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A fistful of IPOs, Affirm’s Peloton problem, Zoom Apps and more – TechCrunch

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DoorDash, Affirm, Roblox, Airbnb, C3.ai and Wish all filed to go public in recent days, which means some venture capitalists are having the best week of their lives.

Tech companies that go public capture our imagination because they are literal happy endings. An Initial Public Offering is the promised land for startup pilgrims who may wander the desert for years seeking product-market fit. After all, the “I” in “ISO” stands for “incentive.”

A flurry of new S-1s in a single week forced me to rearrange our editorial calendar, but I didn’t mind; our 360-degree coverage let some of the air out of various hype balloons and uncovered several unique angles.

For example: I was familiar with Affirm, the service that lets consumers finance purchases, but I had no idea Peloton accounted for 30% of its total revenue in the last quarter.

“What happens if Peloton puts on the brakes?” I asked Alex Wilhelm as I edited his breakdown of Affirm’s S-1. We decided to use that as the subhead for his analysis.

The stories that follow are an overview of Extra Crunch from the last five days. Full articles are only available to members, but you can use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one or two-year subscription. Details here.

Thank you very much for reading Extra Crunch this week; I hope you have a relaxing weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist


What is Roblox worth?

Gaming company Roblox filed to go public yesterday afternoon, so Alex Wilhelm brought out a scalpel and dissected its S-1. Using his patented mathmagic, he analyzed Roblox’s fundraising history and reported revenue to estimate where its valuation might land.

Noting that “the public markets appear to be even more risk-on than the private world in 2020,” Alex pegged the number at “just a hair under $10 billion.”

What China’s fintech can teach the world

Alibaba Employees Pay For Meals With Face Recognition System

HANGZHOU, CHINA – JULY 31: An employee uses face recognition system on a self-service check-out machine to pay for her meals in a canteen at the headquarters of Alibaba Group on July 31, 2018 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. The self-service check-out machine can calculate the price of meals quickly to save employees’ queuing time. (Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images)

For all the hype about new forms of payment, the way I transact hasn’t been radically transformed in recent years — even in tech-centric San Francisco.

Sure, I use NFC card readers to tap and pay and tipped a street musician using Venmo last weekend. But my landlord still demands paper checks and there’s a tattered “CASH ONLY” taped to the register at my closest coffee shop.

In China, it’s a different story: Alibaba’s employee cafeteria uses facial recognition and AI to determine which foods a worker has selected and who to charge. Many consumers there use the same app to pay for utility bills, movie tickets and hamburgers.

“Today, nobody except Chinese people outside of China uses Alipay or WeChat Pay to pay for anything,” says finance researcher Martin Chorzempa. “So that’s a big unexplored side that I think is going to come into a lot of geopolitical risks.”

Inside Affirm’s IPO filing: A look at its economics, profits and revenue concentration

Consumer lending service Affirm filed to go public on Wednesday evening, so Alex used Thursday’s column to unpack the company’s financials.

After reviewing Affirm’s profitability, revenue and the impact of COVID-19 on its bottom line, he asked (and answered) three questions:

  • What does Affirm’s loss rate on consumer loans look like?
  • Are its gross margins improving?
  • What does the unicorn have to say about contribution profit from its loans business?

If you didn’t make $1B this week, you are not doing VC right

Image Credits: XiXinXing (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

“The only thing more rare than a unicorn is an exited unicorn,” observes Managing Editor Danny Crichton, who looked back at Exitpalooza 2020 to answer “a simple question — who made the money?”

Covering each exit from the perspective of founders and investors, Danny makes it clear who’ll take home the largest slice of each pie. TL;DR? “Some really colossal winners among founders, and several venture firms walking home with billions of dollars in capital.

5 questions from Airbnb’s IPO filing

The S-1 Airbnb released at the start of the week provided insight into the home-rental platform’s core financials, but it also raised several questions about the company’s health and long-term viability, according to Alex Wilhelm:

  • How far did Airbnb’s bookings fall during Q1 and Q2?
  • How far have Airbnb’s bookings come back since?
  • Did local, long-term stays save Airbnb?
  • Has Airbnb ever really made money?
  • Is the company wealthy despite the pandemic?

Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost explains the strategy behind acquiring Spacemaker

Andrew Anagnost, President and CEO, Autodesk.

Andrew Anagnost, president and CEO, Autodesk.

Earlier this week, Autodesk announced its purchase of Spacemaker, a Norwegian firm that develops AI-supported software for urban development.

TechCrunch reporter Steve O’Hear interviewed Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost to learn more about the acquisition and asked why Autodesk paid $240 million for Spacemaker’s 115-person team and IP — especially when there were other startups closer to its Bay Area HQ.

“They’ve built a real, practical, usable application that helps a segment of our population use machine learning to really create better outcomes in a critical area, which is urban redevelopment and development,” said Anagnost.

“So it’s totally aligned with what we’re trying to do.”

Unpacking the C3.ai IPO filing

On Monday, Alex dove into the IPO filing for enterprise artificial intelligence company C3.ai.

After poring over its ownership structure, service offerings and its last two years of revenue, he asks and answers the question: “is the business itself any damn good?”

Is the internet advertising economy about to implode?

Image Credits: jayk7 / Getty Images

In his new book, “Subprime Attention Crisis,” writer/researcher Tim Hwang attempts to answer a question I’ve wondered about for years: does advertising actually work?

Managing Editor Danny Crichton interviewed Hwang to learn more about his thesis that there are parallels between today’s ad industry and the subprime mortgage crisis that helped spur the Great Recession.

So, are online ads effective?

“I think the companies are very reticent to give up the data that would allow you to find a really definitive answer to that question,” says Hwang.

Will Zoom Apps be the next hot startup platform?

Logos of companies in the Zoom Apps marketplace

Image Credits: Zoom

Even after much of the population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, we will still be using Zoom’s video-conferencing platform in great numbers.

That’s because Zoom isn’t just an app: it’s also a platform play for startups that add functionality using APIs, an SDK or chatbots that behave like smart assistants.

Enterprise reporter Ron Miller spoke to entrepreneurs and investors who are leveraging Zoom’s platform to build new applications with an eye on the future.

“By offering a platform to build applications that take advantage of the meeting software, it’s possible it could be a valuable new ecosystem for startups,” says Ron.

Will edtech empower or erase the need for higher education?

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Without an on-campus experience, many students (and their parents) are wondering how much value there is in attending classes via a laptop in a dormitory.

Even worse: Declining enrollment is leading many institutions to eliminate majors and find other ways to cut costs, like furloughing staff and cutting athletic programs.

Edtech solutions could fill the gap, but there’s no real consensus in higher education over which tools work best. Many colleges and universities are using a number of “third-party solutions to keep operations afloat,” reports Natasha Mascarenhas.

“It’s a stress test that could lead to a reckoning among edtech startups.”

3 growth tactics that helped us surpass Noom and Weight Watchers

3D rendering of TNT dynamite sticks in carton box on blue background. Explosive supplies. Dangerous cargo. Plotting terrorist attack. Image Credits: Gearstd / Getty Images.

I look for guest-written Extra Crunch stories that will help other entrepreneurs be more successful, which is why I routinely turn down submissions that seem overly promotional.

However, Henrik Torstensson (CEO and co-founder of Lifesum) submitted a post about the techniques he’s used to scale his nutrition app over the last three years. “It’s a strategy any startup can use, regardless of size or budget,” he writes.

According to Sensor Tower, Lifesum is growing almost twice as fast as Noon and Weight Watchers, so putting his company at the center of the story made sense.

Send in reviews of your favorite books for TechCrunch!

Image via Getty Images / Alexander Spatari

Every year, we ask TechCrunch reporters, VCs and our Extra Crunch readers to recommend their favorite books.

Have you read a book this year that you want to recommend? Send an email with the title and a brief explanation of why you enjoyed it to [email protected].

We’ll compile the suggestions and publish the list as we get closer to the holidays. These books don’t have to be published this calendar year — any book you read this year qualifies.

Please share your submissions by November 30.

Dear Sophie: Can an H-1B co-founder own a Delaware C Corp?

Image Credits: Sophie Alcorn

Dear Sophie:

My VC partner and I are working with 50/50 co-founders on their startup — let’s call it “NewCo.” We’re exploring pre-seed terms.

One founder is on a green card and already works there. The other founder is from India and is working on an H-1B at a large tech company.

Can the H-1B co-founder lead this company? What’s the timing to get everything squared away? If we make the investment we want them to hit the ground running.

— Diligent in Daly City





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New York follows California mandating zero-emissions vehicles by 2035 • TechCrunch

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All new passenger cars, pickup trucks and SUVs sold in New York state must be zero emissions by 2035, Governor Kathy Hochul announced Thursday.

“By revving up our clean transportation transition and making major investments to make EVs more accessible, we’re supercharging our fight against climate change,” Hochul tweeted.

To reach the 2035 goal, Hochul said 35% of new cars will need to be zero-emission by 2026 and 68% by 2030. New school buses have until 2027 to meet these standards, with the entire fleets required to be zero-emissions by 2035, according to Hochul.

The new legislation, which will require new cars to be either electric or hydrogen, comes a month after California’s Air Resources board voted to also phase out the sale of new gas-powered cars in the state. New York is the second state to make such a mandate, and signals that others will soon follow.

“We had to wait for California to take a step because there’s some federal requirements that California had to go first — that’s the only time we’re letting them go first,” the governor said in a press conference Thursday, according to The Hill.

Per the 1970 Clean Air Act, California was authorized by Congress to set its own emissions standards for vehicles. Other states are allowed to adopt California’s policies, but they can’t implement their own standards. As a result, California has to lead the way for any state-led enforcements of stricter emissions rules.

The governor also announced Thursday a $10 million investment in the state’s Drive Clean Rebate Program. The program offers New Yorkers a rebate of up to $2,000 for the purchase of over 60 electric car models that, coupled with a federal tax rebate of $7,500, could make the switch to electric significantly more affordable. The state has already issued almost 80,000 rebates and spent more than $92 million on the program, the governor said.

“Adopting this program sends a loud and clear message to carmakers that New Yorkers want electric vehicles,” said Leah Meredith, principal at Advanced Energy Economy, a trade association. “With electric vehicles in high demand but currently in short supply, carmakers are prioritizing the states that speak up, and the Governor’s announcement helps ensure that New Yorkers will have the full range of electric vehicle models to choose from. And by increasing the number of new electric vehicles in New York, this program will also quicken the development of a robust market for used electric vehicles.”

Last week, the New York Power Authority announced its 100th high-speed charger installation in the EVolve NY statewide EV charging network. These charging stations can be found along major travel corridors, like from Buffalo to Albany or from the Adirondacks to Long Island. EVolve NY has committed up to $250 million through 2025 to expand its network of chargers.

New York State will also get $175 million from the infrastructure bill’s $5 billion total allocation for EV charging networks across the country, according to Hochul. The governor said the expansion of widely available charging infrastructure will help increase the sale of EVs in the state.



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‘Virtual ward’ startup Doccla gets Series A injection as it eyes AI tools • TechCrunch

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Doccla, a Sweden founded but London-headquartered health tech startup that sells a remote patient monitoring platform to hospitals to run so-called ‘virtual wards’, has closed a £15 million (~$17M) Series A funding round a year after raising a $3.3M seed.

The Series A is led by US VC General Catalyst, with participation from funds managed by healthcare investors KHP Ventures (a collaboration between King’s College London, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust). Existing investors Giant Ventures, who led the seed round, and Speedinvest also backed the Series A — which sees Chris Bischoff, MD at General Catalyst, joining the board.

General Catalyst is an investor in US remote care health tech unicorn Cadence which also sells a remote monitoring service, so could be seen as a potential competitor to Doccla. Although the (currently) different target markets (US vs Europe) and specific product presentation — we understand Cadence is focused on populations with chronic disease, while Doccla talks in terms of building virtual wards/’Hospital at Home’ — are, evidently, distinct enough to convince the VC firm there’s value in backing both for growth.

Doccla’s growth trajectory must certainly have helped: The 2019-founded startup only launched its remote patient monitoring service during the pandemic but says it’s now present in a fifth (20%) of all Integrated Care Systems (ICS) in the UK, with patient intake from 20+ hospitals. In total it says it’s monitored 50,000+ patients to date. (NB: ICS are a feature of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) in England — essentially partnerships between relevant organizations and local authorities with the goal of joining up the planning and delivery of health services across their region.)

The startup’s platform allows clinical staff from hospitals to monitor the vital signs of those under treatment remotely (either continuously or intermittently) — freeing up hospital beds for new patients to be admitted by enabling early discharge via at-home monitoring. That’s important because the NHS suffers from a particular low average number of beds per 1,000 people compared to other OECD EU nations, with just 2.4 beds vs the OECD EU average of 4.6 and Germany’s average of 7.9.

It sells an end-to-end remote patient monitoring service which covers provisioning the devices used for monitoring (including pre-configured smartphones with large fonts to improve accessibility for the visually impaired/frail etc; and wearable medical devices to measure a wide range of physiological parameters); and taking care of software integration, logistics and customer service, and tech support for the elderly and non-digital natives — with its pitch being that it differentiates from competitors by significantly reducing the workload on hospital staff.

Doccla says its current clients include a number of NHS trusts across the UK, including Northampton General Hospital, Cambridgeshire Community Services, and Hertfordshire Community Trust.

On the competition front, it name-checks Huma, Current Health, and Docobo as UK rivals — but co-founder Martin Ratz points to three main areas where he argues it’s serving up something “very different”.

“For starters, we are CQC [Care Quality Commission, aka the independent regulatory body for healthcare providers in England] accredited and therefore can take clinical responsibility for patients, reducing the workload for healthcare personnel,” he tells TechCrunch. “We are device agnostic and are not pushing our own device. Finally, our service layer enables us to deliver market leading patient compliance — exceeding 95% across all pathways.”

The Series A funding injection will be ploughed into further developing its tech stack to support the integration of more medical devices into its patient monitoring platform and electronic healthcare record systems; and for data analytics and AI — to “expand clinical capacity and availability” to meet demand for “virtual hospitals that alleviate pressures on healthcare systems”, as it puts it.

Or, put another way, with both beds and doctors in chronically short supply AI-powered efficiencies are the new, transformative tool to enable already stretched-to-breaking point health services to (safely) stretch even further — or that’s the claim.

“In the future, we will be able to cover additional clinical specialties, with an even more advanced level of care as well as logistical improvements of the service delivery,” suggests Ratz.

Asked what Doccla is using AI for, he confirms it’s working on developing predictive alerts that could help clinicians monitor more patients.

“Doccla will use data insights to develop automation and AI for further improvement of service delivery and clinical outcomes,” he tells us. “This will include various support tools for clinicians, such as predictive alerts.”

There are plenty of safety pitfalls here, given — for example — the bias risks around AI if training data is not representative of the patient population, so how Doccla goes about integrating automated alerts and other AI-powered support tools into its platform without compromising patient safety will certainly be one to watch. (Getting regulatory accreditation on such features will also be less straightforward, with more agencies and oversight bodies in play.)

Still, it looks important that Doccla’s investor roster includes a fund with direct links to a number of NHS Trusts.

Image credits: Doccla

On the question of scalability, especially around patient support — which may require a lot of patient one-to-one interactions with tired and/or frail people who may not be accustomed to using connected technology — Ratz says: “Doccla places significant value on our service layer, as it’s crucial to building and scaling a virtual hospital. In particular, new models of care, especially at the intersection with behavioural change, require it. Doccla’s virtual patient support teams, as well as our clinical teams, are highly efficient and enjoy economies of scale.”

Also on the slate for the Series A: Expansion to new European markets and segments, per Ratz. But he won’t be drawn on where exactly it’s eyeing for new launches. “Doccla’s current focus is the UK where we serve a range of customers and our European expansion will be shaped by upcoming public tenders, notably those in larger markets,” he says, adding: “I can say that we’re already in dialogue with significant operators in several countries.”

The funding will also be used for fuelling the startup’s growth by running virtual clinical trials for the pharmaceutical industry, according to Ratz — presumably with the fully informed consent of any patients who agree to sign up to such trials. (Doccla’s current privacy policy states that it will not share users’ personal data — and further claims to “only collect the data that we need to deliver care safely and effectively”.)

The startup’s platform is able to serve a “very diverse range” of patients, from palliative care to pre- and post-surgery patients, says Ratz — although this type of remote care is clearly not suitable for every type of patient (even if you’re going to start throwing AI into the mix).

“The largest patient groups we work with include COPD [Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] and heart-related health. The applicability of remote care is exceptional however some patient groups — for example, those who require in-person support such highly acute patients or people with dementia — are less suited for remote monitoring,” he says.

Commenting on the Series A funding in a statement, General Catalyst’s Bischoff added: “The virtualisation of hospital wards is a critical step in efficiently expanding health resources and enabling timely, safe transition of care into the home. Doccla has immense potential and is driving real impact by not only providing a much-needed lifeline for overwhelmed hospitals but also improving patient outcomes through remote monitoring. The founders’ vision to drive more digitally-enabled, decentralised healthcare that combines physical and virtual pathways aligns with General Catalyst’s Health Assurance thesis. Importantly, their partnership approach with NHS Trusts echoes our core values of radical collaboration and responsible innovation — innovation that improves society. At General Catalyst, we support companies that bring about powerful, positive change that endures, and we believe Martin, Dag and the team will do just that.”



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Battery-swapping SPAC Gogoro secures $345M loan • TechCrunch

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Taiwanese battery-swapping company Gogoro has signed a $345 million five-year credit facility agreement in order to increase liquidity among uncertain economic conditions.

The loan comes from a group of 10 syndicated banks led by Mega International Commercial Bank Co., according to a regulatory filing.

Gogoro will use the funds to pay off an existing facility, secure energy cells for its batteries, support operations in Taiwan and provide working capital as needed, according to a company spokesperson.

The company will have an option to extend the loan for an additional two years and even get a discount if it continues to meet its carbon reduction goals.

The fresh funds come a month after Gogoro released its second-quarter earnings results, which showed a company that is still growing, but is cautious, given market and macroeconomic conditions. Year-over-year Gogoro managed to increase its revenue by 5.3% to $90.7 million; however, the impact of COVID in Taiwan and China caused Gogoro CEO Horace Luke to revise guidance for the full year from $460 million to $500 million down to $380 million to $410 million.

After reaching mid-September highs of $5.55 per share, Gogoro’s stock took a hit last week, which bearish analysts attribute to declining electric scooter sales in Taiwan and disappointing progress in foreign markets. Gogoro is currently trading at $4.10 on Wednesday after market close.

Earlier this month, Gogoro launched its battery-swapping stations and electric scooters in Israel and selected Singapore’s first EV battery swap pilot.

In November last year, the company launched battery-swapping stations in China, operating under the Huan Huan brand, which is a partnership between Gogoro and electric two-wheeler makers Yadea and DCJ. Gogoro also partnered with Hero MotoCorp to launch a battery-swapping network in India, as well as Hero-branded electric two-wheelers based on Gogoro’s technology. Gogoro previously said it plans to launch its first swapping stations in New Delhi by the end of this year, but the company did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for updated guidance.

Gogoro went public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in April. The hype for SPACs is dwindling, with less interest coming from the public markets. Now, a range of EV SPACs are struggling with production issues, inflationary pressures and supply chain bottlenecks that are lowering valuations and throwing up hurdles to liquidity. Recently, Nikola and Lucid Motors, two other EV SPACs, said they’d need to raise more cash to bring their vehicles to market.

Gogoro says the fact it was able to raise its borrowing capacity and secure favorable terms and borrowing rates “in today’s credit-cautious environment” is validation that the company’s partners understand and support Gogoro’s vision and ability to grow.



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Hacker breaches Fast Company systems to send offensive Apple News notifications • TechCrunch

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U.S. business publication Fast Company has confirmed that a hacker breached its internal systems to send offensive push notifications to Apple News users. 

In a statement, Fast Company said that a threat actor breached the company’s content management system (CMS) on Tuesday, giving them access to the publication’s Apple News account. The hacker used this access to send two “obscene and racist” push notifications to Apple News subscribers, prompting shocked users to post screenshots on Twitter. It’s not clear how many users received the notifications before they were deleted.

“The messages are vile and are not in line with the content and ethos of Fast Company,” Fast Company said. “We are investigating the situation and have shut down FastCompany.com until the situation has been resolved.”

Apple has also addressed the situation in a tweet, confirming that the website has been hacked and that it has suspended Fast Company’s Apple News account.

Fast Company added that Tuesday’s breach follows an “apparently related hack” of FastCompany.com that occurred on Sunday afternoon, which led to similar language appearing on the site’s homepage and other pages. 

“We shut down the site that afternoon and restored it about two hours later,” the company added. “Fast Company regrets that such abhorrent language appeared on our platforms and in Apple News, and we apologize to anyone who saw it before it was taken down.”

Fast Company didn’t share any details about how it was breached and the company wasn’t immediately available to answer our questions. At the time of writing, the Fast Company website loads a “404 Not Found” page.

However, before the website was taken offline, the hacker responsible for the breach, who identifies as “Thrax”, posted an article labeled as sponsored content that detailed how they were able to infiltrate the publication. The message claims that Fast Company had a “ridiculously easy” default password that was used across a number of accounts, including an administrator. This enabled the attacker to access a bunch of sensitive information, including authentication tokens, Apple News API keys, and Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) tokens, allowing the hacker to send emails using any @fastcompany.com email. 

The attacker, in a separate message to a popular hacking forum posted on Sunday, announced they were releasing a database containing 6,737 Fast Company employee records containing employees’ email addresses, password hashes for some of them, and unpublished drafts, among other information.

This same forum has been at the center of the recent Optus breach, which saw threat actors access an unspecified number of customer names, dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses and identity documents numbers, including driver’s license and passport numbers. So far, the hacker responsible claims to have released 10,200 records.

The Fast Company hacker, who claims to have previously breached photo-sharing website ClickASnap and a self-proclaimed free-speech social network USA Life, said they weren’t able to access customer records as they were likely stored in a separate database.



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NASA sings ‘I don’t want to miss a thing’ as DART spacecraft strikes asteroid • TechCrunch

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To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

At TechCrunch, we love being a conduit for everything that happens in the startup ecosystem. This year, there’s been a lot of layoffs, and we got to thinking, how can we help those who are struggling get back into the saddle? Our events team had a great idea: If you got laid off, we are offering a free Expo Pass to TechCrunch Disrupt, no strings attached. Come along, stay on the pulse of what’s happening out in startup land, and say hi to a bunch of the TechCrunch crew to boot. We’ll see you there! — Christine and Haje

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Arma-gettin outta here: NASA successfully smashed a satellite into an asteroid, Darrell reports. Cool, cool. Don’t worry, this is just in case real life tries to imitate “Armageddon” or “Deep Impact.”
  • Something else you have to clean: Flatfile estimates that data scientists spend a majority of their work time cleansing data, aka getting it ready for use in predictive analysis. It took in $50 million for its approach to automating this dirty task, Kyle reports.
  • Here’s my recruitment link: Ingrid reports that Calendly, the $3 billion+ scheduling startup, is getting into the recruitment game with its acquisition of Prelude, a startup that automates scheduling around job recruitment.

Startups and VC

If you’re reading this, you almost certainly have a complicated relationship with screens. Every year that passes, they become larger and increasingly present in our lives, Brian writes. Meanwhile, we continue to embrace the technology all while complaining about the hold it has on our lives. The Freewrite Alpha boldly asks: Can a small screen be too small?

We last profiled Cake in April when its line of lubricants, condoms, toys and sexual hygiene products made its debut in Target. The company now has five products in store locations as well as Amazon, Thrive Marketplace and UrbanOutfitters.com. Christine reports that the company’s well-lubricated expansion continues this week, with placement in some major retailers, including new space in CVS stores, as it announces $8 million in new Series A funding.

A few more from across the TechCrunch galaxy:

What can the 2000 dot-com crash teach us about the 2022 tech downturn?

Image Credits: Bob Riha Jr. (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Many entrepreneurs have been encouraged to believe that smooth storytelling and good social skills are enough to convince investors that things are moving according to plan. They are mistaken.

Instead of instinctively going into survival mode, M13 partner Anna Barber says founders should ask themselves existential questions like, “Why did you start this business? What are the fundamentals? Who are your customers? What problem are you solving?”

“At a time like this, trust is more important than ever,” she said, adding that she tells entrepreneurs to stay in close touch, “particularly around bad news.”

Before problems arise and between regularly scheduled meetings, entrepreneurs should get comfortable with asking for help and advice. Reaching out to share an update or ask questions sends a strong signal that you’re not waiting for someone to give you direction.

“Tell them what you need. This is what we’re here for: to roll up our sleeves and help problem-solve with you. Nobody expects any of this to be smooth sailing,” said Barber.

Three more from the TC+ team:

TechCrunch+ is our membership program that helps founders and startup teams get ahead of the pack. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!

Big Tech Inc.

Who would have thought a Roomba that both vacuums and mops would be such a necessity? Duh, iRobot did, and Brian has the skinny on why it exists.

People are unhappy with the state of Instagram these days, and the OG app is out to bring Instagram back to its glory days with features like realigning the feed to the user’s choice and being ad free, Ivan reports.

And we have five more for you:



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WhatsApp fixes ‘critical’ security bug that put Android phone data at risk • TechCrunch

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WhatsApp has published details of a “critical”-rated security vulnerability affecting its Android app that could allow attackers to remotely plant malware on a victim’s smartphone during a video call.

Details of the flaw, tracked as CVE-2022-36934 with an assigned severity rating of 9.8 out of 10, is described by WhatsApp as an integer overflow bug. This happens when an app tries to perform a computational process but has no space in its allotted memory, causing the data to spill out and overwrite other parts of the system’s memory with potentially malicious code.

WhatsApp didn’t share any further details about the bug. But security research firm Malwarebytes said in its own technical analysis that the bug is found in a WhatsApp app component called “Video Call Handler,” which if triggered would allow an attacker to take complete control of a victim’s app.

When reached for comment, WhatsApp did not immediately say if it has evidence of active exploitation or if the vulnerabilities were discovered in-house.

The critical-rated memory vulnerability is similar to a 2019 bug, which WhatsApp ultimately blamed on Israeli spyware maker NSO Group in 2019 for using to target 1,400 victims’ phones, including journalists, human rights defenders, and other civilians. The attack leveraged a bug in WhatsApp’s audio calling feature that allowed the caller to plant spyware on a victim’s device, regardless of whether the call was answered.

WhatsApp also disclosed this week details of another vulnerability, CVE-2022-27492, rated “high” in severity at 7.8 out of 10, which could allow hackers to run malicious code on a victim’s iOS device after sending a malicious video file.

“The manipulation with an unknown input leads to a memory corruption vulnerability,” said Pieter Arntz, an intelligence researcher at Malwarebytes. “To exploit this vulnerability, attackers would have to drop a crafted video file on the user’s WhatsApp messenger and convince the user to play it.”

Both flaws are patched in the latest versions of WhatsApp. Update today.



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Finally, a Roomba that vacuums and mops • TechCrunch

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IRobot makes robots that vacuum. IRobot makes robots that mop. Other companies make robots that vacuum and mop. So, why doesn’t iRobot? If you had asked the company that question as recently as a few weeks back, you likely would have gotten a stock answer about not doing something until you can do it right.

Obviously the answer is a bit more nuanced. For one thing, iRobot does make a two-in-one — kind of, sort of, at least. Thing is, it’s A) Only available in Europe and B) Apparently it’s not really up to the company’s own exacting standards when it comes to this sort of thing — something co-founder and CEO Colin Angle admitted in a conversation with TechCrunch last week.

Image Credits: irobot

“The customer is very excited about the convenience of a two-in-one robot, so we needed to build one,” the executive says. “But, being iRobot, we needed to actually build one, as opposed to doing it in a way that doesn’t deliver on the promise. Right now, most two-in-one robots are really one-plus-one.” He includes the aforementioned Roomba in that list.

The other interesting wrinkle in all of this is iRobot’s long history with mopping robots. The Scooba line dates back to 2006. The product was essentially a Roomba that swapped the debris bag for clean and dirty water tanks. It was discontinued after a decade, following iRobot’s acquisition of Evolution Robotics. That company’s Mint robot, which used a pad to clean floors, eventually became Braava.

Image Credits: iRobot

Today, iRobot announced the Roomba Combo j7+, the first Roomba (with that one notable exception) to bring two-in-one mopping and vacuuming to the popular product line. As suggested by the lengthy name, the new offering is based on the same hardware as the standard j7. The “+” refers to the emptying dock, while the “Combo” is a reference to the mopping functionality. Given the naming convention, it seems like the “Combo” feature will be coming to additional entries in the Roomba line, down the road.

The mopping functionality utilizes an arm that lowers a Braava-style pad to the floor and lifts up and lays flush on the top of the robot for safe stowage — and to avoid dragging the mop on the carpet. Among other things, the system’s on-board intelligence is able to distinguish carpeting/rugs from hardwood/tile/linoleum.

Image Credits: iRobot

The robot’s footprint is a bit larger than the standard j7, in part to afford extra space for the water tank. At the moment, the dock is not able to automatically empty the tank, as it does the vacuum bin, though that appears to be something the company is working on.

As you’ve no-doubt guessed, none of this comes cheap. The Combo j7+ goes up for preorder today, priced at $1,099. It starts shipping October 4, and will also be made available without the bin + bundle.



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