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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Foundry Group quietly announces a big fat $750 million fund

Foundry Group, the Boulder, Colo.-based venture firm co-founded 11 years ago by startup whisperer Brad Feld, has raised a $750 million seventh fund to target early-stage and growth-stage companies, as well as to invest in other venture funds.

It sounds like — and is — a lot of money, though the firm notes that it encompasses all of its various investment strategies, whereas its last fund, a $500 million vehicle that it closed in 2016, was used to invest in other venture funds and growth-stage companies alone; Foundry was separately managing its early-stage bets in a different fund.

It’s a little confusing, but if you really want to know the details, Feld breaks them out in a post:

For historical reference, our early-stage funds (FG 2007, FG 2010, FG 2013, and FG 2016) are all $225 million in size. Our first early growth fund raised in 2013, Foundry Group Select, is also $225m in size. In 2016, when we raised Foundry Group Next, we approximately doubled the size of that fund to $500 million since 30% of it was going to be invested in partner funds and 70% in early growth. So, at the beginning of 2016, we effectively raised $725 million (FG 2016 and Foundry Group Next). Foundry Group Next 2018 is simply the combination of those two funds rounded up slightly.

Foundry was founded by Feld, Ryan McIntyre, Jason Mendelson and Seth Levine — “four equal partners,” as Feld describes them.

With this newest fund, he says, Foundry now has “seven equal partners,” meaning each receives the same amount of carry — or profits from the firm’s successful investments — no matter that three of the partners are newer to the table.

Foundry’s newer partners include Lindel Eakman, who joined in 2015 to help Foundry identify venture funds in which to invest. (Very meta, we know.) Eakman had previously spent 13 years with the University of Texas Investment Management Company (or UTIMCO), which was Foundry Group’s largest investor.

The firm last year also added Chris Moody, who’d been the CEO of Twitter data reseller Gnip before Twitter acquired the company in 2014 and made Moody a GM and VP of its data and enterprise business. (Foundry was an investor in Gnip.)

The firm’s newest partner is Jamey Sperans, who was as an early member and managing director of Morgan Stanley Alternative Investment Partners, where he served on the global investment and executive committees. Sperans, who joined earlier this year, has also founded five companies over the years.

In case you are wondering, yes, that is seven men. (Just remarking.)

Foundry has had at least 44 exits over the years, according to Crunchbase. Among its most recent wins: the email service provider SendGrid, which staged a successful IPO last November, and the 2015 IPO of Fitbit, the wearable device company, whose shares are trading at roughly $5.50 apiece right now but were as high as $47 in the months after the offering.

Among its newest investments is Chowbotics, a four-year-old, Redwood City, Calif.-based company that makes a salad-making robot and raised $11 million in Series A-1 funding last month; and Sensu, a year-old, Portland, Ore.-based full-stack monitoring platform that raised $10 million in Series A funding back in April.

It has also re-upped in plenty of its portfolio companies in recent months, including Urban Airship, an eight-year-old, Portland, Ore.-based company behind a digital customer engagement platform. In June, it raised $25 million in Series F funding led by Foundry Group, which had also led the company’s Series B round in 2010.

Source: TechCrunch

Insurance app Lemonade looks set to drop lawsuit against Germany’s Wefox

Lemonade, the New York-based insurance platform, looks set drop the lawsuit it filed against German company ONE Insurance, its parent company Wefox, and Wefox founder Julian Teicke.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court Southern District of NY, alleged that Wefox reverse engineered Lemonade to create ONE, infringed Lemonade’s intellectual property, violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and breached the contract in Lemonade’s terms of service.

At the time of the filing, a statement issued on behalf for Wefox said the allegations had no merit and “ultimately appear to be an attempt to disrupt our business rather than a serious dispute,” dubbing Lemonade’s concerns as meritless. “We intend to defend ourselves vigorously. This lawsuit appears to be an attempt to bait the media into covering a non-issue,” concluded the statement.

However, in a slightly bizarre turn of events, Wefox founder Teicke has taken to his personal LinkedIn profile to post what appears to be a mea culpa of sorts — also revealing that he and Lemonade founder Daniel Schreiber recently met in person to discuss Lemonade’s lawsuit against ONE Insurance (as adults are supposed to do).

Posted to LinkedIn on the 2nd of August, Teicke writes: “Here’s the bottom line: Lemonade created something truly revolutionary, and their innovation inspired many in our industry – including myself. There’s a fine line between inspiration and imitation, and we acknowledge that Lemonade’s perspective is that we crossed it in some parts”.

Continues Teicke:

“While ONE has many unique features, I’m committed to addressing this concern of Lemonade. To that end, ONE will immediately undertake a redesign of elements in the app, website and marketing material that are similar to Lemonade. I am looking forward to putting this conflict aside and to exploring possibilities for cooperation in the future”.

In response, Schreiber shared Teicke’s post on his own LinkedIn profile, and thanked him for a “very amicable and constructive meeting” and for committing to remedy the issues raised in the complaint. He also said he is “committed to dropping the lawsuit once all these changes are implemented”.

I have reached out Teicke, who said he was unable to comment, and to Schreiber, who declined to comment on record. If and when the lawsuit is dropped, which I understand could be within a matter of a couple of weeks, we’ll endeavour to update our reporting. As always, watch this space.

Source: TechCrunch

Scare off burglars with this ridiculous Alexa skill

Some people leave lights, music or the TV on when they’re away from home in an attempt to ward off burglars, but a new Alexa skill called “Away Mode” has a different idea. Instead of lights and noises, you can keep your home safe from unwanted visitors by playing lengthy audio tracks that sound like real – and completely ridiculous – conversations.

When you launch Away Mode, Alexa will play one of seven audio tracks penned by comedy writers from SNL, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and UCB.

These include gems like “Couple Has Breakup While Also Trying to Watch TV,” “Two Average Guys Brainstorm What’s Unique About Themselves So They Can Start a Podcast About It,” “Emergency PTA Meeting To Discuss Memes, Fidget Spinners, and Other Teen Fads,” and more.

There are conversations from a book club where no one discusses the book, a mom walking her daughter through IKEA assembly over the phone, a stay-at-home mom losing her s***, and argument over a board game.

For example, the mom can be heard yelling things like: “For the love of god! Cadence! No. No! Okay, it looks like someone should put their listening ears on! Momma’s gonna count to three!” 

A would-be podcaster pitches his friend: “Okay. You know how much I love ketchup, right?”

The board game players argue: “Hand me the rulebook! The other rulebook! That’s the rules reference…. No, it’s in the learn-to-play guide. That’s the quick reference!”

The mom gives IKEA instructions: “You put the cylinders into the holes. No, wait. Yeah. You put the cylinders into the holes. You see ’em? Good. Well, wait, hold on a sec. I think I missed a step. Now it’s saying you put that piece on what looks like a fully built dresser. When did that happen?” 

After enabling the skill on your Alexa device, you can cycle through the various conversations by saying “Next.”

The idea for this wacky skill comes from the folks at homeowners’ insurance startup Hippo Insurance, who are using it as a means to get a little free advertising. (Score!)

Explains the company, you can turn the volume up and leave your apartment, knowing that any potential burglar will be scared off by “thinking that someone is still at home who is absolutely insufferable.”

The tracks themselves are around an hour or so long, so Away Mode makes more sense for those times you’re out running errands, but can’t take the place of things like timers that turn off and on lights while away on vacation, for example.

We tried the skill ourselves, and it worked as advertised – though we didn’t listen to the full tracks. (We should also note that one Amazon Skill Store review talks about the skill not responding to voice prompts, but the skill doesn’t ask you to choose a number, as the reviewer says – they must have found it while still in testing.)

There are other “burglar deterrent” skills for Alexa if you’re interested in the general concept, like this one that plays more realistic audio. Or those that play fake house alarms or sound like guard dogs. But Away Mode is just a little more fun.

You can try it yourself here.

We asked the company for a few more details about Away Mode, including the comedy writers’ names and how that came about, but they haven’t yet sent any answers. Hopefully that’s because they’re focused on their actual business, and not their marketing stunt. 

Source: TechCrunch

The best Amazon Prime perk? The terrible, terrible movies, of course – CNET

Forget Netflix and Hulu. Amazon boasts the best collection of cheesy B-movies that are so bad they’re good. And I can’t quit hate-watching.
Source: CNET

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 promo video may have 'leaked' – CNET

What looks like a 30-second promo spot briefly appeared online in time for your Friday morning hype fix.
Source: CNET

Goodly looks to give companies student loan payments as an employee benefit

As employers duke it out over hiring the best possible candidates, especially ones coming out of school, they are starting to get a little bit more creative with their incentive packages — and that includes offering an option for paying down student debt.

Goodly is a new startup that’s looking to help those employers offer that as a benefit. Smaller companies without the resources to create complicated incentive packages especially need tools that help shortcut the process of offering those benefits. It’s following a similar playbook of companies looking to make it easier to get the tools they need in place and focus more on the set of products that are going to make it an actually differentiated company. Goodly is launching out of Y Combinator’s summer class this year.

“We found it to be a really great tool for recruiting and retaining,” co-founder Gregory Poulin said. “When people hear student loan benefits, they instantly think it’s very expensive. You can offer student loan benefits starting $25 to $50 per employee per month, up to $200. Our system is completely flexible. You can offer any company size for any budget. You can offer meaningful benefit for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day. For the average borrower, when they have an employer contributing an extra $100 per months, it could help your average employee get out of debt almost a decade faster.”

There are more common benefits like stock packages, 401(k) matches, insurance, better time off policies, or others along those lines. But as student debt increasingly becomes a factor in a candidate’s decision on where they work, it’s another way that companies — ones without larger compensation packages or very aggressive recruiting operations like, say, Google or Facebook — can still get the attention and interest of good candidates coming out of school. Like other companies (like Human Interest for 401(k)s, for example), the goal is to make it easy to get started and maintain the whole process.

Employees connect their student loans to Goodly, which takes a few minutes to verify them before setting up the contribution plan. Goodly integrates with payroll operations and gives companies and employees a pretty flexible way to set their spending schedule. Then, it goes from there, without the employees having to manage it on a per-period basis. While it might have the robust tax incentives in place like a retirement plan, it’s still a way to help companies offer some way of showing employees that they’re invested in their employees’ future success, which is another way that those companies might be able to retain that talent. Goodly then brings back detailed reports on the company’s implementation to help it better understand whether the policies are working for their employees.

It’s certainly an area that’s attracted interest — and funding — from a number of startups like Tuition.io which look to help employers get a little more creative about their benefits. Much like contributions to retirement plans, it’s another way to offer employees a way to invest in their future by reducing the financial stress they have through some of their biggest financial decisions like where to go for college. Poulin also said it’s a way to help discover a more diverse talent pool as it surfaces up underrepresented parts of the population that are acutely dealing with student debt as a factor in their decision-making.

Source: TechCrunch

Google Maps location sharing adds phone battery status – CNET

Now people can see that your battery might die while they’re looking for you.
Source: CNET

Matt Groening goes back to the drawing board for ‘Disenchantment’

“I tried walking around in a Homer mask, but the latex is hard to breathe in. My head gets so sweaty and my glasses fog up. It’s not worth it for me,” Matt Groening laughs. “But what a way to go, suffocating on a Homer Simpson mask.”

The cartoonist bemoans his inability to go incognito on a recent trip to San Diego Comic-Con. It would be a poetic death, perhaps, asphyxiating beneath the likeness of his most iconic creation. But he doesn’t want to make the headline writers’ jobs too easy when he finally casts off this mortal coil.

“Years ago, there was an airline that did a promotion, where they painted The Simpsons on the side,” Groening adds. “We all drove out to give it a send off, and the entire crew got on the plane in Burbank and road it around in a circle and it came down. One other writer and I refused to get on the plane, because we didn’t want the jokes that would invariably come if the plane were to crash. That’s not how we wanted to be remembered.”

Groening in 2000. (Photo by Colin Davey/Getty Images)

The Simpsons will forever loom large over Groening’s existence. Spawning 30 seasons of a nearly universally beloved television program will do that to a legacy. And most recently, the show and its creator have been grappling with the topic of embattled character Apu — which he’s addressed with mixed results and was intent on not discussing on our call.

In recent weeks, the artist has been single-mindedly focused on Disenchantment, with one final promotional push before the series makes its mid-August Netflix debut.

The show has some seemingly impossible expectations to live up to as Groening’s third animated series. Its predecessor, Futurama, while failing the nearly impossible task of maintaining the ubiquity and longevity of The Simpsons, has become a beloved franchise in its own right, living on beyond its two-network running through constant syndication and an endless stream of memes.

In many ways, the series is Groening’s most ambitious to date, trading in the streets of Springfield and pneumatic tubes of New York for a fantasy world somewhere between Westeros and Middle Earth. It’s a genre he says he’s been looking to tackle for decades, but had never found the right outlet. And while the new series exists in a world familiar to fantasy fans, it rarely butts up against direct parody of beloved properties.  

“I’ve been thinking about fantasy for a long time,” Groening says. “Some of my favorite forms of entertainment are fantasy, starting with Fractured Fairy Tales on the old Rocky and Bullwinkle show, to Monty Python and the Holy Grail to the original Wizard of Oz film and novels by Terry Pratchett and Gene Wolfe.”

Disenchantment is a tricky cocktail to get just right — a fairly tale adventure mixture, spiked with solid punch lines. “I try to incorporate all of that as inspiration and then try not to do straight parody,” says Groening. “The problem with comedy is that just getting the genre is very easy and only goes a little ways. So, what we do is try to get people on board with the fantasy characters and make them as emotional real as possible.”

An embarrassment of talent should help. The series is helmed by Groening and former Simpsons show runner, Josh Weinstein. Broad City star Abbi Jackson takes the lead as Bean, a drinking/gambling/cursing princess with a fittingly rebellious streak. Comedians Eric Andre and Nat Faxon fill out the primary leads as a “personal demon” named Luci and elf with the decided uninspired name, Elfo, respectively.

The rest of the cast is rounded out by a stack of British comedians from series like The Mighty Boosh and The Toast of London, along with mainstay voice actors from his previous series. Groening and Weinstein also poached liberally from the shows to stock the writers’ room.

“We have a writing staff that’s a combination of old guys from Futurama and The Simpsons and some younger writers who definitely have a different point of view,” says Groening. “They just don’t understand the appeal of old character actors from the 1930s and ’40s.”

All of that is rounded out by music from Devo mastermind Mark Mothersbaugh, whom Groening refers to fondly as “a Balkan-ska-klezmer combination that you’ve never heard before in a fantasy show.”

The real secret sauce, however, may be Netflix itself. Along with Amazon and Hulu, the platform has transformed the way television content is consumed, freeing Groening and the rest of the crew from television sitcom constrains that shaped his two previous series.

As Springfield Confidential, the new book from longtime Simpsons show runner Mike Reiss reveals, Groening has been interested in long-term character pay-off for some time. It was Groening who pushed for a series ending in which Marge is revealed to be a rabbit — an homage to Groening’s longtime weekly strip, Life in Hell.

Oh, and then there’s his big plans to reveal that Krusty the Clown was actually Homer disguised as a way to connect to his son. That was ultimately a too-complicated subplot for the writers to tackle during the show’s early seasons.

“You take advantage of whatever the boundaries are and try to push them,” says Groening. “It’s one thing when it’s a 22-minute network sitcom that has commercial breaks every seven minutes. That makes you write in a certain way. If you’re on Netflix and have 10 episodes to tell your story, it changes everything. You can tell longer, bigger arcs, you don’t have to reset at the end of every episode. There’s a literal cliffhanger at the end of episode one.”

Disenchantment may never hit the full epic fantasy sweeps of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, but it’s clear from the outset that the story has broader ambitions than most can achieve in a traditional half-hour comedy format. Without showing his hand, Groening lets on that “the very first thing you see is a giant clue that’s staring you in the face that reveals something about what you’re watching.”

It’s not a particularly useful hint, so far as those things go, but the artist is clearly happy to prime the pump for enthusiastic fans to comb over the content of the first 10 episodes through repeat binges. If its predecessors are any indication, that sort of rapid fandom ought not be too difficult to stoke.

“We threw in a lot of secrets and clues and puzzles for the kind of obsessive fan I’ve come to know, specifically from Futurama and, of course, The Simpsons,” says Groening. “You try to reward those people for paying attention. That’s where the original idea for the freeze-frame jokes from The Simpsons came from. If you didn’t see it, it doesn’t matter, but if you’re the kind of person who would freeze the frame and actually read the joke, you’ll get something out of it. We’ve done that with Disenchantment. We think it works as a sleepy time, fun, epic fantasy you can watch as you drift off at night. Or, if you’re the kind of person who obsesses, there’s something for you there, too.”

More immediate gratification for Simpsons and Futurama fans can be found in Groening’s unmistakable character design. It’s a bit jarring at first, seeing those icons filtered through a medieval fantasy landscape, but ultimately the aesthetic provides a grounding for first-time viewers. It’s warm and comfortable, like an old coat, and likely to help fans stay invested as the story unfolds gradually over the course of these first 10 episodes.

The style has been Groening’s calling card since well before The Simpsons — prior even to Life in Hell, which finally drew to a close in 2012 after a 32-year run. 

“What always amazed me is that this very simple style could be very expressive,” Groening explains. “With just a few curving lines and changing them slightly, you could come up with every expression that you wanted. I can’t do it, but I work with animators and designers who can take that style and make them attractive.”

That Elfo looks like a green Bart Simpson in a Smurf hat is the result of something more primordial in the cartoonist’s line work.

“I developed that style of the large bulgy eyes and ridiculous over-bite when I was 12 years old,” explains Groening. “Actually, Elfo is based on the very first character in that style that I drew. He was named Melvin. I used to draw a lot of comics with that guy, and basically gave him an elf hat and pointy ears.”

“Bart and Elfo came from Melvin — Elfo didn’t come from Bart,” Groening adds with a laugh. “That’s a very important clarification.”

Disenchantment premieres August 16 on Netflix

Source: TechCrunch

Elon Musk Wants to Put an Arcade in Your Tesla, and the Rest of the Week in Games

There’s plenty to catch up on, including Valve remembering that they can actually make games.
Source: Wired

DJI Mavic Air Review: The Drone to Buy

Packed with automated features that make flying and filming fun and easy, the $800 DJI Mavic Air is our top pick.
Source: Wired