Free societies face emerging, existential threats from technology

Silicon Valley is currently, and correctly, under fire for the failure of leading platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter to protect against the spread of disinformation, hate speech and efforts to disrupt our elections. I don’t know why these companies behaved as they did.

But whatever the reason – naiveté, excessive focus on near-term profits, or simply a lack of proper attention on mind-numbingly complex problems – it’s clear they have to do a better job of making sure technology makes our world safer, freer and more stable rather than the opposite. But it’s not just these big companies that need to up their game. As venture capitalists, we need to do more to find, fund and help a
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Uber is developing an on-demand staffing business

Uber is reportedly developing a short-term staffing business to offer 1099 independent contractors for events and corporate functions, the Financial Times first reported. Dubbed Uber Works, the service would provide waiters, security guards and other temporary staffers to business partners, a source close to Uber told TechCrunch.

Uber has been working on the project for several months in Chicago, after first trialing the project in Los Angeles. Uber already has a vast network of drivers — all of whom have become familiarized with the process of filing taxes as an independent contractor — who may be looking for additional work. However, Uber’s current pilot program does not include active Uber drivers. Uber Works falls under the purview of Rachel Holt, who stepped into the role of head of new modalities in June. Holt, who has been with Uber since 2011, is tasked with ramping up and onboarding new mobility services
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Embracing multimodality, Uber pioneers ride recommendations

For the first time, Uber will make contextual, personalized suggestions about the best way to get from point A to point B. The startup offers more than just cars now, and it’s starting to understand the tradeoffs between price, speed, convenience, and comfort amidst its multi-modal fleet. Most noticeably, you’ll now see JUMP bikes get premier billing right alongside Uber’s other vehicles. Going a short distance and there’s a charged up bike nearby? Uber will suggest you pedal. Might need extra room for luggage on your way to the airport? UberXL and SUV will appear. Always take cheap Pools? It won’t show you a pricier Black car.

Uber is finally getting smart. It has to if it’s going to make sense of its growing patchwork of ride types without overwhelming passengers with too many options. Uber’s algorithm can help them choose. “We think there’s a lot to be gained by
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Building a great startup requires more than genius and a great invention

Many entrepreneurs assume that an invention carries intrinsic value, but that assumption is a fallacy.

Here, the examples of the 19th and 20th century inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla are instructive. Even as aspiring entrepreneurs and inventors lionize Edison for his myriad inventions and business acumen, they conveniently fail to recognize Tesla, despite having far greater contributions to how we generate, move and harness power. Edison is the exception, with the legendary penniless Tesla as the norm.

Universities are the epicenter of pure innovation research. But the reality is that academic research is supported by tax dollars. The zero-sum game of attracting government funding is mastered by selling two concepts: Technical merit, and broader

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Report: Lyft picks JPMorgan to lead IPO in 2019

Lyft and Uber’s race to an IPO is heating up.

Lyft has selected JPMorgan Chase & Co. as the lead underwriter of its initial public offering along with Credit Suisse Group and Jefferies Group, the WSJ reported, citing “people familiar with the company’s plans.” Lyft declined to comment. Lyft is expected to file an IPO in the first half of 2019. Choosing an underwriter marks the next official step in the process. Meanwhile, Uber is making it’s own preparations. Uber, which has received proposals from banks that placed its value as much as $120 billion, is also considering an early 2019 listing. Some people familiar with the plan said Lyft’s valuation will exceed the $15.1 billion it was valued earlier this year. While Lyft’s value is still considerably lower than Uber’s, it’s on the upswing. Lyft said in June 2018 that it raised an additional $600 million in a
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Uber and Lyft are responsible for about half of SF’s rise in traffic since 2010, SFCTA says

Uber and Lyft are often times the ones to blame for the rise in traffic and congestion in cities. In San Francisco, the two ride-hailing services are undoubtedly partially to blame, but not entirely to blame, according to a new study from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. The gist is that while ride-hailing companies have contributed to the increase in traffic congestion in San Francisco, jobs and population growth also play a major role.

Between 2010 and 2016, according to the SFCTA, ride-hailing services accounted for:
  • 51 percent of the increase in daily vehicle hours of delay
  • 47 percent of the increase in vehicle miles traveled
  • 55 percent of the average speed decline
  • 25 percent of total vehicle congestion citywide
While ride-hailing services increase congestion throughout the entire city, there are concentrated effects in certain districts. Take District 6, which includes the tech company-heavy SOMA neighborhood, where ride-hailing services
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Saudi ally calls for Uber boycott over response to Khashoggi’s vanishing

Uber is facing calls for a boycott of its app in the Persian Gulf, a region that has poured billions of dollars of investment into the company’s ride-hailing business in recent years: Directly via Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and indirectly because the Saudis are major investors in Softbank’s Vision Fund vehicle, which is another big Uber investor.

The regional calls to boycott Uber were stoked yesterday by Saudi ally, Bahrain, whose foreign minister retweeted hashtags calling for a boycott of the company, according to reports by Bloomberg and Reuters. An Uber spokesperson declined to comment when reached for a response.

A few boycott calls circulating on Twitter urge app users to switch to Uber ride-hailing rival, Careem, though it’s unclear whether Uber alternatives are seeing any local uplift

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Bird hires Uber’s former head of finance and director of corporate development

Bird, the scooter-sharing startup founded by former Uber VP of International Growth Travis VanderZanden, has brought a couple of former Uber employees to the flock.

Joining Bird as VP and Head of Finance is Dennis Cinelli, who worked as Uber’s head of finance for global rides up until this month, according to his LinkedIn. Uber, of course, is not without a financial leader. In August, Uber’s lengthy search for a chief financial officer ended when the company hired Nelson Chai, the former CEO of insurance and warranty provider Warranty Group. Bird has also brought on Uber’s now-former director of corporate development Yibo Ling, who also worked at Uber up until this month, according to Ling’s LinkedIn.

“As Bird enters its second year, we’re continuing to expand our talented executive team to build on and scale our momentum,” Bird founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden said in a press release. “Dennis and Yibo

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Uber Freight’s app for truck drivers is getting an upgrade

Uber Freight, the newly spun out Uber business unit, will push out an upgraded app in the coming weeks with better, more intuitive tools to help truck drivers connect with shipping companies.

The redesigned and updated app comes just two months after Uber announced it would make Uber Freight a separate unit and more than double its investment into the business. “This is an industry that is just fraught with a lot of manual processes,” Adam Schwabe, senior product designer at Uber Freight told TechCrunch. “A lot of work that has to go into running the business is the overhead. The way we approached this is to design an app in a very user-centered way around the truck drivers.” That meant going to a lot of truck shows and getting the app into drivers’ hands, Schwabe added. The result is an upgraded app with new navigation features that make searching
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Origin launches protocol for building cheaper decentralized Ubers & Airbnbs

The sharing economy ends up sharing a ton of labor’s earnings with middlemen like Uber and Airbnb . $38 million-funded Origin wants the next great two-sided marketplace to be decentralized on the blockchain so drivers and riders or hosts and guests can connect directly and avoid paying steep fees that can range up to 20 percent or higher. So today Origin launches its decentralized marketplace protocol on the Ethererum mainnet that replaces a central business that connects users and vendors with a smart contract.

“Marketplaces don’t redistribute the profits they make to members. They accrue to founders and venture capitalists” Origin co-founder Matt Lie, who was the third product manager at YouTube. “Building these decentralized marketplaces, we want to make them peer-to-peer, not peer-to-corporate-monopoly-to-peer.” When people transact through Origin, it plans to issue them tokens that will let them participate in the governance of the protocol, and could incentivize them
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UK Uber drivers to stage 24 hour strike over pay and conditions

A UK union that represents the interests of Uber drivers has called a 24 hour strike for tomorrow. Ride-hailing giant Uber may not be comfortable thinking of the people who do the driving on its platform as workers but, in 2016, a UK employment tribunal ruled against its classification of a group of then current and former drivers as independent contractors after they brought a legal challenge; and again in 2017 when Uber lost its first appeal against the tribunal ruling. Though Uber’s appeal continues. Today one of the unions that campaigns on behalf of individuals providing labor on so-called ‘gig economy’ platforms, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), announced the strike action by Uber drivers. It said Uber drivers are demanding an end to unfair deactivations (described by the union as ‘de facto dismissals’); an increase in fares to £2 per mile (vs the current rate of
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The next big restaurant chain may not own any kitchens

If investors at some of the biggest technology companies are right, the next big restaurant chain could have no kitchens of its own. These venture capitalists think the same forces that have transformed transportation, media, retail and logistics will also work their way through prepared food businesses.

Investors are pouring millions into the creation of a network of shared kitchens, storage facilities, and pickup counters that established chains and new food entrepreneurs can access to cut down on overhead and quickly spin up new concepts in fast food and casual dining. Powering all of this is a food delivery market that could grow from $35 billion to a $365 billion industry by 2030, according to a report from UBS’s research group, the “Evidence Lab”. “We’ve had conversations with the biggest and fastest growing restaurant brands in the country and even some of the

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How the 22-year-old founders of Brex built a billion-dollar business in less than 2 years

When Brazilian-born Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi met at 16 years old, they bonded over a love of coding and mutual frustrations with their strict mothers, who didn’t understand their Mark Zuckerberg-esque ambitions.  To be fair, their moms’ fear of their hacking habits only escalated after their pre-teen sons received legal notices of patent infringements in the mail. A legal threat from Apple, which Franceschi received after discovering the first jailbreak to the iPhone, is enough to warrant a grounding, at the very least. Their parents implored them to quit the hacking and stop messing around online. They didn’t listen. Today, the now 22-year-olds are announcing a $125 million Series C for their second successful payments business, called Brex, at a $1.1 billion valuation. Greenoaks Capital, DST Global and IVP led the round, which brings their total raised to date to about $200 million. San Francisco-based Brex
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Deliverr raises $7M to help e-commerce businesses compete with Amazon Prime

When Amazon rolled out its membership-based two-day shipping service in 2005, e-commerce and customer expectations around fulfillment speed changed forever. Today, more than 100 million people use Amazon Prime. That means, 100 million people are fully accustomed to two-day shipping and if they can’t have it, they shop elsewhere. As The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims recently put it: “Alongside life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, you can now add another inalienable right: two-day shipping on practically everything.” Only recently have Amazon’s competitors begun to offer similar fast delivery options. About two years ago, Walmart launched its own free two-day delivery service for its owned-inventory; eBay followed suit, establishing a three-day or less delivery guaranteed option for shoppers in March 2017. To power these Prime-like delivery options, Walmart, eBay and the Canadian e-commerce business Shopify are relying on a little upstart. One-year-old Deliverr helps businesses offer rapid delivery experiences
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Uber will offer free rides to the polls on Election Day

Uber no longer wants the barrier to transportation to be a deciding factor between voting and not voting. On Election Day, Uber is going to make it easy for people to find their local polling places and then get them a ride there for free. On Nov. 6, 2018, Uber will offer U.S. riders the ability to quickly find their polling place and then book a free ride. Lyft is similarly offering half-priced and free rides to polling places on Election Day.

“Decisions get made by those who show up,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote in a blog post. “This Election Day, Uber will be doing what we can to make it easier for people to do just that.”

In the 2016 election, 35 percent of youth surveyed cited a lack of transportation as the reason why they didn’t vote.

Uber is also working with non-profit organizations to help get
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You can now use the Google Assistant to order an Uber or Lyft

If you ever wanted to use your Google Assistant to book a ride with Uber or Lyft, your wishes have been heard. Starting today, you’ll be able to use your voice to ask Google’s virtual assistant to book you a car from Uber, Lyft, Ola, Grab, GO-JEK and similar services. The new feature works with Google Assistant-enabled speakers and on phones. You can either request a car from a specific company or place a more generic request (“Hey Google, book a car to PDX”) and the assistant will return current pricing for all the supported ridesharing services in your area. To actually book the ride, Assistant will then hand you off to the ridesharing company’s mobile app. Still, it’s a useful feature if you want to quickly compare prices or are frantically running around the house, trying to pack your suitcase for your next trip and want to get a car quickly. Lilian
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Former Uber exec Andrew Chapin takes the wraps off his stealth mental health startup

One can only imagine what it was like to work at Uber in the years leading up to Susan Fowler’s infamous blog post. Many of the company’s leaders were said to be overly-competitive, sexist and inappropriate — “brilliant jerks,” as Arianna Huffington once said, — and its over-arching “move fast and break things” mentality hardly left room for employees to take a step back and reflect on how the company’s culture was impacting their mental health. Andrew Chapin joined Uber in 2011 as one of its first hires in New York. He worked his way up to head of vehicle solutions and established Uber’s vehicle finance program, which helps drivers obtain and pay off car leases. He says the struggles within the company gave him severe anxiety, something he was all too familiar with from his stint as a commodities trader at Goldman Sachs. “There were days when I was walking
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SoftBank and Toyota team up to develop services powered by self-driving vehicles

SoftBank is getting into self-driving car services after the Japanese tech giant announced a joint-venture with Toyota in its native Japan. SoftBank is invested in Uber and a range of other ride-hailing startups like Didi in China and Grab in Southeast Asia, but this initiative with Toyota is not related to those deals. Instead, it is designed to combine SoftBank’s focus on internet-of-things technology and Toyota’s connected vehicle services platform to enable new types of services that run on autonomous vehicle tech. Called MONET — after ‘mobility network’ — the joint venture will essentially assign autonomous vehicles to various different “just in time” services. That just in time caveat essentially means more than on-demand. SoftBank suggests it’ll mean that services are performed in transit. That could be food prepared as it is delivered, hospital shuttles that host medical examinations, or mobile offices, according to examples given by SoftBank. The plan
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Go-Jek is close to launching a ride-hailing service in Singapore

Indonesia’s ride-sharing startup Go-Jek plans to land in Singapore, its arch-rival Grab’s HQ, as soon as this month as its regional expansion program gains speed, TechCrunch has come to understand. Go-Jek has grown to become a $5 billion business that’s backed by the likes of Google and Tencent without venturing out of Indonesia, where it original motorbike taxi-hailing app has fanned out to cover cars, on-demand services, payments and more. But it decided to expand in Southeast Asia following Uber’s exit from the region in March, landing first in Vietnam and then Thailand, where it has recruited drivers and is close to commencing its service. Singapore — a far smaller market but one that’s hugely symbolic — is on its radar and Go-Jek plans to introduce a service in the country before the end of October, a source with knowledge of the plans told TechCrunch. Exactly what that’ll look like
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We’re kicking off Startup Battlefield MENA, here are the startups and agenda

We’re kicking off Startup Battlefield MENA here in Beirut, where 15 startups will be taking the stage, along with speakers from Facebook (our partner on the event through its FB Start program), Instabug, Eventus, Wuzzuf, Careem and Myki. For those of you who can’t be here in person, check back on TechCrunch later today, where we’ll be sharing videos and other highlights from the event. And of course, announcing the winner! For the first time, TechCrunch is holding Startup Battlefield MENA in partnership with FB Start. After scouring does dozens of countries, sifting through hundreds and hundreds of extremely talented startups, TechCrunch selected 15 elite companies across the region to compete in prestigious global Startup Battlefield competition for $25,000 equity-free prize, a trip for 2 to TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019 and the coveted title of “Middle East & North Africa’s Favorite Startup”. After weeks of intense coaching from the
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