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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

What is OneDrive?

Chances are good that you have heard about Microsoft’s “OneDrive” services – but what is OneDrive, and how does it work? This cloud storage solution is connected to many different Microsoft services, including a variety of Windows 10 apps and Office 365 capabilities.

The post What is OneDrive? appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

Investing in frontier technology is (and isn’t) cleantech all over again

I entered the world of venture investing a dozen years ago.  Little did I know that I was embarking on a journey to master the art of balancing contradictions: building up experience and pattern recognition to identify outliers, emphasizing what’s possible over what’s actual, generating comfort and consensus around a maverick founder with a non-consensus view, seeking the comfort of proof points in startups that are still very early, and most importantly, knowing that no single lesson learned can ever be applied directly in the future as every future scenario will certainly be different.

I was fortunate to start my venture career at a fund specializing in funding “Frontier” technology companies. Real-estate was white hot, banks were practically giving away money, and VCs were hungry to fund hot startups.

I quickly found myself in the same room as mainstream software investors looking for what’s coming after search, social, ad-tech, and enterprise software. Cleantech was very compelling: an opportunity to make money while saving our planet.  Unfortunately for most, neither happened: they lost their money and did little to save the planet.

Fast forward a decade, after investors scored their wins in online lending, cloud storage, and on-demand, I find myself, again, in the same room with consumer and cloud investors venturing into “Frontier Tech”.  The are dazzled by the founders’ presentations, and proud to have a role in funding turning the seemingly impossible to what’s possible through science. However, what lessons did they take away from the Cleantech cycle? What should Frontier Tech founders and investors be thinking about to avoid the same fate?

Coming from a predominantly academic background, I was excited to be part of the emerging trend of funding founders leveraging technology to make how we generate, move, and consume our natural resources more efficient and sustainable. I was thrilled to be digging into technologies underpinning new batteries, photovoltaics, wind turbines, superconductors, and power electronics.  

To prove out their business models, these companies needed to build out factories, supply chains, and distribution channels. It wasn’t long until the core technology development became a small piece of an otherwise complex, expensive operation. The hot energy startup factory started to look and feel mysteriously like a magnetic hard drive factory down the street. Wait a minute, that’s because much of the equipment and staff did come from factories making components for PCs; but this time they were making products for generating, storing, and moving energy more renewably. So what went wrong?

Whether it was solar, wind, or batteries, the metrics were pretty similar: dollars per megawatt, mass per megawatt, or multiplying by time to get dollars and mass per unit energy, whether it was for the factories or the systems. Energy is pretty abundant, so the race was on to to produce and handle a commodity. Getting started as a real competitive business meant going BIG: as many of the metrics above depended on size and scale. Hundreds of millions of dollars of venture money only went so far.

The onus was on banks, private equity, engineering firms, and other entities that do not take technology risk, to take a leap of faith to take a product or factory from 1/10th scale to full-scale. The rest is history: most cleantech startups hit a funding valley of death.  They need to raise big money while sitting at high valuations, without a kernel of a real business to attract investors that write those big checks to scale up businesses.

How are Frontier-Tech companies advantaged relative to their Cleantech counterparts? For starters, most aren’t producing a commodity…

Frontier Tech, like Cleantech, can be capital-intense. Whether its satellite communications, driverless cars, AI chips, or quantum computing; like Cleantech, there is relatively larger amounts of capital needed to take the startups the point where they can demonstrate the kernel of a competitive business.  In other words, they typically need at least tens of millions of dollars to show they can sell something and profitably scale that business into a big market. Some money is dedicated to technology development, but, like cleantech a disproportionate amount will go into building up an operation to support the business. Here are a couple examples:

  • Satellite communications: It takes a few million dollars to demonstrate a new radio and spacecraft. It takes tens of millions of dollars to produce the satellites, put them into orbit, build up ground station infrastructure, the software, systems, and operations needed to serve fickle, enterprise customers. All of this while facing competition from incumbent or in-house efforts. At what point will the economics of the business attract a conventional growth investor to fund expansion? If Cleantech taught us anything, it’s that the big money would prefer to watch from the sidelines for longer than you’d think.
  • Quantum compute: Moore’s law is improving new computers at a breakneck pace, but the way they get implemented as pretty incremental. Basic compute architectures date back to the dawn of computing, and new devices can take decades to find their way into servers. For example, NAND Flash technology dates back to the 80s, found its way into devices in the 90s, and has been slowly penetrating datacenters in the past decade. Same goes for GPUs; even with all the hype around AI. Quantum compute companies can offer a service direct to users, i.e., homomorphic computing, advanced encryption/decryption, or molecular simulations. However, that would one of the rare occasions where novel computing machine company has offered computing as opposed to just selling machines. If I had to guess; building the quantum computers will be relatively quick; building the business will be expensive.
  • Operating systems for driverless cars: Tremendous progress has been made since Google first presented its early work in 2011. Dozens of companies are building software that do some combination of perception, prediction, planning, mapping, and simulations.  Every operator of autonomous cars, whether they are vertical like Zoox, or working in partnerships like GM/Cruise, have their own proprietary technology stacks. Unlike building an iPhone app, where the tools are abundant and the platform is well-understood, integrating a complete software module into an autonomous driving system may take up more effort than putting together the original code in the first place.

How are Frontier-Tech companies advantaged relative to their Cleantech counterparts? For starters, most aren’t producing a commodity: it’s easier to build a Frontier-tech company that doesn’t need to raise big dollars before demonstrating the kernel of an interesting business. On rare occasions, if the Frontier tech startup is a pioneer in its field, then it can be acquired for top dollar for the quality of its results and its team.

Recent examples are Salesforce’s acquisition of Metamind, GM’s acquisition of Cruise, and Intel’s acquisition of Nervana (a Lux investment). However, as more competing companies get to work on a new technology, the sense of urgency to acquire rapidly diminishes as the scarce, emerging technology quickly becomes widely available: there are now scores of AI, autonomous car, and AI chip companies out there. Furthermore, as technology becomes more complex, its cost of integration into a product (think about the driverless car example above) also skyrockets.  Knowing this likely liability, acquirers will tend to pay less.

Creative founding teams will find ways to incrementally build interesting businesses as they are building up their technologies.  

I encourage founders, and investors to emphasize the businesses they are building through their inventions.  I encourage founders to rethink plans that require tens of millions of dollars before being able to sell products, while warning founders not to chase revenue for the sake of revenue.  

I suggest they look closely at their plans and find creative ways to start penetrating, or building exciting markets, hence interesting businesses, with modest amounts of capital. I advise them to work with investors who, regardless of whether they saw how Cleantech unfolded, are convinced that their $$ can take the company to the point where it can engage customers with an interesting product with a sense for how it can scale into an attractive business.

Source: TechCrunch

Who wouldn’t want a giant walking robot that transforms into a sports car?

Your commute may never be the same again. A trio of Japanese companies, aided by legendary mech designer Kunio Owara, has created a real-life transformer robot that becomes a sleek sports car at the touch of a button.

The post Who wouldn’t want a giant walking robot that transforms into a sports car? appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

From dorm room to Starbucks, Rip Van Wafels is bringing Euro-inspired snack to the masses

Rip Pruisken waffled in college (we got that pun safely out of the way for now). He was a student in the Ivy League at Brown University, and had focused on academics for much of his life. His parents were physicists, and “I thought I would study some sort of cookie-cutter path of studying something that I would use post-college,” he explained. “I didn’t really consider entrepreneurship to be a viable option because I was still in that frame of mind.“

It was during a study trip to Italy that he had an epiphany. He was inside an Italian bookstore looking through business books when he suddenly realized that he had discovered a new passion. “If you can build stuff at a profit, you can build more stuff, and how cool is that? That was my aha moment,” he said.

Being an entrepreneur was one thing, but it wasn’t clear what Pruisken should sell. He had grown up in Amsterdam, where he used to eat stroopwafel, a snack composed of two thin waffle pastries melded together with a syrup center. During his freshman year, he had brought over a large quantity of them to school, and “all of my friends devoured them.” Remembering their popularity, “I literally started making them in my dorm in college, and started selling them on campus” during his junior year.

Selling ‘Van Wafels’ at Brown University

That was 2010. Today, Rip Van Wafels can be found in 12,000 Starbucks locations, and is a popular snack at tech companies, with some larger companies going through tens of thousands of units a week.

Their popularity comes from the intersection of a number of food trends. The snacks are made with natural ingredients and are healthy, with low calorie counts and limited sugar. Perhaps most importantly, they taste great, with different flavors that are designed to strike different moods (a chocolate wafel can work as dessert, while the strawberry wafel feels more like breakfast). The company currently produces eight flavors.

While the startup food company has had tremendous success, none of this was planned a decade ago when Pruisken got started. He worked with co-founder and co-CEO Marco De Leon, who was two years behind Pruisken at Brown University and was a good friend from Brazil looking for a change of pace from his Morgan Stanley internship.

They spent two years on campus trying to improve product marketing and the quality of the snack, which in hindsight was an important iteration process with what would become the company’s core consumer: well-educated and health-conscious tech workers.

The two stumbled into their market and stumbled into their name. “It started as Rip Wafel,” Pruisken explained, “and we got a cease and desist letter from Van’s,” which makes frozen food waffles among other products. A professor suggested Rip van Winkle, and that inspired the company’s current name. Pruisken himself was so enamored with the brand he changed his own name — Abhishek, which he had grown up with in Amsterdam — to Rip.

After much work, the two founders discovered that a tech company was particularly enjoying the snacks. “We realized we found this insight that one of our customers in the northeast was a tech company, and we talked to them and they said that it was the perfect treat that was an alternative to a candy bar,” he explained. So Pruisken borrowed the couch of his brother and started going door-to-door selling these Euro snacks to every tech company he could find, eventually 80 of them in one summer.

As he sold wafels, the same pattern would hold up. An order for one case would become two cases, and then 10 and then 20 of them. Eventually, word-of-mouth and distributor partnerships got the snack into the mini-kitchens of dozens of tech companies in San Francisco, as well as in Peet’s Coffee, Whole Foods, and ultimately Starbucks.

Pruisken believes the company’s success has come from iterating on the snack much as a software engineer might fiddle with JavaScript. “We have been reinventing our product every two years,” he said. “We are trying to make our product healthier while providing this very indulgent taste.” That includes experimenting with new ingredients like tapioca syrup and chickpea powder that can provide better nutrition at reduced sugar levels.

He sees the future of the company much the same way. “You can only cut the cycle time down by so much even if you do everything in-house. There are certain components you need to source like certain ingredients or packaging foam,” Pruisken explained. “The way to get ahead is to plan way ahead. So work on the things you want to launch in two years right now.” That includes a number of new flavors, as well as potentially adding products that touch on the brain-enhancing nootropics space.

Ultimately, Pruisken wants to redefine the category of packaged foods. “Convenient foods have been associated with cheaper, lower qualities and generally unhealthy foods in the US,” he said. “I think it would be great if that was elevated not just in the food space but broader.” From a foreign food in a Brown University dorm room to redefining the products on every grocery store shelf, stumbling has paid off for Rip Van, which is taking over the world one wafel at a time.

Source: TechCrunch

A new tower speaker for audio elitists – CNET

Hand crafted in California, the Magico A3 speaker’s beauty is more than skin deep.
Source: CNET

Meet the hippotherapy robot horse named Stewie – CNET

Students at Rice University create a special robot to help patients get equine-based therapy without needing a real horse.
Source: CNET

Digital and analog audio’s curious coexistence – CNET

Since nearly all music is digitally recorded, why buy a turntable?
Source: CNET

Solving the affordability crisis one Chattanooga at a time

We all know the success of America’s leading startup hubs, cities like San Francisco, New York City, Boston and several others. Entrepreneurial talent, risk-seeking venture dollars, and dense human networks form an alchemy leading to wealth, jobs, and growth. The main streets and malls of the Midwest may be devastated, but you would never know that walking through the Hudson Yards development on the west side of Manhattan or in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood.

Despite their dizzying performance, the intense concentration of success in these zip codes does not bode well for the wider American economy. Geography and zoning ordinances prevent millions from migrating to these hubs, and for those lucky few who can make a living, high housing prices and other costs can place incredible stress on young families.

If we want to ameliorate inequality while lowering that cost burden, then it is up to cities across the nation to build up their own ecosystems and compete effectively. And those cities cannot just be the megalopolis global cities, but have to include the smaller urban cities that are often the core of regions outside the coast.

I have seen few cities sell themselves as effectively as Chattanooga, whose mayor Andy Berke visited TechCrunch’s offices recently. He was accompanied by Luke Marklin, the CEO of tech-enabled moving startup Bellhops, which has raised $27.2 million in venture capital according to Crunchbase.

The two have teamed up to share the gospel of Chattanooga, but their vision could also be the vision for the future of urban cities in America. The story at this point is well-told: the formerly down-on-its-luck Tennessee city brought its community together in the 1980s and 1990s to revitalize its downtown area. Following the 2008 global financial crisis, the city’s power utility started to revamp its infrastructure, and ultimately decided to build out a gigabit municipal fiber infrastructure for the city of about 175,000.

With that bandwidth in hand, the city has embarked on building a startup hub. It has invested significant resources into its downtown innovation district, and it has worked hard to program events and amenities that will attract a diverse and talented workforce. That concentration is intentional. “We can’t have our assets spread out in a city of our size,” Berke explained. “We need to juice up activity in that ecosystem so that it feels like an ecosystem.”

What makes Chattanooga competitive though, and ultimately an interesting case study of urban leadership, is the mayor’s and the city’s deep understanding of trade-offs. With just over 175,000 people, the city’s population is just slightly higher than the startup-focused Flatiron District in New York. Chattanooga, while a distinctive name, is also not the first city that people think of when they are considering locations to migrate to.

While the city has desirable outdoor and cultural amenities, Berke is realistic about how many people might consider Chattanooga as an adopted home. “We don’t need 10,000 engineers moving to Chattanooga to survive,” he said. “You have to grow more talent, because you don’t want to solely rely on the attraction piece.” He gave the example of connecting businesses with the leadership of the local university to ensure that the skills that graduates were learning lined up better with the needs of industry.

By focusing that training on local residents, startups that might otherwise flee to the Bay Area at the first sign of a VC investment decide to stay put. Berke, speaking about Marklin and Bellhops, said that “He is approaching 100 people and when it gets to 250, that creates tremendous wealth in our community, and most of that wealth gets reinvested in the area as opposed to other types of businesses.”

Chattanooga has become a competitive city. It has used its natural endowments, its institutions, its people, and its community to foster a new generation of its economy. That isn’t a panacea for all social or economic problems of course, but the city now has a base upon which it can continue to improve the quality of life for all of its residents and potentially some transplants as well.

James Fallows wrote something of a paean to local governments this week in his cover piece for The Atlantic. Fallows has spent the past few years investigating an interesting trend in American polling: “Even as national politics induces distrust and despair, most polls show rising faith in local governance.” The reason becomes obvious as he travels around the country. Local governments are shoring up their communities through engaged citizens, smart services, and a focus on bringing everyone together around the future of their homes. In short, they look a bit like Chattanooga.

I am a bit more skeptical than Fallows though of the strength of America’s local governments. While there are certainly success stories, there are also 307 American cities with populations above 100,000. Every single one of them should be focused on increasing their competitiveness using whatever resources — however meager — they have.

The key is that cities don’t become competitive with solutions, they become competitive through systems. Transforming an urban area’s built environment and economy is a process measured in decades, not months. Systems ensures that people and institutions are working together for the long-haul, so that when a mayor leaves office, the progress of a city isn’t suddenly halted.

Chattanooga shows what happens when a city can maintain that multi-decade focus on growth and revitalization, while also adapting itself to the realities of the talent inside its borders and the economy in the world at large. Chattanooga may never be as dense as New York City, but it can certainly find a seat at the economic table and be an attractive place to live. Ultimately, we need hundreds of Chattanoogas, urban cities with dynamic economies that offer affordable alternatives to the most expensive startup hub cities in the country.

Source: TechCrunch

Gillmor Gang: Food Chain

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Michael Markman, and Steve Gillmor . Recorded live Friday, April 27, 2018. Apple, Spotify meets Alexa, Is Social Dead, the coming subscription bubble.

@stevegillmor, @mickeleh, @DenisPombriant, @fradice, @kteare

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

Liner Notes

Live chat stream

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook

Source: TechCrunch

This year’s Tribeca Film Festival uses AR and VR to explore music-making and empathy

Visiting the Immersive arcade at the Tribeca Film Festival is always challenging. Every year, there are way more virtual reality and augmented reality experiences to try out (not to mention creators to interview) than I can squeeze into just a couple of hours.

This year, as always, I was only able to check out a handful of projects. They ranged from the serious and political to the playful and colorful — though even the playful projects were still exploring some ideas about creativity and human connection.

Terminal 3, for example, uses augmented reality to put the viewer in the position of an interrogator with airport security: You meet and interview a Muslim traveler, and you get to choose from different questions before ultimately deciding whether or not they should be allowed into the country.

Artist Asad J. Malik told me that as someone who grew in Pakistan, “I’m an expert on [airport] screenings, because I get screened a lot.” For Terminal 3, Malik interviewed real people (one of the options is an interview with Malik himself), though the person you see in front of you doesn’t appear photorealistic. Instead, they’re almost like a digital ghost who might gradually become more lifelike, depending on the questions you ask.

Malik said that he’s not trying to promote a specific political message about Muslims, except to illustrate the enormous variety of personalities, backgrounds and viewpoints among people who may or may not identify themselves as Muslims, but “who the world would identify as Muslims.”

Terminal 3 was created with support from Unity for Humanity and RYOT (a virtual reality-focused studio that, like TechCrunch, is part of Verizon subsidiary Oath). It’s built for Microsoft Hololens — not exactly the most popular platform at Tribeca, but Malik said it was crucial to his approach, because it allows the interview to take place against the background of the real room: “Suddenly this story, this person, it’s in your real space.”

Meanwhile, Lambchild Superstar: Making Music in the Menagerie of the Holy Cow makes no attempt to replicate a real environment. Instead, it takes place in a virtual world of dazzlingly bright colors, populated by animals who can be manipulated to make music — for example, a cow whose tail you can grab and reposition to change the sound made by his farts.

Lambchild Superstar is a collaboration between filmmaker Chris Milk and the band OK Go. OK Go’s Damian Kulash said they initially started out with the question, “What is an OK Go video in VR?” before deciding that was the wrong approach.

Something like the “Upside Down & Inside Out” video (which shows the band flying weightlessly) might seem like a good candidate for 360-degree video, but Kulash said it actually turns out to be “not really about the environment.” Instead, it’s presenting you with an experience in “a very controlled rectangle.”

Lambchild Superstar

So Kulash and Milk decided to explore a different direction, namely allowing users to make create their own music.

“I got into my ridiculous rant about the kind of alchemy of music,” Kulash recalled. “You add one sound to another sound. and you come out the other side with this ball of joy and emotion. It’s just crazy: Where did that thing come from?”

But Milk noted that if you give most people a guitar or a piano, they might get intimidated, because they don’t know how to play it: “There’s a barrier there.” Hence the funny environment and animals; it feels more like playing a game than performing music, but you emerge at the end with a unique song.

And it’s a song that you’ve created with another user, which Kulash said was also a key part of the experience.

“Chris is a zealot about that, and for good reason,” he said. “VR can be an extremely isolating technology … but is there a way we can use that, rather than to isolate, to let you have the closeness of a more human experience? It’s a weird thing that we had to remove all the human iconography to do that.”

This year’s Tribeca Immersive is also unusual for being the first to include a couple of games, like Star Child, a platform adventure game from Playful Corp. Playful’s Paul Bettner said that like the company’s previous game Super Lucky’s Tale, Star Child uses 3D and virtual reality to try to breathe new life into a classic gaming genre, namely the platformers like Abe’s Oddysee.

Today is the final day of the Tribeca Immersive, so New Yorkers have one last chance to experience all these projects. But while you might have a hard time finding some of these projects outside a festival environment, Bettner intends to release Star Child as a mobile game as well. It might sound really tough to squeeze a VR experience onto a smaller screen, but apparently for Bettner’s team, it’s not.

“What I’m finding in VR is if we build the content a certain way, with a focus on doing third person VR, and we focus the entire project on just making it stand out and take advantage of what VR can do, then bringing it to what we call flatscreen platform is a much easier transition than the other way around,” he said.

Source: TechCrunch