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Nvidia’s top scientist develops open-source ventilator that can be built with $400 in readily available parts

Nvidia Chief Scientist Bill Dally has released an open-source ventilator hardware design he developed in order to address the shortage resulting from the global coronavirus pandemic. The mechanical ventilator design developed by Dally can be assembled quickly, using off-the-shelf parts with a total cost of around $400 — making it an accessible and affordable alternative to traditional, dedicated ventilators, which can cost $20,000 or more.

The design created by Dally strives for simplicity, and basically includes just two central components — a solenoid valve and a microcontroller. The design is called the OP-Vent, and in the video below you can see how bare-bones it is in terms of hardware compared to existing alternatives, including some of the other more complex emergency-use ventilator designs developed in response to COVID-19.

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Dally’s design, which was developed using input from mechanical engineers and doctors, including Dr. Andrew Moore, a chief resident at Stanford University and Dr. Bryant Lin, a medical devices expert and company co-founder, can be assembled in as little as five minutes, and is small enough to fit in a Pelican case for easy transportation and potability. It also employs fewer parts and uses less energy than similarly simple designs that adapt the manual breather bags used by paramedics in emergency response.

Next up for the design is getting it cleared by the FDA under the agency’s Emergency Use Authorization program for COVID-19 equipment, and then seeking manufacturing partners to pursue large-scale manufacturing.

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Rode’s new white Wireless GO and accessories extend the flexibility of the most versatile creator mic

Sound industry leader Rode has done an amazing job keeping up with the needs of the fast-moving creator industry, supporting YouTubers, podcasters and Instagram and Tik Tok media mavens with a host of new products at impressive price points. The Rode Wireless GO mic system might be the most impressive of these, taking the quality you’d expect from a more expensive wireless mic pack system formerly reserved for broadcast pros and bringing it to the masses at a very compelling price point, with easy setup and use. Now, Rode has introduced a new white version of the Rode Wireless GO, along with new accessories that increase the flexibility of the already very flexible audio device.

I’ve been a fan of the Wireless GO since its launch, and previously used the original black version in a number of different capacities. The white version doesn’t mess with anything that was great about the original — it just gives you a light-colored option that is more suitable for use with light clothes when you’re shooting video. If you’re not already familiar with the Wireless GO, what you get in the box is a transmitter and a receiver (with built-in clips on the back for attachment to clothing), each of which charges via USB-C, along with wind filters, charging cables, a 3.5mm audio cable and a carrying case.

Out of the box, the receiver and transmitter are synced, so all you need to do is power them on to get started. The transmitter comes with a mic built-in, so you can immediately clip it to your collar to get started transmitting sound. The receiver pack can easily slide right into the cold shoe mount on a DSLR or mirrorless camera, and the included standard audio cable can connect from it to the camera’s mic input for direct recording.

The Rode Wireless GO’s USB-C port acts as an audio output, too, so you can use either a USB-C headset or a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter to get direct audio monitoring from the pack, too. On the transmitter side, there’s a 3.5mm input so you can connect a lavalier (or any other) mic to up your audio game even further. Speaking of lavs, Rode also introduced a new white version of its own Lavalier GO lapel mic, which is also a fantastic, affordable option that produces very high-quality results. Below, you can hear both the sound direct from the GO itself, and a sample using the Lavalier GO attached to the transmitter.

The versatility of the Wireless GO means that they’re incredibly useful for a wide range of uses. For instance, I have them connected into a USB audio interface on my main work Mac for use during video calls — I just power them up when it comes time to conference, and no one has to deal with muffled or low-quality audio from my end in terms of clarity and ease of understanding. On the road, the Wireless GO is also a great option for podcasting, providing much better sound than what you can get out of wireless earbuds or built-in device mics. And they’re extremely portable, unlike most USB mics that would also provide a good alternative.

Rode has also debuted a couple of accessories alongside this launch that make them great for even more use cases. The Interview GO adapter, for instance, allows you to mount the transmitter on a handheld mic grip, turning it into a stick mic complete with foam filter to reduce wind sounds and plosives. That means one less mic to carry around when you’re doing on-camera interviews with passersby, or participating in a media scrum.

There’s also a new magnetic clip attachment that means you can easily adapt the Rode Wireless GO transmitter pack to clip anywhere on a subject’s clothing, rather than requiring that it clip to a collar or exposed seam. This is huge for placement flexibility with any outfit, and can help with hiding the pack, too, if you’re looking to get a clean video shot.

Rode’s Wireless GO can also perform some neat tricks that could help with other audio applications, including being able to act as a latency-free wireless converter for any set of headphones. You can connect any input to the 3.5mm port on the transmitter, and then connect a set of headphones to the receiver and get that input piped to you directly.

It’s hard to find any mic system that’s truly a jack-of-all-trades without also having to deal with significant trade-offs in one department or another, but the Rode Wireless GO is pretty near perfect for a range of use at a price point that’s hard to beat. The GO itself costs $199, while the Lavalier GO is $79. The MagClip magnet clip for the transmitter is $19, and the Interview GO handheld mic adapter is $29.

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How this startup built and exited to Twitter in 1,219 days

By the summer of 2016, Marie Outtier had spent eight years as a consultant advising media agencies and martech companies on marketing growth strategy.

Pierre-Jean “PJ” Camillieri started as a music software engineer before joining one of Apple’s consumer electronics divisions. Inspired by Siri, he left to start Timista, a smart lifestyle assistant.

When the two joined forces to co-found Aiden.ai, the combination was potent — one was a consummate marketer, the other, a specialist in machine learning. Their goal: create an AI-driven marketing analyst that offered actionable advice in real time.

Humans who manage ad campaigns must analyze vast amounts of numbers, but Outtier and Camillieri envisioned a tool that could make optimization recommendations in real time. Analytics are vast and unwieldy, so theirs was a no-brainer proposition with a market crying out for solutions.

The company’s first office was at Bloom Space in Gower Street, London. It was just a handful of hot desks and a nearby sofa shared with four other startups. That summer, they began in earnest to build the company. A few months later, they had a huge opportunity when the still 100% bootstrapped company was selected for Techcrunch Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield competition.

Interviewed by TechCrunch, they explained their proposition: Marketers wanted to know where a digital marketing campaign was getting the most traction: Twitter or Facebook. You might need to check several dashboards across multiple accounts, plus Google analytics to compile the data — and even if you conclude that one platform is outperforming the other, that might change next week as users shift attention to Instagram, potentially wasting 60% of ad spend.

Aiden was intended to feel like just another co-worker, relying on natural language processing to make the exchange feel chatty and comfortable. It queried data from multiple dashboards and quickly compiled it into flash charts, making it easy to find and digest.

Eventually, instead of managing 10 clients, marketing analysts would be able to manage 50 using dynamic predictions as well as visualizations. Aiden incorporated Outtier’s expertise into its algorithms so it could suggest how to tweak a Facebook campaign and anticipate what was going to happen.

Was appearing at Disrupt a significant moment? “It was a big deal for us,” says Outtier. “The exposure gave us ammunition to raise our first round. And being part of the Disrupt Battlefield alumni gave us many meaningful networking and PR opportunities.”

A few weeks later the company had raised a seed round of $750,000. But not without difficulty. By this time Outtier was in the latter stages of pregnancy. Raising money under these circumstances was difficult, but, she says, “it can be done. It’s tougher than ‘normal circumstances.’ It’s a bit like running a marathon, but with a fridge on your back.”

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Facebook now allows users in the US & Canada to export photos and videos to Google Photos

Facebook is today rolling out a tool that will allow users in the U.S. and Canada to export their Facebook photos and videos to Google Photos. This data portability tool was first introduced in Ireland in December, and has since been made available to other international markets.

To use the feature, Facebook users will need to click on “Settings,” followed by “Your Facebook Information,” then “Transfer a Copy of Your Photos and Videos.” Facebook will ask you to verify your password to confirm your identity in order to proceed. On the next screen, you’ll be able to choose “Google Photos” as the destination from the “Choose Destination” drop-down box that appears. You’ll also need your Google account information to authenticate with its service before the transfer begins.

The tool’s release comes about by way of Facebook’s participation in the Data Transfer Project, a collaborative effort with other tech giants, including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Twitter, which focuses on building out common ways for people to transfer their data between online services.

Of course, it also serves as a way for the major tech companies to fend off potential regulation, as they’ll be able to point to tools like this as a way to prove they’re not holding their users hostage — if people are unhappy, they can just take their data and leave!

Facebook’s Director of Privacy and Public Policy Steve Satterfield, in an interview with Reuters on Thursday, essentially confirmed the tool is less about Facebook being in service to its users, and more about catering to policymakers’ and regulators’ demands.

“…It really is an important part of the response to the kinds of concerns that drive antitrust regulation or competition regulation,” Satterfield told the news outlet.

The launch also arrives conveniently ahead of a Federal Trade Commission hearing on September 22 that will be focused on data portability. Facebook said it would participate in that hearing, if approached, the report noted.

In Facebook’s original announcement about the tool’s launch last year, it said it would expand the service to include more than just Google Photos in the “near future.”

The transfer tool is not the only way to get your data out of Facebook. The company has offered Download Your Information since 2010. But once you have your data, there isn’t much else you can do with it — Facebook hasn’t had any large-scale rivals since older social networks like Myspace, FriendFeed (RIP!) and Friendster died and Google+ failed.

In addition to the U.S. and Canada, the photo transfer tool has been launched in several other markets, including Europe and Latin America.

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Twitter Q1: sales up 3% to $808M as it swings to a loss on COVID-19, mDAUS hit record 166M

Despite traffic for many online properties being at an all-time high, advertising has fallen off a cliff because of the downturn in consumer activity outside the home and the wider economic pressures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. And today, Twitter reported quarterly earnings that bore this trend out.

The ad-based social networking and media company said that in Q1 it made $808 million in revenues, actually up 3% on a year ago, with monetizable daily active users (Twitter’s own metric for measuring its audience) grew 24% to 166 million, an all-time high, adding 14 million average mDAUs since Q4 (152 million) and 32 million since Q1 of last year (134 million).

However, operating income for the quarter swung to a loss of $7 million, working out to a net margin of -1% and diluted EPS of -$0.01.

Analysts had expected, on average, to see $775.96 million in revenues on earnings per share of $0.10, so Twitter beat on sales, and missed on earnings. (Note: Twitter’s analyst consensus, provided to journalists, was a little different and painted a more positive picture: it noted average EPS expectations were -$0.02 on sales of $776 million, with expectations of mDAUs at 164 million. Twitter says that its figures are based on non-GAAP numbers, but even on GAAP EPS Twitter’s actual EPS is a beat on consensus of -$0.02.)

Times have really changed whichever way you look at it. In the same quarter a year ago, Twitter reported sales of $787 million, up 18%; net income of $191 million; and diluted EPS of $0.37.

“In this difficult time, Twitter’s purpose is proving more vital than ever,” said CEO Jack Dorsey in a statement. “We are helping the world stay informed, and providing a unique way for people to come together to help or simply entertain and remind one another of our connections. We’ve delivered our strongest ever year over year mDAU growth. Public conversation can help the world learn faster, solve common problems, and realize we’re all in this together. Our task now is to make sure we retain that connection over the long term with the many people new to Twitter.”

The company said that the quarter played out in “two distinct periods”, January through early March, which largely performed as expected, it said, and eearly March through the end of the quarter, “when the pandemic became global.”

None of this should come as a surprise. Twitter itself announced more than a month ago that it was removing its own financial guidance because of the instability of its business due to COVID-19 — noting only that it would be lower than expected:

“While the near-term financial impact of this pandemic is rapidly evolving and difficult to measure, based on current visibility, the company expects Q1 revenue to be down slightly on a year-over-year basis,” it wrote at the time. “Twitter also expects to incur a GAAP operating loss, as reduced expenses resulting from COVID-19 disruption are unlikely to fully offset the revenue impact of the pandemic in Q1.”

It did point out one bright spot, which is that it is picking up many more users because of increased “conversation about COVID-19 as well as ongoing product improvements.” Then, it said that quarter-to-date average total mDAU was around 164 million, up 23% from 134 million in Q1 2019 and up 8% from 152 million in Q4 2019.

Generally, Twitter’s fortunes this quarter are in line with results from Alphabet/Google and Facebook, which also reported earnings this week that reflect the impact of reduced advertising revenues due to fallout from the the public health crisis.

But even without the impact of COVID-19 on Twitter’s primary business of advertising, the company had been facing a tough time leading into the quarter. Like eBay, Twitter has been the subject of activist investor activity pushing for leadership and operational changes to improve growth and profitability. (Coincidentally, the same activist investor, Elliott, has been behind both efforts.) Unlike eBay, however, Twitter has managed to keep its CEO in place — co-founder Jack Dorsey — but has had to concede board seats as part of a wider financing package and strategy to refocus the business. There may be questions on the call today to see if all of that has been put on ice given how other factors are now in play.

One outcome from the deal it had cut with investors was to provide more actionable plans that translated to growth and profit, and on that front at least Twitter is playing ball.

It notes that it has “shifted resources and priorities to increase focus on our revenue products, particularly performance ads beginning with MAP [mobile application promotion ads], with the goal of accelerating our long-term roadmap.” This has included an ad server rebuild that should be finished by the end of Q2 to implement microservices architecture for more efficiency and to make it easier to make changes on the fly. It’s also implementing direct response advertising, also with the aim of adding new features that it can charge advertisers for.

We have increased our focus and the relative prioritization of our revenue products, and will shift and add product and engineering resources as practical to increase our pace of execution on this critical work,” it noted in the earnings letter.

Breaking out some specific numbers, advertising accounted for the lion’s share of sales at $682 million, with data licensing making up much of the remainder. US revenues were $468 million, up 8% year-over-year, while international was at $339 million, down 4%.

No layoffs announced (not yet) but as with others like Spotify, Twitter is putting a hold on hiring. The company had committed to increase headcount this year by at least 20% (alongside its CEO relocating to Africa temporarily and many other optimistic plans) but this is now being slowed down — to what extent, it did not say, but it did note that 2020 total expense growth would now be “considerably less” than the 20% it had projected.

More to come.

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Mark Cuban: ‘Raising money isn’t an accomplishment, it’s an obligation’

Mark Cuban isn’t impressed that you’ve raised money.

“If you think the accomplishment is raising money first, we’re probably not gonna get along,” said Cuban in an Extra Crunch Live interview. “If your orientation is ‘I got to raise the money first,’ you don’t really have a company yet, and you really haven’t accomplished anything yet. […] Sweat equity is the best equity.”

We also got his take on today’s economy, the nation’s direction and his notes on what startups should do to survive in the new world. Happily, as we had an hour to chat, we managed to cover a lot of ground. The full conversation (YouTube) is after the jump, and we’ve excerpted a number of quotes for your perusal.

But up top we wanted to share Cuban’s notes regarding which companies should accept Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds from the Small Business Administration. The matter became a hot-button issue in and around Silicon Valley, where initial debate centered around which startups could access the money. After it became clear the first installment of PPP funds wasn’t going to last, whether startups should access to the capital at all became a question. Some venture-backed companies even decided to return their PPP check.

According to Cuban, when PPP was first put together, the market’s “perspective was that there’d be plenty of money for everybody. You know, people didn’t really want to do the math.” Cuban said that if there was $350 billion in the pot and one million small businesses, the fund would have worked out to $350,000 apiece. “Well guess what,” he said, “there are 30 million companies, [and] like 20 of them are independent contractors.”

Once you did the calculations again with that many companies eligible for PPP funds, you could tell that the money wasn’t going to last. So Cuban told firms that he’s invested in where he has sway to “either not apply or just pay it back immediately.” Why? “For the betterment of the country and the economy,” he said, adding that “if you do have access to capital” or “your business isn’t dramatically impacted [then] let’s leave [the PPP money] for the people who need it the most.”

As noted, the full video is below (you can join Extra Crunch here!), along with Cuban’s notes on startup advice during the pandemic, American 2.0 (and Marc Andreessen’s essay), AI, pre-seed companies, his future in politics and how to pitch him.

Mark Cuban on the record

How he’s advising portfolio companies during the pandemic:

So first and foremost, communicate. Second is be honest. Third is be transparent. And fourth is be authentic. Because everybody is nervous. Everybody is terrified at a certain level. So you just have to recognize that. People are going to need that honesty from you and people are going to want communications from you. That’s been the primary thing around what these companies should do.

Regarding cutting costs: Every business is different. On the smallest ones, they’re already grinding, and it’s typically dependent on the founder. I’ve really tried to encourage people to keep all their employees on if at all possible. That there’s gonna be a lot of change and that’s going to create a lot of opportunity. So, if you can hold on to your employees and push forward in any way, shape, or form, you may have an opportunity.

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IPOs, crypto funds and other things I missed this week

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

What a week it’s been. I’m exhausted. Not only are we another cycle deeper into the COVID-19 quarantine, but there seems to be more news than ever to sift through. I’ve fallen behind. So, today, this little column is taking look back at things that it missed but wanted to cover. (There may come a day when we run out of stuff to talk about, but it’s not coming any time soon.)

So let’s talk about a16z’s new crypto fund, recent economic data, the Ebang F-1, Lime’s layoffs, Procore’s IPO delay and fresh valuation, stocks, Luckin, and, if we have time, Twitter’s changing jobs data. Let’s get this all out of our heads and into the world.

Odds, ends

To annoy my editors, we’re using bullet points this morning. Bullet points are great way to convey a bloc of information in a neat format. Let the haters hate, we have a lot of ground to cover:

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Monzo recruits former Amex exec Sujata Bhatia as its new COO

More personnel changes are afoot at Monzo, as the U.K. challenger bank continues to bolster its leadership team.

Specifically, TechCrunch has learned that Sujata Bhatia, a former American Express executive in Europe, has been recruited as Monzo’s new Chief Operating Officer, replacing previous COO Tom Foster-Carter (who left the bank rather suddenly in November to found a startup of his own). Monzo confirmed Bhatia’s appointment, which is still subject to regulator approval, and I understand she is due to start the COO role in late June.

Prior to Monzo, Bhatia spent almost 16 years at American Express. Her most recent position at Amex was Senior Vice President for Global Merchant Services Europe. Before that she was Senior Vice President of Global Strategy and Capabilities, where, according to her LinkedIn profile, she lead a team of 400 people across 23 global markets.

Bhatia’s appointment follows the recruitment of Mike Hudack, the former CTO of Deliveroo and most recently a founding partner at London venture capital firm Blossom Capital. He joined Monzo in March as the challenger bank’s new Chief Product Officer. Going in the opposite direction was Meri Williams, Monzo’s Chief Technical Officer, who parted ways with the bank a few weeks later citing her wish to voluntarily help with “cost-cutting measures.”

Meanwhile, Bhatia joins Monzo at a somewhat turbulent time for the challenger bank, as it, along with many other fintech companies, attempts to insulate itself from the coronavirus crisis and resulting economic downturn, meaning that the new COO will likely need to hit the ground running.

Last month, I reported that Monzo was shuttering its customer support office in Las Vegas, seeing 165 customer support staff in the U.S. lose their jobs. And just a few weeks earlier, we reported that the bank was furloughing up to 295 staff under the U.K.’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. In addition, the senior management team and the board has volunteered to take a 25% cut in salary, and co-founder and CEO Tom Blomfield has decided not to take a salary for the next twelve months.

Like other banks and fintechs, the coronavirus crisis has resulted in Monzo seeing customer card spend reduce at home and (of course) abroad, meaning it is generating significantly less revenue from interchange fees. The bank has also postponed the launch of premium paid-for consumer accounts, one of only a handful of known planned revenue streams, alongside lending, of course.

With that said, Monzo recently launched business accounts, many of which are revenue generating, with both free and paid tiers. I understand from sources that the number of business accounts opened to date already stands at approaching 20,000.

Related to this, having originally missed out on state aid via the capability and innovation fund designed to introduce more competition in SME banking, Monzo now has a second potential bite of the apple after previous grant winners Metro and Nationwide are returning the money.

As always, watch this space.

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12 major league edtech VCs discuss top trends, opportunities

Ready or not, edtech has been shoved into the spotlight as millions of students shifted to remote learning due to pandemic-related school shutdowns.
But backing these companies are investors who have long believed that edtech was always set up for great returns and a big impact. We reached out to …

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Japanese payment service provider Paidy raises $43M from ITOCHU

Paidy, a Japanese fintech startup that allows customers to make online purchases without credit cards, announced today that it has raised a $48 million Series C extension from ITOCHU.
The company says it has now raised a total of $281 million in equity and debt. Its latest investment from ITOCHU, one of …

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