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Real X-Wings took flight at Disney’s new Star Wars ride grand opening thanks to Boeing

16:48 | 7 December

Boeing might be taking the last crucial steps to prepare for its first crewed Starliner capsule spaceflight, but it’s also busy turning sci-fi into reality right here on Earth – by helping Disney build X-Wing large-scale starfighters to celebrate the opening of the ‘Rise of the Resistance’ ride at Disney World in Florida.

Earlier this week when the ride opened during an evening ceremony, X-Wings “roughly the size of a family van” flew over the event, as described by The Drive, which first identified earlier spy shots of the vehicles as potentially being based on Boeing’s aerial cargo drone. Boeing has since confirmed its involvement, but they aren’t providing more info than that the X-Wings were indeed their aircraft.

In the clip below, you can see the X-Wings ascend vertically into the night sky, then hover and rotate before heading out. Don’t go squinting to see if you can spot Poe Dameron at the controls, however – these are unpiloted drones based mostly likely on the Cargo Air Vehicle design Boeing has recently shown off, which sports six rotors (you can see them in close-ups of the X-Wing included in the gallery at the end of this post).

Astute observers and Star Wars fans will note that the X-Wings feature the split-engine design introduced in the T-70 variant that are flown by the Resistance in the current trilogy, as opposed to the full cylinder engine design on the T-65 from the original trilogy. That makes perfect sense, since the Rise of the Resistance ride takes place during an encounter between the Resistance and the First Order during the current trilogy timeline.

As for Boeing’s CAV, it recently completed a three-minute test flight during which it demonstrated forward movement, after flying outdoors during a hover test for the first time earlier this year. The cargo drone is designed for industrial applications, and can carry up to 500 lbs of cargo, but it’s still in the testing phase, which makes this Star Wars demonstration even more interesting.

[gallery ids="1921346,1921347,1921348,1921349"]

 


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Facebook sells off Oculus Medium to Adobe

13:56 | 7 December

Facebook is selling Oculus Medium — a 3D virtual reality sculpting tool for creatives — to Adobe. The team was an expensive effort for Oculus and its sale signifies a broader rethinking within Facebook in what virtual reality projects they tackle in-house.

It’s clear that Oculus pumped an awful lot of money into Medium over the years and the sale probably isn’t great for the Oculus Medium team, if only because there is now a proper price tag attached to the effort that will be looming for the fairly niche software. Terms of the deal weren’t shared so who knows what kind of deal Adobe got.

What is nice is that Facebook went to the trouble of properly spinning out Medium. When Facebook shut down Oculus Story Studio, the company quietly laid off its employees. Medium is well-liked by a small community and it makes plenty of sense at Adobe where first-party integration with other products will undoubtedly make it better software. It’s nice to see it live on.

The sale of Medium after the purchase of Beat Saber-maker Beat Games really encapsulates the VR content strategy of Oculus at the moment. Non-gaming creative tools aren’t getting new investment, cinematic VR content isn’t being prioritized, and Facebook is preparing to buy more game studios with the goal of scaling their titles. For a division that has been talking only about the distant future for years, it’s a pragmatic strategy that probably signifies broader contentment with how things are looking on the hardware front.

 


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Will the 2020s be online advertising’s holistic decade?

00:04 | 7 December

Todd Dipaola Contributor
Todd Dipaola founded inMarket to bring the performance and accountability of digital advertising to offline brands.

With less than two months left in the decade, advertising is again entering a new phase of rapid expansion with customer experience front and center.

The explosion of data and identity management, combined with technical advancements in real-time signal detection and machine learning, present new opportunities to respond to consumers, but mastering this ability enables marketers to create “magic moments” — instances of hyper-relevant content, delivered at the perfect time and place. 

We’ll see evolutions on the back end in terms of delivery and measurement — as well as on the consumer-facing end — through new creative deployments that enhance the brick-and-mortar shopping trip. Marketers will be held to a higher standard, both by clients demanding world-class performance and proof, as well as consumers who want relevancy, helpfulness and privacy from their brand relationships. 

Achieving this balance won’t be an easy task, but the most progressive marketers will succeed in driving this industry toward a more customer-centric future because they took steps to evolve before it was too late. With that in mind, here are five ways we expect advertising to become more holistic in the 2020s: 

Smart data will take priority over big data

Most marketers have heard the adage, “garbage in, garbage out.” For too long, the industry relied on sheer quantity of data with no quality metrics for making key audience assumptions. This mentality has had a detrimental effect on our industry, creating an ecosystem where people simply hate ads and brands focus on viewability over ROI.

To truly understand our audiences, we must first turn data from multi-channel interactions into smart, actionable insights. This involves not only understanding who the customer is, but what motivates them. 

Progressive marketers will continue to invest heavily in identity graphs to tie critical data and behaviors to individual profiles across channels. Using data science and machine learning, marketers will then be able to advance their knowledge about consumers to new levels, employing new messaging tactics based not only on value, but also on what inspires action. Key nuances, like distinguishing a deal-seeker from a value-seeker, will lead to more engaging personalized experiences and ultimately better ROI for advertisers.

We’ll see a flurry of investment in real-time engagement

We live in a world where our technology predicts where we are going, what we are seeking and how long it will take to get there by recognizing our patterns and everyday behaviors. The benefits in terms of convenience and knowledge are addictive. Look no further than email, social and Alexa to see how real-time awareness and time savings from these interactions impact our everyday lives.  

For marketers, capturing this lightning in a bottle has always been elusive — until now. The rise of real-time advertising, customer data platforms (CDPs), data science and machine learning have created the ability to detect purchases as well as online and real world location signals in real-time. This enables marketers to not only predict the next shopping trip, but what a consumer is likely to buy, when it matters most.

These sense-and-respond capabilities will enable progressive marketers to create experiences of enormous value at the moments that matter, such as triggering an offer of relevance upon entering a store or delivering a tailored experience at a specific time and location. The new decade will bring about massive investments into these technologies given their immediate ability to influence consumers during the actual purchase process. We’ll see budgets being specifically carved out to support real-time advertising and technologies as marketers optimize and convert users with greater effectiveness.  

For consumers, it means that the in-store experience will continue to become more interactive, with mobile devices as the connecting point between e-commerce and brick and mortar. Brands that thrive in this environment will win by delivering meaningful creative that connects both online and offline worlds in a helpful and relevant way.

Cutting-edge tech will create new ad experiences

 


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Raising VC in Silicon Valley as a female POC

23:26 | 6 December

Nathan Beckord Contributor
Nathan Beckord is CEO of Foundersuite.com, a software platform for raising capital and managing investors that has helped entrepreneurs raise over $2 billion since 2016. He is also the host of Foundersuite’s How I Raised It podcast.

As the world grows increasingly digital, the craving for face-to-face connections is surging. Squad, an invite-only community and app, is trying to fill the need for offline connections by curating tight-knit events for Gen Z and Millennials.

“It mimics building relationships in real life,” says founder and CEO Isa Watson.

It’s an idea that investors are already backing: Squad closed a $3.5 million seed round and plans to raise its Series A in early 2020, but the road to securing that round was anything but easy. During a conversation on the How I Raised It podcast, Watson shared the ups and downs of her unique path to fundraising.

Establish credibility for a few years before fundraising

She started by putting some of the earliest capital into the business herself with support from her family. She then worked her way through more than 200 meetings in Silicon Valley to build up her credibility as a founder — a step that she can’t stress enough — before Squad even started its official seed round.

“Despite the fact that I went to MIT, despite the fact that I managed a billion-dollar product at JPMorgan Chase and even built a huge digital product, I was still a Silicon Valley outsider,” Watson says.

People sometimes have the perception that being an alumni at a top U.S. university will mean they can go to Silicon Valley and just be “in,” Watson explains, but that’s not quite how it works.

“It takes a lot of work and a lot of credibility building,” she says. “That’s what I was doing for a few years before we actually did our official seed round. By the time I did it, it was like my reputation preceded me and there was enough familiarity with me.”

isa watson squad ceo

Isa Watson, Squad founder and CEO

Don’t do the cold outreach thing — warm introductions only

Despite taking more than 200 meetings in her efforts to crack Silicon Valley, Watson never took a cold meeting.

“Cold outreach is a tactic that I see a lot of founders using,” she says, “whereas I would argue that the more effective introduction comes from someone who knows someone.”

Leveraging the connections she built was critical in connecting Watson to her eventual funders. “They’re all referring you to the next three people to talk to,” Watson says. “It becomes like tree branches and then a network that’s growing in a multiplicative fashion.”

One of Squad’s earliest investors was Steven Aldrich, who at the time was working as chief product officer at GoDaddy . Both Aldrich and Watson grew up in North Carolina, and Steven’s father shared hometown roots with her, which helped her make the initial connection.

“It was about consistently making connections like that,” she says. “Steven introduced me to three people, and then those three other people introduced me to two people. And that’s essentially how I got the ball rolling.”

Not all meetings need to be about meeting for coffees or lunches, either — Watson took plenty of calls while expanding her network, as well. But the important step was making those connections, which was “a really hard hustle and grind, head down,” for the first two years.

Be really specific when asking for advice

When meeting people in Silicon Valley or expanding her network of prospective funders, Watson didn’t tease future funding rounds or send off vague meeting requests.

In trying to build out her network, she first researched a couple of key things: who did she need to know in order to build a really strong product, and who did she need to know in order to have solid distribution or growth marketing? Once she identified those folks, she would reach out to them individually and ask them for specific advice in their area of expertise.

“People always say, ‘When you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money,’” Watson says. “Being super-explicit in the ask and explaining how you’ll spend their time and their brain space is super important.” No one has time for a generic request like, “Hey, can I pick your brain?”

When you’ve connected with someone, you should always ask them for recommendations for experts in specific areas — like growth marketing, product, etc. If they volunteer a few names, ask if you can send an email that they could forward on to introduce you to those individuals.

Following the introductions, it’s important to remember that it’s not just a “one and done,” as she says. Once you’ve met with someone through an introduction, follow up: let them know how the meetings went and thank them again.

“It’s like really, really intense relationship management, and it’s something that people with the highest EQ do best,” says Watson. “I would identify my needs, make specific asks … and then I would make sure to explicitly ask if they did not offer for three other intros for people that could be helpful, that would be excited about what we’re doing.”

Secret weapon: your fundraising quarterback

When she realized it was time to start raising money for Squad, her first move was to identify her “quarterback for fundraising” — in this case, Charles Hudson from Precursor Ventures. It’s helpful, according to Watson, to not have “too many cooks in the kitchen,” or else you’ll end up with far too many opinions that don’t align.

Hudson had already invested a small amount of money in Squad at the time, but he quickly became the person Watson went to for feedback on her pitches. He counseled her on other aspects of running a process.

“One thing Charles tells me is that, with fundraising, you’re likely only going to be successful if that’s your core focus at that time,” Watson says. “It’s not something you can do passively.”

So Hudson and Watson sat down and came up with a list of 35 target venture capitalists. He introduced her to five who she didn’t expect to be a good fit. They first went with the ones they didn’t expect would be a perfect match so she could gather feedback and see if Squad was actually ready to raise capital.

Of those first five meetings, one or two “were complete dings” and turned Squad down outright — but Watson made it to partner meetings in the three other meetings, a sign that VCs were seriously considering Squad.

Based on that feedback, Hudson introduced Watson to 10 more VCs — and shortly after, she met Michael Dearing at Harrison Metal, who led Squad’s seed round.

Choose your seed funders carefully

After Dearing offered up a term sheet of $3 million, Watson quickly had offers from other VCs.

“It’s funny because it took me deliberately being in the market for fundraising for like two and a half months to get that ‘yes’ from Michael. Before that, I had no cash really committed,” she says. “And then after just a few days of letting people know I had a term sheet for $3 million, I had like $6 million on a table. VCs are such followers.”

With that many offers on the table following Dearing’s lead, Watson was in the enviable position of needing to pick who she’d let into the seed round. So how did she choose?

“The first thing is value add,” Watson says. She asked herself: “did I feel like I had the right assortment of value? I maybe want someone in there who’s really short on product; I may want someone who’s really strong at growth, strong at marketing.”

Her second criteria for making the decision was a less resume-focused. Simply put, she went with her gut.

“One thing that founders really, really underestimate is — is this person a good human being? I went with the people that I had felt most comfortable with, the people who I felt I could trust based on my interactions with them, and who were just supportive along the way.”

 


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Gift Guide: VR gear you won’t feel stupid for buying

22:00 | 6 December

Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2019 Holiday Gift Guide! Need help with gift ideas? We’re here to help! We’ll be rolling out gift guides from now through the end of December. You can find our other guides right here.

There have been holiday gift guides for VR for the past five years or so and for most of that time, buying a VR headset was generally a bad call.

There were still fun experiences to be had, but the gear was expensive and the troubleshooting was not for the faint of heart. I’ve played around with most of the gear that’s out there and honestly most of it isn’t ready for consumers, but if there’s someone in your life dying to get into VR, here are some earnest recommendations.

This article contains links to affiliate partners where available. When you buy through these links, TechCrunch may earn an affiliate commission.

The best headset for 99.5% of people

 

 

This year, Facebook released the Oculus Quest for $399 and, honestly, it’s the only headset made by Oculus or anyone else that I’ve been able to give a full-throated recommendation for. Setup and upkeep are both simple and benefitted by its standalone mobile form factor — this one just works by itself, no PC required. There’s a worthy amount of content for something in its price range and it’s overall not a purchase you’ll feel dumb later for making.

$399 a little steep for a Christmas present? Obviously that’s understandable, but I would honestly just not go for a VR gift if that’s the case. Most VR gear below this price point is relatively clunky (with the caveat that for PlayStation owners, the PlayStation VR is still a great deal… though I think I’d still recommend the Quest if you’re willing to drop the extra money. It’s just such an easy system to love.)

Price: $399 from Oculus

To help you see better: prescription inserts

 

All of Oculus’s new headsets have a good amount of space in the headset to accommodate users that wear glasses, but if you’re the main person using the headset, it’s a lot more comfortable to just get prescription inserts made. It’s a little extreme, sure, but comfort is a big deal in VR so you won’t regret it if you’re already logging some decent mileage on your headset.

Price: $80 from FramesDirect

To help you be less gross: VR Cover

 

If you’re using your VR device as a device to get you moving and you’re regularly sweating while playing some of the more intense titles, that headset is getting pretty nasty I guarantee. VR Cover has been making masks that cover up the section your face touching the headset and they’re pretty decent quality and available for most popular headsets. These are great if you’re a bit sweaty or are regularly showing friends your new headset.

Price: $19 on Amazon

To help you get mobile: carrying case

 

The Quest is a portable console but that doesn’t mean you just want to toss it into your bag without any cares. It still is rather sensitive and if you scratch the lenses or tracking cameras, you are probably in for a bad time. The first-party Oculus Quest case is a pretty solid purchase with room for your headset and controllers, but not much else.

Price: $40 on Amazon

To help you get immersed: some solid wired headphones

 

If you’re the owner of a new Quest, Go or Rift S, you also will probably also want to be the owner of some decent wired headphones. The stereo speakers embedded in the headsets are good in a pinch, but your experience is going to be a lot better with some decent headphones and the Quest doesn’t allow for bluetooth headsets, so, sorry, no AirPods.

There are two schools of thought for which headphones are best for VR, ones that cut you off completely or ones that let you hear what’s going on a bit so that you’re at least somewhat aware of your surroundings. But be reasonable, you shouldn’t be basing your headphones purchase on what works for VR, so get some noise-cancelling headphones you’d also want while you’re traveling or some on-ear headphones you’d also use for at-home listening.

I’m a big fan of Grado headphones even though they aren’t all that comfortable for long sessions, but you can’t do wrong with an $80 pair of Grado SR60e headphones. I never miss a chance to recommend them. I’ve always been a Bose user when it comes to noise-cancelling headphones, but I also haven’t owned many pairs and I know most audiophiles will point you in Sony’s direction, so maybe a classic pair like their WH-1000XM3 will do (though remember you’ll have to use the included wire with most VR headsets.)

Price: Grado SR60e (Wired), $80 on Amazon | Sony WH-1000XM3 (Wireless), $278 on Amazon

The best headset for die-hards

 

 

 

If the best headset for 99.5% of people is the Oculus Quest, for the rest it’s the Valve Index. The PC headset is about as high-end as you would reasonably want as a consumer, though you are still definitely investing in a more complicated solution than the Quest. No other products on the market have the well thought-out feature set that the Index does. It’s less approachable, but its feature set screams high-end even if most VR games can’t make the most of what it offers. For PC gamers, there aren’t many good choices out there these days, but if you’re going to take a step beyond the Quest, you should get the Index (though it’s worth noting this is on pretty hefty back-order and won’t ship pre-Christmas.)

Price:  $999 from Valve

 

 


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Move over Slack — Space is a new project management platform for developers

20:06 | 6 December

While file sharing, time tracking, email integration, Gantt Charts, and budget management are usually some of the most requested features in the average project management platform, we still have a proliferation of tools taking a multiplicity of approaches to the problem of just managing something.

Most people in tech are by now familiar with Slack, Asana, Notion, Trello, Azure DevOps, GitLab and GitHub. But the sector is still booming. Last month Microsoft Teams had over 20 million active users up from 13 million in July. Slack reported more than 10 million daily active users in the second quarter. Adobe just launched a collaboration tool, Notion is super hot, Frame.io raised $50 million, Microsoft has Fluid. Even WordPress is getting in on the act.

(When is someone going to make something for journalists? Oh, we’re poor. I forgot).

And yet. And yet… project management for developers remains a rising area for startups.

Now a new product has been launched to address this space. And how ironic is it that’s called Space?

Space is billed as an integrated team environment that provides toolset combining messaging, team and project management, internal blogs, meeting scheduling, and software development processes into a single platform.

It’s now available for early users who will get an Organization plan free of charge. This includes 25 GB storage per user, a monthly limit of 10,000 CI credits, and 125 GB data transfer per user.
 
With Space, all the data a team needs to work is stored in one place, while software development tools (source code management, code review and browsing, continuous integration, delivery, and deployment, package repositories, issue tracking, planning tools, and project documentation) are integrated with communication and identity support.

The idea is that any workflow can be automated, from onboarding new employees to configuring rules for merging requests to CI/CD pipelines. You can also schedule meetings, projects, tasks, commits, code reviews etc.

Space is a bootstrapped spin-out from JetBrains, the company behind Kotlin, a semi-official language of Android. While Java is the official language of Android development, it has a steep learning curve. When JetBrains created Kotlin, it was so successful that it became a secondary “official” Java language. So, in theory, they ought to know their stuff.

JetBrains CEO Maxim Shafirov says “Most digital collaboration environments are in fact a mixed bag of solutions tackling different problems, from development tools to task management ones. This leaves people switching tools and tabs, manually copying information, and generally losing time and creative flow. JetBrains Space is changing this—and thus changing the foundation of creative work, software development included.”
 
JetBrains Space is available through a subscription model with a freemium starting tier, while the paid plans start at $8 per active user per month. The ultimate goal for Space is to provide a unified company-wide platform expanded to a wider range of creative teams, including designers, marketers, sales, accounting, and more. 

Time will tell if Space takes off (LOL) and can start to put the heat on products like Slack. As a Slack hater, I do hope so.

 


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Essential tools for today’s digital nomad

18:37 | 6 December

Dave Williams Contributor
A serial entrepreneur in the digital marketing, advertising, and ad tech industries, Dave Williams founded and sold 360i, IgnitionOne, BLiNQ Media, and other ventures and is now the CEO and Co-founder of NOMADX, with his base in Lisbon, Portugal.

The world isn’t ready for the digital nomad movement.

If projections are to be believed, the growing trend in how people choose to live and work is fast outpacing the service and policy enhancements needed to keep up with a borderless workforce bound only by its need for a reliable Wi-Fi connection. But that’s not slowing down the nomads.

that there could be as many as one billion remote workers by 2035. Such a movement has implications for entities ranging from banks and insurance companies to national governments — but few organizations are in the habit of looking 15 years down the road and altering course appropriately. But even short-term, the numbers deserve our attention: about 59 million people are considering joining the digital nomad movement in the next two to three years.

Put another way: in the next 24 to 36 months, roughly the population of Italy plans to sever traditional workplace ties so they can go mobile. How are our global services and infrastructures going to accommodate these individuals?

Having spent more than six years as a digital nomad myself, I can tell you that there’s a steep learning curve to this lifestyle. While it’s one that I’ve found well worth the effort, tapping into the networks and services needed to sustain my professional and personal networks hasn’t always been easy. Looking back to when I first gave into my wanderlust, after starting my career in the late ‘90s dot-com era as a serial entrepreneur in the U.S. digital marketing and ad tech industries, I can’t help but muse that I wish I knew then what I know now.

So for all of those aspiring or early stage nomads out there, in hopes that your own transitions to the nomadic lifestyle might be easier than my own, I’m here to tell you what I know now. While we can expect to see a great deal of change over the next couple decades, as the world economy races to catch up to the digital nomad movement, these are the essential considerations — and your best options — when it comes to the core elements needed to sustain yourself in your nomadic ramblings today.

Accommodations

Let’s start with the basics: where to live.

It’s almost impossible for digital nomads to find suitable accommodations at fair prices within major U.S. metropolitan areas that foster the standard of living they’re seeking. That’s one of the main reasons why so many nomads are ending up in Asian countries and other economical international destinations. In addition to being lower-cost, these destinations offer desirable alternatives to city environments where the standard 9-5 is required to afford everything the city has to offer.

When it comes to finding a place to live, whether for a few days or many months, there are a lot of options. The one that makes the most sense has a lot to do with your individual situation and preferences. Most important is having a place to stay with strong Wi-Fi. Consider:

Airbnb: Given its popularity for vacation rentals, a lot of new nomads initially turn here. While it allows for a more “at home” feel in a rental (because it is someone’s home), it can quickly become cost-prohibitive. Airbnb is great for short-term rentals, but comparatively expensive for anything more than a couple weeks.

Booking and Agoda: Similar to Airbnb, but these sites are more professional in that they’re mostly used by professionally-run apartments, hotels and resorts. All are great for those who are looking for more services with their accommodations. But they don’t always have the home-like feel that many nomads crave, and like Airbnb, they can get expensive fast.

Facebook Groups: A number of Facebook Groups for digital nomads have emerged recently. These groups can be handy because they let guests and hosts connect directly and come to mutually agreeable arrangements. However, these groups aren’t a rental platform. Guests don’t have access to reviews or an easy way to issue payments confidently. So while accommodations can be a bit more affordable when organized through groups, it’s hard to know what you’re going to get.

Hostels: As any rambling college student can attest, hostels are an affordable, social way to see the world. But living at a hostel offers little privacy and near-constant disruption, often of the drunken partying variety. It’s not a terribly viable route for nomadic couples or anyone looking for living space that can also double as an office. 

Hotels: On the flip side, hotels are great for couples. But for nomads spending weeks or even months abroad, they’re expensive and can be isolating for people looking to truly immerse themselves in new local cultures. Hotels are best reserved for short-term expeditions.

VIP hostels (e.g., Selina): This new breed of the hostel experience offers a great combination of co-working and social connections that help nomads connect with like-minded people. They provide some level of privacy, but these accommodations — like others — become expensive in the long term if you want your own bedroom.

Co-living spaces: As with co-working spaces, there’s a growing movement in which digital nomads come together to share the cost of living accommodations, which range from multi-bedroom apartments to large-scale co-living buildings complete with kitchens, shared and private bathrooms, working and community spaces. These environments are great for making connections while having access to privacy when needed, but branded co-living spaces will still cost more than a local midterm apartment.

Midterm rental platforms: For nomads looking to stay in one place for a month or more and truly soak in the culture, midterm rental platforms represent a more-affordable alternative to platforms like Airbnb. These platforms (full disclosure: I now operate one of them, by the name of NomadX) offer affordable month-to-month options with fast Wi-Fi in everyday neighborhoods, which enables you to connect more deeply with the local community without an overly long commitment. That said, this category is still quite new, so midterm rental inventory might be limited or nonexistent in the market you’re considering.

Couchsurfing: Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention Couchsurfing, a social network for travelers and nomads that makes it possible to connect directly with locals and even crash on their sofas for free. That said, Couchsurfing is only designed for short-term stays, it’s not very professional and it’s quickly evolving into more of a dating/hook-up platform than anything else.

Also, a quick note on Wi-Fi: No matter where you stay, you’ll need to ensure you can always be connected in order to stay on top of work. While you can check with your current mobile provider on international roaming plans, the coverage might be limited and ultimately become expensive. You might instead want to consider buying a local SIM card in every country and using it with your smartphone. That way, you can use your phone as a hotspot and get internet on your laptop. In a pinch, though, it’s good to have a backup mobile hotspot option. (For example, I travel with a Skyroam Solis.)

Insurance

We digital nomads are risk takers by nature, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want or appreciate a safety net. After all, having an accident isn’t a choice. Unfortunately, if nomads can’t get coverage for a fair price, many opt to forego insurance altogether and end up resorting to crowdfunding if they end up in a bad situation. I’ve had several friends get into accidents in foreign countries, and they couldn’t get proper medical treatment until they’d crowdfunded the needed resources. This is a worst-case scenario, and it’s one that I hope becomes a thing of the past as more borderless options for insurance emerge.

 


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Canva introduces video editing, has big plans for 2020

18:10 | 6 December

Canva, the design company with nearly $250 million in funding, has today announced a variety of new features, including a video editing tool.

The company has also announced Canva Apps, which allows developers and customers alike to build on top of Canva. Thus far, Dropbox, Google Drive, PhotoMosh and Instagram are already in the Canva Apps suite, with a total of 30 apps available at launch.

The video editing tool allows for easy editing with no previous experience required, and also offers video templates, access to a stock content library with videos, music, etc., and easy-to-use animation tools.

Meanwhile, Canva is taking the approach of winning customers when they’re young, with the launch of Canva for Education. It’s a totally free product that has launched in beta with Australian schools, integrating with GSuite and Google Classroom to allow students to build out projects, and teachers to mark them up and review them.

Canva has also announced the launch of Canva for Desktop.

As design becomes more important to the way every organization functions and operates, one of the only barriers to the growth of the category is the pace at which new designers can emerge and enter the workforce.

Canva has positioned itself as the non-designer’s design tool, making it easy to create something beautiful with little to no design experience. The launch of the video editing tool and Canva for Education strengthen that stance, not only creating more users for the platform itself but fostering an environment for the maturation of new designers to join the ecosystem as a whole.

Alongside the announcement, Canva CEO Melanie Perkins has announced that Canva will join the 1% pledge, dedicating 1 percent of equity, profit, time and resources to making the world a better place.

Here’s what she had to say about it, in a prepared statement:

Companies have a huge role to play in helping to shape the world we live in and we feel like the 1% Pledge is an incredible program which will help us to use our company’s time, resources, product and equity to do just that. We believe the old adage ‘do no evil’ is no longer enough today and hope to live up to our value to ‘Be a Force for Good’.

Interestingly, Canva’s position at the top of the design funnel hasn’t slowed growth. Indeed, Canva recently launched Canva for Enterprise to let all the folks in the organization outside of the design department step up to bat and create their own decks, presentations, materials, etc., all within the parameter’s of the design system and brand aesthetic.

A billion designs have been created on Canva in 2019, with 2 billion designs created since the launch of the platform.

 


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This Lego Cybertruck is one even Elon can love

16:45 | 6 December

Lego already debuted its own take on the divisive Tesla Cybertruck design, but theirs was purely for the lols. This Lego Cybertruck, however, submitted to the official Lego Ideas crowdsourcing website, is actually a remarkably faithful representation, and comes completely with fully articulating tailgate and ‘frunk’ (front truck, for the uninitiated).

The design, by Lego Ideas user ‘BrickinNick,’ recreates the throwback polygonal cyberpunk aesthetic of the actual Cybertruck remarkably well, and BrickinNick says that it could be adapted to have even more moving parts, including opening passenger doors, a slide-out ramp and maybe even a companion Tesla ATV kit so you can replicate the stage demo in even more detail. This would of course mean we absolutely must get a minifig Elon, too – and maybe swappable shattered windows.

Lego Ideas allows anyone to create an account and submit their down design, then the community votes on those submissions. Get enough votes, and Lego will consider actually producing said design as a kit. Obviously, when there’s IP from other companies involved its not a sure thing, but this campaign already has around 2,000 supporters as of this writing, so it’s doing well in the realm of user support.

Love it or hate it, the Cybertruck does make a pretty great Lego design, so here’s hoping this actually one day becomes a shipping kit.

 


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Style Theory, a fashion rental startup in Southeast Asia, raises $15 million led by SoftBank Ventures Asia

15:36 | 6 December

Style Theory, a platform for renting designer apparel in Indonesia and Singapore, announced today it has raised $15 million in Series B funding. The startup says this is the first closing of the round. It was led by SoftBank Ventures Asia, the early-stage venture arm of SoftBank Group, with participation from other investors including Alpha JWC Ventures and the Paradise Group.

Both SoftBank Ventures Asia and Alpha JWC Ventures are returning investors and previously participated in Style Theory’s Series A.

Founded in 2016 by Raena Lim and Chris Halim to counteract the waste created by fast fashion, Style Theory currently has more than 50,000 pieces of clothing and 2,000 designer bags in its inventory. In addition to its app, the company opened a flagship store on Orchard Road in Singapore last month. On average, Style Theory’s subscribers rent up to 20 pieces of clothing and two designer bags a month and it has delivered more than one million items since launching, its founders say.

Style Theory co-founders Raena Lim and Chris Halim

Part of the funding will be used to further develop Style Theory’s tech platform. In an email interview, Lim and Halim told TechCrunch that Style Theory uses machine-learning algorithms to personalize clothing and fit recommendations for users based on their browsing and rental history and decide what designers and styles to carry to add. The startup also built a customized warehouse management system and distribution network that uses its own fleet of couriers to lower costs. In order to manage its inventory as the company scales up and expands into new markets, it plans to start using RFID tagging and will attach passive RFID tags on each of its rental items.

Lim and Halim say they plan to launch new apparel categories in Singapore and Indonesia before possibly expanding into more countries in 2020.

While Rent the Runway and Le Tote are the best-known fashion rental apps in the United States, Style Theory’s operating model has several key differences to serve the Southeast Asia market, Lim and Halim say. Longer hours means many customers are often not at home to receive deliveries. They also rely on public transportation more than most Americans. In order to make the service more convenient, Style Theory opened its brick-and-mortar store and partners with automated locker providers, coworking spaces and department stores. Its app includes different payment solutions, since the regions they serve have relatively lower credit card penetration rates.

Style Theory’s inventory is also picked with a diverse array of customers in mind.

“With the melting pot of cultures, we have to approach our merchandise mix with consideration to the different societal standards of formality and modesty in the workplace and social environment,” said Lim and Halim.

“Not only does our assortment have to serve the all-year tropical climate, with a seasonal selection for travel, we have to also meet the demands for the different cultural groups and customer preferences. We have introduced a line up of modest wear in Indonesia and more festive wear during the celebratory seasons in the year.”

In a press release, SoftBank Ventures Asia senior partner Sean Lee said “Fashion has emerged as one of the last frontiers of the sharing economy, and with an attractive business model, Style Theory has proven that the company can change the way people consume fashion in Southeast Asia. I am excited to support Style Theory’s expansion across the region as well as continuous disruption.”

 


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