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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News

Today Crunch News, News Updates, Tech News

Robinhood blames record trade volume & itself for outages

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 04:45 PM PST

It wasn’t the leap year, a coding blip, or a hack that caused Robinhood’s massive outages yesterday and today that left customers unable to trade stocks. Instead, the co-CEOs

write that “the cause of the outage was stress on our infrastructure — which struggled with unprecedented load. That in turn led to a "thundering herd" effect — triggering a failure of our DNS system.”

Robinhood was offline from Monday at 6:30am Pacific to 11pm Pacific, then had another outage this morning from 6:30am Pacific until just before 9am Pacific.

The $912 million-funded fintech giant will provide compensation to all customers of its Robinhood Gold premium subscription for borrowing money to trade, offering them three months of service. A month of Robinhood Gold costs $5 plus 5% yearly interest on borrowing above $1,000, charged daily. However, users will only get the $5 off per month, for a total of $15.

Impacted Robinhood users can contact the company here to ask for compensation. Below you can see the email Robinhood sent to custoemrs late last night.

Robinhood’s email to customers late last night

Robinhood is also working to contact impacted customers on a individual basis, and it’s looking into other forms of compensation on a case by case basis, company spokesperson Jack Randall tells me. It’s unclear if that might include cash to offset what traders might have lost by having their money locked in inaccessible Robinhood accounts during the outage.

Compensation could become a significant cost if the startup assesses that many of its 10 million users were impacted. The markets gained a record $1.1 trillion yesterday, but some Robinhood traders may not have been able to buy back in as the rebound occurred following mass selloffs due to fears of coronavirus.

Now the startup, valued at $7.6 billion, will have to try to regain users’ trust. “When it comes to your money, we know how important it is for you to have answers. The outages you have experienced over the last two days are not acceptable and we want to share an update on the current situation . . . We worked as quickly as possible to restore service, but it took us a while. Too long” wrote co-founders and co-CEO Baiju Bhatt and Vlad Tenev [disclosure: who I know from college].

As for exactly what triggered the downtime, the founders write that “Multiple factors contributed to the unprecedented load that ultimately led to the outages. The factors included, among others, highly volatile and historic market conditions; record volume; and record account sign-ups.” There’s been a frenzy of retail trading activity in the wake of coronavirus. There’s also been sudden spikes in stocks like Tesla amidst mainstream media attention. 

Robinhood Schwab ETrade Ameritrade

Going forward, Robinhood promises to “work to improve the resilience of our infrastructure to meet the heightened load we have been experiencing. We're simultaneously working to reduce the interdependencies in our overall infrastructure. We're also investing in additional redundancies in our infrastructure.” However, they warn that “we may experience additional brief outages, but we're now better positioned to more quickly resolve them.”

The outage comes at a vulnerable time for Robinhood as oldschool brokerages like Charles Schwab, Ameritrade, and Etrade all recently moved to eliminate per-trade fees to match Robinhood’s pioneering zero-comission trades. Though some of those brokerages experienced infrastructure troubles recently, Robinhood massive outages could push users towards those incumbents that they might perceive as more stable. 

Five, the self-driving startup, raises $41M and pivots into B2B, away from building its own fleet

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 04:40 PM PST

We are still years away from a time when fully-autonomous cars will be able to drive us from A to B, and the complexity of getting to that point is likely going to need hundreds of billions of dollars of investment before it becomes a reality.

That hard truth is leading to some shifts in the self-driving startup landscape. England’s Five (formerly known as FiveAI), one of the more ambitious companies in the space, is moving away from its original plan, of designing its own fully self-driving cars, and then running fleets of them in its own transportation service. Instead, it now plans to license its technology — starting with software to help test and measure the accuracy of a vehicle’s driving systems — that it has created to others building autonomous cars as well as the wider service ecosystem that will exist around that. As part of that pivot, today it’s also announcing a fresh $41 million in funding.

“A year and a bit ago we thought we would probably build the entire thing and take it to market as a whole system,” said co-founder and CEO Stan Boland in an interview. “But we gradually realised just how deep and complex that would be. It was probably through 2019 that we realised that the right thing to do is to focus in on the key pieces.”

The funding, a Series B, includes backing from Trustbridge Partners, insurance giant Direct Line Group and Sistema VC, as well as previous investors Lakestar, Amadeus Capital Partners, Kindred Capital and Notion Capital. The company has now raised $77 million and while it’s not disclosing its valuation, Boland said that it was definitely up on its last round. (Its Series A, in 2017, was for $35 million, and it didn’t disclose valuation then, either.)

Five’s change in course is a significant development. The high-profile startup, founded by a team that had previously built and sold several chip companies to the likes of Broadcom, Nvidia and Huawei, had been the leading partner for a big government-backed pilot project, StreetWise, to test and work on autonomous driving systems across boroughs in London. The most recent phase of that project, running driver-assisted rides along a 19-km route across south London, got off the ground only last October after initially getting announced in 2018.

Five might continue to work on research projects like these, Boland said, but the primary business aim for the company will no longer be ultimately to build cars for themselves, but to work on tech that will be sold either to other carmakers, or those building services catering to the autonomous industry.

For example, Direct Line, one of Five’s new investors and also a participant in the StreetWise project, could use testing and measurement to determine risk and pricing for insurance packages for different vehicles.

Autonomous and assisted driving technology is going to play a huge role in the future of cars,” said Gus Park, MD of Motor Insurance at Direct Line Group, in a statement. “We have worked closely with Five on the StreetWise project, and we share a common interest in solving the formidable challenges that will need to be addressed in bringing safe self-driving to market. Insurers will need to build the capability to measure and underwrite new types of risk. We will be collaborating with Five's world-class team of scientists, mathematicians and engineers to gain the insight needed to build safe, insurable solutions and bring the motoring revolution ever closer." Park is also joining Five’s board with this round.

There were already a number of big players in the self-driving space when FiveAI launched — they included the likes of Waymo, Cruise, Uber, Argo AI and many more — and you could have argued that the writing was already on the wall then for long-term consolidation in the industry. Indeed, there have been some significant casualties in the meantime, including Drive.AI (which Apple acquired after it ran out of money), Oryx Vision and Quanergy.

Five’s argument for why a UK — and indeed, European — startup was in a good place to build and operate self-driving cars, and the tech underpinning it, was because of the complexity behind building localised systems: a big US or Asian company might be able to map the streets in Europe, but it wouldn’t have as good of a feel for how people behaved on those roads. Added to that, Five firmly believed the economics of building and operating these cars would prove to be too high for wide-scale private ownership. Hence, the strategy (one adopted by many in the autonomous space) of building the technology for fleets, where transportation businesses, not individuals, would own the cars and recoup their investments by charging private individuals for rides.

Yet while it may have been easy to see the potential, the process of getting to that point proved to be too challenging.

“What's happened in the last couple of years is that there has been an appreciation across the industry of just how wide and deep the challenges are for bringing self driving to market,” Boland said. “Many pieces of the jigsaw have to be assembled…. The B2C model needs billions [of investment], but others are finding their niche as great providers of technology needed to deliver the systems properly.”

As FiveAI (named after the “Level 5” that self-driving systems attain when they are truly autonomous), the company built (hacked) vehicles with dozens of sensors and through its tests managed to build a significant trove of vehicle technology.

“We could offer tech in a dozen different areas that are hard for autonomous driving companies,” Boland said. Its testing and measuring tools point to one of the toughest challenges among these: how to assure that the deep learning software a company is using is correctly identifying objects, people, weather, and other physical factors when it may have never seen them before.

“We have learned a lot about the types of errors that propagate from perception into planning… and now we can use that for providing absolute confidence” to those testing the systems, he said.

Self-driving cars are one of the biggest AI challenges of our time: not only is the requirement to essentially build from the ground up computer systems that behave as well as (or ideally better) than multitasking humans behind the wheel; but the consequence of doing that wrong is not just a strange string of words, or some other kind of non sequitur, but injury or death. No surprise that there appears still a very long way to go before we see anything like Level 5 systems in action, but in the meantime, investors are willing to continue placing their bets. Partly because of how advanced it got with its car project on relatively little funding, Five remains an interesting company to investors, and Boland hopes that this will help it with its next round down the road.

“We invest in category-leading companies that are delivering transformational change wherever they're located,” said David Lin of Trustbridge Partners in a statement. “As Europe's leading self-driving startup, Five is the furthest ahead in developing a clear understanding of the scientific challenges and novel solutions that move the needle for the whole industry. Five has successfully applied Europe's outstanding science and engineering base to create a world-class team with the energy and ambition to deliver safe self-driving. We are delighted to join them for this next phase of growth."

Los Angeles-based Talespin nabs $15 million for its extended reality-based workforce training tools

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 04:36 PM PST

It turns out the virtual and augmented reality companies aren’t dead — as long as they focus on the enterprise. That’s what the Los Angeles-based extended reality technology developer Talespin did — and it just raised $15 million to grow its business. 

Traditional venture capitalists may have made it rain on expensive Hollywood studios that were promising virtual reality would be the future of entertainment and social networking (given coronavirus fears, it may yet be), but Talespin and others like it are focused on much more mundane goals. Specifically, making talent management, training and hiring easier for employers in certain industries.

For Talespin, the areas that were the most promising were ones that aren’t obvious to a casual observer. Insurance and virtual reality are hardly synonymous, but Talespin’s training tools have helped claims assessors do their jobs and helped train a new generation of insurance investigators in what to look for when they’re trying to determine how much their companies are going to pay out.

Talespin‘s immersive platform has transformed employee learning and proven to be an impactful addition to our training programs. We’re honored to continue to support the Talespin team through this next phase of growth and development,” said Scott Lindquist, Chief Financial Officer at Farmers Insurance, in a statement.

Farmers is an investor in Talespin, as is the corporate training and talent management software provider Cornerstone OnDemand, and the hardware manufacturer HTC. The round’s composition speaks to the emerging confidence of corporate investors and just how skeptical traditional venture firms have become of the prospects for virtual reality.

The prospects of augmented and virtual reality may be uncertain, but what’s definite is the need for new tools and technologies to transfer knowledge and train up employees as skilled, experienced workers age out of the workforce — and the development of new skills becomes critically important as technology changes the workplace.

Cornerstone, which led the Talespin Series B round, will also be partnering with the company to develop human resources training tools in virtual reality.

"We share Talespin's vision that the workforce needs innovative solutions to stay competitive, maximize opportunity and increase employee satisfaction," said Jason Gold, Vice President of Finance, Corporate Development and Investor Relations at Cornerstone, in a statement. "We've been incredibly impressed with Talespin's technology, leadership team and vision to transform the workplace through XR. Talespin's technology is a perfect fit in our suite of products, and we look forward to working together to deliver great solutions for our customers."

Talespin previously raised $5 million in financing. The company initially grew its business by developing a number of one-off projects for eventual customers as it determined a product strategy. Part of the company’s success has relied in its ability to use game engine and animation instead of 360 degree video. That means assets can be reused multiple times and across different training modules.

"Creating better alignment between skills and opportunities is the key to solving the reskilling challenges organizations across the world are facing," said Kyle Jackson, CEO and Co-Founder of Talespin, in a statement. "That's why it's critical companies find a way to provide accelerated, continuous learning and create better skills data. By doing so, we will open up career pathways for individuals that are better aligned to their natural abilities and learned skills, and enable companies to implement a skills-based approach to talent development, assessment, and placement. Our new funding and partnership with Cornerstone will allow us to expand our product offerings to achieve these goals, and to continue building innovative solutions that redefine what work looks like in the future."

$75M legal startup Atrium shuts down, lays off 100

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 03:42 PM PST

Justin Kan’s hybrid legal software and law firm startup Atrium is shutting down today after failing to figure out how to deliver better efficiency than a traditional law firm, the CEO tells TechCrunch exclusively. The startup has now laid off all its employees, which totaled just over 100. It will return some of its $75.5 million in funding to investors, including Series B lead Andreessen Horowitz. The separate Atrium law firm will continue to operate.

“I’m really grateful to the customers and the team members who came along with me and our investors. It’s unfortunate that this wasn’t the outcome that we wanted but we’re thankful to everyone that came with us on the journey” said Kan. He’d previously founded which pivoted to become Twitch and later sold to Amazon for $970 million. “We decided to call it and wind down the startup operations. There will be some capital returned to investors post wind-down” Kan told me.

Atrium had attempted a pivot back in January, laying off its in-house lawyers to become a more pure software startup with better margins. Some of its lawyers formed a separate standalone legal firm and took on former Atrium clients. But Kan tells me that it was tough to regain momentum coming out of that change, which some Atrium customers tell me felt chaotic and left them unsure of their legal representation.

More layoffs quietly ensued as divisions connected to those lawyers were eliminated. But trying to build software for third-party lawyers, many of which have entrenched processes and older leadership, proved difficult. The streamlined workflows may not have seemed worth the thrash of adopting new technology.

“If you look at our original business model with the veritcalized law firm, a lot of these companies that have this kind of full stack model are not going to survive” Kan explained. “A lot of these companies, Atrium included, did not figure out how to make a dent in operational efficiency.”

Disrupting Law Firms Proves Difficult

Founded in 2017, Atrium built software for startups to navigate fundraising, hiring, acquisition deals, and collaboration with their legal team. Atrium also offered in-house lawyers that could provide counsel and best practices in these matters. The idea was that the collaboration software would make its lawyers more efficient than a traditional law firm so they could get work done faster, translating to savings for clients and Atrium.

Atrium’s software included Records, a Dropbox-esque system for keeping track of legal documents, and Hiring, which instantly generated employment offer letters based on details punched into a form while keeping track of signatures. The startup hoped it could prevent clients and lawyers from wasting time digging through email chains or missing a sign-off that could put them in legal jeopardy.

The company tried to generate client leads by hosting fundraising workshops for startups, starring Kan and his stories from growing Twitch. A charismatic leader with a near-billion dollar exit under his belt, investors and founders alike were quick to buy into Kan’s vision and advice. Startups saw Atrium as an ally with industry expertise that could help them avoid dirty term sheets or botched hires.

But keeping a large squad of lawyers on staff proved costly. Atrium priced packages of its software and legal assistance under subscriptions, with momentous deals like acquisitions incurring add-on fees. The model relied less on milking clients with steep hourly rates measured down to six-minute increments like most law firms.

Yet eliminating the busy work for lawyers through its software didn’t materialize into bountiful profits. The pivot saught to create a professional services network where Atrium could route clients to attorneys. The layoffs had shaken faith in the startup as clients demanded stability lest they be caught without counsel at a tough time

Rather than trudge on, Kan decided to fold the company. The standalone Atrium law firm will continue to operate under partners Michel Narganes and Matthew Melville, but the startup developing legal software is done.

Atrium’s implosion could send ripples through the legaltech scene, and push other entrepreneurs to start with a more focused software-only approach.

WellSet is doing a limited launch in Los Angeles of its alternative medicine booking platform

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 03:40 PM PST

Alternative and holistic healthcare seekers in the Los Angeles area have a new service they can turn to in WellSet, the listing platform that launched on Tuesday. 

Through the service, customers coming off the company’s existing waitlist can access its marketplace for finding acupuncturists, massage therapists, functional medicine practitioners, craniosacral therapists, nutritionists, life coaches and holistic therapists.

WellSet will serve up practitioners based on a users’ health concerns, as well as the price, location and type of practice on offer.

The company takes a 30% referral fee for its first booking and a 3% booking fee for future appointments booked through its platform. It also provides backend services like intake form management, insurance management and other logistical offerings, according to co-founder Tegan Bukowski.

Co-founder Sky Meltzer and Bukowski began working on the company two-and-a-half years ago, according to Bukowski. A former Yale-educated architect who worked for the starchitect Zaha Hadid, Bukowski founded the company because of her own experience with the healthcare industry. While in school she suffered through frequent trips to the hospital for what was an undiagnosed “mystery illness,” which she eventually treated holistically.

For the first 10,000 people to sign up for the company’s waitlist, WellSet is offering a $20 credit for the first session booked on the platform, once WellSet launches in their city.

So far the company has roughly 7,000 practitioners on the service and enough providers to launch in at least five major markets. Its deliberate rollout strategy will see the company opening its virtual doors in New York and San Francisco in the coming months.

The Los Angeles-based company was founded by Bukowski, who serves as co-founder and chief executive officer. Meltzer, the company’s executive chairman and co-founder, was the former chief executive of the yoga company Manduka. Rounding out the team is Hanna Madrigan, a former Pinterest employee who now serves as the chief operating officer.

The company is backed by investors including Kleiner Perkins, Broadway Angels (a female-focused Silicon Valley investment firm) and Kelly Noonan Gores, writer, producer and director of the documentary “Heal.”

There’s a small holistic healing community growing in Los Angeles. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop is by far the best funded of these new companies, but startups like Kensho Health are making their presence felt, as well.

Increasingly, holistic healing and functional medicine are seen as viable options for certain types of chronic conditions. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid recently added acupuncture as a reimbursable treatment — opening the door to the possibility that other conditions may be covered by the government and private insurers.

Los Angeles gets a new consumer fund as founders of Sprinkles seek $25 million for CN2 Ventures

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 02:47 PM PST

Charles and Candace Nelson traded their investment banking careers in Silicon Valley for the sweet, sweet life as captains of the cupcake and confectionery chain Sprinkles.

Now they’re putting both their consumer and brand development skills and former investment banking chops to work at CN2 Ventures, a new firm they’re setting up with the goal of pulling in $25 million to invest, incubate and support new business ideas.

The firm already has three businesses in its portfolio and two others that it’s still in the process of launching, said Charles Nelson.

There’s the pizza chain, Pizzana; the kids playspace, Play 2 Progress; and the direct to consumer clothing brand, Willy California.

“We're focusing on retail and consumer areas,” says Charles Nelson. “Both branded retail and doing some direct to consumer. Our plan is to raise a fund… ideally around $25 million if we can.”

The couple sees their investment sweet spot in the marriage of technology and retail. It’s the space where they found their initial success at Sprinkles — which included high-tech touches like pre-ordering and customization through its touchscreen services at its retail locations.

“We started as brick and mortar people,” says Candace Nelson. “Even as D2C… it feels soulless unless you experience the brand physically in some way.”

So far, the firm has been taking large equity stakes in the businesses it’s backing — in part because it can, but also because these portfolio companies can almost be seen as subsidiaries operating under the larger CN2 Ventures umbrella.

Minority investments will be an option, according to Charles Nelson, but the company intends to be targeted in the types of investments it makes. For the most part, the defining characteristic for both founders of the firm is that they’re true believers in the businesses they’re backing.

“Candace and I will never invest in something that we aren't super passionate about and a brand that we don’t love.”

Candace Nelson points to the couple’s investment in Pizzana as an example. “We joked post-Sprinkles, ‘no more food businesses,’ but we met Daniele [Uditi] and he totally turned our minds,” she said.  

How Stack Overflow’s new CEO plans to kickstart enterprise growth

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 02:34 PM PST

Stack Overflow has long been the Q&A site of choice for developers. But while that’s what most people know the company for, it has also built out a jobs site and Teams, its private Q&A service for enterprise clients, over the years. Now, it’s looking to capitalize on that and kickstart growth of Teams, especially, under its new CEO, Prashanth Chandrasekar.

Chandrasekar, a former investment banker and Rackspace exec, took over as Stack Overflow’s CEO. Teresa Dietrich, who was previously at McKinsey New Ventures, joined him at the beginning of the year as the company’s chief product officer. Ahead of today’s Teams product update, which mostly includes a number of new integrations, I sat down with Chandrasekar and Dietrich to talk about the company’s plans for the future and the role Teams will play in that.

Chandrasekar tells me that Stack Overflow itself, even after 12 years, has about 50 million monthly users. In addition, another 70 million each month visit the rest of the Stack Exchange sites around culture, science and other topics.

The Stack Overflow jobs product accounts for about half of the company’s revenue, he also noted. “That’s the very steady business that has existed for all of the entire duration of the company’s life,” he said. Ads and the Teams product split the remaining 50%, but it’s the two-and-a-half-year-old Teams service that is seeing the strongest growth now, with revenue nearly doubling year-over-year. “Our expectation is that in the next couple of years, it’ll become the primary business for us,” he said, adding that this is also why he took this job.

“The company has always done a great job creating these products and the community continues to thrive,” Chandrasekar said. “But at the same time, there was a recognition that for us to really scale this in the context of a true SaaS company, you need several fundamental components we had to put in place.”

The first task was to bring in someone who had experience scaling organizations, which is why Chandrasekar was hired. He also brought on Dietrich as CPO, as well as new VP of Customer Success Jeff Justice (formerly with Dropbox), and will soon announce a new chief revenue officer. “All these components we’ve put in place so that we can actually be a high-scale SaaS company,” said Chandrasekar. “That’s really where we’re headed.”

Uber sold its food delivery business in India to Zomato for $206M

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 02:30 PM PST

Uber sold its food delivery business in India to the local rival Zomato for $206 million, the American ride-hailing company disclosed in a regulatory filing in one of its key overseas markets.

In January, Uber announced that it had sold the India business of Uber Eats to Zomato for a 9.99% stake in the loss-making Indian food delivery startup. The two companies had not disclosed the financial terms of the deal, which some Indian news outlets slated to be $350 million in size. TechCrunch had reported that Uber Eats’ India business — and a 9.99% stake in Zomato — was valued at about $180 million.

In the filing, Uber said the "fair value of the consideration" it received for Uber Eats' India business from Zomato was $206 million, which included $35 million of "reimbursement of goods and services tax receivable from Zomato."

The deal underscores a significant cut in the 11-year-old Indian firm’s valuation, which was reported to be worth $3 billion when it disclosed a $150 million fresh investment earlier this year.

In an interview with Indian news agency PTI in December, Zomato co-founder and chief executive Deepinder Goyal said the company was in the process of raising as much as $600 million by the end of January. The company has yet to secure the rest of the capital. A Zomato spokesperson declined to comment.

The exit of Uber Eats from India has made the local food delivery market a duopoly between Zomato and Prosus Ventures-backed Swiggy, which raised $113 million in an ongoing round last month. According to industry estimates, Swiggy is the top food delivery business in India.

Both the startups are struggling to find a path to profitability in India, however, as they continue to dish out more than $15 million each month to win new customers and keep the existing ones happy.

Finding a path to profitability is especially challenging in India, as, unlike in the developed markets such as the U.S., where the value of each delivery item is about $33, in India, a similar item carries the price tag of $4, according to estimates by Bangalore-based research firm RedSeer.

Anand Lunia, a VC at India Quotient, said in a recent podcast that the food delivery firms have little choice but to keep subsidizing the cost of food items on their platform, as otherwise most of their customers can't afford them.

If that wasn’t tough enough, the two startups are staring at a new competitor. TechCrunch reported last week that Amazon plans to enter India’s food delivery business by as soon as end of March.

Facebook fact-check feud erupts over Trump virus ‘hoax’

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 01:34 PM PST

Who fact-checks the fact-checkers? Did Trump call coronavirus the Democrats’ “new hoax”?

Those are the big questions emerging from a controversial “false” label applied to Politico and NBC News stories by right-wing publisher The Daily Caller. Its Check Your Fact division is a Facebook fact-checking partner, giving it the power to flag links on the social network as false, demoting their ranking in the News Feed as well as the visibility of the entire outlet that posted it.

Critics railed against Facebook’s decision to admit The Daily Caller to the fact-checking program last April due to its history of publishing widely debunked articles. Now some believe their fears of politically biased fact-checks are coming true.

Image via Judd Legum

This week, Check Your Fact rated two stories as false. “Trump rallies his base to treat coronavirus as a ‘hoax’ ” from Politico, and “Trump calls coronavirus Democrats’ ‘new hoax’ ” from NBC News, as highlighted by Popular Information’s Judd Legum. The fact-check explanation states that “Trump actually described complaints about his handling of the virus threat as a ‘hoax’. ”

Trump had said at a rally (emphasis ours):

Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? Coronavirus. They're politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs . . . They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything, they tried it over and over, they've been doing it since you got in. It's all turning, they lost, it's all turning. Think of it. Think of it. And this is their new hoax. But you know, we did something that's been pretty amazing. We're 15 people [cases of coronavirus infection] in this massive country. And because of the fact that we went early, we went early, we could have had a lot more than that . . . we've lost nobody, and you wonder, the press is in hysteria mode.

It’s hard to tell exactly what Trump means here. He could be calling coronavirus a hoax, concerns about its severity a hoax or Democrats’ criticism of his response a hoax. Reputable fact-checking institution Snopes rated the claim that Trump called coronavirus a hoax as a mixture of true and false, noting, “Despite creating some confusion with his remarks, Trump did not call the coronavirus itself a hoax.”

Image via Judd Legum

Perhaps Politico and NBC News’ headlines went too far, or perhaps the headlines fairly describe Trump’s characterization of the situation.

But the bigger concern is how Facebook has designed its fact-checking system to prevent other fact-checking partners from auditing the decision of The Daily Caller.

When asked about this, Facebook deflected responsibility, implying the audit process wouldn’t be necessary because all of its fact-checking partners have been certified through the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network. This group publishes ethics guidelines that include an accuracy standard that requires checkers “maintain high standards of reporting, writing, and editing in order to produce work that is as error-free as possible.” Checkers are also supposed to follow criteria for determining story accuracy, and can apply mid-point labels like “Partly False” or “False Headline,” which The Daily Caller didn’t use here.

Facebook tells me that because it doesn’t think it’s appropriate for it to be the arbiter of truth, it relies on the IFCN to set guidelines. It also noted that there’s an appeals process where publishers can reach out directly to a fact-checker to dispute a rating. But when I followed up, Facebook clarified that publishers can only appeal the fact-checker that labeled them, and can’t appeal to other fact-checkers for a second decision or audit of the original label.

fb arbiter of truth

That leaves very little room for controversial or inaccurate labels to be rolled back. A fact-checker would have to be formally rejected by the IFCN for violating its guidelines to lose its status as a Facebook partner.

If Facebook doesn’t want to be the arbiter of truth, it should still establish a process for a quorum of its fact-checking partners to play that role. If consensus amongst other partners is that a label was inaccurate and a story might instead warrant a lesser label or none at all, that new decision should be applied. Otherwise, mistakes or malicious bias from a single fact-checker could suppress the work of entire news outlets and deprive the public of the truth.

NASA moves forward with 17 companies as part of bid to transform urban aerial transportation

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 01:22 PM PST

NASA and a clutch of startup and established companies are moving forward with plans to transform mobility in urban environments through the Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge.

If it’s fully implemented, the new Urban Air Mobility system could enable air transit for things like package delivery, taxi services, expanded air medical services and cargo delivery to underserved or rural communities, the agency said in a statement.

The Grand Challenge series brings together companies developing new transportation or airspace management technologies, the Agency said.

"With this step, we're continuing to put the pieces together that we hope will soon make real the long-anticipated vision of smaller piloted and unpiloted vehicles providing a variety of services around cities and in rural areas," said Robert Pearce, NASA's associate administrator for aeronautics, in a statement.

The idea is to bring companies to collaborate and also give regulatory agencies a window into the technologies and how they may work in concert to bring air mobility to the masses in the coming years.

"Our partnership with the FAA will be a key factor in the successful and safe outcomes for industry that we can expect from conducting these series of Grand Challenges during the coming years," Pearce said, in a statement.

Getting the agreements signed are the first step in a multi-stage process that will culminate in the challenge’s official competition in 2022. There are preliminary technological tests that will take place this year.

"We consider this work as a risk reduction step toward Grand Challenge 1," said Starr Ginn, NASA's Grand Challenge lead. "It is designed to allow U.S. developed aircraft and airspace management service providers to essentially try out their systems with real-world operations in simulated environments that we also will be flight testing to gain experience."

Partnerships for the challenge fall into three categories:

  • Developmental Flight Testing: These are industry partners providing vehicles that will fly in the challenge.
  • Developmental Airspace Simulation: Companies will test traffic management services in NASA-designed airspace simulations for urban air mobility.
  • Vehicle Provider Information Exchange: These partners are also working closely with NASA to provide information about their vehicles so NASA can prep them for possible flight activities that will occur during the 2022 Grand Challenge.

The Grand Challenge is managed through NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility project, which was established in the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate to coordinate urban air mobility activities.

Companies participating in the challenge include:

  • Joby Aviation of Santa Cruz, California
  • AirMap, Inc., of Santa Monica, California
  • AiRXOS, Inc., of Chantilly, Virginia
  • ANRA Technologies, Inc., of Chantilly, Virginia
  • ARINC Inc., of Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Avision, Inc., of Santa Monica, California
  • Ellis & Associates, Los Angeles, California, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lacuna Technologies, Palo Alto, California
  • GeoRq LLC of Holladay, Utah
  • Metron Aviation, Inc., of Herndon, Virginia
  • OneSky Systems Inc., of Exton, Pennsylvania
  • Uber Technologies, Inc., of San Francisco, California
  • The University of North Texas of Denton, Texas
  • Bell Textron of Ft. Worth, Texas
  • The Boeing Company of Chantilly, Virginia
  • NFT Inc., of Mountain View, California
  • Prodentity, LLC of Corrales, New Mexico
  • Zeva Inc., of Spanaway, Washington

Stocks fall despite Fed intervention, dragging tech shares down once again

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 01:09 PM PST

On a day that saw the U.S. Federal Reserve try to flip the only switch it can to light up investor confidence, investors remained unconvinced of the short-term financial prospects of the U.S. and global economies.

All three major indices saw red on Tuesday after a sharp Monday rally partially erased their historically bad week that came before. The see-saw of domestic equities continued for yet another day.

In contrast to yesterday’s sharp gains on slim positive news, today’s declines came on the back of that surprise Fed rate cut of 50 basis points — the first such unexpected reduction since the 2008 financial crisis.

While it’s nice of the Fed to ease some during a period of uncertainty, the fact that it is cutting rates so sharply ahead of the market’s timing expectation implies that things could be worse than previously thought.

There are a host of reasons for investor pessimism. Airline travel and the attendant business spending that goes with it is being sharply curtailed by fears of spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus. No one knows the extent to which supply chain disruptions in China in the first quarter will impact supplies in the second quarter. And the U.S. has yet to fully reckon with the coronavirus’ spread, nor does it have a good handle on the extent of the virus’ spread within the U.S.

A true cause may be unknowable, but the effect was that stocks got whacked. Here’s the butcher’s bill:

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average: -789.37, or 2.96%
  • S&P 500: -86.86, or -2.81%
  • Nasdaq Composite: -268.08, or -2.99%

The anti-stonking hit tech’s largest players as well, with Apple falling over 3%, Microsoft falling 4.8%, Alphabet slipping 3.4%, Amazon falling a more modest 2.3% and Facebook slipping the most with a 5.4% decline during regular hours.

SaaS stocks took things particularly hard, off nearly 4% a few hours before closing, the Bessemer cloud and SaaS index wrapped the day off 2.9%, as well. Some companies didn’t take too much damage. Slack lost about a point, and Uber recovered all losses on the day to post a gain.

What could bring about a slowdown to volatility isn’t clear.

This recent market turbulence is not stopping some companies from filing to go public — we’ve seen construction software firm Procore file, along with venture-backed Accolade, just in the last week.

Google cancels its 2020 I/O developer conference

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 12:45 PM PST

After Facebook canceled its F8 developer conference and Google itself moved its Cloud Next event in April to a digital-only conference, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that Google is canceling its I/O developer conference in Mountain View for 2020 as well. The company has sent an email to attendees informing them of the cancellation. The event was originally scheduled to run from May 12 to 14, but because of concerns around the coronavirus, it is now canceling the show.

"Due to concerns around the coronavirus (COVID-19), and in accordance with health guidance from the CDC, WHO, and other health authorities, we have decided to cancel the physical Google I/O event at Shoreline Amphitheatre,” Google said in a statement. “Over the coming weeks, we will explore other ways to evolve Google I/O to best connect with and continue to build our developer community. We'll continue to update the Google I/O website."

Unlike with its Cloud Next conference, Google hasn’t announced any plans (yet) to still go ahead with its keynotes and sessions in the form of a remote conference. Google’s statement leaves that option open, though.

All attendees who purchased tickets will receive a refund and they won’t have to enter next year’s I/O 2021 lottery to get a ticket. To make up for the economic impact of canceling the event, Google is pledging $1 million to local Mountain View organizations to support small businesses and increase STEM and computer science opportunities in Mountain View schools.

This marks the first time Google has canceled I/O, its flagship developer conference, which it first hosted in 2008. After a few years in San Francisco’s Moscone Center, the event moved outdoors to Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheatre in the company’s backyard. Typically, about 5,000 people attend the event, where Google tends to announce both its latest tools for developers, as well as a good number of new consumer-facing features. Last year, for the first time, it also launched a new phone at the event, the Pixel 3a.

Google pitches free trials of its enterprise G Suite conferencing tools as part of a coronavirus response

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 12:36 PM PST

Google said in a blog post that it would roll out free access to advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally as the company pitches its remote work tools as an option for companies looking to let employees work from home.

Chief executive Sundar Pichai announced the initiative in a tweet on Tuesday.

“As more employees, educators, and students work remotely in response to the spread of COVID-19, we want to do our part to help them stay connected and productive,” the company wrote in its post. “And, as more businesses adjust their work-from-home policies and adopt reduced travel plans in response to COVID-19, we’re helping to ensure that all globally distributed teams can still reliably meet face to face, even if employees are not in the same location.”

Google’s move comes as some of the largest industry conferences and events around the world are cancelling due to fears of the spreading new coronavirus, COVID-19. Major canceled events include: GSMA's Mobile World Congress and Facebook's F8 conference, along with the Geneva Motor Show and the Game Developers Conference.

It’s not just conferences that are closing their doors. Companies are also doing everything they can to encourage remote work. Twitter has encouraged its workers to operate remotely, and they’re not alone. Stripe, Slack, Square and others are all urging their employees to not come in to the office.

Google’s pitch to companies and educational institutions during the trial is free access for capabilities, including for larger meetings of up to 250 participants per-call; live-streaming for up to 100,000 viewers within a domain; and the ability to record meetings and save them to Google Drive.

Google is enabling all of its customers to use the enterprise functionality for no additional cost until July 1, the company said in a statement.

“We're committed to supporting our users and customers during this challenging time, and are continuing to scale our infrastructure to support greater Hangouts Meet demand, ensuring streamlined, reliable access to the service throughout this period.”

The company already has one happy customer for its services in Jack Dorsey and Twitter. The embattled chief executive wrote in a tweet, “We just held our first fully virtual Twitter global all-hands using @Google Meet and @SlackHQ.”

Zoom earnings, remote work and a terrible but possibly bright moment for startups

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 11:59 AM PST

It’s a bit gauche to talk about positive economic impacts of what may become a global pandemic, but the novel coronavirus hasn’t been bad news for every company.

Video conference provider Zoom appears to be one beneficiary; after going public in 2019, its share price rose from around $68 at the start of the year to $115 today. Why? As governments lock down cities and close borders — and companies and conferences shift to virtual for the time being — services like Zoom are well-positioned to see increased demand. (Indeed, Zoom announced today that it is rolling out select products to new territories after improving its free service in impacted regions.)

That Zoom’s shares have appreciated is perhaps not surprising.

The company quickly moved from being a relatively unknown video chat upstart to becoming a celebrated profitable IPO that today is synonymous with its product category in the startup world. Seeing rising investor interest in Zoom merely matches its growing brand; naturally, folks looking for a trade — however that makes your moral center feel — might pile their chips on Zoom.

The rise in Zoom’s value begs two questions: Are future-of-work and remote work-focused startups seeing a global increase in demand? And if so, what impact is that having on their growth? (Are you a startup building remote-work tools? Email me if the outbreak has impacted your growth rates.)

Luckily for you and me, Zoom reports earnings tomorrow. The quarter that Zoom will report, the fourth quarter of its fiscal 2020, stretched from November 1, 2019 through the end of January 2020. So it does include a bit of time in which the novel coronavirus was active, impacting work and perhaps corporate behavior. Obviously, its next quarter will be more interesting, but Zoom should provide guidance for that period. So we’ll get a look at what’s ahead, even if it is provisional.

What about startups?

If Zoom has a bullish outlook, it could lift other, similar companies.

Rebranding as Anagram, software for out-of-network billing for healthcare providers raises $9.1 million

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 11:51 AM PST

As it rebrands from Patch to Anagram, the healthcare billing platform making it easier for providers to accept out-of-network patients has raised $9.1 million in new financing.

The round was led by ManchesterStory, with participation from CareCredit (a Synchrony solution), Waterline Ventures, Rogue Venture Partners, Launchpad Digital Health, KEC Ventures and Healthy Ventures.

According to a statement, the company’s software makes it easier for healthcare providers to choose which insurance they want to take. Instead of focusing on primary care physicians, Anagram reaches out to dentists, ophthalmologists and others to help them with their billing needs.

“Most of our customers are independent practices in the ancillary market — like dermatologists and dentists — we are not targeting the core hospital system networks.”

The company says that its software allows providers to pull real-time health insurance benefits from a variety of networks so they never have to ask for patients’ insurance. The company also said providers can set their own prices and discounts to support cash payments through the service.

Data provided by the company indicated that offices that use Anagram’s services can take on 260 more patients and receive an additional $30,000 annually per-location from cash-paying patients. Over $55 million worth of claims have been processed through the company’s software, according to the statement.

"Accessing benefits and paying for healthcare really doesn't have to be as difficult as it is today," said Jeremy Bluvol, co-founder and CEO of Anagram. "We envision a world where paying for healthcare and leveraging insurance benefits is a simple and transparent experience for both patients and providers. With Anagram, patients can go to any provider they want, and providers never have to file paper claims or turn patients away again."

The BMW Concept i4 gets us closer to what’s coming in 2021

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 11:48 AM PST

BMW unveiled Tuesday a concept version of its upcoming i4, an all-electric four-door Gran Coupe with an estimated EPA range of 270 miles and the ability to produce 530 horsepower, pushing it past its high-performance M3 combustion vehicle.

The i4 concept vehicle, which was unveiled online because the Geneva International Motor Show was cancelled due to the coronavirus, is slated to enter production in 2021. BMW has been talking about and teasing what would follow its i3 electric vehicle for awhile now. BMW released some specs on the upcoming i4 at the LA Auto Show back in November. This latest unveiling shows off more of what we can expect the i4 to look like, plus a bit more information on the interior and expected range.

The concept has a long wheelbase, fastback roofline and short overhangs, suggesting that the production version will have a similar profile — a far cry from the wedge-shaped i3.

The front end shows a closed-off grille. BMW says it has given the grille of the concept a purpose beyond just a reminder of its combustion engine past. The grille will be used to house various sensors, according to BMW.

Perhaps the most noticeable features, besides the mammoth kidney-shaped grille, is the glass roof and a curved digital display in the interior.

bmw i14 inside

While it is not clear if the production version will integrate these same features, we can expect that the interior will be more touch-based and have fewer buttons and knobs. It will be interesting to see if BMW sticks to the single-screen design. In the photo below, you’ll notice at least one knob located in the console area.

bmw i4 inside screenClose followers of BMW’s EV plans might remember that the i4 was going to have a range of 600 kilometers, or about 400 miles. But it wasn’t clear if that figure, which would push it ahead of the competition, was based on the EPA or European WLTP.  EPA estimates tend to be more conservative. BMW is now clarifying the range and has said the EPA estimate will be 270 miles.

The i4 will have the fifth-generation BMW eDrive, a platform that features a brand new electric motor, power electronics, charging unit and high-voltage battery. This fifth-gen platform will also show up in the iNEXT SUV and the iX3, which is headed for the Chinese market. The 80-kilowatt battery pack in the i4 is flat, according to BMW, and weighs 550 kilograms. For comparison, the battery pack in the Tesla Model 3 weighs 480 kg.

The unveiling of the i4 concept builds upon earlier announcements from BMW to push deeper into electrification. In November, BMW announced it would spend more than €10 billion euros ($11.07 billion) on battery cells from Chinese battery cell manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. and Samsung SDI. BMW's original deal with CATL, which was announced in mid-2018, was for €4 billion worth of battery cells. This new contract is from 2020 to 2031, the German automaker said at the time.

BMW Group will be the first customer of CATL's battery cell factory that is under construction in Erfurt, Germany. BMW played an active part in establishing CATL in Germany, according to Andreas Wendt, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for purchasing and supplier network.

Kami’s wireless outdoor camera keeps it simple

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 11:47 AM PST

You’ve probably come across YI’s range of affordable security cameras while browsing on Amazon or other shopping sites in the past. Recently, the company’s Kami brand launched its $90 battery-powered outdoor camera. After spending some time with it, it’s clear that while it doesn’t quite provide the same experience you’d get from a wired $400 Nest Cam IQ or similar product, it’s a solid security camera and the ease of use makes up for its shortcomings.

With the Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera (that’s its full name), you get a bullet-style camera that you can easily put anywhere you want, thanks to its wireless design. The fact that it’s wireless worried me a bit, given that I wasn’t sure how long those four 2600 mAh batteries would last, but even after a few hours of essentially live-streaming a picture of my backyard, the battery is still at 75%. Given that you’re not likely to do that under normal circumstances — and that YI promises up to six months of battery life — this should do just fine.

The camera itself streams and records 1080p video at 20 frames per second with a 140-degree field of view. Its IP-65 rating means you don’t have to worry about it getting wet, though I haven’t tested it in a full downpour yet. There’s also a microphone and speaker, in case you want to have a friendly conversation with your local burglar (or the delivery driver, whomever comes first).

You can run the camera without adding any internal storage and simply send six-second clips directly from the camera to your phone. You also can add a micro-SD card for longer recording times or subscribe to YI’s cloud storage service, which starts at $15 for a three-month plan and seven days of recording history.

While it’s wireless, you still have to attach the camera somewhere. YI provides all the installation hardware to attach the camera virtually anywhere you can drill a screw.

As for the software side, getting started simply involves popping in the batteries, using the camera to scan a QR code from the Kami or YI app (they are essentially the same) to connect to your Wi-Fi network and you’re ready to go. The process shouldn’t take more than a minute.

Especially at this price, these are solid specs, and the image quality, both during day and at night, using the camera’s night vision, is good.

The only area where I felt the camera fell short of my expectations was in its motion detection. It uses passive infrared motion detection, and while that ensures that your camera isn’t going to ping you about every car that drives by, I did get a few random alerts when it started raining, for example, or when a bird flew through my yard. On other days, there were no false positives at all.Unlike some other cameras, including YI’s own lineup of indoor cameras that I’ve used in the past, this one doesn’t allow you to set up a specific zone to monitor. That’s an odd omission, and the one area where the camera fell short of my expectations. Occasionally, it also takes a long time for the camera to start streaming the live video feed and you have to exit the camera view and go back to the main menu. That’s not exactly a deal breaker, but it is a bit of an annoyance. A software update could probably fix both of these issues.

Overall, though, the new Kami outdoor camera provides solid performance at this price. It won’t wow you, but it’ll do what it promises to do, and at this price, that’s all you can ask. Whether you trust the company and are comfortable with the privacy implications of having your house under 24/7 surveillance is something you have to decide for yourself, of course. So far, though, YI has had a pretty good track record and no major breaches.

Africa Roundup: TLcom closes $71M fund, Jumo raises $55M, AWS partners with Safaricom

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 11:39 AM PST

VC firm TLcom Capital closed its Tide Africa Fund at $71 million in February, and announced plans to invest in 12 startups over the next 18 months.

The group — with offices in London, Lagos and Nairobi — is looking for tech-enabled, revenue-driven ventures in Africa from seed-stage to Series B, according to TLcom Managing Partner Maurizio Caio.

He told TechCrunch the fund was somewhat agnostic on startup sectors, but was leaning toward infrastructure logistics ventures versus consumer finance companies.

On geographic scope, TLcom Capital will focus primarily on startups in Africa's big-three tech hubs — Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa — but is also eyeing rising markets, such as Ethiopia.

TLcom's current Africa portfolio includes Nigerian trucking logistics venture Kobo360, Kenya's Twiga Foods (a B2B food supply-chain company) and tech-talent accelerator Andela.

Both of these companies have gone on to expand in Africa and receive subsequent investment by U.S. investment bank, Goldman Sachs.

For those startups that wish to pitch to TLcom Capital, Caio encouraged founders to contact one of the fund's partners and share a value proposition. "If it's something we find vaguely interesting, we'll make a decision," he said.

One $50 million round wasn’t enough for South Africa’s Jumo, so the fintech firm raised another — $55 million — in February, backed by Goldman Sachs, which led the Cape Town based company’s $52 million round back in 2018.

"This fresh investment comes from new and existing…investors including Goldman Sachs, Odey Asset Management and LeapFrog Investments," Jumo said in a statement — though Goldman told TechCrunch its participation in this week's round isn't confirmed.

After the latest haul, Jumo has raised $146 million in capital, according to Crunchbase.

Founded in 2015, the venture offers a full tech stack for partners to build savings, lending and insurance products for customers in emerging markets.

Jumo is active in six markets and plans to expand to two new countries in Africa (Nigeria and Ivory Coast) and two in Asia (Bangladesh and India).

The company's products have disbursed more than $1 billion in loans and served over 15 million people and small businesses, according to Jumo data.

Jumo joins a growing list of African digital-finance startups raising big money from outside investors and expanding abroad. A $200 million investment by Visa in 2019 catapulted Nigerian payments firm Interswitch  to unicorn status, the same year the company launched its Verge card product on Discover's global network.

Amazon Web Services  has entered a partnership with Safaricom — Kenya's largest telco, ISP and mobile payment provider — in a collaboration that could spell competition between American cloud providers in Africa.

In a statement to TechCrunch, the East African company framed the arrangement as a "strategic agreement" whereby Safaricom will sell AWS services (primarily cloud) to its East Africa customer network.

Safaricom — whose products include the famed M-Pesa mobile money product — will also become the first Advanced Consulting Partner for the AWS partner network in East Africa.

Partnering with Safaricom plugs AWS into the network of one of East Africa's most prominent digital companies.

Safaricom, led primarily by its M-Pesa mobile money product, holds remarkable dominance in Kenya, Africa's sixth largest economy. M-Pesa has 20.5 million customers across a network of 176,000 agents and generates around one-fourth of Safaricom's ≈ $2.2 billion annual revenues (2018).

safaricomM-Pesa has 80% of Kenya's mobile money agent network, 82% of the country's active mobile-money subscribers and transfers 80% of Kenya's mobile-money transactions, per the latest sector statistics.

A number of Safaricom's clients (including those it provides payments and internet services to) are companies, SMEs and startups.

The Safaricom-AWS partnership points to an emerging competition between American cloud service providers to scale in Africa by leveraging networks of local partners.

The most obvious rival to the AWS-Safaricom strategic agreement is the Microsoft-Liquid Telecom collaboration. Since 2017, Microsoft has partnered with the Southern African digital infrastructure company to grow Microsoft's AWS competitor product — Azure — and offer cloud services to the continent's startups and established businesses.

More Africa-related stories @TechCrunch

African tech around the 'net

Confirmed: Managed by Q sells to rival Eden for just 11% of what WeWork paid for it last year

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 11:30 AM PST

Managed by Q co-founder Dan Teran had a plan. After selling his office management company to WeWork last year for a tidy $220 million — $100 million in cash and the rest in stock — he wanted to buy it back when WeWork decided to sell it off along with several other properties following its management shake-up last fall.

According to Bloomberg originally — and confirmed by our sources — Teran, who was employed by WeWork for five months after the sale as its head of corporate development and ventures — looked to put together a package to acquire the company beginning in December. To do so would require a substantial sum, however — enough to both buy the company, plus working capital to maintain its current staff and support its customers.

In the end, SoftBank-controlled WeWork apparently better liked the proposal of an outside bidder, and that’s Eden, a five-year-old company that competes directly with Managed by Q.

At least, Eden is confirming today that it has successfully bid $25 million in cash for Managed by Q, whose technology and accounts and an untold number of employees will also be incorporated into its offerings.

The money comes from a new, $29 million round that JLL, the commercial real estate services giant, just led for Eden in a round that also includes participation from the Y Combinator Continuity Fund and individual investors.

The new round is separate from a $25 million round that Eden closed in November and that was led by Reshape, with participation from Fifth Wall Ventures, Mitsui Fudosan, RXR Realty, Thor Equities and Bessemer Venture Partners, along with numerous other firms.

Said Eden CEO Joe Du Bey in an emailed statement to us: "Eden is proud to partner with Managed By Q to further our mission of creating a better place to work, for everyone. Managed By Q's amazing customers, service vendors, team, and product makes it a huge win-win for all stakeholders. JLL leading the round and becoming a strategic partner to Eden is also exciting and will further accelerate our growth as we work to better serve the SMB category together."

Teran did not respond to a separate press request yesterday, but if he’s frustrated by the outcome, he still has that sale last year to WeWork to celebrate.

In the meantime, Eden — which launched in 2015 as on-demand tech repair and support service but eventually found itself in the same office management business as Managed by Q (both connect offices with third-party providers) — has now consolidated its market share, and obviously for a dramatically better price than WeWork paid less than a year ago.

The company, which until today employed roughly 70 people, was already active in 25 markets as of late November, including Berlin and London, and it featured more than 2,000 service providers on its platform. Its acquisition of Managed by Q takes it that much further.

Hulu with Live TV belatedly arrives on PlayStation 4

Posted: 03 Mar 2020 10:59 AM PST

Hulu’s Live TV service, which allows users to watch both live and on-demand programming, including Hulu Originals, has finally arrived on the PlayStation 4 — close to three years after the service first debuted. The launch closes a significant hole in Hulu’s offerings, as its Live TV service was already available across nearly all other major platforms, including Apple TV (4th gen.), Amazon Fire TV devices, Echo Show, Roku devices, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android, Windows 10, web, Chromecasts and select TVs from LG, Vizio and Samsung.

Hulu didn’t offer an explanation for what took so long, but it’s not the only live TV streaming service to not be available on PS4. Dish-owned Sling TV doesn’t include support for PS4, nor does AT&T TV NOW. However, Hulu’s top rival YouTube TV will stream on Sony’s game console.

Consoles don’t tend to be a top priority for streaming TV services, as there are many other platforms that are used more often for streaming. In the U.S., for example, Roku is ahead of rivals like Apple and Amazon, according to eMarketer, in terms of media player usage. And let’s not forget that even Sony’s own PlayStation Vue wasn’t able to successfully tap into the sizable PlayStation user base in order to make its live TV service work. PlayStation Vue shut down for good in January.

Hulu says PS4 owners who already stream through the existing Hulu app for the standard service will now be able to switch to the Hulu + Live TV service through their account settings on in order to access it from their console. Customers who already subscribe to Hulu + Live TV will now be able to watch the live channels the next time they launch their Hulu app on the PlayStation 4.

The Live TV service offers a range of live TV channels, including ESPN, FOX, NBC and ABC, among others.

Hulu is now majority-owned by Disney, following Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox and its subsequent deal with NBCU that gave it operational control. Since Disney took over, it has made several major changes, including a reorg that saw the departure of Hulu CEO Randy Freer followed by the promotion of Hulu’s chief marketing officer Kelly Campbell to president. Yesterday, Hulu rolled out a new FX hub on the service, featuring more than 40 shows and originals. FX was another property that came in through the acquisition, in addition to Fox’s stake in Hulu.

Disney announced in December that Hulu with Live TV had grown to 3.2 million subscribers, while its total Hulu subscriber base was 30.4 million. Disney+ — which is available on PS4 — was close behind, with 26.5 million subscribers.

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