Daily Crunch: Amazon Web Services stumble

An Amazon Web Services outage has a wide effect, Salesforce might be buying Slack and Pinterest tests new support for virtual events. This is your Daily Crunch for November 25, 2020.

And for those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving: Enjoy! There will be no newsletter tomorrow, and then Darrell Etherington will be filling in for me on Friday.

The big story: Amazon Web Services stumble

Amazon Web Services began experiencing issues earlier today, which caused issues for sites and services that rely on its cloud infrastructure — as writer Zack Whittaker discovered when he tried to use his Roomba.

Amazon said the issue was largely localized to North America, and that it was working on a resolution. Meanwhile, a number of other companies, such as Adobe and Roku, have pointed to the AWS outage as the reason for their own service issues.

The tech giants

Slack’s stock climbs on possible Salesforce acquisition — News that Salesforce is interested in buying Slack sent shares of the smaller firm sharply higher today.

Pinterest tests online events with dedicated ‘class communities’ — The company has been spotted testing a new feature that allows users to sign up for Zoom classes through Pinterest.

France starts collecting tax on tech giants — This tax applies to companies that generate more than €750 million in revenue globally and €25 million in France, and that operate either a marketplace or an ad business.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Tiger Global invests in India’s Unacademy at $2B valuation — Unacademy helps students prepare for competitive exams to get into college.

WeGift, the ‘incentive marketing’ platform, collects $8M in new funding — Founded in 2016, WeGift wants to digitize the $700 billion rewards and incentives industry.

Cast.ai nabs $7.7M seed to remove barriers between public clouds — The company was started with the idea that developers should be able to get the best of each of the public clouds without being locked in.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Insurtech’s big year gets bigger as Metromile looks to go public — Metromile, a startup competing in the auto insurance market, is going public via SPAC.

Join us for a live Q&A with Sapphire’s Jai Das on Tuesday at 2 pm EST/11 am PST — Das has invested in companies like MuleSoft, Alteryx, Square and Sumo Logic.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Gift Guide: Smart exercise gear to hunker down and get fit with — Smart exercise and health gear is smarter than ever.

Instead of yule log, watch this interactive dumpster fire because 2020 — Sure, why not.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Daily Crunch: Twitter will bring back verification

Twitter prepares to hand out more blue checkmarks, YouTube suspends OANN and Discord is raising a big funding round. This is your Daily Crunch for November 24, 2020.

The big story: Twitter will bring back verification

Twitter paused its blue checkmark verification system in 2017 as it faced controversy over who gets verified — specifically over the decision to verify the organizer of the infamous and deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

Since then, Twitter has done occasional verifications for medical experts tweeting about COVID-19 and candidates running for public office, but it hasn’t brought back the program in a systematic way.

Now Twitter says it will relaunch verification in 2021, and that it’s currently soliciting feedback on the policy. Initially, verification will focus on six types of accounts: government officials, companies/brands/nonprofits, news, entertainment, sports and activists/organizers/other influential individuals.

The tech giants

YouTube suspends and demonetizes One America News Network over COVID-19 video — YouTube said, “After careful review, we removed a video from OANN and issued a strike on the channel for violating our COVID-19 misinformation policy.”

Instagram businesses and creators may be getting a Messenger-like ‘FAQ’ feature — This new feature will allow people to start conversations with businesses or creators’ accounts by tapping on a commonly asked question within a chat.

Fortnite adds a $12 monthly subscription bundle — The $11.99 monthly Fortnite Crew fee entitles players to a full season battle pass, 1,000 monthly bucks and a Crew Pack featuring an exclusive outfit bundle.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Discord is close to closing a round that would value the company at up to $7B — The new funding comes just months after a $100 million investment that gave the company a $3.5 billion valuation.

Dija, a new delivery startup from former Deliveroo employees, is closing in on a $20M round led by Blossom — Few details are public about Dija, except that it will offer convenience and fresh food delivery using a “dark” convenience store mode.

Marie Ekeland launches 2050, a new fund with radically ambitious, long-term goals —  Ekeland used to be an investor at French VC firm Elaia, where she backed adtech firm Criteo.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

As edtech grows cash rich, some lessons for early stage — The valuation bumps for both Duolingo and Udemy underscore just how much investor confidence there is in edtech’s remote learning boom.

Working to understand C3.ai’s growth story — As its IPO looms, how quickly did C3.ai grow in its October quarter?

Decrypted: Apple and Facebook’s privacy feud, Twitter hires Mudge, mysterious zero-days — Zack Whittaker’s latest roundup of cybersecurity-related news.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. And until November 30, you can get 25% off an annual membership.)

Everything else

Biden-Harris team finally get their transition .gov domain — This comes after the General Services Administration gave the green light for the Biden-Harris team to transition from political campaign to government administration.

India bans 43 more Chinese apps over cybersecurity concerns — India is not done banning Chinese apps.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Netflix removes ‘Chappelle’s Show’ at Dave Chappelle’s request

Netflix started streaming “Chappelle’s Show” at the beginning of November — but barely more than three weeks later, it has taken the Comedy Central sketch show off its service.

Co-creator Dave Chappelle offered some context for the decision in an Instagram clip of what appears to be a recent standup set, in which he described any company streaming the show as “fencing stolen goods.”

Not that he’s accusing Comedy Central of violating its deal with him. Instead, it’s the contract that he’s criticizing, and he said he signed it “the way that a 28-year-old expecting father that was broke signs a contract.”

He continued:

People think I made a lot of money from ‘Chappelle’s Show.’ When I left that show, I never got paid. They didn’t have to pay me because I signed the contract. But is that right? I found out that these people were streaming my work and they never had to ask me or they never have to tell me. Perfectly legal because I signed the contract. But is that right? I didn’t think so either.

Chappelle went on to describe himself as “furious” when he heard that Netflix was streaming the show:

So you know what I did? I called them and I told them that this makes me feel bad. And you want to know what they did? They agreed that they would take it off their platform just so I could feel better. That’s why I fuck with Netflix. Because they paid me my money, they do what they say they’re going to do, and they went above and beyond what you could expect from a businessman. They did something just because they thought that I might think that they were wrong.

Speaking of deals, Netflix signed a reported $60 million deal with Chappelle in 2016 for the rights to three stand-up specials.

“Chappelle’s Show,” meanwhile, is still available on HBO Max (he has some choice words for HBO executives, as well) and on Comedy Central and CBS All Access — which, like Comedy Central, is owned by ViacomCBS.

 

 

Following its acquisition by BuzzFeed, HuffPost shuts down its Brazil and India editions

HuffPost is becoming part of BuzzFeed, but HuffPost India and HuffPost Brasil will not be making the transition — both sites are shutting down today.

“Today is @huffpostIndia’s last day,” tweeted the team’s editor in chief Aman Sethi. “Pound for pound, story for story, reporter for reporter, this is the greatest newsroom I have worked for; (and I still can’t quite believe I had the privilege to lead)[.] Thank you everyone for reading our stories and supporting our journalism.”

Last week, BuzzFeed announced that it was acquiring HuffPost as part of a broader deal with Verizon Media (which also owns TechCrunch). As part of the deal, the companies will be collaborating on content syndication and advertising.

“We confirm that HuffPost has closed its editions in India and Brazil with immediate effect,” Verizon Media said in a statement. “We would like to thank the HuffPost India and HuffPost Brazil teams for their hard work and contribution to the organization.”

The Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani tweeted what appeared to be an internal comment from BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti, who said that the company wasn’t “legally allowed to take on the Brazil and India editions” — he claimed that “foreign companies aren’t allowed to own news organizations” in India, while BuzzFeed cannot operate in Brazil as one of the conditions of selling BuzzFeed Brasil.

Daily Crunch: Snapchat adds Spotlight

Snapchat introduces a TikTok-style feed, Amazon Echo Buds add fitness tracking and Vettery acquires Hired. This is your Daily Crunch for November 23, 2020.

The big story: Snapchat adds Spotlight

Snapchat has introduced a dedicated feed where users can watch short, entertaining videos — pretty similar to TikTok. This comes after the app also added TikTok-like music features last month.

Starting today, users will be able to send their Snaps to the new Spotlight feed. Viewers will be able to send direct messages to creators with public profiles (Spotlight will also include anonymous content from private accounts), but there will be no public commentary on these videos.

To encourage creators to post to Spotlight, Snapchat says it will be distributing more than $1 million every day who create the top videos on Spotlight.

The tech giants

Amazon’s Echo Buds get new fitness tracking features — Say “Alexa, start my workout” with the buds in, and they’ll begin logging steps, calories, distance, pace and duration of runs.

Uber refused permission to dismiss 11 staff at its EMEA HQ —The Dutch Employee Insurance Agency has refused to give Uber permission to dismiss 11 people at the company’s EMEA headquarters.

Facebook launches ‘Drives,’ a US-only feature for collecting food, clothing and other necessities for people in need — The feature is being made available through Facebook’s existing Community Help hub.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Relativity Space raises $500M as it sets sights on the industrialization of Mars — LA-based rocket startup Relativity had a big 2020, completing work on a new 120,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Long Beach.

Resilience raises over $800M to transform pharmaceutical manufacturing in response to COVID-19 — The company will invest heavily in developing new manufacturing technologies across cell and gene therapies, viral vectors, vaccines and proteins.

Video mentoring platform Superpeer raises $8M and launches paid channels — The Superpeer platform allows experts to promote, schedule and charge for one-on-one video calls with anyone who might want to ask for their advice.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Seven things we just learned about Sequoia’s European expansion plans — Steve O’Hear interviews Luciana Lixandru and Matt Miller about the firm’s plans.

Founders seeking their first check need a fundraising sales funnel — Start digging the well before you’re thirsty.

Will Brazil’s Roaring 20s see the rise of early-stage startups? — In September, homegrown startups raised a record $843 million.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. And until November 30, you can get 25% off an annual membership.)

Everything else

Vettery acquires Hired to create a ‘unified’ job search platform — Vettery CEO Josh Brenner said the two platforms are largely complementary.

Gift Guide: Which next-gen console is the one your kid wants? — This holiday season, the next generation of gamers will be hoping to receive the next generation of gaming consoles.

Original Content podcast: ‘The Crown’ introduces its Princess Diana — The new season focuses on Queen Elizabeth’s relationship with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and on Prince Charles’ troubled marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Vettery acquires Hired to create a ‘unified’ job search platform

Two large job search and recruiting platforms are coming together, with Vettery acquiring Hired.

The news follows a report last week in The Information claiming that Hired had begun to sell off its assets and wind down the company. The report also stated that Hired CEO Mehul Patel “abruptly resigned” via Zoom in early October.

Today’s announcement simply says that Patel is moving on “to pursue new opportunities,” with Vettery CEO Josh Brenner becoming chief executive of the combined companies.

Brenner told me that the two platforms are largely complementary, with only a 5% overlap in their respective customer bases. Hired, he said, has built AI job-matching tools (as well as talent assessment and bias reduction features) that are particularly well-suited for software and engineering positions, while Vettery offers “a little bit more breadth in the verticals that we support.”

“The key is bringing scale to these marketplaces,” Brenner said. “We see this as a formidable competitor to any of the legacy hiring solutions.”

Hired and Vettery logos

Image Credits: Vettery

The plan, he added, is to create a single “unified solution” that brings together the best of both platforms. Vettery says this soluton will offer job-matching AI that draws on combined data from 1.5 million interviews and over 21,000 job placements.

Asked whether the combined site would operate under the Hired or Vettery brand name, Brenner said, “We believe there will be one brand in the future. Right now, we’re continuing to keep both brands while we do the research figure to out what the best approach is.”

Hired was founded in 2012 and raised more than $130 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. Vettery, meanwhile, launched in 2014 and was itself acquired two years ago by HR services firm Adecco Group.

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Asked how many Hired employees would be joining Vettery, Brenner said it was too early in the transition to specify, but he added, “Not only does Hired have a great client base, they’ve also got an amazing team that we’ve admired as well and gotten to know over the last period of time … so we’re extremely hopeful that we can bring together as many of those talented people as possible.”

Netflix says ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ is setting viewership records

“The Queen’s Gambit” is setting viewership records at Netflix, the streaming service said today.

Like all the viewership data that Netflix has released this year, these new numbers reflect how many people “chose to watch” — in other words, how many people watched at least two minutes of a given show or movie. In the case of “The Queen’s Gambit,” the number is 62 million households for the first 28 days of release, making it Netflix’s most popular scripted limited series ever.

You may have noticed some qualifiers there. “The Queen’s Gambit” beat out other limited series, like co-creator Scott Frank’s previous show “Godless,” but not Netflix’s biggest ongoing hits, such as “The Witcher” (76 million households watching season one). It also fell just a bit short of the limited-but-unscripted documentary series “Tiger King,” which reached 64 million households during its first four weeks.

The numbers are still pretty impressive for a series with what seems like a decidedly un-commercial promise — following a troubled young woman as she rises through the ranks of competitive chess, eventually challenging the Soviet Union’s world champion. But the series has benefited from excellent reviews (100% on Rotten Tomatoes) and the fact that it’s very, very good.

Indeed, its impact can be seen outside Netflix’s viewing numbers. The 37-year-old Walter Tevis novel on which it’s based has become a New York Times bestseller, while sales of chess sets have increased dramatically.

“Three years ago when Scott Frank … first approached us about adapting ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ — Walter Tevis’ 1983 book about a young chess prodigy — we felt it was a compelling tale,” Netflix’s vice president for original series Peter Friedlander wrote in a blog post. “Beth is an underdog who faces addiction, loss and abandonment. Her success — against the odds — speaks to the importance of perseverance, family, and finding, and staying true to, yourself.”

 

Cure Hydration raises $2.6M for its healthy sports drink alternative

Cure Hydration is announcing that it has raised $2.6 million in seed funding as it brings a healthier approach to the sports beverage market.

Founder and CEO Lauren Picasso, whose past roles include serving as director of marketing at Jet.com, told me that she became interested in the market after training for a triathlon; she’d often feel dehydrated even after drinking lots of water. (This is also something I struggled with while training for a marathon last year — and yes, I’m only mentioning this because I really want you to know that I ran a marathon.)

The obvious solution was to drink Gatorade or something similar to replenish her electrolytes, but Picasso said, “When I started looking for electrolyte products that were healthy and effective, I realized everything on the market still uses a base of sugar.” In fact the average sports drink contains 36 grams of sugar.

So Picasso and the Cure team developed a new beverage based on the World Health Organization’s Oral Rehydration Solution, which Picasso said is “primarily used to help people suffering from diseases like cholera,” and which has saved “millions of lives and is proven to hydrate as effectively as an IV drip.”

Cure uses the ORS as a foundation to create a range of flavored beverages (it’s adding the new flavors Ruby Riot Grapefruit and Laser Focus Matcha). The core ingredients include coconut water and pink Himalayan salt, while everything is organic and vegan, with no added sugars.

Cure Hydration

Image Credits: Cure Hydration

The startup sells these drinks in the form of powders that you mix with water. On its website, they cost $24.99 for a pack of 14, or $19.99 of you subscribe. (The company donates 1% of proceeds to the women’s sports nonprofit SheIS.) Picasso said early customers have tended to be amateur athletes and people who need help staying hydrated due to chronic illnesses and other health conditions.

The product is also rolling out in stores like CVS, Walmart and Whole Foods. Picasso said that one of her goals with the funding is to bring Cure to 4,200 retail locations across the United States.

She also plans to develop new products beyond hydration, though she said they will stay true to the company’s “guiding principles” that all its products are “backed by science” and “taste delicious.” The company has a medical advisory board that includes Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist; Dr. Dana Cohen, the author of “Quench”; and nutritionist Brooke Alpert, author of “The Sugar Detox.”

The round was led by Lerer Hippeau, with participation from M3 Ventures, Litani Ventures, Andy Roddick, Nas, Matthew Dellavedova, Casper CEO Philip Krim, mParticle CEO Michael Katz, Thrive Market CEO Nick Green and others.

“Now, more than ever, consumers are prioritizing health in their daily lives and looking for products that are not only effective, but better-for-you,” said Lerer Hippeau Principal Caitlin Strandberg in a statement. “Lauren is an exceptional operator and we’ve been impressed with her ability to bring a WHO-approved formulation to market without compromising on product quality or efficacy. With this cash infusion and retail expansion, we’re excited to see Cure get into even more hands.”

Original Content podcast: ‘The Crown’ introduces its Princess Diana

“The Crown,” Netflix’s lavish historical drama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, has returned for a fourth season that focuses on Elizabeth’s relationship with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and on Prince Charles’ troubled marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales.

We’ve had conflicting opinions about the show’s past seasons, and the new season hasn’t exactly settled those disagreements, as we explain on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast.

Anthony and (especially) Jordan remain fans of the show, and they found season four to be particularly compelling. Yes, the monarchy is a little ridiculous and “The Crown” does have a tendency to simplify real-world events, but its retelling of the Charles-Diana relationship is heartbreaking, and it also takes the time to show some of the damage wrought by Thatcher’s policies.

Darrell, on the other hand, remains a skeptic, with little patience for all the attention paid to the royal family. He was particularly exasperated by the show’s deviation from historical reality, and by performances (particularly Gillian Anderson as Thatcher) that felt more like cheesy, “Saturday Night Live”-style imitations.

In addition to reviewing the show, we also discuss this week’s announcement that “Wonder Woman 1984” will be premiering in both theaters and on HBO Max on December 25.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

If you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:30 “Wonder Woman 1984” discussion
10:45 “The Crown” Season 4 review (mild spoilers)

Daily Crunch: Roblox is going public

Roblox opens its books, Snap makes an acquisition and Pfizer and BioNTech seek regulatory approval for their vaccine. This your Daily Crunch for November 20, 2020.

The big story: Roblox is going public

The child-friendly gaming company filed confidentially to go public in October, but it only published its S-1 document with financial information late yesterday.

How do the numbers look? Well, Roblox is certainly growing quickly — total revenue increased 56% in 2019, and then another 68% in the first three quarters of 2020, when it saw $588.7 million in revenue. At the same time, losses are growing as well, nearly quadrupling to $203.2 million during those same three quarters.

The company also acknowledged that its success depends on its ability to “provide a safe online environment” for children. Otherwise, “business will suffer dramatically.”

The tech giants

Snap acquired Voisey, an app to create music tracks overlaying your own vocals — Voisey users can apply audio filters to their voices, and they can browse and view other people’s Voisey tracks.

Despite commitment to anti-racism, Uber’s Black employee base has decreased — Uber’s latest diversity report shows a decline in the overall representation of Black employees in the U.S.

Google, Facebook and Twitter threaten to leave Pakistan over censorship law — This comes after Pakistan’s government granted blanket powers to local regulators to censor digital content.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Loadsmart raises $90M to further consolidate its one-stop freight and logistics platform — Loadsmart offers booking for freight transportation across land, rail and through ports, all from a single online portal.

ORIX invests $60M in Israeli crowdfunding platform OurCrowd — OurCrowd also says that the two groups will collaborate to create financial products and investment opportunities for the Japanese and global market.

Kea raises $10M to build AI that helps restaurants answer the phone — CEO Adam Ahmad says the startup has created a “virtual cashier” who can do the initial intake with customers, process most routine orders and bring in a human employee when needed.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

If you didn’t make $1B this week, you are not doing VC right — Don’t yell at me, Danny Crichton said it!

Why is GoCardless COO Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas pivoting to become a full-time VC — “I think this is the best moment in entrepreneurship in Europe.”

What is Roblox worth? — A deeper dive into Roblox’s numbers.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Pfizer and BioNTech to submit request for emergency use approval of their COVID-19 vaccine today — These emergency approvals still require supporting information and safety data, but they are fast-tracked relative to the full, formal and more permanent approval process.

Mixtape podcast: Building a structural DEI response to a systemic issue with Y-Vonne Hutchinson — Hutchinson is the CEO of ReadySet, a consulting firm that works with companies to create more inclusive and equitable work environments.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.