Android announces six new features, emphasizing safety and accessibility

Android shared information today about six features that will roll out this summer. Some of these are just quality of life upgrades, like starring text messages to easily find them later, or getting contextual Emoji Kitchen suggestions depending on what you’re typing. But other aspects of this update emphasize security, safety, and accessibility.

Last summer, Google added a feature on Android that basically uses your phone as a seismometer to create “the world’s largest earthquake detection network.” The system is free, and since testing in California, it’s also launched in New Zealand and Greece. Now, Google will introduce this feature in Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The company says that they’ll continue expanding the feature this year, prioritizing countries with the highest earthquake risk.

Image Credits: Google

Google is also expanding on another feature released last year, which made Google Assistant compatible with Android apps. In the initial update, apps were supported like Spotify, Snapchat, Twitter, Walmart, Discord, Etsy, MyFitnessPal, Mint, Nike Adapt, Nike Run Club, eBay, Kroger, Postmates, and Wayfair. Today’s update mentioned apps like eBay, Yahoo! Finance, Strava, and Capital One. These features are comparable to Apple’s support of Siri with iOS apps, which includes the ability to open apps, perform tasks, and record a custom command.

When it comes to accessibility, Google is ramping up its gaze detection feature, which is now in beta. Gaze detection allows people to ask Voice Access to only respond when they’re looking at their screen, allowing people to naturally move between talking with friends and using their phone. Now, Voice Access will also have enhanced password input — when it detects a password field, it will allow you to input letters, numbers, and symbols by saying “capital P” or “dollar sign,” for example, making it easier for users to more quickly enter this sensitive information. In October, Google Assistant became available on gaze-powered accessible devices, and in the same month, Google researchers debuted a demo that made it so people using sign language could be identified as the “active speaker” in video calls. Apple doesn’t have a comparable gaze detection feature yet that’s widely available, though they acquired SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI), an eye-tracking firm, in 2017. So, hopefully similar accessibility features will be in the works at Apple, especially as Google continues to build out theirs.

Today’s Android update also lets Android Auto users customize more of their experience. Now, you can set your launcher screen from your phone, set dark mode manually, and more easily browse content on media apps with an A-Z scroll bar and “back to top” button. Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Messages will now be compatible on the launch screen – proceed with caution and don’t drive distracted – and EV charging, parking, and navigation apps will now be available for use.

#android, #apps, #assistant, #california, #computing, #ebay, #etsy, #google, #google-assistant, #google-now, #google-play, #greece, #kazakhstan, #kroger, #mobile-linux, #myfitnesspal, #new-zealand, #nike, #operating-systems, #philippines, #postmates, #siri, #smartphones, #snapchat, #software, #spotify, #turkey, #walmart, #wayfair, #whatsapp, #yahoo

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Hollywood Take on Christchurch Massacre Provokes Anger in New Zealand

Members of the Muslim community denounced as “white saviorism” the director’s decision to focus on the response by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

#ardern-jacinda, #australia, #byrne-rose, #christchurch-new-zealand-attack-march-2019, #mass-shootings, #movies, #muslims-and-islam, #new-zealand, #niccol-andrew-m

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Fintech giant Klarna raises $639M at a $45.6B valuation amid ‘massive momentum’ in the US

Just over three months after its last funding round, European fintech giant Klarna is announcing today that it has raised another $639 million at a staggering post-money valuation of $45.6 billion.

Rumors swirled in recent weeks that Klarna had raised more money at a valuation north of $40 billion. But the Swedish buy now, pay later behemoth and upstart bank declined to comment until now.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 led the latest round, which also included participation from existing investors Adit Ventures, Honeycomb Asset Management and WestCap Group. The new valuation represents a 47.3% increase over Klarna’s post-money valuation of $31 billion in early March, when it raised $1 billion, and a 330% increase over its $10.6 billion valuation at the time of its $650 million raise last September. Previous backers include Sequoia Capital, SilverLake, Dragoneer and Ant Group, among others.

The latest financing cements 16-year-old Klarna’s position as the highest-valued private fintech in Europe.

In an exclusive interview with TechCrunch, Klarna CEO and founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski said the company has seen explosive growth in the U.S. and plans to use its new capital in part to continue to grow there and globally.

In particular, over the past year, the fintech has seen “massive momentum” in the country, with more than 18 million American consumers now using Klarna, he said. That’s up from 10 million at the end of last year’s third quarter, and up 118% year over year. Klara is now live with 24 of the top 100 U.S. retailers, which it says is “more than any of its competitors.”

Overall, Klarna is live in 20 markets, has more than 90 million global active users and more than 2 million transactions a day conducted on its platform. The company’s momentum can be seen in its impressive financial results. In the first quarter, Klarna notched $18.1 billion in volume compared to $9.9 billion in the prior year first quarter. In all of 2020, it processed $53 billion in volume. To put that into context; Affirm’s financial report in May projected it would process $8.04 billion in volume for the entire fiscal year of 2021 and Afterpay is projecting $16 billion in volume for its entire fiscal year. 

March 2021 also represented a record month for global shopping volume with $6.9 billion of purchases made through the Klarna platform.

Meanwhile, in 2020, Klara hit over a billion in revenue. While the company was profitable for its first 14 years of life, it has not been profitable the last two, according to Siemiatkowski, and that’s been by design.

“We’ve scaled up so massively in investments in our growth and technology, but running on a loss is very odd for us,” he told TechCrunch. “We will get back to profitability soon.”

Klarna has entered six new markets this year alone, including New Zealand and France, where it just launched this week. It is planning to expand into a number of new markets this year. The company has about 4,000 employees with several hundred in the U.S. in markets such as New York and Los Angeles. It also has offices in Stockholm, London, Manchester, Berlin, Madrid and Amsterdam. 

While Klarna is partnered with over 250,000 retailers around the world (including Macy’s, Ikea, Nike, Saks), its buy now, pay later feature is also available direct to consumers via its shopping app. This means that consumers can use Klarna’s app to pay immediately or later, as well as manage spending and view available balances. They can also do things like initiate refunds, track deliveries and get price-drop notifications.

“Our shopping browser allows users to use Klarna everywhere,” Siemiatkowski said. “No one else is offering that, and are rather limited to integrating with merchants.”

Image Credits: Klarna

Other things the company plans to do with its new capital is focus on acquisitions, particularly acqui-hires, according to Siemiatkowski. According to Crunchbase, the company has made nine known acquisitions over time — most recently picking up Los Gatos-based content creation services provider Toplooks.ai.

“We’re the market leader in this space and we want to find new partners that want to support us in this,” Siemiatkowski told TechCrunch. “That gives us better prerequisites to be successful going forward. Now we have more cash and money available to invest further in the long term.”

Klarna has long been rumored to be going public via a direct listing. Siemiatkowski said that the company in many ways already acts like a public company in that it offers stock to all its employees, and reports financials — giving the impression that the company is not in a hurry to go the public route.

“We report quarterly to national authorities and are a fully regulated bank so do all the things you expect to see from public companies such as risk control and compliance,” he told TechCrunch. “We’re reaching a point for it to be a natural evolution for the company to IPO. But we’re not preparing to IPO anytime soon.”

At the time of its last funding round, Klarna announced its GiveOne initiative to support planet health. With this round, the company is again giving 1% of the equity raised back to the planet.

Naturally, its investors are bullish on what the company is doing and its market position. Yanni Pipilis, managing partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, said the company’s growth isfounded on a deep understanding of how the purchasing behaviors of consumers are changing,” an evolution SoftBank believes is only accelerating. 

Eric Munson, founder and CIO of Adit Ventures, said his firm believes the “best is yet to come as Klarna multiplies their addressable market through global expansion.” 

For Siemiatkowski, what Klarna is trying to achieve is to compete with the $1 trillion-plus credit card industry.

We really see right now all the signs are there. True competition is coming to this space, this decade,” he said. “This is an opportunity to genuinely disrupt the retail banking space.”

 

#amsterdam, #ant-group, #apps, #bank, #berlin, #bnpl, #buy-now-pay-later, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #france, #funding, #fundings-exits, #ikea, #klarna, #london, #los-angeles, #macys, #madrid, #manchester, #market-leader, #money, #new-york, #new-zealand, #nike, #payments, #recent-funding, #sebastian-siemiatkowski, #sequoia-capital, #softbank-investment-advisers, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #stockholm, #united-states, #venture-capital

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In ‘Sweet Tooth,’ a Taste of Fantasy Rooted in Reality

Based on a comic book about a pandemic-fueled apocalypse, the new Netflix series is actually full of big-hearted whimsy. Thank the remote-controlled ears.

#anozie-nonso, #comic-books-and-strips, #convery-christian, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #fractured-fx-inc, #lehmann-grant, #lemire-jeff, #mickle-jim, #netflix-inc, #new-zealand, #puppets, #schwartz-beth-screenwriter, #sweet-tooth-tv-program, #television

0

New Zealand Court Clears Way for Murder Suspect’s Extradition to China

The Supreme Court insisted on assurances from Beijing that the man, accused of killing a Chinese woman in 2009, would not be tortured and would get a fair trial.

#china, #extradition, #international-relations, #new-zealand

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Goldman Sachs leads $202M investment in project44, doubling its valuation to $1.2B in a matter of months

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted a lot in the world, and supply chains are no exception. 

A number of applications that aim to solve workflow challenges across the supply chain exist. But getting real-time access to information from transportation providers has remained somewhat elusive for shippers and logistics companies alike. 

Enter Project44. The 7-year-old Chicago-based company has built an API-based platform that it  says acts as “the connective tissue” between transportation providers, third-party logistics companies, shippers and the systems. Using predictive analytics, the platform provides crucial real-time information such as estimated time of arrivals (ETAs).

“Supply chains have undergone an incredible amount of change – there has never been a greater need for agility, resiliency, and the ability to rapidly respond to changes across the supply chain,” said Jason Duboe, the company’s Chief Growth Officer.

And now, project44 announced it has raised $202 million in a Series E funding round led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Emergence Capital. Girteka and Lineage Logistics also participated in the financing, which gives project44 a post-money valuation of $1.2 billion. That doubles the company’s valuation at the time of its Insight Partners-led $100 million Series D in December.

The raise is quite possibly the largest investment in the supply chain visibility space to date.

Project44 is one of those refreshingly transparent private companies that gives insight into its financials. This month, the company says it crossed $50 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR), which is up 100% year over year. It has more than 600 customers including some of the world’s largest brands such as Amazon, Walmart, Nestle, Starbucks, Unilever, Lenovo and P&G. Customers hail from a variety of industries including CPG, retail, e-commerce, manufacturing, pharma, and chemical.

Over the last year, the pandemic created a number of supply chain disruptions, underscoring the importance of technologies that help provide visibility into supply chain operations. Project44 said it worked hard to help customers to mitigate “relentless volatility, bottlenecks, and logistics breakdowns,” including during the Suez Canal incident where a cargo ship got stuck for days.

Looking ahead, Project44 plans to use its new capital in part to continue its global expansion. Project44 recently announced its expansion into China and has plans to grow in the Asia-Pacific, Australia/New Zealand and Latin American markets, according to Duboe.

We are also going to continue to invest heavily in our carrier products to enable more participation and engagement from the transportation community that desires a stronger digital experience to improve efficiency and experience for their customers,” he told TechCrunch. The company also aims to expand its artificial intelligence (AI) and data science capabilities and broaden sales and marketing reach globally.

Last week, project44 announced its acquisition of ClearMetal, a San Francisco-based supply chain planning software company that focuses on international freight visibility, predictive planning and overall customer experience. WIth the buy, Duboe said  project44 will now have two contracts with Amazon: road and ocean. 

“Project44 will power what they are chasing,” he added.

And in March, the company also acquired Ocean Insights to expand its ocean offerings.

Will Chen, a managing director of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, believes that project44 is unique in its scope of network coverage across geographies and modes of transport.  

“Most competitors predominantly focus on over-the-road visibility and primarily serve one region, whereas project44 is a truly global business that provides end-to-end visibility across their customers’ entire supply chain,” he said.

Goldman Sachs Asset Management, noted project44 CEO and founder Jett McCandless, will help the company grow not only by providing capital but through its network and resources.

#amazon, #api, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #asia-pacific, #australia, #business, #chicago, #chief, #china, #clearmetal, #companies, #e-commerce, #emergence-capital, #funding, #fundings-exits, #goldman-sachs, #insight-partners, #lenovo, #logistics, #manufacturing, #nestle, #new-zealand, #officer, #pg, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #starbucks, #startup, #startups, #supply-chain, #supply-chain-management, #transportation, #unilever, #venture-capital, #walmart

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A New Zealand Fugitive Wanted to Turn Himself In. So He Hired a Helicopter.

James Matthew Bryant spent weeks on the run, doing yoga in the middle of the forest and plotting his next move. Then his face appeared on a TV crime show.

#fugitives, #helicopters, #new-zealand

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New Zealanders Are Flooding Home. Will the Old Problems Push Them Back Out?

More than 50,000 have escaped the pandemic by moving back, offering the country a rare chance to regain talented citizens. But they are confronting entrenched housing and employment challenges.

#affordable-housing, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #immigration-and-emigration, #labor-and-jobs, #new-zealand, #wages-and-salaries

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Commission-free trading app Stake secures $30M from Tiger Global to expand into Europe

Commission-free trading app Stake, which is available in UK, Brazil and New Zealand, has raised $30 million from Tiger Global and partners of London-based DST Global to expand into Europe.

Matt Leibowitz, Founder and CEO, Stake said: “We’re really excited to get to this point but it’s just the start. We set out to change the game for retail investors and were self-funded for the first four years of our journey. We’ve proven the model and now have the chance to expand our product and bring our zero-brokerage service to more retail investors.”

Since launching in the UK in early 2020, Stake claims to have grown its total customer base more than six times over, with 25% month-on-month customer growth on average and hitting over 330,000 customers globally.

It was the first to offer commission-free access to the US market in Australia, offering retail investors access to over 4,400 US stocks & ETFs without a brokerage fee.

In the UK it competes with eToro, Libertex, Fineco, Plus500 and IG, among others.

#australia, #brazil, #ceo, #companies, #dst-global, #etoro, #europe, #finance, #london, #new-zealand, #retail-investors, #stake, #tc, #tiger-global, #united-kingdom, #united-states

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These Countries Did Well With Covid. So Why Are They Slow on Vaccines?

Japan, South Korea and Australia have inoculated tiny percentages of their populations. The delays risk unwinding their relative successes.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #japan, #new-zealand, #olympic-games-2020, #south-korea, #vaccination-and-immunization

0

Are Your Illegal Drugs Pure? New Zealand Will Check Them for You.

A law will allow controlled substances to be tested without penalty to ensure their authenticity. The goals are to reduce health risks and, perhaps, change users’ behavior.

#drug-abuse-and-traffic, #festivals, #law-and-legislation, #new-zealand, #politics-and-government, #tests-and-examinations

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Rocket Lab to recover the booster from its next Electron launch as it pursue reusability

Rocket Lab is preparing for its next launch, currently set to take place in May from its launch facility in New Zealand. The payload for the flight are two satellites to join BlackSky’s Earth observation constellation, but Rocket Lab has a secondary goal crucial to its aim of adding reusability to its Electron launch vehicle: Recovering the booster stage after its return from space.

This isn’t the first time Rocket Lab has done a booster recovery; last December, it fished one out of the sea following its aptly-named ‘Return to Sender’ mission. For this flight, dubbed ‘Running Out of Toes,’ the goal is roughly the same, but the Electron vehicle has some upgrades and modifications that will help Rocket Lab gather even more data, and make progress towards actually fully reusing one of these boosters once they get it back.

“We were very, very pleased with the condition of the [first] booster we got back with basically no modifications to any of the thermal protection systems,” Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck explained in an interview. “The way that we enter with the booster is obviously engines-first and propagate a big shockwave forward. This next flight is the next iteration where we’ve upgraded the heat shield to be able to actually carry those loads, because we know those loads now.”

Flight one provided plenty of valuable data about what the actual stresses were on the Electron booster during re-entry — information that engineers on the ground could make educated guesses about, but couldn’t actually really know without a real-world test. The data collected by sensors onboard the rocket during that December flight provided Rocket Lab the ability to redesign Electron’s heat shield for a “major increase in performance and strength,” according to Beck.

This second flight will test the efficacy of those improvements, and provide even more data to the Rocket Lab team, which will be used to inform the design of the third and final planned recovery test. That will focus on adjusting the re-entry procedure so that the Electron booster sheds even more of its speed while coming back into the atmosphere, which makes Rocket Lab’s final recovery steps — a parachute-assisted slowdown and a mid-air helicopter capture — more viable.

“There’ll be one other design iteration after this, where we will look to scrub even more velocity in the air for more heat off the stage, to get us to that point where it really is worth introducing the other elements of the helicopter to go and pick up a stage that we feel like we could go and re-fly,” Beck said.

That third and final splashdown test should happen sometime later this year, if all goes to plan. And while Rocket Lab doesn’t aim to actually re-fly any of the boosters from these three development tests, Beck told me that certain components from the first booster they got back have been re-integrated into this second test vehicle, and the plan is to recover and re-use even more parts for test #3.

Beck said that bringing the booster back to the Rocket Lab factory and essentially cutting it into tiny pieces is actually the best way for the company’s engineers to learn about what happens during re-entry, and what parts of the rocket are affected most.

“There’s nothing like putting a stage back in the factory to really understand,” he explained. “You can have all the instrumentation you want, but we brought that stage back here and the first thing we did is, we cut it up. We cut all the heat-affected areas, all of the areas that are in the shadow of flow, and then start doing tensile polls on them to understand the material properties.”

All of this work drives towards the end goal of re-flying a recovered Electron booster — which will be a major accomplishment not only because it should help Rocket Lab increase its launch pace, but also because the vehicle was never designed for reusability to begin with. I asked Beck whether that first re-flight of a recovered Electron will be a commercial mission, or just a test without a customer payload.

“I would imagine it would be a commercial mission, simply because we’re not going to put anything on the pad that we don’t have really high confidence in anyway,” he said. “I suspect the first reused vehicles will have quite a lot of refurbishment on them, because if you look at the only other company that has demonstrated reusability [SpaceX], it’s been many, many years of learning and understanding. You don’t just kind of grab a launch vehicle, say it looks good, put it back on the pad and fly again. It’s a very iterative process of building confidence and assurance.”

While introducing reusability to Electron has benefits in its own right for that launch vehicle, the process of developing that capability has also been invaluable for Rocket Lab’s efforts to build out its next spacecraft, the higher-capacity Neutron launch system, according to Beck. Neutron is designed to launch and land propulsively, and to include a lot more usability by design from the very start.

“Electron was designed to be the world’s most manufacturable launch vehicle — Neutron is designed to be the most reusable launch vehicle,” Beck said. “They’re very different paradigms, but unusually we now have experience in both. For Neutron, the innovation really is around reusability, and there’ll be some interesting bits shortly, when we we reveal a little bit more about the vehicle architecture, that will make it very obvious to what degree we’re going to make this a reusable launch vehicle.”

#aerospace, #booster, #ceo, #new-zealand, #outer-space, #peter-beck, #rocket, #rocket-lab, #rocket-propulsion, #space, #space-launch, #spacex, #tc

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Google starts trialing its FLoC cookie alternative in Chrome

Google today announced that it is rolling out Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), a crucial part of its Privacy Sandbox project for Chrome, as a developer origin trial.

FLoC is meant to be an alternative to the kind of cookies that advertising technology companies use today to track you across the web. Instead of a personally identifiable cookie, FLoC runs locally and analyzes your browsing behavior to group you into a cohort of like-minded people with similar interests (and doesn’t share your browsing history with Google). That cohort is specific enough to allow advertisers to do their thing and show you relevant ads, but without being so specific as to allow marketers to identify you personally.

This “interest-based advertising,” as Google likes to call it, allows you to hide within the crowd of users with similar interests. All the browser displays is a cohort ID and all your browsing history and other data stay locally.

Image Credits: Google / Getty Images

The trial will start in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and the Philippines. Over time, Google plans to scale it globally. As we learned earlier this month, Google is not running any tests in Europe because of concerns around GDPR and other privacy regulations (in part, because it’s unclear whether FLoC IDs should be considered personal data under these regulations).

Users will be able to opt out from this origin trial, just like they will be able to do so with all other Privacy Sandbox trials.

Unsurprisingly, given how FLoC upends many of the existing online advertising systems in place, not everybody loves this idea. Advertisers obviously love the idea of being able to target individual users, though Google’s preliminary data shows that using these cohorts leads to similar results for them and that advertisers can expect to see “at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising.”

Google notes that its own advertising products will get the same access to FLoC IDs as its competitors in the ads ecosystem.

But it’s not just the advertising industry that is eyeing this project skeptically. Privacy advocates aren’t fully sold on the idea either. The EFF, for example, argues that FLoC will make it easier for marketing companies that want to fingerprint users based on the various FLoC IDs they expose, for example. That’s something Google is addressing with its Privacy Budget proposal, but how well that will work remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, users would probably prefer to just browse the web without seeing ads (no matter what the advertising industry may want us to believe) and without having to worry about their privacy. But online publishers continue to rely on advertising income to fund their sites.

With all of these divergent interests, it was always clear that Google’s initiatives weren’t going to please everyone. That friction was always built into the process. And while other browser vendors can outright block ads and third-party cookies, Google’s role in the advertising ecosystem makes this a bit more complicated.

“When other browsers started blocking third-party cookies by default, we were excited about the direction, but worried about the immediate impact,” Marshall Vale, Google’s product manager for Privacy Sandbox, writes in today’s announcement. “Excited because we absolutely need a more private web, and we know third-party cookies aren’t the long-term answer. Worried because today many publishers rely on cookie-based advertising to support their content efforts, and we had seen that cookie blocking was already spawning privacy-invasive workarounds (such as fingerprinting) that were even worse for user privacy. Overall, we felt that blocking third-party cookies outright without viable alternatives for the ecosystem was irresponsible, and even harmful, to the free and open web we all enjoy.”

It’s worth noting that FLoC, as well as Google’s other privacy sandbox initiatives, are still under development. The company says the idea here is to learn from these initial trials and evolve the project accordingly.

#advertising-tech, #australia, #brazil, #canada, #computing, #google, #google-search, #india, #indonesia, #japan, #mexico, #new-zealand, #online-advertising, #philippines, #software, #tracking, #united-states, #web-browsers

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New Zealand Approves Paid Leave After Miscarriage

The measure, believed to be among the first in the world, would apply to couples who lose a pregnancy at any point.

#law-and-legislation, #miscarriages, #new-zealand, #paid-time-off, #parenting, #stillbirth, #women-and-girls

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Waterfund commits $50M to OurCrowd’s water and agtech portfolio

Waterfund, an investment and trading firm that specializes in acquiring and managing water-related infrastructure assets, today announced a deal with Israel-based crowdfunding platform OurCrowd that will see the Waterfund team commit $50 million to build a water- and agtech-focused portfolio of 15 companies. The first of these investments is in Plenty, a well-funded vertical farming startup.

In addition to these direct investments, the two companies are also working together on a new water-focused platform called Aquantos, which aims to issue so-called Blue Bonds and other financial products related to the water industry. Comparable to Green Bonds that focus on projects with environmental benefits — and which have been around for more than a decade now — Blue Bonds are still a new idea and focus on projects that could benefit the oceans.

“We are working to issue Blue Bonds that can be both climate bonds-certified and backed by sovereign or sub-sovereign borrowers,” said Waterfund CEO Scott Rickards. “This new financial tool and others are being designed to enable water projects in the Middle East to acquire leading technologies to address water scarcity in a fundamentally new way.”

Rickards argues that a lack of private capital has held back innovation in the water sector and that this new partnership — and the equity and debt financing opportunities it brings with it — will help change this.

OurCrowd, meanwhile, currently has about $1.5 billion in committed funding and has made investments in about 250 companies across its 25 funds. Among the companies the platform has invested in are the likes of Lemonade, Jump Bikes and Beyond Meat. Its portfolio also includes a number of existing agtech startups and last November, OurCrowd partnered with Sprout Agritech (a company in its portfolio) to run a new agtech accelerator in New Zealand.

“The Abraham Accords present a huge opportunity to bring new water and agricultural technology to the water scarcity challenges of the entire Middle East,” said OurCrowd founder and CEO Jon Medved. “Alongside Waterfund, it is our mission to invest in and help build game-changing technology companies. We are excited to be working together with Waterfund to drive more private capital to address the critical challenges of water.”

#agtech, #articles, #beyond-meat, #ceo, #finance, #jon-medved, #middle-east, #new-zealand, #ourcrowd, #startup-company, #tc

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America’s Cup Helicopters Are Right Out of an Action Movie

High-tech racing boats and low-flying helicopters bring close-quarters drama to sailing’s biggest races. But staying out of the way is harder than it looks.

#americas-cup, #emirates-team-new-zealand, #helicopters, #luna-rossa-challenge, #new-zealand, #sailboats-and-sailing, #television

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SpaceX launches 60 new Starlink satellites just one week after the last batch

SpaceX now has 60 more Starlink satellites in orbit – it launched its latest full complement of the internet broadband spacecraft early this morning from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Just last Thursday, SpaceX launched its last batch of 60, and this past week it also confirmed that it’s expanding its beta of the Starlink internet service to additional markets around the world, including Germany and New Zealand.

This is the 21st Starlink launch overall, and the sixth this year, with as many as three more launches tentatively planned for later this month, weather and schedule permitting. The simple reason it’s pursuing such an aggressive launch pace is that the more satellites it adds to its constellation in low-Earth orbit, the more customers it can sign up and serve. Starlink is currently in beta, but it’s now open to anyone to sign up depending on geography, with SpaceX taking a deposit and offering a rough timeline on projected availability.

So far, Starlink service is open to people in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Germany and New Zealand, but the plan is to achieve “near global coverage of the populated world” by the end of this year. Adding satellites to the constellation not only helps expand geographic reach, but also improves network performance. SpaceX says that currently, the beta should provide speeds ranging from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s, with latency falling between 20ms to 40ms, but that both of those metrics should improve over the coming months as more spacecraft join the network, and as SpaceX rolls out additional ground stations.

Already, there are anecdotal reports that Starlink’s service bests the competition in rural and hard-to-reach areas where ground infrastructure for alternative services like cellular internet, or legacy satellite from geosynchronous spacecraft-based networks have been disappointing.

This launch also included a successful controlled landing of the booster used to propel the Falcon 9 rocket that carried the Starlink satellites to orbit. SpaceX landed the first stage, which flew previously on five missions, including SpaceX’s first human spaceflight mission, back at its autonomous drone landing ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

#aerospace, #broadband, #canada, #falcon, #falcon-9, #florida, #germany, #internet-service, #internet-service-providers, #new-zealand, #outer-space, #satellite, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states

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In Australia, Hollywood Stars Have Found an Escape From Covid. Who’s Jealous?

Dozens of international film productions have been lured to the country, where cases of the coronavirus are few. In turn, actors have found almost paradise.

#australia, #bale-christian, #california, #celebrities, #clooney-george, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #damon-matt, #efron-zac, #elba-idris, #hanks-tom, #marvel-entertainment, #movies, #new-zealand, #politics-and-government, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #television, #theater

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Largest Glowing Shark Species Discovered Near New Zealand

It’s the biggest bioluminescent vertebrate found on land or sea, so far.

#animal-behavior, #biology-and-biochemistry, #frontiers-in-marine-science-journal, #hormones, #light, #new-zealand, #research, #sharks, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

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New Zealand Faces Tsunami Threat After 8.1-Magnitude South Pacific Earthquake

The temblor was one of three powerful earthquakes that were recorded within eight hours off New Zealand, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

#auckland-new-zealand, #coast-erosion, #earthquakes, #evacuations-and-evacuees, #geology, #hawaii, #ige-david, #new-zealand, #tidal-waves-and-tsunamis, #tonga, #united-states-geological-survey

0

A Portal Into a Universe Without Covid

Concerts, beaches, crowds: Videos of New Zealand enjoying its summer feel like peering into an alternate reality.

#festivals, #new-zealand, #quarantine-life-and-culture

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Rocket Lab to go public via SPAC at valuation of $4.1 billion

The SPAC run is on for space startups, which have been relatively slow in their overall exit pace before the current special purpose acquisitions company merger craze got underway. Rocket Lab is the latest, and likely the most notable to jump on the trend, with a deal that will see it combine with a SPAC called Vector and subsequently list on the NASDAQ under the ticker RKLB, with the transaction expected to close in the second quarter of this year.

Rocket Lab, which got its start in New Zealand, and which still launches rockets there with its HQ now shifted to LA, will have a pro forma enterprise value of $4.1 billion via the transaction, with a total cash balance of $750 million once the deal goes through thanks to a PIPE of $470 million with funds invested via Vector, BlackRock and others. At close, existing Rocket Lab shareholders will retain 82% of the total equity in the combined company.

The launch company was founded in 2006, and is led by founder Peter Beck. In 2013, it opened its California headquarters, and it has already completed its first U.S. launch facility at Wallops Island, Virginia. The company’s Electron launch vehicle can carry small payloads to orbit, and is designed to cater to the growing small satellite market, with a focus on responsive and flexible launch options.

Rocket Lab has performed launches on behalf of the U.S. government, including national security payloads, and that’s a key revenue opportunity for it gown forward. Currently, it says it has a backlog of customers, with a projection that it will be ‘EBITDA positive’ in 2023 after adjustments, and fully cash-flow positive by 2024, with a projected run rate of over $1 billion in revenue by 2026.

The company has focused on increasing its ability to launch more frequently in a number of ways. It’s been steadily improving its production capacity, with a focus on its large automated carbon fiber production capabilities. It has also established its U.S. launch site, as mentioned, and will soon open its second launch pad at its existing New Zealand launch site, which is fully privately-owned by Rocket Lab itself. It’s also working on making its Electron vehicle partially reusable, which founder Beck says will help it turn around launches more quickly.

Finally, it has just announced a new heavier-lift launch vehicle called Neutron, with a launch payload capacity of 8 tons – around 16,000 lbs.

#aerospace, #artemis-program, #blackrock, #california, #electron, #louisiana, #new-zealand, #outer-space, #peter-beck, #public, #rocket-lab, #spac, #space, #spaceflight, #spaceport, #tc, #u-s-government, #united-states, #virginia

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New Zealand to Roll Out Free Period Products to All Students

The program, designed to reduce “period poverty,” will begin in June.

#ardern-jacinda, #education, #menstruation, #new-zealand, #politics-and-government, #poverty, #women-and-girls

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Rawiri Waititi Wins Tie War in New Zealand Parliament

Rawiri Waititi, a Maori politician in New Zealand, was kicked out of Parliament for refusing to wear a tie as a marker of Indigenous resistance.

#indigenous-people, #maori, #new-zealand, #politics-and-government, #ties-apparel

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Its Borders Shut, New Zealand Prods Local Tourists to ‘Do Something New’

A viral ad campaign urges New Zealanders to find new ways to look at their own backyard — and to stop posting hot-tub vacation photos.

#advertising-and-marketing, #ardern-jacinda, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #new-zealand, #photography, #shutdowns-institutional, #social-media, #travel-and-vacations

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America’s Cup: The Resurrection of American Magic

A dramatic crash left a hole in the hull of a high-tech America’s Cup yacht. A round-the-clock repair effort has brought the boat back from the dead.

#americas-cup, #american-magic-new-york-yacht-club, #hutchinson-terry, #luna-rossa-challenge, #maritime-accidents-and-safety, #new-zealand, #sailboats-and-sailing, #united-states

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Rocket Lab completes its first rocket launch of 2021 and 18th mission overall

Rocket Lab has launched its 18th mission, and the first of 2021, as of 8:26 PM NZT (2:30 AM EST). The ‘Another One Leaves The Crust’ mission took off from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, and flew a single communications microsatellite on behalf of client OHB Group, a satellite manufacturer based in Europe with facilities in Germany, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

Rocket Lab’s launches often feature payloads from more than one customer on the same Electron launch vehicle, but this dedicated payload launch is an example of how the flexibility of its smaller rocket can serve customers even for single small satellite missions. The rocket successfully delivered its payload as intended shortly following take-off.

While Rocket Lab has been developing and testing a booster stage recovery process to help it re-use part of its launch vehicles on subsequent flights, this particular mission did not include a recovery attempt. The company has had significant success with that development process however, and recovered its first booster last year. Sometime this year, it’s expected to attempt a recovery that includes a mid-air catch of the returning first stage via helicopter.

#aerospace, #booster, #czech-republic, #electron, #europe, #germany, #new-zealand, #rocket-lab, #space, #spaceflight, #sweden, #tc

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How 8 Countries Have Tried to Keep Artists Afloat During Panemic

Governments around the world have tried to support the arts during the pandemic, some more generously than others.

#austria, #brazil, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #culture-arts, #france, #germany, #great-britain, #new-zealand, #poland, #south-africa, #south-korea, #stimulus-economic, #unemployment

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A Year of Watching Earthly Beauty Burn

From orbit, satellites send tragic evidence of climate change’s destructive power. This film covers 10 days, Sept. 7-16, 2020, a period of intense fires activity in North and South America.

#air-pollution, #amazon-jungle, #anxiety-and-stress, #australia, #brazil, #california, #canada, #carbon-capture-and-sequestration, #china, #colombia, #colorado-state-university, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deaths-fatalities, #earth, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #european-union, #fires-and-firefighters, #floods, #forests-and-forestry, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #gulf-coast-us, #hurricane-laura-2020, #international-space-station, #marshall-tex, #new-zealand, #north-america, #oregon, #pantanal-brazil, #politics-and-government, #sacramento-calif, #seasons-and-months, #stanford-university, #texas, #united-states, #washington-state, #weather, #western-states-us, #wildfires

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Rocket Lab successfully launches satellite for Japanese startup Synspective

Rocket Lab has completed its 17th mission, putting a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite on orbit for client Synspective, a Tokyo-based space startup that has raised over $100 million in funding to date. Syspective aims to operate a 30-satellite constellation that can provide global imaging coverage of Earth, with SAR’s benefits of being able to see through clouds and inclement weather, as well as in all lighting conditions.

This is Synspective’s first satellite on orbit, and it took off from Rocket Lab’s launch facility on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. It will operate in a sun synchronous orbit approximately 300,000 miles from Earth, and will act a a demonstrator of the startup’s technology to pave the way for the full constellation, which will provide commercially available SAR data avails both raw, and processed via the company’s in-development AI technology to provide analytics and insights.

For Rocket Lab, this marks the conclusion of a successful year in launch operations, which also saw the company take its key first steps towards making its Electron launch system partially reusable. The company did have one significant setback as well, with a mission that failed to deliver its payloads to orbit in July, but the company quickly bounced back from that failure with improvements to prevent a similar incident in future.

In 2021, Rocket Lab will aim to launch its first mission from the U.S., using its new launch facility at Wallops Island, in Virginia. That initial U.S. flight was supposed to happen in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by a NASA certification process for one of its systems, pushed the launch to next year.

#aerospace, #electron, #imaging, #new-zealand, #outer-space, #rocket-lab, #satellite, #science, #space, #spaceflight, #synspective, #tc, #tokyo, #united-states, #virginia

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Christchurch Inquiry Says New Zealand Couldn’t Have Prevented Mosque Attacks

But the Royal Commission, the country’s highest-level investigation, faulted lax gun regulations and the country’s “fragile” intelligence agencies.

#christchurch-new-zealand-attack-march-2019, #mass-shootings, #new-zealand, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #tarrant-brenton-harrison

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A 4-Day Workweek for 5 Days’ Pay? Unilever New Zealand Is the Latest to Try

“If we find that we’re all working the same number of hours as before but in four days, then we’ve missed the opportunity,” the company’s managing director said.

#content-type-service, #executives-and-management-theory, #new-zealand, #unilever-nv, #work-life-balance, #working-hours

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Deadly White Island Volcano Eruption Leads to Charges

Government agencies and individuals were among those charged over the roles in the 2019 disaster, which killed 22 people.

#accidents-and-safety, #deaths-fatalities, #new-zealand, #politics-and-government, #volcanoes, #white-island-new-zealand

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With Progressive Politics on March in New Zealand, Maori Minister Blazes New Trails

Nanaia Mahuta, the new foreign minister, brings a reputation as an honest broker to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s cabinet, the most diverse in the country’s history.

#ardern-jacinda, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #labour-party-new-zealand, #legislatures-and-parliaments, #new-zealand, #politics-and-government

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How to End ‘Women’s Work’ and its Pay Gap

New Zealand is pursuing a century-old idea to close the gender pay gap: not equal pay for equal work, but equal pay for work of equal value.

#ardern-jacinda, #discrimination, #labor-and-jobs, #new-zealand, #wages-and-salaries, #women-and-girls

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A Solution to Pandemic Hunger, Eyeballs and All

A Maori community center in New Zealand is distributing bags of donated fish heads to families in need. But it’s more than just charity; it’s a model for reducing food waste.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #fishing-commercial, #food, #maori, #new-zealand, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #seafood, #waste-materials-and-disposal

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Bird of the Year 2020 Vote in New Zealand Hit by Hack

More than 1,500 fake votes were slipped into New Zealand’s Bird of the Year 2020 contest in favor of the kiwi pukupuku.

#birds, #contests-and-prizes, #cyberattacks-and-hackers, #frauds-and-swindling, #new-zealand

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New Zealand Voters Approve Euthanasia but Reject Recreational Marijuana

Proponents of legalizing cannabis voiced anger at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who revealed only after the referendum that she supported it.

#ardern-jacinda, #euthanasia-and-assisted-suicide, #marijuana, #new-zealand, #referendums

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Jacinda Ardern, Hero to Liberals Abroad, Is Validated at Home

New Zealand’s prime minister and her party are coasting to victory in national elections, but it is unclear how far she will push her progressive promises.

#ardern-jacinda, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #judith-collins, #new-zealand, #politics-and-government

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Will Jacinda Ardern Win a Second Term? New Zealand’s Election, Explained

Voters go to the polls on Saturday after a campaign that focused heavily on Ms. Ardern’s successful handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

#ardern-jacinda, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #labour-party-new-zealand, #national-party-new-zealand, #new-zealand, #politics-and-government, #voting-and-voters

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New Zealand Stamps Out the Coronavirus. For a Second Time.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is facing re-election, called the country’s reopening a validation of its “go hard, go early” response.

#ardern-jacinda, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #new-zealand

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Jacinda Ardern Admits Having Used Cannabis. New Zealanders Shrug: ‘Us Too.’

As a former marijuana smoker, the prime minister has plenty of company in New Zealand. But she stopped short of backing legalization in a referendum this month.

#ardern-jacinda, #elections, #marijuana, #new-zealand, #politics-and-government

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Motif Foodworks preps commercial production for its first ingredient, improving the flavor of beef substitutes

Motif Foodworks, the Ginkgo Bioworks spinout focused on developing new plant-based flavorings and food ingredients, is readying commercial scale production of its first product an ingredient to improve the flavor of beef substitutes.

The expansion of Motif’s manufacturing capacity presages the commercial availability of its new flavoring, which should be on folded into consumer products by the fourth quarter of 2021, according to Motif chief executive Jonathan McIntyre.

“We’re making the product at pilot scale and we’re happy with the pilotization and now we’re scaling up to do large scales in formula development and characterization and talking to contract manufacturers about getting the product put in,” McIntyre said.

There’s a second product under development that’s focused on nutritional attributes for applications in sports nutrition and nutritional supplements, McIntyre said.

In all, Motif has nine ingredients under development with academic partners that will soon be coming to market.

“The first wave of those [ingredients] is targeted at plant-based meats,” McIntyre said. “Ground beef is the first one and the thing that you usually validate in.”

As the industry matures, there’s a growing sense among the lab grown meat and plant-based meat substitute manufacturers that the process isn’t as simple as just coming up with novel proteins to replicate the bloody taste of meats (like plant-based heme). Instead there’re going to be an array of ingredients and proteins that need to be identified and developed to replicate the fibrous textures and fats that make meat taste like meat.

It’s not just the muscle meat, what is critical is getting the flavor attributes and the other tissue attributes. When you get a steak and you see the marbleizing. That marbleizing creates a relationship between the protein fibers and the fat… has a lot to do with taste… that does not occur in a plant based product. Even when you cook a plant based burger next to a beef burger you see the fat behavior differently.”

So Motif is working on new ways to make that connective tissue using plant-based substitutes. It’s part of the company’s mission to be the plant-based ingredient company that can replace the chemicals and animal byproducts currently used to add texture and flavor to a whole range of food products.

“The technology is a plant-based set of ingredients that have been transformed to have properties that have connective tissue,” McIntyre said. “We don’t lock in to just one technology. We lock into what is the issue that is going to taste better. We have been building as strong as a food science, food application, culinology approach as we have protein science. Those ingredients are in the late analysis stage.. Where we’ll be making tens of kilos of material and getting those in front of consumers quickly.”

Looking ahead McIntyre said that Motif Foodworks is looking to create what he called new “food forms”. The idea, McIntyre said is to start making foods that have their own unique flavor profiles and ingredients that won’t necessarily need to be compared to an animal substitute.

“If you’re figuring out a way to make the plant-based option taste better, can you do other food forms that may not suffer by comparison to a burger?” McIntry said. “We want to show the plant-based food world it’s not about replacements.”

This is the next step in the evolution of a company that’s not yet two years old.

Motif spun out of Ginkgo Bioworks in February 2019 with a $90 million investment from Fonterra, the New Zealand-based multinational dairy company; the global food processing and trading firm Louis Dreyfus Co.; and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the climate focused investment fund financed by a global gaggle of billionaires including Marc Benioff, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Reid Hoffman, John Doerr, Vinod Khosla, Jack Ma, Neil Shen, Masayoshi Son, and Meg Whitman.

Motif isn’t just focused on making new ingredients and alternatives to traditional meat-based products. The company is also looking at ways to make existing food healthier with novel ingredients.

 

“That fortification game has been played a lot. We need to figure out how to get more servings of fruits and vegetables to consumers,” said McIntyre. “It could be that our list of ingredients could be more expansive to include not just plant protein.. It might be having two servings of vegetables combined with all of that in a great new food.”

#bill-gates, #breakthrough-energy-ventures, #chemicals, #consumer-products, #food, #food-science, #jack-ma, #jeff-bezos, #john-doerr, #marc-benioff, #masayoshi-son, #meg-whitman, #michael-bloomberg, #motif, #new-zealand, #reid-hoffman, #richard-branson, #tc, #vinod-khosla

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E-scooter startup Neuron Mobility adds $12M to its Series A for expansion in Australia and New Zealand

Neuron Mobility, a Singapore-based e-scooter rental startup, announced today that it has added $12 million to its Series A. Led by Square Peg, an Australian venture capital firm and GSR Ventures, this increases the round’s new total to $30.5 million. The company, which operates in Australia and New Zealand in addition to Southeast Asian markets, first announced its Series A in December 2019.

Part of Neuron Mobility’s growth plans hinges on the increased adoption of electric scooters and bikes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are using their cars less frequently because they are working remotely or there are movement restrictions where they live. When they do go out, electric bikes and scooters offer an alternative to public transportation and ride-hailing services for short trips.

Neuron Mobility’s chief executive Zachary Wang said the company raised a Series A+ instead of moving onto a Series B because more cities are “opening up to the possibility of micromobility, particularly rental e-scooters as they present an individual transport option that takes pressure off public transport and allows people to continue social distancing.”

“We’ve been experiencing tremendous growth in ANZ and the pandemic has made us fast track our plans,” he added.

Though Neuron Mobility currently does not operate in other Southeast Asian countries besides Singapore, Wang said it is “constantly evaluating opportunities across APAC.”

The new funding will be used to speed up Neuron Mobility’s expansion plans in Australia and New Zealand, where it claims to be the leading electric scooter rental operator. The company is currently present in nine locations, including Auckland, New Zealand, and Australian cities Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Canberra and Townsville. Neuron Mobility plans to expand into five new cities over the next two months and part of that involves hiring 400 more people in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. In addition to the Asia-Pacific, Neuron Mobility will also launch in Slough, it’s first location in the United Kingdom, by the end of this year.

Neuron Mobility’s research found that before the COVID-19 lockdowns in Australia, one in five of its users had never used an e-scooter before. But now Australian and New Zealand users have increased their average e-scooter trip distances by 23% to 2.6 kilometers, with the average duration of rides rising by 10% to more than 14 minutes. Neuron Mobility’s pricing is meant to be affordable depending on different markets. For example, in Brisbane, users pay one Australian dollar (about 68 U.S. cents) to begin a trip and then 38 Australian cents for each minute of the ride. Its e-scooters can go up to speeds of about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) per hour.

Other “micromobility” companies, including Ofo, Reddy Go, Obike and Lime, have also offered rental services in Australia and New Zealand, but ran into trouble. Bike-sharing startups Ofo, Reddy Go and Obike withdrew from Australia in part because city councils were frustrated by bikes were being abandoned on sidewalks and in parks. Lime still operates in Australian cities, but in June, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found that the company failed to disclose safety issues with its Generation 2 scooters (in response, Lime said it would implement new compliance procedures and upgrade to its new Generation 3 scooter).

Wang said Neuron Mobility avoids those issues by strategically planning which cities it will launch in, instead of focusing on rapid expansion, partnering with city councils and “continually shifting and adapting to meet their needs.” Several of Neuron Mobility’s features, including geofencing to control where and how fast e-scooters can be ridden, and a “Helmet Lock” to make helmets available for all scooters, were developed after discussions with city councils. Neuron Mobility’s scooters, designed by the company specifically for renting, also use swappable batteries to decrease pollution.

After launching in Singapore, Neuron Mobility decided to focus on Australia and New Zealand because “both countries have cities that are highly suitable for micromobility in terms of infrastructure and regulations,” Wang said. City councils have also “been keen to push the boundaries of what can be done with technology to make programs better and safer and that really suits our way of thinking.”

 

#asia, #asia-pacific, #australia, #e-scooters, #fundings-exits, #mobility, #neuron-mobility, #new-zealand, #singapore, #startups, #tc

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Jawsh 685’s TikTok Hit ‘Savage Love’ Brings New Zealand to the World

Jawsh 685’s “Savage Love” became a global pop smash. Next up: graduating from high school and, hopefully, getting on a plane.

#jawsh-685, #new-zealand, #pop-and-rock-music, #savage-love-song, #social-media, #tiktok-bytedance

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Capsized Cattle Ship: New Zealand Suspends Cow Exports

A second man believed to be a crew member was plucked from the sea, but he later died, the Japanese Coast Guard said. The carcasses of a dozen cows were also spotted at sea.

#animal-abuse-rights-and-welfare, #cattle, #china, #deaths-fatalities, #east-china-sea, #japan, #maritime-accidents-and-safety, #new-zealand, #philippines, #rescues, #ships-and-shipping

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Missing Livestock Ship Prompts Search Off Japan

The livestock carrier, with dozens of crew members and nearly 6,000 cows, left New Zealand for China last month. It sent a distress signal as a typhoon raged in the region.

#australia, #cattle, #east-china-sea, #japan, #livestock, #new-zealand, #philippines, #rescues, #ships-and-shipping, #typhoons

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To Defeat Coronavirus, The U.S. Needs Better Communication

While the United States was creating confusion with its virus messaging, the rest of the world got creative.

#ardern-jacinda, #content-type-service, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #masks, #merkel-angela, #new-zealand, #propaganda, #rwanda, #social-media, #south-korea, #trump-donald-j, #united-states, #vietnam

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Rocket Lab gains key FAA launch license for its U.S.-based launch site

Launch provider Rocket Lab has gained a key clearance from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that should mean it’ll be launching from its U.S.-based facility at Wallops Island, Virginia relatively soon. As it had done before for its LC-1 launch pad in New Zealand, Rocket Lab gained a Launch Operator License for its LC-2 pad in Virginia, meaning it can conduct multiple launches from the location without having to petition the agency for a mission-specific license for each individual flight.

Rocket Lab held its official opening ceremony for the Virginia-based LC-2 at the end of last year, and while we don’t yet know exactly when it’ll launch its first Electron from the location, it’s probably that COVID-19 and its related disruptions have had an impact on the planned debut activity at the site. The company expanded first to LC-2, and is now putting the finishing touches on LC-3 back in New Zealand, in order to help ramp its launch capacity – which it says will reach up to 130 launches per year with all three launch pads up and running.

Part of the reason that Rocket Lab spun up the U.S.-based pad to begin with was to serve government customers with rapid, responsive launches that could be put together quickly and often, so having this FAA multi-launch license is a big boon to its operating model. Hopefully that means we’ll see the Wallops location come to life sooner rather than later.

#aerospace, #electron, #new-zealand, #outer-space, #rocket-lab, #space, #spaceflight, #tc, #virginia

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Rocket Lab returns to flight with a successful launch of a Capella Space satellite

Rocket Lab is back to active launch status after encountering an issue with its last mission that resulted in a loss of the payload. In just over a month, Rocket Lab was able to identify what went wrong with the Electron launch vehicle used on that mission and correct the issue. On Sunday, it successfully launched a Sequoia satellite on behalf of client Capella Space from its New Zealand launch facility.

The “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Optical” mission is Rocket Lab’s 14th Electron launch, and it lifted off from the company’s private pad at 11:05 PM EDT (8:05 PM PDT). The Sequoia satellite is the first in startup Capella Space’s constellation of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites to be available to general customers. When complete, the constellation will provide hourly high-quality imaging of Earth, using radar rather than optical sensors in order to provide accurate imaging regardless of cloud cover and available light.

This launch seems to have gone off exactly as planned, with the Electron successfully lifting off and delivering the Capella Space satellite to its target orbit. Capella had been intending to launch this spacecraft aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket via a rideshare mission, but after delays to that flight, it changed tack and opted for a dedicated launch with Rocket Lab.

Rocket Lab’s issue with its July 4 launch was a relatively minor one – an electrical system failure that caused the vehicle to simply shut down, as a safety measure. The team’s investigation revealed a component of the system that was not stress-tested as strenuously as it should’ve been, and Rocket Lab immediately instituted a fix for both future and existing in-stock Electron vehicles in order to get back to active flight in as little time as possible.

While Rocket Lab has also been working on a recovery system that will allow it to reuse the booster stage of its Electron for multiple missions, this launch didn’t involve any tests related to that system development. The company still hopes to test recovery of a booster sometime before the end of this year on an upcoming launch.

#aerospace, #capella-space, #electron, #flight, #imaging, #new-zealand, #outer-space, #rocket-lab, #satellite, #science, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #tc

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