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DoorDash IPO bets that the pandemic has accelerated change – TechCrunch

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DoorDash has become the go-to delivery choice for millions of people cooped up during the pandemic this year. Now it has filed an S-1, revealing its financials as it nears a long-intended IPO. These innards show an exciting business — and a larger story about how the year is going for tech companies in general.

When the company filed initial public offering paperwork back in February, it was coming off of an expensive year of growth in 2019. The California state legislature was passing laws, meanwhile, that directly targeted its gig-economy labor model. Then the pandemic hit. More from Alex Wilhelm:

DoorDash has grown incredibly rapidly, scaling its revenues from $291 million in 2018 to $885 million in 2019. And more recently, from $587 million in the first nine months of 2019 to $1.92 billion in the same period of 2020. That is 226% growth in 2020 thus far… How high-quality is DoorDash’s revenue? In the first three quarters of 2019, the company had gross margins of 39.9%, and in the same period of 2020 the figure rose to 53.1%, a huge improvement for the consumer consumable delivery confab.

The other jolt of good news for the company arrived last week. A California ballot proposition passed that preserved the contractor model it relies on for deliveries.

World events did not take a breath, though. A COVID-19 vaccine appeared on the horizon this week, and could lead to the pandemic ending as soon as next year. Will this be bad for DoorDash’s business? Alex took another look at the numbers for Extra Crunch, and didn’t come away with a clear answer. On the one hand, the company has been making ongoing investments in its delivery platform technology, which has helped to drive the success this year already. On the other hand, the S-1 is open about post-pandemic reality — profitability is going to decline. Alex:

To buy into the DoorDash IPO, especially at its currently floated $25 billion price, you have to believe that the company’s revenue growth will slow modestly at most. Otherwise the price makes no sense. Bearish investors who might expect the company to post negative growth in Q3 2021 won’t pay any price for DoorDash shares, but in between the two camps is a mess of vaccine timings, shifts in consumer behavior and macroeconomic questions that could determine how many American families can afford delivery. All of which will impact DoorDash’s future growth rates.

For those looking further out, DoorDash stock is about how you think the pandemic is going to change the world for the long term, or not. Are we going to be using DoorDash more often now for deliveries? Are we going to be at home as much in the first place? Or are we going to go back to offices, stores and restaurants like we did before?

Speaking of investors, Danny Crichton illustrates why it pays to bet on the world changing. The company has raised nearly $2.5 billion over the years. Today that includes an 18.2% ownership stake by Sequoia, 22.1% by the SoftBank Vision Fund, and 9.3% by Singapore’s GIC. As he writes for Extra Crunch, the founding executives Tony Xu, Andy Fang and Stanley Tang each own around 5% — smallish wedges of a growing pie. Maybe that is too much dilution? Or maybe, considering all of the other delivery companies that have failed or gone sideways, this is the pinnacle of success in the sector.

A health care worker holds an injection syringe of the phase 3 vaccine trial, developed against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by the U.S. Pfizer and German BioNTech company, at the Ankara University Ibni Sina Hospital in Ankara, Turkey

(Photo by Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Vaccine

We all knew that at some point solutions would be figured out. But as COVID-19 cases have climbed this season, and as anxiety built around elections, it was hard to believe that the vaccine was right around the corner. The initial success reported Monday by BioNTech and Pfizer may mean that these two companies are close to success. But many other companies are attempting to use the same experimental gene-based vaccines so we may see others winners soon.

The stock market is already repricing tech stocks, in any case. Besides the timely arrival of the DoorDash S-1, here are a few other headlines about the impact of the news:

Positive vaccine news punishes pandemic-boosted companies like Zoom, Peloton, Etsy

What happens to high-flying startups if the pandemic trade flips? (EC)

As public investors reprice edtech bets, what’s ahead for the hot startup sector? (EC)

5 VCs discuss the future of SaaS and software after Pfizer’s vaccine breakthrough (EC)

Image Credits: John Artman

Tencent’s fintech business is the size of an Ant

In other news about political turbulence and the tech world, Rita Liao inspects Tencent’s quietly huge fintech empire and concludes that it “will need to tread more carefully on regulatory issues.”

Here’s why, for those trying to understand this global company and its place across markets:

As Ant Group seizes the world’s attention with its record initial public offering, which was abruptly called off by Beijing, investors and analysts are revisiting the fintech interests of Tencent, Ant’s arch rival in China. It’s somewhat complicated to do this, not least because they are sprawled across a number of Tencent properties and, unlike Ant, don’t go by a single brand or operational structure — at least, not one that is obvious to the outside world. However, when you tease out Tencent’s fintech activity across its wider footprint — from direct operations like WeChat Pay through to its sizeable strategic investments and third-party marketplaces — you have something comparable in size to Ant, and in some services even bigger.

How one founder combined edtech and gaming

Serial founder Darshan Somashekar writes that if you want to build a great edtech product, then perhaps it should be a game. Here’s more, from his guest column for Extra Crunch this week:

Earlier this year, we launched Solitaired, a casual gaming platform that ties card games to educational experiences and brain training. We’re still early, but signs are encouraging: Our average time on site is 30 minutes, more than three times that of our earlier business. Even better, users come back often, on average returning more than five times per month. Since we’re now in the gaming space, we should have expected these metrics, but they still blew our expectations away. We’ve also found that the downsides can be mitigated. For example, high engagement has led to strong virality, driving down our CAC and increasing our growth. In-app purchase abuses can be tempting for game developers, but by focusing on user growth KPIs, we don’t have the desire to go down those routes. Lastly, the threat of Big Tech is there, but at present most of their attempts have yet to strike a chord among users. More importantly, that’s why choosing a market so massive that even individual Big Tech players can’t dominate is key: With a market this size, you can shoot for the stars, miss the moon and still do well for yourself.

Around TechCrunch

Pioneers of in-space refueling and manufacturing join TC Sessions: Space 2020

NASA’s head of human spaceflight, Kathryn Lueders, will join us at TC Sessions: Space

Get fast money for your space startup at TC Sessions Space this December

Across the week

TechCrunch

This startup is betting that you want to binge remote-work content

Calling Dublin VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

Human Capital: The gig economy in a post-Prop 22 world

‘Free speech’ social network Parler tops app store rankings following Biden’s election win

Renewable power represents almost 90% of total global power capacity added in 2020

Extra Crunch

Square and PayPal earnings bring good (and bad) news for fintech startups

What I wish I’d known about venture capital when I was a founder

Conflicts in California’s trade secret laws on customer lists create uncertainty

What we’ve learned about working from home 7 months into the pandemic

Dear Sophie: What does Biden’s win mean for tech immigration?

#EquityPod

From Alex:

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast (now on Twitter!), where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

The full Equity crew was on hand to debate the current venture capital market, curious about how risk-on, or risk-off things really are today. DannyNatasha and I framed the conversation around a number of news items from the week, including:

  • Wrkfrce has launched, and we wanted to chat more about the future of niche media, bringing The Juggernaut’s own recent round and the Quartz shakeup into the conversation.
  • And on the media front — always a risky venture capital investing domain — Spotify has snapped up another podcasting company, this time paying $235 for Megaphone. Our take? A string of small exits probably won’t encourage VCs to take on more risk in the space (Hunter Walk said the same thing here.)
  • Turning to risk more generally, I asked Natasha to weigh in on the earlier stages of the venture market, and Danny on its later tranches. There’s still lots of money, but it appears more focused on chasing winners than bolstering or supporting less-obvious startups.
  • That market is not slowing a risk-on move toward more venture capital players, as the Spearhead news showed a new focus for the firm to invest in emerging fund managers.
  • And there’s still plenty of risk tolerance in remote-work solutions like Hopin, which just raised $125 million at a $2+ billion valuation. We’re torn on the round, but Danny likes it and he’s a former VC.
  • And we wrapped with a chat about upcoming IPOs, and the recent SoftBank results. If DoorDash, Airbnb and others are going to go this year, they need to go soon. So far, no dice.

It was a busy week, despite the month. Expect more of the same next week.

Finally, don’t forget that our own Chris Gates is cutting Equity videos out of every episode that you can find over on YouTube. He does a great job and it’s great to be on video, as well as audio platforms.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

 

 





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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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Here are the industries ripe for innovation under the Inflation Reduction Act • TechCrunch

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With a month of hindsight, we’re getting a better picture of what the Inflation Reduction Act will mean for the American economy and the climate tech sector itself.

The new law caught many by surprise, both in the climate tech space and elsewhere. Few had thought sweeping climate legislation was possible. The final bill is not quite as comprehensive as some had hoped, but it has created a series of incentives that promise to bolster innovation and manufacturing throughout the U.S. economy.

While a lot of pixels have been lit over the extension and expansion of electric vehicle tax creditsit’s an important provision! — some of the biggest shifts will likely stem from the myriad incentives the law offers homeowners and property investors to upgrade their buildings.

In my conversations with founders over the last few weeks, nearly all of them have said the IRA, as it’s now confusingly known, has given their businesses significant tailwinds. Part of that optimism and confidence stems from the fact that the IRA approaches electrification and energy efficiency from a variety of angles, giving the market a jolt of supply- and demand-side signals that should support later-stage startups while spurring new founders to get in the game.



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