Facebook says birthday fundraisers have raised more than $300 million over the past year

Facebook marked the first anniversary of its birthday fundraisers by revealing that more than $300 million in donations have been raised through the feature, which lets users mark their birthdays by creating a donation drive for an organization of their choice. About 750,000 non-profits currently have access to Facebook’s fundraising tools (but not every user, since they haven’t rolled out to all countries).

The company also said that it is adding several new features based on feedback. These include allowing Pages to create and donate to fundraisers, as well as the ability to add matching donations and co-organizers to fundraisers. Donors will also be able to choose if they want to set up a recurring monthly contribution.

For people who want to create a birthday fundraiser but don’t have an organization in mind already, Facebook plans to include more information about charities in the feature’s selection tool. The company said its fundraising feature’s top beneficiaries include St. Jude, the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Cancer Society, Share Our Strength—No Kid Hungry and the ASPCA.

Last November, Facebook removed its 5% fee on donations, which means all money goes to non-profits. For many charities, Facebook fundraisers are now the most frictionless way to raise donations, including from people who might otherwise never visit the charity’s own donation links. Facebook fundraisers are a notable example of how social media activism can actually translate into tangible results instead of yet more memes–but, of course, whenever Facebook releases any self-congratulatory announcements, it’s a good idea to take a step back and look at the potential downsides.

As with almost every other Facebook feature, its fundraising tools have prompted concerns about privacy, particularly donor privacy, which is considered sacrosanct by many organizations (Facebook lets users decide if they want to share their donation with friends). Some charities also have qualms about benefiting from Facebook fundraisers until the company does a better job of policing hate speech, especially if the purpose of their work is aiding marginalized or persecuted minority groups.

In an insightful blog post from last November, fundraising consultant Jeremy Hatch argued that fundraising on Facebook also eliminates the relationship between donors and organizations, “where there are established norms and ethical practices.” He added that non-profits should reconsider before they grow increasingly reliant on a company whose ultimate goal is to gather and monetize user data.

At the same time, Facebook’s reach leaves many organizations with little choice but to use the platform so they don’t miss out on much-needed funds. One notable example of how effective Facebook fundraisers can be is the more than $20 million raised by users on behalf of RAICES to help migrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border by the Trump administration.

SEC scrutiny of Tesla grows as Goldman hints at adviser role

SEC scrutiny of Tesla grows as Goldman hints at adviser roleThe U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has sent subpoenas to Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) regarding Chief Executive Elon Musk's plan to take the company private and his statement that funding was "secured," Fox Business Network reported on Wednesday, citing sources. The electric carmaker's shares fell as much as 4 percent but cut their losses after Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) said it was dropping equity coverage of Tesla because it is acting as a financial adviser on a matter related to the automaker. Investors viewed the Goldman statement as confirming a tweet from Elon Musk on Monday about working with Goldman, even as the reported subpoenas indicated the SEC has opened a formal investigation into a matter.


Powered by $25 million, Arcadia Power looks to expand its distributed renewable energy services

As renewable energy use surges in the U.S. and the effects of global climate change become more visible, companies like Arcadia Power are pitching a nationwide service to make renewable energy available to residential customers.

While states like New York, California and regions across the upper Midwest have access to renewable energy through their utilities and competitive marketplaces, not all states in the country have utilities that are building renewable power generation to offset coal and natural gas energy production.

Enter Arcadia Power and its new $25 million in financing, which will be used to redouble its marketing efforts and expand its array of services in the U.S.

Right now, renewable energy is the fastest growing component of the U.S. energy mix. It’s grown from 15 percent to 18 percent of all power generation in the country, according to a 2018 report from Business Council for Sustainable Energy and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

And while Arcadia Power is only accounting for 120 megawatts of the 2.9 gigawatts of new renewable energy projects initiated since 2017, its new $25 million in financing will help power new projects.

When we first wrote about the company in 2016, it was just developing solar projects that would generate power for the grid to offset electricity usage from its customers.

Now the company is expanding its array of services. All customers are automatically enrolled in a 50 percent wind energy offset program, where half of their monthly usage is matched in investments in wind farms — and they can upgrade to fully offset their energy usage with wind power. Meanwhile, community solar projects are also available for free or customers can then purchase a panel and receive a guaranteed solar savings on each monthly power bill.

Reduced prices are given to customers through the consolidation of their buying power across multiple competitive energy markets.

Finally, Arcadia is offering new home efficiency upgrades like LED lighting and smart thermostats, along with smart metering and tracking services to improve customers’ payment options, the company said.

“The electricity industry hasn’t changed much in the last hundred years, and we believe that homeowners and renters want a new approach that puts them first. Our platform places clean energy, home efficiency and data insights front and center for residential energy customers in all 50 states,” said chief executive Kiran Bhatraju.

Kiran Bhatraju, chief executive officer Arcadia Power

Funding for the new Arcadia Power financing was led by G2VP, the investment firm that spun out from Kleiner Perkins cleantech investing, ValueAct Spring Fund, McKnight Foundation, Energy Impact Partners, Cendana Capital, Wonder Ventures, BoxGroup and existing investors, according to the company. As a result of the investment, Alex Laskey, Opower’s founder and president; Ben Kortlang, a partner at G2VP; and Dan Leff, a longtime investor in energy technology companies, will all join the Arcadia board of directors.

“We’re taking a piece of the savings that is a part of the power purchase agreement,” says Bhatraju. “Customers get a 5 percent guaranteed savings against the utility rate. In competitive markets like Ohio or Maryland, it’s a shared savings model.”

Beyond the savings, the offsets can do something to reduce the carbon emissions that are exacerbating the problems of global climate change.

“When you build community solar projects you are displacing former fossil fuel plants from being used because these of customers,” Bhatraju said. But the entrepreneur recognizes that they have a long way to go to make a difference. “120 MW is not nearly enough,” Bhatraju said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Cisco’s Upbeat Outlook Signals Confidence in Product Overhaul

Cisco's Upbeat Outlook Signals Confidence in Product OverhaulCisco Systems Inc. gave a bullish forecast for the current quarter, signaling confidence that an overhaul of its computer-networking products will continue to boost corporate demand. Cisco, the maker of equipment that directs most of the world’s internet data traffic, also said demand around the world and across all of its products had lifted earnings in the July quarter above average projections. Chief Executive Officer Chuck Robbins is remaking Cisco into a provider of networking software and services, aiming to decrease its traditional dependence on high-priced custom machines.


Tesla whistleblower tweets photos of allegedly damaged batteries

Martin Tripp, the former Tesla employee who was fired from Tesla and then sued by the company, has tweeted a number of photos that allegedly show damaged batteries and flawed practices at Tesla’s battery factory, CNBC first reported.

In an attempt to corroborate some of his claims, Tripp has posted photos of vehicle identification numbers that he says were delivered with faulty, punctured battery cells.

“As we’ve said before, these claims are false and Mr. Tripp does not even have personal knowledge about the safety claims that he is making,” a Tesla spokesperson told TechCrunch via email. “No punctured cells have ever been used in any Model 3 vehicles in any way, and all VINs that have been identified have safe batteries. Notably, there have been zero battery safety issues in any Model 3.”

In one tweet, Tripp shows what he alleges is proof that Tesla stores waste and scraps in open parking lots and trucks at the Gigafactory, instead of properly storing them in temperature-controlled warehouses.

Tesla sued Tripp in June for $1 million alleging he leaked information with the intent to sabotage Tesla and its CEO, Elon Musk. Tripp then filed a formal whistleblower tip to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleging the company has misled investors and put customers at risk.

Check out TechCrunch’s coverage of the Tripp versus Tesla saga below.

Colorado baker: No cake for gender transition celebration

Colorado baker: No cake for gender transition celebrationA Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on religious grounds — a stance partially upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court — has sued the state over its opposition to his refusal to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition, his attorneys said Wednesday. Jack Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver, claimed that Colorado officials are on a "crusade to crush" him and force him into mediation over the gender transition cake because of his religious beliefs, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday. Phillips is seeking to overturn a Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruling that he discriminated against a transgender person by refusing to make a cake celebrating that person's transition from male to female.


Cisco’s software push fuels quarterly beat, strong forecast

Cisco's software push fuels quarterly beat, strong forecastCisco, like other legacy technology companies, has been launching new products focused on high-growth areas such as cyber security and Internet of Things to cushion sluggish demand in its traditional routers and switches business. "We're seeing the returns on the investments we are making in innovation and driving the shift to more software and subscriptions," Chief Financial Officer Kelly Kramer told analysts on a post-earnings call. Subscriptions, which provide a more steady revenue stream, represented 56 percent of total software revenue in the reported quarter, the company said.