Google will match up to $1M in donations for Hurricane Florence relief

As cities in Hurricane Florence’s path deal with its aftermath, Google will match up to $1 million in donations to help with relief efforts. The disaster’s death toll is currently 35 people and about 343,000 people in North Carolina are without electricity. The hurricane caused widespread flooding and property damage throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.   Google drew attention to its Hurricane Florence donation campaign with a banner that appeared on top of Gmail for some users. Google has matched donations for other disasters before, including Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey last year. It’s also raised money for humanitarian efforts crises, like a 2015 matching program for up to $5.5 million in donations to provide aid to refugees in Europe. For that campaign, it temporarily added a “Donate” button to its search homepage. The company is partnering with non-profit Network for God to collect and distribute funds.
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Google launches new AI initiatives in Japan

It’s no surprise that Google used its Cloud Next 2018 event in Tokyo today — one of a number of international Cloud Next events that follow its flagship San Francisco conference — to announce a couple of new initiatives that specifically focus on the Japanese market. These announcements include a couple of basic updates like translating its Machine Learning with TensorFlow on Google Cloud Platform Coursera specialization, its Associate Cloud Engineer certification and fifty of its hands-on Qwiklabs into Japanese. In addition, Google is also launching an Advanced Solutions Lab in Tokyo as well. Previously Google opened similar labs in Dublin, Ireland, as well as Sunnyvale and New York. These labs offer a wide range of machine learning-centric training options, collaborative workspaces for teams that are part of the company’s four-week machine learning training program, and access to Google experts.

(Photo by Hitoshi Yamada/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The company also
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An Intel drone fell on my head during a light show

It didn’t hurt. I thought someone dropped a small cardboard box on my head. It felt sharp and light. I was sitting on the floor, along the back of the crowd and then an Intel Shooting Star Mini drone dropped on my head. Audi put on a massive show to reveal its first EV, the e-tron. The automaker went all out, put journalists, executives and car dealers on a three-story paddle boat and sent us on a two-hour journey across San Francisco Bay. I had a beer and two dumplings. We were headed to a long-vacated Ford manufacturing plant in Richmond, CA. By the time we reached our destination, the sun had set and Audi was ready to begin. Suddenly, in front of the boat, Intel’s Shooting Star drones put on a show that ended with Audi’s trademark four ring logo. The show continued as music pounded inside the
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Committed to privacy, Snips founder wants to take on Alexa and Google, with blockchain

Earlier this year we saw the headlines of how the users of popular voice assistants like Alexa and Siri and continue to face issues when their private data is compromised, or even sent to random people. In May it was reported that Amazon’s Alexa recorded a private conversation and sent it to a random contact. Amazon insists its Echo devices aren’t always recording, but it did confirm the audio was sent.

The story could be a harbinger of things to come when voice becomes more and more ubiquitous. After all, Amazon announced the launch of Alexa for Hospitality, its Alexa system for hotels, in June. News stories like this simply reinforce the idea that voice control is seeping into our daily lives. The French startup Snips thinks it might have an answer to the issue of security and data privacy. Its built its software to run 100% on-device, independently from
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Sen. Harris tells federal agencies to get serious about facial recognition risks

Facial recognition technology presents myriad opportunities as well as risks, but it seems like the government tends to only consider the former when deploying it for law enforcement and clerical purposes. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has written the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Trade Commission, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission telling them they need to get with the program and face up to the very real biases and risks attending the controversial tech. In three letters provided to TechCrunch (and embedded at the bottom of this post), Sen. Harris, along with several other notable legislators, pointed out recent research showing how facial recognition can produce or reinforce bias, or otherwise misfire. This must be considered and accommodated in the rules, guidance, and applications of federal agencies. Other lawmakers and authorities have sent letters to various companies and CEOs or held hearings, but representatives for Sen. Harris explained that there is
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Evernote just slashed 54 jobs, or 15 percent of its workforce

It’s no secret that Evernote, the productivity app that lets people take notes and organize other files from their working and non-work life, has been trying to regain its former footing as one of the most popular apps in the U.S., and that doing so has been an ongoing struggle. Just two weeks ago, we reported that Evernote had lost several of its most senior executives, including its CTO Anirban Kundu, CFO Vincent Toolan, CPO Erik Wrobel and head of HR Michelle Wagner. Now, Chris O’Neill — who took over as CEO of Evernote in 2015 after running the business operations at the Google X research unit — is sharing more demoralizing news with employees. To wit, he’s firing dozens of them. At an an all-hands meeting earlier today, he told gathered staffers that Evernote has no choice but to lay off 54 people —  roughly 15
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Here’s what Google’s $149 Home Hub smart display will reportedly look like

Google is reportedly getting ready to launch some new hardware at its October 9 hardware event and we just learned a lot more about a new product that might be launching. It was rumored that Google was working on its own Smart Display, now we’ve got images of the Google Home Hub and details about its price tag via a report from AndroidAuthority.

via Android Authority

The device certainly looks like a Google Home product with all the fabric anyone could ask for and then far, far more on top of it. It’s rocking a 7-inch screen and will cost just $149, which is quite a bit cheaper than the 8-inch Lenovo Smart Display which is currently the cheapest option at $199 while its 10-inch varietal ships for $249 as does the stereo-speakered JBL Link View. Having played around with Lenovo’s product, Google has some very pretty software for their
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Amplify Partners locks in $200 million to transform technical founders into people who can actually lead a startup

Sunil Dhaliwal has had a solid run in his 20 years so far as a VC. Just two years out of Georgetown, Dhaliwal landed at Battery Ventures, a highly regarded venture firm. Fifteen years later, in 2012, he struck out on his own, creating Amplify Partners. It wasn’t so easy at first. His first fund required 18 months of on-again, off-again fundraising before closing with $49.1 million in capital commitments. But things have picked up substantially since. In fact, today, Amplify, once a micro fund, is taking the wraps off a third fund that it just closed with $200 million. Some early bets made this newest fund much easier to raise than even its second fund, which closed with $125 million in 2015. In addition to Dhaliwal’s personal track record, which includes leading deals at Battery like Netezza, acquired by IBM, and CipherTrust, acquired by Secure Computing
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Nintendo is offering an exclusive Fortnite bundle with the Switch

Fortnite has taken the world by storm. In fact, the game is so popular that Epic has released versions for PC, Xbox, PS4, iOS, Android and the Nintendo Switch, making the game about as accessible as possible. The popularity of the game stems from the general popularity of the Battle Royale genre and popular streamers like Ninja, who have made the game so much fun to watch. But it also comes from the fun, and often fleeting, skins, dances and pick axes the game offers in its Item Shop. On October 5th, folks interested in the Switch can pick up some extra Fortnite swag.

Nintendo is releasing a bundle that will include an exclusive

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HQ Trivia teases upcoming Wheel of Fortune-style mobile game

HQ Trivia is gearing up to debut a follow-up to its wildly popular live mobile game show. Called HQ Words, the company announced this morning they’ll release the Wheel of Fortune-style game in October.

HQ Trivia, which airs twice per day and awards winners as much as $100,000 for successfully answering 12 questions, debuted on the app store last August and was a viral success. The game, usually hosted by comedian Scott Rogowsky (pictured above), spawned a whole cohort of copycats as a result Its app store ranking, however, has been steadily decreasing in recent months, as pointed out by TechCrunch’s Josh Constine in a recent article on HQ Trivia’s Apple TV app launch. In a response to that article, HQ Trivia co-founder Rus Yusupov hinted at new games in development: “Games are a hits business and

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Peter Thiel’s argument that Silicon Valley has been ‘brainwashed’ by higher education is tired

Billionaire VC Peter Thiel has largely flown under the radar since raising his hand to support Donald Trump’s presidential bid, then working with Trump’s administration to fill some of its many vacant positions. The association made him deeply unpopular in Silicon Valley, though he says says people have not shown a “great deal of hostility to me personally . . . it manifests itself in all sorts of other ways.” Perhaps ahead of the midterm elections, perhaps because he has more recently moved to L.A., or perhaps because he’s simply feeling more talkative, Thiel is starting to open up again about his often contrarian views to particular outlets. Earlier this year, he sat down with Fox Business to discuss his continuing support of Trump. Thiel talked again last week with commentator and comedian Dave Rubin, whose YouTube show, Rubin says, is focused on free speech. (The interview format is
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Early-bird sale ends this Friday for TC Sessions: AR/VR in Los Angeles

After Friday, September 21, ticket prices for TC Sessions: AR/VR will jump $100 for the October 18 event hosted at UCLA. Buy your early-bird $99 tickets today before these savings fly the coop! Students get tickets for just $45. The event’s stage will feature some of the industry’s most groundbreaking companies and thought leaders. Here are some agenda highlights: Kickstarting an Industry
Yelena Rachitsky [Oculus]
Oculus has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into funding VR content. Facebook’s VR future rests on people finding new worlds that they want to step into — how will Oculus make this happen?
Building Inclusive Worlds
Cyan Banister [Founders Fund] (other speakers to be announced soon)
If you had the chance to redesign society, where would you even start? As game developers continue designing massive online virtual worlds where we will spend more and more time, how should we look to correct issues we
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DOJ launches investigation into Tesla, Elon Musk’s tweets

Tesla’s stock is down 5 percent this morning after news emerged the U.S. Department of Justice had launched a criminal investigation into CEO Elon Musk’s Aug. 7 tweets about taking the company private. The criminal probe is in addition to the previously reported Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the electric car company. “Last month, following Elon’s announcement that he was considering taking the company private, Tesla received a voluntary request for documents from the DOJ and has been cooperative in responding to it,” a Tesla spokesperson said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any other formal process. We respect the DOJ’s desire to get information about this and believe that the matter should be quickly resolved as they review the information they have received.” Bloomberg reports that the DOJ’s criminal inquiry is in the “early stages” “The
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Inside the pay-for-post ICO industry

In a world where nothing can be trusted and fake news abounds, ICO and crypto teams are further muddying the waters by trying – and often failing – to pay for posts. While bribes for blogs is nothing new, sadly the current crop of ICO creators and crypto projects are particularly interested in scaling fast and many ICO CEOs are far happier with scammy multi-level marketing tricks than real media relations. The worst part of this spammy, scammy ecosystem is the service providers. A new group of media organizations are appearing where pay-to-post is the norm rather than the rare exception. I’ve been looking at these groups for a while now and recently found a few egregious examples. But first some background.

Oh yeah, Mr. Smart Guy? How do I get press?

Say you’re trying to publicize a startup. You’ve emailed all the big names in the industry and the
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Instagram will promote mid-term voting with stickers, registration info

Facebook is getting ready to purposefully influence the U.S. mid-term elections after spending two years trying to safeguard against foreign interference. Instagram plans to run ads in Stories and feed powered by TurboVote that will target all US users over 18 and point them towards information on how to get properly registered and abide by voting rules. Then when election day arrives, users will be able to add an “I Voted” sticker to their photos and videos that link to voting info like which polling place to go to. Combined, these efforts could boost voter turnout, especially amongst Instagram’s core audience of millenials. If one political party’s base skews younger, they could receive an advantage. “Ahead of National Voter Registration Day, we are helping our community register to vote and get to the polls on November 6th” Instagram writes. “From today, Instagram will connect US voters with the information
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Rent the Runway opens physical store in San Francisco

Rent the Runway, the fashion startup that began as a rental service for special occasions and has since evolved over the last couple of years into a service for people also looking to spice up their everyday wear, just opened up its fifth physical, standalone location. The new location, in downtown San Francisco, enables Rent the Runway members to try on clothes, rent and return them. Rent the Runway’s launch of a standalone brick-and-mortar location in San Francisco comes after it first opened up a location inside Neiman Marcus. With a standalone location, the company is able to offer longer hours for its members. Instead of opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 7 p.m., Rent the Runway can now stay open from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. It also, of course, has weekend hours. Thanks to some technology Rent the Runway developed
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Spire Health Tags are now on Apple’s shelves

Spire’s Health Tags, the dark and tiny devices you stick on your clothes to gather all sorts of health data from your steps, heartbeat and stress levels is now available at your local Apple Store. The company started out with a breath tracking device to detect when you are feeling tense and help calm you down. But four years in and its now all about the wearable “tags” you stick on items of clothing like your pants or sports bra. Yes, yes, there are lots of gadgets out there to gather similar information — the Apple Watch will now even detect if you have a fall or something is wrong with your heart — but the Spire health tag is nothing like a Fitbit or Apple Watch, according to the company. For one, there’s zero need to charge the device. One tag’s battery will last a year and a half
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Maison Me nabs $1M from Google’s Assistant fund and more for made-to-order clothes

Amazon’s focus on using its camera-enabled Echo devices to help you figure out what to wear everyday has highlighted how the tech world sees a big opportunity in building fashion-related tools and services beyond the now-ubiquitous but still quite basic business of e-commerce, where clothes are displayed on websites, and ordered for delivery to your home. Now one of the latest startups in the space has raised a seed round from an interesting group of investors. Maison Me, a startup that has built a platform that lets people provide either a few clues, or very specific detail, of a piece of clothing that they would like, and then makes it to order, has raised $1 million to build out its business from backers that include Founders Fund, the new Google Assistant investment program, Gagarin Capital and others that are not being named for now. Maison Me’s co-founder and CEO Anastasia Sartan said
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Amazon’s new toolkit helps developers build Echo-connected accessories

Amazon wants developers to build their own Alexa Gadgets. As you may recall, Amazon last year launched its own gadgets – those weird, Bluetooth-connected Echo Buttons – but told us this year at CES that it had plans to open up gadget-building to the wider developer community. Now, it has. The company today is launching the Alexa Gadgets Toolkit into beta, allowing developers to build accessories that pair with Echo over Bluetooth. The gadgets themselves could use things like lights, sound chips, or even motors, and can work with Alexa interfaces like notifications, timers, reminders, text-to-speech, or wake word detection. For example, you could create a device designed for outdoor use that chimes when a timer has concluded, or a switch that drops dog food into a bowl when an alarm expires. A pill box could chime or flash to remind you to take medications, and so on. Support for
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The Gap Table: Women own just 9% of startup equity

Even bigger than the salary gap that sees women earn $.82 on the dollar is the equity gap. A new study from Carta and the ex-Twitter female investor group #Angels reveals that women make up 35 percent of startup equity-holding employees, yet own just 20 percent of the equity. That means they own just $0.47 for every $1 that men own. Even worse, women account for 13 percent of startup founder but just 6 percent of founder equity — or merely $0.39 on the dollar. Combined, that means only 9 percent of founder and employee startup equity is owned by women. “This is not just about wealth” says #Angels’ Chloe Sladden. “Wealth from successful exits goes on to shape the entire industry. It’s about who has power and who gets to decide what gets funded.” #Angels’ Jessica Verrilli notes that “Having this data is going to 
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