Andy Rubin’s Essential is reportedly up for sale and has cancelled work on its next smartphone

Essential, the smartphone company helmed by Android co-creator Andy Rubin, is trying to sell itself and has cancelled development of its next phone, Bloomberg reports. The report states that Essential has hired Credit Suisse Group AG to advise them on potentially selling itself. The company raised $330 million from investors, including Rubin’s own Playground Global, Tencent Holdings and the Amazon Alexa Fund. The news of a potential sale accompanies news that the company has ended development on its next smartphone, a major blow for a company aimed to challenge companies like Apple and Samsung with a device that it hoped would hold its own. “We always have multiple products in development at the same time and we embrace canceling some in favor of the ones we think will be bigger hits,” an Essential spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We are putting all of our efforts towards our future, game-changing products, which include
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OpenStack in transition

OpenStack is one of the most important and complex open-source projects you’ve never heard of. It’s a set of tools that allows large enterprises ranging from Comcast and PayPal to stock exchanges and telecom providers to run their own AWS-like cloud services inside their data centers. Only a few years ago, there was a lot of hype around OpenStack as the project went through the usual hype cycle. Now, we’re talking about a stable project that many of the most valuable companies on earth rely on. But this also means the ecosystem around it — and the foundation that shepherds it — is now trying to transition to this next phase. The OpenStack project was founded by Rackspace and NASA in 2010. Two years later, the growing project moved into the OpenStack Foundation, a nonprofit group that set out to promote the project and help manage the community. When it
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Twitter unveils new political ad guidelines set to go into effect this summer

Following the unrelenting wave of controversy around Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Twitter announced new guidelines today for political advertisements on the social networking site. The policy, which will go into effect this summer ahead of midterm elections, will look towards preventing foreign election interference by requiring organizations to self-identify and certify that they are based in the U.S., this will entail organization registered by the Federal Elections Committee to present their FEC ID, while other orgs will have to present a notarized form, the company says. Orgs buying political ads will also have to comply with a stricter set of rules for how they present their profiles. Twitter will mandate that the account header, profile photo and organization name are consistent with how the organization presents itself online elsewhere, a policy likely designed to ensure that orgs don’t try to obfuscate their identity or present
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Navigating the risks of artificial intelligence and machine learning in low-income countries

On a recent work trip, I found myself in a swanky-but-still-hip office of a private tech firm. I was drinking a freshly frothed cappuccino, eyeing a mini-fridge stocked with local beer, and standing amidst a group of hoodie-clad software developers typing away diligently at their laptops against a backdrop of Star Wars and xkcd comic wallpaper.

I wasn’t in Silicon Valley: I was in Johannesburg, South Africa, meeting with a firm that is designing machine learning (ML) tools for a local project backed by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Around the world, tech startups are partnering with NGOs to bring machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to bear on problems that the international aid sector has wrestled with for decades. ML is uncovering new

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Reddit adds a desktop night mode as it continues rolling out major redesign

For being one of the most visited websites on the web, Reddit‘s product has rocked a notoriously basic design for much of its existence. The site is in the process of slowly rolling out a major desktop redesign to users, and today the company announced that part of this upgrade will be native support for night mode. Night mode will likely be a popular feature for the desktop site that seems to have a core group of users that never sleep. Reddit’s mobile apps have notably had a native night mode for a while already. While night mode won’t likely be too controversial, some Redditors already seem resistant to the redesign change. Nevertheless, I’ve found it to be a pretty friendly upgrade (classic view is still the best) that gels with the surprisingly great mobile apps the company has continued to update. Reddit’s recent heavy integration of native ads
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Some low-cost Android phones shipped with malware built in

Avast has found that many low-cost, non-Google-certifed Android phones shipped with a strain of malware built in that could send users to download apps they didn’t intend to access. The malware, called called Cosiloon, overlays advertisements over the operating system in order to promote apps or even trick users into downloading apps. Devices effected shipped from ZTE, Archos and myPhone. The app consists of a dropper and a payload. “The dropper is a small application with no obfuscation, located on the /system partition of affected devices. The app is completely passive, only visible to the user in the list of system applications under ‘settings.’ We have seen the dropper with two different names, ‘CrashService’ and ‘ImeMess,'” wrote Avast. The dropper then connects with a website to grab the payloads that the hackers wish to install on the phone. “The XML manifest contains information about what to download, which
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Uber in fatal crash detected pedestrian but had emergency braking disabled

The initial report by the National Transportation Safety Board on the fatal self-driving Uber crash in March confirms that the car detected the pedestrian as early as 6 seconds before the crash, but did not slow or stop because its emergency braking systems were deliberately disabled. Uber told the NTSB that “emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control, to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior,” in other words, to ensure a smooth ride. “The vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action. The system is not designed to alert the operator.” It’s not clear why the emergency braking capability even exists if it is disabled while the car is in operation. The Volvo model’s built-in safety systems — collision avoidance and emergency braking, among other things — are also disabled while in autonomous mode. It appears that in an emergency
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Facebook and Instagram launch U.S. political ad labeling and archive

Facebook today revealed that it’s chosen not to shut down all political ads because that could unfairly favor incumbents and candidates without resources to buy pricey TV ads. Instead, it’s now launching its previously announced “paid for by” labels on political and issue ads on Facebook and Instagram in the US, and its publicly searchable archive of all these politics-related ads that run in the US. That includes ads run by news publishers or others that promote articles with political content. The labeling won’t just apply to candidate and election ads, but those dealing with political issues such as “abortion, guns, immigration or foreign policy”. Clicking through the labels that appear at the top of these News Feed ads will lead to the archive, which isn’t backdated and will only include ads from early May 2018 and after. The archive will hold them for seven years so they can be
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Inside Facebook’s anti-sex trafficking hackathon

Tech giants put their rivalries aside for two days this week to code for a common cause: protecting children on the internet. Deep inside Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters, teams drawn from Uber, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Pinterest worked through the night to prototype new tools designed to help nonprofits in their fight against child sex trafficking. Much of their work from Facebook’s third annual child safety hackathon is actually too sensitive to publish. To stay one step ahead of the criminals, the specifics of how these tools track traffickers and missing children across websites must be kept secret. But the resulting products, all donated to NGOs like Thorn and the Internet Watch Foundation, could help tech companies rally a united front against those who’d seek to hurt kids.

“The thing with work on safety and security and fighting abuse is it’s an area where the industry is collaborative,” says Guy Rosen,

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PayPal starts deeper integration with Google; users can now pay directly in Gmail, YouTube and more

Google earlier this year rebranded all of its payment services under Google Pay to help it double down on making transactions across its platform more frictionless (and more used). Now comes another development: PayPal and Google are kicking off a deep integration, where users who add their PayPal details to their Google Play accounts will be able to pay bills and for other items, using PayPal, without logging in and without leaving the Google services. The integration, when it goes live later this year, will cover apps like Gmail, YouTube, Google Store and any services using Google Pay — and it will include not just payments but also peer-to-peer transfers. This is not the first time that Google and PayPal have worked together — the latter has been a payment option in Google Play since 2014, in-store, and in online transactions that were managed by Google and a Google
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Sinemia, a MoviePass competitor, launches cardless ticketing

Sinemia is further differentiating itself from its main competitor, MoviePass. The moviegoing startup is launching a new feature today that gets rid of the need for people to have a physical card in order to purchase movie tickets. This comes after a number of new Sinemia customers reported long wait times for their debit cards to arrive. “The Cardless feature was in our product pipeline but we accelerated it due to strong demand and issues that it brought,” Sinemia founder and CEO Rifat Oguz said in a statement to TechCrunch. Following Sinemia’s launch of new plans that cost as little as $4.99 a month a few weeks ago, interest and demand has skyrocketed, according to the company. That resulted in longer wait times for debit cards. “We’ve seen incredible demand for our movie ticket subscription service, with many customers wanting to dive right in and buy movie tickets without waiting for
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WorkFusion adds $50 million from strategic investors as it bulks up for acquisitions

WorkFusion, a business process automation software developer, has raised $50 million in a new, strategic round of funding as it prepares to start adding new verticals to its product suite. The company’s new cash came from the large insurance company, Guardian; health care services provider New York-Presbyterian, and the commercial bank, PNC Bank. Venture investor Alpha Intelligence Capital, which specializes in backing artificial intelligence-enabled companies also participated in the new financing. Certainly WorkFusion seems to have come a long way since its days hiring crowdsourced workers to train algorithms how to automate the workflows that used to be done manually. The company has raised a lot of money — roughly $121 million, according to Crunchbase — which is some kind of validation, and in its core markets of financial services and insurance it’s attracted some real fans. “Guardian uses data to better understand and serve customers, and WorkFusion will bring
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ClassPass plans to add nine international cities by the end of 2018

ClassPass, the studio fitness platform that gives users access to thousands of boutique fitness classes, has said it plans to expand internationally into nine new countries by the end of 2018. The company’s top priorities are consolidating its position in the UK and launching in three countries in Asia, according to chief executive Fritz Lanman. Lanman declined to disclose which countries the fitness subscription service was targeting. ClassPass’s further international expansion isn’t exactly a surprise. The company already serves parts of Canada, the UK and Australia alongside its 50 cities within the US. ClassPass also raised a whopping $70 million Series C last year which Lanman tells me was purposefully large to fuel this type of expansion without being dependent on another round of financing. As part of the expansion initiative, ClassPass has hired Chloe Ross as VP of International. Ross has worked on international strategy at Microsoft and
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Crowd Cow, offering ranch to table meats, picks up $8 million from Madrona, Ashton Kutcher

Most high-end restaurants don’t get their beef from the local grocery store. Well-regarded chefs and restauranteurs build relationships with small farms and family ranchers to procure what’s known in the industry as craft beef. Just like coffee or chocolate or wine, the smallest differences (type of grass, breed of cow, lifestyle, etc.) can make a big difference in overall taste. But you and I have never had easy access to this beef outside of hitting up a Michelin-star restaurant. And then Crowd Cow came along. Crowd Cow, based in Seattle, works with small family farms to let users choose their cow and their cut. Crowd Cow then ships this craft beef directly to a user’s home. Before Crowd Cow, five or six families would have to go in together on more than 500 LBs of beef in order to be a compelling customer to these small farms. That means
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Sentry raises $16M Series B from NEA and Accel to help developers squash bugs more quickly

Created to help app developers find and fix bugs more efficiently, Sentry announced today that it has raised a $16 million Series B led by returning investors NEA and Accel. Both firms participated in Sentry’s Series A round two years ago. Co-founder and CEO David Cramer tells TechCrunch that the new round puts Sentry’s post-money valuation at around $100 million. The company recently launched Sentry 9, which, like its other software, is open source. Sentry 9 lets app developers integrate error remediation into their workflows by automatically notifying the developers responsible for that part of the code, letting them filter by environment to hone in on the issue, and manage collaboration among different teams. This reduces the amount of time it takes to fix bugs from “five hours to five minutes,” Sentry claims. The company will “double down on developers and their adjacent roles,” in particular product teams, Cramer says.
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InVision design tool Studio gets an app store, asset store

InVision, the startup that wants to be the operating system for designers, today introduced its app store and asset store within InVision Studio. In short, InVision Studio users now have access to some of their most-used apps and services from right within the Studio design tool. Plus, those same users will be able to shop for icons, UX/UI components, typefaces and more from within Studio. While Studio is still in its early days, InVision has compiled a solid list of initial app store partners, including Google, Salesforce, Slack, Getty, Atlassian, and more. InVision first launched as a collaboration tool for designers, letting designers upload prototypes into the cloud so that other members of the organization could leave feedback before engineers set the design in stone. Since that launch in 2011, InVision has grown to 4 million users, capturing 80 percent of the Fortune 100, raising a total of $235
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Airbnb quietly launches its own Stories for users to build video montages of their travels

The stories format has been one of the most sticky features of social apps like Snapchat and Instagram, letting users stitch together video, photo and text overlays to convey moods and experiences to friends and followers; even Google has incorporated stories into its services. Now Airbnb is becoming the latest adopter of the format: the travel and accommodations startup has quietly launched a new feature called Travel Stories, a way for guests to create video sequences of their Airbnb experiences to post on the site. The company has sent out invitations for a beta of the service to a pool of users (pictured below, sent to us by reader Matteo Gamba, who runs an Airbnb blog). A FAQ page about the new format says that for now Story making is only available on the latest version of its iPhone app, under the Travel Stories tab of your profile. Video
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Adyen confirms an IPO in Amsterdam, valuing the payments giant at $7B-$11B

The floodgates are definitely open for IPOs in the tech world right now, and the latest is coming out of Europe. Adyen, a company that powers payments for large and smaller e-commerce merchants and others, has said that it plans to publicly list on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange, keeping the company’s financial future close to where Adyen itself was founded and is based rather than taking it to the US markets as some other European unicorns, like Spotify, have opted to do. The news comes in the wake of reports that it was planning to announce its plans this week. Adyen’s offering prospectus does not detail how much it plans to raise, or what sort of valuation it’s likely to reach in a public listing. It confirmed will be selling up to 15 percent of its shares, valued at a valuation of between €6 billion and €9 billion ($7
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Disrupt Berlin 2-for-1 passes go live next week: Sign up today

Achtung, meine Damen und Herren! Dust off your German, hop on a plane, a train or the Autobahn and join us, along with thousands of tech founders, makers, innovators, investors and early-stage startups, at Disrupt Berlin 2018 on November 29-30. Better yet, join us at our most affordable price. On May 30 at 12pm CEST / 6am EDT we’re offering a limited number of two Innovator passes for just €695Sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll send you an email letting you know when they are available for purchase. You’ll want to act quick as we are only releasing a limited quantity of these passes. Disrupt Berlin features two program-packed days focused on the latest technology innovations, rising-star startups and world-class networking opportunities. As always, you’ll get to hear a phenomenal group of European and international speakers talking about the critical issues facing technology, venture capital strategies
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