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  1. Yesterday
  2. Almost a year ago, Chicago's Whitney released their most recent album, Forever Turned Around. A couple months ago, they began unveiling covers of big pop standards like John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads." Then, just last month, we found out this was part of a whole new covers album called … More »View the full article
  3. Big news today in the world of enterprise IT startups. Rippling, the startup founded by Parker Conrad to take on the ambitious challenge of building a platform to manage all aspects of employee data, from payroll and benefits through to device management, has closed $145 million in funding — a monster Series B that catapults the company to a valuation of $1.35 billion. It is a big leap for the company: it was just a little over a year ago that it raised $45 million at a valuation of $270 million. This latest round is a testament not only to the interest among investors and customers to put big bets on platforms that are making a consolidating play on a market that has otherwise suffered from a lot of fragmentation; but it is also a testament to how investors are putting a big bet on Conrad himself, who was ousted from his previous company, Zenefits (taking on a related, but smaller, challenge in payroll and benefits), over misleading investors and the company itself. This latest round included Greenoaks Capital, Coatue Management, and Bedrock Capital, as well as existing investors including Kleiner Perkins, Initialized Capital, and Y Combinator. Founders Fund partner Napoleon Ta will join Rippling’s board of directors. Founders Fund had also backed Zenefits when Parker was at the helm, and from what we understand this round was oversubscribed — also a big feat in the current market, working against a lot of factors including a wobbling economy. “Rippling is not just a superior payroll company, but something much broader: they’ve built the system of record for all employee data, creating an entirely new software category. Rippling’s massive market opportunity is to streamline the employee lifecycle, from software to payroll to benefits, and fundamentally improve the way businesses hire and manage their employees,” said Ta in a statement. “Once you’re lucky, twice you’re good,” said Mamoon Hamid, Partner, Kleiner Perkins, in a separate statement. “Parker is a true product visionary, and he and his team are solving an enormous pain point for businesses everywhere. We’re thrilled to continue partnering with Rippling as demand for their platform dramatically increases in this era of remote work.” We’re talking with Conrad in a bit and will update the post with more then. View the full article
  4. Project xCloud is almost here. Microsoft's long-hyped entry into the realm of cloud gaming is coming on Sept. 15, starting with Android devices. In practical terms, that means Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will be able to play more than 100 games on their Android smartphones or tablets. You'll of course need a decently fast internet connection. And the service is limited to just 22 markets around the globe at first – including, according to Microsoft: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Read more... More about Android, Microsoft, Xbox, Game Streaming, and XcloudView the full article
  5. Security professionals are constantly dealing with an onslaught of information as their various tools trigger alerts, some of which require their attention and some which don’t. Unfortunately, it requires addressing the alert to find that out. GreyNoise wants to help by filtering out benign security alerts, leaving security pros to deal with the ones that matter. Today, the company announced a $4.8 million seed investment led by CRV with participation from Paladin Capital Group and several individual tech executive investors. “Usually about 20% of the alerts that you’re looking at [don’t require your attention]. And those alerts are generated by both good guys and bad guys who are opportunistically scanning and crawling and probing and attacking every single device all around the internet,” GreyNoise founder Andrew Morris told TechCrunch. He adds, “It creates this background noise problem, so we basically collect all of that data from all of those people who are scanning and crawling everybody on the entire internet, analyze it and we filter it out from what our customers see. So what they end up with is about 20%, fewer alerts.” Surprisingly, the company is not using machine learning to do this (although adding machine learning elements is on the roadmap). Instead, Morris says it involves a lot of automated analysis of sensor data. “We have a giant network of collector sensors that are sitting in all these different data centers all around the internet and hundreds of data centers around the internet. And we’re just applying a bunch of rules to the traffic that they all see to end up with the output of our core product,” he said. As the company moves forward with this new funding, he says primarily he wants to get away from this approach and get more data from customers in exchange for discounts on their subscription costs. “Moving forward, it’s cost prohibitive for us to collect all of the data that we want firsthand. So we’re going to have to start basically building products that are enabling our users to collect data for us. And that’s something that we’re going to be building out using this funding,” Morris said. In addition, they will be partnering with other key vendors like ISPs and data center owners to help them collect additional data. Interestingly, this was an entirely COVID transaction with CRV’s Reid Christian never meeting Morris in person, conducting the entire process over Zoom. “A sign of the times, Andrew and I have never met in person and likely won’t for quite some time. We were connected in the midst of quarantine, both of us holed up in our apartments (DC and SF, respectively) where we sat on countless Zoom calls, mostly getting to know each other and discussing the opportunity ahead of GreyNoise,” Christian wrote in a blog post announcing the deal. The startup has 7 employees to this point. Morris said that he has plans to hire 10 people in the next year with an emphasis on sales, marketing and engineering. As he hires more people, he says it’s imperative to be thinking about diversity and inclusion in his hiring in the early stages of the company. “The best way to do this is to hire as diverse as humanly possible from the very beginning, because it’s significantly harder to make a company more diverse after the fact than it is to think about inclusion and diversity from the very beginning. And so that’s how we’ve been thinking about everything right now with every hire that we’re doing,” he said. How that will work as he builds out the company is still something he is considering and he plans work with D&I experts to help flesh out a plan. Morris founded the company in the Washington, D.C. area in 2017, came to market in 2018 with the first version of the product and today has 40 customers. View the full article
  6. We're finally only a few weeks away from the release of Kelly Lee Owens' sophomore album, Inner Song, after it was announced way back in February. Owens has shared a handful of tracks in that time -- "Melt!," "Night," and "On" -- and today she's back with another song, … More »View the full article
  7. The stay-at-home concert broadcasts on Wednesday, August 5, at 6 p.m. Eastern View the full article
  8. Today Intercom announced that it has hired a chief financial officer (CFO) as it ramps towards an IPO. The unicorn also promoted its COO to the CEO role earlier this year. The company’s recent CEO, Karen Peacock, told TechCrunch that her new CFO Dan Griggs was a strong candidate thanks to his experience helping take Rocket Fuel public, and for helping execute a “whole business transformation” at Sitecore, where he worked immediately before coming to Intercom. Intercom is a software startup that sells customer-chat software that works with support and marketing teams. Different tiers of its service allow for automated “conversational” campaigns, and custom bots. The company has raised a hair over $290 million, according to Crunchbase data. Griggs told TechCrunch that he was not in the market for a new role, but conversations with Peacock drew him in. Peacock took over the CEO role after around three years as the company’s COO, during which time it became known that the preceding CEO had made “unwanted advances” on employees. Intercom company also underwent layoffs before Peacock took over the helm. According to reporting, the firm cut around 6% of its staff in May, a time when many tech companies were trimming personnel due to market uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 and its economic disruptions. Now Intercom has a refreshed c-suite, and is at IPO scale. According to TechCrunch reporting at the time when Peacock took over as CEO, Intercom had around $150 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR). The company clarified to TechCrunch that the ARR milestone was reached at the end of its last fiscal year, or the conclusion of January of 2020. Dan Griggs, via the company. Intercom, Griggs said, is near profitability and is growing in the “strong” double digits. We read that as meaning between 50% and 99% growth, implying the company could close its current fiscal year (January 2021) with $225 million to $298.5 million in ARR, with a bias — thanks to the laws of large numbers — towards the smaller figure. With a CFO with IPO experience on hand, a new CEO, a material revenue base and good growth, when is the IPO? Not soon, sadly. The CFO said his company doesn’t need to raise new capital, and that it has enough liquidity today to invest. That’s financial-speak for “no rush.” The CEO is on the same page, saying during the same call that Intercom is not in a hurry to go public, and wants to build out some internal infrastructure before executing the transaction. There won’t be an IPO for at least twelve months, she estimated.1 Intercom hit some market chop in 2020 and had to spend parts of the last year or so cleaning up internal issues. Now, in theory, it has sorted house, and is operating in a market that has greatly rewarded software startups in recent quarters, especially those helping other companies operate digitally. Let’s see how fast Intercom can grow. We’ll get the full retrospective with its eventual S-1. Alas. View the full article
  9. Today AgentSync announced that it has closed a $4.4 million Seed round, co-led by Elad Gil and Caffeinated Capital. Other well-known names from the Silicon Valley scene took part in its funding round, including Affirm’s Max Levchin and the podcaster turned VC Harry Stebbings, among others. The round caught our eye because AgentSync is working in a space that has seen a notable wave of venture interest in 2020 — insurtech, which we’ve covered somewhat extensively — and because it shared hard revenue numbers, which we love. So let’s talk about how the company’s co-founders Jenn Knight and Niji Sabharwal wound up building software for the insurance market. From Zenefits to new beginnings AgentSync offers what it describes as “compliance as a service,” helping insurance carriers and insurance agencies track insurance broker licensing data. For companies accustomed to doing this work with spreadsheets, AgentSync offers a faster method, built on top of Salesforce’s platform, saving time and lowering the chance of error. (Tech firms building on top of Salesforce are having a good year, incidentally.) The idea for the company was born from Sabharwal’s time at Zenefits. Sabharwal was an early-employee at the infamous startup. To hear the AgentSync co-founder tell the story, Zenefits grew at an inhuman clip, scaling from 100 employees when Sabharwal joined to over 1,700 a year later. During its period of hyper-growth, reporting later uncovered, Zenefits did not sufficiently appreciate that it operated in a highly-regulated industry. The resulting compliance mess forced co-founder Parker Conrad from the company, with former Yammer boss David Sacks taking the reins to clean house. At the time of his takeover, TechCrunch reported that Sacks wrote to Zenefits staff that “compliance is like oxygen,” and that without the company would “die.” Conrad got fined by the SEC, Zenefits cut staff, and had to re-value itself. Sacks eventually left the company. But behind the headlines Sabharwal described work to rebuild Zenefits in a more compliant fashion from the inside-out. Part of those efforts, he said in an interview, was building software that helped track agent compliance, a project that Zenefits later open-sourced and released. TechCrunch covered the release at the time, writing that Zenefits had built “a licensing compliance app it created in-house to ensure its sales people are properly licensed to sell insurance in a given state available for free to anyone to download from the Salesforce App Exchange.” The software integrated with National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR) data, which the co-founder describes as a source of truth in the insurance market. The software allowed users to confirm that individual agents were compliant. The effort bought Zenefits some kudos with regulators, and, according to Sabharwal, other companies looking to use the software. From the meeting point of internal software project and external demand, AgentSync was formed, with Sabharwal leaving Zenefits to start his company with his partner, Knight. Knight, who has done stints at Dropbox (Head of Business Technology) and Stripe (Head of Internal Systems), worked part-time at AgentSync before joining the startup full-time this year. Zenefits signed the IP from the earlier project over to Sabharwal before his team wrote any code for AgenySync, allowing the company to get a clean start. The insurance market is enormous, lucrative, and old-fashioned. That makes it a prime space to attack. The software also helps groups onboard agents, execute what the startup calls “automatically-generated compliance analysis” to help spot gaps and other data errors. And AgentSync is seeing traction, scaling to $1.9 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) at the time of publication. The company charges per active agent a customer has, with some price tiering based on scale. Today the startup has 17 people, and is targeting 22 by the end of the year. (It’s investing in its go-to-market functionality post-fundraising.) On the personnel side, Knight, the company’s CTO, has built a technical team that is majority women, an unfortunately a rarity in the industry. She also said that she’s “acutely aware of the equity and pay gaps that exist for women and underrepresented groups across the industry.” I haven’t had the chance to talk to too many denizens from the Zenefits alumni, but what’s fun about AgentSync is that it was born effectively out of an effort to fix what went wrong at the unicorn. And, it’s found a market for that fix. Let’s see how far it can get on $4.4 million. View the full article
  10. It is, of course, not uncommon for musicians to cover each other. It's perhaps a bit more unexpected when established indie musicians go and form a full-blown cover band. That is, however, what has happened with Black Sabbath Cover Band Rehearsal. As you might be able to tell from the name, it's not exactly your … More »View the full article
  11. Amid a crowded market of mobile banking services, which will soon also include Google, U.S. challenger bank Current is launching a new program that will offer points-based rewards to its checking account customers. The program will allow Current members to earn up to 15x points on everyday debit card purchases at over U.S. 14,000 merchants, including national retailers like Subway, Rite Aid, True Value, Cold Stone Creamery, and others. The points program is an alternative to other credit cards’ “cashback” offerings, which reward users immediately with cash they can keep or apply to their next bill. Instead, Current’s points will accumulate under a user’s account to certain thresholds, then can be redeemed for cash at a rate of 100 points per dollar. They can also be used for subscriptions. At the moment, the points can be applied only to Current’s own membership subscription — the service offers a Premium tier for $5 per month — but further down the road, the company envisions using points to pay for a wide variety of subscription services. Image Credits: Current At launch, Current says around 50% of its user base lives within 2 miles of an offer, but it’s working to get that number to 100%. In addition, Current’s users tend to be out and about in their city, even amid the pandemic, as the majority (around 80%) are classified as “essential workers.” This includes those who work in logistics-related fields, like Walmart, Amazon, Instacart, Doordash, Uber, and Lyft, as well as nurses, military, and government workers. Because of their jobs, they’re more likely to be out getting gas or eating at restaurants, where they could easily gain points. Current estimates its members will save $165 per year in cash back just from their gas purchases alone, for example. The company is the first neobank to roll out a points-based rewards program in the U.S., it says. Though plenty of U.S. credit cards offer points or cashback programs, the large market of debit card users is typically ignored. (There are a few rewards-based debit cards, but they’re few and far between). “People who use debit typically live paycheck to paycheck and have far less money,” explains Current founder and CEO, Stuart Sopp. He says Current primarily wants to improve these users’ financial outcomes, as that’s the company’s core mission. However, the program will also allow Current to stand out among a growing number of alternative banking apps that are starting to all look the same thanks to a baseline of consumer-friendly features like no-fees banking, free cash withdrawals, and modern mobile budgeting tools, among other things. “If it means competitively — compared to Varo, Chime, Square and Venmo — that users in an increasingly crowded market see there’s more value with us, then that’s great,” notes Sopp. “We’re very proud to stick our head out and say, we’re the first and only fintech challenger bank to offer points,” he says. Image Credits: Current The points program, over time, will also help to generate additional revenue for Current as it establishes a relationship between the bank and merchants — something that could prove valuable as Current expands its product line-up. At the moment, Current is leveraging several undisclosed third-parties to help power its points program, combined with internal efforts — the latter focused on onboarding the larger brands. Over time, as the points program grows, Current hopes its merchant partners will pay for the privilege of having their offers surfaced to those users who are most likely to redeem them. Sopp says this wouldn’t involve sharing users’ personal data, but rather would focus on targeting offers more appropriately to end users. For instance, an offer for a restaurant may appear around lunch time. Offers could also be more precisely geolocated, on an opt in basis, so you’ll get an alert to an offer as you walk in a store. The points program is rolling out now to Current’s 1.3 million members, both Basic (free) and Premium (paid). Combined, Current users have deposited over $1 billion to date in the mobile bank. View the full article
  12. It’s official: Days after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was peppered with awkward questions by US lawmakers concerned about the market power of his ecommerce empire, the UK’s competition regulator has confirmed it’s happy for the tech giant to take a 16% bite out of local on-demand food delivery app, Deliveroo. The CMA had been investigating the planned stake for some 15 months, completing phase one of its scrutiny in December. At the time it decided it had enough concerns to move to a phase 2 probe — chewing over whether or not the stake might discourage Amazon from re-entering the online restaurant food market and “further developing its presence within the online convenience grocery delivery market in the UK”, as it put it. Soon after the regulator started in on this work COVID-19 struck Europe — impacting investigation as it had a marked impact on Deliveroo’s business. Initially the impact of the coronavirus looked negative, with Deliveroo claiming it would have gone out of business without Amazon’s stake. The CMA concurred with this analysis, treating it as a “failing firm” and reasoning that Deliveroo’s exit from the market would have been worse for competition — thereby provisionally clearing the Amazon stake in April. Then again in June the regulator provisionally cleared the deal — although it now no longer considered Deliveroo failing, being as, from April 2020, it found a sharper than expected recovery in the restaurant food delivery market, as well as a shift in the restaurant ‘mix’ (“towards smaller, independent restaurants and away from large fast food chains”) — both of which resulted in money being poured into Deliveroo’s coffers. Yet then — with the startup’s finances experiencing “rapid and significant turnaround” — the regulator felt it necessary to complete a “substantive assessment” to of the risks to competition. Now it’s finally concluded that Amazon’s 16% stake does not cross the competitive risk threshold. So Bezos can crack out the bubble — assuming he knows what the heck Deliveroo is of course. The CMA said its decision to clear the deal on competition grounds is “the culmination of extensive analysis of internal documents from Amazon and Deliveroo, a survey of more than 3,000 consumers, and extensive submissions from interested third parties”. It said the assessment looked at how a 16% shareholding by Amazon would “affect its incentives to compete independently with Deliveroo in both restaurant delivery and online convenience grocery delivery in the coming years”. “The CMA ultimately found that this level of investment will not substantially lessen competition in either market. However, if Amazon were to acquire a greater level of control over Deliveroo — through, for example, acquiring a controlling interest in the company — this could trigger a further investigation by the CMA,” it added. Commenting further in a statement, Stuart McIntosh, inquiry chair, said: “Taking account of the higher legal standard that applies at Phase 2, the Group has concluded that the transaction will not result in a substantial lessening of competition in either restaurant delivery or convenience grocery delivery.” McIntosh was also at pains to emphasize that the decision reflects the scale of the investment and Amazon ‘s “incentives to compete in both markets” — reiterating the warning that should Amazon try to increase its share of Deliveroo a fresh investigation may be triggered. The announcement that Amazon was leading a $575 million Series G investment in the UK food delivery app business dates back to May 2019. The move signalled a second act for the ecommerce behemoth in the UK food delivery market, after it launched an on-demand food delivery offer with London restaurants for Prime members back in 2016. However it went on to shutter the effort a couple of years later — having faced fierce competition from the likes of Deliveroo and Uber Eats. Responding to the CMA’s clearance of the Amazon stake, Deliveroo emphasized that “none of the five ‘Theories of Harm’ on which the CMA based its investigation have been substantiated”. A company spokesperson also emailed this statement: We are delighted that the CMA has concluded its 15 month investigation and that the Amazon minority investment can now go ahead. This is fantastic news for UK customers and restaurants, and for the British economy. British born Deliveroo will use the investment to increase choice and value for customers, support for restaurants and will be able to offer more riders the flexible work they value as the company expands. Deliveroo is excited that Amazon, the most customer-obsessed and innovative company in the world, has shown such a huge vote of confidence in Deliveroo and chosen to invest in the company’s future. The company offered some updated business metrics, saying there are now 100,000 restaurants on its platform globally, with 30,000 joining this year alone — which it claimed points to “the extent to which the Covid crisis has seen restaurants turn to delivery as a vital source of revenue”. “75,000 of the restaurants who work with Deliveroo globally are small, independent restaurants who have been hit hardest by the pandemic,” it added. View the full article
  13. The Paul Institute, the musical project spearheaded by brothers Jai and A.K. Paul, has released a new batch of recordings today. Dubbed the Summer 2020 EP, it's more of a mixtape featuring a range of Paul affiliates. It's not the massive outpouring Paul fans have been hoping for since Jai made his comeback … More »View the full article
  14. Earlier this year, DaBaby started teasing some new music with Young Thug and now, we get to hear what the two rap forces were working on. Releasing the deluxe edition of BLAME IT ON BABY today, DaBaby collaborates with Gunna, Stunna 4 Vegas, Rich Dunk, and more. He also comes through with his official Young Thug collaboration, sneaking it in as the fourth song on the deluxe tracklist. Titled "BLIND," the pair of rappers speak about their lifestyles, with Baby touching on how he's dominated the charts this year. When it comes time for Thugger to jump in, he gets right to it, talking about how his quarantine life has been with his kids. This is one of the standouts from the deluxe version of BLAME IT ON BABY. Listen to the project's extension here and let us know your thoughts on this song by voting above. Quotable Lyrics: Yeah, I've been quarantined, livin' with my kiddies Tryna teach me how to cha-cha, ah Fucked around, left this door open Now they know that they can't stop me, don't place me in no cop car Yeah, I'm off probation, so it's gas I blow I fell in love with my bitch, so I don't ask no more I can really sit back, ain't gotta pass no dough All of my brothers get loot, I don't got ride with the pistols View the full article
  15. A person utterly convinced that they're above mortality can be an upsetting sight to behold. The reckless self-destructiveness, the complete and utter lack of self-awareness. Together it makes for a volatile combination, one that all too often leads to a premature and uncomfortable end. In the case of Tekashi 6ix9ine, a rapper who has made a career out of tempting fate, it would appear that not even a prison stay can temper his arrogance. Bob Levey/Getty Images In fact, he seems to count himself more untouchable than ever before, firing off disrespectful shots at beloved artists like Pop Smoke, Nipsey Hussle, and XXXTentacion. Perhaps it was the fresh New York air that emboldened him, inflaming his desire to claim kingship over his city. Of course, such behavior is all too often encouraged by enablers, and 6ix9ine is likely surrounded by them -- who really wants to tip the cash-cow at the height of its productivity? Yet there does seem to be a doubter in the ranks, and an unlikely one at that: DJ Akademiks. A friendship that blossomed in a swimming pool and strengthened over Instagram Live, Ak has often championed the rainbow-haired rapper where nobody else dared to do so. Even now, as 6ix9ine roams the streets defiantly challenging his haters to act, tempting fate the moment a camera lands upon his face. During a recent conversation, Ak asked 6ix9ine why he even bothered returning to the streets in the first place. "I want you to be safe man," says Ak. "I know this as a fact, you getting too much money. You don't gotta prove nobody wrong or nobody right. Today was a ballsy move. You out in the streets with people, but you don't gotta be. You are one of the top five or top ten most successful artists in the music game. You don't gotta do this." Despite Ak's clear concern for his friend's safety, Tekashi doesn't seem to care. Instead, he doubles down by singing Pop Smoke lyrics. "You don't gotta go back to the hood ever," maintains Ak, to no avail. Interesting that a man can call himself King Of New York but balk at the idea of listening to his trusted counsel -- what kind of King is that? View the full article
  16. Last week, the Killers announced that they would launch an investigation into their tour staff, past and present, because of allegations of sexual abuse. A female sound engineer wrote that she'd heard evidence of an intoxicated woman being abused backstage by the band's road crew in 2009. The engineer claimed that one member … More »View the full article
  17. One of the most in-demand artists in the world, DaBaby has officially released the deluxe edition of his chart-topping album Blame It On Baby. Initially, fans were critical of the body of work, throwing the album in the trash bin shortly after its release. Then, people started to appreciate it for what it is. "ROCKSTAR" with DaBaby enjoyed a seven-week run at the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, cementing this as another successful chapter in Baby's career. After teasing some new music on Instagram last week, the North Carolina native has officially released the deluxe edition of the album. Loaded with ten new songs, Baby grabs features from Young Thug, Gunna, Stunna 4 Vegas, and more. It all starts off with "Billboard Baby" before leading us into the standout "Practice," which could easily become the star's next big hit. There's definitely a lot to unpack on the deluxe. Check it out below and let us know if you're feeling it off the first listen. Tracklist: 1. BILLBOARD BABY 2. PRACTICE 3. PEEP HOLE 4. BLIND (feat. Young Thug) 5. NO DRIBBLE (feat. Stunna 4 Vegas) 6. GO 7. TROUBLE 8. CALL IT EVEN 9. TLC (feat. Gunna) 10. GO FIRST (feat. Stunna 4 Vegas & Rich Dunk) 11. CAN'T STOP 12. PICK UP (feat. Quavo) 13. LIGHTSKIN SHIT (feat. Future & jetsonmade) 14. TALK ABOUT IT 15. SAD SHIT 16. FIND MY WAY 17. ROCKSTAR (feat. Roddy Ricch) 18. JUMP (feat. Youngboy Never Broke Again) 19. CHAMPION 20. DROP (feat. A Boogie wit da Hoodie & London on da Track) 21. BLAME IT ON BABY 22. NASTY (feat. Ashanti & Megan Thee Stallion) 23. AMAZING GRACE 24. ROCKSTAR (feat. Roddy Ricch) [BLM REMIX] View the full article
  18. As the pandemic wears on and mass gatherings fade further and further into the distance, a whole lot of people are missing the experience enough to throw big parties anyway. Right now, the organizers of FuckJerry's JAJA tequila are under investigation for putting on a Chainsmokers concert in the Hamptons, and things like … More »View the full article
  19. With Bobby Shmurda due in court for a parole hearing today, on his birthday at that, the rapper's fans are speculating that he could be released imminently. There is currently a lot of talk that Bobby could be coming home today and, while he's only expected to be released at the end of this year, anything can happen. The rapper, who turns 26-years-old today, is currently a trending topic on social media as people theorize about what could happen when he gets released. "BOBBY??? SHMURDA??? BOBBY BITCH??? I BEEN SELLIN CRACK SINCE THE 5TH GRADE BOBBY??? THAT BOBBY??? RELEASED TOMORROW???" wrote one excited fan on Twitter, getting over 35,000 retweets. "IF BOBBY SHMURDA GETS RELEASED TOMORROW A NAVY BLUE YANKEE FITTED IS GONNA DESCEND FROM THE HEAVENS AFTER 6 YEARS OF FLOATING, CLEARING THE SKIES OF ALL CLOUDS AND GRACEFULLY LAND ON HIS HEAD," said another. It's worth noting that Bobby's official website was updated two weeks ago with a countdown leading us to today. The website was confirmed to be fake, leading to a new app about managing mental health. We'll keep you posted on any potential updates in his case, including his possible release. Are you excited for Bobby to come home? View the full article
  20. Two years ago, we named Young Jesus a Band To Watch on the strength of their album The Whole Thing Is Just There. So it was exciting news when, last month, the group announced a followup, Welcome To Conceptual Beach. Along the way, the band has shared "Root And Crown" and … More »View the full article
  21. Way back in the before times of October 2019, Microsoft announced that it would be expanding its Designed for Xbox stamp of approval to a line of mobile accessories. The play was pretty obvious: The company is trying to get serious about smartphone gaming through the backdoor approach of its own Project xCloud streaming service. Without a major in-person gaming conference this summer, Microsoft is announcing a number of new additions to the line this morning, by way of blog post. The line is getting five approved devices from names that should prove familiar to anyone with a passing interest in gaming accessories. All of them go up for pre-order today, ahead of the September 15 launch of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Most of the included accessories are, unsurprisingly, controllers. Aside from latency, the biggest hurdle to this type of technology is control. After all, we’re talking about playing console games on a touchscreen handset. Without a sufficient accessory, the vast majority of titles just aren’t going to fly here. Thankfully, Razer, PowerA and 8bitdo all have forthcoming controllers designed expressly for the purpose of xCloud streaming. Both the expandable Razer Kishi and PowerA MOGA XP7-X Plus Bluetooth controllers run $100, while the clever mini 8bitdo is $50. PowerA and 8bitdo also offer smartphone clips for wireless Xbox controllers, priced at $15. Also getting the Xbox thumbs-up are the $100 Arctis 1 from SteelSeries. The headphones are designed specifically to switch back and forth between console games and mobile devices. View the full article
  22. “Marketing Cloud” has become an increasingly popular concept in the world of marketing technology — used by the likes of Salesforce, Adobe, Oracle and others to describe their digital toolsets for organizations to identify and connect with customers. Now, a startup that is building its own take on the idea aimed specifically at e-commerce companies is announcing some funding after seeing a surge of business in the last few months. Yotpo, which provides a suite of tool to help direct-to-comsumer and other e-commerce players build better relationships with customers, is today announcing that it has raised $75 million in funding, money it will use to continue growing its suite of products, as well as to acquire more customers and build out more integration partnerships. The Series E included a number of Yotpo’s existing investors, namely Bessemer Venture Partners, Access industries (the owner of Warner Music Group, among a number of other holdings) and Vertex Ventures (a subsidiary of Temasek), new investor Hanaco (which focuses on Israeli startups — Yotpo is co-headquartered in Tel Aviv and New York), and other unnamed investors. It brings the total raised by the startup to $176 million, and while it’s not disclosing valuation, its CEO Tomer Tagrin — who co-founded the company with COO Omri Cohen — describes it as “nearly a unicorn.” “I like to call what we’re building a flamingo, which is also a rare and beautiful animal but also a real thing, and we are a proper business,” he said in an interview, adding that Yotpo is on target for ARR next year to be $100 million. The company had its start as an app in Shopify’s App Store, providing tools to Shopify customers to help with customer engagement by way of user-generated content, and while it has outgrown that single relationship — it now has some 500 additional strategic partners, including Salesforce, Adobe, BigCommerce and others — Yotpo’s CEO still likes to describe his company in Shopify-ish terms. “Just as Shopify manages your business, we manage your customers end to end,” Tagrin said. He said that while it’s great to see the bigger trend of consolidation around marketing clouds, it’s not a one-size-fits-all problem. He believes Yotpo’s e-commerce-specific approach to that stands apart from the pack because it addresses issues unique to D2C and other e-commerce companies. Yotpo’s services today include SMS and visual marketing, loyalty and referral services, and reviews and ratings, which are used by a range of e-commerce companies, spanning from newer direct-to-consumer brands like Third Love and Away, to more established names like Patagonia and 1800flowers. Some of these have been built in-house, and some by way of acquisition — most recently, SMSBump, in January. The plan is to use some of the funding also to continue that acquisition strategy. “Since our first investment more than three years ago, Tomer and Omri have executed flawlessly, expanding the product suite, serving a wider range of customers, and continually hiring strong talent across the organization,” says Adam Fisher, a Partner at BVP, in a statement. “Yotpo is singularly focused on helping direct-to-consumer eCommerce brands solve the dual challenge of engaging consumers and increasing revenue, and with their multi-product strategy and innovative edge, they are uniquely positioned to dominate the eCommerce industry for years to come.” Yotpo is built as a freemium platform, with some 9,000 customers paying for services, and a further 280,000 customers on its free usage tier. Customer count grew by 250% in the last year, Tagrin said. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a well-documented impact on internet use, and specifically e-commerce, as people turned to digital channels in record numbers to procure things while complying with shelter-in-place orders, or trying to increase social distancing to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. E-commerce has been on the rise for years, but the acceleration of that trend has been drastic since February, with revenue and spend both regularly exceeding baseline figures over the last several months, according to research from digital marketing agency Common Thread Collective. That, in turn, had a big impact on companies that help enable those e-commerce enterprises operate in more direct and personable ways. Yotpo was a direct beneficiary: it said it had a surge of sign-ups of new customers, many taking paid services, working out to a 170% year-on-year ARR and lower customer churn. The bigger picture, of course, is not completely rosy, with thousands of layoffs across the whole tech service, and a huge number of brick-and-mortar business closures. Those economic indicators could ultimately also have a knock-on effect not just in more business moving online, but also a slowdown in spending overall. That will inevitably have an impact on startups like Yotpo, too, which is definitely on a rise now but will continue to think longer term about the impact and how it can continue to diversify its products to meet a wider set of customer use cases. For example, today, the company addresses customer care needs by way of integrations with companies like Zendesk, but longer term it might consider how it can bring in services like this to continue to build out the touchpoints between D2C brands and their customers, and specifically running those through a bigger picture of the customer as profiled on Yotpo’s platform. This is a big part of our product in our meetings and debates,” Tagrin said about product expansions. “I do think any celebration of growth and funding comes to me with something else: we need to be internalising more what is going on,” he said. “The world is not back to normal and we shouldn’t act like it is.” View the full article
  23. This year, British Vogue's September issue is a beautiful homage to 40 activists currently shaping the future and giving us hope. Vogue's September issue is traditionally its most important of the year. Last year, the Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex guest edited the issue. Editor-in-chief Edward Enninful said this year's activism-themed issue is "our show of thanks, as well as a rallying cry for the future." The Activism Now issue features cover stars Marcus Rashford, a footballer who recently led a successful child poverty campaign, and Adwoa Aboah, a mental health campaigner. The pair were photographed by Misan Harriman, the first Black male photographer to shoot a cover of British Vogue in its 104-year history. Working with a predominantly Black team, Harriman is also the first Black photographer to shoot any September issue of the UK magazine. In Jan. 2019, Nadine Ijewere became the first Black female photographer to shoot a cover of British Vogue. Read more... More about Uk, Vogue, Anti Racism Movement, Social Good, and IdentitiesView the full article
  24. The UK government is suspending the use of an algorithm used to stream visa applications after concerns were raised the technology bakes in unconscious bias and racism. The tool had been the target of a legal challenge. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and campaigning law firm Foxglove had asked a court to declare the visa application streaming algorithm unlawful and order a halt to its use, pending a judicial review. The legal action had not run its full course but appears to have forced the Home Office’s hand as it has committed to a redesign of the system. A Home Office spokesperson confirmed to us that from August 7 the algorithm’s use will be suspended, sending us this statement via email: “We have been reviewing how the visa application streaming tool operates and will be redesigning our processes to make them even more streamlined and secure.” Although the government has not accepted the allegations of bias, writing in a letter to the law firm: “The fact of the redesign does not mean that the [Secretary of State] accepts the allegations in your claim form [i.e. around unconscious bias and the use of nationality as a criteria in the streaming process].” The Home Office letter also claims the department had already moved away from use of the streaming tool “in many application types”. But it adds that it will approach the redesign “with an open mind in considering the concerns you have raised”. The redesign is slated to be completed by the autumn, and the Home Office says an interim process will be put in place in the meanwhile, excluding the use of nationality as a sorting criteria. “You could say the algorithmic system did us a favour by confronting illegal criteria being used which could have remained buried at individual immigration officer informal level. And indeed one argument for such systems used to be ‘consistency and non-arbitrary’ nature. It’s a tough one,” she added. Earlier this year the Dutch government was ordered to halt use of an algorithmic risk scoring system for predicting the likelihood social security claimants would commit benefits or tax fraud — after a local court found it breached human rights law. In another interesting case, a group of UK Uber drives are challenging the legality of the gig platform’s algorithmic management of them under Europe’s data protection framework — which bakes in data access rights, including provisions attached to legally significant automated decisions. View the full article
  25. Another day, another nightmarish Donald Trump interview. Fresh from a chat with Fox News host Chris Wallace that didn't exactly paint him in a great light, the president decided to sit down opposite Axios journalist Jonathan Swan on Monday — and, lo and behold, things were even worse this time around. Not only did Trump double down on his well-wishes for accused child sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell, he also attempted to explain away the horrendous U.S. coronavirus death toll with some more charts that not even he appeared to fully understand. Sitting opposite him, meanwhile, was Axios journalist Jonathan Swan, whose reactions are nothing short of gobsmacked throughout the interview. Read more... More about Memes, Donald Trump, Culture, Politics, and Web Culture View the full article
  26. Aching for an angular SUV that doesn't look like any other SUV out there, but Tesla's Cybertruck is just too big for your taste? Don't lose hope. According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, a smaller version of the Cybertruck is "highly likely down the road." Musk tweeted the comment in response to a Twitter user asking for a smaller version of the Cybertruck that would be better suited to European roads. Highly likely down the road — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 4, 2020 Another user commented that "reducing width is more important than reducing length, at least when it comes to cities," to which Musk responded "true," suggesting that this new, smaller Cybertruck will be narrower than the current one. Read more... More about Tesla, Elon Musk, Cybertruck, Tech, and TransportationView the full article
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