Week in Review: Apple games the system

Hey all. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about shifting Facebook user habits and their play to take down Tinder.


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The big story

This week, Apple launched some new products, but really the only big surprises were how aggressively the company is moving with pricing their subscription products. The Apple TV+ product and Apple Arcade gaming subscriptions will both be launching this fall for $4.99.

The prices were aggressive. Given the costs of Apple News+ and Apple Music, most people might have expected the services to strike $9.99. While TV+ is striking a low price to take on entrenched streaming competitors, the pricing of Apple Arcade is particularly interesting because Apple is trying to boldly shift how games are priced.

Subscribers get access to 100+ games on Arcade, with new games added monthly. The games are exclusives and they are ad-free and micro-transaction free. In a lot of ways, this subscription is seeking to undo many of the mobile gaming monetization trends it helped create, but it seems unlikely they can put Pandora back in the box.

Getting gamers on a discovery platform like this could be great for indie devs looking for eyeballs, but that’s only if the economics work out, something that depends on Apple throwing an awful lot of money at the problem.

While Apple News+ divvied up $9.99 among Apple and hundreds of publishers, it was an easier sell because publishers saw it as an entirely new class of customers for digital products that they were already creating and monetizing elsewhere. For developers bringing their titles to Arcade exclusively, that $4.99 is the whole pie for all parties involved, and even if Apple is fully or partially funding the titles, the whole model seems predicated on Apple spending through the process of acquiring customers.

While original content TV-streaming and music-streaming are avenues that Apple has had to ride up against a clear competitor, there isn’t a particularly successful mobile gaming subscription product out there. Apple has always claimed to skate to where the puck is going with its hardware products, but they have been late on services for the most part, with Apple Arcade it could be different, but turning back the clock won’t be easy.

Send me feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email
[email protected]

On to the rest of the week’s news.

(Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • Alibaba’s Jack Ma officially retires
    To Americans, Jack Ma may just be another Chinese tech billionaire, but the Alibaba founder is a larger-than-life entrepreneur, which makes his retirement a huge development. The retirement is no shock, as Ma had long teased his departure from the Chinese online retail giant. Read more here.
  • Uber lays off hundreds
    Uber is having an interesting public debut, but the ridesharing giant is opting to consolidate a bit as it aims to shrink its losses. The company announced this week it is laying off 435 employees. Read more here.
  • New Apple hardware
    Apple made some services announcements this week, but they also dropped some hardware updates. What we saw were probably the most iterative iPhone and Watch updates that we’ve ever seen. The always-on display of the Apple Watch will keep you tilting your wrist left often to see the time and the crazy triple-camera module on the iPhone 11 Pro will bring some new functionality to the camera. Read more here.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. America takes aim at Google:
    [49 states and the District of Columbia are pushing an antitrust investigation against Google]
  2. Apple makes “improvements” to anti-competitive App Store algorithms:
    [Apple tweaks its App Store algorithm as antitrust investigations loom]

Disrupt SF

Our biggest event of the year is right around the corner and we’re bringing in some of the most important figures in the tech industry. Here’s who’s coming to Disrupt SF 2019.

In addition to taking in the great line-up of speakers, you can roam around Startup Alley to catch the more than 1,000 companies showcasing their products and technologies. And of course the Startup Battlefield competition that launched the likes of Dropbox, Cloudflare and Mint will once again be one of the biggest highlights of Disrupt SF.

Sign up for more newsletters in your inbox (including this one) here.

Another high-flying, heavily-funded AR headset startup is shutting down

While Apple and Microsoft strain to sell augmented reality as the next major computing platform, many of the startups aiming to beat them to the punch are crashing and burning.

Daqri, which built enterprise-grade AR headsets, has shuttered its HQ, laid off many of its employees and is selling off assets ahead of a shutdown, former employees and sources close to the company tell TechCrunch.

In an email obtained by TechCrunch, the nearly ten-year-old company told its customers that it was pursuing an asset sale and was shutting down its cloud and smart-glasses hardware platforms by the end of September.

“I think the large majority of people who worked [at Daqri] are sad to see it closing down,” a former employee told TechCrunch. “[I] wish the end result was different.”

image

The company’s 18,000+ square foot Los Angeles headquarters (above) is currently listed as “available” by real estate firm Newmark Knight Frank. The company’s Sunnyvale offices appear to have been shuttered sometime prior to 2019.

Daqri’s shutdown is only the latest among heavily-funded augmented reality startups seeking to court enterprise customers.

Earlier this year, Osterhout Design Group unloaded its AR glasses patents after acquisition talks with Magic Leap, Facebook and others stalled. Meta, an AR headset startup which raised $73 million from VCs including Tencent, also sold its assets earlier this year after the company ran out of cash.

Daqri faced substantial challenges from competing headset-makers including Magic Leap and Microsoft, who were backed by more expansive war chests and institutional partnerships. While the headset company struggled to compete for enterprise customers, Daqri benefitted from investor excitement surrounding the broader space. That is, until the investment climate for AR startups cooled.

Daqri was, at one point, speaking with a large private equity firm about financing ahead of a potential IPO, but as the technical realities facing other AR companies came to light, the firm backed out and the deal crumbled, we are told.

As of mid-2017, a Wall Street Journal report detailed that Daqri had raised $275 million in funding. You won’t find many details on the sources of that funding, other than references to Tarsadia Investments, a private equity firm in Los Angeles that took part in the company’s sole disclosed funding round. We’re told Tarsadia had taken controlling ownership of the firm after subsequent investments.

In early 2016, Daqri acquired Two Trees Photonics, a small UK startup that was building holographic display technologies for automotive customers. The UK division soon comprised a substantial portion of the entire company’s revenues, sources tell us. By early 2018, the division was spun out from Daqri as a separate company called Envisics, leaving the Daqri team to focus wholly on bringing augmented reality to enterprise customers.

The remaining head-worn AR division failed to gain momentum after prolonged setbacks in adoption of its AR smart glasses, including difficulties in training workers to use the futuristic hardware, a source told TechCrunch.

All the while, the company’s leadership put on a brave face as the startup sputtered. In an interview this year with Cornell Enterprise Magazine, Daqri CEO Roy Ashok told the publication that the startup was forecasting shipments of “tens of thousands” of pairs of its AR glasses in 2020.

Daqri, its founder and several executives did not respond to requests for comment.

Apple’s HomePod set to gain some long overdue functionality this fall

It’s no secret that the HomePod’s software updates have been a bit sluggish, which made it all the more alarming that the device was barely touched on in yesterday’s Apple event.

Well, even as pre-launch promises are still getting ironed out, by the fall Apple says that its home smart speaker will be gaining new functionality including multi-user support, live radio and a relaxing “ambient sounds” mode, according to an updated product page on the company’s website. Some of this functionality was detailed at Apple’s June services event.

Multi-user support is “coming this fall” assumedly after the release of iOS13. This is one of the most egregious missing features from the device at the moment, something both Alexa and Google Home devices have pushed forward more quickly on.

The product page for the HomePod details that multi-user voice recognition will allow the device to recognize up to six individual voices. This feature will allow users to ask the device to play music catered to their interests while also asking the device to carry out commands related to personal data like recent iMessages or upcoming meetings.

The live radio features is part of iOS13’s functionality and will be arriving at the end of the month with support for iHeartRadio, Radio.com, and TuneIn. More than 100,000 radio stations will be available to users who ask Siri to pop on a station.

Alongside the new radio stations, in the fall Apple will be adding a relaxing Ambient Sounds mode “featuring the soothing sounds of ocean waves, forest birds, rainstorms, and more.”

Apple hasn’t proven the HomePod to be all that capable in meeting consumer-facing software update deadlines so we’ll see how that goes, but they’re saying all of these features will arrive by fall.

Week in Review: Facebook’s newest feature might be arriving too late

Hello subscribers. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about Apple’s Siri apology.


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The big story

For all that Facebook has been experimenting with and exploring as of late, the launch of Facebook Dating is one feature that feels pretty integral to their DNA. Facebook already piloted relationship statuses and added another step to the dating process, now they’re trying to enable those relationships in the first place.

The biggest threat to Facebook’s dating play (which launched in the United States this week) is that people aren’t using Facebook the same way that they did ten or fifteen years ago. Facebook very well could have missed the boat.

People grumbled when Messenger was spun out of the core Facebook app, but as the app became more about media consumption, actions like visiting friends’ profiles became more about browsing than interacting. Facebook was once the ideal space for an app like this, but it might be a bit less natural of a home compared to apps like Messenger where most communication happens.

Facebook has more than just new user habits to contend with. The company isn’t blazing the trail here, they have a whole mess of contending apps to take on, though interestingly there are only a couple competing conglomerates they need to neutralize given the pretty extreme consolidation in the dating app scene.

Entrepreneurs aligned with Match Group seem to see Facebook trying to ship a one-sized fits all solution for an industry that has proven to need several platforms of varying niches. So, the questions are how broad of an audience Facebook can find and whether they’ll go out of their way to pursue different modes to appeal to what other apps have already gleamed from the market.

Facebook’s clearest advantage is that it already has a directory of most of the people that you know and it can leverage that network for things like its “secret crush” feature that lets you list friends of yours that you’re interested in and can make a connection if one of those Facebook friends feels the same way.

We’ll see soon whether Facebook’s play is coming too late or right on time.

Send me feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email
[email protected]

On to the rest of the week’s news.

DSCF5301 1

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • Samsung’s Galaxy Fold is aiming for a triumphant relaunch
    Samsung’s biggest fiasco since the Note 7 is ready for another go. The company announced this week that it’s ready to relaunch its $2,000 folding phone in Korea and plans to release the US version in the coming weeks. Read more here.
  • Facebook looks at removing like counts
    User-visible metrics have made the social media world go ’round but there are some questions about how healthy it is to constantly be judging what you share about yourself based on getting likes and shares. Facebook is experimenting a bit with taking like counts off of posts. Read more here.

iPhone rumor OnLeaks Digit

What to expect at the 9/10 iPhone event

  • Apple is launching its latest iPhone models this week and we have some pretty decent ideas of what we’re going to see. It’s the third-year of the iPhone X cycle so we’re not expecting a full revamp, just some iterative updates, most of which we’re expecting to show up in a redesigned camera. Check out my colleague Brian Heater’s story for all of what he’s expecting at the event.

facebook instagram whatsapp glitch down

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. Hundreds of millions of Facebook user phone numbers scraped:
    [A huge database of Facebook users’ phone numbers found online]
  2. YouTube gets a smaller-than-expected fine:
    [FTC fines YouTube $170M over COPPA violations]
  3. Amazon Ring gets some heat:
    [US Senator demands answers from Amazon Ring over its police partnerships]
  4. More Facebook antitrust news:
    [New York AG will lead antitrust investigation into Facebook]

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. We published a roadmap for entrepreneurs trying to make the most of the data that they have.

How early stage startups can use data effectively

“…There are good and bad ways for startups to use data. In my opinion, the bad way unfortunately is often preached on saas blogs, a/b test tool marketing pages, and especially growth hacker conferences: that by simply measuring and looking at data you’ll find simple things to do that will drive explosive growth. Silver bullets, if you will.

The good way is comparable to first principles thinking. Below the surface of your day to day results, your startup can be described by a set of numbers. It takes some work to discover these numbers, but once you have them you can use them to make predictions and spot underlying trends. If everyone in your company knows these numbers by heart, they will inevitably make better decisions…”

(Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Disrupt SF

Our biggest event of the year is right around the corner and we’re bringing in some of the most important figures in the tech industry. Here’s who’s coming to Disrupt SF 2019.

In addition to taking in the great line-up of speakers, you can roam around Startup Alley to catch the more than 1,000 companies showcasing their products and technologies. And of course the Startup Battlefield competition that launched the likes of Dropbox, Cloudflare and Mint will once again be one of the biggest highlights of Disrupt SF.

Sign up for more newsletters in your inbox (including this one) here.

Adam Draper gives his oddball accelerator a makeover

Adam Draper, the son of that Draper, is changing things up a bit at his accelerator.

Boost VC has been living life on the fringe of Bay Area accelerators, chasing trends like VR and crypto (and sometimes a combo of the two) hard while courting outliers, including a “robot fish platform” and a “cold metal fusion printer.”

While Boost VC’s investments have varied in feasibility, Draper says most of them fit into his particular vision of emerging tech that he calls “sci-fi tech,” something he says is more about finding technologies that give humans “superpowers,” a term he seems to be giving a pretty broad definition with a sci-fi portfolio that includes a jetpack startup and a hotel booking site.

Canvassing frothy sectors hasn’t always been a particularly strong recipe for sustained success; both VR/AR and blockchain startups have endured bear markets in the past couple of years. Draper encourages his bets to stay lean and low-profile; the accelerator’s official slogan was, at one point, “be the cockroach.”

Adam Draper isn’t planning to shift away from longshots, but he is turning the seven-year-old Boost VC into a more codified accelerator in an aim to provide a more compelling pitch to savvy entrepreneurs that need more money early on.

The headline changes are that Boost VC is halving the number of companies in its accelerator classes to 7-10 companies, and is increasing the checks that it’s writing to $500K while taking a bigger slice of its portfolio startups (15%). The accelerator is still giving the same perks and is hoping to up the programming to make the smaller group more close-knit.

The numbers may be shifting, but the biggest change is that there are hard numbers to begin with. Boost VC has at times looked like a club for Draper’s early angel investments, largely because the check sizes and valuations varied so heavily — investments ranged from $50K to $500K.

“Standardizing everything just makes it all way, way better,” Draper told TechCrunch. “YC is awesome, and that’s why I forked their model. I think programming-based VC is the best model in venture capital.”

With this change toward deal uniformity, Draper may be stripping some of the volume, but also focusing more on quality, rather than breadth. This is undoubtedly a necessary step as accelerator behemoth Y Combinator continues to surge in size, now betting on nearly 400 companies per year while sucking up a pretty sizable pool of accelerator applicants from other institutions.

Last year, Draper announced the close of Boost’s third fund, which clocked in at $38.6 million. The team is about to take applications for its 13th “tribe” of accelerator startups.

“If you are a consumer or enterprise-based business, YC is fantastic and they have repeated success. If you are in this ‘sci-fi’ category than I think specialization is very important and it’s also slightly more expensive,” he says.

A major question will be whether the higher valuations and check sizes will shift Boost away from some of the riskier and stranger “Hogwarts-inspired” VR and crypto investments that it’s been making. At the same time, 15% is a pretty sizable portion of equity for founders to offload so early in their life cycle, though Draper believes plenty of teams will be interested in landing a $500K investment.

“Boost isn’t going to be for everyone, and I’m okay with that,” Draper says.

Employee survey startup Culture Amp closes $82M round led by Sequoia China

Each unhappy startup may be unhappy in its own way, but there’s still wisdom in understanding what drives employee satisfaction and dissatisfaction across companies.

Culture Amp is just one the companies aiming to help employees anonymously express how they feel about their place of work, but the Melbourne company is using the anonymized employee survey data from thousands of customers to help them learn from each other and chart what initiatives made a dent.

The eight-year-old startup has picked up a new bout of funding to help it extend its base of customers further.

Culture Amp just closed a sizable $82 million funding round led by Sequoia Capital China with participation from Sapphire Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Index Ventures, Blackbird Ventures, Hostplus, Skip Capital and Grok Ventures, Global Founders Capital and TDM Growth Partners.

The company’s Series E doubles the company’s total funding raised to date, which now sits at $158 million. Culture Amp closed its last major round of funding — a $40 million Series D — in July of last year.

The company’s subscription survey software gives customers all of the templates, questions and analytics that they need to track employee sentiment and visualize the data that they get back. The software can be used for things like quarterly engagement surveys, but it can also power performance reviews, goal-setting and self-reflections.

Employee surveys are certainly nothing revolutionary, but Culture Amp is trying to improve the process by helping its customers start to bring anonymous feedback to the team-level so that employees can give more direct feedback to their managers.

CEO Didier Elzinga tells me the company now has 2,500 customers with a collective 3 million Culture Amp employee surveys under their belts. Elzinga tells TechCrunch that harnessing the collective intelligence of its network to predict things like employee turnover is perhaps one of its strongest value propositions.

“Once you understand the experience that people are having, once you know where you should focus, how do we actually help you act on it?” he tells TechCrunch. “A large part is bringing to bear the collective intelligence of the thousands of companies we already have so that you can learn from people that have suffered from the same sorts of problems.”

The 400-person company’s customers include McDonald’s, Salesforce, Slack and Airbnb.

Week in Review: Apple makes a rare apology, Nintendo tries to reinvent its invention

Hey. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about Google’s Android naming switch-up.


The big story

Like clockwork, sources have been revealing to publications that Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Facebook M aren’t just digital assistants, they are portals into the AI workflows of Silicon Valley. Oh, and “AI workflows” means lots of contractors putting in quite a bit of manual work to understand what we want when we ask them questions.

This week, Apple announced that it’s completely changing how it handles reviewing audio from user Siri requests to ensure that users know exactly what they’re getting into privacy-wise.

The big change is that third-party contractors won’t have access to any of the clips for a process called “grading” and there is an explicit opt-in process for users. The company also gave a pretty explicit apology, which is pretty rare for an entity that seems to think its MacBook keyboards are still completely fine.

This whole situation is important for a couple reasons. One, Apple really sets the tone for consumer privacy among the tech giants so making notable changes here is positive and might push others to make similar updates. Two, Apple has the worst consumer-facing digital assistant. Like, Siri is just unquestionably worse than Alexa and Google Assistant so they arguably have the most to lose here and this is a decision that means less data for the company to hone its tech on.

Together, all of these gaffes really weren’t egregious, they were dealing with data that wasn’t nominally connected to users, but audio files should definitely be treated with a little more respect than anonymous crash reports. The journalism from publications like The Guardian pushing on “common” industry practices seemed to surface some positive change here.

Send me feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email
[email protected]

On to the rest of the week’s news.

Nintendo Switch Lite

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • Nintendo’s portable gets more portable
    The Nintendo Switch has been a huge success for the company, but in a new hardware update, the giant is doubling down on portability and simplicity in what might be a bid to capture some of the market it’s left behind from the DS line. Read more about it here.
  • Former Google engineer gets indicted
    Autonomous tech guru Anthony Levandowski who was as the center of the contentious Waymo-Uber lawsuit is back in the spotlight after he was handed a federal indictment with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets. Read more here.
  • Apple’s next hardware event is on its way
    The company just sent out invites to reporters for its iPhone event this month. Read more here.
  • Jack gets hacked
    Twitter like to dream about its impact and influence in ways that feel less realistic to the average user scrolling through spam and insults, but CEO Jack Dorsey got a taste of the seedy underbelly of the site when his Twitter account was hacked Friday and bomb threats and racial slurs were sent out. Read more here.

youtube

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. YouTube’s conspiracy theory devolution:
    [YouTube to reduce conspiracy theory recommendations]
  2. Facebook brings in some long overdue political advertising oversight:
    [Facebook will require political advertisers provide further credentials or have their ads paused]

An Amazon logo seen outside a building in Toronto

Photo by Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. We published a roadmap for entrepreneurs looking to leverage Amazon and other ad platforms to create a direct-to-consumer startup.

How to use Amazon and advertising to build your D2C startup

“…This article focuses on customer acquisition, particularly Amazon and online advertising, for the direct-to-consumer (D2C) CPG venture. Selling on Amazon, specifically third-party (3P), has become an increasingly important component of the D2C playbook. About 46% of product searches start on Amazon, which makes it a compelling source of sales even for early-stage ventures….” (Extra Crunch membership required.)

Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers. This week, we published some analysis on the latest VMware deal and also looked at how startups should integrate customer success solutions early-on.

Sign up for more newsletters in your inbox (including this one) here.

AR mapping startup 6D.ai expands platform as it exits beta

World-mapping computer vision startup 6D.ai is expanding support to new devices as its augmented reality platform exits beta.

The SF startup launched its beta in October and is now ready to let developers ship apps as it launches pricing for its services. The fixed subscription rates for 6D vary from $20-$50 per app based on the number of map download calls that users prompt. 6D will have custom-pricing for customers ushering in more than 50k map downloads.

The startup boasts Autodesk, Nexus Studios, Accenture among its customers.

The company’s platform has previously been confined to iOS devices but today, 6D announced that it is launching private beta support for Android phones and lightweight headsets.

Moving to the fractured Android platform presents more challenges than iOS, but 6D is beginning the rollout with recent ARCore-supported Samsung devices. The company plans to support all ARCore devices running Snapdragon 845 chips and newer.

The company is also announcing a partnership with Qualcomm, which is integrating the company’s tech into what basically seems to be a reference design for AR headset manufacturers. Headsets are a ways from being a central use case for the company’s technology but 6D is pursuing early partnerships to ensure that future hardware plays nicely with their platform. They have also partnered with Chinese headset-maker Nreal.

Week in Review: Google rips out its sweet tooth

Hey. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about Snap’s bizarre decision to keep pursuing hardware without really changing their overarching strategy.


The big story

Google isn’t so sweet these days.

The company’s beloved naming scheme of alphabetizing sugary things dies with Android Pie. The company announced this week that they’re dumping the dessert scheme for a much more boring option. The new Android will be Android 10.

Google has been one of those companies that has always liked to keep its quirkiness at the forefront of its brand. Multi-colored logos and bikes and hats with spinners and Nooglers and nap pods might have been the fringe elements of a Google employee’s first week on the job, but that’s what the company’s branding still evoked for a lot of people. The company’s more whimsical elements have realistically always been removed from the real world of its business interests, but at this point, the company may only be able to take away from the quirkiness of its brand, Google is just something different now.

Rebrands always grab attention, and the companies always make broad, sweeping statements about the deep meaning about what the new logo or font or name mean to the mission of the product at hand. With Android 10, Google says that their chief concern was promoting the universality of the operating system’s branding.

[W]e’ve heard feedback over the years that the names weren’t always understood by everyone in the global community. For example, L and R are not distinguishable when spoken in some languages.

So when some people heard us say Android Lollipop out loud, it wasn’t intuitively clear that it referred to the version after KitKat. It’s even harder for new Android users, who are unfamiliar with the naming convention, to understand if their phone is running the latest version. We also know that pies are not a dessert in some places, and that marshmallows, while delicious, are not a popular treat in many parts of the world.

There’s certainly room to question whether this decision has more to do with the fact that there aren’t too many desserts starting with the letter Q that immediately come to mind, or that Google marketing has decided to sanitize the Android brand with a corporate wash.

Send me feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email
[email protected]

On to the rest of the week’s news.

Apple Card available today card on iPhoneXs screen 082019

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • Apple’s credit card goes wide
    The Apple Card might be the prettiest credit card in the wild, but as the iPhone-aligned credit card starts shipping to customers, we’ll find out soon whether its extra features are enough to take down more popular millennial cards. Read more about it here.
  • Overstock’s CEO resigns amid bizarre “deep state” revelations 
    Libertarian tech CEOs are often a special kind of eccentric, but Overstock’s Patrick Byrne set a new bar for strange with his revelation that he had gotten sucked into a Trump-Russia scandal under the guise of helping unearth Hillary Clinton’s secrets. I don’t really understand it, and it seems he understood even less, but it cost him his job. Read more here.
  • Now, even the scooters are autonomous
    Segway seems to believe that it’s revolutionized the world of transportation a few times now, but its latest product is just a bit over-teched. The Segway Kickscooter T60 adds autonomous driving capabilities to the city electric scooter, but it doesn’t use them quite the way you might think. Read more here.

Facebook Currency Hearing

Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. States looking to take on tech giants themselves:
    [States to launch antitrust investigation into big tech companies, reports say]
  2. Facebook keeps learning more about how much it knew about CA:
    [Facebook really doesn’t want you to read these emails]
  3. Not really a gaffe, but just embarrassing for Apple Card:
    [Apple warns against storing Apple Card near leather or denim]

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. My colleagues and I made our way to Y Combinator Demo Days this week where we screened the 160+ startups pitching and picked some favorites from both days..

The best 11 startups from YC Demo Days (Day 1)

“Eighty-four startups presented (read the full run-through of every company plus some early analysis here) and after chatting with investors, batch founders and of course, debating amongst ourselves, we’ve nailed down the 11 most promising startups to present during Day 1…”

The top 12 startups from YC Demo Days (Day 2)

“After two days of founders tirelessly pitching, we’ve reached the end of YC’s Summer 2019 Demo Days. TechCrunch witnessed more than 160 on-the-record startup pitches coming out of Y Combinator, spanning healthcare, B2B services, augmented reality and life-extending. Here are our favorites from Day 2…”

Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers. This week, we published a some analysis on the latest YC class and also dug deep into the perks new employees get at some top companies.

Sign up for more newsletters in your inbox (including this one) here.

Workplace digital assistant startup Capacity raises $13.2M from Midwestern VCs

Solving information scatter inside enterprises seems to be the founding idea behind dozens of enterprise software startups. Capacity, which recently rebranded from Jane.ai, is raising new cash to tackle the issue with its corporate data search platform.

The company just closed a $13.2 million Series B was funded entirely by Midwestern private investors and angels.

The St. Louis workplace startup helps its customers pull all of their organizational data together into a platform that makes company information more accessible to people inside the company. It’s all done through a chat interface and directory that employees can use to search for information. There’s a pretty high degree of flexibility in customizing how questions are answered and when a line of questioning gets routed to a person onsite.

Alongside Capacity’s name change, the company has opened up its platform to let developers connect apps to the Capacity network so that more information can be integrated.

asset management hero

“We got to this point where we realized that we’re never going to be the experts in building out every one of these tailored apps, so opening up our developer platform has been crucial to helping expand the number of apps that we’ll be able to connect to,” CEO David Karandish told TechCrunch.

These automated chat bots aren’t silver bullets but the fact is a lot of this content is usually found in disparate places, and tools that can crawl through documents and pull out the key context solve a pretty clear pain point for companies.