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Today — August 21st 2019Your RSS feeds

Peak Design’s Travel Duffel 35L is as simple or as powerful as you need it to be

By Darrell Etherington

A good, solid duffel bag is a mainstay for many travelers — especially those who like packing up a car for a weekend away, or frequent flyers who disdain the thought of checking a bag. Peak Design introduced its own take on the duffel bag this year, with a couple of different twists on the concept. The Peak Design Travel Duffel 35L is the most fundamental of the company’s options, and it delivers a lot of packing space and support for Peak’s packing tools if you want to get real serious about space optimization.

I’m an unabashed fan of Peak Design’s Everyday camera bags, its capture clips and basically its entire ecosystem. This is a company that you can tell things deeply about the problems it’s aiming to solve for its customers — because they’re the problems shared by the company’s founders themselves. The Travel Duffel is actually probably a bit more mainstream and less specialized than most of their offerings, but that only makes it more appealing, not less.

Peak Travel Duffel 35 2

You’ll find the same weatherproof nylon coating in this bag that Peak uses in its other packs, and it’s a very durable material that also looks great both up close and at a distance. If there’s a complaint here, it’s that the black color I prefer tends to pretty easily pick up dust, but it also wipes or washes off just as easily. The heavy-duty nylon canvas shell should also stand up to the elements well, and the zipper is the especially weather sealed kind, plus there’s a waterproof bottom liner in case you’re less than careful about where you drop your pack while en route.

Peak Travel Duffel 35 3

Peak Travel Duffel 35 4

The Duffel includes both hand straps and a longer padded shoulder strap, and the unique connector hardware system means you can reposition the straps in a number of ways to suit your carrying preferences. The hand straps double as shoulder straps for wearing it like a backpack and though this is a bit tight for my larger frame, it’s still a way to quickly alleviate shoulder or hand strain for longer treks with the bag in tow. The connectors here are also super smart — there are no moving parts, they just snap on and off the sewn-in loops placed around the bag — which means added durability and ease of use.

[gallery ids="1872070,1872069,1872068"]

Plenty of pockets inside and out give you lots of divided storage options, and there’s also a security loop feature on the main zipper to make it much harder for someone to quickly yank the bag open and grab what’s inside if they’re targeting a quick theft opportunity. A dedicated ID card holder is a nice touch that tells you exactly who this is ideal for, too.

As I alluded to above, there’s also support for the rest of Peak’s packing tools. I’ve got their small camera cube in the bag width-wise in the photo below, and it should be able to fit up to three of these in this orientation. Peak also offers packing cubes, dop kits and more, and you can use the slide hooks provided with those with internal elastic attachment points if you want to ensure things won’t shift around. But the best part about this bag is that it has everything you need in a straightforward duffel out of the box — the rest of the packing tools are totally optional and don’t take away form its fundamental effectiveness at all.

Peak Travel Duffel 35 6

The 35L carrying capacity of this bag is perfect for a weekend trip, or even a few days longer if you’re an economical packer. At $129.95, it’s actually very reasonable for a high-quality duffel bag, too, and definitely one of the better bargains in the Peak lineup when it comes to value for the money.

Bring your posse to Disrupt SF 2019 with group discounts

By Emma Comeau

Disrupt San Francisco 2019, our flagship event on October 2-4, features three full days of programming, more than 10,000 attendees, over 1,200 exhibiting startups and sponsors — and that’s just for starters. That’s a lot of ground to cover. Here’s a hot tip: take advantage of group discounts, saddle up and bring your whole posse to the show and squeeze out every bit of information, inspiration and opportunity possible.

Spread your crew across Disrupt and get more done. Network til you drop in Startup Alley — using CrunchMatch, our free business match-making platform, to find and schedule meetings with only the best connections for your business. Bear witness to our epic pitch competition, Startup Battlefield — a great place to spot investment-worthy companies.

Attend the many Main Stage panel discussions and interviews with tech titans, up-and-coming founders and startup investors. Check out the conference agenda hereLooking for actionable tips and advice? Head for the Extra Crunch Stage. Yeah, you’ll learn a thing or two.

We offer group discounts for every pass level, to make your posse possible. Here’s what you need to know.

Group Innovator Pass: Buy five or more passes and get a 20% discount. Need 10 or more passes? Email us for a price quote at events@techcrunch.com. An Innovator Pass grants access to the Main Stage, Extra Crunch Stage, Q&As, workshops, CrunchMatch, networking receptions and the TechCrunch Events App, which lets you communicate with other attendees.

Group Founder Pass: Buy two or more passes and you’ll get a 10% discount. Your Founder Pass gets you the same benefits as an Innovator Pass but at an already discounted rate — but you must be a (co)founder of a company (of any size).

Group Investor Pass: Purchase two or more passes to get a 10% discount. An Investor Pass provides the same benefits as an Innovator pass, PLUS access to the Investor Lounge, an invitation to the investor-only reception and two hours of private meeting space.

Group Expo Only Pass: If you want to buy Expo Only passes in bulk (10 or more), email events@techcrunch.com for a price quote. An Expo Only Pass provides access to the Startup Alley expo floor, workshops and a lite version of the TechCrunch Events App.

Group Startup Alley Exhibitor Packages: If you’re interested in purchasing more than one Startup Alley Exhibitor Package, email startupalley@techcrunch.com for more information. This package includes exhibit space for one day, use of the Startup Alley Lounge, access to the media list and two or three Founder Passes, depending on when you book.

Disrupt San Francisco 2019 takes place on October 2-4. Bring your posse and cover more ground, find more opportunity and discover more ways to grow your business. Get your group discounts today. If you’re riding solo, no problemo. Get an early-bird ticket and, depending on the pass level you choose, you can save up to $1,300. Saddle up and ride!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt San Francisco 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Yesterday — August 20th 2019Your RSS feeds

Summer flash sale: Score 2-for-1 passes to Disrupt Berlin 2019

By Leslie Hitchcock

The dog days of summer are upon us, and even busy startuppers across Europe are enjoying a well-deserved vacation. Down time’s important and so is saving money, so all this week we’re holding a 2-for-1 summer flash sale on passes to Disrupt Berlin 2019.

Disrupt Berlin takes place on 11-12 December and, depending on the type of pass you buy, our super early-bird pricing can save you up to €600. But now you can double your savings simply by purchasing an Innovator, Founder or Investor pass before our 2-for-1 flash sale ends on August 23 at 11:59 p.m. (CEST). Buy your 2-for-1 passes right here.

Experience all the early-stage startup excitement and opportunity that Disrupt Berlin offers and do it at a huge discount. Join your community — roughly 3,000 attendees from more than 50 countries, including European Union members, Israel, Turkey, Russia, Egypt, India, China and South Korea. Explore hundreds of early-stage startups exhibiting in Startup Alley. Listen to and learn from our roster of speakers — leading founders, technologists, investors and tech icons along with up-and-coming founders.

Be sure to watch — or even better apply to compete in — the Startup Battlefield pitch competition. TechCrunch editors will select some of the best early-stage startups to go head-to-head on the Disrupt Main Stage. Who knows, you might take home the $50,000 top prize or find your next investment opportunity.

More opportunity awaits in the form of TC Top Picks. Apply here to be one of a select few startups to represent these tech categories: AI/Machine Learning, Biotech/Healthtech, Blockchain, Fintech, Mobility, Privacy/Security, Retail/E-commerce, Robotics/IoT/Hardware, CRM/Enterprise and Education. If you’re chosen, you’ll receive a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package, a VIP experience and a ton of media and investor exposure. What’s more, a TechCrunch editor will interview every TC Top Pick on the Showcase Stage. We’ll record that interview and promote the video across our social media platforms. That video will drive traffic to your site and come in mighty handy as a future talking point with investors.

Disrupt Berlin 2019 takes place on 11-12 December. Don’t let sleepy summer days distract you from serious summer savings. You have the rest of this week to double your savings on Innovator, Founder or Investor passes. Buy your 2-for-1 passes before our flash sale ends on August 23 at 11:59 p.m. (CEST). We’ll see you in December!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt Berlin 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

RYU’s line of backpacks offer style and function for exploring the city or weekends away

By Darrell Etherington

Yes, it’s Bag Week, where we celebrate all the best bags of the year here at TechCrunch. And there is little more satisfying than finding a basic black one that’s functional, stylish and unique. Luckily, Canadian urban athletic apparel maker RYU makes three such bags, and while each one has its own particular appeal depending on what you’re looking for in a backpack, they’re also all winners that elevate the basic black backpack to new heights.

Quick Pack Lux 18L ($185)

RYU bags 3 Locker Pack 18LRYU’s “just right” offering for me is the Quick Pack Lux 18L capacity bag that’s pretty much perfect as a general-use day pack in terms of cargo space, and that can also serve well for a one or two-night trip, depending on how lightly you pack.

The RYU’s signature feature, and what makes it my favorite day pack in terms of everyday use around the city, is its profile — a silhouette that is made all the better because RYU uses an internal molded shell to ensure that it never flattens down or loses its shape, regardless of how full or empty the bag actually is. This is actually a huge selling point for me, and one that makes the RYU Quick Pack Lux 18L almost certain to become my go-to daily bag. Inside, there are a few pockets, including a laptop sleeve that can fit up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro — another rarity in a day pack this low-profile.

In addition to the integrated frame, the Quick Pack Lux is kitted out with premium materials, like the leather accent patch on the top flap, leather shoulder straps, an outer layer of poly-cotton blend that covers a wax-treated canvas and nylon interior for water resistance and durability. The materials definitely feel premium, though the outermost layer resembles kind of a yoga pant material, and in my house definitely attracts and picks up my dog’s easily shed white hairs with reckless abandon. I’m more than happy to get out the lint roller once and a while as a trade-off for just how good looking the bag is, however.

[gallery ids="1870659,1870660,1870661"]

It wears slightly long, but tight to the back (for reference when sizing up the photos above, I’m 6’2″ and quite a bit of that is torso). The removable chest strap helps keeps the profile pretty seamless, and there’s a handle on top for easy carrying when not on the back.

Another unique feature of the Quick Pack Lux is that it opens from the front, with the flap at the top unbuckling to reveal two zippers that run the length of the bag. Undo these, and you get basically a duffel-style cargo loading method, which is great for arranging your stuff without having to layer or dig down as you would in a top-loading pack.

Locker Pack Lux 24L ($215)

RYU bags 2 Locker Pack 24L 1The Locker Pack Lux 24L is the more spacious version of the Quick Pack Lux, with 6L extra volume for packing your gear. It’s designed more for those overnights or two-day trips, and yet it doesn’t really add that much in the way of bulk if you’re looking for something that can serve flexibly as both day pack and weekender.

The Locker Pack Lux has the same materials combination as the Quick Pack, but is a bit longer and so is probably better suited for taller people. It still offers a very slim profile, and has the same internal structural components, which means it’ll keep its shape, but it has a bit more leeway for expansion, too, letting you pack in a surprising amount of stuff via the front-loading, double zipper stowage and packing flap.

[gallery ids="1870681,1870682,1870683,1870674"]

Unlike the Quick Pack Lux, you also get external access to the laptop compartment in the Locker Pack, which gives you an easy way to get at up to a 15-inch notebook. The leather-accented top flap closes down over this compartment, too, to give you some protection against the elements in the case of light showers (RYU also sells a dedicated rain hood separately).

Express Pack 15L ($90)

RYU bags 4 Express Pack 15L

The Express Pack is the smallest of these RYU backpacks in terms of packing volume, but it’s also probably the best option when it comes to an all-around city day pack that will fit you regardless of height and frame. The extremely minimal aesthetic is great for the city, especially with the polyurethane outer coating that wraps a middle canvas layer for the bag’s body.

This is a very lightweight bag, but the internal pocket can actually fit a lot of stuff when needed, and there’s a single woven pocket on one side of the exterior for stowing a water bottle. This adds an asymmetrical look, which is also pretty cool looking. Inside, there’s a zippered mesh block and a fully zippered front pocket for separating your sweaty gym gear, plus a laptop compartment that can fit a full, 15-inch MacBook Pro without issue.

[gallery ids="1870704,1870710,1870711,1870697"]

The bag is comfortable to wear, but doesn’t have the internal structure of the other two, so if it’s empty it’ll hug a lot closer to the body. If there’s one thing I’d change about it, it’s the RYU branding — but it does actually recede to being barely visible in less direct lighting, and is more subtle overall than it looks here.

Overall, RYU’s bag lineup is impressive, and offers something for everyone. The Vancouver-based company has done a great job of delivering highly functional designs that also offer great style with pretty much universal appeal. The company also offers non-Lux versions of both the Quick Pack and the Locker Pack, which drop the leather accents and embedded waxed canvas, but which also offer some decent discounts if the prices above strike you as too high.

Join The New Stack for Pancake & Podcast with Q&A at TC Sessions: Enterprise

By Emma Comeau

Popular enterprise news and research site The New Stack is coming to TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise on September 5 for a special Pancake & Podcast session with live Q&A, featuring, you guessed it, delicious pancakes and awesome panelists!

Here’s the “short stack” of what’s going to happen:

  • Pancake buffet opens at 7:45 am on Thursday, September 5 at TC Sessions: Enterprise
  • At 8:15 am the panel discussion/podcast kicks off; the topic, “The People and Technology You Need to Build a Modern Enterprise
  • After the discussion, the moderators will host a live audience Q&A session with the panelists
  • Once the Q&A is done, attendees will get the chance to win some amazing raffle prizes

You can only take part in this fun pancake-breakfast podcast if you register for a ticket to  TC Sessions: Enterprise. Use the code TNS30 to get 30% off the conference registration price!

Here’s the longer version of what’s going to happen:

At 8:15 a.m., The New Stack founder and publisher Alex Williams takes the stage as the moderator and host of the panel discussion. Our topic: “The People and Technology You Need to Build a Modern Enterprise.” We’ll start with intros of our panelists and then dive into the topic with Sid Sijbrandij, founder and CEO at GitLab, and Frederic Lardinois, enterprise reporter and editor at TechCrunch, as our initial panelists. More panelists to come!

Then it’s time for questions. Questions we could see getting asked (hint, hint): Who’s on your team? What makes a great technical team for the enterprise startup? What are the observations a journalist has about how the enterprise is changing? What about when the time comes for AI? Who will I need on my team?

And just before 9 a.m., we’ll pick a ticket out of the hat and announce our raffle winner. It’s the perfect way to start the day.

On a side note, the pancake breakfast discussion will be published as a podcast on The New Stack Analysts

But there’s only one way to get a prize and network with fellow attendees, and that’s by registering for TC Sessions: Enterprise and joining us for a short stack with The New Stack. Tickets are now $349, but you can save 30% with code TNS30.

WP Standard’s Weekender leather duffel is built for life

By Matt Burns

Have you heard? It’s Bag Week! It’s the most wonderful week of the year at TechCrunch. Just in time for back to school, we’re bringing you reviews of bags of all varieties: from backpacks to rollers to messengers to fanny packs.

WP Standard makes exceptional leather goods, and the company’s new leather duffel is no different. It’s fantastic and my go-to travel bag. There are downsides — it’s heavy and the shoulder strap slips on my boney shoulders — but the good outweighs the bad.

I travel a lot. Airplanes, bikes, cars and pretty much everything but trains — because I live in the Midwest and not because I don’t like trains. A few years back I got a lovely, low-cost leather duffel from Amazon and started using it instead of a roller bag. It’s fun and forces me to pack smarter. Besides, the duffel always fits in overhead spaces, in taxi cabs and is easier to handle on a busy subway.

But you don’t care about my life. You’re here for this bag.

WP Standard built the Weekender duffel for people like me. It’s a great size and I have no issue packing away a bunch of shirts, a few pairs of pants and an extra pair of shoes. This isn’t a bag built to hold suits, but rather a weekend’s worth of clothes — hence the name.

The full-grain leather is thick and tough and has so far held up nicely to the rigors of travel. There are scratches and scuffs, but those are souvenirs and badges of honor. It has ridden in the back of my pickup in downpours and down dusty lanes. It has survived several transatlantic flights and still looks like it has decades of life to give.

In the end, this isn’t a Patagonia or The North Face duffel constructed out of space-age fabric designed to survive the tallest peaks or the deepest valleys. WP Standard doesn’t play that game. This company makes goods out of full grain leather that are naturally tough and will age gracefully.

The bag is constructed in a way to give the leather the best chance at survival. The hand straps wrap the bag to give it extra strength. The bottom is constructed out of two layers of stiff leather. The zipper is beefy. The shoulder strap is tough and hasn’t shown any sign of stretching.

A few years ago I reviewed WP Standard’s messenger bag. The Weekender duffel is just as lovely but these two bags share the same downside: The shoulder straps pad is too slippery. It doesn’t matter if I’m wearing a t-shirt, jacket or parka, the shoulder strap doesn’t stay in place. To compensate, I often forgo using the pad and use the strap itself, which is thinner and can be uncomfortable after several minutes. To me, this isn’t a deal killer, but you, dear reader, should know about this downside.

The WP Standard Weekender costs $375. It’s a great price considering the thickness of the leather and quality of construction. Similar bags can be had from Wills, Shinola or Saddleback but for nearly twice the price. Pad and Quill makes quality leather goods and sells a leather duffel that’s similar to the Weekend for $545; it’s also worth a consideration.

Prices for passes to Disrupt SF 2019 increase next week

By Emma Comeau

Is it just us or is the summer disappearing faster than ever? Disrupt San Francisco 2019 is right around the corner (October 2-4) and the great early-bird migration is upon us. Your opportunity to save big bucks disappears on August 30. Depending on which pass you purchase, you can save up to a whopping $1,300. Feather your nest with early-bird savings — buy your pass today.

Now that you have your pass all squared away, get ready to join more than 10,000 ardent startuppers from across the globe, including startups, exhibitors and media. TechCrunch’s flagship Disrupt features three jam-packed days of programming across four unique stages: the Main Stage, the Extra Crunch Stage, the Q&A Stage and the Showcase Stage (located in Startup Alley).

Speaking of Startup Alley, get ready to explore more than 1,200 early-stage startups and sponsor companies. You’ll also find our hand-picked cohort of TC Top Picks camped out in Startup Alley. It’s an unparalleled networking opportunity — you never know who you might meet and where that connection can lead.

Take advantage of CrunchMatch, the free business-matching platform. It simplifies networking and cuts through the noise to help you find, schedule and meet the right people for your business needs.

Don’t miss the Startup Battlefield on the Main Stage. Watch as 15-20 outstanding early-stage startups vie for glory, investor and media love and a $100,000 equity-free cash infusion.

The Main Stage features interviews and panel discussions with tech titans, leading investors, up-and-coming founders and a host of other world-class speakers. Over on the Extra Crunch Stage you’ll find fireside chats, how-to content and actionable tips. Check out the ever-evolving Disrupt SF agenda. In the meantime, here are three sessions to give you an idea of what you’ll experience.

Creating the Means of Production with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (HitRecord)

For far too long, creators have been users of platforms rather than running those platforms. With HitRecord, Joseph Gordon-Levitt changed that. JGL has been head-down and hands-on with HitRecord, and we’ll hear from him about how to put the power back in creators’ hands.

How to Evaluate Talent and Make Decisions with Ray Dalio (Bridgewater)

Ray Dalio knows a thing or two about building successful startups. As founder of the firm Bridgewater, he helped build it into one of the most successful investment companies ever, managing a whopping $150 billion in assets. He recently wrote a book called Principles, and he’s coming to the TechCrunch Disrupt Extra Crunch stage in October to discuss the book and companion mobile app on how building a strong culture can lead to a flourishing startup.

How to Take a Digital Brand Offline with Rich Fulop (Brooklinen), James Reinhart (ThredUp) and Susan Tynan (Framebridge)

E-commerce has fundamentally changed the way we browse and buy physical goods. But even though online sales have taken a huge bite out of brick-and-mortar, it doesn’t mean that digital brands aren’t interested in the prospect of offline channels. Hear from three founders who have taken their own unique approach to launching a store.

Disrupt San Francisco 2019 takes place on October 2-4, but your chance to get the best price disappears on August 30. Don’t wait, buy your early-bird pass today. Now, go enjoy the rest of your summer.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt San Francisco 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Founder how-to content on the Extra Crunch Stage at Disrupt Berlin 2019

By Leslie Hitchcock

Disrupt Berlin 2019, our premier European tech conference, takes place on 11-12 December and draws 3,000 people from more than 50 countries. Every year we work hard to improve our content programming and present it in new and engaging ways to a very savvy startup audience. This year be sure to check out the Extra Crunch Stage for information you can put in place back at the home base.

If you need to buy a super early-bird pass to Disrupt Berlin, why not take care of that essential detail now? Go ahead…we’ll wait.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming. On the Extra Crunch Stage, we’re focusing on the founders, investors and tech leaders who’ve been there, done that, who will provide how-to content, practical tips and actionable advice that founders need to succeed in the European tech landscape.

The new name and mission come from TC’s recently launched subscription product. Designed for our most engaged readers, this extra crunchy layer of gated content goes deep on entrepreneurial and startup topics like inclusion and diversity, hiring practices, legal and product decisions, as well as mental health and wellness in high-performance businesses.

Treat yourself to an Innovator, Founder or Investor pass, because that’s the only way you’ll gain access to this Extra Crunchy wisdom. Those same passes also provide access to all the fine content, speakers, panelists, interactive workshops and events that take place on the Main Stage, the Showcase Stage and in the Q&A sessions.

That’s a whole lot to take in, and you’ll be busy indeed as you explore hundreds of early-stage startups exhibiting their tech and talent in Startup Alley. Marvel at the brilliant Startup Battlefield competitors vying for $50,000 as they launch on a global stage. Learn from our roster of speakers, the top players in the startup world — tech titans, leading investors and boundary-pushing founders — as they examine emerging trends and critical challenges.

Disrupt Berlin 2019 takes place on 11-12 December. Get your super early-bird pass, get Extra Crunchy and get ready to make the most of your time at Disrupt. We’ll see you in Berlin!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt Berlin 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Showcase your startup in Startup Alley at Disrupt SF 2019

By Emma Comeau

What’s the lifeblood of any early-stage startup? Money and media coverage. Opportunities to acquire both abound at Disrupt San Francisco 2019, our flagship tech conference that takes place on October 2-4. It’s all about networking and making the right connections to make your startup dreams come true, and there’s no better networking mecca than Startup Alley.

Buy a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package and plant your early-stage startup in the path of more than 10,000 attendees, including leading technologists, investors, 400 accredited media outlets and other leading influencers. The package includes one full exhibit day and three Founder passes.

You’ll have access to three days of Disrupt programming across the Main Stage, the Extra Crunch Stage, the Showcase Stage and the Q&A Stage. You can watch Startup Battlefield, our epic pitch competition, to see who takes home the $100,000 prize. You’ll also receive invitations to VIP events, like a reception with top-tier investors and global media outlets.

You’ll have CrunchMatch at your side to make networking as easy as possible. This free, business match-making platform helps you find and connect with the people who can move your business forward. It matches people based on their mutual business interests, suggests meetings and sends out invitations (which recipients can easily accept or decline). CrunchMatch even lets you reserve dedicated meeting spaces where you can network in comfort.

And how’s this for opportunity? Every early-stage startup that exhibits in Startup Alley is eligible for a chance to win a Wild Card entry to the Startup Battlefield pitch competition. TechCrunch editors will select two standout startups as Wild Card teams to compete for $100,000 in Startup Battlefield.

It might sound like a longshot (and it is), but RecordGram earned a Wild Card spot and went on to become the Startup Battlefield champ at Disrupt NY 2017. Because dreams do come true.

Disrupt San Francisco 2019 takes place on October 2-4. Buy a demo table, exhibit in Startup Alley and network your way to greatness. Come on and show the world what you’ve got.

Is your company interested in sponsoring at Disrupt SF 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

How-to: Exhibit for free in Startup Alley at Disrupt Berlin 2019

By Leslie Hitchcock

We love a good how-to, especially one that saves early-stage startup founders money and positions them for mad success. We’re talking about how to apply to be a TC Top Pick and exhibit at Disrupt Berlin 2019 — for free.

Our TC Top Picks program is what we call a pre-Disrupt competition. If you’re a founder of an early-stage startup this is your chance to win a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package and a VIP experience in Berlin. How does it all work? Read on!

First, fill out an application if your startup falls into one of these tech categories: AI/Machine Learning, Biotech/Healthtech, Blockchain, Fintech, Mobility, Privacy/Security, Retail/E-commerce, Robotics/IoT/Hardware, CRM/Enterprise and Education.

TechCrunch editors closely vet each application — and these editors have an almost-mystical ability to spot serious success potential. Ultimately, they’ll choose up to five of the best representatives for each category.

A Startup Alley Exhibitor Package includes one exhibit day, three Founder passes, access to the full conference and all programming at the event.

TC Top Picks attract a lot of attention at the show, and it’s a networking wonderland. You’ll meet investors, potential customers and future collaborators who can help you move to the next level. Plus, you’ll be interviewed by a TechCrunch editor live on the Showcase Stage. We’ll record that interview and promote it on our social media platforms. Talk about a great long-term marketing tool.

Take a page from Caleb John’s playbook. Here’s what the CEO of Cedar Robotics said about exhibiting as a TC Top Pick:

“It blew away my expectations. The number of people we met, the connections we made and the amount of media exposure we received is worth its weight in gold.”

And another thing! You — and all the other exhibiting startups — might even win a chance to compete in Startup Battlefield. TechCrunch editors will choose a startup as a Wild Card competitor, and they’ll compete for $50,000. It’s a longshot, but it sure paid off for RecordGram. They won the Wild Card and then won the Battlefield. Can lightning strike twice?

Disrupt Berlin 2019 takes place on 11-12 December. Don’t miss your opportunity to showcase your outstanding startup in Startup Alley and enjoy a VIP experience — for free. Apply to our TC Top Picks program today.

Microsoft Azure CTO Mark Russinovich will join us for TC Sessions: Enterprise on September 5

By Frederic Lardinois

Being the CTO for one of the three major hypercloud providers may seem like enough of a job for most people, but Mark Russinovich, the CTO of Microsoft Azure, has a few other talents in his back pocket. Russinovich, who will join us for a fireside chat at our TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise event in San Francisco on September 5 (p.s. early-bird sale ends Friday), is also an accomplished novelist who has published four novels, all of which center around tech and cybersecurity.

At our event, though, we won’t focus on his literary accomplishments (except for maybe his books about Windows Server) as much as on the trends he’s seeing in enterprise cloud adoption. Microsoft, maybe more so than its competitors, always made enterprise customers and their needs the focus of its cloud initiatives from the outset. Today, as the majority of enterprises is looking to move at least some of their legacy workloads into the cloud, they are often stumped by the sheer complexity of that undertaking.

In our fireside chat, we’ll talk about what Microsoft is doing to reduce this complexity and how enterprises can maximize their current investments into the cloud, both for running new cloud-native applications and for bringing legacy applications into the future. We’ll also talk about new technologies that can make the move to the cloud more attractive to enterprises, including the current buzz around edge computing, IoT, AI and more.

Before joining Microsoft, Russinovich, who has a Ph.D. in computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon, was the co-founder and chief architect of Winternals Software, which Microsoft acquired in 2006. During his time at Winternals, Russinovich discovered the infamous Sony rootkit. Over his 13 years at Microsoft, he moved from Technical Fellow up to the CTO position for Azure, which continues to grow at a rapid clip as it looks to challenge AWS’s leadership in total cloud revenue.

Tomorrow, Friday, August 16 is your last day to save $100 on tickets before prices go up. Book your early-bird tickets now and keep that Benjamin in your pocket.

If you’re an early-stage startup, we only have three demo table packages left! Each demo package comes with four tickets and a great location for your company to get in front of attendees. Book your demo package today before we sell out!

Meet the TC Top Picks for Disrupt SF 2019

By Priya Gupta

Honestly, the creativity and quality of early-stage startups and their founders never ceases to amaze us. When we issued the call for applications to our TC Top Picks program for Disrupt San Francisco 2019, the response was overwhelming — and the competition was off the hook. Our editors dug in and managed to narrow the field to the startups they felt best represent their specific category. It wasn’t easy, but we’re thrilled with the results and we think you will be, too.

The TC Top Picks program showcases outstanding early-stage startups across these categories: AI/Machine Learning, Biotech/Healthtech, Blockchain, Fintech, Mobility, Privacy/Security, Retail/E-commerce, Robotics/IoT/Hardware, SaaS and Social Impact & Education.

Top Picks founders receive a free Startup Alley exhibitor package, a featured location on the exhibition floor, three free Founder passes and VIP treatment — including invitations to the investor reception. They also receive an interview on the Showcase Stage with a TechCrunch editor — and we’ll promote that video across our social media platforms.

It’s time to announce the early-stage startups we chose as TC Top Picks for Disrupt SF ’19. Can we get a drum roll, please?

AI/Machine Learning

  • Greyparrot: Provides cutting-edge computer vision products and services to enterprises looking for AI partners.
  • Halos: A fully digital consumer insurance platform designed to make insurance useful for every single consumer.
  • Moodbit: People Analytics Technology that analyzes employee emotions and delivers predictive and prescriptive analytics to improve performance.
  • OneClick.ai: Automated Deep Learning AI technology to enable businesses with advanced predictive analysis and decision making.
  • Voxel51: AI for Video: video analytics platform in the cloud and on-premises enabling fast, rich insights from image and video data sets.

Biotech/Healthtech

  • achu health: A predictive health platform that tracks vital patterns to warn you of impending future illnesses.
  • FindAir: An award-winning, smart tool for asthma monitoring. Start using FindAir ONE and take control of your asthma today.
  • MyMilk labs: An m-health device and app for improving breastfeeding via direct breast-milk sensing.
  • Sparkle Innovations: Transforming banana stem agro-waste into all-natural sanitary pads, organic fertilizer and other value added products.
  • Theator: An AI-powered surgical decision support company.

Blockchain

  • Button Wallet: Multi crypto currency wallet with exchange in Telegram.
  • Crypto APIs: SaaS, Blockchain, Crypto.
  • Ember Fund: Mobile app to invest like a cryptocurrency hedge fund.
  • Planet Nine: Building a new digital economy for microtransactions.

Fintech

  • Beam Financial: A best-paying mobile bank account.
  • FineprintF Technologies: Make your purchasing experience transparent with FeeBelly. Instantly catch hidden fees, costly terms and critical details hidden in any document.
  • Mellow: The first-ever personal finance solution made for children and parents.
  • Trio Financial Technologies: World’s simplest way to invest, by letting you earn investment returns on your checking balance.

Mobility

  • AirBie: Smart bike lock for bike-sharing systems.
  • #Fly: An exciting AI startup disrupting the travel market using patent-pending technology.
  • Flugauto: Providing air transportation for industrial applications, and enabling instant access to cargo for everyone, everywhere.
  • SparkCharge: Manufactures and develops charging station for electric vehicles.

Privacy/Security

  • Alcide: Provides a cloud-native security platform from code to production to continuously secure workloads running in Kubernetes.
  • Hacware: Protects employees from getting email hacked.
  • MedStack: Deliver healthcare apps to market 60% faster via cloud hosting with security, HIPAA compliance, pre-written policies + your choice of stack.
  • Moabi: Cybersecurity, firmware, binary analysis, SaaS, IoT, IIoT.
  • Unum ID: Mobile app empowering users to take control over their personal information.

Retail/E-commerce

  • Cloosiv: Order ahead from your favorite local coffee shops, skip the line and earn rewards that save you money at hundreds of locations across the country.
  • Frills: A fun way to add and extend personal content with your friends!
  • Oculogx: Develops AR software on heads-up displays.
  • PadPiper: Find furnished apartments and compatible housemates.

Robotics/IoT/Hardware

  • 4DAGE: Dedicated to the studies and application of artificial intelligence in the field of 3D reconstruction and digitization algorithm.
  • AVA Technologies: Automatically grow year-round herbs, tomatoes and more.
  • ilmatic: Spend your cryptocurrency with a secure hardware wallet.
  • SeeHow: SeeHow is a sports technology company that transforms sports equipment into sensors.
  • Thinker-Tinker: Consumer product, family technology, subscription, edu-tainment.

SaaS

  • Cinchy: The data collaboration platform.
  • Onna Technologies: Dedicated to providing the best enterprise search and archiving experience across all company data sources.
  • Socionado: Matches vetted freelance social media managers to brands.
  • Veamly: Your apps centralized with unified search.
  • Vertoe: An on-demand, short-term luggage storage service.

Social Impact & Education

  • Bidder Construction App: Connects construction workers with construction jobs around them!
  • BlueSmart Technology: Specializing in IoT baby products, their first product, BlueSmart mia, is an award-winning smart baby feeding monitor that fits on any baby bottle.
  • Oya: An evidence-based, interactive platform for parents that allows them to monitor and improve their child’s development.
  • SNAPSHYFT: Mobile platform connecting understaffed food and beverage and hospitality operations with qualified workers, on-demand.

It’s not too late to exhibit your startup at Disrupt. Simply buy a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package and showcase your startup alongside 1,200+ companies and sponsors in Startup Alley. All exhibiting startups have a shot at winning a Wild Card to compete for $100,000 in our famous pitch competition, Startup Battlefield — TechCrunch editors will choose two startups for that thrill ride.

Disrupt San Francisco 2019 takes place on October 2-4 at Moscone Center North. Get your early-bird tickets here. Come join us and discover new opportunities. We can’t wait to see you there!

What security pros need to know from Black Hat & Def Con 2019

By Zack Whittaker

Black Hat and Def Con came and went as quickly as it ever does. The week-long pair of back-to-back conferences, referred to as “hacker summer camp,” draws in the security crowd from across the world onto Las Vegas, where startups tout their technologies as hackers and researchers reveal their findings.

This year we saw ordinary-looking charging cables that can hack your computer, we found out that cloud backups are easily exposed, robocall blocking apps aren’t as privacy-focused as you might think, and your corporate VPN and office printer are targets for hackers (and if they fail there they’ll just ship a hardware exploit to your mailroom.) Even students can easily hack their own school systems.

The obvious takeaways might be to never plug anything into your computer and that all your data is already ‘pwned’.

But what does that all mean to the average security professional, let alone the CISO at the top of the corporate chain? Between the villages and the many speaker tracks — not to mention the darting between hotels — it’s tough to know exactly what we should take away from the shows.

We spoke to four security experts who were there and asked them what their primary takeaways were for security decision-makers.

Internet of Things is a risk factor

Apply to the TC Hackathon at Disrupt Berlin 2019

By Leslie Hitchcock

Hey hackathon fans, get ready to pack your bags and book your tickets to Berlin. That’s right, baby, the TC Hackathon returns to Disrupt Berlin 2019 on 11-12 December. We’re looking for creative code warriors of every stripe to compete in a grueling, exhilarating marathon that will test your physical, mental and technical limits.

It won’t cost you a thing to apply or to participate. Heck, we even give you a free Innovator pass to attend. Don’t wait on this opportunity — we’re limiting participation to 500 hackers. Apply to the TC Disrupt Berlin Hackathon 2019, compete against some of the best coders and makers in the world and let your freaky hack flag fly.

TechCrunch vets all applicants and if you make the cut, you’ll join a team (or bring one of your own) and spend the next 36 hours designing, coding and creating something new and amazing.

Curious about these sponsored contests? We’ll roll out specifics on sponsors, challenges and prizes over the next few weeks. In the meantime, check out the sponsored contests, prizes and winners from last year’s Disrupt SF 2018 Hackathon. That’ll give you a sense of the kind of projects to expect.

Once the hack clock runs out and you’ve submitted your creation, a team of experts will judge all completed projects in a science-fair style format and select 10 finalists. On day two, those 10 teams will have two minutes to present and pitch their project on the Extra Crunch Stage. No pressure…just kidding. Lots of pressure.

Sponsors will announce the winners of their individual challenges — which come with cash prizes and other incentives. Then TechCrunch will select the best overall hack — and award that team a $5,000 cash prize.

And don’t worry — we’ll keep you fed, watered and caffeinated throughout the event. You’re gonna need all the energy you can muster.

Competing in the TC Hackathon is fast-paced, exhausting and fun. It’s also a great way to network, impress potential employers or meet your next collaborator. Space is limited and seats will go quickly, so apply to the TC Hackathon at Disrupt Berlin 2019 on 11-12 December. Show us your hack!

Every TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019 ticket includes a free pass to Disrupt SF

By Emma Comeau

Shout out to all the savvy enterprise software startuppers. Here’s a quick, two-part money-saving reminder. Part one: TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019 is right around the corner on September 5, and you have only two days left to buy an early-bird ticket and save yourself $100. Part two: for every Session ticket you buy, you get one free Expo-only pass to TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2019.

Save money and increase your ROI by completing one simple task: buy your early-bird ticket today.

About 1,000 members of enterprise software’s powerhouse community will join us for a full day dedicated to exploring the current and future state of enterprise software. It’s certainly tech’s 800-pound gorilla — a $500 billion industry. Some of the biggest names and brightest minds will be on hand to discuss critical issues all players face — from early-stage startups to multinational conglomerates.

The day’s agenda features panel discussions, main-stage talks, break-out sessions and speaker Q&As on hot topics including intelligent marketing automation, the cloud, data security, AI and quantum computing, just to name a few. You’ll hear from people like SAP CEO Bill McDermott; Aaron Levie, Box co-founder; Jim Clarke, director of Quantum Hardware at Intel and many, many more.

Customer experience is always a hot topic, so be sure to catch this main-stage panel discussion with Amit Ahuja (Adobe), Julie Larson-Green (Qualtrics) and Peter Reinhardt (Segment):

The Trials and Tribulations of Experience Management: As companies gather more data about their customers and employees, it should theoretically improve their experience, but myriad challenges face companies as they try to pull together information from a variety of vendors across disparate systems, both in the cloud and on prem. How do you pull together a coherent picture of your customers, while respecting their privacy and overcoming the technical challenges?

TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019 takes place in San Francisco on September 5. Take advantage of this two-part money-saving opportunity. Buy your early-bird ticket by August 16 at 11:59 p.m. (PT) to save $100. And score a free Expo-only pass to TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2019 for every ticket you buy. We can’t wait to see you in September!

Interested in sponsoring TC Sessions: Enterprise? Fill out this form and a member of our sales team will contact you.

How safe are school records? Not very, says student security researcher

By Zack Whittaker

If you can’t trust your bank, government or your medical provider to protect your data, what makes you think students are any safer?

Turns out, according to one student security researcher, they’re not.

Eighteen-year-old Bill Demirkapi, a recent high school graduate in Boston, Massachusetts, spent much of his latter school years with an eye on his own student data. Through self-taught pen testing and bug hunting, Demirkapi found several vulnerabilities in a his school’s learning management system, Blackboard, and his school district’s student information system, known as Aspen and built by Follett, which centralizes student data, including performance, grades, and health records.

The former student reported the flaws and revealed his findings at the Def Con security conference on Friday.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of hacking,” Demirkapi told TechCrunch prior to his talk. “I started researching but I learned by doing,” he said.

Among one of the more damaging issues Demirkapi found in Follett’s student information system was an improper access control vulnerability, which if exploited could have allowed an attacker to read and write to the central Aspen database and obtain any student’s data.

Blackboard’s Community Engagement platform had several vulnerabilities, including an information disclosure bug. A debugging misconfiguration allowed him to discover two subdomains, which spat back the credentials for Apple app provisioning accounts for dozens of school districts, as well as the database credentials for most if not every Blackboard’s Community Engagement platform, said Demirkapi.

“School data or student data should be taken as seriously as health data. The next generation should be one of our number one priorities, who looks out for those who can’t defend themselves.”
Bill Demirkapi, security researcher

Another set of vulnerabilities could have allowed an authorized user — like a student — to carry out SQL injection attacks. Demirkapi said six databases could be tricked into disclosing data by injecting SQL commands, including grades, school attendance data, punishment history, library balances, and other sensitive and private data.

Some of the SQL injection flaws were blind attacks, meaning dumping the entire database would have been more difficult but not impossible.

In all, over 5,000 schools and over five million students and teachers were impacted by the SQL injection vulnerabilities alone, he said.

Demirkapi said he was mindful to not access any student records other than his own. But he warned that any low-skilled attacker could have done considerable damage by accessing and obtaining student records, not least thanks to the simplicity of the database’s password. He wouldn’t say what it was, only that it was “worse than ‘1234’.”

But finding the vulnerabilities was only one part of the challenge. Disclosing them to the companies turned out to be just as tricky.

Demirkapi admitted that his disclosure with Follett could have been better. He found that one of the bugs gave him improper access to create his own “group resource,” such as a snippet of text, which was viewable to every user on the system.

“What does an immature 11th grader do when you hand him a very, very, loud megaphone?” he said. “Yell into it.”

And that’s exactly what he did. He sent out a message to every user, displaying each user’s login cookies on their screen. “No worries, I didn’t steal them,” the alert read.

“The school wasn’t thrilled with it,” he said. “Fortunately, I got off with a two-day suspension.”

He conceded it wasn’t one of his smartest ideas. He wanted to show his proof-of-concept but was unable to contact Follett with details of the vulnerability. He later went through his school, which set up a meeting, and disclosed the bugs to the company.

Blackboard, however, ignored Demirkapi’s responses for several months, he said. He knows because after the first month of being ignored, he included an email tracker, allowing him to see how often the email was opened — which turned out to be several times in the first few hours after sending. And yet the company still did not respond to the researcher’s bug report.

Blackboard eventually fixed the vulnerabilities, but Demirkapi said he found that the companies “weren’t really prepared to handle vulnerability reports,” despite Blackboard ostensibly having a published vulnerability disclosure process.

“It surprised me how insecure student data is,” he said. “School data or student data should be taken as seriously as health data,” he said. “The next generation should be one of our number one priorities, who looks out for those who can’t defend themselves.”

He said if a teenager had discovered serious security flaws, it was likely that more advanced attackers could do far more damage.

Heather Phillips, a spokesperson for Blackboard, said the company appreciated Demirkapi’s disclosure.

“We have addressed several issues that were brought to our attention by Mr. Demirkapi and have no indication that these vulnerabilities were exploited or that any clients’ personal information was accessed by Mr. Demirkapi or any other unauthorized party,” the statement said. “One of the lessons learned from this particular exchange is that we could improve how we communicate with security researchers who bring these issues to our attention.”

Follet spokesperson Tom Kline said the company “developed and deployed a patch to address the web vulnerability” in July 2018.

The student researcher said he was not deterred by the issues he faced with disclosure.

“I’m 100% set already on doing computer security as a career,” he said. “Just because some vendors aren’t the best examples of good responsible disclosure or have a good security program doesn’t mean they’re representative of the entire security field.”

Hundreds of exposed Amazon cloud backups found leaking sensitive data

By Zack Whittaker

How safe are your secrets? If you used Amazon’s Elastic Block Storage, you might want to check your settings.

New research just presented at the Def Con security conference reveals how companies, startups, and governments are inadvertently leaking their own files from the cloud.

You may have heard of exposed S3 buckets — those Amazon-hosted storage servers packed with customer data but are often misconfigured and inadvertently set to “public” for anyone to access. But you may not have heard about exposed EBS volumes, which poses as much if not a greater risk.

These elastic block storage (EBS) volumes are the “keys to the kingdom,” said Ben Morris, a senior security analyst at cybersecurity firm Bishop Fox, in a call with TechCrunch ahead of his Def Con talk. EBS volumes store all the data for cloud applications. “They have the secret keys to your applications and they have database access to your customers’ information,” he said.

“When you get rid of the hard disk for your computer, you know, you usually shredded or wipe it completely,” he said. “But these public EBS volumes are just left for anyone to take and start poking at.”

He said that all too often cloud admins don’t choose the correct configuration settings, leaving EBS volumes inadvertently public and unencrypted. “That means anyone on the internet can download your hard disk and boot it up, attach it to a machine they control, and then start rifling through the disk to look for any kind of secrets,” he said.

Screen Shot 2019 08 07 at 2.14.30 PM

One of Morris’ Def Con slides noting the types of compromised data found using his research, often known as the “Wall of Sheep.” (Image: Ben Morris/Bishop Fox; supplied)

Morris built a tool using Amazon’s own internal volume search feature to query and scrape publicly exposed EBS volumes, then attach it, make a copy and list the contents of the volume on his system.

“If you expose the disk for even just a couple of minutes, our system will pick it up and make it copy of it,” he said.

It took him two months to build up a database of exposed volumes and just a few hundred dollars spent on Amazon cloud resources. Once he validates each volume, he deletes the data.

Morris found dozens of volumes exposed publicly in one region alone, he said, including application keys, critical user or administrative credentials, source code, and more. He found several major companies, including healthcare providers and tech companies.

He also found VPN configurations, which he said could allow him to tunnel into a corporate network. Morris said he did not use any credentials or sensitive data as it would be unlawful.

Among the most damaging things he found, Morris said he found a volume for one government contractor, which he did not name, but provided data storage services to federal agencies. “On their website, they brag about holding this data,” he said, referring to collected intelligence from messages sent to and from the so-called Islamic State terror group to data on border crossings.

“Those are the kind of things I would definitely not want some to be exposed to the public Internet,” he said.

He estimates the figure could be as many as 1,250 exposures across all Amazon cloud regions.

Morris plans to release his proof-of-concept code in the coming weeks.

“I’m giving companies a couple of weeks to go through their own disks and make sure that they don’t have any accidental exposures,” he said.

Last chance for early-bird tickets to TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019

By Emma Comeau

It’s down to the wire folks. Today’s the last day you can save $100 on your ticket to TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019, which takes place on September 5 at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. The deadline expires in mere hours — at 11:59 p.m. (PT). Get the best possible price and buy your early-bird ticket right now.

We expect more than 1,000 attendees representing the enterprise software community’s best and brightest. We’re talking founders of companies in every stage and CIOs and systems architects from some of the biggest multinationals. And, of course, managing partners from the most influential venture and corporate investment firms.

Take a look at just some of the companies joining us for TC Sessions: Enterprise: Bain & Company, Box, Dell Technologies Capital, Google, Oracle, SAP and SoftBank. Let the networking begin!

You can expect a full day of main-stage interviews and panel discussions, plus break-out sessions and speaker Q&As. TechCrunch editors will dig into the big issues enterprise software companies face today along with emerging trends and technologies.

Data, for example, is a mighty hot topic, and you’ll hear a lot more about it during a session entitled, Innovation Break: Data – Who Owns It?: Enterprises have historically competed by being closed entities, keeping a closed architecture and innovating internally. When applying this closed approach to the hottest new commodity, data, it simply does not work anymore. But as enterprises, startups and public institutions open themselves up, how open is too open? Hear from leaders who explore data ownership and the questions that need to be answered before the data floodgates are opened. Sponsored by SAP .

If investment is on your mind, don’t miss the Investor Q&A. Some of greatest investors in enterprise will be on hand to answer your burning questions. Want to know more? Check out the full agenda.

Maximize your last day of early-bird buying power and take advantage of the group discount. Buy four or more tickets at once and save 20%. Here’s a bonus. Every ticket you buy to TC Sessions: Enterprise includes a free Expo Only pass to TechCrunch Disrupt SF on October 2-4.

It’s now o’clock startuppers. Your opportunity to save $100 on tickets to TC Sessions: Enterprise ends tonight at precisely 11:59 p.m. (PT). Buy your early-bird tickets now and join us in September!

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

Preclusio uses machine learning to comply with GDPR, other privacy regulations

By Ron Miller

As privacy regulations like GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act proliferate, more startups are looking to help companies comply. Enter Preclusio, a member of the Y Combinator Summer 2019 class, which has developed a machine learning-fueled solution to help companies adhere to these privacy regulations.

“We have a platform that is deployed on prem in our customer’s environment, and helps them identify what data they’re collecting, how they’re using it, where it’s being stored and how it should be protected. We help companies put together this broad view of their data, and then we continuously monitor their data infrastructure to ensure that this data continues to be protected,” company co-founder and CEO Heather Wade told TechCrunch.

She says that the company made a deliberate decision to keep the solution on-prem.”We really believe in giving our clients control over their data. We don’t want to be just another third-party SaaS vendor that you have to ship your data to,” Wade explained.

That said, customers can run it wherever they wish, whether that’s on prem or in the cloud in Azure or AWS. Regardless of where it’s stored, the idea is to give customers direct control over their own data. “We are really trying to alert our customers to threats or to potential privacy exceptions that are occurring in their environment in real time, and being in their environment is really the best way to facilitate this,” she said.

The product works by getting read-only access to the data, then begins to identify sensitive data in an automated fashion using machine learning. “Our product automatically looks at the schema and samples of the data, and uses machine learning to identify common protected data,” she said. Once that process is completed, a privacy compliance team can review the findings and adjust these classifications as needed.

Wade, who started the company in March, says the idea formed at previous positions where she was responsible for implementing privacy policies and found there weren’t adequate solutions on the market to help. “I had to face the challenges first-hand of dealing with privacy and compliance and seeing how resources were really taken away from our engineering teams and having to allocate these resources to solving these problems internally, especially early on when GDPR was first passed, and there really were not that many tools available in the market,” she said.

Interestingly Wade’s co-founder is her husband, John. She says they deal with the intensity of being married and startup founders by sticking to their areas of expertise. He’s the marketing person and she’s the technical one.

She says they applied to Y Combinator because they wanted to grow quickly, and that timing is important with more privacy laws coming online soon. She has been impressed with the generosity of the community in helping them reach their goals. “It’s almost indescribable how generous and helpful other folks who’ve been through the YC program are to the incoming batches, and they really do have that spirit of paying it forward,” she said.

Robocall blocking apps caught sending your private data without permission

By Zack Whittaker

Robocall-blocking apps promise to rid your life of spoofed and spam phone calls. But are they as trustworthy as they claim to be?

One security researcher said many of these apps can violate your privacy as soon as they are opened.

Dan Hastings, a senior security consultant cybersecurity firm NCC Group, analyzed some of the most popular robocall-blocking apps — including TrapCall, Truecaller, and Hiya — and found egregious privacy violations.

Robocalls are getting worse, with some getting tens or dozens of calls a day. These automated calls demand you “pay the IRS” a fine you don’t owe or pretend to be tech support. They often try to trick you into picking up the phone by spoofing their number to look like a local caller. But as much as the cell networks are trying to cut down on spam, many are turning to third-party apps to filter their incoming calls.

But many of these apps, said Hastings, send user or device data to third-party data analytics companies — often to monetize your information — without your explicit consent, instead burying the details in their privacy policies.

One app, TrapCall, sent users’ phone numbers to a third-party analytics firm, AppsFlyer, without telling users — either in the app nor in the privacy policy.

He also found Truecaller and Hiya uploaded device data — device type, model and software version, among other things — before a user could accept their privacy policies. Those apps, said Hastings, violate Apple’s app guidelines on data use and sharing, which mandate that app makers first obtain permission before using or sending data to third-parties.

Many of the other apps aren’t much better. Several other apps that Hastings tested immediately sent some data to Facebook as soon as the app loaded.

“Without having a technical background, most end users aren’t able to evaluate what data is actually being collected and sent to third parties,” said Hastings. “Privacy policies are the only way that a non-technical user can evaluate what data is collected about them while using an app.”

None of the companies acted on emails from Hastings warning about the privacy issues, he said. It was only after he contacted Apple when TrapCall later updated its privacy policy.

But he reserved some criticism for Apple, noting that app privacy policies “don’t appear to be monitored” as he discovered with Truecaller and Hiya.

“Privacy policies are great, but apps need to get better about abiding by them,” said Hastings.

“If most people took the time to read and try to understand privacy policies for all the apps they use (and are able to understand them!), they might be surprised to see how much these apps collect,” he said. “Until that day, end-users will have to rely on security researchers performing manual deep dives into how apps handle their private information in practice.”

Spokespeople for TrapCall, Truecaller, and Hiya did not comment when reached prior to publication.

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