Day: July 2, 2021

Meet Mighty, an online platform where kid CEOs run their own storefronts; a “digital lemonade stand”

For kids of a certain age — think 9 to 15 — options for enrichment are somewhat limited to school, sports, and camps, while the ability to make money is largely non-existent.

A new startup called Mighty wants to provide them with a new alternative through a platform it’s building that, like a kind of Shopify for kids, enables younger kids to open their own store online and hopefully learn a bit in the process. In fact, Mighty — led by founders Ben Goldhirsh, who previously founded GOOD magazine, and Dana Mauriello, who spent nearly five years with Etsy and was most recently an advisor to Sidewalk Labs — sees itself as smack dab in the center of fintech, ed tech, and entertainment.

As often happens, the concept derived from the founders’ own experience. In this case, Goldhirsh, who has been living in Costa Rica, began worrying about his two daughters, who attend a small school and he feared might fall behind their stateside peers so began tutoring them after school. He says he was using Khan Academy and every other software platform that he thought might be helpful to the cause, but their reaction wasn’t exactly positive.

“They were like, “F*ck you, dad. We just finished school and now you’re going to make us do more school?’”

Unsure of what to do, he encouraged them to sell the bracelets they’d been making online, figuring it would teach them needed math skills, as well as teach them about startup capital, business plans (he made them write one), and marketing. It worked, he says, and as he told friends about this successful “project-based learning effort,” they began to ask if he could help their kids get up and running.

Fast forward and Goldhirsh and Mauriello — who ran a crowdfunding platform that Goldhirsh invested in before she joined Etsy — say they’re now steering a still-in-beta startup that has become home to 3,000 “CEOs” as Mighty calls them.

The interest isn’t surprising. Kids are spending more of their time online than at any point in history. Many of the real-world type businesses that might have once employed young kids are shrinking in size. Aside from babysitting or selling cookies on the corner, it’s also challenging to find a job before high school, given the Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets 14 years old as the minimum age for employment. (Even then, many employers worry that their young employees might be more work than is worth it.)

Investor think it’s a pretty solid idea. Mighty recently closed on $6.5 million in seed funding led by Animo Ventures, with participation from Maveron, Humbition, Sesame Workshop, Collaborative Fund and NaHCO3, a family office.

Still, building out a platform for kids is tricky. For starters, not a lot of 11-year-olds have the tenacity required to sustain their own business over time. While Goldhirsh likens the business to a “21st century lemonade stand,” running a business that doesn’t go away is a very different proposition.

Goldhirsh acknowledges that no kid wants to hear they have to “grind” on their business or to follow a certain trajectory, and he says that Mighty is certainly seeing kids who show up for a weekend to make some money. Still, he insists, many others have an undeniably entrepreneurial spirit and tend to stick around.  In fact, says Goldhirsh, the company — aided by its new seed funding — has much to do in order to keep its hungriest young CEOs happy.

Many are frustrated, for example, that they currently can’t sell their own homemade items through Mighty. Instead, they are invited to sell items like hats, totes, and stickers that they customize and which are made by Mighty’s current manufacturing partner, Printful, which then ships out the item to the end customer. (The Mighty CEO gets a percentage of the sale, as does Mighty.)

They can also sell items made by global artisans through a partnership that Mighty has struck with Novica, an impact marketplace that also sells through National Geographic.

The idea was to introduce as little friction into the process as possible at the outset, but “our customers are pissed — they want more from us,” says Goldhirsh, explaining that Mighty intends to enable its smaller entrepreneurs to sell their own items over time, as well as services, which the platform also does not support currently.

As for how it makes money, Mighty plans to layer in subscription services eventually, as well as collect transaction-based revenue.

As intriguing as it is, the startup, which launched last year, could need to fend off established players like Shopify to get there. Should Mighty begin to gain traction, such stalwarts might pay closer attention.

It’s also conceivable that parents — if not children’s advocates —  could push back on what Mighty is trying to do. Entrepreneurship can be alternately exhilarating and demoralizing, after all.

Mauriello insists they haven’t had that kind of feedback to date. For one thing, she says, Mighty recently launched an online community where its young CEOs can encourage one another and trade sales tips, and she says they are actively engaging there.

She also argues that, like sports or learning a musical instrument, there are lessons to be learned by creating a store on Mighty. Storytelling and how to sell are among them, but as critically, she says, the company’s young customers are learning that “you can fail and pick yourself back up and try again.”

Adds Goldhirsch, “There are definitely kids who are like, ‘Oh, this is harder than I thought it was going to be. I can’t just launch the site and watch money roll in.’ But I think they like the fact that the success they are seeing they are earning, because we’re not doing it for them.”

Daily Crunch: In one of India’s largest exits, Swedish media giant MTG buys PlaySimple for $360M

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for July 2. We are heading into a holiday weekend here in the United States, so you might imagine that tech news slowed down. It did not, as we’ll see shortly. Looking ahead, TC Early Stage 2021: Marketing & Fundraising is next week and Disrupt is around the corner. Get hype! — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • When SPACs attack: The United States Department of Justice is investigating Lordstown Motors, the embattled EV company that went public via a SPAC. Detractors of the company have punched holes in the story it told before going public, and the company’s SPAC deck has proven to be somewhat, well, disconnected from reality. The company needs more money, it turns out, despite having told investors that it would not. Whoops.
  • China v. Didi v. American investors: Sticking to the theme of companies in trouble, Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi is in hot water with its own domestic regulators. The company has been told to halt new user registration, pending a cybersecurity review. Just days after it went public in the United States. Oof.
  • IBM’s President steps down: Jim Whitehurst, who made his way to IBM via its Red Hat deal, is out. His tenure as president at the firm lasted 14 months. Details were light on his exit, per Ron Miller Yeesh.

Startups/VC

Today’s startup news has a strong non-American bias. That’s because nearly everyone in the United States took most of today off, regardless of what their boss thought was going on. The rest of the world was still busy, however:

  • Licious raises tasty $192M round: The Bangalore-based meat and seafood e-commerce player has now raised through a Series F. A few years back we would have joked that the F in Series F stood for “failed to go public,” but that’s no longer the case. Why not raise a Series F when money is so cheap? The company is now worth more than $650 million, TechCrunch reports.
  • MTG buys PlaySimple for $360M: Why are investors betting so much money on the Indian startup ecosystem? Rising exit values, perhaps. TechCrunch noted that the sale of India’s PlaySimple to Swedish gaming giant was “one of the largest exits in the Indian startup ecosystem.”
  • Tiger invests $40M into Nigerian neobank: It’s a big day for FairMoney, a Nigerian startup that has its genesis in offering consumers credit. It’s also yet another round for African fintech, a sector that has felt pretty active lately.

3 guiding principles for CEOs who post on Twitter

Did you hear about the CEO who made misleading claims about a funding round and got sued by the SEC? How about that pharmaceutical executive whose taunts to a former secretary of state led to a 4.4% decline in the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index?

In case it isn’t clear: Startup executives are held to a higher standard when it comes to what they post on social media.

“Reputation and goodwill take a long time to build and are difficult to maintain, but it only takes one tweet to destroy it all,” says Lisa W. Liu, a senior partner at The Mitzel Group, a San Francisco-based law practice that serves many startups.

To help her clients (and Extra Crunch readers) stay out of trouble, Liu has six basic questions for tech execs with itchy Twitter fingers.

And if the answer to any of them is “I don’t know,” don’t post.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

Today’s Big Tech news is a mixed bag, but a fun one. And each story has a strong California hook. Let’s begin:

  • GM is investing in a California lithium extraction project: Why? Batteries. Gotta have lithium to make batteries. No batteries, no electric cars. In this case the project is actually pretty neat, having a strong hook to Salton Sea Geothermal Field near Los Angeles in the southern part of the state. The geothermal field will provide power and materials. So perhaps electric cars’ pre-driving carbon footprint will be a bit more sustainable in the future.
  • Twitter tests more attention-grabbing misinformation labels: Twitter, a California-based company, is making its misinformation labeling a bit more standout. It’s fun to watch social media companies make warnings sterner at the same time as Google is making advertisements better blend into its organic results.
  • Dutch court will hear another Facebook privacy lawsuit: A few Dutch nonprofits are suing Facebook over alleged “rampant collection of internet users’ data — arguing the company does not have a proper legal basis for the processing,” TechCrunch summarized. This case seems like it could have broad import, depending on how it shakes out. Given, you know, how much data collection goes on literally all the time, literally everywhere, online.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

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10 best action movies on Hulu

The Terminator

Nothing hits quite like great action. That raw, racing adrenaline thrusts you into the seat of heroes or villains, who’ve made the wild world their giddy plaything. Whether it’s tire-squealing car chases, dizzying combat, nerve-shredding escapes, heart-racing explosions, or stunt sequences so audacious they’re absolutely mind-melting, we thrill-seekers can’t get enough. So, plot your next adventure with this selection that boasts homicidal cyborgs, chomping creatures, spies, samurais, nice guys, and one plucky explorer.

Here are the 10 best action movies now streaming on Hulu.

1. The Terminator

The 1980s were the era of AHNOLD. Yet Austrian bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger achieved his mightiest flex when he stepped into the titular role of a merciless killer cyborg from a frightful future. In 1984 Los Angeles, waitress Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is on the run from this manly machine. He has been sent from 2029 to prevent the birth of her son, who is destined to lead the rebellion against tyrannical robots. Schwarzenegger awed audiences not only with his hulking form and suitably stiff performance, but also with the sheer star power that would launch a franchise and a decades-long action hero career. Meanwhile, director James Cameron made a sci-fi classic with laser cannons, careening chase scenes, sprays of bullets, and (once) cutting-edge graphics that put audiences in the POV of the Terminator’s cold, calculating stare.

How to watch: The Terminator is streaming on Hulu.

2. Crawl

Craving an action-packed creature-feature? Then, you’ll want to snap up this pulse-pounding gator tale from horror auteur Alexandre Aja. Set on the coast of Florida, Crawl follows a father and daughter in a frightening fight for survival. It’s bad enough that a Category 5 hurricane is barreling toward their family home while tough-love dad (Barry Pepper) is trapped below in a crawl space. Making matters more menacing, the home is invaded by a congregation of hungry alligators. College swim star Haley (Kaya Scodelario) will have to put her skills to the ultimate test. Not only must she outlast the relentless waters that flood their home level by level, but also she has to drag her injured dad to out of the jaws of death to safety. Studded with jump scares, close-calls, grisly attacks, and great escapes, Crawl will have the whole family at the edge of their seats and hollering.

How to watch: Crawl is streaming on Hulu.

3. Dora and the Lost City of Gold

If you’re searching for something action-packed that’ll be lighthearted fun for the whole family, look no further. This live-action re-imagining of the cartoon show Dora The Explorer is sure to satisfy. Raised in the jungle with her explorer parents, 16-year-old Dora Marquez (a bubbly Isabela Merced) doesn’t quite fit in at her Los Angeles high school, where carrying a purple backpack full of climbing gear and weapons isn’t appreciated. But when she and her new friends find their way back to the wild, Dora has home court advantage. Kids and grown-ups alike will enjoy watching this quirky crew race through treacherous terrain, best comical foes, solve perilous puzzles, and rediscover the wonder of adventures in nature. The cherry on top of all this action is the supreme silliness that director James Bobin sprinkles in with meta jokes, side-splitting pratfalls, and cutesy callbacks to its animated origins.

How to watch: Dora and the Lost City of Gold is streaming on Hulu.

4. Misson: Impossible — Ghost Protocol

When a devastating bombing at the Kremlin is blamed on the Impossible Missions Force, secret agent Ethan Hunt and his highly skilled crew of spies are wrongfully labeled as terrorists. Disavowed and disgraced, they must clear their names while on the run from foes and former friends. With his signature smile and unfailing commitment to stellar stunts, Tom Cruise swings into action with the aid of Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner. Though best known for helming animated adventures like The Incredibles, director Brad Bird wowed critics by creating a cavalcade of awesome action set pieces, that includes hard-hitting hand-to-hand combat, chase scenes, and Cruise spectacularly scaling the world’s tallest skyscraper.

How to watch: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is streaming on Hulu.

5. Train to Busan

Critics screamed in terror and elation over Yeon Sang-ho’s riveting zombie movie. This international hit begins with a seemingly average day in South Korea. A train to Busan is calmly boarded by a gaggle of strangers, which includes a pair of bickering elderly sisters, a cheery high school baseball team, a pregnant woman, her burly husband (Ma Dong-seok), a workaholic dad (Gong Yoo), his little girl (Kim Soo-ahn)…and a zombie-bit victim who is about to become a flesh-craving fiend. Once they’re one their way, there’s no easy escape from the mounting terror or the growing undead horde that will stop at nothing to maim, munch, and murder. With jaw-dropping practical effects, masterfully suspenseful sequences, and a charismatic cast of characters, this is one thrill ride you won’t want to miss. But be warned, you may never look at an escalator the same way again.

How to watch: Train to Busan is streaming on Hulu.

6. Kick-Ass

Before Deadpool, before Logan, there was Kick-Ass, an R-rated superhero movie that dared to team saving the day with raunchy sex jokes, blood-splashing violence, and a barrage of curse words, including 115 reported employments of the f-bomb. Inspired by Mark Millar’s comics and directed by Matthew Vaughn, this 2010 hit follows plucky high schooler Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who decides he doesn’t need superpowers to be a masked avenger. However, to take down a cruel crime boss (Mark Strong), he will need to a team-up with the mysterious Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and a fearsome father-daughter team of vigilantes, the badass Big Daddy (a mustachioed Nicolas Cage) and the sailor-mouthed Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz). Packing as many laughs as outrageous hits, this superhero comedy certainly does kick ass.

How to watch: Kick-Ass is streaming on Hulu.

7. 13 Assassins

Japanese director Takashi Miike had previously won international acclaim for his eye-popping and twisted thrillers, Audition and Ichi The Killer. In this celebrated 2010 offering, the distinctive director created a period piece with punch, reimagining Eiichi Kudo’s 1963 samurai drama of the same name. Set in Japan’s feudal era, this martial arts stunner centers on a motley band of warriors (including Kōji Yakusho, Hiroki Matsukata, and Takayuki Yamada), who will do whatever it takes to assassinate the malevolent Lord Naritsugu (Gorō Inagaki). In a time when computer graphics ruled action, critics cheered the verve and practical effects that Miike brought to his remake. With a grand scale, moody cinematography, and an ensemble that pitches themselves fully into every fray, 13 Assassins is more than action-packed, it’s enthralling cinema.

How to watch: 13 Assassins is streaming on Hulu.

8. Hell or High Water

The Western is smartly modernized in this 2016 David Mackenzie drama. Chris Pine and Ben Foster star as a pair of bank-robbing brothers. When the family farm risks foreclosure from a ruthless bank chain, these gun-packing cowboys saddle up for a string of robberies to even the scales. They may be desperate, but they’re no dummies. So, it’s up to a sharp and storied cop (Jeff Bridges with a thick mustache and ten-gallon hat) to stop them. Hell or High Water is studded with gunplay, heists, escapes, and even explosions. However, what makes this action movie a standout is the gripping story, confident pace, and hard-hitting performances from its triad of leading men. Little wonder this film earned four Academy Award nominations, including nods for Best Supporting actor for Bridges and Best Motion Picture of the Year.

How to watch: Hell or High Water is streaming on Hulu.

9. The Nice Guys

Long before he was writing/directing daring action movies like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, Shane Black made his mark on Hollywood by penning the seminal buddy-cop comedy Lethal Weapon. This 2016 action-comedy is a thrilling throwback to his roots, starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as a mismatched duo determined to solve a twisted mystery. In 1970s Los Angeles, Holland March (Gosling) is a washed-up private eye that’s got more bruises than bank. Jackson Healy (Crowe) is a rugged enforcer, who has got a soft spot for dames in trouble. So, despite their differences, they’ll team up track down a mysterious missing girl. Along the way, they cross paths with wild turns, bursts of violence, sultry bombshells, barrages of mayhem, and explosively outrageous humor.

How to watch: The Nice Guys is streaming on Hulu.

10. Virtuosity

This high-concept thriller from 1995 was not a box office hit. It was not critically heralded. So why does it deserve a spot on this list? Because Virtuosity is a savage and satisfying guilty pleasure. Lawnmower Man director Brett Leonard teamed with A-lister Denzel Washington and rising star Russell Crowe for a cat-and-mouse game about a killer unlike the world (wide web) had ever seen. SID 6.7 (Crowe) is a sophisticated and psychopathic computer program built from the psychological files of the world’s most infamous serial killers. He’s intended to train cops in the safety of virtual reality. But once this homicidal A.I. inevitably escapes into the real world, it’s up to Washington’s disgraced cop to save the day. Collateral damage be damned.

How to watch: Virtuosity is streaming on Hulu.

What Are The Questions To Ask Before You Hire Plumber?

There might be different occasions when your kitchen sink or bathroom drain overflows with dirty water or a breakage in the faucet or tap due to rust or excessive frozenness in winter. You can then hire the best plumber and get the highest quality services done at an affordable price. The right plumbers have advanced sets of tools and equipment, and you can also hire them to get regular maintenance advice for your plumbing sections in your home.

What are the questions to ask before you assign a task to the plumber?

hire a plumber

There are questions that you can always ask a plumber before you go for assigning a plumbing task. Here are some of them:

How long he has been in the business: this is one of the most pertinent questions that you can ask a plumber. His experience and the types of complicated domestic or commercial plumbing projects he has taken will decide how long he will complete your assigned project.

Along with that, you also need to ask about the advanced equipment that the plumber uses. With the right drain cleaning snakes, cameras, and instruments for scooping out dirt and debris from below the drain, the plumber must be highly efficient and must give you the best value for money.

You can use a referral from your friends and relatives to choose the right plumber. You can also check from a local plumbing store and get the best equipment for utilizing the DIY methods. You can even ask for a better recommendation so that the plumbing professionals give you the best value for money.

While you hire the plumber, you can check the plumber’s background right in the first instance. If he provides you insurance on the work done, then that is an additional advantage. You can check the insurance details and then sign the contract before you assign the final task to the plumber. The best part will be to hire individually or hire from an agency so that you get to know the entire whereabouts of the plumber.

hiring a plumber

If you go for the local listings, the best part will be to check any plumber website. In addition, you can also go for popular search engines like Google or Bing to help you get the address and the contact number of the plumber. There is a journeyman, and there can also be a trained plumber. To top that, you can surely utilize the experience of a professional who is in this business for more years.

Check the license and the service background of the plumber before you hire. There are multiple building guidelines that one must adhere to. Hence, checking the plumber’s background is very important. They should have proper uniforms; they should not break or damage anything on your property.

They should also follow all the pandemic protocols if you hire them during the pandemic. Proper sanitization of the area with plumbing, proper restoration of the bathroom, kitchen pipes, and drainage system is of utmost necessity during this critical period.

Now you can search for the highest qualified and experienced plumber online. There are multiple references, go through the packages they offer, and discuss and compare the price with them. The issuance and the availability of the work permit is another option that you need to check before you hire. Hence, you can check the following points and hire them accordingly.

The post What Are The Questions To Ask Before You Hire Plumber? appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Healthcare data sharing: How to improve patient care in the future

Paul Johnson
Contributor

Paul Johnson is the CEO and co-founder of Redirect Health, a company that makes healthcare work end to end using technology and a passion for care.
More posts by this contributor

Far too often, we see medical mixups and even deaths caused by interoperability obstacles in our healthcare system. In these situations, patients in critical conditions cannot speak to their past medical history in an emergency. Upon their recovery but through no fault of their healthcare providers, they are left footing a massive medical bill or facing other severe financial repercussions. Lack of access to data not only causes these terrible outcomes — it’s also part of the reason why our healthcare costs are nearly 18% of the GDP and growing.

Among the many reasons why healthcare data isn’t more digitally accessible is a very simple one: fear that it will be misused. Patients are scared their data will be used against them. This could happen in a number of ways, the most obvious being the threat that insurance companies will use health data to deny people coverage or that employers will use the data to exclude people when making hiring decisions. That’s why the rules and regulations surrounding health data privacy are so stringent.

So, how can investors advance (and capitalize on) tech development around this issue and help eradicate this fear?

Investors, take note

We know funding for companies in healthcare and digital health has not been a problem — but profitability has. Many of these companies are still struggling financially under a fee-for-service business as required by most insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare. There are grave inefficiencies in the fee-for-service system: It creates the wrong alignment of interests; doesn’t favor the consumer; is complicated by CPT codes (the numerical codes used to identify medical services and procedures), high copayments and deductibles; and is riddled by waste and abuse.

If the investor community bets on companies that continue to embrace a model that many agree is broken, how can we expect outsized returns?

If the investor community bets on companies that continue to embrace a model that many agree is broken, how can we expect outsized returns? To truly lower costs and reduce inefficiencies, we have to abandon the existing structure and put the customer first.

The key here is to look at companies that are truly trying to solve not just one piece of this puzzle, but those that are attempting to create an end-to-end solution that connects the employer, member, hospital, specialists, pharmaceutical companies, primary care doctors and claims adjusters, powered by digital health data — all while making it more affordable for the consumer.

Keep an eye out for those that are moving away from the fee-for-service structure and focused on employer-driven systems. Employers are properly aligned with patients, as bad health outcomes and financial stress both negatively impact productivity. Employers are also focused on KPIs in their business; they’re used to measuring and tracking results, making them great candidates for data-focused healthcare companies.

Most importantly, in a labor market where companies are clamoring to attract employees, employers will have to work with healthcare technology companies that put a premium on data security because their current and potential employees will demand it.

Innovation over fear

The whole future of healthcare is going to focus on the ability to securely share data. To empower providers and patients to take control of their healthcare journey, we need to build a system of trust that allows the efficient flow of personal healthcare information from stakeholder to stakeholder.

Today, with the way HIPAA works and the requirement to keep data private, that trust has to be in the hands of a provider. Imagine if your primary care physician was the quarterback of your entire healthcare journey. Simply by handling your preventative care, they have a more complete picture.

Even better, preventative care is a major focus when it comes to reducing healthcare costs. If you put the data in the hands of a trusted entity and ensure that each person has access to their full medical history, people are much more likely to grant access at times of need.

The good news? There’s hope

The future is very bright because of technology. The challenge is being able to figure out meaningful ways to utilize and integrate it. Right now, we have a system of incumbency that is disincentivized to embrace new technologies.

Telehealth is a perfect example of how the system can meaningfully change. It took a global pandemic to really be able to break through to a point where telehealth was fully embraced (and covered by insurance). Now, health insurers such as Anthem are actively trying to improve care coordination and interoperability.

Three critical technologies not used in healthcare today could be instrumental in bringing about this change. Ideally, all three will align to usher in a new era of healthcare:

Healthcare telemetry 2.0: Collection of health data on cellular devices

Through our use of social apps and e-commerce platforms on our mobile devices, people have already accepted that our cell phones are constantly collecting data on us and willingly consent to this. Sometimes this function is quite helpful — just look at court cases where detailed location data have provided alibis to suspects.

Anybody with a cell phone is carrying a medical device that counts our steps, tracks our screen actions and is attuned to us as users. So why are we not leveraging this function for optimized care — or at the very least trying to get medical insights out of our device use data?

In the future, the number of times one checks their mobile calendar in a day could be an indicator of early-onset Alzheimer’s in people of a particular age group, as one example. Technologists must continue to push the boundaries of how the computing power in our pockets and purses is used to help us, especially with so much of the groundwork already laid.

Privacy 2.0: Application of blockchain to protect medical information

In just the past six months, we have seen bad actors capitalizing on digital risk to cripple entire industries through data breaches. The Colonial Pipeline hack effectively shuttered gas distribution to a massive portion of the U.S. in a matter of hours. With healthcare data, stewards of the system need to be even more careful. It will be tricky to regulate the privacy and protection of healthcare data, but blockchain technology has proven to be an effective measure in maintaining trust between consumers and data stewards.

Portability 2.0: Ability to securely share information with approved parties

For many people with life-threatening conditions, the simple act of wearing a medical bracelet can make a difference between life and death — but at this point, medical bracelets should be obsolete. Imagine the patient benefits that could come from a next-generation medical “bracelet” that carries a patient’s entire genome, tumor profiles, long-term heart rate trends and more, and can be uploaded instantly in an emergency situation.

Right now, the absence of health record portability creates redundancies that are both expensive and harmful to patients. Doctors spend time and resources rescanning patients, while patients suffer from repeated (and sometimes risky) diagnostics, like blood draws and radiation. Nobody has cracked the code on portability, but effective solutions must navigate tricky regulatory waters while solving for standardization across data sets.

We are already seeing these technologies used in other industries. Apple and Google have turned phones into remote monitoring devices that can easily collect all types of health telemetry data. Cryptocurrency represents billions of dollars in transactions with no breach of trust in various coin exchanges. Uber and Lyft have changed the way we hire, use and pay for transportation. Applying the core technologies used in each of these examples would provide a means for disrupting the current challenges in healthcare. It’s only a matter of time.

History has proven that with innovation, investment and technology, the world has become a dramatically better place. As long as rules and regulations stay out of the way, you can expect that technology will allow us to make enormous leaps forward in the next decade.

Making data secure and meaningful, along with personalized medicine, holds the promise to reduce long-term healthcare costs in the U.S. while improving healthcare outcomes.

The Olympics need to change

Sha'Carri Richardson was banned from running the 100 meters at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Summer Olympics haven’t even started and they’re already a mess.

First, star sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, 21, was suspended by U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. That means she won’t be able to run the 100 meters at the Tokyo Olympics later this month.

Her crime: testing positive for marijuana use. This was during the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials last month in Eugene, Oregon — a state where recreational marijuana use is legal.

On Friday, she told TODAY that she smoked to cope with learning from a reporter that her biological mother had died, and to deal with the pressure of trying to qualify for her first Olympics.

Tweet may have been deleted

In case you have never smoked marijuana, it does not help you run faster. For athletes, it’s a much safer alternative for treating intense physical pain than, say, opioids. Major sports leagues in the United States — including the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball, and the NHL — have stopped banning players for using it.

Another fun fact: Olympic athletes are allowed to drink alcohol, as evidenced by the fact that the Olympic Village nearly always becomes a bacchanal.

It makes sense to ban smoking weed during competition, just like it makes sense to ban drinking alcohol. Nobody wants to see a sloshed athlete throw a javelin. But Richardson was punished for smoking out of competition.

Why would an athlete be punished for doing that? The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency answers that question in a FAQ, which cites a study from the World Anti-Doping Agency, the body that regulates drug use at the Olympic Games.

The paper says that “cannabis can be performance enhancing for some athletes and sports disciplines,” partly because it allows some athletes to “better perform under pressure and to alleviate stress experienced before and during competition.” In case you’re wondering, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are allowed — although athletes have run into problems using those, too.

The paper also says “use of illicit drugs” isn’t “consistent with the athlete as a role model for young people around the world.” That Richardson is Black and paying the cost for the stigma around marijuana is, sadly, not shocking. As my colleague Morgan Sung noted, a 2020 report from the ACLU found that “even though white people and Black people consume cannabis at ‘roughly equal’ rates, Black people are 3.64 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.”

People were, justifiably, incredulous and outraged over the ban on Twitter.

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Tweet may have been deleted

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The Onion, as always, summed up the situation perfectly.

Tweet may have been deleted

But wait… there’s more. The International Swimming Federation recently announced that swimming caps designed for natural Black hair won’t be allowed at the Tokyo Olympics.

Per the Guardian, the organization said the caps didn’t fit the “natural form of the head” and that athletes at international swimming events had never needed them before — which, really, seems more like a diversity problem than justification for the ban.

The decision means swimming caps from Soul Cap, which had partnered with Alice Dearing, the first Black swimmer to represent Team GB at the Olympics, won’t be allowed.

The Black Swimming Association tweeted that the decision would “discourage many younger athletes from ethnic minority communities from pursuing competitive swimming.” Others agreed.

Tweet may have been deleted

Tweet may have been deleted

And finally, it was announced Friday that two female athletes from Namibia, Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, won’t be able to run the 400 meters at the Olympics because of naturally high testosterone levels. Oddly enough, that doesn’t stop them from running the 200 meters.

Tweet may have been deleted

Tweet may have been deleted

Before this week, the Tokyo Olympics were already marred by accusations of misogyny, racism, and corruption. None of these are new problems. Maybe it’s time to rethink who runs and regulates the Olympic Games.

Netflix kicks off R.L. Stine’s ‘Fear Street’ saga with a splash

A masked killer terrorizes the town of Shadyside, and he's not alone.

Is there any feeling that comes close to watching the first kill in a horror movie? The slow build, the tight frame, the creepy music and finally — YIKES.

Buckle the heck up, because you will not know peace for the next two hours. Netflix’s Fear Street Part 1: 1994 is like getting on your favorite rollercoaster — you might know the bumps, turns, and drops, but you’re in for the ride because you just know it hits.

Based on the Fear Street novels by R.L. Stine, the movie saga tells the story of Shadyside, a positively Stephen King-esque town plagued by centuries of random murder that may or may not be caused by a dead witch’s curse. Part 1 is written by Leigh Janiak and Phil Graziadei, with story by both writers and Kyle Killen. Janiak will direct all three films; Part 2: 1978 drops on July 9 and Part 3: 1666 on July 16.

Part 1: 1994 introduces us to the Shakespearian conflict between Shadyside and Sunnyvale, the polished Eagleton to Shadyside’s bloody Pawnee. At the center of that conflict are Deena (Kiana Madeira) and Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), Shadyside exes who reconnect at a vigil after the first spate of murders. Along with Deena’s brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) and best friends Kate (Julia Rehwald) and Simon (Fred Hechinger), they make up the core squad of Fear Street 1994.

Sam (Olivia Welch) and Deena (Kiana Madeira) put their past aside to escape a bloodthirsty killer in "Fear Street Part 1: 1994."

Sam (Olivia Welch) and Deena (Kiana Madeira) put their past aside to escape a bloodthirsty killer in “Fear Street Part 1: 1994.”
Credit: netflix

Fear Street may disappoint horror purists, but there’s something deeply satisfying about its formula. We recognize the buildup and beats, the pops of humor (“Did they get back together?” Simon asks as Deena and Sam run by, shrieking and covered in blood), and the horny interlude. It’s the perfect tone for the kind of horror movie that doesn’t terrify but constantly entertains. The pacing results in a one-hour-47-minute runtime that feels as rich as a film twice that length, yet flies smoothly toward its bloody final act.

A cast of relative unknowns, unencumbered by the baggage of recognizable faces, gives Fear Street the edge needed to become a classic Netflix cult hit.

It’s serendipitous that the film opens in a mall with Maya Hawke from Stranger Things, a show that draws on artistic and narrative influences of the 1980s the way Fear Street honors I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream, and other ’90s horror hits. The young cast deliver solid performances of recognizable teen archetypes, feeding off the ensemble’s energy while giving each other plenty of moments to shine (there is not nearly enough Darrell Britt-Gibson, but when is there ever?).

A good script doth not a horror movie make, as connoisseurs of the genre know; but it doesn’t hurt. 1994 plays to predictable horror elements but with a tight structure and fresh vision. Despite the size of Stine’s sprawling texts, the film artfully weaves in new storylines and mythology, enticing viewers to piece together Shadyside’s haunting history.

The warm palette of Caleb Heymann’s cinematography pops, and Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp’s score bolsters everything along with copious ’90s needle drops.

With Janiak helming the entire trilogy and working with a largely overlapping cast and crew, Fear Street will have the kind of cohesive vision that few film anthologies enjoy. The weekly drops make it the closest Netflix has ever come to dabbling with appointment TV, building anticipation between each installment. We’re only getting started, but we can’t wait to go back to Shadyside.

Fear Street Part 1: 1994 is now streaming on Netflix.

3 guiding principles for CEOs who post on Twitter

Lisa W. Liu
Contributor

Lisa W. Liu is a senior partner at The Mitzel Group, where her practice focuses on business and immigration issues.

A CEO’s fiduciary duties to their company and its shareholders do not end when they are off the clock — they must always act in good faith. However, navigating the boundaries between a company’s official communications and a personal voice can be difficult in today’s social-media-connected environment.

What a CEO posts on Twitter can raise not only serious reputational issues for themselves and their companies but posting the wrong things at the wrong time can also cause breach of fiduciary duties and may even run afoul of securities laws.

Reputation and goodwill take a long time to build and are difficult to maintain, but it only takes one tweet to destroy it all.

Fiduciary duties can be divided into three buckets: (1) duty of care — CEOs must act in good faith with the care of a reasonable person in a like position with a reasonable belief that their decisions are in furtherance of their company’s best interest; (2) duty of loyalty — CEOs must put the interest of shareholders and the company above their own self-interest; and (3) duty of good faith — CEOs must act with honesty and fairness to shareholders and the company.

There is no denying that Twitter can be leveraged as a powerful tool. Used appropriately, it can fortify the reputation of a company and its CEO, forge stronger consumer relationships and drive business profits. For example, Tim Cook’s habit of tweeting about his interactions with Apple customers demonstrates his customer-service values and effort to connect with consumers, which can potentially lead to a bigger and more loyal following.

Lately, more and more CEOs are communicating their stance on issues that are important to their consumer base to exhibit authenticity, relatability and demonstrate their personal and corporate values through social media. Following last year’s murder of George Floyd and rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, nearly 60% of all S&P 100 tech CEOs, unicorn CEOs, and Fortune 500 CEOs tweeted, “Black Lives Matter.” This was the first time CEOs active on Twitter overwhelmingly voiced their position on racial and social justice issues.

Twitter can also be an opportunity to show transparency in policy. CEOs can use social media to announce new management initiatives, capability expansions and new investments in employees (diversity initiatives, new roles for women, organizational changes) that are positive in tone and speak about the future direction of the company. These can have a positive correlation with stock prices.

It wasn’t that long ago that the world was fixated on Donald Trump’s Twitter posts and their correlation with the stock market. Words have permanence and their impact can be catastrophic. Given their elevated role as a leader and representative of the company and the fiduciary duties they owe, CEOs must watch what they say and when they say it. What it all boils down to is awareness, common sense and the law.

Don’t break the law and stick to the facts

For U.S. publicly traded companies, SEC Regulation Fair Disclosure (Reg FD) says that “an issuer may not disclose material nonpublic information to certain groups, either intentionally or unintentionally, without disclosing the same information to the entire marketplace.” If companies use social media to announce key information, to comply, they must alert investors that social media will be used to disseminate such information.

Regardless of whether it is a public or private company, CEOs are corporate officers and owe fiduciary duties to their companies and their shareholders. Fiduciary duty requires CEOs to act in good faith, apply their best business judgment and to act in the best interest of the company. This is true whether they are in the boardroom or on Twitter.

Insider Secrets To Finding Cheap Plane Tickets

There are positive signs that lockdowns and restrictions in different countries will soon ease. Once this happens, people will once again be traveling for either business or leisure. Whether you’re a frequent traveler or a newbie to traveling, everybody can benefit from knowing some insider secrets on how to find more affordable plane tickets. All we need is time for research, flexibility with our travel plan and small compromises to quench one’s thirst to explore the planet without wasting a fortune on airplane tickets.

Here are some important tips and tricks yet easy to follow to help you book cheap flight tickets to your destination.

Flexibility With Travel Dates Can Help To Get A Cheap Flight Option

how to book the cheapest flight

High and low pricing of the flight tickets majorly depends on a few factors like the particular day of the week, time of the year, and holiday season. Flight booking for Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are cost-effective days that can fetch you comparatively cheaper flights than Fridays and Sundays, which are supposed to be pricey.

Opt For Shoulder Season To Enjoy A Good Saving On Airplane Tickets

Booking airplane tickets for peak tourist seasons can be heavy on your pockets. Instead, choose the shoulder season, the period between peak and off-peak seasons, to help you save a good amount on the flight ticket expenses.

Avoid Travel Plan During Conventional Holiday Seasons To Enjoy Discounted Flight

Flight booking during a major holiday season like Christmas time, New Year’s Eve, or Thanksgiving Day is bound to be expensive. Planning your travel during the non-holiday season is a great way to grab discounted flights, as well as cheaper hotel rooms.

Booking Early To Get Hold Of Cheap Airlines Tickets

booking the cheapest flight possible

As per the normal trend, there is a hike in the airfare as you get closer to the departure date, so it’s always advisable to book flight tickets in advance. Six to eight weeks before the departure date is considered ideal to find cheap airline tickets.

Join A Frequent Flyer Program To Enjoy Benefits On Flight Tickets

You can earn miles or points through the frequent flyer program run by the airlines. It is to manage a loyal customer group and also, to attract loyal customers by offering various perks and benefits. The accumulated miles or points can be redeemed in the form of cheap tickets, discount flights, upgrades, and even free-of-cost flights, depending on the points.

Sign Up For Price Alert Notifications And Newsletter To Save On Airline Tickets

Airline pricing is very dynamic, and the airfare keeps changing depending on various algorithms. By setting up a price alert, one can get updated all the time about the increase or decrease in the airfare and book flight tickets accordingly. Hence, it is a nice medium to fetch cheap flight tickets and enjoy a good save on airline tickets.

The post Insider Secrets To Finding Cheap Plane Tickets appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Fetch Robotics’ CEO on the company’s acquisition and the future of warehouse robots

Yesterday, enterprise computing corporation Zebra Technologies announced its plan to acquire Fetch Robotics. The San Jose-based startup has been a mainstay in warehouse and fulfillment robotics for a number of years, offering a modular system designed to automate companies behind the scenes.

The full deal is valued at $305 million, with Zebra acquiring the remaining 95% of the company for $290 million. It comes as interest in the category is at an all-time high, following widespread labor shortages during the pandemic.

After the news broke, we sat down with Fetch co-founder and CEO Melonee Wise to discuss the deal and the future of warehouse robotics.

Why was this acquisition the right move for Fetch?

When you look at it, over the last seven years, we’ve been building a pretty compelling cloud robotics platform. About two years ago, Zebra invested in Fetch, and we started working together through our partnership. One of the first things we did was integrating their mobile computing devices, for an out-of-the-box experience on our cloud robotics platform. When our customers got robots, they could take the hand scanner they already had today, scan a barcode and call a robot to them.

As we were fundraising for our Series D, this opportunity came out of that. I think when you look at it, over the last couple of years, we’ve had a good relationship with them. With the pandemic, there’s been a huge draw for more and more automation technology. Before the pandemic, there were already labor shortages for warehouse and logistics, and the pandemic only exacerbated it. One of the other great things about us joining Zebra is they have a strong go-to-market engine, and they can amplify our sales capability. They’re already in all of the customers we want to be working with. It helps us reach a much broader, wider and deeper audience.

I’d assumed Fetch was a good potential candidate for an acquisition, but I’d always imagined it would be something like a Walmart looking to compete with Amazon robotics. I suspect that you’ve been approached by companies over the years. Why does this kind of acquisition make more sense, ultimately?

I think the acquisition made sense because it aligns with more of our long-term vision. When we built our platform, we built it to be unifying. Not just our robots. Over the years we’ve been slowly bringing in other partners on the platform. We have a partnership with SICK, we have partnerships with other MWS providers like VARGO. That isn’t going to change. We’re still going to be partner friendly and we’re still going to bring other devices into the ecosystem. When you look at the options and the opportunities, this was a good opportunity and was well aligned with the team we wanted to build.

I know Zebra has developed their own robot and invested in other robotics companies. Are you the cornerstone of an ecosystem play? Is this Zebra building a a robotic retail and fulfillment ecosystem around Fetch?

Yes, that so far has been the discussion. It’s still evolving. I don’t have all the details for you, obviously. And of course, we still have 30 days or 35 days ‘till closing, so we’re still operating as independent businesses. In terms of vision of how we’re thinking about it, Zebra is very excited to kind of make Fetch the centerpiece of this whole new offering that they’re building out. It’s a high strategic priority for them.

Will the Fetch brand remain? Will the company stay in San Jose? Are you staying on board?

Fetch is not moving. We’re kind of becoming the centerpiece, so they want to keep the team together, in San Jose. My plan is to stay. We’re still working out the details [ … ] Fetch has a very strong brand, and so how do we get the best of both worlds.

Is acquisition something that a company like Fetch works toward? Do you consider it to be kind of an inevitability?

I think it’s complicated. When I started the company, I never really planned on anything. I just wanted to go build something. I mean that in the most sincere way. I wanted to go build something and not fail. And the question is, what does not failing look like? I think the facts are that in the last 20-something years, almost no robotics company has IPO’ed. Now we’re starting to see SPACS, but there hasn’t been a robotics company that’s IPO’ed through the traditional route.

I would say that if you were to ask me on any given day, what I thought the probability of IPO versus acquisition, I probably would have said acquisition, because there’s just not a history of robotics companies IPO’ing. That’s for lots of reasons. It’s a hardware intensive business. It takes a lot of technology and investment. Typically, they’re held privately. It’s hard for large corporate entities to have the P&L to invest in this deep technology. I think that’s starting to change. And I think now that there’s SPACs, you’ll see a lot changing in that regard. But I would say you’re still going to see more acquisitions than you’re going to see IPOs for the next 10 years.

Had you been approached about acquisition in the past?

Yeah. In the past we had been, but many times before it was just too early.

What does it mean to be too early?

It just didn’t feel like the right time for lots of reasons. Some of it has to do with what I want. Some of it has to do with what the team wants. And some of it has to do with what our investors want. There are a lot of people at the table. This is always a hard question. Previously when those things had come up, the market was so undefined and so new, we just wanted to see where it went. Now we’re starting to see more structure to the environment, and we’re starting to see an inflection point.

Is additional international expansion part of the plan?

Yeah. We’re in several companies in Europe. We’re in APAC and expanding in that region. Right now, we aren’t placing any large bets in any of those countries. We’re waiting to see how the market develops, but we’re looking to expand.

How to connect your PS4 controller to an iPhone

Pairing your PS4 controller to your iPhone is simple. Just follow these easy steps.

If you game on the go but want more control over the experience than you can get with your phone’s touchscreen, you’re in luck. iOS 13 (or later) lets you connect a Playstation controller to your iPhone via Bluetooth pairing.

While you can also do this with an iPad and some Xbox controllers, we’re focusing on how to pair your PS4 DualShock controller with your iPhone.

Here’s how to connect

  1. Go to the Settings menu on your iPhone.

  2. Tap “Bluetooth” to get into the Bluetooth menu. It might already be on, but if it isn’t, turn it on now by clicking the toggle switch at the top of the screen. It’ll be green when Bluetooth is turned on.

  3. Keep the Bluetooth menu open so you can see when the controller shows up and pair it.

  4. On your PS4 controller, press the Playstation and Share buttons at the same time. Hold them down until the light on your controller starts to flash.

  5. You should see “DUALSHOCK 4 Wireless Controller” pop up in the Bluetooth menu on your iPhone under other devices. Click that to pair your controller.

  6. Your controller is paired when the light on the back stops blinking and turns a reddish pink color.

If you want to pair your PS4 controller with an iPad instead, follow the same steps.

How to disconnect

To disconnect your controller after you’re done playing, follow these steps:

  1. If your phone has face ID enabled, you can get to the Control Center by swiping diagonally across your screen from the upper right to lower left. On a touch ID phone, swipe up from the bottom of your screen.

  2. Press and hold the Bluetooth icon.

  3. A menu will come up. Find the icon that says “Bluetooth: On,” then press and hold it.

  4. Your available devices will come up, including your DualShock controller. Press the controller name to disconnect.

You can also navigate into the Bluetooth menu from Settings, the same way you did when you paired the controller in the first place. Once there:

  1. Find “DUALSHOCK 4 Wireless Controller” under My Devices and click the small ‘i’ icon next to it.

  2. Press Disconnect

Troubleshooting

If you’re still having problems connecting your controller, Apple recommends trying the following:

  • Unpair, then pair again. If that still doesn’t work, get more info on connecting Bluetooth accessories to your iPhone here.

  • If your DualShock 4 controller connects, but you still see a “connection unsuccessful” message, try pressing the Playstation (PS) button and waiting for it to connect.

  • Make sure you don’t have a bunch of other devices already connected, as there are limits to how many devices you can have paired at once.

And that’s it! Game on.

CMU’s president discusses how Pittsburgh is building — and retaining — high-tech startups

For a brief moment, earlier this week, it seemed as though Pittsburgh might be the center of the tech universe. Just as Carnegie Mellon alum Duolingo was announcing its IPO. Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey were in town, as Vice President Kamala Harris paid a visit to the City of Bridges to talk infrastructure.

The morning of TechCrunch’s City Spotlight, the Pittsburgh Robotics Network held its own event to announce a new alliance with members of the local government and faculty from nearby universities.

“The alliance brings together leaders from top robotics companies, research institutions and universities in the Pittsburgh area, including Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Argo AI, Aurora, the University of Pittsburgh, Kaarta, RE2 Robotics, Neya Systems, Carnegie Robotics, HEBI Robotics, Near Earth Autonomy, BirdBrain Technologies, Omnicell and Advanced Construction Robotics,” a press release noted. “The Richard King Mellon Foundation commemorated this membership milestone with a grant of $125,000 to support the continued growth of the PRN.”

Our own Spotlight event, held later that afternoon, was designed to highlight the city’s continued evolution. To many, Pittsburgh is still very much the plucky but troubled city reeling from the deindustrialization of the 70s and 80s, as the factory and industry jobs that formed its foundation moved out of town and shipped overseas. The rust belt veneer is a hard one to leave behind, but the city’s biggest cheerleaders are working hard to transform the image of Pittsburgh into one of robotics, AI, autonomy and other cutting-edge technologies.

Carnegie Mellon has — and continues to be the cornerstone of that Pittsburgh. A world-class research school by any metric, CMU is the crown jewel of the area’s dozens of colleges and universities. While the University of Pittsburgh is a huge driver for the city’s medical and science communities, CMU is the reason it can count itself among the leaders in robots and self-driving cars.

Speaking at our event, Farnam Jahanian cited the school’s The Swartz Center as a major driver in its efforts to support the startup ambitions of students and faculty alike.

“The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon is a system of programming activities that offers a unique path of entrepreneurship, education, engagement, collaboration and opportunities for students, faculty and staff that are interested in entrepreneurship, from the Innovation Scholars Program, to the corporate startup lab, to essentially garages that students and faculty can essentially sign up for to launch their companies from plus a host of other programmatic things, resources that you would need,” says Jahanian, who was appointed CMU’s president in 2018.

The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship was founded in 2015, courtesy of a $31 million donation from CMU alumnus and Accel Partners co-founder, James R. Swartz. The center built on previous efforts like 2012’s Carnegie Mellon Center and Project Olympus, founded in 2007. The Swartz Center and its recent precursors list among their success stories Duolingo, DataSquid and AbilLife.

Dave Mawhinney recently told TechCrunch that he took the role as the center’s executive director in an effort, “to make it on par with Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, Harvard and other great entrepreneurial universities.” CMU certainly isn’t outclassed by any of the above in terms of its position as a world-class research university, but Mawhinney concedes that the school and the city have traditionally grappled with entrepreneurial retention.

“You can always learn from what you have and build on it,” says Jahanian. “I would stress it is really about the entire ecosystem. It’s not about just what CMU does — that’s a critical part of it. It’s University of Pittsburgh, it’s other universities that are in our region that are also contributing significantly to our ecosystem.”

Mawhinney says that CMU’s ability to incubate and foster tech startups hit an inflection point roughly a decade and a half ago, as Big Tech took an increasing interest in the research the school was doing around things fields like AI and automation.

“Really, the seminal event was when Google put an office in Pittsburgh in 2006. They have over 1,000 employees,” he says. “Every major tech company — Amazon, Facebook, Apple — have all embedded hundreds of engineers in our community, so we’re growing really, really rapidly. Artificial intelligence was invented at Carnegie Mellon — and that sort of set off the robot revolution [ … ] Now we’re the center of the automated vehicle community. Aurora is co-located here, Argo is here, Aptiv is here. We have a very vibrant community and we do want to continue to grow it.”

Building a successful company requires a lot more than engineers, of course (there’s a decent chance you wouldn’t be reading this if that weren’t the case). In the lead up to our event, I asked several interested parties what the biggest hurdle was in continuing to attract and grow the city’s startup ecosystem. The overwhelming answer was simple: venture capital.

“What we need is more capital — angel funds, venture funds so that entrepreneurs have a variety of funding sources to go to locally,” Yvonne Campos of Next Act Fund LLC told TechCrunch. “We definitely need more funding for women-led businesses — women raise about one-third less capital than men-led companies. Not because of the business idea or leader, but because we invest in companies where we have the most comfort — we invest in people that look like us. Nationally, only about 20%-25% of all angel investors are women. We need more women to become active as investors.”

The city’s mayor, Bill Peduto, who also appeared at our event, echoed the sentiment.

“I think the biggest hurdle remains access to venture capital, especially in this stage. I think we’ve been able to convince investors from the coast that the companies don’t need to leave Pittsburgh in order to be highly successful and see their investment pay off,” he told me in an interview. “However, I believe if we had more venture capital arriving here to help to take early-stage companies into that critical next stage of expansion, it would build off itself and it would excel growth in all of the industry cluster, significantly.”

During our conversation, however, Jahanian pushed back on the sentiment. “I respectfully disagree,” he told me. “Funding is important, but great ideas get funded. I’ve seen it my entire career. They get funded at levels that really show that these companies have a shot at being really successful.”

CMU’s president points to another problem, entirely. “You need a lot more than just cool technologies or new research ideas or new concepts or products just to launch a company,” Jahanian says. “You need a lot more around it. You need marketing, product management, you need to be able to develop a business plan. So those are a lot of the resources that we do provide.”

Kleiner Perkins CPO Bing Gordon reflected the sentiment, speaking to me over email. “[Pittsburgh needs] to import CFOs, product managers, ad sales,” he wrote. Another historical concern for the city is attracting that talent. CMU hasn’t had an issue on that front, because location is less of a key concern for students applying for research universities. When it comes to careers after college, settling down and starting a family, on the other hand, suddenly quality of life rockets up the list.

Jahanian says he has long championed green spaces and other communal gathering places in his conversations over the years with Peduto. He adds that the subject should continue to be top of mind for whoever the city’s new mayor is next year.

“One of the most important things about the startup and high-tech community in Pittsburgh is the quality of life for citizens across this town,” says Jahanian. “I can tell you as a university president, an overwhelming majority of the faculty that we recruit want to live in the city and enjoy it. That’s an important part of it. Obviously, there’s a lot more going on beyond the quality of life. The more that the city does to bridge the gap between those who are prospering and those who are potentially left behind in the economies that are created the high-tech economies is important. That’s a responsibility of the private sector and the public sector. I’m really optimistic that we’ll have a great partnership with our future mayor, as we’ve done in the past mayors to catalyze the economy and lift all boats.”

I was struck by the Pixel camera curse

A photo as seen on the Pixel 3.

I loved my Pixel camera — until it went berserk on me at the most inopportune time.

I was struck by the Pixel camera curse, like so many others who’ve shared their tales of woe on message boards and within app reviews. We all bought Pixels because of the hyped camera tech, and then hated Google because of its camera fails — and the tech giant’s reluctance to publicly admit to a widespread issue.

The curse unfurls like this: Your camera works fine one moment, but the next time you try to take a picture, the camera app crashes. You try again and get a pop-up that says “Something went wrong / Close and open the Camera app and try again.” Except closing and opening the app doesn’t do anything. Neither does force quitting. Neither does restarting your phone. Neither does factory resetting your phone. You can sometimes get the front camera to work to take a selfie, but the error message taunts you on screen as you snap your sad face. (You can see me pout in the corner of my phone below; it was the last selfie I took on my Pixel.) Some adventurous tinkerers have taped a magnet next to the rear camera, which seems to fix the issue sometimes, but they then have to live with an ugly magnet taped to the back of their phone. Not ideal.

The "Something went wrong" error message taunts me whenever I try to use the camera app on my Pixel 2.

The “Something went wrong” error message taunts me whenever I try to use the camera app on my Pixel 2.
Credit: Brittany Levine Beckman / mashable

This camera curse has afflicted Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, Pixel 3XL, Pixel 4, and Pixel 4a owners, according to online comments. Initial reports of camera crashes appear to have surfaced in 2019 and the complaints continue to this day, with frustrated users taking to the camera app’s review section to vent. The latest upset customer posted a one-star review on June 23: “I can’t use my rear facing camera. Please fix!! My phone is 6 months old and I’m definitely feeling frustrated with my choice because a big reason I got my Google pixel 4a was for the camera.” The camera app for the device that’s been hailed as one of the best camera phones of the year currently has 3 stars out of 5.

Whether the problem is due to a software or hardware issue — or a software issue that caused a hardware issue by overheating the phone like some armchair experts conjecture — has been debated online since people started carping about the curse. Google claims there are no known app or operating system software issues causing Pixel cameras to go on the fritz. Instead, Google tells Mashable the problem could be due to wear and tear or drops over time.

But that reasoning isn’t up to snuff for customers, some of whom had their cameras crash as soon as a month after they bought a Pixel. For others like me, the malediction descends upon you after a year or two. (And my phone doesn’t have a scratch on it.)

Those lucky to have encountered the curse less than a year into owning a Pixel have been well taken care of. The Pixel’s one-year warranty means those favored customers just ship their hexed phones back to Google and get a free (most likely refurbished) replacement. But if you’re outside the warranty window, you’re out of luck in the free department. You can get a broken Pixel repaired by a Google partner. I was given a $120 estimate for a fix, which is twice as much as the phone is worth if I tried to sell it on eBay. A Google customer service rep also suggested I could trade in my phone to buy a new one, but the trade-in would get me at most $21. Google says anyone experiencing this issue should contact customer support for help, but in my experience, you won’t get far if you’re seeking a comped replacement out of warranty.

The estimate I received when I attempted to trade-in my Pixel 2 on Google's website.

The estimate I received when I attempted to trade-in my Pixel 2 on Google’s website.
Credit: Screenshot: Google

The camera on my Pixel 2, which I raved about taking exceptional photos of the Northern Lights in 2019, stopped working while I was covering the reveal of BMW’s new electric SUV recently. Although I initially bought my Pixel in 2017, Google has sent me two replacements over the years after bricking incidents. The first time my Pixel bricked was right before I got on a flight in 2018; I lost all access to my boarding pass information. The second was a year later in 2019 when I was on vacation in Hawaii (no photos of turtles and sandy beaches for me during that trip). The Pixel has cruelly nailed the dramatic timing of its torture. When my camera stopped working in early June, I’d had the phone for almost two years.

Mashable Image

Sadath Ahmed, an engineer in Dubai, was struck by the curse seven months after his warranty on his Pixel 2 XL ended. He bought the new phone in 2019 and a year and a half later, when he was trying to take a picture of the sunset, the camera app crashed. He explains in a Reddit DM that he got the same black screen I experienced after the first crash. He tried the magnet hack, but after a few days the trick lost its magic. Any photos he took were blurry until the camera just stopped working once again. He used his camera-less phone for four months and then bought a used Pixel 2 for $50 as a temporary stopgap. He’s eyeing an iPhone for his next purchase, but for now, the used phone gets him through the day.

“I think they should first acknowledge that there is a widespread issue and help customers get the camera fixed,” says Ahmed about what he considers an appropriate response from Google.

Muhammad Irtaza, an engineering student in Pakistan and another cursed Pixel owner, agrees.


“Google fails to acknowledge this issue which is, in simple terms, pathetic for a company as big as this.”

“There are dozens of articles and posts on Reddit, the Google support site, and countless other forums, yet Google fails to acknowledge this issue which is, in simple terms, pathetic for a company as big as this,” Irtaza writes in a Reddit message.

The camera crashed on his used Pixel 3 five months after he bought it, while he was snapping a pic of an indoor plant. He also tried the magnet trick, but its enchantment lasted just a few seconds before the camera crashed again. He says the camera problems vanished after he updated to the latest Android 12 Beta. He reverted back to Android 11, Google’s current mobile operating system, a few weeks later and the camera was still functioning properly.

“But it makes the phone overheat like crazy. I can’t leave the camera on for more than 5 minutes,” he adds. So he bought a new Pixel 4XL, which he says has been “phenomenal.”

“This has somewhat restored my faith in the Pixel line, but I cannot and will not recommend the Pixel to any of my friends and family since I’ve read about the Pixel 4 battery issues as well. I don’t have those problems, thankfully, but I believe it’s just a matter of luck,” he adds.

I used to tell everyone who complained about their iPhone to get a Pixel. I trumpeted the Pixel line to one of my oldest friends who got a Pixel a few years ago. While she hasn’t experienced the camera issue, she has had other headaches, like screen glitches. Yet she still stuck with Google, moving on to the Pixel 4a and now the Pixel 5, mostly because of the camera’s acuity (and all the pre-installed G Suite apps.)

Before the camera crash, my phone’s battery life was dwindling. I’d have to charge it every five hours or so, which wasn’t a huge deal because of fast charging and being stuck at home not far from an outlet during the pandemic. To be fair, a limp battery seems to be par for the course after owning any phone for a year or two. I ditched my iPhone 6S and bought the Pixel 2 because the iPhone’s battery life was laughable two years in, and this was before Apple set a temporary $29 fee for battery replacements on the 6S (it now costs $49).

After a few days of steaming over my cursed Pixel camera, I was lured by Apple’s sorcery and bought a bright red iPhone 12 mini.

It takes superb photos.

Don’t send VC a cold deck ever again: Start sending video pitches

Evan Fisher
Contributor

Founder of Unicorn Capital and Minimal Capital, Evan Fisher‘s pitching and investor strategy has helped startups raise more than $2.5 billion.

Let’s play out this scenario. Your deck is ready and you’re just about to start reaching out. What does conventional wisdom say that you should send? A three-paragraph overview, four bullet points outlining the problem, and three bullet points on how you solve it and why you’re the best. You went through all that work … but who is going to read it? A junior person. Not even a senior VC.

Even if you do end up with a meeting, odds are that your deck didn’t even get read. The biggest lie in venture capital is: “Yes, I read through your deck.” Because those words are immediately followed by, “ … but why don’t you run us through it from the beginning?”

At that point, it’s safe to assume that no one has actually taken the time to read through what you sent, the junior guy thought it would be an interesting meeting considering the fund’s current themes of interest, and no one objected to taking the meeting. But no one has really taken the time to read through your deck.

Even if the only benefit was that other investment committee members heard the story direct from the founder, that alone would make your video pitch worth it.

According to DocSend, the average pitch deck review time over the last 20 weeks is less than three minutes. Let’s break down how much time you’ll be given for a 12-page deck (a very concise deck):

  • Cover — 5 seconds.
  • Back cover — 5 seconds.
  • All the rest — 2:50.

That also includes time for that critical-to-understand diagram that illustrates and distills your unique system or view of the world. Do you think 25 seconds is long enough to fully comprehend that diagram and connect the dots with your value prop? Not likely.

What should you do about it?

Don’t send cold decks, ever. Instead, you should be video pitching — this is a video walkthrough of your deck, with your face in a camera bubble talking through it and giving added color in a video no longer than six-and-a-half minutes. Your objective for this video: Get in, provide a basis of understanding, and get out with a punchy CTA. Nothing flashy, nothing fancy.

More investors are embracing video pitches (prime example: Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures), and in the age of the Zoom-based pitch meeting, it’s quickly becoming the standard.

The rapid but notable shift is because in video pitching, founders get to showcase the preparedness, commitment and passion VCs are looking for, all while telling their story. None of that is effectively transmitted in a cold pitch deck. Further, it allows you to create a deeper connection even before a meeting ever takes place. In a sense, it allows you and the investor to skip a step in the relationship-building process.

Why you have to do video pitches

Cold decks get blown out of the water when compared with the benefits of the video pitch:

  1. You can connect the dots in an easy-to-digest manner. Instead of simply reading the slides, you’re adding context as you go through them. Basically, you’re doing investors a favor by doing the mental heavy lifting for them.
  2. You control the interaction. It’s a recorded video, so you get to pitch with the added benefit of not getting interrupted.
  3. People might not give three minutes to skim a PDF, but they will watch a six-and-a-half minute high-relevance video!

Jim Whitehurst steps down as president at IBM just 14 months after taking role

In a surprise announcement today, IBM announced that Jim Whitehurst, who came over in the Red deal, would be stepping down as company president just 14 months after taking over in that role.

IBM didn’t give a lot of details as to why he was stepping away, but acknowledged his key role in helping bring the 2018 $34 billion Red Hat deal to fruition and helping bring the two companies together after the deal closed. “Jim has been instrumental in articulating IBM’s strategy, but also, in ensuring that IBM and Red Hat work well together and that our technology platforms and innovations provide more value to our clients,” the company stated.

He will stay on as a senior advisor to Krishna, but it begs the question why he is leaving after such a short time in the role, and what he plans to do next. Oftentimes after a deal of this magnitude closes, there is an agreement as to how long key executives will stay. It could be simply that the period has expired and Whitehurst wants to move on, but some saw him as the heir apparent to Krishna and the move comes as a surprise when looked at in that context.

“I am surprised because I always thought Jim would be next in line as IBM CEO. I also liked the pairing between a lifer IBMer and an outsider,” Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insight & Strategies told TechCrunch.

Regardless, it leaves a big hole in Krishna’s leadership team as he works to transform the company into one that is primarily focused on hybrid cloud.  Whitehurst was undoubtedly in a position to help drive that change through his depth of industry knowledge and his credibility with the open source community from his time at Red Hat. He is not someone who would be easily replaced and the announcement didn’t mention anyone filling his role.

When IBM bought Red Hat in 2018 for $34 billion, it led to a cascading set of changes at both companies. First Ginni Rometty stepped down as CEO at IBM and Arvind Krishna took over. At the same time, Jim Whitehurst, who had been Red Hat CEO moved to IBM as president and long-time employee Paul Cormier moved into his role.

At the same time, the company also announced some other changes including that long-time IBM executive Bridget van Kralingen announced she too was stepping away, leaving her role as senior vice president of global markets. Rob Thomas, who had been senior vice president of IBM cloud and data platform, will step in to replace Van Kraligen.

California has no water and lots of liquidity

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Danny, Natasha, and Alex were on-deck this week, with Grace on the recording and edit. But, if you want to hear more about Robinhood, this is not the episode for you. If you want to learn more about the consumer fintech company’s IPO filing this is the episode you want. Basically, Robinhood filed after we had wrapped taping, so we had to do a special pod for the news.

So, this is the everything-but-Robinhood episode. And here’s what’s inside of it:

A four-episode week! With only Grace handling production! She’s amazing.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Sony’s Xperia 1 III is now available for pre-order, if you can spare $1,300

One for the mobile photography buffs.

Sony’s new flagship smartphone, the Xperia 1 III, has been announced in April, but the company didn’t share exact pricing and availability.

Now, we know both. The Sony Xperia 1 III just went up for pre-order in the U.S., with a price tag of $1,299.99. It will be available for purchase in stores on August 19.

The price tag might make you gasp in amazement, given that Sony’s smartphones aren’t exactly as popular as the ones from Apple or Samsung, which offer their flagships at significantly lower prices (both the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the Galaxy S21 Ultra cost $1,199). However, in recent years Sony phones have become niche products, aimed at users who want the absolute best camera they can get in a phone.

Sony Xperia 1 III is the first smartphone with a variable telephoto lens.

Sony Xperia 1 III is the first smartphone with a variable telephoto lens.
Credit: sony

And Sony Xperia 1 III does deliver something unique: a triple 12-megapixel rear camera with a main sensor, ultra-wide sensor, and a periscope camera with a variable telephoto lens, meaning the camera can switch between 3x and 5x optical zoom. The camera also boasts a 3D time-of-flight sensor, burst mode that allows it to take 20 stills per second, as well as real-time tracking, which uses AI to keep the focus on moving subjects.

Other specs of note include a 6.5-inch, 120Hz, 4K HDR OLED display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, 12GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, a 4,500mAh battery with wireless charging, front-facing stereo speakers, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

Sony has also put up its other new phone, the Xperia 5 III, up for pre-order in some markets. Engadget says it costs £899 ($1,239) in the UK, where it will arrive in September, but U.S. pricing hasn’t been announced yet.

The Sony Xperia 5 III (pictured) is a smaller phone than the Xperia 1 III, but its camera system is pretty close to the one on its bigger brother.

The Sony Xperia 5 III (pictured) is a smaller phone than the Xperia 1 III, but its camera system is pretty close to the one on its bigger brother.
Credit: sony

It’s a smaller device than the Xperia 1 III, with a 6.1-inch, 120Hz HDR OLED display, and comes with less RAM (8GB), though it has the same battery capacity at 4,500mAh (no wireless charging, though). The rear camera system is nearly the same, though it lacks the 3D iToF sensor and real-time subject tracking.

‘The Office’ cast and writers discuss the memorable Season 5 Halloween cold open

Remember when Dwight dressed as the Joker for Halloween in an episode of The Office? Then Kevin dressed as the Joker for Halloween? Then Creed dressed as the Joker for Halloween, too?

That genuinely put a smile on my face.

In the latest episode of the Office Ladies podcast, Office stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey chatted all about the Season 5 episode, “Employee Transfer,” which features the memorable Halloween-themed cold open in which all three Jokers appear.

Curious why the cold open was all-in on Halloween but the rest of the episode wasn’t, however, Fischer and Kinsey reached out to episode writer Anthony Ferrell to get the inside scoop.

What’s up with the Halloween teaser?

“The show was initially — the entire episode was supposed to be Halloween. So everyone was in their costumes for the entire episode. Andy was a kitten initially, I think. And the whole B-story with Dwight being in the Cornell sweater, that was his costume — an accidental costume, initially. And that’s where that story came from,” Ferrell explained.

“So costume-wise, we had a thing where once we decided we were going to just put the Halloween stuff in the cold open, we rewrote the cold open. And that was mostly led by [writers] Lee [Eisenberg] and Gene [Stupnitsky]. And that’s where the idea for the three Jokers came from.”

Ferrell shared that the Joker was a super popular Halloween costume in 2008. TBT. And while the Joker trio was brilliant, in the DVD commentary Ferrell explained that the writers felt the costumes would distract from the episode’s storylines, so that’s why they’re only seen up top.

In case you wanted a costume refresher, Kinsey gave a gorgeous rundown.

“So per the script, here are some details: Stanley, in the script, is wearing a Creature from the Black Lagoon rubber mask with his regular suit. Creed, per the script, is an amazing Joker from Batman, whereas Kevin is a ‘lame Joker.’ And in the script it says Dwight is also a Joker,” Kinsey explained.

“Kelly is Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. Ryan is Gordon Gekko from Wall Street… Oscar is Uncle Sam. Meredith, a cheerleader. Phyllis is Raggedy Ann. Andy, per the script, it says he’s dressed as a cat with whiskers on his face. [And] Angela has brought back her cat costume,” Kinsey continued.

Who does that leave? Jim, who’s simply wearing a name tag that says “Dave.” And Pam, who’s at corporate dressed as Charlie Chaplin. 

OK. OK. Back to the three Jokers. 

To take things a step further Fischer reached out to the show’s new wardrobe designer, Alicia Raycraft, who took over for Carey Bennett in Season 5.

“She said that with this episode, she had to really ride the line of designing wardrobe, but also making sure that the costumes look like things that we could have put together ourselves,” Fischer explained. “The script said that Creed’s joker was supposed to be the best version of the Joker. Kevin’s was supposed to be lame.”

“And they’re The Dark Knight Joker,” Kinsey confirmed.

Fischer said that to prepare, Raycraft made a shopping list and set out to get Creed a killer, accurate costume, and to buy Kevin some regular-looking clothes that had light Joker vibes.

“But for Dwight, she said they went with a nod to the Jack Nicholson version of the Joker,” Fischer said.

Though there wasn’t much Halloween in this Halloween episode, you have to admit, the cold open really raised the bar for TV costumes.

Be sure to listen to the full podcast episode for more behind-the-scenes stories from “Employee Transfer.”

You can stream episodes of The Office on Peacock and follow along with the podcast every week on Earwolf, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher.

GM is investing in a California lithium extraction project

General Motors is investing in domestically sourced lithium. The company said Friday it became the first investor in an Australian company’s project to extract the mineral, a critical component of electric vehicle batteries, from the Salton Sea Geothermal Field near Los Angeles. The automaker will have first rights on lithium produced by Controlled Thermal Resources’ “Hell’s Kitchen” lithium extraction project.

The Hell’s Kitchen project is expected to begin producing lithium in 2024. That output would be used in GM’s Ultium battery cells, which are being manufactured as part of a joint venture with LG Energy Solution, after undergoing validation and testing. While Tim Grewe, GM’s general director of electrification strategy and cell engineering, declined to provide specifics on how much lithium GM will likely receive, he said the company expects “it’ll be a significant amount of [GM’s] North American lithium.”

GM and other automakers will need a lot of lithium if they want to meet their electrification targets. For GM, that includes transitioning away from internal combustion engines entirely by 2035. But that wide-scale transition will also likely mean greater competition – not only for customers’ dollars, but for the source minerals that compose essential parts like batteries.

In general, lithium is produced either via hard rock mining or by extracting the mineral from brine deposits. Both methods have been criticized for their impacts on the environment. What makes CTR’s project stand out is that it will use renewable geothermal energy – produced from the Salton Sea Geothermal Field, a huge area in the Imperial Valley that’s already home to eleven geothermal power stations – to process the lithium.

In addition to being powered by renewable energy, CTR says the project uses a closed-loop direct extraction process that returns spent brine to its underground source and leaves no production tailings, a kind of waste reside from mining.

Most of the world’s lithium is sourced from a small number of countries, predominately Chile, Australia, China and Argentina. There only one lithium production site in the United States, a brine operation in Nevada owned by chemical manufacturing giant Albemarle. But there’s been an increased focus on boosting domestic production in the mineral in recent years, driven largely by two trends: the anticipated demand for the mineral, which is expected to rapidly increase due in part to the transition to battery electric vehicles; and a bipartisan focus on keeping the US competitive in emerging technologies.

According to the California Energy Commission, as much as one third of the world’s current demand for lithium could be found in the state’s lithium deposits. The CTR project is one of many aimed at extracting lithium from the Salton Sea’s vast brine fields.

‘The Tomorrow War’ fails to find a future worth fighting for

Time Warriors: Chris Pratt, Edwin Hodge and Sam Richardson in 'The Tomorrow War.'

The premise of The Tomorrow War is that in the year 2022, time travelers come from the year 2051 to tell us of a war against invading aliens — one so catastrophic, humankind is on the verge of extinction. But that’s not the implausible part. Nor is it the desperate travelers’ plea, that the people of 2022 jump to 2051 to help replenish dwindling human forces.

No, what had me recreating the white guy blinking GIF was what comes next: The people of 2022 just agree to it immediately. Via a montage, we’re told that this message from the future was not just believed (they don’t have conspiracy theories or critical thinking a year from now?), but taken so seriously that all the governments of the world banded together to send their military forces into the future. Then, when too many of those soldiers died, this world government instituted a global draft to enlist civilians to send into the future.

By the time Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) — former U.S. soldier, current high school science teacher, and this film’s protagonist — is drafted, this has been going on for a year. Protests have only just begun around the world, led by folks tired of seeing only 30 percent of the conscripted come back alive, typically with life-altering injuries or intense PTSD.

It’s odd that people in this universe haven’t started pushing back sooner, considering what we see of the intake process. Dan is plucked from his everyday life with just a few hours’ notice, forced to undergo a painful procedure with no explanation, and told unceremoniously the exact time and date of his death in the future.

Dan’s conscription is such devastating news that his wife (a frustratingly underused Betty Gilpin) proposes they run away, consequences be damned. Dan himself entertains the idea of turning to his estranged father (J.K. Simmons, actually outdoing Pratt in the muscles department) for help. But there’s no good way out, so off Dan goes to report for duty in the moderately distant future.

In patches, The Tomorrow War can be serviceable. Zach Dean’s script grasps at poignancy in its exploration of parents, children, and the futures we fight for, and occasionally it even reaches it. There’s a bittersweet scene early on, where Dan’s teenage students bemoan the pointlessness of studying at all when they know they’re mostly going to be wiped out in a few decades. Later we see that dilemma played out in the character of Dan’s commanding officer (Yvonne Strahovski), who was just a kid when it all began.

Strahovski almost entirely shoulders the emotional weight of the movie. With a twitch of her lip, you see simultaneously the vulnerable girl who was robbed of a future, and the determined woman who’ll do anything to preserve what’s left of it.

KEITH POWERS and YVONNE STRAHOVSKI stars in THE TOMORROW WAR

KEITH POWERS and YVONNE STRAHOVSKI stars in THE TOMORROW WAR
Credit: Frank Masi / Amazon Prime 

There’s also some funny stuff involving Sam Richardson as Charlie, an affable but woefully underprepared scientist who’s drafted alongside Dan. Lines like “I’m just glad Will Smith wasn’t alive to see this” — in response to another, much tougher character growling “Welcome to Miami” at the sight of the destroyed city in 2051 — aren’t that incredible, but Richardson’s guileless, off-the-cuff delivery made me giggle out loud. Whenever he’s around, which is not nearly often enough, The Tomorrow War levels up into a surprisingly entertaining action-comedy.

Alas, The Tomorrow War is still mostly a movie that revolves around Dan doing heroic things like running from explosions and leaping from falling buildings and shooting aliens. (The aliens look just like the monsters from Cloverfield, and Stranger Things, and A Quiet Place and Underwater and oh my god can we please start designing some different monsters already.) The action calls to mind earlier films like Starship Troopers and Edge of Tomorrow and War of the Worlds, with no distinctive flair of its own.

And Pratt, who’s carved out a comfy niche playing wise-asses and goofballs in blockbuster movies, seems bland in the more intellectual and reserved character of Dan. It’s a disappointing reunion for Pratt and director Chris McKay, who last worked together on the bouncing ray of sunshine that was The Lego Movie.


That The Tomorrow War is trying to deliver more than just lizard-brain thrills only makes it more frustrating.

That The Tomorrow War is trying to deliver more than just lizard-brain thrills only makes it more frustrating. On one level, there’s something sweet about this wildly optimistic presumption that humankind would unite and rally in the face of dire warnings about future catastrophe. On the other hand: Really? It’s hard to look at the way we as a species have dealt with, say, COVID-19 or climate change, and not think we’ve proven ourselves to be godawful at reacting in the present to impending issues for the future.

It’s not that sci-fi action movies need to seem realistic. But The Tomorrow War‘s view of human nature feels so jarringly out of touch, it’s easy to get stuck in disbelief and hard to take anything else that happens all that seriously.

Underlying this rah-rah go-team attitude is an unexplored assumption that while humankind might be worth saving, individual human lives come cheap. The conscripted soldiers from 2022 are nothing more than cannon fodder. They’re deployed into battle with a few days’ training if they’re lucky, or a couple hours’ if they’re not, and armed with little more than machine guns they barely know how to use.

It’s no wonder the vast majority die during their weeklong deployments. But rather than question whether this is really and truly the best use of precious resources, present and future leaders can only think to throw more bodies at the problem.

That part, at least, fits with what we know of the real world: Powerful people ignoring the devastating consequences their decisions might have on the powerless. But the film itself doesn’t seem to notice this injustice, or consider any other way the people of Earth might go about this crisis. Or wonder how anyone other than Dan and his family — whose every tearjerking memory, painful decision, and cathartic heart-to-heart is excavated for emotional impact, while every other character gets a few lines of backstory at most — might be affected by it.

For a film so eagerly invested in the future, The Tomorrow War doesn’t seem to care all that much about the present.

The Tomorrow War is streaming on Amazon Prime.

‘Letterkenny’ is the wholesome, filthy, endlessly quotable hangout comedy of your dreams

LetterKenny -- “American Buck and Doe” - Episode 901 -- Post fight with Dierks, the hicks, skids and hockey players attend an American Buck and Doe.Wayne (Jared Kesso), Katy (Michelle Mylett), shown. (Photo By Amanda Matlovich)

You’ll know in the first three minutes of Letterkenny‘s first episode whether this show is for you. After a brief title card introducing this small Canadian town — “Letterkenny consists of hicks, skids, hockey players and Christians. These are their problems.” — we meet farmers Wayne and Daryl, manning their roadside produce stand. Two hockey players roll up, and for petty, small-town tribal reasons, are spoiling for a fight. They whip off their shirts, and Wayne and Daryl, almost literally without batting an eyelid, proceed to verbally demolish them both with military precision.

“What’s up with your fucken body hair, big shoots? You look like a 12-year-old Dutch girl,” deadpans Wayne, rural Ontario vowels around crisp consonants. “Your esthetician coif that for ya?”

The combination of specificity, savagery, convoluted insults that verge on Shakespearean, and idiosyncratic small-town syntax makes Letterkenny the kind of show that seeps into your personal vocabulary almost immediately. When our dog is being extra needy or zooming around the living room, my partner tells him “Might wanna take about 20 percent off there, bud.” When it’s time to get on with a task or a story, one of us will declare “Pitter patter” (short for “Pitter patter, let’s get at ‘er”). If anyone within earshot begins a sentence with “To be fair”, my brain simply cannot help but repeat it in three-part harmony with heightened, plummy vowels. Once you dive in, you’ll understand.

Letterkenny began as a Twitter account, then a web series called Letterkenny Problems, created by Jared Keeso, who based both on his own hometown of Listowel. Keeso also plays Wayne — a good ol’ boy with a lantern jaw and baby bangs, perennially clad in a flannel shirt tucked into well-fitted straight-leg jeans, with a permanent squint and a general air of stoic exasperation at the nonsense other people constantly visit upon him, from his awkward buds to men challenging him for the title of Toughest Guy In Letterkenny.

Wayne, his sister Katy (Michelle Mylett), their goofy lifelong friend Daryl (Nathan Dales), and the gnomic and good-hearted Squirrelly Dan (K. Trevor Wilson), when they’re not chorin’ (working), spend most of their time sitting around at the produce stand, drinking heavily, getting into donnybrooks (fights), drinking after getting into donnybrooks, smoking darts (cigarettes), and in their own way, helping to maintain the delicate peace in their 5,000-person Ontario town.

But most importantly, they banter. The wordplay of Letterkenny is a complex, rapid-fire patter of highly specific regional slang, ten-dollar words, pop culture trivia detailed enough to rival Community’s convoluted asides, fart jokes, a lot of cursing, and an infinite supply of finely crafted insults.

The peak wordplay moment might be the season 3 (literal) cold open, where Keeso delivers an astonishing stream of alliterative reflections on winter, inspired by Blackalicious’ iconic “Alphabet Aerobics”.

The aforementioned hockey himbos, Riley and Jonesy, speak in a near-unintelligible stream of (reportedly accurate) ice hockey slang, and gym-bro jargon. They are devoted to, in ascending order, hockey, sexual conquests, and each other, and I would die for them. The “skids”, a group of rave-goth meth-heads in town, are centred on bowler-hatted aspiring DJ Stewart, who looks like an off-brand Gerard Way, wields unnecessarily fancy vocab like a subreddit neckbeard, and not-so-secretly pines for Katy.

There’s also the Natives from the reserve near the town, led by the flinty, fascinating Tanis (Kaniehtiio Horn), who might be the only person in Letterkenny tougher than Wayne. (The show’s been praised for its consultative, accurate approach to its First Nations representation.) And there’s no shortage of recurring characters — from the cringey, glass-closeted minister Glen (co-creator Jacob Tierney) and the gurning, aggressively hypersexual bartender Gail (Lisa Codrington) to the shit-talking hockey god Shoresy (Keeso again, his face always obscured and other body parts often very much on display), and two guys who may or may not have fucked an ostrich one time.

Jonesy and Riley, hockey husbands. Ferda.

Jonesy and Riley, hockey husbands. Ferda.
Credit: Amanda Matlovich / Hulu

The gang’s low-stakes antics veer wildly between the small-town quirks and wholesomeness of Parks and Recreation to the self-involved chaos of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s not especially concerned with being politically correct, but it’s never mean; moreover, the hicks and their friends offer a vision of “traditional” masculinity that is largely comfortable with the modern world and the rights of all people to live as they want as long as they’re not hurting anyone else. (Squirrelly Dan is called out occasionally for being awkward in Katy’s general direction early on, but by season 3 will confidently call out a friend for casual “homophobism” and loves sharing insights from his women’s studies course.)

There’s a one-on-one fistfight or all-out brawl in just about every episode, because this is how certain problems simply must be solved — but they’re filmed in balletic slow-motion, and there’s almost always a handshake and a hand reaching out to get the loser up off the ground afterwards. The hicks’ continuum of “tough” or “soft” isn’t binary, nor is it ascribed any moral or social value beyond entertainment. They might rib each other for being “10-ply”, but it’s clear as early as the second episode that “softness” and play are to be revelled in as fully as a donnybrook or getting hammered on whisky: Katy and Wayne throw Daryl’s annual “super soft birthday party”, which features cupcake decorating, colourful cocktails, plastic tiaras, and a horse dressed up as a unicorn. And in almost every one of the brief interstitial shots to camera where Keeso introduces scenarios that all allegedly happened “the other dayeeeeee”, he is holding a puppy. (One of the few times Wayne’s stoic squint breaks is when he addresses one of his dogs directly, and it’s, as Stewart would say, wondrous.)

There is also a fistfight during this party. Obviously.

There is also a fistfight during this party. Obviously.
Credit: hulu

Letterkenny‘s also notable for its unabashed sex positivity. Wayne will occasionally note that “There’s such a thing as too much butt talk and a fella oughta be aware of it”, but enjoys a no-strings toe-curlin’ as much as anyone. LGBTQ representation ranges from the cartoonish — Glen, and the adorably shrieky skid Roald who plays a dog-collared Smithers to Stewart’s Mr Burns — to the matter-of-fact. Katy, whose open bisexuality and fondness for dating two guys at once is never judged or questioned except for reasons of taste, relishes a good ogle as much as the boys, but she’s more than a Cool Girl token.

Like Parks, the first season is a little wobbly at times, with some characters later quietly redrawn and certain story arcs dropped — so don’t be too put off by the weird Christians or the tiresome one-note joke of Glen’s flamboyance. The seasons are short — usually six episodes each with a different holiday-themed special that’s less serialised — but there are nine of them, with two more on the way, and the rewatch value is high.

Letterkenny is deeply Canadian — from the All-Dressed flavour Ruffles the hicks snack on to the fundamental good manners embedded in Wayne’s personal code of honour and a reference to Canadian YA classic This Can’t Be Happening At Macdonald Hall that made me spit my drink. But it’s wonderfully universal at the same time. All small towns have petty dramas, unique traditions, colourful locals, and a side-eye ready to go at the first hint of big city pretension; anyone who’s grown up or spent time in a farm town will recognise some of these people. This is a hangout sitcom with a heart as big as its wit is quick, and a few simple rules: If a friend asks for help, you help him. Belts are unnecessary if you just buy pants that fit. And as long as everybody’s having a good time, there’s no reason to be a poopypants.

All nine seasons of Letterkenny are available to stream on Hulu.

India’s Licious raises $192 million for international expansion

Licious, a Bangalore-based startup that sells fresh meat and seafood online, has raised $192 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand its footprint beyond the South Asian market.

The new round — a Series F — was led by Singapore’s investment firm Temasek and Multiples Private Equity. The round, which brings the six-year-old Indian firm’s to-date raise to over $285 million, values the startup at more than $650 million (according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter), up from $285 million in December 2019 Series E funding.

Existing investors 3one4 Capital, Bertelsmann India Investments, Vertex Growth Fund, and Vertex Ventures also participated in the new round, and some early investors sold some of their stakes.

Licious operates an eponymous e-commerce platform where it sells meat and seafood in over a dozen Indian cities. The startup has built a supply chain network across several Indian cities to be able to procure meat and seafood, keep them fresh, and deliver within hours of the order.

In recent months, the startup says it has accelerated its growth as people increase their protein consumption in a bid to improve their immunity.

It didn’t disclose exact figures, but said the startup has seen a 500% growth in the past 12 months and delivered to more than 2 million unique customers.

“This is just the beginning in our pursuit of building an exemplary and iconic tech-led D2C (direct-to-consumer) brand,” said Vivek Gupta and Abhay Hanjura in a joint statement Friday.

According to industry estimates, India’s online meat market is worth over $4.4 billion and has grown by over 2.5x since the pandemic hit last year.

Licious, which competes with FreshToHome, plans to deploy the fresh capital to expand to “multiple geographies,” it said, without identifying any market. The startup is also making investments to broaden its tech and supply chain networks, it said.

The startup’s co-founders have “revolutionised the purchase of poultry, seafood and meat in the country delighting customers with their promise of quality, freshness and timely delivery,” said Sridhar Sankararaman, MD, Multiples.

This $30 keychain box cutter doubles as a bottle opener and pocket knife

Save 14%: The Razor: Not Your Average Box Cutter multipurpose keychain is on sale for $29.99 as of July 1 — a nice $5 discount.


Getting packages in the mail is fun until you realize you have to deal with breaking down the boxes after. Make it easier on yourself by simply having the right tools at your disposal: With the Razor by Bomber & Company, you’ll always have to a box cutter, utility pocket knife, can opener, bottle opener, hex wrench, and pry bar. When closed, it disguises itself as a lightweight base keychain.

Pocket-sized doesn’t mean not powerful. The Razor’s 440C black stainless steel construction make it one of the strongest nano blades ever created on the market. The sharp, flat, ground straight edge side of the Razor is perfect for thin, sharp precision slices, and the opposite, larger surface lets you cut and slice materials with a balanced feel. The length of the knife can reach up to 3.46 inches while the box cutter blade measures 1.10 inches.

The steel is highly durable and corrosion-resistant to withstand stubborn bottles or a day stuck in crappy weather.

See everything the everyday carry Razor can do in the video below:

Normally, the Razor covers the cost of multiple everyday tools for a mere $35. But on sale for $29.99, it’s a super unique item that would meet the limit for a $30 gift exchange.


Save $30 at the Mashable Shop

Credit: Bomber & Company

Swedish gaming giant acquires India’s PlaySimple for $360 million

Swedish gaming giant Modern Times Group (MTG) has acquired Indian startup PlaySimple for $360 million, the two firms said Friday.

MTG said it will pay 77% of the acquisition sum to Indian game developer and publisher in cash and the rest in company shares. There’s also another $150 million reward put aside if certain undisclosed performance metrics are hit, the two firms said.

Friday’s deal marks one of the largest exits in the Indian startup ecosystem. PlaySimple had raised $4 million Series A at a valuation of about $16 million from Elevation Capital and Chiratae Ventures in 2016. (The startup, which began its journey in Bangalore, raised just $4.5 million in total from external investors.)

And it’s clear why: the revenues of PlaySimple — which operates nine word games including “Daily Themed Crossword,” “Word Trip,” “Word Jam,” and “Word Wars” — grew by 144% y-o-y to $83 million last year and it was on track to hit over $60 million revenue in the first half of 2021.

“We’re very proud of the games we’ve developed over the years, and of the infrastructure and scale that we’ve achieved with our team. As we join the MTG family, we look forward to leveraging our proprietary technology across MTG’s gaming portfolio, expanding into the European market, investing in cutting-edge technology and building exciting new games,” PlaySimple co-founders and management team members — Siddhanth Jain, Suraj Nalin and Preeti Reddy — said in a joint statement.

PlaySimple, which says its free-to-play games have amassed over 75 million installs and maintain nearly 2 million daily active users, plans to launch a number of games later this year and also expand into the card games genre.

“PlaySimple is a rapidly growing and highly profitable games studio that quickly has established itself as one of the leading global developers of free-to-play word games, an exciting new genre for MTG,” said Maria Redin, MTG Group President and CEO, said in a statement.

The Stockholm-headquartered firm, which has also acquired Hutch and Ninja Kiwi in recent years, said PlaySimple will help it build a diversified gaming vertical. “Scaling and diversifying the GamingCo [an MTG subsidiary] helps to accelerate the operational performance while at the same time creating a more stable business,” the firm said.

Richard Branson is flying into space, nine days before Jeff Bezos

Who's flying into space? This guy!

The race to be the first billionaire in space is on.

In June, Amazon CEO and richest man in the world Jeff Bezos announced that he, along with his brother, will be flying into space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20.

However, he may not be the first very rich dude to do that, as Virgin Galactic founder and also billionaire Richard Branson announced that he will be flying into space aboard the next Virgin Galactic flight.

Tweet may have been deleted

Virgin Galactic’s next spaceflight is scheduled for July 11, meaning that Branson should beat Bezos by nine days, which is probably the best way to truly annoy the richest man in the world.

“I truly believe that space belongs to all of us. After 17 years of research, engineering and innovation, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry poised to open the universe to humankind and change the world for good,” Branson said in a statement.

This will be 22nd flight test for Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spacecraft, and the first carrying a full crew, consisting of Virgin Galactic employees. The spacecraft is designed for space tourism, with a spacious cabin and tons of windows. It launches from an aircraft, and is capable of reaching an altitude of about 55 miles. In comparison, Blue Origin’s New Shepard, which launches from the ground, has previously reached the altitude of about 66 miles.

Given that the internationally recognized boundary of space, also called the Karman line, is at 62 miles of altitude, this should give Bezos something to brag about even if Branson gets to space first. But Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft should be able to comfortably reach the NASA-defined boundary of space, which is 50 miles.

The company will share a livestream of the event over at its website and YouTube channel, starting at 9 a.m. ET on July 11.

There should also be some news following the flight, as Branson said that he would announce something “very exciting to give more people the chance to become an astronaut.”

TeamApt will use its new funding round to provide digital bank services for the unbanked

A great deal has changed since we last covered Nigerian fintech startup TeamApt two years ago. At the time, the company had just closed a $5.5 million Series A round from a single VC — Quantum Capital Partners, a firm owned by Zenith Bank billionaire Jim Ovia.

TeamApt has quite the story. CEO Tosin Eniolorunda started the company in 2015 after leaving Interswitch. He was going head-to-head with the billion-dollar company when TeamApt received a license to operate as a payment switch providing enterprise solutions for banks in the country.

TeamApt bootstrapped with revenue made on a per-project basis. By 2017, the company, which optimized core bank back-office operations was servicing 26 financial institutions and processing $160 million in monthly transactions without raising a dime. A year later, TeamApt began releasing direct consumer and business-facing products targeted at driving financial inclusion in the country.

Moneytor was a digital banking service for financial institutions to track transactions with web and mobile interfaces; Monnify, an enterprise software suite for small business management and AptPay, a push payment infrastructure to centralize services used on banking mobile apps. These products had varying degrees of success; however, Moniepoint, an agency banking platform launched months after the Series A, became the instant hit.

In developed markets where banking networks are sophisticated and have an extensive reach, the concept of agency banking is foreign. But in developing markets like Nigeria, it’s necessary because the bank to population ratio in Nigeria is low. According to reports, there are 4.3 branches per 100,000 people compared to the global average of 11.7 branches.

Agency banking serves as an alternative distribution strategy for traditional retail banking by using authorized personnel who acts as agents to expand the reach of the branch network. For many Nigerians, agency banking represents a financial access lifeline and one of the most viable options for accessing the financial services they need.

Moniepoint agents use mobile apps and point-of-sale terminals to offer these customers access to financial services like cash withdrawal, cash deposit, funds transfer, airtime purchase and bill payments. In less than two years, Moniepoint claims to account for 74% of agency banking transactions in Nigeria. The platform also processes about 68 million transactions worth over $3.5 billion monthly through 100,000 agents and 14 million customers. When transactions from Monnify are added, TeamApt said it processed $17.5 billion in the past 12 months.

But despite the seeming success, TeamApt is poised to add digital banking services to Moniepoint’s dominant agency banking play. “What is the reason behind this? With multiple players, was the agency banking space becoming too crowded that Moniepoint couldn’t acquire more market share?” I ask Eniolorunda.

“There’s still room for growth in the agency space. We can actually grow more and take more share as more agents continue to enter the market and consumers embracing agency networks and point-of-sale networks. So the reason we’re trying to do this is for two reasons — a mission and commercial reason,” he answered.

Most well-known digital banks in Nigeria cater to the already banked, neglecting the unbanked or underbanked consumers that banks do not serve. Eniolorunda’s “mission reason” is to provide financial services for them via launching a digital bank. The commercial reason? “We want to be the middle ground between banks and digital approaches to actually serve the next billion Africans. The reason why we can do this is that we have demonstrated our traction in Nigeria to become the largest agency network just in the period of two years,” the CEO added

Judging by the transactions made on Moniepoint and since existing digital banks capture the same customers as big commercial banks, TeamApt sits on a big opportunity if it can convert a chunk of its offline users online. Of course, this strategy isn’t new in itself. It is currently being adopted by another digital bank targeted at the unbanked, Bankly. However, the good news is that should any of these platforms show significant success, other platforms might widely adopt the approach and go a long way in providing digital banking services to the unbanked.

To test out this strategy at scale, TeamApt has secured another round of investment. Two months ago, Dutch entrepreneurial development bank FMO announced its participation in TeamApt’s Series A extension round with $2 million. But while FMO is among the grand list investors in this tranche of investment, the venture round has changed to a Series B, TeamApt confirmed. 

The $200 million Pan-African fund Novastar Ventures led the round. Dubai-based Global Ventures, CDC Group, Soma Capital, and Pan-African VC firms Kepple Africa and Oui Capital participated alongside some local angel investors.

TeamApt, while continuing its switching business for enterprise, will be looking to extend its offerings directly to customers and micro-SMEs with Moniepoint. In addition, and subject to regulatory approval, both agency and digital banking platforms will exist under Moniepoint.

Brian Waswani Odhiambo, the head of West Africa at Novastar Ventures, said the VC firm backed TeamApt after seeing the speed at which its agency network became the leading operator in Nigeria. The firm, “by providing TeamApt with sufficient capital to pursue its new phase of growth,” has no doubt the company will do the same with its digital banking platform.

In the past month, TeamApt has announced to anyone who cared to listen that it’s currently in the process of closing another round. Eniolorunda confirmed this to TechCrunch that it would be a Series C round. While that is in progress, TeamApt will be making expansion plans to other African countries with strong economies in every region — Central, East, North and South. The company is also keen on performing a few acquisitions along the way to tap significant opportunities for leveraging technology and offline distribution to provide financial services to Africa’s mass market.

Tiger Global leads $42M Series B in Nigerian credit-led neobank FairMoney

Neobanks have led the charge as regards venture capital funding for consumer fintech startups. But while they have collectively dominated the fintech space, they don’t operate a monolithic model.

There are five distinct models, and the one adopted by Nubank, the $30 billion behemoth, is the credit-led model. Neobanks operating this model start by offering credit via cards or on an app and subsequently offer bank accounts as a gateway to other services.

Nigerian fintech startup FairMoney operates this model. Today, it is announcing a $42 million Series B raise to diversify its offerings and expand to “become the financial hub for its users.” 

Tiger Global Management led the round. Existing investors from the company’s previous rounds, DST Partners, Flourish Ventures, Newfund, and Speedinvest, participated. The investment comes after FairMoney raised €10 million Series A two years ago and €1.2 million seed in 2018.

Founded in 2017 by Laurin Hainy, Matthieu Gendreau, and Nicolas Berthozat, FairMoney started as an online lender that provides instant loans and bill payments to customers in Nigeria.

When CEO Hainy spoke to TechCrunch in February, the company was six months into its expansion to India. One of the highlights of that discussion was FairMoney’s impressive numbers in 2020. Last year, the company disbursed a total loan volume of $93 million to over 1.3 million users who made more than 6.5 million loan applications

The company also made some progress on the India front, processing more than 500,000 loan applications from over 100,000 unique users.

So what has changed since then? For one, Hainy says FairMoney ticked one of the goals which was acquiring a microfinance bank license. The license allows FairMoney to operate as a financial service provider in Nigeria.

“We have received our MFB banking license which now enables us to open current accounts for our users, and we’re doing that on quite a big scale,” Hainy said to TechCrunch. “We opened accounts for our repeated and new customers, which I think is quite a unique company strategy because we don’t need to burn millions of dollars of customer acquisition cost on users like other competitors. I think all of that has enabled us to become sort of the largest digital bank in Nigeria.”

Quite the claim but behind it are figures to back it up. Of the company’s current 3.5 million registered users, 1.3 million are unique bank account holders. The company says it is projecting to disburse $300 million worth of loans to them this year. How will it finance that? By raising bonds. FairMoney’s loan book is grown by its capital markets activity and has convinced some investment banks to invest a substantial amount in its unlisted bond

The credit-led neobank offers loans to individuals from ₦1,500 (~$3) to ₦500,000 (~$1,000) ranging from days to six months. Small business loans have become a prominent service most digital banks have begun to offer in Nigeria’s retail sector, and FairMoney sees an opportunity there. Hainy states that from now on, the company will start servicing loans to registered SMEs in Nigeria. In the works also is the issuance of cards. However, unlike the credit cards operated by Nubank, FairMoney is shipping debit cards, the more prevalent one in the Nigerian market.

“The ambition is that by the end of the year, the customer has the full-fledged banking experience from P2P transfers and lending to debit cards and current accounts. In addition to that, we are working on a number of additional services from savings products, stock trading, and crypto-trading products potentially depending on where regulation is heading,” Hainy continued

FairMoney

Image Credits: FairMoney

Most African companies, after completing a Series B raise, think about expansion, it’s a different case for FairMoney. Hainy calls this a ‘focus round’ and says FairMoney wants to consolidate its position in Nigeria and India; therefore, it is not considering any expansion to other markets.

“We feel that with India and Nigeria, we have tons of work to do and tons of problems to solve. We are doubling down on the Nigerian opportunity, which is building out more banking services and becoming one of the commercial banks in the country. And then India by building a large credit book there,” the CEO combined.

African fintech startups have attracted a lot of capital this year and they continue to do so. So far, the continent has seen three nine-figure raises, all from fintech companies Flutterwave, TymeBank and Chipper Cash. There’s also one reportedly in the works from OPay.

Nigerian fintechs are leading the crop as exciting startups keep coming from the country week in week out, gaining access to capital at an astonishing rate.

It is not news that while local investors are cutting checks at pre-seed and seed levels, and sometimes Series A, international investors control the continent’s latter stages. TymeBank cited U.K. and Philippines venture capital firms as investors. For Chipper Cash, it was SVB Capital, Ribbit, and Bezos Expeditions, while Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global invested in Flutterwave.

In FairMoney, Tiger Global has made a return to the continent. Per public knowledge, it is the first time the U.S. hedge fund is investing in two African startups in a year after backing Flutterwave in March. “We are excited to partner with FairMoney as they build a better financial hub for customers in Nigeria and India,” Scott Shleifer, partner at Tiger Global, said in a statement. “We were impressed by the team and the strong growth to date and look forward to supporting FairMoney as they continue to scale.”

Hainy calls the investment a great industry signaling for the continent. He believes Tiger Global decided to back FairMoney because the company has been able to scale tremendously and shown that it can operate banking and lending while running a profitable business when most of its counterparts are not.

“I think what most people have been discussing is the question of sustainability. How long can digital banks operate as financial service providers while making losses? So I think that’s another great signal for the market that we’ve actually managed to do that in a profitable manner, providing upside for our shareholders and also showing our clients that they can actually bank on us in the future,” Hainy added.

And to achieve its goal to become a financial hub for its customers’ banking needs, the CEO said the company is embarking on a hiring spree for top talent. “We are hiring worldwide, and there are 150 open positions out there right now that we’re trying to fill with strong talent to help us build the financial app for Nigerians.”

Elevate your kitchen skills with this discounted cooking course bundle

The Cooking and Baking Master Class Bundle is on sale.

TL;DR: The Cooking and Baking Master Class Bundle is on sale for £21.67 as of July 2, saving you 97% on list price.


It can be much easier to eat healthily when you cook at home instead of ordering a takeaway. But you don’t need to be a chef to change your lifestyle. This seven-course cooking and baking bundle can transform your culinary skills at home and help you make meals you and your family actually enjoy.

The highly-rated courses in this bundle come from professional chef Tim Cunningham, health transformation coach Felix Harder, artisan baker Marceau Dauboin, vegan recipe developer and YouTuber Nicole Vranjican, and more. Through seven courses and over 12 hours of content, you’ll learn how to make things like sourdough pizza, chicken alfredo, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, tofu, and vegan mac and cheese — all from scratch. Even if you’re a total beginner, these pros will walk you through each and every step, making the process practically foolproof. 

After you conquer the recipes, you’ll probably want to take a photo of your creations (pics or it didn’t happen, right?). A course led by a professional photographer and well-rated instructor Ted Nemeth will show you how to impress with your snapshots. And to finish off your training, Felix Harder will provide a crash course in nutrition.

Besides helping you eat and live better, you’ll also save a lot of money in the long run. It’s valued at £1,011, but you can snag this cooking and baking course bundle for just £21.67 for a limited time.

Tesla Model S Plaid blasts off in reviews, even without a gear shifter

The Tesla Model S is fast.

The first reviews are in, and the new Tesla Model S Plaid is a verified speed demon.

Looking at early reviews of Tesla’s newest car — a revamped Model S sedan with three electric motors and more powerful acceleration — publications are mostly impressed, despite doubts about a redesigned steering wheel and gear selector.

The first 25 Plaid cars were delivered at a Fremont, California launch event last month where CEO Elon Musk first showed off the $130,000 vehicle. In the weeks since, the speedy EV (it goes from 0 to 60 mph in under two seconds) has been tested and scrutinized.

MotorTrend has published four separate reviews for the Plaid: one solely about the yoke steering wheel; another was a speed test; a third was a look at the new interior, with a second backseat screen and new user interface on the now-horizontal touchscreen up front; and finally, a how-to guide about launching the car to record speeds.

The Plaid passed the speed test, hitting Musk’s promised 0-to-60 time of just under two seconds.

As for the steering wheel, MotorTrend called the video-game redesign “cool,” but ultimately the “yoke is hit and miss” when it comes to, well, actually steering the car.

Yoke life.

Yoke life.
Credit: tesla

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal called the Plaid a “technical tour de force,” praising its quickness and silent ride. It’s power and thrust ruined (in a good way) reviewer Dan Neil.

“…the Plaid sometimes had a melancholic effect on me,” Neil wrote. “Man, nothing will ever feel fast again.”

Car and Driver recommends saving your money and sticking with the revamped Model S, which is still nearly $80,000 to start without the expensive Plaid features. It has better range than the performance Plaid: 405 miles on a single charge compared to Plaid’s 390-mile range.

“The 1020-hp Plaid model sounds compelling, but its six-figure asking price represents diminishing value—unless you must have a car with the performance of a Top Fuel dragster,” reviewer Drew Dorian wrote.

Meanwhile, “E for Electric” host Alex Guberman looked beyond the frighteningly fast speeds and put the automatic gear shifter to the test. With the Plaid, for the first time Tesla removed the gear selector — although there are touchscreen and physical button controls as back-up.

He was surprised how quickly he adjusted to the lack of gear stalk, and how well the car predicted whether he wanted to reverse, drive, or park based on the position of the car, and whether or not the driver has buckled up.” (Tesla had always had a more traditional gear stalk on the right side of the steering wheel.)

Edmunds wasn’t as jubilant about the Tesla variant as the many YouTube influencers in the EV space, but it still gave the Plaid high marks despite the high price. Overall the car data firm gave the newest Tesla an 8.1 out of 10. Like Car and Driver, the review recommended the Long Range “regular” Tesla Model S.

As Edmunds put it: “So is the updated Model S one of the best EVs around for 2021? We’d say so.”

Looks like all that extra speed justifies the Plaid’s eye-popping price tag, but maybe not enough to make it the all-around best EV available.