Google cancels half the projects at its internal R&D group Area 120

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, speaking at the Code Conference last week, suggested the tech company needed to become 20% more efficient — a comment some in the industry took to mean headcount reductions could soon be on the table. Now, it seems that prediction may be coming true. TechCrunch has learned and Google confirmed the company is slashing projects at its in-house R&D division known as Area 120.

The company on Tuesday informed staff of a “reduction in force” which will see the incubator halved in size, as half the teams working on new product innovations heard their projects were being canceled. Previously, there were 14 projects housed in Area 120, and this has been cut down to just seven. Employees whose projects will not continue were told they’ll need to find a new job within Google by the end of January 2023, or they’ll be terminated. It’s not clear that everyone will be able to do so.

According to Area 120 lead Elias Roman, the division aims to sharpen its focus to only AI-first projects, as opposed to its earlier mandate to fuel product incubation across all of Google.

TechCrunch learned of the changes from a source with knowledge of the matter. Google confirmed the changes in a statement.

“Area 120 is an in-house incubator for experimental new products. The group regularly starts and stops projects with an eye toward pursuing the most promising opportunities,” a Google spokesperson said. “We’ve recently shared that Area 120 will be shifting its focus to projects that build on Google’s deep investment in AI and have the potential to solve important user problems. As a result, Area 120 is winding down several projects to make way for new work. Impacted team members will receive dedicated support as they explore new projects and opportunities at Google.”

Over the years, the division has launched a number of successful products, including the HTML5 gaming platform GameSnacks, now integrated with Google Chrome; an AirTable rival called Tables which exited to Google Cloud; an A.I.-powered conversational ads platform AdLingo, which also exited to Cloud; video platforms Tangi and Shoploop, which exited to Google Search and Shopping, respectively; the web-based travel app Touring Bird, which exited to Commerce; and a technical interview platform Byteboard, a rare external spinout.

One of the projects now being cut with the changes is Qaya, a service offering web storefronts for digital creators, launched late last year. Similar to “link in bio” solutions available today like Linktree or Beacons, Qaya additionally integrated with Google Search and Google Shopping. It could also be linked with a YouTube Merch Shelf, to promote the creator’s products and services.

The other six projects being canceled weren’t yet launched, but included a financial accounting project for Google Sheets, another shopping-related product, analytics for AR/VR, and, unfortunately, three climate-related projects. These latter projects had focused on EV car charging maps with routing, carbon accounting for I.T., and carbon measurement of forests.

The changes follow last year’s reorg of the Area 120 team, which saw the group moved into a new “Google Labs” division led by veteran Googler Clay Bavor. The incubator was then grouped alongside other forward-looking efforts at Google, like its virtual and augmented reality developments and its cutting-edge holographic videoconferencing project known as Project Starline. We understand Google Labs and Starline are not impacted for the time being.

Pichai announced in July that Google would slow its hiring and sharpen its focus, but the company had said larger layoffs were not planned — it would still hire in engineering, technical and other critical roles. However, as part of its renewed emphasis on productivity, the company acknowledges it may need to restructure teams, deprecate products or even, at times, eliminate roles.

As for the Area 120 team members whose projects have now been discontinued, Google’s recruiters will work to help them find new roles, though placement is not a given in situations like these.

Google has north of 170,000 full-time employees. Area 120 had over 170 employees at the beginning of the year but is now under 100.

Editor’s Note: The article was updated moments after publication with Google’s comment. 

Google cancels half the projects at its internal R&D group Area 120 by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

Dope Security emerges from stealth to shake up the SWG market

San Francisco-based cybersecurity startup Dope Security has launched from stealth with $4 million in funding to modernize the secure web gateway market.

A secure web gateway, or SWG, is a network security device that acts as a barrier between users and malicious web traffic, websites with vulnerabilities, malware, and other internet-based cyber threats. While by no means sexy, SWGs have become critical during the recent shift to remote and hybrid work as employees shift from a tightly-controlled office environment to less secure home networks.

Though SWGs are an important tool for organizations whose workers no longer sit within an internal corporate network, Kunal Agarwal, founder and CEO of Dope Security, says that most legacy SWGs are no longer fit for purpose in a remote, cloud-first world.

“There’s been an emergence of secure web access and today every major organization protects or secures what you can access from your laptop,” Agarwal tells TechCrunch. “The way in which they do this is a problem. It’s the equivalent of taking a flight from London to Dublin, and stopping over in Germany.”

These stopovers, along with difficult-to-deploy solutions, lead to outages, off-device decryption, significantly slower page loads, and reduced end-user productivity, he added.

Agarwal, a cybersecurity veteran who started hacking as a child, became frustrated with legacy SWG solutions during his time at Forcepoint and Symantec, where he spent years trying to retrofit existing SWG solutions to solve problems that he says were never designed to solve. “I started to see all of these customers complain about outages, reliability, and performance problems,” Agarwal said.

It was this that led to the creation of Dope Security, a startup named after the Bay Area slang. Dope Security is a fly-direct SWG that eliminates the data center stopover architecture required by legacy providers, instead performing security directly on the endpoint. This architecture improves performance up to fourfold, according to Agarwal, and ensures privacy and reliability when securing enterprises against web-based threats.

Agarwal said his company’s technology can be deployed in under five minutes and offers network defenders insights through a cloud-based console, and integrates with Microsoft 365 and Google accounts — and is already in the hands of customers.

The company’s $4 million investment was led by Boldstart Ventures. Agarwal said the company has 30 employees, mostly former Forcepoint and Symantec employees — is already looking for the market it’s going to try to disrupt next.

“We want to build together not one product, but a whole product portfolio,” Agarwal said. “And we want customers to look at these products and say ‘yeah, that’s dope’.”

Dope Security emerges from stealth to shake up the SWG market by Carly Page originally published on TechCrunch

TechCrunch+ roundup: Dotcom crash history lessons, post-M&A strategies, climate tech heats up

What can today’s founders learn from the 2000 dotcom bubble burst?

381632 01: The sock puppet. The San Francisco-based pet products company, known for its commercials with the sock-puppet dog and the slogan "Because pets can''t drive," said November 7, 2000 that it is closing down after failing to find a financial backer or buyer. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Newsmakers)

Image Credits: Chris Hondros (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The late 1990s were a fascinating time to work in startups and live in San Francisco.

I didn’t need to be an economist to realize that many of the companies I worked for and patronized were lacking solid fundamentals: The same unprofitable startups that offered in-house massages, catered meals and laundry service were also purchasing Super Bowl ads and freeway billboards.

I still have storage crates in my kitchen from Webvan, a grocery delivery contender that flamed out so famously, MBA candidates now study it in business school. Similarly, messenger bags for, which promised to bring “videos, games, DVDs, music, mags, books, food, basics & more” to customers in 60 minutes or less, sell today for $350 and up on Etsy.

Full TechCrunch+ articles are only available to members.
Use discount code TCPLUSROUNDUP to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription.

By 2000, many of these high-fliers had left smoking craters behind. Anna Barber was VP of Product at when her company was sold off in a fire sale to, a competitor.

“We laid off our staff except one person, who stayed around with the CEO to help wind down the company and settle up with all our creditors,” says Barber, now a partner at M13. “That person was me.”

Today at noon PDT/3 p.m. EDT, she’ll join me to talk about how today’s startup operators can avoid many of the missteps founders made in past downturns.

We’ll discuss the economic, social and emotional impact created when so many companies close their doors at once, and Barber will talk about how founders can align with their investors and employees while managing through uncertainty.

This Twitter Space is open to everyone, so I hope you’ll join the chat.

Thanks for reading,
Walter Thompson
Editorial Manager, TechCrunch+

You’ve sold your company. Now what?

Scaling a company from conception to acquisition is a real accomplishment, but it’s not the finish line, according to investor and frequent TC+ contributor, Marjorie Radlo-Zandi.

“You may wonder if the acquirer truly understands your products, values, culture or the customer needs that drive the business,” she writes. “Staff will wonder if there’ll be a place for them as a part of another company.”

In her latest column, she shares “six guiding principles that will set a transaction up for success” and help you achieve your full earnout.

Enterprise e-commerce in 2022: As TAM expands, the platform wars are heating up

Image Credits: Getty Images

E-commerce platforms have onboarded new merchants at a fast clip since the pandemic began, and there’s no sign of a slowdown, according to market intelligence platform PipeCandy.

“The top enterprise e-commerce platforms have added more than 10,000 merchants,” according to co-founder Ashwin Ramasamy, who compared the relative performance of Shopify Plus, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Drupal Commerce and four other players.

“That’s immense, especially as the year is still far from over, and these platforms already have just 1,000 merchants shy of last year.”

Use DORA metrics to support the next generation of remote-work models

Liwa, UAE - Laptop glows outside a tent pitched on the dunes of the Empty Quarter desert

Image Credits: Edwin Remsberg (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Non-technical CEOs often rely on someone else’s assessment to find out how good their developers are. But without data, that’s a pretty subjective process.

Startups that don’t use DORA (DevOps research and assessment) metrics have a harder time measuring a software delivery team’s performance. For example, a group that has a high failure rate may cover their deficiencies (for a time) by deploying quickly.

Remote work is the new normal, especially for engineers, says Alex Circei, CEO and co-founder of development analytics tool Waydev. But using DORA metrics, CTOs, CEOs and HR managers can “get back on the same page to support their tech teams and business outcomes.”

Climate tech is a hot investment in 2022 — next five years could be even hotter

Engineer climbs a wind turbine

Image Credits: Monty Rakusen (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Is the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act creating tailwinds for climate tech startups?

Reporter Tim De Chant found that deal count for climate tech startups increased by 15.4% in Q2 2022, “and the average value per deal has held steady at $23.6 million, more than triple what it was five years ago.”

Tax credits and other incentives in the IRA could spark interest in funding for property tech, recycling, ecosystem monitoring and companies that pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere.

“In other words, investment opportunities in climate tech are just warming up,” he writes.

For LatAm payment orchestration startups, market fragmentation is a blessing in disguise

In Latin America, e-commerce is plagued by high fraud rates. Scarcely 20% of adults have a credit card, and many who do aren’t able to use them internationally.

It’s also true that e-commerce is growing faster there than in any other region since the pandemic began. According to one study, online sales in LatAm will generate $379 billion in 2022, a 32% year-over-year increase.

“The payments landscape in Latin America seems hopelessly fragmented and riddled with fraud,” says Rocio Wu, a principal at F-Prime Capital.

“However, we believe that fragmentation actually offers a huge opportunity for vertically integrated payments orchestration startups to capture a lot of value.”

TechCrunch+ roundup: Dotcom crash history lessons, post-M&A strategies, climate tech heats up by Walter Thompson originally published on TechCrunch

Liquid Instruments hooks up with $28.5M to upend the engineering testing market with software-defined instrumentation

Engineering innovations are a critical cornerstone in the evolution of technology, but ironically there haven’t been as many innovations in engineers’ tooling itself. Now, a startup called Liquid Instruments that’s devised a set of software and hardware to help engineers carry out one aspect of their work — testing — more efficiently is announcing a capital injection of $28.5 million to fuel its growth. It’s been on a roll with sales up 4x this year, with customers of its devices including NASA (where the founders first worked on the concept), Google and Qualcomm, Stanford and Duke, and the U.S.’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Moore’s Law is alive and well here: the startup’s unique selling point is that it has built a new take on testing equipment by translating much of the process into software that sits on hardware that’s faster, many times smaller, and less costly than traditional testing equipment, and provides other kinds of flexibility, such as more dynamic visualizations, diagnostics, programability and the ability to work on the tests in the cloud.

This Series B round of equity funding, which I understand values the company at north of $100 million, will help Liquid Instruments continue to build out more hardware models, and to write more software-based more testing tools for those devices.

The company — founded originally in Australia and now officially headquartered in San Francisco — today sells three versions of its Moku hardware — the Go, the Lab and the Pro, respectively starting at $599, $3,500 and $12,000. They are part of a bigger area of software-defined test instrumentation, and Daniel Shaddock, the CEO and co-founder, first worked on a version of this tech when he was on a team building testing equipment in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for high precision wave detection using a similar software-defined approach.

After that project was done, Shaddock said he and some 11 others would have been “scattered to the wind”, working at other space agencies or academia, so he suggested that maybe they continue working together, to see how a similar concept could be applied to building testing equipment for the engineering world and academics at large. “It was great measurement technology,” he said, “so we thought, maybe others might like it, too.”

The devices use standard input ports and are based on flexible FPGA chip architecture. Today those chips are Xilinx chips from AMD, but the company is open to using “whatever the chip du jour might be” said Shaddock. That’s because its IP is not about the chips but about how they’re used to work “at the crossroads of analogue circuitry and digital processing,” he said. “What has been done previously on analogue devices, and distributed across many chips, are now all on FPGA chips. Now that they are larger, we can slice up the chip into more functions, and have them all work together.”

Although this is bringing down the price of testing devices, it’s not exactly putting Liquid Instruments into the category electronics companies building tools for hobbyists. Its customers rather span research and education through to government labs and industrial businesses, with applications including aerospace, defense, semiconductor, LiDAR and quantum computing. And it’s finding a lot of traction in all of them, with sales up four-fold in the last year.

The investors in this round also are a testament to its traction. Led by Acorn Capital, it also includes strategics like Lockheed Martin Ventures and Powerhouse Ventures, as well as previous backers Spirit Super/ANU Connect Ventures, MA Growth Ventures, Significant Capital Ventures, and Boman Enterprises. Liquid Instruments has to date raised $50 million.

“Liquid Instruments is creating a versatile test and measurement platform that is customizable and efficient,” said Chris Moran, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Ventures, in a statement. “This technology has the potential to deliver mission critical functionality that can provide value to our customer. We are excited by Liquid’s continued growth and look forward to strengthening our collaboration.”

“Liquid Instruments’ Australian-developed software-defined approach is the manifestation of an ambitious plan targeting a vital market that has suffered from a deficit of innovation and imagination.” added Robert Routley, CEO, Acorn Capital. “We see tremendous potential for their platform to continue to grow and evolve, benefitting more industries over time. Liquid Instruments is well positioned to execute on its expansion strategy and disrupt the test and measurement sector and lead the industry through the much-needed transition from hardware to software.”

“This injection of capital will supercharge our ability to revolutionize the test and measurement industry,” said Daniel Shaddock, CEO, and co-founder of Liquid Instruments. “Our innovative software-first approach provides clear advantages over traditional hardware-based solutions, and this funding strongly positions us to lead this critical industry transformation.”

Liquid Instruments’ Moku product line offers the world’s most powerful and flexible software-defined instrumentation platform, harnessing the processing power and reconfigurability of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) to combine multiple instruments into one compact and accessible device. These product offerings include the Moku:Go, a complete lab solution for engineers and students to actively test designs and projects, and the Moku:Pro, an integrated platform for the most demanding research and engineering applications.

“We are focused on enhancing cloud integration features for our products and scaling production of Moku:Go to help millions of undergraduate engineering students around the world unlock their full potential,” added Shaddock. “Moku’s will continue to receive new features via frequent over-the-air updates enabling new solutions in key commercial industries.”

Liquid Instruments hooks up with $28.5M to upend the engineering testing market with software-defined instrumentation by Ingrid Lunden originally published on TechCrunch

Runa Capital kicks off new fund as it joins the VC ‘Scramble for Europe’ by moving to Luxembourg

Runa Capital, which launched there in 2010, says it has raised $55 million towards its fourth fund, aiming for a hard cap of $250 million.

And after 12 years in the US, the normally Palo Alto-based VC says it is now relocating its HQ to Luxembourg, to re-focus its attention on the European market, as several other US VCs have done this year.

TechCrunch understands the move is in part motivated by the higher returns now available from European startups, a trend we’ve seen as other US VCs – such as Sequoia and Lightspeed – have opened European offices.

Runa’s partners will now be now spread across Luxembourg, London, Berlin, San Francisco, and Palo Alto.

The firm has also promoted principals Konstantin Vinogradov and Michael Fanfant to General Partners focusing on Europe and the USA, respectively.

The fourth fund will continue to focus on early-stage investments in enterprise software and deep tech, such as open-source software, machine learning, quantum computing startups, finance, education, and healthcare.

The first investments of the new fund include Barcelona-based embedded finance provider Hubuc, Paris-based open-source enterprise software developer OpenReplay, as well .

Founded by the teams behind the Acronis and Parallels software companies, Runa Capital has so far over 100 early-stage investments in Europe and North America.

Its portfolio consists of Mambu (valued at $5.5 billion), Nginx (acquired by F5 for $700M), Ecwid (acquired by Lightspeed for $500M), Acumatica (acquired by EQT), and Drchrono (acquired by EverCommerce).

To date, the fund has raised around $500M for its three early-stage funds and one “opportunity” VC fund. 

In a statement Dmitry Chikhachev, General Partner and Co-founder at Runa Capital said: “Runa Capital has a tight-knit team and a track record of promoting our partners from within. Konstantin and Michael will bolster our push into the most exciting and promising areas.”

Indeed, new partner Vinogradov originally joined Runa Capital in 2012 as a Junior Analyst while Fanfant previously сo-founded fintech startup Octane Lending.

Runa Capital’s portfolio includes Nordic banker Nicolai Tangen and Andreas Gauger (CEO at OpenExchange).

Despite its Russian ethnicity in terms of founders, Runa hasn’t made any investments in Russia-based companies since 2012 and, in fact, issued a vehement statement last March openly criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Soviet-era-born technology entrepreneur Serguei Beloussov (who has since taken the name Serg Bell and Singaporean citizenship) founded Runa after starting Acronis, and has since gone on to also establish the Acronis Cyber Foundation which has partnered with UNICEF, built schools and educated migrants to Switzerland.

Runa Capital kicks off new fund as it joins the VC ‘Scramble for Europe’ by moving to Luxembourg by Mike Butcher originally published on TechCrunch

This Week in Apps: Apple’s event brings a ‘dynamic Island,’ new widgets and iOS 16

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.

Global app spending reached $65 billion in the first half of 2022, up only slightly from the $64.4 billion during the same period in 2021, as hypergrowth fueled by the pandemic has slowed down. But overall, the app economy is continuing to grow, having produced a record number of downloads and consumer spending across both the iOS and Google Play stores combined in 2021, according to the latest year-end reports. Global spending across iOS and Google Play last year was $133 billion, and consumers downloaded 143.6 billion apps.

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 much more.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here:

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Top Stories

Apple debuts new iPhones — and new ways for app developers to reach users

Image Credits: Apple

Like clockwork, Apple held its annual fall event this week to introduce the latest iPhones to the public. The iPhone 14 line brings some notable new features, like the always-on display for the Pro models, emergency satellite connectivity and the removal of the SIM tray in the U.S. in favor of eSIM support, along with other updated specs across the devices’ camera systems, chips, sensors and more.

But what will most intrigue app developers are a few other changes — both expected and unexpected.

With the updated mobile operating system iOS 16, developers will have a way to reach their users directly from the phone’s Lock Screen, thanks to the new widget platform. Announced at this year’s WWDC, these new widgets join a larger Lock Screen makeover that now includes a built-in editor, wallpaper gallery, theming tools and a Live Activities feature for delivering real-time updates to this key iPhone real estate.

With WidgetKit, developers will be able to build using the same code for both watchOS and the Lock Screen, Apple had explained at WWDC. On the iPhone’s Lock Screen, they can choose from three widget designs: circular, rectangular and inline — the latter being a way to convey information with a small amount of text and SF Symbols above the Lock Screen’s clock, instead of below it like the other two.

Already, developers are coming up with clever ways to take advantage of this new screen space.

In some cases, they see the Lock Screen widgets as the extension of their existing apps — like what Flighty is doing to convey flight status and other travel updates to users. Others see the widgets as part of a larger set of personalization offerings, allowing users to pin their favorite photos, motivational quotes or even favorite app shortcuts to their Lock Screen, as ScreenKit has done.

For apps with real-time updates, the Live Activities feature will allow developers to display further information on the Lock Screen — like when a customer’s pizza is arriving or when their Lyft is nearby, for example.

But what really blew us away was when Apple surprised everyone with an extension of Live Activities that hadn’t yet been leaked: the new Dynamic Island feature. Frankly, it was exciting to learn about a new feature for the first time during the keynote, instead of reading about it in the news — something that’s become a much more common occurrence these days.

A smart combination of hardware and software, the Dynamic Island turns the dreaded sensor “notch” at the top of the device — now more compact in the latest iPhone models — into a feature. The pill-shaped cutout introduces a unique way to interact with activities, alerts and notifications, said Apple, underselling it a bit.

This adaptive area can expand, contract and morph into different shapes and sizes as it delivers information to the end user through animations and transitions — taking advantage of the black space required by the notch, rather than trying to hide it.

You can imagine keeping an eye on your Uber while you text a friend, watching a timer while you read the next steps in a recipe or getting turn-by-turn directions while in another app, among other things. It also works to deliver informational updates in a visually engaging way without interrupting what you’re already doing on your phone. This could include things like confirming your AirPods are connected, muting, starting a charge, starting a FaceID, confirming your transit card was activated when tapping your iPhone in transit locations and more, Apple suggested.

And it can show other background activity, like the music you’re playing when you exit the music app — it even includes a tiny photo of the album art. When you want to access the “now playing” controls again, you can then tap the Dynamic Island to see it expand into a larger, interactive floating widget of sorts with more options. (Will the selfie camera get dirty, we wonder?)

The same goes for phone calls, where a tap can bring up a larger interface for tapping the mute button, speaker button, FaceTime option, the “end call” button and more.

Needless to say, developers and designers were enthralled by the possibilities, praising the feature on Twitter during and after Apple’s event. It’s fair to say we’ll likely see adoption of this feature in the months ahead, when the technology becomes available.

Weekly News

Platforms: Google


Image Credits: Google

  • Not to be upstaged by Apple, Google this week announced it will host an in-person Pixel hardware event on October 6 at 10 a.m. ET in Brooklyn, where the company is planning to introduce the Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel Watch.
  • Android 13 got its first patch, which addresses some issues around wireless charging and battery drains.
  • Google rolled out a broader Android update that includes an upgrade to its AirDrop-like “Nearby Share” feature that now has a “self-share” mode for moving files between your own devices. Other updates include redesigned widgets, sound alerts, audio descriptions for Google TV and live-sharing on Google Meet.

Image Credits: Google

  • Google also touted how Android 13 will make it easier to keep users’ personal data and work data separated thanks to the OS’s new “work profiles,” which let users indicate how apps should be used. This option lets users have separate photo galleries for personal and work use, and can help keep their YouTube watch history separate when used for work or personal use, among other things.
  • Shortly after news came out that Google was blocking Trump’s Truth Social app from Google Play, the company reversed another controversial decision by allowing the conservative-leaning Parler app back in, over a year after its removal following the January 6 violence. Justifying its decision, Google said Parler had implemented the necessary moderation controls required by user-generated apps.


  • Instagram is preparing to test a version of its app that reduces its focus on shopping, according to The Information. The app will try removing the Instagram Shopping page as part of this test. The company says the new version, known as Tab Lite, will be tested over the next few months to see how it fares.

Augmented Reality

Image Credits: Snap

  • Snap is powering several custom-built AR experiences for the Vogue World Event at New York’s Fashion Week. The event on Monday, September 12, will feature a “Skywalk” Lens that transforms the show with AR as blossoming flowers emerge as models walk the runway. Other Lenses bring sunlight or moonlight to users’ faces. The Lenses were built by Arcadia, Snap’s creative studio for AR.
  • A new Wonderlab AR app, powered by Niantic’s Lightship ARDK, allows people in the U.K. to discover the science behind ordinary objects using AR and geospatial technologies.


  • In a crackdown on unethical lenders, India said its central bank will prepare a whitelist of legal loan apps and the IT ministry plans to ensure that only approved apps are hosted on app stores.
  • Trading app Robinhood launched an Investor Index that will be updated monthly to track the performance of the 100 most popular stocks on its platform by weighting its users’ “conviction.”
  • London-based finance app Revolut launched a one-click payments feature to rival PayPal. The feature, Revolut Pay, will work with retailers like Shopify, Prestashop, WH Smith Plc, and Funky Pigeon to start.


  • One year later, Apple’s privacy changes with ATT have helped to boost its own ads business, a new report found. According to a review by the performance insights platform InMobi’s Appsumer, Apple’s Search Ads business has now joined the Facebook-Google advertising duopoly after growing its adoption by 4 percentage points to reach 94.8% year-over-year, while Facebook’s adoption dropped 3% to 82.8%. In addition to the growing advertiser adoption of Apple’s Search Ads, the report also found Apple’s business grew its share-of-wallet by 5 percentage points, to reach a 15% share, while Facebook’s share-of-wallet dropped 4 percentage points, to 28%, from Q1 2021 through Q2 2022.


Image Credits: Twitter

  • Ahead of the U.S. midterms, Twitter said it would begin to add 1,000 contributors per week to its crowdsourced fact-checking tool, Birdwatch, which had been previously tested with 15,000 contributors. The tool will now require users to earn their way to contributor status by rating notes as helpful or not, and earning points based on those ratings’ accuracy.
  • Twitter says its new “edit tweet” feature, now in testing, will allow users to edit their tweets up to five times during the first 30 minutes it’s live. This functionality seems to be designed to better cater to marketers or other attention-getters, who want to find the right combination of words or hashtags, rather than helping everyday users who want to fix a typo — a feature already addressed by Twitter Blue’s “Undo Tweet” option.
  • Twitter is also now testing a new way to share tweets in India by adding a WhatsApp button under the posts for Android users.
  • Instagram confirmed it’s planning to test a feature that will allow users to repost others’ Feed posts — its alternative to something like Twitter’s Retweet. The feature would be a way for aggregator accounts to better credit others’ work, instead of just stealing it.
  • Instagram removed Pornhub’s account for undisclosed reasons. Though the site offers adult material, its social media account only shared nonpornographic images and videos. The move follows a lawsuit where Pornhub parent MindGeek is being sued for allegedly distributed child sexual abuse material on its platform.
  • Nextdoor announced it would again partner with to help increase voter turnout for U.S. midterms by encouraging its users to verify their voter registration, find their polling place and more.


  • Match Group and its flagship app Tinder announced their advocacy for the passage of the “Respect for Marriage Act,” federation legislation that protects the rights to same-sex and interracial marriage. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation in July with bipartisan support and now Match Group and Tinder are asking the Senate to do the same. The Act arrives at a critical time, given the threat to people’s rights posed by the current Supreme Court.


  • Signal appointed a former Google manager and Big Tech critic, Meredith Whittaker, as its first president. The new exec will help to determine Signal’s policy and stragey, including its communications policy.
  • In case there was any question about Apple’s position on adopting RCS, CEO Tim Cook put that to rest by telling an audience member who asked a question about this during a tech conference that he should just “buy your mom an iPhone” if she wanted to see clear videos.

Streaming & Entertainment

Image Credits: Disney+

  • Disney+ released its first AR-enabled short film, ‘Remembering,’ starring Brie Larson. The film uses ShazamKit to listen for an audio cue that will alert users when to launch the AR experience during the film, which focuses on exploring a child’s imagination. When launched, the AR companion app will display a waterfall spilling off the TV and other effects to augment the film’s storytelling.
  • Triller is facing a third lawsuit, this time from a company called Phiture, which offers consulting services to mobile app developers, over non-payment. The company has already been sued by Sony Music for nonpayment and by creators Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, who say they are owed $28 million for selling Verzuz to the company.
  • Spotify’s CFO Paul Vogel said the music streaming platform will begin testing and trialing audiobooks “very soon.” The company last fall had acquired audiobook distributor Findaway to enter this market, allowing it to compete with Amazon and Apple.
  • The Tencent-backed Indian music streaming app Gaana switched to a paid subscription biz model after failing to find an exit or close on new funding, Reuters reported.


Health & Fitness

  • Apple confirmed it will bring its Apple Fitness+ subscription to all iPhone users regardless of whether they own an Apple Watch, as promised earlier this year at WWDC. The service will arrive in all 21 countries where Fitness+ is offered and will ship alongside the iOS 16 update on Monday, including some new workouts.


  • Google Maps expanded its fuel-efficient and eco-friendly routing options to 40 more countries across Europe. The feature was first introduced to the U.S. in 2021, allowing users to plan their drive by how much gas they’d need to expend over other factors.
  • The Compass app will be updated with the release of watchOS 9, Apple said during its keynote this week, where it also unveiled the rugged Apple Watch Ultra. The refreshed app will surface more in-depth information and include three distinct views. A new hybrid view will simultaneously show an analog compass dial and a digital view. Turning the Digital Crown will reveal an additional view that includes latitude, longitude, elevation and incline, as well as an orienteering view showing Compass Waypoints and Backtrack (a feature powered by GPS data to show where the user has been), noted Apple’s press release.

Government & Policy

  • EU privacy regulators are fining Instagram €405 million as a result of a complaint over how the social media app handles children’s data in violation of the GDPR. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) found Instagram, at the time of the complaint, would set accounts of child users to the public by default, among other violations, including the publication of kids’ emails and phone numbers. This fine is the second-highest fine under the GDPR, and DPC’s third for the company.

Security & Privacy

Funding and M&A

💰 LA-based Remento, an app that focuses on capturing and preserving family stories, raised $3 million in seed funding led by Upfront Ventures. The app launched this week on iOS after a year of beta testing.

🤝 Grocery delivery app Instacart announced its acquisition of the e-commerce platform Rosie, which helps local and independent retailers and wholesalers and provides them with tools for powering order flow, fulfillment and customer insights. Deal terms were not disclosed but Ithaca, New York-based Rosie had raised $11.9 million to date.

💰 Latana, a platform that bids on mobile ad space, raised €36 million (~$35.79 million) in Series B funding — €10 million (~$9.94 million) of which was debt — led by Oxx.

💰 Subscription-based Android fintech app Stack raised $2.7 million from Madrona, The Venture Collective, Santa Clara Ventures and others. The app aims to offer crypto education and trading for teens and their parents.

🤝 Headspace Health acquired Shine, a mental health and wellness app dedicated to providing an inclusive mental health experience for the BIPOC community. Deal terms weren’t disclosed.



If you often find yourself making Spotify playlists to get hyped for an upcoming music festival or to relive a favorite past show, a new mobile app called LineupSupply can now help make that process easier. This clever new utility allows you to upload a photo of a music festival’s poster to have it automatically transformed into a Spotify playlist in a matter of moments. Alternately, you can use the app to find playlists created by others or, with a one-time purchase of $1.99, tap into music recommendations based on the artists in the images you uploaded.

LineupSupply also lets you customize the playlist before its creation by removing artists you don’t want to be included in your playlist. And if you don’t want to do the work of finding and uploading your own image, you may be able to find an existing playlist built by other users in the app’s “Discover” section.

There’s no limit to the number of playlists you can create with the free version. But with a one-time upgrade of $1.99, you can gain access to a few additional features, including the ability to set a custom app icon or further customize the playlist by controlling the number of songs per artist, the song sorting options, and the playlist description.


This Week in Apps: Apple’s event brings a ‘dynamic Island,’ new widgets and iOS 16 by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

Amazon is buying Cloostermans, a mechatronics specialist in Belgium, to ramp up its robotics operations

Amazon has made a string of startup acquisitions over the years to build out its robotics business; now, the e-commerce leviathan is taking an interesting turn in that strategy as it expands its industrial warehouse capabilities. Amazon is acquiring Cloostermans, a company out of Belgium that is a specialist in mechatronics. It’s been building technology to move and stack heavy palettes and totes, and robotics used to package products together for customer orders. Amazon has been using those products as a customer of Cloostermans’ since 2019 for e-commerce operations; it’s making the acquisition to ramp up its R&D and deployment in that area.

“We’re thrilled to be joining the Amazon family and extending the impact we can have at a global scale,” said Frederik Berckmoes-Joos, CEO of Cloostermans, in a statement in a blog post published by Amazon. “Amazon has raised the bar for how supply chain technologies can benefit employees and customers, and we’re looking forward to be part of the next chapter of this innovation.”

The bigger picture for Amazon is that it will likely be doing a lot more in warehouse robotics in the years ahead to meet the demands of its ever-expanding e-commere operation.

An internal report at the company leaked earlier this year to Vox projected that Amazon is facing a major shortage of workers in its warehouses — not necessarily because of the labor disputes its been facing in various markets, but because it’s running out of people to hire. The report suggested that alongside higher wages, further automation could be one way to offset that crisis. Deals like this one to acquire Cloostermans and ramp up its usage of robotics in those warehouses would fit into that strategy.

Notably, Cloostermans is no startup, nor is it a typical M&A target for a tech leviathan: it was founded in 1884 and has been privately held for the last six generations.

Amazon is not disclosing the financial terms of the deal, but it will see some 200 machinists, engineers and others from Cloostermans join Amazon.

Amazon has been expanding its robotics work in Europe in recent years, including opening a robotics innovation lab in Italy and operating R&D facilities in Germany; and as you can see from its job board, it’s hiring aggressively in robotics in both of those places and elsewhere. Now you can add operations in Belgium to that list: Amazon will continue to operate out of Cloostermans’ facilities in a town called Hamme after the deal completes (no details on the timing for that close).

It doesn’t look like Cloostermans had any outside investment. You could say it was “bootstrapped” although I’m not even sure you can apply that term to a family-owned company as old as this one. From what I understand Amazon has been one of Cloistermans’ biggest customers; its other clients will continue to be served until the end of their existing contracts — meaning, those may not get renewed as Amazon ramps up its engagement with the business.

Amazon’s robotics ecosystems — which include both what it’s doing for its industrial warehouse operations, as well as products that are more directly connected to consumers and customer experience — has been built up over the years through a mix of acquisitions, internal development and partnerships with third parties.

The consumer branch has included the acquisition of iRobot earlier this year for $1.7 billion, and Dispatch was picked up in 2019 to build its autonomous delivery robot Scout. Meanwhile, some of the key acquisitions to build out its industrial business have included the $775 million acquisition of Kiva in 2012 and Canvas Technology in 2019 for just over $100 million.

The Kiva deal in particular has resulted in some 520,000 robotic drive units distributed across warehouses worldwide, Amazon said in its blog post. Kiva’s tech, now folded into Amazon Robotics, has also been central to the development of Proteus, an autonomous mobile warehouse robot that it unveiled earlier this year. Amazon said it has also hired some 1 million people for its warehouses.

All that has been complemented by internal development an extensive network of third-party partnerships. Cloostermans was part of the latter category, building machines to automate packing orders and moving boxes of products from one place to another for that purpose. Amazon wanted to take it in house because it’s planning to expand its capacity to design and build those kinds of machines and how it uses them in its warehouses. (I’ve asked but have not had any insight into whether that will be for non-perishable items, or for electronics, or for delicate products like food for its ever-growing grocery business. Feasibly, the idea could be to develop for all of those, and even for scenarios where items might be packed up for customers in retail locations.)

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“Amazon’s investments in robotics and technology are supporting how we build a better and safer workplace for our employees and deliver for our customers,” said Ian Simpson, vice president of Global Robotics at Amazon, in a statement. “As we continue to broaden and accelerate the robotics and technology we design, engineer and deploy across our operations, we look forward to welcoming Cloostermans to Amazon and are excited to see what we can build together.”

Amazon is buying Cloostermans, a mechatronics specialist in Belgium, to ramp up its robotics operations by Ingrid Lunden originally published on TechCrunch

Crypto’s biggest powerhouse flexes on its competition

Welcome to Chain Reaction, where we unpack and explain the latest in crypto news, drama and trends, breaking things down block by block for the crypto curious.

For our Thursday episode this week, we discussed the latest drama surrounding crypto mega exchange Binance which is entering the stablecoin game and shaking up the ecosystem as it looks to muscle its way to supremacy. We also covered:

  • Sorare gets into NBA fantasy sports thanks to a new partnership with the basketball league and the players association. Can the French startup beat out Dapper’s NBA Top Shot?
  • MicroStrategy ex-CEO and Bitcoin bull billionaire Michael Saylor sued for tax fraud by DC Attorney General; the government estimates Saylor may owe as much as $100 million in income taxes to DC.

Chain Reaction comes out every Tuesday and Thursday at 12:00 p.m. PT, so be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast and Spotify to keep up with the action.

Crypto’s biggest powerhouse flexes on its competition by Lucas Matney originally published on TechCrunch

UK’s FocalPoint raises $17M for its software-based approach to repairing the flaws of GPS

GPS in its many regional flavors has become a ubiquitous feature in phones, smart watches, cars and other connected devices, but for all the location-based features that it helps enable (mapping being the most obvious) it has a lot of shortcomings: it can be slow and inaccurate, it can contribute to faster battery drain, and as people are discovering, it can be manipulated or exploited in unintended and alarming ways.

Today, a UK startup called FocalPoint that’s building software to improve GPS’s operations, accuracy and security is announcing a round of funding to continue building out its tech — which today works up to 4G and will in future also work with 5G and WiFi — and to roll out the first commercial deployments of its system with early customers. Use cases for the tech include more accurate location for smartphone apps for navigation or location tracking (for example for running and other sports); to help companies with their navigation services (for example for transportation or fleet management); and for better GPS security overall.

Based in Cambridge and founded as a spinout from Cambridge University, FocalPoint has raised £15 million ($17 million), part of a Series C round that it expects to total £23 million ($26 million) when fully completed. Molten Ventures (FKA Draper Esprit) — which led a £6 million Series B in 2021– and Gresham House are the two investors in so far. Ramsey Faragher, the CTO and founder, said that the other investors, which include a major U.S. automotive brand that is a strategic investor, will be closing in the coming weeks.

FocalPoint about a year ago had another notable business development that is helping put the startup on potential customers’ radar: last September, it appointed Scott Pomerantz as its CEO. Described as a “living legend in GPS” Pomerantz previously founded Global Locate, one of the first companies to bring GPS to the mass market, with its tech used by Apple and others. That startup eventually got acquired by Broadcom.

Speaking of Apple, FocalPoint’s focus on better GPS is coming at a timely moment. Just yesterday, the iPhone giant announced its newest Apple Watch models, featuring much more accurate GPS using a multi band approach on devices touting newly extended battery life. It is a signal of the priority that device makers are putting on improving GPS, and investments that they would be willing to make to do so, and thus the opportunity for startups offering new and more effective approaches to crack the market.

As Faragher explained to TC, GPS development to date has largely been based around chipsets embedded in the devices using it, which has meant that improving services by and large have depended on new versions of that hardware. That’s a big hill to climb, however, when considering the embedded market of legacy chips and the process of rolling out next-generation hardware: There were 1.8 billion GPS chipsets shipped as of 2019, with the total projected to grow to 2.8 billion by 2029. Smartphones account for the bulk of those numbers, but autonomy, road and drone devices are growing the fastest.

Along with that, GPS relies on using one or another of two radio bands; typically one produces better positioning than the other but it does so at a cost of draining battery life in the process.

FocalPoint is working on a software-based solution, Faragher said, which he said means that the chipsets themselves do not necessarily need to be swapped out or upgraded to implement its faster approach.

It’s working on algorithms, he said, which are aimed at understanding the directions of satellite signals, using this to gain better understanding of exact location of a device — a process that not only improves the accuracy of a location, but helps to identify when a signal is potentially getting spoofed to appear in one place when it’s actually somewhere else. This is carried out using the band that is less battery-intensive, which previously had been deemed to have poorer positioning performance. “The higher performing signal has always been more computationally intensive,” he said, which is why it impacts batter life. “We can make the lower quality, lower-battery-intensive signal better.”

There are other approaches aiming for the same outcome, but Faragher said they have been too costly and clunky.

“Only military antennas have been able to detect movement like this before,” he said, with those antennas coming in the form, of satellite dishes that are the size of a dinner plate and cost around $10,000 each — a big expense when hundreds need to be used across a wider mobile network. “What we are offering is a military-grade feature for the cost of software upgrade,” he said. “We synthesize expensive antennae.” this could help reduce the cost of other components and this resonates. End expense off a component
There are two different frequencies used by satellites, more computationally intensive for the higher performing signal. So we can make the lower quality battery use signal better than then more expensive signal.

Companies that have worked with FocalPoint to test how its software works are a key to where the company is aiming its business: the startup partnered with Google and its Android team to test how its software could improve location of users for its mapping software in a trial that the two companies ran in London.

“We demonstrated to Google that before using our technology, it couldn’t use the lower quality GPS band for its in-house mapping technology,” he said. That in-house tech is what Google would use for any navigation service, including for Google Maps as well as its devices. He said that Google’s approach, which looks at how signals bounce off buildings to figure out location, is useful with the higher GPS signal but not the lower one, therefore being a stronger drain on battery life. “We could make that lower band work.”

Faragher would not comment on whether it was working with Google, or any other specific companies, during the interview.

“Existing GPS technologies are no longer fit for purpose and we’re proud to continue our support for FocalPoint in its mission to revolutionise the accuracy of GPS and other global navigation satellite systems and in doing so, solve the issues faced by business and consumers with imprecise and unsafe receivers,” said David Cummings, a venture partner with Molten Ventures, in a statement. “We’ve been impressed with how the team has continued to build and expand since its Series B funding round last year, and are thrilled to support FocalPoint in this next exciting chapter for the company”.

UK’s FocalPoint raises $17M for its software-based approach to repairing the flaws of GPS by Ingrid Lunden originally published on TechCrunch

Elon Musk can lean on the Twitter whistleblower but he can’t push the trial date back

A Delaware judge will allow Elon Musk to incorporate new information from Twitter whistleblower Peiter Zatko into his countersuit against the company. Zatko, a well-respected security expert known by the nickname “Mudge,” previously served as Twitter’s head of security and raised concerns about the company’s security and privacy practices in a recent whistleblower complaint.

Delaware’s Chancery Court Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick issued a decision Wednesday that would allow Musk to amend his counterclaim with details that emerged in Zatko’s whistleblower complaint filed with the SEC in July. McCormick added that Musk would only be allowed “incremental discovery relevant to the new allegations” and that could include “targeted document discovery and minimal additional experts and fact witnesses.”

Twitter argued against allowing Musk to amend his claims with Zatko’s allegations, but the judge noted that such amendments are typically allowed. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal denied the accuracy of Zatko’s claims in an internal memo last month, arguing that the whistleblower complaint pushes “a false narrative that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies, and presented without important context.”

While Musk is getting his way on that one, McCormick rejected the simultaneous request from his legal team to delay the trial, which is scheduled to start on October 17. Musk’s team wanted to push the trial a month out, into mid-November.

“In arguing that trial should be delayed by at least four weeks, Defendants contend that no external deadline creates any urgency… But the opposite is true,” McCormick wrote. “I previously rejected Defendants’ arguments in response to Twitter’s motion to expedite, making clear that the longer the delay until trial, the greater the risk of irreparable harm to Twitter.”

Elon Musk can lean on the Twitter whistleblower but he can’t push the trial date back by Taylor Hatmaker originally published on TechCrunch