An insider’s peek at TC Sessions: Robotics & AI

We are not quite ready to announce the agenda for TechCunch’s April 18 robotics and AI show at UC Berkeley, but anyone who has been watching the speaker announcements is bound to be just a bit excited. Here’s a quick sneak peek at the soon-to-be-announced agenda.

Robotics & AI investor panel

For founders eager to know what’s on investors’ minds, there is an all-star robotics and AI investor panel that includes Peter Barrett from Playground Global, Helen Liang from FoundersX Ventures, Andy Wheeler from GV and Hidetaka Aoki from Global Brain. Not only will a TechCrunch editor grill these investors onstage, but there will be a separate and longer Q&A session where attendees can ask questions to figure out where VCs are focusing their funds.

AI – Understanding the unfathomable world

For anyone trying to fathom the nearly unfathomable world of AI, there is a remarkable session featuring, respectively, Dartmouth and UC Berkeley professors Hany Farid and Alexei Efros, who are two of the world’s leading authorities on the use of AI and computer vision to create live video of things that, well, never happened. Their work was featured in a remarkable New Yorker piece (“In the Age of A.I., Is Seeing Still Believing?”)

The future of human & robot interaction

In the robotics field, one of the toughest frontiers is human-robot interaction, which brings together just about every aspect of AI and robotics. UC Berkeley’s Interact Lab leader Anca Dragan, Affectiva co-founder Rana el Kaliouby and SoftBank Robotics HRI lead Matt Willis will convene for a panel discussion focused on the state of HRI today and where breakthroughs will come tomorrow.

Building a robotics startup

Building a startup is always a big theme at every TechCrunch event, and no less so when the subject is robotics, a notoriously unforgiving category for founders. Melonee Wise is CEO of five-year-old Fetch Robotics, which has raised $48 million. Manish Kothari is president of SRI Ventures and former director of SRI’s robotics program. Nima Keivan is the CTO and co-founder of four-year-old Canvas Technology, which has raised $15 million. Wise and Keivan will discuss how they got this far, and Kothari will share lessons he learned guiding many robotics founders forward. They will be available for audience questions in a separate Q&A after their session on the main stage.

These sessions should get us about halfway through… the morning! There is so much more we have yet to announce, including speakers, demos, workshops and more. And for the first time, we’ll also unfold CrunchMatch at this show, our highly successful app-based system to help attendees network and set up meetings. No one will have trouble finding interesting, like-minded folks to meet.

Early-bird tickets will stay on sale for only two more weeks. Book your $249 ticket today and save $100 before prices go up. Students, get a major discount with student tickets going for only $45 — book here.

Source: Tech Crunch

For a monthly subscription fee, this startup will send out customized gifts to current and prospective clients at scale

In today’s noisy, fast-paced world, finding a way to let clients and potential customers know that they are top of mind can be a major challenge for companies.

Enter Sendoso, a 2.5-year-old, San Francisco-based online-to-offline startup that promises to source, store, ship anything a business ever needs to send — and track its return on investment to boot.

How does it work? According to CEO and cofounder Kris Rudeegraap, Sendoso, founded in 2016, already has 110 full time employees, hundreds of vendor relationships, and six warehouses, including its biggest, an 80,000-square-foot space in Las Vegas.

It also has relationships with dozens of workers who it can call on to help it as it needs them and, as crucially, it integrates with Salesforce, Marketo, Engagio among other platforms where companies largely live.

Collectively, these various pieces enable an employee to log into Sendoso and — according to a budget that has been preset — click on a contact, type out a customer message, and choose a gift if desired, and that directive will show up as a campaign on the company’s end and as an order over at Sendoso, which then gets to work.

Want to send cupcakes to a client in New York? Done.  A handwritten note to a prospect in Washington? No problem. See something on Amazon? Sendoso will have it sent to one of its warehouses, then repackage it so that it looks like you did it yourself. Then out the door it goes with a major carrier like FedEx or UPS.

Sendoso — which charges a monthly subscription fee for its services based on a company’s number of users and its sending volume — caters to both tech startups, as well as Fortune 1,000 companies, with a client list that includes the marketing data company LiveRamp, the construction management software company ProCore, and the call center platform TalkDesk, where Rudeegraap was most recently a senior account executive — and where he says the idea for Sendoso was born.

“Having worked in sales for 10 years, it was clear that customer success was shifting away from this dependence on email because of the digital noise being created.” He sensed that a channel with offline gifts like wine and handcrafted notes (penned by Sendoso warehouse workers) might be the solution.

The idea of business-to-business gifting is far from new of course, and even though Sendoso is customizing the experience, it also isn’t alone, with other upstarts like Knack in Seattle and Alyce in Boston among many others focused on power gifting.

Still, investors like Sendoso’s packaging, so to speak. Indeed, Rudeegraap tells us the company just closed on $10.7 million in Series A funding to bolster its ranks and accelerate its reach beyond the 15 countries where the service is already available. The round was led by David Sack’s Craft Ventures, with participation from Signia Partners, Storm Ventures, Struck Capital and Hack VC.

Sendoso has now raised $13.2 million to date.

Source: Tech Crunch

Facebook wants up to 30% of fan subscriptions vs Patreon’s 5%

Facebook will drive a hard bargain with influencers and artists judging by the terms of service for the social network’s Patreon-like Fan Subscriptions feature that lets people pay a monthly fee for access to a creator’s exclusive content. The policy document attained by TechCrunch shows Facebook plans to take up to a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue minus fees, compared to 5 percent by Patreon, 30 percent by YouTube which covers fees, and 50 percent by Twitch.

Facebook also reserves the right to offer free trials to subscriptions that won’t compensate creators. And Facebook demands a “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use” creators’ content and “This license survives even if you stop using Fan Subscriptions.”

Distrust of Facebook could scare creators away from the platform when combined with its significant revenue share and ability to give away or repurpose creators’ content. Facebook has consistently shown that it puts what it thinks users want and its own interests above those of partners. It cut off game developers from viral channels, inadequately warned Page owners their reach with drop over time, decimated referral traffic to news publishers, and most recently banished video makers from the feed. If Facebook wants to win creators’ trust and the engagement of their biggest fans, it may need a more competitive offering with larger limits on its power.

“Facebook reached out to offer Hard Drive early access to a “fan subscription” product” tweeted Matt Saincome, who also runs satirical news site Hard Times. “I asked my editors about it and the complete distrust amongst our team was kinda funny. We read through the terms and found a couple things that were hilarious when compared to Patreon’s 5% . . . Up to 30% and the rights to all our stuff? From the people who let us build an audience on their platform before pulling it out from under our feet? Hilarious. Here’s a crazy alternative: let people who signed up to see our content see it and then we can monetize that hahah.”

Instagram is refocusing on creators too. Instagram’s Android app reveals the prototype of a feature that lets users switch their profile into a Creator Account, similar to the Business Profiles it launched in 2016. Instagram first told The Hollywood Reporter about Creator Accounts in December but now it’s showing up in the code. Reverse engineering specialist Jane Manchun Wong generated this screenshot showing the option for Creator Accounts to hide their contact info or profile category. Fellow code digger Ishan Agrawal gave TechCrunch an exclusive look at the Instagram code that shows the Creator Accounts are “Best for public figures, content producers, artists, and influencers”. Creator Accounts give users “more advanced insights and reach more people with promotions”, “more growth tools” and “a new inbox that makes it easier to manage message requests and connect with fans.”.

Trading Control For Subscribers

Facebook began testing Fan Subscriptions a year to give creators a financial alternative to maximizing ad views after watching the rise of Patreon which now has 3 million patrons who’ll pay 100,000 artists, comedians, models, and makers over $500 million this year. This month Facebook expanded the test to the UK, Spain, Germany, and Portugal to allow users to pay $4.99 per month to a creator for exclusive content, live videos, and a profile badge that highlights them as a subscriber. While Twitch owns gamers, YouTube rules amongst videographers, and Patreon is a favorite with odd-ball creators, Facebook may see an opportunity to popularize Fan Subscriptions internationally and turn mainstream consumers into paid supporters.

The terms for Fan Subscriptions are not publicly available, and only visible on Facebook’s site to Pages it’s invited to test the feature. But TechCrunch has published the full policy document below.

Thankfully, Facebook isn’t taking a cut of Fan Subscription revenue during the test phase, and creators get to keep 100 percent of the money paid by any patrons it signs up before the official launch. Facebook tells me that it hasn’t finalized its percentage cut, though the terms permit it to take as much as 30 percent. That would qualify given Facebook tells me its rake will be in line with industry standards and creators will retain the majority of their earnings.

But whatever cut it takes will be after processing fees and the 15 to 30 percent tax Apple and Google levy on iOS and Android in-app purchases. We’ll see if Facebook tries a workaround that pushes users to their mobile browser where it can take their subscription money tax-free. And if Facebook decides it want to give users a free one-month trial or discount to any creator, they can’t stop it even if that lets people download all their exclusive content and then cancel without ever paying.

But what’s sure to raise the most hairs is the clause about “Supplemental Data” that gives Facebook a license to display a creator’s content as they might expect, but also a royalty-free license to use it however they want, even after a creator abandons Facebook Fan Subscriptions. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that Supplemental Data does in fact cover all content provided by the creator. They claim it’s so if a creator made a custom fan sticker, a subscriber could use it in their own Facebook post, but the rule gives Facebook vast power beyond that. Patreon has a similar clause, but gets the benefit of the doubt in a way Facebook doesn’t after so many scandals.

Facebook’s spokesperson claimed that the Supplemental Data terms were similar to Facebook’s standard terms, but the normal Facebook terms say “You can end this license any time by deleting your content or account.” Not so with Fan Subscriptions. I don’t expect Facebook is going to try to outright steal and resell creators’ content, but it will have jurisdiction to use their art however it wants to fuel its war with Patreon, Twitch, and YouTube.

Creators will have to decide whether access to Facebook’s 2.3 billion users is worth the platform risk of building a following somewhere they don’t control and that has other business priorities. If Facebook’s strategy suddenly veers away from Fan Subscriptions, it could be hard for creators to score new signups or retain their old ones. At least with a dedicated site like Patreon, creators know the platform can’t abuse them without the threaten of ruin.

Here’s the full Terms Of Service for Facebook’s Patreon competitor Fan Subscriptions:

Fan Subscriptions Creator Terms

The fan funding feature (“Fan Subscriptions”) allows Facebook users to support their favorite pages, creators, group administrators, gamers, or others (“Pages”) through a monthly subscription with Facebook (“Subscription”) that gives those people (“fans”) access to digital content offered by Pages, such as exclusive digital content, fan recognition, and merchandise discounts. These Terms (“Terms”) govern how Pages use Fan Subscriptions.

With regard to your use of Fan Subscriptions, you agree to the following:

  1. Your use of the Platform with respect to Fan Subscriptions is subject to, and you agree to comply with, the Platform Policy currently available at
  2. Your use of Fan Subscriptions to offer digital content and/or services to Facebook fans is subject to, and you agree to comply with the (a) Monetization Eligibility Standards currently available at, and (b) Content Guidelines for Monetization currently available at You agree to follow any additional instructions and/or technical documentation we provide to you for Fan Subscriptions.
  3. You will provide accurate information to fans in connection with your use of Fan Subscriptions, including but not limited as part of any digital content or services you choose to offer to them. You must clearly and conspicuously disclose all material terms regarding your offer and the nature of content or services you will provide to fans once they choose to subscribe. You agree to comply with all laws applicable to your use of Fan Subscriptions.
  4. You confirm that the content you offer via Subscription does not infringe upon the intellectual property rights of any third party and that you have secured all rights necessary to distribute, copy, display, publicly perform, or otherwise use the content.
  5. You will not use, incorporate, or provide any music or physical goods in connection with your use of Fan Subscriptions without FB’s prior written approval (email is sufficient).
  6. You will not offer discounts on physical goods that exceed 80 percent of the offered goods’ retail value.
  7. Your fans’ Subscriptions may be processed as payments to Facebook via Apple’s In-App Purchase or Google’s In-App Billing services, which are subject to Apple’s and Google’s separate payment terms and conditions. Apple and Google may charge Facebook a revenue share and/or other fees for such payment services according to their respective terms and conditions. FB will pay you a revenue share calculated as a percentage (“Your Share”) of what’s left after deduction of those fees/charges and of any other fees or taxes incurred by Facebook. As a the date of these Terms, Your Share of that net revenue is 100%. However, Facebook may in the future change these Terms such that Facebook keeps a revenue share of up to 30%. We will give 30 days’ notice of any such change.
  8. Facebook reserves the right to offer discounted and free trials for fans from time to time in our discretion, whether to incentivize Subscription sign-ups or otherwise. Where we do so in relation to your Fan Subscriptions, your revenue share will be reduced accordingly: we only pay you a revenue share based on the amounts fans actually pay (less fees and taxes we incur).
  9. If you have accurately completed and timely provided to FB any forms or documentation that FB reasonably determines are required to set up payment to you, and subject to and only in the event that you are in compliance in all respects with these Terms, payment of any net amounts FB receives from Apple and Google for Subscriptions made by your fans during your use of Fan Subscriptions will be on a monthly basis, within approximately 60 days after the end of the applicable month. Facebook will not be responsible for any subsequent fees applied by your financial institution to complete payment of the Monthly Fee to you. Furthermore, in the event the payment due to you would be less than One Hundred U.S. Dollars ($100.00), Facebook reserves the right to roll such payment over month to month until such payment threshold is met, at which time Facebook will make the applicable payment to you. Facebook also reserves the right to set off and/or withhold any amounts that Facebook reasonably considers are or are likely to be payable by you to Facebook under these Terms (including under any indemnities).
  10. If you are providing (or allowing us to access) any data, content, or other information in connection with your use of Fan Subscriptions (collectively, “Supplemental Data”), then you grant us (and our affiliates) a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use such Supplemental Data. This license survives even if you stop using Fan Subscriptions. You are responsible for obtaining the necessary rights from all applicable rights holders to grant this license.
  11. You are responsible for paying any applicable taxes owed with respect to any amounts you receive through your use of Fan Subscriptions. Facebook will charge you taxes with respect to such amounts if it is required to do so under applicable law.
  12. Facebook can terminate or suspend your use of Fan Subscriptions at any time in our sole discretion, and we may change or stop offering Fan Subscriptions at any time in our sole discretion. In no event will we be liable in any way for terminating or suspending your use of Fan Subscriptions, for the discontinuation of Fan Subscriptions, for the removal of or disabling of access to content, or for the withdrawal of the content or Fan Subscriptions.
  13. If you change what’s included in a Subscription in a way that could be considered material, you must give fans reasonable prior notice such that they have a reasonable opportunity to cancel their Subscriptions if they so choose, with the change only taking effect after their next Subscription fee payment.
  14. If you are using Fan Subscription on behalf of a third party (including, but not limited to, as an agent or representative of a Creator), you represent and warrant that you have the authority as agent of such party to use such features on their behalf, agree to these Terms, and hereby bind such party to these Terms. You agree to indemnify and hold Facebook harmless from any claims, suits, losses, liabilities, damages, costs, and expenses resulting from your breach of the Terms. If you are accepting these Terms as admin of Facebook Business Manager for your business, these Terms shall apply to Content on all Facebook Pages and profiles owned or operated by your business at the time of acceptance and thereafter.
  15. By using the Fan Subscriptions feature, you agree that we may communicate with you electronically any important information regarding your use of Fan Subscriptions, including without limitation as to Your Share and any payments. We may also provide notices to you by posting them on our website, or by sending them to an email address or street address that you previously provided to us. Website and email notices shall be considered received by you within 24 hours of the time posted or sent; notices by postal mail shall be considered received within three (3) business days of the time sent.
  16. Facebook reserves the right to update these Terms from time to time. If any change to these Terms will materially disadvantage you, or materially affect the availability of the Subscription, we will provide you with notice before the changes become effective and you can choose to cancel your Subscription. Your continued use of this feature constitutes acceptance of those changes.
  17. Fan Subscriptions is part of the “Facebook Products” under Facebook’s Terms of Service(“Facebook Terms”), and your use of Fan Subscriptions is deemed part of your use of Facebook Products. In the event of any express conflict between these Terms and the Facebook Terms, these Terms will govern solely with respect to your use of Fan Subscriptions and solely to the extent of the conflict. These Terms do not alter in any way the terms or conditions of any other agreement you may have with Facebook. Facebook reserves the right to monitor or audit your compliance with these Terms and to update these terms from time to time, and your continued use of Fan Subscriptions constitutes acceptance of those changes.

Source: Tech Crunch

Energizer’s P18K Pop is basically a giant battery with a smartphone built into it

This is the future you asked for.

When people read smartphone reviews, one of the first things they want to know is whether the battery life is going to be sufficient for their use cases. Well, what if the battery life was the only stat that mattered?

At MWC in Barcelona, phone maker Avenir Telecom is turning heads with an Energizer-branded behemoth that packs a punch.

The P18K Pop has a truly massive 18,000 MAh battery built-in, the manufacturer says that you could play videos for two straight days without depleting the battery. By comparison, the phone in your pocket probably has a battery in the 2,500-3,500 MAh so this things would likely be able to keep you going for several days with regular usage.

Consumers haven’t always been psyched about about manufacturer’s never-ending desire to trim thickness from their phones, that’s not an issue with the P18K Pop which is 18mm thick at its thinnest point. Hilariously the thing is thick as hell but manages to not have a headphone jack.

It is abundantly unclear how big the market is for this chunkster but Paris-based Avenir Telecom says they will start shipping them to customers sometime this summer.

Source: Tech Crunch

BMW continues to bet on the (Azure) cloud

Earlier this week, at MWC Barcelona, BMW announced its newest in-car AI initiative: BMW Natural Interaction. The idea here is to use cameras, microphones and other sensors in the car to allow you to have more natural interactions with the car, either through voice or gestures. The marquee feature here is the ability to point at something outside the car and get more information about it or, if it’s a restaurant, have the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant (IPA) make a reservation for you. These systems will work by combining in-car AI with cloud technologies — and for those, BMW continues to bet on Microsoft’s Azure cloud.

After the announcement, I sat down with Christoph Grote, BMW Group’s senior VP for electronics. I admit that a lot of what I saw in the demo felt a bit futuristic, but Grote noted that everything he showed off during his presentation is more or less production-ready. “I don’t think I would’ve dared to stand up there if any of the things I showed today were a utopia,” he told me. “All of this is in series production and some of it is already available as part of the BMW OS 7 release. But the major work we are doing, looking ahead to the iNext [electric SUV], is about gaze, head pose and gesture tracking and combing those with the other modalities. But everything we showed today is going to go into production.”

In practice, this means that BMW will use two cameras: a wide-angle camera behind the rear-view mirror that can track the gestures of both the driver and front-seat passenger and one behind the dashboard that only looks at the driver through the steering wheel and recognizes when their eyes blink, where their eyes look and their head pose.

As Grote noted, figuring out where you are looking is not exactly easy. The camera sees your hands in relation to the car. That’s pretty straightforward. But the car, too, is situated somewhere in space, and for this to work, that localization has to be very precise, and the digital map has to be very detailed, too. “GPS isn’t enough for this,” Grote said, and noted that the company plans to use the car’s forward-facing camera to gather additional information that helps localize the car in space based on comparing the image to the digital map. The AI smarts that power these mapping features run right in the car — and in many ways, these features also lay the groundwork for self-driving cars, which obviously need highly detailed maps, too.

In many ways, this work is a continuation of BMW’s work on its IPA in-car assistant. “There, we use Azure Cognitive Service and we plan to integrate these new modalities (like gaze and gesture tracking) with the same technology. And that’s important for these multi-modal systems. […] We have a great partnership with Microsoft and we expect that’ll continue.”

Grote also noted that BMW has a long history of working in the cloud, thanks to many years of experience in offering its connected car services. “We don’t think of the car as an isolated client that connects to some service in the cloud, but that we also see these connected cars as a swarm that has collective intelligence.”

Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity is one of the hot topics in the car industry right now — especially given the advent of 5G with its low-latency connectivity — and BMW does have its own point of view here. For Grote, V2X systems that use the cellular network and connect to the cloud have major advantages over those that try to connect cars directly. These cloud-connected systems, he argues, are easier to maintain and they are able to translate between different standards or — in the long run — integrate different generations of this system to ensure that cars from different manufacturers can talk to each other.

“A cellular-based system is forward-looking, maintainable, secure and the better foundation that guarantees future development efforts versus a standard that’s 20 years old, from a time when the carriers were not interested in machine-to-machine traffic at all.”

BMW continues to bet on the cloud for many of its newest tech developments. Among car manufacturers, it’s obviously not alone here. Daimler recently announced that it has moved its big data platform to the cloud, for example. And in many ways, that move makes sense. Running online services isn’t a core competency for many of these companies, and even if they are experienced at running their own data centers by now, this isn’t what allows them to differentiate their cars in a highly competitive market. That energy is better spent on building applications, not managing them. The large cloud providers also offer global coverage, and redundancies are hard and expensive to build.

Source: Tech Crunch

With a $3.5 million haul, Dray Alliance joins a booming logistics startup scene in LA

With an angle on a long-neglected part of the shipping industry — the short haul movement of cargo from docks to logistics centers — Dray Alliance, is launching joining a growing startup scene for logistics businesses based in Los Angeles.

With some of the nation’s largest ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, the Southern California regino is now fertile ground for businesses hoping to tackle what amounts to a trillion dollar industry.

Companies like Shippabo, a provider of shipping tracking and logistics for international small cargo transport, and NEXT Trucking, which handles long haul and short haul trucking, have both launched in the Los Angeles area to tackle different areas of the shipping industry. And now Dray Alliance is joining them trying to take a piece of the market transporting cargo from the docks to logistics centers.

The company has raised $3.5 million in seed funding from David Sacks’ Craft Ventures and has already signed contracts with the toy company Mattel and CMA CGM Group.

“Drayage is currently the most neglected area of the transit supply chain. The nuances of drayage create distinct challenges and opportunities that are quite different from other trucking segments such as FTL and LTL,” said Jeff Fluhr, general partner at Craft Ventures, in a statement. “Focus on drayage is what sets Dray Alliance apart. That focus, combined with deep industry expertise, technical skills, and entrepreneurial grit is why we believe this team will emerge as the leader in the sector.”

Founded by middle school friends Alfred Wen, Hank Cui, and Jason Yu, Dray Alliance leverages years of work that Yu and Wen had done as founders of their own trucking company. Cui was brought on board to start developing the technology product — which Wen says is exactly like an Uber for trucking.

Wen says the company has thousands of truckers who have signed up for the service — most of whom are now on a wait list as the company builds up supply before opening the floodgates on the demand side.

For every successful shipment, Dray Alliance takes 15% to 30% of the total cost of the shipment, which Wen acknowledged was a bit higher than the industry norm. The reason for that, he said, was because of the massive savings that shippers can realize.

Fines for late pickup on cargo can range from $100 to $1,000 per day. Working with Mattel, for instance, Dray Alliance was able to save the toy manufacturer nearly a quarter of a million dollars through its service.

“The drayage trucking industry still depends on emails and spreadsheets for its daily operations – leading to massive inefficiencies that result in lower earnings for truckers, less predictability in delivery times and 20-50% increases in the drayage trucking cost of freight deliveries for shippers. This is not in the best interest of anyone involved,” said Steve Wen, CEO of Dray Alliance. “Dray Alliance wants to bring Uber-like airport pick up efficiency to the drayage industry by providing a seamless mobile experience, more predictability in delivery time, and better economics for shippers, carriers, and truckers.”

Source: Tech Crunch

Verified Expert Lawyer: Leslee Cohen

Leslee Cohen has been practicing law for decades in her hometown of Chicago. She’s been working with more and more startups over the last ten years, after co-founding her own firm (Hershman Cohen) and expanding along with the city’s tech scene.

On her approach:

“I have one partner and we have now hired two other women to join us. We are extremely conscious of the fact that startups and small businesses have a lot of important uses for their dollars other than legal fees. We are all senior-level attorneys and we never double bill. What that means to our clients is that if one of us does the work and needs a second set of eyes in a particularly complex contract, those additional hours are not billed.

“Leslee’s ability to make even the most complicated issues simple and easy to understand has been invaluable to our company!” Larry Bellack, Chicago, President, Mobile Doorman

“The pressure at the big firms is: how many hours have you billed? If someone called me with a quick question in my prior days as a big firm attorney, my thought was ‘I get to put .2 on my billing sheet.’ And that’s just the complete opposite of what our practice is about; it’s about forming those relationships with startups and continuing to serve in that general counsel role for as far down the road as possible. Having our clients go tell everyone how great we are is so much more important to me than an extra .5 on a timesheet.”

On founder-investor relations:

“I feel that maintaining the founder’s relationship with its investors is of great importance, even through sometimes difficult negotiations, and make every effort to be the lawyer that fosters that relationship rather than hindering it in any way. I recently worked on a Series A offering and the founder-investor relationship was extraordinarily positive until one particular issue arose — the founder’s first gut reaction was fury and ‘how could she say that to me and how could she do that to me and I’m gonna call her and tell her what I think.’ My response was ‘write out an email with everything you want to say and send it to me and then we’re gonna delete it. Two weeks ago you loved each other and you’re going to again. She’s a strategic investor, she knows what she’s doing and she’s bringing so much credibility to your business — this is not the way you want the relationship to go.’

“So the founder wrote that email, and it was vicious, and then he called me back two hours later to thank me profusely. Sure enough they sat down, talked it out, and their relationship is strong again.”

Below, you’ll find the rest of the founder reviews, the full interview, and more details like their pricing and fee structures.

This article is part of our ongoing series covering the early-stage startup lawyers who founders love to work with, based on this survey (which we’re keeping open for more recommendations) and our own research. If you’re a founder trying to navigate the early-stage legal landmines, be sure to check out our growing set of in-depth articles, like this checklist of what you need to get done on the corporate side in your first years as a company.

The Interview:

Eric Eldon: How does your practice work, given that you’ve struck out from a big law firm to cofound a boutique firm? What are you focused on with early-stage companies?

Leslee Cohen: One is startup formation and I do work with those ‘I have an idea’ kind of companies. Usually I’ll talk for an hour for free to anybody who is at that point, but usually other than entity formation — which a paralegal can do — you probably should focus on developing your idea a little more before you spend money on a lawyer. Once someone is ready to actually start a company, I’ll do it all at that stage, even pre-funding, and help with entity selection and formation, organizational documents, bylaws and what-have-you.

And then co-founder agreements, a lot of co-founder agreements. I think that’s really important, I understand if someone comes to me and says I’m starting a company with my sister or with my best friend from kindergarten that’s not your first thing you want to spend money on in terms of legal fees. But, with those few exceptions, I’ve seen so many co-founder breakups that it’s really important to me.

The more common way that companies come to me is when they’re raising their seed round. I will work with them on SAFE and convertible note rounds. I will work with them on the disclosure part of the round, the SEC filings, any state filings necessary, structuring the round, what it’s going to look like. And then the companies have money and start hiring their first employees, so I draft employment agreements, handle HR issues and structure equity grants to advisors and restricted stock agreements. I also provide a privacy policy, terms of use, NDAs, and then once they start doing business, day-to-day contracts with customers and on the other side with vendors and suppliers. Determining employee versus independent contractors, cap tables, incentive stock plans — those are all right in my wheelhouse.

The furthest I’ll go into real estate is the first lease.

Eldon: How does this compare versus what you used to do in BigLaw?

Cohen: I was in that world, so I understand what goes on — the fees, and really the pressure to bill hours — and that’s my number one pet peeve that we really focus on here.

I have one partner and we have now hired two other women to join us. We are extremely conscious of the fact that startups and small businesses have a lot of important uses for their dollars other than legal fees. We are all senior-level attorneys and we never double bill. What that means to our clients is that if one of us does the work and needs a second set of eyes in a particularly complex contract, those additional hours are not billed.

Source: Tech Crunch

iOS developers will soon be able to offer discounts to their existing and lapsed subscribers

As subscriptions continue to grow into a sizable revenue stream for mobile app developers, Apple has had to make adjustments to its guidelines, rules and even its tools for subscription management in recent weeks. It issued stricter guidelines around how subscriptions are to be presented to consumers, and it made the setting for canceling existing subscriptions more accessible. Now, Apple is rolling out new tools for developers that will help them retain their current customers and win back lapsed subscribers.

The company announced on Friday that apps with auto-renewable subscriptions will soon be able to offer their subscriptions at a discounted price for a specific period, as a means of growing and retaining their customer base. This will give the developers more control over their subscription pricing than was available before.

Until the change, developers could only make introductory offers to entice consumers to sign up for the first time. For example, developers could lure customers with a one-time introductory price, offer a free trial or offer a discounted rate for a specific period of time before the subscription converted to the full price.

But these offers could only be made to first-time customers. The new promotional offers will allow developers to cut similar deals for existing subscribers or to win back the business from those who used to pay for the subscription but had canceled.

While the new promotional offers allow for the same sort of discounts as introductory offers, they’re more flexible in terms of how they’re used.

With introductory offers, developers were allowed one offer per subscription, per territory. With promotional offers, developers can activate up to 10 offers per subscription. This allows them to test which ones work best for their customers, instead of having to pick just one.

And developers are in control of when an offer displays to a customer, in which territories and how many offers a customer can redeem.

In addition, while introductory offers may display in the App Store when promoted, the promotional offers will not. That means developers can use business logic that targets winning back their most valuable customers with offers that may be better from those shown to others — and no one would be the wiser. It also means developers can offer different deals to lapsed customers — like maybe a discounted subscription — compared with promos meant to retain current subscribers.

Developers will also be able to use receipt validation tools to find subscribers who turned off auto-renewal, which allows them to target those customers with new offers before their subscription lapses. They may also decide to target those who cancel during the free trial with different offers than those who cancel after using a paid subscription for a time.

As an end-user looking to save money, these changes mean it may be worth toggling off your subscriptions from time to time to see if you’re offered a better deal to resubscribe.

Developers were alerted to the new features last week, but the offers themselves aren’t yet publicly available.

To create the offers, developers have to download the latest Xcode 10.2 beta and will need to implement the new StoreKit APIs. They can then test their offers on the latest beta version of iOS 12.2, macOS 10.14.4 and tvOS 12.2. Apple said the offers will be made available to the public “soon.”

Source: Tech Crunch

XRP is the latest cryptocurrency to hit Coinbase Pro

On Tuesday, Coinbase announced that XRP will be the latest cryptocurrency to hit its pro-level trading platform. Coinbase Pro will allow users to transfer XRP to the platform right away (“After 10am on February 25”) but there will be at least a 12-hour delay before trading is enabled.

Support for XRP will be available for users in the U.S. (though not those in New York state), the U.K., Canada, Singapore, Australia and the EU. As one of the most controversial cryptocurrencies around, the addition of Ripple’s XRP is sure to stir up the institutional banking coin’s hot-blooded armies of supporters and detractors. The cryptocurrency has faced ongoing criticism for its centralized nature and its perceived lack of use beyond cross-border payments by financial institutions.

“Once sufficient supply of XRP is established on the platform, trading on the XRP/USD, XRP/EUR, and XRP/BTC order books will start in phases, beginning with post-only mode and proceeding to full trading should our metrics for a healthy market be met,” the company said in its announcement.

For now, XRP will be limited to Coinbase Pro, Coinbase’s feature-rich platform previously known as GDAX. The company declined to specify when XRP would hit the regular Coinbase platform, though in the past those additions have often followed Coinbase Pro by a few weeks.

Last year, Coinbase began expanding its previously spartan coin offerings to include a much wider selection of offerings beyond its longtime support for Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum and a small handful of other offerings derived from those core coins. XRP is the third largest cryptocurrency by market cap, trailing Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Source: Tech Crunch

Bioware’s high-flying ‘Anthem’ falls flat

Anthem is the first attempt by Bioware (of Mass Effect and Dragon Age fame) to tap into the well of cash supposedly to be found in the “game as platform” trend that has grown over the last few years, with Destiny, Warframe and Fortnite as preeminent exemplars. After a botched demo weekend dampened fan expectations, the final game is here — and while it’s a lot better than the broken mess we saw a few weeks ago, it’s still very hard to recommend.

I delayed my review to evaluate the game’s progress after an enormous day-one patch. While it is always premature to judge a game meant to grow and evolve by how it is immediately after launch, there are serious problems here that anyone thinking of dropping the $60 or more on it should be aware of. Perhaps they’ll all be fixed eventually, but you better believe it’s going to take a while.

I’d estimate this is about half the game it’s clearly intended to be; it seems to me we must soon find out that most of Anthem, supposedly in development for five years or more, was scrapped not long ago and this shell substituted on short notice.

The basic idea of Anthem is that you, a “freelancer” who pilots a mechanized suit called a “javelin,” fly around a big, beautiful world and blast the hell out of anything with a red hostility indicator over its head, which in practice is damn near everything. Once you’re done, you collect your new guns and gadgets and head back to base to improve your javelin, take on new missions and so on.

If it sounds familiar, it’s basically an extremely shiny version of Diablo, which established this gameplay loop more than 20 years ago; its sequels and the innumerable imitators it spawned have refined the concept, bolstering it with MMO-style online integration, “seasons” of gameplay and, of course, the inevitable microtransactions. People play them simply because it’s fun to kill monsters and see your character grow more powerful.

So Anthem is in good company, though of course for every success there are probably two or three failures and mediocre titles. Destiny has thrived in a way only because of its fluid and satisfying gunplay, while a game like Path of Exile leans on bulk, with skill trees and content one may never reach the ends of.

Anthem, on the other hand, lacks the charms of either. It is wildly short on content and its moment-to-moment gameplay, while competent and in some ways unique, rarely has you on the edge of your seat. It’s a very mixed bag of interesting concepts and disappointing execution, coupled with some truly baffling user experience issues.

I’ll cover the good parts first: the basics of flying around and shooting guys are for the most part solid. There’s a good variety of weapons, from hand cannons to shotguns and sniper rifles, with meaningful variations within those groups (though they usually boil down to rate of fire). You feel very cool during engagements, picking off enemies, dodging behind cover, flying to a new vantage point and so on.

Each of the four javelins has a good pile of themed special abilities that significantly affect how you play; for instance, the Storm starts out with (basically) non-damaging ice shards that freeze enemies, setting them up for a damaging combo from its lightning strike — but soon you can swap those out for fiery explosions and a charge-up blast of cold, and so on. The synergies are somewhat limited in that some abilities clearly only work with some others, but there’s fun to be had experimenting. I played with three of the four javelins available (more to come, apparently) and they were all very distinct styles.


The graphics really are lovely, from the future-past desert chic of Fort Tarsis to the lush jungle cliffs of the world you’ll be exploring. The light and landscapes are beautiful, and the character models are, too. Firefights look chaotic and splashy, which they are. There are also lots of customization options, in terms of colors and materials anyway — there’s a puzzling lack of cosmetics to buy with in-game or real currency; only two or three are available right now.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the extent of what Anthem gets right — and to be clear, it really can be fun when you’re actually in the middle of a firefight, blasting away, doing combos with friends, taking on hordes of bad guys. The rest is pretty much a mess. Here’s the greatest hits of how Anthem fails to operate, to respect the player’s time and, generally speaking, to be a good game.

First and perhaps most egregious, the load screens are frequent and long. I timed it at more than five minutes from launch, and at least three or four different load screens, before I could actually play the game.

Get ready for a lot of this! And incidentally, many fire attacks don’t actually set up combos.

A long load time to bring up a huge world like Anthem’s I can understand. But load times to enter the screen where you change your gear? Load screens when you enter a small cave from the map? A load screen when you stray too far from your teammates and have to be teleported to them? A load screen when you finish a mission, then another before you can return to base — and another before you can equip your new gun? Oh my god!

This is compounded by a sluggish and over-complicated UI that somehow manages to show both too much and not enough, while inconsistent keys and interaction elements keep you guessing as to whether you need to press F or space or escape to go forward, hit or hold escape to go back, use Q or E to go through submenus or if you have to escape out to find what you’re looking for.

Equipment and abilities are mystifyingly under-explained: no terms like “+15% gear speed” or “+/-10% shield time” are explained anywhere in the tutorial, documentation or character screen — because there is no character screen! For a game that depends hugely on stats and getting an overall feel for your build and gear, you have to visit five or six screens to get a sense of what you have equipped, its bonuses (if comprehensible) and whether you have anything better to use. Even core game systems like the “primer” and “detonator” abilities are only cursorily referenced, by cryptic icons or throwaway text. The original Diablo did it better, to say nothing of Anthem’s competition at the AAA level.

Navigating these menus and systems is doubly hard because you must do so not by just hitting a key, but by traveling at walking speed through the beautiful but impractical Fort Tarsis. It took a full 30 seconds for me to walk from my suit (the only place where you can launch missions) to a quest giver. And when you start the game, you start in a basement from which you have to walk 20 seconds to get to your suit! Are you kidding me?

A common sight.

Even when you’re doing what the game does best, zooming around and getting in firefights, there’s a disturbing lack of mission variety. Almost without exception you’ll fly to a little arena — some ruins or a base of some kind — and are immediately alerted of enemies in the area. They warp in at a convenient distance, often while you watch, and attack while you stand near a gadget (to advance a progress bar) or collect pieces to bring back. Some more powerful guys warp in and you shoot them. Fly to the next arena, rinse and repeat.

Sure, you could say “well it’s a shooter, what do you expect?” I expect more than that! Where are the aerial chases the intro leads you to believe exist? Enemies all either stand on the ground or hover just above it. They don’t clamber on the walls, get to the top of towers, shoot down on you from cliffs, climb trees, build gun emplacements. You don’t defend a moving target like the “Striders” (obviously AT-ATs) you supposedly travel in; bridges and buildings don’t crumble or explode; you don’t chase a bad guy into a big cave (or if you do, there’s a loading screen); the “boss-type” enemies are often just regular guys with more life or shields that recharge in the time it takes you to reload. Where are the enemy javelins? The enemy Striders? Ninety percent of what you kill will be ground-bound grunts taken down in a flash. For a game in which movement is emphasized and enjoyable, combat involves very little of it.

The campaign, which is surprisingly well acted but forgettable, seems like it was tacked on in a hurry. Amazingly, a major cutscene details a much more interesting story, in which a major city is overrun and destroyed and only a few survive. It struck me at the time that this might have been the original campaign and starting mission, after which you are logically relegated to the nearby Fort Tarsis and forced to fight for scraps. Instead you have a series of samey missions with voice-overs telling you what’s happening while you stand there and watch progress bars fill up.

At one point you are presented with four ancient tombs to track down, only to find that these amazing tombs aren’t missions but simply checklists of basic game activities like opening 15 treasure chests, killing 50 enemies with melee and so on. At a point, increasing these numbers was literally the only “mission” I had available in the game. And when I tried to join other people’s missions to accomplish these chores, half the time they were broken or already finished. Even trying to quit these missions rarely worked! (Some of these bugs and issues have been mitigated by patches, but not all.)

Spoiler warning! What do you think is in the tombs? A taxing dungeon full of traps, monsters and ancient treasure? Nope! Literally just a tiny, empty room. And yes, there’s a loading screen — both in and out.

Oh, and because many of the missions are difficult or tedious to do solo, you’ll want to team up — except if you’re slow to load, the mission will commence without you and you’ll miss the VO. Whoops! And by the way, if you just want to test out a new gun or power, you’ll have to join a multiplayer “freeplay” session to do it, which is another handful of loading screens. I’m not even going to get into the failings of the multiplayer. Because you can’t communicate it’s basically like playing with bots. By the way, there’s no PvP, so forget about skirmishing with your friends or randoms.

Even the loot you get is frustratingly low-quality and unimaginative. Every gun or component is a standard model almost always with just slightly better damage than the last one you found, and perhaps a stat bonus. But the stat bonuses are boring and often nonsensical: do I really want an assault rifle that gives me 10 percent better damage with heavy pistols?

Where’s the fun? For comparison when I was playing Diablo III recently I found a pair of leg armor early on that produced a powerful poison cloud whenever I was touching three or more enemies. Suddenly I played differently, rushing into crowds of monsters and leaping out, then immobilizing them while their life ticked down. I changed out my weapons, focused on physical defense, poison buffs… all because of a pair of pants!

I’ve encountered nothing like that in 25 hours of Anthem. Every new power and gun is the same as the old one but with a higher number. Where’s the lightning bolt that also sets people on fire, or the plasma blast that always knocks down flying guys? The pistol that does double damage against one class of enemy, the sniper rifle that automatically chambers a new round instantly in one out of five shots?

You do eventually find some “Masterwork” items that have unique qualities, but even these are compromised by the fact that their stats are completely random (such as a bonus to the wrong damage type), necessitating a grind to make or find them over and over until you get one with bonuses that make sense.

So much of Anthem seems like it’s just missing. The campaign is half there; the controls and UI are half there; the loot is half there. The multiplayer is half there. Everything lacks a critical piece that makes it more than basically functional, and considering the game’s highly polished competition, this is inexplicable and inexcusable. I find it hard to believe this was in the works for five years when such elementary aspects like a character screen and working item descriptions aren’t included at launch.

It’s more than possible that with perhaps half a year of work the Bioware team — which seems to be painfully aware of the game’s shortcomings, if their responses to detailed litanies of complaints on the game’s subreddit are any indication — could make this game worth the price of entry. But right now I couldn’t recommend it to anybody in good conscience, and I’m disappointed that a developer that’s created some of my favorite games dropped the ball so badly.

It’s too bad, because I feel the pull of the game, the basic chaotic fun at the heart of any good looter-shooter, because I feel like this can’t really be it. This can’t really be all my abilities, right? This can’t be every weapon? I liked Anthem when it was at its best, but that was so very little of the time I spent in it, and it took so much effort and patience on my part to even make those moments a possibility. I’ll be checking back in with the game in the hopes that it makes a Destiny-esque turnaround, but for now I have to say Anthem suffers from a failure to launch.

Source: Tech Crunch