Report: NYC and Arlington, VA win the contest for Amazon’s split East Coast headquarters

New York City and Arlington, Virginia have reportedly won Amazon’s lengthy and highly-publicized pageant for the locations of its new headquarters, beating out 238 other contestants. According to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the news, an official announcement may come as early as Tuesday.

The offices will be located in Long Island City, across the East River from Manhattan, and Crystal City, a neighborhood in Arlington, which is a 15-20 minute drive from Washington D.C.

Last week, more than a year after the Seattle-based company began asking cities to submit proposals for its second headquarters, nicknamed HQ2, reports emerged that Amazon planned to open two new locations, instead of just one, catching candidates off guard. WSJ reported that the Amazon decided to split a total of 50,000 employees between two new offices because the company believes it can recruit better candidates that way, while also avoiding the traffic, housing, and other potential infrastructure headaches of adding tens of thousands of new employees to one area.

Nonetheless, when it became clear that New York City and Arlington, Virginia were among the top contenders, residents of both areas began to worry about Amazon’s impact on housing costs and commutes, with New Yorkers wondering if the beleaguered New York City subway can handle 25,000 potential new riders. Long Island City community groups have also called on Amazon to pay a “gentrification tax” to help keep local residents from being priced out of their neighborhood by its employees.

TechCrunch has contacted Amazon for comment.

SAP agrees to buy Qualtrics for $8B in cash, just before the survey software company’s IPO

Ryan Smith of Qualtrics speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015

Enterprise software giant SAP announced today that it has agreed to acquire Qualtrics for $8 billion in cash, just before the survey and research software company was set to go public. The deal is expected to be completed in the first half of 2019. Qualtrics last round of venture capital funding in 2016 raised $180 million at a $2.5 billion valuation.

This is the second-largest ever acquisition of a SaaS company, after Oracle’s purchase of Netsuite for $9.3 billion in 2016.

In a conference call, SAP CEO Bill McDermott said Qualtrics’ IPO was already oversubscribed and that the two companies began discussions a few months ago. SAP claims its software touches 77 percent of the world’s transaction revenue, while Qualtrics’ products include survey software that enables its 9,000 enterprise users to gauge things like customer sentiment and employee engagement.

McDermott compared the potential impact of combining SAP’s operational data with Qualtrics’ customer and user data to Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram. “The legacy players who carried their ‘90s technology into the 21st century just got clobbered. We have made existing participants in the market extinct,” he said. (SAP’s competitors include Oracle, Salesforce.com, Microsoft, and IBM.)

SAP, whose global headquarters is in Walldorf, Germany, said it has secured financing of €7 billion (about $7.93 billion) to cover acquisition-related costs and the purchase price, which will include unvested employee bonuses and cash on the balance sheet at close.

Ryan Smith, who co-founded Qualtrics in 2002, will continue to serve as its CEO. After the acquisition is finalized, the company will become part of SAP’s Cloud Business Group, but retain its dual headquarters in Provo, Utah and Seattle, as well as its own branding and personnel.

According to Crunchbase, the company raised a total of $400 million in VC funding from investors including Accel, Sequoia, and Insight Ventures. It had intended to sell 20.5 million shares in its debut for $18 to $21, which could have potentially grossed up to about $495 million. This would have put its valuation between $3.9 billion to $4.5 billion, according to CrunchBase’s Alex Wilhelm.

This year, Qualtrics’ revenue grew 8.5 percent from $97.1 million in the second-quarter to $105.4 million in the third-quarter, according to its IPO filing. It reported third-quarter GAAP net income of $4.9 million. That represented an increase from the $975,000 it reported in the previous quarter, as well as its net profit in the same period a year ago of $4.7 million. Qualtrics grew its operating cash flow to $52.5 million in the first nine months of 2018, compared to $36.1 million during the same period in 2017.

In today’s announcement, Qualtrics said it expects its full-year 2018 revenue to exceed $400 million and forecasts a forward growth rate of more than 40 percent, not counting the potential synergies of its acquisition by SAP.

Qualtrics’ main competitors include SurveyMonkey, which went public in September.

Despite a strong Q3 earnings report, Square’s Q4 forecast disappoints investors

Despite a strong third-quarter earnings report, Square’s forecast for the final quarter of this year gave investors pause, sending its share price down 6 percent in after hours trading before it gradually climbed up again.

Square’s adjusted revenue grew 68 percent year-over-year to $431 million, beating expectations from analysts polled by Refinitiv (formerly the financial and risk arm of Thomson Reuters), who had forecast $413.9 million. It also reported 13 cents in adjusted earnings per share, better than the 11 cents analysts expected.

Total third-quarter revenue was $882.1 million, a 51 percent increase from the same period last year, and Square also marked its first quarterly profit of $20 million, compared to a loss of $16 million last year. In an earnings call, CFO Sarah Friar said this was due largely to Square’s investment in Eventbrite, which held its IPO in October.

Despite beating analysts’ expectations for its third quarter and also raising its adjusted core earnings forecast for 2018 to between $250 million and $255 million, up from $240 million to $250 million, Square’s forecast for the fourth quarter missed expectations. The company expects adjusted earnings of 12 cents to 13 cents a share, lower than the 15 cents forecast by analysts polled by Refinitiv.

Investors were also worried about Square’s transaction-based revenue, which grew 29% to $655 million during the third quarter, compared to 31 percent last year, because even slightly slower growth may signal that competitors like Clover are gaining more traction. Square reported, however, that the important segment of gross payment volume (GPV) it processes from “large sellers,” or merchants who do more than $125,000 a year in GPV, grew to 52 percent, up from 48 percent a year ago.

Friars said in Square’s earnings call that this is because Square has made it easier for large retailers to integrate Square’s platform into their operations, as well as the recent launches of Square Terminal, its credit card machine, and Square Installments, which enables merchants to allow customers to make monthly payments.

Friar, who oversaw Square’s IPO in November 2015 and has served as its CFO since 2012, announced last month that she will leave the company to become the CEO of Nextdoor. CEO and founder Jack Dorsey said that the search for a new CFO is his “number one focus at the company” and will be led by independent director David Viniar and board member Roelof Botha.

Some online resources to help voters with disabilities on Election Day

After Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, more states and counties in the United States are returning to paper ballots from electronic voting machines. While this may help cybersecurity, it also makes it harder for many people with disabilities to cast their vote.

To counteract that, RespectAbility, a non-partisan non-profit that works on inclusivity for people with disabilities, has put together a comprehensive list of resources for voters. The full guide can be found here, and includes the following several tools and services that are using tech to make it easier for people with disabilities to vote.

  • A partnership with Democracy Works, a non-profit group of software developers working on tools to improve the voting process, the Voting Information Project’s SMS tool that enables people to get multilingual information about their polling places and voter registration websites by texting VOTE or VOTO to GOVOTE (468-683).
  • Carpool Vote connects voters who need a ride with volunteer drivers through its website or an interactive voice response service at (804) 424-5335.
  • Lyft and Uber are both working with non-profits to offer discounted or free rides to polling places on Election Day. One of the groups Lyft has partnered with is the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), which will provide rides through its affiliates in Colorado, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

According to Pew, more than 35 million Americans of voting age have a disability. Though polling places are required by law to be accessible to people with disabilities, research from the Government Accessibility Office showed that polling places with impediments, including entrances that are difficult to navigate or voting stations that can’t accommodate wheelchairs, increased significantly between 2008 and 2016.

Furthermore, Pew says the increase in paper ballots has increased pressure on poll workers, who have very little training, which means some end up discouraging the use of accessible voting machines, making the creation of better resources for voters with disabilities even more imperative.

Ian Small, former head of TokBox, takes over as Evernote CEO from Chris O’Neill

Former TokBox head Ian Small is replacing Chris O’Neill as CEO of Evernote, the note-taking and productivity app company said this morning. In a blog post, Small said that the leadership change was announced to employees this morning by Evernote’s board. “We are all hugely appreciative of the energy and dedication Chris has shown over the last three years, and in particular for putting Evernote on solid financial footing so we can continue to build for the future,” he wrote.

Small added, “When Stepan Pachikov founded Evernote, he had a vision for how technology could augment memory and how an app could change the way we relate to information at home and at work. Evernote has been more successful at making progress towards Stepan’s dreams than he could have imagined, but Stepan and I both think that there is more to explore and more to invent.”

O”Neill had been Evernote’s CEO since 2015, when he took over the position from co-founder Phil Libin. Small previously served as CEO of TokBox, which operates the OpenTok video calling platform, from 2009 to 2014, and then as its chairman from 2014 to July of this year.

O’Neill’s departure as CEO is the latest significant leadership shift for Evernote, which has withstood several key executive departures over the last few months. In early September, we reported that the company had lost several senior executives, including CTO Anirban Kundu, CFO Vincent Toolan, CPO Erik Wrobel, and head of HR Michelle Wagner, as it sought funding in a potential down-round from the unicorn valuation it hit in 2012. According to TechCrunch’s sources, Evernote had struggled to grow its base of paid users and active users, as well as enterprise clients, for the last six years.

Then a few weeks later, Evernote announced that had to lay off 54 people, or about 15 percent of its workforce. O’Neill wrote a blog post about the company’s future growth strategy, including streamlining specific functions like sales so it could focus on product development and engineering.

Far-right social network Gab goes offline after GoDaddy tells it to find another domain registrar

Gab, the far-right social network that the suspect in Saturday’s mass shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue used to share anti-Semitic posts, has gone offline after GoDaddy gave it 24 hours to find a new domain provider. GoDaddy’s decision comes after PayPal, Medium, Stripe, and Joyent banned Gab’s accounts over the weekend.

Bowers may face the death penalty after being charged with 11 counts of murder and multiple hate crimes in connection to the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which the Anti-Defamation League said it believes is the deadliest against the Jewish community in U.S. history.

On his Gab profile, Bowers had written “jews are the children of satan” in his biography and repeatedly shared anti-Semitic content and other hate speech. Shortly before the shooting, Bowers allegedly wrote “HIAS [an organization that aids Jewish refugees] likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

In an emailed statement, a GoDaddy spokesperson said Gab was told to move after breaking the domain registrar’s rules against violent content:

“We have informed Gab.com that they have 24 hours to move the domain to another registrar, as they have violated our terms of service. In response to complaints received over the weekend, GoDaddy investigated and discovered numerous instances of content on the site that both promotes and encourages violence against people.”

Gab now displays a message claiming it “is under attack” and has been “systematically no-platformed by App Stores, multiple hosting providers, and several payment processors.”

This is not the first time Gab has run afoul of its online service providers. Last year, Gab was banned from the Apple app store and Google Play for content violations. In August, Microsoft threatened to boot it from Azure web services if two anti-Semitic posts were not removed (the posts were taken down and Microsoft continued serving Gab).

After being suspended by Joyent, Gab said through its Twitter account that it would “likely be down for weeks,” but later tweeted that it would “be back soon.”

GoDaddy also stopped providing domain services to white supremacist site Daily Stormer in August 2017 after it posted an obscene article about Heather Heyer, who was killed while protesting last year’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Facebook says it removed 8.7M child exploitation posts with new machine learning tech

Facebook announced today that it has removed 8.7 million pieces of content last quarter that violated its rules against child exploitation, thanks to new technology. The new AI and machine learning tech, which was developed and implemented over the past year by the company, removed 99 percent of those posts before anyone reported them, said Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, in a blog post.

The new technology examines posts for child nudity and other exploitative content when they are uploaded and, if necessary, photos and accounts are reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Facebook had already been using photo-matching technology to compare newly uploaded photos with known images of child exploitation and revenge porn, but the new tools are meant to prevent previously unidentified content from being disseminated through its platform.

The technology isn’t perfect, with many parents complaining that innocuous photos of their kids have been removed. Davis addressed this in her post, writing that in order to “avoid even the potential for abuse, we take action on nonsexual content as well, like seemingly benign photos of children in the bath” and that this “comprehensive approach” is one reason Facebook removed as much content as it did last quarter.

But Facebook’s moderation technology is by no means perfect and many people believe it is not comprehensive or accurate enough. In addition to family snapshots, it’s also been criticized for removing content like the iconic 1972 photo of Phan Thi Kim Phuc, known as the “Napalm Girl,” fleeing naked after suffering third-degree burns in a South Vietnamese napalm attack on her village, a decision COO Sheryl Sandberg apologized for.

Last year, the company’s moderation policies were also criticized by the United Kingdom’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which called for social media companies to be subject to independent moderation and fines for non-compliance. The launch of Facebook Live has also at times overwhelmed the platform and its moderators (software and human), with videos of sexual assaults, suicides, and murder—including that of an 11-month-old baby by her father—being broadcast.

Moderating social media content, however, is one noteworthy example of how AI-based automation can benefit human workers. Last month, Selena Scola, a former Facebook content moderator, sued the company claiming that screening thousands of violent images had caused her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Other moderators, many of whom are contractors, have also spoken of the job’s psychological toll and said Facebook does not offer enough training, support, or financial compensation.

Naya Health, once a promising breast pump startup, now leaving customers in the dark

With their loud noises and hard plastic flanges, breast pumps are the bane of many a new mother’s existence. Founded in 2013, Naya Health is one of the most notable tech startups working on a better pump. But the company’s support site is now shutdown and it’s stopped updating its social media accounts. In a report today, CNBC spoke to several customers who said their pumps, which cost $1,000 and aren’t covered by insurance, had stopped working, and Naya Health had not provided them with adequate support or replacement parts.

Several users have also complained on Naya Health’s Facebook page about non-delivery of pumps they ordered months ago. A Kickstarter campaign created for Naya Health’s smart baby bottle, which raised more than $100,000, is also filled with complaints about orders not being fulfilled (the last response from co-founder and CEO Janica Alvarez was posted six months ago).

Naya Health’s Facebook and Instagram accounts haven’t been updated since summer, even though users are still posting complaints, while its Twitter account has been set to protected mode. An email sent to Alvarez, who co-founded the company with her husband Jeffery Alvarez, Naya Health’s CTO, received an auto-reply. TechCrunch has also contacted Naya Health investors Tandem Capital and Bojiang Capital, the co-leads of its seed round, for comment. The company has raised $4.6 million in angel and seed funding, according to Crunchbase.

While the Naya Health breast pump’s price tag is significantly more than most competing devices, customers were willing to give it a chance because of its unique flange design, which used silicone and water instead of plastic cups to recreate a nursing baby’s mouth.

Cloudflare reportedly gearing up for a $3.5 billion IPO next year

Cloudflare is reportedly preparing for an initial public offering with a potential valuation of more than $3.5 billion. According to Reuters, the IPO would take place in the first half of 2019 and be led by Goldman Sachs.

This year is expected to be a strong one for cybersecurity stock debuts, thanks in part to increasing awareness of, and demand for, security and privacy services. Another cybersecurity startup said to be prepping for an IPO is CrowdStrike, which raised $200 million earlier this year on a valuation of $3 billion. According to Reuters, CrowdStrike’s would also be led by Goldman Sachs.

Founded by Lee Holloway, Matthew Prince, and Michelle Zatlyn, Cloudflare launched in 2010 at TechCrunch Disrupt. Since then, it has raised a total of $182.1 million from investors including NEA, Union Square Capital, Baidu, Microsoft, Qualcomm and capitalG (Alphabet’s investment fund formerly known as Google Capital), according to Crunchbase. Its last funding, a $110 million Series D, was announced in September 2015 and led by Fidelity Investments.

Cloudflare’s services help websites load faster and prevent security breaches. According to the company’s website, it now has more than 154 data centers and serves more than 10 million domains. The company claims that “the average Internet users touches us more than 500 times” each week.

Amazon Alexa goes AWOL for many users

Some Amazon Alexa users are currently having problems reaching the voice assistant. Instead of reacting to commands, Alexa simply says “sorry, something went wrong.” Amazon hasn’t commented publicly yet on the issue.

Based on tweets and Down Detector, users began having trouble reaching Alexa around 7AM PST. While some had their connection issues resolved quickly, many others are still waiting.

This follows an outage last month that mainly affected Echo devices in parts of the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, and Australia. According to Down Detector’s outage map, however, most of the users who currently can’t reach Alexa are in the United States.

Alexa also suffered an outage in March after an Amazon Web Services networking issue.

TechCrunch has contacted Amazon for comment.