Day: July 23, 2021

Escape reality with the 10 best animated movies on Netflix

I Lost My Body

In animation, the only limitation is the filmmaker’s imagination. Unbound by the physical world, this medium can illustrate stories about talking animals, enchanted realms, menacing monsters, sci-fi odysseys, or the surreal adventures of a severed limb. Unique visions are realized through hand-drawn animation, computer graphics, or stop-motion techniques, each bringing curious characters to vivid life. So what vision will you choose?

Whether you’re seeking something silly, sophisticated, or family-friendly, we’ve got you covered with a collection of animated features, celebrated and sensational. All of them available now on Netflix.

1. Kung Fu Panda

Jack Black brings his limitless energy to the lovable panda at the center of this animated martial arts epic. In a wondrous world of animal warriors, the renowned kung fu masters known as the Furious Five are graceful, serious, and focused. Clumsy, excitable, and easily distracted, a panda named Po (Black) only dreams of being in their company. That is, until an explosive twist of fate lands him the honor of Dragon Warrior. Now, it’s up to him — and his dubious siblings in arms — to defeat the vicious snow leopard Tai Lung, who would bring pain and ruin to the Valley of Peace.

Directed by Mark Osborne and John Stevenson, this DreamWorks hit not only boasts eye-popping action sequences and deliriously silly slapstick, but also a star-stuffed voice cast that includes Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Ian McShane, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Seth Rogen, and Jackie Chan. For a DIY double-feature, pair it with Kung Fu Panda 2!

How to watch: Kung Fu Panda is streaming on Netflix.

2. Over the Moon

Over the Moon

Over the Moon
Credit: Netflix

If you’re searching for something with a Disney feel, then visit the stunning feature directorial debut of Glen Keane, an animator of such classics as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Tarzan, and Tangled. In this out-of-this-world animated musical, Keane applies decades of Disney lessons learned to creating a bittersweet and beautiful film out of a Chinese legend. Grieving the loss of her mother, an inventive young girl builds a rocket so she might fly to the moon and meet the mythical goddess who resides there. Achieving what seems impossible is the easy part for this heart-warming heroine, but healing from the hurt of grief is harder. A moving yet mirthful story studded with stellar songs and radiant characters is brought to life by a voice cast that includes Cathy Ang, Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, Margaret Cho, Sandra Oh, John Cho, and Kimiko Glenn.

How to watch: Over the Moon is streaming on Netflix.

3. The Willoughbys

The Willoughbys

The Willoughbys
Credit: Netflix

Based on an outlandish book by Lois Lowry, this Netflix original centers on a deeply dysfunctional family in need of some wild changes. Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby have four adorable, eager, and talented children, whom they utterly despise. Thus, life is very hard for eldest Tim (Will Forte), dreamer Jane (Alessia Cara), and oddball twins Barnaby A and Barnaby B (Seán Cullen). That is until they concoct a wacky scheme that sends their parents off on a perilous vacation, from which they may not return! However, the siblings’ deadly plan for independence is challenged when a plucky nanny (Maya Rudolph) arrives at their door. Soon, agonies and antics give way to the jubilant adventure of a lifetime. Director Kris Pearn’s sharp design style and a snarling narration from Ricky Gervais pairs with Lowry’s dark plotline to give this outrageous animated feature a cheeky yet charming edge.

How to watch: The Willoughbys is streaming on Netflix.

4. ParaNorman

From Laika, the studio that brought us The Boxtrolls, Coraline, and Missing Link, comes the quirky comedy about a boy who talks to the dead. Far from haunted, 11-year-old Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is happy to carry on conversations with the ghosts who mill about the quaint town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts. Sure, his peers think he’s a weirdo. But once an ancient curse unleashes lurching zombies, Norman and a motley Monster Squad prove to be the heroes this hollow needs. Directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler bring a slew of playful horror allusions into this family-friendly adventure, which has a crackling voice cast that includes Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jeff Garlin, John Goodman, and Elaine Stritch. Yet the very best part of this critically celebrated cartoon might be the incredible stop-motion animation, which gives this spooky story a life — and look — all its own.

How to watch: ParaNorman is streaming on Netflix.

5. The Mitchells vs. the Machines

The Mitchells vs. the Machines

The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Credit: NETFLIX

Sony Pictures Animation has given audiences such daring and dynamic animated movies as Surf’s Up, Hotel Transylvania, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This zany 2021 release centers on a family who’s battling back the robo-apocalypse with togetherness, internet savviness, and a walleyed pug named Monchi (voiced by social media icon, Doug The Pug). The Mitchells’ adventure into chaos begins when daughter Katie (Abbi Jacobson) is poised to go off to college. Desperate for one last family-unifying road trip, her dad (Danny McBride) piles the whole family into his beater of a vehicle, unknowingly charting a fateful route into heroics. Director Mike Rianda infuses Katie’s excitable perspective throughout the film by working in internet memes, social media-style reactions, and blitz of bonkers visuals. It’s a bold move that might alienate some viewers but has largely won the acclaim of critics and kiddos.

How to watch: The Mitchells vs the Machines is streaming on Netflix.

6. Klaus

Klaus

Klaus
Credit: Netflix

Set centuries ago, Klaus unwraps a spirited origin story for Santa Claus, from his signature look, flying reindeer, and the tradition mailing of wish lists. Curiously, it all begins with a selfish postman, who loathes his job even more than he loathes the violent locals of his remote, icy post. Jason Schwartzman and J.K. Simmons warm things up, perfectly cast in roles snarky and restrained respectively. Together, they build a tender tale of unlikely friendship that’s reminiscent of the wild fun and odd couple dynamic of Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove. Notably, with this Netflix original, director Sergio Pablos pioneered an animation style that blended elements of hand drawn techniques and computer graphics, creating a distinctly beautiful film that’s too wonderful to watch only once a year.

How to watch: Klaus is streaming on Netflix.

7. Monster House

Craving something creepy but kid-friendly? Then step on up to this sensational 2006 film, in which the Big Bad is a towering, sentient, old house that gobbles up toys as well as trespassing children. While the premise might sound perturbing, children will relish the tale of three spirited kids who not only discover the Monster House’s horrors but also its hidden heart. A surprisingly poignant finale follows a bunch of frights and fun, making this a great pick for family movie night. Using motion-capture animation, director Gil Kenan taps into Amblin Entertainment’s established aesthetic, where grounded drama meets freaky fantasy. Adding oomph — and some grown-up curb appeal — is a voice cast that includes celebrated actors, like Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, Catherine O’Hara, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kathleen Turner, Jon Heder, and Jason Lee. Trick or treat? Why not both!

How to watch: Monster House is streaming on Netflix.

8. Lu Over the Wall

Seeking something with the vibe of Studio Ghibli? Then, you’ll want to dive into this charming mermaid tale. Directed by Masaaki Yuasa, this seaside-set anime follows an introverted middle schooler, whose world is forever changed when his band’s practice session attracts the attention of a little mermaid. A giddy shapeshifter with unflappable enthusiasm, Lu livens up this quiet fishing village with song, dance, and — of course — an adorable merpuppy. Full of imagination, vivid colors, and heartwarming moments, Lu Over the Wall offers delights that the whole family can enjoy. For anime purists, Netflix offers a subtitled version with the original Japanese voice track. However, a solid English overdub is also available, which might be preferred for viewers not ready to read their movies just yet.

How to watch: Lu Over the Wall is streaming on Netflix.

9. Arlo the Alligator Boy

Arlo the Alligator Boy

Arlo the Alligator Boy
Credit: Netflix

For a road trip adventure proudly packed with every color in the rainbow, check out this Netflix original about the eponymous alligator boy. Raised in the bayous of the American South, Arlo (Michael J. Woodard) has never fit in with the humans or the critters. So, with a song in his heart and a gift for making friends, he sets forth to find his fortune — and his long-lost father — in New York City. Along the way, he’ll meet a parade of unorthodox characters, voiced by the likes of Jennifer Coolidge, Tony Hale, Jonathan Van Ness, Mary Lambert, Brett Gelman, and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. On top of silly shenanigans and heartwarming song numbers, director Ryan Crego creates a world of wonder and weirdness that’s sure to enchant.

How to watch: Arlo the Alligator Boy is streaming on Netflix.

10. I Lost My Body

Seeking something more mature? Then, check out Jérémy Clapin’s animated French drama about a dismembered hand searching for the body who lost it. This setup might sound grisly. Yet, there’s a sprightly sense of wonder to the journey of the hand, whose fingers race from rat-infested subways to cushy apartments and lofty rooftops. The heart of the film, however, is the interwoven tale of love and loss. In search of direction, dreamer Naoufel thinks the witty Gabrielle might be his North Star. But life and romance are rarely so simple. With unique style, sophisticated storytelling, and a challenging gimmick, I Lost My Body not only won over critics, but also the Academy Awards voters, earning an Oscar nod for Best Animated Feature in 2020. For those who struggle with subtitles, Netflix also offers an excellent English-language overdub.

How to watch: I Lost My Body is streaming on Netflix.

Daily Crunch: Bitcoin ‘is a big part of our future,’ says Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

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 23, 2021. It’s been an interesting week for the crypto faithful. One eye-catching piece of news came from Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, who said that bitcoin will be a “big part” of the company’s future. In his view it’s the internet’s “native currency.” Kinda? I would have picked a more modern chain, but that’s just me. — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Indian IPOs are a go: After much selling and waiting, the Zomato IPO took flight in India to great effect. Shares of the food delivery unicorn went up sharply, marking a successful flotation for the growth-oriented unicorn. For other richly valued Indian unicorns, it’s just about the best news that you could imagine. More, please.
  • Snap is very much not dead: Lost amidst all the Facebook and TikTok brouhaha is the fact that Snap is still growing its user base (some) and revenue scale (more). The company still consumes cash and has huge share-based compensation costs, but it reported the sort of growth that delights investors. So, up went its shares.
  • China cracks down on edtech: The changing climate for startups and tech giants in China took a new twist this week when news broke that the Chinese Communist Party may force tutoring companies in the country to go nonprofit. That hit a number of stocks, and, we presume, was a pretty bad day for the country’s larger edtech venture and startup ecosystem.

Startups/VC

  • Paystand is building Venmo for businesses: Want to send a bloc of cash as a company? The process can suck. Happily Paystand just raised $50 million for its work on the matter. TechCrunch’s Christine Hall told Daily Crunch that she picked up the round because the company is “not only taking on the business-to-business payment space, but is also utilizing blockchain technology as its engine.”
  • Former Minter wants to be king: That’s our first read of the startup Monarch, founded by Val Agostino, who was the first PM at Mint.com. What does Monarch do? Helps folks manage their financial futures. Sure, other companies do that, but most of them are garbage. Have you used the Fidelity website lately?
  • Lucid Motors discovers the weaknesses of democracy: The EV company had to extend its voting deadline to approve its SPAC deal after not enough folks voted. Per TechCrunch, the “hiccup occurred on Thursday, when shareholders voted to approve all but one of the proposals as part of the merger.” That particular item required more votes. Regardless, it now has the votes and will go public.
  • And if you wanted to know what’s up with the Duolingo IPO, the Equity team has you covered.

Susan Su on how to approach growth as your startup raises each round

If you are methodical in your approach to building a larger customer base, it is not difficult to foster steady growth.

Marketers who shift with whichever way the wind is blowing — or blindly follow someone else’s idea of best practices — are less likely to be successful.

“The not-so-secret secret here is that the key to great retention is really simple,” said growth expert Susan Su recently at TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising.

“It is building a product that solves a real and especially persistent problem for people.”

In a conversation with Managing Editor Eric Eldon, Su delved into several issues, including tips for how founders should discuss growth with their investors and her methods for developing a sample qualitative growth model.

“I firmly believe that every founder should try their hand at growth,” said Su.

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

Big Tech Inc.

  • GM recalls the Bolt. Again: If you own a 2017-to-2019-era Bolt, it may catch fire. So you’ll want to take part in the current recall. The first to happen since November of 2020 we hasten to add. Still the news underscores that EV tech is coming to maturity, even if some earlier attempts at such vehicles are riding the struggle bus.
  • Taboola goes shopping: Fresh off its SPAC combination, Taboola announced that it is buying “Connexity, a marketing technology company that operates a retail- and e-commerce-focused advertising network” for $800 million. You can do this more easily if you are public. Buy things, that is. Shares in the online effluent provider were up sharply in today’s trading.
  • Folks still using Tumblr not stoked that Tumblr wants a future: A few days back Daily Crunch was generally positive about Tumblr’s move to introduce paywalls for creators who wanted them. Why not position the venerable company toward the burgeoning creator economy and help folks make a few bucks? Well, users are pissed. It’s a somewhat standard internet mess, but that doesn’t make it any less befuddling.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

Illustration montage based on education and knowledge in blue

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

We’re reaching out to startup founders to tell us who they turn to when they want the most up-to-date growth marketing practices. Fill out the survey here.

Read one of the testimonials we’ve received below!

Marketer: Jonathan Metrick, Portage Ventures

Recommended by: Matt Byrd

Testimonial: “Jonathan was truly transformative at Policygenius. Prior to his arrival, we were running a smart but disjointed marketing effort. Our messaging was inconsistent, and our approach to understanding channel efficacy was weaker than it could have been. Jonathan brought a growth mindset to the team, and built a hypereffective org in a short amount of time.”

More than 50,000 Chevy Bolt EVs recalled because of fires — again

Charging up a 2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV.

Back in November, Chevy Bolt EVs from 2017 through 2019 were recalled due to battery fire risk. Now, months later, the same 50,932 electric sedans are being recalled again — even after a software update went out — because of more sudden fires.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a consumer alert Friday after three more car fires were reported since the initial recall, and after suggested fixes didn’t, well, fix the problem. Chevy’s parent company, General Motors, told the Wall Street Journal there have been eight battery fires and two reported injuries in total.

In Friday’s alert, NHTSA warned about fire risk and advised owners to continue to follow General Motors’ advice: Park the vehicles outside, keep them away from structures, and avoid charging overnight while the car is unattended.

After the first November recall, Chevy had issued a software update to reprogram the battery, recommended owners modify battery settings and charging habits, and offered buybacks. The Bolt first came out in 2017.

This week, Chevy and its battery supplier, LG Chem, posted on the Chevrolet website about two “rare manufacturing defects” in the same battery cell as the original battery problem, which then prompted the second recall. NHTSA estimates only 1 percent of the over 50,000 cars have the defects.

Even with the low likelihood of a battery fire while charging, GM is replacing battery modules for free for affected users, just like it offered after the November recall. But until the replacement parts are ready, owners are advised to keep the car outside and avoid overnight charging. Also, users should only charge the car to 90 percent full and keep the battery above 70 miles of remaining range.

As of early Friday afternoon, both the November and July recalls were officially posted online for affected Bolt models. Chevy has a dedicated recall page with more information for Bolt owners.

Bolts from 2020 and 2021 are not considered a fire risk, nor do they fall under recalls, because they have a different battery. Chevy released its newest Bolt EV and bigger Bolt EUV earlier this summer.

Automakers have battery anxiety, so they’re taking control of the supply

Battery joint ventures have become the hot must-have deal for automakers that have set ambitious targets to deliver millions of electric vehicles in the next few years.

It’s no longer just about securing a supply of cells. The string of partnerships and joint ventures show that automakers are taking a more active role in the development and even production of battery cells, .

Automakers are taking a more active role in the development and even production of battery cells.

And the deals don’t appear to be slowing down. Just this week, Mercedes-Benz announced its $47 billion plan to become an electric-only automaker by 2030. Securing its battery supply chain by expanding existing partnerships or locking in new ones to jointly develop and produce battery cells and modules is a critical piece of its plan.

Mercedes, like other automakers, is also focused on developing and deploying advanced battery technology. In addition to setting up eight new battery plants to supply its future EVs, the German automaker said it was partnering with Sila Nano, the Silicon Valley battery chemistry startup that it has previously invested in, to increase energy density, which should in turn improve range and allow for shorter charging times.

“This follows a trend that we’ve seen of automakers realizing how critical the battery is and taking more control of the production of the cells in order to ensure their own supply,” Sila Nano CEO Gene Berdichevsky said in a recent interview. “Like if you’re VW, and you say, ‘We’re going to go 50% electric by whatever year,’ but then the batteries don’t show up, you’re bankrupt, you’re dead. Their scale is so big that even if their cell partners have promised them to deliver, automakers are scared that they won’t.”

Tesla, BMW and Volkswagen were early adopters of the battery joint-venture strategy. In 2014,Tesla and Panasonic signed an agreement to build a large battery manufacturing plant, or a gigafactory as everyone is now calling it, in the U.S. and have worked together since. BMW began working with Solid Power in 2017 to create solid-state batteries for high-performance EVs that could potentially lower costs by requiring less safety features than lithium-ion batteries.

In addition to its partnership with Northvolt, VW is also in talks with suppliers to secure more direct access to supplies like semiconductors and lithium so it can keep its existing plants running at full speed.

Now the rest of the industry is moving to work with battery companies, to share knowledge and resources and essentially become the manufacturer.

Extra Crunch roundup: finding GTM, China’s edtech clampdown and how to define growth

Early-stage startups tend to claim that their go-to-market strategy is fully operational. In reality, GTM is a stark numbers game, and even with a solid plan in place, it can be easily foiled by common problems like turf battles and poor communication.

Finding GTM fit is a milestone for any startup that includes everything from expanding the engineering team to launching your first media buy. But how do you know when you’ve reached that magic moment?

“You have to consider three metrics: gross churn rate, the magic number and gross margin,” says Tae Hea Nahm, co-founder and managing director of Storm Ventures.

High churn means customers aren’t delighted, low gross margins mean poor unit economics, and that so-called magic number?

“You can calculate it by taking new ARR divided by your marketing and sales spending,” Nahm writes. “But keep in mind that the magic number is a lagging indicator, and it may take you a few quarters to see a positive result.”


Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription


If you are methodical in your approach to building a larger customer base, it is not difficult to foster steady growth.

Marketers who shift with whichever way the wind is blowing — or blindly follow someone else’s idea of best practices — are less likely to be successful.

“The not-so-secret secret here is that the key to great retention is really simple,” said growth expert Susan Su recently at TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising. “It is building a product that solves a real and especially persistent problem for people.”

In conversation with Managing Editor Eric Eldon, Su delved into several issues, including tips on how founders should discuss growth with investors, and her methods for developing a sample qualitative growth model.

“I firmly believe that every founder should try their hand at growth,” said Su.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

How we built an AI unicorn in 6 years

An adult wearing a unicorn mask leaps over a chain-link fence

Image Credits: Lucas Knappe/EyeEm (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images

Few startups go to market with the exact product their founders first envisioned.

Today, Tractable is known for developing tech that allows drivers to upload photos of their vehicles after a collision so its AI can assess the damage. Its first paying customer, however, used Tractable to inspect plastic pipe welds.

And as fate would have it, that customer also fired them just as the founders were raising their first round.

“We struck gold with car insurance,” says co-founder Alex Dalyac, as it was “a huge and inefficient market in desperate need of modernization.”

In an Extra Crunch guest post, he shares several takeaways from the last six years spent scaling a unicorn that have value for founders of all stripes. Step one?

“Search for complementary co-founders who will become your best friends,” advises Dalyac.

 

The European VC market is so hot it may skip its summer holiday

Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim continued their exploration of the scorching global VC market, this time taking a look at Europe.

For perspective, they analyzed data from Dealroom and spoke to four VCs about the continent’s investment climate:

  • Diana Koziarska, SMOK Ventures
  • Vinoth Jayakumar, Draper Esprit
  • Simon Schmincke, Creandum
  • Javier Santiso, Mundi Ventures

“There’s little indication that what we’ve seen thus far from Europe in 2021 will slow in Q3 or Q4,” Alex and Anna write.

“Even though Europe has a reputation for lengthy summer vacations, investors don’t expect much — if any — slowdown to come in Europe during this sun-drenched quarter.”

Startups and investors are turning to micromobility subscriptions

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

“Amid the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic and the murky path to profitability for shared electric micromobility, an increasing number of companies have turned to subscriptions,” Rebecca Bellan writes in a roundup about the future of micromobility.

“It’s a business model that some founders and investors argue hits the profit center sweet spot — an approach that appeals to customers who are wary of sharing as well as paying upfront to own a scooter or e-bike, all while minimizing overhead costs and depreciation of assets.”

What Robinhood’s warnings about crypto trading say about Coinbase’s near-term future

After noting that Robinhood anticipates a decline in revenue in the third quarter as a result of slowing crypto trading, Alex Wilhelm got to thinking about what that forecast means for Coinbase.

“The now-public unicorn has lived through crypto ups and crypto downs,” he writes. “A decline in consumer interest in the next few months or quarters is not a huge deal, assuming one keeps a long enough perspective and the crypto-infused future that its fans expect comes to pass.”

But will it?

Dear Sophie: Should we look to Canada to retain international talent?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

I handle people ops as a consultant at several different tech startups. Many have employees on OPT or STEM OPT who didn’t get selected in this year’s H-1B lottery.

The companies want to retain these individuals, but they’re running out of options. Some companies will try again in next year’s H-1B lottery, even though they face long odds, particularly if the H-1B lottery becomes a wage-based selection process next year.

Others are looking into O-1A visas, but find that many employees don’t yet have the experience to meet the qualifications. Should we look at Canada?

— Specialist in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley comms expert Caryn Marooney shares how to nail the narrative

Caryn Marooney, right, vice president of technology communications at Facebook, poses for a picture on the red carpet for the 6th annual 2018 Breakthrough Prizes at Moffett Federal Airfield, Hangar One in Mountain View, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. (N

Image Credits: MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images(Image has been modified)

Caryn Marooney, a Silicon Valley communications professional turned venture capitalist, spoke extensively on storytelling at TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising.

Throughout her time in Silicon Valley, she helped companies like Salesforce, Amazon, Facebook and more launch products and sharpen their messaging. In 2019, she left Facebook, where she was VP of technology communication, and joined Coatue Management as a general partner.

Marooney uses the acronym RIBS to describe her basic strategy for startup messaging: Relevance, Inevitability, Believability and keeping it Simple.

Canada’s startup market booms alongside hot global VC investment

For The Exchange, Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim looked at Canada’s VC market in the first half of 2021, and if you’ve been reading their work, you know what’s coming.

Canada, like the rest of the globe, was absolutely scorching in the first half.

“Canada’s venture capital results now rival those of the entire Latin American region, with exits and mega-deals coming in roughly on par in the second quarter, and a similar number of total venture capital rounds in the period,” they write.

“That caught our attention.”

Greylock’s Mike Duboe explains how to define growth and build your team

With more venture funding flowing into the startup ecosystem than ever before, there’s never been a better time to be a growth expert.

At TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising earlier this month, Greylock Partners’ Mike Duboe dug into a number of lessons and pieces of wisdom he’s picked up leading growth at a number of high-growth startups, including StitchFix. His advice spanned hiring, structure and analysis, with plenty of recommendations for where growth teams should be focusing their attention and resources.

Last-mile delivery in Latin America is ready to take off

a cardboard box flies through outer space propelled by two thruster rockets

Image Credits: Erlon Silva/TRI Digital (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Thanks to sprawling fulfillment centers, seamless logistics networks and ubiquitous internet access, consumers in many regions can now order groceries and a new set of cookware during breakfast and reasonably expect everything to arrive in time for dinner.

In Latin America, a lack of technology infrastructure makes delivery operations complex, and these supply chains are often managed with spreadsheets, paper and pen.

Algorithms that manage delivery routes or automatically dispatch drivers “are almost unheard of in the Latin America retail logistics sector,” says Bob Ma, an investor at WIND Ventures.

But thanks to growing consumer demand and expanding investment in last-mile delivery startups, Ma says the region is at a turning point.

Since Latin America’s middle class has grown 50% in the last decade and e-commerce constitutes just 6% of all retail, several unicorns have emerged in recent years, with more waiting in the wings.

China’s expected edtech clampdown may chill a key startup sector

China’s edtech industry is estimated to be worth $100 billion, but its leaders are reportedly considering a plan that would require these firms to operate as non-profits.

“When it comes to control, the Chinese government doesn’t mind wiping out a few dozen billion dollars in market cap here and there,” writes Alex Wilhelm in this morning’s edition of The Exchange.

“That’s not a great system.”

Save $200 on a KitchenAid Stand Mixer and more during Best Buy’s “Black Friday in July” sale

What’s that? You thought Black Friday was still a few months away? Honestly, so did we, but Best Buy apparently had a different view of the situation. Enter Best Buy’s “Black Friday in July” sale — yet another shopping event that’ll completely derail your plan to save up for buying gifts during the holiday season.

But are the deals actually that good? Well, yeah. And of course, to make it a little easier on you, we sifted through the entire sale to highlight the very best deals available, which we conveniently listed below for your viewing pleasure.

Shop the sale through July 25 and scan the lists below for all our top picks.

TVs

Mashable Image


Credit: sony

Laptops

Mashable Image


Credit: microsoft

Tablets

Mashable Image


Credit: amazon

Gaming

Mashable Image


Credit: ea

Headphones

Mashable Image


Credit: apple

Soundbars

Mashable Image


Credit: samsung

Smartwatches and fitness trackers

Mashable Image


Credit: fitbit

Kitchen appliances

Mashable Image


Credit: KitchenAid

Smart home gadgets

Mashable Image


Credit: Amazon

Rivian raises another $2.5B, pushing its EV war chest up to $10.5B

Rivian announced Friday that it has closed a $2.5 billion private funding round led by Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, D1 Capital Partners, Ford Motor and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc.

Third Point, Fidelity Management and Research Company, Dragoneer Investment Group, and Coatue also participated in the round.

“As we near the start of vehicle production, it’s vital that we keep looking forward and pushing through to Rivian’s next phase of growth,” Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe said in a statement.“ This infusion of funds from trusted partners allows Rivian to scale new vehicle programs, expand our domestic facility footprint, and fuel international product rollout.”

“We are excited to increase our investment in Rivian as it reaches an inflection point in its commercialization and delivers what we believe will be exceptional products for customers,” said Dan Sundheim, Founder of D1 Capital Partners.

Rivian has raised roughly $10.5 billion to date. The company did not share a post-money valuation.

The electric automaker, which now employs 7,000 and is preparing to deliver its R1T pickup truck in September, last raised funds in January. That round brought in $2.65 billion from existing investors T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., Fidelity Management and Research Company, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Coatue and D1 Capital Partners. New investors also participated in that round, which pushed Rivian’s valuation to $27.6 billion, a source familiar with the investment round told TechCrunch at the time.

The news comes just a day after Rivian confirmed it plans to open a second U.S. factory. It also follows Rivian’s decision to delay deliveries of its R1T truck and R1S SUV from this summer to September due to delays in production caused by “cascading impacts of the pandemic,” particularly the ongoing global shortage of semiconductor chips.

Growth marketing roundup: TechCrunch Experts, creative testing and how to nail your narrative

“It’s about focusing on the metric that directly reflects the value that your company and products bring to your customers,” growth marketer Maya Moufarek told us in an interview for one of our most popular marketing articles of the week. “For Airbnb, that may be the number of nights booked; for Spotify, minutes listened to. It’s all about simplifying your strategy into something that is digestible, memorable and applicable.”

In the interview, Moufarek speaks about the importance of Sean Ellis’ North Star metric, how she audits her clients, brand building and more.

Help TechCrunch find the best growth marketers for startups.

Provide a recommendation in this quick survey and we’ll share the results with everybody.

Marketing Cube founder Maya Moufarek’s lessons for customer-focused startups: Founder of growth consultancy Marketing Cube Maya Moufarek joins Miranda Halpern for an interview as part of the TechCrunch Experts series. Moufarek shares her advice for startups and explains why there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing.

In growth marketing, creative is the critical X factor: Self-proclaimed “growth marketing nerd” and current Uber growth team member Jonathan Martinez breaks down how to be successful with creative testing. Martinez discusses how to do this when faced with the current privacy restrictions.

(Extra Crunch) Susan Su on how to approach growth as your startup raises each round: Managing Editor Eric Eldon recaps growth marketing expert Susan Su’s talk from TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing & Fundraising. Su goes through a sample qualitative growth model and the importance of always having a growth team.

(Extra Crunch) Silicon Valley comms expert Caryn Marooney shares how to nail the narrative: Senior Editor Matt Burns recaps Caryn Marooney’s talk from TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing & Fundraising. Marooney, current VC and former communications expert, touches on her RIBS method — read the article to find out what it stands for and how to apply it to your own narrative.

(Extra Crunch) Greylock’s Mike Duboe explains how to define growth and build your team: Editor Lucas Matney breaks down the TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing & Fundraising presentation from early-stage speaker Mike Duboe, partner at Greylock. This talk is split into 10 key points about growth, including tips on prioritizing retention, hiring for growth and more.


If you haven’t already, please fill out our ongoing growth marketing survey. We’re using these recommendations of top-tier growth marketers around the world to shape our editorial coverage.

Marketer: Illia Termeno, founder of Extrabrains

Recommended by: Anonymous

Testimonial: “T-shaped expertise with focus on strategy and long-term ROI.”

Marketer: Adam DuVander, EveryDeveloper

Recommended by: Karl Hughes, Draft.dev

Testimonial: “In addition to writing a book on developer marketing, Adam draws from deep experience as a developer and developer advocate to make sure his clients set a winning strategy in motion.”

Marketer: Jonathan Metrick, Portage Ventures

Recommended by: Matt Byrd

Testimonial: “Jonathan was truly transformative at Policygenius. Prior to his arrival, we were running a smart but disjointed marketing effort. Our messaging was inconsistent, and our approach to understanding channel efficacy was weaker than it could have been. Jonathan brought a growth mindset to the team, and built a hypereffective org in a short amount of time.”

The best tablet to buy for your kid

Technology has changed a lot since you were small. Your kids have probably mastered the features on your iPhone better than you have due to constantly asking to play with it. You can admit it: It’d be kinda sweet if they had something of their own so that your phone wasn’t perpetually doused in mystery slime. But a hard “no” to devices at all could make you feel like a woke TikTok parent or a parent from the dark ages.

Kids’ tablets could be the healthy balance between giving your kids the access to tech that they want without turning them into the kid having a meltdown over Roblox in the grocery store.

What’s going on in the world of screen time recommendations?

Kids’ tablets go far past keeping them occupied during a long car ride or a boring family gathering.

Screen learning and screen time restrictions are increasingly popular points of study. A year of being penned up with little to do but stare at a screen hurled the issue to the forefront of parenting conversations. As it becomes clearer that remote learning and working aren’t wearing off, screen time could become a daily hurdle for more parents than it was pre-pandemic.

Parents’ questions often boil down to “how much is too much?” Though this is rarely met with a definitive answer, recent research can at least shine a light on best practices.

In April 2019, the World Health Organization issued much-anticipated guidelines around screen time for preschool-aged kids: One hour is the recommended maximum for children ages 2 to 4. These suggestions are based on the idea that healthy cognitive development of young kids is built through face-to-face interaction. This lines up with recent research done at Vanderbilt University that suggests toddlers probably won’t learn much from a screen, anyway.


Kids are grasping that the character on the screen represents a real person — and that that person is teaching them something.

But the disconnect often fades by age three. Just as they’re mastering talking, kids are also grasping that the character on the screen represents a real person — and that that person is teaching them something. Dr. Carolyn Jaynes, a learning designer at LeapFrog, explains in an Inc.com article: “This content often uses strategies such as repeating an idea, presenting images and sounds that capture attention, and using child rather than adult voices for the characters.”

One project by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center (a non-profit run by the people behind Sesame Street) compared literary assessments of kindergarten through third-grade students who had used tablets at school. The students who used tablets saw higher test scores than those who didn’t use tablets, and they were able to recognize 20% more vocabulary words due to an improved ability to recognize sounds and represent sounds as letters. A 2018 meta-anlysis published in the Frontiers in Psychology journal found that the touchscreen learning effect was particularly beneficial for STEM through the memorable real-life experiments that physical swiping can mimic.

Can we blame them? Interacting with content makes for a richer and more memorable experience. It just feels more like playing, and it’s not surprising that kids may be more willing to learn when it doesn’t feel forced. Besides, playing and imagination are the building blocks for creativity and empathy — so playing Toca Boca instead of doing multiplication is still building real-world skills.

Dr. Michael Levine, founder of the Cooney Center, put some perspective on the difference between “learning time” and “mindless time:

“The idea is not to have parents simply hand these devices over to their kids. Instead, the games and ebooks provide examples of hands-on activities that parents can do with their preschoolers in their kitchens and backyards to promote vocabulary and content knowledge in both languages, which helps build a solid foundation for life-long learning. …Instead of pushing screens away, it’s time to put them to use in a thoroughly modern way.

So yes, tablets are a great learning tool as long as they’re not a kid’s main source of learning. Kids will always need to be comfortable reading print books and doing math by hand. No arguing there. But tablets provide some real opportunities for self-sufficient, interactive learning that kids will definitely utilize in the future of education revolving around laptops.

And sorry, kid-less people on Twitter who vow to never give their future kid a tablet — we can’t hear you over the sound of our uninterrupted Zoom meeting.

How to choose the right tablet for your kid

Most tablets made specifically for kids will already be equipped with built-in parent accounts, timers, and pre-selected websites or apps that fall under appropriate age groups. Easy enough.

General-purpose tablets aren’t a bad choice at all — many sites name the iPad as one of the best tablets for kids even though it’s technically for everyone. You’ll need to get creative to build a similar guidance net to the built-in parental controls that tablets specifically for kids bank on. Apple and Android have settings that can filter content or prevent purchases, but play-by-play supervision can be better achieved through a legit parental control app for iPads or Android tablets.

Osmo is a neat iPad and Fire Tablet snap-on that can make the family tablet more kid-friendly. Moving a piece in real life moves it on screen, creating a cool mashup of your typical tablet game, hand-eye coordination, and problem-solving. Subjects include numbers, words, tangram, and art, plus extra packs for stuff like STEM or business-related math through a subject everyone cares about: pizza.

Mashable Image


Credit: osmo

Things to keep in mind when shopping for a tablet for kids:

  • Screen resolution: Whether less than HD, HD, FHD (4K is probably going overboard) will suffice depends on the amount of movie watching and gaming they’ll be doing.

  • Storage: They’ll probably have more apps than you do, and may need space for downloads like offline Disney+ movies, music, or some books for school.

  • Intensity of parental controls: For obvious reasons!

  • Rugged-ness: Because kids are basically adorable destruction machines and you’ll probably feel better with a case.

Here are the best tablets to get for your kids in 2021:

Judge denies Wisk Aero’s request for preliminary injunction against Archer Aviation

Electric aviation startup Wisk Aero’s request for a preliminary injunction against rival Archer Aviation was denied by a federal judge Thursday, the latest in an ongoing legal battle over whether Archer stole trade secrets in developing its flagship Maker aircraft.

A full written opinion has not yet been published. In a tentative ruling filed earlier this week, Judge William Orrick said Wisk’s “evidence of misappropriation is too equivocal to warrant a preliminary injunction.” Wisk filed for the injunction in May; if it had been approved, it would have effectively put an immediate halt to Archer’s operations.

Wisk submitted to the court 52 trade secrets it alleges were stolen and used by Archer, and the injunction would have prevented Archer from using any of them until a final decision was issued in the suit. It’s an extraordinary request and it makes sense that Orrick would need to see more certain evidence of misappropriation.

“There are some arguable indications of misappropriation, but given how equivocal the evidence is, Wisk is not entitled to the extraordinary remedy of an injunction,” Orrick said in the tentative ruling. “Because the merits are so uncertain, Wisk has also not adequately shown irreparable injury based on misappropriation. And the balance of hardships favors Archer because, without solid evidence of misappropriation, an injunction would gravely threaten its business.”

Wisk says the judge’s decision on the injunction has no bearing on the outcome of the case “and does not exonerate Archer in the least.”

“We brought this lawsuit based on strong indications of theft and use of Wisk’s IP, and the initial limited evidence gathered through the court process to date only confirms our belief that Archer’s misappropriation of Wisk’s trade secrets is widespread and pervades Archer’s aircraft development,” Wisk continued. “Following today’s ruling, Wisk will be allowed to begin collecting evidence in earnest.”

Wisk was established in 2019 as a joint venture between Kitty Hawk and Boeing, but its history with electric aviation stretches back much further. The company was originally founded in 2010 as Levt, which eventually merged with sister company Kitty Hawk. Wisk says it (as Kitty Hawk) zeroed in on a fixed-wing, 12-rotor design in 2016. It’s this design that’s the centerpiece of its debut aircraft, Cora.

Archer, by contrast, is newer to the field. Much of Wisk’s original complaint, filed in April, is predicated on the speed with which Archer is bringing its air taxi service to market. Archer also recruited many former Wisk engineers — including former employee Jing Xue, whom Wisk says downloaded nearly 5,000 files before his departure from the company, which it alleges he handed over to Archer.

When he was cross-examined, Xue pled the Fifth Amendment, invoking his right to not self-incriminate, citing an ongoing federal investigation.

Archer says Wisk has not brought forward any substantive evidence of the central claim of the lawsuit: that Archer received and used Wisk trade secrets. Wisk’s allegations are based on “conspiracy theories and outright misrepresentations,” Archer’s Deputy General Counsel Eric Lentell said.

“It is clear to us from Wisk’s actions in this case that after recognizing Archer’s momentum and pace of innovation, Wisk began abusing the judicial and criminal justice system in an attempt to slow us down to compensate for its own lack of success,” Archer co-founders Brett Adcock and Adam Goldstein said.

The court will hold a scheduling conference on August 11, where the judge will outline next steps for the case. A date for the trial has not been set.

The case is filed in the California Northern District Court under case no. 3:2021cv02450.

Most Common Reasons Why Men Lose Their Hair

Picture: Andrea Piaqcuadio 

Research suggests that over half of men start showing signs of hair loss by the age of 50. By the time they turn 70, four in five will have lost at least some hair. While many women can also lose hair or notice changes in volume and texture as they age, hair loss is undoubtedly more frequent in men. Surprisingly, there is more than one reason it can happen, with some of the more common ones listed below.  

Your Genetics

When you watch the men in your family slowly age and lose hair, you may be reaching for a hair loss prescription sooner rather than later. While there is no guarantee that you will experience hair loss, it’s a likely outcome if genetics are to blame. 

Androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness, is an inheritable condition from your parents. Medical professionals don’t understand why this condition runs in families, but it can. If your father, uncle, older siblings, and even your grandfather were balding past the age of 50, there’s a high chance you will be too unless you intervene with innovative hair growth techniques. 

A Shock or Stressful Event

If you’ve been under a great deal of stress, or you’ve been involved in something potentially traumatic, hair loss can be an unwelcome side effect for many men. Typically, the process begins with hormonal changes that cause hair follicle shrinkage.

Hair loss may then start with the hairline thinning around the temple and crown region. Even if you’ve always had healthy hair, it can take one event like unexpected surgery, a stressful job, or a family tragedy to kick hair loss into overdrive. 

Medical Conditions, Infections, and Illnesses

Temporary or permanent hair loss can be a common side effect of many different ailments and treatments for those conditions. For example, a diet low in iron and protein may cause your hair to thin out, while lupus or diabetes may increase the likelihood that you will experience hair loss in the future. 

Some drug side effects also include hair loss, so prescription medication you’re taking for high blood pressure, gout, arthritis, depression, heart problems, and many other conditions may result in thin or lost hair. You might also experience temporary hair loss if you have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Typically, hair growth resumes when treatment ends. 

Even infections like ringworm can contribute to temporary hair loss. Ringworm can cause dry patches on your scalp, followed by bald spots. In most cases, these grow back. 

Grooming Habits

Surprisingly, how you style your hair on a daily basis may contribute to whether or not you experience hair loss in later life. For example, any hairstyle that puts pressure on your hair follicles next to your scalp may cause traction alopecia. Traction alopecia is often closely linked to wearing your hair in braids, buns, and tight ponytails. It can also be an issue for men and women who get perms and hot oil treatments. 

Immune System Conditions

Even though hair loss is more common from around the age of 50 in men, it can happen much earlier than that if you suffer from an immune system condition called alopecia areata. Typically, this condition presents in childhood, and you can be more likely to have it if some of your family members do. 

You might notice small, coin-sized bald spots that appear at random. Sometimes, those patches of hair grow back before falling out again. Alopecia areata is caused by your body’s immune system attacking its own hair follicles. It’s not contagious, nor does it come with any sickness or pain. There is no way to cure alopecia, but some medications may help with hair growth. 

What Doesn’t Cause Hair Loss

Many factors contribute to hair loss, such as immune system conditions, illnesses, stress, shocking events, and your genetic makeup. However, there are also several things many people have thought lead to hair loss but most likely don’t. 

Wearing Hats

You may experience hat hair after wearing a hat, but you likely won’t lose your hair. That may only be the case if the hat pulls at your hair. Even then, it’s more likely to happen over time rather than as a one-off event. 

Hair Dryers

Many men with long hair use hair dryers to speed up the drying process. While brittle hair can be a consequence of their long-term use, hair loss isn’t. 

Swimming

Many people believe that chlorinated pools and saltwater environments can lead to hair loss. However, this has not been proven as accurate. 

Hair loss and baldness is not always something you can cure, particularly as it occurs for many reasons. However, it can be worth identifying the reason for your baldness and seeing if any prescription medication or lifestyle changes could make a difference.

 

The post Most Common Reasons Why Men Lose Their Hair appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Mint’s first PM raises millions for Monarch, an Accel-backed money management platform

Monarch, a subscription-based platform that aims to help consumers “plan and manage” their financial lives, has raised $4.8 million in seed funding.

Accel led the round, which also included participation from SignalFire, and brings the Mountain View-based yet fully distributed startup’s total funding since its 2019 inception to $5.5 million.

Co-founder and CEO Val Agostino was the first product manager on the original team that built Mint.com. There, he said, he saw firsthand that Americans with a greater understanding of financial matters “needed software solutions that went beyond just tracking and budgeting.” 

“They needed help planning their financial future and understanding the tradeoffs between competing financial priorities,” he said.

Monarch aims to help people address those needs with software it says “makes it easy” for people to outline their financial goals and then create a detailed, forward-looking plan toward achieving them. 

“We then help customers track their progress against their plan and automatically course correct as their financial situation changes, which it always does,” Agostino said.

Monarch came out of private beta in early 2021 with apps for web, iOS and Android, and is priced at $9.99 per month or $89.99 per year. The startup intentionally opted to not be ad-supported or sell customers’ financial data.

These approaches are “misaligned with users’ financial interests,” Agostino said.

“We felt that a subscription business model would best support that ethos and align our users’ interests with our own,” he added. Since launching publicly, Monarch has been growing its paid subscriber base by about 9% per week.

Image Credits: Monarch

Monarch launched during the pandemic, the uncertainty of which carried over into people’s financial lives, believes Agostino.

“As a result, we saw a lot of people make use of Monarch’s forecasting features to compare different ‘what if ‘scenarios such as switching jobs or moving to a different city or state,” he said.

Earlier this month, TechCrunch reported on a company with a similar mission, BodesWell, teaming up with American Express on a financial planning tool for its cardholders. Agostino said that Monarch is similar to BodesWell in that both startups help customers map a financial plan and future. 

“The difference is that Monarch also has a full suite of PFM tools, such as budgeting, reporting and investment analysis,” he said. “The benefit to the consumer is that because Monarch is connected to your entire financial picture, we can help you actually stay on track with your financial plan and/or update the plan in real time if needed.”

Accel’s Daniel Levine said that until he came across Monarch, he was “somehow still a Mint customer despite its obsolescence.”

Over the past decade, the landscape for financial products has expanded dramatically, with more people having brokerage and crypto accounts, for example, Levine said.

In his view, Monarch stands out for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s a subscription product.

“One thing I always hated about Mint was when it would suggest the objectively wrong credit card for me,” Levine said. “It has all of my transaction data, it should tell me the card with the best rewards for me. Monarch is set up to never compromise what’s best for the user in favor of advertising.”

Secondly, Monarch’s aim is to serve as the infrastructure for its customers. To do that, it needs to monitor all of someone’s finances. 

“They need to track checking, credit cards, brokerage, real estate and crypto,” he said. “Monarch is committed to doing that. It’s an incredibly painful problem and even though Monarch is a new entrant in the space, I think they’ve clearly separated themselves on that dimension.”

Save $100 on a 2020 MacBook Air, plus more cheap laptop deals this weekend


What’s better than a great laptop? A great laptop that’s cheap. Nowadays, even budget machines can pack the punch to carry you through whatever’s on your to-do list, whether it’s work, watching Netflix, or endlessly browsing your go-to social media sites. If you’re looking to pick up a new laptop yourself but don’t necessarily want to drop your life savings in one go, we’ll be compiling a list of the best deals on cheap laptops right here, each and every week. So, take a look at what we found this time around, and happy shopping.

OUR TOP PICK: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 — $1,049.99

The clean and elegant Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 is up to two times faster than its predecessor and can last you most of the day with its 11.5-hour battery life (plus a one-hour quick charge feature that can get you back up to 80% battery). If you’ve been holding off on buying a MacBook because you have an aversion is Apple’s OS, the Surface Laptop 3 may be your answer.


Save $249.01 at Amazon

Credit: Microsoft

BEST APPLE DEAL: 2020 Apple MacBook Air — $899

Apple’s latest set of MacBooks with their new M1 chip are a giant leap in processing power compared to older models. The MacBook Air now offers up to 18 hours of battery life, and faster SSD performance than ever. Get one at Amazon and save $100.


Save $100 at Amazon

Credit: Apple

BEST LENOVO DEAL: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8 — $1,374.50

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8 is a fantastic work laptop, boasting excellent performance and features that’ll please any non-Mac user. The included 10th Generation Intel Core i7-10510U processor is speedy and responsive, making for a smooth experience each and every time you open the device. You’ll also get other sought-after perks like a fingerprint reader, Dolby Atmos speaker system, a 4K display, almost 20 hours of battery life on a single charge, and the tough construction that ThinkPad laptops have become known for.


Save $1,324.50 at Lenovo

Credit: Lenovo

BEST GAMING DEAL: Razer Blade 15 — $1,699.99

The Razer Blade 15 is packed with solid internals that’ll work well for PC gaming newbies and seasoned players alike. Under the hood, you’ll get a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10750H processor with up to 5.0 GHz max turbo and 6 cores, as well as an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card that has the power to run some pretty visually intense games. The 144Hz screen provides buttery-smooth framerate performance and offers full HD visuals within a bezel-less display. It’s all housed within a thin, compact body that you can take anywhere.


Save $600 at Amazon

Credit: Razer

BEST 2-IN-1 DEAL: Asus Chromebook Flip C434 — $429

Having your laptop and your tablet in one place is a convenience that you need in your life. The Asus Chromebook Flip C434 is a fantastic budget 2-in-1 device, with speedy performance, a full HD touchscreen, and components that should be able to handle all of your daily tasks.


Save $140.99 at Amazon

Credit: Asus

Explore related content:

How to shop for a new laptop:

Choosing a laptop is entirely dependent on what you’ll be using it for. Beginner laptop owners need something user-friendly and straightforward, frequent travelers need something light with a long battery life, designers and gamers need top-notch 4K graphics and quick central processors, and everyone needs something that will last. The first thing you should do is ask yourself a simple question: PC or Mac? This is an important question, as it’s going to make a world of difference in what you can and can’t do with your computer. Are you a gamer? A video editor? A business professional? An Apple device owner? The answer to any of these will probably point you towards your final answer. If you’re constantly buying the new iPhone every year, editing YouTube videos, recording a podcast, or other creative endeavors of the sort, your best bet may be a Mac laptop. Apple obsessives will be happy with their Mac’s compatibility with their other Apple products, and everyone can benefit from Macs’ propensity to have better virus protection than that of a PC. That brings us to the perks of picking up a PC. You can still complete a number of creative projects on a personal computer, but where PCs really shine are their options for customization. PCs are much easier to upgrade part-by-part, as they aren’t constrained to Apple-manufactured products (like Macs). And because there is a seemingly endless supply of PC manufacturers, there are a lot more options from what brand you chose, to the software you buy, to the type of graphics card you pick out for your gaming rig. Yes, gamers should always go the PC route — they are far more powerful than what a Mac laptop can handle, and also give you the option to connect VR headsets, if you’re into that sort of thing.  

What size laptop should you get?

This really comes down to two things: Personal preference and lifestyle. Personal preference is self-explanatory, really — do you like having a huge display, or do you prefer something more compact? Lifestyle is where practicality comes into play. If you’re traveling often and usually have your computer on your back in some way, you’re going to want to go with something more light and compact (thin, 11-inch models will most likely be the best). But, if you’re a huge movie buff who doesn’t normally take their laptop on the road with them, spring for a 15-inch (and higher) screen with a bulky construction so you can have epic Netflix and chill sessions. If you’re getting a gaming laptop, you should probably “go big or go home,” as well.  

How much should you spend on a new laptop?

This is much more subjective, and at the end of the day, it’s really going to come down to your budget. But, if money isn’t the number one concern for you, you should really think hard about what you’re going to use your laptop for. Need a device with lots of power under the hood and bountiful storage space? Aim for something in the $800 and beyond range. Only using your laptop to edit the occasional Google Doc? Then you can probably get away with spending way below the $500 mark. In other words, don’t blow your savings if you don’t need to. And if you’re looking to go all out, meaning buying a laptop with every bell and whistle imaginable, you can get a monster of a machine for somewhere closer to $2,000. Why not.  

Are cheap laptops worth it?

You know the old saying: You get what you pay for. But thanks to the technology boom of the last few decades, a cheap laptop can actually take you pretty far and won’t break down immediately. It’s all about knowing which one to select. Depending on what you use your laptop for the most, staying stingy might be your best option. Check out our roundups for the ones that we think are worth it — here are our favorite cheap laptop models under $500, and the best under $300.  

What does it mean when a laptop is certified refurbished?

Don’t let the words “refurbished” or “renewed” scare you away — these types of devices are usually perfectly viable options and can end up saving you a lot of money without sacrificing much of anything. A refurbished device, in its simplest terms, is a product that has been bought, but then returned for some reason. Notice that we didn’t necessarily say that it was returned due to some sort of fault on the device’s part. While that can certainly be true in some cases, it isn’t always. Oftentimes, a certified refurbished laptop never even left its original packaging. While yes, saving money is a huge benefit of buying a “refurb,” it’s far from the only reason to consider getting one. What’s great about refurbished devices is that they undergo rigorous performance tests to ensure that they are still in good condition (sometimes more strictly than the stuff coming right off the production line). There’s also a chance that any refurbished laptop you buy may have been so lightly used, that it could almost be considered brand-new (just way cheaper). We’re big fans of buying refurbished gear for kids, especially when it comes to electronics. If you’re shopping for a laptop for a kid who is under the age of 15, then refurbished is really the way to go. For kids of high school age and beyond who are a bit more careful with their digital gear, then a new laptop isn’t as risky. Of course, it depends on the kid. Happy laptop shopping!

Checkout is the key to frictionless B2B e-commerce

Andrew Steele
Contributor

Andrew Steele is an investor at Activant Capital. He focuses on fintech and e-commerce infrastructure and is based in New York.

COVID-19 cemented e-commerce into everyone’s daily habits in 2020, and as we look ahead, B2B e-commerce is quickly becoming the next frontier for founders and investors. The pandemic pushed businesses online, and the emergence of B2B marketplaces and e-commerce infrastructure is fueling a new wave of growth that’s estimated to reach $3.6 trillion in annual GMV by 2024.

But one major component remains missing from the stack: checkout, which has the opportunity to be the ultimate enabler for B2B e-commerce more broadly.

Historically, B2B e-commerce has been held back by deeply entrenched behaviors and a lack of cloud-based infrastructure.

The challenge of B2B e-commerce

Historically, B2B e-commerce has been held back by deeply entrenched behaviors and a lack of cloud-based infrastructure. While the market is quickly evolving, there are nuances to B2B purchases that make the path to purchase more complex than in consumer e-commerce. Broadly speaking, these constraints fall into three buckets:

Payments: PayPal unlocked the early days of consumer e-commerce, and Stripe’s ease of integrating card payments has powered the last decade. But in B2B, the challenge has always been that sellers don’t want to pay a 3% surcharge — so much so that they’d rather suffer through the pain of physical checks and accounts payable. In 2018, 60% of B2B payment flows were conducted via checks, and the persistence of nondigital payments has been a major bottleneck to e-commerce.

Permissions: Most B2B transactions go through contracting and procurement, which requires multiple parties to sign off on each transaction. This creates friction in the path to purchase, as the seller can’t tell if the buyer is authorized. Rather than being able to hit buy, buyers often need to fill out a form so a salesperson can get in touch. This can slow the transaction from seconds to weeks.

Credit: The majority of B2B transactions are completed on some form of credit, be it working capital loans, factoring, or in the form of days payable. Credit applications are typically completed on paper forms (or at best hosted PDFs) that armies of people at internal credit departments review. For context, there are over 1,000 employees at John Deere with “credit” in their job descriptions. This costs a lot and results in sensitive information being shared on paper documents, which further slows the transaction.

The net result of these constraints is the inability to make instant online purchases, like we’re used to as consumers. It’s a combination of fintech problems that require a platform rather than a series of point solutions.

Why is checkout the answer?

While the term “checkout” may not seem particularly novel, modern checkout is a distinctly new category in fintech combining digital payments, identity, fraud, credit and much more. It creates a powerful network, the type that can not only build trust but enable one-click transactions at scale.

Alphabet’s Intrinsic aims to make industrial robots more capable

Alphabet’s public-facing history with robotics has, thus far, been a spotty one. Most notably, Google X’s big acquisition push culminated in its selling Boston Dynamics to Softbank (who eventually flipped it to Hyundai). Alphabet/Google’s subsequent approach has been less flashy and focused on more immediate robotic tasks.

Unveiled today through the X blog, Intrinsic certainly fits the bill. In fact, it’s kind of an ideal take for Google. Effectively, the latest branch of the X Development tree is concerned with software for industrial robotics – those  big, heavy machines that are perhaps not as nimble as many manufacturers would like.

Image Credits: Intrinsic

The post is penned by Wendy Tan-White, a VP of Moonshots at Alphabet, who now has the title of Intrinsic CEO. Of the company’s origins, the cofounder of SAAS website builder Moonfruit writes,

Over the last few years, our team has been exploring how to give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications. Working in collaboration with teams across Alphabet, and with our partners in real-world manufacturing settings, we’ve been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.

There’s a vibrant community of startups out there looking to augment big, heavy robotics, including the likes of Veo, Symbio and Covariant. Often times, these companies focus on one specific element, like Veo’s safety protocols from human-robotic interactions. Fittingly, Intrisic appears to be shooting the moon here, so to speak, with plans to take a number of different issues at once.

Image Credits: Intrinsic

“We’re developing software tools designed to make industrial robots (which are used to make everything from solar panels to cars) easier to use, less costly and more flexible, so that more people can use them to make new products, businesses and services,” Tan-White writes.

Certainly Google has the capital and ability to attract talent to make some headway there, even if there are a number of competitors who have a head start. ThoughIntrinsic isn’t exactly brand new, either. The company has apparently been working in customary Google X stealth mode for a five-and-a-half years per the post — it clearly wanted something to show for its efforts before announcing itself to the world.

The news also marks Intrinsic’s debut as an “independent” Alphabet company, leaving the moonshot area behind as it seems partners in automotive, healthcare and electronics to help prove out its technologies.

Get new plants for your besties from Plants.com’s Friendship Day sale

True friendship is having matching plants.

BOGO 50% OFF: Celebrate International Friendship Day at Plants.com — buy one plant and get the second for half off.


International Friendship Day sounds like a holiday made up by Leslie Knope as an excuse to shower her friends with gifts. But alas, it’s real and it’s on July 30.

Celebrate Friendship Day at Plants.com where select plants are BOGO 50% off. Get one for yourself and a friend, or get two for your friends, or hell, just get two for yourself. You can be your own friend.

Some of the plants on sale include orchids, aloe vera, and Little Swiss (aka Monstera). And if your friend already has way too many plants, there are also cute coffee table plant books included in the sale.

Explore related content:

Duolingo’s bellwether IPO

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

We were smaller team this week, with Natasha and Alex together with Chris to sort through yet another summer frenzy of a week.

This time around we actually recorded live on Twitter Spaces, which was a first for the podcast. If you missed it, it’s probably because we didn’t promote the taping since it was just an experiment. Good news, though, is that it went well, and we’re going to some more live tapings of the show with the entire crew on the mics. Make sure to follow the show on the Big Tweet to ensure that you can come hang with us next week. We’ll also do some Q&A at the end, if we’re in good moods.

Until then, let’s live in the present. Here’s what we got into in today’s show:

Have a lovely weekend, you lovely human.
Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Google’s Olympic Doodle is a full-on anime sports game

The biggest interactive Doodle yet.

Google has a new Doodle to celebrate the start of the Olympic Games in Japan, and it’s one of the company’s most elaborate Doodles yet.

The Doodle is a complete sports game, with a neat animation intro and several disciplines to choose from. Now, Google has released game Doodles before, but never as complex as this one — it has seven games (with more to come), side quests, bosses, an open, interactive map, numerous NPCs ready to chat with you, and a leaderboard.

In short, Google says this is its largest interactive Doodle yet. And you know what this means: Don’t even start unless you’re ready to lose at least half an hour exploring what the game has to offer.

The games, which include table tennis and skateboarding, are easy and fun, though some — like artistic swimming — can be quite challenging. And you can also do side quests, such as bringing a letter from a ghost dad to his son who lives in an underwater castle.

As for the animated intros, you can check them all out on their own on Google’s dedicated Doodle YouTube channel. There, you will also find a “behind the scenes” video, which explains how this massive Doodle-slash-game-slash-experience got made.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games start today, and will take place until August 8, 2021, after being postponed from last year due to the Covid-19 pandemics. When you’re done playing with Google’s latest Doodle and eager to watch some sports, check out our guide on how to do that even without cable.

How to block your ex on Tinder

There are plenty of reasons why seeing a former flame in your Tinder feed isn’t exactly a desirable situation — maybe they broke your heart, or perhaps you broke theirs. Or it could be just that you’d like to swipe away with abandon without the worry of seeing the face of someone you’d rather cross the street to avoid.

Regardless of your reasons, there is a way to make things a little easier on yourself while you put yourself out there in the online dating world. Tinder recently introduced a new feature that allows you to block contacts using their mobile numbers to prevent that individual from showing up in your stack of swiping contenders. If you’d like to know how to remove your ex from your entire digital life (we’ve all been there), here’s a great how-to guide by Mashable’s Anna Iovine.

As you might have gleaned, it doesn’t strictly need to be an ex you’re blocking — it could be your boss, your colleague, or even just members of your own family.

So, how do you use the Block Contacts feature?

1. Go to your settlings in the Tinder app and scroll down until you see the “Block contacts” option.

Credit: mashable screenshot

Credit: mashable screenshot

2. Next, you’ll be asked if you’d like to grant Tinder access to your contacts. Click “OK”.

3. Select the contact you’d like to prevent from showing up as a potential match.

It’s worth noting that the person doesn’t need to be currently on Tinder for them to be blocked. It can prevent a future possibility of them appearing in your pile of possible matches if that person ever decides to download Tinder.

Now that’s done, you can breathe a deep sigh of relief and get back to looking for your next flame.

Paystand banks $50M to make B2B payments cashless and with no fees

It’s pretty easy for individuals to send money back and forth, and there are lots of cash apps from which to choose. On the commercial side, however, one business trying to send $100,000 the same way is not as easy.

Paystand wants to change that. The Scotts Valley, California-based company is using cloud technology and the Ethereum blockchain as the engine for its Paystand Bank Network that enables business-to-business payments with zero fees.

The company raised $50 million Series C funding led by NewView Capital, with participation from SoftBank’s SB Opportunity Fund and King River Capital. This brings the company’s total funding to $85 million, Paystand co-founder and CEO Jeremy Almond told TechCrunch.

During the 2008 economic downturn, Almond’s family lost their home. He decided to go back to graduate school and did his thesis on how commercial banking could be better and how digital transformation would be the answer. Gleaning his company vision from the enterprise side, Almond said what Venmo does for consumers, Paystand does for commercial transactions between mid-market and enterprise customers.

“Revenue is the lifeblood of a business, and money has become software, yet everything is in the cloud except for revenue,” he added.

He estimates that almost half of enterprise payments still involve a paper check, while fintech bets heavily on cards that come with 2% to 3% transaction fees, which Almond said is untenable when a business is routinely sending $100,000 invoices. Paystand is charging a flat monthly rate rather than a fee per transaction.

Paystand’s platform. Image Credits: Paystand

On the consumer side, companies like Square and Stripe were among the first wave of companies predominantly focused on accounts payable and then building business process software on top of an existing infrastructure.

Paystand’s view of the world is that the accounts receivables side is harder and why there aren’t many competitors. This is why Paystand is surfing the next wave of fintech, driven by blockchain and decentralized finance, to transform the $125 trillion B2B payment industry by offering an autonomous, cashless and feeless payment network that will be an alternative to cards, Almond said.

Customers using Paystand over a three-year period are able to yield average benefits like 50% savings on the cost of receivables and $850,000 savings on transaction fees. The company is seeing a 200% increase in monthly network payment value and customers grew two-fold in the past year.

The company said it will use the new funding to continue to grow the business by investing in open infrastructure. Specifically, Almond would like to reboot digital finance, starting with B2B payments, and reimagine the entire CFO stack.

“I’ve wanted something like this to exist for 20 years,” Almond said. “Sometimes it is the unsexy areas that can have the biggest impacts.”

As part of the investment, Jazmin Medina, principal at NewView Capital, will join Paystand’s board. She told TechCrunch that while the venture firm is a generalist, it is rooted in fintech and fintech infrastructure.

She also agrees with Almond that the B2B payments space is lagging in terms of innovation and has “strong conviction” in what Almond is doing to help mid-market companies proactively manage their cash needs.

“There is a wide blue ocean of the payment industry, and all of these companies have to be entirely digital to stay competitive,” Medina added. “There is a glaring hole if your revenue is holding you back because you are not digital. That is why the time is now.”

 

‘The White Lotus’ is a captivating comedy of social violence

Check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

The opening scene of The White Lotus spoils the ending: One of its characters will die. Their body is the one being loaded into the freezing cargo hold of a passenger airplane as onlookers needle a cagey, uncooperative man for details. To the people in the airport, the body is a fleeting bit of gossip to wonder about before flying back to their lives, but The White Lotus flashes back one week to imbue that death with a spiraling sense of inevitability. The White Lotus resort, where the death took place, is a decadent utopia in name only. In truth it is a hotel that may as well add startling, constant violence to its list of amenities, right underneath the ocean views.

Everyone on The White Lotus occupies a space in a social hierarchy that is as intricate as a spider’s web and immutable as a concrete wall. The intrinsically jacked-up dynamics of a Hawaiian resort that serves an ultra-wealthy, overwhelmingly white clientele is the starting point for a power imbalance that transforms social carnage into literal bloodshed, but each character’s space in the hierarchy is far more complex than it first appears. The wealthy newlyweds aren’t on equal footing; the grieving spinster’s vapidity masks an inherited talent for manipulation; the breadwinning Gen X girlboss’ perfect family is anything but; and the hotel staff is helmed by a grinning manager two seconds away from an understandable nervous breakdown. These complications come across in the show’s excellent writing, which draws its characters in broad stereotypes before letting small details emerge that make them grotesquely human.


Everyone on The White Lotus occupies a space in a social hierarchy that is as intricate as a spider’s web and immutable as a concrete wall.

The White Lotus‘ captivatingly character-driven whodunnit would not come across as clearly without its excellent cast, all of whom are worthy of note. Actor Jake Lacy (Girls, Fosse/Verdon) reveals the more punchable angles of his face as the textbook entitled rich guy Shawn, whose new wife Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) just now seems to realize she may have married the wrong guy. Murray Bartlett (Looking, Tales of the City) brings jaw-dropping range to the journey of hotel manager Armand, and Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde, American Pie) delivers a career best performance as the fascinatingly pathetic and needy solo traveler Tanya McQuoid.

The White Lotus is not the kind of mystery or comedy where nothing is as it seems. Everyone is exactly as they seem, and much of the humor comes from the plot slowly guiding its characters toward saying what the internet would call “the quiet part out loud.”The little fictions people tell themselves to hold society together — that everyone is always equal, that money doesn’t matter, that having the “right” opinions correlates to morality — go out the window as the stakes rise, and finally seeing people cut the crap and start proudly exploiting each other is both shocking and funny. It’s easy to get so lost watching these people tear each other apart that you forget someone here will literally die until another seemingly obvious clue or red herring crosses the screen to rejuvenate your suspicions.

Everything about The White Lotus — from its tense opening credits (an HBO credit song banger to match the drama of the Succession music); its repeated shots of ocean waves rolling over and almost drowning the camera; and its tight, controlled direction — makes for a top-quality miniseries that will make half the audience chip a molar from jaw-clenching and the other half laugh at how far humanity has fallen. It’s an intense and captivating comedy of manners that skewers the wealthy while reminding the audience that everyone has power over someone, and it only takes a little push to get them to wield it.

The White Lotus is streaming on HBO Max.

After going public via a SPAC, Taboola acquires e-commerce marketing network Connexity for $800M

Taboola, the company that operates a popular grid-based advertising and content recommendation network across media properties, today announced an acquisition to expand its reach further into e-commerce, its first big move since going public in June by way of a SPAC: it is paying $800 million in a combination of cash and stock to buy Connexity, a marketing technology company that operates an retail- and e-commerce-focused advertising network. Connexity has been owned by Symphony Technology Partners since 2011.

The deal — coming in the form of $260 million from cash on hand, $300 million from committed debt financing and approximately $240 million through the issuance of ordinary shares to the seller — will supersize and further diversify Taboola, which currently has a market cap of about $1.9 billion (that’s according to Google Finance; Taboola says the share count is off and it’s actually $2.35 billion) and is in hot competition with another content recommendation network operator, Outbrain: the two were set to merge operations but eventually went their own ways, and Outbrain itself went public this month.

Taboola said it expects the combined company to have gross profit of over $500 million for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2021 (ex- traffic acquisition costs, or TAC), with $185 million of adjusted EBITDA for the period, with both figures growing 20% in 2021 versus 2020.

Connexity was originally called Shopzilla before rebranding, and it has over the years amassed a number of related businesses, including Become.com, Skimlinks and PriceGrabber. (Even Connexity itself was an acquisition made by Shopzilla when it was primarily a shopping search engine.) Together, it’s helped the company build out what has become a sizable network focused around the business of e-commerce.

While Taboola focuses on content recommendations and advertising that runs alongside that, and Connexity is more squarely focused on the business of e-commerce, the two have something in common. They both position themselves as viable alternatives to the big players in advertising and discovery, giving publishers and retailers another way of making revenues and finding new customers without selling out data and a cut to the Googles, Facebooks and Amazons of this world.

While keeping the landscape competitive and providing viable alternatives to beleaguered publishers sounds like a noble enough effort, there are of course potential drawbacks. Taboola’s approach has long incurred a lot of criticism for disseminating click-bait and other garbage links, and some might have an issue with the concept of now a deeper move into e-commerce and selling merchandise along side that. Some in the media industry (and within the world of journalism in particular) has long aimed to keep commercial and other vested interests at arms length from its content, and so it will be worth watching to see how and if that effort shifts as publishers continue to look for profit.

Adam Singolda, the CEO and co-founder of Taboola, very much understands the challenges that publishers face, and he sees his company as building solutions to address that. He told TechCrunch that when Taboola went public, part of its sell to investors was that it would move into newer “types” of recommendations, covering new segments, that would also further scale the bigger operation, and this is a part of that strategy.

“We believe the future of the open web is e-commerce,” he added.

Taboola today has 9,000 digital property partners, 13,000 direct advertisers and 500 million daily active users on its platform, where publishers can use the content recommendation format to recirculate their own content as well as that of other publishers and advertisers on the Taboola network.

For Connexity’s part, it covers various activities like affiliate links, influencer marketing, in-stream advertising, shopping search ads, and more. Its customers include 1,600 direct merchants, and 6,000 publishers ((Walmart, Wayfair, Skechers, Macy’s, eBay and Otto are some of the most high profile of these). And in total, it says its network has some 40,000 retail-oriented publishers that can select from a pool of 750 million product offers, and an audience of 100 million shoppers.

And in a very fragmented e-commerce world rife with challenges in keeping online consumers’ attention, it says its various activities have generated over 800 million shopping leads and in 2020 more than $2 billion in sales for its customers.

That is still a relatively small part of the pie, though. eMarketer estimates that the e-commerce media market is worth some $35 billion in the U.S. alone.

Added to that, Taboola’s bet is that the publishers it already works with are going to be getting deeper into this space as part of their own drive to maximize more revenues per visitor/reader and make their own business models more viable (alongside diversifying into paid content, paywalls, alternative advertising formats like sponsored content, events, and so on).

“62% of US publishers expect ecommerce to be one of their biggest revenue channels,” Singolda said. “I strongly believe every publisher’s leadership these days have e-Commerce as a top 3 thing they want to get into in a big way.”

Connexity is a fairly multichannel offering today — a byproduct of all the acquisitions it has made into adjacent technologies — and Taboola plans to keep it all, with “massive cross sell and upselling opportunities, bringing eCommerce to every publisher on the open web, driving higher yields, going global with e-Commerce, empowering editorial teams what to write about around e-Commerce,” Singolda said.

Connexity on its own is a substantial business, and the shift to more e-commerce in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic has put a focus on the different tools it has in its armory to capture attention and convert ordinary site visitors into browsers and then into shoppers. It says that in 2019 it generated $151 million of revenue, $63 million of ex-TAC gross profit and $28 million of adjusted EBITDA in 2019, with that figure increasing to $172 million of revenue, $78 million of ex-TAC gross profit and $38 million of adjusted EBITDA in 2020.

Kevin Smith made a new He-Man show for Netflix. It rules.

This is a He-Man story, but it is definitively *not* He-Man's story anymore.

You ever sit down and think — I mean really think — about the name “He-Man”? What is that? What does it even communicate about this character?

There’s always been an inherent silliness to the classic Mattel toy line. Names like “Man-E-Faces” and “Evil-Lyn” aren’t exactly born out of laser-focused brainstorms. But that silliness is now intrinsic to the DNA of anything connected to the Man who is He, and it absolutely hovers over every frame in Kevin Smith’s new Netflix series, Masters of the Universe: Revelation.

The five-episode release, which amounts to one half of this new story, is for all intents and purposes a continuation of the children’s cartoon that aired its last episode in 1985. Revelations‘ first episode, in pace and in substance, actually feels like a product of that decade. It’s a great ease-in for a story that quickly shifts gears, jumps ahead in time, and redefines our understanding of the fiction.

I’m not sure there’s a better geek for this assignment than Smith, who spent an entire scene in one of his early movies considering the gruesome carnal reality of Superman and Lois Lane trying to have a baby. He’s good at spotting and digging into unseen angles, he’s got subversive sensibilities, and — equally important for Revelation — he’s not a dipshit gatekeeper about any of it. For any youthful missteps, Smith’s brand of geekdom has always tilted toward being all-inclusive.

So it is now. This new vision in Masters of the Universe is certainly about He-Man, but it’s not his (or his puny alter ego Prince Adam’s) story — though the inevitable “I have the power!” transformation sequence is all a fan could hope for and more. But Revelation creates space for the wider cast of Eternia’s heroes and villains to shine. With magic fading out of the world and its champion rendered a distant memory, an unlikely alliance forms to save all of creation.


I’m not sure there’s a better geek for this assignment than Kevin Smith.

Smith isn’t exactly subtle with his themes or subtext. The beginning of the end for Eternia is a direct result of the age-old struggle between He-Man (Chris Wood) and his arch-nemesis Skeletor (Mark Hamill). Now, the only hope is a crew that’s led by two powerful women (and former foes): He-Man comrade Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Skeletor lieutenant Evil-Lyn (Lena Headey).

Revelation rightly recognizes that, silliness aside, there’s a deep bench of compelling personalities in the He-Man-verse that are worth exploring. Orko (Griffin Newman) and Cringer (Stephen Root) are allowed to own some of the most powerful emotional beats in these first five episodes. Teela is finally given an opportunity to grapple with the fact that her old friend Prince Adam was also He-Man — a secret she never knew before.

In other words, there’s emotional texture here that hasn’t ever really been a feature of He-Man stories before. Smith built in twists and turns that make you feel for these characters, and those emotional beats are only elevated further by the sensational voice cast. I’m still stunned by Cringer’s “I had no idea he had such depth!” monologue in the second episode.

But also, this is still a He-Man show. Revelation picks up where the cartoon left off (for the most part), and its first episode in particular feels like it could’ve been produced in 1985. The chunky, imperfect animation is perfectly complemented by a soaring symphonic score from Bear McCreary. The art itself has been updated with more detail and cleaner lines, but an overall lo-fi feel implicitly evokes the source material again and again.

Longtime fans will certainly thrill over the deep cut nods peppered through Revelation. Seeing characters like Scare Glow (Tony Todd) and Tri-Klops (Henry Rollins) pop up is exciting, but the real thrill comes from learning what time has (or hasn’t) done to them. The same can be said of the setting. Most people of a certain age can immediately summon up a mental picture of Castle Grayskull, but Revelation gives us a chance to learn the iconic structure’s deeper truths.

Not that you need to be a fan to appreciate what Smith has done here. The main touchstone for me, a mid-40s Gen Xer, is the toys. I remember the show fondly, but my clearest memories are of playing with plastic wonders like Battle Armor He-Man and the Snake Mountain playset.

The next generation of Eternia's saviors?

The next generation of Eternia’s saviors?
Credit: courtesy of netflix

I followed everything in Revelation. There were references I spotted and surely tons of others that I missed, but it’s the story that kept me on the edge of my seat. Smith gives viewers all the information they need to form connections and understand relationships. The wink-y moments are obvious, but in a way that’s likely to inspire a dive down the wiki rabbit hole, rather than confusion.

Then there’s the silliness. From Tri-Klops’ transformation into the pope of a ridiculous technocult to epic one-liners like — in reference to the character Mer-Man (Kevin Conroy) — “There’s something fishy about that guy,” Revelation intentionally hams it up at every opportunity, and consciously so. When Teela says that He-Man has “the sense of humor of a teenager who didn’t get out much,” we laugh because oh how correct she is.

The only real complaint I have is the release strategy of breaking this 10-episode arc up into two content drops. That’s a Netflix problem more than it is a creative problem, but it’s a real bummer to know that the wait here has more to do with business considerations than it does creative constraints. The full story will be told in due time, but Revelation ends up feeling like half a story in the end — because that’s exactly what it is.

I don’t blame Smith for that. Really, he deserves our thanks. He-Man is a tough proposition for a modern-day update. Even just looking at the gender politics then vs. now, this is one series that could’ve easily been shoved aside and left to gather dust forever. But Smith, himself a product of the ’80s culture that the He-Man cartoon helped to define, saw something special here. Revelation shines a light on that specialness.

Everything from He-Man’s past existed for one purpose: To sell toys. The cartoon, the comics, all of it was created because Mattel developed this toy line as a response to the success of Star Wars action figures. The original cartoons, then, were toy ads.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation has a sales pitch as well. It’s nostalgia first and foremost, but it’s also far more than that. Smith’s take is peddling the idea that even the childhood things we remember most fondly can live on in new and updated forms. They can change as the world changes. Just as it is in Eternia: The magic may be fading, but fresh faces and new ideas are always waiting in the wings to save it.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation comes to Netflix on July 23.

Food delivery firm Zomato surges 65% in key India debut

Shares in Zomato, a Gurgaon-based food delivery company and first of India’s consumer tech startups to go public, closed up 64.7% in its debut day of trading in Mumbai, delivering a key insight into the appetite investors have for the world’s second largest internet market’s burgeoning startup ecosystem.

Zomato’s shares traded all day above the issue price of 76 Indian rupees ($1) and surged as high as 138.9 Indian rupees ($1.87). The 12-year-old firm ended day one of trading on BSE in Mumbai at 125.2 Indian rupees ($1.68), securing a market cap of $13.2 billion, up from about $5 billion valuation it had attained in private markets during the startup’s fundraise earlier this year.

The startup’s $1.3 billion initial public offering was 40 times subscribed last week.

Friday’s milestone of Zomato has equally been significant for the rest of the industry as startup founders and investors closely watched the firm’s stock performance. India’s Twitter timeline on Friday was flooded with celebratory messages from industry colleagues.

Ashish Dave, India head of Mirae Asset, a backer of Zomato, said the listing and performance of Zomato today have delivered the missing piece of liquidity in Indian startup ecosystem.

“This validates that we can generate large IPOs, which then makes our startups more attractive for global LPs. It also gives Indian investors a chance to participate in the India tech journey rather than from watching it from sidelines,” he told TechCrunch, adding that retail investors of this generation will finally find a way to get in on the action with the brands they recognize and have grown up with.

Really 😭 reading this… what a day for the ecosystem. Thank you @deepigoyal and @zomato fuelling all our dreams🙏

“But I hope that the fact that we are here, inspires millions of Indians to dream bigger than we ever have” 🇮🇳https://t.co/sM1Z2Q1sES

— Lizzie Chapman (@ChapmanLizzie) July 23, 2021

What a debut & pop by #Zomato🥳🥳🥳 Super exciting day for India Internet paving the path for many more Startups… Heartiest congratulations to team @zomato @deepigoyal@pradyotghate @akshant_g

— Upasana Taku (@UpasanaTaku) July 23, 2021

@zomato IPO is just a sneak peak into the India’s tech renaissance.

Our country will be the talent, tech and transformation capital of the world.

For many, it’s BAU. For they know, this is just the advent of the beginnings.

Here’s to an exciting decade! Back to work now 🙂

— Tejeshwi Sharma 🇮🇳 (@tejeshwi_sharma) July 23, 2021

Today marks the day 1 of the Indian digital ecosystem. Thanks for showing the way @zomato @deepigoyal 🙏🏼

— Aloke Bajpai (@alokebajpai) July 23, 2021

butterfly effect moment today for India Tech sector.@zomato ipo is the match that lights the fire; and the effects will persist for a decade or two.

what a time to be here in this market, in tech industry, and this peer group of makers.

— miten sampat (@miten) July 23, 2021

Home run for @zomato IPO and a fantastic moment for the Indian startup ecosystem. Congratulations to the founders, investors, and the team!
Hope to see many more such celebrations as more startups reach the IPO pitstop before taking off on more daring rides.

— Navin Madhavan (@madnavin) July 23, 2021

Series A, B, C…Z is all great.

But seeing your brand on the stock market ticker, must be the most incredible feeling.

congrats @deepigoyal @zomato

— Bala Sarda (@balasarda) July 23, 2021

What a moment for everyone. Thank you Zomato 🙌https://t.co/Ik6WXO3zLc

— pj (@BeingPractical) July 23, 2021

Zomato chief executive Deepinder Goyal was quick to reciprocate. In a blog post, Goyal wrote, “today is a big day for us. A new Day Zero. But we couldn’t have gotten here without the incredible efforts of India’s entire internet ecosystem. Jio’s prolific growth has set all of us up for unprecedented scale. Flipkart, Amazon, Ola, Uber, Paytm – have also over the years, collectively laid the railroads that are enabling companies like ours to build the India of the future.”

“They say it takes a village to raise a child, and we are no exception. Hundreds of people have selflessly played a part in making Zomato what it is today.”

Indian tech startups have raised a record amount of capital this year as some high-profile investors have doubled down in the South Asian market. Swiggy, Zomato’s chief rival in India, said earlier this week it had raised $1.25 billion from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 and Prosus among others at a valuation of $5.5 billion.

A handful of other firms are also preparing to publicly list within a few months. Financial services startups Paytm and MobiKwik filed for their initial public offerings earlier this month. Online insurance aggregator Policybazaar is expected to file its paperwork within a few weeks.

“I don’t know whether we will succeed or fail – we will surely, like always, give it our best. But I hope that the fact that we are here, inspires millions of Indians to dream bigger than we ever have, and build something way more incredible than what we can dream of,” wrote Goyal.

How to report abusive comments on Instagram

See an abusive comment? Report it.

No one should be made to feel unsafe, harassed, targeted, abused, or harmed online or off. When it’s happening on social media apps, it’s up to the platform itself to effectively tackle this.

But are they really getting there fast enough?

Like most social platforms, hate speech and abusive comments plague some Instagram users — we saw this en masse when England footballers experienced a wave of racist abuse in the comments of their existing posts following the UEFA Euro 2020 final.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, claims “we don’t allow hate speech” and “we do not tolerate” bullying and harassment on its platforms, but if you’ve nonetheless been the recipient of abuse on these very apps, these might seem like hollow words.

In February 2021, Instagram gave an update on what it’s been doing to tackle hate speech and abuse on the platform. Between January and March 2021, the company says it removed 6.3 million pieces of hate speech content, 93 percent of which Instagram identified before it was reported. Within the app, Instagram says it removes “photos or videos of hate speech or symbols,” “posts with captions that encourage violence or attack anyone based on who they are,” and “specific threats of physical harm, theft or vandalism.”

But sadly, people find ways around these rules. If you see a comment or post on Instagram that’s abusive, bullying, hate speech, misinformation, or appears to be inciting violence or physical harm, you can report it. Whether or not Instagram does anything with your report, or as happened to one of Mashable’s reporters who reported racist comments on Instagram, simply suggests that the comments “didn’t go against their community guidelines,” well, that’s another problem.

For the record, Facebook defines hate speech as “a direct attack against people — rather than concepts or institutions— on the basis of what we call protected characteristics: race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity and serious disease.” Attacks, the platform says, include “violent or dehumanising speech, harmful stereotypes, statements of inferiority, expressions of contempt, disgust or dismissal, cursing and calls for exclusion or segregation. We also prohibit the use of harmful stereotypes, which we define as dehumanising comparisons that have historically been used to attack, intimidate, or exclude specific groups, and that are often linked with offline violence.”

So, want to report hate speech in the comments of someone you follow? Can you see someone being harassed in the comments below one of their posts? Report it, whether it’s happening to you, someone you know, or someone you don’t know. See something, say something.

And Instagram, keep working on it.

How to report a comment

1. Swipe left over the comment in question if you’re using an iPhone. Android users, simply tap the comment. You can lift your finger if you’ve swiped, as the icons that appear won’t vanish.

Slide left on comments you want to report, then hit the ❗️

Slide left on comments you want to report, then hit the ❗️
Credit: instagram / mashable crop

2. Tap the exclamation mark❗️ icon.

3. Tap “Report This Comment” on iPhone or “Report this comment” on Android.

4. Select why you’re reporting the comment — depending on which reason you pick, the report may be sent immediately, or you might be asked extra questions about the comment.

Choose your reason for reporting.

Choose your reason for reporting.
Credit: screenshot: instagram

Then submit your report.

Then submit your report.
Credit: screenshot: instagram

While we’re focusing on reporting abuse and hate speech here, you can report comments and posts on Instagram for many reasons, from bullying and harassment to false information, selling illegal stuff to intellectual property and copyright violation.

All reports are anonymous, the company says, except if you’re reporting an intellectual property infringement. Either way, Instagram says the account won’t be able to see who has reported them.

How to delete comments (on your posts only)

If the comment is on one of your posts, you can both report and delete it. Use the process above to report first (so it doesn’t just disappear without being flagged), and then here’s how to get rid of it:

  1. Open up the comments under a post by hitting “View all comments.”

  2. Swipe left over the comment on iPhone, tap it on Android.

  3. Hit the bin/trash icon.

If you have multiple comments to delete at once (we’re sorry you’re dealing with this), Instagram launched a feature in May 2020 to bulk delete or block, not to bulk report though.

If the comments are on your own posts, you can bulk delete — not bulk report, though.

If the comments are on your own posts, you can bulk delete — not bulk report, though.
Credit: instagram

Here’s how to bulk manage comments:

  1. Open up the comments by hitting “View all comments.”

  2. Hit the three dots in the top right corner and select “Manage comments.”

  3. Select the comments by tapping the circles next to each.

  4. Choose “Delete,” “Restrict,” or “Block,” depending on what you want to do.

Now, Instagram, let’s see you up that removal process.

Kitchenful combines meal planning with a grocery concierge service

Meet Kitchenful, a new German startup backed by Y Combinator that wants to make it easier to cook at home by taking care of menu ideas and grocery shopping. The service is currently available in early access in Germany with a focus on Berlin and Munich.

When you sign up to Kitchenful, you first have to set your preferences and goals. You can choose vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free and gluten-free options, but you can also focus on slow carbs recipes, a diet focused on healthy fats, etc.

After that, you get a meal plan for the coming week. You can review and customize each meal. For instance, if you plan to have guests, you can add a couple of persons to your Tuesday dinner. You can also remove vegetables if you usually buy your vegetables at a farmers market.

Once you’re ready to order, a virtual grocery basket is automatically generated for the user. You can review, add something that isn’t on the list, such as household items, and confirm.

Kitchenful then transfers your list of items to a major supermarket near you. The startup doesn’t fulfill orders directly — they rely on partners for that part of the process. That’s why Kitchenful describes itself as a grocery concierge service.

“Our main revenue stream is a concierge fee which we collect directly from our users for creating personalized weekly menus, handling the basket creation process, providing personalized cooking instructions for the recipes as well as leftover ideas. Additionally, we receive a commission from our supermarket partners per generated order,” Kitchenful co-founder and CEO Christian Schiller told me.

This isn’t Schiller’s first experience in food delivery. He previously spent four years as Vice President of Product at HelloFresh, a popular meal-kit company.

Kitchenful is just getting started. It has raised $1 million from Y Combinator, N26 co-founder and CEO Valentin Stalf, Souq co-founder Samih Toukan, HighSnobiety’s David Fischer, DurstExpress MD Maik Ludewig, and Mendeley co-founder Victor Henning.

The company has already established partnerships with REWE in Germany, Walmart and Kroger in the U.S. By partnering with supermarkets, Kitchenful can offer a great variety of products at supermarket prices.

It’s a different take on meal kits with a different approach to logistics, so it’s going to be interesting to see if Kitchenful becomes a popular alternative to both grocery delivery and meal-kit services.

Guy sends AirTag to Tim Cook, gets it back with a letter

Can travel.

What would happen if you sent a couple of AirTags halfway around the world? Would they continue sending you their location, how well, and for how long?

YouTuber MegaLag (via 9to5Mac) set out to do just that in June, when he sent three AirTags away from Germany: One to the German embassy in North Korea, one to Elon Musk at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, and one to Tim Cook at Apple Park in San Francisco, California.

What he got out of it was quite an interesting story, documented in two videos (below). The AirTag sent to North Korea never reached its destination, and the one sent to Musk just sort of sat there at SpaceX until it was trashed. But the one sent to Apple was returned to him MegaLag with a letter from one of Tim Cook’s assistant.

“Thank you for sharing about your project for Apple AirTags. We’re delighted to hear about creative uses for the AirTags and how they can improve our customers’ lives. As you can imagine, Mr. Cook receives hundreds of letters each month from customers like yourself. Unfortunately, he is unable to respond to every request. But we hope you continue to enjoy your AirTag as it returns from its unique journey across the world,” the letter said.

While the letter from Apple is cool, this is one of those cases where the journey is really more interesting than the destination. For example, at one point, the AirTag sent to Cook was identified in Nevada, apparently after having connected to someone’s iPhone on a plane.

Generally, Apple’s Find My app did a decent job of locating the AirTags as they traveled across the globe (definitely better than the shipping companies actually shipping the parcels). Which is somehow both comforting and scary at the same time.

Your Money Should Work for You – Not Against You

Your Money Should Work for You –Not Against You

“We must develop an absolute priority of humans ahead of profit — any humans ahead of any profit. Then we will survive.” Frank Herbert

Is your money doing its best for you?

We expect our money to be loyal, especially when we send it to work for us. After all, it is ours, and it has no wishes of its own, so it must be the ultimate worker. Unfortunately, money has no understanding of its own, either. If we put it in the wrong hands, it can do worse than not working for us. It can do worse even than vanishing. It can work against us. 

Actually, it can shatter our world, our society, our family and our belief in ourselves. It can be really mean.

But we won’t put our money in such bad hands, right? We are not that dumb. 

Not deliberately, anyway.

It is not easy to ensure that the money we spend, the money we invest, the money other people invest for us (in our pension funds, for instance) really goes to trustworthy hands. Regrettably, we often pay profitable companies that actually saw the branch we are sitting on.

So we better check it out. We better do it now, before we find ourselves fallen on the ground, slightly richer maybe, but mortally wounded.

Over time I learned, as a social activist whose family lives on investments’ profits for quite a few years now, to spot whether the hands reaching for our money are good ones or bad ones. I’m not a professional investment counselor, however. My financial writing is based only on my personal research and experience.

Here are several simple ways I found, to know whether we give our money, and the power that comes with it, to a friend or to a foe.

Corporate Irresponsibility

If we want our money to help both us and others, we better ensure that we give our money to companies that are beneficial – to their workers, to their suppliers, to their clients, and to the communities around them.

Lamentably, we can’t take it for granted.

Corporations’ excessive attempt to make a fast profit can be terribly harmful. When a suicidal pilot crashed a Lufthansa plane and a hundred and fifty people were killed, for instance, it turned out that many flight companies “saved” money and didn’t check if their pilots have mental health issues or addictions. It also turned out that airlines reduced pilots’ salaries over the last decades to sums (such as 20,000$ a year) that force them to fly tens of hours a week and be constantly drowsy. In the name of profit, many corporations are willing to jeopardize their workers, their clients, and other people around.

Moreover, some of the richest companies in the world exploit their workers wickedly. (Amazon, for example, owned by Bezos who is one of the worlds’ wealthiest men, exploits its workers regularly, including stealing from low-paid delivery workers the tips people gave them. I suppose Bezos lives his life feeling insanely deprived if he leads his company in such a gluttonous way.)

The Social Prices

Corporate irresponsibility destroys not only the people involved, but the entire society, and sometimes the entire world. 

Some of the mightiest companies have, so it seems, a consistent policy of being evil. Some examples are Nestle, which started with killing millions of babies and goes on damaging; Monsanto, which crushes both numerous farmers and bees worldwide; and McDonald’s, which has a significant part in climate change, among other things. 

But even corporations that aren’t run by classic unwavering villains tend not to resist the temptation of making money by trampling over our self-image, showing us fake news, and drive us to take devastating actions.

Do these profit-driven corporations make rewarding investments? For the short run they may, but for the long run, unsurprisingly, irresponsibility is not gainful. Lower paid workers, for example, stay less time, know less, and care less. They don’t improve the company, and they don’t serve the clients well.

Consequently, corporations dismissive of their workers and clients become unprofitable over time. As Henry Ford said,

“The two most important things in any company do not appear in its balance sheet: its reputation and its people.”

A company that seeks nothing but fast revenues is not only bad company (both literally and figuratively). It is also a bad investment.

So we better put our money on the beneficial Socially Responsible Companies, which are also more profitable.

Environmental Irresponsibility

In the long run, investing in sustainable companies can actually be a matter of life and death. Environmentally irresponsible corporations can, as a matter of fact, be deadly. Over the last years, for instance, the average lifespan in America has declined for the first time in decades. Some of the reasons for premature mortality are polluted and carcinogenic food, air and water. If we want our loved ones to have long lives, we should support environmental firms.

Our economy, too, already suffers massively due to climate change and the ruin of nature. The consequences, including the increase of extreme weather events, natural disasters, and plagues, have already cost our economies much more money than we could ever imagine.

We could, for example, reduce the damage of the pandemic significantly. Yet, as Noam Chomsky points out, 

“Market signals were clear: There’s no profit in preventing a future catastrophe.” 

Our ecological stupidity, then, turns out to be unpredictably expensive.

And it’s only the beginning.

So we better not support, as consumers and as investors, unsustainable corporations. 

Indeed, fossil fuels companies still often make much money. Investors can increase the world’s pollution and climate warming by buying their shares. That’s what JPMorgan Chase does, for example. US’ largest bank, which got federal help, invests in oil. The bank makes these investments though it knows that they are “not always consistent” with the hope for “the survival of humanity,” to borrow the phrase of a leaked memo of theirs.

As Proverbs already described such moneymen,

 “So are the ways of everyone who is greedy of gain, which takes away the life of its owners.”

Firms like this bank deliver money to destructive companies, that are essentially mercenary, who kill us all slowly but surely. So maybe we better not pay them to do that. 

Instead, we can listen to the young generations, who speak for our future, and invest in companies that strengthen our world rather than in ones that undermine it.

In the long run, buying shares of environmental companies is not only the moral thing to do. It can also be the more profitable course of action.

Buying index funds of sustainable companies, then, is a win-win situation, as every good deal is.

The Power to Destruct

Another consideration we better take into account is the vast influence corporations often have. Therefore, we better not give more power to the huge companies, which are too mighty anyway. 

The giants tend to use their power to push law-makers into constituting laws that enrich them on our account. The food conglomerates that push the US into subsidizing enormous amounts of corn, for instance, cause much of the food around the globe to be sickeningly unhealthy. For another example, Pharma and Health Insurance companies use their power to raise the prices of healthcarer in the US so much that many people can’t afford medical treatment. In a pandemic, when many people are not treated, it spreads the plague excessively and damages everyone else as well.

Yet, no one requires the giants to pay for the mass losses they cause. When the cocaine-addicted leaders of the financial system crushed the global economy, for example, the kept their jobs and crime profits. They are not only too powerful, but they are also perceived as the people who know what they are doing. They are misguidedly treated as sages, as role models, and as leaders (as previous elections show). 

In reality, however, their conduct threatens democracy. As the economist Thomas Piketty warns us,

“We want capitalism and market forces to be the slave of democracy rather than the opposite.

Therefore, we better use our money to restrain the corporations’ unlimited power. A mission our governments fail to carry out, mostly because it is often against our public servants’ personal interests.

We better use our money to empower the giants’ competition – the small and medium companies. The ones that benefit society instead of exploiting it:

We should use our power to help David beat Goliath, because meanwhile, Goliath beats us. 

Working Together

No man is an island. We, as investors and as customers, have to remember that we are not only making a deal with a company. We are also part of the society the company operates in. So when a corporation is destructive to the environment or the society, we are damaged, too.

As investors, we have to make it clear to companies that we condemn their exploitation, even if it’s done allegedly on our behalf.

Therefore, though we generally want our investments in the stock market to be as wide as possible, we have to avoid corporations that ruin our world, and focus on companies that contribute to it, like small and medium, sustainable and socially responsible companies. 

We better make good money, for the financial benefit of ourselves, for the benefit of our society, and for the benefit of our world.

Making one good decision at a time.

One good investment at a time.

Starting now.

The post Your Money Should Work for You – Not Against You appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

GM is bringing its upgraded hands-free Super Cruise driving system to six vehicles in 2022

GM is rolling out three major upgrades including automatic lanes changes and towing support to its hands-free driver assistance system Super Cruise and making it available in six vehicles, including the 2022 all-new GMC Hummer EV pickup truck.

While GM has steadily improved Super Cruise since its introduction in 2017, for years it has been limited to its luxury Cadillac brand. The improvements and additional vehicles mark the automaker’s willingness — and perhaps readiness — to sell owners of its Chevrolet- and GMC-branded pickup trucks on the technology.

When GM launched Super Cruise, it was only available in one Cadillac model — the full-size CT6 sedan — and restricted to divided highways. That began to change in 2019 when GM announced plans to expand where Super Cruise would be available. Now the system can be activated on more than 200,000 miles of roads in the United States.

And GM is planning to expand even further. By 2023, GM aims to bring Super Cruise to 22 vehicles, including the upcoming EVs Cadillac Lyriq and GMC Hummer SUV.

The company said Friday it is adding automatic lane changes that function without a driver prompt to Super Cruise. This feature in the enhanced Super Cruise will be available in the 2022 Cadillac Escalade, Cadillac CT4, Cadillac CT5, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Hummer EV Pickup and GMC Sierra. GM has also developed and will launch a new feature that will allow drivers to engage the hands-free assistance system while trailering their boat or camper. This trailering feature will be available only in 2022 model year vehicles that have towing capability. Finally, GM has upgraded its in-car navigation to show drivers the highways where Super Cruise can be used.

Super Cruise uses a combination of lidar map data, high-precision GPS, cameras and radar sensors, as well as a driver attention system, which monitors the person behind the wheel to ensure they’re paying attention. Unlike Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, users of Super Cruise do not need to have their hands on the wheel. However, their eyes must remain directed straight ahead.

The automatic lane change feature in Super Cruise will still require the driver to keep their eyes on the road. When the system is engaged, the driver no longer needs to engage the turn signal to indicate a desire to change lanes. Instead, the system, if engaged, will make the lane change on its own after alerting the driver. The system will move the vehicle to other lane to pass a slower vehicle.

The driver-prompted automatic lane change will be the default when the vehicle is towing a boat, camper or trailer.

All of these upgrades are possible thanks to GM’s newish digital vehicle platform called VIP, or vehicle intelligent platform, which provides more electrical bandwidth and data processing power, enabled engineers to add to Super Cruise’s capabilities. Vehicles equipped with this VIP electrical architecture can add features Super Cruise via over-the-air software updates. That means certain 2021 models, specifically the Cadillac Escalade, will get these new upgrades.

There are a couple of vehicles, namely the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV, that have a different version of Super Cruise because it is not equipped the VIP. As a result, the Bolt EUV won’t get these upgrades.

Looking to access more content? Snap up this impressive deal on Surfshark.

Save 81% on Surfshark.

SAVE 81%: A two-year subscription to Surfshark is on sale for £1.83 per month as of July 23, saving you 81% on list price.


VPNs are seriously useful tools that protect your privacy and data when you’re online. This is important, but there’s another reason that these services are so popular.

A lot of subscribers use VPNs to bypass content restrictions to watch more content from around the world. By hiding your real IP address and connecting you to a server in another location, VPNs can trick leading streaming sites into providing access to extra libraries of content.

Surfshark is one of the best VPNs for streaming, and can reliably unblock Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer. It’s not the most advanced VPN out there, but it still offers plenty of useful features, decent speeds, and unlimited device connections.

A two-year subscription to Surfshark is on sale for £1.83 per month as of July 23, saving you 81% on list price. This discounted plan comes with a generous 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can test it out without totally committing with your cash.

Watch more content from around the world with Surfshark.


Save 81% on Surfshark

Credit: Surfshark

Explore related content:

News websites accidentally host hardcore porn, thanks to old Vidme links

The internet is generally a sordid latrine of unsolicited penis and debauchery, but it has outdone itself yet again.

On Thursday, several respectable websites discovered that some videos embedded in old articles had turned against them, displaying hardcore pornography where innocuous clips once stood. Affected publications included The Washington Post, New York Magazine, and yes, Mashable too.

First spotted by Twitter user @dox_gay and reported by Motherboard, the R-rated mishap originated with defunct video hosting website Vidme. Launched in 2014, Vidme marketed itself as a cross between YouTube and Reddit, but it failed to take off to a competitive scale. The website was eventually shuttered in 2017 and subsequently acquired by Giphy, where it faded into a ghost of the internet past.

Yet this week the spectre of Vidme returned to haunt us, and just like in a horror movie, it came back wrong. It seems as though Vidme’s domain lapsed since we heard from it last, and it was scooped up by pornography website 5 Star HD Porn. However it happened, the fact is that any embedded Vidme clips now redirect to 5 Star HD Porn which, as the name suggests, offers up porn — presumably of the five-star, high definition variety.

All articles that use Vidme embeds are now punctuated with graphic images of naked people getting it on, which is a rather unexpected sight in old articles about London pigeons, for example. A whole slew of publications were impacted, with everyone from Huffpost to Uproxx to The Verge temporarily hosting hardcore porn.

Fortunately many affected websites have been quick to clean up and delete the clips, though 5 Star HD Porn is still happily humping away on others. It may take some time to weed out all the years-old Vidme embeds, especially considering how much websites’ back-ends can change in four years.

It’s a good thing so many of us are still working from home amidst the pandemic. With all this surprise porn popping up, it’d be easy for anyone who glimpses our screens to get the wrong idea.

With Full Self-Driving available on demand, be wary of any and all Teslas

In the past week, Tesla’s Full Self-Driving beta program went from about 2,000 select drivers testing it to almost any Tesla owner in the U.S. willing to cough up at least $200.

U.S. drivers make up at least half of the more than 1.4 million Teslas worldwide, so there’s a lot more opportunity to encounter someone with the hands-free, not-quite-autonomous driving mode engaged. Other drivers likely won’t know when a nearby Tesla has FSD is turned on, but if they see one struggling on busy city roads, that might give fellow motorists and pedestrians a clue.

The electric car company released last week a monthly $199 subscription option for open access to the feature that auto-steers, -accelerates, and -brakes, all while the driver looks at the road ahead, hands on lap, ready to take over. Hopefully.

During the FSD beta period, which launched in October, only a carefully selected group of early adopters had access to the feature. Now anyone who has bought a Tesla vehicle made since 2015 qualifies to use the powerful driving assistant. Hardware limitations on some early Tesla models mean they can’t upgrade to use FSD. But the majority of Teslas in the U.S. were produced and bought in the past few years, so if you see a Tesla, it’s almost certainly eligible.

Tesla has made it clear that drivers must be paying attention, but there’s no driver monitoring system or sensors to enforce proper behavior. It’s a frightening prospect. At least with Tesla’s simpler Autopilot driver assistance feature drivers have to keep hands on the wheel at all times. That’s not the case with FSD mode.

As Consumer Reports published this week, the review publication is “concerned that Tesla is still using its existing owners and their vehicles to beta-test the new features on public roads.”

It sure seems like Tesla owners are part of a precarious experiment. During a recorded drive in downtown Chicago, funky street markings and atypical lane dividers threw off the not-so-autonomous system. Other videos have flooded in this week, like one taken in San Francisco that shows the car hitting a bush and almost colliding with another car.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is well aware of Tesla’s “advanced driver assistance system” and requires anyone using FSD to stay in control at all times. The regulatory group doesn’t consider FSD (or its simplified version, Autopilot) an autonomous system.

But it also doesn’t require Tesla (or other carmakers with advanced driving systems like General Motor’s Super Cruise) to mark or indicate that the mode is on. When a Waymo or Cruise autonomous vehicle turns the corner, it’s clearly marked that it’s a self-driving vehicle. With Tesla, not so much. That could be a Model Y with FSD engaged, or not.

Until the NHTSA forces Tesla to make clear that FSD mode is turned on, assume any Tesla could be driving under robot control.

How to create a Group Session on Spotify

Friends enjoying their group session on Spotify!

If you want to listen to a new album or podcast with all your long-distance besties, and you don’t want to just hold your phone up to your speakers, try creating a Group Session on Spotify.

Last year Spotify unveiled Group Sessions for Spotify Premium users. Group Sessions allow Premium users to listen to music or podcasts simultaneously with up to five friends who also have premium accounts, no matter where they are in the world. All users in a group session can pause, play, skip, and queue music.

Follow the steps below to listen to music at the exact same time as your friends.

How to create a group session on Spotify:

1. Open Spotify

2. Play a song

3. Tap the icon in the bottom left hand corner

Tap the icon in the bottom left hand corner.

Tap the icon in the bottom left hand corner.
Credit: screenshot / Spotify

4. Scroll down and select “Start Session”

Tap "Start Session" to create your group listening session.

Tap “Start Session” to create your group listening session.
Credit: screenshot / Spotify

5. Have friends scan the Spotify code or invite them via text message

The Spotify QR code is found in a brown rectangle at the bottom of the session and scanning it will add a user to the session. The other way to add friends to the session is to tap “Invite friends” to share the URL to the group session over text message. You won’t get a notification when someone joins your group session, but you can see if anyone is in your group session at anytime by tapping the computer and speaker icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen.

Select "Invite friends" to message your friends the link to the group session or have friends scan the QR code to join.

Select “Invite friends” to message your friends the link to the group session or have friends scan the QR code to join.
Credit: Screenshot: Spotify

6. To end a group session tap the icon in the bottom left hand corner again scroll down and select “End session.”

Tap "End session" to end the group session.

Tap “End session” to end the group session.
Credit: screenshot / spotify

Try out other fun Spotify features!

Jack Dorsey says bitcoin will be a big part of Twitter’s future

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey confirmed to investors that bitcoin will be a “big part” of the company’s future, as he sees opportunities to integrate the cryptocurrency into existing Twitter products and services, including commerce, subscriptions and other new additions like the Twitter Tip Jar and Super Follows.

Dorsey has been a staunch bitcoin advocate for years, but how it would be put into action on Twitter’s platform had not yet been spelled out in detail. However, Dorsey has often publicly touted the cryptocurrency, saying it reminds him of the “early days of the internet” and that there wasn’t “anything more important” in his lifetime for him to work on.

More recently, Dorsey launched a $23.6 million bitcoin fund with Jay Z and announced plans to lead his other company Square into the decentralized financial services market by way of bitcoin. Square also this year acquired a majority stake in Jay-Z’s TIDAL music service with an eye toward how blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies could change the music business.

Today, Dorsey also dubbed bitcoin one of three key trends for Twitter’s future, along with AI and decentralization — the latter which Twitter is pursuing through its “Bluesky” initiative.

He touted bitcoin to investors on Twitter’s second quarter earnings call, saying it could help the company move faster in terms of its product expansions, while explaining that it was the “best candidate” to become the “native currency” of the internet. (Incidentally, Square’s $50 million in bitcoin purchased in 2020 was worth $253 million by February 2021, and it purchased $170 million more earlier this year.)

Oh man, Jack Dorsey says he thinks Bitcoin is key to Twitter’s future. Says it will “ensure people and companies can freely trade goods and services anywhere on the planet”

— Alex Weprin (@alexweprin) July 22, 2021

“If the internet has a native currency, a global currency, we are able to able to move so much faster with products such as Super Follows, Commerce, Subscriptions, Tip Jar, and we can reach every single person on the planet because of that instead of going down a market-by-market-by-market approach,” Dorsey explained. “I think this is a big part of our future. I think there is a lot of innovation above just currency to be had, especially as we think about decentralizing social media more and providing more economic incentive. So I think it’s hugely important to Twitter and to Twitter shareholders that we continue to look at the space and invest aggressively in it,” he added.

A Twitter rep confirmed this is the first time that Dorsey has spoken publicly about how Twitter could integrate bitcoin into its product lineup.

Dorsey also pointed out Twitter would not be alone in pursuing a crypto strategy, noting that Facebook was backing the digital currency Diem.

“There’s an obvious need for this, and appreciation for it. And I think that an open standard that’s native to the internet is the right way to go, which is why my focus and our focus eventually will be on bitcoin,” he noted.

Overall, Twitter delivered strong earnings in a pandemic rebound, which saw the company posting its fastest revenue growth since 2014, according to CNBC, which drove Twitter shares 9% higher in extended trading. The company pulled in Q2 revenue of $1.19 billion versus the $1.07 billion Wall Street expected, a majority ($1.05 billion) from its advertising business. It also saw earnings per share of 20 cents versus the 7 cents expected.

However, monetizable daily active users (mDAUs) — Twitter’s own invented metric meant to fluff up often flat monthly user growth — were only at 206 million, an 11% year-over-year increase, while analysts were counting on 206.2 million. The company blamed the decline on a slower news cycle and end of shelter-in-place in many U.S. communities, which may have impacted Twitter usage during the quarter.