Substance abuse affects about 15% of American employees, Path wants to ensure they get help

America has an addiction problem.

It’s a problem that serial entrepreneur Josh Bruno has seen first hand. And it’s why he’s launched a new company called Path, which pitches access to specialized substance addiction treatment professionals as an employee health benefit, to do something about it.

I have unfortunately lost five friends now to alcohol and opioid overdoses. I want to five funerals in three years,” says Bruno. “Every time I would end up talking to friends and family afterwards… and everyone would ask, ‘What could we have done?’”

Now Bruno is doing something. 

While Alcoholics Anonymous and rehabilitation facilities provide one solution, Bruno says that neither one has the scope to address the enormity of the problem. 

Bruno things Path may be the avenue to best address the issue. The idea is to provide near-instant access to specialized providers of substance abuse treatment as a benefit that employers can offer to their staff.

As the founder of HomeTeam, which provided in-home senior care and a software toolkit to manage that care, Bruno already has an understanding of the healthcare marketplace.

“We plug in to an employer and provide a holistic solution for the employees. We bring a doctor, a therapy, and a coach,” says Bruno of the new service he’s launching. “We’re not a provider ourselves and we bring a network of providers.”

The business model evolved as Bruno began researching how things are currently done. “I have volunteered at AA and rehab facilities [and] I talked to labor union leaders across the country,” says Bruno. He also reached out to the nation’s 23 largest employers and shadowed treatment specialists to see how substance abuse treatment is currently handled.

“The first thing I saw is that 10% — or one in ten adults across the U.S. — have a substa”nce abuse disorder,” says Bruno. “That shocked people because it’s more than diabetes.”

What’s more, about 33% of mental health issues are actually addiction related, which can add additional stress on an employers’ healthcare costs.

The founding team at Path, which includes Bruno and Gabriel Diop, who heads partnerships; and Greg Moore, who leads product development all think of substance abuse treatment as an access issue. People looking for treatment simply don’t know where to go to get the most effective and afforda

“Today the health insurance company would give a  list of in network providers and it’s up to the patient to figure out where to go [and] 50% of time  they go out of network,” says Bruno. 

When Path works with a large employer, a phone call is made directly to the company and that call goes to a clinical social worker, who handles the intake of a prospective patient. The company has deals with addiction doctors in the geographies where it operates and can ensure that an assessment can be done within 48 hours.

After the assessment, a treatment plan is drawn up and the company will manage that process for the employer and the physician as well.

Path is already talking to two Fortune 100 companies about deploying its service. “It’s a targeted, regional service,” says Bruno. “Not a national service.”

The Los Angeles-based company has raised $5.35 million to date in a round of funding led by Upfront Ventures, with participation from Sequoia Benefits, Radian Street Capital, and angel investors including Barbara Wachsman, the former head of benefits at Disney; Amy Shannon the former head of benefits at Chevron, and Howard Cherny, the former head of benefits at Cisco.

“Put simply, Path plans to work with the best addiction treatment providers across the continuum in the US, which is exactly what is needed. Finally, a team is focusing on core issue of quality and cost-effective treatment,” said Kelly Clark, a member of the Path Clinical Advisory Board, and the former President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.   

Not only can Path help to roll out access to treatment at scale, but the company can also reduce healthcare costs for companies, according to Bruno.

“It will lower the expense to the plan,” he says. “Approximately 30% to 50% of employees are going out of network for addiction treatment… that’s $25,000 to $50,000 per month.”

Path’s costs are substantially lower, and the company is only paid if members use the network, he said.

“Employers have made a commitment to the health and wellbeing of their employees. If mental health is a top priority for your organization, you can’t ignore [substance use disorders],” said Wachsman,  in a statement.

 

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Just 6% of U.S. adults on Twitter account for 73% of political tweets…and they disapprove of Trump

A small number of prolific U.S. Twitter users create the majority of tweets, and that extends to Twitter discussions around politics, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center out today. Building on an earlier study which discovered that 10% of users created 80% of tweets from U.S. adults, the organization today says that just 6% of U.S. adults on Twitter account for 73% of tweets about national politics.

Though your experience on Twitter may differ, based on who you follow, the majority of Twitter users don’t mention politics in their tweets.

FT 19.10.23 PoliticsTwitter Most prolific political tweeters make up small share US adults Twitter public accounts

In fact, Pew found that 69% never tweeted about politics or tweeted about the topic just once. Meanwhile, across all tweets from U.S. adults, only 13% of tweets were focused on national politics.

 

The study was based on 1.1 million public tweets from June 2018 to June 2019, Pew says. 2,427 users participated.

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Similar to its earlier report about how prolific users dominate the overall conversation, Pew found there’s also a small group of very active Twitter users dominating the conversation about national politics — and they all tend to be heavy news consumers and more polarized in their viewpoints.

Only 22% of U.S. adults even have a Twitter account, and of those, only 31% are defined as “political tweeters” — that is, they’ve posted at least 5 tweets and have posted at least twice about politics during the study period.

Within this broader group of political tweeters, just 6% are defined as “prolific” — meaning they’ve posted at least 10 tweets and at least 25% of their tweets mention national politics.

This small subset then goes on to create 73% of all tweets from U.S. adults on the subject of national politics.

What’s concerning about the data is that it’s those who are either far to the left or far to the right who are the ones dominating the political conversation on Twitter’s platform. A majority of the prolific political tweeters (55%) say they identify as either “very liberal” or “very conservative.” Among the non-political tweeting crowd, only 28% chose a more polarized label for themselves.

This polarized subgroup also heavily leans left. For example, those who strongly approve of President Trump generated 25% of all tweets mentioning national politics. But those who strongly disapprove of Trump generated 72% of all tweets mentioning national politics. (They’re also responsible for 80% of all tweets from U.S. adults on the platform.)

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This isn’t a fully representative picture of U.S. politics. The share of U.S. adults on Twitter who strongly disapprove of Trump (55%) is 7 percentage points higher than the share of the general public that holds this view (48%).

Trump supporters, as a result, are under-represented on Twitter. Perhaps this is because they’ve flocked to alternate platforms; or because don’t tweet their views as often in public; or because they violate Twitter’s policies more often, resulting in bans. Or as is likely, it’s a combination of factors. In any event, the reasoning was beyond the scope of this study.

The study also found the prolific tweeters are highly engaged with the news cycle. 92% follow the news “most of the time,” compared to 58% of non-prolific political tweeters and 53% of non-political tweeters. They’re also civically engaged, as 34% have attended a political rally or event, 57% have contacted an elected official, and 38% have donated to campaigns.

Also of note, the political tweets are more likely to come from older users. Those ages 65 and older produce only 10% of all tweets from U.S. adults, but they contribute 33% of tweets related to national politics. And those 50 and older produce 29% of all tweets but contribute 73% of tweets mentioning national politics.

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These political tweeters also create so-called “filter bubbles” where they mostly follow people who think the same as they do. 45% of Democrats said they did this, compared with 25% of Republicans. Across all U.S. adults, 31% of Democrats said they did this, versus 15% of Republicans.

But there is one thing a majority of U.S. Twitter users can agree on: most (57%) believe any news they see on social media is “largely inaccurate.”

The full report is available here.

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Small rocket launch startup Firefly teams up with Aerojet Rocketdyne

In a perfect example of a small, new space startup teaming up with a legacy industry heavyweight with plenty of experience, Firefly is teaming up with Aerojet Rocketdyne. Firefly Aerospace was founded in 2013, and has raised $21.6 million so far to bring its first product, the Alpha small satellite launch vehicle, to market.

Firefly is on track to make its crucial first launch in time for the February to March timeframe next year, according to Firefly founder and CEO Dr. Tom Markusic, who spoke at the International Astronautical Congress this year in Washington, D.C., to provide an update on his company’s progress and talk about the newly formed partnership between Firefly and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Firefly Space Systems CEO Tom Markusic

Firefly founder and CEO Tom Markusic

Markusic was joined by Aerojet Rocketdyne SVP of Space Business Jim Maser, and the two executives explained how Aerojet will provide engines for Firefly to use on its next-generation launch vehicle, aptly named ‘Beta,’ the full development of which will follow once Alpha has launched and enters into regular commercial service.

Beta will be a medium launch vehicle, with greater cargo capacity compared to Alpha and a maxim load of around 8.5 metric tons. Alpha, the startup’s first rocket, will be able to take 1 metric ton to orbit, which Markusic said his company has identified as the “sweet spot” for current unaddressed demand.

That medium band is also underserved, Markusic said, and since it’ll need a bigger booster to transport that larger cargo capacity to orbit, they looked around for solutions and found that Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-1 Engine, which can produce 500,000 lbs of thrust, was the perfect solution.

In general Markusic and Maser both expressed the opinion that startup and younger companies just getting into the industry are prime partners for older companies like Aerojet, which was founded in 1942 and has been serving the rocket and missile industry ever since.

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Firefly’s Alpha launch vehicle

“It’s okay to move fast and it’s okay to make mistakes, but let’s not make other peoples’ mistakes and let’s not make our own mistakes twice,” Markusic said, characterizing the benefits of teaming up with someone with lots more experience. This partnership goes beyond just the engine supply arrangement, Markusic said, and will provide more far ranging benefits for the startup.

“Aerojet Rocketdyne has a whole corral of amazing in space propulsion options for example the XR-5,” Markusic said. “Which is a five kilowatt hull thruster that can be utilized on our OTV (orbital transfer vehicle), and advanced OTV, we could do some heavier missions in cis-lunar space, and they also have a large corral of flight proven by proposed chemical thrusters that can be used on these other stages as well.”

AR1 Successful Engine Preburner Test min

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-1 engine undergoing a preburner test

Firefly plans to do an orbital transfer vehicle to provide more advanced launch capabilities, and its ambitions extend even beyond launchers and to in-space manufacturing, which Markusic said is attractive to the company since the ultimate way to reduce launch costs is to obviate the need for launch costs altogether, and the company’s ultimate goal is to get more commercial satellites into orbit, regardless of method. Still, there’s plenty of opportunity bu Markusic says ultimate, the company’s biggest challenge right now is remaining focused on their most immediate, and most important goal.

“Their are at least 100 companies like Firefly talking about going to space,” he said. “We’re in that crowd of talkers right now, and it is my focus with this company to get us out of that crowd of people talking about it as soon as possible, and into the elite crowd of people that are actually flying a spacecraft to space.”

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Daily Crunch: SoftBank throws WeWork a lifeline

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. WeWork confirms an up to $8 billion lifeline from SoftBank Group; names new executive chairman

Confirming earlier reports, The We Company and SoftBank Group have agreed to a new capital infusion, which will see SoftBank committing $5 billion in new financing and issuing a tender offer for another $3 billion in buybacks for shareholders.

After the closing and the tender offer, SoftBank will own approximately 80% of The We Company, according to a statement. However, it will not hold a majority of voting rights, thanks to WeWork’s convoluted ownership structure.

2. Former SAP CEO Bill McDermott taking over as ServiceNow CEO

When Bill McDermott announced he was stepping down as CEO at SAP a couple of weeks ago, it certainly felt like a curious move — but he landed on his feet pretty quickly.

3. Fabric raises $110 million Series B to expand its network of automated fulfillment centers in the US

Last October, Fabric opened its first micro-fulfillment center in Tel Aviv, giving an inside look into how the company’s system works: Robots move around the warehouse, picking up inventory so human workers can stay at a scanning station.

4. Snapchat beats in Q3, adding 7M users & revenue up 50%

The Snap-back continues.

5. Google’s Play Store is giving an age-rating finger to Fleksy, a Gboard rival

Do a search on Google’s Play Store in Europe and you’ll find the company’s own Gboard app has an age rating of PEGI 3. But if you do a similar search for the rival Fleksy keyboard app, you’ll find it has a PEGI 12 age rating.

6. How tech companies measure ‘legal’

Interviews with tech company general counsels — and a survey conducted by TechGC — reveal how innovative in-house attorneys measure both productivity and quality, and position their teams as central to advancing enterprise-wide goals. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

7. Somehow, ‘Dark Fate’ got me excited about the Terminator again

The new Terminator movie — in which Linda Hamilton returns to the role of Sarah Connor — is surprisingly good.

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Tesla third-quarter earnings: What to expect and what we’re watching for

Tesla is scheduled to report its third-quarter earnings after the market closes today. The earnings report comes at a critical time for Tesla as it prepares to begin production of the Model 3 at its new China factory.

This earnings report, its first without co-founder and CTO JB Straubel on the job, is particularly important because it could be the first time that the company experiences a year-over-year decline in quarterly revenue growth.

There are some important matters — namely numbers — to watch for in the automaker’s actual earnings report. Before getting into which indicators to pay attention to here’s a quick recap of what happened in the last quarter.

Tesla reported wider-than-expected loss of $408 million, or $2.31 per share, and generated $6.3 billion in revenue in the second quarter despite record deliveries of its electric vehicles. The company delivered 95,200 of its electric vehicles in the second quarter, a dramatic reversal from a disappointing first period. Those numbers were later since adjusted to 95,356 vehicles. The record-breaking figures in the second quarter stood in stark contrast to the company’s first quarter delivery numbers when it reported deliveries of 63,000 vehicles, nearly a one-third drop from the previous period.

What to expect

Analysts are expecting a loss of 46 cents per share and revenue of $6.42 billion, according to data compiled by FactSet. If analysts are correct, revenue would be down from $6.82 billion a year ago.

We already know that Tesla fell short of its third-quarter delivery goals. Tesla CEO Elon Musk wanted, and pushed for, deliveries to hit 100,000 vehicles for the quarter. Instead, Tesla reported earlier this month that it delivered a record 97,000 electric vehicles in the third quarter, a nearly 2% increase from the previous period, but still short of analysts’ expectations.

Tesla produced 96,155 vehicles in the third quarter, a 10% increase from the previous period.

Expect Tesla to provide updates on its China factory and give forecasts for the fourth quarter. The earnings call with analysts, which begins at 3:30 pm PT, will likely provide plenty of other headlines. Musk has a tendency to drop all kinds of news in these calls.

Among the items we’ll be watching for is any discussion on Autopilot and its “FSD” (full self-driving) program, the company’s energy business, production plans for the Model Y, status of the Tesla Semi and other often teased future models such as the Roadster and the yet-to-be-unveiled pickup truck.

Analysts will likely be hunting for any information on automotive gross margins. In the past, Tesla has said it is targeting 25% automotive gross margins for Model S, Model X and Model 3. That didn’t happen in the first or second quarter. Instead, automotive gross margins, excluding certain items, shrank to 20.3% from 24.7% in the fourth quarter of 2018. They narrowed even further to 18.9% in the second quarter.

Tesla’s margins were buffeted in the past by sales of the higher-priced (and better margin per vehicle) Model S and X. Now Tesla is in an awkward spot where demand for the Model 3 hasn’t been enough to stave off contracting margins caused by a decline in Model S and X sales. Model 3s have a lower profit margin per vehicle than the S or X.

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OnePlus’ second 5G phone will be a T-Mobile exclusive

OnePlus’ 5G strategy has marked something of a shift for a company that has traditionally prided itself in a slow and steady approach to new features. Following the arrival of the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G this summer, the company is announcing its second 5G device for the U.S. market.

This time, it’s opted for its longer-time carrier partner, T-Mobile. Though soon enough, the distinction between the U.S.’s third and fourth place wireless carriers may be moot. For now, however, the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition is a T-Mobile exclusive here in the States.

For the record, the 7T Pro and the new McLaren Edition are pretty similar, though the latter gets a flashier color scheme and some pretty beefy specs, including an extremely generous 12GB of RAM.

Along with being OnePlus’ second 5G handset, it’s also the second T-Mobile device to support the next-gen network, following the already announced (but not yet released) Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G. As for the state of T-Mobile’s 5G roll out, the company promises to “cover 200 million people nationwide this year.”

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India to spend $6 billion to revive telecom operators BSNL and MTNL

India said on Wednesday it plans to spend nearly $6 billion to revive loss-making state-funded telecom operators Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL).

In a press conference, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said today the Narendra Modi government has given its in-principle approval to the merger of BSNL and MTNL and infuse billions of dollars in capital, though he did not specify a time frame.

BSNL offers telecom services across the nation while MTNL serves people in New Delhi and Mumbai. Both the firms have been bleeding money for years as competition from private players intensified in recent years after the arrival of India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani’s aggressive firm Reliance Jio. BSNL and MTNL have debt of about $5.65 billion.

The arrival of Reliance Jio, which undercut the market with its 4G-only telecom network, free voice calls and incredibly low-cost data prices, saw incumbents Vodafone and Airtel lower their prices and expand their 4G networks across the country.

MTNL, which is a listed company, will become a subsidiary of BSNL until the merger is completed, Prasad told journalists. “Neither BSNL nor MTNL are being closed, nor are they being disinvested or being hived off to third party,” he said, refuting weeks-long speculation that the government wanted to shut the carriers that serve about 120 million subscribers.

The revival plan includes a capital infusion of $2.8 billion to enable BSNL to purchase 4G spectrum, and write off of $520 million worth of taxes these purchases would incur. The network operators will additionally raise about $2.1 billion of long-term bonds that the New Delhi government will back and monetize $5.3 billion worth of assets over the next four years, the minister said.

“We want to make BSNL and MTNL competitive, and bring in professionalism,” Shankar said. The government is hopeful that BSNL would become operationally profitable in next two years, he said.

The existence of BSNL, which alone serves more than 116 million subscribers, is in the strategic interest of the nation, Prasad said in a conference last week. “Whenever we have flood or cyclone, BSNL is the first one to offer services for free,” he said.

BSNL, which uses about 75% of its revenue to pay its roughly 176,000 employees, was unable to process their salaries last month. The government said today that it will soon address this and also offer various “attractive voluntary retirement packages” to employees aged 50 or more. In a press release, the government said it would spend about $2.4 billion on the employee retirement packages.

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Sick of your ISP? Wander is rolling out in LA with a $25-per-month, wireless high-speed service

Harnessing new networking technologies that can turn any real-estate developer into their own wireless internet service provider, Wander is launching a $25 per month high-speed networking service for the lucky citizens of Santa Monica, Calif.

The brainchild of a former Disney analyst, David Fields, and a former Intuit engineer, Dan Rahmel, Wander uses low-cost wireless hardware and proprietary software to bring last-mile wireless Internet to a customer’s home.

“The idea behind Wander was created around some deep frustration with the net neutrality repeal,” says Fields. “We could look at utilizing some of the  existing wireless infrastructure and cover that last mile at a fraction of the cost… we have a strong perspective on the data demands of consumers.”

Wander Speeds

The problem, as Fields sees it, is that internet service providers are over-billing for capacity that most consumers don’t even use. As an August report from the Wall Street Journal revealed, high speed internet just isn’t worth it.

Traditional internet service providers are marketing high speed internet at 200 to 1K megabits per second, while average homes use less than 5 megabits per second during peak usage times, according to a report from the networking infrastructure technology provider, Cisco.

Even with streaming services, the average customer is going to use less than 15 megabits per second by 2022, according to some projections. Wander’s existing service will provide 50 megabits per second

We see an ability to come out in market and deliver to 99% of  consumers something that is a package that more than covers their streaming needs, their connected home needs,” says Fields. 

Using existing fiber infrastructure and low-cost wireless transmitters from companies like Ubiquiti, Wander is driving down costs and pitching real estate developers on a new way to make money.

The company already has signed deals with property managers and developers to gain access to 200 buildings across Santa Monica and Van Nuys, Calif. Those locations will be the first commercial testing grounds for Wander’s pitch.

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Shutters and the Santa Monica Pier during 2006 TV Land Awards – Affiliate Dinner at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, California, United States. (Photo by Jason Merritt/FilmMagic for Nickelodeon Television)

“Think of  the way we partner with them as a two-pronged approach.. For the value of bringing the rooftop real estate to the Wander network; they get a share of the subscribers that are tapping into that rooftop real estate.  They can have their property management teams acquire customers for us and that revenue share is incremental for them,” Fields says. 

Basically, Wander owns and operates the network and gives real estate owners a share of the revenue coming in.

At launch, Wander will be able to cover about 20,000 homes in the Santa Monica area using the company’s point to multi-point networking services which have a range of about half-a-mile.

Fields stresses that improving customer service is just as important as lowering prices at Wander. The company gives users access to a Wander dashboard that provides information about network performance and . uptimes, and the average megabits per second that a home uses and its peak consumption.

“That dashboard provides you with a look into the network as well,” says Fields.

The service costs $25 per-month along with a $3 fee for the company’s proprietary, mesh-capable router (which is important because to ensure uptimes Wander built software that monitors and resolves performance issues on the fly, the company said).

Wander Network Diagram original

The company raised a small, strategic round of financing from venture investors and strategic angel investors including: Distributed Global, an infrastructure-focused investment firm, and individuals like Eric Bender, co-founder of Wilcon, fiber and data center business which sold to Crown Castle; Michael Barker, founder and CEO of Barker Pacific Group, a real estate holding company. Other angels include Louis Beryl, founder and CEO of Earnest and Jeff Morris Jr., former Director of Product, Tinder.

“With 97% profit margins, it’s no secret that traditional ISPs overcharge and underdeliver,” said Bender,  in a statement. “Wander’s unique and affordable model is bringing next generation internet to an industry that has relied on dated technology, outrageous and unexpected fees and poor customer service. I’m excited to be supporting Wander as a pioneering internet provider that is equally focused on building a happy customer base.”

While Santa Monica, and greater Los Angeles are the company’s first markets, Wander intends to.. well… wander to other parts of the country where its services can make the most sense.

“We want to use a  data driven approach to the next set of sub-markets that we’re going to go into,” says Fields. “Some of these places will be less interesting than the suburban to urban mix where 5G is not  going to propagate where they have one or at most two internet options today.”

To see if a home is among the lucky few that qualifies for Wander’s low-cost services now, check out wander.net/live. Subscribers who sign up within the next thirty days will get their first month free.

Wander 1

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A bike lover’s take on the Cowboy e-bike

Electric-bike maker Cowboy recently let me spend a couple of weeks with one of their e-bikes. It’s a well-designed e-bike that makes biking effortless, even if you’re going uphill.

Cowboy is a Brussels-based startup. The company raised a $3 million seed round a couple of years ago and an $11.1 million (€10 million) Series A round last year.

The company designs e-bikes from scratch. Components feel more integrated than in a normal e-bike. And it also opens up some possibilities when it comes to connectivity and smart features.

Cowboy sells its bikes directly to consumers on its online store. It is currently available in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria for €2,000 ($2,220).

I rode 70 kilometers (43 miles) in the streets of Paris to try it out. For context, riding a bike in Paris is nothing new for me. I primarily use my non-electric bike to go from point A to point B — bikes are commuting devices for me. And given that Cowboy is primarily designed for densely populated cities, I thought I’d give it a try.

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From the outside, the Cowboy e-bike is a sleek bike. It features a seamless triangle-shaped aluminum frame, integrated lights and a low-key Cowboy logo near the saddle. The handlebar is perfectly straight like on a mountain bike. The only sign that this is an e-bike is that the frame is much larger below the saddle.

The e-bike is relatively light at 16kg (35lbs). Most of the weight is at the back of the Cowboy e-bike because of the battery. But an investor in the startup told me that it wasn’t a problem and that he was even able to attach a baby seat at the back.

The two things you’re going to notice quite quickly is that there’s no gear and there’s a rubber and glass fiber belt. Cowboy has opted for an automatic transmission — motor assistance kicks in automatically when you need it the most, such as when you start pedaling, you accelerate or you go uphill.

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If you usually ride on a normal bike, this feels weird at first. I constantly shift from one gear to another. With the Cowboy e-bike, you have to trust the bike and forget about gears.

The electric motor kicks in a second after you start pedaling. It means that you are much faster than people using regular bikes. And you can reach a speed of 30 to 35 kmph in no time (18 to 22 mph). Yes, this bike is fast.

Fortunately, brakes work surprisingly well. You have to be careful with them. If you’re braking too hard, you’ll skid, especially if it’s raining.

I was able to ride from one end of Paris to another without breaking a sweat. Sure, the Cowboy e-bike is fast, but I only saved a few minutes compared to my non-electric bike. You still spend a lot of time waiting at big intersections.

In fact, riding the Cowboy e-bike felt more like riding a moped-style scooter. You start your engine at a green light, ride as quickly as possible, brake aggressively at a red light and spend more time waiting at intersections. I believe an e-bike makes more sense in larger cities with huge hills. Paris is much, much smaller than London or Berlin after all.

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You may have noticed that the Cowboy e-bike doesn’t have fenders. Cowboy will start selling custom-designed fenders for €89 in a few weeks ($100).

Another thing worth noting is that you have to be relatively tall to use the Cowboy e-bike. I’m 1.75m tall (5’8”) and I lowered the saddle as much as possible. If you’re just a tiny bit smaller than me, chances are it’s going to be too high for you. Similarly, naming your brand “Cowboy” doesn’t make your bike particularly attractive for women.

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When it comes to connectivity, the Cowboy e-bike isn’t just an electric bike — it’s also a smart bike. It has built-in GPS tracking and an integrated SIM card.

After pairing the bike with your phone using Bluetooth, you can control it from a mobile app. In particular, you can lock and unlock the bike, turn on and off the lights and check the battery. It would have been nice to put a light sensor on the bike itself as you may forget to turn on the lights at night. You can also get a rough idea of the current battery level without the mobile app — there are five LEDs on the frame of the device.

Thanks to GPS capabilities and the integrated SIM card, you can locate your bike using a feature called “Find my Bike”. The company also sells insurance package for €8 to €10 per month with theft insurance and optionally damage insurance.

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I recharged the battery once during my testing. According to the company, you can get up to 70km on a single charge (43 miles). I got less than that but I also tried the off-road mode, which consumes more battery. Unless you’re going on a long bike trip, range isn’t an issue for city rides.

When it’s time to recharge the battery, you can detach the battery with a key and bring it back home. This is a great feature for people living in apartments as you can leave your bike at its normal parking spot and plug the battery at home. The battery was full after 3 to 4 hours.

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Cowboy battery charger, tomato for scale

Overall, the Cowboy e-bike is the perfect commuting bike for people living in large cities. It’s a smooth and well-designed experience. If you’re looking for an e-bike, you should definitely consider the Cowboy e-bike as one of your options. I would book a test ride before buying one though.

If you’re happy with a normal bike like me, the Cowboy e-bike is 100% an e-bike. Don’t expect to get the same experience on a Cowboy e-bike. It’s a completely different thing. But I’m glad e-bikes exist because they are going to convince more people to ditch their cars and moped-style scooters.

Cowboy 1

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Streaming service Quibi sells out of its $150M in first-year ad inventory

Jeffrey Katzenberg’s mobile-only streaming service Quibi hasn’t even launched, but it’s already sold out of its $150 million first-year advertising inventory, the company announced this morning. The service, which officially debuts in April 2020, added new advertisers Discover, General Mills, T-Mobile, and Taco Bell, who join Quibi’s existing lineup of ad partners, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, ABInBev, Walmart, Progressive, and Google.

In addition to being an advertiser, T-Mobile only days ago announced a partnership with Quibi, as well.

The streaming service had cited T-Mobile’s “impressive 5G roadmap” as one of the reasons it went for the deal, but T-Mobile’s advertising contribution probably didn’t hurt either.

For an entirely unseen product, it’s notable that Quibi is already sold out for year one. That speaks to its ability to sell brands on its core concept — a sort of Netflix for the mobile era, where higher-quality content is chopped up into smaller bites (or “quick bites”), and viewable no matter how you hold your phone.

Advertisers are offered either a 6, 10 or 15-second pre-roll spot before the Quibi content streams. And unlike on YouTube, where some of the ads can be skipped after a few seconds — or removed entirely by way of subscription — Quibi’s ads won’t have a “skip” button. Quibi also hints at a unique offering for advertisers, saying that it will be “experimenting with a number of other innovative ad formats.”

In addition, Quibi is tackling one of the issues advertisers have with YouTube, where a brand’s message is often run against extremist content. YouTube has tried to fix the problem with better controls, and brands have at times left YouTube. Some brands even got together to form a global alliance for “responsible media,” which basically means they’re ready to more formally fight this problem.

It’s no surprise, then, that these companies are willing to help boost a potential YouTube competitor — one which promises they won’t find their ad played ahead of child exploitation or white supremacist content, among other things — as has been the case on YouTube, at various points.

However, what may be most responsible for the early ad sales is Quibi’s founder, Jeffrey Katzenberg. He’s not someone the industry is willing to bet against at this point.

“We are seeing a tremendous response from advertising partners who recognize the value of Quibi’s premium, brand-safe, mobile platform that is focused on the highly-coveted millennial audience,” said Meg Whitman, CEO, Quibi. “The world-class brands that are partnering with us in advance of our launch is remarkable, and it speaks to the opportunity in front of us,” she said.

Quibi had announced in June it had already booked $100 million in ad sales with $50 million to go. But even if it hadn’t sold out, Quibi still would have been a go for launch — Quibi is backed by $1 billion in funding, and was reportedly going to double that.

 

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