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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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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Propel accelerates with $18M Series B to manage product lifecycle

We hear so much about managing the customer relationship, but companies have to manage the products they sell too. Propel, a Santa Clara startup, is taking a modern cloud approach to the problem, and today it landed an $18 million Series B investment.

The round was led by Norwest Venture Partners. Previous investors Cloud Apps Capital Partners, Salesforce Ventures, and Signalfire also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to over $28 million. “We are focused on helping companies design and launch products, based on how you go through the life cycle of a product from concept to design to make, model, sell, service where everybody in a company gets involved in product processes at different points in time,” company co-founder and CEO Ray Hein told TechCrunch. Hein says the company has three core products to help customers track products through their life. For starters, there is the product
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Italic launches its marketplace for affordable luxury goods from top manufacturers

A new startup called Italic says it’s already received more than 100,000 signups for a marketplace where you can buy handbags, eyewear and other luxury products directly from the manufacturers who work with the world’s best-known brands.

The marketplace is officially launching today. Italic is also announcing that it’s raised $13 million in funding from Comcast Ventures, Global Founders Capital, Index Ventures, Ludlow Ventures and others. Founder and CEO Jeremy Cai previously co-founded the Y Combinator-backed hiring startup OnboardIQ (now known as Fountain.com), so this sounds like a pretty big change. However, Cai said he comes from a family in the manufacturing business, so he was acutely aware of the challenges facing manufacturers. “The history of manufacturing has been about margins,” he said. “Even though they make the final product, they barely make a profit.” Under the traditional model, it’s the brands that buy the goods from
Jeremy Cai
Italic
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Spotify alums create Canopy content suggester that won’t steal your data

Personalization comes at a steep price. All your data gets sucked up into a company’s servers where they can do whatever they want with it. But Canopy is a new content discovery startup that’s invented impressive technology that lets it learn about you anonymously while all your data stays on your device. Built by the co-founder and CTO of Echo Nest, the music data startup Spotify acquired to power its recommendations, Canopy wants to turn privacy into a competitive advantage. It plans to equip any content app with its tech that crunches your biographical and behavior data on your phone or computer so all it sends along are clues to what you want to see or hear next.

But first, Canopy will launch its own proof of concept app early next year that suggests long-form articles and podcasts based on your taste and activity. “There hasn’t been a great solution
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WeWork hires Prabhdeep Singh to lead operations for its startup program WeWork Labs

WeWork has hired Prabhdeep Singh to serve as the first global head of operations for its startup program WeWork Labs.

It’s a program that relaunched earlier this year, providing early-stage startups with desk space, educational programs and mentorship. Since the relaunch, the company says it’s opened in more than 24 locations in 14 cities across nine countries, and it’s already working with more than 1,000 startups. “When you think about WeWork assets, it’s this massive global footprint that’s really at the nexus of startups, big corporations, small corporations, innovators, etc.,” Singh said. “With WeWork labs, you can think of it as an innovation platform that supports these early-stage startups.” Singh was most recently at Uber, where he held a number of roles including head of enterprise at Uber Eats. He’s also led the corporate innovation division at Gerson Lehrman Group and co-founded the FinTech Innovation Lab, an
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LocalGlobe, the London seed-stage VC, is raising a new fund aimed at Series B

LocalGlobe, the seed-stage venture capital firm founded by father and son duo Robin and Saul Klein, and one of the most active firms in the U.K., is gearing up to launch a new separate fund aimed at Series B.

According to sources — and since confirmed by LocalGlobe — the VC firm is raising a sister fund to formally back the most promising startups in its portfolio to help them scale. It isn’t unheard for LocalGlobe to follow on after seed during later funding rounds, having done so in successful companies such as Zoopla and TransferWise. However, the thinking here is to have a separate fund to make this more common, and provide LPs a way to double down on LocalGlobe’s most promising bets. The new fund is to be called “Latitude,” whist a recent regulatory filing mistakenly and inadvertently surfaced “Senderwood,” the holding company of
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Bunch scores $3.8M to turn mobile games into video chat LAN parties

The best parts of gaming are the jokes and trash talk with friends. Whether it was four-player Goldeneye or linking up PCs for Quake battles in the basement, the social element keeps video games exciting. Yet on mobile we’ve lost a lot of that, playing silently by ourselves even if we’re in a squad with friends somewhere else. Bunch wants to bring the laughter back to mobile gaming by letting you sync up with friends and video chat while you play. It already works with hits like Fortnite and Roblox, and developers of titles like Spaceteam are integrating Bunch’s SDK to inspire longer game sessions.

Bunch is like Discord for mobile, and the chance to challenge that gaming social network unicorn has attracted a $3.8 million seed round led by London Venture Partners and joined by Founders Fund, Betaworks, North Zone, Streamlined Ventures, 500 Startups and more. With Bunch
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Standard Cognition raises $40M to replace retailers’ cashiers with cameras

The Amazon Go store requires hundreds of cameras to detect who’s picking up what items. Standard Cognition needs just 27 to go after the $27 trillion market of equipping regular shops with autonomous retail technology.

Walk into one of its partners’ stores and overhead cameras identify you by shape and movement, not facial recognition. Open up its iOS or Android app and a special light pattern flashes, allowing the cameras to tie you to your account and payment method. Grab whatever you want, and just walk out. Standard Cognition will bill you. It even works without an app. Shop like normal and then walk up to kiosk screen, the cameras tell it what items you nabbed, and you can pay with cash or credit card. That means Standard Cognition stores never exclude anyone, unlike Amazon Go. “Our tagline has been ‘rehumanizing retail'” co-founder Michael Suswal tells me. “We’re removing the
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Plus-sized clothing startup Dia&Co gets another $70M from Sequoia, USV

The retail industry has and continues to fail the growing number of American women size 14 or larger, says Nadia Boujarwah, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Dia&Co, a personal styling service for plus-sized women.

According to Plunkett Research, nearly 70 percent of women in the U.S. are plus-sized; Dia&Co wants to expand the options available to that growing demographic. Today, the New York-based startup is announcing that it’s brought in another $70 million in venture capital funding from existing backers Sequoia Capital and Union Square Ventures (USV). “I’ve been a plus-sized woman my whole life and no one can convince me that this isn’t a failure of retail,” Boujarwah told TechCrunch. “The current state of the plus size market is in no way reflective of how [it] should look going forward. There is so much work ahead of us.”

Lies, damn lies, and HQ2

There are few things certain in our world except for the uplifting tendencies of technology. I’ve spent the past few years trying to prove this to myself, at least, by interviewing hundreds of thinkers on the topic. I’ve come to a singular conclusion: when tech moves into a city, be it an iOS dev shop or a robotic facility for making widgets, things change primarily for the better. Given the recent rush to gain 25,000 or so jobs from Amazon’s HQ2 and the subsequent grumbling by cities passed over, it is difficult to refute this, but I’d like explore it.

Many cities have gained from tech, both historically and recently. Pittsburgh, for example, had a plan to become a tech city back in the early 1990s after seeing the value coming out of Carnegie Mellon and the other universities in town. Anecdotally, Pittsburgh remained a fairly depressed steel town until
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Urban Massage re-brands to ‘Urban’ as it launches wellness services beyond massage

Urban Massage, the London-headquartered startup that lets you book a vetted massage therapist “on-demand”, is expanding into new wellness services in addition to changing its name.

Now simply called Urban, the company, which operates in several U.K. cities along with Paris, is adding the ability to book an expert nail technician, GOsC-regulated osteopath, or skin therapist. It will utilise the same logistics tech and app experience that enables therapists to be booked with as little as an hour’s notice. Founder Jack Tang tells me the move into new wellness categories forms part of a wider strategy to build Europe’s leading “holistic wellness” platform. This will see the company add fitness, yoga and other mental wellbeing-focused activities in the near future, including meditation. Further ahead, Urban has plans to integrate digital therapy services, such as counselling.
Urban founder Jack Tang

Urban founder Jack Tang

Tang says that since Urban launched back in 2014,
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Legrand acquires smart home startup Netatmo

French hardware startup Netatmo got acquired by the biggest manufacturer of switches and sockets in the world, Legrand. Terms of the deal are undisclosed.

Legrand and Netatmo already collaborated together on some products. Back in 2017, the company announced that it would work with industrial groups to connect everything in your home, starting with Legrand and Velux. With Legrand’s “Céliane with Netatmo” switches and power outlets, you could build a house with a smart electrical installation from day one. This way, you could have a wireless master switch near your entrance, activate some outlets using Amazon Alexa and control your home from Messenger. “Our strategy is the connected home. But there are some connected features that we can’t sell to consumers because those products are sold to professionals directly,” Netatmo founder and CEO Fred Potter told me at the time of the original announcement. Netatmo’s team is going to
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Sweetgreen is officially a unicorn

Salad startup and retailer Sweetgreen recently raised a $200 million Series H round led by Fidelity that valued the company at more than $1 billion. This round brings Sweetgreen’s total amount of funding to $365 million.

With this additional $200 million in funding, Sweetgreen is setting its eyes on other food categories and looking to expand its delivery offerings. Sweetgreen is also looking at using blockchain technology to create more transparency in the supply chain. “As a company we are focused on democratizing real food,” Sweetgreen co-founder and CEO Jonathan Neman said in a statement. “Our vision is to evolve from a restaurant company to a food platform that builds healthier communities around the world. Sweetgreen has always been a tech-focused business with its order-ahead mobile app built in-house at the company. According to Forbes, Sweetgreen’s online ordering revenue is growing at 50 percent year over year. Since its launch
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Pirate Studios raises $20M from Talis Capital for its ‘self-service’ tech-enabled music studios

Pirate Studios, the music technology company that operates fully automated and self-service 24 hour music studios, has secured $20 million. The investment was led by Talis Capital, the London-based VC family office.

Talis was already an existing backer of Pirate Studios, with Talis’ Matus Maar also named as a co-founder of the startup. Other investors include Eric Archambeau (Spotify investor and ex-partner at Benchmark and Wellington Partners), Bart Swanson of Horizons Ventures, and partners of Gaw Capital, the $20 billion Hong Kong-headquartered proptech fund. The new funding will enable Pirate Studios to continue to expand across the U.K., Germany and the U.S., where it has been building what the startup describes as a community of musicians, DJs, producers and podcasters who need access to professional rehearsal, production and recording studios at affordable rates. The company charges as little as £4 per hour, depending on what
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The Correspondent launches campaign to bring its ad-free journalism to the U.S.

De Correspondent, a Dutch news organization aiming to “unbreak the news,” is planning to launch in the United States next year as The Correspondent. To fund its efforts, it’s hoping to raise $2.5 million from future readers.

Co-founder and CEO Ernst Pfauth (a former tech journalist who previously served as editor in chief at The Next Web) said this campaign is meant to test the waters of whether U.S. readers are interested in The Correspondent’s journalism. If it raises the money, it will launch in the U.S. next spring. If it doesn’t, it will reconsider those plans. “We want there to be a critical mass that supports this,” Pfauth said. “We don’t want to launch, then see if enough people are interested.” What the company has developed in the Netherlands, and what it’s hoping to replicate in the U.S., is a news organization with
The Correspondent
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iBanFirst raises $17 million to help companies move money around the world

French startup iBanFirst is raising another $17 million (€15 million) from Serena Capital and Breega Capital, with existing investor Xavier Niel putting more money as well.

iBanFirst solves a very specific problem. If you operate a company that works with suppliers all over the world, chances are you waste a ton of money exchanging and sending money. iBanFirst wants to make currency conversion as easy as transferring money from your savings account to your current account. You first send money from your corporate bank account to your iBanFirst account. You can then convert and hold money in 28 currencies. iBanFirst shows you the interbank exchange rate and how many fees you’ll pay. But you’ll likely pay way less than using your traditional bank account. With 100 employees and 2,000 clients, iBanFirst now focuses on clients who transfer at least €100,000 per year. “We’ve already done a €50 million transfer,”
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Unicorn shoe startup Allbirds debuts a high-top sneaker

Allbirds, the shoe startup that entered the unicorn club last month following a $50 million funding round, has unveiled its latest feet holders. Dubbed the Tree Topper, the high-top sneaker marks Allbirds’ fifth shoe style. The Tree Topper, which retails for $115, features merino wool knit, eucalyptus tree fiber fabric and sugarcane-based foam.

“The Tree Topper is a true representation of our approach to design and sustainability,” Allbirds Head of Design Jamie McLellan said in a press release. “With just the right amount of nothing and comfort as a non-negotiable, the Tree Topper is a playful canvas for showcasing our three hero materials.” Allbirds, founded by Joey Zwillinger and Tim Brown, first launched in 2015. Since then, the shoe startup has raised $75 million in funding from investors like T. Rowe Price, Tiger Global, Fidelity Investments, Leonardo DiCaprio and others. Allbirds is worth a reported $1.4 billion. The
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Uber launches rider loyalty Rewards like credits & upgrades 9 cities

Uber’s new loyalty program incentivizes you not to check Lyft or the local competitor. Riders earn points for all the money they spend on Uber and Uber Eats that score them $5 credits, upgrades to nicer cars, access to premium support, and even flexible cancellations that waive the fee if they rebook within 15 minutes.

Uber Rewards launches today in nine cities before rolling out to the whole US in the next few months, with points for scooters and bikes coming soon. And as a brilliant way to get people excited about the program, it retroactively counts your last six months of Uber activity to give you perks as soon as you sign up for free for Uber Rewards. You’ll see the new Rewards bar on the homescreen of your app today if you’re in Miami, Denver, Tampa, New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Diego, or anywhere in New
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Tinder’s head of product has left

Tinder’s chief product officer Brian Norgard wants to get back to his entrepreneurial roots, citing former PayPal executive-turned-venture capitalist Keith Rabois as inspiration.

Norgard, who joined Tinder as part of the acquisition of his Kleiner Perkins-backed ephemeral messaging startup Tappy in 2014, has confirmed to TechCrunch that he’s left the app-based dating company to focus on building products and investing in early-stage businesses. Tinder has not yet identified his successor, but Norgard says “it’s all positive vibes” between him and the company. Norgard began as Tinder’s head of revenue before being promoted to the chief product role in late 2016. Prior to joining Tinder via Tappy, he co-founded two other successful startups: Chill, a Facebook application that garnered 30 million users, and adtech startup Newroo, which was acquired by FOX Interactive in 2006. “It’s been a great ride but my strength has always been in the early-stage game,” Norgard told TechCrunch.
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