n8n raises $12M for its ‘fair code’ approach to low-code workflow automation

As businesses continue to look for better ways to work more efficiently, a pioneer in the space of low-code tools to help automate how apps work together is announcing a round of funding on the back of impressive early traction.

Berlin-based n8n — which provides a framework for both technical and non-technical people to synchronize and integrate data and workflows — has raised a $12 million in a Series A round of funding.

The startup plans to use the money to continue expanding its team, which now numbers 60 people, and to expand its platform and the services it provides to users.

Currently, n8n can help link up and integrate data and functions between more than 200 established applications, as well as any custom apps or services that you might be using in your specific organization. And since launching in October 2019, the startup has picked up an impressive 16,000 users — including both developers and “citizen developers” (those whose jobs might be described as non-technical but they are not afraid to be more hands-on in trying to build in ways to work better).

Now it wants to make the service easier for more of the latter group to get stuck in with using it.

“We are still seen as a technical product and less of one for citizen developers,” founder and CEO Jan Oberhauser said in an interview. “Our plan is to make n8n simpler to use, so that it’s much easier to adopt. We want to give everyone technical superpowers, whether it’s the marketing team or the IT department.” That means for example building not just chatbots but more intelligent ones, or creating new ways of visualizing data in Slack or something else altogether. And n8n’s platform can also be used to build automation within products for example to monitor performance and flag when something might need maintenance.

The round is being led by Felicis Ventures, with Sequoia Capital, firstminute Capital and Harpoon Ventures also participating. Sequoia and firstminute co-led n8n’s seed round about a year ago, which also included participation from Eventbrite’s Kevin Hartz, Supercell’s Ilkka Paananen, and unnamed early employees of Google and Zendesk, among others. The startup has now raised around $14 million and is not disclosing valuation.

There are a number of low-code and no-code startups on the market today and many of them have been seeing a surge of in interest in the last year. It’s a trend I suspect was brought about in no small part by the arrival of Covid-19.

The pandemic not only led to more people working remotely and relying on apps and other cloud-based services to get what they needed to do done, but in many cases it led organizations to refocus on how they were working, and what could be improved. In some cases, it also has meant a severe tightening of belts, and so companies are needing to do more with less human power, another factor leading to more proactive efforts to use software to get more out of… software.

That’s meant more strain on IT teams, and that too has led to more people within departments themselves getting proactive in improving their own workflows.

Other startups in the space include Bryter (which raised a $66 million Series B earlier this month) and Genesis (which raised $45 million in March), along with Zapier, Airtable, Rows, GyanaUshurCreatio, EasySend and CapivateIQ, some of which are coming to the market with a variety of solutions targeting a set of generic tools, while others are building solutions for more narrow use cases.

In the case of n8n, the company might be considered a “pioneer” in the space not just because of its focus on the growing area of low-code tools, but because of how it views the world of software.

The basic approach n8n is taking is around the idea of “fair code.” This is somewhat similar to open-source, and is analogous to a freemium-style model for the concept. The code is available in a public repository and the idea is that this will never disappear (one issue many enterprises face on the bleeding edge of tech: companies and their services sometimes shut down). However, n8n itself limits how much it can be used for free, before users start to pay to use it so that n8n can monetize its work, which it does in the form of consulting and integration services. (In the case of n8n, that limit looks to be up to a limit of $30,000 in support services revenues.)

Oberhauser was an early proponent of the concept of n8n and he runs a site dedicated to spreading the word. (You can also read about the different approaches to fair code, and some of what led to the creation of the concept, here.)

While basic and limited access to the code will remain free, and even as a company like n8n aims to make it easier and easier for non-developers to build integrations, there will be areas that need attention to make those services accessible to the people within an organization. For starters, there is the issue of setting up the basic integration connectors, especially in cases where the software a company is using is proprietary or customized.

There is also another issue that is likely to become more prominent as low-code and no-code tools continue to grow in popularity, and that is security. While IT departments may not have oversight of every single integration, but neither will the security teams, which means that new data vulnerabilities might well become more commonplace, too. For all of these reasons, n8n is betting that there will still be some integration and consulting involved in implementation.

“Almost every company needs help connecting outside and internal systems, to make it easier for people to get started,” Oberhauser said.

Aydin Senkut, founder and managing partner of Felicis Ventures, who led the round, said that what attracted him to n8n was the extensibility of the platform — that it could be applied not just for app integration and workflow automation in those apps but a much wider set of use cases — and the very early traction of 16,000 users that it’s picked up with very little fanfare, a sign that the service has some stickiness and usefulness to it.

And the fact that it lets developers — “citizen” or otherwise — play with so many options is also a key part of it.

“We feel that data is the new oil, and one of the special things here is not just low or no-code per se, but how n8n is making it seamless and easy to connect tens or even hundreds of apps.” Senkut said that it reminded him a little of Felicis’ early investment in Plaid. “Essentially, the more data and APIs you have the more valuable the company can be. I think to measure the potential of a company, look at the APIs. If you can connect disparate things together, that is key.”

As businesses continue to look for better ways to work more efficiently, a pioneer in the space of low-code tools to help automate how apps work together is announcing a round of funding on the back of impressive early traction.

Berlin-based n8n — which provides a framework for both technical and non-technical people to synchronize and integrate data and workflows — has raised a $12 million in a Series A round of funding.

The startup plans to use the money to continue expanding its team, which now numbers 60 people, and to expand its platform and the services it provides to users.

Currently, n8n can help link up and integrate data and functions between more than 200 established applications, as well as any custom apps or services that you might be using in your specific organization. And since launching in October 2019, the startup has picked up an impressive 16,000 users — including both developers and “citizen developers” (those whose jobs might be described as non-technical but they are not afraid to be more hands-on in trying to build in ways to work better).

Now it wants to make the service easier for more of the latter group to get stuck in with using it.

“We are still seen as a technical product and less of one for citizen developers,” founder and CEO Jan Oberhauser said in an interview. “Our plan is to make n8n simpler to use, so that it’s much easier to adopt. We want to give everyone technical superpowers, whether it’s the marketing team or the IT department.” That means for example building not just chatbots but more intelligent ones, or creating new ways of visualizing data in Slack or something else altogether. And n8n’s platform can also be used to build automation within products for example to monitor performance and flag when something might need maintenance.

The round is being led by Felicis Ventures, with Sequoia Capital, firstminute Capital and Harpoon Ventures also participating. Sequoia and firstminute co-led n8n’s seed round about a year ago, which also included participation from Eventbrite’s Kevin Hartz, Supercell’s Ilkka Paananen, and unnamed early employees of Google and Zendesk, among others. The startup has now raised around $14 million and is not disclosing valuation.

There are a number of low-code and no-code startups on the market today and many of them have been seeing a surge of in interest in the last year. It’s a trend I suspect was brought about in no small part by the arrival of Covid-19.

The pandemic not only led to more people working remotely and relying on apps and other cloud-based services to get what they needed to do done, but in many cases it led organizations to refocus on how they were working, and what could be improved. In some cases, it also has meant a severe tightening of belts, and so companies are needing to do more with less human power, another factor leading to more proactive efforts to use software to get more out of… software.

That’s meant more strain on IT teams, and that too has led to more people within departments themselves getting proactive in improving their own workflows.

Other startups in the space include Bryter (which raised a $66 million Series B earlier this month) and Genesis (which raised $45 million in March), along with Zapier, Airtable, Rows, GyanaUshurCreatio, EasySend and CapivateIQ, some of which are coming to the market with a variety of solutions targeting a set of generic tools, while others are building solutions for more narrow use cases.

In the case of n8n, the company might be considered a “pioneer” in the space not just because of its focus on the growing area of low-code tools, but because of how it views the world of software.

The basic approach n8n is taking is around the idea of “fair code.” This is somewhat similar to open-source, and is analogous to a freemium-style model for the concept. The code is available in a public repository and the idea is that this will never disappear (one issue many enterprises face on the bleeding edge of tech: companies and their services sometimes shut down). However, n8n itself limits how much it can be used for free, before users start to pay to use it so that n8n can monetize its work, which it does in the form of consulting and integration services. (In the case of n8n, that limit looks to be up to a limit of $30,000 in support services revenues.)

Oberhauser was an early proponent of the concept of n8n and he runs a site dedicated to spreading the word. (You can also read about the different approaches to fair code, and some of what led to the creation of the concept, here.)

While basic and limited access to the code will remain free, and even as a company like n8n aims to make it easier and easier for non-developers to build integrations, there will be areas that need attention to make those services accessible to the people within an organization. For starters, there is the issue of setting up the basic integration connectors, especially in cases where the software a company is using is proprietary or customized.

There is also another issue that is likely to become more prominent as low-code and no-code tools continue to grow in popularity, and that is security. While IT departments may not have oversight of every single integration, but neither will the security teams, which means that new data vulnerabilities might well become more commonplace, too. For all of these reasons, n8n is betting that there will still be some integration and consulting involved in implementation.

“Almost every company needs help connecting outside and internal systems, to make it easier for people to get started,” Oberhauser said.

Aydin Senkut, founder and managing partner of Felicis Ventures, who led the round, said that what attracted him to n8n was the extensibility of the platform — that it could be applied not just for app integration and workflow automation in those apps but a much wider set of use cases — and the very early traction of 16,000 users that it’s picked up with very little fanfare, a sign that the service has some stickiness and usefulness to it.

And the fact that it lets developers — “citizen” or otherwise — play with so many options is also a key part of it.

“We feel that data is the new oil, and one of the special things here is not just low or no-code per se, but how n8n is making it seamless and easy to connect tens or even hundreds of apps.” Senkut said that it reminded him a little of Felicis’ early investment in Plaid. “Essentially, the more data and APIs you have the more valuable the company can be. I think to measure the potential of a company, look at the APIs. If you can connect disparate things together, that is key.”

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Brex raises $425M at a $7.4B valuation, as the corporate spend war rages on

Mere weeks after rival corporate spend startup Ramp announced that it raised a two-part round worth $115 million at a $1.6 billion valuation, this morning Brex disclosed a $425 million Series D led by Tiger Global.

The new capital marks Brex’s largest fundraise to date, and was compiled at a valuation that is more than double its most recent private valuation. According to Crunchbase data, Brex’s mid-2020 Series C valued the company at just over $3.0 billion, including the investment’s $150 million in issued equity.

The dueling rounds raised by Brex and Ramp underscore how active their product category is proving to be. Far from its roots in merely offering perk-laden corporate cards to growing companies, Brex and its myriad rivals — including Utah unicorn Divvy, Airbase, and others — are building software suites around their core plastic efforts to help companies manage all elements of their spending.

A growing rift is showing in how, compared to some rivals, the categories’ largest players, including Brex, Divvy and Ramp, forgo charging for their software, content to eat off other revenue sources including interchange. Airbase, in contrast, charges for its software.

Don’t expect the software arms race between corporate spend startups’ unicorns to lead to more corporate spend startups deriving software revenues in addition to their current income sources; each is growing their spend rapidly enough to warrant more time with their foot on the customer growth pedal over working to juice more per-customer revenue in the short-term. Update: Boy was that wrong. Brex announced, in a separate release so we missed it at first, that they have put together a new service called Brex Premium that costs $49 per month. More on that shortly, but we wanted to update this article ASAP.

Ramp, for example, disclosed that it is nearly on a $1 billion spend-managed run rate. Brex, worth a multiple of the younger startup, is presumably above that mark.

TechCrunch reached out to Brex, curious about its 2020 and Q1 2021 growth results. The company provided a statement to TechCrunch, claiming that it is “onboarding thousands of new tech and non-tech customers every month.” Brex also said that it grew its “total customer” figure by 80% in the first quarter, “with total monthly customer additions increasing by 5x.”

That’s precisely the sort of growth that makes late-stage investors excited. TechCrunch is speaking with Brex CEO shortly; more after that call.

Mere weeks after rival corporate spend startup Ramp announced that it raised a two-part round worth $115 million at a $1.6 billion valuation, this morning Brex disclosed a $425 million Series D led by Tiger Global.

The new capital marks Brex’s largest fundraise to date, and was compiled at a valuation that is more than double its most recent private valuation. According to Crunchbase data, Brex’s mid-2020 Series C valued the company at just over $3.0 billion, including the investment’s $150 million in issued equity.

The dueling rounds raised by Brex and Ramp underscore how active their product category is proving to be. Far from its roots in merely offering perk-laden corporate cards to growing companies, Brex and its myriad rivals — including Utah unicorn Divvy, Airbase, and others — are building software suites around their core plastic efforts to help companies manage all elements of their spending.

A growing rift is showing in how, compared to some rivals, the categories’ largest players, including Brex, Divvy and Ramp, forgo charging for their software, content to eat off other revenue sources including interchange. Airbase, in contrast, charges for its software.

Don’t expect the software arms race between corporate spend startups’ unicorns to lead to more corporate spend startups deriving software revenues in addition to their current income sources; each is growing their spend rapidly enough to warrant more time with their foot on the customer growth pedal over working to juice more per-customer revenue in the short-term. Update: Boy was that wrong. Brex announced, in a separate release so we missed it at first, that they have put together a new service called Brex Premium that costs $49 per month. More on that shortly, but we wanted to update this article ASAP.

Ramp, for example, disclosed that it is nearly on a $1 billion spend-managed run rate. Brex, worth a multiple of the younger startup, is presumably above that mark.

TechCrunch reached out to Brex, curious about its 2020 and Q1 2021 growth results. The company provided a statement to TechCrunch, claiming that it is “onboarding thousands of new tech and non-tech customers every month.” Brex also said that it grew its “total customer” figure by 80% in the first quarter, “with total monthly customer additions increasing by 5x.”

That’s precisely the sort of growth that makes late-stage investors excited. TechCrunch is speaking with Brex CEO shortly; more after that call.

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To be frank, I do not know how to value Honest Company

The Honest Company, a heavily venture-backed consumer goods company, announced an IPO price range this morning, telling investors that it expects to sell shares in its debut at $14 to $17 apiece. The former startup is selling 6,451,613 shares in its debut, while existing shareholders are letting 19,355,387 shares go.

The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.

Honest’s IPO is not very large. The company’s own offered shares are worth $109.7 million at the top end of its range. Furthermore, because the company’s final private raise was worth $200 million back in 2018, it’s a comparatively modest sum.

Today, we’re digging into the Honest Company’s IPO pricing: We’ll calculate its IPO valuation range across a few different share counts, bring to bear its final private valuations and compare the entire dataset to its preliminary Q1 2021 numbers.

We care because IVP and Fidelity, Lightspeed and General Catalyst, ICONIQ and M13, Dragonner and others put capital into the Jessica Alba-founded company worth just over $500 million while private, according to Crunchbase. That’s an enormous bet.

Per its filings, Alba remains the company’s chief creative officer and chairs its board.

We owe it to our general understanding of the venture market to better understand what Honest is worth and why. Is this a company going public while markets are hot so it can try to limp across the finish line? Or is Honest something honestly more exciting? Let’s find out.

Honest Company’s IPO worth

Using a simple share count of 90,518,137 outstanding after its IPO, Honest is worth $1.27 billion to $1.54 billion at $14 to $17 per share. On a fully diluted basis, Renaissance Capital calculates that the former startup is worth $1.6 billion at its midpoint value, a figure that we estimate rises to around $1.75 billion at the top end of its anticipated price range.

Are those strong numbers? There are two ways to measure: against the company’s final private price, or we can use its recent financial performance as a yardstick.

The Honest Company, a heavily venture-backed consumer goods company, announced an IPO price range this morning, telling investors that it expects to sell shares in its debut at $14 to $17 apiece. The former startup is selling 6,451,613 shares in its debut, while existing shareholders are letting 19,355,387 shares go.

The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.

Honest’s IPO is not very large. The company’s own offered shares are worth $109.7 million at the top end of its range. Furthermore, because the company’s final private raise was worth $200 million back in 2018, it’s a comparatively modest sum.

Today, we’re digging into the Honest Company’s IPO pricing: We’ll calculate its IPO valuation range across a few different share counts, bring to bear its final private valuations and compare the entire dataset to its preliminary Q1 2021 numbers.

We care because IVP and Fidelity, Lightspeed and General Catalyst, ICONIQ and M13, Dragonner and others put capital into the Jessica Alba-founded company worth just over $500 million while private, according to Crunchbase. That’s an enormous bet.

Per its filings, Alba remains the company’s chief creative officer and chairs its board.

We owe it to our general understanding of the venture market to better understand what Honest is worth and why. Is this a company going public while markets are hot so it can try to limp across the finish line? Or is Honest something honestly more exciting? Let’s find out.

Honest Company’s IPO worth

Using a simple share count of 90,518,137 outstanding after its IPO, Honest is worth $1.27 billion to $1.54 billion at $14 to $17 per share. On a fully diluted basis, Renaissance Capital calculates that the former startup is worth $1.6 billion at its midpoint value, a figure that we estimate rises to around $1.75 billion at the top end of its anticipated price range.

Are those strong numbers? There are two ways to measure: against the company’s final private price, or we can use its recent financial performance as a yardstick.

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Weav raises $4.3M to knit together a universal API for commerce platforms

Weav, which is building a universal API for commerce platforms, is emerging from stealth today with $4.3 million in funding from a bevy of investors, and a partnership with Brex.

Founded last year by engineers Ambika Acharya, Avikam Agur and Nadav Lidor after participating in the W20 YC batch, Weav joins the wave of fintech infrastructure companies that aim to give fintechs and financial institutions a boost. Specifically, Weav’s embedded technology is designed to give these organizations access to “real time, user-permissioned” commerce data that they can use to create new financial products for small businesses.  

Its products allow its customers to connect to multiple platforms with a single API that was developed specifically for the commerce platforms that businesses use to sell products and accept payments. Weav operates under the premise that allowing companies to build and embed new financial products creates new opportunities for e-commerce merchants, creators and other entrepreneurs. 

Left to right: Co-founders Ambika Acharya, Nadav Lidor and Avikam Agur; Image courtesy of Weav

In a short amount of time, Weav has seen impressive traction. Recently, Brex launched Instant Payouts for Shopify sellers using the Weav API. It supports platform integrations such as Stripe, Square, Shopify and PayPal. (More on that later.) Since its API went live in January, “thousands” of businesses have used new products and services built on Weav’s infrastructure, according to Lidor. Its API call volume is growing 300% month over month, he said.

And, the startup has attracted the attention of a number of big-name investors, including institutions and the founders of prominent fintech companies. Foundation Capital led its $4.3 million seed round, which also included participation from Y Combinator, Abstract Ventures, Box Group, LocalGlobe, Operator Partners, Commerce Ventures and SV Angel. 

A slew of founders and executives also put money in the round, including Brex founders Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi; Ramp founder Karim Atiyeh; Digits founders Jeff Seibert and Wayne Chang; Hatch founder Thomson Nguyen; GoCardless founder Matt Robinson and COO Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas; Vouch founder Sam Hodges; Plaid’s Charley Ma as well as executives from fintechs such as Square, Modern Treasury and Pagaya.

Foundation Capital’s Angus Davis said his firm has been investing in fintech infrastructure for over a decade. And personally, before he became a VC, Davis was the founder and CEO of Upserve, a commerce software company. There, he says, he witnessed firsthand “the value of transactional data to enable new types of lending products.”

Foundation has a thesis around the type of embedded fintech that Weav has developed, according to Davis. And it sees a large market opportunity for a new class of financial applications to come to market built atop Weav’s platform.

“We were excited by Weav’s vision of a universal API for commerce platforms,” Davis wrote via email. “Much like Plaid and Envestnet brought universal APIs to banking for consumers, Weav enables a new class of B2B fintech applications for businesses.”

How it works

Weav says that by using its API, companies can prompt their business customers to “securely” connect their accounts with selling platforms, online marketplaces, subscription management systems and payment gateways. Once authenticated, Weav aggregates and standardizes sales, inventory and other account data across platforms and develops insights to power new products across a range of use cases, including lending and underwriting; financial planning and analysis; real-time financial services and business management tools.

For the last few years, there’s been a rise of API companies, as well as openness in the financial system that’s largely been focused on consumers, Lidor points out.

“For example, Plaid brings up very rich data about consumers, but when you think about businesses, oftentimes that data is still locked up in all kinds of systems,” he told TechCrunch. “We’re here to provide some of the building blocks and the access to data from everything that has to do with sales and revenue. And, we’re really excited about powering products that are meant to make the lives of small businesses and e-commerce, sellers and creators much easier and be able to get them access to financial products.”

In the case of Brex, Weav’s API allows the startup to essentially offer instant access to funds that otherwise would take a few days or a few weeks for businesses to access.

“Small businesses need access as quickly as possible to their revenue so that they can fund their operations,” Lidor said.

Brex co-CEO Henrique Dubugras said that Weav’s API gives the company the ability to offer real-time funding to more customers selling on more platforms, which saved the company “thousands of engineering hours” and accelerated its rollout timeline by months.

Clearly, the company liked what it saw, considering that its founders personally invested in Weav. Is Weav building the “Plaid for commerce”? Guess only time will tell.

Weav, which is building a universal API for commerce platforms, is emerging from stealth today with $4.3 million in funding from a bevy of investors, and a partnership with Brex.

Founded last year by engineers Ambika Acharya, Avikam Agur and Nadav Lidor after participating in the W20 YC batch, Weav joins the wave of fintech infrastructure companies that aim to give fintechs and financial institutions a boost. Specifically, Weav’s embedded technology is designed to give these organizations access to “real time, user-permissioned” commerce data that they can use to create new financial products for small businesses.  

Its products allow its customers to connect to multiple platforms with a single API that was developed specifically for the commerce platforms that businesses use to sell products and accept payments. Weav operates under the premise that allowing companies to build and embed new financial products creates new opportunities for e-commerce merchants, creators and other entrepreneurs. 

Left to right: Co-founders Ambika Acharya, Nadav Lidor and Avikam Agur; Image courtesy of Weav

In a short amount of time, Weav has seen impressive traction. Recently, Brex launched Instant Payouts for Shopify sellers using the Weav API. It supports platform integrations such as Stripe, Square, Shopify and PayPal. (More on that later.) Since its API went live in January, “thousands” of businesses have used new products and services built on Weav’s infrastructure, according to Lidor. Its API call volume is growing 300% month over month, he said.

And, the startup has attracted the attention of a number of big-name investors, including institutions and the founders of prominent fintech companies. Foundation Capital led its $4.3 million seed round, which also included participation from Y Combinator, Abstract Ventures, Box Group, LocalGlobe, Operator Partners, Commerce Ventures and SV Angel. 

A slew of founders and executives also put money in the round, including Brex founders Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi; Ramp founder Karim Atiyeh; Digits founders Jeff Seibert and Wayne Chang; Hatch founder Thomson Nguyen; GoCardless founder Matt Robinson and COO Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas; Vouch founder Sam Hodges; Plaid’s Charley Ma as well as executives from fintechs such as Square, Modern Treasury and Pagaya.

Foundation Capital’s Angus Davis said his firm has been investing in fintech infrastructure for over a decade. And personally, before he became a VC, Davis was the founder and CEO of Upserve, a commerce software company. There, he says, he witnessed firsthand “the value of transactional data to enable new types of lending products.”

Foundation has a thesis around the type of embedded fintech that Weav has developed, according to Davis. And it sees a large market opportunity for a new class of financial applications to come to market built atop Weav’s platform.

“We were excited by Weav’s vision of a universal API for commerce platforms,” Davis wrote via email. “Much like Plaid and Envestnet brought universal APIs to banking for consumers, Weav enables a new class of B2B fintech applications for businesses.”

How it works

Weav says that by using its API, companies can prompt their business customers to “securely” connect their accounts with selling platforms, online marketplaces, subscription management systems and payment gateways. Once authenticated, Weav aggregates and standardizes sales, inventory and other account data across platforms and develops insights to power new products across a range of use cases, including lending and underwriting; financial planning and analysis; real-time financial services and business management tools.

For the last few years, there’s been a rise of API companies, as well as openness in the financial system that’s largely been focused on consumers, Lidor points out.

“For example, Plaid brings up very rich data about consumers, but when you think about businesses, oftentimes that data is still locked up in all kinds of systems,” he told TechCrunch. “We’re here to provide some of the building blocks and the access to data from everything that has to do with sales and revenue. And, we’re really excited about powering products that are meant to make the lives of small businesses and e-commerce, sellers and creators much easier and be able to get them access to financial products.”

In the case of Brex, Weav’s API allows the startup to essentially offer instant access to funds that otherwise would take a few days or a few weeks for businesses to access.

“Small businesses need access as quickly as possible to their revenue so that they can fund their operations,” Lidor said.

Brex co-CEO Henrique Dubugras said that Weav’s API gives the company the ability to offer real-time funding to more customers selling on more platforms, which saved the company “thousands of engineering hours” and accelerated its rollout timeline by months.

Clearly, the company liked what it saw, considering that its founders personally invested in Weav. Is Weav building the “Plaid for commerce”? Guess only time will tell.

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Snap has acquired Pixel8earth, a 3D mapping developer, for $7.6M

Last week, when we reported that Snap paid $124 million for Fit Analytics, we also noted that, according to the SEC filing that disclosed the value of the acquisition, Snap made another deal in the same quarter for a smaller amount, $7.6 million. We’ve now learned was that the acquisition was: Snap has confirmed to us that it has acquired Pixel8earth, a company developing 3D mapping technology, specifically based on crowdsourced data.

Pixel8earth is based out of Boulder, Colorado, and four employees from the startup are joining Snap to work on map product development. Specifically, they will be building out tools that will work with Snap’s location-based augmented reality experiences along the lines of the Local Lenses that Snapchat introduced last June at its annual Partner Summit developer event.

As we’ve reported previously, we’ve heard that this year’s Partner Summit is likely to see some launches related to Snap’s wider e-commerce strategy, and we now understand that it will also feature some news on the AR mapping front, too.

It’s not clear if Snap (or Snapchat) will keep Pixel8earth going, or if it will roll selected technology and further development into products like Snap Map, but given the price of the deal, it’s most likely more of a talent acquisition.

For the record, Pixel8earth — co-founded by Sean Gorman and Pramukta Kumar, two repeat founders and mapping PhDs — had built a platform where it encouraged people (dubbed “ambassadors”) to join the platform and use their 360 cameras and other cameras to record and contribute information to the startup’s global mapping database. (In that regard, the tech was not unlike what Mapillary, which got acquired by Facebook, had developed.)

Snap has largely been building its mapping experiences around the idea of using maps to increase and improve engagement with its users. One of the bigger deals it’s made on that front was its acquisition in 2017 of Paris-based startup Zenly, an app that let you opt in to be able to be discovered by your friends on a map. Other mapping acquisitions have included StreetCred, announced in January of this year. StreetCred’s service was shut down after the deal, but it was also based around the idea of crowdsourcing points-of-interest and other mapping data, paying contributors in crypto tokens and putting the information “on the blockchain.”

Snap’s mapping efforts already have some decent traction and differentiation as a more “personalised” map — in contrast with, for example, the very much used Google Maps experience, which is about universal accuracy and being as thorough as possible, not exactly personalised (unless you are logged in and have locations saved, but even so, not with strong social features in mind).

At its investor day in February Snap noted that Snap Map was used by more than 250 million Snapchatters monthly. “On other platforms, everyone sees the same Map. But on Snapchat we are building the world’s most personal Map,” Jacob Andreou, VP product, said there. “Your Snap Map reflects your world; it features the people, places, and activities you care about, and no two are the same. The Map is built to see where your friends are and what they’re up to quickly and easily. This kind of sharing is at it’s best with close friends, a perfect fit for the best friends network that is unique to Snapchat. The version of the map in our app today is one that has been relentlessly improved in conversation with our community over the last two years leveraging this data-informed approach.”

While some of that usage and growth will have inevitably been curtailed in the last year, given the pandemic-enforced lockdowns and reduction in travel, Evan Spiegel, Snap’s CEO and co-founder, also said last week in its earnings that this might be turning a corner.

“We are optimistic about the engagement trends we are seeing as the world is beginning to open up,” he said. “As things began to open up in the United States in late February, we saw inflection points in key behaviors like Story posting and engagement with the Map.”

And while engagement is definitely something Snap has developed, it seems monetization might well be on the cards, too.

“Local, digital advertising is an established market – it has a playbook, and we’re confident that this will be an important part of our business in the future,” said Peter Sellis, senior director of product, at its recent investor day. “But we want to do it right.”

The company has slowly been testing out some more commercial features like Promote Local Place to give smaller businesses, and specifically retailers, a boost, which was the first time Snap had put businesses on the Snap Map.

“We’re going to spend a lot of time expanding these products to work for the largest multi-location enterprises in 2021,” he continued, “but they were honestly reactive to the pandemic, and we feel that we have yet to truly build on the potential of the Map.”

It seems that Pixel8earth could be a sign of how Snap and its flagship app Snapchat plan to do that.

Last week, when we reported that Snap paid $124 million for Fit Analytics, we also noted that, according to the SEC filing that disclosed the value of the acquisition, Snap made another deal in the same quarter for a smaller amount, $7.6 million. We’ve now learned was that the acquisition was: Snap has confirmed to us that it has acquired Pixel8earth, a company developing 3D mapping technology, specifically based on crowdsourced data.

Pixel8earth is based out of Boulder, Colorado, and four employees from the startup are joining Snap to work on map product development. Specifically, they will be building out tools that will work with Snap’s location-based augmented reality experiences along the lines of the Local Lenses that Snapchat introduced last June at its annual Partner Summit developer event.

As we’ve reported previously, we’ve heard that this year’s Partner Summit is likely to see some launches related to Snap’s wider e-commerce strategy, and we now understand that it will also feature some news on the AR mapping front, too.

It’s not clear if Snap (or Snapchat) will keep Pixel8earth going, or if it will roll selected technology and further development into products like Snap Map, but given the price of the deal, it’s most likely more of a talent acquisition.

For the record, Pixel8earth — co-founded by Sean Gorman and Pramukta Kumar, two repeat founders and mapping PhDs — had built a platform where it encouraged people (dubbed “ambassadors”) to join the platform and use their 360 cameras and other cameras to record and contribute information to the startup’s global mapping database. (In that regard, the tech was not unlike what Mapillary, which got acquired by Facebook, had developed.)

Snap has largely been building its mapping experiences around the idea of using maps to increase and improve engagement with its users. One of the bigger deals it’s made on that front was its acquisition in 2017 of Paris-based startup Zenly, an app that let you opt in to be able to be discovered by your friends on a map. Other mapping acquisitions have included StreetCred, announced in January of this year. StreetCred’s service was shut down after the deal, but it was also based around the idea of crowdsourcing points-of-interest and other mapping data, paying contributors in crypto tokens and putting the information “on the blockchain.”

Snap’s mapping efforts already have some decent traction and differentiation as a more “personalised” map — in contrast with, for example, the very much used Google Maps experience, which is about universal accuracy and being as thorough as possible, not exactly personalised (unless you are logged in and have locations saved, but even so, not with strong social features in mind).

At its investor day in February Snap noted that Snap Map was used by more than 250 million Snapchatters monthly. “On other platforms, everyone sees the same Map. But on Snapchat we are building the world’s most personal Map,” Jacob Andreou, VP product, said there. “Your Snap Map reflects your world; it features the people, places, and activities you care about, and no two are the same. The Map is built to see where your friends are and what they’re up to quickly and easily. This kind of sharing is at it’s best with close friends, a perfect fit for the best friends network that is unique to Snapchat. The version of the map in our app today is one that has been relentlessly improved in conversation with our community over the last two years leveraging this data-informed approach.”

While some of that usage and growth will have inevitably been curtailed in the last year, given the pandemic-enforced lockdowns and reduction in travel, Evan Spiegel, Snap’s CEO and co-founder, also said last week in its earnings that this might be turning a corner.

“We are optimistic about the engagement trends we are seeing as the world is beginning to open up,” he said. “As things began to open up in the United States in late February, we saw inflection points in key behaviors like Story posting and engagement with the Map.”

And while engagement is definitely something Snap has developed, it seems monetization might well be on the cards, too.

“Local, digital advertising is an established market – it has a playbook, and we’re confident that this will be an important part of our business in the future,” said Peter Sellis, senior director of product, at its recent investor day. “But we want to do it right.”

The company has slowly been testing out some more commercial features like Promote Local Place to give smaller businesses, and specifically retailers, a boost, which was the first time Snap had put businesses on the Snap Map.

“We’re going to spend a lot of time expanding these products to work for the largest multi-location enterprises in 2021,” he continued, “but they were honestly reactive to the pandemic, and we feel that we have yet to truly build on the potential of the Map.”

It seems that Pixel8earth could be a sign of how Snap and its flagship app Snapchat plan to do that.

Read More
Join our Audio Tech Talk channel on Telegram: https://t.me/tldmtalk

The Giving Block launches ‘Crypto Giving Pledge’ to ramp up crypto donation efforts

“Crypto Giving Pledge” is the organization’s most ambitious fundraising initiative yet.

Read MoreCointelegraph.com News

“Crypto Giving Pledge” is the organization’s most ambitious fundraising initiative yet.

Read MoreCointelegraph.com News

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Crusoe Energy is tackling energy use for cryptocurrencies and data centers and greenhouse gas emissions

The two founders of Crusoe Energy think they may have a solution to two of the largest problems facing the planet today — the increasing energy footprint of the tech industry and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the natural gas industry.

Crusoe, which uses excess natural gas from energy operations to power data centers and cryptocurrency mining operations, has just raised $128 million in new financing from some of the top names in the venture capital industry to build out its operations — and the timing couldn’t be better.

Methane emissions are emerging as a new area of focus for researchers and policymakers focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping global warming within the 1.5 degree targets set under the Paris Agreement. And those emissions are just what Crusoe Energy is capturing to power its data centers and bitcoin mining operations.

The reason why addressing methane emissions is so critical in the short term is because these greenhouse gases trap more heat than their carbon dioxide counterparts and also dissipate more quickly. So dramatic reductions in methane emissions can do more in the short term to alleviate the global warming pressures that human industry is putting on the environment.

And the biggest source of methane emissions is the oil and gas industry. In the U.S. alone roughly 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas is flared daily, said Chase Lochmiller, a co-founder of Crusoe Energy. About two thirds of that is flared in Texas with another 500 million cubic feet flared in North Dakota, where Crusoe has focused its operations to date.

For Lochmiller, a former quant trader at some of the top American financial services institutions, and Cully Cavness, a third generation oil and gas scion, the ability to capture natural gas and harness it for computing operations is a natural combination of the two men’s interests in financial engineering and environmental preservation.

NEW TOWN, ND – AUGUST 13: View of three oil wells and flaring of natural gas on The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation near New Town, ND on August 13, 2014. About 100 million dollars worth of natural gas burns off per month because a pipeline system isn’t in place yet to capture and safely transport it . The Three Affiliated Tribes on Fort Berthold represent Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations. It’s also at the epicenter of the fracking and oil boom that has brought oil royalties to a large number of native americans living there. (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The two Denver natives met in prep-school and remained friends. When Lochmiller left for MIT and Cavness headed off to Middlebury they didn’t know that they’d eventually be launching a business together. But through Lochmiller’s exposure to large scale computing and the financial services industry, and Cavness assumption of the family business they came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way to address the massive waste associated with natural gas.

Conversation around Crusoe Energy began in 2018 when Lochmiller and Cavness went climbing in the Rockies to talk about Lochmiller’s trip to Mt. Everest.

When the two men started building their business, the initial focus was on finding an environmentally friendly way to deal with the energy footprint of bitcoin mining operations. It was this pitch that brought the company to the attention of investors at Polychain, the investment firm started by Olaf Carlson-Wee (and Lochmiller’s former employer), and investors like Bain Capital Ventures and new investor Valor Equity Partners.

(This was also the pitch that Lochmiller made to me to cover the company’s seed round. At the time I was skeptical of the company’s premise and was worried that the business would just be another way to prolong the use of hydrocarbons while propping up a cryptocurrency that had limited actual utility beyond a speculative hedge against governmental collapse. I was wrong on at least one of those assessments.)

“Regarding questions about sustainability, Crusoe has a clear standard of only pursuing projects that are net reducers of emissions. Generally the wells that Crusoe works with are already flaring and would continue to do so in the absence of Crusoe’s solution. The company has turned down numerous projects where they would be a buyer of low cost gas from a traditional pipeline because they explicitly do not want to be net adders of demand and emissions,” wrote a spokesman for Valor Equity in an email. “In addition, mining is increasingly moving to renewables and Crusoe’s approach to stranded energy can enable better economics for stranded or marginalized renewables, ultimately bringing more renewables into the mix. Mining can provide an interruptible base load demand that can be cut back when grid demand increases, so overall the effect to incentivize the addition of more renewable energy sources to the grid.”

Other investors have since piled on including: Lowercarbon Capital, DRW Ventures, Founders Fund, Coinbase Ventures, KCK Group, Upper90, Winklevoss Capital, Zigg Capital and Tesla co-founder JB Straubel.

The company now operate 40 modular data centers powered by otherwise wasted and flared natural gas throughout North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Next year that number should expand to 100 units as Crusoe enters new markets such as Texas and New Mexico. Since launching in 2018, Crusoe has emerged as a scalable solution to reduce flaring through energy intensive computing such as bitcoin mining, graphical rendering, artificial intelligence model training and even protein folding simulations for COVID-19 therapeutic research.

Crusoe boasts 99.9% combustion efficiency for its methane, and is also bringing additional benefits in the form of new networking buildout at its data center and mining sites. Eventually, this networking capacity could lead to increased connectivity for rural communities surrounding the Crusoe sites.

Currently, 80% of the company’s operations are being used for bitcoin mining, but there’s increasing demand for use in data center operations and some universities, including Lochmiller’s alma mater of MIT are looking at the company’s offerings for their own computing needs.

“That’s very much in an incubated phase right now,” said Lochmiller. “A private alpha where we have a few test customers… we’ll make that available for public use later this year.”

Crusoe Energy Systems should have the lowest data center operating costs in the world, according to Lochmiller and while the company will spend money to support the infrastructure buildout necessary to get the data to customers, those costs are negligible when compared to energy consumption, Lochmiller said.

The same holds true for bitcoin mining, where the company can offer an alternative to coal powered mining operations in China and the construction of new renewable capacity that wouldn’t be used to service the grid. As cryptocurrencies look for a way to blunt criticism about the energy usage involved in their creation and distribution, Crusoe becomes an elegant solution.

Institutional and regulatory tailwinds are also propelling the company forward. Recently New Mexico passed new laws limiting flaring and venting to no more than 2 percent of an operator’s production by April of next year and North Dakota is pushing for incentives to support on-site flare capture systems while Wyoming signed a law creating incentives for flare gas reduction applied to bitcoin mining. The world’s largest financial services firms are also taking a stand against flare gas with BlackRock calling for an end to routine flaring by 2025.

“Where we view our power consumption, we draw a very clear line in our project evaluation stage where we’re reducing emissions for an oil and gas projects,” Lochmiller said. 

The two founders of Crusoe Energy think they may have a solution to two of the largest problems facing the planet today — the increasing energy footprint of the tech industry and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the natural gas industry.

Crusoe, which uses excess natural gas from energy operations to power data centers and cryptocurrency mining operations, has just raised $128 million in new financing from some of the top names in the venture capital industry to build out its operations — and the timing couldn’t be better.

Methane emissions are emerging as a new area of focus for researchers and policymakers focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping global warming within the 1.5 degree targets set under the Paris Agreement. And those emissions are just what Crusoe Energy is capturing to power its data centers and bitcoin mining operations.

The reason why addressing methane emissions is so critical in the short term is because these greenhouse gases trap more heat than their carbon dioxide counterparts and also dissipate more quickly. So dramatic reductions in methane emissions can do more in the short term to alleviate the global warming pressures that human industry is putting on the environment.

And the biggest source of methane emissions is the oil and gas industry. In the U.S. alone roughly 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas is flared daily, said Chase Lochmiller, a co-founder of Crusoe Energy. About two thirds of that is flared in Texas with another 500 million cubic feet flared in North Dakota, where Crusoe has focused its operations to date.

For Lochmiller, a former quant trader at some of the top American financial services institutions, and Cully Cavness, a third generation oil and gas scion, the ability to capture natural gas and harness it for computing operations is a natural combination of the two men’s interests in financial engineering and environmental preservation.

NEW TOWN, ND – AUGUST 13: View of three oil wells and flaring of natural gas on The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation near New Town, ND on August 13, 2014. About 100 million dollars worth of natural gas burns off per month because a pipeline system isn’t in place yet to capture and safely transport it . The Three Affiliated Tribes on Fort Berthold represent Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations. It’s also at the epicenter of the fracking and oil boom that has brought oil royalties to a large number of native americans living there. (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The two Denver natives met in prep-school and remained friends. When Lochmiller left for MIT and Cavness headed off to Middlebury they didn’t know that they’d eventually be launching a business together. But through Lochmiller’s exposure to large scale computing and the financial services industry, and Cavness assumption of the family business they came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way to address the massive waste associated with natural gas.

Conversation around Crusoe Energy began in 2018 when Lochmiller and Cavness went climbing in the Rockies to talk about Lochmiller’s trip to Mt. Everest.

When the two men started building their business, the initial focus was on finding an environmentally friendly way to deal with the energy footprint of bitcoin mining operations. It was this pitch that brought the company to the attention of investors at Polychain, the investment firm started by Olaf Carlson-Wee (and Lochmiller’s former employer), and investors like Bain Capital Ventures and new investor Valor Equity Partners.

(This was also the pitch that Lochmiller made to me to cover the company’s seed round. At the time I was skeptical of the company’s premise and was worried that the business would just be another way to prolong the use of hydrocarbons while propping up a cryptocurrency that had limited actual utility beyond a speculative hedge against governmental collapse. I was wrong on at least one of those assessments.)

“Regarding questions about sustainability, Crusoe has a clear standard of only pursuing projects that are net reducers of emissions. Generally the wells that Crusoe works with are already flaring and would continue to do so in the absence of Crusoe’s solution. The company has turned down numerous projects where they would be a buyer of low cost gas from a traditional pipeline because they explicitly do not want to be net adders of demand and emissions,” wrote a spokesman for Valor Equity in an email. “In addition, mining is increasingly moving to renewables and Crusoe’s approach to stranded energy can enable better economics for stranded or marginalized renewables, ultimately bringing more renewables into the mix. Mining can provide an interruptible base load demand that can be cut back when grid demand increases, so overall the effect to incentivize the addition of more renewable energy sources to the grid.”

Other investors have since piled on including: Lowercarbon Capital, DRW Ventures, Founders Fund, Coinbase Ventures, KCK Group, Upper90, Winklevoss Capital, Zigg Capital and Tesla co-founder JB Straubel.

The company now operate 40 modular data centers powered by otherwise wasted and flared natural gas throughout North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Next year that number should expand to 100 units as Crusoe enters new markets such as Texas and New Mexico. Since launching in 2018, Crusoe has emerged as a scalable solution to reduce flaring through energy intensive computing such as bitcoin mining, graphical rendering, artificial intelligence model training and even protein folding simulations for COVID-19 therapeutic research.

Crusoe boasts 99.9% combustion efficiency for its methane, and is also bringing additional benefits in the form of new networking buildout at its data center and mining sites. Eventually, this networking capacity could lead to increased connectivity for rural communities surrounding the Crusoe sites.

Currently, 80% of the company’s operations are being used for bitcoin mining, but there’s increasing demand for use in data center operations and some universities, including Lochmiller’s alma mater of MIT are looking at the company’s offerings for their own computing needs.

“That’s very much in an incubated phase right now,” said Lochmiller. “A private alpha where we have a few test customers… we’ll make that available for public use later this year.”

Crusoe Energy Systems should have the lowest data center operating costs in the world, according to Lochmiller and while the company will spend money to support the infrastructure buildout necessary to get the data to customers, those costs are negligible when compared to energy consumption, Lochmiller said.

The same holds true for bitcoin mining, where the company can offer an alternative to coal powered mining operations in China and the construction of new renewable capacity that wouldn’t be used to service the grid. As cryptocurrencies look for a way to blunt criticism about the energy usage involved in their creation and distribution, Crusoe becomes an elegant solution.

Institutional and regulatory tailwinds are also propelling the company forward. Recently New Mexico passed new laws limiting flaring and venting to no more than 2 percent of an operator’s production by April of next year and North Dakota is pushing for incentives to support on-site flare capture systems while Wyoming signed a law creating incentives for flare gas reduction applied to bitcoin mining. The world’s largest financial services firms are also taking a stand against flare gas with BlackRock calling for an end to routine flaring by 2025.

“Where we view our power consumption, we draw a very clear line in our project evaluation stage where we’re reducing emissions for an oil and gas projects,” Lochmiller said. 

Read More
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Roku alleges Google is using its monopoly power in YouTube TV carriage negotiations

Roku is alerting its customers that they may lose access to the YouTube TV channel on its platform after negotiations with Google went south. The company alleges that Google is attempting to use its monopoly power to insist on unfair, anticompetitive terms with regard to how Roku handles search results for YouTube content, customer data and more. The email also urges Roku customers to reach out to Google to voice their concerns.

Details of the spat were first reported by Axios.

Roku says Google continues to ask for special treatment on Roku’s streaming media player platform, which today includes a dedicated search results row for YouTube that appear after a customer performs a universal voice search. Roku claims YouTube over a year ago threatened to remove the YouTube app if Roku didn’t comply with this particular demand. It now wants to ask Google to not preference its own service in the search results, as it believes this row doesn’t serve its customer base well. The row returns YouTube results at the top of the search results page, even when this isn’t relevant to what the customer was searching for in the first place, Roku explains.

In addition, Google is adding on to its earlier demands with a new series of requests to only show only YouTube or YouTube Music search results when the YouTube app is open — even overriding Roku user preferences to do so. Today, Roku allows its customers to set their own preferred music service provider for their music requests. Google’s ask that if a user presses the Roku voice search button while YouTube is open, that query returns only YouTube results. That means YouTube Music would play any music request, and YouTube search results would appear for any other request.

Roku says this also disadvantages the customer because it doesn’t honor the user’s preferences — like if their preferred music service is Roku, for example. Also, Roku couldn’t even use the search results to tell the customer if they’ve already paid for the content being requested — like showing them a movie they’ve already bought on another service or one of their paid subscriptions that carries the title.

There are other concerning demands as well, including asks for customer data that goes outside the realm of industry standard practices, Roku told TechCrunch. Roku says this data isn’t available to any other partners and it doesn’t want to share it with Google, either.

Finally, Google wants to reserve the right to ask for new certification requirements, as needed, for carrying YouTube — changes that could impact the cost of Roku’s hardware. By increasing the specs — say, asking for a faster processor speed or more memory — Google could close the gap between Roku’s low-end $29 device with Google’s new $50 Chromecast with Google TV. Roku admits Google has asked for those sorts of hardware changes before, but it now wants that in the YouTube TV agreement, too.

More broadly, Roku is concerned how Google is leveraging YouTube as it asks for these changes, even though the agreement being negotiated is YouTube TV. It says its deal with YouTube is not up for renewal at this time. We understand Google may have also issued similar requests to some TV platforms, but not larger companies like Apple (for Apple TV).

“Google is attempting to use its YouTube monopoly position to force Roku into accepting predatory, anti-competitive and discriminatory terms that will directly harm Roku and our users,” a Roku spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Given antitrust suits against Google, investigations by competition authorities of anti-competitive behavior and Congressional hearings into Google’s practices, it should come as no surprise that Google is now demanding unfair and anti-competitive terms that harm Roku’s users,” they said.

Roku declined to say whether or not it would bring its complaints before antitrust investigators, noting that, for now, its focus on closing the deal for YouTube TV.

While it’s common to see carriage disputes when contracts come up for renewal, those tend to involve requests for more money to allow a platform — like a pay TV provider, for example — to continue to carry a channel or group of channels. In this case, Roku says its not asking for any change in economic terms.

In the email sent to customers this morning at 6 AM, Roku says it won’t accept Google’s terms and its “anticompetitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact the usage of your data, and ultimately cost you more.”

The full letter is below:

Dear Roku Customer,​

We are sending this email to update you on the possibility that Google may take away your access to the YouTube TV channel on Roku. Recent negotiations with Google to carry YouTube TV have broken down because Roku cannot accept Google’s unfair terms as we believe they could harm our users. ​

Ensuring a great streaming experience at an exceptional value is the core of our business. We will always stand up for our users, which is why we cannot accept Google’s unfair and anticompetitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact the usage of your data and ultimately cost you more. ​

While we are deeply disappointed in Google’s decision to use their monopoly power to try and force terms that will directly harm streamers, we remain committed to reaching an agreement with Google that preserves your access to YouTube TV, protects your data and ensures a level playing field for companies to compete. We encourage you to contact Google and urge them to reach an agreement to continue offering YouTube TV on Roku and to follow standard industry practices pledging not to require access to sensitive search data or to manipulate your search results. ​

Google has not yet provided comment.

Roku is alerting its customers that they may lose access to the YouTube TV channel on its platform after negotiations with Google went south. The company alleges that Google is attempting to use its monopoly power to insist on unfair, anticompetitive terms with regard to how Roku handles search results for YouTube content, customer data and more. The email also urges Roku customers to reach out to Google to voice their concerns.

Details of the spat were first reported by Axios.

Roku says Google continues to ask for special treatment on Roku’s streaming media player platform, which today includes a dedicated search results row for YouTube that appear after a customer performs a universal voice search. Roku claims YouTube over a year ago threatened to remove the YouTube app if Roku didn’t comply with this particular demand. It now wants to ask Google to not preference its own service in the search results, as it believes this row doesn’t serve its customer base well. The row returns YouTube results at the top of the search results page, even when this isn’t relevant to what the customer was searching for in the first place, Roku explains.

In addition, Google is adding on to its earlier demands with a new series of requests to only show only YouTube or YouTube Music search results when the YouTube app is open — even overriding Roku user preferences to do so. Today, Roku allows its customers to set their own preferred music service provider for their music requests. Google’s ask that if a user presses the Roku voice search button while YouTube is open, that query returns only YouTube results. That means YouTube Music would play any music request, and YouTube search results would appear for any other request.

Roku says this also disadvantages the customer because it doesn’t honor the user’s preferences — like if their preferred music service is Roku, for example. Also, Roku couldn’t even use the search results to tell the customer if they’ve already paid for the content being requested — like showing them a movie they’ve already bought on another service or one of their paid subscriptions that carries the title.

There are other concerning demands as well, including asks for customer data that goes outside the realm of industry standard practices, Roku told TechCrunch. Roku says this data isn’t available to any other partners and it doesn’t want to share it with Google, either.

Finally, Google wants to reserve the right to ask for new certification requirements, as needed, for carrying YouTube — changes that could impact the cost of Roku’s hardware. By increasing the specs — say, asking for a faster processor speed or more memory — Google could close the gap between Roku’s low-end $29 device with Google’s new $50 Chromecast with Google TV. Roku admits Google has asked for those sorts of hardware changes before, but it now wants that in the YouTube TV agreement, too.

More broadly, Roku is concerned how Google is leveraging YouTube as it asks for these changes, even though the agreement being negotiated is YouTube TV. It says its deal with YouTube is not up for renewal at this time. We understand Google may have also issued similar requests to some TV platforms, but not larger companies like Apple (for Apple TV).

“Google is attempting to use its YouTube monopoly position to force Roku into accepting predatory, anti-competitive and discriminatory terms that will directly harm Roku and our users,” a Roku spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Given antitrust suits against Google, investigations by competition authorities of anti-competitive behavior and Congressional hearings into Google’s practices, it should come as no surprise that Google is now demanding unfair and anti-competitive terms that harm Roku’s users,” they said.

Roku declined to say whether or not it would bring its complaints before antitrust investigators, noting that, for now, its focus on closing the deal for YouTube TV.

While it’s common to see carriage disputes when contracts come up for renewal, those tend to involve requests for more money to allow a platform — like a pay TV provider, for example — to continue to carry a channel or group of channels. In this case, Roku says its not asking for any change in economic terms.

In the email sent to customers this morning at 6 AM, Roku says it won’t accept Google’s terms and its “anticompetitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact the usage of your data, and ultimately cost you more.”

The full letter is below:

Dear Roku Customer,​

We are sending this email to update you on the possibility that Google may take away your access to the YouTube TV channel on Roku. Recent negotiations with Google to carry YouTube TV have broken down because Roku cannot accept Google’s unfair terms as we believe they could harm our users. ​

Ensuring a great streaming experience at an exceptional value is the core of our business. We will always stand up for our users, which is why we cannot accept Google’s unfair and anticompetitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact the usage of your data and ultimately cost you more. ​

While we are deeply disappointed in Google’s decision to use their monopoly power to try and force terms that will directly harm streamers, we remain committed to reaching an agreement with Google that preserves your access to YouTube TV, protects your data and ensures a level playing field for companies to compete. We encourage you to contact Google and urge them to reach an agreement to continue offering YouTube TV on Roku and to follow standard industry practices pledging not to require access to sensitive search data or to manipulate your search results. ​

Google has not yet provided comment.

Read More
Join our Audio Tech Talk channel on Telegram: https://t.me/tldmtalk

South Korea threatens to shutdown all crypto exchanges amidst growing crackdown

The head of South Korea’s financial regulatory agency has said that all crypto exchanges operating in the country could be shut down later this year.

The statement from Eun Sung-soo comes as the South Korean government has launched a reinvigorated crackdown on ‘illegitimate crypto businesses’ and digital money laundering.

Seoul’s tax collection department kicked off the crackdown last week with the seizure of 25 billion won (£16.1 million) from over 600 tax evaders hiding their assets using cryptocurrency.

The latest development came from Eun during a National Assembly meeting on April 22, where he confirmed the Financial Services Commission (FSC) has yet to receive any Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) applications required under a recently amended law going into effect later this year.

“There are an estimated 200 cryptocurrency exchanges in the country, but if the current situation continues then all of them could be shut down,” he warned.

Eun was referring to South Korea’s anti-money laundering (AML) law, the Financial Transactions Reporting Act (FTRA), which was amended last year to account for the growing number of crypto exchanges.

The legislation requires VASPs to register with the FSC, and applications began being accepted in March but no exchange has applied as of yet. The FSC will only approve exchanges that can sufficiently demonstrate the robustness of their AML systems, with the deadline set for September 24.

The most important qualification for VASP registration is an official partnership with a local commercial bank. Out of the 200 exchanges to which Eun alluded, only the country’s four largest exchanges, known as the ‘big 4’ have established such partnerships thus far. Many industry insiders expect the big 4 will end up being the only exchanges to survive the regulatory tidal wave, but Eun’s comments have stirred up new worries.

On the day of Eun’s comments, the kimchi premium – the higher price of crypto in South Korea due to trade limitations – stood at around 13% but fell to as low as 2% the next day. This drop was coupled with a steep decline in bitcoin’s global price.

Interested in hearing more in person? Find out more at the Blockchain Expo World Series, Global, Europe and North America.   

The post South Korea threatens to shutdown all crypto exchanges amidst growing crackdown appeared first on The Block.

The head of South Korea’s financial regulatory agency has said that all crypto exchanges operating in the country could be shut down later this year.

The statement from Eun Sung-soo comes as the South Korean government has launched a reinvigorated crackdown on ‘illegitimate crypto businesses’ and digital money laundering.

Seoul’s tax collection department kicked off the crackdown last week with the seizure of 25 billion won (£16.1 million) from over 600 tax evaders hiding their assets using cryptocurrency.

The latest development came from Eun during a National Assembly meeting on April 22, where he confirmed the Financial Services Commission (FSC) has yet to receive any Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) applications required under a recently amended law going into effect later this year.

“There are an estimated 200 cryptocurrency exchanges in the country, but if the current situation continues then all of them could be shut down,” he warned.

Eun was referring to South Korea’s anti-money laundering (AML) law, the Financial Transactions Reporting Act (FTRA), which was amended last year to account for the growing number of crypto exchanges.

The legislation requires VASPs to register with the FSC, and applications began being accepted in March but no exchange has applied as of yet. The FSC will only approve exchanges that can sufficiently demonstrate the robustness of their AML systems, with the deadline set for September 24.

The most important qualification for VASP registration is an official partnership with a local commercial bank. Out of the 200 exchanges to which Eun alluded, only the country’s four largest exchanges, known as the ‘big 4’ have established such partnerships thus far. Many industry insiders expect the big 4 will end up being the only exchanges to survive the regulatory tidal wave, but Eun’s comments have stirred up new worries.

On the day of Eun’s comments, the kimchi premium – the higher price of crypto in South Korea due to trade limitations – stood at around 13% but fell to as low as 2% the next day. This drop was coupled with a steep decline in bitcoin’s global price.

Interested in hearing more in person? Find out more at the Blockchain Expo World Series, Global, Europe and North America.   

The post South Korea threatens to shutdown all crypto exchanges amidst growing crackdown appeared first on The Block.

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Founded by Australia’s national science agency, Main Sequence launches $250M AUD deep tech fund

Main Sequence’s team (top row from left to right) Viringa Crawter, Bill Bartee, Mike Nicholls, Phil Morle; (bottom row from left to right) Stella Xu, Mike Zimmerman and Jen Baxter

Main Sequence, the venture firm founded by Australia’s national science agency, announced today a new $250 million AUD (about $194.3 million USD) fund to invest in deep-tech startups. This is Main Sequence’s second fund and its oversubscribed raised included returning investors Horizons Ventures, Hostplus, Lockheed Martin, Temasek, private investors from Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and Mutual Trust, and family offices.

Launched in 2017 by government agency CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), Main Sequence now manages a total of $490 million AUD, including the CSIRO Innovation Fund. The firm works closely with scientists and researchers to commercialize their technology through its “venture science” model.

It starts by identifying challenges, then brings together scientists, a team, industry partners and investors to launch startups. Main Sequence’s second fund will look at issues including healthcare accessibility, increasing the world’s food supply, industrial productivity and space. One major focus will be decarbonization and addressing climate change, and that investment area will be led by Main Sequence partner Martin Duursma.

“Especially in the deep tech space, you don’t always have a company for every problem you’re trying to solve. So in addition to backing great founders who are working in one of our thesis areas, we will create companies to solve the problems and we do that as a partnership instead of on our own,” Main Sequence partner Mike Zimmerman told TechCrunch. Its works with universities, CSIRO’s networks of 3,500 scientists across different sectors and other research agencies to find potential founders.

“We’ll work with a research organization, get an entrepreneur-in-residence in and work with them. Something that is quite different is we’ll also work with industry partners,” Zimmerman added. “We’ll partner with an industry leader and get them fully committed and on the cap table from day one. The idea is that you can go faster when you have all these parties together and everyone is on the cap table.”

For example, Main Sequence helped launched v2food, a plant-based meat company, in January 2019. By October 2019, v2food had started shipping its products to Burger King in Australia, after spending about $2 million AUD. V2food’s other investors include Horizons Ventures, Temasek, Sequoia Capital China and China Renaissance.

“Companies are moving very quickly out of Australia and into China and other parts of Asia, all from the venture science model,” said Zimmerman. “Now that we have locked that down as a methodology, we’ve done several venture science deals already and will be a doing a lot more of that.”

Other Main Sequence portfolio companies include telehealth software platform Coviu, subterrenean drone technology developer Emesent, IoT satellite connectivity startup Myriota and quantum computing firmware designer Q-CTRL.

Main Sequence’s close relationship with CSIRO also gives its startups access to the agency’s ecosystem of research and facilities, including ones that can be used to produce new food tech, synthetic biology or laser tuning. Some of the things the new fund will focus on include ingredients and flavorings for plant-based meat, reversing climate change, agricultural tech for more sustainable farming practices, and synthetic biology like enzymes that can be used for the “circular economy,” or breaking down waste products into new materials.

Main Sequence’s team (top row from left to right) Viringa Crawter, Bill Bartee, Mike Nicholls, Phil Morle; (bottom row from left to right) Stella Xu, Mike Zimmerman and Jen Baxter

Main Sequence, the venture firm founded by Australia’s national science agency, announced today a new $250 million AUD (about $194.3 million USD) fund to invest in deep-tech startups. This is Main Sequence’s second fund and its oversubscribed raised included returning investors Horizons Ventures, Hostplus, Lockheed Martin, Temasek, private investors from Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and Mutual Trust, and family offices.

Launched in 2017 by government agency CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), Main Sequence now manages a total of $490 million AUD, including the CSIRO Innovation Fund. The firm works closely with scientists and researchers to commercialize their technology through its “venture science” model.

It starts by identifying challenges, then brings together scientists, a team, industry partners and investors to launch startups. Main Sequence’s second fund will look at issues including healthcare accessibility, increasing the world’s food supply, industrial productivity and space. One major focus will be decarbonization and addressing climate change, and that investment area will be led by Main Sequence partner Martin Duursma.

“Especially in the deep tech space, you don’t always have a company for every problem you’re trying to solve. So in addition to backing great founders who are working in one of our thesis areas, we will create companies to solve the problems and we do that as a partnership instead of on our own,” Main Sequence partner Mike Zimmerman told TechCrunch. Its works with universities, CSIRO’s networks of 3,500 scientists across different sectors and other research agencies to find potential founders.

“We’ll work with a research organization, get an entrepreneur-in-residence in and work with them. Something that is quite different is we’ll also work with industry partners,” Zimmerman added. “We’ll partner with an industry leader and get them fully committed and on the cap table from day one. The idea is that you can go faster when you have all these parties together and everyone is on the cap table.”

For example, Main Sequence helped launched v2food, a plant-based meat company, in January 2019. By October 2019, v2food had started shipping its products to Burger King in Australia, after spending about $2 million AUD. V2food’s other investors include Horizons Ventures, Temasek, Sequoia Capital China and China Renaissance.

“Companies are moving very quickly out of Australia and into China and other parts of Asia, all from the venture science model,” said Zimmerman. “Now that we have locked that down as a methodology, we’ve done several venture science deals already and will be a doing a lot more of that.”

Other Main Sequence portfolio companies include telehealth software platform Coviu, subterrenean drone technology developer Emesent, IoT satellite connectivity startup Myriota and quantum computing firmware designer Q-CTRL.

Main Sequence’s close relationship with CSIRO also gives its startups access to the agency’s ecosystem of research and facilities, including ones that can be used to produce new food tech, synthetic biology or laser tuning. Some of the things the new fund will focus on include ingredients and flavorings for plant-based meat, reversing climate change, agricultural tech for more sustainable farming practices, and synthetic biology like enzymes that can be used for the “circular economy,” or breaking down waste products into new materials.

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