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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

81% of VC firms don’t have a single black investor — BLCK VC wants to change that

Venture capital has a diversity problem.

BLCK VC, a new organization founded by Storm Ventures associate Frederik Groce and NEA associate Sydney Sykes meant to connect, engage and advance black venture capitalists, is ready for a new era in the industry.

Their mission: Turn 200 black investors into 400 black investors by 2024.

“We think of ourselves as an organization formed by black VCs for blacks VCs to increase the representation of black investors,” Sykes told TechCrunch.

“You can look around and say ‘well, I know five black VCs,’ but you can also say this firm does not have a single black VC, they may not even have a single underrepresented minority … We want to make firms reckon with the fact that there is a racial diversity problem; there is a lack of black VCs and every firm should really care about it.”

BLCK VC has been at work since the beginning of 2018, building and expanding a network of black investors in the San Francisco area, Los Angeles and New York. They seek to provide a community for black investors, a space for honest conversations and questions and a resource for VC firms looking to make more diverse hires. Today, the organization is taking the wraps off its plan to diversify the VC industry.

“There’s an incredible need to ensure there are resources in place so people don’t churn out of the community; getting people in the door is only half the battle,” Groce told TechCrunch. “This is us saying ‘hey, get involved.’ It’s time to broaden and give others access to what we are doing. It takes a village if we really want to see things start to shift.”

According to data collected by Richard Kerby, a partner at Equal Ventures, 81 percent of VC firms don’t have a single black investor. Roughly 50 percent of black investors in the industry are at the associate level, or the lowest level at a firm; only 2 percent of VC partners are black.

“It takes a village if we really want to see things start to shift.” — BLCK VC co-chair Frederik Groce.

The lack of representation, especially in powerful positions, has made it difficult for black aspiring investors to enter the industry, as well as for black investors to stay in VC.

“VC, more than a lot of industries, is very network driven in the way that they hire,” Sykes said. “The network started 40 or 50 years ago with a lot of white men who had the wealth at the time to invest in companies. As VC has grown, a lot of the people who started it hired people they knew, there wasn’t an effort to recruit from outside of their network. That has made VC this very homogenous industry.”

Aside from Kerby’s data and a Harvard Business School study on diversity in innovation, there is limited data available on black VCs and funding for black founders. Digitalundivided‘s research arm ProjectDiane is one of the few organizations to report on funding for black female founders, for example. According to its latest report, black women have raised just .0006 percent of all tech venture funding since 2009.

BLCK VC’s board includes Adina Tecklu, a venture investor at Canaan Partners; Brian Hollins, a growth equity investor at Goldman Sachs; Earnest Sweat, an investment manager at Prologis Ventures; and Elliott Robinson, a partner at M12 Ventures.

Source: TechCrunch

Who needs the Apple Store? You may be able to fix the new MacBook Air yourself

Repairing MacBook devices usually requires a trip to the Apple Store, but that may not be the case with the new MacBook Air. The repair site iFixit has given the MacBook Air a repairability score of 3 out of 10, a very high result for a Mac.

The post Who needs the Apple Store? You may be able to fix the new MacBook Air yourself appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

Amazon launches Alexa app for Windows 10 PCs

Amazon today launched an Alexa app for Windows 10 PCs on the Microsoft Store. The voice application allows PC owners to speak to Alexa to set reminders, timers, alarms; create lists and to-dos; track their calendar appointments; get news, weather and other information; play music; listen to podcasts and audiobooks; control the smart home, and more.

The app is another way that Alexa is being unhitched from Echo speakers and other devices that generally stay in the home. Similar to the Alexa app for mobile devices, the Windows 10 app means you can use Alexa when you’re traveling for access to content and information, as well as to do things like lock your doors or check your security cameras, for example.

The app also offers access to tens of thousands of Alexa skills, says Amazon.

However, some features – including video, communications, Spotify and Pandora – are not supported on the Alexa app for Windows 10 at launch.

The app’s arrival comes shortly after Amazon and Microsoft opened up the Alexa-Cortana integration into public preview, which lets customers call up Cortana through their Echo devices and enable Amazon’s Alexa on Windows 10 devices and on Harman Kardon Invoke speakers.

Some PCs are designated as “Alexa Built-In,” meaning they’re already tuned for Alexa and you’ll be able to speak to Alexa hands-free. These include several PCs form Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo.

The Alexa app is available for Windows 10 PCs in the US, UK, and Germany, and will be coming to more locations in 2019.

Source: TechCrunch

Datacoral raises $10M Series A for its data infrastructure service

Datacoral aims to make it easier for enterprises to build data products by abstracting away all of the complex infrastructure to organize and process data. The company today announced that it has raised a $10 million Series A financing round led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Social Capital, which also led its $4 million seed round in 2017.

Datacoral CEO Raghu Murthy tells me that the company plans to use the new funding to grow its business team in order to be able to reach more potential customers and to expand its engineering team.

The promise of Datacoral is to offer enterprises an end-to-end data infrastructure that will allow businesses and their data scientists to focus on generating insights over having to manage and integrate their data sources. Because nobody wants to move large amounts of data between clouds — and take the performance hit that comes with that — Datacoral sits right inside a company’s AWS systems. It’s still a fully managed service, though, but the data is encrypted and never leaves a customer’s virtual private cloud.

“As companies look to their data to deliver value – data practitioners are finding that configuring and managing their own data infrastructure is a time-consuming job that is expensive and fraught with errors,” said Murthy. “We have built a platform that easily and automatically brings together data from different applications and databases, organizes that data in any query engine and acts on insights that are critical to running their business. A crucial component is that it works securely and privately within the customer’s cloud, instead of us ingesting data from their systems.”

Murthy was an early engineer at Facebook and part of the team that was in charge of scaling that company’s data infrastructure and ran a part of the engineering team at Bebop, Diane Greene’s startup that was later acquired by Google.

To scale Datacoral, the team is betting on a serverless platform itself. It’s making extensive use of AWS Lambda and other PaaS solutions on Amazon’s cloud computing platform. That doesn’t mean Datacoral plans to only support AWS, though. Murthy tells me that Azure support is next. “We plan to work across all of the top cloud providers by leveraging their unique services and provide a consistent ‘data-centric interface’ to our customers — essentially be ‘cloud best’ instead of ‘cloud agnostic.’”

Current Datacoral users include Greenhouse, Front, Ezetap, Swing Education, mPharma and Mason Finance.

Source: TechCrunch

Google Cloud wants to make it easier for data scientists to share models

Today, Google Cloud announced Kubeflow pipelines and AI Hub, two tools designed to help data scientists put the models they create to work across their organizations.

Rajen Sheth, director of product management for Google Cloud’s AI and ML products says that the company recognized that data scientists too often build models that never get used. He says that if machine learning is really a team sport, as Google believes, models must get passed from data scientists to data engineers and developers who can build applications based on them.

To help fix that, Google is announcing Kubeflow pipelines, which are an extension of Kubeflow, an open source framework built on top of Kubernetes designed specifically for machine learning. Pipelines are essentially containerized building blocks that people in the machine learning ecosystem can string together to build and manage machine learning workflows.

By placing the model in a container, data scientists can simply adjust the underlying model as needed and relaunch in a continuous delivery kind of approach. Sheth says this opens up even more possibilities for model usage in a company.

“[Kubeflow pipelines] also give users a way to experiment with different pipeline variants to identify which ones produce the best outcomes in a reliable and reproducible environment,” Sheth wrote in a blog post announcing the new machine learning features.

The company is also announcing AI Hub, which as the name implies is a central place where data scientists can go to find different kinds ML content including Kubeflow pipelines, Jupyter notebooks, TensorFlow modules and so forth. This will be a public repository seeded with resources developed by Google Cloud AI, Google Research and other teams across Google, allowing data scientists to take advantage of Google’s own research and development expertise.

But Google wanted the hub to be more than a public library, it also sees it as a place where teams can share information privately inside their organizations giving it a dual purpose. This should provide another way to extend model usage by making essential building blocks available in a central repository.

AI Hub will be available in Alpha starting today with some initial components from Google, as well as tools for sharing some internal resources, but the plan is to keep expanding the offerings and capabilities over time.

Google believes if it provides easier ways to share model building blocks across an organization, the more likely they will be put to work. These tools are a step toward achieving that.

Source: TechCrunch

Aristotle Was Wrong—Very Wrong—But People Still Love Him

Centuries-old ideas about force and motion have an intuitive appeal that is enduring but oh-so-incorrect, as these simple experiments show.
Source: Wired

IAC reorg makes Vimeo and DotDash standalone segments, adds new acquisition Robokiller

IAC is changing the way its business is organized, the company reported during its Q3 2018 earnings on Wednesday. The company’s video platform Vimeo and DotDash (previously About.com) will become their own separate segments at IAC starting in Q4. That means they’ve reached the point their revenues can stand on their own.

The company beat on third quarter revenue expectations in the quarter with a revenue increase to $1.1 billion from $828.4 million a year ago, ahead of FactSet analyst expectations of $1.07 billion. However, net income was $145.8 million, or $1.49 a share, down from $179.6 million, or $1.79 a share, a year earlier. The drop was attributed to a tax benefit that it received in the year-ago period.

Vimeo’s revenue growth in the quarter increased 29 percent, and it grew its subscriber base by 10 percent to 932,000, IAC said.

“The business has the scale and potential to now stand on its own, and we want to begin to put a spotlight on it,” said IAC CEO Joey Levin, in a note to shareholders.

“Vimeo always has and always will obsessively, relentlessly cater to the needs of creators – not advertisers, not eyeballs, not our own platform, nor anything else. We’ve focused entirely on the creators and they have rewarded Vimeo with their loyalty. The numbers bear this out – Vimeo enjoys incredible retention, an average customer lifetime of nearly 5 years, customers that upgrade over time, and new subscribers that are attracted to fresh, premium offerings at increasingly higher price points,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, DotDash increased revenue by 35 percent to reach $30.1 million, with expanding profit margins in Q3.

The company will also begin splitting out mobile revenue from its legacy desktop business in Q4. IAC said its mobile business saw 158 percent revenue growth in the quarter to over $35 million, comprising 23 percent of its total revenue. The mobile business now counts over 2.5 million subscribers, IAC said.

After the changes to business segments in Q4, the remaining businesses in Publishing and Video will aggregate into a catch-all segment, named “Emerging & Other” which will include both early stage and mature businesses like BlueCrew, Ask Media Group, The Daily Beast, DROPOUT (College Humor’s subscription service), IAC Films and new incubation projects.

The group may “intermittently generate cash or consume cash,” but is more focused on the “next decade than the next quarter,” warned IAC. It noted it wouldn’t communicate much about the segment’s businesses going forward.

In addition, the company announced a new acquisition: East coast-based TelTech, the makers of an app called Robokiller, which blocks spam calls and telemarketers. This will join IAC’s Applications group.

Combined with Publishing (where DotDash, Ask.com, Investopedia, The Daily Beast, and others live) the two segments delivered over $50 million of Adjusted EBITDA in the quarter, nearly all of it cash flow.

Match Group, the parent company to Tinder, grew its average subscribers 23 percent to 8.1 million, driven by 61 percent growth in Tinder average subscribers to 4.1 million. Match had reported its own earnings ahead of IAC this week, where it also announced plans to focus Tinder on casual dating and invest more heavily in the relationship-focused app Hinge.

Match also announced a special $2 per share dividend, of which IAC said it has “no one thing or single use” in mind.

IAC said it’s now stockpiling cash and should have over $1.7 billion by year-end, excluding ANGI Homeservices (Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, Handy – whose acquisition now completed – and others) and Match Group cash.


Source: TechCrunch

Top Best Buy Black Friday deals 2018 – CNET

The retailer is the latest to announce its Black Friday deals, several of which are available now.
Source: CNET

Japan is cracking down on SoftBank’s revenue

First, a couple of quick follow-ups to our coverage of Form Ds yesterday, and then a deeper dive into the challenges SoftBank is facing with regards to its revenue in Japan. Finally, some notes on recent articles we have read.

We are experimenting with new content forms at TechCrunch. This is a rough draft of something new – provide your feedback directly to the authors: Danny at danny@techcrunch.com or Arman at Arman.Tabatabai@techcrunch.com if you like or hate something here.

Form D(isappearing)

Form Ds are (usually) filed by startups to the SEC when they take on venture capital. However, there appears to be an increasing pattern of startups foregoing the filing, which has implications for both reporters (we have less info about what’s happening in the venture world) as well as with aggregate VC stats, which often rely at least partially on filings to determine the state of venture capital.

A number of readers emailed us with their views on the matter. One lawyer and multi-time startup founder wrote to say that:

Some additional considerations are cost: the Form D can be expensive with all of the associated state blue sky filings, especially if you have participation from a number of angels or smaller funds.

When you file a Form D, that generally pre-empts any equivalent state filing. HOWEVER, we were wrong yesterday when we said that “the form pre-empts most state securities laws so that startups don’t have to file in state jurisdictions.” Startups DO have to file in state jurisdictions, but usually just to point out that they have filed with the SEC.

Beyond cost, one issue with filing is when the round is smaller than the ultimate intended size. One reader reported in:

I was CFO at a startup and after consulting legal counsel, we didn’t file Form D for a Series C capital raising. Why? Because we didn’t want some investors to see how much is left in the round and defer funding

You might have convinced an investor to put in say $30 million into a round, and then they are shocked to find out that the round is really intended to be $50 million when the Form D hits the presses. Obviously, this is something that should be transparent to all parties, but I actually could see this happening more commonly at the seed stage, where some rounds almost certainly fundraise continuously and investors are more skittish.

Finally, it’s not just the finance and legal folks pushing for less filings, but also PR firms. One notable PR firm head told me that:

We’ve pushed a bunch of our clients to pursue [a 4(a)(2) exemption], but they were raising / had raised money from Tier One VCs.

That exemption allows startups to avoid a Form D filing, which “protects our launches from getting scooped.” The same PR head told me that this has been a policy for the past 18 months or so.

The data is still early, but the norms for filing do seem to be changing, and we are still doing more work on this. Reach out directly with your thoughts.

Japan is going after carrier revenue


Now for the big story. We have been obsessed this week with SoftBank, first covering the telco group’s penchant for debt, and then covering the unusual financing situation between the IPO of its Japanese mobile division and its bankers, in which SoftBank is demanding its underwriters provide a massive bond to the Vision Fund in order to lever it up and juice returns.

It feels like the more we dig into all of SoftBank’s moving pieces, the stranger the story gets.

Over the past few weeks, the Japanese telco market has been absolutely crushed by traders. Market leader NTT DoCoMo announced about a week ago that it would cut customer rates by 40% on mobile services, and warned investors that it may take five years for the company to return to this fiscal year’s profitability. Concerned over industry-wide rate reductions, a possible pricing war and potential upticks in churn, investors rapidly sold the country’s three major wireless companies — including SoftBank — causing their collective market caps to plunge $34 billion the following day.

Japan’s telcos are extraordinarily profitable and exist in a mature market, so why the sudden rate change?

The two-dimensional answer is that the Japanese government has become more strident in its criticisms of the telcos, which charge some of the highest fees of any carriers in the world.

That’s partly because Japan’s mobile market has functioned essentially as an oligopoly, dominated by NTT DoCoMo, au-KDDI, and SoftBank, which currently account for around 45%, 31% and 24% market share, respectively. The lack of competition has led to unreasonably high bills for customers, but hefty and growing profits for the telcos.

Jun Sato/WireImage via Getty Images

The Japanese government, led by prime minister Shinzo Abe, has been trying to force prices lower. As Bloomberg’s Maiko Takahashi and Dave McCombs pointed out in a recent article, the government has been trying to reverse this trend for a while now:

In 2015 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for lower prices and the companies eventually responded by offering reduced-cost service plans that didn’t undermine revenue growth, as they were offset by rising average revenue per user for data. Comments by government officials about lowering prices in 2016 brought a similar response. Still, carriers said they are concerned the pressure could increase this time.

This time around, the Japanese government has gotten more serious. It’s now also pushing for structural changes that will not only create pricing competition, but that will also make it easier for others to enter the market. As Takahashi and McCombs continued:

The government has also been pushing to boost competition by making it harder for the big three to lure new users by offering the latest phones at little or no upfront cost. Officials have also pushed to end SIM locking, a practice by which carriers lock their handsets to be used only on their network.

They are not only looking at bills, but also other competitive barriers,” said [Tachibana Securities GM Shigetoshi] Kamada. “They want bills to drop naturally by making the environment more competitive.

To make matters tougher for the incumbents, Rakuten, Japan’s “Amazon-esque” e-commerce giant, has decided to test the waters in the telco market, having received an operating license to start service in 2019.

All this is backdrop to the main stage, which is that SoftBank intends to IPO its Japanese mobile carrier division, in what could be the world’s largest IPO float in history. That IPO is critical for cleaning up SoftBank Group’s balance sheet, which is heavily loaded with debt.

That leads us to a three-dimensional analysis: could NTT DoCoMo and KDDI be preemptively cutting rates at exactly the time that SoftBank needs to show good financial results and projections to investors in its IPO roadshow? It’s a brilliant play, since some pain today to the bottom line could potentially knock out or at least diminish one competitor in the market, turning this oligopoly into a duopoly, Rakuten’s telco initiative not withstanding.

SoftBank is acutely aware of the changing landscape, yet remains full steam ahead on the IPO front. In fact, SoftBank didn’t even seem slightly worried about the rate cuts, with Group CEO Masayoshi Son stating “I can make a commitment right here that profit and revenue in the mobile business will continue to grow.” SoftBank noted that its telco profits will be fine, with the company planning to cut costs in the business by reducing its workforce by around 40%.

We’re not saying this is blatant marketing for the IPO, but what makes SoftBank’s claim seem a bit dubious is the fact that when NTT announced its rate cuts last week, even NTT stated it expected to see its operating profit and revenues drop, not to mention that the company wasn’t even targeting a full recovery from the impact until 2023. And in an already saturated market with well-resourced new entrants, generating enough new users (let alone keeping existing ones) to offset a rate cut and maintain even a steady Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) seems like a pretty tall task.

When you combine the losses other Japanese telcos expect with the fact that SoftBank has been pretty transparent about the IPO proceeds going towards future Vision Fund investments rather than back into the telco unit, it’s a little perplexing on how there can be such a rosy outlook for the business. And that ultimately may fuel disinterest with this particular public float, and therefore broader challenges to both SoftBank and its Vision Fund, with all the implications for growth-stage startups that entails.

Thoughts on Articles

‘Gun-Shy’: How Federal Prosecutors Forgot Silicon Valley: Great overview and analysis from Matt Drange at The Information about the decline of white-collar prosecutions out of the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco, which was once managed by Robert Mueller before he became director of the FBI. “The number of white-collar cases prosecuted by the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California has plunged from a peak of 354 in 1995 to 72 in fiscal 2018.” Major challenges include a decline of interest in white-collar prosecutions nationwide, bad office culture and botched executions of several high-profile cases. Definitely worth a full read. (~2,300 words)

LA Is Trying to Fix its Prostitution Problem by Banning Right Turns at Night—and it Might be Working: Too long article about a unique tactic of the LAPD: in order to generate sufficient probable cause to stop a car trolling for sex, the city installed “no right turn” signs at intersections in areas with high prostitution in order to have more reasons to stop cars. What a hack of the system. (~1900 words, but probably should be like 800)

‘The Bus Is Still Best’: Helpful analysis by notable transit pundit Jarrett Walker, discussing the role of microtransit options like Via or Chariot in city transportation networks. Walker doesn’t believe that ride-sharing will be the future of mass transit, and instead posits that a properly-managed and well-resourced bus system is much more efficient from a cost, coverage, space, and equality perspective. While some of the conclusions are a bit binary, he offers an effective and revealing comparison of transportation unit economics, while also providing a useful primer on the actual functions an effective public transport system has to service. Worth reading, even if only to serve as a clear overview of the various aspects city transit agencies have to consider in transportation and infrastructure decisions. (~2,050 words)

What’s next

Definitely drop us a line if you have thoughts about Form Ds or SoftBank – we are continuing to investigate. We are thinking of focusing on Rakuten’s new telco a bit as well, so ping us if you have thoughts or data to share. We’re at danny@techcrunch.com and arman.tabatabai@techcrunch.com.

Reading docket

What we are reading (or at least, trying to read)



Source: TechCrunch

New Mazda3 will land in LA, likely packing mild hybrid tech – Roadshow

It will be available in both sedan and hatchback forms, just like previous iterations.
Source: CNET