Spotify is falling behind on lyrics and voice

Spotify’s lack of full lyrics support and its minimal attention to voice are beginning to become problems for the streaming service. The company has been so focused on the development of its personalization technology and programming its playlists, it has overlooked key features that its competitors – including Apple, Google, and Amazon – today offer and are now capitalizing on. For example, in the updated version of Apple Music rolling out this fall with iOS 12, users won’t just have access to lyrics in the app as before, they will also be able to perform searches by lyrics instead of only by the artist, album, or song title. And Apple Music is actually playing catch up with Amazon on this front. Amazon Music, which has quietly grown to become the third largest music streaming service, allows users to view the lyrics as songs play, and ties that to
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Grabb-It wants to turn your car’s window into a trippy video billboard

It reminds me of something out of Blade Runner. Maybe it’s because it looks a bit futuristic – a bit unreal. Maybe it’s because I’m looking at an ad somewhere I never expected to see one, like the skyscraper-height ads of Ridley Scott’s future. Grabb-It turns a car’s side rear window into a full color display, playing location-aware ads to anyone who might be standing curbside. They’re currently aiming to work with rideshare/delivery drivers, enabling them to make a bit of extra coin while doing the driving they’re already doing. As the driver crosses town, the ads can automatically switch to focus on businesses nearby. Near the ball park? It might pitch you on tickets for tonight’s game. Over in The Mission? It could play an ad about happy hour at the bar behind you. So how’s it work? I couldn’t figure it out at first glance – but once
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Turkish President Erdogan calls for boycott of US tech

Yesterday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a boycott of all U.S. technology during a speech in the country’s capital city of Ankara. “Every product that we buy in foreign currency from outside, we will produce them here and sell abroad,” said Erdogan during the speech. “We will boycott the electronics products of the U.S.” Erdogan continued to suggest that for every Apple iPhone Turkish citizens could use a Korean Samsung phone instead — an ironic statement given the importance the iPhone had in helping him quell a military coup in the country in 2016 that sought to remove him from power. In what became a swiftly ended (though still deadly with over 200 casualties) coup, Erdogan used FaceTime to call his supporters to the streets. This announcement follows a tense week in Turkey where the country’s currency, the lira, fell more than 25 percent according to The New
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LinkedIn to relaunch Groups in the flagship app as it looks to reverse ‘ghost town’ image

LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned social networking platform for the working world with over 500 million users, is making a significant change as it continues to look for ways to make its platform more useful (and used). The company is relaunching Groups by rolling it into its main app by the end of the month after quietly pulling the standalone app earlier this year, and it will be streamlining the service by cutting out several features, including an ability for Group administrators to pre-moderate comments; and a way to email send Group posts as emails to the whole group, while also adding in new features like threaded replies and the ability to post video and other media. An announcement detailing the changes was sent out to a select Groups power users earlier today, and we have confirmed the details with LinkedIn directly. Mitali Pattnaik, the product manager for Groups, said
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Holding the Door Open Is Not That Hard

It’s not hard. It feels hard! When you walk through a door right before someone else, you need to hold that door open for them, or else you’re rude. But if they’re a little too far behind you, they have to hurry to catch up, and then (as redditor Voldetitty recently pointed out) you’re actually being annoying. At some… Read more...

Android 9 Pie (Go edition) arrives this fall

With Android Pie now available (on a handful of devices, at least), Google’s prepping the launch of its low-powered counterpart. Android 9 Pie (Go edition) — the successor to the more pithily named Android Go — will be hitting arriving on devices this fall.

Like Android Oreo (Go Edition), the latest OS is a stripped down version of its latest full operating system, designed to run on devices with 1GB of RAM. The more modest hardware requirements make it a compelling match for low-cost devices and thus a solid option for developing markets.

Among other things, it will offer faster boot times than standard Android and will free up space on the phone’s storage. There are new security features on board as well, along with a dashboard for monitoring data consumption. There are a number of updates to individual Go apps, too, including the ability to read sites’ content aloud

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Meet the Disrupt SF 2018 Virtual Hackathon judges and our semi-finalists

Holy hackathon, people. Here’s an exciting update on the judges and semi-finalists who are set to make the Virtual Hackathon — at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2018 on September 5-7 — an event that redefines “epic.” Since June, more than 1,000 developers, programmers, hackers and tech makers all over the world have been hard at work on their most creative hacks, and we recruited an impressive panel of judges — check out their bona fides below — to help us narrow the field. There were so many incredible hacks, but only 30 semi-finalist slots. We don’t envy the judges, but they rose to the challenge. The semi-finalists (see below) represent the 30 highest-scoring teams, and they’ll go on to demo their projects at Disrupt SF 2018. From that field of 30, the judges will thin the herd down to 10 finalists, and those teams will demo their product to
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The Best Ginger Syrup Requires No Heating

Cocktail syrup is very easy—some would say “simple”—to make. Dump some sugar in some water, heat it until it dissolves, let it cool. If you want a flavor other than “sweet,” you can boil some sort of plant part in the water to impart something special. However, in the case of ginger syrup, this route can give you a… Read more...

Top execs from 6D.AI are joining us at TechCrunch Sessions AR/VR

While the potential for entertainment in virtual and augmented reality has grabbed the most headlines, these new platforms promise radical transformations across industries and the very way that people interact with their world. And no company is doing more to develop the toolkit for how to build applications for these new interactions than 6D.AI. At our inaugural TC Sessions: AR/VR event on UCLA’s world-famous campus on October 18, join 6D.AI co-founder and chief executive Matt Miesnieks and head of developer relations, Bruce Wooden, as they discuss 6D’s big vision of using smartphone cameras to build a cloud-based map of the world’s three-dimensional data. The company’s goal is nothing short of supercharging augmented reality content in a way that could actually make it useful to people. Miesnieks certainly knows about the need for applications to drive adoption in a new ecosystem. After a career in the trenches developing mobile software infrastructure
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Top execs from 6D.AI are joining us at TechCrunch Sessions AR/VR

While the potential for entertainment in virtual and augmented reality has grabbed the most headlines, these new platforms promise radical transformations across industries and the very way that people interact with their world. And no company is doing more to develop the toolkit for how to build applications for these new interactions than 6D.AI. At our inaugural TC Sessions: AR/VR event on UCLA’s world-famous campus on October 18, join 6D.AI co-founder and chief executive Matt Miesnieks and head of developer relations, Bruce Wooden, as they discuss 6D’s big vision of using smartphone cameras to build a cloud-based map of the world’s three-dimensional data. The company’s goal is nothing short of supercharging augmented reality content in a way that could actually make it useful to people. Miesnieks certainly knows about the need for applications to drive adoption in a new ecosystem. After a career in the trenches developing mobile software infrastructure
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Square can now process chip cards in two seconds

If you’ve made any payments with a chip card, you’ve probably had awkward moments — those long seconds after you’ve inserted the card and everyone behind you is (literally or metaphorically) tapping their foot, waiting for the card to be processed. Well, Square has been working on this problem for a while now. Last fall, for example, CEO Jack Dorsey said the company had gotten the processing time down to under three seconds. Today, the company is announcing that it’s shaved even more time off, and that Square Readers can now process chip cards in two seconds. To achieve this, it says it’s worked closely with payment partners — and it’s also streamlined the process so that you can remove your card as soon as it’s read, without waiting for the response from the card issuer. In contrast, when the Wall Street Journal timed chip cards in over 50 transactions
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Catching up with startup advisor (and Wealthfront CEO) Andy Rachcleff

Andy Rachleff, who cofounded the venture firm Benchmark back in 1995 and has more recently been leading the wealth management firm Wealthfront and teaching at Stanford, is widely sought out for his startup advice. It has become harder to come by, though, given the demands on Rachleff’s time. Most notably, Rachleff has had to dial back his work at Stanford to just one course during one quarter of the year — a class that we can only guess is heavily oversubscribed by students. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy the work. Right now, he’s helping two longtime friends, AppDynamics cofounder Jyoti Bansal and VC John Vrionis with a new kind of accelerator program they are launching today (more on that here). In a quick call to discuss that program earlier this week, he also fielded a few questions from us about the current state of early-stage startup investing and how
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Airbnb pledges $10 million to New York charities

Airbnb this morning announced the launch of A Fair Share. The initiative promises to donate $10 million to seven organizations, including The New York Immigration Coalition, New York Mortgage Coalition, New York State Rural Housing Coalition Inc., Win, GMHC, CSNYC and Abyssinian Development Corporation.

It’s not all just a goodwill gesture, however. As The New York Times notes, the generosity comes as the popular subletting service is looking to raise the profile of NY Assembly Bill A7520, which would go a ways toward helping legitimize the service within the confines of the country’s largest metropolitan area.

“We wanted to make the point of what the impact of tax collection and remittances would be if we were able to collect on behalf of our community here,” Airbnb public policy manager Josh Meltzer told the paper.

The service handily points out that the donation would be a

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AppDynamics founder Jyoti Bansal and longtime VC John Vrionis are now taking applications for their new accelerator program

With so much money being stuffed into Silicon Valley companies these days, it’s hard to stand out as an investor, but John Vrionis and Jyoti Bansal have what they think is a winning approach — one that’s a win for startup founders, too. A little background first. Back in May, Bansal who sold his company AppDynamics to Cisco for $3.7 billion last year, announced that he was teaming up with Vrionis, who’d spent the previous 12 years with Lightspeed Venture Partner. What they created together is a new venture firm called Unusual Ventures. It launched publicly with a $160 million debut fund and a mission of also creating a startup education program. Fast forward a few months, and the firm will today begin accepting applications for a seven-week accelerator program that promises founders seven different three-hour-long sessions — one each week for seven weeks — with veterans of the startup
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Bumble announces a fund to invest in women-led businesses

Dating and networking app Bumble today announced the launch of Bumble Fund, a new vehicle focused on early stage investments specifically aimed at helping diverse, female entrepreneurs raise capital for their businesses. Sarah Jones Simmer, Bumble Chief Operating Officer, will lead Bumble Fund’s investment strategy along with Bumble Senior Advisor, Sarah Kunst, the company says.

“Investing in and empowering women in business is something that our founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd is deeply passionate about and is at the very core of what Bumble stands for,” said Jones Simmer, in a statement about the fund’s launch. “Through Bumble Fund we’ll look not only to support those women leaders who have been largely ignored, but we’ll also demonstrate why those investments build smart, successful businesses.”

Bumble Fund’s initial commitments include one of the winners of Bumble’s first “Bizz Pitch” competition, Sofia Los Angeles, a swimwear company founded by Anasofia Gomez.
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SAP’s SAP.io Foundry debuts the graduates of its second women-focused accelerator

SAP, the German-based enterprise software giant, has unveiled the New York-based cohort from its SAP.io Foundry accelerator programs focused on women-led technology companies. The first program was launched in San Francisco in July 2017, and while the company has launched additional accelerator programs in Berlin and Tel Aviv (with plans for a Paris accelerator in the Fall), it’s SAP’s San Francisco and New York programs that have a specific focus on women and founders of color, according to Vanessa Liu, a vice president in charge of the New York program. “The first one launched last summer, with San Francisco that was in July. Berlin launched in the fall with TechStars as a partner, Tel Aviv launched with The Junction,” Liu said.  The partnerships with Techstars in Berlin and The Junction in Tel Aviv were designed solely to gain exposure to those markets, while the San Francisco and
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Descartes Labs launches its geospatial analysis platform

Descartes Labs, a New Mexico-based geospatial analytics startup, today announced that its platform is now out of beta. The well-funded company already allowed businesses to analyze satellite imagery it pulls in from NASA and ESA and build predictive models based on this data, but starting today, it is adding both weather data to its library, as well as commercial high-resolution imagery thanks to a new partnership with Airbus’ OneAtlas project. As Descartes Labs co-founder Mark Johnson, who you may remember from Zite, told me, the team now regularly pulls in 100 terabytes of new data every day. The company’s clients then use this data to predict the growth of crops, for example. And while Descartes Labs can’t disclose most of its clients, Johnson told me that Cargill and teams at Los Alamos National Labs are among its users. While anybody could theoretically access the same data and spin up
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