Wonder Ventures aims to dazzle L.A. startups with its new seed-stage fund

Dustin Rosen thinks L.A. has a problem, aside from its famously car-choked highways. There aren’t enough investors willing to write small checks.

Why not? The way he sees it, most of the so-called micro venture funds have grown their funds to the size of traditional venture firms, and are making bigger bets as a result. Meanwhile, some of the angel investors that Venice-based Snap was expected to produce have not materialized, owing to the company’s disappointing performance on the public market. It’s a pitch that has resonated with investors, seemingly. Today, Rosen, whose young firm is called Wonder Ventures, is taking the wraps of a $15 million seed fund, including from Cendana Capital, a fund of funds that has backed many of today’s early-stage firms as they’ve gotten off the round, including Forerunner Ventures, Uncork Capital, and Lerer Hippeau Ventures. Some traction with a much smaller proof-of-concept
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Google’s latest Wear OS update will help your smartwatch last longer

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Google will update Wear OS with several quality-of-life improvements, including the ability to quickly power down your watch and a new battery saver mode. The update is called “H,” and it will roll out to Wear OS smartwatches over the next few months, as detailed in a Google support blog spotted by Droid Life.

With the new update, Wear OS watches will have another way of conserving battery once the charge drops under 10 percent: you’ll be able to turn on Battery Saver Mode and use your watch only to tell time. It will basically become just a regular not-so smart-watch until you charge it again or switch the mode off. The Apple Watch already does this with the Power Reserve mode, and Snapdragon 3100 watches also offer this battery-saving...

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Canonical plans to raise its first outside funding as it looks to a future IPO

It’s been 14 years since Mark Shuttleworth first founded and funded Canonical and the Ubuntu project. At the time, it was mostly a Linux distribution. Today, it’s a major enterprise player that offers a variety of products and services. Throughout the years, Shuttleworth self-funded the project and never showed much interest in taking outside money. Now, however, that’s changing.

As Shuttleworth told me, he’s now looking for investors as he looks to get the company on track to an IPO. It’s no secret that the company’s recent re-focusing on the enterprise — and shutting down projects like the Ubuntu phone and the Unity desktop environment — was all about that, after all. Shuttleworth sees raising money as a step in this direction — and as a way of getting the company in shape for going public. “The first step would be private equity,” he told me. “And really, that’s because having
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FCC paves the way for improved GPS accuracy

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) paved the way for improved GPS and location accuracy today, approving an order that will allow US phones to access a European satellite system.

The order allows non-federal consumer devices to access the European Union’s version of GPS, which is also known as Galileo. The system is available globally, and it officially went live in 2016. By opening up access, devices that can retrieve a signal from both Galileo and the US GPS system will see improved timing estimates and location reliability. The iPhone 8 was the first Apple product to support it. Other phone models from Huawei and Samsung support the system, too.


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Samsung will only allow free themes to be used for 14 days starting with Android 9 Pie update

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Samsung is headed towards a controversial change that impacts customers who like customizing their Galaxy smartphones with third-party themes. The company has begun sending a notification to users that warns beginning with Android 9 Pie, which Samsung plans to launch in January, it will only permit free themes to be used for 14 days. After that, the phone will automatically revert back to Samsung’s stock theme. The Verge has confirmed the notification firsthand, after Droid Life and SamMobile reported on it.

Users will receive two pop-up notifications before their free theme is removed; the first will be displayed 24 hours before the 14-day expiration. The second will hit 10 minutes prior to the cutoff. Samsung says it’ll “provide...

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SpaceX gets FCC approval to add 7,518 more satellites to its Starlink constellation

SpaceX’s application to add thousands of satellites to its proposed Starlink communications constellation has been approved by the FCC, though it will be some time before the company actually puts those birds in the air.

Starlink is just one of many companies that the FCC gave the green light to today at its monthly meeting. Kepler, Telesat, and LeoSat also got approval for various services, though with 140, 117, and 78 satellites proposed respectively, they aren’t nearly as ambitious in scale. Several others were approved as well with smaller proposals. SpaceX officially applied to put these 7,518 satellites into orbit — alongside the already approved 4,409 — back in March of 2017. Last month the FCC indicated it planned to approve the request by circulating a draft order (PDF) to that effect, which it today made official. These satellites would orbit at the extremely low (for satellites) altitude of around
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Facebook will create an independent oversight group to review content moderation appeals

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Facebook will create an independent oversight body to adjudicate appeals on content moderation issues, the company said today. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a call with reporters that the group, which will be formed in the next year, will attempt to balance an effort to expand the right to free speech with the need to keep people safe around the world.

“I believe independence is important for a few reasons,” Zuckerberg said in a note posted to Facebook. “First, it will prevent the concentration of too much decision-making within our teams. Second, it will create accountability and oversight. Third, it will provide assurance that these decisions are made in the best interests of our community and not for commercial reasons.”


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Microsoft is discounting the Surface Pro 6, Surface Laptop 2, and Xbox One for Black Friday

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Microsoft is offering much of its Surface lineup of PCs at a discount just in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. What’s perhaps better than an outright deal is that most of these Surface promotions come bundled with a Type Cover, giving whoever receives it as a gift more versatility out of the box than these Windows 10 machines usually offer. You’ll also find deals on laptops made by the likes of HP, Dell, and others, along with some appealing discounts on all things Xbox.

We’ll be adding and removing deals to reflect what’s currently available.

Surface computers

Starting November 18th:

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Facebook will pass off content policy appeals to a new independent oversight body

Facebook doesn’t want to be the arbiter of decency when it comes to content policy decisions, similar to how it looked to third-party fact checkers rather than becoming an arbiter of truth. Today on a press call with journalists, Mark Zuckerberg announced that a new external oversight committee would be created in 2019 to handle some of Facebook’s content policy decisions. The body will take appeals and make final decisions. The hope is that beyond the influence of Facebook’s business imperatives or the public’s skepticism about the company’s internal choices, the oversight body can come to the proper conclusions about how to handle false information, calls to violence, hate speech, harassment, and other problems that flow through Facebook’s user generate content network.

Users will be able to appeal decisions about content they report or when their content is reported, and Facebook will direct these appeals to the independent body. Zuckerberg
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OpenStack regroups

Only a few years ago, OpenStack was the hottest open-source project around, with a bustling startup ecosystem to boot. The project, which gives enterprises the tools to run the equivalent of AWS in their own private data centers, ran into trouble as it tried to tackle too many individual projects at the same time and enterprises took longer than expected to adopt it. That meant many a startup floundered or was acquired before it was able to gain traction while the nonprofit foundation that manages the project started to scale back its big tent approach and refocused on its core services.

The height of the OpenStack hype was around late 2014, where even small startups used their copious venture funding to host lavish parties at the project’s conferences. But by 2016, it was deep in the trough of disillusionment as a number of major backers like HPE, Cisco and IBM
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Facebook reports a massive spike in government demands for data, including secret orders

Facebook has published the details of 13 historical national security letters it’s received for user data.

The embattled social media giant said that the letters dated between 2014 and 2017 for several Facebook and Instagram accounts. These demands for data are effectively subpoenas, issued by the FBI without any judicial oversight, compelling companies to turn over limited amounts of data on an individual who is named in a national security investigation. They’re controversial — not least because they come with a gag order that prevents companies from informing the subject of the letter, let alone disclosing its very existence. Companies are often told to turn over IP addresses of everyone a person has corresponded with, online purchase information, email records and cell-site location data. But since the introduction of the Freedom Act, passed in the aftermath of the Edward Snowden revelations, the FBI has to periodically review the gag orders.
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What the FDA’s restriction of e-cig flavors means for Juul

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has revealed his plans to combat underage use of e-cigs and nicotine, which has grown 78 percent among high school students from 2017 to 2018.

The commissioner today announced a plan that would remove all flavored electronic nicotine delivery system products — with the exception of tobacco, mint, menthol or non-flavored products — from any store where children under the age of 18 can see them. So what does this mean for Juul, a company that reached a $10 billion valuation 4x faster than Facebook and currently owns more than 70 percent of the e-cig market? One result is that Juul Labs is likely now just as desperate for minors to quit vaping as the FDA. The commissioner has made it abundantly clear that if he doesn’t see a significant decrease in underage use, he’s willing to pull the plug on the e-cig industry. “I could
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After first commercial launch, Rocket Lab announces $140 million in funding

When it rains, it pours. And when you’re a successful space startup, it pours money. Rocket Lab, the New Zealand-based launch provider, is still on cloud nine from having completed its first fully commercial launch this weekend — and now they get to announce a $140 million funding round that puts their valuation well above a billion.

The Series E, led by current Australian investor Future Fund, was not (as you might guess) contingent on the success of “It’s Business Time,” the Electron rocket that went up without a hitch this weekend. It was closed last month, with participation from Greenspring Associates, Khosla Ventures, Bessemer, DCVC, Promus, K1W1 and ACC. The success of the mission no doubt comes as a relief to the whole company, not to mention its investors: The launch had been delayed for various technical reasons and, although they had every confidence in their tech, space is
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Meet Uber’s newly promoted Chief Product Officer, Manik Gupta

Manik Gupta got his first taste of solving logistics nightmares when fresh out of college, he was delivering Palm Pilots around Singapore. He’d started a precursor to Groupon called BuyItTogether. “We were a full stack marketplace where we were also delivering the goods. That’s what caused us to not have good profit margins. Actually, zero profit margins” he recalls with a laugh.

His new gig isn’t earning profits either. Uber lost nearly $1 billion last quarter. But the company sees Gupta’s experience with delivery and maps as crucial to building an app that caters to people’s every desire so they never stray and keep earning it money. That’s why today Uber announced that it’s promoted its VP of maps and marketplace Manik Gupta to become its new Chief Product Officer.

“We look at ourself at Uber as the starting point of all your transportation needs” Gupta tells me. “Here’s a

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Apple’s Final Cut Pro X just got a big update — here’s what’s new

Apple’s pro-grade video editing tool Final Cut Pro X is getting a big update today.

While much of FCPX is getting polished up in this release, the biggest change is what it allows for moving forward: workflow extensions. These extensions allow third-party apps and services to hook right into FCPX and build on top of the native interface and functionality. Apple partnered with three companies to build out extensions for launch day:
  • Frame.io: Frame.io lets video producers share in-progress edits, allowing collaborators to view the project as it comes together and drop comments, frame-by-frame annotations and ideas directly into the relevant, time-synced section of your timeline. Frame.io has been building out this functionality within their own app for quite a while now — this new workflow extension just brings all of it right into FCPX to keep you from having to constantly switch back and forth.

Apple adds third-party app integration to Final Cut Pro X

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Final Cut Pro X, Apple’s professional video-editing software, is adding some updates today that will integrate third-party apps directly within the editing interface. Though third-party plug-ins and special effects have already been available for the software, today’s news opens up Final Cut Pro X for third-party app developers to further streamline the editing workflow. “This is the first time we are allowing third-party app integrations at this level that tie so tightly to the FCPX engine,” an Apple spokesperson said.

Apple is calling these third-party integrations “workflow extensions,” which match the Final Cut Pro X interface and allow editors to drag media between libraries, add clip markers, and sync playback between the apps and...

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Google partners with MotherCoders to bring tech training to moms in New York City

Diversity and inclusion is a topic that all too often starts and ends with white women. MotherCoders, while targeting women, aims to support moms of all backgrounds — whether they be LGBTQ, single and/or people of color.

“If you look at our cohorts, they tend to be really represented,” MotherCoders founder Tina Lee told TechCrunch. “I want to make a cohort that’s truly diverse and inclusive.” Google, an imperfect company in the realm of diversity and inclusion, has teamed up with non-profit organization MotherCoders and New York City’s Women.NYC initiative to offer a free, nine-week tech training program for moms. The initiative was born out of the desire to help moms in New York City, Lee said. “There’s a huge population of very educated people, but moms tend to get pushed out of the workforce,” Lee said. “There’s this ideal worker model where you have to be in
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A Facebook patent would use your family photos to target ads

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Facebook has filed a patent that would make it easier to target whole families with ads by analyzing the photos they post. The application, filed on May 10th and published today, covers an algorithm that would identify elements of photographs — like faces or other details— and cross-reference them with other data to build a profile of an entire household. If Facebook chose to implement the system, it would supplement a family targeting program that launched last year.

Facebook can already analyze lots of information to tell who’s in the same household. According to Marketing Land, it checks the relationships people list on their profiles, whether people list the same last names or locations, and shared life events or event check-ins,...

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Apple targets Qualcomm employees with new job listings

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Apple and Qualcomm have been in a heated dispute for the last two years, and now Apple is taking another small jab at the company by opening up jobs that seem to be designed to grab employees from the chipmaking giant.

Bloomberg spotted that Apple has opened 10 job listings this month for chipmaking positions in San Diego. That’s where Qualcomm is based, and according to the report, Apple has never searched for chip engineers there before. It also suggests that Apple could be opening up another regional office for chip designers.

Of course, there’s nothing unusual about trying to hire employees from a top-tier rival. It’s an obvious move for Apple, which prides itself on designing...

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