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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News

American Airlines will use passenger planes for cargo-only flights to Europe

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 04:11 PM PDT

American Airlines today announced that it will fly a handful of cargo-only flights to Europe, using its standard 777-300 passenger planes, over the course of the next few days. The company says these flights will carry medical supplies, mail for active U.S. military, telecommunications equipment and electronics, as well as packages from e-commerce firms.

This marks the first time American is operating cargo-only flights since 1984, when it retired its last 747 freighter (one of those retired planes, by the way, was then modified to carry NASA’s shuttle on its back).

By default, virtually all airlines carry cargo on their domestic and international flights. American, for example, notes that it shipped more than 400 tons of flowers from Amsterdam to the U.S. in the two weeks around Valentine’s Day. As airlines started shrinking their operations in light of various travel restrictions and plummeting customer demand during the current COVID-19 outbreak, that cargo capacity shrunk, too, even though there is still plenty of demand for moving cargo between countries. As of now, American and the other major U.S. airlines have suspended the majority of their international long-haul flights.

“We have a critical role to play in keeping essential goods moving during this unprecedented time, and we are proud to do our part and find ways to continue to serve our customers and our communities," said Rick Elieson, president of Cargo and vice president of International Operations at American. “Challenging times call for creative solutions, and a team of people across the airline has been working nonstop to arrange cargo-only flight options for our customers.”

For now, American only plans to make two round-trips between Dallas and Frankfurt over the course of the next four days. “The flights provide much-needed cargo capacity for many of the airline's regular cargo customers, allowing them to continue operating in this challenging environment,” the company says in its announcement.

Delta, too, recently announced that it would use some of its grounded passenger planes to move cargo. As airlines continue to grapple with the fallout of this pandemic, we’ll likely see more of them do this in the coming weeks.

Watch Mark Zuckerberg talk live with epidemic expert Dr. Anthony Fauci

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 04:11 PM PDT

If there’s one face of scientific authority in the U.S. in the throes of COVID-19 chaos, it’s Dr. Anthony Fauci. One of the world’s top HIV/AIDS researchers, Dr. Fauci has served in his post as director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, helping steer the federal response to viral diseases like SARS, MERS, Ebola — and now COVID-19.

Today at 4PM Pacific, Mark Zuckerberg is speaking live with Dr. Fauci to discuss steps that everyday people can take to help fight the spread of COVID-19. To watch the conversation, head over to Zuckerberg’s Facebook page.

Live with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US's top infectious disease expert, to learn about what we can all do to fight the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, March 19, 2020

The conversation is part of Facebook’s recent thrust to put COVID-19 information from established health authorities front and center on the platform in an effort to get good information into the hands of users while mitigating potentially dangerous misinformation that could worsen outcomes as the novel coronavirus spreads worldwide.

Wag! CEO Garrett Smallwood explains his firm’s ‘radically different path to profitability’

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 04:10 PM PDT

Wag!, the petcare company known for connecting pet owners with local dog walkers, has recently undergone a series of sweeping changes.

In late November, after I was named the new CEO, my management team and I began plotting a radically different path to profitability. We began by assessing our relationship with users. First and foremost, we recognized that Wag! needed to improve the way we supported the community, including pet parents, pet caregivers and their pets.

Next, we examined the company’s financial health and analyzed the competitive climate, investment community and direction in which the tech industry appeared headed. The time has come to share how this influenced our decisions.

Late in 2019, a lot of smart people began to note a philosophical shift taking place in the capital markets. Investors had begun to lose patience with startups that spent massive sums on acquiring market share, but had demonstrated little to no ability at creating lasting businesses.

We concluded that funding in some sectors would quickly dry up. Based on our analysis, we expect a growing number of startups will be forced to hew out self-sustaining business niches to survive. This assessment is partly what led us to conclude that accepting another funding round wouldn’t necessarily benefit the company in the area that matters most: providing value to customers.

A consensus formed after we took control, and found a constant drumbeat of bills coming in and payments going out, notably to Amazon (Web Services), Google (to help extend our brand), Facebook (to reach customers) and for our office space. These costs were growing faster than revenue.

Virtual dates and video speed dating: Group launches a $50 million corporate venture fund 

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 03:48 PM PDT

The dating startup world is notorious for few exits, and a similarly slim number of buyers. There's Match Group, which owns Tinder, Hinge and OkCupid, and there's Spark Networks, which owns Christian Mingle, JSwipe, Jdate and Zoosk. Group also owns a slew of dating brands, like Dil Mil, a dating app for South Asians. And it just closed a $50 million corporate venture capital fund to invest in more.

Dmitry Volkov, the founder of Group, said that he's looking for startups beyond swipe mechanics, referring indirectly to companies like Hinge, Tinder and Bumble, in which users can swipe through profiles of eligible individuals. 

"The new mainstream product mechanic is yet to be discovered," he noted. Beyond capital, Volkov thinks startups can use Group for technical talent and product advice. He also thinks the strategic investments could lead to acquisitions down the road, which isn't revolutionary, considering this is a corporate venture capital fund. Volkov claims he is in multiple talks with companies across Asia, the U.S. and Europe. With more talent under its umbrella, he says that Group will plan to exit via IPO. Group is launching this fund during a time where people are told to socially isolate, not commiserate over dates and dinners. Volkov thinks that people spending less money in times of crisis could add to some "softness in revenue," but he finds promise in streaming services. 

"People will spend more time online, in social networks and dating apps, so I expect a spike in user activity in video dating and chatting online," he said. “Younger generations are more native with video-first content. New niche players will always appear. But sooner or later there will be a mainstream disruptor, like Tinder was some time ago."

The company’s first investment was S’More, a relationship app started by for former managing director of Chappy, Bumble’s gay dating app.

To pull on the video thread a bit more, Volkov said that streaming services have gotten interest in Asia and across Europe and the USA. It's the idea of video broadcasting from one individual to a big group, and he pointed to Meet Group for developing these services in the dating industry, too.

It was the first time I've heard of video dating, and since we're seeing new use cases for literally everything during this time of social isolation, I decided to dig a little deeper. Sure enough, The League, which matches you with people you have on LinkedIn or Facebook, offers video speed dating

According to a press kit from The League [PDF], the speed dating option lets users go on three two-minute speed dates every Sunday night. People can also video chat their matches — an option that The League touted was both "safe and cost effective."

We'll see if virtual dating catches on as it moves from a cost-effective option to the only opportunity some people have right now. We know at least for now, at least one company has an appetite for it. 


Instagram prototypes Snapchat-style disappearing text messages

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 03:44 PM PDT

Instagram is finally preparing to copy Snapchat’s most popular feature, and one of the few it hasn’t already cloned. Instagram has prototyped an unreleased ephemeral text messaging feature that clears the chat thread whenever you leave it, a Facebook spokesperson confirms to TechCrunch. That could make users more comfortable with having rapid-fire, silly, vulnerable, or risque chats, thereby driving up the reply notifications that keep people opening Instagram all day long.

Instagram already has disappearing photo and video messaging which it launched in February 2018 to let users choose if chat partners can “view once”, “allow replay” multiple times for a limited period, or “keep in chat” permanently. Technically you could use the Create mode for overlaying words on a colored background to send an ephemeral text, but otherwise you have to use the “Unsend” feature which notifies other people in the thread.

But today, reverse engineering specialist and TechCrunch’s favorite tipster Jane Manchun Wong unearthed something new. Buried in the code of the Android app is the a new “šŸ™Š” mode, labeled in the code with the ‘speak-no-evil’ monkey emoji.

How Instagram Disappearing Messages Work

When users enter this mode by swiping up from Instagram Direct message thread, they’re brought to a dark mode messaging window that starts as an empty message thread. When users close this window, any messages from them or their chat partners disappear. The feature works similarly to Snapchat, which clears a chat after all members of a thread have viewed it and closed the chat window.

Here’s how Instagram disappearing messages work

The ephemeral messaging feature is not currently not publicly available but a Facebook spokesperson confirms to me that they are working on it internally. “We’re always exploring new features to improve your messaging experience. This feature is still in early development and not testing externally.” The company later tweeted the confirmation. They gave no indication of a timeline for if or when this might officially launch. Some features never make it out of the prototype phase, but others including many spotted by Wong end up being rolled out several months later.

Instagram has seen great success using Snapchat as a product R&D lab. Instagram’s version of Stories rocketed to 500 million daily users compared to just 218 million users on Snapchat as a whole.

But ephemeral messaging has kept Snapchat relevant. Back in late 2017, just 51 million of Snapchat’s 178 million users were posting Stories per day, and that was when Instagram Stories was still in its first year on the market. According to Statista, Snapchat’s top use case is staying in touch with friends and family, not entertainment.

Instagram Stories caused Snapchat to start shrinking at one point, but now it’s growing healthily again. That may signaled that Instagram still had more work to do to steal Snap’s thunder. But Instagram’s existing version of ephemeral messaging that is clunkier, Facebook scrapped a trial of a similar feature, and WhatsApp’s take that started testing in October hasn’t rolled out yet.

That’s left teens to stick with Snapchat for fast-paced communication they don’t have to worry about coming back to haunt them. If Instagram successfully copies this feature too, it could reduce the need for people to stay on Snapchat while making Instagram Direct more appealing to a critical audience. Every reply and subsequent alert draws users deeper into Facebook’s web.

Here’s how TechCrunch is keeping our brains busy while we’re stuck at home

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 03:37 PM PDT

This is a difficult time. Whoever and wherever you are, your life is likely already changing in ways you never could have anticipated as the world grapples with the fast-spreading global outbreak of a virus we don’t yet fully understand.

It’s weird and hard and we’re feeling it too. Now more than ever, diving into new skills, old interests and even — perhaps especially — totally fluffy mindless entertainment can keep our minds refreshed and our days full. From at-home workouts and soothing virtual farming simulators to Catherine’s honestly uncannily good drawings of our staff pets, here’s what’s working for us.

Natasha Mascarenhas, Reporter

Bon AppƩtit YouTube videos

While this is not at all a revolutionary concept, Bon AppĆ©tit’s YouTube videos are the calming distraction I’ve been using after work. I give double points to Priya Krishna, their in-house Indian American chef, for inspiring me to go back to some old classics with confidence. If you like New Jersey, watch any of Brad’s videos. And If you like watching a gourmet cook try to recreate niche food items like Hot Pockets, watch Claire’s videos.


This is the perfect video game for people who don’t like video games but enjoy high-intensity conversations about flipping burgers with their housemates. You act like a chef with other users and try to complete recipes. And yes, things do catch on fire if you aren’t on top of your game.

Catherine Shu, Writer

Procreate app + Apple Pencil

I was skeptical about digital art because my favorite part of sketching is messing around with different mediums, but the combination of Procreate (I use it on an iPad Air) and my Apple Pencil have been a very welcome distraction. I do a combination of freehand sketching and tracing photos to make my own versions of coloring sheets. I’ve been keeping a sketch journal and drawing pet portraits for my friends: this one is of TechCrunch’s hardware editor Brian’s rabbit, Lucy.

Keeping a journal 

….or you can try sketching with pen and paper, too! If you don’t own an iPad or drawing is not your thing, then journal. Seriously. This is a very strange time and things keep changing and escalating. I live in Taiwan, where COVID-19 has impacted daily life for months already, but I find it very hard to remember the details of what happened or how I felt from week to week. Keep a regular record, even if it’s just a couple sentences. It will keep you centered when the days start to blend together.

Brian Heater, Hardware Editor

High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies

A thick tome that deconstructs the roles Philip K Dick, Terence McKenna and Robert Anton Wilson played in developing the psychedelic subculture of the 70s. Heavy, man.

On cinema

The lore runs deep with Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington’s On Cinemaverse. There’s the podcast, the series, a motion picture, another series (Dekker), a multi-hour mock trial and seven live-streamed Oscar specials — all of it is deeply hilarious.


I dusted my old kettlebell off. This and morning yoga (see: Natasha L’s) have been the extent of most of my exercising, but the number of things you can do with the dumb piece of cast iron is mind-boggling.

“The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place” by Explosions in the Sky

I can’t say why for certain, but I’ve only been able to listen to largely instrumental music since this whole thing went into overdrive here in the U.S. My playlist at the moment mostly consists of jazz piano like Monk and Bill Evans, guitarists like John Fahey, Jim O’Rourke and Khaki King and more noise-oriented work like Can and Boris. But post-rock has been my real rock, including Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mowai and this absolute classic.

Devin Coldeway, Writer

Ring Fit Adventure

This Switch fitness game with its ring controller has helped me exercise regularly even after I finished my review. It’s even more helpful now that the actual gym is not an option.

Stardew Valley

This peaceful farming game is a great one to play with friends who might not be interested in more “serious” gaming. Download Discord, start a farm and have fun. Make sure you’re all on the same platform!

People who haven’t worked from home much likely don’t have a big selection of ambient music that’s easy to work through. This site has dozens of pleasant but not distracting procedurally generated streams that go forever.

Korean and Chinese historical dramas

Tired of the same old U.S. prestige TV and sitcom reruns? Korea and China have been making AMAZING historical dramas like “Nirvana in Fire” and “Mr Sunshine” that are very different from what you’re used to.

Darrell Etherington, Science Editor


A great resource-gathering and crafting sim with a fun style and very light system requirements that’s available on both PC and Mac. A recent expansion provides even more fun.


You might have a lot of extra time on your hands, and Zooniverse turns that time into crowdsourced contributions to ongoing scientific research. Verify lab results! Identify raccoons! Do all kinds of fun stuff, easily and from the comfort of home.

Hello from the Magic Tavern

This is a long-running podcast with the simple premise that a normal guy from Chicago finds himself trapped in a high-fantasy, Tolkien-esque world. All improv on-the-spot storytelling, and plenty of archives to catch up on.

Josh Constine, Editor-at-Large

Cowboy Bebop

If you were ever curious about anime, or thought it was too childish or ridiculous, you need to try Cowboy Bebop, the 1997 animated series. It’s about a group of bounty hunters in the near future navigating the gig economy as they try to find where they fit in the universe after an accident nearly destroys earth. Cowboy Bebop offers gorgeous noir-ish illustration, stylish fashion, thrilling action and suspenseful romance, all set to hip jazz soundtrack. You can binge the two seasons, but most episodes are relatively self-contained for a satisfying quick hit of entertainment.


Most first-person shooter games are pure tests of reflexes and experience, making them daunting to those who end up getting pwned by long-time players. Overwatch is different. Instead of everyone having similar weapons or skills, in this 6-on-6 battle you pick one of 21 different characters with unique attack, shield and healing abilities. Be a ghostly dual-wielding assassin, a viking knight with a giant hammer or angelic doctor who can revive teammates. It’s more about the interplay of your squad’s characters than individual effort, which is perfect for those feeling lonely amidst quarantine.

Greg Kumparak, Editor

Apex Legends

If you’re into the concept of battle royale games but aren’t into the building aspects of Fortnite, check out Apex. You pick one of 12 “Legends” (each with their own strengths and abilities) and team up with two other players to try to be the last squad standing. Like most battle royale games, it’s easy to keep saying “OK, OK, one more game,” until you look up and realize you’ve been playing for eight hours straight. It’s available for Windows, Xbox One and PS4… and it’s freeeeeee!

Ask the StoryBots

Working with a young kid at home and need to give them a bit of TV time for everyone’s sanity? Can’t stand to watch any more Daniel Tiger? Ask the StoryBots. Kids ask questions (Where do planets come from? How do ears hear?), and the StoryBots go and find the answer. Created by the brothers behind JibJab (a viral internet thing before viral internet things were a thing) and acquired by Netflix, it’s somehow perfectly tuned for us to watch when everyone just needs some down time… and, I admit, I’ve totally learned a thing or two from it. Bonus: A lot of the music in the show is by Parry Gripp, the unreasonably clever songwriter behind Nerf Herder. The songs will get stuck in your head forever… but hey, better than Baby Shark.


It’s the best kind of “distance learning.” No one is going to complain about getting schooled by Steph Curry and the many other greats who appear on the platform.

Lucas Matney, Reporter

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

My hype had already been building for Animal Crossing's release Friday, but after being under government-enforced shelter-in-place in San Francisco, I've been yearning for the relaxation of repaying predatory home loans to Tom Nook. We have little idea how this will compare to past versions, but given its been eight years since a major release in the series, I have sky-high hopes.

Natasha Lomas, Senior Reporter

YouTube’s fitness community is going to be essential to stay sane and healthy during this lockdown — whether you need specialised training or just want to keep (or obtain!) a general level of fitness. If I had to pick one longtime favorite channel I’d probably go for Yoga with Kassandra. The channel offers a mix of vinyasa and yin yoga classes, including some hour-long classes. The content caters to various levels and interests. For the more advanced she offers some minimal cues classes, which can be especially great if you’re sharing a living space and don’t want to take over too much of the general ambiance with yogi chatter. Namaste.

Matt Burns, Managing Editor

Gundam Models

I’ve never watched Gundam nor read the books. I don’t know anything about these robot guys. But they’re great fun to construct. The best part is there's no glue involved. Everything snaps together in a satisfying way and the only tool required is a pair of snippers. A couple hours later, bam, robot dude with a giant gun. Things can get even more involved. Some builders take ultra-fine pens and line the panels, which gives the models more depth. Others add weathering marks and battle damage. I’ve taken to painting a few panels. There are no rules.

Anthony Ha, Senior Writer

Star Trek: Picard

The latest Star Trek spin-off on CBS All Access (and Amazon Prime Video outside the United States) is a bit of a slog in its early episodes, wallowing in a future that has gotten considerably bleaker since the days of “Next Generation.” But the pace is quickening, and the darkness increasingly feels like a reminder that an enlightened Star Trek future is something that has to be continually fought for and earned — and that we will always need compassion, curiosity and optimism.

The park

While the rules around going outside differ from location to location, it’s worth emphasizing that for many of us, walking and exercising at a safe social distance are still encouraged. Here in New York, with bars and restaurants and theaters closed, it looks like plenty of city dwellers are rediscovering the joy of green space. (Just remember to stay six feet apart!)

Ingrid Lunden, Editor

Pandemic (and other table-top games)

Not wallowing in coronavirus pity here! Pandemic is a group game, away from the screen, where everyone has to work together to cover the globe with research centers. Wonderful lesson to be had here: There is no single “winner.” You have to collaborate to reach the objective, which is to find a cure. Other table-top games my family likes include Catan, Ticket to Ride, Istanbul and Perudo.

Kirsten Korosec, Senior reporter and editor

Jump rope

I rediscovered a jump rope hanging on the back of my door and thought, hmm this is something i can do. In moments of frustration or when I feel like I’ve been sitting too long I just jump rope for a few minutes.


In such a chaotic world, organizing and cleaning has been a go-to for me. That’s how I found that jump rope. ^^

Photo journal

I’ve been playing around with my Pixel 3 camera, digging into some of features and stuff I never bothered to learn. I have started taking macro and more artistic (in my mind) pictures of stuff in my immediate world. There are a number of cat photos too of course. But each day’s photo seems to perfectly capture my mood.

Taylor Hatmaker, Writer

PokƩmon Sword/Shield

The world may feel upside down, but the latest PokĆ©mon game is as relaxing and formulaic as ever. And there’s something about catching virtual animals and relegating them to tiny spherical prisons that makes home quarantine feel not so bad.


I get bored when I don’t feel like I’m learning anything, so language apps are perfect. I got started with learning beginner Japanese in a classroom, so now I use apps to refresh my (very rusty) knowledge. And happily, the language has enough memorization to keep me busy from now until the end of time.


Against all odds I somehow got my non-gamer wife into Fortnite and we play it when we absolutely can’t otherwise turn our brains off. Fortnite is a 180 from relaxing games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley, but it’s addictive and absorbing if you’d like to teleport forward in time a few hours. Also the new season has a really buff calico cat named Meowscles, so don’t sleep on that.

Cooking e-books

It’s the perfect time to hit the virtual library and check out e-books that embody the skills you’d like your very impressive aspirational self to have. In my case, I’m trying to learn the principles of Japanese and Thai cooking so I never need to eat out again, pretty much. Lately, I cook every day and it’s gone a long way toward keeping me sane. Cook something and waste a bunch of time taking artsy photos of what you made. You’ll feel accomplished, even if you won’t be winning any Michelin stars. If all else fails, make pancakes and don’t stop until you feel better.

Gaming company Scopely adds $200 million more to its M&A stockpile

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 03:16 PM PDT

Scopely, the mobile gaming publisher behind titles including Marvel Strike Force, Scrabble Go, Yahtzee with Buddies and Star Trek Fleet Command, has added another $200 million to its hoard of cash for mergers and acquisitions.

While some startups are fearing a cash crunch, other businesses seem to be preparing to go on a shopping spree. The economic slowdown has many businesses reconsidering their prospects, and it’s a good time for startups and established businesses with lots of cash to consider going on a shopping trip.

With $650 million in venture dollars raised so far, Scopely can certainly consider making some bids. The latest $200 million doubles the amount of money the company closed on for its Series D round. Investors included Advance (the privately held media and publishing company behind Conde Naste and a slew of local news [online and print] publications), and the consumer-focused investment firm, The Chernin Group.

"The FoxNext Games acquisition reinforced our commitment to M&A, and the opportunity to partner with Advance and TCG was a welcome addition to further support our strategy," said Javier Ferreira, the co-chief executive officer of Scopely, in a statement.

Advance’s investment comes as the company experiments with various new media, entertainment and publishing formats of its own and looks to invest in more digital media companies, according to a statement.

Chernin, a longtime investor in Scopely (since the company’s earliest rounds), said that its investment in Scopely on the heels of closing a $700 million new investment fund was a no-brainer.

“As the traditional media industry continues to go through unprecedented change, we believe that Scopely has all the ingredients for tremendous success — exposure to games (the fastest-growing sector in media), a scalable and durable technology platform, a diversified set of well-known IP, an attractive economic profile, and a team hyper-focused on execution and long-term success,” said Jesse Jacobs, a co-founder and partner at The Chernin Group .

Despite canceled trade shows, gaming startups can still win an extra life

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 03:07 PM PDT

As organizers cancel events with massive attendance, like SXSW (400,000 attendees), E3 (66,000), GDC (65,000) and Mobile World Congress (100,000), mobile game developers have felt the crunch. At a show like SXSW, larger developers can spend more than $135,000 just to secure some real estate.

Despite the steep cost, if you’re a developer, these events can prove worthwhile for building awareness, buzz and customer downloads. Real-time feedback from attendees, the ability to sign up users for beta campaigns, opportunities for bolstering subsequent email marketing and the prestige of having your app live side-by-side with games produced by larger studios are unique qualities.

It remains unclear if and how developers that made investments will recover costs such as those for onsite promotion, print advertising, staff for booths and restaurant reservations. Equally, if not more important though, is the added layer of opportunity cost for developers, especially those who sought to use these events to launch something new.

How important are launch moments for game developers? During the Game Developers Conference 2019, a new port of Cuphead for Nintendo Switch was announced. Per Google Trends, web searches for the game reached their second-highest point of the year during the event (March 20th), only behind search volume of the game's release a month later, in April 2019.

Large developers can come out unscathed from a trade show cancellation and simply kick the launch moment to their next big tentpole event. But for smaller app or game developers that can't wait another six months for their launch moment, they need to do something.

Here are five ways to salvage a launch lost to a trade show cancellation.

GC’s Niko Bonatsos on Y Combinator, edtech and investing in the shadow of coronavirus

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 02:14 PM PDT

This week, Extra Crunch hosted a call with General Catalyst managing director Niko Bonatsos to discuss a number of startup topics, including what the novel coronavirus is doing to investing in the Valley, as well as his thoughts on robotics, homeschooling, edtech, SMBs, international investing and what he's looking to see today in startups. Joining me on the live call was my fellow Equity host Alex Wilhelm and a couple of dozen EC members.

If you missed this conference call for EC members, don't fret: We'll have more of these to come in this era of work-from-home. In the meantime, here is a lightly edited transcript, along with a recording of the call if you’d like to listen in.

YouTube launches dedicated COVID-19 home page section

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 02:10 PM PDT

In an effort to ensure that the latest updates related to COVID-19 are as visible as possible, YouTube announced today that they’re launching a dedicated hub on the YouTube home page for stories related to the coronavirus outbreak.

For YouTube, the dedicated shelf is a means of promoting “authoritative content” to users. In the U.S., most of these videos appear to be from national publications. It will be rolling out in 16 countries with more on the way, according to the company’s tweet.

The feature follows other home page changes promoting coronavirus awareness now seen on apps like Instagram.

YouTube has had its fair share of issues with promoting unsavory videos and conspiracy theories on its home page during past breaking news situations, and the news shelf may offer a way for the company to keep a stronger editorial hand on videos touching on the pandemic.

Tesla to temporarily shut down Fremont factory

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 01:57 PM PDT

Tesla will suspend production at its Fremont, Calif., factory beginning March 23, days after a shelter in-place order went into effect in Alameda County due to the COVID-19 pandemic and sparked a public tussle between the automaker and local officials over what was consider an “essential” business.

Some basic operations that would support Tesla’s charging infrastructure and what it describes as its “vehicle and energy services operations” will continue at the factory, which under normal circumstances employs more than 10,000 people.

Tesla will also suspend operations at its factory in Buffalo, New York except for “those parts and supplies necessary for service, infrastructure and critical supply chains,” the company said in a statement.

Tesla could not be reached for comment. TechCrunch will update the story if the company responds.

The Alameda County Sheriff also confirmed the announcement, noting in a tweet that Tesla would suspend production during the health order and that minimum basic operations are permitted.

Meanwhile, the company’s massive factory near Reno, Nevada is still open and operational as usual. The Nevada gigafactory, as Tesla describes it, employs thousands of people who produce electric motors for the Model 3 and battery packs for its portfolio of electric vehicles. People familiar with operations at the gigafactory told TechCrunch that managers are monitoring the situation closely.

Tesla said it has enough liquidity to weather the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its cash position at the end of the the fourth quarter was $6.3 billion before its recent $2.3 billion capital raise.

“We believe this level of liquidity is sufficient to successfully navigate an extended period of uncertainty,” Tesla said.

The company had available credit lines worth about  $3 billion, including working capital lines for all regions as well as financing for the expansion of its Shanghai factory at the end of the fourth quarter of 2019.

The announcement caps an uncertain week that began March 16 after Alameda County ordered all nonessential businesses to close, including bars, gyms and dine-in restaurants because of the global spread of COVID-19, a disease caused by the coronavirus. Tesla's factory and a number of its other facilities are located in and around Fremont, which is within Alameda County.

Tesla kept the Fremont factory open despite the order, claiming that part of the company's operations fell under an exemption in the county's order. Tesla CEO Elon Musk told employees in an email that the company would continue operations at the Fremont factory, where the automaker assembles the Model S, Model X, Model 3 and now Model Y electric vehicles. Musk did tell employees that should not feel obligated to come to work if they "feel the slightest bit ill or even uncomfortable.”

The Alameda County Sheriff disagreed and on March 17 tweeted that Tesla was not “essential.” The automaker still ignored the order and the sheriff’s tweet. On Wednesday, employees received another email from human resources head Valerie Workman that the Fremont, Calif., factory was still open for production, because it has had "conflicting guidance from different levels of government."

The email told employees to come to work if their job is to produce, service, deliver or test its electric vehicles. Another email sent late Wednesday evening (and viewed by TechCrunch) reiterated to employees that the factory would remain open to “essential” workers, but special efforts were being taken to lessen the spread of COVID-19, including handing out masks to be worn throughout the day, taking temperatures prior to entry, adding more hygiene stations inside the facility, rearranging operations to promote social distancing as much as possible and increasing cleaning frequency of all work areas.

Here’s a portion of the statement:

In the past few days, we have met with local, state and federal officials.  We have followed and are continuing to follow all legal directions and safety guidelines with respect to the operations of our facilities, and have honored the Federal Government's direction to continue operating.  Despite taking all known health precautions, continued operations in certain locations has caused challenges for our employees, their families and our suppliers.

As such, we have decided to temporarily suspend production at our factory in Fremont, from end of day March 23, which will allow an orderly shutdown. Basic operations will continue in order to support our vehicle and energy service operations and charging infrastructure, as directed by the local, state and federal authorities. Our factory in New York will temporarily suspend production as well, except for those parts and supplies necessary for service, infrastructure and critical supply chains. Operations of our others facilities will continue, including Nevada and our service and Supercharging network.

Tesla also said that it will start "touchless deliveries" in many locations to allow customers to take delivery of their vehicle “in a seamless and safe way.”

The vehicles will be placed in a delivery parking lot. Customers will be able to unlock the vehicles using the Tesla app and then sign the remaining paperwork necessary to take ownership. Customers will need to return that paperwork to an on-site drop-off location prior to leaving, Tesla said.

Workers prep for deliveries

As Tesla winds down the Fremont factory, the activity is shifting to its delivery operations. Tesla has a history of stacking deliveries at the end of a quarter. And this one is no different, COVID-19 or not.

Current Tesla employees have told TechCrunch that communication about operations in California, one of its biggest markets, has been inconsistent and unclear as the COVID-19 pandemic has spread. Employees, who requested anonymity for fear of losing their jobs, described a lack of access to disinfectant, and said there were not clear or proper protocols put in place to safeguard workers in sales, service and delivery.

The lack of guidance for Tesla employees who work in delivery and sales throughout the U.S. has prompted some to take matters into their own hands because there is “zero protective gear.”

Employees told TechCrunch there is no disinfectant or gloves for delivery drivers, service or sales staff at some of its busiest delivery hubs. There has been little communication with upper management as well. Employees have bought hand sanitizer, gloves and disinfectant for co-workers as they prepare for an onslaught of vehicles before the quarter ends. For instance, employees were told to expect 1,000 cars in Costa Mesa alone in the next three days. Other delivery hubs are expected to be busy as well.

The touchless delivery system began Wednesday in places like Costa Mesa. Some employees are worried about the risk of exposure to COVID because customers are still walking into locations because touchless delivery isn’t be possible in all cases because of trade ins and other reasons such as financing.

Announcing the Disrupt SF Digital Pass

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 01:39 PM PDT

At TechCrunch, we aim to deliver a great show no matter what. We're constantly looking at ways to broaden the reach of Disrupt — in 2018, for instance, we added several new pricing tiers to make sure the show is as accessible as possible.

That's why today we're announcing plans to offer access to Disrupt SF content and networking opportunities virtually for our flagship event. We've been thinking about this for a long time, as there have always been people who would love to come to our show but were unable to, but the coronavirus pandemic has sped up our time frame.

We have some creative ideas about what we can do to bring Disrupt SF alive online, and we'll keep you in the loop as we go.

Today, however, we're announcing the free tier of our virtual pass, the Disrupt Digital Pass. Digital Pass Holders will have access to the Disrupt Stage live stream, as well as access to the full slate of Disrupt Stage content via video on demand.

You can sign up for the free Disrupt Digital Pass now!

The new Digital Pass and Digital Pass Pro (to be announced soon!) are a complement to the existing Disrupt SF conference. The Moscone Center is booked for September 14-16, Battlefield Startups are applying each day and we're well underway in programming the in-person show, with announcements about speakers coming soon!

But for folks who can't make it to San Francisco, these digital passes will provide unprecedented and interactive access to the show online.

Interested? Sign up for the free Disrupt Digital Pass below.

Nvidia makes its GPU-powered genome sequencing tool available free to those studying COVID-19

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 01:36 PM PDT

Nvidia is making its Parabricks tool available for free for 90 days (with the possibility of extension, depending on needs) to any researcher currently working on any effort to combat the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic and spread of COVID-19. The tool is a GPU-accelerated genome analysis toolkit, which leveraged graphics processing power to take a process that previously took days, but that through its use can be accomplished in just a matter of hours.

Researchers will still need access to Nvidia GPUs for running the Parabricks genetic sequencing suite, but they won’t have to pay anything for the privilege of running the software. This is a big advantage for anyone studying the new coronavirus or the patients who have contracted the illness. The GPU-maker is also providing links to different cloud-based GPU service providers to lower that barrier to entry, as well.

We’ve cut down drastically on genomic sequencing times in the past few years, but they still require a massive amount of computing hardware, and Parabricks, which was acquired by Nvidia late last year, has developed technology that makes it possible to sequence an entire human genome in less than an hour — and that’s using a single server, not an entire server farm.

Speed is of the essence when it comes to every aspect of the continued effort to fight the spread of the virus, and the severe respiratory illness that it can cause. One of the biggest challenges that scientists and researchers working on building potential drug therapies and vaccines for the novel coronavirus face is lack of solid, reliable information. The more sequencing that can be done to understand, identify and verify characteristics of the genetic makeup of both the virus itself and patients who contract it (both during and post-infection), the quicker everyone will be able to move on to potential treatments and immunotherapies.

Stocks rise after mixed day, with tech leading and SaaS outperforming

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 01:35 PM PDT

The wild ride that has been U.S. stock market over the past couple of weeks may be settling down — at least for the moment — from the whiplash-like swings that helped set global markets on edge.

The new economic normal that the pandemic has brought to countries across the world seems to be settling on weary investors as the extent of COVID-19 becomes more clear and as proper testing begins to roll out along with massive trillion dollar aid packages.

Wall Street responded to reports of possible breakthroughs on the medical front, with vaccinations and other potential therapies touted by President Donald Trump causing some healthcare stocks to soar. But on the whole, the day was about digesting and coming to terms with where the world stands.

That was reflected in the major indices which couldn’t make up their minds for much of the day, but wound up up, in a nice surprise.

Here’s the tale from the tape at market close:

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average: +188.48, +0.95%
  • S&P 500: +11.29, +0.47%
  • Nasdaq Composite: +160.73, +2.30%

While tech led other sectors on the day, SaaS and cloud companies — a subset of tech itself — shone during regular trading. The Bessemer-Nasdaq cloud index rose 6.4%, a good result even if the tracker is still sharply off its recent highs.

Some automakers, nearly all of which have announced temporary shut downs, saw shares rise or at least remain steady. Honda, GM, Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Volkswagen have all said factories in North America will close. The closures were prompted by slowing demand due to the spread of COVID-19 as well as pressure from United Auto Workers to protect workers. GM and FCA have each reported a COVID-19 case among its workforce.

Ford saw shares fall 0.76% to close at $4.46 after the company said it would drawn down two credit lines to put an additional $15.4 billion of cash on its balance sheet and consider suspending its dividend.

GM saw shares rise 3% to $17.71 and FCA shares fall 6.37% to $6.47.

Meanwhile, Tesla shares took the biggest jump rising 18.39% to $427.64. Tesla is one of the only hold outs in the recent move to shutter plants. The company’s factory in Fremont, Calif., which is not unionized, remains open despite a shelter in-place order in Alameda County.

US State Department issues unprecedented ‘do not travel’ warning over coronavirus

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 12:49 PM PDT

The U.S. State Department has issued an unprecedented “do not travel” warning to U.S. citizens, as the number of coronavirus-related infections jumped sharply overnight.

The advisory said U.S. citizens should “avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19,” the coronavirus strain which last week was declared a global pandemic. The advisory added that citizens abroad should “arrange for immediate return” unless they are prepared to stay overseas indefinitely.

The warning was published Thursday, where the official count for coronavirus cases hit 220,000 infections around the world, with more than 10,000 cases in the United States alone.

Several countries have closed their borders and restricted travel to their citizens and residents in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.

This week, the European Union closed the so-called Schengen border, which covers the 27 member state bloc, and the U.S. closed its border with Canada to all but essential travel and trade.

The pandemic has seen stocks and global financial markets tank, prompting governments to inject cash and slash interest rates to try to keep their economies afloat.

Workers sent home after Amazon warehouse employee tests positive for COVID-19

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 12:38 PM PDT

It was, it seems, only a matter of time before something like this happened. As we noted in yesterday's FreshDirect story, not everyone has the ability of being able to shelter in place during the spread of COVID-19. In fact, the more of us who stay put, the more strain we're going to put on workers who play a role in getting products and supplies to our doors. 

Amazon today confirmed that an employee in its Queens, N.Y. fulfillment center has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The company texted employees at the facility about the case yesterday. The text, obtained by The Atlantic reads, "We're writing to let you know that a positive case of the coronavirus (COVID-19) was found at our facility today."

It may be the first of its kind in the facility, but it almost certainly won't be the last. Even as companies encourage workers to stay home at the first sign of sickness for both their benefit and that of customers, many will no doubt come to work. And then there’s the matter of those who are largely asymptomatic. 

We've reached out to Amazon to comment on the incident. The company noted in the text that workers at the DBK1 facility were sent home, while the sorting facility was disinfected. Amazon has denied reports that, while day shift workers were sent home, those on the night shift were still expected to come in.

In spite of the company's massive footprint, Amazon has been forced to limit certain shipments, including non-essentials through its Fulfillment by Amazon program, along with the temporary pausing of shipments from Prime Pantry.

Just Eat cuts its take for 30 days to help restaurants during the COVID-19 crisis

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 12:34 PM PDT

U.K. takeout marketplace Just Eat has announced a 30-day emergency support package for restaurants on its platform to help them through disruption caused by the coronavirus crisis.

From tomorrow (March 20) until April 19 the package — which Just Eat says is worth £10 million+ — will see funds directed back to U.K. partner restaurants in the form of a commission rebate of one-third (33%) on all commissions paid to Just Eat by restaurants; and via the removal of commissions across all collection orders, which it intends to help reduce pressure on restaurants' delivery operations, where collection is still available.

Just Eat also said it’s waiving all sign-up fees for new restaurants joining its platform (which must still meet its standard conditions, such as being registered with the relevant local authority as a food business and having the required hygiene rating); and relaxing any existing arrangements that may be in place with partners to enable them to work with delivery aggregators — “regardless of existing contractual terms.”

It added that it will continue to pay restaurants weekly, including the rebate now in place.

Currently Just Eat has around 35,700 restaurants on its platform in the U.K., with delivery available to 95% of U.K. postcodes.

Commenting in a statement, Andrew Kenny, Just Eat’s U.K. MD, said:

These are some of the most challenging times the restaurants we work with have ever been through. We want to show our support and help them to keep their doors open, so they can focus on doing what they do best — delivering food to people across the UK every day. We know our Restaurant Partners are worried about their teams — from chefs to delivery drivers — and these measures will go some way to helping them maintain their operations and support their people.

The food delivery industry has a crucial role to play at this time of national crisis and it is only right that as the market leader in the UK Just Eat steps up to help our independent partners so they can keep delivering for the communities that need them.

In the U.K. and elsewhere there is rising concern about the economic impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality sector as people are told to stay away from social spaces.

On Monday the U.K. government advised people not to go to bars and restaurants or other social spaces in a bid to try to limit the spread of COVID-19. Although, unlike many other European countries, it has not yet issued strict quarantine measures such as ordering hospitality industry businesses to close their doors and citizens to work at home where possible.

On-demand food delivery remains one of the services that continues to operate even in locked down EU Member States. However, with gig economy business models not typically offering platform workers an employment safety net of benefits such as sick pay, the entire sector has come under fresh scrutiny for the legal status it assigns to delivery couriers, given the heightened risks posed to them by the novel coronavirus. In a nutshell, if they need to self isolate, they won’t be able to earn. 

In its press release today Just Eat said it’s working on other unspecified support initiatives for couriers, as well as for groups including the vulnerable and isolated, and frontline workers.

These will be announced in due course, it added. 

Although it also notes that the vast majority of orders placed through its network are delivered by restaurants with their own delivery capability. Its commission for such orders is a maximum of 14%, it added.

Some on-demand food delivery startups operating in Europe which do rely on gig workers to make deliveries have already announced emergency support funds to help platform workers who fall ill or need to self isolate during the COVID-19 crisis — including U.K.-based Deliveroo and Spain’s Glovo.

There has also been some criticism of how easy it is for couriers to access claimed support.

‘Cloud-first’ game studio Mainframe raises $8.1M led by Andreessen Horowitz

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 12:33 PM PDT

With most new social media startups seeming to dial in on specific communities to thrive in a still Facebook-dominated sphere, some of the more broadly focused social investments from top VCs are going into online gaming.

The latest is Mainframe Industries, a Nordic game studio building a massively multiplayer online title. The team doesn’t have much to share of what their title will actually look like gameplay-wise, they’re just saying it’s a sandbox MMO designed for cloud streaming built on Epic Games’ Unreal Engine.

The startup, which has offices in Helsinki and Reykjavik, isn’t building cloud gaming tech but is instead building an MMO title that’s designed from the get-go for streaming platforms like Google Stadia or Microsoft xCloud that beam a title to a user’s device from a cloud-hosted GPU. What does being a cloud-native game entail? Mainly, it seems to mean that they’re creating a social title that is as fully playable on mobile as it is on PC/console.

Building a robust mobile game that meets console/PC gamers expectations has been one of the more tenuous pursuits of the past decade, and one that has more often than not led to watered-down experiences. Mainframe CEO Thor Gunnarsson acknowledges that titles have sometimes catered to the “lowest common denominator,” but he believes that as game-streaming advances lower technical barriers, his team can focus wholly on solving the user experience challenges.

A big focus seems to be leveraging cross-play with more consistent experiences on differently powered devices thanks to cloud streaming. Gunnarsson believes his company’s approach to what occurs on the “social layer” of the title will be what differentiates them the most, though he is mum on details regarding what that will look like in the eventual release.

The startup has some big names supporting them in their quest. The startup announced today that they’ve closed an $8.1 million (€7.6 million) Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz. Riot Games,, Play Ventures, Sisu Game Ventures and Crowberry Capital also participated in the round.

Andreessen Horowitz, already having bet big on Roblox’s $150 million Series G last month, has been quite active in placing bets on smaller gaming startups in the past year or so, most of which have been made by GP Andrew Chen.

Early last year, Chen directed a16z’s investment in Sandbox VR’s $68 million Series A, a startup aiming to make shared virtual reality experiences more common by building out physical retail locations in malls and shopping areas across the globe. This past August, Chen was also behind the firm’s investment in Singularity 6, another MMO gaming startup that’s looking to build a “virtual society.” Chen was also behind the investment in Mainframe Industries .

"We believe that cloud-native games are poised to revolutionize the entertainment industry in the coming years, yielding entirely new gameplay experiences and business models," said Chen in a press release announcing the startup’s raise.

In some part, these investments highlight the belief of venture capitalists that online games like Fortnite may represent the future of social networks. They are also, however, platform bets that are rooted in early content plays, which can be notoriously difficult to pick winners in.

While Gunnarsson was quick to discuss how important he believed their title’s social platform would become, he was also just as quick to admit that building a great game was the most critical. “All of the platform stuff is ancillary to the prospect of creating a fun game, but we have really strong game design team.”

Games these days, particularly MMOs, are far from “finished” by launch. Gunnarsson plans to use this round of funding to reach a closed alpha of their title. He didn’t offer any timelines for launch, as they’re only in pre-production now, but did say it certainly won’t be coming out this year.

Nextdoor adds Help Maps and Groups to connect neighbors during the coronavirus outbreak

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 12:31 PM PDT

Neighborhood social networking app Nextdoor has introduced two new features, Help Maps and Groups, to give people a way to better support one another during the coronavirus outbreak. The Help Map offers a way to coordinate aid between those in need, like the elderly and at-risk, and those willing to offer some form of assistance — like running errands or dropping off supplies, for example. Groups, meanwhile, allows smaller groups to network outside of the main feed.

Nextdoor had the technology for a map-based feature like the Help Map, as it today offers a map of real estate listings in its app and runs annual features, like the Halloween Treat Map or Holiday Cheer Map, which shows which homes are decked out with Christmas lights or other holiday decorations.

The Help Maps works similarly, but instead of listing your house, you’re able to list the services you’re willing to provide.

After updating the Nextdoor app to the latest version, you’ll find the new “Help Map” option under the More menu. From here, you can choose to either view the map or click a button to offer help to your neighbors.

Members who add themselves to the map can then detail the errands they could run or the other sort of assistance they can provide — like offering a daily check-in phone call, delivering groceries or fetching prescriptions.

Though most stores have begun offering special early morning hours for those at the most risk for COVID-19, limiting exposure by staying at home is the best option. The Help Map, therefore, isn’t just handy — it’s a potential life-saver.

Related to this, Nextdoor is also launching out of beta its Groups feature to users worldwide. Similar to Facebook Groups, Nextdoor’s Groups allows communities to organize around topics, interests, providing aid or anything else. But unlike Facebook, which doesn’t have an official way to confirm people are who they say or where they live, Nextdoor validates users by phone or postal mail.

On Nextdoor Groups, neighbors can organize either by their specific neighborhood alone, with other neighborhoods nearby, or on a city-wide basis.

During the beta, neighbors were already beginning to use the feature for COVID-19 topics, including ways to unite communities, ways for parents to help kids stay connected during school closures and different hobbies that can be done while stuck at home.

Nextdoor usage grew as the coronavirus outbreak took off in the U.S. People turned to the app to share local news and information — like where toilet paper is available. The company said user engagement had grown by 80% in the last two weeks, particularly in hard-hit areas like Seattle and New York.

App downloads have grown, too, sending Nextdoor further up the App Store’s Top Free Charts. In February, Nextdoor was ranking in the mid-to-lower 200s on the Top Free Chart, and was No. 168 as of Wednesday.

Conversations around COVID-19 on Nextdoor haven’t always been productive, however. Misinformation, bad health advice and more have spread on the app, which doesn’t have Facebook-sized resources for moderation.

“People on Nextdoor are freaking out about coronavirus,” said a recent BuzzFeed story. CNN also called the app a “hub of anxiety.” 

As a result of its latest additions, Nextdoor usage is likely to spike even further — and hopefully refocus some of its members’ mania on doing good and helping others, instead of inciting further panic.

The company, as of last fall’s close of its $170 million in growth funding, said it reached 247,000 neighborhoods across 10 countries. Today, it’s available in 260,000 across 11 countries.

Slack adds 7K customers in 7 weeks amid remote-work boom, besting its preceding 2 results

Posted: 19 Mar 2020 11:48 AM PDT

Today, Slack, a popular internal chat application, announced that it added 7,000 new customers between February 1 and March 18. That is 47 days. For context, Slack added 5,000 customers total in its preceding quarter, making its recent customer adds impressive.

Slack, like other companies whose products can help facilitate remote work, has seen a boom in usage due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced people to work from home. TechCrunch covered that fact this morning, saying that the company's success would depend on how many of its new users became customers. Today's SEC filing indicates that the newly public entity is succeeding in its efforts to monetize recent usage gains.

Shares of Slack stock are up 19% as of the time of writing, broadly higher in a day of positive trading. We'll update this post at the end of trading to see where the firm wraps the day. The company was previously dinged by investors for not posting higher guidance during its most recent earnings report.

In its most recent quarter, the fourth of its fiscal 2020, Slack added 5,000 customers, growing from 105,000 at the end of its fiscal third quarter to 110,000. In seven weeks then, Slack has grown its customer count by 6.4%, or a hair under 1% each week.

Earlier today Microsoft announced that its competing Teams product had crested the 44 million daily active user (DAU) mark, a figure far greater than what Slack has announced to date. We might consider this new SEC filing as a way for Slack to not only flex its recent gains in front of its current investors, but also to combat Microsoft's recent PR push. 

Teams added 12 million of its total DAUs from March 11 to March 18, underscoring the huge demand the two products are seeing today.

Slack's product efforts

While Slack is seeing rising usage and, as we've learned today, rising commercial application of its service, the company is also turning out a good number of changes to its service.

Slack recently announced a simplified interface to make user experiences more smooth. While the company has felt more useful than ever before, with the massive move to work from home across the world, Slack claims that users have always relied heavily on the platform. 

As for whether or not it can handle the remote work boom, Slack sounds confident. It had connectivity issues with calls last week, but resolved the problem within a day. (Teams has also had some recent outages.)

In a memo about business continuity, Slack said that "the demands on our infrastructure do not change when employees shift away from working together in the same office; there is no difference in load on our systems whether people are connecting from their office, a cellular network, or their homes." 

But nine hours a day for work is becoming more than just the singular use case for Slack. 

Slack is often looked at as a haven for workplace communication. We're seeing a bunch of more use cases, perhaps spurred by social distancing: support groups for founders, alumni groups and even groups for students who want to make better use of their time while taking classes remotely. 

Today's news, coupled with the trends coming out of this, positions Slack more as a virtual community than just another work productivity tool.

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