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.

In a press conference this evening, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered “all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence” to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus disease.

Earlier this week, Mayor London Breed issued a shelter in place for six Bay Area counties, including San Francisco, through April 7. Newsom’s order for the entire state will be mandated until further notice.

Essential businesses will remain opened within the state. This includes gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, food banks, farmers markets, and restaurants that offer takeout and delivery service. Businesses that must shutter indefinitely include dine-in restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, fitness studios, convention centers, and entertainment venues.

This decision to close restaurants and keep people inside their homes comes after Newsom claimed that roughly 56 percent of Californians are likely to get COVID-19.


TechCrunch

The U.S. State Department has issued an unprecedented “do not travel” warning to U.S. citizens, as the number of coronavirus-related infections jumped sharply overnight.

The advisory said U.S. citizens should “avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19,” the coronavirus strain which last week was declared a global pandemic. The advisory added that citizens abroad should “arrange for immediate return” unless they are prepared to stay overseas indefinitely.

The warning was published Thursday, where the official count for coronavirus cases hit 220,000 infections around the world, with more than 10,000 cases in the United States alone.

Several countries have closed their borders and restricted travel to their citizens and residents in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.

This week, the European Union closed the so-called Schengen border which covers the 27 member state bloc, and the U.S. closed its border with Canada to all but essential travel and trade.

The pandemic has seen stocks and global financial markets tank, prompting governments to inject cash and slash interest rates to try to keep their economies afloat.


TechCrunch

Dozens of startups have stepped up in India in recent quarters to improve banking experience for millions of users and businesses in the country. As a result, tens of thousands of people who could not get a loan or a credit card from a bank can now secure both from fintech startups.

But this push to bring financial inclusion to everyone still has many areas to cover. Blue-collar workers, for instance, are still facing challenges in availing some basic banking services.

Kosh, a Y Combinator-backed startup (W20), is beginning to tackle this challenge. It groups three or as many as ten blue-collar workers and gives them a loan.

“When a user logs into our Android app, they are able to apply for a loan. But before they do that, they need to add some of their colleagues and friends who are also looking for a loan,” explained Aayush Goel, co-founder of Kosh, in an interview with TechCrunch.

This way of banding together people allows Kosh to charge a lower rate of interest on the loan, said Goel.

“We have borrowed this from the world of microfinance. Essentially, we have a joint liability model. Let us say there were three people who were looking for a loan. We band them together and instead of giving each of them a separate loan, we give the group one loan” he said.

Aayush Goel (pictured above), and Sahil Bansal co-founded Kosh in March last year

In each group, at least one member is credit-worthy in the traditional sense, he explained. The startup also uses alternative data such as information gleaned from text messages to determine a person’s eligibility.

Such an arrangement has traditionally seen fewer people default (or fall behind paying their debt) because of social pressure from their colleagues and friends, as all of them are liable.

Kosh started to disburse loans in December. It currently offers loans up to twice the salary of an individual and over a tenure of up to 10 months, said Goel. The startup has disbursed close to 150 loans worth $ 35,000. It works with a Noida-based non-banking financial company to fund these loans.

The startup said it plans to broaden its neobanking offering this year by creating bank accounts for its customers. “There is a general lack of discipline in how these people spend their money. Having access to a bank account that works for them could prove very useful,” said Goel.

In recent years, a handful of startups such as Bangalore-based Open and NiYO Solutions have developed neobanks or alternative banks to serve businesses and individuals. In January, two former Google Pay executives announced their own neobank startup that aims to serve millennials.

GIGI Benefits, another Y Combinator-backed startup (W20), offers insurance and savings — perks that only full-time employees typically have — to gig-economy workers and freelancers.

“We help each worker set aside part of a paycheque to cover their costs of insurance, short-term expenses, and plan for their retirement,” said Sowmya Rao, founder and chief executive of GIGI Benefits, in a post.


TechCrunch

Detroit’s big three automakers are to shut down all factories due to fears over the coronavirus. Details are still in the works and will be announced shortly.

Over the last few days, United Auto Workers has been pushing the automakers to shut down their factories over concerns of worker safety. UAW President Rory Gamble sent a letter calling on the automakers to shut down for two weeks. It’s unclear if this pressure had any effects on the automakers’ thought process.

Ford and FCA said they intended to only suspend operations at several Michigan-based plants. Early today, Honda announced it was pausing all operations at its 12 North American factories, including transmission and engine plants in Ohio, Indiana, Alabama, Canada and Mexico. Ford and GM followed several hours later. Now, in the afternoon, FCA also decided to close its factories.

At this time it seems the automakers are focusing on manufacturing and assembly plants. Most automakers had already instituted a work-at-home plan for office workers.

Along with these factories owned by major automakers, third-party suppliers will be affected, as their parts will no longer be needed. It’s unclear how many workers will ultimately be affected by these closures.

Tesla is reportedly working through shelter-in-place mandates. Early today, TechCrunch published an internal Tesla memo detailing employee instructions for its Fremont-based factory.

It read, in part, “There are no changes in your normal assignment and you should continue to report to work if you are in an essential function: production, service, deliveries, testing and supporting groups as discussed with your manager.” Tesla’s manufacturing employees, unlike the big three Detroit automakers, are not represented by the United Auto Workers.


TechCrunch

Israel has passed an emergency law to use mobile phone data for tracking people infected with COVID-19 including to identify and quarantine others they have come into contact with and may have infected.

The BBC reports that the emergency law was passed during an overnight sitting of the cabinet, bypassing parliamentary approval.

Israel also said it will step up testing substantially as part of its respond to the pandemic crisis.

In a statement posted to Facebook, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote: “We will dramatically increase the ability to locate and quarantine those who have been infected. Today, we started using digital technology to locate people who have been in contact with those stricken by the Corona. We will inform these people that they must go into quarantine for 14 days. These are expected to be large – even very large – numbers and we will announce this in the coming days. Going into quarantine will not be a recommendation but a requirement and we will enforce it without compromise. This is a critical step in slowing the spread of the epidemic.”

“I have instructed the Health Ministry to significantly increase the number of tests to 3,000 a day at least,” he added. “It is very likely that we will reach a higher figure, even up to 5,000 a day. To the best of my knowledge, relative to population, this is the highest number of tests in the world, even higher than South Korea. In South Korea, there are around 15,000 tests a day for a population five or six times larger than ours.”

On Monday an Israeli parliamentary subcommittee on intelligence and secret services discussed a government request to authorize Israel’s Shin Bet security service to assist in a national campaign to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus — but declined to vote on the request, arguing more time is needed to assess it.

Civil liberties campaigners have warned the move to monitor citizens’ movements sets a dangerous precedent.

According to WHO data, Israel had 200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of yesterday morning. Today the country’s health ministry reported cases had risen to 427.

Details of exactly how the tracking will work have not been released — but, per the BBC, the location data of people’s mobile devices will be collected from telcos by Israel’s domestic security agency and shared with health officials.

It also reports the health ministry will be involved in monitoring the location of infected people to ensure they are complying with quarantine rules — saying it can also send text messages to people who have come into contact with someone with COVID-19 to instruct them to self isolate.

In recent days Netanyahu has expressed frustration that Israel citizens have not been paying enough mind to calls to combat the spread of the virus via voluntary social distancing.

“This is not child’s play. This is not a vacation. This is a matter of life and death,” he wrote on Facebook. “There are many among you who still do not understand the magnitude of the danger. I see the crowds on the beaches, people having fun. They think this is a vacation.”

“According to the instructions that we issued yesterday, I ask you not leave your homes and stay inside as much as possible. At the moment, I say this as a recommendation. It is still not a directive but that can change,” he added.

Since the Israeli government’s intent behind the emergency mobile tracking powers is to combat the spread of COVID-19 by enabling state agencies to identify people whose movements need to be restricted to avoid them passing the virus to others, it seems likely law enforcement agencies will also be involved in enacting the measures.

That will mean citizens’ smartphones being not just a tool of mass surveillance but also a conduit for targeted containment — raising questions about the impact such intrusive measures might have on people’s willingness to carry mobile devices everywhere they go, even during a pandemic.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that the US government is considering similar location-tracking technology measures in a bid to check the spread of COVID-19 — with discussions ongoing between tech giants, startups and White House officials on measures that could be taken to monitor the disease.

Last week the UK government also held a meeting with tech companies to ask for their help in combating the coronavirus. Per Wired some tech firms offered to share data with the state to help with contact tracing — although, at the time, the government was not pursuing a strategy of mass restrictions on public movement. It has since shifted position.


TechCrunch

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that SoftBank Group is using regulatory investigations as a way to back out of its commitment to buy $ 3 billion in shares from existing WeWork shareholders.

WeWork’s spectacular train wreck of an initial public offering was an early harbinger that the good times might be over for a cohort of later-stage investments valued at multiple billions of dollars. And the buyout package was part of a broader effort by SoftBank to work out some of the issues at the most troubled company in its broad portfolio of high-priced, highly valued private startups.

Among those who would be left out of a potential buyback plan is WeWork’s founder and former chief executive, Adam Neumann, who was set to receive up to $ 970 million for his shares in the co-working company.

Citing a notice sent to WeWork shareholders, the Journal reported that if SoftBank reneged on the buyback, it would not go back on its commitment to give the office sharing company a $ 5 billion lifeline.

According to the Journal’s reporting, the deal to buy back shares isn’t canceled, and could just be an effort to renegotiate terms in light of the global economic slowdown caused by the world’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

So far, the SEC and the Justice Department, along with New York state regulators, have asked for information from SoftBank about WeWork’s business practices and communications to investors.


TechCrunch

TruTag Technologies, a company that creates microscopic, edible barcodes to authenticate medications, food, vaping pods and other products, has raised a $ 7.5 million Series C. The funding, led by Pangaea Ventures and Happiness Capital, will be used to further commercialize its technology and develop new solutions.

Along with earlier rounds, this brings TruTag’s total funding to $ 25 million. Its clients include PwC, which uses the company’s technology in its Food Trust Platform quality assurance program for Australian beef exports.

A high magnification of TruTag particles, each of is an edible “chip” that authenticates the product it is applied to.

A high magnification of TruTag particles, each of is an edible “chip” that authenticates the product it is applied to.

Called TruTags, the company’s tiny barcodes are made out of nano-porous silica, a material that has received GRAS (generally recognized as safe) notice from the U.S Food and Drug Administration, and can be placed directly on products or in packaging to track it through the supply and logistics chain.

TruTags are used with hyperspectral imaging technology, which is able to process much more wavelengths than other imaging methods, so it can collect more precise and detailed data from an image. When scanned, the barcodes provide information about where a product was manufactured, lot numbers, authorized distributors and safe use.

In email, TruTag chief executive officer Michael Bartholomeusz, who holds a PhD in materials engineering from the University of Virginia, told TechCrunch that the company sees the most growth opportunities in industries, such as pharmaceuticals, nutraceutical foods and cannabis, that deal with counterfeit products from the black market or the “grey market,” including products from unauthorized suppliers.

A conceptual photo of TruTags' technology.

A conceptual photo of TruTags’ technology.

“TruTags material is an already approved excipient in pills by the FDA. Pharmaceuticals and food comprise a very large portion of the global counterfeiting problem, and given the very unique edible feature of TruTag’s solution, this is a core area of focus for the company,” he says.

For example, the technology can be used to lock vaping systems so they only work with authentic vaping pods, helping reduce the number of counterfeit pods on the market. Bartholomeusz adds that TruTags is close to coming to market in the CBD space.

TruTags’ ability to be placed directly on products, its edibility and instant authentication in one to five seconds differentiates it from other solutions. Bartholomeusz notes that other quality assurance tech include specialized symbols, inks and holograms, though many of those products have the disadvantages of being replicable by high-quality printers or relying on consumers’ ability to recognize them.

In a press statement, Matthew Cohen, director of technology at Pangaea, which focuses on investing in advanced materials technology, said “Pangaea is excited to partner with TruTag and help the company expand its team and product portfolio. We believe TruTag’s edible barcode technology will help increase consumer confidence and ultimately save lives. TruTag is making our world better by utilizing compelling advanced materials and advanced material process innovations to combat rising problems such as drug counterfeiting.”


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