Nabisco Workers End Weekslong Strike After Reaching New Contract

The impasse began in August after members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union objected to changes in shift lengths and overtime rules.

#bakery-confectionery-tobacco-workers-and-grain-millers-international-union, #bonuses, #chicago-ill, #colorado, #georgia, #illinois, #labor-and-jobs, #mondelez-international-inc, #nabisco, #organized-labor, #pensions-and-retirement-plans, #portland-ore, #strikes

Justice Dept. to Investigate Georgia Prisons

The department also announced limits on federal officers’ use of widely criticized policing tactics.

#civil-rights-and-liberties, #georgia, #justice-department, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #prison-guards-and-corrections-officers, #prisons-and-prisoners, #united-states-politics-and-government

GrubMarket gobbles up $120M at a $1B+ pre-money valuation to take on the grocery supply chain

When people talk about “online food delivery” services, chances are that they’ll think of the Uber Eats, Instacarts and Getirs of this world. But today a startup that’s tackling a different aspect of the market — addressing the supply chain that subsequently turns the wheels of the bigger food distribution machine — is announcing a big round of funding as it continues to grow.

GrubMarket, which provides software and services that help link up and manage relationships between food suppliers and their customers — which can include wholesalers and other distributors, markets and supermarkets, delivery startups, restaurants, and consumers — has picked up $120 million in a Series E round of funding.

The funding is coming from a wide mix of investors. Liberty Street Funds, Walleye Capital, Japan Post Capital, Joseph Stone Capital, Pegasus Tech Ventures, Tech Pioneers Fund are among the new backers, who are being joined by existing investors Celtic House Asia Partners, INP Capital, Reimagined Ventures, Moringa Capital Management, and others, along with other unnamed participants

Mike Xu, GrubMarket’s founder and CEO (pictured, above), tells me that the company is currently profitable in a big way. It’s now at a $1 billion annualized run-rate, having grown revenues 300% over last year, with some markets like New York growing even more (it went from less than $10 million ARR to $100 million+).

With operations currently in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, and some 40 warehouses nationwide. GrubMarket had a pre-money valuation of over $1 billion, and now it will be looking to grow even more, both in terms of territory and in terms of tech, moving ahead in a market that is largely absent from competitors.

“We are still the first mover in this space,” Xu said when I asked him in an interview about rivals. “No one else is doing consolidation on the supply chain side as we are. We are trying to consolidate the American food supply chain through software technologies, while also trying to find the best solutions in this space.”

(And for some context, the $1 billion+ valuation is more than double GrubMarket’s valuation in October 2020, when it raised $60 million at a $500 million post-money valuation.)

Longer term, the plan will be to look at an IPO provisionally filing the paperwork by summer 2022, Xu added.

GrubMarket got its start several years ago as one of many companies looking to provide a more efficient farm-to-table service. Tapping into a growing consumer interest in higher quality, and more traceable food, it saw an opportunity to build a platform to link up producers to the consumers, restaurants and grocery stores that were buying their products. (Grocery stores, incidentally, might be independent operations, or something much bigger: one of GrubMarket’s biggest customers is Whole Foods, which uses GrubMarket for produce supply in certain regions of the U.S. It is currently is the company’s biggest customer.)

As we wrote last year, GrubMarket — like many other grocery delivery services — found that the pandemic initially provided a big fillip, and a big rush of demand, from that consumer side of the business, as more people turned to internet-based ordering and delivery services to offset the fact that many stores were closed, or they simply wanted to curtail the amount of shopping they were doing in-person to slow the spread of Covid-19.

But fast forward to today, while the startup still serves consumers, this is currently not the primary part of its business. Instead, it’s B2B2C, serving companies that in turn serve consumers. Xu says that overall, demand from consumers has dropped off considerably compared to a year ago.

“We think that restaurant re-openings have meant more people are dining out again and spending less time at home,” Xu said, ” and also they can go back to physical grocery stores, so they are not as interested as they were before in buying raw ingredients online. I don’t want to offend other food tech companies, but I think many of them will be seeing the same. I think B2C is really going to slow down going forward.”

The opening for GrubMarket has been not just positioning itself as a middleman between producers and buyers, but to do so by way of technology and consolidating what has been a very regionalized and fragmented market up to now.

GrubMarket has snapped up no less than 40 companies in the last three years. While some of these have been to help it expand geographically (it made 10 acquisitions in the Los Angeles area alone), many have also been made to double down on technology.

These have included the likes of Farmigo, once a Disrupt Battlefield contender that pivoted into becoming a software provider to CSAs (an area that GrubMarket sees a lot of opportunity), as well as software to help farms manage their business staffing, insurance and more: Pacific Farm Management is an example of the latter.

GrubMarket’s own in-house software, WholesaleWare, a cloud-based service for farmers and other food producers, saw its sales grow 3,500% over the last year, and it is now managing more than $4 billion in wholesale and retail activity across the U.S. and Canada.

There will be obvious ways to extend what GrubHub does deeper into the needs of its customers on the purchasing end, but this is in many ways also a very crowded market. (And not just crowded, but crowded with big companies. Just today, Toast, the company that builds software for restaurants, filed for a $717 million IPO at potentially a $16.5 billion valuation.) So instead, GrubHub will continue to focus on what has been a more overlooked aspect, that of the suppliers.

“I am focused on the food supply chain,” Xu said. “Operators in the food supply chain business most of the time don’t have any access to software and e-commerce technology. But we are not just a lightweight online ordering system. We do a lot of heavyweight lifting around inventory management, pricing and customer relations, and even HR management for wholesales and distributors.” That will also mean, longer term, that GrubMarket will likely also start to explore connected hardware to help those customers, too: robotics for picking and moving items are on that agenda, Xu said.

“GrubMarket has built a profitable, high-growth business underpinned by its best-in-class technology platform that’s reinventing how businesses access healthy, fresh foods,” said Jack Litowitz, director of strategic investments at Reimagined Ventures, in a statement. “We’re proud to support GrubMarket as it continues to expand into new regions and grow its WholesaleWare 2.0 software platform. At Reimagined Ventures, we always seek to invest in businesses that are disrupting inefficient industries in innovative ways. Mike Xu and the GrubMarket team have built one of these businesses. We’re excited to back their vision and work in making the food supply chain more efficient.”

“GrubMarket is transforming the trillion-dollar food distribution industry with unprecedented speed by implementing advanced digital solutions and operational discipline. The company’s scale, growth, and profitability are extraordinarily impressive. Pegasus is delighted and honored to be part of GrubMarket’s exciting journey ahead,” added Bill Reichert, partner at Pegasus Tech Ventures.

#arizona, #california, #canada, #ceo, #connecticut, #digital-solutions, #farmigo, #food, #food-delivery, #food-supply-chain, #funding, #georgia, #grocery-store, #grubhub, #grubmarket, #instacart, #japan-post-capital, #los-angeles, #massachusetts, #michigan, #mike-xu, #missouri, #new-jersey, #new-york, #olo, #online-food-delivery, #online-food-ordering, #oregon, #partner, #pegasus-tech-ventures, #pennsylvania, #reimagined-ventures, #retailers, #software, #software-platform, #supply-chain, #texas, #uber-eats, #united-states, #washington, #whole-foods

Man With Assault Rifle Pleads Guilty to Threatening Pelosi

Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr. wrote the day after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that he would put “a bullet in her noggin on Live TV.”

#fringe-groups-and-movements, #georgia, #meredith-cleveland-grover-jr, #pelosi-nancy, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #threats-and-threatening-messages, #united-states-politics-and-government

‘Sexist,’ ‘Racist,’ ‘Classist’: Georgia 8th Grader Challenges School Dress Code

After being cited for a rip in her jeans on the first day of school, Sophia Trevino has led a protest seeking changes to the district’s dress code, which she says unfairly targets girls.

#cobb-county-ga, #discrimination, #dress-codes, #education-k-12, #georgia, #school-discipline-students

Former Prosecutor in Ahmaud Arbery’s Death Faces Criminal Charges

Jackie Johnson was indicted by a grand jury in Glynn County, Ga., on charges of “violation of oath of public officer” and “obstruction and hindering a law enforcement officer.”

#arbery-ahmaud-1994-2020, #bryan-william-roddie, #carr-christopher-m, #conflicts-of-interest, #georgia, #johnson-jackie-1972, #mcmichael-gregory-1955, #mcmichael-travis-1986, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides

As Washington Stews, State Legislatures Increasingly Shape American Politics

From voting rights to the culture wars, state legislatures controlled by Republicans are playing a role well beyond their own state borders.

#american-legislative-exchange-council, #arizona, #elections-house-of-representatives, #georgia, #national-conference-of-state-legislatures, #republican-party, #state-legislatures, #texas, #united-states-politics-and-government, #voter-fraud-election-fraud

Please stop adding more lanes to busy highways—it doesn’t help

The intersection of Interstates 10 and 610 in Houston, Texas, during evening rush hour.

Enlarge / The intersection of Interstates 10 and 610 in Houston, Texas, during evening rush hour. (credit: Getty Images)

You often hear people say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I bring this up because of an interesting—if infuriating—thread I read this morning about Texas’ plan to widen I-35 as it cuts through the heart of Austin.

Unsurprisingly, the state wants to build more lanes, which it thinks will ease congestion. At some points, this could leave I-35 as much as 20 lanes wide; this will require bulldozing dozens of businesses along the way. An alternative that would have buried 12 lanes of the highway in two levels of underground tunnels was apparently considered too costly.

But it would be wrong to single out this 8-mile proposal as an outlier. In Houston, the state plans to widen I-45 despite plenty of opposition, including from the Federal Highway Administration. And you don’t have to look far to see other state governments wanting to build new roads to reduce congestion.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#atlanta, #austin, #cars, #chicago, #department-of-transportation, #georgia, #highway-planning, #houston, #i-270, #i-35, #i-45, #i-495, #illinois, #induced-demand, #maryland, #texas, #traffic

Herschel Walker Is Set to Enter Georgia Senate Race

Mr. Walker, a former football player who became a high-profile ally of former President Donald J. Trump, is set to vie for the seat held by Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat.

#elections-senate, #georgia, #primaries-and-caucuses, #republican-party, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #walker-herschel

Author Celebrates His Gullah Roots With a Lavish Spread

Matthew Raiford swore he’d never return to his family farm in coastal Georgia. But in breaking that vow, he found a sense of community worth celebrating with a lavish spread.

#agriculture-and-farming, #brunswick-ga, #content-type-personal-profile, #cooking-and-cookbooks, #georgia, #gullah-geechee-people, #parties-social, #raiford-matthew

This Week in Apps: In-app events hit the App Store, TikTok tries Stories, Apple reveals new child safety plan

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place, with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

Apple to scan for CSAM imagery

Apple announced a major initiative to scan devices for CSAM imagery. The company on Thursday announced a new set of features, arriving later this year, that will detect child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in its cloud and report it to law enforcement. Companies like Dropbox, Google and Microsoft already scan for CSAM in their cloud services, but Apple had allowed users to encrypt their data before it reached iCloud. Now, Apple’s new technology, NeuralHash, will run on users’ devices, tatformso detect when a users upload known CSAM imagery — without having to first decrypt the images. It even can detect the imagery if it’s been cropped or edited in an attempt to avoid detection.

Meanwhile, on iPhone and iPad, the company will roll out protections to Messages app users that will filter images and alert children and parents if sexually explicit photos are sent to or from a child’s account. Children will not be shown the images but will instead see a grayed-out image instead. If they try to view the image anyway through the link, they’ll be shown interruptive screens that explain why the material may be harmful and are warned that their parents will be notified.

Some privacy advocates pushed back at the idea of such a system, believing it could expand to end-to-end encrypted photos, lead to false positives, or set the stage for more on-device government surveillance in the future. But many cryptology experts believe the system Apple developed provides a good balance between privacy and utility, and have offered their endorsement of the technology. In addition, Apple said reports are manually reviewed before being sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

The changes may also benefit iOS developers who deal in user photos and uploads, as predators will no longer store CSAM imagery on iOS devices in the first place, given the new risk of detection.

In-App Events appear on the App Store

Image Credits: Apple

Though not yet publicly available to all users, those testing the new iOS 15 mobile operating system got their first glimpse of a new App Store discovery feature this week: “in-app events.” First announced at this year’s WWDC, the feature will allow developers and Apple editors alike to showcase directly on the App Store upcoming events taking place inside apps.

The events can appear on the App Store homepage, on the app’s product pages or can be discovered through personalized recommendations and search. In some cases, editors will curate events to feature on the App Store. But developers will also be provided tools to submit their own in-app events. TikTok’s “Summer Camp” for creators was one of the first in-app events to be featured, where it received a top spot on the iPadOS 15 App Store.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

Apple expands support for student IDs on iPhone and Apple Watch ahead of the fall semester. Tens of thousands more U.S. and Canadian colleges will now support mobile student IDs in the Apple Wallet app, including Auburn University, Northern Arizona University, University of Maine, New Mexico State University and others.

Apple was accused of promoting scam apps in the App Store’s featured section. The company’s failure to properly police its store is one thing, but to curate an editorial list that actually includes the scams is quite another. One of the games rounded up under “Slime Relaxations,” an already iffy category to say the least, was a subscription-based slime simulator that locked users into a $13 AUD per week subscription for its slime simulator. One of the apps on the curated list didn’t even function, implying that Apple’s editors hadn’t even tested the apps they recommend.

Tax changes hit the App Store. Apple announced tax and price changes for apps and IAPs in South Africa, the U.K. and all territories using the Euro currency, all of which will see decreases. Increases will occur in Georgia and Tajikistan, due to new tax changes. Proceeds on the App Store in Italy will be increased to reflect a change to the Digital Services Tax effective rate.

Game Center changes, too. Apple said that on August 4, a new certificate for server-based Game Center verification will be available via the publicKeyUrl.

Fintech

Robinhood stock jumped more than 24% to $46.80 on Tuesday after initially falling 8% on its first day of trading last week, after which it had continued to trade below its opening price of $38.

Square’s Cash app nearly doubled its gross profit to $546 million in Q2, but also reported a $45 million impairment loss on its bitcoin holdings.

Coinbase’s app now lets you buy your cryptocurrency using Apple Pay. The company previously made its Coinbase Card compatible with Apple Pay in June.

Social

An anonymous app called Sendit, which relies on Snap Kit to function, is climbing the charts of the U.S. App Store after Snap suspended similar apps, YOLO and LMK. Snap was sued by the parent of child who was bullied through those apps, which led to his suicide. Sendit also allows for anonymity, and reviews compare it to YOLO. But some reviews also complained about bullying. This isn’t the first time Snap has been involved in a lawsuit related to a young person’s death related to its app. The company was also sued for its irresponsible “speed filter” that critics said encouraged unsafe driving. Three young men died using the filter, which captured them doing 123 mph.

TikTok is testing Stories. As Twitter’s own Stories integrations, Fleets, shuts down, TikTok confirmed it’s testing its own Stories product. The TikTok Stories appear in a left-hand sidebar and allow users to post ephemeral images or video that disappear in 24 hours. Users can also comment on Stories, which are public to their mutual friends and the creator. Stories on TikTok may make more sense than they did on Twitter, as TikTok is already known as a creative platform and it gives the app a more familiar place to integrate its effects toolset and, eventually, advertisements.

Facebook has again re-arranged its privacy settings. The company continually moves around where its privacy features are located, ostensibly to make them easier to find. But users then have to re-learn where to go to find the tools they need, after they had finally memorized the location. This time, the settings have been grouped into six top-level categories, but “privacy” settings have been unbundled from one location to be scattered among the other categories.

A VICE report details ban-as-a-service operations that allow anyone to harass or censor online creators on Instagram. Assuming you can find it, one operation charged $60 per ban, the listing says.

TikTok merged personal accounts with creator accounts. The change means now all non-business accounts on TikTok will have access to the creator tools under Settings, including Analytics, Creator Portal, Promote and Q&A. TikTok shared the news directly with subscribers of its TikTok Creators newsletter in August, and all users will get a push notification alerting them to the change, the company told us.

Discord now lets users customize their profile on its apps. The company added new features to its iOS and Android apps that let you add a description, links and emojis and select a profile color. Paid subscribers can also choose an image or GIF as their banner.

Twitter Spaces added a co-hosting option that allows up to two co-hosts to be added to the live audio chat rooms. Now Spaces can have one main host, two co-hosts and up to 10 speakers. Co-hosts have all the moderation abilities as hosts, but can’t add or remove others as co-hosts.

Messaging

Tencent reopened new user sign-ups for its WeChat messaging app, after having suspended registrations last week for unspecified “technical upgrades.” The company, like many other Chinese tech giants, had to address new regulations from Beijing impacting the tech industry. New rules address how companies handle user data collection and storage, antitrust behavior and other checks on capitalist “excess.” The gaming industry is now worried it’s next to be impacted, with regulations that would restrict gaming for minors to fight addiction.

WhatsApp is adding a new feature that will allow users to send photos and videos that disappear after a single viewing. The Snapchat-inspired feature, however, doesn’t alert you if the other person takes a screenshot — as Snap’s app does. So it may not be ideal for sharing your most sensitive content.

Telegram’s update expands group video calls to support up to 1,000 viewers. It also announced video messages can be recorded in higher quality and can be expanded, regular videos can be watched at 0.5 or 2x speed, screen sharing with sound is available for all video calls, including 1-on-1 calls, and more.

Streaming & Entertainment

American Airlines added free access to TikTok aboard its Viasat-equipped aircraft. Passengers will be able to watch the app’s videos for up to 30 minutes for free and can even download the app if it’s not already installed. After the free time, they can opt to pay for Wi-Fi to keep watching. Considering how easy it is to fall into multi-hour TikTok viewing sessions without knowing it, the addition of the addictive app could make long plane rides feel shorter. Or at least less painful.

Chinese TikTok rival Kuaishou saw stocks fall by more than 15% in Hong Kong, the most since its February IPO. The company is another victim of an ongoing market selloff triggered by increasing investor uncertainty related to China’s recent crackdown on tech companies. Beijing’s campaign to rein in tech has also impacted Tencent, Alibaba, Jack Ma’s Ant Group, food delivery company Meituan and ride-hailing company Didi. Also related, Kuaishou shut down its controversial app Zynn, which had been paying users to watch its short-form videos, including those stolen from other apps.

Twitch overtook YouTube in consumer spending per user in April 2021, and now sees $6.20 per download as of June compared with YouTube’s $5.60, Sensor Tower found.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Spotify confirmed tests of a new ad-supported tier called Spotify Plus, which is only $0.99 per month and offers unlimited skips (like free users get on the desktop) and the ability to play the songs you want, instead of only being forced to use shuffle mode.

The company also noted in a forum posting that it’s no longer working on AirPlay2 support, due to “audio driver compatibility” issues.

Mark Cuban-backed audio app Fireside asked its users to invest in the company via an email sent to creators which didn’t share deal terms. The app has yet to launch.

YouTube kicks off its $100 million Shorts Fund aimed at taking on TikTok by providing creators with cash incentives for top videos. Creators will get bonuses of $100 to $10,000 based on their videos’ performance.

Dating

Match Group announced during its Q2 earnings it plans to add to several of the company’s brands over the next 12 to 24 months audio and video chat, including group live video, and other livestreaming technologies. The developments will be powered by innovations from Hyperconnect, the social networking company that this year became Match’s biggest acquisition to date when it bought the Korean app maker for a sizable $1.73 billion. Since then, Match was spotted testing group live video on Tinder, but says that particular product is not launching in the near-term. At least two brands will see Hyperconnect-powered integrations in 2021.

Photos

The Photo & Video category on U.S. app stores saw strong growth in the first half of the year, a Sensor Tower report found. Consumer spend among the top 100 apps grew 34% YoY to $457 million in Q2 2021, with the majority of the revenue (83%) taking place on iOS.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Gaming

Epic Games revealed the host of its in-app Rift Tour event is Ariana Grande, in the event that runs August 6-8.

Pokémon GO influencers threatened to boycott the game after Niantic removed the COVID safety measures that had allowed people to more easily play while social distancing. Niantic’s move seemed ill-timed, given the Delta variant is causing a new wave of COVID cases globally.

Health & Fitness

Apple kicked out an app called Unjected from the App Store. The new social app billed itself as a community for the unvaccinated, allowing like-minded users to connect for dating and friendships. Apple said the app violated its policies for COVID-19 content.

Google Pay expanded support for vaccine cards. In Australia, Google’s payments app now allows users to add their COVID-19 digital certification to their device for easy access. The option is available through Google’s newly updated Passes API which lets government agencies distribute digital versions of vaccine cards.

COVID Tech Connect, a U.S. nonprofit initially dedicated to collecting devices like phones and tablets for COVID ICU patients, has now launched its own app. The app, TeleHome, is a device-agnostic, HIPAA-compliant way for patients to place a video call for free at a time when the Delta variant is again filling ICU wards, this time with the unvaccinated — a condition that sometimes overlaps with being low-income. Some among the working poor have been hesitant to get the shot because they can’t miss a day of work, and are worried about side effects. Which is why the Biden administration offered a tax credit to SMBs who offered paid time off to staff to get vaccinated and recover.

Popular journaling app Day One, which was recently acquired by WordPress.com owner Automattic, rolled out a new “Concealed Journals” feature that lets users hide content from others’ viewing. By tapping the eye icon, the content can be easily concealed on a journal by journal basis, which can be useful for those who write to their journal in public, like coffee shops or public transportation.

Edtech

Recently IPO’d language learning app Duolingo is developing a math app for kids. The company says it’s still “very early” in the development process, but will announce more details at its annual conference, Duocon, later this month.

Educational publisher Pearson launched an app that offers U.S. students access to its 1,500 titles for a monthly subscription of $14.99. the Pearson+ mobile app (ack, another +), also offers the option of paying $9.99 per month for access to a single textbook for a minimum of four months.

News & Reading

Quora jumps into the subscription economy. Still not profitable from ads alone, Quora announced two new products that allow its expert creators to monetize their content on its service. With Quora+ ($5/mo or $50/yr), subscribers can pay for any content that a creator paywalls. Creators can choose to enable a adaptive paywall that will use an algorithm to determine when to show the paywall. Another product, Spaces, lets creators write paywalled publications on Quora, similar to Substack. But only a 5% cut goes to Quora, instead of 10% on Substack.

Utilities

Google Maps on iOS added a new live location-sharing feature for iMessage users, allowing them to more easily show your ETA with friends and even how much battery life you have left. The feature competes with iMessage’s built-in location-sharing feature, and offers location sharing of 1 hour up to 3 days. The app also gained a dark mode.

Security & Privacy

Controversial crime app Citizen launched a $20 per month “Protect” service that includes live agent support (who can refer calls to 911 if need be). The agents can gather your precise location, alert your designated emergency contacts, help you navigate to a safe location and monitor the situation until you feel safe. The system of live agent support is similar to in-car or in-home security and safety systems, like those from ADT or OnStar, but works with users out in the real world. The controversial part, however, is the company behind the product: Citizen has been making headlines for launching private security fleets outside law enforcement, and recently offered a reward in a manhunt for an innocent person based on unsubstantiated tips.

Funding and M&A

🤝 Square announced its acquisition of the “buy now, pay later” giant AfterPay in a $29 billion deal that values the Australian firm at more than 30% higher than the stock’s last closing price of AUS$96.66. AfterPay has served over 16 million customers and nearly 100,000 merchants globally, to date, and comes at a time when the BNPL space is heating up. Apple has also gotten into the market recently with an Affirm partnership in Canada.

🤝 Gaming giant Zynga acquired Chinese game developer StarLark, the team behind the mobile golf game Golf Rival, from Betta Games for $525 million in both cash and stock. Golf Rival is the second-largest mobile golf game behind Playdemic’s Golf Clash, and EA is in the process of buying that studio for $1.4 billion.

💰  U.K.-based Humanity raised an additional $2.5 million for its app that claims to help slow down aging, bringing the total raise to date to $5 million. Backers include Calm’s co-founders, MyFitness Pal’s co-founder and others in the health space. The app works by benchmarking health advice against real-world data, to help users put better health practices into action.

💰 YELA, a Cameo-like app for the Middle East and South Asia, raised $2 million led by U.S. investors that include Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen and Sean Rad, general partner of RAD Fund. The app is focusing on signing celebrities in the regions it serves, where smartphone penetration is high and over 6% of the population is under 35.

💰 London-based health and wellness app maker Palta raised a $100 million Series B led by VNV Global. The company’s products include Flo.Health, Simple Fasting, Zing Fitness Coach and others, which reach a combined 2.4 million active, paid subscribers. The funds will be used to create more mobile subscription products.

🤝 Emoji database and Wikipedia-like site Emojipedia was acquired by Zedge, the makers of a phone personalization app offering wallpapers, ringtones and more to 35 million MAUs. Deal terms weren’t disclosed. Emojipedia says the deal provides it with more stability and the opportunity for future growth. For Zedge, the deal provides🤨….um, a popular web resource it thinks it can better monetize, we suspect.

💰 Mental health app Revery raised $2 million led by Sequoia Capital India’s Surge program for its app that combines cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia with mobile gaming concepts. The company will focus on other mental health issues in the future.

💰 London-based Nigerian-operating fintech startup Kuda raised a $55 million Series B, valuing its mobile-first challenger bank at $500 million. The inside round was co-led by Valar Ventures and Target Global.

💰 Vietnamese payments provider VNLife raised $250 million in a round led by U.S.-based General Atlantic and Dragoneer Investment Group. PayPal Ventures and others also participated. The round values the business at over $1 billion.

Downloads

Mastodon for iPhone

Fans of decentralized social media efforts now have a new app. The nonprofit behind the open source decentralized social network Mastodon released an official iPhone app, aimed at making the network more accessible to newcomers. The app allows you to find and follow people and topics; post text, images, GIFs, polls, and videos; and get notified of new replies and reblogs, much like Twitter.

Xingtu

@_666eveITS SO COOL FRFR do u guys want a tutorial? #fypシ #醒图 #醒图app♬ original sound – Ian Asher

TikTok users are teaching each other how to switch over to the Chinese App Store in order to get ahold of the Xingtu app for iOS. (An Android version is also available.) The app offers advanced editing tools that let users edit their face and body, like FaceTune, apply makeup, add filters and more. While image-editing apps can be controversial for how they can impact body acceptance, Xingtu offers a variety of artistic filters which is what’s primarily driving the demand. It’s interesting to see the lengths people will go to just to get a few new filters for their photos — perhaps making a case for Instagram to finally update its Post filters instead of pretending no one cares about their static photos anymore.

Tweets

Facebook still dominating top charts, but not the No. 1 spot:  

Not cool, Apple: 

This user acquisition strategy: 

Maybe Stories don’t work everywhere: 

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After Two Decades and a DNA Test, Charges Are Dropped in Georgia Killings

Convicted of killing a couple in 1985, Dennis Perry spent 20 years in prison before hair samples helped set him free. Now, the homicide charges against him have been dismissed.

#dna-deoxyribonucleic-acid, #false-arrests-convictions-and-imprisonments, #forensic-science, #georgia, #innocence-project, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #perry-dennis-a-1962, #sparre-erik, #swain-harold-d-1985, #swain-thelma-d-1985, #waverly-ga

Why Vaccinated People Are Getting ‘Breakthrough’ Infections

The vaccines are effective, but they are not a golden shield against the coronavirus, particularly not the Delta variant.

#alabama, #american-academy-of-pediatrics, #athens-ga, #bars-and-nightclubs, #boston-mass, #centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #democratic-party, #disease-rates, #georgia, #hawaii, #independence-day-us-july-4, #los-angeles-calif, #masks, #massachusetts, #oklahoma, #oklahoma-city-okla, #provincetown-mass, #south-africa, #vaccination-and-immunization, #your-feed-science

Sundae closes on $80M for residential real estate marketplace

Sundae, a residential real estate marketplace that pairs sellers of dated or damaged property with potential buyers, has raised $80 million in a Series C funding round co-led by Fifth Wall and General Global Capital.

QED Investors, Wellington Management, Susa Ventures, Founders Fund, First American Financial, Prudence Holdings, Crossover VC, Intersect Capital, Gaingels and Oberndorf Ventures also participated in the financing. The round marks San Francisco-based Sundae’s third financing in a 13-month time frame, bringing its total raised since its August 2018 inception to $135 million. 

The San Francisco-based company declined to reveal at what valuation its Series C was raised. It also declined to provide hard revenue figures, saying only that it saw a 600% year-over-year increase in revenue from June 2020 to June 2021.

The startup aims to help people who need to sell dated or “damaged” properties for a variety of reasons — such as job loss, illness or divorce. In some cases, according to CEO and co-founder Josh Stech, such vulnerable sellers get taken advantage of by “predatory fix and flippers” seeking to capitalize on their misfortune. 

Since sellers in these situations don’t typically have the funds to fix up their properties before selling, Sundae lists the property for them on its platform – serving as an intermediary between sellers and investors. There, it is visible to about 2,600 qualified off-market buyers.

The company essentially aims to aggregate demand from “fix and flippers,” who use the marketplace to bid against each other for distressed properties. If the seller accepts and an inspection is completed, the company offers a $10,000 cash advance before closing to help homeowners with moving costs or other expenses.

Our goal is to displace wholesalers who exploit desperate or uninformed sellers and lock them into a contract which they turn around and assign to a property investor at a steep profit,” Stech said. “The tens of thousands of dollars in lost equity that goes to a wholesaler could mean the difference between paying off debts, or having enough money to retire.”

Sundae claims that on average, sellers receive 10 offers within three days on its marketplace.

Since its launch in January 2019, the startup has slowly been expanding its marketplace geographically. It went from operating in four markets in California at the end of last year to now operating in 14 markets across Florida, Colorado, Georgia, Texas and Utah.

Sundae makes money by charging buyers in its investor marketplace a fee when it “assigns” them a property. 

In the first quarter of this year, the startup launched a dedicated online marketplace for investors, where they can view properties and submit offers. Once an investor signs up to join the marketplace, they can access the full inventory of properties, including information such as photos, floor plan, 3D walkthrough and a third-party inspection report. 

Looking ahead, the company plans to use its new capital to expand to new markets, invest in its platform and “build brand awareness.” It also, of course, plans to boost its current headcount of 180 mostly remote employees.

Vik Chawla, a partner at Fifth Wall, believes Sundae is serving a segment of the residential real estate market that has historically been overlooked. 

“Their marketplace model simultaneously solves a crucial pain point for sellers by disrupting the wholesale industry, while delivering a platform that property investors can count on for reliable investment opportunities,” he said.

The company last raised $36 million in a Series B funding round in December 2020.

Interestingly, a slew of angel investors — including a number of athletes and celebrities — also put money in the company’s latest round, including: actor Will Smith, DJ Kygo, three-time NFL Super Bowl champion Richard Seymour of 93 Ventures, NFL All-Pro DK Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks, Matt Chapman of the Oakland A’s, Alex Caruso of the Los Angeles Lakers, Aaron Gordon of the Denver Nuggets, Solomon Hill of the Atlanta Hawks, Kelly Olynyk of the Houston Rockets, NBA All-Star Isaiah Thomas, three-time NBA Champion & Gold Medalist Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors, Hassan Whiteside of the Sacramento Kings, Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors and 2020 U.S. Soccer Player of the Year and Juventus midfielder, Weston McKennie.

#california, #fifth-wall, #florida, #founders-fund, #funding, #fundings-exits, #gaingels, #general-global-capital, #georgia, #golden-state-warriors, #national-basketball-association, #national-football-league, #nfl, #oakland, #prudence-holdings, #real-estate, #real-estate-tech, #recent-funding, #sacramento-kings, #san-francisco, #startup, #startups, #sundae, #super-bowl, #susa-ventures, #texas, #venture-capital, #vik-chawla, #wellington-management, #will-smith

Police Say Gene Siller Was Gunned Down After He Witnessed a Crime

Three days after a shooting on a golf course near Atlanta turned into a triple homicide, the gunman was still at large, and a motive still eluded the police.

#georgia, #kennesaw-ga, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #pinetree-country-club-kennesaw-ga, #siller-gene-1974-2021

Golf Pro Among 3 Dead After Shooting at Georgia Country Club, Police Say

After a golf pro was shot in the head by a man who had driven a truck onto a Kennesaw golf course, two other bodies were found in the bed of the pickup, the authorities said.

#gene-siller, #georgia, #pinetree-country-club, #shooting-sport

Her Family Owned Slaves. How Can She Make Amends?

Stacie Marshall, who inherited a Georgia farm, is trying on a small scale to address a generations-old wrong that still bedevils the nation.

#agriculture-and-farming, #black-people, #content-type-personal-profile, #georgia, #race-and-ethnicity, #reparations, #slavery-historical

Tropical Storm Danny Makes Landfall Over South Carolina

Danny is the fourth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.

#georgia, #hurricanes-and-tropical-storms, #south-carolina, #tropical-storm-danny

Justice Dept. Sues Georgia Over Voting Restrictions Law

The lawsuit came after Republicans blocked ambitious federal legislation this week to protect voting rights.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #black-people, #civil-rights-and-liberties, #garland-merrick-b, #georgia, #justice-department, #kemp-brian-p, #law-and-legislation, #presidential-election-of-2020, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #voter-registration-and-requirements, #voting-rights-act-1965

How Republican States Are Expanding Their Power Over Elections

In Georgia, Republicans are removing Democrats of color from local boards. In Arkansas, they have stripped election control from county authorities. And they are expanding their election power in many other states.

#appointments-and-executive-changes, #elections, #georgia, #law-and-legislation, #local-government, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-party, #states-us, #trump-donald-j

Herschel Walker’s Cryptic Video Could Upend Georgia Senate Race

If the Georgia college football legend Herschel Walker declares his candidacy it could put former President Donald J. Trump’s power as a kingmaker to the test.

#elections-senate, #endorsements, #georgia, #hice-jody-1960, #raffensperger-brad, #republican-party, #senate, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #walker-herschel, #warnock-raphael-g

She Was a Black Election Official in Georgia. Then Came New G.O.P. Rules.

In Georgia, Republicans are removing Democrats of color from local boards. In Arkansas, they have stripped election control from county authorities. And they are expanding their election power in many other states.

#appointments-and-executive-changes, #elections, #georgia, #law-and-legislation, #local-government, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-party, #states-us, #trump-donald-j

Encounters With Ghosts on Georgia’s Golden Isles

“I’ve spent a lifetime trying to outrun the ghosts of the South,” writes the author, whose African American grandparents were born in Georgia. A road trip reveals both the weight of the past and hope for the future.

#abrams-stacey-y, #black-people, #discrimination, #georgia, #slavery-historical, #st-simons-island-ga, #travel-and-vacations

Customer Fatally Shoots Cashier in Argument Over Mask at Georgia Supermarket

A suspect and a deputy sheriff working off duty were wounded as they exchanged gunfire in a suburb of Atlanta, the authorities said.

#atlanta-ga, #decatur-ga, #dekalb-county-ga, #georgia, #grady-memorial-hospital, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #palmetto-ga, #supermarkets-and-grocery-stores

Vermont Governor Phil Scott Agrees to Expand Voting Rights

Gov. Phil Scott signed a bill on Monday requiring that all registered voters receive mail-in ballots. His decision contrasted with Republican-led efforts to restrict voting rights in several states.

#absentee-voting, #georgia, #politics-and-government, #scott-phil-1958, #vermont, #voter-fraud-election-fraud, #voter-registration-and-requirements

Apple’s new App Store Guidelines aim to crack down on fraud and scams

Apple today is releasing a new version of its App Store Review Guidelines, its lengthy document which dictates the rules which apps must abide by in order to be published to its App Store. Among the more notable changes rolling out today are several sections that will see Apple taking a harder stance on App Store fraud, scams and developer misconduct, including a new process that aims to empower other developers to hold bad actors accountable.

One of the key updates on this front involves a change to Apple’s Developer Code of Conduct (Section 5.6 and 5.6.1-5.6.4 of the Review Guidelines).

This section has been significantly expanded to include guidance stating that repeated manipulative or misleading behavior or other fraudulent conduct will lead to the developer’s removal from the Apple Developer Program. This is something Apple has done for repeated violations, it claims, but wanted to now ensure was clearly spelled out in the guidelines.

In an entirely new third paragraph in this section, Apple says that if a developer engages in activities or actions that are not in accordance with the developer code of conduct, they will have their Apple Developer account terminated.

It also details what, specifically, must be done to restore the account, which includes providing Apple with a written statement detailing the improvements they’ve made, which will have to be approved by Apple. If Apple is able to confirm the changes has been made, it may then restore the developer’s account.

Apple explained in a press briefing that this change was meant to prevent a sort of catch and release scenario where a developer gets caught by Apple, but then later reverts their changes to continue their bad behavior.

As part of this update, Apple added a new section about developer identity (5.6.2). This is meant to ensure the contact information for developers provided to Apple and customers is accurate and functional, and that the developer isn’t impersonating other, legitimate developers on the App Store. This was a particular issue in a high-profile incident of App Store fraud which involved a crypto wallet app that scammed a user out of his life savings (~$600,000) in Bitcoin. The scam victim had been deceived because the app was using the same name and icon as a different company that made a hardware crypto device, and because the scan app was rated 5 stars. (Illegitimately, that is).

Related to this, Apple clarified the language around App Store discovery fraud (5.6.3) to more specifically call out any type of manipulations of App Store charts, search, reviews and referrals. The former would mean to crack down on the clearly booming industry of fake App Store ratings and reviews, which can send scam app up higher in charts and search.

Meanwhile, the referral crackdown would address consumers being shown incorrect pricing outside the App Store in an effort to boost installs.

Another section (5.6.4) addresses issues that come up after an app is published, including negative customer reports and concerns and excessive refund rates, for example. If Apple notices this behavior, it will investigate the app for violations, it says.

Of course, the question here is: will Apple actually notice the potential scammers? In recent months, a growing number of developers believe Apple is allowing far too many scammers to fall through the cracks of App Review.

One particular thorn in Apple’s side has been Fleksy keyboard app founder Kosta Eleftheriou, who is not only suing Apple for the revenue he’s personally lost to scammers, but also formed a sort of one-man bunco squad to expose some of the more egregious scams to date. This has included the above-mentioned crypto scam; a kids game that actually contained a hidden online casino; and a VPN app scamming users out of $5 million per year, among many others.

The rampant fraud taking place on the App Store was also brought up during Apple’s antitrust hearing, when Georgia’s Senator Jon Ossoff asked Apple’s Chief Compliance Officer Kyle Andeer why Apple was not able to locate scams, given they’re “trivially easy” to identify.

Apple downplayed the concerns then, and continues to do so through press releases like this one which noted how the App Store stopped over $1.5 billion in fraudulent transactions in 2020.

But a new update to these Guidelines seems to be an admission that Apple may need a little help on this front. It says developers can now directly report possible violations they find in other developers’ apps. Through a new form that standardizes this sort of complaint, developers can point to guideline violations and any other trust and safety issues they discover. Often, developers notice the scammers whose apps are impacting their own business and revenue, so they’ll likely turn to this form now as a first step in getting the scammer dealt with.

Another change will allow developers to appeal a rejection if they think there was unfair treatment of any kind, including political bias. Previously, Apple had allowed developers to appeal App Store decisions and suggest changes to guidelines.

Apple told us it has 500 app reviewers covering 81 languages who see new scenarios daily that have to be accounted for in updated guidelines and policies. Apple says it takes what it learns from these individual issues it encounters to invest in its systems, algorithms and training so it can prevent similar issues in the future. The company believes the new Code of Conduct rules, in particular, will give it the tools needed to better crack down on App Store fraud.

The rules about scams are only a handful of the many changes rolling out with today’s updated App Store Review Guidelines.

There are a few others, however, also worth highlighting:

  • Apple clarified rules around “hookup” apps to ensure developers understand porn and prostitution are not allowed on the App Store — often an issue with the fly-by-night hookup apps, which bait and switch users.
  • Creator content apps are instructed that they must follow rules for user-generated content, when applicable, meaning they must have content blocking, reporting and robust moderation.
  • Apple added the ability for licensed pharmacies and licensed cannabis dispensaries to facilitate purchasing provided they’re legal and geogated.
  • Apps that report criminal activity require the developers to work with local law enforcement. (Citizen is a recent example of an app gone awry when users hunted down the wrong person. That level of carelessness may be coming to an end now.)
  • Bait-and-switch marketing and ads about app pricing isn’t allowed.
  • Cellular carrier apps can now include other kinds of subscription apps besides music and video services.
  • Apple clarifies that developers can communicate on email with anyone, but says they can’t target customers acquired through the App Store with messages about how to make purchases outside of the App Store.
  • Apple has enough drinking game apps. Stop sending them in.
  • Apps that offer account creation also have to offer account deletion.
  • Other clarity was added around in-app purchases for gift cards, app metadata, bug fix submissions, and more. But these were not major changes.

read more about Apple's WWDC 2021 on TechCrunch

#app-store, #apple, #apple-inc, #apple-news, #apps, #computing, #epic-games, #georgia, #itunes, #kosta-eleftheriou, #tc, #technology, #video-services, #vpn, #wwdc-2021

State Election Officials Are Under Attack. We Will Defend Them.

Republican state laws will be used as a weapon of intimidation against the people who run our elections at the local and state levels.

#democratic-party, #elections, #georgia, #iowa, #presidential-commission-on-election-administration, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-party, #states-us, #texas, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #voting-and-voters

Supreme Court limits US hacking law in landmark CFAA ruling

The Supreme Court has ruled that a police officer who searched a license plate database for an acquaintance in exchange for cash did not violate U.S. hacking laws.

The landmark ruling concludes a long-running case that clarifies the controversial Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or CFAA, by putting limits on what kind of conduct can be prosecuted.

The court ruled 6-3 in favor of Nathan Van Buren, a former Georgia police sergeant who brought the case. Van Buren was prosecuted on two counts, one for accepting a kickback for accessing the database as a serving police officer, and another for violating the CFAA. His first conviction was overturned, but the CFAA conviction was upheld — until today.

Although Van Buren was allowed to access the license plate database, the legal question became whether or not he had exceeded his authorized access.

In the ruling, the Supreme Court said that the CFAA “covers those who obtain information from particular areas in the computer — such as files, folders, or databases — to which their computer access does not extend,” and that while Van Vuren “plainly flouted” the police department’s rules for law enforcement purposes, he did not violate the CFAA, wrote Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who wrote the majority opinion.

The CFAA was signed into law in 1986 to prosecute hackers who gain “unauthorized” access to a computer or network. But courts have been split on what “unauthorized” means. Legal experts have argued that a broad reading of the law could criminalize violating a site’s terms of service, such as lying on a dating profile or sharing a password to a streaming service. The court said that the government’s interpretation of the law “would attach criminal penalties to a breathtaking amount of commonplace computer activity.”

Not all the justices agreed. “Without valid law enforcement purposes, he was forbidden to use the computer to obtain that information,” wrote Justice Thomas, who filed a dissenting opinion along with Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Civil liberties experts said Congress should act to amend the CFAA following the court’s ruling.

“This is an important and welcome decision that will help protect digital research and journalism that is urgently necessary. But more is needed,” said Alex Abdo, litigation director of the Knight First Amendment Institute. “Congress should amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to eliminate any remaining uncertainty about the scope of the statute. It should also create a safe harbor for researchers and journalists who are working to study disinformation and discrimination online. Major technology companies should not have a veto over research and journalism that are manifestly in the public interest.”

#california, #cfaa, #computer-fraud-and-abuse-act, #georgia, #hacking, #security, #supreme-court, #united-states, #university-of-california, #university-of-california-berkeley

The Sound of Silence on Abortion

Sport leagues and corporations rally against bias and voter suppression. But they are quiet about abortion. 

#abbott-gregory-w-1957, #abortion, #american-airlines, #appeals-courts-us, #apple-inc, #arkansas, #atlanta-ga, #austin-ind, #brewer-jan, #corporate-social-responsibility, #dell-inc, #dell-michael-s, #discrimination, #fort-worth-tex, #fuqua-antoine, #georgia, #hewlett-packard-company, #homosexuality-and-bisexuality, #houston-tex, #law-and-legislation, #major-league-baseball, #mississippi, #national-basketball-assn, #national-collegiate-athletic-assn, #pence-mike, #politics-and-government, #pregnancy-and-childbirth, #state-legislatures, #states-us, #supreme-court-us, #texas, #women-and-girls

Death of QAnon Follower at Capitol Leaves a Wake of Pain

Rosanne Boyland had never voted before 2020, but she fell prey to dark conspiracy theories, family members said. She died on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and they are still not sure why.

#boyland-rosanne-1986-2021, #conspiracy-theories, #deaths-fatalities, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #drug-abuse-and-traffic, #georgia, #presidential-election-of-2020, #qanon, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #united-states-politics-and-government

Homeward secures $371M to help people make all-cash offers on houses

Trying to buy a house in a competitive market is perhaps one of the most stressful things an adult can go through.

Competing with a bunch of people all putting offers on a house that fly off the market in a matter of days is not fun. One startup that is trying to give home buyers a competitive edge by giving them a way to offer all cash on a home has just raised a boatload of money to help it keep growing.

Austin-based Homeward, which aims to help people buy homes faster, announced today it has raised $136 million in a Series B funding round led by Norwest Venture Partners at a valuation “just north of $800 million.” The company has also secured $235 million in debt.

Blackstone, Breyer Capital and existing backers Adams Street, Javelin and LiveOak Venture Partners also participated in the equity financing, which brings Homeward’s total equity raised since inception to $160 million. 

Homeward’s model seems to be appealing to both home buyers (including first time ones) and agents alike, with lots of growth occurring since May 2020 when it raised $105 million in debt and equity. The company declined to reveal hard revenue figures but noted that its GMV (gross merchandise value) run rate is up over 600%+ year over year.

Also, as of March, Homeward says it had experienced a 5x increase in the volume of homes transacted and 9x year over growth in the number of new customers. Plus, It’s hired 161 employees since January alone, and currently has a headcount of 203, up from about 33 at this time last year. 

CEO Tim Heyl founded the real estate startup in late 2018 on the premise that in most cases, sellers prefer to receive all cash offers because they are more likely to close. Loans can fall through, but cash is cash.

Heyl started the company after having worked in the industry for the previous decade, first as a broker then as the owner of a title company. During that time, he saw firsthand many of the problems in the industry. And one conundrum he frequently ran into was people not wanting to make an offer on a home without knowing for sure their current house would sell in a certain amount of time. This is a dilemma many are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic as demand outweighs supply in many major U.S. cities.

“The pandemic has greatly increased demand for our product,” Heyl told TechCrunch. “It’s a historic seller’s market with unprecedented demand from buyers and the lowest inventory levels in decades.”

The company plans to use its new capital to “double down” on its offering, scale up to meet “outsized demand” and open additional markets. Currently, Homeward operates in Texas, Colorado and Georgia.

“Right now, we have a waiting list in every market across the country, so this growth capital will enable us to meet that demand,” Heyl said. Its ultimate goal is to open its offering to agents nationwide.

Homeward also plans to double the size of its title and mortgage teams in the latter half of the year so it can offer its clients and partner agents “a single streamlined experience.” It’s also planning to integrate its consumer and internal software systems for approvals, offers and closing “so everyone can be on a single platform and we can eliminate confusion and waste,” Heyl added.

So, how does it work exactly? Homeward will make an all-cash offer on behalf of a customer wanting to buy a house. Meanwhile, that customer can hire an agent (from brokerages such as Redfin or Keller Williams) to list their home with less pressure to sell it in a certain amount of time or at a discounted price. Once Homeward buys a home, it will lease the property back to its customer until they sell their house, get a mortgage, and can buy the property back from Homeward, plus a 2 percent to 3 percent convenience fee. During the process, Homeward offers a predetermined guaranteed price for its customer’s home with the promise that if it’s unable to sell the house for at least that amount, it’ll buy the house from them.

Heyl believes Homeward’s “alternative iBuyer” model is a better deal for customers since it doesn’t purchase a customer’s old home for below market value. The company also works with agents, and not against them, he said. For example, its offerings are available to any agent, but the company “strategically” partners with top brokerages and teams, providing them with what it describes as “dedicated support, white-label branding, and digital marketing tools to help them stand out from the crowd and attract more clients.”

“Most alternatives to traditional real estate minimize or replace the agent,” Heyl said. “But we are agents ourselves, and we’ve built this for agents.”

Homeward is profitable on a per unit basis if you count transaction revenue minus costs to acquire and complete each transaction, according to Heyl. However, it is not yet profitable on a net income basis.

Jeff Crowe, managing partner at Norwest Venture Partners, will join Homeward’s board as part of the funding.

“Homeward is innovating at the intersection of real estate and fintech — that’s the next frontier,” he said. “Homeward’s cash offer addresses real problems for homebuyers in all market conditions, and the team has identified a winning strategy by partnering with agents and their clients.”

Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital describes Homeward as one of Austin’s most innovative companies.

“We are inspired by the company’s mission to build home finance solutions to overcome the limitations of the traditional mortgage and we are proud to support them as they continue to scale rapidly and efficiently,” he said.

#austin, #blackstone, #breyer-capital, #broker, #ceo, #colorado, #economy, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #georgia, #jeff-crowe, #jim-breyer, #liveoak-venture-partners, #managing-partner, #norwest-venture-partners, #proptech, #real-estate, #real-estate-tech, #recent-funding, #redfin, #startup, #startups, #tc, #texas, #united-states, #venture-capital

He Fought Trump’s 2020 Lies. He Also Backs New Scrutiny of Ballots.

Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state in Georgia, told The Times that a new, disinformation-driven attempt to inspect 2020 ballots wouldn’t unearth wrongdoing, and would help restore voter confidence.

#georgia, #hice-jody-1960, #presidential-election-of-2020, #raffensperger-brad, #republican-party, #rumors-and-misinformation, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #voter-fraud-election-fraud, #voter-registration-and-requirements

Stone Mountain’s Giant Confederate Monument Avoids Removal

Officials at the Georgia park voted to move flags and create exhibits to put the Civil War into fuller context. But the likeness of three Confederate leaders carved into stone isn’t going anywhere.

#civil-war-us-1861-65, #confederate-states-of-america, #davis-jefferson-f, #georgia, #lee-robert-e, #monuments-and-memorials-structures, #sons-of-confederate-veterans

Long After Trump’s Loss, a Push to Inspect Ballots Persists

Efforts to review 2020 ballots in Georgia and Arizona reflect the staying power of Donald Trump’s falsehoods, and Democrats fear that the findings could be twisted by Republicans.

#arizona, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #fulton-county-ga, #georgia, #maricopa-county-ariz, #presidential-election-of-2020, #raffensperger-brad, #trump-donald-j, #voting-and-voters

Upsie’s direct-to-consumer swing at the warranty space nets $18.2M

Upsie, a consumer warranty startup, has raised $18.2 million in a Series A round led by True Ventures. 

The financing brings the total raised for the St. Paul, Minnesota-based startup to $25 million since its 2015 inception.

A large group of investors participated in the round, including Concrete Rose VC, Avanta Ventures, Kapor Capital, Samsung Next, Massive, Backstage Capital, Awesome People Ventures, Draft Ventures, Matchstick Ventures, M25, Silicon Valley Bank and Uncommon VC, among others. A number of angels also put money in the round. 

Clarence Bethea (pictured below) founded Upsie after realizing the significant markup that retailers were placing on warranties.

His goal was to focus not on the retailer, but rather the end user and making the process more transparent, more affordable and simpler. For example, Upsie claims that it saves its customers anywhere from 50% to 90% compared to competitor warranty plans. Most other companies in the space, such as SquareTrade, offer warranties at the point of sale via retailers.

Image Credits: Upsie

“I’m sure you’ve walked into a Best Buy or a Target, and when you’re checking out somebody at the register is offering you a warranty. But what most customers don’t know is that you’re paying as much as 900% more for that warranty than you should,” Bethea said. “There’s no transparency at the register and you never get to ask what’s covered and what’s not covered, or what should you do if you need to make a claim.”

Just like many other companies, Upsie saw a bump in business last year thanks to the COVID-pandemic and resulting increase in consumer electronics sales (17%, according to the NPD Group Retail Tracking Service). In particular, there was a spike in demand for laptops, desktops and tablets for distance learning and remote work. As a result, Upsie’s revenue surged by 2.5x over the past 12 months, although Bethea declined to reveal hard revenue figures.

“With people working from home, devices were no longer a luxury but a necessity,” he told TechCrunch.

Rather than at the point of sale, Upsie gives consumers an opportunity to purchase a warranty for a product via its website or mobile app after the transaction has taken place. The company offers protection for thousands of devices — from smartphones to appliances to gaming consoles to lawn and garden tools — or about 60% of the warranty market, according to Bethea.

Consumers have up to 120 days to purchase smartphone protection, 11 months to purchase appliance, TV and fitness equipment protection and up to 60 days for other consumer electronics. All warranty information, including a copy of the product receipt, is stored and accessible on demand. Upsie says it also aims to offer same-day repairs on many devices.

The process, according to Bethea, is straightforward. Consumers need only upload an image of their receipt and provide purchase price and serial/IMEA numbers. When they need to file a claim, it’s a matter of pressing a button. And to make the process even easier, it will give consumers the ability to say, take their items directly to the Apple store for repair, and then get reimbursed afterwards by Upsie.

“We want more people to be able to protect what they buy with their hard-earned money,” Bethea said. “Removing the worry around paying out of pocket to repair, say, your kid’s laptop is huge for families who have had to go with remote learning when the system doesn’t make this easy for everyone.”

Upsie plans to use its new capital to increase customer awareness and continue building out its warranty product offerings and verticals, as well as to double its current headcount of 15.

“We want to continue to grow our presence online through digital channels such as Facebook and Google, for one thing,” Bethea told TechCrunch.

Puneet Agarwal, partner at True Ventures, says his firm doubled down on its investment in Upsie after witnessing its solid growth over the years. (True Ventures led the startup’s $5 million seed round in April of 2019.)

True Ventures was initially attracted to the sheer size of the warranty industry (estimated at $100 billion globally) and “how broken it was from the consumer experience perspective.” The firm also viewed Bethea as a “very special entrepreneur” who “exudes authenticity,” which must be refreshing to VCs who get inundated with pitches.

“We love to invest in old, staid industries where companies can disrupt from a business model and product perspective,” Agarwal said. “Upsie has done that in a big way.”

He went on to describe Bethea’s move to go direct to consumer in the warranty space as “bold.”

“Upsie is the only one doing that, and it’s the biggest swing to take in this type of industry,” Agarwal said. “We believe he’s cracked the code and that’s why we doubled down.”

Bethea’s background is not the same as a “typical” startup founder, which also was viewed as an advantage by True Ventures.

“He came from the streets of Atlanta, Georgia, and had to overcome so much in his life,” Agarwal told TechCrunch. “Clarence is the type of person that when we started True, we wanted to fund. We admire his perseverance and grit to come to this point.”

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