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Fire up CrunchMatch today and start networking with TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 attendees

By Alexandra Ames

You read that right, folks. CrunchMatch, our AI-powered platform that simplifies finding and connecting with the people on your must-meet list, is now open for business. TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place on September 21-23, but why wait to get your network mojo working?

Granted, networking can sometimes feel like a contact sport, especially at a global event with more than 10,000 attendees. But CrunchMatch brings measured calm and efficiency to the game — and you get a three-week head start, to boot.

Shameless marketing plug: Buy your Disrupt 2021 pass now and hop on board the opportunity express.

With CrunchMatch you can access the entire Disrupt attendee list and start searching for opportunities — no matter what kind of connection you need to drive your business forward. Find founders or investors? Check. Cultivate new customers? Check. Meet mentors, marketers and manufacturers? Check, check and check.

Based on the info you provided during registration, CrunchMatch searches for suitable candidates and sends out invitations so you can line up RSVPs in advance (you retain control over who you meet — it’s not SkyNet). Set up 1:1 video meetings, pitch investors, demo products or interview prospective employees.

Here’s how two founders describe their experience using CrunchMatch.

CrunchMatch made it easy to set up short networking sessions, and I used it to meet with founders in adjacent areas like climate or B2B SaaS. I met interesting people I wouldn’t necessarily have connected with otherwise. — Ashley Barrington, founder, MarketPearl.

The CrunchMatch networking platform is such a smart, useful tool. It lets you see who’s there, find the right people and reach out for a meeting. I scheduled five or six appointments in one day. The meetings were small, intimate and very informative. — Felicia Jackson, inventor and founder of CPRWrap.

You know who else is on the Disrupt attendee list? Media outlets. Yeah, this is a great opportunity to pitch your startup to an accredited tech journalist. They’re hunting for great stories. Why not help them tell yours?

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place on September 21-23, and the CrunchMatch networking platform is waiting for you with its AI arms wide open. Save time, increase productivity and use these next three weeks to super-charge your Disrupt experience.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Kai-Fu Lee and Chen Qiufan will share their vision of our AI-powered future at Disrupt

By Devin Coldewey

We’ve had visionary investors onstage before, and we’ve had science fiction authors onstage — but never at the same time, let alone a pair who collaborated on a unique book of stories and essays that make an optimistic prediction of our AI-infused future. Sinovation founder Kai-Fu Lee and author of “Waste Tide” and others Chen Qiufan will join us at Disrupt (September 21-23) for a discussion of the fiction and fact of today’s hottest technology.

Lee, born in Taiwan, attended CMU and obtained a PhD in computer science, working initially on speech recognition before working for Apple, SGI and Microsoft, then establishing Google China as its president. His research and investment company, Sinovation (originally Innovation Works) has been his focus since its founding in 2009, and he has grown to become a leading mind and influential figure in AI.

When we last spoke with Lee, at Disrupt SF 2018, he emphasized that China was catching up to the U.S. on AI research, and had surpassed it in some ways. And certainly his own investments have contributed to that. Since then, as someone who thinks frequently about what the future holds, he has found a kindred spirit in Chen Qiufan.

Qiufan is a Chinese author whose 2013 novel “Waste Tide” propelled him to literary fame, though like many authors, that wasn’t enough to make him quit his day job until a few years later (Wired only just ran a profile on him). But by that time he had attracted the attention of Lee, who proposed a novel project: a collaborative book where the two would put their heads together to create a fictitious future informed by fact and realistic extrapolation.

The result is “AI 2041”: 10 stories by Qiufan set in the titular year, all over the world, with people from all walks of life encountering AI in the many ways that the authors speculate it may come to shape society over the next two decades. Each is followed by an explanatory essay by Lee that goes into the technical aspects and why they might lead to that future.

I’ll be posting a full review of the book ahead of the event, but I can certainly say that it’s unlike any collection I’ve read before. Each story is independent but takes place in something like a shared world, and each illustrates a potential application, conflict or change in thinking that AI could lead to. And, importantly, the AI is recognizable as descended directly from existing technologies.

For instance, one story concerns a talented deepfake creator working out of Lagos, one who knows the ins and outs of generative adversarial networks, image inspection, media pathways and so on. He’s tasked with creating a video of a long-dead celebrity that fools not just people watching it but the hosting service’s automated scanners, the government’s facial recognition algorithms and all the rest — but he begins to suspect there’s an unsavory motive behind it all (I won’t spoil the rest).

What follows the story is Lee’s essay on GANs, facial recognition and deepfakes that explains the concepts in an understandable but not patronizing way, then explores the risks and benefits in a non-narrative way. It helps ground the stories as real possibilities, not just imagined situations.

With both Qiufan and Lee onstage (virtually this time), the discussion of the book and the issues it brings up should be a lively one — not least because it will be moderated by yours truly. But to catch this session, you’ll need to grab a pass to attend Disrupt happening September 21-23. Get yours today for less than $100 for a limited time!

Canva CEO Melanie Perkins will tell us about the journey to a $15B valuation at Disrupt

By Jordan Crook

The design space has undergone major changes in the last decade. What once was dominated by a single player in Adobe has now become a burgeoning software landscape, with a handful of major players answering the needs of designers across every industry.

One such player is Canva, the startup valued at over $15 billion. The company started out with a consumer-facing product, making design accessible to non-designers. But on the back of launching an enterprise-centric suite of tools, the growth of Sydney-based Canva has been staggering.

So it should come as no surprise that we’re absolutely thrilled to have Canva co-founder and CEO Melanie Perkins join us at Disrupt (Sept 21-23) for a fireside chat.

Since launching the company in 2013, Perkins has led its growth to now see more than 55 million users each month, ranging from individual creators to SMBs to Fortune 500 companies.

We’ll talk to Perkins about how she shifted the company from individual creators to a B2B platform, what it’s like to run an industry-specific startup in the midst of a fundamental evolution — see: Design may be the next entrepreneurial gold rush — and how she’s handled this period of monumental growth for the company.

Perkins joins a stellar lineup of speakers at Disrupt, including Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Calendly’s Tope Awotona, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, Houseplant’s Seth Rogen and investor Chamath Palihapitiya, among many others. Check out a full list of speakers here. Disrupt is less than a month away and you can still get your pass to access it all for less than $100! Register today.

 

Find trends, advice and value at these special breakout sessions during TC Disrupt 2021

By Alexandra Ames

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place September 21-23, and we’re here to call out just some of the awesome content we have scheduled over three very busy days. The Disrupt agenda so far features more than 80 interviews, panel discussions, events and breakout sessions that span the startup tech spectrum… with more to come!

You gotta pay to play: Buy your pass to Disrupt 2021 here and open a door to opportunity.

Let’s talk about the special breakout sessions, which are hosted by our partners. These smaller sessions deliver real value and, according to attendee feedback, that holds true across all TechCrunch events.

I enjoyed the big marquee speakers from companies like Uber, but it was the individual breakout presentations where you really started to get into the meat of the conversation and see how these mobile partnerships come to life. — Karin Maake, senior director of communications at FlashParking

There was always something interesting going on in one of the breakout sessions, and I was impressed by the quality of the people participating. Partners in well-known VC firms spoke, they were accessible, and they shared smart, insightful nuggets. You will not find this level of people accessible and in one place anywhere else. — Michael McCarthy, CEO of Repositax

Now’s the time to start planning your Disrupt 2021 schedule, and you don’t want to miss out on these informative presentations.

The Missing Block to Bring Crypto to the Masses

With the emergence of concepts such as NFT and GameFi, socialization prosperities are bringing new energy to the crypto world. Known as the People’s Exchange, KuCoin is committed to exploring disruptive technologies and genius ideas to bring crypto closer to the masses. In this session, you will hear from KuCoin CEO Johnny Lyu on what is the outlook of the evolving crypto market and how to achieve better trading experience for cryptocurrency investors. Brought to you by KuCoin.

Humanizing AI: How Brands Are Revolutionizing Customer Experience in an increasingly Digital World

Empathy deficit is the largest imminent threat to a businesses’ growth, but there’s hope. Humanized AI is allowing brands to create empathetic customer experiences by offering uniquely personal interactions with digital people. But what is empathy, really? And how can it help brands and storytellers better connect with their audiences in a cookie-less world? Soul Machines’ co-founder and CBO Greg Cross explains how embracing AI could be just the competitive advantage your brand needs. Brought to you by Soul Machines.

Revolutionizing the Global Metaverse Economy

Together Labs is leveraging the power of blockchain technology to create the new metaverse economy where users can buy, sell, invest and shape its future. Earlier this year, Together Labs launched VCOIN, the first global, digital currency that can be used in and out of the metaverse. VCOIN makes it possible for users to play to earn real value and then convert that value to cash. Soon, Together Labs will introduce additional blockchain offerings to accelerate the transition to a complete blockchain economy, setting the economic model for other metaverses to follow. Brought to you by VCOIN.

Securing Your journey to IPO from the start

Without the right governance tools in place at a company’s inception, a business becomes susceptible to risks as it scales. Adopting governance practices early in a business’s growth process sets them up for long-term growth and a successful IPO. Hear leadership perspectives for securing your business growth in a time of rapid change. Brought to you by Diligent Corporation.

You’ve Raised Your Seed Round — Now What? Preparing for Your Series A

The first hurdle has been cleared: initial funding is in the bank. You’re hiring more talent, seeing the beginnings of a finished product with clear evidence of traction and experiencing the coveted growth that previously felt just out of reach. Before you know it, the decision to raise for what is arguably the most competitive round is staring you in the face. In this panel, join Samsung Next’s David Lee alongside founders Kadie Okwudili (Agapé), Andy Hoang (Aviron), and Jim Bugwadia (Nirmata) as they discuss the learnings and nuances of bridging seed to Series A. Brought to you by Samsung Next.

Korea Pavilion Pitch Session – Hosted by KOTRA

We present the 13 pioneering Korean companies that will enrich our lives with their innovative edge. The companies specialize in various technologies, including Green Tech, AR/VR, 3D Display, AI & Big Data and Cybersecurity. Don’t miss your chance to catch a glimpse of ingenuity from the technology powerhouse. Brought to you by KOTRA.

Eliminating Styrofoam Protective Packaging

Over 380 million tons of plastic are produced every year and 50% of that is for single-use purposes such as product packaging. Until now, companies have been hard-pressed to find a replacement for Styrofoam for protecting fragile items like electronics and appliances. John Felts of Cruz Foam will discuss the development of bio-benign, compostable alternative materials. Tom Chi of At One Ventures will talk about the importance of investing in environmental and climate entrepreneurs. Moderator Scott Cassel of PSI will lead the discussion on how the packaging value chain can create a truly circular economy. Brought to you by Cruz Foam.

Powering What’s Next: Insights from the Enterprise Software Market

Spurred by digital transformation and the recent shift to remote work, the enterprise software industry has gone from strength-to-strength and competition for deals and valuations are at all-time highs. While investor appetite for enterprise software may be strong, it doesn’t mean that all tech businesses make worthy investments. In this panel, hear from Michael Fosnaugh and Monti Saroya, co-heads of Vista’s Flagship investment strategy, and a selection of Vista CEOs on the hallmarks of best-in-class software companies and trends driving the industry. Brought to you by Vista Equity Partners.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place September 21-23. Don’t have your pass yet? Buy one here and check out the breakout sessions for trends, advice and opportunities to help grow your business.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

We’re focusing on fintech at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021

By Alexandra Ames

Do you dig digital currency? Dream about decentralized finance, need to know NFTs? Maybe you’re just crypto-curious. Heck, check “all of the above” and get ready to focus on fintech at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 on September 21-23.

Disrupt is known for bringing the top experts, visionaries, founders, investors and makers to the stage, and this year we’ve packed more than 80 stellar presentations, events and breakout sessions into three full days.

Join the discussion: Buy your pass today and get ready to hear from the leading voices across the tech spectrum.

With such a wealth of options, here are just some of the sessions dedicated to the topic of fintech in its myriad forms. Plus, we’ll have a dedicated Disrupt Desk session where industry experts and TechCrunch editors will break it down with deep-analysis, insight and likely a laugh or two. Peruse the full Disrupt agenda for specific days and times. Ready? Behold.

Collecting Crypto Opportunities

Dapper Labs launched the digital collectible craze into the mainstream earlier this year with its smash hit NBA Top Shot. Hear from CEO Roham Gharegozlou who, even amid sinking NFT sales, has big ambitions for the space. His startup recently hit a $7.5 billion valuation and aims to own the NFT ecosystem with its Flow blockchain product.

Breaking the Bank

Coinbase’s massive direct listing earlier this year couldn’t have come at a better time as peaking crypto enthusiasm reached market exuberance. Hear from CEO Brian Armstrong who, amid a major market correction, is tasked once again with building for the future and navigating volatility while fending off global competitors knocking at their door.

Bankrolling Web 3.0

At $2.2 billion, Andreessen Horowitz’s third crypto-centric fund is its largest vertical-specific bet ever and a signal of just how crucial blockchain tech and decentralized finance is to the firm’s future. Hear from General Partner Katie Haun who co-leads the crypto team tasked with tracking down the firm’s next Coinbase, which returned billions for the firm.

Revolutionizing the Global Metaverse Economy

Together Labs is leveraging the power of blockchain technology to create the new metaverse economy where users can buy, sell, invest and shape its future. Earlier this year, Together Labs launched VCOIN, the first global, digital currency that can be used in and out of the metaverse. VCOIN makes it possible for users to play to earn real value and then convert that value to cash. Soon, the company will introduce additional blockchain offerings to accelerate the transition to a complete blockchain economy, setting the economic model for other metaverses to follow. Presented by VCOIN.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place on September 21-23. Get your pass today and hear the absolute latest trends in fintech — and so much more.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Techstars’ Saba Karim is coming to TechCrunch Disrupt 2021

By Alex Wilhelm

Good news, TechCrunch family, Techstars’ Saba Karim is coming to Disrupt (Sept 21-23) this year.

With a great vantage point from his perspective as Global Startup Pipeline Manager at Techstars, Karim will be hosting a session on the Extra Crunch stage discussing how to craft a pitch deck that cannot be ignored. It’s a popular topic not only because of how important decks remain in today’s venture capital world, but also because what they should contain slowly changes over time — what not to include, as well.

Karim has a background in making people pay attention. Before he had his current role at Techstars, he was CMO at Evolve, for example. Earlier in his career, Karim helped found and run Rawberry in Australia, before working for Telstra. He was also the marketing director at T.H. Capital Ventures in Sydney, before jetting to Boston to work as the VP of growth at StartupCMO.

And as an investor — he writes checks to startups working in the future of work sphere, for example — he has seen pitch decks good, and pitch decks bad. We’re excited to have him aboard to help save our founder-heavy audience time and effort.

In case you need a refresher, Karim is joining what could be our strongest-ever Disrupt speaking cohort. Tope Awotona, the founder and CEO of Calendly is coming. Coinbase’s Brian Armstrong is making what I think is his third appearance at Disrupt. Mercedes Bent from Lightspeed Venture partners is coming. Salesforce’s Stewart Butterfield will be there. Hell, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is coming.

If you are in the startup world, it’s going to be a must-attend event, thanks in no small part to what Karim will be bringing to the show. And your humble servant will be hosting the Extra Crunch stage, so I will see you there! Disrupt is less than a month away and you can still get your pass to access it all for less than $100! Register today.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 kicks off in less than a month

By Alexandra Ames

We’re less than one month away from kicking off our flagship global event, TechCrunch Disrupt 2021. And we’re feeling the adrenaline rush that can only come when more than 10,000 startup icons, experts, founders, investors and makers gather to learn, inspire, connect, collaborate, compete and network.

Buy your pass here and brace yourself for three full days of Disrupt.

Let’s take a look at just some of the opportunities that can help you move the needle on your startup aspirations.

You’ll find plenty of startup action on two distinct stages. First up, the Disrupt main stage featuring in-depth interviews and panel discussions with a who’s-who of tech, policy and celebrity-slash-entrepreneurial talent — like Calendly CEO Tope Awotona, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and movie-star-turned-pot-businessman Seth Rogen.

The Extra Crunch stage is where you’ll find a deep bench of subject-matter experts sharing practical how-to content. You’ll take away actionable insights you can put into practice now — when you need it most. We’re talking essential topics like How to Raise Your First Dollars and The Subtle Challenges of Assessing Product-Market Fit.

Tip of the tech iceberg: Check out the full Disrupt 2021 agenda and don’t forget — your pass includes video-on-demand. You can relax knowing you won’t miss a single presentation.

Don’t miss the hundreds of innovative startups strutting their considerable stuff in Startup Alley, the virtual expo area. Dive into an ocean of opportunity — ask for a product demo, schedule a 1:1 video meeting or explore potential ways to collaborate.

Networking is a huge part of Disrupt, and you’ll find multiple ways to make valuable connections. Whether they happen spontaneously in our virtual event platform (the chat is where it’s at!) or curated meetups through CrunchMatch, our AI-powered platform, you’ll meet smart, exciting people eager to make a business connection. Who knows where a simple conversation can lead?

Don’t miss Startup Battlefield — the epic pitch competition that launched big-name companies like Dropbox, Mint, TripIt, Vurb and many more. Top early-stage startups from around the world — from any country and industry — will compete for a shot at $100,000 in equity-free prize money. You might just catch the next unicorn in its pony stage. It’s more than thrilling — as noted by Jessica McLean, director of Marketing and Communications, Infinite-Compute:

Watching the Startup Battlefield was fantastic. You could see the ingenuity and innovation happening in different technology spaces. Just looking at the sheer number of other pitch decks and hearing the judges tear them down and give feedback was very helpful.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place September 21-23 — that’s less than a month away, folks! Buy your pass, plan your schedule and get ready to join your people and move your business forward.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Get your pitch-off on with our Disrupt Startup Alley companies on upcoming episodes of Extra Crunch Live

By Jordan Crook

Disrupt is right around the corner, and this year the show is packed to the brim with incredible panels and conversations, an absolutely stacked Startup Battlefield cohort of companies launching on our stage, investor insights and a virtual expo hall full of exciting new products and services in the Startup Alley.

We can’t wait! Literally. So we’re giving you guys a sneak peek at some of the startups you might see at Disrupt in upcoming episodes of Extra Crunch Live.

Usually, the Extra Crunch Live crew sits down with founders and the investors who finance them to learn how they decided to partner with one another and, ultimately, how startups can get to “yes” when fundraising. In the latter half of the episode, those same guests give live feedback to folks in the audience who come on our virtual stage and pitch their products.

Truth be told, everyone loves a good pitch-off. So in these upcoming Startup Alley Edition episodes of Extra Crunch Live, we’re turning the entire episode into a pitch-off. SUA companies will come on stage, one at a time, and have exactly 60 seconds to get us excited about their startup. But it wouldn’t be a true pitch-off without some expert feedback.

I’m excited to announce the investors joining us on these episodes to share their insights and wisdom with both the startups and the audience.

On September 1, we’ll be joined by Neil Sequeira, founder at defy.vc, as well as Stacey Bishop, partner at Scale Venture Partners.

Image Credits: Elena Zhukova / Scale Venture Partners

Sequeira was managing director at General Catalyst before venturing out to start Defy. Before GC, he was at TimeWarner Investments and was a founding member of AOLTW Ventures. Defy has a portfolio that includes Airspace, HonorLock, Novi and more. Sequeira has served on more than 40 company boards, so it should go without saying that he’ll have plenty of insightful feedback for our founders.

Bishop brings more than 20 years of investment experience to our little pitch-off. She currently serves on the boards of Abstract, Airspace, Demandbase, Extole, Lever and more. Bishop has also served on several boards where the company has seen a successful exit, including HubSpot, Bizible and Vitrue. Bishop specializes in business applications and will have lots to share with our pitch-off startups.  Register here for Extra Crunch Live with defy.vc and Scale Venture Partners.

On September 8, we’ll be joined by Next47 CEO and Managing Partner Lak Ananth and Moxxie Ventures founder and General Partner Katie Stanton.

Image Credits: Next47 / Amanda Aude

Ananth serves as founding CEO at Next47, which is backed by Siemens AG. He’s sat on several boards where he has helped the companies grow beyond $1 billion valuations. Ananth specializes in emerging areas of deep tech, including AI/ML, vertical SaaS, robotics, mobility, etc. Some of Ananth’s current investments include Verkada, rideOS and Markforged.

Katie Stanton has been an executive and an operator for much of her career, holding roles at Twitter, Google, Yahoo and Color across a wide variety of departments, including marketing, comms, recruiting, product and media. Stanton also served in the Obama White House and State Department after getting her career started as a banker at JP Morgan. She currently sits on the board of Vivendi and has invested in dozens of early-stage companies, including Airtable, Cameo, Carta, Coinbase, Literati, Modern Fertility, Shape Security and Threads. Register here for Extra Crunch Live with Next47 and Moxxie Ventures. 

You don’t want to miss these episodes of Extra Crunch Live. Register (for free) to come hang out with us!

UiPath CEO Daniel Dines is coming to TC Sessions: SaaS to talk RPA and automation

By Ron Miller

UiPath came seemingly out of nowhere in the last several years, going public last year in a successful IPO during which it raised over $527 million. It raised $2 billion in private money prior to that with its final private valuation coming in at an amazing $35 billion. UiPath CEO Daniel Dines will be joining us on a panel on automation at TC Sessions: Saas on October 27th.

The company has been able capture all this investor attention doing something called Robotic Process Automation, which provides a way to automate a series of highly mundane tasks. It has become quite popular, especially to help bring a level of automation to legacy systems that might not be able to handle more modern approaches to automation involving artificial intelligence and machine learning. In 2019 Gartner found that RPA was the fastest growing category in enterprise software.

In point of fact,  UiPath didn’t actually come out of nowhere. It was founded in 2005 as a consulting company and transitioned to software over the years. The company took its first VC funding, a modest $1.5 million seed round in 2015, according to Crunchbase data.

As RPA found its market, the startup began to take off, raising gobs of money including a $568 million round in April 2019 and $750 million in its final private raise in February 2021.

Dines will be appearing on a panel discussing the role of automation in the enterprise. Certainly, the pandemic drove home the need for increased automation as masses of office workers moved to work from home, a trend that is likely to continue even after the pandemic slows.

As the RPA market leader, he is uniquely positioned to discuss how this software and other similar types will evolve in the coming years and how it could combine with related trends like no-code and process mapping. Dines will be joined on the panel by investor Laela Sturdy from Capital G and ServiceNow’s Dave Wright where they will discuss the state of the automation market, why it’s so hot and where the next opportunities could be.

In addition to our discussion with Dines, the conference will also include Databricks’ Ali Ghodsi, Salesforce’s Kathy Baxter and Puppet’s Abby Kearns, as well as investors Casey Aylward and Sarah Guo, among others. We hope you’ll join us. It’s going to be a stimulating day.

Buy your pass now to save up to $100. We can’t wait to see you in October!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Seth Rogen is coming to TechCrunch Disrupt to talk about the weed business

By Matt Burns

TechCrunch is thrilled to announce Seth Rogen is coming to TechCrunch Disrupt this September. The movie-star-turned-pot-businessman is speaking on his latest venture: Houseplant, his privately funded entrée into the cannabis business.

Houseplant made a big splash when it launched in 2021, and it continues to get a lot of attention in the noisy world of cannabis. But, of course, having Seth Rogen involved helps keep the company relevant.

You know Seth. Seth Rogen is one of the biggest stars in the entertainment world and isn’t shy about his use of cannabis — the plant is nearly a co-star in each of his movies. And now he’s selling different strains and lifestyle house goods, too.

Houseplant quickly gained a large following. As a result, we have a lot of questions. First, we want to know about Houseplant’s trajectory and its involvement with the cannabis giant, Canopy Growth. And then there’s Houseplant’s use of social media, which is instrumental in the company’s success. How can other cannabis companies learn from Houseplant’s strategies? And then there’s the celebrity angle, too. How can a brand net a high-profile spokesperson or investor, and at what cost?

Houseplant isn’t just a variety project for co-founders Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. This company can become a significant player in the cannabis world, and we’re thrilled to have Seth on our stage, answering questions and giving advice.

Passes are now available for the virtual show and there’s a handful of pass options with discounts for founders, students and non-profits. Get your ticket soon though, prices more than double on September 20. We hope to see you online.

Affordable student passes available for TC Sessions: SaaS 2021

By Alexandra Ames

If you’re a current student or a recent grad with a burning passion for data, software and artificial intelligence, we want you to join us on October 27 for TC Sessions: SaaS 2021. The software-as-a-service sector keeps growing rapidly — both in size and sophistication, and it’s going to require a deep bench of thinkers, makers and technologists to create and wrangle a data-driven future.

We want to foster the next generation, and we’ve set aside discounted, budget-friendly passes especially for students. Register for your $35 student pass and get ready to meet, network with and learn from the global SaaS community’s most influential founders, makers and investors.

Your student pass provides full access to all the day’s events — main stage presentations, panel discussions, breakout sessions and networking with CrunchMatch. Video-on-demand takes care of any schedule conflicts — you don’t have to miss a single presentation.

A quick word about networking at TC Sessions: SaaS. Whether you’re hunting for internships, employment, mentorship, a co-founder or investors, you won’t find a better place or opportunity to meet the people who can help you launch your dreams.

Deal Sweetener: Your pass includes a free, one-month subscription to Extra Crunch, our members-only program featuring exclusive daily articles for founders and startup teams.

While we’re not quite ready to reveal the full agenda, we can share some of the speakers we have lined up. And (not-so-humble-brag) what a group it is so far.

We’re talking folks like investors Casey Aylward (Costanoa Ventures) and Sarah Guo (Greylock), Databricks’ Ali Ghodsi, Javier Soltero, Google’s head of Workspace, UiPath’s Daniel Dines, Puppet’s Abby Kearns and Monte Carlo co-founder, CEO and data junkie extraordinaire, Barr Moses.

Who would you love to hear from at TC Sessions: SaaS? The TechCrunch editorial team is accepting recommendations for speakers. Submit your recommendations here no later than 11:59 pm (PT) on September 29.

Register here for updates and keep your fingers on the pulse of this event as we announce new speakers, events and ticket discounts.

TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 takes place on October 27. Jump on this student discount, join the global SaaS community and take advantage of every opportunity.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Hear how Cityblock Health’s Toyin Ajayi, Carbon Health’s Eren Bali and Forward’s Adrian Aoun see tech impacting access to health at Disrupt 2021

By Darrell Etherington

If there’s one thing that the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has proven, it’s that the healthcare system in the U.S. is in drastic need of major transformation. One of the biggest issues to be highlighted by the pandemic in particular is the iniquity in access to care, but there are signs that one of the effects of COVID-19 will be a stepping up of accessibility reform driven in particular by technology.

At Disrupt 2021, we’re thrilled to have three guests onstage for a panel discussion all about how tech companies are working to address access gaps in healthcare. From Cityblock Health, we’ll host co-founder and Chief Health Officer Toyin Ajayi; from Carbon Health, co-founder and CEO Eren Bali; and from Forward, CEO and co-founder Adrian Aoun.

Cityblock Health is the first tech-driven provider for communities with complex health and social needs — bringing better care to neighborhoods where it’s needed most. Cityblock’s goal is to foster a model of care that meets individuals where they are, delivering highly personalized primary care, behavioral healthcare and social services to its members, with a focus on those who access Medicaid, are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare, and others living in lower-income neighborhoods.

Carbon Health has a goal of making good healthcare accessible to all, with same-day appointment booking, telehealth services and prescription delivery, facilitated through partnerships with some of the leading insurers and payers in the U.S. The company has taken a central role in vaccine administration in California, and continues to evolve its model of modular healthcare delivery to reach communities where primary care hasn’t traditionally been readily available.

Forward is an AI-based healthcare system combining world-class private doctors with new technology to enable proactive, data-driven primary care. Starting with cutting edge in-clinic and at-home biometric data measurement, Forward aims to tailor its primary care to individuals in a combination that delivers both scalability and personalization. The company also espouses a direct-to-consumer, subscription-based model of care that it argues avoids some of the traditional pitfalls of insurance-backed care.

We’re excited to be able to dig in to these very different approaches to healthcare, that still all share the fundamental goal of making a higher-quality standard of care available to more people.

During the three-day event, writer, director, actor and Houseplant co-founder Seth Rogen will be joined by Houseplant Chief Commercial Officer Haneen Davies and co-founder and CEO Michael Mohr to talk about the business of weed, BioNTech co-founder and CEO Uğur Şahin will dive into what’s next for mRNA technologies after COVID, and Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong will dig into the volatile world of cryptocurrency and his company’s massive direct listing earlier this year.

Disrupt 2021 wouldn’t be complete without Startup Battlefield, the competition that has launched some of the world’s biggest tech companies, including Cloudflare and Dropbox. Join Ajayi, Bali, Aoun and more than 10,000 of the startup world’s most influential people at Disrupt 2021 online this September 21-23. Check out the Disrupt 2021 agenda here. We’ll add even more speakers soon.

Buy your Disrupt pass before September 20, and get ready to join the big, bold and influential — for less than $100. Get your pass to attend now for under $99 for a limited time!

 

Here’s everything Samsung announced this morning

By Greg Kumparak

While it was one of the less hyped gadget debuts in recent memory, Samsung blasted out a series of announcements at an Unpacked event bright and early this morning.

Too busy to tune in? Still asleep when it all went down? Here’s the slimmed down version of everything you need to know.

Galaxy Watch 4

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Samsung is back with another set of smartwatches, this time with a twist: after years of focusing on their own operating system with Tizen, these latest watches are back on Google’s Wear OS. Or, at least, Samsung’s take on it — this software build will be called “Wear OS Powered by Samsung”, and will borrow some of the best bits of Tizen while being Wear OS at its core.

Samsung went deep on health metrics this time around, focusing much of the announcement on the Watch’s ability to constantly monitor things like blood pressure, blood oxygen, and body composition.

This year’s watch comes in two forms: Galaxy Watch 4, and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic. The standard Watch 4 is a bit thinner and lighter, with a touch-sensitive bezel for controlling the interface; Watch 4 Classic bulks things up a bit, with a bezel that physically spins. Watch 4 starts at $250 and comes in 40mm or 44mm, while Watch 4 Classic bumps the base price to $350 and comes in 42mm or 46mm.

Read the full announcement post here

Galaxy Z Fold 3

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Pricey and with plenty of problems to work out of the earliest versions, folding smartphones haven’t exactly taken over the world. Hell, most people probably still haven’t seen a folding phone in person. But Samsung isn’t done in this space just yet!

This morning the company announced the Galaxy Z Fold 3, its third iteration on the hotdog-style folding phone approach. They’ve managed to drop the price tag a bit (from $2000 to $1800), while bumping up the overall build quality — its got a stronger aluminum frame, a more durable folding display, and it’s waterproofed (a first for the Samsung foldables!) up to an IPX8 rating. (One catch: that “x” means it’ll survive an accidental dunk in the tub, but you still want to keep it away from dust/debris.)

The Fold 3 will be the first Samsung device with an under-display camera — an awesome trick, albeit one that generally comes at the expense of picture quality. The back of the device brings in three more (more standard, less hidden) lenses — ultra wide, wide-angle, and telephoto, all coming in at 12 megapixels each. Oh, and it supports the S Pen stylus now!

Expect this one to start shipping on the 26th of this month.

Find more specs and details in our full post here.

Galaxy Z Flip 3

Image Credits: Brian Heater

While the flagship Fold 3 took up most of the folding spotlight today, Samsung’s relatively entry-level (clamshell!) foldable gets an update too with the announcement of the Galaxy Z Flip 3.

The Flip 3 will get many of the same durability improvements coming to the aforementioned Fold 3, including the improved aluminum body, more durable display, and IPX8 water resistance. It’s got a 10MP selfie cam on the inside, with two 12MP cameras (ultra wide and wide Angle) on the outside. At $999 — nearly $400 less than the last one — it’s the first time Samsung has managed to drag its foldable line into the sub-$1k price range. It’s got a bigger cover screen (the screen that shows whenever the device is folded shut) this time around, at 1.9″ versus last-gen’s 1.1″.

As with everything else announced today, it starts shipping on August 26th. Find our full post on the Flip 3 here.

Galaxy Buds 2

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Samsung also debuted a new generation of its entry-level wireless earbuds today, and everything you need to know could fit in a tweet: they’re smaller and lighter and have active noise cancellation, and will ship on August 26th for $149.

Want more details? Here’s the full post.

Less plastic!

They kinda snuck this one in at the end, but it’s worth a highlight: Samsung is committing to eliminating all single-use plastic from its phone packaging by 2025, with plans to dramatically increase its use of recycled material across its mobile products by the same year. Given that Samsung ships more phones per quarter than any other company on the planet, thats huge — and, hopefully, an example others will follow.

Don’t miss these special breakout sessions at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021

By Alexandra Ames

Go ahead and add “produce a world-class tech conference” to the long list of items that can complete the expression “It takes a village to…” TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 runs September 21-23, and we’d like to take a moment to give a major shout-out to a vital part of the TechCrunch village — our sponsors.

Admin Tip: Buy your pass to Disrupt before the price goes up on September 20.

TechCrunch sponsors don’t just write a check; they bring their deep knowledge and expertise to the party to help early-stage founders move their business to the next level and beyond. Michael McCarthy, the CEO of Repositax, attended Disrupt 2020 and shared his thoughts on the breakout sessions with us:

There was always something interesting going on in one of the breakout sessions, and I was impressed by the quality of the people participating. Partners in well-known VC firms spoke, they were accessible, and they shared smart, insightful nuggets. You will not find this level of people accessible and in one place anywhere else.

We have an impressive slate again this year, and our enormous thanks go out to our TC Disrupt 2021 sponsors: Aerospace Corporation, Cedar, Checkr, Connection, Foxxum, Google Cloud, hub.brussels, Mambu, rlaxx TV, SeedInvest, Sentry Software and Xero.

Let’s take a look at the sponsored breakout sessions scheduled over three days. You’ll find them, along with more than 50 other presentations, in the Disrupt 2021 agenda.

You Complete Me: In the age of the composable ecosystems, we’re all partners now — from frenemies to pure collaborations. So why is now, more than ever, the right time to invite friends and challengers to the table? The truth is we have to build for an unknown future, with a shared strategy and value outcome. Join Elliot Limb, chief customer offer at Mambu, to learn five ways to encourage more symbiotic relationships in the platform economy. Presented by Mambu.

So, You Want to Build a Space Business? The space industry is changing faster than ever, with new technologies and lower launch costs democratizing access to space and driving a new era of innovation. The opportunities to build the next great business are seemingly endless, but space can be a difficult and unforgiving place, especially for those new to the domain. This session will feature practical insights and advice from experienced space leaders for entrepreneurs looking to get their business off the ground. Presented by The Aerospace Corporation.

The Connection IT Superhero Awards: Connection and TechCrunch have teamed up to celebrate and recognize IT people who have gone the extra mile with the inaugural Connection IT Superhero Awards. Winners of the five category awards will be announced live, presented by Connection’s Chief Innovation & Growth Officer, Jamal Khan. These awards are about people, not products, for the many out there deserving recognition for their daily efforts. We think some well-earned awards are a great place to start. Nominate your IT Superhero here by August 24. Presented by Connection.

Demo Derby — How Startups are Disrupting the Status Quo with Innovative Data Analytics, AI and Modern App Development: Startups need to move quickly and focus limited resources on areas where they can differentiate. In this fast-paced session, learn from startups and Google experts how you can leverage Google technologies to serve customers better and get to market more quickly. In a series of short demos, see how innovative startups and Google experts have used Google compute, storage, networking and AI technologies to “disrupt” the status quo. Presented by Google Cloud.

How Circle’s $4.5B Public Listing will Change Startup Fundraising: Circle acquired SeedInvest in 2019, as a further step toward realizing its vision of a more open, global, connected and inclusive financial system. Fast-forward to today; Circle recently announced its plans to become a $4.5 billion public company, with more than $1 billion of fresh capital. In this session, Jeremy Allaire, Circle CEO and co-founder, and Ryan Feit, CEO and co-founder of SeedInvest, will break down the evolution of the two companies and how they plan to double down on online fundraising to make it faster and easier for entrepreneurs. Presented by SeedInvest.

Belgian Startup Pitch Competition: Join us for the seventh edition of our Belgian Startup Pitch Competition. We look forward to seeing you there! Presented by hub.brussels.

Illuminating the Next Great Entertainment Frontier — The Connected TV Metaverse: While the proliferation of operating systems and OTT platforms have made TV more convenient and accessible, the magnitude of players in this ecosystem have also made television more complicated to navigate — for programmers, advertisers and viewers. We all want our programming in each of its various delivery methods, provided in an easy-to-navigate, fast-to-discover, intuitive interface. Join an in-depth conversation with media industry veterans and technology futurists as they identify the outlook of the CTV world. Presented by Foxxum and rlaxx TV.

Achieve Sustainable IT with Prometheus, Grafana and Hardware Sentry: Implementing sustainability initiatives to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in the data center is a vital challenge. Join Bertrand Martin, Sentry Software’s co-founder and CEO, as he presents Hardware Sentry Exporter for Prometheus. Measure the power consumption and temperature of more than 250 platforms with this unique pure-software solution. Report CO₂ emissions, electricity usage and costs of applications and services in Grafana. Reduce the carbon footprint of your data center with intelligent optimization of ambient temperature. Presented by Sentry Software.

Hacking U.S. Healthcare: How a Simple Platform Can Help Solve Some of America’s Most Complex Healthcare Problems: Few things conjure more negative emotions than navigating medical billing; Americans urgently need solutions that prioritize their needs, decrease costs and elevate the patient journey so they can focus on getting care. Fortunately, digital innovation can provide exceptional patient experiences that remove friction for payers, providers and consumers alike. Hear how digital health unicorn Cedar has engineered a complete consumer-first digital platform that’s revolutionizing the financial experience for the entire healthcare industry. Presented by Cedar.

Powering the Small Business Economy with Cloud Technology: Small business is a critical engine of job creation, economic growth and innovation and a driver in our efforts to recover from a global pandemic. Fifteen years ago, a startup company from New Zealand called Xero was founded with the purpose of making life better for people in small business and their advisors. Xero achieved this by shifting accounting practices to the cloud and providing an open set of APIs, which has enabled more than 1,000 application partners to build affordable tech solutions connected to the Xero platform. Steve Vamos, CEO, will discuss how Xero is revolutionizing the way small businesses do business by using cloud and its platform to connect real-time data with bespoke business solutions that help small business owners be more successful. Steve will speak to a number of key initiatives that will change the game for startups and entrepreneurs who want to innovate and collaborate on the Xero platform, and he will explain how Xero’s vision extends beyond just technology to galvanizing a global community of support and purpose to help small businesses everywhere. Presented by Xero.

Why Employers are Ignoring a Large Candidate Pool that’s Necessary for Growth Today: Hear directly from Checkr CEO Daniel Yanisse and DDI CEO Aaron Hageman about why this job market is fueling the gig economy growth, how to tap into fair chance hiring and how it will help your employee base. Learn about the benefits of fair chance hiring, its impact on your bottom line and organizations and allies that promote fair chance hiring and why this matters to DEI efforts. Presented by Checkr.

Connection IT Superhero Awards Announcement: Use this link to nominate someone for the Connection IT Superhero Awards. The nomination deadline is August 24. Presented by Connection.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place September 21-23. Do not miss the invaluable information waiting for you in the sponsored breakout sessions — just some of the Disrupt programming designed to help you build a bigger, better and stronger startup. Get your pass today!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Samsung’s latest Galaxy Z Flip starts at $1,000

By Brian Heater

The Galaxy Z Flip is probably destined to forever play second fiddle to the Fold. And with its older and larger sibling now ascending to the ranks of “flagship” with a slew of new features like S-Pen functionality, the designation is probably all but inevitable.

But for those seriously considering the world of foldables, there’s something to be said for the clamshell devices. It has always been the more compact and — dare I say — accessible member of the Galaxy Z family. Of course, at $1,380 — well, let’s just say “accessibility” is relative.” At today’s Unpacked event, however, Samsung announced that the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is getting an even larger price drop than the Fold.

At $999.99, again, we’re speaking relatively here. But at the very least, a nearly $400 price drop brings the Flip into the realm of mainstream flagship pricing (the Fold 3, while cheaper than its predecessor, is still $1,799). Add onto that the learnings that come with a third-generation device, and there’s a case to be made that this is Samsung’s (and, probably the industry’s) most mainstream foldable to date. I mean, anything beats the original Razr foldable, right?

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Obviously we’re going to hold out for a review unit until we’re able to say something more definitive on the matter. But while Samsung continues to lead with the Fold, don’t sleep on the alternative. Both devices have (understandably) prioritized durability among their new features. That includes a stronger protective film made of PET plastic, coupled with a reconfiguration of the display panels aimed at reinforcing what has traditionally been the weak link on these products.

Also on board is Samsung’s new proprietary Armor Aluminum for the body, Gorilla Glass Victus for the exterior of the device and IPX8 water resistance. That means the new foldables can withstand significantly more water than their predecessors. The “X” in the rating means it’s not rated against debris, due to the nature of the hinges, but Samsung believes the sweeping mechanism it introduced on previous models can make quick work of particulate matter that could potentially fall behind the screen and damage it in the process of pressing.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The phone has also gotten a striking redesign. When closed, I’d say it’s a considerably better-looking device than the Fold — not to mention significantly easier to port around in your pocket. The device now comes in Cream, Green, Lavender and Black, coupled with a variety of different grips and straps. If you get it online, you can also choose a Gray, Pink or White version. The internal display is effectively the same as its predecessor at 6.7 inches (2640 x 1080), but the front screen has been further increasing from 1.1 to 1.9 inches — a not insignificant bump when we’re dealing with those sizes.

The cameras remain roughly the same as the Flip 2:

  1. Front: 10MP Selfie. F2.4, Pixel size: 1.22μm, FOV: 80-degree
  2. Rear: 12MP Ultra Wide. F2.2, Pixel size: 1.12μm, FOV: 123-degree
  3. Rear 2: 12MP Wide-angle. Dual Pixel AF, OIS, F1.8 Pixel size: 1.4μm, FOV: 78-degree

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The battery is (understandably) a fair bit smaller than the Fold’s at 3,300mAh, split over two modules (because, folding). It supports fast-wired and wireless charging, as well as Samsung’s Wireless PowerShare for giving some juice back to your other devices. Like the Fold, the new flip is powered by the Snapdragon 888. Here that’s coupled with 8GB of RAM and either 128 or 256GB of storage.

Like the other devices announced today, the Flip is now up for preorder and starts shipping August 26. Preordering will get you a $150 Samsung Credit.

Samsung’s latest Galaxy Fold adds stylus support, waterproofing and an under-display camera

By Brian Heater

Behold, Samsung’s latest flagship. With the Galaxy Note out of the way — for this year, at least — the company used today’s Unpacked event to breathe added legitimacy into its foldable line. The original Galaxy Fold, introduced in 2019, represent a sort of experiment for the company (along with all the hiccups that entailed), as the first foldable from a major hardware manufacture, whereas last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 2 found the company correcting some of the glaring issues with its predecessor.

Today’s event finds the company making the case for Galaxy Z Fold 3 as something beyond an experiment or a curiosity. The task will almost certainly be an uphill battle for the next few generations. Unlike the latest version of the Flip, which starts at a price reduced considerably from its predecessor, the new Fold drops the entry price $200, down to $1,800. Any price reduction is a step in the right direction — and something that should be increasingly feasible as the technology continues to scale. But even in the world of premium flagships, that will continue to be a tough pill to swallow.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

What the upgraded Fold truly brings to the table, however, is a continued refinement to build materials that make the foldable screen a feasible option for day to day usage. This, of course, is precisely what hamstrung the original. Sure, the company did a lot of testing in controlled rooms, but once the product got out into the world (and into the hands of non-Samsung employees), problems of durability began cropping up, resulting in displays that were unintentionally damaged in a variety of imaginative ways.

The Galaxy Z Fold features a stronger frame made of “Armor Aluminum,” new protective film for the foldable display, Gorilla Glass Victus on the front-facing screen and an IPX8 rating — representing the first waterproof rating for the company’s foldable. Waterproofing has, of course, become something of an industry standard, but obviously things complicate quickly when you add folding mechanisms into the equation.

In fact, that’s why the rating has an “X” stuck in the middle of it. It’s effectively protected from accidental dunks in water, but not dust and debris. This is due to the hinge mechanism created for earlier models that allows some particulate matter through, but sweeps it away with a built in brush that moves as the device opens. That effectively protects it from getting behind the screen, where it could damage the phone with a finger press on the other side.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Of course, the stronger protective film is the thing. It’s what’s (hopefully) standing between you and damaging your phone’s biggest selling point with an overzealous finger press — or, for that matter, a stylus. The Fold, after all, is following in the footsteps of Samsung’s S series by blurring the line with the Note (which handily opted to sit this round out).

In fact, Samsung actually went out of its way to create a special Fold Edition of the S-Pen specially designed to not damage the Fold display. It’s optional, of course, and as with the S21, there’s slot for the stylus in the handset — that’s to be expected, given the relatively fragility of the product. There will, of course, be a case with a built-in S-Pen holster.

The Fold Edition S-Pen is smaller and features a spring-loaded tip designed to retract so you don’t damage the screen by writing/drawing too hard. Certainly the Fold is a clear candidate for stylus functionality, given its 7.6-inch canvas that puts even the Note Ultra’s 6.9-inch screen to shame. Of course, the feasibility of this combination has been severely hampered by structural integrity issues with the screen. It will be interesting to see how the company has managed to navigate that.

At 7.6 inches (2208 x 1768, 374 ppi), the primary screen is largely unchanged. The cover screen, too, is about the same, at 6.2 inches — though it now joins the main screen with a 120 Hz refresh rate. 

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Notably, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the first Samsung device to add an under-display camera. That, along with foldable displays, has been one of the biggest holy grails in the smartphone category for the past several years. Samsung’s not the first to introduce the technology. A handful of Chinese manufacturers, including Xiaomi and Oppo, have either released or plan to release devices sporting the technology.

It’s telling that the company opted to test the water with the Fold. Aside from the obvious aspect of creating a contiguous display, it gives the company the opportunity to test out another mainstream technology. The dirty little secret about the first generation of under-screen cameras is that the picture quality tends to suck. Samsung surely knows this and has opted to stick it on a device that already has a selfie camera above its front display.

The company describes new tech as follows, “the minimum pixels applied on top of the camera hole, Z Fold 3 features an increased viewable area so users get an unbroken canvas for their favorite apps.” The thinking here is that the internal camera simply doesn’t get as much use, save for things like teleconferencing (which is, granted, something we’ve been doing a lot more of in the past year). As currently configured, it’s a bit of a compromise on both ends. Picture quality takes a hit and the camera hole is still semi-visible. So, either the best or worst of both worlds, depending on what you’re looking for.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The under-display camera is four megapixels (when was the last time you saw one of those?), verses the 10-megapixel front/cover camera. The rear camera setup is virtually identical to its predecessor:

  • 12MP Ultra Wide. F2.2, Pixel size: 1.12μm, FOV: 123-degree
  • 12MP Wide-angle. Dual Pixel AF, OIS, F1.8, Pixel size: 1.8μm, FOV: 83-degree
  • 12MP Telephoto. PDAF, F2.4, OIS, Pixel size: 1.0μm, FOV: 45-degree

The battery has taken a bit of a hit, down from 4,500 to 4,400mAh (spread out over two modules, as is the foldable way). The Fold also supports fast charge/fast wireless and Wireless Powershare to use that 4,400mAh battery to power other gadgets. Samsung generally doesn’t offer battery estimates for phones prior to release, so wait on the review for that. The whole thing is powered by a Snapdragon 888 chip (market depending), coupled with 12GB of RAM and either 256 or 512GB of storage.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Like the rest of the devices announced today, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is up for preorder now and starts shipping on the 26th. The $1,800 price tag continues to be a roadblock toward more mainstream adoption, though the company has moved a number of these devices to early adopters already. Preorders get a $200 Samsung Credit.

Samsung brings active noise cancellation to its entry-level Galaxy Buds

By Brian Heater

In what has quickly become the busiest Unpacked of the virtual era, Samsung just dropped a new version of its wireless earbuds. The Galaxy Buds 2 add active noise canceling to the entry-level model, while retaining the $149 price point.

For those keeping track, the current Galaxy Buds offerings are Buds 2 ($149), Buds Live ($170) and Buds Pro ($200). The addition pretty clearly blurs the line between the first two. Asked for clarification on how the offerings now shake out, Samsung tells TechCrunch:

As our premium offering, the Galaxy Buds Pro leverage cutting-edge technology to deliver immersive audio, intelligent Active noise cancelling, and effortless connectivity. For those looking to show off their unique style, the Galaxy Buds Live combine high quality sound with an eye-catching design.

So, design and sound are the differentiators. The Buds Live were, of course, introduced during a time when ANC was more of an exception than a rule for nonpremium-priced earbuds, so I wouldn’t be too surprised to see them start to be phased out.

As I’ve said in the past, Samsung’s earbuds have always been quietly solid. They don’t get the love of Apple or Sony in that department, but the company has consistently produced solid buds, and I don’t see any reason to expect these will be any different. Of course, the Pros still sit at the high end, in terms of sound quality, 360 audio, etc.

Samsung says the new Buds are their smallest and lightest to date. Indeed, the Buds, the case and everything are quite compact (and surprisingly glossy!). They retain the familiar ovular shape that sits up against the wearer’s ear. They’re built specifically to pair with the company’s mobile devices, but you should be able to connect them to any Bluetooth device.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Like the rest of today’s devices, the Buds 2 are now up for preorder and start shipping on August 26. Look for a review in the not too distant future.

Samsung returns to Wear OS with the Galaxy Watch 4

By Brian Heater

Samsung’s watches have long been something of an anomaly. While the company embraced Wear OS (then Android Wear) in its earliest days with the massive Gear Live, the company quickly shifted to Tizen, an open-source operating system largely used by Samsung for wearables and smart TVs.

That’s no doubt been a kind of bugbear for Google, which has long struggled to crack a significant portion of the smartwatch market. Samsung, meanwhile, has had its share of success with its products while doing its own thing. But there’s always more market share to be grabbed.

Third-party apps have long been an issue for basically every smartwatch maker but Apple (it’s the main reason Fitbit bought Pebble, if you’ll recall), and clearly Samsung saw the opportunity in reigniting its partnership with Google. The deal — first mentioned at I/O and discussed more recently at MWC — is now seeing the light of day on the brand new Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The companies refer to it as “the new Wear OS Powered by Samsung.” What that means, practically, is that Wear OS serves as the code base. Design and other elements of Tizen exist in here, but for all practical intents and purposes, it’s a custom built version of Google’s wearable operating system, which Samsung helped build out.

The company will stress that latter bit as an important bit of clarification — that it didn’t just slap a new coat of paint on the OS here. The company’s One UI Watch sits atop all of that, in a bid to create a unified user experience across Samsung’s mobile devices and wearable line.

Per a release:

Galaxy Watch 4 Series is also the first generation of smartwatches to feature Wear OS Powered by Samsung — a new platform that elevates every aspect of the smartwatch experience. Built by Samsung and Google, this cutting-edge platform lets you tap into an expansive ecosystem right from your wrist — with popular Google apps like Google Maps, and beloved Galaxy services, like Samsung Pay, SmartThings and Bixby. The new platform also includes support for leading third-party apps, like Adidas Running, Calm, Strava and Spotify.

In a blog post this morning, Google breaks down its end of the partnership thusly,

We’re taking what we’ve learned from Wear OS and Tizen to jointly build what smartwatch users need. Compared to previous Wear OS smartwatches, the Galaxy Watch4 features a 2.5x shorter set up experience, up to 40 hours of battery life, optimized performance with app launch times 30 percent faster than before and access to a huge ecosystem of apps and services.

And there are more ways to get more done from your wrist with Wear OS. We’re introducing more capabilities and a fresh new look based on Material You design language for Google Maps, Messages by Google and Google Pay apps as well as launching a YouTube Music app. There are also new apps and Tiles coming to Wear OS for quicker access to your favorites.

The software giant singles out turn-by-turn directions on Google Maps, the ability to download and listen to songs on YouTube Music and improved app discovery via Google Play. The news also finds Google Pay on Wear OS coming to 16 additional countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, Taiwan, Ukraine and United Arab Emirates.

The other key focus on the line continues to be health — it’s the field on which all smartwatches are currently competing. The monitoring is built around a smaller version of the company’s BioActive Sensor, which measures optical heart rate, electrical heart (ECG) and Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis. The trio of sensors measure a bunch of different metrics, including blood pressure, AFib monitoring, blood oxygen and now body composition/BMI. So now, for better or worse, your watch will tell you your body fat percentage [post-pandemic grimace face emoji]. Says Samsung, “In about 15 seconds, your watch’s sensor will capture 2,400 data points.”

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Design is the primary distinction between the two models. The Galaxy Watch 4 is the thinner and lighter of the two — more in line with the Galaxy Watch Active. It sports a touch bezel, versus the Classic’s physical spinning bezel — arguably Samsung’s best innovation in the category.

Also, of note: Both models come in two sizes. That’s always been a bit of a sticking point for me on Samsung Watches. If your devices are large and only come in the one size, you’re essentially knocking out a sizable portion of your customer base right off the bat. The Watch 4 comes in 40mm and 44mm and the Classic is available in 42mm and 46mm. The models start at $250 and $350, respectively. Another $50 will get you LTE connectivity.

The watches go up for preorder today and start shipping on August 26. Preordering will get you a $50 Samsung Credit. The company is also launching a limited-edition Thom Browne version of the Classic in September, which will almost certainly cost an arm and/or leg.

Watch Samsung introduce its latest foldables live

By Brian Heater

Samsung is set to introduce a whole bunch of new products, starting today at 7 AM PT/10 AM ET. I wrote a whole bunch of words about what to expect from the company’s latest Unpacked event. It’s a long list and a kind of return to the pre-pandemic days, back before companies started taking liberties by holding separate events for all their new products.

You can stream the proceedings here:

Here’s the short bulleted version, based on a deluge of leaks over the past several weeks and months:

  • Galaxy Z Fold 3
  • Galaxy Z Flip 3
  • Galaxy Watch 4
  • Galaxy Buds 2

Samsung has more or less confirmed the first three already. The company gave some substantial details on its forthcoming foldables. We’ve also heard a good deal about the new smartwatch — from a software standpoint, at least. Both Samsung and Google have been discussing their upcoming joint software platform.

More info on all of the above, soon. And perhaps even a surprise or two? Perhaps. We’ll be following along with the latest.

Hear Startup Alley companies pitch expert VC judges on the next episode of Extra Crunch Live

By Jordan Crook

We know how much you love a good startup pitch-off. Who doesn’t? It combines the thrill of live, high-stakes entertainment with learning about the hottest new thing. Plus, you get to hear feedback from some of the smartest folks in the industry, thus learning how to absolutely crush it at your next pitch meeting with a VC.

With all that in mind, we’re introducing a special summer edition of Extra Crunch Live that’s all pitch-off, all the time.

On August 4, Extra Crunch Live will feature startups exhibiting in the Startup Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 in September. Those startups will pitch their products/businesses to a pair of expert VC judges, who will then give their live feedback.

Extra Crunch Live is usually a combination of an interview with a founder/investor duo and an audience pitch-off. But as it’s summer, and Disrupt is right around the corner, we thought it would be fun to bring you even more pitches and even more feedback.

On August 4, our expert VC judges will be Edith Yeung from Race Capital and Laela Sturdy of CapitalG. Register here for free!

Edith Yeung started out as an investor at 500 Startups and is now a general partner at Race Capital. She’s an expert on both the China and Silicon Valley investment landscape and has made more than 50 investments, with a portfolio that includes 50 startups, including Lightyear/Stellar (valued $1.2 billion), Silk Labs (acquired by Apple), Chirp (acquired by Apple), Fleksy (acquired by Pinterest), Human (acquired by Mapbox), Solana, Oasis Labs, Nebulas, Hooked, DayDayCook, AISense and many more.

Laela Sturdy is a 10x unicorn operator-turned-investor whose investments are worth nearly $200 billion. She joined CapitalG, the investment arm of Alphabet, in 2013, and her portfolio includes Stripe, UiPath, Duolingo, Gusto, Webflow and Unqork, among many others.

As a special thank you, all attendees of this episode of Extra Crunch Live will be entered into a random drawing for a chance to win one of three free tickets to TechCrunch Disrupt 2021. Following the event, we’ll randomly select three winners and send details on how to redeem their passes. Do you need to submit any additional information to enter the drawing? Nope. All you need to do is register for Extra Crunch Live by clicking here and attend the event on August 4.

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