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.

Pale Blue Dot, a newly outed European venture capital firm focused on climate tech, announced this week the first closing of its debut fund at €53 million.

Targeting pre-seed and seed stage startups, the firm says it will consider software and technology investments with a strong positive climate impact. Current areas of focus include food/agriculture, industry, fashion/apparel, energy and transportation, with plans to back up to 40 companies out of fund one.

Founding partners Hampus Jakobsson, Heidi Lindvall and Joel Larsson are stalwarts of the Nordic tech ecosystem and beyond: Jakobsson co-founded TAT (The Astonishing Tribe), which was sold to Blackberry in 2012, and is a prominent angel investor in Europe, most recently a venture partner at BlueYard Capital . Lindvall is the former head of accelerator and investment team at Fast Track Malmö, with a background in human rights and media. Larsson was previously managing director at Fast Track Malmö, with a technical background and prior fund management experience.

I put questions to all three, delving deeper into Pale Blue Dot’s remit and the firm’s investment thesis. We also discussed the macro trends that warrant a fund specializing in climate tech and why Europe is poised to become a leader in the space.

Pale Blue Dot is a new VC fund specializing in climate tech, but in a sense — and to varying degrees — isn’t every venture capital fund a climate tech fund these days?

Heidi Lindvall: We think all funds should be “planet-positive” and working for a better world, but it will take time until it is a focus. Still, most funds look at a potential positive impact late in their assessment and will not decline the deal if the startups wouldn’t be significantly pulling the world in a good direction.

Hampus Jakobsson: Focus has both upsides and downsides.

The negative part with being niche is that we won’t do investments in amazing people or startups that we don’t think are “climate-contributing enough” or that the founders aren’t doing it in a genuine way (as the risk of them to paying attention to the impact might lead them to become a noncontributing company).


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SoftBank Group Corp. is currently seeking buyers for about $ 20 billion of its shares in T-Mobile US, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. If the proposed sale goes through, its proceeds could help offset SoftBank’s heavy investment losses over the past year.

According to its first-quarter earnings report yesterday, SoftBank’s Vision Fund lost $ 17.4 billion in value for the year ended March 31, obliterating the $ 12.8 billion gain the fund recorded a year ago. Earlier this year, the company announced plans to sell up to $ 41 billion of its assets to increase its share buyback program.

T-Mobile’s merger with SoftBank-controlled Sprint, which was officially completed last month, gave SoftBank ownership of about 25% of T-Mobile’s shares.

Bloomberg reports that under the proposed deal, which could be announced this week, SoftBank would sell part of its stake to Deutsche Telekom AG, T-Mobile’s parent company. Deutsche Telekom currently owns about 44% of T-Mobile’s shares, but would achieve majority ownership if the deal with SoftBank goes through. Softbank would then sell some of its remaining stake to other investors in a secondary offering.

T-Mobile is the United States’ third-largest wireless carrier, after AT&T and Verizon Wireless*, and it has a current market capitalization of about $ 126 billion, which means SoftBank’s stake is worth about $ 31 billion, while Deutsche Telekom’s is about $ 55 billion.

According to the Wall Street Journal, banks including Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sach Group are currently seeking investors for the proposed sale.

TechCrunch has contacted SoftBank Group and T-Mobile for comment.

*Disclosure: Verizon is TechCrunch’s parent company.


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NASA issues a new formal request for info from industry specifically around spacesuits. The agency is hoping to gather information in order to help it figure out a future path for acquisition of spacesuit production and services from external industry sources.

That doesn’t mean it’s outsourcing its spacesuit design and production immediately – NASA will build and certify its own spacesuits for use in the first Artemis missions, including Artemis III which is the one that’ll see the next American man and the first American woman take their trip to the lunar surface. But for Artemis missions after that, of which there are currently five more proposed (Artemis 4 through 8), four of which will have crew on board.

NASA has of course already worked with private industry, as well as academic institutions and researchers, on the technologies that will go into its own space suits. And the agency fully expects that the current exploration suit will form the basis of any future designs. It is however looking to fully transition their prouduction and testing to industry partners, and will additionally expect those partners to “facilitate the evolution of the suits” and also suggest improvements on the existing suit design.

On top of the suits, NASA is looking for input on tools and support hardware to be used with the suits, during extra-vehicular activities, or in making sure the suits work well with the vehicles that’ll be transporting them, as well as the lunar gateway that will act as the staging ground between Earth and the Moon’s surface.

Finally, NASA also would like to hear from companies about how to better commercialize spacesuits and spacewalks – making them available to customers outside of the agency itself, as well.

This isn’t surprising given how many signals NASA has been giving lately that it’s interesting in partnering with industry more deeply across both Artemis, future Mars exploration, and the ISS (and its potential commercial successor). The full RFI issued by NASA is available here, in case you’re interested in spinning up a spacesuit startup.


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Google has responded to a report this week from Belgian public broadcaster VRT NWS, which revealed that contractors were given access to Google Assistant voice recordings, including those which contained sensitive information — like addresses, conversations between parents and children, business calls, and others containing all sorts of private information. As a result of the report, Google says it’s now preparing to investigate and take action against the contractor who leaked this information to the news outlet.

The company, by way of a blog post, explained that it partners with language experts around the world who review and transcribe a “small set of queries” to help Google better understand various languages.

Only around 0.2 percent of all audio snippets are reviewed by language experts, and these snippets are not associated with Google accounts during the review process, the company says. Other background conversations or noises are not supposed to be transcribed.

The leaker had listened to over 1,000 recordings, and found 153 were accidental in nature — meaning, it was clear the user hadn’t intended to ask for Google’s help. In addition, the report found that determining a user’s identity was often possible because the recordings themselves would reveal personal details. Some of the recordings contained highly sensitive information, like “bedroom conversations,” medical inquiries, or people in what appeared to be domestic violence situations, to name a few.

Google defended the transcription process as being a necessary part of providing voice assistant technologies to its international users.

But instead of focusing on its lack of transparency with consumers over who’s really listening to their voice data, Google says it’s going after the leaker themselves.

“[Transcription] is a critical part of the process of building speech technology, and is necessary to creating products like the Google Assistant,” writes David Monsees, Product Manager for Search at Google, in the blog post. “We just learned that one of these language reviewers has violated our data security policies by leaking confidential Dutch audio data. Our Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action. We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again,” he said.

As voice assistant devices are becoming a more common part of consumers’ everyday lives, there’s increased scrutiny on how tech companies are handline the voice recordings, who’s listening on the other end, what records are being stored, and for how long, among other things.

This is not an issue that only Google is facing.

Earlier this month, Amazon responded to a U.S. senator’s inquiry over how it was handling consumers’ voice records. The inquiry had followed a CNET investigation which discovered Alexa recordings were kept unless manually deleted by users, and that some voice transcripts were never deleted. In addition, a Bloomberg report recently found that Amazon workers and contractors during the review process had access to the recordings, as well as an account number, the user’s first name, and the device’s serial number.

Further, a coalition of consumer privacy groups recently lodged a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission which claims Amazon Alexa is violating the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by failing to obtain proper consent over the company’s use of the kids’ data.

Neither Amazon nor Google have gone out of their way to alert consumers as to how the voice recordings are being used.

As Wired notes, the Google Home privacy policy doesn’t disclose that Google is using contract labor to review or transcribe audio recordings. The policy also says that data only leaves the device when the wake word is detected. But these leaked recordings indicate that’s clearly not true — the devices accidentally record voice data at times.

The issues around the lack of disclosure and transparency could be yet another signal to U.S. regulators that tech companies aren’t able to make responsible decisions on their own when it comes to consumer data privacy.

The timing of the news isn’t great for Google. According to reports, the U.S. Department of Justice is preparing for a possible antitrust investigation of Google’s business practices, and is watching the company’s behavior closely. Given this increased scrutiny, one would think Google would be going over its privacy policies with a fine-toothed comb — especially in areas that are newly coming under fire, like policies around consumers’ voice data — to ensure that consumers understand how their data is being stored, shared, and used.

Google also notes today that people do have a way to opt-out of having their audio data stored. Users can either turn off audio data storage entirely, or choose to have the data auto-delete every 3 months or every 18 months.

The company also says it will work to better explain how this voice data is used going forward.

“We’re always working to improve how we explain our settings and privacy practices to people, and will be reviewing opportunities to further clarify how data is used to improve speech technology,” said Monsees.


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