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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Lizzie Chapman to talk about building a fintech startup in India at Disrupt Berlin

Fintech startups are growing rapidly in Europe. But it doesn’t mean that the fintech revolution is limited to Europe. That’s why I’m glad to announce that Lizzie Chapman from ZestMoney is coming to TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin to talk about her unique Indian startup.

ZestMoney wants to make it easier to lend money to buy goods online. In the U.S., the vast majority of people have a credit card and a credit score. But India is a different market, and ZestMoney is trying to replace the credit card altogether.

When you shop on an e-commerce website in India, such as Amazon or Flipkart, you can get a voucher on ZestMoney’s website to check out on those websites. You’ll then pay back this voucher with monthly installments. In some cases, interests are refunded as cashback.

You don’t need to get a credit card to open a ZestMoney account. After opening an account, your EMI credit limit is shared across all ZestMoney partners.

Some websites feature a deeper integration with ZestMoney. For instance, on Xiaomi’s website, you can pay your phone in multiple installments using Mi Finance. Behind the scene, ZestMoney powers this service.

This is an interesting time for ZestMoney as the company is facing increased competition. Amazon just launched EMI options for Amazon Pay in India. You can now take a loan directly on Amazon’s checkout page.

Chapman is also an interesting British entrepreneur. As TechCrunch’s Jon Russell wrote, she moved to India in 2011 to work for payday loan startup Wonga’s Indian division. Years later, even though Wonga didn’t work out, she’s still betting on India.

If you want to hear Chapman tell you more about what she’s been working on, you should come to Disrupt Berlin. The conference will take place on November 29-30 and you can buy your ticket right now.

In addition to fireside chats and panels, like this one, new startups will participate in the Startup Battlefield Europe to win the highly coveted Battlefield cup.

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Lizzie Chapman

CEO & Co-founder, ZestMoney

Lizzie Chapman is the co-founder and CEO of ZestMoney, FinTech startup of 2017. Zestmoney is India’s largest digital lending platform that introduced the concept of cardless EMI to make life more affordable in India.

Lizzie is a leading figure in the digital lending landscape of India since 2011 when she moved from UK to spearhead the India operations for digital lender Wonga.com. In 2013, she joined Development Bank of Singapore to help launch ‘digibank’ – mobile-only virtual bank of India. Her passion about the potential of technology to disrupt the delivery of financial services prompted Lizzie and her co-founders to start ZestMoney. She was selected as FinTech Woman of 2017.

A CFA Charterholder and BSc from Edinburgh University, Lizzie started her career at Goldman Sachs in equity research and asset management. She then became an investor for The Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s largest endowments, focused on financial services and Indian investments. She is an Investment Committee member of the early stage fund India Quotient and sits on the board of IndiaMart – India’s leading SME marketplace and classified site.

Other than working extensively on understanding Indian consumer behavior and building superior credit products, Lizzie is a mother and a marathon runner. She was one of three runners from India to complete the 42.2 kms Antarctic Ice Marathon in 2011.

Source: TechCrunch

MacBook Air review

For three years, the MacBook Air was conspicuously absent. The ultraportable never left Apple’s site, of course, but we finished keynote after keynote wondering why Apple continued to neglect one of its most popular products, all while overhauling the rest of the MacBook line.

At an event last month in Brooklyn, however, Apple finally acquiesced, delivering the largest single update since the product was introduced ten and a half years prior. In an event stuffed to the gills with an enthusiastic audience, the Air got what was easily the biggest applause break — more than the iPad Pro and certainly more than the Mac Mini.

The fan base was clearly ready for a new Air.

Getting the Air right is a tricky proposition. Not only is it the slimmest model in the line, it’s also the cheapest, a combination that’s made it a popular selection for frequent travelers and those just looking for the least expensive route into the MacOS ecosystem. Every hardware addition to the line comes with a potential price increase — something we saw play out with the evolution of the Mini, which jumped from $499 to $799, removing some of the device’s entry-level appeal.

The Air has also seen a price increase, though Apple was able to rein things in a bit more here, in terms of both overall and relative price. At $1,199, the low-end version of the laptop remains the least pricey entry point into the Mac ecosystem (excluding the older Air, which is still available for $999).

This latest update finds the Air finally assuming its place in the current MacBook line, whose current iteration began life with a major overhaul in 2015. Becoming part of the club means an aesthetic upgrade, a move to USB-C, souped up internals and, of course, the long-awaited addition of a Retina Display.

The device arrives amid a shift for the company, as it once again embraces creative professionals with both MacOS devices and iOS through the addition of the iPad Pro. The latter continues to blur the line between Apple’s operating systems, with computation power rivaling — and in some cases outperforming — some of its MacOS models.

Currently, the Air sits between the iPad Pro and low-end MacBook — though given the $100 price difference between it and the former, I don’t know that anyone would be entirely shocked to see Apple quietly sunset the baseline product in favor of the reborn Air. There simply aren’t enough compelling reasons to keep that model around in its current configuration, especially given the Air’s enduring popularity.

Certain sacrifices were made in favor of keeping the Air’s price down — most notably the Touch Bar. There was some speculation that Apple’s decision to drop the technology on this device was some clear sign that the company was moving away from the touchscreen-adjacent tech, but the reason is likely far more simple: Adding it would have further driven up the entry-level price — and eclipsed the MacBook in the process.

Instead, the company did something even better, breaking out Touch ID from the bar. After a couple of years with a Touch Bar on both my work and personal machines, the fingerprint scanner remains the one feature (outside of the standard function keys like volume) that I use on a daily basis. In the long run, the company may have done the Touch Bar a bit of a disservice by consciously uncoupling Touch ID, but for the Air, it was the ideal decision, bringing its most useful feature without driving up the price in the process.

The keyboard is the same found on the most recent MacBook Pros, as well. That, along with other shifts, is bound to be polarizing among longtime Air users. I will say this, however, if you haven’t tried a MacBook keyboard since the infamous butterfly switch overhaul of 2015, visit your local Apple store to give them another shot. It’s true that they’re still a fair bit shallower than the previous model, but things have been improved in the past three years, courtesy of two major updates.

This latest generation is quieter, has a better feel and has the added benefit of a new rubberized bladder, which should protect from spills, along with particulate matter, which has become a bane of everyone with an earlier model’s existence. Seriously, I once found myself roaming around Seattle desperately trying to find a can of compressed air before an Amazon event.

Those who’ve been holding out to upgrade from an earlier Air model will likely have a bit of an adjustment period, but it’s a much easier transition that it was on those initial 2015 MacBooks. The track pad, too, is now in line with its MacBook brethren. It’s 20 percent larger than the previous Air and utilizes Force Touch for a more uniform response across the surface, welcome changes the both of them.

The new Air’s internals are, naturally, an upgrade across the board over the 2015 model, but it’s more of a mixed bag when compared to the MacBook. In fact, the concurrent existence of the two products is likely to cause confusion among buyers — and understandably so. If you’ve been having trouble deciding between MacBooks, Apple’s made that task even more complex.

RAM is the same on both systems at either 8 or 16GB. No surprise there — that’s pretty consistent across the entire MacBook line. The base-level storage configuration, on the other hand, starts lower but goes higher than the MacBook, with an entry of 128GB (to the MacBook’s 256), all the way up to 1.5TB. Of course, storage upgrades are always costly, and if you max this one out, it’s going to run you another $1,000.

Given that it’s a newer model, the processor is an upgrade over the pricier MacBook on the baseline, from a 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i3 to a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor. That said, there’s only one configuration here, at present, so if you want more power, seriously consider upgrading to the Pro. Our model, the Core i5 coupled with 8GB (standard on everything but storage) scored a 4,297 and 7,723 on Geekbench’s single and multi-core tests, respectively.

A quick glance at the above graphic really highlights the gulf between the Air and Pro, though the new chips do mark an upgrade over the 2017 MacBook’s single- and multi-core scores of 3,527 and 6,654. The new silicon is plenty zippy for most users’ daily tasks, but if you need more out of your system — be it for gaming or resource-intensive tasks like video edit — it’s worth the jump to the Pro.

Battery, meanwhile, is a pretty sizable bump over the MacBook, owing to the larger footprint on the Air’s 13.3-inch frame (versus the 12-inch MacBook), with a stated “up to 12 hours” on a charge to the MacBook’s 10. I found that to be pretty on the money, in my own testing. I was able to stream video for just a hair under 12 hours — plenty enough to get you through most flights.

Of course, the larger screen and battery also mean a heftier laptop. The Air’s 2.75 pounds is around 3/4 of a pound more than the MacBook. In spite of retaining the iconic beveled design, it’s also a bit thicker than the 12-inch model. That said, the company’s managed to both shrink the footprint and reduce the weight from the older Air, which weighed in at 2.96 pounds.

The display is, as advertised, a massive upgrade over the last model. If you’ve spent any time with a Retina display, you know the deal. It’s big and bright, with a nice color balance. In terms of sheer numbers, we’re talking about a bump from 1440 x 900 to 2560 x 1600 pixels. That amounts to 227 PPI, compared to the old model’s 128. It’s an immediately apparent upgrade — there’s a reason so many Air owners have been holding out for the addition. The multimedia experience is rounded out by upgraded speakers that are capable of getting LOUD, in spite of taking up very little real estate on either side of the keyboard.

The design language was overdue for an update, and now the system looks nearly identical to the 13-inch Pro at first glance, aside from the familiar tapered design. And, of course, you can pick it up in Gold, keeping with Apple’s theme of more colorful options on lower-cost devices like the iPhone XR.

The most polarizing aspect on the frame is no doubt the continued shift to all Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C). No surprise there, of course. Get ready to lead the #donglelife until time comes to upgrade all of your accessories. The two USB-C ports are located on the same side, which means a bit more maneuvering when charging — though the new ports are much more diverse than the old power model. It’s the same set up you’ll find on the MacBook. Upgrade to the Pro, meanwhile, and you’ll get twice the number.

There’s no doubt the new Air marks a sizable update. It’s pricier, too, though Apple’s kept things more in check here than with the Mac Mini. With all of its upgrades and lower price point to boot, the Air is the clear pick over the 12-inch MacBook in practically every way.

As a matter of fact, barring some major future upgrade, the 12-inch likely isn’t long for this world. And that’s perfectly fine. The new Air is very clearly the better buy.

Source: TechCrunch

Google Doodle encourages you to 'go vote' – CNET

Election Day Doodle offers information on finding your polling place and general election information.
Source: CNET

Elon Musk's Tesla just floated past Mars – Roadshow

SpaceX founder’s Roadster is on an epic journey through space.
Source: CNET

Facebook blocks 115 accounts suspected of 'inauthentic behavior' – CNET

Law enforcement officials believe the accounts may be linked to “foreign entities,” Facebook says.
Source: CNET

Harvard scientists: Strange asteroid could be a 'probe' from an 'alien civilisation' – CNET

They go on to wonder if Oumuamua could have been “sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization”.
Source: CNET

Crazy Rich Asians now on Digital HD: Every way to watch – CNET

The rom-com about living up to one mother’s insanely high expectations is now available to watch at home.
Source: CNET

Nikola Motor unveils a new hydrogen semi truck designed for Europe

Nikola Motor has started taking reservations for Tre, the startup’s first hydrogen-electric truck built for the European market.

Nikola Motor, which less than a year ago announced plans to build a $1 billion hydrogen-electric semi truck factory in a suburb of Phoenix, said it’s in the preliminary planning stages to identify the proper location for its European manufacturing facility.

European testing is projected to begin in Norway around 2020, the company said.

The Tre — it means three in Norwegian — is still years away from production. CEO Trevor Milton said production will begin around the same time as its U.S. version between 2022 and 2023.

But it illustrates Nikola’s global aspirations.

The U.S. and Europe have different trucking regulations. Nikola had to design a different model to meet those regulations before it consider trying to break into Europe. 

Nikola Motor Nikola Tre back

The Tre will be built with redundant braking, redundant steering, redundant 800V dc batteries and a redundant 120 kW hydrogen fuel cell, all necessary for true level 5 autonomy, Milton said in a statement. Level 5 is the highest level autonomy, a designation in which the vehicle handles all driving under all conditions.

The Nikola TRE will come will come in 500 to 1,000 horsepower versions. The truck will be able to travel 500 to 1,200 kilometers, depending on options a customer chooses.

Nikola plans to have more than 700 hydrogen fueling stations across the U.S. and Canada by 2028. The company said Monday it’s working Nel Hydrogen of Oslo to provide hydrogen stations for the U.S. market.

Nel will be used to secure resources for Nikola’s European growth strategy, according to Nikola CFO Kim Brady.

By 2028, Nikola plans to have a network of more than 700 hydrogen stations across the USA and Canada. Each station will be capable of 2,000 to 8,000 kgs of daily hydrogen production. Nikola’s European stations are planned to come online around 2022 and are projected to cover most of the European market by 2030.

The company will display a prototype display of the Nikola TRE during the Nikola World event April 16 and April 17 in Phoenix.

Source: TechCrunch

Hours before U.S. election day, Facebook pulls dozens of accounts for ‘coordinated inauthentic behavior’

Facebook has pulled the plug on 30 accounts and 85 Instagram accounts that the company says were engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher revealed the latest batch of findings in a late-night blog post Monday.

“On Sunday evening, U.S. law enforcement contacted us about online activity that they recently discovered and which they believe may be linked to foreign entities,” said Gleicher, without naming the law enforcement agency. “We immediately blocked these accounts and are now investigating them in more detail.”

The company didn’t have much more to share, only that the Facebook Pages associated with the accounts “appear to be in the French or Russian languages, while the Instagram accounts seem to have mostly been in English — some were focused on celebrities, others political debate,” he said.

In his post, Gleicher conceded that the company “would be further along with our analysis before announcing anything publicly,” but pledged to post more once the company digs in — including if the accounts are linked to earlier account takedowns linked to Iran.

When reached, a Facebook spokesperson did not comment further.

It’s the latest batch in account takedowns in recent weeks, ahead of the U.S. midterm elections — later on Tuesday — when millions of Americans will go to the polls to vote for new congressional lawmakers and state governors. The election is largely seen as a barometer for the health of the Trump administration, two years after the president was elected amid a concerted state-backed effort by Russian intelligence to spread disinformation and discord on his Democratic opponent.

Only earlier on Monday, a new report from Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism found that election interference remains a major problem for the platform, despite repeated promises from high-level executives that the company is doing what it can to fight false news and misinformation.

Source: TechCrunch

Tink Labs, which gives free-to-use smartphones to hotel guests, is raising $300M

Tink Labs, a Hong Kong startup that develops smartphones that hotels provide to their guests for free, is raising a new round of up to $300 million to further its international footprint, TechCrunch has come to understand.

The startup is in the final stages of completing the deal that could give its six-year-old business a post-money valuation of at least $1.5 billion, two sources with knowledge of discussions told TechCrunch .

It isn’t clear at this point which investors are part of the round, but once source said Tink Labs has made an effort to court hotels and travel firms as investors since it believes they could provide strategic value beyond simply capital. But any hoteliers would likely provide smaller checks, with more established investors picking up the bulk of the round.

Tink Labs declined to respond when contacted for comment by TechCrunch.

The company’s existing investors include manufacturing giant Foxconn (via its FIH Mobile unit), Sinovation Ventures — the investment firm from ex-Google China head Kaifu Lee — and Cai Wensheng, an angel investor who is the founder and chairman of Hong Kong-listed photo app firm Meitu. It also snagged money from SoftBank this summer after the Japanese firm invested in a joint-venture for the Japanese market. That deal appears to have been hugely successful since Japan is Tink Labs’ largest market with over 810 hotel deployments.

To date, the firm has announced over $170 million in funding. Its most recent deal was a $125 million investment in 2016, but a source close to the company said it landed an undisclosed deal in the past year that took its valuation over the $1 billion mark and made it one of Hong Kong’s first unicorns. Bloomberg reported last year that it had closed $40 million, but that was never confirmed nor announced by Tink Labs, so this round could mark its official coming out as a billion-dollar business.

The company has 17 offices worldwide while its website claims it has deployed phones in over 1,700 hotel locations worldwide, predominantly in APAC and Europe, with over 12 million customers using them. It said in March that it plans to reach one million hotel rooms by the end of this year — half of which will be in Europe — and this new money is likely earmarked for further global growth. To give an indication, there are currently over 90 open positions listed on Tink Labs’ careers page.

The company was founded by CEO Terrence Kwok, now 26, and it moved into the hotel concierge phone space after first developing a device rental service that targeted travelers at airports.

Tink Labs remained focused on offering connectivity to travelers, but it shifted the focus to hotels because it believes it can help foster a closer relationship between hotel brands and their guests. Tink Labs says that active users typically engage with the device for just over one hour per day, while it claims to have lifted hotel revenue by four percent when adopted.

Tink Labs’ Handy phone can also be programmed to work with key-less doors and to activate air conditioning and other gadgets in guest rooms.

Its Handy product is a smartphone for hotel guests that takes the pain out of mobile roaming. You can make calls and send messages like a normal phone, but it also includes details of services available at your hotel and nearby activities. It even hooks into the hotel’s telephone system so you can order room service before you get back to your room, call a colleague via their room number, or phone the helpdesk if you’re out and about but need help talking to a taxi driver in the local language.

The concept has proven popular with hotels — global brands using Handy include the likes of IHG, Sheraton, Novotel, Mercure and Holiday Inn — and, in perhaps the ultimate validation, a series of knock-offs have surfaced with their own Handy clones.

Tink Labs has pushed itself (and Handy) as a platform for enabling sales, both for hotels and ‘preferred’ venues in cities, with pricing starting at $1 for each device in a room per day.

While this new funding round is in its final stages before being closed, there is one intriguing wrinkle. Tink Labs seems to have flirted with the idea of an ICO, even though most token sales have shifted to essential private, rather than public, sales.

The company is seeking to hire a “strategy associate (with ICO experience)”, according to a listing on its jobs site that has been online for most of this year. Despite multiple requests for information from TechCrunch, Tink Labs has not provided further details on its plan for crypto. However, with this new round soon to be in the bank and the general crypto market declining significantly this year, an ICO would seem unlikely.

Source: TechCrunch