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YouTube upgrades Premieres with trailers, themes and a live pre-show option

By Sarah Perez

YouTube today is launching three new features designed to improve its “Premieres” experience, including trailers, themes, and live stream “pre-shows” that later redirect to the main event. Premieres, which first arrived in 2018, are designed to give creators the ability to leverage the revenue generation possibilities that come with live videos without having to actually “go live.”

Instead, Premieres allow creators to promote a scheduled video release by pointing fans to a landing page with a live chat in the sidebar, just like other live videos. This lets creators take advantage of money-making features like SuperChat, Stickers, ads, and Channel Memberships.

However, some creators want to engage with fans live ahead of their video premiere. The new “Live Redirect” feature will now make it a more seamless experience when they do so, as it allows creators to host a live stream that redirects to the upcoming Premiere just before it starts. This gives creators time to build up their audience ahead of the video’s release, as they can now not only join the chat to engage fans, but also live stream to their fans directly.

Image Credits: YouTube

YouTube says it tested this feature over the past several months with We Are One Film Festival, New York Comic-Con, BTS, Cardi B, and Justin Bieber, in advance of today’s launch.

Another new feature will allow creators to upload a pre-recorded video that will be featured on the Premiere landing page before the main event. This trailer can range from 15 seconds to 3 minutes in length, and works to create hype for the premiere ahead of its release. Creators can also encourage their fans to set a reminder so they won’t miss the video’s launch.

Image Credits: YouTube

The video countdown experience that plays just before their Premieres go live can also now be customized A new set of Countdown Themes will include those designed for different vibes or moods, like calm, playful, dramatic or sporty, for example.

Image Credits: YouTube

Since their launch, Premieres have been used by over 8 million YouTube channels, including big names like BLACKPINK, Tiny Desk, James Charles, Supercell, and Cirque du Soleil, among others. Their adoption significantly grew during the pandemic, the company also notes. Since March 1, 2020, YouTube has seen over 85% growth in daily Premieres, with over 80% of the channels having never before used a Premiere until this year.

The first two features will arrive to creators with at least 1,000 subscribers starting today, but Countdown Themes won’t be available for a couple of months, YouTube says.

Join us for a live Q&A with Sapphire’s Jai Das right now!

By Alex Wilhelm

We’re live! Check the links below!

Today’s the day! In just a few hours I am chatting with with Jai Das, a managing director at Sapphire Ventures.

The conversation is part of the second season of our Extra Crunch Live series that has seen all sorts of investors and founders join TechCrunch for a dig into their work.

Das’ participation comes at the perfect moment: He invested early in MuleSoft, which sold to Salesforce for $6.5 billion back in 2018. Salesforce is expected to announce its purchase of Slack later today, perhaps before our chat. Either way, we’ll ask Das about selling companies, selling them to Salesforce in particular and what we should take away concerning the enterprise software M&A market from the deal.

Here are notes from the last episode of Extra Crunch Live with Bessemer’s Byron Deeter.

And as we noted last week, we will also dig into the role of corporate venture capital in 2020 and beyond, the state of early-to-growth stage investing as Sapphire leads rounds from Series A to Series C, API-led startups, along with the importance of geographic location in the pandemic for founding teams and more.

It’s going to be fun! And it’s in just a few hours. So make sure that your Extra Crunch login works, hit the jump, save the time to your calendar and submit a question ahead of time if you want me to see your notes before we start. In the meantime, I’m going to find my most Zoom-friendly shirt and run through my intro a few times.

We’re live in mere hours! See you soon.

Details

Below are links to add the event to your calendar and to save the Zoom link. We’ll share the YouTube link shortly before the discussion:

UK shrinks timetable for telcos to stop installing 5G kit from Huawei

By Natasha Lomas

The UK government has squeezed the timetable for domestic telcos to stop installing 5G kit from Chinese suppliers, per the BBC, which reports that the deadline for installation of kit from so-called ‘high risk’ vendors is now September.

It had already announced a ban on telcos buying kit from Huawei et al by the end of this year — acting on national security concerns attached to companies that fall under the jurisdiction of Chinese state surveillance laws. But, according to the BBC, ministers are concerned carriers could stockpile kit for near-term installation to create an optional buffer for themselves since it has allowed until 2027 for them to remove such kit from existing 5G networks. Maintaining already installed equipment will also still be allowed up til then.

A Telecommunications Security Bill which will allow the government to identify kit as a national security risk and ban its use in domestic networks is slated to be introduced to parliament tomorrow.

Digital secretary Oliver Dowden told the BBC he’s pushing for the “complete removal of high-risk vendors”.

In July the government said changes to the US sanction regime meant it could no longer manage the security risk attached to Chinese kit makers.

The move represented a major U-turn from the policy position announced in January — when the UK said it would allowed Chinese vendors to play a limited role in supplying domestic networks. However the plan faced vocal opposition from the government’s own back benches, as well as high profile pressure from the US — which has pushed allies to expel Huawei entirely.

Alongside policies to restrict the use of high risk 5G vendors the UK has said it will take steps to encourage newcomers to enter the market to tackle concerns that the resulting lack of suppliers introduces another security risk.

Publishing a supply chain diversification strategy for 5G today, Dowden warns that barring “high risk” vendors leaves the country “overly reliant on too few suppliers”.

“This 5G Diversification Strategy is a clear and ambitious plan to grow our telecoms supply chain while ensuring it is resilient to future trends and threats,” he writes. “It has three core strands: supporting incumbent suppliers; attracting new suppliers into the UK market; and accelerating the development and deployment of open-interface solutions.”

The government is putting an initial £250 million behind the 5G diversification plan to try to build momentum. behind increasing competition and interoperability.

“Achieving this long term vision depends on removing the barriers that prevent new market entrants from joining the supply chain, investing in R&D to support the accelerated development and deployment of interoperable deployment models, and international collaboration and policy coordination between national governments and industry,” it writes.

In the short to medium term the government says it will proritize support for existing suppliers — so the likely near term beneficiary of the strategy is Finland’s Nokia.

Though the government also says it will “seek to attract new suppliers to the UK market in order to start the process of diversification as soon as possible”.

“As part of our approach we will prioritise opportunities to build UK capability in key areas of the supply chain,” it writes, adding: “As we progress this activity we look forward to working with network operators in the UK, telecoms suppliers and international governments to achieve our shared goals of a more competitive and vibrant telecoms supply market.”

We’ve reached out to Huawei for comment on the new deadline for UK carriers to stop installing its 5G kit.

Dija, a new delivery startup from former Deliveroo employees, is closing in on a $20M round led by Blossom

By Steve O'Hear

Dija, a new U.K.-based startup founded by senior former Deliveroo employees, is closing in on $20 million in funding, TechCrunch has learned.

According to multiple sources, the round, which has yet to close, is being led by Blossom Capital, the early-stage venture capital firm founded by ex-Index and LocalGlobe VC Ophelia Brown. It’s not clear who else is in the running, although I understand it was highly contested and the startup had offers from several top-tier funds. Blossom Capital and Dija declined to comment.

Playing in the convenience store and delivery space, yet to launch Dija is founded by Alberto Menolascina and Yusuf Saban, who both spent a number of years at Deliveroo in senior positions.

Menolascina was previously director of Corporate Strategy and Development at the takeout delivery behemoth and held several positions before that. He also co-founded Everli (formerly Supermercato24), the Instacart-styled grocery delivery company in Italy, and also worked at Just Eat.

Saban is the former chief of staff to CEO at Deliveroo and also worked at investment bank Morgan Stanley.

In other words, both are seasoned operators in food logistics, from startups to scale-ups. Both Menolascina and Saban were also instrumental in Deliveroo’s Series D, E and F funding rounds.

Meanwhile, few details are public about Dija, except that it will offer convenience and fresh food delivery using a “dark” convenience store mode, seeing it build out hyper local fulfilment centers in urban high population areas for super quick delivery. It’s likely akin to Accel and SoftBank-backed goPuff in the U.S. or perhaps startup Weezy in the U.K.

That said, the model is yet to be proven everywhere it’s been tried and will likely be a capital intensive race in which Dija is off to a good start. And, of course, with everybody making the shift to online groceries while in a pandemic, as ever, timing is everything.

AliveCor, which helps its users manage their heart health, scores another FDA approval

By Connie Loizos

Last week, AliveCor, a nine-year-old, 92-person company whose small, personal electrocardiogram devices help users detect atrial fibrillation, bradycardia, and tachycardia from heart rate readings taken from their own kitchen tables, raised $65 million from investors.

Today, it’s clearer why investors — who’ve now provided the Mountain View, Ca., company with $169 million altogether —  are excited about its prospects. AliveCor just received its newest FDA clearance under the agency’s software as a medical device designation for an upgrade that generates enough detail and fidelity that AliveCor says its cardiological services can now serve as stand-in for the vast majority of cases when cardiac patients are not in front of their doctor.

Specifically, the company says the FDA-cleared update can detect premature atrial contractions, premature ventricular contractions, sinus rhythm with wide QRS.

In a world where the pandemic continues to rage and people remain hesitant to visit a hospital, these little steps add up. In fact, CEO Priya Abani, along with AliveCor founder and chief medical officer David Albert, formerly the chief clinical scientist of cardiology at GE, say AliveCor’s “Kardia” devices have been used to record nearly 15 million EKG recordings since March of this year, which is up over 70% year-over-year.

They also claim a 25% increase year-over-year in what they call physician-patient connections, meaning doctors specifically asking their patients to use the device, either at their medical office or at the patient’s home. Indeed, the pair says that while the company has focused historically on consumer sales, so much new business is coming through doctor referrals that roughly one out of every two of its devices is now sold through these recommendations.

Patients still need to pay out of pocket for AliveCor’s personal EKG devices, one of which currently sells for $89 while a more sophisticated model sells for $139.

The company also more recently rolled out a subscription product for $99 per year that “unlocks” additional features, including monthly summaries of a customer’s heart data, and hopefully soon, says Abani, access to cardiologists who will be able to answer questions in lieu of one’s own cardiologist.

Abani — who joined AliveCor last year from Amazon, where she was a general manager and director of Alexa — says other offerings are also in the works that should help customers measure their hypertension and blood pressure. She adds that the company more broadly sees itself as becoming a way for people to manage chronic conditions from home and that, if things go AliveCor’s way, employers will begin offering the service to employees as a way for them to take better care of their own heart health.

In the meantime, AliveCor’s bigger push into the enterprise appears tied not only to COVID and its ripple effects but also to competition on the consumer front from Apple Watch, which also now enables wearers to records the electrical pulses that make one’s heart beat and to determine whether the upper and lower chambers are their heart are in rhythm.

Though the company has sung Apple’s praises for raising awareness around heart health, last year, owing to shrinking sales, AliveCor stopped making an earlier product called the KardiaBand that was an FDA-cleared ECG wristband designed for use with Apple Watches.

AliveCor’s products are currently sold in 12 countries, including India, South Korea, and Germany, and it has clearance to sell in more than 37 altogether.

In addition to selling directly to customers through its site, its devices are available to buy through Best Buy, CVS, and Walgreens.

Very worth noting: Neither Apple nor AliveCor can detect actual heart attacks. While both can detect atrial fibrillation, acute heart attacks are not associated with atrial fibrillation.

Gift Guide: 7 perfect gifts for podcasters and streamers

By Brian Heater

So, this one is going to be a different from last year. Because everything is different from last year. I know 2020 has been a pretty big change for my own personal podcast. I always prefer conducting interviews in person when I’m able — in fact, around 400 or so episodes were done exactly like that.

But face-to-face interviews are going to continue to be a non-starter for the foreseeable future, so I’ve had to switch the show to a virtual setup. It’s less than ideal for my own creative and aesthetic preferences, but when the world shifts radically, you do your best to adapt along with it.

For me, that’s meant a couple of things. First — and most obviously — shifting from in-person interviews to virtual ones. Another more surprising (for me) aspect has been the addition of a video element. I’ve started doing it less frequently, but I’ve incorporated YouTube live-streaming into my repertoire. After all, most of my interviews are done over Zoom, with the video stripped out. Sometimes it’s fun to do both.

So here’s a good place to start for the podcaster in your life — whether they’re just starting out or looking to make the transition to remote streaming.

This article contains links to affiliate partners where available. When you buy through these links, TechCrunch may earn an affiliate commission.

AKG Lyra

Image Credits: Brian Heater

This one is a repeat from last year, mostly because I’ve been using the heck out of it. AKG’s mic has become my go-to for podcasts and meetings alike. I’ve used it for television appearances, Disrupt panels and a recent guest hosting appearance on NPR. It sounds good, has simple-to-understand settings, plug-and-play functionality and it looks great.

Price: Around $140 from Amazon

Logitech StreamCam

Image Credits: Logitech

The thing about webcams is that there are a lot of them. The other thing about them is they’re mostly pretty cheap. Logitech’s StreamCam is pretty pricey as far as the category goes. Many or most of these products can be had for around $100 or less. The StreamCam comes at a premium — but you get a lot of camera for that price.

It’s probably overkill for most scenarios (see also: our work from home gift guide), but it delivers really solid streaming quality in a compact package. That includes 1080p video at 60fps, with face tracking and good low-light shooting.

Price: $170 from Logitech

Yotto Microphone Pop Filter

Image Credits: Yotto

Okay, this one is less exciting, but man oh man is it important. I suspect most amateur podcasters don’t even consider a wind screen, but after listening to a bit of level-spiking sibilance, you’ll understand exactly why this microphone add-on is so important.

I was using another model until its recent, untimely demise. I just picked this one up for $12 on Amazon and it’s been great. There’s a clamp at the bottom that attaches to most USB mics (including the Blue Yeti and the above AKG). The arm is also super flexible, which is the biggest issue I had with the older model.

Price: $12 from Amazon

GVM Light Ring

Image Credits: GVM

This is the light ring that made most of our staff look great during our first-ever virtual Disrupt. It’s been sitting in the corner of my living room for several months now, and I utilize it for both video streams and meetings.

Like anything involving stills or video, lighting is incredibly important, and the GVM is a real powerhouse with a stated 70,000 hours of life. It’s intense and adjustable/dimmable, offering really solid realistic color settings.

Price: $127 from Amazon

RODEcaster Pro

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Another returning item from last year. And honestly, this one is a bit hopeful that some day soon we’ll all be comfortable talking at each other in cramped spaces again. But the RODEcaster Pro is honestly just too good not to include here.

The RODEcaster Pro is a multi-channel mixing board that saves up to four mics’ worth of input (along with effects and guest phone calls via Bluetooth) to an SD card, which will greatly assist in any post-podcast processing. I’m happy to retire it from my list when another podcasting board can offer similar functionality with such an accessible interface and reasonable price. Until then, the RODEcaster Pro continues to be the best way to quickly up your podcasting game.

Price: $599 from Sweetwater

Zencastr Subscription

Your results will vary, but I know a lot of folks who rely on Zencastr for remote recording. The interface is great, recording each track remotely, offering levels in-real time and uploading them to the servicer. Files are saved as lossless .wavs and separated by guest.

Price: $20/month from Zencastr

Audio-Technica ATH-M50

Image Credits: Audio-Technica

This is just a great pair of super comfortable and versatile over-ear professional headphones at a reasonable price. Audio-Technica is well regarded in DJ and studio circles, and the $149 price point delivers really excellent quality without breaking the bank.

Price: $149 from Sweetwater

Watch Dogs: Legion Tackles Dystopia—That It's a Part Of

By Reid McCarter
Developer Ubisoft points the finger at the underlying causes in the game, but stops short of naming and shaming. Because it'd have to shame itself, too.

Restaurant search engine FoodBoss adds support for direct delivery from restaurants

By Anthony Ha

FoodBoss aims to be something like Kayak for online food ordering — the place where you can search across different service and apps to find the lowest prices and fastest delivery times.

One limitation, however, is the fact that the service was limited to third-party services like Uber Eats and Postmates, with no way to order from the restaurant itself — until recently, with the launch of a new feature called Restaurant Direct.

FoodBoss co-founder and CEO Michael DiBenedetto said that restaurants are placing an increasing emphasis on accepting delivery and pickup orders directly, both to save on the fees they pay to third-party services, and also to have a direct relationship with their customers.

“The main problem is they spent all this money to build out the [ordering] infrastructure, but they don’t necessarily know that they have to spend marketing dollars to drive consumers to their site or app,” DiBenedetto said. “That’s where we’re really helping.”

FoodBoss

Image Credits: FoodBoss

Restaurant Direct may present some additional technical hurdles, because it will require FoodBoss to integrate with a variety of ordering systems. DiBenedetto said the company will be connecting through APIs in some cases and can also work directly with restaurant IT departments.

He emphasized that FoodBoss will remain agnostic about how you order — the goal is just to show you all the options, and to highlight the ordering method that best matches your priorities.

“At FoodBoss, we’re focused on making sure we’re helping third parties and [restaurants] have a lower overall marketing cost,” DiBenedetto continued. “Everybody wants to be profitable on delivery.”

The first restaurant available through Restaurant Direct is Lou Malnati’s in Chicago, with plans to add Sbarro in multiple markets next year. In a statement, Lou Malnati’s president, Heather Stege, said, “The challenge for restaurants is being able to serve customers through the users preferred channels, while still providing them with exceptional food. FoodBoss helps simplify that by offering multiple options, including our own, to attract customers.”

Walmart is buying JoyRun assets to add ‘peer-to-peer’ product delivery

By Brian Heater

The last time we wrote about JoyRun, it was raising $10 million. Today, the Bay Area startup has some very different news to share, as it becomes part of Walmart as Walmart has purchased select assets in a bid to enhance its supply chain. The mega-retailer announced today that it has acquired “select assets – including the talent, technology platform and IP” from the company, in a bid to incorporate its peer-to-peer food and drink delivery service into its own last-mile logistics.

Walmart EVP Srini Venkatesan notes that the app has amassed a network of 540 third-party merchant partners and north of 30,000 people who have delivered goods with the service since its launch half-a-decade ago. JoyRun’s service is a bit of twist on more standard delivery apps like Seamless and Uber Eats.

As we described it back in 2017, “The company’s app lets people find out who, nearby, is already heading out to a restaurant that they like, then tack on an order of their own.” It will be interesting to see how Walmart integrates this technology into its existing chain, though from the sound it, Walmart would essentially be relying on non-professionals to delivery goods like groceries.

The system would likely operate in a manner like Amazon Flex — a kind of Uber/Lyft gig economy-style approach to delivery.

“This acquisition allows us to further augment our team and ongoing efforts to explore even more ways to deliver for customers in the future,” Venkatesan adds. “For instance, Runners could complement our SPARK program and 3rd Party delivery providers. Our goal is to deliver as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Walmart expects the deal to close “in the coming weeks,” which will incorporate JoyRun into its Supply Chain Technology team. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Amazon’s drone delivery team hit with layoffs amid reorganization

By Brian Heater

Amazon has confirmed an early Financial Times report outlining layoffs at the retail giant’s Prime Air drone delivery program.

“As part of our regular business operations, we are reorganizing one small team within our larger Prime Air organization to allow us to best align with the needs of our customers and the business,” spokesperson Kristen Kish said in a statement offered to TechCrunch. “For affected employees, we are working to find roles in the areas where we are hiring that best match their experience and needs.”

The statement echoes similar sentiment from Amazon departments that have undergone headcount reduction, including the bit about attempting to shift employees around inside the company. Among other things, it’s an attempt to get out in front of suggestions that the project could be struggling. The company adds, however, that it is committed to the Prime Air project.

The initial report points to dozens of layoffs, though Amazon, unsurprisingly, is loath to give an exact figure. Understandably, the ambitious project, which would add rapid air delivers to Amazon’s existing robust delivery structure, hasn’t exactly been a quick launch.

In a blog post tied to the company’s RE:Mars conference last June, consumer head Jeff Wilke noted, “[W]ith the help of our world-class fulfillment and delivery network, we expect to scale Prime Air both quickly and efficiently, delivering packages via drone to customers within months.”

Certainly the health risks to essential workers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a prime candidate for such a launch, but there are a number of hurdles for the program, including both regulatory and technological. In August, the service received FAA approval for trials.

Medable raises $91 million for its clinical trial management software

By Jonathan Shieber

The clinical trial management software developer Medable has raised $91 million in a new round of financing as life sciences companies struggle with how to conduct the necessary validation studies of new drugs and devices in a pandemically challenged environment.

Digital and decentralized clinical trials are becoming a necessity given the health and safety guidelines that have been adopted to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said. And those changes are driving a shift to services like Medable’s as companies move through the approval process, the company said in a statement.

The company’s new $91 million financing was led by Sapphire Ventures, with follow-on investment from existing investors GSR VenturesPPD, Inc. and Streamlined Ventures.

Medable’s software manages recruitment, remote screening, electronic consent, clinical outcomes assessment (eCOA), eSource, telemedicine, and connected devices, the company said.

Its software is already being used to work on vaccines and therapeutics targeting COVID-19 specifically in addition to facilitating the development of other potentially life-saving therapies and treatments.

“The pandemic has made the world aware of the importance of clinical drug development,” said Dr. Michelle Longmire, CEO and co-founder of Medable, in a statement. “We need transformative technologies that break down critical barriers to improve patient access, experience and outcomes. This new funding will enable Medable to continue our aggressive pursuit of new technologies that improve clinical trials to benefit all patients.”

Trials underway in more than 60 countries are using the service and Medable has inked partnerships with companies like Datavant, to integrate multiple data sources for decentralized trials; MRN, to handle home and remote visits, and AliveCor, to track in-home health with electrocardiograms. 

 

These Rare Seeds Escaped Syria's War—to Help Feed the World

By Matt Simon
Conflict forced scientists to abandon a gene bank, but not before duplicating their last remnants of essential crops in the Svalbard vault on a remote Arctic island.

Musicians get the bulk of ticket sales with Bandcamp’s new live-streaming concert feature

By Brian Heater

The musician’s life is rarely an easy one. That goes double for these last, oh, eight or so months. Most artists who haven’t risen the ranks to rock-star levels make the lion’s share of their money from live shows, and that’s just not in the cards for now — and likely won’t be for some time.

Bandcamp has been something of a lifesaver for many artists who make fractions of a cent on streaming revenue. Among other things, the site has set up the wildly popular Bandcamp Fridays, wherein it waves its fees for one week a month. Now it’s getting into live streaming, as musicians look for ways to offer remote performances for fans.

The service is pretty well positioned to offer the feature. For one thing, it’s got goodwill going for it. For another, integration with existing services means fans get notified when a show is coming up. And all their goods are offered up for sale during the shows as a kind of virtual merch table where they can buy swag while still watching the performance.

The setup process is pretty bare bones and there’s even an optional chat on board, if the artist wants to engage in a bit of banter. Honestly, the most appealing thing here is probably the low overhead. Musicians set their own prices, there are none of the usual surprise fees and Bandcamp only takes 10% off the top — a fee it’s waiving altogether through March of next year.

The service has already lined up a bunch of high-profile indie acts, including Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Pedro the Lion and Cloud Nothings. The feature is rolling out to users starting today.

Why some VCs prefer to work with first-time founders

By Natasha Mascarenhas

Repeat founders who have a proven track record, good references, and in the best cases, an exit to point to will have an easy time making inroads with venture capitalists. Earlier this week, for example, the former founders of Udemy and altMBA raised more than $4 million for a startup with no name or final product.

However, broad strokes in an environment as nuanced and dynamic as VC never make sense. As early stage evolves and more capital flows into the sector, some investors actually prefer first-time founders; it all depends on the type of venture capitalist you ask.

Last week, TMV co-founder Soraya Darabi joined the Extra Crunch Live stage to discuss her firm and investment theory.

“We look for founders who have not had a demonstrable exit before because we think that it can actually taint your perspective,” Darabi said during an Extra Crunch Live. “We look for, instead, founders [who] have had a front row seat of success, or had some product experience where you’re watching from third base but not necessarily the person that takes the whole show home.”

The preference comes directly because of TMV’s investment cadence. TMV invests between $500,000 to $1.5 million into startups that have valuations between $10 million to $15 million. Startups that have heavy market signals or hype will likely exceed that range, and thus become out of reach. For example, a Y Combinator company raised $16 million in a seed round at a $75 million valuation before Demo Day.

As a result, TMV sources founders who have not yet made the leap and want an institutional investor to help them start their first company.

Baidu to acquire Joyy’s Chinese live-streaming service YY for $3.6B

By Manish Singh

Baidu said on Monday it is acquiring Joyy’s live-streaming service YY Live in China for $3.6 billion in an all-cash deal as the Chinese internet giant makes a further push to diversify beyond its core search business.

The announcement, which Baidu shared on the sidelines of its quarterly earnings, is the Chinese firm’s biggest foray into the growing market of video streaming. It comes at a time when the company has been struggling to fight new comers such as ByteDance.

YY has amassed more than 4 million paying subscribers who watch influencers perform and sell a range of items on the video app. The streaming service last year bought a stake worth $1.45 billion in Bigo, a Singapore-based startup that operates streaming apps Bigo Live and Like in a push to expand outside of China.

YY today is only selling its China business to Baidu. The closing of the transaction is subject to certain conditions and is currently expected to occur in the first half of 2021, Baidu said.

“This transaction will catapult Baidu into a leading platform for live streaming and diversify our revenue source.” said Robin Li, co-founder and chief executive of Baidu, in a statement.

“YY Live stands to benefit from Baidu’s large traffic and thriving mobile ecosystem, while Baidu will receive immediate operational experience and knowhow for large-scale video-based social media development, as well as an enviable creator network that will further strengthen Baidu’s massive content provider network. Together with the team from YY Live, Baidu hopes to explore the next-generation livestreaming and video-based social media that can expand beyond entertainment into the diversified verticals on Baidu platform.”

More to follow…

 

Amazon’s in-garage delivery is now available in 4,000 US cities

By Brian Heater

For all the myriad ways Amazon has made shopping more convenient, the last-mile delivery can be an issue. The company’s Key service is an attempt to address those issues, offering a way for packages to get delivered even when residents aren’t home or are otherwise unreachable.

Currently the company offers home, car and garage delivery options. The latter, which launched in 2019 with 50 cities, now reaches more than 4,000, according to the company. The cities include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Houston, Boston, Atlanta and Phoenix. There are thousands of nearby smaller cities and towns on the list, as well. Shout out to Astoria, New York.

The feature is open to Prime members who have a myQ garage door opener, which drivers can access. In addition to the existing delivery features, Amazon is adding in-garage grocery delivers in a handful of cities starting today, including Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. The feature will be limited to select areas and will be expending to other U.S. cities at some unspecified point in the future.

Livestorm raises $30M for its browser-based meeting and webinar platform

By Anthony Ha

Video communication startup Livestorm announced today that it has raised $30 million in Series B funding.

Co-founder and CEO Gilles Bertaux told me that the company started out with a focus on webinars before launching a video meeting product as well (which we used for our interview).

“The way we think about it is, webinars and meetings are not use cases,” Bertaux said.

He argued that it’s more meaningful to talk about whether you’re having a team meeting or a training demo or whatever else, and then how many people you want to attend, with Livestorm supporting all of those use cases and meeting sizes through different templates: “We’re trying to remove the semantic distinction of meeting and webinar out of the equation.”

Among other things, Livestorm is distinguished from other video conferencing tools because it’s purely browser based, without requiring presenters or attendees install any software. The company says it has grown revenue 8x since it raised its 4.6 million euro Series A last fall, with a customer base that now includes 3,500 customers such as Shopify, Honda and Sephora.

Livestorm screenshot

Image Credits: Livestorm

Of course, you’d expect a video communication product to do well in 2020. At the same time, Zoom has dominated the remote work conversation this year — in fact, Bertaux acknowledged that Zoom may have built “the best video meeting technology.”

But he also suggested that the landscape is changing: “The thing is, we’re entering a period where video is becoming a commodity.”

So the Livestorm team is less focused on the core video technology and more on the experience around the video, with in-meeting features like screensharing and virtual background, as well as a broader suite of marketing tools that allow customers to continue delivering targeted messages to event attendees.

Bertaux compared Livestorm to HubSpot, which he said “didn’t reinvent landing pages,” but put the different pieces of the marketing stack together around those landing pages.

Livestorm executives

The Livestorm executive team

“In 2021, we want to have the biggest ecosystem of integrations on a video product,” he said.

The round was led by Aglaé Ventures and Bpifrance Digital Venture, with participation from Raise Ventures and IDInvest.

In a statement, Aglaé Ventures Partner Cyril Guenoun similarly described Livestorm “the HubSpot for video communications,” adding, “Video and online events have become essential in 2020, and are here to stay. The Livestorm platform thrives in this environment, providing a seamless solution for meetings and events with all the connectors that marketing, sales, customer service and HR pros need to make video a tightly integrated part of their communications strategies.”

Bertaux said the new funding will allow Paris-headquartered Livestorm to continue expanding into North America — apparently, the U.S. already represents one-third of its customer base and is the company’s fastest-growing region.

On-demand delivery app Glovo is spinning up a B2B logistics unit for super speedy urban delivery

By Natasha Lomas

Spain’s on-demand delivery app, Glovo, is gearing up to be able to deliver a much wider range of products within a 30-minute timeframe by rolling out a b2b logistics play — drawing on a network of city centre warehouses that it plans to massively expand over the next twelve months.

It’s just announced the launch of a new business unit, called Q-Commerce — the ‘Q’ standing for quick — to accelerate development of a b2b service that will see it offer to stock third parties’ products in its warehouses and have the couriers that operate on its on-demand platform make deliveries for other businesses too — offering what it bills as a “turn-key” logistics solution for businesses of all sizes to underpin their own online stories. 

It is already working with retail brands like Unilever, Nestle and L’Oreal and supermarkets including Walmart, Carrefour and Kaufland to stock and sell their goods from its network of so-called ‘dark stores’ — which are currently located in Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon and Milan — offering users there speedy delivery for selected groceries and other items under its ‘Glovo Market’ brand (currently with the carrot of free 24-hour delivery and no minimum spend). But it’s aiming to ramp up across the board — expanding the reach of its Glovo Market offer to more cities and launching a b2b offer to power others’ online stores — saying it plans to have more than 100 dark stores up and running by the end of 2021.

Commenting in a statement, Daniel Alonso, global director of Q-Commerce at Glovo — and former ecommerce director at Walmart — said: “With shops closing down and lockdowns globally, consumers now want and expect more items than ever to be delivered to their doorstep. With this has brought new demands — it is no longer a case of waiting 24-48 hours for a delivery. Rather, the expectation for this is now a matter of minutes. At Glovo we’re committed to thirty minutes or less with all products available on Q-Commerce. As we continue to expand our enhanced offering, we’re excited to launch Q-Commerce in other parts of Spain and the rest of Europe, Eastern Europe and Africa over the next 12 months.”

Glovo says it wants Q-Commerce to power delivery of a wide range of products — not just meals and food from restaurants and supermarkets but anything sold in toy, music, book, flower, beauty and pharmacy stores.

There are some obvious gaps in that list: Clothes and shoe stores, for example, which are more likely to have their own online shopping infrastructure already. Plus clothes shopping is also more complex — given the propensity for returns when items don’t fit or suit. But it looks like Glovo is going after almost everything else.

Alonso said Glovo currently has 22 dark stores up and running. “Popular items are anything from fresh fruit and vegetables, drinks, flowers, personal care, housekeeping products, pet food as well as any main convenience brands from companies like Unilever, Nestle and P&G,” he told TechCrunch.

“In Glovo Supermarket, we currently manage around 2,000 unique items but this also depends on the dark store, where some have more or less items depending on population coverage and geographical location.”

Glovo says its Glovo Market service has more than 50,000 active users, at this point — touting the delivery of around two orders every minute. It also says it’s delivered more than 12 million “multi-category” orders globally to date, while in Spain the number of orders for grocery items doubled this year to more than 1 million. Its overall growth rate in 2019 was more than 300% year-on-year, it added.

The Deliveroo and Uber Eats rival has always touted itself as a ‘deliver everything’ app because it offers the option for users to request anything (within bike-able reason) be brought to your door by one of its gigging couriers, even though the majority of the business involves biking fast food around cities.

Meal deliveries were making up three-quarters of its revenues at the start of this year — but Glovo has ambitions to beat Amazon at the urban convenience game of delivering all sorts of stuff really, really fast. And it’s got investors on board with the plan. Last year it raised a $169M Series D and a $166M Series E in quick succession.

It’s further beefed up its balance sheet this (pandemic) year by offloading its LatAm ops — selling them to European rival Delivery Hero for $272M — which means it’s concentrating its market focus on Southern and Eastern Europe (it also has a small footprint in sub-Saharan Africa, in Kenya and Ivory Coast).

Presumably it sees that footprint as a better fit for the ‘get stuff now’ convenience push it’s making with Q-Commerce combined with a network of its own city center warehouses (aka dark stores). Though last year it also said it wanted to work on building a path toward profitability over the next year+ so fierce competition in LatAm may have pushed those markets out of reach.

Glovo says it has more than 9 million monthly active users, at this point — and 55,000 “associated partners” globally; aka the gig workers who do the heavy lifting of making actual deliveries for its platform.

The startup is facing ongoing legal uncertainty in its home market over its classification of ‘glovers’ (as it calls couriers) as ‘self-employed’. Spain’s supreme court recently found a rider to be in a laboural relationship with the platform — and any move to force the business to reclassify the thousands of couriers it relies upon in the country would radically rework its push for profitability, to put it mildly.

This report has been updated with additional comment

Join us for a live Q&A with Bessemer’s Byron Deeter next Tuesday at 3 p.m ET, noon PT

By Alex Wilhelm

The Extra Crunch Live series rolls along with a big new installment next week as Jordan Crook and Alex Wilhelm will welcome Bessemer Venture PartnersByron Deeter to the conversation.

Deeter is an obvious addition to the collection of investors, founders and tech luminaries that TechCrunch has interviewed so far in the Live series — for a taste, here’s a look at our discussion with Unusual Ventures’ John Vrionis and Sarah Leary, and our chat with Plaid co-founder Zach Perret.

Why talk to a Bessemer partner in the current moment? The firm is well-known for its investments into SaaS and cloud companies, a key startup cohort that has performed well. Recent days have shaken that narrative as Q4 races to the halfway mark, with public investors seeming to rotate into other equities, punishing software firms that had been the market’s favored bet for most of the year.

We’ll dig into what’s changing on the private side of that coin, looking to understand today’s software venture capital dynamics, and what Deeter sees happening in 2021.

But there’s more to Bessemer’s active portfolio than SaaS. The venture group has also dropped dollars into Discord, which is seeing both revenue and usage explode, and Betterment, which plays in the active fintech savings and investing space. There’s lots to get into.

If you are an Extra Crunch Live veteran — you rock star, you! — or a brand-new participant — make sure your Extra Crunch membership is live! — bring a question or two as we’ll try to work in a few from the audience as we go.

Chat with you next Tuesday afternoon! (Oh, and you can now pre-submit questions down below, which is a great improvement over the old system which only allowed for live submissions!)

Details

Greylock’s Asheem Chandna on ‘shifting left’ in cybersecurity and the future of enterprise startups

By Danny Crichton

Last week was a busy week, what with an election in Myanmar and all (well, and the United States, I guess). So perhaps you were glued to your TV or smartphone, and missed out on our conversation with Asheem Chandna, a long-time partner at Greylock who has invested in enterprise and cybersecurity startups for nearly two decades now, backing such notable companies as Palo Alto Networks, AppDynamics and Sumo Logic. We have more Extra Crunch Live shows coming up.

Enterprise software is changing faster this year than it has in a decade. Coronavirus, remote work, collaboration and new cybersecurity threats have combined to force companies to rethink their IT strategies, and that means more opportunities — and challenges — for enterprise founders than ever before. In some cases, we are seeing an acceleration of existing trends, and in others, we are seeing all new trends come to the forefront.

All that is to say that there was so much on the docket to talk about last week. Chandna and I discussed what’s happening in early-stage enterprise startups, whether vertical SaaS is the future of enterprise investing, data and no-code platforms, and then this rise of “shift left” security.

The following interview has been edited and condensed from our original Extra Crunch Live conversation.

What’s happening today in the early-stage startup world?

Chandna has been a long-time backer of startups at their earliest stages, with some of his investments being literally birthed in Greylock’s offices. So I was curious how he saw the landscape today given all that prior experience.

TechCrunch: What sort of companies are exciting for you today? Are there particular markets you’re particularly attuned to?

Asheem Chandna: One is digital transformation. Every company is trying to figure out how to become more digital, and this has been accelerated by COVID-19. Second is information technology today and its journey to the cloud. I would say we might be about 10% or 15% of the way there. Some of the trends are clear, but the journey is actually still relatively early, and so there’s just a ton of opportunity ahead.

The third one is leveraging data for better predictability along with analytics. Every CEO is looking to make better decisions. And you know, most leaders make decisions based on gut instinct and a combination of data. If the data can tell a story, if the data can help you better predict, there’s a lot of potential here.

I view these as three macro trends, and then if one was to add to that, I would say cybersecurity has never been more important than it is today. I’ve been around cyber for over two decades, and just the prominence and importance and priority has never been more important than today. So that’s kind of another key area.

I want to dive into your first category, digital transformation. This is a phrase that I feel like I’ve heard for a decade now, with “Data is the new oil” and all these sorts of buzzwords and marketing phrases. Where are we in that process? Are we at the beginning? Are we at the end? What’s next from a startup perspective?

Due to COVID-19 and because of the way people are working today, digital’s become the primary medium. I would still say we’re early, and you can literally look sector by sector to see how much more work there is to do here.

Take enterprise sales itself, which is early in what I consider digitalization. It’s even more important today than it was a year ago. I’m using video to basically communicate, and then the next piece would basically be trialing of software. Can I allow even complex software to be self trials and can I measure the customer journey through that trial? Then there’s the contracting of the software, and we go to the sale process, can all that be done digitally?

So even when you take something as very mundane as enterprise sales, it’s being transformed. Winning teams, winning software entrepreneurs, they understand this well, and they’d be wise to examine every step of this process, and instrument it and digitize it.

Vertical versus horizontal plays in enterprise

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