by a female partner. We also see men in the military freezing their sperm before being deployed, same-sex couples who plan to use a surrogate at some point and transgender patients who are looking at a life-changing [moment] and want to preserve their fertility before they start the process. But we see this as something that every man might do as they go off to college, and investors see that bigger picture.

TC: How much do the kits and storage cost?

KK: The kit costs $195 up front, and if they choose to store their sperm, $145 a year. We offer different packages. You can also spend $1,995 for two deposits and 10 years of storage.

TC: Is one or two samples effective? According to the Mayo Clinic, sperm counts fluctuate meaningfully from one sample to the next, so they suggest semen analysis tests over a period of time to ensure accurate results.

KK: We encourage our clients to make multiple deposits. The scores will be variable, but they’ll gather around an average.

TC: But they are charged for these deposits separately?

KK: Yes.

TC: And what are you looking for?

KK: Volume, count, concentration, motility and morphology [meaning the shape of the sperm].

TC: Who, exactly, is doing the analysis and handling the storage?

KK: We partner with Andrology Labs in Chicago on analysis; it’s one of the top fertility labs in the country. For storage, we partner with a couple of cryo-storage providers in different geographies. We divide the samples into four, then store them in two different tanks within each of two locations. We want to make sure we’re never in a position where [the samples are accidentally destroyed, as has happened at clinics elsewhere].

TC: I can imagine fears about these samples being mishandled. How can you assure customers this won’t happen?

KK: Trust and legitimacy are core factors and a huge area of focus for us. We’re CPPA and HIPAA compliant. All [related data] is encrypted and anonymized and every customer receives a unique ID [which is a series of digits so that even the storage facilities don’t know whose sperm they are handling]. We have extreme redundancies and processes in place to ensure that we’re handling [samples] in the most scientifically rigorous way possible, as well as ensuring the safety and privacy of each [specimen].

TC: How long can sperm be frozen?

KK: Indefinitely.

TC: How will you use all the data you’ll be collecting?

KK: I could see us entering into partnerships with research institutions. What we won’t do is sell it like 23andMe.

True product-market fit is a minimum viable company

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 01:02 PM PST

Hi, I'm Ann.

I was one of the first investors in Lyft, Refinery29 and Xamarin. I've been on the Midas List for the past three years and was recently named on The New York Times' list of The Top 20 Venture Capitalists. In 2008, I co-founded Floodgate, one of the first seed-stage VC funds in Silicon Valley. Unlike most funds, we invest exclusively in seed, making us experts in finding product-market fit and building a minimum viable company. Seed is fundamentally different from later stages, so we've made it more than a specialty: It's all we do. Each of our partners sees thousands of companies every year before electing to invest in only the top three or four.

For the past 11 years, I’ve invested at the inception phase of startups. We’ve seen startups go wildly right (Lyft, Refinery29, Twitch, Xamarin) and wildly wrong. When I reflect on the failures, the root cause inevitably stems from misconceptions around the nature of product-market fit.

True product-market fit is a minimum viable company

Before attempting to scale your minimum viable product, you should focus on cultivating your minimum viable company. Nail down your value proposition, find your place in the broader ecosystem and craft a business model that adds up. In other words, true product-market fit is actually the magical moment when three elements click together:

To have built a minimum viable company, these three elements must work in concert together:

  • People must value your product enough to be willing to pay for it. This value also determines how you package your product to the world (freemium versus free to pay versus enterprise sales).
  • Your business model and pricing must fit your ecosystem. They must also generate enough sales volume and revenue to sustain your business.
  • Your product's value must satisfy the needs of the ecosystem and the ecosystem needs to accept your product.

Many entrepreneurs conceptualize product-market fit as the point where some subset of customers love their product's features. This conceptualization is dangerous. Many failing companies have features that customers loved. Some even have multiple beloved features! Great features constitute only one-half of one-third of the whole puzzle. To have created a minimum viable company, a company needs all three of these elements — value propositions, business model and ecosystem — working in concert. 

So founders take heed…

Moving into "growth mode" while missing any of these elements is building your company on an unsound foundation.

Founders who tune out the latest tweet cycle on "the secrets to raising Series A" and focus instead on the intricacies of their own business will find that product-market fit is a predictable, achievable phenomenon. On the other hand, founders who prematurely focus on growth without knowing the basic ingredients of their minimum viable company often fuel an addictive and destructive cycle around their business' fake growth, acquiring non-optimal users that contribute to their company's destruction.

Read an extended version of this article on Extra Crunch.

You need a minimum viable company, not a minimum viable product

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 01:01 PM PST

Hi, I'm Ann.

I was one of the first investors in Lyft, Refinery29 and Xamarin. I've been on the Midas List for the past three years and was recently named on The New York Times' list of The Top 20 Venture Capitalists. In 2008, I co-founded Floodgate, one of the first seed-stage VC funds in Silicon Valley. Unlike most funds, we invest exclusively in seed, making us experts in finding product-market fit and building a minimum viable company. Seed is fundamentally different from later stages, so we've made it more than a specialty: It's all we do. Each of our partners sees thousands of companies every year before electing to invest in only the top three or four.

For the past 11 years, I’ve invested at the inception phase of startups. We’ve seen startups go wildly right (Lyft, Refinery29, Twitch, Xamarin) and wildly wrong. When I reflect on the failures, the root cause inevitably stems from misconceptions around the nature of product-market fit.

The magic of product-market fit

Most successful entrepreneurs and VCs agree that product-market fit is the defining quality of an early-stage startup. Getting to product-market fit allows you to succeed even if you aren't optimized on other fronts.

Most entrepreneurs conceptualize product-market fit as the point where some subset of customers love their product's features. At Floodgate, we forensically analyzed companies that died and concluded this conceptualization is wrong. Many failing companies had features that customers loved. Some of these companies even had multiple beloved features! We discovered that having customers love the product is merely a part of product-market fit, not the entire thing. This raises the question: What were they lacking?

Carriers ‘violated federal law’ by selling your location data, FCC tells Congress

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 12:03 PM PST

More than a year and a half after wireless carriers were caught red-handed selling the real-time location data of their customers to anyone willing to pay for it, the FCC has determined that they committed a crime. An official documentation of exactly how these companies violated the law is forthcoming.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai shared his finding in a letter to Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee that oversees the agency, and others in the House. Rep. Pallone and his colleagues have been active on this and prodded the FCC for updates throughout last year, eventually prompting today’s letter.

“I wish to inform you that the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has completed its extensive investigation and that it has concluded that one or more wireless carriers apparently violated federal law,” Pai wrote.

Extensive it must have been, since we first heard of this egregious breach of privacy in May of 2018, when multiple reports showed that every major carrier (including TechCrunch’s parent company Verizon) was selling precise location data wholesale to resellers who then either resold it or gave it away. It took nearly a year for the carriers to follow through on their promises to stop the practice. And now, 18 months later, we get the first real indication that regulators took notice.

“It's a shame that it took so long for the FCC to reach a conclusion that was so obvious,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement issued alongside the chairman’s letter. She has repeatedly brought up the issue in the interim, seemingly baffled that such a large-scale and obvious violation was going almost completely unacknowledged by the agency.

Commissioner Brendan Starks echoed her sentiment in his own statement: “These pay-to-track schemes violated consumers' privacy rights and endangered their safety. I'm glad we may finally act on these egregious allegations. My question is: what took so long?”

Chairman Pai’s letter explains that “in the coming days” he will be proposing a “Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture,” for several of them. This complicated-sounding document is basically the official declaration, with evidence and legal standing, that someone has violated FCC rules and may be subject to a “forfeiture,” essentially a fine.

Right now that is all the information anyone has, including the other commissioners, but the arrival of the notice will no doubt make things much clearer — and may help show exactly how seriously the agency took this problem and when it began to take action.

Representative Pallone issued the following statement after receiving the letter:

Following our longstanding calls to take action, the FCC finally informed the Committee today that one or more wireless carriers apparently violated federal privacy protections by turning a blind eye to the widespread disclosure of consumers' real-time location data. This is certainly a step in the right direction, but I'll be watching to make sure the FCC doesn't just let these lawbreakers off the hook with a slap on the wrist.

Disclosure: TechCrunch is owned by Verizon Media, a subsidiary of Verizon Wireless, but this has no effect on our coverage.

Tech companies, we see through your flimsy privacy promises

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 10:12 AM PST

There’s a reason why Data Privacy Day pisses me off.

January 28 was the annual “Hallmark holiday” for cybersecurity, ostensibly a day devoted to promoting data privacy awareness and staying safe online. This year, as in recent years, it has become a launching pad for marketing fluff and promoting privacy practices that don’t hold up.

Privacy has become a major component of our wider views on security, and it’s in sharper focus than ever as we see multiple examples of companies that harvest too much of our data, share it with others, sell it to advertisers and third parties and use it to track our every move so they can squeeze out a few more dollars.

But as we become more aware of these issues, companies large and small clamor for attention about how their privacy practices are good for users. All too often, companies make hollow promises and empty claims that look fancy and meaningful.

Unicorn fever as One Medical’s IPO pops 40% after conservative pricing

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 09:56 AM PST

Shares of One Medical are worth $19.50 this morning after the venture-backed unicorn priced its IPO at $14 per share last night. The company opened at $18 before rising further, according to Yahoo Finance data. At its current price, One Medical is worth about 40% more than its IPO price, a strong debut for the company.

The result is a boon for One Medical, which raised $532.1 million during its time as a private company. At $14 per share, the company was worth $1.71 billion. At 19.50, One Medical is worth $2.38 billion, a winning result for a company said to be worth around $1.5 billion as a private company.

For investors The Carlyle Group, J.P. Morgan, Redmile Group, GV and Benchmark (among others), the debut is a success, pricing their stakes in the company higher once again. For other unicorns, the news is even better. One Medical, a company with gross margins under the 50% mark, deeply minority recurring revenue and 30% revenue growth in 2019 at best is now worth about 8.5x its trailing revenues.

That is about as good a signal as one could imagine for venture-backed companies that aren’t in as good shape as Slack or Zoom were letting them know that now is the time to go public.

Unicorn directions

It’s possible to read One Medical’s new revenue multiple in a few ways. You can be positive, saying that its valuation and resulting metrics are signs of investor optimism for the medical service company. Or you could go negative and assume that its pricing looks like a case of the market being more excited about a brand than a set of accounting results.

Daily Crunch: IBM names new CEO

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 09:32 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. Arvind Krishna will replace Ginni Rometty as IBM CEO in April

Krishna, IBM’s senior vice president for cloud and cognitive software, will take over on April 6 after a couple months of transition. Rometty will remain with the company as chairman of the board.

Krishna reportedly drove the massive $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat at the end of 2018, and there was some speculation at the time that Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst was the heir apparent. Instead, the board went with a more seasoned IBM insider for the job, while naming Whitehurst as president.

2. Apple's redesigned Maps app is available across the US, adds real-time transit for Miami

The redesigned app will include more accurate information overall as well as comprehensive views of roads, buildings, parks, airports, malls and other public places. It will also bring Look Around to more cities and real-time transit to Miami.

3. Social media boosting service exposed thousands of Instagram passwords

The company, Social Captain, says it helps thousands of users to grow their Instagram follower counts by connecting their accounts to its platform. But TechCrunch learned this week Social Captain was storing the passwords of linked Instagram accounts in unencrypted plaintext.

4. Elon Musk just dropped an EDM track on SoundCloud

That is a real headline and I probably don’t need to say much else. Listen to the track, or don’t.

5. Being a child actress prepared me for a career in venture capital

Crystal McKellar played Becky Slater on “The Wonder Years,” and she writes about how that experience prepared her to be a managing partner at Anathem Ventures. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. Moda Operandi, an online marketplace for high-end fashion, raises $100M led by NEA and Apax

High-end fashion might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about online shopping, but it has actually been a ripe market for the e-commerce industry.

7. Why Sony's PlayStation Vue failed

Vue launched in March 2015, offering live and on-demand content from more than 85 channels, including many local broadcast stations. But it failed to catch on with a broader audience, despite — or perhaps, because of — its integration with Sony's PS3 and PS4 devices, and it shut down this week. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

Last day for early-bird tickets to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 09:05 AM PST

Today's your last day to score early-bird pricing on tickets to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020, which takes place on March 3. If you want to keep $150 in your wallet, beat the deadline and buy your ticket here before the clock strikes 11:59 p.m. (PT) tonight!

Our one-day conference dedicated to robotics and AI — the good, the bad and the challenging — features interviews, panel discussions, Q&As, workshops and demos. Join roughly 1,500 experts, visionaries, creators, founders, investors, researchers and engineers. Rub elbows, network and engage with current and aspiring leaders, as well as students poised to drive future innovation.

We have a stellar line up, and just because we're biased doesn't mean we're wrong. I mean come on — assistive robots, ethics and AI, the state of VC investment and robot demos. And that's just for starters. Here are a couple of specific examples (peruse the full agenda right here):

  • Cultivating Intelligence in Agricultural Robots: The benefits of robotics in agriculture are undeniable, yet at the same time only getting started. Lewis Anderson (Traptic) and Sebastien Boyer (FarmWise) will compare notes on the rigors of developing industrial-grade robots that both pick crops and weed fields, respectively. Pyka's Michael Norcia will discuss taking flight over those fields with an autonomous crop-spraying drone.
  • Building the Robots that Build: Join Daniel Blank (Toggle), Tessa Lau (Dusty Robotics) and Noah Ready-Campbell (Built Robotics) as they discuss whether robots can help us build structures faster, smarter and cheaper. Built Robotics makes a self-driving excavator. Toggle is developing a new fabrication of rebar for reinforced concrete and Dusty Robotics builds robot-powered tools. We'll talk with the founders to learn how and when robots will become a part of the construction crew.

And in case you haven't heard, we've added Pitch Night, a mini pitch-off, into the mix this year. We're accepting applications until tomorrow, February 1. This is no time for fence-sitting! Apply to compete in Pitch Night now. TechCrunch editors will review the applications and choose 10 startups to pitch at a private event the night before the conference. A panel of VC judges will select five teams as finalists. Those founders will pitch again the next day — live from the Main Stage. It's awesome exposure that could take your startup to the next level.

If you love robots, you need to be at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 on March 3. And there's no point paying more than necessary. Today's the last day to buy an early-bird ticket. Buy yours before the deadline expires at 11:59 p.m. (PT) and save $150.

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

After earnings, Amazon joins the $1T club as Alphabet dips out

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 08:35 AM PST

American tech companies almost did something neat today before messing it up.

After reporting earnings yesterday, Amazon’s shares shot higher this morning, pushing the company’s value north of $1 trillion. Its growth and profits proved toothsome to the investing classes, bolstering the Seattle area’s tech pedigree by adding a second trillion-dollar business to its rolls.

Microsoft and Apple, also flush after reporting their own well-received earnings, are also worth north of $1 trillion apiece. Amazon’s ascension would have brought the group of trillion-dollar American tech shops to four, if Alphabet hadn’t gone and spoiled the fun.

Here’s the chart, on which you can spot Alphabet’s dip back under the $1,000 billion mark:

MSFT Market Cap Chart

So close, right?

Perhaps Google and its cadre of money-losing subsidiaries will manage to skate back over $1 trillion today, leaving only little Facebook out of the Cool Kid Clubhouse.

Get it together, Zuck! A billion dollars isn’t cool. You know what is? Being yet another trillion-dollar tech company. Gosh.

Even as Microsoft Azure revenue grows, AWS’s market share lead stays strong

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 08:12 AM PST

When analyzing the cloud market, there are many ways to look at the numbers; revenue, year-over-year or quarter-over-quarter growth — or lack of it — or market share. Each of these numbers tells a story, but in the cloud market, where aggregate growth remains high and Azure’s healthy expansions continues, it’s still struggling to gain meaningful ground on AWS's lead.

This has to be frustrating to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who has managed to take his company from cloud wannabe to a strong second place in the IaaS/PaaS market, yet still finds his company miles behind the cloud leader. He’s done everything right to get his company to this point, but sometimes the math just isn’t in your favor.

Numbers don’t lie

John Dinsdale, chief analyst at Synergy Research, says Microsoft's growth rate is higher overall than Amazon’s, but AWS still has a big lead in market share. “In absolute dollar terms, it usually has larger increments in revenue numbers and that makes Amazon hard to catch,” he says, adding “what I can say is that this is a very tough gap to close and mathematically it could not happen any time soon, whatever the quarterly performance of Microsoft and AWS.”

The thing to remember with the cloud market is that it’s not even close to being a fixed pie. In fact, it’s growing rapidly and there’s still plenty of market share left to win. As of today, before Amazon has reported, it has a substantial lead, no matter how you choose to measure it.

How Dubsmash revived itself as #2 to TikTok

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 08:03 AM PST

Lip-syncing app Dubsmash was on the brink of death. After a brief moment of virality in 2015 alongside Vine (R.I.P), Dubsmash was bleeding users faster than it could recruit them. The app let you choose an audio track like a rap song or movie quote and shoot a video of you pretending to say the words. But there was nowhere in the app to post the videos. It was a creation tool like Hipstamatic, not a network like Instagram. There’s a reason we’re only using one of those today.

So in 2017, Dubsmash‘s three executives burned down the 30-person company and rebuilt something social from the ashes with the rest of the $15.4 million it’d raised from Lowercase Capital, Index Ventures and Raine. They ditched its Berlin headquarters and resettled in Brooklyn, closer to the one demographic still pushing Dubsmashes to the Instagram Explore page: African-American teenagers posting dances and lip-syncs to indie hip-hop songs on the rise.

Dubsmash stretched its funding to rehire a whole new team of 15. They spent a year coding a new version of Dubsmash centered around Following and Trending feeds, desperately trying to match the core features of Musically, which by then had been bought by China’s ByteDance. It’s got chat but still lacks the augmented reality filters, cut transitions and photo slideshows of TikTok. But Dubsmash has the critical remix option for soundtracking your clip with the audio of any other video that sets it apart from Instagram and Snapchat.

“We realized to build a great product, we needed a depth of expertise that we just didn’t have access to in Berlin,” Dubsmash co-founder and CEO Jonas Druppel tells me. “It was a risky move and we felt the weight of it acutely. But we also knew there was no other way forward, given the scale and pace of the other players in the market.”

Few social apps have ever pulled off a real comeback. Even Snapchat had only lost 5 million of its 191 million users before it started growing again. But in the case of Dubsmash, its biggest competitor was also its savior.

The pre-relaunch version of Dubsmash

In August 2018, ByteDance merged Musically into TikTok to form a micro-entertainment phenomenon. Instead of haphazardly sharing auto-biographical Stories shot with little forethought, people began storyboarding skits and practicing dances. The resulting videos were denser and more compelling than content on Snapchat and Instagram. The new Dubsmash, launched two months later, rode along with the surge of interest in short-form video like a Lilliputian in a giant’s shirt pocket. The momentum helped Dubsmash raise a secret round of funding last year to keep up the chase.

Now Dubsmash has 1 billion video views per month.

Dubsmash rebuilt its app and revived its usage

"The turnaround that we executed hasn't been done in recent memory by a consumer app in such a competitive marketplace. Most of them fade to oblivion or shut down,” Dubsmash co-founder and president Suchit Dash tells me. “By moving the company to the United States, hiring a brand new all-star team and relaunching the product, we gave this company and product a second life. Through that journey, we obsessed only on one metric: retention.”

Now the app has pulled 27% of the U.S. short-form video market share by installs, second only to TikTok’s 59%, according to App Annie. Sensor Tower tells TechCrunch that TikTok has about 3X as many U.S. lifetime installs as Dubsmash, and 11X more between when Musically became TikTok in August 2018 and now. [Note: These statistics are based on polling methods and TechCrunch cannot confirm their exact accuracy.]

In terms of active users outside of TikTok, Dubsmash has 73% of the U.S. market, compared to just 23% on Triller, 3.6% on Firework and an embarrassing 0% on Facebook’s Lasso. And while Triller began surpassing Dubsmash in downloads per month in October, Dubsmash has 3X as many active users and saw 38% more first-time downloads in 2018 than 2019. Dubsmash now sees 30% retention after a month, and 30% of its daily users are creating content.

It’s that stellar rate of participation that’s brought Dubsmash back to life. It also attracted a previously unannounced round of $6.75 million in the spring of 2019, largely from existing investors. While TikTok’s superstars and huge visibility could be scaring some users away from shooting videos while a long-tail of recent downloaders watch passively, Dubsmash has managed to make people feel comfortable on camera.

“Dubsmash is ground zero for culture creation in America — it’s where the newest, most popular hip-hop and dance challenges on the internet originate,” Dash declares. “Members of the community are developing content that will make them the superstars of tomorrow.”

Being No. 2 might not be so bad, given how mobile video viewing is growing massively thanks to better cameras, bigger screens, faster networks and cheaper data. Right now, Dubsmash doesn’t make any money. It hopes to one day generate revenue while helping its creators earn a living too, perhaps through ad revenue shares, tipping, subscriptions, merchandise or offline meetups.

One advantage of not being TikTok is that the app feels less crowded by semi-pro creators and influencers. That gives users the vibe that they’re more likely to hit the Trending or Explore page on Dubsmash. The Trending page is dominated by hot new songs and flashy dances, even if they’re shot with a lower production quality that feels accessible.

Dubsmash tries to stoke that sense of opportunity by making Explore about discovering accounts and all the content they’ve made rather than specific videos. While popular clips might have tens of thousands of views rather than the hundred-thousand or multi-million counts on TikTok’s top content, there’s enough visibility to make shooting Dubsmashes worth it.

TikTok has already taken notice. Shown in a leak of its moderation guidelines from Netzpolitik, the company’s policy is to downrank the visibility of any video referencing or including a watermark from direct competitors, including Dubsmash, Triller, Lasso, Snapchat and WhatsApp. That keeps Dubsmash videos, which you can save to your camera roll, from going viral on TikTok and luring users away.

TikTok’s content moderation guidelines show it downranks content featuring the watermarks of competitors like Dubsmash

TikTok also continues to aggressively buy users via ads on competing apps like Facebook thanks to the billions in funding raked in by its parent ByteDance. In contrast, Dash says Dubsmash has never spent a dollar on user acquisition, influencer marketing or any other source of growth. That makes it achieving even half to a third of as many installs as TikTok in the U.S. an impressive fete.

Why would creators choose Dubsmash over TikTok? Dash clinically explains that it’s a “decoupled audio and video platform that enables producers and tastemakers to upload fresh, original tracks that are utilized by creators and influencers alike,” but that it’s also about “its role as a welcoming home for a community that’s underrepresented on social platforms.”

If Dubsmash keeps growing, though, it will encounter the inevitable content moderation problems that come with scale. It’s already doing a solid job of requiring users to sign up with their birth date to watch or post videos, and it blocks those under 13. Only users who follow each other can chat.

Any piece of content that’s flagged by users is hidden from the network until it passes a review by its human moderation team that works around the clock, and it does proactive takedowns too. However, brigading and malicious takedown reports could be used by trolls to silence their enemies. Dubsmash is working off of a common sense model of what’s allowed rather than firm guidelines, which will be tough to keep consistent at scale.

"Being a social media app in 2020 means you need to take greater responsibility for the well-being of the community,” says Dash. “We decided upon relaunch to take a strict perspective. Our goal is to be intentional and proactive early, and invest in safety and healthy growth rather than growth at all costs. This may not be the most popular approach amongst the market, but we believe this is the most effective way to build a social platform.”

Dubsmash proves that short-form video is so compelling to teens that the market can sustain multiple apps. That will have to be the case, given Instagram is preparing to release its TikTok clone, Reels, and Vine’s co-founder Dom Hofmann just launched his successor, Byte. The breakdown could look like:

  • TikTok: A slightly longer-form combo of comedy, dance and absurdity
  • Dubsmash: Mid-length dance and music videos with a diverse community
  • Byte: Super short-form comedy featuring slightly older ex-Vine stars
  • Triller: Mid-length life blogging clips from Hollywood celebrities
  • Instagram Reels: International influencers making videos for a mainstream audience

Perhaps we’ll eventually see consolidation in the market, with giants like TikTok and Instagram acquiring smaller players to grow their content network effect with more fodder for remixes. But fragmentation could breed creativity. Different tools and audiences beg for different types of videos. Make something special, and there’s an app out there to enter you into pop culture cannon.

For more on the short-form video wars and the future of micro-entertainment, read:

Moda Operandi, an online marketplace for high-end fashion, raises $100M led by NEA and Apax

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 06:47 AM PST

Moda Operandi, an online marketplace that specialises in right-off-the-runway luxury fashion, accessories and home decor, is today announcing a high-priced event of its own: it’s raised $100 million, a mix of equity and debt that it will use to invest in its platform and technology as well as to continue growing business overall. Founded in 2010, it offers products from some 1,000 brands and designers and ships to 125 countries.

"For the past eight years, Moda has disrupted the way people shop for luxury fashion," said Moda Operandi CEO Ganesh Srivats in a statement. "This investment will enable us to build on that innovation, investing further in the client and designer experience and connecting more of the world's best fashion to more people."

The financing is being co-led by NEA and Apax Partners, both previous investors in Moda Operandi, with participation also from the Santo Domingo family (connected to Lauren Santo Domingo, who co-founded Moda with Aslaug Magnusdottir), Comerica Bank, TriplePoint Capital and other unnamed investors.

The company’s valuation is not being disclosed, but in its last round, in 2017, Moda Operandi had a post-money valuation of $650 million, according to data from PitchBook. It has raised $345 million to date.

High-end fashion might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about online shopping, but it has actually been a ripe market for the e-commerce industry.

While those in the know (and in the money) might attend catwalk shows, and bijou boutiques in swish locales are likely to be around for many years to come, there is a massive population of people who have the income and inclination to shop for luxury fashion, but might not be in the right place, or have the time, to do so.

For these shoppers, websites, mobile apps and, most recently, new channels like Instagram and messaging services have become a key route to browsing and buying, leading to the rise of huge businesses like Farfetch, Net-a-Porter and more.

That trend has helped to buffer Moda Operandi up to now, but it’s also the one that will be interesting to watch down the line.

We’ve written about the rise of direct-to-consumer brands and how that has played out specifically in the world of fashion, which in turn becomes a new group of competitors to aggregating marketplaces like Moda Operandi.

Similarly, the growing trend of targeting consumers wherever they happen to be also represents a rival business model, with some fashion retailers now foregoing websites altogether in favor of using third-party messaging apps to reach their target customers. Will Moda Operandi change with the times to do more of this kind of selling, too? Like fashion, what’s in today might be out tomorrow, so even the best channels are moving targets.

In any case, Moda Operandi has most definitely shown that it’s prepared to evolve and upset the status quo. The company got its start in 2010 as part out of an aha-moment from Santo Domingo, a socialite, former model and former editor at Vogue.

As someone who had worked for years in the luxury fashion industry, fully immersed as a consumer to boot, she knew that only a small, rarefied group of people ever got full access to a designer’s runway collection.

Moda Operandi was her solution — a platform to broaden that out, giving access to a full trunkshows (as the runway collections are called) to a wider selection of possible buyers and improving revenues for designers and brands in the process, as they no longer had to rely just on more traditional channels, namely buyers for retailers. The site had some catches — for example, as we pointed out at the time, you could shop a runway look, but still had to wait months for the piece to actually arrive, as those items would have yet to be made; but it caught on with a loyal following.

Over the years, the site’s basic remit has expanded, covering not only runway collections but also extending into jewelry, accessories and home decor. (We asked what size the business is today, and whether Moda Operandi can share any details on how that has changed over time, but a spokesperson said the company would not be sharing these or other financial details today.)

In any case, it has remained a compelling enough business to have brought in a hefty round of growth funding from its previous backers.

“We continue to be impressed with the power of Moda's brand and its positioning in the luxury market,” said Dan O’Keefe, managing partner of Apax Digital, in a statement. "Moda has been enhancing its technology capabilities as a world leading platform for fashion discovery and is led by a world-class team. We look forward to continuing to support their expansion."

"Moda Operandi has really disrupted the traditional ecommerce model, using technology to give people unprecedented access to fashion," added Tony Florence, general partner and head of technology investing at NEA, in a statement. "It was a really big idea when we led the Series A, and today Ganesh and the team are executing on that data-enabled retail model at scale. We are thrilled to continue supporting the company in this latest round."

First thoughts on One Medical’s IPO pricing

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 06:15 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 digging into One Medical’s IPO pricing, especially as it relates to the company’s valuation and resulting revenue multiples. Our goal this morning is to understand how the IPO process priced One Medical last night, and what its resulting value could mean for other tech-enabled companies.

One Medical, a popular and modern medical provider, is a venture-backed company now worth $14 per share, or about $1.7 billion. Is that a lot? Or do those metrics fit well next to its fundamentals? Let’s find out.

Pricing

How to blow through capital at an incredible rate

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 06:00 AM PST

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch's venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

It was yet another jam-packed week full of big news, IPO happenings and venture activity. As always, we’ve done our best to deliver the gist on what’s been going on. We had Alex Wilhelm and Danny Crichton on hand to handle it all, which went medium-good. In other Equity news, we’re back with guests over the next few weeks, so if you miss us having a venture capitalist along for the ride, fear not, their return is just around the corner.

Up top this week was Jon Shieber’s report that Kleiner Perkins has rapidly deployed its most recent fund, a $600 million vehicle. While the news felt surprising, digging back through our archives we were reminded that the firm had indicated it might put its capital to work quickly. Still, as Danny pointed out, it’s rare that venture capitalists have to go out raising from LPs on an annual basis.

After that, we turned to some funding rounds that held our attention, including the Free Agency round that is working to bring talent management to the technology industry similar to the sports and entertainment worlds.

The concept makes some sense, as compensation packages for top talent in the industry can extend into the seven-figures (Free Agency takes a 5-10% cut of an employee’s income using the increasingly popular income-share agreements). Also, this round felt a bit like a reminder that the labor market is tight at the moment.

We then moved on to Josh Constine’s story about “Ring for enterprise” startup Verkada, which raised a massive $80 million round at a $1.6 billion valuation. That’s eye-popping, since the extremely small dilution implied with those numbers (5%) is very rare in the venture world.

After that we turned to a few rounds that Alex has had his eye on, namely the somewhat-recent Insurify round, the pretty-recent Gabi round and the most-recent Policygenius. All told, they sum to $150 million, which made us ask the question, why are venture capitalists so into insurance marketplace startups?

Finally, we touched on the latest from the intra-SoftBank delivery war between DoorDash and Uber Eats, including who is impacted, and what it means for future consolidation in the on-demand world. Or more precisely, why hasn’t there been more?

Finally, don’t forget that IPO season is upon us. Are you caught up?

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

How Bykea is winning Pakistan’s ride-hailing and delivery market

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 04:48 AM PST

Increasingly, the streets of Karachi and Lahore are being flooded with men riding bikes and wearing green T-shirts, a writer friend recently told me. In a sense, these men represent the emergence of Pakistan’s tech startups.

India now has more than 25,000 startups and raised a record $14.5 billion last year, according to government figures. But not all Asian countries are as large as India or have such a thriving startup ecosystem. Long overdue, things are beginning to change in bordering Pakistan.

Bykea, a three-year-old ride-hailing and delivery service, today has more than 500,000 bikes registered on its platform. It operates in some of Pakistan’s most populated cities, such as Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, Muneeb Maayr, Bykea founder and CEO, told TechCrunch.

Maayr is one of the most recognized startup founders in Pakistan, and previously worked for Rocket Internet, helping the giant run fashion e-commerce platform Daraz in the country. While leading Daraz, he expanded the platform to cater to categories beyond fashion; Daraz was later sold to Alibaba.

Elon Musk just dropped an EDM track on SoundCloud

Posted: 31 Jan 2020 03:47 AM PST

Friday typically brings a bunch of new music releases, but this Friday’s new drops includes a new track from an unlikely source — Elon Musk . The SpaceX and Tesla CEO said earlier this week he had written a new song called “Don’t Doubt ur Vibe,” to be released on “Emo G Records,” but as usual it was hard to tell if Musk was being serious or just having his evening internet fun.

Turns out, he was serious, and we didn’t have to wait long to hear the track. The lyrics probably didn’t take him too long to write — the whole song consists of “Don’t doubt your vibe / because it’s true / don’t doubt your vibe / because it’s you” repeated over and over. Musk says he performed the lyrics, which are modified and distorted to an airy electronic, supernatural-sounding final product.

The track itself is backed by a pulsing, ambient kind of EDM arrangement, and all in all it’s not a bad representation of the genre. Listen for yourself and judge:

Musk also tweeted photos of himself in the studio actually recording the track, and shared that the process of putting together the song was maybe harder than he’d anticipated. In the midst of his music-making tweets, he also took time to educate some of his followers on why some of the more dire predictions floating around about the coronavirus are blown way out of proportion.

No word on whether there’s going to be a full album, but Musk’s timing with this drop actually makes a lot of sense when you consider how things have been going for him lately: Tesla stock skyrocketed on positive earnings reported yesterday; he beat a defamation accusation in court last month; his Starlink project is coming together; and SpaceX is making good progress on its commercial crew flight program, nailing its last major test flight before crewed missions earlier this month.

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