YC-backed Stoic is a journaling app with a focus on understanding your feelings

The process of using the Stoic journaling app is simple: You open the app in the morning and the evening, when you’ll be prompted to answer a couple of questions and perform a few simple exercises.

For example, this evening the app asked me to rate my current level of fulfillment and to identify what made me smile today, while also pointing me to guided exercises like journaling and breathing.

Stoic is part of the current batch of startups at Y Combinator (it’s taking the stage today at Demo Day). Founder Maciej Lobodzinski told me that his goal is to help users understand the different factors influencing their mental and emotional state.

“The core of the app is: We have this insight and we see what influences your mood and what you feel,” Lobodzinski said. He suggested that this is very different from the “super transactional” idea embedded in my other mental health and wellness apps, where “you pay for my app and you feel better.” In his view, “You should feel how you feel. It’s okay, how you feel, but you should know why you are feeling this way.”

So once there are a couple of weeks of data in the app, you should be able to look back and see how you were feeling on a certain day, and if there were activities that made you feel more or less fulfilled. Over time, Lobodzinski hopes to add more insights about “what influenced you, why you feel this way, why you are productive.”

Stoic screen shots

As the name implies, Stoic is inspired by Lobodzinski’s interest in classical Stoic philosophy (he’s not the first to suggest that the approach has direct applications in the tech industry), and the app even includes quotes from Stoic philosophers.

“It’s an extremely practical framework,” he said. “When I talk to users, there are entrepreneurs, investors, traders — people who found out about the app because they were looking for how to deal with their stress …
If you are stressed with your everyday life and you can get the advice of the emperor of Rome, who dealt with much more serious things, it’s amazing how much better you can feel after that.”

At the same time, users have the option to receive quotes from different schools of thought — not just Stoicism but also Buddhism, Taoism and Catholicism. For some users, their app experience won’t be explicitly focused on Stoicism, but Lobodzinski said that even then, it forms the “spine” of the app’s approach.

The basic app is free, but Stoic charges $27.99 per year for a premium version that includes iCloud syncing and additional content.

Daily Crunch: Apple Card launches in the U.S.

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 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Apple Card launches today for all US customers, adds 3% cash back for Uber and Uber Eats

Customers can apply for Apple Card through the Wallet app on their iPhones, then start using it via Apple Pay before the physical card arrives in the mail.

Why use the card? One benefit is the ability to track your purchases in an app. Plus, there’s cash back — 2% for Apple Pay purchases, 1% for non-Apple Pay purchases and 3% for purchases on Uber and Uber Eats.

2. Twitter blocks state-controlled media outlets from advertising on its social network

The new policy was announced just hours after the company identified hundreds of accounts linked to China as part of an effort to “sow political discord” around protests in Hong Kong.

3. All 84 startups from Y Combinator’s S19 Demo Day 1

There are 197 companies (!) in the summer YC batch, and TechCrunch wrote up all 84 of the ones that presented yesterday.

Starship Technologies delivery robots go to work for Postmates in Washington D.C.

4. Starship Technologies raises $40M, crosses 100K deliveries and plans to expand to 100 new universities

Starship Technologies invented the category of rolling autonomous sidewalk delivery robots.

5. Facebook unveils new tools to control how websites share your data for ad-targeting

Just to be clear: Facebook isn’t deleting the data that a third party might have collected about your behavior. Instead, it’s removing the connection between that data and your personal information on the social network.

6. Without evidence, Trump accuses Google of manipulating millions of votes

The president’s accusation appears to be based on little more than supposition in an old paper reheated by months-old congressional testimony.

7. Revenue-based investing: A new option for founders who care about control

There’s a new wave of investors who use creative deal structures with some of the upside of traditional VC, but some of the downside protection of debt. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

PressReader aims to add more personalization to its digital news platform by acquiring News360

A pair of digital news companies are teaming up, with PressReader acquiring News360.

PressReader was founded back in 1999 as Newspaper Direct. It now operates a platform that converts newspapers and magazines into digital formats, while offering a $29.99 monthly subscription that provides unlimited access to more than 7,000 of those titles.

News360, meanwhile, is relatively youthful, having been founded in 2010. It’s also created a news aggregation app, but the announcement makes it sound like PressReader was particularly interested in the company’s NativeAI technology for analytics and personalization.

In a statement, PressReader CEO Alex Kroogman suggested that News360’s technology will be used to improve PressReader’s consumer experience and publisher tools:

In a world where news fatigue is a real and growing problem, and media literacy a global concern, it’s more important than ever for people to have access to the trusted content they need in an engaging environment. By understanding each person’s interests, and building advanced data science systems around content analytics, we will be able to give our millions of readers the trusted media they want, how they want it, when they want it, and where they want it, while building more audience intelligence into the data that drives our publisher and brand partnerships.

The News360 team will be joining PressReader and working out of the acquiring company’s Vancouver headquarters.

News360 CEO Roman Karachinsky told me via email that the combined company will continue to support the News360 app and “develop it alongside the PressReader apps,” but he added, “In the short-term[,] the team will be focused on adding News360 tech into PressReader, so I wouldn’t expect big changes to the News360 app until we’re done with this.”

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. According to Crunchbase, News360 has raised a total of $7.5 million from investors including Ordell Capital.

IAC acquires nursing marketplace NurseFly for $15M

NurseFly, a startup that’s created a job marketplace for short-term nursing positions, is announcing its acquisition by holding company IAC.

While the companies aren’t disclosing the deal terms, a source with knowledge of the acquisition said the price was $15 million.

Co-founder and CEO Parth Bhakta told me that hospitals often hire travel nurses (signed for contracts of 13 weeks or a few months) when there’s a staffing shortage, or just because of seasonal needs. He said job sites aren’t really designed to fill these positions, while the existing, offline hiring process is “opaque,” where a nurse’s application “kind of goes into a black hole.”

On NurseFly, on the other hand, nurses can compare multiple offers, chat with employers and research the cost-of-living in different locations. The startup works directly with staffing agencies, charging them a subscription fee (the nurses use the site for free) for access to a pool of qualified candidates who have already provided the necessary documentation.

The startup was founded in 2017 and says it currently has more than 30,000 active job listings, with revenue growing 6x year-over-year. It’s headquartered in San Francisco and recently opened an additional office in Denver.

Bhakta described IAC as the “perfect partner” to help NurseFly “really go after the opportunity with additional resources, really go after it more aggressively with a larger team and organization, to create the best place for healthcare job seekers.”

Bhakta and his co-founder/CTO Eric Conner will continue to lead NurseFly post-acquisition. The company will become part of IAC’s Emerging & Other segment, which already includes staffing platform Bluecrew, and Bluecrew CEO Adam Roston will become NurseFly’s chairman.

Men’s personal care startup Huron raises $1M

Huron founder and CEO Matt Mullenax is hoping to build a big business around body wash.

“For us, the broader mission is A+ personal care for guys everywhere — not just guys in New York or guys in the Bay Area or guys in Los Angeles,” he said.

The startup has raised $1 million in seed funding from RXBAR founders Peter Rahal and Jared Smith, CXT Investments, and Lean Luxe founder M. Paul Munford.

Mullenax told me he became interested in this market after working as a finance and operations analyst at Bonobos, where he “fell in love with the [direct-to-consumer] model.” He also said he has personal experience with bad skin, but “couldn’t justify paying $75 a month for face wash.”

So the goal at Huron is to create products that can stack up against “brands on the shelves at Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom,” but without the costs and price markup associated with a big department store. The initial lineup includes body wash ($14), face wash ($14) and face lotion ($15), with plans for more products soon.

Consumers can buy Huron products individually, as part of a larger kit or via subscription. Mullenax said the Huron website is designed to be friendly and educational for men who don’t know a lot about personal care, but at the same time it doesn’t isn’t “forcing this guy into a subscription mechanism,” and instead allowing them “come to the site and just transact on a bottle of bodywash.”

As for the broader competitive landscape — which includes companies that started with razors or cologne but have broader ambitions in men’s personal care — Mullenax said, “The industry is becoming increasingly competitive, and it it should be, it’s a huge category.”

He argued that the market has room more than just “one winner or two winners or five winners.” And in his view, Huron will be set apart with its “ability to create a brand with a tone of voice that resonates, with products that work, at a price point that makes senes for this guy.”

Mammoth Media introduces Choose Your Own Adventure-style storytelling to its chat fiction app Yarn

The chat fiction stories offered in Mammoth Media‘s mobile app Yarn are about to get more interactive.

The branching narrative mechanic should be familiar to anyone who read Choose Your Own Adventure books when they were kids — you read a story, and at certain key moments, you choose from different options that determine where the plot will go next.

More recently, the “Being Beyonce’s assistant for a day” thread on Twitter reminded everyone how fun and stressful this kind of storytelling can be. In fact, Mammoth says it’s hired the thread’s author Landon Rivera as one of the writers for this new initiative.

One thing you probably won’t recognize from your childhood reading is the fact that some of these choices aren’t free — to select them, you’ll need to spend money in the form of Yarn’s new virtual currency, gems.

Mammoth founder and CEO Benoit Vatere explained that in those cases, there might be two choices that you can select for free, plus a third that you need to pay for. Usually, it will be something that accelerates the story or sends it off in a new direction — in a horror story, you could get the option to stab someone, or in a romance story, your character could get the option to go home with someone.

Vatere added, “It’s not only being able to have a different branch in the story, but being able to play as a different character lead … Instead of being the male character, would they like to be the female character and really see a different perspective?”

He acknowledged that some of Yarn’s paying subscribers might be cranky about being asked to pay more, but he said the goal is that those subscribers can have “a full experience” without having to buy additional gems.

Yarn is launching interactive stories with titles including “Blue Ivy’s Nanny,” where it’s your first day on the job as Beyoncé’s nanny (I’m going to go ahead and guess that Rivera worked on this one); a romance story called “Playing the Field”; a horror story called “Haunted Camper” and a drama called “Trapped.” Vatere also said there are plans for branched narratives tying into existing Yarn franchises, and set in the world of Archie Comics.

Overall, Vatere said he’s hoping that this will lead to more engagement from Yarn readers, while also opening up new opportunities for monetization.

“Subscription is a great model, but subscription has a cap,” he said. That’s why Mammoth is experimenting with virtual currency, and why it plans to make these stories available to non-subscribers.

Watch the trailer for the Apple TV+ drama ‘The Morning Show’

Apple is giving viewers their first extended look at “The Morning Show,” a drama starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell.

Previously, all that we’d seen from the show were a few brief clips in a broader promo for Apple’s upcoming subscription service TV+, followed by an ominous teaser trailer that was literally just shots of a TV control room, accompanied by audio clips where people talked about how incredibly  important the news business is.

This trailer dials down the Aaron Sorkin vibe and sets up up a story where Aniston and Carrell are longtime hosts of a morning TV show — but Carrell gets fired, so a search for fresh talent leads the producers to a younger reporter played by Reese Witherspoon.

While the story and characters appear to be fictional, they draw on the real-world drama depicted in Brian Stelter’s book “Top of the Morning.”

“The Morning Show” is scheduled to debut sometime this fall on Apple TV+. This will likely to be one of the first titles on the service (which still doesn’t have an announced price or launch date), but Apple has a lot more content in the works.

Original Content podcast: Netflix’s ‘Wu Assassins’ is a punching, kicking delight

When we reviewed “Another Life” last week, we described it as an old-fashioned science fiction space show, something that’s been absent from TV for the past decade or so. “Wu Assassins” is another new Netflix series, and it’s also is a kind of a throwback — this time to ’90s martial arts series like “Vanishing Son” and “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.”

As we explain in the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, “Wu Assassins” — which tells the story of Kai, a San Francisco chef who receives mystical powers and must battle powerful nemeses known as the Wu Lords — has plenty of delightfully cheesy writing and special effects. But it’s set apart from those older shows in a couple key ways.

First, there’s the fact that Indonesian martial arts star Iko Uwais (who you might recognize from “The Raid” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) plays as Kai — he’s not a great dramatic actor, but once the action starts, he becomes a blur of punches and kicks.

The producers have surrounded Uwais with other other accomplished martial artists, so the resulting fight scenes are extraordinary. “Wu Assassins” includes a couple big set pieces, but even more remarkably, every single fight (and there are plenty) feels like it’s been choreographed for the perfect mix of beauty and brutality.

Even better, there’s Byron Mann’s performance as Uncle Six, a ruthless triad boss who has a long history with Kai. Mann brings real charisma and humanity to his performance, and he turns his dramatic scenes with Uwais into absolute highlight of the show. Plus, he’s just as compelling when he’s called upon to beat the crap out of his enemies.

In addition to praising “Wu Assassins,” we also discuss the CBS-Viacom merger and listener response to our review of “Another Life.”

You can listen 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 send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you want to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:40 “Another Life” listener response
11:51 CBS/Viacom merger
20:30 “Wu Assassins” review
33:52 “Wu Assassins” spoiler discussion

Original Content podcast: Netflix’s ‘Wu Assassins’ is a punching, kicking delight

When we reviewed “Another Life” last week, we described it as an old-fashioned science fiction space show, something that’s been absent from TV for the past decade or so. “Wu Assassins” is another new Netflix series, and it’s also is a kind of a throwback — this time to ’90s martial arts series like “Vanishing Son” and “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.”

As we explain in the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, “Wu Assassins” — which tells the story of Kai, a San Francisco chef who receives mystical powers and must battle powerful nemeses known as the Wu Lords — has plenty of delightfully cheesy writing and special effects. But it’s set apart from those older shows in a couple key ways.

First, there’s the fact that Indonesian martial arts star Iko Uwais (who you might recognize from “The Raid” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) plays as Kai — he’s not a great dramatic actor, but once the action starts, he becomes a blur of punches and kicks.

The producers have surrounded Uwais with other other accomplished martial artists, so the resulting fight scenes are extraordinary. “Wu Assassins” includes a couple big set pieces, but even more remarkably, every single fight (and there are plenty) feels like it’s been choreographed for the perfect mix of beauty and brutality.

Even better, there’s Byron Mann’s performance as Uncle Six, a ruthless triad boss who has a long history with Kai. Mann brings real charisma and humanity to his performance, and he turns his dramatic scenes with Uwais into absolute highlight of the show. Plus, he’s just as compelling when he’s called upon to beat the crap out of his enemies.

In addition to praising “Wu Assassins,” we also discuss the CBS-Viacom merger and listener response to our review of “Another Life.”

You can listen 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 send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you want to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:40 “Another Life” listener response
11:51 CBS/Viacom merger
20:30 “Wu Assassins” review
33:52 “Wu Assassins” spoiler discussion

ClearBrain launches analytics tools focused on connecting cause and effect

Businesses need to understand cause and effect: Someone did X and it increased sales, or they did Y and it hurt sales. That’s why many of them turn to analytics — but Bilal Mahmood, co-founder and CEO of ClearBrain, said existing analytics platforms can’t answer that question accurately.

“Every analytics platform today is still based on a fundamental correlation model,” Mahmood said. It’s the classic correlation-versus-causation problem — you can use the data to suggest that an action and a result are related, but you can’t draw a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

That’s the problem that ClearBrain is trying to solve with its new “causal analytics” tool. As the company put it in a blog post, “Our goal was to automate this process [of running statistical studies] and build the first large-scale causal inference engine to allow growth teams to measure the causal effect of every action.”

You can read the post for (many) more details, but the gist is that Mahmood and his team claim they can draw accurate causal relationships where others can’t.

ClearBrain analytics screenshot

The idea is to use this in conjunction with A/B testing — customers look at the data to prioritize what to test next, and to make estimates about the impact of things that can’t be tested. Otherwise, Mahmood said, “If you wanted to measure the actual impact of every variable on your website and your app — the actual impact it has on conversation — it could take you years.”

When I wrote about ClearBrain last year, it was using artificial intelligence to improve ad targeting, but Mahmood said the company built the new analytics technology in response to customer demand: “People didn’t just want to know who was going to convert, they wanted to know why, and what caused them to do so.”

The causal analytics tool is currently available to early access users, with plans for a full launch in October. Mahmood said there will be a number of pricing tiers, but they’ll be structured to make the product free for many startups.

In addition to launching the analytics tool in early access, ClearBrain also announced this week that it’s raised an additional $2 million in funding from Harrison Metal and Menlo Ventures.