Catching up with startup advisor (and Wealthfront CEO) Andy Rachcleff

Andy Rachleff, who cofounded the venture firm Benchmark back in 1995 and has more recently been leading the wealth management firm Wealthfront and teaching at Stanford, is widely sought out for his startup advice. It has become harder to come by, though, given the demands on Rachleff’s time. Most notably, Rachleff has had to dial back his work at Stanford to just one course during one quarter of the year — a class that we can only guess is heavily oversubscribed by students. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy the work. Right now, he’s helping two longtime friends, AppDynamics cofounder Jyoti Bansal and VC John Vrionis with a new kind of accelerator program they are launching today (more on that here). In a quick call to discuss that program earlier this week, he also fielded a few questions from us about the current state of early-stage startup investing and how
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AppDynamics founder Jyoti Bansal and longtime VC John Vrionis are now taking applications for their new accelerator program

With so much money being stuffed into Silicon Valley companies these days, it’s hard to stand out as an investor, but John Vrionis and Jyoti Bansal have what they think is a winning approach — one that’s a win for startup founders, too. A little background first. Back in May, Bansal who sold his company AppDynamics to Cisco for $3.7 billion last year, announced that he was teaming up with Vrionis, who’d spent the previous 12 years with Lightspeed Venture Partner. What they created together is a new venture firm called Unusual Ventures. It launched publicly with a $160 million debut fund and a mission of also creating a startup education program. Fast forward a few months, and the firm will today begin accepting applications for a seven-week accelerator program that promises founders seven different three-hour-long sessions — one each week for seven weeks — with veterans of the startup
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Bumble announces a fund to invest in women-led businesses

Dating and networking app Bumble today announced the launch of Bumble Fund, a new vehicle focused on early stage investments specifically aimed at helping diverse, female entrepreneurs raise capital for their businesses. Sarah Jones Simmer, Bumble Chief Operating Officer, will lead Bumble Fund’s investment strategy along with Bumble Senior Advisor, Sarah Kunst, the company says.

“Investing in and empowering women in business is something that our founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd is deeply passionate about and is at the very core of what Bumble stands for,” said Jones Simmer, in a statement about the fund’s launch. “Through Bumble Fund we’ll look not only to support those women leaders who have been largely ignored, but we’ll also demonstrate why those investments build smart, successful businesses.”

Bumble Fund’s initial commitments include one of the winners of Bumble’s first “Bizz Pitch” competition, Sofia Los Angeles, a swimwear company founded by Anasofia Gomez.
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SAP’s SAP.io Foundry debuts the graduates of its second women-focused accelerator

SAP, the German-based enterprise software giant, has unveiled the New York-based cohort from its SAP.io Foundry accelerator programs focused on women-led technology companies. The first program was launched in San Francisco in July 2017, and while the company has launched additional accelerator programs in Berlin and Tel Aviv (with plans for a Paris accelerator in the Fall), it’s SAP’s San Francisco and New York programs that have a specific focus on women and founders of color, according to Vanessa Liu, a vice president in charge of the New York program. “The first one launched last summer, with San Francisco that was in July. Berlin launched in the fall with TechStars as a partner, Tel Aviv launched with The Junction,” Liu said.  The partnerships with Techstars in Berlin and The Junction in Tel Aviv were designed solely to gain exposure to those markets, while the San Francisco and
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Descartes Labs launches its geospatial analysis platform

Descartes Labs, a New Mexico-based geospatial analytics startup, today announced that its platform is now out of beta. The well-funded company already allowed businesses to analyze satellite imagery it pulls in from NASA and ESA and build predictive models based on this data, but starting today, it is adding both weather data to its library, as well as commercial high-resolution imagery thanks to a new partnership with Airbus’ OneAtlas project. As Descartes Labs co-founder Mark Johnson, who you may remember from Zite, told me, the team now regularly pulls in 100 terabytes of new data every day. The company’s clients then use this data to predict the growth of crops, for example. And while Descartes Labs can’t disclose most of its clients, Johnson told me that Cargill and teams at Los Alamos National Labs are among its users. While anybody could theoretically access the same data and spin up
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Black Ops 4 Battle Royale beta to go live on September 10

As summer comes to a close and the leaves begin to brown, the gaming world goes through its own sort of transition. A handful of new titles prep for launch, including Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. But unlike previous CoD titles, Black Ops 4 represents a counter-attack on the world’s biggest game, Fortnite Battle Royale. For the first time, Call of Duty is ditching a campaign and opting to introduce a new Battle Royale mode to the first-person shooter. It’s a risky approach, which could potentially put off long-time CoD players and likewise disappoint the Fortnite crowd who have already invested time and money in an already-dominant Battle Royale game. Time shall surely tell, but luckily we’ll get a sneak peek at the new Black Ops 4 Battle Royale, called Blackout, in September. Activision and
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Google One is now open to all

A few months ago, Google announced Google One, its new subscription program for getting more Google Drive storage and other perks. Over the course of the last few weeks, Google slowly rolled existing Drive subscribers over to a Google One membership and starting today, new users can sign up for a One subscription, too. Google One plans start at 100 GB for $1.99. There’s also a 200 GB tier for $2.99 and a 2 TB option for $9.99. If you need even more storage space, Google will happily sell you 10 TB, 20 TB and 30 TB plans for between $99.99 and $299.99 per month. One nice feature of these new plans is that you can share your storage allotment with up to five family members. While storage is the main feature here, Google also promises additional perks. The most important of these may
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XYZPrinting announces the da Vinci Color Mini

XYZPrinting may have finally cracked the color 3D printing code. Their latest machine, the $1,599 da Vinci Color Mini is a full color printer that uses three CMY ink cartridges to stain the filament as it is extruded, allowing for up to 15 million color combinations. The printer is currently available for pre-order on Indiegogo for $999. The printer can build objects 5.1″ x 5.1″ x 5.1″ in size and it can print PLA or PETG. A small ink cartridge stains the 3D Color-inkjet PLA as it comes out, creating truly colorful objects. “Desktop full-color 3D printing is here. Now, consumers can purchase an easy-to-operate, affordable, compact full-color 3D printer for $30,000 less than market rate. This is revolutionary because we are giving the public access to technology that was once only available to industry professionals,” said Simon Shen, CEO of XYZprinting. The new system is aimed
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Flowbox is a tool that makes it easy to build special effects

What do you get when you connect a bunch of filmmakers with a bunch of programmers? Something like Flowbox. Flowbox, which began life as a unique object-oriented programming language for visual effects, has grown into something truly powerful in the moviemaking industry. Run by Mikołaj Valencia​, Michał Urbańczyk​, Paweł Pietraszko, and Mat Bujalski, this Polish company is currently working with a number of big studios to add VFX to huge productions. “Flowbox is an industrial strength image processing platform incorporating many recent innovations in computer graphics field,” said Valencia. “It delivers semi-automated rotoscopy, one of the most tedious manual labor used in 25 precent of all video content processing. It allows for huge time savings.” The team is working on adding other tools to the toolchain as well including color correction and image composition. The system is unique in that it uses a visual interface to change the video.
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The Alexa-Cortana integration is now available in a public preview

Microsoft today will begin to allow Alexa device owners to summon its own virtual assistant, Cortana, through their Echo devices, as well as call for Alexa via Cortana. The integration between the two voice computing platforms was previously announced and briefly demoed on stage in May at Microsoft’s Build 2018 event in Seattle. But the companies at the time hadn’t given a timeline as to when the integrations between the two assistants would be available to the public. Now, the companies are taking the first steps towards that goal with a public preview of their Alexa-Cortana collaboration. Customers who want to test out this new feature will be able to try it starting today, August 15, Microsoft says. The integration will continue to roll out in the days ahead, so you may not immediately gain access, we should note. Initially, customers will be able to call up Microsoft’s Cortana through
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Fitbit’s upcoming Charge 3 to sport full touchscreen, per leak

This appears to be the Fitbit Charge 3 and, if it is, several big changes are in the works for Fitbit’s premier fitness tracker band. The leak comes from Android Authority which points to the changes. First, the device has a full touchscreen rather than a clunky quasi-touchscreen like the Charge 2. From the touchscreen, users can navigate the device and even reply to notifications and messages. Second, the Charge 3 will be swim-proof to 50 meters. Finally, and this is a bad one, the Charge 3 will not have GPS built-in meaning users will have to bring a smartphone along for a run if they want GPS data. Price and availability was not reveled but chances are the device will hit the stores in the coming weeks ahead of the holidays. This is a big change for Fitbit. If the above leak is correct on all points, Fitbit is
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To fight the scourge of open offices, ROOM sells rooms

Noisy open offices don’t foster collaboration, they kill it, according to a Harvard study that found the less-private floor plan led to a 73 percent drop in face-to-face interaction between employees and a rise in emailing. The problem is plenty of young companies and big corporations have already bought into the open office fad. But a new startup called ROOM is building a prefabricated, self-assembled solution. It’s the Ikea of office phone booths. The $3495 ROOM One is a sound-proofed, ventilated, powered booth that can be built in new or existing offices to give employees a place to take a video call or get some uninterrupted flow time to focus on work. For comparison, ROOM co-founder Morten Meisner-Jensen says “Most phone booths are $8,000 to $12,000. The cheapest competitor to us is $6,000 — almost twice as much.” Though booths start at $4,500 from TalkBox and $3,995 from Zenbooth,
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Chinese internet giant Tencent suffers a rare profit drop

Tencent, Asia’s most valuable tech firm, delivered a surprise drop in profit on account of lower investment gains. The firm recorded strong growth with revenue up 30 percent year-on-year to reach 73.7 billion RMB ($10.7 billion) in Q2 2018. But net profit slipped by two percent annually to reach 17.9 billion RMB, or around $2.6 billion. That breaks a growth streak that stretches back more than a decade and, more crucially, it comes at a time of relative crisis for Tencent . The company became Asia’s first $500 billion tech business last November, but it has endured a torrid 2018 with its share price slipping more than 25 percent since a January highcontroversy around a banned game knocked it down further this week.

Gaming has always been Tencent’s strongest point — it helped the firm log a 60 percent profit jump in the previous
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With $40 million for AuditBoard’s risk and compliance toolkit, LA’s enterprise startups notch another win

Daniel Kim and Jay Lee, the two founders of AuditBoard, a Los Angeles-based provider of a risk and compliance software service for large businesses, grew up middle school friends in Cerritos, Calif. It was from their hometown Los Angeles exurb, that Kim and Lee first began plotting how they would turn their experience working for PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young (respectively) into the software business that just managed to rake in $40 million in financing led by one of venture capital’s most-respected firms, Battery Ventures. Kim, who had moved on from the world of the big four audit firms to take positions as the head of global audit at companies as diverse as the chip component manufacturer, International Rectifier and the surf and sportswear-focused clothing company, Quiksilver, had complained to his childhood friend about how little had changed in the auditing world since the two men first started working
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One week left: Apply to Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin 2018

Anyone with even a tangential relationship to the European tech startup scene knows that Startup Battlefield is one of the most effective launching pads for early-stage startups. All the pitch-competition drama and excitement goes down at Disrupt Berlin 2018 on November 29-30. If you want to spotlight your startup in front of the continent’s brightest innovators, investors and influencers, you have only one week left to submit your application — right here. Last year at Disrupt Berlin 2017, Lia Diagnostics —  makers of the first flushable pregnancy test — won the Startup Battlefield and walked away with the Disrupt Cup, the $50,000 grand prize and an incredible amount of media coverage and investor interest. Could 2018 be your year? Here’s what you need to know about competing in Startup Battlefield. Our TechCrunch editors, steeped in the ways of identifying hot prospects since 2007, will review every application and select approximately
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Karma raises $12M to let restaurants and grocery stores offer unsold food at a discount

Karma, the Stockholm-based startup that offers a marketplace to let local restaurants and grocery offer unsold food at a discount, has raised $12 million in Series A funding. Swedish investment firm Kinnevik led the round, with participation from U.S. venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners, appliance manufacturer Electrolux, and previous backer VC firm e.ventures. It brings total funding to $18 million. Founded in late 2015 by Hjalmar Ståhlberg Nordegren, Ludvig Berling, Mattis Larsson and Elsa Bernadotte, and launched the following year, Karma is an app-based marketplace that helps restaurants and grocery stores reduce food waste by selling unsold food at a discount direct to consumers. You simply register your location with the iOS or Android app and can browse various food merchants and the food items/dishes they have put on sale. Once you find an item to your liking, you pay through the Karma app and pick
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Twitter puts Infowars’ Alex Jones in the ‘read-only’ sin bin for 7 days

Twitter has finally taken action against Infowars creator Alex Jones, but it isn’t what you might think. While Apple, Facebook, Google/YouTube, Spotify and many others have removed Jones and his conspiracy-peddling organization Infowars from their platforms, Twitter has remained unmoved with its claim that Jones hasn’t violated rules on its platform. That was helped in no small way by the mysterious removal of some tweets last week, but now Jones has been found to have violated Twitter’s rules, as CNET first noted. Twitter is punishing Jones for a tweet that violates its community standards but it isn’t locking him out forever. Instead, a spokesperson for the company confirmed that Jones’ account is in “read-only mode” for up to seven days. That means he will still be able to use the service and look up content via his account, but he’ll be unable to engage with it. That means no tweets,
😄
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Y Combinator is launching a startup program in China

U.S. accelerator Y Combinator is expanding to China after it announced the hiring of former Microsoft and Baidu executive Qi Lu who will develop a standalone startup program that runs on Chinese soil. Shanghai-born Lu spent 11 years with Yahoo and eight years with Microsoft before a short spell with Baidu, where he was COO and head of the firm’s AI research division. Now he becomes founding CEO of YC China while he’s also stepping into the role of Head of YC Research. YC will also expand its research team with an office in Seattle, where Lu has plenty of links. There’s no immediate timeframe for when YC will launch its China program, which represents its first global expansion, but YC President Sam Altman told TechCrunch in an interview that the program will be based in Beijing once it is up and running. Altman said Lu will use his network
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“Unhackable” BitFi crypto wallet has been hacked

The BitFi crypto wallet was supposed to be unhackable and none other than famous weirdo John McAfee claimed that the device – essentially an Android-based mini tablet – would withstand any attack. Spoiler alert: it couldn’t. First, a bit of background. The $120 device launched at the beginning of this month to much fanfare. It consisted of a device that McAfee claimed contained no software or storage and was instead a standalone wallet similar to the Trezor. The website featured a bold claim by McAfee himself, one that would give a normal security researcher pause: Further, the company offered a bug bounty that seems to be slowly being eroded by outside forces. They asked hackers to pull coins off of a specially prepared $10 wallet, a move that is uncommon in the world of bug bounties. They wrote:
We deposit coins into a Bitfi wallet
If you wish to participate
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Bird and Lime are protesting Santa Monica’s electric scooter recommendations

Lime and Bird are protesting recommendations in Santa Monica, Calif. that would prevent the electric scooter companies from operating in the Southern California city. We first saw the news over on Curbed LA, which reported both Lime and Bird are temporarily halting their services in Santa Monica. Last week, Santa Monica’s shared mobility device selection committee recommended the city move forward with Lyft and Uber-owned Jump as the two exclusive scooter operators in the city during the upcoming 16-month pilot program. The committee ranked Lyft and Jump highest due to their experience in the transportation space, staffing strategy, commitments to diversity and equity, fleet maintenance strategies and other elements. Similarly, the committee recommended both Lyft and Jump as bike-share providers in the city.

“The Lyft and Uber applications to operate e-scooter sharing programs in Santa Monica demonstrate the desperate lengths CO2 polluting companies will go to for the purpose of

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