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How Kobalt is betting on music’s middle class and DIY stars – TechCrunch


Streaming services have made music ubiquitous, driving more exploration by consumers who don’t have to pay for each song or album individually. Musicians are correspondingly able to find their own niche of fans scattered around the world.

(This is the third installment of our EC-1 series on Kobalt Music Group and changes in the music industry. Read Part I and Part II.)

As Spotify gained rapid adoption in his native Sweden in 2006, class=”crunchbase-link” href=”https://crunchbase.com/organization/kobalt-music-group” target=”_blank” data-type=”organization” data-entity=”kobalt-music-group”>Kobalt’s founder & CEO Willard Ahdritz predicted music streaming and the rise of social media would increasingly undercut the gatekeeping power of the major label groups and realign the market to center more on a vast landscape of niche musicians than a handful of traditional superstars.

Both of these predictions have proven directionally true. The question is to what extent and how are industry players actually realigning as a result?

What musicians need in addition to the administrative collection of their royalties (explained in Part II) is a menu of creative services they can tap for support. Kobalt’s AWAL and Kobalt Music Publishing divisions provide such services to recording artists and songwriters, respectively, and do so on purely a services basis (getting paid a commission but not taking ownership of copyrights like traditional labels and publishers do).

Niche middle class vs. Global superstars

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Image via Getty Images / rolfo eclaire

The whole music industry is growing substantially due to streaming music’s mainstream penetration in wealthier countries and increased penetration in emerging markets.

As the overall pie is growing, the non-superstar segment of the market is indeed growing faster than the superstar segment, taking over a larger portion of industry royalties.

According to data from BuzzAngle, the top 500 songs in the US in 2018 accounted for 10% of on-demand audio streams — a dramatic decline in market share compared to 2017 when the top 500 songs accounted for 14% of streams. Stepping back, the top 50,000 songs made up 73.2% of all US streams in 2017 but that declined to 70.5% in 2018.



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Lookiero closes $19M led by MMC Ventures to be the Stitch Fix for Europe – TechCrunch


Lookiero, the online personal shopping service for clothes and accessories, has closed a $19 million funding round led by London-based VC MMC Ventures with support from existing investor All Iron Ventures, and new investors Bonsai Partners, 10x and Santander Smart. The company will use the backing to expand in its main markets of Spain, France and the UK. In June last year it closed a funding round of €4 million led by All Iron Ventures.

The startup applies algorithms to a database of personal stylists and customer profiles to thus provide a personalized online shopping experience to its customers. It then delivers a selection of five pieces of clothing or accessories curated by a personal shopper to fit the customer’s individual size, style, and preferences. Customers then decide which items to keep or return (at no additional cost), allowing Lookiero to learn more about the customer’s tase before starting the whole process again.

By generating look-a-like profiles and analyzing previous customer interactions with each item, Lookiero says it can predict how likely a user is going to keep a certain item from a range of more than 150 European brands from a warehousing system that will ship more than 3 million items of clothing this year to seven European countries.

It’s not unlike the well—worn Birchbox model. Lookiero’s main competitor is Stitch Fix (US), which has upwards of $1.5bn in annual revenues and IPO’d November 2017.

Founded in 2015 by Spanish entrepreneur Oier Urrutia, the company says it now has over 1 million registered users and has grown revenue by over 200% from 2017 to 2018.

In a statement Urrutia said: “This investment round provides us with the necessary capital to further increase the accuracy of our technology, which is really exciting. It will allow us to offer the best possible experience for our users and to continue expanding across Europe.”

Simon Menashy, Partner, MMC Ventures, said: “The migration of fashion brands online has improved consumers’ access to clothing, and there is now an almost overwhelming amount of choice. At the same time, it can still be really hard to find exactly what is right for you, especially with high street retail stores in decline. Lookiero provides the best of both worlds, giving every customer a hand-picked selection from their personal stylist.”

Ander Michelena, co-founding partner of All Iron Ventures, said: “Even if what Oier and his team have achieved to date is remarkable, we believe that Lookiero still has great potential to continue expanding internationally and to become a player of reference in a market segment where there is still a lot to do in terms of innovation and user satisfaction”.



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Google is investing $3.3B to build clean data centers in Europe – TechCrunch


Google announced today that it was investing 3 billion euro (approximately $3.3 billion USD) to expand its data center presence in Europe. What’s more, the company pledged the data centers would be environmentally friendly.

This new investment is in addition to the $7 billion the company has invested since 2007 in the EU, but today’s announcement was focused on Google’s commitment to building data centers running on clean energy, as much as the data centers themselves.

In a blog post announcing the new investment, CEO Sundar Pichai, made it clear that the company was focusing on running these data centers on carbon-free fuels, pointing out that he was in Finland today to discuss building sustainable economic development in conjunction with a carbon-free future with prime minister Antti Rinne.

Of the 3 billion Euros, the company plans to spend, it will invest 600 million to expand its presence in Hamina, Finland, which he wrote “serves as a model of sustainability and energy efficiency for all of our data centers.” Further, the company already announced 18 new renewable energy deals earlier this week, which encompass a total of 1,600-megawatts in the US, South America and Europe.

In the blog post, Pichai outlined how the new data center projects in Europe would include some of these previously announced projects:

Today I’m announcing that nearly half of the megawatts produced will be here in Europe, through the launch of 10 renewable energy projects. These agreements will spur the construction of more than 1 billion euros in new energy infrastructure in the EU, ranging from a new offshore wind project in Belgium, to five solar energy projects in Denmark, and two wind energy projects in Sweden. In Finland, we are committing to two new wind energy projects that will more than double our renewable energy capacity in the country, and ensure we continue to match almost all of the electricity consumption at our Finnish data center with local carbon-free sources, even as we grow our operations.

The company is also helping by investing in new skills training, so people can have the tools to be able to handle the new types of jobs these data centers and other high tech jobs will require. The company claims it has previously trained 5 million people in Europe for free in crucial digital skills, and recently opened a Google skills hub in Helsinki.

It’s obviously not a coincidence that company is making an announcement related to clean energy on Global Climate Strike Day, a day when people from around the world are walking out of schools and off their jobs to encourage world leaders and businesses to take action on the climate crisis. Google is attempting to answer the call with these announcements.



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Alchemist Accelerator is launching a European program – TechCrunch


Enterprise-focused startup accelerator Alchemist is expanding its footprint this morning with the launch of an initiative focused on European startups.

While Alchemist was happy to accept European companies into their US program before — they tell me they’ve had about 25 European startups go through Alchemist already — it hasn’t been a focus.

With the aptly named Alchemist Europe, Alchemist will be opening up an office in Munich and bringing in its first Europe-focused cohort. Alchemist expects this first class of companies to debut with its first Europe Demo Day sometime in early 2020.

Like Alchemist US, Alchemist Europe will focus on enterprise companies and teams that make their money from corporations. More specifically, Alchemist says in its announcement of the program that the European base will specialize in “Industry 4.0, robotics, mobility, power generation and distribution, industrial artificial intelligence and virtual reality”

Ethan Prater, formerly the VP of Product for Castlight Health, will be heading up the Europe division as its Managing Director.

So why expand now? Alchemist US managing director Ravi Belani tells me its because they’ve now built out their network and internal software to sufficiently support European companies “with the full experience of the US program, remotely.”

And it helps that they’ve found a pretty significant partner in the region. Alchemist is building out this European initiative in a partnership with Next47 — the VC/investing arm of European mega co. Siemens, which also happens to be headquartered in Munich.

I’m told Next47 has committed $2.5 million to Alchemist as part of the deal, and has reserved an additional $2.5 million for potential further investment.

Alchemist Accelerator in the US, meanwhile, is just about to wrap up its latest class. It’ll host its 22nd demo day today, with 23 companies launching in all. They’ll have a livestream of the event here, with presentations beginning at 3 PM Pacific.



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No Marketing ROI in Your Small Business? Here’s How to Fix It

If you are a small business owner, you know how hard it’s to manage all aspects of your business. Marketing is the backbone of any business as far as growth is concerned. Unlike large companies, small startups have to work with smaller budgets. As a result, the owners have to try their best to get the maximum return on their marketing investment. In this guide, we are going to give you a few secret tips that may help you get the highest ROI.

1) Make sure you have Realistic Goals

Having solid goals is the first thing you need to do. This is important if you want your marketing plan to be effective. You can have different goals and ways to achieve them. For example, you can find a way to spur on your customers or clients to sign up for your weekly or monthly newsletter.

In the same way, for better revenue growth, make sure you have an eye-catching call-to-action in your newsletters. This will increase the click-through rate.

2) Choose a Suitable Channel

Not every marketing channel can work for you. So, you need to choose a channel based on real data. This channel can be a platform that can help you exchange information with your customers, such as social media.

Of course, you may have to spend the time to get familiar with these channels. As soon as you have learned to use them, you are good to go.

3) Run Optimized Marketing Campaigns

This is one of the best cross-platform technique. With this approach in place, you can make your message more effective whether you are using ads on newspapers, TV or the Internet.

It’s good to have an integrated marketing campaign as it may have a positive impact on the visibility and efficacy of your message. In fact, experts say that 70% customers lean toward the integrated marketing method. So, an optimized campaign can give better results.

4) Write Content

Marketing can be done in more ways than one, and content marketing is on top of the list. Writing content for your blog or website can help you get a number of benefits down the road. The fact of the matter is that content is king as far as getting your site listed on the first page of Google is concerned. Once your site is listed on top of the search results page, your ROI will go up.

5) Use task Automation Platforms

With the help of digital marketing, you can reap many benefits. Digital marketing has a lot of tools and platforms that allow you to do the automation of your marketing tasks. Some of the platforms are MailChimp, Facebook, and WordPress. The automation of tasks can save you a lot of time and investment dollars. At the same time, it will boost your marketing ROI.

Conclusion

If implemented the right way, these secret techniques can help you increase your marketing ROI significantly. So, make sure you give them a go if you are a serious small business owner. Hope this helps.



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Clutter acquires The Storage Fox for $152M to add self-storage to its on-demand platform – TechCrunch


The world of on-demand storage has seen some ups and downs, with some of the biggest hopefuls pivoting into new areas, some as unrelated as cryptocurrency, in the search for better product-market fit. One that found its groove early on, however, is today announcing an acquisition to expand its existing business into a new market category. Clutter, the on-demand removals and storage company backed by SoftBank, is today announcing that it has acquired The Storage Fox, a startup that will spearhead Clutter’s expansion in to self-storage services in urban locations, starting first in the New York metro area where The Storage Fox is currently active.

The deal is valued at $152 million, Clutter said. Ari Mir, Clutter’s co-founder and CEO, added in an interview that  Clutter did not need to raise any extra funding to finance this acquisition, but said his company is likely to be taking on more financing in the future for growth.

To date, Clutter has raised $310 million, according to PitchBook, including a $200 million round earlier this year led by SoftBank that valued the company at $600 million post-money. Future financing is likely to come in the form of debt to acquire property, as well as equity to expand the business’s platform, hiring and more. It’s currently active in 1,000 cities and towns across the US and the plan will be to stay domestic until it has wider penetration, before exploring how to grow internationally. The deal will bring the total amount of space that Clutter leases and owns up to two million square feet.

“Expanding into self-storage is something we have been discussing since Clutter’s Series A pitch to Sequoia and we are excited to see it come to fruition,” said Omar Hamoui, partner at Sequoia Capital, in a statement. “The acquisition reinforces Clutter’s market leadership and expands Clutter services by offering a better experience for customers who need self-storage or on-demand storage.”

(Notably, too, is that Clutter had to actively bid for this business: “Portfolios like that of The Storage Fox are extremely rare, and this acquisition signals that Clutter is uniquely positioned to take on and succeed in the self-storage industry,” said Eliav Dan, Head of West Coast Real Estate Finance at Barclays, which acted as Clutter’s exclusive financial advisor, in a statement. “Clutter competed with multiple self-storage REITs throughout the bidding process to win the deal — a testament to the strength of the company’s management team and its ability to execute on an innovative business model.”)

Up to now, Clutter business has focused on extending the on-demand model — which has become a cornerstone for a huge wave of e-commerce startups that are tapping into new innovations for managing logistics, the rise of the gig-economy, the proliferation of smartphones, and consumer tastes for instant gratification — to the messy business of helping people move and store their worldly possessions, from which Clutter makes revenues by charging service fees.

Customers might typically be urban dwellers — for example moving to smaller digs or simply looking for a way to, yes, de-Clutter — but the storage centers themselves tend to be far outside city centers. On top of this, Clutter has largely operated on a long-term lease model with the facilities that it uses.

In that regard, this acquisition will be giving the company a couple of interesting new possessions of its own, to tap the self-storage market, estimated to be worth $40 billion annually.

The Storage Fox’s facilities, like other self-storage businesses, are located in areas that are much closer to urban centers, since the model is predicated more on people being able to dip in and out of their storage units quickly and potentially very regularly. In its case, its facilities today are in Yonkers, White Plains, Queens and Brooklyn.

It will also give Clutter a trove of real estate that it will now own: The Storage Fox didn’t appear to raise any traditional VC funding, but it did have large finance agreements in place in order to buy property. That is a pattern that Clutter is likely to continue, Mir said.

Now that there will be more accessible space on Clutter’s platform that it actually owns, it will also give the company a point of entry into a new potential range of business services alongside the self-storage. Could that extend into something like office space, potentially pitting Clutter against one of its portfolio neighbors, WeWork? Mir declined to answer specifically but we’ve seen some outlier cases — such as this guy who lived out of his storage unit — that, while not exactly okay for a number of reasons, does underscore that there is a lot of potential there.

“There are over 52,000 self-storage facilities in the US alone,” Mir said. “If you take all that and add it up, there are more square feet in those storage spaces than there are in McDonald’s and Starbucks in the US, combined. At the same time, inside of cities, we’re running out of space. So our vision is to apply all the technology that we’ve built in house to increase the value that these self-storage facilities provide across society.”

Clutter has already made some moves beyond simple storage in its existing business: it’s already actively advertising the option to rent, sell, donate and dispose of your items if you choose — although it seems that these four services are not yet actively live. Earlier this year, it acquired the storage business of Omni, which itself is currently focusing on rentals.

Storage over all has not been an easy area to tackle for a lot of reasons: on top of the usual issues of needing to ensure that the contractors — the face and engine of your business — are responsible and good at their jobs, the cargo can be unexpectedly large or fragile, and the movement of it might be tied up in all kinds of backstories that make getting from A to B and eventually back to the owner again very complicated.

Mir concedes that the customer satisfaction aspect has been challenging: it’s one of those areas that people are quick to publicly complain when something has gone awry. He also insists that its ratings and Clutter’s efforts are generally improving, and frankly it’s great to hear him be honest about this and not deny that criticism is a challenge and that the company is always working to make this better.



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Ricoh’s Theta Z1 is the first truly premium consumer 360 camera – TechCrunch


Ricoh has a well-earned good reputation when it comes to building smart, technically excellent photographic equipment — including the almost legendary Ricoh GR series of pocketable APS-C cameras, which are a favorite among street photographers everywhere. Earlier this year, the company released the Ricoh Theta Z1, which builds on its success with its pioneering Theta line of 360-degree cameras and delivers a step-up in terms of image quality and build that will feel at home in the hands of enthusiasts and pro photographers.

The Theta Z1 is what happens when you push the limits of what’s possible in a portable form factor 360 camera, both in terms of build materials and what’s going on on the inside. Like its more affordable, older sibling, the Theta V, it shoots both stills and video in 360 degrees — but unlike the V, it does so using two 1-inch sensors — unprecedented for a 360 camera in this category. Sony’s celebrated RX100 series was pushing boundaries with its own 1-inch sensor in a traditional compact camera, and the Ricoh is similarly expanding the boundaries of 360 photography by including not just one, but two such sensors in its Z1. That translates to unmatched image quality for 360 photographers — provided you’re willing to pay a premium price to get it.

Design and build

The Ricoh Theta Z1 feels a lot like previous iterations of the Theta line — it’s essentially a handle with two big lenses on top, which is a pretty optimal design overall for a device you’re mostly going to be holding up to take 360 photos and video. It’s a bit bulkier than previous generations, and heavier, too, but it’s still a very portable device despite the increased size.

Ricoh Theta Z1 7

With the bulkier build, you also get a magnesium outer case, which is textured and feels fantastic when held. If you’ve ever held a pro DSLR or mirrorless camera, then the feel will be familiar, and that says a lot about Ricoh’s target audience with this $1,000 device. The magnesium alloy shell isn’t only for making it feel like it’s worth what it costs, however; you also get big durability benefits, which is important on a device that you’re probably going to want to use in remote locales and off the beaten path.

The build quality also feels incredibly solid, and the button layout is simple and easy to understand. There’s a single shutter button on the front of the camera, just above an OLED display that provides basic info about remaining space for images or video, battery life and connection status. A single LED indicates both mode and capture status information, and four buttons on the side control power on/off, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, photo and video mode switching and enabling basic functions like a shutter countdown timer.

Using the hardware buttons to control the Theta Z1 independent of your smartphone, where you can remotely control all aspects of the camera when connected via Wi-Fi and using the app, is intuitive and easy, and probably the way you’ll use the Z1 more often than not when you’re actually out and about. There’s little to worry about when it comes to framing, for instance, because it captures a full 360 image, and you can handle all of that after the fact with Ricoh’s editing tools prior to sharing.

On the bottom, there’s a USB-C port for charging and wired data transfer, and a 1/4″ standard tripod mount for attaching the Z1 to tripods or other accessories. This is useful, because if you use a small handle you’ll get a better overall image, as the Z1’s software automatically edits out the camera, and, to some extent, the thing that’s supporting it. There’s also a small lug for attaching a wrist strap, but what you won’t find is a flap or door for a micro SD card — the Theta Z1 relies entirely on built-in storage, and offers just under 20GB of usable storage.

Ricoh Theta Z1 9

Still images

Ricoh’s Theta Z1 has two 1-inch sensors on board, as mentioned, and those combine to provide an image resolution of 670×3360. The camera captures two 180-degree fields of view from each lens, and automatically stitches them together in software to produce the final image. The result is the sharpest, most color-accurate still photos I’ve ever seen from a 360-degree camera, short of the kind of content shot by professionals on equipment costing at least 10x more.

The resulting images do incredibly well when viewed through VR headsets, for instance, or when you use Theta’s own 360 viewer for web in full-screen mode on high-resolution displays. They also make it possible to export flat images that still look sharp, which you can crop and edit in the Theta+ app. You can create some truly amazing images with interesting perspective that would be hard to get using a traditional camera.

A769B0EF 55C0 483E 82AE 19EFF4212B2D 3

Indoors in low-light situations, the Ricoh Theta Z1 still performs pretty well, especially compared to its competitors, thanks to those big 1-inch sensors. Especially in well-lit indoor environments, like in the restaurant example below, details are sharp and crisp across the frame and colors come out great.

In settings where a lot of the frame is dark or unevenly lit, as in the example at the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo below, the results aren’t nearly as good when operating in full automatic mode. You can see that there is some blur in the parts of the scene with motion, and there’s more grain apparent in parts of the frame, too. Overall though, the audience is pretty well captured and the colors still look accurate and good despite the many different tones from different sources.

The Ricoh Theta Z1 still does its best work in bright outdoor settings, however — which is true for any camera, but especially for cameras with sensors smaller than full-frame or APS-C. It’s still definitely capable enough to capture images you can work with, and that provide a great way to revisit great events or memories in a more immersive way than standard 2D images can accomplish.

You can adjust settings, including aperture to optimize your photo capture, as well as choosing between f/2.1, f/3.5 and f/5.6, with higher apertures offering higher-resolution images. The built-in lens has been designed to reduce ghosting, purple fringe artifacts and flare, and it does an outstanding job at this. RAW capture allows you to edit DNG files using Lightroom, and it works amazingly well with Lightroom mobile for advanced tweaks right on the same device.

Video

The Ricoh Theta Z1 does video, too — though the specs for the video it produces are essentially unchanged from the Theta V on paper. It can capture 4K video at 30 fps/56 mbps or 2K video at 30fps/16mbps, and live stream in both 4K and 2K. There’s a four-channel built-in microphone for immersive audio recording, and it can record as much as 40 minutes of 4K or 130 minutes of 2K footage, though each individual recording session is capped at 5 minutes and 25 minutes for 4K and 2K, respectively.

Ricoh has tougher competition when it comes to video in the 360 camera game — Insta 360’s One X has been a clear winner in this category, and has led to this camera even finding some fans when compared to action cameras like the GoPro Hero 7 and the DJI Osmo Action, thanks in large part to its fantastic built-in image stabilization.

The Ricoh Theta Z1 just frankly doesn’t impress in this regard. The sensors do allow for potentially better image quality overall, but the image stabilization is definitely lacking, as you can see, and overall quality just isn’t there when measured against the Insta360 One X. For a fixed installation for real-time live-streaming, the Ricoh probably makes more sense, but video isn’t the device’s strength, and it’s a little disappointing given its still shooting prowess.

Features and sharing

The range of editing options available either via Theta+ or using the DNG files in both mobile and desktop photo editing software for the Theta Z1 is outstanding. You can really create and compose images in a wide variety of ways, including applying stickers and text that stick to the frame as a viewer navigates around the image. Sharing from the Theta app directly works with a number of platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and theta360.com, where you can get embeddable 360 images like those found in this post above.

Ricoh has done a great job making sure you can not only capture the best possible 360 images with this camera, but also share them with others. It’s also leading the pack when it comes to the range of options you have for getting creative with slicing up those 7K spherical images in a variety of ways for traditional flat image output, which is not surprising, given the company’s heritage.

Bottom line

Simply put, the Ricoh Theta Z1 is the best 360 camera for still photos that you can buy for less than $1,000 – even if just squeaks under that line. It’s the best still photo 360 camera you can pick up for considerably more than that, too, given its sensor arrangement and other technical aspects of the device, including its selectable aperture settings and RAW output.

The $999.95 asking price is definitely on the high end for this category — the Theta V retails for less than half that, as does the Insta360 One X. But I mentioned the Sony RX100 above, and the pricing is similar: You can get a compact camera for much less money, including very good ones, but the latest RX100 always commands a premium price, which people are willing to pay for the very best-in-class device.

If what you want is the best still photography 360 camera on the market, the Ricoh Theta Z1 is easily it, and if that’s the specific thing you’re looking for, then Ricoh has packed a lot of cutting-edge tech into a small package with the Z1.



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Twitter discloses another 10,000 accounts suspended for fomenting political discord globally – TechCrunch


Twitter’s ongoing, and possibly Sisyphean, effort of policing and removing nefarious content disseminated on its platform is taking another step forward today. The company’s safety team has disclosed the removal of another 10,112 accounts across six countries that were found to be actively spreading misinformation and encouraging unrest in politically sensitive climates.

The accounts noted today follow the same fault lines of unrest that you will find in the news at the moment: they include more than 4,000 each in United Arab Emirates and China, over 1,000 in Equador, and 259 in Spain. The full trove is being posted for researchers and others to parse and you can find it, and the wider archive — now numbering in the millions of Tweets and with one terabyte of media — here.

Today’s removals mark nearly one year of Twitter’s efforts to identify and remove accounts that are spreading political misinformation for the purposes of changing public sentiment — something that has wide-ranging impact beyond simply being annoyed on social media, including not least democratic processes like voting in elections or referendums. Today’s list is on par with some of the other notable disclosures Twitter has made every few months in the last year, such as its first removals process last October covering some 4,500 accounts out of Russia; but they are a far cry from its biggest removal effort to date, identifying and suspending some 200,000 accounts in China aimed at sowing discord in Hong Kong this past August.

Given that, if anything, Twitter is trying to make it easier, not harder, to open accounts and start using the service,  one could argue that trying to police the bad guys is a never-ending, and possibly impossible effort, since like the universe itself, Twitter just keeps expanding.

But on the other hand, it’s a necessary process, one that can help us learn about how social media is being misused (Twitter says that ‘thousands’ of researchers have accessed the data to date).

Those who are able can try to figure out ways to fix it, and we the public become smarter about spotting and passing over the bad stuff. Plus, in a climate where social networks are now getting increasingly scrutinised by governments for their role in aiding and abetting the bad actors, it also helps Twitter (and others that also identify and remove accounts, like Facebook) demonstrate that it is self-policing, making an effort and producing results, before states step in and do the policing for them. (Related sidenote: Just yesterday, Colin Crowell, Twitter’s VP of public policy for the last eight years, who had a big role in interfacing with the powers that be by overseeing lobbying efforts, announced yesterday that he would be stepping down.)

More details on the list announced today:

United Arab Emirates & Egypt: Twitter said it removed 267 accounts originating in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt. “These accounts were interconnected in their goals and tactics: a multi-faceted information operation primarily targeting Qatar, and other countries such as Iran. It also amplified messaging supportive of the Saudi government,” Twitter notes. Additionally, it identified that all these accounts came from one tech company called DotDev, which has also been permanently suspended (along with other accounts associated with it).

A separate group of 4,258 accounts operating from the UAE, mainly directed at Qatar and Yemen, were also removed. “These accounts were often employing false personae and tweeting about regional issues, such as the Yemeni Civil War and the Houthi Movement.”

Saudi Arabia: Just six accounts linked to Saudi Arabia’s state-run media apparatus were found to be “engaged in coordinated efforts to amplify messaging that was beneficial to the Saudi government.” The accounts presented themselves as journalists and media outlets.

Twitter also singled out the account of Saud al-Qahtani, a former media advisor to the King, for violations of its platform manipulation policies. (The account is not included in the archives disclosed today.)

Spain: Partido Popular — the Spanish political party founded by a former Franco minister that has been tied up in corruption scandals — was identified as operating some 259 accounts that were falsely boosting public sentiment online in Spain. The accounts were active for only a short time, Twitter notes.

Ecuador: There were 1,019 accounts removed this summer affiliated with the PAIS Alliance political party. The network of primarily fake accounts “was primarily engaged in spreading content about President Moreno’s administration, focusing on issues concerning Ecuadorian laws on freedom of speech, government censorship, and technology.”

China (PRC)/Hong Kong: It’s not 200,000 accounts as in August but still, another 4,302 accounts have been identified in helping to “sow discord about the protest movement in Hong Kong.”

As with previous datasets that Twitter has disclosed, the company notes that this is an ongoing effort that will see further announcements in the months ahead as more accounts are identified. But the question you have to ask is whether the company has been trying to figure out if there is a way of preventing these accounts from coming on to the platform in the first place.





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Lime is shutting down car rental service, LimePod – TechCrunch


Transportation startup Lime is shutting down LimePod, its car-sharing service that it launched last November in Seattle. Lime plans to start removing its vehicles from the streets of Seattle next month and will completely shut down the service by the end of the year. The news was first reported by GeekWire.

Lime has operated a pilot program in Seattle since last year and is set to conclude at the end of the year. Throughout the program, more than 18,000 people took more than 200,000 trips in LimePods, according to a Lime spokesperson. At launch, the plan was to explore carsharing for short distances and eventually replace its vehicles with an all-electric fleet. Lime, however, is not looking to make LimePods a permanent fixture of the city at this point.

“While the program was a great learning experience, at our core, we are an electric mobility company first,” Lime wrote in an email to LimePod users. “We are committed — like Seattle is — to sustainability, lower carbon emissions, and to make cities more livable, all of which require reduced car travel.”

Additionally, Lime said it was not able to find the right partner for its LimePod’s electric fleet, which led to the decision to end the program at the end of the pilot period.

“We deeply appreciate our partnership with the Seattle community and the opportunity to collaborate on our LimePod Pilot Program,” a Lime spokesperson told TechCrunch. “The experience is a testament to the city’s forward-looking position on the future of transportation and the necessity of sustainable options for citizens. We are similarly committed to that goal and the information gained during our pilot will support the work necessary should we decide to expand and improve this service with an all-electric fleet in the future.”

Lime, which got its beginnings as a bike-share company, has deployed its scooters and bikes in more than 100 cities in the U.S. and more than 20 international cities. Recently, Lime hit 100 million rides across its micromobility vehicles. Clearly, Lime sees more of a future with shared bikes and scooters than it does with cars.

Earlier this year, Lime raised a $310 million Series D round led by Bain Capital Ventures and others. That round valued the startup at $2.4 billion.



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Readying an IPO, Postmates secures $225M led by private equity firm GPI Capital – TechCrunch


Postmates, the popular food delivery service, has raised another $225 million at a valuation of $2.4 billion, the company confirmed to TechCrunch on Thursday, ahead of an imminent initial public offering.

Private equity firm GPI Capital has led the investment, first reported by Forbes, which brings Postmates’ total funding to nearly $1 billion. GPI takes non-controlling stakes — between 2% and 20% — in both late-stage private companies and publicly listed ventures.

After tapping JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America to lead its float, Postmates filed privately with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO earlier this year. Sources familiar with the company’s exit plans say the business intends to publicly unveil its IPO prospectus this month.

To discuss the company’s journey to the public markets and the challenges ahead in the increasingly crowded food delivery space, Postmates co-founder and chief executive officer Bastian Lehmann will join us onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt on Friday October 4th.

As Forbes noted, last-minute financings are critical for companies poised to run out of cash and in need of an infusion prior to hitting the public markets. The motives for Postmates’ last-minute financing are unclear; however, the company will certainly begin trading on the stock market at an interesting time. 2019 has proven to be the year of unicorn listings, and former Silicon Valley darlings like Uber and Lyft have struggled to stabilize since their multi-billion-dollar debuts, despite years of support and coddling from venture capitalists.

Meanwhile, activity in the food delivery space has distracted from Postmates’ prospects. DoorDash, for one, recently purchased another food delivery service, Caviar, from Square in a deal worth $410 million. Uber is said to have considered buying Caviar, which had been looking for a buyer at least since 2016, according to Bloomberg. Postmates, for its part, has long been the subject of M&A rumors.

On-demand food delivery, undeniably popular, has yet to prove its long-term viability as a money-making business. At the very least, a sizeable check from a private equity firm ensures Postmates has the capital it needs, for the time being, to accelerate growth and double down on its autonomous robotic delivery ambitions.

Founded in 2011, Postmates is also backed by Spark Capital, Founders Fund, Uncork Capital, Slow Ventures, Tiger Global, Blackrock and others.



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