Tiny Robobee X-Wing powers its flight with light


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We’ve seen Harvard’s Robobee flying robot evolve for years: After first learning to fly, it learned to swim in 2015, then to jump out of the water again in 2017 — and now it has another trick up its non-existent sleeve. The Robobee X-Wing can fly using only the power it collects from light hitting its solar cells, making it possible to stay in the air indefinitely.

Achieving flight at this scale is extremely hard. You might think that being small, it would be easy to take off and maintain flight, like an insect does. But self-powered flight actually gets much harder the smaller, which puts insects among the most bafflingly marvelous feats of engineering we have encountered in nature.

Oh, it’s easy enough to fly when you have a wire feeding you electricity to power a pair of tiny wings — and that’s how the Robobee and others flied

robobee chart

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Gender, race and social change in tech; Moira Weigel on the Internet of Women, Part Two


This post is by Arman Tabatabai from TechCrunch


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Tech ethics can mean a lot of different things, but surely one of the most critical, unavoidable, and yet somehow still controversial propositions in the emerging field of ethics in technology is that tech should promote gender equality. But does it? And to the extent it does not, what (and who) needs to change?

In this second of a two-part interview “On The Internet of Women,” Harvard fellow and Logic magazine founder and editor Moira Weigel and I discuss the future of capitalism and its relationship to sex and tech; the place of ambivalence in feminist ethics; and Moira’s personal experiences with #MeToo.

Greg E.: There’s a relationship between technology and feminism, and technology and sexism for that matter. Then there’s a relationship between all of those things and capitalism. One of the underlying themes in your essay “The Internet of Women,” that I thought made it such

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Part fund, part accelerator, Contrary Capital invests in student entrepreneurs


This post is by Kate Clark from TechCrunch


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First Round Capital has both the Dorm Room Fund and the Graduate Fund. General Catalyst has Rough Draft Ventures. And Prototype Capital and a few other micro-funds focus on investing in student founders, but overall, there’s a shortage of capital set aside for entrepreneurs still making their way through school.

Contrary Capital, a soon-to-be San Francisco-based operation led by Eric Tarczynski, is raising $35 million to invest between $50,000 and $200,000 in students and recent college dropouts. The firm, which operates a summer accelerator program for its portfolio companies, closed on $2.2 million for its debut, proof-of-concept fund in 2018.

“We really care about the founders building a great company who don’t have the proverbial rich uncle,” Tarczynski, a former founder and startup employee, told TechCrunch. “We thought, ‘What if there was a fund that could democratize access to both world-class capital and mentorship, and really increase the

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How to think about inclusion in tech, with Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (Part 2)


This post is by Arman Tabatabai from TechCrunch


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Technology is very much in the business of, quite literally, changing the world. When I was deciding whether to write for TechCrunch, I tried to imagine a human life on this planet, in 20 or 30 years, that would not have been dramatically impacted in one way or another by the new technologies we’re creating today.

I couldn’t picture such a person, so I decided this ongoing series on tech ethics was the right thing to do with my time.

Below is the second part of my interview with Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a brilliant young author, activist, and the first Black woman in history to hold a faculty position in theoretical cosmology.

Her work critically analyzing the politics of the science world seems particularly salient to the tech world generally and to the world of tech ethics in particular: for example, Stanford recently launched an enormous new initiative in ethical

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Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, calls for Facebook to be broken up


This post is by Natasha Lomas from TechCrunch


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The latest call to break up Facebook looks to be the most uncomfortably close to home yet for supreme leader, Mark Zuckerberg.

“Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American,” writes Chris Hughes, in an explosive op-ed published in the New York Times. “It is time to break up Facebook.”

It’s a long read but worth indulging for a well articulated argument against the market-denting power of monopolies, shot through with a smattering of personal anecdotes about Hughes’ experience of Zuckerberg — who he at one point almost paints as ‘only human’, before shoulder-dropping into a straight thumbs-down that “it’s his very humanity that makes his unchecked power so problematic.”

The tl;dr of Hughes’ argument against Facebook/Zuckerberg being allowed to continue its/his reign of the Internet knits together different strands of the techlash zeitgeist, linking Zuckerberg’s absolute influence over Facebook — and therefore over the unprecedented billions of people he

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Decolonization and intersectionality in tech, with Chanda Prescod-Weinstein


This post is by Arman Tabatabai from TechCrunch


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Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy and a Core Faculty Member in Women’s Studies at the University of New Hampshire. She is the lead “axion wrangler” and a social media team member for the NASA STROBE-X Probe Concept Study.

The first Black woman in history to hold a faculty position in theoretical cosmology, Prescod-Weinstein  is also a Twitter activist who frequently goes viral, a prolific writer and editor in multiple genres and disciplines, and the author of a soon to come column in the New Scientist, and a 2021 book, The Disordered Cosmos: from Dark Matter to Black Lives Matter.

A millennial, she is at the vanguard of a new cohort of brilliant, young, tech-savvy academics who are conducting important research in science and technology while also gracefully shouldering the responsibility of helping transform the way many of us think about what it means to be a

Chanda Prescod Weinstein

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WTF are ISAs? (and can they transform education and spark a startup wave?)


This post is by Eric Peckham from TechCrunch


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Soaring college tuition prices have left Americans drowning in debt without a correspondingly enhanced set of professional skills to show for it. In the past 11 years, US student debt has increased by 157% and 1 in 10 borrowers are over 90 days delinquent.

Universities are incentivized to be unaffordable and don’t have a direct financial interest in the outcomes of their students. The average budget for career services at colleges is $90,000 including salaries, with only one career counselor for every 2,900 students on average.

Income share agreements (ISAs) have been developed as a financing model that could reshape the way education programs operate by aligning interests while expanding access to those programs and limiting payments only to what graduates can afford.

Lambda School may be the most notable startup advancing this model, having closed a $30 million Series B in January. But ISAs are neither simple to implement

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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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Taali takes its popped water lily snacks from Y Combinator to the world


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Aditya and Aarti Kochhar Kaji didn’t set out to start the snack food business Taali Foods when they were studying for their business degrees at Harvard.

The couple both hail from Mumbai and met at the University of Pennsylvania . They were married before starting at Harvard’s Business School and initially were interested in other areas — Aarti was exploring a career in venture capital and Aditya was looking at the food and beverage industry broadly in his classes at Harvard.

Addicted to snack foods like chips and popcorn to fuel her Harvard study sessions, Aarti started making popped water lily seeds as a snack — a food both she and her husband had grown up eating in India, she said.

The seeds, which are high in anti-oxidants and low in fat, have been a staple of Ayurvedic medicine — thanks to their purported anti-inflammatory properties, and are a staple of

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How students are founding, funding and joining startups


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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There has never been a better time to start, join, or fund a startup as a student. 

Young founders who want to start companies while still in school have an increasing number of resources to tap into that exist just for them. Students that want to learn how to build companies can apply to an increasing number of fast-track programs that allow them to gain valuable early stage operating experience. The energy around student entrepreneurship today is incredible. I’ve been immersed in this community as an investor and adviser for some time now, and to say the least, I’m continually blown away by what the next generation of innovators are dreaming up (from Analytical Space’s global data relay service for satellites to Brooklinen’s reinvention of the luxury bed).

Starting with data centers, Carbon Relay is slashing energy costs and emissions using AI


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn International is backing Carbon Relay, a Boston-based startup emerging from stealth today, that’s harnessing the algorithms used by companies like Facebook and Google for artificial intelligence to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the technology industry’s own backyard — the datacenter.

Already, the computing demands of the technology industry are responsible for 3% of total energy consumption — and the addition of new technologies like Bitcoin to the mix could add another half a percent to that figure within the next few years, according to Carbon Relay’s chief executive, Matt Provo.

That’s $25 billion in spending on energy per year across the industry, Provo says.

A former Apple employee, Provo went to Harvard Business School because he knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur and start his own business — and he wanted that business to solve a meaningful problem, he said.

Variability and dynamic nature of

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Verbit raises $23M for its transcription service


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Verbit, a transcription startup with offices in Tel Aviv and New York, today announced that it has raised a $23 million Series A round led by Viola Ventures. Vertex Ventures, HV Ventures, Oryzn Capital, Vintage Venture Partners and ClalTech also participated in this round. The company, which currently focuses on the legal and academic sector, uses both its custom machine learning models and freelancers to offer an accuracy guarantee of over 99 percent. In total, the company has now raised $34 million.

Tom Livne, Verbit’s CEO and co-founder, told me that he used to be a lawyer and saw how the quality and turnaround time of traditional transcription services could be improved with the help of machine learning. While this is a huge but very fragmented market, Livne argues that there hasn’t been a lot of innovation here. “There is no innovation and technology in this market,” he said. “So

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Alumni Ventures Group is the most active venture fund you’ve never heard of


This post is by Kate Clark from TechCrunch


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Alumni Ventures Group’s (AVG) limited partners aren’t endowment or pension funds. Its typical LP is a heart surgeon in Des Moines, Iowa.

The firm has both an unorthodox model of fundraising and dealmaking. Across 25 micro funds, AVG is raising and investing upwards of $200 million per year for and in tech startups.

Tucked away in Boston, far from the limelight of Silicon Valley, few seem to be paying attention to AVG. There are a few reasons why, and those seem to be working to the firm’s advantage.

Today, AVG is announcing a close of roughly $30 million for three additional funds: Green D Ventures, Chestnut Street Ventures and Purple Arch Ventures, which represent capital committed by Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern alums, respectively.

“People don’t really know what to make of us”

AVG walks and talks like a venture fund, but a peek under the hood

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uBiome is jumping into therapeutics with a healthy $83 million in Series C financing


This post is by Sarah Buhr from TechCrunch


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23andMe, IBM and now uBiome is the next tech company to jump into the lucrative multi-billion dollar drug discovery market.

The company started out with a consumer gut health test to check whether your intestines carry the right kind of bacteria for healthy digestion but has since expanded to include over 250,000 samples for everything from the microbes on your skin to vaginal health — the largest data set in the world for these types of samples, according to the company.

Founder Jessica Richman now says there’s a wider opportunity to use this data to create value in therapeutics.

To support its new drug discovery efforts, the San Francisco-based startup will be moving its therapeutics unit into new Cambridge, Massachusetts headquarters and appointing former Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez to the board of directors as well.

The company has a healthy pile of cash to help build out that new

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Inside the pay-for-post ICO industry


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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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Payday startups are increasing access to wages, but is “make any day payday” the right choice?


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Imagine you get a monthly paycheck on the 15th of the month but your bills come in on the 1st of the month.  Between the 15th and 1st you must set a portion of your check aside to pay bills.  This becomes a complicated budgeting equation. How much can I spend today vs how much do I need to set

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From humble beginnings, 645 Ventures founders find validation in new $40 million fund


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Nnamdi Okike, a first generation American whose parents immigrated from Nigeria, and Aaron Holiday, whose mother worked in the collections department of Sears and whose father was a substance abuse counselor in New Orleans, are not typical venture investors. And their firm, 645 Ventures, which just closed on $40.6 million for its second fund, is certainly not a typical venture fund.

Both men are firm believers in the power of data to help make better investment decisions, and both men are using that belief as the core tenet of their rapidly growing venture capital fund.

Holiday and Okike are using their backgrounds as technology driven analysts at Goldman Sachs and Insight Venture Partners (respectively) to build a new model for early stage investing. The two men believe they can have a greater geographical breadth and reach companies at earlier stages of their development by leveraging tools that automate

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The alumni of these universities raised the most VC in the past year


This post is by Joanna Glasner from TechCrunch


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Whatever criteria we look at, whether it’s schools with the highest number of well-capitalized founders, highest funding totals or even where startup investors went to college, the same names top the list. The only surprise factor, it seems, is whether Harvard or Stanford will be in first place.

It’s possible we’ll do a data-driven university- and startup-related ranking that doesn’t feature the same two schools in the top two positions. But that’s not happening today, as we look at universities with founder alumni who have raised the most venture funding.1

OK, so who else is on the list?

Luckily, there are more than two names on the list. In this survey, we looked at the top 15 schools ranked by alumni who

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The top 10 startups from Y Combinator’s Demo Day S’18 Day 2


This post is by Anna Escher from TechCrunch


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59 startups took the stage at Y Combinator’s Demo Day 2  and among the highlights were a company that helps developers manage in-app subscriptions; a service that lets you create animojis from real photos; and a surplus medical equipment reselling platform. Oh… and there was also a company that’s developed an entirely new kind of life form using e coli bacteria. So yeah, that’s happening.

Based on some investor buzz and what caught TechCrunch’s eye, these are our picks from the second day of Y Combinator’s presentations.

You can find the full list of companies that presented on Day 1 here, and our top picks from Day 1 here. 

64-x

With a founding team including some of the leading luminaries in the field of biologically inspired engineering (including George Church, Pamela Silver, and Jeffrey Way from Harvard’s Wyss Institute) 64-x is engineering organisms to function in otherwise inaccessible

RevenueCat founders

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