Marvel shows are now available through Apple Podcast subscriptions

Marvel and SiriusXM have opened a new Apple Podcasts channel, which includes a paid tier. The free Marvel channel includes Marvel’s Wolverine: The Long Night and the sequel, Marvel’s Wolverine: The Lost Trail. You’ll be able to listen to Marvel/Method, in which Method Man interviews celebrities about Marvel, and This Week in Marvel, a weekly show about the latest news in the company’s ecosystem.

Other podcasts on the channel include Women of Marvel, Marvel’s Voices and Marvel’s Pull List. In addition, you can check out the first episode of the Marvel’s Wastelanders: Star-Lord podcast, which stars Timothy Busfield as Peter Quill, as well as Chris Elliott (Rocket), Danny Glover (Red) and Vanessa Williams (Emma Frost).

The paid tier, Marvel Podcasts Unlimited, offers early and exclusive access to a selection of shows. It features new scripted and unscripted podcast series, such as Marvel’s Wolverine: La Larga Noche, a Spanish-language version of Wolverine: The Long Night, which is available today. You’ll also be able to listen to exclusive programming, such as the documentary series Marvel’s Declassified, which delves into the history of Marvel Comics.

On October 4th, subscribers will get early access to the first two episodes of Marvel’s Wastelanders: Hawkeye, which features Stephen Lang as Hawkeye and Sasha Lane as his estranged 17-year-old daughter Ash. You’ll be able to listen to future installments of Marvel’s Wastelanders, including ones centered around Black Widow, Wolverine and Doctor Doom, before they’re available elsewhere. Other podcasts are on the way too.

The new channels build on the partnership Marvel and SiriusXM forged in 2019. They’ve released original podcasts on other platforms, such as Pandora, Stitcher and, of course, SiriusXM. The companies say they’ll share new episodes of podcasts elsewhere after they debut on Marvel Podcasts Unlimited.

The Marvel channel is available in more than 170 countries. You’ll be able to subscribe to Marvel Podcasts Unlimited through the channel. The service costs $4/month (which may vary by country) after a seven-day trial. Marvel and SiriusXM are launching the channel and subscription three months after Apple rolled out paid channels in the Podcasts app.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

Marvel shows are now available through Apple Podcast subscriptions

Marvel and SiriusXM have opened a new Apple Podcasts channel, which includes a paid tier. The free Marvel channel includes Marvel’s Wolverine: The Long Night and the sequel, Marvel’s Wolverine: The Lost Trail. You’ll be able to listen to Marvel/Method, in which Method Man interviews celebrities about Marvel, and This Week in Marvel, a weekly show about the latest news in the company’s ecosystem.

Other podcasts on the channel include Women of Marvel, Marvel’s Voices and Marvel’s Pull List. In addition, you can check out the first episode of the Marvel’s Wastelanders: Star-Lord podcast, which stars Timothy Busfield as Peter Quill, as well as Chris Elliott (Rocket), Danny Glover (Red) and Vanessa Williams (Emma Frost).

The paid tier, Marvel Podcasts Unlimited, offers early and exclusive access to a selection of shows. It features new scripted and unscripted podcast series, such as Marvel’s Wolverine: La Larga Noche, a Spanish-language version of Wolverine: The Long Night, which is available today. You’ll also be able to listen to exclusive programming, such as the documentary series Marvel’s Declassified, which delves into the history of Marvel Comics.

On October 4th, subscribers will get early access to the first two episodes of Marvel’s Wastelanders: Hawkeye, which features Stephen Lang as Hawkeye and Sasha Lane as his estranged 17-year-old daughter Ash. You’ll be able to listen to future installments of Marvel’s Wastelanders, including ones centered around Black Widow, Wolverine and Doctor Doom, before they’re available elsewhere. Other podcasts are on the way too.

The new channels build on the partnership Marvel and SiriusXM forged in 2019. They’ve released original podcasts on other platforms, such as Pandora, Stitcher and, of course, SiriusXM. The companies say they’ll share new episodes of podcasts elsewhere after they debut on Marvel Podcasts Unlimited.

The Marvel channel is available in more than 170 countries. You’ll be able to subscribe to Marvel Podcasts Unlimited through the channel. The service costs $4/month (which may vary by country) after a seven-day trial. Marvel and SiriusXM are launching the channel and subscription three months after Apple rolled out paid channels in the Podcasts app.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

Uber adjusts third-quarter forecast in light of increased gross bookings

Uber said Tuesday that it could hit one measure of profitability in the third quarter, earlier than expected as the ride-hailing company saw gains in its delivery and mobility businesses. The ride-hailing service told regulators in a filing this morning that it anticipated an increase in gross bookings and stronger adjusted EBITDA in the quarter than it had forecasted for shareholders in its last investor presentation.

The company now anticipates gross bookings for the current quarter to land between $22.8 billion and $23.2 billion, up from an initially-promised $22 billion to $24 billion range. The company’s forecasted adjusted EBITDA, an accommodating method of calculating profit, was also raised to between -$25 million and $25 million in the quarter ending Sept. 30, and improvement from the company’s previous anticipation of a result merely “better than a loss of $100 million.”

“They say that crisis breeds opportunity and that’s certainly been true of Uber during the last 18 months,” CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement.

Uber is now on track to adjusted EBITDA breakeven in quarter three, CFO Nelson Chai said – an achievement that may seem odd to those unfamiliar with the economics of ride-hailing, which is characterized by perilous unprofitability.

As TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm explains for ExtraCrunch, “adjusted EBITDA” is a way of calculating profit before interest, taxes, depreciation and other costs. Consider, for example, that Uber lost $6.77 billion in 2020 (admittedly an improvement from its previous yearly loss of $8.51 billion). But under adjusted EBIDTA accounting, those numbers dropped to losses of $2.73 billion and $2.53 billion, respectively.

Uber did not provide a full picture of its financials for the third quarter in its recent 8-K filing – that will come when the company reports its performance after the conclusion of Q3. However, it looks like the company may reach positive adjusted EBITDA by the fourth quarter, meeting a long-held promise to investors.

The ride-hailing giant further noted that its fourth quarter adjusted EBITDA is projected to land between $0 and $100 million, compared to the previously anticipated, and more generic expectation of merely “adjusted EBITDA profitability.” Uber cautioned that “significant forecasting uncertainty” may cause it to provide an updated forecast.

Still, for Uber the long march to adjusted profitability appears to finally be in sight. All it took was a global pandemic, layoffs, and far-higher prices for the achievement to be managed.

Really, this market isn’t good enough?

It’s the first day of Disrupt, so things are a bit busy here at TechCrunch. In honor of that fact, entries from The Exchange concerning NFT volume viz recent marketplace valuations and how an accelerating pace of change helps startups by exposing more market voids will have to wait.

But we do have time this morning for a little incredulity, so let’s indulge.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money.

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CNBC reported today that Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski is not enthused about present-day market conditions, and thus isn’t in a hurry to take his company public.

There’s some merit to the idea; after all, Klarna has shown a strong ability to raise huge sums of capital while private.

Why not just keep at it? In short, because the company has to either go public or sell itself to a larger company at some point. Given that we’ve already seen PayPal and Square cut checks to buy BNPL volume, the list of potential acquirers for Klarna is not as long as you might think. The company, flush with billions in private-market funding, will need to go public. It’s a simple question of when. 

Which makes the following all the more surprising. Via CNBC:

“The volatility in the market right now makes me nervous to IPO to be honest,” Siemiatkowski told CNBC’s Karen Tso at the London Tech Week conference on Monday. “I think it would be nice to IPO when it’s a little bit more sound. And right now it doesn’t feel really sound out there.”

Huh. Color us confused.

The public market for BNPL companies actually feels pretty damn strong at the moment.

Affirm, for example, is a BNPL company publicly listed in the United States. In Q2 2021 (Q4 fiscal 2021 for the company), Affirm reported gross merchandise volume of $2.5 billion, and revenues of $261.8 million. Those figures were up 106% and 71%, respectively. Affirm also posted a net loss of $128.2 million in the quarter, and $430.9 million in red ink during its most recent fiscal year (the 12 months ending June 30, 2021).

Tumblr’s subscription product Post+ enters open beta after much scrutiny from users

Tumblr is entering open beta for its subscription product Post+, meaning that all U.S. users can now try out the monetization feature. The product launched in closed beta in July, allowing users hand-picked by Tumblr to place some of their content behind a monthly paywall. This marked the first time that Tumblr allowed bloggers to monetize their content directly on the platform, but the feature was met with backlash from users who worried about how the feature would change the site’s culture.

Now, Tumblr has responded to user feedback by removing the blue Post+ badge that appeared next to the names of users who enabled the feature. Tumblr differentiates itself from other sites by not revealing users’ follower and following counts, so users were concerned that this distinction, which looked like a Twitter verification badge, contradicted that key aspect of Tumblr culture. Tumblr is also adding a $1.99/month price point in open beta — before, subscriber-only content could be priced at $3.99, $5.99, and $9.99. Tumblr will only take 5% of creator profits — comparatively, Patreon takes between 5% and 12% depending on the tier. Payments will be processed through Stripe.

Still, Tumblr users were dismayed by the way Post+ was rolled out. Many bloggers were concerned that in the closed beta, Post+ users didn’t have the ability to block paying subscribers without first contacting support — this could potentially expose users to harassment without the tools to manage it. Tumblr corrected that mistake in the open beta, so now, users can block subscribers themselves. Creators can also put existing content behind the Post+ paywall.

Some users upset with the Post+ rollout staged a protest, which — with over 98,000 notes — is the first thing that shows up when you search “post plus” on Tumblr. Many people on Tumblr have amassed followings by posting iterative fan content, like fanfiction. Tumblr cited fanfiction as an example of the kind of content that creators can put behind a paywall, but users remain concerned that they will be subject to legal action if they were to do so. Archive of Our Own, a major fanfiction site, prohibits its users from linking to sites like Patreon or Ko-Fi, since some intellectual property rights holders can be litigious about the monetization of fanfiction. While it’s considered fair use to make fan content, profiting from it can be considered a violation of copyright.

When Tumblr banned pornographic content in 2018, monthly page views decreased by 29% — to date, the blogging platform hasn’t regained that traffic. After being sold to Automattic in 2019, Tumblr has committed to capturing the attention of Gen Z audiences, who the platform says make up about 48% of its users. Tumblr says it’s catering Post+ to serve Gen Z audiences, but the results of the open beta will begin to reveal whether or not this is what users on the platform want.

Niio announces $15M Series A following strategic partnership with Samsung Displays

Niio, a Tel Aviv-based digital art platform that offers access to digital art, from contemporary artists and galleries to NFTs, announced today it has closed $15 million Series A funding in the wake of a strategic partnership with Samsung Displays last week.

The round was co-led by L Catterton, which is a joint venture company between LVMH and Catterton, Entrée Capital and Pico Venture Partners. Additional investors also joined, including Saga VC, as well as leading artists, art collectors, museums, gallerists and trustees at institutions such as MOMA and Guggenheim as well as Shalom McKenzie, who recently acquired a CryptoPunk NFT at Sotheby’s. Prior to the Series A round, Niio had raised $8 million, initially from strategic angels, followed by a seed round from institutions in 2017.

Niio will use its capital to grow its artist community and scale its app-enabled subscription and purchase platform, which is blockchainbased and will include a trading-enabled marketplace for NFTs and other digital art assets.

“Digital art has become an accepted, mainstream medium with the market accelerating largely due to the explosive growth of NFTs,” said Niio CEO and co-founder Rob Anders. “The transformation people are experiencing is the most significant and consequential moment for culture in decades, making new kinds of art accessible and experienced on screens in ways like never before,” Anders added.

Niio’s technology enables users to stream digital artwork on any digital screen or canvas anywhere, bridging the gap between art and creating a platform similar to what music and entertainment streaming services have done for albums and movies.

Niio, founded by Rob Anders and Oren Moshe in 2014, combines an accessible streaming subscription service alongside the ability for people to purchase editioned NFT artwork directly from artists, galleries and content owners, through its public marketplace or via private transactions, Anders told TechCrunch.

Niio is launching its subscription service at the end of 2021 followed by its NFT marketplace — which makes Niio, backed by a global community of art professionals, the most comprehensive end-to-end solution for the digital art medium and ensuring that premium digital art is easily accessible by anyone on any screen, Anders continued.

By providing Niio’s tools to a global community of 6,000 galleries, institutions and artists from renowned to emerging, Niio’s platform and blockchain enables artists to require, distribute, manage and monetize and preserve their work.

Niio will be free for all artists, forever, to respect and support the creative community and artists’ ability for publishing, managing and protecting their life’s work.

“We have realized our vision for a platform that first and foremost empowers artists and enables their work to be experienced digitally and available globally. We are gratified by the trust that more than 6,000 artists have placed in us — as we enable them to publish, manage protect and monetize their life’s work,” Niio co-founder Oren Moshe said.

Approximately 10,000 global business customers have been using the Niio platform for the past two to three years, Anders said. Clients range from art professionals, including galleries, museums, studios and art schools, to luxury brands, hotel chains and real estate developers, who subscribe and display curated art streams from the 15,000 premium works available on the platform, to millions of people across public spaces and places in over 30 countries, Anders said.

“There are over 1 billion Smart TVs in the market and our partner Samsung has 30-40% of the market contributing to our ability to offer a ‘last mile’ proposition,” Anders said.

The digital art market is projected to be approximately $50 – $100 billion by 2025, according to Anders.

“The digital art has long been on our radar at L Catterton. We are very bullish on its future, and our ongoing evaluation of the sector brought us to Niio,” said Michael Farello, managing partner at L Catterton’s Growth Fund. “We are convinced that their platform approach including both subscription and an NFT offering combined with the reputation they have built in the critical artist community and the validation from their partnership with Samsung – will make them a market leader.”

Business Canvas, a Korea-based document management SaaS company, closes $2.5M seed round

Business Canvas, a South Korean document management SaaS company behind Typed, announced today it has raised a $2.5 million seed round led by Mirae Asset Venture Investment, with participation from Kakao Ventures and Nextrans Inc.

The seed round will be used for accelerating product development and global launch of open beta for its AI-powered document management platform. The company opened an office in Santa Clara, California this year to spur its global expansion.

People are bombarded with information thanks to advances in technology that opens the doors to a wealth of information, but at the same time, too much information and a huge amount of data at one time leave the users confused and/or unable to make timely decisions.

Business Canvas, founded in July 2020 by CEO Woojin Kim, Brian Shin, Seungmin Lee, Dongjoon Shin and Clint Yoo, is hoping to solve the challenge that every knowledge worker and writer faces: spending more time on research and file organization than the actual content output they need to create.

“In fact, people commit over 30% of their working hours trying to search for that file we once saved in a folder that we just cannot find anymore,” Business Canvas CEO and co-founder Kim said.

Through a network that intelligently tracks and organizes files based on the user’s interactions, Typed brings all the knowledge from different websites and applications into one simple-to-use and quick-to-learn digital workspace.

Strictly keeping its users’ information and their confidential files uninterrupted, Typed does not access the content of users’ documents but utilize them as machine learning data in order to protect their information and data, Kim told TechCrunch. It simply collects users’ action driven data point and publicly available metadata of documents and resources under users’ permission, Kim added.

“Modern document writing has not changed since the 1980s,” Business Canvas co-founder Clint Yoo said. “While we have more knowledge at our fingertips than ever before, we use the same rudimentary methods to organize and make sense of it. We want any writer – from lawyers and entrepreneurs to researchers and students – to focus on creating great content instead of wasting time organizing their source material. We achieved this by making knowledge management more like the way our brain operates.”

Since the launch of the closed beta test in February 2021, Typed saw significant user growth including more than 10,000 users on the waitlist, with 25,000 files uploaded and 350% month-over-month active user growth, the company said in its statement. Typed will be available through a freemium model and is currently accepting beta registrations on its website.

“When we’ve tested our closed beta, our metrics show top traction among students as well as journalists, writers and lawyers, who require heavy research and document work on a frequent basis. We opened up access earlier this month for the waitlists in over 50 countries. These are primarily B2C users,” Kim told TechCrunch. “As for B2B, we are currently in the process of proof-of-concept (POC) for one of the largest conglomerates in South Korea. Smaller teams like startups, boutique law, consulting firms, venture capitals and government institutions also have been adopting Typed as well.”

“While the company is still in its nascent stage in its development, Typed has the potential to fundamentally change how we work individually or as a team. If there is a business to take on our outdated way of writing content, it’s them [Typed],” Shina Chung, Kakao Ventures CEO said.

The global market size for social software and collaboration SaaS is estimated at $4.5 billion in 2021, increasing over 17% year on year, Kim said.

Battery Resourcers raises $70M to grow closed-loop battery supply chain

Battery Resourcers, a startup that’s developing a closed-loop approach to lithium-ion battery materials, has closed $70 million in mid-round funding to scale its commercial operations across two continents.

The company, which is based in Worcester, Massachusetts, doesn’t just recycle batteries. It’s also engineered a process to turn that recycled material back into critical battery materials – specifically, nickel-manganese-cobalt cathodes and purified graphite, a material used in anodes. It intends to sell those materials right back to the battery manufacturer.

This latest round saw participation from new investor Hitachi Ventures, as well as existing investors Orbia Ventures, Jaguar Land Rover’s InMotion Ventures, Doral Energy, At One Ventures, TDK Ventures and Trumpf Ventures.

Battery Resources secured a $20 million Series B a little over five months ago. That funding was to accelerate the launch of the startup’s first commercial-scale facility, which will be able to process 10,000 tons of batteries per year. CEO Michael O’Kronley told TechCrunch in a recent interview that that plant will open in the first quarter of 2022, though the company has not yet announced where it will be located in the U.S.

With this new funding, the company will be opening two additional commercial-scale sites in Europe, which will be operational by the end of 2022. In all, Battery Resourcers aims to have 30,000 tons of recycling capacity by the end of next year across its three commercial-scale locations. Cathode material production will be added to these sites in the following year.

There are a number of reasons to look abroad, O’Kronley said, not least because Battery Resourcers anticipates Europe being an even larger market than the U.S.

“Europe has the same concerns the U.S. does about retaining critical battery materials in the supply chain,” he said, adding that European lawmakers currently mandate battery recycling on the part of OEMs, and will likely mandate the use of recycled materials in batteries. “Couple that with the amount and the number of gigafactories that have been announced in Europe, relative to the US, most people believe, including Battery Resourcers, we believe the European market will be larger than the North American market.”

CEO Michael O’Kronley Image Credits: Battery Resourcers (opens in a new window)

The lion’s share of critical battery materials are currently produced in Asia, but O’Kronley said the industry is shifting from being highly concentrated in specific locations to a more global operation.

“Whether it’s the Asian company that is moving to Europe or North America, or new entrants that are coming in and supplying Europe and North America – we’re a new entrant coming in supplying these regions – the battery material supply chain will absolutely have to be localized,” he said. “We’re part of that.”

O’Kronley added that the company has been in talks with a number of OEMs and consumer electronics companies, but declined to specify any details. However, he did say that vehicle OEMs and battery manufacturers have already taken the company’s cathode material and built it into batteries for testing and to compare it to “virgin” cathodes.

“It’s Battery Resourcers’ belief that long term, you need a vertically integrated supply chain, and to be able to extract the highest amount of value out of these spent batteries,” O’Kronley said. “We’re moving upstream in making these engineering materials that go right back into a new battery.”

Slack releases Clips video tool, announces 16 Salesforce integrations

Slack has been talking about expanding beyond text-based messaging for some time. Today at Dreamforce, the Salesforce customer conference taking place this week, it announced Clips, a way to leave short video messages that people can watch at their leisure.

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield sees Clips as a way to communicate with colleagues when a full 30 minutes meeting isn’t really required. Instead, you can let people know what’s going on through a brief video. “Clips are a way to record yourself on your screen. And the idea is that a lot of the meetings shouldn’t require us to be together in real time,” Butterfield said at a Dreamforce press event yesterday.

He added that these video clips provide more value because you can still get the point that would have been delivered in a full meeting without having to actually attend to get access to that information. What’s more, he says the videos create an audit trail of activity for archival purposes.

“It’s easily shareable with people who weren’t in attendance, but [still] get the update. It’s available in the archive, so you can go back and find the answers to questions you have or trace back the roots of a decision,” he said. It’s worth noting that Slack first introduced this idea last October, and announced an early customer beta last March, at which point they hadn’t even named it yet.

He admitted that this may require people to rethink how they work, and depending on the organization that may be harder in some places than others, but he believes that value proposition of freeing up employees to meet less and work more will eventually drive people and organizations to try it and then incorporate into the way that they work.

Clips builds on the Huddles tool released earlier this year, which is a way via audio to have serendipitous water cooler kinds of conversations, again as a way to reduce the need for a full-fledged meeting when people can get together for a few minutes, resolve an issue and get back to work. Butterfield says that Huddles has had the fastest adoption of any new capability since he first launched Slack.

In March, in a Clubhouse interview with SignalFire investor Josh Constine (who is also a former TechCrunch reporter), Butterfield said that the company was also working on a Clubhouse tool for business. The company did not announce any similar tool this week though.

The company also announced 16 integrations with Salesforce that span the entire Salesforce platform. These include the sales-focussed deal room and the customer support incident response called swarms announced earlier this month, as well as new connections to other tools in the Salesforce family of product including Mulesoft and Tableau and industry-specific integrations for banking, life sciences and philanthropy.

In case you had forgotten, Salesforce bought Slack at the end of last year in a mega deal worth almost $28 billion. Today, as part of the CRM giant, the company continues to build on the platform and product roadmap it had in place prior to the acquisition, while building in integrations all across the Salesforce platform.

Google’s updated iOS 15 apps support Focus Mode and iPad widgets

With iOS 15 now available to download, developers both big and small have started updating their apps to take advantage of the operating system’s marquee features. One of those is Google, which detailed today the iOS 15-related enhancements you can expect from its apps.

The biggest change involves how Gmail, Meet, Tasks, Maps, Home and many of Google’s other applications will handle notifications. Should you have iOS 15’s new Focus Mode enabled, Google says prompts that don’t require your immediate attention will go to the Notifications Center where you can deal with them later. More timely reminders, such as those Google Maps sends you when you’re trying to navigate somewhere, won’t be silenced, and you’ll see them as they’re sent to you. Google says its goal was to make notifications “as relevant and timely as possible.” You’ll see these roll out to the company’s apps in the “coming weeks.”

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Meanwhile, if you own an iPad you can look forward to new Google Photos and YouTube Music widgets that take advantage of the extra screen space Apple’s tablets offer. The company says it will roll these out in the coming weeks as well. Lastly, Google Drive and YouTube Music feature new Spotlight integrations. You can use the tool to search for specific files and to play a song directly in Google’s music streaming service. Those enhancements are available today — though you’ll probably wish more apps worked with Spotlight in this way.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.