Fortnite, copyright and the legal precedent that could still mean trouble for Epic Games


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A new US Supreme Court decision is pitting entertainers and video game developers against one another in a high-stakes battle royale.

The decision in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com LLC raises interesting questions about several lawsuits brought against Epic Games, the publisher of popular multiplayer game Fortnite.

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Meet the Texas startup that wants to decarbonize the chemical industry


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Solugen, a startup that has set itself up with no less lofty a goal than the decarbonization of a massive chunk of the petrochemical industry, may be the first legitimate multi-million dollar company to start out in a meth lab.

When company co-founders Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt began hunting for a lab to test their process for enzymatically manufacturing hydrogen peroxide they only had a small $10,000 grant from MIT — which was supposed to pay their salaries and cover rent and lab equipment. 

Chakrabarti, who now jokingly calls himself “the Heisenberg of hydrogen peroxide” says that the lab spaces they looked at initially were all too pricey, so through a friend of a friend of a friend, he and Hunt wound up leasing lab space in a facility by the Houston airport for $150 per month.

It was there among the burners and round-bottomed flasks that

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Starbucks will anchor the new $400 million food-focused Valor Siren Ventures fund


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Starbucks is serving up a steaming hot $100 million cash commitment to anchor a new food-focused fund in partnership with the consumer and tech-focused focused private equity firm Valor Equity Partners.

The behemoth of burnt-coffee said that its commitment to the Valor Siren Ventures fund is an attempt to focus on “new ideas and technologies that are relevant to customers, inspiring to partners (employees), and meaningful to Starbucks business.”

The Starbucks announcement was short on details, except for a general statement that it would focus on investments in companies developing technologies, products and solutions related to food or retail.

As a company, Starbucks has been incredibly innovative — rolling out new tech-enabled services to customers. The company has one of the most popular mobile payment services, is dabbling with cryptocurrency payments and has a robust on-demand delivery service through UberEats.

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The World Health Organization is setting up rules and oversight for human gene editing


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Yesterday, the World Health Organization wrapped up its first meeting of a new advisory committee set up to create global governance and oversight standards for human gene editing.

The committee was hastily pulled together in December after the revelation last year that a Chinese scientist had genetically modified two embryos using CRISPR technology to remove the CCR5 gene, which plays a critical role in enabling many forms of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) to infect cells.

As soon as the Shenzhen-based geneticist He Jiankui made his results public, his work was met with universal condemnation — both inside and outside of China,

He was last seen under house arrest in a compound on the university grounds where he conducted his research as China moved retroactively to declare his work illegal.

Now the World Health Organization is taking its

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Law enforcement needs to protect citizens and their data


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Over the past several years, the law enforcement community has grown increasingly concerned about the conduct of digital investigations as technology providers enhance the security protections of their offerings—what some of my former colleagues refer to as “going dark.”

Data once readily accessible to law enforcement is now encrypted, protecting consumers’ data from hackers and criminals. However, these efforts have also had what Android’s security chief called the “unintended side effect” of also making this data inaccessible to law enforcement. Consequently, many in the law enforcement community want the ability to compel providers to allow them to bypass these protections, often citing physical and national security concerns.

phone encryption

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Launching from YC, Eclipse Foods casts a long shadow over the $336 billion dairy industry


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Eclipse Foods may be the company that finally takes milk out of the dairy business.

Ever since the acquisition of WhiteWave Foods by the French dairy giant Danone for over $10 billion investors have been thirsting for a technology that would give consumers a better tasting, more milky (for lack of a better word), milk substitute than the highly valuable (but not very tasty) almond, soy, and other plant based dairy alternatives.

There are at least $37.5 billion worth of other reasons for investors’ interest in the milk alternative category. That’s how much money will be spent on dairy alternatives by 2025, according to a newly released study by the market research firm Global Market Insights.

Enter Eclipse Foods. Founded by two veterans of the alternative sugars and proteins business, the company is going after the whole dairy industry, starting with a line of spreads and select additives for

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In big tech’s future expansion plans, public good should be the corporate incentive


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The cancellation of Amazon’s planned expansion in New York exposes the truth about its HQ2 promises. In the end, the company seemed mainly interested in tax incentives and being allowed to make a corner of NYC once set aside for public housing and schools its own.

Meanwhile, Arlington county officials are revisiting plans to deliver locally-funded financial incentives to Amazon in exchange for the development of DC-adjacent “National Landing.”

Increasingly, communities are demanding that tech companies bring more to the table than they take. Locals want them to stimulate the local economy and fortify startup ecosystems rather than hire away people and raise housing prices. After all, talent is the most precious resource in the

Apple iPad event

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Targeting payday lenders, Branch adds pay-on-demand features for hourly workers


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Branch, the scheduling and pay management app for hourly workers, has added a new pay-on-demand service called Pay, which is now available to anyone who downloads the Branch app.

It’s an attempt to provide a fee-based alternative to payday lending, where borrowers charge exorbitant rates to lenders on short-term loans or cash advances. Borrowers can often wind up paying anywhere from 200 percent to more than 3,000 percent on short-term payday loans.

The Pay service, which was previously only available to select users from a waitlist at companies like Dunkin’, Taco Bell and Target (which are Branch customers), is now available to anyone in the United States and gives anyone the opportunity to get paid for the hours they have worked in a given pay period.

Branch, which began its corporate life as Branch Messenger, started as a scheduling and shift management tool for large retailers, restaurants and other

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Fifty years of the internet


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When my team of graduate students and I sent the first message over the internet on a warm Los Angeles evening in October, 1969, little did we suspect that we were at the start of a worldwide revolution. After we typed the first two letters from our computer room at UCLA, namely, “Lo” for “Login,” the network crashed.

Hence, the first Internet message was “Lo” as in “Lo and behold” – inadvertently, we had delivered a message that was succinct, powerful, and prophetic.

The ARPANET, as it was called back then, was designed by government, industry and academia so scientists and academics could access each other’s computing resources and trade large research files, saving time, money and travel costs. ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, (now called

A silhouette of a hacker with a black hat in a suit enters a hallway with walls textured with blue internet of things icons 3D illustration cybersecurity concept

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Nala has built a hassle-free, offline mobile money payment platform for Africa


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Benjamin Fernandes, the Tanzanian co-founder chief executive of Nala, spent hundreds of hours talking to local Tanzanians about their frustrations with mobile money payment services before he launched his new payment platform.

While at least a hundred million Africans hold mobile money accounts, the process of transacting over the services is difficult, so Tala made an application that acts as an interface on top of the unstructured supplementary service data layer to make money transfers and payments much easier.

Mobile payment services have swept across the African continent in the 12 years since the wireless carrier Safaricom launched M-Pesa in 2007. As of 2017, roughly half of the 282 mobile money services operating worldwide were in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to a McKinsey report. Nala’s founder estimates that there around 420 million Africans holding mobile money accounts, making the continent the leader in mobile money adoption by a wide margin.

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XGenomes is bringing DNA sequencing to the masses


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As healthcare moves toward genetically tailored treatments, one of the biggest hurdles to truly personalized medicine is the lack of fast, low-cost genetic testing.

And few people are more familiar with the problems of today’s genetic diagnostics tools than Kalim Mir, the 52-year-old founder of XGenomes, who has spent his entire professional career studying the human genome.

Ultimately genomics is going to be the foundation for healthcare,” says Mir. “For that we need to move toward a sequencing of populations.” And population-scale gene sequencing is something that current techniques are unable to achieve. 

“If we’re talking about population scale sequencing with millions of people we just don’t have the throughput,” Mir says.

That’s why he started XGenomes, which is presenting as part of the latest batch of Y Combinator companies next week.

A visiting scientist in Harvard Medical School’s Department of Genetics, Mir worked with the

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Shiok Meats takes the cultured meat revolution to the seafood aisle with plans for cultured shrimp


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Rising consumer interest in alternative proteins and meat replacements has brought hundreds of millions of dollars to companies trying to grow or replace beef or chicken, but few companies have turned their attention to developing seafood alternatives.

Now Shiok Meats is looking to change that. The company has raised pre-seed financing from investors like AIM Partners, Boom Capital, and Bryan Bettencourt and is now part of the recent Y Combinator cohort presenting next week.

Co-founders Sandiya Shriram and Ka Yi Ling are both stem cell scientists working at Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research who decided to leave their cushy government posts for life in the fast lane of entrepreneurship. 

The two have set themselves a goal of creating a shrimp substitute that would be similar to what’s typically found in the freezer section of most grocery stores — and a minced shrimp-replacement for use in dumplings.

There’s

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The inevitability of tokenized data


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We’re reaching the endgame of an inevitable showdown between big tech and regulators with a ley battleground around consumer data. In many ways, the fact that things have gotten here reflects that the market has not yet developed an alternative to the data paradigm of Google and Facebook as sourcers and sellers and Amazon as host that today dominates.

The tokenization and decentralization of data offers such an alternative. While the first generation of “utility” tokens were backed by nothing more than dreams, a new generation of tokens, connected explicitly to the value of data, will arise.

The conversation around data has reached a new inflection point.

Presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has called for the breakup of technology giants including Amazon and

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Venture investors and startup execs say they don’t need Elizabeth Warren to defend them from big tech


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Responding to Elizabeth Warren’s call to regulate and break up some of the nation’s largest technology companies, the venture capitalists that invest in technology companies are advising the presidential hopeful to move slowly and not break anything.

Warren’s plan called for regulators to be appointed to oversee the unwinding of several acquisitions that were critical to the development of the core technology that make Alphabet’s Google and the social media giant Facebook so profitable… and Zappos.

Warren also wanted regulation in place that would block companies making over $25 billion that operate as social media or search platforms or marketplaces from owning companies that also sell services on those marketplaces.

As a whole, venture capitalists viewing the policy were underwhelmed.

“As they say on Broadway, ‘you gotta have a gimmick’ and this is clearly Warren’s,” says Ben Narasin, an investor at one of the nation’s largest investment firms,” New Enterprise

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Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren is calling for the breakup of big tech


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The influential Massachusetts Senator and Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has been a longtime critic of the consolidation of economic power by Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Now she’s making their break-up a key component of her Presidential platform.

Warren has just released her plan for breaking up big tech, in what seems like a watershed moment for a Democratic nominee. Since Al Gore famously (infamously?) “invented the internet”, Democratic candidates have turned away from serious regulation of technology companies, preferring instead to receive their campaign contributions.

Eric Schmidt and Google donors were hugely important to the Obama campaign, and big tech companies were among his biggest supporters.

Now, Warren has said (on Medium no less) that the massive market power that Google, Facebook, and Amazon wield is a threat and will be treated accordingly.

“Twenty-five years ago, Facebook, Google, and Amazon didn’t exist,” writes Warren. “Now they are among the

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Omidyar Network spins out its fintech investment arm as Flourish, with up to $300 million


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After 12 years spent investing in impact-oriented financial services startups around the globe, the Omidyar Network, which serves as the family investment office for eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, is spinning off its financial inclusion investment arm as Flourish Ventures.

Equipped with up to $300 million in capital for operations and investments, the new Flourish will continue to invest around the Network’s core mission of backing companies with a dual focus of making a social impact and achieving quality financial returns.

Already, the new firm is one of the most active financial services investors globally, according to a report from FT Partners.

This double-bottom line approach has already yielded results for the company.

“After 10 or 12 years with people becoming more broadly interested in the impact investment space, we had an opportunity to reinvent ourselves,” says Tilman Ehrbeck, a managing partner at the newly independent Flourish.

Flourish is actually

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Tia launches a clinic that places the menstrual cycle at the center of care


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Tia, the company which launched with an app providing health advice and period tracking for women, has launched its first clinic.

From its first location in New York, the two founders of Tia hope that they can build a network of care facilities that integrate all of the information that their app collects with the benefits of having in-person consultations with physicians that have a holistic view of their patients’ health.

For founders Carolyn Witte and Felicity Yost the hurdles women need to overcome to receive adequate treatment aren’t theoretical — they’ve faced them directly.

Witte and Yost met a decade ago in college and remained friends ever since. It was when Witte had to diagnose herself with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a condition which affects nearly one in ten women, that she first realized how broken the healthcare system was for over half of the population of the

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Taxing your privacy


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Data collection through mobile tracking is big business and the potential for companies helping governments monetize this data is huge. For consumers, protecting yourself against the who, what and where of data flow is just the beginning. The question now is: How do you ensure your data isn’t costing you money in the form of new taxes, fees and bills?  Particularly when the entity that stands to benefit from this data — the government — is also tasked with protecting it?

The advances in personal data collection are a source of growing concern for privacy advocates, but whereas most fears tend to focus on what type of data is being collected, who’s watching and to whom is your data being sold, the potential

Internet of Things connecting in cloud over city scape.

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A healthcare investment fund has become one of Israel’s largest with a $660 million close


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One of Israel’s single largest venture capital funds is a new later stage vehicle focused on healthcare.

The aMoon investment firm launched its second vehicle in April 2018 and it just announced its final close with $660 million in assets under management — making it one of the largest (if not the largest) firm in the country.

“We plan to leverage Israel’s ecosystem of breakthrough science and disruptive tech innovation to accelerate cure and reshape global healthcare.” said Dr. Yair Schindel MD, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of aMoon, in a statement. “This raise is a vote of confidence for the Israeli HealthTech ecosystem that extends beyond Israel’s borders, to include the sizable community of Israeli entrepreneurs and researchers in global hubs, such as Silicon Valley and Boston.”

The firm’s second fund will have a strategy focused on later stage, lower risk companies in which aMoon will invest larger

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