A junior high cheerleading team took nearly identical photos with and without Morgyn Arnold. The school called the publication of the photo without her a mistake that is under investigation.
Deb Haaland has advised the president to reinstate former boundaries at Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, and also in a marine area off New England.
A rush to secure federal benefits during the coronavirus pandemic accelerated enrollment in the Navajo Nation, pushing its population past the Cherokee Nation’s to nearly 400,000.
Thanks to more trails, better bikes and a rise of high-school interest, mountain biking has experienced a meteoric rise of popularity in the past decade. The pandemic added fuel to the fire.
Mr. Romney, a Utah Republican and an outspoken critic of former President Donald J. Trump, was booed and heckled as he addressed the Utah Republican state convention on Saturday.
‘We are rooted to Mother Earth through her body like the plants are rooted to the soil.’
The law, set to take effect in May, requires any father whose paternity has been confirmed to pay half of a mother’s insurance premiums while she is pregnant, and any related medical costs.
Neighbor, which operates a self-storage marketplace, announced Wednesday that it has raised $53 million in a Series B round of funding.
Fifth Wall led the financing, which notably also included participation from returning backer Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and new investors DoorDash CEO Tony Xu and StockX CEO Scott Cutler. Xu and Cutler will join former Uber CEO Ryan Graves as investors and advisors to the Lehi, Utah-based startup. A16z led Neighbor’s $10 million Series A in January of 2020.
At a time when the commercial real estate world is struggling, self-storage is an asset class that continues to perform extremely well. Neighbor’s unique model aims to repurpose under-utilized or vacant space — whether it be a person’s basement or the empty floor of an office building — and turn it into storage.
Colton Gardner, Joseph Woodbury and Preston Alder co-founded Neighbor.com in 2017 with the mission of giving people a more accessible and personal alternative to store their belongings.
The $40 billion self-storage industry is ripe for a shake-up, considering that most people are used to renting space out of buildings located in not necessarily convenient locations.
Neighbor has developed a unique peer-to-peer model, connecting “renters” in need of storage space with “hosts” in their neighborhood who are willing to lease storage space in their home, garage or even driveway. The company says it has hosts on the platform making more than $50,000 a year in passive income.
“We really grew into a national business over the last year and now have active renters in more states than Public Storage, which is a $43 billion publicly traded company,” CEO Woodbury said.
Neighbor makes money by charging a service fee (a sliding-scale percentage) of each rent. Its algorithms provide suggested rental fees for hosts.
COVID has only accelerated Neighbor’s business, with revenue growing “5x” and organic reservations increasing “7x” year over year.
“If you think about it, fundamentally on the demand side, everyone’s moving out of these major metro areas like New York and San Francisco, and are moving to these more rural locations. All that moving activity has created a lot more storage demand,” Woodbury told TechCrunch. “In addition to that, people are just spending more time at home and cleaning out their homes more. And they no doubt need storage as a result of that.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the company claims the self-storage offered on its marketplace on average is priced about 40% to 50% less than traditional storage facilities.
Neighbor also partners with commercial real estate operators to turn their under-utilized or vacant retail, multifamily or office space into self-storage. This provides new revenue streams to landlords hurting from the pandemic keeping so many people at home. And that increased demand led to Neighbor’s commercial real estate footprint growing 10x in 2020.
With its new capital, the company plans to expand its nationwide network of hosts and renters as well as continue to spread awareness of its marketplace.
“We have tens of millions of square feet of self storage on the platform,” Woodbury said. “The beauty of that square footage is that it’s in every single state. But we want to continue to expand nationally and as we grow and mature, we’ll turn our eyes globally as well.”
Interestingly, before leading the round for Neighbor, Fifth Wall approached the company about business development opportunities. Partner Dan Wenhold said he offered to introduce the concept to the real estate venture firm’s LPs, which include more than 65 of the world’s largest owners and operators of real estate from 15 countries. For example, Fifth Wall partners Acadia Realty Trust and Jamestown are already onboarding properties onto Neighbor’s platform.
“We are sort of the bridge between the largest owners and operators of physical real estate assets and the most disruptive technologies that are impacting those property managers and landlords, Wenhold said. “And Neighbor fits perfectly into that thesis for us.”
After introducing Neighbor to a short list of Fifth Wall’s strategic LP partners, the feedback the firm got “was fantastic,” Wenhold said.
“A lot of owners in retail, office and even multi-family expressed interest in working with Neighbor to help monetize space,” he added.
The company’s mission also has a sustainable component considering that creating self-storage space out of existing property can help minimize the amount of new construction that takes place.
Fifth Wall, Wenhold added, is aware of the waste and the emissions that come from the construction process to build new space and admires Neighbor’s role in minimizing that.
“Our firm ardently pursued the opportunity to invest in a transformative proptech business like Neighbor,” he said.
Known for its innovations in the payments sector, Square is now officially a bank.
Nearly one year after receiving conditional approval, Square said Monday afternoon that its industrial bank, Square Financial Services, has begun operations. Square Financial Services completed the charter approval process with the FDIC and Utah Department of Financial Institutions, meaning its ready for business.
The bank, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, will offer business loan and deposit products, starting with underwriting, and originating business loans for Square Capital’s existing lending product.
Historically, Square has been known for its card reader and point-of-sale payment system, used largely by small businesses – but it has also begun facilitating credit for the entrepreneurs and smalls businesses who use its products in recent years.
Moving forward, Square said its bank will be the “primary provider of financing for Square sellers across the U.S.”
In a statement, Square CFO and executive chairman for Square Financial Services, Amrita Ahuja said that bringing banking capability in house will allow the fintech to “operate more nimbly.”
Square Financial Services will continue to sell loans to third-party investors and limit balance sheet exposure. The company said it does not expect the bank to have a material impact on its consolidated balance sheet, total net revenue, gross profit, or adjusted EBITDA in 2021.
Opening the bank “deepens Square’s unique ability to expand access to loans and banking tools to underserved populations,” the company said.
Lewis Goodwin had been tapped to serve as the bank’s CEO, and Brandon Soto its CFO. With today’s announcement, Square also announced the following new appointments:
- Sharad Bhasker, Chief Risk Officer
- Samantha Ku, Chief Operating Officer
- Homam Maalouf, Chief Credit Officer
- David Grodsky, Chief Compliance Officer
- Jessica Jiang, Capital Markets and Investor Relations Lead
The trend of fintechs becoming bank continues. In February, TechCrunch reported on the fact that Brex had applied for a bank charter.
The fast-growing company, which sells a credit card tailored for startups with Emigrant Bank currently acting as the issuer, said that it had submitted an application with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Utah Department of Financial Institutions (UDFI) to establish Brex Bank.
A number of fintech companies, or those with fintech services, have spun up products typically offered by banks, including deposit and chequings accounts as well as credit offerings. Often, these are designed to provide capital to customers who might not be able to get funding on favorable terms from traditional banking institutions, but who might qualify for business-building loans from a provider who knows their company, like Square, inside and out.
Brex is the latest fintech to apply for a bank charter.
The fast-growing company, which sells a credit card tailored for startups with Emigrant Bank currently acting as the issuer, announced Friday that it has submitted an application with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Utah Department of Financial Institutions (UDFI) to establish Brex Bank.
The industrial bank will be located in Draper, Utah, and be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Brex.
The company has tapped former Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) exec Bruce Wallace to serve as the subsidiary’s CEO. He served in several roles at SVB, including COO, Chief Digital Officer and head of global services. It also has named Jean Perschon, the former CFO for UBS Bank USA, to be the Brex Bank CFO.
Last May, Brex announced that it had raised $150 million in a Series C extension from a group of existing investors, including DST Global and Lone Pine Capital.
With that raise, Brex, which was co-founded by Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi, had amassed $465 million in venture capital funding to-date.
The company said in a statement today that “Brex Bank will expand upon its existing suite of financial products and business software, offering credit solutions and FDIC insured deposit products to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).”
Offering credit products to small businesses has become a popular product offering and source of revenue for tech companies serving entrepreneurs, including Shopify and Square in the commerce arena. Likewise, offering business-focused bank accounts, like Shopify Balance, which is currently in development with a plan to launch sometime this year in the U.S.
These financial products can provide additional opportunities for revenue on interest and cost of borrowing for these companies, who might have better insight into the risk profiles of the types of businesses they serve than traditional lenders and FIs.
“Brex and Brex Bank will work in tandem to help SMBs grow to realize their full potential,” said Wallace.
Brex is based in San Francisco and counts Kleiner Perkins Growth, YC Continuity Fund, Greenoaks Capital, Ribbit Capital, IVP, and DST Global as well as Peter Thiel and Affirm CEO Max Levchin among its investors. It currently has over 400 employees, and though it had significant layoffs mid-year in 2020, it cited restructuring rather than financial difficulty as the cause of that downsize.
Other fintechs that have made moves toward bank charters include Varo Bank, which this week raised another $63 million and SoFi, which last October was granted preliminary approval for a national bank charter.
A dangerously unstable snowpack and an influx of people to the backcountry have contributed to a rash of deaths this winter. Here’s what you need to know about avalanche safety.
The Maria Montessori Academy, a charter school in North Ogden, allowed parents to opt their students out. But after an outcry and discussions with the parents, it changed course.
Lost amongst all the IPO chatter of the mega-unicorns are a crop of companies reaching their stride, often flush with capital, ready with big plans, and still with some time before they go public. This group of companies are what we’re calling our $50 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) group, though we’re not too strict on that revenue figure.
Close enough will do.
A little bit ago we kicked off the series by looking at OwnBackup and Assembly. Today we’re continuing the series, digging into SimpleNexus and PicsArt. Next up is and Synack, and we have an interview with Kaseya on deck. The latter company is a bit oversized for our cohort, but we’ll figure out what to do with our notes from that chat in due time.
As a reminder, we’re looking at startups that are around the $50 million ARR mark because our 2020 exploration of $100 million ARR companies wound up merely taking looks at companies, like Lemonade, that were going public in short order. We’ll still do the occasional piece on the group, but we’re focusing on smaller firms this year.
So, into the breach with notes on SimpleNexus and PicsArt, drawing on public information concerning their fundraising history and product, and interviews with both companies. Let’s see what we can learn from their growth!
SimpleNexus is a Utah-based technology company that provides digital mortgage software. The company most recently raised $108 million in January of this year, a Series B that we sadly lack a valuation for.
The company is growing quickly, with founders Matt Hansen and Ben Miller telling TechCrunch that they expect to scale from $30 million to $58 million in the next 12 months. That puts the the company comfortably into our new group.
SimpleNexus’s product is sold to banks and other financial institutions, helping provide a hub — a simple nexus, if you will — providing consumers a single login to manage their home-buying process from search to purchase. The software itself is sold on a SaaS basis, often white-labeled to banks.
But while SimpleNexus has seen success with its current model, claiming to touch around one in every eight mortgages, its founders told TechCrunch in a video call that they have bigger aspirations. Hansen, who is also the company’s CEO, said that in the future its service could stick with customers after they buy a home, perhaps helping them connect utilities, find appraisers, and manage their home.
TechCrunch was curious about the company’s recent capital raise, and how it may impact SimpleNexus’s ramp to nearly $60 million in revenue by January 2021. Per the company, it wasn’t looking for capital, but after receiving some inbound offers to sell its entire business, which weren’t what its founders wanted, it decided to raise more external capital instead. Insight, which led the round, was excited about their company, the founders said, thanks to its customer growth and revenue expansion.
Rodrick Dow Craythorn, 52, pleaded guilty to causing more than $1,000 worth of damages in his quest to find Forrest Fenn’s treasure, prosecutors said.
Scenes from a holiday season that shone bright in dark times.
Rampaging infections at farms caused scandal, scientific head-scratching and a search for a vaccine — for mink.
Infection seems to have come from farm animals, but there is no evidence of further spreading.
The public university in St. George said about one in five recent graduates surveyed had received negative feedback from prospective out-of-state employers about the name.
Experts in design and special effects said the monoliths appearing around the world are not that difficult to replicate. (That doesn’t mean you should try.)
Four artist-fabricators say they made the mysterious manifestation in stainless steel that sprang up in Atascadero. Meanwhile, another rises in Las Vegas.
The authorities are stumped by what happened to the wooden phallus, a popular Instagram stop for hikers. Along with all the monoliths, it has been quite a month for mysterious public art.
Paul D. Petersen, who served as Maricopa County’s assessor, arranged for women from the Marshall Islands to fly to the United States to give birth, prosecutors said.
A photographer said four men dismantled the mysterious shiny object that has captivated the country.
The metal structure has been removed, Utah officials said on Saturday, adding that they had not taken it down.
It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, buried in the desert: If the sculptor made this tall, silvery object, it was without mentioning a word to his dealer or his art friends.
These under-the-radar resorts offer plenty of room to turn, and plenty of challenge amid a winter of social distancing.
A team surveying bighorn sheep for Utah’s wildlife agency found the strange object, 10 to 12 feet tall, embedded in the ground in a remote part of Red Rock Country. It’s probably art, officials said.
My wife and I thought we were two strangers meeting on social media. Turns out, we shared some history.
The photographer Priscilla Rattazzi brings to life the amazing, endangered Hoodoo rock sculptures of southern Utah.
Holly Suzanne Courtier, 38, went missing on Oct. 6 after getting off a shuttle bus at the park in Utah. She was found safely on Sunday, the authorities said.
Kyle Burgess, 26, encountered an adult mountain lion while trying to take a video of her cubs. For nearly six minutes, he retreated backward on a hiking trail, keeping his eyes and his phone trained on the cat.
Under a plea deal, Ayoola A. Ajayi, 32, will avoid a possible death sentence and will be sentenced to life in prison without parole later this month, prosecutors said.
Providing free meals is a crucial function for schools.
Not that it needs to prove anything.
Five animals on two farms test positive, but many more are believed to be affected.
Derek Norton and Jeremy Milken have known each other for twenty years. Over their longtime personal and professional relationship, the two Los Angeles-based serial entrepreneurs have invested in each other’s companies and investment firms, but never worked together until now.
Milken is taking the plunge into institutional investing, joining Norton as a partner in Watertower Ventures just as the firm prepares to close on a $50 million new fund.
It’s an auspicious time for both Los Angeles-based businessmen, as the LA venture community sees a wave of technology talent relocating from New York and San Francisco in the newly remote work culture created by the COVID-19 epidemic.
“I see two things happen. One people look at the effects of where the market’s going. We’re seeing a lot more companies that are starting up now as a result of a [the pandemic],” said Norton. “New company formation is happening faster than before covid. [And] a lot of venture capitalists that have relocated to LA. They’ve moved down to LA for lifestyle reasons and they’re saying that they don’t need to go back to San Francisco.”
For Milken, the opportunity to get into venture now is a function of the company creation and acceleration of digital adoption that Norton referenced. “The pandemic is accelerating change in the marketplace. Things that might have taken a decade are taking two years now,” Milken said.
These opportunities are creating an opening for Watertower Ventures in markets far beyond the Hollywood hills. The firm, whose original thesis focused on Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, is now cutting checks on investments in Texas and Utah, and spending much less time looking for companies in the Bay Area.
Norton’s latest fund is the only the most recent act in a career that has seen the investor traverse the financial services digital media and the early days of the internet. Norton built Digital Boardwalk, a pioneering internet service provider and the second commercial partner for the trailblazing browser service, Netscape.
Later, at Jeffries Technologies, and the $120 million Entertainment Media Ventures seed and early stage venture capital fund, Norton was intimately involved in bringing tech to market and focusing on early stage investments. With that in mind, the Watertower Ventures group, which launched in 2017 with a small, $5 million fund, is a return to those roots.
The plan, even at the time, was always to raise a larger fund. After founding and running the boutique investment banking business at Watertower Group, Norton knew he had to raise a starter fund to prove the thesis he was working on.
That thesis was to provide a bridge between early stage companies and large technology companies using the network that Norton has built in the Southern California tech and entertainment community over decades.
“We want to take our contacts at Google, Apple, Facebook, Disney, Microsoft, Cisco, Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and other companies we believe should have a relationship with our portfolio companies, and help the CEOs and management teams more effectively do business development,” Norton told SoCal Tech when he closed his first fund in 2017. “We want to connect them to the right person at those companies to create a commercial relationship. That has a really large impact on early stage companies, who typically don’t have a deep network of relationships, and the ability to get to those type of people. It’s because of our advisory business that we have those relationships, and that’s also why those relationships stay fresh and active, versus people who aren’t in those businesses. It’s almost a full time job to maintain that, and that’s where our value-add is.”
Milken, who has spent his professional career in entrepreneurship, was ready to try investing, and was intimately familiar with Watertower and its portfolio, as an investor in the firm’s first $5 million fund.
“Two years ago we started having those conversations,” said Norton in an interview. “As Jeremy exited his business in September it created the opportunity to go out and raise together as the evolution of our partnership.”
With the new capital coming in, Norton expects to back some 30 to 35 companies, he said. And, in a testament to the first fund’s performance, which has it in the top decile of venture funds for its vintage, Norton said he was able to raise the capital amidst the economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 70 percent of the existing portfolio has been marked up, according to Norton.
Even though limited partners, the investors who back venture funds, were reluctant to commit capital to new firms in March and April, fundraising returned with a vengeance in June and July, according to Norton. The paper performance likely was enough to woo additional limited partners and individual investors including TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer, the former head of streaming at Disney.
Mayer’s presence in the firm’s investor base is a testament to the firm’s pitch to founders. “We view fundraising as a massive distraction for these early stage companies from their business. We try to deliver that network that’s ours to those founders,” said Norton.
“I think we’re in a unique position starting with a fresh fund here,” says Norton. “Uncertainty creates opportunity and people are bringing solutions. We haven’t noticed any slowdown whatsoever, we’re working with twenty five companies per week. Since the inception of the fund, we haven’t seen deal flow at this level.”
Pattern, a Lehi, Utah-based reseller that offers large and small brands a way to optimize their sales on marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Walmart and Google Shopping, has raised $52 million in growth funding, the company said.
The money, from Ainge Advisory and KSV Global, will be used to expand the company’s business worldwide.
Founded in 2013, the e-commerce reseller uses analytics to lock down market specific keywords in advertising and has managed to reach a run-rate that should see it hit $500 million in annual revenue by the end of 2020, according to Pattern co-founder and chief investment officer, Melanie Alder.
“Pattern represents our brands in the US, across Europe, and in select markets in Asia, selling for us on global marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart, Tmall, and JD as well as building and managing three of our direct-to-consumer sites,” said Kyle Bliffert, CEO and president of Atrium Innovations, a Nestle Health Science company, in a statement. “The global e-commerce growth we have experienced by leveraging Pattern’s expertise is extraordinary.”
Pattern places bets on where a product is likely to receive the most attention using specific keywords, according to the company’s chief executive, Dave Wright. The company buys products from its brand partners and then sells them widely across marketplaces in the US, Europe and Asia. These markets represent $2.7 trillion in total sales and Wright expects it to reach $7 trillion by 2024.
As Wright noted, a majority of searchers for sales begin on Amazon . The company just opened its eighteenth location in Germany. Pattern has grown sales for brands from $3 million to $26 million and the company makes money off of the margin on the sales of products. With the new funding, the company intends to expand into other geographies like Japan and India.
Wright says his company addresses one of the fundamental problems with advertising technology — the proliferation of tools hasn’t meant better optimization for most brands, because they’re teams aren’t equipped to specialize.
While there may be hundreds of different advertising and marketing folks working at a company, each company may have hundreds of brands that it sells and the dedicated teams to specific brands may only have one or two people on staff.
“Data makes all the difference,” said co-founder and CEO Dave Wright. “I’ve spent the bulk of my career in data science and data management, and our ability to detect and act on ‘patterns’ on ecommerce platforms has allowed the brands we represent to be incredibly successful.”
A third of states have strict measures in place for visitors, from mandatory testing to quarantine requirements.
Mr. Cox, the state’s lieutenant governor, is expected to win the general election as well. He had the endorsement of Gov. Gary Herbert, who rose to his office after Mr. Huntsman left it.
A challenger to Senator Mitch McConnell should finally emerge, and John Hickenlooper is trying to win his Senate primary in Colorado, among other races unfolding on Tuesday.
The prevalence of infections is more than 10 times higher than the counted number of cases in six regions of the United States.
It does not have to be all or nothing.
As virtual classrooms and online learning proliferate, researchers are working to quantify what works and what doesn’t.
The parents of Lauren McCluskey contend that a campus police officer disseminated explicit images of the University of Utah student that had been used by her killer to blackmail her.
Uncertainty about the coronavirus and the challenge of protecting audiences and artists is prompting many prominent presenters to wait till next year.
Cake has crafted the Swedish edition of electric motorcycle design starting in the dirt.
The Stockholm based mobility startup’s debut, the Kalk OR, is a 150 pound, battery powered two-wheeler engineered for agile off-road riding and available in a street-legal version.
On appearance, Cake’s Kalk has a minimalist stance and doesn’t evoke “motorcycle” in any conventional sense.
That was intentional, according to the company’s CEO, Stefan Ytterborn — a design aficionado and serial founder — who was more of a mountain biker and skier than a motorcyclist, before launching Cake with is two sons Karl and Nils.
“I wasn’t a motorcycle geek…I actually learned how to ride a motorcycle,” he explained on his foray into the business.
Ytterborn has worked in design development his entire career, leaving Sweden for Milan in his early days, developing product lines for IKEA in the ’90s and founding several design oriented companies over the years.
His last venture — outdoor sporting gear venture POC — supplied Olympic gold medalist Bode miller and the U.S. Ski Team with helmets and optics before it was acquired by Investcorp in 2015 for a reported $65 million.
Ytterborn’s current company shares some similarities with POC, namely creating products for natural forward motion in the outdoors.
The direction for Cake — according to its founder — was to design a motorcycle from a clean slate, harnessing the advantages of what voltage power could offer to the form.
“I was stoked by the idea of what an electric drive-train could bring,” Ytterborn told TechCrunch . “But then I started realizing nobody is really optimizing the performance of the electric drive-train. Everyone’s trying to imitate what the combustion motorcycle does,” he said.
One of the first things Ytterborn took from that view was engineering a lighter platform with a better power to weight ratio.
A distinguishing characteristic of most e-moto offerings, including the few oriented toward off-road use, is they are heavier than gas motorcycles. Even one of the lightest choices out there for street and dirt use, Zero’s FX, weighs nearly 100 pounds more than Cake’s Kalk OR.
The $13,000 Swedish e-motorcycle has a 2.6kWh battery, charges to 80% in an hour and a half using a standard outlet, and offers up to three-hours of off road ride time, according to Cake. The Kalk has 30 ft-lbs of torque and a top speed of 50 miles per hour.
The street legal version, the Kalk&, has similar specs with a mixed city/highway range of 53 miles. Both have capability for quick battery swaps and a second battery goes for $3,000.
Cake introduced an additional model in 2020, the $8,500 Ösa+, which the company characterizes as an urban utility moped with off-road capabilities.
As a startup, Cake has raised $20 million in VC, including a $14 million Series A financing round led by e.ventures and Creandum in 2019.
The U.S. is a prime market for the company. Cake has a subsidiary in Park City, Utah, a U.S. representative — Zach Clayton — and is poised to open a sales store in New York City this quarter.
The company has sold 300 motorcycles in the U.S. this year and America makes up 60% of its sales market, according to its CEO.
On where the Cake fits into motorcycle market, “We’re much more Patagonia than Kawasaki,” said Ytterborn,
He described Cake as something developed for a far from static mobility world, where everything about how people move from A to B is being redefined, including the concept of the motorcycle.
That entails creating something that captures the exhilaration of riding off-road for an eco-conscious market segment, put off by the noise and fumes of gas motocross bikes.
“What really got me going was the intuition that we could flip the market upside down [with Kalk],” said Ytterborn.
“It’s silent, it doesn’t disturb, it doesn’t pollute and is the opposite of what non-motorcycle people associate with motorcycles,” he said.
The U.S. motorcycle market could use some fresh ideas, as it’s been in pretty bad shape since the last recession, particularly with young folks. New sales dropped by roughly 50% in 2008 — with sharp declines in ownership by everyone under 40 — and have never recovered.
At least one of the big gas manufactures — Harley Davidson — and several EV startups, such as Zero, are offering e-motorcycles as a way to convert gas riders to electric and attract a younger generation to motorcycling.
It’s notable that Harley Davidson acquired a youth electric scooter maker, Stacyc, in 2019 and has committed to produce e-scooters and e-mountain bikes as part of its EV pivot. The strategy is to use these platforms to create a new bridge for young people to motorcycles in the on-demand mobility world.
HD’s moves could provide some insight on where Cake might fit in that space. On one hand, the startup’s models could become premium electric motorcycles for the eco-friendly, Outside Magazine and action sports crowd. On the other, Cake could fill a new segment on the mobility product line — somewhere between e-scooters, e-bikes and traditional motorcycles.
“We want to establish a new category where people with an active lifestyle, whether they’re motorcycle people or not, can proceed with sustainability, responsibility and respect,” said CEO Stefan Ytterborn.
One challenge for this thesis could be Cake’s price and performance points compared to the competition. Zero Motorcycle’s FX, while heavier than the $13,000 Kalk, starts at $8,995 and has a top speed of 85 miles per hour.
An amendment that went into effect this week allows polygamy to be punished as an infraction in some cases, but it remains a felony if force, threats or other abuses are involved.
The boy was driving to California to buy a Lamborghini, the Utah Highway Patrol said.
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While COVID-related stay-at-home orders have been extended in places like the San Francisco Bay area, officials in other counties and states in the U.S. have decided to open up for business. The rest of us are watching and waiting to see how these two experiments play out.
These opposing approaches have managed to create even more tension in the United States. If politics didn’t divide us before, how and when to open amid a health pandemic is proving to be an effective wedge.
The “how” is as important, or even more so, than the “when.” What will life and business look like? Wuhan, China, a transportation and manufacturing metropolis of 11 million people and where COVID-19 started, offers a view into one approach. (The photo below shows a worker disinfecting a bus in Wuhan on April 30.)
When those stay-at-home orders are finally lifted, returning to work won’t be quick or easy. Wuhan was placed on lockdown January 23. Wuhan officials eased outgoing travel restrictions April 8. While the strictest component of that lockdown has been lifted, many businesses remain closed. Didi didn’t reopened its ride-hailing services in the city until April 30.
In short, it’s going to be complex. Ford’s back-to-work playbook is a case in point. The plan includes a number of daily measures such as online health self-certifications completed before work every day, face masks and no-touch temperature scans upon arrival. But that’s just a sliver of what it will take. Check it out their complete playbook.
I’ll alrighty folks, shall we dig in? Vamos.
It was a rough week for micromobility. Over at Lyft, the company laid off 982 employees and furloughed 288 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Lyft also permanently ceased scooter operations in Oakland, San Jose and Austin.
“We’re focusing our resources where we can have the biggest impact and best serve cities and riders,” a Lyft spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “We’re continuing to invest in our bike and scooter business, but have made the tough decision to shift resources away from three scooter markets and toward opportunities where we are set up for longer-term success.”
At Lime, the startup let go 13% of its staff while the very next day relaunching its electric scooters in Baltimore and Ogden, Utah.
“Almost overnight, our company went from being on the eve of accomplishing an unprecedented milestone — the first next-generation micromobility company to reach profitability — to one where we had to pause operations in 99% of our markets worldwide to support cities’ efforts at social distancing,” Lime CEO Brad Bao wrote in a note to employees.
Just one day after those layoffs, the company relaunched scooters in Baltimore to help support essential medical workers as well as in Ogden.
Uber is weighing its own layoffs. The Information reported that the company could cut up to 20% of its staff. That translates to more than 5,000 jobs. Those cuts could be announced in stages over the next several weeks. Meanwhile, Thuan Pham, who was hired as Uber’s chief technology officer by former CEO Travis Kalanick back in 2013, is leaving the company in three weeks, the ride-share giant revealed in an SEC filing.
— Megan Rose Dickey
Deal of the week
Chinese electric vehicle startup Nio secured a $1 billion investment from several state-owned companies in Hefei in return for agreeing to establish headquarters in the city’s economic development hotspot and giving up a stake in one of its business units.
The injection of capital comes from several investors, including Hefei City Construction and Investment Holding Group, CMG-SDIC Capital and Anhui Provincial Emerging Industry Investment Co.
Why deal of the week? The deal alleviates some concerns about Nio’s liquidity. It also marks the latest Chinese EV startup to turn to the state as private capital has shrunk.
There is no free lunch, however. The deal itself is complex and involves some asset shuffling. Nio is transferring its core businesses in China into a new company called Nio China. The investors will get a 24.1% stake in Nio China. The shareholding structure of the parent company is unchanged.
Other deals announced this week are below. Keep in mind that just because a deal is announced that doesn’t mean it closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Fundraising rounds often close weeks and even months before they’re announced.
Otonomo, an automotive data services startup based in Israel, raised $46 million in a Series C funding round that included investments from SK Holdings, Avis Budget Group and Alliance Ventures. Existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners also participated. Otonomo has raised $82 million, to date.
The company has a software platform that captures and anonymizes vehicle data so it can then be used to create apps to provide services such as electric vehicle management, subscription-based fueling, parking, mapping, usage-based insurance and emergency service.
KlearNow, a startup that has built a software platform to automate the customs clearance process, raised $16 million in a Series A funding round led by GreatPoint Ventures, with additional participation from Autotech Ventures, Argean Capital and Monta Vista Capital. Ashok Krishnamurthi, managing partner at GreatPoint Ventures, will join KlearNow’s board. Daniel Hoffer from Autotech Ventures is joining as a board observer.
Skycell, a Switzerland-based startup that builds hardware and operates a logistics network designed to transport pharmaceuticals has raised $62 million.
A merger between UK’s JustEat and the Netherlands’ Takeaway.com has been approved by regulators. The merged company announced that it had raised €700 million ($756 million) in new outside funding in the form of new shares and convertible bonds.
Cheetah, a San Francisco-based startup that provided a wholesale delivery service and has pivoted to selling to consumers during COVID-19, raised $36 million in Series B funding.
Innovation of the week
Computer vision company Eyesight Technologies has tweaked its driver monitoring system so it can detect driver distraction and drowsiness even while wearing a medical face mask.
This “innovation of the week” gets back to my opening remarks about “how” we get back to work. Face masks will likely be a part of our world for some time.
Driver monitoring systems, which are increasingly being used by commercial fleets, are trained to detect and monitor facial features of the driver. The system will take in data points like head pose, mouth, eyes and eyelids and use the gathered visual data to detect signs of drowsiness and distraction. If the sensor can’t read one or more of these features the system could fail to detect a drowsy truck driver or inattentive transit worker.
Eyesight Technologies says that its computer vision and AI algorithms have been trained to detect distraction and drowsiness even if a driver is wearing a mask and glasses.
“We are living in unprecedented times,” Eyesight Technologies CEO David Tolub said. “Without a concrete end date to the current situation, wearing medical masks may be a reality for the foreseeable future. Eyesight Technologies is forging ahead and adapting to provide a reliable solution to help guarantee safety even under less than ideal circumstances.”
Audi punts on Level 3
The feature, which is branded Traffic Jam Pilot, theoretically allows the vehicle to operate on its own without the human driver keeping their eyes on the road. But it’s never been commercially deployed.
Traffic Jam Pilot was supposed to be in the latest-generation A8 that debuted in 2017. It’s now 2020. What happened? Regulations, or lack of them, have been the primary scapegoat. But it’s not quite the whole story.
TechCrunch reached out to Audi to dig into why? In short, the company told us, that it’s complicated. The lack of a legal framework has raised concerns about liability. To further complicate the problem, the A8 is now progressing through its generational life cycle. And Audi was faced with continuing to pour money into the feature to adapt it without promise of framework progressing.
Here’s a few tidbits from the folks at Audi.
On the legal framework:
As of now, there is no legal framework for Level 3 automated driving. Consistently it is not possible to homologate such function anywhere in the world in a series production car. It is still very challenging to plan the exact introduction scenarios for level 3 systems, as we continuously moving in an intensive interplay between the findings from ongoing testing and the requirements that legislators and approval authorities are now defining for conditional automated driving.
On development costs:
As these clarifications and safeguards continue to take time, we also monitor economic aspects in addition. This includes development costs, which are summing up continuously. Secondly, the remaining life of the determined target model A8 combined with the forecasted installation rate and the expected market greediness in the individual countries are playing an important role.
This has brought us to the following decision: We will not see the traffic jam pilot on the road with its originally planned level 3 series function in the current model generation of the Audi A8 because our luxury sedan has already gone through a substantial part of its model life cycle.
Audi’s belief in automated driving:
We still believe in the technology of automated driving and today we know better than almost anyone when it comes to the decisive technological key factors. During the development phase we continuously learned more and more technical “unknown unknowns” and developed approaches how to handle the fact, that there will appear more.
Together with the above mentioned dependencies concerning legislation and type approval, we believe that actually it is not the right moment to deliver the function to the customer. This is our attitude of responsibility.
How Audi is moving forward:
An important part of the truth, which the industry is now facing: development of automated driving is extremely complex and cost-intensive. Our aim more than ever before is to generate the greatest possible synergies.
Within the VW group we therefore have the best preconditions. We have consolidated our efforts to further develop level 3 automated driving in the Car.Software organization. This is a new organization within the Volkswagen Group .
Former Audi managers will be head of two out of the five domains within this new organization: Thomas Müller will manage the automated driving area, and Dr. Klaus Büttner will manage the Intelligent Body&Cockpit area. Together with the specialists coming from Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche, this ensures that the current expertise in this cross-brand organization is available for the greatest possible benefit to everyone in the Volkswagen Group.
Google Cloud today announced the official opening of its Las Vegas data center region. With this, Google Cloud now operates four regions in the western U.S., with Las Vegas complementing Google Cloud’s existing data centers in Los Angeles, California; The Dalles, Oregon and its recently opened Salt Lake City, Utah region.
In total, Google now offers its customers the option to host their applications in 23 regions globally and with the opening of this new region, it now has seven U.S. regions.
Like all of Google’s new regions, Las Vegas will offer three availability zones and access to most of Google Cloud’s services. In Vegas, though, developers won’t be able to use relatively new services like Cloud Functions and Cloud Run yet. Some other features, including Cloud HSM and Secret Manager, are also not available yet either.
The company first announced the Vegas expansion in July 2019. And while it’s eerily quiet in Las Vegas right now, the idea behind these new regions is always to give companies the option to be close to their customers and offer them low-latency access to their applications, as well as the ability to distribute workloads across a wider geographic region.
Earlier this year, Google also announced that it would open its regions in Jakarta, Seoul and Warsaw over the course of 2020. So far, it doesn’t look like the COVID-19 pandemic is slowing these plans down.
For Las Vegas, Google’s launch partner is Aristocrat, which fittingly offers digital products for the gambling industry.
“Cloud technologies enable two important outcomes for us,” said James Alverez, CIO of Aristocrat. “First the ability to securely, consistently and immediately enable and disable game development platforms; and second, our ability to expand and contract our infrastructure based on demand. Both of these capabilities allow us to flex our technology to fully support the demands of our customers and our business. The Las Vegas region gives us the opportunity to more directly engage Google Cloud services and take advantage of an entry point into the network.”