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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

The next great debate will be about the role of tech in society and government

The Industrial Revolution dramatically re-ordered the sociology of politics. In the US, the Populist Party in the United States was founded as a force in opposition to capitalism, wary of modernity. In the UK, the profound economic changes reshaped policy: from the Factory and Workers Act through to the liberal reforms of David Lloyd George, which ultimately laid the ground for the welfare state, the consequences were felt for the whole of the next century.

Today, another far-reaching revolution is underway, which is causing similar ripple effects. Populists of both left and right have risen in prominence and are more successful than their American forebearers at the turn of the 19th century, but similarly rejecting of modernisation. And in their search for scapegoats to sustain their success, tech is now firmly in their firing line.

The risk is that it sets back progress in an area that is yet to truly transform public policy. In the UK at least, the government machine looks little different from how it did when Lloyd George announced the People’s Budget in 1909.

The first politicians who master this tech revolution and shape it for the public goodwill determine what the next century will look like. Rapid developments in technologies such as gene-editing and Artificial Intelligence, as well as the quest for potential ground-breaking leaps forward in nuclear fission and quantum computing, will provoke significant changes to our economies, societies and politics.

Yet, today, very few are even asking the right questions, let alone providing answers. This is why I’m focusing on technology as the biggest single topic that policymakers need to engage with. Through my institute, I’m hoping to help curate the best thinking on these critical issues and devise politically actionable policy and strategy to deal with them. This will help put tech, innovation and investment in research and development at the forefront of the progressive programme. And we do so in the belief that tech is – and will continue to be – a generally positive force for society.

This is not to ignore the problems that surfaced as a result of these changes, because there are genuine issues around privacy and public interest.

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 23: Monitors show imagery from security cameras seen at the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative on April 23, 2013 in New York City. At the counter-terrorism center, police and private security personel monitor more than 4,000 surveillance cameras and license plate readers mounted around the Financial District and surrounding parts of Lower Manhattan. Designed to identify potential threats it is modeled after London’s “Ring of Steel” system. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The shifts that have and will occur in the labour market as a result of automation will require far more thinking about governments’ role, as those who are likely to bear the brunt of it are those already feeling left behind. Re-training alone will not suffice, and lifelong investment in skills may be required. So too does a Universal Basic Income feel insufficient and a last resort, rather than an active, well-targeted policy solution.

“The first politicians who master this tech revolution and shape it for the public goodwill determine what the next century will look like.”

But pessimism is a poor guide to the future. It ends in conservativism in one form or another, whether that is simple statism, protectionism or nationalism. And so the challenge for those us of who believe in this agenda of harnessing the opportunities, while mitigating its risks is to put this in a way that connects with people’s lives. This should be a New Deal or People’s Budget type moment; a seismic change in public policy as we pivot to the future.

At the highest level this is about the role of the state in the 21st century, which needs to move away from ideological debates over size and spend and towards how it is re-ordered to meet the demands of people today. In the US, President Obama made some big strides with the role of the Chief Technology Officer, but it will require a whole rethinking of government’s modus operandi, so that it is able to keep up with the pace of change around it.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/Kheng Guan Toh

Across all the key policy areas we should be asking: how can tech be used to enable people to live their lives as they choose, increase their quality of life and deliver more opportunities to flourish and succeed?

For example, in education it will include looking at new models of teaching. Online courses have raised the possibility of changing the business of learning, while AI may be able to change the nature of teaching, providing more personalised platforms and free teachers to spend their time more effectively. It could also include new models of funding, such as the Lambda School, which present exciting possibilities for the future.

Similarly with health, the use of technology in diagnostics is well-documented. But it can be transformative in how we deploy our resources, whether that is freeing up more front-line staff to give them more time with patients, or even in how the whole model currently works. As it stands a huge amount of costs go on the last days of life and on the elderly. But far more focus should go on prevention and monitoring, so that people can lead longer lives, have less anxiety about ill health and lower the risks of illnesses becoming far more serious than they need to be. Technology, which can often feel so intangible, can be revolutionary in this regard.

In infrastructure and transport too, there are potentially huge benefits. Whether this is new and more efficient forms of transport or how we design our public space so that it works better for citizens. This will necessitate large projects to better connect communities, but also focus on small and simple solutions to everyday concerns that people have about their day to day lives, such as using sensors to collect data and improve services improve every day standard of living. The Boston Major’s office has been at the frontier of such thinking, and more thought must go into how we use data to improve tax, welfare, energy and the public good.

Achieving this will better align government with the pace of change that has been happening in society. As it stands, the two are out of sync and unless government catches up, the belief and trust in institutions to be seen to working for people will continue to fall. Populism thrives in this space. But the responsibility is not solely on politicians. It is not enough for those in the tech world to say they don’t get it.

Those working in the sector must help them to understand and support policy development, rather than allow misunderstandings and mistrust to compound. Because in little more than two decades, the digital revolution has dramatically altered the shape of our economies in society. This can continue, but only if companies work alongside governments to truly deliver the change that so many slogans aspire to.


Source: TechCrunch

The future of flying

From 3500 feet up California is a glorious patchwork quilt of green and gold, textured by rippling mountains and shining water. Ahead of us we see the Carquinez Bridge and the Bay; behind us, the fingers of Lake Berryessa curl into the steep hills. Twenty minutes ago I stood barefoot in the soft grass on the bank of one of those narrow coves, many miles from any road. Twenty minutes from now I will be driving to Five Guys for lunch.

“Hey,” I think to myself, “even a flying car couldn’t do this.”

Last year I became a Valley cliché, took up pilot training, and wrote about the experience — and the decrease in pilots worldwide, and the looming pilot shortage — for TechCrunch. ICON Aircraft, the manufacturers of a radically new kind of light airplane, the amphibious ICON A5, saw that and invited me to come to their Vacaville headquarters to experience a few days of their training. (At no cost to me, I should disclose, aside from paying the TSA $110 because I am a suspicious Canadian.) I turned up fearing that since, for tedious reasons, my training has been on hiatus since last July, I’d be so rusty I could barely fly.

It turned out that wasn’t a problem at all. Maybe I wasn’t really rusty at all … or maybe I was, but the A5 is so easy to fly that it didn’t matter.

I ended last year’s piece with “I think flying seems like a very 20th-century activity in the popular imagination.” That obviously isn’t true of ultramodern commercial jets, but it is of general aviation. It’s not at all unusual to learn to fly in a “six pack” airplane whose instruments and controls have basically not changed in 50 years or more. Sometimes they are actually are 50 years old.

Even the more “modern” “glass cockpit” light aircraft have screens with weirdly complex, user-hostile dials-and-knobs controls rather than a simple touchscreen. Even the vintage-2000 Diamond aircraft with which I started my training “features” a starting procedure which involves combining the mixture and the throttle in just the right way; significant left-turning tendencies such that you sometimes have to perform high-speed differential braking just to take off in a straight line; manual fuel-tank management; etc.

Individually these things are not such a big deal. Eventually these things are not such a big deal. But learning to navigate three-dimensional space, and land safely at busy airports — especially while dealing with restricted airspaces and air traffic control — is complicated enough that anything which adds to the initial cognitive load is a big deal.

Worse yet, most individual training is by independent Certified Flight Instructors with very different attitudes, beliefs, and curriculae. Some like to start students doing landings quite early, and some save it for quite a bit later. Some like to demonstrate, some like to instruct. It’s more a master/apprentice experience than an actual school.

Flight schools are obviously more consistent, and, in retrospect, probably a better way to learn, not least because you fly a lot in a short period of time, rather than trying to schedule with a capable but overcommitted CFI and ending up flying only every couple of weeks, which significantly retards your progress. Not that I’m speaking from bitter experience or anything.

Aaaaanyway. Let us not dwell on the unfortunate past. Let us talk about ICON, because both their aircraft and their training feel like a big step forward, right down to their instrument panel. On the A5, that panel is dominated by an Angle Of Attack indicator, which describes how much bite your airplane’s wings are taking out of the air. This is is insanely useful, especially when you are landing, when AOA is critical.

This instrument doesn’t even exist on other light aircraft. In my previous planes, Diamonds and Cessnas, landing was a complicated dance of carefully watching and managing speed, power, and seat-of-the-pants feel, while also mostly looking outside, such that one arrives at the runway at just-the-right-angle, then, a few feet above ground, rounds out at just-the-right-time to the next just-the-right-angle.

In the A5, you just set your power, make sure the AOA gauge is pointing the right way, and then glide happily down, occasionally glancing down at that single instrument, before bringing it up a notch for the round-out. Sure, you still might have to make adjustments for wind or height or whatever. But it’s a lot easier. Again, the cognitive load is so much less.

Military aircraft have AOA indicators, because, well, they’re so very useful, but no other general aviation airplane comes with one. You can buy them aftermarket, but that’s not the same. Why don’t other common general-aviation aircraft have them? Once again: because most general aviation has been stuck in the bad old days.

That extends to a slew of other things, too. The A5 is built for simplicity. No mixture to mess with; no manually controlled propeller RPM to adjust mid-flight; no magnetos to check in the run-up. In fact, if you cover the AoA gauge, altimeter, and attitude indicator, the controls look a lot like a car’s. This is by design.

You don’t even need high-octane aviation fuel; it actually runs better on standard 91-octane gasoline. (Although you can use either, or both.) The two-person cockpit, designed by BMW designers, is remarkably comfortable, and the view from its canopy is unparalleled, since its 100-horsepower engine and propeller are behind you rather than on its nose.

Perhaps best of all, it is fully amphibious. Its carbon fiber hull resembles a Jet Ski with wings, and on the water it can basically behave like one too (although that’s frowned on in excess, because the spray can wear at the propeller, and if you get crazy with it you risk dipping a wing into the water.) Takeoffs and even landings on sizable bodies of water in good conditions are ridiculously easy, courtesy of that AOA gauge.

You can even lower the landing gear, wheel it down/up a ramp to/from the water, and fly it for years without ever having to land it on a runway. What’s more, the wings fold back, which takes one person 10 minutes, so that the entire airplane can easily be stored in a nine-foot-wide trailer and driven to and from the water.

That really changes one’s perspective on flying. Instead of being limited to point-to-point flights between a fixed set of runways, anywhere on any reasonably large body of water can be your destination, weather permitting, and you can gas up at any marina. (It would be especially great in Canada, which is riven by countless lakes; the A5 is still classified as an experimental airplane there, but hopefully that will change soon, because e.g. Northern Ontario is practically made for it.)

On one flight this week we landed in a broad channel of water, navigated down a little winding side cove, beached — well, “grassed” — the plane on the shore, walked around a bit, then got back in, pushed off, restarted the engine, taxied out to the open water, and flew back to Vacaville … all very casually, keeping one eye on the wind and terrain to ensure it would be easy to get in and out of course, but really no big deal.

Let’s talk about stalls, because stalls are dangerous, and tend to happen when your plane is most vulnerable, i.e. taking off or departing. They are especially dangerous (PDF) when they progress into a spin. The most aerodynamically remarkable thing about the A5 is its stall resistance. It is the first production aircraft certified as spin resistant by the FAA, courtesy of a wing which is essentially divided into two sections, one of which stalls before the other, meaning the outer wing retains authority even when the inner wing is stalling.

Honestly, having flown it, I’m not sure how you would get it into a spin even if you wanted to. I put it into a power-on stall and held it there for full 15 seconds, banking from side to side, while the warning horn blared at me … and it gained altitude. In a power-off stall it lost height, but only at circa 10 feet per second, and was still amenable to banking. An “accelerated stall,” i.e. one while banking sharply at high speeds, is a maneuver sufficiently sketchy that student pilots have it demonstrated to them but do not usually attempt it themselves. I did one in the A5 and, just like the other stalls, it was anticlimactic in the extreme.

Oh, and if you were to get into serious trouble aloft, it also comes with a Complete Aircraft Parachute — although, to be honest, that seems to exist more to reassure your passenger than because you might use it in any conceivable circumstance, other than suddenly being struck blind or suffering an in-flight stroke.

ICON’s military background (its founders and early employees were largely Marine Corps pilots) has informed its training philosophy, too. They stress humility and being quick to volunteer your mistakes. Their training materials are much more accessible than the dense standard FAA tomes, and just the existence of a consistent curriculum across trainers is a big step forward. Their training focuses on a “sport pilot” license, which is restricted compared to “private pilot” — you can only fly light aircraft (nothing bigger than the A5), by day, in good visibility, below cloud cover — but it also requires less training, and is a very viable step towards the latter.

It will by now be more than apparent to you that I loved this airplane, and also really liked ICON’s training. Having established that, though, let’s talk about some downsides and concerns.

First, it would be disingenuous to write about ICON without mentioning the cloud of tragedy which still hangs over the company. Two years ago ICON’s lead engineer and another employee were killed in a crash on Lake Berryessa. According to the NTSB, the crash was due to pilot error, apparently when mistaking a dead-end canyon for one which led into the main body of the lake while flying at low altitude over water.

Later that year they released new low-altitude guidelines … and three weeks later, one of their first customers, former Major League Baseball superstar Roy Halladay, crashed his A5 into the Gulf of Mexico while flying at low altitude, and died. That too was declared pilot error; Halladay apparently had “high concentrations of morphine and amphetamine” along with Ambien in his system at the time.

On the one hand, even expert pilots (the chief engineer in question had flown F-16s in the Air Force) can make mistakes, and obviously one should never, ever, ever do drugs and fly. On the other, one can’t help but wonder if the fact that the A5 is so easy to fly in and out of water — landing it on a lake in good conditions is objectively easier than, say, docking a powerboat in a slip on a windy day, and takeoffs are easier yet — breeds a dangerous complacency when over water. Obviously the way to combat this is with training, and I can attest that ICON’s training today has a heavy focus on humility and caution, especially at low altitude … and yet, that kind of complacency will remain a risk factor.

Second, there’s no question that none of this comes cheap. Airplanes are expensive in general but the A5’s list price of $389,000 is noticeably more than that of, say, a new Cessna 172, the world’s most popular starter / training aircraft … which carries twice as many passengers and almost twice as much weight. The A5 is very much a light aircraft; my CFI and I’s combined 410 pounds meant we could only fill the tank halfway to stay within weight/balance restrictions, although it’s also miserly enough with fuel that that wasn’t any problem. It’s a great little airplane, but there’s no question that you’re paying more money for a smaller plane.

Their intent is to lead off as the Ferrari of light aviation, and eventually build something more like — well, not a Honda, but maybe a Maserati, in terms of relative price. They burned through some goodwill by initially claiming the list price would be $189,000. Right now they’re ramping up their production facilities in Tijuana (where all the carbon fiber components are made) and Vacaville (where those components are assembled along with everything else.)

One can imagine the price diminishing as production quantities achieve economies of scale … but it’s still never going to be anything like the price of, say, a used Cessna 172, which can easily drop down into five figures.

The A5, and its easier/improved flying experience, and ICON’s more consistent training, and the simpler sport-pilot license associated with it, all do combine to make flying substantially more accessible … to the rich. It certainly won’t help the pilot shortage, though. Anyone who can afford an A5 doesn’t need to start flying professionally.

The big question is, will its advances — simpler & touchscreen cockpits, a built-in AOA gauge, spin-resistant wings, consistent training, etc. — filter down to the more affordable end of the industry, and/or into more affordable ICON aircraft? I optimistically think it will. Not anytime in the next few years, no. But much faster than we’ll get, say, affordable hex-rotor VTOL flying cars.

When people imagine flying they imagine it as a magical, dreamlike experience, and it frequently is — but at the same time, learning to fly can sometimes be more Type II fun than Type I. (I suspect that this, more than the admittedly high cost, is why a lot of student pilots peter out and never finish their certification.) Whatever the price point, the ICON people deserve kudos for building an aircraft which makes flying reliably far more the latter than the former. If that experience can scale semi-affordably — admittedly two huge ifs — then instead of facing a pilot shortage we’ll have a happy, excited, adventure-seeking glut of pilots out there, soaring from runway to runway and from lake to lake. May you try it yourself and enjoy it as much as I do.


Source: TechCrunch

Mario Day sale includes Nintendo Switch, Mario Kart 8, Odyssey deals starting March 10 – CNET

To quote Mario, “Wahoo!”
Source: CNET

Captain Marvel rakes in $455 million in worldwide weekend haul

Captain Marvel, the latest superhero film from Disney’s Marvel franchise, is bringing home the bacon — to the tune of a $455 million box office total for the weekend.

The movie, Marvel’s first to be headlined exclusively by a female superhero, is off to the second largest global opening of any superhero movie behind Avengers: Infinity War and the sixth best global box officer premiere of all time.

The film’s success shows (again) that when under-represented demographics get their due in solid entertainment outings, audiences will respond by opening their wallets and shelling out the cash.

Marvel’s highest grossing movie to date for the U.S. box office is Black Panther, which raked in a whopping $700 million in movie theaters across North America.

Captain Marvel’s soaring numbers come despite mixed reviews from critics (like our own Anthony Ha) who called it “a fine but underwhelming debut for Brie Larson’s superhero.”

With the new release Marvel seems to also be consistently reducing the gender gap among audiences for superhero movies. Captain Marvel ranks alongside Black Panther and Ant-Man and the Wasp for having the smallest gender divide among audiences for films in the Marvel Comics Universe franchise, with a weekend crowd that was 55% male and 45% female, as Box Office Mojo reports.

The results also could mean good things for the Disney+ streaming service, which is counting on the Marvel and LucasFilm franchises to power subscriptions (take my money already).

Plans are in the works for a series starring Tom Hiddleston as Loki (the complicated villain/anti-hero from the Thor and Avengers movies) and Marvel executives have teased that characters from the now-defunct Netflix/Marvel deal for characters based on The Defenders team (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist — and tangentially The Punisher) may appear in some form in the Marvel Cinematic Universe down the road.

Captain Marvel, meanwhile is set to become the first movie to stream exclusively on the Disney+ service.


Source: TechCrunch

Game of Thrones dragonmaster reveals the secrets of Daenerys' babies – CNET

Supermarket chickens and cheetah colors help visual-effects supervisor Sven Martin and team animate Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion.
Source: CNET

Uber whistleblower: 'I wanted to speak up, share my story and get back to work' – CNET

Susan Fowler talks at SXSW about the power of a story to bring about change in Silicon Valley.
Source: CNET

Crashed Ethiopian Air Jet Is Same Model as Lion Air Accident

An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 MAX crashed shortly after takeoff Sunday, evoking comparisons to an Indonesian incident in October.
Source: Wired

23andMe’s New Diabetes Test Has Experts Asking Who It’s For

The DNA company is releasing a genetic test to predict whether a person is likely to get diabetes, but it’s of limited use to many high-risk people.
Source: Wired

Josh Wood, hair colorist to the stars, gets $6.5M led by Index in its latest D2C bet

In the age of Amazon, where up to 90 percent of all consumers use it to buy goods and Amazon is accounting for a rapidly-growing percentage of a consumer’s total retail spend (along with other giants like Walmart), direct-to-consumer brands — leveraging social media alongside tech-first apps — are emerging as sometimes surprising, but often effective, competition.

In one of the latest developments, London-based celebrity hair colorist Josh Wood — who has worked with the likes of David Bowie, PJ Harvey, Florence Welch, Saoirse Ronan and Elle Macpherson, as well as with fashion designers Miuccia Prada, Donatella Versace and Marc Jacobs (and, disclaimer, me: I tried out his products before agreeing to write this story) — has raised $6.5 million led by Index Ventures, with JamJar Investments and Venrex also participating, to launch his products into cyberspace with the aim of disrupting the at-home hair color industry.

At-home hair color is a huge market that has largely been untouched in terms of innovation. Some 80 percent of women over 25 color their hair, with 75 percent of those doing it at home, working out to an industry worth $20 billion annually.

As with other direct-to-consumer brands, tech is playing a role on multiple levels at Josh Wood, from how the product is developed through to how it will match with consumers, as well as how it is marketed.

But unlike other direct-to-consumer startups, Josh Wood actually put down roots (heh) first in a very non-tech environment.

If you live in London, you might already recognise the name and logo of Josh Wood. Apart from his star list of clients (and the name check he gets in the media for that work), he has already been running his hair coloring business at some scale.

Wood’s products have been adorning a selection of London buses, in part to promote a partnership he’s had for the last year with Boots, a big UK chain of drugstores, where his coloring kits and other products are sold alongside big names like Revlon and L’Oreal.

That partnership has been a big boost for both Wood and Boots so far. Some 240,000 products were sold in the first year, contributing to the first growth spike that Boots has seen in the hair coloring category for more than a decade. (One reason also that the startup attracted the likes of Index, which has been behind other companies that have straddled the worlds of women’s consumer goods and tech, such as Farfetch and Glossier.)

The range of products — which includes hair coloring kits, root concealer products, and color-specific shampoo and conditioners — has been marketed from the start as a new take on hair coloring.

Wood has been working as a colorist himself for some 30 years, and while he has worked with some of the biggest names in women’s hair care in that time — he’d once been a global ambassador for Wella and he is currently global color creative director for Redken — he believes that there is a lot of room for improvement in home coloring.

“You get thousands of boxes of hair colors, and women are usually terrified of making the wrong choice,” he said in an interview. And that’s before you consider how prolonged dying at home can fry your hair if you don’t know what you’re doing, or using the products incorrectly.

Wood’s focus up to this point has been mainly on the product itself. Using his learnings from being a leading colorist, and knowing some of the pros and cons of working with brands that already sell mass-produced consumer goods, he has worked with chemists and other product designers on developing new ranges of shades an add-in product, called “Shade Shot Plus,” that extend the range even further and bring in highlights that are unique to each person’s hair; as well as aftercare products.

Shade Shot Plus has been a particularly notable development. Wood said that up to now the main endgame for producers of at-home hair coloring products has been to create standardised colors that will always look the same on each woman, so that it can be sold more consistently and predictably (think of those slightly macabre locks of hair that you sometimes see hanging in the aisles at drug stores showing “the color”). But the product developers couldn’t standardise how the highlights product would look. That roadblock, Wood said, turned out “to be a gift.”

In fact, standardised color runs counter to how professionals work, and what those who go to professionals want. “No two colors are the same,” he said of Shade Shot Plus “One of the big barriers at home is that women feel they have obvious ‘box color’, cookie-cutter lego hair, but this unlocks that, because the tones deposit differently on everyone’s hair.”

That product development is set to continue. With an approach reminiscent of Third Love how it has redefined shopping for bras by vastly extending the range of bra sizes, the idea will be to extend that color range even further down the line.

“This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ideas I’ve got,” he said. “There is a lot to learn from base color and foundation matching. This is a category that has had no innovation for decades and this is just the first iteration.”

But now, with the funding, the plan is to complement that product development with technology to help people find colors that best suit their own preferences — whether it’s for a new color that will go with a specific complexion, or to find the tint that most closely matches the color their hair used to be before it turned grey. At the same time, the aim is to deliver at-home dying in an experience that is more reminiscent of what you get if you pay much more (and spend more time) going to a trusted, professional hair colorist.

“We are pressing heavy on being able to deliver an amazing consultation online that will deliver a bespoke hair color that is very natural and covers grey,” he said. “But at our heart, I’d like to think of us as a brand that cares for the condition of your hair.”

Wood said that he is currently hiring and working with technologists to develop color-finding tools, akin to the kind you might come across in online makeup storefronts, to explore both how a woman (or man) looks, and what she or he is looking for.

This is in progress but the idea, it sounds like, will not only involve computer vision but also machine learning to tap into a bigger database of what “lookalike” complexions and people choose for colors, as well as a database created by Josh Wood itself to match those colors, based on the tinting choices that many professionals would make for those people were they sitting in a chair in a salon.

Wood said that he wanted to raise this money and expand the product as a direct-to-consumer offering because he didn’t think he’d be able to achieve this with something that is sold on a shelf — although the idea will be to complement that, too.

“The reason we are approaching this growth phase from a digital perspective is because we want to develop our business” — the market for at-home coloring is much bigger than professional, in-salon coloring — “but also have a best-in-class consultation tool. I’ve been coloring for nearly 30 years and this is the moment for me to democratize my learnings, and I couldn’t do that without digital. There is no other way to connect with so many consumers, and it’s very difficult to get that element right in a brick-and-mortar point of sale.”

I asked Wood if he would also explore the idea of subscriptions, a la Dollar Shave Club, as part of the mix as well, and his answer was actually a little refreshing and I think is a good sign for how this might develop over time.

“We are less keen on subscriptions and more keen that women feel we’re in the bathroom with them every time, monitoring how their hair color changes over time. We want something much deeper than just selling the same thing to them once a month.”


Source: TechCrunch

With these numbers, it’s no surprise SoftBank is investing in Latin America

After SoftBank announced its plans to launch a $5 billion innovation fund in Latin America, we reached out to the good folks at the Latin American Venture Capital Association (LAVCA) for some context, and what they told me only validates the reasoning behind SoftBank’s interest in the region. (In 2017, we reported on the growing interest in Latin America.)

Let’s start with some numbers. Venture funding in Latin American startups is up — way up — from previous years. Specifically, LAVCA’s data shows that VC funding more than doubled in 2017 to $1.14 billion compared to $500 million in 2016. While 2018 numbers haven’t been finalized, LAVCA is projecting another record year with venture investments topping $1.5 billion.

If you combine private equity and venture investing, the numbers are even more impressive. LAVCA estimates that PE and VC fundraising together in Latin America in 2017 totaled $4.3 billion, up from $2.3 billion in 2016.1

Julie Ruvolo, director of venture capital for LAVCA, said all this “fits squarely in this larger momentum that’s been building over the last year or two.”

“We’ve been seeing the continued, and increased, entry of significant global players in the market,” she told Crunchbase News. “Plus, we’ve been seeing an uptick in $100 million-plus rounds, which was a relatively rare thing in Latin America.”

Also unsurprising is the breakdown of where the majority of venture dollars have gone in Latin America. Brazil led the region across all stages of VC investment, capturing 73 percent of VC investment dollars in 2017 and the first half of 2018 (201 startup investments totaling $1.4 billion). Mexico was the second most active market by number of deals (82 startup investments totaling $154 million), but Colombia saw more money invested ($188 million over 23 deals).

Here’s a quick rundown of just some of the bigger deals that took place during that same time frame:

It’s worth noting that fintech is the top sector of VC investment by dollars and number of deals in Latin America. The region also hosts a number of unicorns, including Brazilian ride-hailing startup 99; Colombian last-mile delivery service Rappi; Brazilian learning systems provider Arco Educação; and Brazilian fintech startup Stone Pagamentos.

With all this innovation and investing going on in Latin America, there is clearly large potential. And SoftBank is now poised to capitalize on that.

  1. The fundraising and investment data LAVCA collects is specific to fund managers that have raised capital from third-party institutional investors/limited partners and doesn’t account for other types of private capital investors, like a SoftBank fund or sovereign wealth fund, corporate, etc.


Source: TechCrunch

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