Can you really predict the next generation of unicorns?

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

It’s a good week here at Equity HQ because our two co-hosts are both back at the same time! Kate Clark and Alex Wilhelm, after each of them taking some time off, led the show today, digging into a wealth of news and happenings.

Here’s a quick rundown of what happened on the show this week!

  • Postmates is still working on its IPO! Despite some reports indicating that the popular on-demand delivery company was talking to rival players about a possible sale, the company’s CEO said this week that his firm is still looking to go public. (It’s also picking up money this year, and talent.) Selfishly we love this, as we want to read its S-1 and see its numbers, something that wouldn’t happen if it wound up subsumed into a larger company. Say, Uber for example.
  • DouYu priced its IPO at the low-end of its range, but the offering did add lots of new capital to its coffers. Not every IPO raises its range and prices above the heightened interval, DouYu reminds us. But the company’s debut is yet another China-based unicorn going public on the U.S. markets, so we had no choice but to pay attention to the streaming and esports-themed company. Recall that Huya, a similar company, went public previously (more here).
  • CrowdStrike’s first earnings report was a success. The cybersecurity business focused on endpoint protection posted revenues of $96.1 million on GAAP net losses of $26 million in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020. The company, if you remember, completed a $612 million NASDAQ initial public offering in June.
  • The next unicorn list contains some obvious companies (Rothy’s, Next Trucking, etc.) and some surprise entries (Lattice?).
  • 100 Thieves has lots of new money, and esports is cool. That’s a quick summary, but in detail, the firm added a $35 million Series B to its accounts less than a year after it raised a $25 million Series A. When a firm raises an extra round that quickly, it usually means things are going well.
  • Patreon raised a big new round. You’re all familiar with Patreon, a platform that supports creators. Can a pivot toward SaaS accelerate its path toward a billion-dollar valuation? We think so.
  • Substack, a plucky favorite of the journalist scene, has fresh capital! Because both Alex and Kate are authors of their very own newsletters (yes, they have a podcast too, sorry), they had plenty of thoughts about this one.

Next week Kate and Alex are back and we may even have a special guest back with us. So make sure you are subscribed, and we’ll be right back in just seven days.

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

 

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SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: YugaByte DB

This week’s SD Times Open Source Project of the Week is the newly open-sourced YugaByte DB, which allows users to better collaborate on the distributed SQL database. 

The move to the open-source core project distributed under the Apache 2.0 license makes previously closed-sourced features such as distributed backups, data encryption and read replicas more accessible, according to the team. By doing this, YugaByte plans to break the boundaries between YugaByte’s Community and Enterprise editions. 

“YugaByte DB combines PostgreSQL’s language breadth with Oracle-like reliability, but on modern cloud infrastructure. With our licensing changes, we have removed every barrier that developers face in adopting a business-critical database and operations engineers face in running a fleet of database clusters, with extreme ease,” said Kannan Muthukkaruppan, co-founder and CEO of  YugaByte. 

Now, there is only one edition of YugaByte DB for developers to build cloud-native applications. Enterprise users can continue to manage YugaByte clusters across multiple environments and cloud platforms though YugaByte Platform, an offering with self-managed database-as-a-service (DBaaS) capabilities. YugaByte opened an early access program for YugaByte Cloud, YugaByte’s fully-managed database-as-a-service platform (DBaaS). 

In addition, YugaByte DB’s fully-relational PostgreSQL-compatible distributed SQL API, has moved to Release Candidacy from Beta 3 status.

“Being 100 percent open source means being committed to preserving freedom of vendor choice while fostering more open collaboration among the developers leveraging distributed SQL and the committers behind the distributed SQL project,” Muthukkaruppan said.

The post SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: YugaByte DB appeared first on SD Times.

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Nvidia recreates the Apollo 11 landing with real-time ray tracing

It’s the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing, and Nvidia is using the anniversary to showing off the power of its current GPU technology. Using the RTX real-time ray tracing, which was the topic of the day at its recent GTC Conference.

Nvidia employed its latest tech to make big improvements to the moon-landing demo it created five years ago and refined last year to demonstrate its Turing GPU architecture. The resulting simulation is a fully interactive graphic demo that models sunlight in real-time, providing a cinematic and realistic depiction of the Moon landing complete with accurate shadows, visor and metal surface reflections, and more.

Already, Nvidia had put a lot of work into this simulation, which runs on some of its most advanced graphics hardware. When the team began constructing the virtual environment, they studied the lander, the actual reflectivity of astronaut’s space suits and the properties of the Moon’s surface dust and terrain. With its real-time ray-tracing, they can now scrub the sun’s relative position back and forth and have every surface reflect light the way it actually would.

Idiot conspiracy theorists may still falsely argue that the original was a stage show, but Nvidia’s recreation is the real wizardry, potentially providing a ‘more real than archival’ look at something only a dozen people have actually experienced.

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Nvidia recreates the Apollo 11 landing with real-time ray tracing

It’s the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing, and Nvidia is using the anniversary to showing off the power of its current GPU technology. Using the RTX real-time ray tracing, which was the topic of the day at its recent GTC Conference.

Nvidia employed its latest tech to make big improvements to the moon-landing demo it created five years ago and refined last year to demonstrate its Turing GPU architecture. The resulting simulation is a fully interactive graphic demo that models sunlight in real-time, providing a cinematic and realistic depiction of the Moon landing complete with accurate shadows, visor and metal surface reflections, and more.

Already, Nvidia had put a lot of work into this simulation, which runs on some of its most advanced graphics hardware. When the team began constructing the virtual environment, they studied the lander, the actual reflectivity of astronaut’s space suits and the properties of the Moon’s surface dust and terrain. With its real-time ray-tracing, they can now scrub the sun’s relative position back and forth and have every surface reflect light the way it actually would.

Idiot conspiracy theorists may still falsely argue that the original was a stage show, but Nvidia’s recreation is the real wizardry, potentially providing a ‘more real than archival’ look at something only a dozen people have actually experienced.

via Click on the link for the full article

SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: YugaByte DB

This week’s SD Times Open Source Project of the Week is the newly open-sourced YugaByte DB, which allows users to better collaborate on the distributed SQL database. 

The move to the open-source core project distributed under the Apache 2.0 license makes previously closed-sourced features such as distributed backups, data encryption and read replicas more accessible, according to the team. By doing this, YugaByte plans to break the boundaries between YugaByte’s Community and Enterprise editions. 

“YugaByte DB combines PostgreSQL’s language breadth with Oracle-like reliability, but on modern cloud infrastructure. With our licensing changes, we have removed every barrier that developers face in adopting a business-critical database and operations engineers face in running a fleet of database clusters, with extreme ease,” said Kannan Muthukkaruppan, co-founder and CEO of  YugaByte. 

Now, there is only one edition of YugaByte DB for developers to build cloud-native applications. Enterprise users can continue to manage YugaByte clusters across multiple environments and cloud platforms though YugaByte Platform, an offering with self-managed database-as-a-service (DBaaS) capabilities. YugaByte opened an early access program for YugaByte Cloud, YugaByte’s fully-managed database-as-a-service platform (DBaaS). 

In addition, YugaByte DB’s fully-relational PostgreSQL-compatible distributed SQL API, has moved to Release Candidacy from Beta 3 status.

“Being 100 percent open source means being committed to preserving freedom of vendor choice while fostering more open collaboration among the developers leveraging distributed SQL and the committers behind the distributed SQL project,” Muthukkaruppan said.

The post SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: YugaByte DB appeared first on SD Times.

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Lexion raises $4.2M to bring AI to contract management

Contract management isn’t exactly an exciting subject, but it’s a real pain point for many companies. It also lends itself to automation, thanks to recent advances in machine learning and natural language processing. It’s no surprise then, that we see renewed interest in this space and that investors are putting more money into it. Earlier this week, Icertis raised a $115 million Series E round, for example, at a valuation of more than $1 billion. Icertis has been in this business for ten years, though. On the other end of the spectrum, contract management startup Lexion today announced that it has raised a $4.2 million seed round led by Madrona Venture Group and law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, which was also one of the first users of the product.

Lexion was incubated at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), one of the late Microsoft co-founders’ four scientific research institutes. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Gaurav Oberoi, is a bit of a serial entrepreneur, whose first startup, BillMonk, was first featured on TechCrunch back in 2006. His second go-around was Precision Polling, which SurveyMonkey then acquired shortly after it launched. Oberoi founded the company together with former Microsoft research software development engineering lead Emad Elwany, and engineering veteran James Baird.

4 understanding autorenewal clause

“Gaurav, Emad, and James are just the kind of entrepreneurs we love to back: smart, customer obsessed and attacking a big market with cutting edge technology,” said Madrona Venture Group managing director Tim Porter. “AI2 is turning out some of the best applied machine learning solutions, and contract management is a perfect example – it’s a huge issue for companies at every size and the demand for visibility into contracts is only increasing as companies face growing regulatory and compliance pressures.”

Contract management is becoming a bit of a crowded space, though, something Oberoi acknowledge. But he argues that Lexion is tackling a different market from many of its competitors.

5 extraction in action animation

“We think there’s growing demand and a big opportunity in the mid-market,” he said. “I think similar to how back in the 2000s, Siebel or other companies offered very expensive CRM software and now you have Salesforce — and now Salesforce is the expensive version — and you have this long tail of products in the mid-market. I think the same is happening to contracts. […] We’re working with companies that are as small as post-seed or post-Series A to a publicly-traded company.”

Given that it handles plenty of highly confidential information, it’s no surprise that Lexion says that it takes security very seriously. “I think, something that all young startups that are selling into business or enterprise in 2019 need to address upfront,” Oberoi said. “We realized, even before we raised funding and got very serious about growing this business, that security has to be part of our DNA and culture from the get-go.” He also noted that every new feature and product iteration at Lexion goes through a security review.

Like most startups at this stage, Lexion plans to invest the new funding into building out its product — and especially its AI engine — and go-to-market and sales strategy.

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Huawei 5G indecision is hitting UK’s relations abroad, warns committee

The UK’s next prime minister must prioritize a decision on whether or not to allow Chinese tech giant Huawei to be a 5G supplier, a parliamentary committee has urged — warning that the country’s international relations are being “seriously damaged” by ongoing delay.

In a statement on 5G suppliers, the Intelligence and Security committee (ISC) writes that the government must take a decision “as a matter of urgency”.

Earlier this week another parliamentary committee, which focuses on science and technology, concluded there is no technical reason to exclude Huawei as a 5G supplier, despite security concerns attached to the company’s ties to the Chinese state, though it did recommend it be excluded from core 5G supply.

The delay in the UK settling on a 5G supplier policy can be linked not only to the complexities of trying to weight and balance security considers with geopolitical pressures but also ongoing turmoil in domestic politics, following the 2016 EU referendum Brexit vote — which continues to suck most of the political oxygen out of Westminster. (And will very soon have despatched two UK prime ministers in three years.)

Outgoing PM Theresa May, whose successor is due to be selected by a vote by Conservative Party members next week, appeared to be leaning towards giving Huawei an amber light earlier this year.

A leak to the press from a National Security Council meeting back in April suggested Huawei would be allowed to provide kit but only for non-core parts of 5G networks — raising questions about how core and non-core are delineated in the next-gen networks.

The leak led to the sacking by May of the then defense minister, Gavin Williamson, after an investigation into confidential information being passed to the media in which she said she had lost confidence in him.

The publication of a government Telecoms Supply Chain Review, whose terms of reference were published last fall, has also been delayed — leading to carriers to press the government for greater clarity last month.

But with May herself now on the way out, having agreed to step down as PM back in May, the decision on 5G supply is on hold.

It will be down to either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt, the two remaining contenders to take over as PM, to choose whether or not to let the Chinese tech giant supply UK 5G networks.

Whichever of the men wins the vote they will arrive in the top job needing to give their full attention to finding a way out of the Brexit morass — with a mere three months til a October 31 Brexit extension deadline looming. So there’s a risk 5G may not seem as urgent an issue and a decision again be kicked back.

In its statement on 5G supply, the ISC backs the view expressed by the public-facing branch of the UK’s intelligence service that network security is not dependent on any one supplier being excluded from building it — writing that: “The National Cyber Security Centre… has been clear that the security of the UK’s telecommunications network is not about one company or one country: the ‘flag of origin’ for telecommunications equipment is not the critical element in determining cyber security.”

The committee argues that “some parts of the network will require greater protection” — writing that “critical functions cannot be put at risk” but also that there are “less sensitive functions where more risk can be carried”, albeit without specifying what those latter functions might be.

“It is this distinction — between the sensitivity of the functions — that must determine security, rather than where in the network those functions are located: notions of ‘core’ and ‘edge’ ate therefore misleading in this context,” it adds. “We should therefore be thinking of different levels of security, rather than a one size fits all approach, within a network that has been built to be resilient to attack, such that no single action could disable the system.”

The committee’s statement also backs the view that the best way to achieve network resilience is to support diversity in the supply chain — i.e. by supporting more competition.

But at the same time it emphasizes that the 5G supply decision “cannot be viewed solely through a technical lens — because it is not simply a decision about telecommunications equipment”.

“This is a geostrategic decision, the ramifications of which may be felt for decades to come,” it warns, raising concerns about the perceptions of UK intelligence sharing partners by emphasizing the need for those allies to trust the decisions the government makes.

It also couches a UK decision to give Huawei access a risk by suggesting it could be viewed externally as an endorsement of the company, thereby encouraging other countries to follow suit — without them paying the full and necessary attention to the security piece.

“The UK is a world leader in cyber security: therefore if we allow Huawei into our 5G network we must be careful that that is not seen as an endorsement for others to follow. Such a decision can only happen where the network itself will be constructed securely and with stringent regulation,” it writes.

The committee’s statement goes on to raise as a matter of concern the UK’s general reliance on China as a technology supplier.

“One of the lessons the UK Government must learn from the current debate over 5G is that with the technology sector now monopolised by such a few key players, we are over-reliant on Chinese technology — and we are not alone in this, this is a global issue. We need to consider how we can create greater diversity in the market. This will require us to take a long term view — but we need to start now,” it warns.

It ends by reiterating that the debate about 5G supply has been “unnecessarily protracted”, pressing the next UK prime minister to get on and take a decision “so that all concerned can move forward”

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Tiny UK startup takes on Google’s Wing in the race to a drone traffic control system

A future where drones can easily and cheaply do many useful things such as deliver packages, undertake search and rescue missions, deliver urgent medical supplies, not to mention unclogging our roads with flying taxis seems like a future worth shooting for. But before all this can happen, we need to make sure the thousands of drones in the sky are operating safely. A drone needs to be able to automatically detect when entering into the flight path of another drone, manned aircraft or restricted area and to alter its course accordingly to safely continue its journey. The alternative is the chaos and danger of the recent incidences of drones buzzing major airports, for instance.

There is a race on to produce just such a system. Wing LLC, an offshoot of the Alphabet / Google-owned X company, has announced a platform it calls OpenSky that it hopes will become the basis for a full-fledged air-traffic control system for drones. So far, it’s only been approved to manage drone flights in Australia, although it is also working on demonstration programs with the US Federal Aviation Administration.

But this week Altitude Angel a UK-based startup backed by Seraphim Capital and with $4.9M in funding has launched it’s own UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) system.

Its ‘Conflict Resolution System’ (anti-collision) system is basically an automatic collision avoidance technology. This means that any drone flying beyond the line of sight, will remain safe in the sky and not cross existing flight plans or into restricted areas. By being automated, Altitude Angel says this technology will prevent any mid-air collisions, simply because by knowing where everything else is in the sky, there’ll be no surprises.

Altitude Angel’s CRS has both ‘Strategic’ and ‘Tactical’ aspects.

The Strategic part happens during the planning stages of a flight, i.e. when someone is submitting flight plans and requesting airspace permission. The system analyses the proposed route and cross-references it with any other flight plans that have been submitted, along with any restricted areas on the ground, to then propose a reroute to eliminate any flight plan conflicts. Eventually, what happens is that a drone operator does this from an app on their phone, and the approval to flight is automated.

The next stage is Tactical. This happens while the drone is actually in-flight. The dynamic system continuously monitors the airspace around the aircraft both for other aircraft or for changes in the airspace (such as a temporary flight restriction around police incident) and automatically adjusts the route.

The key aspect of this CRS is that drones and drone pilots can store flight plans with a globally-distributed service without needing to exchange private or potentially sensitive data with each other while benefiting from an immediate pre-flight conflict resolution advice.

Richard Parker, Altitude Angel, CEO and founder says: “The ability for drones and automated aircraft to strategically plan flights, be made aware of potential conflict, and alter their route accordingly is critical in ensuring safety in our skies. This first step is all about pre-flight coordination, between drone pilots, fleet operators and other UTM companies. Being able to predict and resolve conflict mid-flight by providing appropriate and timely guidance will revolutionize automated flight. CRS is one of the critical building blocks on which the drone and automated flight industries will grow.”

Altitude Angel wone be the last to unveil a CRS of this type, but it’s instructive that there are startups confident of taking on the mighty Google and Amazon – which also has similar drone delivery plans – to achieve this type of platform.

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VertoFX raises $2M for its African and EM currency trading platform

VertoFX, an Africa and emerging markets focused currency trading and payment startup, has raised a $2.1 million seed round, led by Accelerated Digital Ventures.

The London based company, with a subsidiary in Lagos, Nigeria, has created a platform that allows businesses and banks to exchange and make payments in exotic foreign currencies that don’t often convert or trade conveniently across businesses or banks.

For example, South Africa’s Rand is Africa’s most convertible and traded currency—with lower spreads and transaction costs—while currencies of countries such as Ethiopia or Egypt may be difficult or expensive to trade or transact B2B payments in.

“That’s the reason we are utilizing technology to create a marketplace model and price discovery to create liquidity for these currencies,” VertoFX founder Ola Oyetayo told TechCrunch.

There are around 40 global currencies that are considered exotic or illiquid, most of them in frontier markets in Asia, Africa, and the Middle-East, according to Oyetayo.

VertoFX curency startup AfricaAnd there’s a revenue opportunity to creating a convenient online marketplace for trading and payments in these currencies.

“Our research says there’s about $400 million being done by small and medium scale businesses in Africa alone in transactional volume on an annual basis. If we take 1 percent of that as a commission or transaction fee, that’s a $4 billion addressable market, just in the continent,” said Oyetayo.

vertofx founders Anthony Oduwole and Ola OyetayoVertoFX was founded in 2017 by Oyetayo and Anthony Oduwole—both ex-global bankers born in Nigeria. The company was part of Y-Combinator’s 2019 winter cohort and processed around $7 million in transaction volume last month, according to Oyetayo.

VertoFX is registered as payment services provider with the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority. Current clients include several undisclosed banks and San Francisco based payment venture Flutterwave.

VertoFX doesn’t release revenue figures, but confirmed it earns a commission, or spread, on each transaction that is processed on its platform. There are currently 19 currencies on the platform and the ability to settle in 120 countries, including China and the U.S.

VertoFX is also moving into offering market research—toward potential subscription services—on the currencies it trades, according to Oyetayo.

The startup will use the round for platform development, expand the currencies, and gain licenses in new countries. “We’ll also use the round for hiring, primarily in compliance and regulator type roles,” said Oyetayo.  VertoFX already has a developer team in India and is looking at local developer talent for its Africa offices.

ADV’s Ryan Proctor confirmed the VC firm’s lead on the investment round, which also included participation from YC and several local angel investors in Africa, Oyetayo told TechCrunch.

On the possibility of becoming acquired by a big bank, VertoFX isn’t so interested, according to Oyetayo.

“We both come from big banks and if we’d wanted to go down that route we’d have developed this more as software as a service platform,” he said.

“We’re playing the long-game here and I don’t think acquisition is the end-game,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tesla’s new V3 Supercharger can charge up to 1,500 electric vehicles a day

Tesla has opened a massive next-generation electric vehicle charging station in Las Vegas that combines the company’s core products into one sustainable energy ecosystem, fulfilling a vision CEO Elon Musk laid out nearly three years ago.

The new V3 Supercharger, which supports a peak rate of up to 250 kilowatts, is designed to dramatically cut charging times for its electric vehicles. Tesla unveiled its first V3 Supercharger in March at its Fremont, Calif. factory. A second V3 Supercharger is located in Hawthorne, Calif., near the Tesla Design Studio. Both of these locations, which were initially used as test sites, lack two key Tesla products.

This new location in Las Vegas is considered the first V3 Supercharger. It’s notable, and not just because of the size — there are 39 total chargers in all. This V3 Supercharger also uses Tesla solar panels and its Powerpack batteries to generate and store the power needed to operate the chargers. The result is a complete system that generates its own energy and passes it along to thousands of Tesla vehicles.

The new Supercharger, located off the Las Vegas Strip, below the High Roller on the LINQ promenade, was built on Caesars Entertainment property. The site is part of Caesars Entertainment’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2025.

There are caveats to the capabilities of this Supercharger station. Only one Tesla vehicle — the Model 3 Long Range iteration — can charge at the peak rate of 250 kW. The 250 kW results in up to 180 miles of range added to the battery in 15 minutes on a Model 3 Long Range.

The company’s new Model S and Model X vehicles can charge up to a 200 kW rate.

However, even older Model S and X vehicles and more basic versions of the Model 3 will experience faster charging rates at this location because there is no power sharing, a standard practice at Tesla’s other charging stations.

Improvements to charging times are critical for the company as it sells more Model 3 vehicles, its highest volume car. Wait times at some popular Supercharger stations can be lengthy. Early adopters might have been content to wait, but as new Tesla customers come online that patience could dwindle. And as more of these V3 Superchargers come online, potential customers might be encouraged to buy the pricier long range version Model 3.

Tesla has said in the past that these improvements will allow the Supercharger network to serve more than twice as many vehicles per day at the end of 2019 compared with today.

The V3 is not a retrofit of the company’s previous generations. It’s an architecture shift that includes a new 1 MW power cabinet, similar to the company’s utility-scale products, and a liquid-cooled cable design, which enables charge rates of up to 1,000 miles per hour. Tesla uses air-cooled cables on V2 Superchargers.

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