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Daily Crunch: Amazon unveils its own game-streaming platform

By Anthony Ha

Amazon announces a new game service and plenty of hardware upgrades, tech companies team up against app stores and United Airlines tests a program for rapid COVID-19 testing. This is your Daily Crunch for September 24, 2020.

The big story: Amazon unveils its own game-streaming platform

Amazon’s competitor to Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud is called Luna, and it’s available starting today at an early access price of $5.99 per month. Subscribers will be able to play games across PC, Mac and iOS, with more than 50 games in the library.

The company made the announcement at a virtual press event, where it also revealed a redesigned Echo line (with spherical speakers and swiveling screens), the latest Ring security camera and a new, lower-cost Fire TV Stick Lite.

You can also check out our full roundup of Amazon’s announcements.

The tech giants

App makers band together to fight for App Store changes with new ‘Coalition for App Fairness’ — Thirteen app publishers, including Epic Games, Deezer, Basecamp, Tile, Spotify and others, launched a coalition formalizing their efforts to force app store providers to change their policies or face regulation.

LinkedIn launches Stories, plus Zoom, BlueJeans and Teams video integrations as part of wider redesignLinkedIn has built its business around recruitment, so this redesign pushes engagement in other ways as it waits for the job economy to pick up.

Facebook gives more details about its efforts against hate speech before Myanmar’s general election — This includes adding Burmese language warning screens to flag information rated false by third-party fact-checkers.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Why isn’t Robinhood a verb yet? — The latest episode of Equity discusses a giant funding round for Robinhood.

Twitter-backed Indian social network ShareChat raises $40 million — Following TikTok’s ban in India, scores of startups have launched short-video apps, but ShareChat has clearly established dominance.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek pledges $1Bn of his wealth to back deeptech startups from Europe — Ek pointed to machine learning, biotechnology, materials sciences and energy as the sectors he’d like to invest in.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

3 founders on why they pursued alternative startup ownership structures — At Disrupt, we heard about alternative approaches to ensuring that VCs and early founders aren’t the only ones who benefit from startup success.

Coinbase UX teardown: 5 fails and how to fix them — Many of these lessons, including the need to avoid the “Get Started” trap, can be applied to other digital products.

As tech stocks dip, is insurtech startup Root targeting an IPO? — Alex Wilhelm writes that Root’s debut could clarify Lemonade’s IPO and valuation.

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

Everything else

United Airlines is making COVID-19 tests available to passengers, powered in part by Color — United is embarking on a new pilot project to see if easy access to COVID-19 testing immediately prior to a flight can help ease freedom of mobility.

Announcing the final agenda for TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 — TechCrunch reporters and editors will interview some of the top leaders in transportation.

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.

Are high churn rates depressing earnings for app developers?

By Walter Thompson
Jacob Eiting Contributor
Jacob Eiting is CEO of RevenueCat, a platform for managing cross-platform in-app purchases, products and subscribers and analyzing in-app-purchase data.

Ever since Apple opened up subscription monetization to more apps in 2016 — and enticed developers with an 85/15 split on revenue from customers that remain subscribed for more than a year — subscription monetization and retention has felt like the Holy Grail for app developers. So much so that Google quickly followed suit in what appeared to be an example of healthy competition for developers in the mobile OS duopoly.

But how does that split actually work out for most apps? Turns out, the 85/15 split — which Apple is keen to mention anytime developers complain about the App Store rev share — doesn’t have a meaningful impact for most developers. Because churn.

No matter how great an app is, subscribers are going to churn. Sometimes it’s because of a credit card expiring or some other billing issue. And sometimes it’s more of a pause, and the user comes back after a few months. But the majority of churn comes from subscribers who, for whatever reason, decide that the app just isn’t worth paying for anymore. If a subscriber churns before the one-year mark, the developer never sees that 85% split. And even if the user resubscribes, Apple and Google reset the clock if a subscription has lapsed for more than 60 days. Rather convenient… for Apple and Google.

Top mobile apps like Netflix and Spotify report churn rates in the low single digits, but they are the outliers. According to our data, the median churn rate for subscription apps is around 13% for monthly subscriptions and around 50% for annual. Monthly subscription churn is generally a bit higher in the first few months, then it tapers off. But an average churn of 13% leaves just 20% of subscribers crossing that magical 85/15 threshold.

In practice, what this means is that, for all the hype around the 85/15 split, very few developers are going to see a meaningful increase in revenue:

‘Willful, brazen, and unlawful’: Apple files breach-of-contract countersuit against Epic

By Devin Coldewey

Apple has filed a countersuit against Epic over the latter’s attempt to circumvent App Store rules and avoid paying millions in fees. The lawsuit alleges that Epic is deliberately in breach of contract and asks the court to award damages and prohibit Epic from attempting anything like this again.

A brief refresher: Epic in mid August slipped in a new way to buy in-game currency for Fortnite that skipped giving Apple its 30% cut, while simultaneously launching a PR campaign calling the company a monopoly and the App Store rules unjust. Apple responded by banning Epic’s accounts from the App Store, making it clear that this action could be avoided by Epic simply removing or adjusting the in-game store. Epic sought to have a court reverse its ban as an unfair business practice by a monopoly that would be proved as such, but only succeeded in having accounts unrelated to Fortnite unlocked.

Epic now seeks to show that Apple is a monopoly and its practices should be deemed unlawful, and Apple aims to show that’s untrue — but at the same time, has now filed this suit alleging wrongdoing by Epic.

“Although Epic portrays itself as a modern corporate Robin Hood, in reality it is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that simply wants to pay nothing for the tremendous value it derives from the App Store,” writes Apple in its suit.

“While Epic and its CEO take issue with the terms on which Apple has since 2008 provided the App Store to all developers, this does not provide cover for Epic to breach binding contracts, dupe a long-time business partner, pocket commissions that rightfully belong to Apple, and then ask this Court to take a judicial sledgehammer to one of the 21st Century’s most innovative business platforms simply because it does not maximize Epic’s revenues.”

It would not be productive to go over the case in detail just yet, as we are still far from the point where all the companies’ various claims and counter-claims can be added up and compared. It will be weeks before even the preliminary injunction against Apple is decided, and much paper will be added to the pile before then.

The argument comes down to whether a company like Apple, which certainly exerts total control over its hardware-software ecosystem, qualifies as a monopoly. If it is, then the business practices Epic defied may be unlawful and therefore its flouting them will have been justified. If it isn’t, the countersuit may put Epic in rather a bad spot — not just owing Apple millions but unable to pull this trick again.

The burden of proof on Epic is quite serious here, and current antitrust doctrine doesn’t seem likely to define Apple’s App Store (and Google’s — which Apple is also suing along the same lines) as the act of a monopolist. But even if it fails to prove it and is handed a setback in court, Apple being publicly dragged as a potential monopoly, and having the claims evaluated by a judge — even skeptically — is not a good look.

Apple’s countersuit was inevitable given Epic’s high-profile and pretty much admitted breach of contract, but it raises the stakes nevertheless. The company has not specified the scale of the damages it seeks, but eight digits is probably a safe bet. You can read Apple’s suit below.

Apple Countersuit Against epic by TechCrunch on Scribd

Snapchat had a big August amid TikTok uncertainty

By Sarah Perez

The continual uncertainty around TikTok’s future may have provided a big boost to Snapchat in August. Or maybe it was just the Disney eyes filter that went viral. In any event, preliminary estimates from app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower indicate that Snapchat’s mobile app across both iOS and Android saw approximately 28.5 million new installs last month — its single largest month for first-time downloads since May 2019, when it had then seen 41.2 million new installs.

May 2019, however, was an outlier in Snapchat’s history. The only other month, besides May 2019, where Snapchat had seen more monthly downloads than it did in August was December 2016, Sensor Tower data indicates.

Based on the firm’s findings, Snapchat downloads were up 29% year-over-year in August 2020, compared with 9% growth in July.

It’s unclear what combination of trends or changes may have shaped Snapchat’s download data over the past month.

But one significant area of interest in the social apps space has been the ongoing news around a possible TikTok ban in the U.S. News coverage of the ban already had a notable impact on the app stores’ top charts in recent weeks. Earlier in August, a number of direct TikTok competitors — including Likee, Byte, Dubsmash, Triller and others — saw sizable increases in weekly active users in the U.S. But none have grown to the point where they’re an obvious shoo-in to take TikTok’s place if the Chinese-owned video app is banned from the U.S., per Trump’s executive order.

It’s been more difficult, however, to pinpoint how larger TikTok competitors — like Snapchat and Instagram –were impacted by the news of a TikTok ban. These broader social apps tend to continually grow on a month-over-month basis and they regularly add new features, which could impact downloads and usage. For example, Instagram in recent weeks has been expanding features around live streaming, shopping and debuted its own TikTok alternative, Reels.

Though not a direct TikTok rival, Snapchat has also been working to attract the same young demographic that now favors the short-form video app.

This month, Snapchat announced its plans to launch a new music-powered feature that would appeal to TikTok users. The feature, due to arrive this fall, will allow users to set their Snaps to music, similar to TikTok. Snap also confirmed it has deals in place with top music industry partners, including Warner Music Group, Warner Chappell, Universal Music Publishing Group, NMPA publisher members, Merlin and others, which have licensed their content for use in the Snapchat app.

Image Credits: App Store, screenshot by TechCrunch

In addition, Snapchat in late July turned on a new feature called “Minis,” which are basically lightweight, simplified versions of apps that live within Snapchat’s chat section. The apps, built using HTML, allow users to engage with a range of tasks — like buying tickets, meditating with Headspace, collaborating with friends and more — without having to leave the app.

Snapchat has been benefiting, too, from a prominent position on the App Store. Apple currently has it featured in an editorially curated list of app suggestions called “New to iPhone?” on the App Store’s “App” homepage. The collection, which you don’t even have to scroll down to find, recommends apps that first-time iPhone users will want to download.

Other bumps in downloads could be attributed to increased marketing spend, as is common among larger app publishers. Snapchat, however, isn’t commenting on what, specifically, may have changed in August.

And maybe it was just those 66.4 million TikTok videos tagged #disneyfilter that gave Snapchat a bump this past month!

Sensor Tower’s new Snapchat data is considered preliminary because it’s only been finalized through August 26th. When the remaining days of August are also finalized, there may be some changes to the resulting numbers. But those changes will likely be minor, at best.

These figures were also initially reported by one of Sensor Tower’s financial services customers in an analyst note. They were not publicized by Sensor Tower’s data reporting team. But the company confirmed the data’s accuracy with TechCrunch.

Snapchat, as of its Q2 earnings in July, reported its daily active users had grown to 238 million, up nearly 4% from the 229 million the company reported in April. The company won’t comment on the new download data.

Apple will now allow developers stuck in App Store jail to push bug fixes to their apps

By Lucas Matney

Apple’s App Store policies have gotten quite a bit more attention in the past few months, and while it seems likely that Apple’s team will fight tooth and nail to avoid dismantling any of the core pillars of their Store economy, the company did announce a small policy change today that will hopefully keep users from getting caught in any crossfire.

In a short announcement today posted to their site, Apple shared that they have updated the App Store’s review policy guidelines to allow developers to continue to push big fixes even if they’re currently in a standoff with the app review team. As Apple seems to get even more aggressive in forcing developers to integrate in-app purchase frameworks into their apps, this change sets Apple up to avoid upsetting users.

The text of the announcement reads that, “bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal issues.” Developers won’t be able to submit updates with new features or content updates, the focus of this rule change is firmly on the security/usability front.

This change was previously announced in June.

This change is unlikely to satiate critics hoping for more sweeping changes. In many ways this change helps Apple avoid being painted as the villain in new developer skirmishes. The stars were aligning for Apple to shoot itself in the foot by not allowing a developer to fix any vulnerabilities in their app while they were in standoff with the company.

Apple mistakenly approved a widely used malware to run on Macs

By Zack Whittaker

Apple has some of the strictest rules to prevent malicious software from landing in its app store, even if on occasion a bad app slips through the net. But last year Apple took its toughest approach yet by requiring developers to submit their apps for security checks in order to run on millions of Macs unhindered.

The process, which Apple calls “notarization,” scans an app for security issues and malicious content. If approved, the Mac’s in-built security screening software, Gatekeeper, allows the app to run. Apps that don’t pass the security sniff test are denied, and are blocked from running.

But security researchers say they have found the first Mac malware inadvertently notarized by Apple.

Peter Dantini, working with Patrick Wardle, a well-known Mac security researcher, found a malware campaign disguised as an Adobe Flash installer. These campaigns are common and have been around for years — even if Flash is rarely used these days — and most run unnotarized code, which Macs block immediately when opened.

But Dantini and Wardle found that one malicious Flash installer had code notarized by Apple and would run on Macs.

The malicious installer was notarized by Apple, and could be run on the latest versions of macOS. (Image: Patrick Wardle/supplied)

Wardle confirmed that Apple had approved code used by the popular Shlayer malware, which security firm Kaspersky said is the “most common threat” that Macs faced in 2019. Shlayer is a kind of adware that intercepts encrypted web traffic — even from HTTPS-enabled sites — and replaces websites and search results with its own ads, making fraudulent ad money for the operators.

“As far as I know, this is a first,” Wardle wrote in a blog post, shared with TechCrunch.

Wardle said that means Apple did not detect the malicious code when it was submitted and approved it to run on Macs — even on the unreleased beta version of macOS Big Sur, expected out later this year.

Apple revoked the notarized payloads after Wardle reached out, preventing the malware from running on Macs in the future.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Apple told TechCrunch: “Malicious software constantly changes, and Apple’s notarization system helps us keep malware off the Mac and allow us to respond quickly when it’s discovered. Upon learning of this adware, we revoked the identified variant, disabled the developer account, and revoked the associated certificates. We thank the researchers for their assistance in keeping our users safe.”

But Wardle said that the attackers were back soon after with a new, notarized payload, able to circumvent the Mac’s security all over again.

Android security bug let malicious apps siphon off private user data

By Zack Whittaker

A security vulnerability in Android could have allowed malicious apps to siphon off sensitive data from other apps on the same device.

App security startup Oversecured found the flaw in Google’s widely used Play Core library, which lets developers push in-app updates and new feature modules to their Android apps, like language packs or game levels.

A malicious app on the same Android device could exploit the vulnerability by injecting malicious modules into other apps that rely on the library to steal private information, like passwords and credit card numbers, from inside the app.

Sergey Toshin, founder of Oversecured, told TechCrunch that exploiting the bug was “pretty easy.”

The startup built a proof-of-concept app using a few lines of code and tested the vulnerability on Google Chrome for Android, which relied on a vulnerable version of the Play Core library. Toshin said the proof-of-concept app was able to steal a victim’s browsing history, passwords and login cookies.

But Toshin said the bug also affected some of the most popular apps in the Android app store.

Google confirmed the bug, rated 8.8 out of 10.0 for severity, is now fixed. “We appreciate the researcher reporting this issue to us, and as a result it was patched in March,” said a Google spokesperson.

Toshin said app developers should update their apps with the latest Play Core library to remove the threat.

Apple’s App Store commission structure called into question in antitrust hearing

By Sarah Perez

Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the company’s App Store commission structure in his sworn testimony before the House Antitrust Subcommittee on Wednesday. He claimed the majority of the apps pay no commission at all, with others paying either 15 or 30 percent, based on the specifics of their particular situation. He said developers were all treated equally and that Apple wouldn’t raise commissions, because it had to compete for developer interest in its platform as well.

But the documents shared by the House subcommittee as part of their investigation indicate that exceptions to Apple’s rules have been made — notably, with Amazon’s Prime Video app. In addition, Apple may have never raised commissions, but discussions weren’t off the table. It had once even considered raising commissions to 40% in particular situations.

The lawmakers had come to the hearing armed with internal Apple emails and interviews from App Store developers who argued that Apple doesn’t uniformly enforce its rules and plays favorites. But their questioning of Cook over App Store fees, combined with a format that limited execs’ ability to respond at length, initially seemed to reveal little in terms of new information about Apple’s practices.

For instance, when asked directly about how the App Store worked, Cook simply restated the store’s published rules — that is, for app developers who have to pay commissions, they pay only 15 or 30 percent. The current guidelines require 30% for apps selling digital goods or services, with a drop to 15% in year two for subscription apps. The rules also document a carve-out for “reader” apps like audiobook apps, streaming services, news publications, and other competitive products which have the option of forgoing in-app purchases.

Cook also squeezed in a mention about how the vast majority of App Store apps, 84%, pay nothing to Apple in commissions. It’s the remaining 16% that pay, he noted.

And when asked if Apple was the sole gatekeeper as to what gets published on the App Store, Cook agreed that it was — given that the App Store was a “feature of the iPhone, much like the Camera and the chip is.” He clarified that Apple’s control over apps only extended to native software applications, not web apps, but denied Apple treated developers unfairly.

“We treat every developer the same. We have open and transparent rules,” Cook said, in his testimony. “It’s a rigorous process, because we care so deeply about privacy and security and quality. We do look at every app before it goes on,” he added.

But emails in 2016 between Apple SVP Eddy Cue and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, shared here on the House Judiciary Committee’s website, indicate that Apple, in fact, appears to have negotiated a special deal with Amazon over its Amazon Prime Video app for iOS and Apple TV.  In an email dated Nov. 2016 — before the 2017 launch of the Prime Video tvOS app —  Apple agreed to take only a 15% revenue share for customers that signed up in the app using Apple’s payment mechanism. (Typically, subscription apps don’t drop from 30% to 15% until year two.)

Apple this April confirmed  it had a special program for Prime Video and a small handful of other apps, which were subscription video entertainment providers. The program allowed those companies to rent or sell movies and TV shows to customers using the payment methods the companies already had on file, as well as more deeply integrate with Siri. But Apple hadn’t said that this special program would include a reduced commission on subscriptions or any other in-app upsells, as these emails confirm were points of discussion.

This wouldn’t be the first time Apple saw its commission structure as having some room to flex.

When Cook was questioned as to whether there was anything that could stop Apple from raising commissions to, say, 50%, the CEO responded that Apple had never increased commissions since day one. He also argued, when asked if anything could stop it from doing so, that competition for developer interest would stop it from raising its cut.

“There is a competition for developers, just like there’s a competition for customers. And so the competition for developers — they write their apps for Android or Windows or Xbox or Playstation,” said Cook. “We have fierce competition on the developer side and the customer side which is essentially — it’s so competitive, I would describe it as a street fight for market share in the smartphone business,” he added.

But in internal emails from 2011, Apple did discuss raising commissions — all the way to 40% for the first year of recurring subscriptions. “I think we may be leaving money on the table if we just asked for about 30% of the first year of sub,” Cue had written at the time.

Documents from the Hearing on “Online Platforms and Market Power: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google” pic.twitter.com/42o2Ye13jI

— House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) July 29, 2020

Of course, Apple didn’t go so far as to actually make that change in the years that passed. But these emails indicate there’s more to Apple’s thinking — and its discussions around the commission structure — than the even playing field Cook testified to.

US beat China on App Store downloads for first time since 2014, due to coronavirus impact

By Sarah Perez

The U.S. App Store’s downloads have surpassed China’s downloads for the first time since 2014, in a new milestone. According to data from Sensor Tower’s Q2 2020 report, out today, the U.S. App Store saw 27.4% year-over-year growth in the quarter, compared to the 2.1% growth for the China App Store. During the quarter, the U.S. App Store generated 2.22 billion new installs compared with China’s 2.06 billion downloads, to regain the top position. This then translated to the U.S. beating China on App Store consumer spend, as well.

Contributing the shift, was the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on both China and the U.S.

The U.S. surpassed China on installs beginning in April and lasting all the way through June, the firm found.

China in Q2, meanwhile, was coming down from its own abnormally high number of downloads in March and April, due to COVID-19. But as its download figures began to normalize, the pandemic was wreaking havoc in the U.S., where it had hit slightly later.

This led to the U.S. to see a surge in downloads as suddenly, the population was forced to work from home, attend school from home, and entertain themselves at home with apps, games and streaming services.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Sensor Tower tells TechCrunch there was particularly significant growth in U.S. business and education apps in Q2, as a result. These categories were the largest contributors to the U.S. surpassing China’s installs.

Business app downloads grew 133.3% in Q2, followed by education (84.4%), health & fitness (57.7%), news 44.9%), and social networking (42.4%).

Image Credits:

Video conferencing app Zoom, in particular, had a breakout quarter and even shattered the record for App Store installs with nearly 94 million total downloads in a single quarter. The prior record had been set by TikTok, which had in Q1 2020 seen 67 million downloads in a single quarter. No other non-game app has ever surpassed 50 million installs in a quarter, Sensor Tower noted.

TikTok still had a strong Q2, with nearly 71 million App Store downloads in the quarter, representing 154% year-over-year growth. Its top two download markets were both the U.S. and China — the latter where it’s known as Douyin.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Mobile gaming was also a big hit in the U.S., as people stayed home under government lockdowns. Top mobile games by App Store downloads included titles like Save The Girl, Roblox, Go Knots 3D, Coin Master, Tangle Master 3D, Fishdom, ASMR Slicing, Call of Duty: Mobile, and others.

On this front, Roblox had a stellar quarter as kids stayed at home and went online gaming, due to being disconnected from school and their playmates in real-life. Roblox’s gaming app shot up the U.S. rankings from No. 11 in Q1 2020 to No. 2 in Q2, and achieved a new high of 8.6M downloads in the quarter.

Rollic Games had two hits in the quarter, Go Knots 3D and Tangle Master 3D, each with over 5 million App Store downloads. Its Repair Master 3D title also came in at No. 20.

Both Zoom and Rollic Games were the only new top publishers to find themselves in the top 10 on the App Store in Q2, the report found.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Though the U.S. surpassed China in the quarter for the first time in years, the rest of the top five — Japan, Great Britain, and Russia — remained the same as last quarter, though growing on a year-over-year basis.

Related to the surge of new downloads, the U.S. also surpassed China on consumer spending on the App Store for the first time since Q4 2018 — but that was only by 1.6% (around $53M).  In Q2 2020, the U.S. surpassed China by 14% or about $717 million.

The U.S. also saw more significant quarter-over-quarter growth in spending during the COVID-19 outbreak growing 20% between Q1 and Q2. In China, the consumer spending growth on the App Store was just 5% between Q4 2019 and Q1 2020, when it felt the full impact of the virus.

Meditation app Meditopia secures $15M Series A co-led by Creandum and Highland

By Mike Butcher

The coronavirus continues to hit people hard mentally, and this has meant a boom for mental death and meditation apps. According to a recent report from app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower, the world’s 10 largest English-language mental wellness apps in April saw a combined 2 million more downloads during the month of April 2020 compared with January, reaching close to 10 million total downloads for the month. The charts were dominated by market leaders such as Calm, Headspace and others such as “Relax: Master Your Destiny”.

However, a slightly lesser know app called Meditopia featured, and that’s because it’s become a big leader non-English speaking markets.

Today it’s announced a Series A investment of $15M co-led by Creandum, and Highland Europe . Carl Fritjofsson of Creandum and Fergal Mullen of Highland Europe will join Meditopia’s Board of Directors. Total funding prior to this round was $3.2m. This new round takes the total to $18.2m.

Based between Istanbul and Berlin, Meditopia has majored on localization for 75 global markets, in 10 languages, with a focus on long-term mental wellbeing programs. Since launching in 2017 Meditopia has grown to 14M users across 75 countries.

Until recently, most meditation and mental health apps were built to suit the needs of English-speaking, Western culture, especially in the way these apps dealt with topics such as gender.

The startup was founded by Fatih Celebi, Berk Yilmaz and Ali Murat Ceylan.

In a statement, Murat said: “Mental wellness is something everyone should be able to achieve, regardless of their country of origin, native language, socio-economic status, ethnicity, or religion. We first focused our efforts on our home country Turkey before expanding worldwide so whether you are Latino, Japanese, Russian, North American, or Arab, you can find support and coaching in our global community.”

Carl Fritjofsson, Partner at Creandum commented: “We’ve followed Meditopia for the past two years and have been incredibly impressed by how they’ve been able to capture this opportunity across the world, all while being one of the most capital-efficient run companies around.”

Fergal Mullen, Founding Partner at Highland Europe said: “For too long, the technology available was created for English-speaking groups alone. Meditopia provides the alternative; a solution that helps its members get to the heart of what they need in a way that suits them. We’re thrilled to be a part of getting this vital service to those people.”

How Thor Fridriksson’s ‘Trivia Royale’ earned 2.5M downloads in 3 weeks

By Jordan Crook

In its first few weeks of release, the latest game from QuizUp founder Thor Fridriksson took the top spot in the Games Section of Apple’s App Store and was the top app (for a brief time) in the App Store at large.

Since its launch on June 17, Trivia Royale has been downloaded more than 2.5 million times, with day-one retention of 45% and week-one retention of 45% on iOS, according to the company. Average daily usage per user is around 30 minutes. It currently sits in the number six spot in the Free Games category on the App Store.

There is no shortage of mobile games, but in such a cluttered space, it’s difficult to break through the noise. So how did Trivia Royale do it?

The game, which lets users compete in a 1,000-person, single-elimination trivia tournament, is built on the Teatime Games platform. Teatime emphasizes the fun of playing against other humans in the mobile gaming landscape, giving users the ability to communicate via video chat while they play in a game on their smartphone.

The platform allows game developers to use this video chat functionality, which comes with Snapchat-like face filters or Apple Memoji-style avatars, on their own games. But for Teatime to truly succeed as a gaming platform, the company needed a hit game, Fridriksson said.

The serial entrepreneur told TechCrunch that he decided to take off his CEO hat and return to his product roots by focusing on a category that few people know as well as he does: trivia.

The Trivia Royale tournament combines the scale of Battle Royale with the durability of trivia — whether it’s Jeopardy, HQ Trivia, bar trivia or this, we can’t get enough of it — or lets users match against one other player in a single category of trivia.

I’ve played around on the game for a while now and can say that it’s very well done, from the design to the production value. But more important than the mechanics of the tournament or the typeface or even the content of the questions are the avatars, which let users express themselves through customization and their real-life facial expressions.

But none of that means anything if players don’t join the game. So how did Trivia Royale earn more than 2.5 million downloads (and climbing) in a matter of days?

A big bet on TikTok

Fridriksson told TechCrunch that he has to give a ton of credit to his kids (who are 15 and 11). His daughter told him about TikTok and gave him a list of her favorite stars, including Addison Rae and Dixie D’Amelio.

AR 1.0 is dead: Here’s what it got wrong

By Lucas Matney

The first wave of AR startups offering smart glasses is now over, with a few exceptions.

Google acquired North this week for an undisclosed sum. The Canadian company had raised nearly $200 million, but the release of its Focals 2.0 smart glasses has been cancelled, a bittersweet end for its soft landing.

Many AR startups before North made huge promises and raised huge amounts of capital before flaring out in a similarly dramatic fashion.

The technology was almost there in a lot of cases, but the real issue was that the stakes to beat the major players to market were so high that many entrants pushed out boring, general consumer products. In a race to be everything for everybody, the industry relied on nascent developer platforms to do the dirty work of building their early use cases, which contributed heavily to nonexistent user adoption.

A key error of this batch was thinking that an AR glasses company was hardware-first, when the reality is that the missing value is almost entirely centered on missing first-party software experiences. To succeed, the next generation of consumer AR glasses will have to nail this.

Image Credits: ODG

App ecosystems alone don’t create product-market fit

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