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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News


Fiddler Labs, SRI and Berkeley experts open up the black box of machine learning at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 05:13 PM PST

As AI permeates the home, work, and public life, it’s increasingly important to be able to understand why and how it makes its decisions. Explainable AI isn’t just a matter of hitting a switch, though; Experts from UC Berkeley, SRI, and Fiddler Labs will discuss how we should go about it on stage at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI on March 3.

What does explainability really mean? Do we need to start from scratch? How do we avoid exposing proprietary data and methods? Will there be a performance hit? Whose responsibility will it be, and who will ensure it is done properly?

On our panel addressing these questions and more will be two experts, one each from academia and private industry.

Trevor Darrell is a professor at Berkeley’s Computer Science department who helps lead many of the university’s AI-related labs and projects, especially those concerned with the next generation of smart transportation. His research group focuses on perception and human-AI interaction, and he previously led a computer vision group at MIT.

Krishna Gade has passed in his time through Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Microsoft, and has seen firsthand how AI is developed privately — and how biases and flawed processes can lead to troubling results. He co-founded Fiddler as an effort to address problems of fairness and transparency by providing an explainable AI framework for enterprise.

Moderating and taking part in the discussion will be SRI International’s Karen Myers, director of the research outfit’s Artificial Intelligence Center and an AI developer herself focused on collaboration, automation, and multi-agent systems.

Save $50 on tickets when you book today. Ticket prices go up at the door and are selling fast. We have two (yes two) Startup Demo Packages Left – book your package now and get your startup in front of 1000+ of today’s leading industry minds. Packages come with 4 tickets – book here.

Sundance: Feels Good Man charts a path of redemption for Pepe

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 05:12 PM PST

Can a meme be redeemed? That's the central question in Andrew Jones' Feels Good Man — a documentary that premiered at Sundance this year charting the course of the creator of Pepe the Frog, a comic book character turned universally recognized meme, as he attempts to reclaim it from racists and shitposters.

The sweet, gentle pacing of the doc fits well with the calm, sensitive demeanor of its creator Matt Furie . Furie is described as "ethereal" by one of his friends in the piece and that's mostly true. As Pepe is created, then coopted by the residents of 4chan and turned into a meme representing ennui, disenfranchisement and white supremacy in turn, Furie takes it mostly in stride.

But he's not without passion, as lines begin to be crossed and Pepe becomes registered as hate speech by the Anti-Defamation League, Furie sees an opportunity to try to reclaim his symbol. He's unsuccessful for the same reason anything is popular on the internet — there are simply too many nerve endings to properly anesthetize them all.

The vast majority of the people that use Pepe are completely unaware of its origins. And the general community of Internet people that communicate via memes go a step beyond that to being un-able to even grasp the concept of ownership. Once something has entered into the cultural bloodstream of the Internet, its origins often dwindle to insignificance.

That doesn't, of course, stop a creator from existing or caring how their creation is used. And the portrait painted here of a gentle and caring artist forced to watch the subversion and perversion of his creation is heartbreaking and important.

Feels Good Man stands above the pack of docs about internet cultural phenomenon. It peels back enough of the layers of the onion to be effective in ways that analysis of culturally complex idioms born online are often deficient.

Too many times over the years we've seen online movements analyzed with an overly simplistic point of view. And the main way they typically fall down is by not including the influence and effect of that staple of online life: trolls. People doing things for the hell of it who then become a part of a larger movement but always have that arms length remove to fall back on, able to claim that it was just a gag.

Jones mentioned during a Q&A after the screening that they wanted Furie's art to be a character, to have a part to play throughout the film. In addition to scenes of Matt drawing, this is best accomplished by the absolutely gorgeous animation sequences that Jones and a team of animators created of Pepe and the rest of the Boy's Club characters. They're delightful and welcome respite from the somewhat hammer-like nature of the dark places Pepe is unwittingly drawn by the various subcultures he is adopted by.

It's not a perfect film, the sequences with an occultist are goofy in a way that doesn't fit with the overall flavor of the piece. But it's probably one of the better documentary films ever made about the Internet era and well worth watching when it gets picked up.

Will Apple, Facebook or Microsoft be the future of augmented reality?

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 03:41 PM PST

Apple is seen by some as critical to the future of augmented reality, despite limited traction for ARKit so far and its absence from smartglasses (again, so far). Yet Facebook, Microsoft and others are arguably more important to where the market is today.

While there are more AR platforms than just these companies, they represent the top of the pyramid for three different types of AR roadmap. And while startup insurgents could make a huge difference, big platforms can exert disproportionate influence on the future of tech markets. Let's see what this could mean for the future of AR.

 

Facebook: The messaging play

Facebook has talked about its long-term potential to launch smartglasses, but in 2020, its primary presence in the AR market is as a mobile AR platform (note: Facebook is also a VR market leader with Oculus). Although there are other ways to define them, mobile AR platforms can be thought of as three broad types:

  1. messaging-based (e.g. Facebook Messenger, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Line)
  2. OS-based (e.g. Apple ARKit, Google ARCore)
  3. web-based (e.g. 8th Wall, Torch, others)

Karma Automotive to lay off 60 more workers at California headquarters

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 03:24 PM PST

Karma Automotive is laying off 60 workers at its Irvine, Calif., headquarters, just three months after cutting 200 workers, according to documents filed with the California Employment Development Department.

The Chinese-backed California-based startup filed the notice under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires employers to alert the state of mass layoffs. The WARN report was updated Wednesday. The Orange County Register was first to report the layoffs.

A Karma spokesperson confirmed the layoffs and said a majority would be at the headquarters, with a significantly smaller number being impacted at its Moreno Valley, Calif. assembly plant. Karma didn’t provide details on its total employee count, but did say “adjustments” will be made at its Irvine headquarters, Moreno Valley assembly plant and its Detroit Technical Center in Troy, Mich.

Here’s the complete statement from spokesman Dave Barthmuss.

As Karma evolves beyond its initial birth as car company and emerges as a technology-focused innovator, there is a continuous need to adjust the size and skillset of its workforce to fulfill the task at hand. The company has therefore determined it necessary to realign resources in some business functions so it can grow its capabilities beyond just creating and selling luxury electric vehicles.

As Karma builds partnerships with other OEMs and start-ups to speed product development, we must staff appropriately to fully leverage and realize the kinds of efficiencies partnerships and collaborations can provide. The result of that decision is some adjustments at Karma's Global Headquarters in Irvine, Calif.; the Karma Innovation and Customization Center in Moreno Valley, Calif.; and our Detroit Technical Center in Troy, Mich. Although clearly regrettable for the individuals involved, this action is part of the natural trajectory of a start-up enterprise and underlines Karma's commitment to remain lean, nimble and focused on building partnerships to encourage success in a changing and hugely competitive marketplace.

The company continues to actively recruit, with emphasis on technology innovation, in functions across the company as we focus on retail deliveries of our current products and developing new vehicle platforms, technologies and business partnerships.

The layoff notice comes just a month after several executive hires at the company, including a chief revenue officer, a new vice president of strategy and vehicle line engineering and a head of supply chain. Karma does have a handful of jobs posted on its website, including 11 positions at its Irvine headquarters and two spots at the Moreno Valley plant.

Karma Automotive launched out of the remnants of Fisker Automotive, the startup led by Henrik Fisker  that ended in bankruptcy in 2013. China's Wanxiang Group purchased what was left of Fisker in 2014 and Karma Automotive was born.

It hasn’t been the easiest of roads for the company. Karma’s first effort, known as the Revero, wasn't received warmly. The Revero GT, which has been described as the first fully conceived product under the Karma name, followed with better reviews. The 2020 Revero GT is being delivered to retail customers, according to Karma.

Karma unveiled in November the Revero GTS and a new electric concept car called the SC2, just weeks after it laid off about 200 workers following a restructuring. Production of the GTS is slated for later this year.

The SC2 is a big part of Karma’s restructuring and plan to reinvent itself as a technology and design incubator that supplies other automakers. The company's new business strategy is to open its engineering, design, customization and manufacturing resources to other companies. The GTS and SC2 were meant to show automakers what it is capable of.

FAA’s proposed remote ID rules should make compliance easy

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 03:13 PM PST

When Josh, my co-founder, and I founded Kittyhawk, we saw the need for a new way to aviate with the demands and opportunities that unmanned systems would create. We set out to build the future of programmatic aviation, yet to enable this aviation renaissance we also knew that pragmatic innovation was key.

We didn't rush into building cool but ineffective technologies. We ignored the lure of flashy solutions looking for problems. We started from day one working, learning and engaging directly with our customers, who are now some of the largest users of aviation. Unless our customers — operators of some of the largest manned and unmanned fleets in the U.S. — can leverage a piece of technology today, its usefulness is muted. Unless our platform can make the entire National Airspace System (NAS) safer for all stakeholders, the effectiveness is diluted.

Our DNA is built on skating where the puck is going, innovating at the edge so that we can move fast and deliver actual capabilities that are impactful from day one with the potential to accrue more value and evolve over time. There's no better example of this than Remote ID.

More than two years ago, we released our real-time telemetry and tracking of aircraft. Not simple representations of a flight icon on a screen, but live data of aircraft that businesses, governments and public safety workers utilize every day. How we view the future of Remote ID is based on our experience of powering live-flight data and the feedback and learning that we've received over the last two years of enabling Remote ID across our user base. We've incorporated all of this data and practical experience — along with all of your feedback from our NPRM survey results — to inform our approach to Remote ID.

Below, we've attached the full public comments that we'll submit to the FAA's notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on Remote ID, but first, let's begin with a few of our core beliefs that are central to how we operate as a company and the voice that we strive to give all of our users who fly with Kittyhawk:

  • We believe that technology and software innovations should enable flight.
    • Any rules, technologies or regulations that curtail or disenfranchise flight are not well-thought out and fail to appreciate what technology can solve.
  • We believe that technology should be adopted based on its merits and its core utility.
    • Regulating technologies based on the potential for misuse is unprecedented in our nation and has no place in the adoption of unmanned systems.
  • We believe the future of aviation requires new ways of thinking to accomplish scale requirements and the need for mass adoption.
    • Rules or processes that start and end within a traditional mindset are flawed and will fail to result in meaningful impact.
  • We believe the future is now.
    • Safety and speed are not mutually exclusive and there are ways to create a safer NAS today that all aviation users can adopt immediately.

On November 21, 2019, the FAA was rolling out a new batch of LAANC-enabled airports, including Washington Dulles International Airport (KIAD), which represents a huge swath of airspace in the security-sensitive area of Washington, DC. To give you a sense of how excited our users were for this, we began receiving support requests shortly after the strike of midnight as people were anxious to comply and fly in this airspace. Their initial authorization requests, however, were receiving errors, as it wouldn't be until later that day that the FAA would officially flip the switch for these new airports and we could begin accepting LAANC requests for KIAD.

Moral of the story: If you give operators an easy way to comply, they'll move faster than regulators to do everything they can to get in the air compliantly.

High-level comments on the NPRM

The current draft of the NPRM is overly complicated, presenting solutions for problems that don't exist and introducing complexity that won't solve the problems that do. We can create a baseline for Remote ID today that opens airspace and impacts safety. We can create a system that demands compliance without creating privacy black holes. There is a better way and we can do it in 2020.

No. 1: Leave OEM certification out of the picture completely

There is absolutely no reason that OEMs should be involved in the NPRM on Remote ID. The role of an aircraft is to reliably fly based on the controls it receives, not the other way around.

We do not require DVRs to prevent you from recording the Super Bowl on the off chance that you might redistribute it. We do not require cars to prevent you from driving if you don't have validated licenses and registrations. Just because a piece of technology has the potential for misuse, it’s unprecedented and un-American to restrict capabilities at the hardware level based simply on what-ifs.

Any hardware requirement for Remote ID introduces unnecessary security concerns and also adds unnecessary time to the path to adoption. The thought of giving this much power to hardware manufacturers to control access to the NAS should scare everyone, and I'm surprised the FAA failed to consider this. OEM control of airspace access via Remote ID greatly expands the target landscape for hackers and data breaches.

By removing OEM requirements and proposals around things like new serial number systems, all current unmanned systems and models alike will not be relegated to the scrap heap. All current recreational and commercial operations will not need to buy new drones or worry about costly retrofits with untold timelines for potential compliance.

Recommendation: Put all the responsibility on the Remote Pilot In Command (RPIC). Delete all OEM manufacturer requirements from the rule.

No. 2: A logical, tiered approach is the only way

A tiered approach to Remote ID makes a lot of sense, but the proposed tiers in the NPRM are misguided and disjointed.

Remote ID tiers should account for different types of flight by different types of operations in different types of airspace. The more timely and rich the Remote ID data, the more freedom to the sky should be enabled, but there should be more tiers with a lower bar to simply get in the air.

To this end, there should be a tier that includes a volume-based Remote ID (like we have in the ASTM and like we've already developed and showcased in the open-source InterUSS Remote ID platform). Think LAANC reservation, but for Remote ID, where a user can announce a time/place of flight. This would require no new hardware and no new technology. Every operation from model aircraft to routine Part 107 commercial flights could adopt and comply with this, effective immediately at zero cost.

Additionally, there should be more privileges for sharing real-time data and having a connected operation that can communicate and deviate if required. If Remote ID is going to unlock BVLOS, then the highest tier of Remote ID operations should do just that.

Recommendation: A tiered system that creates a low-friction, zero-cost ability to comply with Remote ID, extending to a more demanding requirement that results in BVLOS without a waiver.

Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3
Ceiling (Uncontrolled Airspace) Up to 200ft Up to 400ft Up to 400ft
Ceiling (Controlled Airspace) Up to 100ft* Up to 400ft* Up to 400ft*
Range VLOS VLOS BVLOS
Remote ID Requirements Volume-based reservation of a time/place.

Can be done remotely, up to 90 days in advance.

Volume-based reservation of a time/place.

Plus live sharing of telemetry via broadcast or network.

Volume-based reservation of a time/place.

Plus live sharing of telemetry via broadcast or network.

Plus network connection for aircraft or control stations to send and receive real-time messages.

Process Submitted and processed like LAANC to a USS. Submitted and processed like LAANC to a USS.

Broadcast or network to meet data requirements (see below).

Submitted and processed like LAANC to a USS.

Broadcast or network to meet data requirements (see below).

*Or lower if flying in controlled airspace and LAANC ceiling is lower than the corresponding tier.

No. 3: Tier-based Remote ID data

Remote ID data for public consumption should be separate from law enforcement use cases that may come in the future. Conflating public use cases with law enforcement use cases adds unnecessary complexity and sacrifices privacy.

The objective with Remote ID data is that it's actionable for other aircraft and flights in the area — and for the public — to understand what is buzzing over them. Yet, the public needs only a few data points to share with law enforcement who can then put the pieces together. The "license plate" is all law enforcement really needs to take action.

Anything else is a bonus and should be optional based on the tier of the flight you want to execute.

In our experience with customers who want to early adopt into Remote ID and from what we've seen in our Remote ID survey, people will gladly share more information with law enforcement. People will also gladly share more information if it results in more access to the air. Just as it is the RPIC's responsibility to comply with Remote ID, it should also be up to the RPIC to control her data.

Recommendation: Fewer data requirements with more optional fields at lower-tier operations, with more demanding data sharing and real-time communications at the highest tier to enable advanced operations.

Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3
Aircraft Identity serial number or anonymous session ID** serial number or anonymous session ID** serial number or anonymous session ID**
Aircraft Location N/A real-time LAT/LONG real-time LAT/LONG
Operator Identity optional FAA registration number or anonymous operator ID** FAA registration number or anonymous operator ID**
Operator Location N/A N/A real-time LAT/LONG
Operator Contact Information optional optional required
Flight Plan optional optional Submitted with takeoff, landing, route and emergency landing points.

Updated in real time.

**Generated and stored by a USS.

The FAA remarked in the NPRM at the successful private-public partnership that is LAANC. Let's build on that infrastructure. We don't need a new class of USS but simply to extend where and how we announce flights in the NAS. We already see that behavior today where users want to create polygons and announce flights in uncontrolled airspace.

At Kittyhawk, we're going to continue building this concept of Remote ID into our platform for all of our users and we welcome other USSs and partners who want to join us and bring an actionable form of Remote ID to the NAS.

If you share our vision, please let us know and also let the FAA know with comments on the NPRM. There is a simpler and more effective path to Remote ID and we can do it in 2020.

Peru’s startup scene is ready for more

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 11:55 AM PST

Funding of Latin American startups has doubled each year over the past two years.

And while most of this capital has been directed toward Brazil and Mexico, this surge is starting to have an effect on startups in the region's smaller markets. The increased availability of capital for later rounds is creating more opportunities for startups to scale both regionally and globally. And while it may not be one of the largest countries in Latin America, Peru continues to have one of the best-performing economies and fastest-growing startup scenes.

In 2019, a new record was set for the amount of capital invested into Peruvian startups, at least $11 million, a 24% increase compared to 2018. Most of the money went to fintech (47%) and edtech (37%) startups. Over the past four years, more than $22.7 million in public funds went toward startup-related projects as well.

The government-backed program Innóvate Perú awarded approximately $13.8 million of its total investments almost exclusively to startups. Total venture capital investment will likely exceed US$25 million in 2020, doubling what was achieved in 2019, and will continue to grow from there.

In 2019, Peru's development bank, COFIDE, announced a new fund of funds to invest in venture capital firms, mirroring similar entities such as Chile's CORFO, Colombia's Bancoldex and Mexico's NAFIN. While there are plenty of opportunities to secure seed-stage capital in Peru, many startups still have to look abroad for growth capital. Keynua, Xertica, Turismoi and Runa are just a few of the Peruvian startups that sought international investors to lead their rounds over $1 million. Following in the path of similar funds, the fund of funds will invest $20 million in half a dozen venture capital firms, which would in turn invest in approximately 120 startups.

As government support for entrepreneurs continues to pour in, the Peruvian startup ecosystem is entering a new phase. More and more startups are launching, graduating from accelerator programs and seeking ways to reach their next milestone. Local early-stage investors are stepping in to fill the financing gap and have teamed up to form the Peruvian Seed and Venture Capital Association, PECAP, to share investment opportunities and lay a strong foundation for venture capital in Peru. Here's a look at just a few of the opportunities for more venture capital to step in.

Fueling Peru's growing fintech sector

A massive fintech boom is playing out across Latin America, with the size of the industry expected to exceed $150 billion by 2021. Peru is home to an estimated 120 fintech startups actively tackling the issues of financial inclusion and better servicing the region's small and medium-sized businesses. Peru's economy is still largely informal, with approximately 14 million people underbanked. In 2017, María Laura Cuya started Peru's Fintech Association to work alongside regulators, academics and other organizations to improve financial literacy and access to financial products, with a focus on Peruvian SMEs.

A few of Peru's fintech sectors stand out, including factoring and foreign exchange, where a number of startups are quickly gaining traction and already branching out to neighboring markets. Innova Funding, Innova Factoring, Facturedo, Kambista and Rextie are just a few examples. Peru's membership in the Pacific Alliance also makes it an attractive initial market prior to launching in other Pacific Alliance countries.

In 2019, Peruvian fintechs Keynua and Apurata were selected for the Y Combinator accelerator program, putting them on the international radar. Traditional banks in Peru are also shifting their mindsets and warming up to fintech partnerships. The publicly traded Peruvian bank, Credicorp, for example, recently set up a corporate venture fund called Krealo. The bank made its first investments in Culqi, a local payments gateway, and Independencia, a lending platform.

Impact investing opportunities

Latin America is a top destination for impact investment capital, outpacing many other regions in the world, with a 15% compound annual growth rate over the last five years, according to the Global Impact Investing Network. Edtech represents a rising entry point across the region for impact investors thanks to its potential for both financial and non-financial returns.

According to an OECD report, approximately 30 million young people in Latin America are not participating in any form of education, training or employment, and 76% of this total are women. Laboratoria, co-founded by edtech thought leader Mariana Costa Checa, helps women develop technical skills and has expanded across the region from its headquarters in Lima to train more than 1,000 women so far. The startup has received praise from global companies, including Walmart and Facebook. In 2019, the skills development platform Crehana raised the largest-ever round for a Peruvian startup ($4.5 million) from both regional and global funds.

Peru attracted more impact investment capital than Mexico, a longtime leader in the region, for the first time in 2018. Much of this investment is focused on improving Peru's education system. Local startups are addressing everything from early childhood education to workforce training, and as more success stories emerge, more resources will be needed to fully tap into Latin America's large markets for these solutions.

Supporting long-term startup growth

The government-backed program Innóvate Perú has financed more than 3,400 entrepreneurial projects to date, and more than 25 private institutions are now accelerating, incubating and investing in Peruvian startups. New startup creation is at its highest rate ever; however, these companies are outgrowing their angel and seed-stage supporters and are now seeking ways to take their ventures to the next level.

Over the past few years, Latin America has proven that it is a place where startups can scale and succeed. Now, with more startups coming out of the region's smaller, underserved markets, like Peru, there is an opportunity to deploy capital effectively and bring impactful solutions to millions of people across the region.

*Angel Ventures was an investor in Culqi before it was sold to BCP. Neither Angel Ventures nor Greg Mitchell currently hold any shares.

FTC votes to review influencer marketing rules & penalties

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 11:52 AM PST

Undisclosed influencer marketing posts on social media should trigger financial penalties, according to a statement released today by the Federal Trade Commission’s Rohit Chopra. The FTC has voted 5-0 to approve a Federal Register notice calling for public comments on questions related to whether The Endorsement Guides for advertising need to be updated.

“When companies launder advertising by paying an influencer to pretend that their endorsement or review is untainted by a financial relationship, this is illegal payola,” Chopra writes. “The FTC will need to determine whether to create new requirements for social media platforms and advertisers and whether to activate civil penalty liability.”

Currently the non-binding Endorsement Guides stipulate that “when there is a connection between an endorser and a seller of an advertised product that could affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement, the connection must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.” In the case of social media, that means creators need to note their post is part of an “ad,” “sponsored” content or “paid partnership.”

But Chopra wants the FTC to consider making those rules official by “Codifying elements of the existing endorsement guides into formal rules so that violators can be liable for civil penalties under Section 5(m)(1)(A) and liable for damages under Section 19.” He cites weak enforcement to date, noting that in the case of department store Lord & Taylor not insisting 50 paid influencers specify their posts were sponsored, “the Commission settled the matter for no customer refunds, no forfeiture of ill-gotten gains, no notice to consumers, no deletion of wrongfully obtained personal data, and no findings or admission of liability.”

Strangely, Chopra fixates on Instagram’s Branded Content Ads that let marketers pay to turn posts by influencers tagging brands into ads. However, these ads include a clear “Sponsored. Paid partnership with [brand]” and seem to meet all necessary disclosure requirements. He also mentions concerns about sponcon on YouTube and TikTok.

Additional targets of the FTC’s review will be use of fake or incentivized reviews. It’s seeking public comment on whether free or discounted products influence reviews and should require disclosure, how to handle affiliate links and whether warnings should be posted by advertisers or review sites about incentivized reviews. It also wants to know about how influencer marketing affects and is understood by children.

Chopra wisely suggests the FTC focus on the platforms and advertisers that are earning tons of money from potentially undisclosed influencer marketing, rather than the smaller influencers themselves who might not be as well versed in the law and are just trying to hustle. “When individual influencers are able to post about their interests to earn extra money on the side, this is not a cause for major concern,” he writes, but “when we do not hold lawbreaking companies accountable, this harms every honest business looking to compete fairly.”

While many of the social media platforms have moved to self-police with rules about revealing paid partnerships, there remain gray areas around incentives like free clothes or discount rates. Codifying what constitutes incentivized endorsement, formally demanding social media platforms to implement policies and features for disclosure and making influencer marketing contracts state that participation must be disclosed would all be sensible updates.

Society has enough trouble with misinformation on the internet, from trolls to election meddlers. They should at least be able to trust that if someone says they love their new jacket, they didn’t secretly get paid for it.

Microsoft’s game streaming service Project xCloud launches in preview on iOS

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 11:43 AM PST

Last year, Microsoft launched a preview of Project xCloud, its ambitious game streaming service that aims to deliver games to any screen — console, PC or mobile. However, the service until now has only been available to mobile users on Android. Today, that changes as Microsoft is bringing the Project xCloud preview to iOS devices by way of Apple’s TestFlight program.

Microsoft had been testing xCloud on iOS internally, but had yet to open it up to the public.

Unfortunately, the iOS test will be limited. As is standard with Apple’s TestFlight platform, the new build will be limited to only 10,000 testers.

That won’t likely be enough spots to meet demand, Microsoft admits, and says invitations will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. To work around the limitation, Microsoft plans to boot out some early testers to make room for new testers during the course of the public beta.

“Those who are accepted into the iOS TestFlight preview may not necessarily participate for the full duration of the preview,” the company explains via blog post. “As noted earlier, there are limited spaces available, so for testing purposes we may need to cycle through registrants in order to best utilize the available testing audience. This also means that even if you miss out on the initial allocation, you might receive an invitation to participate later in the preview,” it says.

The iOS preview will also be limited to only one game: “Halo: The Master Chief Collection.” In addition, this particular test won’t include the preview of Xbox Console Streaming as the Android test currently does.

To qualify, testers will need a Microsoft account associated with their Xbox gamertag; an iPhone or iPad running iOS 13.0 or higher and Bluetooth v. 4.0; a Bluetooth-enabled Xbox Once Wireless Controller; access to Wi-Fi or a mobile data connection that supports 10 Mbps-down bandwidth; and, optionally, a third-party controller mount for phone-based games (like this one).

The move to bring console-quality games to smartphones represents a shift in Microsoft’s gaming strategy. The company understands that it can only sell so many consoles, for starters, but mobile phones are everywhere. In addition, people today want to play games on any available screen — not just the big TV screen at home. And for some users, mobile is their only screen.

Meanwhile, cross-platform gaming is becoming increasingly popular, thanks to titles like Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox, PUBG and others, which proved that mobile experiences can match consoles.

Project xCloud aims to make it easier for developers to build games that work everywhere. This is no small task, as it required Microsoft to architect a new customizable blade that hosts the component parts of multiple Xbox One consoles, as well as the associated infrastructure needed to support it. It also needs to ensure the technology can deliver games at console speeds with low latency, so mobile users don’t feel like they’re getting a second-rate experience.

Instructions on how to join the TestFlight are available here.

Lawsuit alleges Juul advertised in Seventeen Magazine, Nick Jr. as part of campaign explicitly targeting kids

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 11:36 AM PST

A lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts attorney general includes new details about how the company intentionally marketed illegally to teens, including advertising on websites for Seventeen Magazine, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr.

The suit from Attorney General Maura Healey makes good on the 2018 announcement from her office that she would investigate the company’s marketing and advertising campaign for illegally targeting children.

Filed in Suffolk Superior Court today, the lawsuit reveals that Juul rejected an initial marketing plan that would have focused on adult smokers, instead choosing to use younger models and pitch its product to youth-oriented websites and in targeted campaigns on social media.

Juul did not respond to a request for comment.

"Juul is responsible for the millions of young people nationwide who are addicted to e-cigarettes, reversing decades of progress in combating underage tobacco and nicotine use," said AG Healey. "Our lawsuit sheds new light on the company's intent to target young people, and we are going to make them pay for the public health crisis they caused in Massachusetts."

According to new allegations in the lawsuit, Juul bought ads for its Vaporized Campaign on websites including: Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., The Cartoon network, Seventeen Magazine — along websites designed to help children with math and social studies skills like coolmath-games.com and socialstudiesforkids.com.

Massachusetts’ attorney general also pointed to the company’s use of social media stars and celebrities who had a large following among tweens and teens. These were stars like Miley Cyrus, Cara Delevingne, Kristen Stewart, Luka Sabbat and Tavi Gevinson.

The company even ignored the age verification tools it put in place when distributing marketing materials, according to the attorney general’s allegations. Indeed, Juul sent marketing emails to 40,000 individuals who failed to complete the company’s age verification process. Another 83% of the 420,000 emails the company collected couldn’t be matched to a record associated with someone 18 years old or older.

Glaringly, the company allowed individuals to set up more than 1,2000 accounts using email addresses associated with high schools in Beverly, Malden and Braintree, Mass.

The suit also alleges that Juul's customer service representatives advised potential customers on how to evade minimum legal sales restriction requirements.

In Massachusetts, the results of the marketing campaigns and tactics from Juul and other e-cigarette companies are more than 50% of high school students saying they’ve tried e-cigarettes, with another 30% saying they’ve used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

For Juul that has meant $3.3. billion in U.S. retail sales between September 2018 and August 2019 — and a roughly 75% market share of the electronic cigarette market.

Blue Canyon Technologies chosen by Made In Space for orbital manufacturing demo mission

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 11:27 AM PST

On-orbit manufacturing startup Made In Space has tapped Colorado’s Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) to help support its Archinaut One demonstration mission contracted by NASA, which is currently set to take place in 2022. The mission will see Made In Space show off the assembly of two 10-meter solar arrays on orbit, which will then be used to power an ESPA-class satellite, providing up to five times more power than is available via power sources used for those satellites not assembled on orbit.

BCT will be providing development of the spacecraft platform (along with Northrop Grumman) that Made In Space will use to delver its Archinaut manufacturing platform, which employs additive manufacturing and robotic assembly to be able to build structures while on orbit. The Colorado company, founded in 2008, has developed a number of spacecraft for a variety of projects, including JPL’s first-ever operational CubeSat project, the Asteria space telescope.

I spoke to BCT systems engineer Brian Crum about the Made In Space project, and he said that it’s representative of the kind of work they’ve been doing, which mainly concentrates around interesting demonstration missions and initial operations of novel space technologies that could have tremendous impact on how work is done in space.

“Given the size of spacecraft that we develop and specialize in, and at that price point, it really lends itself to these Demonstration Missions that are follow-on to operational concepts,” he said. “We are a good solution for testing out concepts, and we get approached quite a bit for that […] we get a lot of interesting ideas of people wanting to try things, and this is definitely one of them.”

BCT is actually in the process of building more than 60 spacecraft, and it doubled in size over the past year. Next, the company plans to open a new combined headquarters and production facility that spans more than 80,000 acres, which should be opening sometime later this year. That growth is directly driven by an uptick in business — something Crum says is the result of a boom in experimentation and technology demonstrations coming from all vectors, including government and private industry.

“There are definitely more people that have more appetite for risk,” he said. “We we are growing because the demand for the spacecraft is growing, that’s the simple answer. We’re hiring the right people to support these programs, and the number of programs is greatly increasing. Along with that, as we grow larger in size, and the spacecraft grow larger and size, they become more complex, which means they need a little bit more effort. So there’s there’s a little bit more engineering that goes into them as well.”

GSMA cancels Mobile World Congress due to coronavirus concerns

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 11:04 AM PST

The GSMA, the organization behind MWC, the world's largest mobile trade show, has announced that it is officially canceling the show. MWC usually attracts more than 100,000 attendees from 200 countries to Barcelona. This year's show was supposed to take place on February 24-27.

Several publications received a statement about the cancellation. “The GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” GSMA CEO John Hoffman told Bloomberg and the Financial Times. El Diario, El País and La Vanguardia also report that the show has been canceled.

The GSMA has now published a statement confirming its decision to cancel — writing:

Since the first edition of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2006, the GSMA has convened the industry, governments, ministers, policymakers, operators and industry leaders across the broader ecosystem.

With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event.

The Host City Parties respect and understand this decision.

The GSMA and the Host City Parties will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions.

Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world.

Further updates from the GSMA, are on our website and can be found on www.mwcbarcelona.com.

Over the past few days, dozens of big names announced they would skip this year's show. LG first announced that it wouldn't attend the trade show, citing safety concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak. Nvidia and Ericsson followed suit.

On Sunday, the GSMA sent a long coronavirus-related email to registered attendees. The association wanted to reassure attendees by demonstrating that it would implement tough restrictions.

Here's what GSMA CEO John Hoffman wrote:

  • All travellers from the Hubai province will not be permitted access to the event
  • MWC Barcelona, Four Years From Now (4YFN), xside and YoMo
  • All travellers who have been in China will need to demonstrate proof they have been outside of China 14 days prior to the event (passport stamp, health certificate)
  • Temperature screening will be implemented
  • Attendees will need to self-certify they have not been in contact with anyone infected.

But that email made things even worse.

Dozens of companies pulled out of the trade show. In other words, some of the top consumer electronics and telecom companies got scared. And those who thought that GSMA had things under control started to cancel their attendance as well — it wasn't worth going to Barcelona if many important partners had already canceled.

Some of the companies that announced they wouldn't be attending include Amazon, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Facebook, HMD, Intel, LG, Nokia, NTT Docomo, Sony and Sprint.

GSMA's lawyers wanted to make sure that the association wouldn't be held accountable if there was a single case of coronavirus at the show. But they started another virus — companies pulling out one by one.

As companies usually spend millions of dollars to secure exhibit space and send large teams, canceling MWC altogether is going to be an unexpected financial blow for the GSMA.

According to a report from El País, the GSMA originally planned to meet on Friday and consider the next steps. The association held an emergency meeting earlier today in order to make a decision more quickly.

MWC originally started as a trade show for carriers. Big telecom companies would meet up with hardware vendors and discuss the evolution of telecommunications networks. More recently, phone manufacturers started attending the show to talk with telecom companies and unveil their latest products. Big tech companies, such as Facebook and Amazon, have also had a formal presence in recent years as they have developed important ties with the mobile industry.

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 43,000 cases of coronavirus around the world. More than 1,000 people have died.

Andy Rubin’s Essential shuts down

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 11:03 AM PST

Essential was supposed to disrupt the smartphone industry. And when it was done with that, it was coming for the smart home. The company came out of stealth with a $330 million funding round and grandiose plans for a new brand of handset, led by none other than Android head, Andy Rubin.

But bad timing, broader industry issues and a founder embroiled in some pretty troubling allegations of sexual misconduct contributed to a company that has struggled to make it far beyond the launch of its first handset. In a blog post today, Essential announced that it would be ceasing operations and shutting down.

The post is a strange mix of existential dread and hopefulness, unveiling a final device it was never able to launch in the process. "Our vision was to invent a mobile computing paradigm that more seamlessly integrated with people's lifestyle needs," the 'Essential team' writes. "Despite our best efforts, we've now taken Gem as far as we can and regrettably have no clear path to deliver it to customers. Given this, we have made the difficult decision to cease operations and shutdown Essential."

That's all a nod to Project Gem, a new mobile form factor Essential first showcased through renders on social media back in October. The post features the first product videos for Gem, set to a kind of moody acid jazz soundtrack showcasing the skinny candy bar form factor that plays out as a sort of alternative history insight into what might have been, had things gone better for a company once valued at $1 billion.

The news follows years of speculation about the health of the company. In May 2018, reports surfaced that Essential was up for sale following disappointing sales of its first handset. Spokespeople for Essential have long insisted, however, that the company was carrying on in spite of reports. The Project Gem reveal, it seems, was a Hail Mary that turned into a parting shot. What "taken Gem as far as we can" means with regard to a product that didn't make it beyond the promotional video stage remains to be seen.

Sadly, this also seems to be an end for Newton Mail, the power user-focused email client Essential took over when it acquired CloudMagic in 2018. Essential says that “current Newton Mail users will have access to the service through April 30, 2020.”

TechCrunch reached out to Essential for further comment, but we were ultimately directed to the initial blog post. The same month Gem was revealed, news surfaced that Rubin had been bought out of his Playground incubator, which shared closed ties — and an office — with Essential.

The executive had become a liability following explosive allegations of sexual misconduct during his time at Google. 

Eight Sleep CEO says his startup is more than a mattress company

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 10:59 AM PST

Matteo Franceschetti, CEO of Eight Sleep, would prefer that you don’t call his startup a mattress company.

Eight Sleep does sell mattresses, albeit smart ones packed with sensors and temperature regulation controls. The company has raised north of $70 million from backers including Founders Fund and Khosla Ventures. A great deal of this funding surrounds the idea that there is more untapped potential in the sleep economy than existing players in the space have been able to imagine.

While Franceschetti says he intends for his company to remain private for the “foreseeable future,” Eight Sleep is in a less-than-comfortable spot following Casper’s botched IPO last week. Though Casper’s stock popped on its first day of trading, the process of pricing its shares ended up leaving its private investors a bit less than ecstatic. Casper debuted trading at a value of $575 million, a far cry from the $1.1 billion private market valuation it had previously achieved.

Franceschetti has been aiming to transform Eight Sleep into a company more focused on a robust tech platform than your average bed-in-a-box company. The startup’s initial effort, a smart sleep cover for your existing mattress, evolved into a mattress with a layer of sensors that then transformed into a sensor-laden mattress with a heating and cooling unit, called “The Pod.” The company’s product development has aimed to build out a more end-to-end platform for sleep, something Franceschetti says has made him reticent to compare his company to other direct-to-consumer mattress companies.

Anniversary Sale: Get 1 year of Extra Crunch for $99

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 10:45 AM PST

Last February we launched Extra Crunch, and today we're celebrating its one-year anniversary. As a token of appreciation to our readers, we're offering a limited-time deal for annual Extra Crunch membership. From now until the end of February, new users signing up for Extra Crunch in the U.S. can get a full year of membership for only $99 plus tax (normally priced at $150/year). 

Get Extra Crunch membership for only $99 (plus tax) here.

Extra Crunch is our membership program and it features how-tos and guides on company building, intelligence on the most disruptive opportunities for startups, a dedicated newsletter, no banner ads, 20% discounts on all TechCrunch events, a series of community perks for annual members and more.  

Since launching Extra Crunch, we've published more than 1,000 articles on fundraising, early-stage investing, startup PR and other topics targeted to entrepreneurs and investors. In addition to TechCrunch writers, we've run contributions from Julian Shapiro at Demand Curve, Jake Saper at Emergence Capital, Rory O'Driscoll at Scale and many others.

Some of our top stories from the past year:

We hope you stay engaged with the TechCrunch community through Extra Crunch. Our focus has and always will be on building a strong relationship with our readers, and we hope you will continue to support us. 

Extra Crunch is currently only available to users in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and some European countries, but we are actively looking to expand support in 2020. Extra Crunch is already offered at a discounted rate to users outside the U.S., so unfortunately the $99 price point only applies to users in the U.S.  

If you are a monthly Extra Crunch subscriber and want to upgrade to an annual plan to claim the deal, please navigate to My Account (while logged in). Under the “subscriptions” tab, there is a way to upgrade.

If you have questions about this deal or Extra Crunch, please reach out to travis@techcrunch.com.

Readers can sign up for Extra Crunch for $99/year (plus tax) here.

Netflix fishes for new subscribers in US with free stream of ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 10:00 AM PST

Netflix is looking to get young adults hooked on its service by making its popular teenage rom-com, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” available to stream for free to everyone in the U.S., including non-subscribers. This isn’t the first time Netflix has offered free streaming — it teased Brits last year by offering an episode of “The Crown” for free, and has run similar tests in markets like India and parts of South America. But this is one of the only times it has targeted the U.S. with such an offer.

The offer of a free Netflix movie comes at a critical time for the service.

The company has hit a wall in terms of subscriber growth in the U.S., even as it’s expanding worldwide. During last month’s earnings, Netflix missed its forecast for U.S. subscriber growth for the third straight quarter, with just 423,000 domestic subscriber additions. Meanwhile, it surpassed expectations overseas with 8.3 million subscribers added instead of the 7 million expected.

Netflix has downplayed the impact of new streaming services, like Disney+ and Apple TV+, on its U.S. growth. But in reality, Netflix will soon be one of many streaming options for U.S. consumers to choose from — HBO Max, NBCU’s Peacock and mobile-only Quibi are set to arrive this year, filling up an already crowded market.

In addition, Netflix’s slowing growth in the U.S. also can be attributed to, in part, continued price increases for a catalog that’s now more dependent than ever on Netflix’s original programming to keep subscribers hooked. And those originals haven’t always performed well. In Q2, for example, the company even singled out its weak content slate for driving fewer paid net adds than anticipated.

Beyond that, there’s also growing criticism that Netflix’s originals just aren’t as good as they used to be.

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” on the other hand, is more of an exception. While the film itself is a cute, if fairly conventional, high school romance story, it became one of Netflix’s “most viewed” original films to date. The movie, and other Netflix rom-coms like it, were watched by 80 million subscribers over the summer in 2018, the company also said. These films appeal to an underserved market — people hungry for lightweight romances at a time when the industry is delivering anything but.

By year-end 2018, Netflix had greenlit a sequel to its breakout hit. That movie, “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You,” has now arrived — making for a perfect time to promote the original.

Non-members are able to watch the free movie on the web and Android OS now through March 9. No credit card will need to be provided to watch.

Update: Confirmed with Netflix this is not the first time in U.S. It is one of the most high-profile U.S. free streams, however. 

Coinbase launches margin trading for some users

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 10:00 AM PST

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is launching margin trading today. Margin trading lets you trade on leverage. But it works both ways — margin trading lets you multiply your gains and your losses.

Margin trading is going to be available on Coinbase Pro, the company's exchange interface for educated investors. Both retail and institutional investors will be able to submit margin trading orders with up to 3x leverage. It'll work with any pair of assets with USD as the base currency.

For now, the feature is limited to 23 U.S. states if you're a retail investor. Institutional investors in 45 states and nine international countries can access margin trading, though.

There are many potential use cases for margin trading. For instance, you can allocate a tiny portion of your portfolio to a margin trading order to hedge across multiple positions. Coinbase believes it has enough liquidity to help investors set up sophisticated margin trading orders.

If you're a retail customer living in one of the 23 states where margin trading is available, you might not be able to use it. The company wants to restrict margin trading to the most advanced traders.

Coinbase is going to track your past activity on Coinbase Pro and look at trades, balances, deposits and withdrawals. If you're an active trader, you'll be able to access margin trading.

Here’s the list of 23 U.S. states with margin trading for retail investors: Florida, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, Virginia, Georgia, Arkansas, Alaska, Oregon, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Maine, South Carolina, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming and West Virginia.

Disclosure: I own small amounts of various cryptocurrencies.

Daily Crunch: Samsung unveils another foldable phone

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 09:58 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. Samsung Galaxy Z Flip hands-on: This is more like it

When the Galaxy Fold was finally released to the public after numerous delays, the device came swaddled in warnings. It was a long list, and not exactly a vote of confidence for those who just dropped $2,000 on an unproven device.

Announced almost exactly a year after the Fold, the Galaxy Z Flip presents a refined look at the concept. Having only spent a little time with the product after the unveiling, Brian Heater says he isn’t quite ready to declare that this is the phone the Fold should have been, but it certainly feels like a key step in the right direction.

2. WhatsApp hits 2 billion users, up from 1.5 billion 2 years ago

WhatsApp, the most popular messaging app, revealed today just how big it has become. The Facebook-owned app said it has amassed two billion users, up from the 1.5 billion it revealed two years ago.

3. Extra Crunch Anniversary: 9 lessons from building a media subscription product

Since launching Extra Crunch, we've published more than 1,000 articles, onboarded new hires, overhauled our technical infrastructure, expanded into five new European countries, made a handful of visual design changes, launched an Extra Crunch stage at Disrupt, performed a lot of price testing, adjusted our editorial strategy based on what the Extra Crunch audience wants annnnnd announced nearly a dozen annual community perks. (You’re going to need an Extra Crunch membership to read the lessons learned, natch.)

4. MWC hangs by a thread after Nokia, DT and other big names back out

Nokia, one of the omnipresent firms at major tech trade conferences, said today that it won't be attending this year's Mobile World Congress, citing health and safety concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. Electronics giant HMD, which sells smartphones under the Nokia brand, cited similar reasoning for its withdrawal, too.

5. Battery Ventures just closed on a whopping $2 billion across two funds, two years after its last fundraise

This sounds typical of the broader trend in recent years of firms that rush back to market every two years and lock down ever-greater capital commitments as they go. But Battery General Partner Chelsea Stoner insists the firm's newest funds reflect the firm's determination to slow down its pace of fundraising.

6. UK names its pick for social media 'harms' watchdog

The U.K. government has named the existing communications watchdog, Ofcom, as its preferred pick for enforcing rules around “harmful speech” on platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok.
7. Battery Ventures just closed on a whopping $2 billion across two funds, two years after its last fundraise.

7. Facebook will pay Reuters to fact-check deepfakes and more

A four-person team from Reuters will review user-generated video and photos, as well as news headlines and other content in English and Spanish, submitted by Facebook or flagged by the wider Reuters editorial team.

Former Krux and Salesforce execs raise $15M for their marketing data startup Habu

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 09:48 AM PST

Marketing startup Habu is emerging from stealth today and announcing that it has already raised $15 million in Series A funding.

The company comes out of super{set}, the startup studio created by Krux founders Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya. In fact, Chavez is Habu’s chairman, Vaidya serves as CTO and their former Krux colleague Matt Kilmartin (who eventually became chief customer officer for Salesforce’s consumer engagement platform after Salesforce acquired Krux) is the startup’s CEO.

Kilmartin told me that Habu was created to solve a “still elusive” marketing challenge — delivering “omni-channel orchestration for the entire customer journey.” In other words, he’s saying that chief marketing officers are still struggling to deliver personalized messages to potential customers across every channel and at every stage.

Kilmartin argued that’s because they’re challenged by new privacy regulations, plus the fact that many marketing tools struggle to integrate data from the major digital ad platforms. And then there are the limitations of the big marketing clouds (including Kilmartin’s old employer Salesforce), which he said are “stitching together all the stuff they bought — their goal is to have everyone go all-in on one of their stacks.”

So Habu isn’t trying to build yet another marketing platform. Instead, the company describes its core product as a “marketing data operating system” that can be used alongside the aforementioned clouds, bringing a company’s customer data together across platforms, then providing automated insights and recommendations on how to use that data to deliver personalized marketing. And it does this in a way that complies with privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA.

“We’re trying not to be a platform,” Kilmartin said. “It’s a modular, interoperable suite of services.”

Habu’s software can pull in a marketer’s first-party customer data, as well as data from platforms like Google and Facebook. Kilmartin said that while these platforms remain a “blind spot” for many marketers, “They have APIs and frameworks to be able to do this, it just requires a level of sophistication. And there just aren’t that many extra data scientists that these brands have sitting around.”

In addition to super{set}, Habu’s funding comes from Ridge Ventures. And although Habu is only launching publicly today, it already has customers in the CPG and media industries.

Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified some of Habu’s customers.

Swiftmile is bringing advertising to micromobility

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 09:13 AM PST

Swiftmile, the startup that wants to become the gas station for micromobility vehicles, is getting into advertising. Swiftmile already supplies cities and private operators with docks equipped to park and charge both scooters and e-bikes. Now, the company is starting to integrate digital displays that attach to its charging stations to provide public transit info, traffic alerts and, of course, ads.

“It adds tremendous value because it's a massive market,” Swiftmile CEO Colin Roche told TechCrunch. “Tons of these corporations want to market to that group but you cannot do that on a scooter, nor should you. So there's a massive audience that wants to market to that group but also cities like us because we're bringing order to the chaos.”

When a rider pulls up to the station and parks a vehicle, the 55-inch screen will display nearby transit schedules, in partnership with Transit Screen, to encourage more people to rely on public transit.

“TransitScreen is excited to partner with Swiftmile to support the increased access to real-time information about mobility choices,” TransitScreen VP of Enterprise Solutions Tony Hudgins said in a statement to TechCrunch. “Mobility hubs like theirs are changing what commuting looks like in the future, and we look forward to being a part of increased first- and last-mile solutions.”

Swiftmile plans to start deploying these screen-equipped stations in March. By the end of the year, Swiftmile anticipates deploying 1,000 of these stations with digital screens. That would come out to about $80 million a year in ad revenue. Already, Verizon Media Group (owner of TechCrunch) is a customer of Swiftmile.

Swiftmile has already deployed 140 of its charging stations in cities like Austin and Berlin, and plans to hit 1,000 by the end of the year. Down the road, Swiftmile envisions partnering with auto manufacturers to enable car owners to charge their vehicles alongside scooters.

Swiftmile, which is also backed financially by Verizon, has raised about $6 million in funding. It’s gearing up to officially announce its Series A in the coming weeks.

Understanding Airbnb’s new, stubborn lack of profits

Posted: 12 Feb 2020 09:06 AM PST

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

This morning we’re exploring Airbnb’s march to the public markets. The popular DIY hospitality startup promised last year that it would go public in 2020. That timeline means that its 2019 performance will be included in an eventual S-1 filing, putting the results on public display.

Recent news, however, doesn’t paint a perfect picture for the famous unicorn. Indeed, Airbnb’s history of rapid growth and profitability appears to have been replaced by slowing growth and profit struggles. The Wall Street Journal reported results from the company’s third quarter that are at once encouraging — a return to profitability — and troublesome; Airbnb’s first three quarters of 2019 are in the red as a group, a change from historical profitability.

If Airbnb goes public soon, as it has promised, its recent, trailing results will matter. To get ready for its IPO, let’s rewind through what we’ve learned about Airbnb’s revenue, revenue growth and profitability over the years. Doing this will help us understand how the startup went from rising profitability to posting, through the first three quarters of 2019, a nine-figure net loss.

The Airbnb public offering (likely a direct listing) is going to be the financial event of the year. Get excited.

Rewind

The following data points were culled from a host of reports over the past half decade. Each is accompanied by its original source, and I encourage you to read the pieces to get a feel for how Airbnb has been discussed through time. The tone of Airbnb coverage largely tracks its performance; when Airbnb was at the steepest part of its growth curve, the media was enthused. Lately, however, the writing is a bit different.

You’ll see why:

  • 2015: Around $900 million in revenue (24/7 Wall St., implied math)
  • Q3 2015: $340 million in revenue (MarketWatch)
  • 2016: Revenue of $1.7 billion, $100 million in adjusted EBITDA (Fortune)