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Showing posts from August, 2019

China To Exclude Tesla Vehicles From 10% Purchase Tax

Tesla CEO Elon Musk Photo: Bret Hartman / TED The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has said that China will exclude Tesla's electric cars from a 10% purchase tax that's normally levied on car sales in the country. The tax exemption could decrease the cost of purchasing a Tesla by up to ¥99,000 (roughly $14,000), according to a post on Tesla's official WeChat account. No reason was given for the decision to exclude Tesla's cars from the sales tax, but it happens to be at a time Tesla is expanding in China, with a new factory under construction and a recent visit by CEO Elon Musk, who debated with Alibaba CEO Jack Ma  over the risks and potential rewards of artificial intelligence. Musk has also met with some of China's senior leaders, including Vice President Wang Qishan and transportation minister, Li Xiaopeng. Tesla currently sells 16 variants of its vehicles in China, according to a document posted on the MIIT website. Al

YouTube Said To Be Paying Up To $200 Million FTC Fine

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki image: TechCrunch on Flickr According to a report from Politico , Google-owned YouTube has agreed to pay between $150 million and $200 million to settle an FTC probe over alleged violations of a children's privacy law. Politico reports the FTC voted 3-2 along party lines to give a go-ahead to the monetary settlement, sending it over to the U.S. Department of Justice as part of the review process. If this report proves true, it'll mark another significant fine imposed on a tech giant not long after Facebook agreed to pay a $5 billion fine , the largest ever imposed by the FTC, to settle allegations of privacy violations. A few days ago, YouTube quietly announced plans to launch YouTube Kids as a separate site on the web, possibly a required move as part of an FTC settlement. The new YouTube Kids site doesn't yet have a sign in option, but can still be monitored by parents, who will be able to see watch history and also flag content. On

Didi Plans Pilot Of Robo-Taxi Service In China

Didi President Jean Liu Photo by World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license Didi Chuxing, fresh off launching an independent self-driving unit , has announced plans to pilot (test) a new robo-taxi service in Shanghai, China's biggest city. Didi plans to start using self-driving vehicles to transport passengers in a Shanghai district and hopes to expand the service outside China by 2021, according to Reuters . At the World Artificial Intelligence Conference, Didi CTO Zhang Bo, who heads its recently formed self-driving unit, says Didi will allow passengers request a vehicle in Shanghai's Jiading district and choose to be picked up by an autonomous car. However, Didi's self-driving cars will have a human driver, as the case has been with nearly [if not] all currently available robo-taxi services. According to Zhang, Didi has more than 30 car models that'll be used for its pilot robo-taxi service. The vehicles will be equipped with

Apple To Supply Tools To Third-Party Repair Shops

Apple CEO Tim Cook image: Apple Apple has announced  a new repair program that'll see it provide independent/third-party repair shops with authorized parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics required to fix Apple devices. In other words, Apple, which has long discouraged fixes by third-party, independent repair shops, is now lessening its stance by committing to supply authorized repair tools and parts to such repair shops. Apple's new program to supply required tools to third-party shops is launching in the US, with plans to expand to other countries. Apple says the tools that'll be supplied to eligible third-party repair shops will be the same used by "Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs)", a term given to several thousand repair providers that have official permission and partnerships with Apple to fix its devices. “To better meet our customers’ needs, we’re making it easier for independent providers across the US to tap into t

Juul Unveils Payments System To Curb Underage Sales

Juul co-founder and CTO Adam Bowen image: Juul Juul, a $38 billion valued  e-cigarette maker that's faced several controversies surrounding its vaping products,  just announced  several new efforts to curb underage use of its products, a topic that has been a main concern and point of controversy for the San Francisco-based company. One of such new efforts is a payments system that'll require on-site ID verification before the sale of any Juul product goes through. The new payments program is dubbed "Retail Access Control Standards (RACS)", and will involve partnerships with retailers to verify both the age and the I.D. of any person that tries to purchase a Juul product. It'll work this way :  once a Juul product is scanned, the retail point-of-sale (POS) system immediately locks, until a valid, of-age [21+ in Juul's case] government-issued I.D. is electronically scanned. A purchase wouldn't proceed if a valid, of-age government-issued I.D. is

Box Records $173 Million Q2 Revenue

Box CEO Aaron Levie Photograph by Stuart Isett/Fortune Cloud storage company Box just released its  financial results for the second quarter of its fiscal year 2020, showing $172.5 million in quarterly revenue, up 16% from the same period last year. In the same quarter, Box recorded $36.3 million in losses, down slightly from $37.2 million in Q2 last year. Free cash flow for the second quarter was a negative $19 million, significantly higher than a negative $10.3 million in the same period last year. In Q2, Box grew sales deals of more than $100,000 by 36% year-over-year. “We made significant progress on our key objectives in Q2, as we continued to deliver more products to our customers that enable higher value use cases, while executing on the most compelling product roadmap in our history,” Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie said in a statement. “We drove strong add-on product attach rates of more than 80% across our six-figure deals in Q2. Customers are increasingly ad

Amazon Reportedly In Talks To Invest In Go-Jek

Go-Jek founder and CEO Nadiem Makarim Photo by World Economic Forum / Sikarin Thanachaiary via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license According to a new  report from Bloomberg, Amazon is in talks to invest in Go-Jek, an Indonesian ride-hailing giant that's already raised $3.1 billion in funding, last valued at $9.5 billion . Bloomberg reports Amazon is one of the firms that have entered negotiations with Go-Jek to join its ongoing funding round. According to Bloomberg, Amazon may make a significant investment for a slice of Go-Jek, although talks may still fall apart or have their terms changed. Go-Jek is a leading frontier in Indonesia's digital economy, which is expected to hit $100 billion by 2025, according to a Google report . It debuted as an app for hailing motorbike taxis in Jakarta (Indonesia's capital) four years ago but has since expanded into other sectors like food delivery, digital payments, on-demand jobs (for example, cleaning), and even medicine delivery. G

Peloton Files For IPO

Peloton co-founder and CEO John Foley Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch Shortly after confidentially filing for an IPO, Peloton has publicly filed for that, with an S-1 filing  unveiled less than 24 hours ago. Peloton is seeking to raise $500 million on the Nasdaq stock exchange, intending to trade under the ticker "PTON". According to its S-1 filing, New York-based Peloton recorded $915 million in revenue in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019. This is up more than 100% from $435 million in the previous year (2018), and $219 million in 2017. However, Peloton isn't profitable, with $246 million in losses in the fiscal year ended June 2019. In 2018, the company recorded [a significantly lower] $48 million in losses, compared to a much higher $163 million loss in 2017. Sales of Peloton's connected fitness products account for a bulk of its revenue. In fiscal 2019, Peloton recorded $719 million in revenue from sales of fitness products, with

Enjoy Secures $150 Million In New Funding

Enjoy co-founder and CEO Ron Johnson Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch Enjoy, a Menlo Park-based retail startup led by Apple's former VP of retail operations, Ron Johnson, has  announced  it has secured "significant investment" from LCH Partners, a subsidiary of private equity firm L Catterton. While Enjoy didn't state the amount invested, Crunchbase News reports  it's $150 million. Enjoy says the new investment brings its total funding to more than $350 million. Enjoy says it'll use the new funding to accelerate international growth. The Menlo Park, California-based startup lets customers order devices [like smartphones and speakers] and get professionals [like are available in physical stores] deliver it to them. The professionals often deliver ordered products on the same day, and help in its set-up as would be done in a physical store. Enjoy has partnered with companies like AT&T, Google, Sonos and EE [a British mobile netw

Postmates Launches Group Ordering

Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann image: Postmates Postmates, just like its competitors, DoorDash and Caviar , has launched a group ordering feature that'll let its users other together with friends from their separate devices. The advantage in group ordering lies in lower delivery fees than would have been incurred if users ordered separately. Normally, a group of Postmates users that want to order collectively would do so by purchasing through a single user, but with this new feature, there'll be no need pass one smartphone around. Postmates actually launched a somewhat group ordering feature -- dubbed Postmates Party -- earlier this year, but it involved short-term deals at select restaurants, not meals of choice with friends. Postmates Party was also targeted at large, anonymous groups, not friends who may want to split the bill in varying ways. However, Postmates Party already accounts for 15% of all Postmates orders, according to the food delivery company. Po

Grab Is Betting Big On Vietnam

Grab co-founder Hooi Ling Tan Photograph by Michael Faas/Fortune Grab is one of several startups that caught on the gig economy wave. The Singapore-based company began solely as a ride-hailing service, but has since expanded into other sectors like payments, food delivery, car rental, shuttle booking and hotel reservations. Grab made headlines last year when it acquired Uber's Southeast Asia operations , seemingly beating Uber to its own game in an entire region. The deal was somewhat a win-win, with Grab gaining additional market share in Southeast Asia and Uber on the other hand getting a (23.2% as at IPO time) stake in Grab that's worth billions. Grab hasn't slowed down since inception, having raised [an enormous] $9.1 billion in total funding according to Crunchbase data . Late last month, Grab revealed plans to invest $2 billion in Indonesia over the next five years. The investment will actually come from Softbank, a major Grab investor. Softbank will funne

Datadog Files To Go Public

image: Datadog Datadog, a New York-based cloud monitoring and analytics startup last valued at $640 million [Pitchbook data], has filed for an initial public offering (IPO). Datadog just unveiled its S-1 filing , joining the likes of WeWork , Cloudflare and SmileDirectClub , which also recently did the same. Datadog's S-1 filing shows $198 million 2018 revenues, up 96% from $101 million in 2017. For the first half of this year (ended June 30), Datadog recorded $153 million in revenue. However, Datadog is not profitable, with losses of $2.6 million and $11 million in 2017 and 2018 respectively. In the first half of this year, Datadog recorded $13.4 million in losses. Other key takes from its S-1 filing include: $52 million in cash and cash equivalents as of Q2 2019 end [June 30, 2019] $55.2 million R&D spend in 2018, up more than 100% from $25 million in 2017 $89 million sales and marketing spend in 2018, up 102% from $44 million in 2017 Roughly 8,800 customers as

Sphero Acquires LittleBits

littleBits founder Ayah Bdeir image: Brian Ferry for littleBits Sphero has announced  that it's acquiring LittleBits, a New York-based startup that makes snap-together electronics kits for kids. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Prior to this acquisition, LittleBits had raised $62 million in total funding [ Crunchbase data ]. LittleBits makes educational electronic kits [for kids] that have been sold in more than 70 countries. The New York-based startup was founded in 2011 by Ayah Bdeir, an MIT Media Lab Alum and TED Senior Fellow. Sphero on the other hand is a Colorado-based robotics startup that's backed by $120 million in funding. Sphero makes educational robots that are currently available in 40,000+ schools, clubs and institutions globally. Littlebits' addition to Sphero gives the Colorado-based startup a portfolio of more than 140 patents in robotics, electronics, Internet of Things (IoT) and software. Collectively, Sphero and little

Salesforce Records $4 Billion Fiscal Q2 Revenue

Salesforce co-CEO Keith Block Photo by World Economic Forum / Christian Clavadetscher via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license Salesforce just announced its financial results for its fiscal second quarter ended July 31, 2019, showing $4 billion in revenue, a 22% increase from the same period last year. Subscription and support sales accounted for $3.75 billion in revenue, while Professional services and "other revenues" accounted for $252 million. Salesforce shares rose 7% during after hours trading following the release of its quarterly results. Salesforce was seemingly on a spree this quarter, having made two big acquisitions: Tableau Software and ClickSoftware. In June, Salesforce reached a deal to acquire Tableau Software for $15.7 billion in stock, followed by a recent acquisition of ClickSoftware for $1.35 billion. Tableau was a publicly traded company, having been so for six years before the acquisition deal was reached. ClickSoftware on the other hand was purchased

VMware Scoops Up Carbon Black And Pivotal Software

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger Photograph by Michael Faas/Fortune Some few days ago, VMware entered into negotiations to acquire Pivotal Software for $15 per share. As at that time, discussions were still underway with no final decision yet reached. Fast-forward till today, VMware and Pivotal have reached an acquisition deal , with VMware agreeing to pay $15 per share to all Pivotal's common stockholders. The Palo Alto-based company also came with a surprise deal, having also announced an agreement to acquire Carbon Black, a Massachusetts-based cloud security company, for $26 per share [a total of $2.1 billion]. Both acquisitions are expected to close in the second half of VMware’s fiscal year 2020, which ends on the 31st of January, 2020. The acquisition value for Pivotal Software ($15/share) amounts to $2.6 billion. VMware and Pivotal have long connections to each other, with the latter (Pivotal) having been incubated under VMware and EMC. As explained in a previous articl

Bose Debuts New Bluetooth Smart Speaker

image: Bose Bose has unveiled a new product: the "Bose Portable Home Speaker", a $349 smart speaker that's Bluetooth and WiFi enabled, with support for Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant. Using voice command, buyers of Bose's new speaker will be able to access playlists, news, podcasts, weather, smart home devices, and more, as normally done on Amazon and Google's own smart speakers. The Bose Portable speaker can last for up to 12 hours on full charge, and weighs just 2.3 pounds to cater for easy movement [there's also a handle to cater for this]. Bose's new speaker is water resistant, and is built to be strong enough to withstand certain drops, knocks and hits. Charging is done through standard USB-C, or an optional charging cradle that costs $29. image: Bose On the Bose Portable Home Speaker, there are buttons located at its top to control basic functionality, including an option to cut power to the microphones [to prevent any possibilit

Splunk Acquires SignalFx For $1 Billion

Splunk Chief Technology Advocate, Andi Mann Photo by Cody Glenn/Collision via Sportsfile Splunk has announced that it's acquiring SignalFx, a San Mateo-based cloud monitoring startup, for $1.05 billion. Splunk is paying 60% of the $1.05 billion figure in cash and the remainder in stock. The acquisition is expected to close in the second half of this year. Before now, SignalFx had raised $179 million in funding, including a recent $75 million round . The San Mateo-based company was backed by blue-chip VCs like Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst, Tiger Global and Charles River Ventures. As of its recent fund-raise, SignalFx had 270 employees. SignalFx's platform enables developers to monitor cloud infrastructure, microservices, and applications in real-time. Its platform collects and analyses metrics for developers, acting as a troubleshooter that lets them find the root cause of issues in shorter times [than conventional methods]. Splunk on the other hand makes so

Knotel Raises $400 Million At A More Than $1 Billion Valuation

Knotel co-founder and CEO Amol Sarva image: Knotel Knotel, a New York-based WeWork competitor that offers custom workspaces for companies, has announced $400 million in new financing that values it at more than $1 billion. Wafra, an investment arm of the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Kuwait, led the round, with participation from Mori Trust (one of Japan's biggest real estate developers), Mercuria (a Japanese private equity firm) and Itochu (a Japanese trading conglomerate). This round included, Knotel has now raised a total of $560 million in less than 4 years of its founding. Knotel says it'll use the funding to grow its footprint in existing markets and further its [planned] expansion into the world’s 30 largest cities. In simple terms, the new financing would be put towards growing its business. Knotel currently operates office spaces at more than 200 locations globally. These office spaces total more than 4 million square feet, in cities across the US, Canada, France,

PlusAI Reportedly Raising Funding At A Unicorn Valuation

A PlusAI self-driving truck image: PlusAI According to a report from Bloomberg , PlusAI, a self-driving truck startup headquartered in Cupertino, California, and with additional R&D centers in Silicon Valley and China, is close to raising about $200 million in new funding at a valuation of more than $1 billion. Bloomberg reports PlusAI is working with advisers on the funding round. The Cupertino-based startup has already raised funding from the likes of Sequoia Capital China, Lightspeed Venture Partners and the Mayfield Fund. PlusAI is said to be seeking external investors to lead its new funding. According to Bloomberg, the Cupertino-based startup will soon debut trucks with partially automated driving features, or what's known as level 2 autonomous vehicles [there are five levels [1-5] for self-driving vehicles, where 2 refers to systems that assist with steering, acceleration, braking, lane support and some other tasks. At this level, the driver is still responsibl

WhatsApp Working To Launch Mobile Payments In Indonesia

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg Photograph by Stuart Isett/Fortune Most Powerful Women As first reported by  Reuters  [and confirmed by its parent firm Facebook], WhatsApp is in discussions with multiple Indonesian digital payment companies to offer their mobile transaction services on its app. This means Indonesia could being the second nation worldwide where WhatsApp would launch payments services, the first being India. Although WhatsApp has tested payments services in India, it still awaits regulatory approval for such services. According to Reuters, WhatsApp will simply operate as a platform that'll support payments via local digital wallets in Indonesia, unlike in India where it plans to offer direct peer-to-peer payment services. Some countries may have strict regulations regarding the creation of digital wallets by foreign companies. WhatsApp's said model of operation in Indonesia could be a workaround for such regulations in other foreign countries it may tak

Starship Raises $40 Million Series A Funding

A Starship autonomous robot image: Starship Technologies Starship Technologies, a San Francisco-based startup that makes autonomous delivery robots, has announced $40 million in Series A funding led by Morpheus Ventures, with participation from Matrix Partners, Shasta Ventures, MetaPlanet Holdings, TDK Ventures, Qu Ventures and more. This round included, Starship has now raised $85 million in total funding. San Francisco-based Starship has completed 100,000 commercial deliveries on its robots. Its robots are dispersed at several university campuses, with plans underway to expand to 100 more of such campuses in the next 24 months. Starship's robots recently got deployed at the University of Pittsburgh. Not long from now (on the 9th of September), Purdue University will be getting the robots, with more campuses following shortly. "This new investment will see Starship expand onto more campuses as we head towards a goal of offering our services to over one million s

Microsoft Poaches Ex-Siri Lead, Bill Stasior, From Apple

Microsoft President Brad Smith image: Microsoft As first reported by The Information and also confirmed by an official résumé , Microsoft has hired Bill Stasior, a [now former] long-time Apple executive who served as vice president for its Siri/AI division. Stasior began working at Microsoft this month [according to his  résumé ], serving as Corporate Vice President of Technology under the office of the CTO, entailing he'll report to Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott. Microsoft seems to have gotten a key talent with Stasior's hire. Stasior, whose tech career has spanned more than two decades, also held previous roles at Oracle, Amazon, AltaVista, AlterEgo Networks and Netcentives. At Apple, he lead the team responsible for the Siri virtual assistant, scaling it from 70 engineers to more than 1100 developers, scientists, product managers, and designers. During his stint, Siri grew from 5 languages and one platform (iPhone) to more than 30 languages and 7 platforms (iPhone,

Reddit Has Begun Tests For Live Video Streaming

Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman Photo by Cody Glenn/Web Summit via Sportsfile As confirmed by Reddit to Wired , the widely called "front page of the internet" has begun tests for live video streaming, marking a significant moment for what has been majorly a text-only platform. In its 14 year history, Reddit has grown from an initial link-sharing site to a destination for online discussion, news aggregation and web content rating. Reddit is so popular and widely used that it's the 14th most visited website globally, according to Alexa data . Allowing live streaming on its platform shows Reddit is really keen on a turnaround since co-founder Steve Huffman re-joined the company in 2015. With most major social media platforms currently supporting live streaming, it's obvious that it's somewhat necessary for a widely used platform to support live video. Reddit is known for being an internet property with boatloads of user engagement. With the additio

Root Has Reportedly Raised $350 Million At A $3.5 Billion Valuation

(From L-R) Root Insurance co-founders Dan Manges (CTO) and Alex Timm (CEO) image: Root Insurance Today is just few days short of a year after Root Insurance raised a $100 million Series D funding that valued it at $1 billion. That round was led by Tiger Global, with participation from Redpoint Ventures, Ribbit Capital, and Scale Venture Partners. Just shy of a year after, Axios reports Root has raised $350 million in funding at a $3.5 billion valuation, entailing a more than triple in valuation in a relatively short span. Root was founded in 2015, and has raised $177 million in known funding [before this reported round]. The Columbus, Ohio-based startup offers car insurance to drivers in 27 U.S. states. Root's insurance process is entirely carried out on the smartphone. Leveraging smartphone tech and data science, Root measures driving behavior alongside some other factors to gauge insurance policies for drivers. In simple terms, Root is auto insurance doused with a bi

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