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Take your shot: Apply to TC Top Picks at Disrupt SF 2020

By Neesha A. Tambe

TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco is known around the world as the place where the early-stage startup community gathers to learn and launch, connect and collaborate. We know COVID-19 has created challenges, but Disrupt SF is still on schedule (keep tabs on our updates here). Like startup founders everywhere, we quickly learn where, when and how to pivot. Case in point, check out our new Disrupt Digital Pass option.

In the current climate, it’s even more important to get the focus of investors and customers on your startup. And your chance to do just that goes down on September 14-16, 2020. But did you know there’s a way that founders can extract even more opportunity from their Disrupt experience — for free?

Apply to be a TC Top Pick. It doesn’t cost anything to apply or participate, and you’re welcome to apply if your early-stage startup falls into one of these categories:

Artificial Intelligence + Machine Learning, Biotech + Healthtech, Enterprise + SaaS, Fintech, Mobility, Retail + E-commerce, Robotics, Hardware + IOT, Security + Privacy, Social Impact + Education, and Space.

TechCrunch editors will review every application and select up to three startups they feel represent the very best in each category. Check out who we chose as TC Top Picks at Disrupt SF 2019.

Making the cut won’t be easy, but you have nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain. For starters, every TC Top Pick startup receives a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package and a VIP experience. You’ll exhibit for one full day in a prime, dedicated space in Startup Alley, our expo floor. Plus, you receive three complimentary Founder passes — you and your team can experience more of Disrupt’s extensive programming and networking opportunities.

Keep in mind that everyone at Disrupt wants to know who made the coveted Top Picks list. You’ll stand in a bright, metaphorical spotlight and draw attention from ardent investors, media looking for great stories, potential customers, could-be collaborators and, well, you just don’t know where a connection can lead you.

Don’t just take our word for it. Take it from one of your own.

“Earning a TC Top Pick is an awesome experience for an early-stage startup. As we grow bigger, we look forward to saying that our roots go back to TechCrunch Disrupt. Companies like Trello and Dropbox share the Disrupt pedigree. It’s a big deal, and I feel privileged to be part of that group.” — Joel Neidig, founder of SIMBA Chain.

We haven’t mentioned your live interview yet. Say what? Yup. A TechCrunch editor interviews every Top Pick — live on the Showcase Stage. We’ll record each interview, edit the video and promote it across our social media platforms. It’ll be yours to use as an impressive conversation starter with investors and customers. Again, take it from Joel Neidig.

“Our live interview with the TechCrunch editor was one of the best Top Pick perks. It’s an awesome long-term marketing tool.”

If you want to showcase your early-stage startup to the industry’s most influential movers, shakers, thinkers and makers, apply to be a TC Top Pick at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2020. You have nothing to lose — take your shot and buckle up for the ride of your startup life.

TechCrunch is mindful of the COVID-19 issue and its impact on live events. You can follow our updates here.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt San Francisco 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Stocks post worst quarter since 2008 financial crisis

By Kirsten Korosec

The first quarter of 2020 ended with a whimper — with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq posting their worst quarter in decades — as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause uncertainty and volatility across all major stock market indices.

At the beginning of the quarter, we were still basking in a decade-long bull market. The global pandemic, and the economic havoc it caused, put an end to those halcyon days. All major American indices dropped into bear-market territory March 12, after shedding the requisite 20% from recent highs.

The roller coaster continued, with equities bumping along the bottom, periodically popping up, only to fall again as the epicenter of the pandemic shifted from China to Europe and now the United States. The number of cases in the U.S. has prompted states to issue stay at home orders, putting the brakes on business as usual. As a result, unemployment benefits have skyrocketed. Last week alone, around 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits, dwarfing numbers set during the 2008-era economic meltdown.

The economic stimulus bill, known as the CARES Act, along with a series of actions taken by the Federal Reserve, have provided some lift. But the volatility continues. For the quarter, Dow Jones is down 24.08%, while the S&P is down 20.67% and Nasdaq is off 15.3%.

Here’s the breakdown of what happened today:

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average: declined 1.85%, or 413.11 to 21,914.37
  • S&P 500: slid 1.61%, or 42.18, to 2,584.47
  • Nasdaq Composite: fell 0.95%, or 74.05, to 7,700.10

All sectors were down today, with the exception of the energy sector, which saw a lift after being battered for weeks. Meanwhile, investors have fled equities for treasuries, pushing yields down. Case in point: U.S. 10-year yields are down 64% in the first quarter.

SaaS shares fell more than most tech equity in today’s trading, with the Bessemer cloud index off a little over 2.5%. The index, which tracks a basket of SaaS and cloud shares, is off around 20% from its recent highs. Shares of modern software companies are therefore still technically in a bear market, though just. If recent gains hold, the index will have made up around 10% of its lost ground since recent lows.

Wrapping on cryptocurrencies as we close the book on the quarter, bitcoin posted a net loss for the period. It’s worth just over $6,400 as we write this post.

What a quarter. What a quarter of surprises and turmoil and cut expectations and downgraded hope. Here’s to a better Q2, if we can manage.

Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

Apply to be a TC Top Pick at Disrupt SF 2020

By Neesha A. Tambe

If you’re an early-stage startup founder with a big vision and even bigger dreams, join us and more than 10,000 other like-minded startuppers at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2020 on September 14-16. Silicon Valley’s premiere early-stage startup extravaganza focuses on founders, investors and startup experts determined to disrupt and reshape technology.

Attending is awesome but attending and exhibiting at Disrupt — for free — is even better. What magic is this? No hocus-pocus required. Simply apply to our TC Top Picks program. Applying is also free, and it’s easy to do. However, earning that coveted Top Pick designation — not so easy.

TechCrunch editors have a keen eye for the qualities that translate into serious startup success. They’ll thoroughly review every application and then choose up to five stellar startups for each of the following categories.

AI, BioTech + HealthTech, Enterprise/SAAS, FinTech, Mobility, Retail + ecommerce, Robotics + Hardware IOT, Security/Privacy, Social Impact + Education, Space

Pro tip: Keep the phrase “up to five” in mind. If the editors feel only three startups fit the bill for any given category, they’ll stop at three.

Now that you know how to apply, let’s talk about why you should apply. Every Top Pick startup receives a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package. As a Top Pick VIP, you’ll strut your impressive stuff for a full day in a prime location in Startup Alley, our exhibition floor. The package also includes three complimentary Founder passes to Disrupt SF 2020 — bring your crew and make the most of your time at the show.

Thousands of people, including investors and tech media, pour through Startup Alley, and everyone wants to know who made the Top Pick cut. You’ll reap invaluable exposure to potential customers, partners, mentors and again…investors. Who doesn’t love investors?

Here’s what Francisco Serra-Martins, founder of Australia-based Sonder Designs, says about his Top Pick experience.

“Being a TC Top Pick at Disrupt San Francisco not only helped us close out an additional $1 million investment for our seed round, it was an incredible opportunity to introduce our technology to an international community and to engage with the San Francisco startup ecosystem.”

One of the most exciting parts of earning a Top Pick designation is the media exposure. Hundreds of top media outlets attend Disrupt, and they’re all looking for great stories. And, drum roll please, your media experience also includes being interviewed by a TechCrunch editor live on the Showcase Stage.

We record the interview, edit the video and blast it across our social media networks. It’s a valuable marketing tool that you can use long after Disrupt ends.

Intrigued? Want to know more? Check out who we chose as TC Top Picks at Disrupt SF 2019.

TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2020 takes place on September 14-16 at Moscone West. Take a chance and apply to be a TC Top Pick. If you’re not quite there yet, that’s OK. Come to Disrupt and learn from the best minds in the startup ecosystem. Buy an early-bird ticket here and save up to $1,800.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt San Francisco 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

The Mars 2020 rover has a new name: Perseverance

By Devin Coldewey

The next NASA rover to go to Mars has shed its code name and assumed a new one, sourced from the ingenuous youth of our nation. Keeping with the tradition of using virtues as names, the Mars 2020 rover will henceforth be known as “Perseverance.”

This particular virtue was suggested by Alexander Mather, a middle-schooler in Virginia. He and some 28,000 other kids proposed names in an essay contest last year. The final nine contenders were: Endurance, Tenacity, Promise, Vision, Clarity, Ingenuity, Fortitude, Courage, and of course the winner, Perseverance.

The name is perhaps the most apropos, with the possible exception of Endurance, given the track record of Mars rovers vastly outliving their official mission length. Like some kind of scientific Gilligan’s Island, Opportunity famously set out for a 90-day tour of the Martian surface and ended up trundling around for over 14 years before finally losing power for good during a planet-scale sandstorm.

These rovers don’t just keep going effortlessly, of course; The teams must constantly exert their ingenuity to rescue, redirect, and reprogram the distant robotic platforms. It was this aspect that seems to have caught the space agency’s eye.

“Like every exploration mission before, our rover is going to face challenges, and it’s going to make amazing discoveries. It’s already surmounted many obstacles to get us to the point where we are today,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, in a news release. “Alex and his classmates are the Artemis Generation, and they’re going to be taking the next steps into space that lead to Mars. That inspiring work will always require perseverance.”

The kid, Mather, didn’t just do this as some in-class activity mass-emailed by the teacher. He went to space camp in 2018 and had his mind blown by the Saturn V rocket he saw there. Now, having won the naming contest, he’ll get to come with his family to Cape Canaveral to watch the rover launch this summer.

“This was a chance to help the agency that put humans on the Moon and will soon do it again,” Mather said. “This Mars rover will help pave the way for human presence there and I wanted to try and help in any way I could. Refusal of the challenge was not an option.”

In acknowledgement of the other kids who entered the contest, Perseverance will be equipped with a chip inscribed with the 8 semifinalists’ names, as well as 155 more semi-finalists proposals — in letters a thousandth the width of a human hair, but still.

We’ll have more coverage of the mission as launch time approaches, but in the meantime you can keep up with the latest at the obligatory and always delightful first-person-rover Twitter account.

Elizabeth Warren, big tech’s sworn foe, drops out of 2020 race

By Taylor Hatmaker

After a campaign characterized by early stratospheric highs and devastating recent lows, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren will drop out of the 2020 Democratic race.

Warren vaulted to the top of the contest in mid-2019, building early excitement by rolling out thoughtful plans for myriad campaign issues, including an aggressive proposal to regulate big technology companies. The idea of reining in big tech was so central to her platform that Warren released an entire Medium post laying our her position and supporting arguments all the way back in May 2019.

“Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” Warren wrote at the time. “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.”

Warren favored unwinding tech’s biggest acquisitions, including separating Amazon from Whole Foods, Facebook from WhatsApp and Instagram and Google from Waze and Nest. Unlike her close ally turned 2020 rival Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, Warren didn’t denounce capitalism altogether, instead pushing for a vision of a more regulated industry in which “healthy competition” among tech companies could flourish.

Warren’s campaign raised early red flags for tech’s giants, which are now recalibrating for the threat from Sanders.

Through the 2020 race, the elite upper echelons of tech — executives, venture capitalists and the like — sought a moderate alternative to the economic upheaval they feared would be bad for business, even as their own workers aligned with the contest’s most progressive candidates.

With only two candidates left in the race, Sanders will carry the torch holding big tech’s feet to the fire. And while Silicon Valley took an early interest in Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden has emerged as the post-Super Tuesday candidate for tech’s status quo.

Still, Sanders doesn’t target tech with the same laser-focused specificity as Warren did, instead lumping tech in with his distaste for centralized wealth accrued elsewhere. In a January interview, Sanders even noted that “it is not just the big tech companies” that have profited from lax antitrust regulation, steering the conversation to Wall Street, his favorite foil.

Amazon is an exception. Sanders has a historic dislike of Amazon, which he occasionally extends to the Bezos-owned Washington Post, speculating about “why The Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon, doesn’t write particularly good articles about me” — an ongoing, unfounded criticism he shares with President Trump. Last month, the Vermont senator joined Warren and 13 other Democratic senators in a letter decrying Amazon’s “dismal safety record” and calling for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to “overhaul this profit-at-all-costs culture at your company.” The letter followed a report from The Atlantic about Amazon’s track record on worker injuries. Sanders has also proposed higher progressive corporate tax rates on companies “with large gaps between their CEO and median worker pay.” Those tax hikes would apply to companies with a yearly revenue greater than $100 million.

Tech may not fall directly in his crosshairs as often, but the democratic socialist’s signature message is a natural enemy of power brokers in the tech industry, which has consolidated an unprecedented amount of power and capital in American society. Sanders has openly denounced tech’s “monopolistic tendencies” and has long criticized Amazon’s treatment of its rank-and-file workers while pushing for strong unions — increasingly a hot button issue for tech, as the organized labor movement and rise in worker activism make headlines in the tech community.

Whatever happens in the race, the Democratic party’s leftmost flank will have to soldier on without Warren. Her days in the contest are over, but the candidate who Mark Zuckerberg feared would pose an “existential” threat to Facebook left an indelible mark on the 2020 race that neither her supporters nor detractors are likely to forget any time soon.

Judge rejects Tulsi Gabbard’s ‘free speech’ lawsuit against Google

By Taylor Hatmaker

Last July, Hawaii representative and longshot Democratic presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard filed a lawsuit against Google, accusing the company of violating her First Amendment rights to free speech when it briefly suspended her campaign’s ad account. On Wednesday, California’s Central District Court rejected the suit outright.

Gabbard’s campaign, Tulsi Now, Inc., asked for $50 million in damages from Google for “serious and continuing violations of Tulsi’s right to free speech.” In the suit, her campaign claimed that Google “helps to run elections” through political advertising and search results — an argument District Judge Stephen Wilson firmly rejected.

In dismissing the case, Wilson writes that what Gabbard “fails to establish is how Google’s regulation of its own platform is in any way equivalent to a governmental regulation of an election.” When it comes to Google, “an undisputedly private company,” the First Amendment’s free speech protections do not apply. A week ago, another California court reached the same conclusion in a case that right-wing group PragerU brought against YouTube.

In a case of poor timing, Gabbard’s account was suspended for an interval of time following the first presidential debate as viewers sought information about the unfamiliar candidate. In the lawsuit, Gabbard noted that Google took her advertising account offline “in the thick of the critical post-debate period.”

TULSI2020: In the hours following the 1st debate, while millions of Americans searched for info about Tulsi, Google suspended her search ad account w/o explanation. It is vital to our democracy that big tech companies can’t affect the outcome of elections

— Tulsi Gabbard 🌺 (@TulsiGabbard) July 25, 2019

“Since at least June 2019, Google has used its control over online political speech to silence Tulsi Gabbard, a candidate millions of Americans want to hear from,” the suit stated.

Echoing unfounded conservative complaints of tech censorship, Gabbard characterized paid political advertising as free speech, language that Facebook itself would later adopt in defending its lax position on policing political ads.

“This is a threat to free speech, fair elections, and to our democracy, and I intend to fight back on behalf of all Americans,” Gabbard said in a statement at the time.

Gabbard also decried Google’s dominance of the search business, echoing the anti-monopolist tech sentiments expressed by other Democratic candidates. Political figures in both parties have seized on anti-tech sentiment in recent years, and the Hawaii representative’s lawsuit is just one example of politically expedient posturing against major tech platforms.

After the incident, a Google representative explained that the platform automatically flagged Gabbard’s account for unusual activity, a mistake it corrected a short time later.

This bathroom cleaning robot is trained in VR to clean up after you

By Brian Heater

You’ve no doubt heard about the three Ds of automation. Somatic’s robot handily qualifies for two. I’d say “dangerous” is probably a bit of a stretch here, but the robot is well-focused on replacing a job that’s generally regarded as both “dirty” and “dull.”

The startup, which is ostensibly based in the New York area (it’s a small, geographically dispersed team in search of a more permanent home) effectively came out of stealth onstage at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI at UC Berkeley. Its first product is a large, commercial restroom cleaning robot.

CEO Michael Levy compares the device to a “minifridge with a robot arm attached to the front.” Levy, who co-founded the company with CTO Eugene Zasoba, says he was inspired to develop a robot for bathroom cleaning after years spent working his way up at his grandfather’s restaurant.

“When I grew up, I did a bunch of jobs. He said, if you want to get to the register, you have start in the bathroom,” he explains. “The reason bathrooms are such a good application, because everything is bolted down to the floor. Things move in a predictable way. All commercial bathrooms built after 1994 are ADA compliant. What’s good for robotics is that lays a specific design.”

The static nature of most commercial restrooms means that robots only have to train on a space once. The team does the work remotely now, using a VR simulation of the bathroom to show the robot where to spray and wipe chemicals, vacuum and blow-dry. It’s an activity the team affectionately refers to as “the worst video game, ever.” Once all of that is in place, the robot uses a variety of sensors, including lidar, to navigate around.

The robot will clean a restroom, then go to recharge and refill chemicals as needed. It should get around eight hours of cleaning done in a day and can even open doors and ride the elevator to get around buildings, according to Levy.

Prime targets include airports, casinos, office spaces and other spots with large commercial restrooms. The robot will be leased out for around $1,000 a month, after a trial phase. Somatic already has a handful of customers, including a FAANG company, whose offices are already being cleaned by the robot.

The first model was created with help from $50,000 in bootstrapped funds, to which Somatic has added $300,000, including $150,000 from SOSV.

Biden stages a Super Tuesday comeback as Sanders fights for the rest in the West

By Taylor Hatmaker

In a newly narrowed four-way contest, Super Tuesday’s broad delegate pool enticed Democratic primary contenders with race’s biggest prizes yet. Fourteen states voted in Tuesday’s primaries, with the key states of Texas and California alone accounting for a combined 643 delegates.

Former Vice President Joe Biden notched important wins early in the evening, taking Virginia and North Carolina, the third most delegate-rich state in Tuesday’s contest. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won his home state early in the night, but failed to carve out a foothold in the East Coast and Midwest.

“Just a few days ago the press and the pundits had declared this campaign dead,” Biden announced in a triumphant speech mid-way through the evening. “I am here to report, we are very much alive.”

As of 8:45 p.m. Pacific Time, Biden had collected Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Massachusetts and Virginia with Sanders taking Colorado, Utah and Vermont. At the time of writing, a winner has yet to be declared in Maine, Texas and California, with the latter state leaning toward Sanders.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Biden stormed into Super Tuesday with new momentum, fresh off a vital win in South Carolina over the weekend and some swiftly collected endorsements of his former rivals, including Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke. That momentum created a spate of decisive victories for Biden, as the moderate vote appeared to flow easily to him, overwhelming Sanders in some states the Vermont senator was favored in, including Oklahoma, Minnesota and his neighboring state of Massachusetts.

Lacking endorsements from former candidates but not momentum, Bernie Sanders entered Super Tuesday with 60 delegates to Biden’s 54 and Elizabeth Warren’s eight. His results in early voting states, consistent debate performances and grassroots support marked Sanders as the candidate to beat, but those strengths failed to translate to boosted turnout for Sanders in some key states.

In spite of early narratives, delegate totals before Super Tuesday represented just a sliver of the 1,991 delegates necessary to secure the nomination at the Democratic National Convention this July. A total of 1357 delegates are up for grabs on Super Tuesday.


Super Tuesday marked the first time Bloomberg appeared on a ballot, but his massive cash spend still resulted in an underwhelming night, with the former mayor only picking up a small handful of delegates in American Samoa. Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg entered the formal race with more than $400 million spent on ads but zero delegates. Warren also underperformed Tuesday, with a more competitive race than anticipated even in her home state of Massachusetts, which ultimately went to Biden. Oklahoma also showed no loyalty for Warren, who was born in the state—after choosing Sanders in 2016, Oklahoma opted for Biden in Tuesday’s contest.

Tuesday’s results will reshape the race for the Democratic nomination, much as Biden’s long-promised win in South Carolina breathed new life into a flagging campaign. Beyond likely narrowing into a two-person race, the new dynamics emerging out of Tuesday will shift the framing of the contest as a whole. That change is likely to pit political Biden’s promise of incremental political change more directly against Sanders and democratic socialism.

The 2020 race has challenged the tech industry in more ways than one. With both Trump and Bloomberg stress-testing social platforms with a deluge of ads, tech companies are still trying to figure out where to draw their respective lines on political advertising. Those efforts are on top of the imperative for major platforms to avoid a repeat of 2016 by fending off coordinated disinformation campaigns seeking to roil Americans politics.

Beyond platform manipulation concerns, candidates like Warren and Sanders successfully tapped into mainstream backlash against big tech over the course of their campaigns, cultivating even more criticism for companies already under scrutiny from other parts of the government. Depending on which wing of the party seals the nomination, tech could be facing a very different regulatory environment in the event of a Democratic win come November.

Silicon Valley saw itself in Pete Buttigieg. Now he’s out of the race.

By Taylor Hatmaker

Tech’s darling is out. On Sunday, the 38-year-old Democratic presidential contender stepped out of the race, clearing a path for moderates to coalesce around another candidate on the eve of Super Tuesday’s broad contest for delegates.

Buttigieg, a previous political unknown, ran a surprisingly successful long-shot presidential campaign, making history as the first gay candidate to make a real run at the presidency and vaulting his political profile well above his mayorship of South Bend, Ind. Buttigieg’s appeal as a young, articulate politician was bolstered early on by his friendliness to Silicon Valley in a race in which tech’s biggest names were cast as villains by the race’s leftmost wing.

As the race began, elite segments of Silicon Valley, including tech leadership and venture capital, sought an alternative to Bernie Sanders. Sanders and his ideological next-door neighbor Elizabeth Warren have made criticisms of consolidated power and wealth a cornerstone of their platforms, with Warren in particular taking direct aim at tech’s biggest success stories or its ruling elite, depending on your perspective. That message was always more likely to resonate with tech’s rank and file workers, while the sector’s better-compensated upper echelons turned to Buttigieg and other Democratic candidates who reflected their traditionally liberal values while promising less upheaval for the industry.

Buttigieg was able to appeal to that dual desire, and his young age and proximity to tech power brokers like Mark Zuckerberg, a member of his cohort at Harvard, helped boost his cause among tech-savvy supporters. According to reporting from The Guardian, more than 75 VCs threw their weight behind the Buttigieg campaign as early as July 2019, lauding Buttigieg’s “intellectual vigor” and data-driven thinking — qualities Silicon Valley prides in itself. One of Facebook’s first 300 users, Buttigieg’s tech fluency offered a striking contrast to the stereotype of tech-inept members of Congress, a frequent complaint within tech in recent regulatory hearings.

“I don’t know if people saw him as a technology culture person,” one member of the VC community told TechCrunch. “It was more like as a smart person who could potentially execute. As a winner.” They characterized him as “persuasive and competent” but “not competent in some technocratic, bloodless way.”

If Pete Buttigieg wins the nomination, I think I’ll be prouder of my “gut” instinct on him than any investment I’ve ever made. Once we narrow down the field – you will see him shine. He is so incredible as a person and unlike other politicians, I trust him.

— Cyan (@cyantist) October 14, 2019

“We want to build a campaign that’s a little disruptive, kind of entrepreneurial. Right now, it feels like a startup,” Buttigieg campaign manager Mike Schmuhl told AP News in April.

For some in Silicon Valley, which tends to think in terms of Silicon Valley, the analogy stuck all the way to the end.

Team Pete was a feisty startup that took a run at some extremely established competitors, demonstrated the potential for disruption but not long-term dominance, and took the acquihire offer to avoid angering investors and to give the founder another chance after the earn-out.

— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) March 1, 2020

With Buttigieg out of the race, the big question is where his support goes next. Given his moderate policies and new momentum, former Vice President Joe Biden appears likely to receive a boost from Buttigieg’s exit. Still, venture capitalists who spoke with TechCrunch suggested that support is likely to lack the enthusiasm tech had for Buttigieg. “People could have gone with Biden early on,” one Buttigieg supporter noted.

That redirected support may prove tepid compared to Silicon Valley’s initial bet on Buttigieg, but it could be a shot in the arm for Biden if the former vice president comes out of Tuesday’s big contest looking like a winner.

Silicon Valley could be Biden’s funding lifeline post South Carolina

By Jake Bright

Presidential candidate Joe Biden is likely to throw a fundraising lifeline to Silicon Valley donors after his commanding South Carolina victory and into the next wave of primaries.

A pro-Biden super Pac, Unite the Country — whose past backers include senior tech figures — is picking up efforts to tap wealthy donors, Treasurer Larry Rasky told CNBC. The group made several ad-buys in Super-Tuesday states (per a February 28 Federal Election Committee filing).

Past Unite the Country’s benefactors include LinkedIn founder and Greylock Partners VC Reid Hoffman (who contributed $500,000) and Angel Investor Ronald Conway ($250,000), according to FEC data.

Source: FEC filing

Biden revived his presidential-bid from life-support with a resounding 29 point win over Bernie Sanders in Saturday’s South Carolina primary.

But after flailing in the first three contests — Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada — the former Vice-President’s campaign has reportedly been running on financial fumes.

The last Federal Election Campaign disclosures before South Carolina’s democratic primary showed Biden with $7.1 million cash on hand, compared to Sanders’ nearly $17 million.

The race to become the Democratic-nominee for president is consolidating, post South Carolina, to a Sanders-Biden match-up — after Mayor Pete Buttigieg and billionaire Tom Steyer dropped out. Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who entered the race late, will be on the ballot for the first-time on Super Tuesday, though its not clear if he’ll shift dynamics between the front-runners.

To capture Sanders, who now leads Biden in the delegate count, Biden will need to close the fundraising gap between himself and the Vermont Senator, who doesn’t accept super Pac funds and has raised a large portion of his total $126 million presidential fundraising haul from small contributions.

Source: NBC News

For Democrats, fundraising is a big focus of campaign efforts in uncontested states (like New York and California) where they are nearly certain to win in the general-election. Areas with affluent residents, such as the Bay Area and Manhattan, have served as piggy-banks for tapping wealthy donors.

But a fundraising push by Biden and surrogates in Silicon Valley could further expose a political rift within big tech: that of founders and senior executives favoring a moderate candidate, while rank-and file workers “feel the Bern” on campaign donations.

FEC data and analysis by the LA Times and the Center for Responsive Politics indicate Bernie Sanders has substantially outperformed all candidates in garnering small-donations from workers in tech companies. By Times reporting, Sanders has raised $1 million, or nearly four-times as much as Biden, in small donations from employees at Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook.

This preference divide within big-tech could align with the differences in each candidate’s policy platforms. Biden’s positions are generally milder on initiatives to police and potentially split up big-tech companies, such as Facebook.

Sanders has been vocal about driving policies that address the pay gap across major tech companies and has called for breaking up Facebook and Amazon.

Founders and tech-workers in California will have a non-monetary opportunity to express their preferences in voting booths tomorrow — as the Golden State is one of 13 in the super Tuesday primary contest. Those results will roll into more primaries, more fundraising and a decision on the 2020 presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee this July.

‘Robot’ was coined 100 years ago, in a play predicting human extinction by android hands

By Brian Heater

The big climax arrives in Act Three. There’s an uprising, as the robots take over the factory that created them. By the Epilogue, humankind is all but extinct. Fed up with their treatment, the robots have laid waste to the hands that created them, sparing only a single human — a fellow worker.

The decision may have ultimately doomed themselves, however, as they failed to save the one person capable of proliferating their kind. It is, however, the last living man who finds humanity in a pair of robots and likens them to the first two humans, in the biblical tradition. It’s a hopeful note following an extinction that mostly occurred between acts. Two robots exit the stage, leaving the last man to utter the final words, “Adam—Eve.”

To borrow a phrase from another science fiction cautionary tale released seven decades later, “Life finds a way.”

It’s the final lesson of a play loaded to the artificial gills with allegory. Published 100 years ago (and premiering 99 years ago last month) R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), by Czech writer Karel Čapek, is best remembered for bringing the word “robot” to sci-fi — and English, generally. It’s a key piece of the seven-time Nobel Prize-nominated writer’s legacy, who infused deeply held political beliefs into his early science fiction writings.

Čapek’s use of “robot” is rooted in the Old Church Slavonic word, “robot,” which translates to forced labor” or “worker” in some derivations. “The word also has cognates in German, Russian, Polish and Czech,” history professor Howard Markel explained in a 2011 interview with NPR. “And it’s really a product of the Central European system of serfdom, where a tenants’ rent was paid for in forced labor or service.”

The concept of robots as forced labor dates back at least as far as the word robot itself — so, too, does the notion of a robotic uprising. That is to say that “kill all humans” wasn’t uttered first by Bender in Futurama or in the comments section of Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog YouTube video. No, the first commonly understood robots to bear that name were wholly invested in returning power to the hands of the exploited workers — by any means necessary.

The roots of robotics in human society is commonly acknowledged to date back centuries prior, to classical cultures like Greek mythology and the golems of Jewish tradition. But Čapek is the one who gave us the word we still use today. 

Of course, the writer’s robots were more human than we presently associate with the word. In fact, perhaps, more in common with the older term, “android,” which stems from a Greek term that translates to “having the form of a man/human.” The robots of R.U.R. are living beings, built of artificial flesh, who eventually inherit the Earth.

“When the play opens, a few decades beyond the present day, the factory had turned out already, following a secret formula, hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of manufactured workmen, living automats, without souls, desires or feelings,” the official “Story of the Play” explains. “They are high-powered laborers, good for nothing but work. There are two grades, the unskilled and the skilled, and especially trained workmen are furnished on request.”

Set largely in the year 2000, the play grapples with questions of humanity decades before either Blade Runner or its source material, with the robots ultimately achieving a sort of humanity somewhere between Pinocchio and Oz’s Tin Man, albeit out from the ashes of the human creators they murdered en masse. A happy ending, perhaps, by 1920 standards.

For more robotics, check out our upcoming event March 3 at UC Berkeley. 

James Currier, Sarah Nahm, Arun Mathew and Vlad Magdalin to speak at Early Stage SF

By Jordan Crook

TC Early Stage SF goes down on April 28, and we are more excited than ever to introduce this brand new event to the community.

The day-long event is meant to give early-stage founders the chance to pick their own adventure, hearing from a wide variety of experts in fundraising, marketing and operations in a more intimate, Q&A-centered environment. Unlike our other events, which usually center around a single, large stage, Early Stage will feature speakers in breakout rooms fit for ~100 people, who will give their own tactical advice and then answer audience questions.

We’re thrilled to announce that James Currier, Sarah Nahm, Arun Mathew and Vlad Magdalin will be joining us at the event.

James Currier

A serial entrepreneur, James Currier has led four VC-backed companies (Tickle, acquired by Monster; WonderHill, acquired by Kabam; Iron Pearl, acquired by PayPal; and Jiff (acquired by Castlight). He’s an early pioneer of some of the most-used tactics in the tech startup world, including viral marketing, A/B testing and crowdsourcing. In 2015, Currier co-founded NFX, an early-stage venture firm with $425 million under management.

How to move fast and find the right VC investors

Learn the right and wrong ways to find and approach the right investors for your startup. Discover the six elements VCs look for that will make your process fast, in this lightning talk with James Currier, investor in over 130 startups and managing partner at NFX Capital.

Sarah Nahm

Sarah Nahm began her tech career at Google after graduating from Stanford with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and product design. She’s now CEO and founder of Lever, an enterprise SaaS startup with more than $70 million in funding. Lever boasts a 50-50 gender ratio, with 53% women in management, 40% women on its board, and is overall 40% non-white.

What scale-stage execs need to know about culture and D&I during hypergrowth

Your company’s culture and commitment to diversity and inclusion shouldn’t take a backseat when hiring at scale. Hear from Sarah Nahm, CEO of Lever, on how her company has evolved their culture as they grew from 20 to 250 while keeping D&I at the forefront of how they hire. A leader in the D&I and hiring space, Sarah will share actionable advice from Lever, her time at Google, and examples from leaders in the tech industry.

Arun Mathew and Vlad Magdalin

Vlad Magdalin is the founder and CEO of Webflow, a no-code tool that allows designers and entrepreneurs to build websites and apps easily. Magdalin bootstrapped Webflow for seven years, bringing the company to profitability before ever entertaining the idea of VC money. Arun Mathew, who leads growth investments in enterprise, security and infrastructure markets for Accel, ended up leading Webflow’s first investment ever.

The business of bootstrapping

Webflow was bootstrapped and profitable for seven years before co-founder and CEO, Vlad Magdalin trusted Accel’s Arun Mathew as their first institutional investor. Hear how Magdalin designed a sustainable, high-growth business without institutional investment, and the surprising factors that led him to take VC investment.

There will be about 50+ breakout sessions at the show, and attendees will have an opportunity to attend at least seven. The sessions will cover all the core topics confronting early-stage founders — up through Series A — as they build a company, from raising capital to building a team to growth. Each breakout session will be led by notables in the startup world on par with the folks we’ve announced today. 

But wait, there’s more! Don’t worry about missing a breakout session, because transcripts from each will be available to show attendees. And most of the folks leading the breakout sessions have agreed to hang at the show for at least half the day and participate in CrunchMatch, TechCrunch’s platform to connect founders and investors based on shared interests.

Here’s the fine print. Each of the breakout sessions is limited to around 100 attendees. We expect a lot more attendees, of course, so signups for each session are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Buy your ticket today and you can sign up for the breakouts we are announcing today plus you’ll save $50 with the early bird discount. Pass holders will also receive advance notice before we announce the next batch. (And yes, you can “drop” a breakout session in favor of a new one, in the event there is a schedule conflict.)

So get your TC Early Stage: San Francisco pass today, and get the inside track on the sessions we announced today, as well as the ones to be announced in the coming weeks. 

Possible sponsor? We have some very nifty ways to bring sponsors in on the show flow, so please contact us here!

Grab your ticket: Only one week to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020

By Emma Comeau

It’s T-minus one week to the big day, March 3, when more than 1,000 startuppers will convene in San Jose, Calif. for TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020. We’re talking a hefty cross-section representing big companies and exciting new startups. We’re talking some of the most innovative thinkers, makers, researchers, investors and influencers — all focused on creating the future of these two world-changing technologies.

Don’t miss out on this one-day conference of interviews, panel discussions, Q&As, workshops and demos dedicated to every aspect of robotics and A.I. General admission tickets cost $345. Snag your ticket now and save, because prices go up at the door. Want to save even more? Save 15 percent when you buy four or more tickets. Are you a student? Grab a ticket for just $50.

What do we have planned for this TC Session? Here’s a small sample of the fab programming that awaits you, and be sure to check out the full TC Session agenda here.

  • Q&A with Founders: This is your chance to ask questions of Sébastien Boyer, co-founder and CEO of FarmWise and Noah Ready-Campbell, founder and CEO of Built Robotics — some of the most successful robotics founders on our stage.
  • Disney Robotics: Imagineers from Disney will present state-of-the-art robotics built to populate its theme parks.
  • Investing in Robotics and AI: Lessons from the Industry’s VCs: Dror Berman, founding partner at Innovation Endeavors, Jocelyn Goldfein, managing director at Zetta Venture Partners and Eric Migicovsky, general partner at Y Combinator will discuss the rising tide of venture capital funding in robotics and AI. The investors bring a combination of early stage investing and corporate venture capital expertise, sharing a fondness for the wild world of robotics and AI investing.

And — new this year — don’t miss watching the finalists from our Pitch Night competition. Founders of these early-stage companies, hand-picked by TechCrunch editors, will take the stage and have just five minutes to present their wares.

With just one more week until TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 kicks off, you don’t have much time left to save on tickets. Why pay more at the door? Buy your ticket now and join the best and brightest for a full day dedicated to all things robotics.

LG’s latest has an optional second screen and a headphone jack

By Brian Heater

One thing you can say for sure about 2020’s smartphone landscape: there’s no shortage of options. Sales have taken a dip in the last few years, causing a number of manufactures to get creative with their offerings. LG’s certainly in that boat. It’s been a less than spectacular few years for the company’s mobile offerings, but it’s not for a lack of trying.

It’s probably not due to its unwieldy naming schemes, either, but here we are with the LG V60 ThinQ 5G (even more accurately, the LG V60 ThinQ 5G with LG Dual Screen). As the verbose name suggests, the device sports 5G connectivity, likely at a price that won’t require a second mortgage. No actual specifics on that yet, but the company has noted that it will be cheaper than Samsung’s pricey S20, and probably more in line with last year’s flagships — closer to a more reasonable $800.

The most interesting bit here — and frankly, the one reason I feel compelled to write about it — is the return of the second screen case. LG established its take on foldables last year, with a standard handset that converts into an optional dual-screen with an add-on case. In spite of having “thin” in its name, previously models were dinged for being far too bulky and thick when folded.

LG says it’s addressed that to some degree with a “new Dual Screen tips the scale at the same superbly portable weight as its predecessor, thanks to the thinner OLED panel.” From the looks of it, it’s still on the thick side, but that’s going to continue to be one of the downsides of a second screen that’s simple an add on. The other being that considerable bezel/hinge between the two screens.

The means the two massive 6.8 inch screens don’t really effectively combine into one contiguous display. The second screen is more effective for things like multi-tasking or using one of the screen as a game controller. We’re going to see similar functionality from products like the forthcoming Surface Duo.

Perhaps most remarkable of all here, however, is that LG is carrying a torch for the headphone jack, which stubbornly (and beneficially for some) hangs on for dear life into 2020. The device will hit retail at some point in the coming weeks.

Three-quarters of Americans lack confidence in tech companies’ ability to fight election interference

By Sarah Perez

A significant majority of Americans have lost faith in tech companies’ ability to prevent the misuse of their platforms to influence the 2020 presidential election, according to a new study from Pew Research Center, released today. The study found that nearly three-quarters of Americans (74%) don’t believe platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google will be able to prevent election interference. What’s more, this sentiment is felt by both political parties evenly.

Pew says that nearly identical shares of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (76%) and Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents (74%) have little or no confidence in technology companies’ ability to prevent their platforms’ misuse with regard to election interference.

And yet, 78% of Americans believe it’s tech companies’ job to do so. Slightly more Democrats (81%) took this position, compared with Republicans (75%).

While Americans had similar negative feelings about platforms’ misuse ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, their lack of confidence has gotten even worse over the past year. As of January 2020, 74% of Americans report having little confidence in the tech companies, compared with 66% back in September 2018. For Democrats, the decline in trust is even greater, with 74% today feeling “not too” confident or “not at all” confident, compared with 62% in September 2018. Republican sentiment has declined somewhat during this same time, as well, with 72% expressing a lack of confidence in 2018, compared with 76% today.

Even among those who believe the tech companies are capable of handling election interference, very few (5%) Americans feel “very” confident in their capabilities. Most of the optimists see the challenge as difficult and complex, with 20% saying they feel only “somewhat” confident.

Across age groups, both the lack of confidence in tech companies and a desire for accountability increase with age. For example, 31% of those 18 to 29 feel at least somewhat confident in tech companies’ abilities, versus just 20% of those 65 and older. Similarly, 74% of youngest adults believe the companies should be responsible for platform misuse, compared with 88% of the 65-and-up crowd.

Given the increased negativity felt across the board on both sides of the aisle, it would have been interesting to see Pew update its 2018 survey that looked at other areas of concern Republicans and Democrats had with tech platforms. The older study found that Republicans were more likely to feel social media platforms favored liberal views while Democrats were more heavily in favor of regulation and restricting false information.

Issues around election interference aren’t just limited to the U.S., of course. But news of Russia’s meddling in U.S. politics in particular — which involved every major social media platform — has helped to shape Americans’ poor opinion of tech companies and their ability to prevent misuse. The problem continues today, as Russia is being called out again for trying to intervene in the 2020 elections, according to several reports. At present, Russia’s focus is on aiding Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign in order to interfere with the Democratic primary, the reports said.

Meanwhile, many of the same vulnerabilities that Russia exploited during the 2016 elections remain, including the platforms’ ability to quickly spread fake news, for example. Russia is also working around blocks the tech companies have erected in an attempt to keep Russian meddling at bay. One report from The NYT said Russian hackers and trolls were now better at covering their tracks and were even paying Americans to set up Facebook pages to get around Facebook’s ban on foreigners buying political ads.

Pew’s report doesn’t get into any details as to why Americans have lost so much trust in tech companies since the last election, but it’s likely more than just the fallout from election interference alone. Five years ago, tech companies were viewed largely as having a positive impact on the U.S., Pew had once reported. But Americans no longer feel as they did, and now only around half of U.S. adults believe the companies are having a positive impact.

More Americans are becoming aware of how easily these massive platforms can be exploited and how serious the ramifications of those exploits have become across a number of areas, including personal privacy. It’s not surprising, then, that user sentiment around how well tech companies are capable of preventing election interference has declined, too, along with all the rest.

Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis talks 3D-printed rockets at TC Sessions: Space in LA

By Devin Coldewey

The launch industry is undergoing a number of major changes, among them the shift from traditional manufacturing to 3D printing — which Relativity Space is spearheading. The company plans to build 95% of its rocket using the world’s biggest 3D printers, and could launch as early as next year. Co-founder and CEO Tim Ellis will be on hand at TC Sessions: Space in Los Angeles on June 25 to talk all about it.

Relativity has been on our radar for a couple years now, and to be honest we were all a bit skeptical when the proposition of 3D printing a rocket was revealed. After all, additive manufacturing is known for its speed, not the strength or detail of its products. But our recent visit to the company’s bustling headquarters near LAX was an eye-opening one.

The challenges of this approach to rocketry are substantial, but the team has gone into it eyes open and the results are hard to argue with. Less mass, more strength, faster turnaround — and any drawbacks have been quantified and mitigated over countless tests and analyses.

Although the resulting components are in a way mechanically simpler than hand-assembled alternatives, the process of creating them is by no means simple itself. Ellis has been there for everything from the first wonky prints during their Y Combinator days to the latest high-precision, large-format ones going through live testing. He’ll be sharing insights on the startup journey, technical details, and plans for the company’s future on stage at TC Sessions: Space on June 25.

You can get early-bird tickets right now, and save $150 before prices go up on May 22 — and you can even bring a fifth person for free if you bring a group of four from your company. Special discounts for current members of the government/military/nonprofit and students are also available directly on the website. And if you are an early-stage space startup looking to get exposure to decision makers, you can even exhibit for the day for just $2,000.

This event will also feature a space startup pitch-off featuring five early-stage founders selected by TechCrunch editors. Applications open today; apply here.

Is your company interested in partnering at TC Sessions: Space 2020? Click here to talk with us about available opportunities.

Announcing the TC Pitch Night: Robotics + AI startups

By Neesha A. Tambe

The night before the Robotics + AI event at UC Berkeley, TechCrunch is hosting a private Pitch Night, featuring innovative startups in robotics and artificial intelligence. After reviewing hundreds of applications, TechCrunch selected the early-stage startups below to pitch in front of industry executives, TC writers and our expert panel of judges: Brian Heater (TC’s own Hardware Editor), Aaron Jacobson (NEA), Jennifer Roberts (Grit Ventures) and Rob Coneybeer (Shasta Ventures).

Founders will pitch in front of the crowd followed by a tough Q&A from the judges. After all companies have pitched, the judges will select the top five teams to demo onstage at the main event on March 3: TC Sessions: Robotics + AI.

Check out the featured companies here:

Augean Robotics
BlinkAI Technologies
Olis Robotics
Valyant AI

To see the startups pitching at the main event, book your $345 General Admission ticket today and save $50 before prices go up at the door. But no one likes going to events alone. Why not bring the whole team? Groups of four or more save 15% on tickets when you book here.

Huawei’s ill-fated foldable returns with a more robust upgrade

By Brian Heater

MWC may have been canceled on account of rising coronavirus concerns, but the party still went on for Huawei (albeit to what appears to have been a mostly empty room). A year after wowing crowds with the Mate X, the company is introducing the Mate Xs.

Rather than a proper successor, the device appears to be the result of Huawei’s decision to go back to the drawing board, following Samsung’s very public problems with its own original foldable.

The design looks nearly identical to the original version of the phone — which is a pro. Honestly, the one major downside of the device (aside from a lofty price tag) is the fact that it never fully arrived, outside of what appears to be a relatively small batch offering in China.

Like Samsung, Huawei’s update focused a lot on the hinge; with increased mechanical components, the product should be more rugged than the original. Keep in mind that, while we were able to play around with the original Mate X, that was about it. Personally, I saw one at MWC and had an opportunity to try one for a few minutes during lunch, between meetings at Huawei HQ in Shenzhen.

Now that foldables have arrived, it seems Huawei is finally ready to take the leap. Of course, one ought not forget the company’s ongoing issues here in the States that will not only make it more difficult to procure here, but also blocks access to Android apps and services. That will continue to be a major issue for the company’s products, going forward.

Price, too, will continue to be an issue, at around $2,700 when it goes up for sale in certain markets next month. That extremely inflated price gets you a 6.6-inch display, 5G, a beefy 4,500 mAh battery, the latest Kirin 990 chip, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Go big and/or go home, right?

Trump’s Election Day YouTube takeover plan feels very different in 2020

By Taylor Hatmaker

According to a report from Bloomberg, the Trump campaign called dibs on some of the most prized ad space online in the days leading up to the 2020 U.S. election.

Starting in early November and continuing onto Election Day itself, the campaign will reportedly command YouTube’s masthead, the space at the very top of the video sharing site’s homepage. YouTube is now the second most popular website globally after the online video platform overtook Facebook in web traffic back in 2018. Bloomberg didn’t report the details of the purchase, but the YouTube masthead space is reported to cost as much as a million dollars a day.

The Trump campaign’s ad buy is likely to rub the president’s many critics the wrong way, but it isn’t unprecedented. In 2012, the Obama campaign bought the same space before Mitt Romney landed the Republican nomination. It’s also not a first for the Trump campaign, which bought banner ads at the top of YouTube last June to send its own message during the first Democratic debate.

Screenshot of Trump campaign’s June 2019 YouTube ads via NPR/YouTube

In spite of the precedent, 2020 is a very different year for political money flowing to tech companies—one with a great degree of newfound scrutiny. The big tech platforms are still honing their respective rules for political advertising as November inches closer, but the kinks are far from ironed out and the awkward dance between politics and tech continues.

The fluidity of the situation is a boon to campaigns eager to plow massive amounts of cash into tech platforms. Facebook remains under scrutiny for its willingness to accept money for political ads containing misleading claims, even as the company is showered in cash by 2020 campaigns. Most notable among them is the controversial candidacy of multi-billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who spent a whopping $33 million on Facebook alone in the last 30 days. In spite of its contentious political ad policies, much-maligned Facebook offers a surprising degree of transparency around what runs on its platform through its robust political ad library, a tool that arose out of the controversy surrounding the 2016 U.S. election.

On the other end of the spectrum, Twitter opted to ban political ads altogether, and is currently working on a way to label “synthetic or manipulated media” intended to mislead users—an effort that could flag non-paid content by candidates, including a recent debate video doctored by the Bloomberg campaign. Twitter is working through its own policy issues in a relatively public way, embracing trial-and-error rather than carving its rules in stone.

Unlike Twitter, YouTube will continue to run political ads, but did mysteriously remove a batch of 300 Trump campaign ads last year without disclosing what policy the ads had violated. Google also announced that it would limit election ad targeting to a few high level categories (age, gender and zip code), a decision the Trump campaign called the “muzzling of political speech.” In spite of its strong stance on microtargeting, Google’s policies around allowing lies in political ads fall closer to Facebook’s anything-goes approach. Google makes a few exceptions, disallowing “misleading claims about the census process” and “false claims that could significantly undermine participation or trust in an electoral or democratic process,” the latter of which leaves an amphitheater-sized amount of room for interpretation.

In recent years, much of the criticism around political advertising has centered around the practice of microtargeting ads to hyper-specific sets of users, a potent technique made possible by the amount of personal data collected by modern social platforms and a strategy very much back in action in 2020. While Trump’s campaign leveraged that phenomenon to great success in 2016, Trump’s big YouTube ad buy is just one part of an effort to see what sticks, advertising to anybody and everybody in the splashiest spot online in the process.

YouTube declined to confirm the Trump campaign’s reported ad buy to TechCrunch, but noted that the practice of buying the YouTube masthead is “common” during elections.

“In the past, campaigns, PACs, and other political groups have run various types of ads leading up to election day,” the spokesperson said. “All advertisers follow the same process and are welcome to purchase the masthead space as long as their ads comply with our policies.”

These leaders are coming to Robotics + AI on March 3. Why aren’t you?

By Emma Comeau

TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics + AI brings together a wide group of the ecosystem’s leading minds on March 3 at UC Berkeley. Over 1000+ attendees are expected from all facets of the robotics and artificial intelligence space – investors, students, engineerings, C-levels, technologists, and researchers. We’ve compiled a small list of highlights of attendees’ companies and job titles attending this year’s event below.


  • ABB Technology Ventures, Vice President
  • Amazon, Head, re:MARS Product Marketing
  • Amazon Web Services, Principal Business Development Manager
  • Autodesk, Director, Robotics
  • AWS, Principal Technologist
  • BMW, R&D Engineer
  • Bosch Venture Capital, Investment Principal
  • Capital One, President of Critical Stack
  • Ceres Robotics Inc, CEO
  • Deloitte, Managing Director
  • Facebook AI Research, Research Lead
  • Ford X, Strategy & Operations
  • Goldman Sachs, Technology Investor
  • Google, Vice President
  • Google X, Director, Robotics
  • Greylock, EIR
  • Hasbro, Principal Engineer
  • Honda R&D Americas Inc., Data Engineer
  • HSBC, Global Relationship Manager
  • Huawei Technologies, Principal System Architect of Corporate Technology Strategy
  • Hyundai CRADLE, Industrial Design
  • Intel, Hardware Engineer
  • Intuit, Inc., Software Engineer
  • iRobot, CTO
  • John Deere, Director, Precision Ag Marketing and Innovation
  • Kaiser Permanente, Director
  • Kawasaki Heavy Industries (USA), Inc., Technical Director
  • LG Electronics, Head of Engineering
  • LockHeed Martin, Engineering Manager
  • Moody’s Analytics, Managing Director
  • Morgan Stanley, Executive Director
  • NASA, Senior Systems Architect
  • Nestle, Innovation Manager
  • NVIDIA, Senior Systems Software Engineer
  • Qualcomm Ventures, Investment Director
  • Samsung, Director, Open Innovations & Tech Partnership
  • Samsung Ventures, Managing Director
  • Shasta Ventures, Investor
  • Softbank Ventures Asia, Investor
  • Surgical Theater, SVP Engineering
  • Takenaka Corporation, Senior Manager, Technology Planning
  • Techstars, Managing Director
  • Tesla, Sr. Machine Learning Engineer
  • Toyota Research Institute, Manager, Prototyping & Robotics Operations
  • Uber, Engineering Manager
  • UPS, Director of Research and Development


  • Columbia University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Harvard University
  • Northwestern University
  • Santa Clara University
  • Stanford University
  • Texas A&M University
  • UC Berkeley
  • UC Davis
  • UCLA
  • USC
  • Yale University

Did you know that TechCrunch provides a white-glove networking app at all our events called CrunchMatch? You can connect and match with people who meet your specific requirements, message them, and connect right at the conference. How cool is that!?

Want to get in on networking with this caliber of people? Book your $345 General Admission ticket today and save $50 before prices go up at the door. But no one likes going to events alone. Why not bring the whole team? Groups of four or more save 15% on tickets when you book here.