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Music Streaming Site Grooveshark Closes As Part Of Legal Settlement

07:12 | 1 May

After years of legal battles, music streaming service Grooveshark has shut down.

The only thing on its site now is a statement:

“Today we are shutting down Grooveshark.

We started out nearly ten years ago with the goal of helping fans share and discover music. But despite best of intentions, we made very serious mistakes. We failed to secure licenses from rights holders for the vast amount of music on the service.

That was wrong. We apologize.
Without reservation.

As part of a settlement agreement with the major record companies, we have agreed to cease operations immediately, wipe clean all of the record companies’ copyrighted works and hand over ownership of this website, our mobile apps and intellectual property, including our patents and copyrights.”

The company, which was founded in 2006, went on to recommend some of the newer music streaming services that were established after its launch nearly 10 years ago, such as Spotify and Deezer.

Grooveshark suffered a major defeat last fall when a U.S. District Court judge found that its employees had violated copyright infringement laws.

That lawsuit was only the latest in a series of legal battles that started six years ago and led to Grooveshark being temporarily blacklisted from Google’s autocomplete search results in 2013.

TechCrunch has emailed Grooveshark for more information about its closure and the future of their team.



Walmart retreats from its UK Asda business to hone its focus on competing with Amazon

15:46 | 30 April

Walmart’s strategy to get itself fighting fit against Amazon saw one more development today.

This morning, UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s announced a deal with Walmart to buy a majority stake in Asda, Walmart’s wholly-owned UK subsidiary. The deal values Asda at £7.3 billion, and (if it closes) will net Walmart £2.975 billion in cash, a 42 percent share of the combined business as a “long-term shareholder”, and 29.9 percent voting rights in the combined entity, which will include 2,800 Sainsbury’s, Asda and Argos stores and 330,000 employees in the country.

The news underscores how Walmart, off the back of a challenging quarter of e-commerce sales in the crucial holiday period (news that shook investors enough to send Walmart’s sock tumbling), is still trying to figure out the right mix of its business to fight off not just current retail competition, but also whatever form its competition might take in the future. At the moment, the one big common rival in both of those scenarios is Amazon.

In the US, Walmart has been trying out multiple routes for consumers to shop in new ways that address the kinds of options that the likes of Amazon now offers them. Targeting different geographies and demographics, Walmart has made big bets like its $3 billion acquisition of; expanding its own new delivery services, and payment and return methods; as well as running pilots with various third parties like Postmates and DoorDash.

Internationally, it’s a different story. Walmart has a significantly reduced presence — its international business in aggregate is around one-third the size of its US business, $118 million in FY2017 versus $318 million. And with no clearly dominant position in any of its international markets, this has led the company to consider a variety of other options to figure out the best way forward.

“This proposed merger represents a unique and bold opportunity, consistent with our strategy of looking for new ways to drive international growth,” said Judith McKenna, president and CEO of Walmart International, in a statement. “Asda became part of Walmart nearly 20 years ago, and it is a great business and an important part of our portfolio, acting as a source of best practices, new ideas and talent for Walmart businesses around the world. We believe this combination will create a dynamic new retail player better positioned for even more success in a fast-changing and competitive UK market. It will unlock value for both customers and shareholders, but, at the same time, it’s the colleagues at Asda who make the difference, and this merger will provide them with broader opportunities within the retail group.  We are very much looking forward to working closely with Sainsbury’s to deliver the benefits of the combined business.”

The UK market is a prime example of the kind of scenario that hasn’t been working as well for Walmart as it could, and I think that the decision for Walmart to move back from its UK business has a strong link to the Amazon effect on the market.

In the UK, Asda is number-three in supermarket share, with a 15.6 percent stake, after leader Tesco and Sainsbury’s. All three of the leaders focus on traditional supermarket formats, and their modern-day UK twists. This translates to huge stores with multiple selections for each product ranging from bargain tiers to more expensive, premium varieties; sizeable chains of smaller convenience store-style locations; and online delivery of varying popularity.

The three tiers of operations may sound like diversification, but it’s actually very undiversified within its category, making for extreme price competition on products themselves (and that happens both before and after you buy: another smaller competitor, the online grocery delivery Ocado, regularly refunds me money, unprompted, on products it says are sold for less at competing stores).

On top of that, the big three have all been cannibalised in recent times — in part because of the insurgence of smaller, discount stores like Aldi and Lidl that forego brand names in favor of a smaller selection of often their own brands at a cheaper price (a little like Trader Joe’s, which is owned by Aldi, but often much less expensive); and in part because of a big shift to shopping online, an area where Amazon is hoping to only get bigger and is investing a lot. In addition to Amazon’s Whole Foods acquisition, in the UK specifically, this has included rumors that it’s eyed up the online-only shopping service Ocado, and it partners with another UK supermarket chain, Morrisons.

The fact that Amazon is now also branching into physical locations on the back of its strong online sales and corresponding logistics record is a major threat to Walmart and others that have built physical businesses first, and I think that Walmart has assessed all of the above and decided to throw in the towel on trying to tackle it on its own.

Notably, while Walmart on its own has been unable to reach a number-one position in the UK market, combined with Sainsbury’s (and as a minority partner) it will. Asda and Sainsbury’s would have a market share of over 31 percent (Sainsbury’s today has 15.8 percent; Asda 15.6 percent), putting it ahead of current leader Tesco (27.6 percent). That also means that the deal will face regulatory scrutiny, and might get suppered, or come with sell-off caveats, to go ahead.

The news about Asda in the UK comes amid a series of other chops and changes in Walmart’s business outside of its core US market.

In India, Walmart is inching closer to a deal to acquire a majority stake in online retailer Flipkart, the largest online retailer in the country that itself is feeling a lot of heat from Amazon.

Walmart’s $10 billion – $12 billion deal for Flipkart, which is now expected to be close at the end of June, would give the company a 51 percent stake of Flipkart, valuing the Indian online giant at about $18 billion. Amazon has made India — a fast-growing economy with strong consumer trends embracing digital commerce — a large priority in its international strategy, with plans to invest some xx billion into its efforts in the country.

Looking ahead, Walmart is also rumored to be looking at stepping away from Brazil.

It’s a long-term plan for the company. Two years ago, Walmart placed its e-commerce efforts in China into a venture with Alibaba’s as a partial retreat from that market.

After that Walmart seemed to put its efforts there on hold — its local Chinese corporate site ceasing to update after 2016 but not disappearing altogether. But more recently, just last month in fact, in a signal of how it hopes to continue to combine physical and digital retail — or online-to-offline, as its often called — Walmart opened a pared-down “high tech” supermarket. Here people can shop for a select number of food and other items, as well as browse for these and many more to buy online on JD Daojia (the JD venture) while in-store, and have them delivered.

The latest store in China, and Walmart’s approach there, could be an interesting template for what we might expect in the UK if its sale gets the green light from regulators. Sainsbury’s also owns Argos, a retailer that has essentially been built on the catalog and online sales model: there is no large-presence retail floor, and instead, people order items — either at a counter in the store itself, or online — and either have them delivered or pick them up at another counter in the shop itself. Could we see a scenario of similar “high-tech” supermarkets open in the UK, where the Asda brand is used in a similar turn with subsequently greatly reduced retail footprints?




Sources: Google is buying Lytro for about $40M

07:47 | 21 March

Last week, Google showed off a new app to display immersive photography in virtual reality, and a multi-camera technique for capturing it, and now it looks like there may be plans to enhance that with some bolted-on technology created by a third party.

Multiple sources tell us that Google is acquiring Lytro, the imaging startup that began as a ground-breaking camera company for consumers before pivoting to use its depth-data, light-field technology in VR.

One source described the deal as an “asset sale” with Lytro going for no more than $40 million. Another source tells us that not all employees are coming over with the company’s technology: some have already received severance and parted ways with the company, and others have simply left. Assets would presumably also include Lytro’s 59 patents related to light-field and other digital imaging technology.

The sale would be far from a big win for Lytro and its backers. The startup has raised just over $200 million in funding and was valued at around $360 million after its last round in 2017, according to data from PitchBook. Its long list of investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Foxconn, GV, Greylock, NEA, Qualcomm Ventures and many more.

The stage of the deal also is not clear. Emails to several investors have received either no response, or no comment. Multiple emails to Google and Lytro also have had no response.

A pricetag of $40 million is not quite the exit that was envisioned for the company when it first launched its camera concept, and in the words of investor Ben Horowitz, “blew my brains to bits.”

The company’s trajectory since being founded in 2006 (originally as Refocus Imaging) by Ren Ng underscores a few of the ongoing challenges in the startup world: hardware remains hard; VR has not grown as fast as some had thought that it would; and more generally, large platforms will loom as persuasive consolidators especially when conditions for the the first two of those issues become tight.

In the case of Lytro, that translated to captivating but expensive cameras; a weaker business funnel for its pivot to VR; and, it appears, a persuasive offer from a company that has plenty of cash and time to wait out the right market conditions for new platforms, and in the meantime to consider the multiple uses of the tech in a variety of different scenarios, be it in its automotive or mapping businesses, or gaming or something else entirely.

(Coincidentally, it seems that Lytro only recently made an acquisition of its own, of Limitless, to expand its work in VR for games.)

What Google would intend to do with Lytro is not very clear right now. But more generally, an exit to the company would give Lytro the potential to integrate and apply its technology at one of the world’s biggest tech companies, which controls development of the world’s most widely used smartphone operating system.

It has also been doubling down on a full spectrum (geddit) of technologies and products related to how we see digital images today and in the future. That has included a plethora of work and acquisitions around computer vision technologies; how images are stored, manipulated and displayed; and how they are captured.

Lytro falls into the third of these categories, with technology that provides a way to capture the so-called light field of an image — that is, a full, all-angles shot of a scene, which produces a depth of data and perspectives, made so that someone can view that scene in an immersive way.

This is tech that is especially useful for VR, where flatter images can cause motion sickness because they do not move as well with the viewer. But such imaging tech also has the long term potential to be applied in a variety of other places.

“We believe we have the opportunity to be the company that defines the production pipeline, technologies and quality standards for an entire next generation of content,” Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal wrote in a blog post at the time of its last funding, just over a year ago. Now, it appears that it might be Google’s turn to see how that ambition will play out.



On-demand dog walking startup Wag quietly raised funding from General Catalyst and Sherpa Ventures

22:37 | 31 March

Earlier this week we wrote about how two big players in the pet-care business, Rover and DogVacay, decided to merge. Well, sources tell us that over the past two years Wag, another player in the dog-walking space, raised two rounds of funding to support expansion into new markets.

While it’s easy to lump Wag, DogVacay and Rover together, there are some key differences in the way they operate. DogVacay and Rover operate on more of a marketplace model, where pet sitters or dog walkers connect directly with pet owners prior to a pet changing hands.

In contrast, Wag offers more of an on-demand experience where the company pre-screens walkers and sends whoever is available to walk a dog when a request comes in. As a result, Wag operates more like Uber or Lyft than Airbnb, both in terms of its screening process for walkers and expansion into new markets.

Even so, Wag has been entering new markets at a regular pace. The last time we wrote about Wag, just about two years ago, the company had just launched its on-demand dog-walking service in San Francisco. Since then, the company, which was founded in Los Angeles, has added a number of other cities where users can request dog walkers. Wag walkers are available in places like Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Miami, New York, Orange County, Portland, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

To support its regional expansion, the company has raised a couple of rounds of funding that had previously gone unannounced. Over the past two years the company has raised a Series A round from General Catalyst and Series B round from Sherpa Ventures.

Together, those two rounds of funding added up to about $19 million, sources tell us, with GC leading a $4 million round and Sherpa putting in $15 million last fall. That money comes on top of the $2.4 million in seed funding Wag raised from investors that include Freestyle Capital, CrunchFund, Greylock, Ludlow Ventures, RRE Ventures, Slow Ventures, Social Leverage and Structure Capital.

Representatives from Wag and General Catalyst declined to comment, while representatives from Sherpa did not reply to our request.

Featured Image: benjgibbs/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE



Polestar unveils first production EV with aim to overtake Tesla

21:58 | 21 September

Polestar debuted its first production EV and previewed its electric car line in New York with the CEO squarely taking aim at Tesla.

The Volvo subsidiary pulled the cover off its Polestar 1, which it positioned less as a hybrid and more as a fully electric (gas optional) car to attract fence sitters to EVs.

The $155,000 auto—that will hit streets in 2019—has 3 electrical motors powered by twin 34kWh battery packs and a turbo and supercharged gas V4 up front (more details here).

All electric range is up to 100 miles—which the company claims gives the Polestar 1 the longest all electric range of any production hybrid.

Polestar drivetrain

The Polestar 1 brings 600 horsepower and 738 ft-lbs of torque. It is the first in a series, with an all electric Polestar 2 to debut in 2019 and a Polestar 3 SUV after that.

“Polestar 2 will be a direct competitor to the Tesla Model 3…” CEO Thomas Ingenlath said on the launch stage.

He told TechCrunch the company will focus more on creating converts to EVs than pulling away Tesla’s existing market share.

Thomas Ingenlath, chief executive officer, Polestar

One advantage Ingenlath described was using Polestar 1 as a gateway car for getting laggards to go all electric. “There are many people out there who still think a car has to have a combustion engine,” he said. “Polestar 1 is an extremely good vehicle to get people across that line and once they drive it…understand what an amazing experience an electric car is.”

Polestar converts shouldn’t get too attached to that gasoline/voltage combo, however.

Polestar 1 will be the company’s first and last electric and gas vehicle, according to Ingenlath. “The future is electric. We will not do a hybrid car again,” he told TechCrunch.

At their New York Polestar 1 debut, the company devoted about as much time to the Polestar sales and service experience as the actual car. It will be multi-channel—from app to physical—leveraging parts of Volvo’s dealer network for certain things and staying completely separate for others. For one, Polestar will not have dealers or use Volvo dealers to showcase their cars, according to Ingenlath.

The buyer experience will start on the company’s app, then move into what it refers to as a network of “Polestar Spaces” across the U.S., Europe, and China where buyers can view and test cars. Purchased cars can be delivered to one’s home and service coordinated by app and home pickup—though Polestar will use Volvo dealers (not their spaces) on the service end.

“We will become a company that produces around a 100,000 cars a year and this will definitely scale-up,” said Ingenlath. “We’ll never become a Volvo, but we certainly need a certain scale to come in to a profitable range.”

The company oversubscribed orders for the Polestar 1 with 200 cars coming to North American buyers.

While Polestar’s HQ is in Gothenburg, Sweden, it will manufacture cars at a plant in Chengdu China.

The company’s EV debut comes as Tesla’s $49,000 to $64,000 Model 3 earned the NHTSA’s top safety rating and Audi introduced it $74,800 all electric e-tron SUV (covered here at TechCrunch)

In the U.S. market Tesla still dominates plugin sales by make and model and its Model 3 is expected to boost that lead, according to EV Volumes.



Tesla shows off a new Panasonic-made low-profile residential solar panel

17:52 | 10 April

Tesla is still hoping to begin installations of its solar roof tile product later this year, but that’s not really a great option unless you’re building new or replacing your existing roof, so it makes sense that it would continue to also offer retrofit solar options, like the new Panasonic panels it began advertising on its site quietly over the weekend.

The new roof tiles showed up on Tesla’s Energy website, as noted by Electrek, and advertise a new low-profile design created specifically for Tesla by Panasonic as part of the partnership between the two companies. Tesla and Panasonic have already long-partnered on Tesla’s vehicle batteries, but the two extended their collaboration to solar with the new large-scale manufacturing facility in Buffalo, NY. These won’t be offered up to any other solar supplier or to consumers, except thorugh Tesla.

They’re not yet in production, but that’s expected to begin this summer according to Tesla, Electrek says, and while they aren’t quite as camouflaged as the forthcoming solar tiles, they do blend in much better with existing dark-colored roof materials vs. traditional panels, and they have a lower profile to hug the existing roof that much more closely.

As for tech specs, the panels have a 325-watt capacity, and Tesla says they best existing industry standards in terms of durability and overall life. Tesla’s accepting requests for quotes for the new system currently via its just-launched website, but actual installation dates remain TBD.



HoloLens Hands-On: How We Built An App For Microsoft’s Augmented Reality Headset

09:13 | 1 May

Microsoft’s HoloLens is no joke. We’ve now tried the company’s latest revision of its unreleased augmented reality headset and even built an app for it. The new hardware, which Microsoft also showcased during its Build developer conference keynote yesterday, feels very solid and the user experience (mostly) delivers on the company’s promises.

Earlier today, Microsoft gave developers and some of us media pundits a chance to spend some quality time with HoloLens by building our own “holographic application” using the Unity engine and Visual Studio.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that HoloLens is all about augmented reality. It’s about placing objects into the real world, which you can still see while you are wearing the headset. It’s not a virtual reality headset like the Oculus Rift, so it’s not about total immersion. Instead, it lets you see objects on a table in front of you that aren’t there in the real world, for example, and it lets you interact with them as if they were real objects.

When you first see somebody who is using HoloLens, you will probably think something is wrong with them. They’ll walk around things you can’t see, make random click gestures in the air (“air-tapping” is what Microsoft calls that) and probably ooh and ahh a few times.

Until you’ve used HoloLens — and very few people have — this all sounds very abstract. But once you strap it on and use it, it’s indeed a bit of a revelation.

The early (and highly positive reviews) from Microsoft’s January event, where a few select members of the press got to try it, weren’t an exaggeration.

Let me walk you through the experience Microsoft put on for us today. After locking all of our electronic devices in a locker — because we weren’t even allowed to take our smartwatches into the demo room (so we don’t have any photos either, of course) — Microsoft paired us up with a mentor who would walk us through the rest of the experience.

We all got our own HoloLens and a PC to code on and four members of the team walked us through building a simple HoloLens app. First, though, they taught us how to use the basic gestures that work across all apps: air clicks (for selecting stuff), gazes (which is really just about looking at things) and voice commands (which developers can easily customize). With that out of the way, we loaded up a couple of preset assets into Unity, made a few minor modifications to the scene, and then exported everything to Visual Studio. From there, deploying the app to the HoloLens (over USB) was just a matter of of a few clicks.

The scene Microsoft had pre-built was a sketchbook with a few cubes on top of it, two paper airplanes that leaned against the cubes, and two paper balls that were suspended in the air over them (so they could bounce of the paper airplanes).

We started with a very basic, static scene and then added more interactivity from there. At every step, we would go to Unity, add new features, deploy the app, and strap on the HoloLens again to take another look at our creation.

At its most basic, the Unity SDK allows you to simply place an object at a certain distance and height from where the device is pointing at when you initialize the application. That object is then suspended in that spot in space and you can walk around it.

We then added a bit of interactivity so the balls would drop when you clicked on them, as well as sound and — finally — the HoloLens’ ability to detect objects in the world and have the whole scene and the dropping balls interact with it. Because HoloLens knows what you are looking at — and uses that to allow developers to place a small 3D cursor into the scene — you can easily use air clicks or voice commands to interact with objects.

That’s really what HoloLens is about, too. We were able to drop the scene on a table for example. Then the balls would drop and roll off the sketchbook. So far so good, but the balls also dropped off the real table and maybe get stuck against the sofa next to it. That’s very impressive, because that kind of real-world mapping is extremely hard to do.

HoloLens constantly scans the world around you and then builds a (somewhat crude) model of it. That’s how it knows where the ground is, for example. It doesn’t know that a table is a table, but it does know that there’s a flat surface there. The same goes for any other kind of objects.

While I originally assumed HoloLens — like most other augmented reality applications — needs some kind of QR code or markers to know where to place objects, it can actually recognize the world around you and then allows you to place objects where you want them — and using the Unity physics engine, it can interact with them.

For the grand finale, we added a new object to the scene that would explode when one of the balls hit it — and which then revealed a whole cavernous world underneath the floor — complete with a stream and animated birds. That was obviously the most impressive demo and really showed the potential of HoloLens. You could even drop the balls into that cavern and see them bounce twenty feet beneath your feet.

The new hardware we used felt very solid and unlike the first prototypes, it’s an untethered, stand-alone unit. You use a headband to strap the device to your face and while the device is not exactly light, the smart weight distribution between the front and back makes up for that. Microsoft admonished us to be careful with the units, but they didn’t feel fragile at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if this model turned out to be very, very close to the final production unit.

Going into the demo, I was especially interested in how well the holograms would lock into place. That, after all, is very hard to do and if objects start randomly moving around as you walk around them, it’s very hard to feel like they were really there. I was surprised how well this worked. Indeed, I found myself trying to kick the little paper balls with my foot after they had rolled of the table (but sadly, the algorithms are clearly not quite fast enough yet for this kind of real-time interaction).

There is, however, still a little bit of jitter to the holograms that is mostly noticeable when you get close to them. The do really feel like they are locked in place, though, and that’s the real achievement here, especially given that Microsoft is not using any markers for placing them. You can randomly move objects around in space. They will stay put. No QR codes necessary.

My best guess is that Microsoft is using one (or more) of Movidius’ Myriad 2 vision processing chips in the device to be able to do the positional tracking necessary to enable all of this.

The one disappointment for me in trying HoloLens was that the field of view was very limited. This was not a totally immersive experience because objects would get cut off long before you would naturally expect them to drop out of sight. Some of the writers who saw Microsoft’s first demo told me that they felt the viewing angle on these new devices was smaller than during the first demo. I can’t verify that, though.

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What did positively surprise me, though, was how little opacity there was to the holograms. I expected them to look somewhat transparent, with the background shining through. That really wasn’t the case, though. They looked really solid and there was almost no transparency. You can still see the

Today’s demo obviously happened in a controlled environment, but it was nowhere as controlled as I expected. People moved around as four or five of us gathered around a table to look at our holograms and everything still worked really well.

At the end of the session, I came away very impressed. When I first heard about HoloLens, I thought this was a technology that was still very far away from being production-ready and I assumed that the demos Microsoft showed earlier this year were simply well-staged and had managed to pull the wool over the assembled tech press. Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft started selling HoloLens within a year (the company, of course, won’t say when HoloLens will go on sale or at what price).



Delivery Hero Eats Up Turkey’s Yemeksepeti For A Record $589M

08:01 | 5 May

Delivery Hero, the billion-dollar takeout food service based out of Berlin, is making another big acquisition as it continues to scale up its business worldwide. It’s buying Turkey’s Yemeksepeti for $589 million, in a cash and shares deal that will also see investor General Atlantic becoming shareholders in Delivery Hero.

Yemeksepeti — Turkish for “food cart” — is Delivery Hero’s first move into Turkey, and the deal is groundbreaking in another respect: the company claims it is the largest-ever acquisition in the food-ordering sector.

That’s saying something, when you consider just how much activity the sector has seen.

Other significant M&A and funding moves in the takeout food space have included Seamless and Grubhub merging in 2013, a deal in which the price and respective company valuations were never disclosed.

A notable moment from earlier this year was when Rocket Internet — another Berlin-based e-commerce concern — invested $586 million in Delivery Hero, which in turn picked up 9 smaller food ordering startups to consolidate its position and has never specified the value of any of its several past acquisitions.

More recently, Postmates in the U.S. has been carving out a position for itself in food delivery, most recently signing up Chipotle in the U.S. and McDonalds in New York, and with rival Sprig raising money, Postmates may also be in the market for more cash to grow.

Delivery Hero itself has raised $1.3 billion to date.

We pointed out back in 2013 how food related startups picked up more than $350 million versus less than $50 million in 2008, and the amount of this latest Delivery Hero deal underscores how transaction sizes are still going up.

You might say that the sector’s growth is in direct variation with the number people who eat all that takeout food. Yemeksepeti, which has been around for 15 years and is profitable, is processing more than 3 million orders each month, growing at 60% each year. That will account for a decent part of Delivery Hero’s wider business, which will altogether now process 10 million orders each month.

“We have looked at many businesses in our industry around the world but we have rarely seen KPIs as exceptional as those displayed by Yemeksepeti,” said Niklas Östberg, CEO of Delivery Hero. “Customer cohorts and reorder rates are among the best in the world and far superior to those shown by our listed peers.”

There is definitely an economy of scale play here. While Yemeksepeti is based out of Turkey it also operates across the region, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Jordan, as well as in Greece, which processes 300,000 orders monthly. This crosses over with markets where Delivery Hero is already active by way of its acquisition of in March 2015.

As part of the deal, Yemeksepeti’s CEO and cofounder Nevzat Aydin will continue to lead the division but also join Delivery Hero as a senior advisor for the wider business.

“We are very proud to have built a company that has changed the way people think and order food in Turkey,” he said in a statement. “During our 15 year history we have had many approaches from global and local investors however we were waiting for the right time and the right partner. Today, I am delighted to team up with a company whose global ambitions, corporate culture and way of doing business are so aligned with ours. “



How Investors Are Trying To Change The Culture Of Silicon Valley

22:57 | 8 September

Over the last year, the tech press has been filled with stories of high-flying startups struggling with issues of gender discrimination and harassment, sometimes with those issues coming from the founders themselves. At TechCrunch Disrupt SF, investors from some of the valley’s top firms discussed how startups are attempting to create a more inclusive environment, especially for women in tech.

Changing the culture of Silicon Valley isn’t going to be easy. Cowboy Ventures’ Aileen Lee noted that many of these issues crop up because most early-stage startups don’t have a head of HR, and are sometimes being founded people who haven’t worked in a professional situation before.

In today’s environment, how startups attract a broad diversity of the best talent will be a key differentiator going forward. She went on to say that in many cases, people don’t realize that things like harassment and the gender pay gap are illegal. But even beyond that, companies could work harder to make the environment more friendly for their employees.

“There’s probably an opportunity for some sort of a training program,” Lee said, noting that the industry as a whole doesn’t really have the tools that it needs to make more systemic change.

Index Ventures’ Danny Rimer said his firm does a regular audit of how many companies it has invested in that have women as leaders or founders. That number is currently about 15 percent, which might sound low, but is “surprisingly high for the peer group,” Rimer said. As part of its efforts, Index tries to find partnerships between portfolio companies and help connect its founders to support one another.

But more could be done, and that might start with having more female investors to support those entrepreneurs. Greylock’s James Slavet noted that the portion of women who are founders and CEOs and the portion of women who are VCs are “inextricably linked.”

Meanwhile, Lee thinks it’s only a matter of time before one investment firm moves to dramatically change its own ratio. “The power move would be a high-profile VC firm announce not just one, but two female GPs,” she said.


You Can Now Use Shazam, Instacart, And Other Android Apps With “Okay Google” Commands

03:22 | 1 May

You’ve been able to use your voice (“Ok Google”) to do all sorts of stuff on Android for a while now. But said stuff has almost entirely been built-in by Google itself; third party developers haven’t really been able to tap into that functionality.

Today, that changes. Though it’s limited to select apps for now, things like “Ok Google, Shazam this song” or “Ok Google, Show me Smurfs 2 on Flixster” are now possible.

Here’s a list of some of the currently integrated commands, as hidden away on this support page and dug up by AndroidPolice:

  • Flixster: “Show me Inception on Flixster.”
  • Instacart: “Show instacart availability.”
  • Lincoln: “Start my Lincoln MKZ.”
  • NPR One: “Listen to NPR.”
  • “Show rentals near me on Realtor.”
  • Shazam: “Shazam this song.”
  • TripAdvisor: “Show attractions near me on TripAdvisor.”
  • Trulia: “Show homes for sale in Boston on Trulia.”
  • TuneIn Radio: “Open TuneIn in car mode.”
  • Walmart: “Scan my receipt on Walmart.”
  • Wink: “Activate home mode on Wink.”
  • Zillow: “Show me open houses nearby on Zillow.

Even within the apps that are supported, voice commands are fairly restricted, so don’t expect it to do everything right now. “Ok Google, Show Instacart availability” works. “Ok Google, order me some apples from Whole Foods on Instacart” does not. Apps can support up to 3 custom voice actions at a time.

If you’re a developer looking to hook into this, there’s one catch: while it’s open to far more developers than it was in the past, you’ll still have to convince Google that your app is up to snuff to be allowed into the special test group. You can find the form for that here.


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