Fire TV launches a new dedicated Oscars hub that lets users predict the winners

Amazon announced today the launch of a dedicated Oscars hub on Fire TV where movie buffs can get ready for the 2023 Academy Awards ceremony, including watching all the nominated movies and casting their votes for Oscar winners via the on-screen interactive voting experience, “Oscars predictions.”

The new Oscars hub will live on the Fire TV interface starting today, March 6, until March 20.

The most interesting feature is the voting experience, which will be available on March 7. It allows users to select their Oscar winner predictions in the seven major categories, including “Best Actor in a Leading Role,” “Best Actress in a Leading Role,” “Best Adapted Screenplay” and “Best Director,” among others.

Users can access the feature by speaking into their voice remote, “Alexa, vote for the Oscars.”

After the Oscars ceremony is over and the winners have been determined, Fire TV users will receive an accuracy score, which they can then brag about to their friends. The day of the ceremony, March 12, is the last day that users can put in their votes.

The voting feature will likely be fun for viewers to play around with. There’s even an option to share predictions on social media platforms or via text message. The company says this is the first time it’s launching an interactive experience that lets viewers fill out an Oscars ballot and share it on social.

In addition to the “Oscars predictions” experience, Fire TV is also giving viewers a single place to find all the 2023 Oscar-nominated films and where they are streaming. So, whether users want to watch “All Quiet on the Western Front,” which is streaming on Netflix, or “Top Gun: Maverick” on Paramount+, they’ll be able to select the streaming app that has their desired movie.

Also, Fire TV users get access to a collection of Oscar-nominated movies throughout history, including the ones from last year. Users can ask Alexa, “Take me to Fire TV’s Oscars Collection.”

Fire TV is also giving viewers the ability to watch free red carpet coverage, interviews and post-show analysis. And, of course, the dedicated hub will feature the live TV streaming services that are broadcasting the event, which includes Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV, FuboTV and more.

The 2023 Academy Awards will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and be broadcast on ABC on March 12 at 8 p.m. ET.

Amazon received one Oscar nomination for its international film “Argentina, 1985.” The drama film “Women Talking” was also nominated, which was produced by the Amazon-owned studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).

Fire TV launches a new dedicated Oscars hub that lets users predict the winners by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

How the myth of the ‘girlboss’ harms emerging women in tech

On Lafayette Street in SoHo, young, fashionable women lined up around the block to enter a minimalist, millennial oasis, the most perfect Instagram feed brought to life. Staff members glided around the store in pastel pink suits, each embodying the kind of girl that Glossier made us all want to be: beautiful, yet effortless.

“We want to inspire, but we also want to be realistic and show beauty in real life,” Glossier founder and CEO Emily Weiss said in a 2017 interview with Inc, just as the brand had reached what Weiss herself described as “cult status.” Even Chrissy Teigen and Reese Witherspoon wore Glossier’s signature Cloud Paint blush to the Oscars

We understood the irony of the message as we sampled their sheer, almost-not-there lipgloss, then looked into a mirror decorated with white vinyl letters in the bustling pop-up shop: you look good, our reflection told us. Glossier affirmed our inherent beauty, then reminded us that we can be even more beautiful if we buy their “Boy Brow” pomade, which sold one tube every 32 seconds by 2018.

Glossier’s commoditized feminism aside, it’s no easy task to launch a $1.8 billion company in the brutally competitive beauty industry, especially one with such broad appeal. After all, Glossier’s founder and CEO Emily Weiss is very, very far from the first entrepreneur to profit off of our desire to look good. And who cares? That Cloud Paint is pretty magical, if we’re being honest. Like with many consumer brands geared toward women, we buy in not just because of the marketing, but because of the product itself.

Glossier founder Emily Weiss speaks at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2018

Glossier founder Emily Weiss speaks at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2018 Image Credits: TechCrunch

But as Weiss steps down from her current role and prepares for maternity leave, her success and subsequently typical choice to become her company’s board chairperson has been co-opted as the end of the “girlboss” era.

What even is a ”girlboss” anymore? Once a vaguely aspirational term of praise reserved only for affluent white women, the moniker now reflects the maddening contradiction of workplace feminism: we know that it’s not enough to just be a woman in power, and that what we do with that power matters far more than simply wielding it. Yet women founders and CEOs remain frustratingly rare as Silicon Valley’s glass ceiling persists, almost impenetrable – venture capitalists (only 13% of whom are women in the U.S.) allocate 98% of their funding to startups helmed by men. It’s no wonder, then, how we’ve ended up with the paradox of the “girlboss.” 

The making (and unraveling) of the ‘girlboss’ myth

Nasty Gal CEO Sophia Amoruso is credited with coining the term in the title of her 2014 memoir, “#Girlboss,” which chronicled her rags-to-riches success and was adapted into a Netflix show. The following year, she stepped down as CEO, and by 2016, her company filed for bankruptcy and was purchased by Boohoo. Then, Amoruso started a company called Girlboss that was likened to “Linkedin for Women.” She stepped down from that company in 2020.

“Girlboss” originally gained popularity beyond Amoruso’s book as a form of praise, according to Kirsten Green, co-founder and investor at Forerunner Ventures. Green has spent her career bankrolling the companies that define what’s cool, including Glossier, Outdoor Voices and Away, whose founders are often cited as the archetypal examples of “girlbosses.”

“I truly believe the ‘girlboss’ term was created to celebrate an emerging wave of female leaders – which is still rare in business, and was even rarer around 10 years ago when the phrase was popularized,” Green told TechCrunch in an email. 

The term itself, though, hasn’t aged nearly as well as Green’s portfolio. Years later, even Amoruso herself has expressed discomfort with the phrase.

“It’s not a compliment. It’s more of a mockery,” said Isa Watson, founder and CEO of social media app Squad. Watson, who holds an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has raised $4.5 million for her app, placing Squad in the mere 0.34% of companies funded last year with a Black woman founder.

The idea of the “girlboss” today is shrouded in privilege. Since its debut, the term has come to represent a small cohort of white, affluent millennial women who rise up into positions of power, preach the gospel of feminism, then ultimately fumble the millenial pink ball and fall from grace when it turns out that their politics just aren’t that transformative.

“[The term “girlboss”] feels disconnected from reality, which is that there are very few women that have had this label applied to them,” said Sruti Bharat, who most recently worked as interim CEO at All Raise, a venture fund supporting women and non-binary founders. “They all seem to have slightly similar journeys, like they run consumer brands, maybe [have] slightly problematic racial politics, and some kind of takedown piece [is written about them]. That’s like the PR trope.”

Unlike the glowy skin depicted on Glossier’s Instagram, the reputation of its founder and CEO Emily Weiss is not without blemishes. Glossier’s management has faced well-deserved scrutiny for failing to support members of its retail staff, leaving them to endure racist treatment from customers. (Following the complaints, Weiss issued a public apology, and Glossier donated $1 million – half to organizations fighting racial injustice, and half to Black-owned beauty businesses). 

Then, when the pandemic hit, Glossier laid off all of its retail employees and shut down its physical stores. But just a year later, the beauty brand raised an $80 million Series E round at a $1.8 billion valuation to open up permanent retail stores in Seattle, Los Angeles and London, capitalizing on the dewy fairytale of its Manhattan flagship store.

Mandela SH Dixon, All Raise's recently appointed CEO

Mandela SH Dixon, All Raise’s current CEO Image Credits: All Raise

Early this year, the company slashed staff yet again. Glossier laid off one-third of its corporate employees, mostly on its tech team, as Weiss admitted to staff that the company got “distracted” from its core beauty business and got ahead of itself with hiring. Weiss’ recent departure from the CEO role, along with that of her CMO from the company altogether, only amplified the scrutiny – fairly or not.

Although a select few white women have been able to rise through the ranks of startup success, tech leadership is far from reflecting the populations its products serve. Even All Raise, which was founded with the explicit mission of supporting diverse founders, just recently appointed a Black woman, Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon, as its long-term CEO. Dixon is setting out to broaden the nonprofit’s definition of inclusion after it was helmed by its white, female founder Pam Kostka for three years.  

‘They’re not collecting stats on that’

“The end of the girlboss era? What does that even mean?” asked Rosie Nguyen in a conversation with TechCrunch. Nguyen is founder and CMO of Fanhouse, a creator platform that just raised $25 million from Andreessen Horowitz. 

Despite the prevalence of the “girlboss” in pop culture, the reality on the ground for women entrepreneurs has played out much differently. Less than 2% of venture capital funding went to all-female founding teams in 2021, marking a five-year low. 

There’s a disconnect between the evolution of feminism in the outside world, juxtaposed with the frustratingly slow rate at which Silicon Valley realizes that a woman CEO shouldn’t be a novelty. Outside of work, women fight for an intersectional feminism that’s trans-inclusive, uplifts people of color and advocates for disability rights. But in startup culture, just being a woman in and of itself is seen as subversive.

“As a female founder, it kind of stops there, because that’s impressive enough to people, but I’m like, well actually, I’m also a Vietnamese immigrant,” said Nguyen. “I was born in Vietnam. I’m Southeast Asian. Like, do you know any Vietnamese immigrant female founders in a Series A startup? I don’t know, maybe I’m the only one, but they’re not collecting stats on that… Or, alright, I’m queer, I’m bisexual, but right now, everything is so white and male that anything else is already impressive to people.”  

The confusion around what “girlboss” actually means stems from its application to a broad range of poor management decisions, from the ignorance Weiss displayed about racism in Glossier stores (unfortunately, this is rather common amongst white CEOs) to the dangerous, life-threatening fraud perpetrated by Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes. 

The “girlboss” stereotype poisons the image of the woman CEO as more and more companies run by white men earn the overwhelming majority venture funding. And of course, those startups are by no means innocent when it comes to bad management.

“If you look at someone like Adam Neumann and WeWork for example, he was covered [in the media] in a very flattering light until the very moment when it all came tumbling down,” said Watson. “I mean, there’s a number of things that went wrong throughout the course of his tenure that were never brought up. And so when you have female founders that have simple management missteps, I just feel like they’re brutalized by the media, and the culture is anxiety-inducing.”

As it is, very few women founders even have the chance to ascend to the top of their field, and those who do are largely white women who come from privileged backgrounds. The female entrepreneurs who succeed by traditional measures are vilified as “girlbosses,” while women of color seem to be left out of the discourse entirely. That’s part of why Bharat, a woman of color with South Asian heritage, says she has never identified with the term.

If Weiss, the founder who built a makeup brand that’s been hailed as the next generation’s Estee Lauder, who pioneered the blueprint for several DTC brands that came after hers, is portrayed as a failure for taking maternity leave and switching executive roles at the company she created simply because she’s a woman, that doesn’t bode well for underrepresented founders without Weiss’s advantages. 

“I think it’s like second- or third-wave feminism, like ‘lean in,” Nguyen said, referencing the catch phrase of controversial, longtime Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg, who just stepped down. “It’s the whole concept of feminism as like, why aren’t more billionaires women? It became laughable to people because the point is not having more female billionaires, the point is having less income inequality.”

The pitfalls of corporatized feminism

While the women who have been branded as archetypal “girlbosses” have largely failed to deliver on the promise of empowering women through selling makeup (or suitcases, or athletic gear), it’s worth examining why they’re even expected to do so in the first place.

“Just because a woman has been oppressed, or has been marginalized, or treated differently, doesn’t mean that she is also aware of how to fix it, or how to speak about it or is not perpetuating it herself. We’re always advocating for women to be icons … but the reality of that is it takes actual advocacy work and movement building and policy,” Bharat said.

The bar is higher for women entrepreneurs not only in terms of financial results they’re expected to deliver (cough cough, Elon Musk), or the thin margin of error they’re afforded, but also in terms of what their job description implicitly includes. The industry doesn’t look to white male founders to serve as perfect advocates for social justice issues. Indeed, the reality of our economic system is that it’s not their job, and whether we like it or not, corporate feminism isn’t going to save us from difficult ethical dilemmas either.

“I really feel for some of these leaders who are trying to learn as they are very much in the public eye,” Bharat said. “There’s very little room for error for women, and I’m not saying there weren’t mistakes. There definitely have been, but the room to recover is completely limited.”

The “Girlboss” label harms all women because it’s a reductive stereotype that detracts from the conversation around real issues in corporate culture and society. It’s a distraction that uses emerging women founders as a scapegoat for systemic issues instead of opening up a productive discussion on how we can reform workplaces to function better for all people, particularly members of marginalized communities.

By conflating all management mistakes as equal, we lose sight of each individual issue we’re trying to remedy – and by calling Weiss a “girlboss,” we risk discouraging women in leadership roles from taking risks, learning and growing. We also perpetuate the erasure of women of color in tech.

This isn’t the end of the woman founder and CEO. Instead, let’s make it the end of unrealistic expectations for women who run companies, and the hollow, corporatized feminism that comes as a result.

Luxus wants the crown jewel of your portfolio to be an actual diamond

A much-anticipated market downturn may finally be here, and investors have been preparing for it by diversifying their portfolios away from the traditional stock and bond holdings, and into alternative assets such as collectibles. Thanks to tech companies such as Masterworks (physical art), Vinovest (wine), and Rally Rd (classic cars), retail investors can now put their money into alternative assets with relative ease.

Many of these collectibles have been unlocked in the past few years, but one major market has remained difficult for tech startups to crack — luxury gems. That’s the opportunity a new fintech startup called Luxus, co-founded by two women with experience in both finance and luxury fashion, is hoping to bring to investors.

“People have been trying to make gems an investable asset class since 17th-century Venice, which had done this with gold, and nobody could figure it out,” co-founder and CEO Dana Auslander told TechCrunch in an interview. Auslander, who has spent 23 years working in the hedge fund industry, said that her background in structuring financial products informed her approach to founding Luxus with this very goal in mind.

Precious gems are non-fungible, meaning that like a precious artwork or classic car, they can’t be easily divided and retain their value, which is why Auslander thought offering investors fractional ownership in gems would be a more effective way to market them.

“As a product person, as soon as I discovered the JOBS Act and Reg A+, I was like, “this is how you do it,” Auslander said. Reg A+, introduced under the JOBS Act in 2015, allows companies to raise capital in a process similar to an IPO but with fewer reporting requirements, meaning companies typically pay less to launch an offering and can market their securities to a broader investor pool than in a traditional IPO.

Auslander teamed up with her friend, Gretchen Gunlocke Fenton, a luxury and fashion professional with experience at Glamour Magazine as well as high-end brands Tod’s and Chanel, to start Luxus last summer. The platform is officially launching today and plans to debut its first investment offering to investors later this month, pending SEC approval — a rare argyle pink diamond mined in 2016 in Kimberly, Australia, Auslander said.

Luxus has valued the diamond at $400,000 and will be offering 2,000 shares at $200 each to investors, according to a document the company shared with TechCrunch. It is launching the offering in partnership with jeweler Kwiat/Fred Leighton, which, like all the suppliers Luxus plans to work with, is handling the security and custody of the diamond itself.

Auslander said that colored diamonds, particularly pink ones, are super-rare, representing 0.001% of diamonds mined globally. Because of their scarcity, they have historically had a low correlation to traditional markets and have provided a stable return during periods of broader volatility and inflation, according to Auslander.

“This particular stone has returned four to 13% from 2005 to 2020, beating both the S&P 500 and gold by more than 200%,” Auslander said.

The company has raised $2.5 million in pre-seed funding to prepare for its launch from investors including fashion entrepreneur Veronica Beard and current and former senior executives at Blackstone, Auslander said. The company also won the NBA Full Court Pitch Competition for startups in February and got to present at the league’s All-Star Weekend, beating out a golf company and a sneaker company in front of a panel of all-male judges — an achievement Auslander recounted with pride.

Brands will pay Luxus a small fee to list their assets on the platform, and LUXUS will charge a 50-75 basis point management fee to investors. Auslander added that the platform will have a “buy it now” feature, effectively making it a sales channel for the jewelers.

Luxus co-founder and CEO Dana Auslander

Luxus co-founder and CEO Dana Auslander Image Credits: Luxus

Its target investors are similar to those participating in crypto, Auslander said — retail investors, collectible lovers, and people who are fans of events like the Met Gala or the Oscars who not only read editorial coverage of those events but also want to participate in the ownership of related assets. Institutional macro investors who want to diversify their portfolios with hard assets are also a key demographic for Luxus, she added.

Gemstone mines across the globe are predicted to continue closing as most of the gems have already been extracted, so the inherent scarcity of the product should also drive up value, according to Auslander. All the diamonds on its platform will be required to be compliant with the internationally-recognized Kimberley Process to ensure they were ethically mined, she added.

“We’re trying to create a new asset class just like Masterworks did, but we’re really much more of a commodity, and we’re not manmade. It’s a little bit more bordering the lines of commodities, luxury and collectibles,” Auslander said.

When I asked Auslander why another platform such as Masterworks hasn’t already waded into the luxury gems market, she explained that suppliers can be particularly tough to access.

“It’s really a very concentrated industry, and these are really deep relationships of mine and Gretchen’s. We have some [suppliers] as investors, we have some other brands that we’re lining up … It’s also a very risk-averse, private industry,” Auslander said.

One other key difference between Luxus and a platform like Masterworks is that Luxus plans to use a Series LLC structure, grouping assets for accounting purposes, rather than offering each gem as a separate entity, Auslander explained. The benefit to the Series LLC structure is that it allows for greater efficiency and speed, she said, noting that the holding period for gemstones is typically much shorter than it is for artwork, at 18 months to three years, because the market moves much faster.

“I think in the next 18 months, three years, five years, there will be substantial institutional demand — we just want to make sure that we are able to come up with a supply,” Auslander said.

Samsung teases videocalling on its next foldable during the Oscars

It was South Korea’s — rather than Netflix’s — night at the Oscars, thanks to Bong Joon-ho’s biting class satire Parasite, which won best picture (among other well-deserved gongs)

But tech giant Samsung appears to have been hoping to steal a little of the national limelight: The Korean phone maker chose a prime Oscars ad slot to show off a 360-degree view of its next foldable, running it as a teaser for its Unpacked 2020 unboxing event — which takes place in San Francisco tomorrow.

The ad shows the flip phones from all angles, opening and closing while the Comic Strip sounds of Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot pop and crackle in the background.

Notably we see the foldable propping itself up, with the screen half or three-quarters open, for a hands-free face-time style chat. (In case you were wondering what the point of a flip phone might be in 2020.)

There’s also an eye-popping iridescent purple colorway on show that seems intended to make the most of the screen-concealing clamshell design. A black version does a much better job of blending into the background.

And if you’re wondering how you’ll screen incoming calls when the clam is closed the ad shows a micro display that tells you the name of the person calling. tl;dr you can still ghost your frenemies while packing a flip.

We’ve seen renders of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip leak online before but this is an official full view of the foldable Samsung hopes will spark a retro fashion craze for clamshell flip phones. (See also the rebooted Motorola Razr.)

Samsung will also of course be hoping this foldable can bend without immediately breaking

Stay tuned for all the details from Samsung Unpacked 2020 as we get them (we’re most keen to find out the price-tag for this foldable) — including our first look at the next flagship Galaxy S device. TechCrunch’s intrepid hardware editor, Brian Heater, will be on the ground in San Francisco tomorrow to get hands on with all the new kit so you don’t have to.

DOJ reportedly warns Academy about changing Oscar rules to exclude streaming

It seems that the Department of Justice has thoughts on whether Netflix movies should be eligible for Oscars.

Variety reports that the DOJ has sent the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences a letter expressing concern about potential changes to the eligibility requirements for the awards.

Why is this something the DOJ would worry about? Apparently the letter says, “In the event that the Academy — an association that includes multiple competitors in its membership — establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns.”

This comes after Netflix’s “Roma” was seen as a frontrunner for this year’s Best Picture award. And although it ultimately lost out to “Green Book,” the movie still took home Oscars for Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography.

Director Steven Spielberg is reportedly pushing for changes to the Oscar rules, perhaps by creating a requirement that movies play exclusively in theaters for four weeks in order if they want to be eligible.

Spielberg hasn’t said anything publicly about these reports, and movie executive Jeffrey Katzenberg claimed that Spielberg told him, “I absolutely did not say that.” But it’s spurred a broader discussion about Netflix’s impact on the film business, and seems to have prompted Netflix to declare in a tweet, “We love cinema” — while also highlighting some of the ways the service makes movies more accessible.

Variety says the Academy confirmed that it has received a letter. Its Board of Governors will hold its annual award rules meeting on April 23.

We’ve reached out to the DOJ and the Academy for comment and will update if we hear back.

Hollywood gets its own open source foundation

Open source is everywhere now, so maybe it’s no surprise that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (yes, the organization behind the Oscars) today announced that it has partnered with the Linux Foundation to launch the Academy Software Foundation, a new open source foundation for developers in the motion picture and media space.

The founding members include a number of high-powered media and tech companies, including Animal Logic, Blue Sky Studios, Cisco, DreamWorks, Epic Games, Google, Intel, SideFX, Walt Disney Studios and Weta Digital.

“Open Source Software has enabled developers and engineers to create the amazing effects and animation that we see every day in the moves, on television and in video games,” said Linux Foundation CEO Jim Zemlin.” With the Academy Software Foundation, we are providing a home for this community of open source developers to collaborate and drive the next wave of innovation across the motion picture and broader media industries.”

The Academy Software Foundation’s mission statement notes that it wants to be a neural forum “to coordinate cross-project efforts; to provide a common built and test infrastructure; and to provide individuals and organizations a clear path to participation in advancing out open source ecosystem.”

According to a survey by the Academy, 84 percent of the industry uses open source software already, mostly for animation and visual effects. The group also found that what’s holding back open source development in the media industry is the siloed nature of the development teams across the different companies in this ecosystem.

“The creation of the Academy Software Foundation is an important and exciting step of the motion picture industry,” said Nick Cannon, the chief technology officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios. “By increasing collaboration within our industry, it allows all of us to pool our efforts on common foundation technologies, drive new standards for interoperability and increase the pace of innovation.”

The fact that even Hollywood is now embracing open source and its collaborative nature is yet another sign of how the world of software development has changed in recent years. Over the last few years, traditional enterprises realized that whatever technology they developed to run their software infrastructure isn’t what actually delivers value to their customers, so it made sense to collaborate in this area, even with their fiercest competitors  — and the same, it seems, now holds true for the Hollywood studios, too (or at least for those that have now joined the new foundation).