Apple Watch fire face was made with actual fire

With the Apple Watch Series 4, Apple introduced a new, larger display. It now has rounded edges and thinner bezels. And the company took advantage of that display to introduce new fire, water, liquid metal and vapor faces. Apple didn’t use CGI to create those faces — they shot those faces in a studio.

Many companies would have rendered those effects on a computer given the size of the display. But those are actual videos shot with a camera.

Cool Hunting shared a video of the actual process, and it’s insane:

As you can see, Apple used a flamethrower against a transparent surface, exploded a balloon at the top of a basin of water, made a color powder explosion in a cylinder and rotated a small puddle of metallic liquid.

It says a lot about Apple’s design culture — they don’t take shortcuts and they have a lot of money.

Here’s the introduction video for the new Apple Watch:

Under Armour cuts 400 more jobs in turnaround push

Under Armour cuts 400 more jobs in turnaround pushInitial signs from channel checks and online sales are that Nike is also set to get a boost from a controversial ad campaign, launched earlier this month, featuring former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. "The restructuring at Under Armour will certainly help them improve the bottom line," said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. In February, Under Armour said it expects "at least $75 million in savings annually beginning in 2019 and beyond" from restructuring plans in 2017 and 2018.


GE power CEO reveals problem with new turbine model, shares drop

GE power CEO reveals problem with new turbine model, shares dropThe company has discovered an "oxidation issue" that affects the lifespan of blades in its HA-Class turbines, a major product for GE's power division, GE Power Chief Executive Russell Stokes said in a letter posted on LinkedIn. "Obviously, this was a frustrating development, for us, as well as for our customers," Stokes said in the blog, first posted on Wednesday, adding that the company had implemented a fix that had the turbines working within targeted parameters. J.P. Morgan analyst Stephen Tusa said in a research note on Thursday that the problem appeared to have resulted in a broken turbine blade at a power plant in Texas owned by Exelon , based on discussions with GE and Exelon.


WalkMe raises $40M at a $1B+ valuation for its on-screen guidance technology

Designing for digital interfaces has come a long way since the first days of the web, but there remains a place for tech that can help navigate us through what are sometimes still bloated or complicated services (notwithstanding those that are deliberately so). Today, one of the more successful startups working in this area has raised a sizeable round that speaks to the opportunity.

WalkMe — the Israel-based provider of tools that companies and organizations plug into their own apps to help guide people in using them more efficiently — has closed $40 million in funding in a Series F round led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation also from previous investor Mangrove.

WalkMe is not disclosing its valuation, but a source very close to the company confirmed to me that it is now over $1 billion as business continues to “grow rapidly.” WalkMe now has 2,000 customers globally, which includes more than 30 percent of the Fortune 500, including Delta, HP (CEO and co-founder Dan Adika is an alum), T-Mobile and Microsoft (no Clippy jokes, please).

The money — which brings the total raised to $207.5 million — will be used to expand its business further into local markets and also continue to build out its platform, which today includes elements of machine learning and big data analytics along with technologies to read, understand, and guide through user interfaces — a tech stack that has grown through a combination of internal development and acquisitions.

When it was founded in 2011, WalkMe’s focus was primarily on providing help to website visitors, to keep them bouncing away in frustration. Over time, it expanded to other areas. Its remit now also includes B2B, since in many cases an organization’s internal teams can be just as confused or frustrated with its tech servicesmas its external customers might be, and that impacts overall productivity. (Consider employee onboarding, or change management, or the fact that we have multiple services, sometimes as much as 20 different systems, that we need to use daily.)

WalkMe is also doing more in automation, helping fill in information and proceed through other steps to speed up usage, or as Rephael Sweary, the president and other co-founder of the company, describes it, “reducing the steps it takes to do something on a site from 10 to three.” Sweary said that WalkMe’s business is roughly split equally between B2B and B2B2C today, with 40 percent of sales to repeat customers.

Perhaps the best measure of a service that helps you use other services better is if the helping service disappears into the background and becomes a bit invisible. That seems to be something of the modus operandi of WalkMe. Part of the work it does is in creating assistants to help people through user interfaces, and part is observing how interfaces are being used, employing machine learning and big data analytics technology to figure out not just what people are doing, but how to improve it.

It’s this shift to developing services that will help shape how services are built that is an interesting direction for WalkMe, which has up to now nearly profited off the fact that sites and other digital interfaces have not been designed well.

Its most recent acquisition, in June, was of a stealth startup called DeepUI, which uses deep learning analytics around a site’s graphical user interface to understand how sites are used without integrating with a site’s APIs. “DeepUI’s algorithms can anticipate individual user’s needs, automatically create customized step-by-step guidance and complete tasks in the quickest and most efficient way possible,” WalkMe said at the time it announced the deal.

“This will save organizations countless hours of time in building, maintaining and managing instructions, workflows, or other engagement processes for users on any platform.”

That longer-term vision of how WalkMe plans to evolve is what has excited investors in this round, alongside the growth of its existing business.

“WalkMe pioneered and developed the digital adoption platform, with a bold vision of transforming the way users interact with technology, just like navigation systems (GPS) changed the way we drive. With WalkMe, users no longer need to learn or recall how to use any software, application or websites,” said Roy Saar, partner at Mangrove Capital Partners, in a statement. “Although we are traditionally an early stage investor, we decided to take part in WalkMe’s growth round because we are witnessing how more and more of WalkMe’s customers see WalkMe as a strategic enabler of their digital transformation. We look forward to continuing our partnership with WalkMe as they continue to revolutionize the future of work.”

A former exec at Google and Facebook doesn't just expect job candidates to negotiate their offer — she hopes they will

A former exec at Google and Facebook doesn't just expect job candidates to negotiate their offer — she hopes they willLibby Leffler, a former Facebook executive and Google employee, is now the vice president of membership at SoFi. Leffler said she always expects job candidates to negotiate their job offer because it shows how they'll behave once they get hired. Negotiating a job offer is a notoriously harrowing process, especially if you've never done it before and assume the world will explode if you request a dollar more.


Hear about the keys to local investing at Startup Battlefield Africa with Omobola Johnson and Lexi Novitske

Omobola Johnson (Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

TechCrunch Startup Battlefield is returning to Africa in December, this time in Lagos, Nigeria. We will have a day-long program full of our flagship Battlefield competition highlighting the best startups that Africa has to offer.

Not only that, we’ll have panel discussions designed to explore the continent’s rapidly developing technological infrastructure on the continent. To wit, I’m excited to announce the first two speakers who will don our stage with direct knowledge about investing Silicon Valley money in the local ecosystem.

Omobola Johnson is a senior partner at TLcom Capital and the former minister of communication technology for Nigeria. Her vast knowledge about the startup investing landscape comes from her 25-year tenure at Accenture where she served as the managing director.

As ICT minister, she focused on the execution of the National Broadband Plan, as well as promoting government interest in local venture capital through the development of a fund and a network of startup incubators. And at Accenture, she advised numerous startups in various industries on how to become competitive and help to strengthen the tech landscape.

Lexi Novitske

Lexi Novitske is the principal investment officer for Singularity Investments where she is responsible for managing investments in the firm’s Africa portfolio.

Novitske moved to Africa from the United States, having identified a unique approach to providing African startups with the capital necessary to thrive. Big surprise: It’s not just about writing a check and hoping for returns. It’s about understanding the complexities of the environment, modifying Western attitudes about business and working hard with your companies to ensure the best outcomes.

Johnson and Novitske are just the beginning of what we have to offer at Battlefield Africa technology. Stay tuned for more announcements of great speakers and get your tickets before they sell out.

Inside Facebook Dating, launching today first in Colombia

Does deeper data produce perfect matches? Facebook is finally ready to find out, starting today with a country-wide test in Colombia of its Dating feature. It’s centered around an algorithm-powered homescreen of Suggested romantic matches based on everything Facebook knows about you that other apps don’t.

Originally announced at F8 in May, Facebook has hammered out details like limiting users to expressing interest in a maximum of 100 people per day, spotlighting personal questions as well as photos, and defaulting to show you friends-of-friends as well as strangers unless you only want to see people with no mutual connections. If the test goes well, expect Facebook to roll Dating out to more countries shortly as the social network pushes its mission to create meaningful connections and the perception that it can be a force of good.

“The goal of the team is to make Facebook simply the best place to start a relationship online” Facebook Dating’s product manager Nathan Sharp told me during an expansive interview about the company’s strategy and how it chose to diverge from the top dating apps. For starters, it’s not trying to compete with Tinder for where you find hookups by swiping through infinite options, but instead beat eHarmony, Hinge, or OKCupid at finding you a life partner. And it’s all about privacy, from its opt-in nature to how it’s almost entirely siloed from Facebook though lives within the same app.

“We wanted to make a product that encouraged people to remember that there are people behind the profiles and the cards that they’re seeing. We wanted a system that emphasizes consideration over impulse, We want you to consider more than that person’s profile photo.”

There are no plans to monetize Facebook Dating with ads or premium subscriptions to bonus features. But as Facebook strives to stay relevant beyond the aging News Feed and combat its branding crisis, there are plenty of incentives for it to find us a significant other.

How Facebook Dating Works…

“Dating is something we’ve seen on the platform since the earliest days. We know there are 200 million people who list themselves as single” says Sharp. He’s married himself but says with a laugh that Facebook Dating “is definitely a young and single team.” Back in 2004, online dating still had a sleazy reputation. But now that over a third of U.S. marriages start online, and Facebook has had time to identify the pitfalls stumbled into by other dating apps, it’s ready to pucker up.

The basic flow is that users 18 and up (or the local ‘Adult’ equivalent) will see a notice atop their News Feed inviting them to try Facebook Dating when it comes to their country, and they’ll see a shortcut in their bookmarks menu.

They’ll opt in, verify their city using their phone’s location services, and decide whether to add details like a free-form bio, workplace, education, religion, height, and if they have children. Facebook offers non-binary genders and sexual orientations. To fill out their profile, they’ll choose photos they upload, are tagged in, or previously posted to Facebook, as well as answer up to 20 questions about their personality such as “What does your perfect day look like?”

Users can select to filter their matches by distance, if they have children, religion, height and age. They may then browse through the homescreen’s Suggested matches list, or they can choose to ‘Unlock’ Events and Groups they’re part of to see people from those who’ve done the same. To see the next person, they either have to say they’re not interested, or choose a photo or question from the person’s profile and send them a message related to it (or at least they’re supposed to), and the sender can’t see the recipient any more.

The text and emoji-only messages go through a special Facebook Dating chat section, not Messenger, and land in the recipient’s Interested tab with no read receipts. If they reply, the chat moves to both people’s Conversations tab. From there they can decide to connect elsewhere online or meet up in person.

Sharp admits that “The moment you try to control the system you may have some unexpected behaviors occur there”. That’s why you can’t message photos (dick pics), and you can’t follow up with people who don’t respond to you (stalking). But Facebook plans to stay vigilant in case unexpected forms of abuse or privacy issues emerge.

…And Why

Starting today users in Colombia will be able to create a Facebook Dating profile, but the company won’t start serving matches until there are enough signups. Sharp tells me “we don’t expect it to take months.” But why Colombia? He says it’s because much of South America has culturally accepted online dating, it has a sizeable population of 30 million monthly active Facebook users, and the social network can track data out of a few discrete metropolitant areas.

But there are a lot of other ‘whys’ to how Facebook Dating was built. Sharp ran me through the decision making process his team undertook to turn Facebook Dating from a concept into a concrete product. Here I’ll run through its rules and features while explaining the philosophy behind them.

  1. Meaningful relationships not one-night-stands, because “meaningful” is Facebook’s new watchword as it enters the ‘Time Well Spent’ era, and Facebook has the deep biographical and interest data to find you matches you’ll want to wake up next to each day, not just go to bed with.
  2. Opt-in not automatic enrollment, because “not everyone who’s single wants to date, not everyone who wants to date wants to date online, not everyone who dates online wants to date on Facebook” says Sharp.
  3. Within Facebook not a new app, because it lowers the barrier to behavior that’s already hard enough for some people, and it can only achieve its mission if people actually use it.
  4. Friends-of-friends and strangers not friends, because many people’s biggest fear is “are my friends and family going to see this” says Sharp, and people who are already friends don’t need help meeting and may already know if they want to date each other.
  5. A new profile not your same one, because some people might want to share a different side of themselves or might not publicly disclose their sexual orientation. The only info ported into Facebook Dating is your first name and age.
  6. Message and response not both people swiped right, because since Facebook wants you to be deliberate about who you show interest in, you have to send one message and hope to hear back. There’s no infinite right-swiping and then waiting get matched or messaged. “It puts the power in the responder” Sharp says.
  7. Profiles and chat are separate not part of Facebook, because it doesn’t want to scare users about privacy slip-ups, and doesn’t want people to pollute the main Facebook experience soliciting dates
  8. Real age and location not self-described, because Facebook wants to prevent catfishing as well as users contacting matches in distant cities who they’ll never meet.
  9. Matches through Events and Groups not randos, because a photo isn’t enough for choosing a life partner, interest overlaps are key to compatability, and they give people ready-mate happenings to use as dates.

The end result is an online dating product that maximizes convenience, both in where it’s available and how much hunting you have to do by yourself. Facebook’s in a precarious time for its brand, and may have trouble getting people to trust it with an even more sensitive part of their lives. But word could travel fast if it’s how people find their soul-mate.

Exhibit for free in Startup Alley at Disrupt Berlin 2018

Disrupt Berlin 2018 takes place on 29-30 November, and we simply can’t wait to see you all there. We always get super stoked about Startup Alley, the Disrupt exhibition hall, where hundreds of innovative early-stage startups display the very latest tech products, platforms and services. Now, the only thing better than exhibiting in Startup Alley is to do it for free. Yes…free.

Here’s the deal. We’re searching for founders of exceptional startups to be TC Top Picks. If you should earn that title, you’ll receive a FREE Startup Alley Exhibitor Package. All the benefits of exhibiting in Startup Alley with none of the cost. The deadline to apply to be a TC Top Pick is 28 September, so, get ‘er done!

If you’re not familiar with Startup Alley, know this: it’s a breeding ground for opportunity. Consider what Vlad Larin, co-founder of Zeroqode, had to say about his Startup Alley experience:

“Startup Alley was a great networking opportunity. It was full of all the people you could possibly hope to meet at a tech conference. They spanned diverse backgrounds and industries. We talked to people looking for partnerships, investments, new ideas, collaboration and inspiration.”

Here’s the first Top Pick qualification hurdle you need to clear. Your startup must fall into one of the tech categories below:

  • AI/Machine Learning
  • Blockchain
  • CRM/Enterprise
  • E-commerce
  • Education
  • Fintech
  • Healthtech/Biotech
  • Hardware, Robotics, IoT
  • Mobility
  • Gaming

Our selection process is highly curated, and TechCrunch editors will review and vet each qualified application thoroughly. They’ll choose up to five startups to represent each category.

Each Top Pick receives one Startup Alley Exhibitor Package, which includes a one-day exhibit space, three Disrupt Berlin Founder Passes, access to CrunchMatch (our free investor-to-startup matching platform) and access to the Disrupt press list. With all these tools and resources at your disposal, you’ll be an unstoppable networking machine.

And who knows? The attendees in Startup Alley might even vote your startup as a Wild Card company, which would let you participate in the Startup Battlefield pitch competition for a $50,000 cash prize. That’s exactly what happened to RecordGram at Disrupt NY 2017, and it went on to win the grand prize.

Along with lots of attention from media outlets roaming through the Alley, Top Picks also receive a three-minute interview with a TechCrunch editor on the Showcase Stage, which we promote across our social media platforms. That kind of exposure has life-changing potential, and it can help take your business to the next level.

Disrupt Berlin 2018 takes place 29-30 November, and we hope to see you exhibiting in Startup Alley — for free. Remember, the deadline to apply to be a TC Top Pick is 28 September. Seize the day and the opportunity!