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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

iPhone XR photos, and how Portrait Mode works – CNET

A look at some of the photos I took with Apple’s newest iPhone (and a test of Portrait Mode’s limits).
Source: CNET

Review: Apple’s iPhone XR is a fine young cannibal

This iPhone is great. It is most like the last iPhone — but not the last “best” iPhone — more like the last not as good iPhone. It’s better than that one though, just not as good as the newest best iPhone or the older best iPhone.

If you’re upgrading from an iPhone 7 or iPhone 8, you’re gonna love it and likely won’t miss any current features while also getting a nice update to a gesture-driven phone with Face ID. But don’t buy it if you’re coming from an iPhone X, you’ll be disappointed as there are some compromises from the incredibly high level of performance and quality in Apple’s last flagship, which really was pushing the envelope at the time.

From a consumer perspective, this is offering a bit of choice that targets the same kind of customer who bought the iPhone 8 instead of the iPhone X last year. They want a great phone with a solid feature set and good performance but are not obsessed with ‘the best’ and likely won’t notice any of the things that would bug an iPhone X user about the iPhone XR.

On the business side, Apple is offering the iPhone XR to make sure there is no pricing umbrella underneath the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, and to make sure that the pricing curve is smooth across the iPhone line. It’s not so much a bulwark against low-end Android, that’s why the iPhone 8 and iPhone 7S are sticking around at those low prices.

Instead it’s offering an ‘affordable’ option that’s similar in philosophy to the iPhone 8’s role last year but with some additional benefits in terms of uniformity. Apple gets to move more of its user base to a fully gesture-oriented interface, as well as giving them Face ID. It benefits from more of its pipeline being dedicated to devices that share a lot of components like the A12 and True Depth camera system. It’s also recognizing the overall move towards larger screens in the market.

If Apple was trying to cannibalize sales of the iPhone XS, it couldn’t have created a better roasting spit than the iPhone XR.

Screen

Apple says that the iPhone XR has ‘the most advanced LCD ever in a smartphone’ — their words.

The iPhone XR’s screen is an LCD, not an OLED. This is one of the biggest differences between the iPhone XR and the iPhone XS models, and while the screen is one of the best LCDs I’ve ever seen, it’s not as good as the other models. Specifically, I believe that the OLED’s ability to display true black and display deeper color (especially in images that are taken on the new XR cameras in HDR) set it apart easily.

That said, I have a massive advantage in that I am able to hold the screens side by side to compare images. Simply put, if you don’t run them next to one another, this is a great screen. Given that the iPhone XS models have perhaps the best displays ever made for a smartphone, coming in a very close second isn’t a bad place to be.

A lot of nice advancements have been made here over earlier iPhone LCDs. You get True Tone, faster 120hz touch response and wide color support. All on a 326 psi stage that’s larger than the iPhone 8 Plus in a smaller body. You also now get tap-to-wake, another way Apple is working hard to unify the design and interaction language of its phones across the lineup.

All of these advancements don’t come for free to an LCD. There was a lot of time, energy and money spent getting the older technology to work as absolutely closely as possible to the flagship models. It’s rare to the point of non-existence that companies care at all to put in the work to make the lower end devices feel as well worked as the higher end ones. For as much crap as Apple gets about withholding features to get people to upsell, there is very little of that happening with the iPhone XR, quite the opposite really.

There are a few caveats here. First, 3D touch is gone, replaced by ‘Haptic Touch’ which Apple says works similarly to the MacBook’s track pad. It provides feedback from the iPhone’s Taptic vibration engine to simulate a ‘button press’ or trigger. In practice, the reality of the situation is that it is a very prosaic ‘long press to activate’ more than anything else. It’s used to trigger the camera on the home screen and the flashlight, and Apple says it’s coming to other places throughout the system as it sees it appropriate and figures out how to make it feel right.

I’m not a fan. I know 3D touch has its detractors, even among the people I’ve talked to who helped build it, I think it’s a clever utility that has a nice snap to it when activating quick actions like the camera. In contrast, on the iPhone XR you must tap and hold the camera button for about a second and a half — no pressure sensitivity here obviously — as the system figures out that this is an intentional press by determining duration, touch shape and spread etc and then triggers the action. You get the feedback still, which is nice, but it feels disconnected and slow. It’s the best case scenario without the additional 3D touch layer, but it’s not ideal.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that the edges of the iPhone XR screen have a slight dimming effect that is best described as a ‘drop shadow’. It’s wildly hard to photograph but imagine a very thin line of shadow around the edge of the phone that gets more pronounced as you tilt it and look at the edges. It’s likely an effect of the way Apple was able to get a nice sharp black drop-off at the edges that gets that to-the-edges look of the iPhone XR’s screen.

Apple is already doing a ton of work rounding  the corners of the LCD screen to make them look smoothly curved (this works great and is nearly seamless unless you bust out the magnifying loupe) and it’s doing some additional stuff around the edge to keep it looking tidy. They’ve doubled the amount of LEDs in the screen to make that dithering and the edging possible.

Frankly, I don’t think most people will ever notice this slight shading of dark around the edge — it is very slight — but when the screen is displaying mostly white and it’s next to the iPhone XS it’s visible.

Oh, the bezels are bigger. It makes the front look slightly less elegant and screenful than the iPhone XS, but it’s not a big deal.

Camera

Yes, the portrait mode works. No, it’s not as good as the iPhone XS. Yes, I miss having a zoom lens.

All of those things are true and easily the biggest reason I won’t be buying an iPhone XR. However, in the theme of Apple working its hardest to make even its ‘lower end’ devices work and feel as much like its best, it’s really impressive what has been done here.

The iPhone XR’s front-facing camera array is identical to what you’ll find in the iPhone XS. Which is to say it’s very good.

The rear facing camera is where it gets interesting, and different.

The rear camera is a single lens and sensor that is both functionally and actually identical to the wide angle lens in the iPhone XS. It’s the same sensor, the same optics, the same 27mm wide-angle frame. You’re going to get great ‘standard’ pictures out of this. No compromises.

However, I found myself missing the zoom lens a lot. This is absolutely a your mileage may vary scenario, but I take the vast majority of my pictures with the telephoto lens. Looking back at my year with the iPhone X I’d say north of 80% of my pictures were shot with the telephoto, even if they were close ups. I simply prefer the “52mm” equivalent with its nice compression and tight crop. It’s just a better way to shoot than a wide angle — as any photographer or camera company will tell you because that’s the standard (equivalent) lens that all cameras have shipped with for decades.

Wide angle lenses were always a kludge in smartphones and it’s only in recent years that we’ve started getting decent telephotos. If I had my choice, I’d default to the tele and have a button to zoom out to the wide angle, that would be much nicer.

But with the iPhone XR you’re stuck with the wide — and it’s a single lens at that, without the two different perspectives Apple normally uses to gather its depth data to apply the portrait effect.

So they got clever. iPhone XR portrait images still contain a depth map that determines foreground, subject and background, as well as the new segmentation map that handles fine detail like hair. While the segmentation maps are roughly identical, the depth maps from the iPhone XR are nowhere as detailed or information rich as the ones that are generated by the iPhone XS.

See the two maps compared here, the iPhone XR’s depth map is far less aware of the scene depth and separation between the ‘slices’ of distance. It means that the overall portrait effect, while effective, is not as nuanced or aggressive.

In addition, the iPhone XR’s portrait mode only works on people.You’re also limited to just a couple of the portrait lighting modes: studio and contour.

In order to accomplish portrait mode without the twin lens perspective, Apple is doing facial landmark mapping and image recognition work to determine that the subject you’re shooting is a person. It’s doing depth acquisition by acquiring the map using a continuous real-time buffer of information coming from the focus pixels embedded in the iPhone XR’s sensor that it is passing to the A12 Bionic’s Neural Engine. Multiple neural nets analyze the data and reproduce the depth effect right in the viewfinder.

When you snap the shutter it combines the depth data, the segmentation map and the image data into a portrait shot instantaneously. You’re able to see the effect immediately. It’s wild to see this happen in real time and it boggles thinking about the horsepower needed to do this. By comparison, the Pixel 3 does not do real time preview and takes a couple of seconds to even show you the completed portrait shot once it’s snapped.

It’s a bravura performance in terms of silicon. But how do the pictures look?

I have to say, I really like the portraits that come out of the iPhone XR. I was ready to hate on the software-driven solution they’d come up with for the single lens portrait but it’s pretty damn good. The depth map is not as ‘deep’ and the transitions between out of focus and in focus areas are not as wide or smooth as they are on iPhone XS, but it’s passable. You’re going to get more funny blurring of the hair, more obvious hard transitions between foreground and background and that sort of thing.

And the wide angle portraits are completely incorrect from an optical compression perspective (nose too large, ears too small). Still, they are kind of fun in an exaggerated way. Think the way your face looks when you get to close to your front camera.

If you take a ton of portraits with your iPhone, the iPhone XS is going to give you a better chance of getting a great shot with a ton of depth that you can play with to get the exact look that you want. But as a solution that leans hard on the software and the Neural Engine, the iPhone XR’s portrait mode isn’t bad.

Performance

Unsurprisingly, given that it has the same exact A12 Bionic processor, but the iPhone XR performs almost identically to the iPhone XS in tests. Even though it features 3GB of RAM to the iPhone XS’ 4GB, the overall situation here is that you’re getting a phone that is damn near identical as far as speed and capability. If you care most about core features and not the camera or screen quirks, the iPhone XR does not offer many, if any, compromises here.

Size

The iPhone XR is the perfect size. If Apple were to make only one phone next year, they could just make it XR-sized and call it good. Though I am now used to the size of the iPhone X, a bit of extra screen real-estate is much appreciated when you do a lot of reading and email. Unfortunately, the iPhone XS Max is a two-handed phone, period. The increase in vertical size is lovely for reading and viewing movies, but it’s hell on reachability. Stretching to the corners with your thumb is darn near impossible and to complete even simple actions like closing a modal view inside an app it’s often easiest (and most habitual) to just default to two hands to perform those actions.

For those users that are ‘Plus’ addicts, the XS Max is an exercise in excess. It’s great as a command center for someone who does most of their work on their iPhones or in scenarios where it’s their only computer. My wife, for instance, has never owned her own computer and hasn’t really needed a permanent one in 15 years. For the last 10 years, she’s been all iPhone, with a bit of iPad thrown in. I myself am now on a XS Max because I also do a huge amount of my work on my iPhone and the extra screen size is great for big email threads and more general context.

But I don’t think Apple has done enough to capitalize on the larger screen iPhones in terms of software — certainly not enough to justify two-handed operation. It’s about time iOS was customized thoroughly for larger phones beyond a couple of concessions to split-view apps like Mail.

That’s why the iPhone XR’s size comes across as such a nice compromise. It’s absolutely a one-handed phone, but you still get some extra real-estate over the iPhone XS and the exact same amount of information appears on the iPhone XR’s screen as on the iPhone XS Max in a phone that is shorter enough to be thumb friendly.

Color

Apple’s industrial design chops continue to shine with the iPhone XR’s color finishes. My tester iPhone was the new Coral color and it is absolutely gorgeous.

The way Apple is doing colors is like nobody else. There’s no comparison to holding a Pixel 3, for instance. The Pixel 3 is fun and photographs well, but super “cheap and cheerful” in its look and feel. Even though the XR is Apple’s mid-range iPhone, the feel is very much that of a piece of nicely crafted jewelry. It’s weighty, with a gorgeous 7-layer color process laminating the back of the rear glass, giving it a depth and sparkle that’s just unmatched in consumer electronics.

The various textures of the blasted aluminum and glass are complimentary and it’s a nice melding of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X design ethos. It’s massively unfortunate that most people will be covering the color with cases, and I expect clear cases to explode in popularity when these phone start getting delivered.

It remains very curious that Apple is not shipping any first-party cases for the iPhone XR — not even the rumored clear case. I’m guessing that they just weren’t ready or that Apple was having issues with some odd quirk of clear cases like yellowing or cracking or something. But whatever it is, they’re leaving a bunch of cash on the table.

Apple’s ID does a lot of heavy lifting here, as usual. It often goes un-analyzed just how well the construction of the device works in conjunction with marketing and market placement to help customers both justify and enjoy their purchase. It transmits to the buyer that this is a piece of quality kit that has had a lot of thought put into it and makes them feel good about paying a hefty price for a chunk of silicon and glass. No one takes materials science anywhere as seriously at Apple and it continues to be on display here.

Should you buy it?

As I said above, it’s not that complicated of a question. I honestly wouldn’t overthink this one too much. The iPhone XR is made to serve a certain segment of customers that want the new iPhone but don’t necessarily need every new feature. It works great, has a few small compromises that probably won’t faze the kind of folks that would consider not buying the best and is really well built and executed.

“Apple’s pricing lineup is easily its strongest yet competitively,” creative Strategies’ Ben Bajarin puts it here in a subscriber piece. “The [iPhone] XR in particular is well lined up against the competition. I spoke to a few of my carrier contacts after Apple’s iPhone launch event and they seemed to believe the XR was going to stack up well against the competition and when you look at it priced against the Google Pixel ($799) and Samsung Galaxy 9 ($719). Some of my contacts even going so far to suggest the XR could end up being more disruptive to competitions portfolios than any iPhone since the 6/6 Plus launch.”

Apple wants to fill the umbrella, leaving less room than ever for competitors. Launching a phone that’s competitive in price and features an enormous amount of research and execution that attempt to make it as close a competitor as possible to its own flagship line, Apple has set itself up for a really diverse and interesting fiscal Q4.

Whether you help Apple boost its average selling price by buying one of the maxed out XS models or you help it block another Android purchase with an iPhone XR, I think it will probably be happy having you, raw or cooked.


Source: TechCrunch

Spot launches chatbot for HR departments to address harassment and discrimination

Spot, the chatbot that enables individuals to document and report harassment and discrimination, has launched a tool for human resources departments. This version enables HR departments to manage and track anonymous reports of harassment and discrimination, and follow up on those reports.

Spot relies on memory science and artificial intelligence to address harassment and discrimination at work. Using the chatbot, employees can anonymously document inappropriate behavior, the ability for HR workers to follow-up, the ability to export reports as signed, time-stamped PDFs and more. Employees can, of course, choose to use their name if they’d like.

“Spot places companies in the best possible position to build a healthy work culture,” Spot co-founder Dr. Julia Shaw said in a statement. “By taking an evidence-based approach to help break down the barriers to reporting harassment and discrimination, Spot allows companies to provide timely, transparent, and unbiased responses and mitigate the negative consequences of harassment.”

For small teams (up to 100 people), Spot costs $800 per year. For larger companies, Spot offers additional tools — like custom follow-up questions, single sign-on for admins, group email and Slack notifications, and charges $2 per person per month.

Spot is part of the All Turtles startup studio, which was created by Evernote co-founder Phil Libin. Dr. Shaw’s other co-founders include Daniel Nicolae and Dylan Marriott.


Source: TechCrunch

SoftBank CEO pulls out of speaking at Saudi investment conference

SoftBank Group has become the latest high profile technology business to drop out of an investment conference in Saudi Arabia following the snowballing global outcry over the killing of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

The Wall Street Journal reports the last minute cancelation by CEO Masayoshi Son of a speaking engagement at the Future Investment Initiative conference which opens in Riyadh today, and runs for three days.

We’ve reached out to SoftBank for comment.

When asked last week about its presence at the conference the company had said it was “watching developments” to “see where this goes”.

Last week Saudi authorities finally admitted Khashoggi had died inside their consulate in Istanbul — although their explanation for exactly how he died continues to face global scepticism. At the same time, explicit leaks from Turkish authorities have suggested the killing was both premeditated and truly horrific.

Son has a close relationship with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, attracting billions of dollars of investment from the kingdom into his massive SoftBank Vision Fund, which raised $93M at its first close a year ago.

Since then it has talked bullishly about raising multiple $100BN funds. But in the face of a still spiralling geopolitical outcry over the journalist’s slaying, SoftBank now appears to be playing down the prospect of imminent sequels.

A spokesperson told CNN on Friday: “Vision Fund 2 is just a concept at the moment. Timing, scale and details are not decided and [have] not been disclosed.”

Son bowing out of the Riyadh conference lends further weight to the idea the group is now cooling on Saudi money. And without the kingdom’s billions to pump into future Vision Funds, SoftBank’s vision of multiple ‘mega-funds’ looks far more conceptual than imminently possible.

A raft of other business and political leaders have also pulled out of attending the Future Investment Initiative conference as concern over Khashoggi’s fate has ramped up, including the CEO of Uber — whose ride-hailing business has also been pumped up with billions of dollars of kingdom investment in recent years; both directly and indirectly via SoftBank’s Vision Fund.

It remains to be seen how that relationship will now play out.

As we wrote last week, the fallout from Khashoggi’s slaying is being widely felt — and showing no signs of fading away, as investors might have hoped.

The website of the Saudi’s future investment conference was also temporarily defaced by hackers yesterday.


Source: TechCrunch

HTC opens up early access to its blockchain phone

After months of talk, HTC’s blockchain phone is finally arriving — albeit in limited quantities. The hardware maker announced today at a crypto conference in Berlin that it’s opening up access to an early version the Exodus 1 handset to “cryptographers and developers from all over the world” through its official site.

Of course, “early version” implies that we’re not dealing with anything final here. Add to that the fact that the phone isn’t expected to actually ship until December, and the thing doesn’t really feel all that much more real than it did a few months back. Still, if you believe in the tech — or at least find yourself morbidly curious about it — you can pick one up using either Bitcoin or Ethereum, naturally.

Images of the phone are still renders, but the device appears to share a lot of design language in common with HTC’s most recent flagship, the U12 — down to the translucent glass backing. That’s a good thing, honestly. Too often these kinds of novelty devices are produced by companies too focused on a single underlying technology to get the rest of the phone right. Here, at least, you know you’ll be getting a solid, working handset as the foundation.

The phone itself runs Android. From the sound of it, much of the underlying tech is about keeping the phone secure, being used to store things like keys to cryptocurrencies and, moving forward, all of the phone’s data. There’s also an interesting built in function for accessing lost data in a decentralized way.

HTC has developed a unique Social Key Recovery mechanism in case your phone is lost or stolen, or you forget your keys. It is an easy and secure way to recover keys lost in the hardware. It also ensures that HTC does not hold your keys in a central location at any point – you maintain full custody at all times. HTC allows you to pick a few trustworthy contacts, and each one of those must download a key management app. Your seed then gets split using a secret sharing algorithm and is sent to the trusted contacts. Should the need arise, you can successfully regain access to your funds.

For now, HTC is using this program to pilot the tech here — taking feedback from a small core of users. Though it’s tough to imagine this becoming much more of a mainstream device for a company struggling to stand out in the smartphone space.


Source: TechCrunch

Only 24 hours left to buy early-bird tickets to Disrupt Berlin 2018

A huge shout-out to all the early-stage startup procrastinators out there. Our 24-hour clock is in play, and that means you need to act quickly if you want to save up to €500 on tickets to Disrupt Berlin 2018. And by quickly we mean by tomorrow, 24 October. That’s when the early-bird price flies the coop, and what budget-conscious start-upper wants to pay more? Don’t get stuck with a bigger bill. Buy your early-bird ticket today.

Disrupt Berlin 2018 offers world-class networking and opportunity. You’ll find more than 400 early-stage startups — including our exceptional cohort of TC Top Picks — exhibiting in Startup Alley. It’s a place to connect with your peers, share ideas and find potential partners, customers and funding — the list goes on.

Networking at Disrupt will be easier than ever this year because we’re making CrunchMatch — our free business match-making service that connects investors and founders who want to discuss funding — available to all conference attendees. Whether you’re looking for partners, a developer, marketing help or a new job, CrunchMatch will help you find and connect with the right people.

Nothing beats the sheer, raw energy and excitement of Startup Battlefield, our premier pitch competition. You won’t want to miss 15 of the hottest early-stage startups competing for the coveted Disrupt Cup, $50,000 in non-equity cash and invaluable, often life-changing, exposure to media and investors.

The founders of each team have been honing their pitches with coaching from experienced TechCrunch editors, and they’ll be ready to give it their all on the Disrupt Main Stage. Be there to watch — and cheer them on — as they launch their startups to the world.

There’s so much more to experience at Disrupt Berlin 2018: Q&A Sessions, a speaker roster filled with industry leaders and luminaries, workshops and the world’s best After Party. Check out the agenda here.

Here’s the bottom line. TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin 2018 takes place on 29-30 November, and you can save up to €500 — but only if you buy your tickets before the 24 October deadline. We can’t wait to see you in Berlin!

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Source: TechCrunch

Here are where the first Amazon Go stores in San Francisco will be located

Amazon is getting ready to introduce some more of its futuristic convenience stores where buyers can skip the line.

San Francisco may be the center of techie desires and culture but all of Amazon’s five existing Go locations have been elsewhere. Today, the company is announcing some new locations for upcoming stores, including one that will be opening in San Francisco today.

The company’s location on California & Battery street will be opening its doors for the first time at 7AM this morning, with quick bites, some grocery items and meal kits available for shoppers interested in buying things without going through a checkout line.

In addition to the Amazon Go store opening later this morning, the company has also announced that they’ll be opening a 1,750 square foot location in San Francisco at Post & Kearny street this winter.

Outside of SF, the company confirmed a 2,000 square foot location coming to Chicago’s Illinois Center at 111 E Wacker Drive in 2019.

Amazon seems to be focusing its first SF openings in the Financial District here where there’s often a lot more foot traffic around lunchtime than in more startup office-heavy areas around SoMa where a lot of employees seem to stick around for catered lunches.

I’m sure I’ll be grabbing a bite to eat at the California & Battery location sometime this week to see if everything works as advertised, but here’s a look at our experience with the futuristic convenience store when its first location opened earlier this year:


Source: TechCrunch

Stepping Into an Amazon Store Helps It Get Inside Your Head

The retailer can learn a lot about shoppers’ habits from its growing line of cashier-less Amazon Go convenience stores.
Source: Wired

Tier, the Berlin-based scooter rental startup, raises €25M as European e-scooter market heats up

Tier, one of a number of electric scooter rental startups based in Berlin, has raised a chunky €25 million in Series A funding. Leading the round is VC fund Northzone, with participation from existing investors Speedinvest, and Point Nine.

The investment marks the biggest financial backing for a European company in the space, and, according to my sources, signals the beginning of a pending VC war to create the “Bird or Lime of Europe”.

Go Flash (or perhaps just “Flash”), founded by Delivery Hero and Team Europe founder Lukasz Gadowski, is also thought to be out raising a war chest from VCs across Europe. I understand the yet-to-launch startup is already backed by Gadowski’s own cash and €2 million from the mobility arm of Target global.

There’s also Coup, an e-scooter subsidiary owned by Bosch and backed by BCG Digital Ventures that operates in Berlin, Paris and Madrid. And just two month’s ago Taxify announced its intention to do e-scooter rentals under the brand Bolt, first launched in Paris but also planning to be pan-European, including Germany. To name just a few.

Meanwhile, Bird and Lime have made tentative launches in Europe. The U.S. e-scooter services are both available in Paris, with other European cities expected soon.

More on Northzone-backed Tier

Founded by “serial entrepreneurs” Lawrence Leuschner (CEO), Julian Blessin (CPO), and Matthias Laug (CTO), provides electric scooters that can be
rented on demand to travel the “last mile” in cities. To use the Tier service, riders download the app, locate one of the available e-scooters using the map, pay a fixed fee of €1 to unlock, followed by a fee of €0.15 per minute to ride.

The startup pitches its mobility offering as an “independent, fun and conscious way of urban commuting,” as says that what sets Tier apart from competitors is the way it plans to work closely with local governments and town halls to help create a sustainable experience. “The goal is to change the current status quo of polluted cities, smog and ineffective, inconvenient and overpriced transportation modes together!” says the company.

Its first active city is Vienna, which launched just last week. However, the plan is to use the new Series A funding to roll out the Tier service to additional European cities, and to further scale the team.

Cue a statement from Paul Murphy, Partner at Northzone: “European cities are uniquely placed to benefit from access to low-carbon, accessible and convenient transport, thanks to their high population density and political commitment to lower carbon emissions. It takes a strong team to navigate a complex landscape. Tier is the frontrunner in Europe, and we have been incredibly impressed with what the team has achieved to date. We think they can become a category winner in a space”.

Fun fact: Tier’s Blessin was instrumental in setting up e-scooter rival Coup as the company’s “Venture Build” & Head of Growth.

More on Lukasz Gadowski’s Go Flash

Although not yet official — Gadowski’s LinkedIn profile simply lists his latest job title as CEO at “TBA MOBILITY SERVICE” — Go Flash is one of Berlin’s worst kept secrets. The new venture was briefly mentioned by local German blog Gruenderzene, whilst I’ve heard a few more details from my own sources in the German city and from a number of VCs across Europe.

One rumour in circulation is that Gadowski is in the midst of raising a “mega round” from multiple European VCs, with the aim of creating both a war chest to fend off Bird and Lime, but also to launch a pan-European e-scooter service that hits the road motoring via a roll up of other nascent e-scooter startups across the region.

The figure being touted is between $100 million and $200 million, with one source telling me it is still very early days, while another says the deal is practically done. I’ve also heard that Go Flash is already in talks with an e-scooter startup in Sweden (while Delivery Hero garnered much of its growth via acquisition).

As one person familiar with Gadowski’s previous modus operandi put it: “He’s good at fundraising. $100 million wouldn’t be hard for Lukasz to raise. He raised over a $1 billion in equity for Delivery Hero and made a lot of people money”. In other words, we might expect to see some investors previously associated with Delivery Hero take part.

More intriguingly, one source, albeit based on limited information, said that if the mega round is true it will be fascinating to witness a number of top European VCs “colluding” in a bid to keep Silicon Valley at bay. The general sentiment is that they don’t want the potentially lucrative e-scooter space, which appears to have very promising unit economics, to be rolled over by a U.S. company in the same way that Uber swept into Europe and overtook much of the local competition.


Source: TechCrunch

Local venture capital fund formation is on the rise in Africa, led by Nigeria

Africa’s VC landscape is becoming more African with an increasing number of investment funds headquartered on the continent and run by locals, according to data from Crunchbase.

The study also tracked the emergence of homegrown corporate venture arms and more Africans in top positions at outside funds. These results derived from a year-long project to boost Crunchbase’s Africa data capture and increase awareness of its platform across the continent’s tech ecosystem.

Drawing on its database and primary source research, Crunchbase identified 51 “viable” Africa-focused VC funds globally—defining viable as formally established entities with 7-10 investments or more in African startups, from seed to series stage.

Those who made the list with 7 investments indicated they would reach 10 by early 2019.  

Of the 51 funds investing in African startups, 22 (or 43 percent) were headquartered in Africa and managed by Africans.

Of the 22 African managed and located funds, 9 (or 41 percent) were formed since 2016 and 9 are Nigerian.

Four of the 9 Nigeria located funds were formed within the last year: Microtraction, Neon Ventures, Beta Ventures, and CcHub’s Growth Capital fund.

The research prioritized organizational viability and number of investments over fund and round size. Therefore, the range in typical investment values across the group was wide, with some offering $25K seed investments, and others doing $1 to $10 million rounds at the series A and B stage.

In the group of 51 total funds, TPG’s Growth Fund led the largest round on the continent in 2018 (so far):  $47.5 million to Kenyan fintech startup Cellulant.

This has only been topped by the $52 million round to South Africa’s Jumo, but that was led by Goldman Sachs—which (by the information we have) hasn’t invested significantly in African startups, aside from Jumia.   

The Nigerian funds with the most investments were EchoVC (20) and Ventures Platform (23).

Notably active funds in the group of 51 included Singularity Investments (18 African startup investments) Ghana’s Golden Palm Investments (17) and Musha Ventures (36).

At least one corporate venture arm—Safaricom’s Spark Venture Fund—made Crunchbase’s list of 51. The research also tracked a rise in corporate venture funding and acquisition activity. MTN has invested in African startups and Standard Bank added $1 million to Founders Factory’s new African accelerator. Fintech firm Interswitch has been in the acquisition market and established its E-growth Fund to invest in startups.

Cellulant CEO Ken Njoroge indicated recently his company will likely go acquisition shopping for local startups in the near future.

During the course of Crunchbase’s research sources speaking on background flagged the pending launch of three new African corporate venture arms within the next 12 to 16 months.

In addition to tracking more funds on the continent, another emerging trend point was Africans in senior positions at those located elsewhere—including the three that raised the most capital over the last 24 months.

Former Nigerian ICT minister Omobola Johnson is a senior partner at TLcom Capital’s $40 million fund. Yemi Lalude is Managing Partner of TPG Growth’s Africa fund, which announced $2 billion in its coffers last year. And at French firm Partech—which raised $70 million for its Africa fund—Tidjane Deme is General Partner.

Crunchbase’s overall findings come as a several recent articles (and a heap of Twitter debate) have expressed concern about possible outsized influence of external actors in Africa’s tech ecosystem — primarily East Africa — and bias among VC investors toward non-African founders.

More accurate data on Sub-Saharan Africa’s VC could help better inform these discussions.

Pinning down solid stats on the region’s nascent startup scene is a budding exercise. The core growth in Sub-Saharan Africa’s tech sector has occurred over the last 5-7 years so there’s less accompanying infrastructure—i.e., analyst reporting, long-term databases, and robust media coverage—than other markets

Some VC firms have taken stabs at quantifying the value of VC investment over select timeframes. In 2017, Village Capital did a report tracking fintech funding in East Africa.

The last two years, Partech and media firm Disrupt Africa have done reports on Africa’s annual VC values. Their diverging numbers demonstrate the continued challenges to producing confident stats. Partech’s study tallied 2017 funding to African startups at $560 million, while Disrupt Africa came up with $195 million for the same year.

For its part, Crunchbase aims to create as accurate a VC representation for Africa as it does for other global markets. In addition to tracking stats on African funds, the platform has extended its  Venture Program—which allows partners to directly update their Crunchbase data and investments.

To date, Crunchbase has added 33 African focused Venture Program partners including Greenhouse Capital, TLcom Capital, Draper Darkflow, Silvertree Internet Holdings, Naspers, Orange Digital Ventures, and Accion Venture Lab.


Source: TechCrunch

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