Facebook changes algorithm to demote “borderline content” that almost violates its policy

Facebook has changed its News Feed algorithm to demote content that comes close to violating its policies prohibiting misinformation, hate speech, violence, bullying, clickbait so it’s seen by fewer people even it’s highly engaging. In a 5000-word letter by Mark Zuckerberg published today, he explained how a “basic incentive problem” that “when left unchecked, people will engage disproportionately with more sensationalist and provocative content. Our research suggests that no matter where we draw the lines for what is allowed, as a piece of content gets close to that line, people will engage with it more on average  — even when they tell us afterwards they don’t like the content.”

Without intervention, the engagement with borderline content looks like the graph above, increasing as it gets closer to the policy line. So Facebook is intervening, artificially suppressing the News Feed distribution of this kind of content so engagement looks
Continue reading "Facebook changes algorithm to demote “borderline content” that almost violates its policy"

Zuckerberg denies knowledge of Facebook’s work with GOP opposition research firm

Today in call with reporters preceded by a frantic if fairly uneventful distraction-pushing media blitz, Facebook responded to a damning New York Times story published yesterday that cited interviews with more than 50 sources privy to Facebook’s decision making.

The call kicked off with the operator’s suggestion that Facebook is “happy to take a couple of questions on yesterday’s news” but would prefer to focus on what it wants to talk about — namely anything but the New York Times story. Amidst the strategic fluff, Zuckerberg did come out strongly on one thing — denying any knowledge of or involvement in Facebook’s hiring of Definers Public Affairs, a Washington D.C.-based Republican opposition research firm. “I learned about this reading it in the New York Times yesterday,” Zuckerberg said. “As soon as I read about this… I got on the phone with our team and we’re no longer working
Continue reading "Zuckerberg denies knowledge of Facebook’s work with GOP opposition research firm"

Citrix pays $200M to acquire Sapho, which connects legacy software with ‘micro apps’

As large organizations grapple with adopting modern work practices without throwing out all of their legacy software, a company that works with them is making an acquisition that it hopes will help with that process. Citrix today is announcing that it has acquired Sapho, a startup that develops “micro apps” for legacy software so that workers could use then as they would more modern applications: in the cloud, on mobile and more.

We understand that the acquisition was for around $200 million in an all-cash deal. It’s a good return: Sapho had raised just under $28 million since 2014 from investors that included AME Cloud Ventures, Louie Alsop, Felicis Ventures and more. Including co-founders Fouad ElNaggar and Peter Yared, the whole team of 90 employees, based mainly in the Bay Area and a development office in Prague, will be joining Citrix. Citrix, for its part, currently has a market
Continue reading "Citrix pays $200M to acquire Sapho, which connects legacy software with ‘micro apps’"

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

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

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

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
Continue reading "OpenStack regroups"

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
💙
☠
Continue reading "What the FDA’s restriction of e-cig flavors means for Juul"

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

Continue reading "Meet Uber’s newly promoted Chief Product Officer, Manik Gupta"

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.

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

Rookout launches its live Kubernetes debugger

Rookout, a startup that offers debugging tools for applications that run on modern container and serverless platforms, is launching a new feature today that brings the equivalent of breakpoints to Kubernetes.

“Traditional debuggers leave developers helpless on Kubernetes, because they can’t debug multiple ephemeral, shifting, distributed concurrent instances of code,” the company argues in its announcement. “The powerful and familiar features that debuggers provide, like breakpoints, are missing.” To get around this, developers tend to go for a more indirect way of diagnosing issues and debugging their apps running on Kubernetes. That mostly means logging and distributed tracing, both of which have spawned their own ecosystems of open-source projects and startups. Rookout argues that these systems are hard to set up and can only give you a relatively high-level view of what’s happening inside a container. While the company talks about this feature as “breakpoints,” though, we’re not talking
Continue reading "Rookout launches its live Kubernetes debugger"

RPA startup Automation Anywhere nabs $300M from SoftBank at a $2.6B valuation

The market for RPA — Robotic Process Automation — is getting a hat trick of news this week: Automation Anywhere has today announced that it has raised $300 million from the SoftBank Vision Fund. This funding, which values Automation Anywhere at $2.6 billion post-money, is an extension to the Series A the company announced earlier this year, which was at a $1.8 billion valuation. It brings the total size of the round to $550 million.

The news comes just a day after one of the startup’s bigger competitors, UiPath, announced a $265 million raise at a $3 billion valuation; and a week after Kofax, another competitor, announced it would be acquiring a division of Nuance for $400 million to beef up its business. It’s also yet one more example of a one-two punch in funding. It was only in July that Automation Anywhere announced its $250 million
Continue reading "RPA startup Automation Anywhere nabs $300M from SoftBank at a $2.6B valuation"

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
Continue reading "Spotify alums create Canopy content suggester that won’t steal your data"

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
Continue reading "WeWork hires Prabhdeep Singh to lead operations for its startup program WeWork Labs"

Apex.ai raises $15.5 million for autonomous vehicle software

Apex.ai is emerging out of stealth today with quite the claim — an operating system for autonomous vehicles that will never fail Founded by long-time automated systems engineers Jan Becker and Dejan Pangercic, Apex.ai develops operating systems for various types of autonomous mobility platforms.

Today, Apex.ai is also announcing a $15.5 million Series A round led by Canaan with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners, which invested in Apex.ai’s seed round. Apex’s software stack is designed to easily integrate into existing systems and serve as the enterprise version of the Robot Operating System, an open-source software middleware for robotics. “Most companies have expertise building consumer applications but not a lot of expertise, resources or people to work on safety-critical processes,” Becker told TechCrunch. “So we built a framework that allows developers that are not experienced building safe and secure systems to do just that.”
Continue reading "Apex.ai raises $15.5 million for autonomous vehicle software"

Docker inks partnership with Mulesoft as Salesforce takes a strategic stake

Docker and Mulesoft have announced a broad deal to sell products together and integrate their platforms. As part of it, Docker is getting an investment from Salesforce, the CRM giant that acquired Mulesoft for $6.5 billion last spring.

Salesforce is not disclosing the size of the stake it’s taking in Docker, but it is strategic: it will see its new Mulesoft working with Docker to connect containerized applications to multiple data sources across an organization. Putting the two companies together, you can connect these containerized applications to multiple data sources in a modern way, even with legacy applications. The partnership is happening on multiple levels and includes technical integration to help customers use the two toolsets together more easily. It also includes a sales agreement to cross-sell one another’s products and services and to work with systems integrators and ISVs, who help companies put these kind of complex solutions
Continue reading "Docker inks partnership with Mulesoft as Salesforce takes a strategic stake"

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
Continue reading "LocalGlobe, the London seed-stage VC, is raising a new fund aimed at Series B"

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
Continue reading "Bunch scores $3.8M to turn mobile games into video chat LAN parties"