Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Instagram will finally let you chat from your web browser, but the launch contradicts Facebook’s plan for end-to-end encryption in all its messaging apps. Today Instagram began testing Direct Messages on the web for a small percentage of users around the globe, a year after TechCrunch reported it was testing web DMs.

When fully rolled out, Instagram tells us its website users will be able to see when they’ve received new DMs, view their whole inbox, start new message threads or group chats, send photos (but not capture them), double click to Like, and share posts from your feed via Direct so you can gossip or blast friends with memes. Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri tweeted that he hopes to “bring this to everyone soon” once the kinks are worked out.

Web DMs could help office workers, students, and others stuck on a full-size computer all day or who don’t have room on their phone for another app to spend more time and stay better connected on Instagram. Direct is crucial to Instagram’s efforts to stay ahead of Snapchat, which has seen its Stories product mercilessly copied by Facebook but is still growing thanks to its rapid fire visual messaging feature that’s popular with teens.

But as Facebook’s former Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos tweeted, “This is fascinating, as it cuts directly against the announced goal of E2E encrypted compatibility between FB/IG/WA. Nobody has ever built a trustworthy web-based E2EE messenger, and I was expecting them to drop web support in FB Messenger. Right hand versus left?”

A year ago Facebook announced it planned to eventually unify Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram Direct so users could chat with each other across apps. It also said it would extend end-to-end encryption from WhatsApp to include Instagram Direct and all of Facebook Messenger, though it could take years to complete. That security protocol means that only the sender and recipient would be able to view the contents of a message, while Facebook, governments, and hackers wouldn’t know what was being shared.

Yet Stamos explains that historically, security researchers haven’t been able to store cryptographic secrets in JavaScript, which is how the Instagram website runs, though he admits this could be solved in the future. More probematically, Stamos writes that “the model by which code on the web is distributed, which is directly from the vendor in a customizable fashion. This means that inserting a backdoor for one specific user is much much easier than in the mobile app paradigm” where attackers would have to compromise both Facebook/Instagram and either Apple or Google’s app stores.

“Fixing this problem is extremely hard and would require fundamental changes to how the WWW [world wide web] works” says Stamos. At least we know Instagram has been preparing for today’s launch since at least February when mobile researcher Jane Manchun Wong. We’ve asked Instagram for more details on how it plans to cover web DMs with end-to-end encryption or whether they’ll be exempt from the plan.

Critics have called the messaging unification a blatant attempt to stifle regulators and prevent Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp from being broken up. Yet Facebook has stayed the course on the plan while weathering a $ 5 billion fine plus a slew of privacy and transparency changes mandated by an FTC settlement for its past offenses.

Personally I’m excited because it will make DMing sources via Instagram easier, and mean I spend less time opening my phone and potentially being distracted by other apps while working. Almost 10 years after Instagram’s launch and 6 years since adding Direct, the app seems to finally be embracing its position as a utility, not just entertainment.


TechCrunch

Comcast NBCUniversal believes its can access startup innovation while supporting future Olympic gold-medalists.

The American mass media company launched its new SportsTech accelerator today, based in part, on that impetus.

TechCrunch attended a briefing with Comcast execs at 30 Rock NYC to learn more about the initiative.

The SportsTech accelerator is a partnership across Comcast NBCUniversal’s sports media brands: NBC Sports, Sky Sports and the Golf Channel.

The program brings in industry partners NASCAR, U.S. Ski & Snowboard and USA Swimming — all of whose sports broadcast on Comcast NBC channels.

Starting today, pre-Series A sports technology startups can apply to become part of a 10-company cohort.

Accepted ventures will gain $ 50,000 in equity-based funding and enter SportsTech’s three-month accelerator boot camp — with sports industry support and mentorship — to kick off at Comcast’s Atlanta offices August 2020.

Boomtown Accelerators will join Comcast in managing the SportsTech program, with both sharing a minimum of 6% equity in selected startups.

Industry partners, such as NASCAR and U.S. Ski & Snowboard, will play an advisory role in startup selection, but won’t add capital.

An overarching objective for SportsTech emerged during conversations with execs and Jenna Kurath, Comcast’s VP for Startup Partner Development, who will run the new accelerator.

Comcast and partners aim to access innovation that could advance the business and competitive aspects of each organization.

From McDonald’s McD Tech Labs to Mastercard’s Start Path, corporate incubators and accelerators have become common in large cap America, where companies look to tap startup ingenuity and deal-flow to adapt and hedge disruption.

Toward its own goals, SportsTech has designated several preferred startup categories. They include Business of Sports, Team and Coach Success and Athlete and Player Performance.

SportsTech partners, such as NASCAR, hope to access innovation to drive greater audience engagement. The motorsport series (and its advertising-base) has become more device-distributed, and NASCAR streams more race-day data live, from the pits to the driver’s seat.

“The focus has grown into what are we going to do to introduce more technology in the competition side of the sport…the fan experience side and how we operate as a business,” said NASCAR Chief Innovation Officer Craig Neeb.

“We’re confident we’re going to get access to some incredibly strong and innovative companies,” he said of NASCAR’s SportsTech participation.

U.S. Ski & Snowboard — the nonprofit that manages America’s snowsport competition teams  — has an eye on performance and medical tech for its athletes.

“Wearable technology [to measure performance]…is an area of interest…and things like computer vision and artificial intelligence for us to better understand technical elements, are quite interesting,” said Troy Taylor, U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Director of High Performance.

US Ski Team

Credit: U.S. Ski & Snowboard

Some of that technology could boost prospects of U.S. athletes, such as alpine skiers Tommy Ford and Mikaela Shiffrin, at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

In a $ 7.75 billion deal inked in 2014, Comcast NBCUniversal purchased the U.S. broadcast rights for Olympic competition —  summer and winter —  through 2032.

“We asked ourselves, ‘could we do more?’ The notion of an innovation engine that runs before, during and after the Olympics. Could that give our Team USA a competitive edge in their pursuit for gold?,” said Jenna Kurath.

The answer came up in the affirmative and led to the formation of Comcast’s SportsTech accelerator.

Beyond supporting Olympic achievement, there is a strategic business motivation for Comcast and its new organization.

“The early insights we gain from these companies could lead to other commercial relationships, whether that’s licensing or even acquisition,” Will McIntosh, EVP for NBC Sports Digital and Consumer Business, told TechCrunch.

SportsTech is Comcast’s third accelerator, and the organization has a VC fund, San Francisco-based Comcast Ventures — which has invested in the likes of Lyft, Vimeo and Slack and racked up 67 exits, per Crunchbase data.

After completing the SportsTech accelerator, cohort startups could receive series-level investment or purchase offers from Comcast, its venture arm or industry partners, such as NASCAR.

“Our natural discipline right now is…to have early deliverables. But overtime, with our existing partners, we’ll have conversations about who else could be a logical value-add to bring into this ecosystem,” said Bill Connors, Comcast Central Division President.


TechCrunch

“Keep your head high and give them hell.”

My grandma, Opal Thompson, once wrote that to me in a letter, like the dyed-in-the-wool, strong Texan woman she was. It is now tattooed on my forearm for all to see. Memories of her powerful presence and great advice have been a North Star on my path to entrepreneurship, as well as the kick in the pants I have needed along the way to confidently go toe-to-toe with nonbelievers in my industry. “Honey, you need to work harder and smarter than men and get ‘er done,” she once told me. It may sound folksy, but it’s gotten me to where I am today.

Last October, my fearless cofounder Carolyn Rodz and I “gave them hell” with an announcement of which I couldn’t be prouder: our small business growth platform Alice just closed a Series A round of funding. That’s a major accomplishment that I think is newsworthy in its own right. But, the headline is even better. We required a morality clause in the funding agreement, legally demanding repercussions in the event of racial, gender, or sexual orientation discrimination.

As we were pitching Alice for funding, Carolyn and I went back to the fundamentals of why we started Alice for small business owners in the first place. Our platform exists to break down barriers to growth for our community of more than 100,000 business owners — especially entrepreneurs who are women, veterans, people of color, or members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Whether that means access to tips and best practices or funding opportunities of which they otherwise wouldn’t be aware, our job is to help small business owners “get ‘er done” — whatever that means to them. For us, there is an immense responsibility in being a comprehensive resource that small business owners trust to help them grow their ventures. We’re always encouraging our owners to try new approaches and go big in every aspect of their development, and that includes pushing owners to challenge institutions that stand in the way of their successes.

One institution that has long stood in our way is the silent perpetuation of discriminatory and predatory behavior by influential investors. While we’ve seen a rise of so-called “Weinstein” clauses drafted in the wake of the watershed #MeToo movement two years ago, most of those cases refer to protections for investors against investee executives who have outstanding allegations.

This is an important step in the right direction of instilling accountability at all levels of business. But we were left asking ourselves, “what happens when an investor is the one #MeToo’d?”

We at Alice were troubled by the lack of legal consequences for key decision makers, from board members to venture capitalists, given the reputational harm their actions could inflict on the businesses they touch. So to protect the reputation we have worked so hard to build for Alice and to protect the business owners who seek us for help every day from across the globe, Carolyn and I decided to lead by example and take a stand with our own investors. We took the “Weinstein” clause and flipped it, giving our board members the agency to use corporate governance mechanisms to vote for removal of any board member in the event of a #MeToo event, racial discrimination, or sexual orientation discrimination incident. Simply put, Alice and its investors are not afraid to show you the door if your behavior doesn’t serve the best interests of our community of entrepreneurs.

Including this provision was crucial to our vision for the company as we continue to grow. It echoes our core values of inclusivity within our online business community. And, as our users seek venture capital, we want them to know that they have the right to stipulate what should be common sense legal protections while still securing the funding they need. We have provided the clause openly here so everyone can take advantage — and not have to pay the legal bills we did.

Making sure that this information is available to anyone who wants it is part of our commitment to ensuring that everyone in business gets a fair shake. To have other founders include morality clauses like ours in their funding agreements is as important to me as the fact that we did it ourselves. We must make this a trend.

Our morality clause is also important to us as we strive to improve the broader business community and the way we all seek funding. Small businesses represent nearly 95 percent of all U.S. employers and support the careers of more than 50 percent of Americans.

But, while the small business landscape is changing into a New Majority, with more women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ folks starting businesses every day, the demographic of venture capitalists is much slower to change. To date, 89 percent of venture capital deciders are still men, and of all the investments they make, only 2 percent of them are in female-owned businesses. Less than half of a percent of women who receive venture capital are Latina, and the representation is even worse for other minority communities of entrepreneurs.

By now, Carolyn (who is Latina herself) and I have learned that we have to make our presence known in a business world that has often excluded us. And as more #MeToo behaviors come to light across industries, we’ll be able to protect our businesses and entrepreneurs making lasting impacts on our communities.

As we look to the next chapter of Alice and its expansion into new markets in 2020, we will continue to share our unique funding story with hopes that other small businesses will be inspired and empowered to do the same.

Venture capitalists be warned: the New Majority of entrepreneurs is here to stay, and our morality clause is just the beginning of a new path to small business success.

I think Grandma Opal would be proud.


TechCrunch

I hope you’ve all had a good week. Normally I’m behind the scenes (where I’m most comfortable), but I’ll be managing the Startups Weekly newsletter until I assign it to someone else. More on that in a few weeks. Want it in your inbox? Sign up here for this and other great newsletters we have to offer, including ones on space and transportation. For now, let’s get on with it, shall we?

A unicorn workout

Working out never did a body so good as it did for ClassPass this week. The popular startup that created a way to help people exercise more easily just became a unicorn with an influx of Series E cash. 

The latest funding, in the amount of $ 285 million, was led by L Catterton and Apax Digital, with participation from existing investor Temasek. It brings ClassPass’s total known raise to about $ 550 million.

We reported a couple of weeks ago that ClassPass, then at a $ 536.4 million valuation, was sniffing around for the round, which would promote it to the unicorn club.

We are motivated by the impact we’ve had on members and partners, including 100 million hours of workouts that have already been booked,” said ClassPass Founder and Chairman Payal Kadakia in a statement about the raise. “This investment is a significant milestone that will further our mission to help people stay active and spend their time meaningfully.

Photo: ClassPass

Funding real estate

A couple of real estate-ish startups got some attention this week. Los Angeles-based Luxury Presence raised $ 5.4 million to help it help agents round out their digital marketing arsenals.

In other real estate funding this week, Orchard, previously known as Perch, announced that it has raised $ 36 million. The company solves the problem that so-called “dual-trackers” face: selling their home while trying to buy one. It’s stressful and costs a lot of money.

As Jordan Crook wrote in her story on the raise: “Orchard solves this by making an offer on buyers’ old houses that is guaranteed for 90 days. Orchard co-founder Court Cunningham says that more than 85% of those homes sell at a market price before the 90-day period.”

GettyImages 979844616

Image via Getty Images / Feng Yu

Brian Heater had a chat with Lora DiCarlo CEO Lora Haddock about the sex tech company’s return to CES. But the interview wasn’t conducted at a table in a crowded press room in some random hotel. It was in a truck with a big, glass trailer. It’s Vegas, obviously, so why not?

As Brian put it:

Driving down the Las Vegas Strip in a transparent box is a curious, extremely Vegas experience: puzzled tourists and confused CES attendees gawk from the sidewalks. Four of us are sitting in a makeshift living room with fuzzy white carpet: CEO Lora Haddock, Enzo Ferrari Drift DiCarlo (her fuzzy black-and-white Pomeranian), and a colleague, who holds Enzo in their lap. A four-foot-tall faux sex toy sits in a corner, swaying occasionally.

Last year, you might recall, the consumer tech show awarded Lora DiCarlo with an innovation award, but then took it back. They also banned the company from the show floor, stating it didn’t fit into a product category. Months later, they scored some funding and got an apology from the CES show runners.

Read the interview on Extra Crunch.

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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 03: Lora DiCarlo Founder & CEO Lora Haddock speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019 at Moscone Convention Center on October 03, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Around the horn

Extra Crunch

Over on Extra Crunch we published a bunch of great stuff this week, including stories about Ring and its evolving stance on security and privacy, how gig economy companies are trying to keep workers classified as independent contractors, and whether online privacy will make a comeback this year.

Here are a few more:

Head here if you aren’t a subscriber yet for a super-discounted first month.

#EquityPod

Alex Wilhelm was back on the mic this week with Danny Crichton, TechCrunch’s managing editor. Their docket included news of Lily AI’s $ 12.5 million Series A, Insight’s $ 1.1 billion acquisition of Armis Security, a round for a self-driving forklift startup called Vecna and SoftBank’s Vision Fund.

Listen to the episode here, and if you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that here.

But that’s not the only Equity news I have for you. Alex wants to help you all get started each week with Equity Mondays. In his own words:

The Equity crew will put together a short, zero-bullshit episode designed to get your week started. What news did you miss over the weekend? What recent venture rounds do you need to know about? What’s ahead in the coming week? And what’s on our minds? That’s what Equity Monday will bring you each and every morning in about seven minutes.

The good news is it’ll show up in the Equity feed you already know and love. Have a listen to the first Monday edition here.


TechCrunch

Netflix’s “6 Underground” feels like a movie that belongs on the big screen.

Sure, it isn’t part of a giant franchise (yet), and it doesn’t feature any well-known superheroes — but it does star “Deadpool”‘s Ryan Reynolds as a wise-cracking hero who criss-crosses the globe, going from one spectacularly destructive set piece to another. And behind the camera, you’ve got Michael Bay (who made “Bad Boys” and countless “Transformers” movies) coordinating the action.

On the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, your hosts freely admit that we … enjoyed it?

The movie is spectacularly dumb, but Bay’s approach to action — cut as often as possible and blow up everything — never gets boring. “6 Underground” opens with a fast-paced car-chase that introduces the titular team of international operatives (each of them with their own specific skill), and it follows up with scenes that are even more inventive and/or pulse-pounding.

It also helps that the script comes from “Deadpool” writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, so there’s a glib, profane energy to all of the dialogue, and some of the jokes are genuinely funny.

But your enjoyment will hinge on your ability to turn off your brain — to not be bothered by a plot that’s both laughably slapdash and ridiculously convoluted, or by Bay’s tendency to film women as if their butts were their main features.

And you definitely don’t want think too hard about the core premise, which suggests that the world would be a better place if secretive tech billionaires ignore international law and could force regime change in the Middle East.

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
0:42 “6 Underground” spoiler-free review
22:49 “6 Underground” spoiler discussion


TechCrunch

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever with a record 203 billion downloads in 2019 and $ 119 billion in consumer spending, according to preliminary year-end data by App Annie. People spend 90% of their mobile time in apps and more time using their mobile devices than watching TV. Apps aren’t just a way to waste idle hours — they’re big business, one that often seems to change overnight.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you to keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, we’re back to look at the latest headlines from the app world, including Apple’s record holiday 2019 on the App Store, a look at the staying power of AR hit, Pokémon Go, how the app stores handled a UAE spying tool, stalled Instagram growth in the U.S., and more.


TechCrunch

A few buffet mistakes aside, NuraLoop were the biggest disappointment of my 2019 CES. When the headphones showed up at the show as dummy units, it hurt my heart a little. The original Nuraphones made an appearance on my 2017 best of the year list, and the idea of a portable version I could take on long flights seemed almost too good to be true.

And for a full year, it was exactly that. Understandably, the Australian startup ran into a few roadblocks attempting to bring the product to market. It’s still a young company, even though its first gen product when over remarkably well. The noise-adapting headphones were extremely well thought out, right down to the package.

The hangup for their portable, in-ear counterparts is pretty surprising, to be honest. For much of the year, Nura just couldn’t crack the code of the cable, of all things. It’s a doubly odd sticking point, given how many of its competitors have ditched the cabling altogether. It should be noted up front, however, that the decision to keep things tethered is more pragmatic than aesthetic (honestly, it wouldn’t have been choice from a design standpoint).

As CEO Dragan Petrovic mentioned in a briefing at the show this week, the customer base for the original over-ears includes a pretty strong base of professional musicians, The cable includes a magnetic adapter for an analog headphone jack, so they can be used on stage monitors. There are a number of other times that still require capable — I’m writing this on a plane, for example. What am I supposed to do, just stare at Gemini Man?

There are other benefits, including a stated 16+ hours of battery life, without requiring a charging case. Also, you can wear them around your neck while not in use, if that’s a thing you like to do.

It’s never fun to have to delay a product, of course. In the year between CESes, Apple launched the AirPods Pro. The devices are two distinctly different approaches to the category, but Apple’s product does edge into NuraLoops’ territory, with a built-in fit check and great noise canceling. Again, different products with different audiences, but one has to wonder how many folks waiting for the NuraLoop pulled the trigger on the new AirPods, instead.

I’m happy to report that the sound quality on the NuraLoop is still extremely excellent. Sure, you lose the over-ear immersive bass effect without the ear cups, but the customized sound profile is still firmly in tact. The calibration is more or less the same, and when you’re done, you can swap between profiles to see how big a difference the customization makes (hint: it’s big).

The headphones are a bit on the bulky side. I’m definitely going to go exercise with them as soon as I get a review pair to see how well they stay put. The control scheme is clever — a touch well on the outside of each ear that perform a variety of different functions.

The year-long wait was less than ideal, but if you held out, you’ll probably find them worth it. The Nuraloop are another excellent product from the small Australian startup, which has managed to distinguish itself well in an overly crowded category. They run $ 200 and will start shipping in March.

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch


TechCrunch

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