Patreon’s future and potential exits


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Through the Extra Crunch EC-1 on Patreon, I dove into Patreon’s founding story, product roadmap, business model and metrics, underlying thesis, and competitive threats. The six-year-old company last valued around $450 million and likely to soon hit $1 billion is the leading platform for artists to run membership businesses for their superfans.

As a conclusion to my report, I have three core takeaways and some predictions on the possibility of an IPO or acquisition in the company’s future.

The future is bright for creators

First, the future is promising for independent content creators who are building engaged, passionate fanbases.

There is a surge of interest from the biggest social media platforms in creating more features to help them directly monetize their fans — with each trying to one-up the others. There are also a growing number of independent solutions for creators to use as well

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UK parliament calls for antitrust, data abuse probe of Facebook


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A final report by a British parliamentary committee which spent months last year investigating online political disinformation makes very uncomfortable reading for Facebook — with the company singled out for “disingenuous” and “bad faith” responses to democratic concerns about the misuse of people’s data.

In the report, published today, the committee has also called for Facebook’s use of user data to be investigated by the UK’s data watchdog.

In an evidence session to the committee late last year, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) suggested Facebook needs to change its business model — warning the company risks burning user trust for good.

Last summer the ICO also called for an ethical pause of social media ads for election campaigning, warning of the risk of developing “a system of voter surveillance by default”.

Interrogating the distribution of ‘fake news’

The UK parliamentary enquiry looked into both Facebook’s own use of personal

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What business leaders can learn from Jeff Bezos’ leaked texts


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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The ‘below the belt selfie’ media circus surrounding Jeff Bezos has made encrypted communications top of mind among nervous executive handlers. Their assumption is that a product with serious cryptography like Wickr – where I work – or Signal could have helped help Mr. Bezos and Amazon avoid this drama.

It’s a good assumption, but a troubling conclusion.

I worry that moments like these will drag serious

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Startups Weekly: Is Y Combinator’s latest cohort too big?


This post is by Kate Clark from TechCrunch


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Greetings from Chittorgarh, one of my stops on a two-week excursion through Goa and Rajasthan, India. I’ve been a little too busy exploring, photographing cows and monkeys and eating a lot of delicious food to keep up with *all* the tech news, but I’ve still got the highlights.

For starters, if you haven’t heard yet, TechCrunch launched Extra Crunch, a paid premium subscription offering full of amazing content. As part of Extra Crunch, we’ll be doing deep dives on select businesses, beginning with Patreon. Read Patreon’s founding story here and learn how two college roommates built the world’s leading creator platform. Plus, we’ve got insights on Patreon’s product, business strategy, competitors and more.

Sign up for Extra Crunch membership here.

On to other news…

Y Combinator’s latest batch of startups is huge

So huge the Silicon Valley accelerator had to move locations and set up two stages at

Continue reading “Startups Weekly: Is Y Combinator’s latest cohort too big?”

BRCK acquires ISPs EveryLayer and Surf to boost Africa’s public Wi-Fi


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Kenyan communications hardware company BRCK has acquired the assets of Nairobi based internet provider Surf and its U.S. parent EveryLayer in a purchase deal of an undisclosed amount announced Friday.

Based in Nairobi, Surf is a hotspot service provider aimed at offering affordable internet to lower income segments. BRCK is a five year old venture that pairs its rugged WiFi routers to internet service packages designed to bring people online in frontier and emerging markets.

With the acquisition, BRCK gains the assets of San Francisco based EveryLayer and its Surf subsidiary, including 1200 hotspots and 200,000 active

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Facebook may face a record-setting multi-billion-dollar fine from the FTC


This post is by Taylor Hatmaker from TechCrunch


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The Washington Post is reporting that Facebook’s row with the FTC could result in fines an order of magnitude larger than any levied against a tech company by the regulatory body before. While the talks appear to be ongoing, The Washington Post spoke with two people familiar with the situation who said the FTC is negotiating with Facebook over a possible “multi-billion dollar fine” — an amount more in line with the FTC’s massive $14.7 billion settlement with Volkswagen over emissions cheating in 2016.

In 2012, Google paid a record-setting $22.5 million to settle with the FTC over its own privacy infractions, an amount that is hardly a drop in the bucket by today’s terms. As we’ve previously reported, an FTC fine around that range — or even a multiple of that amount — would be easily shrugged off by the company, which brought in more than $13

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When do you go native?


This post is by Jon Evans from TechCrunch


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So you’re a startup founder. Or you’re in charge of a new project at a big company. (Or maybe you just imagine being either of these things.) And you suddenly realize: you have to make a whole slew of massive decisions right now, based on imperfect information, which will reverberate for months or years, and may spell the difference between success or failure.

Among the most dreaded and dangerous decisions are the technical ones. Your web stack. Your cloud provider. Your datastore. But it’s fair to say that the most contentious, lately, is for projects which involve a smartphone app. There, the biggest question of all, the one which must be answered before any work is done, and the one which will probably hang over you for years, is: do you go native?

What that means is: do you build separate native Android and iOS apps, each from scratch

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Daily Crunch: Facebook (possibly) considered buying Unity


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The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Facebook mulled multi-billion-dollar acquisition of gaming giant Unity, book claims

Less than a year after making a $3 billion investment into the future of virtual reality with the purchase of Oculus VR, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was considering another multi-billion-dollar bet by buying Unity, the popular game engine that’s used to build half of all gaming titles.

At least, that’s the claim made in a new book, “The History of the Future,” by Blake Harris, which digs deep into the founding story of Oculus and the drama surrounding the Facebook acquisition, subsequent lawsuits and personal politics of founder Palmer Luckey.

2. Alibaba’s Ant Financial buys UK currency exchange giant WorldFirst reportedly for around $700M

Although the

Tesla dog mode

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A new Congress means a new opportunity for consumer privacy protections


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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The 2018 mid-term elections, for the first time in U.S. history, resulted in a Congress that has the look and feel of America…our very diverse America. There are now 102 women serving in Congress and a record number of Members representing all Americans. Our Members now represent the African American, Hispanic, LGBTQ, and interfaith communities.

Thirteen new members are under the age of 35. This evolution of the legislative branch provides an opportunity to represent the best interests of all consumers. In our digital world, what is it that consumers, from each and every community represented by this new diverse Congress, have asked for? Online privacy protections.

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Manipulating an Indian politician’s tweets is worryingly easy to do


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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Here’s a concerning story from India, where the upcoming election is putting the use of social media in the spotlight.

While the Indian government is putting Facebook, Google and other companies under pressure to prevent their digital platforms from being used for election manipulation, a journalist has demonstrated just how easy it is to control the social media messages that published by government ministers.

Pon Radhakrishnan, India’s minister of state for finance and shipping, published a series of puzzling tweets today after Pratik Sinha, a co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News, accessed a Google document of prepared statements and tinkered with the content.

Among the statements tweeted out, Radhakrishnan said Prime Minister Modi’s government had failed the middle classes and not made development on improving the country’s general welfare. Sinha’s edits also led to the official BJP Assam Pradesh account proclaiming that the Prime Minister had destroyed all villages and

Continue reading “Manipulating an Indian politician’s tweets is worryingly easy to do”

2018 really was more of a dumpster fire for online hate and harassment, ADL study finds


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Around 37 percent of Americans were subjected to severe hate and harassment online in 2018, according to a new study by the Anti-Defamation League, up from about 18 percent in 2017. And over half of all Americans experienced some form of harassment according to the ADL study.

Facebook users bore the brunt of online harassment on social networking sites according to the ADL study, with around 56 percent of survey respondents indicating that at least some of their harassment occurred on the platform. — unsurprising given Facebook’s status as the dominant social media platform in the U.S.

Around 19 percent of people said they experienced severe harassment on Twitter (only 19 percent? That seems low); while 17 percent reported harassment on YouTube; 16 percent on Instagram; and 13 percent on WhatsApp .

Chart courtesy of the Anti-Defamation League

In all, the blue ribbon standards for odiousness went to Twitch,

Continue reading “2018 really was more of a dumpster fire for online hate and harassment, ADL study finds”

Jim Steyer runs the powerful nonprofit Common Sense Media, and he’s increasingly using his influence around tech consumption


This post is by Connie Loizos from TechCrunch


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California Governor Gavin Newsom earlier today proposed a so-called digital dividend that would let consumers share in the profits generated by California-based tech companies that have been “collecting, curating and monetizing” their users’ personal data. Newsom added that he has asked his administration to develop a proposal for a “new data dividend for Californians, because we recognize that data has value, and it belongs to you.”

It’s an idea that tech companies will surely argue against if it begins to take shape beyond a talking point, but it has at least one early proponent: Jim Steyer, the founder and CEO of the hugely popular,15-year-old nonprofit organization Common Sense Media. In fact, says Steyer, the idea is his, and Common Sense, which also has powerful advocacy and educational arms, is working on related legislation right now.

Steyer’s involvement in the background might surprise some of the 125 million people who visit

Continue reading “Jim Steyer runs the powerful nonprofit Common Sense Media, and he’s increasingly using his influence around tech consumption”

Instagram is now testing a web version of Direct messages


This post is by Josh Constine from TechCrunch


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Insta-chat addicts, rejoice. You could soon be trading memes and emojis from your computer. Instagram is internally testing a web version of Instagram Direct messaging that lets people chat without the app. If, or more likely, when this rolls out publicly, users on a desktop or laptop PC or Mac, a non-Android or iPhone, or that access Instagram via a mobile web browser will be able to privately message other Instagrammers.

Instagram web DMs was one of the features I called for in a product wishlist I published in December alongside a See More Like This button for the feed and an upload quality indicator so your Stories don’t look crappy if you’re on a slow connection.

A web version could make Instagram Direct a more full-fledged SMS alternative rather than just a tacked-on feature for discussing the photo and video app’s content. Messages are a massive driver of engagement

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Facebook and Google still offer the best value for mobile advertisers (Singular report)


This post is by Anthony Ha from TechCrunch


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Among mobile ad networks, Facebook and Google remain the best bet for advertisers, according to the latest ROI Index from marketing startup Singular.

To pull together this year’s index, Singular says it sampled $1.5 billion in ad spending (from the $10 billion in spending that the company optimizes annually) and measured which networks are delivering the best return on investment. It also kept an eye out for ad fraud, apparently deleting a record 15 companies from the rankings because of “excessive” fraud.

So yes, Facebook followed by Google topped the list. As the report puts it, “Savvy marketers know they need more than just two media partners, but Google and Facebook are in virtually every mobile marketer’s game plan for good reason: they deliver.”

Singular ROI Index 2019 — iOS-AndroidAt the same time, Singular noted that Snap improved its rankings on virtually all the lists, and is now the No. 3 network

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Facebook urged to offer an API for political ad transparency research


This post is by Natasha Lomas from TechCrunch


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Facebook has been called upon to provide good faith researchers with an API to enable them to study how political ads are spreading and being amplified on its platform.

A coalition of European academics, technologists and human and digital rights groups, led by Mozilla, has signed an open letter to the company demanding far greater transparency about how Facebook’s platform distributes and amplifies political ads ahead of elections to the European parliament which will take place in May.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for a reaction to the open letter.

The company had already announced it will launch some of its self-styled ‘election security’ measures in the EU before then — specifically an authorization and transparency system for political ads.

Last month its new global comms guy — former European politician and one time UK deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg — also announced that, from next month, it will have

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Is Europe closing in on an antitrust fix for surveillance technologists?


This post is by Natasha Lomas from TechCrunch


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The German Federal Cartel Office’s decision to order Facebook to change how it processes users’ personal data this week is a sign the antitrust tide could at last be turning against platform power.

One European Commission source we spoke to, who was commenting in a personal capacity, described it as “clearly pioneering” and “a big deal”, even without Facebook being fined a dime.

The FCO’s decision instead bans the social network from linking user data across different platforms it owns, unless it gains people’s consent (nor can it make use of its services contingent on such consent). Facebook is also prohibited from gathering and linking data on users from third party websites, such as via its tracking pixels and social plugins.

The order is not yet in force, and Facebook is appealing, but should it come into force the social network faces being de facto shrunk by having its platforms

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Facebook picks up retail computer vision outfit GrokStyle


This post is by Devin Coldewey from TechCrunch


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If you’ve ever seen a lamp or chair that you liked and wished you could just take a picture and find it online, well, GrokStyle let you do that — and now the company has been snatched up by Facebook to augment its own growing computer vision department.

GrokStyle started as a paper — as AI companies often do these days — at 2015’s SIGGRAPH. A National Science Foundation grant got the ball rolling on the actual company, and in 2017 founders Kavita Bala and Sean Bell raised $2 million to grow it.

The basic idea is simple: matching a piece of furniture (or a light fixture, or any of a variety of product types) in an image to visually similar ones in stock at stores. Of course, sometimes the simplest ideas are the most difficult

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How to prepare for an investment apocalypse


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Unlike 2000 and 2008, everyone in the startup world is expecting a crash to come at any moment, but few are taking concrete steps to prepare for it.

If you’re running a venture-backed startup, you should probably get on that. First, go read RIP Good Times from Sequoia to get a sense for how bad it can get, quickly. Then take a look at the checklist below. You don’t need to build a bomb shelter, yet, but adopting a bit of the prepper mentality now will pay dividends down the road.

Don’t wait, prepare

The first step in preparing for a coming downturn is making a plan for how you’d

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Extend Fertility banks $15M Series A to help women freeze their eggs


This post is by Kate Clark from TechCrunch


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Fertility services are raising venture cash left and right. Last week, it was Dadi, a sperm storage startup that nabbed a $2 million seed round. This week, it’s Extend Fertility, which helps women preserve their fertility through egg freezing.

Headquartered in New York, the business has secured a $15 million Series A investment from Regal Healthcare Capital Partners to expand its fertility services, which also include infertility treatments, such as in vitro and intrauterine insemination. The company has also appointed Anne Hogarty, the former chief business officer at Prelude Fertility and vice president of international business at BuzzFeed, to the role of chief executive officer. Hogarty replaces Extend Fertility co-founder Ilaina Edison, who had held the C-level title since the business launched in 2016. Edison will remain on the startup’s board of directors.

Extend Fertility, in its New York cryopreservation and embryology lab and treatment center, completed 1,000 egg-freezing cycles in 2018.

Continue reading “Extend Fertility banks $15M Series A to help women freeze their eggs”

Instagram and Facebook will start censoring ‘graphic images’ of self-harm


This post is by Taylor Hatmaker from TechCrunch


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In light of a recent tragedy, Instagram is updating the way it handles pictures depicting self-harm. Instagram and Facebook announced changes to their policies around content depicting cutting and other forms of self harm in dual blog posts Thursday.

The changes comes about in light of the 2017 suicide of a 14 year old girl named Molly Russell, a UK resident who took her own life in 2017. Following her death, her family discovered that Russell was engaged with accounts that depicted and promoted self harm on the platform.

As the controversy unfolded, Instagram Head of Product Adam Mosseri penned an op-ed in the Telegraph to atone for the platform’s at times high consequence shortcomings. Mosseri previously announced that Instagram would implement “sensitivity screens” to obscure self harm content, but the new changes go a step further.

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