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Early-bird savings end next Friday on tickets to Robotics+AI 2020

By Emma Comeau

TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics+AI 2020 is gearing up to be one amazing show. This annual day-long event draws the brightest minds and makers from these two industries — 1,500 attendees last year alone. And if you really want to make 2020 a game-changing year, grab yourself an early-bird ticket and save $150 on tickets before prices go up after January 31.

Not convinced yet? Check out some agenda highlights featuring some of today’s leading robotics and AI leaders:

  • Saving Humanity from AI with Stuart Russell (UC Berkeley)
    The UC Berkeley professor and AI authority argues in his acclaimed new book, “Human Compatible,” that AI will doom humanity unless technologists fundamentally reform how they build AI algorithms.
  • Automating Amazon with Tye Brady (Amazon Robotics)
    Amazon Robotics’ chief technology officer will discuss how the company is using the latest in robotics and AI to optimize its massive logistics. He’ll also discuss the future of warehouse automation and how humans and robots share a work space.
  • Engineering for the Red Planet with Lucy Condakchian (Maxar Technologies)
    Maxar Technologies has been involved with U.S. space efforts for decades, and is about to send its sixth (!) robotic arm to Mars aboard NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Lucy Condakchian is general manager of robotics at Maxar and will speak to the difficulty and exhilaration of designing robotics for use in the harsh environments of space and other planets.
  • Toward a Driverless Future with Anca Dragan (Waymo/UC Berkeley) and Jur van den Berg (Ike)
    Autonomous driving is set to be one of the biggest categories for robotics and AI. But there are plenty of roadblocks standing in its way. Experts will discuss how we get there from here. 

See the full agenda here.

If you’re a startup, nab one of the five demo tables left and showcase your company to new customers, press, and potential investors. Demo tables run $2,200 and come with four attendee tickets so you can divide and conquer the networking scene at the conference.

Students, get your super-reduced $50 ticket here and learn from some of the biggest names in the biz and meet your future employer or internship opportunity.

Don’t forget, the early-bird ticket sale ends on January 31. After that, prices go up by $150. Purchase your tickets here and save an additional 18% when you book a group of four or more.

Jeff Clavier, Sarah Guo, Ali Partovi and Caryn Marooney to speak at Early Stage SF

By Jordan Crook

Early Stage SF is sneaking up on us and there is plenty to be excited about. The one-day event, which brings together a wide variety of startup experts to host breakout sessions, is going down on April 28 and we have a handful of speakers to announce.

So without any further ado:

We’re thrilled to announce that Jeff Clavier, Sarah Guo, Caryn Marooney, and Ali Partovi will be joining us at the event.


Jeff Clavier is Managing Partner and founder at Uncork Capital, with portfolio companies that include Eventbrite, Sendgrid, Fitbit, Vungle, and Mint.com. His current investments include Vidyard, Postmates, Molekule, Shippo and Front.

Seed Funding Tips and Tricks – Jeff Clavier

There are now a thousand micro-VCs entrepreneurs can raise capital from, creating confusing market dynamics. Learn tips and tricks on fund raising from Uncork Capital’s Managing Partner, Jeff Clavier.


Sarah Guo joined Greylock Partners in 2013 and led the firm’s investments in Cleo, Demisto, Sqreen, and Utmost, and sits on the boards of several startups. Before Greylock, she was at Goldman Sachs where she invested at the growth level in companies like Dropbox, and advised pre-IPO tech companies and public tech companies alike, including Workday (the former) and Netflix, Zynga and Nvidia (the latter).

SaaS Fundraising and Growth – Sarah Guo

Sarah Guo, Partner at Greylock is an early stage investor in enterprise software, with over half a dozen investments made across cyber security, AI, HR and health. She’ll give a rundown on why strong storytelling, a focus on solving a single problem well, and a thesis on defensibility are all essential in a pitch, and why making seed and series A investments often comes down to betting on the founding team.


Ali Partovi runs Neo, a mentorship community and VC fund that brings together tech veterans with diverse startup leaders. Partovi has backed the likes of Airbnb, Dropbox, Facebook and Uber, and also founded Code.org. Partovi also has experience as an entrepreneur, selling his first startup LinkExchange all the way back in 1998.

Hiring Your First 5 Engineers – Ali Partovi

The first few employees determine a startup’s trajectory. Learn the dos and don’ts of hiring your early engineers.


Caryn Marooney is a partner at Coatue Management, sitting on the boards of ZenDesk and Elastic, with an advisory role at Airtable. Before Coatue, Caryn oversaw communications for Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus for eight years. Marooney is also a cofounder of the OutCast Agency, where she worked with companies across a wide spectrum of industries and sizes, including Salesforce, Amazon, Netflix and VMWare.

Why Should Anyone Care? (Making Your Brand Stand Out) – Caryn Marooney

Startups often struggle to create a narrative that stands out. As a General Partner at Coatue, former head of Comms at Facebook, and co-founder of the OutCast Agency, Caryn Marooney has seen it all. Come learn the brand and messaging framework that can help your company stand out (while staying true to yourself.)


There will be about 50+ breakout sessions at the show, and attendees will have an opportunity to attend at least seven. The sessions will cover all the core topics confronting early-stage founders — up through Series A — as they build a company, from raising capital to building a team to growth. Each breakout session will be led by notables in the startup world on par with the folks we’ve announced today.

Don’t worry about missing a breakout session, because transcripts from each will be available to show attendees. And most of the folks leading the breakout sessions have agreed to hang at the show for at least half the day and participate in CrunchMatch, TechCrunch’s great app to connect founders and investors based on shared interests.

Here’s the fine print. Each of the 50+ breakout sessions is limited to around 100 attendees. We expect a lot more attendees, of course, so signups for each session are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Buy your ticket today and you can sign up for the breakouts we are announcing today. Pass holders will also receive 24-hour advance notice before we announce the next batch. (And yes, you can “drop” a breakout session in favor of a new one, in the event there is a schedule conflict.)

We’re absolutely thrilled for this event, and we hope you are, too. Buy a pass to Early Stage SF 2020 right here!

Interested in sponsoring Early Stage? Hit us up here.

Unearth the future of agriculture at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI with the CEOs of Traptic, FarmWise and Pyka

By Devin Coldewey

Farming is one of the oldest professions, but today those amber waves of grain (and soy) are a test bed for sophisticated robotic solutions to problems farmers have had for millennia. Learn about the cutting edge (sometimes literally) of agricultural robots at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI on March 3 with the founders of Traptic, Pyka and FarmWise.

Traptic, and its co-founder and CEO Lewis Anderson, you may remember from Disrupt SF 2019, where it was a finalist in the Startup Battlefield. The company has developed a robotic berry picker that identifies ripe strawberries and plucks them off the plants with a gentle grip. It could be the beginning of a new automated era for the fruit industry, which is decades behind grains and other crops when it comes to machine-based harvesting.

FarmWise has a job that’s equally delicate yet involves rough treatment of the plants — weeding. Its towering machine trundles along rows of crops, using computer vision to locate and remove invasive plants, working 24/7, 365 days a year. CEO Sebastian Boyer will speak to the difficulty of this task and how he plans to evolve the machines to become “doctors” for crops, monitoring health and spontaneously removing pests like aphids.

Pyka’s robot is considerably less earthbound than those: an autonomous, all-electric crop-spraying aircraft — with wings! This is a much different challenge from the more stable farming and spraying drones like those of DroneSeed and SkyX, but the choice gives the craft more power and range, hugely important for today’s vast fields. Co-founder Michael Norcia can speak to that scale and his company’s methods of meeting it.

These three companies and founders are at the very frontier of what’s possible at the intersection of agriculture and technology, so expect a fruitful conversation.

$150 early-bird savings end on February 14! Book your $275 Early-Bird Ticket today and put that extra money in your pocket.

Students, grab your super-discounted $50 tickets right here. You might just meet your future employer/internship opportunity at this event.

Startups, we only have five demo tables left for the event. Book your $2,200 demo table here and get in front of some of today’s leading names in the biz. Each table comes with four tickets to attend the show.

Hot off the press: New tickets to the 3rd Annual Winter Party at Galvanize

By Emma Comeau

Party on, startuppers. We’ve just printed up a fresh batch of tickets to our 3rd Annual Winter Party at Galvanize in San Francisco on February 7. If you haven’t snagged yours yet, don’t wait, because tickets to this event fly off the proverbial shelf. Buy your ticket right now.

Our annual winter soiree features 1,000 of Silicon Valley’s brightest minds, makers and visionaries relaxing over passed canapes and delightful libations. It’s the perfect way to meet your colleagues, expand your network, shake off the winter blues and just have some fun.

Let’s face it — networking works better in a relaxed setting. You never know who you’ll meet at a TechCrunch party — it might be a relationship that takes your business to new heights. Our parties have a history of creating startup magic.

We’re not kidding when we say this is a popular event. Case in point: Our demo table packages sold out in a flash. As you swill and chill, be sure to check out the up-and-coming startups showcasing their tech. We have a limited number of tickets left, and they’re going fast.

  • When: Friday, February 7, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • Where: Galvanize, 44 Tehama St., San Francisco, CA 94105
  • Ticket price: $85

In addition to networking, comradery and great food and drink, our Winter Party comes replete with party games, activities and photo ops. Bring your best karaoke chops and impress the crowd. Oh, and no TechCrunch party is complete without door prizes, TC swag and a chance to win tickets to Disrupt SF, our flagship event coming in September 2020.

Don’t miss out on the 3rd Annual Winter Party at Galvanize on February 7 in San Francisco. Tickets are going fast — get yours now while you still can!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at the 3rd Annual Winter Party at Galvanize? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Sonos Will Soon End Software Support for Its Older Speakers

By Lauren Goode
The company will also launch a trade-in program if you want to upgrade your soon-to-be-obsolete Sonos hardware.

TRI-AD’s James Kuffner and Max Bajracharya are coming to TC Sessions: Robotics+AI 2020

By Brian Heater

With the Tokyo Summer Olympics rapidly approaching, 2020 is shaping up to be a big year for TRI-AD (Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development). Opened in 2018, the research wing is devoted to bringing some of TRI’s work into practice. The organization is heavily invested in both autonomous driving and other key robotics project.

TRI-AD’s CEO James Kuffner and VP of Robotics Max Bajracharya will be joining us on stage at TC Sessions Robotics+AI on March 3 at U.C. Berkeley to discuss their work in the field. The company has been working to promote accessibility, both in terms of its work in automotive and smart cities, as well as robotics aimed to help assist Japan’s aging population.

The Summer Olympics will serve as an opportunity for TRI-AD to showcase those technologies in practice. Kuffner and Bajracharya will discuss why companies like Toyota are investing in robotics and working to make every day robotics a reality.

Early Bird tickets are now on sale for $275. Book your tickets now and save $150 before prices go up!

Student Tickets are just $50 – grab yours here.

Startups, book a demo exhibitor table and get 4 tickets to the show and a demo area to showcase your company. Packages run $2200.

Save over $200 with discounted student tickets to Robotics + AI 2020

By Emma Comeau

If you’re a current student and you love robots — and the AI that drives them — you do not want to miss out on TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020. Our day-long deep dive into these two life-altering technologies takes place on March 3 at UC Berkeley and features the best and brightest minds, makers and influencers.

We’ve set aside a limited number of deeply discounted tickets for students because, let’s face it, the future of robotics and AI can’t happen without cultivating the next generation. Tickets cost $50, which means you save more than $200. Reserve your student ticket now.

Not a student? No problem, we have a savings deal for you, too. If you register now, you’ll save $150 when you book an early-bird ticket by February 14.

More than 1,000 robotics and AI enthusiasts, experts and visionaries attended last year’s event, and we expect even more this year. Talk about a targeted audience and the perfect place for students to network for an internship, employment or even a future co-founder.

What can you expect this year? For starters, we have an outstanding lineup of speaker and demos — more than 20 presentations — on tap. Let’s take a quick look at just some of the offerings you don’t want to miss:

  • Saving Humanity from AI: Stuart Russell, UC Berkeley professor and AI authority, argues in his acclaimed new book, “Human Compatible,” that AI will doom humanity unless technologists fundamentally reform how they build AI algorithms.
  • Opening the Black Box with Explainable AI: Machine learning and AI models can be found in nearly every aspect of society today, but their inner workings are often as much a mystery to their creators as to those who use them. UC Berkeley’s Trevor Darrell, Krishna Gade of Fiddler Labs and Karen Myers from SRI International will discuss what we’re doing about it and what still needs to be done.
  • Engineering for the Red Planet: Maxar Technologies has been involved with U.S. space efforts for decades and is about to send its fifth robotic arm to Mars aboard NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Lucy Condakchian, general manager of robotics at Maxar, will speak to the difficulty and exhilaration of designing robotics for use in the harsh environments of space and other planets.

That’s just a sample — take a gander at the event agenda to help you plan your time accordingly. We’ll add even more speakers in the coming weeks, so keep checking back.

TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 takes place on March 3 at UC Berkeley. It’s a full day focused on exploring the future of robotics and a great opportunity for students to connect with leading technologists, founders, researchers and investors. Join us in Berkeley. Buy your student ticket today and get ready to build the future.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Sophie Alcorn, Rebecca Lynn, MG Siegler and Garry Tan are joining us for Early Stage SF

By Jordan Crook

One of the most valuable resources in the tech startup community is mentorship. Founders, tackling brand new challenges and adapting to a rapidly changing world, can sometimes feel like no one understands what they’re going through.

But alas, the Early Stage SF event in April will most certainly prove them wrong. Early Stage will bring together seasoned operators and experts across a wide variety of topics that fall under the broad umbrellas of funding, marketing and operations.

How do you secure funding? How do you get to your first yes? How do you identify the right investors? And the right lead investor? How do you negotiate a cap table that makes sense for you and your team? How do you get from seed to Series A? These are some of the questions our speakers will answer, and that’s just on the topic of funding.

We’ll also hear from experts in the legal arena, wizards of the tech stack, leadership coaches, brand design geniuses, growth hackers, and more!

Today, we’re pleased to announce four more breakout session leaders: Sophie Alcorn, Rebecca Lynn, MG Siegler, and Garry Tan .

Each of these experts will lead 40-minute breakout sessions, including a brief presentation followed directly by a Q&A session with the audience.


How to Make Immigration Work For You – Sophie Alcorn

Dealing with a tricky visa situation? Troubleshoot the many snags that can affect early-stage startups who are trying to bring talent into the country, with top Silicon Valley immigration expert Sophie Alcorn.

How to Structure Your FinTech Startup – Rebecca Lynn

With the disintermediation of banks, and financial services more broadly, startups that are well structured can really have major advantages entering those markets. From benchmarking growth metrics that matter to navigating regulatory changes, learn more about Canvas Ventures’ approach towards evaluating founding teams and equipping companies with what it takes to make the most of opportunities in fintech.

Time Isn’t on Your Side. So Timing Better Be. – MG Siegler

We live in an era of app and services inundation. The problem for early stage startups isn’t a lack of good ideas, it’s a lack of time that users have to try such things out, let alone implement them into their lives. M.G. Siegler will go through some ideas and trends that could be interesting entry points for startups to break through.

How to Avoid 1000 Landmines – Garry Tan

When you’re starting your company, there are thousands of small, avoidable mistakes that can turn success into failure. Learn how to navigate around those and maximize your chance of success with key learnings from Garry Tan, founder and managing partner at Initialized Capital.


Early Stage SF will have approximately 50 different breakout sessions covering a wide variety of startup core competencies. The hope is that early stage founders can come in with a blank notebook and leave with a semester’s worth of insights and information on how to tackle the challenges of the future.

Obviously, there is only so much time in the day and it would be impossible for an attendee to participate in every single breakout session. But fear not! Transcripts from every breakout will be made available to attendees.

And there’s one more thing!

Our speakers have graciously agreed to spend part of the day at the show participating in CrunchMatch. CrunchMatch allows founders, investors, etc. to fill in information about who they’d like to meet — for example, a D2C startup founder might want to meet with brand design experts and ecommerce VCs — and set a time and place for a quick meeting right at the event.

Here’s the fine print. Each of the 50+ breakout sessions is limited to around 100 attendees. We expect a lot more attendees, of course, so signups for each session are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Buy your ticket today and you can sign up for the breakouts we are announcing today. Pass holders will also receive 24-hour advance notice before we announce the next batch. (And yes, you can “drop” a breakout session in favor of a new one, in the event there is a schedule conflict.)

So get your TC Early Stage: San Francisco pass today, and get the inside track on the sessions we announced today, as well as the ones to be announced in the coming weeks.

Possible sponsor? We have some very nifty ways to bring sponsors in on the show flow, so please contact us here!

Browsers Are Fixing the Internet's Most Annoying Problem 

By Matt Burgess, WIRED UK
After years of invasive pop-ups asking for notification permission, Chrome and Firefox have finally taken action. 

Listen to top VCs discuss the next generation of automation startups at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI

By Brian Heater

Robotics, AI and automation have long been one of the hottest categories for tech investments. After years and decades of talk, however, those big payouts are starting to pay off. Robotics are beginning to dominate nearly every aspect of work, from warehouse fulfillment to agriculture to retail and construction.

Our annual TC Sessions: Robotics+AI event on March 3 affords us the ability to bring together some of the top investors in the category to discuss the hottest startups, best bets and opine on where the industry is going. And this year’s VC panel is arguably our strongest yet:

  • Eric Migicovsky is a general partner a Y Combinator. Prior to joining the firm, he co-founded Pebble. The smartwatch pioneer was itself a YC-backed venture, along with raising three of Kickstarter’s all-time top crowdfunding campaigns. Migicovsky joined YC following Fitbit’s acquisition of the startup in 2016.
  • DCVC partner Kelly Chen focuses primarily on the AI, robotics, manufacturing and work-related sectors. Her work is generally focused on the world of hardware, along with the transformations of populations and labor.
  • Dror Berman co-founded Innovations Ventures in 2010 with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. A key driver in the firm’s investments in Uber, SoFi and Formlabs, Berman also focuses on robotics, including companies like Blue River Technology and Common Sense Robotics.

TC Sessions: Robotics+AI returns to Berkeley on March 3. Make sure to grab your early-bird tickets today for $275 before prices go up by $100. Startups, book a demo table right here and get in front of 1,000+ of Robotics/AI’s best and brightest — each table comes with four attendee tickets.

Watch Disrupt Berlin Day 2 live right here

By Jordan Crook

Good morning!

Disrupt Berlin Day 2 begins now, and boy do we have a show for you!

Today, we’ll hear from Justin Drake (Ethereum Foundation), Carolina Brochado (SoftBank Investment Advisors), Andrei Brasoveanu (Accel), Young Sohn (Samsung) and Matthew Prince (Cloudflare), live from the Main Stage.

On the Extra Crunch Stage, panelists will discuss important topics like How to Fit Blockchain into Your Startup Strategy and How to Raise Your First Euros.

And, of course, we’ll see the Startup Battlefield Finals, where five startups (Gmelius, Hawa Dawa, Inovat, Scaled Robotics and Stable) will pitch live in front of expert VC judges to take home the Disrupt Cup, $50,000 and eternal glory.

While we wish that you were here, we’re pleased to be able to bring you a live stream of the entire day. So sit back, relax and enjoy the show!

Apply to the pitch-off at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI 2020

By Lauren Simonds

Mark your calendars and dust off your public-speaking skills. This year, there’s an exciting new opportunity at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI, which returns to UC Berkeley on March 3, 2020. We’ve added a pitch-off specifically for early-stage startups focused on AI or robotics.

You heard right. In addition to a full day packed with speakers, breakout sessions and Q&As featuring the top names, leading minds and creative makers in robotics and AI, we’re upping the ante. We’ll choose 10 startups to pitch at a private event the night before the show opens. Here’s how it works.

The first step: Apply to the pitch-off by February 1. TechCrunch editors will review all applications and select 10 startups to participate. We’ll notify the founders by February 15 — you’ll have plenty of time to hone your pitch.

You’ll deliver your pitch at a private event, and your audience will consist of TechCrunch editors, main-stage speakers and industry experts. Our panel of VC judges will choose five teams as finalists, and they will pitch the next day on the main stage at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI.

Talk about an unprecedented opportunity. Place your startup in front of the influential movers and shakers of these two world-changing industries — and get video coverage on TechCrunch, too. We expect attendance to meet or exceed last year’s, when 1,500 people attended the show and tens of thousands followed along online.

Oh, and here’s one more pitch-off perk. Each of the 10 startup team finalists will receive two free tickets to attend TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 the next day.

TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 takes place on March 3. Apply to the pitch-off here by February 1. Don’t want to pitch? That’s fine — but don’t miss this epic day-long event dedicated to exploring the latest technology, trends and investment strategies in robotics and AI. Get your early-bird ticket here and save $100. We’ll see you in Berkeley!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Robotics & AI 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Camp Grounded Digital Detox returns after founder’s death

By Josh Constine

Summer camp for adults and beloved tech-free weekend getaway Camp Grounded ground to a halt in 2017. Its big-hearted founder Levi Felix who’d espoused the joys of trading screens for nature walks was tragically killed by brain cancer at just age 32. Left in his wake was mourning community who’d lost their digital detox rally just as everyone was realizing the importance of looking up from their phones.

As an attendee, I’d been impressed by how the founder (known as Professor Fidget Wigglesworth at camp) used playfulness and presence to transport us back to childhood, before we got hooked on the Internet. But he also broke people’s addiction to shame, mandating that anyone who screwed up in a sports game or talent show announce “I’m awesome”, and be met with a cheer from the crowd, “your awesome!”

Luckily, one of Felix’s elementary school friends Forest Bronzan wants to write a happier ending to this story. Almost three years after it went into hibernation follow its creator’s death, Bronzan has acquired Camp Grounded and its parent company Digital Detox .

Camp Grounded will relaunch in May 2020 as two back-to-back weekend retreats at Northern California’s gorgeous Camp Mendocino. Attendees will again leave their devices in Tech Check lockers run by hazmat-suit wearing staffers, assume nicknames, and stop the work talk. They’ll get to play in the woods like technology never existed, indulging in Camp Grounded favorites from archery to arts & crafts to bonfire singalongs about enthusiastic consent. However, to simplify logistics, Camp Grounded won’t hold sessions in New York, North Carolina, or Texas any more.

The company will also organize more four-hour Unplugged Nights in cities around the country where partiers can switch off their phones and make new friends. The idea is to give a broader range of people a taste of the Grounded lifestyle in smaller doses. Those interested in early access to tickets for all of Digital Detox’s events can sign up here.

Camp Grounded’s Tech Check staffers confiscate attendees’ devices upon their arrival. Image Credit: Daniel N. Johnson

Meanwhile, Digital Detox will start a new business of education and certifications for K-12 schools, coaching teachers and parents on how to gently reduce students’ screentime. Schools will pay per student like a Software-As-A-Service model. Through research by a few PhDs, the company will recommend proper rules for using tech in and out of the classroom to minimize distraction, and empathetic penalties for violations.

The obvious question to ask, though, is if Bronzan is just some business guy coming to coin off the anti-tech trend and Felix’s legacy. “I’m not Apple coming in and buying the company. This isn’t a tech acquisition” Bronzan insists at a coffee shop in San Francisco. “I knew Levi before anyone else knew Levi. We went trick-or-treating and played in school band together. I want to the first Digital Detox summit, and brought my company year after year. I’ve been involved from the begginning, seeing Levi’s passion and inspiration.”

Levi Felix and Forest Bronzan (from left) in 1996

Fidget had an innately soothing camp counselor vibe to him that Bronzan doesn’t quite capture. He’d previously built and sold Email Aptitude, a CRM and email agency, not an event or education business. But he truly seems to mean well, and he’s earned the support of Digital Detox’s team.

“My mission was to find someone that was as excited and ferocious as Levi and I were when we started Digital Detox to further it as a movement” says Brooke Dean, Felix’s wife and co-founder. “It was imperative that the person running DD and CG had actually experienced the magic. This person had to be more than a lover of camp and nature, they also needed the hard skills and successful track record of running a company. Forest is stable, business-minded and also finds value in that very unique magic.”

Bronzan tells me the acquisition includes a cash component (“We’re not talking eight figures”) and a capital investment in the business, both funded by his email company’s exit. Two other individuals and one company had also expressed interest. Dean and Felix’s brother Zev will retain equity in the company, and she’ll stay on the board of directors. The trio are launching the Levi Felix Foundation that will donate money to brain cancer research.

While moving into education might seem like a left turn for Digital Detox after throwing events since 2012, Dean says “Levi was planning on going back to school and was deeply interested in being an academic in this field. We always believed that there needed to be evidence in order to convince the masses that being outside and connecting with other human beings ‘IRL’ is critical to our health and longevity.”

Some alarming stats the organization has already uncovered include:

  • 77% of people check or pretend to check their phone to avoid talking to others
  • 38% feel less connected to their partner or close friend due to cell phone use
  • Nearly 20% check their phone while having sex

“We want to eventually be the central source of tools on how tech is affecting lives and relationships at all age levels” Bronzan tells me. It’s zeroing in on how compulsive behaviors like endless scrolling increase anxiety and depression, and how parents glued to their devices train children to not be present. The father of two kids under age five, Bronzan knows a weekend at camp in your 20s or 30s is too little too late to seriously address the crisis of fractured attention.

Digital Detox’s new CEO says he’s heartened by the progression of some of Felix’s ideals, as with the Time Well Spent movement. The screentime dashboards launched by tech companies don’t do enough to actually change people’s actions, he says, though “They’re at least making some effort.” Digital Detox plans to launch a comprehensive quiz to determine how addicted you are to your phone, and Bronzan says he’d happily work with tech giants to integrate his company’s research.

 

On the camp for adults front, we’ve seen Burning Man go mainstream but lose some of what made it special including a lack of cell phone reception. It’s now common to see people on the playa staring at their phones, talking about work, and stressed about the clock — all of which are prohibited at Camp Grounded. Festivals like Coachella seem to get more corporate and less mindful each year. That leaves plenty of open space for Digital Detox to fill with purposeful breaks from the default world.

Bronzan also wants to introduce more surprise and serendipity to the event calendar. Camp Grounded will experiment with a “Mystery Trip” where eight to ten people sign up to be whisked away, only receiving a confidential briefing package the day before they show up. The point is to extract people from their routines where unhealthy habits manifest. Without connectivity, Camp Grounded hopes people will forge new connections in their minds, and with each other.

Sharding, scalability, decentralization – You name it, we’ve got it on the EC stage in Berlin

By Mike Butcher

Sharding and scalability. Transactions per second. Crypto-ecosystems. The decentralized web. These are the voyages of the Starship Blockchain, on it’s five-year mission to seek out… OK, you get the drift! But as you can tell, there remain many, many issues to tease out of this burgeoning new tech world, one we will be unpacking at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin this December.

There are still a lot of issues to deal with. The current version of Ethereum can only handle a dozen transactions per second. “Sharding” or spreading the load via partitioning, should lead to a drastic increase in performance, but the question is how to do it? Ethereum 2.0 still remains a moving target. There is even a growing “Ethereum killer” community. And while all this goes on, high-minded organizations like the Web3 Foundation are trying to foster the development of a user-friendly crypto-ecosystem and decentralized web.

Who on earth would take all this on? TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin, of course, and, in particular, our Extra Crunch stage.

Since we launched Extra Crunch, our premium content service for those readers who like to hold TechCrunch close and cuddle it at night, we’ve been running a premium EC stage at our TechCrunch Disrupt conferences, and this will be no less true in Berlin.

Given Berlin is a hotbed of blockchain startups and development, it would be utterly remiss of us not to cover this subject, but the Extra Crunch stage gives us some extra (oh yeah!) bandwidth to do deep-dives for attendees to get under the skin of this rapidly expanding aspect of the tech industry.

We’re excited to be joined by three amazing speakers to pore over the latest development in the blockchain world.

Justin Drake (Ethereum)
Justin studied mathematics at Cambridge University. He was a Bitcoin entrepreneur from 2014 to 2017 and is now an Ethereum 2.0 researcher.

Justin is going to cover where Ethereum 2.0 is right now as someone who has been working on sharding and scalability and supporting the Ethereum ecosystem to enable these new use cases.

With the current version of Ethereum only able to handle a dozen transactions per second, sharding will be crucial, but Ethereum 2.0 is a moving target and remains a large-scale experiment of distributed development.

If the community gets it right, Ethereum 2.0 could transform the Ethereum blockchain into a sort of “world computer” that can execute instructions across a network of servers all around the world. On the EC stage, Justin will also be talking with other blockchain experts about building a blockchain startup. If anyone knows, he knows how important it is to build a community of developers and researchers around your blockchain project.

Ash Egan (Accomplice VC)
A World Economic Forum Global Shaper and advisor at ConsenSys’ Tachyon Accelerator, Ash Egan has backed a number of headline companies in the space, including Bison Trails, Coda, CoinList, Dapper Labs, Near, Simplex and Torus. Before Accomplice, he co-launched ConsenSys’ venture arm and started his career at Converge VC in Boston.

Egan has previously highlighted the ongoing innovations within the “Ethereum killer” community and how it “expands the sandbox,” but he also believes that for mass adoption of crypto on social networks to take off, users will need to be monetized via advertisements and referrals.

Ashley Tyson (Web3 Foundation)
Ashley Tyson is the director of Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives at Web3 Foundation. She spends her time aligning diverse teams working on decentralized systems and supporting blockchain ecosystem initiatives like Ethereum Community Fund and ETHPrize.

Prior to Web3 Foundation, Ashley co-founded DEFCAD, a censorship-resistant search engine for 3D printable files. She deeply understands the need for a decentralized web, beginning her career in NYC at one of the first social media-focused agencies, where she helped multinational corporations build Web 2.0 strategies around consumer data acquisition for use in marketing initiatives.

Disrupt Berlin runs December 11 and December 12. Tickets are available here!

Pitch onstage at TechCrunch’s Robotics & AI show — March 3 at UC Berkeley

By Robert Frawley

On March 3 next year, TechCrunch will host the fourth annual TC Sessions: Robotics + AI at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. This time around we’re adding a new twist to the incredible line-up of speakers, breakout sessions and Q&As: a pitch-off for early-stage companies in the robotics and AI space.

How it works: The night before the event, 10 startups, chosen through an online application process, will pitch at a private event with TechCrunch editors, main-stage speakers and industry experts. A panel of VC judges will select the top five teams to then pitch the next day on the main stage at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI.

It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for founders to get their company in front of the tier-one leaders and investors in the industry, as well as receive video coverage on TechCrunch. We expect 1,500 attendees at the show and tens of thousands online.

Extra treat: Each of the 10 startup team finalists will receive two free tickets to attend the show the next day.

Apply here by February 1. TechCrunch will review applications and notify companies by February 15 so the founders have time to prepare. So, what are you waiting for? Get some spotlight!

Not interested in the pitch-off but want to attend this fantastic, show? Grab your Early-Bird pass here before it’s too late!

Google Is Finally Rolling Out its Own RCS in the US

By Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica
The company’s already launched the messaging standard in the UK and France, and now America is next, carriers be damned.

Web Summit cancels next year’s Rise conference over tension in Hong Kong

By Manish Singh

The ongoing tension in Hong Kong between the government and pro-democracy protesters continues to spill into the tech domain.

Rise, which is among the largest tech conferences in Asia, will not run next year as planned due to “the ongoing situation in Hong Kong,” according to Web Summit, the Ireland-based company that organizes the show.

The organizer said it is postponing the sixth edition of its annual conference, which is held in Hong Kong, to March 2021 from March 2020. Web Summit, which hosts similar large-scale conferences in other parts of the world, made the announcement today in an email to previous attendees. A spokesperson confirmed the veracity of the email to TechCrunch.

“Over recent months, we have been monitoring the ongoing situation in Hong Kong. Our number one concern is the wellbeing, safety, and security of attendees at our events,” it said in a statement.

“Given the uncertainty of the situation by early 2020 and after consulting with experts and advisories, we have decided to postpone RISE until 2021.”

In recent years, Rise has emerged as one of the largest tech conferences in Asia. Some of its recent speakers have included top executives of Uber, Byju’s, Grab, Gojek, Razor and Stripe, as well as many key partners from top VC funds and officials from several governments.

This year, the conference attracted more than 16,000 attendees ranging from the “world’s leading founders, Fortune 500 CEOs, investors, media, and the most promising startups from over 100 countries,” according to official figures provided by Rise.

Web Summit’s announcement today comes hours after Clockenflap, the biggest music festival in Hong Kong, was cancelled citing the same reason. American singer-songwriter Halsey, rapper Lil Pump, British band Mumford & Sons and Japanese headbangers Babymetal were set to play at the festival. Several more events have been postponed or cancelled in recent weeks.

Rita Liao contributed to this report.

Motorola Razr 2019: Specs, Price, Release Date

By Lauren Goode
Motorola reboots the classic Razr once again, this time as a folding smartphone.

Apple MacBook Pro 16-Inch (2019): Price, Specs, and Release Date

By Julian Chokkattu
MacBook keyboards have been plagued by problems for years. It’s high time to say goodbye.

Could your startup earn the Wild Card at Disrupt Berlin 2019?

By Priya Gupta

We’re just about one month away from opening the doors to infinite early-stage startup opportunity. We’re talking about Disrupt Berlin 2019, which takes place on 11-12 December. But today we’d like to highlight a specific opportunity you might not be familiar with — the Wild Card.

Why is this opportunity a big deal? The startup that earns the Wild Card designation gets to compete in Startup Battlefield, our epic pitch competition with a $50,000 prize. Ka-ching!

How do you qualify? Every early-stage startup that exhibits in Startup Alley, our expo floor and the heart of every Disrupt — has a shot at the Wild Card. And we mean every startup — Startup Alley Exhibitor Package holders, our recently announced TC Top Picks, members of a Country Pavilion — no matter how you come to exhibit in Startup Alley, you’re eligible.

Here’s how it all works. The day before Disrupt Berlin 2019 opens, TechCrunch editors will review the exhibiting startups and select one standout to join the cadre of Startup Battlefield competitors. The Wild Card team receives roughly 24 hours’ notice before they step out onto the Main Stage to pitch their product and company in front of a live audience — and a panel of expert VCs and technologists waiting to be impressed.

Talk about pressure. But startuppers don’t back away from a potentially life-changing opportunity — they rise to the occasion, amirite? Case in point: the little startup that could. Legacy earned the Wild Card at Disrupt Berlin 2018 and went on to win Startup Battlefield, beau coup love and attention from investors and media — not to mention that $50,000 equity-free cash infusion.

Here’s the good news: There’s still time for you to be an exhibitor at Disrupt Berlin 2019 — and have a shot at competing in Startup Battlefield. Simply buy a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package and you’re good to go.

Here’s even better news. Exhibiting in Startup Alley holds tremendous potential to move your business forward — whether you get the Wild Card or not.

This is how David Hall, co-founder of Park & Diamond, describes his experience in Startup Alley.

“Exhibiting in Startup Alley was a game-changer for us. We received insight on our product development process, and we got to engage with media and potential investors. The chance to have those discussions and to potentially form relationships was invaluable.”

The opportunity that is Disrupt Berlin 2019 takes place on 11-12 December. Make the most of that opportunity — exhibit in Startup Alley and take your shot at the Wild Card and Startup Battlefield. We’ll see you in Berlin!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt Berlin 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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