Announcing TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield Latin America in São Paulo on Nov. 8

TechCrunch is excited to announce that the Startup Battlefield Latin America is coming to São Paulo on November 8 this year. This is the first event TechCrunch has ever held in Latin America, and we are all in to make it a memorable one to support the fast-emerging startup ecosystem in the region.

The Startup Battlefield is TechCrunch’s premier startup competition, which over the past 12 years has placed 750 companies on stage to pitch top VCs and TechCrunch editors. Those founders have gone on to raise more than $8 billion and produce more than 100 exits. Startup Battlefield Latin America aims to add 15 great founders from Latin America to those elite ranks.

Here’s how the competition works. Founders may apply now to participate in Startup Battlefield. Any early stage (pre-A round) company with a working product headquartered in an eligible Latin American country (see list below) may apply. Applications close August 6. TechCrunch editors will review the applications and, based on which applicants have the strongest potential for a big exit of major societal impact, pick 15 to compete on November 8. TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield team will work intensively with each founding team to hone their six-minute pitch to perfection.

Then it’s game day. The 15 companies will take the stage at São Paulo’s Tomie Ohtake Institute in front of a live audience of 500 people to pitch top-tier VC judges. The judges and TechCrunch editors will pick five for a finals round. Those lucky finalists will face a fresh team of judges, and one will emerge as the winner of the first-ever Startup Battlefield Latin America. The winner takes home $25,000 and a trip for two to the next Disrupt, where they can exhibit free of charge in the Startup Alley and may also qualify to participate in the Startup Battlefield at Disrupt. Sweet deal. All Startup Battlefield sessions will be captured on video and posted on TechCrunch.com.

It’s an experience no founder would want to miss, considering the opportunity to join the ranks of Battlefield greats from years past, including Dropbox, Yammer, Mint, Getaround, CloudFlare, Vurb and many more.

Get that application started now.

Here’s the need-to-know about qualifying to apply:

  • Have an early-stage company in “launch” stage
  • Headquartered in one of these countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela (Central America) Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama (Caribbean – including dependencies and constituent entities), Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.
  • Have a fully working product/beta reasonably close to, or in, production
  • Have received limited press or publicity to date
  • Have no known intellectual property conflicts
  • Apply by Aug. 6, 2018, at 5 p.m. PST

Tickets to attend Startup Battlefield Latin America will go on sale soon. Interested in sponsoring the event, contact us here

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The hottest investors at The Europas, & your specially discounted ticket

In partnership with TechCrunch, The Europas Conference & Awards, features smaller breakout sessions on key subjects for startups, followed by a glittering awards show for the hottest startups in Europe, based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. Plus loads of networking opportunities with investors, and the super-fun Pitch Rolette pitch competition.

Just some of the investors coming to The Europas this Tuesday, July 3, in London include:

Alliott Cole, Octopus Ventures

Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel Partners

Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp

Damir Bandolo, Columbus Capital

Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital

Eze Vidra, Reimagine Ventures

George McDonuagh, KR1 (Blockchain/Crypto)

Jamie Burke, Outlier Ventures (Blockchain/Crypto)

Jason Ball, Qualcomm Ventures

Jeremy Yap, Angel Investor

Joe White, Entrepreneur First

Maria Wagner, Beringea

Michael Jackson, Mangrove Capital Partners

Nancy Fechnay, Angel Investor (Blockchain/Crypto)

Paul Dowling, Dreamstake Ventures

Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures (Blockchain/Crypto)

Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners

Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures

Stephanie Hospital, OneRagtime

Suzanne Ashman, LocalGlobe

Thomas Graham, TLDR Capital

Tugce Ergul, Angel Labs

Vishal Gulati, Draper Esprit

Wendy Tan White, BGF

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with a selected 800 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

Here’s the agenda.

And here’s 14 reasons to attend The Europas:

• Ultra-high quality Investors, speakers & featured guests

• New startup founders brought into the eco-system

• New deal-flow for investors

• Our “Diversity Matters” Free pass bringing in more women and POC

• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A

• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics

• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking

• Convivial, relaxed atmosphere conducive to networking

• Key press including WSJ, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, attending

• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene

• Content independently curated by journalists

• The only truly independent, industry-backed awards in Europe

• Percentage of profits will be donated to charity

• All on one day to maximize your time in London

europas8

Plus, as a special offer for TechCrunch readers, we have discounted tickets of up to 60% off:

Daytime conference plus evening awards tickets (£250, 60% discount) (valid all day, July 3rd) – this ticket includes the daytime conference and the awards dinner with ceremony and after party. It includes refreshments and lunch during the conference, and the awards drinks reception and dinner.

Daytime only, Unconference tickets (£75, 60% discount) – this ticket includes the afternoon Unconference only.

Evening Awards-only tickets (£195, 60% discount) – this ticket is for the awards dinner with ceremony and after party. It includes the awards drinks reception and dinner.

If you wish to sponsor the events or to purchase a table for 10 or 12 guest or a half table for 5 guests, please contact petra@theeuropas.com

The conference and awards are supported by TechCrunch, the official media partner. Attendees, nominees, and winners will get deep discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.

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Benchmark’s Mitch Lasky will reportedly step down from Snap’s board of directors

Benchmark partner Mitch Lasky, who has served on Snap’s board of directors since December 2012, is not expected to stand for re-election to Snap’s board of directors and will thus be stepping down, according to a report by The Information.

Early investors stepping down from the board of directors — or at least not seeking re-election — isn’t that uncommon as once-private companies grow into larger public ones. Benchmark partner Peter Fenton did not seek re-election for Twitter’s board of directors in April last year. As Snap continues to navigate its future, especially as it has declined precipitously since going public and now sits at a valuation of around $16.5 billion. Partners with an expertise in the early-stage and later-stage startup life cycle may end up seeing themselves more useful taking a back seat and focusing on other investments. The voting process for board member re-election happens during the company’s annual meeting, so we’ll get more information when an additional proxy filing comes out ahead of the meeting later this year.

Benchmark is, or at least was at the time of going public last year, one of Snap’s biggest shareholders. According to the company’s 424B filing prior to going public in March last year, Benchmark held ownership of 23.1% of Snap’s Class B common stock and 8.2% of Snap’s Class A common stock. Lasky has been with Benchmark since April 2007, and also serves on the boards of a number of gaming companies like Riot Games and thatgamecompany, the creators of PlayStation titles flower and Journey. At the time, Snap said in its filing that Lasky was “qualified to serve as a member of our board of directors due to his extensive experience with social media and technology companies, as well as his experience as a venture capitalist investing in technology companies.”

The timing could be totally coincidental, but an earlier Recode report suggested Lasky had been talking about stepping down in future funds for Benchmark. The firm only recently wrapped up a very public battle with Uber, which ended up with Benchmark selling a significant stake in the company and a new CEO coming in to replace co-founder Travis Kalanick. Benchmark hired its first female general partner, Sarah Tavel, earlier this year.

We’ve reached out to both Snap and a representative from Benchmark for comment and will update the story when we hear back.

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WhatsApp copies Telegram to add one-way ‘broadcast’ mode to group chats

“Good artists borrow great artists steal” is a phrase that Facebook seems acutely aware of.

It’s common to speak of Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo-app-now-social-network, borrowing from Snapchat, but now Facebook’s WhatsApp chat app is increasingly drawing its innovation from others such as Telegram.

This week, WhatsApp outed a new feature for its groups that is essentially a replica of Telegram’s channels — that is, a one-way broadcast communication stream.

Telegram channels are popular for setting up a broadcast news feed that allows people to sign up to get alerts from channel admins, who might be news agencies, companies, schools, public interest groups or more. Now WhatsApp is adding the feature to gives its message app new use cases.

Actually, as is often the case for WhatsApp, users have unofficially adopted channel-like behavior for some time. Last year, for example, there were reports of a rural journalist using the messaging app to report and broadcast local news. Doing that is suddenly a whole lot easier through this new ‘broadcast-only’ feature.

“One way people use groups is to receive important announcements and information, including parents and teachers at schools, community centers, and non-profit organizations. We’ve introduced this new setting so admins can have better tools for these use cases,” WhatsApp wrote in a short blog post.

Still, the fact that WhatsApp requires users to provide a phone number to join groups — anyone’s number can be looked up by any group member — is one issue when it comes to creating or joining public groups. Telegram has introduced usernames, which mitigate that issue, but still, the app doesn’t have anything like WhatsApp’s scale which is a crucial consideration when deciding which app to plump for.

WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion active users, more than 200 million of which are in India, whereas Telegram recently passed 200 million active users worldwide.

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California man arrested for sending death threats to FCC’s Ajit Pai over net neutrality

While many people in this country are angry with current chairman of the FCC Ajit Pai, arguably with good reason, it’s unfortunate that at least one has descended to the level of sending credible death threats and, unsurprisingly, has subsequently been arrested.

Shortly after the FCC voted in December to nullify the agency’s 2015 net neutrality rules, Norwalk resident named Markara Man contacted Pai several times threatening him and his family.

According to a Justice Department press release, Man first told Pai that he was responsible for the death of a kid who had killed herself because of the loss of net neutrality. Next he sent a list of locations around Arlington, where the chairman lives, and threatening to kill members of his family. The third apparently was just an image of a framed photo of Pai’s family.

This clearly rises above the low-level — yet also deeply inappropriate — casual slurs against the chairman one sees in practically every discussion of FCC issues, including this website. As such it was investigated by the FBI, which traced the emails to Man’s location and confronted him.

He admitted to sending the emails in order to “scare” Pai, which I can only imagine it did. He’s been charged with the incredibly wordy crime of “threatening to murder a member of the immediate family of a U.S. official with the intent to intimidate or interfere with such official while engaged in the performance of official duties, or with the intent to retaliate against such official on account of the performance of official duties.” If convicted he could face up to 10 years, but that’s all up in the air still.

Listen: as you may be able to tell from TechCrunch’s own coverage of FCC issues and net neutrality (mostly by myself), I’m no fan of Chairman Pai’s, though I try my best to stick to the facts — which, helpfully, are also largely anti-Pai. But threatening the family of the man is, I hardly need say, taking it much too far. Not only is it reprehensible on its face, but it feeds a narrative of spite and ignorance that works counter to the very goals the threat-maker evidently espouses.

Net neutrality is a serious issue and the current administration’s elimination of the 2015 rules is a perfectly good reason to protest and, indeed, take Pai personally to task, since he is the foremost architect of our present situation. By all means call your elected officials, make net neutrality an issue in the 2018 midterms, and make your voice heard. But for everyone’s sake keep it civil.

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Here’s what it was like to stumble into Netflix and Lyft’s activation for GLOW at “Muscle Beach”

Today at “Muscle Beach” in Venice, Calif., Netflix and Lyft joined forces for a promotional campaign in support of the streaming media site’s (really excellent) dramatization of the origin story for the women’s wrestling league — GLOW (or the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling).

Your intrepid reporter was taking a walk on the beach and stumbled upon the marketing stunt (which was kind of genius).

For those of y’all who don’t know, Muscle Beach is sort of a mecca for weight lifters and body builders — including, back in the 80s, a young Ah-nold Schwarzenegger. A history that made it an ideal spot to celebrate Netflix’s (pretty terrific) ode to all things new wave-d, hair metal-ed, neon accented, high waisted, cocaine addled and muscle bound.

Members of the cast posed for pictures, and wrestlers engaged in training sessions and eighties themed exercise classes throughout the day.

The activation will be up for the next week and included a Reebok pop up with limited edition 80s styles; a photo booth and costumes for pictures; free copies of Paper Magazine and trading cards emblazoned with the pictures of each of the most popular characters from the show.

The day wasn’t without incident. Some muscle beach goers got into a war of words with security over the event’s unannounced takeover of the basketball courts adjacent to the “beach”.

The second season of “GLOW” dropped today on Netflix.

 

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What we know about Maryland’s controversial facial recognition database

When police had difficulty identifying the man who they believed opened fire on a newsroom in Maryland, killing five people, they turned to one of the most controversial yet potent tools in the state’s law enforcement arsenal.

As the New York Times reports, Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare’s department failed to ID its suspect through fingerprinting. The department then sent a picture of the suspect to the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center which combed through one of the nation’s largest databases of mug shots and driver’s license photos in search of a match.

That database is the source of some debate. Maryland has some of the most aggressive facial recognition policies in the nation, according to a national report from Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy & Technology, and that practice is powered by one central system: a pool of face data known as the Maryland Image Repository System (MIRS).

For facial recognition searches, Maryland police have access to three million state mug shots, seven million state driver’s license photos and an additional 24.9 million mug shots from a national FBI database. The state’s practice of face recognition searches began in 2011, expanding in 2013 to incorporate the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration’s existing driver’s license database. The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) describes MIRS “as a digitized mug shot book used by law enforcement agencies throughout Maryland in the furtherance of their law enforcement investigation duties.”

According to the Georgetown report, “It’s unclear if the [Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services] ‘scrubs’ its mug shot database to eliminate people who were never charged, had charges dropped or dismissed, or who were found innocent.”

In a letter to Maryland’s House Appropriations and Senate Budget and Taxation Committees in late 2017, DPSCS Secretary Stephen T. Moyer notes that the software “has drawn criticism over privacy concerns.” In that report, the state notes that images uploaded to MIRS are not stored in the database and that “the user’s search results are saved under their session and are not available to any other user.” DPSCS provides these details about the software:

“MIRS is an off- the- shelf software program developed by Dataworks Plus. Images are uploaded into the system from MVA, DPSCS inmate case records, and mugshot photos sent into the DPSCS Criminal Justice System-Central Repository (CJIS-CR) from law enforcement agencies throughout the State at the time of an offender’s arrest and booking. Members of law enforcement are able to upload an image to MIRS and that image is compared to the images within the system to determine the highest probability that the uploaded image may relate to an MVA and/or DPSCS image within MIRS.”

In the 2017 fiscal year, DPSCS paid Dataworks Plus $185,124.24 to maintain the database. The report declined to answer questions about how many users are authorized to access the MIRS system (estimates in the Baltimore Sun put it at between 6,000 and 7,000 individuals) and how many user logins had occurred since 2015, stating that it did not track or collect this information. On a question of what steps the department takes to mitigate privacy risks, DPSCS stated only that “the steps taken to protect citizen’s privacy are inherent in the photos that are uploaded into the system and the way that the system is accessed.”

In 2016, Maryland’s face recognition database came under new scrutiny after the ACLU accused the state of using MIRS without a warrant to identify protesters in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray.

Last year, Maryland House Bill 1065 proposed a task force to examine surveillance techniques used by law enforcement in the state. That bill made it out of the House but did not progress past the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Another bill, known as the Face Recognition Act (HB 1148), would mandate auditing in the state to “ensure that face recognition is used only for legitimate law enforcement purposes” and would prohibit the use of Maryland’s face recognition system without a court order. That bill did not make it out of the House Judiciary Committee, though the ACLU intends to revisit it in 2018.

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Replacing pills with a Band-Aid? Avro Life sciences thinks there’s a patch for that

Shak Lakhani, the  21-year-old chief executive and co-founder of Avro Life Sciences, started researching biomaterials when he was 15 years old.

Every summer and after school the teenager would travel nearly two hours by bus and train from the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Toronto where he lived to the tissue engineering lab at the University of Toronto and develop three dimensional, in-vitro models of tumors using biomaterials.

For three years, Lakhani worked in the lab, before going on to study nanotechnology engineering at the University of Waterloo a short 73 miles away. It was there, in his first year, that Lakhani met another Richmond Hill resident, Keean Sarani, and launched Avro Life Sciences.

Sarani, also 21, had his own history in life sciences. A former epidemiologist who worked as a research assistant at the aptly named Hospital for Sick Children, Sarani spent his high school years working in community pharmacies before going on to graduate from the University of Waterloo with both an Honours Science degree and a doctorate in pharmacy directly from high school.

Sarani and Lakhani, who’re related by marriage, first met in the Village 1 dormitory complex at the University. Within months of their first meeting the two decided to start working on the company that would become Avro.

They formally launched the business in January 2016, a time when Lakhani said the two college students would hold “startup Sundays” where they would pitch ideas to each other in one dorm room or another on Sunday evenings, until they found an idea that seemed viable.

Given their experience — Sarani in pharmacies and treating patients and Lakhani in chemistry and material science, the two hit on the idea of drug delivery and patches.

Avro Life Science co-founders Keean Sarani and Shak Lakhani

The two initially toyed with a multivitamin patch for daily health, but through the sniffles, watery eyes, and sneezes of perennial allergy sufferers the two hit on the idea of an antihistamine patch to cure their own ailments.

The two won their first pitch competition three months after hitting on the initial idea in March 2016 and formally incorporated their business in November 2016.

Fast forward two years and the two co-founders are just about ready to make the final preparations for the first product with help from an initial seed round from investors led by Fifty Years, with participation from Susa Ventures, Garage Capital,Heruistic Capital, EmbarkVentures, Uphonest Capital, and Buckley Endeavours. Individual angel investors also participated in the round. In all Avro has about $2.2 million in the bank.

According to Lakhani, the company has already developed a polymer that allows Avro to make patches that can deliver hundreds of different drugs. Now it’s just a matter of gearing up for clinical trials that the company will run before the end of the year.

The first product, Lakhani says, is “a medicated sticker for seasonal allergies.” The company’s plan to get to market involves revitalizing drugs that pharma companies haven’t been able to bring to market because oral delivery is difficult, Lakhani says.

“Really the breakthrough is the [proprietary] combination of materials that can hold all of these different drugs,” he said. “The method of drug delivery is the same as in nicotine patches. In our case as a result of the polymer and manufacturing method…. [the drugs] don’t bond with the polymer. They are micro-adhesives in the patch. Heat from the skin dissolves the polymer and allows the drugs to enter the blood stream.”

Basically, there are tiny bubbles on the patch and contact with (and heat from) the skin causes the bubbles to break and deliver any drugs in an unadulterated form to the bloodstream, Lakhani explained.

Because the company is using generic drugs for its first tests, it’s hoping to have an easier path to market to prove the viability of its delivery system.

Down the road, the company also has some pretty impressive pharmaceutical partners that it could tap. Avro is already working with Bayer as part of their accelerator program in Toronto and that may lead to a deeper relationship down the road, according to Lakhani.

The first drug that the company is testing is Loratadine (a common antihistamine).

“In the coming years, we envision bringing a number of other patches to market for drugs addressing neurodegenerative diseases, cardiac health, analgesics and many more to improve drug delivery and compliance while revitalizing pharma pipelines,” Lakhani wrote in an email. “One day we hope to allow large pharmaceutical companies to ‘rescue’ drugs that they spent billions of dollars developingm, but failed trials due to low bioavailability, high liver toxicity from an entire pill being metabolized at once.”

For Fifty Years co-founder, Seth Bannon, Avro’s technology is a “holy grail” for drug delivery that can save pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars.

“The market for this is absolutely massive. Initially, Avro can manufacture and sell patches carrying generics direct to consumer to address issues like compliance with children and the elderly,” wrote Bannon, in an email. “Because Avro can deliver many drugs transdermally… When you deliver drugs transdermally, you significantly reduce liver toxicity and boost bioavailability. This means pharma can rescue drugs that just barely failed in Phase III. Pharma will pay a lot for this.”

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Hackers too over the Gentoo Linux Github repository

Popular Linux distribution Gentoo has been completely “totally pwned” according to researchers at Sophos and none of the current code can be trusted. The team immediately posted an update and noted that none of the real code has been compromised. However, they have pulled the Github repository until they can upload a fresh copy of the unadulterated code.

“Today 28 June at approximately 20:20 UTC unknown individuals have gained control of the Github Gentoo organization, and modified the content of repositories as well as pages there. We are still working to determine the exact extent and to regain control of the organization and its repositories. All Gentoo code hosted on github should for the moment be considered compromised,” wrote Gentoo administrators. “This does NOT affect any code hosted on the Gentoo infrastructure. Since the master Gentoo ebuild repository is hosted on our own infrastructure and since Github is only a mirror for it, you are fine as long as you are using rsync or webrsync from gentoo.org.”

None of the code is permanently damaged because the Gentoo admins kept their own copy of the code. Gentoo stated that the compromised code could contain malware and bugs and that users should avoid the Github version until it is reinstated.

“The Gentoo Infrastructure team have identified the ingress point, and locked out the compromised account,” wrote the admins. Three Github repositories containing the Gentoo code, Musl, and systemd. All of these repositories are being “reset back to a known good state:.”

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Instagram PR director Gabe Madway exits, replaced by Facebook’s Anna White

Facebook likes to keep it in the family. Gabe Madway, Instagram’s director of comms who’s run its day-to-day efforts for the past four years is departing to work for a new company later this summer, and he’ll be replaced by Anna White from Facebook’s internal PR team. She’ll report to Kristina Schake, Instagram’s Global Comms Director who leads from behind the scenes.

Madway was formerly a correspondent with Reuters before becoming an executive comms manager at Google from 2011 to 2014 when he joined Instagram. He’s been one of the more level-headed and frank PR people I’ve worked with over the course of launches like the massively popular Instagram Stories. White was also a communications manager at Google and YouTube before joining Facebook in 2015 where she’s been the Consumer Comms Director. She’d been handling some announcements around safety, accessibility, and Facebook’s Jobs feature that competes with LinkedIn.

The role will see White oversee the massive functionality expansion currently going down at Instagram under its new VP of Product Adam Mosseri, who recently moved over after leading the Facebook News Feed product. Between its new IGTV feature and its 1 billion users, White will have plenty on her plate.

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