Pinterest tests online events with dedicated ‘class communities’

Pinterest is getting into online events. The company has been spotted testing a new feature that allows users to sign up for Zoom classes through Pinterest, while creators use Pinterest’s class boards to organize class materials, notes and other resources, or even connect with attendees through a group chat option. The company confirmed the test of online classes is an experiment now in development, but wouldn’t offer further details about its plans.

The feature itself was discovered on Tuesday by reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong, who found details about the online classes by looking into the app’s code.

Currently, you can visit some of these “demo” profiles directly — like “@pinsmeditation” or “@pinzoom123,” for example — and view their listed Class Communities. However, these communities are empty when you click through. That’s because the feature is still unreleased, Wong says.

When and if the feature is later launched to the public, the communities would include dedicated sections where creators will be able to organize their class materials — like lists of what to bring to class, notes, photos and more. They could also use these communities to offer a class overview and description, connect users to a related shop, group chat feature and more.

Creators are also able to use the communities — which are basically enhanced Pinterest boards — to respond to questions from attendees, share photos from the class and otherwise interact with the participants.

When a user wants to join a class, they can click a “book” button to sign up, and are then emailed a confirmation with the meeting details. Other buttons direct attendees to download Zoom or copy the link to join the class.

It’s not surprising that Pinterest would expand into the online events space, given its platform has become a popular tool for organizing remote learning resources during the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers have turned to Pinterest to keep track of lesson plans, get inspiration, share educational activities and more. In the early days of the pandemic, Pinterest reported record usage when the company saw more searches and saves globally in a single March weekend than ever before in its history, as a result of its usefulness as a online organizational tool.

This growth has continued throughout the year. In October, Pinterest’s stock jumped on strong earnings after the company beat on revenue and user growth metrics. The company brought in $443 million in revenue, versus $383.5 million expected, and grew its monthly active users to 442 million, versus the 436.4 million expected. Outside of the coronavirus impacts, much of this growth was due to strong international adoption, increased ad spend from advertisers boycotting Facebook and a surge of interest from users looking for iOS 14 home screen personalization ideas.

Given that the U.S. has failed to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control, many classes, events and other activities will remain virtual even as we head into 2021. The online events market may continue to grow in the years that follow, too, thanks to the kickstart the pandemic provided the industry as a whole.

“We are experimenting with ways to help creators interact more closely with their audience,” a Pinterest spokesperson said, when asked for more information.

Pinterest wouldn’t confirm additional details about its plans for online events, but did say the feature was in development and the test would help to inform the product’s direction.

Pinterest often tries out new features before launching them to a wider audience. Earlier this summer, TechCrunch reported on a Story Pins feature the company had in the works. Pinterest then launched the feature in September. If the same time frame holds up for online events, we could potentially see the feature become more widely available sometime early next year.

#apps, #classes, #creators, #events, #online-classes, #online-events, #pinterest, #social, #social-media, #zoom


Investors Lockheed Martin Ventures and SpaceFund are coming to TC Sessions: Space 2020

The space industry, once dominated by government-funded programs and a small handful of corporations, has seen a surge in startups in recent years. And with startups aplenty, the venture firms can never be far behind.

Venture capital has played an increasingly important role in rooting out the best and most promising of these startups. The stakes are even higher for the venture arms of corporations. Corporate venture firms are on the constant hunt for the technology that will keep their companies relevant for decades to come.

That’s why we’re excited to announce that Chris Moran, executive director and general manager at Lockheed Martin Ventures, and Meagan Crawford, managing partner at SpaceFund, will join us at our TC Sessions: Space event on December 16 & 17.

Moran leads Lockheed Martin Ventures efforts to invest in small technology businesses that support the company’s larger strategic business objectives. Prior to joining Lockheed Martin, Moran served in a variety of positions at Applied Materials Inc., most recently as the head of the business systems and analytics group.

More from the TC Sessions: Space agenda

Crawford isn’t just managing partner at SpaceFund . She’s an experienced space startup executive and founder. As the host of the Mission Eve podcast, she aims to increase the number of women in the space industry and is frequently featured as a thought leader on the industry’s development and investment potential. Crawford also chairs the board of the non-profit Center for Space Commerce and Finance.

She has more than a decade of experience helping educate entrepreneurs and investors through the NewSpace Business Plan Competition, which she started running in 2009. As a manager, coach and judge for the last decade, she has read over 1,000 space business executive summaries, coached hundreds of selected teams, and helped award cash prizes to dozens of NewSpace startups.

Crawford and Moran are tapped in and ready to share with the TechCrunch audience their insights and forecasts for our collective space future. We’ll dig into what their respective companies are paying attention to, the challenges and opportunities of COVID-19 and if a changing administration will change their investment strategy.

Starting today, we’re offering a BOGO deal. Buy one Late Registration ticket for $175 and get one free. You and a colleague pay just $87.50 each — that’s less than the early bird price. Booyah! We’re here all week folks…and this deal ends on Sunday, November 29, at 11:59 p.m. PST.

#aerospace, #events, #lockheed-martin-ventures, #space, #spacefund, #tc, #tc-sessions-space-2020, #venture-capital


Head of the US Space Force, Gen. John W. ‘Jay’ Raymond, joins us at TechCrunch Sessions: Space

Space Force is at a critical part of its young life, and Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond leads the service forward as its commanding officer. We’re thrilled to have him join us for a fireside chat at our TC Sessions: Space event on December 16 & 17.

Since its founding in 2019, Gen. Raymond quickly established operations and set progressive policies that enable the Space Force to be fast, flexible, and technological savvy while also ensuring women play an equal role to men. Sounds like a startup, right? That’s why we invited him to speak at this event.

Gen. Raymond’s task is historic. As the founding general of Space Force, he’s tasked with building a new military branch that overseas a borderless area of operations and involving objects moving at over 10,000 miles an hour.
So far Gen. Raymond has overseen the development of critical departments and operations. Most recently, Space Force stood up its Space Operations Command to organize running satellites, radars, and other combat assets for other branches of the military. The force is also looking to expand its intelligence operations to gather information on others’ activities in space.

More from the agenda

The Force is also looking to expand its warfighting capabilities. Meanwhile, the force is preparing to see an influx of soldiers, Marines, and sailors transfer into its ranks as inter-service transfers begin.

We’re interested in how Gen. Raymond is building the service to be inclusive and open to new ideas outside of the traditional military-industrial complex. Tech startups are increasingly becoming progressive players in space operations, and Gen. Raymond has been open to working with them so far. We need to know how startups can get involved.

In order to hear from Gen. Raymond, you’ll need to pick up your ticket to TC Sessions: Space which will also include video on demand for all sessions, which means you won’t have to miss a minute of expert insight, tips and trend spotting from the top founders, investors, technologists, government officials and military minds across public, private and defense sectors.

You’ll find panel discussions, interviews, fireside chats and interactive Q&As on range of topics: mineral exploration, global mapping of the Earth from space, deep tech software, defense capabilities, 3D-printed rockets and the future of agriculture and food technology. Don’t miss the breakout sessions dedicated to accessing grant money. Explore the event agenda now and get a jump on organizing your schedule.






#aerospace, #events, #government, #outer-space, #space, #tc, #tc-sessions-space-2020, #u-s-space-force, #us-department-of-defense


Perkins, ACB, Benetech, Salesforce and more announce breakout sessions at Sight Tech Global

Sight Tech Global is little more than two weeks out, and today we published the detailed agenda for Dec. 2 & 3. The show runs from 8 a.m. to noonish Pacific standard time. If you have not already grabbed a free pass to the 100% virtual event, now is the time!

Sight Tech Global will present 35 speakers in 15 sessions focused on the cutting edge of AI-related technologies and accessibility, especially for the blind and visually impaired. A few of the remarkably accomplished speakers include OrCam founder Amnon Shashua, Seeing AI co-founder Saqib Shaikh, human rights lawyer Haben Girma, computer vision researcher Danna Gurari, Amazon L126 researcher Josh Miele and AI-expert and investor Kai-Fu Lee.

The agenda also includes ten breakouts that run in parallel to the main stage sessions. These 30-minute segments are produced by partners who are excited about the strong profile of Sight Tech Global’s 1200+ registered attendees to date. The list of breakouts is below.

As ever, we are grateful to the excellent sponsors of Sight Tech Global, including Waymo, Salesforce, Mojo Vision, Ford, Vispero, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Wells Fargo, Comcast, accessiBe, Eyedaptic, APH, HumanWare, Verizon Media, Verizon 5G and TechCrunch. Sponsorships benefit the non-profit Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which has been serving the Silicon Valley are for 75 years.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available. 

Please have a look at complete agenda. Here are the breakout sessions so far!

Perkins Access: Users aren’t an add-on: building the user perspective into the design process

Comcast and Perkins Access (the digital accessibility consulting division of Perkins School for the Blind) will share insights for creating accessible experiences, with an emphasis on building the user perspective into the design process. This ensures that all teams understand the specific challenges, and unique needs, of blind and visually impaired users. Panelists include the authors of Perkins Access’ Inclusive Design Guide, which will be released at Sight Tech and available for download.

  • Gary Aussant, Director of Consulting, Perkins Access
  • Geoff Freed, Director of Consulting, Perkins Access
  • Jerry Berrier, Director of Education Technology, Perkins School for the Blind
  • Karyn Georgilis, MBA candidate, Harvard Business School
  • Tom Wlodkowski, Vice president Accessibility and Multicultural, Technology and Product, Comcast

American Council of the Blind: Get Up & get moving – A call for leveraging technology to improve health and wellness

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the global challenges that technology can experience when pushed to the limits. This realty check has not only been disproportionately burdensome for individuals who are blind and visually impaired, but it has also exposed the pre-existing barriers that have harmed the physical, social, and psychological well-being within this community over the years. Join the American Council of the Blind for an empowering panel on how technology can break down barriers to a full and enriched life, and how we can all get up and get moving toward full equality in the health and wellness arena.

  • Clark Rachfal, Director of Advocacy, American Council of the Blind
  • Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind
  • Brian Charlson, member, American Council of the Blind

Benetech: Using artificial intelligence to unlock STE(A)M education

Artificial Intelligence is a term that has been around for decades and AI applications and techniques are already being used in everything from HR and healthcare to e-commerce. But what is the future of AI in supporting accessibility and inclusive education? This session will provide a basic understanding of various AI techniques, including Machine Learning and Computer Vision, and how Benetech is applying these techniques to transform complex books. For accessible formats, text is easy but equations, images and other non-text content is not straightforward. Join us to hear more about the future of Assistive Technology and how it is opening new worlds for the blind and visually impaired.

  • Brad Turner, VP and GM, Global Education and Literacy, Benetech

Salesforce: The new Office of Accessibility – Explained.

It’s been a year since Salesforce announced the launch of their Office of Accessibility, a new corporate team that partners with internal stakeholders to highlight accessibility needs and develop improvement plans, build workforce development programs, and evangelize Salesforce and their employees, customers, and other important work across the industry, all under one roof. 

In this breakout session, Kristian Burch, Senior Manager of Global Accessibility Compliance, and Richard Boardman, Senior Director of UX Engineering, Accessibility will discuss what led to this groundbreaking move, how the Office interacts with other teams and more specifically Product Accessibility, what’s worked, and what they would change looking back.

  • Kristian Burch, Senior Manager of Global Accessibility Compliance
  • Richard Boardman, Senior Director of UX Engineering, Accessibility

Fable: The barriers to Utopia: Why feedback comes first.

A lot of conversations these days are about the latest technology, and how it promises to solve all of our problems. But what about people? Join the CEO and the Community Lead of Fable, Alwar Pillai and Samuel Proulx, as they discuss how to collect authentic feedback from people living with disabilities.

  • Alwar Pillai, CEO, Fable
  • Samuel Proulx, Community lead

Eyedaptic: Simulated natural vision technology & one user’s low vision journey

Eyedaptic is an AR (Augmented Reality) visual aid company, which helps those with retina-related vision loss, such as AMD, simulate natural vision. Eyedaptic’s novel software adapts to the user’s vision, as well as their environment and habits, and optimizes the user’s remaining vision. Samuel Newman will discuss his own low vision challenges that he has overcome and the low vision technologies he has tried.  

  • Jay Cormier, Founder and CEO, Eyedaptic
  • Samuel Newman, Clinical specialist & Low vision Technology User

Vispero: The engineering experience of adding a voice assistant to ZoomText and JAWS

Roxana and Sriram talk about their experiences in adding Voice Assistant to a mainstream Windows screen reader and magnifier.  They explore the new input mechanic’s benefits and limitations and the guideposts they used to create the initial command set.  They also talk about the Voice assistant’s data and conversational privacy aspects and how Vispero is approaching them.

  • Sriram Ramanathan, Senior Software Engineer, Vispero
  • Roxana Fischer, Software Developer, Vispero

Humanware: Plotting the course – delving into the past, present, and future of assistive technology for the visually impaired community through the lens of artificial intelligence

This session will spotlight the trajectory of HumanWare and how current technological trends impact the future of product development. Join Eric Beauchamp, Francois Boutrouille and Peter Tucic for a discussion of how the previous 32 years of HumanWare’s development of blindness and low vision technology has evolved and will continue to do so with the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Participants will develop a better understanding of how the challenge of providing products that solved singular tasks has now shifted to integrate the complexities of deep learning technology to interact with dynamic objectives in real-time.

  • Peter Tucic, Brand Ambassador of Blindness Products, HumanWare
  • Eric Beauchamp, Director of Product Management, HumanWare
  • François Boutrouille, Emerging Technologies Leader, HumanWare

Teach Access: Teaching accessibility to tomorrow’s builders

Teach Access, a national coalition of institutions of higher ed, corporations (mostly tech-centered) and advocates with disabilities, will be conducting a roundtable with recent college students to discuss how the teaching of accessible design and development at the university level can help close the accessibility skills gap for the emerging generation of participants in the new digital economy.

  • Kate Sonka, Executive Director, Teach Access; Assistant Director of Academic Technology, Michigan State University
  • Larry Goldberg, Co-founder, Teach Access; Head of Accessibility, Verizon Media

#amnon-shashua, #artificial-intelligence, #diversity, #dr-kai-fu-lee, #events, #hardware, #saqib-shaikh, #sight-tech-global, #tc


Amazon’s Kuiper Systems chief David Limp is coming to Sessions: Space

TechCrunch Sessions: Space (December 16 & 17) is just a few short weeks away and there is perhaps no better time than the end of this horrid year to set our eyes to the horizon and dream of some place far, far away.

David Limp, Amazon’s SVP of Amazon Devices and Services, is just the man to stoke our imaginations. Thusly, we’re stoked to have him join us for a one-on-one conversation at Sessions: Space 2020.

Limp is responsible for Amazon’s devices business, including consumer gadgets like the Echo lineup – but also Project Kuiper, Amazon’s forthcoming Starlink competitor.

More from the agenda

Kuiper Systems is a large broadband satellite internet constellation that is expected to be made up of more than 3,000 satellites, with a mission to provide internet to tens of millions of people who currently don’t have access.

In July, Amazon received approval from the FCC to launch and operate said constellation, and the company also announced it would be investing $10 billion into Kuiper, as well as the on-ground infrastructure needed to offer broadband connectivity to those millions of users.

Limp has been with Amazon since March 2010, before which he was a venture partner at Azure Capital Partners for four years. While his role oversees a wide variety of products, including Alexa, Echo, Kindle, Fire TV, Ring and more, the scope of our conversation at Sessions: Space will focus on just that, space.

Limp joins a stellar (see what I did there?) lineup of incredible speakers at TC Sessions: Space, including Lt. Gen. John Thompson of the U.S. Air Force, Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck, and NASA’s Kathryn Lueders. You don’t want to miss it!

You can get an Early Bird Ticket for just $125 until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, November 20. And we have discounts available for groupsstudentsactive military/government employees and for early-stage space startup founders who want to pitch and give their startup some extra visibility.



#aerospace, #events, #tc, #tc-sessions-space-2020


NASA’s head of human spaceflight, Kathryn Lueders, will join us at TC Sessions: Space

NASA’s human spaceflight program took big strides in 2020 with the official kick-off of the commercial crew program with SpaceX, and on plans to return humans to the surface of the Moon via the Artemis program. NASA Associate Administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate Kathryn Lueders has been there for it all, and actually rose to her current position from previously serving as Commercial Crew Program Manager, so there’s no one better to speak to the agency’s achievements and goals around putting humans in space.

Lueders will join us at TC Sessions: Space this year, which is happening December 16 and 17. It’s a fully virtual event, featuring all-star programming from across the space industry, public sector, and of course the startup scene. Associate Administrator Lueders will be joined on stage by moderator Emily Calandrelli, scientist, engineer, and host of the hit Netflix show Emily’s Wonder Lab.

We’ll be talking to Lueders about NASA’s historic certification of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon human launch system, which ends the U.S. reliance on Russia’s Soyuz for transportation to and from the International Space Station – and becomes the first commercial spacecraft certified for human flight ever.

Dragon will make history yet again with its first-ever operational crew mission, set to take three NASA astronauts and one JAXA astronaut to the ISS this weekend.

Associate Administrator Lueders will also be able to talk us through the ongoing effort to gain a second commercial crew mission provider with Boeing, which is still in the process of certifying their Starliner spacecraft, and NASA’s work toward putting the next American man and the first American woman on the surface of the Moon with Artemis. She’s also the perfect person to talk about the agency’s future with commercial and startup partners when it comes to human spaceflight.

You can get an Early Bird Ticket for just $125 until 11:59pm tonight, Friday, November 13. And we have discounts available for groupsstudentsactive military/government employees and for early-stage space startup founders who want to pitch and give their startup some extra visibility.



#events, #nasa, #space, #tc, #tc-sessions-space-2020


Come hear about the opportunities in space observation at TC Sessions: Space

The market for space observation is one of the few commercialized segments of the nascent industry and could be worth upwards of $8 billion by the end of the decade, according to some estimates.

At TC Sessions: Space this December 16 & 17, we’ll be discussing what’s ahead for the market with some of the industry’s leading founders, including Payam Banazadeh, the chief executive and founder of Capella Space; Rafal Modrzewski, the chief executive and founder of ICEYE; Peter Platzer, the chief executive of Spire Global; and Melanie Stricklan, co-founder and chief science officer, Slingshot Aerospace.

Between them, these founders have raised roughly $450 million for their respective companies. We’ll discuss the opportunities that investors see in backing companies looking down at Earth and what’s ahead for the industry.

Prior to founding Slingshot, Melanie worked in the United States Air Force, where she was responsible for Space Control and Battle Management integration across mission areas to increase the nation’s ability to protect and defend space capabilities against emerging threats. Then, at the Department of Defense she led the development and deployment of experimental spacecraft, electronic warfare and cyber technologies. She graduated from the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and received her master’s in Space Systems Operations Management from Webster University.

Before founding Capella Space, Payam Banazadeh worked as a project manager and flight systems engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He’s received the NASA Mariner Award, NASA Discovery Award and NASA Formulation Award. An advocate for raising awareness around volatility of life on earth and the consequences of technological innovation, Banazadeh holds a business degree from Stanford and graduated with an Aerospace Engineering degree from the University of Texas.

Peter Platzer co-founded Spire Global back in 2012 with a vision to provide satellite-powered data from any location on earth. Named a White House Champion of Change in 2013 and a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum, Platzer is now regarded as one of the pioneers in launching small form factor satellites into space. The recipient of a Harvard MBA and an undergraduate degree from Vienna’s prestigious Technical University, Platzer received his early training at CERN and the Planck Institute before turning to a consulting career at BCG. He advised on space commercialization at NASA Ames’ Space Portal while completing an MSS from the International Space University

Rafal Modrzewski was a researcher at VTT, the Technical Research Center of Finland, working on RFID and wireless sensing technologies before he turned his attention to the stars. At ICEYE, which began as a project in 2012 and was formally incorporated in 2014, Modrzewski and his co-founder Pekka Laurila focused on launching and operating small radar imaging satellites to provide reliable Earth observation data.

We’re just about a month away from TC Sessions: Space 2020 and the deadline for securing the early-bird price (and $100 savings) expires this Friday 11.13.20 at 11:59 p.m. PST. If you’re looking for more ways to save, we’ve got you covered. We offer group discount passes ($100 each — bring four team members and get the fifth one free); student discounts ($50); and discounts for government, military and nonprofits ($95). If you subscribe to Extra Crunch, knock an extra 20% off the price of admission – simply email to get your discount code.


#events, #space, #startups, #tc, #tc-sessions-space-2020


Treviranus, Butler and Fruchterman to speak at Sight Tech Global


Sight Tech Global goes live the week after Thanksgiving on December 2-3, and now’s the time to pick up a free pass! The agenda for this virtual, global event on AI-related technology and accessibility for people who are blind or visually impaired just keeps getting better.

Today we’re delighted to announce two new sessions as well as our host for Sight Tech Global, Will Butler, a vice-president at Be My Eyes and host to the popular Be My Eyes and 13 Letters podcasts. Butler will run the Sight Tech Global virtual “desk,” where he will offer a running commentary on the sessions as well as introduce speakers and moderators. Be My Eyes is also the attendee-support partner for Sight Tech Global, and volunteers will be standing by to assist anyone who has questions during the event.

Butlers joins several TechCrunch moderators for sessions at the event, including Matthew Panzarino, Megan Rose Dickey, Kirsten Korosec, and Devin Coldewey.

Here are the two new panels on the agenda:

AI, Fairness and Bias: What technologists and advocates need to do to ensure that AI helps instead of harms people with disabilities

While it’s clear that AI-based technologies like natural language processing and computer vision are powerful tools to help with accessibility, there are also areas where AI technologies inject bias against people with disabilities by contrasting them against “norms” established in databases. This panel will look at examples of where that is happening – in employment software, benefits determination or even self-driving cars, for example, – and approaches that will help address these issues from the ground up.

Jutta Treviranus, Director of the Inclusive Design Research Center

Lydia Brown, Policy Counsel, Privacy and Data Project

Moderator, Jim Fruchterman, Founder, Benetech

Inventors invent: Three new takes on assistive technology

Inventors have long been inspired to apply their genius to helping blind people. Think of innovators like Louis Braille and Ray Kurzweil, to name just two. Today’s ambitious pioneers have the cheap sensors, high speed data networks, and data and compute “in the cloud” to do more than ever before. In this session, three founders present products that have just or will soon enter production that they believe will improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Keith Kirkland, Wayband

Khartik Mahadevan, Envision Glasses

Andres Forsland, Cognixion

Moderator, Ned Desmond

Sight Tech Global is a production of the non-profit  Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which has served people on the San Francisco Bay area for 75 years. All proceeds from the event, which is run entirely by volunteers, go directly to support the Vista Center’s work with blind and low vision people. We are very grateful for the sponsors who are backing Sight Tech Global, including Waymo, Salesforce, Mojo Vision, Ford, Vispero, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Wells Fargo, Comcast, Accessibe, Eyedaptic, APH, Humanware, Verizon Media and TechCrunch. Sponsorship opportunities are still available. 


#artificial-intelligence, #be-my-eyes, #events, #hardware, #jim-fruchterman, #privacy, #sight-tech-global, #tc


Learn how to score your first check with TMV’s Soraya Darabi on November 10

When it comes to financing a startup, the most important — and hardest — check to land is the very first one.

The growth of accelerators, rolling funds, community funds, hungry angels and institutional investors has given founders more options than ever before, but for women and people of color, access to funding continues to be a struggle.

On Tuesday, November 10 at 11:00 a.m. PT/2:00 p.m. ET, we’re bringing venture capitalist Soraya Darabi of TMV to the Extra Crunch Live stage to talk about how to get that first “yes” as an early-stage company and which founder mistakes often lead her to say “no.” We’ll walk through her theses, which range from future work and edtech, and double-click into what she needs to see in terms of metrics and product upon first pitch.

Darabi founded TMV, formerly Trail Mix Ventures, in 2016, and has built a portfolio that is majority women and minority-owned, including employee wellness platform Bravely, holistic healthcare company Parsley Health and waste reduction upstart Ridwell. TMV is often the first institutional check that a company might raise.

Before TMV, Darabi spent time at The New York Times as the manager of digital partnerships and social media marketing. She also was the co-founder of two companies: Zady, which helps with sustainable fashion manufacturing, and Foodspotting, a visual guide that helps locals find dishes near them that was acquired by OpenTable.

There’s an excess of capital in startupland, which could look remarkably different in the coming months. Join us to learn more about how a venture capitalist is thinking about the next few months, and dare we say, the end of 2020.

Details after the jump:

#early-stage, #events, #extra-crunch-live, #soraya-darabi, #startups, #tc, #trail-mix-ventures, #venture-capital


Apple’s Jeff Bigham, disability rights lawyer Haben Girma, author Sara Hendren and more to join Sight Tech Global

The other day we announced the first ten sessions for Sight Tech Global, a virtual event Dec. 2-3 that is convening the world’s top technologists to discuss how AI-based technologies are revolutionizing the future of accessibility. Today, we’re pleased to announce three additional sessions. Registration is free and and open now.

Designing for Everyone: Accessibility Innovation at Apple
Apple has long embraced accessibility as a bedrock design principle. Not only has Apple created some of the most popular consumer products in history, these same products are also some of the most powerful assistive devices ever. Apple’s Sarah Herrlinger and Jeffrey Bigham will discuss the latest accessibility technology from Apple and how the company fosters a culture of innovation, empowerment, and inclusion.

Sarah Herrlinger, senior director of Global Accessibility Policy & Initiatives, Apple
Jeffrey Bigham, research lead, AI/ML accessibility Research, Apple
Moderator: Matthew Panzarino, Editor-in-chief, TechCrunch

Inventing the Accessible Future, by Collaboration or by Court
When technologists design exciting new innovations, those designs rarely include blind people. Advocates urge us to employ a variety of strategies, from education to litigation, to ensure accessibility is baked into all future tech. Harvard Law’s first Deafblind graduate Haben Girma, disability rights attorney Lainey Feingold, and International Digital Publishing Forum president George Kerscher will discuss strategies for creating a future fully accessible to blind people, including those who are Black, Indigenous, People of Color.

Haben Girma, disability rights lawyer, speaker, and author of Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law
Lainey Feingold, disability rights lawyer and author of Structured Negotiations: A Winning Alternative to Lawsuits
George Kerscher, Chief Innovations Officer for the DAISY Consortium, Senior Advisor for Benetech’s Global Education and Literacy Group, and President of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF)
Moderator: Megan Rose Dickey, senior reporter, TechCrunch

What can a body do? How we meet the built world
Technologists like to imagine how their work affects people, but that’s no substitute for truly knowing the real impact on lives, or better yet understanding what people, especially people with disabilities, really want from their surroundings and community. In her recent book, What Can a Body Do? professor and designer Sara Hendren’s “aim…isn’t to throw cold water on innovation; it’s to re-center the people, behind the tools, who must work with their surroundings, their adaptations at least as miraculous as the technology that helps them.” (Katy Waldman, in her New Yorker review)

Sara Hendren, Associate professor, Olin College
Moderator: Will Butler, Vice president, Be My Eyes

Keep an out for more sessions and breakouts in early November. In the meantime, registration is open. Get your pass today!

Sight Tech Global is eager to hear from potential sponsors. We’re grateful to current sponsors Amazon, Ford, Google, Humanware, Microsoft, Mojo Vision, Salesforce, Waymo, and Wells Fargo. All sponsorship revenues go to the nonprofit Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which has been serving the Silicon Valley area for 75 years.

#accessibility, #artificial-intelligence, #diversity, #events, #hardware, #tc, #web-accessibility


Hubilo raises $4.5 million, led by Lightspeed, to focus on virtual events

Earlier this year, the founders of event analytics platform Hubilo pivoted to become a virtual events platform to survive the impact of COVID-19. Today, the startup announced it has raised a $4.5 million seed round, led by Lightspeed, and says it expects to exceed $10 million bookings run rate and host over one million attendees over the next few months.

The round also included angel investors Freshworks chief executive officer Girish Mathrubootham; former LinkedIn India CEO Nishant Rao; Slideshare co-founder Jonathan Boutelle; and Helpshift CEO Abinash Tripathy.

Hubilo’s clients have included the United Nations, Roche, Fortune, GITEX, IPI Singapore, Tech In Asia, Infocomm Asia and Clarion Events. The startup is headquartered in San Francisco, but about 12% of its sales are currently from Southeast Asia, and it plans to further scale in the region. It will also focus on markets in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Vaibhav Jain, Hubilo’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that many of its customers before the pandemic were enterprises and governments that used its platform to help organize large events. Those were also the first to stop hosting in-person events.

In February, “we knew that most, if not all, physical events were getting postponed or cancelled globally. To counter the drop in demand for offline events, we agreed to extend the contracts by six more months at no cost,” Jain said. “However, this was not enough to retain our clients and most of them either cancelled the contracts or put the contract on hold indefinitely.”

As a result, Hubilo’s revenue dropped to zero in February. With about 30 employees and reserves for only three months, Jain said the company had to chose between shutting down or finding an alternative model. Hubilo’s team created a MVP (minimum viable product) virtual event platform in less than a month and started by convincing a client to use it for free. That first virtual event was hosted in March and “since then, we’ve never looked back,” said Jain.

This means Hubilo is now competing with other virtual event platforms, like Cvent and Hopin (which was used to host TechCrunch Disrupt). Jain said his company differentiates by giving organizers more chances to rebrand their virtual spaces; focusing on sponsorship opportunities that include contests, event feeds and virtual lounges to increase attendee engagement; and providing data analytic features that include integration with Salesforce, Marketo and Hubspot.

With so many events going virtual that “Zoom fatigue” and “webinar fatigue” have now become catchphrases, event organizers have to not only convince people to buy tickets, but also keep them engaged during an event.

Hubilo “gamifies” the experience of attending a virtual event with features like its Leaderboard. This enables organizers to assign points for things like watching a session, visiting a virtual booth or messaging someone. Then they can give prizes to the attendees with the most points. Jain said the Leaderboard is Hubilo’s most used feature.

#asia, #events, #fundings-exits, #hubilo, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #virtual-events


Pickle app puts on users, as millennials/Gen-Z latch onto location apps to fight Covid lockdowns

As the coming of winter combined with the coronavirus continues to put new restrictions on peoples’ movements, location-based apps are on the rise again. People are looking to find out who is close to them. Who is in their community. People are understandably looking for new friends and resources close to them.

Apps that connect young mums locally (Pumpspotting, Peanut), professionals (Fishbowl, Lunchclub), Jetset daters (Raya, Bumble), digital nomads (Homeis), locals (Nextdoor ) and millennials (Friended) are all being dialed-up.

And with government lockdowns coming back for their “2nd album” the UK’s millennials and Gen-Zs are increasingly turning to location-based apps to try and hang out with each other and burst the so-called ‘rule of six’ bubble, whether the government wants them to or not.

Pickle is fast making a name for itself amongst an estimated 350,000 millennials and Gen-Zs for that reason. After starting out as a taskrabbit-style app for Gen-Z, it is now seeing growth as an app for that generation to find fellow travelers locally, even as their normal travel has been curtailed by COVID-19.

Founder Daneh Westropp says: “Loneliness is the number one fear of young people today – ranking ahead of losing a home or a job. 71% of millennials reported feeling lonely [survey conducted by Cigna] and 69% of millennials experience FOMO when they can’t attend something that their family or friends are going to [study by Eventbrite]. So it comes as no surprise that people genuinely hate doing certain activities alone.” That’s why, she says, Pickle is climbing up app-store rankings.

Westropp understands the feeling of alienation. She ran away from Tehran during the 1988 Iran/Iraq war with her mother and sister, and was raised by a single mother who suffered from loneliness and depression. After dropping out of school at the age of 15 she went on to join the ranks of other entrepreneurs.

But a few problems remain with the Pickle app that are cause for concern. It has no 2FA for starters. Plus, the lack of regulation or content filtering means it’s anyone’s guess who users might be arranging to meet. Those are big red flags for the average observer.

Whether Gen-Z cares or not during a global pandemic that has shut down their lives, remains to be seen.

#articles, #bumble, #cigna, #demographics, #europe, #eventbrite, #events, #fishbowl, #iran, #iraq, #millennials, #nextdoor, #pickle, #tc, #united-kingdom


What to expect from Apple’s ‘Hi Speed’ iPhone event

For starters, iPhones, of course. That one was easy. The company skipped out on new mobile devices during its recent Apple Watch event, owing to COVID-19-related delays. And, of course, the fact that the events are all pre-taped and virtual now means companies can more easily split them up in ways that were harder to justify when people were expected to fly in from all over the world.

That doesn’t mean we won’t be getting more than just a phone (or, more like multiple phones). While Apple’s been more inclined to host more, smaller events, there’s a decent chance this is going to be the last major event the company hosts before the holidays. That means it’s going to want to get a lot of bang for its buck this time out.

The iPhone 12 is expected to be the centerpiece, of course. The headline feature will almost certainly be 5G. Apple’s been a little behind the curve on that front versus its Android competitors (Samsung, for instance, has several devices with next-gen wireless), though another knock-on effect from the pandemic has been a slower than expected adoption of the tech. So in some ways, Apple’s really right on time here. In the U.S., the company is said to offer both the mmWave and sub-6Ghz 5G technologies. Availability may vary depending on the needs of a given market.

Rumors point to a bunch of different models. After all, gone are the days a company like Apple could just offer up a big premium device and be done with it. Sales for high-end devices were already drying up well before the virus came along to bring smartphone sales to a screeching halt there for a bit. People were already tired of paying in excess of $1,000 for new phones when the ones they already had still did the job perfectly fine.

There are supposedly four sizes arriving. There will be higher-end devices at 6.1 and 6.7 inches, and more budget-minded devices at 6.1 and 5.4 inches. It’s a pretty broad price range, from $699 for the “mini” to $1,099 and up for the Pro Max (sandwiched between are the $799 iPhone 12 and $999 Pro). Along with its recently expanded Watch line, Apple’s all about choice this time out.

Reportedly, however, the company will be bringing OLED tech to all of the models, marking a pretty big change from the days of LCD-sporting budget models. The new models are expected to get a welcome redesign, reportedly returning to something more in line with the iPhone 5. The rounded edges are expected to be dropped in favor of a flatter design, akin to what you get on the iPad Pro.

Other interesting potential additions include the return of the company’s dearly departed MagSafe life for a pair of wireless charging pads that will hopefully finally lay to rest any memory of the failed AirPower experiment. Available for one or two devices, the new pads will reportedly leverage magnets built into the phones to snap them in place.

Music has always been a cornerstone for the company, and it’s long overdue for some updates to audio products. This time out, we may finally get the long-awaited AirPods Studio, an over-ear addition to its line of headphones. The models are set to come in two variations, the largest variation being build materials. A smaller version of its smart speaker could be on the way, as well. The HomePod has long been cost-prohibitive for many, so a mini version could finally make it a bit more accessible.

Another long-rumored addition — AirTags — could finally arrive, as well. Apple’s product-tracking Tile competitor has been in the cards for some time now, but has repeatedly been delayed. That may still be the case — and same goes for a refresh to Apple TV. With the company’s subscription service about to celebrate its year anniversary, it could really use some updated hardware. New Macs with Apple-built chips could be on the table, as well, though the company is reportedly planning one more 2020 event for that big launch.

The event kicks off tomorrow at 10AM PT/1PM ET. We’ll be watching along with you, bringing you the news as it breaks.

#airpods, #airpods-studio, #airtags, #apple, #events, #hardware, #homepod, #iphone, #iphone-12, #mobile, #smartphones


Join Yext’s Howard Lerman for a Q&A October 13 at 2 pm ET/11 am PT

Heading into the third quarter and earnings season, TechCrunch is excited to announce that Yext CEO Howard Lerman will join us for a live Q&A next Tuesday as part of our continuing Extra Crunch Live series.

The series recently hosted pairs of investors from Accel and Index Ventures and has hosted business leaders from Mark Cuban to Roelof Botha. Lerman will be one of the few guests who is the CEO of a public company.

But Lerman is no regular public CEO — his company debuted at a TechCrunch event back in 2009, quickly raising capital after the pitch. Yext’s 2017 IPO was therefore an event of interest here at TechCrunch.

What will we talk about? There’s a number of things that come to mind, but we’ll certainly get into the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses and how Yext is handling an uneven market. We’ll dig into search, a rising product and revenue area for the company, and how Yext has managed to broaden its product mix without diluting its focus.

We’ll also discuss what changes for a tech CEO heading into the public markets and what advice he might have for companies either considering, or actively going public in 2020. It has been a busy year for startup liquidity, pushing a great number of startups into the public sphere with varying results.

And we’ll riff on where Lerman is seeing the most interesting startups being built, along with your questions. As with all Extra Crunch Live sessions, we’ll snag a few questions from the audience. So make sure your Extra Crunch Live subscription is live and prep your thoughts.

Details follow after the jump. See everyone Tuesday!


Below are links to add the event to your calendar and to save the Zoom link. We’ll share the YouTube link on the day of the discussion:

#ecl, #events, #extra-crunch-live, #fundings-exits, #howard-lerman, #roelof-botha, #startups, #tc, #yext


Here’s the curtain raise on the Sight Tech Global agenda

The goal of Sight Tech Global, a virtual, global event on December 2-3, 2020, is to gather the world’s top experts who are applying advanced technologies, notably AI, to the future of accessibility and assistive tech for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Today we’re excited to roll out most of the agenda. There are another half-dozen sessions and breakouts still to come, notably sessions on AI bias and civil rights. What we’ve discovered over the many weeks of research and conversation is a consistent, strong interest on the part of researchers, technologists and product and design thinkers to convene and talk over the future — its promises, challenges and even threats.

We’re delighted to have top-level talent from virtually every leading technology company, many research universities and some startups ready for fireside chats and small panel discussions with expert moderators. Some sessions will take questions from our audience as well.

When the event dates are closer, we will add dates and times to each of these sessions as well as announce additional speakers. Register today to get a free pass and please browse the first edition of the Sight Tech Global agenda below.

Seeing AI: Where does Microsoft’s blockbuster app go from here?

With ever more powerful computer and data resources available in the cloud, Microsoft’s Seeing AI mobile app is destined to become a steadily better ally for anyone with vision challenges. Co-founder Saqib Shaikh leads the engineering team that’s charting the app’s cloud-enabled future.

Saqib Shaikh, co-founder of Seeing AI, Microsoft
Moderator: Devin Coldewey, TechCrunch

The future according to OrCam

As AI-based computer vision, voice recognition and natural language processing race ahead, the engineering challenge is to design devices that can perceive the physical world and communicate that information in a timely manner. Amnon Shashua’s OrCam MyEye is the most sophisticated effort yet to merge those technologies in a seamless experience on a dedicated device.

Amnon Shashua, co-founder of OrCam and Mobileye
Moderator: Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch

Accessibility from the wheels up: The Waymo self-driving taxi

If people who are blind or visually impaired find Uber and Lyft liberating, imagine how they will feel summoning a self-driving ride from an app on their mobile phones. But wait, how exactly will they locate the cars and what happens when they climb in? Presenter Clem Wright is responsible for the self-driving taxi’s accessibility, and he will be joined by leadership from two organizations closely involved in that effort: The Lighthouse for the Blind SF and the Foundation for Blind Children.

Clem Wright, Accessibility product manager, Waymo
Marc Ashton, CEO, Foundation for Blind Children
Bryan Bashin, CEO, Lighthouse for the Blind
Moderator: Kirsten Korosec, TechCrunch

Our AI future is already here

Whether it’s Alexa, Tesla or Facebook, AI is already deeply embedded in our daily lives. Few understand that better than Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, a scientist who developed the first speaker-independent, continuous speech recognition system as a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon, led Google in China and held senior roles at Microsoft and Apple. Today, Dr. Lee runs Sinovation Ventures, a $2 billion fund based in China, is president of the Sinovation’s Artificial Intelligence Institute and has 50 million followers on social media.

Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, chairman and CEO, Sinovation Ventures
Moderator: Ned Desmond, Sight Tech Global

The future of AT devices and the companies that make them

Dedicated devices versus accessible platforms? Victor Reader Stream versus iPhones and Alexa? How will AT companies take advantage of a world with cloud data and edge computational power, AI algorithms and more demanding customers than ever? Humanware, eSight and APH are already looking far into that future.

Gilles Pepin, CEO, Humanware
Greg Stilson, head of Global Innovation, APH
Charles Lim, CTO, eSight
Moderator: Betsy Beaumon, CEO, Benetech

If the Jetsons had screen readers, would they be using keyboard commands?

The screen reader is arguably the most consequential digital technology ever for people who are blind or visually impaired. At the same time, screen readers depend on a dizzying array of keyboard commands, and — when it comes to reading websites in a browser — they struggle with the ugly reality of poor website accessibility. New technologies may lead the way to better outcomes.

Glen Gordon, Software fellow, Vispero; architect, JAWS
James Teh, Accessibility engineer, Mozilla; co-founder, NVDA
Léonie Watson, director, TetraLogical
Moderator: Matt King, Accessibility technical program manager, Facebook

Alexa, what is your future?

When Alexa launched six years ago, no one imagined that the voice assistant would reach into millions of daily lives and become a huge convenience for people who are blind or visually impaired. This fall, Alexa introduced personalization and conversational capabilities that are a step-change toward more human-like home companionship. Amazon’s Josh Miele and Anne Toth will discuss the impact on accessibility as Alexa becomes more capable.

Anne Toth, director, Alexa Trust at Amazon
Josh Miele, principal accessibility researcher, Lab126 at Amazon
Moderator: Devin Coldewey, TechCrunch

Augmented reality and perception: What’s the best way to get the message across?

It’s one thing for an AI-based system to “know” when it’s time to turn left, who came through the door or how far away the couch is: It’s quite another to convey that information in a timely fashion with minimal distraction. Researchers are making use of haptics, visual augmented reality (AR), sound and language to figure out the right solutions.

Amos Miller, Product strategist, Microsoft AI and Research
Ashley Tuan, VP Medical Devices, Mojo Vision
Sile O’Modhrain, associate professor, Performing Arts Technology, University of Michigan
Moderator: Nick Giudice, professor of Spatial Informatics, University of Maine

Wayfinding: Finding the mark

Map apps on mobile phones are miraculous tools accessible via voice output, but mainstream apps don’t announce the detailed location information (which people who are blind or visually impaired really want), especially inside buildings and in public transportation settings. Efforts in the U.S. and U.K. are improving accessible navigation.

Tim Murdoch, founder and CEO, Waymap
Nick Giudice, professor of Spatial Informatics, University of Maine
Moderator: Mike May, chief evangelist, GoodMaps

Computer vision, AI and accessibility: What’s missing from this picture?

For an AI to interpret the visual world on behalf of people who are blind or visually impaired, the AI needs to know what it’s looking at, and no less important, that it’s looking at the right thing. Mainstream computer vision databases don’t do that well — yet.

Danna Gurari, assistant professor and director of the Image and Video Computing Group, University of Texas
Patrick Clary, product manager, AI and accessibility, Google
Moderator: Roberto Manduchi, professor CS and Engineering, UC Santa Cruz

Keep an out for more sessions and breakouts later this month. In the meantime, registration is open. Get your pass today!

Sight Tech Global is eager to hear from potential sponsors. We’re grateful to current sponsors Amazon, Ford, Google, Microsoft, Mojo Vision, Waymo, Wells Fargo and Humanware. All sponsorship revenues go to the nonprofit Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which has been serving the Silicon Valley area for 75 years.

Special thanks to the Sight Tech Global advisors — Tech Matters Jim Fruchterman, UC Santa Cruz’s Roberto Manduchi, Verizon Media’s Larry Goldberg, Facebook’s Matt King and Be My Eyes’ Will Butler — who are playing an invaluable role on this project.

#accessories, #amazon-alexa, #amnon-shashua, #artificial-intelligence, #augmented-reality, #diversity, #events, #hardware, #kai-fu-lee, #orcam, #privacy, #saqib-shaikh, #sight-tech-global, #tc


Transportation VCs suggest frayed US-China ties will impact mobility markets

On Tuesday, during TechCrunch’s annual Mobility event, we had the opportunity to interview three investors who spend much of their time focused narrowly on shifts in the transportation industry and we talked with the three — Amy Gu of Hemi Ventures, Reilly Brennan of Trucks VC, and Olaf Sakkers of Maniv Mobility — about a wide range of related issues to get their take. You can check out that interview below; in the meantime, we’re pulling out parts of the conversation that we found particularly interesting:

How the pandemic is affecting fundraising and the trends they’re watching

Olaf Sakkers: In dense cities, no one is taking transit, so you’re seeing a big shift toward micromobility, but in other cities, there’s been a big uptake in car use and secondhand and new-car demand despite of economic impacts. [You’re seeing this] trade-off between us getting out, and more goods and services that are coming to us than before, [including] food and other things. We’re also seeing a lot of geographic and culture variances, but those are things we’re seeing immediately.

Amy Gu: One thing that COVID has changed a lot is healthcare, which has become more important (during the pandemic) but also raised questions about how we make it more mobile. We’ve been looking at telemedicine companies and remote health care.

Is COVID-19 driving people to buy bikes, scooters and used cars instead of renting?

Reilly Brennan: People fell off micromobility platforms not because they didn’t like them, but they liked them so much, they wanted to buy [the scooters and bikes]. The ways a typical dealership makes money with financing, maintenance and service will come to micromobility. There isn’t much of a used market right now for e-bikes and e-scooters because there aren’t many of them, but that ecosystem will become stronger … [you can imagine] buying outright, leasing, subscriptions, wrapping in theft control … all the tricks you’ve seen carmakers bring to car financing, [meaning] not owning or renting but something in-between.

#amy-gu, #automotive, #china, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #events, #hemi-ventures, #maniv-mobility, #micromobility, #olaf-sakkers, #reilly-brennan, #tc, #trade-war, #transportation, #trucks-vc


Apple will announce the next iPhone on October 13

Apple just sent out invites for its upcoming hardware event, all but confirming the arrival of the next iPhone. The event is scheduled nearly a month to the day after the its last big event, which gave us the Apple Watch Series 6 and two new iPads.

A new iPhone was conspicuously absent from the proceedings — not an entirely unexpected turn of events, of course. CEO Tim Cook confirmed earlier this year that there would be a delay the arrival of the company’s new flagship, owing to COVID-19 hardware supply chain issues.

Apple invite

Image Credits: Apple /

The iPhone 12 is set to finally deliver 5G connectivity to Apple’s product line, coupled with a new design, chip and a push to OLED for all entries in the line. There are expected to be three new models in all, ranging from 5.4 to 6.4 inches. The company will, no doubt, also be using the occasion to release additional hardware. Audio seems like a pretty obvious addition — perhaps we’ll finally be seeing the company’s long-awaited over-ear headphones, the AirPods Studio.

The event kicks off virtually at 10AM PT. As ever, we’ll be bringing you the news live.


#apple, #events, #iphone


How 3 remote-friendly tech companies plan to return to the office

Six months ago, millions of workers left their offices for the last time without realizing it.

Many would be laid off because of the pandemic, but for those fortunate to keep their jobs, some of their employers still haven’t determined whether they will open their workplaces again.

Some of the biggest tech employers in the United States, like Facebook and Google, have vowed to keep their offices closed until at least 2021, which experts say is a realistic timeframe to develop a vaccine. Twitter went all in, allowing its employees to work from home for as long as they choose, even permanently.

Although the pandemic helped propel the work from home revolution, not all companies are calling it a day on office life just yet. Flexible working is here to stay and is likely to be as important to prospective employees as more traditional company benefits.

TechCrunch spoke with three tech companies that have long embraced flexible work — Auth0, Duo Security and Yubico — about how they adapted during the pandemic and their plans to return to the office.

What’s clear is that although flexible working has been an important part of their culture, it’ll take more than a pandemic to end the office era for good.

Auth0 plans to reopen its six offices

Before the pandemic hit, more than half of Auth0’s employees worked from home. Even its chief executive Eugenio Pace split his time between working from the office and his home.

“Since day one, our employees have had the freedom to do work on their own terms,” said Pace. He said that flexible working helped make his employees more productive, while allowing the company to expand its pool of talent — where more restrictive companies might demand an employee relocate.

“It’s also important to recognize that remote work isn’t for everyone,” he said. But the pandemic made working from the office impossible. Now, the company’s more than 700 employees are working from home.

#auth0, #cisco-systems, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #dug-song, #duo-security, #events, #real-estate, #remote-work, #tc, #techcrunch-disrupt, #telecommuting, #yubico, #yubikey


Hear from Postmates, Refraction AI and FedEx about autonomous delivery at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020

Small startups and logistics giants alike are working on how to use automated vehicle technology and robotics for delivery. Some have even accelerated their efforts, with mixed results, as the COVID-19 pandemic drove up demand for delivery.

But is the world — or the tech — ready for the mainstream?

TechCrunch has tapped three experts from FedEx, Refraction AI and Postmates to join our virtual stage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 to talk about the challenges and opportunities of using robots for delivery. TC Sessions: Mobility is a two-day conference scheduled for October 6 and October 7 that aims to bring together the best and brightest minds working on the future of transportation.

Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-founder of Refraction AI, Ali Kashani, the VP of Special Projects at Postmates and Rebecca Yeung, vice president of Advanced Technology & Innovation at FedEx will discuss the changing face of delivery, what it will take to make this technology commercially viable and whether the the COVID-19 pandemic has changed their strategy.

Johnson-Roberson’s company Refraction AI came out of stealth on our stage last year. The Midwest-based startup, which developed a delivery robot that uses the bike lane, and has been ramping up testing and operations in its home state of Michigan. Johnson-Roberson, has worked in robotic perception since the first DARPA grand challenge, is also associate professor of robotics at the University of Michigan College of Engineering.

Kashani has co-founded several startups, including Lox, which was acquired by Postmates in 2017. When Kashani joined the company he launched Postmates X, which aimed to solve the economic and environmental dilemma of using vehicles to deliver food. His team came up with Serve, the robot that is now used to deliver food in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Yeung’s primary responsibility as VP of advanced technology is to accelerate innovation in the autonomous vehicles and robotics space and use it to improve FedEx’s operations and customer experience. Yeung has more than 20 years of experience in emerging technology, strategy, marketing, and business development. She is the lead officer for FedEx’s same-day robot known as Roxo. She also oversees key autonomous vehicle and robotics initiatives at the enterprise level, evaluating emerging technologies to inform R&D investments.

In case you hadn’t heard, TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 is virtual this year. The virtual version of TC Sessions: Mobility will bring all of what you’d expect from our in-person events, from the informative panels and provocative one-on-one interviews to the networking and this year, even a pitch-off session. This year, we’re also holding Q&A sessions following several of the panels, allowing ticketholders to submit questions to the panelists.

We want TC Sessions: Mobility to be accessible to as many people as possible and so we’ve created a range of pass levels to fit just about every budget. Prices start at $25 for the Expo ticket and students can attend for $50. We also have discounts for groups. Or buy an Early-Stage Startup Exhibitor Package to claim a spot in our expo before we run out of space!

#automotive, #events, #fedex, #postmates, #tc-sessions-mobility-2020, #transportation


MWC plans to go forward in person in 2021, but pushes show back to late-June

Over the past several months, it’s become painfully clear that COVID-19 isn’t a problem that we’re going to leave behind in 2021. After hemming and hawing a bit, the CTA ultimately pulled the trigger for an online-only version of the show in January. Other tech shows are similarly — at best — still up in the air. There’s also the example of IFA, which was recently held in Berlin — albeit at a greatly reduced capacity.

Mobile World Congress, which traditionally falls in a the late-February/early-March timeframe was among the first major tech show to be canceled on account of the pandemic. There was understandably a lot of last minute handwringing on that one — but in hindsight, it’s pretty clear the GSMA made the correct decision.

This week, MWC’s governing body announced that organization’s flagship evening will go on in Barcelona, but has pushed things back a few months. The show is now planned to run June 28 through July 1. A lot can happen between now and then, of course. Numbers could go down, a vaccine could be issued. But even this far out, a show of that magnitude still feels overly optimistic.

The calendar shuffling also finds the GSMA pushing its MWC Shanghai event into the February slot. That is, for what it’s worth a considerably smaller show. In both cases, the organization would be well-served to have a robust online plan in place. Even if things go exactly according to plan, many potential attendees are still understandably wary of travel and big crowds. It seems likely that an event like this will have some permanent impact on the way trade shows are handled moving forward.

It’s certainly a difficult decision when dealing with a hardware show, where so much of its appeal lies in the ability to interact with devices in-person. That’s been a consistent shortcoming in all of 2020’s online-only hardware events. Such a show loses a lot of luster when it occurs entirely through a computer screen.

#corona-virus, #covid-19, #events, #hardware, #mobile-world-congress, #mwc-2021


Battery tech superstars JB Straubel of Redwood Materials, Celina Mikolajczak of Panasonic coming to TC Mobility 2020

It was a trickle at first that has evolved into a slow and steady stream. Now, a wave of new electric vehicles is building, promising to deliver an unprecedented number of models to North America, Europe and China over the next two to three years.

There might not be a better time to dig into EVs and we have two superstars coming to TC Sessions: Mobility 2020. JB Straubel, co-founder and CEO of Redwood Materials who pioneered the battery powertrain design for Tesla as its longtime CTO, and Celina Mikolajczak, the vice president of battery technology for Panasonic Energy of North America, will join us on our virtual stage to talk about all things electric vehicles.

This virtual event takes place October 6-7, and we’re excited to hear from these two technology leaders working at the forefront of the industry.

Straubel’s role at Tesla cannot be understated. The co-founder and executive was responsible for some of the company’s most important technology during his 15 years there, including leading the cell design, supply chain and the first Gigafactory concept through the production ramp of the Model 3.

But Straubel’s story isn’t just tied to Tesla. The former Tesla executive went on to found another startup in 2017 called Redwood Materials . The battery recycling startup is focused on circular supply chains, essentially turning waste into profit and solving the environmental impacts of new products before they happen. Its first named customer is Panasonic; and just this week announced Amazon has joined that list.

Mikolajczak has a long history researching and developing better lithium-ion batteries. Her technical consulting practice at Exponent focused on lithium-ion cell and battery safety and quality. She then took a senior management position at Tesla that was focused on cell quality and materials engineering. During her time at Tesla, Mikolajczak developed the battery cells and packs for Tesla’s Model S, Model X, Model 3 and Roadster Refresh.

After leaving Tesla, Mikolajczak went on to serve as director of engineering focused on battery development for rideshare vehicles at Uber Technologies. Last year, she joined Panasonic Energy of North America, where she is vice president of battery technology. Mikolajczak leads a team of more than 200 engineers and other technical staff to improve lithium-ion cell manufacturing and to bring the latest cell technologies to mass production for Tesla at the Gigafactory facility in Sparks, Nevada.

In short: these two know a lot about battery technology from how it has developed in the past decade to where it’s headed and the implications it will have on automakers, consumers and the economy.

Mikolajczak and Straubel are just two in a long list of all-star speakers, including Bryan Salesky, co-founder and CEO of Argo AI, Tekedra Mawakana, chief operating officer at Waymo, Ike co-founder and chief engineer Nancy Sun as well as folks from Nuro, Aurora, Cruise, Lyft and Uber. There are startups as well including Refraction AI, which came out of stealth on our stage at last year’s mobility event.

We hope you can join in October 6-7, 2020 at the event. As you might have heard, TC Sessions: Mobility is a virtual event. Don’t worry, we know many of you want to network. We’ve built out features into our platform to give attendees unparalleled access to speakers, investors and fellow founders. Get your tickets before prices increase in a few short weeks! There are discounts for groups and students and exclusive opportunities for exhibiting for early-stage founders.

#automotive, #events, #jb-straubel, #panasonic, #redwood-materials, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2020, #tesla, #transportation


3 VCs discuss the state of SaaS investing in 2020

Yesterday during Disrupt 2020 I sat down with three investors who know the SaaS startup market very well, hoping to get my head around how hot things are today. Coming on the heels of the epic Snowflake IPO (more to come on that in this weekend’s newsletter), it was a great time for a chat.

The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.

I’ve boiled our 40-minute discussion down to my favorite parts, getting you the goods in quick fashion.

What follows are notes on:

  • how fast the SaaS investing market is today
  • why Snowflake priced where it did and what that tells us about today’s market
  • how SaaS companies are seeing different growth results based on their sales motion
  • why some private-market SaaS multiples can get so high
  • which software sectors are accelerating
  • and what I learned about international SaaS.

There are more things to pull out later, like the investors’ thoughts regarding diversity in their part of the venture world and SaaS startups, but I want to give that topic its own space.

So, into today’s SaaS market with an eye on the future, guided by commentary from Canaan’s Maha Ibrahim, Andreessen Horowitz’s David Ulevitch and Bessemer’s Mary D’Onofrio.

Inside SaaS

To help us get through a good bit of the written word without slowing down, I’ll introduce an idea, share a quote and provide a little commentary. This should be good fun.

#andressen-horowitz, #bessemer, #canaan, #cloud, #covid-19, #events, #fundings-exits, #saas, #startups, #techcrunch-disrupt-2020, #the-exchange


Spotify adds virtual event listings to its app

Spotify is embracing virtual events. The company today announced the addition of virtual event listings in the Spotify app, which will allow music fans to see when their favorite artists will be playing live — even if only via a livestream. These listings will be available through the “On Tour” section of artist profiles as well as in Spotify’s Concerts hub, the company said.

TechCrunch previously detailed Spotify’s plans in this area, but today the company made the news official.

The streaming service says artists will be able to list their events streaming on any platform, including Twitch, Instagram Live, YouTube Live, a hosted website or anything else.

Image Credits: Spotify

Other virtual events will be automatically imported to the platform courtesy of Spotify’s existing partnerships with Songkick and Ticketmaster.

Virtual events uploaded through Songkick will now begin to automatically show up on both the artist profiles and the Concert hub. Artists can also choose to set their own events as their “Artist Pick.”

A select number of Ticketmaster events will be listed on Spotify, as well, the company says.

Image Credits: Spotify

These new integrations aren’t surprising, given that most major ticketing services have shifted their focus to online and virtual events in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which has limited real-world gatherings, like concerts. At the same time, artists have been trying to connect with fans online, often doing live streams or even paid live-streamed concerts. However, today’s virtual concerts business is only helping to offset lost touring revenue for most, not fully replace it.

“With most tours postponed until 2021 and online concerts set to continue, Spotify wants to make it easy for fans to learn about virtual events—whether for artists you already love or for those you’re discovering for the very first time,” the company said, in an announcement.

The feature is rolling out now to the Concerts hub under Browse on desktop and Search on mobile as well as to participating artist profiles.

#artists, #concerts, #events, #media, #spotify, #virtual-events


What to expect from Apple’s hardware event

If this was a normal year, we would be settling in for an iPhone event right about now. This is, however, very much not a normal year. And while we are, in fact, getting an Apple hardware event tomorrow at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET, it’s looking entirely possible — even likely — that we won’t be getting much face time with the iPhone 12.

If the handset even makes an appearance at all. After all, Apple’s been pretty upfront about the months or so delay of its long-awaited 5G handset (shareholders, you know), owing at least in part to some supply chain issues. It follows, then, that the company is planning another event in the not so distant future.

As we’ve seen from Samsung, the move toward virtual events during the pandemic seems to have made companies a bit bolder about holding more events, without the the obligation of travel. What we can expect this time, however, are some refreshes to a couple of other Apple tent-pole products — namely, the Apple Watch and an old iPad favorite. There are a handful of other possibilities, as well, including service bundles and some additions to the AirPods line.

Let’s start with the best bets.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch Series 5

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The “Time Flies” slogan is the clearest indication that we’re getting some Watch news. Again, in most years, we’d simply be able to look at the calendar. But this isn’t most years. A healthy combination of rumors, leaks and some of the new features from the latest version of watchOS give us a pretty healthy picture of what we’re in store for at tomorrow’s big event.

The Apple Watch Series 6 is likely to be the centerpiece of the show. One of the biggest pieces of news from the new model is actually a feature loss. The latest version of Apple’s ultra-popular wearable is expected to drop Force Touch, as support for the feature is out on watchOS 7. Such a move could help slim down the watch — or even more likely/hopefully leave room for more battery.

With the addition of sleep features in the new version of the OS, it behooves the company to find ways to make the device last longer on a charge, so users can wear it to bed. There are already some on-board power-saving features to track while the wearer sleeps, but a bigger battery would make a big difference — and help the company stay competitive on that front.

Otherwise, the device is set to continue Apple’s focus on health tracking improvements. That’s long been a key to the Watch’s success — and the success of wrist-worn devices, generally. Among the expected features is the addition of SpO2 tracking. The Apple Watch would be far from the first smartwatch to track blood oxygen levels, but the feature would come at a time when home tracking of health vitals feels all the more important.

Rumors also point to the addition of a low-cost model — specifically a new Watch designed to replace the Series 3, which has stuck around at $199. The product would answer the fair bit of demand for lower-priced smartwatches. That’s particularly the case during COVID-19, as users are looking for a reasonably priced entry into health tracking. That said, it seems likely that the lower-cost product won’t be nearly as sophisticated.


Image Credits: Apple

It seems likely there’s an iPad on the menu for tomorrow, too. The top candidate is the iPad Air, which saw its last refresh in March 2019. Rumors point to a significant reduction in bezels and a power button with Touch ID moved to the top of the device. Other features for the iPad Air 4 include a 10.8-inch display and Apple finally swapping the Lightning port for USB-C.


All of those operating systems announced back at WWDC (iOS, macOS, watchOS, TVOS) should be coming out of beta any week now. This could be the event — though, again, with the possible addition of an iPhone event, we can’t say for sure. The company is also rumored to be launching “Apple One,” an offering that would bundle in some of its key subscription services, including Apple TV+ and Music. Additional bundles could feature Arcade and News+, along with additional iCloud storage.

Some additional longstanding rumors include AirTags, the company’s Tile-like device tracker that plays nicely with its Find My application. The hardware offering would make it easier to locate lost objects in a fashion similar to Find My iPhone. New AirPods could be on the docket as well. AirPods 3, AirPods Pro 2 and the long-awaited over-ear AirPods Studio all seem like reasonable possibilities.

#apple, #apple-hardware-event-2020, #apple-watch, #events, #hardware, #ipad, #ipad-air, #mobile, #wearables


Chief CEO Carolyn Childers, CEO Jerry Colona, Ureeka co-founder Melissa Bradley are coming to Disrupt 2020

Becoming a successful leader isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula. Each startup — depending on the industry and internal culture — has its own needs.

The hard part is figuring out what leadership style best suits the personality of the CEO or founder as well as the needs and culture of their startup and employees who work there.

This year at TechCrunch’s virtual Disrupt 2020 on September 14-18, we’ll talk to the people who with the expertise and insight to help startup founders and other C-suite level executives — as well as those who someday hope to be in that spot — find the right leadership style for their business. We’re excited to announced that joining us on the Extra Crunch stage to discuss leadership styles is Carolyn Childers, co-founder and CEO of women leadership network Chief, Melissa Bradley co-founder of SMB networking platform Ureeka and Jerry Colonna, co-founder and CEO of executive coaching firm

The three speakers will dig into what makes a successful leader and how to find the right management style as well as tackle other challenges that founders, CEOs and other executives face while building a company.

Bradley’s company Ureeka gives small business access to the expertise needed to grow their business. She is also founder and managing partner of 1863 Ventures, a business development program, and serves as advisor to the New Voices Foundation and New Voices Fund, as well as the Halcyon Fund. Bradley is the former Co-Chair, National Advisory Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and was recently named one of The Most Entrepreneurial Women Investors in 2018.

Chief, which Childers and partner Lindsay Kaplan launched in January 2019, is a private network to drive more women into positions of power and keep them there. The organization is designed for senior women leaders. Prior to founding Chief, Childers was senior vice president of operations at Handy, led the launch of the site (Quidsi) and acted as its GM through its acquisition by Amazon. Childers’ work landed her on Inc.’s 2019 Female Founders 100 List.

Colonna’s company specializes in executive coaching and leadership development. Colonna, who has experience as an executive, venture capitalist, journalist and board member, is also the author of ‘REBOOT: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up.’

You may have heard that we’re taking Disrupt virtual this year, a move that lets us make the event accessible to more people than ever before while keeping everyone safe. Disrupt 2020 is scheduled to run from September 14 through September 19. Buy the Disrupt Digital Pro Pass or a Digital Startup Alley Exhibitor Package today and get access to all the interviews on our main Disrupt stage, workshops over on the Extra Crunch Stage where you can get actionable tips as well as CrunchMatch, our free, AI-powered networking platform. As soon as you register for Disrupt, you will have access to CrunchMatch and can start connecting with people now. Use the tool to schedule one-on-one video calls with potential customers and investors or to recruit and interview prospective employees.

We’ll see you there!

#chief, #disrupt-2020, #events, #reboot-io, #startups, #ureeka


IFA’s executive director discusses why the tech show must go on

In June, the CTA announced that CES 2021 would go forward in-person. The event was set to have slipped under the wire — having narrowly avoided a COVID-19-related shutdown two years in a row. A month later, however, its organizers reversed course, announcing the January show was going virtual. Disappointing, perhaps, but not surprising.

The past five months have seen one in-person show cancellation after another, from MWC to E3, from WWDC to Computex to our own Disrupt, which is going online-only for the first time. One major consumer electronics trade show, on the other hand, has long planned to buck that trend. On September 3, IFA will kick off in-person in Berlin. Though this year’s event will look dramatically different.

“Usually, we have more than 40 halls serving IFA . This year, at the moment, we have two halls for the press conference with the stages, one exhibition hall, one press center hall and one hall for IFA Next and Shift Mobility,” the organization’s executive director Jens Heithecker explains on the phone from Germany. “We will have around 170-180 exhibitors, compared to 2,300 last year.”

Heithecker doesn’t mask the melancholy in his voice when discussing this year’s version of the show. “To be a little poetic, usually in the late summer, there’s a special air in Berlin and you go out in the morning, you feel this air,” he says. “This year for me, the air’s the same, but whenever I see the halls, the area of our exhibition site, it’s empty, more or less.”

I’ve attended IFA several times over the years, and have always been struck by the organizational chaos. Every tech trade show has some element of this, of course, but IFA opens itself up the public, filling the maze like halls of the Messe Berlin convention center with a peculiar mix of industry professionals and local families with small children. It’s alternately amusing and maddening, depending on how much time you give yourself to get from point A to point B.

This year’s show has been designated IFA 2020 Special Edition. It’s essentially a nice way of noting that the show will be significantly smaller than in years past. Heithecker notes that some 1,100 members of the press have registered for the show, all from a limited invite list. I was on the invite list as well, but, like many, simply opted not to go. Frankly, the idea of flying to German to stand inside an event hall with exhibitors and fellow journalists sounds far less appealing than following along from home.

I’m sure my own sense of safety is colored by my home country’s less-than-ideal handling of the pandemic. But with 24.5 million global cases and 833,000 deaths to date from the virus, there’s still cause for concern, as numbers continue to rise around the globe. Germany has, of course, largely done well in its own handling of the novel coronavirus, but there’s cause for concern even there. With numbers rising, the country has put reopening plans on pause while other European countries like Norway have added German travelers to a quarantine list.

“By end of March, we started to create our statistics on our own, to understand the situation a better way than in the public media only,” says Heithecker. “The rising number in Germany — at least in the northern part of Germany — is created mainly by the double number of tested people. This means the ratio of positively tested people is the same like before. So we will find more people by the situation, the general situation is not going worse in the northern part. We have more tested because the German government is fearing, at the moment, all the people coming back from their holidays in the south, especially, in the south of Europe. That’s the main reason at the moment that we are following so close all the figures every day.”

The nature of the limited guest list means that social distancing will be significantly easier for attendees to practice than they have been in past years, when members of the press have been elbowing small children out of the way in order to get a good show of the latest ASUS gaming laptop. Of course, simply having more space doesn’t necessarily mean that guests will keep to the mask and social distance requirements (1.5 meters) that IFA posts.

“We have so many additional people watching out for our attendees, that they will wear masks, that they will keep the distances,” Heithecker explains. He adds that attendees will be removed from the premises for refusing to adhere to such social safety rules, but that such a move, understandably, is a last resort.

The organization notably pulled the plug on the Global Markets portion of the show, citing “persistent travel restrictions prevent Asian companies from joining the live event.” The event, launched in 2016 for OEMs/ODMs, retailers and distributors, drew a significant portion of exhibitions and attendees from Asian countries. In late June, Samsung announced that it would be pulling out of the show, opting instead for its own Unpacked event just ahead of IFA.

Heithecker believes that Samsung’s decision was based on word from the hardware giant’s U.K. offices. “Two months, three months ago, they couldn’t imagine that any journalist would attend IFA,” he tells TechCrunch. “And even if you told them, ‘Hey, we have all the registrations already, they will come,’ they didn’t believe.”

He adds that he thinks the company is essentially riding the show’s presence to add views, but that Samsung will ultimately regret not directly taking part in the show. “Samsung is doing the press conference in front of this year’s IFA, using the attention we create for the industry, for new products, using the power, the activity of IFA as well, even if they’re not inside our show,” Heithecker says. “We create this and we will bring the proof that whoever is attending or using our new platform, even for online presentations, will see a bigger impact and much more viewers and much more investment than if you do it on your own.”

#berlin, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #events, #hardware, #health, #ifa, #ifa-2020, #samsung


Laura Deming, Frederik Groce, Amish Jani, Jessica Verilli, and Vanessa Larco are coming to Disrupt

At TechCrunch Disrupt, our Startup Battlefield competition this year looks to be fiercer than ever, judging by the applicants. That’s actually saying something, considering the game-changing brands to emerge from our stage over the years, including Cloudflare, Dropbox, Vurb, Mint, GetAround, Fitbit, Yammer and more. Altogether, Startup Battlefield participants have gone on to raise $9 billion from investors and to generate 115 exits over the history of TechCrunch Disrupt, now in its tenth year.

It’s a track record about which we’re proud — and that we want to maintain — so it’s crucial that we get the exact right mix of judges. Toward that end, we are thrilled to be spotlighting five of this year’s Startup Battlefield judges — each with very different and complementary skill sets and expertise — and all of whom will be key in deciding who wins the coveted title of Startup Battlefield winner.

New Zealand native Laura Deming was home schooled, developing a love of math and physics along the way, as well as a deep interest in the biology of aging. In fact, she became so preoccupied with the last that at age 11, Deming wrote to renowned molecular biologist Cynthia Kenyon, asking if she could visit Kenyon’s San Francisco lab during a family trip. Kenyon said yes, a decision that ultimately sent Deming down the path she continues on today as a venture capitalist focused on life extension and biological research that’s used to reduce or reverse the effects of aging. Unity Biotechnology, which has developed an osteoarthritis treatment, and Celevity, focused on dog life extension, are just two of the interesting bets in the portfolio of the former Thiel Fellow.

Frederik Groce grew up in the Bay Area and studied political science at Stanford before becoming an investor with Storm Ventures and soon after, cofounding BLCK VC, an organization formed to connect, engage, and advance Black venture capitalists. Before joining Storm, Groce had spent two years as the CEO and financial manager of Stanford Student Enterprises, a non-profit organization that oversees a handful of business and is run by and for Stanford students and which includes an accelerator program and a consulting group. Today, Groce is again involved in numerous companies — this time on behalf of Storm — including the roommate- and real estate-matching platform Room8, on whose board he sits. He’s also a mentor with the East Bay College Fund, which works with minority college students coming from underprivileged communities.

Amish Jani has been a VC for nearly 20 years, cofounding FirstMark in New York back in 2008 after logging eight years with the firm Pequot Ventures. He pretty much invests across the cloud and internet landscape, including leading deals in SaaS applications, e-commerce companies, and infrastructure startups. One deal that may be his most lucrative — though we’re merely guessing —  is Shopify, which is now Canada’s most valuable corporation with a market cap of $130 billion. Founded in 2004, it went public in 2015, but not before raising four venture rounds first, including from FirstMark and Jani, who was there at the A round, B round and the company’s last private funding event, its C round.

Jessica Verilli, a sometimes marathoner, is an investor and operator who is on the board of Digits, Lambda School and The Wing, among others. A general partner with GV for the past two-and-a-half years, Verilli also cofounded  #ANGELS, an investment collective she launched with five women who, like Verilli, built their earlier careers at Twitter. In Verilli’s case, she spent nearly a decade helping scale Twitter from a startup to a social media giant as its VP of corporate development and strategy (she oversaw its purchase of Vine, Periscope, and Tweetdeck). Among her #ANGELS cofounders: Katie Jacobs Stanton, who today manages her own fund, and Jana Messerschmidt, who joined Lightspeed Venture Partners as a partner in late 2018.

Last but not least, we’ll be joined this year by Vanessa Larco, a partner at the powerhouse venture firm NEA since 2016. Larco was previously the director of product management at Box and earlier in her career, was a program manager at Microsoft, where she led the speech recognition experience team at Xbox Kinect v1. Today, the Georgia Tech grad says her passion for design and analytics stems from those days spent in both the gaming industry and focused on productivity apps. Certainly, she’s very actively investing in both, with bets that include Cleo, Rocket.Chat, Mejuri, EvidentID, Greenlight Card, Feather, and Lily AI. (She’s also a board observer at Robinhood, Willow Pump, Forethought AI and OmniSci.)

We’re exceedingly thankful all of our judges, who we don’t doubt will have their work cut out for them at this year’s must-see event.

Disrupt 2020 runs from September 14-18 and will be virtual this year.

Get your front row seat to the Startup Battlefield competition and much more with a Disrupt Digital Pro Pass or a Digital Startup Alley Exhibitor Package. (Prices increase in a few short weeks.)

#events, #tc, #venture-capital


Apple won’t let Facebook tell users about 30-percent Apple tax on events

Facebook wanted the event purchase screen on iOS to look like the screenshot on the left. But Facebook says Apple nixed the idea.

Enlarge / Facebook wanted the event purchase screen on iOS to look like the screenshot on the left. But Facebook says Apple nixed the idea. (credit: Facebook)

Apple nixed a message in the Facebook app for iOS warning users that Apple would take 30 percent of event payments, Facebook says.

Facebook announced a new feature for paid online events earlier this month. It allows small businesses to host virtual cooking classes, workout sessions, happy hours, and other events and charge people to participate.

In its announcement, Facebook said it was not taking a cut of customers’ payments. That means that on Android, “small businesses will keep 100% of the revenue they generate,” Facebook says. But the story was different on iOS thanks to Apple’s 30-percent cut of in-app purchases.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#antitrust, #apple, #events, #facebook, #policy


Spotify is developing a ‘virtual events’ feature

The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the music industry, as artists who relied on live performances and concerts suddenly had the rug pulled out beneath them, impacting their ability to generate income. An upcoming feature in development at Spotify could help turn things around, by again connecting artists with their fans through ticketed live music events. This time, however, instead of helping fans find live concerts, as in the pre-pandemic days, the new feature will alert fans to the artist’s upcoming “virtual events.”

The feature was first discovered by reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong and isn’t yet available in the public-facing version of the Spotify app.

Wong’s photos of the feature show the Spotify profile page for the artist BTS, where a new “Upcoming Virtual Events” section now appears. After tapping on the event, fans are informed that BTS will appear at a virtual concert on September 19. The event here is the 2020 iHeartRadio Music Festival, where BTS is scheduled to perform. In the example photos, Songkick is listed as the ticketing partner for this event.

A shift to include virtual event listings instead of live concerts wouldn’t be difficult for Spotify to implement. The company already works with ticketing partners including Ticketmaster, Songkick, Resident Advisor, Eventbrite, AXS and eplus in Japan. These ticketing sites have embraced virtual events amid the pandemic as way to keep their businesses afloat while in-person events were delayed and shut down over health concerns — or even became illegal under government lockdowns.

Spotify has a long history in connecting fans with artists. The company first added a concert discovery feature back in 2015. Though Spotify still doesn’t sell event tickets directly, it’s able to leverage its listening data and knowledge of a user’s location to suggest concerts to fans who may be interested in attending. Now it could push out these recommendations more broadly, as virtual events allow fans anywhere to attend — not just those nearby.

To launch a virtual events feature, Spotify would only need to slightly tweak existing partner agreements to gain access to their virtual event listings. Given the pandemic, it’s hard to imagine a partner would decline such an offer. And doing so also serves Spotify’s larger goal of being the preferred platform for artists.

Image Credits: Jane Manchun Wong via Twitter

What’s less clear is whether Spotify considers the addition of virtual events a temporary measure to help artists manage their income before things return to normal, or if it believes there’s room to grow in the virtual events market in the long-term.

At present, virtual events have been helping musical artists weather the pandemic, but they’re not a replacement for live concerts for most. There are a few exceptions, of course. A group like BTS can pull in a record $20 million for one virtual show, but this is atypical. Elsewhere, the revenue loss from the pandemic can be extreme. This was apparent in Live Nation’s recently announced earnings, for example, where it said its revenue declined 98% due to pandemic shut downs.

Before the global health crisis, live performances had been a significant part of how musicians make money, with estimates putting earnings from live gigs at as much as 75% of top musicians’ earnings. While some artists have been trying to play around with newer formats like offering “tip jars” or broadcasting small performances over Facebook Live, this doesn’t necessary scale in the way that a larger performance or concert would have done. That’s opened the door for bigger event organizers, dedicated streaming companies, and larger music players to get involved.

Indeed, Spotify’s test and work on live events is coming at a time when we’re seeing a number of similar moves from streaming music companies. Just today, eMusic announced a partnership with 7Digital to launch eMusicLive (, which it describes as a “virtual concert and monetisation platform.”

And yesterday, Rhapsody, which owns Napster, was acquired by an immersive music performance startup, MelodyVR, which has built a business around virtual concert performances. It has also been working on events with big organizers like Live Nation and others in the wake of COVID-19 rules preventing large in-person gatherings. MelodyVR has large ambitions to take its virtual concerts up a gear, now with the added benefit of providing a large streaming catalogue alongside those video experiences.

Others reportedly interested in building up virtual music performance services include Twitch, which is deepening its ties to the music industry. And don’t forget that Apple in 2018 quietly acquired Platoon, a group of A&R experts that could help the company be closer to sourcing and discovering talent and working with artists, perhaps also in the name of developing live performances.

Combined, these efforts could help push the livestream market forward, after steady increases on the monetization front over the years. Data from virtual concert platform StageIt, as reported by Billboard, noted fans were paying just $3.75, on average, for a 30-minute livestream in 2011. This has since grown to $16.50. Ahead of the pandemic, PricewaterhouseCoopers had projected live music events would generate $28.8 billion in revenue in 2020. But whether Spotify taps into the full potential of the market remains to be seen.

Spotify isn’t commenting on the feature.

#apps, #artists, #concert-tickets, #concerts, #events, #music, #spotify, #streaming, #streaming-music, #ticketing, #virtual-events


The founders of Blavity and The Shade Room are coming to Disrupt 2020

Although the media industry is currently in the midst of a long-overdue reckoning over diversity, representation and racism, Morgan DeBaun and Angie Nwandu have been building a more diverse digital media landscape for years. And we’re excited to welcome them to Disrupt 2020 this September.

DeBaun co-founded Blavity, a digital media company focused on Black millennials, back in 2014, responding to what she said was a need for more information and connection in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death. The company has since raised funding from GV, Comcast Ventures and Plexo Capital, and DeBaun is still its CEO.

Nwandu, meanwhile, is no-stranger to Disrupt. I had a chance to speak to The Shade Room’s founder on-stage in 2017 about building a huge social media audience for Black celebrity news. Back then, The Shade Room had more than 8.9 million Instagram followers, a number that has more than doubled to 19.9 million.

This time, we’ll be hearing from both DeBaun and Nwandu. I’ve got a lot that I want to ask them, so I’ll do my best to squeeze it all in: How they built their companies, the challenges they currently face with a pandemic roiling the ad industry, how media companies (including TechCrunch) should be responding to the current political/cultural moment and much more.

Learn where digital media goes from here at Disrupt 2020, which runs from September 14-18. Get a front-row seat with your Digital Pro Pass for just $245 or with a Digital Startup Alley Exhibitor Package.


#angie-nwandu, #blavity, #disrupt-2020, #events, #media, #morgan-debaun, #the-shade-room


Learn how COVID-19 has disrupted the startup world

What early-stage startup founder wouldn’t love to have a crystal ball? Especially now with a pandemic wreaking economic uncertainty across industries in every corner of the world.

We don’t have mystical powers, but we do have the next best thing, and it’s available exclusively to early-stage founders exhibiting in Digital Startup Alley at Disrupt 2020. Sign up today for our interactive webinar, COVID-19’s Impact on the Startup World, scheduled for August 19th at 1pm PT/ 4pm ET.

What does the future of work look like? In what ways will startups need to adapt, and how can they course-correct both during and after COVID-19? These are some of the challenging topics our expert panel will address, and they’ll take questions from the viewing audience, too.

Which brilliant minds will offer their perspective, tips and advice? None other than Nicola Corzine, executive director of the Nasdaq Entrepreneurship Center and Cameron Stanfill, a VC analyst at PitchBook. Jon Shieber, a TechCrunch Editor who covers venture capital and private equity investments will moderate the conversation. It’s an interactive webinar, folks, so don’t be shy — bring your questions, comments and ideas to the table.

If you haven’t purchased a Disrupt Digital Startup Alley Package, go grab yours now. You’ll be able to attend this webinar and the next one, too (more on that in a minute). But here’s the most important part — you’ll showcase your tech, talent and products to thousands of Disrupt attendees from around the world. Boost your brand recognition, and connect with potential customers, partners, investors, media and other influencers across the startup ecosystem. You never know who you’ll meet exhibiting in the Alley or where a chance connection might lead.

“Exhibiting in Startup Alley gave our company and technology invaluable exposure to potential customers and partners that we would not have met otherwise. A company that does 15 billion in annual sales thinks our tech is a fit for their ecosystem, and we’re excited to continue building that relationship.” — Joel Neidig, founder of SIMBA Chain.

Now that you’re all set with your Digital Startup Alley exhibitor pass, circle August 26 on your calendar for the final webinar we scheduled for exhibitors’ edification.

August 26 — Fundraising and Hiring Best Practices

Moderated by TC’s Natasha Mascarenhas, panelists Sarah Kunst (Cleo Capital) and Brett Berson (First Round Capital) discuss two essential topics for startup success. Securing funding may feel like the hardest part of growing a startup, but hiring the right people ain’t no walk in the park either. You need to get a handle on both areas, and these folks can help you do just that.

Exhibitors, sign up for the August 19 webinar, COVID-19’s Impact on the Startup World. And to the rest of the early-stage startup founders out there — don’t miss your chance to be an exhibitor at Disrupt 2020 — buy a Disrupt Digital Startup Alley Package today.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #events, #startups, #techcrunch-disrupt