Higher Ground Labs is betting tech can help sway the 2020 elections for Democrats


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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When Shomik Dutta and Betsy Hoover first met in 2007, he was coordinating fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign and she was a deputy field director for the campaign.

Over the next two election cycles the two would become parts of an organizing and fundraising team that transformed the business of politics through its use of technology — supposedly laying the groundwork for years of Democratic dominance in organizing, fundraising, polling and grassroots advocacy.

Then came Donald J. Trump and the 2016 election.

For both Dutta and Hoover the 2016 outcome was a wake up call against complacency. What had worked for the Democratic party in 2008 and 2012 wasn’t going to be effective in future election cycles, so they created the investment firm Higher Ground Labs to provide financing and a launching pad for new companies serving Democratic campaigns and progressive organizations.

With a portfolio including Acorns, Sweetgreen and Ro Health, Torch Capital raises $60M for its first fund


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Jonathan Keidan, the founder of Torch Capital, had already built a portfolio that included Acorns, Compass, Digital Ocean and Sweetgreen, before he raised single dollar for his inaugural venture capital fund, which just closed with $60 million.

Keidan, a consummate networker who began his professional career as a manager working with acts like The Nappy Roots, The Getaway People and a young John Legend, just managed to be in the right place at the right time, he says (thanks, in part, to his gift for gab).

The final close for Torch Capital’s first fund is just the beginning for Torch, which is angling to be one of the premiere firms for early stage consumer internet and consumer facing enterprise software.

The firm began raising its first fund in October 2017 and held a $40 million first close just about one year ago. Keidan and his partners had targeted $50

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Still in stealth mode, Duffel raises $21.5m in Series A from Benchmark for its travel platform


This post is by Mike Butcher from TechCrunch


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Ten months ago London startup Duffel hinted that it would be “a new way to book travel online, aiming at the booking experience ‘end to end’”, and announced a healthy $4.7M funding round, but not much else.

Today it goes further, announcing a $21.5m in Series A funding from US VC giant Benchmark, which also backed Snap, Twitter and Uber. Benchmark is joined by Blossom Capital and Index Ventures, who participated in Duffel’s $4.7m seed round last year.

With this news, we at least get a little more detail. It will be a B2B offering, allowing individual travel agents to large online travel management companies and tour operators to offer a “seamless travel experience” to their end customers, making the booking experience simpler, faster and cheaper.

Is this a new Sabre? Steve Domin, co-founder and CEO of Duffel, hints that it might be along those lines: “The

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Thousands of medical injury claim records exposed by ad agency


This post is by Zack Whittaker from TechCrunch


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An internet advertising company specializing in helping law firms sign up potential clients has exposed close to 150,000 records from a database that was left unsecured.

The database contained submissions as part of a lead-generation effort by X Social Media, a Florida-based ad firm that largely uses Facebook to advertise various campaigns for its law firm customers. Law firms pay the ad company to set up individual websites that aim to sign up victims from specific categories of harm and injuries — from medical implants, malpractice, sexual abuse and more — who submit their information in the hope of receiving legal relief.

But the database was left unprotected and without a password, allowing anyone to look inside.

Security researchers Noam Rotem and Ran Locar found the database and reported it to the company, which pulled the database offline. The researchers also shared their discovery exclusively with TechCrunch and posted their

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WikiLeaks’ Assange charged under the Espionage Act in a ‘major test case’ for press freedom


This post is by Zack Whittaker from TechCrunch


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Julian Assange, founder of whistleblowing site WikiLeaks, has been charged with over a dozen additional charges by U.S. federal prosecutors, including under the controversial Espionage Act — a case that will likely test the rights of freedom of speech and expression under the First Amendment.

Assange, 47, was arrested at the Ecuadorean embassy in London in April after the U.S. government charged him with conspiracy to hack a government computer used by then army officer Chelsea Manning to leak classified information about the Iraq War. Ecuador withdrew his asylum request seven years after he first entered the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face unrelated allegations of rape and sexual assault. Assange was later jailed in the U.K. for a year for breaking bail while he was in the embassy.

According to the newly unsealed indictment, Assange faces 17 new charges — including

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Meet ‘The Prepared,’ the media company pitching disaster preparedness for everyone


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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A little over two years ago, The New Yorker ran a story about the survivalism craze sweeping Silicon Valley. The moneyed elite behind the tools of convenience that make modern life were, it turned out, making detailed contingency plans for the collapse of the civilization they’d help architect.

Now, there’s a media company for that.

The Prepared, a new site launched a little over a year ago by three men — two who have their own ties to the tech world — is aiming to make the world of survivalism more approachable to a wide audience.

Taking away the stigma or stereotype of lone wolves hoarding caches of weapons and food and waiting for the zombie apocalypse, The Prepared bills itself as a sort of scouting class for adults — if the Scouts BSA and Girl Scouts posed the question, “Should You Worry About EMPs?

As John

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UK plans new law aimed at improving Internet of Things security


This post is by Zack Whittaker from TechCrunch


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The U.K. government is proposing new legislation aimed at improving security of Internet of Things devices.

Digital minister Margot James MP revealed the draft law on Wednesday as part of the government’s efforts to protect millions of internet-connected devices from cyberattacks.

The law will mandate that internet-connected devices, like smart thermostats, appliances and webcams, must be sold with a unique password.

Botnets typically rely on default passwords that are hardcoded into devices when they’re built that aren’t later changed by the user. By selling a device with a unique password, it significantly slows down cybercriminals from scanning the internet and automatically logging into devices with a default password, often to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks.

On a massive scale, botnets operating thousands of hijacked Internet of Things devices entire websites offline. Two years ago, the Mirai botnet briefly downed Dyn, a networking company that provides domain name service to

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Some reassuring data for those worried unicorns are wrecking the Bay Area


This post is by Joanna Glasner from TechCrunch


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The San Francisco Bay Area is a global powerhouse at launching startups that go on to dominate their industries. For locals, this has long been a blessing and a curse.

On the bright side, the tech startup machine produces well-paid tech jobs and dollars flowing into local economies. On the flip side, it also exacerbates housing scarcity and sky-high living costs.

These issues were top-of-mind long before the unicorn boom: After all, tech giants from Intel to Google to Facebook have been scaling up in Northern California for over four decades. Lately however, the question of how many tech giants the region can sustainably support is getting fresh

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FT parent Nikkei confirms it has acquired new media startup Deal Street Asia


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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It’s official: Nikkei, the Japanese media firm that owns the FT, has confirmed that it has acquired Singapore-based new media startup Deal Street Asia. (The Nikkei announcement is buried behind a paywall — make of that what you will!)

The deal is undisclosed, but the announcement does confirm a TechCrunch report from last month which broke news of the impending acquisition.

Deal Street Asia covers a mix of news from Asia’s financial markets, business verticals and startups… which I guess makes it a competitor to us here at TechCrunch. Like TechCrunch, it also runs an events business — its main show in Singapore in September costs upwards of $1,000 and features senior executives from the likes of DBS, Grab, Sea, GGV, Allianz and IFC.

Initially, we reported that the deal valued Deal Street Asia at around the $5 million mark, but we now understand that the valuation is between

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After its first attempt botched the landing, SpaceIL commits to second Beresheet lunar mission


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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The minds behind Israel’s SpaceIL attempted lunar landing convened today to begin planning for a second lunar mission.

In an announcement yesterday, the chairman of SpaceIL, Morris Kahn, said that the leaders of the group behind the Beresheet launch would begin meeting to find a new group of donors for another run at a lunar landing.

On Thursday the first Israeli mission to the moon ended in failure when the organization’s spacecraft Beresheet (which means Genesis in Hebrew) crashed on the lunar surface.

“This is part of my message to the younger generation: Even if you do not succeed, you get up again and try,” Kahn said in a statement.

At a cost of $200 million the Beresheet mission would

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Startups Weekly: Lessons from a failed founder


This post is by Kate Clark from TechCrunch


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I sat down with Menlo Ventures partner Shawn Carolan this week to talk about his early investment in Uber. Menlo, if you remember, led Uber’s Series B and has made a hefty sum over the year selling shares in the ride-hailing company. I’ll have more on that later; for now, I want to share some of the insights Carolan had on his experience ditching venture capital to become a founder.

Around when Menlo made its first investment in Uber, Carolan began taking a step back from the firm and building Handle, a startup that built tools to help people be more productive. Despite years of hard work, Handle was ultimately a failure. Carolan said he shed a lot of tears over its demise, but used the experience to connect more intimately with founders and to offer them more candid, authentic advice.

“People in the valley are always achievement-oriented; it’s always

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No one, not even the Secret Service, should randomly plug in a strange USB stick


This post is by Zack Whittaker from TechCrunch


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If you’ve been on Twitter today, you’ve probably seen one story making the rounds.

The case follows a Chinese national, Yujing Zhang, who is accused of trying to sneak into President Trump’s private Florida resort Mar-a-Largo last month. She was caught by the Secret Service with four cellphones, a laptop, cash, an external hard drive, a signals detector to spot hidden cameras, and a thumb drive.

The arrest sparked new concerns about the president’s security amid concerns that foreign governments have tried to infiltrate the resort.

Allegations aside and notwithstanding, what sent alarm bells ringing was how the Secret Service handled the USB drive, which cannot be understated — it was not good.

From the Miami Herald:

Secret Service agent Samuel Ivanovich, who interviewed Zhang on the

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Focaldata thinks it has some answers for campaigners in the age of Trump and Brexit


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Political parties, campaigns, and brands can’t get an accurate and cost-effective understanding of opinion in small geographic areas, like the constituencies of lawmakers. This is a big problem in political campaigning. And all political campaigning now has a huge online element, as we know. We also know political turbulence is one of the defining themes of our age.

But one thing is clear. All the players want faster, cheaper, more accurate and a more granular understanding of consumers and voters. In the age of AI, survey predictions are influenced as much as so many other machine-learning technology products.

Focaldata is a UK-startup that thinks it has some of the answers to these quandaries. Their integrated consumer analytics and survey workflow application claims to give customers a more accurate and granular picture of consumers than traditional polling using machine learning. At the same time, they say their workflow software cuts down

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This YC-backed startup preps Chinese students for US data jobs


This post is by Rita Liao from TechCrunch


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In recent years, data analysts have gone from optional to a career that holds great promise, but demand for quantitative skills applied in business decisions has raced ahead of supply as college curriculum often lags behind the fast-changing workplace.

CareerTu, a New York-based startup launched by a former marketing manager at Amazon, aims to close that talent gap. Think of it as Codecademy for digital marketing, data analytics, product design and a whole lot of other jobs that ask one to spot patterns from a sea of data that can potentially boost business efficiency. The six-year-old profitable business runs a flourishing community of 160,000 users and 500 recruiting patners including Amazon, Google and Alibaba, an achievement that has secured the startup a spot at Y Combinator’s latest batch plus a $150,000 check from the Mountain View-based accelerator.

In a way, CareerTu is helping fledgling tech startups on a tight

CareerTu
careertu

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XGenomes is bringing DNA sequencing to the masses


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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As healthcare moves toward genetically tailored treatments, one of the biggest hurdles to truly personalized medicine is the lack of fast, low-cost genetic testing.

And few people are more familiar with the problems of today’s genetic diagnostics tools than Kalim Mir, the 52-year-old founder of XGenomes, who has spent his entire professional career studying the human genome.

Ultimately genomics is going to be the foundation for healthcare,” says Mir. “For that we need to move toward a sequencing of populations.” And population-scale gene sequencing is something that current techniques are unable to achieve. 

“If we’re talking about population scale sequencing with millions of people we just don’t have the throughput,” Mir says.

That’s why he started XGenomes, which is presenting as part of the latest batch of Y Combinator companies next week.

A visiting scientist in Harvard Medical School’s Department of Genetics, Mir worked with the

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Car alarms with security flaws put 3 million vehicles at risk of hijack


This post is by Zack Whittaker from TechCrunch


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Two popular car alarm systems have fixed security vulnerabilities that allowed researchers to remotely track, hijack and take control of vehicles with the alarms installed.

The systems, built by Russian alarm maker Pandora and California-based Viper — or Clifford in the U.K., were vulnerable to an easily manipulated server-side API, according to researchers at Pen Test Partners, a U.K. cybersecurity company. In their findings, the API could be abused to take control of an alarm system’s user account — and their vehicle.

It’s because the vulnerable alarm systems could be tricked into resetting an account password because the API was failing to check if it was an authorized request, allowing the researchers to log in.

Although the researchers bought alarms to test, they said “anyone” could create a user account to access any genuine account or extract all the companies’ user data.

The researchers said some three

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500 Startups Japan becomes Coral Capital with a new $45M fund


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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The 500 Startups Japan crew is going independent. The VC firm announced a $30 million fund in 2015, and now the follow up is a new $45 million fund called Coral Capital.

Helmed by James Riney and Yohei Sawayama, just like 500 Startups Japan, Coral will essentially continue the work the U.S. firm made in Japan, where it made more than 40 investments including Kakehashi, satellite startup Infostellar, SmartHR and Pocket Concierge, which was acquired by American Express.

“Coral provides a foundational role within the marine ecosystem, it’s symbolic about how we want to be in the Japanese startup ecosystem,” Riney told TechCrunch in an interview.

LPs in the fund include 500 Startups backers Mizuho Bank, Mitsubishi Estate, and Taizo Son — the brother of SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son and founder of Mistletoe — and Shinsei Bank as well as other undisclosed institutional investors, who Riney

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As threats proliferate, so do new tools for protecting medical devices and hospitals


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Six months after an episode of “Homeland” showed hackers exploiting security vulnerabilities in the (fictional) Vice President’s pacemaker, Mike Kijewski, the founder of a new startup security company called Medcrypt, was approached by his (then) employers at Varian Medical Systems with a unique problem. 

“A hospital came to the company and said we are treating a patient and a nation-state may attempt to assassinate the patient that we’re treating by using a cybersecurity vulnerability in a medical device to do it,” Kijewski recalled.

At the time, there were no universal solutions to those types of security threats — so companies were left to cobble together one-off solutions for their devices, which is what Kijewski’s former employer likely attempted to do.

Ever since, Kijewski became obsessed with the security holes that exist in the foundation of the healthcare industry’s practice — the devices used to diagnose and treat patients.

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Contabilizei raises $20 million to ease Brazilians’ tax pain


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Online tax filing and accounting service, Contabilizei, has raised $20 million in a new round of financing led by Point72 Ventures, the early stage investment arm associated with hedge fund guru Steven Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management.

Smart money in both the venture and private equity space has been long Brazil for a bit, and the new investment provides even more firepower to the thesis that Brazil’s startup ecosystem is on the move.

“For the Brazilian ecosystem, the investment represents the trust and the opportunity that we have here in the Brazilian market. For quite some time it was difficult to attract this kind of investment from abroad,” says Contabilizei chief executive Vitor Torres. Even though we had a recession there are technology companies that are growing,” Torres says, saying that the company has already staved off acquisition offers and will eventually eye a potential public offering in U.S. or

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Nexon founder hints at plan to sell his $9B majority share in gaming giant


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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The founder of Korea’s Nexon, one of the biggest gaming companies on the planet, today appeared to acknowledge his intention to sell his controlling interest for around $9 billion.

The divestment has been a hot rumor after a report from newspaper Korea Economic Daily this week [via Reuters] suggested that Jung-Ju Kim, who founded Nexon back in 1989, is moving to sell nearly all of his holdings in the firm, which is listed on the Tokyo stock exchange. Kim, the paper claimed, is tired of the ups and downs of the industry and, fresh from overturning a bribery charge last year, is ready to channel his energies into new areas.

In a statement released today, Kim said he is “contemplating various ways to back up Nexon in becoming a more globally competitive firm” while also assessing “new challenges, without growing complacent.” More information will be announced soon, Kim added.

Nexon provided

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