Qarnot raises $6.5 million for its computer servers that heat buildings – TechCrunch

French startup Qarnot has raised a $6.5 million (€6 million) funding round. The company manufactures heaters and boilers with a special trick — they pack computers as computers tend to generate a lot of heat. Qarnot then lets companies leverage that computing power by running tasks on those unusual servers.

Banque des Territoires, Caisse des Dépôts, Engie Rassembleur d’Énergies, A/O PropTech and Groupe Casino are participating in today’s funding round.

When you design a data center, you transform electricity into computing resources and heat. Data centers always have to find clever new ways to get rid of heat with powerful cooling mechanisms.

Qarnot is designing alternative data centers by taking advantage of heat instead of fighting heat. The company first started with computing heaters, an electrical heater with a server. The company sells those devices to construction companies looking for heaters for their new buildings.

People living or working in those buildings can then control heating directly on the heaters or through a mobile app. Nearly 1,000 social housing units are heated by Qarnot.

At the other end of the equation, companies such as BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Natixis rent those servers for their own needs. Illumination Mac Guff is also using the platform to generate 3D models for animated movies.

Heating suffers from seasonality. That’s why Qarnot has also designed scalable boiler systems. Those boilers pack CPU servers or a mix of CPU and GPU servers. Qarnot has also set up a joint venture with Groupe Casino to heat warehouses with computer racks.

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China’s Pinduoduo raises $1.1 billion in private share placement – TechCrunch

Chinese e-commerce firm Pinduoduo said on Tuesday it had raised $1.1 billion in a private share placement that will enable its further expansion and allow it to capture “additional opportunities” during the times of uncertainty.

The Nasdaq-listed firm said some of its long-term investors financed the deal. The investors were granted newly issued Class A ordinary shares of Pinduoduo representing approximately 2.8% of the company’s total outstanding shares.

The capital raise comes weeks after the Shanghai-based company said it was bracing for losses due to the coronavirus outbreak. The firm’s fourth-quarter revenue growth fell short of expectations.

Pinduoduo, which competes with giant Alibaba, has grown rapidly in recent years after gamifying the shopping experience that allows customers to team up to buy anything from smartphones to fruits.

But the firm’s marketing — promotions and discount coupons — has also widened its losses. In Q4 2019, Pinduoduo reported a loss of about $250 million on revenue of $1.5 billion.

“Pinduoduo surpassed 1 trillion yuan in annual gross merchandise value (GMV) in less than five years, and we are confident that we will see robust growth beyond our current 585 million user base,” said David Liu, VP of Strategy at Pinduoduo, said in a statement.

“The extra funding gives us the strategic flexibility to capture opportunities to further benefit our users, as we bring interactive experiences, such as our new live-streaming features, and wider variety of value-for-money products to them,” he added.

As with e-commerce firms in other parts of the world, Pinduoduo in recent months has focused on fulfilling low-cost protective gear and everyday essentials over everything else.

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Compete in Startup Battlefield and Launch at Disrupt SF 2020 – TechCrunch

Early-stage founders: Don’t miss your chance to follow in the footsteps of tech giants. We know COVID-19 has created challenges for startup founders, but fear not. Disrupt SF is still proceeding as scheduled, with a Disrupt Digital Pass Virtual option. Launch your startup in the world’s most famous pitch competition, Startup Battlefield. The smackdown goes down live on the Main Stage at Disrupt San Francisco 2020 on September 14-16. Want a shot at $100,000 and the Disrupt Cup? Fill out your application to compete right here.

Companies such as Fitbit, Cloudflare,, Dropbox, Vurb, Yammer and Getaround — to name but a few — trace their origins to the Battlefield competition. The Startup Battlefield Alumni Community — 902 companies strong and counting — has collectively raised $9 billion and produced more than 115 successful exits (IPOs or acquisitions). That’s some impressive company to keep. Why not join their ranks?

Here’s how Startup Battlefield works. First, you apply. (Pro tip: Applying and competing in the Battlefield is free and TechCrunch does not take any equity). Next, TechCrunch’s Battlefield-savvy editorial team pours over every application looking for approximately 20 startups to pitch on the Main Stage.

The TechCrunch team will put all participants through rigorous, weeks-long training to hone pitches, business models, presentation skills and any other startup issues that require tightening. You’ll be in fighting trim and ready to step out onto the Main Stage.

Teams have just six minutes to pitch and present a live demo to a panel of expert judges. After each pitch, the judges (we’re talking folks like Cyan Banister, Kirsten Green, Aileen Lee, Alfred Lin and Roelof Botha) will put each team through a Q&A. No flop-sweat here, thanks to all those weeks of pitch coaching.

The judges will select anywhere from four to six teams to advance to the finals. And that means another pitch and Q&A in front of a fresh set of judges. The winning team takes home $100,000, the coveted Disrupt Cup and they bask in a spotlight of media and investor attention. Startup Battlefield can be a life-changing experience for all competitors — not just the ultimate winner.

The action takes place in front of an enthusiastic audience of thousands. Plus, we live-stream the entire event on, once you sign up for the digital pass. If all that’s not enough, consider this. Startup Battlefield competitors receive a VIP Disrupt experience.

You’ll have access to private VIP events like the Startup Battlefield Reception, and each team receives four complimentary event tickets. You get to exhibit at the show for all three days, and you’ll have access to CrunchMatch, TC’s investor-founder networking platform. And you also get a complimentary ticket to all future TC events and free subscriptions to Extra Crunch.

Whew. That’s a whole lot of opportunity and exposure. So, what are you waiting for? Disrupt San Francisco 2020 takes place on September 14-16. Apply to compete in Startup Battlefield for a shot at launching your dream to the world.

TechCrunch is mindful of the COVID-19 issue and its impact on live events. You can follow our updates here.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt San Francisco 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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Free Apple iPad Testers Wanted – Become A Product Tester and Get Your Free Apple iPad Today

Nowadays, promotional offers like free Apple iPad can be seen almost everywhere in the internet. Offers such as these seem too good to be true that a lot of people will feel skeptical the moment they come across with such offers.

Considering the status of our economy, people welcome free offers without much hesitation. Freebies are at all times tempting. But the big question is, are these free iPad offers genuine? If they are, why would companies give pricey products free of charge? Let’s face it, the price tag of a brand new iPad is more or less $500 and it’s really hard to think that a company such as Apple would simply give it to a large number of consumers for free. So what is actually the reason behind these free iPad giveaways? And how can you avail of this offer?

Why companies give out freebies?

The main reason is probably the want of companies to make more money from their products. Nowadays, never expect anything to be ultimately free. A good example of this is the free iPad offer. Companies offering free iPad would solicit your feedback regarding their products as a non-monetary payment. Free Apple iPad testers wanted by market research companies should perform a marketing strategy known as “product testing”. These companies are in charge of distributing the free iPad giveaways to the testers and collecting feedback from them.

Feedback provided by-product testers aid the company, such as Apple, in upgrading their current products to create enhanced versions. This method is a wise way of ensuring quality products that will surely be patronized by consumers. The main purpose of manufacturing a product is to sell it to consumers, and letting the consumers decide what features to improve or to include makes a product more sellable. Product testing makes it easier for manufacturing companies to make products according to consumer’s choices since all they have to do is to apply the features that consumers have asked for.

When to expect product giveaways?

Free Apple iPad testers wanted for product testing aren’t an endless offer. Generally, these offers exist only for a brief period of time. This is normally present around the launching date of the product. Don’t waste the moment waiting for the right time to be an iPad tester, act now so you can own the unit without having to pay a huge amount.

How can a free Apple iPad be obtained?

Always bear in mind that just like other online promotional offers, scams are involved. Scammers are like predators that are all the time watchful for preys. Usually, they target gullible consumers who aren’t prudent enough to safeguard their financial accounts. They do anything just to take money from their victims. Considering this, you have to know the difference between a legitimate offer and a scam. In a legitimate offer, free Apple iPad testers wanted by market research companies are not asked with any payment or required to purchase other products. You should obtain the iPad free of any monetary charges. So, avoid those suspicious site that request for money.

Source by Shaina Nicole Young

WeWork sells off social network Meetup to AlleyCorp and other investors – TechCrunch

Meetup, the social networking platform designed to connect people in person, is being spun out from shared office space provider WeWork, the company confirmed on Monday. The site is being sold to AlleyCorp and other private investors for an undisclosed sum, but one that’s reportedly far less than the $156 million acquisition price WeWork paid for the social network back in 2017.

Fortune (paywalled) was first to break the news of Meetup’s sale. The company has also now put out a press release with further details.

Meetup, which has operated for two-and-a-half years as a WeWork subsidiary, will divest itself from its parent company and continue to operate, it says. The site today serves 49 million registered members and more than 230,000 organizers who create an average of 15,000 in-person events per day.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Meetup had been struggling. The company in November announced a round of layoffs amid other cost-cutting measures. And these had followed earlier cuts of 10% of staff during acquisition negotiations.

With the COVID-19 pandemic now in full force, fewer people than ever are willing and able to meet in-person, leading to Meetup to position itself today as a place for groups to meet “online during times of crisis,” its release said. That remains to be seen.

The investor groups in Meetup’s latest acquisition are led by Kevin Ryan’s AlleyCorp and also include other “mission-driven private funds” and “accomplished technology executives,” the company claims.

The deal will see Ryan joining Meetup as chairman of the Board. David Siegel will remain Meetup CEO and board member, and will continue to lead the company.

Meetup groups will continue to operate, as will Meetup’s enterprise business solution, Meetup Pro, which has been used by over 1,500 clients to date, including Adobe, Google, Microsoft Azure, IBM, Twitter and Looker, among others.

“This acquisition provides the long-term capital to ensure that Meetup focuses on what is most important: the organizers who make Meetup successful, our passionate members, and our dedicated employees,” said David Siegel, CEO of Meetup, in a statement. “We are excited to continue on our mission of empowering personal growth through real human connections, and I’m happy to have brought in a team of smart investors who share and support the same values,” he said.

WeWork’s intention to sell off Meetup was previously known. Unfortunately for the longtime social network, it was one of several casualties arising from WeWork’s larger troubles.

It’s unclear, however, what the future holds for Meetup. Though the government lockdown policies may eventually end, consumers’ appetite for getting together in real-life groups with people they first met online may not be as strong as it was before. Meetup may have to shift more of its focus to supporting online-only groups — a market that’s today dominated by Facebook Groups, or niche apps catering to specific categories, like Peanut for moms or Nextdoor for neighbors, for instance.

“We are confident in the enormous potential of the business and Meetup’s mission of bringing people together in substantive ways,” said AlleyCorp’s Ryan, in a statement. “We are very excited to collectively serve and grow Meetup’s extensive and incredibly engaged user base.”

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Experience Disrupt SF online with the Disrupt Digital Pro Pass – TechCrunch

Earlier this month we announced the launch of the Disrupt Digital Pass for TechCrunch’s flagship Disrupt SF event (September 14-16) as a way to help ensure that, no matter what, TechCrunch fans everywhere would be able to enjoy the big interviews at the show. We also hinted that we were working on a Pro edition of the Digital Pass for people who really want to engage as fully as possible with Disrupt SF, including all the programming on the four primary stages and lots of real-time interaction with fellow attendees, founders in Startup Alley, engaging Q&A sessions and our all important exhibitors and partners. That was trickier to figure out, but we’re there. 

Today we’re happy to unveil the Disrupt Digital Pro Pass that we’ve been working hard to finalize. Here’s what you get with your Disrupt Digital Pro Pass, starting at $245: 

  • Live stream and VOD (video-on-demand) from the Extra Crunch Stage. Live and on-demand access to TechCrunch editors’ discussions with top experts — growth marketers, lawyers, investors, technologists, recruiters — on topics critical to founders’ success. Pass holders, in-person and virtual, may submit questions in real time to the moderator onstage.
  • Live stream and VOD from the Q&A Stage. Virtual pass holders can submit questions during live Q&A sessions with speakers after they have appeared with TechCrunch editors on the Disrupt and Extra Crunch stages. 
  • VOD from the Showcase Stage. Watch top founders exhibiting in Startup Alley pitch and take questions from TechCrunch editors. 
  • Interact with early-stage startups in Startup Alley virtually. Browse the hundreds of exhibiting startups, organized by category, and watch their product demos on demand. Digital Pro pass holders can arrange 1:1 meetings with founders whether they be virtual or exhibiting on the show floor in-person.
  • Video conference networking with CrunchMatch. TechCrunch’s hugely popular platform to connect like-minded attendees will be accessible to Digital Pro pass holders as well as in-person attendees. Find attendees, request a meeting and connect via a private video conference. 
  • Virtual sponsor engagements. We love our sponsors, and they will be front and center for Digital Pro pass holders, whether that’s opportunities to set up 1:1 meetings virtually with sponsor reps or watch sponsors’ presentations. 

In addition, of course, Pro pass holders also have access to the features of the free Disrupt Digital Pass:

  • Live stream and VOD from the Disrupt Stage. Live and on-demand access to all the great interviews TechCrunch’s editors conduct with the biggest names in tech. 

You can expect to see the TechCrunch team at San Francisco’s Moscone Center during Disrupt, but now attendees can join us in person and/or virtually

Innovator, Founder, Investor and Startup Alley pass holders (except Expo Only passes) will also have access to all the Disrupt Digital Pro Pass features, as well as the opportunity to be present with us in San Francisco. 

Sign up for Disrupt SF today. 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of Disrupt SF, and we hope you will join us to celebrate, online or at Moscone. We would love to have you, either way.

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Rebecca Minkoff has some advice for e-commerce companies right now – TechCrunch

When Rebecca Minkoff first moved to New York City, the then-18-year-old was making $4.75 an hour.

“I just kept working for this designer and someone was telling me what to do every day. I just didn’t like that. And I thought if I’m going to work as hard, it’s going to be for myself and I want to call my own shots,” she said. “I didn’t want to be told what to do, frankly.”

Self-employment for Minkoff turned out just fine; in 2001, she redesigned the iconic “I Love New York” shirt and it appeared on The Tonight Show. After a shout-out from Jay Leno, Minkoff spent the next eight months making T-shirts on the floor of her apartment and quit her job to start designing full time.

We caught up with Minkoff to learn more about how she grew her brand into a global fashion company with the help of her brother, her problem with the unicorn mentality and why she thinks the “invisible barrier” is the future of retail tech.

This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.

TechCrunch: What gave you the energy and drive to become an entrepreneur?

Rebecca Minkoff: Long story. My mom would sell these cast covers, like decorative covers for people with broken arms at the flea market. And I was like, I am going to have a booth here. So I made all these tie-dye shirts and no one bought anything but it was just this idea of like, I can make something I can sell. My mom always taught that. When I wanted a dress, she taught me how to sew a dress instead of buying the dress. And so, I just got this bug for creating things out of nothing.

The constant thread was, “I’m not going to pay for this. You’re going to learn how to do it.”

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Local services marketplace Thumbtack lays off 250 employees – TechCrunch

Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta announced in a blog post today that the company has laid off 250 employees.

Much has been written about the impact that COVID-19 and the resulting social distancing/shelter in place measures are having on small businesses (and the steps that internet platforms like Facebook and Yelp — which, after all, make money from small businesses advertising — are taking to help).

Similarly, Zappacosta said the local services that Thumbtack showcases in its marketplace are also seeing anything from a “dramatic decline” to an “outright collapse.” Apparently the company’s business has fallen 61% in San Francisco, 55% in Detroit and 50% in New York City.

Thumbtack raised a $150 million round of funding last year, but Zappacosta said, “No business operates with enough of a buffer to sustain prolonged revenue declines of 40%+ without making radical changes.”

Those changes include reduced marketing, a hiring freeze and 25% salary reductions for executives. (Zappacosta said he will not take any salary at all, starting today.) And it also includes big layoffs.

Laid off workers will receive a severance package with both “cash and equity components,” Zappacosta said. He also said Thumbtack is doing what it can to help its service providers, such as “building features that support more remote work with customers — like video consults for a sink replacement that would typically be done onsite.”

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Ford, GE Healthcare to produce 50,000 ventilators by July using this tiny company’s design – TechCrunch

Ford and GE Healthcare have licensed a ventilator design from Airon Corp and plan to produce as many as 50,000 of them at a Michigan factory by July as part of a broader effort to provide a critical medical device used to treat people with COVID-19.

Ford will initially send a team of engineers to help boost production at Airon’s Florida facility, where it produces just three of its Airon Model A ventilators per day. Ford will also begin to ready its own Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan for large-scale production of the Airon Model A-E ventilator that is expected to begin April 20. Ford said that it will pay 500 United Auto Workers, who have volunteered to work at the factory. Ford has suspended production of its vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ford said Monday that it expects to produce 1,500 Airon ventilators by the end of April, 12,000 by the end of May and 50,000 by July. The automaker also said it will eventually have the capacity to build 30,000 a month.

Ford and GE Healthcare are also working on scaling production of a simplified ventilator design from GE Healthcare.

Monday’s announcement highlights the latest effort by automakers and medical device manufacturers to help ease a shortage of ventilators, a medical device that is used in the treatment of COVID-19, a disease caused by coronavirus. COVID-19 attacks the lungs and can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia. And since there is no clinically proven treatment yet, ventilators are relied upon to help people breathe and fight the disease. There are about 160,000 ventilators in the United States and another 12,700 in the National Strategic Supply, the NYT has reported.

Last week, GM said it would start producing Ventec Life Systems ventilators at its engine plant in Kokomo, Ind., using about 1,000 workers. GM said production will begin in the next seven to 14 days with the first shipments of the FDA-cleared ventilators scheduled to begin in April. Ventec is also trying to ramp up production at its manufacturing facility in Bothell, Wash.

The Ford-GE Healthcare collaboration also brings attention to Airon, a small privately held company that specializes in high-tech pneumatic life support products. The company’s Airon Model A-E ventilator, which GE Healthcare introduced to Ford, operates on air pressure without the need for electricity, according to the companies. Airon has been producing this ventilator since 2004.

The Airon design was chosen for its simplicity, which should allow the Ford to scale production quickly. The FDA-cleared design is expected to meet the needs of most COVID-19 patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing, according to Tom Westrick, vice president and chief quality officer at GE Healthcare. Westrick said they consulted clinicians to confirm that the Airon ventilator is well suited to address the urgent needs during the COVID-19 crisis.

Under the partnership, Ford will provide its manufacturing resources and GE Healthcare will license the ventilator design from Airon and lend its clinical expertise.


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We must consider secure online voting – TechCrunch

The list of states delaying primaries and elections is quickly increasing, with New Jersey adding local elections to the list. Even Congress — in a break from tradition — is rethinking what it means to vote safely in this new paradigm, stirring calls for remote voting for its upcoming legislation around the pandemic.

This debate, however, lacks important context: Many U.S. citizens are already voting online at home and abroad. In fact, 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow some voters to return absentee ballots via email, while five others permit some voters to do so using a web portal.

We are election officials in two states that require us to offer an online method to some of our voters. For these voters, the argument is not an academic one, but an issue of necessity — traditional voting methods simply don’t work for those living abroad, deployed in the military or those with disabilities. As election officials, it’s our duty to stand up for the constitutional rights of our citizens, whatever their circumstances, and the reality is that online voting dramatically improves the opportunities for these two groups to engage with our democracy.

We should not be debating whether online voting should exist, but rather asking: What is the most secure way to facilitate electronic voting? Because it’s already being done. And because it’s needed by some voting groups — whose volume might expand in the near future.

As a country, we currently have three million eligible voters living abroad, and only 7% cast ballots in the 2016 elections, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s biennial Overseas Citizen Population Analysis. This same analysis found that removing logistical barriers to voting would raise participation by 30%. A different analysis separately found that while nearly one million active-duty military are eligible to vote, only around 23% of them actually did in 2018.

The traditional system of mailed-in absentee ballots and centralized polling places is failing these voters, and they aren’t alone among the disenfranchised. The turnout story is also grim for the 35 million U.S. voters with disabilities. An October 2017 Government Accountability Office report also found widespread barriers to disabled voting, such as machines that could have made it impossible to cast votes privately. It’s no wonder that, as a 2017 Rutgers University study found, disabled voting participation has declined in each of the last two presidential elections, dropping from 57.3% in 2008 to 55.9% in 2016.

New technologies offer promise to expanding and securing access for overseas citizens and voters with disabilities. Consider MacCene Grimmett, who is, at 106, Utah’s oldest voter. When she was born in 1913, women did not have the right to vote. Homebound since she broke her ankle two years ago and unable to hold a pen steadily, she was able to cast her ballot last year thanks to an app on a mobile device. The technology empowered her, helping her execute — independently, anonymously, securely and with dignity — her most basic duty as a citizen.

Pilots and tests are happening at different scales in localities around the country, and early results are demonstrating positive outcomes. In 2019,Utah County’s offering mobile-phone voting to overseas citizens resulted in a marked increase in participation rates. In fact, turnout rates for voters using the app overseas were higher than for those who went to the polls in-person on Election Day. Oregon also successfully permitted its citizens to use app-voting in 2019.

Importantly, all pilots include the ability to rigorously audit the results so we can ensure 100% accuracy along the way.

The challenge, ultimately, is how to continue leveraging technology in a secure and innovative way to maximize access. Safety is paramount: We are deeply aware that we live in an interconnected world where foreign adversaries and other malicious entities are using information technology to try to undermine our political system. It’s our responsibility to understand the environment in which we operate as we forge ahead.

But while these concerns can be valid, they should not outweigh both the necessity and potential benefits of internet-based voting. Just as we cannot place blind faith in the infallibility of our technologies, we also cannot fall into a senseless, all-encompassing mistrust that would both disenfranchise millions of voters and shake trust in our elections.

Rather than making sweeping judgments, we need to weigh each case individually. Why, for example, should Iowa’s failure, which involved poor training, lack of testing and trouble reporting caucus results on one specific technology platform by a political party adversely affect whether a disabled Utahn or an Oregonian soldier can cast their vote — and verify it — by app?

Expanding voter participation by ensuring ballot access for all citizens is paramount to protecting our democracy. In the 21st century, that will necessarily include electronic methods, particularly as we face challenges with voters abroad and contemplate emerging challenges at home like COVID-19, where large public gatherings — and long lines — spark new threats to consider.

We must continue trials and experiments to broaden access for voters, while hardening the system and making it more resilient, and that means beginning with small-scale pilots, seeing what works, stringently auditing the results and then employing that knowledge in new rounds of testing. App-based voting, for example, is already more secure than returning a ballot by email, and it also preserves voter anonymity in a way that email makes impossible (because whoever opens the email to hand-copy the vote onto a paper ballot for tabulation knows who sent it).

These are the everyday successes that internet-based voting is producing right now. And they ought to be driving the discussion as we move forward slowly, responsibly and confidently.

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