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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Star Wars News: Look Out for Billy Dee Williams in 'Star Wars: Episode IX'

The actor has reportedly signed on to join J.J. Abrams’ next ‘Star Wars’ movie.
Source: Wired

How Is a Runner Like a Bouncing Ball?

You can make a physics model that teaches you tons about running.
Source: Wired

Roku TV Wireless Speakers: Price, Specs, and Release Date

Roku’s new $199 wireless speakers are matched with an optional wireless button you place in another room and use as a voice remote.
Source: Wired

PayPal leads $50M round for cross-border payment specialist PPRO

As payments companies continue to look to the long tail of global markets to expand their businesses, a startup that helps them do business in disparate economies is getting a strategic investment from one of payment world leaders. PayPal is leading a $50 million investment into PPRO, a London-based business that is focused on cross-border payments for merchants, specifically by offering the merchants a seamless way of accepting payments from customers using whatever the most popular payment form happens to be in a particular country. To date, the PPRO platform covers some 140 payment methods, and the plan will be to add more countries, and more payments, into the mix.

The round also includes participation from new investor Citi Ventures and previous investor HPE Growth Capital PPRO is not disclosing its valuation but Simon Black, its CEO, said that it’s definitely up on its previous funding and described it as a “minority investment” in the company. Interestingly, PPRO has raised only around $10.6 million since its founding in 2006; it is already profitable; it has around 200 employees; and it competes with the likes of Adyen, which recently went public at a valuation of over $8 billion — to give you an idea of the opportunity and value of the company.

The challenge that PPRO — pronounced “pea-pro” — is addressing is an interesting and complicated one. While the growth in e-commerce has been a global phenomenon, like a plant, it has grown differently and adapted to each market depending on local conditions. In the case of payments, that has meant a disparate range of payment methods that are standard in some countries, but not others.

While credit cards or debit cards, for example, are very standard in the US and UK, in Japan, a lot of people pay for items purchased online by cash on delivery, or at convenience stores. In the Netherlands, there is a system called iDEAL that routes payments directly through your bank account. And so on.

For a merchant that is based in one country but interested in selling to people in another, this can pose a problem, if it doesn’t accept whatever the local payment method happens to be.

That’s where a company like PPRO comes in. It essentially creates an interface for the merchant to be able to select acceptance using a variety of methods, with the idea being that PPRO will provide access to whatever happens to be the most common methods in a particular geography. It’s a kind of service that would be too timely, and not the core competency, for a merchant to resolve by itself, and if anything continues to become more complex as e-commerce continues to become more ubiquitous.

“There has been a real change in the last three to five years,” Black said of the rise in transactions, which have been fuelled by smartphones and a much bigger population of people doing more of their buying and transacting through them. “Alternative payments are here to say, and the growth seems to be going a lot faster.” In fact, PPRO estimates that these days, credit cards account for less than 20 percent of all online transactions globally.

PayPal has an obvious agenda in hoping that its platform becomes to default for any transaction, and that is a big part of its strategic interest in PPRO, to provide PayPal as an option in the mix of payment acceptance methods wherever its 20 million+ merchants happen to be doing business. The other is to make sure that within PayPal itself, that users can integrate whatever their preferred payment method is into their PayPal wallets. (So in the UK I can link up my debit card, but in the Netherlands a resident there can link up its iDEAL account to top up their PayPal wallet.)

“A merchant’s choice of payments partner is increasingly being driven by the ever-expanding range of locally relevant payment methods available,” said Arnold Goldberg, vice president of merchant product and technology, PayPal, in a statement. “PayPal is pleased to support PPRO as the company continues to grow.”

The two have already kicked off a commercial deal to integrate a “wide range of payment options for our merchants,” he added, as part of the new PayPal Checkout with Smart Payment Button, which also integrates Braintree. “This is yet another way we are positioning ourselves to be the one-stop solution for global digital commerce.”

The other side of PPRO’s business is in issuing physical or virtual Visa and Mastercard prepaid cards to consumers under the VIABUY brand as well as a white-label offering. It’s this part that might have particularly interested Citi, which has a giant credit card business — although it’s one that PayPal can also potentially tap down the line as it expands in more markets outside of its home base in the US and stronghold in Europe.

“Technology is revolutionizing how consumers and businesses make and accept payments, and PPRO is on the leading edge of meeting those needs,” said Luis Valdich, Managing Director, Citi Ventures. “Citi Ventures is delighted to invest in PPRO, which enables businesses to collect funds from alternative payments schemes globally and more and more consumers to join the digital economy.”


Source: TechCrunch

This drive-thru supermarket is crazy video – CNET

A Turkish architecture firm has released its concept for a drive-thru supermarket.
Source: CNET

Can Wonder Woman, Aquaman fill the Avengers-size hole at Comic-Con? – CNET

No Marvel, no problem as DC and a raft of other franchises like Transformers and Predator vie for the limelight.
Source: CNET

Comcast and AT&T Are Fighting to Become Media Companies

Transmitting data makes steady, low returns. But the telecom giants want a grander life: in high-risk, high-reward, high-margins media.
Source: Wired

How New York City Is Tackling Extreme Heat in a Warming World

Extreme heat already kills more than a hundred New Yorkers yearly. It’s on track to kill thousands by 2080.
Source: Wired

WeWork’s biggest rival in China is on an acquisition spree

WeWork may have combined forces with its fiercest rival in China, Naked Hub, in a recent merger, but its new enemy numero uno in the country is also building up a roster of friends through aggressive M&A.

Ucommune may not be spending the kind of cash WeWork China did — it reportedly spent $400 million to get Naked Hub — but it is quietly picking up smaller rivals via acquisitions. Last week, it completed its fourth piece of M&A of the past year with a deal to buy Workingdom for 300 million RMB, or roughly $45 million.

Two-year-old Workingdom offers working spaces in Shanghai, and online services that help SMEs and multinationals growth their businesses.

An acquisition spree from Ucommune — which was forced to rebrand from UrWork following a lawsuit from WeWork — has seen it snap up lesser but strategic players Wedo, Woo Space and New Space to boost its presence and rival WeWork. All told, and thanks to these deals, Ucommune claims to operate 60 offices in Beijing, 20 more in Shanghai and a significant presence in Guangdong, Macau and Hong Kong.

In comparison, Naked Hub says it has 10,000 members across its 24 office locations while WeWork says it has 10,000 members in 13 locations in Greater China. The U.S. firm plans to grow its reach to 40 offices by the end of this year, a move that it says will quadruple its membership numbers in China to 40,000.

Those numbers explain why the acquisition deals aren’t likely to stop any time soon for Ucommune.

The Chinese he company said in its latest announcement that it will “continue to acquire more co-working companies to grow its global footprint.” Currently, its presence outside of China includes New York and Singapore, but it is clearly exploiting the bursting of the co-working bubble which initially attracted a huge number of companies to the space, particularly in China.

Inside a Ucommune space

Ucommune last raised money when it closed a $17 million round at a valuation of 9 billion RMB ($1.4 billion) in February 2018. Post-acquisitions, the company said that it plans to return to private investors with the goal of raising further capital at an enhanced valuation of 11 billion RMB, or $1.65 billion.

That’s some way short of WeWork’s gargantuan figures. The company has raised capital at a valuation of $20 billion, while newer reports suggest the figure has ballooned to $35 billion in its latest quest for additional financing, but the continued efforts of Ucommune will give WeWork food for thought in China.


Source: TechCrunch

Undo gets $14M to scale to meet the software accountability challenge

Undo, a long time player in the debugging tools space, offering its program execution capture and replay technology to help others diagnose software failures, has closed a $14 million Series B round led by Cambridge Innovation Capital, the Cambridge, UK-based builder of tech and healthcare companies.

The 2005 founded startup — initially bootstrapped (out of founder Greg Law’s garden shed) — has come a long way, and now has more than 30 paying customers for what it describes as its “record, rewind and replay” debugging technology, including the likes of SAP HANA, Mentor Graphics, Cadence and Micro Focus.

A quick potted history: In 2012, Law quit his job to go full time on Undo, raising a small amount of angel funding and then a $1.25M from seed investment in 2014, followed by $3.3M in a series A funding in 2016.

New investors in the Series B round include Global Brain Corporation, a Japanese venture capital fund; and UK-focused Parkwalk Advisors, while all Undo’s existing investor groups also participated —  including Rockspring; Martlet; Sir Peter Michael (founder of Quantel, Classic FM and California’s Peter Michael Winery); the Cambridge Angels group and Jaan Tallinn (co-founder of Skype and Kazaa).

The Series B will be used to expand Undo’s software development team, accelerate product development and grow its US operations. Undo says its best markets so far are electronic design automation (EDA); database manufacturers/data management; and networking.

“This funding will be used to significantly improve performance as part of Undo’s always-on recording vision, and also to accelerate our product roadmap and broaden the technology beyond compiled code so that it can be used with Java and other VM-based languages,” it tells us.

“Our main competitor is the status quo — engineering organisations that do not evolve with the times. Old-school debugging techniques (e.g. printf, logging, core dump analysis) have been around for decades. 2000 was all about static analysis. 2010 was about dynamic analysis, 2020 will be about capturing software failures ‘in the act’ through capture & replay technology.”

Undo argues that its Live Recorder technology offers “a completely new way of diagnosing software failures during development and in production” — arguing that its approach is superior to traditional debugging techniques such as printf, logging, core dump analysis which are “general purpose and provide limited information”, while it says static and dynamic analysis “are deep but can only look at specific instances of bugs” — whereas it claims its tech “can capture failure instances across the whole spectrum and therefore plugs in the gaps which no-one else has filled yet”.

The UK company also sees a growing opportunity for its approach given increasingly complex and increasingly autonomous software risks becoming unaccountable, if it’s making decisions without people knowing how and why. So the wider vision for Undo is not just getting faster at fixing bugs but addressing the growing need for software makers to be able to articulate — and account for — what their programs are doing at any given moment.

“Longer term it’s about that journey towards software accountability,” says Law. “Software accountability is quite a broad thing — it really means the ability to be able to know for sure what some software did as it ran. And today that’s all about the programmer’s understanding of what their program has done. But actually it’s far more than just programmers that need to understand software — and particularly as we move into this second chapter of the information revolution where computers are beginning to make decisions that affect our lives and our livelihoods. I mean in the case of social media and Facebook and things, Western democracy! The ability to have that accountability behind software actions is going to become a really important thing. That’s a progressive journey that we’re on.

“So the question is what did the software actually do? And as we grow, and as time goes on, we’ll answer that question in progressively bigger and bigger contexts.”


Source: TechCrunch

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