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Tag Archives: credit

Credit Karma acquires mortgage platform Approved

Credit Karma , the service best known for providing free credit score monitoring and other financial advice (mostly to millennials), is getting into the mortgage business. The company today announced that it has acquired Approved , a mortgage platform that brings modern technology to a process that even today often still involves faxing documents back and forth. The companies did not disclose the financial details of the transaction. At first glance, this may seem like a bit of an odd acquisition, given that Approved is mostly a service for banks and mortgage brokers. But it also makes perfect sense for Credit Karma to get into the mortgage business. Indeed, Credit Karma Chief Product Officer Nikhyl Singhal told me that he sees this as the natural next step in the company’s evolution. “As we’ve expanded , you’ve seen us move from credit cards as a way to help members with  that part of their life to first personal loans to auto — meaning auto loans, auto insurance,” he said. “Today, we’re really talking more publicly about mortgage. Mortgage being for many of our members the most important financial decision they’ll make.” It’s also no secret that Credit Karma’s largest user base is millennials. As they get older and start getting to the point where they consider buying a home (assuming they are in the financial position to do so), the company obviously wants to keep those users engaged on their platform and offer them more services. Singhal also stressed that 80 percent of Credit Karma members are active on the service before they get a new mortgage — and Credit Karma obviously knows all of this because it is able to collect a lot of very detailed financial data about its users. As Singhal noted, Credit Karma has been working on getting deeper into the mortgage business for about 18 months.

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A private Tesla backed by Saudi Arabia might not be as far-fetched as you think

This week the business and tech world was stunned when Elon Musk hinted on August 7, via Twitter of course, that he wanted to take Tesla private. The estimated price tag for such a move is commonly put at up to $72 billion. Shortly after that no ‘ white knights ’ appeared and Tesla’s shares plummeted. But today, Bloomberg came out with a new report which might well fan the flames of speculation on Monday. Its story has sources which say that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund (called the Public Investment Fund or PIF) was already in talks with Tesla to become a significant investor before Musk’s tweets. The timing of this revelation is important, because the PIF has already built up a stake — valued at about $2 billion — just short of 5 percent in Tesla in recent months. One could easily surmise that the world’s biggest crude oil producer might well be considering a stake in the world’s most iconic electric car company to hedge against oil. Indeed, that is exactly what Bloomberg’s sources are telling them. Now, part of the reasons the PIF might be talking to Tesla is that the car maker is alleged to have already had limited talks with SoftBank, of which PIF is a major baker. What makes these rumours so interesting is that Saudi Arabia’s government is planning to supercharge the PIF into a $2 trillion fund. And a major (let me repeat that) major focus of the PIF is technology. Why? The Saudis are extremely keen to diversify the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy and it needs a war-chest and technology assets to do that. This policy is being driven by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the next in line to the thrown and dubbed ‘MBS’ by everyone in Saudi. Since he was named heir-apparent last year he’s been on a tear, restricting the powers of the religious police, removing the ban on female drivers and various other cultural reforms

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Voatz: a tale of a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad idea

Let’s get the fish in the barrel out of the way. Voatz are a tech startup whose bright idea was to disrupt democracy by having people vote on their phone, and store the votes on, you guessed it, a blockchain. Does this sound like a bad idea? Welp. It turned out that they seemed awfully casual about basic principles of software security , such as not hard-coding your AWS credentials. It turned out that their blockchain was an eight-node Hyperledger install, i.e. one phenomenologically not especially distinguishable from databases secured by passwords. They have been widely and justly chastised for these things. But they aren’t what’s important. To their credit, their system is opt-in, and apparently generates real-time voter-verified paper ballots , the single most important thing about any voting system. But still. We need to step back and ask a question here: why are we trying to vote via an app and collate election results on any kind of centralized system at all? We don’t want to make voting more efficient. Efficiency is not the problem we are trying to solve with elections. The inefficiency of paper ballots and their handling and collation and tabulation is a feature, not a bug

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Instagram’s CEO on vindication after 2 years of reinventing Stories

“I think the mistake everyone made was to think that Stories was a photography product,” says Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom. “If you look at all these interactivity features we’ve added, we’ve really made Stories something else. We’ve really innovated and made it our own.” His version of the ephemeral slideshow format turns two years old today . By all accounts, it’s a wild success. Instagram Stories has 400 million daily users, compared to 191 million on Snapchat, which pioneered Stories. While the first year was about getting to parity with augmented reality filters and stickers, the two have since diverged. Instagram chose the viral path. Interactivity > Photoshop Snapchat has become more and more like Photoshop, with its magic eraser for removing objects, its green screen-style background changer, scissors for cut-and-pasting things and its fill-in paint bucket. These tools are remarkably powerful for living in a teen-centric consumer app. But many of these artistic concepts are too complicated for day-to-day Snapping. People don’t even think of using them when they could. And while what they produce is beautiful, the slides get tapped past and disappear just like any other photo or video. Instagram could have become Photoshop. Its early photo-only feed’s editing filters and brightness sliders pointed in that direction

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Confusion reigns as Facebook briefly receives China business license

Facebook’s long-running effort to go into China got a boost this week after the U.S. company was handed a license to set up a subsidiary in the country. But quickly after news broke, the license was seemingly revoked. The incident started when Reuters spotted  a filing approved on China’s National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System for a Facebook subsidiary that is registered in Hangzhou, the location of e-commerce giant Alibaba’s HQ. Records show the subsidiary is financed by $30 million in capital, with Facebook Hong Kong listed as the sole shareholder. As word of the filing began to spread following the Reuters report, references to the news were blocked on some social media platforms in China were blocked and the filing itself from removed from the system, as The New York Times reported . Facebook itself said in a statement that it intends to launch an innovation in Zhejiang, the province that counts Hangzhou as its capital, but the language used by the company suggests it hasn’t yet made progress on that plan. “We are interested in setting up an innovation hub in Zhejiang to support Chinese developers, innovators and start-ups. We have done this in several parts of the world — France, Brazil, India, Korea — and our efforts would be focused on training and workshops that help these developers and entrepreneurs to innovate and grow,” a Facebook representative told TechCrunch. So what happened? It’s hard to know with the Chinese government — and it certainly looks like Facebook is following developments as much as anyone else is. It’s well reported that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a long-standing interest in entering China in some form — he has famously learned Mandarin and appeared at university events among other things — but exactly what that details has never been clear. Facebook the service remains blocked in China.

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Southeast Asia’s Grab hit by backlash over changes to customer loyal program

Life without Uber should be simple for Grab , but a battle with regulators in Singapore could see the company’s acquisition of Uber’s Southeast Asia business unwound while some consumers have voiced concern around a lack of competition . Grab co-founder Hooi Ling Tan recently claimed competition remains in the market , but that hasn’t stopped another consumer backlash after the ride-hailing firm altered its loyalty program without warning. To be fair to Grab, earning loyalty points for taxi rides is something unique — Uber doesn’t offer any kind of program, for example — and the changes initiated last week seem aimed at spreading the benefit beyond taxis and into Grab’s newer ventures, which include its GrabPay payment service and food deliveries. However, in doing so, the company made two cardinal sins. The changes included the lowering of benefits for Grab’s highest tier (read: most loyal) customers — with rebates dropping from a range of 3.5-4.5 percent to 0.7-1.7 percent, as MileLion explains in thorough detail . Worse than that, it initiated the new terms, which include these drastic drops, on a Friday and with immediate effect. That meant points earned over the past year were suddenly devalued with no apparent recourse. 10 July 2018; Tan Hooi Ling, Co-Founder, Grab, speaks at a pressconferencee during day one of RISE 2018 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong. Photo by Stephen McCarthy / RISE via Sportsfile Unsurprisingly that sparked a backlash, with many consumers accusing Grab of making the changes to save on money. ( Grab has said it hasn’t increased prices after Uber’s exit despite some consumers claiming to the contrary.) That led to a second announcement, made late on Monday, that postponed the introduction of the new loyalty program terms until September 30. However, it hasn’t scrapped the new changes themselves. That’s the right move, and it gives customers the chance to spend the credit they earned in the way they believed it would be redeemed before the change kicks in. “We acknowledge that customers would appreciate time to adjust to the changes

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With eyes on Europe, Open Banking API provider TrueLayer raises $7.5M

TrueLayer , the London startup that’s built a developer platform to make it easy for fintech and other adjacent companies, such as retailers, to access bank APIs — and ride the Open Banking and PSD2 gravy train — has picked up further $7.5 million in funding. Leading the round is venture capital fund Northzone. It follows a $3 million Series A in June last year , and will be used for European expansion, starting with Germany and France. The new capital will also be invested in growing the TrueLayer team and to develop new products to help companies and consumers make the most of Open Banking and PSD2, where co-founder Francesco Simoneschi tells me the opportunities are huge, even if they remain largely untapped, thus far. “I think the first quarters of 2018 have been about working and educating companies on Open Banking and how to build propositions on top of it,” he says. “This has seen a silent yet massive stream of inbound demand for us. To put things in context, we grew 500 percent in terms of the developer community averaging hundreds of companies a month asking how to start using TrueLayer and the services that we enable — from two people in a garage to the largest enterprise”. Since Open Banking was tentatively launched in the U.K. January, TrueLayer has secured partnerships and integrations with a number of fintech companies including challenger banks Monzo and Starling Bank, along with the likes of Zopa, ClearScore, Canopy, Plum, BitBond, Emma, Anorak, and CreditLadder. This has happened in despite of a press narrative around a “failed Big Bang kind of uptake” and incumbent banks not cooperating or meeting their minimum statutory requirements in time (which is undeniably true, in some instances). The reality on the ground, however, is quite different, argues Simoneschi. “Remember that exponential growth often looks sub-linear at the very beginnings,” he says. “Based on the view of the market that we have, contracts signed, POCs and advanced conversations, I can assure you that you will see a wealth of high street banks and retailers, financial institutions, global platforms, marketplaces, loyalty and rewards propositions, crypto exchanges, wallets and fintech applications experimenting and launching Open Banking-based propositions in the next 12 months”. To that end, TrueLayer offers a single platform/API to connect to 16 major and not so major banks and credit cards in the U.K., using a mixture of official Open Banking APIs, access to private APIs, and, at a push, screen scraping — depending on a developer’s data needs and stomach for the different kinds of official and unofficial access available

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Roblox responds to the hack that allowed a child’s avatar to be raped in its game

There’s a special place in Hell for people who think it’s funny to rape a 7-year-old girl’s avatar in an online virtual world designed for children. Yes, that happened . Roblox, a hugely popular online game for kids, was hacked by an individual who subverted the game’s protection systems in order to have customized animations appear. This allowed two male avatars to gang rape a young girl’s avatar on a playground in one of the Roblox games. The company has now issued an apology to the victim and its community, and says it has determined how the hacker was able to infiltrate its system so it can prevent future incidents. The mother of the child, whose avatar was the victim of the in-game sexual assault, was nearby when the incident took place. She says her child showed her what was happening on the screen and she took the device away, fortunately shielding her daughter from seeing most of the activity. The mother then captured screenshots of the event in order to warn others. She described the incident in a public Facebook post that read, in part: At first, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My sweet and innocent daughter’s avatar was being VIOLENTLY GANG-RAPED ON A PLAYGROUND by two males. A female observer approached them and proceeded to jump on her body at the end of the act. Then the 3 characters ran away, leaving my daughter’s avatar laying on her face in the middle of the playground

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Monday.com raises $50M at a $500M valuation led by Stripes for its workplace collaboration tools

The more that we digitise our interactions with work colleagues, the more we will need tools to help handle that process more smoothly. Today, Monday.com — one of the wave of startups that works in the larger category of workplace collaboration tools — is announcing a significant growth round that speaks to this demand. The company (formerly known as Dapulse when it was founded in Tel Aviv) has raised $50 million in equity funding that sources close to the company tell me was made at a pre-money valuation of $500 million. Monday.com has only raised $84.1 million since 2014, and its big valuation boost is down to its strong growth. It currently has 35,000 businesses and organisations as paying customers (no freemium tier as with Slack: simply a short free trial before you pay), with the list featuring many illustrious, big business names such as Carlsberg Group, Discovery Channel, McDonalds, and WeWork. Equally impressive are the company’s investors: this Series C round was led by Stripes — the firm that has backed a number of big tech startups including Blue Apron, Udemy and Refinery29 — along with participation from previous investors Insight Venture Partners and Entrée Capital. LeumiTech, part of Israel’s Leumi Bank, has also extended a line of credit to the company to help with growth. The equity funding is coming in at $50 million, with the credit accounting for “tens of millions” more. Startups/products like Slack and Yammer have most definitely put the concept of workplace collaboration on the map as something that can be useful and well used in an office environment, a significant thing, since one of the big issues with a lot of enterprise software is simply getting people to — at best — actually engage with it and — at worst — not just develop longstanding grudges against it. Roy Mann, the CEO who co-founded the company with Eran Zinman, says that Monday.com isn’t exactly targeting the same kind of “collaboration” as these with their emphasis on text-based communications. Rather, companies can essentially build their own productivity tracking and collaborating environments using modular tools and integrations with other programs, to suit whatever their needs might be. Notably, the company’s first client and the impetus for starting Dapulse, was the DIY web design company Wix, and some of the ethos and DNA of DIY design, and the aim of providing technology to non-tech businesses, is very much in evidence here. “A lot of the opportunity for us is in the non-tech world, which is about 70 percent of our customer base,” said Mann

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Facebook was never ephemeral, and now its Stories won’t have to be

Before Snapchat made social media about just today, Facebook made it about forever. The 2011 “Timeline” redesign of the profile and keyword search unlocked your past, encouraging you to curate colorful posts about your life’s top moments. That was actually an inspiration for Snapchat, as its CEO Evan Spiegel wrote in its IPO announcement that “We learned that creativity can be suppressed by the fear of permanence.” Now Facebook is finding a middle ground by optionally unlocking the history of your Stories that otherwise disappear after 24 hours. Facebook will soon begin testing Stories Highlights, the company confirmed to TechCrunch. Similar to Instagram Stories Highlights , it will let you pick your favorite expired photos and videos, compile them into themed collections with titles and cover images and display them on your profile. The change further differentiates Facebook Stories from the Snapchat Stories feature it copied. It’s smart for Facebook, because highly compelling content was disintegrating each day, dragging potential ad views to the grave with it. And for its 150 million daily users, it could make the time we spend obsessing over social media Stories a wiser investment. If you’re going to interrupt special moments to capture them with your phone, the best ones should still pay dividends of self-expression and community connection beyond a day later. Facebook Stories Highlights was first spotted by frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong , who specializes in generating screenshots of unreleased features out of the APK files of Android apps. TechCrunch inquired about the feature, and a Facebook spokesperson provided this statement: “People have told us they want a way to highlight and save the Stories that matter most to them.

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