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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Night Sight on the Pixel 3 makes an incredible difference – CNET

We tried the Night Sight mode on the Pixel 3 XL and the results are amazing.
Source: CNET

Engineer Al Schmitt explains how he won 20 Grammys – CNET

Schmitt made his mark first by listening to the needs and wants of the musicians he’s recorded, and then making them sound great.
Source: CNET

The SaaS VC gap: China & other markets trail the US

Chinese startups rule the roost when it comes to total reported venture dollars raised so far in 2018. That is, mostly. In one key category at least — software-as-a-service, better known as SaaS — they do not.

Ant Financial raised the largest-ever VC round in June, a mind-boggling $14 billion in Series C funding. And nearly a dozen privately held Chinese companies, including SenseTimeDu Xiaoman FinancialJD Finance and ELEME, raised $1 billion (yes, with a “b”) or more in single venture rounds thus far in 2018.

But if there’s one thing to note from that shortlist of 2018’s largest China venture rounds, it’s this: almost all of them involve consumer apps and services. Despite being one of the largest economies in the world and currently holding the top spot in the national venture dollar ranks, China doesn’t seem to have too much in the way of enterprise-focused software funding.

But why trust your gut when the trend is borne out in the numbers? In the chart below, we show the top five global markets for SaaS investment (plus the rest of the world). We compare each market’s share of SaaS-earmarked funding against their share of total venture dollars raised in 2018 so far.

As of mid-October (when we pulled the data for the above chart), Chinese companies accounted for about 39.3 percent of venture funding raised in 2018. Compare that to 38.4 percent for U.S.-based companies, overall. In this respect, the venture markets in the U.S. and China are running neck-and-neck.

Yet for SaaS funding, the China-U.S. gap is about as wide as the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. — top ranked by this measure — accounted for approximately 70.1 percent of known SaaS startup funding. China, by contrast, accounted for just 11.7 percent. No even matchup here. It’s not even close.

This asymmetry goes beyond just aggregate dollar figures. The contrast is starker when we use a slightly more exotic measure for the market.

One of our favorite (if somewhat arbitrary) metrics at Crunchbase News is the count of supergiant venture rounds. These VC deals weigh in at $100 million or more, and they’re reshaping both sides of the venture market for founders and funders alike.

Whereas the United States played host to at least 15 supergiant SaaS VC rounds so far this year, just four rounds raised by three different Chinese SaaS companies crossed the nine-figure mark:

Keep in mind that, in general, U.S. and Chinese markets are fairly even in their output of supergiant venture rounds. However, that’s not the case when we look specifically at SaaS rounds, where the counts and dollar volumes involved are so different.

These disparities suggest a structural difference, not just between the U.S. and Chinese markets, but between the U.S. and the rest of the world when it comes to building and backing SaaS businesses.

At this point it’s unclear, apart from funding metrics, what differentiates the U.S. SaaS market from the rest of the world’s. What conditions exist in this market that don’t exist elsewhere? And are those conditions replicable in a local market with a still-nascent SaaS ecosystem? These are questions meriting a follow-up. Even though its cause might be unclear, for now, it’s nonetheless important to mind the gap. 🚇


Source: TechCrunch

Big tech must not reframe digital ethics in its image

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s visage loomed large over the European parliament this week, both literally and figuratively, as global privacy regulators gathered in Brussels to interrogate the human impacts of technologies that derive their power and persuasiveness from our data.

The eponymous social network has been at the center of a privacy storm this year. And every fresh Facebook content concern — be it about discrimination or hate speech or cultural insensitivity — adds to a damaging flood.

The overarching discussion topic at the privacy and data protection confab, both in the public sessions and behind closed doors, was ethics: How to ensure engineers, technologists and companies operate with a sense of civic duty and build products that serve the good of humanity.

So, in other words, how to ensure people’s information is used ethically — not just in compliance with the law. Fundamental rights are increasingly seen by European regulators as a floor not the ceiling. Ethics are needed to fill the gaps where new uses of data keep pushing in.

As the EU’s data protection supervisor, Giovanni Buttarelli, told delegates at the start of the public portion of the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners: “Not everything that is legally compliant and technically feasible is morally sustainable.”

As if on cue Zuckerberg kicked off a pre-recorded video message to the conference with another apology. Albeit this was only for not being there to give an address in person. Which is not the kind of regret many in the room are now looking for, as fresh data breaches and privacy incursions keep being stacked on top of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal like an unpalatable layer cake that never stops being baked.

Evidence of a radical shift of mindset is what champions of civic tech are looking for — from Facebook in particular and adtech in general.

But there was no sign of that in Zuckerberg’s potted spiel. Rather he displayed the kind of masterfully slick PR manoeuvering that’s associated with politicians on the campaign trail. It’s the natural patter for certain big tech CEOs too, these days, in a sign of our sociotechnical political times.

(See also: Facebook hiring ex-UK deputy PM, Nick Clegg, to further expand its contacts database of European lawmakers.)

And so the Facebook founder seized on the conference’s discussion topic of big data ethics and tried to zoom right back out again. Backing away from talk of tangible harms and damaging platform defaults — aka the actual conversational substance of the conference (from talk of how dating apps are impacting how much sex people have and with whom they’re doing it; to shiny new biometric identity systems that have rebooted discriminatory caste systems) — to push the idea of a need to “strike a balance between speech, security, privacy and safety”.

This was Facebook trying reframe the idea of digital ethics — to make it so very big-picture-y that it could embrace his people-tracking ad-funded business model as a fuzzily wide public good, with a sort of ‘oh go on then’ shrug.

“Every day people around the world use our services to speak up for things they believe in. More than 80 million small businesses use our services, supporting millions of jobs and creating a lot of opportunity,” said Zuckerberg, arguing for a ‘both sides’ view of digital ethics. “We believe we have an ethical responsibility to support these positive uses too.”

Indeed, he went further, saying Facebook believes it has an “ethical obligation to protect good uses of technology”.

And from that self-serving perspective almost anything becomes possible — as if Facebook is arguing that breaking data protection law might really be the ‘ethical’ thing to do. (Or, as the existentialists might put it: ‘If god is dead, then everything is permitted’.)

It’s an argument that radically elides some very bad things, though. And glosses over problems that are systemic to Facebook’s ad platform.

A little later, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai also dropped into the conference in video form, bringing much the same message.

“The conversation about ethics is important. And we are happy to be a part of it,” he began, before an instant hard pivot into referencing Google’s founding mission of “organizing the world’s information — for everyone” (emphasis his), before segwaying — via “knowledge is empowering” — to asserting that “a society with more information is better off than one with less”.

Is having access to more information of unknown and dubious or even malicious provenance better than having access to some verified information? Google seems to think so.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – OCTOBER 04: Pichai Sundararajan, known as Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google Inc. speaks during an event to introduce Google Pixel phone and other Google products on October 4, 2016 in San Francisco, California. The Google Pixel is intended to challenge the Apple iPhone in the premium smartphone category. (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images)

The pre-recorded Pichai didn’t have to concern himself with all the mental ellipses bubbling up in the thoughts of the privacy and rights experts in the room.

“Today that mission still applies to everything we do at Google,” his digital image droned on, without mentioning what Google is thinking of doing in China. “It’s clear that technology can be a positive force in our lives. It has the potential to give us back time and extend opportunity to people all over the world.

“But it’s equally clear that we need to be responsible in how we use technology. We want to make sound choices and build products that benefit society that’s why earlier this year we worked with our employees to develop a set of AI principles that clearly state what types of technology applications we will pursue.”

Of course it sounds fine. Yet Pichai made no mention of the staff who’ve actually left Google because of ethical misgivings. Nor the employees still there and still protesting its ‘ethical’ choices.

It’s not almost as if the Internet’s adtech duopoly is singing from the same ‘ads for greater good trumping the bad’ hymn sheet; the Internet’s adtech’s duopoly is doing exactly that.

The ‘we’re not perfect and have lots more to learn’ line that also came from both CEOs seems mostly intended to manage regulatory expectation vis-a-vis data protection — and indeed on the wider ethics front.

They’re not promising to do no harm. Nor to always protect people’s data. They’re literally saying they can’t promise that. Ouch.

Meanwhile, another common FaceGoog message — an intent to introduce ‘more granular user controls’ — just means they’re piling even more responsibility onto individuals to proactively check (and keep checking) that their information is not being horribly abused.

This is a burden neither company can speak to in any other fashion. Because the solution is that their platforms not hoard people’s data in the first place.

The other ginormous elephant in the room is big tech’s massive size; which is itself skewing the market and far more besides.

Neither Zuckerberg nor Pichai directly addressed the notion of overly powerful platforms themselves causing structural societal harms, such as by eroding the civically minded institutions that are essential to defend free societies and indeed uphold the rule of law.

Of course it’s an awkward conversation topic for tech giants if vital institutions and societal norms are being undermined because of your cut-throat profiteering on the unregulated cyber seas.

A great tech fix to avoid answering awkward questions is to send a video message in your CEO’s stead. And/or a few minions. Facebook VP and chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, and Google’s SVP of global affairs Kent Walker, were duly dispatched and gave speeches in person.

They also had a handful of audience questions put to them by an on stage moderator. So it fell to Walker, not Pichai, to speak to Google’s contradictory involvement in China in light of its foundational claim to be a champion of the free flow of information.

“We absolutely believe in the maximum amount of information available to people around the world,” Walker said on that topic, after being allowed to intone on Google’s goodness for almost half an hour. “We have said that we are exploring the possibility of ways of engaging in China to see if there are ways to follow that mission while complying with laws in China.

“That’s an exploratory project — and we are not in a position at this point to have an answer to the question yet. But we continue to work.”

Egan, meanwhile, batted away her trio of audience concerns — about Facebook’s lack of privacy by design/default; and how the company could ever address ethical concerns without dramatically changing its business model — by saying it has a new privacy and data use team sitting horizontally across the business, as well as a data protection officer (an oversight role mandated by the EU’s GDPR; into which Facebook plugged its former global deputy chief privacy officer, Stephen Deadman, earlier this year).

She also said the company continues to invest in AI for content moderation purposes. So, essentially, more trust us. And trust our tech.

She also replied in the affirmative when asked whether Facebook will “unequivocally” support a strong federal privacy law in the US — with protections “equivalent” to those in Europe’s data protection framework.

But of course Zuckerberg has said much the same thing before — while simultaneously advocating for weaker privacy standards domestically. So who now really wants to take Facebook at its word on that? Or indeed on anything of human substance.

Not the EU parliament, for one. MEPs sitting in the parliament’s other building, in Strasbourg, this week adopted a resolution calling for Facebook to agree to an external audit by regional oversight bodies.

But of course Facebook prefers to run its own audit. And in a response statement the company claims it’s “working relentlessly to ensure the transparency, safety and security” of people who use its service (so bad luck if you’re one of those non-users it also tracks then). Which is a very long-winded way of saying ‘no, we’re not going to voluntarily let the inspectors in’.

Facebook’s problem now is that trust, once burnt, takes years and mountains’ worth of effort to restore.

This is the flip side of ‘move fast and break things’. (Indeed, one of the conference panels was entitled ‘move fast and fix things’.) It’s also the hard-to-shift legacy of an unapologetically blind ~decade-long dash for growth regardless of societal cost.

Given the, it looks unlikely that Zuckerberg’s attempt to paint a portrait of digital ethics in his company’s image will do much to restore trust in Facebook.

Not so long as the platform retains the power to cause damage at scale.

It was left to everyone else at the conference to discuss the hollowing out of democratic institutions, societal norms, humans interactions and so on — as a consequence of data (and market capital) being concentrated in the hands of the ridiculously powerful few.

“Today we face the gravest threat to our democracy, to our individual liberty in Europe since the war and the United States perhaps since the civil war,” said Barry Lynn, a former journalist and senior fellow at the Google-backed New America Foundation think tank in Washington, D.C., where he had directed the Open Markets Program — until it was shut down after he wrote critically about, er, Google.

“This threat is the consolidation of power — mainly by Google, Facebook and Amazon — over how we speak to one another, over how we do business with one another.”

Meanwhile the original architect of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, who has been warning about the crushing impact of platform power for years now is working on trying to decentralize the net’s data hoarders via new technologies intended to give users greater agency over their data.

On the democratic damage front, Lynn pointed to how news media is being hobbled by an adtech duopoly now sucking hundreds of billion of ad dollars out of the market annually — by renting out what he dubbed their “manipulation machines”.

Not only do they sell access to these ad targeting tools to mainstream advertisers — to sell the usual products, like soap and diapers — they’re also, he pointed out, taking dollars from “autocrats and would be autocrats and other social disruptors to spread propaganda and fake news to a variety of ends, none of them good”.

The platforms’ unhealthy market power is the result of a theft of people’s attention, argued Lynn. “We cannot have democracy if we don’t have a free and robustly funded press,” he warned.

His solution to the society-deforming might of platform power? Not a newfangled decentralization tech but something much older: Market restructuring via competition law.

“The basic problem is how we structure or how we have failed to structure markets in the last generation. How we have licensed or failed to license monopoly corporations to behave.

“In this case what we see here is this great mass of data. The problem is the combination of this great mass of data with monopoly power in the form of control over essential pathways to the market combined with a license to discriminate in the pricing and terms of service. That is the problem.”

“The result is to centralize,” he continued. “To pick and choose winners and losers. In other words the power to reward those who heed the will of the master, and to punish those who defy or question the master — in the hands of Google, Facebook and Amazon… That is destroying the rule of law in our society and is replacing rule of law with rule by power.”

For an example of an entity that’s currently being punished by Facebook’s grip on the social digital sphere you need look no further than Snapchat.

Also on the stage in person: Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, who didn’t mince his words either — attacking what he dubbed a “data industrial complex” which he said is “weaponizing” people’s person data against them for private profit.

The adtech modeus operandi sums to “surveillance”, Cook asserted.

Cook called this a “crisis”, painting a picture of technologies being applied in an ethics-free vacuum to “magnify our worst human tendencies… deepen divisions, incite violence and even undermine our shared sense of what is true and what is false” — by “taking advantage of user trust”.

“This crisis is real… And those of us who believe in technology’s potential for good must not shrink from this moment,” he warned, telling the assembled regulators that Apple is aligned with their civic mission.

Of course Cook’s position also aligns with Apple’s hardware-dominated business model — in which the company makes most of its money by selling premium priced, robustly encrypted devices, rather than monopolizing people’s attention to sell their eyeballs to advertisers.

The growing public and political alarm over how big data platforms stoke addiction and exploit people’s trust and information — and the idea that an overarching framework of not just laws but digital ethics might be needed to control this stuff — dovetails neatly with the alternative track that Apple has been pounding for years.

So for Cupertino it’s easy to argue that the ‘collect it all’ approach of data-hungry platforms is both lazy thinking and irresponsible engineering, as Cook did this week.

“For artificial intelligence to be truly smart it must respect human values — including privacy,” he said. “If we get this wrong, the dangers are profound. We can achieve both great artificial intelligence and great privacy standards. It is not only a possibility — it is a responsibility.”

Yet Apple is not only a hardware business. In recent years the company has been expanding and growing its services business. It even involves itself in (a degree of) digital advertising. And it does business in China.

It is, after all, still a for-profit business — not a human rights regulator. So we shouldn’t be looking to Apple to spec out a digital ethical framework for us, either.

No profit making entity should be used as the model for where the ethical line should lie.

Apple sets a far higher standard than other tech giants, certainly, even as its grip on the market is far more partial because it doesn’t give its stuff away for free. But it’s hardly perfect where privacy is concerned.

One inconvenient example for Apple is that it takes money from Google to make the company’s search engine the default for iOS users — even as it offers iOS users a choice of alternatives (if they go looking to switch) which includes pro-privacy search engine DuckDuckGo.

DDG is a veritable minnow vs Google, and Apple builds products for the consumer mainstream, so it is supporting privacy by putting a niche search engine alongside a behemoth like Google — as one of just four choices it offers.

But defaults are hugely powerful. So Google search being the iOS default means most of Apple’s mobile users will have their queries fed straight into Google’s surveillance database, even as Apple works hard to keep its own servers clear of user data by not collecting their stuff in the first place.

There is a contradiction there. So there is a risk for Apple in amping up its rhetoric against a “data industrial complex” — and making its naturally pro-privacy preference sound like a conviction principle — because it invites people to dial up critical lenses and point out where its defence of personal data against manipulation and exploitation does not live up to its own rhetoric.

One thing is clear: In the current data-based ecosystem all players are conflicted and compromised.

Though only a handful of tech giants have built unchallengeably massive tracking empires via the systematic exploitation of other people’s data.

And as the apparatus of their power gets exposed, these attention-hogging adtech giants are making a dumb show of papering over the myriad ways their platforms pound on people and societies — offering paper-thin promises to ‘do better next time — when ‘better’ is not even close to being enough.

Call for collective action

Increasingly powerful data-mining technologies must be sensitive to human rights and human impacts, that much is crystal clear. Nor is it enough to be reactive to problems after or even at the moment they arise. No engineer or system designer should feel it’s their job to manipulate and trick their fellow humans.

Dark pattern designs should be repurposed into a guidebook of what not to do and how not to transact online. (If you want a mission statement for thinking about this it really is simple: Just don’t be a dick.)

Sociotechnical Internet technologies must always be designed with people and societies in mind — a key point that was hammered home in a keynote by Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and the tech guy now trying to defang the Internet’s occupying corporate forces via decentralization.

“As we’re designing the system, we’re designing society,” he told the conference. “Ethical rules that we choose to put in that design [impact society]… Nothing is self evident. Everything has to be put out there as something that we think we will be a good idea as a component of our society.”

The penny looks to be dropping for privacy watchdogs in Europe. The idea that assessing fairness — not just legal compliance — must be a key component of their thinking, going forward, and so the direction of regulatory travel.

Watchdogs like the UK’s ICO — which just fined Facebook the maximum possible penalty for the Cambridge Analytica scandal — said so this week. “You have to do your homework as a company to think about fairness,” said Elizabeth Denham, when asked ‘who decides what’s fair’ in a data ethics context. “At the end of the day if you are working, providing services in Europe then the regulator’s going to have something to say about fairness — which we have in some cases.”

“Right now, we’re working with some Oxford academics on transparency and algorithmic decision making. We’re also working on our own tool as a regulator on how we are going to audit algorithms,” she added. “I think in Europe we’re leading the way — and I realize that’s not the legal requirement in the rest of the world but I believe that more and more companies are going to look to the high standard that is now in place with the GDPR.

“The answer to the question is ‘is this fair?’ It may be legal — but is this fair?”

So the short version is data controllers need to prepare themselves to consult widely — and examine their consciences closely.

Rising automation and AI makes ethical design choices even more imperative, as technologies become increasingly complex and intertwined, thanks to the massive amounts of data being captured, processed and used to model all sorts of human facets and functions.

The closed session of the conference produced a declaration on ethics and data in artificial intelligence — setting out a list of guiding principles to act as “core values to preserve human rights” in the developing AI era — which included concepts like fairness and responsible design.

Few would argue that a powerful AI-based technology such as facial recognition isn’t inherently in tension with a fundamental human right like privacy.

Nor that such powerful technologies aren’t at huge risk of being misused and abused to discriminate and/or suppress rights at vast and terrifying scale. (See, for example, China’s push to install a social credit system.)

Biometric ID systems might start out with claims of the very best intentions — only to shift function and impact later. The dangers to human rights of function creep on this front are very real indeed. And are already being felt in places like India — where the country’s Aadhaar biometric ID system has been accused of rebooting ancient prejudices by promoting a digital caste system, as the conference also heard.

The consensus from the event is it’s not only possible but vital to engineer ethics into system design from the start whenever you’re doing things with other people’s data. And that routes to market must be found that don’t require dispensing with a moral compass to get there.

The notion of data-processing platforms becoming information fiduciaries — i.e. having a legal duty of care towards their users, as a doctor or lawyer does — was floated several times during public discussions. Though such a step would likely require more legislation, not just adequately rigorous self examination.

In the meanwhile civic society must get to grips, and grapple proactively, with technologies like AI so that people and societies can come to collective agreement about a digital ethics framework. This is vital work to defend the things that matter to communities so that the anthropogenic platforms Berners-Lee referenced are shaped by collective human values, not the other way around.

It’s also essential that public debate about digital ethics does not get hijacked by corporate self interest.

Tech giants are not only inherently conflicted on the topic but — right across the board — they lack the internal diversity to offer a broad enough perspective.

People and civic society must teach them.

A vital closing contribution came from the French data watchdog’s Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, who summed up discussions that had taken place behind closed doors as the community of global data protection commissioners met to plot next steps.

She explained that members had adopted a roadmap for the future of the conference to evolve beyond a mere talking shop and take on a more visible, open governance structure — to allow it to be a vehicle for collective, international decision-making on ethical standards, and so alight on and adopt common positions and principles that can push tech in a human direction.

The initial declaration document on ethics and AI is intended to be just the start, she said — warning that “if we can’t act we will not be able to collectively control our future”, and couching ethics as “no longer an option, it is an obligation”.

She also said it’s essential that regulators get with the program and enforce current privacy laws — to “pave the way towards a digital ethics” — echoing calls from many speakers at the event for regulators to get on with the job of enforcement.

This is vital work to defend values and rights against the overreach of the digital here and now.

“Without ethics, without an adequate enforcement of our values and rules our societal models are at risk,” Falque-Pierrotin also warned. “We must act… because if we fail, there won’t be any winners. Not the people, nor the companies. And certainly not human rights and democracy.”

If the conference had one short sharp message it was this: Society must wake up to technology — and fast.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and a lot of discussion — across the boundaries of individuals, companies and governments,” agreed Berners-Lee. “But very important work.

“We have to get commitments from companies to make their platforms constructive and we have to get commitments from governments to look at whenever they see that a new technology allows people to be taken advantage of, allows a new form of crime to get onto it by producing new forms of the law. And to make sure that the policies that they do are thought about in respect to every new technology as they come out.”

This work is also an opportunity for civic society to define and reaffirm what’s important. So it’s not only about mitigating risks.

But, equally, not doing the job is unthinkable — because there’s no putting the AI genii back in the bottle.


Source: TechCrunch

The Venture Twins

Justine and Olivia Moore like to introduce themselves together, otherwise, it can be a little confusing.

They live together in an apartment in Menlo Park. They share clothes. They both wear Rothy’s sustainable ballet flats and are big fans of Glossier. Their desks are only inches apart, because yes, they work together too — and because they share a space heater.

The 24-year-old identical twins are venture investors at CRV, a Palo Alto-based venture capital firm they joined a little over a year ago. They call themselves The Venture Twins and they may just be the nearly 50-year-old firm’s secret weapon.

CRV hired Justine and Olivia to work under Saar Gur, a general partner responsible for leading deals in Bird, DoorDash, Patreon, Dropbox and ClassPass, in 2017. He was looking to expand CRV’s consumer team when he found Justine, a recent Stanford economics graduate who was finishing a year-long stint at Goldman Sachs.

It wasn’t long before Justine’s references were urging Saar to hire her twin sister, too. “They are such a good team;” “You should hire both of them;” “They work great together,” they’d tell him.

The Portland natives have an impressive resume. At Stanford, they launched Cardinal Ventures, a first-of-its-kind on-campus startup incubator. Plus, one might say they were bred for venture capital. Their mother, Darcy Moore, was also a VC. She retired when they were just five years old, but the pair remember walking into pitch meetings and observing demo days before starting kindergarten.

“The cool thing to say is ‘oh, I never wanted to be in venture; I stumbled into it,’ but we have always wanted to be in venture,” Justine told TechCrunch. 

Breaking in

Despite long-held ambitions to become venture capitalists, Justine and Olivia enrolled at Stanford in 2012 to study journalism. After some time on The Stanford Daily covering the entrepreneurship beat, they realized journalism wasn’t going to quench their thirst for innovation.

Their junior year, they created Cardinal Ventures. The program gives two cohorts of 12 to 20 startups per year $5,000 in non-dilutive capital and supports them with 10 weeks of mentorship and programming. For the twins, Cardinal granted them access to some of Silicon Valley’s best investors.

Justine (left) and her twin sister Olivia are venture investors at CRV.

By their senior year, they were fielding internship offers from those top-notch VCs. Olivia accepted an internship at First Round Capital, while Justine went to work at Cowboy Ventures. After graduation, they both went to work as analysts at Goldman.

After one year on the public equities team for Olivia and the private equities team for Justine, the twins were ready to transition into venture for good. They had met with CRV’s partners during their Cardinal Ventures days and felt the opportunity to work with Gur on consumer tech investing was something they couldn’t pass up. That, and the firm was willing to give them the freedom they needed to build their personal brand.

Building a brand

In addition to their Twitter account, @VentureTwins, and a very active Medium page, Justine and Olivia have a weekly newsletter called Accelerated that’s racked up some 5,200 subscribers since it launched one year ago.

The newsletter is written for college students. It provides the week’s biggest news in tech, notable internship and job openings, recommended reads and surveys on industry topics and trends for readers to complete.

We are from Oregon and we weren’t engineering majors, so I think the problem we had and part of the reason we went to Goldman was because it’s really hard if you aren’t from here to understand how it works,” Justine said. “Our full-time job is keeping up to date on Silicon Valley, what the hot trends are, who’s hiring, so we decided, why don’t we spend a couple of hours a week creating a newsletter that is the resource we wish we had when we were in college.”

Accelerated has a team of 120 campus ambassadors who Justine and Olivia can text at any time to ask about various topics. “Do you like this company?” “Have you ever heard of this product?” Things like that. So far, the Accelerated network has helped the twins source five potential deals, two of which became CRV portfolio companies. That’s Harper Wilde, a direct-to-consumer bra retailer, and Uppercase, which helps D2C companies open brick-and-mortar stores.

“I think we really underestimated what it would be,” Olivia said. “But being in someone’s inbox every week is this really fun and cool connection.”

CRV isn’t known for its D2C investments; in fact, Harper Wilde was its first ever. With their instincts, youth and network, the twins have quickly proved their value to the firm.

Better together

At this point, you’re probably wondering how two 24-year-old siblings can live and work together and not want to kill each other. And it may sound too cutesy and convenient, but they think they’re better together.

“Honestly, we’ve gotten closer over time,” Olivia said. “Going to Stanford together and as we’ve moved into the professional world, we’ve found we are able to communicate really effectively as a team and get things done because there is less worry about stepping on toes or hurting someone else’s feelings.”

The twins plan to stick together, though it’s not necessarily a requirement. For now, they’ll be keeping their residence in Menlo Park, where they have the space to dog-sit former 23andMe president Andy Page’s Bernedoodle.

In 20 years, who knows, maybe Justine and Olivia will be known as some of the greatest consumer VCs the industry has ever seen. They are smart, refreshingly modest and they seem to know their stuff.

“We’d love to be doing this in the long term if we’re good at it,” Justine said.

Olivia agreed.


Source: TechCrunch

iPhone XR: Here’s how we broke the camera – CNET

We dropped a brand-new iPhone XR on the sidewalk to find out just how tough this phone is compared to the more expensive iPhone XS and yes, we broke the camera.
Source: CNET

Longest-ever World Series game smashes some home-run memes – CNET

The 18-inning, seven-hour monstrosity that was Dodgers-Red Sox Game 3 just went on and on and on and on…
Source: CNET

Should cash-strapped Snapchat sell out? To Netflix?

Snapchat needs a sugar daddy. Its cash reserves dwindling from giant quarterly losses. Poor morale from a battered share price and cost-cutting measures sap momentum. And intense competition from Facebook is preventing rapid growth. With just $1.4 billion in assets remaining at the end of a brutal Q3 2018 and analysts estimating it will lose $1.5 billion in 2019 alone, Snapchat could run out of money well before it’s projected to break even in 2020 or 2021.

So what are Snap’s options?

A long and lonely road

Snap’s big hope is to show a business turnaround story like Twitter, which saw its stock jump 14 percent this week despite losing monthly active users by deepening daily user engagement and producing profits. But without some change that massively increases daily time spent while reducing costs, it could take years for Snap to reach profitability. The company has already laid off 120 employees in March, or 7 percent of its workforce. And 40 percent of the remaining 3,000 employees plan to leave — up 11 percentage points from Q1 2018 according to internal survey data attained by Cheddar’s Alex Heath.

Snapchat is relying on the Project Mushroom engineering overhaul of its Android app to speed up performance, and thereby accelerate user growth and retention. Snap neglected the developing world’s Android market for years as it focused on iPhone-toting US teens. Given Snapchat is all about quick videos, slow load times made it nearly unusable, especially in markets with slower network connections and older phones.

Looking at the competitive landscape, WhatsApp’s Snapchat Stories clone Status has grown to 450 million daily users while Instagram Stories has reached 400 million dailies — much of that coming in the developing world, thereby blocking Snap’s growth abroad as I predicted when Insta Stories launched. Snap actually lost 3 million daily users in Q2 2018. Snap Map hasn’t become ubiquitous, Snap’s Original Shows still aren’t premium enough to drag in tons of new users, Discover is a clickbait-overloaded mess, and Instagram has already copied the best parts of its ephemeral messaging.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 09: Evan Spiegel of Snapchat attends TechCruch Disrupt SF 2013 at San Francisco Design Center on September 9, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

As BTIG’s Rich Greenfield points out, CEO Evan Spiegel claims Snapchat is the fastest way to communicate, but it’s not for text messaging, and the default that chats disappear makes it unreliable of utilitarian chat. And if WhatsApp were to add an ephemeral messaging feature of its own, growth for Snapchat could get even tougher. Snap will have to hope it can hold on to its existing users and squeeze more cash out of them to keep reducing losses.

All those product missteps and and market neglect have metastasized into a serious growth problem for Snapchat. It lost another 2 million users this quarter, and expects to sink further in Q4. Even with the Android rebuild, Spiegel’s assurances for renewed user growth in 2019 seem spurious. That means it’s highly unlikely that Snapchat will achieve Speigel’s goal of hitting profitability in 2019. It needs either an investor or acquirer to come to its aid.

A bailout check

Snap could sell more equity to raise money. $500 million to $1 billion would probably give it the runway necessary to get into the black. But from where? With all the scrutiny on Saudi Arabia, Snap might avoid taking money from the kingdom. Saudi’s Prince Al-Waleed Talal already invested $250 million to buy 2.5 percent of Snap on the open market.

Snap’s best bet might be to take more money from Chinese internet giant Tencent. The massive corporation already spent around $2 billion to buy a 12 percent stake in Snap from the open market. The WeChat owner has plenty of synergies with Snapchat, especially since it runs a massive gaming business and Snap is planning to launch a third-party developer gaming platform.

Tencent could still be a potential acquirer for Snap, but given President Trump’s trade war with China, he might push regulators to block a sale. The state of American social networks like Twitter and Facebook that are under siege by foreign election interference, trolls, and hackers might make the US government understandably concerned about a Chinese giant owning one of the top teen apps.

Regardless of who would invest, they’d likely demand real voting rights — something Snap has denied investors through a governance structure. Spiegel and his co-founder Bobby Murphy both get 10 votes per share. That’s estimated to amount to 89 percent of the voting rights. Shares issued in the IPO came with zero voting rights.

Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, developers of Snapchat (Photo by J. Emilio Flores/Corbis via Getty Images)

But that surely wouldn’t sit well with any investor willing to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the beleaguered company. Spiegel has taken responsibility for pushing the disastrous redesign early this year that coincided with a significant drop in its download rank. It also inspired a tweet from mega-celebrity Kylie Jenner bashing the app that shaved $1.3 billion off the company’s market cap.

Between the redesign flop, stagnant product innovation, and Spiegel laughing off Facebook’s competition only to be crushed by it, the CEO no longer has the sterling reputation that allowed him to secure total voting control for the co-founders. That means investors will want assurance that if they inject a ton of cash, they’ll have some recourse if Spiegel mismanages it. He may need to swallow his pride, issue voting shares, and commit to milestones he’s required to hit to retain his role as chief executive.

A Soft Landing Somewhere Else

Snap could alternatively surrender as an independent company and be acquired by a deep-pocketed tech giant. Without having to worry about finances or short-term goals, Snap could invest in improving its features and app performance for the long-term. Social networks are tough to kill entirely, so despite competition, Snap could become lucrative if aided through this rough spot.

Combine that with the $637 million bonus Spiegel got for taking Snap public, and he has little financial incentive or shareholder pressure compelling him to sell. Even if the company was bleeding out much worse than it is already, Spiegel could ride it into the ground.

Again, the biggest barrier to this path is Spiegel. Combine totalitarian voting control with the $637 million bonus Spiegel got for taking Snap public, and he has little financial incentive or shareholder pressure compelling him to sell. Even if the company was bleeding out much worse than it is already, Spiegel could ride it into the ground. The only way to get a deal done might be to make Spiegel perceive it as a win.

Selling to Disney could be spun as a such. It hasn’t really figured out mobile amidst distraction from super heroes and Star Wars. Its core tween audience are addicted to YouTube and Snap even if they shouldn’t be on them. They’re both LA companies. And Disney already ponied up $350 million to buy kids desktop social networking game Club Penguin. Becoming head of mobile or something like that for the most iconic entertainment company ever could a vaulted-enough position to entice Spiegel. I could see him being a Disney CEO candidate one day.

What about walking in the footsteps of Steve Jobs? Apple isn’t social. It failed so badly with efforts like its Ping music listeners network that it’s basically abdicated the whole market. iMessage and its cutesy Animoji are its only stakes. Meanwhile, it’s getting tougher and tougher to differentiate with mobile hardware. Each new iPhone seems closer to the last. Apple has resorted to questionable decisions like ditching the oft-missed headphone jack and reliable TouchID to keep the industrial design in flux.

Increasingly, Apple must rely on its iOS software to compete for customers with Android headsets. But you know who’s great at making interesting software? Snapchat. You know who has a great relationship with the next generation of phone owners? Snapchat. And do you know whose CEO could probably smile earnestly beside Tim Cook announcing a brighter future for social media unlocked by two privacy-focused companies joining forces? Snapchat. Plus, think of all the fun Snapple jokes?

There’s a chance to take revenge on Facebook if Snapchat wanted to team up with Mark Zuckerberg’s old arch nemesis Google . After Zuck declared “Carthage must be destroyed”, Google+ flopped and its messaging apps became a fragmented mess. Alphabet has since leaned away from social networking. Of course it still has the juggernaut that is YouTube — a perennial teen favorite alongside Snapchat and Instagram. And it’s got the perfect complement to Snap’s ephemerality in the form of Google Photos, the best-in-class permanent photo archiving tool. With the consume side of Google+ shutting down after accidentally exposing user data, Google still lacks a traditional social network where being a friend comes before being a fan.

What Google does have is a reputation for delivering the future. From Waymo’s self-driving cars to Calico’s plan to make you live forever, Google is an inventive place where big ideas come to fruition. Spiegel could frame Google as aligned with its philosophy of creating new ways to organize and consume information that adapt to human behavior. He surely wouldn’t mind being lumped in with Internet visionaries like Larry Page and Sergei Brin. Google’s Android expertise could reinvigorate Snap in emerging markets. And together they could take a stronger swing at Facebook.

But there are problems with all of these options. Buying Snap would be a massive bet for Disney, and Snap’s lingering bad rap as a sexting app might dissuade Mickey Mouse’s overlords. Apple rarely buys such late-stage public companies. CEO Tim Cook has been able to take the moral high ground because Apple makes its money from hardware rather than off of  personal info through ad targeting. If Apple owned Snap, it’d be in the data exploitation business just like everyone else.

And Google’s existing dominance in software might draw the attention of regulators. The prevailing sentiment is that it was a massive mistake to let Facebook acquire Instagram and WhatsApp, as it centralized power and created a social empire. With Google already owning YouTube, the government might see problems with it buying one of the other most popular teen apps.

That’s why I think Netflix could be a great acquirer for Snap. They’re both video entertainment companies at the vanguard of cultural relevance, yet have no overlap in products. Netflix already showed its appreciation for Snapchat’s innovation by adopting a Stories-like vertical video clip format for discovering and previewing what you could watch. The two could partner to promote Netflix Originals and subscriptions inside of Snapchat. Netflix could teach Snap how to win at exclusive content while gaining a place to distribute video that’s under 20 minutes long.

With a $130 billion market cap, Netflix could certainly afford it. Though since Netflix already has $6 billion in debt from financing Originals, it would have to either sell more debt or issue Netflix shares to Snapchat’s owners. But given Netflix’s high-flying performance, massive market share, and cultural primacy, the big question is whether Snap would drag it down.

So how much would it potentially cost? Snap’s market cap is hovering around $8.8 billion with a $6.28 share price. That’s around its all-time low and just over a quarter of its IPO pop share price high. Acquiring Snap would surely require paying a premium above the market cap. Remember, Google already reportedly offered to acquire Snap for $30 billion prior to its final funding round and IPO. But that was before Snap’s growth rate sunk and it started losing the Stories War to Facebook. A much smaller offer could look a lot prettier now.

Social networks are hard to kill. If Snap can cut costs, fix its product, improve revenue per users, and score some outside investment, it could survive and slowly climb. If Twitter is any indication, aging social networks can reflower into lucrative businesses given enough time and product care. But if Snapchat wants to play in the big leagues and continue having a major influence on the mobile future, it may have to snap out of the idea that it can win on its own.


Source: TechCrunch

Here are 25 of the most innovative new projects using tech to help refugees and NGOs

From humble beginnings as a simple Facebook group I posted in September 2015, Techfugees has come a long way. It was conceived as a vehicle to enthuse technologists about the plight of refugees by waking them up to the idea that their innovation, startup mentality and design-led thinking could potentially bring new, scalable new solutions to the plight of displaced people. Today, Techfugees is an international non-profit with its own CEO, Joséphine Goube and a team based between London and Paris. Not bad for a handful of posts on social media…

What’s fascinating about the project as it’s developed is that, at the time, it was considered quite radical, perhaps even odd, to bring tech people into the equation. But simply watching the footage of refugees clutching smartphones as they fled war-torn regions and natural disasters made the tech world realize it can be part of the solution to many of the seemingly intractable problems refugees face.

Techfugees has grown into a community of around 18,000 innovators all over the world, supporting by way of their own projects or companies, via social media and taking part in hundreds of dedicated events around the world. This includes more than 30 hackathons and an annual Global Summit, the second of which happened over the last two days in Paris. The Summit had over 500 participants, such as social entrepreneurs, engineers, designers, humanitarians, policymakers, researchers or impact investors, a large number of whom who have a refugee background. Speakers discussed and debate the different uses of technology for displaced people during the time of migration until arrival to their new host societies.

The impact of climate change will cause the migration of 143 million people by 2050

This year’s program looked at four main topics: Access to Rights and Information; Data Ethics; Social Inclusion; and Climate Migration. The last issue is now of even greater urgency in 2018. According to a study by the World Bank published earlier this year, the impact of climate change will cause the migration of 143 million people by 2050, bringing with it looming humanitarian challenges.

Just like at your typical tech startup conference, Techfugees has a similar programme: The Techfugees Global Challenges Competition. This showcases projects responding to the needs of displaced populations and building technological products or services for them, based on Techfugees’ 8 guiding principles and addressing one of Techfugees’ five focus area: access to rights and information, health, education, employment and social inclusion. The applications went through an international Jury of experts who selected the 25 finalists from hundreds of applications, from 52 countries across the world, which pitched their project in front of an international Jury and Summit attendees.

The 5 winners (described in their own words) were:

Integreat (Germany)

“Integreat is an information app and website tailored to the specific needs of both newcomers as the users of the app and municipal administrations as the content providers. It’s a mobile guide for newcomers. Multilingual. Offline. Free. Can we provide the people arriving in our city with all relevant information in their native language as quickly as possible? Even without internet access and without confusing red tape? The result is an app called Integreat which passes on all relevant information in multiple languages to the newcomers. It is a holistic service ecosystem for cities, districts and organizations for the integration of people with a flight or migration background.”

Shifra
Australia / USA
“Shifra is not only a life-saving mHealth intervention, it is also a research project which aims to explore the social, cultural and geographic barriers to quality healthcare access many refugees experience, as cited by the refugees themselves. The Shifra web app is designed to improve access to quality sexual and reproductive health care. It provides local, evidence-based health information in multiple languages for communities with varying levels of language and health literacy. Shifra also directs users to trusted clinics where they can access respectful and safe care. We work with local health networks to improve their existing services based on the self-identified health needs found in Shifra’s anonymous user trend data.”

Antura and the Letters
(Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt)
“Antura and the Letters is an engaging mobile game that helps Syrian children learn how to read in Arabic and improve their psychosocial well-being. Considering that most refugees have old smartphones and connectivity is always a challenge for them, the game runs on old devices (from 2010/2011), it’s very small to download (less than 80Mb on Android) and it does not require internet connection. Antura and the Letters is completely free and open source… and it has been designed in order to be easily adaptable to other languages! That’s exactly what we want to do next with the goal to reach and help as many children as possible around the world.”

TaQadam
(Lebanon)
“In the era of machine learning and artificial intelligence, the data workers and annotators are the new programmers. From robots, drones, self-driving cars or e-commerce, the markets need for vision technology for artificial intelligence is extraordinary. One of the major building blocks of such AI-powered recognition systems is image annotation delivered with a human input – data training. Today’s data is driving tomorrow’s AI products. To be competitive in AI, innovation depends on having data-edge often more than a technology-edge, but 80% of data engineers’ time is spent on sourcing and preparing quality image data for AI models. TaQadam optimizes image annotation for data-driven companies with visual AI and delivers on-demand, vertical-specific, high-quality image annotation. With an API and a cloud architecture, we ensure a simple and secure way to build image data set with a high accuracy and precision, while simplifying the process of sourcing human insights from dedicated and trained teams of TaQadam. TaQadam is a unique service on the market that brings a specialized on use case teams that are building AI together with the client. With gamification and mobile accessible work on TaQadam Android App, we transform the experience of annotation to fit the younger generations. We create work of the future: accessible, flexible, allowing fluidity, community building and fun.”

Refugees Are
(Worldwide)
“Refugees Are map the public opinion around refugees in the news by:
1- Extracting daily news related to refugees from GDELT (open source news dataset)
2- Extracting location from the article
3- Applying sentiment analysis to classify it as positive, negative or neutral article
4- Extracting topics related to refugees using LSA (Latent Semantic Analysis)
5- Extracting most common words occurring with refugees
6- Visualizing it in an easy way for the public to understand
7- Let the public help identify negative news around refugees”


And finally The Mohajer App won a special jury prize for its outstanding work assisting Afghan refugees in Iran in incredibly difficult circumstances:

The Mohajer App
Android / IOS
Iran, US, Canada and UK
“The Mohajer App was created with the support of Afghan communities inside Iran to address their needs. The app was completed with a group of paid and voluntary refugee-rights attorneys, advocates and technologists. Mohajer has two features: – The “Get Informed” section provides information for users concerning Iran’s immigration policy, the rights of Afghans in Iran, and resources that are available for concerns such as health, education, combatting from discrimination and more; the list continues to expand as users share their needs. The section also provides a list of support groups that our team has verified directly. The “Submit Report” feature enables users to share their everyday experiences as Afghans in Iran and support the larger community in addressing challenges by sharing information on events and experiences. The information on the app is also accessible offline, so as to support those without regular internet access.”

Here’s a run down of the rest of the 25 that pitched, in their own words:

Challenge #1 – Access to rights & information

TikkTalk (Norway)
“Tikk Talk is an open marketplace for interpretation services for everyone who is in need for interpretation assistance. So far the platform handles 80% of all assignments automatically, limiting the overhead costs which traditional agencies have. The platform also gives all parties full transparency which empowers them to make better decisions. Because of the tech, interpreters are in the forefront deciding on their wage and which assignments they would like to take. Before, Helse Førde (Hospital partner) switched to TikkTalk they only received 24% qualified interpreters now they receive 99% qualified interpreters.”

Refugee Info Bus
(United Kingdom, France, Greece)

“Refugee Info Bus’s mission is simple. Operating at the frontlines of Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis, we provide good quality multilingual legal information and free Wifi to refugees on the move in, or having just arrived, in Northern France and in Greece. Our first Refugee Info Bus began life as an old horsebox, purchased, stripped-out, cleaned-up, and converted into a mobile office and Wi-Fi hotspot for refugees and asylum seekers living in northern France. Within a year, we facilitated over 91,000 Wi-Fi logins and delivered more than 1,000 workshops to 50,000+ individuals on the UK and French asylum systems.”

Refugee.Info
(Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia

“In mid-2016, Refugee.Info pivoted to focus on social media to better serve the needs and preferences of users, which had drastically changed after borders closed in Europe in March of that year. Refugee.info hired local journalists to obtain and verify news and other up-to-date information about the context, as well as content professionals to optimize the information for social media, applying private sector content marketing principles to increase ROI. Now, refugees in Greece, Italy and the Balkans can message the page and receive a quick answer from a moderator who will work with the journalists and lawyers to provide accurate information, often sourced from their website or blog.”

Challenge #2 – Health

Connect 2 Drs
Mexico
The platform of Connect2Drs was initially built to strive the private sector as a target market, and it still is. However, with the injustice and lack of a good health insurance for mexicans – deported or refugees – people with disabilities and people who need medical attention at home with palliatives became their main goal.

Doctor-X
Jordan
“Doctor-X is a multi-language medical history mobile application and website with, for each refugee, a private account that the doctor can update when he does an operation on the refugee, in the language the doctor speaks. The program will make it available in 5 languages in case the refugee goes to a new country and needs medical help.”

Iryo
Jordan
“Until now, medical workers in camps used Excel spreadsheets to make notes about patients. On top of that, medical workforce turnover is high, bringing additional confusion and inconsistency to Excel records. Iryo enables accurate medical history recording. Because data storage is decentralized with a copy on a local server, a second one on the patients mobile phone and a third one in the Iryo cloud, even if a patient arrives at a new refugee camp where the Iryo system is already in place, the doctor there will be able to access the patient’s record.”

MedShr
UK/Worldwide
“MedShr has been developed to enable doctors and healthcare professionals to share and discuss clinical cases for peer-to-peer learning and medical education. It is a private, professional, verified network for clinical case discussion between medical professionals. No patient information is visible, all cases are anonymous and members can use the mobile app to get consent from patients to share images. Beyond that, all images and media are securely cloud stored with no images stored on the user’s device. Importantly, MedShr members are also able determine who can see and discuss their cases.”

Challenge #3 – Education

edSeed
(United States, Gaza, Lebanon)
“Edseed is about narrating stories of youth and bringing them closer to donors in the USA; participating in networking; and building a network for higher education of refugees to address policy issues, mentor students.”

Paper Airplanes
(United States / Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, KSA, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine)
“Paper Airplanes (PA) is a nonprofit that uses video conferencing technology to provide free, peer-to-peer language and professional skills instruction to young adults and teens affected by conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. PA works to support these individuals to pursue their educational and employment goals and ultimately rebuild their lives. PA teaches English and Turkish to youth and adults, journalism to citizen journalists, and beginners’ coding skills to women. By using virtual communication technology to provide live instruction, PA is able to reach internally displaced and refugee youth as well as underserved populations who may be otherwise difficult to reach, including those inside Syria (approximately 50% of our students), young women and girls, and individuals in rural areas across the MENA region. Additionally, PA supplies computer tablets for select Youth Exchange Program participant recipients and scholarships to defray the cost of the IELTS and TOEFL exams for qualified PA graduates.”

Power.Coders
(Switzerland)
“Powercoders’ solution is to offer intensive computer programming classes to refugees over a three month period and then place them in an IT internship. As a result of the comprehensive training and subsequent placement, within a little less than a year our refugee graduates are exponentially better positioned to find and keep an IT job in Switzerland, and many do just that. The program is fully customized to address the challenges and issues that refugees may face when trying to integrate professionally and the courses enjoy an almost 100% internship placement success rate and subsequent 80% integration rate.”

RefgueeEd.Hub
(Greece)
RefugeeEd.Hub is an open source online database that promotes promising practice in refugee education globally. RefugeeEd.Hub aims to raise the quality of education for refugees and displaced people by generating knowledge and fostering collaboration among global and local stakeholders working to provide education to refugees. RefugeeEd.Hub will support education innovators, multilateral institutions, global development actors, education funders and government and policymakers to inform practice on the ground.

Challenge #4 – Employment
Bitae Technologies
(United States, Jordan)

“Bitae Technologies aims to help global, mobile talent, like refugees and migrants, carry their skills and experience with them in a secure, verified digital CV, addressing the lack of access to formal education and employment faced by refugees and other vulnerable populations. Bitae transforms non-formal learning and achievements into opportunities for refugees. We provide a platform to track, store and verify refugees’ non-formal learning and skills, creating a “digital backpack” of classes, workshops, internships and skills that together, can help a refugee move forward with education and employment. Bitae leverages mobile and blockchain technology to ensure that governments, international organizations, NGOs, educational institutions and employers are able to document non-formal learning and skills in the most inclusive, secure and transparent way. The Digital Backpack focuses on four key functions: creating badges and verifying skills, requesting and sending references, skills matching and skills assessment. Using existing tools, the platform makes it possible to create blockchain-backed credential badges that can be stored and shared.”

Human in the loop
Bulgaria – 2017
“Human in the Loop is a social enterprise which employs and trains refugees to provide image annotation services to computer vision companies. It is a niche market that currently requires manual human input in order to train ML models to recognize images in a way that a human would, and Human in the Loop is part of a growing community of “impact sourcing” enterprises that is dedicated to providing employment to vulnerable groups in this sector. The opportunity they are seizing is that image annotation is a very accessible type of labor that does not require previous education or professional skills, but which can open the door to more advanced tech jobs and freelancing skills, which are especially useful for migrants. In this way, they are empowering refugees to earn a living in a dignified way and gain skills, and they are turning them in “digital nomads” who are able to make use of the opportunities that remote digital work provides to people who are on the move. Human in the Loop works as an outsourcing business with B2B sales. Their clients are companies from the computer vision, self-driving cars, drones, and satellite imager industry, which are training machine learning models.”

Rafiqi
(United Kingdom, Germany, Jordan)
“Rafiqi is a matching tool that leverages artificial intelligence to connect refugees in real-time and in a customized way to the opportunities that are the most suitable to his/her profile and that would lead to lifelong employment. Currently, there is no single platform where resettled refugees can access and filter the wide range of opportunities available to them, including jobs, trainings, mentorships and degrees, and where any organization (company/NGO/university) can seamlessly access and filter refugee talent. Refugees lack of knowledge of opportunities and of the right opportunities is resulting in them being unemployed or being overqualified for what they are actually doing. Despite the existence of some refugee to jobs matching programs supported by governments and NGOs in countries like Germany and the Netherlands, these matchings remain largely manual and limited in terms of intelligence. These matching efforts cannot scale well given the high number of refugees and the diversity of their profiles, as well as the diversity of opportunities available to them.”

Transformify Rebuild Lives Program
(Worldwide / EU, Iraq)
“The Rebuild Lives Program by Transformify exists to provide access to jobs and secure payment to displaced people as well as access to targeted eLearning to improve their skills by using recruitment CRM leveraging HR-tech, fintech and AI to connect refugees with employers and provide access to secure payment even if the refugees have no permanent address or a bank account.”

Challenge #5 – Social inclusion

PLACE
(France, Germany, United Kingdom)
“PLACE runs Innovation Labs for migrants and refugees in Europe. These labs transform the people from migrants and refugees into Innovators – creators of solutions for European societies. The labs are 1 to 3-day immersive experiences that apply design thinking methodology to enable Innovators to identify problems, understand their users, develop solutions and then rapidly test and prototype these solutions with a diverse community of local stakeholders. Beyond the Labs, the Innovators have the opportunity to develop their projects through the network of the PLACE collective – actors in the private, public and civil society that see the value of diversity in migrant-led innovation and who want to be a part of it. In addition to innovative solutions, the labs also produce a new leadership model for Europe. Innovators who demonstrate motivation and willingness to take on a role as a leader in migrant-led innovation are trained to be PLACE Catalysts. The Catalysts are trained in interculturality, sourcing, public speaking, networking and lab facilitation. They are then given the opportunity to apply these learnings as facilitators in Labs throughout Europe.”

Register of Pledges
(Ireland)
“The Register of Pledges project workstream are: Humanitarian Database of Pledges (Accommodation, Goods and Services) administered by Red Cross with back-office capabilities for pledge management and workflow and reporting capabilities; Open-source version of the technology is available on Github, a humanitarian data capture system with APIs and a translation interface; Evolve and open-source our Case Management System, to optimize Service User outcomes.”

SchoolX
(UK/Turkey)
“SchoolX envision a shared economy model with volunteer teachers which include university students, educated refugees, retired teachers and other local volunteers, who will teach refugee students. Due to the challenge of limited access to education that these displaced people face, our solution is to recruit teachers within the refugee community and local community, and connect them with refugee students who are eager to learn. The talents of these teachers are then harnessed to deliver rigorous and certified education to the students. Through this, volunteers, including refugee teachers, will also receive an allowance for their efforts as well. The solution, in a form of an online platform, will provide training packages that involve not only fundamental tenets of teaching, but also pedagogical and psycho-social training for the volunteers to prepare them to approach refugee children in the most appropriate and empowering manner, The online platform will also serve as a database which will be utilized to match teachers and students based on their needs, skills, availability, and geographical proximity in order to arrange flexible, face-to-face lessons.”

SPEAK
(Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany)
SPEAK is a crowdsourced language and culture exchange network, based on an Online2Offline model. All processes are managed online, through a platform developed in-house, while the learning and sharing experience happens offline, allowing participants to establish a close relationship with one another. This model ensures a greater efficiency and minimization of fixed costs, allowing SPEAK to be sustainable at scale while charging only a symbolic fee for its program. SPEAK empowers its participants by expanding their language and cultural skills, all the while becoming part of mutual support networks. Through a language and culture exchange, SPEAK connects migrants, refugees and locals living in the same city. In creating bridges between migrants and locals, members often help each other with job offers or renting their first house in a new city thanks to the power of SPEAK communities. These networks are home to a multicultural community, based on equality and where cultural heritage is validated. In other words, SPEAK’s networks nurture unity in diversity.
SPEAK’s volunteer Buddy system empowers anyone with the willingness to share their language and culture, allowing for an “everyone a changemaker” attitude, which encourages an even greater participation in local public life. he sustainability of the initiative relies on the community and willingness to promote SPEAK’s values of an integrated and inclusive society.”


Source: TechCrunch

Author Richard K. Morgan Wants to Destroy Your Mars Fantasies

When it comes to colonization, Richard K. Morgan is much more realistic than most in the genre.
Source: Wired

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