Elon Musk details his plan to rid LA of traffic with $1 rides on the Boring Co. ‘Loop’

This evening, Boring Company executives Elon Musk and Steve Davis offered a few more details about their plans to revolutionize LA urban transit, introducing the “Loop” which would eventually be composed of all-electric pods that transport up to 16 passengers at a time. Musk theorizes that the Loop could take Los Angeles residents from downtown LA to any terminal at the LAX airport within 8 minutes for about $1. Much of the focus of the presentation was to assure the public that the Boring Company’s efforts would not be disruptive to the public or heavily stress the city’s existing highway systems. While the company has been best known for its hat and flamethrower sales, its most daunting challenge is courting public opinion for its plans to upgrade LA’s transport infrastructure. The odd little presentation held at an LA synagogue started about 25 minutes behind schedule after a late arrival from Elon
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Meet Alchemist Accelerator’s latest demo day cohort

An IoT-enabled lab for cannabis farmers, a system for catching drones mid-flight and the Internet of Cows are a few of the 17 startups exhibiting today at Alchemist Accelerator’s 18th demo day. The event, which will be streamed live here, focuses on big data and AI startups with an enterprise bent. The startups are showing their stuff at Juniper’s Aspiration Dome in Sunnyvale, California at 3pm today, but you can catch the whole event online if you want to see just what computers and cows have in common. Here are the startups pitching onstage. Tarsier – Tarsier has built AI computer vision to detect drones. The founders discovered the need while getting their MBAs at Stanford, after one had completed a PhD in aeronautics. Drones are proliferating. And getting into places they shouldn’t — prisons, R&D centers, public spaces. Securing these spaces today requires antiquated military gear that’s clunky and expensive.
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PayPal confirms that it is buying payments startup iZettle for $2.2B in an all-cash deal

PayPal is taking its biggest bet yet on point-of-sale transactions, small businesses, and markets outside of the US, as it looks to raise its game against Square, Stripe and others in the world of payments: the company has confirmed that it is buying iZettle — the Stockholm-based payments provider commonly referred to as the “Square of Europe” — for $2.2 billion in an all-cash deal. The deal — which is expected to close in Q3 2018 — will see iZettle’s co-founder and CEO Jacob de Geer stay on leading iZettle. He will report to PayPal’s COO Bill Ready. Others in iZettle’s exec team will also stay on to run the business, which will become a “center of excellence” for in-store and offline payments in Europe, PayPal said. The timing of the deal is notable: it comes on the heels of iZettle filing for an IPO earlier this month (just nine
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First speaker announcements for the Next stage at Disrupt SF (Sept 5-7)

One of the many new features at TechCrunch Disrupt SF (Sept. 5-7) is the addition of another stage, which we’re calling The Next Stage. The goal of The Next Stage is to deliver more insights and wisdom to Disrupt SF attendees, especially founders, to help them navigate the startup odyssey better and faster. The Next Stage is also where much of the programming for the 13 tracks at Disrupt SF will take place. We’re delighted to announce our first sessions on The Next stage. Consumer brands take forever to earn consumer confidence, unless you happen to be brands like Casper, AllBirds, Birchbox, Rent-the-Runway and Brandless, which became powerful brand names almost overnight.  What those brands have in common is Red Antler, a Brooklyn-based creative agency that has attained “brand whisperer” status according to Fast Company for its success standing up startup consumer brands. As a part of our New Retail
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Rackspace acquires Salesforce specialist RelationEdge

Rackspace today announced that it has acquired RelationEdge, a Salesforce implementation partner and digital agency. The companies did not disclose the financial details of the acquisition. At first, this may sound like an odd acquisition. Rackspace is still best known for its hosting and managed cloud and infrastructure services, after all, and RelationEdge is all about helping businesses manage their Salesforce SaaS implementations. The company clearly wants to expand its portfolio, though, and add managed services for SaaS applications to its lineup. It made the first step in this direction with the acquisition of TriCore last year, another company in the enterprise application management space. Today’s acquisition builds upon this theme. Gerard Brossard, the executive VP and general manager of Rackspace Application Services, told me that the company is still in the early days of its application management practice, but that it’s seeing good momentum as its gaining both
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EAT Club acquires healthy food startup Farm Hill

EAT Club, the corporate lunch service with a customer base that includes Flipboard, Mastercard and TaskRabbit, has acquired Farm Hill, a lunch box delivery service, to solidify and expand its presence in the San Francisco Bay Area. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Farm Hill had previously raised $4 million in capital. EAT Club also brought on Doug Leeds, the former CEO at IAC Publishing and former executive in residence at August Capital, as its new CEO. Leeds is EAT Club’s third CEO since 2016, when its first CEO Frank Han moved into the COO role. Han left the company entirely in November 2017, according to his LinkedIn. Following Han’s departure as CEO, EAT Club brought on Mike Griffith, who served as president and CEO for less than two years. Griffith left in March because of a cultural mismatch of sorts, EAT Club co-founder Rodrigo Santibáñez told me. With
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Floyd Mayweather-backed Centra Tech ICO founders indicted for fraud

The founders of Centra Tech, a company that raised a $32 million ICO, have been indicted for wire fraud and securities fraud, charges that could lead to a minimum of five years in jail. The founders, Raymond Trapani, Sohrab Sharma, and Robert Farkas, were found guilty of trying to defraud investors with their ICO. The primary fraudulent statement concerned Centra Tech’s fake partnerships with Visa and MasterCard to help sell tokens. The team, wrote Robert Khuzami, Attorney for the United States in the Southern District of New York, “purported to offer cryptocurrency-related financial products, with conspiring to commit, and the commission of, securities and wire fraud in connection with a scheme to induce victims to invest millions of dollars’ worth of digital funds for the purchase of unregistered securities, in the form of digital currency tokens issued by Centra Tech, through material misrepresentations and omissions.” Floyd Mayweather
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Call of Duty Black Ops IIII adds battle royale mode while taking the game back to boots on the ground

In recent releases, Activision has taken its Call of Duty franchise into space (with its Infinite Warfare) and back in time (with the World War II release); now it’s looking to its past to bring it back to glory, while adding the massive multi-player Battle Royale mode. The new Black Ops game is set within a narrative universe between Black Ops II and Black Ops III and stresses multi-player gaming like the battle royale, improved league play and collaborative features for gamers. Critical to that is the franchise’s introduction of Battle Royale mode, bringing favorite characters, favorite weapons and the most iconic parts of players’ favorite maps along with the ever-popular zombies into a winner-take-all competitive landscape. It’s a nod to the new ways gamers are playing and a pitch to rejuvenate Call of Duty — one of the world’s most popular game titles, with Black Ops as perhaps
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Intel starts testing self-driving cars in Jerusalem

Intel and its subsidiary Mobileye have started testing 100 self-driving cars in Jerusalem. In the “coming months,” the plan is to deploy the fleet in the U.S. and other regions, Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua wrote in a blog post. Through this test, Intel/Mobileye hope to demonstrate that its cars are 1,000 times safer than human drivers “without the need for billions of miles of validation testing on public roads.” These cars are equipped with 12 cameras to create a 360 view of its surroundings. Eight of those cameras are for long-range viewing purposes while the other four are for parking. In phase two of development, which will happen in the next few weeks, Intel/Mobileye will add a layer of radar and LIDAR. “The camera-only phase is our strategy for achieving what we refer to as ‘true redundancy’ of sensing,” Shashua wrote. “True redundancy refers to a sensing system
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Boston startups may see some fresh checks as Underscore VC closes on its second fund

There’s a whole lot of data and information that’s stored in the cloud, and it’s critical that consumers and enterprises alike be able to trust that this information is safe and accurate. Such is the primary investing thesis of Underscore VC, a three-year-old, Boston-based early-stage firm that is today taking the wraps off a second fund that it just closed with $115 million in capital commitments. Among its investors: Boston Children’s Hospital, the fund of funds Greenspring Associates, and family offices, including that Henry McCance, chairman emeritus of Greylock Partners. If you haven’t heard of Underscore, you probably don’t live in Boston, where the firm sprung up in 2015, created by veterans of the startup scene there. Cofounder Michael Skok spent the previous 12 years with Boston-based firm North Bridge Venture Partners. Cofounder John Pearce is the former CEO of Demandware. Other members of the team include cofounder Richard
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Snapchat Spectacles tests non-circular landscape exports

The worst thing about Spectacles is how closely tied they are to Snapchat. The proprietary circular photo and video format looks great inside Snapchat where you can tip your phone around while always staying full screen, but it gets reduced to a small circle with a big white border when you export it to your phone for sharing elsewhere. Luckily, Snapchat has started beta testing new export formats for Spectacles through the beta version of its app. This lets you choose a black border instead of a white one, but importantly, also a horizontal 16:9 rectangular format that would fit well on YouTube and other traditional video players. The test was first spotted by Eric Johnson, and when asked, a Snapchat spokesperson told TechCrunch “I can confirm we’re testing it, yes.” Allowing Spectacles to be more compatible with other services could make the v2 of its $150 photo
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Facebook’s accessibility ambitions

Facebook’s work around accessibility took center stage in 2016 when it launched something called automatic alt-text for people using screen readers to identify what’s displayed. AAT uses object recognition technology to generate descriptions of photos on Facebook. But what Facebook deployed in 2016 represented the mere beginning of its efforts, Facebook Accessibility Specialist Matt King told me ahead of Global Accessibility Awareness Day. “It was about as simple as you could get and still be valuable,” King said about version one of AAT, which initially launched for News Feed, profiles and groups. It later became available in 28 other languages before adding 17 different activities to the descriptions, like walking, running and so on. “So we’re getting closer to being able to do a sentence, which is a long-run goal, instead of just having, you know, a list of words or concepts that describe a photo,” he said. Then, last December, Facebook
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In the next few weeks, you can spend time with any one of these VCs and it will all go to charity

Five years ago, we told you about a venture capital auction, wherein dozens of VCs donated their time toward a greater good — helping fund research at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, one of the world’s largest voluntary health organizations dedicated to funding research and access to treatments for blood cancer patients. The auction was centered around then five-year-old Rhett Krawitt, a pink-cheeked, bright-spirited boy who’d been diagnosed with leukemia is 2010 and “fought a really hard battle,” recalls his father, Carl Krawitt, who works in the Bay Area for Tata, the enterprise information management consultancy. “For three-and-a-half years, he was undergoing chemotherapy, and his doctors would say, ‘Here are the 20 complications you can have, though most kids have three or four.’ But Rhett had all 20 of them. He was between a rock and a hard place. I had to tell my daughter that her little brother was
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Instagram opens a San Francisco office

Last year, Facebook was reportedly scouting for office space in San Francisco in order to find a space suitable to house some 100 Instagram employees. Today, the company is officially confirming its San Francisco plans with an announcement that it has leased four floors at 181 Fremont in San Francisco. It will initially house its under-200 person Creation & Communication team, which builds for Stories, Direct, Live and more, but plans to expand its San Francisco headcount in time. TechCrunch had reported last summer that the Fremont location was being considered, among others. At the time, the 70-story tower wasn’t yet open, and no lease had been signed. Today, Instagram confirms its lobby will be on the 7th floor of the Fremont building and will be connected to the TransBay Transit Center City Park. Employees started moving in on May 7th, but that transition remains in progress. It’s also still putting
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Boosted Boards founders launch heavy-duty scooter renter Skip

All electric scooters are not created equal. I’ve found ones from Spin, Bird, and Lime to often be broken, shaky, or out of battery. But now the founders of Boosted Boards, which makes the steadiest and safest-feeling electric skateboards, are bringing their rugged hardware expertise to the scooter world. Today, they’re coming out of stealth with a supposedly stronger and longer-lasting dockless electric scooter rental startup called Skip. And the surprise is they’re hoping to only operate where permitted unlike their backlashed competitors [but no guarantees], with a deployment today in partnership with Washington D.C. and plans for San Francisco. Formerly known by its Y Combinator codename Waybots, the company is exclusively announcing its funding and rebrand to Skip today on TechCrunch. The startup has raised a $6 million seed round led by Initialized Capital via Alexis Ohanian and Ronny Conway’s A Capital, with SV Angel joining in.”High
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FCTRY wants to be a new type of startup studio

Startup Studios are becoming more and more prevalent, with big name companies like Giphy and Girlboss coming from the studio model. The premise is strong: use venture on a small, concentrated number of ideas, fostered by experts and internal resources, to create strong businesses. But a new startup studio is prepping to launch in NYC with a different idea in mind. FCTRY, led by Jules Ehrhardt, doesn’t necessarily think that money is always the best way to help startups grow. Ehrhardt thinks of FCTRY as more of a Creative Capital Studio, wherein experts from various fields (with a particular focus on creative, design, and engineering) offer their insight and knowledge to help startups grow rather than venture capital. Of course, these startups would still trade equity in exchange for these services. Ehrhardt comes from UsTwo, the digital product studio that helped develop the wildly popular game Monument Valley.
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Sprinklr hires former fed CIO Vivek Kundra as COO

Sprinklr, the unicorn startup best known for helping customers interpret social signals has been moving into the broader customer experience market in the last year. Today it announced is was hiring a heavy hitter as Chief Operating Officer, bringing in former federal CIO and Salesforce executive Vivek Kundra. He began working at his new position just this week. Kundra says that he sees a company that is in a good position and poised for growth. It will be part of his job to work with CEO Ragy Thomas to make sure that happens. “When I look at the 1200 customers we have today, I see a massive opportunity to provide technology to change the way [our users] interact with customers,” Kundra told TechCrunch. He says that, with his background, whether working under President Obama or with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, the focus has always been on the customer, however
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Brexit-related concerns remain key for UK tech, says UK gov report

Two out of the top three challenges facing tech companies in the UK’s top two tech clusters are related to Brexit, according to a UK government-backed report, and for much of the rest of the country. That at least is the only possible conclusion from the release today of Tech Nation 2018, the UK’s annual state of the nation’ report on the country’s tech sector. This year’s survey interviewed 3,428 people members of the UK tech community, including founders and workers in tech companies, but has been heavily spun to de-emphasise the effects of Brexit on the UK tech industry. The report stated that the top three challenges in London and Cambridge (which contains the world-renowned ‘Silicon Fen’ tech cluster) were: London:
1. Access to talent (which will be affected by immigration rules before and after Brexit)
2. Cost of living
3. Brexit Cambridge’s were:
1. Cost of living
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Monzo, the U.K. challenger bank, finally rolls out Apple Pay

Monzo, the U.K. challenger bank, has finally added Apple Pay to its mobile-only current account. The just over three year-old fintech says it has been one of the most requested features for its banking app, with over 2,000 mentions of Apple Pay on Monzo’s forum, whilst its customer support team have been asked about the functionality more than 13,000 times. In other words, the rollout can’t come soon enough. Noteworthy, Monzo was able to add Google Pay all the way back in October 2017. Meanwhile, many of its passionate and vocal users will be wondering what took Monzo so long (as an aside, rival challenger Starling was able to add Apple Pay in July 2017). The upstart bank, which usually makes a virtue of its community-driven approach and transparency hasn’t been able to say (or even fully acknowledge that the feature was coming), likely because Apple imposes
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Bossa Studios launches Worlds Adrift, the first game built on Improbable’s SpatialOS

Bossa Studios, the London gaming startup backed by Atomico and behind popular titles ‘Surgeon Simulator’ and ‘I am Bread’, is embarking on its biggest and most ambitious project yet. Described as a “Community-Crafted MMO,” where players have literally co-built the game’s environment and will continue to do so, Worlds Adrift sees its wider public outing today via the Steam Early Access program. The new game, which has been three years in the making and was born out of a Bossa Studios “game jam,” akin to the kinds of internal ‘hackathons’ many startups routinely hold, is attempting to pull off a number of firsts. For starters (and probably most noteworthy to TechCrunch readers), it was the first game built on top of Improbable’s SpatialOS, the cloud-based platform for creating games and other virtual environments that need to go beyond the limitations of traditional server architectures. Improbable raised a whopping $502
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