DeFi aims to bridge the gap between blockchains and financial services

If you’ve been following cryptocurrency news for the past few months, there’s one word that keeps coming back — DeFi, also known as decentralized finance. As the name suggests, DeFi aims to bridge the gap between decentralized blockchains and financial services.

The original purpose of bitcoin hasn’t changed; it’s a crypto asset that lets users transfer money digitally without any bank in the middle. During the early days of bitcoin, people claimed that the blockchain could replace banks altogether.

But retail banks provide a ton of services beyond payments. If you have a bank account, it’s unlikely that you only use it to store, receive and send money. You may have a credit card, a savings account, a loan, some shares, etc.

That’s why developers have been looking at ways to port financial services to blockchains that support smart contracts. Some blockchains, such as Ethereum, EOS or Tezos, let you add a script to a transaction. The script is executed when some conditions are met.

And this is a key element of DeFi — the financial product shouldn’t be managed by a central server. Everything happens on the blockchain. If you want to read the fine print of your financial product, you can look at the code on the blockchain directly.


Source: Tech Crunch

Scaleway overhauls its dedicated servers

French cloud-hosting company Scaleway is updating its lineup of dedicated servers and giving it a new name. Dedicated servers might not be the hot new thing, but many customers still rely on dedicated servers for predictable performances and pricing.

Scaleway originally started as Online.net as the hosting and data center division of Iliad. Its original dedicated servers were an instant hit back in 2005. You could rent your own server for €30 per month, with 1GB of RAM, unlimited 100Mbps bandwidth and 160GB of storage.

This sounds ridiculously underpowered today, but Dedibox has remained a well-known name when it comes to dedicated servers. More recently, Online .net launched a public cloud offering under the Scaleway brand with cloud instances, object storage, block storage, managed databases, etc.

Scaleway has become the main brand of the company, as cloud hosting probably has a brighter future than dedicated servers. Its dedicated server lineup is now called Scaleway Dedibox. This isn’t just a name change, as Scaleway wants to integrate its dedicated servers with its public cloud offering. You could use a dedicated server combined with a load balancer and cloud instances when you get a lot of traffic. Or you could use Scaleway’s managed database service combined with a dedicated server.

There are more than a hundred different configurations with dedicated servers starting at €8.99 per month, with 4GB of RAM, 1TB of storage and a 1GHz Intel CPU. But you can also rent a server with 384GB of RAM and 4TB of NVMe storage with an Intel Xeon Gold CPU for €439.99 per month.

Overall, Scaleway is running 100,000 servers, with customers in 150 different countries. Scaleway also offers bare metal cloud instances as an alternative to dedicated servers.


Source: Tech Crunch

Japanese mission to land a rover on a Martian moon and bring back a sample is a go

A bold mission by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to Mars’ two moons, including a lander component for one of them, is all set to enter the development phase after the plan was submitted to the Japanese government’s science ministry this week.

Dubbed the “Martian Moons Exploration” (MMX) mission, the goal is to launch the probe in 2024, using the new H-3 rocket being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which is expected to launch for the first time sometime later in 2020. The probe will survey and observe both Phobos and Deimos, the two moons that orbit the Red Planet, which are both smaller and more irregularly shaped than Earth’s Moon.

The MMX lander will park on Phobos, while the probe studies the two space-based bodies from a distance. This is the first-ever mission that seeks to land a spacecraft on one of the moons of Mars, and it’ll include a rover that is being developed by JAXA in partnership with teams at German space agency DLR and French space agency CNES.

The mission will include an ambitious plan to actually collect a sample of the surface of Phobos and return it to Earth for study — which will mean a round-trip for the MMX spacecraft that should see it make its terrestrial return by 2029.

NASA is also planning a Mars-sample return mission, which would aim to bring back a sample from the Red Planet itself using the Mars 2020 six-wheel rover that it’s planning to launch later this year.

Both of these missions could be crucial stepping stones for eventual human exploration and colonization of Mars. It’s possible that Phobos could act as an eventual staging ground for Mars missions, as its lower gravity makes it an easier body from which to depart for eventual astronauts. And Mars is obviously the ultimate goal for NASA’s Artemis program, which seeks to first establish a more permanent human scientific presence on the Moon before heading to the Red Planet.


Source: Tech Crunch

The rise of the winged pink unicorn

Like most investors, I am a little too obsessed with unicorns.

But not just the Silicon Valley kind. As the mother of a five-year-old daughter, my interests also veer in a pink, sparkly direction. So it should not be all that surprising that I recently found myself in a dusty corner of the internet where die-hard unicorn fans go to spread their wings.

It was there, deep in the My Little Pony forums, that one question stopped me in my tracks: “is a male alicorn possible in the future?1

An alicorn, for those uninitiated to the mythological particulars, is the rare winged, female version of a traditional unicorn.

My Little Pony popularized the term, and the fan forum on which user “Green Precision” asked his question back in 2015 had some interesting answers to the particulars of this philosophical dilemma.

Shadow Stallion responded immediately, “I don’t think a male Alicorn will be possible in the future. Not because its [sic] not wanted or because its [sic] not genetically possible…but generally when male characters are introduced to a show where female characters are prominent, things get ugly.”

Malinter posited, “they probably do but given the female-to-male ratio of Equestria2 they are probably exceptionally rare. The real problem for a male alicorn is not that they exist but where is their place in the world? …Our male alicorn has some pretty big hoof prints to fill in while at the same time not make a trainwreck of established lore.”

Wind Chaser went straight from unconscious bias to conscious bias in their response: “aesthetically a male alicorn just wouldn’t look right, because their bodies are already naturally larger than females, thus the wings would cause an imbalance to the design.”

But it wasn’t all bad news.

“Until it’s proven otherwise, it’s safe to say that something like a male alicorn is possible,” responded Geek0zoid. Crysahis agreed. “Overall yes, I believe there could be a male alicorn it may just take a while to actually happen!”

It doesn’t take a PhD in philosophy from Stanford or the one lone female investing partner at Sequoia3 to posit that these same conversations were probably happening all over Sandhill Road in December of 2009, as male VCs discussed whether female unicorns could actually happen4.

As we move into 2020, though, we’re about to see a pink, winged stampede.

Just look at the recent trends. In 2019, more female-funded unicorns were born than ever before.5 And things are only looking up. (I’m looking at you, ClassPass!)

Public opinion agrees. Alongside TruePublic, where I am an advisor and angel investor, I ran a study asking if people believed we would see more female-led unicorns in the 2020s.6 At the time of this article, 68% of the 6,500 respondents said they believed we would see more, with 30% of women responding “many more” (as opposed to only 16% of men). Only 4% of women, but 9% of men, responded “no, not a chance.”7

Kaben Clauson, founder and CEO, says “to represent Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X, TruePublic needs a weighted sample of roughly one thousand Americans to represent that population of the USA.” This particular study already has 6,500 respondents, making it statistically significant.

In fact, female-founded and female co-founded companies are actually over-indexing for unicorn status despite a lack of investment dollars.

Shelby Porges, co-founder of The Billion Dollar Fund for Women, explains: “Recent tracking has shown that female-founded companies represent 4% of all unicorns. That’s astonishing considering that in the past couple of years, they have gotten only slightly more than 2% of all venture funding.” Porges, whose group has mobilized more than 80 venture funds to pledge to invest over a billion dollars into women-founded companies, continues, “It demonstrates why we say, ‘when you invest in women, you’re in good company.’ ”

Here are the three reasons I believe a herd of winged female unicorns (OK, alicorns) is coming down the pipeline in the 2020s:

1. Women invest in women at 3x the rate of men

New data reveals that women invest in women at nearly three times the rate that men do and with the (slow) rise in the number of female investing partners at VCV firms, we are poised to see more and more gender-balanced founding teams getting funding.8 Like one male GP at one of the world’s top VC funds said to me when discussing one of the few female partners at his firm, “she always brings us parenting companies.” It might be cringe-worthy if TechCrunch hadn’t declared 2020 “a big year for online childcare” and that same female partner weren’t about to make a big chunk of cash thanks to all the upcoming parenting alicorns she was smartly funding.

Sophia Bendz, a partner at Atomico who also leads the Atomico Angel Program, said, “I’m confident we’ll see more female unicorns in the next decade because there’s a growing wave of ambitious female founders building incredible products and services. There are also more women in VC now and I’ve seen first-hand the impact having female investment partners can have on increasing the amount of investment into female-led companies. The data shows that women invest in women at three times the rate as male investment partners.”

My study at TruePublic coincided with these findings. When asked if a female investor was more likely to invest in a female entrepreneur, 64% of people responded affirmatively (64% of these individuals were women and 63% were men).9

Jomayra Herrera agrees. An investor at Cowboy Ventures (which thanks to Aileen Lee coined the term “unicorn” in the first place), and a volunteer with AllRaise, a nonprofit promoting women in VC, she says: “As the venture industry continues to diversify, especially as it relates to gender and race/ethnicity, I am optimistic that we will see more female-led and people of color-led unicorns over the next decade. We know that diverse teams not only function better, but they are able to see areas of opportunities that more homogenous teams might miss. I think the next generation of investors are more likely to question conventional wisdom, forms of pattern recognition that may lead to bias, and other structural barriers that have historically left out promising entrepreneurs.”

Camila Farani is a well-known investor in Brazil. As founder of G2 Capital, former president of Gavea Angels and a personality on Brazil’s “Shark Tank,” she says “having diverse points of view at the table makes the decision clearer and more certain. People who think differently than you and have other visions of the market, sometimes can show you what you can’t see by yourself.”

She also reminds us not to forget the impact that angel investors can have. “The investments market is still made up mostly of men, but this landscape is changing gradually. It is interesting to see that angel investing is being the most common choice for women who want to make their first investments.”

This trend of investing more in women isn’t just limited to female investors. Susana Robles has spent two decades leading the charge to invest in women in Latin America and alongside Marta Cruz of NXTP Labs is co-founder of WeXchange, a platform that connects women entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean with mentors and investors.

As Robles says, “I think the world is finally waking up to the fact that there is serious research proving that startups with women co-founders win in all aspects: profitability, as well as greater social and environmental awareness. Investors should want to have this triple win.” She continues, “women tend to return money to investors faster than men, and at the same time, they obtain higher returns. Women are in charge of 64% of all global purchasing decisions on products and services, so having women on C-level positions increases the chance that a startup [will] be highly attractive to a massive market and become a unicorn.”

It also extends to the LPs in the funds. “I also think many investors in funds (mostly DFIs [development finance institutions] but not exclusively) have become more vocal in stating that they don’t want any more to invest in teams led by an all-white, all-male cast who choose startups with all-white, all-male founders.” Jennifer Neundorfer is the co-founder of Jane VC and an investor in Kinside, a parenting app that just raised a $3 million seed round. When describing her fund’s rationale for focusing on female founders, she drops the mic: “we’re going to invest in an under-looked asset class that is overperforming.” Boom.

2. Female founders are creating new billion-dollar markets

Another reason we’ll see more female-founded “alicorns” in the 2020s has everything to do with the new markets that female founders are creating. Hunter Walk of Homebrew was one of the initial seed investors in Winnie, an online marketplace for childcare that recently raised a $9 million Series A. At the time, he saw something that others investors didn’t. Winnie co-founder Sara Mauskopf explains, “Four years ago when we started Winnie, parenting and especially child care were not hot investment areas. This has been changing. It certainly helps that more investors are women and are in the thick of their child-bearing and rearing years.”

Part of what Walk says he recognized was the clear founder-market fit displayed by Mauskopf and her co-founder Annie Halsall. As Mauskopf says, “With Winnie, we saw an opportunity to solve the child-care crisis that other founders either did not recognize or did not care to solve. While everyone else was starting crypto and scooter companies, we were building the first-ever tech platform for $57 billion child care industry. Lack of access to quality child care disproportionately impacts women, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it took a female led team to capitalize on this opportunity.” Expanding on the concept of founder-market fit, Walk says, “I love to come away thinking, these are the absolute right founders to build this business.”10

Bendz, the Atomico partner who specializes in femtech and is also an avid angel investor, agrees. “Often I meet founders that you can tell are at the right place at the right time with the right mindset and the right team. It’s almost like all of the experiences they have had prior to launching a company have been preparing them to create that business at that time. These are the kind of founders who I know are in it for the long haul, and who are going to weather the ups and downs.” As a woman who uses the products and services she invests in, Bendz is also an example of investor-market fit, which I believe will open new markets in the decades to come.

Something else investors like Walk and Bendz believe in? Outsized opportunities. And the potential for outsized opportunities are especially ripe in untapped markets. The rise of femtech is yet another example of how the intuitive success of the concept of founder-market fit ultimately needed more female founders for certain markets to blossom. As Bendz explains, “Throughout a woman’s life there are many big events that have a big impact on our overall health — from childbirth to menopause. I know all women are tired of poor or non-existent solutions for women surrounding those life events, and that’s why we are seeing so many companies launching to better serve women’s needs. When you think about the fact that women have only had the right to vote and educate themselves for 100 years, it’s mind-blowing how long the world was operating with only 50% of the population in control. That’s reflected in the products and services we as a society have funded.”

Women’s consumer products are another area. Ornella Moraes is one of four female co-founders of Brazilian-led Sousmile, which recently raised a $6 million USD Series A led by Kaszek Ventures. “Our brand is a woman,” Moraes says of her dental beauty startup that retails throughout São Paulo. And so are the leaders of the company. At Sousmile, there are four female co-founders and two male co-founders. “More dentists in the world are women than men, so it’s been critical for our team to have more female founders,” she says. In this way, the rise of female founders and co-founders can completely change markets. “We believe this will fundamentally create a different type of product,” says Walk.

3. Emerging markets will take the lead

Finally, certain emerging markets pose a particular opportunity for female founders by over-indexing for both large IPOs and female founders. 2017 was the first year that more of the largest IPOs in the internet sector globally came from emerging markets. Nazar Yasin, founder of Rise Capital, which invests in emerging markets, says “This trend isn’t going away.” After all, most GDP growth comes from emerging markets, where most global internet users live. As he explains, “the future of market capitalization growth in the internet sector globally belongs to emerging markets.” And yet this type of innovation takes resilience. “If you’re a startup in one of these markets, it’s like trying to grow a plant in the desert.”11 In an environment that demands more daily resilience, there is a different appetite for risk and innovation. (I call this resilience innovation.)

Perhaps the easiest example of emerging market innovation fueled by resilience is fintech. Emerging markets and their often unstable economies boast a much higher number of frustratingly unbanked individuals. This brings about innovation. Hanna Schiuma, the Brazilian-born fintech founder of ElasBank, where I am an angel investor and advisor, explains how ubiquitous such fintech innovation is becoming.

“Soon all finance will be tailor-made and fintech will be common ground because all financial services will be technology-intensive.” She also argues that the nature of such an innovation allows the industry to become more innovative, and thus inclusive, which is exactly what is happening with her own women’s bank, launching in 2020. “That means great opportunities to better serve women’s financial needs to offer dedicated products, and to gather female talent to build those products from a diverse and innovative perspective.” Ultimately, “resilience is key for us to build that pool of talent and open the doors for gender balance and financial inclusion.”

Furthermore, data shows Africa and Latin America both beat global averages for percentages of startup female founders. Laura Stebbing is co-CEO of accelerateHER, a global community of leaders addressing the under-representation of women in tech through action. Raised in Southern Africa, Stebbing is passionate about Africa’s rise as a hub of female entrepreneurship.

“Africa has both the highest proportion of women founders at 26% [Latam comes in second]12 and a $42 billion funding gap. There’s clearly no lack of talent across Africa’s 54 countries, so for the investors, corporate executives, policy makers and established founders that aren’t moved by the moral arguments for gender parity, notice the enormous business opportunity. We will start to see a higher volume of resilient, scalable companies emerge as leaders build more diverse networks and ecosystems that support women to unlock their entrepreneurial potential.” Nathan Lustig, founder of Magma Partners, a VC firm in Latin America which invests in female founders above the regional average, explains, “investing in and empowering resilient women entrepreneurs is just good business, and is one of the biggest investment opportunities, especially in emerging markets.”

I believe Latin American can have an edge. I am a Silicon Valley-born investor now living in “Silicon Aires,” where I have been thrilled to see exciting numbers of female founders in Latin America. Susana Robles agrees, and says the reason is in part due to the nature of a committed ecosystem to support one another. “It’s the sheer need that forces you to collaborate.” An ecosystem like Silicon Valley doesn’t have the same need to do so. Of Latin America, Robles says, “In 10 years, we will have created a much more collaborative market than the developed ones.” And that collaboration is leading to great female founders. 2019, in fact, saw more funding going to female co-founders in Latin America than in Europe or the USA.13

This will lead to future alicorns. Ann Williams, COO of Creditas, a Brazilian fintech currently closing in on its own unicorn status, says “the conversion funnel for unicorns works just like any other selection process. We fill the top with a bunch of great women in supporting roles in emerging market startups, these women take their experiences and found rocking new companies. A percentage of these will convert to scaleups raising Series C and D rounds with valuations at $1 billion or higher. And voila! we get women-led unicorns.” She continues, “the odds are with us and I am sure the talent is too!”

Juliane Butty, startup head at Platzi and former regional manager of Seedstars, one of the leading accelerators and investors fostering female entrepreneurship in emerging markets, joins Williams. “We have definitely seen the rise of female founders and investors in emerging markets in the last decade. One supports the other. And we know that success breeds success.”

Perhaps My Little Pony fan Malinter said it best when he suggested how a male version of the alicorn could finally emerge in such a female-dominated space: “The simplest way they could probably add one in would be to make said alicorn the ruler of a neighboring nation.” In the same way, emerging markets may just hold the key for female unicorns.

No matter the region, Robles says “if we keep opening doors to women entrepreneurs who are as ambitious as men in growing their companies, we’ll begin to see many more unicorns with gender diversified teams.” Hanna Schiuma, the Elasbank founder who just might be building the next female-founded unicorn, agrees. “The alicorns are coming. And we’re ready to fly.”


2Equestria is of course where the My Little Ponies and their assorted unicorns, alicorns and friends all live.
3Go Jess Lee!
4Yes, Aileen Lee of Cowboy VC first invented the term in her 2013 TechCrunch piece, but we’re in a unicorn-fueled time machine, people.
8“Do Female Investors Support Female Entrepreneurs? An Empirical Analysis of Angel Investor Behavior,” Seth C. Oranburg, Duquesne University School of Law, Pittsburgh PA, USA and Mark Geiger, Duquesne University School of Business, Pittsburgh PA, USA
12Forthcoming research from TechCrunch/Crunchbase
13Forthcoming research from TechCrunch/Crunchbase


Source: Tech Crunch

Tesla Model 3 makes Consumer Reports ‘Top Picks’ list for 2020

Tesla’s Model 3 is among the top 10 choices for car buyers in 2020, according to Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization released its “Top Picks” of the year on Thursday, and it included Tesla’s most affordable vehicle alongside cars from automakers including Toyota, Subaru, Honda, Kia and Lexus.

The Model 3 was chosen as one of three vehicles in the $45K-$55K category, alongside the Lexus RX and the Toyota Supra. CR lauded its “thrilling driving experience,” including “impressive handling and quick precise steering [that] help it feel like a sports car.” They did ding it slightly for having a “stiff ride” overall, but said that that’s more than made up for by its long EV battery range and emission-free eco-friendly qualities.

Consumer Reports also specifically called out a worry about the Model 3 that “Autopilot, an optional system on the vehicle, does not require the driver to stay engaged, creating safety concerns.” Tesla has always positioned Autopilot as a driver-assist feature that still requires a driver to be ready to take over control at a moment’s notice, but critics have suggested its implementation can lead to misuse resulting in inattentiveness.

Clearly, that concern wasn’t enough to prevent CR from counting the Model 3 among its top recommendations for vehicles in 2020. Tesla also ended up ranking 11th overall out of 33 automakers in Consumer Reports’ 2020 automotive brand report card, climbing eight positions from last year. The Model 3, and the rapid improvements that Tesla was able to make in its production as it scaled assembly of the vehicle, clearly helped it in the eyes of the consumer-focused nonprofit.


Source: Tech Crunch

Expanding its women’s health benefits offerings for employers, Maven raises $45 million

Over the past twelve months, Maven, the benefits provider focused on women’s health and family planning, has expanded its customer base to include over 100 companies and grown its telehealth services to include 1,700 providers across 20 specialties — for services like shipping breast milk, finding a doula and egg freezing, fertility treatments, surrogacy and adoption.

The New York-based company which offers its healthcare services to individuals, health plans, and employers has now raised an additional $45 million to expand its offerings even further.

Its new money comes from a clutch of celebrity investors like Mindy Kaling, Natalie Portman, and Reese Witherspoon and institutional investors led by Icon Ventures and return backers Sequoia Capital, Oak HC/FT, Spring Mountain Capital, Female Founders Fund and Harmony Partners. Anne Wojcicki, the founder of 23andMe, is also an investor in the company.

Maven is addressing critical gaps in care by offering the largest digital health network of women’s and family health providers,” said Tom Mawhinney, lead investor from Icon Ventures, who will join the Maven board of directors, in a statement. “With its virtual care and services, Maven is changing how global employers support working families by focusing on improving maternal outcomes, reducing medical costs, retaining more women in the workplace, and ultimately supporting every pathway to parenthood.”

In the six years since founder Katherine Ryder first launched Mayven, the company has raised more than $77 million for its service and become a mother of two boys.

“You go through this enormous life experience; it’s hugely transformative to have a child,” she told TechCrunch after announcing the company’s $27 million Series B round, led by Sequoia. “You do it when your careers is moving up — they call it the rush hour of life — and with no one supporting you on the other end, it’s easy to say ‘screw it, I’m going home to my family’ … If someone leaves the workforce, that’s fine, it’s their choice but they shouldn’t feel forced to because they don’t have support.”

Some of Mayven’s partners include Snap and Bumble to provide employees access to its women’s and family health provider network. The company connects users with OB-GYNs, pediatricians, therapists, career coaches and other services around family planning.


Source: Tech Crunch

Zero Motorcycles unveils new SR/S — a full-fairing 124 mph sport EV

California-based mobility startup Zero Motorcycles has a new e-moto in its lineup — the fully-faired SR/S, unveiled today in New York.

The company’s CEO Sam Paschel pulled the cover off the two-wheeled EV, which is based on the platform of the company’s SR/F, released last year.

The new SR/S has similar stats to the SR/F: a 124 mph top-speed, up to 200 miles of range, 140 ft-lbs of torque and charge-time of 60 minutes to 95%, Paschel told TechCrunch at the debut.

ZERO SR/SZero’s latest EV is an IoT motorcycle and manages overall performance — including engine output and handling characteristics — through digital riding modes.

The major differences on the SR/S over the SR/F are the addition of the full-fairing, a more relaxed riding position (through re-positioning of the bars and pegs) and a 13% improvement in highway range, from improved aerodynamics.

The fairing brings around 20 pounds more weight to to the SR/S over the 485 pound SR/F.

On price, the base version of the SR/S is $19,995 — a dash over the SR/F’s $19,495 — and a premium SR/S (with a higher charging capacity) comes in at $21,995.

The SR/S starts shipping today to Zero’s global dealer network, which stands at 91 in the U.S. and 200 globally — the largest for any e-motorcycle company, according to Paschel.

He positioned the SR/S as more of a sport-touring machine, than the the SR/F, which has a naked-bike set up that includes a more aggressive riding position and less aerodynamics on the highway.

Zero’s latest entries — the SR/F and the SR/S — come at a time when startups are pushing the motorcycle industry toward electric, though its not evident there’s enough demand to buy up all the new models.

 

The American motorcycle market has been stagnant for over a decade and is becoming crowded with EV offerings. New motorcycle sales in the U.S. dropped by roughly 50% since 2008 — with sharp declines in ownership by everyone under 40 — and have never recovered, according to Motorcycle Industry Council stats.

In a bid to revive sales and the interest of younger riders, in 2019 Harley-Davidson became the first of the big gas manufacturers to offer a street-legal e-moto for sale in the U.S. — the LiveWire — which is a forerunner to an HD product-line of electric-powered two-wheelers.

Harley Davidson Livewire static 1

Harley Davidson’s EV debut, the LiveWire

Harley’s entry followed several failed electric motorcycle startups — Alta Motors, Mission Motors and Brammo — and put HD in the market with existing EV ventures, such as Zero.

That list is growing.

High-performance Italian EV company Energica has expanded marketing and sales in the U.S., along with Cake — a Swedish e-moto maker.  This year should also see e-moto debuts by California-based Lightning Motorcycles and Fuell, a French and American-founded company with plans to release the $10,000, 150-mile range Flow.

Zero appears to have created an edge up on Harley’s LiveWire — coming in at $10K less than the $29,799 HD — though its hard to know how they stacked up against each other in 2019 since e-moto sales stats aren’t reliably tallied in the U.S.

Zero doesn’t release their sales numbers (though I tried my darnedest to pry them out of CEO Sam Paschel).

Zero SR/S That price advantage over Harley’s LiveWire will carry over on Zero’s new SR/S, which could find its biggest competitor in the anticipated release of Damon’s Hypersport.

The Vancouver e-moto startup plans to go to market with its 200 mile per hour e-motorcycle debut. The $24,995 Hypersport is targeted toward Tesla owners and brings proprietary digital safety technology and adjustable ergonomics that are absent Zero’s offerings —  and pretty much anything else on the motorcycle market.

Time, burn-rate, and sales will tell which companies can find market-traction and turn a profit across all these new e-moto offerings.

Zero doesn’t diviulge financials but among the startups, they could be furthest along. The company, with $120 million in VC in its rear-mirrors — per Crunchbase — has no plans to raise more, according to Paschel.

“We don’t need it,” he told TechCrunch, adding that the venture’s biggest challenge in 2019 was keeping production up to speed with buyer demand for their SR/F.

Zero is likely hoping for that good kind of a problem with its new SR/S in 2020.


Source: Tech Crunch

Sling TV reports first-ever subscriber decline

Increased competition from competitors like Hulu and YouTube TV and even Netflix has finally taken its toll on Dish’s live TV streaming service, Sling TV. This week, the company reported its first-ever decline in Sling TV subscribers, with a drop of 94,000 customers in the fourth quarter. In the year-ago Q4, Sling TV had gained 50,000 subscribers, for comparison. The streaming service ended the year with 2.59 million total subscribers, Dish says.

In prior quarters, Sling TV’s gains have helped to offset some of the losses from Dish’s traditional pay-TV business. But in the fourth quarter of 2019, both sides of Dish’s business appear to be in jeopardy. On the pay-TV front, the company lost around 100,000 subscribers, in addition to 94,000 it lost from Sling TV.

By year-end 2019, Dish had 11.99 million total subscribers compared with the 12.32 million it reported at the end of 2018.

Although five-year-old Sling TV was one of the first TV streaming services to hit the market, in the years since it’s battled for cord cutters’ dollars against a growing number of alternatives. In addition to YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV has also had to compete against niche live TV services like Philo and sports-focused fuboTV.

But Sling TV also today faces competition from other streamers, even if they’re not squarely aimed at cord-cutters who want access to live TV. After all, consumers have only so much money in the budget for entertainment — and today, there are so many options for streaming TV besides Netflix. CBS, for example, streams news, TV and sports via its CBS All Access service; premium channels like HBO, Cinemax, Starz, and Showtime offer their own over-the-top subscriptions; Amazon Prime Video is wrapped into Amazon’s expensive annual membership; and now new services from Disney and Apple have also arrived.

In the months ahead, the market will expand even further as new streaming services Peacock (NBCU), HBO Max (WarnerMedia/AT&T), and Quibi prepare to launch.

Sling TV’s drop in subscribers follows a price hike announced in December which raised prices of its two tiers from $25 each to $30, or $45 for both. It also follows a number of programming changes to the Sling TV lineup, the company noted.

In Dish’s 10-K regulatory filing, it explained:

“This decrease in net Sling TV subscriber additions is primarily related to increased competition, including competition from other OTT service providers, and to a higher number of customer disconnects on a larger Sling TV subscriber base, including the impact from Univision, AT&T and Fox RSNs’ removal of certain of their channels from our programming lineup.”

In June and November 2018, Univision removed channels from the Sling TV lineup, some of which were restored with a March 2019 agreement. In October 2018, AT&T removed HBO and Cinemax channels from the Sling TV lineup, which have not been restored. And in July 2019, Fox Regional Sports Networks removed its channels from the Sling TV lineup. The channels have since been acquired by Sinclair.

With programming in a constant state of flux, while subscription prices increase, many consumers don’t see the value in over-the-top television — especially when there’s so much to watch elsewhere and for much less.

In addition, Sling TV’s app isn’t as well-designed as those from rivals like Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV, or as innovative when it comes to the roll out new features or personalization technology. Hulu, for example, customizes recommendations based on viewer behavior and now, explicit signals from new Like and Dislike buttons. Sling TV, meanwhile, didn’t bother with personalized recommendations until last year.

Dish is already diversifying, in light of the bad news ahead for pay-TV. As a part of its deal with T-Mobile and Sprint ahead of their merger, Dish is acquiring Sprint’s prepaid business, including Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile, plus all of Sprint’s 800 MHz spectrum. Dish will utilize T-Mobile and Sprint’s cell sites to run its own wireless business for seven years, while it builds its own 5G network, the agreement said. The company may also look for strategic partners as it grows its wireless business, the company noted on the earnings call today.


Source: Tech Crunch

MIT system predicts the best way to deflect an Earth-bound asteroid

We’re not in immediate danger of any asteroids colliding with Earth – at least not as far as anyone’s aware. But it’s not like it hasn’t happened before, and there is an expected near-miss coming up in 2029. Accordingly, it’s probably best to be prepared, and MIT researchers have developed a system that could help determine the best possible method to avoid a collision – long before the situation becomes desperate.

An MIT team led by former MIT graduate student Sung Wook Paek describe a ‘decision map’ in newly published research that would take into account the mass and relative momentum of an approaching asteroid, as well as the expected time we have before it enters into a so-called ‘keyhole’ – basically a gravitational halo around Earth that, once entered, all but guarantees the asteroid will collide with the planet.

The MIT-developed decision map basically details three different choices in terms of how to deflect an approaching asteroid: Launching a projectile at it to alter its course; sending a scout first to get accurate measurements to inform the best possible development of said projectile; and sending two scouts, in order to get measurements and also potentially nudge the object using propulsion, setting it up for an easier projectile-based knockout later on.

Time is the key factor in the model based on simulations run using asteroids Apophis and Bennu, two known objects we know relatively a lot about, including the locations of their gravitational keyholes in terms of proximity to Earth. The tests showed that with five or more years, the best course is to send two scouts and then the projectile. Between two and five years out, you’re most likely to succeed with the single scout followed by a projectile fired from Earth. At one year or less, the bad news is that nothing seems all that likely to succeed.

The official plan for avoiding impacts from near-Earth objects involves potentially firing nuclear weapons at them, which is not a super popular option. This method developed by MIT could help mean it never comes to that, provided our advanced detection methods are effective enough.


Source: Tech Crunch

Announcing the final agenda for Robotics + AI — March 3 at UC Berkeley

TechCrunch is returning to U.C. Berkeley on March 3 to bring together some of the most influential minds in robotics and artificial intelligence. Each year we strive to bring together a cross-section of big companies and exciting new startups, along with top researchers, VCs and thinkers.

In addition to a main stage that includes the likes of Amazon’s Tye Brady, U .C. Berkeley’s Stuart Russell, Anca Dragan of Waymo, Claire Delaunay of NVIDIA, James Kuffner of Toyota’s TRI-AD, and a surprise interview with Disney Imagineers, we’ll also be offering a more intimate Q&A stage featuring speakers from SoftBank Robotics, Samsung, Sony’s Innovation Fund, Qualcomm, NVIDIA and more.

Alongside a selection of handpicked demos, we’ll also be showcasing the winners from our first-ever pitch-off competition for early-stage robotics companies. You won’t get a better look at exciting new robotics technologies than that. Tickets for the event are still available. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks at Zellerbach Hall.

Agenda

8:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Registration Open Hours

General Attendees can pick up their badges starting at 8:30 am at Lower Sproul Plaza located in front of Zellerbach Hall. We close registration at 4:00 pm.

10:00 AM – 10:05 AM

Welcome and Introduction from Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch) and Randy Katz (UC Berkeley)

10:05 AM – 10:25 AM

Saving Humanity from AI with Stuart Russell (UC Berkeley)

The UC Berkeley professor and AI authority argues in his acclaimed new book, “Human Compatible,” that AI will doom humanity unless technologists fundamentally reform how they build AI algorithms.

10:25 AM – 10:45 AM

Engineering for the Red Planet with Lucy Condakchian (Maxar Technologies)

Maxar Technologies has been involved with U.S. space efforts for decades, and is about to send its sixth (!) robotic arm to Mars aboard NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Lucy Condakchian is general manager of robotics at Maxar and will speak to the difficulty and exhilaration of designing robotics for use in the harsh environments of space and other planets.

10:45 AM – 11:05 AM

Automating Amazon with Tye Brady (Amazon Robotics)

Amazon Robotics’ chief technology officer will discuss how the company is using the latest in robotics and AI to optimize its massive logistics. He’ll also discuss the future of warehouse automation and how humans and robots share a work space. 

11:05 AM – 11:15 AM

Live Demo from the Stanford Robotics Club 

11:30 AM – 12:00 PM

Book signing with Stuart Russell (UC Berkeley)

Join one of the foremost experts in artificial intelligence as he signs copies of his acclaimed new book, Human Compatible.

11:35 AM – 12:05 PM

Building the Robots that Build with Daniel Blank (Toggle Industries), Tessa Lau (Dusty Robotics), Noah Ready-Campbell (Built Robotics) and Brian Ringley (Boston Dynamics)

Can robots help us build structures faster, smarter and cheaper? Built Robotics makes a self-driving excavator. Toggle is developing a new fabrication of rebar for reinforced concrete, Dusty builds robot-powered tools and longtime robotics pioneers Boston Dynamics have recently joined the construction space. We’ll talk with the founders and experts from these companies to learn how and when robots will become a part of the construction crew.

12:15 PM – 1:00 PM

Q&A: Corporate VC, Partnering and Acquisitions with Kass Dawson (SoftBank Robotics America), Carlos Kokron (Qualcomm Ventures), and Gen Tsuchikawa (Sony Innovation Fund)

Join this interactive Q&A session on the breakout stage with three of the top minds in corporate VC.

1:00 PM – 1:25 PM

Pitch-off 

Select, early-stage companies, hand-picked by TechCrunch editors, will take the stage and have five minutes to present their wares.

1:15 PM – 2:00 PM

Q&A: Founding Robotics Companies with Sebastien Boyer (FarmWise) and Noah Ready-Campbell (Built Robotics)

Your chance to ask questions of some of the most successful robotics founders on our stage

Investing in Robotics and AI: Lessons from the Industry’s VCs with Dror Berman (Innovation Endeavors), Kelly Chen (DCVC) and Eric Migicovsky (Y Combinator)

Leading investors will discuss the rising tide of venture capital funding in robotics and AI. The investors bring a combination of early-stage investing and corporate venture capital expertise, sharing a fondness for the wild world of robotics and AI investing.

1:50 PM – 2:15 PM

Facilitating Human-Robot Interaction with Mike Dooley (Labrador Systems) and Clara Vu (Veo Robotics)

As robots become an ever more meaningful part of our lives, interactions with humans are increasingly inevitable. These experts will discuss the broad implications of HRI in the workplace and home.

2:15 PM – 2:40 PM

Toward a Driverless Future with Anca Dragan (UC Berkeley/Waymo), Jinnah Hosein (Aurora) and Jur van den Berg (Ike)

Autonomous driving is set to be one of the biggest categories for robotics and AI. But there are plenty of roadblocks standing in its way. Experts will discuss how we get there from here. 

2:15 PM – 3:00 PM

Q&A: Investing in Robotics Startups with Rob Coneybeer (Shasta Ventures), Jocelyn Goldfein (Zetta Venture Partners) and Aaron Jacobson (New Enterprise Associates)

Join this interactive Q&A session on the breakout stage with some of the greatest investors in robotics and AI

2:40 PM – 3:10 PM

Disney Robotics

Imagineers from Disney will present start of the art robotics built to populate its theme parks.

3:10 PM – 3:35 PM

Bringing Robots to Life with Max Bajracharya and James Kuffner (Toyota Research Institute Advanced Development)

This summer’s Tokyo Olympics will be a huge proving ground for Toyota’s TRI-AD. Executive James Kuffner and Max Bajracharya will join us to discuss the department’s plans for assistive robots and self-driving cars.

3:15 PM – 4:00 PM

Q&A: Building Robotics Platforms with Claire Delaunay (NVIDIA) and Steve Macenski (Samsung Research America)

Join this interactive Q&A session on the breakout stage with some of the greatest engineers in robotics and AI.

3:35 PM – 4:00 PM

The Next Century of Robo-Exoticism with Abigail De Kosnik (UC Berkeley), David Ewing Duncan, Ken Goldberg (UC Berkeley), and Mark Pauline (Survival Research Labs)

In 1920, Karl Capek coined the term “robot” in a play about mechanical workers organizing a rebellion to defeat their human overlords. One hundred years later, in the context of increasing inequality and xenophobia, the panelists will discuss cultural views of robots in the context of “Robo-Exoticism,” which exaggerates both negative and positive attributes and reinforces old fears, fantasies and stereotypes.

4:00 PM – 4:10 PM 

Live Demo from Somatic

4:10 PM – 4:35 PM

Opening the Black Box with Explainable AI with Trevor Darrell (UC Berkeley), Krishna Gade (Fiddler Labs) and Karen Myers (SRI International)

Machine learning and AI models can be found in nearly every aspect of society today, but their inner workings are often as much a mystery to their creators as to those who use them. UC Berkeley’s Trevor Darrell, Krishna Gade of Fiddler Labs and Karen Myers from SRI will discuss what we’re doing about it and what still needs to be done.

4:35 PM – 5:00 PM 

Cultivating Intelligence in Agricultural Robots with Lewis Anderson (Traptic), Sebastian Boyer (FarmWise) and Michael Norcia (Pyka)

The benefits of robotics in agriculture are undeniable, yet at the same time only getting started. Lewis Anderson (Traptic) and Sebastien Boyer (FarmWise) will compare notes on the rigors of developing industrial-grade robots that both pick crops and weed fields respectively, and Pyka’s Michael Norcia will discuss taking flight over those fields with an autonomous crop-spraying drone.

5:00 PM – 5:25 PM

Fostering the Next Generation of Robotics Startups with Claire Delaunay (NVIDIA), Scott Phoenix (Vicarious) and Joshua Wilson (Freedom Robotics

Robotics and AI are the future of many or most industries, but the barrier of entry is still difficult to surmount for many startups. Speakers will discuss the challenges of serving robotics startups and companies that require robotics labor, from bootstrapped startups to large scale enterprises.

5:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Unofficial After Party, (Cash Bar Only) 

Come hang out at the unofficial After Party at Tap Haus, 2518 Durant Ave, Ste C, Berkeley

Final Tickets Available

We only have so much space in Zellerbach Hall and tickets are selling out fast. Grab your General Admission Ticket right now for $350 and save 50 bucks as prices go up at the door.

Student tickets are just $50 and can be purchased here. Student tickets are limited.

Startup Exhibitor Packages are sold out!

( function() {
var func = function() {
var iframe = document.getElementById(‘wpcom-iframe-a4fad19c68e846fecc75f11477e3b068’)
if ( iframe ) {
iframe.onload = function() {
iframe.contentWindow.postMessage( {
‘msg_type’: ‘poll_size’,
‘frame_id’: ‘wpcom-iframe-a4fad19c68e846fecc75f11477e3b068’
}, “https://tcprotectedembed.com” );
}
}

// Autosize iframe
var funcSizeResponse = function( e ) {

var origin = document.createElement( ‘a’ );
origin.href = e.origin;

// Verify message origin
if ( ‘tcprotectedembed.com’ !== origin.host )
return;

// Verify message is in a format we expect
if ( ‘object’ !== typeof e.data || undefined === e.data.msg_type )
return;

switch ( e.data.msg_type ) {
case ‘poll_size:response’:
var iframe = document.getElementById( e.data._request.frame_id );

if ( iframe && ” === iframe.width )
iframe.width = ‘100%’;
if ( iframe && ” === iframe.height )
iframe.height = parseInt( e.data.height );

return;
default:
return;
}
}

if ( ‘function’ === typeof window.addEventListener ) {
window.addEventListener( ‘message’, funcSizeResponse, false );
} else if ( ‘function’ === typeof window.attachEvent ) {
window.attachEvent( ‘onmessage’, funcSizeResponse );
}
}
if (document.readyState === ‘complete’) { func.apply(); /* compat for infinite scroll */ }
else if ( document.addEventListener ) { document.addEventListener( ‘DOMContentLoaded’, func, false ); }
else if ( document.attachEvent ) { document.attachEvent( ‘onreadystatechange’, func ); }
} )();


Source: Tech Crunch