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Announcing how startups can exhibit for free at Disrupt SF with Top Picks

TechCrunch’s top goal at Disrupt SF (September 5-7) is to help early-stage founders get lots of attention, which is why every year we introduce more and better ways to make that happen. This year we’re adding TC Top Picks , a new program that will provide 60 top founders the opportunity to exhibit free of charge for one day in Startup Alley and three free Founder Passes for all three days of the show, including access to CrunchMatch, TechCrunch’s founder-investor matching service. Here is how founders can win a top spot in TC Top Picks . To qualify, the startup must fit in one of the categories listed below, which reflect the major tracks at Disrupt SF. The editors will pick five TC Top Picks startups for each category and they get the exhibition space with special “ TC Top Picks ” signage, three free Founder Passes plus a three-minute interview on our Showcase Stage. Click here to fill out the application, which should take about five minutes. (Note we have also launched an  updated application app , which allows founders to create a single application and use it across all of TechCrunch’s programs — including Startup Battlefield . TechCrunch will notify the winners by July 20, but applications close June 29 — so don’t lose any time,  apply today . Here are the categories we’re featuring at Disrupt SF : Artificial intelligence (AI) “What’s your AI strategy?” supplanted “What’s you mobile strategy? as one of THE big investor questions a couple of years ago, and venture investment in the sector doubled last year, reaching $12 billion, according to KPMG. Augmented and virtual reality A strong contender for the next major platform (on par with the PC, the internet and mobile), AR/VR is a fast growing category in Crunchbase, which lists 1,993 startups, and IDC estimates 2017 AR/VR revenues will grow by 2020 to reach $143.3 billion. Blockchain Distributed ledger technologies   have so far produced cryptocurrency mania, digital collectibles startup CryptoKitties , a new funding paradigm called the ICO and more than 100,000 companies in Crunchbase professing a blockchain angle. Biotech Whether it’s genetic manipulation through CRISPR or   early cancer detection, the deep science startups in the biotech world are moving fast on the back of rapid technical advances. Funding hit a new record in 2017 of $9.3 billion, according to PitchBook

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Centrify gives states a deal on identity management software to secure midterm elections

To secure U.S. election systems from the very real threat of targeted cyberattacks , states might need to reframe their security practices to look more like they would in a tightly controlled corporate environment. To that end, Centrify, an enterprise cloud-based identity management company, is extending its security offerings to help states cover their bases as part of a “ Secure the Vote ” initiative. The company is encouraging state and local election boards to employ its services for basic security measures like multi-factor authentication and user privilege management — two easy steps that could thwart potential attacks. To coordinate with states, Centrify is working with the Department of Homeland Security on the budget and procurement processes as states begin to work more closely with the agency on the challenge of election security . In a conversation with TechCrunch, Centrify CEO Tom Kemp emphasized that states could bolster election security considerably by even undertaking the most basic safety measures. “There’s some low-hanging fruit that can be done relatively quickly,” Kemp told TechCrunch, noting that this level of precaution would only take “a couple weeks of implementation work.” As Kemp notes, the hackers targeting state election systems generally try to compromise admin-level accounts with broad system access. Multi-factor authentication requires an external confirmation of user identity in order to log into a system and is widely considered one of the more basic and most robust cybersecurity precautions for individuals and organizations alike. Centrify eschews the “trust but verify” approach, opting instead for a zero-trust security model that verifies user identity at all levels. State and local election boards can work with Centrify to get free access to the company’s services for eight months, though they’ll need to sign up for an annual plan to get the deal. The company will work with those groups to deploy its services, with discounted on-site rates. Because the company is already registered in the federal procurement system, states have one less hurdle to overcome if they choose to work with Centrify while taking advantage of federal assistance seeking to bolster state election security

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Russia’s game of Telegram whack-a-mole grows to 19M blocked IPs, hitting Twitch, Spotify and more

As the messaging app Telegram continues to try to evade Russian authorities by switching up its IP addresses, Russia’s regulator Roskomnadzor (RKN) has continued its game of whack-a-mole to try to lock it down by knocking out complete swathes of IP address. The resulting chase how now ballooned to nearly 19 million IP addresses at the time of writing, as tracked by unofficial RKN observer RKNSHOWTIME (updated on a Telegram channel with stats accessible on the web via Phil Kulin’s site ). As a result, there have been a number of high-profile services also knocked oput in the crossfire, with people in Russia reporting dozens of sites affected including Twitch, Slack, Soundcloud, Viber, Spotify, Fifa, Nintendo, as well as Amazon and Google. (A full list of nearly forty addresses is listed below.) What’s notable is that Google and Amazon themselves seem still not to be buckling under pressure. As we reported earlier this week , a similar — but far smaller — instance happened in the case of Zello, which had also devised a technique to hop around IP addresses when its own IP addresses were shut down by Russian regulators. Zello’s circumventing lasted for nearly a year, until it seemed the regulator started to use a more blanket approach of blocking entire subnets — a move that ultimately led to Google and Amazon asking Zello to cease its activities. After that, Zello’s main access point for its Russian users was via VPN proxies — one of the key ways that users in one country can effectively appear as if they are in another, allowing them to circumvent geoblocking and geofencing, either by the companies themselves, or those that have been banned by a state. It’s important to note that the domain fronting that Google is in the process of  shutting down  is not the same as IP hopping — although, more generally, it will mean that there is now one less route for those globally whose traffic is getting blocked through censorship to wiggle around that. The IP hopping that has led to 19 million addresses getting blocked in Russia is another kind of circumvention. (I’m pointing this out because several people I’ve spoken to assumed they were the same.) Pavel Durov, Telegram’s founder and CEO, has made several public calls on Telegram and also third-party sites like Twitter to praise how steadfast the big internet companies have been. And others like the ACLU have also waded into the story to call on Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft to hold strong and continue to allow Telegram to IP hop. But what could happen next? I’ve contacted Google, Amazon and Telegram now several times to ask this question and for more details on what is going on

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Former Time Inc. COO Jen Wong joins Reddit as COO, will focus on business strategy, revenue growth, and user growth (Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg/Wall…

Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg / Wall Street Journal : Former Time Inc. COO Jen Wong joins Reddit as COO, will focus on business strategy, revenue growth, and user growth   —  Wong departed Time Inc. after it was acquired by Meredith Corp. in January  —  Digital media veteran Jen Wong has been named Reddit's chief operating officer effective immediately, the company said Thursday.

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Reddit hires former Time Inc. exec Jen Wong as COO

Reddit, one of the internet’s largest hubs for both traffic and controversy, announced today that it has hired former Time Inc. President of Digital Jen Wong to take on the role of COO. She will be tasked with managing Reddit’s business strategy, working out of the company’s New York office. Wong left Time Inc. earlier this year when the company was acquired by Meredith Corp for $1.84 billion. In a blog post , the company detailed the scope of her role as COO. A major focus will be building the company’s advertising strategy. Her goals as COO will align closely with her past experience at Time, PopSugar, and AOL: using her media, publisher, advertising, and operations expertise to help us build out our offerings for users, advertisers, and partners; applying her experience building successful digital advertising offerings for internet media giants to our own ads platform; and, through it all, working to grow our business while staying true to the things that make Reddit unique. Despite claiming 330 million monthly active users, Reddit is still a relatively small operation by Silicon Valley standards. A major part of that is that they’ve been slow to build out a sophisticated advertising product, though in recent months they’ve begun rolling out native ads in the company’s mobile apps. “Jen is a seasoned digital veteran and successful executive at some of the biggest media companies in the world, her experience and vision will help carry  Reddit ’s momentum forward in the years to come,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said in a statement.

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