Colin Kaepernick plans to audition for NFL teams on Saturday

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Colin Kaepernick plans to audition for NFL teams on Saturday in a private workout arranged by the league to be held in Atlanta.

The exiled former Pro Bowl quarterback posted on Twitter: “I’m just getting word from my representatives that the NFL league office reached out to them about a workout in Atlanta on Saturday. I’ve been in shape and ready for this for 3 years, can’t wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday.”

The NFL hasn’t confirmed Kaepernick’s workout details.

A person familiar with the plans told The Associated Press the league’s decision to invite all 32 teams to watch Kaepernick “came out of the blue with no prior communication.” The person said Kaepernick’s team was given a 2-hour window to accept the invitation and was denied a request to schedule the tryout on a Tuesday or another Saturday.

Kaepernick’s representatives have asked the league to provide a rolling list of teams that plan to attend the workout to ensure it’s a “legitimate process,” according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because details haven’t been made public.

Kaepernick hasn’t played since 2016 with the San Francisco 49ers. He helped start a wave of protests about social and racial injustice that season by kneeling during the national anthem at games.

The NFL in February settled a collusion grievance Kaepernick and former teammate Eric Reid filed against the league. Reid now plays for the Carolina Panthers.

Pueblo West are victorious over Rampart

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The Pueblo West Cyclones beat the Rampart Rams by a score of 28-14 on Friday at at District 20 Stadium.

Chandler Mason led the Cyclones’ aerial attack with 86 yards through the air. Mason also added 133 yards on the ground. Alex Reid lead all Pueblo West receivers with three catches for 36 yards.

In addition to Mason’s effort, Jeremiah Sanchez lead the Pueblo Westrushing game by racking up 52 yards in the contest, averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

Rampart quarterback Cale Cormaney led the passing attack with 94 yards through the air. Cormaney also added 83 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Rampart’s leading receiver was Michael Edwards, who caught one pass for 80 yards.

Rampart’s rushing game was lead by Chris Yoo and his 62 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries.

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This story was created with technology provided by Data Skrive using information that was available at the time of publication.

A US federal court finds suspicionless searches of phones at the border is illegal

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A federal court in Boston has ruled that the government is not allowed to search travelers’ phones or other electronic devices at the U.S. border without first having reasonable suspicion of a crime.

That’s a significant victory for civil liberties advocates, who say the government’s own rules allowing its border agents to search electronic devices at the border without a warrant are unconstitutional.

The court said that the government’s policies on warrantless searches of devices without reasonable suspicion “violate the Fourth Amendment,” which provides constitutional protections against warrantless searches and seizures.

The case was brought by 11 travelers — ten of which are U.S. citizens — with support from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who said border agents searched their smartphones and laptops without a warrant or any suspicion of wrongdoing or criminal activity.

The border remains a bizarre legal grey area, where the government asserts powers that it cannot claim against citizens or residents within the United States but citizens and travelers are not afforded all of their rights as if they were on U.S. soil. The government has long said it doesn’t need a warrant to search devices at the border. Any data collected by Customs & Border Protection without a warrant can still be shared with federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement.

Esha Bhandari, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said the ruling “significantly advances” protections under the Fourth Amendment.

“This is a great day for travelers who now can cross the international border without fear that the government will, in the absence of any suspicion, ransack the extraordinarily sensitive information we all carry in our electronic devices,” said Sophia Cope, a senior staff attorney at the EFF.

Millions of travelers arrive into the U.S. every day. Last year, border officials searched 33,000 travelers’ devices — a fourfold increase since 2015 — without any need for reasonable suspicion. In recent months, travelers have been told to inform the government of any social media handles they have, all of which are subject to search prior to being let in to the United States. But some have been denied entry to the U.S. for content on their phones shared by other people.

A spokesperson for Customs & Border Protection did not immediately comment.

Aurora West dean facing criminal charges found dead in home

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An Aurora high school dean, who was facing criminal charges and termination from his job, died Monday but the cause and manner of death is pending investigation, the Denver Medical Examiner’s Office said.

Tushar Rae, a dean at Aurora West College Preparatory, faced criminal charges in Denver and Aurora for threatening other school officials with a gun.The Aurora Public Schools board was to consider firing him during its Tuesday night meeting, according to board’s Tuesday night agenda.

“The Board will receive a recommendation from the Superintendent for the dismissal of Aurora West College Preparatory teacher Tushar Rae due to the failure or inability to perform his teaching duties constitutes neglect of duty, insubordination, and other good and just cause set forth in the Teacher Employment Compensation and Dismissal Act,” the agenda item, listed under the superintendent’s report said.

Rae was found dead in his home Monday morning in the 5100 block of Hannibal Street in Denver, according to a news release from the medical examiner.

In April, Rae brought a gun to school and threatened then-principal Taisiya Tselolikhin and two other administrators.

Tselolikhin later was placed on leave because she waited more than an hour to call police after she realized Rae had the gun on campus. She resigned in May.

Rae faced five felony charges and three misdemeanors in connection with the school incident in Aurora and two alleged domestic disturbances in Denver. The charges included attempted first-degree assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily injury; attempted first-degree assault with a deadly weapon; possession of a weapon on school grounds; carrying a concealed weapon; felony menacing; kidnapping; imprisonment; and prohibited use of a weapon.

Tselolikhin was listed as the victim in the two domestic disturbances. An affidavit from Denver police said the two had gone to Rae’s house after a work-related event on March 1, and that he had pointed a gun at her chest when she was going to leave, but turned the gun and fired past her. She told police she didn’t initially report the incident because she didn’t want to get him in trouble.

Aurora Public Schools investigated the on-campus gun incident and found Rae brought the gun to school and displayed it to Tselolikhin and threatened to shoot two other administrators, according to the audit’s findings. Although the incident happened at 1:51 p.m., Tselolikhin didn’t call school security until 3 p.m., and then she refused to lock the school’s doors, the audit said.

 

Chuck Schumer wants the US Army to think twice before using TikTok

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) raised concerns over the US Army’s use of the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok to find recruits in a letter directed to the military branch’s top official last week, as first reported by BuzzFeed News.

“While I recognize that the Army must adapt its recruiting techniques in order to attract young Americans to serve,” Schumer wrote. “I urge you to assess the potential national security risks posed by China-owned technology companies before choosing to utilize certain platforms.”

In his letter, Schumer asks Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy whether the Army was in contact with intelligence officials over its decision to use the TikTok platform recruiting and if it “conducted an analysis of…

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Google’s CallJoy phone agent for small businesses gets smarter, more conversational

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Earlier this year, Google’s in-house incubator launched CallJoy, a virtual customer service phone agent for small businesses that could block spammers, answer calls, provide callers with basic business information, and redirect other requests like appointment booking or to-go orders to SMS. Today, CallJoy is rolling out its first major update, which now enables the computer phone agent to have more of a conversation with the customer by asking questions and providing more information, among other improvements.

Originally, CallJoy could provide customers with information like the business hours or the address, or could ask the customer for permission to send them a link over text message to help them with their request. With the update, CallJoy’s phone agent can answer questions more intelligently. 

This begins by CallJoy asking the customer, “can I help you?,” which the customer then responds to, as they would usually. Their answer allows CallJoy to offer more information than before, based on what the caller had said.

For example, if a caller asked a restaurant if they had any vegetarian options, the phone agent might respond: “Yes! Our menu has vegetarian and vegan-friendly choices. Can I text you the link to our online menu?”

This isn’t all done through some magical A.I., however. Instead, the business owner has to program in the sort of customer inquiries it wants CallJoy to be able to respond to and handle. While some, like vegetarian options, may be common inquiries, it can be hard to remember everything that customers ask. That where CallJoy’s analytics could help.

The service already gathers call data — like phone numbers, audio and call transcripts– into an online dashboard for further analysis. Business owners can tag calls and run reports to get a better understanding of their call volume, peak call times, and what people wanted to know. This information can be used to better staff their phone lines during busy times or to update their website or business listings, for example. And now, it can help the business owner to understand what sort of inquiries it should train the CallJoy phone agent on, too.

Once trained, the agent can speak an answer, send a link to the customer’s phone with the information, or offer to connect the caller to the business’s phone number to reach a real person. (CallJoy offers a virtual phone number, like Google Voice, but it can ring a “real” phone line as needed to get a person on the line.)

Another feature launching today will allow business owners to implement CallJoy as they see fit.

Some business owners may prefer to answer the phone themselves and speak to their customers directly, for example. But they could still take advantage of a service like this at other times — like after hours or when they’re too busy to answer. The updated version now allows them to program when CallJoy will answer, including by times of day, or after the phone rings a certain number of times, for example.

The business owner will also receive a daily email recap of everything CallJoy did, so they know how and when it was put to use.

The product to date has been aimed at small business owners, who can’t afford the more expensive customer service phone agent systems. Instead, it’s priced at a flat $39 per month.

A spokesperson for CallJoy says the service has signed up “thousands” of small businesses since its initially invite-only launch in May 2019. 

Google’s Area 120 incubator is a place for Google employees to try out new ideas, while still operating inside Google instead of leaving for a startup. It’s considered a separate entity — some the apps produced by Area 120 don’t even mention their Google affiliation in their App Store descriptions, for instance. CallJoy, however, has received more of a spotlight than some. It’s even being featured on Google’s main corporate blog, The Keyword, today. However, if CallJoy makes the leap to Google — something that hasn’t been decided yet — it wouldn’t be the first Area 120 project to do so.

Area 120’s Touring Bird recently landed inside Google as did learn-to-code app Grasshopper and others.

We understand that joining Google is something that’s still on the table for CallJoy, but it’s not at the point of making that switch just yet.

The case against Grace Hopper Celebration

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We’ve heard the criticisms that there were fewer black women speakers than white men at Grace Hopper Celebration in the past, but event organizers heard our complaints and created an entire conference pathway and new grants for “women of color from underrepresented groups and women from untapped pathways.”

We feel better now that our panels include hijabi and transgender women. The work done by women of color and others to broaden our understanding of diversity and inclusion in these spaces cannot go without recognition.

But at the end of it all, my question after a long day of panels and handshakes is, why? What are we really doing here? What ideas are we planting and fostering behind our massive paywall? Are we breaking down barriers for future generations, or simply congratulating ourselves for reaching the upper echelons of women who have vaulted them? Are we pushing to change toxic systems, or asking women to change themselves to navigate them?

Who are we benefiting and elevating with our efforts?

What we can say about the majority of corporate women is that we are currently wealthy and educated. What we can say about many corporate women in the American tech sector is that we are white or Asian-American, heterosexual, abled and a plethora of other dimensions of privileged. Through most of our women in tech events, we self-select into a space where others are educated like us, or aspire to be educated like us, and erect barriers to the tune of thousands of dollars and up to a week off from work/school. Conferences tout scholarships to offset the cost of attendance for the up and coming generation of tech women, but often times those students are required to show existing proclivities to STEM.

Extending resources to students who already have exposure to STEM biases our outreach to those with privilege already; low-income schools in California are four times less likely to offer AP computer science A courses than high-income schools, according to an independent study done by the Kapor Center. Unfortunately, it’s hard to make a case to allocate resources any other way when these events rely on corporate sponsorship and attendance and a business case must be made for return on investment (re: tech talent pipeline).

The following is a (non-comprehensive) list of recommendations for improving the way we build power as women in tech:

1. Increase economic accessibility by supporting smaller conferences

Attending a conference costs more than its ticket price, so increasing accessibility must be more comprehensive than offering scholarships. Some examples of questions to ask ourselves as organizers: will attendees with mobility needs spend more than others for their travel and lodging? Are students who receive financial aid more fearful about taking days off?

At first glance, these questions seem like they can be addressed by throwing money at the problem — more scholarships for disabled and lower-income attendees, easy! But trying to level the playing field in this manner is an exercise in futility; bringing a few lucky underprivileged people into our space does little to address the underlying hierarchy. A better way to look at it is to ask how we can make the benefits available to those of us with privilege equally accessible to those with less.

Smaller, regional events usually cost less to host and attend and spread value more widely. New speakers can practice leadership, attendees can network with professionals in their local area, and students can receive more attention and mentorship. Resources move into local communities and nonprofits instead of into recruiting pipelines for tech giants. Some examples of regional conferences targeting minorities but with more granular goals are CodeNewbies, AfroTech and Take Back Tech. These are the efforts we need to support if we want to effectively grow power in our communities that don’t already have it.

2. Focus on systemic change

If every takeaway from your event is how women can change their actions, then it might be a shallow event. Women and others are not held down because we cry at work, or because we take maternity leave, but because of how those around us perceive those things. Challenging ourselves to change our perceptions is more difficult but ultimately more valuable than stifling our authentic choices and personality to be more convenient.

It’s important to ask ourselves why we, a group of traditionally mistreated professionals, are gathering. Why are we sharing our stories of vulnerability and to what end are we building our collective strength? Marginalized people coming together helps consolidate our power so that we can change the system we’re in. It’s a form of collective action — when dozens of women want maternity leave, their employer is more inclined to provide it than when one woman asks alone. When multiple women talk to each other and realize they’ve been harassed by the same co-worker, they feel empowered to do something about it. We organize and gather so we can change injustices.

Conversations where the whole room may not agree with you can be more impactful than the ones that earn you the most laughs and nods. Challenge your audience; discomfort is where we grow. If you’re holding an event for allies, make them earn the title of ally. Catch yourself when you fall to the instinct of making everyone feel good when your goal is to make a difference.

3. Support grassroots-led change instead of corporate-lead change

Let’s not forget who the greatest winners are after a Women @ Qualcomm weekend, a Microsoft Women in Technology Event or Grace Hopper Celebration — the event organizer.

They recruit from the highly qualified pool of attendees while cultivating positive PR for valuing diversity, gaining much more overall than any one individual, though a single person may stand to gain from the opportunity. Companies have made a major push for students and employees from underrepresented groups to stay in the “tech talent pipeline.” As from any affirmative action, there are positive outcomes from that, but there are also studies that find that the pipeline has not addressed deeper issues with workplace cultures, power asymmetries, and harassment.

Put another way, companies often recruit diversity in ways that bring value to themselves without taking responsibility for the quality of life of those within the pipeline. It’s important to remind ourselves that these are not purely philanthropic goals for corporations and that recruitment and retention are to their benefit. At the very least, we’re entitled to substantive policy change in exchange for our labor.

Grassroots and community-led change is better than corporate-led change if our goal is to empower and further the opportunities for women. We must create opportunities for leadership and support efforts that truly build our strength. We should be fearless in asking for real change. By all means, do the work within the companies and within the mainstream conferences if that empowers you, but be wary of the ways that you might be keeping power in already powerful communities and keep your goals in sight. Don’t be afraid to ask why, even for things that seem to have the best of intentions. Even well-meaning systems can perpetuate harmful power dynamics if those of us within them aren’t constantly questioning and pushing back.

Where LA’s top consumer VCs are looking to invest

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From a geographical perspective, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles startup ecosystems are no longer separated by a few hundred miles.

Top-tier VCs from SF visit LA regularly, and entrepreneurs raise from investors upstate and downstate in one process. Anecdotally, as an LA resident of 4 years, there’s been a palpable uptick of entrepreneurs from the Bay Area who move down here after exiting to found their next company.

The City of Angels is a hub for a wide range of startups, but it has two major groupings: consumer-facing startups that tap into Hollywood’s marketing culture, and the deep-tech ecosystem created by the city’s role as a hub for aerospace, defense and R&D.

To track how the ecosystem for software and digital media startups here is evolving, I asked eight of the top consumer VCs to share some of the trends they are most excited about investing in right now:

  • Kevin Zhang, partner at Upfront Ventures
  • Mike Palank, managing director at MaC Venture Capital
  • Brett Brewer, partner at CrossCut Ventures
  • Courtney Reum, partner at M13
  • Ron Rofe, partner at Rainfall Ventures
  • Ryan Hoover, partner at The Weekend Fund
  • Dustin Rosen, partner at Wonder Ventures
  • Zach White, principal at Sinai Ventures

The key takeaway is perhaps the diversity of their responses: investors here are going deep into trends across the spectrum of consumer spending. Consumer health and transportation are mentioned, as they were in my surveys of VCs in London and New York, but this group repeatedly predicts a new wave of interactive, social media startups (albeit with different perspectives on what it looks like).

Kevin Zhang, partner at Upfront Ventures

I’m a strong believer it’s the best time to be a game developer now. Every 10 years or so distribution shakes up, now giants like MSFT, Google, Sony, Epic, etc. are rushing in to shift gamers to subscriptions and cloud gaming, which means big exclusive content library building with lots of “non-dilutive” capital for developers. Games themselves are becoming bigger, cross-platform, cheaper to build and more accessible than ever thanks to advancement in game engine and networking tech. Related: there’s a new generation of mobile entertainment brewing at the intersection of short-form video, live, audience participation and social play; it’s marrying what’s worked with UGC and live video with in-app-purchases and retention tactics of casual games to create more accessible and bite-sized entertainment destinations.

Mike Palank, managing director at MaC Venture Capital

While it used to be that great content alone made for a compelling entertainment experience, as we move into the future it will be the blending of great content and amazing tech that will truly capture and retain people’s attention. We’ve seen those funny Youtube videos of babies swiping pictures in physical magazines showcasing their expectations that everything is interactive. I think in much the same way, expectations around filmed media (movies + TV) will trend towards the interactive. We are seeing some truly interesting experimentation around interactive right now from companies like Netflix, Unrd, Eko, CtrlMovie, Playdeo, Hovercast, Aether, Within, Twitch and others.

The winners of the streaming wars understand this and I believe will supplement their content slates with interesting technology to make the viewing experience unique and participatory (Quibi has already announced some examples of this). At MaC, we are looking for those innovative companies that are re-thinking how consumers experience filmed entertainment to make it more experiential, interactive and engaging.

Work collaboration startup Notion Labs cozies up to Silicon Valley’s top accelerators

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Startups building work software for other startups have been a huge focus of investment in Silicon Valley as eager VCs hope to grab a piece of the next Slack. Notion Labs, a profitable work tools startup that recently hit a reported $800 million valuation, isn’t making it easy for VC firms to give them money, but they are partnering with some of them alongside top accelerators like Y Combinator in an effort to become another household name in work software.

Notion has north of 1 million users and has attracted thousands of young startups to its platform, which combines notes, wikis and databases into a versatile tool that can help small teams cut down on the number of enterprise software subscriptions they’re paying for. Notion charges startups $8 per employee (when billed annually) to use the service.

Over half of the startups from Y Combinator’s most recent batch are Notion customers, the company tells TechCrunch, and the startup seems intent to accelerate their adoption among small teams. They have approached and partnered with dozens of accelerators around the globe including Y Combinator, 500 Startups and TechStars to bring their portfolio startups onto Notion’s platform, offering admitted startups $1,000 in free services each.

The new program is part of the company’s efforts to embed their platform as an “operating system” for startups early-on and then scale as their customers do.

“I think we find ourselves in a really interesting spot where I think YC startups know about us and start with it,” COO Akshay Kothari says. “Our goal with the new program is getting to the point where if you’re a new company, you don’t even think about it, you just start with Notion.”

Notion COO Akshay Kothari

Notion COO Akshay Kothari

Kothari says their platform seems to work best for startups in the sub-50 and sub-100 employee range, but they do have larger customers like UK banking startup Monzo which has organized their 1,300+ employees around the platform. Notion itself is unsurprisingly a power user of its product, running everything but internal and external communications on its own software.

The company offers a couple pricing tiers depending on size, but individuals can also use the software for $5 per month, something that Kothari believes offers it advantages over other tools in driving adoption inside companies. “There are a lot of similarities between us and the early stages of Slack in terms of engineering and product design people loving it, tech and media loving it, but one unique thing about us is that you can use Notion alone. Slack alone would be a bit lonely.”

The company is pitching customers a vision of consolidated workplace services that are built so end-users can customize them to their needs. Notion’s pitch contrasts pretty heavily with the overarching enterprise SaaS trends which has seen a wealth of specialized software tools hitting the market.

Notion is working on tools to help it court larger enterprise customers as well, including offline access, better permission systems and an API that can help developers connect their services to the platform. Notion has been iterating its product rather quickly for a company that has 9 engineers and no PMs, but Kothari says that they don’t believe piling more money or doubling employees is going to be the key to scaling more quickly.

“We definitely want to create a large company, a company that could eventually go public or whatever is the right — you know it’s too early for a lot of that stuff. Our preference is to stay small,” he says. “[Notion] doesn’t have a board, it doesn’t have a whole lot of external voices, pretty much everyone in this office decides what we’re doing next.”

Notion has raised millions in funding from investors like First Round Capital, Ron and Ronny Conway, Elad Gill and most recently Daniel Gross. The Information‘s Amir Efrati reported earlier this year that Notion had raised a $10 million “angel round” at an $800 million valuation. The round was less about raising more cash than it was about closing convertible notes, Korthari tells TechCrunch, noting that Notion has been profitable for the last 12-18 months.

“I guess we were profitable before profitability became cool. I think profitability helps you to control destiny a lot better because you’re not out fundraising every year or 18 months,” Kothari says. “Interestingly now, I think it’s cool to be profitable again. When I joined Notion I would tell VCs or investors ‘Oh, we’re profitable,’ and they would be like ‘Oh, so you’re building a lifestyle company.’”

Kothari himself was an investor that dumped money into Notion founders Ivan Zhao and Simon Last’s idea to create a platform that would help non-engineers build software. That was 6 years ago after Kothari sold his previous startup to LinkedIn, he joined about a year ago as COO.

Some VCs may have been skeptical early-on, but the story of Notion over the past year has been VCs fighting to score a spot on their cap table. In January, The New York Times‘s Erin Griffith reported that VCs had “dug up Notion’s office address and sent its founders cookie dough, dog treats and physical letters” to court their interest. The unrequited VC yearning has earned Notion the reputation for being venture averse, something Kothari pushed back on a few times.

“So, again, for the record, we don’t hate venture capitalists.”