Answering its critics, Google loosens reins on AMP project

Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, has been a controversial project since its debut. The need for the framework has been clear: the payloads of mobile pages can be just insane, what with layers and layers of images, Javascript, ad networks, and more slowing down page rendering time and costing users serious bandwidth on metered plans. Yet, the framework has been aggressively foisted on the community by Google, which has backed the project not just with technical talent, but also by making algorithmic changes to its search results that have essentially mandated that pages comply with the AMP project’s terms — or else lose their ranking on mobile searches. Even more controversially, as part of making pages faster, the AMP project uses caches of pages on CDNs — which are hosted by Google (and also Cloudflare now). That meant that Google’s search results would direct a user
Continue reading "Answering its critics, Google loosens reins on AMP project"

12 years in, Techstars doubles down on corporate relationships

The goal of any accelerator is to back startups that are reaching exponential growth. Sometimes, though, the accelerator itself hits that inflection point. Techstars, which was founded in 2006, has expanded aggressively over the past twelve years. Once a single accelerator program for a handful of early-stage startups in Boulder, the program now encompasses 44 separate programs covering six continents and a large number of industry verticals. The firm has hundreds of employees across its headquarters and member programs, and more than 1,600 portfolio companies. Along the way, the mission of Techstars has evolved, from purely accelerating a cohort of startups to championing a culture of “entrepreneurship anywhere.” Co-CEO David Cohen, who co-founded Techstars along with Brad Feld, David Brown, and Jared Polis, said that “Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed,” adding that “the product we are offering is really not an accelerator, but a
Continue reading "12 years in, Techstars doubles down on corporate relationships"

Trump expands tariffs on China by another $200 billion, threatens more

By this point, you should all know the drill. Another day, another massive tariff from the Trump administration. After rumors the past few weeks that the president was considering expanding tariffs to another $267 billion worth of imported goods from China, the administration announced today that it would expand them merely to another $200 billion worth of goods, which has the convenience of being a nice round number. In a White House statement, the president announced a 10% tariff to be implemented by next week on September 24, which will then increase to 25% at the start of the new year. “For months, we have urged China to change these unfair practices, and give fair and reciprocal treatment to American companies. We have been very clear about the type of changes that need to be made, and we have given China every opportunity to treat us more fairly.
Continue reading "Trump expands tariffs on China by another $200 billion, threatens more"

In Bad Blood, a pedestrian tale of heuristics and lies

In a world where thousands and thousands of startups are started in the Bay Area every year, becoming a name that everyone recognizes is no small feat. Theranos reached that summit, and it all came crashing down. The story of the fraudulent rise and precipitous fall of the company and its entrepreneur, Elizabeth Holmes, is also the singular story of the journalist who chronicled the company. John Carreyrou’s tenacious and intrepid reporting at the Wall Street Journal would ultimately expose one of the largest frauds ever perpetrated in Silicon Valley. Bad Blood is the culmination of that investigative reporting. The swift decline of Theranos and its protective legal apparatus has done this story a lot of good: many of the anonymous sources that underpinned Carreyrou’s WSJ coverage are now public and visible, allowing the author to weave together the various articles he published into a holistic and complete story. And
Continue reading "In Bad Blood, a pedestrian tale of heuristics and lies"

The second blockchain bubble is now complete – what’s next?

The last few months haven’t been easy for crypto investors. Following the dizzying highs of crypto trading late last year, which saw Bitcoin reach a peak of $19,276 and a market cap of $323 billion and Ether reach $1,152 with a market cap of more than $112 billion, prices have crashed. Today, Bitcoin trades at around $6,500, and Ether at $204. Their combined market caps have shed about $300 billion in value. That’s basically five Bernie Madoffs worth of losses. The situation has put crypto investors in quite the bind. As one indicative example, the Wall Street Journal profiled wunderkind crypto investor Olaf Carlson-Wee, who founded Polychain Capital. The fund, which has seen dizzying growth over the past few years turning a few thousand dollars into tens of millions in returns, has lost about 40% of its $800 million in capital through investment losses and investor withdrawals. It’s clear
Continue reading "The second blockchain bubble is now complete – what’s next?"

Spearhead is transforming founders into angel investors

Becoming an angel investor is simple in principle: have money and invest. Unfortunately for many of the smartest founders in the startup ecosystem, that requirement can prove a complete block on investing in the companies they see day after day, since early liquidity can be hard to find for founders. Spearhead was launched earlier this year with a mandate to identify promising startup founders and give them cash to invest in startups autonomously. The brainchild of AngelList’s Naval Ravikant and Accomplice’s Jeff Fagnan, the program identifies promising startup founders and provides them with $200,000 of investible capital, and potentially $1 million. It also sets them up with the right legal entities to invest. It selected its first cohort — a group of 19 founders selected from 1,500 applications — earlier this year, and the program announced that its second cohort is open for applications today. Ravikant explained to me that
Continue reading "Spearhead is transforming founders into angel investors"

Apple’s 5G iPhone conundrum

Wednesday is Apple’s big product release day, where analysts expect the company to release the next edition of the iPhone. While the usual upgrades to the screen, CPU, and storage are expected as always, one major lingering question is how the company is going to handle 5G, the next-generation telecommunications standard. The conventional wisdom among analysts is that Apple will ignore 5G in 2018 and 2019 just as it took extra time to rollout 3G and 4G chipsets in its phones. A typical example of this analysis comes from Chris Smith at BGR, who says that “We already saw what Apple did when 4G LTE came out. The company waited for carriers actually to offer decent coverage before launching the first 4G iPhone. That was the iPhone 5, by the way, which launched more than a year after the first Android-based LTE phones came out.” I’m not
Continue reading "Apple’s 5G iPhone conundrum"

Bay Area city blocks 5G deployments over cancer concerns

The Bay Area may be the center of the global technology industry, but that hasn’t stopped one wealthy enclave from protecting itself from the future. The city council of Mill Valley, a small town located just a few miles north of San Francisco, voted unanimously late last week to effectively block deployments of small-cell 5G wireless towers in the city’s residential areas. Through an urgency ordinance, which allows the city council to immediately enact regulations that affect the health and safety of the community, the restrictions and prohibitions will be put into force immediately for all future applications to site 5G telecommunications equipment in the city. Applications for commercial districts are permitted under the passed ordinance. The ordinance was driven by community concerns over the health effects of 5G wireless antennas. According to the city, it received 145 pieces of correspondence from citizens voicing opposition to the technology, compared
Continue reading "Bay Area city blocks 5G deployments over cancer concerns"

LendingTree is the secret success story of fintech

For all of the excitement centered around fintech over the past half-decade, most venture-backed fintech companies struggle to acclimate to public markets. LendingClub and OnDeck have plummeted since their late 2014 IPOs after several years of darling status in the private markets. GreenSky, which went public in May of this year, has been unable to return to its IPO price. Square is the exception to the rule. Sometimes we overlook the companies that hail from the era that precedes the current wave of fintech fascination, a vertical which has accumulated over $100 billion in global investment capital since 2010. One of these companies is LendingTree, which got its start height of the Internet bubble, going public in mid-February of 2000, less than a month before the Dot-com bubble peaked.  LendingTree began in 1996 in a founding story that epitomizes the early Internet era. Doug Lebda, an accountant searching
Continue reading "LendingTree is the secret success story of fintech"

Hate speech, collusion, and the constitution

Half an hour into their two-hour testimony on Wednesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were asked about collaboration between social media companies. “Our collaboration has greatly increased,” Sandberg stated before turning to Dorsey and adding that Facebook has “always shared information with other companies.” Dorsey nodded in response, and noted for his part that he’s very open to establishing “a regular cadence with our industry peers.” Social media companies have established extensive policies on what constitutes “hate speech” on their platforms. But discrepancies between these policies open the possibility for propagators of hate to game the platforms and still get their vitriol out to a large audience. Collaboration of the kind Sandberg and Dorsey discussed can lead to a more consistent approach to hate speech that will prevent the gaming of platforms’ policies. But collaboration between competitors as dominant
Continue reading "Hate speech, collusion, and the constitution"

Trump wants to just tariff the hell out of China

Another day, another whopper of a tariff. The Trump administration has been busy finalizing the rulemaking process to put 25 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, which will almost certainly affect the prices of many critical technology components and have on-going repercussions for Silicon Valley supply chains. That followed the implementation of tariffs on $50 billion of goods earlier this year. Now, President Trump, as reported by reporters on Air Force One this morning, has said that he is prepared to triple down on his tariffs strategy, saying that he is ready to add tariffs to another $267 billion worth of Chinese goods. Although the president has a flair for the dramatic in many of his policies, the China tariffs are one arena in which his rhetoric has matched the actions of his administration. Each set of these tariffs has been vociferously opposed by tech industry trade
Continue reading "Trump wants to just tariff the hell out of China"

Benchmark and Tiger double down on going public

In an ecosystem enthralled with private capital and delayed public debuts, Bill Gurley has been something of a maverick. The former dot-com equity analyst and long-time partner at Benchmark has pushed hard for companies to go public and “grow up,” including at his portfolio company Uber, where he was formerly a board member. Earlier this year, he noted that “it’s cool to go public again,” and now we are starting to see the fruits of Benchmark’s labors. Over the past 24 hours, two companies – Elastic and Upwork – have submitted their S-1 registration statements to the SEC, and Benchmark is the largest shareholder in both. That follows last year’s IPO for Stitch Fix, where Gurley was the lead investor. The story of these two public aspirants are certainly divergent. Upwork is the rebranded merger of two companies, Elance and oDesk, which merged in
Continue reading "Benchmark and Tiger double down on going public"

Fall 2018 tech IPOs face myriad of headwinds

2018 has been an incredibly strong year for IPOs, particularly in the technology sector. Among the brand names this year that have made their public debuts are Dropbox, Xiaomi, Spotify (through a direct listing), DocuSign, Carbon Black, Zuora, among many, many others. Given the strength of these numbers through the first eight months of this year, the key question for the public markets is whether the year will close out just as strongly or die in a whimper. It’s a decidedly mixed picture right now. The positives for the tech industry are an extremely robust pipeline of unicorns and growth-stage companies as well as soaring stock prices and strong economic data encouraging investors to seek additional risk in new issues in order to drive returns. Yet, there are serious headwinds operating against new issues that could increase friction for startups for the remainder of the year. The first is that
Continue reading "Fall 2018 tech IPOs face myriad of headwinds"

When battery life saves human life

Few would equate human life with battery life, but for many migrants escaping war or famine, a single percentage point of battery can mean getting the right information at the right time – or not surviving at all. Smartphones today have become an integral part of a forced migrant’s journey. From navigating mountains in Central Asia using Google Maps to staying connected with family back home via WhatsApp, smartphones have transformed the migrant experience – though not always for the better.

No electron spared

In Eastern Europe, many migrants pushed back from Hungary stay along the border on the Serbian side in abandoned buildings. Volunteers visit these sites to bring supplies, including repurposed car batteries that migrants use to charge their phones. At one abandoned building less than a mile from the Hungarian border, migrants huddle around one car battery to charge their phones, and they all agree about the importance
Continue reading "When battery life saves human life"

For Labor Day, work harder

Labor Day is a holiday that just doesn’t fit Silicon Valley. It’s purported purpose is to celebrate working men and women and their — our — progress toward better working conditions and fairer workplaces. Yet, few regions in recent times have supposedly done more to “destroy” quality working conditions than the Valley, from the entire creation of the precarious 1099 economy to automation of labor itself. My colleague John Chen offered the received wisdom on this discrepancy this weekend, arguing that Valley entrepreneurs should take the traditional message of Labor Day to heart, encouraging them to create more equitable, fair, and secure workplaces not just for their own employees, but also for all the workers that power the platforms we create and operate every day. It’s a nice sentiment that I agree with, but I think he misses the mark. What Silicon Valley needs — now more than ever
Continue reading "For Labor Day, work harder"

It’s time for Facebook and Twitter to coordinate efforts on hate speech

Since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, there has been burgeoning awareness of the hate speech on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. While activists have pressured these companies to improve their content moderation, few groups (outside of the German government) have outright sued the platforms for their actions. That’s because of a legal distinction between media publications and media platforms that has made solving hate speech online a vexing problem. Take, for instance, an op-ed published in the New York Times calling for the slaughter of an entire minority group.  The Times would likely be sued for publishing hate speech, and the plaintiffs may well be victorious in their case. Yet, if that op-ed were published in a Facebook post, a suit against Facebook would likely fail. The reason for this disparity? Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which provides platforms
Continue reading "It’s time for Facebook and Twitter to coordinate efforts on hate speech"

Lolli launches to give you free Bitcoin while you shop

Bitcoin has had tremendous success as a cryptocurrency, with millions of people around the world having traded the currency through command lines and wallets like Coinbase. Yet, for all of the excitement in the space, BTC remains largely the province of technically-sophisticated finance and software junkies and their Uber drivers. How can everyone in the world use crypto? For Alex Adelman, that challenge proved an enigma. Partnering with Matt Senter, he had previously founded Cosmic Cart, a “universal shopping cart” that would allow companies to sell their goods anywhere online. The company was eventually acquired by POPSUGAR, and acquired a second time by Ebates, a Rakuten-owned affiliate marketing platform. Adelman wanted to get into the blockchain world, but didn’t want to leave behind his network in the retail world. After reconnecting and exploring, Adelman and Senter realized that scaling consumer demand for Bitcoin is the critical challenge for widespread
Continue reading "Lolli launches to give you free Bitcoin while you shop"

Fighting food waste, Full Harvest raises $8.5m to bring excess produce to commercial buyers

It’s a story that any urban millennial can (and will) complain about. You are looking for a non-caffeinated beverage, so you walk into a juice shop only to be shocked at the $13 price point for a couple of apricots and kale mixed in a blender. Yes, there is an intentional premium signaling going on, but there is also a much deeper challenge that goes all the way back to the ground where that kale came from. Farms are throwing away produce that doesn’t meet the aesthetic standards of grocery stores, and that means perfectly edible and delicious vegetables are completely lost. Some studies show that a majority of all food weight is lost before it even leaves the farm. Yet, there are no easy ways to sell those loose leaves of romain — at least, not yet. San Francisco-based Full Harvest is building a B2B marketplace that connects large-scale
Continue reading "Fighting food waste, Full Harvest raises $8.5m to bring excess produce to commercial buyers"

Blind loyalty

There is a secret behind every open office in Silicon Valley — and it isn’t the drain on productivity. Tech companies have been the vanguards for pushing corporate culture forward toward “radical transparency.” Mark Zuckerberg works in a fully transparent four-walled glass office surrounded by the rest of Facebook. Valve got rid of managers and titles so everyone can be their own boss. Startup founders host weekly town halls, Friday all-hands, and AMAs. Companies go to painstaking lengths to signal that they trust their employees – to show that this is your company. But while your company might adopt an open floor plan and give out free snacks so you can feel closer to your coworkers, they likely don’t want you knowing how much they make, who is affected by the impending layoffs, or whether executives are making the right decisions. The open office has never
Continue reading "Blind loyalty"

Crypto mining giant Bitmain on target for $10B revenue this year

During a gold rush, Silicon Valley’s line is to always invest in picks and shovels instead of mining. Sometimes it pays just to do both.

TechCrunch has learned through a company fundraise overview that Beijing-based mining equipment seller Bitmain hit a quarterly revenue of approximately $2 billion in Q1 of this year. Despite a slump in bitcoin prices since the beginning of the year, the company is on track to become the first blockchain-focused company to achieve $10 billion in annual revenue, assuming that the cryptocurrency market doesn’t drop further.

Fortune has previously reported that the company had $1.1 billion in profits in the same quarter, a number in line with these revenue numbers, given a net margin of around 50 percent. That growth is extraordinary. From the same source seen by TechCrunch, Bitmain’s revenues last year were $2.5 billion, and around $300 million just the year
Continue reading "Crypto mining giant Bitmain on target for $10B revenue this year"