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Main article: Alpha

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Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 42

Alpha Foods raises $28 million for its vegetarian prepared foods

19:01 | 11 February

Alpha Foods, the vegetarian prepared food manufacturer, has raised $28 million in financing for its portfolio of vegetarian burritos, tamales, nuggets, pizzas, burgers, patties, and sausages.

The Glendale, Calif.-based company was launched by Loren Wallis, the founder of the dairy substitute, Good Karma Foods, and Cole Orobetz, a former director with the agricultural debt lending firm Avrio Capital.

First launched in 2015, Alpha Foods previously raised $9.5 million in financing from investments firms like New Crop Capital and AccelFoods, whose other brands include Kite Hill, Good Catch, BRAMi, and Evoke Healthy Foods.

As more Americans move to supplement their diets with plant-based products, companies like Alpha Foods have found willing investors for new food brands. The company’s new round was led by AccelFoods with existing investors including New Crop Capital, Green Monday Ventures and Blue Horizon also participating.

Companies like Alpha compete with huge consumer packaged goods companies like Kelloggs (through its Morningstar Farms line of vegetarian products) and Nestle (through Sweet Earth Foods).

While the Morningstar Farms brand might seem a bit stale, the market has been reinvigorated through the marketing muscle and venture dollars supplied by companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods whose products have captured contracts from some of the world’s biggest fast food chains — including McDonalds, KFC, and Burger King.

Alpha Foods said it will use the latest money to launch new products, make new hires and expand its distribution channels nationally and internationally.

The company is already sold in well over 6,000 stores at chains including Wegmans, Walmart, Krogers, and Publix.

“As more and more people actively seek out plant-based options, whether for their health or the environment, we are looking to expand our innovations within the category and bring easy to prepare products to a wider audience,” said Cole Orobetz, Co-Founder and President of Alpha Foods, in a statement.

The sale of pre-prepared plant-based meals reached $387 million in 2019, up 6% over the past year, according to data from the Good Food Institute.

“We are in the early days of plant-based consumption. As a portable, functional food business geared towards the newly emergent flexitarian consumer, the Alpha platform meets all of its customers snack and mealtime needs,” said AccelFoods Managing Partner, Jordan Gaspar. “We couldn’t be prouder to lead this strong nexus of collaborative investors, who had the opportunity to organically build trust this past year allowing for an incredibly successful outcome in this financing.”

 


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Rocket startup Firefly partners signs satellite constellation launch mission with Satlantis

17:56 | 4 February

Rocket launch startup Firefly Aerospace has signed a new agreement with Satlantis, a maker of Earth observation and remote sensing payloads for satellite-based operation. Firefly will launch a constellation of small satellites on behalf of Atlantis that will provide high-res, multispectral imaging of Earth from low-Earth orbit.

Firefly is still in the development and testing phase of their first launch vehicle, the Alpha rocket and spacecraft. The company intends to fly Alpha for the first time sometime this year, and the agreement singed today with Satlantis specifies a 2022 timeframe for the mission.

Alpha is a two-stage rocket that uses a carbon composite material for its primary construction. It’s around 95-feet tall, and can carry approximately 2,200 lbs to low-Earth orbit. Like Rocket Lab, Firefly’s goal is to provide an affordable option for small satellite customers to have dedicated launches, rather than relying on having to book ride share missions, but it offers considerably more payload capacity.

Firefly has just begun running its “hot” fire tests of its engine with the vehicle vertical early in 2020, but it did encounter a setback at the end of January with a fire on the launch platform following the first of these tests. Firefly said the fire was due to a fuel leak, but continues work on Alpha and Firefly CEO Tom Markusic told KVUE that it shouldn’t affect their goal of having a first flight for the rocket by mid-year.

 


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Firefly Aerospace investigating a fire that resulted from a test of its Alpha rocket’s engines

00:25 | 24 January

Space launch startup Firefly Aerospace encountered a setback as it kicked off the first “hot” tests of its Alpha launch vehicle’s engines – a fire resulted from its first test engine fire. The fire occurred at 6:23 PM local time on Wednesday during the first planned 5-second fire in a series of test firings Firefly intended to run for Alpha at its Briggs, Texas facility. The fire was located “in the engine bay at the base of the rocket’s stage,” Firefly has said in a new statement about the incident.

Firefly’s engineers immediately stopped the engine test, and the facility’s fire suppression system put out the fire, the company says. The team is currently reviewing data around the test to identify the cause, and will perform a complete investigation to figure out what’s going on and then report those results, according to the statement. Firefly also says that “at no time during the test were Firefly operations personnel or the public in danger” and adds that it’s working with local emergency response and governing authorities throughout the investigation.

The launch startup has encountered setbacks before, though its biggest previous hurdle was of a different nature: Firefly Space Systems filed for bankruptcy protection in 2017, before returning with a slightly different corporate identity as Firefly Aerospace later that year, still under the leadership of founder and current CEO Tom Markusic. Firefly was rescued at least in part thanks to a lifeline investment from Noosphere Ventures, and said at the time it had enough runway to fund it fully through development and flight of Alpha, an expendable launch vehicle that will be able to delivery as much as a metric ton to low-Earth orbit.

This fire is a setback, but it does appear that it was at least quickly contained and didn’t result in any kind of explosion or total destruction of the test launch vehicle. It’s too soon to say what this will mean for Firefly’s timelines, which at the end of last year, anticipated a first launch of Alpha sometime between this February and March.

Anomalies are part of the process of developing new launch systems and spacecraft, so this isn’t necessarily a major blow for Firefly – depending, of course, on what the investigation reveals regarding the ultimate cause.

Firefly’s statement on the incident is included in full below.

Firefly Aerospace maintains a 200-acre manufacturing and test facility in Briggs, Texas, 27 miles north of its headquarters.

On January 22, 2020, test engineers were conducting a planned test of the first stage of the company’s “Alpha” launch vehicle. The test was to be the first in a series of propulsion tests to verify design and operation of the stage, and involved a short, 5-second firing of the stage’s four engines.

At 6:23 pm local time, the stage’s engines were fired, and a fire broke out in the engine bay at the base of the rocket’s stage. The 5-second test was immediately aborted and the test facility’s fire suppression system extinguished the fire. The cause of the anomaly is under investigation. Firefly engineers are reviewing test data from the stage to identify potential causes for the test failure, and Firefly will share results of that investigation once it is complete.

Firefly is committed to workplace safety, and at no time during the test were Firefly operations personnel or the public in danger. Firefly is coordinating closely with local authorities and emergency response personnel as it investigates the anomaly and refines its contingency procedures.

 


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These new data sources are creating high-impact tools for investors

22:39 | 4 December

David Teten Contributor
David Teten is an advisor to emerging investment managers and a Venture Partner with HOF Capital. He was previously a partner for 8 years with HOF Capital and ff Venture Capital. David writes regularly at teten.com and @dteten.

Venture capitalists tout themselves as frontier technology investors, but most of us are using the same infrastructure tools we’ve used for the past 20+ years — Excel and recent college grads searching Google .

We’ve seen some modest progress in people upgrading from Excel to Google Sheets, along with the use of CRM and cloud-based storage services, but according to Sebastian Soler, who oversees data science at Lux Capital, less than 5% of American VCs have a full-time team member who’s focused on technology.

“While the arguments for adopting the latest technology are now too compelling to ignore, finding the required budget for specialized tools can often prove to be a major challenge, especially for smaller managers,” said Tim Friedman, founder of PEStack. “Comprehensive market data can cost upwards of $25k for a leading service, portfolio monitoring can be double that, add in front office tools and you’re quickly into six-figure sums. My advice is: there are now more products than ever which focus on quick implementation and offer a lot of functionality at a fraction of the cost of some of the larger legacy providers.

TotemVC* is one example of a high-quality solution that offers a powerful platform with a transparent, affordable monthly rate. One piece of advice would be to use a service like [PEStack’s] free Vendor Profiles platform to identify viable providers and build up a shortlist. We also track sample clients so that our users can see what their peers are using. I would always advise managers to talk to other professionals to get the real inside scoop on which products work well, how painful the implementation was, and how good the ongoing support is.”

Jonathan Balkin, founder of Lionpoint Group, observed that the highest-impact technology initiative for a new PE/VC fund is typically to configure and enforce usage of a CRM system. The next most impactful initiative is usually to create an easy-to-use LP portal.

 


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The Samsung Galaxy Fold is headed to Canada, with in-store pre-orders starting today

17:37 | 28 November

The Samsung Galaxy Fold is a very unique smartphone, in more ways than one. The most obvious differentiator is that it folds out to expose a large, continuous 7.3″ display, hiding the seam thanks to a flexible OLED screen. It’s also at the very top end of the smartphone market price-wise, which could explain why it only debuted in a few limited markets at launch. Samsung says that customer interest has helped expand that initial pool of availability, however, which is why it’s launching pre-orders in Canada today.

There’s going to be some sticker shock for Canadians, however: The Fold starts at $2,599.99 CAD in its newest market. That’s the price you’d pay for a well-specced computer, but it’s actually right in line with the price of the phone in the U.S. when you account for currency conversion. Pre-orders are also going to be exclusively in-store, at Samsung’s Eaton Center, Sherway Gardens and Yorkdale locations, all of which are in Toronto. Retail sales, also exclusive to Samsung’s own retail operations, are starting December 6 but pre-order customers will be able to ensure a day one pickup.

Samsung’s Galaxy Fold has had a bit of an uneven launch, with a first attempt cancelled in light of multiple reviewers experiencing issues with their devices. Samsung re-designed elements of the phone as a result, including adding caps to prevent dust entering the crucial hinge component that powers the folding actions, and embedding a necessary pre-installed protective screen covering under the phone’s bezels. Still, our own Brian Heater experienced a display hardware issue within a day with his redesigned review device.

Samsung is offering free “Fold Premiere Service” which includes discounted screen replacements and standard free repairs when an issue is not due to any misuse on a user’s part. Overall, the takeaway should be that this is a first-generation device, but also a totally unique piece of technology in today’s marketplace for those willing to risk it.

 


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Africa Roundup: Goldman leads $30M Twiga raise, China grows tech influence, Jumia weathers lockup-expiry

10:30 | 4 November

Kenya’s Twiga Foods raised a total of $30 million in October from lenders and investors led by Goldman Sachs.

This adds to the list of African startups the U.S. financial firm has backed, including e-commerce venture Jumia and South African fintech startup Jumo.

Twiga, a B2B food distribution company, will use its funds to set up a distribution center in Nairobi and deepen its conversion to offering supply chain services for both agricultural and FMCG products.

The startup is also targeting Pan-African expansion to French speaking West Africa by third quarter 2020, CEO Peter Njonjo told TechCrunch.

The venture has moved quickly on diversifying its supply-chain product mix. “We’re not just doing fruits and vegetables…I’d say we’re at 50/50 now between FMCG  and fresh,” said Njonjo.

Twiga doesn’t plan to move toward entering or supplying B2C e-commerce, where it could become a competitor to other online retailers, such as Jumia.

But the company has factored for advantages in the B2C e-commerce space. “If you’re able to serve Nairobi’s 180,000 retailers, it means that the furthest customer would be less than two kilometers away from any shop. That’s the power of building a B2C business on top of a B2B platform. So definitely, the potential is there,” said Njonjo.

China is known for its relationship with Africa based on trade and infrastructure, but not so much for tech. That’s changing with a number of Chinese actors increasing the country’s digital influence across the continent’s tech markets.

This includes Africa focused mobile phone Transsion’s IPO and planned expansion in Africa and recent moves on the continent by Alibaba and Chinese owned Opera.

In an ExtraCrunch feature, TechCrunch detailed China’s growing tech ties with Africa and what they could mean for the continent’s innovation ecosystem and Africa’s relationship with China overall.

In two stories in Ocotober, TechCrunch followed Jumia’s IPO lockup expiry and volatile share-price ahead of the Jumia’s November third-quarter earnings call.

The Africa focused e-commerce company — with online verticals in 14 countries —  has had a bumpy ride since becoming the first tech venture operating in Africa to list on a major exchange. Jumia saw its opening share price of $14.50 jump 70% after its NYSE IPO in April.

Then in May, Jumia’s stock tumbled when it came under assault from a short-seller, Andrew Left, who accused the company of fraud in its SEC filings.

In August, Jumia’s 2nd quarter earnings showed upside and downside: revenue growth still with big losses. Much of it may have been overshadowed by Jumia’s own admission of a fraud perpetrated by some employees and agents of its JForce sales program.

Jumia’s core investors appeared to show continued confidence in the company in October, when there wasn’t a big sell-off after the IPO lockup period expired.

It appears that what Jumia disclosed does not validate the claims in Citron Research’s May report. But the markets still seem wary of the company’s stock, which now stands at roughly half its opening IPO price.

Jumia will have a chance to clear up any lingering confusion and showcase its latest numbers on its third-quarter earnings call November 12.

PhutiMahanyele Dabengwa 52TechCrunch reported additional details to two big African tech market events that happened over the last year. First, Naspers Foundry’s new leader, Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, confirmed the 1.4 billion rand (≈$100 million) VC arm of South Africa’s Naspers is accepting pitches.

Announced in late 2018, Naspers Foundry will make equity investments in various amounts, primarily from Series A up to Series B in South African ventures. Founders from other parts of Africa with startup operations in South Africa can be considered for funding, Mahanyele-Dabengwa clarified.

CcHub and iHub CEO Bosun Tijani revealed more detail about the recent merger of both names. CcHub – iHub will pursue more operating revenue from consulting and VC investing, vs. grants, according to Tijani. The new Nigeria and Kenya based innovation network will also look to bring an Africa startup tour to the U.S. and is considering opening an office in San Francisco, he said.

More Africa-related stories @TechCrunch

Africa can list more gazelles at home than unicorn IPOs abroadKenyan telco Safaricom’s Alpha incubator faces uncertain futureNigeria’s #StopRobbingUs campaign could spur tech advocacy group, CEOs saySahara Reporters founder Sowore remains detained in Nigeria

At the recent TechCrunch Disrupt SF, Senegalese VC investor Marieme Diop suggested that Silicon Valley’s unicorn IPO model might not be right for African startups. The is largely because the …

African tech around the ‘net

Kenya’s BitPesa secures $15M debt funding as it rebrands

SA’s SweepSouth banks $3.95M to expand, launch new services

TLCom hosts first summit for African female tech founders in Nigeria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Small rocket launch startup Firefly teams up with Aerojet Rocketdyne

20:43 | 23 October

In a perfect example of a small, new space startup teaming up with a legacy industry heavyweight with plenty of experience, Firefly is teaming up with Aerojet Rocketdyne. Firefly Aerospace was founded in 2013, and has raised $21.6 million so far to bring its first product, the Alpha small satellite launch vehicle, to market.

Firefly is on track to make its crucial first launch in time for the February to March timeframe next year, according to Firefly founder and CEO Dr. Tom Markusic, who spoke at the International Astronautical Congress this year in Washington, D.C., to provide an update on his company’s progress and talk about the newly formed partnership between Firefly and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Firefly Space Systems CEO Tom Markusic

Firefly founder and CEO Tom Markusic

Markusic was joined by Aerojet Rocketdyne SVP of Space Business Jim Maser, and the two executives explained how Aerojet will provide engines for Firefly to use on its next-generation launch vehicle, aptly named ‘Beta,’ the full development of which will follow once Alpha has launched and enters into regular commercial service.

Beta will be a medium launch vehicle, with greater cargo capacity compared to Alpha and a maxim load of around 8.5 metric tons. Alpha, the startup’s first rocket, will be able to take 1 metric ton to orbit, which Markusic said his company has identified as the “sweet spot” for current unaddressed demand.

That medium band is also underserved, Markusic said, and since it’ll need a bigger booster to transport that larger cargo capacity to orbit, they looked around for solutions and found that Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-1 Engine, which can produce 500,000 lbs of thrust, was the perfect solution.

In general Markusic and Maser both expressed the opinion that startup and younger companies just getting into the industry are prime partners for older companies like Aerojet, which was founded in 1942 and has been serving the rocket and missile industry ever since.

firefly alpha

Firefly’s Alpha launch vehicle

“It’s okay to move fast and it’s okay to make mistakes, but let’s not make other peoples’ mistakes and let’s not make our own mistakes twice,” Markusic said, characterizing the benefits of teaming up with someone with lots more experience. This partnership goes beyond just the engine supply arrangement, Markusic said, and will provide more far ranging benefits for the startup.

“Aerojet Rocketdyne has a whole corral of amazing in space propulsion options for example the XR-5,” Markusic said. “Which is a five kilowatt hull thruster that can be utilized on our OTV (orbital transfer vehicle), and advanced OTV, we could do some heavier missions in cis-lunar space, and they also have a large corral of flight proven by proposed chemical thrusters that can be used on these other stages as well.”

AR1 Successful Engine Preburner Test min

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-1 engine undergoing a preburner test

Firefly plans to do an orbital transfer vehicle to provide more advanced launch capabilities, and its ambitions extend even beyond launchers and to in-space manufacturing, which Markusic said is attractive to the company since the ultimate way to reduce launch costs is to obviate the need for launch costs altogether, and the company’s ultimate goal is to get more commercial satellites into orbit, regardless of method. Still, there’s plenty of opportunity bu Markusic says ultimate, the company’s biggest challenge right now is remaining focused on their most immediate, and most important goal.

“Their are at least 100 companies like Firefly talking about going to space,” he said. “We’re in that crowd of talkers right now, and it is my focus with this company to get us out of that crowd of people talking about it as soon as possible, and into the elite crowd of people that are actually flying a spacecraft to space.”

 


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Kenyan telco Safaricom’s Alpha incubator faces uncertain future

08:34 | 18 October

Safaricom’s Nairobi based Alpha innovation incubator may have an uncertain future, according to sources.

With two high-level departures, and the passing of Safaricom’s CEO Bob Collymore, there are questions on how or if Alpha will continue to operate.

The space was established in 2017 to spur new product development for Safaricom, which is Kenya’s largest mobile operator and the provider of M-Pesa — East Africa’s most used mobile-money product.

As TechCrunch reported, one of the first objectives of Alpha was to build upon the success of M-Pesa.

As a telco, Safaricom has 69 percent of the Kenya’s mobile subscribers and generates around a fourth ($531 million) of its ≈ $2.2 billion annual revenues (2018) from M-Pesa. The fintech product has 20.5 million customers across a network of 176,000 agents.

While these stats have put Safaricom in a coveted position, the company’s former CEO Bob Collymore expressed concerns over the risk of too many eggs in one basket. For years, Collymore pressed his company to diversify product and revenue streams.

Through in-house development and partnerships, Safaricom added consumer and small business-based products, such as ride-hail app Little and website services, to its mobile and fintech network.

In 2017, Safaricom’s Chief Innovation Officer and first head of Alpha, Kamal Bhattacharya echoed Collymore’s mission to diversify the company’s offerings.

“We’d actually like to move beyond M-Pesa by leveraging its power as a social network to connect people to other product solutions,” he told TechCrunch.

Bhattacharya — who’d come to Safaricom after senior positions at IBM Research Africa and a stint restructuring Kenyan innovation center iHub — recruited a team for Alpha, led by founder and computer scientist Shikoh Gitau.

From a market perspective, Alpha was something to watch since corporate incubators in Africa were (and continue to be) a relatively new component across the continent’s tech ecosystem.

Alpha staff in 2018

In a space purposely set up away from Safaricom’s HQ, Alpha’s team of innovators set to shaping new digital offerings.

In 2018, the incubator rolled out its first product, a social networking platform called Bonga, to augment M-Pesa.

Since M-Pesa was already established as a commercial network, the idea was to amplify that by creating more social media type transactions around it — channeling Facebook, YouTube, iTunes, PayPal, and eBay in one platform.

With Bonga, Alpha appeared to have some momentum into 2018, before the innovation incubator lost two of its biggest backers.

First, Kamal Bhattacharya, exited Safaricom and his position of lead of Alpha in October 2018. The reason given by the company was a bit of corporate say-nothing-speak: “leaving to pursue other interests.”

The real reasons for Bhattacharya’s sudden exit were unclear. There was, however, plenty of scuttlebutt about powers within Safaricom — resistant to the brand of bureaucracy rattling change Alpha could bring — conspiring to push him out.

After losing its head, Alpha lost another key ally in Bob Collymore when he passed away in July of this year after a fight with cancer.

Zwuup SafaricomAlpha said farewell to another senior figure in August when Huston Malande left. It also rebranded Bonga to Zwuup this year — though Safaricom’s last two annual reports don’t indicate how the product has fared under either name, with no mention of Bonga, Zwuup, or Alpha.

What’s next for Alpha?

Several sources close to Safaricom (speaking on background) expressed doubt that it would have the support within the company to continue with Collymore’s passing.

One source suggested Alpha would more likely be morphed into the larger Safaricom bureaucracy rather than shut down completely, to avoid negative news that an abrupt closure would bring.

TechCrunch asked Safaricom directly on the future of Alpha, and specifically if it would confirm or deny reports the innovation incubator could shutdown. A Safaricom spokesperson said it could not comment on anything related to Alpha’s products or performance before Safaricom’s next earnings reporting, scheduled for November 1.

So Kenya’s tech community will have to wait a couple more weeks to see if Safaricom sticks to its experiment to spur inside innovation by creating an outside incubator — or not.

 

 

 


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Startups Weekly: YC grad Revel’s plan to connect women over 50

15:00 | 12 October

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy news pertaining to startups and venture capital. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. I’ve been on a bit of a startup profile kick as of late. Last week, I was tired from Disrupt. Before that, I wrote about up and coming telemedicine company Alpha Medical.

Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you don’t subscribe to Startups Weekly yet, you can do that here.


Startup Spotlight

Y Combinator’s latest batch concluded two months ago, which means my inbox is beginning to fill with pitches from companies ready to talk about the first rounds of fundraising. We’ve profiled many of the companies already, like Tandem, Narrator, SannTek Labs and more to come.

This week, I have some notes on Revel, a recent grad from the hot accelerator network that plans to create a nationwide subscription-based network tailored to women over the age of 50. The startup’s founders, Harvard Business School graduates Lisa Marron and Alexa Wahl, say there are no good existing options in the market to help women in this demographic foster new relationships.

Revel

“I think a lot of the things that exist are nonprofits that are a little antiquated now,” Marron tells TechCrunch. “I think we saw that those are really serving the need of our members’ parents’ generation, but they haven’t really adapted as much to the modern age.”

Women 50 years and older can become a member of Revel. For now, the service is free, though the company plans to charge a $100 annual fee in the coming months. Currently, Revel’s community includes 500 women. With a $2.5 million funding led by Forerunner Ventures’ Kirsten Green, the small team plans to expand within the Bay Area. They said they won’t begin establishing Revel outside the region until they raise a Series A.

It’s hard to imagine women will stay committed to paying an annual Revel membership, considering the real value comes from the company’s ability to facilitate introductions to like-minded women. Once those introductions have been made, women can discontinue their membership and develop relationships outside the service. Forerunner Ventures, however, is known for backing successful and prominent brands, like Glossier, Warby Parker and Outdoor Voices. My guess is Revel has ambitions to become the brand representing women over 50 seeking meaningful connections.

“We want to take this wide in a short number of years because we feel there is a need and opportunity to build this strong community for women of this age; venture capital in that sense was rocket fuel,” adds Marron.


VC rounds


M&A

  • Uber plans to buy a majority stake in a Latin American grocery delivery business called Cornershop. The Chilean startup was founded in 2015 by Oskar Hjertonsson, Daniel Undurraga and Juan Pablo Cuevas. It will continue to operate under that leadership in its current form for now, says Uber.
  • To beat Amazon Go, Standard Cognition is buying DeepMagic, a pioneer in autonomous retail kiosks. “The $86 million-funded Standard Cognition is racing to equip storefronts with an independent alternative using cameras to track what customers grab and charge them. But Amazon’s early start in the space poses a risk that it could patent troll the startup,” writes TechCrunch’s Josh Constine.

Extra Crunch

Extra Crunch subscribers have a lot to chew on this week. Reminder, if you haven’t yet signed up for our premium content service, you still can here.

This week, I wrote about the importance of having a culture expert on staff at a venture capital firm. Increasingly, startups are being judged for their cultures, diversity of staff and more. VCs, for the most part, are unprepared to help their companies foster more inclusive environments, and that’s a problem. One firm, True Ventures, has taken a big step toward holding their companies accountable for culture and giving them real resources to help them improve things early. I talked to True Ventures’ Madeline Kolbe Saltzman about her new title, VP of Culture.


Equity

I took a break from Equity this week, but my co-host Alex Wilhelm was in studio with IPO expert James Clark. Listen to the excellent conversation here.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify and all the casts.

 


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“Human Compatible” is a provocative prescription to re-think AI before it’s too late

21:01 | 6 October

Dr. Stuart Russell, a distinguished AI researcher and computer scientist at UC Berkeley, believes there is a fundamental and potentially civilization-ending shortcoming in the “standard model” of AI, which is taught (and Dr. Russell wrote the main textbook) and applied virtually everywhere. Dr. Russell’s new book, Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control, argues that unless we re-think the building blocks of AI, the arrival of superhuman AI may become the “last event in human history.”

That may sound a bit wild-eyed, but Human Compatible is a carefully written explanation of the concepts underlying AI as well as the history of their development. If you want to understand how fast AI is developing and why the technology is so dangerous, Human Compatible is your guide, literally starting with Aristotle and closing with OpenAI Five’s Dota 2 triumph.

Stuart’s aim is help non-technologists grasp why AI systems must be designed not simply to fulfill “objectives” assigned to them, the so-called “Standard Model” in AI development today, but to operate so “that machines will necessarily defer to humans: they will ask permission, they will accept correction, and they will allow themselves to be switched off.”

 


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Verg Matthews
There has to an email option icon to send to the clowns in MTNL ... the govt of India's service pro…
Verg Matthews

CrunchWeek: Apple Makes Music, Oculus Aims For Mainstream, Twitter CEO Shakeup
Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short

CrunchWeek: Apple Makes Music, Oculus Aims For Mainstream, Twitter CEO Shakeup
Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short