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Fi’s smart collar adds sleep tracking for dogs

By Brian Heater

Conventional wisdom holds that one ought let sleeping does lie. But no one says you’re barred from tracking them while they do. New York-based smart collar maker Fi announced today that it’s adding sleep to the list of the device’s tracking.

The added feature uses the collar’s on-board motion sensing to monitor your best friend’s sleep during the day and night (and almost certainly leave you jealous about how much shut-eye they’re getting).

The information is presented on a timeline that should look familiar to anyone who has used the human equivalent. It also offers a live check-in to see what the dog is up to during the day while you’re at work (assuming you ever go back to the office).

Image Credits: Fi

The goal here is to offer up some sharable metrics about your pet that might point to underlying health problems, be it too much sleep, not enough or frequent trips to the water bowl in the middle of the night. Sudden changes also present potential red flags for the dog’s health.

“We are excited to move into holistic health tracking that empowers dog parents to take the best possible care of their pets,” founder and CEO Jonathan Bensamoun said in a release. “If your dog is tired, it can’t tell you, so Fi will. Fi can answer critical questions like, ‘Is my pet sleeping the right way?’ or ‘Did its activity levels decrease lately?’ long before more serious issues have time to develop.”

Fi raised $30 million back in February and is working to grow its reach in the U.S., including a recent distribution deal with mega-online pet supply seller, Chewy.

Elon Musk says Tesla will ‘most likely’ accept bitcoin again when it becomes more eco-friendly

By Aria Alamalhodaei

Tesla will ‘most likely’ resume accepting bitcoin as a form of payment once the mining rate for the cryptocurrency reaches 50% renewables, CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday at a virtual panel discussion hosted by the Crypto Council for Innovation, remarks that are in line with statements he made last month on Twitter.

Tesla started accepting bitcoin as a form of payment in February, the same time that the company purchased a historic $1.5 billion in bitcoin — before reneging on its decision just three months later, citing environmental concerns.

Cryptocurrencies get a bad rap for energy usage because they do indeed use up an awful lot of energy, at least many of them do. Bitcoin and Ethereum, the space’s two biggest currencies, use a mechanism called proof-of-work to power their networks and mint new blocks of each currency. The “work” is solving complex cryptographic problems and miners do so by stringing together high-end graphics cards to tackle these problems. Major mining centers have thousands of GPUs running around the clock.

While Ethereum has already committed to transitioning away from proof-of-work to something called proof-of-stake, which vastly reduces energy usage, Bitcoin seems less likely to make this transition. So, becoming “eco-friendly” likely doesn’t mean making any major underlying changes to Bitcoin, but rather shifting what energy sources are powering those mining centers.

While Bitcoin’s global mining network does clearly lean on renewables, it’s pretty difficult to get exact insights on what the spread of renewables usage is given how, ahem, decentralized the grid is. What is clear is that it’s going to take some unprecedented transparency from the global network to even give Musk a starting point here to judge Bitcoin’s current or future “eco-friendliness,” and in all likelihood Musk will have a lot of wiggle room to make this decision based on anecdotal data whenever he wants.

Today’s comments come as no surprise: He tweeted in June, “When there’s confirmation of reasonable (~50%) clean energy usage by miners with positive future trend, Tesla will resume allowing Bitcoin transactions.”

This is inaccurate. Tesla only sold ~10% of holdings to confirm BTC could be liquidated easily without moving market.

When there’s confirmation of reasonable (~50%) clean energy usage by miners with positive future trend, Tesla will resume allowing Bitcoin transactions.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 13, 2021

His comments do give him plenty of wiggle room, however. “As long as there is a conscious effort to move bitcoin miners toward renewables then Tesla can support that,” he added later in the talk. A large portion of bitcoin mining was done in China, where cheap coal and hydropower made it slightly more economical; but Musk noted that some of these coal plants have been shut down (and a large portion of miners in China have started to migrate abroad, in response to mining crackdowns by the Chinese party).

It should also be noted that his concerns over bitcoin’s environmental impact have caused controversy in the bitcoin community, with some arguing that bitcoin receives an oversized amount of scrutiny relative to its actual energy consumption. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who also participated in the virtual panel, has actually argued that bitcoin can incentivize the transition to renewable energy. A white paper published by the Bitcoin Clean Energy Initiative, a program created by Square, argues that bitcoin mining could make renewables even cheaper and more economically feasible than they are today.

Musk’s comments, as ambiguous as they were, shows he still exerts considerable power over cryptocurrency markets. Bitcoin price fell below $30,000 on Monday, after hitting an all-time high of over $63,000 in April. But after the billionaire founder revealed more details about his and his companies’ holdings at the virtual panel, the price rebounded.

In addition to personal bitcoin holdings and Tesla’s bitcoin holdings, his aerospace company SpaceX also owns bitcoin. Musk added that he also personally owns ether and (of course) dogecoin. The price for all three cryptocurrencies rose after his comments.

What Robinhood’s warnings about crypto trading say about Coinbase’s near-term future

By Alex Wilhelm

Is the trading boom of 2020 and 2021 slowing?

That’s a question The Exchange has had on its mind since Robinhood released its latest IPO filing. The popular U.S. consumer-focused investing app told investors in the document that it expects revenues to decline in the third quarter compared to its Q2 performance. The company highlighted historically strong crypto volumes in preceding quarters as part of the reason for its anticipated revenue decline.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money.

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Naturally, we got to thinking about Coinbase.

It’s likely fair to say that Coinbase and Robinhood are bullish enough about the cryptocurrency market to be unbothered by short-term changes to crypto trading volumes. Coinbase discussed rising and falling consumer interest in trading cryptos in its own IPO filings, for example.

The now-public unicorn has lived through crypto ups and crypto downs. A decline in consumer interest in the next few months or quarters is not a huge deal, assuming one keeps a long enough perspective and the crypto-infused future that its fans expect comes to pass.

The boom in crypto demand among U.S. consumers lifted many a boat in recent quarters. Coinbase posted insanely good early-2021 results thanks to a bull run in cryptocurrency prices that drove retail interest and trading fees. Robinhood also saw a rush of crypto demand, something that TechCrunch explored here. And Square itself has seen crypto revenues explode.

Sure, equities interest and demand for options also elevated the fortune of many consumer fintechs during the COVID-19 savings and investing boom. But crypto revenues had a big part to play. Let’s examine both situations through the lens of the latest from Robinhood.

Robinhood’s market notes

There are some 316 mentions of “cryptocurrency” in Robinhood’s latest IPO filing. We’re going to stick to those we consider the most important.

As context, Robinhood shared preliminary Q2 data. We discussed it here if you want to go deeper into the aggregate figures. But after its disclosure of hard numbers, Robinhood had some interesting notes about the current quarter (emphasis TechCrunch):

Trading activity was particularly high during the first two months of the 2021 period, returning to levels more in line with prior periods during the last few weeks of the quarter ended June 30, 2021, and remained at similar levels into the early part of the third quarter. We expect our revenue for the three months ending September 30, 2021 to be lower, as compared to the three months ended June 30, 2021, as a result of decreased levels of trading activity relative to the record highs in trading activity, particularly in cryptocurrencies, during the three months ended June 30, 2021, and expected seasonality.

And in a discussion of some other performance metrics, including funded accounts and the like, Robinhood had this to say (emphasis TechCrunch):

We anticipate the rate of growth in these Key Performance Metrics will be lower for the period ended September 30, 2021, as compared to the three months ended June 30, 2021, due to the exceptionally strong interest in trading, particularly in cryptocurrencies, we experienced in the three months ended June 30, 2021, and seasonality in overall trading activities.

Falling revenue and slowing KPM growth is not really the world’s best set of metrics to flash up during an IPO run. But a quick scan of Robinhood’s 2020 revenues indicates it’s unlikely that the unicorn will be able to post year-over-year growth in the final two quarters of 2021. Still, its period of rapid-fire revenue growth appears to have come to an end after Robinhood posted top-line expansion in every quarter since Q4 2019.

Edge Delta raises $15M Series A to take on Splunk

By Frederic Lardinois

Seattle-based Edge Delta, a startup that is building a modern distributed monitoring stack that is competing directly with industry heavyweights like Splunk, New Relic and Datadog, today announced that it has raised a $15 million Series A funding round led by Menlo Ventures and Tim Tully, the former CTO of Splunk. Previous investors MaC Venture Capital and Amity Ventures also participated in this round, which brings the company’s total funding to date to $18 million.

“Our thesis is that there’s no way that enterprises today can continue to analyze all their data in real time,” said Edge Delta co-founder and CEO Ozan Unlu, who has worked in the observability space for about 15 years already (including at Microsoft and Sumo Logic). “The way that it was traditionally done with these primitive, centralized models — there’s just too much data. It worked 10 years ago, but gigabytes turned into terabytes and now terabytes are turning into petabytes. That whole model is breaking down.”

Image Credits: Edge Delta

He acknowledges that traditional big data warehousing works quite well for business intelligence and analytics use cases. But that’s not real-time and also involves moving a lot of data from where it’s generated to a centralized warehouse. The promise of Edge Delta is that it can offer all of the capabilities of this centralized model by allowing enterprises to start to analyze their logs, metrics, traces and other telemetry right at the source. This, in turn, also allows them to get visibility into all of the data that’s generated there, instead of many of today’s systems, which only provide insights into a small slice of this information.

While competing services tend to have agents that run on a customer’s machine, but typically only compress the data, encrypt it and then send it on to its final destination, Edge Delta’s agent starts analyzing the data right at the local level. With that, if you want to, for example, graph error rates from your Kubernetes cluster, you wouldn’t have to gather all of this data and send it off to your data warehouse where it has to be indexed before it can be analyzed and graphed.

With Edge Delta, you could instead have every single node draw its own graph, which Edge Delta can then combine later on. With this, Edge Delta argues, its agent is able to offer significant performance benefits, often by orders of magnitude. This also allows businesses to run their machine learning models at the edge, as well.

Image Credits: Edge Delta

“What I saw before I was leaving Splunk was that people were sort of being choosy about where they put workloads for a variety of reasons, including cost control,” said Menlo Ventures’ Tim Tully, who joined the firm only a couple of months ago. “So this idea that you can move some of the compute down to the edge and lower latency and do machine learning at the edge in a distributed way was incredibly fascinating to me.”

Edge Delta is able to offer a significantly cheaper service, in large part because it doesn’t have to run a lot of compute and manage huge storage pools itself since a lot of that is handled at the edge. And while the customers obviously still incur some overhead to provision this compute power, it’s still significantly less than what they would be paying for a comparable service. The company argues that it typically sees about a 90 percent improvement in total cost of ownership compared to traditional centralized services.

Image Credits: Edge Delta

Edge Delta charges based on volume and it is not shy to compare its prices with Splunk’s and does so right on its pricing calculator. Indeed, in talking to Tully and Unlu, Splunk was clearly on everybody’s mind.

“There’s kind of this concept of unbundling of Splunk,” Unlu said. “You have Snowflake and the data warehouse solutions coming in from one side, and they’re saying, ‘hey, if you don’t care about real time, go use us.’ And then we’re the other half of the equation, which is: actually there’s a lot of real-time operational use cases and this model is actually better for those massive stream processing datasets that you required to analyze in real time.”

But despite this competition, Edge Delta can still integrate with Splunk and similar services. Users can still take their data, ingest it through Edge Delta and then pass it on to the likes of Sumo Logic, Splunk, AWS’s S3 and other solutions.

Image Credits: Edge Delta

“If you follow the trajectory of Splunk, we had this whole idea of building this business around IoT and Splunk at the Edge — and we never really quite got there,” Tully said. “I think what we’re winding up seeing collectively is the edge actually means something a little bit different. […] The advances in distributed computing and sophistication of hardware at the edge allows these types of problems to be solved at a lower cost and lower latency.”

The Edge Delta team plans to use the new funding to expand its team and support all of the new customers that have shown interest in the product. For that, it is building out its go-to-market and marketing teams, as well as its customer success and support teams.

 

Vantage raises $4M to help businesses understand their AWS costs

By Frederic Lardinois

Vantage, a service that helps businesses analyze and reduce their AWS costs, today announced that it has raised a $4 million seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz. A number of angel investors, including Brianne Kimmel, Julia Lipton, Stephanie Friedman, Calvin French Owen, Ben and Moisey Uretsky, Mitch Wainer and Justin Gage, also participated in this round.

Vantage started out with a focus on making the AWS console a bit easier to use — and help businesses figure out what they are spending their cloud infrastructure budgets on in the process. But as Vantage co-founder and CEO Ben Schaechter told me, it was the cost transparency features that really caught on with users.

“We were advertising ourselves as being an alternative AWS console with a focus on developer experience and cost transparency,” he said.”What was interesting is — even in the early days of early access before the formal GA launch in January — I would say more than 95% of the feedback that we were getting from customers was entirely around the cost features that we had in Vantage.”

Image Credits: Vantage

Like any good startup, the Vantage team looked at this and decided to double down on these features and highlight them in its marketing, though it kept the existing AWS Console-related tools as well. The reason the other tools didn’t quite take off, Schaechter believes, is because more and more, AWS users have become accustomed to infrastructure-as-code to do their own automatic provisioning. And with that, they spend a lot less time in the AWS Console anyway.

“But one consistent thing — across the board — was that people were having a really, really hard time twelve times a year, where they would get a shock AWS bill and had to figure out what happened. What Vantage is doing today is providing a lot of value on the transparency front there,” he said.

Over the course of the last few months, the team added a number of new features to its cost transparency tools, including machine learning-driven predictions (both on the overall account level and service level) and the ability to share reports across teams.

Image Credits: Vantage

While Vantage expects to add support for other clouds in the future, likely starting with Azure and then GCP, that’s actually not what the team is focused on right now. Instead, Schaechter noted, the team plans to add support for bringing in data from third-party cloud services instead.

“The number one line item for companies tends to be AWS, GCP, Azure,” he said. “But then, after that, it’s Datadog Cloudflare Sumo Logic, things along those lines. Right now, there’s no way to see, P&L or an ROI from a cloud usage-based perspective. Vantage can be the tool where that’s showing you essentially, all of your cloud costs in one space.”

That is likely the vision the investors bought in as well and even though Vantage is now going up against enterprise tools like Apptio’s Cloudability and VMware’s CloudHealth, Schaechter doesn’t seem to be all that worried about the competition. He argues that these are tools that were born in a time when AWS had only a handful of services and only a few ways of interacting with those. He believes that Vantage, as a modern self-service platform, will have quite a few advantages over these older services.

“You can get up and running in a few clicks. You don’t have to talk to a sales team. We’re helping a large number of startups at this stage all the way up to the enterprise, whereas Cloudability and Cloud Health are, in my mind, kind of antiquated enterprise offerings. No startup is choosing to use those at this point, as far as I know,” he said.

The team, which until now mostly consisted of Schaechter and his co-founder and CTO Brooke McKim, bootstrapped to company up to this point. Now they plan to use the new capital to build out its team (and the company is actively hiring right now), both on the development and go-to-market side.

The company offers a free starter plan for businesses that track up to $2,500 in monthly AWS cost, with paid plans starting at $30 per month for those who need to track larger accounts.

The Many Identity Crises of Sonic the Hedgehog

By Michael J. Seidlinger
Sega's beloved speedster arrived on the scene 30 years ago. Since then, he's gone through numerous transformations—not all for the better.

Tractive raises $35M as it expands GPS pet tracking to the US

By Brian Heater

Another sizable raise for a pet (cats and dogs) tracking company this morning. Austria-based Tractive has announced a $35 million Series A, led by Guidepost Growth Equity. The round is the company’s first since 2013, when its GPS-based tracker first hit the market.

Along with the funding round, the company is also announcing its official push into the U.S. market — though Tractive has had some presence here through a “soft launch” of an LTE tracker over the summer. That product apparently made the States its fastest growing market, in spite of a lack of official presence.

The funding will go toward its expansion into the U.S./North American market, along with additional scaling and headcount. For the latter, the company is already naming a new EVP of North America and a VP of marketing.

“Tractive is like a seatbelt for your dog or cat. It provides coverage when and where they need it,” said co-founder and CEO Michael Hurnaus in a release. “We designed Tractive to deliver the best possible experience, with up-to-the-second information, so that all pet parents can care for their dogs and cats the way they want and deserve — whether that means monitoring activity levels to reduce the risk of obesity or tracking a dog or cat that slipped out of the yard.”

Also new is the arrival of an upgraded tracker from the company, primarily focused on improved battery life. The big change is the use of Wi-Fi to reduce battery strain when a pet is in the home. The company says it’s able to bump up battery life up to 5x. The tracker is available for $50 in the U.S., plus a monthly subscription fee.

In February, smart pet collar maker Fi announced a $30 million Series B.

 

AI Could Enable 'Swarm Warfare' for Tomorrow's Fighter Jets

By Will Knight
A Pentagon project is testing scenarios involving multiple aircraft that could change the dynamics of air combat.

I Fostered a One-Eyed Goblin. She Changed My Life in Lockdown

By Elena Lacey
Radish is technically a chihuahua (but I’m not convinced). And after a year of misery, she was everything I needed.
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