Startups

Kik launches beta product after $100 million ICO

Posted by | Android, Apps, blockchains, cryptocurrencies, distributed computing, e-commerce, ethereum, Kik, kin, Startups, TC | No Comments

Kik made waves last year after a successful $100 million ICO. Now the company has released its first beta product related to its Kin token. Called Kinit, it’s a simple wallet that enables users to earn, store, and spend its tokens.

“Kinit is a fun, easy way to earn Kin, a new cryptocurrency made for your digital life. Earning Kin is just like playing a game, only better, because you get rewarded for completing fun daily activities like surveys, quizzes, interactive videos and more,” reads the Google Play Store description. You can download the app for Android here.

The Kin token is unique for a few reasons. First it is not a traditional ERC-20 token and is instead uses Ethereum for liquidity and the on the Stellar network to improve transaction speed. Further, the company is spending a great deal – about $3 million – to get developers to develop on the token through its KinEcosystem site. The Kinit app is the first effort to get normal users to adopt the tool.

The app makes it possible for users to generate a few dollars in value per day and then exchange those dollars for gift cards and perks. According to CCN, Kik has created a product without a business model and instead it wants to drive the adoption of the token through giveaways.

“Kinit is the first publicly available app dedicated to Kin. Our goal with Kinit is to get Kin into more consumers’ hands. It’s a major step towards making crypto truly consumer-friendly through fun and engaging experiences, and we plan to learn and iterate based on real-world user behavior. We’re excited to get even more people earning and spending Kin — all on the Kin Blockchain,” wrote Rod McLeod, Kik’s VP of communications. The app currently asks you to complete surveys in order to get discounts and gift card codes for products.

With the rise of the product-less ICO it’s clear that Kik has the right idea. By encouraging usage they drive up the token price and token velocity and by launching a general beta full of cutesy imagery and text they are able to avoid the hard questions about developer adoption until far into the future. While the KinIt app is probably not what most Kin holders wanted to see, it’s at least an interim solution while the team builds out sturdier systems.

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Airobotics makes autonomous drones in a box

Posted by | Aircraft, aviation, drone, Emerging-Technologies, Flirtey, Gadgets, Startups, surveillance, TC, unmanned aerial vehicles | No Comments

Not far from Tel Aviv a drone flies low over a gritty landscape of warehouses and broken pavement. It slowly approaches its home — a refrigerator-sized box inside a mesh fence, and hovers, preparing to dock. It descends like some giant bug, whining all the way, and disappears into its base where it will be cleaned, recharged and sent back out into the air. This drone is doing the nearly impossible: it’s flying and landing autonomously and can fly again and again without human intervention — and it’s doing it all inside a self-contained unit that is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time.

The company that makes the drone, Airobotics, invited us into their headquarters to see their products in action. In this video we talk with the company about how the drones work, how their clients use the drones for mapping and surveillance in hard-to-reach parts of the world and the future of drone autonomy. It’s a fascinating look into technology that will soon be appearing in jungles, deserts and war zones near you.

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Kapwing is Adobe for the meme generation

Posted by | Adobe, Apps, funding, Imgur, Kapwing, Media, Memes, Mobile, Recent Funding, Social, Startups, TC, video editor | No Comments

Need to resize a video for IGTV? Add subtitles for Twitter? Throw in sound effects for YouTube? Or collage it with other clips for the Instagram feed? Kapwing lets you do all that and more for free from a mobile browser or website. This scrappy new startup is building the vertical video era’s creative suite full of editing tools for every occasion.

Pronounced “Ka-pwing,” like the sound of a ricocheted bullet, the company was founded by two former Google Image Search staffers. Now after six months of quiet bootstrapping, it’s announcing a $1.7 million seed round led by Kleiner Perkins.

Kapwing hopes to rapidly adapt to shifting memescape and its fragmented media formats, seizing on opportunities like creators needing to turn their long-form landscape videos vertical for Instagram’s recently launched IGTV. The free version slaps a Kapwing.com watermark on all its exports for virality, but users can pay $20 a month to remove it.

While sites like Imgur and Imgflip offer lightweight tools for static memes and GIFs, “the tools and community for doing that for video are kinda inaccessible,” says co-founder and CEO Julia Enthoven. “You have something you install on your computer with fancy hardware. You should able to create and riff off of people,” even if you just have your phone, she tells me. Indeed, 100,000 users are already getting crafty with Kapwing.

“We want to make these really relevant trending formats so anyone can jump in,” Enthoven declares. “Down the line, we want to make a destination for consuming that content.”

Kapwing co-founders Eric Lu and Julia Enthoven

Enthoven and Eric Lu both worked at Google Image Search in the lauded Associate Product Manager (APM) program that’s minted many future founders for companies like Quip, Asana and Polyvore. But after two years, they noticed a big gap in the creative ecosystem. Enthoven explains that “The idea came from using outdated tools for making the types of videos people want to make for social media — short-form, snackable video you record with your phone. It’s so difficult to make those kinds of videos in today’s editors.”

So the pair of 25-year-olds left in September to start Kapwing. They named it after their favorite sound effect from the Calvin & Hobbes comics when the make-believe tiger would deflect toy gunshots from his best pal. “It’s an onomatopoeia, and that’s sort of cool because video is all about movement and sound.”

After starting with a meme editor for slapping text above and below images, Kapwing saw a sudden growth spurt as creators raced to convert landscape videos for vertical IGTV. Now it has a wide range of tools, with more planned.

The current selection includes:

  • Meme Maker
  • Subtitles
  • Multi-Video Montage Maker
  • Video Collage
  • Video Filters
  • Image To Video Converter
  • Add Overlaid Text To Video
  • Add Music To Video With MP3 Uploads
  • Resize Video
  • Reverse Video
  • Loop Video
  • Trim Video
  • Mute Video
  • Stop Motion Maker
  • Sound Effects Maker

Kapwing definitely has some annoying shortcomings. There’s an 80mb limit on uploads, so don’t expect to be messing with much 4K videos or especially long clips. You can’t subtitle a GIF, and the meme maker flipped vertical photos sideways without warning. It also lacks some of the slick tools that Snapchat has developed, like a magic eraser for Photoshopping stuff out and a background changer, or the automatic themed video editing found in products like Google Photos.

The No. 1 thing it needs is a selective cropping tool. Instead of letting you manually move the vertical frame around inside a landscape video so you always catch the action, it just grabs the center. That left me staring at blank space between myself and an interview subject when I uploaded this burger robot startup video. It’s something apps like RotateNFlip and Flixup already offer. Hopefully the funding that also comes from Shasta, Shrug Capital, Sinai, Village Global, and ZhenFund will let it tackle some of these troubles.

Beyond meme-loving teens and semi-pro creators, Kapwing has found an audience amongst school teachers. The simplicity and onscreen instructions make it well-suited for young students, and it works on Chromebooks because there’s no need to download software.

The paid version has found some traction with content marketers and sponsored creators who don’t want a distracting watermark included. That business model is always in danger of encroachment from free tools, though, so Kapwing hopes to also become a place to view the meme content it exports. That network model is more defensible if it gains a big enough audience, and could be monetized with ads. Though it will put it in competition with Imgur, Reddit and the big dogs like Instagram.

“We aspire to become a hub for consumption,” Enthoven concluded. “Consume, get an idea, and share with each other.”

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Pinterest is adding a way for users to collaborate on boards

Posted by | Mobile, Pinterest, Startups | No Comments

Pinterest is trying to further tap its popularity as a place to plan events, this time adding ways for users to collaborate across boards that are baked directly into the app.

Group boards will have their own designated feed, where users will be able to communicate with others collaborating on that board and also get updates on new member additions or added pins. There are also the other typical social structures you’d expect on an app these days, including @-mentions or liking comments. It’s another step to get people onto Pinterest and sticking around as they look to plan events, and create more ways to make the platform more and more sticky. It’s also another quality-of-life improvement that Pinterest seems to have needed for quite some time.

It’s those kinds of events — weddings, parties and others — that propelled Pinterest initially to become one of the larger social networks in the early 2010s. The company late last year said it had more than 200 million monthly active users, which while small compared to the likes of Instagram or Facebook, serves as a hub for a different kind of user behavior than you might find on those other platforms. The majority of the content on Pinterest is high-resolution products from businesses, where people will search for or save those products as they look to plan future life events.

Pinterest has tried to position itself as one of the best ways to discover new ideas, whether that’s stumbling upon something in a primary feed or finding something through searching. Over time, it’s added more and more tools to try to get people to come back more regularly, and if it continues to improve those recommendation engines, it can continue to run that feedback loop and keep users more and more attached to the platform. Adding a sort of light social pressure from friends that are sharing ideas and looking for feedback is one way to do that, in addition to it generally being useful.

All that is good for its pitch to advertisers as well. Pinterest, in addition to trying to cater to that unique kind of user behavior, is also trying to sell itself to advertisers as a platform where they can reach potential customers through ways they wouldn’t be able to with primary advertising channels like Facebook or Google. By making the platform more sticky, it can go back to those advertisers and offer them better engagement metrics and show that users stick around and are paying closer attention to content on Pinterest, which can in turn drive that additional value to advertisers.

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Ledger finally has a good app for its crypto wallet

Posted by | Europe, Gadgets, Ledger, Ledger Wallet, Startups | No Comments

French startup Ledger has been working for a while on a brand new app to manage your crypto assets on your computer. The company is designing and manufacturing one of the most secure hardware wallets out there.

While it’s clear that security has always been the first focus of the company, the user experience has been lacking, especially on the software front. The company launched a new app called Ledger Live to handle everything you used to do with Chrome apps before.

That’s right, before today, the company relied on Google Chrome for its desktop apps. You had to install the browser first, and then install a new app for each cryptocurrency. There was also a main app to update the firmware. It could quickly become a mess.

Now, everything is centralized in a single app. After downloading and installing the app on Windows, macOS or Linux, you can either configure the app with an existing Ledger device or configure a new Ledger wallet.

The app first checks the integrity of your device and then lets you manage the device. You can upgrade the firmware and install apps on your Ledger Nano S or Ledger Blue from the “Manager” tab.

More interestingly, you can now add all your wallets to the Ledger Live app. You won’t have to switch from one app to another to view your wallets. When you click the add button, the app will try to retrieve existing wallets on your device. You can also generate a new set of keys (and a new wallet) from there.

Once you’ve added all your wallets, you can get an overview of your entire portfolio. The app gets historical pricing information from popular exchanges, such as Kraken and Bitfinex. You can also click on individual accounts to see how a specific cryptocurrency has evolved over time.

The portfolio interface looks like a Coinbase account. It’s well-designed and it’s a great way to get a quick look of your accounts.

Many Ledger users have been using tracker websites and apps. These services let you enter a cryptocurrency and the amount you own to get an overview of everything you own independently of the wallet.

Ledger’s new app partially replace tracker services. If you don’t need to check your balance from your phone, you can get enough information with the Ledger app. You can see your balance without having to plug your Ledger device.

The company is already working on new features. You’ll be able to view and manager ERC20 tokens in the future. So if you invested in a bunch of obscure ICOs, your tokens will be there too.

Ledger also told me that you could imagine an integration with decentralized exchanges eventually. This way, you would be able to send tokens to an address and get another set of tokens back on another Ledger-generated address. It would be a great way to exchange cryptocurrencies without signing up to a centralized exchange and leaving the Ledger app.

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ANGLR raises $3.3 million to create a Fitbit for fishing

Posted by | ambient intelligence, Android, anglr, Apps, arkansas, computing, Fishing, gps, Internet of Things, pittsburgh, Software, Startups, TC | No Comments

ANGLR, a tracking system for fisherpersons, has raised a $3.3 million Series A to add AR and wearables to their already impressive package of fishing trip management and devices to help record fishing data. That’s right… they caught a big one!

Nic Wilson and Landon Bloomer started this Pittsburgh-based company to build an app that can help record and plan your fishing trips. The system has been around for five years and they’ve logged thousands of catches. They’re releasing “patent-pending connected tracking accessories” to record catch locations so you don’t have to pull out your phone while in the middle of reeling in a real beauty.

“Most fishing apps let users record catches. Our platform is built around trips,” said Wilson. “Mid-July our users will be sharing the first comprehensive summaries of fishing trips. The catch is only the result of many variables coming into alignment. Our system quantifies them We work with the top weather and water data providers and have spent years mastering GPS and pathing under many fishing scenarios.”

The cash, raised from KB Partners with participation from Brunswick Corporation, will help them grow their selection of wearable devices.

“All fishing apps require some form of manual data entry. We’re automating it with the word’s first connected accessories and third party integrations,” said Wilson.

The team started with some pretty basic technology and are now expanding past their modest beginnings.

“Our first prototype was an android phone mounted to a fishing rod, which spurred a network of resources in Western PA who wanted to help get it done,” said Wilson. Over the past few years they’ve perfected their app and they’re looking to create software and hardware to “become the center of fishing intelligence.” A noble goal, especially if they can get the one that got away.

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PlayVS CEO Delane Parnell to talk high school esports at Disrupt SF

Posted by | delane parnell, Disrupt, disrupt sf 2018, Education, Gaming, playvs, Sports, Startups, TC | No Comments

The gaming world is evolving at a rapid clip. No longer is the idea of the lonely gamer a reality. Twitch and Discord have brought gamers together and given everyone the opportunity to see just how talented some of these young players are. Meanwhile, publishers and esports organizations have built out an infrastructure.

But there is plenty left to do, and PlayVS founder and CEO Delane Parnell is well aware of this.

We’re amped to announce that Parnell is joining us at TC Disrupt SF in September to talk about how high school esports could pave the way for even more growth in this industry.

PlayVS is a startup that has partnered with the NFHS to bring esports to the high school level, providing infrastructure around scheduling, refs, rules and state tournaments. Not only does this allow high school students to get extracurricular experience doing what they love (playing video games), but it offers a new way for esports orgs and colleges to look at the bright young talent coming up through the ranks.

PlayVS launched in April after securing its partnership with the NFHS. Through this partnership, the company will be able to bring organized esports to more than 18 states and approximately 5 million students across 5,000 high schools.

The company has since raised $15 million in Series A, and the inaugural season begins in October of this year.

We’re absolutely thrilled to get the chance to sit down with Parnell to discuss the launch of the platform and hear about how high school esports could set the tone for the industry as a whole.

Passes to Disrupt SF are available here at the Early Bird rate until July 25.

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All charges against ex-Vungle CEO Zain Jaffer, including lewd act on a child, dismissed by judge

Posted by | Advertising Tech, Mobile, Startups, TC, vungle, Zain Jaffer | No Comments

All charges against former Vungle CEO Zain Jaffer, including sexual abuse of a child, have been dropped. According to a statement from Jaffer’s representatives, San Mateo County Judge Stephanie Garratt dismissed the charges today. Jaffer was arrested last October and charged with several serious offenses, including a lewd act on one of his children, child abuse and battery on a police officer.

The dismissal is confirmed by San Mateo County Superior Court’s online records. The case (number 17NF012415A) had been scheduled to go to jury trial in late August.

Jaffer, whose full name is Zainali Jaffer, said in a statement that:

Being wrongfully accused of these crimes has been a terrible experience, which has had a deep and lasting impact on my family and the employees of my business. Those closest to me knew I was innocent and were confident that all of the charges against me would eventually be dismissed. I want to thank the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office for carefully reviewing and considering all of the information and evidence in this case and dropping all the charges. I am also incredibly grateful for the continued and unwavering support of my wife and family, and look forward to spending some quality time with them.

Vungle, the fast-rising mobile ad startup Jaffer co-founded in 2011, removed him from the company immediately after they learned about the charges in October. TechCrunch has contacted Vungle and the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office for comment.

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Original Stitch’s new Bodygram will measure your body

Posted by | Android, Apps, bra size, ceo, Clothing, machine learning, Mobile, online shopping, original stitch, sewing, shapescale, shirt, Startups, TC | No Comments

After years of teasing, Original Stitch has officially launched their Bodygram service and will be rolling it out this summer. The system can scan your body based on front and side photos and will create custom shirts with your precise measurements.

“Bodygram gives you full body measurements as accurate as taken by professional tailors from just two photos on your phone. Simply take a front photo and a side photo and upload to our cloud and you will receive a push notification within minutes when your Bodygram sizing report is ready,” said CEO Jin Koh. “In the sizing report you will find your full body measurements including neck, sleeve, shoulder, chest, waist, hip, etc. Bodygram is capable of producing sizing result within 99 percent accuracy compared to professional human tailors.”

The technology is a clever solution to the biggest problem in custom clothing: fit. While it’s great to find a service that will tailor your clothing based on your measurements, often these measurements are slightly off and can affect the cut of the shirt or pants. Right now, Koh said, his team offers free returns if the custom shirts don’t fit.

Further, the technology is brand new and avoids many of the pitfalls of the original body-scanning tech. For example, Bodygram doesn’t require you to get into a Spandex onesie like most systems do and it can capture 40 measurements with only two full-body photos.

“Bodygram is the first sizing technology that works on your phone capable of giving you highly accurate sizing result from just two photos with you wearing normal clothing on any background,” said Koh. “Legacy technologies on the market today require you to wear a very tight-fitting spandex suit, take 360 photos of you and require a plain background to work. Other technologies give you accuracy with five inches deviation in accuracy while Bodygram is the first technology to give you sub-one-inch accuracy. We are the first to use both computer vision and machine learning techniques to solve the problem of predicting your body shape underneath the clothes. Once we predicted your body shape we wrote our proprietary algorithm to calculate the circumferences and the length for each part of the body.”

Koh hopes the technology will reduce returns.

“It’s not uncommon to see clothing return rates reaching in the 40-50 percent range,” he said. “Apparel clothing sales is among the lowest penetration in online shopping.”

The system also can be used to measure your body over time in order to collect health and weight data as well as help other manufacturers produce products that fit you perfectly. The app will launch this summer on Android and iOS. The company will be licensing the technology to other providers that will be able to create custom fits based on just a few side and front photos. Sales at the company grew 175 percent this year and they now have 350,000 buyers that are already creating custom shirts.

A number of competitors are in this interesting space, most notably ShapeScale, a company that appeared at TechCrunch Disrupt and promised a full body scan using a robotic scale. This, however, is the first commercial use of standard photos to measure your appendages and thorax and it’s an impressive step forward in the world of custom clothing.

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OnePlus 6 Red goes on sale July 10

Posted by | Gadgets, Mobile, OnePlus, oneplus 6, smartphones, Startups, TC | No Comments

Folks riding the OnePlus bandwagon will be pleased to learn that the phone maker today introduced a red version of the OnePlus 6.

The company is calling the phone the OnePlus 6 Red, and the new model follows on the success of the OnePlus 5T Lava Red.

Here’s what OnePlus CEO Pete Lau had to say in a statement:

Deciding on this color was not without its challenges. We see individual colors as a way to express certain feelings or ideas. To us, red exudes enthusiasm and personality. It also represents an inner confidence and courage. There is a kind of power in red, which the OnePlus logo has always tried to articulate. We hope you feel similarly empowered when you hold the OnePlus 6 Red this summer.

The OnePlus 6 debuted in May with a starting price of $529. Specs include a 6.28-inch display at a 19:9 aspect ratio, a Snapdragon 845 chip, 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage and Oxygen OS on the front end.

OnePlus has impressed with its ability to remain competitive in a landscape where Apple and Samsung reign supreme. Even HTC, the old king of the smartphone castle, has today announced that it’s cutting 1,500 jobs.

The OnePlus 6 Red will be available starting July 10, with sales in India beginning on July 16. The price will be the same as other OnePlus 6 variants.

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