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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Elon Musk says SpaceX is working on a kid-size submarine to extract those boys in Thailand

Over the last couple of days, serial entrepreneur Elon Musk has been tweeting about how to potentially help the 12 young soccer players and their coach who’ve been trapped in a cave in Thailand since entering it June 23rd, after which they became trapped by rising floodwaters.

Now, suggests Musk, working with cave experts in Thailand, Musk and engineers from his rocket company, SpaceX, have decided on the “primary path” to attempt to freeing the group: a “tiny, kid-size submarine” that uses the “liquid oxygen transfer tube” of SpaceX’s Falcon rocket as hull.

It’s “[l]ight enough to be carried by two divers, small enough to get through narrow gaps. Extremely robust,” Musk tweeted a couple of hours ago, adding that construction on the vehicle will be “complete in about 8 hours” after which it will be sent on a 17-hour flight to Thailand. (SpaceX is based in Hawthorne, California, outside of L.A.)

Whether the creation is made and shipped out remains to be seen, but Musk suggested on Twitter that it would be “[f]itted for a kid or small adult to minimize open air” with “[s]egmented compartments to place rocks or dive weights” and “adjust buoyancy.”

Musk had tweeted last night that both SpaceX and his much newer, tunnel boring company, Boring Company, would be sending engineers to Thailand today to see how they could help.

If SpaceX is able to create an escape pod that works, Musk — who enjoys a kind of cult status in the business world for building superior products in challenging, capital-intensive industries — will only further burnish his reputation as a kind of Tony Stark figure. Indeed, his Twitter feed is currently filled with adoring comments relating to his interest in rescuing the soccer team.

It’s a daunting challenge. As reported in the New York Times, the cave complex has never been fully mapped and it features  different waterways that don’t appear to be directly linked. Rescue attempts have already led to one fatality, that of former Thai Navy SEAL diver Saman Gunan, who brought tanks of air to the boys and their coach, then lost consciousness in one of its passageways on his swim out of the complex.

Update: The original version of this story included a short reference to a contest that Musk is not involved in. Thanks to a reader for flagging this for us.

Source: TechCrunch

Castbox turns to blockchain to help podcasters get paid

Late last month, Castbox introduced Contentbox, an attempt help podcast hosts and producers make some actual money off their product. It’s been something of an on-going struggle since the dawn of the medium. Longtime listeners no doubt recognize all the trends after fast forwarding through their 10,000th Casper mattress read.

While it’s true that a handful of successful startups are among the regular rotation in pre- and mid-roll ads, the simple fact is that a very small percentage of podcasters are actually able to make a living wage through the medium. It’s no wonder, then, that the top of the charts for the supposedly democratized platform were quickly taken over by media giants like NPR and The New York Times.

I’ve spoken with a number of leading podcast providers in recent months, and the consensus seems to be that there will likely never be a one size fits all approach to making money through podcasting. Gimlet (Startup, Reply All) provides one interesting example, through IP licensing that has the dual effect of providing cashflow, while promoting one’s product.

Jenna Weiss-Berman, the co-founder of Pineapple Street (producer of Hillary Clinton’s podcast and the wildly successful Missing Richard Simmons), told me that her company takes a more for-hire approach, essentially working as a studio/production company for other people’s shows, Obviously neither of these are a viable solution for all or even most podcasters.

During a fireside interview at TechCrunch’s event in Hangzhou, China this week, Castbox CEO Renee Wang outlined her company’s plans to offer podcasters a micropayment plan built around blockchain technology.

“Contentbox is a blockchain-based infrastructure for the digital content industry,” Wang told me. “The existing model is broken. Creators are not getting what they deserve and consumers are not getting a reward for engaging with content.”

The company describes the product thusly,

Castbox addresses this issue by consolidating the cumbersome subscription process into a single platform where users can discover, unlock, and consume premium content without leaving the app. Castbox eliminates user friction and makes paid subscriptions easily accessible so publishers can generate more revenue and grow their following. 

Wondery, the 20th Century Fox-backed network behind shows like American History Tellers and Dirty John, will be the first to support the technology. I suspect that Castbox will likely begin implementing the payment system for the original content it began producing earlier this year, which includes the Serial spoof, This Sounds Serious.

Wang, a former Google Japan employee who sold her home two years ago to raise capital for the startup, believes the technology will allow listeners to become more invested in the product.

“With blockchain, this small micropayment system, you can make are all of the investors who invest at the very beginning, before the show is created, they can get their portion,” she told me. “It lets listeners become investors. They have more responsibility to share and distribute the show, because they are also the investor in the show. It incentivizes these behaviors.”   

The company has yet to detail the specifics of the program, but it will likely offer a number of avenues for promoting a show, including social media plug-ins, so users who get their shows through apps other than Castbox can participate.

Source: TechCrunch

Twitter erupts as England reaches World Cup semifinal – CNET

Knock knock. Who’s there? It’s football, and fans remain convinced it’s coming home, as the Three Lions win again.
Source: CNET

MoviePass offers ticket refund after Friday Night outage

After a rapid ascent, it’s been a rough couple of months for MoviePass. And while last night’s outage isn’t exactly the end of the world for the theater subscription service, Friday night is the least the opportune moment for your service to crap the proverbial bed. That goes double now that competitors like AMC and Sinemia is pushing back hard.

The company says it had the situation fully taken care of as of 9:30 ET last night. It also took to social media to let customers know that it would be issuing a refund for those paid out of pocket. Because watching Ant-Man and the Wasp on the second day just won’t cut it. Subscribers will need to send in their ticket stubs in order to get the refund.

Earlier today, the company asked users to “update your app before you leave for the theater today.” The latest version of the app brings stability updates, along with those dreaded peak pricing surcharges that rolled out this week. The update is required before users can view their next movie.

Last month, the service hit three million paying subscribers, after switching to its current model in August of last year. The plan was regarded as too good to be true by many users — and it has seemingly amounted to just that. The company has struggled to expand, while managing a negative cash flow that has left some wondering how long it has left.

MoviePass’s CEO recently highlighted the company’s strategy for “owning and developing our own studio content and using the power of our several million subscribers to bolster the success of the box office for our films.” Hopefully future ventures will turn out better than Gotti.

Source: TechCrunch

‘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