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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Reed Hastings says Netflix won’t be part of Apple’s upcoming video streaming service

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said during a Los Angeles press event tonight that it will not be part of the streaming video service Apple is expected to unveil next week at its Cupertino headquarters.

While it will have original content, Apple’s service will most likely initially focus on third-party content, competing against Amazon Channels with la carte subscriptions to third-party channels (Amazon’s lineup includes HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz, but not Netflix, which prefers to control its own in-app experience).

Asked how Netflix will compete against rivals with a lot of money like Amazon and Apple, Hastings said “with difficulty,” adding that “it is definitely getting more expensive to source content” as the streaming video market becomes increasingly fragmented.

As the largest video streaming service in the United States, however, Netflix has been the subject of antitrust lawsuits and debates. When asked about potential antitrust regulations aimed at large tech companies, Hastings describe Netflix as “really mostly a content company powered by tech,” saying it spends much more on content than tech (Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos said last year that 85 percent of its total spending goes to new shows and movies, and in October the company announced plans to raise $2 billion in debt to fund new content).

Despite its focus on international growth, Hastings also said that even though Netflix once considered entering China by creating a joint venture with a local partner, it currently has no plans to do so, noting that the strategy still didn’t help competitors such as Apple’s iTunes.


Source: TechCrunch

Nvidia developing an 'autonomous car driver's license' based on its tech – Roadshow

The company is working on standardized “driver’s license” testing for self-driving cars based on a new open-source algorithm.
Source: CNET

Scientists build a self-healing, stretchable electronic skin – CNET

Taking inspiration from jellyfish, researchers have developed a touch-sensitive skin that could be used to help humans interact with machines.
Source: CNET

SEC pushes court to hold Elon Musk in contempt over Tesla tweets

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is in blatant violation of a settlement agreement reached last year over securities fraud allegations, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said in a biting response to the court that argued the billionaire entrepreneur be held in contempt.

The response, which was filed late Monday, is the latest salvo in the agency’s fight with Musk that was sparked by the now infamous “funding secured” tweet. The SEC filed a complaint in federal district court in September alleging that Musk lied when he tweeted on August 7 that he had “funding secured” for a private takeover of the company at $420 per share.

Musk and Tesla settled with the SEC without admitting wrongdoing. Tesla agreed to pay a $20 million fine; Musk had to agree to step down as Tesla chairman for a period of at least three years; the company had to appoint two independent directors to the board; and Tesla was also told to put in place a way to monitor Musk’s statements to the public about the company, including via Twitter.

It’s that final point about Musk’s use of Twitter that has raised the SEC’s hackles. Last month, the SEC asked a judge to hold Musk in contempt for violating the settlement agreement. The SEC argued that a tweet sent by Musk on February 19 violated their agreement. Musk is supposed to get approval from Tesla’s board before communicating potentially material information to investors.

Musk tweeted Feb. 19 that Tesla would produce “around” 500,000 cars this year, correcting himself hours later to clarify that he meant the company would be producing at an annualized rate of 500,000 vehicles by year end.

The next morning, Tesla announced that its general counsel, Dane Butswinkas, was leaving after just months on the job. Butswinkas said in a statement that he was “grateful for the opportunity” to work with Musk and Tesla and that he plans to return to the Washington, D.C. law firm for which he previously worked 30 years.

The SEC said in this latest response that it was stunned to discover that Musk had not sought pre-approval for a single one his tweets about Tesla.

The Court-ordered pre-approval requirement for Musk’s written communications lies at the heart of the settlement. Musk’s unchecked and misleading tweets about Tesla are what precipitated the SEC’s charges, and the pre-approval requirement was designed to protect against reckless conduct by Musk going forward.

It is therefore stunning to learn that, at the time of filing of the instant motion, Musk had not sought pre-approval for a single one of the numerous tweets about Tesla he published in the months since the Court-ordered pre-approval policy went into effect.

Many of these tweets were about the topics specifically identified by Tesla in its own policies as potentially material to shareholders. Musk reads this Court’s order as not requiring pre-approval unless Musk himself unilaterally decides his planned tweets are material. His interpretation is inconsistent with the plain terms of this Court’s order and renders its pre- approval requirement meaningless.

Musk has argued that the Feb 19 tweet was “immaterial” and complied with the settlement. He also said the SEC’s effort to find him in contempt infringed on the First Amendment and his right to free speech. The SEC has rejected that argument. “Submitting his written statements for pre-approval does not, as Musk baldly asserts, mean that he is prohibited from speaking,” the SEC wrote in its reply to Musk’s order to show cause. 

The SEC told a judge Monday that Musk has regularly published substantive information about Tesla and its business in tweets, beyond the February 19 instance. The SEC pointed to tweets about Tesla vehicle tax credits and pricing, vehicle maintenance costs, plans for expansion of charging stations internationally, the EPA rating of Tesla vehicles, construction and production plans for a new Shanghai factory, and the results of government safety testing of Tesla vehicles as evidence of Musk’s non compliance.

You can read the entire filing here.




Source: TechCrunch

Here are the 85+ startups that launched at YC’s W19 Demo Day 1

Y Combinator’s incubator classes have gotten huge.

With over 200 companies, the Winter 2019 class is by far YC’s largest yet. Meanwhile, the incubator prepares to shift its headquarters from Mountain View to San Francisco.

It’s so large, in fact, it’s had to change the way it does Demo Day. Rather than all pitches happening on one stage, they were split across two stages (the “Pioneer” and “Mission” stages) running in parallel. So even if you were in the building, you couldn’t see all the pitches in person.

We were there — and as we do with each class, we’ve brought back our notes on everything we saw. Here are the 85+ companies that pitched today. Come back tomorrow for Day 2!

Pioneer Stage

Career Karma: Hundreds of millions of people will need to change jobs in the coming years. Career Karma gives them a placement quiz and gets them accepted at coding bootcamps and other training programs that pay the startup $1,000 per student. With income-sharing agreements growing in popularity, plenty of job skill providers will be willing to pay to enroll the highest potential students.

VanGo: An on-demand ride service for getting your kids and teens around. The founders say that, because “moms trust other moms,” 85 percent of drivers on their service are moms and all of them are women. They plan to expand into other verticals to help parents down the road.

Team Mobot: Simulated user interface testing doesn’t catch all the bugs and can be complex for less tech savvy companies to perform. Team Mobot offers a fleet of robots that physically test any app’s UI on real devices to perform QA testing and spot bugs. Team Mobot’s fleet learns over time to increase accuracy, and the startup plans to invade the Internet of Things and medical device verticals next.

Bento Club: Cheaper lunch delivery for office workers. Customers pre-order food from a select set of restaurants, and Bento picks it up and brings all orders to a shared pickup spot within one block of the customer’s office. Thirty-eight percent of customers come from referrals.

Basilica: Most teams trying to build artificial intelligence systems don’t have enough data, and that data can be expensive to collect. Basilica says its transfer learning method allows businesses to create accurate AI with just 1,000 data points instead of 1 million. Basilica generates network effect by using data from across its clients to improve efficiency for each vertical that teams will need to keep up with Google.

Keynua: In Latin America, signing documents requires tedious identity verifications. With Keynua you record a short video to verbally agree to a document, and they use existing records to verify your identity. This team’s previous product (Cinepapaya) was acquired by Fandango in 2016.

Lumos: Doctors use Google 40X more than professional tools for finding medical information, but Google is full of ads and results are meant for patients not doctors. Lumos offers a medical Q&A search engine for doctors who pay $15 per month. A trial at UPenn saw half of the med students using Lumos each day within weeks of launch. Lumos says it has more potential business opportunities based off understanding what studies and info doctors trust, and having access to them at critical decision points during treatment.

Traverse Technologies: Traverse uses software to identify potential sites for wind and hydro power generation. The company then buys and resells those sites. They estimate that a plot that they buy for $750k can be resold for $5 million. The currently have about $50 million worth of letters of intent.

Basement: A social network for your close friends. Feed broadcasting social networks feel impersonal, and inevitably bloat with distant acquaintances you’re shy about sharing with. Basement is designed for college students and grads to just add their best friends. It offers Instagram-style posting tools, but the intimacy leads to comment threads that feel more like WhatsApp chat. Basement will have to get users to break the social contract of courtesy so they don’t friend the wrong people, but has a chance to be where Facebook wants to go.

CosmicJS: A drop-in, easier to manage alternative to WordPress. The company says that KFC, MLB, and Dailymotion are already customers. Currently making roughly $10k in monthly recurring revenue, and they say that’s growing about 15 percent monthly.

Ravn: Looking around corners is one of the most dangerous parts of war for infantry. Ravn builds heads-up displays that let soldiers and law enforcement see around corners thanks to cameras on their gun, drones, or elsewhere. The ability to see the enemy while still being behind cover saves lives, and Ravn already has $490,000 in Navy and Air Force contracts. With a CEO who was a Navy Seal who went on to study computer science plus experts in augmented reality and selling hardware to the Department Of Defense, Ravn could deliver the inevitable future of soldier heads-up displays.

54gene: 54gene aims to be 23andMe for Africa. The company says that competitor data is limited because their users are mostly white. By focusing on Africa, the company can help detect and identify DNA markers that might otherwise go overlooked. Co-founder Abasi Ene-Obong has a PhD in cancer biology from the University of London.

Slapdash: Enterprise apps run slow and it can be tough to find files or messages across them. Slapdash creates a desktop software-speed container in which workers can run all their office software like Slack, Dropbox, Asana, Salesforce, and Google. Users can search across all their apps and be more productive, luring SaaS subscriptions from their employers.

YourChoice: Male contraceptive pill. With “two of the world’s leading sperm physiologists”, YourChoice says they’ve created a pill thats 100% effective with “no side effects” by targeting the ABHD2 and ANT4 proteins in sperm. They’re also working on a hormone-free contraceptive pill for women.

AccioJob: Only one-third of India’s college graduates get placed in jobs because their schools often only expose them to local recruiters. AccioJob charges colleges $10,000 per year to place their students in jobs, and charges employers per placement. Since it gains student contact info and grades, AccioJob can become the gateway to the best Indian college grads as more students from the country begin to enroll.

CentaurLabs: Hires doctors to label medical imagery datasets at scale, which can then be used to train AI. In the future, they’re aiming to build a diagnosis system to provide second opinions for doctors and patients.

Travelchime: Planning travel requires cobbling together Google Docs, maps, blogs, friend recommendations, inspiration apps, and booking sites. Travelchime combines travel planning tools into a Google Doc-style interface that automatically suggests contextual information and places popular amongst travel writing that it’s indexed. Users can then book from Travelchime, which hopes it can build a more helpful version of TripAdvisor.

Seawise Capital: Trade loans for exporters in India. The founders say they make 10% on every loan, and have taken on $550k in loans in the past 6 weeks. They plan to raise $5 million in debt by Q3 2019, and $25 million in debt by Q1 2020.

PerShop: Shopping online can be frustrating because you’re either hopping between individual brands without comparative pricing, seeing too many irrelevant products on aggregators, or can’t checkout on social apps. PerShop is a personalized shopping site that only recommends you items from your favorite brands, in your size, in your price range. Eventually it plans to sell personalized, targeted e-commerce ads. PerShop gets smarter as people use it to buy or just for entertainment.

Prometheus: Removes CO2 from the air to make gasoline. They say they can make gasoline for about $3.00 per gallon. Whereas past attempts required massive distillation columns, founder Rob McGinnis says he was working with carbon nanotube membranes when he discovered a cheaper way to do it with much less real estate.

Unicorn: Scooter companies that rent by the minute lose 2 percent of their fleet per day to damage and theft, and that means customers don’t have a safe scooter available when they want one. Unicorn rents scooters by the week or month and is already profitable. Vehicles aren’t left outside overnight and spend more time rented, while customers know there’s a scooter available for them without having to buy one outright. Unicorn’s founder started Tile and now he wants to build a better unit economics business than Lime and Bird.

Loonify Space: A bespoke launch system meant specifically for carrying small satellites into orbit. A balloon carries rocket to 35km and launches it mid-air. They have Letters of Intent for 155 satellite launches, worth a total of roughly $77 million. They intend to have their first launch on May 9th.

Supernova: Programming apps based on design mockups can be tough internally, but expensive and hard to maintain if outsourced. Supernova converts designs into production-ready code that follows best practices so it’s easy to update. Supernova’s AI can understand a product’s purpose and distinguish between navigation elements, buttons, and more. As more businesses try to modernize with tech products, Supernova could let them focus on their utility rather than computer science.

Kovi: Provides rental cars for on-demand drivers in Latin America. They currently have around 300 cars on the street, with 3,000 rental requests this year. The company estimates that 70 percent of drivers in Latin America rent/lease their vehicles.

Deel:  20 million international contractors work with US companies but it’s difficult to onboard and train them. Deel handles the contracts, payments, and taxes in one interface to eliminate paperwork and wasted time. Deel charges businesses $10 per contractor per month and a 1% fee on payouts, which earns it an average of $560 per contractor per year. As the globalization megatrend continues, businesses need better remote HR tools.

COUTURME: Custom, AI-designed wedding/formal dresses. The customer inputs their preferences, the software generates options, and the dress is produced and shipped within 30 days. It went live in January, and has been growing at roughly 15% weekly since. Co-founder Yuliya Raquel previously founded plus-size designer fashion company IGIGI.

Instapath Inc: Cancer biopsies can take a week to get you your results. Instapath is building a fully-automated pathology lab that can test a tissue sample and provide a diagnosis within five minutes while you’re still at the doctor’s office. This eliminates agonizing waiting periods and can get users treated more quickly. Instapath charges $200 per procedure, has already processed 500 biopsies, and claims to be on the path to FDA clearance in nine months.

Bensen: Bensen wants to replace the drive-thru window by allowing restaurants to receive orders via voice assistants like Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa in the car.. It’ll launch in two restaurant chains later this year, with Letters of Intent from companies with 800 locations. They’ll charge $3,000 per year per location.

Socrates Intelligence: There’s huge demand for reading in China but just one library per 480,000 citizens. Socrates Intelligence is the Netflix-style mailing business for books in China. For $56 per year, users can rent up to three books and get them within 48 hours. The startup already has 10,000 subscribers and plans to go after ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines next to become the ‘rent everything store’ for China.

Overview: Many factories use massive robots to manufacture goods overnight, but there’s not always someone watching. If something goes wrong but goes undetected, the robots can physically destroy themselves. Overview uses cameras and AI to monitor manufacturing robots, shutting them down if something goes wrong.

Sunsama: A task manager that integrates with SaaS tools like Trello, JIRA and Asana to help workers identify and manage the tasks they should be working on a specific day.

Kalshi: Instead of just betting on sports, Kalshi lets anyone bet on anything, like whether Brexit will happen by the end of the month or who will win an Oscar. Users bet against each other so it’s more like a futures market than gambling, and regulators like it since Kalshi doesn’t earn more when users lose. It already has 2 licenses making it legal in 200 countries and is in talks with US regulators to earn 7 percent transaction fees when people bet.

Volk Wireless: Volk is making an Android smartphone with a free data plan, no carrier required. The co-founders say they’re using long-range wireless hardware to share connections and build a network of phones. Co-Founder Greg Hazel was the Chief Architect at Bittorrent, while co-founder Straya Markovic was the lead engineer at mesh messaging platform Firechat.

Nowports: Half of shipping containers are lost or delayed in part because of inefficient routing and tracking. Nowports is the Flexport for Latin America, a freight forwarding business that helps pallets of goods get from factory to truck to boat to warehouse to retailer. Started by a third generation freight forwarder, Nowports could succeed where US companies lack the required local understanding.

Flower Co.: Memberships for cheaper weed sales and delivery. They’re currently selling $200k in marijuana per month to 700 members. They charge $100 a year for membership, and take 10% on product sales.

Middesk: It’s difficult to know if a business’ partners have paid their taxes, filed for bankruptcy, or are involved in lawsuits. That leads businesses to write off $120 billion a year in uncollectable bad debt. Middesk does due diligence to sort out good businesses from the bad to provide assurance for B2B deals loans, investments, acquisitions, and more. By giving clients the confidence that they’ll be paid, Middesk could insert itself into a wide array of transactions.

Eclipse Foods: Makes dairy product from plants, which they say are “indistinguishable” from those made from animal products. In their tests, 70% of consumers couldn’t tell the difference between their product and a leading competitor. The co-founders were previously the Director of R&D of Hampton Creek and an innovation specialist at the Good Food Institute (a non-profit focusing on plant-based meat/dairy alternatives).

Enemy on Board: By combining the excitement of League Of Legends with the strategy of Mafia, Enemy On Board is a game built for the Twitch era. 5 players team up to complete a mission, but 2 of them secretly are trying to sabotage it. The game’s beta launch is scheduled for June, but testers are already averaging 61 minutes per day, and people have spent 2000 hours watching gameplay on Twitch. Through microtransactions, Enemy On Board’s CEO who worked on League Of Legends believes they can build the next blockbuster freemium game.

Modoo Technology: A wearable for monitoring fetal health, measuring heart rate and baby movements. It has been selling in China for $200 since 2017, with $3.4 million in revenue in 2018. The company recently introduced a monthly subscription option for those who don’t want to buy outright.

Our World In Data: World leaders need easy-to-access, understandable data on issues like CO2 emissions or child mortality to make decisions. Our World In Data takes key findings from studies buried in paid journal articles and jargon, and put them on an open access website that has achieved top Google ranking for many queries. It already has 1 million users, and its team from University Of Oxford believes optimizing research data for the web could lead to better global policy.

Encarte: A browser extension bringing one-click checkout to any e-commerce store. Currently supports over 500,000 Shopify stores. It stores your data locally rather than in the cloud, and keeps track of all tracking numbers. They’re also building a “virtual e-commerce credit card” that will offer personalized promotions, amongst other things.

Atomic Alchemy: Radio cardiograms and PET/CT scans require nuclear medicine to visualize abnormalities. But five of the six reactors that generate this nuclear medicine are set to shut down in the next 10 years. Atomic Alchemy builds tiny, privately-owned reactors from off-the-shelf parts in order to generate nuclear medicine. The startup already has letters of intent it estimates are worth $50 million to $100 million, and hopes to be operational by 2024.

Jetpack Aviation: Jetpack is building a flying motorcycle. The company says its jet motorcycle is capable of getting from SF to Mountain View in ten minutes, and fits in a one-car garage. They estimate that their full-scale prototype should be done by the end of the year. They’ve received 9 pre-orders so far, worth about $4.1M in sales. The company’s founders previously built an FAA approved Jetpack called the JB10. We covered Jetpack Aviation on TechCrunch previously here.

Mission Stage

Trexo Robotics:  Trexo Robotics is developing a solution that gives those diagnosed with cerebral palsy a better solution than a wheelchair. The startup is focused on providing a robotics device for children with the disease, and the company’s first product will be available for $1,000 per month to families. The company says they currently have 5 units deployed and are approved for use in the U.S. and Canada.

Pachama: A verified marketplace for carbon credits focused on protecting and restoring the world’s forests. The startup uses machine learning, satellite imaging, drones and LIDAR to offset carbon emissions. Pachama connects carbon buyers — an organization seeking to offset their carbon emissions — to carbon projects.

Saratoga Energy: Over the course of six years, the company has developed and patented a production process to synthesize carbon nanotubes from CO2. The startup sells the carbon nanotubes, which are stronger and lighter than steel, at lower prices to aerospace, battery, concrete and other manufacturers. At the end of the week, the company will deliver their first batch for testing. Saratoga has raised $2 million in grant funding over the last two years.

Cherry: Cherry is an office perks solution for the modern startup. Rather than giving entire swaths of employees the same benefits, the co-founders want to let people choose their favorite internet services. People will be able to select services through a Slackbot interface and get things like ClassPass and HBO paid for by their company. The company says they have 24 companies in paid pilot programs. We previously covered Cherry on TechCrunch here.

CityFurnish: The provider of a furniture rental marketplace in India, CityFurnish delivers and installs furniture to customers in Delhi, Pune, Mumbai and Bangalore for a monthly rental fee, offering free relocation and free maintenance services. The company doesn’t require any contracts and says it’s a cheaper option than actually buying furniture. CityFurnish has 10,000 subscribers today, $3 million in ARR and has been profitable for 18 months.

NaturAll Club: NaturAll Club wants you to refrigerate your haircare products. The startup’s products are made from fruit and vegetable pulp. The team’s first product is made with fresh avocado and did $2 million in sales in 6 months, the company says. While these may sound like Juicero packs for your hair, organic products are the fastest growing product category in beauty.

FlockJay: Operates an online sales academy that teaches job seekers from underrepresented backgrounds the skills and training they need to pursue a career in tech sales. The 12-week long bootcamp offers trainees coaching and mentorship. The company has launched its debut cohort with 17 students, 100 percent of which are already in job interviews and 40 percent of which have already secured new careers in the tech industry.

Demodesk: Demodesk is making a screen sharing tool to help companies reshape sales by demoing products directly for customers. What’s unique is that it isn’t your desktop, it’s a virtual machine where your demo presentation can live without potential customers having to wait through lengthy downloads while still being able to collaborate and edit what’s happening in the software.

Ultralight: A cross-platform app development tool used for rendering HTML UI within games and desktop applications. The company’s goal is to replace Chromium by providing a GPU-accelerated proprietary renderer. Ultralight says it will be compatible with most programming languages.

Keeper: Keeper wants to stop 1099 employees from getting ripped off by minutiae of tax forms. The company says that the average contractor overpays $1,249 per year in taxes. Keeper uses machine learning to automatically find tax write-offs inside the bank statements of users. They’re targeting the 50 million contractors in the U.S. to find their market.

Taobotics: A manufacturer of autonomous robots for supermarkets in China to help brands promote and advertise their products in stores. The startup, which employs a team of robotics experts, says people are 7x more likely to purchase a product from a robot than in-store sales help. Taobotics recently secured a deal to pilot 1,000 robots for Coca Cola.

Releaf: Releaf is building machinery to help African food factories operate more efficiently. The startup says that 90 percent of food factories are running under capacity because they can’t pre-process raw materials quickly enough. The startup says their machines quickly pay off for the factories and are already in use.

Synova Life Sciences: Synova Life Sciences is building a medical device that makes it easier to harvest stem cells from a patient’s fat. The company boasts that its device, which uses “modified shock waves”, can get stem cells from fat 30 times faster than current solutions, while yielding twice as many cells. They’ve already done 45 procedures with 14 different doctors.

Dyneti Technologies: Has invented a credit card scanner SDK that uses a smartphone’s camera to help prevent fraud by over 50 percent and improve conversion for businesses by 5 percent. The business was started by a pair of former Uber employees including CEO Julia Zheng, who launched the fraud analytics teams for Account Security and UberEATS. Dyneti’s service is powered by deep learning and works on any card format. In the two months since it launched, the company has signed contracts with Rappi, Gametime and others.

PreFlight: PreFlight is trying to fully automate UI testing and eliminate the need for companies to hire specifically for QA. The company’s Chrome extension can help developers record user actions and run robust testing. After launching just two weeks ago, users have collectively run 55,000 tests with PreFlight.

AmpUp: The “Airbnb for electric vehicle chargers.” AmpUp, preparing for a world in which the majority of us drive EVs, operates a mobile app that connects a network of thousands of EV chargers and drivers. Using the app, an electric vehicle owner can quickly identify an available and compatible charger and EV charger owners can earn cash sharing their charger at their own price and their own schedule. The service is currently live in the Bay Area. 

Docbot: An AI-enabled computer vision platform for gastroenterology practices to improve colonoscopy procedures. The service, which integrates with IT systems to make billing and documentation more efficient, tracks withdrawal time, intubation rate, bowel prep and adenoma detection rate. 20 million Americans get colonoscopies every year, though doctors aren’t always able to identify the colon polyps which can cause colon cancer. Docbot detects colon polyps in real-time. The service has been used in more than 2,000 procedures to date.

Edyst: Edyst is an online coding bootcamps geared towards college students in India hoping to find employment. The company guarantees that each student that graduates the course will get at least 5 job interviews. Right now, their course is paid for directly by colleges for students. Eventually, the co-founders believe that the bootcamp will be able to replace lower-tier universities in India.

Okteto: An application development platform for Kubernetes that helps developers to quickly iterate and improve their test decision time by 4x. The founders have decades of experience building application platforms for Docker and other businesses. Okteto’s goal is to become the standard way to develop cloud-based applications for Kubernetes.

Brew.com: A subscription-based podcasting app tackling the podcast monetization problem. Brew costs users $5 per month and helps creators of all levels earn money for their content by paying them on a per listen basis. The startup launched the app last week with exclusive shows from eight creators, including YouTubers Boogie2988 and Jack Vale, who each have millions of followers on YouTube. Brew currently has 200 creators on its waitlist. We previously covered Brew on TechCrunch here.

Sapling Intelligence: Sapling Intelligence wants to be a Grammarly for the enterprise. The company’s deep-learning writing assistant can help messaging stay on-brand with a uniform voice that can be tuned to approach different audiences. Their product is a browser extension that sits on top of products like Zendesk and Salesforce.

Evo.Do: The developer of a codeless test automation tool for the gaming industry and other digital products. The company says its AI-enabled bots are as smart and flexible at identifying bugs in games as a human. The bots are able to find bugs in minutes with no human intervention; one bot works faster and more efficiently than one human tester.

Reelables: Reelables is looking to ensure that enterprise companies lose fewer of their products. The company is building ultra-thin flexible bluetooth trackers that are build into labels that can be affixed to products. The “Tile for enterprise” startup has already launched a pilot program with GE.

Docucharm: The platform, co-founded by former Uber product manager Minh Tri Pham, turns documents into structured data a computer can understand to accurately automate document processing workflows and to take away the need for human data entry. Docucharm’s API can understand various forms of documents (like paystubs, for example) and will extract the necessary information without error. Its customers include tax prep company Tributi and lending businesses Aspire.

Closer Sports: Closer Sports is creating a live-streaming platform for athletes to connect with fans. The co-founders want their product to fill in the shortcomings of ESPN and existing social media services. Unlike Instagram, the startup lets athletes charge for access to their live-streams. The company is kicking things off with UFC fighters and had 500 paid subscribers after launching recently.

Datamode: The startup identifies bugs in businesses’ data pipelines. Debugging is very expensive and time-consuming for data engineering teams. Datamode diagnoses the root cause of pipeline failure showing businesses exactly when it failed and what is broken instantly. Datamode was started by repeat founders, including a co-founder of Movity, which sold to Trulia in 2010.

Schoolable: There are 65 million students in Africa attending private schools, but tuition payments can be a major pain point for parents paying for their child’s education. That’s because tuition payments are often due upfront and it’s more difficult than it should be for schools to keep track of payments. Schoolable is creating an invoicing app that helps ensure parents make payments on time, while also using the app to save directly for tuition.

Vectordash: Dubbing itself the “Netflix for gamers”, Vectordash turns your Macbook Air or other underpowered rig into a formidable machine through their cloud gaming service. Vectordash’s platform allows gamers to play games without rendering them locally, instead utilizing peer-to-peer rendering power via host GPUs. The company is charging $28 per month for the service. We previously covered Vectordash on TechCrunch here.

Doorport: They’ve built a small device that can be added to existing apartment intercom systems, allowing residents to unlock the building’s front door for themselves, guests, and delivery people with an app. Doorport is currently being piloted in San Francisco, Oakland, and New York.  The startup is still figuring out exactly how much their product will cost, and are testing different pricing models. We previously covered Doorport on TechCrunch here.

Intact Therapeutics: The makers of smart gels for local drug delivery for gastrointestinal diseases. The company’s gel was created for inflammatory bowel disease but can be used on several other diseases. Intact has already signed a deal with a large pharmaceutical gel maker to develop its products at scale.

Cuanto: Cuanto is building a payment product for Latin American businesses selling their goods on WhatsApp and Instagram, a sales pipeline that 80 percent of businesses there focus on. The company is planning to use the data they yield from sellers to facilitate loans to businesses in Latin America. The startup is already live in 5 countries.

Bottomless: Bottomless automatically restocks your coffee supply using an internet-connected scale which members place under their bag of coffee grounds. Tracking the weight of the bag, Bottomless’ scales determine when customers are low on grounds and ensure a new bag of previously selected freshly roasted coffee is on their doorstep before they run out. The service costs $36 per year. We previously covered Bottomless on TechCrunch here.

Heart Aerospace: The manufacturers of an electric regional airplane, the ES-19, expected to be certified for commercial flights by 2025. The airliners hold 19 passengers. The founder, Anders Forslund, has a Ph.D. in aircraft design and has already signed letters of intent with aerospace companies worth $1.6 billion.

Windsor: Windsor is building a platform that connects a company’s separate application data services. The company connects this data and builds timelines of runtime events, giving customers a closer eye into what is happening on their helping them answer more intimate questions about how their

CareerTu: A WeChat-based online digital marketing school targeting Chinese students living in the U.S. CareerTu wants to help those students who are lacking the necessary skills to succeed in U.S. jobs. In the year since it launched, the startup has brought in $700,000 in revenue from 160,000 users and is profitable. The company plans to expand to support Chinese students based in China.

Convictional: Convictional helps direct-to-consumer companies approach larger retailers more simply. It takes a lot of time for a supplier to build a relationship with a retailer and start selling their products. Convictional wants to speed things up by building a B2B self-service commerce platform that allows retailers to easily approach brands and make orders.

Dockup: Creates on-demand staging environments for engineering teams to save developers’ time. Large companies spend millions to scale staging, including Facebook and Google, while smaller startups are stuck with broken staging. Dockup, which launched this month with four paying customers, will reduce these staging headaches.

Thrive Agric: The company helps smallholder farmers in Nigeria access crowdfunded loans to help grow their crops, as well as help them sell their produce. The company has worked with 14,000 farmers to date, with plans to reach 1,000,000 farmers across Africa by 2022 in what it says is a $54 billion market opportunity.

Skill-lync: Skill-lync is another YC startup looking to approach the fact that Indian college students aren’t getting jobs in the fields they study. The startup is targeting mechanical engineering students with a set of online courses that can make up for outdated college curriculums. The team is already educating 2,800 students and earning $82,000 in monthly revenues.

Rebank: An automation tool for business banking that works with any bank and/or multiple banks at once. Rebank, which claims to have “hacked banking,” has 40 companies currently using the tool to save time. Rebank operates under a subscription model, charging its customers $50 per month for access to its platform.

AXDRAFT: The startup is building software that helps smaller companies automate documents that they’re having to fill out again and again, helping startups spend less time drafting and proofreading routine documents. The company is starting off with a solution for contracts that helps startups fill out the documents quickly and for free while charging $25 to review the contracts and ensure that everything is up to snuff.

Glide: There has been a pretty major trend towards services that make it easier to build web pages or mobile apps. Glide lets customers easily create well-designed mobile apps from Google Sheets pages. This not only makes it easy to build the pages, but simplifies the skills needed to keep information updated on the site.

Boundary Layer Technologies: High-speed container ships using hydrofoils. The tech-enabled ships allow transit time that is comparable to air travel but much more affordable. The company built its prototype in just 10 weeks at a cost of $150,000 and has a letter of intent from Flexport to build ships that will travel between Los Angeles and Shanghai.


Source: TechCrunch

Devin Nunes is suing Twitter over mean tweets from parody account of his mom

California Representative Devin Nunes announced that he will file a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter, alleging that the company engages in “explicit censorship” and has allowed critics to defame him on the platform. Simultaneously complaining that Twitter silences its critics while asking Twitter to silence his critics is a curious legal strategy, but really it’s par for the course for one of President Trump’s most theatrically partisan and unabashed allies.

Nunes first threatened legal action against Twitter last year after claiming that the company was “shadow banning” conservatives, effectively burying their accounts. Twitter clarified that the network does not bury any user content based on ideology and that a since-resolved algorithmic issue failed to populate auto suggestions for some Twitter users, including both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

In a complaint reported by Fox News, Nunes appears to be following through on last year’s threat.

“Nunes has no adequate remedy at law,” the complaint, filed today, claims. “Without Court intervention and an injunction, Nunes will suffer actual and irreparable injury to his property interests and personal rights by the mere fact that Defendants’ defamatory tweets can be retweeted and republished forever by third-parties.”

TechCrunch reached out to Nunes as well as Twitter to request a copy of the filed lawsuit, but for now we’re just going off the complaint. (It’s possible that Nunes won’t follow through with the filing, but a lawsuit like this is mostly a publicity stunt either way.)

As you can see above, the complaint’s defendants include not only Twitter itself and a Nunes critic named Liz Mair but also @DevinCow and @DevinNunesMom, two accounts parodying the lawmaker’s cow and his mother, respectively.

Of particular note, the lawsuit objects to a colorful array of claims made by the since-suspended account @DevinNunesMom:

– “Nunes is ‘not ALL about deceiving people. He’s also about betraying his country and colluding with Russians’”

– “I don’t know about Baby Hitler, but would sure-as-shit abort baby Devin”

– “Alpha Omega wines taste like treason”

and

– “falsely [suggesting] that Nunes might be willing to give the President a ‘blowjob.’”

The lawsuit also accuses “Devin Nunes’ Cow” of spreading false claims to its 1,204 Twitter followers. Those claims include stating that “He’s udder-ly worthless and its [sic] pasture time to move him to prison” and “Devin is whey over his head in crime.”

Dairy puns notwithstanding, the allegedly “egregiously false, defamatory, insulting, abusive, hateful, scandalous and vile statements” that prompted Nunes to name the parody accounts are fairly tame compared to much of the hatespeech endured by Twitter users who don’t also happen to be members of Congress. Further, Nunes would need to prove that the three accounts in question acted with “actual malice,” a higher legal standard reserved for proving defamation against a public figure — and one intended to safeguard free speech.

When contacted by TechCrunch, Twitter declined to comment on the lawsuit.


Source: TechCrunch

SEC: Elon Musk Fully Ignored a Key Term of Settlement

In a new court filing, the US agency argues a federal judge should hold the Tesla CEO in contempt for his tweets.
Source: Wired

1 Year After Uber’s Fatal Crash, Robocars Carry On Quietly

In the autonomy industry, companies are now more circumspect about when their life-saving technology will hit the road.
Source: Wired

How to build The Matrix

Released this month 20 years ago, “The Matrix” went on to become a cultural phenomenon. This wasn’t just because of its ground-breaking special effects, but because it popularized an idea that has come to be known as the simulation hypothesis. This is the idea that the world we see around us may not be the “real world” at all, but a high-resolution simulation, much like a video game.

While the central question raised by “The Matrix” sounds like science fiction, it is now debated seriously by scientists, technologists and philosophers around the world. Elon Musk is among those; he thinks the odds that we are in a simulation are a billion to one (in favor of being inside a video-game world)!

As a founder and investor in many video game startups, I started to think about this question seriously after seeing how far virtual reality has come in creating immersive experiences. In this article we look at the development of video game technology past and future to ask the question: Could a simulation like that in “The Matrix” actually be built? And if so, what would it take?

What we’re really asking is how far away we are from The Simulation Point, the theoretical point at which a technological civilization would be capable of building a simulation that was indistinguishable from “physical reality.”

[Editor’s note: This article summarizes one section of the upcoming book, “The Simulation Hypothesis: An MIT Computer Scientist Shows Why AI, Quantum Physics and Eastern Mystics All Agree We Are in a Video Game.“] 

From science fiction to science?

But first, let’s back up.

“The Matrix,” you’ll recall, starred Keanu Reeves as Neo, a hacker who encounters enigmatic references to something called the Matrix online. This leads him to the mysterious Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne, and aptly named after the Greek god of dreams) and his team. When Neo asks Morpheus about the Matrix, Morpheus responds with what has become one of the most famous movie lines of all time: “Unfortunately, no one can be told what The Matrix is. You’ll have to see it for yourself.”

Even if you haven’t seen “The Matrix,” you’ve probably heard what happens next — in perhaps its most iconic scene, Morpheus gives Neo a choice: Take the “red pill” to wake up and see what the Matrix really is, or take the “blue pill” and keep living his life. Neo takes the red pill and “wakes up” in the real world to find that what he thought was real was actually an intricately constructed computer simulation — basically an ultra-realistic video game! Neo and other humans are actually living in pods, jacked into the system via a cord into his cerebral cortex.

Who created the Matrix and why are humans plugged into it at birth? In the two sequels, “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions,” we find out that Earth has been taken over by a race of super-intelligent machines that need the electricity from human brains. The humans are kept occupied, docile and none the wiser thanks to their all-encompassing link to the Matrix!  

But the Matrix wasn’t all philosophy and no action; there were plenty of eye-popping special effects during the fight scenes. Some of these now have their own name in the entertainment and video game industry, such as the famous “bullet time.” When a bullet is shot at Neo, the visuals slow down time and manipulate space; the camera moves in a circular motion while the bullet is frozen in the air. In the context of a 3D computer world, this make perfect sense, though now the camera technique is used in both live action and video games.  AI plays a big role too: in the sequels, we find out much more about the agents pursuing Neo, Morpheus and the team. Agent Smith (played brilliantly by Hugo Weaving), the main adversary in the first movie, is really a computer agent — an artificial intelligence meant to keep order in the simulation. Like any good AI villain, Agent Smith (who was voted the 84th most popular movie character of all time!) is able to reproduce itself and overlay himself onto any part of the simulation.

“The Matrix” storyboard from the original movie. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood)

The Wachowskis, creators of “The Matrix,” claim to have been inspired by, among others, science fiction master Philip K. Dick. Most of us are familiar with Dick’s work from the many film and TV adaptations, ranging from Blade Runner, Total Recall and the more recent Amazon show, The Man in the High Castle.  Dick often explored questions of what was “real” versus “fake” in his vast body of work. These are some of the same themes we will have to grapple with to build a real Matrix: AI that is indistinguishable from humans, implanting false memories and broadcasting directly into the mind.

As part of writing my upcoming book, I interviewed Dick’s wife, Tessa B. Dick, and she told me that Philip K. Dick actually believed we were living in a simulation. He believed that someone was changing the parameters of the simulation, and most of us were unaware that this was going on. This was of course, the theme of his short story, “The Adjustment Team” (which served as the basis for the blockbuster “The Adjustment Bureau,” starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt).

A quick summary of the basic (non-video game) simulation argument

Today, the simulation hypothesis has moved from science fiction to a subject of serious debate because of several key developments.

The first was when Oxford professor Nick Bostrom published his 2003 paper, “Are You Living in a Simulation?” Bostrom doesn’t say much about video games nor how we might build such a simulation; rather, he makes a clever statistical argument. Bostrom theorized that if a civilization ever got the Simulation Point, it would create many ancestor simulations, each with large numbers (billions or trillions?) of simulated beings. Since the number of simulated beings would vastly outnumber the number of real beings, any beings (including us!) were more likely to be living inside a simulation than outside of it!

Other scientists, like physicists and Cosmos host Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking weighed in, saying they found it hard to argue against this logic.

Bostrom’s argument implied two things that are the subject of intense debate. The first is that if any civilization every reached the Simulation Point, then we are more likely in a simulation now. The second is that we are more likely all AI or simulated consciousness rather than biological ones. On this second point, I prefer to use the “video game” version of the simulation argument, which is a little different than Bostrom’s version.

Video games hold the key

Let’s look more at the video game version of the argument, which rests on the rapid pace of development of video game and computer graphics technology over the past decades. In video games, we have both “players” who exist outside of the video game, and “characters” who exist inside the game. In the game, we have PCs (player characters) that are controlled (you might say mentally attached to the players), and NPCs (non-player characters) that are the simulation artificial characters.


Source: TechCrunch

Nvidia brings a little RTX DirectX ray tracing to GTX graphics – CNET

But just a taste to get you hooked.
Source: CNET

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