Why some fintech companies aren’t blinking at customer acquisition costs – TechCrunch


[Editor’s note: Welcome to our weekly review of news that startups can use from across TechCrunch and Extra Crunch. If you want this post by email, just subscribe here.] 

Why some fintech startups aren’t blinking at customer acquisition costs

Distribution channels are getting saturated across the internet and beyond, and in many tech sectors the cost of acquiring new customers is crimping profitability. But so far, so good in the “great credit card craze,” as Alex digs into this week for Extra Crunch. It turns out that the remaining revenue possibilities combined with the current revenues from interchange fees mean costs are staying relatively flat — or so say a few well-placed execs.

“If anything, our customer numbers are massively accelerating despite cutting back on marketing spend,” explains Brian Barnes of M1 Finance. “And I do think that gets into how we positioned ourselves [as] a firm and what drives at the capital efficiency of how we’ve gotten to where we’ve gotten.”

Feast or famine in early-stage funding

After Elizabeth Yin posted a popular Twitter thread last month about the bifurcation of fundraising outcomes in Silicon Valley these days, we caught up with the Hustle Fund cofounder to talk more. “I’m seeing companies at the Series A and Series B stages with 30% MoM growth that were popular before now struggle to raise their next rounds because they are not profitable,” she writes in a guest column on TechCrunch. “The feedback they receive is to ‘come back when you’re profitable or really close to it.’”

She also noted that even though it does seem like there is a lot of money available, much of that is going to repeat entrepreneurs and/or companies with lots of growth and profitability in the numbers. In a companion interview with Alex Wilhelm for Extra Crunch, she notes that: “In the later stages, it is worthwhile to move to San Francisco because as you’re growing your company, there are a lot more people in San Francisco who have built high-growth companies before, there’s a lot of knowledge that I think is still insider knowledge in San Francisco itself. But at the earlier stages, I don’t think that that’s necessary.”

Y Combinator publishes big new Series A round guide

Speaking of raising these days, this new guide could help. Connie Loizos caught up with co-author and YC partner Aaron Harris in an interview for TechCrunch. Here’s one example he provides about the nuance it covers:

We explain how to work through a diligence request by an investor. Someone might say, ‘Hey, can you give me a month-by-month breakdown of major customers?’ And we’ve seen founders give them a full list of their customers, then the VC calls them, and if the customer is having a bad day or [the VC] reaches the wrong person, that bad reference check can sink a round. It’s really important that founders ask instead about what the VC is trying to learn from the diligence request, then call those customers so they’re ready, You also want to make sure that 15 investors aren’t calling the same customer so that [that person or company] isn’t overwhelmed.

Virtual worlds are finally becoming real

Despite the decades of unrealized dreams, breakout hits like Fortnite and Minecraft are showing the emerging opportunities for mass-market virtual worlds. Media analyst Eric Peckham is exploring the evolution of this trend through a seven-part Extra Crunch series, which he and many others believe will come to gradually define our lives. So far, he’s published an overview, and Extra Crunch articles on gaming on social networks, our multiverse gaming future and why that future is not here yet. Stay tuned for his articles on the emerging competitive landscape and more.

Where top VCs are investing in medical and surgical robotics

Medical device and robotics startups raised roughly 600-700 rounds of venture capital in 2019, according to data from Pitchbook and Crunchbase, with most deals occurring at the early stage (over 25% of rounds occurred at the seed stage). With our 2020 Robotics+AI sessions event next week in Berkeley, be sure to check out our interviews with top med-tech investors in this week’s investor survey on Extra Crunch.

Avoiding the on-demand trap

We’re trying some thing new here — a preview of upcoming guest columns. The following note is from growth strategist Chris Yeh, co-author of Blitzscaling.

Thanks to the success of companies like Uber and Airbnb, a seemingly endless array of startups jumped into becoming “the Uber for X” or the “Airbnb of Y”.  So many of these startups have struggled or failed. Why? The fell into the “on-demand” trap: Believing that the delivery mechanism (a smartphone-enabled marketplace) rather than the market determines success. If you apply the on-demand model to the wrong market, you’ll be doomed to failure. To avoid the on-demand trap, avoid markets where the product or service A) is a low-consideration transaction and B) naturally lends itself to long-term buyer/seller relationships.

Want to learn more?  Look for a detailed explanation of the on-demand trap, coming to TechCrunch and ExtraCrunch soon.

Across the week

Twilio 2010 board deck gives peek at now-public company’s early days (EC)

Startup malaise, startup ambition (TC)

For investors, late-stage fintech startups are a lucrative bet (EC)

What happens if a pandemic hits? (TC)

Instead of IPOs and acquisitions, exiting to community is one alternative (EC)

With better recall of our photos and videos, will our ability to forgive disappear? (TC)

Superhuman CEO Rahul Vohra on waitlists, freemium pricing and future products (EC)

How do we connect a child to technology? (TC)

#EquityPod

From Alex:

What a week. What an insane, heart-stopping, odd and stuffed week. I’m utterly exhausted. But, in better news, all of that is great fodder for podcast and chat, so today’s Equity is pretty okay, if I may say so.

Danny and I chewed through all the stuff that we couldn’t get out of our heads, like the markets falling apart and DoorDash’s initial movement toward going public. But in keeping with the real beating heart of Equity, we also went over four venture rounds and spent some time talking about SoftBank.





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Coronavirus grifts crop up online for political gain and profit – TechCrunch


These days capitalism and democracy seem to mean that it’s never too early to take advantage of the misery of others, and the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is the latest proof point.

On Saturday the Washington Post reported that an agency within the State Department had compiled a report of 2 million tweets, which peddled conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Among the hoaxes compiled in the report and reported by the Post included the suggestion that the virus had been created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or was the result of a bioweapon developed by the Chinese government.

In all, these tweets represent about 7% of the total tweets surveyed by the government, according to the Post’s reporting.

Critically, the report indicated that some of the misinformation spread online appeared to be the result of “inauthentic and coordinated activity,” the Post reported the document saying.

The report mirrors warnings from cybersecurity firms like Check Point Software, which issued a report tracking the launch of new websites linked to themes around the coronavirus outbreak earlier this month.

According to the company’s Global Threat Index for January 2020, “cyber-criminals are exploiting interest in the global epidemic to spread malicious activity, with several spam campaigns relating to the outbreak of the virus.”

The company correlated Google search terms with what it deemed to be “malicious discussions” about the virus, and showed them to be tightly correlated.

In one instance, a hacking campaign targeting web users in Japan distributed malicious email attachments by pretending to be a Japanese disability welfare service provider. The email provided misinformation about the spread of the coronavirus in several Japanese cities, and when a user opened an attachment to the email, they downloaded a modular, self-propagating Trojan virus onto their computer.

Email campaigns represent one threat, but another one that the security firm tracked was new websites with domain names linked to the virus.

The company already spotted one fake website, “vaccinecovid-19.com”. It was first created on February 11, 2020 and registered in Russia. According to Check Point, “the website is insecure, and offers to sell ‘the best and fastest test for Coronavirus detection at the fantastic price of 19,000 Russian rubles (about US$300).’”

Facebook, Amazon and Twitter have all taken steps to remove misinformation about the novel coronavirus from their platforms including advertisements offering purported cures for the disease.

Earlier this month, the big tech companies met with representatives of the World Health Organization to come up with a plan and coordinate on ways to combat misinformation and scams online.

Earlier this week, Facebook issued the following statement about its continuing response to misinformation campaigns on the site:

As world health officials issue new guidance and warnings about coronavirus (COVID-19), we’re continuing our work to connect people to information from regional and local health organizations and limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus.

Connecting People to Accurate Information and Helpful Resources

Anyone who searches for information related to the virus on Facebook is shown educational pop-ups on top of search results connecting them to expert health organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO). We’ve launched these globally over the last few weeks in all languages on Facebook, directing people to the WHO. In several countries we are directing people to their local ministry of health. For example, in the US we are directing people to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and in Singapore, we’re directing people to the Singapore Ministry of Health. Moreover, in countries where the WHO has reported person-to-person transmission and deaths, we’ve shown additional messages to people toward the top of News Feed with more information.



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FDA allows new diagnostic technologies to test for coronavirus before receiving emergency approvals – TechCrunch


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said today that it would allow new diagnostics technologies to be used to test for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at elite academic hospitals and healthcare facilities around the country.

The agency’s new initiative comes as critics have assailed various U.S. government agencies for being woefully underprepared to effectively address the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country despite being aware of the potential risks the virus posed since the first cases were reported in Wuhan, China in early December.

As the first diagnosed cases of the new virus appeared in the country, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had conducted only 459 tests. Meanwhile, China had five commercial tests for the coronavirus on the market one month ago and can now conduct up to 1.6 million tests per week. South Korea has tested another 65,00 people so far, according to a report in Science Magazine. Initial tests in the U.S. were hampered by the distribution of test kits which contained a faulty reagent — rendering the kits useless.

The CDC isn’t the only U.S. agency criticized for its mishandling of the response to a potential outbreak. On Thursday a whistleblower complaint was filed against the Department of Health and Human Services alleging that the agency sent over a dozen employees to Wuhan to evacuate American citizens from the country without the proper training or protective gear, as first reported by The Washington Post.

Now, the Food and Drug Administration is opening the doors for research centers across the country to use new technologies that have yet to be approved for emergency use in order to dramatically increase the number of tests healthcare facilities can perform.

“We believe this policy strikes the right balance during this public health emergency,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, in a statement. “We will continue to help to ensure sound science prior to clinical testing and follow-up with the critical independent review from the FDA, while quickly expanding testing capabilities in the U.S. We are not changing our standards for issuing Emergency Use Authorizations. This action today reflects our public health commitment to addressing critical public health needs and rapidly responding and adapting to this dynamic and evolving situation.”

The new policy allows laboratories to begin to use validated COVID-19 diagnostics before the FDA has completed review of the labs’ Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) requests, the agency said in a statement.

In cases where the Department of Health and Human Services indicates that there’s a public health emergency or a significant potential for a public health emergency, the FDA can issue these EUAs to permit the use of medical products that can diagnose, treat, or prevent a disease. The HHS secretary determined that the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus was just such an emergency on February 4.

So far, the FDA has authorized one EUA for COVID-19 that’s already being used by the CDC and some public health labs, the agency said.

“The global emergence of COVID-19 is concerning, and we appreciate the efforts of the FDA to help bring more testing capability to the U.S.,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD).

Development of new diagnostics tests are handled by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the HHS Office responsible for preparedness and response to health issues.

“This step may reduce development costs, speed the process for availability at more testing sites, incentivize private development and, ultimately, help save lives,” said Rick Bright, the BARDA’s director.

Startups like the Redwood City, Calif.-based genome sequencing device manufacturer, Genapsys, and Co-Diagnostics, another molecular diagnostics startup out of Salt Lake City, have been approached by the Chinese government and European testing facilities, respectively.

In the U.S. a number of large, publicly traded companies and startups are pursuing new diagnostics tools that can be used to identify the novel strain of the coronavirus.

“At BARDA, we are identifying industry partners to develop rapid diagnostics that can be used in commercial and hospital labs or even doctors’ offices so that medical professionals and their patients have the information they need to take action,” Bright said.



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Why you can’t overlook the small details in the pursuit of innovation – TechCrunch


The informal TechCrunch book club reads Ted Chiang’s The Great Silence

This week, we read a very short story, The Great Silence, as we start to head toward the end of Ted Chiang’s Exhalation collection. This story asks questions about how we connect with nature, and also how to think about innovation and where new ideas come from.

We will finish the remaining two stories in the collection in the coming week, and then it will be time (sadly!) to change books. I’ll announce the next book in the book club hopefully shortly.

Some further quick notes:

  • Want to join the conversation? Feel free to email me your thoughts at bookclub@techcrunch.com (we got a real email address!) or join some of the discussions on Reddit or Twitter (hashtag TCBookClub)
  • Follow these informal book club articles here: https://techcrunch.com/book-review/. That page also has a built-in RSS feed for posts exclusively in the Book Review category, which is very low volume.
  • Feel free to add your comments in our TechCrunch comments section below this post.

Reading The Great Silence

This is a quite short story with a simple message. The narrator is a parrot discussing humanity’s quest to seek out artificial life elsewhere in the universe. The parrot, observing these actions, reflects on why humanity spends so much time looking for intelligence elsewhere, when it itself is intelligent, and located right next to us. The devastating line Chiang delivers comes toward the end:

But parrots are more similar to humans than any extraterrestrial species ever will be, and humans can observe us up close; they can look us in the eye. How do they expect to recognize an alien intelligence if all they can do is eavesdrop from a hundred light-years away?

The author offers us some obvious points to think about around environmental destruction and species extinction, and those are obvious enough that I think any reader can sort of surmise how the story connects to those issues.

So I want to instead connect this discussion to a theme dear to the heart of TechCrunch readers, and that is the quest for science and innovation.

To me, Chiang isn’t just criticizing our disdain for the animal species around us, but is also critiquing an innovation community that constantly strives for the big and “shiny” discoveries when so many smaller and local discoveries have yet to be made.

We invest billions of dollars into satellites and telescopes and radar arrays hoping to capture some fleeting glimpse into an alien world somewhere in the galaxy. And yet, there are deeply alien worlds all around us. It’s not just parrots — Earth is filled with species that are incredibly different from us in physiology, behavior, and group dynamics. What if the species most alien to our own in the whole galaxy is located right under our noses?

Of course, there would be huge headlines in finding even a single-celled organism on another planet (assuming there was even some way to detect such life in the first place). But that is precisely the type of narrow-minded, novelty-seeking behavior that Chiang is pointing out here.

Nonetheless, innovation can be a weird beast. It isn’t hard to look around the Valley these days and be dismayed at just how adrift a huge part of the industry is. We are creating more “smart” products than ever, yet huge social challenges and scientific frontiers remain completely unfunded. It’s easier to raise funding to start up an upgraded handbag company with a new brand and marketing strategy than it is to build an engineering team to push quantum computing forward.

There are certainly many valid arguments for moving our money to more “worthwhile” pursuits. Yet, fresh ideas that change industries can sometimes come from the oddest places, with even frivolous products occasionally creating fundamental advances in technology. Facebook as a social network might be a time sink for its users, but its huge scale also triggered all kinds of new data center infrastructure technologies that have been widely adopted by the rest of the tech industry. Solving a frivolous problem became the means to solving a problem of more depth.

In the end, you need to seek answers. Don’t overlook the obvious around us or get inured to the quotidian challenges that may just be the fount of innovation. Maybe figuring out the communication of parrots does nothing for us. Or maybe, exploring that area will open up whole new ideas for how to communicate and understand the neural patterns of speech. We can’t know until we tread along the path.

Now, to take one aside before we close out: Exhalation is a collection of previously-published short stories, but Chiang manages to work in his arch-symbol of breath and air into this piece in a fairly tight way:

It’s no coincidence that “aspiration” means both hope and the act of breathing.

When we speak, we use the breath in our lungs to give our thoughts a physical form. The sounds we make are simultaneously our intentions and our life force.

It’s a symbol we saw most substantively in Exhalation (the short story itself, not this whole collection) which we talked about a few posts ago. It’s a gorgeous little motif, and Chiang nicely embeds it to create an empathetic connection between humans and animals.

Some question about Omphalos

For the next and penultimate short story Omphalos, here are some questions to think about as you read the story.

  • What is the meaning of belief? How does belief influence both our views on our place in the world and our approaches to science and the scientific method?
  • Does existence and existentialism flow from external symbols or internal rationales?
  • How do religion and science mix? How did Chiang frame this narrative to make this question easier to contend with?
  • The story focuses on the dynamics of archaeology and astronomy — why these two disciplines and not some other field of science?
  • What’s the ultimate message of the story? Or is there more than one that can be read into the text?



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Android Market – Akin to Apple’s App Store?

Smartphone users who think they won’t have many apps available to them on the Droid phone will be happy to know that Google’s Android Market offers just over 16,000 different apps for users to enjoy. Android market is, in many respects, just like Apple’s iPhone Apps Store. It is an international marketplace where people can login and purchase all kinds of apps, from the fun to the practical and useful. The Android Market application comes pre-installed on all Droid phones, so users can take advantage of apps right away. More and more people are looking to increase the flexibility of their smartphones, and apps like the ones featured on Android Market allow them to take the power of their desktop and laptop computers out of the office and into the real world.

The process of developing and marketing an Android application online is really no different from what iPhone developers do. An Android developer would first try to find a niche that a new Android application could fill, develop the application, and then sell it. There may be well over 16,000 apps on Android Market, but even though this is so, there is always room for innovation. New Android entrepreneurs become successful every day with well crafted, strategized, and marketed applications. When a new app enters the Android Market, it can grow very quickly into a passive source of revenue for its creator. In layman’s terms, this means you get to play golf much more often.

There are other venues for selling Droid phone applications, but none of them are nearly as well-recognized or sought after as Android Market. One might want to make the comparison between eBay and every other auction site. Because eBay started off popular and has the most aggressive marketing plan, nobody even comes close to touching it.

If you have an idea for an Android application, Appiction’s team of strategists and marketing specialists will take all of the right steps to ensure its success on Android Market. We have been in this business for years and were there when Android Market first opened its doors to developers looking to sell their innovations. We know which combination of application strategy, development, and marketing will be the most profitable on Android Market with the lowest possible cost. The smartphone world is going through a revolution that will make all of our lives more fun and easy. Appiction is here to help you to profit from it.

Learn More About Android Application Development [http://www.appiction.com/android-application-development-articles?utm_source=ezine&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=android]



Source by Spencer F

Multiverse virtual worlds will be healthier for society than our current social networks – TechCrunch


In part 5 of our virtual worlds series: why this new future will heal fractures caused by today’s social media

The basis of the classic James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies” is an evil media mogul who instigates war between the U.K. and China because it will be great for TV ratings. There’s been a wake-up call recently that our most popular social networks have been indirectly designed to divide populations into enemy camps and reward sensational content, but without the personal responsibility of Bond’s nemesis because they’re algorithmically driven.

(This is part five of a seven-part series about virtual worlds.)

The rise of “multiverse” virtual words as the next social frontier offers hope to one of the biggest crises facing democratic societies right now. Because the dominant social media platforms (in Western countries at least) monetize through advertising, these platforms reward sensational content that results in the most clicks and shares. Oversimplified, exaggerated claims intended to shock users scrolling past are best practices for individuals, media brands and marketing departments alike, and social platforms intentionally steer users toward more extreme content in order to captivate them for longer.

Our impending cultural shift to socializing equally as often through virtual worlds could help rescue us from this constant conflict of interest between what we recognize as healthy interactions with others and how these social apps incentivize us to behave.

Virtual worlds can have advertisements within them, but the dominant monetization strategies in MMOs are upfront purchase of games and in-game transactions. Any virtual world that gains enough adoption to compete as a social hub for mainstream society will need to be free-to-play and will earn more money through in-world transactions than from ads.





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Coronavirus impacts app stores, Facebook sues mobile SDK maker, Apple kicks out a cloud gaming app – TechCrunch


Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads in 2019 and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s recently released “State of Mobile” annual report. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, we’ll look at the coronavirus outbreak’s impact on the App Store, China’s demand for App Store removals — and soon-to-be-removals, it seems. We’re also talking about Facebook’s lawsuit over a data-grabbing SDK, Tinder’s new video series, the TSA ban on TikTok, Instagram’s explanation for its lack of an iPad app and how Democratic presidential primary candidates are performing on mobile and social, among other things.

Headlines

Coronavirus concerns send Chinese ride-hailing apps crashing, games surging



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iPhone Application Development Revolutionizes World Of Smart Phones

iPhone application development has taken the business world by a storm. Earlier the internet was being accessed through the desktop PCs and laptops. The business world was fast to react to the potential of the internet. The internet had entered the offices and homes that were usually inaccessible to the sales representative of the company. Operating the business through the internet had a lot of advantages besides saving time, money and valuable resources. The websites were designed to be compatible with the operating system and platform of the desktop PCs and laptops. This scenario was not to last long because the technology evolved to make the mobile phone device as good as the computer.

A smart phone is a mobile phone that besides telecommunication offers a wide array of features like accessing the internet, games, diary organizer, camera, video recording, receiving and sending text and picture messages, and entertainment such as radio. The leading brands of smart phones in the market include the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android.

What is so unique about iPhone?

Not only are the features of iPhone unique but also the marketing strategy deployed by Apple, the makers of iPhone. The Apple Inc. has started the Apple Store. This is the online store for buying the iPhone Applications. The iPhone application developers after developing an application can put it for sale through the online Apple store. Apple Inc. Gives a whopping 70% of the proceeds of the sale to the application developer and just keeps a meager 20% for itself. This innovative strategy to persuade the developers to develop meaningful applications could be called backward integration but has turned out to be very effective in case of iPhone. This not only adds the features to the iPhone but also creates a better goodwill among the developers.

Why is iPhone application development necessary?

As mentioned earlier the popularity of iPhone is soaring and so are its sales. The iPhone users are now a niche market segment, never to be neglected by a smart business. The competition among the businesses makes it mandatory for the business not to leave a single stone unturned for making the best of services available to the buyers. If a website cannot be displayed on the screen of the iPhone, it is the loss for the business on the iPhone user because it is possible that the competitor may have already prepared an application compatible with the operating system and platform of the iPhone.

It is always better to hire the services of an expert professional iPhone application developer so that the iPhone users do not find any difficulty in accessing your website. The early bird takes the worm. This saying is very apt for this scenario too.



Source by Alan L Smith

Amazon Vs MacMall: Which Retailer Offers Better Deals?

If you decide to buy your Apple product from a retailer instead of an Apple store, you have many options to choose from. Two of the most popular choices are Amazon and MacMall. Amazon is definitely a popular retail giant, but some people may hesitate to buy from MacMall. Obviously, they are not as popular. Continue reading to learn more about the two companies.

Amazon

When an Apple product launches, it takes some time before other retailers are granted the opportunity to sell copies. Nonetheless, whenever people decide to buy a newly launched product at a later date to get big savings, they are most likely going to buy from Amazon. Indeed, the company has been around for many years, and they do have a good reputation. You do not have to pay for the taxes, the shipping is free of charge, and you can get good customer service in case something wrong happens along the process.

Amazon sells a variety of Apple products. Their product list is incredibly huge, so if you want to purchase additional accessories, you can definitely do so. In fact, you can even purchase unrelated items and avoid the hassle of paying different online merchants.

MacMall

For those who have not heard of MacMall, it is a legitimate company and a subsidiary of PC Mall. It is one of the most trusted Apple product retailers. You can find some of the craziest and cheapest Apple product deals on their merchant website. The only negative comment you usually hear about the company is their customer service. If you encounter a problem with your purchase, call support and try to explain the issue without getting irate.

The company can offer very cheap prices on Apple items because they buy the products in bulk. They have an extensive list of other products on sale as well. They have external hard drives, speakers, phone accessories, laptop accessories, and many more. Therefore, if you want to save big on Apple products and accessories, visit their site. You can also save more money by using a MacMall coupon.

Final Word

Amazon and MacMall are trusted retailers of Apple products. If you can find a better deal on MacMall, then buy from MacMall. If you find a cheaper alternative on Amazon, then do not hesitate to buy from them as well. Just remember that you can always get better and cheaper deals when you use a MacMall coupon.



Source by Jonathan J. Smith

Relativity Space expands its rocket-printing operations into an enormous new Long Beach HQ – TechCrunch


Building a rocket is a big operation, even when you’re printing them from the ground up, like Relativity Space . The launch startup is graduating from its initial office, which is a bit cramped for assembling rockets, to a huge space in Long Beach, where the company will go from prototype to first flight.

We recently visited Relativity at their old headquarters, which had the scrappy (literally — there were metal scraps everywhere) industrial feel you’d expect from a large-scale hardware startup. But except for the parking lot, there didn’t seem to be anywhere to put together… you know, a rocket.

So it was no surprise when co-founder and CEO Tim Ellis said that the company was just starting the process of moving to a gigantic new open-plan warehouse-style building in Long Beach.

Relativity CEO Tim Ellis is obviously excited about the new HQ.

“It’s a big step,” Ellis told TechCrunch. “It’ll actually be the first factory we fully build out with 3D printers. This new space is actually big enough that we’ll be printing the first and second stages, and the fairing at the same time. The new ceiling height is approximately 40 feet, which will allow us to build taller — about twice the height of our current facility. We’re on track to start shipping parts to Stennis for testing later this year.”

In addition to the three “Stargate” printers that can print parts up to 15 feet high, they’ll have three more that can go up to 20 feet and two that can go up to 30. It’s a bit hard to imagine a single printed rocket part 30 feet tall until you’ve seen some of the pieces Relativity has already made.

Not only do the rockets take up a lot of space, but the company itself is growing.

“From two years ago to now we’ve over 20X-ed our entire footprint as a company,” Ellis pointed out. In other words, it was starting to feel a bit overpopulated in their old spot near LAX.

This the space as it is now; the image up top is a render of how it will look once active.

Assembly of the launch vehicle, called Terran 1, its Aeon engines and R&D will all take place in the new HQ. It’s nearly 120,000 square feet, and will be built as a very high-tech manufacturing operation indeed. There will be no fixed tooling, meaning the factory can be rapidly reconfigured, and will be highly automated. The company’s 3D printers aren’t like the simple ones used for rough prototyping, but enormous, carefully monitored robot arms that perform real-time analysis of the metal they are laying down.

“It’s really the first autonomous factory, and it’s not just for rockets,” Ellis said. “Once we prove out the factory with this first launch vehicle, we’re convinced this works towards our long-term plan of launching factories to Mars and building a wide range of products that you’re going to need there. It’s on the path for the long-term vision but also a way for us to be a pioneer in this new value chain for aerospace.”

“It’s going to be cool,” he added.



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