Modsy confirms layoffs, 10 months after announcing its $37M Series C

Modsy, an e-commerce company that creates 3D renderings of customized rooms, has confirmed to TechCrunch that it laid off a number of staff. In addition, several of its executives, including CEO Shanna Tellerman, will take a 25% pay cut. TechCrunch first heard about the layoffs from a source. The company’s confirmation of cuts comes amid a wave of layoffs in the technology and startup communities

In a statement from the CEO Shanna Tellerman to TechCrunch, Modsy said that “[i]n an effort to maintain a sustainable business during these unprecedented circumstances, we made a round of necessary layoffs and ended a number of designer contracts this week.” The company reaffirmed belief in its “long-term growth plans” in the same statement.

Modsy did not immediately respond when asked about how many individuals were impacted by this layoff. Update: The company declined to share the number of employees impacted.

The startup is backed by investors including TCV, Comcast Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, GV, BBG Ventures, according to Crunchbase data. It has raised $70.8 million in known capital to date. 

Modsy bets on individuals looking to glam up their homes by better visualizing the new furniture they want to buy. Users can enter the measurements of their living room and add budget and style preferences, and Modsy will help them with custom designs and finding furniture that fits — literally.

The layoffs show that customer appetite might be changing. Last week, home improvement platform Houzz confirmed that it has scratched plans to create in-house furniture for sale. It also laid off 10 people across three locations: the U.K., Germany and China. Houzz is comparatively larger than Modsy, with a roughly $4 billion valuation. But scratching its in-house plan that would have likely brought in more capital is yet another data point in how e-commerce companies are struggling right now to get consumers to spend on items other than beans, booze and bread starters.

In retrospect there were rumblings that the company was cutting staff. A number of recent reviews from its Glassdoor page note layoffs, with one review from March 25, 2020 calling them “mass” in nature; our original source on the company’s recent cuts also noted their breadth.

You can find other social media posts concerning the company’s layoffs, some noting more than one wave. TechCrunch has not confirmed if the recent layoffs are the first of two, or merely the first set of cuts. 

A little over 10 months ago the company was in a very different mood. Back in May of 2019, flush with new capital, Modsy’s CEO said that the “home design space, the inspiration category is thriving.” 

Pinterest just IPO’d, and it seems as if every TV channel is entering the home design category,” she said. “Meanwhile, e-commerce sites have barely changed since the introduction of the Internet.”

Forward launches ‘Forward At Home’ primary care service to address COVID-19 healthcare crunch

The global coronavirus pandemic has already caused a tremendous strain on healthcare resources around the world, and it’s leading to a shift in how healthcare is offered. Startup Forward, which debuted in 2016 and has since expanded its tech-focused primary care medical practice to locations in major cities across the U.S., is launching a new initiative called ‘Forward At Home’ that reflects those changes and adapts its care model accordingly.

Forward’s primary differentiator is its focus on what it terms a patient’s ‘baseline,’ which is established by an in-person visit they make when they join that employs a body scanner at a doctor’s office to take a number of readings and produce an interactive chart displayed on-screen in the doctor’s exam room. Forward founder and CEO Adrian Aoun, who previously led special projects at Google before building the health tech company, said that as the company has ramped its efforts to support patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, including through in-clinic and drive-through testing, it also wanted to address the ongoing need for care for non-COVID patients.

“If people aren’t leaving their homes, and frankly, you don’t really want them to leave their homes unless you need them to, you have to figure out how to do all that remotely,” Aoun said in an interview, referring to Forward’s comprehensive biometric data gathering process. “So we’ve we’ve implemented a bunch of different things as rapidly as possible. The first is, how do we collect some biometrics – so we put together a kit that has a bunch of sensors in it that we actually mail to you. This includes an EKG, a connected thermometer, connected blood pressure cuff and a pulse oximeter.”

This approach provides a whole new level of remote care, over and above what’s typically defined as “telemedicine,” which generally amounts to little more than video calls with doctors, Aoun points out. Forward’s approach includes automated vitals monitoring for alerting a doctor if a patient needs intervention, and a patient has access to all their own data in the app as well. The Forward At Home product also take their exam room smart display and brings it to their mobile devices, presenting it for shared consultation between doctor and patient during viral visits, which are available 24/7 to Forward members.

At launch, the service also includes home visits to collect urine and blood samples, as an added measure designed specifically to help patients adhere to CDC and health agency guidelines around self-isolation while also getting a detailed and thorough level of care. Aoun says that this part of the offering doesn’t make sense at scale, and will likely revert to in-clinic visits once the COVID-19 crisis passes.

The rest of the model, though spurred into deployment because of the coronavirus conditions, and the need to limit the number of people going in to medical facilities and hospital all across the country unless they absolutely need to, is here to stay, however. Aoun says that Forward’s goal has always been to address the need for tech-friendly, advanced and comprehensive primary care for everyone, but that it took an approach similar to Tesla’s by addressing the top end of the market first in order to be able to fund development of more broadly available services later on.

Meanwhile, the need to shift as much care as possible to in-home is pressing, and evidence from countries around the world is increasingly pointing to how important that is to stopping the spread.

“The big thing to flatten the curve, the whole point of it, is that the hospitals are going to be overrun,” Aoun said. “So you want to take as many cases as you can, where they don’t actually have to be in the ICU, and treat them outside of the ICU – that’s your first principle. Then your second principle is, and China kind of discovered this early […] they started moving to getting people out of the hospitals, as much as possible for a second reason, which is not that the hospitals are overloaded, but that the hospitals are one of the fastest ways to spread COVID-19.”

That’s a perspective also supported by lessons shared from Italian medical professionals in their effort to deal with the COVID-19 situation there, which has essentially decimated large parts of their medical facility infrastructure.

Forward is also still continuing the other work it’s doing to address COVID-19 needs, including providing its risk assessment screening tool to all, as well as offering testing via clinics and drive-throughs to members, as well as mental health support. It’s also looking to expand its drive-through testing to new sites across the U.S. The Forward At Home initiative, meanwhile, will help ensure that clients who have other pressing health needs aren’t left behind while the effort to combat COVID-19 continues.

VR chair startup raises funds, as pandemic boosts prospects for VR and gaming

Roto VR, startup which markets an interactive, ‘360 degree’ chair, has raised £1.5 million in a funding round led by Pembroke VCT. Others in the round include TVB Growth Fund, managed by The FSE Group.

The chair is designed to make VR more accessible to a mass audience, many of whom have turned to VR and gaming to while away the hours as much of the world is locked-down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded in 2015 by video games industry veterans, Elliott Myers and Gavin Waxkirsh, Roto VR is an interactive chair that addresses the physical problems of consuming VR whilst seated, such as motion sickness and tangling cables, whilst also enhancing the immersive experience with haptic / vibration feedback in the chair.

The Roto chair is motorized and can auto-rotate to wherever the user is looking, allowing for 360-degree viewing, and thus allows the user to stay in the VR simulation for longer periods of time.

The inbuilt desktop also supports input devices such as a keyboard and mouse which means it can be used in 360-degree desktop computing.

“Most people sit down to watch movies, work, play games and browse the internet whilst seated and we see no reason why the exciting new medium of VR will be any different,” said Myers.

The product is compatible with most VR Head Mounted Displays and is also compatible with all movies and games, as well as additional accessories such as racing wheels and joysticks.

The company is due to launch the consumer and office version of Roto imminently. In addition, it will be marketed to cinemas and arcades.

Andrew Wolfson, CEO Pembroke Investment Managers LLP, said: “In Elliott we have found an entrepreneur who has solved a problem for the VR market with a solution that addresses the physical issues encountered whilst consuming VR content, as well as significantly enhancing the experience. We see future customers coming from both the B2B and B2C markets, in fields such as experiential attractions, home, cinemas and shopping centres.”

Africa Roundup: Africa’s tech ecosystem responds to COVID-19

In March, the virus gripping the world — COVID-19 — started to spread in Africa. In short order, actors across the continent’s tech ecosystem began to step up to stem the spread.

Early in March Africa’s coronavirus cases by country were in the single digits, but by mid-month those numbers had spiked leading the World Health Organization to sound an alarm.

“About 10 days ago we had 5 countries affected, now we’ve got 30,” WHO Regional Director Dr Matshidiso Moeti said at a press conference on March 19. “It’s has been an extremely rapid…evolution.” 

By the World Health Organization’s stats Tuesday there were 3671 COVID-19 cases in Sub-Saharan Africa and 87 confirmed deaths related to the virus — up from 463 cases and 8 deaths on March 18.

As the COVID-19 began to grow in major economies, governments and startups in Africa started measures to shift a greater volume of transactions toward digital payments and away from cash — which the World Health Organization flagged as a conduit for the spread of the coronavirus.

Africa’s leader in digital payment adoption — Kenya — turned to mobile-money as a public-health tool.

At the urging of the Central Bank and President Uhuru Kenyatta, the country’s largest telecom, Safaricom, implemented a fee-waiver on East Africa’s leading mobile-money product, M-Pesa, to reduce the physical exchange of currency.

The company announced that all person-to-person (P2P) transactions under 1,000 Kenyan Schillings (≈ $10) would be free for three months.

Kenya has one of the highest rates of digital finance adoption in the world — largely due to the dominance of M-Pesa  in the country — with 32 million of its 53 million population subscribed to mobile-money accounts, according to Kenya’s Communications Authority.

On March 20, Ghana’s central bank directed mobile money providers to waive fees on transactions of GH₵100 (≈ $18), with restrictions on transactions to withdraw cash from mobile-wallets.

Ghana’s monetary body also eased KYC requirements on mobile-money, allowing citizens to use existing mobile phone registrations to open accounts with the major digital payment providers, according to a March 18 Bank of Ghana release.

Growth in COVID-19 cases in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation of 200 million, prompted one of the country’s largest digital payments startups to act.

Lagos based venture Paga made fee adjustments, allowing merchants to accept payments from Paga customers for free — a measure “aimed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus by reducing cash handling in Nigeria,” according to a company release.

In March, Africa’s largest innovation incubator, CcHub, announced funding and engineering support to tech projects aimed at curbing COVID-19 and its social and economic impact.

The Lagos and Nairobi based organization posted an open application on its website to provide $5,000 to $100,000 funding blocks to companies with COVID-19 related projects.

CcHub’s CEO Bosun Tijani expressed concern for Africa’s ability to combat a coronavirus outbreak. “Quite a number of African countries, if they get to the level of Italy or the UK, I don’t think the system… is resilient enough to provide support to something like that,” Tijani said.

Cape Town based crowdsolving startup Zindi — that uses AI and machine learning to tackle complex problems — opened a challenge to the 12,000 registered engineers on its platform.

The competition, sponsored by AI4D, tasks scientists to create models that can use data to predict the global spread of COVID-19 over the next three months. The challenge is open until April 19, solutions will be evaluated against future numbers and the winner will receive $5,000.

Zindi will also sponsor a hackathon in April to find solutions to coronavirus related problems.

Image Credits: Sam Masikini via Zindi

On the digital retail front, Pan-African e-commerce company Jumia announced measures it would take on its network to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The Nigeria headquartered operation — with online goods and services verticals in 11 African countries — said it would donate certified face masks to health ministries in Kenya, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria and Uganda, drawing on its supply networks outside Africa.

The company has also offered African governments use of of its last-mile delivery network for distribution of supplies to healthcare facilities and workers.

Jumia is reviewing additional assets it can offer the public sector. “If governments find it helpful we’re willing to do it,” CEO Sacha Poignonnec told TechCrunch.

More Africa-related stories @TechCrunch

African tech around the ‘net

Color is launching a high-capacity COVID-19 testing lab and will open-source its design and protocols

Genomics health technology startup Color is doing its part to address the global COVID-19 pandemic, and has detailed the steps its taking to support expansion of testing efforts in a new blog post and letter from CEO Othman Laraki on Tuesday. The efforts include development of a high-throughput lab that can process as many as 10,000 tests per day, with a turnaround time of within 24 hours for reporting results back to physicians. In order to provide the most benefit possible from the effort of standing this lab up, Color will also make the design, protocols and specifics of this lab available open-source to anyone else looking to establish high-capacity lab testing.

Color’s lab is also already nearly ready to begin processing samples – it’s going live “in the coming week,” according to Laraki. The Color team worked in tandem with MIT’s Broad Institute, as well as Harvard and Weill Cornell Medicine to develop its process and testing techniques that can allow for higher bandwidth results output vs. standard, in-use methods.

The focus of Color’s efforts in making this happen have been on using automation wherever possible, and seeking techniques that source parts and components, including reagents, that can come from different supply chains. That’s actually a crucial ingredient to being able to ramp efforts at scale nationally and globally, since if everyone is using the same lab processing methods, you’re going to run up against a bottle neck pretty quickly in terms of supplies. Being able to process tens of thousands of tests per day is great on paper, but it means nothing if one ingredient you need to make that happen is also required by every other testing lab in the country.

Color has also made efforts to address COVID-19 response in two other key areas: testing for front-line and essential workers, and post-test follow-up and processing. To address the need for testing for those workers who continue to operate in public-facing roles despite the risks, Color has redirected its enterprise employee base to providing, in tandem with governments and employers, onsite clinical test administration, lab transportation and results reporting with patient physicians.

For its post-test workflow, Color is working to address the challenges reported by other clinicians and health officials around how difficult it is to be consistent and effective in following up on the results of tests, as well as next steps. So the company is opening up their own platform for doing so, which they’ve re-tooled in response to their experience to date, and making that available to any other COVID-19 testing labs for free use. These resources include test result reporting, guidelines and instructions for patients, follow-up questionnaires around contact tracing, and support for how to reach out to potentially exposed individuals tied to a patient who tests positive.

To date, Color says that its been able to operate at cost, in part backed by support by philanthropic public and private donations. The company is encouraging direct outreach via its covide-response@color.com email in case anyone thinks they can contribute to, or benefit from the project and the resources being made available.

Cue Health awarded $13 million government contract to develop portable, point-of-care COVID-19 test

Biotech startup Cue Health has secured a $13 million contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’ Biomedical Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which will be used to speed the development and testing of a handheld molecular test that can detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Cue, which broke cover in 2014 with plans for a connected lab in a box for at-home testing and a $7.5 million funding round, is developing a product that pairs cartridge-like test kits with a compact and connected mini lab device that can transmit results to a personalized app-based health dashboard.

The startup received a previous $30 million contract from BARDA in 2018, which was earmarked for the development and validation of an over-the-counter diagnostic test for influenza and multiplex respiratory pathogens. This pre-existing relationship and work will be useful in helping jump-start the effort on developing COVID-19 testing, the company says.

“We have worked with the BARDA team for the past two years developing and testing a 20-minute, molecular influenza test designed for home and point-of-care use,” said Cue Health CEO Ayub Khattak in a statement. “Our connected platform could serve as a critical tool in identifying the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

The company also raised a $45 million Series B funding round the same year, which was designed to help it fund the first set of FDA clinical products used to validate its first products aimed at providing consumer diagnostics.

Cue’s proposed test solution would provide results in under 25 minutes, using samples collected via nasal swab, with all testing done at point-of-care rather than requiring any round-trip shipping.

It’s far from the only rapid, point-of-care test either in development, in testing or already approved for use under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization, and there’s no specific timeline for this to become available. But the fact remains that the current testing gap needs to be addressed essentially by as many solutions as can be proven effective and viable – and this work should be useful long-term in addressing similar global crises and pandemics in future.

Damon Motorcycles makes acquisition, raises $3M and extends pre-orders

EV startup Damon Motorcycles has acquired the IP of Mission Motors, raised $3 million in funding and announced a special production run of its debut model.

The Vancouver-based venture unveiled the 200 mph Hypersport in January and began taking pre-orders for the e-moto, with a base price of $24,995. Damon has positioned its EV entry as an ultra-fast, smart and safe motorcycle.

In addition to its go-straight-to-jail top-speed, the Hypersport boasts 200 miles of highway range, 147 ft-lbs of torque, charges to 80% in 20 minutes and weighs less than 500 pounds, Damon CEO Jay Giraud told TechCrunch earlier this year.

These features, along with digitally controlled riding-modes, are just part of Damon’s signature. The seed-stage startup has also engineered the cloud-connected Hypersport with proprietary safety and ergonomics technology that provide adjustable riding positions and blind-spot detection.

Damon Motorcycles

Image Credits: Damon Motorcycles

Damon packed a lot into its latest announcement and shared some insight on appealing to the elusive millennial market and weathering the economic tremors of the COVID-19 crisis.

On the acquisition, the startup purchased the IP of Mission Motors, a now defunct San Francisco e-motorcycle venture that powered down in 2015. Though Mission’s EV development outran its capital, the company’s motorcycles achieved a number of performance benchmarks and captured the attention of Jay Leno.

Mission Motors was also one of first e-moto companies to roll into the competition arena, fielding an entry in the famed Isle of Man TT race in 2009.

Damon will draw on Mission’s product and racing tech, including the company’s full stack development for EV drive-trains and battery power.

“There are certain bits of that we’re going to roll into the commercialized Hypersport,” Damon COO Derek Derek Dorresteyn told Techcrunch on a call with CEO Jay Giraud.

“Specifically, we’re using the motor development that they had as a platform to advance our motor design…We’re looking at achieving 12 newton-meters per kilogram of torque output from an electric motor,” Dorresteyn said.

Giraud explained that could translate to Damon producing an electric motorcycle with roughly 160 kilowatts of power, 200 horsepower and 200 ft-lbs of torque. That would outdo one of the fastest production e-motorcycles, Energica’s EGO, with 145 horsepower and 159 ft-lbs of torque.

Energica’s Ego, Image Credits: TechCrunch

On funding, Damon Motors now has $3 million in additional capital, raised at the pre-seed level from undisclosed angel investors.

The startup will use the backing on product development and accelerating time to market, Giraud said.

Damon’s founder also noted that the company was on track to fill its initial target of 1000 pre-orders for both its Hypersport standard and Premiere models. As such, the startup will extend orders on a limited run, $34,995 Hypersport Premiere founder edition in two different color-schemes: Arctic Sun and Midnight Sun.

Damon is highlighting the demographics of those placing deposits on its Hypersport e-motorcycles.

“Half the people ordering are under the age of 40,” said Giraud. “It really speaks to product market fit.”

The ability to draw millennials to motorcycle purchases is significant, given they’ve been the hardest market segment to crack. Young buyers used to be a mainstay of the industry, but the last 10 years have seen sharp declines in motorcycle ownership by everyone under 40, according to Motorcycle Industry Council stats.

Damon believes its proprietary tech and plans for a direct-to-consumer sales and service model can attract affluent younger buyers and the Tesla crowd to its fast and safe motorcycles.

Though TechCrunch hasn’t yet ridden a Hypersport, the two-wheeler’s specs offer unique features compared to any current production gas or electric motorcycle. On safety, Damon’s CoPilot system uses sensors, radar and cameras to track moving objects around the motorcycle and alert riders to danger.

Damon Motorcycles Hypersport Sensors

Image Credits: Damon Motorcycles

The startup’s debut EV also brings smart ergonomics in Damon’s patented Shift system that allows riders to electronically adjust the motorcycle’s windscreen, seat, foot-pegs and handlebars to different riding positions and conditions.

Even with the demand Damon has seen for the Hypersport, it still faces a stagnant motorcycle market that has become crowded with EV competitors.

Harley Davidson introduced its all electric LiveWire in 2019, becoming the first of the big gas manufacturers to offer a street-legal e-moto for sale in the U.S.

Harley’s entry followed several failed electric motorcycle startups — including Mission Motors — and put it in the market with existing EV ventures, such as Italy’s Energica and U.S. startup Zero  — which launched its $19,000, 120 mph SR/F in 2019.

On top of strong competition in the e-moto space, there’s a growing uncertainty on the buying appetite for motorcycles of any kind that could exist for the remainder of 2020, and potentially beyond, given the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the world.

As of this week, Harley Davidson had halted all motorcycle production due the coronavirus and Energica confirmed to TechCrunch it had shutdown all operations per a decree of the Italian government.

Zero Motorcycles — located in Scott’s Valley, California — is still producing motorcycles “following the standard health orders of the CDC”, according to a company spokesperson.

Damon’s leadership believes the company can power through whatever lies ahead. The company has a global supply-chain across Europe, Asia and North America, but builds its battery packs and assembles its motorcycles in Canada .

“There are real challenges to get anyone to do anything today. We don’t expect that to be true forever,” COO Derek Dorresteyn said of supply-chain and meeting production demand. 

CEO Jay Giraud believes the current situation with COVID-19 will likely create an economic slump that could drag on longer than the 2008 Great Recession.

On how Damon Motorcycles will manage, “Like every core startup in the world, we’re gonna have to raise a lot of money no matter what. But we’re in a good place right now,” he said.

D-Wave gives anyone working on responses to the COVID-19 free cloud access to its quantum computers

D-Wave, the Canadian quantum computing company, today announced that it is giving anyone who is working on responses to the COVID-19 free access to its Leap 2 quantum computing cloud service. The offer isn’t only valid to those focusing on new drugs but open to any research or team working on any aspect of how to solve the current crisis, be that logistics, modeling the spread of the virus or working on novel diagnostics.

One thing that makes the D-Wave program unique is that the company also managed to pull in a number of partners that are already working with it on other projects. These include Volkswagen, DENSO, Jülich Supercomputing Centre, MDR, Menten AI, Sigma-i Tohoku University, Ludwig Maximilian University and OTI Lumionics. These partners will provide engineering expertise to teams that are using Leap 2 for developing solutions to the Covid-19 crisis.

As D-Wave CEO Alan Baratz told me, this project started taking shape about a week and a half ago. In our conversation, he stressed that teams working with Leap 2 will get a commercial license, so there is no need to open source their solutions and won’t have a one-minute per month limit, which are typically the standard restrictions for using D-Wave’s cloud service.

“When we launched leap 2 on February 26th with our hybrid solver service, we launched a quantum computing capability that is now able to solve fairly large problems — large scale problems — problems at the scale of solving real-world production problems,” Baratz told me. “And so we said: look, if nothing else, this could be another tool that could be useful to those working on trying to come up with solutions to the pandemic. And so we should make it available.”

He acknowledged that there is no guarantee that the teams that will get access to its systems will come up with any workable solutions. “But what we do know is that we would be remiss if we didn’t make this tool available,” he said.

Leap is currently available in the U.S., Canada, Japan and 32 countries in Europe. That’s also where D-Wave’s partners are active and where researchers will be able to make free use of its systems.

Medtronic is sharing its portable ventilator design specifications and code for free to all

Healthcare and biomedical engineering company Medtronic, which was in the news recently because Tesla CEO Elon Musk had discussions with the company about the automaker’s potential plans to build ventilator hardware in order to , but today it’s doing something potentially far more impactful. Medtronic is making the full design specifications, produce manuals, design documents, and in the future, software code for its Puritan Bennett (PB) 560 portable ventilator hardware available to anyone.

The PB 560 ventilator has a number of advantages, being a relatively compact and lightweight piece of equipment that can be easily moved around in installed for use in a range of different healthcare environments and settings. And it’s a design that was originally introduced in 2010, so it has a decade of qualified, safe medical use in treating patients under its belt.

There are plenty of efforts underway to produce ventilators, design new ventilators that manufacturers of other devices, like Dyson, can put into production, and others are trying to modify existing hardware to serve more patients. But this move by Medtronic makes freely available everything needed to spin up new production lines at existing manufacturers around the world – without any costs or fees owed to Medtronic.

It’s still obviously true that retooling a production line to build a different product is going to be an undertaking no matter what kind of design specifications you’re starting with, but this initiative by Medtronic is also intended to provide the resources necessary for anyone looking at what they can build today with a blueprint to spawn new and innovative ideas. Manufacturers might be able to look at Medtronic’s proven design and engineer something they can build at scale relatively quickly that offers the same or similar performance characteristics.

Medtronic says the design is particularly well-suited for “inventors, startups, and academic institutions” looking to spin up production in short order and create their own adapted designs.

“We are sharing the design specifications for the [PB 560] to enable participants across industries to evaluate options for rapid ventilator manufacturing to help doctors and patients dealing with COVID-19,” said John Jordan, External Communications Director at the Minimally Invasive Therapies Group at Medtronic.

He pointed out that while Medtronic produces other, more complex ventilator hardware, including the PB 980 and PB 840, these require “more than 1,500 components” that Medtronic sources from a variety of specialized producers, and that relies on “a skilled and specialized workforce” and “an interconnected global supply chain.” While those things remain true even for the PB 560 to some extent, its smaller, simplified design makes it the best candidate for companies newer to the field looking to pivot to ventilator manufacture with limited or no prior experience.

It’s worth noting that Medtronic isn’t open-sourcing the PB 560’s design exactly: it’s issuing a special “permissive license” specifically for the purposes of address this global coronavirus pandemic, and its term ends either when the World Health Organization’s official Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) is declared over, or on October 1, 2024 – whichever comes first.

Still, it’s a sign of the extent and seriousness of the COVID-19 crisis that for-profit corporations like Medtronic would even consider doing something like making a code technology they’ve developed free for broad public use, even if only for a fixed timeframe.

Any startup or hardware maker interested in checking out the plans for the PB 560 and potentially using them to build their own equipment can register here to agree to the license and get access to the files.

ULA successfully launches first U.S. Space Force payload

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) has completed its 134th successful launch, continuing its perfect track record with a mission today for the U.S. Space Force. This is the first ever dedicated mission for the Space Force, a new branch of the U.S. armed forces dedicated to the defense and protection of America’s strategic assets in space.

The payload today was the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite that has been deployed for U.S. defense customers, though the original five that are already in orbit which launched over the course of the past decade were obviously sent up before Space Force was officially formed. The purpose of all the satellites is the same, however – providing strategic, reliable and secure communications for U.S. armed forces on Earth across land, sea and air.

While the launch did end up going smoothly on Thursday, it ran into an issue during the countdown to its original planned liftoff time that caused the countdown to be reset. That was due to a fault with a part of the launch system called the ‘ground hydraulics accumulator,’ according to ULA CEO Tory Bruno on Twitter. Since ULA’s launch window today extended to 4:57 PM EDT, the company was able to resolve the issue and reset for take-off, which took place without any problems at TK TK.

The actual satellite deployment will occur roughly five hours after liftoff, and ULA won’t be airing that since they typically don’t with any national defense-related missions. That’s still a critical component for overall mission success, beyond the successful launch itself, so we’ll update you when that is confirmed to have gone as planned.

ULA also addressed how and why it was able to get this launch off as planned despite the global COVID-19 crisis. The company clarified that its missions are considered “critical to security and national defense,” and that it is following all applicable guidance from the CDC, as well as from state and local health agencies, about keeping its facilities and personnel safe, secure and healthy in light of the coronavirus pandemic. ULA’s work is officially designated “part of the nation’s essential, critical infrastructure,” which means that it’s not subject to the same restrictions as other private businesses.