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Main article: Startups

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DoorDash raises another $250M, nearly triples valuation to $4B

01:02 | 17 August

Food delivery startup DoorDash announced this afternoon that it has raised $250 million, just five months since the company announced a $535 million round.

Why raise more money so soon? CEO Tony Xu told Axios that he wasn’t actively looking for additional investment, but was open to investor interest because it could help the company expand more quickly. (Maybe he’ll have more to say about those plans at Disrupt SF next month.)

The new funding was led by Coatue Management and DST Global. It sounds like the terms were pretty appealing too, with the valuation growing from $1.4 billion to $4 billion.

In a blog post, the company said it’s had a good 2018, with deliveries increasing 250 percent year-over-year, restaurant chains like Chipotle and IHOP signing up and last week’s launch of the DashPass subscription service, where you can pay $9.99 per month to get unlimited free deliveries.

“As we grow, we will stay true to our values and our mission of connecting people with possibility  —  and, trust us, we’re just getting started,” DoorDash wrote.

 


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Autonomous retail startup Inokyo’s first store feels like stealing

23:02 | 16 August

Inokyo wants to be the indie Amazon Go. It’s just launched its prototype cashierless autonomous retail store. Cameras track what you grab from shelves, and with a single QR scan of its app on your way in and out of the store, you’re charged for what you got.

Inokyo‘s first store is now open on Mountain View’s Castro Street selling an array of bougie kombuchas, snacks, protein powders, and bath products. It’s sparse and a bit confusing, but offers a glimpse of what might be a commonplace shopping experience five years from now. You can get a glimpse yourself in our demo video below:

“Cashierless stores will have the same level of impact on retail as self-driving cars will have on transportation” Inokyo co-founder Tony Francis tells me. “This is the future of retail. It’s inevitable that stores will become increasingly autonomous.”

Inokyo (rhymes with Tokyo) is now accepting signups for beta customers who want early access to its Mountain View store. The goal is to collect enough data to dictate the future product array and business model. Inokyo is deciding whether it wants to sell its technology as a service to other retail stores, run its own stores, or work with brands to improve their product’s positioning based on in-store sensor data on custom behavior.

We knew that building this technology in a lab somewhere wouldn’t yield a successful product” says Francis. “Our hypothesis here is that whoever ships first, learns in the real world, and iterates the fastest on this technology will be the ones to make these stores ubiquitous.” Inokyo might never rise into a retail giant ready to compete with Amazon and Whole Foods. But its tech could even the playing field, equipping smaller businesses with the tools to keep tech giants from having a monopoly on autonomous shopping experiences.

It’s About What Cashiers Do Instead

Amazon isn’t as ahead as we assumed” Francis remarks. He and his co-founder Rameez Remsudeen took a trip to Seattle to see the Amazon Go store that first traded cashiers for cameras in the US. Still, they realized “This experience can be magical”. The two had met at Carnegie Mellon through machine learning classes before they went on to apply that knowledge at Instaram and Uber. The two decided that if they jumped into autonomous retail soon enough, they could still have a say in shaping its direction.

Next week, Inokyo will graduate from Y Combinator’s accelerator that provided its initial seed funding. In six weeks during the program, they found a retail space on Mountain View’s main drag, studied customer behaviors in traditional stores, built an initial product line, and developed the technology to track what user are taking off the shelves.

Here’s how the Inokyo store works. You download its app and connect a payment method, and you get a QR code that you wave in front of a little sensor as you stroll into the shop. Overhead cameras will scan your body shape and clothing without facial recognition in order to track you as you move around the store. Meanwhile, on-shelf cameras track when products are picked up or put back. Combined, knowing who’s where and what’s grabbed lets it assign the items to your cart. You scan again on your way out, and later you get a receipt detailing the charges.

Originally, Inokyo actually didn’t make you scan on the way out, but it got the feedback that customers were scared they were actually stealing. The scan-out is more about peace of mind than engineering necessity. There is a subversive pleasure to feeling like “well, if Inokyo didn’t catch all the stuff I chose, that’s not my problem.” And if you’re overcharged, there’s an in-app support button for getting a refund.

Inokyo co-founders (from left): Tony Francis and Rameez Remsudeen

Inokyo was accurate in what it charged me despite me doing a few switcharoos with products I nabbed. But there were only about three people in the room with at the time. The real test for these kinds of systems are when a rush of customers floods in and that cameras have to differentiate between multiple similar-looking people. Inokyo will likely need to be over 99 percent accurate to be more of a help than a headache. An autonomous store that constantly over- or undercharges would be more trouble than it’s worth, and patrons would just go to the nearest classic shop.

Just because autonomous retail stores will be cashier-less doesn’t mean they’ll have no staff. To maximize cost-cutting, they could just trust that people won’t loot it. However, Inokyo plans to have someone minding the shop to make sure people scan in the first place and to answer questions about the process. But theirs also an opportunity in reassigning labor from being cashiers to concierges that can recommend the best products or find what’s the right fit for the customer. These stores will be judged by the convenience of the holistic experience, not just the tech. At the very least, a single employee might be able to handle restocking, customer support, and store maintenance once freed from cashier duties.

The Amazon Go autonomous retail store in Seattle is equipped with tons of overhead cameras.

While Amazon Go uses cameras in a similar way to Inokyo, it also relies on weight sensors to track items. There are plenty of other companies chasing the cashierless dream. China’s BingoBox has nearly $100 million in funding and has over 300 stores, though they use less sophisticated RFID tags. Fellow Y Combinator startup Standard Cognition has raised $5 million to equip old school stores with autonomous camera-tech. AiFi does the same, but touts that its cameras can detect abnormal behavior that might signal someone is a shoplifter.

The store of the future seems like more and more of a sure thing. The race’s winner will be determined by who builds the most accurate tracking software, easy-to-install hardware, and pleasant overall shopping flow. If this modular technology can cut costs and lines without alienating customers, we could see our local brick-and-mortars adapt quickly. The bigger question than if or even when this future arrives is what it will mean for the millions of workers who make their living running the checkout lane.

 


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Work-Bench enterprise report predicts end of SaaS could be coming

22:29 | 16 August

Work-Bench, a New York City venture capital firm that spends a lot of time around Fortune 1000 companies, has put together The Work-Bench Enterprise Almanac: 2018 Edition, which you could think of as a State of the Enterprise report. It’s somewhat like Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report, but with a focus on the tools and technologies that will be having a major impact on the enterprise in the coming year.

Perhaps the biggest take-away from the report could be that the end of SaaS as we’ve known could be coming if modern tools make it easier for companies to build software themselves. More on this later.

While the report writers state that their findings are based at least partly on anecdotal evidence, it is clearly an educated set of observations and predictions related to the company’s work with enterprise startups and the large companies they tend to target.

As they wrote in their Medium post launching the report, “Our primary aim is to help founders see the forest from the trees. For Fortune 1000 executives and other players in the ecosystem, it will help cut through the noise and marketing hype to see what really matters.” Whether that’s the case will be in the eye of the reader, but it’s a comprehensive attempt to document the state of the enterprise as they see it, and there are not too many who have done that.

The big picture

The report points out the broader landscape in which enterprise companies — startups and established players alike — are operating today. You have traditional tech companies like Cisco and HP, the mega cloud companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google, the Growth Guard with companies like Snowflake, DataDog and Sumo Logic and the New Guard, those early stage enterprise companies gunning for the more established players.

As the report states, the mega cloud players are having a huge impact on the industry by providing the infrastructure services for startups to launch and grow without worrying about building their own data centers or scaling to meet increasing demand as a company develops.

The mega clouders also scoop up a fair number of startups. Yet they don’t devote quite the level of revenue to M&A as you might think based on how acquisitive the likes of Salesforce, Microsoft and Oracle have tended to be over the years. In fact, in spite of all the action and multi-billion deals we’ve seen, Work-Bench sees room for even more.

It’s worth pointing out that Work-Bench predicts Salesforce itself could become a target for mega cloud M&A action. They are predicting that either Amazon or Microsoft could buy the CRM giant. We saw such speculation several years ago and it turned out that Salesforce was too rich for even these company’s blood. While they may have more cash to spend, the price has probably only gone up as Salesforce acquires more and more companies and its revenue has surpassed $10 billion.

About those mega trends

The report dives into 4 main areas of coverage, none of which are likely to surprise you if you read about the enterprise regularly in this or other publications:

  • Machine Learning
  • Cloud
  • Security
  • SaaS

While all of these are really interconnected as SaaS is part of the cloud and all need security and will be (if they aren’t already) taking advantage of machine learning. Work-Bench is not seeing it in such simple terms, of course, diving into each area in detail.

The biggest take-away is perhaps that infrastructure could end up devouring SaaS in the long run. Software as a Service grew out of couple of earlier trends, the first being the rise of the Web as a way to deliver software, then the rise of mobile to move it beyond the desktop. The cloud-mobile connection is well documented and allowed companies like Uber and Airbnb, as just a couple of examples, to flourish by providing scalable infrastructure and a computer in our pockets to access their services whenever we needed them. These companies could never have existed without the combination of cloud-based infrastructure and mobile devices.

End of SaaS dominance?

But today, Work-Bench is saying that we are seeing some other trends that could be tipping the scales back to infrastructure. That includes containers and microservices, serverless, Database as a Service and React for building front ends. Work-Bench argues that if every company is truly a software company, these tools could make it easier for companies to build these kind of services cheaply and easily, and possibly bypass the SaaS vendors.

What’s more, they suggest that if these companies are doing mass customization to these services, then it might make more sense to build instead of buy, at least on one level. In the past, we have seen what happens when companies try to take these kinds of massive software projects on themselves and it hardly ever ended well. They were usually bulky, difficult to update and put the companies behind the curve competitively. Whether simplifying the entire developer tool kit would change that remains to be seen.

They don’t necessarily see companies running wholesale away from SaaS just yet to do this, but they do wonder if developers could push this trend inside of organizations as more tools appear on the landscape to make it easier to build your own.

The remainder of the report goes in depth into each of these trends, and this article just has scratched the surface of the information you’ll find there. The entire report is embedded below.

 


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Buy a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package before the deadline expires next week

20:05 | 16 August

You’ve got one week left to plant your early-stage startup squarely in the path of 10,000 people, including influential investors, technologists, potential customers and the media. If you want to showcase your company at Disrupt San Francisco 2018, which takes place September 5-7, there’s no better place to do it than the Startup Alley exhibit floor. And the only way to do that is to buy a Disrupt SF Startup Alley Exhibitor Package before the application deadline expires August 24.

Startup Alley is the entrepreneurial heart of Disrupt SF 2018, where you’ll find more than 1,200 pre-series A startups and sponsors of every technical stripe. And they’ll be displaying the very best and latest products, platforms and services.

A prime networking environment, Startup Alley is home to collaboration, inspiration and opportunity. Luke Heron, CEO at Testcard.com, had this to say about his Startup Alley experience:

“TechCrunch uses a curation process regarding the companies it accepts,” he said. “So being in Startup Alley — among all these other fantastic startups — has a hugely positive impact when you’re fundraising.”

What does a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package include? Take a look.

  • Two Founder passes for all three days of Disrupt SF 2018
  • A one-day, 3’x6′ exhibit space
  • Use of CrunchMatch — our curated investor-to-startup matching platform
  • Access to The Main Stage, The Next Stage, The Q&A Stage, The Showcase Stage
  • All workshops
  • Access to the attendee list; ability to message attendees with the Disrupt App
  • Attend the TC After Party

And because it’s just not a TechCrunch Disrupt without contests and giveaways, here’s a little added incentive just for you.

Two companies from Startup Alley will be tapped to participate in the Startup Battlefield competition as the Wild Card companies. Yes, you may still be selected to pitch to top investors in front of hundreds of thousands of people at the event and online. But you have to get your Exhibitor Package today if you want the chance.

That’s more exposure gold, folks. Come and mine it.

Disrupt San Francisco 2018  takes place September 5-7, and you have until August 24 to secure your spot in Startup Alley. Don’t wait, buy your Startup Alley Exhibitor Package now. We think Luke Heron said it best. “If you’re a startup founder or an entrepreneur, attending Disrupt is a no-brainer.”

 


0

Tonal launches at-home digital strength training system

19:00 | 16 August

If you want to have a brutal workout from the comfort of your own home — and have about $3,000 to spend — look no further. Tonal, a strength-training system powered by electromagnetism resistance technology and machine learning, is launching today to let you get ripped and in shape without having to go to the gym.

There are two key features that make Tonal different from the weight lifting machines you’ll find in the gym. For one, there aren’t actual weights. Instead, Tonal uses electromagnetism to simulate and control weight.

So when you’re doing a bicep curl, for example, “the thing pulling back on you isn’t gravity — it’s an electromagnetic field controlled by a computer algorithm,” Tonal CEO and founder Aly Orady told me at the company’s San Francisco headquarters last week. “It’s digitally-controlled weight.”

The other key feature is the built-in personal trainer. For $49 a month, Tonal members get access to personal training sessions, recommended programs and workouts.

“It’s like having an entire gym and a personal trainer in your home,” Orady said. “That’s a pretty big claim but I’m going to show it to you and you’re going to love it.”

He was right. I loved it in a pure hate kind of way. I had a chance to try it out and I feel confident saying I had the worst day of my year — but, you know, in a good, yet sadistic way. It’s just that I’m horribly out of shape and this machine isn’t messing around.

Tonal works by first determining your baseline strength with a 10-minute test. The test entails completing four movements (seated lat pulldown, seated overhead press, bench press and neutral grip dead lift) as fast and as powerful as you can. From there, Tonal gives you a baseline score for your core, upper body and lower body.

As you can see from my results below, I’m very strong.

But seriously — my trainer told me I was very strong. From there, I completed my first workout. And that’s when I realized that while I may be strong, my endurance is non-existent.

As I made my way through my first workout, Tonal could automatically tell that I was on the struggle bus headed farther into struggle town. That’s because Tonal was constantly monitoring the quality of my reps and based on that, dynamically adjusted the weight.

Tonal, which mounts to your wall like a TV, is pretty pricey ($2,995), but it joins the likes of startups like Peloton and Mirror. Peloton is an internet-connected cycling bike that retails for $1,995 plus $39 a month for content while Mirror is similarly an at-home device that lets you see video of a fitness instructor and classmates for exercises like barre, yoga and pilates. Mirror has raised $13 million from Spark Capital, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, First Round Capital and others. The company, however, has yet to launch its product and pricing.

Tonal is not disclosing its amount of funding, but has raised money from Mayfield, Shasta, Bolt Capital, Next Play Capital, Upside Partnership and others.

 


0

Credit Karma acquires mortgage platform Approved

19:00 | 16 August

Credit Karma, the service best known for providing free credit score monitoring and other financial advice (mostly to millennials), is getting into the mortgage business. The company today announced that it has acquired Approved, a mortgage platform that brings modern technology to a process that even today often still involves faxing documents back and forth. The companies did not disclose the financial details of the transaction.

At first glance, this may seem like a bit of an odd acquisition, given that Approved is mostly a service for banks and mortgage brokers. But it also makes perfect sense for Credit Karma to get into the mortgage business.

Indeed, Credit Karama Chief Product Officer Nikhyl Singhal told me that he sees this as the natural next step in the company’s evolution.

“As we’ve expanded, you’ve seen us move from credit cards as a way to help members with that part of their life to first personal loans to auto — meaning auto loans, auto insurance,” he said. “Today, we’re really talking more publicly about mortgage. Mortgage being for many of our members the most important financial decision they’ll make.”

It’s also no secret that Credit Karma’s largest user base is millennials. As they get older and start getting to the point where they consider buying a home (assuming they are in the financial position to do so), the company obviously wants to keep those users engaged on their platform and offer them more services.

Singhal also stressed that 80 percent of Credit Karma members are active on the service before they get a new mortgage — and Credit Karma obviously knows all of this because it is able to collect a lot of very detailed financial data about its users.

As Singhal noted, Credit Karma has been working on getting deeper into the mortgage business for about 18 months. “The acquisition is just the continuing effort of saying, ‘look, we’re serious about taking our scale and being that trusted destination for our members as it relates to helping them with their mortgage.'”

Credit Karma already offers some mortgage brokerage services and today’s acquisition is meant to help speed up this process with the help of Approved’s technology. “What approved has spent a lot of time doing is working with lenders to help them automate and make them more efficient,” Singhal explained. A more efficient process, Singhal expects, means the lenders can reduce rates and save Credit Karma members money.

Approved CEO Andy Taylor and CTO Navtaj Sadhal are both Redfin alums, so they know this business well. Taylor told me that he believes that Credit Karama will allow him to scale his service up beyond what a stand-alone company could’ve done. Taylor tells me that he sees Approved’s mission as helping consumers navigate the often tedious and painful world of getting a mortgage. “Moving to Credit Karma is going to immediately give us the sort of resources and immediate scale to continue to drive that mission-driven work,” he said. “We can reach significantly more people than we could otherwise. We can spend less time focusing in on the minutia of building the lender system and more time focussing on bringing transparency to the transaction and having a better loan application process.”

 


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The company behind BarkBox is opening an ‘outdoor clubhouse’ for Nashville’s dogs

15:30 | 16 August

Bark, the company behind the BarkBox subscription for dog treats and toys, is planning to open what it calls its first BarkPark in Nashville.

It sounds like the goal is to create a space that combines a dog park with a coffee shop or other hangout spot for humans.

“I was out with friends, we’re drinking wine, it’s a really cool restaurant … it was like a poster for people having a good time in the city,” said Bark co-founder Henrik Werdelin said in a company blog post. “But my dog Molly was left out. And I realized: she deserves a space like this. We should be here together.”

At BarkPark, dogs will be able to play off-leash, and also try out Bark toys and treats (a selection will also be available for purchase). Their owners, meanwhile, will get free WiFi, access to a little coffee shop and the ability to ask questions of Bark staff.

Plus, both the dog and their owners will be able to attend weekly dog-friendly programming, like live music and beer tastings.

BarkPark

Day passes cost $19, and you can also buy four-week ($49) or seasonal ($78) passes. The memberships are designed to be dog-centric — while you (the human) will presumably be paying the bill, your dog is the actual BarkPark member, and can be accompanied by any two humans. So if you’re out of town, you don’t need to worry about getting access for, say, your dogwalker or dogsitter.

Bark is currently building out the Nashville BarkPark location (which is why all the illustrations in this story are either renderings or sketches), with plans to open on September 8. And while the company is treating this as a three-month pop up initially, with BarkPark closing for the winter on November 18, the idea could be extended in Nashville and expanded elsewhere.

Why start in Nashville? While the city has many virtues, Bark said it was ultimately because it’s “ahead of the curve” as a pet-friendly city.

“There’s a fast-growing population of modern dog parents who want to take their dogs everywhere – they’re totally obsessed! – which perfectly describes our vision for BarkPark’s membership,” the company said.

 


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Shelf Engine uses machine learning to stop food waste from eating into store margins

01:35 | 16 August

Shelf Engine’s team

While running Molly’s, the Seattle-based ready meal wholesaler he founded, Stefan Kalb was upset about its 28% food wastage rate. Feeling that the amount was “astronomical,” he began researching how to lower it—and was shocked to discovered Molly’s was actually outperforming the industry average. Confronted by the sheer amount of food wasted by American retailers, Kalb and Bede Jordan, then a Microsoft engineer, began working on an order prediction engine.

The project quickly brought Molly’s percentage of wasted food down to the mid-teens. “It was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done in my career,” Kalb told TechCrunch in an interview. Driven by its success, Kalb and Jordan launched Shelf Engine in 2016 to make the technology available to other companies. Currently participating in Y Combinator, the startup has already raised $800,000 in seed funding from Initialized Capital, the venture capital firm founded by Alexis Ohanian and Gerry Tan, and is now used at over 180 retail points by clients including WeWork, Bartell Drugs, Natural Grocers and StockBox.

Shelf Engine’s order prediction engine analyzes historical order and sales data and makes recommendations about how much retailers should order to minimize waste and increase margins. The more retailers use Shelf Engine, the more accurate its machine learning model becomes. The system also helps suppliers, because many operate on guaranteed sales, or scan-based trading, which means they agree to take back and refund the purchase price of any products that don’t sell by their expiration date. While running Molly’s, Kalb learned what a huge pain point this is for suppliers. To alleviate that, Shelf Engine itself buys back unsold inventory from the retailers it works with, taking the risk away from their suppliers.

Kalb, Shelf Engine’s CEO, claims the startup’s customers are able to increase their gross margins by 25% and reduce food waste from an industry average of 30% to about 16% to 18% for items that expire within one to five days. (For items with a shelf life of up to 45 days, the longest that Shelf Engine manages, it can reduce waste to as little as 3% to 4%).

The food industry operates on notoriously tight margins and Shelf Engine wants to relieve some of the pressure. Running Molly’s, which supplies corporate campuses including Microsoft, Boeing and Amazon, gave Kalb a firsthand look at the paradox faced by retail managers. Even though a lot of food is wasted, items are also frequently out of stock at stores, annoying customers. Then there is the social and environmental impact of food waste—not only does it raise prices, food rotting in landfills is a major contributor to methane emissions.

 

A store manager may need to make ordering decisions about thousands of products, leaving little time for analysis. Though there are enterprise resource planning software products for food retail, Kalb says that during store visits he realized a surprisingly high number still rely on Excel spreadsheets or pen and paper to manage reoccurring orders. The process is also highly subjective, with managers ordering products based on their personal preferences, a customer’s suggestion or what they’ve noticed does well at other stores. Sometimes retailers get stuck in a cycle of overcorrecting, because if customers complain about missing out on something, managers order more inventory, only to end up with wastage and scale back their next order, and so on.

“Americans want selection at all times, we get furious when a product is sold out, but it’s a really hard decision to make about how much challah bread to stock on a Monday,” says Kalb. “Yet we are doing that ad hoc.”

When retailers use Shelf Engine’s prediction engine, it decides how many units they need and then submits those orders to their suppliers. After products reach their sell-by dates, the retailer reports back to Shelf Engine, which only charges them for units they sold, but still pays suppliers for the full order. As time passes, Shelf Engine can make more granular predictions (for example, how precipitation correlates with the sale of specific items like juice or bread).

In addition to providing the impetus for the creation of Shelf Engine, Molly’s also helped Kalb and Jordan, its CTO, build the startup’s distribution network. Kalb says Shelf Engine has benefited from the network effect, because when a retailer signs up, their suppliers will often mention it to other retailers that they serve. Kalb says the startup is currently hiring more engineers and salespeople to help Shelf Engine leverage that and spread through the food retail industry.

“It’s a world I got to know and I came into the world fascinated with healthy food and making delicious grab-and-go meals,” says Kalb. “It turned into a fascination with this crazy market, which is so massive and still has so many opportunities to be maximized.”

 


0

Coinbase acquires Distributed Systems to build “Login with Coinbase”

21:59 | 15 August

Coinbase wants to be Facebook Connect for crypto. The blockchain giant plans to develop a “login with Coinbase” identity platform for decentralized app developers to make it much easier for users to sign up and connect their crypto wallets. To fuel that platform, today Coinbase announced it has acquired Distributed Systems, a startup founded last year that was building identity standard for dApps called the Clear Protocol.

The five-person Distributed Systems team and its technology will join Coinbase. Three of the team members will work with Coinbase’s Toshi decentralized mobile browser team, while CEO Nikhil Srinivasan and one other co-founder are forming the new decentralized identity team that will work on the “Login with Coinbase” product. They’ll be building it atop the “know your customer” anti-money laundering data Coinbase has on its 20 million customers. Srinivasan tells me the goal is to figure out “How can we allow that really rich identity data to enable a new class of applications?”

Distributed Systems had raised a $1.7 million seed round last year led by Floodgate and was considering raising a $4 million to $8 million round this summer. But Srinivasan says “No one really understood what we’re building”, and it wanted a partner with KYC data. It began talking to Coinbase Ventures about an investment, but after they saw Distributed Systems’ progress and vision, “they quickly tried to move to find a way to acquire us.”

Distributed Systems began to hold acquisition talks, and the CEO tells me it was deciding between going to “Facebook, or Robinhood, or Binance or Coinbase”. Coinbase “were able to convince us they were making big bets, weaving identity across their products.” The financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Coinbase’s plan to roll out the “Login with Coinbase” platform is an SDK that others apps could integrate, says Srinivasan. That mimics the way Facebook colonized the web with its SDK and login buttons that splashed its brand in front of tons of new and existing users. This made turned Facebook into a fundamental identity utility beyond its social network.

Developers eager to improve conversions on their sign up flow could turn to Coinbase instead of requiring users to set up whole new accounts and deal with crypto-specific headaches of complicated keys and procedures for connecting their wallet to make payments. One prominent dApp developer told me yesterday that forcing users to set up the MetaMask browser extension for identity was the part of their signup flow where they’re losing the most people.

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong

this morning that it’s working on an identity SDK. When Coinbase investor Garry Tan of Initialized Capital wrote that “The main issue preventing dApp adoption is lack of native SDK so you can just download a mobile app and a clean fiat to crypto in one clean UX. Still have to download a browser plugin and transfer Eth to Metamask for now Too much friction”, Armstrong replied “On it :)”

On it :)

— Brian Armstrong (@brian_armstrong)

In effect, Coinbase and Distributed Systems could build a safer version of identity than we get offline. As soon as you give your social security number to someone or it gets stolen, it can be used anywhere without your consent and that leads to identity theft. Coinbase wants to build a vision of identity where you can connect to decentralized apps while retaining control. “Decentralized identity will let you prove that you own an identity, or that you have a relationship with the Social Security Administration, without making a copy of that identity” writes Coinbase’s PM for identity. “If you stretch your imagination a little further, you can imagine this applying to your photos, social media posts, and maybe one day your passport too.”

Considering Decentralized Systems and Coinbase are following the Facebook playbook, they may soon have competition from the social network. It’s spun up its own blockchain team and an identity and single sign-on platform for dApps is one of the products I think Facebook is most likely to build. But given Coinbase’s strong reputation in the blockchain industry and its massive head start in terms of registered crypto users, today’s acquisition well positions it to be how we connect our offline identity with the rising decentralized economy.

 


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Flowbox is a tool that makes it easy to build special effects

16:42 | 15 August

What do you get when you connect a bunch of filmmakers with a bunch of programmers? Something like Flowbox.

Flowbox, which began life as a unique object-oriented programming language for visual effects, has grown into something truly powerful in the moviemaking industry. Run by Mikołaj Valencia​, Michał Urbańczyk​, Paweł Pietraszko, and Mat Bujalski, this Polish company is currently working with a number of big studios to add VFX to huge productions.

“Flowbox is an industrial strength image processing platform incorporating many recent innovations in computer graphics field,” said Valencia. “It delivers semi-automated rotoscopy, one of the most tedious manual labor used in 25 precent of all video content processing. It allows for huge time savings.”

The team is working on adding other tools to the toolchain as well including color correction and image composition.

The system is unique in that it uses a visual interface to change the video. It also supports distributed computing which speeds up the compositing system immensely.

The idea was born in 2010 as a reaction to the poor tools available to filmmakers at the time.

“The idea for the Flowbox project was initiated in 2010 by Wojciech Daniło, by this time as Senior Technical Director at Alvernia Studios (the most modern film studio in Poland),” said Valencia. “His job was to design and create solutions for visual effects for international productions like Arbitrage with Richard Gere and Vamps of Sigourney Weaver. That’s when he discovered the problems faced by his associates and how limited and inflexible the leading tools were.”

The company has raised $1 million so far including an infusion from Innovation Nest.

The app’s high-tech approach to rotoscoping could be just the thing filmmakers need to unlock the true potential of their already powerful tools.

 


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