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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Captain Marvel punches out a $61.4 million opening day – CNET

The only film to open higher in China is Avengers: Infinity War.
Source: CNET

Why Warriors’ Andre Iguodala joined African unicorn Jumia’s board of directors

Andre Iguodala, a key member of the Golden State Warriors basketball team, is no stranger to the tech industry. He’s invested in Tristan Walker’s Walker & Company, which has since been acquired by Procter & Gamble, electric scooter startup Lime and many others. Now, he’s joined the board of directors over at Jumia, an African e-commerce startup that became the continent’s first unicorn back in 2016.

“For me, it’s really important because I have a lot of roots in Africa with my father being from Nigeria,” Iguodala told TechCrunch over the phone this week. “I’m proud of that and willing to do a lot of things with a company that’s on the forefront of the e-commerce space as a whole.”

This is not Iguodala’s first time serving on a startup’s board of directors, but it’s the only one he’s currently serving on. Iguodala previously served on the board of Twice, an online clothing resale store, which eventually sold to eBay. At Jumia, Iguodala is on the compensation committee, where he looks at hiring, and how to attract talent and ensure Africans continue to have a place at the table. It’s worth noting that Jumia co-CEOs Sacha Poignonnec and Jeremy Hodara are not African.

“We’re having conversations about diversity and making sure the African culture is in the company, and Sacha [CEO Sacha Poignonnec] is doing a great job with that,” Iguodala said. “I want to make sure we’re hiring from within and making sure the people we’re affecting and helping are involved with the company as far as hires go.”

Within Africa’s tech scene, there’s an ongoing conversation about the role of Westerners, expats and repats.

“That’s definitely something that’s been on my radar,” Iguodala told me. He pointed to how Africa has a wealth of natural resources, including petroleum, natural gas, gold, diamonds and more.

“Everyone is about growth and where they align themselves financially,” he said. “You can do it morally the right way.”

Iguodala says he’s also helped brainstorm new business opportunities for Jumia. For example, Iguodala said he suggested to Poignonnec that the startup expands into brick and mortar. Given the trend in America where e-commerce companies establish themselves online and then open brick and mortar locations (e.g. Amazon), Iguodala suggested that as a possibility for Jumia.

Down the road, Iguodala envisions exploring additional opportunities in Africa’s tech scene, but that it’s “not something I’m trying to rush.” He has a couple of trips to Africa planned for this summer, but his main focus right now is on Jumia.

“I feel really strongly about it especially because I have roots there,” Iguodala said. “I’m trying to incorporate the roots of Africa within the company and continue to expand and get people on the platform. There’s so much room for growth — not just for the company but for the continent.”


Source: TechCrunch

Us review: Jordan Peele's new horror flick doesn't quite mirror Get Out – CNET

Director Peele follows up 2017’s Get Out with a hotly anticipated doppelganger film.
Source: CNET

Did Sam Altman make YC better or worse?

Y Combinator revealed yesterday that its president, Sam Altman, is stepping down from his role to become the accelerator program’s chairman. This change, said YC, will allow Altman to “spend more time focusing on OpenAI,” the San Francisco-based nonprofit that was cofounded by Altman and Elon Musk three years ago to get ahead of the risks posed by artificial intelligence.

The timing may not be so coincidental. Two weeks ago, Musk separated from OpenAI, whose operations Musk and Altman have funded, along with Reid Hoffman, Peter Thiel, YC cofounder Jessica Livingstone, and Stripe’s former CTO Greg Brockman, who is today the CTO of OpenAI . Musk cited disagreements about the company’s development as reason to “part ways on good terms.” A source tells us now that Altman actually intends to become CEO of the organization, though asked about this directly yesterday, Altman said he was too busy to discuss his immediate plans.

Either way, Altman’s newest move begs a question that industry watchers are likely to be asking for some time, and that is whether Altman – – who was part of the first YC startup class in 2005, began working part-time as a YC partner in 2011, and was made the head of the organization five years ago — made YC better or worse during his tenure at the top.

Certainly, it is much changed. When Altman was handed the reins, YC had just graduated 67 startups, all of them from the U.S. It was a record number at the time, but Altman has since more than tripled the number of startups that YC will process in one batch, with YC set to present 205 startups to investors over two days across two stages in San Francisco two weeks from now.

Those numbers merely hint at Altman’s ambition. In the past two years, YC has launched Startup School, a free 10-week online program; the Series A program, which coaches seed-stage alums on how to nab follow-on funding; the YC Growth program, a 10-week dinner series that it characterizes as a kind of grad school program; Work at a Startup, a platform that connects engineers with YC companies; and YC China, a standalone program that be run out of Beijing once it gets up and going.

Even with a network that has 4,000 alumni and 1,900 companies, Altman has long said that he thinks YC can do even more. “Part of our model is to make the cost of mistakes really low, and then make a lot of mistakes,” he said at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2017. “We’ll fund a lot of people doing a lot of things that sound really dumb, and most of the time they will be. And some of the time, it will seem like a bad idea and be jaw-droppingly brilliant. The very best startup ideas are at the intersection of the Venn diagram of, ‘sounds like a bad idea,’ ‘is in fact a good idea.’”

Some worry that Altman may have taken YC to unsustainable extremes, encouraging too many people with wobbly ideas to forsake safer, more conventional options for a chance to become the next Brian Chesky, and encouraging them, specifically, to come to the Bay Area for its accelerator program, despite overcrowding and soaring costs.

Others wonder if startups might eventually revolt against YC’s terms, which see it investing $150,000 in exchange for 7 percent of each company — a stake that it can maintain throughout the company’s life it it so chooses, per its pact with its founders.

While the halo effect of YC is real, giving away so big a piece of one’s company for so little funding vexes some founders later.

DRESDEN, GERMANY – JUNE 09: Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator, arrives at the Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski Dresden for the 2016 Bilderberg Group conference on June 9, 2016 in Dresden, Germany. The Taschenbergpalais is hosting the 2016 Bilderberg Group gathering that will bring together 130 leading international players from politics, industry, finance, academia and media to discuss globally-relevant issues from today until June 12. A wide spectrum of groups have announced protests to be held nearby. Critics charge the secretive nature of the Bilderberg Group annual meetings is undemocratic. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

VCs — many of whom have a love-hate relationship with the powerful accelerator  — have also whispered at times about possible conflicts of interest owing to Hydrazine Capital, a venture fund that Altman formed before being appointed as head of YC, with “significant investment” from Peter Thiel, as described in a 2017 New Yorker article about Altman.

Still, even people who might be tempted to take Altman down a notch say he has done a phenomenal job of running Y Combinator, including by turning the outfit into a global brand, creating a constant stream of new products, and by overseeing the development of infrastructure and software that has allowed the company to continue to scale for the foreseeable future.

Altman also diversified the types of founders that YC admits (though it could do better); 15 percent of the founders to pass through the accelerator last summer were women. And whereas the program was once dominated by consumer startups, it now graduates business-to-business software and services startups, healthcare startups, blockchain startups, real estate, govtech and fintech startups, among others.

Equally important, Altman — a masterful networker who isn’t known for being a terribly warm boss — ensured that everyone at the partner level at Y Combinator enjoys the same economics. It’s a surprisingly rare structure in venture capital, where it’s more often the case that a small group of investors is accruing most of the financial rewards based on how long they’ve been involved with an outfit or their specific contributions.

Indeed, Altman’s obvious drive will make it all the more interesting to see what he does with OpenAI, which just two weeks ago said it had developed an AI system that can create fake news so authentic looking that it decided not to release the full research to the public so it can better weigh its ramifications.

In the meantime, one guesses that YC, where Altman has not been involved operationally for some time, will be fine without him at the helm, including thanks to the continued involvement of Altman and YC founders Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston at the board level. More crucially, YC has Michael Seibel, its CEO, who has led the core YC program for the last four-and-a-half years. (Others of its numerous partners have also been with firm for years.)

As one VC told us yesterday, even with a YC that looks very different than it did five years ago — perhaps because of it — investors would be “idiots not to pay attention” to the founders it backs. Many of even the most nascent YC startups have begun raising funding at valuations that make it too expensive for angels or some seed-stage firms to participate — and that these founders may later regret when the market downturn inevitably comes.

But for Series A and later-stage investors, there’s still no better avenue to reaching up-and-coming founders. When it comes to curating talent, says this investor, YC “is just too good.”


Source: TechCrunch

Small VC funds continue to raise, despite pressure from above

Recently, we bore out with data what has been felt for several years in most U.S. tech scenes: a rising venture market raises funds of all sizes. But it’s a trend that most favors entrenched firms, which raise ever-larger funds to accommodate a shift in the startup life cycle. Private companies are dawdling at the exit door, postponing graduation to public markets because private-market money is cheap and plentiful, for now.

In a time when “blitzscaling” is the business strategy du jour, some high-growth companies raise supergiant nine and 10-figure VC rounds to help them build moats around walled-garden markets they’re trying to build up from both sides, or they’ll die trying.

This is all to point out that, at the high end of the assets-under-management (AUM) spectrum, fund size has ballooned. This nets the biggest size class of VC funds a supermajority of all the capital general partners (GPs) call down from limited partners (LPs). This trend has accelerated in more recent fund vintages.

Small-dollar funds may get less of the overall fundraising pie, but their ranks continue to grow as more fund managers enter the industry. In most cases, sub-$100 million funds aren’t competing for the same institutional capital or sovereign wealth that typically invests in much bigger funds.

All this said, the upswing in smaller-sum funds continues. U.S.-based general partners raised more sub-$100 million venture funds in 2018 than in any year prior. This is true for two separate size classes: “Micro” and “Nano,” which exhibit similar growth patterns over time.

Featherweight funds soar on market thermals

Let’s tackle the smallest funds first. “Nano VC” is a relatively new entrant into the venture lexicon, and its definition is somewhat in flux. Samir Kaji, a managing director at First Republic Bank who has tracked the phenomenon of small venture funds for years, coined the term in early 2017 to describe new venture funds raising $15 million or less. Recently, we’ve heard the term “Nano VC” used to reference funds under $25 million, a slightly more expansive definition (perhaps accounting for growing seed and early-stage deal size).

Below, we plot the count of new U.S. Nano VC funds raising $25 million or less, by year announced (via press release or regulatory filing), over time. It is based on a snapshot of Crunchbase’s data taken at the time of writing.

Funds at these sizes are mostly focused on pre-seed, seed and Series A deals. Many are led by first-time and other “emerging” fund managers early on in their investing careers, according to follow-up research by Kaji.

The next size class up, Micro VC, includes venture funds in the $25 million to $100 million range. (Quick terminology note: Sometimes, people refer to all funds under $100 million as Micro, without designating Nano funds as a separate size class.) Micro VC funds are also generally focused on investing in seed and early-stage companies, and are also commonly run by new and emerging managers.

Creation of Micro VC funds also picked up over time, as well.

Although it’s a tidy little coincidence that our analysis shows roughly the same number of Micro and Nano VC funds raised in 2018, it’s important to remember that we’re sometimes talking about an order-of-magnitude difference in AUM between the two size classes. Nano and Micro VC funds accounted for roughly 24 and 25 percent, respectively, of the count of new venture firms announced or disclosed (via SEC filing) in 2018. However, Micro VC funds ($25 million-$100 million) raised six percent of the total capital raised by venture firms, while Nano VC funds (<$25 million) accounted for roughly one percent of total LP-GP dollar volume in 2018.

Good reason for caution

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about declines in the reported number of seed-stage deals, a primary destination for capital raised by smaller funds. However, it’s likely that these declines aren’t as precipitous as the numbers may suggest. There are known delays in seed and early-stage deal reporting, as documented by Crunchbase News (in our quarterly reporting and methodology guide) and others. And, at least anecdotally, it seems like startups are staying in “stealth mode” longer, which only serves to exacerbate the reporting lag.

All this being said, projections (which try to compensate for delays using historical patterns of deal disclosures) from our Q4 2018 report on U.S. and Canadian venture investing found that seed-stage deal volume has declined for the past couple of quarters, while total dollar volume raised by seed-stage companies rose slightly in the final quarter of last year. Projected early-stage deal volume leveled off in the past several quarters, while projected dollar volume grew more than 11 percent quarter over quarter.

In other words, both seed and early-stage deals are getting bigger, on average, at the same time deal volume growth is stagnating in the U.S. and Canada. If this trend continues, funds on the smaller end of the AUM spectrum may face deal-flow pipeline problems in the future, or get priced out of bidding wars for a diminishing supply of equity in fledgling technology ventures with high growth potential.


Source: TechCrunch

Transportation Weekly: Waymo unleashes laser bear, Bird spreads its wings, Lyft tightens its belt

Welcome back to Transportation Weekly; I’m your host Kirsten Korosec, senior transportation reporter at TechCrunch . This is the fifth edition of our newsletter and we love the reader feedback. Keep it coming.

Never heard of TechCrunch’s Transportation Weekly? Catch up here, here and here. As I’ve written before, consider this a soft launch. Follow me on Twitter @kirstenkorosec to ensure you see it each week. (An email subscription is coming). 

This week, we explore the world of light detection and ranging sensors known as LiDAR, young drivers, trouble in Barcelona, autonomous trucks in California, and China among other things.


ONM …

There are OEMs in the automotive world. And here, (wait for it) there are ONMs — original news manufacturers. (Cymbal clash!) This is where investigative reporting, enterprise pieces and analysis on transportation lives.

This week, we’re going to put our analysis hats as we explore the world of LiDAR, a sensor that measures distance using laser light to generate highly accurate 3D maps of the world around the car. LiDAR is considered by most in the self-driving car industry (Tesla CEO Elon Musk being one exception) a key piece of technology required to safely deploy robotaxis and other autonomous vehicles.

There are A LOT of companies working on LiDAR. Some counts track upwards of 70. For years now, Velodyne has been the primary supplier of LiDAR sensors to companies developing autonomous vehicles. Waymo, back when it was just the Google self-driving project, even used Velodyne LiDAR sensors until 2012.

Dozens of startups have sprung up with Velodyne in its sights. But now Waymo has changed the storyline.

To catch you up: Waymo announced this week that it will start selling its custom LiDAR sensors — the technology that was at the heart of a trade secrets lawsuit last year against Uber.

Waymo’s entry into the market doesn’t necessarily upend other companies’ plans. Waymo is going to sell its short range LiDAR, called Laser Bear Honeycomb, to companies outside of self-driving cars. It will initially target robotics, security and agricultural technology.

It does put pressure on startups, particularly those with less capital or those targeting the same customer base. Pitchbook ran the numbers for us to determine where the LiDAR industry sits at the moment. There are two stories here: there are a handful of well capitalized startups and we may have reached “peak” LiDAR. Last year, there were 28 VC deals in LiDAR technology valued at $650 million. The number of deals was slightly lower than in 2017, but the values jumped by nearly 34 percent.

The top global VC-backed LiDAR technology companies (by post valuation) are Quanergy, Velodyne (although mostly corporate backed), Aurora (not self-driving company Aurora Innovation), Ouster, and DroneDeploy. The graphic below, also courtesy of Pitchbook, shows the latest figures as of January 31, 2019.

Dig In

Researchers discovered that two popular car alarm systems were vulnerable to a manipulated server-side API that could be abused to take control of an alarm system’s user account and their vehicle.

The companies — Russian alarm maker Pandora and California-based Viper (or Clifford in the U.K.) — have fixed the  security vulnerabilities that allowed researchers to remotely track, hijack and take control of vehicles with the alarms installed. What does this all mean?

Our in-house security expert and reporter Zack Whittaker digs in and gives us a reality check. Follow him @zackwhittaker.

Since the first widely publicized car hack in 2015 proved hijacking and controlling a car was possible, it’s opened the door to understanding the wider threat to modern vehicles.

Most modern cars have internet connectivity, making their baseline surface area of attack far greater than a car that doesn’t. But the effort that goes into remotely controlling a vehicle is difficult and convoluted, and the attack — often done by chaining together a set of different vulnerabilities — can take weeks or even longer to develop.

Keyfob or replay attacks are far more likely than say remote attacks over the internet or cell network. A keyfob sends an “unlock” signal, a device captures that signal and replays it. By replaying it you can unlock the car.

This latest car hack, featuring flawed third-party car alarms, was far easier to exploit, because the alarm systems added a weakness to the vehicles that weren’t there to begin with. Car makers, with vast financial and research resources, do a far greater job at securing their vehicle than the small companies that focus on functionality over security. For now, the bigger risk comes from third parties in the automobile space, but the car makers can’t afford to drop their game either.


A little bird …

We hear a lot. But we’re not selfish. Let’s share.

blinky-cat-bird

The California Department Motor Vehicles is the government body that regulates autonomous vehicle testing on public roads. The job of enforcement falls to the California Highway Patrol.

In an effort to gauge the need for more robust testing guidelines, the California Highway Patrol decided to hold an event at its headquarters in Sacramento. Eight companies working on autonomous trucking technology were invited. It was supposed to be a large event with local and state politicians in attendance. And it was supposed to validate autonomous trucking as an emerging industry.

There’s just one problem: only one AV trucking company is willing and able to complete this course. We hear that this AV startup actually already went ahead and completed the test course.

The California Highway Patrol has postponed event, for now, presumably until more companies can join.

Got a tip or overheard something in the world of transportation? Email me or send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec.


Deal of the week

Instead of highlighting one giant deal, let’s step back and take a broader view of mobility this week. The upshot: 2018 saw a decline in total investments in the sector and money moved away from ride-hailing and towards two-wheeled transportation.

According to new research from EY, mobility investments in 2018 reached $39.1 billion, down from $55.2 billion in the previous year. (The figures EY provided was through November 2018).

Ride-hailing companies raised $7.1 billion in 2018, a 73 percent decline from the previous year when $26.7 billion poured into this sector.

Investors, it seems, are shifting their focus to other business models, notably first and last-mile connectivity. EY estimates $7 billion was invested in two-wheeler mobility companies such as bike-sharing and electric scooters in 2018. The U.S. and China together have contributed to more than 80 percent of overall two-wheeler mobility investments this year alone, according to EY research shared with TechCrunch.

Other deals:


Snapshot

Let’s talk about Generation Z, that group of young people born 1996 to the present, and one startup that is focused on turning that demographic into car owners.

There’s lots of talk and hand wringing about young people choosing not to get a driver’s license, or not buying a vehicle. In the UK, for instance, about 42 percent of young drivers aged 17 to 24, hold a driver’s license. That’s about 2.7 million people, according to the National Travel Survey 2018 (NTS) of the UK government’s department of transport. An additional 2.2 million have a provisional or learner license. Combined, that amounts to about 13 percent of the car driving population of the UK.

In the UK, evidence suggests that a rise in motoring costs have discouraged young people from learning. And there lies one opportunity that a new startup called Driver1 is targeting.

Driver 1 is a car subscription service designed exclusively for first car drivers aged 17 to 24. The company has been in stealth mode for about a year and is just now launching.

“The young driver market is being underserved by the car industry, Driver1 founder Tim Hammond told TechCrunch. “And primarily it’s the financing that’s not available for that age group. It’s also something that’s not really affordable for any of the car subscription models like Fair.com and it’s not suitable for the OEM subscription services either financially or from an age perspective for young drivers.”

The company’s own research has found this group wants a newer car for 12 to 15 months.

“The car is the extension of their device,” Hammond said, noting these drivers don’t want the old junkers. “They want their iPhones and they want the car that goes with it.”

The company is working directly with leasing companies — not dealerships — to provide young drivers with 3 to 5-year-old cars that have lost 60 percent or so of their value. Driver1 is targeting under $120 a month for the customer and has a partnership with remarketing company Manheim, which is owned by Cox Automotive.

The startup is focused on the UK for now and has about 600 members who have reserved their cars for purchase. Driver1 is aiming to capture about 10 percent of the 1 million or so young people in the UK who pass their learners permit each year. The company plans it expand to France and other European countries in the fall.


Tiny but mighty micromobility

Bird Rocking Out GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Ca-caw, ca-caw! That’s the sound of Bird gearing up to launch Bird Platform in New Zealand, Canada and Latin America in the coming weeks. The platform is part of Bird’s mission to bring its scooters across the world “and empower local entrepreneurs in regions where we weren’t planning to launch to run their own electric-scooter sharing program with Bird’s tech and vehicles,” Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden told TechCrunch.

MRD’s two cents: Bird Platform seems like a way for Bird to make extra cash without having to do any of the work i.e. charging the vehicles, maintaining them and working with city officials to get permits. Smart!

Meanwhile, the dolla dolla bills keep pouring into micromobility. European electric scooter startup Voi Technology raised an additional $30 million in capital. That was on top of a $50 million Series A round just three months ago.

Oh, and because micromobility isn’t just for startups, Volkswagen decided to launch a kind of weird-looking electric scooter in Geneva. Because, why not?

Megan Rose Dickey

One more thing …

Lyft is trimming staff to prepare for its IPO. TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden learned that the company has laid off about 50 staff in its bike and scooter division. It appears most of these folks are people who joined the Lyft through its acquisition of  electric bike sharing startup Motivate a deal that closed about three months ago.


Notable reads

It’s probably not smart to suggest another newsletter, but if you haven’t checked out Michael Dunne’s  The Chinese Are Coming newsletter, you should. Dunne has a unique perspective on what’s happening in China, particularly as it related to automotive and newer forms of mobility such as ride-hailing. One interesting nugget from his latest edition: there are more than 20 other new electric vehicle makers in China.

“Most will fall away within the next 3 to 4 years as cash runs out,” Dunne predicts.

Other quotable notables:

Here’s a fun read for the week. TechCrunch’s Lucas Matney wrote about a YC Combinator startup Jetpack Aviation.The startup has launched pre-orders this week for the moonshot of moonshots, the Speeder, a personal vertical take-off and landing vehicle with a svelte concept design that looks straight out of Star Wars or Halo.


Testing and deployments

Spanish ride-hailing firm Cabify is back operating in Barcelona, Spain despite issuing dire warnings that new regulations issued by local government would crush its business and force it to fire thousands of drivers and leave forever. Turns out forever is one month.

The Catalan Generalitat issued a decree last month imposing a wait time of at least 15 minutes between a booking being made and a passenger being picked up. The policy was made to ensure taxis and ride-hailing firms are not competing for the same passengers, following a series of taxi strikes, which included scenes of violence. Our boots on the ground reporter Natasha Lomas has the whole story.

Sure, Barcelona is just one city. But what happened in Barcelona isn’t an isolated incident. The early struggles between conventional taxis and ride-hailing operations might be over, but that doesn’t mean the matter has been settled altogether.

And it’s not likely to go away. Once, robotaxis actually hit the road en masse — and yes, that’ll be awhile — these same struggles will pop up again.

Other deployments, or, er, retreats ….

Bike share pioneer Mobike retreats to China

On the autonomous vehicle front:

China Post, the official postal service of China, and delivery and logistics companies Deppon Express, will begin autonomous package delivery services in April. The delivery trucks will operate on autonomous driving technologies developed by FABU Technology, an AI company focused on intelligent driving systems.


On our radar

There is a lot of transportation-related activity this month. Come find me.

SXSW in Austin: TechCrunch will be at SXSW. And there is a lot of mobility action here. Aurora CEO and co-founder Chris Urmson was on stage Saturday morning with Malcolm Gladwell. Mayors from a number of U.S. cities as well as companies like Ford and Mercedes are on the scene. Here’s where I’ll be. 

  • 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (local time) March 9 at the Empire Garage for the Smart Mobility Summit, an annual event put on by Wards Intelligence and C3 Group. The Autonocast, the podcast I co-host with Alex Roy and Ed Niedermeyer, will also be on hand.
  • 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. (local time) March 12 at the JW Marriott. The Autonocast and founding general partner of Trucks VC, Reilly Brennan will hold a SXSW podcast panel on automated vehicle terminology and other stuff.
  • 3:30 p.m (local time) over at the Hilton Austin Downtown, I’ll be moderating a panel Re-inventing the Wheel: Own, Rent, Share, Subscribe. Sherrill Kaplan with Zipcar, Amber Quist, with Silvercar and Russell Lemmer with Dealerware will join me on stage.
  • TechCrunch is also hosting a SXSW party from 1 pm to 4 pm Sunday, March 10, 615 Red River St., that will feature musical guest Elderbrook. RSVP here

Nvidia GTC

TechCrunch (including yours truly) will also be at Nvidia’s annual GPU Technology Conference from March 18 to 21 in San Jose.

Self Racing Cars

The annual Self Racing Car event will be held March 23 and March 24 at Thunderhill Raceway near Willows, California.

There is still room for participants to test or demo their autonomous vehicles, drive train innovation, simulation, software, teleoperation, and sensors. Hobbyists are welcome. Sign up to participate or drop them a line at contact@selfracingcars.com.

Thanks for reading. There might be content you like or something you hate. Feel free to reach out to me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share those thoughts, opinions or tips. 

Nos vemos la próxima vez.


Source: TechCrunch

Nintendo's Mario Day sale includes Switch, Mario Kart 8, Odyssey deals starting March 10 – CNET

To quote Mario, “Wahoo!”
Source: CNET

Funerals are tough. Ever Loved helps you pay for them

Alison Johnston didn’t plan to build a startup around death. An early employee at Q&A app Aardvark that was bought by Google, she’d founded tutoring app InstaEDU and sold it to Chegg. She made mass market consumer products. But then, “I had a family member who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I thought about how she’d be remembered” she recalls. Inventing the next big social app suddenly felt less consequential.

I started looking into the funeral industry and discovered that there were very few resources to support and guide families who had recently experienced a death. It was difficult to understand and compare options and prices (which were also much higher than I ever imagined), and there weren’t good tools to share information and memories with others” Johnston tells me. Bombarded by options and steep costs that average $9,000 per funeral in the US, families in crisis become overwhelmed.

Ever Loved co-founder and CEO Alison Johnston

Johnston’s startup Ever Loved wants to provide peace of mind during the rest-in-peace process. It’s a comparison shopping and review site for funeral homes, cemeteries, caskets, urns, and headstones. It offers price guides and recommends top Amazon funeral products and takes a 5 percent affiliate fee that finances Ever Loved’s free memorial site maker for sharing funeral details plus collecting memories and remembrances. And families can even set up fundraisers to cover their costs or support a charity.

The startup took seed funding from Social Capital and a slew of angel investors about a year ago. Now hundreds of thousands of users are visiting Ever Loved shopping and memorial sites each month. Eventually Ever Loved wants to build its own marketplace of funeral services and products that takes a 10 percent cut of purchases, while also selling commerce software to funeral homes.

“People don’t talk about death. It’s taboo in our society and most people don’t plan ahead at all” Johnston tells me. Rushing to arrange end-of-life logistics is enormously painful, and Johnston believes Ever Loved can eliminate some of that stress. “I wanted to explore areas where fewer people in Silicon Valley had experience and that weren’t just for young urban professionals.”

There’s a big opportunity to modernize this aging industry with a sustainable business model and empathy as an imperative. 86 percent of funeral homes are independent, Johnston says, so few have the resources to build tech products. One of the few big companies in the space, the $7 billion market cap public Service Corporation International, has rolled up funeral homes and cemeteries but has done little to improve pricing transparency or the user experience for families in hardship. Rates and reviews often aren’t available, so customers can end up overpaying for underwhelming selection.

On the startup side, there’s direct competitors like FuneralWise, which is focused on education and forums but lacks robust booking features or a memorial site maker. Funeral360 is Ever Loved’s biggest rival, but Ever Loved’s memorial sites looked better and it had much deeper step-by-step pricing estimates and info on funeral homes.

Johnston wants to use revenue from end-of-life commerce to subsidize Ever Loved’s memorial and fundraiser features so they can stay free or cheap while generating leads and awareness for the marketplace side. But no one has hit scale and truly become wedding site The Knot but for funerals.

I’ve known Johnston since college, and she’s always had impressive foresight for what was about to blow up. From an extremely early gig at Box.com to Q&A and on-demand answers with Aardvark to the explosion of online education with InstaEDU, she’s managed to get out in front of the megatrends. And tech’s destiny to overhaul unsexy businesses is one of the biggest right now.

Amazon has made us expect to see prices and reviews up front, so Ever Loved has gathered rate estimates for about two-thirds of US funeral homes and is pulling in testimonials. You can search for 4-star+ funeral homes nearby and instantly get high-quality results. Meanwhile, funeral homes can sign up to claim their page and add information.

Facebook popularized online event pages. But its heavy-handed prerogatives, generalist tone, and backlash can make it feel like a disrespectful place to host funeral service details. And with people leaving their hometowns, newspapers can’t spread the info properly. Ever Loved is purpose-built for these serious moments, makes managing invites easy, and also offers a place to collect obituaries, photos, and memories.

Rather than having to click through a link to a GoFundMe page that can be a chore, Ever Loved hosts fundraisers right on its memorial sites to maximize donations. That’s crucial since funerals cost more than most people have saved. Ever Loved only charges a processing fee and allows visitors to add an additional tip, so it’s no more expensive that popular fundraising sites.

Next, “the two big things are truly building out booking through our site and expanding into some of the other end of life logistics” Johnstone tells me. Since the funeral is just the start of the post-death process, Ever Loved is well positioned to move into estate planning. “There are literally dozens of things you have to do after someone passes away — contacting the social security office, closing out bank accounts and Facebook profiles…”

Johnston reveals that 44 percent of families say they had arguments while divying up assets — a process that takes an average of 560 hours aka 3 months of full-time work. As the baby boomer era ends over the next 30 years, $30 trillion in assets are expected to transfer through estates, she claims. Earning a tiny cut of that by giving mourners tools outlining popular ways to divide estates could alleviate disagreements could make Ever Loved quite lucrative.

“When I first started out, I was pretty awkward about telling people about this. We’re death averse, and that hinders us in a lot of ways” Johnston concludes. My own family struggled with this, as an unwillingness to accept mortality kept my grandparents from planning for after they were gone. “But I quickly learned was this was a huge conversation starter. rather than a turn off. This is a topic people want to talk about more and educate themselves more on. Tech too often merely makes life and work easier for those who already have it good. Tech that tempers tragedy is a welcome evolution for Silicon Valley.


Source: TechCrunch

Captain Marvel merchandise isn't kitten around with Goose and Carol – CNET

From keychains to action figures to shirts and sunglasses, you can have Captain Marvel in your life — and her little cat, too.
Source: CNET

Geneva Motor Show Insanity: Knobs Made of Meteorite and More

The annual gathering is where high-end automakers show their stuff, and this year’s show included a Rolls-Royce offering that’s, well, (from) out of this world.
Source: Wired

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