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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ director Peyton Reed on following ‘Infinity War’

If you watch Ant-Man and the Wasp hoping for clues to the aftermath of Avengers: Infinity War, you’ll probably be disappointed: Although the just-released film coming out a few months after Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp actually takes place earlier, and it’s focused almost entirely on the personal struggles of its heroes.

In fact, after Infinity War, there was at least one article wondering, “How the hell are we supposed to care about Ant-Man and the Wasp now?” In other words, after you’ve watched armies of Marvel heroes battling for the fate of the universe, how can you care about an adventure that takes place earlier, with a mere two superheroes?

Peyton Reed, director of both Ant-Man films, told me he wasn’t worried about the stakes feeling too low. There’s some precendent, after all, with Ant-Man came out a few months after Avengers: Age of Ultron.

“That really is part of the Ant-Man movies — the stakes are really high … they’re just personal stakes,” Reed said. “You know it’s not a gigantic, genocidal villain like Infinity War. On that level, we don’t want to top Thanos.”

Instead, Reed said these films have “very different storytelling ambitions,” and in fact his hope is that they have “the most personal tone” of the Marvel films.

Ant Man and the Wasp

At the same time, it’s also a sequel, and the 20th (!) film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Asked how he approaches the audience when you’re this deep into a mega-franchise, Reed said, “I really just use myself the moviegoer, as a litmus test in terms of what they have and haven’t seen. [At] Marvel, no one wants to repeat themselves, no one wants to bore an audience.”

One of the big changes from the first Ant-Man is right there in the title: Hope van Dyne (played by Evangeline Lilly) is no longer just assisting her father Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Instead, she’s putting on her own costume, fighting crime directly and searching for her long-lost mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer). In many ways, Hope proves to be a more competent superhero than Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who took on the mantle of Ant-Man in the previous film.

Rather remarkably, this is the first time a female superhero has made it into the title of a Marvel Cinematic Universe film (Marvel characters like Black Widow and Gamora have thus far been limited to team movies, or appeared as supporting characters in someone else’s story). Reed said even while he was developing Ant-Man, there was already a plan to have Hope step up in the second film — partly because, thanks to the comics, he’d always thought of the characters as a duo.

“It also felt like the organic way to forward these characters from the first movie,” he said. “We knew Hope van Dyne was very capable, but was being held back from that by her issues with her father. Now that the issues between them are resolved, we can create a really fully-formed hero.”

The sequel also provided more of an opportunity to explore the the sub-microscopic “quantum realm” introduced in Ant-Man. The setting may feel pretty out-there, but Reed said he worked with the film’s technical consultant Spyridon Michalakis (a quantum physicist at Caltech) to try to get the science right.

Ant Man and the Wasp

“We don’t want to give the audience a headache — but 20, 30, 50 years form now, we don’t want people to say, ‘Oh man, that was way off, that has no bearing on reality,’” Reed said.

As an example, he pointed to the film’s treatment of quantum entanglement as a way to incorporate a real scientific concept while introducing it in a way that’s funny and character-driven.

Ant-Man and the Wasp also takes better advantage of real San Francisco locations like Lombard Street — Reed noted that while the first film took place in SF, much of the action was limited to Hank Pym’s house. This time around, he wanted to “open up and be in actual San Francisco,” which created its own challenges, particularly since the new movie is also playing with Scott’s ability to both shrink and increase his size.

“Shooting in daylight, exterior San Francisco, you had to believe that Giant Man was really there,” Reed said. “That was probably the biggest overall challenge — we’d done a shrinking movie already, so we played with variable size while trying to keep it photo realistic.”

While Reed’s found new success with superheroes, I also wondered if he ever worries that Marvel and Marvel-style blockbusters are crowding out the studio comedies that he made his name with, like Bring It On and Down With Love. Reed countered that this was an issue “long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” with studios either wanting to make “low, low budget movies” or giant blockbusters.

“I don’t think it any tougher now,” he said. “Honestly, in some ways it’s a bit easier, because not only studios but people like Netflix are financing comedies and stuff like that. I guess what I’m saying is: It’s always been tough.”

Source: TechCrunch

There’s a new, $100 million fund expressly for women founders of color

When Richelieu Dennis came to the U.S. from his home in Liberia to attend Babson College, he wasn’t expecting to stay. But unable to return home owing to the first Liberian civil war, stay he did, building the personal care products company SheaMoisture with his college roommate Nyema Tubman in Harlem and later establishing a larger holding company, Sundial Brands, that would oversee a suite of product lines focused on women of color.

Among them, SheaMoisture, NyakioNubian Heritage, and Madame C.J. Walker, named after a  philanthropist and social activist and one of the earliest female founders of color. (Walker, the daughter of slaves, died a wealthy woman at the age of 51 in 1919, after herself developing a line of beauty and hair products for black women.)

All that hard work was seemingly rewarded when last year, consumer goods giant Unilever acquired Sundial for undisclosed terms. In a unique twist, the deal should fuel the companies of future founders of color, too.

To wit, when the acquisition was announced, Unilever and Sundial announced that they would create a new investment vehicle to empower minority women entrepreneurs —  the New Voices Fund — to which they would commit an initial $50 million.

Thursday, at 2018 Essence Festival in New Orleans, Dennis said he was officially launching the fund with twice that amount — $100 million — adding that roughly a third of the fund has already been committed to black women entrepreneurs. (According to fund’s site, it writes seed through Series C checks.)

The outlet Black Enterprise was first to report the news.

The development will undoubtedly be welcome news to women, and particular women of color, who are among a fast-growing percentage of entrepreneurs in the country, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a 31-year-old, Washington-based nonprofit. According to one of its reports,  women of color—who constitute approximately 35 percent of the female population aged 18 and older—owned 929,445 businesses in the United States, representing 17 percent of all women-owned firms, in 1997. By 2014, that number had hit 2,934,500 businesses, or 32 percent of women-owned firms.

Naturally, these aren’t all venture-backed (or backable) businesses, but those numbers are on the rise, too, and their founders are going to need capital on the scale that New Voices is promising.

Per digitalundivided, an organization that supports black and Latina women tech founders, of the $84 billion that VCs plugged into startups last 2017, just 2.7 percent flowed to women-led companies, and black women founders saw just .2 percent of that capital.

Source: TechCrunch

The Audeze LCD2C will ruin your taste for other audiophile headphones – CNET

The Audeze LCD2C is the muscle car equivalent of headphones — it’s got the power to move you!
Source: CNET

Shoe startups aren’t dragging their feet

Good thing Carrie Bradshaw, the shoe-loving heroine of Sex and the City, wasn’t a footwear venture capitalist. The high-heeled, high-priced and hard-to-walk-in pairs beloved by the TV icon are pretty much the least fundable concept in the shoe startup space lately.

Instead, when they do dip their toe in the footwear space, venture investors have been putting a premium on comfort.

At least that’s what recent funding records indicate. Over the past year-and-a-half, investors have tied up roughly $170 million in an assortment of shoe-related startups, according to an analysis of Crunchbase data. The vast majority is going to sellers and designers of footwear that people might actually want to walk in.

Top funding recipients are a varied bunch, including everything from used sneaker marketplaces to high-end designers to toddler play shoes. Startups are also experimenting with little-used materials, turning used plastic bottles, merino wool and other substances into chic wearables.

Below, we look at how startups are leveraging market trends to get a foot in the door.

Growth market

It should be noted that recent footwear funding activity comes on the heels of some positive developments for the shoe industry.

First, this is a huge and growing industry. One recent report pegged the global footwear market at $246 billion in 2017, with annual growth rates of around 4.5 percent.

Second, public markets are strong. Shares of the world’s most valuable footwear company — Nike — have climbed more than 50 percent over the past nine months to reach a market cap of nearly $130 billion. Stocks of several smaller rivals, including Adidas, have also performed well.

Third, men are spending more on footwear. Though they’ve long been stereotyped as the gender with more restrained shoe-buying habits, men are putting more money into footwear and could be on track to close the spending gap.

Sneakering in

Both men and women are spending more on sneakers, and venture capitalists have taken notice. Sneakers and sneaker-related businesses account for the majority of footwear startup funding, as consumers increasingly opt for more casual, sportier styles.

Much of the innovation is in the sale and design of pricey, high-performance shoes. The largest footwear-focused round in recent months, for instance, went to GOAT, operator of an online sneaker marketplace that specializes in rare and high-end shoes. The three-year-old, Los Angeles-based company secured a $60 million Series C in February.

Other sneaker companies to raise funding recently include StockX, an auction-style GOAT competitor; Stadium Goods, a streetwear retailer; and Super Heroic, which makes high-performance athletic shoes for children.

The spike in sneaker funding comes amid a growth streak for the sector. As mentioned previously, much of that is driven by men. However, one other bullish sneaker trend footwear analysts point to is the changing buying habits of women. Driven perhaps by a desire to walk more than a few blocks without being in pain, we’re buying fewer high heels and more sneakers.

Stylish and eco-friendly

Demand for more comfortable footwear doesn’t only translate into more sneaker sales. Venture investors also see potential in other comfy shoe startups, particularly those with eco-friendly options.

In this camp is Allbirds, a maker of merino wool shoes in casual styles that has raised more than $27 million to date. Meanwhile, Rothy’s, which makes shoes out of recycled plastic bottles and sells them for around $125 a pair, has brought in $7 million.

Slippers are also a fundable space, as evidenced by the $2 million seed round last fall for Birdies, a maker of footwear for people who want to pad around the house in slippers while also looking stylish.

And as previously noted, it doesn’t look like high heel-focused startups have been kicking up a lot of capital lately. However, designers that offer varied heel heights are still scoring some big rounds. This category includes Tamara Mellon, a two-year-old brand that has raised more than $40 million to scale up a shoe design portfolio that runs the gamut from flats to spike heels.

But does it make money?

Recent history shows you can make a good exit with a shoe startup. And you can also flop or stagnate.

One of the more noticeable recent flops was Vancouver-based Shoes.com, an online shoe retailer that shuttered last year and filed for bankruptcy following disappointing sales.

Others found they weren’t as good a fit for today’s consumers as hoped. Most recently, Shoes of Prey, a made-to-order women’s shoe startup that raised more than $25 million, secured a small bridge round to keep operations afloat. A few years earlier, ShoeDazzle, a celebrity-backed shoe subscription service with more than $60 million in funding, sold at a steep markdown.

Meanwhile, developers of 3D printing and scanning technology are stepping up the pace of M&A. In April, Nike snapped up Invertex, a seed-funded startup that specialized in 3D foot-scanning. Last year, Aetrex Worldwide, a leading maker of therapeutic footwear, bought  Sols, a venture-backed maker of 3D-printed custom orthotics and insoles.

Granted, it’s hard to imagine an episode about Carrie Bradshaw shelling out for custom orthotics. But in the exit-driven world of startup financing, it seems clear that Manolo Blahniks are out, while sneakers and insoles are in.

Source: TechCrunch

RIP “crypto”

RIP “crypto”. You had a good run.

This week veteran cryptographer Matt Blaze, finally gave in — to what must have been a near-constant, low-level drone of ‘CAn Buy Crypto.com???$$$$!’ spam — and sold the pithy domain name he registered in 1993, in the midst of the PC era crypto wars, to use as an encryption policy resource, to Monaco, a Zug, Switzerland-based payments and cryptocurrency platform startup whose self-styled mission is “accelerating the world’s transition to cryptocurrency”, positioning itself at the nexus of the current crypto craze.

So crypto.com now points to cryptocurrencies.

Which seems a fitting moment to say RIP “crypto” as shorthand terminology for an entire domain of cryptographic work that underpins so many more things than just Bitcoin or Ether or Ripple or Litecoin or Zcash — or any of the myriad digital coins that have winked (and more recently minted) into virtual existence over the last decade or so, hoping to hit the crypto jackpot.

Frankly this is not at all fair. But, linguistically, so it goes. Languages live or they die. And to live in linguistic terms means to shift your meaning as word usage ebbs and flows.

The sale of crypto.com tells us not so much that money talks, though clearly there’s that too — domain sellers were speculating that the price for crypto.com could have been a cool $5M-$10M, per this Verge report from March; though the actual price-tag paid by Monaco has not been disclosed.

Mostly it underlines that trying to push as an individual against a surging tide is hopeless. Principled, one-man-stands of linguistic resistance against the crypto(currency) craze are futile at this particular juncture of its technological development. Spam with no end in sight would worry the will of anyone.

So apologies also to the few folks who have written to complain about incorrect use of “crypto” in TC headlines. Using “cryptocurrency” is indeed more accurate if that’s what the story is about. But as a term it’s headline-unfriendly as well as being really quite a horrible mouthful.

And, well, “coin” is too generic unless you’re coin trade press.

Alternative linguistic confections — anyone for ‘cryptoc’? — were never going to fly. So cryptocurrency colloquially colonizing “crypto” was really only a matter of time, given how many joules of attention-energy are being claimed and drained in its name.

Turns out language change can have plenty to do with the price of Bitcoin.

On the flip side, any craze can be a fleeting thing, and it’s entirely possible that, in time, “crypto” could revert to its proper meaning of cryptography should the cryptocurrency hype die back, as hype is wont to do when people get bored — because something that was new and novel becomes properly understood and adopted (and thus less of a conversation starter).

Sustained acceptance can make tongue-tripping nicknames less necessary, and reset the linguistic order.

Equally, though, a nickname can stubbornly stick around for ages — outlasting any nonprofessional understanding of the logic underlying its coinage.

Or at least until evolving usage causes another terminology shift. Think, for example, of the rhythmic swings of “telephone” -> “phone” -> “mobile phone” -> “mobile”.

Crypto(currency) could ultimately even lose the ‘crypto’ prefix should the technology end up becoming so ubiquitous as to be considered synonymous with the generic term “currency”, and usurp/displace that word, sinking back into the accepted conceptual morass that envelopes the idea of money.

Of course the crypto(graphy) community have not been at all happy about the linguistic sands shifting treacherously under their foundational field.

And they do have a point, given that without their founding crypto there could be no, er, ‘crypto’…

“”Crypto” could mean encryption, cryptography, or cryptology, but never cryptocurrency,” one computing academic tells us, adding: “I’ve heard plenty of whinging about the changed meaning of “crypto” and I don’t expect a dignified fall-back.”

“Normal usage says “encryption” is only one application of “cryptography” (building schemes for encryption and similar apps) which together with “cryptanalysis” (trying to break such schemes) makes up “cryptology”,” he adds.

Certainly, don’t expect the original crypto community to migrate to alternative terminology — not willingly, and not anytime soon. Which will probably make for some confused messaging at times. But technology applying pressure points to human communications is just par for the course.

As recently as last month the content on Blaze’s (now former) website included the express declaration that: “This site does not trade in or provide services related to cryptocurrencies. It is concerned with cryptography, computer and network security, and technology policy research.”

It further capped that caveat with an explicit disclaimer — writing: “Warning: Many cryptocurrencies are scams, and I strongly advise against their use as investment vehicles.”

Visitors to crypto.com now will not encounter any such caveats. But most of these folks probably weren’t headed there looking for cautionary tales. Nor seeking Blaze’s contact details. So you really can’t blame him for moving with the times.

For the original crypto community, playing the long game and waiting for the upstart crypto usurper to get linguistically cut back down to size seems the best option.

Sure, they’ve lost this “crypto” war — but many more important crypto wars remain to be fought and (hopefully) won.

And of course, in the far-flung future, who knows how 2018’s crypto craze will be viewed? Perhaps as the pinnacle of a hype-cycle that didn’t end in the wholesale reconfiguration of business and society that the crypto oracles promise, even if they managed to shift the conversation of a certain IT crowd for a while.

On another level, given rising levels of tech-fueled disruptive uncertainty crisscrossing so many facets of life, perhaps it’s fitting for “crypto” to become something of a cipher itself, devoid of fixed meaning.

“Encryption technology is the key to the future of the information revolution,” wrote Blaze in 1996. “It allows businesses and individuals to communicate securely over any inexpensive communication platform without fear of eavesdropping.”

That sentiment at least remains constant.

Source: TechCrunch

Will digital music kill vinyl anytime soon? – CNET

The LP fan base may make a lot of noise, but digital will eventually kill analog once and for all. Someday.
Source: CNET

Is this DJI’s next Mavic drone?

Here’s what we know for sure: DJI’s got a big event coming up. It was originally scheduled for July 18, but was ultimately pushed back so the company “can deliver according to [its] standard of innovation.” The timing certainly seems right for a followup to 2016’s Mavic Pro, and the “bigger picture” event artwork appears to confirm a focus on imaging.

This next part gets a bit more speculative, however. DroneDJ has published an image a (relatively) large folding drone bearing the name “Mavic 2.” The device also sports what looks to be a swappable camera gimbal, meaning users could potentially switch out the on-board model with different version.

That would be a welcome change for professional photographers searching for a portable solution they can shove in their camera bag along with the rest of their gear. The addition of wide-angle option would also be in keeping with that whole “bigger picture” bit.

CNET notes in a post that 360-degree obstacle avoidance is a possibility here, as well. That would help the new Mavic compete with the (admittedly pricey) R1 from Playground Global-backed startup Skydio that captured the drone community’s hearts.

DJI is, of course, still far and away the market leader for consumer drones, and its Mavic line has gone a long way toward helping mainstream the product for consumers. But increased competition is no doubt keeping the company on its toes of late.

Leaks certainly wouldn’t be anything new for DJI, as the last several devices have surfaced online in some form prior to release. The company unsurprisingly declined our request for comment, however.

Source: TechCrunch

Univision reportedly mulling sale of Fusion Media Group

According to sources cited by The Wall Street Journal, Univision is mulling the sale of the brand portfolio that includes popular sites like Gizmodo, Deadspin, The Root, Lifehacker and a chunk of The Onion.

Last year, the Spanish language broadcaster reportedly attempted to offload a 20-percent stake in the company for $200 million, but ultimately failed to find any takers, due to “skittish” potential investors.

All of this comes less than two years after Univision purchased Gawker Media, picking up the large suite of sites for $135 million, after the brand was felled by a Hulk Hogan lawsuit partially bankrolled by Peter Thiel. The brand was then folded into Fusion Media Group, a created four months prior when Univision bought out Disney’s stake in Fusion TV.

The move was largely seen as an attempt to appeal to a younger demo by a broadcast company that has otherwise had trouble adapting to current trends. But media is never easy, and in spite of a number of strong properties, the acquisition hasn’t exactly righted Univision’s ship.

Last month, Univision announced that former Media General head Vince Sandusky would replace Randy Falco as CEO, who stepped down shortly after the company abandoned plans to IPO. In April, the company laid off 150 employees as part of an on-going restructuring. 

Univision has yet to comment on the story.

Source: TechCrunch

‘Spider-Man,’ ‘Dr. Strange’ co-creator Steve Ditko has died

Toward the end of his life, it became somewhat common practice to post a picture of his door. It was an otherwise unremarkable thing, with a mail slot and a metal plate at the bottom. Up top, a large plate read simply, “S. Ditko.”

Most wouldn’t venture beyond that, respectful of not disturbing the legendary cartoonist who’d become something akin to a comic book version of J.D Salinger, or maybe Thomas Pynchon. Those who did invariably had entertaining stories of the great — if somewhat salty — man who co-created such legendary comics characters as Spider-Man and Dr. Strange.

This one from Fantagraphics publisher Eric Reynolds is a delightfully mixed bag:

Either character would have been enough to cement his place in the comic book hall of fame, but Ditko’s list stretched much longer, including key figures in the Marvel universe.

As noted, nearly all of the above were credited to both Ditko and Stan Lee. His early Code work deserves closer examination, as well. It was, at turns, unblinkingly terrifying and bizarre, the kind of vibrant work one could have only created free from the sanitizing force of the Comics Code

Most of his best known work dates back to the 1960s, but Steve Ditko made comics until the end, even as he sat out of the Hollywood blitzes from film franchises built around his creations. Ditko declined interviews, content to work on his books in private. He seemed to take pride in creating above all else.

After decades of working with the biggest publishing houses in comics, Marvel and DC, the artist self-published his own black and white books. One in particular, Mr. A, stuck with him the longest. The character, which dates back to the late-60s, appeared throughout the decades, directly reflecting the Randian Objectivist philosophy that also pervaded DC creations like Hawk and Dove.

Regardless of philosophical bent, however, Ditko’s work was, above all, uncompromisingly original. It was vibrant and off-kilter, sometimes horrifying, sometime psychedelic and always, unfailingly, well, strange. He was a bonafide, brilliant weirdo in world of superhero comics that could use a lot more of that these days.

The artist was found dead in his New York apartment on June 29. He was believed to have passed away two days prior. He was 90.

Source: TechCrunch

Watch all the interviews from TechCrunch Sessions: Blockchain

What a day. Yesterday, hundreds of people gathered in Zug, Switzerland for TechCrunch Sessions: Blockchain. In addition to some of the key people of the Ethereum Foundation, the team interviewed the entrepreneurs behind Binance, Coinbase, ConsenSys, CryptoKitties and many other organizations.

The event was packed with interesting content. But if you couldn’t be there in person, don’t worry as you can watch everything that happened in Zug:

Disclosure: I own small amounts of various cryptocurrencies.

Source: TechCrunch