Best Business Search

Monthly Archives: June 2021

FTC’s antitrust case against Facebook falters but doesn’t quite fall in federal court

June 30, 2021 No Comments

An antitrust suit against Facebook by the FTC and several states had the wind taken out of its sails today by a federal judge, who ruled that the plaintiffs don’t provide enough evidence that the company exerts monopoly control over social media. The court was more receptive, however, to revisiting the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, and the case was left open for regulators to take another shot at it.

The court decision was in response to a Facebook motion to dismiss the suit. Judge James Boesberg of the D.C. circuit explained that the provided evidence of monopoly and antitrust violations was “too speculative and conclusory to go forward.” In a more ordinary industry, it might have sufficed, he admits, but “this case involves no ordinary or intuitive market.”

It was incumbent on the plaintiffs to back up their allegation of Facebook controlling 60 percent of the market with clear and voluminous data and a convincing delineation of what exactly that market comprises — and it failed to do so, wrote Boesberg. Therefore he dismissed the complaints in accordance with Facebook’s legal argument.

The company wrote in a statement that it is “pleased that today’s decisions recognize the defects in the government complaints.”

On the other hand, Boesberg is sensible that lack of evidence in the record does not mean that the evidence does not exist. So he his giving the FTC and states 30 days to amend their filing, after which the complaints will be reevaluated.

He also found that Facebook’s logic for dismissing the suit’s allegations regarding its controversial acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp was lacking.

Facebook argued that even supposing that these acquisitions were somehow problematic, the FTC is not authorized to prosecute such “long-past conduct” and is limited to more recent or imminent problems. Boesberg was not convinced, finding precedent that essentially says such mergers are legally considered current as long as they exist, and the government can revisit them any time it thinks it has cause. (That’s not the case for the state lawsuits, however, which he dismissed outright for coming too long after the fact.)

That may very well be the plan of new FTC Chair Lina Khan who has taken a hawkish regulatory position regarding antitrust in general and past acquisitions specifically. At her confirmation hearing she commented that the approvals of the mergers may have been made without complete information and, as such, represented a “missed opportunity” to understand and build rules around.

An FTC representative said that “the FTC is closely reviewing the opinion and assessing the best option forward.”

We’ll likely know more following the agency’s meeting on Thursday. The 30-day punt in fact may be a great opportunity for Khan to put her ideas into practice, as the judge practically literally invites them to rewrite the complaint with more information. Whether she and the FTC have enough material to put together a compelling case remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: Facebook should put the champagne back in the fridge, for now at least. Khan may not stop at a slap on the wrist.

 


Social – TechCrunch


A Letter to New Digital Marketers

June 30, 2021 No Comments

Dear new digital marketers: here are a few tips that you can actively do now to jumpstart your growth as a digital marketer or PPC specialist.

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero


Beeflow raises $8.3 million to save the bees AND put them to work

June 29, 2021 No Comments

Bees are absolutely critical to the health of our agricultural system, ecosystem, and overall wellbeing as a species here on Earth. And yet bee populations are decreasing and extinction concerns are growing.

Beeflow, a startup that today announced the close of a $ 8.3 million Series A round, is looking to both save the bees and help farmers be more efficient and effective at the same time.

The startup uses proprietary scientific technology that essentially makes bees healthier, particularly in cold weather. A wealth of research led the company to understand that certain plant-based foods and molecules, when fed to the bees, can reduce the mortality rate of bees by up to 70 percent, and help them perform better in colder weather.

You might be wondering what I mean by performance. That’s fair.

Bees are the planet’s natural pollinators. They turn flowers into fruit, spreading pollen from one landing spot to another. Many farmers will ‘rent out’ bees from beekeepers to hang out on their farms and pollinate their plants. In almost every way, the effectiveness of this can’t be measured, and the bees themselves can’t truly be controlled.

Beeflow’s technology ensures that the bees are healthy and strong, and can fly up to 7x more during colder weather than they’d be able to without it. This means that those bees are much more likely to effectively and efficiently pollinate crops for the farmers.

Beyond reducing the mortality rate of bees, the company also offers a second product called ToBEE, which trains the bees to target a specific crop, such as blueberries or almonds.

Combined, these Beeflow products have increased crop yields for farmers up to 90 percent.

Beeflow’s business model is two-fold. They have their own bees that they loan out to farmers for pollination, and also work with beekeepers to bring them into the Beeflow network. Bee keepers do not pay for Beeflow’s technology, but do hand over the rights to their relationships with farmers.

The startup was founded by Matias Viel, who is from Argentina, and is mostly operational in Latin America and the West Coast of the U.S., with plans to expand to the East Coast and Mexico.

“The greatest challenge is operational and around execution,” said Viel. “There is so much demand and we need to scale our team and our operations now.”

The financing round was led by Ospraie Ag Science, with participation from Future Ventures’ Steve Jurvetson, Jeff Wilke, Vectr Ventures, SOSV’s IndieBio and Grid Exponential.


Startups – TechCrunch


DevOps platform JFrog acquires AI-based IoT and connected device security specialist Vdoo for $300M

June 29, 2021 No Comments

JFrog, the company best known for a platform that helps developers continuously manage software delivery and updates, is making a deal to help it expand its presence and expertise in an area that has become increasingly connected to DevOps: security. The company is acquiring Vdoo, which has built an AI-based platform that can be used to detect and fix vulnerabilities in the software systems that work with and sit on IoT and connected devices. The deal — in a mix of cash and stock — is valued at approximately $ 300 million, JFrog confirmed to me.

Sunnyvale-based, Israeli-founded JFrog is publicly traded on Nasdaq, where it went public last September, and currently it has a market cap of $ 4.65 billion. Vdoo, meanwhile, had raised about $ 70 million from investors that include NTT, Dell, GGV and Verizon (disclaimer: Verizon owns TechCrunch), and when we covered its most recent funding round, we estimated that the valuation was somewhere between $ 100 million and $ 200 million, making this a decent return.

Shlomi Ben Haim, JFrog’s co-founder and CEO, said that his company’s turn to focusing deeper on security, and making this acquisition in particular to fill out that strategy, are a natural progression in its aim to built out an end-to-end platform for the DevOps team.

“When we started JFrog, the main challenge was to educate the market on what we saw as most important priorities when it comes to building, testing and deploying software,” he said. Then sometime around 2015-2016 he said they started to realize there was a “crack” in the system, “a crack called security.” InfoSec engineers and developers sometimes work at cross purposes, as “developers became too fast” the work they were doing was inadvertently led to a lot of security vulnerabilities.

JFrog has been building a number of tools since then to address that and to bring the collective priorities together, such as its XRay product. And indeed, Vdoo is not JFrog’s first foray into security, but it represents a significant step deeper into the hardware and systems that are being run on software. “It’s a very important leap forward,” Ben Haim said.

For its part, Vdoo was born out of a realization as well as a challenging mission: IoT and other connected devices — a universe of some 50 billion pieces of hardware as of last year — represents a massive security headache, and not just because of the volume of devices: each object uses and interacts with software in the cloud and so each instance represents a potential vulnerability, with zero-day vulnerabilities, CVEs, configuration and hardening issues, and standard incompliances among some of the most common.

While connected-device security up to now has typically focused on monitoring activity on the hardware, how data is moving in and out of it, Vdoo’s approach has been to build a platform that monitors the behavior of the devices themselves on top of that, using AI to compare that behavior to identify when something is not working as it should. Interestingly, this mirrors the kind of binary analysis that JFrog provides in its DevOps platform, making the two complementary to each other.

But what’s notable is that this will give JFrog a bigger play at the edge, since part of Vdoo’s platform works on devices themselves, “micro agents” as the company has described them to me previously, to detect and repair vulnerabilities on endpoints.

While JFrog has built a lot of its own business from the ground up, it has made a number of acquisitions to bolt on technology (one example: Shippable, which it used to bring continuous integration and delivery into its DevOps platform). In this case, Netanel Davidi, the co-founder and CEO of Vdoo (who previously co-founded and sold another security startup, Cyvera, to Palo Alto Networks) said that this was a good fit because the two companies are fundamentally taking the same approaches in their work (another synergy and justification for DevOps and InfoSec being more closely knitted together too I might add).

“In terms of the fit between the companies, it’s about our approach to binaries,” Davidi said in an interview, noting that the two being on the same page with this approach was fundamental to the deal. “That’s only the way to cover the entire pipeline from the very beginning, when they go you develop something, all the way to the device or to the server or to the application or to the mobile phone. That’s the only way to truly understand the context and contextual risk.”

He also made a note not just of the tech but of the talent that is coming on with the acquisition: 100 people joining JFrog’s 800.

“If JFrog chose to build something like this themselves, they could have done it,” he said. “But the uniqueness here is that we have built the best security team, the best security researchers, the best vulnerability researchers, the best reverse engineers, which focus not only on embedded systems, and IoT, which is considered to be the hardest thing to learn and to analyze, but also in software artifacts. We are bringing this knowledge along with us.”

JFrog said that Vdoo will continue to operate as a standalone SaaS product for the time being. Updates that are made will be in aid of supporting the JFrog platform and the two aim to have a fully integrated, “holistic” product by 2022.

Along with the deal, JFrog reiterated financial guidance for the next quarter that will end June 30, 2021. It expects revenues of $ 47.6 million to $ 48.6 million, with non-GAAP operating income of $ 0.5 million to $ 1.5 million and non-GAAP EPS of $ 0.00 to $ 0.01, assuming approximately 104 million weighted average diluted shares outstanding. For Full Year 2021, revenues are expected to be $ 198 million to $ 204 million, with non-GAAP operating income between $ 5 million and $ 7 million and an approximately 3% increase in weighted average diluted shares. JFrog anticipates consolidated operating expenses to increase by approximately $ 9-10 million for the remainder of 2021, subject to the acquisition closing.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Memory.ai, the startup behind time-tracking app Timely, raises $14M to build more AI-based productivity apps

June 28, 2021 No Comments

Time is your most valuable asset — as the saying goes — and today a startup called Memory.ai, which is building AI-based productivity tools to help you with your own time management, is announcing some funding to double down on its ambitions: It wants not only to help manage your time, but to, essentially, provide ways to use it better in the future.

The startup, based out of Oslo, Norway, initially made its name with an app called Timely, a tool for people to track time spent doing different tasks. Aimed not just at people who are quantified self geeks, but those who need to track time for practical reasons, such as consultants or others who work on the concept of billable hours. Timely has racked up 500,000 users since 2014, including more than 5,000 paying businesses in 160 countries.

Now, Memory.ai has raised $ 14 million as it gears up to launch its next apps, Dewo (pronounced “De-Voh”), an app that is meant to help people do more “deep work” by learning about what they are working on and filtering out distractions to focus better; and Glue, described as a knowledge hub to help in the creative process. Both are due to be released later in the year.

The funding is being led by local investors Melesio and Sanden, with participation from Investinor, Concentric and SNÖ Ventures, who backed Memory.ai previously.

“Productivity apps” has always been something of a nebulous category in the world of connected work. They can variously cover any kind of collaboration management software ranging from Asana and Jira through to Slack and Notion; or software that makes doing an existing work task more efficient than you did it before (e.g. Microsoft has described all of what goes into Microsoft 365 — Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc. — as “productivity apps”); or, yes, apps like those from Memory.ai that aim to improve your concentration or time management.

These days, however, it feels like the worlds of AI and advances in mobile computing are increasingly coming together to evolve that concept once again.

If the first wave of smartphone communications and the apps that are run on smartphone devices — social, gaming, productivity, media, information, etc. — have led to us getting pinged by a huge amount of data from lots of different places, all of the time, then could it be that the second wave is quite possibly going to usher in a newer wave of tools to handle all that better, built on the premise that not everything is of equal importance? No-mo FOMO? We’ll see.

In any case, some bigger platform players also helping to push the agenda of what productivity means in this day and age.

For example, in Apple’s recent preview of iOS 15 (due to come out later this year) the company gave a supercharge to its existing “do not disturb” feature on its phones, where it showed off a new Focus mode, letting users customize how and when they want to receive notifications from which apps, and even which apps they want to have displayed, all organized by different times of day (e.g. work time), place, calendar items and so on.

Today, iPhone plays so many roles in our lives. It’s where we get information, how people reach us, and where we get things done. This is great, but it means our attention is being pulled in so many different directions and finding that balance between work and life can be tricky,” said Apple’s Craig Federighi in the WWDC keynote earlier this month. “We want to free up space to focus and help you be in the moment.” How well that gets used, and how much other platforms like Google follow suit, will be interesting to see play out. It feels, in any case, like it could be the start of something.

And, serendipitously — or maybe because this is some kind of zeitgeist — this is also playing into what Memory.ai has built and is building. 

Mathias Mikkelsen, the Oslo-based founder of Memory.ai, first came up with his idea for Timely (which had also been the original name of the whole startup) when he was working as a designer in the ad industry, one of those jobs that needed to track what he was working on, and for how long, in order to get paid.

He said he knew the whole system as it existed was inefficient: “I just thought it was insane how cumbersome and old it was. But at the same time how important it was for the task,” he said.

The guy had an entrepreneurial itch that he was keen to scratch, and this idea would become the salve to help him. Mikkelsen was so taken with building a startup around time management, that he sold his apartment in Oslo and moved himself to San Francisco to be where he believed was the epicenter of startup innovation. He tells me he lived off the proceeds of his flat for two years “in a closet” in a hacker house, bootstrapping Timely, until eventually getting into an accelerator (500 Startups) and subsequently starting to raise money. He eventually moved back to Oslo after two years to continue growing the business, as well as to live somewhere a little more spacious.

The startup’s big technical breakthrough with Timely was to figure out an efficient way of tracking time for different tasks, not just time worked on anything, without people having to go through a lot of data entry.

The solution: to integrate with a person’s computer, plus a basic to-do schedule for a day or week, and then match up which files are open when to determine how long one works for one client or another. Phone or messaging conversations, for the moment, are not included, and neither are the contents of documents — just the titles of them. Nor is data coming from wearable devices, although you could see how that, too, might prove useful.

The basic premise is to be personalised, so managers and others cannot use Timely to track exactly what people are doing, although they can track and bill for those billable hours. All this is important, as it also will feed into how Dewo and Glue will work.

The startup’s big conceptual breakthrough came around the same time: Getting time tracking or any productivity right “has never been a UI problem,” Mikkelsen said. “It’s a human nature problem.” This is where the AI comes in, to nudge people towards something they identify as important, and nudge them away from work that might not contribute to that. Tackling bigger issues beyond time are essential to improving productivity overall, which is why Memory.ai now wants to extend to apps for carving out time for deep thinking and creative thinking.

While it might seem to be a threat that a company like Apple has identified the same time management predicament that Memory.ai has, and is looking to solve that itself, Mikkelsen is not fazed. He said he thinks of Focus as not unlike Apple’s work on Health: there will be ways of feeding information into Apple’s tool to make it work better for the user, and so that will be Memory.ai’s opportunity to hopefully grow, not cannibalize, its own audience with Timely and its two new apps. It is, in a sense, a timely disruption.

“Memory’s proven software is already redefining how businesses around the world track, plan and manage their time. We look forward to working with the team to help new markets profit from the efficiencies, insights and transparency of a Memory-enabled workforce,” said Arild Engh, a partner at Melesio, in a statement.

Kjartan Rist, a partner at Concentric, added: “We continue to be impressed with Memory’s vision to build and launch best-in-class products for the global marketplace. The company is well on its way to becoming a world leader in workplace productivity and collaboration, particularly in light of the remote and hybrid working revolution of the last 12 months. We look forward to supporting Mathias and the team in this exciting new chapter.”


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Egypt’s Minly raises $3.6M to connect celebrities and fans through personalized experiences

June 28, 2021 No Comments

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a growing trend of creators adopting digital and social media, not just as a supplement to their media presence but also as a cornerstone of their personal brand.

The pandemic has surely accelerated creator economy trends. Many popular artists and figures have had to postpone concerts and live events, subsequently using social media to carry out these activities and engage their fans. Proliferating through Western and far East markets, the creator economy bug, which has made platforms like Cameo and Patreon unicorns, is beginning to take centre stage in MENA.

Today, Minly, an Egypt-based creator economy platform, is announcing that it has closed a $ 3.6 million seed round to allow stars across the MENA region to create authentic, personalized connections with their fans.

The round, which Minly says was oversubscribed, was co-led by 4DX Ventures, B&Y Venture Partners and Global Ventures. It also included participation from unnamed regional funds and angel investors like Scooter Braun, founder of SB Projects; Jason Finger, co-founder of Seamless and GrubHub; Anthony Saleh and Jeffrey Katzenberg of WndrCo; Arieh Mimran of Groupe Mimran; and Tamim Jabr. 

Experts say time spent viewing social media surpassed time spent viewing TV within the MENA region. But one shortcoming with social media is that its content often feels mass-produced. When creators make posts, it’s most times void of personalization. In a way, this dilutes the fan experience and limits the extent and number of ways the creator can monetize.

This is where Minly, founded last year by Mohamed El-Shinnawy, Tarek Hosny, Tarek ElGanainy, Ahmed Abbas, and Bassel El-Toukhy, comes in. It provides tools for creators to craft what it calls ‘authentic connections’ with their superfans and audience at scale. “In short, our goal is to eventually deliver tens of millions of unique, unforgettable experiences to fans each year,” El-Shinnawy told TechCrunch.

Shinnawy, who brings more than 15 years of media and technology experience to the table, is the chief technology officer at Minly. He sold his first company, Emerge Technology, to a U.S.-based media company. He has also delivered work for Hollywood’s top studios, such as Sony Pictures, Universal, Disney, Fox and Warner Brothers, while playing a role in the global expansion of Apple TV+, Disney+, and Netflix to the MENA region.

Minly

Mohamed El-Shinnawy (co-founder and CTO, Minly)

Minly has experienced rapid growth since launching late last year. It has more than 50,000 users and an impressive list of popular regional celebrities ranging from actors and athletes like Fifi Abdou and Mahmoud Trezeguet to musicians and internet influencers like Assala Nasri and Tamer Hosny.

On the platform, users can buy personalized video messages and shoutouts from these celebrities, and they, in turn, connect with their fans on a more personal level.

We think that we have already differentiated ourselves from other creator economy platforms in the region. We do this by offering the best catalogue of stars and user experience. And our entire team is working hard to grow this gap even further,” said El-Shinnawy on the crop of celebrities Minly has onboarded to the platform

Some of the instances where celebrities connected with their fans on Minly include when actress and dancer Fifi Abdou sent a personal message to one of her biggest fans who has Down syndrome and when Egyptian singer Tamer Hosny made a surprise appearance at two fans’ engagement party in March.

Minly takes a small commission on transactions made through its platform. However, the majority of the transaction price, a figure Minly didn’t disclose, goes directly to creators. And at the same time, Minly urges celebrities to automatically donate a portion of their earnings to partner charities on the platform.

Minly’s knack for creating a personalized experience is why Pan-African VC firm 4DX Ventures invested. The firm’s co-founder and general partner Peter Orth, who will be joining Minly’s board, said the company is fundamentally changing the relationship between celebrities and fans in the MENA region. “The team has both the ambition and the expertise to build a full-stack digital interaction platform that could change the way digital content is created and consumed in the region,” he added. 

The creator economy market surpassed $ 100 billion in value this year and is still growing at an impressive rate. The pace of content creation will only speed up since surveys suggest that being a YouTuber or TikTokker or the most common term, vlogger, is one the most desirable careers among Gen Zs. VC heavyweights like Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Partners, and Tiger Global have also heralded this growth considerably, contributing to the more than $ 2 billion invested in creator economy platforms this year.

In MENA, there’s a huge opportunity for Minly. The region has over 450 million people, of which 30% are between the ages of 18 to 30. This demographic is known to have a deep connection with social media, and El-Shinnawy believes MENA will soon contribute to a large part of the total creator economy.

For Minly, the goal is to capture a huge portion of that spend and become a multibillion-dollar, category-leading company. The creator platform has a case to do so. As it stands, the opportunity to build a creator economy one-stop-shop in MENA is huge compared to other regions that already have multiple entrenched incumbents. Also, Minly is one of the few platforms in the region with meaningful venture funding.

“The creator economy is in its infancy and growing at lightning speed. We have the opportunity to build this category’s first unicorn in MENA,” the CTO remarked.

With this investment, Minly is doubling down on building local celebrity acquisition teams in Egypt and other parts across MENA and the GCC, where it has seen significant traction. The company will also scale its engineering team to churn out more products to build a horizontal creator platform.


Social – TechCrunch


Happs raises $4.7 million for a multicast livestream platform creator community

June 28, 2021 No Comments

Happs, an app that lets creators stream live video simultaneously across social platforms, has raised $ 4.7 million in a post-seed round. The product originally began as a platform for independent journalists, but expanded its mission last year to offer tools to all online creators while connecting them through a new social network.

The funding was led by Bullpen Capital and Crosslink, Goodwater, Corazon, Rob Hayes of First Round Capital and Bangaly Kaba, previously at Instagram and Sequoia, also participated.

What sets Happs apart from some established competitors in the space is the team’s desire to not only build tools that help video creators produce professional-looking online streams, but to cultivate a kind of meta-community that brings people together from across other social media sites.

“We kind of view this as the essence of what the creator economy is all about,” Happs CEO Mark Goldman told TechCrunch. “The idea of locking creators into an individual platform is a very traditional way of thinking about content creation.”

Happs app multistreaming

Like Goldman, the other co-founders, David Neuman and Drew Shepard, come from the media world. Goldman was the founding COO of Current TV, an experimental TV channel that dabbled in user-generated content and eventually sold to Al Jazeera in 2013.

“The whole idea was to democratize media and open it up,” Goldman said of his time working on Current TV, which he connects directly to his interest in building Happs. “[We] loved the creativity unleashed by that.”

Online creators tend to be siloed within the app where they’ve built the biggest community, but Happs wants to empower them to reach as many followers as possible in a platform-agnostic way. For creators, the appeal with multistreaming is maximizing reach while making content efficiently. There’s a risk of alienating YouTube followers at the expense of your Twitch community if you don’t play your cards right, but some savvy content creators have turned toward the model to grow their audiences.

Happs connects people across platforms in a few ways. For one, Happs users can broadcast live to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Twitch simultaneously. The app also collects live comments from all supported social media sites and beams them into its own interface where they appear in a continuous cross-platform stream.

The integrated comment feature is nice built-in option for anyone who’s straddled comments across multiple devices simultaneously while livestreaming, which is no easy feat. When you’re streaming live you can feature a comment so that followers can see it on the screen no matter what platform they’re watching on.

Other companies in the space like OBS, Streamlabs and Restream are focused on the tools part of the equation, offering power users a useful backend for pushing out multi-streamed live video. Streamyard also offers multistreaming to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other platforms through a simple browser interface.

Unlike those services, Happs feels more like a social network, with familiar features like user profile photos, follower counts and a feed next to a “go live” button. Anyone can use the multi-streaming platform through its iOS or Android apps or a web interface, whether they’re a creator signing up for the tools or a fan looking to support the content they love.

Happs lacks some of its competitors’ bells and whistles, stuff like fancy customized graphics and lower-thirds, but has a few interesting tricks of its own. While streaming live on Happs, you can invite someone else on the app to join your feed for a real-time collaboration. The social networking elements are meant to encourage cross-platform creativity, so a YouTuber and a Twitch personality could hang out together and boost both of their reaches, all while streaming to a bunch of other apps.

Happs also offers users monetization tools from the get-go, with no requirements before they can start making money. That speaks to the app’s appeal for creators who might be less established or just starting out. Happs could be a much harder sell for a popular creator deeply invested in a platform like Twitch, which has rules against multi-streaming for most accounts that are allowed to monetize.

There are a few different ways to monetize. One lets anyone on Happs sponsor a broadcaster through regular monthly payments. The other is a one-off option that lets you chip in an award for any livestream, or to the VOD (video on demand) after the fact. The in-app currency is a virtual coin that users can buy or earn through doing stuff on the app. There are no plans for ads (yet, anyway).

The company will take 30% cut of subscription earnings, though according to Goldman they’ll be waiving those fees for an unspecified period of time to attract people to the platform.

“We raised this round to really build up product and tech team [and] to make the platform much more stable and reliable,” Goldman said. The company is looking forward to leveraging the new resources to “really go out now and get in front of creators so they know Happs exists.”

Mobile – TechCrunch


On TikTok, Black creators’ dance strike calls out creative exploitation

June 26, 2021 No Comments

There’s a new Megan Thee Stallion music video out in time for triple digit temperatures. But instead of launching a fresh viral TikTok dance for summer, the single inspired an informal protest among Black creators tired of thanklessly launching trends into the social media stratosphere.

With the release of the video for “Thot Shit,” some Black TikTok creators began calling attention to that exploitation this week, inspiring others to refuse to choreograph a dance to the hit song. The idea behind the movement is that Black artists on the platform create a disproportionate amount of content and culture — much of which is re-packaged and monetized by popular white creators and culture at large.

The song choice probably isn’t a coincidence. The Megan Thee Stallion video is both a playful but important paean to essential workers — twerking grocery, food service and sanitation workers, in this case — and a biting commentary on the wealthy white establishment that exploits their labor without thinking twice.

The “strike” doesn’t have creators leaving the platform or even staying off of the app. Instead, Black creators who might normally contribute dances for the hot new song are sitting back and pointing to what happens when they’re not around. (Predictably: not a lot.)

On the sound’s page, some videos tease choreography but pivot into a statement about how Black creators don’t get their due on the app. In other videos, Black creators watch on in horror at awkward dance attempts failing to fill the void or laugh about how the song’s lyrics are instructional but non-Black TikTok still can’t figure it out.

The eminently danceable “Thot Shit” could build into Megan Thee Stallion’s biggest hit yet, but just looking on TikTok you wouldn’t know it.

When reached for comment on the phenomenon, TikTok praised Black creators as a “critical and vibrant” part of the community.

“We care deeply about the experience of Black creators on our platform and we continue to work every day to create a supportive environment for our community while also instilling a culture where honoring and crediting creators for their creative contributions is the norm,” a TikTok spokesperson said.

Many TikTok accounts participating in the strike cite a recent explosion of white TikTokkers lip-syncing obliviously to a clip of Nicki Minaj’s 2016 song “Black Barbies” that specifically praises Black bodies (“I’m a fucking Black Barbie/Pretty face, perfect body…”). White TikTok inexplicably flocked to the sound, boosting its popularity and crowding out Black creators.

It’s just one incident in a long history of Black creators feeling exploited and appropriated on social networks. Black TikTok dancers have long been left in the cold: Their original dance moves explode in popularity and get picked up by non-Black creators, who also pick up the credit along the way.

The recent strike is the latest beat in the ongoing conversation over who gets to cash in on the wellspring of creativity that pours out of a platform like TikTok. More broadly, some creators believe that TikTok’s economics are stacked against them, even compared to other major platforms like YouTube. Across social media sites, creators, particularly creators of color, are turning to collective action and even unionizing to assert their power.

For Black creators tired of seeing their work appropriated, collectively refusing to gift the world a hot new TikTok dance is certainly one way to show just how vital they are to the online ecosystem — something even a quick glance at the desolate “Thot Shit” sound makes abundantly clear.

 


Social – TechCrunch


Pequity, a compensation platform designed for more equitable pay, raises $19M

June 26, 2021 No Comments

Diversity and inclusion have become central topics in the world of work. In the best considerations, improving them is a holistic effort, involving not just conceiving of products with this in mind, but hiring and managing talent in a diverse and inclusive way, too. A new startup called Pequity, which has built a product to help with the latter of these areas, specifically in equitable compensation, has now raised some funding — a sign of the demand in the market, as well as how tech is being harnessed in aid of helping it.

The San Francisco-based startup has raised $ 19 million in a Series A led by Norwest Venture Partners. First Round Capital, Designer Fund, and Scribble Ventures also participated in the fundraise, which will be used to continue investing in product and also hiring: the company has 20 on its own books now and will aim to double that by the end of this year, on the heels of positive reception in the market.

Since launching officially last year, Pequity has picked up over 100 customers, with an initial focus on fast-scaling companies in its own backyard, a mark of how D&I have come into focus in the tech industry in particular. Those using Pequity to compare and figure out compensation include Instacart, Scale.ai and ClearCo, and the company said that in the last four months, the platform’s been used to make more then 5,000 job offers.

Kaitlyn Knopp, the CEO who co-founded the company with Warren Lebovics (both pictured, right), came up for the idea for Pequity in much the same way that many innovations in the world of enterprise IT come to market: through her own first-hand experience.

She spent a decade working in employment compensation in the Bay Area, with previous roles at Google, Instacart, and Cruise. In that time, she found the tools that many companies used were lacking and simply “clunky” when it came to compensation analysis.

“The way the market has worked so far is that platforms had compensation as an element but not the focus,” she said. “It was the end of the tagline, the final part of a ‘CRM for candidates.’ But you still have to fill in all the gaps, you have to set the architecture the right way. And with compensation, you have to bake in your own analytics, which implies that you have to have some expertise.”

Indeed, as with other aspects of enterprise software, she added that the very biggest tech companies sometimes worked on their own tools, but not only does that leave smaller or otherwise other-focused businesses out of having better calculation tools, but it also means that those tools are siloed and miss out on being shaped by a bigger picture of the world of work. “We wanted to take that process and own it.”

The Pequity product essentially works by plugging into all of the other tools that an HR professional might be using — HRIS, ATS, and payroll products — to manage salaries across the whole of the organization in order to analyse and compare how compensation could look for existing and prospective employees. It combines a company’s own data and then compares it to data from the wider market, including typical industry ranges and market trends, to provide insights to HR teams.

All of this means that HR teams are able to make more informed decisions, which is step number one in being more transparent and equitable, but is also something that Pequity is optimized to cover specifically in how it measures compensation across a team.

And in line with that, there is another aspect of the compensation mindset that Knopp also wanted to address in a standalone product, and that is the idea of building a tool with a mission, one of providing a platform that can bring in data to make transparent and equitable decisions.

“A lot of the comp tools that I’ve interacted with are reactive,” she said. “You may have to do, say, a pay equity test, you do your promotion and merit cycles, and then you find all these issues that you have to solve. We’re flagging those things proactively with our analytics, because we’re plugging into those systems, which will give you those alerts before the decisions need to be made.”

As an added step in that direction, Knopp said that ultimately she believes the tool should be something that those outside of HR, such as managers and emploiyees themselves, should be able to access to better understand the logic of their own compensation and have more information going into any kind of negotiation.

Ultimately, it will be interesting to see whether modernized products like Pequity, which are tackling old problems with a new approach and point of view, find traction in the wider market. If one purpose in HR is to address diversity and inclusion, and part of the problem has been that the tools are just not fit for that purpose, then it seems a no-brainer that we’ll see more organizations trying out new things to see if they can help them in their own race to secure talent.

“Compensation reflects a company’s values, affects its ability to hire talent, and is the biggest expense on its P&L. And yet, most comp teams run on spreadsheets and emails,” said Parker Barrile, Partner at Norwest, in a statement. “Pequity empowers comp teams to design and manage equitable compensation programs with modern software designed by comp professionals, for comp professionals.”

 


Enterprise – TechCrunch


8 founders, leaders highlight fintech and deep tech as Bristol’s top sectors

June 26, 2021 No Comments

The U.K. is gaining in popularity as a great place to start a tech firm. The country is quickly catching up to China on the tech investment front, with VC investments reaching a record of $ 15 billion in 2020, according to TechNation. A global health crisis notwithstanding, London remained a favorite for investors. U.K. cities made up a fifth of the top 20 European cities, with names such as Oxford, Dublin, Edinburgh and Cambridge rising to the fore in 2020.

Bristol proved especially popular among tech investors last year — local businesses raked in an impressive $ 414 million in 2020, making it the third-largest U.K. city for tech investment. The city also has the most fintech startups per head in the U.K. outside London, according to Whitecap’s 2019-2020 Ecosystem Report.

Efforts by the city’s private and public sectors to modernize the city have helped it rank among the top smart cities in the U.K., attracting a bevy of tech entrepreneurs. Its proximity to London has meant that it is a good alternative for founders looking for a more affordable stay while letting them tap the capital’s financial resources. The University of Bristol also has the largest robotics department in Europe.


Use discount code HARBOURSIDE to save 25% off an annual or two-year Extra Crunch membership.
This offer is only available to readers in the U.K. and Europe, and expires on August 31, 2021.


Bristol is also home to an important startup accelerator, SETsquared. A collaborative effort by the five universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, the accelerator has supported over 4,000 entrepreneurs and helped their startups raise a total of £1.8 billion. Other startup support players include the new Science Creates VC fund, set up by entrepreneur Harry Destecroix, and TechSPARK Engine Shed.

Key emerging startups from Bristol include Graphcore, Open Bionics, Ultraleap, Immersive Labs and Five AI.

To get a better idea of the state of the tech ecosystem and the investor outlook for this city, we surveyed founders, leaders and executives involved in nurturing Bristol’s startup ecosystem.

The survey revealed that the city has a robust renewable, zero-carbon and fintech startup landscape. Robotics, VR, bio, quantum, digital and deep tech are also areas showing promise. As for the investing scene, although Bristol has a healthy angel network, the city lacks institutional VC, but with London only a drive or train ride away, this has not proved a significant problem.

We surveyed:


Coralie Hassanaly, innovation consultant, DRIAD

Which sectors is Bristol’s tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Bristol is strong in renewable and zero-carbon innovation, fintech and robotics. It’s weak in industry 4.0.

Which are the most interesting startups in Bristol?
Graphcore, LettUs Grow, Open Bionics, Ultraleap and YellowDog.

What are the tech investors like in Bristol? What’s their focus?
A lot of focus on fintech, I think.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Bristol or will they move out? Will others move in?
Bristol is a great middle ground between a large dynamic city (plus it’s not far from London) and access to nice countryside area. With remote working we can expect it will attract new residents in the next few years.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Aimee Skinner, Abigail Frear and Stuart Harrison.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
Second major city in U.K. innovation.

Pete Read, CEO and founder, Persona Education

Which sectors is Bristol’s tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Bristol is strong in media/animation, edtech, social impact, health and science. I’m most excited by edtech and the possibility to reach and positively impact millions of students via online learning. It’s weaker in hardware and fintech.

Which are the most interesting startups in Bristol?
Kaedim, Persona Education and One Big Circle.

What are the tech investors like in Bristol? What’s their focus?
There are several very active tech investment networks coming from several angles, e.g., university-led, groups of private angels and tech incubators. The great thing is they all collaborate and share resources, ideas and expertise in initiatives such as The Engine Shed and Silicon Gorge.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Bristol or will they move out? Will others move in?
More people are moving in, as Bristol has a great urban lifestyle with easy access to the countryside and Southwest/Wales holiday spots, and an international airport 20 minutes from the center.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Jerry Barnes at Bristol PE Club; Abby Frear at TechSPARK; Briony Phillips at Rocketmakers; Jack Jordan-Connelly at SETsquared.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
It’s developing rapidly with lots of support, so it will be bigger, attracting more investment and definitely more on the international scene five years from now.

Kiran Krishnamurthy, CEO, AI Labs

Which sectors is Bristol’s tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Our tech ecosystem is strong in the aerospace and defense sector. We are excited by the scope and scale of digital transformation opportunities with AI available in this sector. The main weakness in this sector is the slow pace of transformation, especially now due to the pandemic.

Which are the most interesting startups in Bristol?
Graphcore and YellowDog.

What are the tech investors like in Bristol? What’s their focus?
Compared to the U.K. tech sector average, Bristol has a very low proportion of established companies (4% versus 8%), a higher proportion of seed stage companies (42% versus 37%), and a higher death rate (21% versus 17%). It’s a particularly young ecosystem.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Bristol or will they move out? Will others move in?
It is possible that people moving out of London will come into Bristol due to the transport links, strong ecosystem and beautiful nature of the city.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
I wouldn’t be surprised if Bristol turns out to be San Francisco of Europe!

Simon Hall, director, Airway Medical

Which sectors is Bristol’s tech ecosystem strong in? What does it lack?
Bristol is strong in the medtech, veterinary, industrial sectors.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Bristol or will they move out? Will others move in?
Others have moved in.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
SETsquared.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
We will see massive growth in five years.

Ben Miles, CEO, Spin Up Science

Which sectors is Bristol’s tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Our sector is weak in entrepreneurial ambition among researchers, and so suffers from low rates of deep tech spinout activity from leading universities. We are most excited by the step change in activity we have seen in the past two years and culture shift towards innovation.

Which are the most interesting startups in Bristol?
Rosa Biotech, Albotherm and CytoSeek.

What are the tech investors like in Bristol? What’s their focus?
Medium strength in shallow tech; currently weak in deep tech.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Bristol or will they move out? Will others move in?
People are moving in.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Spin Up Science, Science Creates and Science Angel Syndicate.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
Very strong in deep tech with an invested local community of entrepreneurs, incubators and investors.

Rupert Baines, ex-CEO, UltraSoC

Which sectors is Bristol’s tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Bristol is strong in wireless (5G, 60 GHz, etc.), semiconductors (especially processors, AI/ML and parallel architectures), robotics and other hard tech/deep tech.

Which are the most interesting startups in Bristol?
Graphcore, Ultraleap, Blu Wireless and Five AI.

What are the tech investors like in Bristol? What’s their focus?
It’s limited. There are some angels, but few locally focused funds.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Bristol or will they move out? Will others move in?
Much the same: People choose to live in Bristol/Bath for quality of life. Much of the work is already external — commuting to London.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Nigel Toon, Simon Knowles, Stan Boland, David May and Nick Sturge.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
Much stronger, with more processor and hardware activity.

Mathieu Johnsson, CEO and co-founder, Marble

Which sectors is Bristol’s tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Bristol has a strong robotics, aerospace and renewables scene. I’m most excited to see how the legacy in aerospace in Bristol will translate to future industry-defining companies. The ecosystem is weak on the investor side, though London VCs are less than a two-hour train journey away.

Which are the most interesting startups in Bristol?
Graphcore, Ultraleap and Open Bionics.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Bristol or will they move out? Will others move in?
I believe Bristol will become more attractive.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
Tom Carter at Ultraleap, and Joel Gibbard at Open Bionics.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
Getting closer to London and Cambridge.

Chris Erven, CEO, KETS Quantum Security

Which sectors is Bristol’s tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Bristol has a strong biotech, quantum, digital, science-based/deep tech ecosystem. I’m excited by this eclectic city with exciting people that think differently.

Which are the most interesting startups in Bristol?
Any QTEC, SETsquared, or UnitDX members and alumni.

What are the tech investors like in Bristol? What’s their focus?
Very early/nascent, mostly angels.

With the shift to remote working, do you think people will stay in Bristol or will they move out? Will others move in?
Probably move in! Beautiful green spaces around, lots of interesting, independent shops. And (just about) commutable from London.

Who are the key startup people in the city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers)?
The incubators — QTEC, QTIC, SETsquared and UnitDX; Bristol Private Equity Club; Harry Destecroix.

Where do you think the city’s tech scene will be in five years?
Buzzing. More great startups and VCs moving in.


Startups – TechCrunch


Powered by WP Robot