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Daily Crunch: Trump bans transactions with ByteDance and Tencent

By Anthony Ha

Trump escalates his campaign against Chinese tech companies, Facebook extends work from home until the middle of 2021 and Netflix adds support for Hindi. Here’s your Daily Crunch for August 7, 2020.

The big story: Trump signs orders banning US business with TikTok owner ByteDance and Tencent’s WeChat

Both orders will take effect in 45 days, but its specific impact is unclear since Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross will apparently not identify what transactions are covered until then.

This comes after Trump had already said that he was banning TikTok unless the app is sold to an American owner. (Specifically Microsoft, which has acknowledged that it’s in acquisition talks.)

TikTok hit back against the order by saying that it was “issued without any due process” and would risk “undermining global businesses’ trust in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law.”

The tech giants

Facebook extends coronavirus work from home policy until July 2021 — Facebook has joined Google in saying it will allow employees to work from home until the middle of next year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Netflix’s latest effort to make inroads in India: Support for HindiNetflix has rolled out support for Hindi, a language spoken by nearly half a billion people in India.

Judge says Uber, Lyft preliminary injunction ruling to come in ‘a matter of days’ — Lyft argued that reclassifying drivers as employees would cause irreparable harm.

Startups, funding and venture capital

The rules of VC are being broken — The latest episode of Equity discusses “rolling funds” and how they could change the VC landscape.

Mashroom raises £4M for its ‘end-to-end’ lettings and property management service — The startup pitches itself as going “beyond the tenant-finding service” to include the entire rental journey.

Wendell Brooks has resigned as president of Intel Capital — Anthony Lin, who has been leading mergers and acquisitions and international investing, will take over on an interim basis.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

How to pick the right Series A investors — It’s important for founders to get to know the people coming onto their board, and Jake Saper of Emergence Capital has some thoughts on how to do that.

IoT and data science will boost foodtech in the post-pandemic era — Three “must-dos” for post-pandemic retail grocers: rely on the data, rely on the biology and rely on the hardware.

Survey: Tell us what you think of Extra Crunch — Like Extra Crunch? Don’t like Extra Crunch? Tell us why!

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Civic tech platform Mobilize launches a census hub for the 2020 count’s critical final stretch —The new site, GetOutTheCount.com, will amplify nonprofits’ census efforts and collect them in one place.

Federal judge approves ending consent decrees that prevented movie studios from owning theaters — U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres cited the rise of streaming services like Netflix as one of the reasons for her decision.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

R&D Roundup: Supercomputer COVID-19 insights, ionic spiderwebs, the whiteness of AI

By Devin Coldewey

I see far more research articles than I could possibly write up. This column collects the most interesting of those papers and advances, along with notes on why they may prove important in the world of tech and startups. This week: supercomputers take on COVID-19, beetle backpacks, artificial spiderwebs, the “overwhelming whiteness” of AI and more.

First off, if (like me) you missed this amazing experiment where scientists attached tiny cameras to the backs of beetles, I don’t think I have to explain how cool it is. But you may wonder… why do it? Prolific UW researcher Shyam Gollakota and several graduate students were interested in replicating some aspects of insect vision, specifically how efficient the processing and direction of attention is.

The camera backpack has a narrow field of view and uses a simple mechanism to direct its focus rather than processing a wide-field image at all times, saving energy and better imitating how real animals see. “Vision is so important for communication and for navigation, but it’s extremely challenging to do it at such a small scale. As a result, prior to our work, wireless vision has not been possible for small robots or insects,” said Gollakota. You can watch the critters in action below — and don’t worry, the beetles lived long, happy lives after their backpack-wearing days.

The health and medical community is always making interesting strides in technology, but it’s often pretty niche stuff. These two items from recent weeks are a bit more high-profile.

One is a new study being conducted by UCLA in concert with Apple, which especially with its smartwatch has provided lots of excellent data to, for example, studies of arrhythmia. In this case, doctors are looking at depression and anxiety, which are considerably more difficult to quantify and detect. But by using Apple Watch, iPhone and sleep monitor measurements of activity levels, sleep patterns and so on, a large body of standardized data can be amassed.

How to pick the right Series A investors

By Kirsten Korosec

Early-stage startup founders who are embarking on a Series A fundraising round should consider this: their relationship with the members of their board might last longer than the average American marriage.

In other words, who invests in a startup matters as much — or more — than the total capital they’re bringing with them.

It’s important for founders to get to know the people coming onto their board because they’ll likely be a part of the company for a long time, and it’s really hard to fire them, Jake Saper of Emergence Capital noted during TechCrunch’s virtual Early Stage event in July. But forging a connection isn’t as easy as one might think, Saper added.

The fundraising process requires founders to pack in meetings with numerous investors before making a decision in a short period of time. “Neither party really gets to know the other well enough to know if this is a relationship they want to enter into,” Saper said.

“You want to work with people who give you energy,” he added. “And this is why I strongly encourage you to start to get to know potential Series A leads shortly after you close your seed round.”

Here are the best methods to meet, win over and select Series A investors.

Identify industry experts

Saper recommends extending the typically short Series A time frame by identifying a handful of potential leads as soon as a founder has closed their seed round. Founders shouldn’t just pick any one with a big name and impressive fund. Instead, he recommends focusing on investors who are suited to their startup’s business category or industry.

IoT and data science will boost foodtech in the post-pandemic era

By Walter Thompson
Sunny Dhillon Contributor
Sunny Dhillon is an early-stage investor at Signia Ventures in San Francisco where he invests in retail tech, e-commerce infrastructure and logistics, alongside consumer and enterprise software startups.

Even as e-grocery usage has skyrocketed in our coronavirus-catalyzed world, brick-and-mortar grocery stores have soldiered on. While strict in-store safety guidelines may gradually ease up, the shopping experience will still be low-touch and socially distanced for the foreseeable future.

This begs the question: With even greater challenges than pre-pandemic, how can grocers ensure their stores continue to operate profitably?

Just as micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs), dark stores and other fulfillment solutions have been helping e-grocers optimize profitability, a variety of old and new technologies can help brick-and-mortar stores remain relevant and continue churning out cash.

Today, we present three “must-dos” for post-pandemic retail grocers: rely on the data, rely on the biology and rely on the hardware.

Rely on the data

Image Credits: Pixabay/Pexels (opens in a new window)

The hallmark of shopping in a store is the consistent availability and wide selection of fresh items — often more so than online. But as the number of in-store customers continues to fluctuate, planning inventory and minimizing waste has become ever more so a challenge for grocery store managers. Grocers on average throw out more than 12% of their on-shelf produce, which eats into already razor-thin margins.

While e-grocers are automating and optimizing their fulfillment operations, brick-and-mortar grocers can automate and optimize their inventory planning mechanisms. To do this, they must leverage their existing troves of customer, business and external data to glean valuable insights for store managers.

Eden Technologies of Walmart is a pioneering example. Spun out of a company hackathon project, the internal tool has been deployed at over 43 distribution centers nationwide and promises to save Walmart over $2 billion in the coming years. For instance, if a batch of produce intended for a store hundreds of miles away is deemed soon-to-ripen, the tool can help divert it to the nearest store instead, using FDA standards and over 1 million images to drive its analysis.

Similarly, ventures such as Afresh Technologies and Shelf Engine have built platforms to leverage years of historical customer and sales data, as well as seasonality and other external factors, to help store managers determine how much to order and when. The results have been nothing but positive — Shelf Engine customers have increased gross margins by over 25% and Afresh customers have reduced food waste by up to 45%.

Survey: Tell us what you think of Extra Crunch

By Travis Bernard

Since launching our membership product Extra Crunch 1.5 years ago, we’ve added a number of new features at the request of our community. This includes improvements to login stability, introducing the video Q&A series Extra Crunch Live, launching over a dozen Partner Perks, and revamping our newsletters.

We also listened to the community for where to add payments support. The product is now available in over 20 countries and territories, with Australia and Israel support coming soon. 

Feedback from our community is critical as we continue to build and develop the product. We’re always looking to improve, and we’d love to get feedback on the product in its current state. If you have a few minutes, please fill out the survey below.

Conversational analytics are about to change customer experiences forever

By Walter Thompson
Evan Kohn Contributor
A digital marketing and customer experience leader, Evan Kohn is chief business officer at Pypestream, where he created PypePro, an AI onboarding methodology used by Fortune 500 firms.

Companies have long relied on web analytics data like click rates, page views and session lengths to gain customer behavior insights.This method looks at how customers react to what is presented to them, reactions driven by design and copy. But traditional web analytics fail to capture customers’ desires accurately. While marketers are pushing into predictive analytics, what about the way companies foster broader customer experience (CX)?

Leaders are increasingly adopting conversational analytics, a new paradigm for CX data. No longer will the emphasis be on how users react to what is presented to them, but rather what “intent” they convey through natural language. Companies able to capture intent data through conversational interfaces can be proactive in customer interactions, deliver hyper-personalized experiences, and position themselves more optimally in the marketplace.

Direct customer experiences based on customer disposition

Conversational AI, which powers these interfaces and automation systems and feeds data into conversational analytics engines, is a market predicted to grow from $4.2 billion in 2019 to $15.7 billion in 2024. As companies “conversationalize” their brands and open up new interfaces to customers, AI can inform CX decisions not only in how customer journeys are architected–such as curated buying experiences and paths to purchase–but also how to evolve overall product and service offerings. This insights edge could become a game-changer and competitive advantage for early adopters.

Today, there is wide variation in the degree of sophistication between conversational solutions from elementary, single-task chatbots to secure, user-centric, scalable AI. To unlock meaningful conversational analytics, companies need to ensure that they have deployed a few critical ingredients beyond the basics of parsing customer intent with natural language understanding (NLU).

While intent data is valuable, companies will up-level their engagements by collecting sentiment and tone data, including via emoji analysis. Such data can enable automation to adapt to a customer’s disposition, so if anger is detected regarding a bill that is overdue, a fast path to resolution can be provided. If a customer expresses joy after a product purchase, AI can respond with an upsell offer and collect more acute and actionable feedback for future customer journeys.

Tap into a multitude of conversational data points

Register for our next pitch-off happening on August 13

By Marquise Foster

Here’s a shout-out to all the early-stage founders attending Disrupt 2020. Don’t forget to register for our next Pitchers & Pitches — on August 13 — and get ready to hone your 60-second pitch to a razor’s edge.

If you’re not in the know, our ongoing Pitchers & Pitches webinar series is a pitch-off-masterclass-mashup. It’s a chance to deliver your best pitch to a panel of experts who will provide invaluable critique to help you craft a more compelling pitch. Better pitches equal more opportunities, amirite?

Anyone can benefit by attending Pitchers & Pitches, but only companies exhibiting in Digital Startup Alley can compete. Want to be eligible to pitch in next week’s event? Buy a Disrupt Digital Startup Alley Package here.

We’ll randomly select five startups to pitch, receive direct feedback and have a shot at taking the top prize. We love prizes…especially the kind that help build a better startup. The winning founders receive a consulting session with cela, a company that connects early-stage startups to accelerators and incubators that can help scale their businesses.

Here’s another great reason to exhibit in Digital Startup Alley. You get exclusive access to our three-part interactive webinar series. Check the dates and topics below:

  • August 12: The Dos and Don’ts of Working with the Press
  • August 19: COVID-19’s Impact on the Startup World
  • August 26: Fundraising and Hiring Best Practices

We’ll announce the pitching lineup — and the specific VC judges those founders need to impress — on August 12. Remember, only startups exhibiting at Disrupt 2020 are eligible to pitch. If you want in on the action, get yourself a Digital Startup Alley Package today.

Register here and join us for the next Pitchers & Pitches on August 13. And hey, even if you don’t compete, you’ll hear loads of good advice on ways to improve your presentation skills and make the most of your 60-second pitch.

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

Extra Crunch Live: Join Eric Hippeau for a live Q&A on August 13 at 11am PT/2pm ET

By Jordan Crook

The media landscape is changing rapidly. Even before COVID, media companies were looking at new revenue models beyond your standard banner ad, all the while trying to navigate the oft-changing world of social media and search, where a minor algorithm change can boost or tank traffic.

Anytime an industry is in the midst of a transformation is a great time for startups to capitalize. That’s why we’re amped to have Lerer Hippeau’s Managing Partner Eric Hippeau join us for an episode of Extra Crunch Live.

The episode will air at 2pm ET/11am PT on August 13. Folks in the audience can ask their own questions, but you must be an Extra Crunch member to access the chat. If you still haven’t signed up, now’s your chance!

Eric Hippeau served as CEO for the Huffington Post before cofounding Lerer Hippeau. HE also served as Chairman and CEO at Ziff-Davis, a former top publisher of computer magazine. He sits on the board of BuzzFeed and Marriott International.

Lerer Hippeau portfolio companies include Axios, BuzzFeed, Genius, Chartbeat and Giphy. And while the firm has experience in media, that doesn’t mean that the portfolio is squarely focused on it. Other portfolio companies include Casper, WayUp, Warby Parker, Mirror, HungryRoot, Glossier, Everlane, Brit + Co., and AllBirds, to name just a few.

As an early stage investor, Hippeau knows what it takes for companies to get the attention of VCs and take the deal across the finish line. We’ll chat with Hippeau about some of the do’s and don’ts of fundraising, his expectation for the next-generation of startups born in this pandemic world, and which sectors he’s most excited to invest in.

As previously mentioned, Extra Crunch members are encouraged to bring their own questions to this discussion. Come prepared!

Hippeau joins an all-star cast of guests on Extra Crunch Live, including Mark Cuban, Roelof Botha, Kirsten Green, Aileen Lee and Charles Hudson. You can check out the full slate of episodes here.

You can find the full details of the conversation below the jump.

Details:
Date: Thursday, August 13th @ 11am PT/2pm ET/6pm GMT
Zoom Info: https://zoom.us/j/92633495658
Add this event to your calendar

Sign up to attend The Dos and Don’ts of Working with the Press

By Marquise Foster

If you’re exhibiting in Digital Startup Alley during Disrupt 2020 — or you plan to — do not miss this opportunity to sharpen your media skills. The first of our three-part interactive webinar series takes place on August 12th with The Dos and Don’ts of Working with the Press.

Pro tip: Our August webinar series is open only to folks exhibiting at Disrupt 2020. Don’t miss out — buy a Disrupt Digital Startup Alley Package now and gain entry to all three exclusive webinars. Then get ready to introduce your startup to thousands of global Disrupt 2020 attendees. Talk about opportunity knocking.

Media coverage can make or break a startup, especially in the early stages. Sharing your startup story — the journey, the capabilities, the benefits — in a concise, compelling way draws media interest. And positive media coverage attracts the potential customers and investors that can drive your business forward.

Still, no one’s born knowing this essential skill — it takes time and practice to develop. And no one gives better advice on how to talk to tech media than, well, tech media. Join TechCrunch writers and editors Greg KumparakAnthony Ha and Ingrid Lunden as they divulge tips and best practices when it comes to talking with the press.

You’ll come away with actionable steps to present yourself and your startup in the best possible light. That’ll come in handy while you exhibit in Digital Startup Alley. Hundreds of tech journalists from around the world will be there searching for great stories to tell. Give them something worth writing about.

And don’t forget — this is just the first of three webinars devoted to helping Digital Startup Alley exhibitors wring every ounce of opportunity out of their time at Disrupt. Be sure to add these two webinars to your calendar:

  • August 19 COVID-19’s Impact on the Startup World with panelists Nicola Corzine, executive director of the Nasdaq Entrepreneurship Center, and Cameron Stanfill, a VC analyst at PitchBook.
  • August 26 — Fundraising and Hiring Best Practices with panelists Sarah Kunst of Cleo Capital and Brett Berson of First Round Capital.

Exhibiting in Digital Startup Alley lets you showcase your incredible startup to a global audience. Buy a Disrupt Digital Startup Alley Package, join the first of three exclusive webinars on August 12th, get comfortable talking to the press and learn how to make the best impression possible.

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

Hear how working from home is changing startups and investing at Disrupt 2020

By Danny Crichton

Let’s just say it has been a year. While a few ambitious startups like InVision and GitLab built their corporate cultures and talent hiring with a remote-first mentality, the reality is that the vast majority of founders never thought they would have to be socially distant from all of their employees. And it isn’t going to change: Google recently announced that all of their employees will be work from anywhere until summer 2021. We are only getting started with this new model of work.

Culture, productivity, and speed are absolutely vital to the survival of early-stage startups, but how do you build growth and momentum in a remote-only world? And how are investors approaching this new environment and the opportunities that our changing patterns of work mean for us?

These are critical questions, which is why we are hosting a panel of VC investor superstars to talk more about them on the Extra Crunch stage at TechCrunch Disrupt 2020.

First, we have Sarah Cannon, partner at Index Ventures who is perhaps best known in the Valley these days for her ambitious bet behind productivity tool Notion, which valued the relatively nascent startup at a cool $2 billion. Cannon has also backed messaging app Quill as well as Pitch, which offers collaboration around presentation documents. Future of work has been her bread and butter, and we’re excited to hear what she thinks is next in productivity and how startups will grow going forward.

Next, we have Sarah Guo, who is a general partner at Greylock. Guo also has been investing in the future of work and B2B tools including Clubhouse (not the Clubhouse you are thinking about) which helps dev teams collaborate more effectively. In addition, she has backed family benefits platform Cleo and a panoply of cybersecurity companies — an area that has become acutely important as the classic perimeter of the workplace office has been replaced with employee laptops scattered across locations worldwide.

Third and finally on this panel, we have Dave Munichiello, who is a general partner at GV. He’s backed a little social tool called Slack (I refuse to call it a productivity tool but that might be one person’s opinion), as well as that remote-first startup Gitlab, which has received upwards of a $3 billion valuation, and fintech infra company Plaid, which was sold to Visa last year for $5.3 billion in one of the biggest fintech exits of 2019.

From how to build products to how to build teams to what investors are looking for in startups in our crazy pandemic world, this panel has got you covered. Plus, since we are on the Extra Crunch stage at Disrupt 2020, we will be taking audience questions throughout the discussion. So come join the conversation as we figure out what 2020 means for the startup world this decade.

Get your pass today to Disrupt 2020. It’s 100% virtual which means we 100% want to see you there!

Last chance to save on Disrupt 2020 passes

By Alexandra Ames

It’s last call startup fans, last call. We’re not talking about International Beer Day (which is a thing and it’s today — look it up). No, we mean August 7 is your absolute last chance to save up to $300 on a pass to Disrupt 2020. Beat the clock, buy your early-bird pass before 11:59 p.m. (PT), then hoist a beer to celebrate your savvy shopping. We’ll drink to that!

Every new challenge presents new opportunities, and that holds true for TechCrunch’s first all-virtual Disrupt. Now Disrupt is bigger, more accessible and more global than ever. Thousands of attendees across the world have five full days — September 14-18 — to connect, network, exhibit, compete and learn new and better ways to build their business.

As always, Disrupt features the top minds and makers in tech, investment and business. Check out the interviews, panel discussions, interactive Q&As and workshops that explore and tackle new trends, crucial issues and a metric ton (we measured) of how-tos designed to inform and support early-stage startups.

In a nod to the diverse, global aspect of this Disrupt, we’re also planning sessions that focus on Europe and Asia. Translation: time zone-friendly scheduling that won’t keep you up at night. Stay tuned for more on that front soon.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the Disrupt 2020 agenda, with just some of the topics leading experts will discuss. We’ll divulge more in the coming weeks. Hey, that’s another reason to stay tuned.

We’ve just scratched the surface of what you can do at Disrupt.

Network with CrunchMatch, our AI-powered platform that gets smarter the more you use it. It easily finds and connects you with the right people — you know, the ones who can help you reach your goals. And it opens weeks ahead of Disrupt to give you even more time to expand your network.

Explore hundreds of early-stage startups in Digital Startup Alley — or exhibit there yourself. Find new customers, potential investors, exciting partnerships.

Watch some of the most promising early-stage startups around the world go head-to-head in the renowned Startup Battlefield pitch competition. Which team will earn the Disrupt Cup and take home $100,000 in equity-free cash?

It’s time. Time to heed the last call, buy your Disrupt 2020 pass before 11:59 p.m. (PT) today and save up to $300. You could celebrate the heck out of International Beer Day with that kind of money — hey, we don’t judge.

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

 

A look inside Gmail’s product development process

By Megan Rose Dickey

Google has long been known as the leader in email, but it hasn’t always been that way.

In 1997, AOL was the world’s largest email provider with around ten million subscribers, but other providers were making headway. Hotmail, now part of Microsoft Outlook, launched in 1996, Yahoo Mail launched in 1997 and Gmail followed in 2004, becoming the most popular email provider in the world, with more than 1.5 billion active users as of October 2019.

Despite Google’s stronghold on the email market, other competitors have emerged over the years. Most recently, we’ve seen paid email products like Superhuman and Hey emerge. In light of new competitors to the space, as well as Google’s latest version of Gmail that more deeply integrates with Meet, Chat and Rooms, we asked Gmail Design Lead Jeroen Jillissen about what makes good email, how he and the team think about product design and more.

Here’s a lightly edited Q&A we had with Jillissen over Gmail.

Google has been at email since at least 2004. What does good email look like these days?

Generally speaking, a good email experience is not that different today than it was in 2004. It should be straightforward to use and should support the basic tasks like reading, writing, replying to and triaging emails. That said, nowadays there is a lot more email, in terms of volume, than there was in 2004, so we find that Gmail has many more opportunities to assist users in ways it didn’t before. For example, tabbed inboxes, which sorts your email into helpful categories like Primary, Social, Promotions, etc. in a simple, organized way so you can focus on what’s important to you. Also, we’ve introduced assistive features like Smart Compose and Smart Reply and nudges, plus robust security and spam protection to keep users safe. And lastly, we’ve made deeper integrations a priority: both across G Suite apps like Calendar, Keep, Tasks and most recently Chat and Meet, as well as with third-party services via the G Suite Marketplace.

How has Google’s hypothesis about email evolved over the years?

We see email as a very strong communication channel and the primary means of digital communication for many of our users and customers for many years to come. Most people still start their workday in email, which is still used for important use cases, such as more formal or external communications (i.e., with clients/customers), for record-keeping or easy access/reference, and for communications that need a little more thoughtfulness or consideration.

As the world stays home, edtech’s Q2 venture totals rose sharply

By Alex Wilhelm

My friend and colleague Natasha Mascarenhas has been reporting on the edtech beat quite a lot in 2020. So far reading her coverage, I’ve discovered that not only is edtech less dull than I anticipated, it’s actually somewhat interesting on a regular basis.

This week, for example, India’s Byju bought WhiteHat Jr., another Indian edtech company, for $300 million. So what, you’re thinking, that’s just another startup deal? Yes, but it was an all-cash transaction, and White Hat Jr. was only 18 months old.

That’s enough to tell you that edtech is hot at the moment. Which makes sense: much of the world is sheltering at home with school and offices shuttered.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. You can read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.

 

The COVID-19 era has provided an enormous boon to many software startups, though some more than others. Luckily for its boosters, edtech, after being neglected by VCs due to an expectation of small exits and long sales cycles thanks to red tape, is one of the sectors enjoying renewed interest from private investors and customers alike.

According to a Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) markets-focused report, edtech venture funding reached a local-maxima in Q2 2020, jumping more than 60% from the first quarter of this year to the second. On a year-over-year basis, Q2’s VC edtech results were even more impressive.

But, there’s some nuance to the data that should temper declamations that private edtech funding is forever changed.

This morning let’s peel apart the SVB data and parse through edtech funding rounds themselves from the second quarter to see what we can learn. COVID-19 is remaking the global economy as we speak, so it’s up to us to understand its evolving form.

An edtech boom?

From the top-line numbers, you’d be forgiven for thinking that edtech’s Q2 venture capital results were across-the-board impressive.

Before we dig into the results themselves, here’s the chart you need:

Daily Crunch: Twitter and Facebook take action against Trump

By Anthony Ha

Facebook and Twitter are taking a stronger stand against pandemic misinformation, we preview the latest version of macOS and a mental health startup raises $50 million. Here’s your Daily Crunch for August 6, 2020.

The big story: Twitter, Facebook take action against Trump misinformation

Facebook and Twitter both took action against a post from President Donald Trump and his campaign featuring a clip from a Fox News interview in which he misleadingly described children as “almost immune” to COVID-19. Facebook took down the offending post, while Twitter went further and locked the Trump campaign out of its account (separate from Trump’s personal account).

“The @TeamTrump Tweet you referenced is in violation of the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation,” Twitter’s Aly Pavela said in a statement. “The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again.”

Meanwhile, Twitter also announced today that it will be labeling accounts tied to state-controlled media organizations and government officials (but not heads of state).

The tech giants

macOS 11.0 Big Sur preview — Big Sur is the operating system’s first primary number upgrade in 20 years, and Brian Heater says it represents a big step forward in macOS’ evolution.

Apple 27-inch iMac review — This will be one of the last Macs to include Intel silicon.

Uber picks up Autocab to push into places its own app doesn’t go — Uber plans to use Autocab’s technology to link users with local providers when they open the app in locations where Uber doesn’t offer rides.

Startups, funding and venture capital

On-demand mental health service provider Ginger raises $50 million — Through Ginger’s services, patients have access to a care coordinator who serves as the first point of entry into a company’s mental health plans.

Mode raises $33 million to supercharge its analytics platform for data scientists — Mode has also been introducing tools for less technical users to structure queries that data scientists can subsequently execute more quickly and with more complete responses.

Crossbeam announces $25 million Series B to keep growing partnerships platform — Crossbeam is a Philadelphia startup that automates partnership data integration.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Can learning pods scale, or are they widening edtech’s digital divide? — In recent weeks, the concept has taken off all across the country.

Eight trends accelerating the age of commercial-ready quantum computing — Venrock’s Ethan Batraski writes that in the last 12 months, there have been meaningful breakthroughs in quantum computing from academia, venture-backed companies and industry.

5 VCs on the future of Michigan’s startup ecosystem — According to the Michigan Venture Capital Association (MVCA), there are 144 venture-backed startup companies in Michigan, up 12% over the last five years.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

More Chinese phone makers could lose US apps under Trump’s Clean Network — The Trump administration’s five-pronged Clean Network initiative aims to strip away Chinese phone makers’ ability to pre-install and download U.S. apps.

UK reported to be ditching coronavirus contact tracing in favor of ‘risk rating’ app — Reports suggest a launch of the much-delayed software will happen this month, but also that the app will no longer be able to automatically carry out contact tracing.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Tyler Mitchell, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard to talk Imagine Impact at Disrupt 2020

By Jordan Crook

The world is changing quickly. It seems to be growing more complicated by the minute.

Throughout the centuries, humans have used storytelling to make sense of the world around them. That is perhaps more true today than it ever was, as we have access to more stories (via the internet) than we ever have in history. But with this proliferation, it’s critical that the very best storytellers — a diverse group of storytellers — have access to the broadest audiences.

Imagine Impact, a content accelerator founded and led by Tyler Mitchell, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, aims to provide storytellers with the tools and access they need to reach as many people as possible. That’s why we’re thrilled to have Mitchell, Grazer and Howard join us at Disrupt 2020 on September 14-18.

Tyler Mitchell is a producer, writer and entrepreneur who has previously held the role of executive vice president at Imagine Entertainment, where he oversaw a slate of live-action films as well as launching Imagine’s animation division. He has also produced films in his own right, including “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” “Lucky Number Slevin” and “Maudie.” Producer and writer for prime-time shows “Kidnapped” and “My Own Worst Enemy,” Mitchell also has experience in the world of television.

Brian Grazer is an Academy Award, Golden Globe, Emmy and Grammy Award-winning producer, racking up 43 Oscar nominations and 198 Emmy nominations, winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards for “A Beautiful Mind.” He’s also a NYT bestselling author twice over and was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” He co-founded Imagine Entertainment alongside Ron Howard in the 80s, and has now gone on to co-found Imagine Impact alongside Mitchell and Howard.

Ron Howard needs no introduction. The Academy Award-winning filmmaker has been a creative force in some of Hollywood’s most memorable films, including “A Beautiful Mind,” “Apollo 13” and “Splash.” Alongside his illustrious film career, Howard has also executive-produced a variety of award-winning television shows, including the Emmy-winning series “Arrested Development” and the HBO miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon.”

These three launched Imagine Impact two years ago to bring to Hollywood Silicon Valley-style mentorship, a model cultivated by Y Combinator and various VCs in the tech world. As Netflix democratizes storytelling through its global platform for talent, Imagine Impact offers a place to vet that talent from the outset and nurture it through to the networks, studios and media platforms.

Netflix and Imagine Impact struck a deal in June to identify and develop film ideas across four genres, through a global submission process, that they will bring to Netflix for production and distribution.

Imagine Impact vets submissions with both experienced readers and a natural language processing system that was developed internally at the accelerator.

Since the first Impact program, the incubator has accepted 65 writers and paired them with industry experts (such as A Beautiful Mind’s Akiva Goldsman. Thus far, 62 developed projects have come out of the process, with 22 being sold or set up with major studios, networks and/or streaming services.

We’re thrilled to have Mitchell, Grazer and Howard join us at Disrupt 2020 to talk about how they’re mixing Silicon Valley tech and mentorship with the traditional Hollywood creative process and what the future of storytelling has in store for us. Get your pass today to hear this fantastic session — you can even save a cool $300 in the process!

Can learning pods scale, or are they widening edtech’s digital divide?

By Natasha Mascarenhas

Lucia, a six-year old, hides from Zoom calls and has rejected every edtech tool from Seesaw to Khan Academy. She will spend all of first grade in quarantine.

Her mother, Claire Díaz-Ortiz, says her daughter fits squarely into the “distance learning death zone.” The idea is that younger children are too young to do distance learning solo, even with tools meant to make it easier. Here’s one kindergartner’s remote fall class schedule:

Just got this schedule for my kindergartner’s “distance learning” in the fall and would just like to say LOL FOREVER TIMES A THOUSAND pic.twitter.com/CXXzdbwUWa

— Aubrey Hirsch (@aubreyhirsch) July 31, 2020

“And unfortunately for my daughter, I’m a VC, not a Zoom mom,” Díaz-Ortiz said.

The impact of the distance learning death zone, as Díaz-Ortiz calls it, is one of the reasons why many wealthy families with young children are considering a new solution: learning pods.

Learning pods are small clusters of children within the same age range who are paired with a private instructor. Depending on a parent’s preferences, learning pods could be an in-home or virtual experience and be either a full-time school replacement or supplemental learning.

In recent weeks, the concept has taken off all across the country, from suburbs to cities. There’s a Facebook group for Boulder, Colorado school districts; organizers launched Pandemic Pod San Diego to “connect families looking for in-home, teacher-led learning groups.” Some households are offering teachers a retainer. Among working mom groupchats, pods are taking off as a sanity lifesaver, especially as childcare responsibilities fall disproportionately on women.

Looking for the best 4-6th grade teacher in Bay Area who wants a 1-year contract, that will beat whatever they are getting paid, to teach 2-7 students in my back yard#microschool

If you know this teacher, refer them & we hire them, I will give you a $2k UberEats gift card

— jason@calacanis.com (@Jason) August 2, 2020

Startups are pivoting to keep up with the demand for private teachers. But because of high costs, only affluent families are able to form or join learning pods, which may limit the model’s ability to reach scale while extending the existing digital divide.

Extra Crunch Live: Join a live Q&A with Max Levchin today at 1pm PDT/4pm EDT

By Ingrid Lunden

Money makes the world go round, as the saying goes. But how and where we spend it are still very much up for grabs.

One person who has been pondering that question and providing answers very successfully is Max Levchin, and we’re very excited to have him as our special guest today on Extra Crunch Live, where we’ll be interviewing him as well as taking questions from the audience.

Levchin could not be more central to the story of Silicon Valley’s rise, and the rise of fintech, in the last twenty years. As one of the co-founders of PayPal, he’s been at the center of how we use the internet to send and spend money from its earliest days. As the CEO of Affirm, one of the hottest fintech companies around today, you can safely say he’s still in the game and winning.

But wait! There’s more! All that’s just part of Max’s fintech credentials. He’s also currently the chairman of health tech startup Glow, and his past roles have included chairman of Yelp and member of the board of Yahoo, and much more.

We are living in truly crazy times today, with the pandemic impacting every aspect of our lives, no less our tech lives. Max’s track record and his own story as an immigrant building huge businesses in America make him a very compelling person to weigh in on all of that. So please join us to watch, and participate in the conversation.

Extra Crunch Live is open exclusively to Extra Crunch subscribers. If you’re not already an Extra Crunch member, you can join here. We have the whole schedule of Extra Crunch Live talks as well.

I’ll be in the interviewer’s chair, and I plan to grill Max on all things fintech and foundery — where financial tech startups are going, how they are faring now, what founders need to be thinking about and how to avoid big mistakes. I’m also really looking forward to what you, the audience, want to ask Max, too.

See you later for all the fun, Thursday August 6 at 4 p.m. EDT/1 p.m. PDT/8 p.m. GMT. The links are below the fold.

We hope to see you there!

(Side Note: You can check out all our past episodes of Extra Crunch Live right here.)

Details:

Robinhood’s Q2 soars

By Alex Wilhelm

Robinhood’s huge, two-part Series F round came partially in Q2 and partially in Q3. The app-based trading platform announced the first $280 million  in early May, valuing the company at around $8.3 billion, up from a prior price tag of around $7.6 billion.

Then in July, Robinhood tacked on $320 million more at the same price, raising its valuation to around $8.6 billion.

While it has long been known that savings and investing apps and services are seeing a boom in 2020, precisely what caused investors to pour $600 million more into this already-wealthy company was less immediately evident. Recent data released by Robinhood concerning one of its revenue sources may help explain the rapid-fire capital events.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. You can read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


Filings from Robinhood covering the April through June period, Q2 2020, indicate that the company’s revenue from payment for order flow, a method by which a broker is paid to route customer orders through a particular group, or party rose during the period. As TechCrunch has covered, Robinhood generates a sizable portion of its revenue from such activities.

The company is hardly alone in doing so. As a new report from The Block, shared with The Exchange ahead of publication notes, Robinhood’s Q2 payment for order flow haul was impressive, but not singularly so; trading houses like E*Trade and Charles Schwab also grew their incomes from order flow routing in the period.

But Robinhood’s gains come in the wake of the firm’s promise to shake up its options trading setup after a customer took their own life. As we’ve written, there is a tension between Robinhood’s desire to limit who can access options trading, its need to grow and the incomes options-related order flow can drive for the budding fintech giant.

This morning, however, we are focusing on revenue growth over other issues (more to come on those later). Let’s dig into Robinhood’s Q2 order flow revenue numbers and see what we can learn about its run rate and current valuation.

A big Q2

According to The Block’s own calculations, Robinhood saw saw its total payment for order flow revenue roughly double, rising from $90.9 million in Q1 2020 to $183.3 million in Q2 2020, a 102% increase.

Eight trends accelerating the age of commercial-ready quantum computing

By Walter Thompson
Ethan Batraski Contributor
Ethan Batraski is a partner at Venrock, where he invests across sectors with a particular focus on hard engineering problems such as developer infrastructure, advanced computing and space.

Every major technology breakthrough of our era has gone through a similar cycle in pursuit of turning fiction to reality.

It starts in the stages of scientific discovery, a pursuit of principle against a theory, a recursive process of hypothesis-experiment. Success of the proof of principle stage graduates to becoming a tractable engineering problem, where the path to getting to a systemized, reproducible, predictable system is generally known and de-risked. Lastly, once successfully engineered to the performance requirements, focus shifts to repeatable manufacturing and scale, simplifying designs for production.

Since theorized by Richard Feynman and Yuri Manin, quantum computing has been thought to be in a perpetual state of scientific discovery. Occasionally reaching proof of principle on a particular architecture or approach, but never able to overcome the engineering challenges to move forward.

That’s until now. In the last 12 months, we have seen several meaningful breakthroughs from academia, venture-backed companies, and industry that looks to have broken through the remaining challenges along the scientific discovery curve. Moving quantum computing from science fiction that has always been “five to seven years away,” to a tractable engineering problem, ready to solve meaningful problems in the real world.

Companies such as Atom Computing* leveraging neutral atoms for wireless qubit control, Honeywell’s trapped ions approach, and Google’s superconducting metals, have demonstrated first-ever results, setting the stage for the first commercial generation of working quantum computers.

While early and noisy, these systems, even at just 40-80 error-corrected qubit range, may be able to deliver capabilities that surpass those of classical computers. Accelerating our ability to perform better in areas such as thermodynamic predictions, chemical reactions, resource optimizations and financial predictions.

As a number of key technology and ecosystem breakthroughs begin to converge, the next 12-18 months will be nothing short of a watershed moment for quantum computing.

Here are eight emerging trends and predictions that will accelerate quantum computing readiness for the commercial market in 2021 and beyond:

1. Dark horses of QC emerge: 2020 will be the year of dark horses in the QC race. These new entrants will demonstrate dominant architectures with 100-200 individually controlled and maintained qubits, at 99.9% fidelities, with millisecond to seconds coherence times that represent 2x -3x improved qubit power, fidelity and coherence times. These dark horses, many venture-backed, will finally prove that resources and capital are not sole catalysts for a technological breakthrough in quantum computing.

5 VCs on the future of Michigan’s startup ecosystem

By Matt Burns

The Michigan startup scene is growing and venture capitalists see several key areas of opportunities. What follows is a survey of some of the top VCs in the state and how they see COVID-19 affecting the growth of Detroit, Ann Arbor and all of Michigan’s startup ecosystem. According to the Michigan Venture Capital Association (MVCA), there are 144 venture-backed startup companies in Michigan, which is an increase of 12% over the last five years.

The amount of capital available in the state hit a four-year high in 2019 after shrinking from record levels in 2015. The MVCA says the total amount of VC funds under management in Michigan is $4.3 billion. Out of that, 71% of the capital has been invested into companies and the MVCA states its members estimate an additional $1.2 billion of venture capital is needed to “adequately fund the growth of Michigan’s 144 startup companies in the next two years.”

As the VCs say below, life sciences is a large part of the Michigan ecosystem, attracting 38% of all investments made in the state. Information technology comes in second, receiving 34% of the total capital invested, with 85% going to those focused on software. Mobility, often thought as Michigan’s mainstay, only received 7% of the capital in 2019. Here’s who we spoke to:

  • Chris Stallman, partner, Fontinalis Partners
  • Patricia Glaza, EVP and managing director, ID Ventures
  • Chris Rizik, CEO and fund manager, Renaissance Venture Capital
  • Tim Streit, partner, Grand Ventures
  • Turner Novak, general partner, Gelt VC

VCs remain bullish on Michigan’s life science startups

Michigan has long been a hub for life science startups and the venture capitalists polled expect that to continue. Chris Stallman of Fontinalis Partners points to Michigan’s long-standing reputation in this field and expects this to continue.

Tim Streit of Grand Ventures agrees and sees the pandemic as accelerating the sector’s growth. In recent weeks he says his firm has seen a “number of promising digital therapeutics deals based in or near Michigan … and the timing couldn’t be more perfect for these kinds of companies to succeed.”

Chris Rizik of Renaissance Venture Capital notes that drug development will continue to drive growth around the country and is a strength of the Michigan ecosystem. He also points to Jeff Williams, CEO of NeuMoDx, as a leader in the life science community and who has led a number of Michigan’s most successful startups.

The notable exception to this are startups directly serving hospitals, according to Patricia Glaza of ID Ventures. She sees this as a challenging market in the era of COVID-19, saying “Hospitals are bleeding cash without elective surgeries and hard to prioritize nonessential technologies.”

Ann Arbor is becoming a hub for security companies

Duo Security’s impressive exit to Cisco in 2018 is still resonating in the scene. As such, many venture capitalists are seeing Ann Arbor becoming a home for security startups.

Stallman of Fontinalis states, “I think the cybersecurity realm will be a bright spot as some of those spillover effects from the 2018 acquisition of Duo Security by Cisco take hold (this is still in its early days — employees will reach the end of their employment agreements and will start new companies, etc.).” Rizik of Renaissance Venture Capital said something similar: “The success of Duo Security highlighted Michigan’s growing reputation as a cybersecurity hub. The University of Michigan has always been strong in this area, and we now see a number of interesting startups in this field popping up around Ann Arbor.”

When asked about leaders in the Michigan startup scene, nearly all of the VCs listed Duo Security founders Dug Song and Jon Oberheide as key players. Perhaps Rizik said it best: “Dug Song is a great leader, who not only created a monster success for the region with Duo Security, but also has devoted much of his time to strategically working to help Michigan move forward as a responsible, startup-friendly community.”

Michigan is well-suited to benefit from remote work

Of course Michigan-based venture capitalists would be bullish on their own state, but nearly all of the VCs share the same reasons on why Michigan is a good place. They list low cost of living, amazing STEM-focused schools and a community of founders, VCs and business leaders eager to help each other.

Few VCs mention mobility as a bright spot for Michigan startups

Surprisingly, few of the VCs in the survey mention mobility or automotive as a highlight of the Michigan startup scene, which runs counter to the national narrative. Stallman sums up the situation this way: “The mobility space will see both headwinds and tailwinds. Companies vying for automotive customers may find that the industry’s challenges have resulted in a shorter ‘priority list’ for many automakers and suppliers; on the other side, companies helping to remove enterprise risk through innovation in supply chain, automation, workforce efficiency, etc. will have arguably more opportunity going forward.”

Chris Stallman, partner, Fontinalis Partners

How much is local investing a focus for you now? If you are investing remotely in general now, are you filtering for local founders?

We have always been a thematically focused investor rather than a geographically focused investor; prior to COVID-19, we had invested 99% of our capital outside of Michigan. With that said, we’d love to invest more in Michigan and support more local founders.

What do you expect to happen to the startup climate in Detroit/Ann Arbor/Michigan longer term, with the shift to more remote work, possibly from more remote areas. Will it stay a tech hub?

Southeast Michigan has always been a story of two different startup worlds: health/life sciences and hardware/software tech. On the life sciences side, this region has a long-standing reputation of innovation and university research, and I expect that to remain largely the same going forward. It would seem to me that life sciences companies may not have as easy of a time adapting to new remote-work environments since much of the innovation work remains lab/clinic/facility-based.

For the world of other technology, I think there will certainly be more embracing of remote work and distributed teams — this area has always had some degree of that since it’s not uncommon to see companies with another office elsewhere or a few remote employees that come from very specific backgrounds that are hard to recruit for locally. Since this area has always had some of that, I could see a case that this new paradigm will be an easier adjustment for this region. However, the flip side of that is that so much of tech innovation and developing an ecosystem is about density and serendipitous collisions — for an area that was still on the come-up, losing what ground had been gained in recent years will no doubt make the spillover benefits of this aspect harder to come by. I worry a bit that angel and seed activity will slow locally (and hopefully that the growth in seed funds nationally will offset that).

Are there particular industry sectors that you expect to do uniquely well or poorly, locally?

I think a larger theme that is arising out of this COVID-19 situation is that people have a heightened sense of health, safety and security. Life sciences will remain resilient so long as there’s funding for continued research, and I think the cybersecurity realm will be a bright spot as some of those spillover effects from the 2018 acquisition of Duo Security by Cisco take hold (this is still in its early days — employees will reach the end of their employment agreements and will start new companies, etc.).

The mobility space will see both headwinds and tailwinds. Companies vying for automotive customers may find that the industry’s challenges have resulted in a shorter “priority list” for many automakers and suppliers; on the other side, companies helping to remove enterprise risk through innovation in supply chain, automation, workforce efficiency, etc. will have arguably more opportunity going forward.

In the short term, what challenges are facing Michigan’s startup scene?

Detroit has not yet hit a full critical mass from a startup ecosystem standpoint, and that is most evident in the more limited amount of angel and seed capital available to companies here; and, to a lesser extent, a more shallow pool of mentors and advisors for founders than what you would find in SF, LA, NYC, Boston, etc.

Who are some founders (who you’ve invested in or otherwise) that are leaders in the community?

Here are some of the prominent ones (note that we have invested in any): Dug Song and Jon Oberheide (Duo Security), Mina Sooch (has founded and led several prominent biotech companies), Amanda Lewan (Bamboo Detroit), Kyle Hoff (Floyd), Josh Luber and Greg Schwartz (StockX).

A lot of Bay Area founders and developers are looking to relocate. Why Michigan?

Quality research institutions, access to talent locally and ability to pull from Toronto/Ohio/etc., significant industry (automotive, logistics, manufacturing and financial services) in its footprint, supportive state programs for startups, cost of living, international airport with easy access (when the world moves again, that is), etc.

Patricia Glaza, EVP and managing director, ID Ventures

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