User’s Guide to TechCrunch Disrupt 2021

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TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 approaches in just three days. Here’s your how-to guide for everything you can expect at Disrupt.

Although the main show kicks off on Tuesday the 21st, there’ll be some sneak peeks and extras going down on Monday. Make sure to log in to Hopin by noon on Monday to catch it all, including a special series of speed networking sessions, where one attendee from each session will be selected to receive a limited edition TechCrunch Disrupt swag bag. All sessions are in Pacific Standard Time. 

Monday, September 20 – Networking Sessions

  • 12:30pm – 1:00pm PST: Peer to Peer: Investors:
    Connect with the Disrupt community of investors to share connections, insights, and expertise.
  • 1:00pm – 1:30pm PST: Peer to Peer: Early Stage Founders:
    Meet the founders also launching at Disrupt to share insights and grow your support network
  • 1:30pm – 2:00pm PST: The Full Stack:
    Meet the data analysts, engineers, hackers, data scientists, and software developers that power your tech.
  • 2:00pm – 2:30pm PST: BIPOC & Women of Disrupt:
    We invite all women and BIPOC (and all allies) attending Disrupt to join us for this roundup to inspire one another and grow your network.
  • 2:30pm – 3:00pm PST: B2B2Connect:
    Are you working on products that make it easier for businesses to thrive? Meet and share ideas with the SaaS and Enterprise community.
  • 3:00pm – 3:30pm PST: DNA/Tech
    : Meet the scientists who are using technology and engineering to produce advancements in health and biology. 
  • 3:30pm – 4:00pm PST: Planet/Impact:
    Passionate about making an impact on our planet? Join this networking session focused on sustainability, greentech, and cleantech projects.    
  • 4:00pm – 4:30pm PST: MoneyMatters:
    Network with the power brokers changing the face of financial services, banking and crypto. 
  • 4:30pm – 5:00pm PST: Actuator:
    Discover the builders automating our lives with robotics and hardware alongside the scientists creating the artificial intelligence that powers it all.
  • 5:00pm – 5:30pm PST: The Station:
    Share insights with people pushing the boundaries of mobility including drone technology, autonomous vehicles, and transportation.

The Stages
There are two main stages at Disrupt – the Disrupt Stage and the Extra Crunch stage. The Disrupt Stage features interviews and panels with the biggest names in tech, plus Startup Battlefield. The Extra Crunch stage is chock full of how-to lessons specifically for founders. The full agenda is here.

Breakout Sessions
Beyond the main stages at Disrupt, you can take in smaller, interactive gatherings that pack a lot of advice, insight, and value — with plenty of time to get answers to your pressing questions. Plus, you just need an Expo Pass to get in front of these sessions. Missing your access? Grab an Expo Pass free here until Monday. All sessions are in Pacific Standard Time. 

Tuesday

  • 9:00 am – 9:50 am: Revolutionizing the Global Metaverse Economy with VCoin
  • 9:00 am – 9:50 am: The $49B Developer Landscape with Dell
  • 10:00am – 10:30am: You Complete Me with Mambu
  • 11:00am – 11:30am: Saving Lives with Precision Biology, Mayfield
  • 11:00am – 11:30am: The Dark Matter of Workflows: Business Technology’s Big Opportunity with Wrike
  • 11:35am – 11:55am: Taking Care of the Next Generation with Mayfield
  • 12:00pm – 12:50pm: Powering What’s Next: Insights from the Enterprise Software Market with Vista Equity Partners
  • 1:00pm – 1:50pm: Demo Derby – How startups are disrupting the status quo with innovative data analytics, AI and modern app development with Google Cloud
  • 2:00pm – 2:50pm: Thrive with an Untethered Workforce with Velocity Global

Wednesday

  • 9:00am – 9:30am: Belgian Startup Pitch Competition hosted by hub.brussels 
  • 9:00am – 9:50am: TTA Taiwan Pavilion Pitch-Off Session – Healthcare and Enterprise
  • 10:00am – 10:50am:  Achieve Sustainable IT with Prometheus, Grafana, and Hardware Sentry
  • 11:00am – 11:33am: Korea Pavilion Pitch Session – Hosted by KOTRA
  • 11:00am – 11:50am: Hacking US Healthcare: How a Simple Platform Can Help Solve Some of America’s Most Complex Healthcare Problems with Cedar Cares
  • 12:00pm – 12:50pm: Accelerate your growth using agile market research throughout the product lifecycle with Momentive.ai
  • 1:00pm – 1:50pm: Securing your journey to IPO from the start with Diligent
  • 1:00pm – 1:50pm: Accelerating your direct-to-consumer business with Google
  • 2:00pm – 2:50pm: How to approach fundraising from Corporate VCs with Intuit

Thursday

  • 9:00am – 9:55am: How to build a remote-first engineering culture with Remote
  • 10:00am – 10:50am: TTA Taiwan Pavilion Pitch-off Session – Smart Tech
  • 11:00am – 11:55am: The Moore’s law of software – onboarding time, with Flatfile
  • 1:00pm – 1:50pm: Top Japanese Startups pitch their exciting new tech! Come watch the live JETRO pitch session
  • 1:00pm – 1:50pm: Using Visual Communication to Build Your Startup’s Brand with Canva

Roundtable sessions
One thing Disrupt attendees have enjoyed the most at our events are meaningful small-group discussions. Join us for these intimate virtual conversations around fundraising, security, hiring and general founder issues. These special sessions have capped attendance limits to keep the conversations small, so make sure to get there early to save a seat. 

Tuesday

  • 11:00am – 11:30am: How Netflix Saved Cybersecurity with Cyvatar
  • 2:30pm – 3:00pm: CISO2CISO: On the Wrong Side of Disruption with Cyvatar
  • 3:00pm – 3:30pm: The toughest founder problems with Neesha Tambe, TechCrunch

Wednesday

  • 11:30am – 12:00pm: Why Can’t We Stop Ransomware? with Cyvatar
  • 1:00pm – 1:30pm: Startup Hiring Woes with Eric Eldon, TechCrunch
  • 2:45pm – 3:15pm: Fundraising Challenges with Jordan Crook, TechCrunch

Thursday

  • 10:00am – 10:30am: Startup Hiring Woes with Eric Eldon, TechCrunch
  • 12:00pm – 12:30pm: Fundraising Challenges with Jordan Crook, TechCrunch

Partner Sessions
With so much going on during the conference, it’s hard to pick what we’re most excited about. Make sure not to miss these super interesting partner sessions on the Extra Crunch Stage.

Tuesday

  • 9:45am – 10:05am: Bioplatforms for Saving the Planet with Mayfield
  • 10:45am – 11:05am: So You Want to Build a Space Business? With The Aerospace Corporation
  • 12:25pm – 12:45pm: The Inaugural Connection I.T. Superheroes Awards category winners
  • 1:25pm – 1:45pm: How Circle’s $4.5B Public Listing Will Change Startup Fundraising with SeedInvest
  • 2:25pm – 2:45pm: Humanizing AI: How Brands Are Revolutionizing Customer Experience in an increasingly Digital World with Soul Machines

Wednesday

  • 9:45am – 10:05pm: Illuminating the Next Great Entertainment Frontier: The Connected TV Metaverse with Foxxum | rlaxx TV 
  • 10:45am – 11:05am The New Human and Planetary Health Pioneers with Mayfield
  • 12:25pm – 12:45pm: Powering the Small Business Economy with Cloud Technology with Xero
  • 1:25pm – 1:45pm: Why Employers Are Ignoring a Large Candidate Pool That’s Necessary for Growth Today with Checkr
  • 2:25pm – 2:45pm: You’ve Raised Your Seed Round—Now What? Preparing for Your Series A with Samsung Next
  • 2:45pm – 3:05pm: Electric Generation: The Next Frontier For American Business with Ford Motor Company

Thursday

  • 9:40am – 10:00am: Rewiring the Brain to Improve the Quality of Life with Mayfield
  • 10:40am – 11:00am: Scaling Businesses and Creating Value with the Everywhere Workforce with Upwork
  • 11:35am – 11:40am: Esri Hackathon finalist demos
  • 12:20pm – 12:40pm: Eliminating Styrofoam Protective Packaging with Cruz Foam
  • 1:25pm – 1:45pm: The MIssing Block to Bring Crypto to the Masses with KuCoin

Pitch sessions
There’s nothing TechCrunch loves more than a good startup pitch – and Disrupt has got loads of them. In addition to our renowned Startup Battlefield competition, the startups in the expo get a chance to shine in these sessions. All sessions are in Pacific Standard Time.

Tuesday

  • 10:00am – 11:00am: Startup Alley Pitch Session
  • 12:00pm – 1:00pm: Startup Alley Pitch Session
  • 2:00pm – 3:00pm: Startup Alley Pitch Session

Wednesday

  • 9:00am – 9:30am: Belgian Startup Pitch Competition hosted by hub.Brussels
  • 9:00am – 9:50am: TTA Taiwan Pavilion Pitch-off Session – Healthcare & Enterprise
  • 10:00am – 11:00am: Startup Alley Pitch Session
  • 11:00am – 11:33am: Korea Pavilion – Startup Pitch Session with KOTRA
  • 12:00pm – 1:00pm:  Startup Alley Pitch Session
  • 2:00pm – 3:00pm:  Startup Alley Pitch Session

Thursday

  • 9:00am – 9:50am:  Startup Alley Pitch Session
  • 10:00am – 10:50am: TTA Taiwan Pavilion Pitch-off Session – Smart Tech
  • 11:40am – 12:20pm: Pitch Deck Teardown
  • 1:00pm – 1:50pm: Top Japanese Startups pitch their exciting new tech with JETRO

Expo and Expo Crawl
Our expo is teeming with early-stage founders launching new and exciting offerings. We’ve carved out some dedicated time in the agenda to catch up with these enterprising entrepreneurs. Search Expo in the agenda to bookmark those sessions.Fun Stuff and Prizes
It’s not all serious business at Disrupt. We’ve put together some fun things and games. Download and complete the Disrupt Passport for a chance to win a VanMoof X3 e-bike, Bose noise-canceling headphones or a Sonos Beam Sound Bar. Session Videos and Transcriptions
Missed a session? All the Extra Crunch Stage and Disrupt Stage recordings will be posted on the Disrupt event page at the close of the show. Plus, you can read the transcripts with Otter.ai. Otter’s giving attendees free access for a month using promo code: TCDISRUPT2021.See you at Disrupt!

Executive coaching for employees is complicated and emotional

This post was originally published on this site

Welcome to Startups Weekly, a fresh human-first take on this week’s startup news and trends. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here. 

BetterUp, a reskilling and coaching platform for employees before and beyond the C-suite, is getting in touch with its emotions. This week, the richly funded unicorn startup announced a pair of acquisitions in the emotional artificial intelligence and people management space: Motive and Impraise. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. 

BetterUp announced its acquisitions after a busy stint, which included passing $100 million in annual recurring revenue, expanding to Europe, and hitting 1 million individual coaching sessions on its platform. 

I’ll be honest. It’s par for the course to see a growth-stage startup use milestones to inorganically expand through acquisitions. How else do you grow into your valuation? BetterUp’s duo of deals still stood out to me because they signal a somewhat unconventional direction for where the coaching industry is going. Stay with me.

BetterUp claims that it pioneered the category of coaching by focusing on employees, not just C-suite executives. With these acquisitions, it’s shifting how that coaching looks and lives. Motive, for example, will help BetterUp clients understand the emotional context behind data that they already aggregate, through engagement surveys or polls. It’s a plug-and-play approach that helps employers more immediately act on employee sentiment, instead of waiting for the long-game of coaching to play out. 

On the other end of the funnel, Impraise uses technology to help managers better support their direct reports, through real-time performance reviews and more seamless feedback channels. Like Motive, Impraise is a step outside of the traditional boundaries of what coaching looks like. 

“The direct-report relationship is where change happens in people’s lives,” BetterUp CEO and co-founder Alexi Robichaux said. “It doesn’t actually happen in coaching sessions; change happens after.”

In some ways, these acquisitions are BetterUp admitting that coaching for all employees has to be an end-to-end solution that requires everyone in the company – from HR to managers – to be involved. It can’t be a weekly calendar invite. This sort of investment could cause employers to shy away from even offering services to their staff to begin with, but pressure to retain may force them to try anyways. For other coaching and up-skilling platforms, the bar continues to be raised. 

“Coaching can be a point solution, but that’s not enough and we know that better than anyone because we invented the point solution,” Robichaux said. “If you don’t have the data platform, if you don’t have the outcomes. If you don’t have the AI to personalize this, you can go coach 50 managers at your company,” but not every employee.

In the rest of this newsletter, I’ll walk us through Atlanta’s big bootstrapped moment, Casper’s nightmare and Apple’s day. As always, you can find me on Twitter @nmasc_ and listen to my podcast, Equity.

Atlanta’s big bootstrapped moment

Step aside Austin and Miami, Atlanta is in town. All eyes were on the city this week after Intuit bought local business Mailchimp for a staggering $12 billion. The Atlanta-based email marketing company never took any outside funding, which meant the deal was one of the biggest ever for a bootstrapped company. And while some saw Mailchimp’s massive exit as a win for the Atlanta startup and venture ecosystem, others felt differently. 

Here’s what to know: Part of Mailchimp’s strategy as an untraditional tech company included not giving Mailchimp employees equity, and prioritizing profit-sharing as well as higher salaries. It sounds good, until your startup exits for $12 billion and you realize you don’t have any equity in the business that you helped build. It’s a knock against bootstrapping, as we discussed during Equity. Employees spoke to Business Insider about their first reactions, answering if the deal does indeed empower the local ecosystem.  

Outside the inbox:

Casper’s nightmare

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

My scoop this week uncovered that Casper, the direct-to-consumer mattress company, had another round of layoffs that impacted two dozen employees, as well as its CMO, CTO and COO. The round of layoffs and executive shuffle comes a little over a year since Casper cut 21% of its workforce and shut down its European operations.  

The easy take here is that Casper is struggling with management and direction and has been on its back foot since its public debut last year. However, I’d argue that there’s more nuance here.

Here’s what to know: One founder in the direct-to-consumer space, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to her lack of direct knowledge with the company said that Casper’s layoffs could also be a response to Apple’s iOS 14.5 update, which will crack down on apps that track users’ data without permission. The setting restricts the advertising data that companies can access, making it harder to justify budget and understand the efficacy of their sales strategy.

For DTC companies, the uncertainty of in-person retail activity plus difficulty of advertising attribution is a challenging hurdle to surpass.

Don’t sleep on this:

Apple (a) day

Apple went back on stage with yet another virtual event to announce updates, upgrades and brand new unveils. The TechCrunch team, of course, couldn’t resist a chance to live blog. Read our full coverage here

Here’s what to know: It was all about the new iPhone 13. Brian Heater explained the context around the launch and what’s actually new about the smartphone. 

Last year’s iPhone 12 was a massive seller, bucking the trend of stagnating smartphone sales, in part due to a bottleneck in sales from the unplanned delay, but also because it finally brought 5G connectivity to Apple’s mobile line.

Lucky number iPhone 13 (no skipping for superstition’s sake, mind) features a familiar design. The front notch has finally been shrunken — now 20% smaller than its predecessor — while the rear-facing camera system has also gotten a redesign. The screen is now 28% brighter, Super Retina XDR display on both the iPhone 13 and 13 mini at 1200 nits.

On and off the stage:

Around TC

Our prep sessions are done. The Battlefield companies are amped. And a photo booth is coming.

TechCrunch Disrupt kicks off next week! Our flagship event, featuring speakers like Melanie Perkins and Reid Hoffman, runs virtually September 21 to 23. The events team has truly spent months on making this a virtual event that feels engaging, spontaneous and true to our personality as a publication. And after getting a sneak peek this past week, I can promise you that it’s different from any other online conference that I’ve attended during the pandemic.

Anyways, all this is to say that I’m amped to join the stage with my colleagues, interview the brightest names in tech, and meet as many entrepreneurs as possible. Are you joining? Buy tickets using my discount code “MASCARENHAS20.” 

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

Facebook knows Instagram harms teens. Now, its plan to open the app to kids looks worse than ever

Inside Reach Capital’s edtech-powered returns

Canva’s problem with PDF and its $40B valuation

Seen on Extra Crunch

3 strategies to make adopting new HR tech easier for hiring managers

What could stop the startup boom?

The value of software revenue may have finally stopped rising

Edtech leans into the creator economy with cohort-based classes

The GoPro-ification of the iPhone

This post was originally published on this site

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review!

Last week, we talked about some sunglasses from a company that many people do not like very much. This week, we’re talking about Apple and the company 1,600 times smaller than it that’s facing similar product problems.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny


(Photo by Brooks Kraft/Apple Inc.)

the big thing

When you get deep enough into the tech industry, it’s harder to look at things with a consumer’s set of eyes. I’ve felt that way more and more after six years watching Apple events as a TechCrunch reporter, but sometimes memes from random Twitter accounts help me find the consumer truth I’m looking for.

As that dumb little tweet indicates, Apple is charging toward a future where it’s becoming a little harder to distinguish new from old. The off-year “S” period of old is no more for the iPhone, which has seen tweaks and new size variations since 2017’s radical iPhone X redesign. Apple is stretching the periods between major upgrades for its entire product line and it’s also taking longer to roll out those changes.

Apple debuted the current bezel-lite iPad Pro design back in late 2018 and it’s taken three years for the design to work its way down to the iPad mini while the entry-level iPad is still lying in wait. The shift from M1 Macs will likely take years as the company has already detailed. Most of Apple’s substantial updates rely on upgrades to the chipsets that they build, something that increasingly makes them look and feel like a consumer chipset company.

This isn’t a new trend, or even a new take, it’s been written lots of times, but it’s particularly interesting as the company bulks up the number of employees dedicated to future efforts like augmented reality, which will one day soon likely replace the iPhone.

It’s an evolution that’s pushing them into a similar design territory as action camera darling GoPro, which has struggled again and again with getting their core loyalists to upgrade their hardware frequently. These are on laughably different scales, with Apple now worth some $2.41 trillion and GoPro still fighting for a $1.5 billion market cap. The situations are obviously different, and yet they are both facing similar end-of-life innovation questions for categories that they both have mastered.

This week GoPro debuted its HERO10 Black camera, which brings higher frame rates and a better performing processor as it looks to push more of its user audience to subscription services. Sound familiar? This week, Apple debuted its new flagship, the iPhone 13 Pro, with a faster processor and better frame rates (for the display not the camera here, though). They also spent a healthy amount of time pushing users to embrace new services ecosystems.

Apple’s devices are getting so good that they’re starting to reach a critical feature plateau. The company has still managed to churn out device after device and expand their audience to billions while greatly expanding their average revenue per user. Things are clearly going pretty well for the most valuable company on earth, but while the stock has nearly quadrupled since the iPhone X launch, the consumer iPhone experience feels pretty consistent. That’s clearly not a bad thing, but it is — for lack of a better term — boring.

The clear difference, among 2.4 trillion others, is that GoPro doesn’t seem to have a clear escape route from its action camera vertical.

But Apple has been pushing thousands of employees toward an escape route in augmented reality, even if the technology is clearly not ready for consumers and they’re forced to lead with what has been rumored to be a several-thousand-dollar AR/VR headset with plenty of limitations. One of the questions I’m most interested in is what the iPhone device category looks likes once its unwieldy successor has reared its head. Most likely is that the AR-centric devices will be shipped as wildly expensive iPhone accessories and a way to piggy back off the accessibility of the mobile category while providing access to new — and more exciting — experiences. In short, AR is the future of the iPhone until AR doesn’t need the iPhone anymore. 


Image Credits: Tesla

other things

Here are the TechCrunch news stories that especially caught my eye this week:

Everything Apple announced this week
Was it the most exciting event Apple has ever had? Nah. Are you still going to click that link to read about their new stuff? Yah.

GoPro launches the HERO10 Black
I have a very soft spot in my heart for GoPro, which has taken a niche corner of hardware and made a device and ecosystem that’s really quite good. As I mentioned above, the company has some issues making significant updates every year, but they made a fairly sizable upgrade this year with the second-generation of their customer processor and some performance bumps across the board.

Tesla will open FSD beta to drivers with good driving record
Elon Musk is pressing ahead with expanding its “Full Self-Driving” software to more Tesla drivers, saying that users who paid for the FSD system can apply to use the beta and will be analyzed by the company’s insurance calculator bot. After 7 days of good driving behavior, Musk says users will be approved.

OpenSea exec resigns after ‘insider trading’ scandal
NFTs are a curious business; there’s an intense amount of money pulsating through these markets — and little oversight. This week OpenSea, the so-called “eBay of NFTs,” detailed that its own VP of Product had been trading on insider information. He was later pushed to resign.

Apple and Google bow to the Kremlin
Apple and Google are trying to keep happy the governments of most every market in which they operate. That leads to some uncomfortable situations in markets like Russia, where both tech giants were forced by the Kremlin to remove a political app from the country’s major opposition party.


Gitlab logo

Image Credits: Gitlab

extra things

Some of my favorite reads from our Extra Crunch subscription service this week:

What could stop the startup boom?
“…We’ve seen record results from citiescountries and regions. There’s so much money sloshing around the venture capital and startup worlds that it’s hard to recall what they were like in leaner times. We’ve been in a bull market for tech upstarts for so long that it feels like the only possible state of affairs. It’s not…”

The value of software revenue may have finally stopped rising
“…I’ve held back from covering the value of software (SaaS, largely) revenues for a few months after spending a bit too much time on it in preceding quarters — when VCs begin to point out that you could just swap out numbers quarter to quarter and write the same post, it’s time for a break. But the value of software revenues posted a simply incredible run, and I can’t say “no” to a chart…

Inside GitLab’s IPO filing
“…The company’s IPO has therefore been long expected. In its last primary transaction, GitLab raised $286 million at a post-money valuation of $2.75 billion, per PitchbBook data. The same information source also notes that GitLab executed a secondary transaction earlier this year worth $195 million, which gave the company a $6 billion valuation…”


Thanks for reading, and again, if you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny

Lucas Matney

This Week in Apps: Apple’s iPhone event, App Annie hit with securities fraud, OpenSea goes mobile

This post was originally published on this site

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place, with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

Apple Event wrap-up

It’s official, new iPhones are here. But everyone is talking about the iPad mini instead.

(Photo by Brooks Kraft/Apple Inc.)

Apple this week introduced its updated iPhone 13 lineup, which includes iPhone 13 in pretty new shades, an iPhone mini, and the more powerful iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max. Consumers may care most about the battery life improvements — 1.5 hours longer on iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 Pro; 2.5 hours more on iPhone 13 and Pro Max, compared with their respective iPhone 12 models. Cameras got a decent upgrade, powered by the A15 Bionic, which enables additions like “Cinematic Mode” (a mode that allows you to change focus between subjects). Plus, Pro models can do macro photography and now include support for ProRes video recording at 1080p 30 fps with the 128GB storage option and up to 4K 30 fps with 256GB, 512GB and 1TB storage options. (Yes, there’s a 1TB iPhone now, and no more 64GB models. Hooray!)

Image Credits: Apple

The bigger news in terms of hardware, however, was the iPad mini ($499+), aka the BIG iPhone, which got a significant update. The new device has an 8.3-inch display, front and rear-facing 12-megapixel cameras, 80% faster performance with the A15 Bionic, 40% faster CPU, support for 5G, and it adds a USB-C port and a relocated Touch ID that’s now on the top button. It also now supports Center Stage and Apple Pencil (2nd generation.) It’s also available in new finishes: space gray, pink, purple and starlight.

Apple noted there are more than 1 million apps designed specifically for iPad devices. The full App Store has 2.22 million or more, according to various estimates. A popular and affordable iPad mini could encourage more development beyond the iPhone.

Other announcements included a new standard iPad with spec bumps, a new Apple Watch Series 7 with a slightly bigger screen and fall detection for cyclists, an updated Fitness+ with Pilates and meditation, and a nifty MagSafe Wallet that will track the location where it was separated from your iPhone.

Apple sherlocks Watch keyboard apps

Image Credits: FlickType

Frustrated iOS developer Kosta Eleftheriou, who is already engaging in a legal battle with Apple over money lost to App Store scams and other matters, couldn’t hold back his frustration when he saw Apple announce its new Apple Watch Series 7 would now sport a familiar-looking keyboard. Eleftheriou’s own FlickType keyboard app for Apple Watch was repeatedly rejected from the App Store for months on end, causing a lengthy delay in getting his app to market. The developer also claims to have had conversations with Apple execs about his keyboard app, which he says was once even considered an acquisition target.

Apple’s position on the matter is that it had to remove Eleftheriou’s app due to guidelines it had at the time prohibiting keyboard extensions, which the company had on the books due to what it believed would offer a poor consumer experience on earlier versions of Apple Watch, which had a smaller screen. These guidelines were later dropped once Apple learned of the app’s accessibility functions, which allowed the app to be published.

One question — which would have to either be worked out through the discovery process in court or through some sort of congressional investigation — is how long Apple had a Watch keyboard design on its product roadmap? Was Apple rejecting a third-party Watch keyboard app (and others like it, to be clear) over this purported “poor experience” at a time when Apple was actively designing its own keyboard UI? And how could there be a corporate firewall in place between App Store review activity and the company’s own plans, if Apple was considering an acquisition of FlickType at the time, as the lawsuit alleges?

Eleftheriou has a difficult path ahead of him going up against Apple’s legal team, but he’s more motivated than ever now. “See you in court, @Apple” he tweeted after the Watch reveal.

App Annie charged with securities fraud

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged App Annie, as well as its co-founder and former CEO and Chairman Bertrand Schmitt, with securities fraud. App Annie and Schmitt have agreed to pay over $10 million to settle the fraud charges which are related to “deceptive practices and making material misrepresentations about how App Annie’s alternative data was derived,” the SEC said. The charges have to do with how App Annie used non-aggregated and non-anonymized data to alter its model-generated estimates to be more accurate, while telling trading firms that protections were in place against the misuse of confidential data. (More details and the full complaint can be read here on TechCrunch.)

In response to the bombshell news, one competitor has spoken up. Apptopia co-founder and CEO Jonathan Kay wrote about how his firm took the time to build the company and data estimates “the right way,” which is why some of its estimates in the past hadn’t been accurate. (It wasn’t cheating the system.) This proved to be the better strategy. “We did not take shortcuts to spur breakneck scale; oftentimes founders feel the pressure to do so to meet unrealistic Board, VC or Market expectations. We haven’t and we don’t,” he said.

Meanwhile, Appfigures shared a similar sentiment, adding they were disappointed to hear the news and hoped the actions didn’t erode trust in the industry. “Strict privacy has been one of our founding principles and has served our users and us well for 12 years. We believe the trust of our users is our most valuable asset,” their statement read.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

  • The Epic Games/Apple lawsuit will drag on. After last week’s ruling, which will now allow developers to add to iOS apps links to their website and other ways to pay, Epic said it would appeal. The Fortnite maker wanted Apple to be dubbed a monopolist, which would force iOS to be opened up to alternative app stores, like its own, or at least allow side-loading. But the judge said Apple’s success was “not illegal.”
  • Developers were invited to submit their iOS 15, iPadOS 15, tvOS 15 and watchOS 8 apps to the App Store, ahead of the public launch on Monday.
  • Apple introduced new marketing tools for app developers. Developers can now create custom marketing assets, including banners and images, to promote apps across social media and elsewhere. To get started, you select an app and a template, then customize the design and add present messages. The assets will be immediately available in the right sizes and can be shared with short links or codes that direct users to the App Store product page.

Image Credits: Apple

Android Updates

  • A leaked document points toward an Android 12 release date of October 4th. The document informs OEM partners when to stop approving builds for prior versions of Android.
  • Meanwhile, Samsung released an Android 12 beta to Galaxy S21 owners. The beta is for Samsung’s One UI 4, its version of Android, and arrives on September 14 — the same day Apple announced the iPhone 13.
  • Google announced it would port a privacy-focused feature from Android 11 to older phones running Android 6 and higher. The feature automatically restricts apps’ permissions to sensitive phone features, like the storage or camera, if the app hasn’t been used for several months.
  • Google delivered the first five stable Jetpack Wear OS libraries (wear, wear-input, wear-ongoing, wear-phone-interactions and wear-remote-interaction), to help developers build high-quality Wear OS apps. The company recently updated the Android Jetpack Wear OS libraries as well.
  • Google invited users to join its Pixel Superfans group, which was previously kept under wraps. The pilot program provides insider access and a VIP experience, including access to a private Facebook Group, and perks like private Q&As and events, opportunities to share ideas with the Google team, limited-edition swag and more to come.

Augmented Reality

Image Credits: Snap

  • Snapchat launched a new global portal Lens in partnership with Sotheby’s and the Estate of Christo. The Lens, “The Last Christo: Original Works for The Arc de Triomphe,” overlays Snap’s AR onto Christo’s work to give viewers an entirely new experience of the installation. The experience will also come to Snap’s main Camera and the Snap Map early next week.

Fintech

MassMutual will have to pay a $4 million fine as part of a settlement with Massachusetts regulators involving the conduct of former employee Keith Gill, also an online trader who goes by “Roaring Kitty.” Gill was heavily involved with the GameStop meme-stock drama from earlier this year. The stock was a favorite with day traders on Reddit’s WallStreetBets message board. Trading app Robinhood had restricted the trading of this and other meme stocks, leading to a congressional investigation.

Social

Image Credits: Twitter

  • Twitter Super Follows have only generated around $6,000 in the U.S. in the first two weeks the feature has been live across the U.S. and Canada. Canadian in-app revenue was around $600. Some small portion may be attributed to Ticketed Space, so true adoption figures may be even lower. Fewer than 100 creators in the U.S. have been offered access to Super Follows, which is impacting these figures. But all iOS users in these markets are able to subscribe to the participating creators.
  • A Dept. of Homeland Security report warned law enforcement agencies that domestic extremists had used TikTok to recruit people to their causes and share tactical guidance in the lead up the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
  • TikTok blocked content related to the “devious licks” viral challenge which was encouraging students to create havoc at schools by stealing things, including soap dispensers, hand sanitizer, COVID test kits, bathroom sinks and doors, classroom tech and more. As a result, schools across the U.S. have locked down access to bathroom facilities.
  • A Facebook whistleblower has shared a damning set of internal docs with The Wall Street Journal, including how Instagram’s own internal research indicated how the app impacted teenage girls’ mental health over body image, leading them to have, in some cases higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Following the news, Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) announced a probe into Facebook’s lack of transparency around its internal research.
  • As news of Instagram’s impact on teens leaked, TikTok added more mental health resources of its own, including a “well-being guide” in its Safety Center, a primer on eating disorders, expanded search interventions and opt-in viewing screens on potentially triggering searches.
  • LinkedIn announced a $25 million creator fund ahead of its plans to test a Clubhouse-style audio feature.
  • Snap hired Jacqueline Beauchere, the chief online safety officer at Microsoft, to be its first-ever global head of platform safety. In her role, Beauchere will advise the company’s decisions on policies, guidelines, features and tools focused on safety and well-being.

Messaging

  • The beta version of the Signal for Android app expanded its privacy-focused crypto payments feature first introduced in April. The feature, MobileCoin, was previously only available in the U.K. It’s now offered in Switzerland, France and Germany. The app saw a few other design tweaks as well.
  • WhatsApp launched the first test of a public directory for businesses within its app, starting in São Paulo, Brazil. The feature allows users to find shops and services through a directory in the app, which could then kick off their mobile commerce transactions.
  • A report from The Financial Times (non-paywalled summary here) details how the Telegram app has exploded as a hub for cybercriminals who buy and sell stolen data and hacking tools. One channel featuring data dumps had more than 47,000 subscribers before being shut down.
  • Emarketer reports the number of monthly messaging app users worldwide will rise 6.1%, to 3.09 billion, in 2021. This is a deceleration of growth from 2020, when the number grew nearly 14%, but an increase from a pre-pandemic estimate of 5.5% growth. By 2024, the firm predicts more than three-fourths of internet users will use a mobile messaging app.

Image Credits: eMarketer

Dating

  • Tinder announced it’s rolling out video profiles to more markets across Europe, Asia and Latin America. The feature was first introduced to a handful of countries earlier this year, allowing users to express themselves using video instead of just photos.

Image Credits: Tinder

Streaming & Entertainment

  • Jeffrey Katzenberg’s failed streaming app Quibi settled its lawsuit with interactive video firm Eko, which alleged Quibi had infringed on its patents. Both parties have agreed to dismiss their legal claims, and QBI Holdings LLC, which holds the remaining Quibi assets, will transfer the intellectual property and technology for its “Turnstyle” mobile-video viewing feature to Eko.
  • Clubhouse hired a head of News from NPR, Nina Gregory, to help it build out publisher relationships. Gregory led NPR’s Arts Desk for the last seven years.
  • Apple announced new streaming partners for its upcoming iOS 15 SharePlay feature that allows for co-watching content through FaceTime. At WWDC, Apple said the feature would work with video apps Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max+, ESPN+ Paramount+, Pluto TV, NBA App, Twitch and TikTok. This week Apple said it was adding STARZ, BET+, TV Everywhere Apps from ViacomCBS (MTV, Paramount Network, & Comedy Comedy Central), and Chinese streaming service Youku. On the music side, it’s adding Spotify, TuneIn and SoundCloud, which join Apple Music.
  • Apple’s Shazam app announced it has been used in the iOS Control Center over 1 billion times. The company previously noted it had passed one billion songs being recognized every month in June 2021. Both metrics paint a picture of the massive traction Apple’s first-party apps can gain based on their platform advantage.
  • Celeb-to-fan connections app Cameo adds a new feature, Cameo Calls, that aims to digitize the fan “meet-and-greet” experience. At launch, fans can now connect with over 500 celebs for one-on-one, face-to-face calls by buying a ticket from their phone. The talent sets the pricing, which averages up to $31 minutes per call.

Gaming

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

  • U.S. mobile casino game spending grew by 16.4% to $4.8 billion during the last 12 months, according to a new Sensor Tower report. The No. 1 title from September 1, 2020 to August 31, 2021 was Coin Master from Moon Active, which generated $650.5 million. This was followed by Bingo Blitz from Playtika, then Slotomania from Playtika.
  • Zynga announced ReVamp, the first “social deception” gaming title on Snapchat. The vampire-themed, multiplayer game is a spin on “Among Us,” as players work to unveil the imposter. The game takes place inside an old mansion where players have to complete renovation tasks, while the vampire players must avoid suspicion.

Productivity

Image Credits: Google

Health & Fitness

  • The FTC warned health apps, like those tracking fitness or menstrual cycles, to notify consumers impacted by data breaches. The Commission voted 3-2 to clarify that health apps were included in the agency’s 2009 Health Breach Notification Rule, which required vendors to notify customers of data breaches.

Travel

  • Downloads of top Travel apps in the U.S. reached 61.4 million on Apple’s App Store and 23.8 million on Google Play in Q2 2021, according to a new report by Sensor Tower. This represented the highest number of quarterly downloads since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Government & Policy

  • Russia was considering fining Google and Apple over their hosting of a tactical voting app from opposition leader Alexei Navalny, but the “Smart Voting” app was removed by both stores. The companies had previously been warned to remove the app over claims of “election interference.” Apple’s upcoming iCloud Private Relay privacy feature also won’t be available in Russia, a support document recently noted in an update.
  • Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) said it has opened two investigations into the video-sharing platform TikTok. The first covers how TikTok handles children’s data and whether it complies with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation. The DPC will also examine TikTok’s transfers of personal data to China.
  • South Korea fined Google $177 million for blocking Android customization by device makers, saying this was an abuse of its dominant position in the market.
  • Chinese police are using a new fraud prevention app installed on more than 200 million mobile phones to identify and question people who have browsed foreign financial news sites, The FT reported. The police claimed they were working to combat the surge in fraud often carried out by foreign businesses controlled by Chinese and Taiwanese.
  • Tencent and Alibaba said they will open up their apps to competitors, following a meeting with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) last week. For eight years, the two companies have split China’s internet in two, The FT reported, replicating each other’s services and even blocking the posting of links in each other’s apps. That will now change in the weeks ahead.

Security & Privacy

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

  • Apple patched a zero-day flaw that was impacting its top devices, including iPhone, iPad, Mac and Watches. Citizen Lab discovered the vulnerability and was credited with the find. The iMessage flaw was actively exploited by Pegasus, a spyware app developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, which gives government customers complete access to a target device, including data, photos, messages and location. The vulnerability was used to hack the iPhones belonging to at least one Bahraini activist.
  • A new Android app, Nahoft, allows Iranians to speak freely by turning up to 1,000 characters of Farsi text into a jumble of random words. The text can then be sent to anyone over other messaging apps, but the recipient has to use Nahoft on their own device to read it. 
  • Apple reportedly threatened to remove Facebook from the App Store over human trafficking concerns following a 2019 BBC report about the matter, The WSJ reported.
  • An untethered iOS 14.5.1 jailbreak was demoed working on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, in the days ahead of the iOS 15 release.

Funding and M&A

smartnews

Image Credits: SmartNews

💰 Tokyo-based news aggregator SmartNews raised $230 million in Series F funding, valuing its business at $2 billion. The funding included U.S. investors Princeville Capital and Woodline Partners, as well as JIC Venture Growth Investments, Green Co-Invest Investment and Yamauchi-No.10 Family Office in Japan.

💰 Venice, California-based Elodie Games raised $32.5 million for its cross-play, co-op games that run on PCs, consoles and mobile devices. The round was led by Galaxy Interactive and Andreessen Horowitz (a16z). The company, founded by mobile gaming vets Christina Norman and David Banks, two veterans of Riot Games, had previously raised $5 million in 2020.

💰 Livestream shopping platform Whatnot, which focuses on collectibles like Pokémon cards and Funko Pops, confirmed the close of its $150 million Series C, valuing its business at $1.5 billion. Returning investors a16z and Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund joined new investor CapitalG (Google Capital) in the round. The Information previously reported the fundraise.

💰 Bangalore-based Byju’s acquired California-headquartered coding platform Tynker for $200 million. The platform, which is available across platforms, including mobile, counts BBC Learning, Google, Microsoft, Mattel and NASA among its partners.

💰 San Francisco-based fantasy sports startup Sleeper is now valued at $400 million after raising $40 million in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz. The company has over 3 million users, most of whom are aged between 18 and 35. It has expanded into esports during the pandemic, after initially focusing on the NFL and the NBA.

💰 India-based networking app Apna, which helps blue-collar workers upskill and find jobs, raised a $100 million Series C led by Tiger Global. The round values the business at $1.1 billion and makes the company India’s youngest unicorn.

💰 Chat app Discord raised $500 million in a new round of funding led by Dragoneer Investment Group, valuing the business at $15 billion — more than double the valuation it was given at its last round of funding in 2020. The platform, which is particularly popular with gamers, has over 150 million monthly active users.

💰 India’s Mobile Premier League (MPL) raised $150 million in a round of funding led by Legatum Capital, valuing its business at $2.3 billion. The three-year-old company connects game publishers with players on its app platform, allowing users to access a range of free gaming titles.

💰 Streetwear resale platform Grailed raised $60 million in Series B funding in a round led by competitor Goat Group, which also included Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri, Groupe Artémis, Thrive Capital and Index Ventures. The company had 7 million users and 3 million listings at the time of the deal, but only 20% of users are female.

💰 Indonesian investment app for retailer investors Pluang announced $55 million in new funding led by Square Peg, with participation from SIG, UOB Venture Management, Go-Ventures and Openspace Ventures. The app has 3 million users.

💰 Indian investment app Groww is in advanced talks to raise $250 million in new funding in a round that would value the business at $3 billion. Deal terms may still change. Tiger Global, Coatue and TCV have held conversations to lead or co-lead the round. The app is on track for around $35 million in ARR.

Downloads

OpenSea: NFT Marketplace

Image Credits: OpeaSea on App Store

Amid an insider trading controversy, in which OpenSea’s Chief Product Officer Nate Chastain was caught buying NFT artwork shortly before they hit the site’s front page, then fired, the NFT marketplace company launched its first mobile app. The app, which is available as of Thursday on both the iOS App Store and Google Play, certainly arrives at a questionable time — why not wait for the dust to settle on the scandal, before moving forward with a mobile experience, sans CPO?

In any event, the new app allows users to connect their current profile, then search, filter, discover and save favorite NFTs, as well as view collections and item stats. The app will also link to blog posts about OpenSea developments and the NFT ecosystem as a whole. And it will link to exclusive releases. What you can’t do with OpenSea’s app, at least not yet, is actually purchase NFTs.

Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls

Image Credits: Konami

The latest reboot of the classic title is an Apple Arcade exclusive. Launched on Friday, September 17, Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls offers a new take on the popular side-scrolling action game — but one that’s free from in-app purchases or ads. The game features character designs and music from series creators Ayami Kojima and Michiru Yamane, and will see players embark on a new adventure where they “hack, slash, whip and blast their way through Dracula’s army using a variety of attacks, weapons, and unique character moves.” Characters available to play include Alucard, Simon Belmont, Charlotte, Shanoa and Maria, with more to come. An Apple Arcade subscription is $4.99 per month or can be purchased with an Apple One subscription plan.

China Roundup: Beijing is tearing down the digital ‘walled gardens’

This post was originally published on this site

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world.

This week, China gets serious about breaking down the walled gardens that its internet giants have formed for decades. Two major funding rounds were announced, from the newly established autonomous driving unicorn Deeproute.ai and fast-growing, cross-border financial service provider XTransfer.

Tear down the walls

The Chinese internet is infamously siloed, with a handful of “super apps” each occupying a cushy, protective territory that tries to lock users in and keep rivals out. On Tencent’s WeChat messenger, for instance, links to Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace and ByteDance’s Douyin short video service can’t be viewed or even redirected. That’s unlike WhatsApp, Telegram or Signal that offer friendly URL previews within chats.

E-commerce platforms fend off competition in different ways. Taobao uses Alibaba’s affiliate Alipay as a default payments option, omitting its arch rival WeChat Pay. Tencent-backed JD.com, a rival to Alibaba, encourages its users to pay through its own payments system or WeChat Pay.

But changes are underway. “Ensuring normal access to legal URLs is the basic requirement for developing the internet,” a senior official from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said at a press conference this week. He added that unjustified blockages of web links “affect users’ experience, undermine users’ rights, and disrupt market orders.”

There is some merit in filtering third-party links when it comes to keeping out the likes of pornography, misinformation and violent content. Content distributors in China also strictly abide by censorship rules, silencing politically sensitive discussions. These principles will stay in place, and MIIT’s new order is really to crack anticompetitive practices and wane the power of the bloated internet giants.

The call to end digital walled gardens is part of MIIT’s campaign, started in July, to restore “orders” to the Chinese internet. While crackdowns on internet firms are routine, the spate of new policies announced in recent months — from new data security rules to heightened gaming restrictions — signify Beijing’s resolution to curb the influence of Chinese internet firms of all kinds.

The deadline for online platforms to unblock URLs is September 17, the MIIT said earlier. Virtually all the major internet companies have swiftly issued statements saying they will firmly carry out MIIT’s requirements and help promote the healthy development of the Chinese internet.

Internet users are bound to benefit from the dismantling of the walled gardens. They will be able to browse third-party content smoothly on WeChat without having to switch between apps. They can share product links from Taobao right within the messenger instead of having their friends copy-paste a string of cryptic codes that Taobao automatically generates for WeChat sharing.

Robotaxi dream

Autonomous driving startup Deeproute.ai said this week it has closed a $300 million Series B round from investors including Alibaba, Jeneration Capital, and Chinese automaker Geely. The valuation of this round was undisclosed.

We’ve seen a lot of publicity from Pony.ai, WeRide, Momenta and AutoX but not so much Deeproute.ai. That in part is because the company is relatively young, founded only in 2019 by Zhou Guang after he was “fired” by his co-founders at the once-promising Roadstar.ai amid company infighting.

Investors in Roadstar.ai reportedly saw the dismissal of Zhou as detrimental to the startup, which had raised at least $140 million up to that point, and subsequently sought to dissolve the business. It appears that Zhou, formerly the chief scientist at Roadstar, still commands the trust of some investors to support his reborn autonomous driving venture.

Like Pony.ai and WeRide, Deeproute is trying to operate its own robotaxi fleets. While the business model gives it control over reams of driving data, it’s research- and cash-intensive. As such, major Chinese robotaxi startups are all looking at faster commercial deployments, like self-driving buses and trucks, to ease their financial stress.

Cross-border trade boom

The other major funding news this week comes from Shanghai-based XTransfer, which helps small-and-medium Chinese exporters collect payments from overseas. The Series C round, led by D1 Partners, pulled in $138 million and catapulted Xtransfer’s valuation to over $1 billion. The proceeds will go towards product development, hiring and global expansion.

Founded by former executives from Ant Group, XTransfer tries to solve a pain point faced by small and medium exporters: opening and maintaining bank accounts in different countries can be difficult and costly. As such, XTransfer works as a payments gateway between its SME customer, the party that pays it, and their respective banks.

As of July, XTransfer’s customers had surpassed 150,000, most of which are in mainland China. The company of over 1,000 employees is also expanding into Southeast Asia.

While business-to-business export is booming in China, more and more products are also being directly sold from Chinese brands to consumers around the world. Some of the most successful examples, like Shein and Anker, use a different set of payments processors for their direct-to-consumer sales, which tend to be in bigger volume but smaller in average ticket value.

1 change that can fix the VC funding crisis for women founders

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The venture capital industry as we know it is broken. At least for women, that is.

In terms of funding to women founders, 2020 was among the worst years on record. On a global level, only 9% of all funds deployed to technology startups went to founding teams that included at least one woman. Solo woman founders and all-women teams raised just 2% of all VC dollars, Crunchbase data showed.

Shockingly, this number is actually less than it was when we first started counting a decade ago, well before many high-profile diversity initiatives launched with the goal of fixing this very problem.

This funding gap isn’t just a moral crisis — it’s an economic one. The lack of investment into women-founded startups is a missed opportunity worth trillions of dollars. That’s because of overwhelming evidence that startups founded by women outperform startups founded by men: They generate more revenue, earn higher profits and exit faster at higher valuations. And they do all this while raising way less money.

What we’re doing isn’t working. Through research for my next book on women founders and funders, I kept asking myself the same question: When it comes to fixing the funding gap for women founders, what’s the one thing we can do that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?

I now believe that our best bet for long-term change is to focus our efforts on increasing the number of women investing partners who can write large seed checks. Here’s why.

Women investors are up to 3x more likely to fund women founders

Recently, one of the top VCs in the world told me how challenging it is to diversify his senior team. He expressed it as an accepted fact and a widespread belief. This is a common trope in Silicon Valley: Everyone wants gender diversity, but it’s so hard to find all the senior women!

In the venture capital industry, who you hire at the senior level is who you hang out with. And who you hire at the senior level determines who your fund will back.

Since studies now show that women investors are up to three times more likely to invest in women founders, it is clear that the fastest way to fund more women is to hire more women investing partners with check-writing ability. The effect to venture firms? Returns.

“When U.S. VC firms increased the proportion of female partners, they benefited with 9.7% more profitable exits and a 1.5% spike in overall fund returns annually,” explained Lisa Stone of WestRiver Group.

Data from All Raise and PitchBook reinforce the “correlation between hiring female decision-makers at the investment level and outperformance at the fund level,” adding that “69.2% of U.S. VCs that scored a top-quartile fund between 2009 and 2018 had women in decision-making roles.”

It shouldn’t be surprising that women investors are more likely to invest in women founders. That’s because humans have a propensity toward homophily the tendency for like to attract like and for similarity to breed connection.

Homophily is why a vegan VC is more likely to invest in a vegan food tech, a gamer is more likely to hang out with gaming founders, or a parent is more likely to invest in a parent marketplace. People gravitate toward what they know.

Deena Shakir, who happens to be a woman and a mother, recently led Lux Capital’s investment into women’s health unicorn Maven. Shakir had multiple high-risk pregnancies with multiple complications, emergency C-sections, NICU stays and breastfeeding challenges.

“It is no coincidence that I am joined on Maven’s board of directors by four other mothers … and a brand-new father … whose personal journeys have also informed their professional conviction,” Shakir wrote in a Medium post.

Why seed checks have the greatest impact on the ecosystem

I believe that to fix the funding gap for women founders and jump-start the virtuous cycle of venture capital investing into women, we should focus on getting more seed checks into the hands of women founders. That’s because seed investing is a leading indicator of whether we are headed in the right direction in terms of closing the funding gap for women, according to Jenny Lefcourt, a partner at Freestyle and co-founder of All Raise, the leading nonprofit focused on diversifying the VC industry.

This doesn’t discount the importance of investments made into women founders at later stages. When a women founder lands Series D capital, it boosts this year’s numbers into women founders and likely brings that particular founder closer to a liquidity event that will lead her (and her executives) to invest in more women.

That said, the greatest impact on the future ecosystem will come from widening the top of the funnel and giving more women at the seed stage the shot to one day reach a momentous Series D funding like Maven. After all, who we fund now becomes who we fund later.

Why large seed checks matter most

Finally, the size of the check is also important when thinking about how to have the biggest impact on the ecosystem.

I know first-hand that microchecks are critical to building an inclusive ecosystem. When women invest at the seed level — in any amount — they jumpstart a virtuous cycle of women funding women. That’s why when I stepped in to lend a hand at my portfolio company when the solo woman founder took a parental leave, one of my key projects was to develop Jefa House, a way for Jefa’s own executives to easily invest in other women-founded startups.

That said, large party rounds made up entirely of small angel checks are few and far between. Similar challenges face small checks from emerging fund managers. Although the sheer number of emerging managers has increased 9x in seven years, the reality is that most emerging managers simply don’t have much money.

Are women venture capitalists who run their own microfunds more likely to invest in amazing women founders than Tier 1 funds with few or no women investing partners? Yes. Will it take them a long time to compete with those Tier 1 funds in terms of check size? Yes.

This is why it matters so much when leading funds hire or promote women to the partner level. Not only does it give women founders a better shot at funding from high-signal shops, but the moves that top funds make are key signals to others in the ecosystem: In venture capital, women investors don’t have to sit at the kids’ table.

Why we must hire women investing partners

We all know that great returns in early-stage venture capital come from making big bets on great ideas that others aren’t betting on. That is why VC investing is contrarian by definition. Thanks to our increasingly globalized world and clear data showing the importance of diverse teams to make good decisions to get those returns, no one in 2021 truly believes that single white dudes in Palo Alto have a monopoly on billion-dollar ideas.

However, due to the nature of homophily, venture capital remains a highly homogenous industry, and the social and economic interactions and decisions of human beings remain deeply swayed by these principles. No matter how much work we do, birds of a feather really do flock — and fund — together.

This all leads to one place: The clearest path to funding different kinds of founders with different kinds of ideas is to put different kinds of investors on the investing side of the table. To get more funding to women founders, we need more women who can write checks. That’s why prioritizing the hiring of women investing partners who can write large seed checks is key to fixing the funding crisis for women founders and increasing VC returns worldwide.

A growing wave of New Zealand companies are landing on Denver shores

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More than two dozen New Zealand firms, many startups, have set up shop in metro Denver and Boulder in recent years, making the region a launching pad for their American ambitions.

New Zealand has about 900,000 fewer residents than Colorado, leaving it with a limited domestic market even when adding in customers from nearby Australia. Though small, the country is a hotbed for innovations with a global reach. Increasingly, those startups are choosing Denver over Silicon Valley and other rivals when it comes to setting up U.S. operations.

“The mindset in Colorado suits New Zealanders very well,” said Andy Burner, vice president of people and business operations at Xero, a provider of cloud-based business accounting software. “I was blown away by how welcoming and open the city is.”

Xero, a rapidly growing competitor to QuickBooks, relocated its Americas headquarters from San Francisco to metro Denver in 2017. From about 80 local employees before the move, Denver is now home to more than 200 of the company’s 300 U.S. workers.

The company is a leader in New Zealand’s tech community, and its decision to leave northern California, the typical landing spot for tech transplants, helped put Colorado on the map. Burner and other Xero executives actively promote Denver, making their compatriots more comfortable with landing here.

Most of the New Zealand companies coming to Colorado are tech-focused, and some focus on aerospace, an industry where Colorado is a leader. Agriculture and energy are other areas of overlap. Among the Kiwi companies setting up operations in Colorado are AD Instruments, Adeption, Auror, Cin7, FileInvite, Fingermark, Holmes Solutions, Medtech Global, TracPlus and Vend.

Burner and other New Zealand executives listed similar reasons for why they chose Denver over northern California, and why Denver beat out rivals like Salt Lake City, Austin and Chicago.

Access to capital, clients and talent are the fundamental reasons why Denver won out over the alternatives, said Ky Hacker, vice president of revenue and operations at FileInvite, a document sharing platform that chose Denver for its North American base in June, a decision that should eventually bring about 140 jobs to Denver.

Denver and Boulder have a strong base of tech expertise, and skilled workers are willing to move here, which is helpful to foreign companies trying to figure out U.S. labor markets. Denver’s interior location and the variety of domestic flights make it easy to reach other markets.

When it comes to connecting with the home office in New Zealand, the Mountain time zone also works. And entry costs are lower than in more expensive coastal markets.

“What really sealed the deal for Denver for us was a quality of life and a culture that meshes well with our business and with New Zealand culture,” Hacker said. “We both want to work hard and grow things fast, but do it in a human way.”

A concerted effort

Although recruitment efforts have now gained a momentum of their own, a key accelerator was an active outreach by  Denver Economic Development and Opportunity and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, which led a trade mission to New Zealand and Australia two years ago.

Stephanie Garnica, global business development director at DEDO, said Denver recruited foreign companies via trade offices until the Great Recession forced it to scale back. In 2018, the city relaunched its international outreach with Garnica and two other employees, reaping a big payback in interest and relocations.

“New Zealand and Australia are big standouts. They are two of our target markets because of the success we have had and because of the existing community here,” she said.

Programs like Denver Startup Week and Global Landing Pad help both established and startup companies from other countries get connected to the local business community. New Zealand and Australia have become so important as sending countries that DEDO dedicated an entire Global Landing Pad program to them in the spring.

“We also know that a positive experience with Colorado, starting with a company’s early investigation and continuing through groundbreaking and hiring here in the state will lead to introductions to other companies. We’ve seen a good deal of that recently with companies from New Zealand and Australia referring companies in their networks to us to explore how they too can successfully grow their business in the state,” said Michelle Hadwiger, the state’s deputy director of global business development, in an email.

Hadwiger said Australia ranks as the third-largest source of foreign direct investment in Colorado, tied with Germany. Despite its small size, New Zealand is the sixth-largest provider of foreign direct investment, alongside France and Switzerland.

A cultural fit

Although the Bay Area represents a mecca for technology startups, doing business there is expensive and the competition for talent is fierce, Garnica said. And with so many options available, employees tend to be less loyal.

“You want to do interesting work and you want to work hard, but you want to enjoy the outdoors too,” said Tom Batterbury, co-founder and co-CEO of Auror, pronounced “ora,” of the shared ethic that aligns New Zealand more closely with Colorado than the hard-driving Silicon Valley culture.

Oceans aside, New Zealand and Colorado both share majestic landscapes and plenty of opportunities for recreation.

“There is the cliché location, San Francisco, and we quickly ruled that out. We had looked at Portland, (Ore.) but it didn’t feel right for us,” he added. Chicago, another city on the shortlist, lacked the outdoor vibe, leaving Denver and Austin.

Auror provides crime intelligence software that helps retailers track and report cases of theft to authorities, leaving them better equipped to capture repeat offenders and bust up crime rings. Early on the company realized it needed to work with retailers globally to succeed. Although the Denver operations consist of six people right now, including Batterbury, the expectation is for rapid growth as the North American market opens up.

“Realistically, 90% of our business is likely to be out of North America over the new few years, and we will expect we will have over 100 people on that team,” he said.

One thing that helped sway Batterbury was a conversation he had with Burner about the merits of Denver over other cities. Now Batterbury recruits other executives from New Zealand. And there are small changes he is noticing that have made life more comfortable here.

“There are a few places that serve New Zealand and Aussie style meat pies and there are now two New Zealand-style ice cream shops, including one next to Sloans Lake,” he said, noting that English meat pies are no substitute. “It makes you feel close to home.”

Another confirmation he made the right choice came when he and his wife had their second child and neighbors came out to support them, acting as surrogates for the family and friends they had left behind.

For Hacker, the presence of other New Zealand companies wasn’t as big a factor as the welcome he found from the Denver business community.

“We could tell when we were having conversations we could tell there as a sense of welcoming and a tight-knit community. People were comfortable making referrals,” he said, adding one hope FileInvite has is to access local venture capital sources to help fund its growth.

The New Zealand Office of Trade and Enterprise, the country’s economic development agency, has a representative in Denver, marking the importance of the connection. And in another sign, New Zealand named Burner as honorary consul for Colorado this summer.

“Colorado is an increasingly important market and growing U.S. hub for New Zealand businesses, especially those in the information technology and aerospace sectors,” said New Zealand’s Consul-General to the U.S., Jeremy Clarke-Watson, in announcing Burner’s appointment.

More so than restaurants serving their favorite cuisine, one thing New Zealanders who have relocated to the state said could cement the relationship would be a nonstop air link between Denver and Auckland. The route of more than 7,200 miles could shave two or three hours off current connections through Los Angeles and align better with sleep schedules, Batterbury said.

For him, confirmation that Denver could support a nonstop flight came when he saw many of the people flying with him between Auckland and Los Angeles jump onto the flight he was taking to Denver.

Laura Jackson, the airport’s vice president of air service development, said Auckland is a target market for future nonstop service.

“The fundamentals of our business case are strong, supported by continued corporate investment between Colorado and New Zealand, and we expect efforts will regain momentum as travel restrictions ease,” she said.

A nick to Apple’s profits could be a windfall for app developers

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By Jack Nicas and Kellen Browning, The New York Times Company

Apple has taken to calling its iPhone App Store an “economic miracle,” and it has pointed to developers like Zach Shakked as proof.

Shakked created an iPhone app that helps companies find trending hashtags on social media. Over the past 12 months, his sales have topped $5 million.

But one of Shakked’s largest expenses is paying a cut to the world’s richest company. In his case, Apple took nearly $1.5 million — its fee for letting him run his app on its devices.

Now, Shakked has hope that he could soon keep at least some of that money. On Friday, a federal judge ordered Apple to allow developers to steer their customers off their iPhone apps to pay for their goods or services, which Apple had banned. That is big news for developers like Shakked, because sales completed outside Apple’s payment systems are not subject to its commission of up to 30%.

“It finally feels like the small guys got a win,” Shakked, 25, said. “There’s a sense of justice.”

The ruling in Apple’s yearlong legal fight with Epic Games, maker of the popular video game Fortnite, set off celebrations among app developers. From one-person startups to Fortune 500 companies, they have long complained about paying hefty cuts of their businesses to Apple.

The impact of the decision will be most felt by the smallest developers like Shakked. He said the change could save him hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, which would allow him to hire more employees.

“It’s a very big deal,” said Denys Zhadanov, a board member at Readdle, which makes five productivity apps for tasks like email that together have been downloaded roughly 175 million times. The change could save his company millions of dollars each year, he said.

The court fight has often been framed as a battle between industry heavyweights: Apple, which is worth $2.5 trillion, versus Epic, a far smaller company but still one of the few app makers capable of taking on the Silicon Valley titan.

Friday’s verdict is not expected to be a big hit to Apple’s bottom line. In fact, the company declared victory, since Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, ruled that Epic had failed to prove that Apple had a monopoly in the mobile gaming market — which would have had a much more serious consequence.

The decision appeared to disappoint Epic. Tim Sweeney, its CEO, said the ruling wasn’t a “win for developers or for consumers.” He vowed to continue his company’s fight.

There could be a number of barriers to the mandated App Store changes. Apple could ask another judge to temporarily block the order, which is set to take effect in 90 days. Epic on Sunday appealed the decision, a process that could take several years.

Apple could also restrict how developers direct customers off their apps to complete transactions, including by making them list Apple’s payment system as an option and barring them from offering discounts for customers who don’t pay via Apple. Such discounts may be necessary to persuade customers to take the extra steps to open a web browser and enter their credit card information, versus simply tapping a button and paying via Apple.

“I’m sure app developers will benefit somewhat, but it’s unclear to me to what extent consumers will actually use this,” said Sumit Sharma, a senior researcher for tech competition at Consumer Reports.

Nevertheless, the tide may be starting to turn against Apple’s tight control over its App Store. Regulators in Japan and South Korea have forced Apple to tweak how it manages the store, and regulators and lawmakers around the world are also considering measures to curb the company’s influence.

Dan Burkhart, CEO of Recurly, a subscription management and billing platform that works with more than 2,000 companies, said many of the app developers he communicates with regularly were buzzing with enthusiasm Friday afternoon. Larger companies with “established momentum and notoriety” are likely to benefit from being able to direct their loyal customers elsewhere, he said.

Match Group, maker of dating apps Tinder and Hinge, is on track to pay Apple and Google — which controls a similar app store for phones that run its Android software — more than $500 million in commissions this year, the company’s single largest expense, said Gary Swidler, Match’s finance chief. The company was already considering ways to use Friday’s ruling to cut down that bill as much as possible, including by charging less for subscriptions that are paid on one of its websites, he said.

One analyst estimated that the change could save Match $80 million a year, but Swidler said there were too many questions to make such a forecast.

“Depending on what the take rate would be, it will help us from a bottom-line perspective, and it will allow us to invest more in our business, and will also allow us to pass on the benefits to consumers,” he said.

Michael Love, founder and CEO of a Chinese dictionary app called Pleco, said the prospect of avoiding a commission — he pays Apple 15% — was good news. Even better? The possibility that he could interact directly with customers in ways that App Store rules prevented, like sending promotional emails, issuing refunds and looking up old orders.

“I’m excited for the possibilities for payments without Apple getting in the way,” he said.

Love, 39, said he had not been able to strike many deals with other dictionary publishers because those publishers did not want to pay commissions to both Apple and him and lose out on a lot of money.

Now, by avoiding the Apple fees and working directly with publishers, he could potentially transform his business and become a “boutique e-book retailer,” Love said. That could increase his revenue from about $500,000 a year to $5 million or $10 million, he said.

“It makes it possible for little guys to compete,” he said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Smart glasses made Google look dumb. Now Facebook is giving them a try.

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By Mike Isaac, The New York Times Company

SAN FRANCISCO — On Saturday, after a 3-mile hike through the Presidio, I stood in a throng of tourists looking at the Golden Gate Bridge. As the crowd snapped photos of the landmark, I decided to join in.

But instead of reaching into my pocket for my iPhone, I tapped the side of my Ray-Ban sunglasses until I heard the click of a shutter. Later, I downloaded the photos that my sunglasses had just taken to my phone.

The process was instant, simple, unobtrusive — and it was powered by Facebook, which has teamed up with Ray-Ban. Their new line of eyewear, called Ray-Ban Stories and unveiled Thursday, can take photos, record video, answer phone calls and play music and podcasts.

It all made me feel that I was being dragged into some inevitable future dreamed up by people much more techie than me, one in which the seams between the real world and the technology that supports it had all but vanished.

For years, Silicon Valley has chased a vision similar to that of a William Gibson novel, where sensors and cameras are woven into the everyday lives and clothes of billions of people. Yet the tech companies that have pursued these ideas have often failed to achieve them, as people have shunned wearable computers — especially on their faces.

Remember Google Glass, the smart glasses that Google co-founder Sergey Brin introduced while jumping out of an airplane? That project foundered, with bars in San Francisco at one point barring Glass-wearers — also pejoratively known as “Glassholes” — from entry. Later came Snap’s Spectacles, smart glasses that focused more on fashion and the novelty of recording 10-second video clips. That product, too, never really broke through.

Now Facebook is aiming to usher in an era when people grow more comfortable sharing their lives digitally, beginning with what is in front of their faces.

“We asked ourselves, how do we build a product that helps people actually be in the moment they’re in?” Andrew Bosworth, head of Facebook Reality Labs, said in an interview. “Isn’t that better than having to take out your phone and hold it in front of your face every time you want to capture a moment?”

Bosworth rejected claims that Facebook was picking up where others had left off. “This product has not been tried before because we’ve never had a design like this before,” he said, adding that Facebook and Ray-Ban were focused more on the fashion of eyewear than the tech inside the frames.

“Eyewear is a very specific category that changes the way you look,” said Rocco Basilico, chief wearables officer at Luxottica, which owns Ray-Ban and wants to expand into the wearables market. “We started this product from the design, and we refused to compromise on that design.”

Let’s be real for a second. The new glasses, which start at $299 and come in more than 20 styles, face hurdles apart from Silicon Valley’s stop-start history with smart glasses. Facebook has long been under scrutiny for how it treats people’s personal data. Using the glasses to surreptitiously film people is bound to cause concerns, not to mention what Facebook might do with the videos that people collect.

I asked if Facebook’s brand baggage was why its name was not in the title of the glasses. The company said that was not the case.

“Facebook is not naive to the fact that other smart glasses have failed in the past,” said Jeremy Greenberg, policy counsel for the Future of Privacy Forum, a privacy nonprofit partly financed by Facebook. But, he added, “the public’s expectations of privacy have changed since the days of previous smart glasses releases.”

With all of that in mind, I took the new Facebook Ray-Bans out for a spin for a few days over the past week.

On close inspection, I found the frames house two cameras, two micro speakers, three microphones and a Snapdragon computer processor chip. They also come with a charging case that plugs into any computer via USB-C cable. On a full charge, the glasses can be used for roughly six hours.

The spectacles require a Facebook account. They are also paired with a smartphone app, Facebook View. After recording videos — the glasses can record up to 35 30-second videos or take 500 photos — people can upload their content wirelessly to the app, where the photos are encrypted. From Facebook View, people can share the content to their social networks or messaging apps as well as save photos directly to their phone’s on-device storage outside the Facebook app.

To preempt privacy concerns, a small indicator light flickers on when the glasses are recording, notifying people that they are being photographed or filmed. As you set up the Facebook View app, it also displays prompts asking users to “respect others around you” and asking whether it “feels appropriate” to take a photograph or video in the moment. The app even invites people to “do a little demo” to show others that they are being recorded.

Mike Isaac, The New York Times

Trees in the Presidio in San Francisco, photographed with the new glasses from Facebook and Ray-Ban on Sept. 8, 2021. Facebook has teamed up with Ray-Ban to create glasses that can take photos, record video, answer phone calls and play podcasts.

Still, users may have other hesitations, as I did. The spectacles have an audio activation feature, called Facebook Assistant, which can be turned on to take hands-free photos and videos by saying, “Hey, Facebook.”

For me, that was a sticking point. What do the people around me think when they hear me utter, “Hey, Facebook, take a photo”? Can I still look cool doing that? Can anyone?

What’s more, to help Facebook improve the assistant, people are asked to allow the device to store transcripts of their voice interactions, which will later be reviewed by a mix of humans and machine-learning algorithms. I did not love that and imagine others will not be too keen, either, no matter how benign their voice interactions might be.

(Opting out of using the Assistant is possible, and users can view and delete their transcripts if desired.)

Many of these privacy concerns are beside the point for technologists who see wearables as inexorable for society. For Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the ultimate goal is to eventually release a pair of smart glasses that fully augment reality, which puts a kind of virtual overlay onto the world in front of people.

That idea is yet another step on the road to the metaverse, Zuckerberg’s term for how parts of the virtual and actual world will eventually meld together and share different parts of each other. Perhaps one day I might use a pair of Facebook AR glasses to order a digital hat for myself, which other people who are wearing AR glasses might be able to see.

For a few moments on my hike Saturday, I could just make out that vision of the future that Facebook executives were so excited about.

Clambering down the many trails in the Presidio presented me with dazzling views, which I was able to shoot using only my voice while still having one hand gripping my dog’s leash and the other holding my backpack. Capturing the cityscape was as easy as issuing a voice command while my phone stayed in my pocket.

Even better, I just looked like a normal dude wearing sunglasses, not someone wearing a wacky face computer.

One added bonus was that no one (except my dog) could hear me say, “Hey, Facebook,” while I was alone on the trails. But in the city surrounded by people, I confess I might stick to tapping the side of my frames to take photos.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Your batteries are due for disruption

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By Cade Metz, The New York Times Company

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The new Whoop fitness tracker straps around the wrist a lot like any other health monitor or smartwatch. But you can also buy a sports bra or leggings equipped with this tiny device, which can be a sliver of electronics stitched into the fabric of clothes.

Squeezing a fitness tracker into such a svelte package was no small feat, said John Capodilupo, Whoop’s chief technology officer. It required a whole new kind of battery. The battery, built by a California startup, Sila, provided the tiny fitness tracker with more power than older batteries while maintaining the same battery life.

While that may not sound earth-shattering, Sila’s battery is part of a wave of new battery technologies that could lead to novel designs in consumer electronics and help accelerate the electrification of cars and airplanes. They may even help store electricity on the power grid, lending a hand to efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

New kinds of batteries may not dazzle consumers like new apps or gadgets. But like tiny transistors, they are at the heart of technology advancement. If batteries don’t improve very much, neither do the devices they power.

Companies like Enovix, QuantumScape, Solid Power and Sila have been developing these batteries for more than a decade, and some hope to move into mass production around 2025.

Sila’s CEO and co-founder, Gene Berdichevsky, was an early Tesla employee who oversaw battery technology as the company built its first electric car. Introduced in 2008, the Tesla Roadster used a battery based on lithium-ion technology, the same battery technology that powers laptops, smartphones and other consumer devices.

The popularity of Tesla, coupled with the rapid growth of the consumer electronics market, sparked a new wave of battery companies. Berdichevsky left Tesla in 2008 to work on what eventually became Sila. Another entrepreneur, Jagdeep Singh, founded QuantumScape after buying one of the first Tesla Roadsters.

Both saw how lithium-ion batteries could change the car market. They saw an even greater opportunity if they could build a more powerful type of battery.

“Lithium-ion batteries had just gotten good enough, but they plateaued,” Berdichevsky said. “We wanted to push the technology further.”

Around the same time, Congress created ARPA-E, for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, to promote research and development in new energy technologies. The agency nurtured the new battery companies with funding and other support. A decade later, those efforts are beginning to bear fruit.

After raising more than $925 million in funding, Sila employs about 250 people at its small research center and factory in Alameda, the small island city west of Oakland. When he and two other entrepreneurs founded the company in 2011, Berdichevsky thought they would need about five years to get a battery to market. It took them 10.

The Whoop 4.0 fitness tracker, which goes on sale Wednesday with a monthly subscription fee between $18 and $30, is an early indication of how Sila’s technology can work in the mass market.

The battery provides 17% greater power density than the battery used by Whoop’s previous fitness tracker. That means the device can be one-third smaller while offering a new array of body sensors and maintaining the same battery life.

Sila and Whoop, a Boston company founded by a former Harvard athlete (named after a pet phrase he used before big games), said they had the manufacturing capacity needed to install the new battery in millions of devices in the coming years.

The fitness tracker, a device with a small market niche, may seem like a baby step. But it is indicative of Sila’s hopes to push the technology into electric cars and other markets.

“If this kind of thing gets into a smartphone or some other consumer device, it is a sign of real progress,” said Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Carnegie Mellon University who specializes in battery technologies. “That is not easy.”

Sila is not exactly a battery company. It sells a new material, a silicon powder that can significantly boost the efficiency of batteries, and plans to build them using many of the same factories and other infrastructure that produce lithium-ion batteries.

Today’s batteries are based on the back-and-forth movement of lithium atoms. This generates power because each atom is in a positively charged state, meaning it is missing a single electron. In that state, these lithium atoms are said to be ionized. That is why they are called lithium-ion batteries.

When you plug an electric car into a charging station, lithium-ion atoms gather on one side of the battery, called the anode. When you turn the car on and drive down the road, the battery provides electrical power as the atoms move into its other side, the cathode. This is possible thanks to the chemical makeup of the anode, the cathode and the surrounding parts of the battery.

Typically, the anode is made of graphite. To improve the efficiency of the battery, Sila replaces graphite with silicon, which can pack more lithium atoms into a smaller space. That means more efficient batteries.

Today, the company produces this silicon powder at its small facility in Alameda. Then it sells the powder to a battery manufacturer — Sila would not identify the other company — which slots the material into its existing process, producing the new battery for the Whoop fitness tracker.

“We are just upgrading the factories that are being used today,” Berdichevsky said.

While he said this approach gave Sila a significant advantage over its many competitors. Viswanathan, the Carnegie Mellon professor, said other companies were taking different routes to refining the way lithium-ion batteries are built.

Companies like Sila and QuantumScape have partnerships with carmakers and expect that their batteries will reach automobiles around the middle of the decade. They hope their technologies significantly reduce the cost of electric cars and extend their driving range.

“If we want to get electric cars into the mainstream, we have to get them down to the $30,000 price point,” said Singh, the QuantumScape CEO. “You can’t do that with today’s batteries.”

They also hope their batteries lead to new devices and vehicles. Smaller, more efficient batteries could spur the development of “smart glasses” — eyeglasses embedded with tiny computers — by allowing designers to pack a more nimble set of technologies into smaller and lighter frames. The same battery technology could invigorate so-called flying cars, a new type of electric aircraft that could ease commutes across major cities later in the decade.

But those are just two possibilities as “all aspects of life will become more electrified,” Viswanathan said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.