Facebook is updating how you can authenticate your account logins

You’ll soon have more options for staying secure on Facebook with two-factor authentication.

Facebook is simplifying the process for two-factor verification on its platform so you won’t have to give the company your phone number just to bring additional security to your device. The company announced today that it is adding support for third-party authentication apps like Duo Security and Google Authenticator while streamlining the setup process to make it easier to get moving with it in the first place.

Two-factor authentication is a pretty widely supported security strategy that adds another line of defense for users so they aren’t screwed if their login credentials are compromised. SMS isn’t generally considered the most secure method for 2FA because it’s possible for hackers to take control of your SIM and transfer it to a new phone through a process that relies heavily on social engineering, something that isn’t as much of a risk when using hardware-based authentication devices or third-party apps.

Back in March, Facebook CSO Alex Stamos notably apologized after users started complaining that Facebook was spamming them on the phone numbers with which they had signed up for two-factor authentication. They insisted that it won’t happen again, but it also definitely won’t if they don’t have your number to begin with.

The new functionality is available in the “Security and Login” tab in your Facebook settings.

How [and why] I invest in startups

A lot of people ask me how I choose to invest in startups. Stage? Revenue metrics? Sector?

I’m not proactively funding at different stages. I’m proactively funding brilliant people trying to solve hard problems.

Focusing on this simple goal of identifying and enabling amazing entrepreneurs to create a better tomorrow is the crux of my investment strategy.

My startup investment “formula”

A lot of venture funds try to optimize for returns. They run complex ratio economic models to determine what their diluted value will be at the end of the life cycle of the optimal and non-optimal case of every given company.

I don’t do that. I just try to fund the best and brightest.

I love working with the smartest and brightest people in the world on some of the hardest challenges. And oftentimes I make a return as a result of that.

I weigh investments based on two vectors:

  • Return
  • Happiness

The primary litmus I put on any investment is on behalf of my LPs. Will the capital have a potential of 6-10x returns in five, eight, 10 years? If not, it’s not going to be worth our time and money.

But it’s not the only factor.

If we’re happy doing the work that we’re doing on behalf of this company and relatively confident that we can return for our LPs, it’s an investment worth making.

It seems counterintuitive, but it actually works — our first fund is showing 8-9x returns.

I’ve had the experience where I’ve lost all my money. But more often than not, I’ve had the other experience.

A lot of companies might not have 100x return, but they have 5-6x return and they’ve solved an important problem. By measuring both the financial return of the investment and the happiness of being a part of that journey, I can holistically gauge the net outcome.

Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Know what you don’t know

It’s really easy to box yourself out of really great companies by having mathematical guard rails that don’t necessarily hold up over time.

At the time of investment, it can be difficult to anticipate the future products that end up being the largest revenue drivers.

If you had the insight to know that the value they were returning to customers was great enough that eventually they would find a way to monetize it, you would have invested in Facebook.

But if you’re operating on a purely mathematical model, you might not have been able to do that.

I remember sitting down with one of my mentors around eight years ago. He listed 10 companies on a white board and said “rank for me from top to bottom which company you think is the most valuable. Now rank for me from top to bottom which company has the most revenue.”

I had a mix of ones, fives and sevens; whether I thought they were going up or down the list on both sides.

It turns out that the company with the least amount of revenue was the most valuable. And the company with the most amount of revenue was the least valuable.

Image: Lee Woodgate/Getty Images

What I look for in founders

When I make an investment in a startup company, I plan on the likelihood that I’ll end up working with that person for five to 10 years.

I don’t have a magic formula, but there are four important factors that must all check out for me to invest in a founder.

1. Domain Expertise

The best founders have some unique insight in the domain where they’re building a company that gives them some edge. I often find that it’s one of three factors:

  1. Deeper understanding of consumer behavior
  2. Historical insight
  3. Data

There’s usually some initial edge that is really clear and that gives you confidence that they have absolute domain expertise for whatever problem they’re trying to solve.

2. Grit

Founders need some capacity of perseverance through really, really tough situations.

I’ve never heard a single story of someone building a company where everything went the way they thought it was going to go.

And when things don’t go the way you think they’re going to go, will you have the capacity and the willingness and the perseverance to sort of go through it?

This one is difficult to assess, and I generally go by gut instinct on meeting with the founder.

3. Purpose

Is whatever they’re building someway connected to a greater purpose in which they’re personally invested?

Whatever they’re building has some resonance relative to who they are, how they are and what they believe — because belief systems don’t go away when you get into trouble or come across a difficult challenge.

4. Charisma

There’s a level of charisma that many great founders have, especially if they want to be the CEO of their company.

When I meet with a founder with true charisma, I usually come away feeling like I want to quit my job and go work for them. Because if I don’t get that sense or that feeling that I want to quit everything that I’m doing to go work for them, the best person for the job that they are hiring for isn’t going to have that feeling either.

Recruiting is the hardest thing that any CEO has to do.

They have to be able to sell themselves, sell their vision, and sell their company. If they don’t have the charisma to sell it to me, I find it hard to believe that they’re going to be able to sell it to somebody else.

Image: Boris Austin / Getty Images

What makes me wary of founders

A founder can do many things to represent themselves poorly, but here are three:

1. Display questionable principles

I’m a very principle-driven person.

I have certain litmuses around gender equality, racial equality and working with good humans. I only want to work with founders and invest in companies that share my principles.

I want to be connected and associated with people who represent their brand in a way that I would represent mine.

It’s so easy to get distracted by the numbers and models and projections — and don’t get me wrong, these are important.

But also, I’m looking at human beings build businesses. I want to work with good people and people who respect other people and people who have good moral fiber.

2. Lack of domain expertise

If the person doesn’t know their numbers it’s an immediate killer.

I often drill down into the domain the founder is working in. There are often brand new, disruptive ideas that I’ve never seen before. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of that, but the economics still need to make sense.

If someone doesn’t understand the economics and the motivational drivers within a given sector, it becomes rapidly clear whether or not somebody has domain expertise.

And if they don’t understand the domain and have a unique insight, they’re probably not going to be able to build something special.

3. Lack of respect for time

The biggest key people often forget when they’re busy trying to sell what they’re doing is a basic, human understanding of other people.

Smart people know the right time and the right way to connect with someone.

I’ve answered cold emails from people who are really well-formulated, thought out, respectful of my time and respectful of me.

I’ve taken elevator pitches from people.

I’ve had meetings set up with strangers.

If you know somebody hasn’t even sort of taken the time to consider your time, they’re probably not going to consider the time of other people. And I think that’s going to negatively affect them and their company.

When a founder or company approaches me in a way that’s not considerate and respectful of my time and what I’m interested in, I have a hard time looking past that.
Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

My role as an investor in the growth of a startup

I believe the job of the investor goes way beyond fueling the company with cash. It’s about fueling the company with expertise, intelligence and connectivity.

On paper, growing a startup can roughly be summarized as follows:

  1.    Early-stage validation
  2.    Have an idea
  3.    Crank out an MVP
  4.    Get that MVP to customers
  5.    Establish feedback loop
  6.    Make sure customers appreciate the product
  7.    Establish a customer/product development feedback loop so the customer can improve the product
  8.    Build a company
  9.    Hire to fill initial capacities
  10.    Find product market fit
  11.    Market product to reach all target consumers
  12.    Build teams
  13.    Raise more money

Over the last 12 years of being an investor I’ve seen companies at every one of those life cycles. Each one of those transitions is a different discipline; a different challenge in and of itself.

As a founder, I think it’s really important to surround yourself with people who have seen it before, understand it, know what it’s like and know how to persevere through it.

That’s what an investor group does.

Image: Shutterstock

For example, going from a bootstrap company into a company that can scale is a tricky discipline.

A lot of founders make the really early mistake of hiring people just like them, instead of hiring people who bring unique diversity and expertise to their team.

And after the initial batch of hires is made, you transition from micromanaging into macromanaging; building startups within your startups, the variable divisions required to properly scale the company.

Investors who have helped companies through similar transitions can help you avoid pitfalls associated with these milestones. These are the very pitfalls that often derail early-stage companies.

Fast-forward to the growth stage and fundraising is a monster in and of itself. You have these checkpoints where you’ve got to go and raise additional funding — and the future of the company relies on executing.

And then eventually you get to the point where either you’re going public or there’s an acquisition. That’s incredibly tricky and not something that a lot of founders are ready for.

Every company’s situation is different.

If you’re a small team — two or three people — you might look to add 10 investors. I recommend building an investment team that has variable experience across different firms and individuals.

A lot of founders only target big firms. But you really want to get the person who understands your needs, your challenge and can help guide you through it — regardless of where they come from.

It all comes back to the purpose and principles

Make no mistake: I have a rigorous process around numbers.

Estimated TAM, IRR, NPV — we run them all.

But when weighed against potential impact for humanity and capability of individuals at the helm, I put slightly more value than most investors.

Maybe in the long run, I’ll fall into an even more disciplined manner of allocating capital.

But for now, I’m just going to keep working with great people on the problems that I want to work on.

Find good people solving tough problems and the financials often sort themselves out. 

This post was originally published on Atrium.

Tinder Places tracks your location to help you find matches

Tinder will now help you find matches with those people you may cross paths with in your day-to-day life. As promised earlier, the company today is announcing the launch of a new location-based feature that will narrow down your list of potential dating prospects to those who hit up your same bar for after-work drinks, or who stop by your favorite coffee shop for their daily caffeine fix, or who work out at your same gym.

Yes, that’s right – you no longer have to say “hello” in real life – you can match first, then speak.

This is what it’s come to, friends. Even the “meet cute” story is now a dating app product.

The feature, known as Tinder Places, was previously spotted during beta tests.

Starting today, Tinder Places is formally being announced as a public beta test that’s underway in three cities: Sydney and Brisbane, Australia and Santiago, Chile. (It was being tested privately in these markets prior to now.) The plan is to collect user feedback from the public trials, and tweak the product before it launches to all users worldwide, the company says.

The idea of sharing your location with strangers, however, is a bit creepy – especially considering that Tinder users are not always respectful. But Tinder believes that the fact it’s showing you people you might actually run into in real life will actually prompt more civility in those initial chats.

“I do think that – and this is a personal hypothesis of mine – if you match with someone who you know goes to the same place as you, I think that will set a very different tone to the conversation than someone who is more or less anonymous as an online match on a dating platform,” says Samantha Stevens, Director of Location Products at Tinder, who led the product’s development.

She says the larger idea here is to present users with potential matches who you already have things in common with, as reflected by the places you go.

“The places that you go say a lot about who you are as an individual, what you value, your hobbies, your interests,” she continues. “So being able to match with someone on Tinder who shares those same things with you, we believe creates a more genuine match and a better conversation.”

That said, not everyone would want strangers on a dating service to know where to find them.

But Stevens explains Places has a number of safeguards built-in to make users feel more comfortable, and to limit the feature’s ability to be used for stalking.

“As a female who designed this feature, I personally made sure that I would feel safe using it,” she says.

For starters, the feature is opt in, not opt out.

It leverages Mapbox and Foursquare’s Pilgrim SDK to identify and categorize places you go, and it only shares those places Foursquare deems “social.” (Foursquare is able to “wake up” Tinder’s app for background location, in case you’re wondering how this works). Tinder says it will not record places like your house, the office building where you work, banks, doctors’ offices, and other venues that are either too personal or not relevant to matching. All this appears in a separate section of the Tinder app’s interface.

Plus, your place visits aren’t recorded to the app in real-time. Instead, Tinder waits until at least 30 minutes before a place shows up, or even longer. It randomizes the time before someone appears associated with a particular venue in order to limit others’ abilities to deduce people’s routines.

In addition, users who are participating in Places will get an alert when a new place is added, and can then choose to toggle that place off so it’s not shown right away.

You can also tell Tinder to never show a particular place again after its first appearance. So, for example, if you never want to meet people at your gym when you’re all hot and sweaty, you can disable that place from ever appearing.

Your association with a place also deletes from the app after 28 days, not only as a privacy protection, but also because it helps keep data fresh, Stevens says. (After all, just because you went to that hip bar a year ago does not make you a person who goes to hip bars.)

Of course, a dedicated stalker could make a note of your favorite haunts and attempt to locate you in the real world, but this would require extra effort in terms of writing things down, and trying to determine your patterns. It wouldn’t be impossible to start making some connections, but it would require dedication to the task at hand.

Despite the safeguards, it’s unclear that the real-world benefit to users is significant enough to opt in to this additional data collection. While there are arguably use cases for matching with those you cross paths with, simply visiting the same coffee shop isn’t necessarily an indicator of a potential for a relationship. That comes down to a lot of other factors – including most importantly, that unpredictable chemistry – something neither Tinder, nor any other dating app, can determine – and a set of shared values. At best, this “place data” is a icebreaker.

But for Tinder, location data on its users holds far more value.

The company has no plans to delete its own records of your jaunts around town. You can’t push a button to clear your data, for instance. If you want it gone, you’ll need to delete your Tinder user account entirely, we understand.

The company says users haven’t asked for this sort of functionality during tests. Rather, they’ve opted in to the feature in full force, with very few qualms about their personal data or its usage, it seems.

“In terms of opt in rates – and we’ll see how this behaves as we go to a bigger population – but we’re at like 99 percent,” says Tinder CEO Elie Seidman, who moved over from Match Groups’s OKCupid’s top position to lead Tinder in January. “I don’t know that we’ll see that hold up on a broad population, but I think we could expect this is a 90-plus percent opt in rate.”

That seems to contradict the shift in user sentiment around personal data collection in the wake of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, which has led the world’s largest social network to rethink its practices, and potentially face regulation. The fallout has led to users becoming more cynical and wary of social apps asking them to share their data – and in the case of Tinder, where it’s about – well, frankly, romance and sex – one would think users would give “opting in” a bit more thought.

Seidman doesn’t believe there’s much for users to be concerned about, though. That’s because Tinder’s main business isn’t ads – it’s subscriptions to its premium service, he explains.

“We’re not using [personal data] to sell advertising,” the exec says. “If you think about the trade between our members and us – like, what do you get in exchange for the data? In one place, you get photos of kids, right? And obviously, a lot of ads. And in the other place, you get connected to the most important part of your life. So I think it’s a very different thing,” Seidman says.

That’s certainly a starry-eyed way of viewing Tinder’s potential, of course.

One could argue that “photos of kids” – meaning your family, your friends and their family, and generally, those broader connections you have through social networks – are at least equally important to your romantic relationships, if not more valuable. (Especially if you’re just using Tinder for hook-ups).

 

Tinder claims that it’s not using the location data to target users with its in-app ads, but that doesn’t mean the option is off the table forever. Having a massive trove of location data on users could be an advantage there, as well as a way to improve its algorithm, and even potentially to help it expand into real-world events – something Stevens didn’t rule out, saying if that was something a large number of users demanded, Tinder may consider it.

Meanwhile, a better matching algorithm would be a significant competitive advantage for Tinder, which is today fending off other newcomers, too, not just the desktop web-era dating sites. It’s embroiled in back-and-forth lawsuits with top rival Bumble, for example, and even itself is adopting Bumble’s “women speak first” feature. Given that the industry at large has stolen the swipe to match mechanism Tinder popularized, that seems fair enough.

The new location feature won’t be as easily copied, Seideman believes.

“This is the first time, on an experience before people match, where we’ve changed – in a really fundamental way – the user interface. Of course, it feels very much like Tinder,” he says. “There’s a large body of work here and the team has worked for quarters to do this. It’s a product that inherently works better with scale. We’re drawing a smaller circle around the universe,” Seidman adds. “You need Tinder’s level of scale to make this work.”

Tinder officially claims “tens of millions” of users worldwide, with estimates putting that figure at over 50 million.

The company hasn’t provided a time-table as to when location-based dating will roll out worldwide.

Photo credits: illustration: Bryce Durbin; screenshots: Tinder; couple: Philip Lee Harvey/Getty Images

It’s unconstitutional for Trump to block people on Twitter

A uniquely 21st-century constitutional question received a satisfying answer today from a federal judge: President Trump cannot block people on Twitter, as it constitutes a violation of their First Amendment rights. The court also ruled he must unblock all previously blocked users. “No government official is above the law,” the judge concluded.

The question was brought as part of a suit brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute, which alleged that the official Presidential Twitter feed amounts to a public forum, and that the government barring individuals from participating in it amounted to limiting their right to free speech.

After consideration, New York Southern District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald determined that this is indeed that case:

We hold that portions of the @realDonaldTrump account — the “interactive space” where Twitter users may directly engage with the content of the President’s tweets — are properly analyzed under the “public forum” doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court, that such space is a designated public forum, and that the blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment.

The President’s side argued that Trump has his own rights, and that in this case the choice not to engage with certain people on Twitter is among them. These are both true, Judge Buchwald found, but that doesn’t mean blocking is okay.

There is nothing wrong with a government official exercising their First Amendment rights by ignoring someone. And indeed that is what the “mute” function on Twitter is equivalent to. No harm is done to either party by the President choosing not to respond, and so he is free to do so.

But to block someone both prevents that person from seeing tweets and from responding to them, preventing them from even accessing a public forum. As the decision puts it:

We reject the defendants’ contentions that the First Amendment does not apply in this case and that the President’s personal First Amendment interests supersede those of plaintiffs…

While we must recognize, and are sensitive to, the President’s personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him.

The court also examined the evidence and found that despite the Executive’s arguments that his Twitter accounts are, for various reasons, in part private and not subject to rules limiting government spaces, the President’s Twitter is definitively a public forum, meeting the criteria set out some time back by the Supreme Court.

At this point in time President Trump has by definition performed unconstitutional acts, but the court was not convinced that any serious legal remedy needs to be applied. And not because the Executive side of the case said it was monstrous of the Judicial to dare to tell it what to do:

While we find entirely unpersuasive the Government’s parade of horribles regarding the judicial interference in executive affairs presented by an injunction directing the President to comply with constitutional restrictions… declaratory relief is likely to achieve the same purpose.

By this the judge means that while the court would be legally in the clear if it issued an official order binding the Executive, but that there’s no reason to do so. Instead, merely declaring that the President is has violated the rules of the Constitution should be more than enough to compel his team to take the appropriate action.

Specifically, Trump and (it is implied but not stated specifically) all public officials are to unblock any blocked users on Twitter and never hit that block button again:

No government official is above the law and because all government officials are presumed to follow the law once the judiciary has said what the law is, we must assume that the President and Scavino will remedy the blocking we have held to be unconstitutional.

No timeline is set but it’s clear that the Executive is on warning. You can read the full decision here.

“We’re pleased with the court’s decision, which reflects a careful application of core First Amendment principles to government censorship on a new communications platform,” said executive director of the Knight Institute, Jameel Jaffer, in a press release.

This also sets an interesting precedent as regarding other social networks; in fact, the Institute is currently representing a user in a similar complaint involving Facebook, but it is too early to draw any conclusions. The repercussions of this decision are likewise impossible to predict at this time, including whether and how other officials, such as Senators and Governors, are also bound by these rules. Legal scholars and political agents will almost certainly weigh in on the issue heavily over the coming weeks.

Samsung adds ‘The Incredibles’ to its AR Emojis

Samsung’s AR Emojis were met with a…lukewarm reception when they launched alongside the Galaxy S9. The augmented reality avatars were regarded as a me-too response to Apple’s Animojis — and more to the point, were downright creepy.

But at launch, the company brought one key element to the offering that Apple hasn’t: a content partnership. And not just any content partnership, mind. A Disney content partnership. So far, it’s rolled out the iconic likes of Mickey, Minnie and Donald, and now, just in time for the latest Pixar sequel, it’s offering up the cast of The Incredibles 2.

Starting today, Galaxy S9 and S9+ owners can download  Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Violet, Dash, Jack-Jack and new character Frozone, for all of their AR Emoji-related needs. So users can send a birthday greeting, reach out to a loved one or break up with an ex as their favorite super baby.

The new content pack is available directly through the camera software’s built-in AR Emoji mode. The tech uses in excess of 100 facial features to map the user’s movements.

Vivo’s all-screen phone with a flip-up camera could arrive in June

The all-screen smartphone is an inevitability. The question at this point, really, is who will get there first and how they’ll accomplish that feat. I spoke to a LG rep at the G7 launch, who suggested that the notch is going to be fact of life for the next couple of years, but a number of manufacturers are pushing to get there a heck of a lot quicker.

Back at MWC in Febrary, Vivo’s Apex handset seemed like little more than a concept, but a couple of new teasers suggest otherwise. A new video demonstrates the handset’s flip-up selfie camera in action, along with a “Save the Date” notice for a June 12 event in Shanghai. The handset appears to be, at the very least, a close relative of the concept phone. 

A February press release highlights the concept in a bit more detail.

“In keeping with the promise to continuously support user habits,” the company notes, “Apex also features an 8MP Elevating Front Camera. The camera seamlessly rises in 0.8 seconds when it is required and retracts after use. Together with the hidden proximity sensor and ambient light sensor, this eliminates the space taken up by conventional front cameras, while offering the same selfie experience to users.”

Vivo’s just one of a number of companies who think they’ve got the answer here. When we met with Doogee back in February, the company showed off a number of prototypes aimed at circumventing the notch, including a similar pop up model and a version that slides to reveal a camera inside.

And then, of course, there’s the Lenovo Z5, which a VP for the company showed off via social media earlier this month. Though that presently seems to amount to little more than a sketch. For the moment, all of this feels like a bunch of companies showing off concepts aimed at demonstrating that they “thought of it first.”

Perhaps next month, however, Vivo will be ready to put its money where its mouth is.