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Spotify adds two personalized playlists focused on your repeat listens – TechCrunch


Spotify is expanding its selection of personalized playlists with this morning’s launch of two new additions: On Repeat and Repeat Rewind. Both are focused on helping you revisit the songs you have kept replaying at various times.

The former, On Repeat, will deliver your current obsessions — that is, the tracks you’ve played the most over the past 30 days. This playlist will auto-update as you continue to listen to more music. However, the playlist is not genre-specific, so for those with broad musical tastes and interests, it could be a little disjointed.

Meanwhile, Repeat Rewind is a way to return to your most recently-loved songs from over a month ago. That means it’s not quite as current as On Repeat, but will help you revisit some of your all-time favorites.

Like On Repeat, the playlist isn’t limited by artists, mood or genre. And it will update every five days, Spotify says.

There won’t be any overlap in the two playlists, either, which will make them useful additions for any regular Spotify listeners.

The playlists join Spotify’s growing collection of personalized playlists, headlined by Discover Weekly. They’ll be available in the “Made for You” hub in the Spotify app, where you’ll find Discover Weekly, Release Radar, Your Summer Rewind, Your Daily Drive, and others. The playlists will also sit in the “Uniquely Yours” shelf on the app’s home section.

Spotify’s personalized playlists are one of its top-selling features and a reason why it’s difficult for users to jump ship to a Spotify competitor.

They also tend to inspire rivals’ own efforts in personalized music. Just a few days ago, for example, YouTube Music began rolling out a “Discover Mix” playlist, which is basically its own version of Discover Weekly. And a few years ago, Apple Music did much of the same with its launch of “My New Music Mix.”

The new playlists are live now across platforms.

 

 



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Uber gets temporary two-month license reprieve in London – TechCrunch


London’s transport regulator, TfL, has given Uber a temporary reprieve to continue operating in the UK capital.

The ride-hailing giant’s current (provisional) licence expires tomorrow but there’s no return to normality for Uber in its most important European city — with TfL issuing just a two-month extension on its private hire vehicle licence — not a full five-year term, as Uber had hoped.

The backstory here is TfL’s decision two years ago to deny Uber’s application to renew its licence — when it raised a range of safety and corporate governance issues.

The then scandal-struck company was nonetheless allowed to continue operating in London during an appeal process.

Uber went on to claim it was making changes to improve its processes and come into compliance with the regulator’s requirements. And in June 2018 a UK court granted it a provisional 15-month licence so it could continue to work on satisfying TfL’s conditions.

But the latest short leash extension puts the company on watch again.

TfL says the extension has the same conditions Uber has been subject to over the past 15 months, as well as some new conditions “to ensure passenger safety” which it says cover ride sharing, appropriate insurance and driver document checks by Uber.

Last year the court attached a number of extra conditions to Uber’s provisional licence to operate, including that the company produce an independently verified assurance report every six months; appoint three non-executive directors to its board; provide at least 28 days notice for changes to its operating model; and maintain arrangements with London’s Met Police for the reporting of passenger complaints that may be criminal — all of which still apply.

The regulator adds that it’s requesting additional material from Uber to inform any future licensing decision — emphasizing that its original concern included culture and governance issues.

“Uber London Limited has been granted a two-month private hire operator licence to allow for scrutiny of additional information that we are requesting ahead of consideration of any potential further licensing application,” a TfL spokesperson said in a statement.

In a statement responding to TfL’s decision, Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern & Eastern Europe, sought to put a positive spin on not being knocked back entirely.

“TfL’s recognition of our improved culture and governance reflects the progress we have made in London. We will continue to work closely with TfL and provide any additional requested information,” he said.

“Over the past two years, we’ve launched a range of new safety features in the app, introduced better protections for drivers and our Clean Air Plan is helping to tackle air pollution. We will keep listening, learning and improving to provide the best service while being a trusted partner to London.”

Among the changes Uber claims to have made since the regulator stepped in and slapped down its licence renewal, are a new senior leadership team in the UK; limits to operating hours for drivers, with a log-out required at 10 hours; a 24/7 support centre staffed by trained agents to handle driver and rider safety queries; a free insurance product for drivers and a dedicated forum where they can share feedback; various safety alerts and privacy tweaks; and real-time public transport information shown within the app.

Uber also says it’s an “ambition” that every car on its app in London is fully electric in 2025 — saying it’s raised £50M to put towards helping licensed drivers upgrade to a fully electric vehicle.

There are major question marks about the rising costs of doing business for Uber as regulatory and legal requirements dial up around the world — including in the US.

Earlier this month California passed gig economy workers rights legislation that could see Uber on the hook for wage and benefit protections in its home market. While, in the UK, the company has continued to lose appeals against a successful legal challenge over drivers rights back in 2016.

Uber’s own investor prospectus warned potential shareholders the company may never be profitable.



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Watch Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency launch supplies to the International Space Station live – TechCrunch


The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will launch a cargo of experiments, supplies and small satellite payloads to the International Space Station today at 12:05 PM EDT (1:05 AM JST / 9:05 AM PDT). The payload will be delivered via a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) H-IIB rocket, packed in an H-II Transport Vehicle (HTV) unpiloted cargo spacecraft which will then rendezvous with the ISS to offload science experiments, new lithium-ion batteries for use in replacing older nickel-hydrogen ones used on the orbital laboratory.

This mission is codenamed ‘HTV-8,’ the eighth mission that MHI has run using the HTV cargo ship. It’ll launch from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan, which is on a small island off the very southern end of Japan’s Kyushu region. This is the second attempt for the launch, after the original try was scrubbed prior to lift-off due to a small fire on the launch pad, which MHI subsequently investigated and corrected.

The H-IIB rocket is a fully expendable launch vehicle, with a liquid-oxygen fueled central core, and four solid fuel boosters that surround the base to provide more lift, giving the rocket a total lift capacity of up to 18,000 lbs to geostationary transfer orbit, or as much as 36,400 lbs to low-Earth orbit.

This eighth flight for the H-IIB will also be its second last – the company plans one more flight for this configuration before focusing entirely on its forthcoming H3 medium-lift launch vehicle, which will boost cargo capacity to as much as 14,3000 lbs to geostationary transfer orbit, and which will reduce launch costs by more than half to between $50 – $65 million, in an effort to become more price competitive with emerging commercial launch providers like SpaceX . H3 is targeting next year for its first test flights, with commercial operations kicking off in 2021.

NASA will begin broadcasting the live stream of the launch above starting at around 11:30 AM EDT (8:30 PM PDT).



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Prospect for early-stage startup gold at Disrupt Berlin 2019 – TechCrunch


Got an early stage fund? Then grab an Investor pass, pack your bags and head to Disrupt Berlin 2019 on 11-12 December. We’ll host hundreds of exhibiting startups, which makes this tech conference prime prospecting territory for investors looking to add only the best early-stage startups to their portfolio.

Buy your Investor pass and join thousands of early-stage startup founders, investors innovators and entrepreneurs from more than 50 countries. Pro Tip: Why go it alone? You can save an additional 10% if you buy two or more passes at once.

Your prospecting adventure begins in Startup Alley, our exhibition hall and the epicenter of opportunity. Along with hundreds of stellar startups, you’ll find our TC Top Picks. TechCrunch editors hand-pick this cohort — representing the best startups in each of these categories: AI/Machine Learning, BioTech/HealthTech, Blockchain, FinTech, Mobility, Privacy/Security, Retail/eCommerce, Robotics/IoT/Hardware, SaaS and Social Impact & Education.

You’ll find great ideas and tech innovation everywhere in the world — and well represented in Startup Alley. Be sure to check out the Country Pavilions featuring emerging startups from international startup groups, government innovation centers, incubators and accelerators.

And if you’re shopping for something truly audacious, bold and innovative, you’ll find it at the Startup Battlefield. Watch 15-20 startups launch on a world stage and vie for $50,000 — and your attention. You know who else competed in Startup Battlefield? Dropbox, GetAround, SirenCare, Fitbit, Mint.com, Vurb and more. Will you find and fund the next big name in tech?

Here’s another Pro Tip: CrunchMatch, our business matching platform, makes it easier to find and connect with founders that fit your interests. You create a profile listing your specific criteria and goals. The CrunchMatch algorithm suggests matches and, subject to your approval, proposes meeting times and sends meeting requests.

Here’s what Michael Kocan, managing partner at Trend Discovery, says about CrunchMatch.

“I scheduled more than 35 meetings with startups that I pre-vetted using CrunchMatch, and we made a significant investment in one, who came to our attention through Startup Battlefield. It’s an extremely efficient way to vet deals.”

How effective is CrunchMatch? In 2018, the program facilitated more than 3,000 meetings. And Yoolbox — makers of a portable wireless charger — says the connections it made through CrunchMatch helped Yoolbox helped to increase its distribution.

Disrupt Berlin 2019 takes place on 11-12 December, and if you’ve got an early stage fund, you gotta go to Berlin. Buy your investor pass today, and let the prospecting begin!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt Berlin 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.



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Marketing A Business – How To Market A Business On A Small Budget

Starting a business takes a huge amount of cash. The more you can save, the better. Here are some alternatives to help you create some buzz for your business on a budget.

Talk to Your community:

You do not have to have huge thoughts when it comes to marketing efforts. Think smaller.

Try sponsoring a little league team or a 7k charity walk. You can print book marks and leave them at your local library. Get your targeted customer and think about how and where they may spend their time.

Put A Group Together:

Collaborate with some people in a non-competitive way. The benefit with doing this is you can cross-promote. You can come together to bundle website links, coupons and share social media platforms. Cross-promoting put my business in position to expand to another consumer base.

Request Referrals:

Don’t be afraid to ask for consumer referrals. Most people say that they are willing to provide a referral if it is requested, but you may be surprised that so many business owners do not take the initiative to do it.

Offer coupons:

Although most start-ups are not in the position to give money away, this could be a way to get a little buzz going. In my opinion, it is better to make a 50% sale then make no sale. According to constant contact, research shows that people will go out of their way to use a coupon at 48%. In addition, coupons may create return visits. As an example, if you give a coupon to a consumer for a future discount, there is a huge chance they will be back.

Do some article marketing:

Article marketing is one of many ways to promote and create content for free. It takes some time to create articles, but If you understand how to craft an article and provide valuable content online, you can generate hundreds of thousands of people to your website annually without spending a dime.

In addition, some benefits of doing article marketing is the credibility you gain from your consumer base. When people develop a trust in what you have to offer they will be incredibility loyal to your business.

Create a You-tube channel:

It is free to create a you-tube channel. Similar to doing articles, you can create informative videos that can help build some traffic to your website and business. However, it is important that I tell you to avoid coming across as “salesperson”. The best approach to take when making articles or you-tube videos is to come from a place of help. Figure out the problems of your consumer base and inform them on how your business is the best solution to their problems.



Source by Marc-Eddy Drouinaud Jr

Xiaomi’s 108MP Mi Mix Alpha has a display that wraps around the back – TechCrunch


As Samsung and Huawei double down on their foldable smartphone lineups, and other handset vendors try to hide the notch, Chinese giant Xiaomi today chalked out a different path altogether. The company unveiled the Mi Mix Alpha, a smartphone with a front display that fully wraps around the back, save for a strip.

The Mi Mix Alpha’s body is made of a single piece of sapphire glass with ceramics and aerospace-grade titanium alloy. So what does the extra display gets you? Nothing much. The back display lights up and takes over the front screen’s duties when you flip the phone. Otherwise, it just sits there doing nothing.

Xiaomi says the Mix Alpha is a concept phone, so it is going to have a limited production run for the device. The smartphone will go on sale in China in December for 19,999 yuan (~$2,800).

The innards of the phone are no slouches either.

While the size of the display remains unknown, it boasts a 180.6% screen-to-body ratio, Xiaomi said at an event in China. The Mi Mix Alpha is powered by Qualcomm’s latest and greatest Snapdragon 855+, coupled with 12GB of RAM, and 512GB UFS 3.0 storage. And it supports 5G connectivity.

The handset is housing 4,050 mAh battery and supports 40W wired fast charging, the company said. The Mi Mix Alpha is running Android Pie-based MIUI 11 software.

Which brings us to the strip: The front side of the Mi Mix Alpha does not have any camera sensors. Instead the back side sports a three-camera system: 108MP primary sensor it developed in collaboration Samsung, 20MP wide-angle sensor, and 12MP telephoto sensor.

At the sidelines of today’s event, Xiaomi also launched the Mi 9 Pro, follow up to the Mi 9 handset that the company unveiled earlier this year. The Mi 9 Pro, priced at roughly $520, now features support for 5G connectivity, becoming one of the low-cost handsets to support the networking technology. It also supports 40W fast charging, the company said.



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Tibetans hit by the same mobile malware targeting Uyghurs – TechCrunch


A recently revealed mobile malware campaign targeting Uyghur Muslims also ensnared a number of senior Tibetan officials and activists, according to new research.

Security researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab say some of the Tibetan targets were sent specifically tailored malicious web links over WhatsApp, which, when opened, stealthily gained full access to their phone, installed spyware and silently stole private and sensitive information.

The exploits shared “technical overlaps” with a recently disclosed campaign targeting Uyghur Muslims, an oppressed minority in China’s Xinjiang state. Google last month disclosed the details of the campaign, which targeted iPhone users, but did not say who was targeted or who was behind the attack. Sources told TechCrunch that Beijing was to blame. Apple, which patched the vulnerabilities, later confirmed the exploits targeted Uyghurs.

Although Citizen Lab would not specify who was behind the latest round of attacks, the researchers said the same group targeting both Uyghurs and Tibetans also utilized Android exploits. Those exploits, recently disclosed and detailed by security firm Volexity, were used to steal text messages, contact lists and call logs, as well as watch and listen through the device’s camera and microphone.

It’s the latest move in a marked escalation of attacks on ethnic minority groups under surveillance and subjection by Beijing. China has long claimed rights to Tibet, but many Tibetans hold allegiance to the country’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Rights groups say China continues to oppress the Tibetan people, just as it does with Uyghurs.

A spokesperson for the Chinese consulate in New York did not return an email requesting comment, but China has long denied state-backed hacking efforts, despite a consistent stream of evidence to the contrary. Although China has recognized it has taken action against Uyghurs on the mainland, it instead categorizes its mass forced detentions of more than a million Chinese citizens as “re-education” efforts, a claim widely refuted by the west.

The hacking group, which Citizen Lab calls “Poison Carp,” uses the same exploits, spyware and infrastructure to target Tibetans as well as Uyghurs, including officials in the Dalai Lama’s office, parliamentarians and human rights groups.

Bill Marczak, a research fellow at Citizen Lab, said the campaign was a “major escalation” in efforts to access and sabotage these Tibetans groups.

In its new research out Tuesday and shared with TechCrunch, Citizen Lab said a number of Tibetan victims were targeted with malicious links sent in WhatsApp messages by individuals purporting to work for Amnesty International and The New York Times. The researchers obtained some of those WhatsApp messages from TibCERT, a Tibetan coalition for sharing threat intelligence, and found each message was designed to trick each target into clicking the link containing the exploit. The links were disguised using a link-shortening service, allowing the attackers to mask the full web address but also gain insight into how many people clicked on a link and when.

“The ruse was persuasive,” the researchers wrote. During a week-long period in November 2018, the targeted victims opened more than half of the attempted infections. Not all were infected, however; all of the targets were running non-vulnerable iPhone software.

One of the specific social engineering messages, pretending to be an Amnesty International aid worker, targeting Tibetan officials (Image: Citizen Lab/supplied)

The researchers said tapping on a malicious link targeting iPhones would trigger a chain of exploits designed to target a number of vulnerabilities, one after the other, in order to gain access to the underlying, typically off-limits, iPhone software.

The chain “ultimately executed a spyware payload designed to steal data from a range of applications and services,” said the report.

Once the exploitation had been achieved, a spyware implant would be installed, allowing the attackers to collect and send data to the attackers’ command and control server, including locations, contacts, call history, text messages and more. The implant also would exfiltrate data, like messages and content, from a hardcoded list of apps — most of which are popular with Asian users, like QQMail and Viber.

Apple had fixed the vulnerabilities months earlier (in July 2018); they were later confirmed as the same flaws found by Google earlier this month.

“Our customers’ data security is one of Apple’s highest priorities and we greatly value our collaboration with security researchers like Citizen Lab,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch. “The iOS issue detailed in the report had already been discovered and patched by the security team at Apple. We always encourage customers to download the latest version of iOS for the best and most current security enhancements.”

Meanwhile, the researchers found that the Android-based attacks would detect which version of Chrome was running on the device and would serve a matching exploit. Those exploits had been disclosed and were “obviously copied” from previously released proof-of-concept code published by their finders on bug trackers, said Marczak. A successful exploitation would trick the device into opening Facebook’s in-app Chrome browser, which gives the spyware implant access to device data by taking advantage of Facebook’s vast number of device permissions.

The researchers said the code suggests the implant could be installed in a similar way using Facebook Messenger, and messaging apps WeChat and QQ, but failed to work in the researchers’ testing.

Once installed, the implant downloads plugins from the attacker’s server in order to collect contacts, messages, locations and access to the device’s camera and microphone.

When reached, Google did not comment. Facebook, which received Citizen Lab’s report on the exploit activity in November 2018, did not comment at the time of publication.

“From an adversary perspective what makes mobile an attractive spying target is obvious,” the researchers wrote. “It’s on mobile devices that we consolidate our online lives and for civil society that also means organizing and mobilizing social movements that a government may view as threatening.”

“A view inside a phone can give a view inside these movements,” they said.

The researchers also found another wave of links trying to trick a Tibetan parliamentarian into allowing a malicious app access to their Gmail account.

Citizen Lab said the threat from the mobile malware campaign was a “game changer.”

“These campaigns are the first documented cases of iOS exploits and spyware being used against these communities,” the researchers wrote. But attacks like Poison Carp show mobile threats “are not expected by the community,” as shown by the high click rates on the exploit links.

Gyatso Sither, TibCERT’s secretary, said the highly targeted nature of these attacks presents a “huge challenge” for the security of Tibetans.

“The only way to mitigate these threats is through collaborative sharing and awareness,” he said.



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Jellysmack launches program to scale audiences from YouTube creators – TechCrunch


Jellysmack originally started as a social media company with popular brands on Facebook and other social platforms, such as Beauty Studio, Oh My Goal, Gamology and Riddle Me This. The company is now branching out and expanding with a different product, the ‘Creator’s Program.’

The startup is going to partner with popular YouTube creators and grow their audience on other social media platforms, starting with Facebook and Snapchat. This way, YouTube creators get a new audience on a separate platform, which reduces dependency on YouTube’s algorithm.

Jellysmack has developed several tools for its own media brands, such as tools to detect popular content, optimize content itself and improve distribution on social platform. The company now attracts 88 million unique viewers per month in the U.S.

“We realized that we could reuse this suite of tools with many other creators and not just on our own content,” Jellysmack co-founder and CEO Michael Philippe told me.

The startup already identified a bunch of YouTube creators that could benefit from these tools. It has partnered with Reaction Time, Infinite, Karina Garcia, How Ridiculous and others.

After that, Jellysmack obtains all the back catalog of videos, recuts them and shares them on Facebook and Snapchat — 10-minute videos on YouTube will become 3-minute videos on Facebook for instance.

Jellysmack then tests multiple thumbnails and video names using A/B testing and a bit of paid promotion. When the startup has found a name and thumbnail that generates a lot of engagement, the company releases the video.

The company then invests some of its money to grow the audience of a Facebook page or Snapchat account using paid acquisition. “We have developed a proprietary acquisition tool that finds the right audiences,”

Everything is then tracked using Jellysmack’s tools. Each video is tagged and gets a score based on retention, monetization, etc. Creators could potentially leverage those insights for future videos.

Reaction Times had 80,000 Facebook fans before partnering with Jellysmack. It now has 3 million Facebook fans and generates 100 million views per month on the platform.

With today’s new program, Jellysmack says that its own brands will also stick around — this is just a new bet for the company. The company also plans to launch a new vertical in the future.



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Chef CEO does an about face, says company will not renew ICE contract – TechCrunch


After stating clearly on Friday that he would honor a $95,000 contract with ICE, CEO Barry Crist must have had a change of heart over the weekend. In a blog post this morning he wrote that the company would not be renewing the contract with ICE after all.

“After deep introspection and dialog within Chef, we will not renew our current contracts with ICE and CBP when they expire over the next year. Chef will fulfill our full obligations under the current contracts,” Crist wrote in the blog post.

He also backed off the seemingly firm position he took on Friday on the matter when he told TechCrunch, “It’s something that we spent a lot of time on, and I want to represent that there are portions of [our company] that do not agree with this, but I as a leader of the company, along with the executive team, made a decision that we would honor the contracts and those relationships that were formed and work with them over time,” he said.

Today, he acknowledged that intense feelings inside the company against the contract led to his decision. The contract began in 2015 under the Obama administration and was aimed at modernizing programming approaches at DHS, but over time as ICE family separation and deportation polices have come under fire, there were calls internally (and later externally) to end the contract. “Policies such as family separation and detention did not yet exist [when we started this contract]. While I and others privately opposed this and various other related policies, we did not take a position despite the recommendation of many of our employees. I apologize for this,” he wrote.

Crist also indicated that the company would be donating the revenue from the contracts to organizations that work with people who have been affected by these policies. It’s a similar approach that Salesforce took when 618 of its employees protested a contract the company has with the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). In response to the protests, Salesforce pledged $1 million to organizations helping affected families.

After a tweet last week exposed the contract, the protests began on social media, and culminated in programmer Seth Vargo removing pieces of open-source code from the repository in protest of the contract in response. The company sounded firmly committed to fulfilling this contract in spite of the calls for action internally and externally, and the widespread backlash it was facing both inside and outside the company.

Vargo told TechCrunch in an interview that he saw this issue in moral terms, “Contrary to Chef’s CEO’s publicly posted response, I do think it is the responsibility of businesses to evaluate how and for what purposes their software is being used, and to follow their moral compass,” he said. Apparently Crist has come around to this point of view. Vargo chose not to comment on the latest development.





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Messaging app Kik shuts down as company focuses on Kin, its cryptocurrency – TechCrunch


Kik Interactive CEO Ted Livingston announced today that the company is shutting down Kik Messenger to focus on its cryptocurrency Kin, the target of a lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company’s team will be reduced to 19 people, a reduction that will affect over 100 employees, as it focuses on converting more Kin users into buyers.

“Instead of selling some of our Kin into the limited liquidity that exists today, we made the decision to focus our current resources on the few things that matter most,” Livingston wrote in a blog post, adding that the changes will reduce the company’s burn rate by 85%, enabling it to get through the SEC trial.

Kin launched two years ago, raising nearly $100 million in its ICO, one of the first held by a mainstream tech company.

But in June, the SEC filed a lawsuit against Kik Interactive, claiming the ICO was illegal, as part of the Commission’s wider crackdown on companies it alleges are issuing securities illegally.

The SEC also claimed that the company’s management had predicted Kik Messenger would run out of money by 2017, when it started planning the launch of Kin. Kik Interactive hit back in a court filing last month, saying that the SEC’s claims about its finances were “solely designed for misdirection, thereby prejudicing Kik and portraying it in a negative light.”

One of the core issues in the lawsuit is whether or not Kin is a security. The SEC alleges that it is and that the token sale violated securities laws. Kik Interactive denies Kin is a security.

“After 18 months of working with the SEC the only choice they gave us was to either label Kin a security or fight them in court. Becoming a security would kill the usability of any cryptocurrency and set a dangerous precedent for the industry,” Livingston wrote in today’s blog post. “So with the SEC working to characterize almost all cryptocurrencies as securities we made the decision to step forward and fight.”

Livingston added that since Kin isn’t available on most exchanges, it doesn’t rely on speculative demand. Instead, Kin is used by “millions of people in dozens of independent apps,” with more than two million monthly active users and 600,000 monthly active spenders, he wrote. Kik Interactive’s objective now is to increase those numbers.

To get more people who buy Kin to use the currency, Livingston said the company will focus on three things: enabling the Kin blockchain to support a billion consumers making a dozen transactions a day, with confirmation times of less than a second; increasing adoption and growth for developers who use Kin in their apps; and building a mobile wallet that makes it easier to buy and use Kin.



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