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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Spotify officially launches a shared-queue feature called Group Session

Spotify is introducing a new feature, Group Session, that will allow two or more of its Premium users in the same space to share control over the music being played. Essentially a “party mode” of sorts, Group Session participants can control what’s playing in real time as well as contribute to a collaborative playlist for the group.

The company notes that the feature can be used among quarantine-mates and families — groups that are now spending long hours at home together, where they now work, play, cook, dance and more with Spotify running in the background.

To use the feature, the “host” will tap the Connect menu in the bottom-left corner of their Play screen, then share with their “guests” the scannable code that appears. The guests then join the session by scanning the host’s code. Then, using Spotify’s built-in controls, they’re able to pause, play, skip and select tracks on the queue and add choices of their own to be played next. The changes any guest makes are immediately displayed to all participants’ devices.

Spotify already offers ways for groups to share their favorite music, but in more limited ways. The company offers a way to build Collaborative playlists with friends, where everyone can add, delete and reorder tracks. In addition, Spotify Premium Family plan members can listen to a personalized playlist called Family Mix that combines the music that everyone enjoys.

However, neither of these options offer a way to collaborate in real time, as Group Session does.

The Group Session feature has been in testing since last year, where it was first uncovered by noted reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong back in May 2019. Others had also reported seeing it appear on their own accounts later in August. That means some users may have had the feature before today. However, it’s only now being made globally available to all Premium users.

At the time of its initial development, Spotify may have envisioned the feature as a way to make its app go viral, as users would download Spotify in order to contribute to a party playlist — perhaps by scanning a code that appeared on the party host’s TV, for example. But with the coronavirus pandemic limiting gatherings and people isolating themselves at home, the company is instead positioning Group Session as a way for families and housemates to entertain themselves.

By tying a feature like this to its Premium subscription, Spotify is hoping to encourage more of its free users to make the jump to its paid, music-on-demand streaming service. It’s a good time for this sort of push, too.

More people are staying at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, and are looking for ways to be entertained. Streaming, particularly video, is up. And Spotify said during its April earnings it was seeing double-digit increases over the past few weeks in listening around in-home activities, like cooking, chores, family time and more.

Today, Spotify says Group Session is launching into beta, meaning it’s still being tested and developed. It can used by Premium account holders, including users who share the same Spotify Premium Family account.

The version launching today is the first iteration of the feature, and Spotify expects it will evolve over time as it learns more from user feedback. It may even expand beyond people sharing the same space in the future.

Group Session is rolling out today, so you may not see it just yet. The feature will be available to all Premium users worldwide when the rollout completes.


Source: TechCrunch

MemSQL raises $50M in debt facility for its real-time database platform

As a number of startups get back into fundraising in earnest, one that is on a growth tear has closed a substantial debt round to hold on to more equity in the company as it inches to being cash-flow positive. MemSQL — the relational, real-time database used by organisations to query and analyse large pools of fast-moving data across cloud, hybrid and on-premise environments (customers include major banks, telecoms carriers, ride sharing giants, and even those building COVID-19 tracing apps) — has secured $50 million in debt, money that CEO Raj Verma says should keep it “well capitalised for the next several years” and puts it on the road to an IPO or potential private equity exit.

The funding is coming from Hercules Capital, which has some $4.3 billion under management and has an interesting history. On the one hand, it’s invested in companies that include Facebook (this was back in 2012, when Facebook was still a startup), but it’s also been in the news because its CEO was one of the high fliers accused in the college cheating scandal of 2019.

MemSQL does not disclose its valuation but Verma confirmed it is now significantly higher than it was at its last equity raise of $30 million in 2018 when it was valued at about $270 million, per data from PitchBook.

Why raise debt rather than equity? The company is already backed by a long list of impressive investors starting with Y Combinator, and including Accel, Data Collective, DST, GV (one of Google-owner Alphabet’s venture capital vehicles), Khosla, IA Ventures, In-Q-Tel (the CIA-linked VC) and many more. Verma said in an interview with TechCrunch that the startup had started to look at this fundraise before the pandemic hit.

It had “multiple options to raise an equity round” from existing and new investors, which quickly produced some eight term sheets. Ultimately, it took the debt route mainly because it didn’t need the capital badly enough to give up equity, and terms “are favourable right now,” making a debt facility the best option. “Our cash burn is in the single digits,” he said, and “we still have independence.”

The company has been on a roll in recent times. It grew 75% last year (note it was 200% in 2018) with cash burn of $8-9 million in that period and now has a annual recurring revenues of $40 million. Customers include three of the world’s biggest banks, which use MemSQL to power all of its algorithmic trading, major telecoms carriers, mapping providers (Verma declined to comment on whether investor Google is a customer), and more. While Verma today declines to talk about specific names, previous named customers have included Uber, Akamai, Pinterest, Dell EMC and Comcast.

And if the current health pandemic has had put a lot of pressure on some companies in the tech world, MemSQL is one of the group that’s been seeing a strong upswing in business.

Verma noted that this is down to multiple reasons. First, its customer base has not had a strong crossover with sectors like travel that have been hit hard by the economic slowdown and push to keep people indoors. Second, its platform has actually proven to be useful precisely in the present moment, with companies now being forced to reckon with legacy architecture and move to hybrid or all-cloud environments just to do business. And others like True Digital are specifically building contact-tracing applications to help address the spread of the novel coronavirus on MemSQL.

The company plays in a well-crowded area that includes big players like Oracle and SAP. Verma said that its tech stands apart from these because of its hybrid architecture and because it can provide speed improvements of some 30x with technology that — as we have noted before — allows users to push millions of events per day into the service while its users can query the records in real time. 

It also helps to have competitive pricing. “We are a favourable alternative,” Verma said.

“This structured investment represents a significant commitment from Hercules and provides an example of the breadth of our platform and our ability to finance growth-orientated, institutionally-backed technology companies at various stages. We are impressed with the work that the MemSQL management team has accomplished operationally and excited to begin our partnership with one of the promising companies in the database market,” said Steve Kuo, senior managing director technology group head for Hercules, in a statement.


Source: TechCrunch

Amazon’s *Upload* Will Get a Second Season

Meanwhile, M. Night Shyamalan is working on a new mystery movie. 
Source: Wired

Intel and University of Pennsylvania are using A.I. to find brain tumors

Program will combine the efforts of multiple systems – while maintaining privacy
Source: Digital trends

How to make your Mac look like Windows 10

Miss the Start Menu and the Taskbar? These apps bring these Windows favorites to the Mac with little effort.
Source: Digital trends

How Albert Einstein's Son Tamed the Mississippi River

Multiple structures now keep the river from roaring into the Atchafalaya—but they may be inadequate against climate change.
Source: Wired

Wildfires Already Threaten the West. Then Came Covid-19

What if you need to mobilize first responders while keeping them socially distanced—and also potentially evacuate whole communities to safety?
Source: Wired

The Case for Reopening Schools

Lots of other countries have decided that it’s time to take this step. Why is the US holding back?
Source: Wired

Trump administration wants to bring chip manufacturing to the U.S.

The U.S. government is in talks with Intel and TSMC
Source: Digital trends

Hackers are trying to sell a haul of more than 73 million user records

Affected online services include dating app Zoosk and printing service Chatbooks
Source: Digital trends

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