FTC says health apps must notify consumers about data breaches — or face fines

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned apps and devices that collect personal health information must notify consumers if their data is breached or shared with third parties without their permission.

In a 3-2 vote on Wednesday, the FTC agreed on a new policy statement to clarify a decade-old 2009 Health Breach Notification Rule, which requires companies handling health records to notify consumers if their data is accessed without permission, such as the result of a breach. This has now been extended to apply to health apps and devices — specifically calling out apps that track fertility data, fitness, and blood glucose — which “too often fail to invest in adequate privacy and data security,” according to FTC chair Lina Khan.

“Digital apps are routinely caught playing fast and loose with user data, leaving users’ sensitive health information susceptible to hacks and breaches,” said Khan in a statement, pointing to a study published this year in the British Medical Journal that found health apps suffer from “serious problems” ranging from the insecure transmission of user data to the unauthorized sharing of data with advertisers.

There have also been a number of recent high-profile breaches involving health apps in recent years. Babylon Health, a U.K. AI chatbot and telehealth startup, last year suffered a data breach after a “software error” allowed users to access other patients’ video consultations, while period tracking app Flo was recently found to be sharing users’ health data with third-party analytics and marketing services.

Under the new rule, any company offering health apps or connected fitness devices that collect personal health data must notify consumers if their data has been compromised. However, the rule doesn’t define a “data breach” as just a cybersecurity intrusion; unauthorized access to personal data, including the sharing of information without an individual’s permission, can also trigger notification obligations.

“While this rule imposes some measure of accountability on tech firms that abuse our personal information, a more fundamental problem is the commodification of sensitive health information, where companies can use this data to feed behavioral ads or power user analytics,” Khan said.

If companies don’t comply with the rule, the FTC said it will “vigorously” enforce fines of $43,792 per violation per day.

The FTC has been cracking down on privacy violations in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the agency unanimously voted to ban spyware maker SpyFone and its chief executive Scott Zuckerman from the surveillance industry for harvesting mobile data on thousands of people and leaving it on the open internet.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #babylon-health, #chair, #data-breach, #digital-rights, #flo, #government, #identity-management, #lina-khan, #open-internet, #security, #security-breaches, #social-issues, #spyfone, #terms-of-service

As UK Gov reaches out to tech, investors threaten to ‘pull capital’ over M&A regulator over-reach

UK competition regulators are spooking tech investors in the country with an implied threat to clamp down on startup M&A, according to a new survey of the industry.

As the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer engaged with the tech industry at a ‘Chatham House’ style event today, the Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec) think-tank released a survey of over 50 key investors which found startup investors are prepared to pull capital over the prospect of the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) new Digital Markets Unit (DMU) becoming a “whole-economy regulator by accident”. Investors are concerned after the CMA recommended the DMU be given ‘expanded powers’ regarding its investigations of M&A deals.

Controversy has been stirring up around the DMU, as the prospect of it blocking tech startup acquisitions – especially by US firms, sometimes on the grounds of national security – has gradually risen.

In the Coadec survey, half of investors said they would significantly reduce the amount they invested in UK startups if the ability to exit was restricted, and a further 22.5% said they would stop investing in UK startups completely under a stricter regulatory environment.

Furthermore, 60% of investors surveyed said they felt UK regulators only had a “basic understanding” of the startup market, and 22.2% felt regulators didn’t understand the tech startup market at all.

Coadec said its conservative estimates showed that the UK Government’s DMU proposals could create a £2.2bn drop in venture capital going into the UK, potentially reducing UK economic growth by £770m.

Commenting on the report, Dom Hallas, Executive Director of Coadec, said: “Startups thrive in competitive markets. But nurturing an ecosystem means knowing where to intervene and when not to. The data shows that not only is there a risk that the current proposals could miss some bad behavior in some areas like B2B markets whilst creating unnecessary barriers in others like M&A. Just as crucially, there’s frankly not a lot of faith in the regulators proposing them either.”

The survey results emerged just as Chancellor Rishi Sunak convened the “Treasury Connect” conference in London today which brought together some of the CEOs of the UK’s biggest tech firms and VCs in a ‘listening process’ designed to reach out to the industry.

However, at a press conference after the event, Sunak pushed back on the survey results, citing research by Professor Jason Furman, Chair, of the Digital Competition Expert Panel, which has found that “not a single acquisition” had been blocked by the DMU, and there are “no false positives” in decision making to date. Sunak said the “system looks at this in order to get the balance right.”

In addition, a statement from the Treasury, out today, said more than one-fifth of people in the UK’s biggest cities are now employed in the tech sector, which also saw £11.2 billion invested last year, setting a new investment record, it claimed.

Sunak also said the Future Fund, which backed UK-based tech firms with convertible loans during the pandemic, handed UK taxpayers with stakes in more than 150 high-growth firms.

These include Vaccitech PLC, which co-invented the COVID-19 vaccine with the University of Oxford and is better known as the AstraZeneca vaccine which went to 170 countries worldwide. The Future fund also invested in Century Tech, an EdTEch startup that uses AI to personalize learning for children.

The UK government’s £375 million ‘Future Fund: Breakthrough’ initiative continued from July this year, aiming at high-growth, R&D-intensive companies.

Coadec’s survey also found 70% of investors felt UK regulators “only thought about large incumbent firms” when designing competition rules, rather than startups or future innovation.

However, the survey found London was still rated as highly as California as an attractive destination for startups and investors.

#artificial-intelligence, #astrazeneca, #california, #chair, #coalition-for-a-digital-economy, #competition-and-markets-authority, #corporate-finance, #digital-markets-unit, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #jason-furman, #london, #money, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #uk-government, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #venture-capital

Biden nominates another Big Tech enemy, this time to lead the DOJ’s antitrust division

The Biden administration tripled down on its commitment to reining in powerful tech companies Tuesday, proposing committed Big Tech critic Jonathan Kanter to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

Kanter is a lawyer with a long track record of representing smaller companies like Yelp in antitrust cases against Google. He currently practices law at his own firm, which specializes in advocacy for state and federal antitrust enforcement.

“Throughout his career, Kanter has also been a leading advocate and expert in the effort to promote strong and meaningful antitrust enforcement and competition policy,” the White House press release stated. Progressives celebrated the nomination as a win, though some of Biden’s new antitrust hawks have enjoyed support from both political parties.

The Justice Department already has a major antitrust suit against Google in the works. The lawsuit, filed by Trump’s own Justice Department, accuses the company of “unlawfully maintaining monopolies” through anti-competitive practices in its search and search advertising businesses. If successfully confirmed, Kanter would be positioned to steer the DOJ’s big case against Google.

In a 2016 NYT op-ed, Kanter argued that Google is notorious for relying on an anti-competitive “playbook” to maintain its market dominance. Kanter pointed to Google’s long history of releasing free ad-supported products and eventually restricting competition through “discriminatory and exclusionary practices” in a given corner of the market.

Kanter is just the latest high profile Big Tech critic that’s been elevated to a major regulatory role under Biden. Last month, Biden named fierce Amazon critic Lina Khan as FTC chair upon her confirmation to the agency. In March, Biden named another noted Big Tech critic, Columbia law professor Tim Wu, to the National Economic Council as a special assistant for tech and competition policy.

All signs point to the Biden White House gearing up for a major federal fight with Big Tech. Congress is working on a set of Big Tech bills, but in lieu of — or in tandem with — legislative reform, the White House can flex its own regulatory muscle through the FTC and DOJ.

In new comments to MSNBC, the White House confirmed that it is also “reviewing” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a potent snippet of law that protects platforms from liability for user-generated content.

#amazon, #biden, #biden-administration, #big-tech, #chair, #columbia, #competition-law, #congress, #department-of-justice, #doj, #federal-trade-commission, #google, #government, #joe-biden, #lawyer, #lina-khan, #msnbc, #section-230, #tc, #tim-wu, #white-house, #yelp

GSA blocks senator from reviewing documents used to approve Zoom for government use

The General Services Administration has denied a senator’s request to review documents Zoom submitted to have its software approved for use in the federal government.

The denial was in response to a letter sent by Democratic senator Ron Wyden to the GSA in May, expressing concern that the agency cleared Zoom for use by federal agencies just weeks before a major security vulnerability was discovered in the app.

Wyden said the discovery of the bug raises “serious questions about the quality of FedRAMP’s audits.”

Zoom was approved to operate in government in April 2019 after receiving its FedRAMP authorization, a program operated by the GSA that ensures cloud services comply with a standardized set of security requirements designed to toughen the service from some of the most common threats. Without this authorization, federal agencies cannot use cloud products or technologies that are not cleared.

Months later, Zoom was forced to patch its Mac app after a security researcher found a flaw that could be abused to remotely switch on a user’s webcam without their permission. Apple was forced to intervene since users were still affected by the vulnerabilities even after uninstalling Zoom. As the pandemic spread and lockdowns were enforced, Zoom’s popularity skyrocketed — as did the scrutiny — including a technical analysis by reporters that found Zoom was not truly end-to-end encrypted as the company long claimed.

Wyden wrote to the GSA to say he found it “extremely concerning” that the security bugs were discovered after Zoom’s clearance. In the letter, the senator requested the documents known as the “security package,” which Zoom submitted as part of the FedRAMP authorization process, to understand how and why the app was cleared by GSA.

The GSA declined Wyden’s first request in July 2020 on the grounds that he was not a committee chair. In the new Biden administration, Wyden was named chair of the Senate Finance Committee and requested Zoom’s security package again.

But in a new letter sent to Wyden’s office late last month, GSA declined the request for the second time, citing security concerns.

“GSA’s refusal to share the Zoom audit with Congress calls into question the security of the other software products that GSA has approved for federal use.” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

“The security package you have requested contains highly sensitive proprietary and other confidential information relating to the security associated with the Zoom for Government product. Safeguarding this information is critical to maintaining the integrity of the offering and any government data it hosts,” said the GSA letter. “Based on our review, GSA believes that disclosure of the Zoom security package would create significant security risks.”

In response to the GSA’s letter, Wyden told TechCrunch that he was concerned that other flawed software may have been approved for use across the government.

“The intent of GSA’s FedRAMP program is good — to eliminate red tape so that multiple federal agencies don’t have to review the security of the same software. But it’s vitally important that whichever agency conducts the review do so thoroughly,” said Wyden. “I’m concerned that the government’s audit of Zoom missed serious cybersecurity flaws that were subsequently uncovered and exposed by security researchers. GSA’s refusal to share the Zoom audit with Congress calls into question the security of the other software products that GSA has approved for federal use.”

Of the people we spoke with who have first-hand knowledge of the FedRAMP process, either as a government employee or as a company going through the certification, FedRAMP was described as a comprehensive but by no means an exhaustive list of checks that companies have to meet in order to meet the security requirements of the federal government.

Others said that the process had its limits and would benefit from reform. One person with knowledge of how FedRAMP works said the process was not a complete audit of a product’s source code but akin to a checklist of best practices and meeting compliance requirements. Much of it relies on trusting the vendor, said the person, describing it like ” an honor system.” Another person said the FedRAMP process cannot catch every bug, as evidenced by executive action taken by President Biden this week aimed at modernizing and improving the FedRAMP process.

Most of the people we spoke to weren’t surprised that Wyden’s office was denied the request, citing the sensitivity of a company’s FedRAMP security package.

The people said that companies going through the certification process have to provide highly technical details about the security of their product, which if exposed would almost certainly be damaging to the company. Knowing where security weaknesses might be could tip off cyber-criminals, one of the people said. Companies often spend millions on improving their security ahead of a FedRAMP audit but companies wouldn’t risk going through the certification if they thought their trade secrets would get leaked, they added.

When asked by GSA why it objected to Wyden’s request, Zoom’s head of U.S. government relations Lauren Belive argued that handing over the security package “would set a dangerous precedent that would undermine the special trust and confidence” that companies place in the FedRAMP process.

GSA puts strict controls on who can access a FedRAMP security package. You need a federal government or military email address, which the senator’s office has. But the reason for GSA denying Wyden’s request still isn’t clear, and when reached a GSA spokesperson would not explain how a member of Congress would obtain a company’s FedRAMP security package

“GSA values its relationship with Congress and will continue to work with Senator Wyden and our committees of jurisdiction to provide appropriate information regarding our programs and operations,” said GSA spokesperson Christina Wilkes, adding:

“GSA works closely with private sector partners to provide a standardized approach to security authorizations for cloud services through the [FedRAMP]. Zoom’s FedRAMP security package and related documents provide detailed information regarding the security measures associated with the Zoom for Government product. GSA’s consistent practice with regard to sensitive security and trade secret information is to withhold the material absent an official written request of a congressional committee with jurisdiction, and pursuant to controls on further dissemination or publication of the information.”

GSA wouldn’t say which congressional committee had jurisdiction or whether Wyden’s role as chair of the Senate Finance Committee suffices, nor would the agency answer questions about the efficacy of the FedRAMP process raised by Wyden.

Zoom spokesperson Kelsey Knight said that cloud companies like Zoom “provide proprietary and confidential information to GSA as part of the FedRAMP authorization process with the understanding that it will be used only for their use in making authorization decisions. While we do not believe Zoom’s FedRAMP security package should be disclosed outside of this narrow purpose, we welcome conversations with lawmakers and other stakeholders about the security of Zoom for Government.”

Zoom said it has “engaged in security enhancements to continually improve its products,” and received FedRAMP reauthorization in 2020 and 2021 as part of its annual renewal. The company declined to say to what extent the Zoom app was audited as part of the FedRAMP process.

Over two dozen federal agencies use Zoom, including the Defense Department, Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Executive Office of the President.

#apps, #biden, #biden-administration, #chair, #cloud-computing, #cloud-services, #computing, #congress, #department-of-defense, #executive, #federal-government, #fedramp, #government, #head, #internet, #internet-security, #official, #president, #ron-wyden, #security, #senator, #software, #spokesperson, #technology, #u-s-government, #united-states, #web-conferencing, #zoom

Healios raises $10M to scale its mental health platform for children scarred by the COVID-19 pandemic

Heaven knows what will happen to the mental health of children who’ve gone through this past year but if there’s one thing we need right now it’s mental health provision for young people that can scale. And as much as some of us can’t bear the thought of another video call, a UK startup reckons it’s come up with the magic formula for online therapy for children.

Now, Healios has raised a £7 million ($10M) Series A round to expand its platform across the UK. If the roll-out is successful, the startup is looking at expanding internationally. The round was led by InHealth Ventures with participation from existing investors AlbionVC.

Healios will use the funding to expand its AI, machine learning, and data science expertise, as well as add to the team. Healios says its platform digitises the clinical pathway, enabling children, adults, and their family members to use clinical services at home.

According to UK government statistics, one in eight (12.8%) five to 19-year-olds in the UK have a mental health disorder but two-thirds are unable to access NHS care because of soaring demands. And the Covid-19 pandemic has made things worse.

Launched in 2013, Healios says it has now worked with 65% of NHS Mental Health Trusts, with 70,000 specialized clinical sessions delivered, which is a high success rate for a startup, considering how hard it is to get NHS approval.

The online, family-focused therapy program for young people zeros in on psychosis and schizophrenia. Healios says that studies have shown involving family members from the start can reduce suicide by as much as 90%. It also covers anxiety, low mood, autism and ADHD, as well as support to their families.

Unlike some startups in the area of mental health, Healios is not a marketplace of advisers but is an end-to-end provider of these services.

InHealth Ventures and InHealth Group Chair, Richard Bradford, will be joining the Healios board, alongside Cat McDonald of AlbionVC.

Rich Andrews, Founder, and CEO of Healios, said: “This funding will help us reach more families in need and enable us to develop further sector-leading interventions and therapies. By bringing together clinical experts and giving them the tools to reach their patients regardless of where they are, we are closing the access gap which has plagued mental health provision for far too long.”

Andrews also told me: “A young person will have an initial mental health assessment with us. If needed, we’ll make a diagnosis and then they’ll move on to other interventions with us, so this is a seamless experience.”

Dr Ben Evans, Managing Director of InHealth Ventures, said: “Healios is a standard-bearer for healthcare innovation. They bring together clinical excellence with digital expertise, working in partnership with the NHS to address a critical, but complex area of care delivery. Healios’ work to date speaks for itself; their holistic approach to diagnosis and treatment has had a substantive impact on clinical outcomes and patient experience.”

Cat McDonald, Investor at AlbionVC, added: “Covid has engendered a pace of innovation previously unseen in healthcare. In particular, we have seen that remote care not only works, but often works much better than traditional alternatives. The option to receive care remotely, at home and in a family-centric setting is the strong preference of most kids suffering from poor mental health.”

#artificial-intelligence, #autism, #ceo, #chair, #europe, #health, #health-care, #healthcare, #machine-learning, #mental-health, #national-health-service, #nhs, #online-therapy, #schizophrenia, #services, #tc, #uk-government, #united-kingdom

Leveling the playing field

In 2011, a product developer named Fred Davison read an article about inventor Ken Yankelevitz and his QuadControl video game controller for quadriplegics. At the time, Yankelevitz was on the verge of retirement. Davison wasn’t a gamer, but he said his mother, who had the progressive neurodegenerative disease ALS, inspired him to pick up where Yankelevitz was about to leave off.

Launched in 2014, Davison’s QuadStick represents the latest iteration of the Yankelevitz controller — one that has garnered interest across a broad range of industries. 

“The QuadStick’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever been involved in,” Davison told TechCrunch. “And I get a lot of feedback as to what it means for [disabled gamers] to be able to be involved in these games.”

Laying the groundwork

Erin Muston-Firsch, an occupational therapist at Craig Hospital in Denver, says adaptive gaming tools like the QuadStick have revolutionized the hospital’s therapy team. 

Six years ago, she devised a rehabilitation solution for a college student who came in with a spinal cord injury. She says he liked playing video games, but as a result of his injury could no longer use his hands. So the rehab regimen incorporated Davison’s invention, which enabled the patient to play World of Warcraft and Destiny. 

QuadStick

Jackson “Pitbull” Reece is a successful Facebook streamer who uses his mouth to operate the QuadStick, as well as the XAC, (the Xbox Adaptive Controller), a controller designed by Microsoft for use by people with disabilities to make user input for video games more accessible. 

Reece lost the use of his legs in a motorcycle accident in 2007 and later, due to an infection, lost the use of his upper body. He says he remembers able-bodied life as one filled with mostly sports video games. He says being a part of the gaming community is an important part of his mental health.

Fortunately there is an atmosphere of collaboration, not competition, around the creation of hardware for gamers within the assistive technology community. 

But while not every major tech company has been proactive about accessibility, after-market devices are available to create customized gaming experiences for disabled gamers.

Enter Microsoft

At its Hackathon in 2015, Microsoft’s Inclusive Lead Bryce Johnson met with disabled veterans’ advocacy group Warfighter Engaged

“We were at the same time developing our views on inclusive design,” Johnson said. Indeed, eight generations of gaming consoles created barriers for disabled gamers.

“Controllers have been optimized around a primary use case that made assumptions,” Johnson said. Indeed, the buttons and triggers of a traditional controller are for able-bodied people with the endurance to operate them. 

Besides Warfighter Engaged, Microsoft worked with AbleGamers (the most recognized charity for gamers with disabilities), Craig Hospital, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and Special Effect, a U.K.-based charity for disabled young gamers. 

Xbox Adaptive Controller

The finished XAC, released in 2018, is intended for a gamer with limited mobility to seamlessly play with other gamers. One of the details gamers commented on was that the XAC looks like a consumer device, not a medical device.

“We knew that we couldn’t design this product for this community,” Johnson told TechCrunch. “We had to design this product with this community. We believe in ‘nothing about us without us.’ Our principles of inclusive design urge us to include communities from the very beginning.”

Taking on the giants

There were others getting involved. Like many inventions, the creation of the Freedom Wing was a bit of serendipity.

At his booth at an assistive technology (AT) conference, ATMakers‘ Bill Binko showcased a doll named “Ella” using the ATMakers Joystick, a power-chair device. Also in attendance was Steven Spohn, who is part of the brain trust behind AbleGamers.

Spohn saw the Joystick and told Binko he wanted a similar device to work with the XAC. The Freedom Wing was ready within six weeks. It was a matter of manipulating the sensors to control a game controller instead of a chair. This device didn’t require months of R&D and testing because it had already been road tested as a power-chair device. 

ATMakers Freedom Wing 2

Binko said mom-and-pop companies are leading the way in changing the face of accessible gaming technology. Companies like Microsoft and Logitech have only recently found their footing.

ATMakers, QuadStick and other smaller creators, meanwhile, have been busy disrupting the industry. 

“Everybody gets [gaming] and it opens up the ability for people to engage with their community,” Binko said. “Gaming is something that people can wrap their heads around and they can join in.” 

Barriers of entry

As the technology evolves, so do the obstacles to accessibility. These challenges include lack of support teams, security, licensing and VR. 

Binko said managing support teams for these devices with the increase in demand is a new hurdle. More people with the technological skills are needed to join the AT industry to assist with the creation, installation and maintenance of devices. 

Security and licensing is out of the hands of small creators like Davison because of financial and other resources needed to work with different hardware companies. For example, Sony’s licensing enforcement technology has become increasingly complex with each new console generation. 

With Davison’s background in tech, he understands the restrictions to protect proprietary information. “They spend huge amounts of money developing a product and they want to control every aspect of it,” Davison said. “Just makes it tough for the little guy to work with.”

And while PlayStation led the way in button mapping, according to Davison, the security process is stringent. He doesn’t understand how it benefits the console company to prevent people from using whichever controller they want. 

“The cryptography for the PS5 and DualSense controller is uncrackable so far, so adapter devices like the ConsoleTuner Titan Two have to find other weaknesses, like the informal ‘man in the middle’ attack,” Davison said. 

The technique allows devices to utilize older-gen PlayStation controllers as a go-between from the QuadStick to the latest-gen console, so disabled gamers can play the PS5. TechCrunch reached out to Sony’s accessibility division, whose representative said there are no immediate plans for an adaptable PlayStation or controller. However, they stated their department works with advocates and gaming devs to consider accessibility from day one.  

In contrast, Microsoft’s licensing system is more forgiving, especially with the XAC and the ability to use older-generation controllers with newer systems. 

“Compare the PC industry to the Mac,” Davison said. “You can put together a PC system from a dozen different manufacturers, but not for the Mac. One is an open standard and the other is closed.”

A more accessible future

In November, Japanese controller company HORI released an officially licensed accessibility controller for the Nintendo Switch. It’s not available for sale in the United States currently, but there are no region restrictions to purchase one online. This latest development points toward a more accessibility-friendly Nintendo, though the company has yet to fully embrace the technology. 

Nintendo’s accessibility department declined a full interview but sent a statement to TechCrunch. “Nintendo endeavors to provide products and services that can be enjoyed by everyone. Our products offer a range of accessibility features, such as button-mapping, motion controls, a zoom feature, grayscale and inverted colors, haptic and audio feedback, and other innovative gameplay options. In addition, Nintendo’s software and hardware developers continue to evaluate different technologies to expand this accessibility in current and future products.”

The push for more accessible hardware for disabled gamers hasn’t been smooth. Many of these devices were created by small business owners with little capital. In a few cases corporations with a determination for inclusivity at the earliest stages of development became involved. 

Slowly but surely, however, assistive technology is moving forward in ways that can make the experience much more accessible for gamers with disabilities.

 

#accessibility, #advocacy, #chair, #column, #cryptography, #game-controller, #gaming, #hardware, #hori, #joystick, #logitech, #microsoft, #nintendo, #playstation, #xbox, #xbox-adaptive-controller, #xbox-one

Techstars Los Angeles names Matt Kozlov as its new managing director

Techstars Los Angeles, the local Los Angeles-focused branch of the global accelerator network, has named Matt Kozlov as its new managing director.

Kozlov, a longtime Techstars network fixture, has previously served as the head of the organization’s healthcare accelerator through a partnership with Cedars-Sinai and as the head of the Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator, which was focused on space and aerospace startups.

Now, Kozlov turns his attention to the Los Angeles ecosystem broadly.

“I’m humbled to have the opportunity each day to support incredible founders who are solving some of humanity’s greatest challenges,” said Kozlov, in a statement. “As I begin this new role, my goal is to continue to leverage my experience to help generate opportunities for future Techstars LA companies to make meaningful, long-term impact.”

Kozlov’s appointment comes as the Los Angeles tech ecosystem is having something of a moment. As the diaspora out of Silicon Valley continues, the Southern California tech world has proven to be a tempting landing pad during the COVID-19 pandemic. And remote work means that Los Angeles could be a fixture for more investors looking to escape the Bay.

Beyond Southern California’s coastal appeal is a vibrant technology ecosystem that encompasses enterprise software, financial services, healthcare, aerospace and defense, robotics, ecommerce and social media. It’s the home of social networking favorites Snap and TikTok’s U.S. base of operations and SpaceX’s significant presence has born a number of talented hardware and engineering startups.

LA is truly having a moment and Kozlov’s experience with some of the less-well-known corners of the city’s tech ecosystem could be a boon for the Techstars program.

“I’m thrilled by the selection of Matt as the new Managing Director for Techstars LA,” said Anna Barber, former Managing Director, Techstars LA, who stepped down from the role in November to join venture firm M13 as Partner, in a statement. “He is a talented investor and longstanding leader in LA’s Techstars community, and has been an essential and valued mentor for the program for the past four years. He embodies the Techstars values of #givefirst and I have every confidence that he is the right leader to continue building on what we’ve established in the LA community.”

Collectively, the 40 alumni companies who have participated in Techstars Los Angeles accelerator program have raised over $126 million and have a combined market cap of $328.6 million.

“Techstars LA plays a critical role in the Los Angeles tech ecosystem as the premier startup accelerator, providing valuable mentorship and funding for dozens of companies a year,” said Spencer Rascoff, Chair of dot.LA and Los Angeles angel investor. “I’m very excited that Matt will be the new Managing Director of Techstars LA. He brings extensive experience in healthcare and aerospace investing and has been an incredible mentor and leader to the companies of the Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator over the last several years.”

 

#aerospace, #anna-barber, #chair, #david-cohen, #e-commerce, #enterprise-software, #financial-services, #head, #healthcare, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #m13, #matt-kozlov, #mentorships, #premier, #sinai, #social-media, #spacex, #spencer-rascoff, #startup-accelerator, #tc, #techstars, #united-states

The biggest step the Biden administration took on climate yesterday wasn’t rejoining the Paris Agreement

While the Biden Administration is being celebrated for its decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement in one of its first executive orders after President Joe Biden was sworn in, it wasn’t the biggest step the administration took to advance its climate agenda.

Instead it was a move to get to the basics of monitoring and accounting, of metrics and dashboards. While companies track their revenues and expenses and monitor for all sorts of risks, impacts from climate change and emissions aren’t tracked in the same way. Now, in the same way there are general principals for accounting for finance, there will be principals for accounting for the impact of climate through what’s called the social cost of carbon.

Among the flurry of paperwork coming from Biden’s desk were Executive Orders calling for a review of Trump era rule-making around the environment and the reinstitution of strict standards for fuel economy, methane emissions, appliance and building efficiency, and overall emissions. But even these steps are likely to pale in significance to the fifth section of the ninth executive order to be announced by the new White House.

That’s the section addressing the accounting for the benefits of reducing climate pollution. Until now, the U.S. government hasn’t had a framework for accounting for what it calls the “full costs of greenhouse gas emissions” by taking “global damages into account”.

All of this is part of a broad commitment to let data and science inform policymaking across government, according to the Biden Administration.

Biden writes:

“It is, therefore, the policy of my Administration to listen to the science; to improve public health and protect our environment; to ensure access to clean air and water; to limit exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides; to hold polluters accountable, including those who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to bolster resilience to the impacts of climate change; to restore and expand our national treasures and monuments; and to prioritize both environmental justice and the creation of the well-paying union jobs necessary to deliver on these goals.”

The specific section of the order addressing accounting and accountability calls for a working group to come up with three metrics: the social cost of carbon (SCC), the social cost of nitrous oxide (SCN) and the social cost of methane (SCM) that will be used to estimate the monetized damages associated with increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

As the executive order notes, “[an] accurate social cost is essential for agencies to accurately determine the social benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions when conducting cost-benefit analyses of regulatory and other actions.” What the Administration is doing is attempting to provide a financial figure for the damages wrought by greenhouse gas emissions in terms of rising interest rates, and the destroyed farmland and infrastructure caused by natural disasters linked to global climate change.

These kinds of benchmarks aren’t flashy, but they are concrete ways to determine accountability. That accountability will become critical as the country takes steps to meet the targets set in the Paris Agreement. It also gives companies looking to address their emissions footprints an economic framework to point to as they talk to their investors and the public.

The initiative will include top leadership like the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, the director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (a position that Biden elevated to a cabinet level post).

Representatives from each of the major federal agencies overseeing the economy, national health, and the environment will be members of the working group along with the representatives or the National Climate Advisor and the Director of the National Economic Council.

While the rule-making is proceeding at the federal level, some startups are already developing services to help businesses monitor their emissions output.

These are companies like CarbonChainPersefoni, and SINAI Technologies. And their work compliments non-profits like CDP, which works with companies to assess carbon emissions.

Biden’s plan will have the various agencies and departments working quickly. The administration expects an interim SCC, SCN, and SCM within the next 30 days, which agencies will use when monetizing the value of changes in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from regulations and agency actions. The President wants final metrics will be published by January of next year.

The executive order also restored protections to national parks and lands that had been opened to oil and gas exploration and commercial activity under the Trump Administration and blocked the development of the Keystone Pipeline, which would have brought oil from Canadian tar sands into and through the U.S.

“The Keystone XL pipeline disserves the U.S. national interest. The United States and the world face a climate crisis. That crisis must be met with action on a scale and at a speed commensurate with the need to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory. At home, we will combat the crisis with an ambitious plan to build back better, designed to both reduce harmful emissions and create good clean-energy jobs,” according to the text of the Executive Order. “The United States must be in a position to exercise vigorous climate leadership in order to achieve a significant increase in global climate action and put the world on a sustainable climate pathway. Leaving the Key`12stone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my Administration’s economic and climate imperatives.”

#articles, #biden-administration, #carbonchain, #chair, #director, #executive, #greenhouse-gas, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #joe-biden, #office-of-management-and-budget, #oil, #persefoni, #president, #sinai-technologies, #tc, #trump, #trump-administration, #u-s-government, #united-states, #white-house

The $900 tCentric Hybrid chair is a solid Aeron alternative

Let’s get this out of the way: The Aeron is better. But not much, and that’s the story here.

The tCentric Hybrid starts at $900 and offers serious comfort and support for the tireless worker. There are endless adjustment levers, knobs, and options. The chair is available for ordering with a bevy of accessories and add-ons. The one I’m sitting in has the optional headrest, which I’ve found comforting as I’ve spent hours behind my desk napping while I hide from my family.

The chair is built like a rock. It’s solid and heavy and pretty in an industrial way. The lumbar support is ample, and the seat has plenty of cushion — but not too much! — for my middle-aged backside. Please don’t mistake what I’m saying: This is not a lounge chair. This is an office chair, but it’s still comfortable.

The Hybrid chair has all the options one would expect. Every bit is adjustable, including the lumbar support, which has an inflatable bubble that can be pumped up or released on demand. The arms are endlessly adjustable, too, nearly to the point of fault. There’s no way to lock the armrests in place.

I received this tester about 2 months ago and pushed aside my Herman Miller Aeron to test it. Do I like the tCentric Hybrid better? Not really. They’re about the same to me though it took about a week of fiddling to get the tCentric Hybrid to the same level as the Aeron.

The version I’m testing is outfitted with several add-ons and they’re wonderful. The company offers this chair with dozens of options. Need it taller? Okay, order a larger lift. Have long legs? It can be ordered with a longer seat. It’s available in a number of cushion options, too. You get the idea.

These chairs are built by ergoCentric in Mississauga, Ontario, and the company is expanding south into the American market. Chairs from ergoCentric are available through third-party retailers or directly from the company through a sales channel.

The Hybrid Mesh Back chair starts at $900, and that’s the rub. It’s nearly the same price as the coveted Herman Miller Aeron. I’ve used the chair for two months, and I’m not dying to switch back to my Aeron. Two months in, I’ve dialed this chair into a comfortable working throne and intend to keep using it for the foreseeable future. There are dozens of these Aeron alternatives on the market, and from what I’ve seen, the tCentric Hybrid is among the best thanks to its build quality.

#chair, #chairs, #tc, #work-from-home-gear

MG Siegler talks portfolio management and fundraising 6 months into the COVID-19 pandemic

This week, GV General Partner (and TechCrunch alum) MG Siegler joined us on Extra Crunch Live for a far-ranging chat about what it takes to foster a good relationship between investor and startup, how portfolio management and investing has changed as the COVID-19 crisis drags on, and what Siegler expects will and won’t stick around in terms of changes in behavior in investment and entrepreneurship once the pandemic passes.

We last caught up with Siegler on the heels of his investment in Universe, a mobile-focused, e-commerce business-building startup. The coronavirus pandemic was relatively new and no one was sure how long it would last or what measures to contain it would look like. Now, with a few months of experience under his belt, Siegler told me that things have relatively settled into a new normal from his perspective as an investor – sometimes for worse, sometimes for better, but mostly just resulting in differences that require adaptation.

This select transcript has been edited for length and clarity. Aside from section headers, all text below is taken from MG Siegler’s responses to my questions.

Business impacts of coping with the pandemic six months on

Just talking about the business side of the equation, I do think that things have sort of stabilized in the day-to-day world here. For us, certainly, I think it’s it’s just as much of a factor though, of just learning how to operate in this in this weird and surreal environment, and knowing how to do remote meetings better. Knowing how to hop on quick Zoom calls, Hangouts, and phone calls, with portfolio companies, to help put out fires, and doing all board meetings remotely, and all that sort of stuff.

That seems like it’s pretty straightforward on paper, but in day-to-day operations, these are all different little learning things that you have to do and come across. I do feel like things are operating in a pretty streamlined manner, or as much as they can be at this point. But, you know, there’s always going to be some more wildcards – like we’re a week away, today, from from the US election.

#chair, #entrepreneur, #extra-crunch-live, #forward, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital, #video-conferencing

President Trump’s Twitter accessed by security expert who guessed password “maga2020!”

A Dutch security researcher says he accessed President Trump’s @realDonaldTrump Twitter account last week by guessing his password: “maga2020!”.

Victor Gevers, a security researcher at the GDI Foundation and chair of the Dutch Institute for Vulnerability Disclosure, which finds and reports security vulnerabilities, told TechCrunch he guessed the president’s account password and was successful on the fifth attempt.

The account was not protected by two-factor authentication, granting Gevers access to the president’s account.

After logging in, he emailed US-CERT, a division of Homeland Security’s cyber unit Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), to disclose the security lapse, which TechCrunch has seen. Gevers said the president’s Twitter password was changed shortly after.

A screenshot from inside Trump’s Twitter account. (Image: Victor Gevers)

It’s the second time Gevers has gained access to Trump’s Twitter account.

The first time was in 2016, when Gevers and two others extracted and cracked Trump’s password from the 2012 LinkedIn breach. The researchers took his password — “yourefired” — his catchphrase from the television show The Apprentice — and found it let them into his Twitter account. Gevers reported the breach to local authorities in the Netherlands, with suggestions on how Trump could improve his password security. One of the passwords he suggested at the time was “maga2020!” he said. Gevers said he “did not expect” the password to work years later.

Dutch news outlet RTL News first reported the story.

Trump’s account is said to be locked down with extra protections after he became president, though Twitter has not said publicly what those protections entail. His account was untouched by hackers who broke into Twitter’s network in July in order to abuse an “admin tool” to hijack high-profile accounts and spread a cryptocurrency scam.

A spokesperson for the White House and the Trump campaign did not immediately comment. A Twitter spokesperson did not comment on the record. A spokesperson for CISA did not immediately confirm the report.

Gevers has previously reported security incidents involving a facial recognition database used to track Uyghur Muslims and a vulnerability in Oman’s stock exchange.

#chair, #donald-trump, #facial-recognition, #netherlands, #oman, #operating-systems, #president, #security, #social-media, #software, #spokesperson, #trump, #united-states, #white-house

In a sign of digital health’s rise, Livongo and Teladoc Health agree to $18.5 billion merger

In a sign of the growing importance and value of digital healthcare in the world of medicine, two of the industry’s publicly traded companies have agreed to a whopping $18.5 billion merger.

The union of Teladoc Health, a provider of virtual care services, and Livongo, which has made a name for itself by integrating hardware and software to monitor and manage chronic conditions like diabetes, will create a giant in the emerging field of telemedicine and virtual care.

“By expanding the reach of Livongo’s pioneering Applied Health Signals platform and building on Teladoc Health’s end-to-end virtual care platform, we’ll empower more people to live better and healthier lives,” said Glen Tullman, Livongo Founder and Executive Chairman. “This transaction recognizes Livongo’s significant progress and will enable Livongo shareholders to benefit from long-term upside as the combined company is positioned to serve an even larger addressable market with a truly unmatched offering.”

Under the terms of the agreement, each share of Livongo will be exchanged for 0.5920 shares of Teladoc health plus a cash payment of $11.33 for each share. The deal, based on Teladoc’s closing price on August 4, 2020, is roughly $18.5 billion. It’s an eye-popping figure for a company that was, at one point, trading below $16 per-share.

But the new reality of healthcare delivery in the era of COVID-19 rapidly accelerated the adoption of digital and remote care services like those Livongo was selling to its customers — and investor came calling as a result.

The combined company is expected to have pro forma revenue of $1.3 billion representing 85 percent year on year growth, on a pro forma basis. For 2020, the combined company expects adjusted EBITDA to reach $120 million.

“This merger firmly establishes Teladoc Health at the forefront of the next-generation of healthcare,” said Jason Gorevic, the chief executive officer of Teladoc Health, in a statement. “Livongo is a world-class innovator we deeply admire and has demonstrated success improving the lives of people living with chronic conditions. Together, we will further transform the healthcare experience from preventive care to the most complex cases, bringing ‘whole person’ health to consumers and greater value to our clients and shareholders as a result.”

The companies emphasized their combined ability to engage with patients and monitor and manage their conditions using technology. Teladoc Health’s flywheel approach to continued member engagement combined with Livongo’s proven track record of using data science to build consumer trust will accelerate the combined company’s development of longitudinal consumer and provider relationships, the companies said in a statement.

Teladoc currently counts 70 million customers in the United States with an access to Medicare and Medicaid patients that Livongo’s services could reach. The combined company also pitched the operational efficiencies that could be created through the merger. Teladoc estimated that there would be “revenue synergies” of $100 million two years from the close of the deal, reaching $500 million on a run rate basis by 2025, according to a statement. 

Gorevic will run the combined company and David Snow will serve as the chair of the new board — which will be comprised of eight current Teladoc board members and five members of the Livongo board.

The company expects the deal to close by the end of the fourth quarter, subject to regulatory approvals. Lazard advised Teladoc on the transaction while Morgan Stanley served as the financial advisor to Livongo. 

#articles, #chair, #chief-executive-officer, #diabetes, #digital-healthcare, #financial-advisor, #health, #healthcare, #lazard, #livongo, #medicare, #morgan-stanley, #tc, #technology, #telehealth, #telemedicine, #united-states

U.S. House approves remote voting, though the tech is unclear

Congress will allow remote voting for the first time in its history, after the U.S. House approved Resolution 965 late Friday in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure — sponsored by Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern — authorizes proxy voting by members for renewable periods of 45 days and allows for remote participation in committee hearings.

H.R. 965 could also permanently alter the way Congress operates through a provision that establishes a bi-partisan process to explore digital voting away from Capitol Hill.

Per the directive, “The chair of the Committee on House Administration, in consultation with the ranking minority member, shall study the feasibility of using technology to conduct remote voting in the House, and shall provide certification…that operable and secure technology exists.”

Previous House rules required in person voting only. The Senate still makes decisions by recording verbal “Yeas” and “Nays” on a tally sheet.

Friday’s congressional action is another example of how COVID-19 is forcing every organization in the U.S. to overhaul longstanding ways of doing things, usually through a mix of digital tools.

We still don’t have clear details on what tech the U.S. House will use to implement both the short and longer term provisions of H.R. 965.

The proxy voting arrangement will allow members to vote remotely through designated representatives on Capitol Hill — effectively a form of pinch-hitting for Congress. For remote participation in hearings, there are a range of options that could be selected — from Google Meet to Microsoft Teams. Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci testified before the U.S. Senate using Zoom.

On determining long-term means for remote voting, that’s now up to the Chairperson of the Committee on House Administration —  representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) —  and the ranking minority member Rodney Davis (R-IL), who voted against H.R. 965.

Lofgren offered a preview of how it could shape up in a statement supporting H.R. 965 late Friday: “For voting on the floor, we will rely on a secure email system, coupled with member-driven, remotely-directed authorizations.  This system would use secure email for proxy votes: a solid, well known, resilient technology with very low bandwidth requirements that we understand very well from a cybersecurity standpoint.”

Of course, she and Republican Congressman Davis will have to find agreement on this during a time when both parties rarely agree on anything. The vote on H.R. 965 was split along party lines, with 217 Dems voting in favor and not a single Republican member supporting the measure.

In the past, Congress has resisted calls to allow for remote voting. There was discussion of the need for such provisions after the September 11 attacks and 2001 Anthrax attacks. These was overridden by a long time expectation that those elected to represent constituencies be physically present to vote.

Over the last two months, it appeared the House might become a last holdout in the U.S. for in person only workplaces, as much of the country has shifted to tech-enabled measures for remote operations.

Shortly after the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S. in March, Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA) pressed a resolution with Arkansas Representative Rick Crawford (R-AR) that would allow members to participate virtually in hearings and vote remotely, under special circumstances.

US capitol building at night

Image Credits: Bill Dickinson/Getty Images

That was nixed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi  who, at the time, wanted Congress to remain in session and present to pass the first coronavirus stimulus bill.

Two months and nearly one hundred thousand American deaths later, it appears COVID-19 could force one of the more significant procedural changes in the House’s 231 year history.

In person voting could soon be replaced with some form of two-factor authentication, digital voting. This could alter longstanding patterns for how lawmakers travel, interact with constituencies, and divide their time between the Beltway and districts back home.

#anthrax, #arkansas, #chair, #congress, #democracy, #elections, #electronic-voting, #google, #government, #il, #massachusetts, #microsoft, #nancy-pelosi, #politics, #senate, #tc, #u-s-senate, #united-states, #voting

Pedaling-in-place with the Cubii Pro

So it has come to this. I haven’t set foot outside my apartment for a week and a half. YouTube yoga has been a kind of lifesaver, and I happened to have a largely untouched 30-pound kettlebell lying around. My Apple Watch has been mostly untouched, however. The stark realities of woefully underperforming exercise minutes and step counts are just too much on top of everything else.

Honestly, I scoffed a bit when a friend initially recommended an under-desk elliptical. But those were better days, when I was still able to take the bicycle out for a socially distant spin. Due to doctor’s orders, however, I now find myself unable to travel beyond the mailbox in my building lobby — and even that feels like tempting fate some days.

Now here I am, peddling away, writing a review of the Cubii Pro. It’s not a new product, exactly. But it’s certainly having its moment. In normal times, the device seems a silly bit of office “fitness” paraphernalia, designed to counteract the dangers of prolonged sitting we’ve frequently been warned against.

But if sitting was the new smoking in 2019, it’s simply the new reality in this era of self-quarantine. We’ll take our exercise wherever we can sneak it in — even if that means little more than walking between the desk and the kitchen most days. The Cubii line of products are by no means a replacement for more full-bodied exercise, but they’re a valiant attempt to help falling victim to complete atrophy.

As the name implies, the Pro is a step up from the standard Cubii that was launched via a Kickstarter campaign back in 2016. At $349, it’s an investment, with the biggest upgrades coming in the form of Bluetooth connectivity. There’s an app for iOS and Android that connects to third-party tracking software like Apple Health. That’s a pretty solid add-on, frankly, for those who’ve put a lot of stock in closing their Apple Watch rings.

The device ships mostly assembled. You’ll need to take it the last mile by attaching the pedals. And hey, free screwdriver. That’s simple enough. Honestly, the biggest headache about set up is charging the thing. The Pro is significantly larger and heavier than I’d initially anticipated, and it charges via microUSB. That means unless you’ve got a long cable, you’re going to have to find a spot to stick it near an outlet for an extended period. I don’t have floor outlets in my small apartment, so I had to get creative.

Charging takes a while, too. It’s best done overnight, if you can manage. The good news on that front, however, is it will stay charged for a while. I don’t anticipate having to charge it more often than every few weeks.

The size is also a constraint from the standpoint of use. The device’s length meant I had to pull my desk out from the wall a bit to use it. I also find myself having to sit back a bit, so as to avoid banging my knees on the bottom of the desk. Honestly, it’s probably best used while seated on a couch, watching TV (a laptop is too much to ask without a desk). If your office chair rolls as mine does, you’ll once again find yourself getting creative. The aforementioned kettlebell is getting even more use these days, as it currently sits between chair legs, hampering me from rolling backward with every peddle.

Those quibbles aside, I’ve mostly been enjoying my time with the product. The movement is smooth, the Bluetooth connection works well (though you may have to open the app to get it started) and there are eight resistance settings to keep things fresh. In other circumstances, I couldn’t imagine spending that much on this sort of product, but these are unique times. For those who still have trouble leaving the home even after things go mostly back to normal, it’s a nice, portable alternative to far pricier home exercise devices, with a solid little app to boot.

#android, #apple-inc, #berkshire-hathaway, #bluetooth, #chair, #companies, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #cubii, #exercise, #hardware, #health, #industries, #reviews

COVID-hit UK startups cry out for help, as UK gov trails Europe in its response

The UK government is reportedly looking at a range of options to support the startup industry, possibly involving a co-investment model involving state-owned funds (via the British Business Bank) and private VC funds. Investors have been warning that typically loss-making, early-stage startups are at risk of collapse amid the coronavirus crisis. But the moves come far later than generous packages put together by Continental European governments to support their startup sectors.

Ministers understood to be keen to support the strong UK startup and innovation sector and options allegedly being considered include convertible loans, which could either be later repaid or turned into equity stakes owned by the state. This would require matched co-investment with VCs, ensuring only existing venture-backed startups would be eligible.

The FT reports that ministers want to do this on a case-by-case basis and only after companies have first sought fresh capital from private investors.

Also being considered is additional grant funding via InnovateUK, a government body providing support to innovative businesses, and an expansion of R&D tax credits.

However, the scale of any government intervention is expected to be far more modest than the government’s previously announced support for small, medium and large companies and their workers, given investors are normally deep-pocketed and tech startups typically employ far fewer people than traditional industries. By contrast, the French and German governments committed €4bn and €2bn in relief for their respective tech startup sectors.

The proposals under consideration include ones put forward by a number of significant players in the UK tech industry, who jointly launched a campaign over the weekend to pressure the government into creating a support package to aid startups struggling to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

The move comes in the wake of moves by other European countries, such as France and Germany, which have announced significant initiatives.

The Save Our Startups (SOS) campaign published an open letter to British prime minister Boris Johnson warning the country could “lose a generation of startups and high growth businesses to COVID-19.”

It claims more than 30,000 startups employing some 330,000 people do not qualify for existing support measures and are therefore in jeopardy if new policies are not developed to help them.

The campaign was launched by crowdfunding platform Crowdcube and industry body Coadec, and is supported by leading tech figures including Brent Hoberman, the co-founder of Lastminute.com; Alex Chesterman, the cofounder of Zoopla, LoveFilm and Cazoo; and Arnaud Massenet, cofounder of Net-a-Porter.

It is also joined by organizations including The Entrepreneurs Network, Draper Esprit, Virgin Startups, Vala Capital, Innovate Finance, UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA), EISA, Tech London Advocates, Capital Enterprise and Seedrs .

Jeff Lynn, executive chairman and co-founder of Seedrs, who was a signatory to the letter, commented: “The growth of the startup ecosystem has been one of the great successes of the UK economy over the past decade. All that work is now threatened by COVID-19, and that’s why it is essential that the government step in to help at this precarious time–just as the French and German governments are doing. The Save Our Startups campaign sets out three sensible and crucial requests that will make all the difference in ensuring that our startups can continue to be European and world leaders in the decade ahead. I am very pleased that Seedrs and Coadec, both of which I co-founded and chair, are Founding Partners of the campaign, and I hope everyone in the ecosystem will sign onto it.”

The open letter said: “These businesses are making a huge contribution to the economy but are often yet to make a profit because they are investing in their people, technology and bringing innovative products and services to market. They are highly unlikely to qualify for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which was introduced to provide financial support for SMEs during this pandemic.”

The letter points out that the French and German Governments have already worked to craft support for startups.

Save Our Startups has a three-point proposal for the government, calling on it to:

• Provide an equity-based liquidity package suitable to save startups at risk. While CBILS covers a proportion of UK businesses, the majority of startups and high-growth companies will be excluded and as a result, unsupported.

• Fast track payments to startups from public funding schemes – in particular, R&D tax credits and Innovate UK funding grants. Private sector liquidity has taken a major hit during the crisis with angels and micro-funds unable to provide startups and high growth businesses with bridging money.

• Change EIS, SEIS and VCTs to stimulate private equity investment into startup and high growth businesses, since many startups are losing access to debt or equity support.

However, some investors are cool on the idea, pointing out that the government could end up owning stakes in companies that would not otherwise have raised private-sector money, and that there should be a natural falling-off of weaker companies at a time of public crisis.

Investor Robin Klein of Localglobe commented on Twitter that: “The UK Govt has done an incredible job supporting the startup ecosystem” but he called the SOS campaign a “knee jerk” reaction and although he was “100% in favour of rapid BBB and other govt support” this would be through established tools.”

Luke Lang, cofounder of Crowdcube, which initiated the campaign with Coadec, commented: “Other European countries have raced to rescue its startup and tech communities, with French and German Governments committing €6bn in funding. The UK is sluggish by comparison, and further delays are unforgivable and threaten thousands of promising startup and high-growth businesses with huge potential.”

The full letter by Save Our Startups can be read here.

Top 100 Signatories:

Darren Westlake – Co-founder & CEO, Crowdcube
Luke Lang – Co-founder, Crowdcube
Brent Hoberman – Executive Chairman, Founders Forum
Alex Chesterman – Founder & CEO, Cazoo; previously Co-founder LoveFilm and Zoopla
Arnaud Massenet – Co-founder, Net-a-porter
Mike Fuller – Co-founder, ARM
Anthony Fletcher – CEO, Graze
Tania Boler – Founder, Elvie
Giles Andrews – Co-founder, Chairman, Zopa, MarketFinance, Bethnal Green Ventures
Adam Dodds – CEO, Freetrade
Jorge Armanet – CEO Founder, HealthUnlocked
Jamie Ward – CEO, Hussle
Samuel O’Connor – CEO, Coconut
Peter Kelly – CEO, Imployable
Lee Strafford – CEO, ADV
Kirsty Ranger – CEO, IdeaSquares
Gem Misa – CEO, Fullgreen
Doug Monro – Co-founder & CEO, Adzuna<br />
Jeff Lynn – Co-founder & Executive Chairman, Seedrs
Stephanie Melodia – Director, Bloom
Tugce Bulut – Founder, Streetbees
Saurav Chopra – Co-founder & CEO, Perkbox
Daniel Korski – Founder & CEO, PUBLIC
David Dunn – Chair, UK Tech Cluster Group
Philip Salter – Founder, The Entrepreneurs Network
Andrew Tibbitts, COO, TechHub Charlotte Crosswell – CEO, Innovate Finance
Robert Walsh – Managing Partner, Q Ventures
Jenny Tooth OBE – CEO, UKBAA
Jonathan Sibilia – Partner, Draper Esprit
Dom Hallas – Executive Director, The Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec)
John Spindler – Co-founder & CEO, Capital Enterprise
Mark Brownridge – Director General, EIS Association
Natasha Guerra – Co-founder, Runway East
Andy Fishburn – Managing Director, Virgin Startup
Russ Shaw – Founder, Tech London Advocates
Alex Davies – Founder & Chief Executive, Wealth Club
Bruce Davies – Director, UK Crowdfunding Association
Andrew Roughan – Managing Director, Plexal
Jasper Smith – Founder, Vala Capital
Gaby Hersham – Founder, Huckletree
Carlos Silva – Co-founder, Seedrs
Yacob Siadatan- CEO, Ventoura Ltd
Nazim Valimahomed – CEO, Kroo
Katie Vanneck smith – Co-founder, Tortoise Media
Adrian James – CEO, Monily
Paul Naha-Biswas – CEO, Sixley
Oliver Oram – CEO, Chainvine
Rohit Shetty – Co-Founder & CEO, ArtBrowser
Richard Cooper – Chief Executive Officer, Novosound Ltd
Sam Lehane – CEO, M.Y.O
David Murray-Hundley – Chairman, E fundamentals
Russell Quirk – Co-Founder, PropergandaPR
Silas Adekunle – CEO, Reach Industries
Matthew Bradley – CEO, Mjp technologies ltd
Charlotte Roach – CEO, Rabble
Ankush Bhatia – CFO, Hussle
Matt Latham – Co-founder, Tickr ltd
Joseph Crabtree – CEO, Additive Manufacturing Technologies (AMT)
Robert Wakeling – CEO, Wadaro Solutions Limited
Joe Sillett – CEO, The Funky Appliance Company
Mike Bristow – CEO, CrowdProperty
Mulenga Agley – CEO, Growthcurve LTD
Kim Nilsson – CEO & Founder, Pivigo
Martin Kievit – Co-founder, Metasite OpenCloud limited
Sam Ducker – Co-founder, Calling Anyone
Neha Khurana – CEO, The Legists
Matt Brooke – CEO, Meet.mba Limited
Manoj Ganapathy – CEO, SalesTrip
Adam McVicar – Co-founder, The Resilience Factor
Bikesh Kumar – CEO, Annexon
Ricky Shankar – Chairman, Clear Factor Limited
Sarah Merrick – CEO, Ripple Energy
Dan Wakerley – CEO, Pillar
Demos Demetriou- Co-founder, blazon
Eoin Cooney – CEO, ARROE Limited
Mattt Milligan – Co-founder, Uhubs
Suchit Punnose – CEO, Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc
Laurence Guy – CEO, We Are Pentagon Group
Fred Soneya – Co-Founder & Partner, Haatch
Dana Denis-Smith – CEO, Obelisk support
Neil Harmsworth – Chief Operating Officer, Hussle
Nigel Winship – Co-founder, People Matter Technology
Cathy Norbury – Co-Founder, InterAxS Global
Shadi Razak – Co-founder and CTO, CyNation
Hassan Bashir – Co-founder, HealthSteer
Dr Yusuf Vali – Co-founder, Healthsteer
Farid Haque – Co-founder, AssetVault
Brad Goodall – CEO, Banked
Dan McGuire – CEO, cube19
Gaute Juliussen – CEO, Toraphene
Mark Musson – CEO, Humn.ai Ltd
James Gupta – CEO, Synap
Mat Megens – CEO, Hyperjar
Jason Bullock – CEO, Numerous Technology
Tim Gentles – CEO, Hatriq
Marcus Greenwood – CEO, UBIO
Gary Mc Donald – CEO, Limitless Insight
Ryan Gralia – CFO, Fidel Limited
Darrell Coker – Co-founder & Head of Product, Flair
Inga Mullins – Co-founder Fluency
Ian Smith – CEO, Being Guided
Kevin Beales – CEO, Refract
Damian Goryszewski – CEO, Colossus Capital Ltd
Mark Milton – CEO, Amberlight Partners
Randel Darby – CEO, Airportr

#adzuna, #boris-johnson, #brent-hoberman, #british-business-bank, #business, #cazoo, #chair, #chief-operating-officer, #co-founder, #coalition-for-a-digital-economy, #cofounder, #continental, #coronavirus, #covid, #covid-19, #covid-19-updates, #crowdcube, #director, #draper-esprit, #economy, #eisa, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #founders-factory, #france, #germany, #lastminute-com, #london, #lovefilm, #managing-partner, #net, #private-equity, #seedrs, #startup-company, #tc, #uk-government, #united-kingdom

VR chair startup raises funds, as pandemic boosts prospects for VR and gaming

Roto VR, startup which markets an interactive, ‘360 degree’ chair, has raised £1.5 million in a funding round led by Pembroke VCT. Others in the round include TVB Growth Fund, managed by The FSE Group.

The chair is designed to make VR more accessible to a mass audience, many of whom have turned to VR and gaming to while away the hours as much of the world is locked-down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded in 2015 by video games industry veterans, Elliott Myers and Gavin Waxkirsh, Roto VR is an interactive chair that addresses the physical problems of consuming VR whilst seated, such as motion sickness and tangling cables, whilst also enhancing the immersive experience with haptic / vibration feedback in the chair.

The Roto chair is motorized and can auto-rotate to wherever the user is looking, allowing for 360-degree viewing, and thus allows the user to stay in the VR simulation for longer periods of time.

The inbuilt desktop also supports input devices such as a keyboard and mouse which means it can be used in 360-degree desktop computing.

“Most people sit down to watch movies, work, play games and browse the internet whilst seated and we see no reason why the exciting new medium of VR will be any different,” said Myers.

The product is compatible with most VR Head Mounted Displays and is also compatible with all movies and games, as well as additional accessories such as racing wheels and joysticks.

The company is due to launch the consumer and office version of Roto imminently. In addition, it will be marketed to cinemas and arcades.

Andrew Wolfson, CEO Pembroke Investment Managers LLP, said: “In Elliott we have found an entrepreneur who has solved a problem for the VR market with a solution that addresses the physical issues encountered whilst consuming VR content, as well as significantly enhancing the experience. We see future customers coming from both the B2B and B2C markets, in fields such as experiential attractions, home, cinemas and shopping centres.”

#ceo, #chair, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #desktop-computing, #entrepreneur, #europe, #input-devices, #simulation, #tc, #virtual-reality