Trump’s visa restrictions aimed at Chinese STEM students to start in June

In a policy change set for next month, the Trump administration is moving to shorten visas for Chinese students in fields like tech and engineering. While most visas are issued for the longest possible length of time under law, the new policy will allow U.S. officials to put a one-year cap on visas for Chinese graduate students who are “studying in fields like robotics, aviation and high-tech manufacturing,” according to the Associated Press.

A State Department official told The Hill that “Although the large majority of visas issued to Chinese nationals are issued for the maximum validity, consular officers may limit the validity of visas on a case-by-case basis” under the new rules.

Beyond the student limits, U.S. consulates and embassies reportedly received instructions that any Chinese citizen applying for a visa will need to secure additional special permission form the U.S. if they work in research or management for any company the U.S. Commerce Department lists as an entity “requiring higher scrutiny.”

The new visa policy shifts come as Trump is knee-deep in a controversial new tariff plan targeting Chinese trade and is intended to protect against the theft of U.S. intellectual property, or so the reasoning goes.

The visa change was signaled in the National Security Strategy report that the Trump administration issued in December. That document explains the rationale clearly:

The United States will review visa procedures to reduce economic theft by non-traditional intelligence collectors. We will consider restrictions on foreign STEM students from designated countries to ensure that intellectual property is not transferred to our competitors, while acknowledging the importance of recruiting the most advanced technical workforce to the United States.

The State Department noted these changes will go into effect starting on June 11.

Uber’s European rival Taxify raises $175M led by Daimler at a $1B valuation

There’s a new unicorn in the global ride-hailing space after Taxify, a startup born in Estonia that does battle with Uber across Europe and Africa, closed $175 million in new funding that takes it valuation to the $1 billion mark.

Daimler, the German automotive giant which owns Mercedes-Benz among other things, led the round. The investment also featured participation from new backers Europe-based Korelya Capital and Taavet Hinrikus, founder of billion-dollar Estonian fintech startup Transferwise. Taxify said that China’s Didi Chuxing was among the returning investors to join.

The company said it plans to deploy the capital to develop its technology and make further expansions in Europe and Asia.

Beyond its automotive business, Daimler has taken a role in ride-hailing already. Its investments in the space include the acquisition of car-sharing business car2Go and German car-pooling startup Flinc, while it has put money into Europe-based car-pooling company Via and Turo, another car-sharing service which took on Daimler’s rival service Croove. More widely, Daimler and BMW consolidated their mobility businesses — which include parking apps, charging solutions, ride-hailing and more — in a consolidation move made in March of this year. Now, added to that, Daimler will take a seat on the Taxify board.

Given its extensive interest in mobility, it makes sense that Daimler is backing Taxify, which has emerged as the main contender battling Uber in Europe and Africa, while it has also forayed into Australia, too. Surprisingly, the round is the first major fundraising moment for Taxify, which had raised just €2 million ($2.4 million) prior to Didi’s undisclosed investment last year.

“We’re on a mission to build the future of mobility, and it’s great to have the support of investors like Daimler and Didi,” said CEO and co-founder Markus Villig in a statement. “This is just the beginning as more and more people give up on car ownership and opt for on-demand transportation.”

The ride-sharing space has homogenized somewhat in recent years with most companies offer the same services, so against that backdrop Taxify has something of a unique story. The startup was founded in Estonia in 2013 — the home of tech giant Skype — but brothers Markus Villig, then 19 years old, and his brother Martin, who had worked for Skype.

Villig junior is now just 24 years old which makes him one of the youngest heads of a billion-dollar company in the world, although OYO founder Ritesh Agarwal is slightly younger and led a unicorn at an even younger age. Still, it’s quite an achievement.

His original vision was to build a service for his native Estonia using money borrowed from his parents, but that vision expanded and the service is now present in over 25 countries, predominantly in Europe and Africa. Markus Villig said today that the company has more than 100,000 drivers and over 10 million users, a big jump on the 2.5 million users it claimed back in August. Villig added that Taxify’s ride volumes grew ten-fold last year, although he did not provide a raw figure.

Taxify CEO and co-founder Markus Villig

Markus has explained in the past that Taxify’s strategy focuses on being the second mover, most often behind Uber .

“We go into markets where ride-sharing is already a proven concept… we come in and we improve on that by having just cheaper commissions and giving more back to the riders and drivers. We don’t want to get into this regulatory troubles and be wasting millions in lobby battles,” he told Bloomberg in an interview last year.

A key moment for Taxify was snagging investment from Didi Chuxing, the Chinese firm that acquired Uber’s China business and removed it from the country.

Didi backed Taxify via an undisclosed “eight-figure U.S. dollar sum” in August 2016 but, beyond capital, gave it access to its network of knowledge and experience, particularly around operations.

This kind of deal is common for Didi, which raised a $4 billion investment at the end of last year for expansion purposes and has backed Uber rivals across the world with capital and mentoring. Didi’s investments include Lyft in the U.S., Grab in Southeast Asia (which recently bought out Uber’s local business), Ola in India, Careem in the Middle East and 99 in Brazil, which Didi itself acquired in January 2018 for its first international expansion move.

U.S. announces timeline for 25% tariff on Chinese tech products

After significant back-and-forth over the past few months, the White House intends to follow through with a pledge to place tariffs on imported Chinese technology goods while also tightening restrictions on investments by Chinese firms into American companies.

In a statement posted by the White House this morning, the administration said that it would impose a 25% tariff on $50 billion of Chinese high-tech goods “containing industrially significant technology.” That follows the conclusion of the U.S. Trade Representative’s Section 301 investigation into China’s industrial and intellectual property policies. What goods will be included in the tariff policy has been up for debate, but the final list will be released on June 15th. This package of tariffs is different than a separate package of tariffs focused on steel and aluminum production announced earlier this year.

The regulations around investment restrictions by Chinese companies will be announced at the end of June. The administration will also continue to litigate a case at the World Trade Organization over intellectual property protections.

All of these announcements should be taken with a shaker’s worth of salt though, since these are just the latest cards being played in a series of interconnected negotiations both internal to the White House and external with the Chinese government.

Internally, the White House has been riven with differences over how aggressively to prosecute the Chinese over its industry practices, with financiers like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin taking a more flexible line while others like U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Director of the White House National Trade Council Peter Navarro have pushed for a much more aggressive approach. As different actors curry favor with President Donald Trump, their respective policies seem to appear and disappear.

Externally, the U.S. and China are engaged in a protracted multi-dimensional negotiation over the status of trade between the two countries. That includes both the approval of Qualcomm’s merger with NXP from the U.S. side, as well as re-authorizing a tech export license to China’s telecommunications manufacturer ZTE on the Chinese side. Expect more announcements and counter-announcements to come in the coming weeks as these negotiations continue.

For tech companies and startups, the uncertainty and lack of clarity around these tariff policies is difficult to manage. Product roadmaps and supply chains are being reconsidered as each new policy gets announced, making it difficult to manage future launches. While no one wants a tariff in the tech industry, clarity would certainly make any tariff much easier to stomach.

Even more challenging is the looming deadline for the announcement of investment restrictions. Given that venture capital rounds generally take several weeks to close because of the due diligence process, and the deadline for the announcement of these new investment restrictions is at the end of June, Silicon Valley founders should be hesitant to accept Chinese VC dollars while they await regulatory certainty from Washington.

I’ve written before that the national security implications of Chinese venture capitalists are overblown, but ultimately, the administration is going to have to develop a rule, and until more information is provided, any investment from a Chinese-connected firm could potentially be cutoff at the last minute. Expect more developments on all of these policies as U.S. and Chinese negotiators continue hashing out a deal around trade.

Alibaba Group agrees to sell several Tmall healthcare categories to subsidiary Alibaba Health

Alibaba Group announced today that it has agreed to sell several of the healthcare categories on Tmall, its B2C shopping platform, to digital healthcare subsidiary Alibaba Health Information Technology. In exchange, Alibaba Group will receive $10.6 billion HKD (about $1.35 billion) in newly issued shares of Alibaba Health and increase its equity stake in the company, which is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, from 48.1% to 56.2%.

If you have followed Alibaba Group for a while and this news is giving you a feeling of déjà vu, there’s a reason why. In April 2015, Alibaba Group made a similar announcement, saying that it had agreed to integrate Tmall’s pharmacy business into Alibaba Health in exchange for a majority stake.

The next year, however, Alibaba Health disclosed to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that it had let the proposed deal lapse because of regulatory uncertainties as the Chinese government reviewed legislation related to online drug sales. In that disclosure, it also said that Alibaba Group “continues to support [Alibaba Health] to execute an organic growth and investment strategy as the healthcare flagship company for Alibaba Group,” with the two companies exploring service agreements between Tmall and Alibaba Health.

While the deal announced today is still subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, it furthers Alibaba Group’s goal of consolidating more of Tmall’s pharmacy and healthcare business operations into Alibaba Health. These include Tmall categories like medical devices and healthcare products and medical services, which in total cover 3,300 vendors and generated 20.6 billion RMB (about $3.2 billion) in gross merchandise volume in the fiscal year that ended in March.

Vendors moving over to Alibaba Health will now have access to its ecosystem, including data analytics, hospitals, doctors, healthcare consultants and equipment suppliers, creating more growth and synergy opportunities, an Alibaba spokesperson told TechCrunch.

In a press statement, Daniel Zhang said “Healthcare is a strategically important area for Alibaba Group with strong growth potential. This transaction is a logical evolution for the continued development of Alibaba Health into our healthcare flagship platform.”

Google brings its ARCore technology to China in partnership with Xiaomi

Google is ramping up its efforts to return to China. Earlier this year, the search giant detailed plans to bring its ARCore technology — which enables augmented reality and virtual reality — to phones in China and this week that effort went live with its first partner, Xiaomi.

Initially the technology will be available for Xiaomi’s Mix 2S devices via an app in the Xiaomi App Store, but Google has plans to add more partners in Mainland China over time. Huawei and Samsung are two confirmed names that have signed up to distribute ARCore apps on Chinese soil, Google said previously.

Google’s core services remain blocked in China but ARCore apps are able to work there because the technology itself works on device without the cloud, which means that once apps are downloaded to a phone there’s nothing that China’s internet censors can do to disrupt them.

Rather than software, the main challenge is distribution. The Google Play Store is restricted in China, and in its place China has a fragmented landscape that consists of more than a dozen major third-party Android app stores. That explains why Google has struck deals with the likes of Xiaomi and Huawei, which operate their own app stores which — pre-loaded on their devices — can help Google reach consumers.

ARCore in action

The ARCore strategy for China, while subtle, is part of a sustained push to grow Google’s presence in China. While that hasn’t meant reviving the Google Play Store — despite plenty of speculation in the media — Google has ramped up in other areas.

In recent months, the company has struck a partnership with Tencent, agreed to invest in a number of China-based startups — including biotech-focused XtalPi and live-streaming service Chushou — and announced an AI lab in Beijing. Added to that, Google gained a large tech presence in Taiwan via the completion of its acquisition of a chunk of HTC, and it opened a presence in Shenzhen, the Chinese city known as ‘the Silicon Valley of hardware.’

Finally, it is also hosting its first ‘Demo Day’ program for startups in Asia with an event planned for Shanghai, China, this coming September. Applications to take part in the initiative opened last week.

Location-based virtual reality is increasing its footprint in the U.S.

Earlier this year, in a small, grey-walled storefront inside a very large mall in Torrance, Calif. (just past the AMC Center) , the virtual reality game-maker Survios planted its first flag in the market for location-based gaming.

It’s one of several companies (many based in Los Angeles) that are turning the city into a hub for anyone looking to experience the thrill of immersive gaming.

While Survios’ offering is more akin to the virtual arcades cropping up in cities across the country and around the world (including Dubai, New York, Seoul, and Tokyo), other companies like the Los Angeles-based Two Bit Circus and Lindon, Utah’s The Void are creating site specific game experiences that promise a different kind of approach to virtual reality.

For Survios and other companies that have placed multi-million dollar bets on the viability of virtual reality, the move to location-based gaming isn’t a matter of choice. It’s a matter of survival thanks to the persistent lack of demand from consumers. 

Sales of head-mounted displays began to climb out of their doldrums late last year, and are expected to surpass 1.5 million head mounted displays sold in 2018, according to data from Canalys. But that’s still a far smaller market than the 10 million game consoles that were sold in the U.S. alone in 2017 (not to mention the roughly 32 million consoles sold at the market’s peak in 2008), according data on the Statista website

The benefits of location-based experiences are clear. The cost of premium headsets and gaming systems prohibit most U.S. households from getting the gear in their hands and until those costs come down, out-of-home experiences provide the best way to get consumers comfortable with the technology.

That’s been the tactic ever since Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney launched Computer Space in 1971 with the first coin-operated computer game for arcades.

And one that VRWorld brought (with much fanfare) to virtual reality in the U.S. with the debut of its three-floor gaming hub near the Empire State Building in the heart of New York.

That experience, a more extravagant investment than Survios’ humble multi-bay storefront, was one of the first in the U.S. to commit to the sensory overload that is virtual reality. By 2018, New York was home to at least seven virtual reality spaces where users could experience the technology, according to The New York Times.

And while it’s hard to recreate a truly immersive, mobile game experience in the home, the ability to access cinematic quality production values, a physical space purpose-built for immersive game play, and the intellectual property of some of Hollywood’s most enduring brands (like The Void’s Star Wars experience) can make for a compelling pitch to consumers.

That’s the hope of people like Nancy Bennett, an entertainment industry veteran who was brought on as the Chief Creative Officer at Two Bit Circus.

“What’s cool about VR and a differentiator of the medium is that it gives you embodiment,” Bennett says. “There’s no other medium that does that.”

Bennett knows a thing or two about entertainment. A producer with MTV Networks, the founder of the collaborative game development platform Squarepushers Inc. and a celebrated creator of virtual reality projects for the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Bennett won the Lumiere award for best music VR experience for her work on the “One At a Time” video for Alex Aiono. 

From haptic platforms and motion floors that simulate the ability to walk around a space, the location based experience will offer a more fully immersive platform that can lend itself to more interesting narratives, says Bennett.

For Bennett, the vision of a place like Two Bit Circus, or the experiences on offer from other location based platforms are about the combination of narrative and technology in a way that can provide verisimilitude to someone strapped into a headset.

She, and others in the location-based community, look to immersive theater like Sleep No More as a model for how to proceed. “Immersive theater is absolutely the platform that will help drag us along,” Bennett says. 

At Two Bit Circus, which raised $15 million from investors last January, virtual reality will be about 20% of the experiences on offer. The company’s inaugural space in Los Angeles will also avail itself of projection mapping, augmented reality and other ways to immerse and entertain, Bennett promises.

But immersion will be at the heart of it all, she said. “Those kinds of mixed immersive experiences are going to be de rigueur,” according to Bennett. “And locations are going to be the only places where you can pull that off.”

Bennett sees the industry offering different tiers of immersive entertainment. With virtual reality arcades like Survios’ in Torrance operating on one level and more highly immersive experiences like The Void and Baobab Studios operating on another.

It’s one reason why companies like Cinemark have announced that they’re working with The Void and other immersive, location-based virtual reality companies to create experiences in their theaters.

“Really it’s about what serves the creative goal,” says Bennett. “What I think is really cool is the opportunity to mash up the fast prototyping of the community into one space to get people to play. It isn’t just VR. There’s also new forms of play and arcades that are possible and interactive audience participation for content creation.”

Even with the wow-factor of the experience, it may not be enough to buck industry trends. IMAX was one of the first companies to carve out immersive virtual reality spaces in its theaters, but given its woeful performance in the first quarter of 2018, those efforts are now on hold, according to it chief executive Richard Gelfond.

“At this time, we do not anticipate opening additional VR centers, or making a meaningful future investments in the initiative,” he told analysts during the company’s first quarter earnings call.

It’s a dramatic change for a company that was touting its entrance into the location based market just a year earlier.

IMAX’s stumble belies the international success of location-based gaming. In this, Asia leads the way with virtual reality outposts like the Viveland theme park in China. An existing infrastructure of internet cafes meant that Asian gaming hubs could just throw virtual reality hardware into their mix of offerings and continue to attract an audience.

Meanwhile, companies in the U.S. need to depend on purpose built spaces for virtual reality gaming thanks to the dominance of in-home gaming consoles (which overtook arcade gaming at least a decade ago). The lack of similar out-of-home spaces led to IMAX deciding to set up their own experiences — and other movie theaters and amusement parks following suit.

And there’s still the chance that in-home virtual reality will be able to pick up the pace and boost adoption more quickly than the market expects.

Analysts for the industry tracker Canalys forecast that the industry will sell nearly 10 million units in 2021, on par with the (shrinking) console market. Standalone virtual reality headsets are expected to push the market to 7.6 million units sold by the end of 2018, according to Canalys.

Still, for the immediate future, for those looking to get the full benefit of a virtual reality experience, their best bet is to find the nearest Void experience and battle some storm troopers, check out an arcade, or wait for the unveiling of Two Bit Circus’ first facility later this year.

What President Trump Doesn’t Know About ZTE

After meeting with Chinese Vice Premiere Liu He this week, President Trump is still considering easing penalties on Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE over its violation of sanctions against Iran and North Korea. But what Mr. Trump may not realize is that ZTE is also one of the world’s most notorious intellectual property thieves — perhaps even the most notorious of all.

Since stopping Chinese theft of U.S intellectual property is one of the President’s most important trade objectives, Mr. Trump should refuse to ease sanctions against ZTE until it stops its high-tech banditry and starts playing by the rules in intellectual property (IP) matters.

To get a sense of just how egregious ZTE’s behavior truly is, we need only to consult PACER, the national index of federal court cases. A search of PACER reveals that in the U.S. alone, ZTE has been sued for patent infringement an astonishing 126 times just in the last five years. This number is even more shocking when you consider that only a subset of companies who believe their IP rights have been violated by ZTE has the means or the will to spend the millions of dollars needed to wage a multi-year lawsuit in federal courts.

But ZTE’s IP thievery is not confined just to the United States. According to one Chinese tech publication, ZTE has also been sued for patent infringement an additional 100 times in China, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, India, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and other countries. As an intellectual property renegade, ZTE certainly gets around.

Even when it’s not being sued, ZTE thumbs its nose at the traditional rules of fair play in intellectual proper matters, commonly engaging in delay, misrepresentation, and hold out when dealing with patent owners. While ZTE is more than happy to accept royalty payments for the use of its own intellectual property, it rarely if ever pays for the use of others’ IP.

Consider ZTE’s treatment of San Francisco-based Via Licensing Corp, a Swiss-neutral operator of patent pools covering wireless, digital audio, and other building-block components of complex products. Patent pools offer one-stop shopping for product makers to acquire licenses to patents from multiple innovative companies at once. Pools are generally a more efficient, and less litigious, way for product makers to acquire the IP rights they need at reasonable prices.

In 2012, ZTE joined Via’s LTE wireless patent pool, whose members also include Google, AT&T, Verizon, Siemens, China Mobile, and another Chinese tech powerhouse, Lenovo, maker of Motorola-branded smartphones. It helped set the royalty pricing of the pool’s aggregated patent rights, and even received payments from other product makers for their use of ZTE’s own patents within the pool.

But in 2017, precisely when it was ZTE’s turn to pay for its use of other members’ patents in Via’s LTE pool, it suddenly and without ceremony quit the patent pool. Via and its member companies are still trying to get ZTE to pay for its use of their intellectual property — and to abide by the very rules it helped establish in the first place.

Even among much-criticized Chinese companies, ZTE’s behavior is completely outside the norm. Despite what you may hear, some Chinese companies are actually good IP citizens — Lenovo for one. In fact, Via’s various patent pools include more than two dozen Chinese companies who play by the rules.

But ZTE is not one of them. It is a blatant serial IP violator who gives other Chinese companies a bad name. And our government should not reward such behavior.

Ease sanctions on ZTE only when it finally starts respecting intellectual property rights.

Trump says ZTE will pay $1.3B fine and overhaul its management to continue US business

U.S. President Donald Trump has claimed that Chinese telecom firm ZTE will pay a $1.3 billion fine and undergo a significant overhaul of its management team in order to remain operational in North America.

ZTE looked to be in dire straits when it ceased its business in the U.S. earlier this month after a Department of Commerce order banned U.S. partners from selling components to the company in response to it flouting trade bans in Iran and North Korea.

The company has since been reprised — a strategy move within the U.S.-China trade stand-off — but Trump said today that its new life comes at a cost. That’s apparently a $1.3 billion fine, a new management team and board, and “high-level security guarantees.”

Trump previously took to Twitter to break news of ZTE’s reprieve and today, while aiming to score political points, he gave insight into why ZTE is being given another chance.

ZTE has over 70,000 employees, it grossed more than $17 billion in annual revenue and it maintains close ties to the Chinese government. As I wrote earlier this month, a company of its global scale brings significant revenue to U.S. businesses which, beyond more obvious consumer-facing companies, includes component-level partners like Qualcomm, who would be impacted if ZTE were to disappear tomorrow.

Trump’s claim that ZTE “must purchase U.S. parts,” while as yet unconfirmed, suggests the deal is important for ZTE’s U.S. business partners as well as being a key card in working out his administration’s complicated relationship with China.

Still, despite these apparent conditions, the decision to allow ZTE to continue is hugely controversial. Most companies don’t get a second chance for the kind of activities that the Chinese firm has carried out.

The company flouted trade bans to Iran and North Korea, then it lied about them and tried to cover its tracks before finally admitting its guilt. Speaking in April, Trump’s own Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, said:

“ZTE made false statements to the U.S. Government when they were originally caught and put on the Entity List, made false statements during the reprieve it was given, and made false statements again during its probation. ZTE misled the Department of Commerce. Instead of reprimanding ZTE staff and senior management, ZTE rewarded them. This egregious behavior cannot be ignored.”

Beyond that, the firm’s close links to the Chinese government have long troubled U.S. security agencies concerned that ZTE equipment was being used by American telecom firms and security agencies.

Here’s what FBI Director Chris Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee in February:

“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing a company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks.”

Google’s Duo and Cisco’s Webex Teams among the VoIP apps pulled from the China App Store

Earlier this week, it came to light that Apple had removed a number of VoIP-based calling apps from the App Store, at the request of the Chinese government. The apps had been using CallKit, Apple’s new developer toolset that provides the calling interface for VoIP apps, freeing up developers to handle the backend communications. China’s government asked developers, by way of Apple, to remove CallKit from their apps sold on the China App Store, or they can remove their apps entirely.

Notices Apple sent out to the developers were first spotted by 9to5Mac, who shared a snippet from of one of the emails.

The email states that the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) “requested that CallKit be deactivated in app apps available on the China App Store,” and informed the developer they would need to comply with this regulation in order to have their app approved.

The regulation only impacts apps distributed in the China App Store.

We understand that the apps can still use CallKit and be sold in other markets outside the region.

Apple is not publicly commenting on the matter.

The pushback against CallKit is another means of discouraging people from developing or using VoIP services in China, without having to go so far as to ban the apps directly. It wouldn’t be the first time China has cracked down in this area. In November, Microsoft’s Skype was also pulled from the Apple and Android app stores.

The government also last year ordered VPN apps, which help users route around the Great Firewall, to be pulled from app stores – another order with which Apple complied.

Other social media apps, like WhatsApp and Facebook, are also disrupted at times, and newspapers’ apps like those from The NYT and WSJ are blocked, too.

According to data pulled by app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower, two dozen apps with CallKit had been removed during the week prior to the news reports.

That list, along with the date removed and publisher name, is below:

Sensor Tower notes it’s possible that there are other apps removed from additional stores, but doesn’t have that data.

In addition, this list only includes those apps that have been downloaded enough times to rank in the top 1,500 of an app category at some point – beyond that Sensor Tower wouldn’t pick it up. But an app that wasn’t ranked would have had so few downloads that the impact of its removal would be minimal.

Nevertheless, you can see list includes a few well-known names, including Cisco’s Webex Teams and Google’s Duo video calling app, among those from other operators and VoIP calling providers.

The full text of Apple’s email is below:

From Apple
5. Legal: Preamble
Guideline 5.0 – Legal

Recently, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) requested that CallKit functionality be deactivated in all apps available on the China App Store. During our review, we found that your app currently includes CallKit functionality and has China listed as an available territory in iTunes Connect.

Next Steps

This app cannot be approved with CallKit functionality active in China. Please make the appropriate changes and resubmit this app for review. If you have already ensured that CallKit functionality is not active in China, you may reply to this message in Resolution Center to confirm. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) call functionality continues to be allowed but can no longer take advantage of CallKit’s intuitive look and feel. CallKit can continue to be used in apps outside of China.

Rover’s epic raise, Uber’s Q1 results, and a trio of IPOs

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week was fun for a few reasons. First, it was our own Connie Loizos’s first time leading, and it was our very first regular episode that included us recording remotely. I mention that as Matthew Lynley and I were in different places, meaning that we had a bump or two to smooth out. Your patience is more than appreciated.

Happily, we didn’t have to adventure alone, as Jonathan Abrams of Founders Den was on hand to help us cart through the news.

Up first: A huge round for Rover, bringing even more money into the dog- and pet-focused space. As you’ll surely recall, this is not the first time that a tectonic sum has been disbursed into the pet-care vertical. Hell, Rover’s $155 in new capital, while impressive, still can’t touch Wag’s epic $300 million infusion that happened earlier in the cycle.

While we were on the subject, another Softbank-backed company made waves: Uber . Yes, our favorite and least favorite topic is back.

This time Uber released yet another grip of statistics relating to its financial performance in the first quarter. The big picture? More gross spend, more net revenue, smaller losses. But how you measure Uber’s pace of financial improvement depends on how you measure its losses and its remaining markets.

This being Equity, however, we couldn’t avoid the IPO topic. So, in order:

All that and we had a laugh. Thanks for listening in, and we are back next week.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.