Google will match up to $1M in donations for Hurricane Florence relief

As cities in Hurricane Florence’s path deal with its aftermath, Google will match up to $1 million in donations to help with relief efforts. The disaster’s death toll is currently 35 people and about 343,000 people in North Carolina are without electricity. The hurricane caused widespread flooding and property damage throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.   Google drew attention to its Hurricane Florence donation campaign with a banner that appeared on top of Gmail for some users. Google has matched donations for other disasters before, including Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey last year. It’s also raised money for humanitarian efforts crises, like a 2015 matching program for up to $5.5 million in donations to provide aid to refugees in Europe. For that campaign, it temporarily added a “Donate” button to its search homepage. The company is partnering with non-profit Network for God to collect and distribute funds.
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Google partners with Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi to put Android into millions of vehicles

Google will partner with Renault -Nissan-Mitsubishi, the largest auto alliance in the world by vehicle sales, to put Android-based infotainment systems into millions of cars, the companies told Wall Street Journal. The alliance’s next-generation infotainment system and dashboard displays will use Android and launch in 2021. Drivers will be able to access Google’s maps, app store and voice assistant from their vehicle’s dashboards. The new partnership is a giant step forward for Google’s ambitions to get its operating system into more cars (the alliance sold a combined 5.5 million vehicles in the first half of this year, putting it ahead of Volkswagen and Toyota Motor). The alliance’s executives told WSJ that they decided on the partnership because many of their customers are accustomed to using Google Maps and other apps and prefer sticking with them instead of using software developed by automakers when they drive. Auto executives have also
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Ola raises $50M at a $4.3B valuation from two Chinese funds

Ola, the arch-rival of Uber in India, has raised $50 million at a valuation of about $4.3 billion from Sailing Capital, a Hong Kong-based private equity firm, and the China-Eurasian Economic Cooperation Fund (CEECF), a state-backed Chinese fund. The funding was disclosed in regulatory documents sourced by Paper.vc and reviewed by Indian financial publication Mint. According to Mint, Sailing Capital and CEECF will hold a combined stake of more than 1% in Ola . An Ola spokesperson said the company has no comment. Ola’s last funding announcement was in October, when it raised $1.1 billion (its largest funding round to date) from Tencent and returning investor SoftBank Group. Ola also said it planned to raise an additional $1 billion from other investors that would take the round’s final amount to about $2.1 billion. At the time, a source with knowledge of the deal told TechCrunch
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WHILL raises $45M to help people with disabilities get around airports and other large venues

WHILL, the startup known for creating sleek, high-tech personal mobility devices, announced today that it has closed a $45 million Series C. The funding will be used for expanding into new international markets, as well as developing new products for large venues, including airports and “last-mile” sidewalk transportation. The round’s lead investors were SBI Investment, Daiwa Securities Group and WHIZ Partners, with participation from returning investors INCJ, Eight Road Ventures, MSIVC, Nippon Venture Capital, DG Incubation and Mizuho Capital. This brings WHILL’s total funding so far to about $80 million. Founded in Tokyo in 2012, WHILL plans to open a branch in the European Union and enter 10 new European countries. It also plans to start working with partners on developing autonomous capabilities for its mobility devices, senior marketing manager Jeff Yoshioka told TechCrunch. The company will build its own sensors and cameras to use in its “mobility as
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Logistics startup Freightos raises $44.4M Series C led by Singapore Exchange

Freightos, a marketplace for logistics providers, announced today that it has raised a $44.4 million Series C led by Singapore Exchange. Returning investors including General Electric Ventures (the lead investor of Freightos’ Series B extension last year), ICV and Aleph also participated in the round, which brings Freightos’ total funding so far to $94.4 million. Launched in 2016 as a price comparison service for freight forwarders—the agents that organize shipments from a supplier or manufacturer to their final destination—Freightos now also lets users book, manage and track shipments with more than 1,200 logistics providers. In an email, founder and CEO Zvi Schreiber said its online freight marketplace will continue to be Freightos’ flagship product, but the company also wants to find ways to make the industry more efficient by building a global digital infrastructure. The company claims to process more than one million instant freight quote requests
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Marc and Lynne Benioff will buy Times magazine from Meredith for $190M

Another tech billionaire will scoop up a major news outlet. Meredith Corporation, which acquired Time Inc. in January, announced today that it has agreed to sell its eponymous magazine to Salesforce.com co-founder Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne Benioff for $190 million in cash. Meredith said in March that it planned to sell Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money as part of its goal to save $400 million to $500 million over the next two years and increase the profitability of its remaining portfolio of publications. In its announcement today, the company said it will use proceeds from the sale of Times magazine to pay off debt and expects to reduce its debt by $1 billion during fiscal 2019. Meredith’s acquisition of Time Inc. was controversial because it received financial support from Koch Equity Development, the private equity fund run by Charles and David Koch, known for backing
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Website builder Strikingly raises $10M Series A+ to continue growth in China

Almost exactly one year after announcing its Series A, website building platform Strikingly said today that it has raised a $10 million Series A+. The new round was led by Cathay Capital, with participation from CAS Holding, the lead investor in Strikingly’s Series A. This brings Strikingly’s total funding so far to $17.5 million. Co-founder and CEO David Chen tells TechCrunch that the funding is “technically a Series B level round for us,” but the team wanted to call it a Series A+ because the capital will be used to continue the momentum of products launched around the time of its Series A, including a mobile website editor and a reseller program, as well as its growth in China. (Series A+ rounds are also more common in China, where Strikingly has an office in Shanghai and is one of the most popular website building services). “The A+ is
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Deliveroo will enter Taiwan, its fourth market in the Asia-Pacific so far

Food delivery service Deliveroo is making headway in its Asian expansion strategy. The London-based company announced today that it will launch in Taiwan in the coming weeks, starting with Taipei, the country’s capital, before heading to other cities. This marks Deliveroo’s fourth market in the Asia-Pacific region (the others are Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore) and is also a launch with personal significance for founder and CEO Will Shu, whose family is Taiwanese. In a press statement, Shu said “Our launch in Taiwan is also a personal milestone for me, my parents were born in Taiwan and much of my family still lives in Taipei. Taiwan is the market with my favourite food in the world—my personal favourite is a big bowl of 牛肉麵 [beef noodle soup] and a huge piece of 炸雞排 [fried chicken]. From a personal standpoint, It’s an amazing feeling to launch Deliveroo in Taiwan.” Once
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TiDB developer PingCAP wants to expand in North America after raising $50M Series C

PingCAP co-founder and CEO Max Liu

PingCAP, the company behind MySQL-compatible distributed database TiDB, said today that it plans its global operations after raising a $50 million Series C. The round was led by Chinese venture capital firms Fosun and Morningside Venture Capital, with participation from returning investors including China Growth Capital, Yunqi Partners and Matrix Partners. Based in Beijing, the company says it will also use the new capital to build more cross-cloud products. PingCAP is focusing on the North American market since it is the most mature cloud market, said Kevin Xu, the company’s general manager of U.S. strategy and operations, in an email. Founded in 2015 by Dylan Cui, Edward Huang and Max Liu, PingCAP has raised about $72 million so far, including its $15 million Series B announced in June 2017. TiDB is an open-source hybrid transactional and analytical database targeted at companies that
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Uber appoints Coca-Cola veteran Rebecca Messina as its chief marketing officer

Uber announced today that it has hired Coca-Cola veteran Rebecca Messina to serve as its chief marketing officer. Messina is the first person to hold that title at Uber and will work with its international marketing teams on Uber’s branding and marketing strategies. Messina will oversee marketing for Uber as it gets ready for an initial public offering that is expected to take place next year. Messina’s appointment is another sign that Uber is building its roster for a stock market debut. Last month, it announced that Nelson J. Chai, former CEO of Warranty Group, will be its new chief financial officer after a long search. Messina’s tasks include helping to repair Uber’s reputation, which is still smarting from last year’s upheaval, including the resignation of co-founder Travis Kalanick and accusations of a toxic work culture. While Messina is the first person to hold the CMO title at Uber, Bozoma
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Hong Kong-based OneDegree gets $25.5M Series A to make coverage more accessible, starting with pet insurance

OneDegree, a Hong Kong-based insurance technology startup, announced today that it has closed a Series A totaling HKD $200 million (about $25.5 million). Half of that amount was pledged by investors to OneDegree pending regulatory approval through the Hong Kong Insurance Authority’s new fast-track licensing program for online-only insurers. The company, which participated in Cyberport, the Hong Kong government’s startup incubator, claims this is the largest ever fundraising round for a pre-revenue insurance tech startup in Hong Kong. OneDegree is currently not disclosing its list of investors because its new shareholders are being vetted by the Insurance Authority, founder and CEO Alvin Kwock tells TechCrunch, but it includes institutional investors and family offices. The South China Morning Post reports that speculation among brokers peg Tencent and Alibaba as probable backers. OneDegree has developed an online insurance platform that lets consumers purchase personal lines and health insurance products without
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Alibaba announces CEO Daniel Zhang will succeed Jack Ma as chairman next year

Following speculation about Jack Ma’s imminent retirement, Alibaba Group announced today that its CEO, Daniel Zhang, will succeed Ma as chairman next year. After stepping down as chairman on September 10, 2019 (exactly a year from now), Ma will continue serving as a board member until its annual general shareholders’ meeting in 2020. After that, Ma will remain a lifetime partner of the Alibaba Partnership, or a group of 36 partners drawn from the senior management ranks of Alibaba Group companies and affiliates. They hold a considerable amount of sway over the company because they have the right to nominate, or in certain situations, appoint up to a simple majority of its board of directors. Alibaba’s announcement follows reports that Ma’s retirement from the company he co-founded in 1999 as an online marketplace was imminent, with Ma, a former English teacher, planning to dedicate his time to philanthropy in
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South Korean home cleaning startup Miso sweeps up $8 million Series A

South Korean home cleaning service Miso wants to leave its competition in the dust after raising an $8 million Series A. Led by AddVenture, with participation from returning investors Y Combinator, FundersClub and Strong Ventures, and new backer Social Capital, the funding will be used on marketing and entering new Asian countries. The Y Combinator alum, which was the third startup from South Korea to participate in the accelerator program, has now raised over $10.5 million in total. When TechCrunch first profiled Miso in June 2016, it was processing about 5,000 bookings a month. Now co-founder and CEO Victor Ching says the platform processes about 50,000 to 60,000 cleanings a month. The company claims that it has processed over 750,000 bookings since it was founded in 2015 and made more than $40 million in gross merchandise value over the last three years. It has served a total of
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WSJ reports that Theranos will finally dissolve

Theranos is reportedly finally closing down for good, nearly three years after a Wall Street Journal investigation called its blood testing technology into question. The WSJ said the company, whose dramatic downfall spawned a best-selling book that’s set to be filmed with Jennifer Lawrence starring as Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes, sent shareholders an email saying it will formally dissolve and seek to pay unsecured creditors its remaining cash in the coming months. Holmes resigned as CEO in June after she and Theranos’ former president, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, were charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud in June. Both Holmes and Balwani had already been charged with fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission (the criminal charges are separate from the civil ones filed by the SEC). In its complaint, the SEC said the two engaged in “an elaborate,
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The Xbox Adaptive Controller goes on sale today and is also now part of the V&A museum’s collection

In an important move for inclusion in the gaming community, the Xbox Adaptive Controller, created for gamers with mobility issues, is now on sale. The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) also announced today that it has acquired the Xbox Adaptive Controller for display in its Rapid Response gallery dedicated to current events and pop culture. First introduced in May, the Xbox Adaptive Controller can now be purchased online for $99.99. To create the controller, Microsoft collaborated with gamers with disabilities and limited mobility, as well as partners from several organizations, including the AbleGamers Charity, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Special Effect and Warfighter Engaged. According to Microsoft, the Xbox Adaptive Controller project first took root in 2014 when one of its engineers spotted a custom gaming controller made by Warfighter Engaged, a non-profit that provides gaming devices for wounded and disabled veterans. During several of Microsoft’s hackathons, teams
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Maoyan, China’s largest online movie ticket service, files to go public in Hong Kong

Tencent-backed Maoyan Weiying, China’s largest online movie ticketing service, has filed for a public offering on the Hong Kong stock exchange. The company, which submitted a prospectus under the name Entertainment Plus, didn’t say when the IPO will be or valuation details, but reports earlier this year said Maoyan aims to raise up to $1 billion. The timing of Maoyan’s IPO is noteworthy because it comes as another Tencent investment, Meituan-Dianping, is preparing for its own debut (Meituan is also one of Maoyan’s investors). Both Meituan and Maoyan are key chess pieces in Tencent’s online-to-offline services rivalry with Alibaba. Meituan holds the leading market share for online services in China by market volume, though Alibaba wants to challenge that with Ele.me and Kuobei, which it recently raised $3 billion for after consolidating the two into one holding company. Likewise, Maoyan is the largest online movie ticketing app service
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Meituan reportedly targets $55B valuation for Hong Kong IPO, leading to concerns that may be too high

Meituan-Dianping is reportedly aiming for a $55 billion valuation in its upcoming initial public offering in Hong Kong, but the company’s net losses and increasing competition from Alibaba are already raising questions about whether that is too ambitious, despite the company’s market leadership in China. Meituan-Dianping, which bills itself as a “one-stop super app” that offers everything from food delivery to travel bookings, has set an IPO price range of HK$60 to HK$72 (about $7.64 to $9.17), with a valuation of $46 billion to $55 billion, according to Reuters. That is still less, however, than the valuation of about $60 million it targeted earlier, according to a June 25 report from the Wall Street Journal. Meituan-Dianping runs the leading online marketplace for services in China by gross transaction volume and also acquired bike-sharing startup Mobike earlier this year. Meituan-Dianping was said to be valued at as much as
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Microsoft no longer taking new enrollments for its Surface Plus financing program

Microsoft has quietly ended its Surface Plus financing program about a year after it launched. In a message on its site, the company said it stopped taking new enrollments on August 31 “after much thought and consideration.” The change does not affect existing customers, however, who will still be covered by their current financing plans. Financed by Klarna, a Stockholm-headquartered online financial services provider, the Surface Plus financing program launched in August 2017. It targeted students and other people who wanted an affordable way to own a Surface device, allowing them to spread payments over 24 months. The Surface Plus plan also enabled customers to upgrade to the latest device after 18 months, as long as they returned their previous device in good working condition. In a FAQ, Microsoft said existing customers will still be able to upgrade their Surface under the plan’s terms. The program’s end also does
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Enveritas’ technology lets small growers tap into the market for sustainable coffee

Demand for sustainable coffee is growing, a boon for socially conscious coffee lovers — but many small growers are missing out because they lack the ability to verify that their coffee beans are grown using fair labor and eco-friendly practices. In fact, verification is often accessible only to large coffee estates or cooperatives. Enveritas wants to change that. The nonprofit, which recently completed Y Combinator’s accelerator program, uses geospatial analysis to make the process more efficient, enabling it to offer free verification to small farms. Enveritas’ goal is to end poverty in the coffee sector by 2030. Before founding Enveritas in 2016, CEO David Browning and head of operations Carl Cervone worked at TechnoServe, a nonprofit that serves businesses in developing economies. Browning led TechnoServe’s global coffee practice, while Cervone advised coffee growers in Africa, Asia and Latin America about sustainability trends. Browning tells TechCrunch that TechnoServe’s coffee team spent
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Google denies Trump’s claim that it did not promote his State of the Union address

Google is pushing back against a claim by Donald Trump that the search engine stopped promoting State of the Union livestreams on its homepage after his presidency began. Trump’s claim came in the from of a tweeted video, which was still pinned to the top of his profile when this post was published at 9:30 PM PST, Aug. 29, 2018, after Google’s refutation and multiple media reports of its inaccuracy. Hashtagged #stopthebias, the video appears to show that Google did not display links to livestreams of Trump’s first public speech to a joint session of Congress on February 28, 2017 or his first State of the Union on January 30, 2018, despite promoting Obama’s State of the Union addresses in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Google, however, says it did indeed highlight Trump’s first State of
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