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The US is settling in for some new form of national gridlock, but state and local propositions are busy defining how technology businesses will be allowed to work (legally) in the US. Policies on topics as broad as customer usage and employment or as narrow as a drug chemical got the vote across the country. The results provide a blueprint for what you might expect to see in many more places.
Perhaps the best example is Proposition 22 in California, where a majority of the voters approved of new rules that allow companies like Uber and Lyft to continue operating with drivers as independent contractors. A previous piece of state legislation and related lawsuit would have required the companies to classify many drivers as full-time employees. Here’s Megan Rose Dickey, on the impact of the result:
Throughout the case, Uber and Lyft have argued that reclassifying their drivers as employees would cause irreparable harm to the companies. In the ruling last month, the judge said neither company would suffer any “grave or irreparable harm by being prohibited from violating the law” and that their respective financial burdens “do not rise to the level of irreparable harm.”
But now that Prop 22 is projected to pass, this lawsuit has far less legal ground to stand on. It’s also worth noting that Uber has previously said it may pursue similar legislation in other states.
The US presidential election of 2020 has been the most technologically sophisticated ever, but I’m gonna skip because there are relatively few startup angles for us here. However, if you are trying to craft user policies about politics, consider this election-eve analysis from Taylor Hatmaker about how Facebook and Twitter have changed their approaches since 2016.
Other notable startup-y items from our election coverage:
Something else happened in government this week that was not about the election — but may still be relevant to your startup. The SEC will now let companies raise up to $5 million per year in equity crowdfunding, up from a previous rule of $1.07 million. Lucas Matney has more for Extra Crunch.
The next billion-dollar e-commerce company will be a B2B marketplace
Business-to-business transactions are full of complexities beyond the consumer space, including four types of standard payment methods, sophisticated financing tools, bulk discounts, contractual pricing, delivery schedules, insurance and compliance. Merritt Hummer of Bain Capital Ventures breaks it down in a big guest post for Extra Crunch:
[I]t’s no wonder B2B e-commerce has been slower to digitize than B2C. From product discovery through the checkout process, a consumer buying a bag of licorice looks nothing like a retailer buying 100,000 bags of licorice from a distributor. The good news for B2B marketplace founders is that, based on the parameters above, there are many creative ways to extract value from transactions that go beyond the GMV take rate. Let’s explore some of the creative ways to monetize a B2B marketplace.
Instead of trying to take a cut of the gross merchandise value, like what Apple does with the App Store, successful startups have to be creative. These can include data monetization, embedded financial services, targeted advertising, private-label products, subscription fees and sampling fees. Here’s an excerpt from Hummer about that last one:
In most B2B verticals, individual transactions are so large that charging fees on a percentage basis means scaring potential customers away. In high-value markets with infrequent orders, charging a take rate on purchase orders will be perceived as unfair, especially when suppliers and buyers know each other already. But the fee-per-sample model is a unique wedge to aggregate suppliers and buyers, who often sample supplies before placing large orders.
One of our portfolio companies, Material Bank, has used this monetization strategy with success. Material Bank is a B2B marketplace for construction and interior design materials that warehouses samples (fabric swatches, paint chips, flooring materials, wall coverings, etc.) from hundreds of brands. Architects and interior designers can order free samples from Material Bank and receive them the next morning, and then ship samples back for free when they’re no longer needed. Material Bank charges the manufacturers a fee every time one of their samples is shipped out. Manufacturers receive new customer leads that require no effort to generate and are happy to outsource sample fulfillment, which was historically a cost center and not a core competency. Other B2B markets where sampling is well-established include chemicals, apparel and packaging materials.
How to start a VC fund without being rich already
Barriers to venture investing have been falling in recent years, as money has flowed into the asset class and as the opportunities for tech continue to grow. It is actually quite possible to raise your own fund if you don’t have much wealth to leverage — you’ll still have many things to figure out, though. Connie Loizos talks to limited partners and VCs who have been taking creative approaches for TechCrunch this week:
First, find investors, i.e. limited partners, who are willing to take less than 2% or 3% and maybe even less than 1% of the overall fund size being targeted. You’ll likely find fewer investors as that “commit” shrinks. But for example Joanna Rupp, who runs the $1.1 billion private equity portfolio for the University of Chicago’s endowment, suggests that both she and other managers she knows are willing to be flexible based on the “specific situation of the GP.”
Says Rupp, “I think there are industry ‘norms,’ but we haven’t required a [general partner] commitment from younger GPs when we have felt that they don’t have the financial means.”
Bob Raynard, founder of the fund administration firm Standish Management, echoes the sentiment, saying that a smaller general partner commitment in exchange for special investor economics is also fairly common. “You might see a reduced management fee for the LP for helping them or reduced carry or both, and that has been done for years.”
Explore management fee offsets. Use your existing portfolio companies as collateral. Make a deal with wealthier friends if you can. Get a bank loan. Consider the merits of so-called front loading.
She goes on to explain a number of tips including:
Explore management fee offsets.
Use your existing portfolio companies as collateral.
Make a deal with wealthier friends if you can.
Get a bank loan.
Consider the merits of so-called front loading.
Edtech startup M&A grows with the pandemic boom
Natasha Mascarenhas takes a look at the motivations behind recent acquisitions in the space for Extra Crunch this week, as edtech has gone from supplemental to vital during the pandemic. Here’s more detail about the Course Hero acquisition of Symbolab from the other week.
Symbolab is a math calculator that is set to answer over 1 billion questions this year. With each answer, Symbolab adds information to its algorithm regarding students’ most common pain points and confusion. Course Hero, in contrast, is a broader service that focuses on Q&A from a variety of subjects. CEO Andrew Grauer says Symbolab’s algorithm isn’t something that Course Hero, which has been operating since 2006, can drum up overnight. That’s precisely why he “decided to buy, instead of build… It made a lot of sense to move fast enough so it wouldn’t take up multiple years to get this technology.”
Across the week
#EquityPod: Fortnite is actually a SaaS company
What a week from us here in the United States, where the election is still being tabulated and precisely zero people are stressed at all. But, no matter what, the wheels of Equity spin on, so Danny and Natasha and Alex and Chris got together once again to chat all things startups and venture capital:
- Up top there was breaking news aplenty, including a suit from the U.S. government to try to block the huge Plaid-Visa deal. And, it was reported that Airbnb will drop its public S-1 filing early next week. That IPO is a go.
- Next we turned to the gaming world, riffing off of this piece digging into the venture mechanics of making and selling video games. Our hosting crew had a few differences of opinion, but were able to agree that Doom 3 was a masterpiece before moving on.
- Then it was time to talk Ant, and what the hell happened to its IPO. Luckily with Danny on deck we were in good hands. What a mess.
- Prop 22 was passed, which effectively allows Uber, Instacart and Lyft to keep their gig workers labeled as independent contractors, instead of employees. As a result, Uber and Lyft stocks soared, while gig worker collectives said that the fight is still on.
- Natasha scooped a series of Election Day filings from venture capital firms. In the mix: Precursor Ventures Fund III, Hustle Fund II and Insight Partner’s first Opportunity Fund.
- And finally, despite Election Day turning into an entire week, the public markets are rallying. Will we see a boom of IPOs?
- And, as a special treat, we didn’t even mention Maricopa County for the entire episode. Take care all!
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New York follows California mandating zero-emissions vehicles by 2035 • TechCrunch
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.
‘Virtual ward’ startup Doccla gets Series A injection as it eyes AI tools • TechCrunch
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.
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 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.”
Battery-swapping SPAC Gogoro secures $345M loan • TechCrunch
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.
Hacker breaches Fast Company systems to send offensive Apple News notifications • TechCrunch
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.
NASA sings ‘I don’t want to miss a thing’ as DART spacecraft strikes asteroid • TechCrunch
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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?
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:
Big Tech Inc.
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:
WhatsApp fixes ‘critical’ security bug that put Android phone data at risk • TechCrunch
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.
Finally, a Roomba that vacuums and mops • TechCrunch
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.
“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.
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.
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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